Thursday, 17 March 2011

Leading Edge: Going with the grain at Golden Rice

General Manager of Golden Rice, Chan Vuthy, is pictured with bags of the grain, which Prime Minister Hun Sen has previously called Cambodia’s ‘white gold’. Photo by: PHA LINA

via CAAI

Thursday, 17 March 2011 15:00Chun Sophal

General Manager of Golden Rice, Chan Vuthy, is pictured with bags of the grain, which Prime Minister Hun Sen has previously called Cambodia’s ‘white gold’. Photo by: PHA LINA

CAMBODIA is putting an increasing emphasis on agriculture as a pillar of future economic growth. Rice exports are expected to play a central role in developing this sector. Reporter Chun Sophal caught up with Golden Rice (Cambodia) Company’s General Manager Chan Vuthy to discuss plans to export more rice.

Cambodia has targeted exporting one million tonnes of rice per year by 2015. Last year we exported roughly 40,000 tonnes, according to the Ministry of Commerce. Is this one million tonne target achievable?
I believe Cambodia can reach the target of one million tonnes of rice exports by 2015.

We produce more rice than there is local demand for, and our ability to process rice is being developed.

However, we do face some challenges, such as logistical problems. We don’t know whether our transportation system and ports are able to support to export of such large quantities.

Our company is studying this problem. To support large exports, it is necessary for us [Cambodia] to have a better transportation system and ports.

How much rice does your company plan to export this year?
We aim to export 50,000 tonnes in 2011, to our existing market in Europe, and also new markets such as China, Hong Kong, and the United States.

Can you discuss how the company collects the rice it mills?
We send our staff directly to communities to survey and buy the rice they have. In order to collect the necessary amount, the company has built up communication with small rice miller networks in rural areas, to buy the rice they collect from farmers to us.

Currently, we cooperate well with 50 small rice millers, guaranteeing safety for our supply of raw materials.

We have strong competition with buyers from Vietnam and Thailand, because they dare to buy at higher prices than us, as their expenses for operation and processing are cheaper than us.

The government has announced Cambodia aims to double rice exports this year, compared with 2010. Do you think this is a realistic goal?
We agree with this prediction, as we see a tendency towards increased rice exports.

According to our survey, exports of rice will double compared to the previous year, as our country is rich in rice and has a growing number of millers.

We are making an effort to improve the ability to process rice at a higher quality than before, which will lead to more recognition from the international market – particularly Europe, which has lots of potential for buying Cambodian rice now.

What benefit did Golden Rice see from the government’s policy measures, introduced in August, to increase rice production and exports?
We have received benefits from export procedures from the government. Moreover, we share our experiences among government officials, such as our views related to markets, prices, and directions for the future of rice exports, and how this compares with countries in the region.

Additional benefits will not be obtained immediately, but over the long term, or in two to three years. We will have irrigation systems for supporting more production.

What are the obstacles to increasing exports?
Compared with our neighbours Thailand and Vietnam, in general our export costs are about 20 to 30 percent higher, including payments for exportation and transportation costs.

For our current exports, shipments to European markets go smoothly because we have experience there.
But the Chinese market is a new one and we face some difficulties.

I would like to stress that for the Chinese market we have two factors with clear limitations on exports – business and administrative factors.

With business factors, we need to negotiate with our customers before reaching mutual agreements to sign a contract.

As for administrative factors, we haven’t seen a precise way to export rice.

I would highlight that the governments of both countries have already agreed to a mutual policy, but haven’t seen clear procedures for actual implementation.

Do you think that authorities will be able to improve problems with export barriers?
In order to create a resolution to this problem, I think we have to work together.

Nowadays I see the government is trying to improve these matters, but exports are relevant to many institutions including transportation, customs and business.

I think if all these institutions work closely and make only one window for all kinds of exporting documents, it will be easier for costs, expenses, and time.

What conditions does your company rely on for stable rice exports?
We choose only customers who focus on quality as their priority, as in these sales ensure we receive a better price for our rice than we would from normal customers.

‘Music saved my life from the KR’

Music maestro Menh Sothyvann is riding high in the charts again with an old song. He tells how music spared his life under the Khmer Rouge regime. Photo by: PHA LINA

I picked up the mandolin and then played a song by Pol Pot. The soldiers said I played very sweetly.


Thursday, 17 March 2011 15:00Ou Mom

MUSICIAN and composer Menh Sothyvann has hit the charts again with a song he wrote several years ago about Preah Vihear temple.

His updated version of the song Bopha Preah Vihear became popular after Thai troops attacked Cambodian forces on the border in February.

The 52-year-old singer-songwriter first achieved fame in the 1980s with tear-jerker songs such as Louk Srae Cholba (Sell the Farm, Get Money to Enter Bars), Welcome to Cambodia and Where Did You Go Last Night?

His romantic songs reflect recent eras of Khmer society and one of the first songs he learned to sing was by Sinn Sisamouth, known as the King of Cambodian Rock in the 1960s.

But he had no formal training, having been born in a musical family. Menh Sothyvann was the sixth brother in a family of eight siblings, most of whom were musicians. Because their father was close to the King’s family as an official at the Ministry of Interior Affairs, he had the chance to cultivate his talent.

“My father also liked music, but he didn’t make his living from it. In his generation, he was close to Preah Norodom Soramrith [King Norodom Sihanouk’s father] and loved flute playing and flute making. He learned how to make flutes himself but he held another position at the ministry,” Menh Sothyvann said.

However, his father died in 1960, leaving his mother to bring up the family alone on her earnings as a wedding planner.

Menh Sothyvann learned very fast from his brothers, who were all musicians, and studied music under an American band called Parachute Unit in 1972. “But at that time, I just played American music, rock and roll, and the first Khmer song I learned how to sing was by Sinn Sisamouth,” he said.

“Music also saved my life [during] the Khmer Rouge regime,” he recalled.

Having managed to survive until 1977, he then came down with dysentery, which had felled many other fellow prisoners.

“But luckily one night, it rained and a group of Khmer Rouge soldiers took shelter where I was lying. They tethered their rucksacks near my feet.

“I saw one of them had a mandolin, a traditional stringed instrument. I asked a guy if could borrow it, even though I hadn’t played one before. I wanted to hold it even for just a while, because I knew that I would not survive,” he said.

“Since I used to play the guitar, I picked up the mandolin and then played a song composed by Pol Pot. The Khmer Rouge soldiers admired me, saying I played the music very sweetly,” he said.

“Luckily, when he heard I had dysentery, one Khmer Rouge soldier gave me an unknown pill, but I decided to take the tablet, which cured the disease in no time. Later on, that soldier became head of our group. He felt pity for me so allowed me to rest until night, when I played music to entertain him. With enough rest, I eventually became completely fit.”

Following the fall of the Khmer Rouge regime, Sothyvann became a security guard at the entrance to the Department of Culture, where he met an art teacher who recognised his talent and encouraged him to play.

The Department of Culture eventually established its own art department to play modern Khmer music, but it lacked skilled musicians so Menh Sothyvann was asked to play with the band set up to perform. During this time, he met his wife, who was also an artist and wedding planner.

Since then, he has performed Cambodian music in many former communist nations such as Vietnam, Laos, Germany, Czech, Hungary and the Soviet Union.

He now has three children, including son Menh Panhasoth, who has followed his father’s footsteps to become a musician. His five grandchildren also display musical talent, said Menh Sothyvann, although the eldest is just seven years old.

As president of the Association of Khmer Artists, he aims to foster capable artists and give them the chance to show their abilities.

“A number of artists in the provinces have talent but no opportunities, while there are also a small number of artists who have no abilities but producers select them for their attractive appearance,” Menh Sothyvann said.

His talent has taken him up the official ladder, last year becoming the deputy director of the Department of Administration at the National Police Commissariat in charge of modern music, and assistant to Prime Minister Hun Sen. He has been a board member of the Association of Khmer Artists since 2007.

Graduating students thank PSE for last chance

Soeurng Sovannaroath with PSE founder Christian and Marie-France des Pallières.

via CAAI
Thursday, 17 March 2011 15:00
Roth Meas

SOEURNG Sovannaroath, 26, is just one reason why the NGO Pour Un Sourire d’Enfant (PSE, or A Child’s Smile) exists.

From a poor family with eight siblings in Kampong Speu province, he set out to seek his fortune in Phnom Penh in 2004, four years after his father died and left the burden of feeding the family on his mother.

Like many others flocking from grinding poverty, he took menial jobs to survive – working as a parking lot guard for 30,000 riel (US$ 7.40), 60,000 riel as a garage worker or as a garment worker, because he had no skills nor education.

He asked for help from PSE in 2007 as he heard from friends it could offer him free training and skills. “I really wanted to learn like other children too,” he told an audience of 1,000 people this week.

“I couldn’t believe that an NGO offered me free food, free meals, free accommodation, and free vocational skills. I couldn’t believe I also had a chance like other teenagers to have an education,” said Soeurng Sovannaroath at his graduation ceremony from PSE.

Soon after he completed his training in hospitality skills last year, he gained a job as a receptionist at Phnom Penh’s Royal Inn hotel.

Now he, along with 293 other youngsters, have received their graduation certificates from PSE founder Christian des Pallières. Three years of vocational training – plus education in maintaining good health and hygiene – have paid off for these hard-working students.

The affection Soeurng Sovannaroath feels for des Pallières is evident, calling the founder “pappy” and his wife Marie-France “mammy” because they took care of him as if he were their own son.

Handing out certificates, des Pallières pointed out that many graduates had gained jobs soon after their training. However, he appealed for more help to aid the thousand or so children still learning at PSE.

So far, PSE has trained more than 2,000 youngsters in skills such as cooking, service, waiting and housekeeping, as well as mechanics, information technology, business, construction and gardening. However, PSE still has a big burden to provide homes for 450 children and provide 9,000 meals to children every day.

Des Pallières said he hoped private companies would judge PSE by the work of its graduates. He also announced new classes in film production, to broaden the experiences and chances for jobs for PSE children.

PSE was founded by des Pallières in 1996 after he saw Cambodian children scavenging among rubbish to find waste cans and paper to sell at the Stung Meanchey dump. His organisation has stopped children from having to do such risky work by providing food and accommodation, as well as vocational skills.

Forester cruises through rough roads

Alas, Shiny doesn’t come as a standard accessory to the Subaru Forester. Photo by: PHA LINA

via CAAI

Thursday, 17 March 2011 15:00Simala Pan

SUBARU is a relatively new brand on the Cambodian market, but the Forester 2010 four-door 2.5-litre SUV has won four safety awards despite its simple interior design and symmetrical all-wheel drive.

Imported by Motor Image Group, the latest model has a lower-slung Boxer Engine and AWD that helps balance a low center of gravity with generous ground clearance.

As service advisor Vicheth Mao explained: “The Boxer Engine has built in balance while driving on curvy roads while the AWD and VDC (Vehicle Dynamic Control) delivers power effectively among all four wheels.”

The expert, who has more than 15 years experience in vehicle servicing, pointed out the Forester’s other unique safety functions. In case of a front crash, the lower engine is designed to slip backward without hitting the steering wheel or harming the driver. Besides, with eight airbags, the strong metal cage built inside the two rear doors can prevent injuries from crashes on all sides.

“Subaru’s focus is on everything to improve safety,” said Vicheth Mao.

However, the Forester is also designed to appeal to amateur racers. While the media kit says the car can reach 100 kilometres an hour in just seven seconds, Mao confirmed that he had reached that speed within just three seconds while demonstrating the model – rendering his clients speechless.

According to him, Subaru has also earned motoring awards for the best car in rough driving conditions, and wanted to reassure his client by driving to a bumpy sandy area at a construction area in Koh Pich. Even with the music player and air-conditioner turned off, the Forester silently moved forward with ease, making the driver and passenger feel as comfortable as if they were driving on a smooth highway.

“Even if one of the wheels is on sand while the other is on a smooth highway, the Forester will distribute power effectively among all four wheels.”

Priced between US$50,000 and US$60,000, the new Forester 2010 uses between 8 and 12 litres of fuel for each 100 kilometres. And the service interval is 4,000 kilometres between visits to the garage.

Entertainment features include high-definition audio, a seven-speaker premium sound system, iPod jack, Bluetooth, hands-free calling, enhanced rear vision for easier parking and ambient lighting for better night driving.

Rainsy stripped of MP status

Photo by: Sovan Philong
Sam Rainsy speaking to journalist during the press conference at SRP head office in 2009.

via CAAI

Embattled opposition leader Sam Rainsy’s position in the National Assembly has been terminated following a string of losses in his long-running legal saga.

In a proclamation dated Tuesday, National Assembly President Heng Samrin said Sam Rainsy’s criminal convictions had rendered him ineligible to serve as a lawmaker based on the Kingdom’s Law on the Status of Parliamentarians.

“His Excellency Sam Rainsy has completely lost his rights, prerogatives and membership as a parliamentarian of Kampong Cham provincial constituency in the fourth legislative mandate,” the proclamation states.

“This proclamation has judicial power from the day of signature onward.”

Sam Rainsy, president of the eponymous party, has lived in exile since 2009 to avoid prosecution in connection with a protest he staged in October that year in Svay Rieng province against alleged Vietnamese land encroachment.

Earlier this month, the Supreme Court upheld his convictions for incitement and destruction of public property, for which he has been sentenced to two years in prison.

He was sentenced to an additional 10 years in prison in September for disinformation and falsifying public documents in connection with evidence he publicised from abroad to vindicate his border claims.

Speaking by phone from France, Sam Rainsy said he was untroubled by the proclamation and was confident he had the support of legal experts and the international community.

“This shows that power in Cambodia is becoming more and more absolute and more and more illegal,” he said.

Despite this grim assessment, however, the opposition leader said he would continue to lead the SRP and predicted that he would be able to return to the Kingdom for the upcoming national elections in 2012 and 2013 via a compromise with the ruling Cambodian People’s Party.

“We are not panicking,” he said, adding that the continued attempts to silence him “show the weakness of the CPP”.

“They are afraid of Sam Rainsy,” he said.

“What gives them a headache, what makes them worried? It is only Sam Rainsy.”

In a statement issued today, Cambodian Centre for Human Rights president Ou Virak said Sam Rainsy’s case “shows how the judiciary and legislature serve the political objectives of the executive”.

“The National Assembly lifted Sam Rainsy’s parliamentary immunity in apparent disregard for the constitutional guarantee that immunity will not be removed for opinions expressed in the exercise of one’s duties as a parliamentarian,” Ou Virak said.

“The judiciary showed an equal disregard for his fair trial rights and convicted him on highly politicised charges without sufficient evidence.”

In a speech earlier this year, Prime Minister Hun Sen announced his intention to “make the opposition group die”.

Malaria eradication plan announced

via CAAI

Wednesday, 16 March 2011 18:54Vong Sokheng and Mary Kozlovski

Prime Minister Hun Sen on Tuesday announced a plan to eradicate malaria in the Kingdom by 2025, at the closing ceremony of the 32nd annual health congress in Phnom Penh.

Speaking to Ministry of Health officials, the premier appealed for a strong commitment to fight malaria over the next 14 years.

“We will aim toward 14 years in order to eliminate malaria in our country and, for me, I have an optimism that the country will have no malaria by 2020 or 2021,” said Hun Sen.

Dr Duong Socheat, head of the National Malaria Centre at the Ministry of Health, said today that the plan was the result of detailed government consultation.

“We have the first phase, the elimination of the parasite from 2011 to 2015; from 2015 to 2020, we have no deaths in Cambodia from malaria, and up to 2025 all forms of malaria will be eliminated,” he said.

Dr Steven Bjorge, the World Health Organisation’s team leader for malaria in Cambodia, said the plan showed high-level political support for malaria control.

“It’s a total provision of early diagnosis treatment by village malaria volunteers, it’s elimination of substandard drugs, provision of very good drugs that are fully effective…[and] behaviour change and communication based on principles of health education,” said Bjorge.

However, Bjorge said that the target was “very optimistic”.

“Any kind of malaria control or elimination is going to take 10 or 15 years at the very least and anything can happen, from political changes to environmental catastrophes to economic problems that cause curtailment if the funding suddenly dries up,” he said.

Tol Bunkea, head of epidemiology at the NMC, said that in 2010 malaria affected 56,217 people in Cambodia and killed 135 compared with 80,000 affected and 200 killed in 2009.


Garment factory bankrupt

Photo by: Hong Menea
Employees of the Tack Fat garment factory sit near a gate at the factory in Chak Angre Leu commune in Phnom Penh. The factory announced today that it was bankrupt and would close, leaving more than 1,000 workers unemployed.

via CAAI

Wednesday, 16 March 2011 20:57Tep Nimol

Tack Fat Garment Ltd closed its factory in Phnom Penh today, while its lawyer announced the company was bankrupt and unable to fully compensate 1,008 workers who are now out of a job.

Workers showed up to work as usual today at Tack Fat Garment factory in Chak Angre Leu commune of Phnom Penh’s Meanchey district, but found the doors shuttered.

Sry Kim You, an attorney for Tack Fat, convened a meeting with workers and said the company would pay only seniority money, this month’s salary and US$150 in additional compensation to each worker.

“This factory is bankrupt and decided to close today. Over the past year, the factory has had problems and struggled to produce products,” Sry Kim You said.

“The closure without prior notice does not mean the factory will avoid finding a solution for workers. We ask you to understand the company is unable [to pay],” he said.

Workers said, however, they are owed additional compensation under the Kingdom’s Labour Law.

Yang Sophorn, vice president of the Free Trade Union of Cambodia, demanded during the meeting that Tack Fat provide five benefits stipulated in the Labour Law, including severance pay, two month’s pay on top of this month’s salary, seniority bonuses and other compensation.

“The factory owner looked down on workers because he did not give information before the closure. It is an excuse to avoid providing benefits to us,” said Ol Thol, 33, who has worked for Tack Fat for 13 years.

Ol Thol calculated that he is owed a total of $1,600.

Under the 1997 Labour Law, a company that has gone bankrupt is still obligated to pay full compensation.

Chheang Thida, deputy head of the Tack Fat local FTU, said the company had been transporting sewing machines and other equipment from the factory since January, which demonstrated that the factory was “not stabilised”, though management gave no signs of the closure.

“More than 6,000 sewing machines were brought out. The owner intended to cancel the factory without giving compensation and open a new factory,” she said.

She said talks with the company were not fruitful and workers filed a request to the Ministry of Labour for intervention today.

Sum Pharen, deputy bureau chief of the labour dispute department at the Ministry of Labour, said Tack Fat had called him to request that the ministry not intervene and allow them to “negotiate internally with workers”.

“We will give them the chance to negotiate with each other. If there is no solution, we will intervene,” he said.

King discharges general

via CAAI

Wednesday, 16 March 2011 19:51Thet Sambath

Former anti-drug czar Moek Dara has been stripped of his three-star lieutenant general ranking by a royal decree signed by King Norodom Sihamoni.

The royal decree, a copy of which was released today, was signed by King Norodom Sihamoni on February 21 and took effect after Prime Minister Hun Sen’s approval.

Moek Dara, the former secretary general of the National Authority for Combating Drugs, was charged in January for dealing drugs and taking bribes.

Om Yentieng, head of the Anticorruption Unit, said Moek Dara and his accomplices had used the anti-drug department “as a network for selling drugs”.

Nuth Sa An, secretary of state at the Ministry of Interior, said the ministry removed the ranking of Moek Dara’s accomplice Chea Leang, former chief of the ministry’s anti-drug office.

He said the court system was still investigating both men’s cases.

“If the court finds [Moek Dara] guilty, he will not be able to return to [his position],” said Nuth Sa An.

“His arrest is a warning for others not to follow him.”

Keo Remy, spokesman for the ACU, could not be reached today for details on the investigation.

Chan Soveth, an investigating officer with rights group Adhoc, welcomed the removal of Moek Dara’s ranking, but felt further investigations could implicate more people.

“Arresting only Moek Dara and three other officials is not enough,” he said.

“I believe more officials are involved in this case.”

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

Bomber spouse calls for help

via CAAI

Wednesday, 16 March 2011 20:03Mom Kunthear and Chhay Channyda

A man convicted for his role in an attempt to bomb the Cambodian-Vietnamese Friendship monument in July 2007 has requested help from the local rights group Licadho as he seeks to revive a dormant appeal, a staff investigator said today.

Chheng Sophors, investigator for Licadho, said today he received a letter penned from Prey Sar prison by Kem Toeun, 56, through the man’s wife.

He said Licadho would study the case, but had not yet determined how it would help.

“We will check the case again and study legal procedure to see what we can possibly do to help him or find lawyers for him,” Chheng Sophors said.

Phong Sokhoeun, 45, said today her husband, Kem Toeum, was sentenced wrongly to 16 years in prison, and claimed he did not even know the four co-conspirators.

“When he was arrested on July 30, 2007, police told our family that they were taking him to find a job as a house security guard, which would earn US$80 per month, so we agreed,” she said.

“It’s unjust. He was just a moto driver and didn’t know how to make a bomb.”

Kem Toeum, Sok Kimsovath, Soeun Vy, Lim Phen and Soeun Khan alias Kim Sophat, all Khmer Kampuchea Krom, were sentenced to between 15 and 17 years in prison for planting three home-made bombs near the Cambodian-Vietnamese Friendship monument on July 29.

One of the bombs, which were made with a mixture of TNT and fertilizer, exploded but explosive experts defused the two others and no one was injured.

Moeun Sovann, a former lawyer for the Cambodian Defenders Project who defended the men in Phnom Penh Municipal Court, said today he was no longer representing them and the Appeal Court was unable to hear the case because “now they have no lawyers”.

He and another attorney filed an appeal in early 2009, he said.

“It is a criminal case which requires them to have defence lawyers,” Moeun Sovann said.

Pann Kin Lean, prosecutor at the Appeal Court, said he did not know whether the bomb plot case had been heard.

Sustainable growth in focus

Photo by: Pha Lina
Prime Minister Hun Sen addresses the Cambodia Outlook conference at the Phnom Penh Hotel Today.

via CAAI

Wednesday, 16 March 2011 20:36May Kunmakara and Tom Brennan

Prime Minister Hun Sen today outlined the key challenges and opportunities that Cambodia faces in its pursuit of both economic growth and sustainable development, as a leading business figure highlighted the importance of tackling corruption.

The premier’s comments were part of the opening address to more than 300 international development partners, nongovernmental organisations, experts, economists and businessmen at the Fifth Cambodia Outlook Conference, held at the Phnom Penh Hotel.

“We now see more clearly than ever that Cambodia is well positioned to benefit from three important opportunities,” said Hun Sen, “harnessing the benefits of regional integration in our dynamic East Asian region, the management of our considerable natural resources in a sustainable way and investment in the future through agriculture, infrastructure, education and higher savings.”

He added that success in dealing with the related challenges of vocational education and training, tertiary education, human resource development and labour market responsiveness, in response to the country’s growing need for a skilled and educated workforce, “will also be fundamental to our success”.

Stephen Higgins, chief executive officer of ANZ Royal Bank, praised Prime Minister Hun Sen’s comments, calling them “very balanced”.

On a more granular level, there are still many things Cambodia can do over the next 12 months to move the country toward achieving the goals laid out by Hun Sen, one expert claimed.

Putu Kamayana, country director for the Asian Development Bank, said the growth hoped for in agriculture, the garment and manufacturing industries, as well as infrastructure and telecommunications, can start by providing technical and vocational training for Cambodian workers right away.

“I would hope that by next year we will see some significant improvements in the types of training being offered and the number of training centres providing high-quality training to better address the needs of the employers,” he said.

Putu Kamayana also advocated diversification in the agriculture business, investments in agriculture technology and regulation and more financing for small and medium-sized enterprises.

“A lot of things can be done in the short term to move the economy along,” he said.

Higgins believes that Cambodia’s business environment is “very supportive” in ways that will make attaining those goals possible, and he sees consolidation in the education, banking and telecom spaces are short-term ways to reach the conference’s goals.

But the country still struggles with one important issue, he said: corruption.

Higgins pointed to a Post story in which some Singaporean investors visiting the country last week named corruption as their No 1 concern.

While the country is making strides to solve the problem, he said, more work needed to be done.

“I think the government is putting the right building blocks in place,” Higgins said.

“They just really need to drive home the enforcement part.”

Hun Sen did address the issue during his speech, noting that Cambodia’s anti-
corruption legislation and the establishment of an anti-corruption commission “sends a clear message to the nation, to investors and to the international community that we take anti-corruption measures seriously”.

He did admit, though, that the Kingdom needs “to work harder, in cooperation with the private sector, to continue to … practice to a higher international standard, strengthening institutions and building the capacity of government officials to build a healthy and dynamic but well-regulated environment for businesses”.

Higgins said bringing a number of high-profile corruption cases against government officials and businessmen in the private sector would show international investors that Cambodia does, in fact, take the problem seriously.

Speaking to the conference’s theme of growth without sacrificing sustainability, Higgins said the present government could take a lesson from other countries struggling with civil unrest right now.

“They do need to make sure that the benefits from growth flow through broadly,” he said.

“And we’re seeing in North Africa the consequences of when that doesn’t happen, which is why issues like [Boeung Kak] lake, they have to deal with that in a different way.”

“What is happening at the lake at the moment does not reflect well on the country,” he said.

Playing together, eating together at border

Published: 17/03/2011
Newspaper section: News

via CAAI
Soldiers from both sides meet for a hearty lunch of Cambodian beef and Thai beer

This is true of the current spat between Thailand and Cambodia over the 4.6 sq km area of land around Preah Vihear Temple that is claimed by the both countries. The only difference is that the dispute began with armed clashes on Feb 4, followed by talks and a collapsed truce, with both sides trading accusations as to who broke the truce first.

Their armed forces, led by Thai army Chief-of-Staff Gen Dapong Rattanasuwan and Cambodia's deputy army chief Maj Gen Hun Manet, made a gentlemen's agreement at a meeting at Sa-ngam Pass in Si Sa Ket on Feb 19. But since then peace has yet to return permanently to this part of the border.

The meeting led to the end of attacks with heavy weaponry, but the sounds of rifle and grenade fire have been heard sporadically almost every day, in the strategic location of Phu Ma Khua to the west of the Hindu temple.

The Thai army claims the Cambodian troops tried to seize control of the hill and had no choice but to counter the raid. Cambodia argues that its soldiers were hit first by Thai grenades and had to fight back. The latest tense situation took place on March 4, when Thai soldiers resumed construction of a road and bridge. Cambodian troops have made clear that they are ready to fight if the road project goes to Keo Sikha Kiri Savara pagoda.

As the defence ministers and top military leaders of the two countries will be at the same table at the General Border Committee meeting in Bogor, Indonesia on March 24-25, nobody wants to do anything to spoil the atmosphere. Lt Gen Thawatchai Samutsakhon of the Second Army Region ordered his soldiers to use a new approach to deal with their Cambodian counterparts. Thus, last Saturday a volleyball match was held at Ta Thao Pass near Preah Vihear to foster ties. It was not a match between Thailand and Cambodia, as both Thai and Cambodian soldiers were in both teams on the court, to underscore a sense of unity. After the game, the soldiers and local leaders enjoyed a hearty luncheon together, with food prepared by both sides.

"Cambodian soldiers said they killed two cows to prepare this meal, showing their appreciation for this occasion," said a Thai soldier at the event.

For the Thai side, all leaders of tambon administration organisations, district office and schools in the area were invited to take part.

On the field, this day of friendship was organised by Col Wutti Saengchak, deputy commander of the Suranaree Task Force who is the right-hand man of Lt Gen Thawatchai. The colonel worked with Lt Gen Prom Peng, who is in charge of Ta Thao Pass in Cambodia. The two main organisers ordered a company of troops from each side to meet for the first time since the fighting.

Visiting Cambodian troops told Thai soldiers that they had been ordered to drink not more than two cans of beer at most. But it turned out to be a non-stop "happy hour", starting with the volleyball at 9am followed by lunch and drinks till 2pm.

This enemy-turned-friend event lasted a lot longer than two cans of beer, with round after round of cheers and resounding applause, as the Thai side had made sure there would be an almost limitless supply of beer.

To show their good faith and sincerity, the Thai soldiers showed no hesitation in eating the beef brought by the Cambodian troops. Under normal circumstances, Thai soldiers will refrain from accepting food or water from the Cambodians for fear of the infamous Cambodian "black magic".

The drinks led to the "confession" from many Cambodian soldiers that they did not want to fight Thai soldiers but had no choice because they were under orders from Prime Minister Hun Sen, who is Maj Gen Hun Manet's father.

The get-together last Saturday was highlighted by an informal meeting which led to a new promise on the border truce, with both sides agreeing on four points:

- The commander of the respective militaries will strictly control their soldiers based at the border, to make sure that there will be no more gunfire. Any badly behaved soldier will be immediately moved out and away from the frontline.

- They will not build new structures and stop the existing project. For the Thai side, this means shelving the road project to Keo Sikha Kiri Savara pagoda.

- The respective commanders will immediately use the hotline if any conflict takes place at the border, to prevent it from escalating.

- The soldiers will continue to nurture an atmosphere of friendship to ease border tensions ahead of GBC meetings, including the one at Phu Ma Khua.

The Thai side is confident the situation will ease ahead of the GBC meeting between Thai and Cambodian defence ministers, Prawit Wongsuwon and Teah Banh, who will thrash out details regarding the Indonesian observers to be sent to the border.

Frankly, Thai military leaders are not happy that the GBC has.

Hip-Hop Artist Prach Ly Joins ‘Freedom-to-Write’ Festival

Im Sothearith, VOA Khmer

Washington, DC Wednesday, 16 March 2011
via CAAI
Photo: Courtesy of Prach Ly

"The truth needs to come out and journalists need to do their part, writers need to do their part, artists and musicians need to do their part."

[Editor’s note: Cambodian hip-hop star Prach Ly has joined writers and playwrights at Brown University, in the US city of Providence, Rhode Island, for a three-day festival to celebrate the literature and culture of Cambodia, as well as free speech. “Khmer Voices Rising,” which is sponsored by the university, will include discussions and readings with writers from Cambodia, Vietnam and the US, among other events. Prach Ly spoke with VOA Khmer by phone from Providence on Tuesday.]

What do you think about the International Freedom-to-Write Festival?

They’ve invited journalists and writers from all around the world. And it is important because the freedom of expression, the freedom of speech, is lacking in Cambodia and also third world countries. But this year they are concentrating on Cambodia. One of the honorees or fellows they’ll honor this year is Tararith Kho.

Anywhere in the world, especially in Cambodia, writers and journalists need to express themselves, need the right to truth, and the truth needs to be told. If the people can’t speak out, if you can’t say a certain thing, then there’s no freedom, no sense of freedom. The truth needs to come out and journalists need to do their part, writers need to do their part, artists and musicians need to do their part. So freedom of expression is very important.

Why are you interested in participating in this festival?

I was asked to be here to headline the event. I am talking on four different panels and also doing a performance on Thursday at the end of the event. Again, I was censored in Cambodia and music was censored, even been banned. So I know how important it is to speak out and let your words be heard. If with censorship you can only go so far, if you can’t express your words, if the writers can’t write—I consider myself a writer too—and because my lyrics and my songs are very explicit in terms of storytelling, and if they censor and they said you can’t express certain thing, then I can’t do what I do, you know my freedom is gone. So, I feel that it’s very important to attend.

As soon as they invited me, I got on the plane and came right away. I am here now. Something like this with organizations around the world who help fighting for freedom and freedom of expression, freedom of speech, we need to keep on doing that, especially what’s happening in Egypt and also the domino effect that’s going on there. Everyone wants democracy; everyone wants freedom. That’s where it’s leading to right now. If you keep censoring people, you can’t say this, you can’t say that, and then you threaten them with death, and you know you threaten to kill them for exposing the truth, then you become a threat to yourself.

National Assembly To Unseat Opposition Leader

Heng Reaksmey, VOA Khmer
Phnom Penh Wednesday, 16 March 2011

via CAAI

Photo: Soeung Sophat, VOA Khmer
Exiled Cambodian opposition leader Sam Rainsy talks to Cambodian-American supporters in Falls Church, near Washington, DC on February 24, 3011. He has been sentenced to 12 years in prison and is on a two-day trip in Washington to garner support from the US government.

“Sam Rainsy must lose all rights and privileges to membership of the National Assembly for Kampong Cham province.”

The National Assembly announced Wednesday it was removing Sam Rainsy from parliament, following the decision by the Supreme Court in February to uphold criminal charges against him.

Sam Rainsy, the main opposition leader in the National Assembly, will no longer hold his representative seat there, the Assembly said in announcing a decision made Tuesday.

The February Supreme Court decision, which upheld Sam Rainsy’s guilty verdict and two-year sentence for racial incitement and the destruction of markers on the Vietnamese border, effectively ended his legal bid to avoid a criminal sentence. He still faces an ongoing legal battle over a charge of disinformation, which carries a 10-year sentence.

In a directive issued Tuesday, National Assembly President Heng Samrin said the decision also meant, “Sam Rainsy must lose all rights and privileges to membership of the National Assembly for Kampong Cham province.”

Sam Rainsy Party spokesman Yim Sovann called the move a slide in Cambodian democracy. The party will now work with the government to find a solution, he said, without elaborating.

Koul Panha, executive director of the Committee for Free and Fair Elections, said the loss of the opposition’s main party leader would damage the upcoming elections in 2012 and 2013.

The move would hurt the opposition’s access to free and fair elections, he said, especially with its now ousted leader in exile.

Chea Vannath, an independent political analyst, said Wednesday Sam Rainsy’s political life would be hurt in the short term, but she predicted he would eventually be allowed to return under a political solution.

Opposition Worries Japan Disaster Could Hurt Aid Money

Sok Khemara, VOA Khmer
Washington, DC Wednesday, 16 March 2011

via CAAI

Photo: AP
A man looks at the stock price board on a street in Tokyo, Japan, March 16, 2011.

“In following years, I am sure it will be cut.”

Opposition leaders say Japan’s earthquake and tsunami woes will affect aid coming to Cambodia in future years, underscoring the importance of economic independence.

The Japanese government said this week the disaster would not affect its aid to Cambodia, signing a $94 million aid package on Tuesday.

However, following the devastating tsunami in Japan on Friday, opposition officials said Tuesday they were concerned one of Cambodia’s largest donors will not be able to sustain its level of aid.

“We face difficulties exporting our goods abroad,” opposition leader Sam Rainsy told VOA Khmer. “And countries that usually give much aid to this country, when they face a problem like Japan is today, they clearly reduce their assistance to us.”

Japan has been one of Cambodia’s largest donors, giving nearly $2 billion in aid packages since 1992. Cambodia relies on about $1 billion in aid annually to support its budget.

Kem Sokha, head of the minority oppsotion Human Rights Party, said that even if the Japanese government continued its aid for the near future, it will need to save money for its own rehabilitation after the tsunami.

“In following years, I am sure it will be cut,” he said. “That’s first. Secondly, relating to some goods that are imported from Japan, this can raise the prices, because Japan will stop producing them, such as some cars.”

In light of the potential loss of funding, both party leaders urged the government to promote Cambodia’s economic growth to move away from its dependency on aid money.

“I would say the government should consider issues of finding economic income on its own, such as beneficial investments,” Kem Sokha said. “Don’t [let] all the benefits go only to powerful, big businessmen. Allow much of the benefit to go to the nation, such as in effective tax collection.”

Sam Rainsy said the government should follow the examples of neighboring countries that have stopped taking external assistance, “to properly prepare the economy by way of progress.”

“Then we surely will not completely depend on foreign aid, like today,” he said.

AKP : The Agent Kampuchea Press

via CAAI

2011 Cambodia Outlook Conference Opened

Phnom Penh, March 16, 2011 AKP – The 2011 Cambodia Outlook Conference: A Partnership of CDRI and ANZ Royal Bank was opened here this morning at Phnom Penh Hotel under the presidency of Prime Minister Samdech Akka Moha Sena Padei Techo Hun Sen.

The one-day conference being held under the theme “Driving High Growth and Sustainable Development for Cambodia-Opportunities and Challenges” will discuss three important topics – (1) driving high growth and sustainable development in Cambodia, (2) important factors ensuring high growth environment and sustainable development in Cambodia and (3) preparing Cambodia for high growth and sustainable development through strengthening success factors and removing impediments, according to H.E. Dr. Hang Chuon Naron, Permanent Vice-Chairman of the Supreme National Economic Council and Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Cambodia Development Resource Institute (CDRI).

“I am fully confident that the result of discussion in this conference will become the most significant inputs for the policies design of the Royal Government with high effectiveness and efficiency, and especially is the common framework for the private sectors to plan their profitable investment and contribute to building a prosperous society,” he said.

In his opening keynote address, Prime Minister Samdech Techo Hun Sen said Cambodia economy is performing well. Growth for 2010 has recently been revised upward from 5.5 percent to 5.9 percent of GDP.

“The future outlook for Cambodia is positive – the economy is projected to grow between 6 percent to 7 percent annually over the medium term. It is expected that Cambodia will benefit from future global investment and credit flows which will favour Asia due to the weakening of demand in the other parts of the world. The growth of the traditional U.S. and EU markets could remain below its earlier trend at least for some time. With the growing regional cooperation and integration and faster growth of the Asian economies, Asian markets could offer more prospects of export and income growth to Cambodia. Thus, we have to diversify Cambodia’s economic structure to focus not only on serving the U.S. and EU markets, but also Asian market,” he said.

The Cambodian premier also touched on key opportunities and challenges Cambodia faces in ensuring a future of high inclusive growth, sustainable development for Cambodia.

His full keynote address reads as follows:


NA President Meets Indonesian Delegation

Phnom Penh, March 16, 2011 AKP –

Cambodian National Assembly President Samdech Akka Moha Ponhea Chakrei Heng Samrin met here on Mar. 15 with H.E. Laode Ida, Deputy Speaker of Regional Senate of the Republic of Indonesia.

In the meeting, H.E. Laode Ida told Samdech Heng Samrin that his visit to Cambodia is aimed to seek Cambodia’s support for Indonesian Regional Senate’s candidacy as a full member of the ASEAN Inter-Parliament Assembly (AIPA).

In reply, Samdech Heng Samrin welcomed and pledged to discuss Indonesia’s proposal with other AIPA member countries.

He also expressed thanks to Indonesia for its role as co-chairman of Paris Peace Conference on Cambodia and its active contribution to help resolve the border issue between Cambodia and Thailand.

Earlier on Mar. 14, H.E. Laode Ida also met with H.E. Cheam Yeap, Chairman of Economy, Finance, Banking and Audit Commission of the National Assembly and Head of Cambodian AIPA Group. –AKP

Article in Khmer by HUN Yuth Kun
Article in English by LIM Nary


PM Calls On Medical Workers to Change Their Attitude

Phnom Penh, March 16, 2011 AKP – Cambodian Prime Minister Samdech Akka Moha Sena Padei Techo Hun Sen has called on medical workers to change their attitude and respect the rights of patients.

Speaking at the Ministry of Health’s annual meeting at Intercontinental Hotel in Phnom Penh on Mar. 15, Samdech Techo Hun Sen said medical workers are the rescuers of the patients’ lives.

“I would like to appeal to all medical workers to change their attitude in accordance with the medical worker’s code of conduct. You have to remember that you are the savior of the patients,” Samdech Techo Hun Sen said.

Minister of Health H.E. Mam Bun Heng said the ministry has been working to strengthen health service’s quality as well as to promote medical professionalism. –AKP

Article in Khmer by CHEY Phum Pul
Article in English by KHAN Sophirom

Cambodia’s orders given to VOV staff

via CAAI

Phnom Penh - Cambodia's parliament has expelled the leader of the opposition, Sam Rainsy, two weeks after the Supreme Court upheld a jail term against him for uprooting markers along the Vietnamese border.

Veteran opposition politician Son Chhay said parliament's permanent standing committee, which is comprised of lawmakers from the ruling Cambodian People's Party (CPP), had issued the decision.

Son Chhay said previous expulsions of parliamentarians who fell foul of the ruling party had been resolved through political compromise.
'But the situation today is different - the CPP controls all state institutions and it seems they are moving the country back to the authoritarian system which requires no need to compromise,' he said.

Son Chhay said the standing committee's decision could not be appealed, adding that the only hope was to petition the king.

Sam Rainsy, who heads the Sam Rainsy Party, which is the largest opposition party, currently lives in self-imposed exile in France.

Earlier this month the Supreme Court upheld a two-year sentence against Sam Rainsy in a case over border posts that demarcate the country's boundary with Vietnam. Last year he was convicted by a lower court of racial incitement and damaging public property after he uprooted several markers.

The incident riled Hanoi, which is a close ally of Prime Minister Hun Sen's government. Vietnam has significant interests in agribusiness, aviation, telecommunications and banking in Cambodia.
The SRP had charged that land rights of Cambodian farmers in the area were not being respected by an ongoing demarcation process along the 1,270-kilometre border, which is scheduled to be completed by 2012.
The opposition claims the case against Sam Rainsy was political in a bid to keep him out of the country ahead of local elections in 2012 and a general election the following year.

Cambodia sets age limit for foreign husbands

 via CAAI

Mar 16, 2011

PHNOM PENH - MALE foreigners over the age of 50 have been outlawed from marrying Cambodian women in the country under new rules designed to crack down on sham marriages and human trafficking, the government said on Wednesday.

Foreigners who earn less than US$2,550 (S$3,263) per month are also barred from wedding local women, foreign ministry spokesman Koy Kuong told AFP, but the restrictions do not apply to weddings taking place overseas.

Marriages between old men and young women are 'inappropriate", Mr Koy Kuong said, and foreign men who wish to marry nationals must earn a high salary to ensure that 'Cambodian women can live a decent life'.

'We are preventing fake marriages and human trafficking,' he said, adding that the government was aware of cases, documented by rights groups, where Cambodian women were sent into prostitution or 'used as slaves' in their husband's home country.

The Cambodian foreign ministry has sent a diplomatic note to all the embassies and consulates in the country informing them of the new regulations, which came into effect on March 1.

Kek Galabru, president of local human rights group Licadho, praised the government's intention to protect Cambodian brides. But she said the new guidelines 'go against Cambodian marriage law and international law' - specifically the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women. -- AFP

Cambodia recruitment firm 'detained staff illegally'

 via CAAI

Cambodians often seek work abroad due to low and limited options at home

Cambodian police have asked prosecutors to charge a recruitment company with illegally detaining its staff.

The firm has been under investigation since one woman died and another was hurt at its training centre this month.

T&P's lawyer has denied the company has done anything wrong and says its training programmes comply with Cambodia's labour laws.

It is one of a growing number of firms which are training Cambodians to work overseas - often as domestic staff.

The T&P company is facing serious allegations.

One young woman was so desperate to escape its facility in Phnom Penh that she jumped from a window, breaking both her legs.

She has since said that she was not allowed to leave the centre at any time.

Days later, a woman in her 30s died from a suspected heart attack.

Her husband has complained that she had been feeling sick for days - but the company had not allowed her to leave.

Other staff have alleged that they have not been allowed to leave the training facility to visit their families.

Human rights organisations have also raised concerns about other labour brokers.

T&P is one of a growing number of companies which recruit and train Cambodians to work overseas.

It is an attractive option to many young people - around a quarter of a million of them come onto the job market each year - and the options at home are limited.

Migrant workers send back a total of more than $300m (£186m) a year to their families.

But some complain about poor treatment on their return.

Cambodian parliament expels opposition leader

via CAAI

Mar 16, 2011

Phnom Penh - Cambodia's parliament has expelled the leader of the opposition, Sam Rainsy, two weeks after the Supreme Court upheld a jail term against him for uprooting markers along the Vietnamese border.

Veteran opposition politician Son Chhay said parliament's permanent standing committee, which is comprised of lawmakers from the ruling Cambodian People's Party (CPP), had issued the decision.

Son Chhay said previous expulsions of parliamentarians who fell foul of the ruling party had been resolved through political compromise.

'But the situation today is different - the CPP controls all state institutions and it seems they are moving the country back to the authoritarian system which requires no need to compromise,' he said.

Son Chhay said the standing committee's decision could not be appealed, adding that the only hope was to petition the king.

Sam Rainsy, who heads the Sam Rainsy Party, which is the largest opposition party, currently lives in self-imposed exile in France.

Earlier this month the Supreme Court upheld a two-year sentence against Sam Rainsy in a case over border posts that demarcate the country's boundary with Vietnam. Last year he was convicted by a lower court of racial incitement and damaging public property after he uprooted several markers.

The incident riled Hanoi, which is a close ally of Prime Minister Hun Sen's government. Vietnam has significant interests in agribusiness, aviation, telecommunications and banking in Cambodia.

The SRP had charged that land rights of Cambodian farmers in the area were not being respected by an ongoing demarcation process along the 1,270-kilometre border, which is scheduled to be completed by 2012.

The opposition claims the case against Sam Rainsy was political in a bid to keep him out of the country ahead of local elections in 2012 and a general election the following year.

It begins by asking questions

Ensuring that an accurate history is remembered by Cambodian students. DC CAM

via CAAI

Wednesday, 16 March 2011 15:00Sothida Sin

This week may have been the first time that students at Bak Touk High School had a chance to ask questions to the author of textbook History of Democratic Kampuchea 1975-1979, Dy Khamboly. At the Bak Touk campus, students asked several questions during the anti-slogan inauguration ceremony presided over Chum Teav Ton Sa-Im, Under-secretary of State of the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport and Chea Cheat, Head of Phnom Penh’s Municipal Office of Education, and Youk Chhang, the director of DC Cam.

Approximately 200 students, teachers and guests attended this ceremony. At the end of the ceremony was a question-answer session between students and Khamboly Dy.

Below are some questions asked by students and answered by Dy Khamboly.

The Khmer Rouge regime did not have their own currency. What tools did they use to buy weapons?

The Khmer Rouge had already printed money. However, they abolished that money after they took power in 1975 because in their view money could bring injustice and corruption in society. The Khmer Rouge thought that if they allowed money to be used, corruption would not be abolished. Markets were not allowed either. Most of the weapons were received from China, the only country that had influence on the Khmer Rouge regime.

Why did the Khmer Rouge kill the educated people?

The educated people were not trusted by the Khmer Rouge regime, although the leaders were educated overseas. They regarded educated people as the enemy of the state. Therefore, the Khmer Rouge chose people who did not have a chance to attend school to lead the country because these people were considered pure.

Why did Khmer Rouge kill doctors and monks?

The Khmer Rouge did not have any policy to kill doctors and monks. But it is true that doctors and monks were killed. Doctors and monks were killed because they were considered educated. Therefore, they were not trusted by the Khmer Rouge.

Did the international community know about the killings in Cambodia during the Khmer Rouge regime? If they knew, why they did not intervene?

During the Khmer Rouge regime, there were only nine embassies in Cambodia. Most of the embassy staff had restrictions on where they could visit. Very little information about Cambodia was heard by outsiders. That information was not enough for the international community to take any action and intervene in Cambodia. And under the United Nations Charter countries could not intervene without the approval of the Security Council. Information about the Khmer Rouge regime was only extracted from refugees who fled Cambodia to Thailand.