Friday, 18 March 2011

In Cambodia, Gambling on the Rain

via CAAI

Mar 17 2011, 7:00 AM ET

By Julia Wallace
Betters deploy superstition, amateur meteorology, and networks of sources to win big on the weather

Rain clouds pile up over the clock tower of Battambang's colonial-era Art Deco market.

A group of veteran rain bettors crowds along the edge of a rice paddy in Battambang just after dawn, watching the clouds.

They are likely to remain there until late afternoon.

Two men perch in a makeshift observation deck on the outskirts of Battambang used by rain bettors to keep a close eye on the sky.

A homemade device used by Vandara's rain gambling house to measure rainfall. When water spills up from the 60-ml test tube and into the metal dish, it is usually considered to have rained. Vandara and his wife use the receptacle to approximate the amount of rain that would soak through 13 sheets of tissue paper.

BATTAMBANG, Cambodia - There is a tribe of men here who stare at the sky. They do it patiently, devotedly, obsessively, for much of Cambodia's six-month monsoon season, standing in rice paddies or perched on rooftops, scrutinizing the shifting clouds from daybreak to sunset, waiting hours for the moment when they burst.

Although gambling on rainfall is a casual pastime in other parts of Cambodia, Battambang, a city of crumbling French colonial buildings that snake along the sleepy Sangke River, elevates the hobby to serious business. It boasts the largest and most sophisticated rain betting market in the country, complete with bookies, near-professional gamblers, and thousands of participants. As the clouds shift, networks of dedicated sky-watchers call in information from as far as Pailin, a remote frontier town on the Thai border.

The rain-betting day is divided into three segments: 6 am to noon, noon to 2 pm, and 2 pm to 6 pm. A bet, starting at $2, yields a pay-out if it rains during the chosen time period. Betting on rain during the typically dry mornings is riskier, but offers a massive payoff. But it's relatively safe to assume that it will rain before 6 pm at the height of the wet season, so winning bets on the third segment of the day bring in paltry returns.

But because gambling is illegal in Cambodia, the bustling rain betting networks are entirely underground, and its participants are perpetually skittish about the prospect of crackdowns. Most people interviewed for this story refused to be named, citing the regular bribes they were already paying to both the terminally corrupt Cambodian police and to local journalists--who can be nearly as bad, extorting money from lawbreakers in exchange for not publishing articles about them.

One recent steamy morning, about 30 veteran rain bettors stood on the edge of an electric-green rice paddy on the outskirts of the city, peering intently west. Despite the heat, they had bundled up in military jackets against the wet postdawn mist, sucking their morning tea from plastic bags. Nearly everyone clutched a walkie-talkie or two, pausing every now and then to bark into the handsets or listen intently to the garbled transmissions.

Some of these men amount to futures traders, betting against rainfall hitting a certain spot at a certain time. Others make straight bets, or a combination of the two. And a handful of the youngest ones are scouts for the clandestine betting houses in the city center.

Their eyes were all fixed on the one cloud in the sky, probing it like a Rorschach blot, trying to calculate what it meant for the day's profits.

One of the gamblers, a retired soldier dressed in camouflage fatigues and brandishing what might be the biggest walkie-talkie in the clearing, proclaimed himself the Minister of Meteorology.

"We bet because we know the way of the rain," he said. "Just like the way of the cars, the rain has a way it needs to go. So if there is a cloud over there, it is likely to hit the betting area, so we should be careful."

He pointed at the fluffy, innocent-looking cloud far off in the distance. "You can see that dangerous cloud over there."

As he spoke, more men pulled into the clearing on motorbikes and crowded around. One of them passed around a bag of fried pork buns.

"It's not about money--it's about honor and reputation and believability," the "Minister" explained. "If you want to bet, you just say, 'I want to bet.' If you lose, you can just bring the money tomorrow."

He estimated that some 80 percent of Battambang residents place rain bets at some point during the season. With about 30 betting houses scattered around the city and its outskirts, it's a believable assessment.

"It's a very popular game," he said. "We play broadly and openly here. In Phnom Penh, they play but it is not out in the open like this."

The others, clearly on edge, signaled him to stop talking to me, nervous that he was speaking too freely. One warned, "Don't say too much-if the government hears that they will start to crack down on us." The Minister, nodding, walked away.

Sar Thet, the police chief of Battambang province, explained that although his officers try to take a hard line against rain bettors, the market is so diffuse and deep-rooted that there's little they can do. He denied, dubiously, that police accept or solicit bribes from bettors.

"Rain betting has existed for a long time and has now become the custom," he conceded. "Police do not support betting on rain, but it has also become a custom to them after so long."

It's unclear when rain betting first took root in Cambodia, but Ros Chantrabot, a prominent historian here, believes it was likely introduced by Chinese immigrants.

"In Cambodian history, we don't see any evidence of rain betting, just of praying for rain," Chantrabot said. "It must have originated from China, as only Chinese-Cambodians play it, and it's culturally very Chinese."

Vandara, 43, who has run a rain-gambling house out of his mobile telephone store in the city's Chamka Samrong commune since 1997, says the large concentration of ethnic Chinese in Battambang explains the game's immense popularity there. As he tells it, rain betting originated among tea farmers in China's Guangdong province, many of whom immigrated to the area after the Chinese Revolution.

A glass case of rhinestone-encrusted phones is on permanent display in front of Vandara's shop, but nobody pays much attention to them. The action all takes place in a dark corner inside, where Vandara's wife sits at a desk piled with stacks of Cambodian riel and Thai baht, six burbling walkie-talkies, and dozens of betting slips.

Vandara's office is a wooden platform five stories off the ground, where he perches with his 28-year-old assistant, Pheak. Here he spends most of his daylight hours sitting on the building's roof, watching the sky in order to set the house odds. They change approximately every three minutes, depending on the clouds. The men are surrounded by the tools of their trade. They use five walkie-talkies to communicate with men in the field and with Vandara's wife downstairs. Four cell phones keep them constantly in touch with sky-watchers on their payroll who are stationed in Pailin. Less frequently, they check the latest Internet weather reports. They smoke constantly.

Although all of the Battambang betting houses have their own techniques for measuring rainfall, there is only one official gauge of whether it has rained. By mutual agreement, this happens in an isolated and closely guarded mansion on the outskirts of town.

Although outsiders like me are forbidden from visiting the house, several bettors who had seen it described its elaborate procedure. A group of "watchers" monitor a stack of 13 layers of tissue paper on a table on the house's roof, which they must stay 3 meters away from at all times. If it rains enough to soak the tissues through so that water drips from them, it has officially rained and bets can be called in.

During my visit, rain broke just before 1 pm in a clear steady shower. Vandara's wife was glum. She had sold a lot of rain that morning, and lost a lot of money.

"Someone wins and someone loses every day," Vandara said with a shrug. "It's up to the odds, and up to the sky."

Additional reporting by Neou Vannarin

US, Cambodia discuss 'dirty debt' repayment

Cambodian farmers carry rice in a field in Kampong Speu province, south of Phnom Penh in 2010

via CAAI

PHNOM PENH — Cambodian and US officials held talks on Thursday to explore ways of settling a decades-old "dirty debt" of more than $400 million, both sides said.

The low-interest loans from the US were given to the government of General Lon Nol after it came to power in a US-backed coup in 1970.

Cambodia says the money helped pay for a devastating bombing campaign on the country by US forces targeting Khmer Rouge guerrillas in the early 1970s.

Prime Minister Hun Sen last year called for the "dirty debt" to be cancelled, but the government softened its stance after US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in November that Washington was willing to discuss alternative ways for Cambodia to repay the sum.

A Phnom Penh meeting between US Deputy Assistant Secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Joseph Yun and Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong was the first step in that direction, the US embassy said in a statement.

During the talks, Hor Namhong asked the US to lower the interest rate on the loans from three percent to one, foreign ministry spokesman Koy Kuong said.

Phnom Penh also requested that 70 percent of the debt be converted into development assistance for Cambodia, he said, without giving further details.

The remainder of the amount would be paid to Washington, he added.

"Our real wish is that... we want it to be cancelled. (But) we have to find common ground that we all can agree on. We cannot resolve it if we stick to a point that they do not agree with," Koy Kuong said.

Yun did not talk to reporters after the meeting but the US embassy said the US hopes "an agreement can be reached soon".

"Such an agreement would enhance Cambodia's creditworthiness and ability to access international capital markets," the statement said.

By the end of 2009, Cambodia's debt to the US totalled approximately $445 million, it added.

Washington was the main financial and military supporter of Lon Nol's regime until it was toppled by the Khmer Rouge movement in April 1975.

Officially, the loans were to develop the country's agriculture sector and boost commodities exports.

CITA seeks educational policy role

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
CITA President Rong Chhun speaks yesterday at a press conference in Phnom Penh.

via CAAI

Thursday, 17 March 2011 15:02Kim Yuthana

The president of the Cambodian Independent Teachers Association requested yesterday that his union be included in an upcoming education congress hosted by the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport.

The congress, which starts on March 22, “will be attended by over 1,000 district, provincial and national MoEYS officials … and education NGOs”, according to a CITA statement. CITA President Rong Chhun said teachers from his association have not been invited to the congress, which will discuss the nation’s education policies.

“We want there to be a resolution to the problem of education quality and improvements to the living situations of teachers,” he said yesterday at a press conference in Phnom Penh. “We want this matter to be discussed by the relevant institutions.”

Rong Chhun said he issued a letter yesterday to Education Minister Im Sithy, requesting that representatives from CITA be invited to the congress.

Im Sithy could not be reached for comment yesterday, while Secretary of State Pith Chamnan said he couldn’t comment because he was in a meeting.

CITA’s statement invoked commitments made under Article 29 of 2007’s Education Law to include national organisations and “relevant stakeholders” in the development, drafting and amending of national education policies.

Under Article 37 of the law, it states that educational personnel have the right “to actively and fully participate in developing educational standards at local and national levels, directly or through their representatives”.

“This is the ministry’s discrimination against CITA, which works for teachers’ benefits and raising the quality of education in Cambodia,” said Rong Chhun.

Cambodia to attend meetings with Thailand in Indonesia on April 7-8

via CAAI

March 17, 2011

Cambodia confirmed on Wednesday that it will attend two meetings with Thailand on border issues on April 7-8 in Indonesia, the present chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), a government spokesman said.

Foreign Ministry's spokesman Koy Kuong said Cambodia received a letter on Wednesday from Marty Natalegawa, foreign minister of Indonesia who confirmed that both Cambodia and Thailand had agreed to meet on April 7-8 in Indonesia.

Koy Kuong said Cambodia is ready for the meetings.

Indonesia is offering to mediate resettlement of border dispute between the two nations, which has been dragged unresolved for more than two years.

The April 7-8 is set for leaders of General Border Committee ( GBC) and Joint Border Commission (JBC) of the two nations to discuss their differences before allowing Indonesian Observers to monitor a ceasefire near the disputed area.

Cambodia and Thailand have engaged in military confrontation and clashes since 2008 along the border near Cambodia's Preah Vihear Temple.

And while the situation at the border is still fragile, Indonesia has pledged to send unarmed observers to help monitor who triggers the fire first.

To date, Indonesia has not set any date for their arrival.

However, it is expected that Indonesia will be able to set the date following the GBC and JBC meetings.

Thailand is claiming 4.6 square kilometers in the area near the Preah Vihear Temple as it belongs to Thailand, but the claim is disputed by Cambodia.

The Hague Court, the International Court of Justice, judged in 1962 that the temple belongs to Cambodia.

Source: Xinhua

Oak Bluffs harbormaster brings donated computers to Cambodia

via CAAI

By Janet Hefler
Published: March 16, 2011

Printer-friendlyComments (1)Cambodia averages less than 1 computer per 100 people, compared to 80.6 per 100 people in the United States, according to statistics from the World Bank.

Photo courtesy of Todd Alexander
Todd Alexander, in the center back row, poses with Justin LaVigne, at right, in the first Prek Koy School photo with students and staff.

Photo courtesy of Todd Alexander
Todd Alexander and Justin LaVigne, second and third from left in back, on a visit in 2009 with some of the families in the Siem Reap area who are now sponsored by Family to Family Cambodia.

Photo courtesy of Todd Alexander
Todd Alexander cuts a ceremonial sash to open the Prek Koy School in Cambodia in 2009.

Photo by Susan Safford
Roma Chhon, who inspired the Vineyard connection, with Todd Alexander and his son Sebastian, 5, overlooking Vineyard Haven Harbor.

Todd Alexander of Oak Bluffs plans to change those numbers, a few boxes at a time. On March 22 the Oak Bluffs harbormaster will take time off to travel to Cambodia to visit three schools he helped build in the southeast Asian country.

Instead of taking extra luggage filled with clothes, however, Mr. Alexander plans to take at least five boxes of used donated computers he collected. He calculates the fees charged for excess baggage will be a small price to pay to hand-deliver modern technology to teachers and students who need it.

Mr. Alexander, harbormaster since 1993, became involved about six years ago in the Rural Schools Project run by American Assistance for Cambodia (AAfC), a non-profit organization. Founded by American journalist Bernie Krisher in 1999, AAfC built 502 schools to date in rural Cambodia with funds raised by organizations and individuals like Mr. Alexander, matched with donations from the World Bank and Asian Development Bank.

A 14-year old Cambodian girl, Roma Chhon, inspired Mr. Alexander's involvement. He and his wife, Kara Gelinas, met Roma when she was selling postcards and books to tourists outside a Cambodian temple in 2004. When they found out she had dropped out of school to work and help support her family, they offered to pay her educational expenses and did so for the next three years.

The couple's support for Roma led to their efforts to help build schools in Cambodia. After Mr. Alexander learned about the Rural Schools Project, he fulfilled his goal to raise enough money, at that time $13,000, to build a new school that opened in Siem Reap in 2005. He and his wife named it the Vineyard School, in honor of generous family members, friends, seasonal and full-time Island residents, and visitors whose donations and participation in fundraisers made it possible.

Buoyed by the success of his fundraising efforts in just six months' time, Mr. Alexander didn't stop there. He and Justin LaVigne, a friend in Edgartown, raised enough funds to build the Prek Koy School in 2009, named after a nearby river. A third school, the O Meah School, opened in Stung Treng on March 5. Mr. Alexander has already raised 85 percent of the funds required to build a fourth school.

He has an ambitious schedule for his upcoming trip. This time around, Mr. Alexander and a friend skilled in computer use, Max Ferro, will deliver 20 used laptop and 2 desktop computers in visits to the three schools.

The donated computers were more than Mr. Alexander expected to receive when he put a notice asking for them on Facebook and emailed past donors. As a result, he could pick and choose the best and use others for parts. Mr. Alexander plans to continue to collect old computers and share them with Project Enlighten, a non-profit organization based in Arizona that provides education and humanitarian assistance, with a focus on south east Asia.

Mr. Alexander invested in a software program to wipe unneeded programs and personal data from the computers. Since the students don't have Internet access, all they need is a Word program, he said.

"Two of the schools are nowhere near power, so I thought, what's the solution? A laptop with a battery," Mr. Alexander said. "One of the schools has one desktop computer running off one solar panel, which is tied into two car batteries and a small inverter. And that's for 150 kids to learn how to use a computer."

With one computer for five classrooms, the teacher that uses it said it does not last a day. "So he's teaching them about computers on a chalkboard," Mr. Alexander said.

Help from Family to Family

In addition to computer deliveries, his trip has another purpose. Mr. Alexander said once the schools were built, he realized it would take more than a building to get some students to attend.

For many Cambodian families, school continues to be a luxury that they can't afford. It's not just a matter of the cost of uniforms and small monthly school fees, but also family income. If children go to school, they can't work.

With that in mind, Mr. Alexander recently began channeling his energies into the start-up of Family to Family Cambodia (FTFC), an organization that matches up Island families with Cambodian families to provide financial support for their children's education. FTFC is currently undergoing the Internal Revenue Service process to achieve non-profit status.

As an example of some of the families sponsored by the program, Mr. Alexander described one that includes a fisherman whose leg was blown off by a landmine.

"So he had his kids, two of them, maybe 6 and 9, and they would help him fish," Mr. Alexander said. "Why doesn't he have an artificial leg? They can't afford one. So there's one kid holding him up, helping his father stand while he throws a net, and the other one helping him haul it in. They're not going to school. To make it simple, it's go to school or eat."

Currently about 10 families, including 6 on the Island, participate in FTFC. Their average donation is about $50 to $75 a month, Mr. Alexander said. That provides for school and transportation costs for two to three students per family, plus a little extra to cover the loss of the children's income and pay for food. More information is available on the website

Roma postscript

Mr. Alexander will also visit Roma's family. Roma, now 21 and living on the Vineyard, visited the Alexanders and their son Sebastian for three months in the summer of 2006. After she returned to Cambodia, she applied for and received another visa to return to the Island in 2009. Roma plans to work with a tutor this summer to get her high school equivalency credential. Her longer-term goal is to get more education and return to Cambodia to work in her village as a teacher.

As one last fundraiser for FTFC before he leaves, Mr. Alexander will host a round-robin tennis tournament at the Vineyard Tennis Center tomorrow, March 18, from 5 to 8 pm. It costs $25 to participate and donations are welcome.

On April 14, four days after he returns home, Mr. Alexander, his wife, and Roma will attend a Friends Without a Border gala benefit in New York City in honor of Mr. Krisher. Proceeds go to Angkor Hospital for Children, located near Roma's home.

"I'm so honored to be invited, since two of the people that inspired me to start my own nonprofit organization will be there, Bernie and Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times," Mr. Alexander said.

To arrange to donate computers to FTFC, call 1-888-773-1413 or email Mr. Alexander at . Computers and donations may also be sent to P.O. Box 2225, Oak Bluffs 02557.

Toxins in Cambodian food: report

via CAAI

Cambodia's consumers are being urged to develop a union to represent their interests.

A specialist in chemistry and food from the Royal Academy of Cambodia, Chek Sothahas, has found between 41 and 80 per cent of food products in Cambodia contain dangerous substances.

The Cambodian Centre for Study and Development in Agriculture says a union would enable consumers to demand better quality assurance measures for food products.

Yang Saing Koma, director of the centre, says consumers should call on producers and businesses to take responsibility for the health of Cambodia.

Research by Ms Sothahas has indicated borax and formalin, a substance made of formaldehyde and water, was found in products such as sausage, dry fish, seafood, noodles and meat balls.

CAMBODIA: Trafficking domestic workers to Malaysia

 via CAAI

PHNOM PENH, 17 March 2011 (IRIN) - Investigations by NGOs in Cambodia have found that companies are recruiting girls as young as 13 to work in Malaysian households, confining them in overcrowded and unhygienic “training centres”, forging birth certificates to raise their age, and paying finders’ fees to brokers.

Photo: CLEC
A razor wire tripped Heng Hak's escape attempt from a rogue domestic workers training centre in Phnom Penh

Hou Vuthy, a deputy director-general at the Ministry of Labour, said the government is moving swiftly to address the abuses and that “vast improvements” have been made.

He estimated it would take about three more years to fully control the recruiting companies, some of whom employed unscrupulous agents who “cheated” illiterate village residents. He stressed, however, that the government had already managed to eliminate the illegal recruiters.

Attention has focused on the burgeoning industry, and the firm T&P Co. Ltd. in particular, since one woman died at its “training” facility in suburban Phnom Penh and another broke bones in both of her legs while trying to escape from its third floor balcony.

She got entangled in the razor wire around the second floor, and then fell to the pavement, neighbours said. The three people who carried her off the street and comforted her while awaiting an ambulance were later summonsed to the local police station and interrogated by officers who accused them of colluding with the “trainees” to help them escape, neighbours said.

Tola Moeun, head of the Labour Programme at the Community Legal Education Centre, said the Ministry of Labour and the Department of Anti-Human Trafficking and Juvenile Protection were more concerned with protecting the recruitment agencies than the welfare of the more than 20,000 Cambodians who had been recruited to work as domestic workers in Malaysia.

He said that in most cases he had investigated, the women were under 21, and many were under 18. He alleged that officials at the commune level were falsifying birth certificates so that passports with false dates of birth could be issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The Labour Ministry’s Vuthy admitted this had been happening, saying his office had no control over local officials and that it could not verify the authenticity of birth certificates that were delivered by the recruiting companies. He said, however, that the Ministry of Interior had cracked down on village and commune officials who forged documents. “That does not happen any more,” he said.

Government complicity?

MP and former minister for women’s affairs Mu Sochua has accused the government of complicity in trafficking.

“The Cambodian government has effectively legalized human trafficking,” Mu Sochua said. She also said the government was protecting the recruiting companies because some of its members might have financial interests in them.

Local media have reported more than 90 recruiting companies registered with the government, but Vuthy said there were 33, though they operate about 100 “training centres” in and around Phnom Penh. When asked if any companies were connected to the government, he replied: “It is legal in Cambodia for wives of politicians to run businesses,” but added, ownership is irrelevant because all companies must abide by the law.

Mu Sochua said some of companies brazenly violate the law. “The girls are being bought, documents are being forged; they are being imprisoned and abused in Cambodia, and then they are sent into an environment where there are no safeguards to protect them. Often their passports are confiscated and they are confined in households.”

The Cambodia Human Rights and Development Association (Adhoc) warned in September 2010 that its investigation found severe cases of abuse at “training centres” in Phnom Penh and in Malaysia. Passports were being confiscated, domestic workers were forcibly detained, and some were beaten, raped and tortured, Adhoc said.

Lobbying for legal age reduction

“This is probably just the tip of the iceberg,” said deputy director of the Asia division of Human Rights Watch, Phil Roberston. “There is also an overland route for smuggling Cambodian girls into Malaysia through Thailand.”

He also warned that efforts to lobby the Malaysian government to lower the legal age of domestic workers from 21 to 18 were a “recipe for disaster”. “Our research has found that the younger the maid the more vulnerable they are to abuse and exploitation,” he said.

Vuthy said reports in Malaysian media that the Cambodian government was lobbying for a reduction in the age were fabricated by recruiting companies attempting to pressure Kuala Lumpur. Neither the Cambodian government nor the Malaysian government would give into their pressure, he said.

Recruitment companies in Malaysia set their sights on Cambodia in 2009 after Indonesia announced a freeze on sending new domestic workers to Malaysia, following reports of extreme abuse there.

Cambodian workers are more vulnerable because of the language barrier, greater cultural differences, the extreme poverty many came from, and the distance between the two countries, Robertson said.

Roberston said efforts by the international community to train Cambodian officials about trafficking had had little success. “Some top level officials go to seminar after seminar, while lower level officials receive little or no information on what trafficking is and how to prevent it. There is also a bigger problem of corruption among government officials, which is what we are seeing in relation to these labour recruitment schemes seeking to send maids to Malaysia.”

Vuthy sees things differently. He said his ministry was struggling with a surge in demand and a lack of experience and resources to monitor the industry. It was only last year that it produced its first orientation manual for migrant workers, he said.

“We’re learning quickly,” he said.

Vietnam - Deputy PM receives Cambodian counterpart

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Standing Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Sinh Hung received his Cambodian counterpart Men Sam On, President of the Cambodia- Viet Nam Friendship Parliamentarians Group, on March 16 in Hanoi .

Deputy PM Hung said that future generations would inherit and promote the traditional solidarity and friendship between the two nations, especially the bilateral cooperation in economic, trade, and poverty reduction to improve the people’s lives.

He affirmed that Viet Nam was willing to exchange experiences and promote cooperation with Cambodia .

Deputy PM Men Sam On said that the group always wanted to promote friendly and cooperative ties with Viet Nam, including creating favourable conditions for Vietnamese investors and the Overseas Vietnamese community in Cambodia.

Speaking highly of Viet Nam’s efforts in the role as ASEAN chair and the successful organisation of the 31 st General Assembly of ASEAN Inter-Parliamentarian Assembly (AIPA 31), Deputy PM Men Sam On said she hoped Viet Nam would share experiences to help Cambodia fulfil the role of host of AIPA 32.

As Rape Cases Rise, Officials Searching for Causes

Pich Samnang, VOA Khmer
Phnom Penh Thursday, 17 March 2011

via CAAI

Photo: by Chun Sakada
Lim Mony, deputy head of the women’s section for the rights group Adhoc, and Hor Malin, undersecretary of state for the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, on "Hello VOA" Monday.

“In some cases, when victims come forward with complaints against the offender, police demand money from them.”

Cambodia’s rising number of rape cases is fueled by impunity and poverty, among other factors, a rights activist said Monday.

“There has been injustice as the impunity for some offenders still exists,” Lim Mony, deputy head of the women’s section for the rights group Adhoc, told “Hello VOA” Monday. “Another factor is poverty within families, where victims are sent away from home to work or to herd cattle in the fields.”

Pornography, drug use and unemployment are also underlying factors to rapes, she said.

The reported number of rape cases across the country continues to rise. Adhoc recorded 501 cases, far more than one each day, in 2010, and increase over 460 in 2009 and 419 in 2008. Of those, nearly three quarters involved underage girls, Lim Mony said.

Some callers to Monday night’s program pointed to weak law enforcement and corrupt police.

“In some cases, when victims come forward with complaints against the offender, police demand money from them,” one caller said. “Otherwise, they won’t proceed with the case. So some victims don’t dare complain.”

Often, when rapes are reported, they are settled out of court, with the perpetrator settling with the family with money in exchange for them dropping the charges. However, rights officials say they should still be prosecuted under criminal codes.

Hor Malin, undersecretary of state for the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, said that’s because the penal code is not being used properly.

“We are striving to strengthen our law enforcement by raising public awareness of the existing laws, especially the new penal code,” she said as a guest on “Hello VOA.”

Use of the existing law would prevent out-of-court settlements, she said. “We are working hard to make sure that offenders will face consequences in both cash compensation and jail sentences, because rape is an intolerable crime.”

Lim Mony said victims and their families can file complaints against police who demand money from them in dealing with their cases. They can also seek out the local offices of rights groups and of the Women’s Affairs Ministry for help, she said.

Cambodia, Thailand Closer to Observer Agreement

Sok Khemara, VOA Khmer
Washington, DC Thursday, 17 March 2011

via CAAI

Photo: AP
The deadly clashes in February left at least 10 people dead and damaged Preah Vihear temple, a World Heritage site.

“We are confident that these terms of reference could be finalized in the near future.”

Cambodia and Thailand are close to reaching an agreement that would put a monitoring mission along the border, the site of deadly clashes in February, officials said Tuesday.

The two sides must agree to terms of reference in order to allow observers from Indonesia, which as the current head of Asean helped broker the agreement after fighting over the border left at least 10 people dead and damaged Preah Vihear temple, a World Heritage site.

“We are working closely with both governments,” Michael Tene, a spokesman for the Indonesian government told VOA Khmer Tuesday. “We are confident that these terms of reference could be finalized in the near future.”

Indonesia cannot send observers until both sides agree to the terms, he said. The terms include the duties of a monitoring mission and where observers would be located.

Tene declined to disclose details of the current negotiations, but he said Cambodia and Thailand have agreed to all but one point in the terms.

Thai Foreign Affairs spokesman Thany Thongphakdi told VOA Khmer the main point of discussion is now the area of coverage for the observers and where they will be dispatched.

Indonesia has agreed to send 30 observers to the border, with half on each side of the border near Preah Vihear temple, where Thailand and Cambodia disagree on border demarcation.

Cambodian officials say they have already agreed to the original terms set out by Indonesia.

Indonesian officials say they want an initial meeting with all three countries on March 24 and March 25, but a definitive date has not been set.

Cambodian Foreign Affairs spokesman Koy Kuong said Cambodia expects talks on those dates. However, Thany said the meeting may have to be pushed to April 7 and April 8, due to a scheduling conflict for Cambodian and Thai officials.

Tribunal Prosecutor Expects Delay Tactics From Defendants

Kong Sothanarith, VOA Khmer
Phnom Penh Thursday, 17 March 2011

via CAAI
Photo: AP
Khieu Samphan, left, turns 80 in July this year. Nuon Chea, right, the chief ideologue of the regime, is 85 and has high blood pressure and eye problems.

“It will create more difficulties and delays.”

A top legal official for the Khmer Rouge tribunal said on Thursday he expects some delays in the court’s upcoming trial of former leaders, whose age, health and unwillingness to talk in court could drag down the proceedings.

Speaking to a forum of civil party complainants in the upcoming trial, Cambodian prosecutor Chan Darareasmei said the aging leaders “will not cooperate” with the court and will refuse to speak out.

“It will create more difficulties and delays,” he said. The tribunal is set to try four leaders—Nuon Chea, Khieu Samphan, Ieng Sary and Ieng Thirith—for atrocity crimes including genocide.

Defense lawyers have already requested shorter days for hearings, claiming the defendants are old and cannot sit through full days. Tribunal judges have already decided the hearings will be full days.

Nuon Chea, the chief ideologue of the regime, is 85 and has high blood pressure and eye problems. Ieng Sary, the former foreign minister of the regime, is now 86 and suffers from heart problems and other ailments. Khieu Samphan turns 80 in July, and Ieng Thirith will turn 79 this year.

Chan Darareasmei said Thursday the case against them would be complicated and take more time than the court’s first trial, for torture chief Duch, who was cooperative. That case alone took seven months.

Latt Ky, a tribunal monitor for the rights group Adhoc, agreed, saying the tribunal will have to pay attention to the health of the defendants and the timeframe or the hearings.

Cambodia Seeks Large Reduction to US Debts

Chun Sakada, VOA Khmer
Phnom Penh Thursday, 17 March 2011

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Photo: AP
Foreign Minister Hor Namhong met with US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Joseph Yun, who is in charge of Asia Pacific, on Thursday.

"Hor Namhong requested that debt be lowered by 70 percent, to about $133 million, and that interest be lowered from 3 percent to 1 percent."

Cambodia has asked the US to decrease its Lon Nol-era debt and to decrease the interest rate on the balance, officials said Thursday.

Foreign Minister Hor Namhong met with US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Joseph Yun, who is in charge of Asia Pacific, on Thursday, over some $445 million in debt accrued during the Lon Nol era.

Hor Namhong requested that debt be lowered by 70 percent, to about $133 million, and that interest be lowered from 3 percent to 1 percent, officials said after the meeting.

The war-era debt has been a sticking point in bilateral relations between the countries. Cambodian officials have said they should not have to repay the debt, which was accumulated by a pre-Khmer Rouge era government. Prime Miniser Hun Sen calls the war-era debt “dirty.”

Foreign Ministry spokesman Koy Kuong said Cambodia has changed its position on the debt in order to reach an agreement.

The US has said countries typically must repay such debts, despite changes of leaders or regime. However, in a visit in November, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said officials would revisit the debt question.

Following Thursday’s discussion, Yun said he would take the new debt request back to Washington, according to Cambodian officials present. Yun was not available to reporters following the meeting.

US Embassy spokesman Mark Wenig said in a statement a debt agreement “would enhance Cambodia’s credit worthiness and ability to access international capital markets.”

AKP - The Agence Kampuchea Press

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Cambodia-Thailand Border Committees’ Meetings in Indonesia Postponed to Early April

Phnom Penh, March 17, 2011 AKP – The meetings of Cambodia-Thai General Border Committee (GBC) and Joint Border Committee on Demarcation for Land Boundary (JBC) scheduled to be held on Mar. 24-25 in Indonesia has been postponed to early April 2011.

Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister H.E. Hor Namhong received on Wednesday a letter from his Indonesian counterpart, H.E. Marty Natalegawa, the current Chair of ASEAN, saying that the upcoming GBC and JBC meetings in Bogor is postponed to April 7-8, said Koy Kuong, spokesman of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation.

April 7-8 is the appropriate time for all participants, he quoted the letter, stressing that the postponement has nothing to do with political reason.

Koy Kuong said Cambodia is ready for the meetings under the witness of Indonesia in order to find solution to the border dispute between the two neighboring Kingdoms. –AKP



NA: Opposition Leader Sam Rainsy Loses His Role as Parliamentarian

Phnom Penh, March 17, 2011 AKP – Cambodia’s National Assembly has announced in a written statement the removal of opposition party leader Sam Rainsy’s status as a member of parliament.

The announcement was made in the parliamentary meeting held on Mar. 15 in the presence of National Assembly President Samdech Akka Moha Ponhea Chakrei Heng Samrin.

“His Excellency Sam Rainsy has completely lost his rights, privileges and membership as a parliamentarian of Kampong Cham provincial constituency in the fourth legislative mandate,” said the statement read by Samdech Heng Samrin.

National Assembly’s decision to strip of opposition party leader Sam Rainsy’s role as a parliamentarian was made according to Article 83 of the internal regulation of the parliament, Article 14 of the law on lawmaker’s statute, the law on the parliamentarian election and the verdict of the Supreme Court dated on Mar. 1, 2011.

The Supreme Court decided to uphold Sam Rainsy’s convictions for inciting and damaging public property, for which he has been sentenced to two-year imprisonment in absentia.

He was sentenced to an additional 10 years in jail for disinformation and falsifying public documents in relation to the border issue. –AKP

By THOU Peou


Seminar on “Social Market Economy” Held

Phnom Penh, March 17, 2011 AKP – A seminar on “Social Market Economy” was held here yesterday at Sunway Hotel under the presidency of Minister of Assembly-Senate Relations and Inspection Mrs. Som Kimsuor.

Dr. Ralph M. Wrobel, economics professor at the West Saxon University of Applied Sciences in Zwickau, Germany was also present at the seminar organized and funded by Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung.

On the occasion, Prof. Ralph M. Wrobel detailed the general ideas of the social market economy, lessons, experiences and success of Germany.

For her part, Mrs. Sam Kimsuor touched on Cambodia’s economic growth during the past years, which helped reduce the poverty rate and increase people’s income.

The poverty rate fell from 47 percent in 1994 to 30 percent in 2007 and 27.4 percent in 2009, she said, adding that the income per capita has increased three folds, from US$228 in 2000 to US$738 in 2008. –AKP

By LIM Nary


PM Orders to Stop Overloaded Transportation and Illegal Checkpoints

Phnom Penh, March 17, 2011 AKP – Prime Minister Samdech Akka Moha Sena Padei Techo Hun Sen has ordered all relevant ministries and institutions to stop overloaded transportation, illegal checkpoints and the use of body guard unit’s name to commit infractions.

Speaking at the Ministry of Public Works and Transport’s annual meeting held here yesterday at Chaktomuk Conference Hall, the Cambodian premier asked government officials throughout the country to check on these issues and to take urgent measures, if not they should resign.

He further criticized some local transportation companies and ordered to close them up if they do not respect the law.

Prime Minister Samdech Techo Hun Sen recommended the Ministry of Public Works and Transport to pay more attention in protecting roads, bridges and all new infrastructure construction must respond to the increasing road traffic and transport.

On the occasion, he also highly evaluated the Ministry of Public Works and Transport’s efforts, and deeply thanked development partners, particularly Japan and China for their support to the rehabilitation and development of road and bridge infrastructure in Cambodia.

The royal government will continue to pay attention on the rehabilitation and development of infrastructure so as to improve and expand both local and international trade relations and the economic integration in the region and the world for the interests of the nation and people, Samdech Techo Hun Sen affirmed. –AKP

By KHAN Sophirom


Permanent DPM Men Sam An Meets Her Vietnamese Counterpart

Phnom Penh, March 17, 2011, AKP — Cambodian Permanent Deputy Prime Minister Mrs. Men Sam An met on Mar. 16 in Hanoi with her Vietnamese counterpart Nguyen Sinh Hung.
Vietnamese Deputy PM Hung said that future generations would inherit and promote the traditional solidarity and friendship between the two nations, especially the bilateral cooperation in economic, trade, and poverty reduction to improve the people’s lives, Vietnam News Agency (VNA) reported.

He affirmed that Vietnam was willing to exchange experiences and promote cooperation with Cambodia.

Deputy PM Men Sam An, also President of the Cambodia-Vietnam Friendship Parliamentarians Group said that the group always wanted to promote friendly and cooperative ties with Vietnam, including creating favorable conditions for Vietnamese investors and the Overseas Vietnamese community in Cambodia.

Speaking highly of Vietnam’s efforts in the role as ASEAN chair and the successful organization of the 31st General Assembly of ASEAN Inter-Parliamentarian Assembly (AIPA 31), Deputy PM Men Sam An said she hoped Vietnam would share experiences to help Cambodia fulfill the role of host of AIPA 32. –AKP

City Hall deadline set for Village 3 families

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Thursday, 17 March 2011 15:03Khouth Sophakchakrya

Residents of Daun Penh district’s Village 3 in Srah Chak commune near Boeung Kak lake said yesterday that municipal authorities have given them until March 20 to dismantle their homes as the city moves ahead with its expansion of National Road 6.

Ao Si Heang, 57, a villager whose home stands in the way of the road expansion, said yesterday that officials had announced the deadline after they had negotiated compensation packages of US$8,500 for other families in the commune.

A total of 19 families will be affected by the deadline, she said.

“The authorities warned that they would take legal action if we did not dismantle our homes by ourselves before the deadline,” she said.

“I will not dismantle my home because I cannot accept the $8,500 compensation.”


I will not dismantle my home because I cannot accept $8,500 compensation.


Thong Yun, 65, another resident of Village 3, said she had received only half of the compensation package offered by City Hall.

He said that authorities had offered her family a total of $10,000 if they removed their house by the March 20 deadline.

However Keut Che, deputy chief of City Hall, said the requirement to dismantle homes by March 20 applied only to families who have accepted a compensation package.

“Seven of 19 affected families have received 50 percent of the total compensation from City Hall to dismantle their homes from the project area,” he said.

He said that some families had independently asked City Hall to compensate them outside of the official compensation policy.

“It is true that some families were offered US$10,000 compensation, but some others demand more than that, and we cannot offer that,” he said.

Keut Che said that residents should rethink their demands because they are living on state land and the state needs the land to improve National Road 6.

He added that the project aimed to ease traffic congestion in the capital, which he said was in the public’s interest.

Court ends student rape trial

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Thursday, 17 March 2011 15:03May Titthara

Phnom Penh Municipal Court yesterday concluded its trial of a 17-year-old accused of raping a 14-year-old girl, with Presiding Judge Kor Vandy saying a verdict would be announced later this month.

Chhun Phearon, a 12th grade student at Bak Touk high school, was arrested in October last year after having sex with the victim last March in Sen Sok district’s Bayab village in Phnom Penh, Kor Vandy said.

The victim said the sex was consensual.

“I had sex with my girlfriend at my home, and we agreed to have sex together, and I promised to marry her after I finish school,” Chhun Phearon said in court yesterday.

Kor Vandy said the court would render a verdict in the case on March 29.

Authorities arrest 5 in capital drug raid

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Thursday, 17 March 2011 15:03Kim Yuthana

Military police said yesterday that at least two men and three women were arrested on drug trafficking charges in Meanchey district’s Chbar Ampov II commune in Phnom Penh.

Sieng Chhay, deputy commander of the Meanchey district military police, said the suspects were arrested during a raid involving military police and officials from the Phnom Penh Municipal Court.

Officers confiscated about one kilogram of methamphetamine pills, 2 million riel (about US$500), a gun and mobile phone, as well as two cars, Sieng Chhay said, adding that the three women arrested worked as servers in a karaoke bar.

“The evidence and suspects were sent to Phnom Penh military police headquarters for further investigation pending criminal charges by the court,” he said.

Pen Roth, deputy municipal police chief in Phnom Penh, said last week that authorties in the capital had arrested more than 300 suspects between January and March this year for drug-related crimes.

Needle exchange in Daun Penh blocked

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Thursday, 17 March 2011 15:02James O’Toole and May Titthara

A local NGO says it has lost the right to provide needle exchange services to drug users in Daun Penh district, raising concerns about containment of the HIV rampant among injection drug users.

David Harding, a drug specialist at Friends International, said partner NGO Mith Samlanh had received the directive from Daun Penh authorities in late January.

“It was a bit of a shock to us all, really,” Harding said. “I can understand their concern, but I don’t think they’re really seeing the full picture.”

Daun Penh officials said they did not want drug users congregating in the district to take advantage of Mith Samlanh’s services, Harding said, adding that he had received no word about the policy being formalised or extended to other districts.

Daun Penh deputy governor Sok Penhvuth referred questions to district governor Sok Sambath, who could not be reached for comment.

Neak Yuthea, director of the department of legislation, education and rehabilitation at the National Authority for Combating Drugs, said he believed the issue was still being considered and had not been finalised.

“Regarding the NGO Mith Samlanh’s operations in Daun Penh district, we are under discussion on whether to allow them to operate a needle exchange programme for drug users or not,” he said.

“We allow them to operate needle exchange programmes in areas where they cannot control all of the drug users, but in Daun Penh, there are not many and they can control them, so we are thinking about that.”

Man Phally, programme manager at Mith Samlanh, said there were “not as many” people who used the needle exchange service in Daun Penh compared with other districts, estimating the recent average at just 10 to 15 per month. He cautioned, however, that drug users are “very mobile” and that such numbers are variable.

UNAIDS country director Tony Lisle said in November that the HIV rate among injection drug users in Cambodia was 24.4 percent, a figure he called “very worrying”. This rate comes despite an HIV prevalence rate among adults in the general population of just 0.5 percent as of 2009.

Man Phally said he believed the Daun Penh directive had come in connection with the government’s Village Commune Safety Policy, a plan approved by Interior Minister Sar Kheng in August last year that calls for local officials to “take action to cut off and eliminate producing, dealing and using illegal drugs”.

“If we do syringe needle exchange, it seems we are going against the policy of no drug use in the area,” Man Phally said, though he raised concern about reduced services for local drug users.

“They’re still using drugs and if they have no syringe and needle exchange, they share and there’s more risk of HIV-AIDS,” he said. “We are not going against the policy of the government, but we would like to work in collaboration with the government.”

Police in the capital have conducted a wave of street sweeps and drug busts in recent weeks, including one last Friday that netted more than 80,000 yama pills and three kilogrammes of methamphetamine.

Harding said, however, that a significant number of drug users had been picked up as well.

“It makes providing essential HIV-prevention services much more difficult to do, because obviously you’re less able to reach people at risk,” he said. “It’s a situation where a lot of people are concerned, inside and outside of government.”

Police Blotter: 17 Mar 2011

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Thursday, 17 March 2011 15:00Phak Seangly

Two killed and one hurt by electric shock
Two men were killed and another seriously wounded in two separate electricity related cases on Saturday in Kandal province. A 23-year-old man in Kandal Stung district was killed after he tied a loudspeaker to a metal pole at a ceremony and struck an electrical cable, while his 21-year-old worker was also badly wounded. In a separate incident, a 35-year-old man was killed instantly while cutting wires at his house in Takhmao town.

Armed group thwarted by cops before attack
Police arrested six armed men in Siem Reap on Tuesday, while they were staying in a rented room in Siem Reap town. Police said that the owner of the room tipped off police because the men, most of whom were students that were skipping school, were plotting revenge against other suspects stemming from a previous argument. Five swords and a cleaver were confiscated from the suspects, after which police “educated” them and released them because they had not committed a crime.

Slingshot attack prompts brutal beating
A 40-YEAR-OLD man was beaten unconscious by his 43-year older brother-in-law on Sunday in Kampong Cham province’s Tbong Khmum district. Police said the suspect had an argument with his wife, and the victim fired a projectile from a slingshot numerous times at his head. The older brother-in-law immediately grabbed a wooden stick and beat the victim unconscious. Police arrested the suspect and the victim was sent to hospital.

Cell phone thieves caught in the act
POLICE on Saturday apprehended two students aged 17 and 19 on suspicion of beating a 17-year-old student in an attempt to rob him of his cell phone in Kandal province’s Takhmao town. Police said the victim was returning home from a nearby village when two suspects on a motorbike grabbed his mobile phone. They scuffled and he shouted for help. A villager called police, who then captured the suspects and sent them to provincial court.

Motorbike fraudsters busted by police
POLICE in Poipet Town arrested two men, aged 27 and 29, at a casino on Sunday after a 40-year-old woman accused them of defrauding her. According to police, the two suspects borrowed US$2,000 and a motorbike from the woman in Phnom Penh, but never returned the money and pawned the vehicle for $600. The suspects confessed to the accusations and police have sent them to court.

Toyota dealer shrugs off concern after earthquake

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Thursday, 17 March 2011 15:01Soeun Say

CAMBODIA’S sole Toyota distributor downplayed concerns that the Japanese earthquake could slow imports of the popular vehicle, company officials said yesterday.

The distributor has not received any information about delays or cancellations of imports to Cambodia, said Toyota (Cambodia) Company Chairman Kong Nuon.

“We have not received any information from [Toyota] yet. But I think there won’t be a problem for us,” he said.

The company typically orders between 40 and 60 vehicles from Toyota Company based in Japan every month.

“We have submitted our order to them,” he said. “We think there is not problem. If there are problems such as delays, they will tell us soon.”

Toyota (Cambodia) Company is the sole company licensed to distribute Toyota vehicles and spare parts in Cambodia.

Meanwhile, Toyota Motor Company shares gained the most in more than two years in Tokyo trading yesterday, as carmakers and suppliers began to reopen factories closed after the earthquake.

The world’s biggest carmaker rose 9.1 percent to 3,345 yen (US$41.46), its biggest gain since December 2008, after plunging 15 percent over the two previous days.

Nissan Motor Company recovered 6.2 percent and Honda Motor Company regained 3.9 percent yesterday.

Toyota, which halted all plants in Japan after the March 11 quake through today and canceled overtime at US factories, will reopen seven plants in Aichi prefecture, said Keisuke Kirimoto, a spokesman in Tokyo.

Mitsubishi Motors Corp and tyremaker Bridgestone Corp reopened plants yesterday that were shut after the magnitude-9.0 quake off the coast of northern Japan, which may have killed as many as 10,000 people.

Japan’s “automotive industry is facing acute and unprecedented problems relating to component and power-supply shortages,” said Paul Newton, a London-based auto analyst for IHS Automotive.

Toyota’s profit may be cut by 6.5 billion yen per day of lost output, said analyst Koji Endo of Advanced Research Japan.

The absence of component supplies and adequate power will make it difficult even for the least-affected automakers to resume production this week, Newton said.

Honda and Mazda Motor Corp have said all their plants in Japan will be closed until March 20.

Suzuki Motor Corp was to decide today whether to restart operations. Nissan, Japan’s second-biggest car company, has said it will halt four plants through today and two more until March 18.

Mitsubishi resumed production at its three plants in central and western Japan, Yuki Murata, a spokesman for the Tokyo-based carmaker, said yesterday.

Bridgestone, the world’s biggest tyremaker, reopened three plants in Tochigi prefecture, two of which will begin deliveries of tires for cars, trucks and motorcycles from March 18, according to a statement.

Mitsubishi rose 6.8 percent in Tokyo and closed at 94 yen, after plunging 20 percent over the previous two days. Bridgestone surged 7 percent, rebounding from a 10 percent two-day slump.

None of Toyota City, Japan-based Toyota’s factories in the northern Tohoku region hit by the tsunami sustained serious damage, the company said. Toyota sent 60 employees to Tohoku to assist workers and
their families and assess factory damage, said Paul Nolasco, a company spokesman.

The Primearth EV Energy C plant, a Toyota subsidiary that makes batteries in Miyagi prefecture for hybrid autos such as the Prius, suffered minor damage to production lines, Nolasco said.

In North America, Toyota slowed production by cancelling overtime shifts to conserve parts until conditions in Japan are better understood, said Mike Goss, a US-based spokesman. “We’re waiting for TMC to complete an assessment of suppliers in Japan and our suppliers’ suppliers,” said Goss.

Some of the parts from the seven plants that reopen tomorrow morning in Japan will be for export to factories outside Japan, spokesman Kirimoto said yesterday.


European rice exports on the rise for this year

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Thursday, 17 March 2011 15:01Chun Sophal

RICE exports to European markets more than tripled over the first two months of 2011 compared to the same period last year, the Ministry of Commerce said yesterday.

In January and February, Cambodia shipped 10,495 tonnes of rice to Europe, a 228-percent jump from the 3,201 tonnes shipped during the same two months in 2009, according to official data.

The Kingdom earned revenues of US$8.5 million on the sales, up 250 percent from the year before.

Kong Putheara, director of the Commerce Ministry’s Department of Statistics and Information, told The Post that the growth of rice exports to European markets this year has been the direct result of the ministry’s efforts to promote Cambodia’s crop.

“We hope that in the future Cambodian rice of standard quality can be exported more to the European market,” said Kong Putheara.

Loran Company director Lim Bun Heng said that Cambodia’s standard-quality rice is being broadly recognised across markets in Europe such as Poland, Germany, Italy and Portugal.

Loran has exported about 4,000 tonnes of rice to Europe so far this year, a significant increase over the 1,000 tonnes he sold in the same period in 2010. “We think that under the recognition [of Cambodia’s standard-quality rice] the company can have the capacity of exporting rice to European markets at not less than 10,000 tonnes this year,” Lim Bun Heng said.

In November 2009, the European Union opened its rice market, removing quotas and dropping the tax rate for developing countries like Cambodia to zero percent.