Wednesday, 21 October 2009

SKorean men arrested for rape in Cambodia: police


2009-10-21 18:09

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

PHNOM PENH, Oct 21 (AFP) - Three South Korean men have been arrested after one of them was caught raping an intoxicated Cambodian woman in their private room at a karaoke club, police said Wednesday.

Authorities said the three men -- two restaurant owners and a tourist guide -- were arrested immediately Tuesday night at the club in northwestern Siem Reap province, home to the famed Angkor Wat temples.

Sun Bunthong, chief of Siem Reap's anti-human trafficking police, said the men forced an 18-year-old girl to drink beer until she was intoxicated, and then asked other women to leave the room so that one of the men could rape her.

"After girls who were not drunk were out of the room, they locked the door and one of them started raping her," he said.

The men -- whose identities were not immediately provided -- were arrested after karaoke club staff forced their way through the door and saw one of them raping the woman, Sun Bunthong told AFP by telephone.

The man faces a rape charge while the two other men face charges of being accomplices to the crime, he added. (AFP)

Cambodia passes law banning big demonstrations


Wed Oct 21, 2009

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

PHNOM PENH (Reuters) - Cambodia's parliament approved a new law on Wednesday banning demonstrations of more than 200 people, sparking fresh concerns the government is trying to silence dissenting voices.

Lawmakers from the ruling Cambodian People's Party (CPP) said the new legislation would ensure security and help maintain public order, but the opposition dismissed the law as another attempt to stifle freedom of expression.

"This law is nothing more than just a ban on protests against this government," said Yim Sovann, spokesman for the Sam Rainsy Party, the main opposition.

"How does this law provide freedom for the people, when you have thousands of protestors who want to hold demonstrations but are not allowed?" he added.

The law also requires groups to seek permission five days in advance of planned demonstrations.

Mass rallies in Cambodia have been harshly dealt with in the past but are now rare as the country enjoys an unprecedented period of political and economic stability after decades of brutal civil war.

In contrast, mass protests since 2006 in neighbouring Thailand have helped topple two elected governments, triggering street riots, security crackdowns, a coup and an airport seizure, which has spooked investors and prompted credit ratings downgrades.

LAWS TIGHTENED

The new law on protests follows recent tightening of Cambodia's defamation laws after a series of court cases brought against opponents of long-serving Prime Minister Hun Sen and his powerful associates.

Parliamentarians from the CPP have defended the defamation laws, which it said "protected the dignity and reputation" of the country's leaders.

Analysts say there is currently little threat to Hun Sen or his party, which won 73 percent of the vote in elections last year as a result of double-digit economic growth, increased public spending and better unemployment opportunities.

However, opponents and rights groups accuse the CPP of trying to tighten their grip by using legal means to muzzle detractors.

"You cannot criticise government institutions because you could be held accountable for defaming them," said Ou Vireak, head of the U.S.-funded Cambodian Centre for Human Rights.

"Because of that, it will create a lot of fear among the general public."

(Editing by Martin Petty and Bill Tarrant)

Govt ok with Chavalit's trip to Cambodia


Published: 21/10/2009 
(Posted by CAAI News Media)

The government is not worried about Puea Thai core member Chavalit Yongchaiyudh's plan to meet Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen during his visit to Phnom Penh, Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban said on Wednesday.

Mr Suthep said the former prime minister, who joined the opposition Puea Thai Party earlier this month, would not do anything to harm the country.

"Gen Chavalit's visit to Cambodia is not considered disrespectful to the government. To the contrary, if his visit proves to be in the country's best interests we would have to thank him," Mr Suthep said.

The deputy prime minister, who is in charged of security affairs, said he had met Prime Minister Hun Sen several times and received positive cooperation from the Cambodian government.

Asked if Gen Chavalit could travel to Cambodia to meet fugitive former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, Mr Suthep said the government was not keeping tabs on Gen Chavalit.

Cambodia investigates second killing on border


By Deutsche Presse Agentur

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Phnom Penh - A Cambodian official accused Thai troops of fatally shooting a Cambodian national who tried to cross the border illegally, local media reported Wednesday.

The incident marked the second time in two months that Thai troops have been accused of killing Cambodians along the border in north-western Cambodia.

The Phnom Penh Post newspaper cited the governor of the provincial capital of Oddar Meanchey province as saying the victim, Sim Bun Chhim, 25, was crossing the border with two other men Monday night when Thai soldiers opened fire. The other men escaped, but Sim Bun Chhim was seriously injured and died on his way to hospital.

Thon Nol, the governor of Samrong, condemned the act.

"They crossed the border illegally, but (Thai troops) shot them like animals," Thon Nol told the newspaper. "They should have arrested them and sent them back to the Cambodian authorities."

The Foreign Affairs Ministry was awaiting an report from local authorities before deciding on any course of action, spokesman Koy Kuong said Wednesday.

Last month, a Cambodian teenager was reportedly tied to an ox cart and burned alive by Thai troops after being caught logging illegally in Thailand.

The Thai government had said 16-year-old Yon Rith was already dead from gunshot wounds when troops burned his body.

The ministry spokesman said Phnom Penh had received a note from the Thai government refuting the allegation. Cambodian officials were still investigating the teenager's death.

"The note says that the Thai side agrees to cooperate with Cambodia to bring the offenders to justice but asked Cambodia to provide more evidence," Koy Koung said. "I don't know how long that (investigation) will take."

Cambodia and Thailand have had a tense and long-running dispute over their 804-kilometre-long border. Violence has flared on occasion between troops on both sides, most recently in the area around the 11th-century Preah Vihear temple on Cambodia's northern border.

Young Cambodians salute golden era of 1960s filmmaking - Feature



Posted : Wed, 21 Oct 2009 
By : dpa

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Phnom Penh - At 26, Davy Chou is too young to have first-hand experience of the golden age of Cambodian filmmaking, which flourished in the 1960s and early '70s. But the curator of a nine-day event celebrating this neglected part of Cambodia's cultural history has a powerful personal link: his grandfather who disappeared in Cambodia in 1969 was one of the leading film producers of the time.

The '60s saw the start of a 15-year period when the local industry generated hundreds of films. Then tragedy intruded in the form of the Khmer Rouge, and Cambodia's film industry was destroyed in 1975.

"It's a very unique and very sad story," Davy Chou said of the period being marked in the exhibition, Golden Reawakening - '60s Cambodian Film Festival and Exhibition, which began in Phnom Penh Saturday and runs through October 25.

The festival, the first of its kind in the country, is screening 11 films from the period and also exhibiting film posters, photographs and biographies of the leading stars of the day at the Chinese House, a restored colonial building near Phnom Penh's port.

Former king Norodom Sihanouk was a prolific filmmaker and has provided one of his works. Davy Chou said that for most of the 1950s, Norodom Sihanouk was the sole filmmaker in Cambodia, but that changed around 1960.

"Then suddenly during 15 years, there was a boom in the film industry, and they produced - and it's difficult to say an exact number and I think that we will never know - at least 350 films, maybe more than 400 films," he said.

"Today, because of the Khmer Rouge regime, we can find 33 films, so it's less than 10 per cent," he said.

The destruction wrought by the Khmer Rouge still hangs over most aspects of Cambodia. The ultra-Maoist regime's efforts to destroy the country's rich cultural heritage make its baleful influence hard to escape at the festival.

Photographs portray a young, vibrant filmmaking scene with confident actors and actresses in '60s garb globetrotting to Singapore and France, but almost none of the stars from that time are alive. Davy Chou said most died during the 1975-79 Khmer Rouge era, when up to 2 million people, or up to 30 per cent of the population, are thought to have died from execution, starvation and overwork.

"If we count the top 10, we can just find two actresses today," he said, mentioning Dy Saveth, who continues to act, and Virak Dara, who lives in France.

He said other stars such as Kong Sam Oeun, Vichara Dany, Chea Yuthorn and Som Van Sok Dany died under the Khmer Rouge regime.

Dy Saveth was the doyenne of Cambodian actresses in the 1960s. The star of more than 100 films, she was a guest of honour on the exhibition's opening night. As the monsoon rain lashed down outside, she told the German Press Agency .

FIFA donates 400,992 USD for Cambodia's new football center


http://www.chinaview.cn/
2009-10-21
(Posted by CAAI News Media)

PHNOM PENH, Oct. 21 (Xinhua) -- FIFA and the Football Federation of Cambodia (FFC) signed a contract on Tuesday on the construction of the new FFC headquarters and training center, local media reported on Wednesday.

The ceremony was held at the current FFC headquarters, located in Chaeng Iaeng village on the outskirts of Phnom Penh.

According to the Phnom Penh Post, FIFA has granted the FFC 400,992 U.S. dollars, which is the second contribution from the world soccer governing body as part of their Goal Project to develop Cambodian football. The FFC received 400,000 U.S. dollars from FIFA in 2002 for the construction of the current center.

"Our current center is too small and surrounded by many garment factories," said FFC secretary Ouk Sethycheat. "That is not good for the players. So the president has decided to find a new place."

He added that the new training center will include two playing fields and accommodation, changing rooms and a canteen for national team players.

"We will spend from five to 10 years on the construction of new NFC, depending on the money we have," said Ouk Sethycheat.

Editor: Bi Mingxin

Gen Chavalit visits Cambodia



Published: 21/10/2009 at 09:01 AM
(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Former prime minister and a key member of the main opposition Puea Thai Party Chavalit Yongchaiyuth on Wednesday morning left for Phnom Penh to meet Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen.

“Mr Hun Sen is my old friend and I am visiting him at his invitation,” Gen Chavalit said before leaving.

The veteran politician said he would not raise the issue of the disputed area near the Preah Vihear ancient temple for discussion during today’s visit.

“But if Mr Hun Sen wants to discuss it, I am ready for talks to help the government settle the dispute,” Gen Chavalit said.

He noted that the problem between Thailand and Cambodia could stem from a small misunderstanding and the dispute would not lead to a change in ties between the two countries.

Askd about the decision by several retired generals, former classmates at the pre-cadet school class 10 of deposed former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, to join the Puea Thai Party, Gen Chavalit said many more senior people who had worked for the country but were not well-known would join the opposition camp as they wanted to help the kingdom.

He denied he joined the Puea Thai Party because he wants to become a prime minister. He just wanted to dohis duty as a good member of the political party.

Security Strengthened Ahead of S. Korean President’s Visit


Written by DAP NEWS -- Wednesday, 21 October 2009
(Posted by CAAI News Media)

The Cambodian Government will deploy a large contingent of Phnom Penh police to ensure tight security for the two-day-visit of the South Korean President Lee Myung Bak, according the high ranking police officials. The president will be accompanied by a delegation tomorrow morning to Cambodia.

“We have already prepared to tighten the security to ensure the South Korean President and this delegation to Cambodia is completely safe,” Interior Ministry Spokesman Khieu Sopheak told DAP News Cam- bodia on Tuesday.

Ya Kim I, Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF) deputy chief and Phnom Penh Armed Forces Chief, also assured that security for visit would be extra tight. “We have tightened security for the president and the delegation which is directed by the top leaders of the government,” Ya Kim I said. “This morning, I am discussing with the armed forces chief of the Govern- ment, General Sao Sokha.”

However, police could not confirm how many officers would be allocated for the protection.

An official from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs told DAP News Cam- bodia that the exact size of the Korean delegation is as yet unconfirmed. However, more than 60 journalists are accompanying the delegation.

Cambodian Ketsana Damage Estimated at US$40 Million


Written by DAP NEWS -- Wednesday, 21 October 2009
(Posted by CAAI News Media)

The damage from Typhoon Ketsana runs to around US$40 million in Cambodia, a statement from the Ministry of Economy and Finance (MEF) obtained on Tuesday said.

The storm, which killed at least 30 people, destroyed thousands of hectares of rice fields, and local infrastructure such as irrigation systems, roads, schools and houses.

“We need to redevelop and restore the areas back for improving living conditions of our people after they were destroyed by the deadly storm,” Keat Chhon, MEF minister, said in the statement. “The damage from storm was worth over US$40 million and we regret the loss of lives, possessions and infrastructure.”

Funds are needed for projects to help the typhoon-hit regions, some of which are still flooded, he added. “Cambodia also has affects from the global financial crisis and currently it has suffered from a storm; these double difficulties for the country and economic growth for next year.”

Yesterday Oxfam American issued a press release appealing for aid to help the Ketsna victims.

“The hunger period has been prolonged, and people in flood affected communities cannot wait any longer,” Oxfam warned. It added that food assistance is not being delivered quickly enough to the affected communities, and thousands of families who are in need of urgent food assistance are still marooned by floodwaters.

Oxfam estimates that 15,000 households are waiting for immediate food assistance, and the number is increasing rapidly as floodwaters continue to recede slowly and many more families have used up their food stocks. Some households who received food assistance earlier were also running out of food for weeks, Oxfam said. “People in the flood affected regions needed food a month ago, and they are still waiting for food,” said Francis Perez, country head of Oxfam International in Cambodia. “Food insecurity is getting worse in the affected communities. Government bodies and international aid agencies concerned with the current situation must start delivering food assistance now.”

About 100,000 people have been affected by Ketsana, which coincided with annual floods in late September and early October. The storm affected both landowning farmers and landless labourers, depriving both groups of their livelihoods, Oxfam added

“Normally people facing disruptions in their livelihoods in the provinces would have family members migrate to Phnom Penh and other provinces to look for work. But the cities are already flooded with unemployed workers due to the global financial storm that has ravaged the country’s economy. So, that kind of coping strategy to stave off hunger may no longer be available as an option to those displaced by the floods,” the organization’s statement said. Oxfam has been distributing non-food items to about 5,000 families in three hard-hit provinces; Kampong Thom, Kratie and Stung Treng. Recognizing an eminent danger of food shortages among the affected communities, Oxfam has decided to urgently distribute food items to 1,000 families in addition to its non-food assistance. Oxfam continues to coordinate relief assistance with Government authorities and other agencies at the national and local levels. According to a report from the National Disaster Management Com- mittee, the Cambodian Red Cross has provided food and aid for victims, ensuring that nobody dies of hunger.

NA Official Apologies for TV and Radio Tax Mix-Up


Written by DAP NEWS -- Wednesday, 21 October 2009 11:25
(Posted by CAAI News Media)

The day after Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen promised Cambo-dians that the Government would not tax TV or radio through license fees, a National Assembly official told DAP News Cambodia that Commission 5 of the NA did not suggest such a media tax, as some have claimed.

The Prime Minister on Monday said during the first National Forum on Climate Change that “TV and radio users do not need to be afraid of using TV and radio. Now we are helping people to get and use information without paying money.”

“NA Commission 5 President talked in the past with Information Minister Khieu Kahnarith. He did not ask to charge tax on TV and radio, but he just requested to charge cable TV providers about US$10 per month … payable by the owner of the cable TV company,” the official told DAP News Cambodia on Tuesday. The official apologized to the premier but claimed that the commission had been misquoted. “We support 100 percent the leadership and policies of Premier Hun Sen.”

“The commission would like to say sorry, as the premier raised what was discussed with Information the Minister in the past to raise the concerns of ordinary. Actually a reporter misquoted,” the official stressed.

The official also alleged that cable TV providers could have started the rummor of a license fee to safeguard their businesses from taxation.

Thai Soldiers Shoot Dead Cambodian


Written by DAP NEWS -- Wednesday, 21 October 2009
(Posted by CAAI News Media)

A Cambodian citizen living in Oddor Meanchey province was gunned down in a hail of bullets on Monday evening, one of three citizens fired upon by Thai black-clad soldiers and the Thai Forestry Administration, according a Cambodia official in Oddor Meanchey province.

“Thai black-clad soldiers and the Thai Forestry Administration officers shot one our citizens at around 5:30pm on Monday in O’Smach, Oddor Meanchey,” Chen Sivuth, a provincial administration official, told DAP News Cambodia on Tuesday.

The victim, named Seum Bun Chhim, male, aged 25, lived in Chamkar Chek village, Osmach Commune, Samrong District, Odor Meachhey province, he added. According to the official, the victim suffered serious gunshot wounds to his torso. He died on the arduous journey to the nearest hospital, very far from the scene.

Apparently a “cruel businessmen” hired the men to transport felled trees from the mountains. While logging is against gthe law and punishable with stiff jail sentences, Chen Sivuth noted that no trial or investigation at all by Thai authorities had taken place. The Cambodian authorities are currently investigating, he added.

Thai embassy in Phnom Penh could not be reached for any comment on Tuesday. Koy Kuong, a spokesman for Cambodia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told DAP News Cambodia that so far his ministry has yet to receive any formal letter from Thailand about the incident.

“We are waiting for the formal letter before we react,” Koy Kuong said.

Oddor Meanchey Provincial Governor Pech Sokhen told DAP News Cambodia that he has warned his subordinators to stop Cambodian citizens from entering Thai territory.

Boats race on Takhmao river



Photo by: Heng Chivoan
Teams prepare for the 2009 Traditional International Standard Boat Racing Championship that will commence today on the Takhmao river.

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Wednesday, 21 October 2009 15:06 Ung Chamroeun

The annual Traditional International Standard Boat Racing Championship starts today, with 29 teams battling for provincial superiority and a sizeable cash prize

THE 2009 Traditional International Standard Boat Racing Championship launches on the Takhmao river today, in the annual event organised by the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport and the Federation of Cambodian Boat Racing. Daily races continue until October 26, with teams allowed a day’s practice for the competition Tuesday.

Boeung Kimtor, deputy director of the Department of Physical Education and Sport at the ministry and boat federation member, told the Post that there are also the competitions in canoeing and kayaking.

Traditional International Standard Boats are divided in two crew size categories, 12 persons and 22 persons, for both men and women. Races are competed over 500 metres and 1,000 metres.

According to Boeung Kimtor, 29 boats will be in s year competitions including seven from Kampong Chhnang, six from Phnom Penh, five from Kandal, five from Prey Veng, three from Battambang, one from Kampot, and Phnom Penh teams Moeun Neak Meanchey and Russei Keo.

Canoeing and Kayaking events feature single and double races, with 22 athletes participating – 10 from Chroy Changvar, 10 from the Navy, two from Kampot province and two from Kandal province.

Boeung Kimtor showed his enthusiasm at the increasing number of boats competing from year to year. He also noted that all boats had come through qualifiers in their regions. “We need the qualify for our national competition,” he said.


Photo by: Heng Chivoan
40-year-old Oum Sothy from Kampong Chhnang sprays his team’s boat with perfume for good luck before a practice session on the Takhmao river, Kandal province Tuesday.

This sports official also attempted to clarify the ministry’s policy of cash prizes for winning boats after complaints from large teams last year. “Normally, the champions will get 150,000 riels [US$36] per person. For a boat of 22 persons, we will multiply by 22 [US$794], but not over,” he confirmed.

However, Boeung Kimtor expressed his regret that traditional international standard boat racing will not be included in the upcoming Southeast Asian Games, after the two previous tournaments in Thailand and Vietnam had included the event. According to the Cambodian official, hosts Laos have declined to organise races, as they do not have a team to compete.

Villagers call for dredging halt



Photo by: Sebastian Strangio
Ships owned by the Hong Kong-based Winton Enterprises unload sand dredged from coastal estuaries in Koh Kong province in late February.

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Wednesday, 21 October 2009 15:06 Cheang Sokha and Sebastian Strangio

MORE than 300 fishermen gathered in Koh Kong on Monday to protest a large-scale sand-dredging operation they say has devastated fish catches in the province’s coastal estuaries and jeopardised thousands of livelihoods.

Ros Math, a local village chief who represents 1,397 families in Khemarak Phumin district’s Dang Tung commune, said fishermen from Khemarak Phumin, Mondul Seima and Koh Kong districts had suffered grave losses from oil spills and turbulent water caused by the dredging operation, and called for its immediate halt.

“Before, we could catch roughly 150 kilograms of fish a day, but now catches have dropped to less than 10 kilograms,” he said. “We rely on fishing for our livelihoods, but the company has killed the fish.”

Chi Sophal, a fisherman from Bak Klang commune in Mondul Seima district, said 600 families in his commune had been affected by the sand-dredging operation and had submitted thumbprints requesting that provincial Governor Yuth Phouthang intervene. “Local residents have complained about the operation for a year but did not have power to stop it,” Chi Sophal said. “It has destroyed their livelihoods.”

In March, the Post reported that Winton Enterprises, a Hong Kong-based firm, was removing thousands of tonnes of sand each week from coastal estuaries in Koh Kong, a practice environmentalists said was having severe effects on the local environment. Reporters observed sand being extracted by dredging vessels in estuaries upstream from Koh Kong town and shipped offshore, where it was unloaded into an ocean-going bulk carrier for export to Singapore.

A report issued in February by anti-corruption watchdog Global Witness estimated that around 60,000 tonnes was being mined for export each month and put the annual value of the Koh Kong operation at US$35 million.

Bunra Seng, country director of Conservation International, did not know about the specifics of the Koh Kong situation, but said the area around Koh Kong – including the 25,897-hectare Peam Krasop Wildlife Sanctuary – was a vital spawning ground for fish, shrimp and crabs that support large populations.

“The sand collectors should study the impacts.... Otherwise they could disturb this [area] a lot,” he said.

The operation has also continued despite a ban on sand exports announced by Prime Minister Hun Sen in May, which was backed up by a further order in July.

“All sand business must be shut down,” Hun Sen said on July 1, citing the “destructive impact” on the country’s river and coastal ecosystems.

At the time, Pech Siyon, Koh Kong provincial director of industry, mines and energy, told the Post that three local dredging companies had been forced to suspend their operations, but that LYP Group, Winton’s local partner, had been granted permission to fulfil the remainder of its export orders.

Eleanor Nichol, a Global Witness campaigner, said Hun Sen had shown leadership by ordering a ban on sand exports, but that the implementation had clearly been selective.

“He needs to follow through on this decision to ensure it is implemented without favour for certain companies. To do otherwise would fundamentally undermine the impact of the request,” she said.

When contacted on Tuesday, Pech Siyon said he was aware the dredging had affected locals, but said permission for the continuation of the Winton/LYP operation was granted to prevent flooding in the provincial town.

“We really understand the difficulties of the people, but we are just thinking about the interest of the nation as a whole,” he said. “People will lose their business for just a short period, but after the dredging operation is finished they will be able to fish as normal.” He declined to mention when the operations would be completed.

Sanh Moniroth, director of the provincial Department of Water Resources and Meteorology, said permission for the Winton/LYP dredging operation had been granted by the central government and was not under the control of his office. Lim Kheang, a representative of LYP Group, could not be reached for comment on Tuesday.

Floods prompt fears of food crisis


(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Wednesday, 21 October 2009 15:06 Jacob Gold

THREE weeks after Typhoon Ketsana ploughed through 11 provinces in Cambodia, the slow pace of relief work and the effects of widespread flooding have prompted fears of a looming food crisis, the international aid agency Oxfam said Tuesday.

In a statement, Oxfam warned “the hunger period has been prolonged.... Food assistance is not being delivered quickly enough to the affected communities and thousands of families who are in need of urgent food assistance are still marooned in floodwaters”.

Oxfam’s country head in Cambodia, Francis Perez, said: “People in the flood-affected regions needed food a month ago, and they are still waiting for food.”

“Government bodies and international aid agencies concerned with the current situation must start delivering food assistance now” he added.

What Oxfam describes as the imminent danger of food shortages has compelled the organisation to switch from delivering non-food items to 5,000 families in the hardest-hit provinces of Kampong Thom, Kratie and Stung Treng to distributing food aid to 1,000 families.

The need for aid was acknowledged on Tuesday by other relief organisations, including the Cambodian Red Cross and the National Committee for Disaster Management, but they insisted distribution efforts were on track.

Kim Rattana, executive director of Caritas International, said that by next week it would start delivering aid to 600 families in Preah Vihear province and 600 in Ratanakkiri. It also hopes to reach some of the 2,000 families in Kampong Thom, which felt the full force of the storm when it made landfall in Cambodia. “Kampong Thom will have a big gap,” he said.

About 70,000 families have been provided for by the CRC, according to director for disaster management Uy Sam Ath. “So far, no villagers have died of starvation,” he said. “Our food supplies have enough to relieve the most vulnerable for the first month, and we are preparing food for three additional months.”

Oxfam, Caritas and a growing network of other NGOs are working with the Cambodian government on a plan for sustainable recovery – including restoration of farmland and rebuilding of homes, roads, water facilities and schools – as they continue to distribute emergency provisions.

Officials at the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries have expressed concerns that Cambodia could face food shortages in 2010 in the absence of effective long-term recovery plans.

Khim Chenda, director of the ministry’s Department of Administration, said that officials were “concerned that some provinces like Ratanakkiri and Preah Vihear, and some districts in Kampong Thom province, may face food shortages, as these provinces do not have the water resources to grow rice in the dry season.”

The Ketsana damage assessment released on Friday by the NCDM reported that 53,325 hectares of rice and 3,026 hectares of other crops had been destroyed in 11 provinces.

The financial cost of the disaster was estimated to be about US$41 million, but officials expect that figure to rise.

Yang Saing Koma, president of the Cambodian Centre for Study and Development in Agriculture, remained optimistic.

“The yield of rice for 2009 may be the same or only a little less than the 5 million tonnes” harvested in 2008, he said. He also said he hoped that, after the floodwaters receded, this year’s dry-season rice yield would even be better than last year’s.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY VONG SOKHENG AND TEP NIMOL

Shooting at border leads to govt probe


(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Wednesday, 21 October 2009 15:06 Thet Sambath

AN investigation has been launched into the fatal shooting of a Cambodian man on the border with Thailand, officials said on Tuesday.

Sim Bun Chhim, 25, is believed to have been shot by Thai troops stationed near Samrong district, Oddar Meanchey province, on Monday night.

The incident took place near the site where villagers believe a teenager was burned alive by Thai soldiers last month.

The victim, Sim Bun Chhim, from Chamcar Chek village in O’Smach commune, had been crossing the border illegally with two other men when the soldiers opened fire, Samrong town Governor Thon Nol said.

The others escaped, but Sim Bun Chhim sustained severe injuries and was being taken by oxcart to hospital when he died, Thon Nol added, condemning the killing.

“They crossed the border illegally, but [Thai troops] shot them like animals,” he said.

“They should have arrested them and sent them back to the Cambodian authorities.”

A report has been sent by Chhim Sivuth, deputy secretary general for Oddar Meanchey province, to the Ministry of Interior. Foreign Ministry spokesman Koy Kuong said he had yet to see the report, but has asked the Cambodian consulate in Thailand’s Sa Kaeo province to investigate.

Officials at the Thai embassy could not be reached for comment on Tuesday, but Adhoc investigator Chan Soveth urged the two governments to conduct a joint investigation.

“Thai and Cambodian officials have to work together to investigate and arrest the killers,” he said.

Kingdom creeps up in press ranking


(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Wednesday, 21 October 2009 15:05 Sebastian Strangio and Cheang Sokha

THE state of the Cambodian media improved slightly in the past year, despite a legal crackdown on government critics, according to a report released on Tuesday.

In its Press Freedom Ranking, covering the period from September 2008 to August this year, international press watchdog Reporters Without Borders ranked Cambodia 117th, up from 126th among 174 countries, well ahead of neighbours Myanmar (171), Laos (169), China (168), Vietnam (166), Thailand (130).

Critics said the ranking ignored the spate of prosecutions against government critics in 2009, which saw one opposition-aligned newspaper editor sentenced to a year in prison on disinformation charges.

“Look at the reality. Evaluations are one thing, but the reality is that some journalists were put in jail for their opinions,” said Yim Sovann, spokesman for the opposition Sam Rainsy Party.

Sam Rithy Doung Hak, deputy director of the Cambodian Association for the Protection of Journalists, said certain press freedom articles in the new Penal Code were an incremental improvement over old laws mandating jail terms for defamation and disinformation charges, but that not much had changed in the past year. “In general, I think it’s still bleak,” he said.

Mao Ayuth, a secretary of state at the Ministry of Information, said he had not seen the report but was not surprised by its findings. “I think the people are free to express their opinions,” he said.

Anti-Corruption Law to be set by mid-2010


(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Wednesday, 21 October 2009 15:05 Sebastian Strangio and Meas Sokchea

A DRAFT Anti-Corruption Law will be presented to the National Assembly during the first half of 2010, government officials said Tuesday, but critics say this month’s debate on the Kingdom’s new Penal Code does not bode well for an open hearing on the long-awaited anti-graft bill.

Cheam Yeap, a lawmaker for the ruling Cambodian People’s Party, said Tuesday that the law would be put on the agenda as soon as the Kingdom’s new Penal Code – approved by the National Assembly last week – is passed by the Senate and signed by King Norodom Sihamoni.

“The Anti-Corruption Law will be adopted during the first [half] of 2010,” he said but added that he did not know when the Senate would sit to consider the code, which officials have long cited as a necessary precursor to anti-graft legislation.

The Anti-Corruption Law, which has existed in various draft forms since 1994, was established as an agreed donor-government development target in 2002, but it has drawn criticism for the constant delays in its passing.

Yim Sovann, spokesman for the opposition Sam Rainsy Party, applauded the CPP’s intention to put it on the agenda next year but raised concerns that certain articles in the new Penal Code could prevent individuals from filing complaints against corrupt officials.

“The law must be implemented fully and effectively,” he said. “No corrupt officials are [now] put on trial, so we need this law as soon as possible.”

Debate prospects grim
Yim Sovann also said the recent parliamentary debates on the Penal Code – during which UN human rights officials were reportedly escorted from the National Assembly during discussion of controversial articles on defamation – showed there was little prospect of an open debate. He admitted the government had run forums for NGO and opposition members to provide input, but that – as in the debates over the code – criticism had been dismissed. “We raised many concerns made by the UN and civil society, but they were ignored,” he said, adding that forums on the Anti-Corruption Law were organised to “give a good image” for international donors.

Ou Virak, president of the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights, said the 2010 time frame for the law was “reasonable”, but that the timing of the law’s passing was less important than its contents and implementation. “[This is] going to be one of the [country’s] most important pieces of legislation. We have to be certain that there is a mechanism to ensure it is not abused,” he said.

He also said the recent debate on the Penal Code did not inspire confidence that the anti-graft law would receive the necessary scrutiny. “The government doesn’t have a good record in open debate,” he added. But “we’re all ready to engage in the process”.

Warming threatens agriculture



Photo by: Afp
Cambodian students climb up to their school from a boat at a flooded village in Kandal province.

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Wednesday, 21 October 2009 15:05 Irwin Loy

GLOBAL warming threatens fish stocks and could slash the Kingdom’s rice supply, delegates at the National Forum on Climate Change heard Tuesday.

“Cambodia has the least-adaptive capacity compared to other Southeast Asian countries,” said Dr Rizaldi Boer, an expert in agriculture climatology at Indonesia’s Bogor Agricultural University.

Climate modelling suggests rainfall patterns in Cambodia will be impacted, prompting a later start to the important summer monsoon season and more rains overall, he said.

One estimate assuming continued high global emission levels suggests rice production in the Kingdom could drop by half a million tonnes in 2020 from the current 7 million tonnes produced yearly.

By 2080, that drop could reach 2.5 million tonnes, effectively forcing Cambodia to import its rice.

However, Cambodia can still guard against the effects by investing in adaptation measures, Boer said. Steps such as improving rice productivity and diversity, and irrigation methods could see Cambodian rice supplies continue to exceed demand under minimal temperature-change scenarios.

“Of course, it’s a matter of the money which is available to invest,” Boer said.

Strong mitigation measures, however, will require financial aid from developed countries, experts warned.

“It’s precisely those who are least responsible for causing the problem that are the most impacted,” said Bert Maerten, head of Oxfam International’s climate change campaign.

Govt warns vendors of poisoned dog meat


(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Wednesday, 21 October 2009 15:05 May Titthara

THE health of residents in Kandal province may be threatened by poisoned dog meat bought in local markets, provincial authorities said this week.

Following a rash of dog poisonings in Kandal’s Kien Svay district, provincial officials met with 37 local dog meat vendors on Monday to educate them about the dangers of selling tainted remains.

“Dogs are often poisoned by thieves, because after the dogs are killed it is easier to burglarise a home,” said Kandal provincial police Chief Eav Chamroeun. “We’ve seen this happen many times recently, and we are worried people are selling the dead dogs without notifying local authorities.”

Heang Theam, the Kien Svay district governor, said urgent action was required to prevent a health scare. “We had to institute protective measures, because many dogs have died recently during a very short period of time,” he said, adding that consumption of these dogs “could seriously impact people’s health”.

Though the government is not interested in permanently disrupting the business of dog meat vendors, Heang Theam said, vendors who purchase poisoned dogs will face prosecution. “We encourage vendors to tip us off about dog poisoners. If we make an arrest based on one of these tips, we will provide a reward of 500,000 riels (US$120),” he said.

Demonstration law debate continues at Nat’l Assembly



Photo by: Tracey Shelton
Workers protest in front of Tack Fat garment factory on Saturday.

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Wednesday, 21 October 2009 15:05 Meas Sokchea

PARLIAMENTARIANS continued debate on Tuesday over the government’s proposed law to regulate public demonstrations, with the National Assembly passing chapters three and four of the six-chapter law.

The opposition Sam Rainsy Party declined to contest chapter four of the law, which relates to crimes committed during the course of demonstrations, though SRP lawmaker Son Chhay said that his party would not support any of the other five chapters.

The SRP registered particular concern during debate on Tuesday over the demonstration law’s stipulation that protesters must wait for approval from the Ministry of Interior before holding a public gathering.

Nuth Sa An, a secretary of state at the Ministry of Interior who served as the government representative to defend the draft law, rejected these criticisms, however, saying that government officials needed to hold talks with demonstration leaders before allowing their protests to go ahead.

“We cannot allow people to inform the government and then immediately go and demonstrate,” Nuth Sa An said. “If any problems occur at the demonstration, who is responsible for this? It is the government.”

SRP President Sam Rainsy urged the government to consider broader reforms to reduce the number of demonstrations that take place in Cambodia, rather than simply seeking to restrict the demonstrations themselves.

Noting the many demonstrations that have taken place in front of Prime Minister Hun Sen’s Takhmao residence, Sam Rainsy said that if he were premier, he would be embarrassed by this frequent occurrence.

“If I were prime minister, I would not feel proud of people coming to me like this. What does it mean? It means that our officials are inactive, that all government institutions below the prime minister are inaccessible,” he said.

Lawmakers have now passed 27 of the 30 total articles in the Law on Nonviolent Demonstrations, with the final three articles expected to be passed tomorrow.

LOST LEVY: PM rejects talk of TV, radio tax


(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Wednesday, 21 October 2009 15:05 Cheang Sokha

LOST LEVY

Prime Minister Hun Sen has quashed suggestions from within his own party that televisions and radios should be taxed. The premier rejected the proposed levy Tuesday, after the idea was floated last month by Cambodian People’s Party parliamentarian Chheang Vun, who is chairman of the Commission on Foreign Affairs, International Cooperation, Media and Information. “Please set this idea aside,” Hun Sen said in a speech this week at the National Forum on Climate Change. “I want people watching TVs and listening to radios, so do not tax them.” Sam Rainsy Party spokesman Yim Sovann welcomed the prime minister’s comments. Cambodians get their information on news and events through their television and radio sets, he said. “The government could collect taxes by many other means,” he said. Mao Ayuth, a secretary of state at the Ministry of Information, estimated that between 60 and 70 percent of the national population has access to televisions or radios.

Prey Veng land row erupts in gun threat


(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Wednesday, 21 October 2009 15:04 Kim Yuthana

A VILLAGER at the centre of a land dispute in Prey Veng province said Tuesday that a police officer pointed a gun at his head and threatened to pull the trigger.

The conflict was sparked when villagers spotted a police officer working on the disputed land, said Tit Saran.

Villagers moved to block the police officer, he said. “The policeman pointed a gun at my head and said to me that I will shoot you if you are trying to complain to get the land,” Tit Saran said.

Officer says self-defense
The officer, however, denied the allegation when contacted by the Post on Tuesday. It was the villagers, said policeman Yim Oeung, who threatened him.

“I saw those people holding a knife and an ax,” he said. “I was frightened.”

Yim Oeung admitted he warned the villagers he would fire his gun, but only in “self-defence” if violence were to erupt.

Koh Roka commune police Chief An Lo said he would report the incident to the district office.

Villagers questioned in court on land clash


(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Wednesday, 21 October 2009 15:04 Ran Reuy

Siem Reap judges focus on fight that left four with gunshot wounds; verdict set for next week.

Siem Reap Province

NINE villagers arrested in March after a clash with police over disputed land in Siem Reap province were questioned in provincial court for more than four hours Tuesday, after which the court announced that a verdict would be issued next Tuesday.

A total of 11 villagers have been held in pretrial detention and charged with theft and battery since March 22, when 100 armed police opened fire on 80 villagers who were harvesting crops on land that Siem Reap Provincial Governor Sou Phirin previously had said did not belong to them.

Four villagers sustained gunshot wounds in that encounter.

Two of the three judges sitting in on the case – Chy Sokh and Sous La – said they did not know why the other two villagers were not brought before the court Tuesday. Several Chi Kraeng villagers said that, as far as they knew, the two other suspects were still being held in provincial prison.
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I do not have any hope that justice will be brought to the villagers.
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The two judges declined to elaborate on the specific questions posed during the closed-door hearing, though Ham Sunrith, deputy director of human rights monitoring and protection for the rights group Licadho, said the questions largely focused on the March 22 altercation.

Chi Kraeng villager Pak Tov, 36, said afterwards that the hearing was “very unjust”, adding that he believed the court should focus on trying the officers who opened fire on the villagers.

“The villagers did not cause injury to anyone,” he said. “If you are going to accuse them of causing injury, please show us the injured people.”

He added: “I do not have any hope that justice will be brought to the villagers, because they have filed many complaints, yet no action has been taken. They do not call the other side. They only call the villagers. People were shot, but the judge will never bring the police to court.”

Kao Soupha, the lawyer who brought a complaint against the police in June on behalf of the Chi Kraeng villagers, last month accused the court of dragging its feet in building the case.

Siem Reap provincial prosecutor Ty Soveinthal said at the time that villagers who could provide necessary testimony had been tough to track down.

Ham Sunrith said it would not be possible to determine whether Tuesday’s hearing had been conducted fairly until the court issued a verdict.

Chi Kraeng villagers said Sunday that police had interrupted a meeting they convened in order to prepare witnesses for Tuesday’s hearing.

Pan Yi, 54, said 10 police officers clashed with villagers at the meeting, taking photos of some of the attendees and threatening to arrest them.

Chi Kraeng district police Chief Sok Theavuth said Sunday he was unaware of the incident but added that his officers had simply wanted to provide security to the villagers.

Staircase planned for Preah Vihear



Photo by: Tracey Shelton
Soldiers stand beside a staircase built earlier this year to aid demining efforts at Preah Vihear. Construction of an additional staircase has begun this month in an effort to increase tourist access.

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Wednesday, 21 October 2009 15:04 Thet Sambath

OFFICIALS in Preah Vihear province have hired workers to construct a 3,000-metre staircase to make Preah Vihear temple more accessible to tourists.

Om Phirom, chief of the Preah Vihear Heritage Police, said work on the staircase – which runs adjacent to a stone staircase he described as “ancient” but unusable – had begun two weeks ago, adding that he expected it to be finished before the end of the year.

“We will have this wooden staircase along the old one for tourists to walk up to Preah Vihear temple,” he said. “It is for tourists to enjoy the temple.”

He added: “Tourists, especially foreign tourists, like to do adventure travel, so they will be excited to walk by the ancient staircase.”

Chuch Phoeung, a secretary of state at the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts, said the idea for the staircase had come from UNESCO, which in July 2008 approved Cambodia’s application to make Preah Vihear temple a World Heritage site.

Presently, tourists looking to visit the temple must travel along a concrete road that runs northwest of it. The stairs are located on the east side.

Sor Thavy, deputy governor of Preah Vihear province, said Tuesday that he believed tourists would appreciate the different views afforded by the new approach.

“When this stair construction is finished, it will give tourists a chance to see new views, and it will help attract more tourists to the site,” he said.

Om Phirom said he could not disclose how much the project was expected to cost.

Taking ‘renewables’ seriously



Photo by: Heng Chivoan
Solar panels atop the Khemara 2 guesthouse in Battambang town last week. Battambang has become a focus of solar power investment as Cambodia struggles to bring the cost of renewable energy down.

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Wednesday, 21 October 2009 15:04 Kandeh Yumkella

Intl agency aims to promote alternative energy expansion.

COMMENT

Kandeh Yumkella

VIENNA – A decade ago, renewable energy was viewed as an unwelcome offspring of fossil fuels, but the recent establishment of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) indicates that governments worldwide are taking “renewables” seriously.

IRENA will be headquartered in the United Arab Emirates, in Masdar City, the world’s first carbon-neutral city, which will be constructed in the desert by 2011. The agency will also maintain two vital arms in Europe: an innovation and technology centre in Bonn and an office in Vienna for strategic alliances with other agencies, particularly the United Nations.

Close to US$155 billion was invested in 2008 in renewable energy companies and projects worldwide, not including large-scale hydroelectric projects, according to a recent UN Environment Programme report. On a global scale, the renewable energy sector created 2.3 million jobs in the past few years. In Germany alone, the sector’s growth has generated 250,000 new green jobs in less than 10 years.

Big business is spending billions of dollars to explore the opportunities that renewables can bring. There are serious plans to turn the Sahara desert’s heat and sunlight into Europe’s major power source, supplying energy to half a billion people. Some estimates suggest it could cost up to $60 billion to start sending Sahara power to Europe a decade from now. With public support, progress could be much faster. The price tags are huge, but the current economic and financial crisis has taught us not to be afraid of 10-digit numbers.

Renewable energy costs will eventually go down, in step with technological innovation and mass production. The European Parliament recently enacted a law to support investors who help the continent reach its goal of sourcing 20 percent of its power from renewable energy by 2020.

As a new global platform for renewables, IRENA will provide policy advice and assist in capacity-building and technology transfer. This will contribute to giving the poorest nations affordable access to clean energy, a key step towards lifting millions out of poverty. Yet sceptics might say: Must we really add yet another set of letters to the alphabet soup of global bureaucracy? My answer is yes.

First, IRENA will hit the ground running in developing policy and spreading technology, partly because the countries instrumental in its birth – Denmark, Germany and Spain – have impeccable “green” policy credentials. Denmark is a pioneer in commercial wind power and produces half of the world’s wind turbines. It may soon set the stage for the post-Kyoto world.

Germany leads in the clean technology sector, focusing on solar power. By 2020, it plans to get 47 percent of its electricity from renewables.

Spain was among the first countries to introduce a national energy plan aimed at promoting renewable energy sources and reducing greenhouse-gas emissions. I would also add here Austria, a proven international energy hub and a leader in renewable energy production and technologies.

Second, the new agency’s wide membership – 136 states – is keen to benefit from the opportunities that renewable energy will create for growth, jobs and helping to meet the UN’s Millennium Development Goals. These countries recognise the potential for renewable energy, especially new off-grid solutions in rural areas.

Third, IRENA will be based in a developing country, a vote of confidence in the quality, institutional expertise and dynamism that exists in the developing world. Moreover, a headquarters in Abu Dhabi sends an unequivocal message that promoting renewable energy is not “anti-oil”.

Fossil fuels will be with us for some time to come, and we should continuously seek out cleaner ways to use them.

But fossil fuels will not last forever, and some supplies may dwindle soon. So let’s plan for the inevitable and develop the relevant policies, technologies and institutional infrastructure as soon as possible.

IRENA may not be a component of the UN system, but it should be regarded as part of the family from the outset. A lesson we have learned from both the climate change debate on the way to the December summit in Copenhagen and from the economic crisis is that only by working together can we achieve genuine change.

IRENA is solid proof that our world has the will to turn away from the carbon-clogged past and to fuel a clean, prosperous future that both developed and developing countries can enjoy.

PROJECT SYNDICATE

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Kandeh Yumkella is director general of the United Nations Industrial Development Organsiation.

Tourism head calls for govt to support airlines




Photo by: BLOOMBERG
Tourists walk around Angkor Wat in Siem Reap. Ho Vandy, co-chairman of the Government-Private Sector Forum’s tourism working group, said Tuesday having multiple domestic airlines would aid tourism.

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I have received feedback that CAA’s procedures are difficult.
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(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Wednesday, 21 October 2009 15:04 Nathan Green

Co-chairman of tourism working group says Bangkok Airways and Siem Reap Airways should be permitted to fly domestically.

AKEY tourism sector representative has called on the government to renew Bangkok Airways’ permit to fly domestic routes and smooth the way for Siem Reap Airways to relaunch services ahead of the peak tourism season.

Ho Vandy, co-chairman of the Government-Private Sector Forum’s tourism working group, said Tuesday that the impending grounding Sunday of Bangkok Airways, which applies only to its domestic routes but still allows the Bangkok-based carrier to bring passengers in and out of the
country, could undermine confidence in tourism in the Kingdom.

“I request that the government and concerned authorities reconsider any decisions or bans that may impact tourists or the growth of the tourist sector,” he said. “They should consider whether they want to renew the permit for Bangkok Airways or allow Siem Reap Airways to do what Cambodia Angkor Air is doing.”

The European Commission (EC) told the Post late last week that Cambodia Angkor Air (CAA), the government’s joint venture with Vietnam Airlines, was flying without an Air Operator Certificate (AOC) by using aircraft hired on a wet-lease basis from its Vietnamese part-owner.

In a wet lease arrangement, one airline provides aircraft, crew and insurance to another, which pays by hours operated.

The State Secretariat of Civil Aviation (SSCA) has not allowed Siem Reap Airways to do the same, saying it must register a plane in Cambodia in order to be allowed to fly.

Siem Reap Airways General Manager Terry Alton told the Post on Monday that the airline would be able to operate “well before the peak tourist season” if allowed to fly under the same conditions as CAA but said it was proving difficult to find an aircraft whose owner would allow it to be leased in Cambodia. Most airlines lease aircraft from financiers rather than buying them outright.

Ho Vandy said Bangkok Airways, which also owns Siem Reap Airways, had done a lot to promote Cambodia as a tourist destination over the years, and that it had many passengers booked on domestic routes that would be affected by the ban.

Bangkok Airways has confirmed that these passengers will need to be transferred to the government-owned CAA if its subsidiary is not airborne by Sunday.

However, even if Siem Reap Airways were allowed to resume operations, it would still be on the European Commission blacklist, preventing European agents from booking their customers on the flights, EC transport spokesman Fabio Pirotta said by email from Brussels Thursday.

Frustration with CAA
Ho Vandy also said some travel agents and tour operators had expressed frustrations in dealing with the CAA.

“On behalf of travel agents, we want to give confidence to passengers, but I have received feedback that CAA’s procedures are difficult compared to other airlines,” he said.

Soy Sokhan, SSCA’s undersecretary of state in charge of CAA, referred all questions to the secretariat, saying only that “all airlines must follow the country’s regulations and rules”.

SSCA Secretary of State Mao Havannal could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

Cambodian Hotel Association President Luu Meng said the tourism sector was watching the issue closely, and that he hoped Siem Reap Airways would be cleared for takeoff as soon as possible.

“We don’t care how many airlines there are as long as they are of an international standard, are internationally recognised and offer competitive pricing,” he said. “In that regard, obviously it is better to have two airlines than one.”

Making money from a maneater



Photo by: Heng Chivoan
Kaing Sarin holds up two baby crocodiles, the lifeblood of the Cambocroco Farm in Kandal Steung district, Kandal province.

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I will expand my business by raising more baby crocodiles for export.
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(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Wednesday, 21 October 2009 15:03 Soeun Say and Jeremy Mullins

Kandal crocodile farmer says prices for the animals are going up this year, driven by demand from the likes of China and Vietnam, but expansion remains difficult due to high interest rates.

Kandal Province

RAISING a young crocodile from a 70-gram hatchling to its full weight of more than 100 kilograms may seem an unusual and potentially dangerous vocation for some.

But Kaing Sarin has not only escaped unharmed for more than two decades pursuing his passion, he has also managed to turn it into a thriving export business.

Cambocroco Farm was launched with just four animals in 1987 in what later became one of Phnom Penh’s fastest-growing residential areas.

Even if his new Tuol Kork neighbours had tolerated a handful of crocs over the fence, rapid growth would have necessitated a shift to Kandal province’s Kandal Steung district, where 2,000 fully grown breeding crocodiles now cohabitate.

For those neighbours who might be nervous about the presence of the reptiles, the biggest of which measure more than 3 metres, Kaing Sarin has comforting words.

“Escapes are not a problem,” he said, gesturing to the concrete walls penning in the animals.

But even he trod carefully when in the vicinity of the beast, using catwalks over the pens to stay out of reach of the crocodile’s powerful jaws.

The crocodiles provide a steady supply of young for dinner plates in Thailand, Vietnam and, increasingly, China. With demand from Asian consumers on the rise, so are prices, according to Kaing Sarin. “The prices are better this year than last,” he said. “I have sold between 7,000 and 8,000 baby crocodiles this year at US$15 per head. Last year I sold between 6,000 and 7,000 baby crocodiles at $8 to $10 per head.“

The young crocodiles were raised at the farm for the first three months of their lives. Following export, they tended to be fed for several more years before being sold and served for supper.

The farm contains a mix of the native Siamese crocodile species (Crocodylus siamensis) and saltwater crocs (Crocodylus porosus), which originated in Australia.

Although the farm already earns an annual profit of $10,000, Kaing Sarin said there was plenty more money to be made.

“I will expand my business by raising more baby crocodiles for export,” he said, noting a rising demand in China for crocodile meat.

Fashion industry a target
He was also looking at the fashion industry as a new revenue avenue, though a few obstacles stood in his way.

The Heng Long Company of Singapore calls for between 100,000 and 150,000 more crocodile skins from Cambodia than the country can provide each year.

Unfortunately for Cambocroco Farm, an audit by the company found the skins not up to scratch.

“Our skins were assessed by the Heng Long Company, but the quality is presently not good enough for the international marketplace,” Kaing Sarin said.

To preserve skin quality, animals need to be raised in individual pens to prevent them being damaged in fights or the general rough and tumble environment of a pen housing up to 100 crocs.

“We simply don’t have enough money or space to separate the crocodiles,” Kaing Sarin said. “I am very interested in the skin market, but I need more capital to improve our farming technique, and time to research.”

He has support for his expansion plans from the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, but he faces a problem common to many small and medium-sized businesses in the country – high interest rates.

Expensive lending
“If the banks decrease interest rates, we will borrow money to expand our business,” he said.

“We need to think long-term in the agriculture business because we don’t have steady income from year-to-year.”

Kaing Sarin said his interest in crocodile farming was originally triggered by books, and that since then he has largely taught himself, with a bit of help from the animals themselves.

“I don’t have a certificate for raising crocodiles,” he said. “I have only practical research from years of experience with the animals.”

Cambocroco Farm provides jobs for 10 people, but the major expense is food for the inhabitants, who eat their way through 3 tonnes every 10 days.

The main diet is fish heads, which he buys from the Fish Centre in Phnom Penh’s Russei Keo district, but snakes and mice find themselves on the menu on special occasions.

It is the cost of food that is the biggest obstacle to survival, Kaing Sarin said.

“The biggest expense to raising crocodiles is their food,” he said, “but by building a strong relationship with our customers our farm has prospered while some others have gone bankrupt because they cannot make enough money to feed their crocodiles.”