Friday, 30 January 2009

Landmark hotel in the firing line

The historic Hotel Renakse was shrouded Thursday by tarps and netting, and behind razor wire as its fate hangs in the balance.

The current state of the hotel renakse dispute

Kem Chantha's lawyer, Chong Iv Heng, said in an interview this week that he had yet to receive any information regarding his client's case in Phnom Penh Municipal Court, which was filed after she was removed from the hotel and banned from the premises January 6. "We have still not heard anything from the court yet, so we are still waiting," he said. "If they do not cancel the [January 6 ruling issued by Ke Sakhorn], I will appeal." In an interview with the Post January 18, Kem Chantha said workers contracted by the municipality had begun demolishing the hotel, but these claims have been difficult to verify, as officials have declined to discuss the present condition of the building and their plans for it. No workers were present at the hotel Wednesday morning. The gate to the hotel was locked, and a sign posted on a white piece of paper outside the gate warned passersby against entering the hotel compound. A blue tarp covered both the hotel itself and the fence surrounding it. SRP lawmaker Mu Sochua publicly called on officials to preserve the hotel, saying, "There has been enough destruction of national landmarks in the city of Phnom Penh."

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Robbie Corey-Boulet and May Titthara
Friday, 30 January 2009

The historic Hotel Renakse is at the center of an acrimonious legal tussle between the former owner and powerful members of the ruling CPP, and its fate still hangs in the balance.

AS the legal dispute over the Hotel Renakse sits unresolved in Phnom Penh Municipal Court, Kem Chantha, the hotel's former manager, has taken the fight to other fronts.

In the past three-and-a-half weeks, she has waged a campaign to prevent the French colonial-era building's demolition and secure her reinstatement as manager, attempting to enlist support from potential allies in the government, the international community and the media.

Her efforts, she said in recent interviews with the Post, have included:

- Distribution of additional copies of a January 15 letter by Unesco Country Representative Teruo Jinnai arguing that the building should be preserved for the sake of the city's urban heritage;

- A January 4 meeting with Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Interior Sar Kheng, which she claimed led to a petition urging Prime Minister Hun Sen to save the building from demolition. Sar Kheng could not be reached Wednesday to answer questions about the meeting or to confirm it had occurred;

- And rounds of interviews with reporters, during which she has stressed that corrupt officials want to oust her from the building she managed for nearly two decades without going through the proper legal channels or providing her with adequate compensation.

Having been banned from the hotel since January 6 - when police and officials removed guests, staff and Kem Chantha herself from the premises - she no longer has an office, which she said makes it difficult to arrange meetings. But she vowed to continue to press both for the preservation of the hotel and her reinstatement as manager.

Comparing her own plight to that of the families forcibly removed from Dey Krahorm, she suggested the government would have a more difficult time getting rid of her than it did evicting the community's residents, whose homes were demolished last Saturday by workers using bulldozers and hammers.

"They tried to use power and guns to force me to take this money," she said, referring to a US$200,000 compensation offer made by Alexson Inc, which has purchased the hotel for $3.8 million. "But I'm not like those small settlement houses."

Official (non)response

Officials involved in Kem Chantha's removal from the hotel and its sale to Alexson would not answer questions this week on the current state of the dispute.

Ke Sakhorn, the judge who issued the January 6 order evicting her from the hotel, could not be reached for comment. Min Khin, minister of cults and religions who allegedly arranged for the sale of the hotel, declined to make himself available for an interview despite repeated requests. And Khiev Sepphan, the CPP lawyer handling the sale, declined to comment on the case beyond saying "it is a very complicated issue".

Sok Sam Oeun, director of the Cambodian Defenders Project, said the reticence of the officials might reflect their desire to avoid interfering in a legal case currently before the court.

" They tried to use power and guns to force me to take this money, but i'm not like those settlement houses."

But he said they did just that at least once before when they carried out the order to remove Kem Chantha from the hotel.

"That was not the right thing for them to do," he said. "If a case is brought to the court, then only when that case has been decided can officials do that."

Regardless of whether officials interfere, Kem Chantha said the court's actions so far - in particular, the issuing of the order that barred her from the hotel's premises - have exposed its inability to resolve the case fairly. She said any ruling would be compromised by the fact that Ching Sokuntheavy, the company director of Alexson, is married to the nephew of Ke Sakhorn, the judge.

"They make decisions without proof and not in accordance with the law," she said of the courts.

She said she has several documents - including letters from top CPP officials - that prove she should be reinstated as manager, but she said the court will likely ignore them.

She said her only hope is for Hun Sen to intervene on her behalf, but she said she had not heard from him regarding the case since he wrote in an August 28 letter that authorities should "seek an appropriate resolution to this matter".

Outside parties who have argued that the hotel should be saved have expressed a reluctance to weigh in on whether Kem Chantha should be reinstated as manager.

Teruo Jinnai of Unesco said pressing for her reinstatement would go beyond his organisation's "mandate".

"We are working in the field of education, and we have expertise we can offer," he said. "When it comes to a contract, this is not our mandate."

SRP lawmaker Mu Sochua, who wrote a letter earlier this month urging the CPP to preserve the building, said the particulars of the dispute between Kem Chantha and CPP officials did not interest her.

"I'm not looking at the case," she said. "I'm looking at this national treasure. It is one of the few we have left, and it must be preserved."

A long engagement

Kem Chantha said she first became interested in the hotel when she began working for the Ministry of Tourism in 1986. She signed a five-year lease on the hotel in 1989, she said, and immediately began refurbishing the building, a process that involved repairing the dilapidated walls and roof.

She said she changed the original five-year lease to a 20-year lease in 1992 because she wanted to make sure she would be in charge of the hotel long enough to see a return on her investment.

In 2001, she said, she signed a lease that lasted until 2050.

Several documents pertaining to the ongoing legal case indicate that she planned to remain in the hotel for years, if not decades, to come. In a letter sent last month to Chea Sim, president of the CPP and president of the Senate, she wrote of her plan to turn the Renakse into a luxury hotel as part of the Amanresorts chain, which operates a resort near Angkor Wat. A company spokesman could not be reached for comment this week.

She said she repeatedly poured her own money into the 35-room hotel, which she said had seven rooms when she first took control of it.

Asked to quantify the amount she has spent on renovations to the hotel over the years, however, Kem Chantha said she could produce no receipts verifying the payments.

She said she had also been making payments towards the purchase of the hotel during her tenure as manager, though she said she could not remember how many payments she made, how much they were worth or when she stopped making them.

She also declined to say whether any amount of potential compensation would be enough to persuade her to rescind her claim to the hotel.

But she did say that $200,000 - the amount Alexson offered to pay her in October 2008 for breaking her lease - was insufficient.

"It's very bad," she said of the offer.

RENAKSE takeover

December 29-30 Police enter the hotel compound, and municipal officials inspect the building, which they say has fallen into severe disrepair

January 6 Acting on an order issued by Ke Sakhorn, police evict guests, staff and manager Kem Chantha from the hotel, removing pipes and fittings in the process

January 15 Unesco Country Director Teruo Jinnai sends a letter to Minister of Cults and Religions Min Khin arguing that the Renakse should be preserved for the sake of Phnom Penh's urban heritage

January 18 In an interview with the Post, Kem Chantha says workers contracted by the municipality have begun demolishing the hotel

Australian students build homes for evicted families

Australian Geelong Grammar students take a break from hauling sand on Tuesday.

Habitat for Humanity says that over the next few years it aims to assist some 5,000 familes across the provinces of Kampong Spey, Kampong Cham, Siem Reap, Banteay Meanchey and Phnom Penh in building and renovating their homes and water systems.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Sarah Whyte
Friday, 30 January 2009

Aussie team moved mountains of sand as part of Habitat for Humanity program to erect houses using volunteer labour.

Five students and two teachers visiting Cambodia from Australia's Geelong Grammar School spent the last week hauling mountains of sand - 90 tonnes to be precise, they say.

The team, from the state of Victoria, have been constructing two homes for recently evicted families. The project was organised by the NGO Habitat for Humanity to provide homes for families relocated to Phnom Penh's Samaki village.

Nimol Kive, Habitat's project manager, said his organisation plans to construct 30 homes for families in Samaki village by November with the help of around 500 volunteers.

For the visiting students, the labour has come with unexpected perks.

The students were visited on their work site by Deputy Prime Minister Nhek Bun Chhay and opposition leader Sam Rainsy, and Prince Norodom Ranariddh hosted them for lunch.

Hands-on help

"We've had a really rewarding stay." said Justin Corfield, the supervising teacher.

"A benefit of this program has been the practical side, where the students get to actually see where the money is going rather than writing a blank cheque," he said.

"The students also wanted to fund a project they could contribute to with their own time and efforts."

Students from the school independently raised more than US$8,000 during the year to fund the trip and building project.

"The students approached me with the idea to fund a community organised by Habitat for Humanity about a year ago. Cambodia was geographically the closest country for us to partner with, and we have had several dignitary visits to our school, with Sam Rainsy paying over three visits during the past 10 years," said Corfield.

The students were also drawn to Cambodia after hearing broadcasts aired on Australian radio programs about evicted families.

Sam Aull, 17, called the experience "challenging but rewarding".

"I have never been to Asia before, and the absence of a middle class has astounded me," he added.

Student Sabrina Tee saw the trip as the first of many.

"I hope this program continues to grow and students can again come over next year to help these families," said the 17-year-old.

"It's been such a rewarding experience, but definitely hard work."

Corfield said he planned to institutionalise the trip to make it a mainstay for successive classes at the school.

Chevron funds HIV and TB prevention in capital, Sihanouk

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Khouth Sophak Chakrya
Friday, 30 January 2009

US oil company's $35,000 health initiative launched officially as licence to operate in Cambodia comes up for renewal in March.

CHEVRON Overseas Petroleum marked the official launch Tuesday of a US$35,000 tuberculosis- and HIV-prevention program in Phnom Penh and Sihanouk province, in an attempt to lower the number of deaths caused by the diseases over the next year.

In opening remarks at the launch event, held at the InterContinental in Phnom Penh, Gerard Flaherty, an executive for Chevron Asia South Ltd, said the company is committed to fighting tuberculosis and HIV/Aids, adding that efforts to combat the diseases would improve the health of both the Kingdom and its businesses.

Quoting Bjorn Stigson, president of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, Flaherty said: "Businesses can't succeed in failed societies."

The program, which will end in September and will be coordinated by the NGO Pact Cambodia, is designed to provide technical support to the government's own disease-fighting initiatives.

Pact Vice President Kurt MacLeod said he believed the program would, in addition to fighting HIV and tuberculosis, "ensure that the principles of social responsibility are met, as well as protocols to operate in this country, for the benefit of Cambodian citizens".

Chevron in Cambodia

Chevron has operated in Cambodia since 1995, when it set up a network of Caltex retail service stations throughout the country, along with a marine depot.

The American corporation in July 2006 signed a joint study agreement with the Cambodian government for Block A, a section of the Gulf of Thailand, to develop oil and gas. Chevron's licence is due to expire in March this year, when it will be up for renewal.

Khun Kim Eam, head of the planning and statistics unit of the National Centre for Tuberculosis and Leprosy Control, said 11,658 people died of tuberculosis in Cambodia in 2008.

In 2007, 7.8 percent of tuberculosis patients also had HIV, and 123,100 people aged 15 to 49 were infected with the virus, he said.

Phnom Penh playtime

Photo by: Sovann Philong

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Sovann Philong
Friday, 30 January 2009

Children play Wednesday in the new drainage pipes waiting to be installed at Boeung Tumpun lake on Street 271 on the outskirts of Phnom Penh as part of efforts to develop the city's sanitation infrastructure. The majority of untreated sewage from Phnom Penh flows into Boeung Tumpun lake.

Regulation of foreign marriages misunderstood

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Tep Phearun
Friday, 30 January 2009

Dear Editor,

On behalf of the Ministry of Interior, I wish to refer to the article in The Phnom Penh Post dated January 6, 2009, titled "Subdecree creates new body to regulate foreign marriages: govt" I would like to offer some comment and to correct an inaccuracy contained therein.

In general, the ministry wishes to stress that it has laws and regulations that have continued to be applicable even during the period of suspension by a ministry letter of marriages between Cambodians and foreign nationals from March 29, 2008 to November 3, 2008.

During the suspension the Ministry of Interior and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs have worked closely together to sort out some of the challenges and irregularities in the regulations enabling the relevant legislation.

This has resulted in subdecree No 183 dated November 3, 2008. Although this subdecree has been approved by the government, there is still a requirement for the Ministry of Interior and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to devise some common guidelines to implement the subdecree, and the Ministry of Interior wishes to apologise for any inconvenience caused by this.

No commercial agencies

In particular, ministry officials needed to examine the operation of Article 3 of the subdecree which states that "any marriages arranged through a marriage agency, a broker or a commercial enterprise is prohibited".

In line with this Article, the statement in The Phnom Penh Post on January 6, 2009 that a new organisation, the Association for People Protection (APP), has been set up by Government subdecree is not correct. Nor is it correct that foreigners hoping to wed Cambodians must become members of the APP, as was stated by a notice from the organisation.

The APP, according to its status, cannot be a commercial company.

Letters of permission to any such organisations will not be issued by the Ministry if it is suspected that the aims of the organisation are political or to generate profit.

I hope that this has clarified some of the issues raised in your article.

Tep Phearun
Ministry of Interior

Reactions on the Web to the Dey Krohom eviction range from emotion to rallying

Several websites have published articles, videos, pictures and songs to mobilise Internet users about the fate of the families evicted on Saturday 24th January from Dey Krohom, a neighbourhood in the capital of Cambodia.


By Laurent Le Gouanvic

Cambodian police firing tear gas, an army of young workers demolishing frail houses with sledge hammers and axes, bulldozers crushing everything on their way at the risk of injuring tearful residents fleeing with the few possessions they have managed to save in the chaos... These images of the violent operation to evict the last residents of Dey Krohom, in Phnom Penh on Saturday 24th January, were not broadcast on CNN or any major international television network. Yet, for the last few days, they have been going round the world through the Internet and its new “social networking” tools, like Facebook, YouTube, Flickr, Blogspot or Wordpress. Gradually, after the initial emotional reactions, outraged Internet users are trying – and somewhat struggling – to raise awareness about what happened with the widest possible audience, in Cambodia and abroad. One of their first actions is to launch an international appeal to draw mass protest against the Cambodian authorities and the 7NG company.

A message addressed directly to the authorities

“Dear Prime Minister Hun Sen, I am writing to express my shock at the violent eviction of the Dey Krahorm on January 24th, 2009 and to request that the evicted families receive adequate compensation for their losses.” So begins one of the two “sample letters” published on the website of the organisation "Bridges Across Borders " who invites Internet users throughout the world to copy and send these letters by email or fax to the head of the Cambodian government as well as the Minister of the Council of Ministers Sok An, the Chairman of the National Assembly Heng Samrin, the Governor of Phnom Penh Kep Chuktema, and the Chairman of the 7NG company Srey Sothea. The appeal is also relayed through emails and on a group page dedicated to land conflicts in Cambodia on the social networking website Facebook .

The page was created at the initiative of John Weeks, aka Jinja (or The Gecko in Khmer), an expat blogger in Cambodia who is very active in the Cambodian web circles and responsible for an important compilation of the different sources of information available on the Dey Krohom case . To this day, some 400 members have joined the Facebook group and publish statements, press articles, photos and videos on evictions in Cambodia. The messages posted on the Facebook page originate from Phnom Penh of course, but also from remote Colorado (United States), Canada, Ireland, Switzerland, Australia, Thailand, Hongkong, Philippines, India, or China... Some send a simple message to express their indignation, while others call for concrete actions, including donations of food or basic necessities.

Videos shot in the heart of the action

The group set up on this networking site also – and essentially – serves as a hub for all the written, photographic and audiovisual documents, which represent as much evidence on the eviction. It includes links to the multimedia slideshow and trilingual articles of... Ka-set , videos shot in the middle of the eviction, like the one co-produced by Platapus and Licadho Canada which was initially made available on-line on BlipTV and other “footage rushes” made public on the YouTube video broadcasting site or the human rights multimedia platform The Hub .

Also available on these websites, many archive documents, whether on the daily lives of the Dey Krohom residents , before their eviction, or on other cases of past or ongoing evictions, like at Boeung Kak lake.

“One eviction can hide another”

In parallel to the videos, photos taken during the eviction – but also before and afterwards – are also circulating on a large scale on the Web, whether on the sites of professional photographers (Peter Harris , John Vink ...), amateur ones (Chea Phal , a young Cambodian working for a Japanese NGO whose spends his free time taking pictures) or on photo-sharing sites like Flickr. A moderator on the Khmer Network forum invites people to hang these pictures on their walls to replace “useless” ones and comments “One eviction (forced displacement) can hide another... Watch this space.”

Also, voices are heard on blogs and echoed on the website Global Voices which offers a panorama and excerpts of bloggers' reactions.

Heated reactions

On her personal website, Jivy , a young Filipino living in Phnom Penh, breaks with her usual light messages on shopping and eating out. Still under the shock, she describes what she saw on the morning of Saturday 24th January. “Loud pounding noises woke me up this morning. (…) I looked out of my window and saw hundreds of men wearing green shirt, hammering the small houses in front of the building where my whole family live. It’s my first time to encounter scenes like this and it sent goosebumps all over me. There were lots of police men guarding the site and hundreds of spectators from their homes watched how their fellow Cambodians ruined other people’s houses in a small span of time. (…) I don’t know the whole story behind this horrifying scene, I don’t know if the land is under the government or under a private individual. All I know is that there are people out in the street this morning asking for some more time to discuss this matter before proceeding with the demolition. But people with no hearts didn’t listen.”

Other bloggers also share what they saw, comment on articles or, like Steve, Wendy, Isaac and Niam , the four members of an evangelist family working in Cambodia, express their anger and call to pray for the evicted residents of Dey Krohom.

Weak reaction among Khmer bloggers

However, one cannot but notice that only a few Cambodian bloggers (or Cloggers) express themselves on the eviction. Most of them, including those used to starting heated debates, are strangely silent on the Chinese New Year eve. Similarly, the issue hardly inflames discussion forums of Cambodians living in France. On Khmer Network, while a message on “paedophiles in Cambodia” has generated over a hundred responses and been read more than 3,000 times since 18 January, the one about Dey Krohom has only been commented on seven times and read by about a hundred visitors... Hence the reaction of BAC, one of the few people who reacted, “It [Dey Krohom] is a cause for concern. Why? Well, because it is not a topic for discussion or blathering. It is such a cause for worry that the government is not saying anything. And even people on this forum remain silent. When something is too troubling, people have little of interest to say. It is more fun to blabber.”

The Association for People Protection (APP) regulates the intermarriage.

Reporter Heesoo Jung

The Association for People Protection (APP) received permission by the Cambodian Interior Ministry on Dec. 12 according to the Phnom Penh Post.

The licensed APP is aimed to work as a mediator to facilitate legal consultations by lawyers between husband and wife alike and to protect Cambodian migrants overseas, in particular, women married foreigners.

The APP said in a statement, “The duty of the association is to help people applying for passports and visas to do this legally. Any foreigner who wants to marry a Cambodian woman will have to become a member of the APP.”

The intermarriage suspension was enacted in April as the number of broker unions including the poor and the uneducated has been exploded.

In addition, it is reported by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) that an increasing number of Asian women including Cambodian and Vietnamese brides have spent a hard time in piteous plights with the South Korean husbands, whose middlemen made a large amount of profits.

Around 1759 marriage visas for Cambodians were issued by South Korea in 2007, compared with 72 in 2004.

Heritage award for Cambodia specialist

The University of Sydney
30 January 2009

An organisation founded by the University of Sydney's Dr Dougald O'Reilly to protect Cambodia's cultural heritage has won one of the archeological world's most prestigious awards.

Dr Dougald O'Reilly accepted the The Archaeological Institute of America's Conservation and Heritage Management Award in Boston earlier this month for his work with Heritage Watch, an organisation he founded in 2003.

Dr O'Reilly said he established Heritage Watch "as a result of the increase in the destruction of Cambodia's cultural heritage. The organisation has implemented a whole range of projects to end the illicit excavation and trafficking of antiquities."

The organisation's focus is the Angkor, the World Heritage Site in Cambodia and location of the iconic temple Angkor Wat, with its main aim the promotion of responsible tourism.

One of its current projects is the Heritage Friendly Tourism Campaign, which aims to raise awareness of the importance of travellers practising responsible tourism when visiting sensitive archaeological sites.

Dr O'Reilly recently told the Sydney Morning Herald: "We also hope to discourage people from purchasing antiquities and to broaden their travel experience outside of just Angkor. Cambodia is an amazing and diverse country with much to offer, yet too few people leave Siem Reap where the temples of Angkor are located."

Heritage Watch has recently certified a number of businesses as being 'heritage friendly,' with banners, street signs and stickers helping travellers identify ethical companies.

Other projects on Heritage Watch's agenda include: Heritage for Kids, which will see educate children in the importance of heritage; and an online legal database of national and international legislation affecting the management of cultural resources in Southeast Asia.

Currently three Cambodian nationals work at Heritage Watch, along with a number of unpaid foreign volunteers. Dr O'Reilly says it is funded by various small grants and is trying to become self sustaining by publishing Touchstone, a heritage and responsible tourism magazine.

"I was, of course, very pleased that Heritage Watch received recognition from such a prestigious organization as the AIA and it is a credit to the hard work of all our volunteers and interns," Dr O'Reilly said on receiving the award.

The AIA said: "Heritage Watch has identified the major issues affecting both local and worldwide archaeological sites, including looting, the trade in illicit antiquities, tourism overload and rapid development that outpaces national policies to protect sites."

Contact: Kath Kenny
Phone: 02 9351 2261

Tribunal Reserve Judge To Be Chosen

By Sok Khemara, VOA Khmer
Original report from Washington
29 January 2009

The Supreme Council of Magistracy on Friday will discuss the U.N. nomination of a Zambian judge with experience in the Rwandan war crimes trials for an international reserve judge position at the Khmer Rouge tribunal, an official said Wednesday.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon nominated Florence Mumba for the position, the official said.

Previously, she worked for the International Criminal Court for Rwanda, as a member of the Appeals Chamber. Mumba also was part of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s, presiding as judge over several cases. In Zambia, she served as counsel to the Supreme Court in the 1970s.

The Supreme Council of Magistracy, which is chaired by King Norodom Sihamoni, is scheduled to review the selection of the reserve judge on Friday.

Tribunal spokesman Reach Sambath confirmed the council would make a decision, but was unable to provide further detail.

The Pre-Trial Chamber, which is currently supposed to decide on whether more Khmer Rouge leaders will be indicted, has three national judges, two national judges, as well as one each from each side in reserve.

Cambodia Seeks Return of Seized Statues

By Kong Sothanarith, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
29 January 2009

Cambodia has sent a package of documents to Thailand to initiate the repatriation of 18 ancient statues from a total 43 seized by Thai authorities from traffickers over the past decade, a top official said Wednesday.

“We sent the documents to clarify that among 43 statues, 18 belong to Cambodia,” Foreign Minister Hor Namhong told VOA Khmer Wednesday. “We will conduct a study on the rest of the statues to find reasoning that they are antiques that belong to Cambodia.”

During years of civil war, antiques and statues were pillaged from ancient temples, pagodas and other sites and smuggled from the country, sometimes by armed men that authorities were reluctant to stop.

The 43 statues in Thailand were taken after they crossed the border in smuggling operations since 1999.

“Among those statues are the head of a Buddha, the head of a giant, a lion, and [partial] statues of Buddha,” said Hatt Touch, director of the museum department of the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts. “They were stolen from Bantheay Chmar temple in Bantheay Meanchey province, stolen from the Bayon temple [in Angkor Wat] and from other temples also.”

The Joint Border Committee between Thai and Cambodia will meet next week to discuss options for returning the first 18 statues, Hor Namhong said.

US, Cambodia Prepare Diplomatic Missions

By Reporters, VOA Khmer
Original reports from Phnom Penh & Washington
29 January 2009

Newly appointed US Ambassador Carol Rodley held her first meeting with Prime Minister Hun Sen Thursday, promising a continued policy of cooperation, as Cambodia’s own ambassador prepared for his post in Washington.

The United States will continue friendly relations in politics, economics and culture in a bilateral relationship, the ambassador told VOA Khmer Thursday, following a nearly one-hour meeting with the premier.

“It was our first meeting, and it was very good to have a chance to talk to him again,” said Rodley, who was the deputy chief of mission at the US Embassy in Phnom Penh from 1997 to 2000. “We will continue to have very good cooperative relations and continue to provide assistance to Cambodia.”

Ieng Sophalleth, a spokesman for Hun Sen, said the premier had thanked the ambassador for US assistance.

Cambodia and the US have enjoyed warming relations in recent years, including the resumption of military aid and other programs.

However, the US government should strengthen its democracy-building in Cambodia, said Kem Sokha, president of the Human Rights Party, “and especially help the Cambodian National Assembly strengthen democracy, to make a balance of power in the government.”

Rodley’s meeting with Hun Sen follows the arrival of Hem Heng, Cambodia’s ambassador to the US, in Washington.

“I do hope that our Cambodian people who are living here, as well as living across America, will help my mission to reach success and achievement for our nation,” Hem Heng, who has yet to be officially recognized as ambassador, said following a monk’s blessing at a pagoda in the state of Maryland Sunday.

'Children of the Khmer': Fêted in Scotland … bulldozed back home

Scotsman, United Kingdom

30 January 2009
By Tim Cornwell

Arts Correspondent

SIX months ago they were being fêted in Edinburgh, cheered by crowds in the Festival parade and winning four-star reviews for their show of traditional monkey and peacock dances.

But the Cambodian teenagers, who performed as the "Children of the Khmer" in Scotland last August, are among hundreds of people who have lost their homes in a slum clearance in the centre of Phnom Penh, The Scotsman has learned.Poor residents of Dey Krahorm had been fighting eviction for three years until police and bulldozers moved in this week.

Many of the dancers affected are orphans or from poor single-parent homes. Thoem Bunleng, at 21 one of the oldest performers, who played a monkey drummer in Edinburgh, watched while his home was razed.

"His father just died, and he couldn't afford to pay for the funeral, and he is basically homeless," said Richard Chappell, who helped bring the Cambodian group to The World venue in Edinburgh. "He is staying in one of the classrooms we have in Phnom Penh."

Witnesses described demolition workers rocking stilted houses till they fell apart as inhabitants tried desperately to remove belongings.

Amnesty International this week called on the Cambodian authorities to stop the demolitions and ensure adequate compensation and restitution for those evicted. Opposition MPs also condemned the "grave violences" of the municipal authorities in the Cambodian capital.

Amnesty said more than 150 poor urban families had lost their homes when a force of about 250 police, firemen and workers moved in at 3am, dispersing protesters with tear gas.

"The most urgent task now is for the government to immediately address the humanitarian needs of these people, who have lost their homes and face imminent food and water shortages," said Amnesty's Cambodian researcher, Brittis Edman.

The Cambodian families claim they have legal rights to the land their shanty homes are built on, but that local authorities signed it over to a developer as property values have skyrocketed. The development company, 7NG, claims to have offered up to $20,000 (£13,986) compensation.

But many of those evicted have said they do not know how to apply for payment – which will be far harder to do now they've been forced out.

The company offered alternative accommodation, but it is said to be several miles outside the city with no facilities and no running water. One girl dancer, Chandaloy, who lived in little more than a cupboard, lost her home yesterday.

"They have full legal right to their houses, they are not squatters. All the simple ground-level houses have been cleared. Stage two is the apartment buildings," said Mr Chappell.

The Children of the Khmer show featured 26 young Cambodians trained by Cambodian Living Arts. CLA is a non-governmental organisation which supports traditional Cambodian artforms, widely banned under the Khmer Rouge.

More than 100 CLA students and at least five teachers live in Dey Krahorm.

John Simpson, of the World venue, which brought the Cambodians together, said: "The real interest for us is to follow through on the projects with the Cambodians. We are going to bring them in 2010 and this will certainly not stop us.

"I am sure the people of Edinburgh will be as welcoming and supportive as they were last time. It means a lot for the kids to know the people they met in Edinburgh are supporting them during such difficult times."

Anyone wishing to help can send an e-mail to


UNDER the Khmer Rogue regime of Pol Pot, at least 1.7 million Cambodians, some say more than two million, died of starvation, disease and executions during the dictator's primitive experiment in human engineering, called "Year Zero".

The idea behind Year Zero was that all culture and traditions within a society must be completely destroyed or discarded, replaced by a new revolutionary culture.

Consequently, about 90 per cent of the country's performing artists died during the Khmer Rouge regime, a devastating blow to all of Cambodia's ancient traditions.

After the fall of the Khmer Rouge, the cultural tragedy was compounded by two decades of economic hardship, when very few of the surviving performers could make a living for themselves.

Cambodian Living Arts stepped in to support those performers who, despite their deep knowledge and skill, had either retired or reduced their teaching and performing loads. Now, it funds 16 classes throughout Phnom Penh and seven other provinces to promote the tradition.

The Municipality’s Plan to Cut Down Illegal Constructions in the City - Thursday, 29.1.2009

Posted on 30 January 2009.
The Mirror, Vol. 13, No. 597

“Phnom Penh: In the morning of 28 January 2009 the Phnom Penh authorities held a meeting at the meeting hall of the municipality which was presided over by a deputy Phnom Penh municipal governor in charge of cadastral work, Mr. Mab Sarin; also the deputy chief of cabinet of the Phnom Penh Municipality, Mr. Koet Chhe, the director of the Department of Land Management, Urban Planning, and Construction, Mr. Chhay Rithisen, all district deputy governors, and some other relevant officials participated. The major intention of this meeting was to awaken and to encourage cadastral officials to focus on preventing illegal constructions happening, and to improve the situation by taking action to reduce illegal constructions.

“The deputy municipal governor, Mr. Mab Sarin, said, ‘We are really embarrassed that we have enough commune and district authorities and expert officials, but no one seems to knows that illegal constructions are going on in their localities until the construction is finished; when citizens informed them, they said they were surprised. We do not believe that the authorities do not know when illegal constructions are going on, because no one knows better about every construction than the local officials. We meet therefore to discuss methods to achieve solutions, and somebody must take real responsibility for such problems. If you still say that you do not know, you will receive administrative punishments or be shifted out from work.’

“Mr. Mab Sarin added, ‘We do this in order to cut down illegal constructions. The authorities do not want to start conflicts with anyone; that is, the authorities have to enforce the laws which have been made. Previously, letters were issued to stop some illegal constructions, but until there were solutions reached, most of the constructions had almost been finished, and the administrative work was slow, exactly because of the lack of action of the district authorities.’

“The director of the Department of Land Management, Urban Planning, and Construction, Mr. Chhay Rithisen, admitted that some of his officials are really afraid to stop illegal constructions of the rich and of powerful officials, because sometimes, when they take action, there were complaints lodged at the courts against those officials, and they suddenly and unexpectedly became the accused. He requested that, regarding the above problem, the municipality should create a committee at municipal level, like a committee to check excavation pits and buildings sites, where all agencies cooperate, including armed forces, so that it will be efficient, because until now, ‘when we go to check illegal constructions, our people were prohibited to enter by bodyguards of the owners of the construction sites, and sometimes cadastral officials were even arrested.’

“The deputy chief of cabinet of the Phnom Penh Municipality, Mr. Koet Chhe, said that previously, when cadastral officials and district authorities went to stop illegal constructions, both sides did not get along with each other well, because there was no cooperation at all.
Sometimes, when the authorities went to stop or crack down on illegal constructions, powerful officials had letters from higher officials permitting their constructions. ‘However, as the Phnom Penh authorities, we have enough possibilities, and we are willing to use them, and if there are problems, we also have two lawyers to get the courts involved.’

“Mr. Koet Chhe went on to say that from now on, the municipal authorities will go to check all localities regularly, and the relevant local authorities must be responsible for all illegal constructions. This plan is to achieve improvements. ‘That means that we must not let illegal constructions spread like mushrooms, and the local authorities must hold responsibilities in their respective localities. ‘

“Illegal constructions not only cause anarchy, but also affect the beauty of the city.”

Koh Santepheap, Vol.42, #6564, 29.1.2009
Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Thursday, 29 January 2009

Circus with its roots in helping refugees is in its sixth year


by Jamie Rhein
Jan 29th 2009

If a trip to Cambodia is in your future this coming March or April, here's an event to look for. Tini Tinou 2009 is a megawatt circus-type festival that has its roots in doing good works. The non-profit group Phare Ponleu Selpak, started in the l980s to help Cambodian children in Thai refugee camps by using the visual arts, has been putting on the Tini Tinou Circus Festival for the past five years.

This spring for the sixth year in a row, a bevvy of professional artists and performers from around the world will come to entertain and teach. This is a two part venture. The first part takes place in Phenom Penh from March 10-28. Along with two-weeks of workshops where artists from countries ranging France to Japan teach young Cambodian artist some tools of the trade, on the 28th, the public can enjoy the action. There will be a parade, a light show and a cabaret.

From April 2 to April 5, the festival circus moves to Battambang where Pare Ponleu Selpak (meaning Light from the Arts) is based. Here, 120 different acts from 10 different countries will dazzle and delight throughout the event.

If you want to find out more about the circus and how to pair a visit to Cambodia with a trip to this event, there are two tour operators to check out for the details. One, Asia Adventures Ltd who sent out the press release about Tini Tinou 2009 is planning tours that will take in the circus and other sites in Cambodia.

The other I found is asia trails. As the CEO of this company states in a letter posted last year, going to events and places helps boost the economy and sustain people. Tourism, then, is like a non-profit circus when you think about it.

The poor pay for a property boom

Be it ever so humble

Cambodia's disappearing capital

Jan 29th 2009

From The Economist print edition

THE fading colonial charm of the French-built Renakse Hotel in Phnom Penh has faded for good. The last guests have been pushed out and the windows boarded up. A property boom in the Cambodian capital has brought a whirl of demolition of old buildings, plans for new high-rise developments, and speculative investment in satellite towns.

The victims of this have been Phnom Penh’s poor. Last week police and private security guards roughly evicted 120 families from Dey Krahorm, a slum in the centre of the city, on the orders of Phnom Penh’s governor. The firm developing the area, 7NG, is linked to the ruling Cambodian People’s Party, the CPP, led by Hun Sen, the prime minister. The company plans to turn the site into an upmarket retail park. Nearby, a famous park area known as the Boeung Kak lake is also to be developed, bringing the eviction of 4,500 residents. Many had been living around the lake for 20 years. They have been offered only paltry compensation, and have been relocated to the city’s outskirts with no amenities or obvious way of making a living.

The controversial plans involve filling in 90% of the lake. The CPP has ditched past commitments to conservation and environmental protection, as the boom has driven prime-land prices in Phnom Penh up tenfold in two years, to $5,000 per square metre. The municipal government has granted a 99-year lease on 133 hectares (330 acres) of the Boeung Kak site to a CPP senator, Lao Meng Khin, who is also a director of a company called Shukaku, for a mere $79m—a fraction of its estimated true market value. In April 2008 Mr Khin signed a deal with a Chinese company to turn the lake area into a posh residential and recreation development, to be dubbed the “New City of the East”. A Korean company is building a similar city, known as CamKo, on Phnom Penh’s outskirts.

Critics say the Boeung Kak deal is illegal. Cambodia’s 2001 land law declares all lakes public property that cannot be leased for more than 15 years. The authorities say the deal was legalised by a 2008 decree from Mr Hun Sen’s cabinet, reclassifying “state-public land” as “state-private land”.

Mok Mareth, the environment minister, initially raised concerns that filling in the lake would do serious damage to Phnom Penh’s drainage system. This, he argued, would violate a 1996 law ordaining that Cambodia’s natural resources should be conserved, developed, managed and used in a rational and sustainable manner.

Indeed, since August 2008 when developers started filling the lake in, some houses have already started sinking. An independent report released earlier this month by an Australian assessment team gave a strong warning against the project. It concluded it would lead to an increase in flooding, and would endanger water quality and public health.

Two decades ago, children paddled boats on the lake, families enjoyed picnics, and Mr Hun Sen used to entertain foreign visitors at a modest but picturesque bamboo restaurant. But today, as the bulldozers are poised to raze old Phnom Penh and plug its favourite lake, the urban poor are starting to feel nostalgic for a time when a park really was a park and not a so-called “state-private development zone”.

Leopard Capital builds team with two new hires


Cambodia-focused private equity and real estate firm Leopard Capital has strengthened its team with the appointment of Scott Lewis as a managing partner and Chan Sophal as an investment manager.

From 1993 to 1996 and 1999 to 2008, Lewis worked in Merrill Lynch's Global Energy & Power Group, providing investment banking services to energy clients globally. During his time away from Merrill Lynch, he worked for First Reserve, an energy-focused private equity firm and the Sterling Group Inc., a petrochemical and agribusiness-focused private equity firm.

Sophal is a Cambodian citizen and president of the Cambodian Economics Association. He is an agricultural economist and, in his new role, will focus on investment opportunities for agriculture projects. Sophal has previously worked as a senior research manager for the Cambodian Development and Research Institute and held positions with the World Food Programme, the World Bank and with the Prek Leap Agriculture College.

Leopard Capital is currently raising a $100m fund which, to date, has around $23m in committed capital and is expected to hold a final close in April. In May last year, the Leopard Cambodia Fund agreed to acquire a 24 per cent equity stake in Cambo Fund, which is developing a residential property project in Siem Reap, Cambodia, for around $1.8m.

Referring to the fund's future investments, Thomas Hugger, a managing partner at Leopard capital, said, "We think that there will be two to three additional investments made in the next few weeks - we have cash and are benefitting from considerable lower valuations due to the global financial crisis."

Last year, the firm reportedly competed to buy a stake in Acleda Bank, one of Cambodia's largest banks.

Call to help Cambodian girls get university education

Westmorland Gazette
Thursday 29th January 2009

By Lizzie Anderson

A TEENAGER who has spent three months volunteering in Cambodia is appealing to local people to give young Cambodian women the chance of a university education.

Sally Murray, 18, of Wray, near Lancaster, has recently returned from a voluntary placement in the Far East, organised through the Life and Hope Foundation -a Cambodian charity that works to improve the lives and prospects of orphans, vulnerable children and disadvantaged people.

“I lived with 14 wonderful but very poor girls, who were being supported through high school by the charity, but have no chance of getting through university without external financial help,” she explained. “They are the kind of girls who will always work for society, not just themselves and Cambodia needs people like that. However, to serve society most effectively these young women need a higher education.”

Miss Murray explained how the girls all dreamed of becoming teachers, doctors and managers, adding: “This cause is especially important in Cambodia, where a whole generation of educated people were killed by the Khmer Rouge genocide just 30 years ago.”

The cost of providing a university education is around £600, which can be paid over three years in monthly installments.

Anyone who would like to get involved can visit or contact Miss Murray on

Thai police arrest alleged mastermind in shooting of US citizen

The Nation
Thu, January 29, 2009

By Deutsche Presse Agentur

Bangkok - Thai immigration police on Thursday arrested the alleged mastermind of a murder attempt on an US citizen, a case the prime minister last week ordered the police to prioritize.

Janpen Oxley, 48, the Thai wife of British national Darren Oxley, was arrested at 7 am Thursday at Aranyaprathet on the Thai-Cambodian border.

"Janpen asked for an entry stamp to Cambodia but when her name popped up on the computer there was an alert that an arrest warrant had been issued for her," Immigration Police Lieutenant Colonel Benjapol Lortsawat said in a telephone interview from Aranyaprathet, 200 kilometres east of Bangkok.

"She had been waiting at the border checkpoint since 4 am," said Benjapol. "Janpen told immigration officials she wanted to get in to Poipet to help a friend who had lost her money at the casinos." Poipet, Cambodia, is a popular gambling destination for Thais.

Janpen is the alleged mastermind behind the attempted murder of Donald Whiting in Hua Hin, a beach resort 130 kilometres south-west of Bangkok, on October 24.

Thai police on Tuesday arrested three suspected gunmen in the shooting of Whiting, 65, who was embroiled in two property disputes in Hua Hin, an upmarket beach resort that has become popular among foreign retirees.

The three suspects confessed to having been hired by Janpen to kill Whiting for 200,000 baht (5,714 dollars).

Police have also issued an arrest warrant for Oxley, a British national who has invested in several housing developments in Hua Hin.

Whiting had bought a house from Oxley but complained he had been overcharged for water supplies.

Whiting, an ex-marine who has been living in Hua Hin for the past five years, was involved in a second property dispute with another foreign developer who had been contracted to build a 13.6-million-baht villa in the resort for him and his wife Dolly Samson.

The US couple claim that the contractor took their money and left them with an unfinished, sub-standard concrete monstrosity instead of the Thai-Bali style mansion they had dreamed of.

Whiting was a frequent contributor to websites dedicated to complaints about property scams at Hua Hin.

Whiting's car was set on fire in July 2008, and shortly afterwards he was shot in the neck, leaving him partially paralysed. He was shot a day before a court hearing in which he was scheduled to open a lawsuit against Janpen and her husband.

Property scams have been widely reported in Hua Hin, known as the "royal resort," a favourite summer retreat for Thai high society. More recently it has drawn a plethora of world-class hotel chains and posh boutique getaways.

The Whiting case was one of four unsolved crimes that newly appointed Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva last week ordered the national police chief to solve.

The other cases include the slaying of four Saudi nationals in 1989 and 1990, the disappearance and suspected murder of human rights lawyer Somchai Neelpaijit in 2004 and the 2003 slaying of Kornthep Viriya, a shipping agent and key witness in a tax evasion case against a company owned by former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

Vice president of German parliament to visit Cambodia

PHNOM PENH, Jan. 29 (Xinhua) -- Wolfgang Thierse, Vice President of the German Parliament, will officially visit Cambodia from Jan. 31 to Feb. 4 to beef up the friendly bilateral relations, said an official press release here Thursday.

Wolfgang will respectively pay courtesy calls with Senate President Chea Sim, National Assembly President Heng Samrin, and Prime Minister Hun Sen, said the release from the National Assembly.

The vice parliamentarian president will also meet representatives of the political parties which have seats at the National Assembly, as well as representatives from the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) and other national and international institutions, it added.

Editor: Lin Liyu

Angkor revenue down; critics cite corruption

Photo by: Tracey Shelton
A view of Angkor Wat. The government says that the tourism slowdown has led to less revenue from ticket sales.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by May Kunmakara
Thursday, 29 January 2009

Governmental body responsible for temples say revenue dropped to $30 million in 2008, blaming downturn amid accusations of corruption

ANGKOR Wat ticket sales dropped almost 10 percent in 2008, said Bun Narith, deputy director of Apsara Authority, the government institute that handles revenue from the attraction, blaming a tourism downturn despite criticism that figures have been manipulated due to corruption.

Revenue from ticket sales dropped to about US$30 million last year from roughly $32 million in 2007, he added. However, uncertainty surrounds the data given that Apsara and tycoon Sok Kong's Sokimex, which owns Sokha Hotels - the organisations that receive revenue from Angkor Wat - have refused to release detailed, concrete figures, critics say.

Explaining the situation, Bun Narith told the Post: "I have not received the exact figures from the Ministry of Economy and Finance and Sokimex," he said, refusing to provide details on their revenue-sharing agreement. Sok Kong was unavailable Tuesday, his assistant Seng Chanthy said, adding that the person responsible for Angkor Wat ticketing was "on holiday".

Khmer-language daily Koh Santepheap reported on January 13 that the first $3 million in Angkor Wat revenue is split 50-50 between Sokimex and Apsara. Of additional revenue, 15 percent goes to restoration and development at Angkor, 68 percent to Apsara's operating costs and 17 percent to Sokimex.

Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker Yim Sovann raised doubts about the figures. "The drop is caused by corruption," he said. "There is no transparency. The number of tourists increased, but ticket revenue dropped," he added, arguing that most tourists to Cambodia visit Angkor Wat and therefore increased numbers would surely lead to higher revenue at the temples.

Independent tourism analyst Moeung Son also doubted the numbers: "Thong Khon, the minister of tourism, changed his mind ... about the revenue decline in 2008. He used to say that the number of tourists increased 5.48 percent this year [in 2008] which is equal to 2.12 million tourists [in total], even though the actual figure did not match ministry expectations."

In April 1999, the government gave Sokimex a 10-year concession on revenue from Angkor Wat ticket sales as part of an agreement to cooperate with Apsara Authority. Critics say it is time the government ended the monopoly, with Yim Sovann suggesting that tourist figures pointed to total revenue closer to $60 million per year.

"If the government conducted a fair and public bidding process ... we would earn more revenue from this, but the government always solely approves Sokimex Company. That is corruption," he said, citing Sokimex ties to the CPP.

Moeung Son agreed there should be an open tender process: "The government has to give private companies an opportunity to bid for the concession for Angkor Wat," he said.

Temple watch: Back road to Beng Mealea

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Dave Perkes
Thursday, 29 January 2009

Continuing our trek along Route 66 from Preah Khan to Beng Mealea, we searched for the Triple Earth Banks of the Temple City. On previous visits I had never seen these jungle-hidden boundary markers, but using GPS mapping we were able to locate them quite easily, as the track climbed steeply over the three banks, which are about 50 metres apart. We then took the ancient highway toward the jungle temple of Beng Mealea. Route 66 lived up to its reputation as being one of the worst roads in Cambodia. Chest-high grass and bushes grew in the centre of the tracks, which meandered through semi-open jungle. Many times we had to reverse from fallen trees. The deeply-rutted track dropped to a river that was not particularly deep, but the steep, muddy bank on the opposite side proved a major obstacle - we resorted to using the winch around a tree to haul the Land Cruiser up. After three hours of deeply-rutted jungle tracks and several dry rivers, we emerged at Kvau village, which is little more than a crossroads, but has a new road linking it to Kampong Kdei and Route 6. We continued along the new route passing over a number of ancient bridges. The most impressive bridge along this route is Ta Ohm, crossing the Chikreng River. It's a marvellous structure with about 15 arches and appeared to be more than 50 metres long.

Siem Reap sausage maker reaps international acclaim for links

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Kyle Sherer
Thursday, 29 January 2009

SIEM Reap manufacturer Ly Tian Seng Sausage continues to produce the connoisseurs' sausage of choice, boosting its domestic trade during a successful showing at the third One Province One Product Exhibition at Mondial Center in Phnom Penh last December.

That exhibition was designed to promote Cambodian-made goods, and the Ly Tian Seng Sausage stall proved a hit. It moved sausages at 8,000 riels (US$1.94) per kilogram - 1,000 riels more than other brands.

One month after the conference, the company is reaping the benefits of the good word-of-mouth, claiming a 100 percent increase in customers and an optimistic outlook for business prospects this year.

Ly Tian Seng Sausage also garnered some regional export business last year after exhibiting at the Thai Indochina Trade Fair in Ubon Ratchathani, Thailand.

Yem Hok, nephew of the company's manager Chuon Peng, told the Post that Ly Tian Seng Sausage goods are popular with tourists from Vietnam, Singapore and China, as well as Cambodian expatriates.

"People buy our sausages as a gift," he says.

But while the sausages have attracted a dedicated international fan base, they are yet to fully catch on with Siem Reap hotels, despite the hotel industry's claim that it has to import 85 percent of its foodstuffs because of lack of local product. "No hotel buys regularly," Yem Hok says.

"They only order from us when a guest specifically requests it."

But this may be be the one negative aspect of the company's otherwise positive business model of cornering the gourmet niche by making sausages to order, rather than mass-producing them.

Chuon Peng, 40, is an industry veteran, and has been churning out sausages in Siem Reap since 1979, crafting a reputation for diligence that spans the region.

He has worked at his family's sausage business since he was nine years old and is raising the family children to follow in his footsteps.

Yem Hok says the company's "quality and cleanliness have resulted in good reviews from clients in and out of the country", and that the Ministry of Commerce export-import inspection body conducts regular appraisals.

Sign tax angers business owners

Photo by: Kyle Sherer
Yin Sam, owner of the Khemasak Nokor Printing Shop.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Kyle Sherer
Thursday, 29 January 2009

Private company's collection of signage fee in Siem Reap seen as arbitrary and unfair


SIEM Reap business owners are riled about a controversial new sign tax, and their protests have forced the provincial government to hold emergency meetings to rethink the issue.

Many businesses refused to pay the private company contracted by the provincial governor's office to collect the new charges, which come on top of a sign tax all Siem Reap businesses already pay when they renew their business licences. One Wat Bo businessman dismantled his large office sign rather than pay the fee, he said.

Businesses saw the new sign tax as a form of double-dipping and objected to a private company, Modern Printing Design (MPD), being contracted to police the measure.

MPD representatives also acted thuggishly in their collection of fees, and at first furnished no identification, just figures written on scraps of paper, and demanded instant payment, businesses say.

Residents first became aware of the tax in mid-November 2008, when MPD staff began measuring signs and demanding payment, telling some businesses that the fee was calculated at US$20 per square metre of signage.

Following outraged complaints, MPD staff acquired some legitimate paperwork, including staff identity cards, business cards and professional invoices.

Petition circulated

The Post contacted the provincial government office and was informed that MPD was acting on its behalf.

In early December, a petition was circulated in opposition to the tax, and on December 18 Rasmey Kampuchea published advice from the Siem Reap government office that referred to a "second letter" issued by the office authorising MPD to collect the taxes.

In the same article, a government tax office employee said the business sign tax was not related to the tax office, and requested that the letter be rescinded.

By mid-January, the petition against this tax had grown to over 300 signatures, and now business owners claim their actions have forced the government to consider a drastic softening of the levy. But MPD staff are reportedly continuing to collect payment despite the provincial government's promise to suspend the fees.

Yin Sam, owner of the Khemasak Nokor Printing Shop, claims the sign tax has caused him to lose about 40 percent of his clients. "It has really affected my business. In many cases, the tax that the MPD charged is almost the same as the cost of printing the sign, doubling the cost for business owners."

Cambodia and Laos Telecommunications Report Q1 2009 - adds new report


Cambodia and Laos Telecommunications Report Q1 2009 - a new market research report on

This is BMI’s first report on the increasingly important telecommunications markets of Cambodia and Laos. This is important not only because of their fast-growth markets but both countries are also becoming important destinations for a number of telecoms operators from fellow emerging markets.

Luxembourg-based Millicom International has had an interest in both markets for some time.

In Cambodia, the operator is the market leader in the mobile sector via its unit CamGSM, with an overwhelming 62.9% stake in the sector. The operator has a slightly weaker presence in the Laos market, but offers services of fixed-line (third-ranked with a 2.7% share), internet and mobile (No3 with a 12.1% stake).

Thailand-based Shinawatra operates CamShin, Cambodia’s second-ranked position with a market share of 18%. Another Thai-based company, Shenington has a strong presence in Laos. It not only has around 63.4% of the mobile sector, providing it with a dominant position, but it also dominates the fixed-line market with over 80% of the sector, a position it has enjoyed for some time. Telekom Malaysia, meanwhile retains a third-ranked operating presence via TMIC in the Cambodian mobile market, with a 14.2% share.

During 2009, we also expect greater presence from neighbouring Vietnam. Viettel, the country’s Ministry of Defence-run telecoms unit, received permission to offer mobile services in both the Cambodian and Laos markets. In the Cambodian market, the operator is expected to be joined by Taiwanese incumbent operator Chunghwa Telecom, while, in the Laos market, Viettel has already established operations and expects to attain around 1.5mn subscribers by YE10. Viettel’s Laos operation, Star Telecom Company (STC) is a joint venture with Laos Asia Telecommunications, which already has a 3.2% share of the Laos mobile market.

The Cambodian market has also attracted the attention of Russian companies. Cambodian operator Sotelco was acquired by Russian operator VimpelCom in July 2008 from Altimo at a cost of US$28mn for a 90% stake. VimpelCom has pledged around US$200mn to be spent in its Cambodian network in the first three to four years following its commercial launch. By December 2008, Sotelco had signed a contract with China’s Huawei Technologies to build a national GSM network over a five-year period.

High costs of internet connection mean that internet take-up is very low in both Cambodia and Laos. At the end of 2007, broadband penetration was under 0.1%. BMI fully expects this to grow to 0.2% in Cambodia and Laos by the end of the decade, driven by greater competition in the marketplace, reduced tariffs and cost of PCs and laptops.

Business survey set for completion in March: government

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Sam Rith
Thursday, 29 January 2009

First nationwide business survey in five years to be conducted from February to March as government secures funding from Japan.

THE government next month is to conduct its first countrywide business survey in five years as part of an initiative leading to a proposed full-scale economic census in 2011, Economic Statistics Department Director Mich Kanthul said.

Starting February 9, the month long initiative will see "four hundred officials ... go down to every village, commune and district in cities and provinces throughout the country", Mich Kanthul added. The survey would be aimed at improving the quality of Cambodia's economic data. Data collection will continue until March 8.

The Kingdom has not conducted a nationwide economic survey since 2004 due to a lack of funding, San Sy Than, director general of the National Institute of Statistics at the Ministry of Planning, told the Post.

Foreign supportThis year's survey will be funded by the Japan International Cooperation Agency, a development organ of the Japanese government, at an estimated cost of US$300,000, he said.

San Sy Than attempted to ease concerns that the statistics might be used as part of tax-collection efforts, saying instead that the aim of the survey was to catalogue Cambodian businesses.

Mich Kanthul said government efforts culminating in a 2011 business census would help boost foreign investment in the Kingdom by providing accurate information to prospective investors.

Collected data will be used to pinpoint the size, scope, location and ownership of businesses in the Kingdom, Khin Sovorlak, deputy director of Economic Statistic Department, said. This, in turn, will allow the government to accurately break down the Cambodian economy into industries and sectors.

In recent years, this information has been cobbled together courtesy of data from various relevant ministries, Mich Kanthul said.

Last year's population census by the Ministry of Planning estimates that 16.8 percent of Cambodian families run their own businesses.

Khmer-inspired dance makes the invisible visible

The Vancouver Sun

Kevin Griffin
Thursday, January 29, 2009

Five years ago, Peter Chin saw something at Angkor Wat he couldn't forget. At the time, he was in Cambodia on a five-month residency studying classical Khmer dance and music. This style of movement and sound dating back more than 1,000 years that nearly disappeared during the Khmer Rouge genocide in the 1970s.

One day, Chin saw history in the making. He watched as an aged Cambodian dance teacher instructed her student in a classical work that had nearly been lost. Chin looked on and realized that something unique was going on between student and teacher.

Somehow, they had transformed themselves so they could transmit the invisible elements that made Khmer dance essentially Khmer.

"This altered state of transmission must have come to the fore stronger than usual . . . given that there was something of ultimate value at stake," Chin said.

"This heightened state of soul- and spirit-sharing that brings us together, as parts of something larger than ourselves, transcending cultural differences and clashes and bridging ruptures in our history is what I hope Transmission of the Invisible can embrace."

Chin's Transmission of the Invisible is being performed three times during the PuSh Performing Arts Festival starting this evening at 8 p.m. at the Scotiabank Dance Centre.

As artistic director of his company, Tribal Cracking Wind, Chin spent three years creating the 70-minute work.

It was developed in association with Yim Savann and Phon Sopheap, two Cambodian classical dancers from Phnom Penh's Amrita Performing Arts.

As well, the work was created with various community partners in Cambodia who were incorporated in the projected video. They included a child psychologist and social worker who helps traumatized children, a community of Buddhist monks, a young man and his younger brother taking care of their dying grandmother and dance teachers instructing younger students.

Given Cambodia's recent fractured history, one of the dominant themes in Transmission of the Invisible is fragmentation -- portrayed in abrupt changes in choreography and movement and heard in sudden shifts in the score. It also works its way into the costumes.

"Two gowns are made out of silk organza," he said in a phone interview. "They're distressed or tattered -- like the history which has been interrupted and fragmented."

Dance in Cambodia is linked directly to its history.

Built in the 12th century, Angkor Wat was the centre of the Khmer empire that was the dominant power in the region for about 500 years starting in the ninth century.

Shortly after it was built, Angkor Wat was sacked by the Siamese -- the Thais. The Siamese took Khmer dancers to the ancient capital Ayuthaya where it subsequently influenced the development of Thai dancing.

Khmer classical dance has been compared to ballet because of the years of training required. Cambodian dancers are famous for being able to bend their hands back so far they can almost touch their wrists.

UNESCO considers Cambodian classical dance as part of the world's intangible cultural heritage.

Over the years, Khmer classical dancing became associated with the Cambodian royal court.

When the Maoist Khmer Rouge took control of the country in 1975, classical dancing and dancers were seen as symbols of the country's feudal past.

An estimated 90 per cent of the dancers and teachers were killed by the Khmer Rouge.

Transmission of the Invisible, however, isn't about the trauma caused by the genocide. It's about what comes after.

"It's about rebuilding -- not so much about the trauma but where we go after the trauma," he said.

"I want to focus on the wordless and ineffable, on the kind of energetic emanation that we can't see, but that we communicate to each other at that hard-to-define level."

In addition to the choreography, Chin has designed the costumes and created the music with Garnet Willis.

The soundscape includes natural and street sounds recorded in Cambodia.

Born in Kingston, Jamaica, Chin is based in Toronto where he's known not only as a dancer/choreographer, but also as a musician/composer, performance artist and designer.

He is a three-time recipient of the Dora Mavor Moore Awards for outstanding new choreography.

Chin performed in Vancouver two years ago at the Dancing on the Edge Festival.

He danced in BODYGlass, a work he co-created with Alvin Erasga Tolentino.

Transmission of the Invisible will be going to Singapore later this year and, if funding can be arranged, to Cambodia.

Transmission of the Invisible is at the Scotiabank Dance Centre tonight to Saturday at 8 p.m. Tickets at or 604-684-2787.