Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia promote cooperation


11/11/2009

(Posted by CAAI News Media)


Vietnam has developed rubber plantation and processing projects in Laos, Cambodia

The fourth trade, investment and tourism promotion conference of the Vietnam-Laos-Cambodia Development Triangle opened in Buon Ma Thuot City in the Central Highland province of Dak Lak on November 11.

The conference was presided over by the Vietnamese deputy Minister of Planning and Investment, Nguyen Van Trung, the Cambodian Secretary of State at the Ministry of Commerce, Mao Thora, and the Lao Deputy Minister of Planning and Investment, Thoongmy Phomvisay.

Present were representatives from embassies and international organisations in Vietnam, ministries and departments and nearly 300 delegates from three countries. In the framework of co-operation of Vietnam-Laos-Cambodia Development Triangle, the annual event aims to introduce opportunities and investment incentives to businesses from the three countries.

In recent years, despite difficulties due to impact of the global financial crisis, localities in the development triangle have tried to improve the environment and investment policies to help businesses operate with greater efficiency. Laos has 8 projects with a combined registered capital of US$48 million and Cambodia 7 projects worth US$6.2 million operating in Vietnam. Meanwhile, Vietnam has 166 projects with a total capital of more than US$3 billion in Laos and 52 projects worth US$400 million in Cambodia, 28 of which are in the development triangle.

Over the past 10 months, Vietnam has invested in 20 projects in Laos valued at nearly US$1.3 billion and 10 projects in Cambodia with capital of US$218 million.

Vietnam has a lot of advantages, such as seaports, a huge market, highly qualified human resources and an abundant supply of consumer goods which can meet demands of the three countries.

Cambodia and Laos have great potential for developing agro-forestry, hydro-electric power and mining industry, industrial crops and tourism.

The conference discussed some proposals for investment co-operation in the development triangle, such as developing a comprehensive co-operation programme in the long-term period and building policies and procedures for each country and for the three countries in line with each country’s law and international regulations.

Cooperation with Cambodia 'under review'


Published: 11/11/2009

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

All cooperation with Cambodia is being revised following Phnom Penh's official refusal of request to extradite former premier Thaksin Shinawatra back to Thailand, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said on Wednesday.


The Foreign Ministry had been instructed to begin the rview.

We was sorry Cambodia had decided not abide by international agreements and law, but Thailand would still not use force against its neighbour.

The border would not be closed, but the government would adopt tougher measures to discourage Thais crossing the border to gamble in Cambodian casinos.

Mr Abhisit spoke shortly after receiving Cambodia's official refusal of Thailand's request to extradite Thaksin. The decision has inflamed tensions over Phnom Penh's appointment of the fugitive former Thai premier as an economic adviser.

Thai diplomats gave extradition papers to officials at Cambodia's foreign affairs ministry early Wednesday but were then handed a note from Phnom Penh denying their request.

"Our diplomatic note answering them is nothing beyond rejecting the extradition request," Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong said shortly before the exchange of letters.

Cambodia had repeatedly vowed to refuse any request from its larger neighbour for the extradition of Thaksin, saying that the charges levelled against him in Thailand were politically motivated.


"Thaksin's conviction is caused by the coup in September 2006, when he was the prime minister of Thailand whom Thai people voted in with an overwhelming majority in accordance with democracy,'' Hor Namhong said.

Pinich Wikitset, assistant to the foreign minister, confirmed that the Foreign Ministry had received a letter from Cambodia refusing extradition.

Mr Panich said the letter stressed that Cambodia cannot send Thaksin to Thailand because the former Thai prime minister was a political, not criminal, convict.

The government would hold a meeting to assess the development. At this stage, the Foreign Ministry would send a reply to Cambodia reaffirming that the court case in which Thaksin was sentenced to two years in jail was criminal, not political.

The verdict against Thaksin issued by the Supreme Court's Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions clearly states that Thaksin committed a criminal offence while holding the office of prime minister of Thailand, Mr Panich said.

Mr Panich said Thailand had not yet considered closing the border with Cambodia or taking other measures to pressure Cambodia.

Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban reaffirmed on Wednesday Thailand will not resort to closing its border with Cambodia.

He declined to comment on the Cambodian refusal, saying he would rather wait to see the official reply letter than engaging in a verbal spat through the media.

There were international diplomatic channels that could be followed in this matter, Mr Suthep said.

Mr Suthep, who is in charge of security affairs, said the Thai government would not resort "special" measures, such as sending forces into Cambodia to bring Thaksin back to Thailand, because each country has its own sovereignty to protect.

What Thailand could do now was to send an official letter explaining to Cambodia that Thaksin is a convicted criminal, not a political refugee, and that the two countries have an extradition treaty and should comply with it, he said.

Asked about Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen's challenging Thailand to close the border, Mr Suthep said a politician's expression of emotion could not be taken seriously.

He said Mr Abhisit's policy is for security agencies to protect Thai sovereignty and make sure that the people along the border can lead happy, normal lives.

Tensions were already running high between the two countries following a series of clashes over a temple on their border and the row threatens to mar a weekend summit of Southeast Asian leaders with US President Barack Obama.

Thailand and Cambodia each recalled their ambassadors last week after Thaksin's appointment, and this week the Thai cabinet agreed to cancel a memorandum of understanding with Cambodia on disputed maritime boundaries, covering oil and gas exploration, signed by the Thaksin government in 2001.

Thaksin is due to give a speech to about 300 Cambodian economics experts on Thursday. Cambodian officials have said he will stay in the country for two or three days but is not intending to live there.

Cambodian state television late Tuesday showed Thaksin and Hun Sen embracing, reporting that the Cambodian leader pronounced him an "eternal friend".

PetroVietnam to Explore for Oil in Cambodia’s Tonle Sap Lake



(Posted by CAAI News Media)

By Van Nguyen

Nov. 11 (Bloomberg) -- PetroVietnam Exploration Production Corp., a member of state-owned Vietnam Oil & Gas Group, plans to explore for oil and gas in Cambodia’s Tonle Sap Lake area.

Under the terms of a contract, to be signed with the Cambodian National Petroleum Authority in Phnom Penh tomorrow, PetroVietnam Exploration will do seismic and exploration works in the northeastern part of Tonle Sap Lake, in central Cambodia, according to an e-mailed statement from Vietnam Oil or PetroVietnam as the producer is known.

Hanoi-based PetroVietnam Exploration, which will have 100 percent ownership of the rights in Block XV, covering about 6,900 square kilometers (2,664 square miles), can explore for oil for 30 years and gas for 35 years.

To contact the reporter on this story: Van Nguyen in Ho Chi Minh City at

Cambodia rejects Thai request to arrest ex-premier


BY SOPHENG CHEANG, Associated Press Writer

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia – Cambodia turned down a request Wednesday from Thailand to arrest former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who last year was sentenced in absentia by a Thai court to two years imprisonment for violating a conflict of interest law.

A statement from Cambodia's Foreign Affairs Ministry said the request to detain Thaksin for extradition would not be honored because the legal case against him was politically motivated, and therefore not covered by the countries' extradition treaty.

Thaksin is visiting Cambodia to give a lecture after his appointment last week as an adviser on economic affairs to the Phnom Penh government.

His appointment has strained relations between Cambodia and Thailand, which recalled its ambassador and scrapped an a memorandum of understanding with Phnom Penh on negotiating overlapping maritime claims over offshore territory containing large oil and gas deposits.

The two nations have already fought several small but sometimes deadly skirmishes over disputed territory on their land border in the past year and a half.

Thaksin went into self-imposed exile last year ahead of the court judgment against him. He served as prime minister from 2001 to 2006, when he was ousted by a military coup after being accused of corruption and showing disrespect to the country's constitutional monarch, King Bhumibol Adulyadej.

The former leader's political battling against the current Thai government, which he accuses of being undemocratic, has left his country bitterly divided.

The Cambodian foreign ministry statement said Thaksin's prosecution was a consequence of his being ousted by the 2006 coup, and recalled — using uppercase letters for emphasis — that "he was OVERWHELMINGLY and DEMOCRATICALLY elected by the Thai people."

The phrase closely echoes arguments made by Thaksin and his many supporters in Thailand, who claimed that he was removed because he threatened the privileges of Thailand's Bangkok-centered ruling class by winning the support of the urban and rural poor.

Cambodia's long-serving strongman, Prime Minister Hun Sen, had already said that any Thai extradition request would be rejected.

Thailand's current Prime Minister, Abhisit Vejjajiva, expressed regret over Cambodia's rejection of the Thai request.

"Thailand will review other areas of cooperation and other aspects of our relationship but I assure you that we will not do anything that will affect the people of either country, and Thailand will not close down the border nor use military force." There is very active trade across the countries' long land border.

Thaksin received a warm welcome from Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen after his arrival Tuesday.

Cambodian state television showed the two men meeting at a house prepared for Thaksin by Hun Sen's government. It described the affair as a family meeting, and quoted Hun Sen describing Thaksin as a close and "eternal" friend. TV footage showed the two men smiling and enthusiastically hugging each other.

Thaksin was quoted as thanking Hun Sen for being faithful to him. Hun Sen has said he offered Thaksin a place to stay in Cambodia and made him an adviser because of their long friendship.

Thai PM says sad Cambodia denies to extradite Thaksin


2009-11-11

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

BANGKOK, Nov. 11 (Xinhua) -- It is sad that Cambodia has refused to extradite ousted former Thai premier Thaksin Shinawatrato Thailand, Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said Wednesday.

"Cambodia has not followed international principle," the Thai prime minister was quoted by Thai News Agency as saying.

Hence, the Thai government has planned to review aid projects for Cambodia, Abhisit announced.

However, the diplomatic standoff between the two neighboring governments will not affect the relationships between the people of the two countries as there is no policy to close the Thai-Cambodian border, Abhisit said.

Also, the Thai government will not use any military force to deal with this bilateral problem, he said.

But, the Thai government will be stricter for Thais who will travel for gambling in Cambodia, Abhisit said.

Meanwhile, Abhisit has not been convinced after Thaksin claimed earlier he can be mediation for Thailand and Cambodia to solve the problem.

Abhisit said he has doubted over Thaksin's announcement since Thaksin himself is the origin of the ongoing bilateral problem.

Thailand and Cambodia have downgraded their diplomatic relations due to conflict over an appointment of Thaksin as an economic advisor to Cambodia's government on Nov. 4.

A day after the appointment of Thaksin, the Cambodian government announced recall of its ambassador to Thailand in a move to respond to the Thai government's recall of its ambassador to Cambodia.

Thaksin, who arrived in Cambodia on Tuesday, will on Thursday hold a briefing with over 300 Cambodian economics experts at the Ministry of Economy and Finance, Hun Sen said earlier.

Thaksin was ousted by the military coup in September 2006, in accusation of corruption, and has been kept in exile since then.

He returned to Thailand in February 2008 to face corruption charges, but he later fled into exile again and was convicted in absentia.

Editor: Zhang Xiang

Thailand to revise links with Cambodia


Published: 11/11/2009

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said he has assigned the Foreign Ministry to revise Thailand's cooperation with Cambodia following Phnom Penh's official refusal of request to extradite former premier Thaksin Shinawatra back to Thailand.

He said he was sorry Cambodia had decided not abide by international agreements and law, but Thailand would still not use force against its neighbour.

The border would also not be the closed, but the government would adopt tougher measures to prevent Thais crossing the border to gamble in Cambodia.

The government would try to make sure that people living along the Thai-Cambodian border were not affected, he said.

On Tuesday, the cabinet agreed to revoke a memorandum of understanding on the overlapping maritime boundary with Cambodia in the eastern Gulf of Thailand, but it will not take effect until it is approved by parliament.

THAI EXTRADITION ATTEMPT : Bangkok regrets Cambodia's refusal : Abhisit


Wed, November 11, 2009
By The Nation

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Thaksin should have realised that he had caused problems between Thailand and Cambodia.

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said Wednesday he regretted Cambodian government did not adhere to the international laws by rejecting Thai request to send ex-PM Thaksin Shinawatra back to serve two-year jail term.

Thai Foreign Ministry will however re-submitted the extradition request to Cambodia soon.

Abhisit was speaking after Thai officials of Thai Embassy in Phnom Penh submitted extradition papers to Cambodia's Foreign Ministry on Wednesday only to be handed back the documents.

"Thai government will review more mutual cooperations following the incident. We will restrict more on border crossing to prevent people from crossing to gamble in casinos on the Khmer soil," he said.

However he said he wanted to insist that there would be neither closure of the border nor use of force.

Thaksin should have realised that he had caused problems between Thailand and Cambodia, Abhisit said.

Commenting on reports that Hun Sen refused to extradite Thaksin because he did not trust Thai justice system, Abhisit said Hun Sen may be misinformed.

Abhisit also reiterated that the problem could be solved on a bilateral basis and it would be escalated to Asean forum.

Suthep: No border closure


Published: 11/11/2009

(Posted by CAAI news Media)

Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban reaffirmed on Wednesday Thailand will not resort to closing its border with Cambodia, which has rejected its request to extradite Thaksin Shinawatra.

He declined to comment on the Cambodian refusal, saying he would rather wait to see the official reply letter than engaging in a verbal spat through the media.

There were international diplomatic channels that could be followed in this matter, Mr Suthep said.

Mr Suthep, who is in charge of security affairs, said the Thai government would not resort "special" measures, such as sending forces into Cambodia to bring Thaksin back to Thailand, because each country has its own sovereignty to protect.

What Thailand could do now was to send an official letter explaining to Cambodia that Thaksin is a criminal, not political, convict and that the two countries have an extradition treaty and should comply with it, he said.

Asked about Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen's challenging Thailand to close the border, Mr Suthep said a politician's expression of emotion could not be taken seriously.

He said Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva's policy is for security agencies to protect Thai sovereignty and make sure that the people along the border can lead happy, normal lives.

People on both sides had relatives across the border who and maintained commercial links Their daily lives should not be disturbed by a conflict between governments, Mr Suthep said.

Suthep: Not easy to extradite Thaksin


Published: 11/11/2009

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

The government has no special plan for bringing ousted premier Thaksin Shinawatra back to Thailand to face the charges against him because it must respect the sovereignty of Cambodia, Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban said on Wednesday.

What the government could do, he said, is to use diplomatic channels, which are internationally-accepted.

The Foreign Ministry and the Office of the Attorney-General would explain to Cambodia and global communities that Thaksin is a fugitive who fled criminal charges and a jail sentence handed down by the Supreme Court, and that he is not entitled to political asylum as he has claimed, Mr Suthep said.

He hoped the Cambodian government would put the relationship between the two countries ahead of personal interests.

It would not be easy to extradite Thaksin back here, he admitted.

Mr Suthep expressed concern that Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen had challenged the Thai government to close the border.

The Thai government would not be swayed by anger or any other emotion in deciding whether to close frontier checkpoints, he said.

Cambodia rejects demands to extradite Thaksin


(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Wednesday, 11 November 2009 16:15 Cheang Sokha and James O'Toole

Move to further deepen diplomatic rift with Thailand

CAMBODIA rejected a formal request Wednesday by the Thai government for the extradition of visiting former Thai premier Thaksin Shinawatra, who faces a two-year prison term in Thailand after his conviction in absentia on corruption charges in 2008.

In a statement that followed through on a verbal promise the government has made repeatedly over the last few weeks, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it would not extradite Thaksin because the legal charges he faces in Thailand are “politically motivated”.

“The condemnation of HE Thaksin Shinawatra is logically the consequence of the military coup d’etat in September 2006, which resulted in his removal from the post of prime minister, while he was overwhelmingly and democratically elected by the Thai people,” the statement read.

Thai Foreign Ministry deputy spokesman Thani Thongphakdi said Thailand was mulling its options in the wake of the rejection.

“We have received a copy of the diplomatic note that the Cambodian side has sent to us and at the moment, our legal people are examining the details and the contents of the letter,” Thani said, adding that this legal team would then make a policy recommendation for the government to consider.

Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has threatened to terminate the extradition agreement between Thailand and Cambodia in the event that a request for Thaksin is denied, though Thani said his government has not yet settled on a response.

“I think a review of all the agreements that we have is being examined. I don’t want to prejudge what the outcome of that review will be,” he said.

Thaksin touches down in Cambodia




Photo by: AFP
‘I will not ... help Cambodia fight with Thailand’

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Wednesday, 11 November 2009 15:05 James O’toole and Cheang Sokha

Fugitive political figure’s presence is likely to further harm relations with Thailand, analysts say.

THAILAND’s deposed prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra arrived in Phnom Penh Tuesday at the invitation of Cambodia’s government in a move that is likely to escalate a diplomatic row that has already seen the two countries recall their ambassadors and plunged relations to their lowest point in six years.

Thaksin, who last week was appointed economic adviser to the government and personal adviser to Prime Minister Hun Sen – further inflaming Thai anger – is expected to deliver a lecture to Cambodian economics experts on Thursday.

The ex-premier, who was ousted in a 2006 coup, arrived at the military air base adjacent to Phnom Penh International Airport in a small, chartered jet, and was briefly greeted by several Cambodian officials on the tarmac before being whisked away in a motorcade under the protection of Hun Sen’s bodyguard unit.

Thaksin “stepped safely onto Cambodian soil. It was an honour for the people and the country of Cambodia”, Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said.

Thaksin and Hun Sen shared a welcome dinner on Tuesday evening, Phay Siphan added. This followed a meeting between the two, shown in part on local news reports, that was also attended by Thaksin’s brother-in-law and fellow ex-prime minister, Somchai Wongsawat.

Phay Siphan was unsure of the duration of Thaksin’s stay, but said he would be here “at least” until Thursday.


Photo by: AFP
Prime Minister Hun Sen (left) and former Thai premier Thaksin Shinawatra, pose together at a house prepared for Thaksin in Phnom Penh.

Thaksin’s visit to Cambodia is the closest he has come to his country since going into a self-imposed exile to avoid imprisonment for a corruption conviction in absentia in 2008.

The Thai foreign ministry said that it was sending an extradition request for Thaksin to its embassy in Phnom Penh late Tuesday and expected to hand the documents to Cambodian officials today.

“Cambodia must realise that they have triggered a conflict of interest and criticised the Thai judicial system,” Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said.

Cambodian Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Koy Kuong, however, confirmed Tuesday that the government will “absolutely not” extradite the man Hun Sen has called an “eternal friend”.

In an internet posting late Monday, Thaksin said his trip to Cambodia was not an act of provocation.

“As I travel to Cambodia to discuss poverty and the world economic situation, I will try to preserve Thai interests with our friends in Phnom Penh, despite the Thai government still hounding me wherever I go,” he wrote. “I will not go to Cambodia to help Cambodia fight with Thailand.”

Earlier this year, deadly skirmishes broke out on the two nations’ disputed border, and Thais have expressed anger about the listing of Preah Vihear temple as a Cambodian World Heritage site by UNESCO.

Thitinan Pongsudhirak, a political analyst at Thailand’s Chulalongkorn University, said Sunday that if Thaksin travelled to Cambodia, Abhisit “will be forced to step up the escalation spiral”.

He added, however, that both sides must own up to their responsibility for the breakdown in relations.

“Hun Sen has overstepped the line here – diplomatically, legally, politically,” he said.

“At the same time, the Abhisit government has to own up to its past deeds. Appointing [Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya] has been a liability, and now you can see the consequences.… Allowing the right-wing radical groups from the [People’s Alliance for Democracy] to protest at the [Preah Vihear temple] site… has added fuel to the fire.”

Andrew Walker, a Southeast Asia expert at the Australian National University, said Hun Sen and the Cambodian government mean to deliver a “poke in the eye” to Abhisit, adding: “It’s hard not to interpret their actions with Thaksin as something of retaliation over the temple issue.”

Michael Montesano, a fellow at Singapore’s Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, said Abhisit’s response to Thaksin’s arrival will determine the tenor of future bilateral relations.

“How bad it gets depends entirely on whether Abhisit can keep his cool and resist pressure from those who are intent on escalation of this conflict,” Montesano said.

“But if he keeps making announcements of the kind he has made in the past few days, then things could get much, much worse.”

Cambodian officials at the Thai border said Tuesday that the situation was quiet, and that border crossings were proceeding as usual.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY AFP AND THET SAMBATH

THAKSIN FACES LESE MAJESTE COMPLAINT OVER INTERVIEW



FOUR Thai government officials lodged a complaint against former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra on Tuesday, accusing him of lese majeste in connection with an interview he gave in The Times, a British newspaper. Thaksin said in a statement that the article had misrepresented his words and had a misleading headline. The ex-premier has instructed his attorney, Noppadon Pattama, to investigate legal action against The Times, said Suchart Lainamngern, deputy spokesman of the Thaksin-associated Puea Thai party. In the interview, Thaksin was quoted as calling for the reform of institutions around Thailand’s revered monarchy, headed by 81-year-old King Bhumibol Adulyadej. “Thailand needs to have a monarchy, but it should not be abused or played by the palace circles,” Thaksin reportedly said. “I can assure you His Majesty is above [politics], but those in the circle have a network.” Insulting or defaming the royal family is punishable by up to 15 years in jail in Thailand. Members of the People’s Alliance for Democracy said they would stage a mass anti-Thaksin protest in Bangkok on Sunday.


BANGKOK POST AND AFP

New hope for Siamese crocs



Photo by: Sebastian Strangio
Wildlife Rescue Centre last month. Recent DNA tests have shown 35 of the zoo’s specimens are rare Siamese crocodiles.

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Wednesday, 11 November 2009 15:04 Jacob Gold

Testing at wildlife centre finds higher-than-expected number of pure-blooded animals, raising the species’ odds of survival.

DNA testing has revealed that 35 of 69 crocodiles at a wildlife centre are pure-blooded Siamese crocodiles, officials announced on Tuesday, offering new hope for this critically endangered species, whose numbers in the wild are estimated at only 250.

Nhek Ratanapech, director of the Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Centre, said: “We were very surprised that it was 35 out of 69. It’s great – before, I thought there would maybe be just three or four.”

The genetic survey of the Phnom Tamao crocodiles began in February and was organised by the Cambodian Crocodile Conservation Programme (CCCP), a partnership of Flora and Fauna International (FFI), the Forestry Administration and Wildlife Alliance. Scientists at Kasetsart University in Bangkok analysed the genetic material and delivered the results to the CCCP in mid-October.

Adam Starr, FFI programme manager and coordinator of the CCCP, said the Siamese crocodiles at the centre had the potential to help the species rebound with human help.

“We are going to develop a breeding programme using the stock here. Our goal is to try to double the population in five years, which is ambitious, but hopefully we can attain it,” he said. Breeding is expected to begin early next year, after the Siamese crocodiles are moved to their own dedicated facility.

Siamese crocodile skin yields exceptionally soft leather, a trait that is largely responsible for the species’ depletion over the last century. “The biggest threat is poaching,” Starr said. “The leather industry virtually eliminated Siamese crocodiles from the wild.”

Poachers continue to hunt Siamese crocodiles illegally for their skin or sell them to commercial farms across the region, where they are crossbred with the larger, faster-growing saltwater variety, further eroding the species. The remaining crocodiles at the rescue centre are all hybrids of this kind.

The other major threat to the freshwater Siamese crocodile is habitat destruction.

Starr said much of the animal’s former range has already been cleared for farmland, and that now “key rivers within the crocodiles’ habitat are slated to have hydroelectric dams built on them.”

Starr could not specify which rivers these were because the contracts for the plants have not been signed, but he did say that they were in southwestern Cambodia, where 95 percent of the remaining wild Siamese crocodiles are thought to live.

King Father wants PM to look into VN border


(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Wednesday, 11 November 2009 15:04 Meas Sokchea

KING Father Norodom Sihanouk has written letters urging Prime Minister Hun Sen and other senior officials to examine opposition party allegations that Vietnamese authorities are encroaching on Cambodian soil.

The letters follow Cambodian and Vietnamese officials’ criticism of opposition leader Sam Rainsy for uprooting six markers along the countries’ loosely defined border in October.

Sihanouk’s letters urged officials to “consider” Sam Rainsy’s allegations. On Saturday, the opposition leader wrote a letter to the King Father, saying that villagers along the border in Svay Rieng province’s Chantrea district were losing valuable farmland to Vietnam.

Var Kimhong, the government’s senior minister in charge of border affairs, declined comment, noting only that Sam Rainsy’s letter mentions that villagers uprooted border posts – omitting his own involvement.

Labour Row:Tack Fat employees reject offer


(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Wednesday, 11 November 2009 15:04 Kim Yuthana and May Titthara

Labour Row

Temporarily laid-off workers from a Phnom Penh garment factory have rejected a deal that would have paid them one-quarter of their monthly salaries while they were out of a job. Tack Fat garment factory employee Leab Chanthoeun said a $12 per month offer was too meagre. Instead, the workers are asking for about US$25 a month, half of their normal monthly earnings. All of the 1,823 employees at Tack Fat garment factory have been temporarily laid off since October 8. A two-month hiatus was necessitated by a shortfall in garment orders sparked by global economic conditions, the factory’s owners said at the time. A union representative said talks between city and union officials yesterday produced only a promise to launch an investigative committee. The Post could not reach a factory representative for comment.

Court set for verdict in B’bang land fight


(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Wednesday, 11 November 2009 15:04 Chrann Chamroeun

THE Appeal Court is to announce its verdict in a long-running land dispute in Battambang province on November 26, after a hearing on Tuesday, lawyers said.

Since 2002, the dispute has pitted 38 families in Battambang’s Thmor Kol district against a local businessman who says he owns 124 hectares of rice fields occupied by the community, according to lawyer Ho Chheng Ourn.

Ho Chheng Ourn, who represents the families on behalf of Legal Aid of Cambodia, said businessman Ieng Oeung filed complaints against the villagers in Battambang provincial court in 2007, accusing them of illegally occupying his land.

A 2001 provincial court ruling granted the land to Ieng Oeung, he said, but he added that the villagers had no knowledge of the ruling until he went to claim the land.

“These affected families appealed to the Ministry of Justice ... and made reports to Minister Ang Vong Vattana, who issued letters to the provincial court to reconsider the court decree, but it has since been ignored,” he said.

He added that villagers were hoping to also secure the release of Chem Keo, a community representative arrested during the dispute in 2007 and sentenced to one year in prison in September for trespassing on Ieng Oeung’s property.

Dredging operations descend on Kampot


(POsted by CAAI News Media)

Wednesday, 11 November 2009 15:04 Vong Sokheng and Sebastian Strangio

SAND-DREDGING operations are on the rise in Kampot province, according to local fishermen, who say they are concerned about the possible environmental degradation and loss of livelihood stemming from the operations.

Villagers from Traey Koh commune, in Kampong Bay district, say that for the past two months, dredgers belonging to the local Keo Tha company have been plying the Kampot River between areas upstream of Kampot town and the ocean, unloading sand into large container ships moored offshore.

Neak Sen, a representative of 300 fishing families in Traey Koh commune, said 10 dredging boats – each with an estimated capacity of 500 cubic metres – were operating in the river, each extracting two loads per day.

“We are very concerned about our future livelihoods while the operation takes place offshore,” he said, estimating that it stood to impact around 1,000 people in Traey Koh and Chong Kreal communes.

Ly Yen, a 50-year-old Traey Koh fisherman, said the removal of the sand, which he said is intended for export to Singapore, had resulted in riverbank collapses.

“We are concerned about the collapse of the riverbank and declines in our fish and crab catches,” he said.

Hallam Goad, a Kampot-based adviser for housing rights group Sahmakum Teang Tnaut, said the company appears to have “ramped up” its operations in the past 10 days.

The Kampot operation appears to violate a ban on sand exports announced by Prime Minister Hun Sen in May and July this year, due to its adverse environmental effects.

Traey Koh commune chief Pov Son said Keo Tha, which was dredging before Hun Sen’s ban, was given an official dispensation to continue operations last month, “in order to relieve flooding in the town”.

Keo Tha is reputedly owned by a high-ranking official in the Ministry of Defence, said Try Chhoun, a provincial coordinator for local rights group Adhoc.

White gold
The situation in Kampot bears a striking resemblance to that in Koh Kong, where the Hong Kong-based Winton Enterprises, in partnership with the local LYP Group of companies, is extracting thousands of tonnes of sand per week from the province’s coastal estuaries, also for export to Singapore.

The operations have also provoked the ire of local fishermen, who held a series of protests last month demanding a halt to the dredging.

At the time, Pech Siyon, director of Koh Kong’s Department of Industry, Mines and Energy, told the Post that permission for the continuation of the Winton/LYP operation had also been granted to prevent flooding in the provincial town.

Mu Sochua, a Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker who represents Kampot, said she did not know the details of the operations there but said the CPP’s selective application of the ban was unsurprising.

She said monopoly concessions were granted to companies – especially those connected with powerful okhna, or tycoons – who funnelled a portion of their profits back to the party coffers. Such concessions, Mu Sochua said, often failed to take into account the environmental and social impacts.

“These people have depended on fishing for many generations. Pumping out the sand is extremely detrimental to their livelihoods,” she said.

Som Vichet, deputy director of the provincial Department of Industry, Energy and Mines, said he did not wish to discuss the issue over the phone.

Russia refuses to cancel debt



Photo by: Heng Chivoan
National Assembly President Heng Samrin greets officials at Phnom Penh International Airport after his return from a six-day state visit to Russia.

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Wednesday, 11 November 2009 15:04 Khouth Sophakchakrya

THE Russian Federation has refused to wipe out over a billion dollars of Cold War-era debt, despite National Assembly President Heng Samrin’s appeals to senior Russian officials during his recent six-day visit to the country.

Cheam Yeap, a senior lawmaker for the ruling Cambodian People’s Party who accompanied Heng Samrin on the trip, said Tuesday that Russian officials have not yet accepted the government’s bid to cancel the debt, which totals around US$1.5 billion. The money was borrowed from the Soviet Union in the 1980s for the purchase of military equipment during Cambodia’s decade-long civil war.

Cambodia requested debt cancellation from Russia in 2006 and 2008, but was unsuccessful both times.

“We made an effort to convince them by saying that China cancelled $300 million of a $5 billion debt and the IMF canceled a debt of $82 million. But they said nothing,” he said.

The delegation travelled to Moscow and St Petersburg, where they met with Sergey Mironov, chairman of the Russian Federation Council’s Federal Assembly and other government representatives to discuss a potential air route linking Moscow with Phnom Penh and Siem Reap.

He added that Russia’s deputy prime minister and investors from the country will visit Cambodia on November 15 to investigate a possible dam project.

“They will look into investing in a hydropower project in Stung Treng that will be able to produce 980 megawatts of electricity,” he said.

Civil parties dispute prison chief’s claims


(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Wednesday, 11 November 2009 15:03 Robbie Corey Boulet

Final submissions in Duch case are due today

THE Khmer Rouge tribunal’s first defendant has deliberately downplayed his role in creating “a vicious cycle of arrests, confessions and certain death” at the prison he commanded, a group of civil party lawyers has argued in a filing to be submitted this week.

The 53-page final submission from Civil Parties Group 1 asserts that Tuol Sleng prison chief Kaing Guek Eav, alias Duch, was granted the freedom to expand upon torture techniques used at other security centres to extract confessions from supposed traitors.

Duch has maintained throughout his trial that he was following instructions from superiors who would have ordered his execution had he disobeyed, a claim the lawyers dismissed as disingenuous.

“Not only did Duch reign over S-21 with an iron fist, he did so while constantly innovating and improving in order to make S-21 the most efficient system he could through the exercise of his autonomy,” the final submission reads.

The civil party lawyers also accuse Duch of having “fuelled the paranoia” of Khmer Rouge leaders in his efforts to identify networks of traitors, adding that these efforts led to “massive subsequent arrests” and executions. They describe him as “a fanatical believer in the revolution” who “worked like a maniac on annotating the confessions” and “considered the prisoners to be animals”.

“Despite Duch’s extensive effort to downplay his role in the practice of torture at S-21, the evidence unambiguously demonstrates that Duch went to great lengths to establish a system that was designed to inflict the maximum degree of suffering on the prisoners,” the lawyers state.

The filing includes descriptions of how the lawyers’ 37 clients claim to have been affected by the crimes with which Duch is charged. All but one of them are relatives of prisoners who were executed at Tuol Sleng.

The list of afflictions includes insomnia, nightmares, anxiety, “debilitating anguish” and “persistent stomach pain”. In the case of Neth Phally, whose brother died at Tuol Sleng, the lawyers write: “On one occasion, his grief so overwhelmed him that he was unable to avoid a falling tree branch and lost his left arm as a result.”

The Trial Chamber in August allowed the defence team to lay out challenges to 24 civil party applications, a move the filing describes as inappropriate in light of the fact that the applications were initially approved in February.

“This Trial Chamber should approach these proceedings with the presumption, not easily rebutted, that Civil Party status should not be stripped from victims at the conclusion of the proceedings absent compelling new evidence,” it states.

Judges will rule on the challenges when they hand down a verdict, which is expected early next year, UN court spokesman Lars Olsen said Tuesday.

Final submissions from all parties in the Duch case are due today. The prosecution and defence teams declined to provide drafts of their submissions in advance of closing arguments, which are scheduled to begin on November 23, as did lawyers for Civil Parties Groups 2 and 4.

Lawyers for Civil Parties Group 3 could not be reached Tuesday.

Defamation: Mu Sochua files appeal in PM suit


(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Wednesday, 11 November 2009 15:03 Meas Sokchea

Defamation

Opposition lawmaker Mu Sochua has filed an appeal to the Supreme Court against her conviction for defaming Prime Minister Hun Sen, she said on Tuesday. The outspoken Sam Rainsy Party parliamentarian said she would rather serve a jail sentence than pay the 16.5 million riels (US$3,693) in fines and compensation ordered in the original ruling, which was handed down by the Municipal Court in August and upheld by the Court of Appeal last month. “If I still lose, I will not pay,” she said. “I have already prepared myself to be imprisoned if I lose this case.” Hun Sen’s lawyer Ky Tech cautioned her to respect the court’s verdict. “If we do not follow the court, the court will take action,” Ky Tech said. The prime minister sued Mu Sochua for defamation in April after she filed her own complaint accusing him of making derogatory remarks about her during a press conference. Her lawsuit, however, was dismissed by the Appeal Court on October 14, whereas Prime Minister Hun Sen’s proceeded.

Don’t stop the press




Photo by: Sovan Philong
Hang Chakra, publisher of the opposition-aligned Khmer Machas Srok newspaper, arrives at the Appeal Court for a hearing in July.

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Wednesday, 11 November 2009 15:03 Moeun Chhean Nariddh

Criminal suits against journalists must be halted.

FROM outside the fence of the Phnom Penh Municipal Court, passersby clearly see and recognise Ros Sokhet as a criminal indistinguishable from others in his blue- and white-striped prison uniform.

He is waiting to be prosecuted for a crime he is alleged to have committed. However, unlike other criminals who have been put on trial and convicted of murder, rape or robbery, Sokhet has not murdered, raped or robbed anyone. His crime, like that of many other journalists arrested and sent to jail before him, is for expressing opinions that the court considers “disinformation”.

And unlike other journalists who have been charged and convicted of “defamation”, “disinformation” or “incitement”, in recent lawsuits filed by the government, Ros Sokhet’s case has been based on a unique and unlikely complaint made by another Khmer journalist. He has been charged with disinformation for telling his fellow journalist that people have accused him of extorting money from someone.

However, Ros Sokhet’s case is just one of an increasing number of lawsuits brought against journalists in recent years, particularly for exercising their freedom of speech. In October 2005, Beehive Radio director Mam Sonando and Voice of Democracy radio programme director Pa Nguon Teang were imprisoned along with other government critics for criticising border agreements signed with Vietnam.

Two years later, more journalists were targeted with legal actions. Samleng Yuvachun Khmer newspaper publisher Keo Sothear was charged with defamation

for criticising the governor of the then-Sihanoukville municipality, while the editors of Sralanh Khmer newspaper, Thach Keth and You Saravuth, were respectively charged with libel and defamation over articles alleging the involvement of government officials in land-grabbing.

After a wave of criminal lawsuits and prosecution of journalists for defamation, disinformation and incitement, the opposition-aligned publications have disappeared from the newsstands one after another.

While Sralanh Khmer newspaper switched sides and became pro-government, Moneaksekar Khmer was shut down altogether after editor Dam Sith, who was facing a devastating criminal lawsuit, apologised to the government and promised to cease his newspaper’s publication.

Dam Sith was arrested in June 2009 on charges of libel and false information that were brought against him by the Cambodian foreign minister, Hor Namhong.

In the same month, Hang Chakra, publisher of the Khmer Machas Srok newspaper, was jailed after receiving a one-year prison sentence as a result of government complaint about articles accusing the deputy prime minister of corrupt practices.

As the lawsuits against journalists and government critics mount, questions have been raised about Cambodia’s commitment to upholding democracy and human rights enshrined in the Constitution.

Article 31 of the Constitution states: “The Kingdom of Cambodia shall recognise and respect human rights as stipulated in the United Nations Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human rights, the covenants and conventions related to human rights, women’s and children’s rights.”

All these international conventions, particularly the Universal Declaration, include a specific reference to press freedom and freedom of speech.

Article 19 of the Universal Declaration states: “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”

To further assert Cambodia’s obligations, Article 41 of the Constitution explicitly states: “Khmer citizens shall have freedom of expression, press, publication and assembly.... The regime of the media shall be determined by law.”

However, this is where all the problems arise. Despite the adoption of the Press Law in 1995, which gives greater freedoms and protection to journalists, it has almost never been used. Article 20 of this law says: “No person shall be arrested or subject to criminal charges as result of expression of opinion.” Yet, the government has continued to file criminal lawsuits against journalists for expressing their opinions. Without much investigation, the court would immediately rule in favor of the government by using the outdated UNTAC Penal Code of 1992, despite Article 21 of the Press Law saying that “all previous provisions related to the press shall be abrogated”.

Facing such legal threats and intimidation, many journalists are forced to exercise self-censorship by not reporting sensitive, important stories that may lead them into trouble. On the other hand, democratic media principles forbid the use of criminal legal actions against journalists for doing their professional job to fulfill the public’s right to know.

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Mouen Chhean Nariddh is a veteran journalist and the director of the Cambodia Institute for Media Studies in Phnom Penh.

Montessori schools ditch curricula to put emphasis on the individual




Photo by: Johan Smits
The Montessori approach puts great emphasis on mixing children of different cultural and social backgrounds and exposure to free-form creative learning.

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Respect for the child is very central in the montessori environment.
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(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Wednesday, 11 November 2009 15:01 Johan Smits

Advocates say libertarian educational approach gives children more leeway to self-actualise

French-Cambodian Muoy You, director of the nursery and day care centre Seametrey Children’s Village, has only one ambition, albeit a challenging one: the moral reconstruction of Cambodia.

Knowing what you want is half of the battle, but where does one start? She believes it all happens during early education, and more specifically, one with a Montessorian approach – observing and supporting the natural development of children, rather than a formal system for training in academic studies.

The basis of Montessori practice in the classroom is child-centred individual choice of research and work, and uninterrupted concentration as opposed to group lessons led by an adult. The Montessori curriculum is followed with emphasis on child individuality and so-called “sensitive” periods.

English is considered particularly important, and it is hoped that with volunteer help, the children will be bilingual by the age of 7. Knowledge of the English language opens up a wide range of employment opportunities in Cambodia.

In Phnom Penh there are only two schools that label themselves Montessorian. One of them is Muoy’s school, and the other is Montessori Kindergarten.

“Montessori says that a child from birth to the age of 6 is a mind absorbing everything from the environment. The child has her own pace of development, so you have to observe her, evaluate at what stage she is and then prepare the environment accordingly,” Muoy said.

To that purpose, the Montessorian approach makes use of specifically designed materials to help the child discover on his own, such as sandpaper letter printouts and the famous Montessori pink tower, a block structure used to increase coordination and develop concepts of numerology and dimension.

The idea behind Montessori learning is that the child thinks he’s free to do what he wants, but there’s an educational purpose behind each of the pre-selected materials available to play with.

However, as the environment also includes peers, the Montessorian approach puts great emphasis on mixing children of different ages and from various cultural and social backgrounds, just like in the outside community.

This emphasis is reflected at Seametrey Children’s Village – most children are Cambodian, but there are also foreign children of different nationalities. The foreign parents pay full fees, whereas Cambodian parents pay half, and poor families whatever they can afford.

“I think it’s very important to mix the children, so they don’t discriminate when they grow up,” said 26-year-old Panha Meas, one of the teachers at Seametrey.

“The children are born innocent – it’s the adults that make them discriminate,” he added.

However, with its strong child-centred approach, Montessori is sometimes criticised for being too liberal. How then to find that precious balance between freedom and discipline?

“Respect for the child is very central in the Montessori environment, but it doesn’t mean that we turn the children into tyrants. The respect is mutual,” Muoy said.

Australian Kathryn Bice sends her two children to the school. She said she feels a traditional, highly disciplined environment would have been a shock for her two children.

“I feel that the emphasis on individual learning, cooperation and responsibility was a very good introduction to the educational process,” she said.

French parents Pierre and Marie-Dominique also noticed that the Montessori method triggered an increase in creativity and free expression with from two children at Seametrey.

Living in Malawi before moving to Cambodia, they felt frustrated with their children’s former school, where free drawing and painting were not emphasised.

“After the first few months in Cambodia she was coming back with really beautiful drawings, so I thought, if she would be unhappy her drawings would not be so colourful, and it was nice that she got that space to express herself,” Marie-Dominique said of 5-year-old Nina.

On the other hand, Pierre feels that the lack of a formal class setup might hamper the process of making friends.

“It means they don’t end up with the same children every day all the time, which may delay the integration,” he said. “But maybe it’s also an opportunity for us to change our own views on what really matters at school,” he adds.

Montessori’s focus on not only academic achievements but also the social and emotional development of children convinces Muoy that it’s very effective in her quest for the moral reconstruction of Cambodia.

“Some schools talk about academic excellence. I want to talk about human excellence, because Cambodia needs that,” she said.

“And in order to achieve that you have to start with early education.”

Thailand cites Thaksin in nixing oil agreement



Photo by: NATHAN GREEN
A motorbike rider fills up with fuel Tuesday at a Thai-owned PTT petrol station in Phnom Penh.

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Wednesday, 11 November 2009 15:01 Steve Finch

Thai cabinet backs move to scrap 2001 deal on overlapping area, claiming former PM would undermine Bangkok’s position

THE Thai cabinet moved Tuesday to cancel a memorandum of understanding agreed with Cambodia in 2001 aimed at solving overlapping claims in the Gulf of Thailand, reasoning that Thaksin Shinawatra’s appointment as an economic adviser to the Kingdom undermined Bangkok’s negotiating position.

Panitan Wattanyagorn, a Thai cabinet spokesman, told the Post Tuesday that the agreement would be cancelled “for the time being” subject to Thai parliament approval.

The cabinet decision would now head to the Thai parliament “as soon as possible”, he said, adding that it might not be passed this year due to the chamber’s full schedule up to the end of next month.

Thailand’s decision to cancel the agreement, which relates to a 26,000-square-kilometre area in the Gulf of Thailand, has been portrayed in the media as a tit-for-tat response by Bangkok to Thaksin’s appointment, as bilateral ties have become strained in recent weeks.

Panitan said Tuesday that Bangkok had a right to cancel the agreement, given that Thaksin was prime minister of Thailand when it was signed on June 18, 2001, meaning he could share his considerable knowledge on the subject with the other side – Cambodia.

Thaksin “knew extensive details of the negotiations, and now he’s on the other side of the table”, he said. “We have to protect our own interests.”

The proposal, first made at the end of last week by the Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs, was the subject of discussions within the cabinet in Bangkok as well as the office of the council of state, the Thai-Cambodian Joint Border Commission and the ministry’s department of treaty and legal affairs before the decision was made, a report by the official Thai News Agency said Tuesday.

In response to the proposal Friday, Prime Minister Hun Sen said that Bangkok’s actions regarding the agreement would undermine confidence that international agreements would be respected by Thailand.

“You cancelled agreements. … Such agreements are the inheritance of states,” he said.

Proving Thailand’s point
Panitan said Tuesday that Thailand was legally within its rights to cancel the agreement on the disputed area, and that the Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs would publish a full report today that would clarify and justify the decision.

“We have the right to cancel the MoU,” he said.

Phay Siphan, spokesman for the Cambodian Council of Ministers, Tuesday accused Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva of playing populist internal politics – a regular charge against Thaksin prior to his ouster in a September, 2006 coup – that would ultimately only undermine the country’s position on the world stage.

“Thailand needs energy to further its economic growth,” he said, adding that Cambodia “would hold its patience” on the long dispute over the area.

Signed in 2001, the agreement established a framework for discussions on the disputed area with the aim of a joint agreement being finalised that would lead to the sharing of energy production from the zone, which is thought to be rich in fossil fuels.

Both sides have allocated blocks within the disputed area. Cambodia is in the final stages of negotiations to allocate Area III to French energy giant Total, a deal that has been long delayed. The firm’s negotiator, Jean-Paul Precigout, was not available Tuesday for comment on progress.

Te Duong Tara, director general of the Cambodia National Petroleum Authority, was also not available.

The government recently opened bidding for Area IV, also in the disputed zone. Chevron and Mitsui of Japan were reported to have made offers, although no final decision has been announced.

Trade with Thailand immune to border row


(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Wednesday, 11 November 2009 15:01 May Kunmakara

THAI-Cambodian border trade continued as normal despite the escalating war of words between the two countries in the wake of Prime Minister Hun Sen’s recent decision to appoint his ousted Thai counterpart Thaksin Shinawatra as an economic advisor.

Thai Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban said Friday his government would “maybe seal off all border checkpoints”, if Cambodia did not reverse its decision. Both countries also recalled their ambassadors last week, and tensions were ratcheted up further Tuesday as Thaksin landed in Phnom Penh.

Koh Kong provincial Governor Yuth Phouthang said Tuesday that traders continued to operate normally. Construction materials, processed foods and fruit were making the daily journey across the border from Thailand, while Cambodia continued to export fish and agricultural products, he said.

He added that Thailand would be the hardest hit by any closure as most traded goods emanated from there. “If the border closed, we won’t see any bad impact on us because Thailand mostly exports,” he said.

Thailand’s exports to the Kingdom were worth just over US$1 billion in the first eight months of the year, a drop of 30.29 percent on the same period last year, according to figures from the Thai embassy in Phnom Penh.

In Banteay Meanchey province, Kim Heng, deputy chief of Immigration Police at the Boeung Trakoun checkpoint, also said activity had continued unchanged.

Thai cabinet spokesman Panitan Wattanyagorn moved to defuse the situation Tuesday. “We have no plan to close the border,” he told the Post.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY STEVE FINCH

Mobitel to offer BlackBerry service



Photo by: TRACEY SHELTON
BlackBerries are shown on sale at a Hello store in Phnom Penh. Mobitel has announced it will launch RIM smartphone handsets, becoming the second operator in the Kingdom to do so.

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Wednesday, 11 November 2009 15:01 Steve Finch

Domestic market leader joins Malaysia’s Hello in offering Research in Motion smartphones

MOBITEL said on Tuesday that it will launch BlackBerry service, becoming the second mobile-phone provider in the Kingdom to the offer the Research in Motion (RIM) handsets.

The country’s largest provider by users said it would begin selling the Storm and Bold handsets on three service plans, although the exact pricing and launch date were not confirmed.

Sales staffers at a Mobitel-branded store on Sothearos Boulevard were not able to say Monday when the firm’s BlackBerries would go on sale, adding that no pricing framework had been decided.

Mobitel said at the beginning of April that it was preparing to offer BlackBerries and had already entered agreements with RIM.

“Mobile connectivity is becoming more and more important to mobile users in Cambodia, and we’re very pleased to be working with RIM,” Mobitel CEO Jeffrey Noble said in Tuesday’s announcement.

Mobitel follows Hello of Malaysia in selling RIM smartphones in Cambodia following the Kuala Lumpur-based firm’s late-April launch of Pearl 8120 and Curve 8320 handsets.

Hello then launched the 3G Bold in July, announcing in September it would cease offering 2G Blackberries.

On October 26, Hello dropped the entry price of its BlackBerries from US$68 per month to $41 per month, and allowed existing BlackBerry owners to sign up to a Hello plan without having to purchase a handset.

Gary Foo, Hello’s brand manager, said that Hello was considering selling prepaid BlackBerries given that 99 percent of Cambodian mobile phone users are not contracted on pricing plans.

“We have seen huge success from our Axiata sibling XL in Indonesia,” he said. “Currently there is no operator in the world that has offered BlackBerry prepaid except XL, our subsidiary in Indonesia, and [it is] hugely successful there.”

RIM increased its share of the worldwide mobile-phone market in the third quarter, according to research published by IDC last week.

RIM raised its share of the smartphone market to 19 percent during the July-to-September quarter from 14.6 percent a year earlier, it said, leaving it in second position in terms of unit sales behind Finland’s Nokia. Overall, worldwide smartphone sales rose 4.2 percent to 43.3 million in the third quarter from a year earlier, IDC’s report said.