Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Thailand-Cambodia To Carry On Bilateral Links Despite Border Dispute

via CAAI

BANGKOK, Feb 16 (Bernama) -- Thai Deputy Commerce Minister Alongkorn Ponlaboot said that the bilateral trade between Thailand and Cambodia will continue despite the ongoing border rows between the two neighbouring countries, Thai News Agency reports Wednesday.

Alongkorn has confirmed that he and Thai Deputy Prime Minister Trairong Suwannakhiri will pay an official visit to Cambodia from February 17 to 20, to open a Thai trade fair as well as to attend a meeting of the Thai-Cambodian Business Council.

The bilateral trade is held in parallel with attempts to resolve political woes related to unsettled border issues, he said.

Both the Thai leaders are scheduled to meet Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen in Phnom Penh on February 17 to discuss on bilateral trade and other issues under cooperative frameworks of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in preparation for the formation of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) by 2015.

"I believe that the demand for Thai products in Cambodia remains high, and therefore I will raise measures to further promote bilateral trade with Cambodia, particularly border trade during ministerial level talks," he said.

The two-way trade between Thailand and Cambodia reached over 81 billion baht US$2.64 billion) last year, a 40 percent year-on-year surge.

The border trade accounted for 50 billion baht (US$1.63 billion) (US$1= 30.66 baht).

UN withdraws staff from at least two areas on Thai-Cambodian border

via CAAI

Feb 16, 2011

Phnom Penh - The United Nations has moved six staff out of Koh Kong town near Cambodia's southern border with Thailand after both nations reportedly boosted troop numbers in the area.

UN security officials told staff by email that travel to Koh Kong town, capital of the province of the same name and 8 kilometres from the border, was restricted 'until further notice.'

The UN email, seen by the German Press Agency dpa, said up to 70 per cent of the town's population had left due to tensions on the southern border.

The UN has also evacuated staff from areas near the 11th-century temple of Preah Vihear on the northern border, the site of clashes that have killed at least nine people in the past fortnight.

The UN office in Phnom Penh refused to confirm or deny that any staff had been moved. 'It would be inappropriate to comment on staff security at this stage,' said Douglas Broderick, UN resident coordinator.

On Monday at the United Nations Security Council, both countries' foreign ministers blamed the other for the fighting, the worst conflict between the neighbours in years.

Speaking on his return from New York on Wednesday, Cambodia's Foreign Minister Hor Namhong reiterated that Phnom Penh's objective was to resolve the border dispute using third-party mediation.

Cambodia has said the bilateral approach using the two nations' Joint Border Committee, which was set up in 2000, has failed.

Thailand has insisted on a bilateral solution.

Also Wednesday Cambodia's Foreign Ministry released a statement accusing Thailand of violating the ceasefire near Preah Vihear by firing grenades and mortars for several hours overnight.

It said Cambodian troops had 'exercised utmost restraint' in order not to jeopardize talks scheduled for Jakarta on February 22 under the auspices of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN).

Hor Namhong said he would ask the 10-member ASEAN to send observers to monitor the implementation of a recent ceasefire agreement. The clashes have displaced an estimated 25,000 people.

Bangkok has blamed the UN's cultural body UNESCO for exacerbating the dispute with its 2008 decision to list Preah Vihear temple as a world heritage site despite objections from Thailand.

The International Court of Justice ruled in 1962 that the temple belonged to Cambodia, but stopped short of determining the border demarcation in an adjacent 4.6-square-kilometre contested area.

Explosions heard from Cambodia believed attempted provocation (ASEAN Observers is good to see who make the attempt)

via CAAI

Si Sa Ket, Feb 16 -- More than 30 explosions heard from inside the Cambodian border through last night (Feb15) which are believed to be an attempted provocation by Cambodian soldiers, but Thai troops held their fire and did not respond.

Sao Thongchai subdistrict official Chokchai Saikaew in Si Sa Ket's Kantharalak district told the media Wednesday morning that from 2-4am he heard bomb-like explosions from the border area pending demarcation, near the 4.6 square kilometre contested area in Rung sub-district of Kantharalak.

Mr Chokchai said he heard 30 to 40 explosions, like bombs or artillery shells, through the night, but that they stopped in the early morning. He did not know where the sound came from, but Thai troops stationed at the border did not fire in response as no shells landed on Thai territory.

Si Sa Ket governor Somsak Suwansujarit said he stayed overnight at Rung sub-district to give moral support to border villagers and heard the explosions.

He said initial reports confirmed that no shells fell in Thai territory but inside Cambodia, which he believed was an attempt by Cambodian soldiers to provoke Thai forces.

The Cambodian troops may have thrown hand grenades near Thai military posts but there was no response by Thai soldiers, he said.

The Si Sa Ket governor said that as a precautionary measure, he has ordered the authorities to speed the repairs to existing bomb shelters and to build new ones.

He said there were now 326 bomb shelters overall but 297 need repairs. The governor planned to build an additional 451 bunkers but was waiting for funds from the government.

As for the reconstruction of homes which were damaged in the attacks, vocational schools in Si Sa Ket joined with military engineers from the 2nd Army Area to help villagers.

It was estimated that rebuilding seven destroyed homes would take 35 days, while half of the damaged homes were already repaired so that villagers could return home.

The latest incident occurred after Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen offered words of peace to Thailand, a day after the United Nations Security Council urged Thailand and Cambodia to end the conflict bilaterally.

The Associated Press (AP) quoted the Cambodian premier telling villagers in Banteay Meanchey province that his country needs peace with its neighbours to foster development. He urged that the deadly border issue be quickly solved and that fighting not be allowed to spread. (MCOT online news)

Cambodia to ask ASEAN to send observers to Cambodia-Thai disputed border area

via CAAI

PHNOM PENH, Feb. 16 (Xinhua) -- Cambodia will ask ASEAN to send observers to the disputed areas between Cambodia and Thailand near Preah Vihear temple to ensure a permanent cease fire, Hor Namhong, minister of foreign affairs and international cooperation, said on Wednesday.

"I will ask for ASEAN observers to the area in order to control and ensure a permanent cease fire," Hor Namhong said at Phnom Penh International Airport upon his arrival from the meeting of United Nations Security Council in New York on Cambodian-Thai border conflict. He said, "We will wait and see if Thailand accepts this suggestion or not, we will know the real ambition of Thailand. "

On Feb. 22, there will be a meeting of ASEAN foreign ministers focusing on Cambodia-Thai conflict.

"If Thailand accuses Cambodia of invasion and firing first, it should not reject observers to ensure a permanent cease fire," Hor Namhong added.

"From now on, I will ask ASEAN chair or representative to join every meeting between Cambodia and Thailand," he said, adding that "Even the meeting of Cambodia-Thailand Border Commission, there must be a representative from ASEAN to join too because we have negotiated a lot with Thailand from 2008 to 2010, it was useless, the negotiations reached agreement, but they don't implement, taking excuse that their parliament do not pass."

The United Nations Security Council on Monday urged Cambodia and Thailand to establish a "permanent cease-fire," the foreign minister said.

"It also expressed support for the active efforts of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in this matter and encouraged the parties to continue to cooperate with the organization."

Hor Namhong, at the same time, accused that "despite the UNSC issued a statement calling for a permanent ceasefire, Thailand still violated it and opened fire into Cambodian territory."

"Last night, they still shot .. it was strong, they fired mortars and threw many grenades into our land, and almost every night since before the meeting of the UNSC, they have opened fire and threw grenades into our land," he said.

Cambodia and Thailand have had border conflict just a week after Cambodia's Preah Vihear temple was enlisted as World Heritage Site on July 7, 2008.

The conflict is due to Thai claim of the ownership of 1.8 square miles (4.6 sq km) of scrub next to the temple, triggering a military build-up along the border, and periodic clashes between Cambodian and Thai soldiers have resulted in the deaths of troops on both sides.

The latest clashes on Feb. 4-7, unleashed a barrage of artillery shells on both sides of the border, had killed and wounded many people, and caused tens of thousands of the two countries' villagers nearby the disputed areas fleeing for safe shelters.

ASEAN countries consist of Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

Editor: Mo Hong'e

Cambodia Convicts 2 Bangladeshi, 1 Nepalese for Terrorism

via CAAI

Web Editor: Yu

Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Wednesday convicted two Bangladeshi and one Nepalese nationals for terrorism and sentenced them to 8 years in jail according to the Kingdom's Anti-terrorism Law, Sin Visal, presiding judge, announced the verdict.

The trios were convicted of terrorism stemming from signing a letter that threatened to attack American, Australian and British embassies in Phnom Penh last April and identified themselves in the letter as members of the al-Qaida.

"Despite their denial, they don't have enough evidence to substantiate their denial," Sin Visal said.

The three are Rafiqul Eslami, a 42-year-old Bangladeshi national and former owner of a restaurant in the capital's Chamkarmon district, Miah Muhammed Huymayan Kabir, a 62-year-old Bangladeshi national, and DP Paudel, a 44-year-old Nepalese national.

DP Paudel will be deported from Cambodia after his serving the eight-year term as he lived in Cambodia illegally.

Miah Muhammed Huymayan Kabir told reporters after the verdict that they will file to the Court of Appeal against the verdict.

1st Ld: Cambodia to ask ASEAN to send observers to Cambodia-Thai disputed border area: FM

via CAAI

PHNOM PENH, Feb 15, 2011 (Xinhua via COMTEX) -- Cambodia will ask ASEAN to send observers to the disputed areas between Cambodia and Thailand near Preah Vihear temple to ensure a permanent cease fire, Hor Namhong, minister of foreign affairs and international cooperation, said on Wednesday.

"I will ask for ASEAN observers to the area in order to control and to ensure a permanent cease fire," Hor Namhong said at Phnom Penh International Airport upon his arrival from the meeting of United Nations Security Council in New York on Cambodian Thai border conflict. He said. "We will wait and see if Thailand accepts this suggestion or not, we will know the real ambition of Thailand. " On Feb. 22, there will be a meeting of ASEAN foreign ministers focusing on Cambodia Thai conflict.

"If Thailand accused Cambodia of invasion and firing first, it should not reject observers to ensure a permanent cease fire," Hor Namhong added.

"From now on, I will ask ASEAN chair or representative to join every meeting between Cambodia and Thailand," he said, adding that "Even though the meeting of Cambodia-Thailand Border Commission, there must be a representative from ASEAN to join too because we have negotiated a lot with Thailand from 2008 to 2010, it was useless, the negotiations reached agreement, but they don' t implement, taking excuse that their parliament do not pass."

Thai Soldiers Fire Machine Guns, Throw Grenades into Cambodia

via CAAI

Wednesday, 16 February 2011 07:46 DAP-NEWS/THENG

PREAH VIHEAR, CAMBODIA, FEB 16, 2011-Thai armies on Tuesday night fired at Cambodian troops at Preah Vihear border despite the UN Security Council insisted the two neighboring practice permanent cease fire at the conflict border.

A military source at Preah Vihear temple of Cambodia confirmed that hundreds of grenades and artillery were fired and threw into Cambodia territory, starting from 6:52pm, on Tuesday evening to 5:00am on Wednesday morning around Phnom Troab, near Preah Vihear temple

The source added that Cambodian soldiers remained calm, citing that they would fight back if Thai soldier across to Cambodia’s.

The official also told Deum Ampil Media Center that around 8:00pm on February 15th, Thai military commander telephoned Cambodian army commanders and accused Cambodia soldier moving under a barb fences into their territory.

However, Cambodia soldier has rejected, adding that they stood only in Cambodian territory.

The action of Thai soldiers are violating UNSC’s declaration because Thai soldier wanted Cambodian soldiers to reduce patience and fight back but Cambodians did not.

AKP - The Agence Kampuchea Press

via CAAI

Cambodia’s Statement over Renewed Armed Provocation by Thailand

Phnom Penh, February 16, 2011 AKP – The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Cambodia has issued a statement concerning renewed armed provocation by Thailand.

The full statement dated today reads as follows:

“From 21h00 on 15 February to 05h00 on 16 February 2011, Thai armed forces, in flagrant violation of the recommendation of the United Nations Security Council on 14 February 2011, fired many grenades and numerous rounds of 81 mm mortars and machine guns into PHNOM TRAP area located approximately 1,600 meters from the border, in the vicinity of the TEMPLE OF PREAH VIHEAR. Unfortunately, some of the grenades fired by Thai soldiers exploded and injured Thai soldiers themselves, after hitting tree branches and bounced back.

In respect of the recommendation of the United Nations Security Council on 14 February 2011, Cambodian troops exercised utmost restraint and did not respond to this renewed provocation from the Thai armed forces, so as to maintain an environment conducive for the success of the meeting of the ASEAN Foreign Ministers on 22 February 2011, in Jakarta, Indonesia.

This violation of the ceasefire by the Thai armed forces clearly shows that the real intention behind Thailand’s insistence on resolving the matter BILATERALLY is to use its overwhelmingly superior military forces to take over Cambodian territory in the vicinity of the TEMPLE OF PREAH VIHEAR.” –AKP


Cambodia Loses Trust on Bilateral Negotiations with Thailand

Phnom Penh, February 16, 2011 AKP – Cambodia has already brought the border issue to the United Nations Security Council and UNESCO as it lost trust on bilateral negotiations with Thailand.

National Assembly President Samdech Akka Moha Ponhea Chakrei Heng Samrin said here on Feb. 15 during a meeting with H.E. Hoang Binh Quan, Special Envoy of Mr. Nguyen Phu Trong, Secretary General of the Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV) and Chairman of CPV’s Commission for External Relations.

In the meeting, Samdech Heng Samrin briefed his guest on the recent Thai troops’ aggression on Cambodia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Samdech Heng Samrin further expressed deep thanks to the Vietnamese government and people for their support and assistance to Cambodia in all fields.

In reply, H.E. Hoang Binh Quan informed Samdech Heng Samrin of the results of the 11th Congress of the CPV and the Vietnamese political strategy 2011-2020 to develop Vietnam to be a modern industrial country.

During his stay in the Kingdom from Feb. 13 to 15, H.E. Hoang Binh Quan was received in a royal audience by His Majesty King Norodom Sihamoni and paid courtesy calls on Senate President Samdech Akka Moha Thamma Pothisal Chea Sim and Prime Minister Samdech Akka Moha Sena Padei Techo Hun Sen.

He also met with H.E. Say Chhum, Chairman of the Standing Committee of Cambodian People’s Party Central Committee and leaders of the FUNCINPE party. –AKP

By LIM Nary


PM Hun Sen Appears Near Cambodian-Thai Border for Groundbreaking of National Highway 59

Phnom Penh, February 16, 2011 AKP – Cambodian Prime Minister Samdech Akka Moha Sena Padei Techo Hen Sen yesterday appeared in vicinity of Cambodian-Thai border in northwestern province of Banteay Meanchey to preside over the groundbreaking of National Highway 59, an important strategic road for the country’s territorial integrity.

His appearance took place while the border situation is still remaining tense following a series of recent military attacks by the Thai army on Cambodia’s territory in the areas of Preah Vihear Temple in its war of invasion of Cambodia that claimed 7 lives, wounded 31 others, and caused damages to the temple and a considerable quantity of property.

Prime Minister Samdech Techo Hen Sen extended thanks and regards to the people and government of the People’s Republic of China for having provided their funds for the development of Cambodia in all domains, saying: “The Government and people of China are the close and historical friend [of Cambodia].”

In general, he said, China has always considered assisting the priority sectors of the Royal Government of Cambodia including water, electricity, roads and human resources by providing continuous support and assistance, and assisted in the defense of peace and national sovereignty and expanded the cooperation with the neighboring countries.

Chinese friend is a country that has assisted Cambodia not only in the internal integration, but also in the integration with the neighboring countries, Prime Minister Samdech Techo Hen Sen pointed out.

After completion, he said, the National Highway 59 will certainly become the most important and the strongest as it is the first long-stretching road along the Cambodian-Thai border that stretches on the west corridor of the provinces of Banteay Meanchey and Battambang towards the provincial town of Pailin.

The 144-km National Highway 59 is built with a total fund of more than US$72 million jointly provided by the People’s Republic of China as concessional loan and with financial contribution by the Royal Government of Cambodia, and the project is scheduled to be completed within 36 months until March 2015, said Tram Iv Tek, Minister of Public Works and Transports.

China is a good neighbor, said Chinese Ambassador to Cambodia Pan Guangxue, underlining, “the traditional friendship between China and Cambodia remains in the hearts of our two peoples and in the new circumstances the two peoples have to join hands to consolidate the friendship and expand cooperation in all domains.”

The Chinese Government supports Cambodia in the efforts for poverty alleviation and economic development and China is delighted to see Cambodia have peace, stability and development, he said.

“All other projects including the construction of new port, new Chroy Changvar Bridge and a new bridge over the Tonle Bassac at Takhmao in the future are the new start in a high level of economic and trade cooperation between the two countries to which China will provide a large contribution in the infrastructure building and economic development of Cambodia,” he added.

The reconstruction and development of road and bridge infrastructure of Cambodia under the loans and grants funded by China have so far been completed on a total length of around 1,500 kilometers or equal to approximately 2/3 (two-third) of the length of all national highways under construction in Cambodia. –AKP

Article in Khmer by CHEY Phum Pul
Article in English by Ravuth M.


PM Calls for Maintaining Trade Exchanges with Thailand

Phnom Penh, February 16, 2011 AKP –

Cambodian Prime Minister Samdech Akka Moha Sena Padei Techo Hun Sen has called on the provinces bordering with Thailand to continue trade exchanges as usual.

Speaking at the groundbreaking ceremony for the construction of National Highway 59 in Poipet of Banteay Meanchey province yesterday, Samdech Techo Hun Sen stressed the government policy to turn all Cambodian border areas with the neighboring countries into a border of peace, friendship and cooperation.

‘We allowed Thai vehicles to enter as far as 30 kilometers to transport the sold agricultural produce to Thailand, while the disputed area is set aside for the resolution in place rather than being spread further,” he said.

He made known that Cambodia-Thailand Trade Exhibition will be held in Phnom Penh on Feb. 17 due to be attended by a Thai deputy prime minister whom he will also meet.

The Chambers of Commerce of Cambodia and Thailand will gather with the participation of Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister H.E. Keat Chhon and Cambodian Senior Minister and Commerce Minister H.E. Cham Prasidh, through which the Cambodian premier requested for keeping a good relation with each other. –AKP

Article in Khmer by CHIM Nary
Article in English by THOU Peou


RCAF at Cambodian-Thai Border Receives More Aid

Phnom Penh, February 16, 2011 AKP – The Cambodian Red Cross (CRC)’s Phnom Penh Branch has donated a humanitarian aid for the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF) at the Cambodian-Thai border through Bayon Radio and Television Foundation.

The handover ceremony was held on Feb. 15 at the Brigade 8 Headquarters in Sa Em of Choam Ksan district. RCAF Deputy Commander-in-Chief Gen. Kun Kim, Phnom Penh CRC’s Branch President H.E. Pa Socheat Vong, and Deputy Director General of Bayon Radio and Television Mr. Tith Thavrith were present at the ceremony.

The donation, including foodstuff and basic consumer goods, is worth in total US$40,000. –AKP

By Théng


OPINION: A Road Map For Peace

Phnom Penh, February 16, 2011 AKP – This is the 21st century. Peace has a chance to be permanently established in the border region between Cambodia and Thailand, especially in the area of the Temple of Preah Vihear.

When Council president Maria Luiza Ribeiro Viotti of Brazil made the call by saying: “Members of the Security Council urge the parties to establish a permanent ceasefire and to implement it fully,” the UNSC took note that (i) a war broke out, that (ii) there are losses of lives and properties, that (iii) tens of thousand of people face insecurity and uncertainty everyday, and these calamities must stopped. When the Council president added: “The idea is to work in synergy with the regional efforts – and right now regional efforts are in full force – and resolve the situation peacefully and through effective dialogue,” the UNSC has lay down the modalities for “the parties” to work with, which is a “third party mediation” so intensely advocated and demanded by Samdech Akka Moha Sena Padei Techo Hun Sen, the Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Cambodia.

The Foreign Minister of Indonesia, Marty Natalegawa, Chairman of ASEAN graciously but vigorously took the hard and hot ball to his court by echoing the UNSC president in the following term: “obviously, this is a matter that will have to be resolved in final analysis bilaterally between the two sides but it does not mean there is not a space and a role for regional countries to play.”

The modalities are set, and the rules of bilateral negations and mediation will certainly be set at the 22 February ASEAN meeting, in Indonesia. Over there, reasons, justice, rules of law will win over lies, misrepresentation, distortion of the facts, innuendo, off-base speculation and wild suggestions.

Pen Ngoeun
Senior advisor and member of the Academic Committee
Puthisastra University, Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Former Dean and Professor of the Faculty of Business and Economics
At Pannasastra University of Cambodia,
Former Assistant Controller at Phibro Inc
A subsidiary of Citigroup Inc., USA, until 2000

(The comments are solely the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the Royal Government of Cambodia.)


DPM Hor Namhong: UNSC’s Meeting in New York Is a Big Success for Cambodia

Phnom Penh, February 16, 2011 AKP – Cambodia has enjoyed great successes at the United Nations Security Council (UNSC)’s meeting on Cambodia-Thailand border dispute held on Feb. 14 in New York.
“Cambodia is successful in three areas: the bringing of the Preah Vihear Temple issue to the international arena, i.e. to the UNSC; the statement by the UNSC urging both sides to establish a permanent cease-fire; and the ending of bilateral negotiations with Thailand,” said yesterday Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister H.E. Hor Namhong in an interview by telephone with a local TV channel.

The UNSC has given ASEAN the role to coordinate the Cambodia-Thailand discussion on border conflict, said H.E. Hor Namhong, who participated in the UNSC’s meeting, indicating that the meeting of the ASEAN foreign ministers will be held on Feb. 22 in Jakarta and ASEAN will send its observers to the area of Preah Vihear Temple to examine the permanent cease-fire.

Following the UNSC’s close-door meeting, the UNSC President of the month and Brazilian Ambassador to the UN Maria Luiza Ribeiro Viotti read the press statement of the Council urging the two sides to display maximum restraint, to avoid any action that may aggravate the situation, to establish a permanent cease-fire, to implement it fully, and to resolve the situation peacefully and through effective dialogue.

The Security Council welcomed the upcoming meeting of the ASEAN foreign ministers on Cambodia-Thailand border dispute, she said.

From Feb. 4 to 7, fighting between Cambodian and Thai soldiers broke out near the Khmer Temple of Preah Vihear, listed as a World Heritage Site in 2008, causing deaths, injuries and damage to both sides. –AKP


Sentinel training to start in May

via CAAI

Wednesday, 16 February 2011 15:01 Phak Seangly

More than 200 soldiers from the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces will participate in United States-backed multinational military exercises in Kampong Speu province in May alongside troops from US Army Pacific and three unidentified countries, military officials said yesterday.

The 13-day exercise, called Angkor Sentinel 2011, aims to train soldiers for United Nations peacekeeping missions, and was announced at a US-based Global Peace Operations Initiative conference in Phnom Penh.

Brigadier General Ken Sosavoeun of the Institute for Peacekeeping Forces, Mines and Explosive Remnants of War Clearance said yesterday that the exercises would be held from May 16-28 at the RCAF Peacekeeping Training Centre.

“The army training exercise is aimed at preparation for sending forces to join United Nations missions and such an army training exercise is not related to firing any weapons,” he said.

United States Army Pacific representative Colonel Robert Dunton said that 135 US troops would provide security and complete United Nations humanitarian work such as building hospitals, schools, bridges, and providing Cambodian citizens with free vaccinations.

I ordered forgery probe: PM

via CAAI

Wednesday, 16 February 2011 15:01 Sam Rith

Prime Minister Hun Sen said yesterday that he initiated the arrest in December of two men from a Phnom Penh-based property firm who allegedly fabricated documents claiming ties to the United Nations, the United States government and HSBC Bank.

Speaking in Banteay Meanchey province yesterday, Hun Sen said that he ordered the investigation into Ray C Dam, the chairman of ARP-OITC Group Co Ltd, and his executive managing director, Soush Saroeun, after receiving information about the case.

“When I got the information, I ordered the investigation to the US Embassy,” said Hun Sen. “I found out that he really cheated and then sent the case to the court and now he is in prison.”

The Post reported in December that materials of the Office of International Treasury Control – of which ARP-OITC is a subsidiary – made false claims about the group and identified Ray C Dam as an economics adviser to US presidents Barack Obama and George W Bush.

Phnom Penh Municipal Court in December charged Ray C Dam and Soush Saroeun with several counts of forgery.

Municipal Court deputy prosecutor Sok Roeun said yesterday that the case was in the hands of the investigating judge.

SRP activists oppose parliamentary 'swap'

via CAAI

Wednesday, 16 February 2011 15:01 Meas Sokchea

Officials from the opposition Sam Rainsy Party in Kampong Cham province have rejected a party plan to rotate parliamentarians with party officials who stood as candidates in the 2008 election.

Hak Panha, a party activist in Tbong Khmum district’s Suong commune, said he was disappointed that Mao Monyvann, an SRP lawmaker for the province, would be asked to step aside, adding that it could impact the party’s popularity.

“Mao Monyvann has ability. His action has much effectiveness,” he said. “The Cambodian People’s Party is very afraid of Mao Monyvann.”

The plan was first announced last month as a means of bolstering the party’s chances at the 2013 national election.

Hak Panha also said grassroots supporters wanted to see the SRP enact longstanding plans to merge with the Human Rights Party, saying it could help the opposition compete with the CPP in upcoming polls.

“If the parties will not merge, I will make the grassroots merge,” he said.

Por Sitha, an activist in Rokap Pram commune, said he has removed the SRP banner from his house in protest against the removal of Mao Monyvann.

“I agree to have changes so that we can be more progressive but the change must be in clear conformity to democracy, not decided by only a few persons,” Por Sitha said.

“In my commune, people are generally content to have a merger. The merging is a good way. If the [SRP and HRP] do not merge the vote will be divided,” he added.

SRP spokesman Yim Sovann defended the reshuffle yesterday, saying that the change of parliamentarians conformed to the decision of the party’s permanent committee and that the discontent was a result of “nostalgia”.

“It is the permanent committee’s decision. We have the law so everyone must respect this decision,” he said, adding that the change was vital to democratic systems.

Yim Sovann also said SRP leaders were committed to merging with the HRP, but added that any deal would have to be well thought-out.

“The top leaders want to have the merger 200 percent, but we merge for success. We do not merge for melting,” he said.

Mao Monyvann declined to comment yesterday.

Thai claims are outrageous

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
Displaced villagers in a temporary shelter after fleeing their homes near the Preah Vihear Temple.

via CAAI

Wednesday, 16 February 2011 15:00 Ek Madra


Ek Madra

Thailand claimed that Cambodia attacked first when hostilities broke out 10 days ago at the Preah Vihear Temple region. Thailand also claimed, via its premier, that Cambodia positioned troops at the world heritage site of Preah Vihear.

Fact or fiction?
Thailand’s GDP for 2010 at constant prices was estimated at US$580.3 billion. The population of Thailand in 2010 was estimated at 67.7 million. The country has a land mass of 513,120 square kilometres. And armed forces, including paramilitaries, as of 2008 were at 665,000, including modern main battle tanks, F16 fighter jets and attack helicopters as well as naval units.

Cambodia’s GDP was US$29.5 billion. Cambodia has a population of 14 million people and its land area is 181,035 square kilometers. Its armed forces number approximately 100,000, and it has a virtually non-existent air force and naval units.

Given the above, would anyone of a sane and rational mind ever belief what Thai premier Abhisit Vejjajiva alleged – that Cambodia attacked the Thai military and civilian units across the tenacious border of Preah Vihear over four consecutive days in early February?

Is this logical for Cambodia to actually mount an offensive against Thailand as claimed and foolishly alleged by Thailand? Cambodia is a vastly smaller neighbour, struggling to build its economy, build infrastructure and bring basic amenities to her people.

On the contrary, it would be outrageous, ridiculous and even outright stupid for Cambodia to launch any offensive against Thailand in the battle field as it is outnumbered in every single aspect of the armed forces – from the military to the air force, to the navy and to the paramilitary and even the civilian police force.

In the absence of an air force, attack helicopters, modern main battle tanks, an inadequate supply base and nightmarish logistics, no one ever believed Cambodia is capable of mounting any form of attack against Thailand.

Cambodia, which emerged from three decades of civil war from 1970-1998 during which her infrastructures were devastated and tens of thousands of people were killed, is tired of fighting.

It is clear and evident that Thai premier Abhisit, fearing an international public relations nightmare and a highly likely scenario of being sanctioned by the UNSC, ASEAN, UNESCO and other international institutions, has embarked on a much maligned public relations campaign to say that the victim has been the aggressor. The above facts speak volumes of this, including the Thai threat to unleash its mighty air force on Cambodia if Cambodia did not withdraw from its own territory.

Surely the international community and ASEAN are mature enough and have within them the capability of rational thinking based on the facts on the grounds to judge or conclude who is the aggressor and who is the victim.

Furthermore, Abhisit also alleged that Cambodia used the world heritage listing of Preah Vihear to house troops and launch attacks on Thai territory. This is another outrageous lie and false propaganda designed to pull the wool over the international community’s eyes and against all reasoning.

Cambodia has to defend the vicinity of Preah Vihear Temple given the fact that Thailand has tried on several occasions by military means to occupy the temple’s surrounding area, which is Cambodia’s territory.

This is the opening Thailand is seeking, yearning and even prepared to die for. Thailand wants to walk into the Preah Vihear Temple unopposed, unchallenged and plant its flag on sovereign Cambodian soil.
Thailand intended and intends to do this unopposed and is masking its intentions by alleging that Cambodia is using the world heritage site as a military base.

These lies and malicious rumours are precisely the reason why Cambodia has invited the United Nations military observers to take up positions in the Preah Vihear Temple region and its vicinity, on sovereign Cambodian territory, so the international community can see up close and in person that Cambodia is indeed a victim of Thailand’s grand scheme of annexing Cambodian soil, seizing Cambodia’s and the world’s cultural heritage from right under the nose of Cambodia and the world community.

This would indeed be the case if Cambodia left the temple unguarded as history and the ICJ has proven that Thais have looted the Preah Vihear Temple for centuries and will continue to do so, even if they have no legal, cultural, historical and no moral right to the temple or its vicinity.

Cambodia, by appealing to the UNSC and the world community, including UNESCO, to take up its just cause, has done the right thing as an intransigent Thailand has proven time and again over decades that it cannot be trusted or depended upon to accept internationally binding verdicts, not bilateral agreements, as it harbours territorial ambitions and to claim as its own what it does not own or understand in the first place.

Ek Madra is spokesperson for the Press and Quick Reaction Unit at the Council of Ministers.

Police Blotter: 16 Feb 2011

via CAAI

Wednesday, 16 February 2011 15:00 Sen David

Partygoer stabbed to death in Prey Veng
A 27-YEAR-OLD man was killed after he was stabbed with a knife in Prey Veng’s Pea Reang district on Saturday. Police said that the victim went to a party in the village where witnesses said they saw the victim argue with another man. The suspect then stabbed the victim, killing him instantly, before escaping. Police said they know the identity of the suspect and are searching for the man, but villagers reported that he escaped from the province.

Poisonous noodle workshop busted
POLICE raided a Chinese noodle workshop in Banteay Meanchey’s Serei Soaphoan district on Monday, for using the illegal chemical borax in the production of noodles. Police seized four packages of the chemical and 490 kilogrammes of Chinese noodles and said that the food is a risk to residents’ health. The owner has since made a contract with police to promise to stop using the chemical.

Man killed after truck crashes off mountain
A 59-YEAR-OLD man was killed in a traffic accident in Pursat’s Veal Veng district on Saturday, after he crashed his truck off of a narrow mountainside road. Police said that one man was killed and another was seriously injured and sent to hospital. The mountainside road is a frequent cause of accidents and police have appealed to drivers to take extra caution in that area.

Police search for family of deceased
POLICE in Phnom Penh’s Dangkor district are searching for the family of a victim who died in a motorbike accident. Police said that an unknown victim was sent to hospital when he was struck by a motorbike on Saturday while crossing a road, then later died of his injuries. His body was sent to a pagoda, but police said no one has claimed the body. The driver of the motorbike has not been apprehended.

Five injured after car crash in Kep rice field
THREE adults and one 5-year-old boy were injured after a car accident in the city of Kep on Sunday. Police said that they were driving at excessive speed and crashed into a rice field. Witnesses said that it was very lucky that no one was killed even though the car was completely destroyed.

Laptop thieves nabbed by police in Tuol Kork
TWO men were arrested in Phnom Penh’s Tuol Kork district on Sunday, after they stole a shopkeeper’s laptop. Police said the suspects entered the victim’s metal shop pretending to be customers and ran out with the computer. One man is said to have managed to escape.

Nagaworld strikes it lucky

Photo by: Marisa Reichert
Naga World rises above Phnom Penh on Monday. The capital's sole casino saw its profits increase by 73 percent last year .

via CAAI

Wednesday, 16 February 2011 15:01 Jeremy Mullins

Net profits at Phnom Penh’s sole licensed casino NagaWorld increased by 73 percent last year to US$44.1 million, according to interim annual results which outlined an aim to finish construction on its third wing this year.

Rising profits came from growth of its public floor and gaming machines areas “which resulted in a healthier, more efficient and profitable business mix”, parent company NagaCorp said in its annual results filing on the Hong Kong exchange.

“During this period, 64 percent of our total revenues were derived from these segments, compared to 55 percent for the same period in 2009,” it said.

NagaWorld aims to appeal to the mass market with its third wing, currently under construction, with completion expected for later this year.

The project will house a swimming pool, a health club, offices, and some 220 hotel rooms.

“The hotel rooms will be positioned at a lower price point to appeal to a wider segment of our casino guests,” it said.

The casino and hotel is keen to push for greater regional market share by increasing its mass market appeal in 2011. It claims to have “remodeled” its business partly due to increased tourist arrivals
to Cambodia, while adopting a more conservative approach to junkets.

“This remodelling has focused on a shift in our business mix and has meant build-up of our public floors and gaming machines, driven by market demand,” it said.

It increased the number of slot machines to 1,032 at the end of 2010, from 618 a year earlier.

The firm also adopted a more conservative credit policy and lowered its table limit in 2009 for its junket business.

Junket floor revenues stood at $54 million in 2010, a slight increase on $53.3 million in 2009. Some 7,928 patrons visited the junket floor last year, from 11,368 the year previous.

Ministry of Economy and Finance figures obtained last month showed the Kingdom’s tax revenue from the 20 domestic casinos contributed $16 million to state coffers last year, an increase on $13 million in 2009.

However, some in the industry warned that the gambling sector faces challenges, with further border casinos likely to close. Winn casino in Bavet near the Vietnam border closed in September of last year, while VIP casino shuttered in November.

NagaWorld owns the only licence for operating a casino in Phnom Penh, it said, adding the continued closure of other slot machine and sports betting stations [banned in the capital] had contributed to growth.

Tobacco producer calls for quota stability

Photo by: Sovan Philong
Workers bundle tobacco leaves together before hanging them up to dry in Kampong Cham province on Saturday.

via CAAI

Wednesday, 16 February 2011 15:01 Jeremy Mullins

Kampong Cham province
British American Tobacco (Cambodia) would like to see a consistent export quota of duty-free tobacco to Vietnam, after its farmers were affected when the system was dropped for much of 2010.

Vietnam agreed to eliminate duties on certain amounts of Cambodia’s tobacco exports in 2007 until 2009. This had allowed Cambodia to send 3,000 tonnes of tobacco annually to Vietnam duty-free.

The agreement was not in forced for much of 2010, Ministry of Commerce director general Sok Sopheak said in September, but was renewed late last year,
A reduction in tariffs means the price of tobacco in Cambodia rises.

Merchants find it more profitable to purchase Kingdom tobacco for resale in its eastern neighbour.

“[The quota] is good for the country, and good for farmers,” said Kun Lim, BAT’s head of corporate and regulatory affairs Kun Lim. But he added that while the company supported the quota system, it would like to see more certainty within it.

“Such quotas were not available in 2010 due to some technical issues, and as such the price of tobacco dipped by more than US$0.50 per kilogramme which resulted in low returns to farmers of around US$453 per hectare,” the firm said in a release issued earlier this year.

In contrast, peak prices nearing $2,000 per hectare were recorded in 2009 due to increased local demand

and the Vietnamese quota programme.
BAT says it makes extensive use of contract farmers, particularly in its Kampong Cham province plantations.

Its use of contract farming requires the company be able to plan ahead for prices for the harvest seasons – a situation Kun Lim said is challenging when the quotas for exports to Vietnam were not reliable.

“If there is not a consistent quota, the problem will come again,” he said. “[BAT] cannot secure a quantity [of tobacco grown] with a floating quota system.”

A key issue for the firm was ensuring the size of quota is negotiated with Vietnam by the start of the growing season, so BAT can negotiate its farming contracts early.

The firm claims to operate contracts based around a 40-percent return on investment for the farmer, with over 900 farmers expected to be contracted for the 2010 to 2011 growing season.

At present, much of the Kingdom’s tobacco cultivation meets domestic demand, while international buyers mainly turn to Cambodia’s crop when their own harvests’ fall short.

“Right now, Cambodia’s crop of tobacco is purely a buffer,” he said.

Although prices can be driven higher by foreign buyers entering the Kingdom, BAT sees between 80 and 90 percent of its contract farmers abide by signed contracts, he said.

BAT has been experimenting with methods to improve yields, such as improved irrigation systems at its Kampong Cham tobacco fields.

Ministry of Commerce officials declined to comment yesterday.

Vietnamese trade advisor to Cambodia Ly Nedien Cuong could not be reached for comment yesterday.

British American Tobacco (Cambodia) company was formed in 1996 as a joint venture with Cambodian businessman Kong Triv.

Thai trucks drive forward

via CAAI

Wednesday, 16 February 2011 15:00 Soeun Say

Prime Minister Hun Sen announced yesterday that Thai trucking firms would be allowed to travel 30 kilometres inside Cambodia to fill up loans of agricultural products.

Thai lorries had not been allowed to enter the Kingdom through the Poipet border gate, but would now be able to obtain permission to travel to Cambodia to pick up products, he said.

Previously goods had to be transferred from truck to truck at the border.

The move would boost trade between the two countries, said the Prime Minister.

“Despite the disputed border area, we want [the two countries] to continue cooperating with trade and goods exchange,” he said.

Speaking at the groundbreaking for construction of National Road 59 in Banteay Meanchey province, he said the new allowances would ease trade restrictions.

“To avoid the difficulties of transporting and lifting goods, we will allow [Thai merchants] to go 30 kilometres inside Cambodia to transport Cambodian agricultural products.

“Before, Cambodian farmers sent produce directly to the Thai side,” he said.

National Road 59 is being constructed in the province through a grant provided by the Chinese government.

Yesterday, Hun Sen also confirmed a Thailand trade fair in Phnom Penh would begin on Thursday, with a Thai deputy prime minister in attendance, despite the violent border conflict.

“I will meet them [the Thai businesses] with the Cambodia-Thai Chamber of Commerce. So please take care, and maintain a strong relationship,” he said.

Last week, Thai businesses decided to go ahead with the trade fair, following a safety guarantee from the prime minister.

The Phnom Penh Post News in Brief

via CAAI

More building firms

Wednesday, 16 February 2011 15:00 Soeun Say

Cambodia approved 124 construction companies to operate in 2010, an increase on the 118 approved in 2009, according to the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction. Speaking at the ministry’s Annual Conference 2010, ministry construction department director Lao Tip Seiha said the Kingdom had 945 construction firms in operation at present, with 750 being Cambodian owned.

CPP delays draft laws for opposition: report

Wednesday, 16 February 2011 15:00 Vong Sokheng

Opposition parliamenta- rians within the Cambodian People’s Party-controlled National Assembly have been denied early access to draft legislation reviewed by the body, according to a new Parliamentary Watch report by local election monitor COMFREL. The report, based on data compiled between October and December last year, found that opposition party lawmakers received copies of draft laws only two or three days prior to review and debate by the Assembly.

Villagers file complaint against three ‘soldiers’

Wednesday, 16 February 2011 15:00 May Titthara

About 60 families in Kampong Cham province filed a complaint with Dambe district and provincial authorities yesterday, calling for action against three soldiers who they say stopped them from clearing vegetation on the community’s land. Chhin Yong, a village farmer, said the unknown soldiers on Monday seized their farming tools, including knives and hammers, before banning them from working in the fields. Dambe district governor Soy Sophat confirmed that he had received a verbal request from the villagers and that he would take action to investigate the allegation. “I don’t know if the three are soldiers or if they are just wearing uniforms to enter territory illegally,” he said.

Drunken police officer kills one, injures two

Wednesday, 16 February 2011 15:00 Chhay Channyda

A provincial deputy commander of the military police in Ratanakkiri province has been released on bail after killing one motorist and severely injuring a second while driving home drunk from a party. Chhin Then, deputy chief of the provincial traffic police in Ratanakkiri, said Deputy Commander Men Savy was not arrested following the incident on February 12 to allow him to secure compensation for the victims. “We released him on bail because he had to find money. If we followed the law [to arrest him], would there be anyone to pay compensation?” He said Men Savy paid US$5,050 to all the victims and an additional 1 million riel to the family of the dead motorist, Chhin Then added that the case would be submitted to the provincial court for legal action.

From the reader to DAP News

Any comment on it?

Second-Class Citizens?

via CAAI

February 16, 2011

Faced with a shortage of domestic help, Malaysia has been turning to Cambodia to find workers. Many, though, aren’t receiving what’s promised.

The wound over Lay Limheang’s left ear has healed into a coarse, bulbous lump. But she says it’s the scars you can’t see that trouble her most now.

There have never been many options for women like her in this small village in central Cambodia: make your living in the fields, or head to town and get a job at the factory.

Limheang chose the latter. But she found she could barely make ends meet working for $80 a month, so in 2009, she quit her job and moved to Phnom Penh to train as a live-in housemaid.

By that September, she was starting a new life in Kuala Lumpur. She had spent months learning how to cook and clean. But within weeks, battered, penniless and holding no passport, she says she was praying for an escape.

Malaysia is facing what’s been described as a crisis over its foreign domestic workers: there just aren’t enough of them. Now, Malaysia has turned to countries like Cambodia to fill in the gap. And with its burgeoning population—disproportionately young, unskilled and underemployed—it seems like a natural fit.

Almost overnight, the number of women leaving Cambodia to work in Malaysia has skyrocketed, but the crucial regulations and oversight meant to keep the women safe haven’t kept pace. At best, the industry’s harshest critics say, foreign maids in Malaysia are treated like second-class citizens and denied minimum labour rights afforded to other workers. At its worst, the job can become a form of modern-day debt bondage.

For Lay Limheang, the problems started within weeks of arriving in Malaysia. The agency that trained her had provided her courses in basic English—she learned the words for different kinds of food and household objects, as well as some simple commands. But the couple she was placed with didn’t speak English.

‘My boss asked me to bring her some vegetables, but I couldn’t understand what they said. They were speaking Chinese,’ she says. ‘So they slapped me.’

She claims the abuse became progressively more frequent—and more violent.

‘I was so scared whenever my boss came home. I just expected that I would be hurt again,’ Limheang says.

She’s far from alone in making such claims. In 2009, Indonesia—the main supplier of Malaysia’s estimated 300,000 foreign domestic workers—imposed a moratorium barring new maids from heading to Malaysia, following a string of high-profile abuse cases. The two sides have yet to reach a new agreement despite continued negotiations on wages, mandatory days off and other benefits. Many of Malaysia’s basic rules under its Employment Act that cover rest days, work hours, termination, holidays and maternity leave explicitly don’t apply to foreign maids, known as ‘domestic servants’ under the law.

Meanwhile, the number of Cambodian women working in Malaysia has jumped dramatically. Last year, Malaysia issued 28,561 work visas to Cambodians, according to statistics provided by the Malaysian Embassy in Phnom Penh. More than 24,700 of those were given to domestic workers. That figure is almost five times the total number of visas issued just two years earlier.

At the same time, the number of recruitment agencies operating in Cambodia has taken a corresponding leap. These have established loose networks of agents paid to recruit potential employees from villages throughout the country.

Yu Khorn is one of them. Shirtless and sweating in the afternoon heat, he parks his motorbike beside the family’s cows.

He says he was paid $90 a month to recruit women from the surrounding villages. ‘I learned how to convince people. How to speak to people,’ Khorn says. ‘You tell the women, “You don’t have to worry about supporting your families. The company will take care of it.”’

He pulls out a pamphlet that he says he gives to prospective recruits. Young women are pictured grasping fistfuls of US dollars. ‘Two years = $3,500,’ the pamphlet declares. Work 3 years and earn $5,600. Four years gets you $7,800. The minimum wage at the closest factory here is $61 a month.

‘I have a chance to help people in my community,’ Khorn says, pointing toward a large wooden house down the path. It towers over most others in this village. The woman that owns it, he explains, worked in Malaysia for two years. When she returned, she was rich enough to build it.

But authorities in the surrounding commune say they are alarmed by the number of middlemen who have started operating in the area in the last 18 months. Some of the more destitute villages have proven to be fertile grounds for recruitment. In one village alone, 30 women have signed on to what local police chief Hun Miera believes is an uncertain future.

‘These people don’t have legal protection when they leave. Anything could happen to them,’ he says.

But more and more women have still been willing to take the risk.

‘The people are very poor. They only have one way to make income: by farming,’ he says. ‘The crops weren’t good this year, so they’ve become poorer. So they look to Malaysia.’

A few kilometres away, the flattened dirt road gives way to a muddy, uneven path. The houses here are noticeably more basic than in neighbouring villages—thatched leaves for walls, or uneven wooden planks badly in need of replacement.

This, local officials say, is one of the poorest villages in the commune.

Ein Chhunly sits on a slatted bamboo bed perched over the mud, explaining why most of the women in the village have asked her about sending their daughters off to Malaysia.

‘There isn’t much, here,’ she says with a shrug. ‘There’s not a lot of work.’

Chhunly says an agency pays her to recruit local women. On behalf of the company, she promises the parents 50 kg of rice and the equivalent of $125 in cash up front—a gift, she says. If the women make it to Malaysia, they can earn up to $285 each month.

To many of the parents here, the offer is difficult to turn down. Chhunly says she has referred at least 20 young women herself. Even her two daughters, who struggled to save any money while working at the factory, left last year.

She expects many more will follow in their footsteps—if they return with good news.

‘A lot of people are interested in going,’ she says. ‘But they’re waiting for my daughters first.’

And that’s what worries critics of the industry. Labour rights groups say they’re observing a new trend: women have started complaining of ill treatment, either in Malaysia, or during the training process at home.

Adhoc, a local human rights group, is handling more than 50 new cases from workers who have returned from Malaysia, says Lim Mony, the head of its women’s programme. Some have claimed they were raped while on the job.

Another non-governmental organization, the Community Legal Education Center (CLEC) saw its first domestic worker client last year. Now the group is advising more than 20 women who have claimed various forms of abuse or mistreatment.

‘We think it’s a serious problem,’ says Moeun Tola, who heads CLEC’s labour programme. He says many women don’t understand that the money their families initially receive for signing up—what they see as gifts—must actually be worked off. So do the costs of medical tests, visa applications and other expenses. In the end, many of his clients say they go months on end without seeing a single dollar.

Once there, workers have complained that they have few options if they are abused. They say company representatives rarely, if ever, visit the employers’ homes.

‘There’s no protection,’ he says. ‘It’s not just about giving people jobs. There should be someone that inspects the homes regularly to make sure the workers are alright.’

The rapid growth in demand for domestic workers has also left authorities in Cambodia—and the industry itself—struggling to keep up.

Last July, authorities in Phnom Penh raided a recruitment firm, where they found more than 200 people, including underage girls, crammed into rooms in the training complex. Within a week, another agency made local headlines after a woman leapt over the walls to escape, claiming she had been held against her will because she couldn’t pay off her debt.

An Bunhak, director of the Association of Cambodian Recruitment Agencies, says the existing Cambodian law governing the industry, which is more than 15 years-old, has grown inadequate for the current situation. The government is expected to pass stricter regulations this year, including minimum standards at the facilities and restrictions on loans.

But while he acknowledges there have been some bad actors in the industry, he says he believes they are still a minority.

‘Not all the companies act like this,’ he says. ‘We have a code of conduct for our members.’

And in a country where an estimated 250,000 young people are expected to enter the workforce every year, Cambodia must consider domestic work as a valuable option for many of its citizens, he adds. ‘We want to strengthen the industry to protect our migrant workers.’

Malaysian officials, meanwhile, dispute these negative characterizations of the industry. Raja Saifful, the deputy chief of mission for the Embassy of Malaysia in Phnom Penh, acknowledges there may be isolated cases where maids have been abused. But those examples shouldn’t taint the industry as a whole. Malaysia remains a safe place for the majority of foreign domestic workers, he says.

‘I can say the government of Malaysia is very serious in handling the situation. All those people responsible for abuse have been prosecuted and convicted based on existing laws,’ he says. ‘If there are real cases of abuse, the authorities in Malaysia would really look into the matter and would handle it very seriously.’

But for Limheang, things were to get worse before they improved. She says the beatings grew more violent as the weeks wore on. At one point, she claims, she was hospitalized after an attack. Then, with no explanation, her employers drove her to the airport, handed back her passport and gave her a plane ticket home.

It had been eight months, and she didn’t receive a dollar for her work. But the devout Buddhist says she still gave thanks. As far as she is concerned, her prayers were answered.

Today, Limheang is back at her old garment factory, where she works as a cleaner for less money then she earned before she left. But she’s still upbeat.

‘I feel like I’ve been born again,’ she says. ‘I don’t want to go back.’

Irwin Loy is a Phnom Penh-based writer. His articles have also appeared in publications including The Christian Science Monitor, The Guardian and CNN Traveller, among others.

Cambodia approves titanium mine in world's 'most threatened forest'

 via CAAI

Jeremy Hance
February 15, 2011

Asian elephants in Cambodia. Photo courtesy of Wildlife Alliance.

The Cambodian government has approved a mine that environmentalists and locals fear will harm wildlife, pollute rivers, and put an end to a burgeoning ecotourism in one of the last pristine areas of what Conservation International (CI) recently dubbed 'the world's most threatened forest'. Prime Minister, Hun Sen, approved the mine concession to the United Khmer Group, granting them 20,400 hectares for strip mining in Cambodia's Cardamom Mountains. The biodiverse, relatively intact forests of the Cardamom Mountains are a part of the Indo-Burma forest hotspot of Southeast Asia, which CI put at the top of their list of the world's most threatened forests. With only 5% of habitat remaining, the forest was found to be more imperiled than the Amazon, the Congo, and even the forests of Indonesia and Malaysia.

"We recognize that development is essential to Cambodia’s future, but that development must be conducted in a coordinated matter that respects conservation initiatives," says Suwanna Gauntlett, CEO of Wildlife Alliance in a press release. Wildlife Alliance has worked extensively in Cambodia for nearly a decade, including with the village of Chi Phat in the Cardamom Mountains to establish ecotourism. Many local residents gave up logging and poaching to focus on tourism efforts. For its part, Wildlife Alliance invested over half a million US dollars to build infrastructure. The area was even named among the 'World's Top 10 Regions for 2010' by Lonely Planet. However, villagers fear all their efforts will be ruined by the mine.

"Committee members did acknowledge that the presence of the mine in the area could mean the possibility of new roads or bridges but that those positives would be outweighed by the pollution they fear will pour into to the rivers near the village, and that the mine would drive away tourists and consequently threaten the jobs they have secured through ecotourism," John Maloy, Wildlife Alliance's Chief Communication Officer, told He said the village's consensus was, "'if they do mining in Chi Phat, everything will disappear.'"

Incredibly rich in wildlife, the Cardamom Mountains is home to Malayan sun bears, Indochinese tigers, and pileated gibbons in addition to 250 species of birds. According to Wildlife Alliance 70 threatened species live in the area. Conservationists say the mine could particularly imperil freshwater species through pollution such as the Critically Endangered Siamese crocodiles. In addition, the mine is slated to sit directly on a migration route for the largest surviving population of Asian elephants in Cambodia.

While the United Khmer Group has promised riches from the mine to the tune of $1.3 billion dollars a year, Wildlife Alliance and the Cambodian newspaper Phnom Penh Post have questioned the company's projections. According to the Phnom Penh Post, the company was citing prices for titanium that were three times current market price and was projecting a big haul of titanium without conducting a comprehensive study of the ore deposit.

"Without scientific research to prove the economic viability of the proposed mine, bulldozing the rainforest is simply destructive and does not even make good business sense," Gauntlett says in a press release.

Mitigating Damage

Despite their opposition to the mine, Wildlife Alliance says that if the mine ultimately goes ahead it is more than open to working with United Khmer Group to ensure that the mine does as little damage as possible, both to the local people and the forest ecosystem.

An Eld's deer rutting. This Southeast Asian deer, surviving in the Cardamom Mountains, is listed as Endangered by the IUCN Red List. Photo courtesy of Wildlife Alliance.

"Now that approval has been given to the mine, Wildlife Alliance is calling on the United Khmer Group to work closely with the Forestry Administration, conservation groups, and local communities to ensure that it mitigates the environmental impacts of its mining efforts," Maloy says.

Maloy explains that there are many ways in which the mining company can avoid doing unnecessary harm, including outside monitoring: "it will be important United Khmer Group to accept monitoring by the Forestry Administration and conservation groups to ensure that they are clearing forest land in accordance with the law and that only areas that are to be mined in the near future are clear cut, preserving as much forest as possible."

In addition, Maloy says that the company should abide by its promise to mine in sections, and work with locals and NGOs to come up with a road route that doesn't push industrial traffic into the village.

Finally Maloy commends United Khmer Group's promise to reforest areas after they are mined, however they must do this correctly if the replanted forest isn't to fail.

"It is imperative that […] they are willing to pay the expense of enriching the soil that remains before planting trees, otherwise there is no chance that the forest will regenerate," he says. "Once again, this is an opportunity for the firm to work closely with the Forestry Administration and conservation groups—Wildlife Alliance already has an extensive reforestation program in the area with a large indigenous tree nursery located immediately outside the proposed mine area. So options are already available if the mining firm is willing to reach out."

According to the Phnom Penh Post, the titanium mine may only be the beginning. Reportedly, China is planning three to four additional mine in the Cardamom Mountains spanning some 100,000 hectares.