May 1, 2009 : MP Sam Rainsy addresses workers on International Labor Day in front of the National Assembly in Phnom Penh.
Saturday, 9 May 2009
Cambodian cuisine may not have the global profile of Thai or Vietnamese food, but it's certainly not from lack of flavour, sophistication or influence. Most visitors to Cambodia discover local food on the street, prepared and sold from the numerous outdoor restaurants and food stalls. And compared to its neighbours, many tourists say that Cambodian street food is quite bland. That's because it contains few of the herbs and spices commonly found on the streets of both Thailand and Vietnam.
Due to its troubled past, Cambodia is a leading exporter of demining expertise.
By Claire Duffet - Special to GlobalPost
May 8, 2009
PHNOM PENH — Nuon Sao has laid 11,000 mines across Cambodia.
The 44-year-old, who now works for a non-profit radio station in Phnom Penh, fought for 13 years with the now-ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) during the civil war that followed the fall of the communist Khmer Rouge in 1979.
But when the United Nations took control of Cambodia in 1992 to enforce a shaky peace accord, Nuon Sao defected to its demining unit and began unstitching what he had made. Thousands of other soldiers eventually joined him.
Today, this same ragtag group of militiamen still removes most of the explosives throughout the country. Since 1992, almost 1 million mines have been cleared from about 500 square kilometers (193 square miles) of land. Three non-governmental organizations and Cambodia’s military divide up the work, which is administered by an oversight group funded by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP). They estimate that less than 700 square kilometers of mined land remains in Cambodia.
Despite the makeshift start, the U.N. is impressed with the pace of Cambodian demining. In an April speech on the achievement of Cambodia’s U.N. Millennium Development Goals, Cambodia is “now regarded as a world leader in demining," said Douglas Broderick, the country's U.N. resident coordinator.
“Over the past decade, Cambodia has made a remarkable transition from infamously being one of the most mine-affected countries in the world to becoming one of the most innovative countries in addressing the problem,” UNDP Cambodia mine action project manager Melissa Sabatier told GlobalPost.
This unique expertise is now being exported overseas.
In 2007, Prime Minister Hun Sen allowed the U.N. to send 135 Cambodian troops to clear mines in southern Sudan. For three years, Cambodia has maintained troops there on a rotating schedule, with another company set to deploy in June. Of five participating countries, Cambodia has cleared the most mines — more than 2,000 — and is highest rated by the U.N. in terms of both productivity and safety, said Ker Savoeun, director of the military’s peacekeeping division and a former CPP fighter.
In January, the military trained another 400 troops for emergency peacekeeping and demining missions. With 45 days notice, the U.N. can send them anywhere in the world. Sometime this year, the U.N. will also send 20-soldier platoons to both Chad and the Central African Republic to provide airport security. These missions boost Cambodia’s reputation and soldiers’ wallets. While the average troop earns less than $400 annually, the U.N. pays its peacekeepers and deminers $1,000 per month.
Demining expertise proved even more lucrative for Srey Sangha, a former KPNLF member and the chief surveyor for Cambodian Mine Action Center (CMAC), the largest clearance NGO in Cambodia. In May 2007, a Swedish electricity company hired him to identify mined areas in southern Angola where it planned to build a power line. While he earns $800 per month as a department head at CMAC, he was paid $32,000 for four months’ work in Angola.
Along with Afghanistan, Angola and Cambodia are considered the most heavily mined countries in the world. But the demining that Srey Sangha says he encountered in Angola was amateur compared to the work in his home country. Not only did Angola lack modern equipment, the maps he was given hadn’t been updated since 1880.
In CMAC’s clearance fields in Cambodia’s northwest, workers use a mixture of long-tested and high-tech methods. Up to 90 percent of demining is still carried out by individuals equipped with handheld metal detectors and prods, said Pring Panharith, the director of the organization’s Battambang unit and a former Khmer Rouge member. Pairs work in meter-wide rows divided by red yarn. They scan the land and if it’s clear, they unravel the spools 8 centimeters and scan again. If they find a mine, they either diffuse it or blow it up. This process is slow and tedious, but cheap.
In 2000, CMAC began using dogs to speed up its work. It now has the second-largest canine demining program in the world, after Bosnia, with 56 animals sniffing for TNT remnants, Pring Panharith said. For forested terrain and areas with an abundance of anti-tank mines, CMAC uses enormous, Japanese-made machines that dwarf most heavy construction equipment. The swing-type deminer, made by Hitachi, was created and tested in Cambodia.
CMAC is also training its staff to use the Handheld Standoff Mine Detection System, a state-of-the-art device that identifies whether or not a piece of metal under the ground is hollow. Deminers find millions of metal scraps that they must treat as potential explosives. Identifying the harmless fragments will speed up the clearance process immeasurably, said Heng Ratana, the CMAC director-general.
Despite advances, land mines remain a deadly problem in Cambodia. Though the number of mine-related injuries and deaths dropped from 858 in 2000 to 266 in 2008, the latter figure is still unacceptable, Heng Ratana said. The Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention requires Cambodia to eradicate land mines completely by Dec. 31. Within the next few weeks, the government will request to extend the deadline to 2020.
Though a mine-free Cambodia remains distant, individual success stories are more common than ever.
Near a minefield outside Battambang where dogs named Happy and Peanut sniffed for bombs recently, Cheng Pek, 56, sat with his wife outside their bamboo hut feeding chickens. They returned from the Thai border in 1993 when the government offered refugees free plots of mine-filled land. Living in fear, they subsisted on vegetables grown on a half-hectare plot. CMAC cleared their land late last year, uncovering a 5-square-meter stockpile of explosives. This season, the couple will grow corn, mango, tapioca, and coconut across 3 hectares.
“If this land was not cleared by CMAC, we could not grow anything,” Cheng Pek said. “The mines would still be here in a thousand years.”
Read more about Cambodia:
Facing Cambodia's past. Or not.
Cambodia's coming oil economy
Cambodia begins emotional journey with trial
Fri. May 08, 2009
May 08, 2009 (M2 EQUITYBITES via COMTEX) -- GE Quote Chart News PowerRating -- Diversified global infrastructure, finance and media company General Electric Company (NYSE:GE) announced on 7 May that the company is expanding its Developing Health Globally programme to include six sites in Cambodia.
The Developing Health Globally corporate citizenship programme is aimed at improving access to quality healthcare by addressing critical gaps in existing developing-world healthcare facilities by providing products and expertise.
In addition, GE announced that the programme is donating GE Healthcare ultrasound equipment, mobile X-rays and patient monitors to Cambodia's Ministry of Health, for distribution to 23 public health facilities throughout the country.
GE said, that under the programme, Kampong Speu and Phnom Penh Municipal Regional Hospitals and Kossamak National Hospital in Cambodia will be completed first, with commissioning expected to occur late this summer.
Each commissioning reportedly marks the completion of the product installation and training and provides each hospital the opportunity to share the news of the upgraded facility to the community.
In addition, the 23 sites to receive products, determined by the Ministry of Health in Cambodia, will have proper training for the people using the donated products.
Each site will also have a GE employee ambassador assigned from the GE Asia Pacific American Forum to ensure that improvements are sustained.
Also, the Developing Health Globally programme is also commissioning its last two hospitals in Honduras.
Experts Confirm Mobile Phone Towers Set on Buildings or on the Ground Do Not Have Noticeable Impact – Thursday, 7.5.2009
The Mirror, Vol. 13, No. 611
“Phnom Penh: Cambodia is experiencing significant economic growth, especially in the telecommunication sector, which is progressing with great speed – but at the same time, Khmer citizens notice that during the rainy season, there are frightening rains, thunder and lightning, and many people and animals have been killed by lightning strikes. Thus, citizens express fear about mobile phone towers. In recent years, towers were set up on high-rise buildings or on the ground, and citizens in their vicinity fear that they might collapse on their homes, cause health problems such as headache, causing infertility, and people are especially afraid that those towers attract lightnings.
“Responding to these issues, the Ministry of Post and Telecommunication held a workshop about mobile phone technology and its effects, under the presidency of the Minister of Post and Telecommunication, Mr. So Khun. Experts from different telecommunication companies participating in this workshop confirmed that when setting mobile phone tower systems, each company always sets up lightning rods – devices against lightning strikes – and the effect on the people is minimal.
“In a separate interview, Minister So Khun said that concerns and the fear of citizens are understandable, but in this case, they are not right, because at present, the level of the effect [of radiation?] is less than 1 percent [of which data reference number?], which is very little, and it is acceptable. So far, there are more than four million customers using mobile phones and the state earns not less than US$30 million per year.
“He confirmed that the construction of towers on buildings or on privately owned land is agreed to between the owners of the real estate property and mobile phone company owners, and it is administered by the local authorities. Regarding the techniques to set up towers, if there are problems in the future, the companies themselves are responsible for it.
“During a speech at that occasion, the minister added that during more than 15 years, the development of telecommunications in the Kingdom of Cambodia has experienced rapid growth, particularly in the mobile phone field, where there have been more than 4.230.000 customers so far. The provision of services requires the use of modern technology and materials to connect networks from place to place in order to provide services covering different areas effectively, and with clear sound for users. Recently, the ministry and different institutions had received protests from some citizens living near towers and antenna devices, built and set up by mobile phone companies to serve the public.
“The Ministry of Post and Telecommunication invited relevant ministries to provide their opinions and create methods and solutions to inform citizens about the explanations given at this workshop, and then the ministry held a press conference after the meeting about the above mentioned topics.
”It should be noted that at present, there are nine mobile phone companies and three table mobile phone companies in Cambodia. The nine mobile phone companies are: 1. Mobitel (012, 017, 089, and 092); 2. Mfone (011, 085, and 099); 3. Hello (015, 016, and 081); 4. qb (013); 5. StarCell (098); 6. Viettel (097); 7. Smart Mobile (010 and 093); 8. Excell (018); and 9. Beeline (090). And the three table mobile phone companies are: Telecom Cambodia, Camshin, and Cammintel of the state.”
Koh Santepheap, Vol.42, #6643, 7.5.2009
Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Thursday, 7 May 2009
May 8, 2009
PHNOM PENH, Cambodia, May 8 (UPI) -- A Swedish national arrested in Cambodia on child sex charges says he did not sexually assault a 12-year-old boy as alleged by authorities.
Varg Gyllander, a representative of the Swedish police's National Investigation Department, said the Stockholm resident, whose identity was not reported, has been transferred to a detention center in the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh, the news agency TT/The Local said Friday.
"What we're doing now is making sure that the Cambodian police receive the help they need from us. We'll help them out as best we can," Gyllander said of the sex crimes case.
Gyllander added the man, who was arrested Wednesday, has previously been accused of other child sex crimes.
"All we can say is that he's known for similar crimes from before," he said of a 2008 child sex crimes investigation in Cambodia that was focused on the Swedish national.
TT/The Local said Seila Samelang of the Action Pour Les Enfants non-governmental organization alleges the man had been living with five boys prior to his arrest.
Original report from Phnom Penh
08 May 2009
Cambodians widely believe the Khmer Rouge was an atheist regime. But in trial testimony this week, jailed prison chief Duch said the regime’s constitution allowed for religion that wasn’t harmful.
The former chief of Tuol Sleng, who is facing atrocity crimes charges at the tribunal, told judges this week that Article 20 of the constitution for Democratic Kampuchea, as the regime was called, allowed for “every citizen of Kampuchea” to have “the right to worship any religion and the right not to worship any religion.”
“Reactionary religions that are detrimental to Democratic Kampuchea and the people of Kampuchea are absolutely forbidden,” it said.
Duch’s testimony about the constitution uncovered another truth about the regime: The words may have been there, but they masked another intent.
“Concretely, the position of this scheme was not to believe in religion whatsoever,” said Youk Chhang, director of the Documentation Center of Cambodia. “The monks were forcibly defrocked, and pagodas became deposits for cells of detention. Cathedrals and mosques were the same, and their believers were accused as enemies and died by oppression.”
In fact, the constitution served “only to hide the crimes the Khmer Rouge expected would happen,” he said.
The constitution also called Democratic Kampuchea an “independent, neutral state,” with “justice managed by Kampuchean people’s court.”
Original report from Phnom Penh
08 May 2009
The Cambodian Bar Association must remain neutral and unbiased as the government pursues a defamation case against an attorney for the opposition party, the Hong Kong-based Asian Human Rights Commission said Friday.
The attorney, Kong Sam On, is facing a countersuit by Prime Minisister Hun Sen, following the pursuit of a defamation case against the premier on the behalf of Mu Sochua, an opposition lawmaker for the Sam Rainsy Party.
The Cambodian bar, until recently led by a controversial president, Ky Tech, has suspended Kong Sam On’s license to allow the court’s to investigate the case. Ky Tech is also the attorney for Hun Sen.
Mu Sochua alleges that Hun Sen made disparaging remarks about her in the run-up to the 2008 National Assembly election, a charge repeated by Kong Sam On at a press conference in April. Hun Sen countersued both of them, also for defamation.
In an April 30 letter to the bar, Ky Tech said comments made by Kong Sam On at the press conference were a violation of the code of ethics for lawyers.
The bar’s current president, Chiv Song Hak, said the bar was now looking into Kong Sam On’s case.
“The Bar should stand neutrally for all lawyers,” Kong Sam On said.
Original report from Phnom Penh
08 May 2009
The two investigating judges for the Khmer Rouge tribunal have denied a request from defense lawyers to investigate corruption allegations in the court’s administration office.
The allegations have already cost the court donor support, and defense attorneys for the regime’s jailed ideologue, Nuon Chea, and former foreign minister, Ieng Sary, have begun to use the court’s inability to tackle the allegations as evidence their clients will not receive fair trials.
In a statement dated April 3, investigating judges You Bunleng and Marcel Lemonde said they had “no authority” to investigate the allegations.
The Open Society Justice Initiative, an organization monitoring the court, publicized the allegations in February 2007, claiming that, “Cambodian personnel, including judges, must kick back a significant percentage of their wages to Cambodian government officials in exchange for their positions on the court.”
Four months later, according to a complaint by defense attorneys, “the United Nations Development Program released a similarly damning report.”
UNDP has since held back around $750,000 in funding, while the UN and Cambodian negotiators have failed to reach an agreement on how allegations should be handled.
“Corruption has been widespread through my client’s upcoming official hearing,” said Son Arun, Cambodian counsel for Nuon Chea. “When there is corruption, there will not be justice.”
And Udom, defense attorney for Ieng Sary, said the judges’ decision not to investigate was “not proper.”
“The court is filled with corruption allegations,” he said. “We cannot find justice for any party.”
Both attorneys said they would appeal the investigation decision to the Pre-Trial Chamber of the court.
One court monitor, Lath Ky, of the rights group Adhoc, said judges should investigate the charges, for the sake of “effectiveness, transparency and justice at the tribunal.”
Original report from Phnom Penh
08 May 2009
Ly Navy had just come back from school. Wearing her school uniform and a scarf to cover her head, the second-year medicine student at Phnom Penh’s University of Health Science entered a room filled with bunk beds, bookshelves and wardrobes.
For now this was her home, a hostel for female Muslims on the grounds of the International Dubai Mosque in Phnom Penh.
The 22-year-old student from Kampong Cham province said she has felt at ease staying in the hostel for more than a year.
“Staying here is not difficult, as we have a firm and good manager who is taking care of us,” she said, referring to her student head sitting nearby.
“Most students in this hostel come from provinces, and as you know our parents cannot afford our high education here in the city,” said Math Islamiyas, another student from Kandal province. “So, we are really happy to be able to go to colleges or universities on provided scholarships.”
Some scholarships are offered on a competitive basis by the Islamic Development Bank or organizations in Malaysia and Saudi Arabia, according to the Cambodian Muslim Student Association.
Fifty-two university students have been staying here at the International Dubai Mosque since the first-ever hostel for female Muslim students was opened in 2007, said the student head, Tolos Fa-Eysas , who is from Kratie province.
Most of them are from the provinces of Kampong Cham, Kratie, Kampong Thom, Kampong Chhnang and Battambang.
They are all studying at both private and state colleges or universities, according to Tolos FaEysas, herself a fourth-year student of computer science at Norton University.
“When we stay here, we not only have a chance to go to university, but we also have access to Islamic education,” said the 25-year-old Tolos Fa-Eysas, adding that all the female students in the hostel go to Arabic or Malay classes or Quran-reading classes every evening in an Islamic institute next door.
CMSA President Sos Mousin said the creation of the hostel encouraged parents of Cambodian Muslims to send their daughters for higher education.
“Some parents do not lack money; they really can afford their daughter’s higher education, but they are worried about her staying in the city,” Sos Mousin said. “So the hostel is of great value, not just for poor students but also for those concerned parents.”
Of 300 Muslim students who are attending colleges or universities in the country, more than 100 are female.
Some are staying with relatives in the city, said Sos Mousin, who is also a secretary of state for the Ministry of Cults and Religion.
Like their Buddhist counterparts, most Muslim female students in the countryside have little chance of even finishing high school, let alone attending higher education. They are generally not encouraged to go away from home for fear of their personal safety and security.
Consequently, rarely does one see Muslim women holding high positions in either private or state institutions.
Among more than 20 high-ranking Muslim officials in the government, just two are women, serving as undersecretary of states, said one of them, Kob Mariah, who works at the Ministry of Women’s Affair.
However, with recent permission by the government to let female Muslim students wear traditional clothes in schools, more Muslim parents will send their daughters to universities, she said.
“I believe more and more female Muslim students will pursue higher education, such as those at the hostel,” said Kob Mariah, who is also secretary-general for the Cambodian Islamic Women Development Association.
08 May 2009
Opposition lawmaker Mu Sochua said Thursday she would consider dropping a defamation suit against the prime minister if Hun Sen drops his against her.
The two are heading for a legal battle, after Mu Sochua filed a complaint in Phnom Penh court alleging Hun Sen had made disparaging, sexually discriminating remarks about her in the run-up to the July 2008 general election.
Hun Sen countersued, saying her accusation defamed him.
“To protect the country, if both sides agree to withdraw the complaints, I agree,” Mu Sochua said Thursday, as a guest on “Hello VOA.”
The Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker said she had complained about Hun Sen’s comments to protect the value of women in general, especially because the government has said it values women in politics and administration.
“I just want responsibility for the words spoken by the prime minister,” she said.
Some members of the National Assembly are considering suspending Mu Sochua’s parliamentary immunity, but she said she was not worried as long as “everything follows the law.”
PHNOM PENH, May 8 (Xinhua) -- The Cambodian government issued a directive signed by Prime Minister Hun Sen here on Friday to ban sand export for the sake of environmental protection.
"In order to protect the balance of nature and environment in areas of sea and fresh water, the government has decided to allow sand business to meet domestic demand only," said the directive.
After examination by experts, sand dredging is only allowed in places where the balance of nature can be restored or water flow is obstructed, it said.
Meanwhile, the directive "terminates any sand export to foreign countries," too.
The Committee of Sand Management has to check sand trade immediately, and report all the involved institutions to the premier, it added.
According to local reports, Cambodia used to export 40,000 to 50,000 tons of sand per month from its coastal province of Koh Kong, and the annual value of this business stood at 35 million U.S. dollars.
Vietnam and Singapore were the major destination countries.
While sand business boomed, sand dredging frequently caused riverbanks and houses to collapse along the Mekong River and the Tonle Bassac River.
Editor: Deng Shasha
08 May 2009
The global financial crisis is taking its toll on small countries like Cambodia, where citizens are bracing for the nation's first recession in living memory.
Cambodia's economy was shattered by four decades of conflict and communist dictatorship. But since peace was restored more than 10 years ago the country has enjoyed steady economic growth above five percent annually.
That stopped as this year began. Trade with Thailand - by far Cambodia's most important neighbor - has fallen 25 percent in the first two months of 2009. Garment exports are also down 25 percent and property prices slumped 40 percent from January to the end of March.
This is the first time in Cambodia's post-war era that property foreclosures, vehicle repossessions, bankruptcies and job losses have been seen, causing some concern for bankers and businessmen.
"We were of course seeing huge, huge, increases in land values probably over the last 12 months as a result of speculative land and investment in the country," said Paul Freer, vice president of Maruhan Japan Bank in Phnom Penh. "That has virtually come to a standstill."
The World Bank forecasts 30,000 lost jobs in Cambodia's garment industry. A decline in tourism receipts from the Western countries compounds economic problems for the government. The opposition calls for a 500 million dollar spending package, an enormous sum by this country's standards.
Many people here expect Cambodia to fall into recession in the next few months.
Derek Mayes from the Australian Business Association of Cambodia says investment was getting reckless as the economy peaked in the second half of last year. He says that pushed conservative and long-term investors out of the market.
Now, he says, the downturn could take the heat of out of the market and bring investment back to realistic levels.
"The wrong type of development was going ahead and I think this has actually brought it back to the point where the opportunities are still there but I think the realism from serious business people is saying yep we can still do a deal," said Mayes.
Freer at Maruhan Japan Bank echoes that sentiment.
"It's probably one of the first recession's that most people here I think in the business community can remember," he said. "People had perhaps thought that the property market was going to continue to go northwards."
Ultimately, he says, the downturn could prove to be good for the country, by encouraging more careful and sustainable growth.
Friday, 08 May 2009
Hundreds of Farmers are demonstrating in three different locations in Vietnam, demanding the return of confiscated farmlands
Below is a statement issued by the Khmers Kampuchea-Krom Federation:
This morning, May 8, 2009 approximately 10:00AM local time, hundreds of Khmer-Krom farmers are peacefully demonstrating in three different locations to demand returning their confiscated farmlands.In Chau Lang village, Tri Ton district, An Giang province, more than 100 Khmer-Krom farmer families are peacefully protest to demand returning their confiscated farmlands, but they are being forced to go back to their home by the Vietnamese polices. At this time, they currently are being surrounded by the Vietnamese Polices at Che-Eng Krom Temple in Chau Lang village.
In An Cu village, Tinh Bien district, An Giang province, more than 40 Khmer-Krom farmers are peacefully demonstrating in front of the Vietnamese Local Authority’s building of An Cu Village to demand returning their confiscated farmlands. They are being surrounded by the Vietnamese Polices.
In Can Tho City, more than 50 Khmer-Krom farmers from Soc Trang and Tra Vinh provinces are also peacefully demonstrating to demand their confiscated farmlands.
In this regards, we would like to urge all foreign Embassies in Vietnam to closely monitor and provide any possible assistant to protect the Khmer-Krom farmers so they can freely exercise their land rights to demand returning their confiscated farmlands.