Monday, 1 February 2010

Conservation commendation

Photo by: Jeremy Holden

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Monday, 01 February 2010 15:03 Khouth Sophakchakrya

Jenny Daltry stands with Forestry Administration Director Ty Sokhun and Rafael Dochao Moreno, charge d’affaires at the European Union Delegation to Cambodia, during a ceremony in which she received the title of “Officer” of the Order of Sahemetrei, which is given to foreigners who have provided “distinguished services to the King and to the Nation”. The British conservationist received the award in part for re-discovering the Siamese crocodile in the Cardamom mountains.

‘Shameful’ lack of treatment

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
Clients treated at the My Chance (Orgkas Khnom) drug rehabilitation centre witness the destruction a drug hoard last August.

via CAAI News Media

Monday, 01 February 2010 15:05 Irwin Loy

SOK knew what would happen. He had seen it before: The beatings and humiliation at the hands of detention centre guards; the military-style drills and backbreaking labour; the endless nights sleeping on the floor in mosquito-infested rooms, packed cheek by jowl next to street kids, beggars and drug users.

Sok, a heroin user, knew all this, but he still chose detention. While other drug users were fleeing from police street sweeps last year, Sok willingly walked into a controversial drug rehabilitation centre in Phnom Penh and asked to be locked up.

“I didn’t know what else to do. I just wanted to get clean,” Sok said in a recent interview, during which he asked that his full name not be used.

Sok’s situation highlights the overwhelming challenge Cambodian drug users face when trying to quit. Only a handful of voluntary options exist, provided by a small number of NGOs.

For most others, the only answer is detention in one of at least 11 government-run drug rehabilitation centres – facilities that Human Rights Watch accused in a report last week of subjecting their detainees to abuse and providing only minimal treatment.

But although rights groups and some UN agencies have criticised the rehabilitation centres, observers say the international community has been perilously slow in pointing Cambodia in the right direction.

In the meantime, recent evidence suggests Cambodia could be aligning its treatment policies with neighbouring Vietnam – where forced treatment is rampant, and where there are almost 10 times as many compulsory centres.

Nowhere to go
Addiction experts say there is a brief window of opportunity during which drug addicts decide they want to quit. Fail to step in with immediate treatment when a drug user hits rock bottom, they say, and the opportunity can evaporate.

The World Health Organisation recommends voluntary treatment centres, where drug users can access services with few barriers.

But when addicts ask for treatment at Korsang, the Phnom Penh-based harm-reduction NGO that works with street drug users, Holly Bradford, the group’s founder and technical adviser, has few options.

“Korsang has nowhere to refer drug users for proper treatment,” Bradford said. “Even if you are loaded with money, your options for well-established, scientifically proven, internationally accepted drug treatment protocols ... as far as we know, are zero.”

Critics say compulsory treatment does not work because it relies on the removal of drug users from their communities. When they are parachuted back in after their release, they face all the triggers that pushed them towards drug use in the first place.

“You’re mixing with the people you were using drugs with before. The people you were buying drugs from before,” said David Harding, international coordinator for drugs programmes at Friends International. “People relapse almost immediately.”

Currently, the drug treatment centres fall under the control of a jumble of authorities with minimal addiction expertise, including City Hall, the Ministry of Social Affairs and civilian and military police.

Sao Sokha, deputy commander in chief of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces and the national Military Police commander at the Ministry of Defence, said military police never wanted to be put in charge of running drug treatment centres.

“Our military police officials have no experience in drug treatment,” Sao Sokha said. “But parents of drug users give them to us because they trust us to educate their children and change their habits.”

Sao Sokha, who rejected the HRW report’s allegations of rights abuses in centres run by military police, said he, too, would like to see standardised procedures for drug treatment.

“I also support having standardised treatment,” he said. “But we do not have it yet. Until then, we cannot close” existing rehabilitation centres.

‘Vital alternative’If the international community had a strategy aimed at setting Cambodia on a different path, H83 was it.

The H83 project, run by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), was conceived as a model for community-based counselling, treatment and rehabilitation services that authorities would build on to develop other such facilities.

But the project had trouble getting off the ground. H83’s October 2005 start date was pushed back after two successive project coordinators backed out at the last minute, according to a revision summary of the project obtained by the Post. The US$1.14 million project is now slated to end in March, and there are differing opinions on what exactly it has accomplished.

UNODC Project Coordinator Anand Chaudhuri said that, as part of H83, a pilot intervention programme was established to benefit 50 villages hit hard by drug use.

“We’ve got outreach teams who meet with drug users and their families on a regular basis to provide emotional supports,” said Chaudhuri.

A recent project brief Chaudhuri provided to the Post also states that H83 has succeeded in enhancing the capacity of local service providers, including health practitioners from 12 health centres and nine referral hospitals.

“In three years, we have a non-punitive model,” Chaudhuri said. “How many countries can claim that? Hats off to everybody here in Cambodia.”

The original project description for H83, however, suggests a more ambitious plan.

That project document, obtained by the Post, called for the establishment of four “full-service” drug abuse service centres, including two in the capital, where drug users could seek structured counselling, treatment and rehabilitation from trained staff members.

The project’s original end goals also called for a significant scale-up in those services.

“The number of people receiving … services during the lifetime of the project will increase from the present level of zero to several hundred persons,” the document stated.

Project organisers also envisioned 300 students each year undergoing training to learn drug abuse treatment services.

And the project aimed to provide authorities with “a viable alternative to the jailing of apprehended drug abusers”.

Gary Lewis, the UNODC’s Bangkok-based regional representative, declined to discuss specifics of the H83 project because the agency was preparing to share its evaluation of it with the government.

“We learned some lessons. Some things we got right; some things we got wrong,” Lewis said.

Other UN officials who work on the drug issue in Cambodia, however, said they were concerned the project had not been given the support it needed to succeed.

“I have made it clear to my colleagues that I think it’s shameful the lack of effort that has been in place,” said Graham Shaw, the WHO’s technical adviser on drug use in Cambodia, who blames the UN as a whole for the current situation.

“The UN has been advocating for community-based treatment as an alternative. But Anand has been stuck out there all on his own, and the rest of the UN has been too slow to make it a much broader programme of intervention. It’s been a drop in the bucket, you might say.”

2015: a ‘challenge’Authorities have called on the UN to help establish alternatives to the current drug rehabilitation centres.

On January 19, a week before the HRW report was released, NACD head Ke Kim Yan met with UN officials and proposed phasing out the controversial facilities by 2015.

But sources with firsthand knowledge of the meeting framed the proposal as a “challenge” from Ke Kim Yan.

“He agreed community-based alternatives should be strengthened,” said one source, who asked not to be named because he was not permitted to speak to the media.

“But he was also very critical of the UNODC treatment project. He was issuing a challenge: ‘You need to help us develop treatment in 350 communes so we can close all but one of the centres by 2015.’”

Meanwhile, evidence shows that Cambodia has looked to its neighbour, Vietnam, for help. The Post has previously reported that authorities are planning to build a national treatment centre in Preah Sihanouk’s Stung Hav district, using Vietnamese resources. Last month, a Vietnamese delegation helped train local health staff “to become experts to cure addicted people” by using a controversial detoxification medication, Bong Sen.

And a statement issued by the Vietnamese embassy after a September visit by Vietnamese Deputy Prime Minister Truong Vinh Trong touted the bilateral cooperation on drug policy: “Vietnam is prepared to meet any requests by Cambodia to help it prevent and combat drugs, including sending Vietnamese experts to Cambodia to build detoxification centres … and providing medical equipment and Vietnamese-produced medicine to help drug addicts kick … their habits.”

According to a 2009 WHO report, Vietnam has more than 100 compulsory treatment centres, which hold 50,000 to 60,000 drug users for periods of two years at a time.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY CHHAY CHANNYDA

Reports split on border death


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Monday, 01 February 2010 15:05 Vong Sokheng and James O'Toole

A THAI man killed in a gun battle with Cambodian soldiers on Friday night in Pursat province was part of an invading party of Thai troops, Cambodian officials report, though Bangkok says the man was a civilian.

Pursat provincial police Chief Sarun Chanthy said Sunday that shooting broke out around 11pm on Friday night in Pursat’s Thmorda commune, Veal Veng district, after 20 Thai troops set up their camp about 100 metres inside Cambodian territory.

“Our troops were patrolling the border on Friday morning when they found that 20 Thai soldiers had entered Cambodian territory,” Sarun Chanthy said, adding that despite a request from Cambodian troops asking them to return to Thailand, the Thai soldiers remained at the site when the patrol returned that evening.

“When we returned that night, they had set up their camp, and when we asked them to leave again, suddenly they opened fire on us,” Sarun Chanthy said.

“The Thai soldiers withdrew from the area after a brief exchange of gunfire, and when we returned to the site the next morning, we found the dead body of one Thai.”
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They opened fire with m16S – those are not weapons for hunters.
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Thai government spokesman Panitan Wattanayagorn confirmed that one Thai national had been killed, though he said the man was only a “local hunter”.

“We have received a preliminary report on the incident that just stated that a Thai citizen who is living in that area has been killed,” Panitan said, adding that the deceased man had crossed into Cambodian territory in a group of six people.

“Six of them have been hunting and working in the forest, and five are safe, and one has been killed,” Panitan said.

Sarun Chanthy acknowledged that the Thais had not been wearing military uniforms, but said they were disguised in order to spy on Cambodia.

“They opened fire with M16s – those are not weapons for hunters. Therefore, we made the conclusion that Thai soldiers used civilian dress and entered Cambodian territory to spy on our soldiers,” he said, adding that Cambodian troops have “no intention to shoot civilians”.

Chhum Socheat, spokesman for Cambodia’s Ministry of Defence, also said that the dead man was from the Thai military.

“Our military report was clear that the Thais who entered Cambodian territory were the black-clad Thai soldiers,” Chhum Socheat said.

Panitan said the men in the Thai group were armed with only “hunting machines, including some traps and some other tools”.

Shootings at the border
On January 24, gunfire broke out between Cambodian and Thai troops along their undemarcated border near Preah Vihear temple in a series of brief exchanges in which no one was hurt.

Since September, at least eight Cambodians have been killed by Thai soldiers while logging illegally in Thai territory, Cambodian officials say.

The government has forcefully denounced these shootings, with Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Koy Kuong calling them “barbarous, ferocious and inhuman actions”.

Chhum Socheat declined to comment on whether the shooting of a Thai civilian by Cambodian troops would be cause for similar criticisms.

“Thai soldiers have frequently shot Cambodian civilians, so I don’t want to make a comment about that,” he said.

Panitan said Bangkok was not concerned about an uptick in violence along the border, and that the recent events were “not unusual”.

“The incidents from time to time do take place along several hundred kilometres” at the border, he said, adding that violent incidents in border areas “have been less compared to the past few years”.

Sarun Chanthy said Cambodian and Thai soldiers had held talks near the site of the hostilities over the weekend, and that they had agreed to avoid confrontation in the future, with the Cambodians pledging to repatriate the dead Thai man’s remains.

Dangkor demolition begins

Photo by: Pha Lina
A spray-painted message in Dangkor district’s Kakab commune last month tells residents to move.

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Monday, 01 February 2010 15:05 May Titthara and Tep Nimol

AROUND 20 families living close to Phnom Penh International Airport in Dangkor district began tearing down parts of their homes on Sunday, villagers said, in compliance with an eviction deadline handed down by municipal authorities last month.

Local resident Chea Sophoan, 32, said on Sunday that villagers had tried to meet the city’s deadline in order to minimise the amount of damage, which he said would likely have been greater if the authorities had forcibly removed them.

“Today we are tearing down some parts of our houses because we are afraid that if they use excavators to demolish our houses everything will be affected,” he said.

On January 15, Kakab commune authorities sent residents a letter giving them 15 days to remove those parts of their houses set to be affected by the construction of drains for a flood-prevention project.

Chea Sophoan said some villagers stand to lose their entire houses to the construction project, whereas others merely had to remove the parts that impinged on the planned construction zone.

“I don’t know whether they will tear down my whole house, because I have removed around 12 metres of it already,” he added.

Leng Rottana, 52, a resident from Chamkar Ovlek village, said authorities had provided no help to villagers in the removal of their homes, and had not told them whether they would receive compensation after leaving the site voluntarily.

“The authorities did not talk with us – they just came with their excavators, making some villagers afraid and forcing them to dismantle their houses,” he said.

He added that some families had been forced to remove rooms that they were renting out to local tenants, thus depriving them of a great deal of their income.

Meanwhile, local authorities praised the villagers for abiding by the municipal eviction order, but warned that any laggards would be removed by force. “Today a lot of villagers are tearing the affected part of their houses – nobody has refused,” said Sok El, the chief of Kakab commune.

“Even if there are some villagers who were stubborn and did not tear down their homes, we would still do it because we are enforcing City Hall’s order.”

According to a survey conducted by local rights group Adhoc, 74 communities in Phnom Penh have been earmarked for eviction in the near future, and the displacements could potentially affect tens of thousands of people.

Chan Soveth, an Adhoc investigator, said Sunday that the drainage project had deprived the families of their right to adequate housing.

“When the government wants to develop in the people’s area and evict them to a new relocation site, it is the duty of government to province compensation for the people,” he said.

Police officer fired for alleged rape of teen


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Monday, 01 February 2010 15:05 May Titthara and Tep Nimol

A PHNOM Penh police officer accused of raping a 19-year-old woman in a karaoke bar was fired and his case sent to the Municipal Court, according to a letter from the Ministry of Interior that was obtained by the Post on Sunday.

The January 4 letter, sent by Prum Sokha, a secretary of state at the ministry, to National Assembly President Heng Samrin, said the rape took place in a karaoke bar in Phnom Penh’s Meanchey district on October 30.

The letter added that the police officer had been fired because the case had “affected the honour of the national police”.

Municipal Police Chief Touch Naruth confirmed Sunday that the 43-year-old police officer was fired on December 17 and that the case was sent to the Municipal Court.

The policeman has not been charged yet with any crime, and Touch Naruth added that the victim has agreed to drop the charges in exchange for US$250. Touch Naruth said the victim has since left the capital without providing any contact information.

Sam Rainsy Party parliamentarian Mu Sochua said Sunday that she will send a letter to the Ministry of Justice today requesting that the police officer be arrested.

“I will continue working on this case to help find justice for the victims,” she said.

Two more acid attacks reported as devastating trend continues

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
Sem Chanthy, 27, recovers in Calmette Hospital on Sunday after being attacked with acid in Russey Keo district on Thursday.

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Monday, 01 February 2010 15:04 Mom Kunthear and Tep Nimol

A 25-YEAR-OLD man was doused with acid by his angry wife in Kampong Cham province on Saturday, and a former karaoke girl had a litre of acid poured on her by two men who broke into her house last week, bringing the total number of recorded acid attacks for the month to six, a staffer at the Cambodian Acid Survivors Charity said Sunday.

The unrelated attacks in Kampong Cham’s Ponhea Krek district and Phnom Penh’s Russey Keo district left two victims in hospital with serious injuries. Both cases are being investigated, but no suspects have been arrested, police said.

Prak Bun Nun, Ponhea Krek district police chief, said Ol Kosal, 21, poured acid on her 25-year-old husband, Yoeun Soeun, after he slapped her because she wouldn’t give him 100,000 riels (around US$25) to visit the village theatre.

After hitting his wife, Yoeun Soeun left his house and did not return until midnight on Saturday, at which point Ol Kosal poured the acid over his face and the left side of his body, Prak Bun Nun said.

“The victim’s wife and 2-year-old daughter escaped after she doused her husband in acid,” Prak Bun Nun said, adding that police are planning to question Ol Kosal even though Yoeun Soeun has asked them not to arrest her.

Dr Meas Chea, director of the Kampong Cham referral hospital that is treating Yoeun Soeun, said the man was not the first acid attack survivor to be treated in the hospital, but that such cases are rare.

“Wounds caused by acid are difficult to cure because it looks like a burn, but it is rotten underneath,” he said.

Ly Rosyami, deputy governor of Russey Keo district, said Sunday that former karaoke girl Sem Chanthy, 27, was attacked on Wednesday when two men rode a motorbike into her house and poured about a litre of acid on her.

She said police were investigating the case, and that there were multiple suspects. “It is maybe because of rancour between the victim and her lovers, because she was in touch with many men, so it is difficult to arrest the suspect because we don’t know all those men’s identities,” she said.

The victim had been living with a man who described himself as her husband, though they are not married. “I suspect that the person who doused my wife in acid is her former husband,” said the man, who asked not to be named. “Her [former] husband threatened her to stop contacting me anymore – that if she did not stop, something would happen to her.”

He said acid was poured on the victim’s face, chest and hand.

Hout Sophorn, a social worker at CASC, said Sunday that although the number of recorded acid attacks decreased from 33 in 2008 to 12 in 2009, there has been a recent surge in cases, with five recorded in December and six in January.

“I think it is good if the government creates a law to control acid use because acid is a cruel weapon to kill people, and acid-selling seems anarchic at the market,” she said.

Hout Sophorn added that a litre of acid costs around 4,000 riels (US$1). “It is easy for the buyers because there is no law to control acid-selling and -buying in Cambodia – that is different in other countries.”

Police brutality alleged


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Monday, 01 February 2010 15:04 May Titthara

TWO men in Dangkor district have accused Krang Thnong commune police officers of beating them unconscious last week during a party celebrating the end of the rice harvest and detaining them for five days until their families paid US$600 for their release.

Sok Than, 28, one of the two men who were arrested, said the officers were drunk and fired shots in the air to warn other partygoers against coming to their aid.

His father, Chhom Chhoun, said he had given the $600 payment to officers on Thursday.

But commune police chief Mak Mey said the men had provoked the fight with the police officers, and denied that the officers had acted inappropriately.

“These two men were fighting during the dance, and so we brought them to the police station,” he said.

Reported hijacking of Cambodian ship false


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Monday, 01 February 2010 15:04 May Titthara

A Cambodian-flagged vessel believed to have been hijacked by Somali pirates was in fact detained by authorities at the port of Berbera in Somaliland on the Gulf of Aden, according to media reports published on Sunday.

News reports late last week said that on January 27, Somali pirates hijacked the MV Layla-S after it unloaded its cargo at the port of Berbera in an autonomous region of Somalia known as Somaliland, which formed its own government in the northwestern section of the country after the East African state collapsed in 1991.

The hijacking scenario seemed particularly plausible given the past year’s massive surge in attacks by Somali pirates on shipping vessels passing through the Gulf of Aden.

Despite its carrying the Cambodian flag, Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Koy Kuong told the Post on Thursday that the MV Layla-S was neither owned nor operated by Cambodians.

He said that he believed the crew consisted of Indian, Pakistani, Sri Lankan, Somali and Syrian nationals.

The piracy reports were challenged by a story from Somaliland Press, dated January 23 in Somali and January 24 in English, in which a reporter speaks with the ship’s Sri Lankan captain, a “Mr Sarath”, who explained that the ship had been impounded by port officials in September, leaving the crew to languish in increasingly poor health.

“Local analysts believe a local firm, Omar International [Company], may have filed a maritime action asking ... Berbera Port authority to obtain the ship for damages,” the article reads.

The captain explained that in early September of 2009, a vessel called the MV Mariam Star caught fire, resulting in major cargo losses for Omar International. The Layla-S was then seized in lieu of a settlement because it is owned by the same company as the Mariam Star, Dubai-based Al-Hufoof Shipping and Forwarding.

The Cambodian registration of the MV Layla-S is known as a “flag of convenience”, a registration in a third-party country which takes advantage of that country’s low costs and sparse regulations.

INTERNATIONAL groups blast Rainsy trial

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
SRP lawmaker Mu Sochua last month holds up what her party says is evidence this crater was the site of a border marker.

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Monday, 01 February 2010 15:04 Meas Sokchea

INTERNATIONAL human rights organisations have joined the chorus of condemnation surrounding Svay Rieng provincial court’s conviction of opposition leader Sam Rainsy and two local villagers last week, describing the trial as a “farce”.

On Wednesday, the court sentenced the Sam Rainsy Party (SRP) president to two years’ prison for uprooting demarcation markers on the border with Vietnam.

In a statement issued on Friday, the US-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) slammed the closed-door hearing, describing it as part of a campaign of persecution against government critics.

“The Cambodian government’s relentless crackdown on critics continues apace in 2010,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at HRW. “Hun Sen seems intent on reversing the political pluralism that has been created over the past two decades.”

Meanwhile, the local office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights issued a separate statement on Friday, expressing regret that an issue of public concern should not be subject to open debate.

“In a democratic society, it is preferable that government policies or decisions are addressed through public debate,” the statement said.

But Tith Sothea, a member of the Council of Ministers’ Press Rapid Reaction Unit, dismissed both statements, describing their writers as “blind”.

“Such an attack pushes Cambodian society into anarchy, because we are a sovereign state that demands respect for the law,” he said.

Koh Kong families facing eviction meet with Supreme Court


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Monday, 01 February 2010 15:04 Chhay Channyda

REPRESENTATIVES of families facing eviction in Koh Kong province said they were permitted to meet with Supreme Court officials to discuss the fate of their land last week, but were prevented from filing a complaint.

About 20 members of the families who stand to be forced off their land in Sre Ambel district made the trip to Phnom Penh, and court officials met with five of them, the representatives said.

“The court clerks questioned us one by one about the background of our land, but they would not take our complaint,” said Phao Nheung, one of the five who was invited in for a meeting. “They wanted us to make a new one and come back again.”

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The court clerks questioned us one by one, but they would not take our complaint.
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The Supreme Court ruled in June that the disputed land belonged to two businessmen, Sok Hong and Heng Huy. In October, a deputy judge from Koh Kong provincial court visited the site to mark off how the land would be divided, with most of it going to Heng Huy. In a surprise move, the judge, Meas Vatanea, also ruled that some of the 43 families were living in Chi Khor Leu commune, headed by Chhay Vuth, and not Chi Khor Krom commune, headed by Toav Vann. At the time, Am Sam Ath, a technical supervisor for the rights group Licadho, said this was significant because Chhay Vuth was known for being “very sympathetic” to Heng Huy, who has said he plans to convert the land into a cassava farm.

Phao Nheung said last week that the provincial judge had been mistaken, and that the disputed land actually fell inside Chi Khor Krom commune, which she said had not been implicated in the Supreme Court’s June ruling.

“The land case that Heng Huy won over Sok Hong is located in Chi Khor Leu commune,” she said. “Our land is located in Chi Khor Krom. They are next to each other.”

Sok Phally, a clerk at the Supreme Court, said villagers had every right to reject the ruling, but that they would need to file a complaint with the provincial court.

“The villagers, as a third party, shall file a complaint of rejection with the Koh Kong provincial court, and not the Supreme Court,” Sok Phally said.

Chan Soveth, a researcher for the rights group Adhoc, said the courts should clarify the rulings so that the affected families would know whether they could stay on the land.

“The implementation of the court’s verdict is unclear, so it’s affecting the living of the poor people,” he said.

Pel Sovann, who was among the villagers who made the trip to Phnom Penh, said many of the families had opted to stay home because they were afraid that their houses would be demolished if they left. She said the Supreme Court verdict and subsequent action by the provincial court threatened to rob the families of their rice fields.

Representatives of the families sought intervention from Prime Minister Hun Sen on January 25 when he visited Koh Kong for the inauguration of a sugar factory plant, but were stopped by security guards when they tried to hand-deliver a petition.

Ratanakkiri officials warn against illegal mining


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Monday, 01 February 2010 15:04 Kim Yuthana

VILLAGERS in Ratanakkiri province’s O’Yadav district have ceased mining operations after provincial authorities last Wednesday carried out a crackdown on illegal gold mining in Ya Tung commune, district Governor Dork Sar said.

O’Yadav district police inspector, Ma Vichet, said authorities confiscated four machines used for gold mining during the crackdown, and warned villagers and buyers that they would be arrested if they continued to mine illegally.

“We are afraid that their activity has become uncontrollable, and therefore we must take action and prevent such activity from happening in advance,” he said.

No arrests were made during the crackdown, but Dork Sar warned villagers that their actions were illegal and could seriously affect the environment and people’s health.

Pen Bonnar, provincial coordinator for the rights group Adhoc, said such activities have been occurring for many years, but have never provoked a police raid. He added that the recent action against illegal gold mining was merely an attempt to make way for other companies to take control of mining in the area.

According to Dork Sar, gold mining has grown considerably since 2000, when Vietnamese buyers first encouraged villagers to mine.

“Vietnamese buyers have produced gold-mining machines to sell to Cambodian people and have hired Cambodian workers to prospect for gold to sell to them,” he said.

Band bids Otres beach bars farewell

Photo by: David Boyle
The Cambodian Space Project entertains a crowd of about 100 on Saturday during an “eviction party” held by business owners due to be evicted from a stretch of Otres beach.

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Monday, 01 February 2010 15:03 David Boyle

Preah Sihanouk Province

A GROUP of guesthouse, restaurant and bar owners on a 1.5-kilometre stretch of Otres beach that authorities plan to clear said farewell on Saturday at an “eviction party” featuring the local band, The Cambodian Space Project.

About 100 people turned out to see the band, the founding member of which, Julien Poulson, expressed concern about the evictions, but noted that the party wasn’t aimed to protest the authorities’ decision.

“The [business owners] are a big part of the community, and they are employing a lot of people and they’re contributing at a grassroots level,” he said.

On January 9, Preah Sihanouk provincial authorities told 46 business owners from the affected section of the beach they had one month to make way for a new garden.

Because they are situated on a public beach, the business owners do not have a legally binding title to their plots of land. It is still unclear exactly when authorities plan to evict them.

Sor Kem, who owns one of the guesthouses that stands to be affected by the garden project, said he did not know what he would do when he was forced to move. “I think if I have to move from this beach, I don’t know where I can go,” he said.

“It’s really bad for my family also. For all the families who have businesses here it will be really difficult for them to send their kids to school and also to get new jobs,” he said.

Pierre Santerne, a bar owner, said he was concerned about the future of the beach itself.

“What I like about this beach is that it is unique: Everyone has their different personalities, and you can see that in their businesses,” he said. “But if they build a big complex it will ruin this.”

Preah Sihanouk province Governor Sboang Sarath could not be reached on Sunday, and Prak Visal, the provincial coastal environment coordinator, said he was too busy to speak with a reporter.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY SAM RITH

German tourist drowns off Koh Puos


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Monday, 01 February 2010 15:03 Phak Seangly

THE naked body of a German tourist was found floating near Koh Puos Island off the coast of Preah Sihanouk province on Thursday afternoon, local police said on Sunday.

Preah Sihanouk provincial police said the body of Hausler Erwinenst, 53, would be cremated at the province’s Krom pagoda on Sunday, after a postmortem examination revealed that the man died from drowning.

“The examination disclosed that the German tourist died of drowning, not in connection to any intentional killing,” Lok Limin, deputy chief of the province’s technical police office, said on Sunday.

He added that there were no wounds on the corpse when it was pulled out of the water by local fishermen on Thursday.

According to the deceased man’s passport, Erwinenst arrived in Cambodia in November and travelled to Preah Sihanouk province a month later, taking a room at the Marina Hotel in Sihanoukville.

Lok Limin said that his corpse was found a day after he went out to swim. All of his property has been taken into police custody.

The Germany Embassy in Phnom Penh could not be reached for comment on Sunday.

The drowning comes after Australian national John Edward Thompson, 47, was killed by a band of muggers in Sihanoukville’s Number 3 commune in December.

HK trade down 22.2pc

Cargo sits among ships moored at Hong Kong’s Victoria Harbour at the end of October. Last year saw bilateral trade between Hong Kong and Cambodia fall far below that recorded in 2006 as domestic demand for the territory’s imports plummeted. BLOOMBERG

Trade with HK drops
2006 - $562 million
2007 - $631 million
2008 - $617 million
2009 - $480 million
Source: HKTDC

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Monday, 01 February 2010 15:01 May Kunmakara


Exports to territory rose 30pc in 2009, but total trade suffered

BILATERAL trade between Cambodia and Hong Kong plummeted an annualised 22.2 percent in 2009, marking the second year of bilateral trade decline, according to official figures.

The Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKTDC) recorded that trade fell to just US$480 million in 2009, from $617 million in 2008 and $631 million in 2007.

In 2009, total imports from the Chinese special administrative region fell 23.1 percent, from $608 million to $467 million – mostly due to a fall in imports of knitted and cotton fabrics, down 34.3 percent and 26.3 percent to $147 million and $63 million respectively, and telecommunications equipment, down 13.6 percent to $50 million.

The huge drops were far more marked than Hong Kong’s overall slump in exports, which fell an annualised 12.6 percent, according to Bloomberg.

Despite the world economic crisis, Cambodia’s exports to Hong Kong increased significantly last year, rising from $10 million to $13 million – a surge of 30 percent.

Sok Sopheak, director general of the International Trade Department, said that Hong Kong has become an excellent market for Cambodian goods, as the city acts as a hub for the re-exportation of garments to other nations. In 2009, Cambodian exports of textiles to the special administrative region rose 20 percent to $3 million.

The hub also is increasingly seeking imports of milled rice and seafood from the Kingdom. Exports of aquatic molluscs and crustaceans accounted for $1 million, or 9.1 percent of all outgoing goods.

“Hong Kong is a modern market that can help Cambodia increase its exports. It is also a member of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), so we can export a variety of goods without quota and tax free,” said Sok Spoheak.

The director of HKTDC, Tin Phan, was unavailable for comment Friday.

In December, Hong Kong’s total exports climbed for the second consecutive month as global demand began to recover, Bloomberg reported Tuesday.

Overseas shipments gained 9.2 percent from a year earlier to HK$224.8 billion (US$28.9 billion), the government announced on its Web site, after climbing 1.3 percent in November.

In a report last week, the World Bank predicted that world trade will expand 4.3 percent in 2010 as part of a “weak” economic recovery. It contracted 14.4 percent in 2009.

In Asia, Taiwan’s exports rose by the most in 14 years in December and China’s overseas shipments jumped 17.7 percent, figures boosted by low year-earlier comparisons.

Southern Gold starts 'aggressive exploration'


via CAAI News Media

Monday, 01 February 2010 15:01 Ellie Dyer

SOUTHERN Gold Limited (SGL) has launched an “aggressive exploration programme” at its mining assets in Kratie province, a fourth-quarter report has revealed.

The September-to-December review, issued Friday, showed that over the past three months the Australian firm started new exploration activities at many of its Cambodian gold and base metals fields.

Extensive drilling and soil-sampling has begun at tenements in South Kratie – part of a joint venture backed by US$4.5 million from the Japanese government-supported Japan Oils Gas and Metals National Corporation (JOGMEC) – and also its own mineral fields in Snuol.

“These operations herald the start of an aggressive exploration program scheduled over coming months by Southern Gold for its Cambodian projects,” the report said.

The company is hopeful of finding new gold deposits at the sites. Visual inspections have identified “several zones of alteration and quartz veining, which is generally a good indicator of gold mineralisation”.

Reserves identified during the new studies would add to “significant” gold mineralisation already found at Southern Gold sites in North Kratie and Snuol, following drill studies carried out in early 2009.

The results of the new exploratory work are expected by March, the report said. The company estimates it will spend A$1.4 million (US$1.24 million) on exploration in the first quarter of 2010.

Mining activities planned for the 2009 to 2010 season include collecting 4,000 geochemical samples, completing 8,500 metres of trenching and 7,000 metres of drilling.

Police Blotter: 1 Feb 2010


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Monday, 01 February 2010 15:03 Phak Seangly

PHONY COP FOOLS SIEM REAP MERCHANT
Phnom Penh police have arrested a 24-year-old man for impersonating a police officer. The accused allegedly conned a 41-year-old man into giving away his motorcycle and also defrauded a merchant out of US$800 in Siem Reap. The man was carrying a toy gun and a pair of handcuffs when he was arrested. Police said he confessed and was sent to court.
KOH SANTEPHEAP

SON ALLEGEDLY KILLS FATHER IN FAMILY FEUD
Police in Kandal province are on the hunt for a 21-year-old man accused of killing his father on Thursday in Koh Thom district. According to police, the drunk 46-year-old victim threw a stone at his son’s head. The son then stabbed his father in the neck before fleeing the scene. The victim died on the way to the hospital. His wife told police he’d been involved in a traffic accident.
DEUM AMPIL

TEENAGER ACCUSED IN YEAR-OLD CRIME
A teenager was arrested in Meanchey district on Friday and accused of a robbery that occurred in February 2009 in Kandal province’s Takhmao district. The 17-year-old is accused of bag-snatching, as well as skipping school and taking illegal drugs, police said. He has been sent to court.
RASMEY KAMPUCHEA

SEX TRAFFICKER GUILTY IN ABStENTIA
A woman was sentenced in absentia by Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Wednesday to eight years in prison after being found guilty of sex trafficking. The court found that the 45-year-old lured an underaged girl to have sex with several men in Preah Sihanouk province.The young girl is now being sheltered by an NGO in Phnom Penh.
RASMEY KAMPUCHEA

DRUG RUNNER PLEADS IGNORANCE
Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Thursday sentenced a 30-year-old man to five years in prison and ordered him to pay a US$2,500 fine after finding him guilty of drug trafficking. The man was arrested in Russey Keo district with drugs in his possession, but he claimed he didn’t know the drugs were on him.
RASMEY KAMPUCHEA

Eight firms given land for farming


via CAAI News Media

Monday, 01 February 2010 15:01 Khouth Sophakchakrya

THE Ministry of Agriculture Friday provided more than 50,000 hectares of land to eight companies – domestic and foreign – for agriculture, an official said.

Hong Narith, chief of cabinet at the ministry, told the Post Sunday that two Cambodian firms had been given 16,900 hectares. A Malaysian firm received 7,000 hectares, a South Korean firm 6,600 hectares and four organisations from Vietnam the remaining 20,900 hectares, he added. The concessions were for land in Mondulkiri, Ratanakkiri and Kratie provinces, said Hong Narith, although he was unable to give the names of the firms concerned.

“We expect these companies will … plant trees and raise animals to boost the economy in Cambodia and to provide work to people through the development of the agricultural sector,” he said, adding that if the proposals were not fulfilled then the licences would be withdrawn.

Yang Saing Koma, president of the Cambodian Centre for Study and Development in Agriculture, said the land could have been distributed differently.

“The government should be thinking about the population increasing and social land concessions to provide ... for cultivation in the future,” he said.

MFI Prasac set to seek licence to take deposits

Photo by: SOVAN PHILONG
An AMK employee Thursday walks beneath a sign for a branch of the MFI in Phnom Penh. AMK applied to the central bank for a licence to receive deposits 18 months ago but is yet to get the go-ahead

via CAAI News Media

Monday, 01 February 2010 15:01 Nguon Sovan

Two others still await answer from National Bank of Cambodia

MICROFINANCE institution (MFI) Prasac will apply to the National Bank of Cambodia (NBC) this week for a licence to take deposits from the public.

Prasac general manager Sim Senacheert told the Post Sunday that he intends to ask the NBC for permission to provide a deposits service. The move is part of the MFI’s plan to become a commercial bank in five years, he said.

“We hope to get a licence within two months and launch the deposit-taking service by late March or early April,” he said. “We want to encourage people to get into the habit of saving money in MFIs in the future.”

He said that gaining capital from the local population is more “stable” for the MFI. Money is currently offered by foreign lenders at rates of up to 10.5 percent per year.

Prasac, however, intends to offer the public interest rates of around 8 percent and 6.5 percent for one-year deposits in riels and US dollars respectively. Six-month savings deposits will be offered at 5.5 percent and 5 percent respectively, said Sim Senacheert.

Although this is higher than rates offered by commercial banks, it is cheaper than foreign loans.

To gain a licence, an MFI must prove that it has carried out operations for more than three years, is in a good financial condition, has capital of at least 10,000 million riels (US$2.4 million), operates an effective management system, uses NBC charts of accounts, and has sustainable profitability.

Only two of the Kingdom’s 20 MFIs, Amret and Sathapana, have been granted a licence. Two more MFIs have applied for a permit, but have yet to hear back from the NBC.

Paul Luchtenburg, chief executive officer of micro-lender AMK, said Sunday that the company applied for a deposit-taking licence a year and a half ago but still has not been given the green light.

Hout Ieng Tong, general manager at Hattha Kaksekar Limited, said that he applied in December last year, but has yet to be approved by the NBC. The NBC could not be reached for comment. Clients “always keep their money at home, where it’s not safe. If they keep savings at MFIs, it would be safe and increases revenues at the same time, helping to drive economic growth”, said Hout Ieng Tong.

ACLEDA Bank started as an NGO micro-lender. In 2003, it was licensed as a commercial bank after tripling capital to $13 million.

Vimpelcom falls nearly 5pc despite good news


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Monday, 01 February 2010 15:01 Jacob Gold

Stock Roundup

VIMPELCOM, the parent company of mobile operator Beeline, saw its shares drop 4.68 percent last week on the New York Stock Exchange, from US$19.44 on Monday morning down to US$18.14 at Friday’s close.

The Moscow-based firm’s lacklustre week comes despite a number of positive recent announcements.

With most telecoms cutting capital expansion in advance of an uncertain year for profits, Vimpelcom CEO Boris Nemsic told Reuters on Wednesday that he saw “2010 as a normal year with capex at 15-18 percent of sales”, and profits closely following those of 2009.

Nemsic also said that Vimpelcom’s merger with Ukraine’s Kyivstar was “on track”. And on Thursday, analysts at the US-based brokerage EVA Dimensions LLC upgraded the stock to “overweight” from “hold”, although the market reacted to the news Friday by docking shares 1.88 percent, or $0.35.

US energy giant Chevron Corporation, which announced Wednesday the renewal of its offshore Block A exploration deal with the government, saw its shares on the New York Stock Exchange fall 3.31 percent last week, or $2.47.

America’s second-largest energy firm Friday announced a 37 percent drop in net income for the fourth quarter, attributing the drop to a sag in consumer demand and refining. The shortfall was not matched by new production, it added.

On Friday, the Cambodia-based Grand Lion Group announced it had reached a management agreement and related agreements with Marriott International to operate the hotel chain’s Courtyard by Marriott Siem Reap from its launch sometime next year.

Marriott shares fell 1.65 percent last week on the New York Stock Exchange to close at $26.23.

Crown edge out Phouchung; Wat Phnom obliterate MKU

Phnom Penh Crown's Keo Sokngorn (centre) fires a shot past Phouchung Neak captain Khun Khoun (left) during their last 16 match of the Samdech Hun Sen Cup on Saturday

via CAAI News Media

Monday, 01 February 2010 15:00 Andy Brouwer

Phnom Penh Crown grab a goal late on to progress to the quarterfinals of the Samdech Hun Sen Cup, and Wat Phnom teaches Mekong Uni a free lesson

Though the result was never really in doubt, reigning champions Phnom Penh Crown were made to play a waiting game before finally securing their passage into the quarterfinals of the 2010 Samdech Hun Sen Cup on Saturday at Olympic Stadium.

The Navy boys from Phouchung Neak had a game plan: Tackle hard, battle for everything, and don’t give Crown any time on the ball. It worked for 85 minutes, as the Cup favourites were frustrated by their opponents’ tactics.

Crown dominated possession throughout, but found Phouchung a tough nut to crack, typified by their skipper Khun Khoun, who kept the Crown striking pair of Chan Chhaya and Srey Veasna quiet and also managed to make two goalline clearances in the first half to keep it goalless.

Crown’s young midfield maestro, Keo Sokngorn, his head bandaged after a clash in the first half, was the standout player over the 90 minutes. His probing passes, surging runs, cute flicks and skill on the ball was a cut above anyone else, and a flash of brilliance on 66 minutes saw his 25-yard drive cannon off the crossbar. Two minutes later his quick feet in the box simply dazzled the two defenders trying to muzzle him, but his shot was tipped aside by keeper Thai Sineth.

Five bookings amply demonstrated the Navy side’s determined approach, though they also mastered the offside trap well, catching Crown’s straying strikers repeatedly.

On 70 minutes, Crown introduced Phouchung old boy Heng Sok Ly into the fray. The baby-faced striker was the Navy’s top-scoring and most impressive player last term.

Clad in his new team’s colours, he quickly set about sinking his former club, and succeeded with just five minutes of the game to go.

More wing-play wizardry from Keo Sokngorn and an inch-perfect cross found Heng Sokly to steer the ball home for the match-winner.

Mekong Kampuchea University’s Lem Ridath (left) vies with Wat Phnom’s Phoeun Saorum at Olympic Stadium Saturday

In time added on, Phouchung bundled the ball into the Crown net, with their first chance of the game, but a linesman’s flag ruled out the effort for offside. After a brief melee, the referee blew his whistle to send Crown through to the next round.

Nuy Sam An, assistant coach of Phnom Penh Crown, was unconvinced but satisfied with the victory. “We need to strengthen for the next round,” he remarked.

Crown manager Be Makara also showed displeasure at the result. “We didn’t play good enough today. Some of my boys liked to keep the ball without passing to other colleagues. Our opponents were not too strong, but with this [bad] habit we lost many chances to score more goals,” the manager noted.

Heng Sok Ly was happy to net the winning goal, but admitted an awkward feeling for ousting his former side. “Playing against a team I used to play for is difficult, especially emotionally,” he stated. “But as a footballer, I wear Phnom Penh Crown’s shirt, so I have to do my best for my current team. On the field, I don’t show mercy towards anyone, but we are still good friends when we don’t play.”

Wat Phnom 10 – Mekong K Uni 1
There was no David and Goliath upset in this woefully one-sided affair, as Wat Phnom took control from kickoff to put their collegiate opponents to the sword in emphatic style.

Wat Phnom netted two goals in the first eight minutes through Tes Vatanak and Put Savuth, although Mekong Uni briefly rallied midway through the first half with a neat goal by Em Thun. Wat Phnom then extended their lead before the interval, and knocked in a stunning seven in the second half.

Two Wat Phnom players grabbed hat tricks. Srei Vandeth most impressively came off the bench on 64 minutes, and within 11 minutes he’d bagged his three goals. Ry Phearoeun was the other goal machine, scoring two late goals to add to his first half-pile driver. Wat Phnom’s other second-half goals came from Leang Sok Samnang and Phlong Chanthou as the one-way traffic overwhelmed their young opposition.

“I admire the performance of my players,” stated Phoeun Bunthoeun, assistant coach of Wat Phnom. “They had good cooperation. However, Mekong Kampuchea University are a young side. We will face the big team Phnom Penh Crown in the quarterfinals, so we need to work hard and I hope that my players will keep up their work rate to overcome this obstacle.”

Hat-trick hero Srey Vandeth was ecstatic to make such a resounding impact straight after coming off the bench, but also paid tribute to his teammates. “We couldn’t reach the next round only because of me. All of us understood each other very well, and we played by following the plan of the coaches.

“Now we have to prepare for the next game. We don’t know what will happen in the match between Phnom Penh Crown and us, but we need to do the best for our side.”

Naga, BBU blast through to Cup quarterfinals

Photo by: PHA LINA
Chhma Khmao keeper Pen Socheat (right) palms away a penalty by Naga Corp’s Teab Vatanak during their Samdech Hun Sen Cup match

via CAAI News Media

Monday, 01 February 2010 15:00 Cameron Wells and Ung Chamroeun

NAGA Corp booked their place in the quarterfinals of the 2010 Samdech Hun Sen Cup on Sunday after blowing away a stubborn Chhma Khmao 6-2 at Olympic Stadium.

The reigning Cambodian Premier League (CPL) champions were given a scare, however, from the Svay Rieng outfit, who showed they won’t be a push-over when the CPL starts proper. Chhma Khmao opened the scoring on the half-hour mark as Spark FC transfer Meak Chhordaravuth followed several deflections inside the box.

The goal set up a wild three-minute period, as Sun Sovannarith – curiously playing up front despite his performances as left back in the national team – connected off a sublime cross from Meas Channa to equalise one minute later.

On the very next possession, the referee awarded a penalty as Svay Rieng keeper Pen Socheat scythed down Sun Sovannarith in the box. However, the stopper went from villain to hero, deflecting the penalty to send the teams in even at the break.

Naga took control eight minutes into the second period through an opportune broken play goal in the box by Teab Vatanak. As it looked as if the heavyweights would pull away, Chhma Khmao equalised in the 71st minute via a stunning free kick by Oung Dara from 25 metres out, sending the provincial side into a frenzy.

However, the game quickly elapsed into a rout as Naga Corp scored four goals in the last 15 minutes, including two by Teab Vatanak to complete his hat trick.

Chhma Khmao assistant coach Sok Voantha was proud of his squad despite the loss. “My players could score two goals against Naga Corp, one of the best teams in Cambodia,” he remarked. “Now we can focus on the upcoming Cambodian Premier League.”

Naga coach Nov Vuthy paid tribute to his beaten opponents. “We are so surprised with the performance of Chhma Khmao,” he said. “I hope [my team] learned from this experience and do their best in the quarterfinals.”

Naga next face CPL rivals Build Bright United (BBU), who earlier Sunday raced to a 6-0 lead against Prey Veng in the first half, before putting on the breaks in the second to end 7-0 victors. Captain Prum Puthsethy scored a hat trick to maintain his lead in the golden boot competition, and teammate Oum Chandara bagged a brace.

Coach Meas Sam Oeun said the win came at a cost, however, as Cambodian international midfielder Chhun Sothearath sustained a leg injury. “It’s a big problem for us if the injury doesn’t heal,” he said. “I hope he’ll be OK for our next game in two weeks.” Prey Veng’s keeper Rim Sovanna had a nightmare game, continually struggling with BBU’s power and failing to catch anything fired his way.

The Phnom Penh Post News in Brief


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FIFA coaching course

Monday, 01 February 2010 15:00 Ung Chamroeun

World football governing body FIFA sponsored a women’s coach training course at Cambodia’s National Football Center January 25-27. The course received participation from 29 sports officials (16 females and 13 males) from Phnom Penh, Battambang, Stung Treng, Kandal, Siem Reap, Kampong Speu, Kampong Chhnang, Pailin and Oddar Meanchey provinces. The workshops were conducted by Monika Staab, a FIFA expert from Switzerland, and Dato Yap Nyim Keong, ASEAN Football Federation executive secretary. According to Cambodian Football Federation General Secretary Ouk Sethycheat, the course aimed to improve the standard of Cambodian coaching and promote women’s football in the Kingdom. A similar workshop was held last year.

CPL star flops abroad

Monday, 01 February 2010 15:00 Andy Brouwer

Cambodia’s national football team captain, Kuoch Sokumpheak has returned home after an unsuccessful four-day trial with last season’s Indonesian Super League champions Persipura Jayapura. The team based in Irian Jaya, who will compete in the AFC Champions League next month, were looking at new faces ahead of their transfer window, which opens next week. Kuoch Sokumpheak has rejoined his Cambodian club Khemara Keila ahead of their Hun Sen Cup match against Prek Pra Keila February 7.

ABA needs no security

Monday, 01 February 2010 15:00 Steve Finch

ADVANCED Bank of Asia (ABA Bank) has completed its first loan deal without requiring security, according to a press release issued Friday. ABA said it had offered lending to Choice Taxi Company, a new South Korean metered taxi service in Phnom Penh, which allowed the firm to purchase new Kia cars based on its business plan. Choice General Director Choi Dae Yong said he planned to start with 20 vehicles financed by the loan, according to the ABA release, which the firm would later expand to 30 cars.

Mobitel deal wins prize

Monday, 01 February 2010 15:00 Post Staff

ROYAL Group’s November buyout of Millicom International’s majority stake in mobile phone market leader Mobitel has won “Asia deal of the year” for 2009 in Telecom Finance magazine. The deal, worth US$346 million that included a $421 million financing package for the 58.4 percent stake, was advised by Cambodia Capital and Goldman Sachs, and arranged by Standard Bank and ANZ Bank in a move that saw Royal Group take complete control of the mobile firm. “This was truly a trailblazing deal…. [That] could potentially mark the beginning of a new dawn in Indochina,” the judging panel was quoted as saying.

NBC's new core system

Monday, 01 February 2010 15:00 Nguon Sovan

THE central bank has said it will introduce a new core banking system this month. Speaking at a conference on banking technology last week, National Bank of Cambodia (NBC) Director General Tal Nay Im said the bank was close to finishing upgrading its core system. This follows an announcement in June from California-based software giant Oracle that it had sold its Flexcube Core banking package to the NBC and microfinance organisation Prasac. The system allows banks to automate processes, including deposits, lending, foreign exchange, securities, fund transfers and asset management. Sim Senacheert, general manager of MFI Prasac, said Sunday his MFI put the US$1 million software into operation early last month.

Asylum Claim: Group calls for access to Uighurs

Monday, 01 February 2010 15:04 Sebastian Strangio

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has called on the Chinese government to disclose the whereabouts of 20 ethnic Uighurs deported by Cambodian authorities on December 19, saying they have disappeared into a “black hole”. In a statement issued on Friday, the group said Beijing should allow the deportees to meet with lawyers, relatives and officials from the UN. “There is no information about their whereabouts, no notification of any legal charges against them, and there are no guarantees they are safe from torture and ill-treatment,” Sophie Richardson, Asia advocacy director at Human Rights Watch, said in the statement. HRW claims to have received an unconfirmed report that some of the Uighurs, who travelled to Cambodia in November after witnessing deadly ethnic riots in July, were sentenced to death by a court in China’s Xinjiang province. When contacted Sunday, Qian Hai, spokesman for the Chinese Embassy in Phnom Penh, declined to comment.