Friday, 28 January 2011

AKP - The Agence Kampuchea Press

via CAAI

Cambodian Government’s Commitment to Foster Local Good Governance

Phnom Penh, January 28, 2011 AKP – The Royal Government of Cambodia has made a commitment to foster the local good governance, the implementation of socio-economic policy and reform activities as a vital factor for the sustainability of the development and the poverty alleviation.

Addressing at the 2nd annual forum of the Local Good Governance Project (LGGP) held here yesterday, Deputy Prime Minister H.E. Sar Kheng, minister of Interior and chairman of the national committee for sub-national level democratic development, said the comprehensive aim of the royal government for the democratic development at the local and provincial levels was to create the democratic culture with the participation of the citizens and the accountability for the citizens.

The citizen is not only to participate in holding every five years general election, but also contributing to safeguarding their locality, promoting the standard of living and conducting the local development via the improvement of public facilities and infrastructures leading to the socio-economic development and the poverty reduction.

In his remarks at the annual forum being conducted under the topic of “the encouragement of the citizen’s participation for the good governance”, the minister said the peace, the political stability, the security and social order are the main keys to create the favorable conditions to a process of socio-economic development and a progress of other fields.

He attached the importance to the security and social order, which he said was to secure the safety of the citizen and the whole society.

He also urged for the support of the local policy with safety, with the aim of making the Cambodian society safe across the country.

The participation of the citizens is a right, a duty, an obligation, a main social capital and determination for strengthening the good governance and improving the centralization and deconcentration reform in Cambodia towards the socio-economic development and the improvement of livelihoods of Cambodians with equity and sustainability, he stressed. –AKP

By THOU Peou


First Vice President of French Senate Is Satisfied with KRT’s Progress
Phnom Penh, January 28, 2011 AKP – Visiting French Senate First Vice President Ms. Catherine Tasca expressed her satisfaction with the progress of the Khmer Rouge Tribunal (KRT), during a visit on Jan. 26 to KRT.

Ms. Tasca, accompanied by senators and officials of the French diplomacy, highly evaluated KRT’s mission to bring justice to the victims of Democratic Kampuchea or the Khmer Rouge regime.

Mr. Raung Chhorng, representative of Acting Director of the KRT Office of Administration H.E. Kranh Tony, informed the French delegation of the trial of Kaing Guek Eav, alias Duch, former head of Tuol Sleng prison or S-21, and the Case 002 concerning the other four senior Khmer Rouge leaders including Khieu Samphan, former head of state; Nuon Chea, former NA president; Ieng Sary, former deputy prime minister and minister of foreign affairs, and his wife Ieng Thirith, former minister of social affairs and education.

Mr. Raung Chhorng further wished for more contribution from France to support KRT’s process. Since the tribunal’s establishment, France has contributed some US$6.5 million, of which over US$6 million to the international side and over 200,000 to the national side.

The French Senate delegation led by Ms. Tasca, also chairperson of French-Cambodia Friendship Senate Group, arrived here on Jan. 24 for a week-long visit to Cambodia. During her visit, she was received in a royal audience by His Majesty King Norodom Sihamoni and held talks with Senate Second Vice President H.E. Tep Ngorn, and Acting National Assembly President H.E. Nguon Nhel.

According to the schedule, the French delegation will also meet with Siem Reap Governor H.E. Sou Phirin and visit the French School and bilingual classes in Siem Reap province. –AKP



DPM Keat Chhon Receives New Australian Ambassador

Phnom Penh, January 28, 2011 AKP – Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economy and Finance H.E. Keat Chhon received here yesterday newly-appointed Australian Ambassador to Cambodia Ms. Penny Richards.

The Australian diplomat is delighted to fulfill her diplomatic mission in Cambodia and she is committed to continue to further promote Australia-Cambodia bilateral cooperation.

Ms. Penny Richards also expressed her satisfaction with the cooperation between the two countries, both in bilateral and multilateral frameworks.

In the bilateral framework, she added, Australia has provided between 1992 and 2010 about US$350 million in grant to Cambodia to support 41 projects.

This financial assistance mainly focused on strengthening the rule of law, increasing agricultural production and incomes, reducing poverty and enhancing the field of health, said the ambassador.

For his part, H.E. Keat Chhon thanked the Australian government and people for their support to Cambodia from the peace-seeking period to the country’s reconstruction and development.

The Cambodian deputy prime minister also congratulated Australia on its National Day held on Jan. 26. –AKP

Article in Khmer by HUN Yuth Kun
Article in English by Théng


Cambodians Work Together to Promote Cambodia into the Kingdom of Culture

Phnom Penh, January 28, 2011 AKP – The Kingdom of culture has become the main topic during a three-day annual meeting of the Ministry Culture and Fine Arts.

“The Kingdom of culture with safety, sustainability, harmony and progress is the main topic of the discussion in the ministry’s meeting”, H.E. Him Chhem, minister of Culture and Fine Arts said during the closing ceremony of the meeting yesterday.

The meeting was attended by ministry’s officials from 24 municipality and provinces across the country.

H.E. Khim Sarith, secretary of state at the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts said culture has been playing a key role in the country’s economic development. –AKP

By KHAN Sophirom


Environment Ministry Signs MoU with Japanese Institute of Environment Rehabilitation and Conservation

Phnom Penh, January 28, 2011 AKP – The General Department of Administration for Natural Protection and Conservation of Cambodia’s Environment Ministry and the Institute of Environment Rehabilitation and Conservation of Japan have signed a Memorandum of Understanding here on Wednesday.

The signing ceremony was held in the presence of Director General of the General Department of Administration for Natural Protection and Conservation Mr. Chay Samith and Dr. Machito Mihara, president of the Institute of Environment Rehabilitation and Conservation of Japan.

Addressing the singing ceremony, Mr. Chay Samith said under the just-signed MoU, Cambodia’s Environment Ministry will closely collaborate with the Japanese institute to help protect eco-system by sustainably using natural resource, maintain natural balance and prevent climate change as well. –AKP

By CHEA Vannak

Battambang lecturers in graft claim

via CAAI

Friday, 28 January 2011 15:04 Mom Kunthear

About 20 lecturers at Battambang University have accused Dean Touch Visal Sok, of corruption and partisanship in the management of the school.

Chhim Kimly, 37, a lecturer at the university who says she has been suspended from her post, said yesterday that a majority of the lecturers don’t support the dean’s leadership and further accuse him of mismanaging school funds and showing favouritism in the assignment of teaching schedules.

“The dean suspended me from teaching for nearly two years because I disagreed with his leadership,” Chhim Kimly said. She added that the dean has refused to provide details of how university funds are used.

“When we ask how school funds are being administered, he just says that money is being spent for the development of the university, but we don’t see any development.”

Another teacher who spoke on condition of anonymity said that teachers filed a complaint with the Ministry of Education in October but have yet to receive an official response.

The teacher said that lecturers who support the dean get to teach 20 to 30 classes per term, while those who don’t are assigned only one or two, thereby affecting their income. He said teachers have also been warned not to speak to the media.

“I want the Ministry of Education to remove this dean from the university and the Anticorruption Unit to investigate the case,” he said, adding that teachers also plan to file a complaint to Prime Minister Hun Sen’s cabinet.

Touch Visal Sok said on Wednesday that the accusations against him were unfounded.

“[Teachers] say something bad in order to damage the reputation of this famous school, which is managed by me,” he said, adding that he has no fear of the accusations because he has done nothing wrong.

Nea Sophan, who identified himself as manager of the staff department at the Ministry of Education, said yesterday that he received the lecturers’ complaint and was working on it.

“The ministry is investigating these claims,” he said.

Border leaflets: Police seize anti-state documents

via CAAI

Friday, 28 January 2011 15:03 Phak Seangly

Border leaflets

Police patrolling in Battambang on Thursday morning found leaflets they described as containing an anti-government message related to Cambodian-Vietnam border issues.

Battambang town Police Chief Thuch Ra said the leaflets – which also referenced the arrest of Hun Hean, former Banteay Meanchey provincial police chief removed from office earlier this month on graft charges – were found by an officer at five locations near two local pagodas at about 5am.

“We have no clue yet about the case but we are working to find the distributor,” he said.

Battambang Provincial Police Chief Sar Thet said more than 60 anti-government leaflets were picked up by police.

“We gathered the leaflets and are searching for the distributors,” he said before declining to comment further.

Heng Say Hong, Licadho investigator in Battambang, said that as many as 80 anti-government leaflets were found by police referencing territory issues and describing Hun Hean as a “nationalist”.

Battambang police declined to describe the leaflets in detail other than to acknowledge that they carried an anti-government message.

Detention leads to road block

via CAAI

Friday, 28 January 2011 15:02 Chhay Channyda

A village representative from Kampong Cham province’s Memot district was released from prison yesterday after residents campaigned for his release by blocking National Road 7.

Ly Leang, a 53-year-old who represents Sre Som Chas village in Kompoan commune, was arrested on Wednesday and charged with violent acts and infringing on private property.

The village’s 136 families have been locked in a land dispute with the province after a 400-hectare land concession was given to three individuals, whose identities remain unknown to the affected families.

The actions leading to Ly Leang’s charges were not provided by the provincial court’s deputy prosecutor.

Ly Leang said he was arrested on Wednesday morning when returning home from a market. Four military police officials, he said, stopped his motorbike, handcuffed him and put him in a car.

Muong Sarin, deputy prosecutor at Kampong Cham Provincial Court, said the authorities agreed to release Ly Leang as part of a negotiation to have the villagers stop the road blockage.

HRP seeks to resume talks of a merger between opposition

via CAAI

Friday, 28 January 2011 15:02 Meas Sokchea

Humen rights Party President Kem Sokha urged Sam Rainsy to restart talks about a merger of the two opposition parties, according to a letter obtained by The Post yesterday.

Kem Sokha urged Sam Rainsy, president of the eponymous political party, to consider merging by July this year in a letter dated January 25.

“The HRP understands that if we want a real democratic movement merger that can save our nation, we have a lot of affairs to discuss in order to build a unified alliance that will be stronger and more successful,” Kem Sokha wrote.

Kem Sokha said that a merger that lacked internal democratic reforms and merely distributed power among party loyalists would fail against the ruling Cambodian People’s Party.

“The HRP understands that if we want to correct them, we must correct ourselves first,” the letter said.

“If there is no risk, there is also no change.”

The letter also gave a timeframe for merger negotiations.

“The HRP wants to see the merger between our parties be successful before July.”

Yim Sovann, SRP spokesman, declined to comment yesterday, saying he had not yet seen the letter.

Phay Siphan, spokesman at the Council of Ministers, said that the suggestion that a merger between the opposition groups would help “save the nation” was an insult.

“When we use this word, it is a word of attack, a word of insult,” Phay Siphan said.

“We are not scared of [their merger], we are only scared of poverty.”

Kem Sokha’s letter is the latest in a series of related opposition unity discussions.

In November, United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton reportedly urged the two parties during a meeting to form a united platform.

Kem Sokha said at the time that he supported a merger.

“The decision to form a united opposition, it is up to the Sam Rainsy Party. For me, I have always wanted to unite,” he said.

Yim Sovann said, following Clinton’s visit, that a merger could endanger existing opposition seats in parliament.

A proposal for the SRP, HRP and Norodom Ranariddh Party to merge ahead of the 2008 national elections fell through.

Sam Rainsy summoned to high court

via CAAI

Friday, 28 January 2011 15:02 Meas Sokchea

The supreme Court has summoned opposition leader Sam Rainsy to appear for a hearing on February 16 in connection with his conviction for uprooting border demarcation posts in Svay Rieng province in October 2009.

In January last year, Svay Rieng provincial court sentenced the Sam Rainsy Party president in absentia to two years jail for destroying public property and racial incitement, a conviction that was upheld by the Appeal Court last October.

The Appeal Court also released two villagers – Meas Srey and Prum Chea – sentenced to a year in prison in connection with the incident.

According to a citation issued on January 21 by Supreme Court Deputy General Prosecutor Chhoun Chantha, Sam Rainsy has been summoned to appear at 8am with his lawyer Choung Choungy and the two villagers.

Choung Choungy said yesterday he has already asked for a postponement from the court. “Any day is okay provided that the court summons me next time,” he said.

He added that the appeal was filed to the Supreme Court late last year on behalf of Sam Rainsy, who is now living in self-exile in France.

“I have filed a grievance complaint to the Supreme Court to cancel the decision of the Appeal Court. I cannot say whether I am hopeful or not, but I will try my best to defend my clients,” Choung Choungy said.

“I would like to request the court to judge according to an independent stance. Don’t be under the influence of anyone.”

In a separate case, Phnom Penh Municipal Court sentenced Sam Rainsy to an additional 10 years jail in September, after convicting him of disinformation and falsifying public documents.

The charges stemmed from evidence he publicised on the SRP’s website and in video press conferences following his January conviction that also alleged Vietnamese encroachment on Cambodian territory.

Choung Choungy said an appeal against the conviction had been forwarded to the Appeal Court, but that a hearing date has not yet been set.

Chhoun Chantha could not be reached on Wednesday.

Gas trucks only at night: city

Photo by: Pha Lina
A truck delivers petrol to a Total station in Phnom Penh’s Dangkor district yesterday.

via CAAI

Friday, 28 January 2011 15:02 Mom Kunthear

City hall announced yesterday that all trucks transporting petrol and natural gas will be allowed to travel in the city only between the hours of 10pm and 5am, although it did not specify when the new regulation would take effect.

The city said the new rule was designed to avoid traffic jams and accidents involving gas-carrying vehicles.

“City Hall expects that the owners of trucks transporting gasoline and natural gas will cooperate with us to reduce accidents,” the statement said. On September 21, a truck carrying 8,000 litres of petrol exploded in Prampi Makara district, igniting nearby houses and destroying five cars.

Prak Sophea, 25, a driver for Mekong Petroleum, said he welcomed the intent of the announcement but was concerned that it might actually increase the frequency of accidents.

“It’s a good idea, but I’m worried about the time limit.... because it is the time when all people take a rest from work,” he said. “I want to keep the normal time I [drive] every day, from 7am to 5pm.”

Prak Sophea said it would be difficult for drivers to stay awake at night, perhaps increasing the frequency of accidents.

Heng Chantheary, chief of Phnom Penh traffic police, said he had not yet seen the announcement but would enforce it once he has received orders from City Hall.

“I don’t know whether we will fine them or stop and educate them, or just let them go, because I didn’t get the order yet,” he said.

Police Blotter: 28 Jan 2011

via CAAI

Friday, 28 January 2011 15:02 Sen David

Villagers dump body at pagoda in Kratie
The body of a 36-year-old woman was dumped at a pagoda in Kratie province’s Chhlong district on Sunday. A witness said that they saw a man and an old woman carry the dead woman to the pagoda on a motorbike and throw her body there. Police concluded that she died of HIV because police found AIDS drugs on her body. Police and monks have decided to cremate the body.

Sand truck in accident on Monivong Bridge
A woman and her daughter were seriously injured when a sand truck crashed into their motorbike on Monivong Bridge in Phnom Penh’s Meanchey district on Wednesday. The truck was speeding over the bridge and smashed into a motorbike carrying a 30-year-old woman and her 4-year-old daughter. A witness said that they were lucky to be alive, but were sent to the hospital with serious leg injuries. The truck driver fled the scene of the accident.

Woman hangs herself in Oddar Meanchey
The 52-year-old wife of a deputy governor of Oddar Meanchey province hanged herself in her house in Oddar Meanchey‘s Trapaing Prasat district on Tuesday. Her daughter said that on the day of the incident, her mother was alone in the home. Her husband went to work and her daughter had gone to the market. When her daughter arrived home she called out but her mother did not reply. Her daughter then found her mother hanging by her neck in her bedroom.

Men not amused by banter of wedding host
Four men were detained on Sunday after getting in a fight with the host of a wedding party in Kampong Cham province’s O’Reang-ou district. The wedding guests said that all of the guests were very happy and were dancing together when the host jokingly said that the guests should dance 20 metres away. He spoke in jest, but four men became angered by his remarks and beat him severely. When police arrested the four men, they said they were angry at the host’s speech. The host has demanded US$500 compensation for his injuries.

‘Gangsters’ attack man at Kambong Speu party
A 20-year-old man was seriously injured last Saturday after joining a village party in Kampong Speu’s Oral district. A witness from the party said he was attacked by a group of “gangsters”, although no one seemed to know the cause of the violence. Police arrested three suspects in the aftermath.

Preserving holy dolphins

via CAAI

Friday, 28 January 2011 15:02 POST STAFF

The Supreme Patriarch of the Thammayud sect of Cambodia’s Buddhist clergy is to address the urgent need to protect the Mekong River’s endangered population of Irrawaddy dolphins at the launch of a Buddhist awareness project on environmental protection today in Kratie province, according to a press release issued yesterday by the World Wildlife Fund.

Tax take up in reeling sector

Photo by: Soeun Say
People gamble at the Ha Tien casino in Kampot province in September of last year.

via CAAI

Friday, 28 January 2011 15:01 Chun Sophal

Improved revenue collection techniques led to an annualised 23 percent increase in tax revenues from the Kingdom’s casino industry, according to the Ministry of Economy and Finance.

But insiders say the industry is facing challenges, with casinos likely to shut if they do not attract more patrons.

“We think many casinos will go bankrupt, due to fewer clients, if the government doesn’t establish policies to secure them,” said Kith Thieng, chief executive officer of Titan Casino in Svay Rieng province.

The situation would continue unless more clients were encouraged to come to the border-area casinos, he said, adding most casinos were permitted to build only in remote locations near the border, which was keeping patrons away.

Several casinos in Bavet city near the Cambodia-Vietnam border shut their doors last year.

Winn casino closed in September, while VIP casino ended its operations in November – with more closures likely to come, officials warned at the time.

Ministry of Economy and Finance figures obtained yesterday show the Kingdom’s tax revenue from 20 Cambodian casinos contributed US$16 million to state coffers in 2010, from $13 million the year previous.
Ministry secretary of state Chea Peng Chheang said the increase was due largely to better tax collection measures put in place by the ministry.

Casinos had also improved management, reducing unnecessary expenses, he claimed.

“We hope revenues will continue to increase in 2011, because investors in the sector are gaining more experience in making profits to pay for their tax obligations, and our tax officers are using better methods for tax collection,” he said.

Several casinos had closed as well as opened during the previous year, depending on the relative success of each of the business ventures, according to Chea Peng Chheang. However, yesterday he did not detail the number of casinos that were added or had shut.

Opposition lawmaker Son Chhay said yesterday the concealment of the numbers of casinos that had closed or opened proved the government had insufficient procedures to accurately collect tax revenues from the sector.

Many casinos have obtained licences but do not keep accurate accounting records to show revenues, leading to loses for tax collectors, he claimed. “The government collects more tax revenue from casino entertainment, but it is revenue from registering for the licence, not from taxes on profit,” he said.

“If all the casino companies followed official guidelines with accounting revenues, the government would generate more than $50 million in tax revenue per year from the sector.”

Housing approvals in capital show lift

via CAAI

Friday, 28 January 2011 15:01 Soeun Say

The value of residential homes approved for Phnom Penh increased by nearly 12 percent in 2010 compared to a year earlier, according to statistics from the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction.

The ministry approved 2,799 separate houses and flats worth US$216 million in the capital last year, an 11.9 percent increase in value on the 2,836 buildings approved in 2009, worth $193 million.

Department of Construction Director Lao Tip Seiha said yesterday that the residential housing market in Phnom Penh had begun to recover last year from the financial crisis.

“In 2010, we approved a lot of residential construction projects sourced from local investment – it is a good sign that construction approvals are increasing in Phnom Penh,” he said.

The amount of residential accommodation being built lagged behind the anticipated needs of the capital’s growing population, he claimed.

Some 10,000 new families come to the capital each year, boosting housing requirements significantly.

Sung Bonna, president of the National Valuers Association of Cambodia, said that 2010 was largely a year of smaller construction projects.

“People built for their own use, or individual homes and businesses,” he said.

“We are optimistic that the construction and real estate sectors will improve on last year.”

Statistics for the whole of Cambodia obtained earlier this week showed the nation-wide value of projects – including individual buildings as well as larger developments – declined nearly 58 percent in 2010 compared to 2009.

Some 2,149 projects worth $840 million were approved last year, from 2,230 projects worth $1.988 billion given the green light in 2009, according to previous statistics from the ministry.

Inflation pressures mount

via CAAI

Friday, 28 January 2011 15:01 Steve Finch

Cambodia's consumer Price Index inflation last year stood at a satisfactory 4 percent, below an economic growth rate of more than 5 percent and well within the bounds of acceptability.

In 2011, however, inflationary pressures will rise leaving the Kingdom in a familiar Catch-22 scenario: Although almost all key indicators including GDP growth and bank lending will likely move in the right direction, in turn this will only fuel inflation.

The Cambodian government has increasingly used fiscal measures such as new taxes and tax enforcement along with a sober budget to help prevent runaway price rises. But with few monetary options at its disposal due to persistently high dollarisation, the state still lacks the most useful tool to control rising prices – interest rates.

Economists have predicted India will join Thailand and South Korea in raising interest rates this month to fight rising food and commodity prices, but in Cambodia no such luxury exists given the United States Federal Reserve remains the Kingdom’s default formulator of monetary policy.

This familiar situation posed few problems in 2010 as the economy started its recovery. But this year inflation will become a much greater threat.

“Inflationary pressures are increasing,” said Nick Owen, a Beijing-based economist specialising in Cambodia for the Economist Intelligence Unit.

The price of diesel in Cambodia has already risen 6.2 percent since December 1 at Sokimex, Tela, Caltex and Total petrol stations while premium gasoline is up 5.3 percent.

“Fuel is certainly going to have an impact, but I would be a lot more concerned about food prices, which globally are trending upwards,” Stephen Higgins, the CEO of ANZ Royal bank, said yesterday.

Prices for the national staple rice have steadily climbed in recent months and will likely retain upwards momentum as exporters look to raise the volume of overseas shipments this year. Paddy was up 1.72 percent on average at markets in Phnom Penh this month up to Wednesday.

With major banks reporting lending growth of over 30 percent last year and the micro-finance industry experiencing a similar rise in loans, most financial analysts have predicted liquidity will continue to expand in 2011 exerting further inflationary pressure.

Higgins said it may therefore be time for the National Bank of Cambodia to consider raising the reserve requirement again to help put a break on this influx of cash.

This would seem prudent, given the country’s outlook. The likes of the Asian Development Bank and the International Monetary Fund are predicting inflation of between 5 and 7.7 percent this year, while the EIU raised its outlook by 0.2 percentage points this month to 6.2 percent.

With inflationary pressures mounting and scarce monetary tools available to address the problem, Cambodia will be doing well if inflation is kept at the lower end of this scale.

Coffin competition on the increase

Photo by: Wesley Monts
A coffin maker carves a design into the outer surface of a wooden coffin at a shop on Sisowath Quay in Phnom Penh on Wednesday.

via CAAI
Friday, 28 January 2011 15:01 Mary Kozlovski

Amid a tangle of guest houses and restaurants on Phnom Penh’s riverfront are three coffin shops where caskets large and small stand in neat rows, ready to buy and made to order.

The shops are largely owned by Cambodians of Chinese descent who ply their trade by making and selling caskets and offering funeral services, such as the transportation and burial of bodies.

Tai Hok Huot began running his father’s coffin shop on Sisowath Quay more than 10 years ago.

His father started the business in 1985, and his uncle, Chao Bunna, owns a coffin shop a few blocks down.

The 42-year-old, whose grandfather was Chinese-born, said that a Cambodian aversion to selling coffins had opened a gap for Chinese merchants.

“Khmer people don’t like to sell coffins because they think it is like living with dead people,” he said. “People think it is unlucky. Chinese people don’t think like that.”

Wood is imported from Cambodia’s provinces to workshops in Phnom Penh, where “sculptors” sand and shape it into coffins. The exterior of a completed coffin can feature intricate carvings of trees and mountains or painted dragons, peacocks and flowers.

Prices range from US$100 up to more than $1,000 for the highest quality craftsmanship.

The coffins, according to shopkeepers, are sold mostly to Chinese people and made in a traditional style – narrower at the top and wider at the base with characters denoting happiness and long life painted at the head and foot.

But the shop-owners do not sell exclusively to Phnom Penh’s ethnic Chinese population. Coffins can be tailored to specific designs and measurements and occasionally the shops sell to Cambodians for cremation purposes.

Tai Hok Huot claims that Prime Minister Hun Sen bought a top-range coffin from his shop for his mother’s funeral, but he said that most Cambodians don’t buy expensive caskets.

“Khmer people burn bodies in coffins, so they don’t need to buy the expensive, good-quality coffins,” he said.

“Only some Khmer people choose to pay for the expensive coffins because they really respect the dead person.”

Though they are commercial businesses, Phnom Penh’s coffin shops also have a charitable edge. On the wall in Tai Hok Huot Coffin Shop is a log of caskets bought and donated to the poor, who cannot afford funeral services for deceased relatives.

“Sometimes poor people don’t have money so we can give them coffins for free,” said Tai Hok Huot.

A shopkeeper manning the counter at Chao Bunna Coffin Shop said this was also part of their business.

Competition in the coffin sector is growing. Tai Hok Huot claims that his shop used to be more profitable, but sales have dropped in recent years as competing shops began trading in Phnom Penh.

One such shop is run by 45-year-old Kang Uy Hok, who broke into the coffin trade about 10 years ago after closing her wood-selling business. Kang Uy Hok Coffin Shop is a smaller affair.

“We started our business later so we cannot sell as expensive coffins as other shops,” she said.

Despite the implied certainty of the coffin trade, Kang Uy Hok said that business can be unpredictable.

“Selling is not regular,” she said. “Life is not permanent, but we cannot predict [sales]”.

Ice house for a hot climate

Photo by: Nicky Mcgavin
The bizarre sight of an igloo house near Siem Reap.

via CAAI

Friday, 28 January 2011 15:01 Nicky McGavin

Althoug preserving mental tranquillity in Cambodia often requires abandoning the comforts of probability, spotting an igloo on National Road 6 on the outskirts of Siem Reap is still something of a surprise.

The white hemisphere sits, in shining incongruity, on the right hand side of the road to Phnom Penh, just 20 kilometres from Siem Reap.

But on closer examination, the igloo proves to be a house, with a bright red door and three small, rectangular windows.

Mounted on top of a square wooden platform, the dome that’s a home is actually made from moulded carbon-fibre sheets that slip over one another like fish scales and then screw down to form a perfect half sphere about six metres in diameter.

A group of four people very kindly showed me around the structure, highly bemused as to why the barang was there. Only one, Srey Loan, actually lives there. She and her husband are the caretakers of the unusual home, which she says was built by a Korean businessman who works for a company that is planning to build a hotel in the area.

The front door, if a hemisphere can have a front, and the windows are all double-glazed. There are three small windows, plus a 1.2-metre-high window at the side, providing a perfect morning view of the fields to the southeast.

“At kdao,” said one man (which means “not hot”), pointing inside.

The inside walls are lined with a moulded material that looks a little like Styrofoam, but it is chalky. The walls feel nice and cool to the touch, as does the textured cement floor.

Srey Loan tends the 100-odd young frangipani and betel trees that are planted between the house and Route Six and, with her husband Mr Seila, has been looking after the site for one year.

Siem Reap's beach of promise

via CAAI

Friday, 28 January 2011 15:01 Craig Miles

He's Bangkok’s King of Kitsch, captain of the new regional cool, owner of the label Global Trash Chic, and proprietor of funky designer hotels in Thailand.

Now he’s making a splash in Siem Reap with a new restaurant called Beaches. He’s also about to open new boutique hotel called Reflections Rooms, the same name as his much-publicised hotel in Bangkok where he commissioned artists to individually design the rooms.

He’s the Thai design entrepreneur Anusorn Ngernyuang, more commonly known as Nong, and his Beaches restaurant on Wat Bo Road is already a talking point.

It has layers of sand as the flooring, giving a relaxing and beach-like vibe. There are couches to sit on with a table to hold your drinks, funky chairs with cushions or normal tables, if that’s your cup of tea. Or possibly you could sit on the sand.

At night, the area is dimly lit, so it actually feels like you are at the beach and the menu boasts a wide range of affordable seafood delights.

There is also a small shop at the back of the restaurant, where customers can purchase beach-related items. “We are getting bikinis soon to sell,” Nong laughs.

Construction is now also well under way for a new Reflections Rooms hotel in Siem Reap based on his Thai masterpiece and Nong says he expects work to be completed next month.

Nong has asked several local artists to design some rooms, but has also imported talent from Thailand.

Popular Thai artist Kongpat Sakdapitak has already created an art studio as “his room” for the Siem Reap hotel. “It’s something that anyone can use,” he says.

“I wanted to make it fun and let people enjoy the room.”

The thought behind the art studio room is for guests to be able to draw on the walls or anywhere in the room. Sakdapitak has layered the room with paint brushes, crayons, books and other creative implements, most of which hang from the walls.

In another room, Bangkok artist Kathy Mcleod has painted her contribution, which she had two days to complete. “The concept is what a cat thinks about,” she explained. “I was thinking about what I’d like to draw, and I like to draw cats, so I thought ‘Why not?’”

On one wall, a cat is sitting on a chair reading a book with no title, with its thoughts floating above, including thoughts of fish, milk, bunnies and presents.

Kathy found out about the project through a mutual friend, and went to Nong’s other designer hotels in Bangkok for inspiration. She says a friend of hers turned one room into a movie theatre, complete with chairs.

In another room at the Siem Reap hotel, a group of five people painted a forest which they call “Peace of Cambodia”. The room’s designer, Heng Sreylen, is from the Handicraft Group of Cambodian Disabled Women in Phnom Penh.

Nong says he wanted to support the NGO because it is a new group and it gave them an opportunity to showcase what they can do. Their Facebook page is posted on the wall for any guest that is interested.

Currently the hotel is still under construction, as two older buildings are being joined together to create the hotel, and some of the décor is still to be finished.

But judging by some of Nong’s other hotels in Thailand, the Reflections Rooms should bring a vibrant, exciting touch to Siem Reap.

Man About Town: 28 Jan 2011

via CAAI

Friday, 28 January 2011 15:00 Peter Olszewski

Barangs’ big bikes
Many western expats in Siem Reap are quick to complain about Khmers who drive big SUVs. But many local expats also like to ride big motorbikes, eschewing the smaller 110-125 cc “motos” favoured by Cambodian counterparts.

This has drawn the ire of Khmer readers Ean Chum and Chan Kimleang, who write: “Why do expats have to drive around Siem Reap Town with big motorbikes, make a lot of noise, and drive dangerously fast?

“Is it just in non-respect for the Cambodian people and their culture? Or because they are rich, they are allowed to do what they want?”

Horse named Siem Reap
A RACEHORSE in New Zealand is named Siem Reap but, according to the Hawkes Bay Today newspaper, its form has faltered after a promising start.

The paper reports: “Another big northern hope is Siem Reap, who beat subsequent stakes winner Awesome Planet by four lengths in a debut performance that propelled him to 2000 Guineas favouritism. He never quite lived up to that, but he has won another two races. There always remains the chance that he’ll rediscover the ability he showed on debut.”

Still fun at the fair
THE Angkor Handicraft Fair, which has been running since Tuesday from 10am until 9pm daily in the Royal Palace Garden in front of Raffles Grand Hotel d’Angkor, will finish tomorrow evening.

This is the third annual fair organised by the Artisans Association of Cambodia to prompt people to buy Cambodian products, to increase and improve access to the market for social enterprises and business, and to highlight the abilities of disadvantaged producers.

Who’s in town?
In town: Mrs Catherine Tasca, first vice president of the French Senate and chairwoman of the Senate’s Franco-Cambodian Friendship Group. She leaves Siem Reap Sunday morning. She will visit a French school and, of course, do the temples.

Coming to town: The US-based all-female band The Like Me’s with lead singer Laura Mam will do their pop thing live, in English, Khmer and French, for two nights at the Tribute to the Masters concerts at the Bayon Temple on February 25 and 26. They will also perform at FCC Angkor on February 27.

Not coming to town: Megan Fox. Our beloved Minister of Information Kanharith Khieu informs us on his Facebook page that the Transformers 3 shoot set for Cambodia will take place in Siem Reap as well as Bokor. But he added: “I heard that Magan (sic) Fox won’t star in Transformers 3.”

Just been in town: A dozen of Malaysia’s brightest students, the grand prize team winners of the Mag Inc. 2010 contest. The Star newspaper reported that one winner, Amanda Ng, 16, from the Penang Chinese Girls’ High School who had returned from Stockholm, Sweden said: “In Stockholm, you see the technology of tomorrow. In Siem Reap, you see the poverty levels. It’s disheartening to note what the world is coming to.”

Show jumping on Sundays

Cambdodia’s Hoy Soparith competes at Equestrian Paradice in Bangkok during the Xmas Jumping event last December. Photo Supplied

via CAAI

Friday, 28 January 2011 15:00 Roth Meas

ABOUT 50 riders are readying to take part in the Kingdom’s premier show jumping tournament, the Norodom Sihanouk du Cambodge Championship, over the next three Sundays at the Cambodian Country Club.

Sessions for the competition, now in its seventh edition, are scheduled for the morning and afternoon, from 9:30am to noon and from 3pm to 5pm.

The event offers a rare chance for people to see top class equestrian action in the Kingdom, with the club offering free entry for spectators this weekend. CCC horse manager Hoy Soparith hopes this will introduce more Cambodians to the sport.

“I think it will be good to have many people coming to watch this horse competition in order to expand the horse riding sector and make it more prosperous in Cambodia,” he said. “After the Khmer Rouge regime, we were slow to consider the sport.”

The manager noted that the number of locals learning how to ride horses is still quite limited, with just a third of the 300 registered members at the CCC being Cambodian. However, local riders will outnumber foreigners 30-20 at the championships.

National team coach Guillaume Larivain revealed an extra burden on the minds of the home performers. “This year it is a challenge for the Cambodian riders because of the pressure around their possible selection for the SEA Games in November,” he said.

On Sunday, live music performances will accompany the proceedings. The event continues the following Sunday, with finals of the four categories – Galop 1, Galop 2/3, Galop 4/5 and Grand Prix – to be held on February 13. Trophies will be awarded by members of the Cambodian royal family. An entry fee of US$5 on those days will give spectators access to all the club’s facilities, including the restaurant, tennis courts, swimming pool and fitness room.

Four more battles in Cup

Kirivong Sok Sen Chey striker In Vichheka will regain the lead in the scorers charts of the 2011 Samdech Hun Sen Cup if he can net more than once on Sunday. Photo by: Sreng Meng Srun

via CAAI

Friday, 28 January 2011 15:00 Ung Chamroeun

The 2011 Samdech Hun Sen Cup wraps up its final four fixtures of the round of 16 this weekend at Olympic Stadium. We take a look at the match-ups spread over tomorrow and Sunday.

Police Military of Stung Treng v National Police Commissary
Saturday January 29 – 2pm
Coach Hok Sochivoan has skillfully led the Police Military of Stung Treng team to be the only provincial side to advance to the knockout stage as leaders of their group. The former national team player was philosophical ahead of this weekend’s last 16 fixture against National Police Commissary.

“As a coach, I want my team win every match, but [if we] win or lose depends on our strength and our luck,” he said.

Sok Sam Ath and Hout Chhaya are touted as the players to watch for Stung Treng.

Hok Sochivoan will meet his past Cambodia team colleague and now Police Comissary coach Ung Kanyanith on the sidelines of this highly anticipated clash.

In the National Police Commissary camp, skipper Sophal Udom and Oum Dimanche are still doubfuls for the upcoming match with knee injuries.

“However, we have enough class to defeat the Stung Treng side,” assured club vice president So Moniroath. “We are a lot of young talent players such as Tith Dina, Long Nasy and Soy Piseth.”

National Defence Ministry v Chhma Khmao
Saturday January 29 – 4:30pm
Despite the controversial exodus during the off-season of six key players, Cup holders National Defence Ministry (MND) are still in with a chance of retaining the trophy while Chhma Khmao will attempt to save some face after being relegated from the top tier last year.

MND assistant coach Hor Sok Heng recognised that his team have been weakened for this campaign, but praised the performance of youngsters such as Phoung Soksana and Chhin Chhoeun.

“Sure, we are not so strong compared to previous years, but we will try to defend the title,” he said, adding that their only injury concern was Touch Sok Heng.

Svay Rieng outfit Chhma Khmao face an uphill struggle for a place in the quarterfinals, with star duo - Men Piseth (suspened) and Sok Kolamara (knee injury) – out of action.

“We will have to work hard to win the match,’ said coach Pin Dara. “We lost our two best players, but we still have Kong Vichea, Khom Piseth and Uong Dara.”

According to the coach, Chhma Khmao receive vital financial support from Dy Vichea, son-in-law of Prime Minister Hun Sen and also son of the former chief of the National Police.

Naga Corp v Koh Kong
Sunday January 30 –2pm
Naga Corp manager Lam Tiny says he is still shocked at the decision by the Football Federation of Cambodia to forbid former MND players Sin Dalin and Nov Soseila from playing with their new team in the competion.

“I don’t know well about FIFA rules, but I just want them keep playing football,” said the manager. “It won’t affect the result of our match [this weekend]. We already have a strong squad to beat Koh Kong.”

Lam Tiny said he demands a solid performance from his back line, revealing that bonuses are given for keeping clean sheets, something they have achieved in every game during the group phase this year.

“I hope my old players, such Om Thavarak, Neang Chenla, Meas Channa, Pok Chanthan and Teab Vathanak, will try their best with some of them playing for the last time in their football careers,” added the manager.

Meanwhile, Koh Kong’s first choice goalkeeper Soup Phy will be on the bench because of a leg injury. Coach Kao Sara is struggling to stay optimistic ahead of the match against one of the top clubs in the Kingdom.

“We are a young side, so it’s difficult to say positive, but we will try our best,” he said. “We have striker Hun Sopheak, who has scored goals in each game of the group stage.”

Kirivong Sok Sen Chey v Takeo
Sunday January 30 – 4:30pm
The final game of the weekend signifies a first in the knockout stage of the Samdech Hun Sen Cup, a match up featuring two provincial sides. To add to the excitement, the two teams from Takeo have progressed to face each other in what promises to be a dramatic derby clash.

Phan Chan Phath, manager of Kirivong Sok Sen Chey, says his side have a “100 percent” chance of winning against Takeo because of their considerable experience in the top flight.

“We beat them in a friendly [during the off-season], so we can repeat it again,” he said.

Star striker In Vichheka, who with 15 goals so far in the tournament is one behind Preah Khan Reach’s Khoun Laboravy, is set to add to his tally and keep himself firmly in the hunt for the Golden Boot award.

On the other hand, forwards Meak Chhordaravuth and Pov Phearith, who were banned from group stage matches, will return to the squad after receiving an agreement with former club Chhma Khmao. “They are tall. They will play alongside In Vichheka to provide more firepower for Kirivong,”

Takeo coach Ith Vannarith is relishing Sunday’s match, but acknowledges the tough test they face in overcoming their provincial rivals.

“In football, there is no mercy. We both will try our best to win the game,” he said. According to the coach, among three players in his side that have played previously for Kirivong, only defender Hang Chantrea is confirmed for Sunday, while Him Salam and Mam Sophal are doubtful with health problems.

Top three seeds advance to quarterfinals of Futures

Thailand No 1 Danai Udomchoke plays a shot during his ITF Men’s Futures second round match yesterday against Dae Soung Oh of South Korea. Photo by: SRENG MENG SRUN

via CAAI

Friday, 28 January 2011 15:00 H S Manjunath

Top-seeded Vishnu Vardhan of India survived a first set scare before outlasting Liang Chi Huang of Taiwan in a tense three-setter to secure a place in the quarterfinals of the US$15,000 ITF Men’s Futures tennis tournament at the National Training Centre yesterday.

“It took a lot out of me and heat was a factor to reckon with,” said Vardhan after his 3-6, 6-4, 6-2 victory spread over two hours.

For nearly one-and-a-half sets, the Taiwanese youngster was flitting about the court with great purpose, often cutting off the big Indian with some solid forehands.

“He is a very good retriever who throws back everything at you,” added the 387th ranked Indian. “I couldnt quite figure out what was going wrong for me.

“I had to curb my instincts to serve and volley. When I started to stay back and rally I felt a lot better.”

Liang was unflappable after he broke through early to seal the first set. However, the Indian right-hander began to exploit the chinks in the armour of his opponent and scored a break in the third game of the second set.

Several games were pretty close calls for Vardhan, but the top seed managed to cling on as the visibly tired Liang made several unforced errors at the start of the third and could never quite get back into the contest.

A lively quarterfinal match-up awaits Vardhan against the left-handed Russian, Ervand Gasparyan, who blasted out a 6-3, 6-4 victory over 2009 Australian Junior Champion Yuki Bhambri of India.

Gasparyan fired a high percentage of service winners as he quickly sorted out the 18-year-old from New Delhi, using powerful forehands as his weapon of choice. A brief second set rally by Bhambri was then quickly quashed by the Russian.

The day’s most impressive winner was Thailand’s Danai Udomchoke, who consistently outrallied Korean qualifier Dae-Soung Oh 6-1, 6-2.

“I am happy with my serve,” said Danai. “Oh is the kind of a player who loves to keep the ball in play from every part of the court. So I had to mix my strokes up a bit and it worked quite well for me.”

The Thai No 1 will now take on India’s Rohan Gajjar, who had no qualms in dealing with Japan’s Shuichi Sekiguchi. The Indian right hander was all over the Japanese youngster in the first set and secured an early break in the second to run out a 6-3, 6-4 winner.

Thailand’s No 2 player Kittipong Wachiramanowong, a wild card pick here, came through his second round against India’s N Vijay Sundar Prashanth 6-4, 6-2 without much ado. However, fellow Thai national Weerapat Doakmaiklee was outslugged by Sato Bumpei of Japan 6-1, 7-5.

Later yesterday, Austrian second seed Nikolaus Moser was too consistent for his rival Kirati Siributwong of Thailand. Moser took time to settle down, but once he did there was no stopping him, taking the match 6-4, 6-2.

Third seeded Toshihide Matsui of Japan was stretched to the limits of his ability by Indonesia’s Elbert Sie in two well-contested sets. In both sets, the Japanese star played the big points better to emerge a 7-5, 7-5 winner.

Escaping the Jurassic period

via CAAI

Friday, 28 January 2011 11:18 Matt Lundy

As a former member of Jurassic 5, Akil the MC helped the group become hip-hop icons. At a recent show in Phnom Penh, his performance was steeped in the group’s back catalogue but the 40-year-old insists his new material is the way forward.

Mini mushroom clouds spew from the smoke machines in Pontoon nightclub, billowing around Akil the MC, the night’s featured performer.

The 40-year-old emcee is still sporting his trademark dreadlocks – his calling card in a two-decade music career – although nowadays they are flecked with grey.

A crowd of expats, backpackers and Khmers are huddled close to Akil on the dance floor – close enough to score high-fives and cell phone pics with the rapper – when another gust of manufactured smoke blows through.

“Can we have no more smoke? Please, no more smoke,” Akil says into the mic. “This shit is choking the shit out of me, for real.”

Nearly 15,000 kilometres from his home in Atlanta, Georgia, the emcee is on his latest jaunt through Asia. Performing last Saturday in Phnom Penh, Akil rhymes his way through the back catalogue of Jurassic 5, a Los Angeles-based hip-hop group he was a part of for nearly 15 years.

The group, like most long-term bands with egos to manage, eventually broke up. But Akil continues to tour at a relentless pace, performing the group’s classic tracks, as if to preserve their cult following and keep living his teenage dreams.

Akil grew up in South Central Los Angeles – an area still fighting a stigma of urban decay and gang violence – where the career options were limited.

“I had friends that sold drugs that made way more [money] than the company that’s on the corner of Sunset [Boulevard],” says Akil. “I didn’t want to sell drugs. I didn’t want to gangbang. I didn’t want to go to the military.”

After breaking his ankle during high school football camp, he started to emcee full-time, travelling to other schools to find people to battle with.

And in his spare time, he gorged himself on a steady diet of old-school classics on tape: KRS-One, The Fat Boys and Kool Moe Dee.

“Hip-hop was a dream and a hobby,” says Akil. “Now times have changed. This is the cash cow right now. [Hip-hop] is just like a God-given gift, our own natural resource to help pave our own way for videographers, people that write books, do movies, managers, lawyers – all these things involved with music that aren’t even the rapper or the DJ. All these jobs that opened up from one art form.”

By 1993, Akil had joined Jurassic 5, consisting of members from two disbanded groups, Rebels of Rhythm and Unity Committee.

The six-piece outfit – comprised of four emcees and two DJs – provided an alternative to later-90s hip-hop that was largely concerned with coastal rivalries, bling and braggadocio.

Four years after its inception, the group made an impact on the underground circuit with its first multi-track release, Jurassic 5 EP.

Compared to other hip-hop from the era, Jurassic 5’s music was stripped down: classic funk samples from deep in the record crates and lyrics recalling a bygone playfulness in the genre.

The group signed a major label deal with Interscope in 1999, where they released three full-length albums and built a cult following. Their album Feedback was released in 2006, minus DJ and producer Cut Chemist. It would be the group’s last.

The break-up itself, nearly four years after the fact, is still shrouded in mystery. Speaking outside of Pontoon, Akil is tight-lipped and vague about the split.

“Things grow old, man. Everybody has different opinions and stuff. With a group you all have to be on the same page.”

Speaking in an interview last year, Akil dismissed the possibility of a reunion.

“That right there is very questionable,” he said.

“It’s just not coming together right now. I ain’t have nothing to do with the split.”

And yet the 40-year-old emcee seems to be keeping the idea alive: that one day the globe-trotting sextet will get together, tapping into a light-heartedness that made them so likeable to begin with; that rhyming his way through Jurassic 5’s catalogue is like practicing for an expected return.

Still, Akil says he’s recorded a few solo albums, the first of which should be released this summer.

“I’ve had people say: ‘Is [the music] different from what you already did?’ Well it’s down the same street. It’s in a different building.”

Sample tracks that have surfaced online show the same crowd-friendly lyrics and sample-laden beats, though the production sounds less indebted to an old-school aesthetic.

On “About Me”, Akil provides the most comprehensive look at his personal history, rapping about the smell of “weed skunk” in his childhood neighbourhood, playing football and listening to LA rap legend Ice-T.

But in spite of this trickle of solo material, Akil doesn’t seem to think hip-hop heads know what he’s up to.

“Nobody knows if I have anything out there,” he says.

“I’ve been performing about two and a half years ... just keeping out there and performing all around the world on the underground circuit. Yeah, you know me from being in J5, but you really don’t know me. So that’s what this is all about. I knew I had to get back on the surfboard and catch another wave.”

That means six to seven months of touring each year, to far flung cities like Phnom Penh, where he played his third show in the past couple of years.

On previous trips to Cambodia, Akil has visited Tiny Toones, the drop-in centre that uses hip-hop culture as a stabilising force for at-risk youth. Earlier on Saturday, he made a cameo in a Tiny Toones music video, almost serving as an elder statesman in a sign of approval for the local organisation.

The day after his performance, Akil is off to Bangkok. And then more Asian tour stops.

Maybe it’s not how Akil envisioned his career arc, but you sense that he’s embracing the opportunity to step out on his own.

“It wasn’t my goal to split up the group,” he says.

“This is all stuff that’s been thrust into my lap, but ... God is the best of planners. This makes sense for me to do it like this. He’s pushing me out into the water, to teach me how to swim and not to teach me how to drown.”

Sea of green

via CAAI

Friday, 28 January 2011 15:02 Wesley Monts

Fresh deals ... vendors sell produce at Central Market in downtown Phnom Penh.

Construction high times ahead

via CAAI

Friday, 28 January 2011 15:02 Sovan Philong

A man works on top of a piledriver at a construction site yesterday in Russey village of Stung Meanchey commune in Phnom Penh’s Meanchey district. Senior analysts earlier this week were bullish in their outlook for the capital’s construction industry in 2011 despite new state figures showing approved building projects plummeted nearly 58 percent last year.

ការ​គ្រប់គ្រង​រយៈ​ពេល ២៦​ឆ្នាំ : 26 Years of Prime Minister Hun Sen Rule (1)