Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Australian Bush Fires Swallow Whole Towns



This February 9, 2009 NASA handout satellite image shows bushfires in southeast Australia. Firefighters battled Tuesday to save Australian communities threatened by searing wildfires that have already claimed 181 lives, a toll that is expected to rise.(AFP/NASA)

Firefighters battle to hold the containment lines to prevent a bushfire in the Kiewa Valley from reaching the town of Dederang in the Victoria Alps. At least 181 people have been killed and entire towns razed as wildfires raged across southeastern Australia during the once-in-a-century heatwave.(AFP/Torsten Blackwood)


The state of Victoria is in the midst of a national emergency with devastating bush fires that have already taken the lives of 131 people. With the death toll expected to rise to over 200, these ravage bush fires are being called the worst in Australian history. Communities are banding together to help one another with the enormous loss they have suffered.
STORY:
More than 800-thousand acres of mostly bushland here in Victoria has been burned to the ground.

The wall of fire has been traveling at over 100 km an hour reaching over 13 meters high.

Following Victorias intense heat wave over the past two weeks, the fire came ablaze on the afternoon of Saturday the 7th. The blaze tore through several rural towns about an hour away from the outskirts of the city of Melbourne. With southerly winds pushing it forward, many residents who thought they were safe, had no time to react to the incoming inferno.

Many people died in their cars trying to flee and others were killed huddled in their homes, yet some escaped by taking cover in swimming pools or hiding in their homes cellar.

One man was nearly at a loss for words after he lost his two children in the blaze.

"I lost two kids, mate, and nothing will bring them back."

As dawn broke in the town of Whittlesea, where most people died, shocked residents wandered the streets, some crying, searching for loved ones still missing.

"They come that quick that people got stuck, people got trapped and unfortunately we've lost some lives."

More than 750 homes were destroyed and some 78 people, with serious burns and injuries, are in the hospital.

Police believe some of the fires were deliberately lit.

[Christine Nixon, Victorian Police Commissioner]: "We're not sure how many fires have been deliberately lit. We do believe there have been some and at this stage in Gippsland, we believe there certainly has been an arsonist."

Australian prime minister Kevin Rudd toured the region Monday to offer support to victims.

He says it will take years to rebuild.

[Kevin Rudd, Australian Prime Minister]: "It will take a long time. We intend to be there for the duration."

Rights groups call for inquiry into arrest of migrant woman

Evidence suggests that a Cambodian woman charged with murder for stabbing her Korean husband acted in self-defense

The Hankyoreh

After a pregnant immigrant woman stabbed her husband to death as he was beating her, women’s groups are urging an examination of the circumstances in which the woman attempted to protect herself and her child.

At around 11:40 p.m. on Jan. 30, a Cambodian woman identified as “C,” 19, stabbed her husband, a company employee identified as “G,” 38, as he was beating her at their apartment in Daegu’s Dalseong-gu, the Dalseong police station reported Tuesday. The husband died five days later. “C” has been arrested on charges of murder.

Police explained that “C,” who is in her third month of pregnancy, used the weapon when her husband kicked her in the side and struck her head with his hands. They also reported that she had previously called her mother-in-law and said, “He beats me terribly when he drinks,” and the husband assaulted “C” in a rage after being scolded by the mother-in-law.

“C” came to South Korea through marriage in April of last year, and the husband and wife lived together in an apartment. “The couple appears to have experienced frequent conflicts because ‘C’ said she would travel to Cambodia or send money home,” the police reported.

Women’s groups are pursuing an inquiry, saying that the case suggests legitimate self-defense. Forty-three women’s and citizens’ groups, including the Women Migrants Humanrights Center, Korea Women’s Associations United, Korean Womenlink and the Korean Public Interest Lawyers’ Group, Gong-gam, indicated the need to consider the circumstances, saying that “‘C,’ who ordinarily suffered from habitual domestic violence from her husband, used the weapon to protect herself and the baby she was carrying.”

Gwon Mi-ju, director of the Women Migrants Humanrights Center’s counseling office, called for active measures from the government, saying, “In a 2007 study, 17.7 percent of immigrant women married to Korean men answered that they had experienced domestic violence.”

Please direct questions or comments to [englishhani@hani.co.kr]

The Municipal Court Upholds the Decision that the Complaint about Corruption at the Khmer Rouge Tribunal Will Not Be Dealt with - Tuesday, 10.2.2009

Posted on 11 February 2009
The Mirror, Vol. 13, No. 599

“Phnom Penh: The Phnom Penh Municipal Court decided to uphold the decision that the complaint of the foreign defense lawyers of Mr. Nuon Chea, the Brother Number 2 of the Khmer Rouge regime, will not be dealt with. This is based on a judgment by the deputy prosecutor of the Phnom Penh Municipal Court, Mr. Sok Kalyan, on 5 February 2009. This judgment was published on Sunday.

“Deputy Prosecutor Sok Kalyan, responsible for handling the case, told foreign defense lawyers of the former president of the Khmer Rouge National Assembly, that the complaint regarding corruption allegations at the Khmer Rouge Tribunal will not be taken up to be settled.

“Yesterday, on Monday evening, 9 February 2009, Mr. Sok Kalyan clearly explained the decision, that the corruption allegations case will not be taken up, because the evidence does not state that a crime is imminent, and the perpetrators are not known.

“Deputy prosecutor Sok Kalyan added that normally, when deciding to take up a case, a prosecutor decides to address a fact by pointing to individuals involved in a crime. But checking all evidence in the complaint of Mr. Nuon Chea’s defense lawyers, nothing indicates that a crime is imminent to happen in relation to the accusation about corruption at the Khmer Rouge Tribunal. Mr. Sok Kalyan added that another point is that the complaint of Mr. Nuon Chea’s defense lawyers is a defamatioin complaint and does not point out why individuals are suspects in this corruption case. They say that it was just heard that there was corruption at the Khmer Rouge Tribunal, but there is no document to prove the nature of what is called corruption. And it does not point out clearly to the individuals suspected of receiving bribes.

“This refusal to take up a corruption case at the Khmer Rouge Tribunal was made after the prosecutor of the Phnom Penh Municipal Court had summoned Mr. Nuon Chea’s defense lawyers to question them, to defend their case one or two times, and he had planned to summon many other witnesses for questioning.

“Mr. Andrew Ianuzzi said as a plaintiff that Mr. Nuon Chea’s foreign defense lawyers are surprised that the Municipal Court decided not to take up the case. He had met with the deputy prosecutor, Mr. Sok Kalyan, on Wednesday [4 February 2009] morning, and he had been told that there were plans to question many other witnesses. However, within just 24 hours, this decision was reversed.

“Mr. Nuon Chea’s foreign defense lawyers have not yet decided how to appeal this decision. Mr. Andrew Ianuzzi said that the foreign defense lawyers of Mr. Nuon Chea must think carefully, before they appeal, as they have two more months to present a complaint to the Appeals Court, to take up the corruption complaint at the Khmer Rouge Tribunal to be dealt with.

“However, finally Mr. Sok Kalyan concluded that the a decision not to work on this corruption complaint is possible because there is no imminent pressure. This is so, because the prosecutor checked the different procedures based on evidence, and there is no evidence proving an immediate danger of crimes being committed, as had been the original accusation.

“On 8 January 2009, the foreign defense lawyers of Mr. Nuon Chea, Mr. Michael Pestman, Mr. Victor Koppe, and the assistant lawyer Mr. Andrew Ianuzzi, as plaintiffs, lodged a complaint at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court. In the complaint the foreign defense lawyers of Mr. Nuon Chea asked to clarify corruption allegations at the Cambodian side of the Khmer Rouge Tribunal. They claimed that corruption would affect the process of hearings of the former Khmer Rouge leaders.

“Talk about a corruption scandal at the Khmer Rouge Tribunal started in early 2007, when the Open Society Justice Initiative released a corruption report. But officials of the Khmer Rouge Tribunal at the Cambodian side, as well as government officials, denied it and considered this corruption scandal to be just a claim without a basis facts.”

Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.17, #4816, 8-9.2.2009
Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Oz PM vows to tackle country's arson 'evil'

Photo by: AFP
A bushfire burns out of controlTuesday in the Kiewa Valley near the town of Dederang in the Victoria Alps. At least 181 people have been killed and entire towns razed as wildfires scorched southeastern Australia.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by AFP
Wednesday, 11 February 2009

With the death toll expected to pass 200, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd holds arsonists responsible for ‘murder on a grand scale'

Unionist's killer gets appeal hearing

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Chrann Chamroeun
Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Thach Saveth, found guilty in 2005, likely to attend court today

The Court of Appeal is expected to hear today the case of Thach Saveth, who was convicted for the 2004 murder of key unionist Ros Sovannareth, in what rights groups say was a frame-up reminiscent of the slaying of labour leader Chea Vichea.

Ros Sovannareth, who was union president at the Trinunggal Komara garment factory, was gunned down by two assailants while driving his motorcycle on Kampuchea Krom Boulevard on May 7, 2004.

Thach Saveth was arrested on July 24, 2004, in connection with the killing and was sentenced to 15 years in prison after a trial in Phnom Penh Municipal Court.

Thach Saveth's slaying closely followed the murder of Chea Vichea during a turbulent time for Cambodia's labour unions. A third labour leader, Hy Vuthy, was gunned down in 2007 amid ongoing attacks against union members.

The Court of Appeal held a hearing in 2008 at which it upheld the conviction of Thach Saveth, said Am Sam Ath, technical supervisor for the rights group Licadho. But he said witnesses, victims and Thach Saveth himself had been barred from attending the hearing, which led to the push for a new appeal.

Sam Chamroeun, Thach Saveth's lawyer, said he had spoken with prison officials and was "80 percent" certain the suspect would be allowed to attend today's hearing.

Am Sam Ath told the Post Tuesday that Thach Saveth continues to maintain his innocence. In several interviews, he said, the suspect has never changed his story.

"He told me that he was arrested and interrogated in Tuol Kork district for drug use only," he said.

Am Sath Ath said these interviews had led him to conclude that Thach Saveth is not the real killer.

Lose the plate: top cop

Photo by: SOVANN PHILONG
A Toyota Camry with RCAF plates in Phnom Penh on Tuesday. Civilian cars are not, by law, allowed army plates.


The Phnom Penh Post

Written by May Tithara and Chhay Channyda
Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Top cop orders delayed crackdown on use of police and military licence plates by civilians; critics say practice too ingrained.

NATIONAL Police Chief Neth Savoeun has ordered police across the country to start punishing, as of May, any civilians or low-ranking police or army officers whose vehicles bear police or military licence plates.

In a letter dated February 4, Neth Savoeun said the use of police or military plates should be restricted to top-ranking officials in those departments and decried the use of their emblems by enterprising individuals.

The crackdown would also apply to vehicles with no plates at all, he added.

Neither Neth Savoeun nor his office's spokesman, Keat Chantharith, could be reached for additional comment Tuesday.

Chev Hak, the deputy chief of Phnom Penh's traffic police, said Tuesday he had not yet received a copy of the directive, but supported its goal, saying such posturing by civilians was clearly illegal.

"The Ministry of Interior will ask all regular and military police to cooperate to check all licence plates," he said.

Law already on the books

A February 2007 traffic law made the use of military and police licence plates by civilians punishable by two to five years in prison and a fine of four million to 10 million riel (US$969 to $2,423), and gave offenders a year to switch to regular plates before incurring the penalty. It applied the same terms to the use of a fake driver's licence or vehicle ownership card.

Keo Savin, director of land transport at the Ministry of Public Works and Transport, agreed police and army licence plates should be limited to vehicles of high-ranking officials.

"Some civilians use the plates anyway, even though the law has made it clear they cannot do this," he said.

He said he did not know how many vehicles were displaying police or RCAF number plates in the country.

While his office has distributed millions of standard licence plates and keeps a weekly tab on the number of newly issued, police and military plates are doled out by their respective bodies, he said.

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It's an elite ... way of saying I'm above the law, so don't touch me.

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"It is their internal matter, and I think they do not want the figures on it released," he said.

More than 1.8 million vehicles have received licence plates from his ministry, he said.

Mu Sochua, a lawmaker and deputy secretary general of the opposition Sam Rainsy Party, attributed the popularity among civilians of using police or military labels to the impunity they carry on the streets.

"It's an elite signature, a way of saying I'm above the law, so don't touch me. And this trickles down to civilians who see how people in cars with these plates are able to behave without concern for punishment," she said.

She said an earnest effort to enforce the law, not more stern words about it, was needed. She added that a real crackdown on illegally procured plates was "beyond" the National Police chief, given how pervasive the practice has become.

Prisoner transfer deal done with India

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Cheang Sokha
Wednesday, 11 February 2009

THE government has approved an agreement that will enable the transfer of prisoners between Cambodia and India, officials say.

"It is in response to international law," said Phay Siphan, spokesman for the Council of Ministers.

Explaining what the agreement means, he said that if an Indian national were to be arrested, convicted and sentenced for a crime in Cambodia, he or she could be transferred to India, under the new agreement, to serve out the resulting sentence.

Phay Siphan said the Council of Ministers approved the prisoner-transfer agreement during a Cabinet meeting on Friday, which was chaired by Deputy Prime Minister Men Sam An.

Sau Raj Ray, first secretary at the Indian embassy, said a memorandum of understanding on prisoner transfers was signed in 2007 when Prime Minister Hun Sen visited India.

"This is part of an ongoing bilateral exchange," he said.

He said there are currently between 1,500 and 2,000 Indian nationals living in Cambodia. In 2008, some 883 Cambodians visited India.

However, there are currently no Cambodian prisoners in Indian jails and no Indian prisoners in Cambodian jails, he said.

Koy Kuong, an undersecretary of state at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said that "previously, Cambodia had agreements to extradite prisoners with three countries - Laos, China and Thailand".

The only prisoner transfer agreements the Kingdom now has are with Australia and India.

Evicted residents in final cash bid

Photo by: SOVANN PHILONG
Former Dey Krahorm residents protest outside the 7NG office on Tuesday.


The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Chhay Channyda
Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Families awaiting cash compensation say municipal officials failed to attend a Tuesday meeting, amid warnings they have until the end of the month to accept replacement housing.

FORMER Dey Krahorm evictees who are demanding US$20,000 in cash compensation from local developer 7NG say city authorities have broken a promise to meet with residents at 7NG's office near the former community's land in Tonle Bassac commune Tuesday.

Residents said that during protests outside Prime Minister Hun Sen's Takhmao home Sunday, Lim Leang Se, the prime minister's deputy Cabinet chief, promised residents that he would invite officials and 7NG representatives to meet and discuss the compensation claim of residents forcibly evicted from the site on January 24.

But former resident Dul Chantha, 52, one of those gathered outside 7NG's office Tuesday morning, said comments from the prime minister's staff had turned out to be empty promises.

"No representatives of 7NG or the Municipality are present this time, except police forces deployed outside the company's office," she said.

Residents left 7NG's office when no one arrived to meet them, continuing along to the municipality offices on Monivong Boulevard.

Resident Sam Ny told the Post that the cancellation of the meeting between the people and authorities had been postponed, according to one of Hun Sen's Cabinet officials, because city officials were not available.

"The City Hall representative is absent, so they cannot meet," he said, expressing scepticism about the government's commitment to finding a solution for the residents.

"This is not the first time that they have had an excuse not to find a solution for residents," he added. "We want them to put their promise in writing."

Lim Leang Se could not be reached for comment Tuesday, but 7NG General Manager Chheang Bona said that he did not expect residents to come to the company's office Tuesday.

"No one has broken their promise. We and the authorities have an appointment with them in Damnak Trayoeng village, where the majority of residents have moved, not at Dey Krahorm," he said.

In the weeks immediately preceding the January 24 eviction, the company offered residents $20,000 in cash compensation to relocate, a figure some local residents turned down, and residents claim 53 families remain to be compensated.

But Chheang Bona said only around 10 families had still not agreed to accept replacement houses from 7NG and appealed to them to accept housing by February 28.

"It is our last notice for residents. This means we are still generous with them," he said.

Similar case of slain union leader raises hopes ahead of appeal

THE SAME, BUT NOT
Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun obtained their release at a hearing of the Supreme Court. Today's hearing for Thach Saveth will be held in the Court of Appeal, but those pushing for his release say they hope to see the same eventual outcome.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Chrann Chamroeun
Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Thach Saveth is a 'fake killer’, rights group and his lawyer say, drawing parallels to murder trial of Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun.

BOTH cases involve a dead union leader, a gunman or gunmen who managed to flee the scene of the crime and suspects held on charges deemed groundless by rights groups.

In an interview with the Post Tuesday, Am Sam Ath, a technical supervisor for the rights group Licadho, said today's hearing at the Court of Appeal should ultimately lead to another similarity between the cases of slain union leaders Chea Vichea and Ros Sovannareth: the successful appeal of the original conviction.

Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun obtained their provisional release at a December 31 Supreme Court hearing after serving nearly five years for the killing of Chea Vichea, who was gunned down in 2004 near Wat Lanka while buying a newspaper.

After being incarcerated for roughly the same length of time, Thach Saveth, who was convicted in 2005 of killing Ros Sovannareth, the president of the workers union at Trinunggal Komara garment factory, now has a hearing of his own.

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[The prosecution] has no credible evidence or witnesses to prove the case.

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A flimsy case?

Am Sath Ath, who has followed both cases, said interviews with Thach Saveth have led him to believe he is "a fake killer".

"It is similar to the case of Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun in that [the prosecution has] no credible evidence or witnesses to prove the case," he said.

Sam Chamroeun, Thach Saveth's attorney, also described the prosecution's case as light on both witnesses and evidence.

The mother of the accused, Huon Phalla, 46, who said she planned to attend today's hearing, said she has requested local and international NGOs "to actively investigate the case to find justice for my son because he is not guilty but he has stayed in jail for nearly five years".

She said her son had been "brutally detained" at the police station in Tuol Kok district for four days at the time of his arrest, during which police charged him only with doing drugs.

Sam Chamroeun said he hoped he would be allowed to present a full case on behalf of his client.

"I requested the court at tomorrow's hearing allow both the defence and prosecution witnesses to be present for questioning," he said Tuesday.

Guarding against a sleeping threat

Photo by: SEBASTIAN STRANGIO
Cambodian microbiologists handle live H5N1 virus cultures at the Pasteur Institute's new BSL3 lab. Built with a grant from the French government, the high-containment facility has allowed local scientists to conduct in-country experiments and contribute to global efforts to combat the disease.

IN FOCUS Bird flu
Toll 254 people have died of bird flu globally since 2003, including 115 in Indonesia and 54 in Vietnam. Eight cases have been recorded in Cambodia since 2005, seven of them fatal.

Source The virus is said to originate from wild birds, but only when the virus infects domestic poultry does it become lethal. Human infection usually follows contact with the blood, nasal secretions, saliva or faeces of an infected animal.

Symptoms Fever, coughing, muscle aches, respiratory distress and pneumonia.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Sebastian Strangio
Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Outbreaks of avian influenza have the potential to kill thousands in Cambodia, but a coalition of health officials and international experts say they are holding the lines against the virus.

IN the midst of a string of Asian bird flu outbreaks, public health specialists say Cambodia is relatively well-placed to fight local infections, but warn that a recent scare in Kandal province is a timely reminder of the challenges that remain.

In December, 19-year-old Teng Sopheak was hospitalised after eating chicken from his village in the province's Kandal Stung district - a sickness later diagnosed as the lethal H5N1 strain of avian influenza.

As of February 2, some 254 people had died from bird flu in 12 countries, according to World Health Organisation statistics, and although the Kingdom has experienced just eight of those cases since 2005 - except for Teng Sopheak, all have been fatal - health workers fear mutations of the bird virus could lead to increasing adaptation and trigger vicious outbreaks among humans.

Nima Asgari, a public health specialist at the WHO, said that in the 18 months between Cambodia's last two bird flu cases, the country's capacity to fight the disease has grown significantly, but warned against complacency.

"Everything is relative. What you have to look at is what the situation is like now compared to three or four years ago.... The Kingdom has done an awful lot in trying to improve its response," he said.

But he added that pandemics were a feature of human history and that there was an added threat - at least potentially - from globalisation and the increased movement of people.

"One issue is: Can it happen? And the answer is yes," he said. "The other issue is: What can we do about it? And that comes about through creating capacity and response."

Asgari added that H5N1 preparedness was "a cross-government concept" involving "almost every single ministry" as well as vital linkages at the regional and global levels.

From the bottom up

But with each local hospital and poultry market a potential front line in the fight to contain the virus, successful disease surveillance relies on the awareness of grassroots medical practitioners and animal handlers, he said.

Paul Katsutani, a specialist at the US government's Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, agreed that the biggest challenge was local education, but said that the disease's relative rarity masked its potential danger, making sustained awareness challenging.

"It is still a relatively uncommon disease in this country, and awareness of a disease is really proportional to its occurrence," he said, adding that many local medical practitioners would probably misdiagnose bird flu as tuberculosis or some sort of bacterial infection.

Sok Touch, director of the Ministry of Health's Department of Communicable Disease Control, said that poultry deaths - a warning sign of bird flu infection - were "common" in Cambodia and that the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries had held nationwide workshops with bird handlers, advising them how to distinguish the disease from more common avian ailments.

In the event of a suspect case of H5N1, he said, the ministry's Rapid Response Teams, specially trained in the "technicalities" of the virus, are dispatched to retrieve specimens and bring them back to Phnom Penh for confirmation and testing.

"We now have 26 teams based at the Ministry of Health and one based at each provincial town," he told the Post, adding that international partners were currently helping to extend rapid response capabilities down to the district level.

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WHEN YOU STRENGTHEN CAPACITY ... IT WOULD BE A WASTE JUST TO LIMIT IT TO TWO OR THREE DISEASES.

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While admitting that "no surveillance system is perfect", Katsutani said that the Rapid Response Teams are capable of getting to most areas in the country within six hours - an invaluable resource in the event of a serious outbreak.

And the top down

If local hospitals and pharmacists are the front line in the fight against avian influenza, Phnom Penh's Pasteur Institute is something akin to the centre of intelligence-gathering operations.

As the WHO's only designated Cambodian National Influenza Centre, the institute has tested thousands of specimens for H5N1 and is the only body with the authority to issue an official confirmation of a local outbreak, according to Philippe Buchy, head of the Institute's Virology Unit.

As well as having the ability to perform rapid diagnoses, Buchy said the Pasteur Institute also conducts research that acts as a link between national and global bird flu prevention efforts.

In March last year, the Institute opened the country's first bio-safety level 3 (BSL3) laboratory, a high-containment facility suitable for the culturing of live viruses and other hazardous tests.

Built with assistance from the French Ministry of Health, the €1 million (US$1.29 million) facility comes equipped with multiple airlocks and a ventilation system that can replace the laboratory's air with purified air 25 times an hour.

"Culturing a virus like H5N1 is extremely dangerous, and it is not possible to do it outside a BSL3 facility," said Buchy.

Although an H5N1 diagnosis can be confirmed in "around four hours" by performing a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test with a dead specimen of the virus, Buchy said that only live culturing allows scientists to fully characterise each new strain and ensure there are no mutations in the direction of greater human adaptability.

"The advantage is that we can get greater sensitivity because before, we had to work directly on the human specimen," he said.

"This is something very specialised, which you can only do in a lab with well-trained staff [and] equipment."

Once the Institute's Cambodian lab staff make a full analysis of each strain, the samples are forwarded to the WHO, which incorporates the strain into its latest bird flu vaccines.

Aside from the potential global value of the research, Buchy said the Pasteur Institute's self-sufficiency was a crucial defence against a future pandemic.

"The day there is a pandemic, don't expect that the government will keep its borders open. That's one of our motivations: [to] try as far as possible to be totally independent from anybody else," he said.

Katsutani said the CDC was also working closely with the Health Ministry to upgrade the lab facilities of the National Institute of Public Health (NIPH), and said he hoped it would start receiving its first influenza samples for PCR analysis within "the next few months", with the eventual goal of being recognised as another National Influenza Centre by the WHO.

"We have provided training to some of the molecular technologists who will be working in this lab, and we will continue to provide training and support," he said.

"This is very important. In order to be able to do good surveillance, to respond to outbreaks of influenza, one needs to be able to do good lab testing."

But in a country where other diseases - including malaria and dengue fever - are already killing hundreds each year, Katsutani hopes that infrastructure improvements will help improve the effectiveness of disease response across the board.

"When you strengthen capacity ... it would be a waste just to limit it to two or three diseases. We hope that this strengthening of capacity and infrastructure can also help Cambodia respond to other emerging diseases that are anot influenza," he said.

Jailed ex-police chief appeals to PM in bid to unfreeze funds

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Meas Sokchea
Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Jailed former Municipal top cop Heng Pov seeks access to nearly $1 million in frozen savings, citing family, health requirements.

FORMER municipal police chief and prime ministerial adviser Heng Pov, currently in Phnom Penh's Prey Sar prison, has written to Prime Minister Hun Sen requesting that he be allowed to withdraw money from a bank for his daily use.

"I need some funds to pay for my children's study, medical treatment and food, as well as for legal services," he said in the letter from prison.

Frozen funds

Heng Pov, a much-feared police boss during his time in power, was arrested in 2006 and is currently serving a 58-year prison sentence for a raft of charges including murder, kidnapping and extortion.

The courts also froze five Canadia Bank accounts belonging to Heng Pov, holding US$938,193.

In the letter, he said that there was no legal basis for the decision to block his money, requesting the prime minister "intervene to allow me to withdraw some money from the bank, with forgiveness".

Heng Pov's lawyer, Kao Soupha, said that if his client's letter reached Hun Sen, it would hopefully help Heng Pov get access to his money.

"There is a fear that Samdech Hun Sen's officials will not take the letter to Samdech. If the letter reaches Samdech, he will consider and resolve it," he told the Post Tuesday.

He added that the court had illegally barred access to Heng Pov's accounts on the request of police at the Ministry of Interior.

"Legally, Heng Pov's money should not be barred because it was not involved in the offenses," Kao Soupha said.

Phnom Penh Municipal Court Judge Iv Kimsry, who presided over Heng Pov's trial, did not comment in detail when contacted Tuesday, but said that Heng Pov had the right to make a personal appeal to Hun Sen if he so desired.

Heng Pov was scheduled to appear in Appeal Court last month to face fresh charges of illegal detention and interrogation, but the hearing was postponed by the court when it became clear Heng Pov's co-defendant, Ly Rasy, lacked legal counsel.

Culture ministry looks to register chapei and khol

Photo by: HENG CHIVOAN
Cambodia's most celebrated cha\pei player, Kong Nai, performs in this file photograph.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Neth Pheaktra and Robbie Corey-Boulet
Wednesday, 11 February 2009

The process of registering both art forms with Unesco, seen as crucial to preserving them, could take up to one year.

THE Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts plans to submit applications to register chapei, a form of sung storytelling, as well as khol, a type of theatrical performance, under Unesco's Intangible Heritage of Humanity program, Meas Sarun, the ministry's general director of technique of culture, told the Post Monday.

Meas Sarun said he did not know when the applications would be completed. Unesco Country Director Teruo Jinnai said the process of
approving the applications once they are submitted would likely take about one year.

The applications must include a detailed historical and artistic background of each art form as well as a DVD recording of a performance. Teruo Jinnai said his office would likely assist in revising and polishing both applications before they are sent to Unesco headquarters, where experts will evaluate them and then submit them to a vote by member states.

Proeung Chheang, the vice rector of the Royal University of Fine Arts in Phnom Penh, said the registration of chapei and khol would enhance Cambodia's "glory and reputation" as well as encourage ordinary Cambodians to better appreciate the two forms of performance art.

He said he expected that "Cambodian people will learn these skills generation by generation" once they are registered.

In addition, he said, the Unesco registration would ensure that Cambodia receives aid from the international community as it struggles to protect and preserve both traditions.

Teruo Jinnai said preservation was particularly important with regard to chapei.

"We really have to be very careful because [chapei] is a one-man show, and many of the performers are very old," he said.

Cambodia currently has two World Heritage sites and two cultural entities registered with Unesco. Angkor Wat was registered as a World Heritage site in 1992, as was Preah Vihear temple last July. Both the Royal Ballet and sbeik thom, a form of shadow puppetry, were registered as Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity, in 2003 and 2005, respectively. The name of that designation was shortened to Intangible Heritage of Humanity last year, Teruo Jinnai said.

Cassava prices nosedive

Photo by: Michael Hayes
A biofuels factory in Kampong Cham that processes cassava. Despite its many uses, cassava demand has dropped this year.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Thet Sambath and George McLeod
Wednesday, 11 February 2009

THE end of the commodities boom has left thousands of Cambodian farmers with vast harvests of cassava on their hands and few buyers, said local authorities and growers.

The sugar-rich root used in ethanol fuel, food products and bioplastics was all the rage last year and tens of thousands of acres were converted to cassava fields.

Cambodia has an ideal climate for growing cassava, and the cash crop has become one of the few agricultural goods whose yields per hectare are on par with neighbouring Thailand and Vietnam, say World Bank figures.

By 2007, three percent of total land in Cambodia was growing cassava, and yields were a promising 23 tonnes per hectare, says a World Bank report.

But falling fuel and commodity prices took their toll on the cassava market, and farmers report prices plumetting from about 300 riels (seven US cents) per kilogram in February 2008 to less than 90 riels this week.

Cassava farmers say they have been left trying to offload an unprofitable crop. "I will make no money this year. I can barely pay for workers and cultivation," said Oy Tun, a 56-year-old cassava farmer in Kamrieng district, Battambang. He said prices have fallen so drastically that he is switching back to corn, even though cassava yields at his farm are a strong 30 tonnes per hectare.

Battambang has been a big cassava supplier for Thailand, and farmer Oy Tun said his earnings are down from more than $5,000 last year to under $2,000 after the latest harvest.

"I am very disappointed with cassava prices this year. They are so low compared to last year," said Oy Tun.

Provincial authorities aggressively promoted biofuel crops, with Kampong Cham and Battambang leading the pack. Battambang alone saw acreage grow from about 10,000 hectares in 2007 to 30,000 in 2008.

But with prices tanking, officials blame global prices and Thai protectionism.

Cheam Chan Saphon, director of the Battambang department of agriculture, said that shipments to Thailand have dropped because buyers are favouring local products.

"The price of cassava is down because the Thai government only allows its businessmen to buy from Thai farmers," said Cheam Chan Saphon.

Even with the gloomy energy market, one local green energy expert said that Cambodia's green energy potential remains strong. "Biofuels are Cambodia's hidden treasure.... With the global economic crisis, a lot of the money that was coming has not materialised. I don't think it is detrimental to the market as a whole," said David Granger, a director of Biodiesel Cambodia.

He said that a strong domestic energy policy would help the country's green energy industry: "This is a country that imports 100 percent of its petroleum, so biofuels have huge potential."

With Thailand building additional bioplastics and ethanol plants, cassava demand from across the border is expected to grow. The outlook for cassava is, therefore, not altogether negative. The crop is used as a feedstock for bioplastic, and global demand is expected to rise by more than seven percent annually, according to figures quoted on Icis, a petrochemicals newswire service.

Thailand is a major regional consumer and demand is expected to hit 300,000 tonnes per year by 2010, according to Thai petroleum giant PTT. The country produces about 25,000 tonnes per year, and even with yields expected to triple in the next three years, Thailand's supply will fall short.

Business roundtable set for Siem Reap

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Kay Kimsong and George McLeod
Wednesday, 11 February 2009

BUSINESS leaders are gearing up for what could be the country's biggest economic forum yet - the Business Roundtable with the Government of Cambodia Monday in Siem Reap.

The event is to bring together government officials, including Prime Minister Hun Sen, and business leaders to address issues from energy to the economic crisis. Sponsors predict it could bring a new league of investors to the Kingdom.

"It's exactly the type of conference Cambodia should be having. It is going to reach a new investor base," said Bretton Sciaroni, a partner at Sciaroni and Associates, one of the event's sponsors.

A statement by the organisers said the conference will cover a range of pressing issues.

"With a liberal economy, low wages, some of the world's greatest tourist sites, and the recent discovery of potentially large oil and gas deposits ... Cambodia's prospects ... appear bright," it said.

Opportunity to expand aviation

Photo by: SOVANN PHILONG
Passengers at Phnom Penh International Airport. Societe Concessionnaire des Aeroports saw passenger numbers drop three percent in 2008 at Cambodia’s two international airports in the capital and Siem Reap.


SCA's CEO
Nicholas Deviller, 41, was appointed chief executive officer of SCA in April 2008. He was, however, also involved in developing Cambodia’s aviation industry from 1998 to 2002 when in charge of SCA’s technical and development department, and he was part of the team that played a critical role in expanding the concession build-transfer-operate contract with the opening of Siem Reap International Airport. Prior to returning to Cambodia, Deviller held several positions at Vinci (SCA’s parent company) at the head office in Paris. He is an engineering graduate from Arts and Metiers in Lille, France.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by KAY KIMSONG AND NETH PHEAKTRA
Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Cambodian air traffic dropped three percent in 2008, but there is room for expansion of the aviation industry, says Societe Concessionnaire des Aeroports CEO Nicholas Deviller

How is business at Societe Concessionnaire des Aeroports in general? Has it been severely impacted by the global financial crisis?

After four years of double-digit passenger growth at both Phnom Penh and Siem Reap international airports, we had to deal with a slight decrease in 2008. The number of passengers at the two airports slid three percent compared to 2007 and totalled 3.2 million. Siem Reap reported a decrease of 12 percent while passengers through Phnom Penh were up six percent.... Freight activities at Phnom Penh International Airport also took a hit due to the decrease in garment exports overseas.

But, in the long term, we still expect strong growth due to the expansion of tourism and business in Cambodia. As for the short term, especially in 2009, most airlines plan to cut their capacity on existing routes.

Our airports have been adversely impacted by the political situation in Thailand. The closing of Bangkok airport, in particular, had an immediate effect on the number of arrivals at Cambodia's airports. Should there be some sources of resilience and a dim light for hope in 2009, they would come from the following:

Firstly, a few legacy airlines - Korean Air, Vietnam Airlines and Bangkok Airways - have either increased their flight frequencies or used bigger capacity aircraft; secondly, a worldwide cut in fuel prices; thirdly, there are more arrivals of no-frills carriers - Air Asia and JetStar; and fourthly, there's tourism potential. Tourism in Cambodia is still far from reaching full potential, in Sihanoukville in particular. At this point, there are a lot of opportunities to seize for those who invest.

To make the most of these opportunities, we have implemented ... a comprehensive incentive package to attract more airlines, including rebates on fees for our handling services, and programs in partnership with the Ministry of Tourism, tourism operators and hotel operators to promote Sihanoukville and Cambodia as a destination through brochures, press trips and road shows.

Will the global economic downturn affect your workforce?

We are not planning layoffs. Generally speaking, our turnover - rotation in the workforce - is limited and we can rely on highly skilled staff. As for any companies hit by the crisis, Societe Concessionnaire des Aeroports has to reorganise to cope with the situation. However, we have done our best to keep benefits for our employees.

We have implemented a program to help our personnel and their families face the rising costs of food. Twice in 2008, we launched a campaign called "Rice Solidarity", during which each staff member was entitled to buy 100 kilograms of premium rice at a quarter of its market price. In 2009, we have decided to tackle the rising costs of daily life through some compensation in salaries for all our employees.

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The country can accommodate eight times the traffic we currently have.

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How many planes pass through the two international airports each day?
In 2008, on average, there were 55 plane rotations per day at Phnom Penh and 53 plane rotations per day for Siem Reap.

When will Sihanoukville's airport be fully operational?

Sihanoukville is fully operationally now. We have completed major upgrades, such as the extension of the terminals - so that it can accommodate 700,000 passengers per year - the installation of navigational aid equipment, the extension of the runway to 2,500 metres, the same length as Siem Reap's airport. The airport is ready to accommodate the same type of aircraft - ATRs, B737s, A320s - as the airport at Siem Reap. To date, we have invested over US$28 million in it.

The airport has had charter flights but regular flights have yet to operate there. We have been in active talks with airlines to get them to operate there to and from domestic and international destinations. To encourage airlines to open regular routes through it, we are offering substantial rebates on services provided to them.

With the development of Sihanoukville, including the modernisation of its airport, can it compete with other coastal destinations in the region?

It is obvious for us. We think Sihanoukville could offer even more. The quality of the seaside with pristine beaches, multiple islands and space with a low density of people, in the proximity of the Bokor Mountains and Kampot, make the destination more than on a par with the best resorts.

We have been working with other stakeholders - such as hotels, the government, and tourism operators - to promote Sihanoukville as a destination. The city also has to provide more hotel rooms for a range of budgets to welcome more visitors. It's just a matter of time.

Air traffic has increased over the years. Does capacity need to grow to accommodate the growth?
The country can accommodate eight times the traffic we currently have.

The PMT crash in 2007 and the blacklisting of Siem Reap Airways by the European Union, have these affected consumer trust in Cambodia's airline industry?

Tourism constitutes a pillar of the government's development strategy. The National Assembly enacted last year the Aviation Law to further reinforce the State Secretariat of Civil Aviation in its scope of actions, especially with regard to aviation security.

Cambodia does not decide on its own regarding safety and security rules. They are defined internationally and, for the last few years, there's a general trend towards strengthening the rules.

In Brief: NRP infighting 'resolved'

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Neth Pheaktra
Wednesday, 11 February 2009

The Norodom Ranariddh Party's internal disputes will be resolved in the near future, an official said Tuesday. "We hope the internal dispute will be finished after a brief meeting on Monday night....The meeting was fruitful, and they agreed to resolve the problem with passivity" claimed Kem Sok, spokesman for the students' side. "Both sides also agreed not to remove anyone in the party," he added, referring to plans to oust lawmakers You Hockry and Sao Rany.

In Brief: Heritage watch wins award

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Tom Hunter
Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Heritage Watch has been named as a finalist for the World Travel and Tourism Council's Tourism for Tomorrow Destination Stewardship Award 2009. The organisation, one of three selected for the award, was chosen for its work in promoting responsible and sustainable tourism in Cambodia. Dougald O'Reilly, founder and director of Heritage Watch, said that "recognition as a finalist... underscores the organisation's work in the tourism sector".

Finance company launches

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by STEVE FINCH
Wednesday, 11 February 2009

HONG Kong-based Trade Finance Corporation Capital, a project finance and investment advisory company, has set up a Phnom Penh office, Managing Director Mohan Tirugmanasambandam said Tuesday.

Identifying Cambodia as an "emerging market", Mohan said TFC Capital would target mining, oil and gas, and property development - among other sectors - acting as a matchmaker for foreign investors seeking to do business here.

"There are opportunities but we have to be very careful," said Mohan, referring to the economic downturn that has started to hit Cambodia.

The company is a sponsor at Monday's Business Roundtable in Siem Reap.

Buyers push for prakas

Photo by: Heng chivoan
Work continues on the Camko City satellite city last month. Buyers’advocates say the implementation of a housing development prakas delayed since late September will give buyers confidence to invest in housing projects like this one before completion.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by MAY KUNMAKARA AND NGUON SOVAN
Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Supporters say a long-delayed financial edict will boost confidence among buyers and help developers raise money to finish projects

Property agents and buyers are striking back at opponents of a controversial prakas, or edict, that would tighten financing rules for new buildings and require companies to set aside funds to protect consumers.

"Normally, customers are required to pay 20 percent or 30 percent to real estate development companies in advance in order to get ownership in developments even when only the foundation has been piled," said Sieng Sambath, a Phnom Penh-based realty broker. "When the prakas comes into effect, customers will be 100 percent sure that their investment in real estate is safe."

He said the prakas will build confidence among prospective buyers of residential units, which would have a positive spillover for real estate developers. "I hope the regulation will strengthen the capacity of those developers whose developments are relying on deposits from buyers," he said.

A Phnom Penh land speculator, Kong Vy, said she is worried that some building companies are not financially sound and are unlikely to complete, or even start, developments on time.

"Some of my friends have paid deposits to developers," she said. "Now due to the crisis, developers are failing to complete projects on time, and they cannot get their money back.

"If the prakas were in effect, customers in a similar position would be more confident to buy, as developers that need their capital will not be able to cheat them."

Chan Sophal, president of the Cambodia Economic Association, agreed that the prakas will prevent customers from being cheated when they buy property.

"In the past, some customers have lost money from developers that have had no capital and have just relied on their deposits for development, such as in the case of Chinese-owned Long Chhin (Cambodia) Investment Ltd," he said. "The prakas is a good filter to identify the good developers."

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When the prakas comes into effect, customers will be 100pc sure that their investment in real estate is safe.

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In 2007, officials from Long Chhin (Cambodia) fled the country with millions of dollars in buyers' deposits after the government demolished a luxury housing complex it had built on a lake the company illegally filled in. The Ministry of Economy and Finance began drafting the housing development prakas following the scandal.

On hold

The prakas, which was circulated by the Finance Ministry last July, was slated to take effect on September 30, but was delayed at the last minute following an outcry from a property sector worried the poorly thought-out regulation could lead to a mass exodus of foreign developers.

Mao Pov, deputy chief of the ministry's Real Estate Division, told Prime Location at the time the rules would be reintroduced in January following further consultation with the sector.

In late January, Ngy Tayi, an undersecretary of state at the Ministry of Finance, said it will come into effect after the conclusion of an upcoming interministerial working group if the private sector could be persuaded to accept it. He acknowledged that could take "three months, four months or five months until we achieve it".

Finance Minister Keat Chhon told Prime Location last Friday at the official launch of the National Valuers Association of Cambodia that the government will stay firm on the edict, but refused to say when it will finally take effect.

"We will discuss deeper with developers about this prakas to get more understanding from them," Keat Chhon said.

Troubled clauses

The edict requires developers to deposit two percent of their project budget in the central bank. The funds are intended to reimburse buyers if a project goes bust. Developers are also required to obtain licences from the inter-ministerial working group and pay fees based on the type and size of the development.

The most controversial requirement is that developers create a locked "housing account" at a commercial bank for buyers' down payments. The developer would require ministry permission to access the funds, which Korean developers have said would be unacceptable to investors back home.

Seminars Held in Cambodia and Britain to Celebrate February Holiday

KOREA NEWS SERVICE(KNS)

Pyongyang, February 10 (KCNA) -- Seminars took place in Cambodia and Britain on Jan. 31 and Feb. 3 on the occasion of the February holiday, the birthday of General Secretary Kim Jong Il.

Kong Sam Ol, deputy prime minister in charge of the royal palace and chairman of the Cambodian preparatory committee for commemorating the Day of the Sun and February 16 highly praised President Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il as benefactors whom the Cambodian people can never forget.

The preparatory committee would widely introduce the greatness of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il and exploits performed by them among Cambodians on the occasions of the significant days, he said, hoping that the DPRK would make a big success in all fields under the wise leadership of Kim Jong Il and the traditional relations of friendship and cooperation between the two countries would grow stronger.

Dermot Hudson, chairman of the British Group for the Study of the Juche Idea, noted that socialist Korea of Juche is highly demonstrating its dignity thanks to the wise Songun leadership of Kim Jong Il, adding that the world progressive people sincerely offer the best wishes to him on the occasion of his birthday.

Running & biking for Cambodia's poor

Travel Blackboard
Wednesday, 11 February 2009

The second Annual Kep Trio (Half Marathon, 10km Run & 10km Bike Ride) will be held over the weekend of Saturday February 28th and Sunday March 1st. The Kep Trio is a unique fundraising event, created by running enthusiast and former Bridges Across Borders South East Asia (International NGO) volunteer Nikki Wise. The event will raise much needed funds for the nearby vocational training centre in Chamka Bei village. This area was one of the last Khmer Rouge strongholds, not surrendering to the government until 1994, as such it was often neglected and the villagers marginalized. The centre is training and empowering the disadvantaged villagers in a number of skills. The First A! nnual Kep Trio Event, Jan 08, was an amazing success with over 80 participants generating $54,000 in cash donations and delivering 50 new locally sourced bicycles to the community.

The Kep Trio 2009 kicks off on Feb 28 with the 10km bike ride, followed by a gala dinner at the delightful Knai Bang Chatt Sailing Club. The running portion of the event continues bright and early the following day. The route begins in Kep, a beautiful seaside resort, and passes through wonderful rural Cambodian scenery and finishes at the Chamka Bei vocational training centre, where runners will be greeted by the villagers and see first hand how the money they have raised will be used. The fun-filled two day event concludes with a village celebration including an awards ceremony and entertainment by local dance groups.

"This is an excellent event for both serious runners and fun-seekers alike. It brings them to perhaps the most beautiful part of Cambodia, with gorgeous scenery and fresh sea air" said Chouleang Yin the Operations Director of Asia Adventures, a tour company that can assist participants with travel arrangements. "In addition participants are really helping the poor villagers help themselves, they have had a really tough recent history yet are really keen to learn new skills that will help lift them out of poverty".

Cambodia approves prisoner transfer deal with India

PHNOM PENH, Feb. 11 (Xinhua) -- The Cambodian government has approved an agreement that will enable transfer of prisoners between the country and India, said English-language daily newspaper the Phnom Penh Post on Wednesday.

"It is a response to international law," said Phay Siphan, spokesman of the Council of Ministers.

According to the agreement, if an Indian national were to be arrested, convicted and sentenced for a crime in Cambodia, he or she could be transferred to India to serve out the resulting sentence, and vice verse, he said.

Sau Raj Ray, first secretary of the Indian Embassy, said that a memorandum of understanding on prisoner transfer was once signed in 2007 when Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen visited India.

"This is part of an ongoing bilateral exchange," he said.

There are now 1,500 to 2,000 Indian nationals living in Cambodia, and in 2008 around 880 Cambodians visited India, he said, adding that there are no Cambodian prisoners in Indian jails and no Indian prisoners in Cambodian jails either.

Visitors get access to Preah Vihear temple park

By SUPALAK GANJANAKHUNDEE
THE NATION
February 11, 2009

Hundreds of anxious visitors waited for hours yesterday to get access to the re-opened national park at Pha Mor I Daeng, the main gate to Cambodia's Preah Vihear temple.

The key attraction at the site is the 11th century temple, controlled by Cambodia since an International Court of Justice ruling in 1962. But it remains closed due to a border dispute.

Hundreds of visitors arrived at Pha Mor I Daeng front gate early yesterday after local news reports that authorities would re-open Khao Phra Viharn National Park, the closest and easiest way to get to the Hindu temple from Thailand.

Si Sa Ket governor Seni Jittakasem called an urgent meeting in the morning with all concerned agencies after pressure to appease people waiting to enter the park.

The governor said he could not open Pha Mor I Daeng in the morning as announced, as the Forestry Department, which is in charge of the area had yet to endorse the plan.

Some 300 visitors waited anxiously until 2pm, when rangers at Pha Mor I Daeng station opened the gate for them to get inside.

A foreigner visitor, Soulard Bertrand, who was there with his family in the morning, said he would not return until the whole family could enter.

The visitors could only go as far as the fence by Preah Vihear since Cambodia had yet to open the temple. Visitors could enter Pha Mor I Daeng free of charge until March 1 when the site will be opened officially, governor Seni said.

The Preah Vihear was shut in June last year after a group of protesters who called themselves Dhammayatra entered the temple.

The group, led by the People's Alliance for Democracy, accused the Samak Sundaravej government of giving away sovereignty over land by Preah Vihear when it backed Cambodia's bid for the temple to become a World Heritage site.

The protest later triggered a border skirmish in October in which four soldiers from both sides were killed, and many others injured.

Rounds of border talks including another meeting last week have failed to resolve conflict about the disputed areas including 4.6 square kilometres where the Hindu temple sits.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said after a meeting with Thai Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwan last week that troops on both sides would be withdrawn from disputed areas near Preah Vihear soon.

However, the two sides have failed to reach a solution on withdrawing or re-deploying troops from the dispute areas, according to Lt General Wiboonsak Neeparn, the Second Army Region Commander who in charge of the area.

Meanwhile, Cabinet yesterday dumped Thailand's World Heritage committee chaired by Pongpol Adireksarn and replaced it with a new set of conservatives including Adul Wichiencharoen, a former chairman of the committee.

Adul was replaced by Pongpol during the Samak government last year as he strongly opposed the idea of backing Preah Vihear becoming a World Heritage site.

Cambodia plans to register chapei, khol with UNESCO

People's Daily Online
February 11, 2009

The Cambodian Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts plans to submit applications to register chapei, a form of sung storytelling, as well as khol, a type of theatrical performance, under UNESCO's Intangible Heritage of Humanity program, said English-language newspaper the Phnom Penh Post on Wednesday.

Meas Sarun, general director of technique of culture, told the newspaper that he did not know when the applications will be completed.

Meanwhile, UNESCO country director Teruo Jinnai said that the process of approving the applications will likely take about one year.

His office would assist in revising and polishing both applications before they are sent to UNESCO headquarters, where experts will evaluate them and then submit them to a vote by member states, said Teruo Jinnai.

Cambodia currently registered with UNESCO two World Heritage sites, namely the Angkor Wat and the Preah Vihear Temple, as well as two cultural entities including Royal Ballet and sbeik thom, a form of shadow puppetry.

Source:Xinhua

Laos-Cambodia further co-operation on tourism

MCOT English News

LAOS, Feb 11 (KPL) - A consultation meeting to boost the tourism co-operation between Laos and Cambodia was held last week at the grand hotel in Champassak province.

The meeting was co-chaired by Mr. Somphong Mongkhouvilay, Minister to the Prime Minister’s Office and Chairman of Lao Tourism Authority and Dr. Thongkon, Minister of Tourism of Cambodia.

The meeting has discussed and reviewed the co-operation made by two sides in the past one year and signed a MoU to further their co-operation in the future. Mr. Somphong Mongkhounvilay disclosed that the meeting between Laos and Cambodia on tourism co-operation has stressed to increase their co-operation, provision of facilities for traveling and the exit and enter of the both countries.

Mr. Somphong added that the Cambodia side has agreed with Laos to use the road in Cambodia for traveling to Vietnam and the Cambodia will also take the Lao lesson on conservation tourism with the participation of community to elaborate in Cambodia.(KPL)

Chicagoans Remember the Cambodian Genocide

Cambodian Association of Illinois Executive Director Kompa Seth as an 18-year old. (WBEZ/Nissa Rhee)

Chicago Public Radio, IL
2/10/2009

Chicago's Albany Park neighborhood is home to the only Cambodian genocide memorial outside of Cambodia.The Killing Fields Memorial is located in Chicago's Albany Park neighborhood on the northside. Worldview Producer Nissa Rhee visited the memorial to see how Chicagoans are remembering the genocide.

When the Khmer Rouge overthrew the government of Lon Nol in 1975, Cambodians were war weary. With the help of the U.S., they had been fighting both the Communist Khmer Rouge insurgents in the northwest and Viet Cong soldiers on their border for several years.

Kompha Seth was a sergeant in the Cambodian army. He had just finished attending a U.S. military training in Thailand when the Khmer Rouge took power.

Because of his connections with Americans and the previous anti-Communist government, Kompha feared for his life. He was given the choice to stay in Cambodia or go to the United States.

SETH: Pretty, pretty hard to make a choice in those time, you know, because my family lived at home and pretty hard to make a choice. So, I don’t know why but I’m still not understand how I made the decision at that time. So I forced myself to come to the U.S. with my pain, by myself. I left my family back home. It’s pretty hard for me.

Kompha left his two sons—age 8 and 2—behind with his wife. They were all killed.

He thought that his brother’s family died as well, but his sister-in-law contacted him after the genocide. She showed him some family mementos she had buried near her house for safekeeping before the Khmer Rouge soldiers came. After the genocide, she returned home and dug them up. He showed me a picture of him as an 18-year old taped to his office wall.

SETH: This is my picture. She told me that she you know hide it in the ground with a plastic bag. When the events over she go back and then she pulled all of the evidence you know, my letter, my picture, everything. So that’s why I believe that it’s real.

His sister-in-law told Kompha that the Khmer Rouge forced them to walk many miles to an agricultural labor camp. Many people died from starvation and disease. Others were executed and thrown in mass graves, called killing fields.

RHEE: Was she able to tell you how your wife or your children died?
SETH: Oh yeah, yeah. She…I don’t want to describe. You know, it was so much painful. When I talk. She still cries when she talks with me by phone. She’s crying.

Out of their 25 member extended family, only Kompha and his sister-in-law are left. Kompha has dedicated his life to making sure that what happened during the genocide is not forgotten. He is now the Executive Director of the Cambodian Association of Illinois, the organization that houses the Killing Fields memorial.

SETH: Among the unluckiest, I’m the luckiest. That’s why we work hard to create this memorial, you know, to honor those who cannot make it. It’s the place where people come to heal the past, and also the place to honor those who cannot survive.

ambi: "Cambodian Dream" song played by Master Song San

The memorial is in the Association’s Heritage Museum, behind an exhibit on the renewal of Cambodian culture after the genocide. Its black granite walls are a solemn contrast to the colorful weavings and intricate wooden sculptures that fill the front of the museum.

Charles Daas is the Museum Director.

DAAS: What you see essentially are 80 glass panels that are back-lit. And each of these panels represents 25,000 people that perished during the Killing Fields period.

RHEE: And I see a white flower, and it says “We continue our journey with compassion, understanding and wisdom.”

DAAS: The phrase signifies the way in which the Cambodian people have approached having lived through a genocide. It’s also a window into their Buddhist beliefs which is this concept of unconditional love and compassion. That they move on from this tragic period in history and they continue to live and to thrive. The flower itself is a sacred flower in Cambodia. But it was also chosen to represent the life after this dark chapter in Cambodian history.

The museum is a gathering place for Cambodian-Americans searching for their heritage.

ambi: Kong Toch instrument

EAP: This instrument needs a lot of coordination. You have to use a lot of flexibility from one side to the next to the other side. You really need to have great body control with this.

On Sundays, young Cambodian-Americans like Kimsour Eap gather in the museum to practice traditional Khmer music. The music classes are one part of the Association’s mission to renew Cambodian culture, much of which was destroyed in the genocide.

Kimsour is practicing the Kong Toch. He sits on a pillow in the middle of the instrument – a circular series of small gongs. He comes to the music class to reconnect with his Cambodian culture.

EAP: It’s meaningful for all young people, like us, like me actually. To see what it’s like to be a part of Cambodian civilization, to be a Cambodian person period. To come here to see all of this museum, to see this display. To think about back in time what’s going on in Cambodia. It’s great.

Kimsour was born in Cambodia six years after the Khmer Rouge was ousted from power. And his family’s history during the genocide remains a mystery to him.

EAP: You know what, I don’t really know much about it. They don’t really want to talk about it, ‘cause it’s so much painful to even think about.

That reticence of Cambodians to discuss the genocide is one of the biggest obstacles the Association faces.

DAAS: Even though we have this museum, even though we have the memorial, I think that most people continue to be unaware of what really happened in Cambodia.

Again, Museum director Charles Daas.

DAAS: What is most disheartening for me is that genocide actually has a pattern. That this isn’t just something that happens. That one genocide occurs and people actually mimic or learn from that. And so I think one of the difficulties for me is that even though we have this wonderful facility and this beautiful memorial, which again while it’s a memorial to the Cambodian people, it’s a memorial to anyone who’s been victim to war to torture and to genocide. I think the hardest thing for me is that there are so many people who don’t know that this happened and how important it is for them to understand this.

Cambodians celebrated the 30th anniversary of the end of the Khmer Rouge regime last month. But as the Cambodian Association of Illinois will tell you, the genocide still is a dark shadow on the lives of Cambodian-Americans. It will take a long time before the wounds heal. And until then, the Cambodian community will keep renewing, and keep remembering.

Listen to a tradional Khmer song performed by Master Song San at the Cambodian American Heritage Museum in Chicago.

IMF warns global downturn poses risks for Cambodia

WASHINGTON, Feb 10 (Reuters) - The International Monetary Fund on Tuesday warned that Cambodia faces "serious challenges" from the impact from the global economic downturn and financial crisis, which would significantly slow its growth in 2009.

In its annual review of Cambodia, the IMF said the crisis will potentially affect economic activity, capital inflows and the banking system in the southeast Asian country.

The fund suggested that any response by Cambodia should involve supportive fiscal and monetary policies, as well as improvements in financial sector oversight, public services delivery and competitiveness.

It said plans to ease fiscal policy in 2009 were "broadly appropriate" and recommended that the increase in government spending target social and infrastructure projects.

Turning to monetary policy, the IMF said it saw room for a moderate easing in interest rates as credit growth declined and demand pressures abate.

The IMF also called for greater exchange rate flexibility, calling it "the appropriate medium-term objective."
(Reporting by Lesley Wroughton; Editing by Leslie Adler)

IMF Executive Board Concludes 2008 Article IV Consultation with Cambodia

INTERNATIONAL MONETARY FUND
Public Information Notice (PIN) No. 09/18
February 10, 2009

Public Information Notices (Pins) form part of the IMF's efforts to promote transparency of the IMF's views and analysis of economic developments and policies. With the consent of the country (or countries) concerned, PINs are issued after Executive Board discussions of Article IV consultations with member countries, of its surveillance of developments at the regional level, of post-program monitoring, and of ex post assessments of member countries with longer-term program engagements. PINs are also issued after Executive Board discussions of general policy matters, unless otherwise decided by the Executive Board in a particular case. The staff report (use the free Adobe Acrobat Reader to view this pdf file) for the 2008 Article IV Consultation with Cambodia is also available.

On January 16, 2009, the Executive Board of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) concluded the Article IV consultation with Cambodia.1

Background

Cambodia's economy has performed well in recent years, owing to a stable macroeconomic environment and double-digit growth. However, in 2008, conditions became less settled, owing to spillover effects from the global financial crisis and weakening external demand. Cambodia has been particularly vulnerable to recent shocks given its narrow production base, concentration of exports by product and destination, and dependence on external inflows. As a result, economic activity is slowing in most sectors and liquidity conditions are tightening. Rapid credit expansion since 2007 combined with weaknesses in bank supervision have heightened risks faced by a number of banks, including a few systemically important ones. On a positive note, inflation pressures, which were intensifying until mid-2008, has decreased owing mainly to the fall in commodity prices.

Real GDP growth is projected at 6½ percent in 2008 and 4¾ percent in 2008, compared to 10¼ percent in 2007. In 2008, garment exports and tourism activity moderated as external demand weakened. Agricultural growth was likely below-trend due to adverse weather. Construction activity—strong in the first half of the year—also faltered, as foreign direct investment slowed and credit growth decelerated. While agricultural output should pick up in 2009, garments and tourism are expected to act as significant drag on growth given weak external conditions. Real estate and construction activity will also likely slow further, as investment becomes more constrained by inflows and credit. Headline inflation is projected to moderate to 15½ percent (year-on-year) in December 2008 and 7½ percent (y/y) by end-2009 on lower commodity prices and easing demand pressures. The current account deficit rose sharply in 2008 due to high oil prices and strong non-oil imports, but with these factors now reversing, the deficit in 2009 is projected to narrow. Nonetheless, the overall external position, which improved in 2008, could weaken in 2009 given decreasing private inflows. Gross official reserves, projected at US$2.0 billion (3.5 months of prospective imports), would fall to around US$1.9 billion (3.1 months of imports) by end-2009.

The fiscal stance continued to underpin stabilization efforts in 2008. The overall deficit is expected at around 1¾ percent of GDP, against an official target of 4¼ percent and an outturn of around 3 percent in 2007. Revenue performance was strong, in part due to improved tax and customs administration, and expenditure remained appropriately constrained. However, public financial management reforms lagged, in particular budget integration. Given the near-term outlook, the 2009 budget has a deficit target of 4¼ percent of GDP, leaving scope for countercyclical fiscal easing.

Monetary conditions, lax in the first half of 2008, have tightened as external inflows slow and policy measures take hold—mainly a doubling of the reserve requirement on foreign currency deposits to 16 percent in June. Credit growth, which exceeded 100 percent (y/y) in mid-2008, is expected to fall to around 60 percent by year-end, with growth likely to be significantly lower in 2009 as liquidity remains tight. However, liquidity management remains constrained by the lack of an operational framework at the National Bank of Cambodia (NBC), although gradual steps are being taken to address this weakness. Despite recent global developments, the riel was relatively stable against the U.S. dollar in 2008, as transaction demand for riel balances stayed strong with inflation high.

With the banking system under increased strain, tighter monitoring is required by the NBC of banks' compliance with prudential regulations to prevent systemic problems. The NBC continues to improve its supervisory capacity, but enforcement remains weak, in particular in dealing effectively with capital adequacy and loan provisioning. New minimum capital requirements have been approved for 2010. In addition, steps are being taken to strengthen loan classification standards and improve bank licensing procedures. Bank resolution plans are also being formulated to provide a solid framework for dealing effectively with troubled banks.

Over the near term, the balance of risk is to the downside, because of uncertainty about the length and depth of the global recession and its impact on external inflows. Adding to pressures is a recent loss in competitiveness stemming from high domestic inflation coupled with U.S. dollar strength vis-à-vis most major currencies, leading to a sharp real appreciation. Medium-term prospects for Cambodia will depend on maintaining macroeconomic and financial stability, improving governance and infrastructure, and taking other actions to strengthen competitiveness, including addressing skill deficiencies and streamlining business regulation.

Executive Board Assessment

Executive Directors commended the Cambodian authorities for maintaining sound macroeconomic policies, including strong budget performance, against the backdrop of an increasingly difficult external environment. Directors noted that the global economic downturn and financial crisis pose serious challenges to Cambodia, with potential adverse effects on economic activity, capital inflows, and the banking system. They welcomed the authorities' recognition of the need for a timely and decisive policy response. This will need to involve supportive fiscal and monetary policies, as well as improvements in financial sector oversight, public services delivery, and external competitiveness, aimed at reducing vulnerabilities and sustaining growth and poverty reduction.

Directors considered the modest easing of fiscal policy envisaged for 2009 as broadly appropriate, and recommended that the increase in government spending be focused on pro-poor social and infrastructure outlays. They encouraged the authorities to continue to strengthen revenue administration and, as conditions permit, broaden the tax base, building on recent improvements. Greater control over the government's wage bill could be exercised by linking future increases to comprehensive civil service reform. Directors also called for concerted efforts to strengthen public financial management by improving Treasury operations and budget coordination and integration, as well as a transparent fiscal regime for extractive industries.

Directors supported the current monetary policy stance, and saw room for a moderate easing as credit growth drops and aggregate demand pressures ease. They encouraged the authorities to make further efforts to increase policy effectiveness in the context of high dollarization, building on the Fund's technical assistance recommendations, and to work toward a more developed monetary framework. Directors saw the adoption of a clear strategy to manage liquidity risk as an immediate priority. In this context, they welcomed steps to develop a sound, transparent overdraft facility, but stressed the need for caution in designating eligible collateral. Efforts should also continue to improve the required reserve system.

Directors stressed the need for comprehensive measures to improve banking soundness, notably in the areas of supervision, enforcement of regulations, and bank licensing procedures. They commended the NBC for taking further steps to strengthen the prudential framework and capital requirements. Directors also stressed the importance of formulating banking resolution plans should the need arise, with a view to containing fiscal risk. They welcomed the authorities' intent to participate in the Financial Sector Assessment Program (FSAP) in early 2010.

Directors took note of the staff's assessment that the real effective exchange rate appears overvalued. They generally considered that the present exchange rate regime continues to provide an appropriate nominal anchor, given the high degree of dollarization and the stage of financial development. Directors agreed that greater exchange rate flexibility is the appropriate medium-term objective. In the meantime, external competitiveness should be safeguarded by maintaining a stable macroeconomic environment, along with steps to develop a more skilled workforce, improve public services and infrastructure, and streamline business regulations.

Directors encouraged the authorities to continue pursuing a prudent debt management strategy, given the moderate risk of external debt distress and uncertainty about near-term prospects. Consistent with this strategy, Cambodia should continue to borrow largely on concessional terms in the foreseeable future.

Directors encouraged the authorities to continue efforts to resolve outstanding arrears with official creditors, noting that a successful resolution could pave the way for consideration of a Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility (PRGF)-supported arrangement should the authorities request it. They welcomed the authorities' commitment to remain closely engaged with the Fund and Cambodia's development partners, in support of the country's reform agenda.

Cambodia: Selected Economic Indicators, 2005-09 (Please Click)
(Annual percent change, unless otherwise indicated)

Day in pictures (Battambang Province)

Lekana, a 10-year-old student, sits behind her mothers sewing machine in Reang Kesei, located in Cambodia's western Battambang province on February 10, 2009.REUTERS/Adrees Latif (CAMBODIA)

Villagers go through a muddy river-bed searching for fish in Reang Kesei, located in Cambodia's western Battambang province on February 10, 2009.REUTERS/Adrees Latif (CAMBODIA)

Men transport a live pig on the back of their motorcycle in Moung Russey, located in Cambodia's western Battambang province February 10, 2009.REUTERS/Adrees Latif (CAMBODIA)

A rice farmer sprays insecticide on his crop in Reang Kesei, located Cambodia's western Battambang province February 10, 2009.REUTERS/Adrees Latif (CAMBODIA)

Farmer Som Boo sprays insecticide on his rice field in Reang Kesei, located in Cambodia's western Battambang province February 10, 2009.REUTERS/Adrees Latif (CAMBODIA)

A family on an ox-cart waits on a roadside in Moung Russey, located in Cambodia's western Battambang province February 10, 2009.REUTERS/Adrees Latif (CAMBODIA)

Foot-and-mouth disease spreads in Vietnam

Monsters and Critics.com

Health News
Feb 10, 2009

Hanoi - A senior government official on Tuesday blamed illegal cattle imports and mistakes by non-governmental organizations (NGOs) for an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease that has so far spread to five provinces.

Deputy Agriculture Minister Diep Kinh Tan said the outbreak had been caused in part by farmers who illegally imported cattle and buffalo infected with the highly contagious virus from Cambodia and Laos.

Tan said there had been cases of NGOs with insufficient cattle experience that bought animals to donate to poor families that turned out to be diseased. He cited an NGO that accidentally donated 49 infected buffalos to the Kon Tum Breeding Centre in the central province of Kon Tum, ultimately infecting 22 animals on surrounding farms.

'You grant the poor 10 cows, but your 10 cows infect 300 cows,' Tan said. 'That means you are hurting people.'

Local media on Tuesday quoted Bui Quang Anh, director of Vietnam's Animal Health Department, as saying that hoof-and-mouth disease, which is also called hoof-and-mouth disease, has infected more than 800 head of cattle and buffalo in five provinces, from Son La in the north to Long An in the south.

The Animal Health Department has begun requiring NGOs to obtain approval before donating animals.

Farmers in Vietnam often hesitate to report infections to local authorities for fear their cattle would be destroyed without adequate compensation, which allows the disease to spread. The government has agreed to compensate farmers at a rate of 30,000 dong (1.70 dollars) per kilogram, about two-thirds the market price.

Tan said the government vaccinates against the disease only in high-risk areas of the country.

'We cannot vaccinate nationwide due to limited resources,' Tan said.

Foot-and-mouth disease infects and sometimes kills cattle, pigs, buffalo and other hoofed animals. Outbreaks in Europe and China have led to large-scale culling of sick animals.