Thursday, 27 March 2008

Cambodia takes steps to curb soaring rice and food prices

The Associated Press
March 27, 2008

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia: Cambodia's government appealed for calm Thursday as it rushed out a series of economic measures to address soaring food prices.

The measures — announced in three separate statements Wednesday evening — came one day after Prime Minister Hun Sen ordered a ban on rice exports to neighboring Thailand and Vietnam in a bid to bring down domestic prices of the staple.

The price of low-grade rice in Phnom Penh's markets has risen to about 2,000 riel (US$0.50; €0.32) per kilogram from 1,300 riel (US$0.30; €0.19) about three months ago.

Finance Minister Keat Chhon appealed for the Cambodian people "to remain calm ... and not to stock up on food commodities, which could make the situation even harder."

In addition to the rice export ban, the government said it would release surplus rice from its reserves to help bring down prices. Authorities also said they would impose measures to stop illegal stockpiling and implement a better distribution system to get rice to areas with shortages.

The measures also cited higher prices for other foods, but gave few specifics. The price of many foods have been gradually rising for months, partly due to higher fuel costs.

Although it is part of a global problem, the current price situation "is affecting the daily livelihoods of our citizens," Hun Sen said in a letter to his finance and commerce ministers that was released Thursday.

Hun Sen asked that finance and commerce ministers start discussions with garment factory operators on ways to raise wages "in order to increase productivity of the factories" and address the imbalance between workers' incomes and market prices for essential goods.

The garment industry is the major export earnings sector in Cambodia, where some 35 percent of the country's 14 million people live on less than US$0.50 (€0.32) a day. The industry employs about 355,000 workers, mostly women.

Many members of the Cambodian Free Trade Union, one of several representing garment workers, had originally planned to stage a strike this week to demand a wage increase, said Srei Seiha, a spokesman for the group.

He said the group has now postponed the planned strike pending negotiations with the Garment Manufacturers Association of Cambodia to have the workers' basic wage elevated to US$55 (€35) from US$50 (€32) a month.

"The current wage cannot keep up with the prices on the market," he said.

The president of the manufacturers association, Van Sou Ieng, could not be reached for comment Thursday.

Commerce Minister Cham Prasidh blamed the situation on "opportunists" trying to make political gains ahead of a July general election.

In "trying to point figures at others," the government simply shows it lacks responsibility and competence in tackling the problems, said Mu Sochua, deputy secretary-general of Cambodia's main opposition group, the Sam Rainsy Party.

Cambodia arrests two alleged elephant killers

March 27, 2008

Two Cambodian men have been arrested for allegedly poisoning a male elephant that had been chained to a tree by its owner and sawing off its tusks to sell on the black market, officials said Wednesday.

Police at the time said the alleged killers had doused jack fruit, a tropical fruit eaten by elephants, with rat poison. The tusks of the 62-year-old elephant, measuring almost 3 feet each, had been removed.

The two suspects, Men Rattana, 42, and Klem Sam Ouen, 27, were arrested this week, almost a year after the animal's killing, said Hor Ang, the provincial deputy police chief.

They were charged with intentional destruction of private property because the elephant belonged to a Cambodian family and was not living in the wild. If convicted, they face up to three years in prison.

Police raided the suspects' homes after being tipped off by villagers who had overheard the two men discussing prices for elephant tusks, Hor Ang said. A saw that police believe was used to remove the tusks was found at one of the suspect's homes, he said. Each tusk could fetch up to $3,000 in the illegal ivory trade.


Cambodian prime minister to visit Laos to discuss Mekong

The Earth Times
Thu, 27 Mar 2008
Author : DPA

Phnom Penh - Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen is to pay a one-day visit to neighbouring Laos to meet with regional officials on issues affecting the Mekong River, the Foreign Ministry said in a press release received Thursday. Plans by Laos to dam the river to produce electricity have alarmed Cambodian officials and environmental groups alike, who worry that the dams would hurt rich downstream fisheries on which Cambodia and other nations depend.

Hun Sen is scheduled to visit Laos Friday and would be accompanied by Foreign Minister Hor Namhong and Commerce Minister Cham Prasidh, the press release said.

Hun Sen: A Master of Tactician or A Master of Fools?

"By a swift change of policy, PM Hun Sen has proved that he is a seasoned politician who has no long term solution to Cambodian social ills and economic woes. His quick fix to the chronic problems is cosmetic and is nothing short of a window dressing designed to fool the voters."

Editorial by Khmerization:

-Political events in the last few days and weeks have been dominated by Prime Minister Hun Sen’s political manoeuvrings and election gerrymandering. By engineering key defections from the oppositions, Prime Minister Hun Sen has proved himself to be a master of skilful political tactician. It has been proved time and again that, when it comes to saving his political scalp, and to a certain extent political demise, the prime minister has proved that he is a great political survivor. Some might want to go further by calling him a political Larzarus. Case in point, the events in the last few days have seen Mr. Hun Sen scurrying and scuttling in a panic mode. After the Sok Pheng Affair had subsided, the PM has remodelled himself as a nice guy and is heard saying all the more familiar, but the-easily-forgotten, tone of siding with the poor land victims by attacking his own subordinates for abuses of power. First he ordered the release of four men arrested in a land dispute in Sihanoukville and the compensation to one other injured victim. He then viciously attacked his officials in Banteay Meanchey for failing to resolve local land disputes. Then comes the soaring prices of rice.

The soaring prices of rice at a time when Cambodia is holding the election has unnerved Mr. Hun Sen. The authority, including the Governor of Phnom Penh Kep Chutema, has blamed middlemen and speculators for deliberately inflating the prices of rice. The soaring prices of rice, in my opinion, have been caused by the shortage of rice supply due to over-exports and hording by people due to panic in anticipation of chaos in the upcoming election.

Rice has been a staple food of the Khmer people since the beginning of time. The Khmer has a saying that “we cultivate rice with water and make war with rice.” (ធ្វើស្រែងនឹងទឹកធ្វើសឹកនឹងបាយ). And, as 100% of Cambodians survived on rice, it is sure to play a very important role in the election and is therefore Hun Sen’s political survival at this stage. And, again, by announcing the moratorium on rice export to curb rice shortages and price rises, Hun Sen has once again proved himself as a political master of tactician. But, does this is enough to sway voters? In my opinion, the PM’s recent political manoeuvrings will not sway the voters. People have seen enough of Mr. Hun Sen’s empty and broken promises. In saying this, I still believe and strongly believe that Mr. Hun Sen and the CPP will win and win handsomely the upcoming election, not through free and fair election but, through cheating.

The PM’s, almost 180-degree, turnaround, in a swift change of mind, doesn’t surprise the long term and experienced Cambodian political observers. Instead his political manoeuvrings and this sort of election gerrymandering have unmasked more of his political failures and hypocrisy.

While I applaud his goodwill gestures of compensating and releasing the land victims in Sihanoukville and his attempt to solve the rising prices of rice and other social ills, I doubt that this policy will be carried through to the next term, if he wins the election. By a swift change of policy, PM Hun Sen has proved that he is a seasoned politician who has no long term solution to Cambodian social ills and economic woes. His quick fix to the chronic problems is cosmetic and is nothing short of a window dressing designed to fool the voters. And, I for one will not be fooled.

Rice price is up, the poor will die

Phnom Penh market March 27, 2008. Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen on Wednesday announced a ban on rice exports for two months, effective today, in order to stabilize the cost of the country's staple food.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA)

Bins of rice sit at a stall in Phnom Penh market March 27, 2008. Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen on Wednesday announced a ban on rice exports for two months, effective today, in order to stabilize the cost of the country's staple food.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA)

A rice seller prepares rice for sale at Phnom Penh market March 27, 2008. Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen on Wednesday announced a ban on rice exports for two months, effective today, in order to stabilize the cost of the country's staple food.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA)

Cambodian witnesses fly to US for accused terrorist's trial

The Earth Times
Thu, 27 Mar 2008
Author : DPA

Phnom Penh - A group of 15 Cambodians were leaving for the United States Thursday to take the stand in the trial of a Cambodian American accused of inciting a coup, the delegation leader said. Police Lieutenant General Moeuk Dara said the delegation would act as witnesses in the Los Angeles trial of self-confessed Cambodian Freedom Fighters (CFF) leader Chhun Yasith, scheduled to begin Tuesday.

With much urging from the Cambodian government, the United States designated Yasith's group a terrorist organization for its fatal and failed November 24, 2000, attempted coup in Phnom Penh.

At least four people were killed and more than a dozen injured before police and the military brought the situation under control. Sixty-four CFF members, mostly peasant farmers, were subsequently arrested.

A grand jury recommended that US citizen Yasith should face charges of conspiracy to kill in a foreign country, conspiracy to damage or destroy property in a foreign country and engagement in a military expedition against a nation with whom the United States is at peace.

Formerly a Long Beach, California, accountant before his 2005 arrest, Yasith and his wife, Sras Pech, also face charges of lodging fraudulent tax returns by exploiting information gleaned from Cambodian immigrants.

He faces life in prison without parole on each charge if convicted. Pech also faces a lengthy prison term, possibly life.

The anti-communist CFF seeks to overthrow Prime Minister Hun Sen's government, charging it with corruption and mismanagement.

Hun Sen : Increasing Rice Price Is Caused By Dishonest Groups

Posted on 27 March 2008.
The Mirror, Vol. 12, No. 553

“Kompong Thom: Samdech Dekchor Hun Sen considers the recent increase in the price of rice as strange, because ‘it is caused by opportunists and dishonest merchants. The most important thing is that these people want to shoot two birds with one arrow. The biggest bird targeted is Hun Sen.’

“In the morning of 25 March 2008, at the inauguration ceremony of Wat Seila Nimith in Kreal, Baray, Kompong Thom, Samdech Akak Moha Senapadei Dekchor Hun Sen, the prime minister of the Cambodian government, said that some people in Kompong Cham, Kampot, and Kandal believe, ‘Samdech Hun Sen makes the price of one kilogram of rice equal to that of one liter of gasoline, in order to help the people in the countryside. They believe that this is the reason that the price of rice increases. As for other people in a number of cities and provinces, they said that Samdech Dekchor makes the price of land rise, and people sell off all land; as the result, there is not much land left to do farming; therefore the price of rice soars.’

“In response to the problem, Samdech Dekchor said that he is not able to make the price of rice equal to that of gasoline, and that there are not enough investors to buy the more than 3 million hectares of farming land, which is the amount of land Cambodian farmers are farming. Land where the price is increasing is land in areas for the construction of factories and the establishment of special economic zones. Therefore it does not mean that the price of land rises everywhere, which would make people sell off their land and make the price of rice increase.

“Samdech Dekchor added that the price of rice should have increased in 2000 and 2001, when there were big floods in Cambodia. But at that time the price of rice stayed stable. This time, however, the price of rice is increasing, because the price of rice in Cambodia is lower than in other countries in the region [so there is demand in neighboring countries for Cambodian rice].

Even Malaysia is considering buying rice from Cambodia, while Thailand and Vietnam are already buying rice from Cambodia.

“Samdech Dekchor asked, ‘Does Cambodia lack rice?’ He continued, ‘A number of dishonest merchants are spreading rumors about the lack of rice on the market.’ Samdech confirmed that the government had stockpiled about 50,000 tonnes of rice to supply the demand of the market.
Saying that there is a lack of rice on the market is an unfortunate rumor. In Cambodia, only the Khmer Republic regime encountered a crisis because of a lack of rice in the cities in 1972 and 1975, which required some people to buy rice and store it up, because the Republicans could not control the situation.

“Samdech Dekchor added, ‘If anyone is strong enough economically, please come to buy rice from Hun Sen at Riel 5,000 per kilogram. I will make you go bankrupt by selling you rice at Riel 5,000 per kilogram and letting you hoard rice, and then we will put our stocks on the market and sell them at a cheaper price, which will cause you to immediately become unconscious [get suddenly bankrupt]. Cambodia follows a free market economy, where a black market could not exist buying rice for stockpiling and then selling it secretly. He urged, ‘Please do not get cheated, because the rumor is wrong in both strategy and analysis. A black market has only illegal goods, such as guns, which are prohibited by law.’

“Samdech Dekchor proposed that people be calm in this situation, and the Ministry of Commerce has to go immediately to examine all rice mills which closed their operation, because they might be one of the main causes. If the rice mills keep stocks of rice and do not sell it, the ministry must take administrative measures soon against them as well as against rice stores in the markets. Samdech Dekchor ordered the authorities and especially the economic police to take strict measures against those who spread rumors to cause economic sabotage.

“Samdech Hun Sen continued to say that the problem of an increasing rice price is a trend of the global economy, and that the rising fuel price causes the increase in the price of many goods, including rice.

“The global economy is encountering and facing a crisis because the US economy, which is an engine of global economic growth, is suffering serious deficits. This seriously affects also the Cambodian economy, because Cambodia exports goods to the US at about US$3 billion annually, and the government is expressing its concerns.

“Samdech added that some people want the government to set the price of goods on the market, but he said, ‘To do so would be taking a long step backward, because it would just be an attempt to introduce a planned economy, and then a totalitarian regime would take over in Cambodia.’”

Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.16, #4550, 26.3.2008

High Energy Thursday: Power for countries in a hurry

Results of Cambodia’s earlier construction boom. (Heng Sinith/AP)

27 March 2008
by Daniel Altman

The Cambodian economy is expanding so quickly that it has outgrown its power-generating capacity by a third. Prices for electricity are much higher than in Vietnam or Thailand, its bigger neighbors. In order to keep the investment and construction going, Cambodia has to keep the juice flowing. But how?

Some years from now Cambodia may finally be able to tap into the offshore oil and gas reserves discovered recently by American, European and Asian companies. Until then, the answer appears to be hydroelectric, as Ek Madra of Reuters writes. The problem is, damming rivers for hydroelectric power can displace thousands of Cambodians - as well as many species of rare wildlife.

The Cambodian government seems to have no problem with displacement, as it has already cleared scores of villages in Phnom Penh and Sihanoukville, two of Cambodia’s largest cities, to make way for new business and residential developments. But aren’t there any other off-the-shelf choices for a small economy in a hurry? Mini-nuclear reactors? Offshore wind farms? Perhaps a way to harness the annual monsoon rains? It seems like a little creativity could go a long way. After all, Cambodia’s not the only country in this situation.

Vineyard's generosity reaches a Cambodian school

Todd Alexander, right, and Roma Chhon, left, help Vineyard School administrator Chum Rathneary and students put books donated by Islanders on the library shelves. Click photo for larger version.
At center, from left, Vineyard School administrator Chum Rathneary, Justin LaVigne, and Todd Alexander pose with students for a class photo. The school athletic director is to the right of Mr. Alexander. Photos courtesy of Todd Alexander. Click photo for larger version.

By Janet Hefler - March 27, 2008

The Vineyard School in the Siem Reap region of Cambodia now has library shelves filled with books, supplies for students and teachers, access to the Internet, and a new computer teacher, thanks to the generosity of the Island community and the friends and family of Oak Bluffs harbormaster Todd Alexander.

Mr. Alexander recently returned from a 10-day trip to visit the school, built in 2005 with funds raised by him and his wife Karen Gelinas. In an article in The Times last month, Mr. Alexander made an appeal to the community for donations of books and money for the school. Collection boxes were set up at the Oak Bluffs School, West Tisbury School, the Martha's Vineyard Public Charter School, ArtCliff Diner, and Mocha Mott's in Vineyard Haven and Oak Bluffs.

Before leaving for Cambodia on Feb. 23, Mr. Alexander said the publicity had resulted in an outpouring of donations, with enough books to fill seven boxes and about $5,000. Three laptop computers also were donated.

In a follow-up call on his return home, Mr. Alexander said he is very grateful to everyone that contributed, and to the many people who sent kind messages to him through the reader response feature on The Times website. He had a plaque inscribed with the names of the people who donated money, which he left at the school.

Mr. Alexander deemed the trip a success. Since his son is too young to travel so far, his wife stayed home to care for him, and Mr. Alexander's friend Justin LaVigne of Edgartown went on the trip with him.

"We got everything there, no problem," Mr. Alexander said. The two men each checked two boxes of books as luggage and used backpacks to carry their belongings on their flight.

Richard and Toni Cohen of West Tisbury, who had planned a trip to Cambodia and Vietnam around the time of Mr. Alexander's trip, offered to take two boxes of books and deliver them to the school. That left only one box that Mr. Alexander had to pay to check as extra luggage, which was still cheaper than shipping it.

When he arrived at the school, Mr. Alexander said he was relieved to see that there actually is a library, although many shelves were bare. The students know all about Harry Potter, though, he said.

Mr. Alexander spent monetary donations he received on dictionaries, reference books, a globe, and wall art, as well as notebooks, pens, and other supplies for students and teachers, which he purchased in Cambodia, since American dollars have more buying power there.

With almost 600 students attending the five-classroom school, desks are in short supply. Mr. Alexander and Mr. LaVigne visited the man who made the school's original desks, who lives a few miles away, and ordered 33 desks from him at a cost of $1,000.

Mr. Alexander also ordered a low-wattage computer through AAfC, which is compatible with the school's solar power, and set up a General Packet Radio Service (GPRS) Internet system. "There also was enough money to pay for a computer teacher for two years, to teach all the kids about it," he added.

His return visit to the school also gave Mr. Alexander the opportunity to spend some time with Roma Chhon, the young woman who provided the inspiration for building it. He and his wife met her in 2003 when she was 14, selling postcards and books outside Angkor Wat, a Buddhist Temple. When they learned Roma had dropped out of school because she had to work to help support her family, they offered to pay for her education.

After the couple returned home, they found out about the American Assistance for Cambodia's (AAfC) Rural Schools Project. They raised $13,000 through donations from friends, family, and the Island community, which the AAfC used to build the Vineyard School with matching funds from the World Bank and Asian Development Bank.

Although Roma visited the Island a few summers ago, Mr. Alexander said it has become very difficult since then to arrange another visit. She stays in touch via email, however.

Roma acted as an interpreter for Mr. Alexander and Mr. LaVigne during their stay in Cambodia. Now 19, she wants to focus on improving her English and attends the English School, for which Mr. Alexander and his wife continue to pay. "We're hoping she will be able to teach someday," he said.

Before going back to school last year, Roma's English-speaking skills landed her a job working for a hotel as a hostess.
"I saw her life before, and I saw it this time, and it was drastically different," Mr. Alexander said.

"I really wasn't expecting that. Her family has a pump at their house now where they can get water, instead of having to go a couple of kilometers away for it, just to cook or do laundry. She's just much happier."

Mr. LaVigne became friends with Mr. Alexander while working at Mocha Mott's in Oak Bluffs several years ago and met Roma when she visited the Island.

"Todd and I had so many conversations about what he had done with the school over the years, and when the opportunity came up to go with him to see it in person, I was eager to experience it as well," he said.

The trip to Cambodia turned out to be a life-changing experience, Mr. LaVigne said. He especially was impressed by the children's obvious desire to be in school and their gratitude for an education. Mr. LaVigne said his visit to the school inspired him so much that he wants to start raising money to build another one, this time in a more rural area.

Although he already is busy starting a new business as a landscaper specializing in garden design and maintenance, Mr. LaVigne said he doesn't consider the fundraising an overwhelming hurdle.
Mr. Alexander has offered to help, although he said he is happy to let Mr. LaVigne take the lead. "To me, that's much more exciting, if you can get one more person down the line to build a school somewhere," he said.

Cultural links blossom between Vietnam and Cambodia

e-Travel Blackboard
Thursday, March 27, 2008

In a bid to boost bilateral cooperation in tourism, culture and sports, Vietnamese and Cambodian officials recently met to discuss future plans.

The Vietnamese Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism, Hoang Tuan Anh, and Cambodian Tourism Minister, Thong Kong, both agreed on future strategies to attract tourists to the region.

Both officials also discussed the potential to encourage their own citizens to visit the other country, according to VietNamNet.

A committee was organised, which was to be responsible for the advancement of tourism cooperation between Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos.

The suggestion of Vietnam to Cambodia regarding the simplification of entry and exit procedures was well-received, as Cambodia has committed to reviewing the facilitation of cross-border tourism.

The necessity of improving the exchange of delegations between the nations was focused upon by Minister Anh and his Cambodian counterparts. This was viewed as a requirement to increase collaboration in culture and sports.

The reputed art schools of Vietnam are planning to assist in training Cambodian workers in music, archaeology and cinematography.

Furthermore, Vietnamese experiences from hosting the Southeast Asian Games and training athletes are to be shared with Cambodia in preparation for their hosting of 27th Southeast Asian Games.

The Vietnamese Minister completes his working visit to Cambodia today, after arriving on March 23.

Japan's JOGMEC to explore copper, zinc in Cambodia

TOKYO, March 27 (Reuters) - State-owned Japan Oil, Gas and Metals National Corp said on Thursday it will spend $4.5 million over a three-year period to jointly explore metals, including zinc and copper, in eastern Cambodia with an Australian miner.

JOGMEC has started exploration in the areas of North Kratie North and Kratie South, located 200 kilometres northeast of the kingdom's capital, Phnom Penh, with Southern Gold Ltd (The state-run oil and metals agency has the right to earn a 51 percent stake in the project. This will be its first metals exploration project in Cambodia.

The agency statement said there are no mines and no major investigation has been conducted in both areas.

Besides copper and zinc, elements of gold, lead and antimony have been found in the areas according to the research conducted by Southern Gold, it added.

(Reporting by Chikafumi Hodo)

Royal Adieu To Cambodian King

By Yusrin Junaidi

Bandar Seri Begawan - His Majesty The Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam yesterday bid farewell to His Majesty Preah Bat Samdech Preah Boromneath Norodom Sihamoni, King of Cambodia in a royal audience at Istana Nurul Iman in the capital.

His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darusslam greeted His Majesty Preah Bat Samdech Preah Boromneath Norodom Sihamoni on his arrival from Istana Edinburgh. He was accompanied by His Royal Highness Prince Hi Al-Muhtadee Billah, the Crown Prince and Senior Minister at the Prime Minister's Office.

In attendance to bid farewell to the King of Cambodia and his delegation were His Royal Highness Prince Mohamed Bolkiah, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and His Royal Highness Prince Sufri Bolkiah.

Also in attendance were the members’ of the royal families, cabinet ministers, deputy ministers, permanent secretaries of the Prime Minister's Office and Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, members of the Legislative Council, Head of Foreign Missions, Commissioner of Police, Commander of Royal Brunei Armed Forces, and Members of the Privy Council.

After the farewell audience, His Majesty Preah Bat Samdech Preah Boromneath Norodom Sihamoni greeted members of the cabinet.

This was followed with His Majesty The Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan Of Brunei Darussalam and His Majesty Preah Bat Samdech Preah Boromneath Norodom Sihamoni proceeding to the Royal Dais to receive a royal salute.

The respective national anthems of Cambodia and Brunei Darussalam were played followed by the lowering of the national flag of Cambodia.

At the end of the ceremony, His Majesty Preah Bat Samdech Preah Boromneath Norodom Sihamoni accompanied by His Royal Highness Prince Hj Al-Muhtadee Billah, The Crown Prince and, Senior Minister at the Prime Minister's Office left Istana Nurul Iman to the Brunei International Airport in Berakas.

On his arrival at the Brunei International Airport, His Majesty Preah Bat Samdech Preah Boromneath Norodom Sihamoni, The King of Cambodia was greeted by the Minister-in-Attendance, the Ambassador of Brunei Darussalam to Cambodia, Officer-in-Attendance and Military Aide-de-Camp who bid farewell to His Majesty Preab Bat Samdech Preah Boromneath Norodom Sihamoni.

During his three-day state visit, His Majesty Preah Bat Samdech Preah Boromneath Norodom Sihamoni, King of Cambodia and the delegation visited several places including Kampong Ayer, Royal Regalia, Brunei Shell Petroleum (BSP), Oil and Gas Discovery Centre (OGDC) in Seria.

-- Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin

Khmer Product: Red Wine

Posted by vutha
March 27, 2008

I went to Battambang province last week and then visited Banon temple. While going back from temple, all of my co-workers stopped and visited grape field along road toward to temple. Battambang provincial farmers plant grapes and make Red Wine from it. A bottle of Red Wine costs $15.

At the present time, most Khmer products have been made in Cambodia, exported to abroad and distributed in local market.

I noted that not so much Cambodian people like to buy products made in Cambodia; they always use foreign-made products by regarding it as the good quality. We, Cambodians, should help encourage our local producers and buy local products rather than to buy imported products.

Cambodia gets 11 mln usd grant from World Bank, other donors, to fight bird flu

A lady prepares chickens for sale at Phnom Penh market March 27, 2008. The World Bank Group today approved a $6 million grant to support Cambodia's efforts to implement a national plan to minimize the threats from avian and human influenza, and to prepare its health systems to respond to any possible outbreak in the future.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA)

Thomson Financial News

MUMBAI (Thomson Financial) - The World Bank said it approved a 6 mln usd grant to help Cambodia fight avian and human influenza, and to strengthen its health system to respond to any possible outbreak in the future.

The grant, provided by the International Development Association (IDA), will be used to finance the Avian and Human Influenza Control and Preparedness Emergency Project (AHICPEP), the World Bank said.

In addition, the Japanese government has provided a 3 mln usd grant from its Policy and Human Resources Development (PHRD) Fund while a 2 mln usd grant was approved by the Avian and Human Influenza (AHI) Facility, supported by the European Commission and eight other donors.

Both grants will co-finance AHICPEP. The PHRD Fund and AHI Facility are administered by the World Bank.

The combined 11 mln usd project will be implemented by units within the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Ministry of Health and the National Committee for Disaster Management, the lending agency said.

Cambodia PM bans rice exports

ABC Radio Australia

Cambodia's prime minister, Hun Sen, has banned rice exports in a bid to halt its spiraling prices.

The move comes amid the steady climb in the price of most staple goods, including the doubling of the cost of cooking gas, which has put increasing strain on large numbers of Cambodians.

Rice prices have risen sharply from about 40 cents a kilogramme to nearly a dollar as speculation of shortages grip local markets.

Hun Sen says Cambodia has a rice surplus and blames the price hike on people spreading rumours of dwindling rice supplies in a bid to undermine the government.

The prime minister says the two month ban is a temporary measure to ensure food security.

Sam Rainsy: Rooted in the Stone - My Struggle for the Revival of Cambodia

Translated from French by Luc Sâr
By Sam Rainsy

Ravaged by genocide, coveted by powerful and predatory neighbors, submitted to a corrupt nomenklatura, choked by a neo-feudal regime, Cambodia is a martyr country, and no one knows this better than Sam Rainsy. Born into a patrician family in Phnom Penh, close to King Norodom Sihanouk, a young Rainsy knew opulence and the decline when his father, a major politician, was brutally dismissed and had to live in hiding before being assassinated.

Taking refuge in Paris, the Sam family resigned themselves to live as poor immigrants. However, they never lost their hope or dignity. A gifted student, Rainsy undertook brilliant studies that led him to become an important financier specializing in mergers and acquisitions for the luxury industry…

But, how could one be happy earning money and making money for others, when one’s country is sinking in cruelty in the hands of a regime practicing mass murder? From humanitarian action in Paris for the victims of the Khmer rouge regime to election campaigns on the spot, following the fall of the communist regime, Rainsy and Saumura, his wife, launch themselves into political action, taking over the torch from their respective fathers, both of whom were signatories of the 1954 Geneva agreements on Indochina.

However, for these two westernized Cambodians, their return home was rough. Facing with difficulties, aggressions, and even assassination attempts, Rainsy countered them with Buddhist-like pacifism, while constantly seeking for calm and compromise. Becoming the Minister of Economy under Hun Sen’s first mandate government, he was able to bring order to the State finance, and this earned him more hostilities. It was in the opposition that he found his calling when he founded a democratic and liberal party involved in the defense of freedom. Facing the unleashing of violence prompted by such provocation, Rainsy maintains his bearing, unperturbed and smiling, unshakable and frugal, just like those trees deeply rooted in the stones of the Angkor temples.

In April 2008, Sam Rainsy’s 300-page-long autobiography detailing his struggle for the revival of Cambodia, “Rooted in the stone,” will be published in France by Calmann-Lévy. This book can be pre-ordered through SRP-France at a cost of euro 20, or euro 22.97 including shipping.

The Khmer and English version of the book will be published in the following months.

For additional information, please contact munysara@aol.comor call the following telephone number in France: +33 6 19 31 42 98 or +33 6 13 06 77


Des racines dans la pierre - Mon combat pour la renaissance du Cambodge
Sam Rainsy

Ravagé par un génocide, convoité par des voisins puissants et prédateurs, mis en coupe réglée par une nomenklatura corrompue, asphyxié par un régime néo-féodal, le Cambodge est un pays martyr. Nul ne le sait mieux que Sam Rainsy. Né dans une famille patricienne de Phnom Penh proche du roi Norodom Sihanouk, le jeune Rainsy connaît l'opulence, puis la déchéance lorsque son père, un homme politique de premier plan, est brutalement limogé et doit passer dans la clandestinité avant de finir assassiné.

Réfugiés à Paris, les Sam vont se résigner à une vie d'immigrés pauvres. Mais jamais ils ne perdront l'espoir ni la dignité. Elève surdoué, Rainsy fera des études brillantes qui lui permettront de devenir un financier de haut vol, spécialiste des fusions-acquisitions dans l'industrie du luxe...

Mais comment se contenter de gagner de l'argent et d'en faire gagner, quand son pays s'enfonce dans la barbarie aux mains d'un régime qui pratique le meurtre en masse ? De l'action humanitaire à Paris en faveur des victimes des Khmers rouges aux campagnes électorales sur le terrain après la chute du régime communiste, Rainsy et sa femme Saumura se lancent dans l'action politique, reprenant le flambeau de leurs pères respectifs : ceux-ci n'étaient-ils pas co-signataires des accords de Genève sur l'Indochine en 1954 ?

Mais pour ces deux Cambodgiens occidentalisés, le retour au pays est rude. Aux difficultés, aux agressions, aux attentats, même, Rainsy oppose un pacifisme d'essence bouddhique, cherchant avec constance l'apaisement et le compromis. Ministre de l'Economie du premier gouvernement Hun Sen, il parvient à mettre de l'ordre dans les finances de l'Etat, ce qui lui vaut de nouvelles inimitiés. Mais c'est dans l'opposition qu'il trouvera sa voie, en créant un parti démocrate, libéral et attaché à la défense des libertés. Devant le déchaînement de violence que déclenche une telle provocation, Rainsy maintient le cap, impavide et souriant, inébranlable et frugal, à l'image de ces arbres qui poussent dans la pierre des temples d'Angkor.

Au mois d'avril 2008, un livre autobiographique de Sam Rainsy relatant son combat pour la renaissance du Cambodge, intitulé "Des racines dans la pierre", paraîtra en France aux éditions Calmann-Lévy. Vous trouverez ci-joint la couverture du livre ainsi qu'un résumé de son contenu (300 pages).

Vous pouvez d'ores et déjà commander ce livre auprès de PSR-France qui vous le remettra en main propre au prix de 20 euros (prix public) ou vous l'expédiera par la Poste au prix de 22,97 euros.

Les éditions en khmer et en anglais paraîtront dans les mois suivants.

Prière de contacter ou+33 6 19 31 42 98 ou +33 6 13 06 77 00

Korean Bible studies with Taekwondo

Christianity and Buddhism share the skyline in Sihanoukville
Korean congregations fund churches including So Kom's
Treating children for lice is one of the ways the missionaries reach out
Hahn's Bible School offers free food, lodging and English lessons
Thursday, 27 March 2008
By Ulli Schauen
Reporter, Crossing Continents

Around 16,000 South Koreans work in foreign countries as Christian missionaries. Only the US sends more people abroad to win converts to Christianity.

In the city of Sihanoukville, Southern Cambodia, I found Korean protestant missionaries competing with one another, trying to convert locals to their own protestant denomination.
But the missionaries don't just offer Christianity.

The Kompongsom Taekwondo Federation in Sihanoukville is sponsored by the Presbyterian Yangmoon Church in Taegu, South Korea.

It is run by retired military commander Kim Ka-Jung, who offers Taekwondo classes to young Cambodians. After class, the youngsters sing hymns and listen to a sermon.

The missionaries call this the "contact point" method of conversion. Potential converts are offered lessons or accommodation before being presented with the message of the gospel.

'Bible school'

Downstairs is the Kompongsom Bible Presbyterian Church run by Pastor Moses Hahn and his wife Grace.

Mr Hahn offers free English lessons, food and accommodation in his "Bible School", where he trains young non-Christian Cambodians to be pastors after only three years. He says they are usually baptised after six months.

A former factory worker who is now a third-year student, tells me she is happy to have been offered free food, lodging, and some education.

It is more than she could have expected from her job in the textile factory.

A few kilometres away, the first Christian University of Cambodia has been set up by another Korean missionary, Reverend David Gu.

From a huge building erected at the foot of the Buddhist Pagoda of Sihanoukville, he aims to educate "a new Christian leadership" for Cambodia.

David Gu says his Christian University of Cambodia has 600 students of all grades, from nursery to college.

At the Taekwondo Federation, 200 children attend the Sunday school. Downstairs in the Bible school, Pastor Moses Hahn boasts 60 students, as well as 50 graduates who are working as pastors around the country.

Camcorder Missions

These success stories are well received by congregations in South Korea, who are happy to keep providing money to keep the missionaries at work.

And many church members in South Korea go a step further, signing up for visits to Korean missions abroad - so-called "camcorder missions".

One such group was kidnapped in Afghanistan in 2007 by the Taleban. Two members of the group were killed.

Many of the Korean protestants I have spoken to, consider them to be "martyrs" whose "blood" is good for the cause of Jesus in Afghanistan.

And then there are the short-term missionaries. Every Christmas, hairdresser Lee Soo-Young travels from Seoul to Phnom Penh with her family, a pastor from her church and other church members, to visit the congregation they support.

The five-day trip costs about $10,000 for a group of eight, but the group thinks the personal contact is worth the effort and expense.

When I ask them if they would travel to serve God's cause in a dangerous country like Afghanistan, all but two hands are raised.

Korean missionaries tell me that after decades of war, civil war and turmoil, Cambodia is open to evangelisation. Buddhism is seen as having been weakened by decades of war and the anti-religious regime of the Khmer Rouge.

The number of Christian missionaries in Cambodia has risen in recent years to at least 400. Of these, 300 are from Korea, while others are from Thailand, the Philippines and Indonesia.

Key to prosperity

The missionaries claim that conversion is not only the key to a life according to God's will, but also to prosperity.

They cite South Korea as an example, where a rapid Christianisation has accompanied rapid industrialisation.

Moses Hahn, for example, has only one explanation for the huge disparity in wealth between North and South Korea.

"There is only one reason. They have no God, but we have God - true God," he says.

So Kom is a Cambodian pastor who graduated from Moses Hahn's bible school and was sent to a nearby village to "plant a church".

His modest wooden church building was built with funds from Korea. On a monthly budget of $120 for himself and the church's operations, So Kom is expected to offer English lessons as well as spreading the gospel.

But it is now in competition with an English language school that was set up across the street. Unlike the church school, this one is authorised by the government to issue certificates of attainment.

Now church members are leaving for the rival school.

"My church is already dying," says So Kom.

It makes me wonder whether Chan Thuch, abbot of the Buddhist Pagoda in Sihanoukville, will be right after all. The head monk is still very confident about the future of Buddhism in Cambodia.

"It is the poor who convert to protestantism," he says. "But once they are better off, they will return to Buddhism again."

Reporter Ulli Schauen from Deutschlandfunk travelled to South Korea and Cambodia for BBC Radio 4's Crossing Continents.

Crossing Continents reports on the rise of the Korean Missionary on BBC Radio 4 on Thursday, 27 March at 1100 GMT, repeated Monday, 31 March at 2030 GMT.

Khmer rice crisis

Bangkok Post
27 Marcg 2008

Phnom Penh - Cambodia banned rice exports to protect domestic food security on Wednesday, after spiraling food prices pushed the price to the equivalent of 31 baht a kilogramme.

The move comes amid the steady climb in the price of most staple goods, including the doubling of the cost of cooking gas, which has put increasing strain on large numbers of Cambodians.

"Cambodia will halt the export of rice for two months," Prime Minister Hun Sen said.

"It is a temporary measure ... but it is to ensure food security," he added.

Rice prices have risen sharply from about 40 US cents a kilogramme as speculation of shortages grip local markets, sparking demands that the government put a cap on costs.

But Hun Sen said on Tuesday that Cambodia is experiencing a rice surplus, and blamed the price hike on "economic sabotage" - people spreading rumours of dwindling rice supplies in a bid to undermine the government.

Despite GDP growth averaging 11 per cent over the past three years, more than a third of the country's 14 million people live on less than 50 US cents (less than 16 baht) a day, making even the slightest rise of food costs devastating to Cambodia's poorest.

Petrol remains at record highs on the back of global oil prices while inflation cracked the double digits late last year, hovering around 11 per cent and further driving up food costs. (Agencies)

Thai official: GMS cooperation benefits all, much remains to be done

March 27, 2008

"Drive along from Kong Kaen (Thailand's northern province), lunch in Vientiane, have a sunset view in Hanoi, and spend the night in China's Nanning -- some day we will enjoy a one-day trip like this, provided with all needed facilities and service along the route for logistics, transportation, business and tourism," Krit Krachitti, head of Thailand's working group on Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) economic cooperation told Xinhua on Thursday about the prospect of GMS development in his eyes.

"Roads bring everything," said Krit, director-general of Department of International Economic Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, while pointing out colorful lines illustrating the highway network that links the six member countries in the GMS being constructed on a road map.

In an exclusive interview with Xinhua prior to the upcoming Third GMS Summit, where leaders of the six GMS countries -- Cambodia, China, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam, will be meeting in Vientiane, Laos on 30-31 March 2008 to discuss the progress and chart future directions in GMS cooperation, Krit was hopeful that the summit will see some key concerns in GMS cooperation to be further addressed.

One urgent problem to be solved is the materialization of "single-stop inspection" for border-point customs check, which will lessen the time and trouble when vehicles cross the borders.

Others obstacles include different driving and traffic regulations. Easier flow of human resources and goods may also bring cross-border crimes such as human trafficking and other.

Laws and regulations need to be put in place or adjusted, and bilateral agreements to protect investors' interest and convenience to achieve long-term benefit in many aspects, not only for transportation, said Krit.

Nevertheless, "I see great potential in GMS development, which involves comprehensive cooperation in many areas -- trade, tourism, telecom transportation energy sector, environment, etc. It will certainly benefit all member countries in the sub-region, and the ASEAN, Asia in a broader sense."

Thai entrepreneurs have displayed great enthusiasm for investing inside GMS, said Krit, but they need more assurance and support from the governments.

He views the private sector as the "major stakeholders in the GMS cooperation," referring to the proposals expected to be raised at the GMS Business Forum, a component of the coming GMS Summit, and put forward to the six premiers.

The proposals include urging the governments to review and simplify existing related policies, laws and regulations with an aim to provide better policy environment for international investment, to promote small-and-medium-sized enterprises (SME) and help build up their credibility, and make adjustments in GMS Cross Border Transport Agreements (CBTA) to facilitate more convenient transportation.

Beside the road network, Thailand would also like to see the rich resources of the Mekong River -- shared by the six GMS countries and one of the foundations for the GMS cooperation itself, to be further explored for transportation and trade, said Krit.

The six countries entered into the GMS cooperation framework, designed to enhance economic relations among the countries with ADB 's assistance in 1992.

The program has contributed to the development of infrastructure to enable the development and sharing of the resource base. It has also led to the international recognition of the subregion as a growth area.

The Third GMS Summit, with a theme of "Enhancing Competitiveness Through Greater Connectivity", aims to sustain and deepen economic cooperation and integration efforts among the GMS countries in order to better meet development challenges and realize the common vision of an integrated, harmonious and prosperous subregion.

The First Summit was held in Phnom Penh, Cambodia in November 2002, while the Second Summit was held in Kunming, China in July 2005.

The "East-West Corridor", the network of highways that links DaNang in eastern coast of Vietnam, through Mukdahan in Thailand's northeastern border, and Mawlamyine in southern Myanmar is the first major infrastructure project built under the GMS framework, while eight other "Economic Corridors" are under construction, he noted.


UNDP recommends joint development of overlapping Thai-Cambodia oil fields

PHNOM PENH, March 27 (Xinhua) -- An United Nations Development Program (UNDP) conference has suggested that a joint development area (JDA) is probably the best way to begin developing offshore oilfields claimed by both Thailand and Cambodia, local media reported Thursday.

Elinar Risa, former advisor to the Timor-Leste Minister of Natural Resources and Energy, said that JDAs, where neighboring countries agree to split income from overlapping oil and gas fields, are in most cases preferable to continued disputes, according to the Mekong Times newspaper.

JDAs can reduce political tensions and increase investor confidence, Risa said during the UNDP Fuelling Poverty Reduction with Oil and Gas Revenues Conference in Phnom Penh.

A JDA deal between Timor-Leste and Australia sees income from overlapping fields split 90/10 in favor of Timor-Leste.

A 27,000 square km offshore area, larger than the total area off all Cambodia's undisputed potential oil fields and thought by experts to hold rich hydrocarbon deposits, has been claimed by both Cambodia and Thailand.

Cambodian officials have argued that any income should be evenly split between the two countries but there is yet to be any binding agreement.

Editor: Amber Yao

Sacravatoons : " Hun Xen's Demagogy "

Courtesy of Sacravatoon :

Sacravatoons : " The Poltical Suicide of Thach Keth "

Courtesy of Sacravatoon :

Sacravatoons : " Security & Public Order "

Courtesy of Sacravatoon :

Rice Exports Halted Amid Price Worries

By Ros Sothea, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
26 March 2008

Khmer audio aired March 26 (2.41MB) - Listen (MP3)

The Ministry of Commerce will halt the export of rice for two months, following a price spike nearly nationwide that has left many Cambodians worried.

Minister of Commerce Cham Prasidh issued a statement late Wednesday declaring a halt to the export.

The ministry earlier in the day provided 200 tons of state-owned rice to sell to Phnom Penh, Siem Reap and Kampong Thom province, which have been hardest hit by high prices.

High-quality rice has climbed from 3,000 riel to 4,500 riel per kilogram in the capital. Poor-quality rice has gone from 1,800 riel to 2,500 riel per kilogram.

For Cambodians below the poverty line, 1 kilogram of rice per day is all they can afford, leaving them lacking in other food.

"A salary of only 400,000 riel per month is not enough for living, considering the price of rice is rising," said Phrum Phearun, a high school teacher in Phnom Penh. "I cannot teach well, because my mind sticks to a concern over the price of rice."

In Phnom Penh Wednesday, the Commerce Ministry sold 20 tons of rice directly to consumers at 1,800 riel per kilogram.

In a public speech Tuesday, Hun Sen sought to quell rumors of a rice shortage, which has led to a price increase. Hun Sen said at an opening ceremony for a pagoda in Kampong Thom province that the price hike was due to an increase in international demand.

The Philippines and Malaysia are considering importing rice from Cambodia, and Thailand and Vietnam already buy rice from Cambodia, he said.

The rising price of oil worldwide can affect the cost of rice, he added, blaming "saboteurs" for driving up the market price, as well.

The rising price has made farmers happy, but Kong Chandararoth, an economist and director of the Cambodian Institute for Development Studies, said the unusual price rise can lead to inflation and a decrease in investment.

This can disrupt the economic system, he warned.

NEC Bias Questioned Ahead of Elections

By Mean Veasna, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
26 March 2008

Khmer audio aired March 26 (1.67MB) - Listen (MP3)

[Editor's note: In the weeks leading into national polls, VOA Khmer will explore a wide number of election issues. The "Election Issues 2008" series will air stories on Tuesday and Wednesday, followed by a related "Hello VOA" guest on Thursday. This is the second in a two-part series examining the National Election Committee's role.]

Political parties and observers say the National Election Committee was set up to be biased from the start. But even as they hear calls for reform, top committee officials say it is too late to change the committee ahead of upcoming general elections.

The NEC was created ahead of the first general elections, in 1998, with nine components, and in subsequent years has been made up of the three parties with parliamentary seats: five from the Cambodian People's Party, two from Funcinpec and two from the opposition Sam Rainsy Party.

The National Assembly must approve the members for each seat, after an NEC candidate renounces political affiliation, but critics say these members never truly surrender their political tendencies. As a result, they say, the NEC leans in favor of the ruling CPP.

Opposition leader Sam Rainsy said in a recent interview the CPP gained support from the majority of NEC members, including from its coalition partner Funcinpec.

"The CPP has five seats of support from its party, plus two from Funcinpec, so they have seven voices in the make-up of the NEC," he said. "But SRP has only two people, so what will the NEC decide? It's for the interest of the CPP."

Im Francois, an official at the Center for Social Development in charge of elections, said resolution of complaints is another problem the NEC faces.

Prince Sisowath Sereirath, vice president of Funcinpec, said that some complaints of Funcinpec have not been resolved at the NEC, even though Funcinpec has two members on the committee.

"Sometimes, they do not resolve our complaints, and our two members have pushed for reform and improvement of the NEC, but it is stuck," he said. "We are mostly worried about that."

For these reasons, some political parties claim reform of the NEC's structure is necessary if the committee hopes to be considered independent.

NEC Secretary-General Tep Nytha said a proposal can be made for consideration for the next legislature, but for now the body will do its job according to the law.

Parties can appeal to the Constitutional Council if they feel the NEC has not resolved their complaints or has been unjust, he said.

"The competing parties can mobilize their observers during the voting process, and NGOs can assist the observation," he added. "So if they find irregularities from staff of the NEC, they can file suit."

Government spokesman Khieu Kanharith called the accusations of NEC bias "propaganda."

Still, after each election, there are protests and many complaints related to irregularities found by observers of each party, but some of them are rejected by the NEC as invalid.

Oil Official Predicts 2011 Production

By Chun Sakada, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
26 March 2008

Khmer audio aired March 26 (963KB) - Listen (MP3)

Cambodia expects to start production of its off-shore oil in 2011, a senior national oil official said Wednesday.

Production could begin "if there is no delay," said Te Duong Dara, director-general of the Cambodian National Petroleum Authority, on the sideline of a conference between officials and international oil experts. "We will produce the first oil products for Cambodia in 2011 to reduce the import of oil."

The government's ministries were "working all together" to create proper laws and attract investment, he said.

"If we have the right laws and transparency, foreign investors will come to make their business with us," he said.

Estimates for six blocks of offshore development are in the hundreds of millions of barrels of crude and three times as much natural gas.

Experts warned Wednesday there was no guarantee that the production of oil would lead to prosperity for all.

"Economic growth in resource-rich developing countries has been on average two to three times lower than resource-poor countries," said Jo Scheuer, Cambodia director for UNDP, which sponsored the conference. "Many assume that the discovery of oil and gas reserves automatically translates into greater prosperity. Unfortunately, this is not the case."

Council Minister Sok An, who is also chairman of the national petroleum authority, said Wednesday Cambodia viewed the production of oil as a "vital step in contributing to the country's sustained economic development."

The government is responsible for transparency, he said, and managing the oil revenue to reduce poverty.

Cambodia halts rice exports to curb rising domestic prices

Cambodia halts rice exports to curb rising domestic prices


PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) - Cambodia's prime minister ordered a ban Wednesday on rice exports to neighboring Thailand and Vietnam in a bid to curb rising domestic prices for the country's staple food.Prime Minister Hun Sen said Cambodia is halting rice exports for two months to help «ensure the stability of the Cambodian market.

The measure is only temporary «to guarantee food security for Cambodia,» he said in a speech at a ceremony marking the repair of a road.

Cambodia is a minor rice exporter, shipping about 450,000 tons of milled rice last year, according to a U.S. Department of Agriculture estimate.

Neighboring Thailand, one of the world's top exporters, exported 8.5 million tons, it said in its «Rice Situation and Outlook Yearbook.Hun Sen said all border agencies must begin implementing the order Thursday at all crossing points along the borders with Thailand and Vietnam. Because of the small-scale of production, most if not all exports would go overland to the two countries.

Since the end of the harvest early this year, farmers living in provinces bordering the two countries have been selling rice in large quantities across the borders, attracted by high prices, said Men Sarun, owner of Men Sarun-Import-Export Co.

He said a ton of rice now sells for about US$500 (€318), twice as much as last year.The trend, while making some farmers happy about earning greater profits, could also result in food shortages in Cambodia later in the year, he said.Hun Sen said the rising price of rice is a global problem.

In another speech Tuesday, he blamed «economic saboteurs» for causing the surge in domestic prices. It was not clear whom he was referring to.

Without imposing the ban, Cambodian rice will «keep flowing out, and they (the alleged saboteurs) will keep shaking up the price at home,» he said Wednesday.«So keep the rice here. No more export of it for two months after which the government will see how stable the market is,» Hun Sen said.

The government will inject rice from its reserve into the market to help prevent further increase of the price, he said.Cambodia produced an estimated 3.6 million tons of milled rice last year, according to Cambodian agriculture officials.

About 2 million tons was estimated to be needed for domestic consumption this year, leaving a surplus of 1.5 million tons.

New Khmer Music Social Network Woos Members with iPods and Other Gifts


( March 26, 2008 -- The Camnob Khmer Music Site (, a new Cambodian music and social media site, is welcoming new members by offering the chance to win popular gifts through a unique points system. Members earn points by signing up and participating in the social network, and points can be used to earn gifts such as iPods.

Phnom Penh, Cambodia – March 22, 2008 – Social networks are a common communication tool between friends, family, and even colleagues trying to keep in touch in a Web 2.0 world. Now a new Cambodian social network and entertainment portal called Camnob Khmer Music ( is taking social networking a step further by offering members points towards rewards like iPods and Sony PSPs. Members of the free social network can earn points towards prizes in the newly launched beta program by simply interacting as they would anyway, such as signing up, leaving comments, inviting friends, rating media, and submitting media files.

“Where other social networks use their free user-generated content to earn a profit without giving much back to members, Camnob aims to be different,“ says Sokhodom Pheng, founder of Camnob Khmer Music. “Camnob believes in rewarding users for being the backbone of the site, and we want them to feel invested in the network. When they help the service grow by becoming members, posting comments, or more, they’re contributing to a community that belongs to them in a way, and they should be able to earn rewards related to the growth they help create. We want Camnob to be a user-centric network, where Cambodian people can meet, share ideas, and be entertained, all while getting recognition for their participation.”

In addition to the beta points and rewards program, Camnob Khmer music allows members to upload their favorite khmer videos, watch KTV through integrated YouTube videos, personalize their profile pages, and invite their contacts from popular services such as Gmail, Yahoo!, and MSN easily. In an effort to protect media owners’ copyrights, Camnob does not allow downloading of audio or video content from the network. Point prize options currently include iPods and the Sony PSP. Additional prizes may be added in the future, and the site management will consider member suggestions.

About Camnob Khmer Music

Camnob Khmer Music is a Cambodian social network and music portal created to allow Khmer people to socialize online and share music, videos, and ideas. The site was launched in February 2008 by Sokhodom Pheng, and offers a unique points system which rewards members with prize redemptions for otherwise typical social networking behavior, such as inviting friends or posting comments.

For more information about Camnob Khmer Music or the new beta points and rewards system for members, please visit or contact Sokhodom Pheng at (61) 413098786.

L.A.'s Dengue Fever Unites Cambodian Pop and American Rock

Chhom Nimol and friends: world music for the cool kids

By William Michael Smith
Published: March 27, 2008

On the surface, L.A.'s Dengue Fever, the brainchild of rocking brothers Ethan and Zac Holtzman, seems like a recipe for disaster, a fast track to the cutout bin. According to drummer/producer Paul Smith, serendipity was much more important than thoughtful planning and calculated scheming in the band becoming a surprise international hit.

"Booking agents were scared to death of us," Smith laughs. "An American rock band based on psychedelic Cambodian garage rock? No booking agent would touch that. So up until this past year, we had to book ourselves."

So how did such an unlikely project succeed to the point of being's No. 1 international release of 2005 and one of Mojo magazine's Top 10 world music releases of 2006?

"Several serendipitous happenings," notes Smith, who has engineered for an eclectic range of artists, from Snoop Dogg to Julio Iglesias. "We've worked hard and become known for strong live shows, but a lot of luck came our way."

The first bit of luck was discovering singer Chhom Nimol at the Dragon House, a karaoke club in Long Beach's Little Phnom Penh area.

"Ethan, Zac Senon Williams and I had rehearsed some songs, mostly covers of classic Cambodian rock from the '60s and '70s, but we desperately needed a singer," Smith recounts. "Ethan and Zac were hitting all these places on what people refer to as Cambodia Street in Long Beach. They happened to see Chhom sing one night and asked her to audition. She was pretty skeptical at first, but the rest is history."

And Nimol indeed has some history. Speaking virtually no English, she emigrated to Long Beach in 1999. Part of a famous Cambodian musical family, Nimol was a star in Cambodia and had even serenaded that nation's king and queen early in her career. She also won the Cambodian equivalent of American Idol.

"She'd mostly been singing traditional Khmer ballads, doing weddings and parties, stuff like that," says Smith. "After the rehearsal, we weren't entirely sure she was going to join us since what we were doing wasn't really her thing."

The project almost came to a crashing halt when Nimol was arrested on the way home from a gig in 2003 during an Orange-level terrorist alert. Her visa had expired, and she spent three weeks in jail. That experience formed the basis of "22 Nights," from the band's second album, 2005's Escape from Dragon House. It was two more years before Nimol received her green card.

So how does a Cambodian pop band break into the mainstream? One step at a time, according to Smith.

"We'd all been in various bands, so we had some connections," he explains. "One of our friends got us booked into Spaceland, and the crowd dug us. Word just seemed to spread after that. We kinda became a Tuesday thing at Spaceland, which is a great venue for a band like ours."

And then another serendipitous moment occurred.

"Matt Dillon was filming City of Ghosts, and David Ralicke (Beck), who was about to become our regular horn player, was hanging out with Dondi Bastone, the music supervisor for the film,"

Smith says. "Dondi was going on and on about how they'd looked all over Cambodia for a band with that '60s Cambodian pop sound, but all they had come across were these sort of mimicking karaoke-type bands.

"Ralicke looks at him and says, 'This is crazy, but I just jammed with a band like you're looking for last night.' So Dondi came to one of our shows, and suddenly we're in the studio cutting a Cambodian version of Joni Mitchell's 'Both Sides Now' for the film. That was a huge break."

Dengue has since placed songs in the Showtime series Weeds and the movies Must Love Dogs and Broken Flowers. They've also been featured on Fuel TV's show The Daily Habit. In January, third album Venus on Earth quickly climbed to the top of the college-radio charts and was praised to the heavens in The New York Times, the Times of London and virtually every music magazine on earth. The Los Angeles Times described the album as "world music for the cool kids."

Smith says the band made a conscious decision to simplify the sound and that has brought even wider acceptance of the album.

"Ethan and Zac are great rock writers," he crows. "They bring in the songs, and then as a band we begin to develop them, to sound them out. The sound is a bit more straight-ahead this time."

For English-only speakers, the highlights are two tongue-in-cheek love songs that riff on the Cambodian tradition of he-says she-says duet structure. "Tiger Phone Card" is a hilarious long-distance duet between a man in New York and a woman in Phnom Penh trying to make their dubious relationship work. But "Sober Driver" captures the essence of the Dengue Fever concept even better. It involves a woman calling a man from a party because she needs someone sober to drive her home, and it sounds perfect for a scene in Kill Bill or any Bruce Lee movie.

In 2005, Dengue Fever became the first American rock band to play in Cambodia since the rise of the Pol Pot regime. The tour resulted in an emotional documentary called Sleepwalking through the Mekong.

"That tour was just something you can't believe," says Smith. "The acceptance for the music was so great. It became this huge cultural coming together. As word spread, we got to meet all sorts of local musicians. Some we were able to include in the shows, some we recorded with. It was just incredibly moving, the joy that the music was received with and the power it had to bring people together."

Although the world-music community has flipped over Dengue Fever, Smith admits the band really knows very little about that scene.

"We love it that the world-music community has been so accepting of us, but we just think of ourselves as a danceable rock band."

The luxury of leisure

"Women and young people make up a large portion of construction workers doing manual labor in flip-flops and large straw hats."

CNN) -- Cassie Phillips is in Battambang, Cambodia, where she will be working with the NGO Homeland

Homeland is a Cambodian organization that works with local underprivileged children to give them some of the advantages they may have missed out on in their early life.

Cassie will be meeting and helping children from the region who have suffered from a range of afflictions. Keep up with her experiences in her blogs and video diaries.

March 26, 2008

Most Khmer people I know and meet work very hard, all day, every day. For example, many of my co-workers work full time and allocate all of their free time to their jobs as well.

When they are not at work, some go to school on weekends or at night, helping run the family small business, or trying to make money in some other way.

My work schedule ensures that I work eight-hour days, Monday through Friday. While this is a typical full time schedule in many countries, full time work here is more like seven days a week and often more than eight hours a day.

There are many businesses open seven days a week, many from early in the morning until late in the evening. Relatively speaking, my job allows for an in impressive amount of leisure time for which I am very grateful.

I am most acutely aware of my leisure time when I try to spend it at home.

I live on the top floor of a very large house in a space comprised of a bedroom, bathroom and a small open space that gives way to a large balcony. On the balcony there are some chairs, a hammock and a small table.

When I first arrived, I enjoyed reading or relaxing on this balcony. However, this has become less and less comfortable as the humongous guesthouse that was just two stories high when I arrived, rapidly grew to the five-story monstrosity it now is.

Construction workers begin work at 7am sharp and finish work at exactly 5pm, every day of the week. To my surprise, women and young people make up a large portion of construction workers doing manual labor in flip-flops and large straw hats.

The rapid growth in Battambang and prevalence of construction sites on just about every street provide plenty of job opportunities. And many Cambodians are working in construction where non-skilled workers make as little as $1.75 per day.

Keeping all of this in mind, I often catch myself sitting in my room at four-fifty-something counting down the minutes until five so I can sit out on my balcony without feeling guilty about the people slaving away for less than $2 a day, the people that have to work all day and stop at 5pm and not a minute sooner.

Call it proximity but I know there is something more to my wrong and bothered feelings spurred by the idea of sitting around reading, writing, and relaxing in plain sight of people performing manual labor fewer than 20 yards away.

Cambodia turns to hydropower, to villagers' alarm

By Ek Madra, Reuters
March 26, 2008

CHAY ARENG RIVER, Cambodia: Along the Chay Areng Valley in the remote Cardamom Mountains of Cambodia, children still scamper barefoot through one of the last remaining tracts of virgin jungle in mainland Southeast Asia.

If they take the same paths in a few years, they will probably have to be swimming.

Faced with a rapidly growing but power-starved economy, Prime Minister Hun Sen has decided that the rivers flowing from one of the few elevated spots in a relentlessly flat country should become a source of energy.

In the past two years he has agreed to at least four Chinese-financed hydropower projects as part of a $3 billion plan to raise the country's electricity output from just 300 megawatts today to 1,000 in a decade, enough to power a small city.

The indigenous communities in the forests in the Cardamoms appear to be the ones that will pay the biggest price.

"We have been living here without a dam for many generations; we don't want to see our ancestral lands stolen," 78-year-old Sok Nuon said, lighting a fire inside her wooden hut nestled among trees near the Chay Areng River.

"I do not want to move, as it takes years for fruit trees to produce crops," she said. "By then, I'll be dead."

Few people argue that Cambodia's 14 million people do not need more power.

After decades of war and upheaval, including the Khmer Rouge "killing fields" of the 1970s, the economy has finally taken off, growing at a rate of nearly 10 percent a year.

But its antiquated power plants, fueled mostly by diesel fuel, can meet only 75 percent of demand, meaning frequent blackouts and prices around twice those in neighboring Thailand and Vietnam. Those factors inhibit faster economic expansion.

With the closer ties Hun Sen has cultivated with Beijing over the past five years, Chinese cash and dam-building expertise has become a solution to the pains of breakneck growth.

"Chinese investment in hydropower is so important for Cambodia's development," Foreign Minister Hor Namhong said in January after meeting with his Chinese counterpart, Yang Jiechi.

But critics maintain that much of the planning is taking place with scant regard for the long-term impact on the environment in a country where most people still rely on agriculture for their livelihoods.

"Poorly conceived and developed hydropower projects could needlessly and irreparably damage Cambodia's river system with serious consequences," said Carl Middleton of the U.S.-based group International Rivers Network.

But the Chay Areng project hardly appears to be a model of transparency. The deal was signed in late 2006 with China Southern Power Grid, one of the two electricity network operators in China, to build a 260-megawatt plant at an estimated cost of $200 million, with a completion date of 2015.

The first that villagers knew of the project was when Chinese engineers turned up this year to start working on feasibility studies. Officials at Southern Grid and in the Cambodian government have been reluctant to discuss the details of the studies.

The Chinese Embassy in Phnom Penh denied any shortcuts were being taken in the dam construction.

"They comply with environmental standards and are approved by the Cambodian government," said a Chinese diplomat who was granted anonymity because of the political sensitivity surrounding the project. "We just want to help Cambodia as much as we can."

Environmentalists who have conducted their own studies say the reservoir created by the dam will cover 110 square kilometers, or 42 square miles, and displace thousands of indigenous people in nine villages.

More than 200 animal species, including elephants, sun bears, leopards and the endangered Siamese crocodile, would be affected upstream, said Sam Chanthy of the NGO Forum on Cambodia, a foreign-financed group in Phnom Penh.

Downstream from the site, the delicate ecosystem of the flooded forest, home to some of the world's rarest turtle species as well as hundreds of types of migratory fish, would also be at risk from disruptions to water flow, Chanthy said.

Eng Polo, who works for the wildlife group Conservation International, agreed. "It won't take long for these invaluable assets to disappear when the dam is built," he said.

CAMBODIA: Mapping food security to target the needy

Poverty and food insecurity are particularly acute in rural areas of Cambodia

A street scene in the bustling city of Siemriep

A map of Cambodia highlighting the 10 provinces identified by WFP as having critically high levels of malnutrition

For many impoverished Cambodian families, food prices are prohibitively high

PHNOM PENH, 26 March 2008 (IRIN) - Rising rice prices are threatening Cambodia's poor despite the country's economic progress.

New buildings are shooting up all over Phnom Penh, modern shopping malls are opening, and more and more cars are crowding the streets of the capital city as the country’s economy continues to grow.

But even in the capital there are numerous street children and families who have to scavenge and beg to make ends meet.

In Cambodia's rural areas the situation is even worse.

"It is absolutely appalling in the countryside, where poverty and unemployment are omni-present," Thomas Keusters, director of the UN's World Food Programme (WFP) in Cambodia told IRIN.

"It strikes me if you drive around Phnom Penh you see a lot of development and improvement in the living conditions of the people in the urban areas. There is a definite economic boom in Cambodia. But drive 20km outside the capital city and you are in areas of very dire poverty," he said.

Online food security map

WFP recently launched an online updated food security map of Cambodia help identify the areas most vulnerable to food scarcity.

"The atlas gives a clearer picture of where we need to target our assistance," Keusters said. "It will also help track how successful our efforts have been, and document this improvement over the coming years."

Malnutrition is the agency’s key indicator of poverty and food scarcity - and the picture for Cambodia remains grim even though there has been substantial improvement over the past 10 years.

According to UN figures, except for East Timor, Cambodia has the highest rate of malnutrition in the region.

Almost four out of every 10 Cambodian children suffer from stunted growth or are underweight – both key symptoms of malnutrition. This is 10 percent less than it was five years ago.

Government efforts

Aid officials say the government has backed co-ordinated efforts to combat Cambodia's poverty and boost development in the country's most vulnerable areas.

"The situation reports done by the UN and various development consultants are usually sponsored by the government with forewords written by the relevant minister," Keusters said.

"The atlas is merely a means to coordinate the information gathered and strengthen existing processes," he added. "It's in the spirit of the government and the donors' harmonisation and alignment policy, and more importantly the straightforward principle of: if you have many people who are targeting the same areas the effect of the assistance would be multiplied."

The web atlas is designed to function with simple browsers, small size screens and lower speed internet connections (56kb) to make it more accessible to people in Cambodia's rural areas.

It can be reached through the Council for Agriculture and Rural Development (CARD), a focal point for assistance to the Cambodian government for the development of the agricultural and rural development sectors.

"The site is well presented and consolidates an expanse of useful information," said independent development specialist Robert Vokey, who is also a regular visitor to Cambodia.

"But I think that the site would benefit from a regularly updated 'Market Watch' feature which tracked the prices of basic staples from the point of view of consumers."

Need for assessment

Unfortunately much of the information in the atlas is outdated. The latest health information is from 2005 and the socio-economic survey was conducted in 2004.

"We plan to add information from the national census currently being conducted by the government with substantial financial assistance from UNFPA [the UN Population Fund] and others," Keusters said.

The results of that census will be known in early 2009 and should significantly upgrade the atlas and broaden the scope of the map.

"Food security goes far beyond the production of sufficient food production, and is affected by poverty, maternal health, access to clean water and health services, as well as shocks such as natural disasters," the WFP official added.

The map has identified 10 hot spots – the provinces of Kampong Spueu, Kampong Thum, Mondol Kiri, Odar Mean Chey, Pursat, Preah Vihear, Prey Veang, Rotanakiri, Siem Reap and Stung Treng – where malnutrition levels are critically high.

"I hope the atlas will improve the handling of hunger in Cambodia by providing an important reference point in formulating future interventions," Keusters said. "As Cambodia faces new challenges such as climate change, changes in food availability and prices, high energy prices, globalisation and many more, we all need to plan better."

The UN and development community in Cambodia have worked with the government, especially CARD, on the Strategic Framework for Food Security and Nutrition Policy.

"Improving food security and nutrition is a development priority of the Royal Government of Cambodia," said Tao Seng Huor, a senior minister and Vice Chairman of CARD.

"Our challenge is to have good cooperation and efficient coordination mechanisms linking a wide range of stakeholders. The online atlas will be one of the useful tools to help us guide the process."

A number of actions have already been recommended to help improve the food security situation in Cambodia. These involve improving agricultural production – improved inputs, diversification of crops, better irrigation, education and technical skills training and attention to water and sanitation.

"I'm very optimistic about the future," Keusters said. "These recommendations are not going to be taken up in a week, or month or even a year. But I'm certain that in three, four or five years, we will see progress."