Friday, 15 August 2008

The Thais should withdraw from Preah Vihear this weekend

Cambodge Soir
15-08-2008

Cambodia and Thailand are expected to highly decrease their military presence around the disputed pagoda before the 18th of August.

The military authorities of both Kingdoms agreed that the Thai and Cambodian troops which are stationed around the Preah Vihear temple should be withdrawing, stated General Neang Phat, Secretary of State for Defence and Director of the Committee for the border dispute resolution of Preah Vihear, on Thursday the 14th of August.

The agreement was made following a meeting in Surin, Thailand, between Neang Phat, General Suchith Phiprapha, Commander of region II of Thailand and General Nithat Thonglek, Commander in Chief of the Royal Thai Army Forces.

These two countries should only leave “the strict minimum number of soldiers” at the border, a few dozens only, according to Neang Phat who didn’t want to communicate precise numbers.

Today, about 200 Thai soldiers are stationed at the pagoda which is located in the disputed area around the temple of Preah Vihear, said Neang Phat.

The withdrawal of troops should be done before the 18th of August, on the day of the expected meeting between Hor Nam Hong and his Thai counterpart.

The monks and nuns will still be authorised to enter the site.

Concerning the Ta Moan Thom temple, Neang Phat declared having been on the site after the meeting in Surin, during which the subject hadn’t been mentioned.

“I asked the Thai soldiers to take away the fences which they had put up, did he say. They should do so today [Thursday 14th of August].”

The Thai army returned on the site on the 9th of August, after having left it on the 5th of August.

The markets of the capital city will undergo a facelift

Kep Chuktema, Phnom Penh Governor. © AN

Cambodge Soir
15-08-2008

The renovation works of phsar Thmey have started at the beginning of the summer. The authorities already expect to start works at two other sites.

On Tuesday 12th of August, the Phnom Penh Governor welcomed several hundreds of shopkeepers from the Central Market in order to calm the atmosphere while the latter are protesting against de decrease in size of their stands.

During his monologue which lasted about twenty minutes, Chep Chuktema announced that the next markets to be renovated will be phsar Kandal, followed by phsar Chas.

For what concerns phsar Thmey, he wishes construction works to progress quickly because: “Phnom Penh city will organise a ceremony to celebrate its 575th birthday and to commemorate the victory of the 7th of January 1979”.

In 2009, Cambodia will celebrate the 30th birthday of the fall of the Pol Pot regime.

Avian flu prevention in the heart of the markets

Cambodge Soir
15-08-2008

Today, the Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries is launching a series of interventions in Kampong Thom amongst a dozen markets where live poultry is being sold.

Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, this action aims to sensitise the shopkeepers to the avian flu problem. “The goal is to help the market leaders, the poultry sellers, the butchers and the middlemen to understand the importance of respecting certain sanitary security measures in order to protect their source of revenue from avian influenza”, explains Kao Phal, director of the animal health department. Without sanitary measures, the markets are indeed a favourable breeding ground for diseases and thus expose man to possible contamination. The delegation will consequently teach the shopkeepers about the ways avian influenza is being transmitted as well as how to prevent a possible epidemic. This can be done through simple actions like the regular cleansing of the shop stands and birdcages, or by systematically separating chickens from ducks, the latter being natural carriers of the disease.

The last victim of avian flu was a poultry seller who picked up dead chickens in order to sell them. She died in April 2005, at the age of 20.

Cambodia - News : Border dispute - 15.08.2008

Cambodia - Olympic games in Beijing - 08.08.2008

Sacravatoons : " Preah Vihear Khmer-Temple "

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

Sacravatoons :" 90 Seats "

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

Day in Picture: Heavy Rain in Phnom Penh caused flooding

Ponloeu Hemthon of Cambodia removes his goggles after his men's 50m freestyle swimming heat at the National Aquatics Center during the 2008 Beijing Olympics, August 14, 2008.REUTERS/Jason Reed (CHINA)

A Cambodian boy dives into the swollen water of the Tonle Sap River in front of Royal Palace in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Wednesday, Aug. 13, 2008.(AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

Cambodian children play around a well near by their home at a resettlement village for people who were evicted from a slum in Samroang Thom village outskirt of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Friday, Aug. 15, 2008.(AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

A Cambodian puppy, left, carries a plastic bag on a muddy dirt road in a resettlement village for people who were evicted from a slum in Samroang Thom village outskirt of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Friday, Aug. 15, 2008.(AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

Boys jump into the Basak river as a tourist boat sails in front of the royal palace during heavy rain in Phnom Penh August 14, 2008.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA)

Boys push a motorcycle as they play in the streets of Phnom Penh after heavy rain August 14, 2008.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA)

A boy waves at people as he plays in the streets of Phnom Penh after heavy rain August 14, 2008.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA)

Cambodia says ready for troop pullback

International Herald Tribune
The Associated Press
Published: August 15, 2008

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia: Cambodian officials said Friday that their troops are ready to pull back from the frontier with Thailand under an agreement to ease a month of military tension on disputed territory near an ancient border temple.

The standoff erupted near the 11th century Preah Vihear temple on July 15 after UNESCO, the U.N.'s cultural agency, approved Cambodia's application to have the complex named a World Heritage Site. Both countries have long held claim to the temple, but the World Court awarded it to Cambodia in 1962.

About 800 troops from Cambodia and 400 from Thailand have been facing off in the area for a month.

"We are waiting for an order to follow, but both sides must act together," Col. Meas Yoeurn, a deputy commander of Cambodian troops in the area, said by phone Friday. "If Thai troops begin pulling back, we will also begin pulling back."

On Thursday, Cambodian Deputy Defense Minister Gen. Neang Phat said the two countries have agreed to a gradual redeployment of troops from the area ahead of talks between their foreign ministers on territorial disputes next Monday in Thailand.

He said the redeployment, slated to begin during the weekend, will first apply to Thai and Cambodian troops stationed inside the compound of the Keo Sikha Kiri Svara Buddhist pagoda near the temple.

He said Thai and Cambodian military officials, during a meeting in Thailand's Surin province Wednesday, agreed to reduce the number of their troops "to the lowest number possible."

A similar step will be applied on troops stationed in areas surrounding the pagoda and Preah Vihear temple after the foreign ministers' meeting, he said.

"We hope Thailand will honor its commitment" to the agreement, Information Minister Khieu Kanharith said Friday.

Thai Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej had backed Cambodia's World Heritage site bid, sparking demonstrations by anti-government protesters who claimed the temple's new status would undermine Thailand's claim to the surrounding area.

The protests left Samak politically vulnerable, and he had to take action to appease his nationalist critics. On July 15, Thailand sent troops to occupy the Keo Sikha Kiri Svara pagoda — claimed by Cambodia and near Preah Vihear.

Cambodia responded with its own troop deployment. The two sides came close to a shoot-out on July 17 when Cambodian monks sought to celebrate Buddhist lent in the pagoda.

Troops on both sides raised their weapons, but no shots were fired, and the Cambodians eventually backed down.

The border dispute has not been resolved despite two rounds of talks since last month, with the countries referring to two different maps.

Cambodia uses a French colonial map demarcating the border, which Thailand says favors Cambodia. Thailand relies on a map drawn up later with American technical assistance.

Troops reduced at temple

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Teth Sambath
Friday, 15 August 2008

Forces to leave Preah Vihear ahead of Monday’s crisis talks

CAMBODIAN and Thai military commanders have agreed to reduce significantly the number of troops deployed at Preah Vihear ahead of talks next week on resolving the monthlong standoff over disputed territory near the famed temple, a defense ministry official said Thursday.

"Both sides agreed to keep only a very small number of armed forces," said Neang Phat, secretary of state at the Defence Ministry, adding that the soldiers would remain at a Buddhist pagoda near Preah Vihear. "The number of armed forces at the pagoda ... must remain at an appropriate level.

"The agreement came at a meeting of Thai and Cambodian military officials on Wednesday in Thailand, he said.

Neang Phat also said that troops from both sides had to dismantle their defences, including filling in trenches, that were built up along the de facto frontline around Preah Vihear.

"When soldiers dig trenches, it means that they are preparing to attack. It will really ease tensions when these are [filled]," he said.

Hundreds of soldiers have dug in around the temple over the past month after Thai troops first crossed the border on July 15, sparking the largest build-up of troops and equipment, including heavy weapons, in recent years.

Foreign Minister Hor Namhong met once already with his Thai counterpart, Tej Bunnag, to try and resolve the issue, with both agreeing to recommend a re-deployment of troops away from the temple.

But little real progress appears to have been made, and the two will meet again on Monday for a second round of crisis talks.

"When the number of soldiers is down, it will help make the foreign ministers' meeting a success," said Chea Saran, a military commander at Preah Vihear.

Since the ministers first met in July, Cambodia has accused Thailand of further border incursions, saying Thai troops had occupied two temples, Ta Moan Thom and Ta Moan Touch, and tried to take up positions on a Cambodian mountain near Preah Vihear.

Bringing electricity, but only at a price

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Vong Sokheng and Cheang Sokha
Friday, 15 August 2008

AFTER 38 years of living in darkness, villagers in Koh Khel commune, Sa Ang district, Kandal province, are finally being connected to electricity, albeit for a price.

The Anco Brothers Ltd won the 10-year licence from Electricite du Cambodge (EDC) to supply Koh Thom and Sa Ang districts of Kandal province with electricity in February 2005.

"Anco Brothers have been installing transmission lines between Chrey Thom district, which is on the border with Vietnam, and the Sa Ang district for a few years now," said Yim Viseth, an official at the electricity regulation department of the Electricity Authority of Cambodia (EAC).

But Chhoeung Morn, a member of the Koh Khel commune council, said villagers in the Koh Khel commune have to pay bribes of up to US$30 to have their home connected to the grid, in addition to the standard 565,000 or 260,000 riel connection fee.

"It isn't surprising that the suppliers have taken this opportunity to earn extra money. Villagers here used to pay 5,000 riel per kWh to use private generators, but now they will have cheaper electricity at 650 riel per kWh," Morn said. "The villagers need this electricity as much as they need food.

"Ith Praing, secretary of state at the Ministry of Industry, Mines and Energy, said that only 17 percent of the population of Cambodia and 85 percent of residences in Phnom Penh are currently supplied with electricity. "The government plans that by 2030 at least 70 percent of all households will have power."

NRP denies deal for Ranariddh's return

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Meas Sokchea
Friday, 15 August 2008

NORODOM Ranariddh Party (NRP) officials Thursday dismissed suggestions that their sudden decision to accept the results of last month's election was made in exchange for the return of party leader Prince Norodom Ranariddh, who is in exile in Malaysia but faces arrest if he comes home.

The reversal, announced Tuesday, was "a decision made by the whole party" after it determined that the polls had been fair, and not part of a deal to get the prince back to Cambodia, NRP spokesman Muth Chantha said.

Party Deputy President Chhim Siek Leng told the Post that he had "heard talk" of a possible amnesty for Ranariddh if he agreed to leave politics, but said it was only speculation at this point.

The prince faces 18 months in prison for fraud after being found guilty of illegally selling the headquarters of his former party, Funcinpec, and pocketing the proceeds.

CPP spokesman Khieu Kanharith said the ruling party had no intention of trading an amnesty for Ranariddh's withdrawal from politics, adding that Funcinpec would have to withdraw its legal complaint if the prince hoped to remain a free man when he returned.

After joining other opposition parties in rejecting the results of the July 27 polls, in which it won two National Assembly seats, the NRP's abrupt U-turn raised suspicions that the prince was manoeuvring for a comeback.

"Elections and alliances between opposition parties always make people suspicious of the NRP as Ranariddh has the habit of abandoning his partners to get some benefit from Hun Sen," said civil society leader Thun Saray.

Chea Sim to doctors: health industry must improve care, image

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Chhay Chanyda
Friday, 15 August 2008

Despite improved conditions, hospitals still have much to mend before patients stop going overseas in search of quality healthcare

THE health sector not only needs to improve services, but must fix a tarnished reputation that is driving people to seek health care abroad, Senate President and acting head of state Chea Sim told a conference on medical science Thursday.

"The real problem is that people are seeking more overseas health service," he said, speaking at the opening of the two-day conference at the Hotel Phnom Penh, where doctors and health professionals were sharing experiences on how to improve care. Chea Sim added that some people go abroad even for routine health checks.

Chea Sim said people are forgoing domestic healthcare for several reasons: technical problems with equipment; service at public hospitals that is poor but costs as much as private care; the attitude of healthcare providers and their code of ethics, including doctors taking money for offering quicker care; and fake medicines.

He told attendees, "We have to find solutions" to these problems.

Mam Bun Heng, secretary of state at the Health Ministry, said the ministry has trained nearly 10,000 health staff members to provide services in Cambodia.

"Among them, there are 2,020 health staff graduated from abroad," he said, adding that public health care is expanding, with 43 public hospitals currently offering surgery, up from 35 two years ago.

Mam Bun Heng is expected to lead the health ministry in the next government, according to a draft list of positions released this week.

A doctor from a Phnom Penh public hospital who attended the conference but declined to give his name said Cambodia has many qualified doctors, "but people have no faith that they'll find adequate health treatment in this country".

"People get it in their head that whatever Cambodia has is not good, and what is from overseas is good. We want to erase that concept," he said.

He added, "Doctors themselves must make people trust them."

Vietnam, Thailand and Singapore are the main markets for Cambodians seeking health treatment overseas.

High-quality office space direly needed in Phnom Penh

www.chinaview.cn
2008-08-15

PHNOM PENH, Aug. 15 (Xinhua) -- Rising foreign investment is leading to an office shortage in Phnom Penh, with some analysts expecting pent-up demand to generating a building boom over the next two years, national media said Friday.

"There is nothing of an international standard in Phnom Penh right now. Many businesses are having to rent out villas," Naim Khan-Turk, director of research at the CB Richard Ellis (CBRE) in Ho Chi Minh city, Vietnam, was quoted by Cambodia's daily English newspaper the Phnom Penh Post as saying.

Analysts say the office market hasn't had time to catch up to the pace of economic growth, with only low- or medium-quality offices for rent in the capital, said the paper.

Phnom Penh has only about eight major office buildings available, with most of the space in converted colonial villas, hotels, or refurbished shop houses, it added.

Office space is graded by its location, the quality of the construction and the amenities offered in the building. None of the existing or planned space exceeds B grade, said international property experts.

"We class Grade A as having at least 1,000 square meters of floor space, quality mechanical engineering such as high-speed lifts, efficient buildings and car parks. That is a loose definition. We don't see anything in Phnom Penh meeting those standards," said Khan-Turk.

The shortage of prime office space could make Phnom Penh a potential boom market over the next two years, said the paper.

There are a lot of companies coming to Cambodia and most of the buildings are constructed by South Korean developers, it said.

The quality is not up to international standard, but it is acceptable for offices, it added.

Editor: Gao Ying

Dying to be pale: Cambodia's obsession with whitening cream

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Khouth Sophakchakrya
Friday, 15 August 2008

Many whitening creams contain dangerous chemicals that can harm skin but a lack of regulations means consumers remain in the dark

FOLLOWING the passage by the Council of Ministers of a new sub-decree last Friday to prevent the import of potentially harmful cosmetics, proponents of alternative medicine have been swift to raise their voices about the vulnerability of women purchasing skin cream in an unregulated market.

Commercial manufacturing of skin whitener, which comes under tight control in the US and Europe, has, up to now, gone largely unsupervised in the Cambodian market, despite wide reports of side effects.

Most of the problem products, which circulate on the black market, include over-chemicalised lotions and illegal creams.

"Many Cambodian women, especially youth, love the white bodies and faces," said Ing Sovanly, director of Neary Khmer Association for Health and Vocational Training in Phnom Penh which produces chemical-free cosmetics. "They are embarrassed when their skin is damaged later," she said, adding women have come to her with damaged and even blackened skin after using some products.

Banned chemicals common

The cast of skin whitening products currently available include chemicals such as steroids, peroxide and the popular hydroquinone bleach. The EU banned hydroquinone in 2001 after it linked it with adverse side effects.

But in Cambodia, where the market has been unmonitored for years, skin damage is so prevalent that mixing the creams with antibiotics is common.

Hao Daneth, a garment worker for Sun Tex Garment Factory in Phnom Penh, said her face went black after she used a cream mixed with antibiotics many times.

"I did not go outside except to go to work," Hao Daneth said.

Dr Soeur Chan Than, a dermatologist in Phnom Penh, said this was a sad reality.

"People know that it damages their skin, but they use it anyway."

Thousands displaced by Cambodia lake development

Radio Australia

Cambodia's Boeung Kak Lake is set to be filled with sand and thousands of people removed from their homes, as part of a development project starting next month.

While the exact nature of the development is unclear, the developer will dredge the water and replace it with sand with a view to build shops, apartments and hotels.

Radio Australia's Sonja Heydeman reports the plan leaves the fate of four thousand lakeside families unclear.

Boeung Kak Lake and surrounds, an area of around 133 hectares, was leased in February last year to a private developer by the Municipality of Phnom Penh.

The decision has sparked a human rights outcry.

The director of Bridges Across Borders in Southeast Asia, David Pred, told the Connect Asia program the lease agreement is illegal under Cambodian law.

"Under international law, Cambodia's human rights obligations under the international covenant on economic, social and cultural rights, the circumstances surrounding the development and the impending eviction have also constituted serious violations of law," he said.

"People have been intimidated, there's been lack of consultation serious lack of information, there's been no transparency surrounding the development of what's happening.

"The $US79 million leasehold agreement has been made with Shukaku Inc.Cambodian opposition MP from the Sam Rainsy party, Son Chhay, says there is some background to the deal.

"The company which is led by Senator Lao Meng Khin will be involved in the busienss of deforestation, land concession," he said.

"They are invloved with this kind of business that not many people are able to do, unless you are very close to the ruling CPP.

"We believe that there was some share from the Hun Sen family in the company."

The amount of compensation on offer to families remains unclear, while some reports suggest there's a figure of around $US10,000 per house.

Son Chhay believes the people will be given a small fraction of what the market price actually is.

You can find the full story at the Connect Asia website: http://radioaustralia.net.au/connectasia

Computerising Chuon Nath

HENG CHIVOAN; Buddhist Institute director Nguon Vanchanthi demonstrates how to use the new dictionary on his computer in his office on Wednesday.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Titthara May
Friday, 15 August 2008

The first electronic Khmer dictionary is being distributed for free by the Buddhist Institute in the name of improving a younger generation's vocab

T HE famous Khmer dictionary compiled by the late Supreme Patriarch Chuon Nath has been released in software form, according to Buddhist Institute director Nguon Vanchanthi, who has coordinated the effort to turn the old dictionary into a 21st-century language tool.

"We have compiled the software dictionary because Cambodia's young generation are poor in Khmer language, and this dictionary will make it easier for them to improve their language skills," Nguon Vanchanthi said.

The software, which was released Thursday, will be distributed to all government ministries and departments, and will be freely available to the public.

But Nguon Vanchanthi said those wanting the software should bring a blank CD to the Buddhist Institute, where they can burn a copy.

"We don't want to sell CDs. We want all the users to get it from the Buddhist Institute, but we will allow them to copy it for their friends," he said.

Samdech Sangha Raja Jhota├▒ano Chuon Nath (1883-1969) is best known for his effort to preserve the Khmer language by compiling an exhaustive Khmer dictionary and penning the Kingdom's national anthems, "Nokor Reach" and "Savada Khmer.

"The new dictionary is based on the Khmer-to-Khmer dictionary Chuon Nath compiled from 1915, and contains 18,003 Khmer words.

" I want to try and program the khmer dictionary into hand phones. "

It has taken 17 staff over two years to computerise the dictionary, in cooperation with the Open Institute, SEALang and the Cambodia National Language Committee. Nguon Vanchanthi plans to update the first version in a year to keep pace with technological developments.

Nouv Vithou, a manager with the Khmer Web Group, said that it is vital to have Khmer dictionary software but cautioned that the accuracy of the dictionary would determine its usefulness. "If the programmer makes mistakes, the user will learn the mistakes also," he added.

Spelling mistakes?

Nguon Vanchanthi said that there might be some mistakes in this first version, but that they would be corrected in later versions of the software.

"While we were working on it we couldn't find any mistakes, but when we reviewed it there were mistakes in about two percent of the entries," he said.

Davy, 22, a student at the National University of Management, said she was happy to finally have a computerised Khmer dictionary.

"I am so glad that we can now get a Khmer dictionary in our computers, because now [young people] have poor Khmer language skills," she said. "I hope we will stop making mistakes in our writing because when we are unsure we can check on our computers," she added.

Nguon Vanchanthi said the next step would be to program the dictionary to fit on a mobile phone. "I want to try and program the Khmer dictionary into hand phones because I want to make life easier for the Khmer people. We already have English dictionaries in our phones, so I think we need to do a Khmer dictionary as well."

Preah Vihear a disaster for bilateral relations

By The Nation
Published on August 15, 2008

Unclear plan for troop pullout no cause for celebration as politicians put their citizens at risk

After months of sabre rattling, Thailand and Cambodia have finally agreed to pull back their troops from the disputed Preah Vihear Temple starting this weekend.

The agreement was reached yesterday in Phnom Penh after a meeting between senior military officials from the two sides.

But don't hold your breath. Just like with everything else, the devil is in the details.

As expected, no exact figures or schedule for the pullout of soldiers from the temple area was provided, but the fact that the two sides agreed in principle should be welcomed. Then again, what other choice do we have other then welcoming it?

In many respects, the Thai and Cambodian people are held hostage by their immature political leaders.

If Thailand and Cambodia had capable leaders instead of these morons who are too preoccupied with scoring political points, soldiers on the two sides would not have to come face to face on an ill-defined mission with unclear objectives. Armed troops coming face to face on a border that has yet to be demarcated is a recipe for disaster.

The bottom line is that the two neighbours should have never come to this juncture. The fact that we did raises the question of what went wrong.

For whatever it's worth, this diplomatic and military stand-off has been quite an absurd episode in the history of Thai-Cambodian bilateral ties.

The two governments pretend as if this so-called political border was written in stone when the vast majority of it has yet to be demarcated. Most, if not all, behave as if this is a matter of life and death, and explain that this is why they have to behave in a tough and militaristic manner.

But looking at their faces it appears they are more concerned about their political life, not the life of the ordinary people who will most likely bare the brunt if fighting erupts between the two sides.

For as long as anybody can remember, Asean members have enjoyed boasting about their progress, the documents they sign, and the pledges they make. But the reality on the ground tells a different story. Burmese soldiers, for example, have no qualms about pointing their rifle in a person's face if he or she gets too close to the border.

A country that has healthy relations with its neighbours doesn't need to go through a spitting contest, as has been the case in this latest Thai-Cambodian fiasco.

Like it or not, the border around the country is a legacy of the colonial period. A nation-state border does not constitute a cultural/ethnic boundary. Look at the Malay-speaking South and the Khmer-speaking provinces of Surin, Buri Ram and Si Sa Ket.

And if the nation-state has problems about where the border should be drawn, perhaps they should take it up with their former colonial masters instead of putting locals at risk. Along the way, they blur the line between nation-state and civilisation, arousing their citizens until they end up screaming for blood. Shamelessly, they don't see the consequence of their action.

Over the past year, there have been a couple of idiotic Cambodian politicians who called for "the return" of Surin, Buri Ram and Si Sa Ket. But we don't see anybody in these three provinces jumping to that offer. Surprised?

The same could be said for the Malay-speaking South. Despite talks of liberating Patani from the invading Siamese, the highest turnout of voters in the country has consistently been the Malay-speaking community in the deep South.

The fact of the matter is that residents along the common border, regardless of whether they are Thai, Lao, Khmer, Chinese or Vietnamese, have come to terms with their respective nation-states. In the case of the Malays, they are trying to negotiate their membership within the Thai state, but in a way that saves them from having to lose any part of their culture and identity.

Taking on an identity, regardless of whether it's manufactured by the nation-state or by one's respective community, is a powerful thing. But political leaders should not pretend that this is the only thing.

Cambodian ruling party re-elected with increased majority

WSWS.org
By John Roberts
15 August 2008

Cambodia’s national election on July 27 produced a significant victory for Prime Minister Hun Sen’s ruling Cambodian Peoples Party (CPP). The preliminary official result released on August 9 by the National Election Commission (NEC) shows the CPP won 58.11 percent of the 6,010,277 votes cast, compared with 47.3 percent in the 2003 election. Voter turnout fell sharply, however, dropping from 83 percent five years ago to 75 percent.

When seats are allocated in the 123-member parliament at the end of this month, the CPP is expected to have 90 MPs, up from 73 following the 2003 election. The result will allow the ruling party to govern in its own right, without having to form a coalition.

The largest opposition party, the Sam Rainsy Party (SRP), won 21.9 percent of the vote—little more than 2003. It is expected to be allocated 26 MPs, compared with 24 in the previous parliament. The SRP conducted a populist campaign, promising lower fuel and food prices and free health care. It also promised free land grants to landless peasants. It promoted its leader Sam Rainsy as a man free from the endemic corruption in Cambodian politics. It failed, however, to make any inroads into the support for the CPP in rural areas.

The SRP has denounced the election, claiming that the result is the outcome of “massive fraud” by the ruling party.

The small gains that the SRP did make were primarily at the expense of three parties linked to the royal family of Cambodia, which won only seven seats between them.

The Norodom Ranariddh Party, which is loyal to Prince Norodom Ranariddh, who fled Cambodia in 2006 after he was found guilty of corruption, polled 5.62 percent of the vote and will hold just two seats. Norodom Ranariddh endorsed the election result on Tuesday in what commentators believe is part of a deal with Hun Sen to allow the prince to return from exile.

The traditional royalist party, Funcinpec, which removed Norodom Ranariddh as its leader in 2006, won 5.05 percent and will also take only two seats.

The Human Rights Party, which was formed in 2007 by a former Funcinpec leader, Kem Sokha, won 6.62 percent of the vote in its first election, mainly in rural areas. It is expected to be allocated three seats. Like the SRP, it campaigned against the alleged corruption of the CPP, which, in various forms, has held government in Cambodia since the 1979 Vietnamese invasion that overthrew the Khmer Rouge regime.

Six smaller parties contested the elections but none registered a high enough vote to take a parliamentary seat.

Several factors explain why the CPP has been able to once again hold on to power. The state media barely concealed its bias toward the ruling party in its election coverage and there are numerous allegations of intimidation of opposition candidates and voters by CPP-sympathising police and government officials.

During the campaign, Hun Sen also exploited a dispute with Thailand over the sovereignty of the Preah Vihear temple near the Thai-Cambodian border to divert attention away from the social questions such as rising prices being raised by opposition candidates. The government hailed the United Nations World Heritage listing of the ancient site as evidence it scored a nationalist victory over Thailand.

While corruption and the anti-Thai campaign undoubtedly played a role in the CPP’s vote, the main factor was Cambodia’s economic growth over the last five years. The government was able to claim it is creating conditions for a better life for the desperately poor Cambodian population.
The International Monetary Fund estimated that Cambodia’s GDP growth rate was 10.5 percent in 2007, one of the fastest in Asia. Foreign direct investment (FDI) has been rising and is predicted to reach $US2.7 billion this year, flowing into the garment industry, tourism, infrastructure construction and agriculture.

Cambodia shares with Vietnam, Laos and Burma the same features that are attracting the interest of foreign capital: huge untapped natural resources, a young population and wage rates that are among the lowest in the world. The liberalisation of investment rules has also played a part in the upsurge in capital inflows. In April, the World Bank praised the Cambodian government for its economic reforms, including the decentralisation of administrative power.

Chinese investment is increasingly prominent. Chinese firms are currently constructing two major dams and Beijing has promised $US1 billion in aid to help Phnom Penh develop hydro-electric projects. The demand for electricity is growing at the rate of 15 percent a year and inadequate power generation capacity is potentially a major obstacle to future investment.

Despite the impetus given by the recent economic growth, the Hun Sen regime went into the elections acutely conscious that serious economic problems and social conflicts are looming. Rises in world oil and commodity prices are having a severe impact. The government stopped publishing inflation figures after January, when a year-on-year inflation rate showed prices had risen by 18.7 percent compared with 5 percent a year ago. The price of staples such as rice rose 80 percent.

The price hikes have intensified the resentment among the urban and rural poor over the grotesque inequality that characterises Cambodian society. While a small number of business owners and government officials have amassed significant fortunes from the inflow of foreign investment, the majority of the population faces poverty.

Tens of thousands of people who migrated to Phnom Penh from rural areas to work in the export industries still live in squalid shanty towns on the edge of the city. Over recent years, there has been growing unrest over the eviction of shanty dwellers and the seizure of land for corporate development projects. When South Korean investors undertook the construction of Gold Tower 42 and the International Finance Complex, hundreds of people were forced to move.

Economic conditions are now set to worsen, leading to significant job losses. On the broader economic front, commentators are predicting a slowdown in growth as part of global trends. The garment industry, which employs over 360,000 people, is expected to suffer from falling US demand and fierce competition from China and Vietnam. Sales to the United States fell in the first three months of 2008 to just $1 billion, compared with close to $2 billion in the first quarter of 2007. Some economists expect overall growth to fall to 7 percent in 2008 and 2009. Tourism is also predicted to decline.

The CPP’s nervousness over the election was reflected in the efforts it made to manipulate the poll to guarantee that it won a large majority. The SRP claimed that as many as one million people were struck off the electoral rolls. The NEC admitted to removing 585,723 names in a 2007 review but claimed this was due to migration, death or loss of voting rights. Some monitors claimed that up to 50,000 people were turned away from voting stations.

Both the US-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) and local non-government organisations reported that opposition candidates were subjected to intimidation, including demands that they join the CPP. On July 11, newspaper journalist Khim Sambo, who wrote for a paper connected to the SRP, was murdered along with his son by unknown assailants. HRW claimed that the murders appeared to be “intended to send a message not to engage in opposition politics”. In the course of the campaign, the Ministry of Information shut down a pro-SRP radio station.

Despite accusations that the ruling party used its control of the state to influence the outcome, investors and the Western financial press welcomed Hun’s re-election. Since 1993, the CCP has opened up the country for capitalist exploitation, enforced some of the lowest wage rates in Asia and repressed strikes and other protests demanding an improvement in the conditions of workers.

Investment management firm Leopard Capital CEO Douglas Clayton told the Financial Times on July 19: “We can now predict who will be running the government for the next five or even 10 years—and a government that is pro-business—which isn’t the case in Thailand, Malaysia or the Philippines.”

The British-based Economist commented on August 6: “The election was riddled with irregularities, mostly in favour of his [Hun Sen’s] Cambodian Peoples Party (CPP). But he would likely have won anyway: the stability he has brought to a war-wracked country, though often iron-fisted, has given Cambodia one of Asia’s fastest-growing economies.”

The director of the Cambodian Acleda Bank, Peter Kooi, told the Phnom Penh Post on Monday: “The general view is that the political situation is more stable now than five to ten years ago. Our customers want stability. They are saying if there is stability we will invest our money.”

The local and foreign financial circles were not the only source endorsing the result. There were 13,000 election monitors in Cambodia, including from Europe and the United States. Martin Callanan, the head of the European Union’s monitoring team, noted that the use of state resources in favour of the CCP and the unequal access to the media tarnished the election, but refused to characterise it as unfair. The EU team will not even release its final report until October, well after Hun Sen has formed a new administration. Compared with Hun Sen’s guarantee that he will use his parliamentary majority to continue pro-investment policies, the voting “irregularities” are small change.

Troop levels to be reduced before fresh border talks

The Bangkok Post
Friday August 15, 2008

THANIDA TANSUBHAPOL AND AFP

The plan by Cambodia and Thailand to sharply reduce troop levels on the border will be completed before a new round of border talks begins on Monday, Cambodian Deputy Defence Minister Gen Neang Phat said yesterday. The agreement was reached on Wednesday during a meeting of military officials from the two countries in Surin.

''The redeployment of the troops that we have agreed to will finish before the ministerial meeting on Aug 18,'' Gen Neang Phat said.

Gen Neang Phat said the remaining troops would be allowed to carry only light arms. Their future positions would be determined after the ministerial meeting next week, he added.

The border dispute erupted on July 15 after three Thai ultra-nationalist protesters were arrested for trying to illegally cross into Cambodia to reach the temple. Thailand insists that the land is also Thai territory.

Thai nationalists were incensed that Cambodia last month won World Heritage status from the United Nations for the ruins, which Thailand has long claimed despite a World Court ruling giving the ruins to Cambodia.

The Cambodian-Thai border has never been completely demarcated, partly since it is littered with landmines left from decades of conflict in Cambodia.

Thai Foreign Ministry spokesman Tharit Charungvat said the meeting of the Joint Boundary Commission on Monday and Tuesday in Cha-am district in Phetchaburi will focus on the disputed area between Kantharalak district in Si Sa Ket and Preah Vihear province of Cambodia.
Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong will lead his delegation to talk with his Thai counterpart Tej Bunnag. The Cambodian minister will be granted an audience with His Majesty the King at Klai Kangwon Palace in Hua Hin district in Prachuab Khiri Khan on Tuesday.

''Thailand expects more progress from this meeting after the first one in Siem Reap last month,'' said Mr Tharit.

Glitter 'returns to UK next week'

Gary Glitter has been in jail in Vietnam since November 2005

BBC News
Thursday, 14 August

Gary Glitter will be deported to Britain on Tuesday after serving 27 months in prison in Vietnam for child molestation, his lawyer has said.

Le Thanh Kinh told news agencies that the disgraced rock star, real name Paul Gadd, would be free to go wherever he wanted after returning to the UK.

Glitter, 63, was convicted in 2006 for molesting two girls aged 11 and 12.

The Home Office said anyone convicted of sex offences overseas would be met by police on arrival and interviewed.

Former glam rocker Glitter has been held since November 2005. His three-year sentence was cut last year under a national amnesty.

His lawyer told Reuters news agency: "My client will have to board a flight to London, his ticket has been bought by the authorities here.

"After he lands in London, he's free to go wherever he wants."

Police interview

The Home Office said it did not comment on individual cases.

A spokeswoman said: "When it is known that a sex offender convicted in another country is to be deported to the UK, he is met at the port of entry by police who interview him and pass any relevant information to the police in the area in which the offender is proposing to live.

"Offenders convicted of sexual offences whether in the UK or overseas may be monitored under multi-agency public protection arrangements."

She said there was no automatic requirement for offenders returning to the UK to be added to the sex offenders register.

Glitter was convicted of possessing child pornography in the UK in 1999 and served half of a four-month jail sentence.

He later went to Cambodia, which permanently expelled him in 2002.

In a recent interview with Vietnam's Cong An Nhan Dan newspaper, Glitter said he intended to resume his singing career and might move to Singapore or Hong Kong.

Petrol smuggling reduces by 80%

Petrol smuggling has significantly reduced but it still occurs across Vietnamese-Cambodian border areas

14/08/2008

VietNamNet Bridge – Petrol smuggled via borders has reduced by 80 per cent, said deputy director of the Market Watch Department (under the Ministry of Industry and Trade) Pham Quang Vien.

Vien said that though some residents in border areas still brought petrol over the Cambodia border at night, the amount of smuggled petrol had dropped significantly since earlier this year.

He said this was the result of guidelines by the Government’s Steering Committee for anti-smuggling, counterfeiting and trade fraud, and effective co-ordination between customs, border guards, police and market watch officials to synchronously implement solutions preventing petrol smuggling.

The solutions included that petrol stations along border areas could only sell fuel to people travelling in vehicles, not to people with just barrels or oil cans. Authorities would close petrol stations that were unqualified to do this business, or that exported petrol illegally. New petrol stations in the south-west border region would not be allowed to open in order to prevent petrol smuggling in those areas as well.

Currently, petrol stations in border areas are open from 6am to 6pm only, following the times that border gates open and close. From early July, border stations began selling petrol to vehicles migrated into Vietnam at international selling prices.

Vien said that in the first six months of this year, petrol sold at petrol stations in five southwestern provinces had remarkably reduced compared to 2005, when petrol smuggling was at its height.

For example, Kien Giang sold 24,000 litres in the first half of this year, compared to more than 142,000 litres in 2005. An Giang Province sold 3,800 litres compared to 42,000 litres in 2005, he said.

However, though Viet Nam had increased its petrol prices on July 21, these prices were still lower than retail petrol prices in Cambodia, he said. If price imbalances still existed, authorities would still have to fight against petrol smugglers, he said.

At the end of last month, it was reported that the smuggling of fuel from Vietnam over the Cambodian border had continued despite the recent petrol price increase.

Fuel prices in Cambodia increased to US$1.5 per litre, VND5,000 ($0.3) higher than in Vietnam.
Most of the smuggling took place at night and sometimes during the day, usually by motorboat.
Canvas covers hid the plastic containers that contained the fuel, police said.

In Kien Giang Province, some smugglers pour fuel into nylon bags and lay them on board to transport them more conveniently.

During the flood season, smugglers often take advantage of the local terrain to escape anti-trafficking forces.

(Source: Viet Nam News)

Fresh bid to end SE Asia temple row

The temple dispute has strained ties between Thailand and Cambodia [EPA]

Al Jazeera
Thursday, August 14, 2008

Cambodia and Thailand have agreed to reduce their troop numbers around a disputed temple before a new round of border talks.According to Neang Phat, a Cambodian general, the agreement was reached on Wednesday during a meeting of military officials from the two countries.

Thai military officials confirmed the deal, but neither country would reveal exactly how many troops would be withdrawn from the area around the ruins of Preah Vihear, an 11th century Khmer temple.

More than 1,000 troops from both countries are stationed around the temple complex.

Cambodia and Thailand agreed last month to withdraw their forces from a small patch of disputed territory near Preah Vihear.

The border dispute erupted in July, after three Thai nationalist protesters were arrested for trying to illegally cross into Cambodia to reach Preah Vihear.

Further talks

They were angry that Cambodia had won world heritage status from the UN for the ruins last month, which Thailand has long claimed despite a World Court ruling giving the ruins to Cambodia.

Foreign ministers from both countries are set to meet on Monday and Tuesday for further talks on the deal.

"The redeployment of the troops that we have agreed to will finish before the ministerial meeting on August 18," Neang Phat, the Cambodian army officer, said.

He said the remaining troops would be allowed to carry only simple rifles and guns.

Their future positions would be determined after the ministerial meeting next week, he said.

Exhibition explores cruel legacy of Khmer Rouge era

STEPHANIE McKAY; Gallery visitors view a work by Cambodian artist Chan Pisey, part of the Art of Survival exhibition that offered a second series of artworks in Phnom Penh on Tuesday.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Post Staff
Thursday, 14 August 2008

Young artists make contemporary statements in an effort to come to grips with past atrocities, in the second part of the Art of Survival exhibition

MART of Survival, an ongoing exhibition of works by contemporary local artists that reflects on the Khmer Rouge period, unveiled a second series of artworks at Meta House in Phnom Penh Tuesday evening.

Rekindled public interest in the Khmer Rouge era inspired the exhibition which will later go on a world tour to raise awareness of Cambodia in the international art community.

Cambodia is not currently as well known for its contemporary art scene as Thailand or Vietnam, said exhibition organiser and Meta House director Nico Mesterharm.

"There has been a huge international interest in the Khmer Rouge trials. We plan to take Art of Survival on a travelling exhibition in 2009 and hope it will coincide with the trial."

The works in the exhibition are all personal interpretations of Cambodia's recent traumatic past and each viewer's reaction is likely to differ, said Mesterharm.

"I feel that the creation and display of these pieces is another part of the process of reconciliation in Cambodia," he told the Post.

"Older Cambodians may be reminded of their experiences under Pol Pot and so may feel scared. Younger Cambodians may be furious that such events occurred. Foreigners may get a new perspective on Cambodian history and interpretations of the genocide."

One such "furious" young Cambodian is 26-year-old artist Chan Pisey, who said even though she wasn't born during the regime, she feels "terribly shocked" at the way the Khmer Rouge killed innocent people.

"I feel very hurt when I hear the tale of millions of Khmer people that died during the Khmer Rouge regime," Chan Pisey said. "I wonder how they can use their hands to kill their own people. Maybe they don't care for the eyes of people, which look at them and ask them to save their lives? Or are they maybe not human beings?"

Blood on black fabric

Pisey's artwork consisted of three frames, each with a different coloured krama and acrylic illustrations of soldiers with guns, victims of mass killings, and finally just dust and ashes.

An inscription of a Khmer Rouge slogan on one of the krama reads, "Justice organisation. The organisation does not wonder, the organisation just want to have a little blood and all the little blood will go in to the land very quick and disappear with the black tissue."

"All these words make me understand why all the Khmer people during that time had to wear black clothes, because the Khmer Rouge thought that the blood of the people would disappear into the black fabric," explained Pisey.

She bought the krama - "representative of the Khmer people" - from the Russian Market and finished the painting in one day, but the layout and framing of the piece took over a week.

"I wanted to show the Khmer Rouge psychology, how they kill without sentiment," said Pisey.

The exhibition, which runs through September 13, also features works by Cambodian artists Pich Sopheap, Chat Piersat, Chhouen Rithy, Chan Vitarin, and Chhim Sothy, as well as international guests Le Huy Hoang (Vietnam), Bradford Edwards (US), Panca Evenblij (Netherlands), Ali Sanderson (Australia), Virginie Noel (Belgium) and Herbert Mueller (Germany).

Cambodia, Thailand agree temple troop pull-back

Thu Aug 14, 2008

PHNOM PENH (Reuters) - Cambodia and Thailand have agreed to withdraw most of the 1,000 troops facing off for a month near the disputed Preah Vihear temple on their border, a Cambodian commander on the ground said on Thursday.

"We will leave only 10 armed men for each side," General Chea Mon told Reuters in Phnom Penh. "Other forces will be returned to military bases."

The redeployment, negotiated at a meeting between army officers on Wednesday, is scheduled for Saturday, two days before the two countries' foreign ministers meet in Thailand to discuss the dispute, he added.

Thai military officials were not immediately available for comment.

The two ministers agreed last month to find a peaceful route out of the spat, which centers on 1.8 square miles of scrub near the 900-year-old Hindu ruins that sit on the jungle-clad escarpment dividing the two countries.

Despite the pledge, neither Phnom Penh nor Bangkok wanted to be the first to withdraw forces on the ground for fear of being painted as weak. In places, soldiers from the two sides are dug in only a few yards apart.

Tensions have eased considerably since Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen's victory last month in a general election in which the temple -- and nationalism -- featured heavily.

In a marked toning down of his campaign rhetoric, Hun Sen said a week ago the two sides must resolve the dispute and "maximize bilateral cooperation, including trade".

The spat erupted last month when protest groups trying to overthrow the Thai government attacked Bangkok's backing of Cambodia's bid to list Preah Vihear as a U.N. World Heritage site.

Preah Vihear has been claimed by both sides for decades, but was awarded to Cambodia by the International Court of Justice in 1962, a ruling that has rankled in Thailand ever since.

(Reporting by Ek Madra; Writing by Ed Cropley; Editing by Alan Raybould)

Trade, aid fail Cambodia's poor

THE AGE

Joanne Knight
August 15, 2008

The future is bleak for Cambodians and Burmese when corruption is rife.

BURMA and Cambodia occupy significant geopolitical positions in Asia. The West has an interest in controlling this area as a buffer against China's growing power. As a pawn in global politics, Cambodia is being controlled through international aid at the expense of its people.

Burma is possibly heading in the same direction. As Burma bows to pressure from the West to allow aid into the country after cyclone Nargis, critics argue the aid will come tied to economic liberalisation.

Cambodia and Burma share striking similarities: both are extremely poor and are governed by corrupt elites. But Cambodia is about 10 years ahead in accepting Western aid. Its present does not augur well for Burma's future.

The outcomes of Cambodia's development have been mixed: extremely beneficial for economic growth, the ruling elite and crony capitalism, and less advantageous for the poor. The development has been centred on trade liberalisation, with open markets for the country's timber and textile exports. The World Bank has reported that local corruption has impeded the country's development, particularly poverty reduction, but the real difficulty may be the porous state of Cambodia's economy.

Corruption is common in Cambodia. Transparency International's Corruption Perceptions Index ranks Cambodia at 162 out of 179 countries (Burma ranks at 179, the worst country along with Somalia). Some claim that much aid from the international community has gone to private pockets.

Since the Paris peace agreement of 1991, Cambodia has been subjected to the scrutiny of international donors, including the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the Asian Development Bank. Aid constituted more than 10% of gross national income in 2004, far more than the low-income country average of 2.8%. In 2006, the amount of aid reached $US595 million. Cambodia is also a fast-growing economy, with annual economic growth at nearly 11% in 2006. But poverty has fallen at a rate of only 1% a year. Two key features of Cambodia's National Strategy Development Plan 2006-10, funded by the World Bank, are trade liberalisation and the creation of export-processing zones.

Development projects have done little to limit corruption in Cambodia. The World Bank's Forest Concession Management and Control Pilot Project (FCMCPP) began in 2000, funded by a $US5 million Learning and Innovation Loan. In June last year, Global Witness published Cambodia's Family Trees, which detailed the intimate connections between the owners of logging companies and the Cambodian Government. Owners of the largest logging companies — Kingwood Industry, Everbright CIG Wood and Colexim Enterprise — are friends and relatives of Prime Minister Hun Sen. They have been repeatedly involved with extensive logging outside of their plantation areas, terrorising locals and exempted from paying royalties and taxes.

In 2002, under pressure from international donors,

the Cambodian Government imposed a moratorium on harvesting in logging concessions, after the companies failed to submit forest management plans. The moratorium ended in December 2004, on the condition that logging was supervised to ensure no fresh logs entered the supply chain. But no measures were taken to prevent further illegal logging. The FCMCPP has grievously failed Cambodia.

International donors are quick to point to political corruption in Cambodia to explain its lack of progress in decreasing poverty, but such moral judgements ring rather hollow when $US600 million in Asian Development Bank funds are invested in offshore private equity funds, many domiciled in tax havens such as the Cayman Islands.

National institutions are required to divert money back into the country. Development policies focused on economic liberalisation will not foster them. Without the political will to create these institutions, any benefit will continue to be siphoned off into the hands of international business and corrupt local political and business elites. The future for the people of Cambodia and Burma is bleak without policies that focus on their wellbeing.

Joanne Knight worked for seven years as a consumer credit and housing adviser for the Brotherhood of St Laurence and the Victorian Government.

Data Control of Liquid Waste in the Five Provinces around the Tonle Sap Lake Started

15 August 2008.
The Mirror, Vol. 12, No. 573

“The collection of data to control liquid waste [sewage] in five provinces, that is Kompong Chhnang, Pursat, Battambang, Siem Reap, and Kompong Thom, was started to be implemented by the Ministry of Environment for the first time in order to prevent the flow of sewage into the Tonle Sap Lake.

“An official of the Department of Environmental Pollution Control of the Ministry of Environment recently said that the collection of data on liquid waste in the five provinces around the Tonle Sap Lake is a task that needs to be clearly implemented. The start to collect data on sewage in the five provinces will monitor the flow of liquid waste from populated areas as the major goal.

“Mr. Heng Nareth, the director of the Department of Environmental Pollution Control of the Ministry of Environment, said that pollution by liquid waste originates from the citizens’ houses, and from factories and workshops.

“He added that it is estimated that waste from factories and from workshops is less than expected, that is between 5% and 10% only, while the pollution from people’s houses is between 90% and 95%.

“He explained that the pollution by liquid waste from citizens’ houses causes damage to the environment of the Tonle Sap Lake’s water when the number of persons in populated areas increases from year to year. Domestic waste is bio-pollution, because that liquid waste contains nitrogen, phosphor, and other chemicals that can kill living species in the natural water resources.

“The departments’ officials said that the liquid waste from factories is less in volume and much easier to control than liquid waste from households. Nevertheless, environment officials of the five provinces will try to find data about the liquid waste at the end points of sewage system pipes and at relevant population concentrations in inhabited rural areas and in towns.

“According to estimations from expert environmental officials, 70% of the citizens’ domestic water use goes into sewage, and 30% might infiltrate into the ground. As for the liquid waste of the five provinces, after collection of data on the quantity of domestic water use is completed, following soon there will be measures established for cleaning of the sewage water before it is released, in order to avoid polluting the natural water of the Tonle Sap Lake.”

Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.16, #4667, 14.8.2008
Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:Thursday, 14 August 2008

Mass of Troops at Preah Vihear to Withdraw

Only 10 soldiers on each side will remain inside a pagoda at the heart of the dispute near Preah Vihear temple, a military commander said.

By Mean Veasna, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
14 August 2008

Cambodia and Thailand are set to withdraw the mass of their troops near Preah Vihear temple over the weekend, a top Cambodian military commander said Thursday.

The withdrawal follows a meeting between high-ranking military commanders on both sides in Surin province Wednesday.

"The redeployment of the armed forces that both countries have agreed to will be complete before the meeting of foreign affairs ministers in Hua Hin, Thailand," Aug. 18 and Aug. 19, said Gen. Neang Phat, secretary of state for the Ministry of Defense, who is head of Cambodia's Preah Vihear negotiating task force.

The reconfiguration of the maximum number of troops possible would take place on either Saturday or Sunday, he said, declining to give the exact number of soldiers that would remain at the Keo Sikha Kiri Svara pagoda and its surrounding areas.

The pagoda has been at the center of the crisis since Thai troops occupied it on July 15, leading to a build-up of thousands of soldiers on both sides and the deployment of artillery and other armed vehicles.

Both sides will keep 10 soldiers each inside the pagoda and 45 personnel in a 1-kilometer perimeter around the pagoda, the Bangkok Post reported Thursday, citing a Thai official present at Wednesday's meeting.

Both sides agreed during the meeting that soldiers who stay in the temple area will not be equipped with heavy arms, and trenches in the area would be refilled, Neang Phat said.

Neither side will establish camps inside the pagoda, but they will be allowed to stay in tents nearby, Neang Phat said.

The commanders will meet again following the bilateral discussions between foreign ministers, he said.

Thai soldiers must allow Cambodian soldiers and civilians to reach Ta Moan Thom temple, from Thursday, he added.

Tribunal Official Removed After Allegations

By Sok Khemara, VOA Khmer
Original report from Washington
14 August 2008

Khmer audio aired 13 August 2008 (1.00 MB) - Download (MP3)
Khmer audio aired 13 August 2008 (1.00 MB) - Listen (MP3)

The Khmer Rouge tribunal has removed a high-ranking official in charge of personnel, following nagging allegations of kickbacks and irregularities in the troubled courts.

Keo Thy Vuth was removed from his administrative position and returned to work at the Cabinet of Ministers Monday.

Sources close to the tribunal said he may have been removed due to allegations of kickbacks and corruption, or he may have been a scapegoat.

A tribunal spokesman denied Keo Thy Vuth had been fired.

"There was not any sacking at the [tribunal] Monday," the spokesman, Reach Sambath, said. "He was just transferred to work in his original place at the Cabinet of Ministers."

Keo Thy Vuth was replaced by Rong Chhong.

The shuffle comes as 250 tribunal staff have gone unpaid for the month of July, and as the UN and donors reassess their funding following complaints in June of irregularities.

NEC Dismisses Complaints of Voter Fraud

By Chun Sakada, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
14 August 2008

Khmer audio aired 14 August 2008 (1.43 MB) - Download (MP3)
Khmer audio aired 14 August 2008 (1.43 MB) - Listen (MP3)

The opposition party on Thursday criticized as partial and political the National Election Committee's denial of its voter fraud complaints, as the Cambodian People's Party and Funcinpec decided on a reduced number of positions in the new government.

The NEC on Tuesday struck down the Sam Rainsy Party complaints of widespread voter irregularities.

The NEC said Tuesday not enough evidence had been presented to warrant a public hearing over the alleged irregularities.

The Sam Rainsy Party said Wednesday it would appeal to the Constitutional Council.

The complaints included allegations that local officials had distributed an identification form, No. 1018, in lieu of photo identification, allowing for ineligible voting.

"We are very disappointed for the denial by the NEC, and call the denial not in comformity with the law, because we have full witnesses and documents in our complaint," said Kong Sam On, SRP lawyer in charge of election complaints. "We have evidence enough about the irregularities, including more than 3,000 witnesses who have real addresses and form No. 1018 illegally issued by commune officials."

NEC Secretary-General Tep Nitha defended the decision, as "following the law and NEC procedure."

As the Sam Rainsy and Human Rights parties maintained a denial of the election results Wednesday, Funcinpec prepared to join the government with less posts than in the past.

CPP spokesman Khieu Kanharith said Thursday Funcinpec members will hold positions in government such as deputy prime minister, senior minister, or secretary of state, but there would be no Funcinpec ministry heads.

The CPP will lead all of the ministries, he said.

"We are preparing the list for government posts," Funcinpec Secretary-General Nhiek Bunchhay said Thursday. "There are at least 62 people: one for deputy prime minister, four for senior minister from former ministers...and the remaining are secretary of state and undersecretary of state."

"This is our pride, to get some government posts, if we get two seats in the Assembly. All of these positions are concessions and gifts from the CPP, because we used to work together," he said. "If we didn't get the government posts, we would have been disappointed, because we got a bad result from the election."

Unions to Hold Protest Over Temple Standoff

By Heng Reaksmey, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
14 August 2008

Khmer audio aired 14 August 2008 (1.07 MB) - Download (MP3)
Khmer audio aired 14 August 2008 (1.07 MB) - Listen (MP3)

The Cambodian Confederation of Unions said Thursday it planned to hold a "peaceful" demonstration Saturday against the continued Thai military presence on the border.

As many as 300 garment workers would participate, in a gathering expected to begin in front of the former National Assembly building. The demonstrators will march to the Thai Embassy, said Rong Chhun, chairman of the Cambodian Independent Teachers Association.

Protesters will demand the Thais stop their "invasion" of Cambodia and withdraw troops from conflict areas, including Preah Vihear and Ta Moan temples, Rong Chhun said.

The protest comes as the Thai and Cambodian foreign ministers are set to meet Monday to solve the ongoing border standoff, which began July 15.

Rong Chhun said the demonstration would not affect the meeting, which will be the third round of bilateral talks over alleged Thai encroachment on Cambodian soil.

The Thais maintain their troops are deployed on Thai land, a position Cambodia disputes.

Rong Chhun appealed to the Cambodian government to appeal to the UN Security Council to resolve the dispute, expressing disappointment with bilateral negotiations so far.

Cambodia media to carry aid to military at temple

The Bangkok Post

Phnom Penh - Cambodian journalists Wednesday announced they would answer a call for aid from soldiers stationed at a remote northern temple complex and travel there to distribute supplies.

A group of journalists including the privately owned Cambodian Television Network said they would visit the Ta Moan temples in the north of the country soon to deliver food and other essentials to troops near the site that is disputed by Thailand.

Cambodia's ill-equipped army has been heavily supported by various groups nationwide in its hurried stand against alleged Thai incursions, including journalists and social activists, politicians and prominent members of society since the temple standoffs started last month.

Senior officials from Oddar Meanchey province, home to the Ta Moan Thom temples, appealed for assistance for soldiers and police this week to maintain their vigil.

The Cambodian Foreign Ministry said in a statement Tuesday that the temple complex was "indisputably inside Cambodian territory."

"We deny any demand that contravenes Cambodia's legal rights," the Foreign Ministry said.
Thai soldiers have reportedly denied Cambodians access to the Ta Moan temples since July 28.

Cambodia won Unesco World Heritage listing for the Preah Vihear temple ruins - 150 kilometres east of Ta Moan - on July 7 against Thailand's wishes. Thai troops then moved into territory claimed by Cambodia, but Thailand insists this has not been legally decided.

Later that month, Thai troops allegedly blocked Cambodian access to the Ta Moan group of temples, also on the 800-kilometre border, which is disputed at many points.

Cambodia says it hopes the issue can be resolved "peacefully and lawfully" at scheduled a bilateral meeting between foreign ministers in the Thai province of Prachuap Kiri Khan Monday.

Cambodian fish exports to EU expected to start

HENG CHIVOAN; Fishermen unload their catches of prahok earlier this year outside of Phnom Penh.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Vong Sokheng
Thursday, 14 August 2008

Cambodia hopes to begin shipping fish and fish products to European Union members next year, but still lacks sufficient health and safety regulations

THE government hopes to begin exporting freshwater fish to the European market next year, but urgent steps must be taken to improve quality control measures to meet the EU's exacting safety standards, fisheries officials say.

"We are still learning about the kinds of regulations and standards that are required," Nao Thuok, chief of the Ministry of Agriculture's Fishery Administration told the Post on Monday.

The EU demands very high food safety standards that are beyond Cambodia's capacity, but the Kingdom is actively exploring ways to improve.

The European Commission inspected the fisheries sector in 2005 and has since extended technical assistance to Cambodian authorities on food legislation.

Officials here hope this will allow the government to decide what actions are needed to secure access to the EU market for Cambodia's fish and fish products.

"If we can meet the EU standards, we can sell our food products to anywhere in the world," Nao Thuok said. Currently, Cambodia exports fish to Thailand, Vietnam, Australia, Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia. According to Nao Thuok, there are about 30 local companies that export fish, an industry he estimated was worth around US$40 million a year.

Song Heng, who is employed by the local fish export company Lian Heng Investments, said the company currently ships some 2,000 tonnes of fish to the US, but is eager to expand sales to Europe as soon as possible.

"We still cannot export to the EU market, because they require that the [Cambodian] government fulfils certain inspection requirements to comply with their standards," Song Heng said.

System failures stall exports
Rafael Dochao Moreno, charge d'affaires of the delegation of the European Commission, said that before a Cambodian company can export fish to any of the EU's 27 member states, the government has to demonstrate that it has the necessary legal powers and resources to ensure credible inspection and controls throughout the production chain.

Moreno explained that fish products may only be imported into the EU if they have passed through facilities such as cold storage, processing plants, factory vessels and registered freezer vessels, all of which Cambodia currently lacks.

"As long as Cambodia's system for fisheries production and processing is not recognised, no exports can take place," Moreno told the Post by email on Wednesday.

"The problem is therefore not one of a particular product failing to meet specific standards, but one of the system as a whole failing to meet the system requirements," he added.

Other issues are the lack of legislation governing the quality of fish and fish products, and insufficient oversight of fish production and marketing chains, including inspection and certification schemes, Moreno said.

The EU is the largest importer of fish and fisheries products in the world, taking in US$23 billion worth products from non-EU countries in 2007.

Cambodia and Thailand to begin troop redeployment

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) — Cambodia and Thailand have agreed to a gradual redeployment of troops near an ancient border temple ahead of talks next week on territorial disputes, a Cambodian army general said Thursday.

The redeployment, slated to begin during the weekend, will first apply to Thai and Cambodian troops stationed inside the compound of a Buddhist pagoda near the 11th century Preah Vihear temple, Cambodian Deputy Defense Minister Gen. Neang Phat said.

The number of troops from both countries will be reduced "to the lowest number possible," Neang Phat said, adding that security officials from the two countries had reached the agreement during a meeting on Wednesday in Thailand's Surin province.

Neang Phat said that both countries will pull troops back from Keo Sikha Kiri Svara pagoda compound during the weekend before foreign ministers of both countries meet in Thailand next Monday.

A similar step will be taken for troops stationed in areas surrounding the Buddhist pagoda and Preah Vihear temple after the foreign ministers' meeting, he said.

Thai military officials were not immediately available for comment.

About 800 troops from Cambodia and 400 from Thailand have been facing off in the area for a month.

Moving troops from the Keo Sikha Kiri Svara pagoda is considered significant, since it is where the troops first deployed. The two sides came close to a shoot-out on July 17 when Cambodian monks sought to celebrate Buddhist lent in the pagoda.

Troops on both sides raised their weapons, but no shots were fired, and the Cambodians eventually backed down.

The border standoff erupted near the temple last month when UNESCO approved Cambodia's application to have the complex named a World Heritage Site. Thai Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej had backed the bid, sparking demonstrations by anti-government protesters who claimed the temple's new status would undermine Thailand's claim to the surrounding area.

In 1962, the International Court of Justice awarded Preah Vihear and the land it occupies to Cambodia. The decision still rankles many Thais even though the temple is culturally Cambodian, sharing the Hindu-influenced style of the more famous Angkor complex.

The dispute has not been resolved despite two rounds of talks since last month, with the countries referring to two different maps.

Cambodia uses a French colonial map demarcating the border, which Thailand says favors Cambodia. Thailand relies on a map drawn up later with American technical assistance.