Saturday, 3 May 2008

Sacravatoons : " Freedom of Speech in Cambodia "

Courtesy of Sacravatoon at http://sacrava.blogspot.com/

Inappropriate Qualification and Lack of Information Make It Difficult for Youth to Find Jobs

Posted on 3 May 2008.
The Mirror, Vol. 12, No. 558

“In an office of a private company located along Sothearos Boulevard, opposite from the Phnom Penh Center, many people go in and out to submit application forms. The company, which functions as a bridge for job hunters and those who need staff, started in Cambodia more than five years ago, but the director of this private institution still complains that only a small number of students have contacted him.

Ms. Suy Sokha, a consultant of the staff recruitment company HR Incorporated, a leading staff recruiting company, working for other institutions including organizations, companies, and state institutions, said that she finds it difficult to estimate whether there are more open positions than people who need jobs, or whether there are fewer open positions than people looking for jobs in Cambodia. However, she observes that there are anyway many open positions in Cambodia, and there are also many students graduating from universities. The expert said that the lack of information is a major factor which prevents job hunters from being successful. Ms. Suy Sokha explained that most Cambodian students do not know which company or institution needs staff. She said, ‘I think that job hunters and those who need staff seem not to have a chance to meet each other. But to meet would reduce unemployment. Some job applicants do not know where staff is needed. Some international institutions want staff that meets the standard of their countries, so it is difficult for them to find the staff which meets their requirements in Cambodia. To deal with this problem, my company has explained to those companies or institutions that we have applicants responding to only 7 or 8 points of their requirement of 10 points; however, we still hope that they can do the job.’

“HR Incorporated receives around 20 application forms per day. The job hunters are students, graduated from higher education institutions, or they are still students, or those who want to change their job. There are about ten companies in Phnom Penh that help to find jobs. She noticed that now the ability of students is better, compared to previous years. She said, ‘Last year, we could not accept even the curriculum vitae of some students, but now most of them know how to write their curriculum vitae. Though, in general, we notice that the skills that they have learned from school are not sufficient for the jobs. Some students learn computer, but their ability to use a computer is limited.’ Ms. Suy Sokha explained, ‘When accepting a curriculum vitae from an applicant, we check it in order to call them for interviews. We require mainly good English knowledge, courage, and intelligence, but many applicants are not able to meet our requirements.’

“Seeing most applicants’ weak points, Ms. Suy Sokha suggested, ‘Our youth must seek more knowledge from society, by reading newspapers or attending workshops, to gain more knowledge. Moreover, most applicants are nervous during an interview; this is also a factor that makes them loose an opportunity of success in their job hunting.’ Theara, who graduated in management from a private university, accepts that hunting for a job is not easy, although he has earned a bachelor’s degree. The young man said with shame, ‘I work in a hotel and get less than US$100, and this job is different from the skills I studied at school. I have applied to other institutions, but there is no response, so I must continue this job for which I have no qualification.’ Theara continued that there are three factors that make it difficult for him to get a job – first, because there are many job hunters, second, because staff recruitments in different institutions are not announced openly, and third, because their qualification is limited, i.e. they do not have enough work experience. The former student stated that not only he cannot find a good job, but also many of his friends cannot get jobs. An assessment shows that the labor force in Cambodia increases by approximately 300,000 persons per year, while the job market requires only 30,000; so it is very difficult for Cambodian youth to get jobs when they have graduated.

“The independent economist Dr. Sok Sina said that because of the lack of information about jobs in the country, while there is information about jobs abroad, and those jobs are well-paid, many Khmer workers go to work abroad, overlooking the jobs in their own villages. He stated, ‘If we say that our country lacks employment, it is not right, because when we check in some provinces, there are many employment opportunities, but our Khmer youth are not interested. For example, in Kompong Cham, there are potato processing factories and rubber factories, but many citizens in that area go to work abroad; this happens because of a lack of information.’ The economist asked the Royal Government to organize an employment information system so that job hunters and those who need labor can meet each other.

“It should be stated that the report of the Minister of Labor shows that by the end of 2007 there were 505 enterprises and garment factories countrywide, with a total number of more than 366,000 workers including 329,000 women. There were 1,863 enterprises with 74,212 employees, besides the garment industry countrywide, including 29,145 employed women. According to the presentation of the ministry, for the whole year of 2007, there were 47,619 people who got new jobs in the country, and 8,939 people went to work abroad.

“The president of the Cambodian Economic Association Mr. Chan Sophal expressed his view that leaning, which does not consider the requirements of the market, the lack of qualified skills, and the lack of technical schools are factors that make it difficult for many people to find jobs. He raised an example, ‘At present, Cambodia needs construction workers, and bridge and building construction engineers, but such human resources are rare. At most universities at present, they teach mostly economics, and it has no clear focus. Thus, we need to create more technical schools to respond to the market. Such schools are not on the higher education level, but just short term training courses of three or six months. Khmer construction workers cannot compete with Vietnamese construction workers, because the Vietnamese construction workers who graduated from such schools can earn Riel 20,000 [approx. US$5] per day while our Khmer workers who work without any special formal preparation for this job from any school earn only Riel 8,000 [approx. US$2] per day.’

“Dr. Sok Sina said that the future job market of Cambodia will depend on agricultural products rather than on heavy industry. ‘Agro-industry is the potential that our country has. It is a very big market for Khmer citizens. Our country is an agricultural country, so we must process agricultural products by using many factories; that is also our job market. We don’t expect to compete for jobs in the technical field of the oil industry, which we expect in the future, because we have no resources in that sector.’

“Cambodia has than 50 universities countrywide; among which 80% are private. Minister of Education Mr. Kol Pheng stated in a conference at the World Bank, ‘The construction of a school building needs only five years to be finished, but capacity building needs many more years.’
“A director of a private university said that because of the competition to attract students, private schools decrease their tuition fees, making the quality of the studies decline. ‘Private universities are economic enterprises like companies, but because there are many schools, so the tuition fees have to be competitive, and if we do no reduce the fees like others do, we will have no students coming to study at our university. When our income is low, we must cut down the expenses on leaning materials and teachers; this is the factor that limits our studies.’ This is an explanation of the rector of an university, who asked not to be named. According to the same leader, private schools cannot run vocational courses such as engineering, because to teach this field requires to spend a lot of capital.

“The Khmer Youth Association deputy director, Mr. Him Yun, claimed that young people are living without hope, because the government has no clear policy to develop them. This organization’s deputy director stated that youth policy is very important to encourage them. ‘Although we find that the economy grows and the number of investors increases, the Royal government still does not have a youth development policy.’ For instance, Cambodia is an agricultural country but there are few schools offering training for this field. Youth who have the ability to study in densely populated cities do only accounting course - so they will not be able to return to their localities in the provinces. Therefore, they all have to race for jobs in the cities. According to the study of an organization that works with Cambodian youth, only one young person among ten can get a job.”

Cambodge Soir, Vol.1, #30, 1-7.5.2008

Two more expressways for Mekong River Delta

The construction of HCM City - Trung Luong expressway is underway.


03/05/2008

VietNamNet Bridge – Backbone roads which are under construction and planned expressways will pave the way for the powerful development of the Mekong River Delta in the future.

Mekong River Delta – Phnom Penh expressway

The Vietnamese and Cambodian governments agreed to build a highway from Vietnam’s Mekong River Delta to Cambodia’s Phnom Penh capital. The Vietnamese Ministry of Transport has submitted this project to the government as part of the country’s expressway development strategy from now to 2030.According to the Transport Ministry, this road can be built by two sources of capital. The first is preferential and commercial loans guaranteed by the state, and the second is build-operate-transfer (BOT). The authorities of two related provinces, Can Tho and An Giang, have worked with the Transport Ministry and the Cambodian government on this project.

Tran Thanh Man, Chairman of Can Tho city, said this road will be 230km in length, including 110km from Can Tho to the Vietnam-Cambodia border in An Giang province. The remaining 120km will connect An Giang to Phnom Penh.

It is estimated that the capital for the first segment, from Can Tho to An Giang, is around $2.3 billion, and for the second section around $2.2 billion, totalling $4.5 billion. This road will link Can Tho with An Giang and the two provinces with Cambodia and facilitate economic development in this region.

Nguyen Tan Quyen, Party Secretary of Can Tho, said Can Tho and An Giang will negotiate with some American contractors in early June. The expressway will be 95m wide, with eight lanes. There will be modern residential areas, trade centres, etc. built along the road. This project will be kicked off in 2009.

My Thuan – Ca Mau highway

Officials of Can Tho and Kien Giang province have recently met to survey the field for the construction of the My Thuan – Ca Mau expressway, which will pass through the two provinces.

The My Thuan – Ca Mau road will be considered the second backbone of the Mekong River Delta after the existing National Highway 1. This backbone road will run from My Thuan Bridge in Tien Giang province to Tran Van Thoi district in Ca Mau province.

Nguyen Tan Quyen said the government has given the nod to this project. The road will have the total length of 160km. In the first phase, it will have six lanes and eight lanes in the second phase. The road is expected to serve 25,000 to 30,000 cars a day, which can run at the top speed of 120km per hour. The total investment in this project is estimated at $3.7 billion, using BOT mode of investment, including $3.2 billion for building the road and $500 million for the Can Tho 2 Bridge spanning the Hau River.

Le Minh Hoan, Vice Chairman of Dong Thap province, said this road will favour the development of an urban system of four provinces, Can Tho, Dong Thap, Kien Giang and Ca Mau, and help speed up the urbanisation process and economic development of this region.

(Source: TTCT)

Less than one-thousandth Cambodians subscribe to internet

May 03, 2008

There are only some 13,000 Cambodians, or less than one-thousandth of the total population, subscribe to internet, according to an industry survey published on Saturday by English-language newspaper the Phnom Penh Post.

Most of them are in capital Phnom Penh and tourism province Siem Reap, said the survey carried out in 14 cities of the country.

Some 21.5 percent of the users are not satisfied with cost, 44.6 percent with reliability and 5.7 percent with speed, it said.

There are now nine internet service providers in Cambodia, with the top one sharing 28.8 percent of the market and the bottom one 1 percent, the survey added.

Most internet operators of Cambodia now use satellite to serve their customers.

Nationwide fiber web infrastructure for internet service is still being constructed. This makes internet a luxurious enjoyment for ordinary Cambodians.

Source:Xinhua

Married ex-Khmer Rouge leaders can visit, pre-trial judges rule

AP
2008-05-02

PHNOM PENH, May 2 (Kyodo) - The U.N. backed Khmer Rouge tribunal has decided to allow two married former Khmer Rouge leaders conjugal visits while being held in detention before trial.

In a statement Friday, the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia said the Pre-trial Chamber decided that Ieng Sary would be allowed to meet with his wife, following an appeal by his co-lawyers for conjugal visits.

"Charged with crimes against humanity, the married couple's separation since Nov. 19 by the court's co-investigating judges was not properly justified and affected their right to be treated humanely," the five-judge Pre-Trial Chamber said.

"The charged persons Ieng Sary and Ieng Thirith have been married for 57 years. The alleged crimes were committed 30 years ago, so the charged persons have had all that time to discuss any matter related to such allegations," the judges stated in the six-page statement.

"In these circumstances, it is not clear to the Pre-Trial Chamber how limiting contact between the two charged persons protects the interest of the investigation," the judges added.

On March 25, Ang Udom and Michael Karvavas, co-defense lawyers for Ieng Sary, argued their client had had numerous rights violated, including "the right to a family life."

Ieng Sary, who was foreign minister, and his wife, who was education minister and social affairs minister in the Pol Pot government, were arrested in November last year.

Ieng Sary, 83, was charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity while his wife, 76, charged with crimes against humanity.

They have been held separately at the detention center.

Heng Hak, director general of prisons at the Ministry of Interior who also overseas the ECCC detention facility, said there is no rule stating "a prisoner can meet a prisoner.

"But the rule does allow visits by family members, he added.Reach Sambath, the ECCC spokesman, told Kyodo News that since March 21, the couple had been allowed to meet briefly three or four times, but only in the daytime.

The Khmer Rouge is blamed for the deaths of at least 1.7 million Cambodians in the late 1970s.

First mine-detection puppies born in Cambodia

Agence France-Presse
Friday, May 02, 2008

PHNOM PENH -- Cambodian officials said Friday they hoped 10 puppies born in the kingdom in March would help combat deaths and injuries in the one of the most heavily-mined countries on Earth.

A female mine-detecting Malinois -- also known as a Belgian Shepherd -- was shipped over from Bosnia, and in early March she gave birth to six male and four female puppies fathered by Fronde, a mine-sniffing dog from Germany.

Cambodia has in the past bought all its 57 mine-detection dogs from overseas, spending up to 10,000 dollars on each one. The pups are the first dogs born in Cambodia destined for the life-saving work.

Khem Sophoan, director general of Cambodia Mine Action Centre, said they would begin training the puppies for mine-sniffing duties when they are eight months old.

"We are now taking good care of the 10 puppies . . . They will help us in demining efforts," he said.

Hundreds of people are killed or maimed every year by the millions of landmines and other unexploded ordnance still littering the countryside after decades of conflict.

Prime Minister Hun Sen warned last year that Cambodia would not be clear of the devices until at least 2020. Roughly 2,900 square kilometres of land remains covered with mines.

The Khmer Rouge regime was toppled in 1979 but remnants fought on until 1998, resulting in impoverished Cambodia becoming one of the world's most heavily mined countries along with Afghanistan and Angola.

Ieng Sary Appeal Suspension Denied

By Mean Veasna, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
02 May 2008

Khmer audio aired May 02 (951KB) - Download (MP3)
Khmer audio aired May 02 (951KB) - Listen (MP3)

Tribunal judges said Friday they were denying a request by Ieng Sary to have an appeals hearing suspended, while lawyers for the former foreign affairs minister say he should receive in-house detention.

Lawyers had requested a suspension of the appeal in order for Ieng Sary to recover in the hospital before proceedings against him proceed.

The courts posted an April 30 ruling on the tribunal Web site Friday, denying any suspension, but they have not yet ruled on house arrest for Ieng Sary, who suffers from heart problems and was hospitalized in March for urinating blood.

Lawyer Ang Udom said he was disappointed in the decision.

Mondolkiri Minorities to Protest Land Grab

By Chun Sakada, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
02 May 2008

Khmer audio aired May 02 (969KB) - Download (MP3)
Khmer audio aired May 02 (969KB) - Listen (MP3)

The rights group Adhoc will lead a demonstration on the behalf of thousands of ethnic minorities who blame government officials and businessmen for the alleged theft of land in Mondolkiri province.

More than 10,000 hectares of land have been taken in at least 15 different cases, leading to the arrests of at least two men, the group said.

Pen Bunna, an Adhoc coordinator in Mondolkiri, told VOA Khmer that the demonstration, to be held May 20, will include 200 participants representing the victims of alleged land theft.

The demonstrators plan “to ask the government for help in retaking their community and state land,” he said.

“Now the powerful men and businessmen are happy for their land grabbing, but the minorities are suffering from the lose of their land,” he said. “As the government carries out the law to retake the minority and state land, the powerful men and businessmen will see suffering replacing that satisfaction.”

Chhouk Savath, 48, a representative of hill tribesmen living in O’Chum village, in Mondolkiri’s O’Chum district, called the demonstration “a very important sign” in reflecting the need for a resolution to the crisis.

“I want to participate in the demonstration against the powerful men who pressured us into selling our land to them and then cut most of the forest,” Chhouk Savath said. “The minorities have no land to crop and to hunt. I and my fellow minorities who don’t understand the law suffer from land-grabbing.”

Mondolkiri Governor Moung Poy declined to comment on the demonstration, saying Friday he had not received a request from the protesters.

Fine Arts Troupe to Perform Rare Circus

By Kong Soth, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
02 May 2008

Khmer audio aired May 02 (1.00MB) - Download (MP3)
Khmer audio aired May 02 (1.00MB) - Listen (MP3)

A group of fine arts performers will put on a rare Khmer circus in Phnom Penh this weekend, showcasing a nearly lost art from recently rediscovered.

“Building the Bridge to Langka” will be performed May 3 and May 4, at the Chenla Theater, from 6 pm.

The performance, a story from the Ramayana, will be told through Khmer circus, organizers said.

Soun Bunrith, program director of Amrita, which was founded in 2001 in the US, said he hoped the performance will remind Cambodians to be more interested in art.

“To make the show of Khmer art, it is our tradition, so they can watch it and not forget it,” he said. “They are used to seeing very modern circuses.”

Nay Narin, director of the national circus, said she was proud to have the Ramayana story told through the art form.

“I am more concerned, if we are talking about the circus, that all Khmer people think it does not belong to us, and think this comes from foreigners,” she said. “Because of war, we have abandoned these for so many years, and they think we are copying from foreign countries.”

Performer Phun Pisy said she has performed circuses for many years, but the “Bridge to Langka” show will be difficult.

“I will perform as a fish known as Nang Sovan Macha, a female fish,” she said. “I have to prepare myself to act as a fish faithful in love with a white monkey, so I have to make my body very soft and very fast, too, to march with the music while performing.”

Monitor Worries Over Parties in Court

By Sok Khemara, VOA Khmer
Washington
02 May 2008

Khmer audio aired May 01 (5.86MB) - Download (MP3)
Khmer audio aired May 01 (5.86MB) - Listen (MP3)

The 18-month prison sentence facing Prince Norodom Ranariddh and a recent lawsuit filed against opposition leader Sam Rainsy spell worry that the courts are being politicized ahead of elections, a monitor said Thursday.

“The courts shouldn’t be used to cause problems when there is an election,” said Koul Panha, executive director of the Committee for Free and Fair Elections.

Prince Ranariddh, who is running an eponymous political party from exile, faces his jail term, on charges related to embezzlement, if he returns to the country.

Foreign Minister Hor Nahmhong, meanwhile, has filed a suit against Sam Rainsy, for remarks allegedly implicating the minister as complicit under the Khmer Rouge.

Koul Panha said as a guest on “Hello VOA” Thursday Cambodians should be seeking a positive environment for the polls.

The run-up to this year’s election has been better than in the past, he said, and voters do not fear as much about their safety and security, especially compared to 1992 and 1998.

While some voters may want to see the election date changed—either because it’s the rainy season or because of high prices for fuel—the election law is not easy to amend, Koul Panha said.

Marriage Scheme Guilty Plea

May 2, 2008

NEW BRITAIN — - A local woman pleaded guilty Thursday to federal charges that she arranged a sham marriage for a foreign national seeking to get into the United States.

Hun Siv, 42, of Garry Drive admitted she was paid $7,000 to arrange the marriage, bringing the woman to Cambodia in May 2006 for a marriage ceremony, a press release said.

The woman Siv recruited to marry the man left him two days after the wedding and has not seen nor heard from him since.

The man was never able to enter the United States, prosecutors said.Judge Peter C. Dorsey has scheduled sentencing for Sept. 5. Siv faces up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000, according to Nora R. Dannehy, acting U.S. attorney for Connecticut.

Siv has been free bail with electronic monitoring since her December 2007 arrest.

No breakfast, no more school for poor students

smh.com.au
Thomas Fuller in Pray Viev, Cambodia
May 3, 2008

THE Sun Sun primary school, two low-slung buildings and a wooden shack, is surrounded by hectares of rice paddies that recently yielded what farmers said was the best harvest in memory.

But that has not shielded schoolchildren in the village of Pray Viev from the effects of the global food crisis.

A countdown has begun in Pray Viev and at 1343 other schools across Cambodia: in 30 days or less the schools' rice stocks will run out and a popular free breakfast program will be suspended indefinitely because of soaring food prices.

Short of cash, the United Nations World Food Program can no longer supply 450,000 Cambodian children with a daily breakfast of domestically grown rice supplemented by yellow split peas from the US and tuna from Thailand.

In a country where a recurrent paucity of food has taught Cambodians to survive on a bare minimum of nutrition, children in Pray Viev are unlikely to starve. But some may miss out on an education.

"Most of the students come to school for the breakfast," said Taoch Champa, a 31-year-old teacher.

The suspension of the breakfast program illustrates one way the global food crisis is hurting the world's poorest and most vulnerable people. Only destitute schools were selected to take part in the program. Breakfast has been a magnet for students, and the teachers' best friend.

Yim Soeurn, the principal at Sun Sun, said he knew what would happen when the free food disappeared: "Poor students will not come to school."

The imminent depletion of rice supplies is paradoxical for children who walk or ride their bicycles to school through kilometres of neatly delineated rice paddies. Rice is plentiful in Cambodia but is becoming less and less affordable for the people who grow it. In Cambodia, the price of rice is now more than $US700 ($750) a tonne, more than double the $295 a tonne that the World Food Program budgeted for this year.

The New York Times

CPP risks urban votes as prices rise

TANG CHHIN SOTHY/ AFP An SRP supporter protests against inflation outside the National Assembly in Phnom Penh, April 6. Rising food prices could cost the ruling CPP urban votes this July but are unlikely to hurt the party’s rural prospects, where a subsistence economy was already the norm.


Courtesy of Phnom Penh Post at http://www.phnompenhpost.com

Written by Dr Un Kheang
Friday, 02 May 2008

As the election date approaches, both opposition parties and the ruling CPP are facing challenges, though to varying degrees. While the opposition parties are facing issues of party unity, the CPP is facing economic problems. Excerpts from this month’s analysis by Dr Un Kheang examine these challenges and how these parties are trying to overcome them.

The Sam Rainsy Party (SRP) has faced accusations of being autocratic and corrupt. Such accusations are problematic because the SRP has run on a political platform of cleanliness, transparency and democracy.

The SRP attempted to dispel such accusations through the elections of its leadership in September 2007 when Eng Chay Eang was chosen to be the party’s Secretary General.

The election of Chay Eang drew criticism from some circles of SRP supporters – notably trade unions and overseas Cambodians – while some non-SRP newspapers said the election of Chay Eang, a known gambling addict, may affect the SRP’s credibility and eventually lead to a decline in popularity.

Although it would be premature to come to such a conclusion, the SRP was hit hard in April by the defection of some of its senior and grassroots members.

Defectors’ charges of corruption and nepotism within the SRP might be exaggerated, but their accusations that the SRP leadership is being autocratic is warranted.

The autocratic nature of the SRP could be explained through the reality of Cambodian politics.

Sam Rainsy faced infiltration into his former Khmer Nation Party resulting in the split of that party.

He must inevitably mistrust and fear outside interference, as well as be concerned some SRP members may be tempted by the greener pasture offered in a coalition government with the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP).

While defections of the SRP’s senior members might not affect the party if these defectors are not active and popular with large number of grassroots supporters, have been reports by non-SRP newspapers of defections of grassroots members, including critical commune council members.

The Rasmei Kampuchea reported that one-tenth of SRP officials have defected to the CPP, though there is no independent confirmation on this figure. Still, it is a worrisome issue for the SRP because such defections will certainly affect voters’ attitudes.

The SRP has attempted to downplay these defections and stressed that its strength lay in the younger generation who are “idealistic and truly nationalist.” This is true.

Given demographic changes, Cambodia’s electoral map will also change. In the long run, a party’s strength will depend on its ability to capture support from Cambodian youth.

To mobilize youth, the SRP in April organized a youth conference.CPP snagged by inflationThe CPP has also faced challenges. Inflation has been high and is still rising.

The prices of basic commodities such as gas and food items are skyrocketing. The opposition parties have attributed these high prices to government policies and corruption, and have campaigned on these issues.

However, the roots of the problem are global and multidimensional. The upward swing in the price of oil is in part the product of the rise in demand for this commodity.

Rice prices have been driven higher by low investment in agricultural infrastructure in other Southeast Asian countries, and by rising global demand.

The government has attempted to address this problem by raising the salaries of government employees and by helping to negotiate with investors to increase workers’ salaries.

The rise in prices might affect the CPP’s chances to increase its parliamentary seats in urban areas, although it will not affect its core rural constituencies given the subsistence nature of Cambodia’s rural economy.

As far as rural constituencies are concerned, inflation might help to increase the support for the CPP’s “gift giving” policies.

Another challenge the CPP faces is illegal land grabbing. The presence of political stability and economic growth in the last decade has led the price of land to skyrocket as businesses and wealthy individuals engaged not so much in actual investment as in land speculation.

As the price of land rises, given weak conflict resolution mechanisms, problems associated with land grabbing have increased.

The opposition parties have capitalized on this issue for this year’s election.

Eng Chhay Eang has resigned from the Land Conflict Settlement Committee claiming that due to corruption and patronage within the committee, it has been ineffective in solving land conflicts.

This is an independent analysis based on reports from 13 Cambodia-based newspapers.

The views expressed are those of the author, Dr Un Kheang, assistant director at the Center for Southeast Asian Studies, Northern Illinois University.

Koh Kong, Preah Vihear targeted for increased tourism: minister

Courtesy of Phnom Penh Post at http://www.phnompenhpost.com

Written by Vong Sokheng
Friday, 02 May 2008

The beaches and mangroves of Cambodia’s Koh Kong province and the ancient Preah Vihear ruins will be the focus of a government push to promote tourism beyond the Angkor Wat temple complex, Tourism Minister Thong Khon has said.

“It is not all about Angkor,” Khon told the Post by telephone, referring to the World Heritage-listed temples in Siem Reap province that remain Cambodia’s greatest tourist attraction.

Koh Kong, a coastal province bordering Thailand in Cambodia’s southeast, is home to beaches, as well as tens of thousands of hectares of mangrove forest that have caught the government’s growing interest in eco-tourism, Khon said.

The area, long viewed by the masses as a seaside backwater, is already growing as a tourist destination, attracting 3,000 visitors over Khmer New Year in April, said provincial Deputy Governor Ben Samol.

He added that the completion of a 155-kilometer highway spanning four bridges through the province would further reduce Koh Kong’s isolation from the rest of Cambodia.

“I hope both local and foreign tourists will visit several eco-tourism sites in Koh Kong after the four bridges officially open,” Samol said, adding that by 2009 the province will need 3,000 hotel rooms to accommodate the tourism sector.

In the country’s north, the mountain top temple of Preah Vihear remains the focus of a border dispute between Cambodia and Thailand.

But Khon said despite the uncertainty over the land around the ruins’ ownership, Cambodia has begun construction on several roads to the temple.

Better infrastructure was key to opening up other parts of the country to increased tourism, he said.

“The opportunities for more tourism are coming and the government has built many roads to eco-tourism and heritage tourism sites,” he said.

More than two million tourists visited Cambodia last year, officials said, adding that they hoped Cambodia could push through the three million mark by 2010.

KRT forced to face translation crisis

TANG CHHIN SOTHY French Secretary of State in charge of Human Rights Rama Yade visits the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum in Phnom Penh on April 24 during a three-day official visit to Cambodia. Yade announced France, the second largest donor to the ECCC, would give $1 million this year to the court responsible for trying senior members of the Khmer Rouge.

Courtesy of Phnom Penh post at http://www.phnompenhpost.com

Written by Cat Barton
Friday, 02 May 2008

Threatening to complain to the UN over the “contempt” with which the French language is treated by the Khmer Rouge tribunal is a flamboyant way of drawing attention to a rather dull problem: the court’s massive translation backlog.

On April 23, notorious advocate Jacques Verges derailed the bail hearing of his client, former Khmer Rouge head of state Khieu Samphan, by refusing to participate on the grounds that 16,000 pages of evidence had not been translated into French.

“French is an official language of the tribunal but not a single document has been translated,” he told the Post after the hearing was suspended. “It is unacceptable. I was looked down on by the tribunal.”

While criticized as excessive, even a move of sabotage, Verges’s courtroom gamble underscores how easily an otherwise mundane bureaucratic function like translation can overshadow all the drama of an international genocide trial.

“The vast majority (of documents) are not translated into French,” said Alex Bates, the court’s senior assistant prosecutor.“They’re also not in English,” he added.

The ECCC uses three official languages – in addition to English and French, international staff have to grapple with linguistically vague Khmer documents, of which there are millions.

Translation alone accounts for a vast percentage of the court’s already stretched budget, and expanding its abilities to provide accurate copies of all documents, in all three languages, is the focus of a proposed budget increase that triples the original amount of money the ECCC was seeking from donors.

The tribunal’s $56.3 million was always far too small to complete the task at hand, some court officials have complained, with Co-prosecutor Robert Petit in the past calling the money constraints a “600-pound gorilla” that would have to be dealt with eventually.

That eventuality came earlier this year, with the ECCC facing insolvency and being forced to go to the donors for an additional $114 million – a significant percentage of which would go towards enlarging the court’s translation abilities.

“Translation is an issue that is much wider than just French,” said tribunal spokeswoman Helen Jarvis.

“The prosecutors file in English and Khmer, the co-investigating judges in French and Khmer, Marcel Lemonde [the co-investigating judge] is French … [co-investigating judge] You Bun Leng’s team trained in France, Robert Petit is a francophone, Chea Leang speaks German and Alex Bates is English,” she explained.

“The case file in particular is a growing object; every interview, every piece of evidence parties put in the case file adds to it and add to the backlog of what needs to be translated,” Jarvis told the Post on May 1.

The court has thus far relied on everyone “working constructively when faced with very real challenges: the amount of documentation, the limited number of translation staff available,” she said.

But Verges is, unsurprisingly, refusing to play ball, drawing accusations from prosecutors that he “ambushed” the court.

“Given the fact he should have known his position at least four months ago it was not appropriate to raise it only on the morning of the hearing,” Bates said.

Internal rule 75/4 of the ECCC states that if any party wishes to rely on arguments they must be provided in writing in advance.

“The appellant may not raise any matters of fact or law during the hearing which are not already set out in the submissions on appeal,” according to the rules.

Many observers were infuriated by what they saw as Verges stalling tactics.

Genocide researcher Youk Chhang, head of the Documentation Center of Cambodia, called it a “lousy way to defend even though it is legally justifiable.”

“The victims do not need that in this court,” he said.

Even Samphan’s 57-year-old wife, So Socheath, said she was disappointed not to see the “process of the hearing” take place as she is waiting “to see justice for both my husband and the victims,” she said.

KFC plans rapid expansion

KAY KIMSONG A KFC worker carries a plate of fried chicken during the official launch of the company’s first Cambodian outlet, on Monivong Boulevard in Phnom Penh, April 28.


Courtesy of Phnom Penh Post at http://www.phnompenhpost.com

Written by Kay Kimsong
Friday, 02 May 2008

KFC officially opened its first Cambodian outlet in Phnom Penh on April 28 and announced plans to open three more in the capital by the end of this year.

The joint venture company behind the outlet, Kampuchea Food Corp. Ltd, quickly won the support of Commerce Minister Cham Prasidh, who urged the company to bring more fast-food franchises to the country and speed up expansion of the KFC chain.

“I hope you bring Pizza Hut here because it will be a competitor of the Pizza Company,” he said, adding, “I want free and fair competition in Cambodia.”

Kampuchea Food Corp. was set up by Malaysian firm QSR Brands Bhd, the Cambodian investment and development company Royal Group of Companies Ltd and Hong Kong-incorporated investment holding firm Rightlink Corp. Ltd.QSR – which operates the Pizza Hut chain in Malaysia and Singapore – has a 55 percent stake while Royal Group and Rightlink share 35 percent and 10 percent is held by other investors.

Kampuchea Food Corp. plans to invest $1 million in additional restaurants by the end of the year to tap demand from the growing number of tourists visiting Cambodia, QSR chairman Muhammad Ali Hashim said at the launch of the KFC outlet on Monivong Blvd, which had its soft opening in March.

Royal Group chairman Kith Meng said promoting KFC in the Kingdom was a prudent business move on the back of global brand-building.“I think KFC is a well-known brand worldwide, so of course the market will accept it.

You can see the response of consumers,” Meng said.In addition to the four outlets targeted for Phnom Penh this year, KFC restaurants are also planned for Siem Reap, Sihanoukville, Poipet “and other provinces, wherever the most tourists go,” Meng said.

He added that the first outlet is using about 15,000 chickens a month, which are being sourced from Kampong Cham province.

“We are purchasing chicken from someone but in the future we will have our own chicken farm,” he said, pointing to QSR’s sales of 110,000 chickens a day in Malaysia as a model for Kampuchea Food Corp. to follow.

KFC currently employs 75 staff at its first 126-seat restaurant but Meng said he expected the company to eventually employ some 8,000 workers when its chicken farming operations were well established.

Prasidh said he was confident the Commerce Ministry’s quality control department would not have any problems with food served by KFC.

“Your brand name is worth more than a certificate from Cambodian Cam-control because I believe you are not going to sell us chicken with bird flu,” he said.

“My wife is one of your favorite customers,” he added, calling for the company to quickly implement its expansion plans.

“I don’t believe that four KFC outlets a year is enough because tourism is growing by about 25 to 30 percent a year,” he said.

Cambodia’s middle class is also being tapped by the company and QSR’s Ali Hashim said there had been an “exciting number” of Cambodian customers at the Monivong outlet since it first opened its doors in March.

Phnom Penh resident Sam Soeun, 36, said she had been taking her three children to KFC twice a week for the past month.

“My kids really like to eat fried chicken – they feel good doing the same thing they see people doing on cable TV,” she said.

Health officials, however, have urged parents to be careful about how much fast food they let their children eat.

“Fast food isn’t bad if you know the right way to have it. But if you encourage your kids to eat too much there will be health problems,” said Dr Veng Thai, the director of the Health Department for Phnom Penh Municipality, pointing out that fried chicken has more fat and oil than traditional Khmer dishes.

“I see many kids who are overweight because their eating habits are not appropriate, he said.

Cambodia's broken rice heading to West Africa

Courtesy of Phnom Penh Post at http://www.phnompenhpost.com

Written by Cheang Sokha
Friday, 02 May 2008

Cambodia is planning to export low-grade rice to Senegal in West Africa amid global concern about food shortages that have pushed prices of the cereal to record levels on world markets.

Minister of Commerce Cham Prasidh told reporters in Phnom Penh on April 28 that a Senegalese delegation was due in Cambodia soon to negotiate the purchase of 6,000 tons of broken rice.

“We will be exporting 100 percent broken rice, which we don’t eat in Cambodia,” Prasidh said.
“It is a good thing for one poor country to help another poor country; it can help to raise Cambodia’s international reputation,” he said of the prospective deal.

The government in early April suspended exports of high-grade unbroken rice for two months to ensure that Cambodia maintained ample stocks for domestic consumption.

Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Chan Sarun has said there was no concern about a shortage of rice in Cambodia because it produced an annual surplus of more than two million tons.

Speaking on April 24 during a visit to Rolea Piear district in Kampong Chhnang province to inspect the trial of an intensive cultivation system aimed at producing sharply increased yields, Sarun also said Cambodia had the potential to export up to eight million tons by 2015.

He was confident the target could be achieved if more farmers were able to produce two or three harvests of paddy a year.

His comments came after Prime Minister Hun Sen said in Phnom Penh the previous day that Cambodia would become one of the region’s main rice exporters by 2015.Rice is ‘white gold’Speaking at the Government-Private Sector Forum at the Council for the Development of Cambodia in Phnom Penh on April 23, Hun Sen said high rice prices were a boon for farmers who had produced a surplus.

“Our farmers have white gold in their hands,” Hun Sen told the forum, noting that rice had become more expensive than gasoline.
“We don’t need gasoline to live but if we do not have rice we will die,” he said, adding that the government had allocated $10 million to help stabilize prices after they rose sharply on the domestic market early in April.
Hun Sen said the money had been allocated to the state-owned Green Trade Co., and the League of Rice Millers Associations, which were using their distribution networks to supply the rice to markets.
The league’s president, Phou Puy, said the stabilization scheme had helped to halve the price of rice to about 2,000 riels a kilogram, depending on quality.

(Additional reporting by Kay Kimsong )

Gold Tower selling fast despite rumored pullout

TANG CHHIN SOTHY/ AFP A Gold Tower 42 employee shows a model apartment to Im Chhun Lim (L), Minister of Land Management and Urban Planning and Construction, and Nhim Vanda (2nd L), first vice president of the National Committee for Disaster Management of Cambodia, in this file photo taken January 24, 2008.


Courtesy of Phnom Penh Post at http://www.phnompenhpost.com

Written by Meas Sokchea
Friday, 02 May 2008

Five months after going on the market, 75 percent of the units in Gold Tower 42 have been sold, the developers of Cambodia’s first skyscraper say, denying suggestions that the project’s backers have pulled out of one of the country’s most ambitious construction efforts.

Reports widely circulated in the Khmer-language press say the project has stalled after its South Korean developers abandoned construction, leaving hundreds of depositors in limbo.

“A rumor is only a rumor,” said Lee Sun Hum, director of the Yon Woo company, which is building the $240-million high-rise.He compared the project to a slandered celebrity, saying, “Our company, being famous, must suffer from rumors created by others – it is not correct information.”

When completed in 2011, Gold Tower 42, which will include a library and medical facilities along with luxury apartments, will dwarf every other building in this low-slung capital.

Cambodia’s leaders are touting it as a symbol of the country’s revival after decades of civil strife.
But the 192-meter tower is only one of a number of large construction projects underway amid an unprecedented building boom that has increased competition among developers courting both foreign buyers and the capital’s emerging middle class.

Some 30 percent of Gold Tower’s buyers are from overseas, said Yon Woo sales manager San Sokseiha, adding that the building’s units were also popular with Cambodian businessmen and high-ranking government officials.

“Many floors have sold out even before construction started,” he told the Post, describing reports of the project’s turmoil as coming from competing developers.

Beg the question

Cambodian youngsters are being helped by charities such as Sunrise Angkor Children's Village
There are better ways to help in developing countries than handing out coins to children on the street, advises Christine Retschlag

May 03, 2008

THERE'S hardly a corner of the world where travellers can avoid poverty. Many of us, with just a few short days to experience a destination, grapple with ways in which to address the issue without making situations, such as begging, even worse.

At best, many travellers feel ineffectual and embarrassed and, at worst, some transform into the uncaring ugly Westerner.

But there are many practical and positive ways to make a difference. Kristie Kellahan, a writer who regularly volunteers at an orphanage in Chiang Mai, northern Thailand, suggests contacting aid organisations, such as the Red Cross, to assess the needs before you visit a country.

She advises travellers to think about what they are giving and avoid pushing Western values on to different cultures. "People come to visit the orphanage and want to give the children toys, lollies, soft drinks and ice cream," she says. " But what would be useful is nappies for the babies, blank exercise books, pencils, sharpeners and things like that for the older ones."

Kellahan says while it is important not to judge the actions of fellow tourists, there are often more constructive ways to make a difference than handing money to beggars. "By supporting kids selling postcards and chewing gum, it encourages families to send them to the city and they may be missing out on going to school. It's damaging for kids who make money when they are cute and young, but when they get older they can't make money any more."

In countries such as Laos, many children have never owned a book, let alone read one. In June 2006, in Luang Prabang, the Big Brother Mouse program opened its doors, publishing colourful and educational books in English and Lao. Travellers to this charming town can visit two centres -- recognisable by the cut-out mouse outside -- and read or speak in English with local children. Outside the town centre, tourists can purchase packs of educational books that come with a set of useful instructions, such as not to give the books to the most forward children on arrival in a village but consider the shy child in the corner who is likelier to share. Or, where possible, present the books to a local teacher.

In Cambodia's Siem Reap, the gateway town to Angkor Wat, the La Noria hotel has dedicated two massage rooms by the pool where blind masseuses offer massages to guests priced from about $US5 ($5.35). All money goes directly to the masseuses, for whom extreme poverty would otherwise be a certainty. Also in Siem Reap, Raffles Hotel d'Angkor supports the Sunrise Angkor Children's Village, a local orphanage that opened in 1979 after the fall of the Khmer Rouge regime and is managed by the Australia Cambodia Foundation. Every Sunday, between 2pm and 3pm, children at the orphanage dress in exquisite costumes and perform traditional Cambodian dance and music. Entry is free but donations are gratefully accepted.

Kerin Ord, World Vision team leader for southern Africa, the Middle East and eastern Europe, warns travellers to be aware of scams that exploit children.

"Be wary of giving money to young children begging, they could belong to a Fagan-like organisation in which children are exploited. The children don't get to keep the money but have to pass it on to the leaders," she says.

"If you want to give something, consider small gifts such as pens or clip-on koalas or offer to buy them a meal or some water. While you may want to buy a soccer ball for the children to play with, what they may really need is food.

"People who are moved by their experiences shouldn't forget about it as soon as they get home. Harness that passion and become engaged in global issues; maybe join the Make Poverty History campaign or volunteer for a reputable charity."

In Code Green: Experiences of a Lifetime (Lonely Planet, $29.95), editor Kerry Lorimer cites "indiscriminate giving by tourists" as a contributing factor behind a "begging culture that undermines traditional culture and social structures" in many countries.

"As a traveller, you're seen less as a human being and more as a piggy bank," she writes.

"Alternatively, you could choose not to give to anyone, but to refuse someone genuinely suffering can border on inhumane. The best approach probably lies somewhere in the middle and where that middle is, is up to you. You might decide that someone (who) performs a small service should be rewarded with a tip, or that mothers with children, entertainers, holy men and women and-or the disabled may deserve a contribution.

"Perhaps best of all, try to give of yourself, rather than your wealth. Share a joke or a meal, start a conversation, pull out photos of your kids or home town or play a game."

Travel wholesaler Peregrine and Geckos Asia destination manager Becky Last advises travellers to try to see beyond the beggar to the person. "It's really hard for us to identify with the people who are tugging at us demanding money, but try to retain your sense of compassion, and playfulness with the kids," she says. "Those truly living hand-to-mouth on the streets can't afford to stop begging, but for those kids who are trying it on with the tourists or to see if it works or what they can get, a game or messing about with a pad and paper for five to 10 minutes is a healthier interaction for everyone."

www.redcross.org.au
www.bigbrothermouse.com
www.lanoriaangkor.com
www.siemreap.raffles.com
www.makepovertyhistory.com.au
www.sunrisechildrensvillage.org

Govt loses millions trying to curb gasoline prices

TANG CHHIN SOTHY/ AFP A vendor fills a motorbike with gasoline in Phnom Penh – an increasingly costly activity but one that could have been even more expensive this year had the government raised taxes on fuel importers as global oil prices rose to record highs.

Courtesy of Phnom Penh Post at http://www.phnompenhpost.com

Written by Cheang Sokha
Friday, 02 May 2008

With gasoline hovering around record highs of 5,000 riels per liter, Prime Minister Hun Sen said the government has struggled to curb pump prices, losing tens of millions of dollars in a bid to keep fuel costs affordable.

Speaking April 23 at the Government-Private Sector Forum, Hun Sen said $240 million in potential tax revenue had been lost since the beginning of 2007, when the government decided not to raise the per-liter tax on fuel importers to keep pace with spiraling world oil prices.

“This factor is behind the less sharp rise of gasoline prices in Cambodia compared to neighboring countries and the price of oil on the international market,” Hun Sen told several hundred Cambodian and international participants at the forum.

Despite global oil trading at all-time highs – prices struck over $119 in late April – Cambodia has kept its tax on fuel at between 1,700 and 2,000 riels per liter, according to officials.

This, however, has not prevented a spike in fuel costs – including cooking gas – that has hit hard in Cambodia, where more than a third of the country’s 14 million people are mired in poverty.

The high prices have also encouraged smuggling from outside of the country, further adding to the burden on consumers, said Yim Sovann, chairman of the National Assembly’s Commission on Home Affairs, National Defense, Investigation and Anti-Corruption.

“This seriously affects the livelihoods of civil servants and workers who earn small incomes,” Sovann told the Post on April 28.“Their income and their expenses are not balanced.”

Prok Yan, a 53 year-old rice farmer in Kampong Chhnang province, said the diesel fuel he is using to run his irrigation pump is now four times as expensive as the dry season rice he is growing.

“If I sell four kilograms of paddy rice, then I can buy one liter of diesel,” he said. “What’s the point? I’m not happy with the price of oil at the moment as it is rising like it will never stop.”

The discovery of offshore oil by the US energy giant Chevron has raised hopes that domestic petroleum production could insulate Cambodia from rising world fuel prices, according to Men Den of the Cambodian National Petroleum Authority.

But with production not expected to start until 2011 at the earliest, Cambodians are going to have to weather out the current inflationary storm that has spread to other consumer goods like food, said Kang Chan Dararot, president of the Cambodian Institute of Development Study.

“People see no solution which could curb the rising price of gasoline,” Dararot said.

“It not only affects farmers but also local and international investors.”

Dengue cases down but risks remain as rainy season looms

CAT BARTON A boy sits on scales while receiving a checkup at Angkor Children’s Hospital in Siem Reap province last November at the tail end of a dengue fever epidemic in which nearly 40,000 Cambodian’s contracted the illness.

Courtesy of Phnom Penh Post at http://www.phnompenhpost.com

Written by Meas Sokchea
Friday, 02 May 2008

The number of dengue fever cases has plummeted in the first four months of this year, compared to the same period in 2007, said health officials who warned, however, that fewer people were taking precautions against the disease and the country could still face an epidemic with the approaching wet season.

Some 427 people had contracted the mosquito-borne illness by the end of April, resulting in eight deaths, said Dr Nga Chantha, head of Cambodia’s dengue program at the National Malaria Center.

That is far fewer than the more than 2,000 people who had fallen ill by this time last year, he told the Post on April 29.

Nearly 40,000 people contracted dengue and hundreds of people – mostly young children – died of the disease during 2007 in one of the worst outbreaks in decades.

To prevent a repeat of last year’s epidemic, Chantha urged better cooperation between the public and health officials conducting education campaigns about the disease, which is marked by high fevers and crippling headaches or joint pain.

In its worst, often fatal form, dengue hemorrhagic fever the disease destroys the blood vessels, causing its victims to bleed profusely and go into shock.

People have been asked to keep their living areas free of standing water, in which mosquitoes breed, as well as received handouts of the insecticide Abate, 200 hundred tons of which are distributed each year, according to Chantha.

“But some people want the experts to carry out the preventative work for them. They do not seem to be taking dengue fever very seriously,” he said.

“Our experts go and try to give people advice but they have not followed through … dengue is neglected here, but in the region, Cambodia has one of the highest risks for this disease,” he added.

Dengue is the most common mosquito-borne viral disease of humans that in recent years has become a major international health concern, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Worldwide, 2.5 billion people live in areas where dengue viruses can be transmitted, leading to the global resurgence of epidemic dengue fever and emergence of dengue hemorrhagic fever in the past 25 years, the WHO said on its website.

PM warns private sector ahead of election

File Photo Prime Minister Hun Sen confidently announced April 23 he would solve a host of economic problems, but warned the nation could slide back into political chaos if his party, the CPP, did not win national elections this July.


Courtesy of Phnom Penh Post at http://www.phnompenhpost.com

Written by Susan Postlewaite
Friday, 02 May 2008

Sitting center stage at the head of a retinue of top government officials, Prime Minister Hun Sen opened this year’s annual Government-Private Sector Forum with an announcement that his finance minister, Keat Chhon, had a laundry list of obstacles hobbling commerce in Cambodia.

He then confidently pronounced to the April 23 gathering of hundreds of foreign and Cambodian business people that, “the prime minister will solve all of these problems.”

Over the next several hours an animated Hun Sen bellowed, joked, cajoled and criticized his way through a characteristically earthy performance usually reserved for building political capital with farmers in some distant province.

But this time he was playing to a crowd of mostly private sector leaders, bluntly soliciting for their backing in upcoming national elections … or else.

“In Southeast Asia no one has been longer in premiership than Hun Sen. But I also need to win the election … I need private sector support,” he said.

“If I lose (and there is instability) you might have to flee the country,” he warned, drawing together business and politics ahead of national elections on July 27 in which the economy is likely to play a key role.

Crime to rise in 2008: expert

Courtesy of Phnom Penh Post at http://www.phnompenhpost.com

Written by Sebastian Strangio and Khouth Sophak Chakrya
Friday, 02 May 2008

Politics, inflation get blame

A steady decline in crimes against people in Phnom Penh since 2001 could be reversed this year because of rampant inflation and rising political tensions ahead of the general election in July, experts have warned.

Changing Crime In Phnom Penh, a recent study by Rod Broadhurst and Thierry Bouhours of Australia’s Griffith University, surveyed 1,092 households in the capital and found that Phnom Penh has lower rates of crimes against people than London, New York, Amsterdam, Copenhagen and Buenos Aires.

Just 24 percent of Phnom Penh respondents reported being a victim of crime in 2006, compared with 46 percent in 2001, the study said.

However, while crime in Phnom Penh is down across the board, Broadhurst suggested that the gains were fragile and could easily be threatened by the spiraling cost of basic commodities such as gas, which rose above 5,000 riels a liter for the first time in April.

“Our surveys tell us that there has been a significant drop in street crime, in street corruption, and wealth creation has been very important in contributing to this decline,” said Broadhurst.

_______________________________________

“But I’m concerned about the prices of basic commodities like rice. I’m concerned that there could be a spike (in crime) out of desperation,” he said.

_______________________________________

“I’m concerned about the prices of basic commodities like rice. I’m concerned that there could be a spike (in crime) out of desperation.”

Mok Chito, chief of the Crime Department at the Ministry of Interior, said crime was down by more than 16 percent in 2007, or 724 fewer cases than in 2006.

Chito said the fall was due to community cooperation to eradicate crime.

“NGOs, the police, the media and the people have all cooperated to reduce crime,” he said. “We’ve all done it together – not just the police.”

Chito doubted whether inflation would reverse the decline, arguing that “anger and revenge” cause crime, not the cost of food. “If someone is strongly vengeful, they will commit crime,” he said.

As inflation looms as a key issue in the July 27 national elections, human rights groups have warned the coming months may see an increase in violence against political dissidents, a crime that goes unreported in official statistics.

Ny Chakrya, head of the monitoring section at the Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association, is skeptical of Ministry of Interior figures showing declines in crimes against people, from 58.5 per 100,000 in 1998 to 32.4 per 100,000 in 2005.

He could not comment on rates of burglary or theft, but said human rights abuses had already risen this year.

“What the ministry will publicize is not true. It is very selective and very manipulated,” Chakrya said. “I don’t see the Ministry of Interior publishing a report about human rights violations.”
Still, Broadhurst is confident that political stability and economic growth will continue to reduce crime over the long term.

Compared with 26 other cities around the world, Phnom Penh rates among the lowest for violent assault, with less than a tenth of the levels in Johannesburg, while sexual and other assaults against women are also low in global terms.

He also observed a notable increase in the trust shown in Cambodia’s police force.
“There were, particularly in rural areas, pretty significantly positive attitudes towards most police,” Broadhurst said.

“It’s very important not to paint too grim a picture.”

Snakes, turtles seized in Battambang

Courtesy of Phnom Penh Post at http://www.phnompenhpost.com

Written by AFP
Friday, 02 May 2008

Cambodian authorities have seized nearly half a ton of live pythons and turtles that were being smuggled from Thailand to Vietnam, a wildlife conservationist group said on May 1. The animals, which included 11 reticulated pythons, 13 Burmese pythons and 257 turtles, were confiscated on April 28 in Battambang province, the Wildlife Alliance said. Most of the animals had been “illegally collected (in Cambodia) and had been moved to a large-scale holding facility in Thailand before eventually being shipped to Vietnam through Cambodia,” the group said in a statement. Weighing 418.5 kilograms, the haul of creatures included Asian box turtles, Malayan snail-eating turtles, black marsh turtles, 12 threatened yellow-headed temple turtles, and two red-eared slider turtles. The animals were confiscated from a Chevrolet pick-up truck with military license plates, the group said, adding that a 32-year-old military lieutenant was being questioned. (AFP)

Khmer chess tourney to formalize game

Courtesy of Phnom Penh Post at http://www.phnompenhpost.com

Written by The Phnom Penh Post
Friday, 02 May 2008

The Cambodian Chess Association (CCA) and the Olympic Committee of Cambodia (OCC) will jointly hold the First Khmer Chess Tournament from May 3-4 in order to standardize and highlight the game. The winner will receive $1,000 while the runner-up and third place will receive $700 and $500 respectively. Participating teams are to be established on provincial or municipal basis. CCA chairman Ly Hout told China’s Xinhua news agency he had raised $10,000 to encourage Cambodians to find and submit historical relics that could tell the real origin of the centuries-old sport. Khmer chess is a popular pastime here, although there have been no national matches yet as the OCC and CCA only recently certified the rules, Hout said.

Inflation causes voter apathy

Courtesy of Phnom Penh Post at http://www.phnompenhpost.com

Written by Khouth Sophak Chakrya
Friday, 02 May 2008

Spiraling inflation is emerging as a key issue ahead of national polls on July 27, election monitors say, warning that the rising cost of living could keep people from traveling to distant voting booths.

“They are worried that their income is not high enough to pay for food and transportation,” said Koul Panha, executive director of the Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia.

He told the Post there were already indications low-income voters would stay away from the polls, citing falling turnout in the 2007 commune council elections that he attributed partially to higher living costs. Only about 70 percent of eligible voters cast ballots last year, compared to highs exceeding 90 percent in previous national elections when living was cheaper, he said, appealing for greater turnout in July.

But some voters say they have become disillusioned with politics and what they see as the failure of Cambodia’s leaders to address the issues affecting everyday life.

“I stopped believing in politicians,” said one vegetable vendor in Phnom Penh’s Tuol Sangke Market, adding that politicians often win office on empty promises. “I won’t vote anymore because I’d rather concentrate on growing vegetables to sell at the market so I can support my family and educate my children,” she said.

Some low-income workers said voting, which required them to travel to their distant home provinces, was a waste of money.

“It will cost me money to travel to the province to vote and I can’t afford to do that because, on my income, I can barely afford enough to eat,” said garment worker Ros Vuthy, who is registered to vote in Svay Rieng province bordering Vietnam.

But Tep Nytha, secretary-general of the National Election Committee, downplayed the effects of inflation, saying it should not deter voters.

“I don’t believe that voters are so ignorant that they will give up their right to vote,” he said.

Govt kept in dark over Preah Vihear talks

Courtesy of Phnom Penh Post at http://www.phnompenhpost.com

Written by Vong Sokheng
Friday, 02 May 2008

Cambodia was unaware of the abrupt cancellation of this week’s talks with Thailand and UNESCO over the disputed Preah Vihear temple, a government spokesman said April 30, adding that the government has been kept in the dark over rescheduling of the mediation session.

Both countries were invited by the UN Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization to a two-day meeting in Paris starting May 2 to discuss the listing of the ancient temple on the Thai-Cambodian border as a World Heritage Site.

However, less than a week out from the meeting, Thai officials said UNESCO had postponed the Paris talks and the UN organization would now send its coordinator on the matter, Francesco Caruso, to meet separately with the Thai and Cambodian governments.

But Phay Siphan, spokesman of Cambodia’s Council of Ministers, said Phnom Penh had not been informed of any changes to the meeting.

“We did not receive any official notification from UNESCO in Paris about canceling the meeting between Thailand and Cambodia over the listing of the ancient temple,” Siphan told the Post.

He also downplayed the importance of the talks, saying the key issue of ownership over the Preah Vihear ruins had been settled in 1962 when the International Court of Justice ruled they were within Cambodia’s borders.

“We don’t have any conflict with Thailand and it is not necessary to have a coordinator when there isn’t a problem, because the temple is the sovereign property of Cambodia,” Siphan said.

He added that the Cambodian government expected Preah Vihear to be officially approved as a World Heritage Site when the UNESCO committee next meets in early July.

A political dynasty in the making? Meet Lon Rith

VANDY RATTANA Lon Rith, president of the Khmer Republican Party, plays down his political ties to the past, saying, “Don’t think of us as republicans.”

Courtesy of Phnom Post at http://www.phnompenhpost.com

Written by Sebastian Strangio
Friday, 02 May 2008

How much political capital Lon Nol, founder of the ill-fated Khmer Republic, still has in Cambodia is debatable. But his son, Lon Rith, founder and president of the Khmer Republican Party (KRP), thinks his family tree will stand him in good stead for this July’s national elections.

The 46-year-old father of four has not lived in Cambodia for nearly four decades, but now he’s back with a new political party and a self-professed desire to bring “true democracy” to the Kingdom.

Although he left the country just before his father’s 1970 coup against then-head of state Prince Norodom Sihanouk, Rith says he has “pleasant memories” of the “good times” in Cambodia during that period.

Unsurprisingly, King Father Norodom Sihanouk hated Lon Nol, who died in exile in America in 1985, and the passage of years has done little to ease this animosity. On April 26, less than a week after Rith arrived in the Kingdom, Sihanouk issued a statement reiterating his disgust with the Lonnolians who were, he claimed, “world champions in matters of corruption.”

Rith stops short of admitting the abolition of the monarchy was a mistake – “let’s just say that that’s history,” he says – but he does claim he would not repeat such a move. “In this day and age you have to do things diplomatically,” he said.

He spoke to the Post’s Sebastian Strangio at his party’s modest headquarters in downtown Phnom Penh, where photographs of his late father line the walls.

______________________________________

What has prompted you to return to Cambodia?
I am Cambodian. And just like any other Cambodian, I want to help my country and give everybody a chance to prosper. I believe that there are quite a few things that our party can do to help the people.

What are the core principles of the KRP?
We want to be able to elevate the people, give them a voice, and give them not just hope but the basic needs and necessities: food, education, jobs and a higher standard of living. There are always ways to improve the current system. I, who have lived abroad, have seen how different countries have established democracy and I want to bring that same system here to Cambodia.

Critics say you’ve been away so long you don’t know Cambodia well enough to govern. What is your response?
I don’t mind them criticizing me. I believe that if I had come here when I was in my 20s, the way I would have approached things would have been very different. Before you do something you have to know what you really want to do; you don’t just jump into it on an impulse. The KRP is a result of a long process of thought and the realization of what I can do to help my country.

Where will the KRP get its support?
No party wants to win support with just money. In order for the party to make a difference, you need [to speak with] the people’s voice, and that’s where we draw support, from the people. I believe that Cambodians – regardless of their ethnic backgrounds or their beliefs – all want democracy. And I believe that the KRP can help turn that idealism into a reality.

Do you anticipate success in the July elections?
We feel that we have a very good chance to win a few parliamentary seats and to establish a base amongst the Cambodian people. And if the people want to make a difference and want us to help them, we welcome them with an open heart. I believe that we do have support in Cambodia, and I believe that we will genuinely be able to help people.

What do you remember about growing up in Cambodia in the 1970s?
After I left Cambodia [in 1969], I visited my family every vacation until the country fell and I know what my father tried to do. I personally assisted him, not back in Cambodia, but after the country fell. And I did get some experience seeing the Khmer Republic at the time, [watching] what my father did and how [the Republic] functioned. My main recollection was staying with my parents at our home and going on outings with my father.

What do you think were the greatest successes of the Khmer Republic?
I believe that the Khmer Republic lifted up the people, elevated their pride as nationalists. They did things that no other country at the time would have done. Even though there was a civil war going on, many people did all they could in order to prevent the situation that came afterwards. And I have to give them credit for that.

Do you think history has judged the Khmer Republic harshly?
I believe that the history has not been fully in the open, not for the general public. This period in history is critical, not just because it’s part of the history of Cambodia but because it’s part of the history of the world. Suppose the period from 1776 until the end of the (American) Revolution was erased from American history, and it only continued after the country moved forward, forgetting the period where Americans fought for their freedom – that’s what it amounts to if you erase the era between 1970 and 1975.

Do have a message for Cambodian voters before the elections?
I want to tell the Cambodian people that we are here to help them out. We’re not here as a political party – don’t think of us as republicans. First of all, we’re all Cambodians. And secondly, we want to be able to establish a country that gives the people a voice in the elections. We want to be able to give everyone a fair chance, and we want not only democracy but we want to bring about true democracy, which would help everyone regardless of class, ethnicity, religion or gender.

Beggars to get the boot from top tourist sites

VANDY RATTANA A policeman watches over beggars on the Phnom Penh riverfront April 30, ahead of a nationwide crackdown on panhandling at Cambodia’s most popular tourist sites.

Courtesy of Phnom Penh Post at http://www.phnompenhpost.com

Written by Post Staff
Friday, 02 May 2008

They’re seen in increasing numbers on the streets of Phnom Penh and other tourist destinations in Cambodia; the maimed and whole, children and the elderly, sometimes a mother, one hand outstretched to passersby while the other cradles a limp infant.

Begging is nothing new to Cambodia, where millions are destitute, but as increasing numbers of foreign tourists flock to the Kingdom, those panhandling for their money have also multiplied and, according to some, are threatening the very source of their livelihood.

“If beggars continue to do what they do, we will lose tourist numbers,” said Minister of Tourism Thong Khon, speaking to the Post on April 29 about the government’s plans to clear panhandlers from tourist sites.

Officials are meeting May 5 in Siem Reap province, home to the famed Angkor Wat temples, where they intend to kick off their anti-begging campaign after a recent surge in aggressive panhandling at the popular Chong Khneas floating villages at the mouth of the Tonle Sap Lake.

There, dozens of beggars have begun rowing boats out to the restaurants frequented by foreigners to ask for money.

When none is given, “they throw water on the tourists … they are creating disorder,” said Khon. “They can do many things for money besides begging from tourists … it leaves the tourists with a bad image and they may talk to their friends about this begging.”

Past attempts to remove beggars from popular tourist areas like Phnom Penh’s riverfront promenade have met with mixed results.

The beggars eventually come back, seemingly in larger numbers and still without any other source of income other than to panhandle.

“I wouldn’t try to get rid of the people – (the government) should try to support the people more, it should change something in its political system to help those people to stop begging instead of just removing them,” said German tourist Roland Wenks, who was traveling in Siem Reap.

This time, the government has embarked on an ambitious campaign not just to simply remove beggars, but also to give them an alternate source of income that keeps them from looking for handouts, Khon said.

“The ministry has asked provincial authorities to take beggars to a place where they can start new jobs,” Khon said.

“We have to provide them with jobs such as selling newspapers, books, selling souvenirs or selling drinks for tourists,” he added.

“In general at tourism sites there should be no such thing as poor people because everyone should benefit from tourists.”
In some popular tourist areas the problem is not as acute.

Downtown Siem Reap, with its hordes of foreign visitors, has relatively few beggars compared to Phnom Penh and visitors interviewed there said they were not bothered by the few panhandlers they encountered.

“To a degree I expect them,” said Australian Rick Stevenson.

“You give the occasional one a bit of money when you can afford it, so at the end of the day no, no problems with beggars,” he told the Post.

But giving money to panhandlers is exactly what encourages more begging, say advocates – particularly those working with street children.

Instead, groups like ChildSafe International are urging greater cooperation among the government, NGOs and travelers to aid those who have been reduced to panhandling.

“We don’t want to be critical of the government – we believe the best way is to work with them,” ChildSafe International coordinator Mark Turgesen told the Post on April 30.

“If we have [government] support to promote ChildSafe to travelers in Cambodia we have a better chance of making sure these beggars have a chance to live their lives off their street,” he added

Coalition offers reveal opposition in disarray


TANG CHHIN SOTHY/ AFP SRP leader Sam Rainsy says he wants a mass coalition of all political parties who oppose the ruling CPP, but analysts say the pride of party leaders could hamper any potential merger.

Courtesy of Phnom Penh Post at http://www.phnompenhpost.com

Written by Meas Sokchea
Friday, 02 May 2008

It was only moments after his return on April 29 from a campaign sweep through Canada and the US that political leader Sam Rainsy declared his readiness to merge with Cambodia’s two other major opposition parties as the country races towards national elections in July.

Only such a marriage would have a chance at diminishing the power of Prime Minister Hun Sen’s ruling Cambodian People’s Party’s (CPP), which observers expect will become absolute in the absence of the coalition government deals which have resulted from previous polls.

But Rainsy’s offer was not without conditions and accusations aimed at the very partners he is seeking, something analysts say reveals an opposition hopelessly at odds with itself and unlikely to loosen the CPP’s stranglehold over Cambodia’s political affairs.

“They do not have confidence in each other,” said Chea Vannath, the former director of the Center for Social Development who is now an independent analyst.

“They must merge together to compete with the CPP, but ... they cannot call for a coalition only as the election arrives,” she told the Post on April 30.

“A coalition is a very important force, but each (party leader) is too proud and will not agree to work together.”

Corruption, legal problems and even messy personal lives have come into play and Rainsy and leaders of the Human Rights Party (HRP), headed by former activist Kem Sokha, and Prince Norodom Ranariddh’s self-named political organization point fingers at each other, while at the same time pledging to support a coalition.

Upon returning to Cambodia, Rainsy demanded that the “weak points” of both of his potential allies be addressed or all three risked being “held hostage” by the CPP.

Kem Sokha, who has been at the center of a vicious whisper campaign over alleged graft, needed to sort out corruption allegations made by his former employees at the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, according to Rainsy.

The Prince, in self-imposed exile since he was ousted as head of the royalist Funcinpec party amid a flurry of legal assaults, including one for adultery, must tidy up his private affairs, Rainsy said.

“No one else can help him with that,” he told the Post.

These comments have not gone down well, with Kem Sokha shooting back that Rainsy – the long-time darling of foreign pro-democracy campaigners – has no real commitment to form a coalition, as well as legal problems of his own that could jeopardize the opposition’s election chances.

The HRP has long pushed for a coalition with the two other opposition parties, but the plan is still “a failure,” Sokha said, adding that while he would unconditionally join Rainsy, he did not know if he could merge with the Prince’s Norodom Ranariddh Party, or NRP.

“He (Ranariddh) is different from me,” he said, accusing the NRP of shamelessly using a joint meeting with his own group to encourage defections to the NRP.

“This is a divide and rule policy it does not demonstrate the good will you need to form a democratic coalition,” Sokha said.
The disarray is, however, just more evidence of the CPP’s pending election landslide, according to government spokesman Khieu Kanharith.

“This is five riels being divided between three people,” he told the Post on May 1.

The opposition “merged many times before but those mergers were always broken – it is no worry to the CPP,” he said.

Officials at the NRP, while professing to want a coalition, claim that the two other parties simply waited until it was too close to the July 27 elections to realistically merge.

Registration for parties ends on May 12, and NRP spokesman Muth Chantha said, “When the election will arrive so soon why … hold press conferences about coalitions?

“We cannot merge now into one big party, it is too late. It is very deceptive to claim we can.”

Credibility remains elusive for the fractious opposition, said Koul Panha, executive director of the Cambodian election monitor Committee for Free and Fair Elections, and the most recent bickering does not help.

“The merger must be sincere … but do these three leaders have the will to do this?” he said.

Microsoft targeting kids, not criminals

HENG CHIVOAN Pirated versions of Microsoft programs are readily available in Phnom Penh stores.

Courtesy of Phnom Penh Post at http://www.phnompenhpost.com


Written by Brendan Brady
Friday, 02 May 2008

Microsoft will not wage a war on piracy in Cambodia and will instead focus on cultivating a new generation of computer users loyal to the company, the American software giant said.

While Microsoft estimates about 98 percent of its products in Cambodia are bootlegs, the company can still make progress without targeting illegal production and distribution, according to Pily Wong, general manager of Microsoft’s office in Cambodia.

Microsoft can promote its software “by turning people onto it at a young age so they are familiar with the brand and how to use it,” Wong told the Post, predicting greater penetration of programs in the country, even if they are not the real McCoy.

“There can be education in Microsoft software. Even if people are using pirated software, when they get older they might be able to afford the genuine version,” he said.

Legal software costs several hundred dollars and up, while pirated copies sell for about $5 in markets.

There were rumors Microsoft was contemplating a piracy crackdown when the company launched its “Marketing Development Program for Cambodia” in March.

“Microsoft is working along with industry partners to make consumers aware of the increasing risks associated with acquiring and installing counterfeit software, such as exposure to critical issues and identify theft,” Wong said.

“But targeting piracy is not Microsoft’s mission,” he added.

“We’re a business. We’re not the police, we’re not the government. BSA (Business Software Alliance) is doing their job in other countries and it worked, and one day they might come to Cambodia.”

The Business Software Alliance is a privately funded trade group that represents a number of the world’s largest software makers, including Microsoft. Its principal activity is trying to stop copyright infringement – an activity it claims costs the software industry over $11 billion a year.

In March, Microsoft unveiled a market plan for Cambodia to take advantage of what it calls a “budding and opportunistic” environment for IT.

The company has teamed up with local retailers to improve technical support for buyers. It is also planning to provide training sessions for local universities and companies to improve their understanding of Microsoft products.

Wong said Microsoft will use a business model previously applied in Vietnam, where it first opened an office in 1996 and now earns around $10 million annually.

“Cambodia is a developing country with big potential,” Wong said. “Microsoft has had huge success in Vietnam, and the logical next step was to move to Cambodia.

“In Vietnam, the office started with five people and now it has around 160 ten years later.”

Wong said the growing number of computers in Cambodia – it estimates that growth at 25 percent a year – and age demographics, with about half the population under 20 years of age, were promising indicators for Microsoft’s entry.

The country’s economic growth and political stability also helped woo the company, he added.

“The country is very stable now and the government is really open to expanding the IT sector. They believe IT will help the country leap to catch up to its neighbors,” Wong said.

He added that Cambodia’s entry into the World Trade Organization, which in theory holds Cambodia to enforcing international copyright laws, did not factor into Microsoft’s decision to set up shop in the Kingdom.