Friday, 25 September 2009

French national charged with sex crime in Cambodia

Asia-Pacific News
Sep 25, 2009


(CAAI News Media)

Phnom Penh - A French national has been charged with committing indecent acts with a minor less than a week after arriving in Cambodia, local media reported Friday.

Jean-Marie Beranger, 61, was arrested after a local child rights organization told police he had been soliciting boys in the coastal resort town of Sihanoukville in southern Cambodia.

The chief prosecutor at the provincial court told the Phnom Penh Post newspaper that Beranger's case has been forwarded to an investigating judge.

The judge, Kim Eng, told the newspaper that Beranger faces one to five years in jail if convicted.

'But the accused has denied any wrongdoing,' Kim Eng said.

Samleang Seila, the head of the child rights organization APLE, said his staff tipped off police after seeing the Frenchman having sex with a 13-year-old boy in public Tuesday evening, adding that Beranger had been seen soliciting several boys during his stay in Sihanoukville.

Samleang Seila said 13 foreigners convicted on child sex charges in Cambodia have been deported, most recently a twice-convicted Belgian man who was expelled last week.

Cambodia is trying to shed its reputation as a destination for child sex tourists and has prosecuted a number of foreigners for underage sex offences in recent years.

Cambodia to stop Bangkok Airways' Cambodian domestic flights


2009-09-25

(CAAI News Media)

PHNOM PENH, Sept. 25 (Xinhua) -- Cambodian government will not renew its agreement with Bangkok Airways, under which the Thai-owned airline flies Cambodian domestic routes, when it expires on Oct. 25, local media reported on Friday, citing a senior aviation official.

State Secretariat of Civil Aviation (SSCA) Secretary of State Mao Havannal was quoted by the Phnom Penh Post as saying that the decision was made to give a boost to the new national carrier Cambodia Angkor Air (CAA), which made its maiden flight on July 28.

"Now that we have our own domestic airline, Bangkok Airways will not be allowed to continue flights when the agreement finishes on Oct. 25," he said.

Bangkok Airways has been flying four flights daily between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap since taking over the route last November when its subsidiary, Siem Reap Airways, was grounded by the SSCA.

SSCA Cabinet Chief Long Chheng said Thursday that the body sent Bangkok Airways a letter last week informing it of the decision.

Bangkok Airways Acting Country Director Amornrat Kongsawat has not been available for comment.


Editor: Fang Yang

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H1N1 a Pandemic, But Don’t Panic: Expert

By Nuch Sarita, VOA Khmer
Original report from Washington
24 September 2009
(CAAI News Media)

On June 11, the WHO signaled that a pandemic of H1N1 flu had begun. The virus, sometimes called swine flu, has spread from Mexico to all corners of the world, but it has also been less deadly that initially feared.

Still, a leading health expert told reporters in Washington Tuesday, the illness should not be underestimated.

“As far as the severity of the disease, so far we’ve been lucky,” Dan Rutz, a former CNN health reporter who has conducted seminars around the world on swine flu, said. “It seems that this pandemic flu has not caused the severe illness for most people. Now having said that, it is still a dangerous disease, and it causes severe illness in some people, especially pregnant women and people who have other underlying health problems, such as asthma, heart disease or diabetes.”

The virus was first detected in the US in April and likely spreads in much the same way seasonal influenza spreads. However, Rutz said, it may be more fatal.

“Almost everybody in the population would be susceptible to the pandemic flu, whereas only some people would be susceptible to the seasonal flu in any given year,” he said.

Meanwhile, vaccines remain the most powerful health tool for control of any influenza, and the US government is working closely with manufacturers to take steps to manufacture a H1N1 vaccine.

“The seasonal flu vaccine will not protect against swine flu, but you need both this year,” Rutz said. “They work separately, but your body can handle it. The seasonal flu vaccine will protect you against circulating strains of seasonal flu virus; the swine flu vaccine will protect you specifically against this one virus.”

The US expects more of the influenza to appear in coming months, as the seasons change from summer to autumn and winter. Rutz said preventative measures were still important, such as hand-washing, covering the mouth during coughs and sneezes and staying apart from those who are already ill.

Constitution Not Fully Honored: Critics

By Pich Samnang, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
24 September 2009

(CAAI News Media0

Sixteen years after Cambodia implemented its constitution, the government has yet to “fully respect” it, civic leaders and opposition officials said Thursday, marking the anniversary.

Violations of human rights, forced evictions, a lack of access to information and curbed freedoms all point to abuse of the constitution, they said. The constitution established Sept. 24, 1993, by signature of then king Norodom Sihanouk.

“Since 1993, there has not yet been proper implementation [of the constitution],” Yim Sovann, a lawmaker for the opposition Sam Rainsy Party, said on Thursday.

“In Phnom Penh, for example, we see thousands of families forcibly evicted with unjust compensation; they are not allowed to participate in decision-making processes and there is abuse of power by authorities.”

Other officials, however, said the constitution has been fairly implemented.

“There have been no violations of the constitution so far,” Cambodian People’s Party lawmaker Cheam Yiep said. “But we acknowledge that sometimes we have not achieved what is required by law, and we are now trying to change and strengthen it, in order to be in line with the laws.”

Not even developed countries like the US, France and England follow their laws perfectly, he said.

Chhim Seak Leng, the newly appointed president of the Nationalist Party and formerly of the Norodom Ranarridh Party, said the government has done much in accordance with the constitution.

The 1993 constitution was the fifth implemented since 1947, when Cambodia was a French protectorate. It includes provisions like Article 31, which binds the Kingdom of Cambodia to respect human rights as stipulated by the UN, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other covenants.

Sok Som Eoun, executive director of Cambodia Defenders Project, said proper respect of the constitution would require political will from the ruling party.

“We depend on [members of parliament], especially those from the party with the majority of parliamentary seats, so that the constitution can be respected and implemented,” he said. The king can also make sure the constitution is fully respected, he added.

Officials Continue Dismissals of US Rights Hearing

By Sok Khemara and Taing Sarada
Washington
24 September 2009

(CAAI News Media)
A rights hearing held by a US House of Representatives commission earlier this month constituted a breech of Cambodia’s sovereignty and constitution, a government spokesman said Monday, while a senior military official dismissed concerns of rights abuses by soldiers.

“We regret that it contrasted with the Cambodian constitution,” said Phay Siphan, a spokesman for the Council of Ministers, referring to the rights hearing.

“We need to maintain our independence and sovereignty,” he said, as a guest on “Hello VOA.”

The Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission held a hearing Sept. 10, inviting opposition lawmaker Mu Sochua and two other rights leaders to speak on concerns the government has increased its human rights abuses and restricted freedoms.

The government was accepting of criticism, Phay Siphan said, “but we do not want attacks and incitement at all, because we are preparing additional strengthening of the rule of law.”

He called the hearing biased for excluding Cambodian government officials and said Cambodia would not accept assistance with conditions.

Meanwhile, Defense Minister Gen. Tea Banh waved off concerns by commission members that Cambodian units had been involved in abuses of power.

Members of the Human Rights Commission wrote US Defense Secretary Robert Gates on Sept. 18, alleging certain units, including Prime Minister Hun Sen’s bodyguards, engaged in human rights abuses.

“The information in that letter is all wrong,” said Tea Banh, who met with Gates in Washington on Monday.

The letter followed accusations from Human Rights Watch in the Sept. 10 hearing that the units had engaged in a variety of abuses.

“They want to accuse those soldiers of burning people’s houses down,” Tea Banh said. “The investigation at the scene was not like that. There were only two people living in that hut. So you can’t just accuse the whole division of violating human rights like that. There was nothing happening over there.”

He acknowledged that some senior soldiers committed wrongdoings, but he did not give more details.

“I don’t want to reveal their names, because I want to continue to correct them to be better,” he said.

However, Brad Adams, Asia director for Human Rights Watch, said military officials who committed “hundreds” of violations have never been brought to justice.

“No one has ever been accountable under the Cambodian armed forces for the human rights violations,” he said. “People who are criminals are senior officials in the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces now.”

School daze



Photo by: Heng Chivoan

(CAAI News Media)

Friday, 25 September 2009 15:03 Heng Chivoan

Rong Chhun, president of the Cambodian Independent Teachers Association, confronts riot police deployed Thursday to monitor a protest by first-year students from the University of Health Sciences who say the school is cheating them by preventing hundreds who failed their exams from continuing on to their second-year studies.

Mekong species on the brink



Photo by: Photos Supplied.
The elusive Oligodon deuvei (left), a shy snake that has been spotted in Pursat province; the technicoloured, felinesque Cat Ba leopard gecko (centre) found in North Vietnam and Musa rubinea (right), a wild banana found exclusively on the Myanmar–China border. These are just a few of 163 newly discovered species now under threat from climate change in the Greater Mekong region, a new report states.

(CAAI News Media)

Friday, 25 September 2009 15:03 Irwin Loy

Climate change could kill off scores of newly discovered flora and fauna: report.

A secretive half-metre-long snake, a technicoloured gecko that looks like it comes from another planet and a fanged frog that eats birds for breakfast are among 163 new species discovered in the Greater Mekong region last year that are already threatened with extinction because of the changing climate, a new report warns.

Due to be released today, the report from conservation NGO WWF warns that the effects of climate change could wipe out many of the species, which include 100 plants, 28 fish, 18 reptiles, 14 amphibians, two mammals and a bird that would rather walk than fly.

The report comes as Foreign Minister Hor Namhong prepares to raise the issue of climate change at the 64th United Nations general assembly, where he will call for international support for Cambodia’s fledgling environmental movement.

“[Hor Namhong] will ask industrial nations to reduce pollution as much as possible and request that those countries help poorer countries that are impacted by climate change,” Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Koy Kuong said Thursday.

The previously unknown flora and fauna were found in areas adjacent to the Mekong River: Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam and China’s Yunnan province. The region, which the WWF describes as “one of the world’s last biological frontiers”, has yielded discoveries of more than 1,000 new species in the past decade.

In Cambodia, the half-metre-long snake Oligodon deuvei has proved so elusive that researchers have yet to confirm how far afield it is found.

Boasting prominent “blade-like fangs” and a rust-coloured stripe running the length of its body, it has been spotted in Pursat province. Other findings in Cambodia include another snake, a catfish and a tiny herring that measures just a couple of centimetres in length.

The report coincides with a dire warning issued by the WWF ahead of UN climate talks due to start next week in Bangkok. The organisation said rising sea levels would severely affect many of the new species.

“Some species will be able to adapt to climate change, but many will not, potentially resulting in massive extinctions,” Stuart Chapman, director of the WWF Greater Mekong Programme, said in a statement. “Rare, endangered and endemic species like those newly discovered are especially vulnerable because climate change will further shrink their already restricted habitats.”

Conservationists warned on Thursday that, as a post-conflict nation, the Kingdom lacks the resources to fight climate change on its own. Tin Ponlok, project coordinator at the climate change office of the Ministry of Environment, said: “Cambodia is one of 49 countries that the UN considers as least-developed countries. This group … is the most vulnerable because they do not have enough resources such as money, technology, human resources and infrastructure to solve climate change.”

In the past, Cambodia has been hamstrung by “a severe lack of capacity to conserve wildlife”, according to the Centre for Biodiversity Conservation in Cambodia. The centre notes it was not uncommon to find park directors incapable of naming more than 10 species found in their area.

The level of environmental awareness in the Kingdom is improving – albeit slowly, according to Emily Woodfield, country director in Cambodia for the conservation NGO Fauna and Flora International (FFI).

“The capacity has improved immensely in the last 10 years,” Woodfield said. “We’re at the point now that there’s a new generation of budding conservationists in Cambodia who, hopefully, in the future can take over the role that international NGOs are currently playing.

“[Environmental conservation] needs to be driven by Cambodians. Otherwise, it feels very much like Westerners are coming in and telling [Cambodians] what to do in their country. It shouldn’t be like that,” Woodfield said.

Since 2006, FFI has partnered with the Royal University of Phnom Penh to produce the country’s first postgraduate qualification in biodiversity conservation.

Eight students have so far successfully completed their masters’ degrees, and another five are expected to graduate by next year. They are already filling positions in Cambodia’s fledgling environmental sector.

“The change is slow, but there is a change,” Woodfield said.

Resistant malaria a concern, WHO says


(CAAI News Media)

Friday, 25 September 2009 15:03 Jacob Gold

A DRUG-RESISTANT strain of malaria observed on the Cambodian-Thai border threatens to overturn decades of progress in the worldwide fight against the disease, doctors from the World Health Organisation (WHO) warned at a regional conference in Hong Kong on Wednesday.

“Artemisinin-based combination therapy, the most effective antimalaria treatment to date, and among the last resources in our arsenal of drugs against the disease, is seriously threatened by evidence of resistance to the treatment in the Cambodian-Thai border,” said Shin Young-soo, WHO regional director for the Western Pacific.

“Artemisinin-resistance needs urgent containment to prevent further spread of drug resistance.”

Artemisinin is only the latest antimalarial drug to be compromised by resistance developed on the Cambodian-Thai border.

A 2007 WHO report on the phenomenon describes how, beginning in the 1970s, Cambodia reported malaria strains resistant to the drugs chloroquine, sulfadoxine-pyramethamine and mefloquine. Infections treated with artemisinin have already begun taking longer and longer to clear, requiring increasingly elaborate multi-drug treatment courses.

According to government figures, the number of malaria cases and deaths has risen in 2009. The National Centre for Parasitology, Entomology and Malaria Control reported that in the first six months of 2009, 27,105 people caught the disease and 103 died. In comparison, 25,033 were infected during the same period last year, causing just 65 fatalities.

WHO officials at the conference said the spread of malarial drug-resistance in Cambodia is being fuelled by an abundance of cheap counterfeit drugs containing little or no active medicine. Rather than clearing out the infection completely, inadequate treatments kill only the weakest parasites, leaving behind the strongest and most resistant.

Sharon Wilkinson, country director for Care International in Cambodia, told the Post that the fake malaria drugs her group had found on the affected border area were not only prevalent but also disturbingly realistic.

“These [counterfeits] were beautifully packaged, bubble-wrapped and holographed. They turned out to contain only chalk,” she said, adding that the first counterfeit drugs were discovered seven years ago.

“Aside from consuming the drugs, there is no way to detect this without a laboratory.”

Wilkinson added that the circulation of counterfeit drugs was made easier by “porous borders and very limited government control over pharmacies”.

“If you walk into a pharmacy here and look at who gives you the drugs, half of the time it isn’t the pharmacist. It could be the pharmacist’s child helping out. There should be tighter supervision.... Cambodia is in a state of pharmaceutical anarchy.”

In addition to promoting the use of real drugs in effective combinations, the WHO said it was pursuing a further array of strategies to beat artemisinin-resistant malaria in Cambodia, including improving the rate of case detection and distributing long-lasting, treated bed nets.

Football meet fights evictions



Photo by: Heng Chivoan
Children from relocation sites and threatened urban communities take part Thursday in the Zero Evictions Soccer 2009 championship in Phnom Penh on Thursday.
_________________

Tuol kork railway eviction postponed


Phnom Penh municipal authorities on Thursday postponed a planned eviction of 26 families living along a rail lines in Tuol Kor district and announced plans to hold additional negotiations scheduled for today. In a statement issued last week, authorities said the families had until Thursday to leave their homes and offered them two compensation options, or forced removal from the site. But Phnom Penh Deputy Governor Mann Chhoeurn said Thursday that the municipality hoped to reach a peaceful agreement and avoid using force. Some 645 families have already accepted compensation, Mann Chhoeurn said earlier this week, and remaining residents say they are holding out for a better compensation package.

(CAAI News Media)

Friday, 25 September 2009 15:03 Khouth Sophakchakrya

Eviction-affected kids compete in awareness-raising tourney.

MORE than 120 children from Phnom Penh resettlement sites and communities under threat of eviction gathered Thursday at the Cambodia Mekong University football field to take part in the Zero Evictions Soccer 2009 championship.

Ee Sarom, coordinator of Sahmakum Teang Tnaut, the local housing rights advocacy groups that organised the event, said it was intended to reduce the pain of children under 16 years old who had experienced threats of eviction and to send a message to the government to halt further evictions of poor urban communities.

For the youngsters who took part, the joy of friendly competition was a momentary respite from the fear and uncertainty of living on disputed land in the capital, participants said.

Cher Ratha, 15, from the Boeung Kak lakeside’s Village 6, which is set to make way for a 133-hectare housing and commercial development, said that despite losing 3-0 to a team from the Andong Thmey relocation site in Dangkor district, he was glad to take part.

“I don’t know about the government’s development plan, but I know that they are violating my homeland,” he said.

Andong Thmey resident Heng Vannak, also 15, said the tournament was the most fun he’d had since being evicted from Phnom Penh’s Sambok Chab community in 2006.

He added that his and other evictees’ families continue to face poor living conditions, including “lack of sanitation, clean water [and] electricity” at their relocation site.

Sia Phearum, secretariat director of the Housing Rights Task Force, said that critics did not oppose development but saw forced evictions as unnecessary for further economic development.

“We want to see the country have development, but we do not want to see people threatened by eviction for the sake of national development,” he said.

Groups urge investigation of R’kiri judge


(CAAI News Media)

Friday, 25 September 2009 15:03 Robbie Corey-Boulet and Khouth Sophak Chakrya

TWO leading rights groups vowed Thursday to file a request to the Supreme Council of the Magistracy (SCM) for an investigation into the alleged misconduct of a Ratanakkiri judge who earlier this week admitted to illegally driving a truck that had been impounded as evidence in a robbery that led to two deaths.

In a joint statement, Licadho and the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights (CCHR) also decried what they termed the harassment of rights workers, activists and at least one journalist in the province. They said an ongoing land dispute involving the private company DM Group had been marked by “derisory compensation and the intimidation of indigenous families by local authorities seemingly working in the interests of the private company”.

The request for an investigation of Ratanakkiri provincial court judge Thor Saron – which CCHR President Ou Virak said would be submitted “soon” – would follow a similar request to the SCM sent by CCHR on September 10. In that request, CCHR charged, among other accusations, that Thor Saron may have committed an ethics violation by telling Adhoc activist Pen Bonnar that he would face prosecution on charges of defamation, incitement and terrorism if he remained in the province.

In an interview Thursday, Ou Virak said he believed the second request was necessary.

“I think there’s more misconduct that has come into light,” he said, referring specifically to the revelation that Thor Saron had used the impounded Toyota Tiger for personal use.

“That’s beyond ridiculous,” Ou Virak said.

Thor Saron said Thursday that he had only used the car for work-related trips.

Ou Virak said he had not heard anything from the SCM regarding its original request, adding: “We expect a proper investigation into the alleged misconduct.”

Minister touts school gains


(CAAI News Media)

Friday, 25 September 2009 15:02 Robbie Corey-Boulet

EDUCATION Minister Im Sethy on Thursday marked 30 years of development in education since the fall of the Khmer Rouge in a speech that contrasted the sector’s humble beginnings with what he described as its “proudly developed” present state.

Speaking at the National Institute of Education, Im Sethy detailed the dearth of resources facing the sector in 1979. He said only 15 percent of professors, teachers and other intellectuals survived the Khmer Rouge years, during which people who were proficient in a foreign language or wore glasses were among those targeted for execution.

“Although we worked with empty hands and overcame many difficulties and challenges, we managed to establish the Ministry of Education on February 15, 1979,” less than two months after the Khmer Rouge were toppled by the Vietnamese, he said. The ministry, then headed by Chan Ven, held its first opening ceremony on September 24, 1979.

Im Sethy recalled a slogan from the period: “The educated will teach the uneducated, and the more-educated will teach the less-educated.”

To that end, all literate Cambodians, including “oxcart pullers returning to Phnom Penh”, were actively recruited, he said.

“As far as classrooms and schools were concerned, in addition to the use of broken schools left over from the destruction of the Khmer Rouge, teaching and learning were undertaken in ... temples, under people’s houses, under trees and on ... paddy dams,” he said.

He also described the curriculum as composed “in an urgent manner day and night” by teachers facing “very poor” living standards.

The sector today
Im Sethy pointed to the current state of education in Cambodia as demonstrating significant national development.

He said today’s sector was “proudly developed in terms of both quantity and quality, with the support and assistance of the Royal Government of Cambodia, national and international communities, and donors under the responsible policies of Samdech Hun Sen, our greatest leader”.

Im Samrithy, executive director of the NGO Education Partnership, a networking organisation that facilitates communication between the government and education NGOs, attended the speech and said he largely agreed, though he noted that there was vast room for improvement.

“If you try to compare education 30 years ago and now, we’ve improved,” he said. “But as we improved and tried to survive from scratch, the world was also moving forward.”

He said Cambodia now lags behind developed countries as well as neighbouring countries, such as Thailand and Vietnam, in terms of school quality.

In a speech last March that coincided with an annual review of the sector’s performance, Prime Minister Hun Sen called on officials to enhance school quality, particularly at higher-education institutions, while improving on the enrolment gains seen in recent years.

He called master’s and PhD programmes “too easy”, saying: “Some master’s and PhD students cannot type on computers.”

Students appeal to PM in exam feud



Photo by: Heng Chivoan
Medical students protest outside the University of Health Sciences in Phnom Penh on Thursday, demanding admission to the second-year programme despite having failed their first-year exams.

(CAAI News Media)

Friday, 25 September 2009 15:02 Vong Sokheng

SEVERAL hundred first-year students of Phnom Penh’s University of Health Sciences continued to rally in front of their school on Thursday, calling on Prime Minister Hun Sen to intervene in their dispute with university administrators who have blocked them from enrolling in a second year of studies.

Rong Chhun, president of the Cambodian Independent Teachers Association, said around half of the 2,000 students had been blocked from re-enrolling after failing their exams, but that 70 percent of those rejected wished to advance to the second year despite their results.

Peng Sofina, a 20-year-old freshman, said his exam results were never released, accusing the school of cheating him to keep second-year class numbers down.

“[The school] delayed my exams several times and did not release [my] scores,” he said.

However, Phay Siphan, spokesman for the Council of Ministers, said that there was no other option but for the students to retake their first-year exams.

“We respect their honour and reputation, and are allowing them to retake the exam,” he said Thursday.

Author plans stupa to mark fallen journalists


(CAAI News Media)

Friday, 25 September 2009 15:02 Khoun Leakhana

AN Australian author and former journalist plans to build a memorial stupa in Phnom Penh for journalists who died between 1970 and 1979, he told the Post on Wednesday.

Carl Robinson, who covered Southeast Asia as a journalist during the 1970s, said the idea behind the project was to remind future generations of the 24 local and foreign journalists who have died on the job in Cambodia.

“We have been thinking of building memorial stupas for journalists in three countries – China, Vietnam and Cambodia,” he said, but added that Cambodia was chosen as the first site due to bureaucratic difficulties in the other countries.

Robinson said he was still awaiting a reply to a formal proposal laying out plans to construct the monument in the capital.

Information Minister Khieu Kanharith said he has had similar ideas in the past, but that Prime Minister Hun Sen and municipal authorities would need to scrutinise the plans before they can go ahead.

Robinson said he also plans to initiate an annual three-day gathering for Cambodian journalists, hopefully in April 2010.

“We want them to have a chance to pray to the spirits of deceased journalists and to discuss the general situation of their country,” he said.

Chhay Sophal, a training and education officer from the Club of Cambodian Journalists, said the meeting could be a good opportunity for older journalists to mix with their younger colleagues.

Assembly vote on penal code expected to occur in October



(CAAI News Media)

Friday, 25 September 2009 15:02 Vong Sokheng

Senior CPP official says Anticorruption Law will follow by March 2010.

SENIOR Cambodian People’s Party lawmaker Cheam Yeap said Wednesday that the National Assembly would likely vote on the new penal code next month and that it would be formally adopted later this year.

Speaking outside a workshop on the code, Cheam Yeap said passage of the long-awaited Anticorruption Law, which officials have said could not go forward until the penal code was adopted, would come early next year.

“I would predict that the Anticorruption Law would be approved during the first three months of 2010,” he said.

At the workshop, more than 200 lawmakers, government officials and civil society legal experts gathered at the National Assembly to discuss the penal code, which was approved by the Council of Ministers in June.

Minister of Justice Ang Vong Vathana, who attended the workshop, told reporters that approximately 20 items in the penal code pertained to the Anticorruption Law, though he said he could not remember details about specific penalties.

“I don’t remember the types of penalties, but I can say they will cover all civil servants and court officers who commit corruption,” he said.

Sam Rainsy Party spokesman Yim Sovann, who was among the lawmakers at the session, said he did not believe the penal code provided concrete definitions of and appropriate penalties for defamation and disinformation offences.

“I am concerned that these crimes are still not clear, and the code will allow judges to interpret the law in order to intimidate individuals – perhaps those who file corruption-related complaints,” he said.

Sok Sam Oeun, executive director of the Cambodian Defenders Project, said anti-corruption legislation should provide for strict punishment of officials who take bribes and focus less on people who offer bribes.

Frenchman charged in child sex case


(CAAI News Media)

Friday, 25 September 2009 15:02 Cheang Sokha

Suspect is accused of committing indecent acts with a 13-year-old boy in P Sihanouk province.

A FRENCH national was charged Thursday with committing indecent acts with a minor in Preah Sihanouk province after being seen having sex with a 13-year-old boy in public, courts officials said.

Bou Bun Haing, chief prosecutor at Preah Sihanouk provincial court, confirmed that 61-year-old Jean-Marie Beranger had been charged by Preah Sihanouk deputy prosecutor Ream Chan Mony.

“We have already forwarded the case to the investigating judge,” Bou Bun Haing said.

If convicted, Beranger faces one to five years in prison, investigating Judge Kim Eng said.

“But the accused has denied any wrongdoing,” he added.

Kim Eng said that he would have to collect further evidence before proceeding with the case, but that he had heard from Beranger’s alleged victim and had issued a detention warrant for the Frenchman.

Beranger, who entered Cambodia last Friday as a tourist via Phnom Penh, was arrested on Tuesday, said Suon Sophann, deputy director of Preah Sihanouk province’s Anti-human Trafficking Police. This arrest, he added, followed a tip from Action Pour Les Enfants (APLE), a child rights group.

APLE Director Samleang Seila said his staff alerted provincial police after seeing Beranger having sex with the boy on Tuesday evening in a public area near a beach.

“Since he arrived, he has been persuading boys on the beach to have sex with him for money,” Samleang Seila said. “He is also suspected of the sexual harassment of other underage boys on the beach.”

Samleang Seila added that 13 foreigners convicted on paedophilia charges in Cambodia have been removed from the country, including Belgian national Philippe Dessart last week. Others have remained in Cambodia to serve their prison terms.

Tea Banh praises welcome in US



Photo by: Sam Rith
Defence Minister Tea Banh speaks with reporters at Phnom Penh International Airport on Wednesday after his return from the US.

(CAAI News Media)

Friday, 25 September 2009 15:02 Sam Rith

DEFENCE Minister Tea Banh said he received a “much warmer” welcome from the United States government on his recent trip to the country than on his first visit in 1995, but confirmed that the US remains concerned about allegations of human rights violations committed by military units and addressed at a congressional hearing earlier this month.

Speaking at the Phnom Penh International Airport after returning from his four-day visit to the US, Tea Banh said he was glad to be greeted by an honour guard when he arrived at the Pentagon in Washington for meetings on Monday afternoon.

“[I] was greeted by US Secretary of Defence Robert Gates at the defence ministry headquarters,” he told reporters.

“He came out to welcome me at the entrance steps with soldiers organised alongside the entrance.”

However, Tea Banh confirmed to reporters in Washington on Tuesday that unnamed RCAF officers have been denied visa entry by the US government due to suspicions – aired by Human Rights Watch during a US congressional hearing on September 10 – that they have been involved in human rights violations in Cambodia.

The suspicions, concerning RCAF Brigades 911, 31 and 70 – Prime Minister Hun Sen’s bodyguard unit – were subsequently raised by eight US congressmen in a letter to Gates on September 18.

Responding to a question from a Radio Free Asia reporter, Tea Banh said he was aware visa restrictions were in place but denied the allegations against the units in question, saying he considered the letter’s claims to be “all false”.

Tea Banh said in Phnom Penh on Wednesday that Gates did not raise the issue of abuses in talks, but instead complimented Cambodia on recent peacekeeping efforts, its commitment to counterterrorism efforts and for sending deminers to help conflict-ridden countries.

Defence Ministry spokesman Chhum Socheat could not be reached for comment on Thursday.

Resort tees up course designer



Photo by: Photo Supplied
Model overview of Bellus Angkor Resort and City incorporating new golf course.

(CAAI News Media)

Friday, 25 September 2009 15:01 Peter Olszewski

Internationally renowned Scottish golf course architect David McLay Kidd was in Siem Reap for just over 24 hours before he landed in the rough – the car returning him from an inspection of a new golf course site on the outskirts of Siem Reap slid off the road and had to be pulled back on track with ropes.

“I was thinking I would have to jog all the way back if it took another hour to get the car out,” a bemused Kidd told the Post. “That was early evening and I was worried I might miss my 11.30pm flight back to the US.”

The flying Scotsman was on a whirlwind trip to negotiate a forthcoming commission to design a new golf course to be built at a massive new $470 million entertainment, gaming and hotel complex, Bellus Angkor Resort & City.

The complex, being developed by Korean-based company, Intercity Group, is on a 265 hectare site, 22 kilometres north of Angkor Thom, and an opening ceremony is expected to take place in October.

Intercity Group acquired the concession for a casino and permission for other resort facilities in October 2008, which was widely reported in the regional media as a massive casino complex.

On December 10 last year, Korea’s Maeil Business Newspaper reported that the Cambodian government “requested to arrange various facilities in order to prevent the resort from being degenerated into a casino-centered facility.”

While a gaming centre is still an important component of phase one of the development’s construction, more emphasis is now placed on other entertainment and sports amenities, such as several hotels with up to 750 rooms, a large ultra-modern convention centre, and three golf courses.

Two golf courses are still in doubt, contingent on the company being able to lease a further 180 hectares of government land. But construction of the first international golf course, an 18-holer to be built on the existing lease, will start early next year and should be completed by the end of 2011.

But first the course needs to be designed, hence the arrival of Oregon-based Mr Kidd, one of the world’s leading golf course creators.


Photo by: Photo Supplied
Golf course designer David McLay Kidd.

He flew into Seoul from the US on Saturday September 12, arrived in Siem Reap on Saturday afternoon, toured the temples, played golf at the Angkor Golf Resort on Sunday morning, checked the site of the new golf course on Sunday afternoon, endured the off-road incident, dined at Red Piano at 9pm in the evening, spoke to 7Days, and then hightailed it to the airport.

He met two of the InterCity Group big boys who had also flown in from Seoul – Hyung-Joo Kim, CEO and president, and James Cho, CMO and vice president, plus Siem Reap-based company adviser Jae-Sub Chung.

All parties seemed to reach amicable accord so it would be a safe bet to say that Kidd will design the new golf course, which will become the fourth in Siem Reap.

Kidd said all parties seemed to have a similar mindset.

“So hopefully things will move quickly forward and I’ll get the opportunity to develop the idea of how Angkor Wat meets golf,” he said.

“My initial thoughts are that everything about this part of the world is the history and the mystery of the temples. The challenge is to consider what could be done on a golf course to create a similar look and feel, with that same prestige and mysterious culture.

“I don’t know how to do that yet, but I’m excited about the potential.”

InterCity Group vice president James Cho said, “Eventually we want to have 54 holes in total here so that will be two more golf courses, apart from the course that we hope David will design.

“Experts say it takes about five golf courses to make it a golf destination and of course golf is a big sport in Southeast Asia. There is a big Thai base of golfers here, and of course here Hun Sen likes golf, and with the driving range that’s now in Phnom Penh, we hope the sport will become more popular with Cambodians.”

Siem Reap Scene: 25 Sep 2009



Photo by: Peter Olszeski
Saturday morning Pchum Ben crowds on the north side of the South Gate of Angkor Thom.

(CAAI News Media)

Friday, 25 September 2009 15:01 Peter Olszewski

PCHUM BEN TEMPLE CROWDS
Sleepy torpor descended on the quiet streets of downtown Siem Reap during Pchum Ben, but at the temples and Khmer leisure areas the action was fast and furious.

Angkor Kyung Yu recreation grounds were jam-packed and seething in the evenings, with Phnom Krom and the West Baray drawing big daytime numbers.

Traffic congestion was the order of the day at the temples on Saturday, with most Khmer residents undertaking an obligatory visit to pagodas within the temple complex.

By late morning Saturday, a line of cars stretched for kilometres, almost as far back as Angkor Wat, from the gridlock at south side of the Angkor Thom South Gate, while coming from the other direction, a melee of tuk tuks and motos gridlocked the north side of the South Gate.

BUTTERFLY CENTRE OPENS
A colourful new addition to the range of Siem Reap tourism attractions is the new Angkor Butterfly Centre, which opens on the weekend of October 3-4, with $2 half-price tickets for foreigners and free entry for Khmer.

The centre, 25 kilometres outside Siem Reap on the road to Banteay Srey, claims to be the biggest butterfly attraction in South East Asia.

It’s been 18 months in the making, and has been established by an NGO, Angkor Participatory Development Organisation to raise revenue, to encourage the conservation of indigenous butterflies, and to foster the protection of the natural environment. More than 30 species of local butterflies are on display, and the largest inhabitant at the centre is the world’s largest moth, an orange-coloured beastie that has a wing span of 26 centimetres.

The centre also displays the complete life cycle of a butterfly from egg, to caterpillar, to pupae to winged glory, and visitors are promised “the discovery of the miracle of insect life.”

Organisers at the centre work with Khmer families from the district who “harvest” local butterflies, and the hope is to discover new species that as yet have been undocumented.

4FACES FEATURES FISHY PHOTOS
The new photographic exhibition opening tonight at 4Faces Café features the work of Phnom Penh photographer Doris Boettcher.

The theme of her exhibition is Fishing Nets, No Fish, and, as Doris so aptly points out, “The photos have nothing to do with the fish, just the nature and colour of the nets, the material, and how light falls on the material.

“In a sense I have taken photos of fishing nets and abstracted them.”

Doris added, “The inspiration came from a street in Ta Khmau in Phnom Penh. This unpaved street is a paradise for fishermen because it is full of fishing nets for sale, hanging and laying everywhere, just waiting for buyers.”

Doris’ work in this exhibition is also interesting on two fronts – until now she’s almost exclusively worked with her trusty “square’ Rolleiflex, and has only produced black and white work.

But with some of her photos for her 4Faces show, she’s not only gone colour, but she’s also gone digital, using A Canon EOS 400D camera.

Boettcher has lived in Phnom Penh since 2004. She’s been a tour guide, worked at the National Library and held numerous shows, including work on the Angkor temples and a photographic odyssey down the Mekong River from Laos. Some of her images of Angkor were selected for the 2007 Heritage Watch calendar

The exhibition launches tonight at 7pm at 4Faces Café and gallery and runs through the month until October 29.

TEMPLE TREASURE TALK
Archaeologist and art historian Christine Hawixbrock, who specialises in the Khmer world and particularly the monuments of the Jayavarman VII era, will give a presentation this Friday evening about the discovery of a Khmer treasure found at the all but forgotten site of Nong Hua Thong in Laos’ Savannakhet province last year.

The treasure consists of two silver platters and bowl, the oldest of which perhaps dates back to the eight century. The items carry three short Khmer inscriptions. The treasures are now being studied.

Dr Hawixbrock has participated in a number of archaeological programmes including work at sites such as Preah Khan and at the Royal Palace at Angkor.

The presentation will be in French this Friday evening at 6:30 at the École Française d’Extrême-Orient beside the river between Wat Po Lanka and Wat Enkosa.


Photo by: Lily Partland
Michael Horton founder of Siem Reap’s NGO Concert.

VOTE WINNING CONCERT
Michael Horton’s Siem Reap-based NGO ConCERT has been voted as one of three finalists in the Best Overseas Tourism Project award given annually by the British Guild of Travel Writers.

A beaming Michael Horton told Scene that in February this year Hilary Bradt, one of Britain’s most distinguished travel authors, and member of the British Guild of Travel Writers, called in to the ConCERT office and was “sufficiently impressed” that she nominated ConCERT for the award.

“This is given for the best new (less than two years old) overseas tourism project, which not only has a tourist potential but is of benefit to the local community and environment,” Horton said.

“The guild selects six projects in each category from those submitted by its members. At the members’ awards evening held on September 15, attending members voted for three finalists, and ConCERT came first on Tuesday evening in the first round of voting.”

ConCERT now goes through to the final voting by the entire guild membership and the result will be announced at a gala dinner on November 8 at the Marriott Hotel, Grosvenor Square, in London.

But winning the award has created a headache for Horton – how to get there?

“They don’t pay expenses and I can’t justify or afford $1,500+ for the airfare,” he said.

For any potential donors out there, now is the time to send Horton packing.

Govt to stop Bangkok Air's domestic flights



Photo by: Heng Chivoan
Workers unload a Bangkok Airways flight Thursday at Phnom Penh International Airport.

(CAAI News Media)

Friday, 25 September 2009 15:01 May Kunmakara

Civil aviation body says that Thai airline will not have its agreement extended for Phnom Penh-Siem Reap route

THE government will not renew its agreement with Bangkok Airways, under which the Thai-owned airline flies domestic routes, when it expires on October 25, a senior aviation official told the Post late Wednesday.

State Secretariat of Civil Aviation (SSCA) Secretary of State Mao Havannal said the decision was made to give a boost to the new national carrier Cambodia Angkor Air (CAA), which made its maiden flight on July 28.

“Now that we have our own domestic airline, Bangkok Airways will not be allowed to continue their flights when the agreement finishes on October 25,” he said.

Bangkok Airways has been flying four flights daily between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap since taking over the route last November when its subsidiary, Siem Reap Airways, was grounded by the SSCA.

SSCA Cabinet Chief Long Chheng said Thursday that the body sent Bangkok Airways a letter last week informing it of the decision.

Bangkok Airways Acting Country Director Amornrat Kongsawat was not available for comment Thursday.

A representative of the airline in Bangkok who did not want to be named said she was unaware of the issue, but added that affairs in Cambodia did not come under her jurisdiction.

SSCA Director of Operations Kao Sivorn confirmed that the decision was a commercial one to support the new national carrier.

“Before, we allowed this airline to operate domestically because we did not have a local company, but now we have, so we will not let them continue,” he said.

However, he added that the airline would be able to negotiate a code-share agreement with CAA so that its passengers could continue flying between the two destinations.

Mao Havannal also ruled out a return to the skies for Siem Reap Airways, saying it still did not comply with “the proper standards”.

The airline, which was founded in 2000, was grounded last year amid concerns over safety standards and financial irregularities after an audit by the International Civil Aviation Organisation. The audit found that the airline did not comply with Cambodian airline regulations, including safety standards, and also raised concerns over the ability of Cambodian civil aviation authorities to enforce international safety standards.

A source within the SSCA told the Post in June the audit found Cambodia in breach of 107 international standards and said it would ban all local airlines if action was not taken, leading to the decision by authorities to take a tough stand against Siem Reap Airways.

The European Commission also banned Siem Reap Airways from operating in the European Union last year due to safety concerns, even though the airline did not offer service to Europe.

Soy Sokhan, an undersecretary of state at the SSCA who is in charge of all matters related to CAA on behalf of the government, said the end of Bangkok Airways agreement would "give us the chance to get more passengers”.

Temple Watch: Limestone Love



Photo by: Dave Perkes
Quarry men working with limestone.

(CAAI News Media)

Friday, 25 September 2009 15:01 Dave Perkes

Limestone is used widely for the Angkor temples, and in most cases it is a cladding over the laterite stone core. There was no natural limestone in the Siem Reap area, so it had to be extracted from quarries near Kulen Mountain.

Quarrying the stone must have been a very tough job, using primitive materials. The photo shows modern workmen at a stone quarry near Beng Mealea using metal rods to cut the stone blocks. Tool marks on stones suggest this could have been similar to the method originally used.

The limestone plateau of Kulen, which extends for over twenty kilometres, is situated 30 kilometers from Angkor city. The logistics of transporting thousands of tonnes of stone would be a major project today, but in the 12th century it would have been an incredibly difficult undertaking, with tens of thousands of men and elephants working in hot humid conditions.

Looking at the narrow Siem Reap River today, it’s hard to imagine how these huge blocks could be moved along this waterway. But the river was significantly wider than it is today, as the ancient Khmers canalized this river by straightening it as part of the extensive irrigation system. This would enable the use of rafts to transport the stone.

Getting your teeth into betel nut


(CAAI News Media)

Friday, 25 September 2009 15:01 Shannon Dunlap

Our intrepid cultural explorer goes out on a limb this week to test the mythical powers of the mlu

Beauty is always in the eye of the beholder, of course, but for someone who grew up watching Colgate commercials, the charms of the betel-stained smile can be difficult to understand. I had heard that in ancient Asian societies (and in some isolated parts of the world even now) the blackened teeth and garish red lips that one gets from regular chewing of betel nut was considered to be a sign of great beauty. Though that no longer seems to be the prevailing attitude in Siem Reap, many elderly women in the surrounding rural areas continue to gnaw the leafy concoction, so I sought out a few to school me in the allures of betel.

Some basics first: betel nut is actually not betel or a nut. The folded leaf comes from the betel plant (mlu in Khmer), a vine that looks a little like ivy on steroids. But the hard part, the “nut,” comes from a different plant altogether, the areca tree, a spindly palm that looks like it has bunches of green and orange grapes hanging in place of coconuts. These fruits can be eaten fresh or dried in the sun to reach the consistency of a nut. But it’s only when combined with betel leaves smeared with limestone paste that it produces those signature streams of scarlet saliva.

As I chewed some betel during a hot afternoon in Kouk Tnot Village, Grandma Han (65-year-old betel enthusiast) enumerated some of the benefits that I could expect to enjoy. First of all, it would apparently make my teeth stronger. Despite the blackened nubs that are a sign of serious chewers, this claim does, in fact, have some merit, since it has been used in Chinese herbalists’ tooth powders for centuries. It also explains why older women continue to chew while most Khmer have given up the practice. One of Grandma Han’s friends with very few teeth left lamented the fact that she hadn’t started chewing in time, and I was relieved that I was getting an early start.

Grandma Han went on to tell me that it would improve my breath. Here, too, I could see the logic. The wad of leaf and areca initially had the flavor of bitter sticks mixed with tremendously unripe fruit, but this eventually gave way to a vague mintiness. Even so, I would still opt for Altoids in preparation for a hot date.

Primarily, though, Grandma Han said that her ten bundles of betel per day helped her to relax and forget her worries. I knew that areca had a mild narcotic effect, but I had heard it described as similar to drinking a cup of coffee. The heightened awareness of caffeine, however, was not what Grandma Han nor I experienced while chewing. A few minutes after spitting out the wad of plant matter, I felt a lightheaded dreaminess that made journalistic note taking suddenly seem unappealing and unnecessary. This effect, Grandma Han explained, was why it is always good to offer a neighbor some betel if they happen to be angry at you. Not long after, however, I began to experience some tingling in my extremities that was not altogether pleasant, and I opted to turn down the additional kind offerings of betel from other grandmothers.

Though I left the village feeling indebted to the generosity and advice from Grandma Han, she didn’t succeed in fostering a love for betel in me. I think that perhaps her strongest reasons for chewing betel have to do with attachments to a culture that is not my own. At my wedding, my groom will probably not offer betel to my parents as a sign of love and loyalty. When I reach middle age, my mother will probably not advise me on the optimum moment to start chewing betel in order to preserve my teeth. And I will probably never inherit a hundred-year-old betel cutter from my grandmother the way that Grandma Han did. My first foray into the world of mlu might be my last; a love of betel may be one thing that simply can’t be taught.

US offers $7.79m in aid for rural businesses



(CAAI News Media)

Friday, 25 September 2009 15:01 May Kunmakara

THE government signed an amendment to an existing bilateral agreement with the United States on Wednesday that will provide US$7.79 million in funds for a programme aimed at boosting productivity in rural businesses.

Deputy Prime Minister Sok An said the money, which will be provided through the US Agency for International Development (USAID), would provide a welcome boost to the economy given the impact of the global economic downturn on Cambodia.

The original bilateral agreement, signed last November, called for $6 million in funding. Sok An said the increase reflected “improved cooperation between Cambodia and the United States of America” and would "help strengthen the relationship between the two governments, particularly in the field of economic cooperation”.

Under the amendment, inked on behalf of the US government by USAID Mission Director Flynn Fuller, the government is expected to provide $425,000 of in-kind support.

The money will be used to expand USAID’s Strengthening Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises in Cambodia project, which aims to alleviate poverty in rural areas.

The programme has helped over 3,000 farmers increase their sales by between 100 percent and 340 percent, according to a press release from the US embassy.

US Ambassador Carol Rodley said USAID funding not only helped business growth but also provided a boost for living standards in rural areas. “I have been working side-by-side with Cambodian colleagues, and we have helped thousands of rural entrepreneurs,” she said.

Boosting investment in Cambodia



Photo by: SOVAN PHILONG
Ajinomoto's Cambodia President Ichiro Nishimura says that although Cambodian officials still demand bribes, in other respects the country is no longer a pariah among foreign direct investors.

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It was difficult to convince the Tokyo top management [to invest in Cambodia]....
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(CAAI News Media)

Friday, 25 September 2009 15:01 Steve Finch

Japanese food firm Ajinomoto will begin building a new factory here next month; the company's Cambodia president, Ichiro Nishimura, explains why multinationals no longer fear the Kingdom

CEO TALK
--------------------
By Steve Finch

Ajinomoto has recently signed a deal to construct a packing factory in the Phnom Penh Special Economic Zone (PPSEZ) starting next month. What prompted the company to expand beyond the distribution operation you first set up in 2001?

Cambodia is between Vietnam and Thailand.… We [already] have big business between Vietnam and Cambodia, and between Thailand and Cambodia.

Actually, we import … and sell here, but this country has big potential due to economic progress and stable politics, and most Cambodian people … are young.

According to economic growth, people’s eating habits, [their] lifestyle should change – such as KFC. It has already changed.

So, if we make the decision to invest in Cambodia … we see [the potential for] a suitable factory. Phnom Penh Special Economic Zone has [the necessary] infrastructure and … incentives.

So what incentives has Ajinomoto received to set up at the PPSEZ?

The maximum nine-year tax holiday. And construction materials, free import tax and free VAT – this is on construction, on investment such as machines or steel structures, things like this.

Ajinomoto has already invested heavily in neighbouring Thailand and Vietnam. How do the tax incentives for foreign investors here compare to the Kingdom’s ASEAN neighbours?

I don’t exactly know [the details of incentives] in Thailand and Vietnam, but the Cambodian government supports [us] – especially the CDC [Council for the Development of Cambodia]….

It’s very attractive support – [there is a] one-stop service from the CDC.

Before coming here … [Ajinomoto thought that] Cambodia was very complicated, that there was a lot of under-the-table money, something like that. We were a bit concerned.

But actually when we came here, it was very supportive. The top of the government was very supportive. For example, tax is a very complicated issue, but the top made it very clear … step-by-step.

But the next position [down in the hierarchy] doesn’t understand that policy or rule.… Their thinking method is very old-fashioned.

You mentioned that Cambodia has a reputation for corruption when it comes to foreign investment. Have you seen it at the lower levels of government here?

Yes, before. But actually, in Japan, if you’re talking about our Tokyo headquarters – my boss or our top management in Tokyo – if you ask them, “Cambodia, what do you think of Cambodia”...?

It was difficult to convince the Tokyo top management [to invest in Cambodia]; it took a long time.

But they came here to see the market and to meet the authorities. They found it easy to understand and then dramatically changed their minds.

But are Cambodian officials at the lower level still asking your company for bribes?

Yes, they still are. This kind of experience in most developing countries is a very common issue....

This still exists, but generally if a foreign company invests in Cambodia, they needn’t be afraid of such things as country risk, collapse, no system....

I clearly say there is no need to be afraid [of Cambodia].

Ajinomoto has plans for a packing factory in the PPSEZ that will import raw materials. Are there also plans to begin manufacturing in Cambodia?

According to our plan, we will start from June next year … start test production in June.

It means this company will combine with a new company. Sales activities from the new company will start from September 2010.

Ajinomoto … will import [raw materials] from Thailand or import from Vietnam, or import from other countries.

We are now studying the most suitable supply chain, which country is the most suitable. Anyway, we import from other countries … in bulk, and we will pack for the first stage.

And the second stage, we will make these products [Nishimura displays a sachet of processed food produced by Ajinomoto]…. It will be mixed here and packed here – for the second stage.

Cambodia has routinely been unable to produce the necessary raw materials for its own industries. To what extent is that putting off multinational companies from investing here?
[One factor] is the exchange rate … and another is AFTA, the ASEAN Free Trade Agreement.

Actually, import tax may be [abolished] in 2015, according to the ASEAN Free Trade Agreement.

In 2015, among the ASEAN countries, there will be free trade – it means import tax is zero.

Still, I hear from the Cambodian authorities … [regarding] Cambodian tax, 19 percent comes from import tax and VAT.

So it means that if Cambodia has no import tax, it will cut [the country’s revenue].

But for the next few years it will directly affect our business.

Research by the UN Development Programme, among others, has shown that Cambodian productivity in the work place and vocational skills are a long way behind the likes of Vietnam and Thailand. Does this concern multinationals like you when you are deciding whether to invest here?

Vietnam 10 years ago was similar to Cambodia and was doing very well, so 10 years later we can catch up with Vietnam’s current level.

So, over time … Cambodia’s level [of labour skills] is becoming higher.

There is a lack of marketing data here to help companies like Ajinomoto identify who its likely customers are and how many of them are in Cambodia. How have you been able to say for certain that you want to enter Cambodia and that you have a potential market here?

We have done market research … by myself, and we have a marketing research company. We have data.

If you compare it to Thailand, with the data quality there is a very big difference, but our products are very basic, such as MSG.

Every Cambodian person eats MSG … so we are at the very basic stage.

If we create a higher-level product, maybe we would need more information, but in the current situation it is enough.