Monday, 1 June 2009

ASEAN-Korea Commemorative Summit in Seogwipo on Jeju island June 1


Southeast Asian leaders (L to R) Malaysia's Prime Minister Najib Razak, Myanmar's Prime Minister Thein Sein, the Philippines' President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Thailand's Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, South Korea's President Lee Myung-Bak, Vietnam's Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung, Brunei's Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen, Indonesia's President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Laos' Prime Minister Bouasone Bouphavanh pose for a family photo before the ASEAN-Korea Commemorative Summit in Seogwipo on Jeju island June 1, 2009.REUTERS/Jung Yeon-Je/Pool (SOUTH KOREA POLITICS)

S.Korea, Asean Open Special Summit On Bilateral Cooperation


SEOUL, June 1 (Bernama) -- South Korean President Lee Myung-bak and the 10 Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) leaders are to meet for a special summit in Jeju Island of South Korea on Monday, reports Yonhap news agency.

The South Korea-ASEAN summit, celebrating the 20th anniversary of partnership establishment between the two sides, is aimed at boosting bilateral cooperation and coalition in fighting against the global financial crisis.

The leaders are expected to issue a joint statement at the end of the two-day summit to call for increased efforts to bring the countries closer, as well as an investment treaty to launch " complete, full free trade" between the two sides.

The summit comes as the South Korean government recently pushes for strengthening the ties with the ASEAN countries, which the government named as "New Asia Initiative."

The government's new campaign is part of its plan to establish an Asian network of economic and diplomatic and to promote their mutual interests in the international community, Yonhap said.

President Lee is also scheduled to hold one-on-one talks with all 10 leaders of the ASEAN countries before the end of the week in a bid to improve South Korea's bilateral relations with individual Southeast Asian countries.

The ASEAN groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

-- BERNAMA

Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia boost state audit cooperation


06/01/2009

Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia have discussed a mechanism for long-term cooperation between their state audit agencies and reviewed their implementation of agreements on bilateral cooperation in this field.

At the meeting between leaders of the state audit agencies of Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia in Hanoi on June 1, Vietnam’s State Auditor General Vuong Dinh Hue proposed that the three countries conduct joint auditing activities in the fields of hydroelectricity, tourism and environment.

He said the three state audit agencies should establish parallel audit or joint audit teams or a mixed form of the two.

The three state audit agencies agreed that they would suggest that their respective government incorporate these activities into their inter-governmental cooperative programme.

They also agreed to organize rotating annual meetings to boost the effectiveness of their cooperation. The next meeting will be held in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, in 2010.

The June 1 meeting is within the framework of a conference on the role of the state audit in improving the efficiency of public spending, which will be held by the State Audit of Vietnam on June 2.

Brazier's view contrary to majority of reports

The Phnom Penh Post
http://www.phnompenhpost.com

Written by Dr Naranhkiri Tith
Monday, 01 June 2009

Dear Editor,

I read with great disappointment and concern the article "A Future in Balance" by Rod Brazier, the outgoing country director for the Asia Foundation (Phnom Penh Post May 21). In the article, Brazier blames members of the international community in Phnom Penh for being "terribly ignorant about the political economy of Cambodia".

To make his case stronger, he unconvincingly includes himself among those members of the "ignorant" international community. What is more baffling, for a person who has falsely confessed to being ignorant, he goes on to describe in detail what is going in Cambodia, namely that Hun Sen's Cambodian People's Party (CPP) "enjoys widespread support today owing to the stability and economic growth that have occurred in recent years. Outside, it's not well understood that this government is truly very popular, despite some authoritarian tendencies".

Yet by accusing the international community in Phnom Penh of being ignorant of the political economy of Cambodia, Brazier runs contrary to many reports and articles from local and international NGOs. These include the recent report titled "Cambodia: Country for Sale" by [environmental watchdog] Global Witness, the many reports on human rights abuses by the United Nations special representative in Cambodia, and a recent article in the Post titled "Cambodia's curse" by Professor Joel Brinkley of Stanford University on how Hun Sen regime is corrupt and how the legal and judicial system [in Cambodia] is nonexistent. In that same article, Hun Sen was reported to have his own golf course and private army of bodyguards.

It is well-known that Cambodia still does not have an anti-corruption law. Also, a recent report on human rights by the US State Department highlighted the abuse of human rights in Cambodia under Hun Sen. Finally; there are still no answers to the many political assassinations of members of the political opposition parties, journalists and union leaders.

Is this the same Cambodia that Rod Brazier has found "all round, a very good picture for a country that was still at war with itself little more than a decade ago"?

In view of the above observations on the situation, I suggest that either Brazier is not a good observer or his standard of morality and good performance is different from a generally well-accepted standard that is used by most of those whose writings are mentioned by me earlier.

Dr Naranhkiri Tith
Washington, DC

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Send letters to: newsroom@phnompenhpost.com or P.O. Box 146, Phnom Penh, Cambodia. The Post reserves the right to edit letters to a shorter length.

China, Cambodia vow to further party-to-party relations

www.chinaview.cn
2009-06-01

BEIJING, June 1 (Xinhua) -- China said Monday it is ready to further exchanges with Cambodia's Funcinpec Party based on the principles of being independent and equal, mutual respect, and non-interference in each other's internal affairs.

"Party-to-party exchanges are an important channel to enhance our comprehensive and cooperative partnership," Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping told Funcinpec Party chairman Keo Puth Rasmey in Beijing.

Xi also expressed appreciation for the support of the Funcinpec Party on issues concerning China's core interests.

Xi said the two countries had maintained frequent high-level exchanges and cooperation in all areas was fruitful.

"China would like to be a Cambodia's everlasting good neighbor, friend, brother and partner," he said.

Liu Qi, a member of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC), met with Rasmey earlier Monday.

Liu, also secretary of the CPC Beijing Municipal Committee, told the delegation that to promote Sino-Cambodian friendly relations was in the fundamental interests of both nations.

China would work with Cambodia to push forward the comprehensive and cooperative partnership, Liu said.

Rasmey said the Funcinpec Party firmly adhered to the one-China policy, and would increase exchanges and cooperation with the CPC in a bid to advance Cambodia-China ties.

The delegation is in China at the invitation of the International Department of the CPC Central Committee. Wang Jiarui, head of the department, met with them separately.

Editor: Deng Shasha

Law Enforcement, Follow-Up – Sunday, 30.5.2009

Posted on 1 June 2009
The Mirror, Vol. 13, No. 614
http://cambodiamirror.wordpress.com/

One week ago, the following observation and question was shared here in the Mirror:

“Most societies work with the concept that individuals do not have the right to break the rules or to use violence that harms others – but the state has a monopoly to enforce laws, and it is assumed that this happens regularly, as a matter of fact.

Why is it that in Cambodia, law enforcement often does not happen just simply based on an existing law, but an additional appeal or even a threat is necessary?”


Now, after the Prime Minister had pointed to the fact that important elements of the Land Traffic Law of 2007 are not being implemented, an active campaign is under way to catch violators. There is police positioned in different parts of Phnom Penh, stopping motorcycles without side mirrors, and with drivers without helmets.

I saw on Saturday how two teams of policemen with walkie-talkies, some placed at a busy intersection, and the second group placed some distance along the road, identified and caught violators of the Land Traffic Law of 2007. I observed how they caught one after the other motorcycle driver. But I observed also that a big black Landcruiser without a license place passed by slowly, and nobody cared.

Probably only if the Prime Minister would issue an order to catch big cars without license plates the traffic police would act?

But does this really help?

Two weeks ago, on 20 May 2009, we had mirrored the following headline from Rasmei Kampuchea:

“Prime Minister Warns Officials to Stop Interventions in Traffic Accidents [to release their family members, relatives, or friends, without letting the law deal with them]”

But on 26 May 2009, there was the following headline in Deum Ampil:

“A Minor Traffic Accident Leads to the Shooting of Three Bullets”

What had happened?

A luxury car collided with a motorbike with a young man and a woman. Then the man who had driven the car, pulled out his gun and shot three times in the air, but the people who had been on the motorcycle fled. The Khmer newspaper did not provide much more information, and the accident did not seem to have made it into other Khmer papers.

The English Cambodia Daily reported more on 26 May 2009:

The son of a high ranking government official shot a handgun into the air three times after his car collided with a motorbike…, though police did not arrest the shooter, according to witnesses and police officers who requested anonymity. Multiple officers declined to provide the young man’s name due to the power and influence of his father. “We are in a lower position, so we dare not touch them,” one officer said. Seng Chanthon, deputy chief of traffic offenses of the city’s traffic police department, confirmed that an accident had occurred, but he would not say whether shots were fired nor give the name of the alleged government official’s son who allegedly opened fire… Police quickly surrounded the scene, according to witnesses and police officers, but the shooter and his passengers simply left in another SUV [Sport Utility Vehicle] that arrived. The driver of the car, which had its front wheel damaged, however, retrieved his vehicle in person at the Chankar Mon discrict police station on Monday morning… According to Pen Khun, deputy municipal police chief, no official reports by police or the public have been made regarding the crash and the shooting.”

So what? How to relate the two messages of 20 May and of 26 May 2009?

The traffic police is busy following the order to implement the Land Traffic Law of 2007 – catching often simple people who have not yet bought a helmet. The message of the Prime Minister of 20 May 2009 has obviously not yet reached the traffic police – not even the higher level officials whose names are quoted above.

So what will be the next step? Or will there be none for quite some time to come?

Please recommend us also to your colleagues and friends.

SKorea: North's nuke test threatens world peace

SKorean president blasts North at Southeast Asian summit, says nuke test threatens world peace

Hyung-Jin Kim, Associated Press Writer
On Monday June 1, 2009

SEOGWIPO, South Korea (AP) -- South Korean President Lee Myung-bak and Southeast Asian leaders criticized North Korea's nuclear test, calling it on Monday a "provocation" that "seriously" threatens world peace and stability.

The North's recent atomic test took center stage at the opening of the summit on South Korea's southern resort island of Jeju. The gathering was meant to focus on boosting growing economic cooperation and hail 20 years of relations between South Korea and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

During the summit, Lee and Southeast Asian leaders agreed that the nuclear test is a "provocation clearly violating" a U.N. Security Council resolution and an international disarmament deal banning such activities, according to Lee's office.

The leaders said the test "seriously undermines" world stability and urged the regime to quickly return to stalled disarmament talks involving the two Koreas, the U.S., China, Russia and Japan.

North Korea agreed in 2007 to disable its nuclear facilities in return for international energy aid and other benefits, but the negotiations have gone nowhere for months amid differences over how to verify the country's past nuclear activities.

North Korea's underground nuclear test and subsequent short-range missile tests last week have drawn a chorus of international criticism. Further escalating tension, the North was reportedly preparing to launch another long-range missile.

Lee also asked leaders of ASEAN countries, which all have diplomatic ties with both Koreas, to continue diplomatic efforts to get the North to return to the negotiating table.

Leaders at the summit plan to issue a statement Tuesday criticizing the test and calling for "swift, effective" measures from the U.N. Security Council, Lee Dong-kwan, Lee's spokesman said.

The statement will also urge the North to give up its nuclear program and return to stalled disarmament talks, he said.

Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong confirmed the plan, though he said he couldn't comment on its contents.

"We regret very much that North Korea" did "not respect" its agreement with the six parties as well as a Security Council resolution, he said in an interview with The Associated Press.

Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva also said earlier Monday that ASEAN countries want to help North Korea return to the talks and think a regional security gathering next month will be a good opportunity for dialogue.

The six parties -- as well as the 10 members of ASEAN, India, Pakistan, Australia, the European Union and others -- will meet at the ASEAN Regional Forum in July in Thailand, which holds ASEAN's rotating chair.

Abhisit told AP Television News that the six countries will "do what we can to make sure the talks resume."

Despite all of the attention paid to the North, economic cooperation was still on the agenda, with Lee and the ASEAN leaders agreeing to boost ties on many economic fronts in bilateral meetings.

The bloc consists of Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

AP Television News producer Jerry Harmer and Associated Press writer Kelly Olsen contributed to this report.

Cambodia celebrates International Children's Day

People's Daily Online
http://english.people.com.cn

June 01, 2009

Cambodian PM Hun Sen on Monday expressed his sincere support for activities that have been dealing with Children in order to promote their rights and necessary resolutions for them.

"We strongly support the international day for children and it is a meaningful for stopping the child labor," the premier said in his statement for the annual International Children's Day.

"We must try to promote their rights more such as taking care for all of them especially girls who have to chance to receive basic study for at least nine years and we have to avoid the exploitation of child labor," he said.

The premier also said that "we have to train them to help them having the abilities, work skill and knowledge to develop the country," and that "we have to improve the education quality and strengthen the measures to prevent all kinds of crimes against the children such as the child trafficking."

The children are the pillars for country, Hun Sen stressed, adding that the government has determined to increase the intervention on social affairs through increasing the national budget subsequently on education, health, agriculture, and rural development, as well as improving children's health and helping other victims, he stressed.

Source: Xinhua

Cambodia passes $2.8b public investment plan


(Xinhua)
2009-06-01

PHNOM PENH -- Cambodia's Council of Ministers approved a three-year plan drafted by the Ministry of Planning to spend US$2.8 billion on public investment from 2010 to the end of 2012, national media reported on Monday.

The plan related to 536 projects, 389 of which are direct investment with the remainder technical assistance projects, the Cambodia Daily quoted the council as saying.

Minister of Planning Chhay Than said earlier that the majority of the budget would be spent on infrastructure and irrigation systems to boost agricultural production.

The list of planned projects also includes the construction of major roadways, hospitals and schools, Than said.

The new three-year plan is part of the broader national development planning strategy 2006 to 2010, which was approved by the National Assembly in May 2006.

The entire state budget approved for 2009 totals approximately US$1.9 billion, meaning that each year the proposed infrastructure projects would consume the equivalent of about half of the current national budget.

Cambodia debates merits of land sales

A farmer ploughs a paddy field at Somrong Tong district, Kampong Speu province, about 60km west of Phnom Penh. Chor Sokunthea / Reuters



Jared Ferrie, Foreign Correspondent
May 31. 2009

PHNOM PENH // At first glance, one could hardly ask for better circumstances for bilateral trade agreements: Cambodia is economically poor, but rich in farmland; Gulf states lack land to grow food, but have money to pay for it. So Cambodia has been signing deals with Kuwait and Qatar to help develop its agricultural sector.

Cambodian officials, however, refuse to disclose details of the agreements, which are worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Such secrecy has triggered warnings that foreign investors could find themselves embroiled in violent land disputes, which have plagued Cambodia in recent years.

Those concerns were raised recently by the UN’s committee on economic, social and cultural rights. Committee experts asked Cambodia’s representative, Sun Suon, “whether everything, including companies, land rights, could be bought; whether a rice concession made to Kuwait could have negative effects”, according to a May 12 release.

Mr Suon said Cambodia “wished to develop its rice exports and therefore welcomed not just Kuwait, but all countries who wished to invest in agriculture”.

Although he said Cambodia’s justice system “had room to improve”, he said the country operated within a legal framework to protect its citizens.

The UN was not overly reassured. Its conclusions, released on May 22, noted: “The committee was gravely concerned that since the year 2000, over 100,000 people were evicted in Phnom Penh alone.”

Opposition politicians and non-governmental organisations are concerned that agricultural agreements could follow the same pattern of evictions as deals involving such sectors as property development, forestry and mining.

“Nobody has much information on this deal or many other similar deals that the Cambodian government makes with foreign investors,” said David Pred, Cambodia director of Bridges Across Borders, which is involved in land rights issues. “Very often, affected communities are not made aware that their land has been granted as a concession until the bulldozers turn up.”

Son Chhay, an opposition MP, predicted that the implementation of the agricultural agreements would lead to violence.

“When the time comes, no doubt we will see that the armed forces will be sent to break down houses and shoot people, as they have in the past, to force them off the land,” said Mr Chhay, of the Sam Rainsy Party.

Until September, Mr Chhay chaired the parliamentary commission on foreign affairs and international co-operation, which he said was involved in negotiating deals with Kuwait and Qatar. But even so, he could not obtain copies of documents outlining the agreements. He claimed his deputy chairman, a member of the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP), went over his head, attending meetings from which he was excluded.

Un Ning, the former deputy chairman, denied he had any information about agreements made between Cambodia and Gulf states. “I haven’t dealt with this affair. I was not involved in talking about this.”

Cheang Vun, who replaced Mr Chhay as head of the commission, said: “I cannot help you with that.”

Long Visalo, a secretary of state for the ministry of foreign affairs and international co-operation, also refused to discuss the agreements. “I have no duty to talk to you,” he said when contacted by phone.

Mr Chhang said a culture of silence has infected Cambodian politics since a 1997 coup led by Hun Sen, the prime minister, which consolidated CPP power and marginalised opposition parties.

This lack of transparency allows ruling elites to enrich themselves by selling off the country’s natural resources, he said.

The government has made some information regarding the dollar value of deals with Gulf states public: Qatar intends to invest US$200 million (Dh734m) “in rice farmland” as well as provide a loan for irrigation systems, according to a speech given last year by Mr Sen.

After returning from an official visit to Kuwait on Jan 16, Cambodia’s minister of foreign affairs, Hor Namhong, told reporters the countries signed a memorandum of understanding, with Kuwait agreeing to finance a $350,000 irrigation project that would cover 130,000 hectares of rice fields.

But the government has not divulged what Kuwait or Qatar will receive in return. Critics say the devil is in the details.

Mr Chhay and others suspect Qatari and Kuwaiti companies will receive land concessions of 99 years (it is illegal foreigners to own land), as other companies have.

Many agree that Cambodia’s agricultural sector needs an overhaul; its rice farmers produce lower yields than their counterparts in neighbouring Vietnam and Thailand. But Mr Chhay said it was up to the government to invest in infrastructure and aggressively seek export markets.

“You don’t need Middle-Eastern countries who have no expertise in rice farming to come here and take land from farmers. It’s ridiculous,” he said.

“There’s potential for this to be a win-win situation,” he added. “Farmers should sell rice to the government and the government should sell rice to Kuwait.”

An April report by the Washington-based International Food Policy Research Institute advised developing countries to find investors willing to work with small farmers. In return for such investments as credit and technical assistance, farmers would be contracted to sell their crops to the investor. According to the institute, land agreements similar to those in Cambodia have proliferated globally since the food crises of 2007-2008.

“Details about the status of the deals, the size of land purchased or leased, and the amount invested are still murky,” said the report entitled Land Grabbing by Foreign Investors in Developing Countries.

The institute urged developing countries to encourage foreign investment in agriculture, but to ensure that deals are made transparently and include measures to protect local residents.

The Kuwait Embassy in Bangkok, which covers Cambodia, did not respond to requests for comment.
jferrie@thenational.ae

Govt urged on bomb pact

Photo by: Tracey Shelton
Roger Hess of Golden West inspects an M413 containing 14 cluster bombs at a work site in Kampong Chhnang province


The Phnom Penh Post
http://www.phnompenhpost.com

Written by Robbie Corey-Boulet
Monday, 01 June 2009

Campaign pressures officials involved in shaping cluster munitions convention to sign agreement.

THE Cluster Munition Coalition (CMC) launched a campaign last week to pressure Cambodian officials to sign a convention prohibiting the use, stockpiling, production and transfer of cluster munitions, which Cambodia opted not to sign last December despite playing an active role in its creation.

The use of cluster munitions, or bombs that scatter explosive submunitions across a wide area, has in recent years provoked widespread international condemnation because of the weapons' tendency to strike civilian populations and because many submunitions often remain unexploded long after the conclusion of armed conflict, according to a report released Friday that coincided with the launch of the campaign.

The report, produced by the NGOs Human Rights Watch and Landmine Action, notes that 96 countries had signed the Convention on Cluster Munitions as of April.

The convention first became open for signing in December 2008, following nearly two years of deliberations that were part of the Oslo Process, a diplomatic initiative spearheaded by Norway.

Following the February 2007 launch of the Oslo Process, Cambodia became the first country to endorse the Oslo Declaration, a commitment to "conclude in 2008 a new convention prohibiting cluster munitions that cause unacceptable harm to civilians", according to the report.

Cambodia hosted a regional forum on cluster munitions in Phnom Penh in March 2007. On the eve of that meeting, Deputy Prime Minister Sok An said, "Cambodia supports this Oslo appeal to ban cluster munitions which cause unacceptable harm to civilians, and will become an active participant in the process".

Despite active involvement in the international conferences and formal negotiations that followed, Cambodia opted not to sign the convention at the signing conference last December, a move that several members of the mine action community described in recent interviews as something of a surprise.

"It came as a bit of a surprise because Cambodia had been such a strong, staunch supporter in the Oslo Process," said Hugo Hotte, humanitarian mine action program manager for Handicap International Belgium. "We were all expecting Cambodia would sign."

Melissa Sabatier, mine action project manager for the UN Development Programme, said, "Given the global leadership Cambodia demonstrated throughout the Oslo process, the last-minute change was surprising to UNDP as well as to the international community."

At the signing conference, which Cambodia attended as an observer, Cambodia reiterated its commitment to the convention but said it would need to study the "impacts of the convention on its security capability and national defence" in light of "recent security developments".

Sabatier said the government "has not formally communicated any change" in position since the signing conference.

Minister of Information Khieu Kanharith said Sunday that the government "needs more time" to assess the convention's potential effects on Cambodia.

He said the government had not yet signed the convention because "the military situation along the border [with Thailand] remains not good".

He also said officials wanted more time to determine which weapons fall under the ban.

"We do not yet fully understand this because there are many kinds of cluster bombs," he said, adding that the Ministry of Defence and government lawyers were looking into the specific terms of the convention.

The report states that Cambodia "is not believed to have used, produced or transferred cluster munitions", adding, "It is not known whether Cambodia has a stockpile of the weapon". Defence Ministry officials could not be reached for comment Sunday.

Khieu Kanharith added, "Anyway, we are not the country producing [cluster bombs], so it is not a problem if we are one or two years late".

As part of the campaign targeting government officials, individuals will be encouraged to send letters via the CMC website urging officials to sign the convention. A CMC press release notes that the campaign will also involve meetings with "leaders, parliamentarians and diplomats to hammer home the ban message". In addition to Cambodia, the campaign will focus on four other non-signatories: Brazil, Iraq, Nigeria and Serbia.

Decades-old munitions
The report notes that Cambodia, along with Vietnam and Laos, endured the "most extensive and most sustained" use of cluster bombs, which came at the hands of the US between 1965 and 1975. Laos has signed the convention, while Vietnam has not.

Approximately 80,000 cluster munitions, containing 26 million submunitions - or "bombies" - were dropped on Cambodia between 1969 and 1973, according to a 2007 analysis of US bombing data by Handicap International.

Sabatier said surveys indicate that 30 percent of the bombs failed to go off, "leaving about 7 million bombies unexploded in the ground today".

There were 35 accidents involving cluster bombs in Cambodia between January 2005 and January 2009, resulting in 78 casualties, according to an analysis of Cambodian Mine/UXO Victim Information System data performed by Handicap International Belgium's Phnom Penh office.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY SAM RITH

Bangkok probes payout claim

Photo by: SOVANN PHILONG
Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya, speaking to reporters during a reception at the Thai ambassador's residence Thursday.


The Phnom Penh Post
http://www.phnompenhpost.com/

Written by Sebastian Stragio and Chaeg Sokha
Monday, 01 June 2009

Thai FM says Thailand investigating Cambodian compensation demands following the destruction of market in border clashes.

THE Thai government is in the process of investigating Cambodian requests for compensation following recent border skirmishes near Preah Vihear temple, according to Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya.

"I have already received the diplomatic notice from Cambodia and ordered involved institutions to investigate on this issue," he told reporters at the Thai ambassador's residence Thursday.

On May 11, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs sent a diplomatic note to Thailand demanding US$2.1 million in compensation for the market near Preah Vihear temple, destroyed when clashes broke out on April 3. The government blames Thai rocket fire for the blaze, which engulfed 264 stalls.

Previously, Kasit was quoted in quoted by the Bangkok-based newspaper The Nation as rejecting the Cambodian claims, arguing the buildings sat on Thai territory and were destroyed in a legitimate military engagement.

But he indicated Thursday that the Thais would reassess the issue.

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...WE WOULD LIKE TO FORGE AND INTENSIFY BILATERAL COOPERATION IN EVERY WAY.
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"First we have to look at the market, where it is situated, and the damage ... caused from the gunfire between Cambodian and Thai soldiers," he said.

But Moeung Sonn, president of the Khmer Civilisation Foundation, a local NGO that has lobbied for compensation from the Thai government, said that more than 300 Cambodians had lost their homes and livelihoods, regardless of where the market was situated.

"We have demanded damage compensation. We aren't talking about where the market was situated, but are focusing on the properties destroyed by the Thai soldiers," he said Sunday.

In a May 6 report on the border incident, the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights argued that the Thai action served no reasonable military function and that senior Thai leaders could be guilty of violating international law.

Phay Siphan, spokesman for the Council of Ministers, said Kasit's announcement was welcome since the country had a basic obligation to investigate the Cambodian claims, but did not comment further.

"No one can get away from their obligations under international law," he said.

In response to suggestions that domestic political turbulence had complicated Thai stances on border issues, Kasit said Bangkok was serious about resolving border conflicts, which would move forward on a "technical" basis free from political interference.

"[W]e have proven to the Thai public and also to the international community - especially to the neighbouring countries - that we are a serious government and that we would like to forge and intensify bilateral cooperation in every way," he said.

"I would like my Cambodian friends to rest assured [about] the sense of purpose and seriousness on our part to push the relationship forward."

Monitors call for amendments to Election Law after council poll

Photo by: HENG CHIVOAN \A commune councilor casts her vote in Phnom Penh during the May 17 provincial, district and municipal council election.

The Phnom Penh Post
http://www.phnompenhpost.com/

Written by Vong Sokheng
Monday, 01 June 2009

Observers say current laws blur line between party membership and service to the state.

CIVIL society groups urged the government to amend several articles of the Kingdom's 2008 Election Law, which currently allows political parties to remove elected officials if they resign or are expelled from their parties.

"In a strong democratic society, lawmakers and councilors must have the independent right to perform their job and take responsibility," Koul Panha, executive director of local election monitor Comfrel, said Sunday.

"I hope that the government, the lawmakers and politicians will consider amending the law in order to reduce conflicts during election periods."

Comfrel, along with the Cambodian Human Rights Action Committee (CHRAC), and fellow monitoring group Nicfec, issued a joint statement May 28 calling on the ruling Cambodian People's Party, Sam Rainsy Party, Norodom Ranariddh Party and Funcinpec to remove an article of the law stating that the loss of party membership can lead to termination from an elected position.

Under current rules, councilors and politicians are elected as representatives of their parties and cannot retain their position if they lose party membership.

CHRAC Chairman Sok Sam Oeun said certain articles of the law should be removed to allow elected officials - from the Senate and National Assembly down to the commune councils - to fulfill their duties for their full elected term.

With a few amendments, Sok Sam Oeun said, elected officers "would not be under threat of being removed from their position by their political party".

Thun Saray, president of local rights group Adhoc, said political influence on state institutions and the public administration was still pervasive, owing to the fact that there is no clear division between duties in state institutions and membership in political parties.

"The removal of members of the Senate, members of parliament or commune councilors based on party membership is not a democratic principle," he said.

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LAWMAKERS AND COUNCILORS MUST HAVE THE INDEPENDENT RIGHT TO PERFORM THEIR JOB.
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The statement also called for the strengthening of the articles outlawing vote-buying and the forced swearing of oaths by party members, as well as appealing for direct elections to the Senate and the provincial, district and municipal councils, elected for the first time on May 17. Both elections are currently only open to the Kingdom's 11,353 commune councilors.

SRP spokesman Yim Sovann said the party supported the immediate amendment of the law, which would pave the way for the true independence of the executive and legislative branches of government.

"I support the initiatives suggested by civil society appealing for an amendment of these laws," he said.

The suggestions came after at least nine SRP commune councilors were removed after it was claimed they accepted bribes to vote for the CPP during the May 17 council elections, with another 300 facing removal or suspension from their posts on similar suspicions.

Civil society groups also expressed concerns after it emerged that SRP councilors were required to swear loyalty oaths prior to the election.

The CPP won 2,551 of the total 3,235 seats at the poll, with the SRP receiving 579, Funcinpec 61 and the NRP just 44.

Senior CPP lawmaker Cheam Yeap and Minister of Information Khieu Kanharith could not be reached for comment Sunday.

Disability law passed


Written by Sam Rith
Monday, 01 June 2009

The National Assembly on Friday voted to adopt a law promoting the rights of the disabled more than a decade after NGOs first began pushing for the legislation.

Amendments proposed by opposition lawmakers were rejected during the session, leading 19 Sam Rainsy Party and three Human Rights Party lawmakers to walk out before casting their votes. The bill was approved by a unanimous vote of 75 lawmakers from the Cambodian People's Party, the Norodom Ranariddh Party and Funcinpec.

An SRP statement issued Friday said the rejected amendments included "measures to protect women and children with disabilities from violence and exploitation", issues the party claims the approved law fails to address sufficiently.

Sem Sokha, a secretary of state at the Ministry of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation, said the law includes a range of provisions designed to prevent discrimination against disabled people and to ensure their access to health care, education and other services.

He said NGOs first began advocating for such a law in 1996 and that his ministry first established a working group to draft the law in 2001. But before this, officials needed to assess the conditions facing Cambodia's disabled population, he said, adding that they also wanted to solicit feedback from foreign experts and NGO partners.

He dismissed opposition claims that the law was weak, saying, "We are proud that the National Assembly passed the law. This law is useful for disabled people."

Spotlight on corruption at concert


Written by Khuon Leakhana
Monday, 01 June 2009

Clean Hand organisers push for Anti-corruption Law.

THE CLEAN Hand Concert, an event funded by USAID and organised by PACT Cambodia to encourage speedy passage of the Anti-corruption Law, drew 50,000 people to Olympic Stadium Saturday night, organisers said.

The concert, which featured music, a fashion show and comedic performances, marked the one-year anniversary of a campaign that collected more than 1 million thumbprints and signatures demanding the law's passage.

"[The concert] was a crucial message to the people and to the government to speed up the drafting of the Anti-corruption Law," Huort Ratanak, senior programme officer at PACT Cambodia, told the Post on Sunday.

Huort Ratanak said the concert had two purposes: to encourage passage of the law and to educate concertgoers "about the bad effects of corruption in general".

Civil society organisations such as PACT have long been working to promote anti-corruption legislation in Cambodia.

Cheam Yeap, a senior lawmaker for the Cambodian People's Party, told the Post last week that the law as well as the Criminal Code would not be submitted to the National Assembly before the end of the year.

He said he had recently been told that drafts of both laws were "nearly complete".

Looking ahead, Huort Ratanak acknowledged that several substantial steps needed to be taken before the Anti-corruption Law could be passed - notably, approval of the Criminal Code.

"We want the Criminal Code to be approved soon because the government has said that the Anti-corruption Law could be approved only after the Criminal Code is approved," she said.

Phay Siphan, spokesman for the Council of Ministers, said he was pleased that the concert had been a success.

"I am happy to hear that many people understand the problem of corruption because this will encourage them to join forces to eliminate corruption," he said.

Dying coconut crops in B'bang have farmers, officials fearing the worst

Photo by: TRACEY SHELTON
Healthy coconuts on sale in Phnom Penh this week. Farmers in Battambang say a disease is afflicting their palm trees and threatening their livelihoods, as officials say they are investigating the possibility of a spreading coconut beetle infestation.



The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Thet Sambath
Monday, 01 June 2009

Concern spreads over possible coconut beetle infestation, which devastated crops in 2004.

Samlot District, Battambang

FARMERS across Battambang province say their livelihoods are in peril as thousands of coconut trees and their valuable crop perish and fears spread of a possible infestation of Brontispa longissima - or coconut beetles - which wrought havoc on Cambodia's coconut crops five years ago, provincial officials say.

Khiev Moung has been a coconut farmer for years, but when the leaves of his palms turned red and began to die a few weeks ago, he lost confidence in his trade - the only source of income for his family.

"I don't know why my coconut trees are dying. They are dead, and I have noticed that many coconut trees in other places are also dead, and others look like they're going to die," he said at his farm in Samlot district, Battambang province.

Provincial officials say problems with coconut crops in Samlot could be linked to the presence of coconut beetles in adjacent areas.

"We believe coconut trees are dying because of coconut beetles," said Cheam Chan Saphon, director of Battambang province's Agriculture Department, adding that the department was sending people to investigate the situation.

"The [beetles] are killing coconut trees and other plants in this province," he said, adding that "officials are currently working with farmers in Banan district to use chemical insecticide to kill these beetles.... We are not sure if it is happening in [Samlot district], but we will send officials to investigate it and use chemicals to kill them if need be."

Khiev Moung, who owns over 20 coconut trees, said he would likely face difficulty supporting his family if the remaining palms aren't saved.

"[Coconuts] are a good crop to sell and support my family with. If they are not all saved soon, I will lose a lot of money," he said.

Cheam Chan Saphon said the pest, which feeds off young leaves and damages seedlings as well as mature palms, was responsible for killing more than 18,000 trees in Mondulkiri province in 2004. Since then, he adds, they have spread to other places in Cambodia.

"When the fruit of the trees die, it affects the farmer's feelings and discourages them to plant coconuts in the future," he said.

Many coconut farmers, such as Ly Buoy, who is Samlot district's police chief but who also owns more than 40 coconut trees, said Wednesday he believed the problem was spreading but had no idea why.

"I don't know the cause.... We are all wondering because it's happening everywhere here," said Ly Buoy. "We have no agricultural officials to check this problem. Please tell us what measures we can take to prevent the trees from dying."

Worse still, the problem appears to be spreading, he said. "Some of the trees have died and others look like they're going to die soon."

So Khanrithykun, deputy director general of the ministry's General Directorate on Agriculture, said his officials were currently working to help farmers in Kampot and Takeo provinces to reduce cases in which the beetles have remained from the outbreak in 2004.

"I don't know whether coconut trees in Battambang province are being threatened by the coconut beetle or not, but we are looking into it," he said.

He said resources were concentrated on farmers in Kampot and Takeo province since the outbreak in 2004, as these were the only two provinces not to recover.

"We have educated people on ways to use other insects to kill [the beetles]. We do not ask them to use chemicals because it costs much more money," he said.

Kratie drug bust nets 4


Written by Chrann Chamroeun
Monday, 01 June 2009

POLICE raided two houses in Kratie province's Chhlong district last week in a joint operation that saw the arrest of four men suspected of producing and dealing drugs.

Kratie provincial police chief Chuong Seang Hak said Sunday that police had arrested the men for possession and possible production, adding they have been sent to Kratie provincial court.

The raid was organised by anti-drug officials from the Ministry of Interior and provincial police, he added.

The four suspects were identified as On Vallen, 46, the owner of Kratie's Vimean Sok guesthouse; Oeum Vuth, 22; Heang Ra, 40; and Sor Sophal, age unknown, all from Chhlong district.

Chemical fertiliser use widespread

Photo by: HENG CHIVOAN
Pol Soneth, 30, sprays imported chemical fertilisers on his family's farm in Kandal province in this file photo.

The Phnom Penh Post
http://www.phnompenhpost.com/

Written by Khuon Leakhana
Monday, 01 June 2009

New research points to prevalent use of imported chemical fertilisers by farmers in six provinces, a practice seen by officials as dangerous for farmers, consumers and farmland.

NEW research from the Cambodian Centre for the Study and Development in Agriculture (CEDAC) suggests that the use of chemical pesticides is widespread and that just 5 percent of rice farmers who routinely use pesticides on their crops would be willing to switch from chemical to natural fertilisers, a CEDAC official told the Post Thursday.

Keam Makarady, director of CEDAC's Environment and Health Program, said the research draws on interviews conducted in April and May with 300 farming families in six provinces, all of whom said they used chemical fertilisers on their rice.

He said the research underscored the need for the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries to closely regulate the import of chemical fertilisers.

CEDAC research indicates that in 2008, some 147 types of chemical fertilisers were available at markets in Cambodia, between 40 and 50 of which were considered harmful to farmers and consumers of the crops.

"At present, at least 30 companies are importing poisons into Cambodia, but we do not know how many of them are legal," Keam Makarady said.

Chemical complications
Keam Makarady said 51 percent of imported chemical pesticides come from Vietnam, 37 percent from Thailand, 4 percent from India and 1 percent from China.

Ministry of Agriculture guidelines stipulate that all chemical importers must translate instruction labels into Khmer to prevent misuse, but CEDAC estimates that as many as 90 percent of Cambodian farmers who use the chemicals may nonetheless have inadvertently poisoned themselves.

"The Ministry of Agriculture is concerned about the increasing use of chemical poisons among farmers in Cambodia," said a ministry official who requested anonymity because he was not authorised to speak to the press.

The official said the ministry had been trying to promote natural fertilisers through a combination of "model farm" projects and an educational campaign involving public forums and television and radio spots.

"We are trying to encourage farmers to use traditional poisons to get rid of insects," the official said.

Phin Rady, chief of water and soil quality management in the Environment Ministry's Department of Pollution Control, said he believes "the use of poisons on paddy fields badly affects the environment" as well as the health of farmers.

"When it rains, the poisons will flow with the rain into irrigation systems and then into the rivers," he said. "Consequently, aquatic creatures and people who drink water from the rivers will get poisoned."

He added: "Moreover, too much use of poison may soon make the land become less and less fertile."

Mondulkiri police vet NGOs


Written by Sophak Chakrya
Monday, 01 June 2009

LOCAL and international NGOs have accused Mondulkiri province authorities of blocking their research on the environmental impact of mineral investment by preventing them from speaking to minority people living in affected areas.

Em Sopheak, a legal officer from Community Legal Education Centre, said that his organisation, along with other NGOs, had received permission from the provincial governor and authorities in Pech Chenda district's Krong Tes commune to conduct a two-week workshop from May 17-30 on the impact of mining operations in Mondulkiri.

But he said local police kept watch over researchers when they went to meet with people and collect the information about their livelihoods.
"The police warned that they would arrest us if we tried to meet and ask the people in this village about the impact of mineral investment on the environment," he said.

The Chinese High Land Mineral Co and Golden Metal, a firm from Vietnam, have been prospecting for minerals in the province, Em Sopheak said, bulldozing thousands of hectares and disrupting the traditional rotational farming practices of ethnic minority Phnong living in the area.

Sam Sarin, provincial coordinator of the rights group Adhoc, also said that police in Krong Tes commune "attempted to keep the people and NGOs in isolation from one another".

No permission
Yim Mak, Pech Chenda district police chief, said that the group of NGOs did not inform him or other police about their activities with the people in Krong Tes commune.

"We demanded that they present a provincial letter of permission, but they did not show it. We need to stop their activity because we are afraid about [the Phnong communities'] safety," he said.

But Mondulkiri Governor Pan Navan said he had pledged to allow the NGOs to conduct workshops on the environmental impact of mineral investment. "We welcome all the NGOs who want to improve our people," he said.

Perfect on points

Photo by: TRACEY SHELTON


Written by Tracey Shelton
Monday, 01 June 2009

Lucie Rakosnikova and Michal Krcmar of the Czech Republic perform for King Norodom Sihamoni at Chaktomuk Theatre Thursday night. The concert, in honour of the King's birthday, included ballet, opera, classical music and the cast's rendition of "Happy Birthday", to which the King gave a standing ovation.

Talking about a green future

Photo by: TRACEY SHELTON
Environment week aims to encourage local Cambodians to look after the environment, not trash it like this river in Siem Reap.




The Phnom Penh Post
http://www.phnompenhpost.com/

Written by Bennett Murray
Monday, 01 June 2009

Cambodia’s second annual Environment Week features a range of events designed to encourage Cambodians to look after the world around them

French NGO GERES, the French embassy and the French development agency AFD are coordinating Cambodia's second Environment Week, which runs today to Sunday.

The week is to feature film screenings at the Institute of Technology, the French Cultural Centre (CCF), Meta House, a display at Wat Phnom and a three-day Eco-Festival at the park east of Wat Botum running from Friday to Tuesday.

"The idea is to have one week in the year where we talk about the environment," explained GERES Deputy Director Charlotte Nivollet. "Whoever has something to say about the environment, whoever has experience on how to address the main environmental issues that the human being is facing nowadays."

In particular, the coordinators hope to raise environmental awareness amongst the Cambodian population and to promote discussion amongst the country's main environmental actors.

The events at Wat Botum park are the centerpiece of Environment Week. Lasting for three days, it will feature a tent complete with the displays of NGOs that deal with the environment.

"They can show the general public what they are doing," explained Nivollet. "People can walk around and have a look and discuss with the organisers."

The festival will feature a stage where quizzes, role-plays and music acts will take place. "There are lots of songs going on from student groups," explained filmmaker and photographer Allan Michaud, who is organising the eco-festival. Additionally, there will be films shown each night from 6pm to 9:30pm.

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The obvious thing is to raise awareness ... rather than have Khmers rely on donors to ... babysit them.
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Local emphasis
According to Michaud, environmental awareness is low in Cambodia. "I think most of the problem in this country is that it just needs people to be aware. Be aware of their own personal problems and issues that they're bringing up."

Events such as Environment Week are intended to change these attitudes. "The obvious thing is to raise awareness and try to educate people, rather than have Khmers rely on donors to come in and NGOs to come in to look after them and babysit them. They need to be the ones looking at their environment and trying to take care of it."

Michaud hopes to get Cambodia's urban population interested in environmental issues in particular. "My personal aim with doing the big event in Wat Botum park is that we need to target the Phnom Penh audience. They're the ones who actually have some power in the country," he said.

"We have all the rural people understanding about their local problems, but if you can get the urban people to understand, particularly the students ... they can take the steps in the future."

Building on success
Environment Week originated in 2007 when the French Cultural Centre featured a three-day film festival featuring movies dealing with environmental issues. "It was quite a small event, but it was very successful," Michaud said.

Nivollet said the event was then expanded the following year by participants who wanted to do "something bigger" on the environment. "We started by just meeting together and thinking what we could do bigger than all these screenings, and we were thinking of something to reach as many people as possible," she said.

With the French embassy taking the lead initiative, the film festival was expanded last September into the first Environment Week with the collaboration of GERES and AFD.

"There were a lot of seminars and discussions which aimed at specifically targeted groups of people," said Michaud, adding that this year's event aimed to be much more public.

Nivollet stressed that GERES, the French embassy and AFD are coordinating the events, but not organising them. "We are here to facilitate the thing and to communicate on the events, but we are not organising the events," she said.

"It will be a success only if the participants want it to be a success."

ADB calls for curb on transport emissions in developing countries


Written by Nathan Green
Monday, 01 June 2009

WITHOUT immediate action, the transport sectors of developing countries will account for the overwhelming share of increased carbon dioxide emissions by 2030, according to a new declaration by the Asian Development Bank (ADB).

While developed countries are still responsible for the largest share of greenhouse gas emissions from the transport sector, emissions from developing countries - particularly in Asia - are growing rapidly.

Transport-related carbon dioxide emissions are expected to increase 57 percent from 2005 to 2030, with transport sectors in developing countries expected to contribute about 80 percent of this increase, the Bellagio Declaration on Transportation and Climate Change said.

Most GHG emissions in the transport sector and virtually all the expected growth in emissions come from private cars and trucks.

Key principles
The declaration, which outlines how the transport sectors in developing countries can reduce future greenhouse gas emissions, is the result of a three-day conference in Bellagio, Italy, last month. It calls on governments and the transport industry to embrace a range of key principles.

These include reducing the need for travel through better integration of land use and transport; more effective use of carbon finance mechanisms to fund sustainable transport policies; and recognition of the benefits of low-carbon transport in reducing the local air pollution, noise, congestion and road accidents that define many urban areas.

"The Bellagio Meeting will greatly help ADB to develop its Sustainable Transport Initiative, which aims to help Asian countries change their transport investment patterns and secure a low-carbon, sustainable transport future," WooChong Um, Director of ADB's Energy, Transport and Water Division said in a media statement.

The Bellagio meeting, which was held in mid-May, was organised by the ADB and the Clean Air Institute, and supported by the Rockefeller Foundation. It also helped build consensus on how transport sector policies must be reflected in the upcoming UN Climate Change discussions in Copenhagen in December, the media statement said.

Government inaction worsens climate threat

Photo by: Tracey Shelton
Around 85 percent of Cambodians depend on the land, putting them very much in harm’s way when it comes to climate change.

The Phnom Penh Post
http://www.phnompenhpost.com/

Written by Eleanor Ainge Roy
Monday, 01 June 2009

THE threat of climate change is gradually making its way to the top of policymakers agenda's worldwide, but in Cambodia such action is proving slower to catch on.

But with 85 percent of Cambodia's 14 million people living in rural areas and largely relying on the land for their survival, according to United Nations estimates, the issue could soon be a critical one.

What will these people do if the land begins to revolt?
GERES, an environmental NGO, released a climate change awareness report in March that showed that 85 percent of Cambodian people are already beginning to see the effects of climate change.

The report cited "unprecedented occurrences of pests, unseasonable rains, droughts and floods" in many areas of Cambodia and said these exacerbated the difficulties faced by people reliant on agricultural systems for their livelihood.

"People speak of the increase in temperature, the irregularity of the wet and dry season, and the growing prevalence of floods and droughts," said Nop Polin, national climate change awareness coordinator in GERES's Climate Change Unit.

"However, one of the main challenges in the battle against climate change in Cambodia is that most people don't know why these changes are occurring. They don't understand the term climate change or any of the causes - such as smoke and deforestation. Without understanding the scientific links they don't care about things like cutting down the forest."

According to the report, 61 percent of people interviewed stated they were "very concerned" about climate change, and 97 percent of those that had heard of climate change said they believed they would be affected.

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The most important thing is for people to start taking individual responsibility by choosing to change.
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However as an indication of the low level of detailed knowledge concerning climate change, most respondents to the GERES survey viewed climate change as a localised issue.

Ing Heng, deputy dean of the faculty of science at the Royal University of Phnom Penh, has seen firsthand the changes documented in the GERES report. "The changes taking place day-to-day are not very noticeable," he said.

"But if we look back 20 or 30 years, old people will tell you the weather was different then. Young people today don't appreciate the difference because they don't know what it used to be like here."

Worse to come
But these changes being noted across the land are just the beginning.
According to the UN Development Programme's Environmental and Energy Team Leader Lay Khim, if Cambodia fails to respond swiftly to the threat of climate change it faces the possibility of sea level rises of 20 to 60 centimetres by the end of the century, an increase in malaria and other waterborne diseases, acute water shortages and a shortage of clean water.

Lay Khim is adamant that the Cambodian government must start preparing more long-term strategies to deal with the looming threat of climate change and prioritise communication with development agencies and NGOs. Climate change needs to be addressed as a development issue, he said, and co-operation between government departments - such as health, environment and agricultural - is crucial.

"We need to get serious about long-term policy planning," he said. "Scientists are aware of the threat but we don't yet know how big it is, and it's very important to start preparing the mindset of the population today, and also investigating investment options in technology, in information, in capacity building to prepare communities for the changes that will come."

Government action
The Ministry of Environment established its own climate change unit in 2006, but many experts are concerned that with only seven full-time employees its capacity is too limited.

Nop Polin was also concerned the unit was not focused enough on awareness raising and was worried about political interference in environmental concerns.

"Deforestation is one of our major concerns but it is very hard to talk about it - even people from the Ministry of Environment find it hard to talk about - because it involves high-ranked people doing such things," he said.

"In our reports we just recommend re-forestation - instead of explicitly criticising deforestation."
Ing Heng criticises the climate change unit for being ‘all talk, no action' though he concedes that their resources are too limited to do any substantial good.

Lay Khim called for the unit to expand and better support the development partners starting to take an interest in Cambodia's environmental issues and provide technical support to the industrial sectors to integrate climate change policies into their business plans.

"I envision over the next two to three years there will be more and more demands on this office to provide more co-ordination, better information sharing and better support of development partners," he said. "At its current capacity it will not be able to provide these services."

In the face of growing acknowledgement of the threat of climate change, NGOs working in the sector are finding there skills and knowledge in demand.

For instance, GERES has lately had requests for carbon audits from Phnom Penh hospitality business the FCC, the British Embassy and UNDP. It has also had over 100 applicants apply for a training course on climate change it will run in July.

But for Ing Heng, a lack of money to implement the programs required to address the impacts of global warming means it is ultimately down to individuals to make the changes needed for their own families and communities.

"Cambodia is a poor country and it doesn't have much money to spend on climate change," he said.

"Rural people care for the forests, they care for the land, but at the moment they are too poor to look after it properly. People in the cities have a high knowledge of climate change - but they are not doing anything.

"The most important thing is for people to start taking individual responsibility by choosing to change."

Cambodia trip can be carbon heavy for careless travellers


Written by Bennett Murray
Monday, 01 June 2009

Buying locally is one way for tourists to reduce carbon footprint, an an oportunity exists for businesses looking to cash in on conscience

Cambodia's level of carbon emissions are relatively small at less than 2 tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) per capita per year, but as the tourism industry grows, so does the rate of carbon emissions.

According to GERES Climate Change Unit Manager Minh Cuong Le Quan, tourism directly affects climate change on two accounts. "One is direct emissions from the travel of the tourists," he said, with air travel making a particularly high contribution.

According to the Lonely Planet, a couple flying from London to New York adds 2.68 tonnes of CO2 to their carbon footprint, or over a quarter of the average UK household's yearly emissions.

As tourists visit restaurants and hotels, and travel between them, they also add to domestic consumption of fossil fuels, further adding to Cambodia's total greenhouse gas emissions, Le Quan said.

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The first thing to do is take an honest look at one’s own practices.
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But there are also additional, more subtle ways that tourism increases Cambodia's energy consumption, he added, as tourists maintain their first world, high-consumption lifestyles.

"People tend to take showers the same way and take baths the same way they would in the West or Northeast Asia," Le Quan offered as an example.

Steps to reduce footprints
Le Quan suggested ways that tourists can lessen their carbon footprint. "The first thing to do is take an honest look at one's own practices," he said. "This begins by using the least-polluting modes of transportation."

According to Le Quan, economy class seats are two times less polluting than business class seats on airlines, and three times less polluting than first class.

He also recommended staying in "environment friendly" hotels, though recognised this could be difficult in Camboida due to an absence of any specific "climate friendly" labels.

However, a number of hotels and restaurants have already gone beyond the usual eco-friendly standards, he said, including properties owned by the FABS Group and the Foreign Correspondents Club in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap.

It is also more environmentally friendly to buy Cambodian-made products and crafts instead of imports, and tourists can also give money to carbon offset programs, which GERES is involved with.

"The idea is good," said Le Quan, but added that potential donors look carefully at the organisations they are giving money to, pointing out that many are for-profit businesses.

Getting off easy
Some critics of carbon offsetting have compared such donations to the payment for papal pardons.

"This is a valid criticism," Le Quan said. "If you just keep going your own way and just offset because you've got money to spend on it and want to feel good about it, that's a pardon."

Instead, he suggests reducing consumption before paying for offsets.

To Le Quan, adopting climate friendly practices is an opportunity for businesses. "It's an opportunity to the structure of companies to answer to the new economy which is emerging this century, which is socially and environmentally responsible," he said.

Walking a fine line in ecotourism

Cycling in the Chambok Community Based Ecotourism Site. Courtesy Mlup Baitong

Written by Stephanie Mee
Monday, 01 June 2009

While income generated by ecotourism has the potential to help preserve wilderness areas and sustain villages, not all 'ecotourism' businesses are living up to their responsibilities

With more than 43,000 square kilometres of protected forests, national parks, wildlife sanctuaries and marine ecosystems, Cambodia has tremendous opportunities for ecotourism.

While ecotourism ventures are on the rise across the Kingdom, the line between what helps and what harms the environment - and the definition of ecotourism itself - is blurry.

For example, an environmental impact assessment report on a company given a land concession in Kandal province to build an ecotourism site concluded the work would pollute and destroy the habitats of both humans and animals.

The line is further blurred with authorised constructions in protected areas and the forcible displacement of locals to create room for tourism ventures which claim to be eco-friendly.

So how does one differentiate between legitimate ecotourism and tourism for mere economic gain?

In 1990, the International Ecotourism Society defined ecotourism as "responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the well-being of local people".

In principle, ecotourism has minimal environmental impact, uses recycling and efficient sources of energy, conserves water and wildlife, and promotes sustainability within local communities. It requires the informed consent of local communities to use their land or territory, respects local culture, creates jobs for local people and benefits local economies.

According to Janet Newman, owner of the eco-friendly Rainbow Lodge in Koh Kong province, there are two main types of ecotourism in Cambodia: community based ecotourism (CBET) and private sector ecotourism.

In 1997, CBET was defined as tourism that takes environmental, social and cultural sustainability into account, she said.

"It is managed and owned by the community, for the community, with the purpose of enabling visitors to increase their awareness and learn about the community and local ways of life," Newman said. She said private sector ecotourism should try to emulate this definition.

A particularly good example of CBET in Cambodia is a site next to Kirirom National Park in Kampong Speu province.

The Chambok Community Based Ecotourism Site was created in 2001 by Mlup Baitong, a local Cambodian NGO devoted to environmental education and natural resource management, and a member of the Cambodia CBET Network.

The site boasts guided nature trails to a 40-metre-high waterfall, bird watching, traditional oxcart rides and homestays with local villagers. All revenues stay in the community and are used in part to conserve the forest.
View from hut at Rainbow Lodge, Koh Kong. STEPHANIE MEE

Project Coordinator Prak Thearith said before 2001 there was a lot of illegal hunting and logging in the area and the people were poor.

"We wanted to provide the villagers with income and encourage them not to destroy the environment," Prak Thearith said.

"For example, using ox-carts and drivers to transport tourists instead of illegal timber, or training hunters to be nature guides instead of hunting rare animals."

Today, income in the village has increased, literacy rates are up, infrastructure has improved, and the villagers are almost entirely self-sufficient. And villagers have an incentive to preserve the forest rather than deplete it.

Private sector tourism in Cambodia is also on the rise, notably with the huge successes of Rainbow Lodge in Koh Kong province and Yaklom Hill Lodge in Ratanakkiri province.

"I would say the potential for this kind of tourism market in Cambodia is very high, considering the abundant resources," said Sompong Sritatera, manager of Yaklom Hill Lodge.

But he warns many people abuse the word ecotourism to promote their business, with little or no background knowledge.

"For example, some people think that when you come to Ratanakiri, anything you have done here is ‘ecotourism'," he said. "Same for some business owners that market their place as offering ecotourism activities without even knowing the basics of it."



The mangrove walkway at Peam Krasop Wildlife Sanctuary, Koh Kong. STEPHANIE MEE

Both Sompong Sritatera and Newman agreed that while ecotourism has the potential to grow in Cambodia, it will be difficult to implement properly unless people take steps to preserve the environment and local cultures rather than simply profit from Cambodia's natural resources.

"I do believe that there is a certain amount of will on behalf of the government to endorse and embrace ecotourism," said Newman.

"Good examples of this are the mangrove walkway at Peam Krasop wildlife sanctuary and the ranger stations at Thma Bang and Chipat, all in Koh Kong province.

"However, many of these projects have been set up by organisations like Wildlife Alliance and Conservation International."

Newman said the future of successful ecotourism in Cambodia lay in education and awareness.

"We must ensure that Khmer people themselves understand the importance of such projects and see that some benefit will be passed on to them and their community," she said.

"This comes from education, not only of those in the field, but also education at an early stage at schools of the importance of the forests and rivers.

"Only if we can persuade the government and the people that there is a benefit to them in environmental and wildlife preservation will it ever happen.

"Therefore, the more people that insist on and support eco-friendly ventures, the more this message will filter through."

Government efforts to say forest coverage up slammed as greenwash by global NGO

Photo by: TRACEY SHELTON
This forest on the border of Virachey National Park has just been cleared in this file photo taken earlier this year.


FOREST coverage
TOTAL FOREST:


1990 – 12,946,000 ha
2000 – 11,541,000 ha
2005 – 10,447,000 ha

PRIMARY FOREST:

1990 – 766,000 ha
2000 – 456,000 ha
2005 – 322,000 ha
SOURCE: FAO

The Phnom Penh Post
http://www.phnompenhpost.com/

Written by Bennett Murray
Monday, 01 June 2009

Other natural resources also at risk of exploitation as Cambodia’s forests are decimated

RECENT government claims that Cambodia is nearing its Millennium Development Goal of maintaining 60 percent of forest coverage by 2010 have been dismissed by environmental groups concerned over uncontrolled exploitation of the precious resource.

According to the Ministry of Agriculture's annual report released in April, more than 6 million trees were planted in Cambodia between 2004 and 2008, and Forestry Administration Director Ty Sokhun said that number is set to increase.

"We will grow and distribute 10 million trees to people throughout the country ... and encourage tree planting on 10,000 hectares of land," he told the Post in April.

UK-based NGO Global Witness, a frequent critic of the the Cambodian government over its environmental record, hotly contests the claim.

"Investigative work by Global Witness over the last decade has revealed widespread illegal exploitation of natural resources in Cambodia and a worrying lack of transparency at the highest levels," Global Witness campaigner Eleanor Nichol said in an email.

In 2007, Global Witness published a report - "Cambodia's Family Tree" - that exposed top-level corruption in resource harvesting and was subsequently banned in Cambodia.

It alleged that Cambodia's logging industry is heavily intertwined with the government via family and other personal connections and recommended that Cambodia's judicial authorities investigate the activities of Ty Sokhun and Chan Sarun, minister of agriculture, forestry and fisheries. "Cambodia's most powerful logging syndicate is led by relatives of Prime Minister Hun Sen and other senior officials," the report said.

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The same political elite who squandered the country’s timber resources are now ... managing its mineral and petroleum wealth.
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A recent report by the UN Food and Agricultural Organisation also highlights the gap between government claims and the reality in the country's forests. According to the report, Cambodia's primary tropical forest coverage fell 29 percent between 2000 and 2005 from 456,000 to 322,000 hectares. In 1990, Cambodia had 766,000 hectares of primary forest, the report said.

Global Witness said the real losses may be higher, as artificial plantations may sometimes be counted as natural forests in surveys. "Plantations are not natural and have few if any of the ecosystem benefits provided by natural forests," Nichol said.

"They are, in effect, agricultural crops. The inclusion of plantations in forest cover assessments can mask a decline in natural forest cover if plantations are on the increase."

Hit from both ends
But not all of Cambodia's deforestation is driven by powerful Cambodians, said Mathieu Van Rijn, the manager of the forestry unit at GERES, a French environmental NGO.

Part of the problem was rural farmers who make and sell charcoal in order to supplement their incomes during the dry season, he said. "You have to think about people who have almost no income during a certain period of time [each] year," he said, adding that GERES was working in rural areas to encourage sustainable charcoal production.

To do so, GERES has encouraged Cambodians to use the Yoshimuru Kiln to produce charcoal, which requires 30 percent less wood than traditional kilns, and to cook using the new Lao stove, which burns up to 22 percent less fuel than traditional stoves.

"You try to lower demand, and on the other side you try to supply what is needed in the new situation," Van Rijn said.

As GERES helps Cambodians to reduce their consumption of wood, Global Witness (which has been barred from Cambodia since 2005) continues to maintain that the greatest threat to Cambodian forests lies in government sanctioned, illegal logging schemes and other illegal land concessions.

But according to its February report "Country For Sale", the problem of corruption in allocating natural resource concessions isn't limited to timber. "The same political elite who squandered the country's timber resources are now responsible for managing its mineral and petroleum wealth," the report said.

"Like high-value timber, these resources are a one-off opportunity. Once they are gone, they are gone forever."

At least six out of 23 protected areas in Cambodia had some form of mining activity as of February 2009, Global Witness said. One, Mondulkiri province, has had 282,700 hectares, or 21 percent its protected area, allocated to mining concessions.

The Cambodian embassy in the UK issued a press release in response to the report accusing Global Witness of "pursuing a malicious campaign to try and discredit the country and its leaders" and insisted that the government was handling its resources responsibly.

"The Government is working hard to establish a sound and comprehensive framework governing the extractive industries," it said. "These will reflect best practice and be based on the principles of transparency and accountability."

Given the government's track record, Nichol said action needed to be taken by donor governments. "If Cambodia's donors want the country's natural resources to be managed in a way which benefits the Cambodian people, then they must confront high-level corruption which underpins the sector," Nichol's said.

"At a minimum, they must link all non-humanitarian aid to reforms that will make the government more accountable to the country's citizens. They can start by insisting that a credible anti-corruption law - which the government has been stalling for over a decade now - is passed immediately."

Bright idea gives light relief

Photo by: Bennett Murray
GERES Village Entrepreneur Supervisor Narein Sourn shows off a rechargeable lantern.


The Phnom Penh Post
http://www.phnompenhpost.com/

Written by Bennett Murray
Monday, 01 June 2009

An NGO aims to reduce the use of expensive and environmentally damaging kerosene lanterns by distributing LED replacements in rural Cambodia

A NEW initiative by French environmental NGO GERES aims to shine a light on energy efficiency and reduce the carbon footprint in rural areas from inefficient kerosene lanterns.

GERES Village Entrepreneur Supervisor Narein Sourn said the lack of a national power grid meant people in rural villages usually relied on kerosene lanterns for nighttime illumination, which was bad on many levels.

"The kerosene lamp is not good for the environment, and [villagers] spend much money to buy kerosene," he said.

It costs bewteen 200 and 400 riels to keep a lantern burning on kerosene for four to five hours, she said.

As an alternative, GERES has introduced longer-lasting, cleaner LED (light-emitting diode) lanterns to the countryside at the same price that villagers currently pay to run a kerosene lantern.

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The lantern has now become a tool to empower households.
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GERES rents the lanterns to central village operators, who in turn charge villagers 300 riels a night to rent the lanterns.

The lanterns can operate 12 hours a night for five days before the battery needs recharging.

At the end of the five-day period, the villagers return the battery to the village operator and are given a new one. The distributor then recharges the battery with a diesel-powered car battery and rents it out again.

GERES Eco Business Development Manager Ruben Mahendran estimated that the village distributor can make $45 a month in profit from the rentals.

Whereas villagers will typically burn 250 mililitres of kerosene a week with traditional lanterns, the LED lantern batteries only require 12.5mL of diesel to keep them charged for a week.

Furthermore, the LED lights do not expose the entire household to indoor pollution from the toxic fumes. The flammable kerosene also poses a fire hazard to rural homes.

GERES hopes to use solar power in the future to make the system truly environmentally friendly.

Not just green
In addition to the increased efficiency of LED lanterns, they also provide better lighting than kerosene lanterns, making it easier for students to study at night, according to Narein Sourn.

"Children cannot study very well with the kerosene, because the lamp is not bright enough," he said. "People can also work later into the night on economic activities such as weaving, silk-making and fishing."

GERES has run the project as a pilot program in five villages in Kandal province and has thus far distributed 300 lanterns.

"The lantern has now become a tool to empower households," Mahendran said.

GERES has also been conducting market research in Kampong Chhnang with the intention of expanding the project. In the future, GERES hopes to make a profit from the rentals that can in turn be invested in further rural development projects.