Friday, 23 January 2009

Cambodia Military Shake up!

Cambodia's Gen. Ke Kim Yan, left, commander-in-chief of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces, listens to his Prime Minister Hun Sen, right, during the celebration of Independent Day, Nov. 9, 2007, Phnom Penh, Cambodia. The head of Cambodia's armed forces has been dismissed from his post and replaced by a loyalist of Prime Minister Hun Sen.(AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

Cambodia's Gen. Ke Kim Yan, commander-in-chief of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces, is seen on June 26, 2007, at Kampot province, about 130 kilometers (80. 6 miles) southwest of Phnom Penh, Cambodia. The head of Cambodia's armed forces has been dismissed from his post and replaced by a loyalist of Prime Minister Hun Sen.(AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

Cambodian armed forces commander fired

Taiwan News

Associated Press

The head of Cambodia's armed forces was dismissed from his post Thursday and replaced with a longtime loyalist of Prime Minister Hun Sen with whom he served in the Khmer Rouge in the 1970s.

A royal decree announced the removal of Gen. Ke Kim Yan, the commander in-chief of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces, who was replaced by his deputy, Gen. Pol Saroeun.

No reason was given for the move. Information Minister Khieu Kanharith said it was a normal reshuffle, which was initiated by the government.

After Ke Kim Yan, 53, failed to support Hun Sen's 1997 coup against then co-Prime Minister Norodom Ranariddh, he was marginalized and left without any real power. He was threatened several times with dismissal by the prime minister, whose control of the country is virtually unchallenged.

Ke Kim Yan joined the Cambodian armed forces in 1979 and became its head in 1999. Politically he allied himself with Hun Sen's rivals in the ruling Cambodian People's Party leadership.

Pol Saroeun, meanwhile, is known to have close ties to Hun Sen. Both served during the communist Khmer Rouge regime that took power in 1975, and both fled the murderous group before it was ousted in 1979.

Several other top members of the ruling Cambodian People's Party are also former members of the Khmer Rouge, whose radical policies are widely considered responsible for the deaths of at least 1.7 million people though execution, starvation, overwork and starvation. Several members are the regime have been charged with war crimes at a U.N.-backed genocide tribunal.

Economy Hitting Chicken Farms Hard

By Chun Sakada, VOA Khmer
Phnom Penh
22 January 2009

Chicken farmers in Kandal province have lost hundreds of thousands dollars this year, thanks to the high cost of purchasing and caring for fowl and the recent low cost of selling them.

At least 49 individual chicken farms in Damnak Ampil commune, Ang Snuol district, alone, have closed since October, when prices began to fall in the wake of the global economic crisis, said Noy Sy Nuon, chief of the commune.

Each farm raised between 3,000 to 4,000 chickens, and the cost of raising each, from the purchase of chicks, to food and vaccine, is around $4, he said. But each chicken was now only selling for about $1.50 or $2, he said, leading many of the farms into bankruptcy. For 49 farms, the loss amounted to around $686,000.

All of the farms had been purchased by former rice farmers who sold their land to invest in raising poultry, Noy Sy Nuon said.

“Commune authorities are very concerned about the people living in this commune, after their bankruptcy and the sell-off of their farmland,” he said. “In my commune, there are many more chicken farms than in other areas in the district.”

The heavy impact of the global financial downturn comes amid renewed worry of bird flu in Kandal province, where authorities have culled at least 450 birds.

Mok Vy, 40, a Damnak Ampil farmer, said she had sold farmland for $8,000 and purchased a chicken farm to improve her living conditions.

“But I failed completely and lost all $8,000 from the sale,” she said.

At least 15 chicken farms in her village closed the same way, she said.

Mon Yann, 63, chief of Damnak Ampil village, said he himself had lost $5,000 in a chicken farm. At least 20 other chicken farms in the village had gone bankrupt, he said.

The main reason of the bankruptcy in the chicken farms was the rise in costs of raising the chickens, which exceeded the income, said Saing Soy, 61.

“If we insist on continuing to raise chickens, we will lose our farmland, houses and sometimes loans,” he said.

Var Lay, a 41-year-old farmer, said she had wanted her chicken farm to support her family, to replace rice farming or work outside the village, but she had not been lucky.

Survivor Welcomes Impending Trial of Duch

By Sok Khemara, VOA Khmer
22 January 2009

A survivor of Cambodia’s killing fields says he welcomes the news that jailed prison chief Duch will finally see trial, with the date of his initial hearing fast approaching.

Van Nath, who survived the Tuol Sleng prison where Duch was the director and where at least 12,000 Cambodians were tortured and later executed, said the upcoming trial, scheduled for February and March, was “the chance we have been waiting for, so long coming.”

Van Nath, 64, was among only a handful of inmates to survive the prison, which has been turned into a museum in Phnom Penh. He survived because he was able to paint portraits of Pol Pot and other leaders.

“But most important is the day of liberation, Jan. 7,” he said, referring to the day in 1979 when Vietnamese forces pushed the Khmer Rouge, out of Phnom Penh. “I was out of prison on that day.”

For his role as director of Tuol Sleng, Duch, 66, whose real name is Kaing Kek Iev, faces charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity. The initial hearing of his trial under the Khmer Rouge tribunal will be held Feb. 17. His trial is expected to begin in earnest in March.

Tribunal spokesman Reach Sambath called the beginning of the trial “a response to the expectations of millions of people and the victims who suffered under the regime of Democratic Kampuchea.”

Hundreds Mark Murder of Union Activist

By Heng Reaksmey, VOA Khmer
Phnom Penh
22 January 2009

Hundreds of people gathered in Phnom Penh Thursday to mark the fifth anniversary of the murder of popular labor leader Chea Vichea.

The crowd amassed at the headquarters of the Free Trade Union of the Workers of the Kingdom of Cambodia, which was once led by Chea Vichea and is now led by his younger brother, Chea Mony.

“I attended the anniversary today to show that I want the government to find justice for Chea Vichea,” said Chanty, a 23-year-old worker from Cambohanse Factory.

Chea Vichea was gunned down in broad daylight in front of a newspaper stand near Wat Lanka, in Phnom Penh’s Chamkarmon district, on the morning of Jan. 22, 2004.

He had been a popular leader of garment factory workers, capable of calling huge demonstrations in Cambodia’s only real export industry.

Two men, Born Samnang and Sok Samoeun, were subsequently sentenced to 20 years in prison for the killing. But both are widely considered innocent, and in December the Supreme Court ordered a review of their case by the Appeals Court and ordered their temporary release.

Human rights officials say the true killers of Chea Vichea remain at large, and on Thursday opposition leader Sam Rainsy urged further investigation into the killing and called on the US administration of newly elected president Barack Obama to help.

“Please, new president Barack Obama, help the Khmer people to seek the real killers and to punish them by law,” Sam Rainsy told the crowd. “I believe there is still someone behind the killers. So the real killers should be unmasked.”

Ministry of Interior spokesman Lt. Gen. Khieu Sopheak said police had not closed the investigation and were waiting for Phnom Penh Municipal Court for a request to resume the search.

Municipal court officials said the case of Chea Vichea was in the hands of the Appeals Court, but Appeals Court officials said they were waiting for the case to come from the Supreme Court. Supreme Court Vice President Khim Pon declined to comment.

Hong Kim Suon, lawyer for Sok Samoeun, said the case remained at the Supreme Court and he was not sure when it would move to the Appeals Court.

Indian doctor gets prestigious Cambodian award
January 22,2009

New Delhi, Jan 22 Chinkholal Thangsing, a doctor from India, who is currently Asia Pacific bureau chief of AIDS Healthcare Foundation, has been honoured with a prestigious Cambodian award for his contribution towards humanitarian services in the country.

&apos Royal order of Sahametrei&aposis conferred primarily on foreigners who have rendered distinguished services to the King and to the nation by Royal decree of the King of Cambodia, a release issued by AIDS healthcare foundation (AHF) here said.

"The award recognised Thangsing&aposs exemplary contribution and dedication towards humanitarian services rendered by him and and the organisation for the people living with HIV/ AIDS and general public in Cambodia,"it said.

Giving away the award, Cambodia&aposs Health Minister Mam Bun Heng said," This is a big honour and my proud privilege to hand over the&aposSahametrei&aposto you, to honour and recognise your selfless dedication and contribution to better the lives of our people."

AHF is the US&aposlargest non-profit HIV/ AIDS healthcare, research, prevention and education provider. Its bureau operates in Cambodia, China, India, Thailand, Vietnam and Nepal.

Cambodian opposition unites under Democratic Movement for Change

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Ron Abney
Thursday, 22 January 2009

Dear Editor,

This [recent union] is a very important step in the democratic effort.

I applaud this brave act, as it puts together the two undisputed leaders in the opposition movement.

But be very careful, as Hun Sen always moves to break up democratic parties, and I call on [Kem] Sokha and [Sam] Rainsy, two genuine heroes, to keep a strong front.

It seems Hun Sen is afraid of opposition to his bullying strongman government.

So I call on the two opposition leaders to be extra careful, as Hun Sen has a special way to punish those in the opposition. Just remember 3/30/97.

Ron Abney Cochran,

Cambodia To Press Visiting Thai Minister On Border Row

Easy Bourse
Thursday January 22nd, 2009

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AFP)--Cambodia will press Thailand's foreign minister for a solution to a border dispute during his first official visit to the kingdom next week, a Cambodian government spokesman said Thursday.

Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya will meet Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, King Norodom Sihamoni and other high-ranking government officials during his Jan. 25-26 visit to Phnom Penh, Cambodia's foreign ministry said.

A ministry spokesman said officials including Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong will urge Kasit to help broker an agreement to defuse their sometimes violent territorial dispute as soon as possible.

Soldiers from Cambodia and Thailand clashed on Oct. 15 on disputed border land near the 11th-century Preah Vihear temple, leaving four soldiers dead.

"We expect him (Kasit) to be flexible and positive on the border," spokesman Koy Kuong said, adding that the Thai foreign minister had pledged a peaceful solution in a call to his Cambodian counterpart last month.

Thai foreign ministry officials weren't immediately available to confirm Kasit's trip.

Kasit was one of the most controversial appointments when new Thai premier Abhisit Vejjajiva named his cabinet on Dec. 20 because of his role in protests, which closed Bangkok's airports in November and December.

Kasit, a staunch nationalist, has criticized the previous government's handling of the crisis with Cambodia.

The Cambodian-Thai border has never been fully demarcated, partly because it is littered with land mines left over from decades of war in Cambodia.

The most recent tensions began in July when the Khmer temple was awarded United Nations World Heritage status, rekindling a long-running disagreement over the ownership of the surrounding land.

HRW decries Khmer Krom abuse

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Brendan Brady and Neth Pheaktra
Thursday, 22 January 2009

THE Vietnamese government should immediately free Khmer Krom activists in prison or under house arrest for demonstrating, New York-based advocacy organisation Human Rights Watch said in a report Wednesday.

The 125-page report, "On the Margins: Rights Abuses of Ethnic Khmer in Vietnam's Mekong Delta", documents what the group calls a persistent, often violent campaign by Vietnam to stifle the rights and distinct identity of ethnic Khmers in the south of the country. It also accuses the Cambodian government of abbeting its "close ally" in the suppression of ethnic Khmers - known locally as Khmer Krom - who have fled across the border to Cambodia and proposes greater freedoms for their communities.

Human Rights Watch says it drew on witness interviews in both countries and internal Vietnamese government documents in its research, which it says reveals that "Khmer Krom in the Mekong Delta face serious restrictions on freedom of expression, assembly, association, information and movement".

"This is bare-knuckled, indefensible political repression," said Brad Adams, the group's Asia director, in an email interview with the Post Wednesday, adding that the grip of both states on activists has tightened over the last year.

Publication of the report coincided with news of the release from prison of five activist ethnic Khmer monks in Vietnam. According to a statement from the Khmer Kampuchea Krom Community, a Phnom Penh-based association, the Vietnamese government has still prohibited the men - all of whom were defrocked following their incarceration - from travelling, being re-ordained or stepping foot in Buddhist temples.

Ang Charith, head of the Khmer Kampuchea Krom Human Rights Organisation, welcomed international attention on the issue.

"The rights of the Khmer Krom to practise their religion and live in peace is always abused by the Vietnamese state," he said. "And for the Khmer Krom who flee to Cambodia, their rights have also been violated and their security is uncertain.

" Vietnamese embassy spokesman Trinh Ba Cam rejected the report, saying that the Vietnamese government did not discriminate against any of its 54 ethnic groups, so there is "no need to analyse the situation in detail".

Court to probe union slaying

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
Suspect Born Samnang offers thanks upon his release from prison on December 31.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Chrann Chamroeun and Sebastian Strangio
Thursday, 22 January 2009

On fifth anniversary of Chea Vichea's killing, those close to slain unionist are calling on government to ensure independence of new investigation.

FIVE years after the murder of trade unionist Chea Vichea - and three weeks since the release of the two men imprisoned for the crime - Phnom Penh's Court of Appeal is set to reopen investigations into the circumstances surrounding the killing.

But in the run-up to a commemorative march scheduled for early this morning, court monitors and others close to the slain union leader called on the government to ensure a fair and open investigation into his death.

On December 31, the Supreme Court ordered the provisional release of previously convicted suspects Born Samnang, 24, and Sok Sam Oeun, 36, citing contradictory evidence in their previous trials and turning over the case to the Appeal Court and Ministry of Interior for further investigations.

Although court monitors praised the release of the two men as possible evidence of a flowering of independence in the Kingdom's notoriously corrupt judiciary, Chea Vichea's brother Chea Mony told the Post that there was no guarantee the investigation will be seen through to a just conclusion.

"It was very mysterious that the Supreme Court released the two innocent men on bail temporarily and turned the case over to the Court of Appeal," he said.

"It isn't yet known how the process of the investigation will be organised."

Minister of Interior spokesman Khieu Sopheak could not be reached for comment Wednesday, but Sok Sam Oeun's defence lawyer Hong Kim Suon said he expected investigations to begin in the coming weeks.

"The case documents are now being prepared to be filed to the Court of Appeal to conduct an investigation which, according to judicial procedure, takes at least a month," he said. "I don't know whether the case is now in the hands of the Court of Appeal."

Five years on

To mark the fifth anniversary of Chea Vichea's killing, the Cambodian Confederation of Unions organised a commemorative parade that was to march this morning from the union headquarters in Boeung Keng Kang 3 to the site near Wat Lanka where Chea Vichea was gunned down in 2004.

Chea Mony said that the event, in addition to marking his brother's life and work, was a plea for "an independent court to conduct a reinvestigation into the killing with numerous witnesses of whom former Phnom Penh police chief Heng Pov is [among] the [most] important".

" It isn't yet known how the process of the investigation will be organised. "

Freed suspect Sok Sam Oeun said he and his father would be attending the ceremony, requesting that the government "hunt for the real killers so they can be punished thereby ending the charges against me".

"I don't feel any concerns or worry for my safety since I am innocent," he added.

However, some observers are more pessimistic about the possibility of an independent investigation into the trade unionist's murder.

On Tuesday, the Sam Rainsy Party and Human Rights Party - now operating under the banner of the Democratic Movement for Change - issued a joint statement saying that the release of Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun was an admission [by the government] of their innocence and that a fair investigation was unlikely to ensue.

"The release on bail of Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun ... further demonstrates that the government of Cambodia is certain of their innocence but refuses to stop its travesty of justice," the statement said.

Human Rights Watch's Sarah Colm was similarly sceptical, telling the Post on December 31 that "one case doesn't make or break a long pattern of deeply entrenched impunity".

But Ham Sunrith, deputy director of monitoring and protection at local rights group Licadho, was more optimistic, saying that the authority of the Supreme Court could force the investigation ahead.

"The Court of Appeal was appointed by the Supreme Court to find more witnesses and more evidence in this case," he said, adding that the court had already set a good precedent by releasing the two suspects on bail - something that is mandated by the Criminal Code, though rarely observed.

"This is a good model for other courts," he said.

"The Supreme Court is a high court and it has [already] set a good precedent that suspects be released pending investigations."

Sam Rainsy seeks delay in NEC suit

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Meas Sokchea
Thursday, 22 January 2009

Criticises court for no action on his CPP suit

OPPOSITION leader Sam Rainsy on Wednesday said he would seek to postpone a lawsuit brought against him by the National Election Committee (NEC), claiming that his busy schedule would not allow him to appear in court.

The election committee fined the SRP president for making derogatory remarks about the leaders of the ruling Cambodian People's Party during national elections in July last year.

Sam Rainsy said he would be speaking to his lawyer about a delay, adding that he could not explain why the Municipal Court was only acting on one side of the issue.

Selective justice?

"Why hasn't the court taken action on the SRP lawsuit against the NEC and commune chiefs and leaders of the Cambodian People's Party for voting irregularities during the national election?" he asked.
"This is a big issue, and we have lodged a complaint with the court, but it has taken no action except to bring the NEC lawsuit against me," he said.

Sam Rainsy was subpoenaed by the Municipal Court earlier this month and ordered to appear on Tuesday to pay a fine of 10 million riels (US$2,391).

Ouk Savuth, chief prosecutor at the court, told the Post Wednesday that he was acting in strict accordance with the laws of Cambodia in proceeding with the lawsuit.

He added that the court will take action on all legal complaints but could offer no indication of when or if the court would hear Sam Rainsy's case against the NEC.

'Palpable detoriation' of local press freedom: watchdog

Photo by: Tracey Shelton
Phouk Sopheap, a newspaper vendor on Street 51, at her newsstand.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Brett Worthington
Thursday, 22 January 2009

FOR the Cambodian press, 2008 was a year of "palpable deterioration", according to the Southeast Asian Press Alliance in its annual review of media in the region.

The report, released Sunday, said tensions had escalated between the media and government following a series of threats to journalists during last July's general elections, casting doubt on the future of press freedom in Cambodia.

The group said the consolidation of power by the Cambodian People's Party has compromised the ability of opposition parties to prevent the passage of censorship laws.

While only a tiny fraction of Cambodians use the internet, the country's emerging blogging community, which is typically critical of the state, was vulnerable to being targeted by authorities, it said. It cited efforts by Cambodian officials to ban the online art of Cambodian-American artist Reahu, which depicts partially nude Apsara dancers, as an alarming sign of the government's inclinations towards internet material it finds objectionable.

Describing Cambodia's laws as "dubious" and courts as "weak", the watchdog group said the government's press laws had provisions "aimed at curtailing press freedom and hindering the work of journalists".

It said the ambiguous design of the laws, which "vaguely define offences deemed harmful to national security", ensured judges and authorities had the ability to unjustly prosecute members of the media.

The report comes in the wake of a storm of criticism against an audiovisual media law proposed by the Ministry of Information.

Local media blasted the proposal, the details of which have not been publicly disclosed, and said it would be used as a tool of state censorship against online material critical of the government.

But Information Minister Khieu Kanharith has claimed the draft law is widely misunderstood, insisting that it would regulate the platforms of radio, TV and print media, but not their content.

The bill, he said, pertained to licensing of radio and television networks and printing houses.

"Are they for profit, or non-profit? Do they have a board of members?" he explained.

He also said the proposed legislation would not bear on the internet.

"The internet is not my area. You have nearly two million pages [online]. We don't even have the human resources to regulate it."


40pc of population in dark on KRT

Photo by: Tracey Shelton
An ECCC civil party holds a photograph of her sister, who was killed in Tuol Sleng prison, at her home in Prey Veng.

ECCC Awareness
Had no knowledge of the ECCC - 39 percentHad limited knowledge of the ECCC - 46 percent
Said they would watch the ECCC proceedings if broadcast on live TV - 98 percent
Did not know what the ECCC would achieve - 37 percent
Believed former Khmer Rouge should be held accountable for their crimes - 90 percent
Believed reparations should go to victims - 88 percent

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Robbie Corey-Boulet
Thursday, 22 January 2009

Few Cambodians have full knowledge of the Khmer Rouge tribunal, and one-third of those who do say they doubt the court is neutral, a recent academic survey has revealed.

A SURVEY released Wednesday found that 85 percent of Cambodians had little or no knowledge of the Khmer Rouge tribunal last September, nearly a full year after all five of the former Khmer Rouge leaders who are currently detained had been charged and taken into custody.

In addition to this lack of knowledge, the survey pointed to some public doubts about the court's objectivity: One-third of respondents familiar with the tribunal said they did not believe the court was neutral, with 23 percent saying it was corrupt.

In conducting the survey, the Human Rights Centre at the University of California, Berkeley (UC-Berkeley), interviewed 1,000 Cambodians in all 24 provinces and municipalities between September 9 and October 1. A report detailing the results was presented Wednesday at a day-long conference at the Sunway Hotel.

Helen Jarvis, the court's chief of public affairs, disputed the findings, saying that the results were "not consistent with our own feedback in the field". She pointed to a February 2008 survey released by the International Republican Institute that reported a higher level of public knowledge about the tribunal. In that survey, which involved 2,000 interviews, 71 percent of respondents said they "were aware of the Khmer Rouge tribunal that is putting top leaders of the Khmer Rouge on trial".

Jarvis questioned the wisdom of concluding from the Human Rights Centre data that the court had failed in advertising its mission and operations.

"The Berkeley report does not present any control data as to the extent of knowledge by their informants on other facts and developments in Cambodia or abroad, so we do not know if it is reporting a generalised deficit in knowledge, or a specific deficit in relation to the ECCC," she wrote in an email to the Post.

But Phuong Pham, director of research for the Human Rights Centre, said the report drew from a nationally representative sample and that researchers controlled for literacy and education levels, adding that she did not believe ignorance of the court was symptomatic of a broader knowledge deficit among respondents.

Call to raise awareness

The report called for a multipronged campaign to raise awareness, including the broadcasting of public service announcements and weekly summaries of trial proceedings on radio and television, frequent media interviews with judges and staff, and expanded educational materials.

"The only way this trial can be successful is if more people understand what is going on," said Patrick Vinck, director of the Initiative for Vulnerable Populations at UC-Berkeley.

Richard Rogers, interim chief of the court's defence support section, echoed this call for more outreach.

"I think that it's important for the court and for NGOs to deal with that issue by speaking on the radio and promoting the work of the court."

Rogers said it was concerning that one-third of respondents openly doubted the court's neutrality, but he said this was likely a reflection of how Cambodians perceive the national court system.

"Survey after survey has shown that many Cambodians are not satisfied with the way that their local courts function," he said. "They often feel that the courts are there to promote the interests of the powerful."

Pham said she expected public awareness of the tribunal to increase as the trials get under-way. Initial hearings for the trial of Tuol Sleng prison chief Kaing Guek Eav, or Duch, are scheduled to begin February 17.


Deadline set for S-21 victims wanting to appear at Duch trial

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Georgia Wilkins
Thursday, 22 January 2009

The KRT makes its final call for victims in the lead-up to Tuol Sleng prison chief Duch's trial

VICTIMS of the Khmer Rouge's notorious Tuol Sleng prison centre have until February 2 to register as civil parties to the trial of prison chief Duch, the court announced Wednesday.

"Any person who has suffered harm as a result of the commission of any of these crimes should submit to the Victims Unit their Civil Party Application before [this date]," said a statement from the court's Victims Unit.

As the trial's February 17 start date approaches, the court has begun a final round of media calls, "actively encouraging" victims to come forward to be recognised by the court.

"We are preparing announcements in the coming days for radio and newspapers," said the court's public affairs officer, Helen Jarvis.

As of last month, 28 people had been officially recognised as civil parties for the upcoming trial, with 70 more applications being processed, Jarvis said Tuesday.

She also said that nearly 3,000 people had filed complaints against the five former regime leaders currently held by the court.

According to the internal rules of the court, civil party applications need to be filed at least 10 days before the initial hearing, and any new applications need to be reviewed before the start of the trial.

Deadline approaching

Michelle Staggs Kelsall, deputy director of the Asian International Justice Initiative at the East-West Centre, a court monitoring group, said she was concerned that an overburdened Victims Unit could struggle to process applications in time for the trial.

"The question really is whether all existing applications at 10 days before trial will likely have been reviewed by the initial hearing," she said.

But despite signs that the Victims Unit is overstretched, lawyers for civil parties have expressed confidence the unit will be able to process submissions in time.

"I have good hope that those applications that are submitted within the deadline will be processed," Silke Studzinsky, international lawyer for civil parties said Wednesday.


Artists should focus work on traditional Khmer mores: govt

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Khouth Sophak Chakrya
Thursday, 22 January 2009

WITH an eye to drawing international attention to Khmer culture, the government is urging local artists to focus their work around traditional Cambodian subject matter to help preserve and promote the Kingdom's heritage.

At the 2009 National Culture Meeting, officials gathered to discuss the need to create what they called "cultural industries" to strengthen Cambodian culture and export it globally.

"Developing and protecting the cultural inheritance of Khmer culture through enforcing copyright laws and increasing human resources will improve Cambodia as a centre for spreading Khmer culture to the world," Him Chhem, minister of culture and fine arts, said during the meeting at the Chaktomuk Conference Hall on Tuesday.

The meeting, which included representatives from Unesco, also focused on the need for artists and craftsmen to increase the quality and quantity of their cultural products in order to support the national economy.

Deputy Prime Minister Men Sam An called for greater conservation of temples and heritage buildings in order to keep tourist levels up.

"We need to rebuild ancient temples and improve ancient high grounds to attract local and international tourists," said Men Sam An.

She added that reinforcing traditional values in art would protect against what she saw as the "current of cultural globalisation" filtering into Cambodia through foreign TV shows and other imported cultural products.

"We are not only wanting to develop human resources in this sector, but also create a strong industry of Cambodian culture for the market to protect against the flood of vagabond culture from foreign countries," she said.

Artists need real benefits

Teruo Jinnai, Unesco representative to Cambodia, said that conservation and cultural policy development would be effective so long as the artisans and artists can get real benefits through the sustainability of the cultural sector.

"We need to work ... to create projects that support the artists in order to develop the cultural products and cultural industries," he said.

More wells for soldiers at Preah Vihear

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Thet Sambath
Thursday, 22 January 2009

AS part of an effort to provide more water for soldiers at Preah Vihear temple, the Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology has begun constructing a network of wells and steel pipes that will transport water to the temple from nearby villages and hillsides.

The ministry began constructing the wells in late December, said Sor Thavy, deputy governor of Preah Vihear province, adding that there are now wells in three villages in Choam Ksan district. Pipe construction began last week.

"Hun Sen ordered us to have wells dug and pipes built to take water from the hillsides for people and soldiers at Preah Vihear temple," Sor Thavy said.

Presently, he said, the only water supply is from a small pond located near the temple.

The government plans to construct 30 wells within 20 kilometres of the temple, said an official at the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction who declined to be named.

Yim Phim, commander of Brigade 8, said one of the wells that has already been constructed can provide up to 2,000 cubic metres of water in one hour.


Photo by:Tracey Shelton

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Tracey Shelton
Thursday, 22 January 2009

Four-and-a-half-month-old David, the youngest of 12 pups at the Cambodian Mine Action Center training facility in Kampong Chhnang, waits for his trainer Nguon Thy last month. David is still training with rags and a rubber Kong, but at eight months he will begin training with TNT. Nguon Thy says there are currently 85 mine-sniffing dogs working in Cambodia.

Tracking Asia's 'ancient highways'

Photo by: Peter Olszewski
Phillipe Peycam shown at Angkor Wat.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Kyle Sherer
Thursday, 22 January 2009

Siem Reap

New initiative hopes collaboration among regional archaeologists will shed light on common past

THE Centre for Khmer Studies has embarked on a venture to unite archaeologists from Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam to train a new generation of researchers and shed light on their common regional history.

The first workshop session, titled "Ancient Highways: From the Tonle Sap to the South China Sea. Paving the Way for Regional Archaeological Collaboration in Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam", took place in Siem Reap from January 13-14.

Outbreaks of war and uneasy relations between governments have prevented scholars from resolving the many unanswered questions about Southeast Asia's ancient history.

Seeking to address this, researchers from Vietnam and Laos approached the Center for Khmer Studies, hoping it would facilitate the creation of a network for sharing findings and launching multinational projects.

The "Ancient Highways" initiative seeks to establish a common regional methodology for reporting and interpreting findings, as well as generate research projects that involve archaeologists from all participating countries.

Dr Phillipe Peycam, director at the Centre for Khmer Studies, described the workshop as part of "a long process of empowering Cambodian and regional archaeologists".

Regional collaboration will provide Siem Reap researchers with access to valuable archaeological sites in Vietnam and Laos and train them in the well-tested Vietnamese fieldwork practices. In turn, Laotian archaeologists will benefit from the restoration techniques, equipment and experience of Cambodian archaeologists.

The workshop marks the first time that Laotian scholars have collaborated with their counterparts in neighbouring countries, and Thong Lith, director at the Laos Department of Culture Heritage, told the Post that "the workshop is very important because archaeology education in my country is very poor, and the projects will give my staff a chance to train in Cambodia and Vietnam".

The aim of the collaborative research is to discover the nature of the relationships between the ancient civilisations that constructed the Angkor Wat temples in Cambodia, the Champa ruins in Vietnam and the Wat Phou structures in Laos.

Scholars believe that trading and migration took place between the three societies, but are unsure of its extent and the exact nature of these contacts.

By pooling resources and opening borders, archaeologists from the three countries can more easily determine the dynamics of the empires that inhabited Southeast Asia centuries ago.

American returns to Cambodia to forge a future for orphans

Photo by: kyle sherer
David Biviano, adviser to the Cambodian Children's House of Peace.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Kyle Sherer
Thursday, 22 January 2009

WHEN David Biviano, PhD, heard that the Khmer Friendly House orphanage where he was serving as a volunteer was due to close in June 2008, he retuned home to the US.

But only long enough to sell his house and say his goodbyes, before returning to Siem Reap to sign on as official adviser to Hem Sathya, director of the Cambodian Children's House of Peace.

This institution was founded to take care of the 10 remaining children from the folded orphanage, but has since expanded to include another 20 children from Siem Reap province.

Just over a month after its official opening on December 27, 2008, the House of Peace, or Santepheap, is preparing to launch a weekly traditional Khmer dance show, to start on Sunday, February 1.

Biviano said that rather than bring in a professional dance troupe, the children at Santepheap could be encouraged to do the job themselves.

Luckily, 10 of the children at Santepheap are already trained dancers, due to a program at their previous orphanage. But for many of the children it is a new experience.

Biviano says, "We continued the effort to train the children in traditional Khmer dance. We are also going to provide them training in music".

Biviano hopes this will put the children in touch with their culture and attract supporters for Santepheap.

Biviano told the Post that "the main aim of Santepheap is to provide a safe and secure facility for poor children from the countryside to grow up with sufficient food, housing, clothing, medical care, education, and a place where they are supported to become good citizens of Cambodia when they leave at 18".

"They all go to primary school in the Cambodian system, and they live here, where we provide additional programs like sports, cultural development, spiritual development and English training. We also provide vocational, transitional training for the children," he said.

He added also that the orphanage has an emphasis on spiritual development.

"Every evening ... in consideration of the children's Buddhist culture," he said.

"We have a five-minute silent meditation followed by a brief talk that I give on how we can live together in peace.

$25 million crane set to boost S'ville port

Photo by: Nguon Sovan
A ship in Sihanoukville. Freight forwarders hope a new crane will speed operations.

30%Estimated decline in cargo volume.
The freight forwarding industry estimates that trade volumes will drop even further in the first months of 2009 as last year's orders are cleared from the books.

The Phnom Penh Post

Thursday, 22 January 2009

A new cargo crane marks further modernisation of Cambodia's main port, but the economic downturn threatens prospects for increased traffic.

SIHANOUKVILLE Autonomous Port (SAP) is boosting capacity and speed with a new US$25 million heavy crane bought from Japan. The upgrade comes despite falling international trade that has hit shipping companies and ports across the globe.

"This equipment will double the rate of cargo transfer and help the port to expand operations," said Lou Kim Chhu, chairman and CEO of Sihanoukville Autonomous Port.

"The crane can transfer 45 tonnes of cargo at a time, or 28 containers per hour."

Funds for the new equipment would come from concessionary Japanese loans.

Lou Kim Chhun told the Post Tuesday that the new heavy crane will start operations on February 15.

"We believe that this heavy crane will help improve the quality of service in the port and increase efficiency," he said.

Faster shipping

According to SAP reports, the port transferred about 260,000 containers in 2008. He said that the new equipment will permit cargo ships to reduce their parking time by half.

So Nguon, director of So Nguon Transportation and Services Import Export, and co-chair of the Energy, Infrastructure and Transport Working Group, said that the new crane is part of the country's efforts to boost shipping infrastructure.

"My company transports about 1,000 containers per month, and we expect to be able to transport more once this crane is equipped because we won't have to wait longer for old and smaller cranes to lift cargo," So Nguon said.

"We need more heavy cargo cranes that meet international standards to expand more in the future," he added.

Sin Chanthy, general secretary of the Cambodia Freight Forwarders Association, welcomed the upgrade but said that slow customs clearance remains a major problem for local companies.

"If the working process does not change, the speed of cargo transfer will stay the same, even with better equipment," he said. "Sometimes we have to wait from noon until late at night while the inspection period takes about 10 or 20 minutes," he added.

He recommended that the government address the problem to speed the country's logistics systems.

International slowdown

But with the economic slowdown cutting international trade, the port expects to see only five percent to six percent growth for 2009.

Yet Sin Chanthy said that even those figures could be too ambitious.

He estimated that cargo traffic fell by between 20 percent and 30 percent in the last quarter of 2008, which he blamed on the decline in construction materials imports.

He said volumes for 2009 could fall further when current orders are cleared.

Cambodia can, however, count itself better off than many international ports that have fared worse as global trade volumes register their first decline in decades.

The US's two top ports, Long Beach and Los Angeles, were down 18 percent year-on-year - a steeper drop than the industry has seen in previous recessions, according to figures reported in London's The Telegraph. Regional trade is falling fast, which could mean more hard times for ports in East Asia. Japanese exports fell 27 percent from a year earlier, while Korea's were down 30 percent and Taiwan's fell 42 percent.

Metered taxis report tenfold increase in their ridership

Photo by: Tracey Shelton
One of the city's new air-conditioned taxis on parade in Phnom Penh.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Sam Rith
Thursday, 22 January 2009

Travellers in Phnom Penh are increasingly turning towards air-conditioned taxis instead of aggressive tuk-tuk drivers.

Cambodia's only metred-taxi company, Global Trade Development (Cambodia), reports brisk ridership since it launched in the Kingdom in July last year.

In a market previously monopolised by tuk-tuks and motorbike taxis, the introduction of air-conditioned taxi cars was a difficult first-step, says Global Trade Development CEO Lim Sovann.

Six months ago the company was only receiving between 20 and 30 customers a day, but since then traffic has increased more than tenfold.

"Given that we were the first company to start investing in metered taxis in Cambodia, we have met a lot of difficulties," he said.

Public displeasure with the city's often pushy and aggressive tuk-tuk drivers has helped the company attract both local and foreign customers.

"Now each day we receive 400 customers. About 85 percent of them are Cambodians and the rest are foreigners," he added, a sign that the local population has begun to accept changes in the transport market.

The service, which costs customers 4,000 riels (US$1) for every two kilometres, has almost reached its capacity. The company's initial investment of $1.5 million saw the introduction of 24 cars in Phnom Penh with a further 12 recently imported vehicles ready to be introduced for service in the capital, all from China.

Bun Sambo, an employee at Global Trade Development, pointed to the safety, air-conditioned interior and low-cost - when four people travel in the same car - as the main advantages that attracted customers to metered taxis.

"We are almost at the point where we need more cars to supply our customers," said Hun Chhunhav, who is in charge of receiving phone calls from customers at the company office.

The company noted that about 95 percent of feedback from customers was positive, with negative comments mostly related to the slowness of the service during peak traffic times.

Despite the significant increase in business, Lim Sovann says the company has not yet broken even, but he plans to expand service outside the capital.

"We have to strengthen our service to be reliable for our customers in Phnom Penh city first," he said.

He added that investment could rise by $3 million to $4 million in the future.

Unsurprisingly, the competition from metered taxis in Phnom Penh has impacted tuk-tuk operators.

"There has been a decrease in customers taking tuk-tuk services due to the presence of metered taxis in Phnom Penh and the economic downturn that means fewer people are travelling," said Heng Sam Orn, general secretary of the Independent Democracy of Informal Economic Association which represents Tuk-Tuk operators in Cambodia.

"When they take a metred taxi once, they often stop taking tuk-tuks."

Camko City development to get first 100 occupants

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
A display model of the Camko City development in Phnom Penh. About 100 families have moved into the homes.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Soeun Say
Thursday, 22 January 2009

With phase one of the commercial and residential project complete, new owners will begin moving in by March.

Phnom Penh's much-vaunted commercial and residential development project Camko City will see its first residents take possession of their new homes in March, a company official told the Post on Saturday.

Kheng Ser, assistant to Camko City Vice President DK Kim, said the first 100 families will move in by March this year.

"We have sold more than 80 percent of the residences in the first phase of development, and they will move in by March," he said.

Phase one of the development saw the construction of 1,009 units comprising townhouses, villas and condominiums, Kheng Ser said.

Some 164 townhouses and 18 villas have already been sold, he said, adding that the company has also pre-sold 700 condominium units.

Camko City invested US$109 million in its first phase of construction, Kheng Ser said, adding that phase two will see owners take possession of their properties in 2011.

Targeting business people

The price point on Camko City properties puts them out of reach for many of the country's residents. Apartments start at $108,000 and can cost as much as $130,000, with condos running between $135,000 and $300,000.

Townhouses run between $220,000 and $300,000, while villas go for between $350,000 and $400,000, Kheng Ser said.

The luxury properties have proven popular with local and foreign business people, he said, with foreign nationals from France, Australia, the United States, Korea and China among those who snapped up properties in the company's first phase of sales.

City Hall is excited about the progress of the project and hopes the new complex will help alleviate congestion on the capital's busy streets by allowing people to live closer to where they work, Phnom Penh Deputy Governor Mann Chhoeun told the Post.

"Camko City is an important addition to the city because it will help ease the burden on the environment and city infrastructure by the capital's growing population," he said.

Research from City Hall showed that Phnom Penh needs to build 10,000 new homes each year to keep pace with population growth, Mann Chhoeun said.

A ‘modern' city

Real estate broker Touch Monychakriya, 29, said she purchased two townhouses, at $240,000 per unit, in the first phase of development. She plans to live in one and let out the other.

"I've been looking forward to living [in Camko City] because it provides a good and safe environment and it will be a modern city," she said.

Chay Srey, 50, a Cambodian-Australian citizen, said she bought a villa in Camko City as a retirement home.

"I will come back to live in my country next year because I am now old and don't want to live abroad anymore," she said.

Not every phase one purchaser is quite so optimistic.

Nouv Sophea, 38, also a resident, said she feels uncomfortable about the fact that the development was built by filling in Pong Peay lake.

Camko City is being build by developer World City with a $2 billion investment from South Korea's Shinhan Bank. The project began in December 2005 and expects to finish in 2018. The development lies on 119 hectares of land in Phnom Penh's Russei Keo district that were reclaimed from Pong Peay lake.

Tourism industry applauds Kuwait deal

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Chun Sophal
Thursday, 22 January 2009

Cambodia's travel industry applauded a recent agreement to allow direct flights to Kuwait, saying the move could give a much-needed boost to the sector.

"Kuwait is a rich country and we look forward to seeing more visitors from there," said Ho Vandy, president of the Cambodian Association of Travel Agents.

"I know that we will receive a lot of tourists from this country," he said.

The Cambodian government said it would send a team to Kuwait to design a promotional campaign to attract visitors.

"Next month Kuwait will have direct flights to Cambodia and, under this new agreement, we expect to see 50,000 tourists this year and 100,000 next year [from Kuwait]," Minister of Tourism Thong Khon told reporters after returning from Kuwait Friday.

Only about 700 Kuwaitis visited Cambodia in 2008.

Cambodia has seen a flood of investment from the Middle East, mainly from Kuwait and UAE, with Israel's first trade and investment delegation planned in March.