Wednesday, 2 September 2009

The Free Press Magazine Online



FPM is a Biweekly 0nline Magazine
The Free Press is dedicated to Freedom of Expression and the Press
http://www.fpmonline.net/
Vol. 1, Issue #10, Tuesday 1 - Tuesday 15, September 2009
E-mail:
info@fpmonline.net

The Free Press Magazine Online is established to bring the fact about the level of human right respect, freedom of expression and the press in Cambodia for Cambodians and all in the international community to read.

Politics is glory, curse of humanity

A. Gaffar Peang-Meth

Pacific daily News

September 2, 2009

Man is brought into the world as a free being, gifted with the mental and physical qualities that allow him to confront the challenges of daily living. Unlike animals, reliant on instinct and cunning, men are endowed with an intelligence that generally allows them to overcome complex problems and acts as a governor on man's free will.

In the political philosophy of the Western tradition, English philosopher and political theorist Thomas Hobbes wrote in "Leviathan" that men are selfish creatures, naturally wicked, interested only in promoting their own self-interest. "All mankind (is in) a perpetual and restless desire for power ... that (stops) only in death," says Hobbes, who saw the state of nature as a "war of every man against every man" and life as "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short."

To rule such a world requires a powerful absolute monarch, said Hobbes.

French writer and political theorist, Jean Jacques Rousseau, whose writings were a catalyst to the French Revolution that ended absolute rule and introduced in France principles of citizenship and inalienable rights, wrote: "Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains. One man thinks himself the master of others, but remains more of a slave than they."

Rousseau saw the primitive condition of the state of nature, devoid of law or morality, as a threat to man's survival and his freedom. Cognizant of that threat, men join together in a social contract in a civil society; abandoning their claim to "natural rights," men adopt institutions supported by laws to preserve themselves with more limited freedoms.

Armed with values, beliefs and thoughts -- acquired from socializing agents such as family, peers, schooling, religious faith, occupation, the mass media and as a result of extraordinary events -- man develops his attitudes and perceptions. Man and his environment continually interact, changing each other over time. Men institute civil structures and laws to regulate their interactions and maintain order in society.

Contemporary governments, made up of laws, policies and institutions, are organized to serve the people to attain their primary goals of adequate health, a level of contentment in life and a condition of economic self-sufficiency; and to serve the country's goals of independence, security and economic and social well-being of citizens.

A school of thought asserts that nothing is possible without men. Another warns that men are not angels so, in forming a government of men administering other men, it's the people who must watch over the government, and "auxiliary precautions" -- limits of power, checks and balances -- are essential to ensure that men do not violate others' rights.

Many a citizen sees the politics of government as corrupt and cruel as individual practitioners of politics overstretch their power, disregard laws, trample the rights of the less privileged, engage in corruption and extrajudicial killings. Some hate politics because of what Lord Buddha called, "evils of the tongue" through propagating lies and slander.

And yet, Lord Buddha never taught man to think or act with mendacity. He preached moderation, compassion, understanding, tolerance, forgiveness.

Classical Greeks used the term "politikos" to refer to the relationships between the citizens and their city state. Athens was the world's first democracy in the 5th century -- "demos" means people, "kratia" means government -- "demokratia" is a government of the people. Athens was built on the principle of free and well-informed participation in Athens' affairs as an honor and the duty of every citizen.
Man cannot be well-informed and keep his freedom if he has no interest in learning about his own and his government's rights and duties.

When French Gen. Charles de Gaulle entered politics, he declared, "I have come to the conclusion that politics is too serious a matter to be left to the politicians."

As if to highlight how "serious a matter" politics is, China's Mao Tse-tung proclaimed, "Politics is war without bloodshed while war is politics with bloodshed." England's Winston Churchill said, "In war, you can only be killed once, but in politics, many times."

Professor Kay Lawson's words are brought to mind: "Between the cradle and the grave, we live our lives in the midst of politics" -- or politics is all around us from birth to death: family politics, peer groups' politics, classroom politics, office politics, community politics, pagoda politics and so forth.

Politics refers to human activities since men and women first met on this earth, established interpersonal relations, lived together and worked on how and where to secure food to eat, make shelter, protect against animals, nature and other groups of humans. Politics, says Lawson, "is part and parcel of nearly all human interactions."

About 350,000 years ago in China, early settlers lived, worked together and made decisions affecting the whole settlement. As a means of organizing collective human activity, politics requires planning, direction, coordination; making a common decision that applies to everyone in the same way; the use of power, psychological or physical, in the collective; and development of procedures on effective ways to reach goals.

Politics is with us as we breathe. It serves the individual and the community to be learned, informed, and engaged. Greek philosopher Plato, warned more than 300 years before the birth of Christ, that we would end up "being governed by those who are dumber" or more "inferior" than ourselves if we refuse to participate in politics.

A. Gaffar Peang-Meth, Ph.D., is retired from the University of Guam, where he taught political science for 13 years. Write him at peangmeth@yahoo.com.

More Khmer Rouge leaders could face trial now

Chum Mey, left, one three survivors from the Khmer Rouge's main prison waits to enter the the U.N.-backed genocide tribunal Monday, Feb. 4, 2008, in Phnom Penh. (AP / David Longstreath)

Wed. Sep. 2 2009
The Associated Press

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia -- More former Khmer Rouge leaders could face charges before a U.N.-backed tribunal after the court agreed Wednesday that investigations can be opened into additional suspects.

The decision could put the tribunal on a collision course with Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, who has repeatedly said prosecutions should be confined to the five suspects already charged and suggested that he would end UN participation in the trials if the number was expanded.

A long-awaited first trial against the Khmer Rouge's chief jailer opened in March for war crimes and crimes against humanity. A joint trial with four other senior officials, currently in detention, is expected in the next year or two.

The tribunal is seeking justice for the estimated 1.7 million people who died in Cambodia from execution, overwork, disease and malnutrition as a result of the communist regime's radical policies while in power from 1975-79.

Cambodia and the United Nations created the tribunal last year under an agreement they reached in 2003. It is an unprecedented hybrid that brings together domestic and foreign judges and prosecutors who operate under the Cambodian judicial system, which is often criticized as weak, corrupt and susceptible to political manipulation.

Lars Olsen, the tribunal's spokesman for legal issues, said Wednesday's announcement was a first step in a long process and does not necessarily mean more suspects will face trial.

What it did was resolve, at least for now, a major internal disagreement between Cambodian and international co-prosecutors over whether to expand the trials. The international co-prosecutor can now ask investigating judges to open investigations into additional suspects.

"It is important to say this does not automatically mean there will be more prosecutions," Olsen said. "It means (the international prosecutor) is no longer barred by the disagreement with Cambodian colleagues."

The dispute was one of many that has delayed and complicated proceedings at the tribunal.

Critics allege that Hun Sen has sought to limit the tribunal's scope because other potential defendants are now his political allies. Hun Sen served as a former Khmer Rouge officer and many of his major political allies are also former members of the group.

Curfews need rethink

The Phnom Penh Post
Wednesday, 02 September 2009
Borei Sylyvann

Dear Editor,

The suggestion by the governor of Phnom Penh that girls under the age of 16 should be banned from going out alone after 9pm is inappropriate, ridiculous and fundamentally weak.

I pass one of Cambodia's biggest entertainment facilities every Friday afternoon, and its entire parking lot is always filled with teenagers. Most of them looked younger than 16, and many were still wearing their high school uniforms.

In such places, there are competitions that offer young partners the club's main stage to demonstrate their French-kissing skills. In addition, sexually provocative dancing can now be seen on almost every mobile phone and Web site.

Will the curfew also be imposed on Friday afternoons and weekends, or are these times ignored because girls are visiting clubs not alone, but as a team?

Having read another reader's letter giving alternative solutions to this social problem (August 31), I found the author's proposals much more appealing and fundamentally stronger than the governor's. I hope the governor reads it, too, and will reconsider his proposal.

Borei Sylyvann
Phnom Penh


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

The views expressed above are solely the author's and do not reflect any positions taken by The Phnom Penh Post.

Cambodian Gov´t sends Congratulatory Message to New Japanese PM

Written by DAP NEWS -- Wednesday, 02 September 2009

The Cambodian government on Monday sent a congratulatory message to the newly-elected Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama after his election success on August 30, 2009, according to a spokesman of the Foreign Affair and International Cooperation Ministry.

“Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen on Monday sent a congratulatory letter to the new Japanese Prime Minister,” confirmed Koy Koung.

“In the letter, The Royal Government of Cambodia welcomed and showed applauding for newly-elected Japanese Prime Minister, Yukio Hatoyama,” he added.

The strong cooperation in all fields between Cambodia and Japan has been improved and aid is being provided to Cambodia by the Japanese, aimed at reducing poverty.

Cambodian-Japanese cooperation will increase in all fields and a closer relationship with newly the elected Japanese Prime Minister will help ties “become more developed and better than before,” Koy Koung told DAP News Cambodia last week.

“Cambodia’s relationship with Japan will not be changed whoever will be the next Prime Minister,” said Koy Koung.

The Foreign Ministry spokesman said that world leaders are promoting globalization so that all fields of cooperation among Cambodia and Japan, especially assistance and aid, will be not change, Koy Koung reiterated.

Yim Sovann, a spokesman for the opposition Sam Rainsy Party (SRP), on Friday told DAP News Cambodia that the next Japanese Prime Minister will be careful in considering new projects as they dot want to waste their donations to Cambodia.

Japan on August 13, 2009 provided US$72 million in concessionary loans to develop Cambodia’s Sihanoukville port to expand its capacity.

“The fund is to improve the capacity of Sihanoukville port, the only international deep sea port in Cambodia, by constructing multipurpose terminals including a bulk terminal and oil supply base, and developing infrastructure related to the terminal at the port,” Hor Namhong, deputy prime minister and minister of foreign affairs and international cooperation told reporters.

The minister signed the exchange note with Shinohara Katsuhiro, Japanese Ambassador to Cambodia, with the presence of Prime Minister Hun Sen.

It will also help contribute to industrial development and economic growth in Cambodia. And it is the third time that Japan has helped Sihanoukville port since 1999 aimed at improving handling capacity of containerized cargos, Namhong said.

Japan also provided about US$10 million non-project grant aid for promotion of economic and social development efforts in Cambodia, Hor said, adding that since 1993, under the type of grant aid, Japan has extended to Cambodia a total amount of US$187 million.

In Japan’s historic election on Sunday, the ruling Liberal Democratic Party lost power for only the second time in the post-World War II era. The opposition Democrats swept to power, winning 308 of 480 seats in the lower house of parliament, according to Japanese media.

According to a story in today’s New York Times: “Many Japanese saw the vote as the final below to the island nation’s postwar order, which has been slowly unraveling since the economy collapsed in the early 1990s.” In that period, Japan’s stock market fell 80 percent from its all-time high. Its real estate market lost 60 percent of its value.

Experts said a Japan led by the Democrats could put Tokyo into stiffer competition for leadership in Asia with Beijing in tackling non-traditional security issues including energy security, green growth, protecting sea lanes and disaster relief, Xinhua reported.

Hatoyama and the Democrats have called for a new arrangement for Japan’s most important security relations with the US, which for decades has had troops in the country.

Some analysts say Japan’s prospective effort to upgrade its role in the defense alliance may not be a good thing for China. US presence in Japan can be seen as a bottle cap keeping the Japanese military genie in the bottle, the Chinese analysts have argued.

The Democrats are seeking greater equality in the relationship that would allow Japan to act with greater flexibility. Some analysts worry that a more assertive Tokyo could lead to strained ties with Washington.

“However, the Democratic Party will probably sing the same tune with the US and move somewhat together” especially regarding the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), said Kim Sang-joon, a professor of international relations at Yonsei University in Seoul.

The Democratic Party is an unlikely alliance formed across the political spectrum and it remains to be seen how it will address many regional issues such as often-stalled free-trade talks with Australia and the ROK.

However, much view is still looking forward to see what will happen for the Cambodia-Japan’s cooperation as the new-elected PM from opposition party won the PM’s post.

Cambodian Jewelry Vendors Upset on Stickup

Written by DAP NEWS -- Wednesday, 02 September 2009 05:18

Jewelry vendors have become upset over a recent spate of armed robberies. In the past two weeks, robberies took place in at least 6, with many losing cash and valuables, and two vendors killed and one woman injured. There have been no arrests, a jewelry vendor complained on Tuesday.

Phnom Penh Municipal police chief Touch Naroth told DAP News Cambodia on Monday that “We had a meeting yesterday again with Camb- odian vendors and we advised members to protect in the target to ensure security to all Cambodian people, especially vendors, so all districts must be responsible for this task.”

Cambodian Phnom Penh Municipal Governor Kep Chhutema commanded to insure the social security in public on August 30 in a meeting with all district governors, a municipal officer said. On August 18, in Phnom Penh’s Sen Sok district, the first stickup took place when a team of robbers shot to a Cambodian woman and drove away with cash, a local source recounted.

The second case at Phsar Chas market saw a woman who arrived in a Lexus relieved of her jewelry by a team robbers. The third case was when robbers killed a jewelry vendor at Phsar Kandal market then made a rapid getaway, the source added.

“Police … called all members and vendors to attend to a meeting at the Prek Leap market where vendors lost a lot of jewelry and cash in riel and dollars as well. The fifth, a case of robbery event at Obek Kaam on two people when they stopped their car nearby then a team of stickup was acted, for the last serious time, the robbers robed on vendors who sell jewelry at Cambodian International Airport (Pochentong) market during they arrive home to in early morning,” Touch Naroth said.

Chan Saveth of human rights organization LICADHO said that the recent robberies “make all Cambodian vendors so fearful.”

Police in the capital and in the provinces are cooperating to catch the criminals responsible, Touch Naroth said.

In June four young robbers were arrested with two K54 handguns, including two women, whilst staying in a hotel near Deum Kor market of Phnom Penh.

One Company Claims ‘a Lot of Flats’ Sold

Written by Administrator -- Wednesday, 02 September 2009

Sales of residential flats, thought by many to be seriously flagging ahead of a major drop in price, is actually not as low as many believe, private sector sources said on Tuesday.

Marketing Supervisor of Chum Povorn market Heng Panha told DAP News Cambodia that “Our Company sold a lot of flats.”

The flats, priced competitively at US$20,000 to US$30,000, are selling but, “if the prices increase over US$ 50,000 nobody will buy, so company set a new policy to give a chance to all customers to discount or give an interest free loan.”

Manager of Siem Reap province’s Angkor Homeland Real Estate said he sold “about 5 to 6 lots in early of August,” rising to 20 higher priced lots.

Manager of Cambodia Angkor Real Estate, a company with branches in Phnom Penh, Siem Reap and Preah Sihanouk provinces, Vong Thinun said the market is still below its peak of last year at “about 60 percent” of the number of transactions.

“Now we are preparing the new marketing gold to get the profit,” he said. “If the price not so good, but our company also earn some profit from other services.”

“I hope that all customers both inside and outside the country can consider what is good or bad themselves and do not believe announcements from others. Doing so can waste time and money.”

Although some companies claimed to be earning profits from property sales, the wider situation is clearly not as rosy as estate agents make out. The one plus is that the price of property is remaining steady.

Sung Bonna, manager of Bonna reality and a respected authority on Cambodian real estate, told DAP News Cambodia said that “buying and selling of flats is common. If we look at the whole country, we can conclude that all assets are still steady in price.”

“One or two years later, everything will be better than now,” he assured.
But anecdotal reports of a looming rash of loan defaults stemming from speculation gone bad are rife.

Cambodia, Vietnam Strengthen Close Relationship

Written by Administrator -- Wednesday, 02 September 2009

The Vietnamese Product Fair will be conducted from today unitl September 6, at Mondial Center in heart of Phnom Penh to promote the bilateral trade between the two countries and aim to boost more trade exporting promotion from each side, a press release from fair obtained on Monday said. Two-way trade between Vietnam and Cambodia is expected to hit US$2.3 billion by 2010 and US$7 billion through 2015, said a report from the Commerce Ministry, and the trade volume has been increasing sharply between the two countries in recent years.

Both partners have been trying to boost trade and investment to provide mutual benefits for the two nations. In 2008, the two-way trade between Vietnam and Cambodia was US$1.7 billion, up 31 percent year-on-year. Of that figure, Vietnam’s exports to Cambodia earned about US$1.45 billion, according to Cambodian data.

Vietnam ranks 8th among foreign investors in Cambodia, and Cambodia and Vietnam share 1,137 km of border. Cambodia is a very important market for Vietnamese products and is attractive to Vietnamese investors. Moreover, a new primary school for overseas Vietnamese children officially opened in Cambodia’s capital city of Phnom Penh on August 30 to mark the 64th anniversary of Vietnam’s National Day (September 2) and the August Revolution. The Khmer-Vietnam Tan Tien School , a three-storey building with more than 10 classrooms, is located on an area of 1,200 sq. m in Mienchay district, Phnom Penh , according to a VNA report earlier week.

Pok Vorn, former deputy director pf municipality education department said that the school is trying to educate Vietnamese pupils.

“The Cambodian Government also recognized a Vietnamese association in the country and I think we exercise fairly for the other ethnics to implement their rights. The government also allowed opening Cham and Chinese people to open schools and associations and I think it will help the Government to work with them,” he said.

Cambodian Government spokesman and Information Minister Khieu Kanarith will lead a delegation to Vietnam September 5-6 to join the Khmer Buddhist ceremony of P’Chum Ben in Tra Vinh province southern Vietnam. Over 100 Government officials and a group of about 30 Cambodian journalists also will accompany the Cambodian delegation to Vietnam, the officials said yesterday. Both sides are trying to have mutual understanding in strengthening the bilateral cooperation and relationship, analysts said.

Vietnamese troops liberated Cambodia from the Pol Pot Regime in 1979, though some call the event, which contributed to long lasting Vietnamese influence in Cambodia, an invasion.

Australian Parliamentarians to Give Effective Oversight Seminar

Written by DAP NEWS -- Wednesday, 02 September 2009

An “effectively oversight technique seminar” will be held in Phnom Penh hosted by the Parliament of Cambodia, according to a UN agency’s press release on Tuesday.

The UN Development Progamme (UNDP) said that this seminar was provided by visiting Australian parliamentarians Hon. Dr. Brendan Nelson, MP, Australian House of Representatives, and Lan Harris, Clerk to the Australian House of Representatives. “Parliamentary oversight is a key responsibility of every government. It includes processes such as debates on legislation, budget decision-making, parliamentary question time and parliamentary committees,” said the statement. “Through these processes, a government is held accountable for its decisions to its citizens, and ensures that government policy and action are both efficient and commensurate with the needs of the public. It is an essential check-and-balance mechanism.”

The seminar will provide a valuable chance for Cambodian members of the National Assembly and Senate to learn from the experiences of another Government’s decision makers.

The event will include sessions on accountability, the role of parliamentary committees, oversight institutions, such as Ombudspersons, Human Right Commissions, Anti-Commissions and the Auditor Gener- al’s Office.

Civil war coming

Cambodia: Details are Sketchy
http://detailsaresketchy.wordpress.com/

September 2, 2009
AFP has the scoop:

Cambodia’s UN-backed war crimes court announced Wednesday that it would investigate more suspects from the genocidal Khmer Rouge regime, blamed for the deaths of up to two million people.

“The international prosecutor is authorised to make an introductory submission to co-investigating judges to open additional judicial investigations,” court spokesman Lars Olsen told AFP.

Based on the investigations, the tribunal will have to decide whether to prosecute these suspects, a move that Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen has strongly opposed on the grounds that it would spark civil war.

This is good news for the tribunal. The move to try more suspects, in spite of the prime minister’s dire prediction, proves the court enjoys some real autonomy. Until today that was not at all clear.

Parliament gives nod to Thai-Cambodia border talk


Wed, September 2, 2009

The Parliament also approves other joint frameworks with Asean countries as required by the charter

The Parliament approved on Wednesday reports of Thailand-Cambodia joint boundary commission which give a go-ahead to the boundary demarcation at the disputed area near the Preah Vihear temple.

The joint session between the lower and upper house in their closed-door meeting voted in favor of the reports 306 against 6.

The Cabinet submitted for the parliament approval the three agreed-minutes of Thai-Cambodian Joint Commission on Demarcation for Land Boundary (JBC) as required by the article 190 of the constitution.

The JBC met in November last year, February and April this year to set frameworks for boundary demarcation and provisional arrangement at the disputed area near Preah Vihear temple.

The ministry needed to report to the parliament before further discussion with Cambodia.

Thailand and Cambodia are in loggerhead over the disputed area adjacent to the temple since last year. The JBC was activated to clear the boundary line and set provisional arrangement to jointly run the disputed area as long as the demarcation has not finished yet.

Meanwhile the Parliament also voted in favour of the frameworks of negotiation for Thailand-Laos Joint Boundary Commission and Thailand-Burma Regional Border Committee.

The framework of border negotiation between Thailand and Malaysia as well as the framework of relation of high level commission between Thailand and Indonesia were also got approval from the parliament.

However the government withdrew the draft of World Bank's Public Sector Reform Development Policy Loan (PSRDPL) from the parliament consideration and will re-submit again later since the draft has a lot of detail and the members need times to consider.

Cambodia's KRouge court eyes suspects: officials

Former Khmer Rouge S-21 prison chief, Kaing Guek Eav (centre), at Cambodia's special genocide court

A Cambodia worker attends to skulls and bones of Khmer Rouge victims at Tuol Sleng museum, a former torture centre

By Patrick Falby (AFP)

PHNOM PENH — Cambodia's UN-backed war crimes court announced Wednesday that it would investigate more suspects from the genocidal Khmer Rouge regime, blamed for the deaths of up to two million people.

"The international prosecutor is authorised to make an introductory submission to co-investigating judges to open additional judicial investigations," court spokesman Lars Olsen told AFP.

Based on the investigations, the tribunal will have to decide whether to prosecute these suspects, a move that Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen has strongly opposed on the grounds that it would spark civil war.

The tribunal was created in 2006 to try leading members of the 1975-1979 regime, and five former leaders are currently being held on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The court's long-awaited first trial of Kaing Guek Eav, better known by the alias Duch, is now under way, and he has accepted responsibility for overseeing the execution of more than 15,000 people at the regime's main prison.

After Duch's trial, the court plans to prosecute former Khmer Rouge ideologue Nuon Chea, head of state Khieu Samphan, foreign minister Ieng Sary and his wife, minister of social affairs Ieng Thirith.

Tribunal sources say only five or six more suspects will be investigated -- lower-level members of the communist movement whose names have not yet been made public.

Cambodian prosecutors have opposed their international colleagues' wishes to pursue more indictments, and Wednesday's announcement was hailed by acting international prosecutor William Smith.

"I am pleased the order has finally been issued so the court can continue to contribute in its goal of bringing justice to the victims of the Khmer Rouge," he said.

Hun Sen, himself a former low-level commander for the communist movement, has publicly stated he would rather the court failed than pursue other former regime members, fearing another civil war.

But critics have said there is no risk of renewed fighting after over a decade of peace and accused the administration of trying to protect former regime members who are now in government.

Former lead international prosecutor Robert Petit resigned from the post in June, but denied his departure stemmed from the row with Cambodian counterpart Chea Leang over further prosecutions.

But he indicated the court must confront government attempts at control.

"I think it is very disturbing that anyone other than judicial officials -- be they elected officials or anyone else -- think they can legitimately tell any court what to do," Petit told reporters at his farewell press conference.

The Khmer Rouge killed up to two million people as it emptied Cambodia's cities and enslaved the population on collective farms.

The regime was ousted by Vietnamese-led forces in 1979 after nearly four years of iron-fisted rule, but continued to fight a civil war until 1998.

Apologies from Thailand

The Phnom Penh Post
Wednesday, 02 September 2009
Kom (full name withheld)

Dear Editor,

I'm a Thai and I'm saddened by the current state of affairs between Thailand and Cambodia. I've seen footage of the clashes between troops at Preah Vihear. It really broke my heart to see a Cambodian woman crying over someone's death.

Although I'm just a private citizen who has no state authority whatsoever, I'd like to offer a private apology to the people of Cambodia regarding the Preah Vihear conflict, the resulting loss of life and any other negative consequences that followed.

I hope that things will eventually turn out to be better, but if, God forbid, the worst should happen, please note that I'm not your enemy - and neither are the many other Thais who think like myself. I wish you peace.

Kom (full name withheld)
Thailand


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

The views expressed above are solely the author's and do not reflect any positions taken by The Phnom Penh Post.

Outlines for regional talks approved

Writer: BangkokPost.com
Published: 2/09/2009

The joint sitting of the House of Representatives and the Senate on Wednesday approved six frameworks for negotiations with five neighbouring countries.

The frameworks relate to negotiations with Cambodia, Laos, Burma, Indonesia and Malaysia. The joint sitting was held in camera.

Article 190 of the constitution requires they be approved by the parliament before talks begin.

When the public sector reform development policy loan agreement to borrow US$1 billion from the World Bank was to be deliberated, the cabinet asked to withdraw it for review. The request was approved.

Parliament President Chai Chidchob closed the joint sitting at 11.10am. There will be a meeting of the House of Representatives at parliament this afternoon.

More suspects investigated

Hun Sen, himself a former low-level commander for the communist movement, has publicly stated he would rather the court failed than pursue other former regime members, fearing another civil war. --PHOTO: REUTERS

The Straits Times
http://www.straitstimes.com

Sep 2, 2009

PHNOM PENH - CAMBODIA'S UN-backed war crimes court announced on Wednesday that it would investigate more suspects from the genocidal Khmer Rouge regime, blamed for the deaths of up to two million people.

'The international prosecutor is authorised to make an introductory submission to co-investigating judges to open additional judicial investigations,' court spokesman Lars Olsen told AFP.

Based on the investigations, the tribunal will have to decide whether to prosecute these suspects, a move that Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen has already strongly opposed for fear it could spark civil war.

The tribunal was created in 2006 to try leading members of the 1975-1979 regime, and five former leaders are currently being held on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The court's long-awaited first trial of Kaing Guek Eav, better known by the alias Duch, is now under way, and he has accepted responsibility for overseeing the execution of more than 15,000 people at the regime's main prison.

The new suspects in question are lower-level members of the communist movement, whose names have not been made public. It was not immediately known how many suspects would be investigated.

Cambodian prosecutors have opposed their international colleagues' wishes to pursue more indictments.

Hun Sen, himself a former low-level commander for the communist movement, has publicly stated he would rather the court failed than pursue other former regime members, fearing another civil war.

But critics have accused the administration of trying to protect former regime members who are now in government. -- AFP

Active Travel Asia Promotes Cambodia Biking Tours in Angkor Wat

PR.com (press release)
http://www.pr.com/

This 3- days cycling tour brings travelers to explore Siem Reap in Cambodia, not only its highlighted Angkor Complex, but also small local villages, markets, pagodas, to have an opportunity to interact with local passers-by and immerse in Cambodian cultures.

Hanoi, Vietnam, September 02, 2009 --(PR.com)-- Upon arrival in Siem Reap, travelers transfer to hotel in Siem Riep for check-in. The rest of the day is free to explore Siem Reap, the gateway to the impressive Angkor Wat which is located 7km south of Siem Reap. With its many bars, cafĂ©’s and restaurants, Siem Reap is a bustling town that relies on the tourism industry and has all the amenities travelers need when travelers travel.

Second day, travelers start exploring Angkor Wat by bike. Angkor Wat is one of the biggest religious monuments in the world and represents the Khmer heritage. Its stunning base relief, massive towers and huge entrance way will simply awe travelers in every sense.

Travelers continue heading to the former capital Angkor Thom (Bayon, Terrace of the Elephants) and Ta Prohm. Ta Prohm is famous for its massive overgrown trees. It was used as set for the movie Tomb Raider. In the afternoon, travelers cycle to Banteay Kdey and explore this massive complex before travelers head back to Siem Reap for refreshing and dinner.

Last day, travelers are free to explore the town of Siem Reap and shopping in local market before leaving Siem Reap.

Cheaper Option
Book the Cheaper Option and save from 4% to 5% (depending on the group size)
From 9 persons: on request

This Cheaper Option is offered to those who seek for good travel experience at an affordable budget. Travelers are offered the finest 2-star hotels instead of 3-star hotels in all destinations. These 2-star hotels are chosen for good location, clean, comfortable room and nice staff.

More information at: http://www.activetravelcambodia.com/tour.php?op=detail&tourId=67

Vietnam outsources deforestation to neighboring countries

Conversion of old-growth forest for a rubber plantation in Northern Laos in January 2009. This particular project is run by a Chinese firm, but in eastern Laos Vietnamese companies are significant players in the timber trade.

Rhett A. Butler, mongabay.com
September 02, 2009

In conserving its forests while its growing export-oriented wood products industry, Vietnam outsources deforestation to Laos, Cambodia, and China.

Taking a cue from its much larger neighbor to the north, Vietnam has outsourced deforestation to neighboring countries, according to a new study that quantified the amount of displacement resulting from restrictions on domestic logging.

Like China, Vietnam has experienced a resurgence in forest cover over the past twenty years, largely as a result a forestry policies that restricted timber harvesting and encouraged the development of processing industries that turned raw log imports into finished products for export. These measures contributed to a 55 percent of Vietnam's forests between 1992 and 2005, while bolstering the country's stunning economic growth.

But the environmental benefit of the increase in Vietnam's forest cover is deceptive: it came at the expense of forests in Laos, Cambodia, and Indonesia. Authors Patrick Meyfroidt and Eric F. Lambin of the Universite Catholique de Louvain in Belgium calculate that 39 percent of Vietnam's forest regrowth between 1987 and 2006 was effectively logged in other countries. Half of the wood imports into Vietnam were illegal.

"Vietnam protected its forests and developed its economy by exporting its deforestation to neighboring countries," the authors write, noting that the apparent "leakage" — an increase in deforestation in one region caused by reduction of deforestation in another — is "a major challenge in policies aimed at protecting forests and mitigating carbon emissions".

Indeed, international leakage has been a chief concern under a proposed mechanism for mitigating greenhouse gas emissions by reducing deforestation and degradation (REDD). The authors say that in Vietnam's case, where illicit deforestation in neighboring countries has fueled domestic economic growth, leakage is particularly complex. Should Vietnam be penalized for illegal forest clearing in Laos, Cambodia, and Indonesia? If so, should it also receive carbon credits for the carbon stored in the wood products it exports? Or should the carbon emissions burden ultimately fall on the consumer, likely a furniture buyer in an industrialized country?

The authors don't take a position, but they do argue that any REDD mechanism will need to somehow account for leakage.

"When policies—such as may be implemented through a REDD scheme—aimed at protecting forests lead to a decrease in harvests without accompanying measures to control wood consumption and/or increase wood production from plantations and processing efficiency, then leakage abroad will most likely occur," the authors write. "Leakage should thus be directly addressed in forest protection policies."

But there is another twist in the story for Vietnam should it seek compensation via a REDD scheme for regrowing its forests. While the country has seen a dramatic recovery in net forest cover, its primary cover has been dramatically reduced. According to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization Vietnam lost a staggering 78 percent of its old-growth forests between 1990 and 2005. Given that old-growth forests store more carbon than plantations and regenerating secondary forests, the emissions resulting from the transition from old to new forests have been substantial. This raises another question: should logging of old-growth forests in Vietnam continue — whether legal or illegal — will emissions from this degradation be figured into a REDD compensation scheme?

Joint House-Senate meeting on contract with Cambodia begins

September 2, 2009

A joint House-Senate meeting for was one-hour delayed Wednesday morning because senators and MPs did not make quorum.

The meeting for approving a draft contract with Cambodia on border security keeping eventually began at 10:50 am. It was initially planned at 9 am.

The Nation

Wrong side of the tracks

Photo by: Sovan Philong

The Phnom Penh Post
Wednesday, 02 September 2009
Sovann Philong

Children play Tuesday along the railway tracks near Boeung Kak lake in Phnom Penh. Government plans to repair and rebuild the Kingdom's railways could see the displacement of hundreds of residents in Daun Penh and Tuol Kork districts, whose houses lie too near the traciks.

Getting all dolled up

Photo by: Sovan Philong

The Phnom Penh Post
Wednesday, 02 September 2009
Sovann Philong

Visitors examine part of the vast collection at the Japanese Doll Exhibition at the Wat Phnom Culture and Fine Arts Museum after the opening ceremony Tuesday morning.

Keeping swine flu at bay

Photo by: Heng Chivoan

The Phnom Penh Post
Wednesday, 02 September 2009
Heng Chivoan

A technician on Tuesday adjusts a new thermal scanner - donated by Singapore - to assist in preventing the spread of influenza A(H1N1), or swine flu, virus during a ceremony at Phnom Penh International Airport. The ceremony was attended by the Singaporean Ambassador to Cambodia Tan Yee Woan and the Kingdom's Minister of Health Mam Bunheng, who told assembled guests at the ceremony that Cambodia has confirmed 31cases of swine flu but no fatalities through August.

Sex tourists face US law

The Phnom Penh Post
Wednesday, 02 September 2009
Laura Snook and Chrann Chamreoun

First 'Twisted Travellers' nabbed in effort to stop US child molesters.

Three US nationals have become the first to be charged for child sex crimes under an international law-enforcement operation targeting Americans who travel to Cambodia - decribed by one US official as "the world's ground zero for child sex tourists" - to have sex with children.

Arrested by Cambodian police in February, they were due to appear in a US federal court Tuesday. Although they were also charged in Cambodia, the sentences they face if convicted in the US are much more severe: Thirty years for each of their victims, meaning they could spend the rest of their lives behind bars.

The US ambassador to Cambodia, Carol Rodley, said Tuesday that the charges - brought under the US PROTECT Act, which came into effect in 2003 and introduced harsher penalties for predatory crimes involving children - would be a "powerful deterrent" to sex tourists. "These new charges clearly demonstrate to the Cambodian people that the United States will not tolerate this type of abuse," she said.

"These cases not only signal to the Cambodian victims our commitment to justice, but ... act as a powerful deterrent for those individuals who are contemplating travelling to Cambodia to engage in illegal sexual activity with minors."

Ronald Gerard Boyajian, 49, and Erik Leonardus Peeters, 41, both from California, and Jack Louis Sporich, 75, of Arizona - were all previously convicted of sex offences in the US. According to court affidavits, Boyajian is suspected of molesting a 10-year-old Vietnamese girl, and Peeters is accused of sexually abusing at least three Cambodian boys, whom he paid between US$5 and $10. Sporich is suspected of molesting at least one underage Cambodian boy. He would drive his motorcycle through city streets and drop money to lure children, authorities said.

The men were charged in absentia by a federal court earlier this year under an international law-enforcement operation dubbed Twisted Traveller.

The initiative, by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the Department of Justice, specifically targets American sex offenders who travel to Cambodia to exploit children.

Local NGOs Action Pour Les Enfants and the International Justice Mission (IJM) were instrumental in the arrests. Speaking to the Post on Tuesday, Patrick Stayton, field office director for IJM Cambodia, urged Cambodia to rethink the penalties for sex crimes against children.

Referring to Michael Pepe, a paedophile convicted on seven counts of sexually abusing minors in Cambodia and sentenced in the US last year to more than 200 years, Stayton said: "Major risk drives [paedophiles] to be the predators they are, but as you increase the punishment ranges, that changes the fear equation. They become more afraid to commit those acts, and that's what we want."

Duch's former students testify

The Phnom Penh Post
Wednesday, 02 September 2009
Robbie Corey-Boulet and Cheang Sokha

Character witnesses paint a picture of S-21 prison chief as humble, gentle and compassionate.

TWO former students of Tuol Sleng prison chief Kaing Guek Eav, alias Duch, on Tuesday described the former maths teacher as gentle and approachable, and one of his former classmates told the Khmer Rouge tribunal she had been "stunned and terrorised" when she learned of his role at the secret detention facility.

The classmate, Sou Sath, 66, said she had been in a study group with Duch when they were students in Kampong Thom province. She described him as a "humble and docile" person who never hesitated to share his knowledge with peers.

Duch was not particularly outgoing and had few friends, she recalled: "He was a person who was not worried about love affairs."

She said the prison chief offered no hints of his political views, an assertion echoed by Tep Sok, who said he studied under Duch for two years in Kampong Cham in the late 1960s.

"He never said anything regarding the doctrine or the tendency towards communism," said Tep Sok, 61, now a rice farmer in Kampong Cham.

"He always educated us to love human beings and to focus hard on our studies, and that we should be kind to one another and to assist one another when needed."

Another student, Tep Sem, 61, said Duch was a strict, meticulous teacher who nevertheless was friendly with students. "We could chitchat with him, play around with him, and he did not mind," he said.

Asked whether the accused mistreated lazy or disobedient students, Tep Sem said Duch encouraged them to study hard, form study groups and "be attentive to subjects being taught and nothing else".

Tep Sem said Duch was particularly generous with poorer students and hosted extra study sessions for them free of charge. All three witnesses said he avoided conflict with teachers and students.

"In the class he never had any conflict or argument with anyone," said Sou Sath, a retired teacher and former trainer for the rights group Licadho.

Sou Sath said she only learned of Duch's role at Tuol Sleng after reading The Lost Executioner by Nic Dunlop, who discovered the prison chief in Samlaut and interviewed him in 1999.

"I was very stunned and terrorised by reading that book," she said.

US hearing 'absolutely unfair': govt

The Phnom Penh Post
Wednesday, 02 September 2009
James O'toole

Foreign ministry says speakers ought to include CPP officials.

A US congressional hearing to discuss human rights in Cambodia is "absolutely unfair", the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Tuesday.

Ministry spokesman Koy Kuong said the hearing by the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, a congressional body that monitors human rights norms around the world, is "biased", as no one from the Cambodian government has been invited to testify.

A statement released by US Congressman Frank Wolf, the co-chair of the commission, said the purpose of the hearing, scheduled for September 10, is to discuss land evictions, labour laws and the prosecution of opposition figures. "These issues are part of a concerning trend in the Cambodian government's overall human rights record," the statement read.

The commission has invited three Cambodians to participate on a panel as official witnesses: Sam Rainsy Party parliamentarian Mu Sochua, Licadho rights group president Kek Galabru (Pung Chiv Kek), and Community Legal Education Centre labour programme head Moeun Tola. The US State Department will also invite witnesses who have not yet been announced.

Koy Kuong expressed concern that the commission had invited "only opposition groups", likening the congressional proceedings to "the referee at a boxing match calling only one corner".

"[The invited witnesses] can criticise the government, they can say whatever they want, with no one to testify or to clarify against them," he said.

Naly Pilorge, director of Licadho, said it was wrong to characterise the gathering as an exclusion of government representatives, however, emphasising that it will be open to all interested parties.

"This hearing is not a secretive process. It's a very open and public process," she said, adding that she expects to see the Cambodian ambassador to the United States, students and representatives of other NGOs in attendance.

SRP spokesman Yim Sovann said that as a donor of foreign aid to Cambodia, the US "wants to see progress in the development of democracy and human rights". In order to ensure that aid is distributed effectively, he said, American policymakers must "ensure that this country respects the rule of law".

Naly Pilorge said Kek Galabru plans to raise "human rights issues relating to social, economic, political and civil rights" at the hearing. Koy Kuong, however, was sceptical that the event would generate meaningful discussion or action.

"The hearing will not improve the human rights situation overall," he said.

Rail compensation talks stall

The Phnom Penh Post
Wednesday, 02 September 2009
May Titthara

FAMILIES from four communes in Daun Penh and Tuol Kork districts in Phnom Penh on Monday met local authorities to discuss the impact of a proposed railway upgrade that threatens to uproot hundreds living along the tracks.

Chan Thear, one of the residents affected by the planned upgrade, said authorities were unwilling to consider proper compensation.

"We were unable to reach a clear resolution," he said. "We want them to provide compensation similar to what they did for residents of Boeung Kak lake," referring to the ongoing development by Shukaku Inc that has displaced residents living around the lake.

Veth Darith, chief of Boeung Kak I commune, said the government was not obligated to offer anything on the scale of the compensation for former Boeung Kak residents because the land along the railway already belongs to the government.

But he did say some compensation would be available for some residents.

"If a family is required to remove their entire house, and they have no land elsewhere, then we can provide land for them elsewhere. For those who already own other land, we will not give any further assistance," he said.

He added that families who were to be partially affected by the upgrade would be compensated US$0.50 per square metre for the portion of their homes that required demolition, and that they would be allowed to remain on the site.

Chreang Sophan, Phnom Penh deputy governor, could not be reach for comment on Tuesday.

But Yit Bunna, an undersecretary of state at the Ministry of Public Works and Transport, said the government was adhering to compensation guidelines set down by the Asian Development Bank, though he provided no further details.

The upgrade follows an agreement in June with Australia's Toll Holdings to upgrade or rebuild sections of Cambodia's railways for integration into the Trans-Asia Railway that is to stretch from Singapore to Kunming in southwestern China.

Chea Sim adviser to sue over fraud claim

The Phnom Penh Post
Wednesday, 02 September 2009
Meas Sokchea

Disputes bad cheque report, saying he stopped payment because business deal not honoured.

Yin Sovanny, an adviser to Senate President Chea Sim, has filed a defamation lawsuit against Lao Sunpa, former governor of Kandal province, after the governor accused him of issuing a bad cheque.

The complaint, in which Yin Sovanny demanded 20 million riels (US$4,860) in compensation from Lao Sunpa, was filed in Phnom Penh Municipal Court on August 19 and obtained by the Post on Tuesday.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
I ... TOLD CANADIA BANK TO CANCEL THE CHEQUE. THAT DOESN'T MEAN THAT I DON'T HAVE THE MONEY.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

In the complaint, Yin Sovanny states that in December 2008, he agreed to buy a sand-dredging company located in Prey Veng and Kandal provinces from Lao Sunpa.

Convoluted business
The two eventually agreed on a sale price of US$250,000 that was conditional upon the completion of an environmental impact study by the Ministry of Environment and the Ministry of Water Resources, according to court documents.

In May, Lao Sunpa told Yin Sovanny that the government assessment had already been completed, and Yin Sovanny wrote him two cheques, one in the amount of US$30,000, to cover a portion of the fee.

No bad cheque
Yin Sovanny stated that when he received sale documents from Lao Sunpa, however, he discovered that there was no information from the government ministries.

"I told Lao Sunpa to fulfill [this] condition first, and then he would receive the money," he said.

"I wrote a letter dated May 12, 2009, to inform Lao Sunpa of this ... but Lao Sunpa did not receive it.

"I then told Canadia Bank to cancel the cheque," Yin Sovanny said in the complaint.

"That doesn't mean that I don't have the money."

Lao Sunpa told the Post that he is not worried about Yin Sovanny's complaint because it lacks clear proof in favor of the plaintiff.

"I am not scared of this lawsuit. The complaint includes no documents that can be used as evidence," Lao Sunpa said.

On August 13, Lao Sunpa accused Yin Sovanny of "fraud", threatening legal action after claiming that Yin Sovanny had issued a bad cheque and then refused to settle the debt.

He reiterated these claims on Tuesday.

"If the courts were based on justice, his lawsuit would not be processed, but I have enough evidence to clarify my case in court," Lao Sunpa said, added that he plans to sue Yin Sovanny to recover the money.

Yin Sovanny was out of the country and could not be reached for additional comment on Tuesday.

Crowded Prey Sar relocates prisoners

The Phnom penh Post
Wednesday, 02 September 2009
Mom Kunthear

An official said Tuesday that 100 inmates from Prey Sar Correctional Centre had been relocated to a prison in Siem Reap, and that 50 others had been sent to Trapeang Thlong prison in Kampong Cham province last week, adding that 100 more were to be moved to a prison in Banteay Meanchey next week.

Heng Hak, director general of the Department of Prisons at the Ministry of Interior, said overcrowding at Prey Sar prison, on the outskirts of Phnom Penh, necessitated the prisoner relocation.

"Normally, there are only 1,600 inmates held in one prison, but there were more than 3,000 [at Prey Sar], and we had to send them elsewhere to make sure prison conditions were appropriate," he said.

Heng Hak said the relocation could make it more difficult for relatives to visit inmates, but that deteriorating conditions made the move necessary. "We had to move them because we think prisoner health is a greater priority," Heng Hak said.

Cambodia is holding 12,000 people at 21 prisons and three correctional centres throughout the Kingdom, according to the Ministry of Interior.

Reporter sues district chief

The Phnom Penh Post
Wednesday, 02 September 2009
Chhay Channyda

A PHNOM Penh court on Monday issued a summons to a Kandal province district chief to answer on Friday accusations of disinformation brought by a local journalist - the first such case involving a suit brought by the media against a government official, the court said.

Sar Rith, a reporter with the Khmer-language daily Rasmey Kampuchea, filed a complaint with the court on Friday following an appearance by Kandal Stung district Chief Chhim Sambath on a Phnom Penh radio programme on August 22.

During the programme, which addressed government investigations of illegal sand-dredging operations, Chhim Sambath disclosed details of a private legal dispute involving Sar Rith's father-in-law, who lives in Kandal Stung district.

"He talked about sand-dredging but inserted my private problem in the interview, which I consider to adversely affect my profession as a journalist," Sar Rith said. "I have to sue him for disinformation."

Landmark case
Hieng Sopheak, deputy prosecutor for Phnom Penh Municipal Court, said Tuesday that Chhim Sambath's summons was the first of its kind.

"This is the first such instance where a journalist has sued a government official for disinformation," he said.

Sar Rith said the radio comments followed an article his newspaper ran about illegal sand-dredging in Kandal Stung district.

Chhim Sambath could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

Chan Soveth, a monitor for the Cambodian rights group Adhoc, said the suit was a good sign that private citizens still had the courage to confront the government, but added that he could not be certain that Sar Rith would receive justice in the case.

Tourists pour into Preah Vihear

The Phnom Penh Post
Wednesday, 02 September 2009
Thet Sambath

PREAH Vihear temple has seen a flood of tourists in the past few days, a trend officials are attributing to the drawdown of troops there that was completed over the weekend.

Om Phirom, chief of the temple's Heritage Police, said Tuesday that there had been about 200 Cambodian tourists and 50 foreign tourists venturing to the World Heritage site daily for the past four days, adding that the foreigners included Chinese, Japanese and European visitors.

By comparison, he said, the temple received about 100 Cambodian and 50 foreign tourists each month during the 13-month standoff with Thailand over the disputed complex.

"More tourists are visiting Preah Vihear temple now," Om Phirom said. "This increase began a few days ago after Prime Minister Hun Sen announced that troops at the temple would be withdrawn."

Hun Sen declared last week that the standoff had effectively ended following a bilateral agreement to withdraw troops.

Sor Thavy, deputy governor of Preah Vihear province, said he had noticed that roads near the temple had seen more traffic in recent days, adding that he was considering strengthening the security presence to protect tourists.

Beeline accused of reneging

Photo by: SOVAN PHILONG
A mobile phone shop employee in Phnom Penh displays application forms for Beeline’s Boom tariff. The mobile provider said it stopped adding new customers on the scheme Tuesday.


The Phnom Penh Post
Wednesday, 02 September 2009
Steve Finch and Ith Sothoeuth

Mobile operator drops its controversial pricing plan but only for new customers; Mobitel says this violates recent agreement to settle telecoms dispute

MOBITEL on Tuesday accused Beeline of not doing enough to end a months-long dispute even after the mobile operator halted new applications for its "Boom" tariff, which competitors have said is priced below the cost of connecting across networks.

Beeline Cambodia General Director Gael Campan confirmed that it stopped adding new users on the tariff Tuesday, and that all advertising - including billboards - had been withdrawn.

"We have instructed all our outlets to stop selling Boom," Campan said Tuesday.

Deal breaker
However, referring to a meeting last month after which the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications (MPTC) and Mobitel said Beeline had agreed to raise its tariffs from US$0.05 per minute to $0.06, the Royal Group - an investor in Mobitel - said Tuesday that Beeline had not fulfilled its part of the deal.

"The compromise that was reached between all the telcos and Beeline was that Beeline would cease selling below cost by September 1st,"said Mark Hanna, Royal Group's chief financial officer.

"If this is not the case, then they are going back on their commitments, and the situation will not have changed as far as we - and probably the other telcos - are concerned."

He added that in maintaining the Boom tariff for existing customers, Mobitel considered Beeline to have violated the agreement: "Beeline made commitments to the MPTC, and it is now up to them to deliver on them."

Beeline told the Post Monday that customers already signed up on the Boom tariff would still benefit from the $0.05-per-minute rate on all domestic networks, a point it reinforced Friday when it sent text messages to all users that the rate would remain "forever".

It said a new tariff - which Campan said Beeline had planned for some time as part of its expansion strategy - would be announced Monday at a press conference in Phnom Penh.

Campan has argued that it is not selling below cost, and that its pricing policy is little different from a supermarket promotion in which products are sold for a profit with a number of promotions added to entice customers and build loyalty.

Disconnect
With Beeline in turn accusing Mobitel of blocking its network in what it says is retaliation for its perceived price-dumping - a point backed up by Telecom Cambodia tests, Beeline says, and other industry insiders - it appeared Tuesday that Mobitel had not stopped its efforts to hinder Beeline's interconnectivity.

"The quality [of the line between the two networks] is bad," Campan said Tuesday.

Beeline conducts interconnectivity tests every 30 minutes by making 10 calls to each of Cambodia's eight other networks, which it said showed Mobitel was interfering with interconnectivity.

Despite the continuing disagreement, Campan said Monday that it had neither threatened legal action nor received word of Mobitel planning a lawsuit.

Still, both sides have made claims of legal infringement.

Beeline has accused Mobitel of violating an interconnection contract, interconnection standards and therefore Cambodian regulations by blocking its network.

Aside from allegations of price dumping - which Mobitel says other operators have also made to the ministry - the market leader says Beeline has illegally used Mobitel prefixes to get around interconnectivity issues.

Hanna said Beeline had also "violated national security and the ITU [International Telecommunications Union] guidelines on the use of mobile prefixes - an offence punishable by ITU on Vimpelcom Group [the Moscow-based owner of Beeline]".

Sanjay Acharya, the ITU's chief of media and public relations, told the Post by email late Monday from Geneva that the Mobitel-Beeline dispute "would be an issue to be dealt with by local authorities. It does not fall within ITU's purview".

Mediate, not regulate
Touch Heng, undersecretary of state at MPTC, told the Post Monday that the government would only mediate in the case, as it had done thus far.

Part of the problem, as acknowledged by international agencies including the UN Development Programme, is that Cambodia still does not have a telecoms law or regulator to deal with longstanding problems such as deliberate blocking of mobile interconnectivity. The long-awaited legislation remains stalled in the Council of Ministers.

Article 9, Chapter 3 of the Khmer-language draft law urges "fair competition in the telecommunications industry", but most of the detail relates to capping high prices rather than cases in which price dumping is alleged.

In Chapter 9 the draft states: "[The] licensee can decrease prices of services beneath the level set by the Telecommunications Regulator of Cambodia."

This regulatory body is expected to be set up once the draft passes through parliament.

In regards to the blocking of other users, the draft is much clearer, although no punitive measures are outlined: "No one licensee shall be allowed to ban or to, by whatever means, prevent any other services provided by another licensee," it states.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY NATHAN GREEN

Rice millers invest in packaging factory

The Phnom Penh Post
Wednesday, 02 September 2009
Chun Sophal

THE Federation of Cambodian Rice Millers Associations announced Tuesday that it had invested US$7.8 million to construct a packaging plant for milled rice in Battambang province, a move it said would help boost Cambodia's prospects for exporting rice.

Federation President Phou Puy said construction of the factory was already 90 percent complete, and that the plant would go online in December.

"We hope that when the plant is finished, it will play an important role in supporting Cambodia's plan to export in a more competitive manner," Phou Puy said.

Investment in the technology - which was imported from Japan - came from a number of members of the federation, Phou Puy said, adding that it would be able to pack 720 tonnes of rice per day.

Packaged milled rice has more potential markets and a higher market value than unmilled rice due to countries looking for value-added, higher-quality products.

Mao Thora, secretary of state at the Ministry of Commerce, said that Cambodia would be ready to export international-standard rice next year following a series of investments in infrastructure, including the packaging machine.

"We will start two projects in 2010 to discover any obstacles which have hindered previous efforts to export," he said.

A French delegation will head to Cambodia this month to discuss with officials methods to help strengthen the Kingdom's rice- and rubber-export industries, Mao Thora said.

Last month, Phou Puy said that the federation planned to export 200,000 tonnes of milled rice next year.

Hun Sen OKs Ream eco-resort

The Phnom Penh Post
Wednesday, 02 September 2009
May Kunmakara

HUN SEN has given the green light to China's United International to begin building an ecotourism project worth more than US$700 million on the coast in Ream, Preah Sihanouk province, after a meeting Tuesday with company officials at the prime minister's home in Takhmao, government officials said.

Following the meeting, Hun Sen's spokesman Eang Sophalleth said the company - which is known in Cambodia as Yeejia Tourism Development Co Ltd - "plans to start ... construction later this year, in November".

The 5-million-square-metre project would be built in four phases, he added, over four years each. Infrastructure including roads, electricity lines and water access would be built from scratch, said Eang Sophalleth, along with facilities including a business centre, school and hospital.

Youn Heng, deputy director of the Evaluation and Incentives Department at the Cambodian Investment Board (CIB), told the Post Tuesday that Yeejia Tourism Development Co had been seeking government approval for the project since 2005 and had finally been accepted this year.

New carrier buys Airbus jet

Photo by: Sovan Philong
A Cambodia Angkor Air ATR 72-500 turboprop plane sits on the tarmac in July at Phnom Penh International Airport. The new carrier will begin flights with its new Airbus A321 on Saturday, officials said.


The Phnom Penh Post
Wednesday, 02 September 2009
Nguon Sovan

National carrier Cambodia Angkor Air is to receive a new Airbus A321 today as the new airline increases flights to domestic destinations and Ho Chi Minh City

NEW national carrier Cambodia Angkor Air (CAA) will receive today delivery of a new Airbus A321 at Phnom Penh International Airport, an official said Tuesday.

Soy Sokhan, undersecretary of state at the secretariat of civil aviation, who is in charge of all matters related to CAA within the government, said the new passenger jet would go into service from Saturday.

"In operating the new aircraft, we will triple return flights between Siem Reap and Ho Chi Minh City - so now 21 flights a week - and double return flights between Phnom Penh and Ho Chi Minh, so that will be 14 flights [per week] from Saturday," he said Tuesday.

The airline - which launched July 27 - had seen a steady increase in passenger numbers, with an average passenger load of between 30 and 40 percent during the first month of operations, he said, without supplying official data, which he said was not yet available.

As the national carrier, CAA ticket prices had been kept between 5 and 10 percent lower than other private carriers following an opening promotional period. "This is our policy to attract tourists," he said.

Ho Vandy, managing director of World Express Tours and Travel, noted, however, that since the end of the promotional period - in which flights between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap were sold for as little as US$6 one way, not including tax - CAA's prices had been similar to Bangkok Airways.

"At the start, Cambodia Angkor Air's tickets sold well due to the discount promotion, but now the ticket prices are high," he said, without giving ticket sales figures for August.

He declined to say which tickets had sold better - CAA or Bangkok Airways, which also flies between the capital and Siem Reap.

Since its original promotion, CAA has sold tickets between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap starting at $30, not including taxes and other charges.

Chhuon Sambath, vice president of the Cambodian Association of Travel Agents and president of Angkor Media Travel, said Tuesday that CAA's promotions had coincided with slashed fare prices on other airlines.

"But the sales seemed good," he said. "It is too early to compare [CAA] ... to other airlines in terms of airfares and services because it just started a month ago."

Soy Sokhan said there were no immediate expectations regarding the airline's financial performance.

"For the first few years, we do not expect any profits. We will just promote our carrier and attract customers," he said Tuesday. Further expansion is planned, he added.

CAA would aim to begin flights between Siem Reap and Sihanoukville and the capital and Sihanoukville before the end of the year, he said, or early next year. The opening of the new airport at Cambodia's most popular seaside resort has been delayed, according to previous reports.

CAA has been collecting data on cruise ship passenger numbers to Sihanoukville from travel agents to plan ahead for flights, "but at the start it won't be regular flights on this route, but chartered flights", Soy Sokhan said.

Further aircraft purchases would be made next year, he said, as the airline looks to expand within ASEAN as well as to China and South Korea.

CAA is a joint venture between the government - which owns 51 percent - and Vietnam Airlines as part of a 30-year agreement with an initial investment of $100 million.

Incense revenues set to light up

The Phnom Penh Post
Wednesday, 02 September 2009
Soeun Say

Kampong Cham

THE buildup to Pchum Ben festival of the dead is set to be a busy time for Leap Ly.

The 45-year-old maker of incense sticks says the Cambodian Buddhist holiday, in which people pay respects to deceased relatives by cooking meals for monks and making offerings to the ghosts of deceased relatives, is a peak sales time.

"We don't have any time to relax ... as we are producing as many incense sticks as we can to meet demand over Pchum Ben," he said. "The festival is the best time for incense makers to make money,."

To ensure the company maximises revenues over the period, Leap Ly is looking to hire two new workers to add to the three already employed at the factory in Sdav commune, in Kampong Cham province's Kang Meas district.

Employees earn from 150,000 to 200,000 riels (US$37.50 to $50) per month.

Leap Ly said the highest-quality incense sticks produced at the factory sell for 4,000 riels a bunch, with each bunch consisting of 40 sticks.

The factory can make between 40 and 50 bunches each day, but he is aiming to increase production to between 100 and 150 bunches daily from next year, if he can secure demand.

He sells locally as well as in Phnom Penh, Kampong Speu and Kampot provinces.

With raw materials - bamboo, leaf, and saw ash - costing around $150 a month, Leap Ly estimated he makes a profit of $300 to $400 per month.

Profits are higher in the rainy season, as supply tends to drop as manufacturers struggled to find enough sunshine hours to dry the sticks, he said.

The father of two learned the trade when he found a job at a Cambodian-Chinese-owned incense factory in Phnom Penh while he was in his 20s. In 1991, after working there for two years, Leap Ly married and returned to his hometown to set up his own three-employee business, which he named Ly Incense Stick Making.

"At that time I thought that I had enough experience in making incense sticks because I had worked in the job for more than two years," he said. "But it turned out to be very hard because although I knew how to make incense it was my first time running a business.

"My wife and I had to work hard every day to find ways to make higher-quality incense sticks and find new markets to sell our product. Our business eventually became successful, and we now have a lot of regular customers."

But the business is not without challenges. In a globalised world, even higher quality incense sticks from China, Vietnam and Thailand are eating into his market share. Leap Ly said he needed to expand to develop the economy of scale needed to compete.

"We had success in the first stage of our business, but now we need to move up a level to find new markets and increase the quality of our products further," he said. "If we cannot do this, our business will not be able to compete with our competitors from outside Cambodia."

Oz Embassy a lesson in top design

The new Australian Embassy in Phnom Penh combines materials from Australia and Cambodia. PHOTO SUPPLIED

The Phnom Penh Post
Wednesday, 02 September 2009
Nathan Green

Government’s new home minimises carbon footprint and maximises access for the disabled

Developers should look to Australia's new embassy in Phnom Penh as a lesson in architecture and design, according to a real estate specialist advising the Australian Embassy on the sale of its previous home.

Vanessa Gevers, a commercial-property expert who has been in Cambodia for around six months, said Monday that it was "very rare" to find a property of such a high standard in terms of construction quality, fit-out of interiors and spatial organisation.

"The materials are also of a quality you don't tend to find in other developments in the city," she said. "It's an example of the type of construction that should be more common."

The building combines granite from Kratie with stone from Siem Reap and Kampong Thom provinces, and plantation wood from Australia.
Deputy Head of Mission Fiona Cochaud said the materials and the design reflect the contributions that the two countries have made to their mutual relationship.

The building was also designed to minimise its energy footprint, with insulation, double glazing and energy-efficient air-conditioning.

Rainwater can be harvested from the roof for reuse in fire systems, and on-site water treatment allowed recycled water to be used for toilet-flushing.

It is also fully accessible to mobility-impaired people, allowing the embassy to meet on-site with people who could not easily access the meeting rooms on the third floor of the previous building. "This is a real first for Cambodia," Couchaud said.

Cochaud was speaking Tuesday at the first media viewing of the Australian Embassy's new chancery, into which it moved on June 1.

Cochaud said the move was needed as growing trade relationship between the two countries was in turn expanding staffing levels.

Two-way merchandise trade between the two countries was worth A$58 million (US$48.47 million) in 2008, up from a little over A$20 million in 2003, embassy figures show. "We had a huge need for more space, which was one of our main motivations for building our new embassy," Cochaud said.

Because the embassy had grown so large, the new building was designed around a central atrium with a wooden staircase to encourage people from different sections of the ministry to "bump into each other" to facilitate communication, she said.

Construction began on the 2,730-square-metre embassy in October 2007 and was completed in May this year. It was designed by Australian architecture firm BVN Architects, who faced a unique design brief.

Cultural challenge
After purchasing the land, which lies in the shadow of the new National Assembly building in the capital's Tonle Bassac area, the embassy discovered there was a Bodhi tree on the site. Out of respect for cultural values, the architects were briefed to design the building around the sacred tree rather than cutting it down.

Singaporean company Confluence managed the project, and Leighton Contractors (Asia) took care of the rest. Although Leighton is an Australian firm, Couchard said, the work was carried out by a predominately local workforce.

At the peak of activity, 430 workers were on-site, clocking up 1.4 million man-hours with not a single accident. "It's a very good record and compares favourably to any other construction project in Phnom Penh," Cochaud said.

The embassy's prominent position reflected the Australian government's strong commitment to Cambodia and the region, Cochaud said. "We have been here for a long time, and we will be here for a long time."

However, the architects were careful to remain in the shadow of the National Assembly building next door, which Cochaud described as a beautiful example of Cambodian architecture. "We've tried not to compete with the National Assembly."

But she also said the building was intended to impress people. "We want people that come here to think that this is the embassy of a country that is very proud to be here," she said.

The former embassy is now on the market, though Cochaud would not give an asking price. Gevers, who is advising on the sale, said the target price and timing of the sale had not been finalised. It would be ideal for foreign governments or Cambodian government ministries, she said.

Camko OK with owners

The Phnom Penh Post
Wednesday, 02 September 2009
Soeun Say

New residents in Phnom Penh satellite city Camko City told the Post on Tuesday that they were satisfied with their new homes.

Meng Kry, 50, who moved into the first phase of the US$2 billion development with around 60 other families last month, said the quality of her new $230,000 home was up to scratch, and that she felt comfortable in the community.

"And it's easy to go back and forth from Phnom Penh city,"she said.

Phnom Penh Municipality Deputy Chief of Cabinet Koeut Chhe also gave a thumbs-up to the development. "I also bought a townhouse at Camko City," he said. "I'm doing the interior design now, and I will move there next month."

The city is being built by World City on 119 hectares in Russey Keo district reclaimed from Pong Peay lake.

Renewable energy suppliers find their place under the sun

Photo by: PHILONG SOVAN
Only about 2 percent of Cambodia’s solar sales are in Phnom Penh.

SHEDDING SOME LIGHT ON SOLAR energy

A Swiss scientist, Horace de Saussure, invented the world’s first solar energy collector, or “hot box”, in 1767. In the 1830s, British astronomer John Herschel used a solar energy collector box to cook food during an expedition to Africa. Albert Einstein won the Nobel Prize in 1921 for experiments with solar energy and photovoltaics. It takes 8 minutes, 17 seconds for light to travel from the sun’s surface to earth. Enough sunlight falls on the earth every minute to meet the world’s energy demands for an entire year. If we covered a small fraction of the Sahara Desert with photovoltaic cells, we could have enough power to meet all the world’s electricity requirements. All TV and communications satellites are powered by solar energy using photovoltaic cells. The sun will run out of fuel in 5 billion years.

The Phnome Penh Post
Wednesday, 02 September 2009
Jet Odrerir

As the world scrambles to harness alternative energy sources, the importance of solar power has risen concurrently, but is Cambodia contributing to the demand?

Tropical regions should be the ideal place to generate solar electricity.

Developing countries along the equator get fairly consistent sunlight year-round and could use this to harness the free energy the sun provides.

However, high initial investment costs have made the option prohibitive for most.

Solar power is not a new idea in Cambodia. In fact, one company brought solar here more than 10 years ago.

Khmer Solar was the brainchild of Peter Banwell and Ford Thai, who started the business in 1997 with the idealistic view that renewable energy should be an option for Cambodians.

Their client base in the first five years was approximately 80 percent NGOs, with the remainder being private homeowners.

NGOs had the capital to invest in the equipment, and many of their projects were far from functioning power lines. Also, the foreign staff were aware of the benefits of using renewable energy.

Kunthap Hing, an adviser for Khmer Solar, was working with the World Bank in the early 2000s, studying the viability of renewables, energy efficiency and conservation.

"The World Bank was a big supporter of solar and still is," he said. "They helped fund studies showing that, if the initial costs could be brought down, rural Cambodia would benefit from solar power."

Ten years ago, the initial investment cost for solar panels, batteries and a charge converter averaged $10 per kilowatt.

To power a small TV for two to three hours, you would need a 130-watt system.

Therefore, the cost of buying and installing that system would have been $1,300.

For an oil-run generator, the investment cost is 50 cents per kilowatt and would have cost $75 for the same capacity.

However, the prices for solar have dropped considerably in recent years. It now costs $5-$8 per kilowatt, depending on the size and complexity of the system.

The lower costs have brought more interest, and there are now more than a dozen companies selling solar power systems in Cambodia.

European countries have invested heavily in solar, with Germany one of the leaders in the field.

Better technology has led to more efficient power converters and new sealed-gel batteries, which last longer and are easier to handle than the wet-cell batteries found in most cars.

Though wet-cell batteries only last two to three years in Cambodia's heat, Chanrith Khuth of KC Solar stated: "We have a warranty of three years for our gel batteries, but we believe they will last for 10."

These cutting-edge power sources are designed to work in a 30-degree environment, which is important because the system is centred on the battery, which is also the weakest part.

Although the battery will need replacing every so often, the converters and solar panels have warranties anywhere from 25-40 years and a probable lifespan of much longer.

All of these advances, combined with lower front-end costs, have made the systems more competitive with other electrical options.

According to The World Bank Web site: "Electricity tariffs in Cambodia are among the highest in the world.

"The average tariff charged by Electricite du Cambodge is 16 US cents/kWh, ranging from 9 to 23 cents/kWh, with even higher tariffs outside Phnom Penh.

"The tariffs of the Rural Electricity Enterprises (REE) range from 30 to 90 cents/kWh."

KC Solar recently installed a 4,000-kilowatt system in a house in Oudong.

The owner had been paying 50 cents/kWh for electricity, but is now off of the grid.

Battambang has become the area with the most sales of late, because many of the farmers are wealthy but only the city centre has power.

Sales trends have reversed recently, with 80 percent of solar systems being sold to private households and the rest to NGOs and government buildings.

Phnom Penh only accounts for about 2 percent of sales, most of which are solar water heaters.