Saturday, 26 March 2011
Online news: Politics
A younger brother of Veera Somkwamkid, coordinator of the Thai Patriots Network jailed in Cambodia for spying, has sent a letter to Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva asking him to negotiate with Cambodia for Veera's release on a royal pardon before the House of Representatives is dissolved.
Preecha Somkwamkid, the brother, and Warisa Thong-ngern, a niece of Ratree Pipatanapaiboon, Veera's secretary, called on Democrat MP Panich Vikitsreth at parliament on Friday and asked him to convey the letter to the prime minister.
Mr Preecha said his family would try in every way to get Veera's freedom, including seeking help from former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was briefly an adviser to Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen.
He said he visited Veera at the Prey Sar prison in Phnom Penh on March 21, foundthat his brother's health had improved, physically and mentally.
Mr Panich said he would accompany the families of Veera and Ratree on a visit to the prison on March 30 in his capacity as a government representative and a friend.
He would explain how the government would try to help them.
Veera, Ratree and Mr Panich were among the seven Thais who were arrested by Cambodian soldiers for illegal entry on Dec 29.
Mr Panich and four others were sentenced to nine months in jail for illegal entry. They were freed after the Phnom Penh Municipal Court suspended the remaining jail term.
Veera and Ratree were additionally charged with spying and were later sentenced to eight and six years respectively by the court.
BANGKOK, March 25 -- The anti-government 'Yellow Shirt' People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) on Friday said it would not rally at Parliament to pressure the joint sitting of the House of Representatives and the Senate to consider approving the minutes of three Thai-Cambodian Joint Boundary Commission (JBC) meetings, claiming that their campaign has yielded fruitful results.
PAD spokesman Panthep Puapongphan said the movement would hold fast at its rally site at Makkhawan Bridge on Rajdamnoen Avenue, but have no plan to move to step up pressure on parliamentarians to reject the documents.
He said the joint sitting had been scheduled to convene at 9m today but their lack of a quorum forced the session to adjourn until afternoon.
Mr Panthep said the PAD had earlier submitted a letter to parliamentarians to express their opposition to the approval of the JBC documents and some MPs who disagreed with the documents opted not to attend the meeting.
Meanwhile, he said, the MPs from opposition parties affirmed that even though they attend the meeting but they would not vote to approve the minutes.
Mr Panthep said this showed that the attempt of PAD to oppose the JBC documents was relatively successful so that no need for the movement to stage rally at Parliament.
He said the PAD would closely monitor the joint sitting whether the three documents could be approved at the meeting and if the minutes have passed, further action would be taken against the border agency documents.
Meanwhile, Thai Patriots Network activist Chaiwat Sinsuwong who led protest not far from PAD demonstrators said the network would not also stage rally at parliament but would wait for the result of the session.
If the JBC documents were approved, he said, the network would petition the Supreme Court, accusing the lawmakers of breaching the Constitution to cause the loss of Thai territory.
In a related development, the families of Veera Somkwamkid, coordinator of the Thai Patriots Network, and Ratree Pipatanapaiboon, his personal secretary--both jailed in Cambodia for spying--submitted a letter to Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva to secure the release of the pair within seven days.
Democrat MP Panich Vikitsreth on Friday led Mr Somkid’s brother and Ms Ratree’s niece to brief the press at Parliament, saying that relatives of the two Thai detainees handed the letter to the prime minister through him to urge the Thai government to help them within seven days.
However, Mr Panich said the prime minister did not ignore them and he himself also worked with Thai embassy in Phnom Penh to seek permission for their families to visit the detainees.
Preecha Somkwamkid, Mr Veera’s younger brother, said his brother’s health has gradually improved after being treated in prison by a doctor. He confirmed that he did not want the issue of Mr Veera to have any impact on the relations of the two neighbouring countries or to be linked to a political conflict.
Mr Chaiwat said the network legal team was contacted by Thai embassy in Phnom Penh to be allowed to meet Mr Veera and Ms Ratree. The legal team will obtain more information on Mr Veera’s illness and seeking an appeal or a royal pardon after visiting the two detainees in Phnom Penh, he said. (MCOT online news)
JULIAN SHER AND TU THANH HA
From Friday's Globe and Mail
Published Thursday, Mar. 24, 2011
There are the Cambodian bankers and their monk. The Quebec mobster and his psychic. The crooked cop and a bunch of Colombian cocaine traffickers.
Not to mention the axe murder, the Israeli diamonds and the Latvian bank accounts.
From Miami to Phnom Penh, this tale involves as much as $100-million in drug money, in one of the largest alleged schemes to hide proceeds of crime ever brought before the courts in Canada.
Sy Veng Chun, 63, and his wife Leng Ky Lech, 48, are charged with running what prosecutors call “a sophisticated money-laundering system” with a drug trafficker named Daniel Muir as one of their principal clients.
The Cambodian-born couple ran a tiny currency-exchange boutique in Montreal’s Chinatown, not two blocks from the courthouse where they now stand accused.
From evidence at the Montreal trial, which began a year ago, and in other court cases in Florida, a fuller picture is emerging for the first time of an alleged intricate criminal web spanning three continents.
It started with Mr. Muir, a Quebecker whose rap sheet reads like a CV for a fast-rising drug importer, graduating from busts for a few grams of coke in 1988 to hundreds of kilos by the turn of the century. A thriving independent operator, he had a cordial relationship with Mafia bosses such as Frank Cotroni and was sanctioned by the organized crime groups in Montreal.
But with success came the problem of what to do with all those profits. According to Suzanne Pépin, a clairvoyant who became Mr. Muir’s confidante, “Daniel was fed up with hiding his money,” the Montreal trial was told.
Mr. Muir heard about the services offered by Mr. Chun and Ms. Lech, who ran two companies from the same Chinatown address called Peng Heng Or Gold Inc. and A&A Services Monétaires Inc., court heard.
The pair had been in the news before, when they were executives of Credit Bank of Cambodia of Phnom Penh. In 1995, they lost $2-million trading commodities futures and were unable to meet their margin call. Their bank defaulted, setting off a scandal in Cambodia.
In early 2000, at an Old Montreal restaurant, Mr. Muir and the two accused struck a deal, according to Ms. Pépin, who attended the supper. She said Mr. Chun was described as “the courier of money to Cambodia,” and Ms. Lech told Mr. Muir she had “other clients like him.”
(If Mr. Muir had his clairvoyant, Ms. Lech had her own spiritual adviser, a Buddhist monk, to see whether it was “a good thing” to take the trafficker’s money, the trial heard.)
By 2001, Mr. Muir and an underling, Bernard Mondou, started to negotiate with the Colombian drug baron Elias Cobos-Munoz to import a tonne of cocaine to Canada, via the Bahamas and Florida, according to U.S. court filings.
To pay for the drugs, Mr. Mondou turned to a childhood friend, Montreal police officer Pierre Goulet, to transport $3.5-million to Miami, according to a Quebec court ruling. Hiding packs of cash in the seats and doors of a car, Constable Goulet would flash his badge to avoid scrutiny at the Quebec-New York State border.
The initial plan was to bring the cocaine by plane. However, after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the air route had to be dropped and they used instead a speedboat, court documents in Quebec and Florida say.
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration had gotten wind of the plot and intercepted the shipment in the Bahamas in January, 2002. The DEA then took the cocaine to Miami for a sting operation, according to DEA affidavits.
Days later, in the parking lot of a Taco Bell restaurant, Colombian traffickers brought a U-Haul truck to pick up the cocaine they would deliver to Mr. Muir’s men, unaware they were dealing with undercover DEA agents. Mr. Muir had to fly to Cuba to talk with his Colombian contacts about the lost cargo, not knowing that a police operation was being mounted against them, DEA affidavits said.
Back in Montreal, Mr. Muir kept on rolling.
His ex-wife testified that he told her he had “solved his money problems” when he entrusted about $100-million to Ms. Lech, “his partner for money.”
Ms. Lech came to Mr. Muir’s home to pick up boxes full of $20 bills, court heard. Mr. Chun and Ms. Lech moved the money overseas, prosecutors said, by wiring bank drafts to Cambodia and purchasing more than $10-million in diamonds in Israel, Belgium and Switzerland that were then sent to Hong Kong, Thailand and Cambodia.
“The purchase of this quantity is consistent with the use of diamonds to store wealth via proceeds of crime,” Corporal Kelly Ross, an RCMP expert, said in a statement filed before the court.
The cash was also funnelled through Canadian financial institutions such as the Desjardins credit unions, the Bank of Montreal and the Bank of Nova Scotia, the trial heard.
In addition, prosecutors said, Ms. Lech used money “borrowed from her friend Daniel The Frenchman” to open a small bank in Phnom Penh, Peng Heng SME, which specialized in credit for small businesses.
In October, 2002, Mr. Chun and the Buddhist monk were at Montreal’s airport, about to fly to Cambodia, when agents doing a routine security check found $600,000 U.S. – in $100 bills – in Mr. Chun’s carry-on bag, court heard.
Even though no charges were filed, the RCMP seized the cash.
Mr. Muir, meanwhile, was having trouble with the Colombians.
In 2003, he sent them $3-million through Panama. The Colombian shipped him 800 kilos of cocaine via Venezuela, but half was ruined in transit. Mr. Muir had to send emissaries to Miami to negotiate with the Colombians, who said he still owed them $1.7-million for the Venezuelan delivery, Florida court documents said.
In the fall, Mr. Muir sent $1-million to the Colombians, using a circuitous route that went from accounts in Latvia and Russia, through banks in New York and San Francisco to Costa Rica, according to a U.S. Justice Department indictment.
One evening in February, 2004, Mr. Muir was leaving the Club Wanda’s strip club in downtown Montreal when two men armed with an axe and knife ran after him. Witnesses heard him scream, “They’re going to kill me!” before he was hacked and stabbed. The murder has never been solved.
At the time, “investors” had paid Mr. Muir $35-million for more drugs, but the money was now missing, according to a U.S. Justice Department case summary.
Four months later, the DEA, the RCMP and police in the Bahamas and Colombia announced a series of charges against the Colombian and Canadian organizations. Mr. Mondou, Mr. Cobos-Munoz and Constable Goulet and dozens of others were all eventually convicted.
As police began digging into Mr. Muir’s background, the money trail led them to the Chun-Lech enterprise.
“We started making the links between the two organizations,” Sergeant Benoît Roy, the RCMP’s lead investigator on the case, said in an interview.
Police say they discovered that Mr. Muir’s $1.2-million mansion at the foot of Mont St. Hilaire, south of Montreal, was in Ms. Lech’s name. The hunt was on.
Mr. Chun and Ms. Lech were arrested in January, 2005, after returning from another trip to Cambodia. It took another five years of legal wrangling before their trial finally got under way.
The defence has yet to present its side of the story, and a key witness to much of the alleged laundering, Mr. Muir, is dead.
If found guilty, they could each face a maximum of 10 years in prison. The Crown will also seek confiscation of two homes valued at more than $2-million, the $600,000 seized at the airport and 3,800 diamonds and gems.
During a break, the couple sat serenely in the court corridor.
“I’m not worried,” Mr. Chun said.
Ms. Lech nodded and smiled. “I’m not afraid of anything,” she said.
With reports from Les Perreaux and Ingrid Peritz in Montreal
March 26, 2011
March 26, 2011
Sewing the seeds ... the Hotel de la Paix Sewing Centre teaches skills. Photo: Leisa Tyler
Angkor's tourist income is funding community projects beyond the Cambodian heritage site, writes Leisa Tyler.
Cambodia's Angkor Heritage Park is the fastest-growing tourism attraction of any World Heritage monument. Increasing at an average rate of 30 per cent a year, arrivals are expected to reach 3 million this year, up from 200,000 visitors 10 years ago.
Tourism has turned the temples into one of the most sought-after experiences in the world and brought development and infrastructure to the nearby town of Siem Reap.
Advertisement: Story continues below But few people in Siem Reap province benefit from these tourist dollars. Predominantly rural, the people remain among the poorest in Cambodia, many living on less than a dollar a day.
A Bangkok-based hotel management group is hoping to change this. "Tourism is better equipped and in a better position to deal with poverty than many governments," says Bill Black, the managing director of Ativa Hospitality, a management company that has the Hotel de la Paix and Shinta Mani hotel in Siem Reap in its portfolio.
Black is a man on a mission. Diverting a percentage of room rates into community-based projects, the genteel Canadian wants to prove that, with a little effort and imagination, tourism can be a vehicle for community development.
Black's first project, the Shinta Mani Hospitality School (now called the Institute of Hospitality), started in 2004. It enrolled 20 disadvantaged youths in a year-long hospitality course conducted at the Shinta Mani hotel that would prepare them to work in the town's burgeoning hotel industry.
The program was a success and became the model for similar projects in Cambodia. Another Shinta Mani initiative is the Connect program, in which hotel guests can buy and deliver practical items such as wells and vegetable seed, piglets or bicycles to families in need.
Since its inception in 2005, the program has built 1043 water wells with mini-market gardens and 97 small concrete houses with septic tanks.
Black has since established the Hotel de la Paix Sewing Centre with funds from the five-star hotel, which teaches needlework and accounting skills to young women.
More recently the Hotel de la Paix teamed with MasterCard to raise money for a new workshop, which is now under construction at the sewing centre. A previous project with the credit-card company bought 900 bicycles for underprivileged school children.
"The idea is to give people the opportunity to be self-sufficient," Black says, explaining that first they give families a well and vegetable seed. When they see the family has successfully grown vegetables, including surplus to sell for income, then they may buy them a bicycle or a female piglet to raise and breed.
Fiona Donato and daughter Felicity, 10, from Dover in Tasmania, became involved with Black's Connect during a school trip to Cambodia, buying two water wells and a piglet and delivering them to the donors. Donato says the experience was "life changing", and the school has since donated two more piglets, a house and 500 mosquito nets through fund raising.
Sok Khemara, VOA Khmer
Washington, DC Friday, 25 March 2011
Washington, DC Friday, 25 March 2011
A Cambodian garment worker speaks on a loud speaker as she leads a strike in front of a factory on the outskirts of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Monday, Sept. 13, 2010.
“In the first stage, we have had discussions with all union leaders in Cambodia, from every political spectrum, and we are all agreed and share the same concerns.”
Labor leaders say they want the Ministry of Labor to accept their recommendations to a law now being drafted to regulate union activity, threatening they will hold mass demonstrations otherwise.
“If they do not take the recommendations of the unions, there will be a big, peaceful demonstration until they change it,” said Rong Chhun, president of the Cambodian Confederation of Unions, as a guest on “Hello VOA” Thursday.
Union officials say they are opposed to the current version of the Ministry of Labor’s draft law, which they say will make it harder for unions to function and easier for factories to sue labor leaders. Proponents of the law say it will help regulate a sometimes unruly sector and important economic engine.
A second “Hello VOA” guest, Ath Thun, president of the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers’ Democratic Union, said too that his and other unions will protest if their recommendations are not adopted.
“In the first stage, we have had discussions with all union leaders in Cambodia, from every political spectrum, and we are all agreed and share the same concerns,” he said.
Ath Thun said the current draft does not allow freedom for unions to execute their duties and makes it more difficult for them to recruit members, by requiring regular reporting to ministries and increasing fines and punishment for union leaders.
The draft will also require unions to run their membership dues through the employer, he said. “That we can’t do, as the employers do not want unions,” he said.
The draft also makes it easy for authorities to suspend or cancel a union’s license or to “punish” unions, he said, a contravention of international conventions.
“If this law is passed without incorporating the opinions of the unions and workers, that means there are no unions’ rights, and violations of the law will increase, because no one will take the risk to be a union leader anymore,” he said.
Rong Chhun said the unions will resubmit their recommendations to the Ministry of Labor on Friday.
The ministry said this week that the draft is meant to benefit workers, not restrict unions. Cambodia has at least 62 unions that represent many of the nation’s 300,000 factory laborers.
Both labor leaders said Cambodians are traveling to outside countries like Malaysia, South Korea, Vietnam or Thailand in search of work, because the government has not created jobs for them at home.
Soeung Sophat, VOA Khmer
Washington, DC Friday, 25 March 2011
Washington, DC Friday, 25 March 2011
A fishing boat floats on the Mekong river at Sambor in Cambodia's Kratie Provice, another site in the country that has been chosen for a proposed 18-kilometer hydro-dam.
"The final decision on the Xayaburi is not due until April 22. But the Joint Committee meeting in Sihanoukville will also discuss this issue."
[Editor’s Note: The Mekong River Commission, or MRC, whose members include Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam, is holding its annual meeting in Preah Sihanouk through Saturday, to debate whether to allow a proposed dam in Xayaburi province, Laos. Opponents say the dam could be damaging to the ecology of the river and the livelihoods of the people who rely on it. Cambodia has yet to determine its support for the dam, Sin Niny, vice chairman of Cambodia’s National Mekong Committee, told VOA Khmer in an interview at the outset of the meeting.]
Why is the decision on whether to build the Xayaburi dam so important, especially for Cambodia?
The Xayaburi plan by Laos relates to the 1995 Mekong Agreement, in which Article 5 requires that any usage of the water in the [Mekong] mainstream requires prior consultation or agreement between member countries. Laos’ Xayaburi dam is a mainstream dam and there is, thus, a requirement of consent from [other] member countries.
What has been done so far as part of this consultation requirement?
Currently, in accordance with the 1995 Mekong Agreement as well as procedures on water usage, MRC member countries are consulting with one another on the Xayaburi dam project, which was proposed by Laos. In each member country, forums are held to invite stakeholders to participate, including ministry representatives, government experts, NGOs and civil society, and local communities, to discuss the issue. In Cambodia, two forums were held in February.
In those forums, what were the suggestions of civil society and local communities?
It’s their right to say whatever they want about this dam project. They were not required to agree with the dam project. But when I attended the Kampong Som [Preah Sihanouk] forum, civil society and NGOs said that they were not against the development plan, but their position is to take part in the debate so as to ensure that there are not too many negative impacts to our economy and people, to make sure that the plan would mitigate the negative impacts to an acceptable degree. This was their common position.
What concerns have Cambodian participants raised?
The participants raised a number of concerns, which the Cambodian National Mekong Committee submitted to the MRC Secretariat to further forward to the Lao side. We have requested that Laos study those concerns more thoroughly.
What were those concerns?
Firstly and most importantly, the documents [of the Xayaburi Environmental Impact Assessment by Laos] were sent late and there was not enough time to study them.
Secondly, the mitigation of impacts on fisheries as analyzed in the study is not clear. How can the dam be designed to allow fish to pass through? The dam plan includes a fish passage, but the participants in the forum think that there are more than one species of fish, and the variety of fish species have different migration patterns.
The third major concern relates to natural disasters that can occur at the dam site. For example, in the case of an earthquake at the dam site, have those who studied the project planned for this? The forum requested that the issue be studied more thoroughly—because now climate change is becoming more severe and most recently people are concerned about earthquakes in Japan. It has been observed that there have been earthquakes at the Xayaburi site as recently as 2011.
Fourthly, the project would not only impact fish, but also affect agriculture. The silt carried downriver by the Mekong would be blocked by the dam.
The fifth concern is the impact on the more than one million people downriver from the dam, whose livelihood is directly dependent on the resources of the Mekong River. Without proper consideration, the project could severely threaten their livelihood.
What has been Cambodia’s position on the Xayaburi dam so far?
I want to make it clear that it is impossible [at this point] for us to have a clear position—whether or not to agree on the construction. We have to wait for the results of the study. If the results of the study show that the impacts are acceptable, we should allow the construction to go ahead. If the impacts in the study remain unclear or are too severe to mitigate, we have to discuss our position further within the Cambodian government circle, in greater depth. In the case that the impacts cannot be mitigated, the Cambodian National Mekong Committee will report to the Cambodian government and request their guidance.
What can be expected from this week’s MRC meeting in Preah Sihanouk?
According to MRC procedures, there is a six-month consultation period after [MRC] is notified of the project by the proposing country. The final decision on the Xayaburi is not due until April 22. But the Joint Committee meeting in Sihanoukville will also discuss this issue. Procedurally, if relevant parties cannot reach an agreement within the six months, the ‘prior consultation’ can be extended. In the consultation in Sihanoukville on the 24th, 25th and 26th, the concerns of Vietnam and Thailand will similarly be unaddressed by Laos, because there is not enough time. So I believe, the meeting will discuss those concerns. I don’t know what will be decided in the meeting, but my guess is that the prior consultation will be extended.
Kong Sothanarith, VOA Khmer
Phnom Penh Friday, 25 March 2011
Phnom Penh Friday, 25 March 2011
Kaing Guek Eav, also known as Duch, who ran the notorious Toul Sleng, a top secret detention center for the worst "enemies" of the state, appears on a television screen of the press center of the U.N.-backed war crimes tribunal in Phnom Penh, 2010.
“It’s a hearing about legal arguments, such as, was Duch a senior leader or most responsible within the mandate of the court."
The Supreme Court Chamber of the Khmer Rouge tribunal will hold the final hearing in the case of torture chief Duch next week, but officials said Friday no one should expect to see a life sentence for the defendant.
Many victims of the regime and participants in the case were disappointed when Duch was handed a commuted sentence of 19 years last year. But tribunal officials told reporters Friday that even if the Supreme Court Chamber finds in favor of an appeal from the prosecution, the maximum sentence Duch will receive is 45 years.
The three-day hearing is scheduled to begin Monday and last for three days. “It will be the last sentencing for Duch,” tribunal spokesman Reach Sambath said Friday. “He cannot appeal any more.”
Duch, whose real name is Kaing Kek Iev, was found guilty by the Trial Chamber of atrocity crimes that included crimes against humanity, in the first-ever trial for the UN-backed court.
The Supreme Court Chamber will have to decide if the commuted sentence handed down from the Trial Chamber is acceptable, or whether he should be let out sooner or serve a sentence up to 45 years.
The chamber will also have to decide on an appeal from the defense that questions the legality of Duch’s trial under the court, which is tasked with trying the senior-most leaders of the regime.
“This is not a hearing about how people were tortured, how many people were killed and so on,” tribunal spokesman Lars Olsen said Friday. “It’s a hearing about legal arguments, such as, was Duch a senior leader or most responsible within the mandate of the court.
Mar 25, 2011
Phnom Penh - A Cambodian government official reiterated Friday that Phnom Penh wanted Indonesian observers stationed on its northern border with Thailand near the flashpoint temple of Preah Vihear.
Koy Kuong, the spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said comments made by his Thai counterpart this week had suggested neither Phnom Penh nor Bangkok had agreed to monitors being deployed.
Koy Kuong said that was 'completely contrary to reality.'
'Cambodia has immediately given its acceptance of the Indonesian observers to the Cambodian side and has already indicated the coverage area for their deployment,' he said.
'It is the Thai side that has rejected acceptance of the observers on Thai soil,' Koy Kuong said.
Vietnamese Foreign Minister Pham Gia Khiem called this week on both nations to find a peaceful solution that was in accordance with international law.
Vietnam also welcomed upcoming talks between Cambodia and Thailand on their border dispute.
The Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN), to which all four countries belong, has taken the reins in mediating negotiations. The two countries are to meet in Indonesia, the group's current chair, to discuss the issue on April 7.
Thai and Cambodian troops clashed February 4-7 near Preah Vihear temple, a world heritage site, killing at least 10 people.
The International Court of Justice ruled in 1962 that the temple belonged to Cambodia but stopped short of determining the border demarcation in the contested area.
Both countries claim a 4.6-square-kilometre plot of land near the temple, which has been included under Cambodia's management plan for UNESCO's World Heritage Committee.
Both sides have beefed up their forces near the temple since July 2008, leading to several border skirmishes over the past two and a half years.
PHNOM PENH, March 25 (Bernama) -- With a growing demand from Russian tourists visiting Cambodia, Russian airlines Aeroflot will have direct flight to Cambodia sometime this year, China's Xinhua news agency quoted a government official on Friday. Tith Chantha, director general of Ministry of Tourism said that Cambodian government had discussed with Russian government and Airline Aeroflot on promoting tourism sector including the direct flight between Moscow and Phnom Penh. He said he had joined a Cambodian delegation to Russia last week, led by Thong Khon, minister of tourism during which a memorandum of understanding on tourism was inked and discussion on having direct flight between Moscow and Phnom Penh was exchanged.
Tith Chantha said Russian people are potential to many tourists ' destinations around the world these days and millions of them travel abroad for tourist purpose.
To Egypt alone, he said, Russian tourists accounted at 2.5 million last year.
According to statistic of ministry of tourism, there were 34, 170 Russian tourists visited Cambodia in 2010, an increase of 76 percent compared with 2009 which recorded at 19,395.
Tith Chantha said Cambodia hopes to see about 100,000 Russian tourists visiting Cambodia by the year end and the estimate number will be higher once the Aeroflot is on service.
He added that Aeroflot is now in deep discussion with Cambodia' s Civil Aviation Authority on the matter.
Cambodia's rich in beautiful beaches, cultural sites like Angkor Wat temple along with attainment of full security, peace and stability of the country--is now attracting millions of foreign tourists every year.
Aeroflot used to have direct flights between the nations' capitals in 1980s and early 1990 with twice flights per week.
March 25, 2011
Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva on Friday voiced his confidence that the Thai-Cambodian General Border Committee (GBC) and the Joint Boundary Commission (JBC) meetings could still be arranged.
Prime Minister Abhisit stated that the GBC meeting would still be held although Army Chief General Prayut Chan-ocha earlier expressed his concern if the meeting would be organized in Indonesia, not in Phnom Penh, Cambodia as initially scheduled.
The army chief stated recently that he did not wish Indonesia or any third country to meddle in the bilateral mechanism of either GBC or JBC meeting.
Indonesia, the current chairman of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), earlier proposed to hold JBC and military- led GBC on April 7 and 8.
As for the Thai-Cambodian JBC meeting, the prime minister elaborated that both sides were ready to go on with the talks, which would be made in a bilateral manner while a resolution on whether to allow an observer's participation would be reached very soon.
The prime minister believed that Indonesia would understand that it had to wait until both sides reach a mutual agreement prior to sending observers to the meeting.
Thailand and Cambodia earlier agreed to allow Indonesian observers to monitor a ceasefire in a deadly border dispute between the two countries in February this year.
ASEAN foreign ministers said in a statement in Jakarta that they welcomed a commitment made by Thailand and Cambodia to avoid further armed clashes and urged both sides to resume bilateral negotiations as soon as possible.
Jakarta, March 25 (ANTARA) - Indonesia`s Foreign Affairs Ministry said it had yet to receive an official statement from Thailand regarding its intention to hold a bilateral meeting with Cambodia to settle their border problem without the presence of a third party.
"We have yet to receive an official statement from Thailand`s representative regarding the matrer. Therefore, we cannot comment on this issue yet," Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesman Michael Tene said here on Thursday.
Earlier in the day, the Bangkok Post quoted Thailand`s Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwon as saying the next General Border Committee (GBC) meeting with Cambdoia must be between Thailand and Cambodia only, without a third party.
Col Thanathip Sawngsaeng, the defence spokesman, said Gen Prawit reaffirmed to the meeting that the GBC must be bilateral without the presence of representatives from Indonesia or any other third country.
"We will not go to Indonesia. The meeting must be held in either Thailand or Cambodia. However, there would be no problems if Indonesia wants to come as a listener," he quoted Gen Prawit as saying.
Gen Prawit said he had personally discussed the matter with Cambodian Defence Minister Tea Banh.
Moreover, the Thai Defence Ministry had sent a letter to his Cambodian counterpart, asking for a GBC meeting as soon as possible so that the military leaders of the two countries can discuss the border problem.
The GBC is co-chaired by the defence ministers of Thailand and Cambodia. It is separate from the Joint Border Commission (JBC), under the foreign ministry.
Gen Prawit said he believed Cambodia would not postpone the meeting again and that a date would be agreed upon soon.
He said Cambodia was supposed to host the 8th GBC meeting this year. But if Cambodia was not ready, Thailand would be willing to host it, he added.
At the next GBC meeting the two sides would discuss problems in implementing agreements over the disputed border area, security along the border, illegal labour, drug smuggling and other crimes, he said. (ANTARA)
Abdul Khalik and Adianto P. Simamora
The Jakarta Post
Jakarta | Fri, 03/25/2011
While Cambodian and Thai ministers have agreed on Indonesia’s involvement in their border dispute, the Thai military opposes Indonesia’s role, insisting that the dispute be resolved bilaterally without the involvement of any third party.
The rejection of the Thai military to a role being played by Indonesia, the current ASEAN chair, threatens to derail efforts of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa while delegitimating Indonesia’s leadership and scaling back ASEAN’s role in settling disputes of members, observers here warned.
“Indonesia has to persuade all parties involved, including the military, that through negotiation they can solve the dispute,” Adinda Tenriangke Muchtar, the program director of the Indonesian Institute, said.
She said that both countries had tried to solve the dispute bilaterally a number of times and had failed every time.
“So, it’s highly appropriate that ASEAN and Indonesia lend a hand to help,” Adinda said.
At an Indonesia-brokered ASEAN’s foreign minister meeting in Jakarta last month, Thailand and Cambodia agreed to accept a dispatch of Indonesian observers to the disputed area adjacent to the ancient Khmer Hindu temple of Preah Vihear, where heavy fighting erupted in February.
Indonesia also called for meetings of the Thai-Cambodia General Border Committee (GBC) and Thai-Cambodian Joint Boundary Committee (JBC) on March 24 and 25, but later postponed them to April 7 and 8 in Bogor, West Java, Indonesia.
ASEAN Secretary-General Surin Pitsuwan hailed the agreement as a “historic day” for the 10-nation bloc, but more than a month later the observer team remains in Jakarta and Thailand’s military now says it is not needed.
Indonesia said Thursday that ASEAN’s plan to send Indonesian military observers to the disputed Thai-Cambodia border had stalled as it awaited approvals from Bangkok and Phnom Penh.
Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa, however, said that Indonesia had not received any official rejection from Thailand or Cambodia over the dispatch of Indonesian observers.
“Up to this moment, we haven’t had any official rejection from the Thai or Cambodian governments. We only read the generals’ statements in the media. What we have is the written statement supporting Indonesia’s role and observer team,” he said.
Marty said that Indonesia would not send observers if they were not welcome.
“But the choice is clear. If ASEAN does not get involved then the UN will, as was the case in February. We think that all parties involved will remember this fact.”
Thai army chief Gen. Prayut Chan-O-Cha said Wednesday the observers were not wanted in the disputed area near an 11th-century temple because it was too dangerous and they would only complicate matters.
He said the border meeting should be held first so that the defense ministers of two countries could talk and find a solution as to whether the ASEAN observers should enter the area or not.
If the observers do cross the border, he did not want them to enter the disputed area as it is a dangerous zone and their presence would make it more difficult to solve the conflict.
Thai media reported on Thursday that Thai Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban voiced support Thursday for Gen. Prayuth’s view that no third party should be involved in the GBC meeting as it was a bilateral issue.
He said Indonesia, in its capacity as ASEAN chair, or any other country, should not meddle in the border committee meeting.
Gen. Prayuth said he and other Thai military commanders resolved not to attend the GBC meeting in Bogor proposed by Indonesia and agreed to by Cambodia, saying that any talks must be bilateral only.
Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva’s administration has been under heavy criticism by a number of groups in Thailand as it was seen as weak in confronting Cambodia, with nationalist groups, especially the Yellow Shirts, which is considered close to both the military and the royal family, staging rallies to demand the prime minister step down.
Observers have said that as the Thai election is nearing, the border dispute with Cambodia has been used by some parties planning to challenge Abhisit in the upcoming election while groups in the military simply wanted to exploit the issue to strengthen their position.
The political situation in Thailand is also complicated by the continued rallies of the anti-government Red Shirts, a group associated with former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.
By Robert Carmichael in Phnom Penh
Friday, 25 March 2011
Research indicates most of the country's orphans have a living parent
The Cambodian government has started inspecting more than 250 orphanages after it was revealed that most of the country's 12,000 orphans have at least one living parent. The government said that until the assessment is completed, it had no idea whether the children were being cared for properly.
Aid groups suspect that those running homes for children are enticing more parents to give up their children with promises of food, shelter and, crucially in Cambodia, education. In return, those running orphanages can expect larger donations from charities and Western tourists, who are encouraged to visit homes.
Richard Bridle, the country representative of the UN children's agency Unicef, said research had indicated 28 per cent of children in orphanages had lost both parents, raising the question about why thousands of others with at least one surviving parent were in institutional care. Unicef has also expressed concern at the near doubling of orphanage numbers from 153 to 269 in the last five years. Just 21 are state-run; the rest operate privately, and many of those are faith-based.
"Overseas donors are the main funders of residential care, and many residential-care centres have begun to turn to tourism to attract funders, and in doing so, are putting children at risk," Mr Bridle said.
The rate of growth in the number of Cambodia's orphanages over the past five years matches the increase in the number of tourists visiting the country during the same period. Visitors to Cambodia's three main tourist areas – Phnom Penh, the temple city of Siem Reap and the beach resort town of Sihanoukville – are regularly bombarded with offers to visit private orphanages and donate money.
Guesthouses commonly display posters asking travellers to visit particular orphanages. One poster promoting an orphanage in Phnom Penh says people can help "in many different areas", from teaching English and playing with the children to donating food, toys, educational materials and cash. Another orphanage displayed the appeal: "Children in Cambodia need your help!" Mr Bridle said even those tourists and volunteers who visited with good intentions were sustaining a system that was separating children from their families.
Although Unicef recognises orphanages had a place, institutional care should be a last resort, he said. It was far better for the children – and far cheaper – to have children looked after by a parent or in the community.
Sebastien Marot, the head of Friends International, a charity for street children, said orphanage tourism was simply a cynical marketing ploy that exploited children. "The system is very simple," he said. "You put a few poor-looking, sad-looking children in a centre and you try to attract tourists."
The money that tourists leave typically did not benefit the children, because, "otherwise you're breaking the business", he said. "So the money goes elsewhere and the children are maintained in the situation of poverty, looking poor and so you attract more tourists and make more money."
Cambodia Rejects Statement of Indonesian Foreign Ministry’s Spokesperson
Phnom Penh, March 25, 2011 AKP – Cambodia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation has issued a statement, rejecting a statement made by the spokesperson of Indonesia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs over the deployment of Indonesian observers.
The following is the full statement of the spokesman of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Cambodia dated Mar. 24:
“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation wishes to clarify on the news report concerning a statement made by the spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Indonesia on 24 March 2011 as follows:
1. The statement of the spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Indonesia, as reported by the AFP on 24 March 2011, that Cambodia and Thailand have not yet agreed to accept the deployment of the Indonesian observers is completely contrary to the reality.
2. Cambodia has immediately given its acceptance of the Indonesian observers to the Cambodian side and has already indicated the coverage area for their deployment.
3. On the contrary, it is the Thai side that has rejected acceptance of the observers on Thai soil.
4. I wish to firmly reject this unfortunate statement made by the spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Indonesia.” –AKP
PM Meets Sultan Haji Admad Shah of Malaysia’s Pahang State
Phnom Penh, March 25, 2011 AKP – Prime Minister Samdech Akka Moha Sena Padei Techo Hun Sen met here today at the Peace Palace visiting Sultan Haji Admad Shah of the Pahang State of Malaysia.
In the meeting, Samdech Techo Hun Sen warmly welcomed the visit of the sultan to Cambodia, through which he said the ties of friendship and cooperation between both countries will be further strengthened and expanded, Delegate Minister Attached to the Prime Minister H.E. Sry Thamrong told reporters after the meeting.
For his part, Sultan Haji Admad Shah thanked the Cambodian premier for taking his busy schedule to receive his delegation. He invited Samdech Techo Hun Sen to pay a visit to Pahang State.
The Cambodian prime minister accepted the invitation and recalled his visit to Pahang in 1996, stressing that he learned a lot from Pahang’s development.
Cambodia is situated nearer Pahang than Kuala Lumpur, he said, adding that it is easy for the trade exchange between the two states.
Samdech Techo Hun Sen invited Sultan Haji Admad Shah to pay another visit to Cambodia to visit the well-known Angkor temples in Siem Reap province.
Sultan Haji Admad Shah, who is also president of the Football Association of Malaysia, and his crown prince arrived in Cambodia on Mar. 24 for a private visit.
Following on the same day, Sultan Haji Admad Shah was received in a royal audience by His Majesty Norodom Sihamoni, King of Cambodia. –AKP
Article in Khmer by CHEY Phum Pul
Article in English by SOKMOM Nimul
PM: Cambodian and Thai Bilateral Trade Must Be Balanced
Phnom Penh, March 25, 2011 AKP – Cambodia-Thailand bilateral trade must be balanced, Cambodian Prime Minister Samdech Akka Moha Sena Padei Techo Hun Sen told Thai diplomat here yesterday.
Cambodia will not let Thai products to be imported through Cambodia’s Pailin province for seven months if Thai customs officers attempt to block Cambodian products again, Premier Techo Hun Sen warned outgoing Thai Ambassador H.E. Prasas Prasavinitchai during a farewell meeting here yesterday, according to the premier’s assistant H.E. Ieng Sophalet.
Samdech Techo Hun Sen further expressed his satisfaction with the past joint art performances as well as the trade fair events between the two countries and also welcomed Thai traders and rice millers to Cambodia in the future.
On the same day, the outgoing Thai ambassador also bid farewell to Deputy Prime Minister and Minister in charge of the Office of the Council of Ministers H.E. Sok An. –AKP
Article in Khmer by CHIM Nary
Article in English by KHAN Sophirom
Cambodia Marks World TB Day 2011
Phnom Penh, March 25, 2011 AKP – Cambodia marked here yesterday the World TB Day 2011 under the presidency of Health Minister H.E. Mam Bun Heng.
On the occasion, Dr. Kosuke Okada, a JICA officer at the National TB Program, said TB is a public health issue in Cambodia with some 65,000 infected people per year or 180 per day.
He added that we are now working very hard to fight TB in Cambodia. He is convinced that the country will achieve TB elimination and management in the near future.
For his part, Dr. Mao Tan Eang, Director of National Center for Tuberculosis and Leprosy Control, said Cambodia is moving to succeed its MDG on TB elimination as the country has maintained the recovery rate at over 85 percent through the use of DOTS service. –AKP
By LIM Nary
Korean Medical Doctors Provides Free Diabetes Treatment at Preah Kossamak Hospital
Phnom Penh, March 25, 2011 AKP – A group of medical doctors from the Diabetes Association of the Republic of Korea has been providing free diabetes treatment to 1,000 Cambodian patients at Preah Kossamak Hospital, Phnom Penh.
Twelve medical doctors, three nurses as well as supporters and volunteers of the Korean International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) join this three-day humanitarian mission which began on Mar. 25, according to a KOICA press release.
The Korean Diabetes Association has planned to provide medical equipment to the hospital, it said.
The mission is also aimed to mark the first anniversary of the cooperation between the association and the hospital. Both sides signed a MoU on diabetes treatment in 2010. –AKP
PM Gives Recommendations to Ministry of Education
Phnom Penh, March 25, 2011 AKP – Cambodian Prime Minister Samdech Akka Moha Sena Padei Techo Hun Sen has recommended the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports to continue to ensure fair access to education by expanding education program for young children.
Addressing the closing ceremony of the ministry’s annual meeting held here yesterday at the National Institute for Education, the Cambodian premier also called on the ministry to continue to construct more school building in response to the increasing number of students and to strengthen the informal education in parallel with the formal education.
Prime Minister Samdech Techo Hun Sen further stressed on the importance of education quality and effectiveness improvement, the institutional capacity building and development, and the efficient use of cooperation financing.
According to the ministry’s report, over 3.5 million students are currently attending 4,114 kindergartens, 6,767 primary schools, 1,596 lower secondary schools, 407 higher secondary schools and 91 higher education institutions throughout the country.
This figure shows that out of four Cambodians, one is in school, said Minister of Education, Youth and Sports H.E. Im Sethy at the opening ceremony of the annual meeting. –AKP
Article in Khmer by CHEY Phum Pul
Article in English by SOKMOM Nimul
Draft of Public Procurement Law Discussed
Phnom Penh, March 25, 2011 AKP – The Ministry of Economy and Finance organized here on Mar. 24 a public consultation workshop to discuss the Draft of Public Procurement Law.
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economy and Finance H.E. Keat Chhon said the one-day workshop was aimed to improve the Draft of Public Procurement Law so that it becomes more perfect and comes together with other laws.
The draft law was drawn up with the technical assistance from development partners under the public financial management reform program.
According to the Ministry of Economy and Finance, the Public Procurement Law was first implemented in Cambodia in 1996 and it was amended ten years later. –AKP
Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam Youths Boost Cooperation
Phnom Penh, March 25, 2011 AKP – Young people from regional countries of Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam joined in a friendship meeting in Hanoi on Mar. 23.
The event, held by the Hanoi’s Ho Chi Minh Communist Youth Union, aims to create a forum for youths from the three countries to meet and exchange experiences in educating the young generation to treasure solidarity, promote traditional friendship as well as maintain peace and boost cooperation in the future, Vietnam News Agency (VNA) reported.
The exchange, taking place on the occasion of the 80th founding anniversary of the Ho Chi Minh Communist Youth Union and the Vietnam Youth Year 2011, is a chance for Vietnamese youths to promote the country’s image as well as introduce their Cambodian and Lao counterparts achievements that Vietnamese young people have contributed to the country’s construction and defense, said VNA.
In the framework of the event, participants will take part in a talk themed “Vietnam- Laos-Cambodia youths promote traditional solidarity and friendship for mutual peace, cooperation and development” to update each other on mobilising youth and promote youth’s roles in cooperation for socio-economic development of the three countries.
During the event, which will last till Mar. 30, Cambodian and Lao youths will meet with Vietnamese students and visit the country’s historical sites and landscapes. –AKP