Saturday, 8 November 2008

Third ACMECS summit issues declaration

Nhan Dan
November 8, 2008

The 3rd Summit of the Ayeyawady-Chaophraya-Mekong Economic Co-operation Strategy (ACMECS) successfully closed in Hanoi on November 7 with the issue of a joint declaration.
Following is the full text of the declaration:

We, the Heads of the Government of the Kingdom of Cambodia, the Lao People's Democratic Republic, the Union of Myanmar, the Kingdom of Thailand and the Socialist Republic of Vietnam gathered in Hanoi, Vietnam on 7th November 2008 for the 3rd Summit of the Ayeyawady - Chao Phraya - Mekong Economic Co-operation Strategy (hereinafter referred to as ACMECS).

We reaffirmed our determination to deepen the traditional relations of friendship, good neighbourliness and mutual benefits among the ACMECS countries in the light of the Bagan Declaration.

We appreciated the significant outcomes of the 3rd GMS Summit in March 2008 in Vientiane, Lao PDR and reaffirmed our strong commitments to strengthen the closer co-operation in the implementation of the Vientiane Plan of Action 2008-2012 to realize the vision of developing the Mekong sub-region into a region of “integrity, harmony and prosperity”.

We reviewed the implementation of the Second ACMECS Summit Declaration and the ACMECS Plan of Action with satisfaction on the significant progress in the areas of co-operation such as trade and investment facilitation, transport, agriculture, industry and energy, public health, tourism and human resource development.

We were fully aware of the need for the ACMECS countries to redouble their efforts individually and collectively to move ACMECS forward more effectively and substantively, not only for the interests and benefits of the ACMECS countries, but also for the acceleration of economic integration and development in the Mekong sub-region.

We hereby declared as follows:

In trade and investment facilitation co-operation, we are pleased to witness that the trade and investment volumes among the ACMECS countries have been increasing significantly. To make the best use of great potentials of the ACMECS countries for trade and investment co-operation, we agreed to:

Adopt the ACMECS Leaders' Declaration on Facilitation and Promotion of Trade, Investment and Tourism with a view to creating favourable business environment in border areas in an effort to accelerate economic growth and social progress in such areas of the ACMECS countries;

Strengthen the ACMECS Business Council as a real bridge for enhancing the partnership between the ACMECS countries' Governments and business circles. In this connection, we expressed our high appreciation to the successful organization of the ACMECS Business Forum following the first which was held in Bangkok in 2005, and the 1st Dialogue between ACMECS Leaders and business sectors on the occasion of the 3rd ACMECS Summit, and took into serious consideration the recommendations submitted by the business circles at the ACMECS Business Forum with a view to create a pro-business environment in the ACMECS countries. We encouraged the ACMECS Business Council to convene regularly, preferably back - to - back with the ACMECS Summits;

Facilitate and promote foreign direct investment, particularly among ACMECS member countries, through the provision of investment incentives under the respective domestic laws and regulations of ACMECS countries; and

Encourage the organization of joint trade and investment promotion events and exhibitions in rotation among the ACMECS countries.

In agricultural co-operation, we agreed to:

Welcome the recommendation of the first Ministerial Meeting on ACMECS Rice Co-operation on 24 - 25 September 2007 in Siem Reap, Cambodia to establish ACMECS Rice Co-operation mechanism;

Encourage co-operation in technology transfer in agriculture production to increase productivity, food security, and food safety and enhance the competitiveness of agricultural products;

Promote information sharing in animal disease control and improve quarantine inspection procedures of cross-border agricultural products;

Strengthen close co-operation in bio-fuel crops production in the ACMECS countries in order to provide materials and inputs for bio-fuel development;

Note that contract farming contributes to the increase in international trade in agricultural products and is an efficient mechanism to guarantee food sufficiency, which benefits all ACMECS countries. The contracting parties shall facilitate the implementation of contract farming schemes;

Consider supporting financial institutions to provide credit for small farmers for agriculture related activities under ACMECS schemes;

Expedite the implementation of ACMECS Plan of Action 2006 by promoting close consultation and co-operation of the private sector of the ACMECS countries in investments in agriculture and agro-industry;

Encourage consultation and co-operation between the ACMECS countries and development partners to tackle challenges and risks from food crisis and to ensure food security.

Encourage and promote awareness of producers, farmers, business sectors and local authorities on the benefits, rules and procedures of the contract farming scheme by organizing seminars or workshops.

In industrial and energy co-operation, we agreed to:

Encourage feasibility study and expand application and production of bio - energy in the ACMECS countries through experience and information sharing and technology transfer;

Facilitate investments in energy development projects, particularly hydro - power, and oil and gas exploration; Promote the development of power transmission lines and networks across the ACMECS countries;

Promote investment in industrial infrastructure, particularly supporting and logistic industries along the East - West Economic Corridor (EWEC), the North South Economic Corridor (NSEC) and the Southern Economic Corridor (SEC); and

Promote and enhance the competitiveness of the ACMECS SMEs.

In transport co-operation, we emphasized the importance of transport infrastructure linkages in the socio- economic development of the ACMECS countries. We welcomed Thailand’s initiative on positioning the sub-region as a transportation hub. To expedite the progress in sub-regional transport network development, we further agreed to:

Make full use of existing road transportation networks and economic corridors, particularly the East - West Economic Corridor (EWEC), North South Economic Corridor (NSEC) and Southern Economic Corridor (SEC) under the Greater Mekong Sub-region (GMS) co-operation programme to promote trade, investment and tourism among ACMECS member countries;

Welcome the considerable progress made under the negotiations and implementation of the Cross Border Transport Agreement (CBTA) under the GMS Programme, Initial Implementation of the CBTA (IICBTA) and bilateral road transport arrangements between and among the ACMECS member countries, particularly, the conclusion of the MOU between and among Lao PDR, Thailand and Vietnam on IICBTA;

Strengthen our co-operation in further development of transport linkages, in particular the parts with the remaining missing links/bottlenecks in the EWEC, NSEC, SEC and other corridors as well as maintenance of existing networks;

Welcome the successful organization of the “East West Economic Corridor Week” in August 2007, in Da Nang , Vietnam and encourage ACMECS member countries to further organize similar trade, investment and tourism marketing promotion activities in other Economic Corridors;

Encourage the negotiations to establish the agreements between and among the ACMECS countries on the admittance of tourism vehicles on designated routes and welcome the conclusion of the Arrangement between and among Lao PDR, Thailand and Vietnam on the Operation of Tourism Road Transport and encourage other ACMECS member countries to participate in this arrangement; and

Encourage the development of air linkages among major cities, cultural and natural heritage sites in the ACMECS countries to increase trade, investment and tourism flows.

In tourism co-operation, we welcomed the conclusion of the Agreement between Cambodia and Thailand on the Implementation of ACMECS Single Visa and looked forward to other ACMECS countries to join the scheme. For further enhancing tourism co-operation, we agreed to:

Simplify the entry formalities to promote cross border movement within the ACMECS countries;

Effectively implement joint marketing promotion under the "Five Countries, One Destination" concept, including conducting joint promotion activities and feasibility studies of joint tour packages in eco - tourism and cultural/historical tourism such as the Bagan – Sukhothai – Siem Reap – Luang Phrabang – Hue - Hoi An tour package;

Promote the human resource development for tourism, with priority given to programmes and projects for skill training in tour-guide, marketing, tourism planning and management; and
Strengthen closer co-ordination in development and linking ACMECS member countries’ tourism websites.

In human resource development, we re-emphasized the need for enhancing quality of human resources in the ACMECS countries. We highly appreciated Thailand and Vietnam for their efforts to extend scholarship programmes to other ACMECS members. We welcomed Vietnam and Thailand to conclude the MOU on vocational training development for the ACMECS countries and looked forward to this MOU to be concretized soon into practical work plans and programmes. For further enhancing the effectiveness of co-operation in human resource development, we agreed to:

Encourage the establishment of the partnership and network among academic institutions, in particular higher education and vocational training in the ACMECS countries in order to build up human resource capacity, promote experience sharing and enhance programmes of trainer and trainee exchanges;

Continue implementing the current scholarship and fellowship programmes, particularly vocational training programmes in the co-operation sectors of ACMECS; and
Encourage and call upon concerned Development Partners to participate in training projects of ACMECS and substantiate their financial and technical assistance to the ACMECS countries in human resource development.

In public health sector, we fully recognized the threats and detrimental impacts on human lives and economic development of the ACMECS countries posed by infectious diseases and called for collective efforts and measures of the ACMECS countries to enhance their preparedness and response in the prevention and control of emerging infectious diseases through the followings:

Continuing the implementation of the Immediate Action Plan for Preventing and Controlling Avian Influenza Pandemic adopted at the ACMECS Special SOM on Avian Influenza Pandemic Preparedness in May 2006;

Facilitating information sharing on infectious disease surveillance, prevention and control through collaborative activities and dissemination of best practices;

Strengthening and better co-ordinating national epidemic prevention plans of the ACMECS countries, particularly disease control and quarantine inspection at border checkpoints; and
Promoting capacity building in animal and human health sector.

With regards to natural resources and environment, we fully recognized the vital part of environmental conservation and the sustainable use of shared natural resources, including water resources, in the Ayeyawady, Chao Phraya and Mekong river basins, for the sustainable development in the ACMECS countries. We are determined to protect our natural environment and are committed to use our natural resources wisely. We reaffirmed our strong will to strengthen closer co-ordination and consultation in undertaking our commitments to use, manage, and conserve natural and environmental resources for sustainable development under the bilateral and multilateral frameworks such as the Mekong River Commission (MRC) and the Greater Mekong Sub-region (GMS) where applicable. In this connection, we decided to set up a new Working Group on environment co-operation and tasked our Ministers to implement this decision at the earliest.

With regards to co-operation with Development Partners, we highly appreciated their active and effective support to the ACMECS countries in socio - economic development. We were fully aware that the implementation of ACMECS projects is primarily in the self-help principle to make the best use of all resources available and to encourage the active participation of the Development Partners in the implementation of ACMECS projects. For further strengthening of the partnership between the ACMECS countries and the Development Partners, we agreed to:

Instruct our SOM officials to finalize the draft Guidelines for Development Partners' Participation in ACMECS Projects based on in-depth discussion among each others and with the Development Partners and to submit to the next ACMECS Ministerial Meeting for adoption. We endorsed the proposal by our SOM officials and Ministers on posting the final Guidelines for Development Partners’ Participation in ACMECS Projects and the list of flagship ACMECS projects on the ACMECS official website;

Explore the possibility to hold the ACMECS plus Development Partners working level meetings, preferably back-to-back with the meetings of ACMECS SOM and the sector Working Groups in order to discuss in detail the assistance of the Development Partners to the ACMECS prioritized projects; and

Diversify the Development Partners' participation in ACMECS projects with different levels and scopes, including, inter alia, bilateral, trilateral, and multilateral frameworks.

We emphasized that strengthening closer co-ordination among the ACMECS countries is crucial in co-ordinating our efforts to implement ACMECS projects. In this connection, we agreed to:

Urge the sector Working Groups to convene regularly in rotation among the ACMECS countries to discuss and update the progress in the implementation of the ACMECS projects;

Strengthen the ACMECS Working Group (AWG) in Bangkok for regular communication and co-ordination and task the AWG to update the status and progress in the implementation of ACMECS projects on ACMECS official Website periodically; and

Task our SOM officials to convene a workshop to update the list of the ACMECS projects for the phase 2009-2012 and the ACMECS Plan of Action 2006 in Thailand and report to the ACMECS Ministerial Meeting in Thailand in 2009 for adoption. The progress evaluation of the ACMECS Plans of Action is necessary for the effective economic co-operation and future implementation.

We welcome the offer of the Kingdom of Cambodia to host the fourth ACMECS Summit in 2010. The specific date and venue will be co-ordinated through diplomatic channels. (VNA)

ACMECS aims for strengthened trade-investment co-operation

Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung addresses the summit.

Nhan Dan
November 8, 2008

Prime Ministers from the region attending the third Ayayewady-Chao Phraya-Mekong Economic Co-operation Strategy (ACMECS) Summit have agreed to boost co-operation in the areas of economy, trade, investment and tourism to cope with the negative impact of the global economic downturn.

Addressing the function, which opened in Hanoi on November 7, Vietnamese PM Nguyen Tan Dung asked ACMECS countries, including Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam to increase their exchange of experiences and provide mutual support within the framework of bilateral and ASEAN, ASEAN+3, APEC and ASEM co-operation for greater socio-economic development in each country, thus contributing to stabilising the region’s economic and financial situation.

In the context of the unpredictability of the regional and global economy, ACMECS PMs agreed to boost co-operation in an effective and practical manner, as well as take advantage of opportunities and cope with new challenges. At the same time, ACMECS member countries should boost economic integration with one another and across the Mekong sub-region as well, they said.

The PMs discussed and approved specific proposals focusing on promoting ACMECS co-operation in the agriculture, industry, energy, transportation, tourism and health sectors.
They also stressed that ACMECS would continue to give top priority to human resources development.

Leaders of the ACMECS countries also emphasised the need for favourable procedures and mechanisms, including customs procedures and tourism promotion activities.

Regarding environmental protection, the Vietnamese PM said that suitable measures should be taken towards reasonable exploitation of the three rivers, which play an important role in the sustainable development of ACMECS countries, with special attention being paid to the Mekong river.

The PMs agreed to incorporate environmental protection into ACMECS co-operation programme and to establish an environmental task group within the framework of ACMECS.

In conclusion, the ACMECS PMs approved a joint statement conveying a message of high determination and committed actions by member countries to transform ACMECS into a practical and effective co-operation framework across a number of fields.

The fourth ACMECS Summit will take place in Cambodia in 2010. (VNA)

Tour operators laud Cambodia visa exemption pact

Nhan Dan
November 8, 2008

Many local tour operators have run into rapture at the news of visa exemption for holders of ordinary passports between Vietnam and Cambodia, saying the pact would be a springboard to spur travel between the two countries.

The majority of local visitors travel to the neighboring country via Moc Bai border gate in the southern province of Tay Ninh for trips to Phnom Penh and Siem Reap during four to five days, and each of them is now charged a visa fee of between US$20 and US$25.

Vietnam and Cambodia on Tuesday inked an agreement to this effect during the Vietnam visit by Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen.

Travel firms in HCMC said that the number of local people to travel to Cambodia is increasing quickly, and will be further bolstered once the visa agreement takes effect.

The majority of local visitors travel to the neighboring country via Moc Bai border gate in the southern province of Tay Ninh for trips to Phnom Penh and Siem Reap during four to five days, and each of them is now charged a visa fee of between US$20 and US$25.

Ta Thi Cam Vinh, head of Ben Thanh Tourist’s outbound department, which is arranging tours for around 2,000 Vietnam travelers to Cambodia this year, showed her happiness at the new agreement.

“The number of the guests will increase if tourists can travel to the country without visa,” she said. The number of travelers to Cambodia via her company this year is expected to increase by 100%.

“We think that we will combine with some Cambodian partners to launch a promotion program for Vietnam travelers on the occasion (of visa requirement being abolished)”, Vinh said.
Many travelers have complained about the high visa requirement, saying they felt it very inconvenient to spend much time and money for this procedure to enter to the neighboring country. Once the visa requirement is dropped, they can use the money to buy a one-way car ticket from HCMC to Siem Reap.

At Peace Tour, the number of local travelers to Cambodia this year is also expected to double. The company has obtained licenses from the two countries’ transport ministries for its vehicles to travel between the two sides directly, so the new visa agreement would give Peace Tour a strong boost.

“I really want to know when visitors can travel to Cambodia without visa. It’s good condition for our business,” said the company’s director Nguyen Thi Hoa Le.

Le expected a new wave of local travelers into Cambodia upon the new rule “because they can travel to Cambodia easily like to domestic destinations like Danang and Hanoi.”

Like Peace Tour, Sapaco Tourist is also carrying same services. However, Sapaco offers tours for its travelers on Thursdays only. On other weekdays the company operates as a transport company catering to travel firms and other guests.

“My company has over 700 Vietnamese and Cambodian guests per day. I hope the guests will increase strongly,” said Pham Van Toi, director of the company.

The company runs 12 trips between HCMC and Phnom Penh per day with a one-way ticket costing over US$12, and daily trips between HCMC and Siem Riep costing US$22 a passenger.

Saigontourist Travel Service Company has also had bookings from nearly 7,500 local passengers to Cambodia in 11 months this year, up 48% year-on-year. The company has two regular trips there per week.

Doan Thi Thanh Tra, marketing manager of the company, said if the new rule takes effect before the Lunar New Year of 2009, “our company can woo more overseas Vietnamese to travel with us to Cambodia.” (SGT)

Vietnam-Cambodia visa exemption agreement to take effect

Nhan Dan
November 8, 2008

An agreement on visa exemption for common passport holders signed between Vietnam and Cambodia will take effect as from December 4, announced the Consular Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Under the agreement which was signed in Hanoi on November 4, the two countries’ citizens who holds common passports of at least 6 month value will be exempted from visa for stays of up to 14 days in each other’s territories. (VNA)

2008 Election in New Zealand

New Zealand's Labour Party leader Helen Clark, left, and husband Peter Davis arrive to vote in the New Zealand general election at Kowhai Intermediate School, Auckland, New Zealand, Saturday, Nov. 8, 2008. The two major parties _ Prime Minister Helen Clark's Labour and conservative John Key's Nationals _ are almost certain not to gain a majority in the 123-seat Parliament in their own right. A complex proportional voting system ensures significant numbers of seats will go to a handful of small parties. Photo from AP Photo by Wayne Drought

New Zealand's Labour Party leader Helen Clark and husband Peter Davis line up to vote in the New Zealand general election at Kowhai Intermediate School, Auckland, New Zealand, Saturday, Nov. 8, 2008. The two major parties _ Prime Minister Helen Clark's Labour and conservative John Key's Nationals _ are almost certain not to gain a majority in the 123-seat Parliament in their own right. A complex proportional voting system ensures significant numbers of seats will go to a handful of small parties. Photo from AP Photo by Wayne Drought

New Zealand's Labour Party leader Helen Clark, right, and husband Peter Davis vote in the New Zealand general election at Kowhai Intermediate School, Auckland, New Zealand, Saturday, Nov. 8, 2008. The two major parties _ Prime Minister Helen Clark's Labour and conservative John Key's Nationals _ are almost certain not to gain a majority in the 123-seat Parliament in their own right. A complex proportional voting system ensures significant numbers of seats will go to a handful of small parties. Photo from AP Photo by Wayne Drought

Cambodia raise Cambodian and UNESCO flags at Preah Vihear temple Friday, Nov. 11, 2008

The Khmer army ready to raise the UNESCO flag at Preah Vihear

Photo from AP Photo by Heng Sinith

Cambodian cultural officials Tan Theany, left, Cuch Phoeun, center and Secretary of State for Culture Ty Chao, raise Cambodian and UNESCO flags at Preah Vihear temple Friday, Nov. 11, 2008. The flags are meant to raise awareness to protect the temple, which became a UNESCO World Heritage site in July, following the recent cross border clashes with neighboring Thailand.
Photo from AP Photo by Heng Sinith

Secretary General of Cambodia National Commission for UNESCO Tan Theany (L), holds a Cambodia National Commission for UNESCO flag, President of National Authority for Preah Vihear Ty Yao (R) holds a world heritage flag and Secretary of ministry of Culture and Fine Arts Chuch Phoeurn (C) holds a national flag as they prepare to raise their flags at the Preah Vihear temple in Preah Vihear province, some 543 kilometers north of Phnom Penh on November 7, 2008.

Photo from AP Photo by Heng Sinith

Cambodia National Commission for UNESCO (L), world heritage (C) and national (R) flags flutter during the raising ceremony at the Preah Vihear temple in Preah Vihear province, some 543 kilometers north of Phnom Penh on November 7, 2008. Cambodia and Thailand have agreed to restart talks aimed at resolving a long-running border dispute that last month claimed four lives.

Cambodia and Vietnam agree rail link: Foreign Minister

Cambodian Foreign Affairs Minister Hor Namhong
PHNOM PENH (AFP) — Cambodia and Vietnam have signed a deal to link their railways, Cambodia's foreign minister said Saturday, helping revive long-running plans to link Asia by rail.
Foreign Minister Hor Namhong said China would help Cambodia with the railroad link to Vietnam, which will cost more than 500 million dollars.

"China has promised to build the railroad from Phnom Penh to Vietnam as part of the project to create a link from Singapore to Kunming in China," Hor Namhong said on his return from regional meetings in Hanoi, Vietnam.

"The railroads are very important for Cambodia's economy because we can then export goods to other southeast Asian countries at low cost," he told reporters at Phnom Penh International airport.

Cross-border trade between Cambodia and Vietnam totalled 1.7 billion dollars in the first eight months of this year, Hor Namhong added.

Cambodia is linked to its western neighbour Thailand by a track that is no longer in use.

Cambodia's civil war only ended in the 1990s, and trains throughout the impoverished nation crawl along dilapidated tracks.

It has long been a dream to connect Asia by rail, and many of the gaps in the railway are in Southeast Asia, with only Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand operating cross-border links.

The Asian Development Bank has stepped in with funds to help overhaul Cambodia's railways, a project many hope will be finished within the next few years.

Hun Sen’s Dignity Is Strongly Disgraced Due to Bad Governance, as Evaluated by the European Union - Thursday, 6.11.2008

Posted on 8 November 2008

The Mirror, Vol. 12, No. 585

“While the problem, that really poor people who did not receive rice and rallied at some communes in the northwest of Cambodia spreads further, the European Community straightforwardly expressed an opinion, saying that ‘the scandal that rice distributed does not reach the really poor people results from bad governance.’

“The ChargĂ© d’Affaires of the European Commission in Cambodia, Mr. Rafael Dochao Moreno, said, ‘The European Union provides US$200 million to Cambodia each year to build up infrastructure in the field of education and in other fields relating to good governance. Therefore, according to the legal policy, funds have to be distributed equally and justly.’

“However, the representative of the European Union in Cambodia commented on the food aid of the Asian Development Bank – ADB – regarding food safety, saying ‘that ‘he ADB food aid does not reach the really poor people, is an example of bad governance.’

“Regarding this evaluation, observers said that because of bad governance, resulting that starving people do not get food aid, Prime Minister Hun Sen’s good standing will be strongly discredited.

“On the contrary, most food aid of the ADB distributed in the northwest of Cambodia is offered to the rich, to the powerful, and to those who are supporters of the Cambodian People’s Party.

“Even Mr. Long Vou Piseth, the ADB officer in charge of food project implementations in Cambodia, criticized this, emphasizing that in some cases it is said that ‘the quantity of rice is small while the number of poor citizens is large, so village chiefs show bias depending on their partisans and on political tendencies.’ That is why problems occur.

“It should be noted that bias, injustice, as well as partisanship, come from different reasons, including from the fact that food aid and different other distributions are done by the Cambodian Red Cross, by the National Committee for Disaster Management etc. But this time, the rice aid distribution for the poor reflects clearer irregularities committed by the agencies involved, and by village and commune officials, a situation which needs to be fixed immediately.

“Recently, there was a report that the ADB has distributed food to poor citizens in three provinces next to the Siamese [Thai] border. The distribution brought accusations that non-government organizations are partisan as they offered food only to those who are supporters of the ruling party, while poor people received nothing.

“The report added that the ADB provided food to people from hundreds of families in Pech Chenda, Phnom Proek, Battambang, Poipet, Ou Chrov, Banteay Meanchey, and in Pursat. The distribution of food to poor citizens is made based on a registration conducted by village and commune chiefs from the Cambodian People’s Party.

“Civil society organization officials in Battambang, in Banteay Meanchey, and in Pursat, who observed the distribution of aid from this international financial institution, said that local authorities select only the names of citizen who are members of the Cambodian People’s Party to get food aid, among whom some are rich. However, citizens suspected to not supporting the Cambodian Peoples’ Party are not registered to receive aid.

“Civil society officials added that citizens in some communes, such as Pech Chenda and Poipet, complaint that the ADB is corrupt, partisan, and discriminates politically which contradicts what the head of the government had said. However, officials of non-government organization explained to the villagers that the ADB is not corrupt, but they distribute aid according the names listed up by village chiefs and by commune authorities.

“Villagers said that if the aid belonged to the Cambodian People’s Party, they would not protest, but the aid distributed in two communes next to the Siamese [Thai] border is donated by the ADB, so it should reach the poor citizens and there should be no partisan and political tendencies involved.

“It should be noted that during previous distributions of aid to poor citizens, local authorities from the Cambodian People’s Party always used political bias and partisanship, although high ranking leaders of this party had ordered local authorities not to act according to political tendencies.

“Observers said that although some aid is donated by oknhas, by millionaires, and by leaders of the Cambodian People’s Party, such aid originates from corruption by exploiting the citizens and the nation. Therefore, they should distribute their aid with transparency, particularly the aid from international financial institutions, like from the ADB.

“Most Khmer citizens living next to the Siamese [Thai] border go to Siam to work as illegal workers. But after the armed confrontation during these months, some citizens are sent back by the Siamese authorities to their home country. Because of resulting shortages, some non-government organizations, especially the ADB, bring food to be distributed to poor citizens. But the distributions are politically discriminating, because some village authorities, who are in charge of registering the recipients of aid, are members of the Cambodian People’s Party. That is why citizens, who do not receive aid, are disappointed and complain to these organizations.

“We think that if Prime Minister Hun Sen still lets officials, under his ruling, do everything with discrimination, his good standing will be discredited by reactions from donor countries.”

Khmer Machas Srok, Vol.2, #278, 6.11.2008
Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Thursday, 6 November 2008

The trauma of the genocide keeps haunting society

Friday 07 November 2008

Watch Video

Thirty years after the Khmer Rouge genocide, survivors try to forget. In the psychiatric ward of a municipal hospital, Dr. Ka Sunbaunat’s office has become a precious place of refuge for those who were in their 20s during the Pol Pot regime.

By FRANCE 24

A morning in Phnom Penh, the Cambodian capital, 30 years after the Khmer Rouge genocide. We are in the psychiatric ward of a municipal hospital and it is crowded. Most of the patients were in their 20s during the Pol Pot regime. Himself a survivor, Dr. Ka Sunbaunat is the first psychiatrist to address the killing fields syndrome. His patients number in the thousands. They all bear heavy psychological scars.

A civil war, bombings, masacres and purges that cost the lives of one quarter of the population - 1.7 million victims. For a generation of survivors, it is impossible to forget. For some of them, Dr. Ka Sunbaunat’s office has become a precious place of refuge. Like for Theary: "It was three days after I gave birth to my first son…Angkar, the Khmer Rouge brought in some people…And then, they killed them all in front of us…To make an example…To teach us to obey… It s the reason why, since then, I see a man who runs very fast…He escapes into the ricefields….Then there is another man…With black clothes…He shoots him in the back…Then he falls…This image always stays in my head… "

Theary is able to describe her nightmares but most of the patients cannot. For the doctor, silence is a key contributor of the violence that undermines Cambodian society today. And for a cure, he relies on mysticism: "Here you have a kind of palm tree leaf. It is this kind of thing that can take away their despair and anxiety" he says. A handful of Khmer Rouge leaders are about to go on trial in an international tribunal. The killing fields syndrome shows just how deep the trauma of the genocide is.

Lake Families Fear Eviction

RFA Photo
Homes built on Boeung Kak Lake in central Phnom Penh.

Radio Free Asia
2008-11-06

Controversy heats up over plans to develop an area of the Cambodian capital and evict its residents

PHNOM PENH—Sixty-year-old Nam has lived on a small plot of land in Village No. 22 alongside Boeung Kak Lake, in the Cambodian capital, since 1980. Now, she says, officials are saying the entire settlement has to go—slated for redevelopment into a commercial property.

“I am very concerned. They said our settlement here on Boeung Kak lakeside is illegal,” Nam said in an interview. “If it is illegal, why have they issued us a certificate? We have no land title but we do have a certificate of recognition.”

Nam and other residents fear forcible eviction—a relatively common occurrence in Cambodia, which has a high rate of homelessness—to make way for property developers. They have staged regular protests around Phnom Penh for months, most recently outside the South Korean Embassy after residents mistakenly assumed the developer was a South Korean company.

They also fear authorities won’t compensate them at market prices, to which they say the law entitles them. Authorities counter that they lack legal title to the land.

Ros Sem, a resident of Village No. 23, said he has lived along Boeung Kak Lake since 1989 and paid more than U.S. $10,000 for the land. Building his house cost tens of thousands of dollars more, but local authorities have only now told him his home isn’t legal.

“I’m very worried. Under the Pol Pot regime we lost everything. Under the Lon Nol era, we also lost. Since 1979, we’ve had only what we have now, and if we lose this we will be finished. We don’t have anything to depend on,” Ros Sem said.

Some 4,000 families now live around Boeung Kak Lake, which is Phnom Penh’s main catchment for monsoon rain. This includes several hundred residents living on the lake in houses supported by stilts, many of them in disrepair.

Many have had their water supply shut off since September and some wonder if this is part of a bid to force them out, according to the Phnom Penh Post newspaper.

Development plan

In February 2007, local authorities granted Cambodia’s Shukaku Inc. a 99-year lease on the land at a cost of U.S. $79 million.

Development plans for the 133-hectare site include filling in 80 of the lake’s 90 hectares and using that space to build a luxury residential area, office complex, and shopping center.

Officials meanwhile are trying to assure residents that losing the lake as a rain catchment won’t cause environmental havoc.

Phnom Penh’s deputy governor, Pa Socheatvong, cited provisions for sewage infrastructure that will help divert waste water outside of the city, where it can be filtered and eventually released into the Mekong River.

Rights groups concerned

The land issue dates from the 1975-79 Khmer Rouge regime, which forced mass evacuations and relocations throughout the country. This was followed by mass confusion over land rights and the formation of squatter communities when the refugees returned in the 1990s after a decade of civil war.

Housing Cambodia’s large, young, and overwhelmingly poor population has posed a major problem ever since.

In a 2007 report, Amnesty International estimated that 150,000 people throughout Cambodia were at risk of forcible eviction as a result of land disputes, land seizures, and new property development. Since 2003, forced evictions have reportedly displaced at least 30,000 families, it said.

ADHOC, a Cambodian human rights group, says nearly 50,000 people throughout the country were evicted for development projects in 2006 and 2007.

According to a report by the United Nations’ Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, around 4,225 families will face eviction by the time the Boeung Kak Lake project is complete.

Catherine Baber, director of Amnesty International's Asia-Pacific Program, said the Cambodian government often facilitates evictions to serve the interests of a wealthy, well-connected elite.

“The authorities have been instrumental in demolishing villages, setting homes ablaze, and making poor people homeless without due process and at the behest of those who wield economic and political power,” Baber wrote recently.

“It is clear that relevant laws are seldom and arbitrarily applied, and the authorities have not protected the human rights of people affected by forced evictions,” she said.

Property rights


Complicating the issue further, many Boeung Kak lake residents don’t possess legal titles to the land they occupy, but they say the government acknowledged their de facto ownership when it issued a book of family records.

Authorities counter that the land was illegally occupied and that the family records were simply published to document the number of families living in the area.

Sok Sambath, Daun Penh district governor, has said the more than 4,000 families living on and around Boeung Kak lake don’t have legal rights to the property.

“No one has ever issued a title to any plot of lands on the state’s lake. It is true that family record books have been issued to the residents, but that was just for administrative purposes. No authorities have ever issued any titles for villagers to own land in the area,” Sok Sambath said.

“They must realize that they live on state-owned land,” Phnom Penh’s deputy governor, Pa Socheatvong, said.

“The state and community thought that these folks were citizens with no shelters. We have made statistics of families—this means the families that have no shelters—and our compensation is to build shelters for them.”

But residents say that’s not enough.

“We fear losing our homes, and we fear there will be violence,” said one, who asked not to be named. “[According to the law], anyone who has lived on the land for five years or so will be granted a legal title.”

“We haven’t received a title but we have suffered emotionally. We have voted for [these officials] through all four elections and they should be considerate towards us.”

Original reporting by Chea Makara and Seang Sophorn for RFA's Khmer service. Khmer service director: Sos Kem. Executive producer: Susan Lavery. Translated by Yanny Hin. Written for the Web in English by Joshua Lipes. Edited by Sarah Jackson-Han and Richard Finney.

Girls get a High 5 for helping children in Cambodia

Ksl.com

November 7th, 2008
By Brooke Walker

Two girls from Orem are using their talents to help children in Cambodia.

Eleven-year-old Brianna Ray and her 14-year-old sister, Tenika Ray, wrote a song and recorded a CD to raise money to sponsor children wanting to get a good education in Cambodia. The girls got the idea after visiting Cambodia during a family vacation.

This morning we gave them a High 5.

Their family was living in Singapore for about a year, and they did some sightseeing in Cambodia while they were there. They saw students sharing desks and students without shoes.

They were so moved by the experience that when they returned to America, they wanted to do something to help. So with the help of a teacher, they produced a CD to raise funds to sponsor children in Cambodia.

A family friend, Maria Johnson, nominated them for a High 5.

"I was so impressed that you gave up your birthday presents, and you made a CD so you could give money to the kids in Cambodia so they could have a decent education. That is amazing," she said.

If you would like to nominate someone for a High 5, see the link on this page.

Subregional summit pushes Single Visa Scheme for five SE Asian countries

www.chinaview.cn
2008-11-07

By Han Quao

HANOI, Nov. 7 (Xinhua) -- Delegates attending the 3rd ACMECS Summit called for the implementation of Single Visa Scheme on Friday to facilitate entry into five southeastern Asian countries including Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam.

ACMECS is short for Ayeyawady-Chao Phraya-Mekong Economic Cooperation Strategy. Ayeyawady, Chao Phraya and Mekong are three mother rivers that culturally and historically unify these five countries in heart of Southeast Asia.

"ACMECS shall expedite the implementation of single visa for tourists outside ACMECS to boost tourism in this area,"said Oknha Kith Meng, president of the Cambodian Chamber of Commerce on Friday at ACMECS Business Forum, which was held on the sideline of the summit.

The move, allowing a tourist with one visa to travel through five ACMECS countries, will help ACMECS countries move towards the goal of"Five Countries, One Destination," said the chamber official.

The five southeastern Asian countries are rich in tourism resources, with well-known tourist spots in each country, like Ha Long Bay in Vietnam, Luang Prabang in Laos, Siem Reap in Cambodia, Bagan in Myanmar and Sukhothai in Thailand.

The Cambodian chamber official said tourism has contributed significantly to the Cambodian economic growth. In Cambodia where double digit growth has been registered for the past four years, tourism sector grew 18.5 percent in 2007 over the previous year.

As a pilot project for ACMECS Single Visa Scheme, Cambodia and Thailand signed agreement on the implementation of ACMECS Single Visa last year. According to Thai Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat, Thailand is now amending laws and regulations in response to the agreement.

In addition to the single visa for ACMECS countries, delegates at the summit also proposed the issuance of ACMECS Travel Card. With similar function as the APEC card, ACMECS card will be issued to people of ACMECS countries, first to business persons maybe, for traveling within the five member countries, without applying for any visa, according to a proposal submitted by the ACMECS Business Council at the summit.

To boost the dynamic cooperation within ACMECS framework, the council also proposed that ACMECS should expedite the granting of border pass to residents living in border areas and motor vehicles to travel across the border and go further into another country.

Considering that Thailand is a country with right-steering-wheel vehicles, the council urged other ACMECS member countries to allow the use of right-steering-wheel vehicles for tourism purpose and enable Thai tourists to drive and visit four neighboring countries.

The current global financial crisis has posed difficulty on many sectors and tourism is hit hard. To deal with this, delegates at the summit called for closer cooperation within ACMECS framework, which has just echoed the theme of this year's summit "Deepening Cooperation Towards A More Effective And Dynamic ACMECS".

Editor: Yan

Mr. Ky Tech Recognizes that there Is Corruption in the Courts, while the Minister of Justice Tells Judges to Control Clerks Well - Wednesday, 5.11.200

Posted on 7 November 2008
The Mirror, Vol. 12, No. 585

“Recently, the former president of the Bar Association, Mr. Ky Tech, stated that those who prepare documents and have important roles in court processes are the root of different problems that frequently bring criticism for the courts in the country.

“Mr. Ky Tech said during an interview with journalists, ‘They make courts corrupt.’ The former president of the Bar Association added that they informally communicate with each other and make decisions on different cases unjustly. People involved in court cases pay money to those who prepare the documents to send their names to court officials who then make decisions supporting those people. Mr. Ky Tech continued that they prepare the documents for different cases, instead of letting lawyers do this. The law states that no one can work on a court case except a lawyer. However, it is known that those who prepare the documents take bribes for themselves. If lawyers take money, they will offer receipts. If they cheat, it is not difficult to find them.

In addition to Mr. Ky Tech, also the director of the Cambodian Defenders Project, Mr. Sok Sam Oeun, recognized that there is corruption in the courts. It should be noted that at present at the courts, in addition to those who prepare documents who stand on different sides, also defense lawyers prepare documents. A certain lawyer had been sued by a victim – who had hired him to solve a case – at the Ministry of Interior, because he did not solve the case after receiving his payment. A certain other lawyer appeared to help a victim where more than US$100,000 were handed over, and also armed persons were involved in 2008.

Regarding the corruption accusations by the former president of the Bar Association and by the director of the Cambodian Defenders Project, Judge Chiv Keng absolutely rejected this, saying, ‘There is no longer such corruption’ (Sic!). Not differently, Mr. Ang Vong Vathana, the Minister of Justice with the Ministry as an institution having authority to revoke and assign judges and prosecutors, requested evidence about any case to be reported to him for investigation.
Nevertheless, no one dares to sue, related to corruption of bribe taking to finish cases in courts, because there is no law to protect them. It should be noted that besides corruption committed by those who prepare documents, there are also irregular cases where judges of different primary courts allow their clerks to find money for them through procedures which are against the law, it appears that clerks question accused and plaintiffs without the presence of judges.
Regarding certain procedures which are against legal procedures, taken by judges and clerks, the fourth term Minister of Justice of the Royal Government said that judges must control their clerks well. However, Mr. Ang Vong Vathana said to reduce mistakes by judges, that judges and clerks are not wrong, if judges are absent between 10 to 15 minutes, when busy with other duties (Sic!). But if judges do not attend the hearings, it is wrong that clerks ask questions alone. It should be noted that clerks are court official appointed by the Ministry of Justice.

“Mr. Tep Darong, the president of the Royal Academy of Judicial Profession [source: 'H.E Sok An Met with Guests" - Update : 07-10-08], said that recently, a special training course for clerks at the Royal Academy of Judicial Profession has just finished a six-month clerk training course for 81 students, and each of them was sworn in to take up their positions. He said they swore that they will do their work rightly, keep confidentiality, and do everything to maintain discipline. Mr. Tep Darong added that this 2-year-old special training courses have already trained 500 clerks from all over the country, who never before had received such training. Therefore, it is essential to train them about how to take notes and how to assist judges. Judges can not work alone.
Lawyer Ny Chandy, who administers the Model Court Program at Legal Aid of Cambodia, said that training is welcome, but corruption will always happen, as long as salaries are still small. On the other hand, some people from the legal profession stated that the increase of salaries for court officials is not the only way to help eliminate corruption. Other ways include a reform of the council, and holding hearings to select judges, while not allowing any member of this institution to be a member of any political party, or to be a judge in a firm, as a condition to be allowed to participate in such hearings for positions. If a football player would also function as a referee, it would not be just. Another critical problem is that there must be an anti-corruption law as a basis for reference. It should be noted that the second step of the Rectangular Strategy of Samdech Dekchor Hun Sen stressed that different reforms are necessary, in view of good governance, but how the implementation would work, would have to wait to be seen in the next five years.”
Meatophum, Vol.52, #710, 5-8.11.2008
Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Not all sex workers are victims of trafficking

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Women's Network for Unity
Friday, 07 November 2008

Dear Editor,

The Women's Network for Unity (WNU) is writing in response to the interview with Afesip President Somaly Mam titled "From Brothel to Boardroom" which ran in the Monday, November 3 edition of The Phnom Penh Post. We are writing to address the opinions and misconceptions of Somaly Mam.

WNU is a local NGO which is organised and run by sex workers who are coming together in their struggle to obtain rights within their chosen profession. The aforementioned interview with Somaly Mam makes a complete mockery of the current climate of sex work in Cambodia. WNU in no way condones trafficking, but we do, however, have the insight to differentiate between women who have been trafficked and women who chose sex work as a way to earn a living.

The generalisations made in the interview, while reflecting only Somaly's opinion, are a gross step backwards in the women's rights movement for Cambodia. Somaly refers to sex workers by stating:

"A lot of them have psychological problems. They agree to sell themselves. They are sex slaves because they have to survive. A lot of them say they are free but, for me, they are not free."

The statement is a blatant example of the lack of understanding displayed by NGOs, such as Afesip, who support the new Anti-Trafficking law. Someone as influential as Somaly should be educated enough to speak without insinuating that in order for a woman to choose to sell sex she has to be mentally ill.

WNU has organised the only event in Cambodia in which sex workers themselves spoke out against the law. Somaly passively and aggressively targets WNU when saying, "What I don't like is people who take the victims - I don't want to call them prostitutes, they're victims - who use them to fight against the law. I just want to say ‘Stop using these girls'. They have to make their own decisions. They are using victims for politics."

WNU in no way "used" these women, as our sex worker members voluntarily participated, using the event as a platform to express their independence and opposition to being labeled as "victims" or "trafficked women". Somaly also oversteps the bounds of politeness when referring to these women as "prostitutes" or sex slaves. The accepted term is Sex Worker.

While Somaly has done some good work, she needs to recognise that not all sex workers need to be "saved". It is pointless and a waste of resources to "rescue" women who have made what is an often very tough decision to sell sex rather than to see themselves or their families starve. Somaly should focus her energy where it is most needed: with women who have actually been trafficked.

Sincerely,
Women's Network for Unity

UNESCO Begins Demarcating Preah Vihear Temple

PHNOM PENH, Nov 7 (Bernama) -- A UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization) delegation has begun marking out the boundary of the Preah Vihear temple, said China's Xinhua news agency quoting national media reports Friday.

The Preah Vihear temple was listed as a World Heritage site in July and has since been at the centre of a border dispute between Cambodia, which owns the monument, and Thailand, where nationalists claim the 11th-century ruins were unfairly taken from the Thais.

Both sides have faced off over contested territory near the temple and elsewhere along the border, with troops opening fire on each other last month in a brief clash that left at least four soldiers dead.

Although the border has remained quiet since then, tensions remain high and Cambodian military officials said they would protect the UNESCO team.

"We are ready to provide security for the delegation when they post markers at the temple," Brigade 12 commander Srey Doek was quoted by the Phnom Penh Post as saying.

"Security is good and well-organized," he added.

Meas Yoeun, deputy military commander of Preah Vihear province, said that after the UNESCO had demarcated the temple border, troops guarding it would be withdrawn to another site.

"We will remove (the troops), but we are waiting for orders from higher levels," he said.

He added that both Cambodian and Thai soldiers at the front line are considering declaring the demarcated area a protected zone after the departure of the UNESCO team.

-- BERNAMA

Cambodians protect temple

The Cambodian government blamed Thai troops for damage to a staircase and a sculpture, but Thailand denies the charge. -- PHOTO: AFP


Fri, Nov 07, 2008
AFP

PREAH VIHEAR (Cambodia) - CAMBODIAN officials erected flags and signs near an ancient Khmer temple in a bid to protect the landmark, after accusing Thai troops of damaging it in a recent border gunfight.

In a ceremony at the 11th century Preah Vihear temple, which sits alongside the disputed border with Thailand, Cambodian officials raised a World Heritage flag and signs declaring it an international cultural property under special protection.

Mr Hang Soth, director general of the agency which cares for the site, said two signs each nearly two-metres-wide were also placed on towers of the temple, facing the sky to prevent 'jet strikes'.

'We put up signs in order to ban Thai soldiers from firing at the temple,' Mr Hang Soth said after the ceremony which was not attended by UN officials.

Preah Vihear was hit by rocket and bullet fire during October 15 troop clashes on disputed land which left three Cambodians and one Thai dead.

The Cambodian government blamed Thai troops for damage to a staircase and a sculpture, but Thailand denies the charge.

Tensions between Thailand and Cambodia flared in July when Preah Vihear was awarded UN World Heritage status, rekindling a long-simmering dispute over ownership of land surrounding the temple.

Although the World Court ruled in 1962 that it belonged to Cambodia, the most accessible entrance is in Thailand's northeastern Si Sa Ket province and the recent conflict has fuelled nationalism on both sides of the border.

Cambodian and Thai officials are scheduled to hold border talks next week in Cambodian tourist hub Siem Reap.

IMF says Cambodian economic growth to slow in 2009

The Seattle Times
Friday, November 7, 2008

Cambodia's economy will grow by a modest 4.8 percent next year due to slowdowns in key sectors and a drop in foreign direct investment caused by the global economic crisis, the International Monetary Fund said Friday.

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — Cambodia's economy will grow by a modest 4.8 percent next year due to slowdowns in key sectors and a drop in foreign direct investment caused by the global economic crisis, the International Monetary Fund said Friday.

The projected decline for 2009 comes after several years in which Cambodia, one of the poorest nations in Southeast Asia, has enjoyed strong growth. The economy expanded about 10.3 percent last year, according to the IMF.

Finance Minister Keat Chhon said in April that the economy grew an average 11.1 percent annually in 2004-2007. The government has forecast a growth rate of 7.2 percent for this year.

David Cowen, IMF's deputy division chief for Asia and Pacific Department, said growth this year would drop to around 6.5 percent, the same projection given by the Asian Development Bank last month.

He spoke at a press conference wrapping up his two-week mission to discuss the economic outlook with Cambodian officials and donor representatives.

"After a robust start, growth momentum eased over the course of 2008, and more recently, the economy has begun to experience adverse effects from global financial stress," the IMF said in a statement.

Foreign direct investment in 2009 is expected to be 25-30 percent lower than the $750 million the country has received this year, Cowen said.

Cowen said Cambodia, which has a very narrow production and export base, will not be immune to the slowdowns seen in the U.S., Europe and Japan.

He said garment exports - Cambodia's main dollar-earning industry - will weaken further, as will the tourism industry.

Construction, which has benefited from a recent real estate boom, will also slow down "partly as a result of tighter global liquidity conditions," the IMF statement said.

Japanese-funded clearance enables grassroots development

07 Nov 2008

Source: MAG (Mines Advisory Group)
Website: http://www.maginternational.org/cambodia

Reuters and AlertNet are not responsible for the content of this article or for any external internet sites. The views expressed are the author's alone.

Funding from the Japanese Government's Kusanone Assistance programme will support MAG Cambodia's operations for the coming year.

A funding agreement for US$584,764 was signed on October 27th in Phnom Penh. The grant will support six mine clearance teams, one Explosive Ordnance Disposal Team and two Community Liaison Teams.

The teams will operate in Battambang, Preah Vihear, Banteay Meanchey and Pailin provinces, where there are still a large number of casualties from landmines and unexploded ordnance (UXO) every year. The high level of contamination in these provinces also contributes to poverty by denying access to land.

"This funding, intended for grassroots development projects, acknowledges the fact that landmine and UXO clearance is a prerequisite for development in many parts of Cambodia," said Jamie Sutherland, who signed the contract on behalf of MAG.

"The funding will dramatically reduce the threat from landmines and UXO for around 7,500 people. We are extremely grateful to the people and Government of Japan for their continued support of MAG's humantitarian mine action activities in Cambodia."

Six other non-governmental organisations were also successful in their funding applications and were also present at the signing ceremony, which was presided over by the Japanese Ambassador, H.E. Mr Shinohara Katsuhiro. Over one million dollars of grant aid was awarded.

The Kusanone Assistance scheme was introduced to Cambodia in 1991, and aims to protect vulnerable individuals from factors which directly threaten their lives, livelihoods and dignity. It also aims to promote self-reliance amongst local communities.

Since 2002, the Government of Japan has given almost four million US dollars to fund MAG's work in Cambodia.

For more information on MAG's Cambodia programme please visit

[ Any views expressed in this article are those of the writer and not of Reuters. ]

NEC Official Observes Election From Inside

By Sok Khemara, VOA Khmer
Original report from Washington
07 November 2008

Khmer audio aired 05 November 2008 (1.15 MB) - Download (MP3)
Khmer audio aired 05 November 2008 (1.15 MB) - Listen (MP3)

As America's presidential election got underway Tuesday, a member of Cambodia's National Election Committee compared notes with other officials from 40 countries in Washington.

Officials attended the conference, organized by the International Foundations for Electoral Systems, "to observe the experiences of the US election," said Sin Chum Bo, vice chairwoman of the NEC. "Common issues" including registration and other election hurdles were discussed, she said.

The Election Program offered a chance for participants to "bring back to their countries knowledge gained from their comparative international experiences," IFEC spokesman Jeff Bradley said by e-mail.

Participants observed the Nov. 4 presidential election from polling stations, Sin Chum Bo said, adding that many US experiences were not applicable to Cambodia's culture, history, laws or knowledge of the people.

She cited as examples the ability of US parties to campaign to the very end of an election, and the ability of overseas Americans to vote through absentee ballots, neither of which happen in Cambodia.

The US election had fewer observers than Cambodia, while Americans vote by touch screen computers.

Koul Panha, director of the Committee for Free and Fair Elections, said information exchanges such as this were good, but more important was how the NEC, often accused of bias, will apply the lessons.

"I think we can learn from the US," he said. "One of the most important [aspects] in the US is transparency in campaign funding. In the US each candidate opens their income and expense budget while campaigning. The NEC should push for all political parties to open."

Cambodians in US Ponder Election Lessons

By Sok Khemara, VOA Khmer
Original report from Washington
07 November 2008

Khmer audio aired 06 November 2008 (2.12 MB) - Download (MP3)
Khmer audio aired 06 November 2008 (2.12 MB) - Listen (MP3)

As Cambodian-American took stock this week following the Nov. 4 presidential victory of Barack Obama, many said that “win or lose,” the elections were a good democratic example for the world.

Path Suykry, who runs the National Cambodian Republican Coalition from Minnesota, said he was disappointed with the result, but felt a closer connection to fellow Republicans.

“Any candidate, they don’t wait for too long, when they know they’ve lost, to just make a call to immediately congratulate the winner,” he said. “And the winner will say how to gather together, to work together, and also they say even though they don’t have the other side’s vote, they understand what they want.”

Sen. John McCain, following his failed bid for the presidency, welcomed Obama’s win as a “historical victory” and urged his supporters to find compromise, “bridge our differences and help restore prosperity.”

Prak Sereyvuth, vice chairman of the Khmer Krom Federation, in New Jersey, said the US election set a good standard of cooperation among rivals.

“Elections should be a political contest,” Prak Sereyvuth said. “There should not be a war when it is finished.”

Even though he had voted for McCain, he said, he praised Obama’s policies.

Both Obama and McCain had offered to help one another, as Obama, the first black president in US history, prepares to transition into the White House in January.

Chanly Kuch, who lives in Maryland, said she was happy to see a minority when the presidency.

“Our Cambodians should learn a significant lesson to evolve Cambodian history, by giving possibility, giving freedom, and rights to any Cambodian who has the real ability and can serve the interest of the people, the interest of the nation, to be a leader without special-status, such as the relative of a high official or significant party member,” he said.

Chanly Kuch had voted for Obama, he said, whose win served as an important example to small countries around the world.

Tung Yab, from Virginia, said US politics allowed honor to both winners and losers.

“I see they did good work, and I appreciate that the loser made a telephone call to the winner,” he said. “But I see one point that is different from Cambodia: they contested fairly. That’s why the loser, who tried so hard but lost, admired the winner. And that’s the difference from other countries, including Cambodia.”

ADB, Government Defend Emergency Aid

Vong Sandab, deputy director-general of the Ministry of Finance, left, and Long Piseth, project manager for the Asian Development Bank

By Sok Khemara, VOA Khmer
Washington
07 November 2008

Khmer audio aired 06 November 2008 (4.71 MB) - Download (MP3)
Khmer audio aired 06 November 2008 (4.71 MB) - Listen (MP3)

Asian Development Bank and government officials defended their emergency rice program Thursday, following widespread reports of biased distribution.

The government had taken many efforts to alleviate the impacts of inflation on the poor this year, said Vong Sandab, deputy director-general of the Ministry of Finance, who is in charge of distributions, as guest on “Hello VOA.”

The ADB and government set out last week to distribute $40 million in emergency aid to people hard-hit by rising fuel prices in seven provinces, but many villagers complained the rice and other foodstuffs were not reaching those in need.

Vong Sandab and Long Piseth, project manager for the ADB, who was also a guest, said they would investigate through neutral monitors.

“The poorest families received the donations,” said Long Piseth.

'Heritage' Temple Gets Unesco Flag, Sign

By Heng Reaksmey, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
07 November 2008

A team of Unesco and government officials inaugurated Preah Vihear temple as a World Heritage site Friday, as Thai and Cambodian troops who have been entrenched in the area were withdrawn.

It was unclear whether the withdrawal from the positions near the 11th-Century temple would be permanent.

The official ceremony included the raising of a Unesco World Heritage sign above the temple entrance and the hoisting of three flags, for Cambodia, Unesco and the World Heritage committee, over its spires.

“Today is a historic day for the Khmer people, and the raising of the flags shows that the boundaries of Preah Vihear temple belong to the world heritage,” said Phay Siphan, a spokesman for the Council of Ministers. “The other side cannot damage Preah Vihear temple, and we the Khmer people should protect and guard [it].”

The July 7 inclusion of the temple on the World Heritage protection list at Cambodia’s behest sparked outrage among a number of Thais and led to the deployment of thousands of troops on both sides in an expanding border dispute.

At least three Cambodian and one Thai soldier were killed in violent clashes near the temple last month.

Another round of negotiations between both sides is expected in Siem Reap Monday.

Defense Wants Tribunal Corruption Reports

Allegations of corruption continue to plague the tribunal.

By Kong Sothanarith, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
07 November 2008

Khmer audio aired 07 November 2008 (1.02 MB) - Download (MP3)
Khmer audio aired 07 November 2008 (1.02 MB) - Listen (MP3)

International defense lawyers for jailed Khmer Rouge leader Nuon Chea have asked the tribunal and the government for information related to corruption allegations in the courts, claiming a fair trial for their client could be at stake.

In an Oct. 31 letter to Council Minister Sok An, lawyers Michiel Pestman and Victor Koppe requested “on a confidential basis…communications and reports from the United Nations relating to issues of corruption at the [tribunal] and any further details of allegations of corruption at the [tribunal] in your possession.”

The tribunal has been hounded by allegations of kickbacks from its inception, and Cambodian staff reported in June they had been forced to pay pats of their salaries to officials to maintain their positions. In 2007, the Open Society Justice Initiative found similiar allegations of kickbacks.

A UN oversight office examined the allegations earlier this year, as donors withheld more than $300,000 from the Cambodian side of the courts.

Findings from the UN investigation have been passed to Cambodian officials, but they have not been made public.

UN tribunal spokesman Peter Foster declined to comment on any ongoing investigations within the courts.

Nuon Chea lawyers requested from Sok An “access to information related to allegations of corruption at the Tribunal, including the report of a UN investigation which has been disclosed to the Royal Government of Cambodia.”

Council of Ministers officials could not be reached for comment Friday.

The lawyers wrote they had tried to obtain documents and information from tribunal officials, but had been unsuccessful. The UN had said it was “not opposed” to the release of the information, the lawyers said.

Cambodia ‘Not Immune’ to Global Crisis: IMF

The number of tourists visiting Angkor Wat have fallen, as economies abroad struggle with a global downturn.

By Chun Sakada, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
07 November 2008

Cambodia's economic growth rate will be slashed by more than half compared to 2007, as a financial slowdown continues to plague world markets, the International Monetary Fund said Friday.

Cambodia's economic growth rate will be around 6.5 percent for 2008 and will decrease to 4.25 percent next year, the IMF said, reporting findings of a visit in recent weeks. Those numbers starkly differ from Cambodia's halcyon growth rate of 10.25 percent in 2007.

Cambodia's "narrow production and export base" will subject it to the global markets, said David Cowen, deputy division chief of the IMF's Asia and Pacific Department.

The global economy has constricted amid ripples of a US sub-prime mortgage meltdown, shrinking consumer confidence, and tumbling stock markets.

"Cambodia's economy will not be immune to this slowdown," Cowen told reporters.

The IMF noted on its visit a sharp increase in inflation driven by higher fuel and food prices, as well as the weakened US dollar, which Cambodia follows, and heavy domestic demand for goods.

"Following several years of very strong performance, Cambodia's economy faces a number of challenging headwinds," the IMF said in a statement Friday. "After a robust start, growth momentum eased over the course of 2008, and more recently the economy has begun to experience adverse effects from global financial stress."

Cambodian officials have already acknowledged a slowdown, while large construction projects in Phnom Penh have been put on hold and microfinance lenders have reduced operations.

"Cambodia's economic slowdown is following the global financial crisis, which has slowed down foreign trade to Cambodia," Finance Minister Keat Chhon told reporters on Monday. "We must increase agricultural production and increase the [value added tax] on agricultural products for export. And we are trying to attract foreign investment by all means to come to develop in Cambodia."

Garment exports and tourist arrivals—the two main engines of Cambodia's economy—were both slowing, the IMF said, part of a "rapid downturn" in the economies of its trading partners.

The IMF also estimated that the overall inflation rate for 2008 would come to around 15.5 percent, following its highest point, 26 percent, in May.

The IMF commended the government on "steady budget implementation, particularly through the election period," and for improved tax administration.