Monday, 24 January 2011

Beef up your cows: Minister

A man tends to a cow at an exhibition in Lvea Em district, Kandal province, on Saturday. Farmers are being encouraged to fatten up cattle. Photo by: Heng Chivoan

via CAAI

Monday, 24 January 2011 15:01 Chun Sophal

MINISTER of Agriculture Chan Sarun called on Cambodian farmers to increase the size of their cows at a weekend cattle exhibition held in Kandal province, in order to increase domestic beef production.

Encouraging farmers to change their habits to fatten up cattle, he said there was a risk Cambodian cows would become smaller and smaller, until they resembled dogs.

“In order to improve productivity of cattle farming in the Kingdom, it is essential for us to change to new cows. We would receive bigger animals that would produce more meat for market demand,” he said.

The ministry supports further use of imported breeds such as Brahman and the locally-bred Kampeng Sen cow, according to Chan Sarun, but farmers have voiced concerns over the price of such animals.

According to the ministry, the two breeds are large animals that can be used as labour as well as for meat production. They can potential weigh between 700 to 1,500 kilograms, which is two or three times the weight of Cambodia’s most popular breed.

“It is easy to raise such cows because they do not mind what foods they eat, and are resistant to Cambodian weather,” Chan Sarun said.

There are some 3.4 million cows in the Kingdom, of which 70 percent are used for farming, while the remainder are set aside to meet market demand for beef, he said.

The Ministry also supports farmers forming cattle-raising associations to promote a switch to larger breeds.

Srey Chanthou, president of Cambodia’s Brahman Breeding Association, said the association had organised several cattle exhibitions to educate farmers in methods of raising new animals and the benefits of different breeds.

The association displayed five breeds of cattle at Saturday’s exhibition, including Angus, Brangus, Wagyu, and Lowline imports from Australia and New Zealand, as well as the Brahman – which was originally bred in India.

The cows cost between US$800 and $25,000 for one cow, depending on the quality level of the animal. “We plan to lower prices in the coming years, as the association is able to breed more animals on its own,” he said.

But domestic farmers have raised concened over the expense of new breeds.

Yok Sat, a farmer in Chet Burei district in Kratie province, said he would like to raise the cows promoted by the association, but could not afford the price tag. “We farmers want to raise animals that can produce the most economic benefits, because our current revenues from farming are limited,” he said.

Mining update: Brighton begins test drilling

via CAAI

Monday, 24 January 2011 15:01 JEREMY MULLLINS

BRIGHTON Mining Group Ltd has begun test drilling for gold at its Antrong project in Mondulkiri province, intending to establish an inferred maiden resource by the second half of 2011. The ASX-listed firm drew parallels to OZ Mineral’s Okvao tenement in the same province, and claimed in a filing to be “very excited” about the project’s prospects.

In March last year, OZ declared an inferred resource of 605,000 ounces at a property in the Cambodia province, one of the more noteworthy discoveries yet found. Last month, Cambodian Association of Mining and Exploration Companies president Richard Stanger said while that actual extraction of resources had yet to begin in the Kingdom, “in the next five to seven years mining operations will be taking place here”.

On Friday, Australian junior miner Gulf Mines Ltd announced it had entered into an agreement with Brighton to provide a short-term loan facility. Brighton climbed 18.6 percent on the ASX in Sydney last week, closing Friday at A$0.255 (US$0.252) a share.

It increased more than 18 percent in trading on Wednesday, the day it announced the drilling.

Opinion split over currency

Delegates attend a consultation at Phnom Penh Hotel on Friday to discuss currency use in Cambodia’s new stock exchange. Photo by: Sovan Philong

We will have a meeting with Keat Chhon for approval ... it won’t take a long time to decide - it will happen soon

via CAAI

Monday, 24 January 2011 15:01 May Kunmakara

THE Securities and Exchange Commission of Cambodia is set to make a decision “soon” on what currency firms will use to list on the exchange, after holding a public consultation on its choices.

Some 200 attendees attended a consultation at the capital’s Phnom Penh Hotel on Friday to voice opinions for CSX listings in dollars, riel, or both currencies.

“After we receive some input, we will have a meeting with Keat Chhon, chairman of the SECC, for approval,” said Ming Bankosal, director general of the SECC.

“It won’t take a long time to decide – it will happen very soon.”

The exchange is set to launch in July, after being twice postponed.

During the meeting, opinions were mixed. Several government officials voiced support for the riel, while private sector stakeholders generally came out in support of the dollar.

Ming Bankosal said Cambodia was keenly aware of the lessons of the 1997 Asian financial crisis, which had destabilised regional economies following the collapse of the Thai baht.

“The government wants to support our currency sovereignty for the country – we have the monetary authority to manage our currency,” he said. “Our policy is to strengthen the use of the Khmer riel.”

However, a survey posted on the SECC’s website saw support split between the three currency options. Some 32 percent of respondents had called for use of the dollar, 21.5 percent supported the riel, and 28.5 percent said they would prefer listings in both currencies. The remaining respondents had chosen “neutral”.

Phan Ying Tong, country head of the Kingdom’s largest bank Cambodia Public Bank, said on conference sidelines that the bank would support the government’s choice, adding there were many factors besides currency risk to consider.

“Every investor has their own risk portfolio - how much they want to expose to Asia and this country or others – they don’t only look at the currency. They look at your compliance, good governance, professionalism, reputation. These are all the important factors,” he said.

Meanwhile, Han Kyung-tae, managing director of approved underwriter Tong Yang Securities Cambodia, said he supported initial listings in dollars.

“We should start with the US dollar first, and then with long term planning we can develop the local currency and the economy,” he said.

The firm’s parent company Tong Yang Securities had previous experienced currency risk first-hand, he said, adding it had suffered significant losses in Vietnam “purely because of the depreciation of the Vietnamese dong in this market – not because of the Vietnamese economy”.

He said the government would likely face risks if they chose the riel rather than the dollar. “If they [the SECC] prepare for handling these risks, then they can consider the riel,” he added.

Construction nears for Sesan 2

via CAAI

Monday, 24 January 2011 15:01 Soeun Say

CONSTRUCTION of a hydroelectric power plant, being developed in a joint venture between Cambodia’s Royal Group and Vietnam Electricity Group, could begin this year according to Ministry of Industry Mines and Energy.

The Lower Sesan 2 hydro plant, said to be worth more than $700 million, is set to be located in Cambodia’s Stung Treng province on the Sesan river, a major tributary of the Mekong.

Bun Narith, director general for the hydroelectricity department at the Ministry of Industry Mines and Energy said yesterday: “They [the developers] have already finished studying [the site]. Now, we have only to negotiate and agree the development project. I think that it is possible to start construction this year.”

“We are hopeful that with this project Cambodia will have more electricity to respond to future consumption demands,” he added, stating that construction was due to end in 2016.

The statement followed media reports last week, citing the Vietnam Foreign Investment Agency, which stated Vietnam’s Ministry of Planning and Investment has licensed its development.

Royal Group stake
Royal Group chairman Kith Meng confirmed yesterday that Vietnam Electricity Group (EVN) owned 51 percent of the venture, with the Cambodian conglomerate holding 49 percent.

The proposed plant’s capacity is estimated at 400MW, with an average output of 1998 million KWh per year. Bun Narith said initial studies took two years to complete.

Hydropower futureSince 2000, Cambodia has licensed private hydroelectric dam developments at least 21 sites across the country, in hope of generating enough power to meet Cambodia’s growing energy demand.

A total of 12 dams have been proposed for the Lower Mekong River, including two in Cambodia. During a meeting in November, it was reported Vietnamese premier Nguyen Tan Dung asked Hun Sen to speed up approval of the Sesan 2 hydropower dam, a message officials said Hun Sen relayed to Industry Minister Suy Sem.

Earlier this year, Meach Mean, project coordinator of the 3S Rivers Protection Network, expressed deep concerns over the upstream impact of the planned plant – particularly on fish stocks and water quality in Ratanakirri province.

The Post could not reach representatives from the Vietnamese Embassy in Phnom Penh for further comment yesterday.

Tax revenue points to a better future for Cambodian property

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Monday, 24 January 2011 15:00 Steve Finch

A REPORTED 60 percent rise in taxes generated from property transactions in 2010 last week provided the first indication the sector may at last be in recovery.

Collecting nearly US$20 million last year, officials at the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction pointed to a rise in transaction activity as the reason behind a sharp rise on the $12.16 million collected in 2009.

However, the property market will no doubt remain cautious. Anecdotally, the Kingdom’s main estate agents, including Bonna Realty and CB Richard Ellis, have been reluctant to confirm a rebound in the market pointing to still low levels of selling and leasing.

So although the government has claimed an increase in market activity was responsible for the tax rise, this huge leap does not seem to correspond to anecdotal evidence from the private sector.

“We did not see a 60 percent increase in activity last year compared to 2009,” Daniel Parkes, country manager of CBRE, told The Post yesterday.

This suggests tax enforcement may have been more stringent in relation to the transfer, leasing and selling of property, a trend witnessed in the collection of other taxes in recent years as the government has aimed to raise state revenues to help fund rising budgetary requirements.

Still, even if the market clearly did not witness a 60 percent rise in buying, selling and leasing last year, this sharp increase in tax derived from the market is good news on multiple counts.

Firstly, this huge increase must surely represent a rise in activity in the market to some degree, most likely combined with a rise in tax enforcement, suggesting the property sector is starting to rebound from the downturn that started around the second quarter of 2008.

In terms of government revenues, the rise in tax points to greater government enforcement and therefore intervention which will better serve both the property sector and wider economy in the longer term.

The pre-crisis market was plagued by gung-ho buying and selling that led to serious overheating in the market.

Surely, the frantic land sales, as seen in 2008, will be hampered to a degree if property taxes are enforced on a larger percentage of transactions meaning profits are squeezed.

In addition to the new property tax that came into force at the end of last year, which allocates 0.1 percent of a property’s value to the state, greater enforcement will mean the property sector should start to pull its weight in terms of generating government revenues.

In the short term, taxes may only further slow the property recovery but over the longer term such measures will help to stabilise what was previously a volatile sector.

Miners hit by gold decline

Gold ingots are displayed at a store in Beijing, China. Gold prices are falling on global markets. Bloomberg

via CAAI

Monday, 24 January 2011 15:00 Jeremy Mullins

MOBILE phone provider Beeline’s owner Vimpelcom fell 10.3 percent in New York trading last week, as HSBC Bank downgraded the company from “overweight” to “neutral” on Monday.

The company ended Friday at US$13.76 a share, from the previous week’s close of $15.34. It traded at a 52-week high, north of $20.00, last February.

Vimpelcom also faced concerns over a potential deal from one of its shareholders last week. On Monday, following Vimplecom Ltd Board’s decision to approve Vimpelcom’s acquisition of Wind Telecom., minority shareholder Telenor ASA stated it would try to stop the acquisition from being completed.

Meanwhile, shares of several gold miners actively exploring in Cambodia fell last week. Gold prices fell to under US$1,345 on Friday, continuing three straight weeks of declines. The metal peaked at a record high of $1,432.50 on December 7, 2010.

OZ Minerals Ltd slid 3.5 percent on the Australian Securities Exchange last week, ending at A$1.67. The firm had climbed to A$1.78 on Wednesday, when it claimed to have “exceeded production targets” in a report for the latest quarter.

Several junior miners also fell in trading last week. Southern Gold Limited fell by a cent per share in Sydney over the week to end on Friday at A$0.07, despite claiming to have found a “near resource” gold mineralisation at its Bulong South project in Western Australia.

The firm – which is exploring properties in Cambodia’s Kratie and Mondulkiri provinces – also announced on Friday it had raised A$1.18 million through a share purchase plan that had closed in December.

Indochine Mining Limited also declined 5 percent last week, closing at A$0.19. However, it has increased from $0.15 since first listing on the Australian exchange on December 8. It has tenements in Ratanakkiri and Kratie provinces.

Other Australian-listed companies active in Cambodia saw increases on the ASX last week. ANZ Bank – 55 percent owner of Cambodia’s ANZ Royal Bank – finished the week at A$23.33, a one percent increase on its Monday open.

Equestrian body hails latest success

The Cambodian national equestrian team and trainers celebrate their success from a recent event in Thailand last week at the show jumping park of the Cambodian Country Club. Photo Supplied

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Monday, 24 January 2011 15:00 H S Manjunath

THE Cambodian Country Club and Hagar Catering and Facilities Management jointly celebrated the national equestrian team last week which returned with a clutch of ribbons from the Christmas Jumping Competition in Thailand.

A gathering of media personnel, sponsors of the Cambodian Equestrian Federation and some staunch supporters hailed the performances of the three-member team as a great leap for the sport in the Kingdom.

“This was our way of expressing our joy over the achievements of our national team and also to thank our sponsors like Hagar, Horse Ware, Comin Khmer and Property Care Services for their unwavering support,” said Federation Technical Director Soraya Ourrais.

“We were quite honoured to have members of the media alongside our sponsors and our team members. It was a memorable occasion for the CEF.”

The CEF Secretary General Phillip Garcia emphasised the historical significance of the team’s Thailand visit.

“This is the first time since the 1956 Melbourne Olympics that a Cambodian equestrian team had taken part in an international event,” he said.

“Our success in Thailand and the aptitude of the team members will certainly lead us to a reintegration with the international community.

Couple run the distance

Jeff Dean and wife Natalie Samson jog along a dirt road during their 500km run alongside the Mekong River last week. Photo Supplied

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Monday, 24 January 2011 15:00 H S Manjunath

American Jeff Dean and his Canadian wife Nathalie Samson completed their 500-kilometre run across Cambodia on Thursday afternoon, ending their 11-day mission to help the cause of clean water access in rural areas.

The couple set out from Stung Treng province on a route that followed the course of the Mekong River, ending in Prey Veng province.

“Eleven days and 11 marathons,” said Dean, recalling their incredible feat of endurance.

Taking heart from their previous 240km run between Angkor Wat in Siem Reap and Preah Vihear temple last year, the Ottawa-based pair chose to return for a more challenging run along the Mekong in the hope that their exploits would yield greater benefits for the cause they were championing. Their charity organisation One Filter One Family helps provide wells and bio-sand filters for selected villages in the Kingdom.

Both Jeff and Nathalie are counting this as a success well beyond their own estimation.

“We have seen and experienced a Cambodia that is very special,” Dean told The Post on Thursday.

“The run was epic in its scenery, taught us more about managing sports hydration needs, challenged us with a scorpion sting, a dog bite, a few running-induced strains and pain ... and filled us with the laughter and smiles of the Cambodian people which we will carry in our mind’s eye forever.”

The runners revealed they were made to feel most welcome by the families that they stayed with during their trip.

“We were overwhelmed by this hospitality,” said Dean.

The couple conceded their run would not have been a success without the support of Paul Hufford and Bunna from the Australian Firefighters International, who drove with them for the entire distance. Dean claimed their “route choice was amazing and exactly what we’d hoped for, and more”.

They also gave special thanks to the Trailblazers Foundation, an organisation that shares the same goals as One Filter One Family, which they have supported for the past two years.

“We will continue [to help support this cause] whenever we can,” said Dean, hinting of another epic journey to come.

Broken strings sting Bowen

Asian tennis stars Danai Udomchoke of Thailand (second left), Vishnu Vardhan of India (third left), Weerapat Doakmaiklee of Thailand (third right) and Kittipong Wachiramanowong of Thailand (right) meet with Tennis Federation of Cambodia Secretary General Tep Rithivit (second right) after arriving at Phnom Penh International Airport yesterday morning ahead of this week’s ITF Men’s Futures event. Photo by: Sreng Meng Srun

via CAAI

Monday, 24 January 2011 15:00 H S Manjunath

High intensity drama surrounded the sensational exit of second seeded Bowen Ouyang of China in the first round of the qualifiers for this week’s US$15,000 ITF Men’s Futures tennis tournament at the National Training Centre yesterday evening.

In the day’s last fixture, 1009th ranked Bowen was poised for victory over tenacious South Korean opponent Dae-Soung Oh at 5-4 in the third set after the two had shared the first two sets. But it was not to be his day after all. A strange set of circumstances contrived to make life miserable for him on court.

Bowen managed to break the strings on all three of his racquets, and as he scouted around for a spare racquet, he was given a verbal warning, then a point followed by a whole game as a penalty.

Up stepped Cambodian national team player Tan Nysan, who handed over two of his racquets to Bowen only for the Chinese player to again break strings on one of them.

It seemed as if misfortune was following Bowen every step of the way, and he blew a couple of match points in a tense tie break after the dour South Korean had levelled the scores at six games all.

Finally at 9-9 in the tie-break, the Korean gleefully wrapped up the match by reeling off the next two points after Bowen had messed up an easy overhead on match point. The final score line read 4-6, 6-1, 7-6 (11-9) to Dae-Soung in a battle stretching more than two and a half hours.

The rest of the qualification seeds fared better in the rest of the day’s card as top seeded Wang Chuhan of China led the parade to the crucial second round in this draw of 32. Canada’s Kelsey Stevenson took Wang to a tie break in the first set, but the Chinese talent took control of the match with an early break in the second.

The other first round winners included five Indians – Divij Sharan, Kaza Vinayak Sharma, Christopher Marquis, Abhijeet Tiwari and Ashutosh Singh – three Indonesians – Trijati Sunu Wahyu, Elbert Sie and Susanto David Agung – as well as Jan Blecha of Czech Republic, Araik Arutunyan of Russia, Luca Margaroli of Switzerland, Vladamir Ivanov of Estonia, Hsu hung Yuan of Taiwan, and New Zealander Mat Simpson.

Cambodian wild cards Orn Sambath and Long Samneang were both beaten in straight sets. Sambath lost to Ashutosh Singh 6-1, 6-2 while Long Samneang was swept by love sets by Matt Simpson.

Second round matches play today with the eight winners qualifying for the 32-player main draw beginning tomorrow.

Laboravy hits hat-trick

PKR’s Khuon Laboravy celebrates scoring his second goal
Crown’s Kouch Sokumpheak springs to kick a high ball during the game against Chhlam Samuth. Photos by: Sreng Meng Srun

via CAAI

Monday, 24 January 2011 15:00 H S Manjunath

Striker Khuon Laboravy’s splendid hat-trick helped 10-man Preah Khan Reach edge a hard-fought 3-2 victory over Neak Khiev in the 2011 Samdech Hun Sen Cup last 16 knockout round yesterday at the Olympic Stadium.

An audacious volley from a rebound off the crossbar marked the beginning of Laboravy’s goal-quest on 10 minutes. However, Neak Khiev hit back 13 minutes later against run of play when Yob Romatorn managed to sneak into the box and hoodwink the PKR goalkeeper.

The Kampong Cham outfit then took the lead when PKR defender Sok Rithy calamitously found his own net with a wayward clearance in the box.

The second period was all about Laboravy, as he drew his team level with a 30-yard screamer of a free kick on 61 minutes before snatching the win with quarter-of-an-hour left on the clock through a well-weighted header.

It had seemed an uphill struggle for PKR, who had lost their captain Sam El Nasa to his second bookable offence early in the second half. Undaunted by the loss of man-power PKR wriggled out of a tight situation, Laboravy deservingly heading home the winner with the captain’s armband that was handed to him.

With the three-goal haul, Laboravy took his Cup tally to 16 goals from four games to lead the Golden Boot category, one ahead of Kirivong Sok Sen Chey’s In Vichheka who plays next weekend.

Crown crush Chhlam Samuth
In yesterday’s later kickoff, last year’s runners-up Phnom Penh Crown soundly thrashed Chhlam Samuth 5-1.

Crown hotshot Kouch Sokumpheak was first on the score sheet after 26 minutes. The nippy forward was then tripped in the area by Chhlam Samuth defender Chham Bunchhai, and Tieng Tiny duly dispatched the spotkick to give Crown a two-goal cushion at the break.

It was mostly one-way traffic after the restart, with Hong Ratana nailing a screamer from distance on 71 minutes. Ex-Crown defender Ek Sovannara pegged one back for Chhlam Samuth against his former employers to give a brief respite, but goals from San Narith – who set off from the half way line and mazed his way through a succession of tackles to score – and another for Sokumpheak in injury time put the tie to bed.

PKR advance to face Prek Pra Keila in the quarterfinals, while Crown take on Build Bright United. Both fixtures are slated to be played on February 26.

Prek Pra, BBU glide into quarterfinals

BBU’s Tuy Sam slides in a challenge on Rithy Sen’s Ouk Channarith during their last 16 Samdech Hun Sen Cup match. Photo by: Sreng Meng Srun

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Monday, 24 January 2011 15:00 H S Manjunath

Prek Pra Keila attracted their usual load of faithful fans to the Olympic Stadium on Saturday, and they weren’t to be disappointed as their side handed out a 5-1 drubbing to Battambang in the last 16 knockout round of the 2011 Samdech Hun Sen Cup.

The provincial side went behind as early as the third minute, when central defender Ha Rithy’s panic reaction in a goal-mouth melee saw his clearance nestle in his own net. From that point on, Battambang were forced to chase shadows as a youthful Prek Pra took advantage of a creaky defence. Yu Arafat and Zen Pukry gifted the Metfone C-League side a 3-0 advantage at half time.

The ever reliable Mat Hasan then knocked in a fourth before Sos Sohana put the game beyond doubt.

Battambang’s attempts were few and far between, but a random infraction near the edge of the box brought them a penalty. Um Tola was spot on with the kick, scant consolation for a side that was forced to play second fiddle throughout the contest.

BBU too good for Rithy SenNewly promoted Rithy Sen had a foretaste of how tough life will be in the Metfone C-League this year, after Build Bright United bounced back to post a 6-1 victory in Saturday’s second match.

Surprisingly, the team from Kampong Chhnang came out marginally better in early trading. Rithy Sen winger Set Kamel worked his way to the box and polished off the move with a neat twist and tuck, leaving national team goalkeeper Hem Simay dumbfounded.

However, euphoria and energy gradually drained out of the travelling side as BBU hitback through a Prom Puthsethy hat-trick, his personal best in the competition.

Meanwhile, aging maestro Nuth Sinoun showed that he still has some spark left by hammering home a brace.

Sophat Chansokunthyna struck late on to extend the scoreline to six and complete BBU’s total domination of the second half.

“We did not play well in the first half, we were quite slow,” said BBU coach Meas Sam Oeurn after the final whistle. “But we made it up in the second half. The Rithy Sen goalkeeper did a wonderful job by saving many of our good attempts.”

Band finds Khmer hits strike a winning chord

 Singer Charmeine Bulda and other members of 7 Plus. Photo by: Pha Lina

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Monday, 24 January 2011 15:01 Roth Meas

TRAVELLING bands from the Philippines work hard for their money, calling several countries home for a few months at a time while playing in international hotels across Asia.

But one band is putting in that extra effort, trying to learn songs from each of the nations they visit on their musical tours.

Now playing at the Phnom Penh Hotel until May, members of 7 Plus had worked hard to learn the lyrics of about 20 popular Cambodian songs, said bass player and vocalist Allan Paul Atlenza.

“We love it here and would love to stay a little bit longer when our contract runs out in May,” said Atlenza. “The people are so kind and friendly, we feel as if we are at home in the Philippines.” Since 7 Plus formed in 2009, the six-member band has performed in China, Japan, south Korea and Vietnam.

Their popular Khmer hits such as Tov Yok Bdey Barang (Marry a Frenchman) or Luy Luy Luy (Money Money Money) find favour with Cambodian audiences at the hotel, who can hardly believe how perfectly singer Ronaldo Ramiro pronounces the lyrics. “We’re trying to learn more Cambodian songs because we love to make the local guests happy,” said Ramiro, who also plays keyboards.

“Many songs are about love and separation. My favourite song is Champa Battambang, and my favourite singer is Sunn Sisamouth, but my pronunciation is not as good.”

Though his pronunciation is perfect as he sings the popular song Bong Srolanh Srey Touch (I Love a Tiny Girl).

Lead singer Charmeine Bulda says she finds Khmer a little harder to learn than other languages, although she can sing in English, Japanese, Korean, Chinese and Vietnamese. However, she’s happy to incorporate traditional apsara movements into the group’s dance routines.

She and fellow singer and dancer Mariegold Razo are the only two women in the band. Felix Dia plays drums while the sixth member is guitarist Ace Aguizar.

Three students claim prizes at Hong Kong maths contest

From left, Leang Eng Se, Ngo Peng Hok and Sokhonn Reny after their win. Photo by: OU MOM

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Monday, 24 January 2011 15:01 Ou Mom

THREE young Cambodian students have won the country’s first international prizes in an Asia-Pacific maths competition in Hong Kong.

Four hundred students from eight nations across the region took part in the competition, including a team of 11 from Cambodia.

The grade 11 and 12 students were from Bak Tuk and Preah Sisovat high schools. Khemarak University chose them to represent the country in its first international maths competition from among 70 applicants nationwide.

It was a proud moment for Dr Sok Touch, director of Khemarak University. “For 31 years, Cambodia has never before attended this event and I myself never thought that Cambodia
would have such marvellous students who won third-place prizes among hundreds of students in the Asia-Pacific examination.

“Even though we didn’t get first place, we had the ability to take part. This is why politicians or rich people should help the education sector,” said Sok Touch.

“We need support, especially for real sciences, which are the main key to developing the country,” he said.

The Cambodian winner with the highest marks was Sokhonn Reny, a grade 11 student at Preah Sisovath High School. “The most difficult part for me was that the test was conducted in English, except for Chinese students who could use their own language,” he said.

And he attributed his success to hard work. “I never stop studying and reading. If I have time, I always find maths problems from teachers or older outstanding students and search on the internet.”

Bak Tuk High School provided the other two winning students in the December competition. Leang Eng Se transferred to the Phnom Penh school from his home in Kampong Cham province. “To be an outstanding student of mathematics, you need to try hard and be smart enough to follow former prize winners. But you also need encouragement from your family and friends – that’s the main thing.”

Ngo Peng Hok transferred to the school last year from Pursat province, where he was a brilliant maths student. He said he had always loved the subject but studying in Phnom Penh had given him an extra chance. HR

Terror suspects in court

via CAAI

Monday, 24 January 2011 15:01 Sovan Philong

Bangladeshi national Rafiqul Eslami and TD Taudyal of Nepal are lead to Phnom Penh Municipal Court for a hearing in a terrorism case on Friday.

Speed Daemons

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Monday, 24 January 2011 15:01 Sovan Philong

A motorbike zips past four men sitting on their motorbikes under the Cambodian-Japanese Friendship Bridge in Phnom Penh last week. This popular and cheap form of transport can be found in all parts of Southeast Asia.

On the right track

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Monday, 24 January 2011 15:01 Heng Chivoan

A man walks down railway tracks in Bati district in Takeo province.

Former anti-drugs chief in Cambodia accused of taking part in trade

via CAAI

Jan 24, 2011

Phnom Penh - The former head of Cambodia's anti-drugs department who was arrested this month faces a life sentence after the government accused him of masterminding a drugs-selling ring from his office, local media reported Monday.

General Mok Dara was arrested shortly after a number of other senior officials were held on suspicion of corruption and drugs offences.

'They used the anti-drug department as a network for selling drugs,' Om Yentieng, the head of the government's Anti-Corruption Unit, told The Phnom Penh Post newspaper, accusing Mok Dara and a number of other officials currently facing trial.

'Under the new penal code, a person who sells drugs will be sentenced to life in prison,' Om Yentieng was quoted as saying.

He said Mok Dara was arrested after a recent case in which he confiscated 2 kilogrammes of heroin. Om Yentieng alleged that the drugs chief declared only 1 kilogramme to the court and kept the remainder at his office along with thousands of methamphetamine tablets.

Om Yentieng said investigations were continuing.

Prime Minister Hun Sen also weighed in on the issue, the newspaper reported, warning Saturday that drugs were 'a giant virus' that threatened to 'destroy society.'

'The government has taken a hot measure, including the crackdown against high-ranking officials up to the rank of three-star general,' Hun Sen said, adding that nobody was exempt from efforts to stem corruption.

Mok Dara was the secretary general of the National Authority for Combating Drugs.

A recent report by the agency said drugs-related arrests were up sharply in 2010 over the previous year with 536 people arrested in the first nine months of the year while about 470 people were arrested in all of 2009.

The latest Transparency International corruption perceptions index listed Cambodia as one of the most graft-ridden countries in the world.

Cambodia was ranked at position 154 out of 178 nations surveyed below Haiti and on a par with the Central African Republic and Guinea-Bissau.

PM: Army will deal with temple sign

via CAAI

Published: 24/01/2011

National army chief Prayuth Chan-cha will ask Cambodia to remove the "Thai troops - the invaders" sign on the disputed border near Preah Vihear, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said on Monday morning.

Mr Abhisit said before attending the cabinet meeting that the political sector will not be involved in this situation.

The big stone tablet, accusing Thai people of invading Cambodian territory, was erected in front of Kaew Sikha Khiri Sawara temple in the disputed 4.6 square-kilometer area near Preah Vihear temple.

Danish Support for Cambodia to Stop

via CAAi

24 January 2011
news Gregers Moller
Denmark's Minister for Dvelopment cooperation Mr Soeren Pind.

Denmark's Minister for Development Søren Pind announced on Thursday that he over a few years will stop all development support for Cambodia and two countries in Africa, Zambia and Benin. Mr. Pind made his announcement in an interview with the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten. The minister was quoted as referring to "strategic considerations" as the reasons for cutting further development support for the three countries.

When asked by the newspaper whether the problem is that the three countries are located strategically in the wrong places for Denmark, the Minister replied:

Søren Pind: - I do not think they perceive themselves as being in the wrong place. But one can say that Danish interests justify that our commitment must lie somewhere else.

The newspaper quotes internal papers from the Ministry of Development why the two African countries should be taken off the list of countries that Denmark supports, but the interview did not give any clues why Cambodia was taken off the list along with them.

Thai PM: Cambodian court's verdict no effect on border dispute

via CAAI

January 24, 2011

Recent verdict by a Cambodian court finding five Thais guilty of illegal entry into the neighboring country will have no implication on ongoing negotiations to settle border disputes between the two nations.

On a special televised program broadcast nationwide on Sunday's evening, Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said: "There has been nowhere that the Thai government has said it will accept the Cambodian court's verdict on the border demarcation."

Abhisit said the verdict will only bind the individuals or parties involved in the court case.

He said any demarcation on the common border's disputed areas will have to be worked out under the existing memorandum of understanding (MOU) signed in 2000 between Thailand and Cambodia.

Last Friday, five Thais, including Panich Vikitsreth, a Bangkok MP of Abhisit's Democrat Party, were found guilty by a court in Phnom Penh of illegal entry into Cambodia and trespassing into a military area.

Each was given nine months of imprisonment and fined one million riels (250 U.S. dollars), but the jail term is suspended.

The five returned to Bangkok on Saturday after spending almost a month in Prey Sar prison in Phnom Penh.

Abhisit said the five Thais were arrested on Dec. 29 by Cambodian soldiers when they were on the Cambodian side of a line currently being used by both countries as the "working border line ".

But the Thai premier said the line was not the demarcation under the MOU, and that his government, which has been in contact with Phnom Penh since the arrest, had never told Cambodia that the Thais were on Cambodian territory when being arrested.

He said the Thai government will need to comply with the MOU's mechanism in settling the border disputes with Cambodia as there is no other framework to do so.

Two other Thais, also being arrested with the five on Dec. 29, are still being detained in Prey Sar prison for additional charges of espionage.

They include Veera Somkwamkid - a leader of the nationalistic Thailand Patriots Network, whose supporters have been protesting in Bangkok against the Abhisit government for its mishandling of the Thai-Cambodian border disputes.

Source: Xinhua

ACU head says Dara dealt drugs

via CAAI

Sunday, 23 January 2011 22:20 Vong Sokheng

Former anti-drug czar Moek Dara ran a drug-selling scheme from within his anti-drug department, leading to charges of both corruption and drug-dealing with the possibility of a life sentence, Om Yentieng, head of the government’s Anticorruption Unit, said on Friday.

“They used the anti-drug department as a network for selling drugs,” Om Yentieng said at a press conference aimed at outlining the investigation that led to the ACU’s most prominent arrest yet. “Under the new penal code, a person who sells drugs will be sentenced to life in prison”, he said.

Moek Dara, former secretary general of the National Authority for Combating Drugs, was arrested on January 11, along with Chea Leang, former chief of the anti-drug office at the Ministry of Interior.

Police have said the arrest of former Banteay Meanchey provincial police chief Hun Hean and his deputy, Chheang Sun, led them to Moek Dara and Chea Leang.

Chea Leang and Chheang Sun were also charged with both corruption and selling drugs, whereas Hun Hean was charged with corruption only, Om Yentieng said.

Moek Dara set up a drug-dealing ring and took more than US$70,000 in bribes, Om Yentieng said.

In the case that led to his arrest, Moek Dara had allegedly confiscated two kilogrammes of heroin, but reported only 1 kilogramme to the court, keeping the rest at his office along with thousands of tablets of methamphetamines, Om Yentieng said.

Om Yentieng held up a hand-written testimony from an anonymous officer that he said sparked the investigation, which he said may lead to more cases.

“The court has issued a warrant for us to continue investigating more of the big cases that have been implicated by this testimony,” the ACU director said.

Prime Minister Hun Sen warned on Saturday that high-ranking government officials would not escape investigations for corruption, especially relating to drugs.

“Drugs are a giant virus threatening to destroy society and the government has taken a hot measure, including the crackdown against high-ranking officials up to the rank of three-star general,” Hun Sen said at the inauguration ceremony for a new school building in Phnom Penh.

But Hun Sen said that even a general “bearing the moon”, the highest rank, could be arrested for corruption.

On Friday, Hun Sen said in a statement issued by the Council of Ministers he would not tolerate “even those claiming to be a loyalist of the Cambodian People’s Party” who were found to be corrupt, selling drugs, land-grabbing or illegal logging, and said they must cease such activities immediately.

Human Rights Party spokesman Nehm Ponharith said he “welcomed” the moves against corruption and hopes the government brings “real political will” to the fight.

WikiLeaks sheds light on Dara

via CAAI

Sunday, 23 January 2011 22:48 James O'Toole

Ousted anti-drug czar Moek Dara served as a trusted source for United States embassy officials in Phnom Penh, according to an American diplomatic cable released by the transparency organisation WikiLeaks, raising questions about the quality of intelligence available to diplomats and development organisations.

In the 2006 cable, the first from the US Embassy in Phnom Penh released by WikiLeaks, Moek Dara and an unnamed official from the World Health Organisation offer accounts of Cambodia’s drug enforcement and prevention efforts. Moek Dara served as secretary general of the National Authority for Combating Drugs before being arrested earlier this month, standing accused of heading up a ring of corrupt officials involved in extortion and drug trafficking.

Citing Moek Dara, the American cable touts a “dramatic increase in heroin and [amphetamine-type stimulant] seizures and drug arrests”. Credit for these achievements, the NACD secretary general reportedly said, was due in large measure to counternarcotics training sessions for Cambodian officials led by the US State Department and Drug Enforcement Administration.

“While increased smuggling activity may account for some of the increased seizures and arrests, it is clear that the Cambodian government is turning up the heat on the country’s drug smugglers,” the cable concludes. “Training from the [US government] and other countries is playing a critical role in supporting this effort.”

David Harding, a drug expert at the NGO Friends International, said narcotics arrests and seizures had increased in recent years, but he added that it was not clear what has accounted for these increases.

“It’s really difficult to say how effective policing is, because it could just be that there’s so much more trafficking now … that people are falling over trafficking and production issues more often,” he said.

Graham Shaw, technical officer on drug use with the World Health Organisation, agreed, noting the difficulty in comparing seizures and arrests to the total amount of drugs being trafficked through the Kingdom.

“Obviously the drug traffickers, they’re not publishing their annual results, are they?” he said.

Moek Dara faces a possible life sentence for allegedly colluding with former Banteay Meanchey provincial police chief Hun Hean and other officials to solicit bribes from drug traffickers and even steal their shipments, Anticorruption Unit head Om Yentieng announced on Friday. His arrest represents the most high-profile case yet for the newly established ACU.

US embassy spokesman Mark Wenig said in an email that embassy officials “will not comment on the authenticity, veracity, or content of any allegedly leaked U.S. government documents”.

WikiLeaks has acquired a trove of more than 250,000 US diplomatic cables. More than 248,000 have yet to be released, including nearly 800 from the American embassy in Phnom Penh.

In the cable released last week, Moek Dara and US officials discuss the 2006 arrest of a Kep municipal police officer for trafficking heroin. When questioned on the incident, Moek Dara “was not expansive … noting simply that it is not uncommon for low-ranking police and military officials to be arrested for drug trafficking”, the US report says.

The unnamed WHO official in the cable, meanwhile, “noted that drug investigations of police or military officials are very rare, and speculated that the individual involved may even have run afoul of rumoured higher-level police involvement in narcotics.”

Some observers have speculated that the arrests of Moek Dara and Hun Hean may be related to factional politics within the ruling party between Prime Minister Hun Sen and officials loyal to Interior Minister Sar Kheng. Hun Hean is a former bodyguard of Sar Kheng, while Moek Dara was formerly a police official in Battambang province, a region traditionally associated with the Sar Kheng faction.

Shaw said there had always been “a persistent rumour” among those working on drug issues of high-level government involvement in trafficking, though he said specific names were never mentioned. Moek Dara, he added, was one of the few drug enforcement contacts available to diplomats and development officials.

“There’s not that many options to really talk to – Moek Dara is one of the very few involved in those kinds of cases,” Shaw said. “It’s a pretty small pool of fish.”


Chinese embassy weighs in on lake

Photo by: Pha Lina
Boeung Kak lake residents display Chinese flags during a protest against a Chinese company involved in Shukaku Inc’s development project during a week-long protest at ‘Freedom Park’ earlier this month.

via CAAI

Sunday, 23 January 2011 21:05 James O'Toole

A Chinese embassy official has claimed that “western influence” may be behind protests by residents set to be displaced by a local firm and a Chinese company developing the controversial Boeung Kak lake site, according to a Chinese media report.

A document dated November 27 that emerged earlier this month confirmed reports that a Chinese joint venture partner, Inner Mongolia Erdos Hung Jun Investment Co, has joined with ruling party senator Lao Meng Khin’s Shukaku Inc to develop a site that rights groups say will ultimately displace more than 4,000 lakeside families.

Residents affected by the project have staged near-constant protests in central Phnom Penh over the past few years to agitate for better compensation.

In a report last week by the Chongqing Evening News, Jin Yuan of the Commercial Section of the Chinese Embassy in Phnom Penh defended the project and Erdos’s involvement in it, noting that the Chinese firm “will only be involved in development and construction of the project, and will not play a role in clearing the construction site or in resettlement issues”.

“Resettlement itself is rather complicated, and some upset residents are too aggressive in seeking resettlement,” Jin said, according to the Chongqing Evening News.

“They think that the development company should be responsible to them for resettlement issues.”
The aggrieved residents, Jin added, may not be protesting entirely of their own accord.

“It is not out of the question that Western influence is behind the recent uproar.” Jin told reporters that two years ago that Chinese development companies ran into similar issues in Laos, where there Western media had created rumours that China planned to moved 50,000 Chinese people to Laos in conjunction with a real estate development, CEN reported.

Jin’s assistant, Wang Min, said in an email today that the embassy “has released an interview and so far has no further comment” on the Boeung Kak project.

Those facing eviction have received varying compensation options, including housing at a relocation site in Dangkor district, on-site relocation – the plans for which have yet to materialise – or cash payments of US$8,500, which they have complained is far below the market value of their property.

Sia Phearum, secretariat director of the Housing Rights Task Force, rejected Jin’s account of the residents’ protests.

“They just want to open negotiations with the government or the company,” Sia Phearum said. “I think if the [Chinese] ambassador was affected by development like that, I think the ambassador would do the same thing.”

Union leader threatens massive strike

via CAAI

Sunday, 23 January 2011 21:00 Meas Sokchea

Prominent union leader Chea Mony has issued an ultimatum to the government to find his brother’s murderers within one year or face massive union strikes.

Chea Mony, Free Trade Union president and brother of slain union leader Chea Vichea, issued the edict on Saturday, the anniversary of his brother’s murder.

Chea Vichea was gunned down on January 22, 2004, near Wat Langka in Phnom Penh.

Two men were arrested and imprisoned for the killing but their convictions were overturned in 2009.

“We can give the government one more year to find ... the murderers [of Chea Vichea],” Chea Mony said.

“If the government cannot find them, I will call a massive strike.”

He challenged the government to arrest the real perpetrators and not delay the case by arresting people unassociated with the crime.

Talking to more than 200 people at a ceremony commemorating the union leader’s death, Chea Mony called for the government to stop killing political adversaries and choose peaceful negotiation instead.

“Stop ending their lives by the barrel [of a gun]. The country has rule of law and [they] must not shoot anyone but resolve [conflict] with peaceful actions,” Chea Mony said.

Rong Chhun, president of the Cambodian Independent Teachers Association, questioned whether the time it has taken the government to find Chea Vichea’s killer was indicative of an inability to investigate the murder or the involvement of high ranking officials.

Khieu Sopheak, spokesman for the Ministry of the Interior, would not provide detailed comment today, but said Chea Mony should not issue ultimatums to the government as the murder investigation was still ongoing.

He further warned Chea Mony would face charges if he interfered with national security.

“What we do, we do lawfully. You can exercise your rights but the government warns in this case, you must be careful of abiding by the law and national security,” Khieu Sopheak said.

Love shack for angry elephant

via CAAI

Sunday, 23 January 2011 21:12 Buth Reaksmey Kongkea

Wildlife Alliance plans to invest US$70,000 to build two new cages to facilitate the breeding of a recently captured renegade elephant named Sambo and three potential mates at Phnom Tamao Zoo.

Nhem Thy, vice-director and animal technical expert at the Phnom Tamao Zoo, said plans had been made to build one cage for Sambo and another for three female elephants named Narann, Lucky and Chamroeun.

“We are building safe cages for Sambo and for Narann, Lucky and Chamroeun so they can breed and increase the elephant population,” he said.

He said according to estimates, Sambo’s new cage will cost $10,000 and the cage for Narann, Lucky and Chamroeun will cost an additional $60,000.

He added that zoo officials will also attempt a second meeting between Sambo and Srey Pao, the female elephant who refused Sambo’s advances earlier this month.

Sambo was sent from Kampong Speu province to Phnom Tamao Zoo on December 25 after he killed his owner in early December.

Sambo subsequently fled into nearby jungle, from which he trampled crops and terrorized residents of Mon village.

He was later shot with tranquiliser darts, chained to a log in a rice field adjacent to the village, and eventually transported to Phnom Tamao Zoo on Christmas Day.