Friday, 12 June 2009

District officials stop HIV/AIDS families on way to City Hall

Written by Christopher Shay and Khouth Sophak Chakrya
Friday, 12 June 2009

Members of Borei Keila's HIV community say Prampi Makara district governor prevented them from meeting with municipal officials.

THE residents of the Borei Keila community in which at least one member of every family has HIV/AIDS attempted to protest their looming eviction at the offices of the Phnom Penh Municipality on Thursday, but district officials stopped them before they could reach City Hall and ushered them into a district office instead, residents said.

"We tried to walk outside of our community and go to City Hall to talk with [Phnom Penh Deputy Governor] Mann Chhoeun ... but then a few district officers came to stop us and told us the Prampi Makara district governor needed to discuss something with us," Borei Keila resident Larch Kim Long said.

At the Prampi Makara district office, Soum Sovann, the district governor, told the community that the NGOs had abandoned them, and that the government would help them.

"Do not believe some NGOs. They just want you to demand something from the government," he said.

Sim Seda, chief of development for Prampi Makara district, promised the community that officials would provide, in addition to two tuk-tuks, "50 kilogrammes of mulled rice, soy sauce, fish sauce, 15 litres of water and 100,000 riels (US$24.12) to each family who lives there".

The government called out the names of 23 families who would be forcibly relocated to Tuol Sambo, more than 20 kilometres away from their current site near Olympic Stadium.

Many of the community members said that, as long-term renters, they should be given on-site housing at their current location, which they said is closer to medical care and jobs.

Mann Chhoeun said earlier this week that nine families would receive on-site housing because they were able to provide documentation that they had been living at Borei Keila for at least five years.

Residents said their new houses in Tuol Sambo would not meet their needs.

"We need City Hall to provide bigger houses to us," Tuot Chhay Ran said. "We saw the green houses at Tuol Sambo, and they are smaller than the ones here."

According to a report from Medecins Sans Frontieres, the green, zinc shelters at Tuol Sambo will be 3.5-by-4.8 metres, below the minimum requirement for emergency refugee camps.

Kathleen O'Keefe, a consultant who has been observing the situation in Borei Keila since 2006, said the eviction would put the HIV community at greater medical risk.

"These 32 families are to be banished to a remote location, which is already known by local people as the ‘AIDS village'.... Moreover, they will face squalid and unhealthy conditions at the Tuol Sambo relocation site, and, because of its distance from Phnom Penh, they will be far away from their jobs and vital medical services in the city," she said.

"It's not surprising that some of these people wonder whether the government is sending them to Tuol Sambo so that they will die more quickly," she added.

Treating scars that never heal


Written by Mom Kunthear
Friday, 12 June 2009

Group that assists survivors of acid attacks reports more than 200 attacks since 2006.

Earlier this year, Keo Sreyvy's brother-in-law threw a litre of acid over her. Angered by comments she had made about his treatment of his daughter, he attacked her while she was standing next to his wife, blinding Keo Sreyvy in one eye and hideously disfiguring most of her body.

"At first, I just didn't want to live anymore," she said.

"But my children begged me to continue my life so they could have a mother," she said.

The Cambodian Acid Survivors Charity (CASC) has counted 201 victims of acid attacks that occurred between March 2006 and June 2009. Of those victims, 79 were men, 91 were women, and 31 were children (which the group defines as those 3 to 14 years old), CASC social worker Vong Sareth told the Post.

Formed in March 2006, the CASC provides vital medical services - which would be expensive to obtain privately - to victims of acid attacks, many of whom have been shunned by their families and communities following the attacks.

Despite the widespread perception that acid attacks result from love triangles gone wrong, 49 percent of those assisted by the CASC said they did not know why they were attacked.

Of cases recorded by the CASC, 18 percent of victims said the attacks were accidents, 16 percent said hate or jealousy was involved, and nine percent said they were the result of extramarital affairs. Four percent blamed family disputes, two percent blamed business disputes, and one percent blamed robbery or land and property disputes.

Vong Sareth said acid attacks seemed to be decreasing, noting that the CASC had recorded just three victims in the first five months of 2009, down from six in the first six months of 2008.

Long Lundy, a medical officer at the CASC, said the victim of an acid attack should "throw water on the wound" to prevent skin damage and stop the burning. Long Lundy added that treatment at the centre is free.

Chhun Sophea, program manager at the CASC, said the courts could play a key role in reducing future attacks.

"If the courts can find justice for the victims of acid attacks, it will help reduce the number of acid incidents," she said.

But Keo Sreyvy said she had "no hope" that she would see justice.

"The courts care about money, not justice, and my brother-in-law knows many people in positions of power," she said.

"After I get better, I will leave from here to be with my children. I cannot work outside my house because it makes me feel suicidal when I see the beauty of other women."

District officials stop HIV/AIDS families on way to City Hall


Written by Christopher Shay and Khouth Sophak Chakrya
Friday, 12 June 2009

Members of Borei Keila's HIV community say Prampi Makara district governor prevented them from meeting with municipal officials.

THE residents of the Borei Keila community in which at least one member of every family has HIV/AIDS attempted to protest their looming eviction at the offices of the Phnom Penh Municipality on Thursday, but district officials stopped them before they could reach City Hall and ushered them into a district office instead, residents said.

"We tried to walk outside of our community and go to City Hall to talk with [Phnom Penh Deputy Governor] Mann Chhoeun ... but then a few district officers came to stop us and told us the Prampi Makara district governor needed to discuss something with us," Borei Keila resident Larch Kim Long said.

At the Prampi Makara district office, Soum Sovann, the district governor, told the community that the NGOs had abandoned them, and that the government would help them.

"Do not believe some NGOs. They just want you to demand something from the government," he said.

Sim Seda, chief of development for Prampi Makara district, promised the community that officials would provide, in addition to two tuk-tuks, "50 kilogrammes of mulled rice, soy sauce, fish sauce, 15 litres of water and 100,000 riels (US$24.12) to each family who lives there".

The government called out the names of 23 families who would be forcibly relocated to Tuol Sambo, more than 20 kilometres away from their current site near Olympic Stadium.

Many of the community members said that, as long-term renters, they should be given on-site housing at their current location, which they said is closer to medical care and jobs.

Mann Chhoeun said earlier this week that nine families would receive on-site housing because they were able to provide documentation that they had been living at Borei Keila for at least five years.

Residents said their new houses in Tuol Sambo would not meet their needs.

"We need City Hall to provide bigger houses to us," Tuot Chhay Ran said. "We saw the green houses at Tuol Sambo, and they are smaller than the ones here."

According to a report from Medecins Sans Frontieres, the green, zinc shelters at Tuol Sambo will be 3.5-by-4.8 metres, below the minimum requirement for emergency refugee camps.

Kathleen O'Keefe, a consultant who has been observing the situation in Borei Keila since 2006, said the eviction would put the HIV community at greater medical risk.

"These 32 families are to be banished to a remote location, which is already known by local people as the ‘AIDS village'.... Moreover, they will face squalid and unhealthy conditions at the Tuol Sambo relocation site, and, because of its distance from Phnom Penh, they will be far away from their jobs and vital medical services in the city," she said.

"It's not surprising that some of these people wonder whether the government is sending them to Tuol Sambo so that they will die more quickly," she added.

District officials stop HIV/AIDS families on way to City Hall


Written by Christopher Shay and Khouth Sophak Chakrya
Friday, 12 June 2009

Members of Borei Keila's HIV community say Prampi Makara district governor prevented them from meeting with municipal officials.

THE residents of the Borei Keila community in which at least one member of every family has HIV/AIDS attempted to protest their looming eviction at the offices of the Phnom Penh Municipality on Thursday, but district officials stopped them before they could reach City Hall and ushered them into a district office instead, residents said.

"We tried to walk outside of our community and go to City Hall to talk with [Phnom Penh Deputy Governor] Mann Chhoeun ... but then a few district officers came to stop us and told us the Prampi Makara district governor needed to discuss something with us," Borei Keila resident Larch Kim Long said.

At the Prampi Makara district office, Soum Sovann, the district governor, told the community that the NGOs had abandoned them, and that the government would help them.

"Do not believe some NGOs. They just want you to demand something from the government," he said.

Sim Seda, chief of development for Prampi Makara district, promised the community that officials would provide, in addition to two tuk-tuks, "50 kilogrammes of mulled rice, soy sauce, fish sauce, 15 litres of water and 100,000 riels (US$24.12) to each family who lives there".

The government called out the names of 23 families who would be forcibly relocated to Tuol Sambo, more than 20 kilometres away from their current site near Olympic Stadium.

Many of the community members said that, as long-term renters, they should be given on-site housing at their current location, which they said is closer to medical care and jobs.

Mann Chhoeun said earlier this week that nine families would receive on-site housing because they were able to provide documentation that they had been living at Borei Keila for at least five years.

Residents said their new houses in Tuol Sambo would not meet their needs.

"We need City Hall to provide bigger houses to us," Tuot Chhay Ran said. "We saw the green houses at Tuol Sambo, and they are smaller than the ones here."

According to a report from Medecins Sans Frontieres, the green, zinc shelters at Tuol Sambo will be 3.5-by-4.8 metres, below the minimum requirement for emergency refugee camps.

Kathleen O'Keefe, a consultant who has been observing the situation in Borei Keila since 2006, said the eviction would put the HIV community at greater medical risk.

"These 32 families are to be banished to a remote location, which is already known by local people as the ‘AIDS village'.... Moreover, they will face squalid and unhealthy conditions at the Tuol Sambo relocation site, and, because of its distance from Phnom Penh, they will be far away from their jobs and vital medical services in the city," she said.

"It's not surprising that some of these people wonder whether the government is sending them to Tuol Sambo so that they will die more quickly," she added.

DEBT RELIEF: Govt asks US to write off '70s debt


Written by Cheng Sokha
Friday, 12 June 2009

DEBT RELIEF

Cambodia has asked the United States to forgive some US$300 million of debt incurred by the Lon Nol regime that ruled Cambodia between 1970 and 1975, officials said. "We want to see the US cancel Cambodia's debts as China, Hungary and the [International Monetary Fund] have done," said Cheam Yeap, chairman of the National Assembly's finance and banking commission. He said the proposal was made during a visit by parliamentarians to the US from May 30 to June 9 that was organised by the National Democratic Institute. Cheam Yeap said the delegation was also soliciting US investments and requesting a review of quotas on Cambodian exports.

Nationality and the Jarvis debate


Photo by: Tracey Shelton
Helen Jarvis at the Khmer Rouge tribunal.


Written by Robbie Corey-Boulet
Friday, 12 June 2009

Does the Khmer Rouge tribunal need a Victims' Unit chief who was born in Cambodia?

DURING a press conference Wednesday that touched on concerns prompted by the appointment of Helen Jarvis as head of the Khmer Rouge tribunal's Victims' Unit, court officials did not address one question that has recently been raised by several observers: Does it make sense to appoint as head of the unit someone who was not born in Cambodia?

While most criticism of the appointment, which became official June 1, has centred on Jarvis's political leanings or alleged conflicts of interest, several observers have emphasised that they believe an ethnic Cambodian would be better suited for the role.

"I myself - and I am a victim - I would want a Cambodian person to represent me," said Youk Chhang, director of the Documentation Centre of Cambodia (DC-Cam). He added that he believed other Cambodians who lost family members during the Khmer Rouge years or were otherwise victimised by the regime felt the same way.

Ou Virak, executive director of the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights, said he viewed having a Cambodian in the position as "desirable but not necessary", though he said he doubted that Jarvis, who is from Australia, would be able to effectively reach out to Cambodian victims.

"The victims themselves need to be comfortable," he said. "There's nothing hidden about the fact that Cambodians tend to look up to the West and tend to feel inferior. I'm not sure that having a Western person there would help encourage Cambodians to participate."

But others said Jarvis's ethnicity would have little bearing on her job performance, with some describing suggestions that it might as inherently discriminatory.

Court spokesman Reach Sambath said he believed the concerns were unfounded.

"I think it's an unfair criticism," he said. "I think it's racist. It's discrimination."

He noted that Jarvis holds dual Australian-Cambodian citizenship, having obtained Cambodian citizenship three years ago, and added that she speaks fluent Khmer.

Carla Ferstman, director of Redress, a London-based organisation that helps victims of torture and related crimes "obtain justice", said the question of ethnicity was less relevant than Jarvis's ability to serve as "an effective interlocutor" between victims and the court.

"I would say it's not here nor there, necessarily, whether she was born in Australia," Ferstman said. "What's important is whether victims see her as someone who can serve their interests."

Some defence lawyers who criticised Jarvis' appointment on other grounds said they viewed the ethnicity argument as something of a distraction.

Michael Karnavas, international co-lawyer for Khmer Rouge foreign minister Ieng Sary, said via email: "I would not place too much emphasis on having a Cambodian at the head of the Victims' Unit. I would insist on having an experienced and qualified individual."

Andrew Ianuzzi, a legal consultant for the defence team of former Khmer Rouge leader Nuon Chea, which has argued that Jarvis's political leanings could compromise her work at the court, said he didn't "see a problem" with the fact that she was not originally from Cambodia.

"If the person is qualified and is able to do the job, we don't care about nationality," he said.

For her part, Jarvis, when asked to respond to Youk Chhang's stated concerns, said Thursday, "I would say that many Cambodians hold nationalities in other countries, and I would hope that they would be given full rights in those countries."

The work of the unit
The tribunal Web site states that the Victims' Unit is responsible for informing victims "about their rights relating to participation and reparations, and enables them to file complaints and civil party applications to the [court] if they wish to do so". Its duties include helping victims obtain legal assistance, updating victims on the status of their complaints and civil party applications and ensuring "that the role of the unit and the rights of Victims are explained in outreach events throughout Cambodia".

Jarvis, who said an "overwhelming" majority of the unit's 35 to 40 staffers would be Cambodian, said she expected to have a hand in every aspect of the unit's work.

Youk Chhang expressed concern about the communication duties central to the unit's charge, saying Cambodian victims would be less likely to take seriously their interactions with the unit if they saw that it was run by someone who did not look Cambodian.

"Cambodians generally and culturally are not familiar with the difference between nationality and ethnicity," he said, responding to the argument that Jarvis holds dual citizenship.

Norman Pentelovitch, a legal associate for DC-Cam, seconded this point, saying via email: "I find it hard to believe that many Cambodians are aware of the fact she holds Cambodian citizenship, so to the extent her Cambodian citizenship is not widely known, I would say that most Cambodians ... will be unaware of her status."

Youk Chhang said a broader issue raised by the appointment was whether it would detract from Cambodia's sense of ownership of the court.

Pentelovitch, who emphasized that his concerns with the appointment had more to do with Jarvis's past work at the tribunal than with her ethnicity, nonetheless said it was "vitally important" for a Cambodian to be "at a minimum the co-director" of the unit.

But Reach Sambath described Jarvis as the "perfect candidate" for the job.

"She enjoys working with the people of Cambodia and she likes them and she has been involved in the issue for years, since before the beginning," he said. "She has so many ideas about what to do for the Khmer Rouge victims."

Frenchman released after being cleared in molestation case


Written by Chrann Chamroeun
Friday, 12 June 2009

A provincial court has ordered the release of a French national who was arrested in February and charged with abusing two minors.

A FRENCHMAN who was arrested in February on suspicion of committing indecent acts with two minors in Sihanoukville has been released after being cleared by the Preah Sihanouk provincial court, according to the country director of the anti-paedophile NGO Action Pour Les Enfants (APLE).

The suspect, known only as Jean Claude, 64, was arrested in a guesthouse in Sihanoukville after two underage girls were found in his room on February 26, prosecutor Mak Khieng said at the time.

Samleang Seila, APLE country director, said Thursday, "I was very surprised when I was informed formally yesterday that the accusations against Jean Claude have been lifted."

He added, "I pity the local police who went to great efforts to bring the man to trial, but now the man has been freed from punishment. His impunity is an injustice."

Mak Khieng, the prosecutor in the case, said there were no plans to appeal the court's decision.

Kim Eng, the investigating judge, told the Post Thursday that he dropped the allegations for two reasons. First, one of the girls who was discovered in the room denied that any indecent acts occurred.

"The girl said that Jean Claude did not bathe her or touch her breasts," he said, referring to the original allegations.

The other reason, he said, was that he believed APLE's examination of the alleged victim was intentionally inaccurate.

APLE accused of meddling
Kim Eng said APLE had Jean Claude arrested and then attempted to make the girl testify that he really did bathe her and touch her body, adding that the organisation could be charged with influencing testimony.

Samleang Seila said APLE still believed the suspect was guilty, adding that his staff would draft a letter asking the Ministry of Justice to investigate the court's decision.

Hearing about APLE's intentions, Kim Eng said, "I would be brave enough to face the organisation legally if they dared complain about me to the Ministry of Justice.... I have enough proof and documents to clarify."

HENG POV: Judges to rule on top cop appeal


Written by Chrann Chamroeun
Friday, 12 June 2009

HENG POV

The Court of Appeal is set to rule on the latest case involving former Phnom Penh police chief Heng Pov today, after prosecutors appealed his recent three-month sentence for "illegal human detention". Heng Pov, who while in power was a much-feared police boss, is already serving 92 years in prison for crimes including murder, extortion and kidnapping. He received an 18-year prison sentence for the 2003 murder of Municipal Court Judge Sok Sethamony. The prosecutors in the detention case argued that the latest sentence was too light for what was essentially a kidnapping. Judge Chuon Sunleng told the Post Thursday that Heng Pov had already served the three-month sentence. Heng Pov's defence lawyer, Kav Soupha, told the Post Thursday that an appeal should not have been made in the first place as the plaintiff in the case had withdrawn his complaint. "I wondered why the prosecutor appealed the sentence because the plaintiff himself withdrew his complaint and then the Phnom Penh Municipal Court convicted him," he said.

NGOs tighten belts as crisis hits


Photo by: TRACEY SHELTON
Children play in the street at Phnom Penh’s Group 78, a community living under the threat of eviction. Cuts to NGO funding could make legal aid less available to evicted families.

Written by Sebastian Strangio and Thet Sambath
Friday, 12 June 2009

With donor money being reduced or shifted to projects designed to address the global financial crisis, civil society groups say they are adapting to the new economic climate.

OBSERVERS are predicting leaner times for the country's non-government sector following the announcement by several local organisations that they will trim staff and scale back projects in response to funding shortfalls.

Although donors and NGOs disagree as to whether the main culprit is the global financial crisis, changing donor priorities or a combination of both, some have raised questions about the sustainability of a sector primarily dependent on foreign largesse.

"This is a concern - not just for NGOs, but also for other sectors," said Chhith Sam Ath, executive director of the NGO Forum on Cambodia.

"NGOs are heavily dependent on donor funds, so if the donor funds are used up, then it will have a lot of impacts on our operations, in general terms."

While he said that the NGO Forum, which is reliant on funding from a variety of overseas donors such as Oxfam, would be able to adjust its activities according to the funding it receives, some other groups may be left in the cold.

Sim Souyeang, director of the local anti-trafficking organisation Protection of Juvenile Justice, said Wednesday that it was facing a funding "famine" and that, following the layoff of four staff members in May, it was considering closing its offices in Battambang and Siem Reap.

"The world economic crisis is one reason the donors could not assist us," she said. "Now I am researching how to get funds from relevant institutions to make up our budget [shortfalls]."

Kong Lakhena, secretary general of the Cambodian Women's Crisis Centre, told the Post Monday that it was also holding meetings to try to resolve a shortage in funds, following reports it laid off six staff in Siem Reap province.

Even international groups say they could be affected by the tide of uncertainty.

"We haven't got any cutbacks yet, but we haven't got any guarantees," said John McGeoghan, a project manager at the International Organisation for Migration.

"We may or may not have funding, but the general climate at the moment is ... that funding will be reduced."

Shifting priorities
Brian Lung, regional director of Oxfam America, said the crisis - which tightened donors' purse strings just as the need for development aid was expanding - prompted tough decisions.

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THE GENERAL CLIMATE AT THE MOMENT IS... THAT FUNDING WILL BE REDUCED.
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"Obviously, the global financial crisis has affected everyone, and Oxfam's no different in that regard. We've had to make some rationalisations of our programmes in order to make sure that we continue to be as effective as we can be knowing that the situation for the poorest is getting worse," he said.

Senior CPP lawmaker Cheam Yeap said he was disappointed with the recent layoffs, saying although some NGOs have "criticised and attacked" the government, most of them provided important services to the people.

Leading donors say they remain committed to the country, but with more donor money flowing into crisis-alleviation programmes, the economic downturn has clearly forced some shifts in priorities.

Fiona Cochaud, first secretary of the Australian Embassy, said Canberra's bilateral development assistance to Cambodia totalled A$54.9 million (US$44.6 million) during the 2008-09 financial year and that the government had "no plans" to reduce the figure.

But she added that AusAID, the Australian government's development agency, would conduct a review of its programs in Asia to "focus resources on priorities emerging from the economic crisis".

The Cambodian Defenders Project (CDP), a local legal aid group, announced Monday that it would be shuttering its provincial offices in Kampong Cham and Kampong Thom and laying off staff because of a shortage of funds from its main donor, the European Commission (EC).

Sok Sam Oeun, the organisation's executive director, said that its decision to make cutbacks was a result of a "change of priorities" by the EC and that funding for legal aid projects was difficult to obtain since it was "unpopular" amongst donors.

But Michelle Labeeu, head of operations at the EC Delegation, said the CDP had stopped receiving funds from the EC merely because the project it was implementing had finished. She said they could submit additional project proposals for funding.

"The EC has over the years been one of the most generous supporters of Cambodian civil society and this will remain the case," she said, adding it had launched new programmes, including food security initiatives, aimed at "alleviating the negative impact of crises".

Others said that becoming financially independent was a vital step in attaining full independence. Yaing Sang Koma, president of the agricultural development NGO the Cambodian Centre for Study and Development in Agriculture, said it was trying to establish an independent base of income from agricultural products to offset donor contributions.

"It's still the beginning, but I think it's important for Cambodian NGOs to think about this," he said.

Lung agreed, saying one of Oxfam's priorities was to help local NGOs establish themselves and build long-term capacity.

"Even when we are tightening the belt, we always have to keep an eye on how those [organisations] can survive," he said.

More midwives needed to reach development goals, officials say


Photo by: SOVANN PHILONG
Ma Saren, a midwife in Kampong Thom, at her health centre on Monday.


Written by Khuon Leakhana
Friday, 12 June 2009

Despite a small increase in the number of midwives across the country, many more will be needed to fight maternal and infant mortality rates.

A CHRONIC shortage of skilled midwives could prevent Cambodia from meeting key development goals, officials said Wednesday.

Despite a small increase in the number of midwives in 2008, resource shortages and limited outreach efforts force thousands of women to give birth without proper assistance, impeding efforts to reduce the infant and maternal mortality rates.

"Even though the number of skilled midwives increased in 2008, we still don't have enough. We need more in order to respond to the ministry's plan," .

Minister of Health Mam Bunheng said, referring to the Millennium Development Goals the government has vowed to reach.

The UN Population Fund (UNFPA) estimated that there were about 3,300 midwives in Cambodia in 2008.

"We want to find out how many midwives there are each year and whether reproductive health services are meeting demands or not," Pen Sophanara, communications associate for UNFPA, told the Post.

"We see that people know a lot more about reproductive health and about choosing proper health care services, [but] so far there are still not many midwives," she said.

The annual budget for the Ministry of Health's reproductive health programme last year was around US$4 million. This year it is nearly $5 million.

The government says recent incentives will help increase the number of trained midwives.

Companies should expect IPO costs, say analysts


Photo by: Tracey Shelton
Listing on the forthcoming Cambodian stock exchange, which will be housed at Phnom Penh’s Camko City, will require investment in international-standard accounting, among other measures.

Written by Marika Hill
Friday, 12 June 2009

Firms that decide to list on Cambodia’s forthcoming stock exchange will be required to invest money to reach necessary standards of business practice

PREPARING to list on the Cambodian Stock Exchange in order to secure additional capital will likely be a complex and costly exercise for many local companies, finance experts said this week.

Many companies would need to restructure their business to comply with stock exchange regulations, which are currently being decided by the Securities Exchange Commission of Cambodia (SECC), said Sam Ghanty, a US-trained Cambodian financial expert who has worked at Canadia Bank and Foreign Trade Bank.

Companies would be required to have an international-standard accounting system in place and transparent accounts, he added. Auditing by international firms, training staff and computerising their systems would also add to the bill of meeting SECC standards, said Ghanty.

"[Companies] need to put in place the whole ingredients ... they have to change the way they do their business," he said, adding that companies would also need to ensure they "follow the rules", as their accounts would be open to greater public scrutiny.

A business's ability to access capital would also be critical in its decision on whether to list, he said, meaning that companies might opt to secure financing through less regulated means.

An official from the SECC who spoke on condition of anonymity said more than 40 people were working on drawing up regulations for the new exchange, with help from the International Organisation of Securities Commissions.

He said he expected draft regulations to be released for public consultation in October.

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I ... think those fees are ... little if we think of the advantages of [an] IPO.
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The Korea Exchange (KRX), which runs South Korea's stock market, will hold a 45 percent stake in the soon-to-be incorporated stock exchange company, with the Ministry of Economy and Finance taking the remaining 55 percent. Companies listing on the Cambodian exchange will have the option of also listing on the KRX.

The requirements for listing on the Cambodian Stock Exchange would be different, and possibly less strict than the KRX, the SECC official said.

However, a team was working to harmonise regulations between Korea and Cambodia to make it easier for companies to list on both.

Inpyo Lee, project director of KRX, said there were many procedures involved in the process of going public.

Management would need to gain the approval of the board of directors before they prepare and file a registration statement with the Cambodia Securities Exchange (CSX), he said. If registration is satisfactory with the CSX, it would then submit a registration statement with the Securities Exchange Commission of Cambodia (SECC), he added.

Should the SECC approve, the company would then be in a position to offer its shares for trade, said Lee.

"There are no business restrictions as long as they [companies] meet listing eligibility requirements or for requirement itself: The company has to have their financial statement audited by accounting firms; have profit in recent years; have enough staff to meet the need; good reputation; and so on," said Lee.

If a company wants to list on both the Cambodian and KRX stock exchange, there will be additional costs, he said.

Han Kyung Tae, chief representative of Tong Yang Securities Plc of South Korea, a securities brokerage firm that opened its Phnom Penh branch in November 2006, said the fee to list on the stock exchange - to be paid to the investment bank arranging the listing - would vary from 3 to 8 percent of the total amount of the public offering.

He cited an example of a company with a total market value of US$100 million in explaining the process.

"This company decides to go public by issuing 30 percent of its total share on the stock exchange, which will be equal to US$30 million. In this case, [the] IPO fee will be 3 to 8 percent of the $30 million of new capital inflow," he said.

Lee noted, however, that these preliminary procedures and costs would be worthwhile, should companies decide to list.

"I ... think those fees are ... little if we think of the advantages of [an] IPO," he said.

Inspected satellite city to open next year

Written by Soeun Say
Friday, 12 June 2009

THE first phase of the 260-hectare Grand Phnom Penh International City is set to be finished next year, an official told the Post this week following an inspection Monday by the Ministry of Land Management.

Estate Manager Nhem Sothea said the first of seven proposed phases at the satellite city was 70 percent completed.
He said that 200 units of a total 510 had been sold, though he acknowledged that sales were behind target, which he put down to the slowdown in the property market.

"We recognise that our sales declined ... but customers bought around 10 units in each of April and May at prices," he said.

The visit was part of an ongoing program to boost confidence in Cambodia's property sector among developers and potential buyers - in a report late last month, the UN Development Programme said that "over 30 percent of construction projects may have been placed on hold due to the global downturn".

Garment makers look for answers


Photo by: Tracey Shelton
Cambodia’s lack of competitiveness has compounded the effects of plummeting global demand for garments, say analysts.


Written by Nathan Green
Friday, 12 June 2009

In a major meeting in Phnom Penh today, industry figures will have a chance to discuss how to escape the financial crisis, but it’s not just the downturn that has caused the industry to suffer

GARMENT sector representatives are to meet in Phnom Penh today to develop a national strategy for the industry against a backdrop of drastically falling exports, factory closures and mass layoffs.

Figures from the Commerce Ministry's Trade Preferences Systems show garment exports fell 26.41 percent year-on-year in the first quarter to US$534.6 million, while Stephan Guimbert of the World Bank office in Phnom Penh estimates that at least 63,000 workers have been laid off as factories have closed, taking into account that many have been reabsorbed as some new factories opened.

The smart money is on worse to come. Van Sou Ieng, president of the Garment Manufacturers Association of Cambodia (GMAC), said he was surprised exports had not fallen more.

"Cambodia is less competitive than Bangladesh and Vietnam in regards to production, and less competitive than Indonesia because we don't have fabrics," he said. "For that reason, last year I predicted a drop of 40 to 50 percent in the first six months of this year."

In contrast, others are surprised the losses have been as pronounced. Paul Gruenwald, ANZ Bank's chief economist in Asia, said low-end clothing and textiles usually held up relatively well in economic downturns.

"On the garments, I'm a bit surprised by the severity of the downturn," he said. "Some of the other markets for garments - we understand - are doing a bit better."

He suggested something else was going on to affect the country's competitiveness, singling out the country's high level of dollarisation, which served as a de facto peg to the dollar. "The dollar has been rising so this is hurting competitiveness," he said in Phnom Penh this week.

These are the issues attendees at a garment industry conference organised by the Garment Industry Productivity Centre (GIPC), the garments wing of the Cambodia Skills Development Centre (CSDC), will be grappling with when they meet in Phnom Penh today, said GIPC Director Mona Tep.

While she acknowledged the impact of the global downturn on the sector, she said the competitiveness, or lack thereof, of Cambodian exporters was also a contributing factor.

"[Declining garment exports are] a combination of a lot of elements," she said. "One of the main elements is the drop-off in the global economy, that's for sure. But there are other elements in our control that we can take action on."

Without wishing to prejudge where conversation at the forum would head, she identified workforce development, industrial relations, electricity supply, customs issues and offshore marketing as areas where improvements could be made.

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In a declining market, only the most competitive make money... how does Cambodia position itself to be more competitive?
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She said the conference was an opportunity for the sector to discuss findings from a May 27 forum in which buyers and investors put forward a wish list for changes to the sector.

"This was not about compliance at all," she said, referring to the International Labour Organisation's controversial Better Factories initiative. "We have all the workers initiatives in place already. What they were expecting is more in terms of quality, productivity, delivering on time and, of course, price."

Labour compliance is a major buzzword in the Cambodian garment sector, and an increasingly sore point for factory owners, employer groups and the government.

Speaking at the May 27 forum, Minister of Commerce Cham Prasidh warned buyers the government could be forced to revisit its labour-linked trade policy "if the result of the support of ILO labour compliance means less purchasing orders and less business for Cambodia".

He acknowledged that the country had seen commitment from a number of customers, but urged others to embrace the initiative more fully and resist the temptation to source from countries who could make cheaper garments as a result of poor labour standards.

"Time has proven that we were right to promote [corporate social responsibility (CSR)], but time has proven also that, in dire circumstances in which prices are falling, CSR could be relegated to the back stage," he said.

Van Sou Ieng said he hoped this government pressure would encourage buyers to "put their money where their mouths are" and reward Cambodia for its commitment to the programme, which he said raised costs and made Cambodia less competitive than countries like China, Bangladesh and Vietnam, none of whom had been hit as hard as Cambodia by the crisis.

"If they want to see Better Factories survive they have to pay for it, and place orders," he said. "Buyers who talk about Better Factories but only put $1 million or $2 million in orders into Cambodia and hundreds of millions into other countries are hypocrites."

But Jane O'Dell, a consultant for Nathan Associates Inc, an economic development consultancy, and the former head of a USAID project that set up the GIPC in 2005, said compliance with labour standards was essential for market access. However, productivity and costs also needed to be addressed. "You can't ignore your business model on the strength of your labour standards," she said. "Much as the buyers appreciate the compliance, if they can't get their goods or they can't make a profit on them, it makes it very difficult even if they want to place more orders."

Cambodia had good manufacturing capacity, she said, but severe weaknesses in other areas, including infrastructure, workforce productivity, utility costs and trade facilitation were costing exporters.

This was also the finding of a recent UN Development Programme report on Cambodia's competitiveness in the global economy that placed the country last among ASEAN nations and among the worst-performing countries worldwide.

"Increasing Cambodia's competitiveness is a necessity, not a choice, if the country is to sustain economic growth, reduce poverty and keep pace with its ASEAN neighbours," the report warned.

Van Sou Ieng agreed. "I think the most important thing to survive the crisis is to improve our competitiveness and capture more of the value chain," he said, referring to developing the capacity to produce raw materials, which make up to 70 percent of the value of finished products.

He also called for massive government investment in infrastructure and skills, an urgent reduction in the cost of utilities and a labour union law to reduce proliferation of unions and create an industrial relations landscape not marred by strikes. Equally importantly, he called for the government to take measures to facilitate trade, or at least reduce the bottlenecks and high costs at customs that were an all too common complaint across the sector.

"Cambodia has no raw materials so we have to import everything, and it has no domestic market so we have to export everything," he said. "Imports and exports are the core of our industry, but administration costs have crippled it."

Investors lost
He said these issues were behind a decision by a major Japanese buyer who had looked to invest between $45 million and $50 million in Cambodia to go elsewhere. "At the end of the day, the Japanese invested in Bangladesh, despite coming to Cambodia 10 times," he said. "First, the cost of utilities was too expensive, second was the number of strikes, and third was the high costs of imports and exports.

"They didn't even look at the Better Factories programme. We spent six months lobbying, and we lost."

Jane O'Dell said she hoped today's conference will help focus attention on the critical issues afflicting the sector and help lead to a nationwide strategy for the future of the sector agreed to by government, exporters and the unions.

"In a rising market, everybody makes money. In a declining market, only the most competitive make money. The question is, How does Cambodia position itself to be more competitive?" she said.

"I don't have a crystal ball or anything like that but the thing that, I would worry about is that other people who are more focused are going to be taking market share and Cambodia is going to be losing - losing jobs and losing opportunity."

Taiwanese firms display wares amid falling exports


Written by Chun Sophal
Friday, 12 June 2009

TWENTY-FIVE Taiwanese companies on Thursday opened an exhibition to show their products in Phnom Penh, to look for markets to sell their products and to increase trade relations with businesses in Cambodia.

About 300 Cambodian businessmen attended the exhibition - the third such event by Taiwanese businesses this year - with goods for sale including everything from automobile spare parts to cosmetics.

"We hope that the exhibition will help attract Cambodian enterprises and consumers to buy more and more Taiwanese quality products," said YH Chiang, president of the Cambodia-Taiwan Trade Association.

Keo Nimet, head of the international relationship office of the Cambodian Chamber of Commerce, agreed on Thursday that the exhibition would help boost trade ties.

"Many Cambodian enterprises and businessmen are interested in Taiwanese products.... They will spend around US$50 million to buy these Taiwanese products as many of those displayed are of a good quality and match Cambodian market standards," he said.

Despite efforts by the island to establish commercial links with the Kingdom, Cambodia-Taiwan Trade Association data showed that Taiwanese imports here fell from US$428 million in 2007 to $414 million last year.

In the first quarter, imports were $73 million, suggesting a further slide in trade activity.

Ka Chheng, chairmen of Yong Seng Embroidery, a local company that embroiders textiles, said that Taiwanese goods are suitable for local consumption, but added that Taiwan's lack of a trade office in Cambodia meant that making business connections with the island was not always easy.

"We are interested and want to buy Taiwanese products because they are of a good quality and match our demands," he said.

Taiwan began its trade relationship with Cambodia in 1991 but has thus far not established a trade relations office in the Kingdom.

About 3,000 Taiwanese businesses currently operate here, mostly in the garment and footwear industries.

Taiwan - like much of the region - has seen its exports nosedive since the onset of the global financial crisis.

The latest available export-volume figures for April showed a 20.9-percent annualised decline, AFP reported at the end of last month, an improvement on March in which exports fell 24.29 percent, Hi-tech industries including electronics and IT products were the worst affected, data showed.

CEO Talk: Mobile operator targets star status in tight market


Photo by: Vinh Dao
Tolga Gedikoglu, CEO of Appifone Co, operator of Star-Cell
.

Written by Hor Hab
Friday, 12 June 2009

Applifone CEO Tolga Gedikoglu talks about how the company plans to carve out market share for its mobile phone brand Star-Cell

What is your background?
I started my career with Turkey's leading mobile operator in 1997, where I worked in sales, marketing, public relations, special projects and international business development. In 2000, [Swedish mobile operator] TeliaSonera and the local shareholder decided to create another company to manage international assets, and that is where my international life started. Since then, I have worked in various start-up operations in countries such as Moldova and Kazakhstan, and in mergers and acquisitions in Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Cambodia. In 2002 I became the marketing officer at Georgia Geocell and later became the chief marketing officer and the brand and commercial officer in the Ukraine.

What are your initial views on Cambodia's telecom market?
In my view, it's a very interesting market because having a market with this number of people and this level of competition is very rare. Having only 14 million people but nine operators is a big challenge, and an important one for TeliaSonera because we are always in the top three in any market that we operate in, and usually we are number one.

You entered Cambodia by buying local operator Applifone, which owned Star-Cell, Cambodia's fourth-largest mobile operator. What was attractive about the country?
TeliaSonera is Europe's seventh-largest telecom group, and we are constantly and consistently investigating opportunities around the world. When we investigated opportunities in Asia, we found that Nepal and Cambodia especially had room for growth. Then we started to investigate further, as every big holding group must do to understand a new market, and found the penetration rate around 30 percent, which still leaves good room for growth in the future.

We should acknowledge that Cambodia will become a pretty important country in the coming five to 10 years, and in that respect TeliaSonera is always a pioneer in investing in rising-star countries five or 10 years in advance.

Do you see room for growth in such a crowded market?
Although the market is not that big, there is room for growth. The competition, when you look from various angles, is pretty harsh, but if we can achieve scalable growth over the next five years in any operation that we do, then we can certainly become a dominant player in this respect.

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We can compete with eight or nine players ... because we are TeliaSonera.
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Do you have any specific strategy to capture market share?
Sure we have. When we became the majority shareholder, we created and implemented certain strategies. Everyone implements their own strategies after they buy something new so that it will bring them the success they are looking for. I agree that our growth is a little bit slower at the moment, but, as TeliaSonera, we want to create things in the way we choose, and sometimes that takes time.

Actually, we do have big skills in competitive markets, due to our past. So it is not a big deal to have eight or nine operators in the market because if you have a solid and sound strategy to increase your status, then it is not different than competing with four or six operators. By stretching the limits, we can compete with eight or nine players at the same time because we are TeliaSonera and we are skillful and strong in such positions.

Do you think some operators will get out of the market in the future?
I would not call it a "get out". There is always the possibility in any market that consolidation happens. Some companies merge together. In Cambodia, I don't see any reason why this will not also happen.

How does Star-Cell differentiate its service offerings?
We are currently providing more priority to network improvement, and I can probably say that our network infrastructure has increased drastically in terms of capacity and coverage area if we compare to when [we bought] Star-Cell. Of course, we are constantly improving because we are constantly investing to have a more effective reach in the market. All the actions, campaigns and promotions we are having at this moment, we have one aim only, and that is to make Cambodia talk only with Star-Cell.

What is Star-Cell's coverage area?
Right now, we are covering 11 provinces, and this number is constantly increasing, more or less every day. Our technical team, they are constantly in the field installing antennas.

Cambodia does not have a telecom law; will this affect the nature of competition?
First of all, I believe there is a law in Cambodia. Of course, the law or regulation is not the same in all markets, maybe, and there is always room for improvement based on the characteristics of that market and the characteristics of the competition. In that respect, I believe that the Cambodian government is taking necessary steps to create a fairer competitive atmosphere. We see that the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications gets certain feedback from each player, and therefore we can see the good will of the ministry to solve ongoing issues as well as create a certain logical understanding and competitive environment.

Star-Cell has had interconnection problems. Does this still happen?
Such kinds of interconnection-related issues can happen from time to time to anybody. The important thing in this respect is when the problem happens, do we correct it in a timely manner? My answer to that would be, ‘So far, yes', and the problem that Star-Cell mainly has is similar to that of others parties, not only from our internal system. But every time we have a problem, it is being solved in a timely manner, which is very valuable and important for us. I should say that in the world right now, I don't believe that any country does not have any single problem with interconnection; it happens. The ministry has been acting as a mediator in the way that it should be, and we and our competitors are also working for the best interests of our subscribers.

Will the financial crisis affect Star-Cell's expansion plans?
The effect of the financial crisis is unavoidable. We aquired the majority stake of this operator in September 2008 when the financial crisis was barely started, but we kept believing in the country and investing more in Cambodia. From one angle, of course, it affects our situation, but being a big, sound company with a solid financial background and having the forward planning skills needed to prevent any crisis at the time it starts, we are in a winning position rather than a losing one.

Many people carry more than one mobile phone. Is that an issue?
In price-sensitive markets like Cambodia, this is a very common practice. In the prepaid market, people always look for the best value for money option, and therefore they follow promotions, campaigns, technology trends and so on. Just keep in mind that we have nine players in the market, and I am not surprised about people having six or seven different SIM cards in their pocket. What matters is how you treat them. Customer centricity is the most important issue here. I think Star-Cell is going to be very successful and a new rising star in Cambodia. This is what I believe.

Police Blotter: 12 June 2009


Written by Lim Phalla
Friday, 12 June 2009

MAN ACCUSED OF DEALING METH
A man was arrested for allegedly selling drugs on Street 598 in Tuol Kork district on Monday evening. Police said the suspect was Suong Va, a 25-year-old who was living in the area where the crime took place. Police found a small plastic bag of ‘‘ice'', a methamphetamine, on the suspect.
KAMPUCHEA THMEY

Police nab alleged motorbike thieves
Two people were arrested in Bakan district, Pursat province, on Tuesday as they were selling a motorbike that they had allegedly stolen in late May from their friend, who lives in Battambang province. The suspects, Tem Ratana, 23, and his wife, Chea Lin, live in Battambang town. They were sent to Battambang's provincial court, and the motorbike was returned to the victim.
KAMPUCHEA THMEY

MOTORBIKE THIEF IS CAUGHT, CONFESSES
A 20-year-old robber, Nhek Vuthy of Trapaing Chhouk village, Teuk Thla commune, Phnom Penh, was arrested by municipal police on Monday. He had been under investigation by police, who had suspected him for some time. The suspect confessed that he had stolen motorbikes on three occasions in Phnom Penh within the past two years.
KAMPUCHEA THMEY

MAN'S HEAD CUT IN DRUNKEN BOWL FIGHT
Hul Sophon, a 25-year-old male, was arrested by police for allegedly cutting the head of Chhat Suon, 29, with a bowl in a conflict that occurred while they were drinking and dancing in Battambang province on Monday night. Witnesses said the conflict was caused by the victim, who hit the suspect when both of them were drunk.
KOH SANTEPHEAP

ANTENNA FALLS ON ANGRY DRUNK MAN
Tin Saroeun was stabbed in one eye by an antenna after he kicked the pole to which it was attached. The 30-year-old, who was drunk at the time, had earlier driven his motorbike into a house. When it became stuck, he got angry and kicked the pole. The incident occurred in Svay Rieng province on Monday afternoon.
KOH SANTEPHEAP

ARREST MADE IN MIDWIFE MURDER
Police on Monday arrested a man whom they accused of murdering a 66-year-old midwife, Heng Him, on June 3, 2009, in Battambang province. The arrest was made following a tip-off by villagers, who said the suspect had told them of his plans to kill the midwife while he was drunk. The suspect was identified as Ly Saluom, 29.
KOH SANTEPHEAP

Exhibitions show different aspects of Cambodian art


Photo by: Lucy Kinder
You Khin sits in front of his paintings.


Written by Lucy Kinder
Friday, 12 June 2009

While 'Works in Progress' showcases the work of four young photographers, ‘Women' marks You Khin's first exhibition of paintings in Cambodia

Two very different exhibitions will open at Phnom Penh's French Cultural Centre today. "Works in Progress" showcases the work of four Khmer photographers, and "Women" marks You Khin's debut exhibition in Cambodia.

You Khin, who returned to Cambodia in 2004 after 26 years in the Middle East, Africa and Europe, says that he chooses to paint women because they are often oppressed and left without a voice.

"I have travelled around three continents and in all the places I have been to, I have seen that women have a lower status than men. It is universal," he said.

At 62 years of age, the artist says that he wants to document the sadness that he sees when he sometimes looks at women.

"I look into the inside of the mind of the woman and ask why she is not smiling, and I try to illustrate this idea in my paintings," he said.

However, Yet Khin also tries to show that women can liberate themselves from their oppression.

"I try to use symbols of liberty in my paintings. Initially I chose the bird as a symbol of liberty, and then I chose string as a symbol," he said.

The artist's use of string is also apparent in his sculptures, which he began working on following his return to Cambodia. And interestingly he uses decaying wood and string to ‘sew' his sculptures together.

"The word string comes from the Sanskrit word sutra, which means sew together, so I bind my sculptures with string," he said.

Recognising the importance of contemporary art, You Khin hopes that Cambodians will keep an open mind while viewing his art.

"My world is modern, and I don't think that many Cambodians understand my art. But this is the beginning," he said. "I want people to come to my show, even if they don't understand it. I want them to ask questions about my work rather than be against it simply because it is different," he said.

Work in progress
"Works in Progress" showcases the work of four young Cambodian photographers who are preparing for this year's PhotoPhnomPenh Festival.

The exhibition is a result of the partnership between the French Cultural Centre and Melon Rouge, a photo agency in Phnom Penh.

Thierry Merre, from Melon Rouge, who instructed the photographer in a series of workshops of which the exhibition is a product, explains that the agency aims to support photographers who are neither novices nor professionals.

"We wanted to work with Khmer photographers who were in a ‘middle stage' of their development. Our support was to be a long-term commitment; we didn't [just] want to work with people for a week or a month," he said.

The project has taken a year, and the works that are presented are a diverse representation of Cambodian photography.

Many of the works showcased are metaphorical works with a universal meaning.

Merre emphasises the importance of ‘fine art' photography.

"All four photographers have come out with original works. They choose their own direction, and they have now arrived at a place where you can say that they are photographic artists," he said.

Opposition Leader Warns of Catastrophe

Sam Rainsy and Kem Sokha, at Voice of America, on Thursday.

By Sok Khemara, VOA Khmer
Original report from Washington
11 June 2009

Cambodia’s two opposition leaders are in the US together for the first time, and one of them warns that Cambodia is facing a catastrophe.

Sam Rainsy, leader of his self-named party, and Kem Sokha, head of the Human Rights Party, are in the US together seeking political support.

Speaking at a National Democratic Institute conference in Washington Wednesday, Sam Rainsy said the economic crisis was hitting Cambodia hard. “I can tell you that the situation is catastrophic,” he said. “If the economic crisis lasts, let’s say, one year, two years, then we will have serious problems.”

Prime Minister Hun Sen’s government will not be able to address the economic problems, he said, “so this will bring the regime to a very critical stage.”

Echoing Sam Rainsy’s concerns, Kem Sokha said Cambodia needs to unite its democracy advocates and its messages to help people stand up for their rights, something that would not be possible without help from the international community.

The NDI meeting was attended by Cambodian-Americans, US non-governmental agencies and other institutions. Both leaders were looking for greater support from the US and other countries, and said they worry about the future of Cambodia.

They criticized donors for turning a blind eye to Cambodia’s problems with the economy, human rights, corruption and poverty.

Khmer Krom Groups To Gather in Paris

By Men Kimseng, VOA Khmer
Original report from Washington
11 June 2009

Worldwide members of the Khmer ethnic group from southern Vietnam will meet in Paris on Saturday to mark the loss of territory from Cambodia to Vietnam in the colonial period and push for greater freedoms under Vietnamese authorities.

Maggie Murphy, project coordinator for the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization and one of the organizers for the weekend conference, said that 60 years after Khmers lost the land, they are now living in poor conditions, with few rights.

“There is a lot of oppression,” she told VOA Khmer from her group’s office in the Hague. “There is a lack of ability to express one’s religious freedom, and the socio-economic situation of the Khmer Krom is not what it should be. It is far below that of the ethnic Vietnamese.”

Participants of Saturday’s conference will include French authorities, the secretary-general of Murphy’s organization and an Italian member of the European Parliament.

Kampuchea Krom was awarded by the French to Vietnam on June 4, 1949, when the countries were part of Indochina, a partitioning that nettles many Cambodians today and is a focal point for nationalistic rhetoric.

Millions of Khmer Krom now live without freedom of expression or religion, according to the US-based Khmer Kampuchea Krom Federation.

Vietnamese authorities impose restrictions on all forms of protest. Recently, they arrested a Khmer monk for hostile acts against good relations between Cambodia and Vietnam.

“In the future, the main purpose of the Khmer Kampuchea Krom Federation is to properly prepare legal work to demand more [work against] human rights violations by the Vietnamese authorities,” Thach Ngoc Thach, president of the federation, told VOA Khmer by phone. “Our purpose is to move toward in what we call a journey toward self determination.”

Scholars Look at ‘New Face’ of Genocide

Genocide prevention penalists at a conference, in George Mason University, Arlington, VA.



By Im Sothearith, VOA Khmer
Original report from Virginia
11 June 2009

Researchers this week attended the eighth biennial conference of the International Association of Genocide Scholars at the Institute for Conflict Analysis and Resolution of George Mason University, Arlington, Va., to discuss the changing face of genocide.

Alex Hinton, associate professor at Rutgers University’s department of sociology and anthropology and director of the university’s Center for the Studies of Genocide and Human Rights, said this conference provides a forum for leading experts on the subject.

“And also we are exposed to people who are working in very different contexts,” he said. “In the panel today, I was talking about the Khmer Rouge tribunal, and the person speaking with me was speaking about the international criminal tribunal in Rwada.”

Dacil Keo, a Cambodian-American doctoral student of political science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison who participated in the conference, said the concepts of bringing together scholars, academic professors and activists on genocide is a good idea.

“I definitely recommend [it for] Cambodian activists and scholars, as well as activists and scholars from Africa, Latin America and other parts of Asia,” Dacil Keo said. “I think the more diverse perspectives we get, the better the conference will be.”

The conference on genocide is held every two years and brings together innovative research on the nature of genocide and the advance of policy on its prevention. Information about the genocide conference is available at www.genocidescholars.org.

Researchers Warn of a Loss of Languages

By Men Kimseng, VOA Khmer
Original report from Washington
11 June 2009

The world is losing one language every two weeks, linguistics experts warned on Tuesday, estimating that half of the 7,000 different languages spoken today will be lost by 2100.

“The loss of a single language is really a loss for all of us,” Susan Penfield, program director of the National Science Foundation, said during a talk at the Voice of America in Washington. “It is not just a loss for the speakers. It is something that we all have to think about, and I think take some responsibility for.”

Endangered languages range from Africa to America and Asia. The mobility of one group or another can contribute to the death of a language, and a younger generation’s refusal to learn a native language is one sign of danger.

“When a language dies, certain aspects of culture die with it. Some of these languages are very unique,” said Hayib Sosseh, a linguistics expert at Northern Virginia Community College.

Cambodia has a national policy to protect its indigenous languages, Tun Sa Im, a secretary of state for the Ministry of Education, told VOA Khmer ahead of the talk.


"Our policy clearly provides for their access to education, radio [programs] to promote their languages, and the use of their language for communication,” she said.

According to a 1998 census by the Ministry of Planning, there are 17 different groups of indigenous people in Cambodia. They belong to two different linguistic families: the Austronesian-speaking Jarai and the Mon-Khmer-speaking Brao, Kreung, Tampuan, Punong, Stieng, Kui and Poar.

Yun Mane, who is Phnong and works in Phnom Penh, said she always tries to speak her native language when she visits her home province of Mondolkiri.

“I am not the only person fearing the loss of our language,” she told VOA Khmer. “The majority of indigenous people and young people now living in Phnom Penh are also worried.”

Some indigenous students in Phnom Penh have created an association to safeguard their tradition and culture.

And since 2003 the Ministry of Education has developed written forms of these languages based on the Cambodian alphabet. The ministry hopes this will help indigenous people document their history and culture and have better access to national education.

Language experts recommend the recording of a language and the collection of other data to preserve a dying language. And training and teachers can play a crucial role in bringing a language back to life.

Taiwanese Companies Seek Cambodian Partners

By Pich Samnang, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
11 June 2009

Twenty-five Taiwanese companies meet with government officials Thursday, to discuss increased investment in the face of Cambodia’s one-China policy.

Taiwan has no diplomatic relations with Cambodia, but officials say they welcome its investors.

Dim-Han Chen, managing director of Shie-Dim Machinery Co., Ltd., a machine manufacturer, told VOA Khmer at Thursday’s Taiwanese Trade Forum in Phnom Penh that his company was eyeing the Cambodian market because of its potential in the textile sector.

“There’s been so many garment factories,” he said. “That’s why I’m here, wanting to find a chance and wanting to find a market here because there is no fabric factory here.”

“We want to see the investment environment and see how to run a business here,” said Horace Huang, vice general manager for Taiwan Modern Dyestuffs and Pigments Co., Ltd.

The arrival of the Taiwanese business representatives follows increasingly better relations between mainland China and Taiwan. Taiwan has in the past sought independence from China, which considers it a rogue province.

Cambodia has declared its support for a “one-China” policy and has not allowed a Taiwanese embassy or representative since the closure of its office in July 1997, shortly after the coup.

However, Prime Minister Hun Sen has been quick to accept Taiwanese investment.

Keo Nimet, international relations manager at the Cambodia Chamber of Commerce, who is working to attract more Taiwanese investors, said at the forum that statistics on Taiwanese investment in the kingdom is not reliably available, due to the lack of official Taiwanese representation.

He added, however, that if Cambodia can get more Taiwanese investors, the value could reach as much as neighboring countries like Vietnam, which sees $20 billion in Taiwanese investment.

Report Cites Abuse of Workers

Women's Wear Daily
http://www.wwd.com

by John Zarocostas

Posted Thursday June 11, 2009

From WWD Issue 06/11/2009

GENEVA — Textile and apparel labor leaders and workers in many poor nations were victimized last year by killings, violent attacks, threats and arbitrary dismissals, according to a new report.

The annual survey of the International Trade Union Confederation tracked violations in 143 countries and documented human rights abuses by textile and apparel companies in export processing zones — industrial areas with special incentives set up to attract foreign investors — in 34 countries including Bangladesh, Cambodia, Sri Lanka, India, Kenya, Jordan, Turkey, El Salvador and Honduras.

“The ongoing globalization of the world economy, coupled with the global financial and economic crisis, put inordinate pressure on labor markets, working conditions and workers’ rights everywhere,” said the report by the Brussels-based umbrella group, which represents 170 million workers in 157 countries, with 312 national affiliates, including the AFL-CIO. As a result, “Workers continue to be threatened by employers with relocation, outsourcing and downsizing, with inevitable negative consequences for the effective exercise of their trade union rights.”

Worldwide last year, 76 trade unionists were killed for defending fundamental workers’ rights — from 91 the previous year, although the number of killings in Colombia increased by 10 to 49 — 50 received deaths threats, and some 100 were assaulted in 25 countries. A total of 7,500 worker dismissals were recorded in 68 nations, the report said.

“Hundreds of millions of working people are denied the fundamental rights to freedom of association and collective bargaining,” said Guy Ryder, the confederation’s general secretary.

China still bans independent unions, the study said, and last year, China and eight other nations, including Burma, Cuba, Iran and Turkey, imprisoned trade unionists for their pro-worker actions.

In Bangladesh, which has 4,000 apparel factories employing about 2.2 million workers, mostly women, the report said a ban on strikes in the EPZs due to expire at the end of October has been extended effectively until the end of October 2010. And in Bangladesh last year, antiunion activity and worker exploitation intensified, especially in the apparel sector.

The study said that in many factories in Cambodia, trade unionists “continue to face repression of all kinds, including beatings, death threats and blacklistings.”

The president of the Garment Manufacturers Association of Cambodia, Van Sou leng, the report noted, said in August he considered union strikes to be “the garment industry’s HIV.”

Apparel industry trade unionists and workers were also beaten last year in Sri Lanka, Jordan and Egypt, the report said, adding many were unfairly dismissed from factories in Indonesia and Thailand.

Civil society groups slam Cambodian government's harsh suppression of freedom of expression

Southeast Asian Press Alliance
http://www.seapabkk.org

11 June 2009

Several civil society groups in Cambodia expressed concern at what they claim as "the perilous state of freedom of expression" in the country.

In a joint statement signed by the Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR), Community Legal Education Center (CLEC), Independent Democracy of Informal Economic Association (IDEA), Khmer Kampuchea Krom Human Rights Association (KKKHRA), and Cambodian League for the Protection and Defence of Human Rights (LICADHO), they have accused Phnom Penh authorities of taking "harsh actions to suppress freedom of expression" by residents of Boeung Kak Lake.

The groups also noted that since the end of April 2009, Cambodian government officials have filed complaints of defamation, disinformation or incidetement against several Sam Rainsy Party (SRP) lawmakers as well as a lawyer, a journalist and an Ngo president.

On 8 June 2009, the Phnom Penh Municipality reportedly sent armed forces to close the Lazy Fish guesthouse in the Boeung Kak area after its owner agreed to rent the premises to the Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR) for a public forum on "Human Rights and Development" on 12 June 2009. The CCHR decided to suspend its forum after the guesthouse was forcibly closed.
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On Thursday 4 June 2009, Soung Sophorn, a law student, SRP activist and a resident of Boeung Kak, was arrested after he had painted "Absolutely fighting against communist policy," and "People Suffer due to Cheap Government and Company" on the walls of several houses. Detained in police custody for two days, he was then taken to Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Saturday. Despite this being a non-working day for the court, he was hurriedly placed on trial, convicted of defamation and sentenced to pay 5 million riels compensation to the government.

The groups said these actions of the Phnom Penh Muncipality, police and court in the above two cases "were clearly unjustified and aimed at suppressing the freedom of Boeung Kak residents to discuss and express opinions about the pending loss of their homes due to the government giving a private company a 99-year lease to the lake area."

In addition, recent months have seen a total of four defamation, disinformation or incitement complaints filed against three SRP lawmakers, Mu Sochua, Ho Vann and Sam Rainsy, by the government or individual high-ranking officials. Similar complaints were also filed against Mu Sochua’s lawyer, Kong Sam Onn, and Khmer Machas Srok newspaper director Hang Chakra.

Several other lawsuits have also been filed. A disinformation suit was lodged by a government lawyer against Mr. Moeung Sonn, the president of Khmer Civilisation Foundation, for comments he made about lights being installed at Angkor Wat. Mr. Moeung Sonn subsequently fled to France; his departure is understandable in the context of past cases of disinformation in which a non-independent judiciary decided the fate of defendants. Moeung Sonn himself had sued Mr. Soy Sopheap, the commentator of Cambodian Television Network (CTN), for defamation and disinformation as well.

According to the groups, "The pattern of complaints of defamation, disinformation and incitement filed by high-ranking officials, and the intimidation of residents at Boeung Kak lake, poses a serious threat to the right to freedom of expression in Cambodia. In particular, Article 62 (Disinformation) and Article 63 (Defamation and Libel) of the UNTAC criminal code continue to be used to silence the voices of Cambodian people and to prevent public participation."

Given this concern and threat to human rights and freedom of expression in Cambodia, the groups urged the Cambodian government to:

• "Reconsider its lawsuits over defamation and disinformation, in the interests of ensuring that all Cambodian people have the opportunity to express their points of view and to freely participate in debate about government policies and practices,
• "Respect the principles of freedom of expression as stated in the Universal Declaration on Human Rights and other international covenants, to which Cambodia is a party, and also in the Cambodian constitutional law,
• "Encourage high-ranking and elected officials to build stronger democratic institutions which guarantee a greater separation of powers between the executive, legislative and judicial branches, and
• "Protect the constitutional rights of the Cambodian people and ensure the independence of the judiciary so that it respects the rights of all parties involved in litigation cases."

Discover Angkor Wat - Great Cambodia adventure tours

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2009-06-11 - Angkor Wat is simply unique, a stunning blend of spirituality, and symmetry, an enduring example of man’s devotion to his gods. Relish the very first approach, as that spine-tickling moment when you emerge on the inner causeway will rarely be felt again.

Prepare for the divine inspiration! The temples of Angkor, capital of Cambodia’s ancient Khmer empire, are the perfect fusion of creative ambition and spiritual devotion. The Cambodian god-kings of old each strove to better their ancestors in size, scale and symmetry, culminating in the world’s largest religious building - Angkor Wat, and one of the world’s weirdest - the Bayon. The hundreds of temples surviving today are but the sacred skeleton of the vast political, religious and social centre of an empire that stretched from Burma to Vietnam, a city that, at its zenith, boasted a population of one million when London was a scrawny town of 50,000. The houses, public buildings and palaces were constructed of wood - now long decayed - because the right to dwell in structures of brick or stone was reserved for the gods.

The temples of Angkor are the heart and soul of the Kingdom of Cambodia, a source of inspiration and national pride to all Khmers as they struggle to rebuild their lives after years of terror and trauma. Today, the temples are a point of pilgrimage for ails Cambodians, and no traveler to the region will want to miss their extravagant beauty.

It is easy to spend as long as a week at Angkor, seeing the temples at a leisurely pace, returning to the principal attractions several times to see them at different times of day, and taking in newly emerging sites further a field. However, many travelers feel that four or five days is the ideal length of time to spend at Angkor. This is just about long enough to fit in all the highlights of the Angkor area, but even with only two days at your disposal you can pack in a lot (providing you make some early starts). One day at Angkor? Sacrilege! Don’t even consider it.

HIGHLIGHTS

Must see temple of Angkor activities:

Stare in awe at the mother of all temples, Angkor Wat
Succumb to the enigmatic smiles of the 216 giant faces of the Bayon, Angkor’s strangest temple
Experience nature running riot at the mysterious ruin of Ta Prohm, the original Tomb Raider temple
Marvel at the exquisite carvings adorning the tiny temple of Banteay Srei, the finest seen at Angkor
Venture into the jungles of Cambodia to discover the River of a Thousand Lingas at Kbal Spean
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