Thursday, 4 February 2010

24 heures…. Autour du pot

New Year in bloom

Photo by: Pha Lina

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Thursday, 04 February 2010 15:02 Pha Lina

Workers on the Chroy Changvar peninsula in Phnom Penh collect and bundle flowers on Tuesday for sale during the Chinese New Year celebration, which begins on February 14.

Objectors to yuon (Vietnamese) have been hypnotised by foreign ‘experts’


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Thursday, 04 February 2010 15:02 Bora Touch

Dear Editor,

Because of general ignorance and political manipulation – especially by foreigners, with the foreign “experts” on Cambodia being the worst offenders – the term yuon has become so controversial that the Khmers and the Khmer language have become the victims. The term has been criticised by foreign experts as “contemptible”, “derogatory” and as having a “savage connotation”.

In his letter to the editor of the Washington Times (September 13, 2002) David Roberts defamatorily called the opposition leader, Mr Sam Rainsy, a racist for using the term yuon when referring to Vietnamese. Roberts was harshly critical of Mr Rainsy and wrote: “Mr Rainsy is not a democrat. He is a disappointed authoritarian in the Cambodian tradition. He refers to his Vietnamese neighbors as ‘yuon,’ meaning savage”.

Yasushi Akashi, the head of UNTAC, was hypnotised by the foreign “experts” on Cambodia to the degree of, reportedly, speechlessness, when a Khmer journalist used yuon to refer to Vietnamese when asking him questions. Akashi’s foreign advisers even discussed criminalising the use of the term.

Samdech Hun Sen’s letter to US senators John McCain and John Kerry of October 3, 1998, capitalised on the senators’ ignorance of the term yuon in Hun Sen’s campaign against Mr Rainsy. Hun Sen stated, “Mr Sam Rainsy referred to me as a yuon puppet. In case Your Excellencies are not familiar with the term yuon, yuon is highly derogative and racist term used to denigrate those of Vietnamese ancestry”. Hun Sen is known for his ties to the Vietnamese. What Sam Rainsy said was nothing new. Hun Sen chose to attack his use of the term yuon rather than answer the charge that he was too close to the Vietnamese.

The term began to be politicised in the late 1970s, especially during the Khmer Rouge-Vietnam war. In an attempt to demonise the KR, the Vietnamese propagandists propagated that yuon is a pejorative term for the Vietnamese (see Hanoi’s propaganda against KR: Kampuchea Dossier (KD), April 1978, Pt I, p 35).

Robert’s definition of yuon as “savages” appears to have been drawn from the KR’s definition of the term found in the KR Black Papers (1978, p 9). The definition is incorrect and baseless, and was included by the KR and the Vietnamese for the purpose of their respective propaganda.

Let me set the record straight. The term is neither new nor contemptible or derogatory. In fact, the Khmers have been using the term for more than a thousand years, and it has become a piece of Khmer tradition and language. As far as the surviving recorded evidence shows, the word yuon appears in Khmer inscriptions dating back to the reign of King Suryavarman I (1002-1050), an immediate predecessor to the Angkor Wat temple builder Suryavarman II (see Inscription K105 or Coedes, Inscriptions du Cambodge, K Hall, Maritime Trade and State Development in Early Southeast Asia (1985) etc). Yuon was used in the context of trade and commerce to refer to the Vietnamese people and in no way was a term of contempt.

As a matter of fact, yuon was well-known and used by early European travellers and officials; for instance, by the British linguist Lieut-Col James Low, by a famous French naturalist Henri Mouhot, by Thai King Mongkut (1851-68) in his official correspondence, etc. Yuon was still in use by some French writers after the independence of Indochina states; for instance, by a French Sergeant Resen Riesen. In Khmer writings, the term yuon was not used as a racist slur nor to indicate contempt, but to refer to what since WWII have been known as Vietnamese people. None of the Khmer language dictionaries define yuon as “savage” or indicate that it is a pejorative term. Yuon has been used in old and new Khmer poetry and songs for hundreds of years compared with the term “Vietnamese”, which has been used for about 50 years.

It is true that most Vietnamese do not know the term yuon and only the Khmer colloquially use it to refer to them, but this surprises no Khmer because equally most of the Vietnamese do not know that almost the whole of south Vietnam (from Don Nai to Hatien provinces) rightly belong(ed) to Cambodia, and the Vietnamese ancestors (and themselves) have colonised that part of Khmer lands for the last three centuries. Yuon had been used long before the beginning of this brutal Vietnamese colonisation started in the late 15th century.

Some “experts” have argued that if the Vietnamese are offended with the use of term, the Khmer should follow their wish. Political “correctness”, or forced accommodation rather, is not new to the Khmer. Back in the 19th century, the Khmer were forced to learn and speak Vietnamese rather than the Khmer language, and to behave and to dress the way the Vietnamese did under the policy of Vietnamisation by Emperor Minh Mang or his dynasty. When the Khmer resisted, they were punished and, in some cases, executed. The resistance has continued.

Believe me, Khmers know which words in their own language are “bad” or pejorative, and we do not need foreigners to teach us or show us the way.

Bora Touch
Sydney, Australia


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Send letters to: newsroom@phnompenhpost.com or PO Box 146, Phnom Penh, Cambodia. The Post reserves the right to edit letters to a shorter length.The views expressed above are solely the author’s and do not reflect any positions taken by The Phnom Penh Post.

Pawn Shops are Becoming Legal – Wednesday, 3.2.2010

http://cambodiamirror.wordpress.com/
via CAAI News Media

Posted on 4 February 2010
The Mirror, Vol. 14, No. 650

“Phnom Penh: Recently, the Ministry of Economy and Finance announced through newspapers to inform vendors who want to run pawn shop operations to apply for a license very soon, because such operations can now be legalized. This information shows that pawn shop operations become legal.

“An official of the Ministry of Economy and Finance said on 12 January 2010 that the ministry had issued an announcement about the provision of licenses for the operation of pawn shops to accept, buy, and sell pawn property, and for the operations to accept collateral via transfer. Based on this notification, those who intend to run or are already running pawn shop operations can apply for licenses so as to make their operations legal.

“According to the law, quoted for the announcement about the operation of pawn shops that Rasmei Kampuchea received on 1 February 2010, a license for such operations to accept, buy, and sell pawn property costs Riel 2,000,000 [approx. US$470] per year, and a license to open a branch costs Riel 1,000,000 [approx.US$235]. And a license for the operation to accept collateral via transfer costs Riel 1,000,000 per year and only Riel 500,000 [approx. US$120] to open a branch. The operation to accept collateral via transfer, according to the official’s explanation, is also a kind of pawn shop operation, but documents for the sales and for the buying are issued.

“Based on this notification, to run an operation to accept, buy, and sell pawn property, an owner needs to have a minimum capital of Riel 80,000,000 [approx. US$19,000], and needs to deposit 10% into an account of the ministry. As for the operation to accept collateral via transfer, a minimum capital is Riel 40,000,000 [US$9,500] is needed, and a deposit of 10% into the account of the ministry. That deposit can be taken out only when the ministry permits it.

“But the announcement does not define interest rates. They will be based on mutual agreement, but should not be against the law[but it is not said here what the law says].

“It is questioned how a license can protect the sound operation. An official of the Ministry of Economy and Finance said, ‘If you have a license, your operation is legal. When the authorities go to check the operation, it is alreadny legal. But if you operate illegally, to only then apply for a license cannot help.’

“It should be noted that previously, there was no need to have a licenses to run a pawn shop. Last year, immediately after the head of the government had issued an order, police strongly suppressed pawn shops, seizing pawn property at pawnshop unreasonably though there was no law, making some people to fear also when running such a shop now. Now, there is a law – but will there be major trouble again?”

Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.18, #5116, 3.2.2010
Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Cambodia to draft new law against acid attacks

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By SOPHENG CHEANG,Associated Press Writer

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia – Cambodia plans to draft a new law in a bid to stop the growing number of attacks in which jealous wives, vengeful businessmen and others have hurled acid at their rivals, a government official said Thursday.

More than 10 people were assaulted with acid in 2009, and three last month alone, according to statistics from a nongovernment group that helps victims of the attacks.

"For the attackers, using acid to attack their opponents is very easy, not hard to keep and hide like guns," said Deputy Minister of Interior Teng Savong.

Acid attackers are currently tried under the general criminal law, and Teng Savong said that due to the increasing number of attacks, specific legislation with heavy punishments was needed to curb such vicious acts.

In recent years, the majority of acid attacks have stemmed from marital and business disputes. Jealous wives have attacked or hired others to attack girlfriends of their husbands and small-time businessmen have used acid to injure and disfigure rivals.

Last month, a market vendor quarreled with a neighbor who then hired two men to douse the vendor's two daughters with acid as they rode a motorcycle through the streets of Phnom Penh.

Pin Damnang of the Cambodian Acid Survivors Charity, a nongovernmental organization that gives free medical treatment to acid victims, said figures gathered by his group show that more than 10 people suffered from attacks last year and at least three were attacked in January. Official figures were not available.

Teng Savong, who is also a chairman of the government committee to draft the law, said the country's legal experts are expected to hold their first meeting at the end of this month and will take several months to complete the task.

Dams signal misery for Mekong River

A part of the Hau River in the Mekong Delta province of An Giang in the dry season TUOI TRE

http://vietnewsonline.vn/
via CAAI News Media

Thursday, February 04, 2010
Compiled by Thuy Hang

The proliferation of dams and hydropower plants along the Mekong River poses a severe threat to people’s livelihoods, experts warned at a conference held Wednesday in the Mekong Delta city of Can Tho.

Dao Trong Tu, former deputy secretary of the Vietnam Mekong River Commission, said China is building three of 16 dams it has planned, while Laos and Cambodia are planning to build 11 others.

“We want fish, we can’t eat electricity for living,” a Cambodian fisherman was quoted by La Chhuon of Cambodia-based NGO Oxfam Australia, as saying.

Most fishermen who were interviewed were unhappy about the dams and did not care much about the compensation they get for relocating, he said.

“If people who make their living on the river are relocated to a mountain, how can they make their living any more?” he said.

Tu concurred, saying by changing the river's hydrology, blocking fish migration, and affecting the river's ecology, dams on the lower Mekong are likely to threaten the entire basin.

Carl Middleton of US-based environmental group International Rivers said the dams pose a huge threat to the region’s food security.

He estimated that countries in the Mekong basin could lose 700,000-1.6 million tons of fish and other catch a year due to the damming.

Nguyen Huu Thien, a Vietnamese expert on flooding, warned that the Mekong River’s hydrology would be totally dependent on the 11 dams planned by Laos and Cambodia.

The plans have long alarmed environmentalists, who say the damming will devastate Asia’s major waterway which runs from Tibet to southern Vietnam.

They warn that the planned mega-dams will displace tens of thousands of people, harm the fragile river ecology, and endanger species such as the rare Mekong giant catfish and Irrawaddy dolphin.

Vietnamese scientists said at the conference that the construction of dams and power plants could double the misery for Vietnam’s Mekong Delta region which already faces the threat of climate change.

Because of its long, low coastline and exposure to storms, Vietnam is considered one of the five countries most vulnerable to climate change.

The sea is already encroaching on sections of the delta, the country’s rice bowl.

According to a study by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, 12.8 percent of the Mekong Delta will be under water if the sea rises by 65cm.

The Mekong River runs through China's Yunnan province, Burma, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam. All the countries except China and Burma are members of the Mekong River Commission.
The river runs through 13 provinces of Vietnam where it forms the Mekong Delta.

Cambodia to award SEA Game medalists

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PHNOM PENH, Feb 04, 2010 (Xinhua via COMTEX) -- In order to encourage and promote sports sector, Cambodian government is ready to spend 200,000 U.S. dollars to award Cambodian athletes who had won medals from the Southeast Asian Games (SEA)recently held in Laos, an Olympic official said here on Thursday.

Vath Chamroeun, secretary general of the National Olympic Committee, said the medalists from the SEA Games held in Laos in last December will receive awards from the government by Feb. 12.

He said the price of the awards will be varied depending on the medals he or she earned.

Gold medalist will get 6,000 U.S. dollars, silver medalist will get 4,000 U.S. dollars while bronze medalist will get 2,000 U.S. dollars.

"It is a great incentive to Cambodian athletes to be awarded by the government," said Vath Chamroeun.

The award is considered high as Cambodia's civil servants receive an average wage of 40 to 50 U.S. dollars monthly.

After the SEA Games ended, Cambodia brought home 40 medals, three gold, 10 silver and 27 bronze.

Cambodia drafted a sub-decree in 2006, the only new incentive to award Cambodian athletes who will win any medals at any regional or international sports tournaments.

Vath Chamroeun said this award will be the second after the first one was conferred to Cambodian athletes in 2007 after they had won some medals during the 24th SEA Games in Thailand.

Siem Reap Celebrates Cambodian New Year

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The Cambodian New Year celebrations take place over three days in April.

(OPENPRESS) February 4, 2010 -- People travelling to Siem Reap this year may like to combine their visit with the Cambodian New Year celebrations.

Spread over three days, the new year festival is one of the country's most important annual events.

Although the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh is usually viewed as the focal point of the celebrations, people staying in Siem Reap hotels will also enjoy an authentic festival experience.

This year, the three days of the new year will take place on April 14th, 15th and 16th.

Each day has a special title and features particular events in accordance with tradition.

The first day of the new year is called Maha Songkran and includes people lighting candles and making offerings to the Buddha by bowing, kneeling and prostrating themselves three times before his image.

On the second day - Wanabat - people offer charity to the poor and homeless, as well as attending a dedication ceremony to their ancestors.

The third day is known as Tngay Leang Saka and sees people bathing statues of the Buddha with perfumed water.

People who decide to visit Phnom Penh during the new year celebrations can expect to enjoy free concerts around the Wat Phnom area at night.

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Cambodia: Reviewing the anti-corruption law

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Tuesday, February 2nd, 2010
by Sopheap Chak

While there is a signal that anti-corruption law is likely to be passed this April, followed the long-awaited approval of the draft by the Council of Minister last December 2009, the anti-corruption theme gained momentum of discussion in the blogosphere by inquiring to walk the talk of anti-corruption.

Just recently Prime Minister Hun Sen, in his speech at a conference on military reform, warned of harsh sanctions for soldiers and military commanders involved in corruption. Reported in the Phnom Penh Post, the Prime Minister identified the names of several officials found to be guilty of illegal activities ranging from logging, land grabbing, smuggling and illegal fishing. With his acknowledgment, the Prime Minister firmly denounced:

“It is time to stop every activity involving illegal business or the support of illegal business. [I] don’t care how many stars or moons you have – I will fire you, and nobody will keep corrupt commanders in their seats[…] I declare my absolute order [to stop illegal businesses] — otherwise military reform will not move forward,” said Hun Sen.

This report was circulated among bloggers like Morn Vutha, the Cambodia Tonight, and the Son of Khmer Empire who regularly bring up corruption cases and updates on the anti-corruption campaign.

In his previous blog entries, Vutha has raised many relevant corruption issues in various sectors including education and traffic police. He also brought the current debate of the anti-corruption law that not only requires the disclosure of assets from government officials but also NGO workers.

“Why does the anti-corruption law require NGO workers to declare their assets?” asked Vutha.

The explanation by the spokesman of the Council of Ministers who argued that the provision is applied to NGO workers because they serve as public servants has not convinced to Vutha who insisted that these two agencies have different powers and responsibilities.

“Although NGO staff serve the public, they cannot be categorized in the same level with government officials because NGO workers have no power and authority. They are working to help the poor and vulnerable people who are living under the exploitation of the rich and the powerful. By the way, the government officials get paid from the government which has high responsibility for the people because all officials’ salaries are money collected from people through tax. In addition, the NGO workers also have no power to control or manage the national budget or make policy”

Vutha further pointed out that the NGOs already have their external audit authority namely their donors:

“NGO workers’ salaries are funded by charity donors so that all financial budgets have been or controlled and audited by donors carefully. If donors found irregularity or corruption in organizations, they really determine or withdraw their funding. Therefore, NGO staff salaries are not related to government’s budget. Why does the government demand NGO workers to declare their property?”

Similarly, in the blog post on “Fight against corruption, not anti-government” by the Son of Khmer Empire, expressed his support to the anti-corruption advocacy who urged that the issue of anti-corruption effort should not be confused with the anti-government campaign. Interestingly, this blogger pointed out four factors leading to the spread of corruption:

“(1) a weak political will of the government officials in eradicating corruption, (2) a weak and incompetent head of the government in implementing the good governance, (3) the weak law enforcement, and (4) low salary.”

Unable to access the draft of the anti-corruption law, the Son of Khmer Empire suggests some lessons learned from Singapore by raising the role of anti-corruption legislative and executive bodies as well as the participation of the public in curbing corruption incidents.

More than this, a catchy article by Pou Sovachana, the Corruption Behind the Black Economy in Cambodia, also published on Cambodia Daily (February 02, 2010) and widely circulated among networks by e-mail, explicit many elements of old discussion but also a very comprehensive solution by stressing the role of qualified education, freedom of expression, and effective law enforcement. From his background as a vonlunteer teacher, he highlights that education is the medicine to the cycle of poverty and corruption:

“Schools, fire services, hospitals, the police, the army, the government officials, media reporters, the judiciary all began to demand bribes for their “supposed to be free” services. One can argue that poverty is the root cause of corruption while others say corruption the root cause of poverty. However one thing is certain that lack of education is the main cause of poverty. And quality education for ALL and the development of wisdom (law of karma) have been diagnosed as the best medicine of breaking the cycle of poverty and corruption.”

He adds that the zero tolerance through anti-corruption law enforcement is necessary:

“To become aid-independent and move the country forward in hope of beating the black economy to an open society of equality, justice, freedom, dignity, and progress, all kinds of corruption must be stopped and should be eliminated by adopting, implementing, and enforcing the anti-corruption law as soon as possible and to the fullest with zero tolerance from the highest to the lowest ranking.”

By conclusion, he insisted that the change can only take place when “people get more educated and learn to speak their own mind without fear of oppression. When the power of love (metta) overcomes the love of power, then real development will grow and last.”

Cambodia's got talent, so please use it, ministry says

http://www.monstersandcritics.com/
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Feb 4, 2010

Phnom Penh - The Cambodian government has called on the country's television and radio stations to use more local talent for advertisements and stop dubbing commercials made overseas, local media reported Thursday.

Information Minister Khieu Kanharith said the directive would help the country's creative types find more work and prevent their skills from being wasted.

'We should help create jobs for our actors, actresses, directors, writers and film producers so that they have their own livelihood rather than showing foreign spots and paying tax for using their products, which creates losses for us,' Khieu Kanharith told the Phnom Penh Post newspaper.

The minister made clear that compliance would be voluntary and said those who failed to increase the number of locally made adverts would not be fined.

Local artists were enthusiastic about the ministry's request with one prominent filmmaker saying the move would boost careers and improve the livelihoods of local professionals.

But the head of one local TV station told the newspaper that the choice lay with advertisers, not broadcasters.

'It depends on the will and intention of company owners,' he said. 'What is important is what they want.'

Border fairs target Cambodian market

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February, 04 2010

AN GIANG — The Business Studies and Assistance Centre and southern An Giang Province's Investment and Trade Promotion Centre held two trade fairs to promote Vietnamese goods at the Khanh Binh and Tinh Bien border gates.

Vu Kim Hanh, director of the BSA – a non-profit trade promotion organisation based in HCM City – said they were the first step in a programme of 10 trade fairs on the Cambodian border through which high-quality Vietnamese goods would be popularised.

The network of markets and retail outlets on the border was too meagre and supply could not meet demand, she said.

"Many Cambodians come shopping to the Vietnamese border outlets daily."

It is to take advantage of this demand that the BSA, along with An Giang, Dong Thap, Long An, Tay Ninh, and Binh Phuoc Provinces, plans to organise the 10 fairs.

Besides selling goods, the fairs will also enable Vietnamese enterprises to get in touch with Cambodian authorities for developing distribution networks in the country.

They will also make preparation for enterprises to take part in the Trade Fair of High Quality Vietnamese Goods in Cambodia next April.

A survey last August by the BSA and Truong Doan Market Survey Company in the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh and Battambang and Ta Keo Provinces found that many Vietnamese products have become more popular than their Thai and Chinese rivals.

Vietnamese dried foods, spices, frozen processed products, household plastic items, exterior and interior decoration items, toilet equipment, footwear, and leather and leatherette products hold between 33 and 93 per cent of that market.

Its milk and milk products, tinned foods, soft drinks, beers, wines, rubber products, and fabrics are as popular as Thai products and more popular than Chinese.

Viet Nam can grab a larger market share if its firms come up with improved designs and packaging, lower prices, and strengthen promotion, the survey pointed out. — VNS

Cambodia's Bourse Is Expected to be Opened in September

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Thursday, 04 February 2010 04:31 DAP-NEWS/ Ek Madra

PHNOM PENH, February 3, 2010 - The Director General of the Securities and Exchange Commission of Cambodia (SECC) said on Wednesday the country's stock exchange will be operating in September or by the end of this year the latest.

His Excellency Ming Bankosal said the opening of the stock exchange is not fully depends on the SECC side, it also depends on the issuing companies.

"We expect that by the third quarter of this year or by late this year we expect to have the stock trading in Cambodia," he said on Thursday.

The bourse, which is the country's new experience, will list good corporate companies of the local and joint venture investing companies which have foreign partners.

The country's Securities and Exchange Commission of Cambodia (SECC) has began received applications since January 15 from the companies-who wanted to operate as dealers, investment advisors, brokers or underwriters-till March 1, 2010.

Applicants must meet with capital requirement along with human resource, he explained.
"This is a very technical field... we need experienced people in the field"

Mr. Bankosal wished not to reveal a number of companies, who already have applied to be listed on the stock, but said that there is a number of both local and foreign companies have applied for the listing.

"Other foreign companies who operating their businesses here have shown their interests to go public," he said.

"We will then review and shortlist them in order to assess the company before we can issue them the licenses to operate," said Bankosal.

"We do not want to have too many companies to go public, but we want to see the quality's issuers. We need a good profile companies with good profits and they must be very experienced in good business sector along with good management to go public."

"They must be very corporate governance and transparency," said Bankosal

He also said to build confidence of the public in the stock is a difficult work and that means poor corporate should not be allowed to list.

"If there will be problems the stock and security, the confidence will go down and we need a long time to restore the confidence."

"So we have to be careful about that," he said.

He also explained when Cambodia has the financial markets, the corporate company, whose good transparency, can seek direct financing from the public with a lower interest "That also let Cambodian people to invest their money in the stock of the company."

He also said that in Cambodia today those are lower and middle class people do not have the opportunity to be listed.

"So, when we have stock exchange we can share the economic growth and the government can collect more taxes as well as to create more jobs," he said.

"And then transparency comes to Cambodia and international investors will see Cambodia is changing to international standard."

"Now we are ready and waiting for the companies to prepare themselves with all our regulations."

"When they are ready with our requirements, they can issue the shares to the public. Then we will open the trading officially," he said.

"So the game is not only depends on the government side, it also depends on the private sector who wants to list," said Bankosal.

Prime Minister Hun Sen on Wednesday said there will be at least three companies would be listed on the stock namely the Electricite du Cambodge (EDC), Phnom Penh Water Supply Authority, and Sihanoukville Autonomous Port.

EDC, which was established since 1906, became a wholly state-owned limited liability company in 1996 to generate, transmit and distribute electric power though-out Cambodia.

EDC is a juridical organization with administrative, financial and managerial authority. EDC is responsible for its profit and losses and liable for its debts to the extent of the value of its assets.

The Phnom Penh Water Supply Authority (PPWSA) in Cambodia was awarded the Asian Development Bank's (ADB) 2004 Water Prize for its transformation of Phnom Penh's water supply over the last 12 years. PPWSA has, since 1993, increased its distribution network reached to more than 80 percent in Phnom Penh from serving 40 percent, according to the Asian Development Bank (ADB).

Starting in 1960, the Sihanoukville Port has grown to be the largest port in Cambodia, and the only deep water port. Servicing container ships, naval ships, and cruise ship from around the world. Now, at 125 hectares, the port is continually undergoing expansion and improvement (almost finished now). The Sihanoukville Autonomous Port (PAS) is becoming a main entry point for tourists to Sihanoukville, coming on cruise ships from Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia and Singapore. Many foreign warships also stop here.

Cambodia and the South Korean developer World City Co Ltd singed early this month to build a $6 million construction for the country's first stock market.

Another Mey Vann, director of the financial industry department at Cambodia's Ministry of Economy and Finance, told DAP last December that the four-story on the 6,000 square meter of the four-story building, which located on the former muddy land at the north of Phnom Penh's outskirt, will be completed in the next eight months.

It took months before reaching a final approval of the building design model, which shows the culture of Cambodia and Korea.

The project, which has been slow as the result of financial down turn began last year.

His Excellency Bankosal also said the government has already decided to list the three companies and they will be listed on the stock exchange.

South Korea has been helping Cambodia to establish the stock and securities and the financial development Center is located in Camko City, where the location of the Stock Exchange and Securities and Exchange Commission of Cambodia (SECC) will be, he said.

DREAM COME TRUE

Cambodia's idea of establishing the bourse since the 1990s but has struggled for traction in a country known for chronic poverty and a history of upheaval, including the Khmer Rouge "Killing Fields" blamed for the death of nearly 2 million in period 1975- 79.

South Korean company's officials said they decided to invest in Cambodia following its "serious research on the country's politics and economic."

"When we were in South Korea every one was thinking about the past violence of Khmer Rouge," he said referring to this impoverished Southeast Asian nation which went through 30 years of war till 1998 the same year that Pol Pot, architecture of the Khmer Rouge, died.

"We were then really afraid to open business in Cambodia, but actually when we came here we realized that it is really safe," said Yunyoung Lee, director of the marketing division, told reporters.

"So we want to start our project of stock market before others start."

A numbers of seminars about the bourse have been conducted since last November, which aimed at raising awareness about the coming stock exchange.

The exchange expects to start small with just four or five companies issuing about $10 million worth of shares each, Intyo Lee, project director for Korea Exchange, has said.

Korea Exchange <.KS11>, Asia's fourth-largest bourse operator, will own 49 percent of the exchange and is recruiting and training workers for it. Cambodian will own the rest. Cambodia passed the stock market law in September 2007.

Korea has pledged $1.8 million in aid and technical assistance from the Seoul stock exchange to get the Phnom Penh bourse off the ground. Overall, the launch would cost $15 million, said the government officials.

As many as 400 companies are thought to be possible candidates for flotation in the nation of nearly 14 million, said another official.

Much of Cambodia's economy is dependent on agriculture, although it has some proven off-shore oil and gas reserves, a vibrant garment industry and booming domestic construction and telecommunications sectors.

Cambodia's growth has been remarkably high in recent years-was 10.4 percent last year.
Cambodian economic growth was an estimated contracted 2.2 percent and is projected to increase 4.2 percent for 2010.

Cambodia's Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) hit record $4 billion last year in 2006, according to the Council for the Development of Cambodia (CDC).

According to the National Bank of Cambodia (NBC) the FDI value for 2007 was US$866 million. It was US$795 million for 2008. It further dropped to US$515 million last year.

Cambodia received more than 2 million visitors in recent years and that figure is expected to increase 15 percent a year. The country produced more than 7 million tonnes of rice for 2009/2010.

Cambodia expected to produce first oil by 2011.

Care for Kids in Cambodia with i-to-i

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Thursday, 4 February 2010

Cambodia has emerged from its grim history to become one of the world’s coolest travel destinations. But amid the magnificent temples and funky cafes, there is still biting poverty – personified by the many thousands of homeless children. i-to-i is calling on travellers to volunteer with education and community projects in Phnom Penh to help these kids share in their country’s bright future.

i-to-i’s volunteer projects in Cambodia’s capital aim to broaden the horizons of underprivileged youngsters through providing mentoring, coaching and education. For volunteers, it’s a way to contribute to the kids’ – and the country’s - future, as well as gaining an insight to Cambodian culture that most tourists would never experience.

“Volunteering brings a new level of understanding to anyone’s travel experience: it’s a chance to see a place through the locals’ eyes and to gain a much deeper understanding of the culture,” explained Mat Lewis, General Manager of i-to-i Australasia.

“Our programs also make a significant impact on the people we work with – our volunteers help teach hundreds of underprivileged children each year. It’s a positive outcome all around.”

In the past year, 108 i-to-i volunteers have dedicated 384 weeks (around 7.4 years) of their time to help teach and care for orphans in Cambodia.

Various projects run throughout the city, and volunteers can stay from three up to 12 weeks, helping to teach the children English and basic life skills; playing games and generally looking after them. i-to-i works with locally-operated homes which provide safe shelter, education and vocational training for orphans and street children. Volunteers’ participation costs also help to provide clothing, medical care and three meals a day.

No previous experience is necessary to volunteer - just flexibility, motivation and a genuine love of children. All volunteers undertake an on-line TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) course before leaving home to help them prepare lesson plans and to provide the basic skills needed to teach English.

Activities at the project vary according to the volunteers’ skills and interests and the needs of the individual project. But there is plenty of spare time to explore Phnom Penh and the many other wonders of Cambodia.

The Help Teach and Care for Children in Cambodia project costs $1499 for three weeks, and $295 per additional week. This includes share accommodation in a guesthouse; airport pickup; in-country orientation; emergency support and an on-line TEFL course.

Thailand braces for fresh political disorder

Supporters of Thailand’s former prime minister, Thaksin Shinawatra, protest Tuesday in front of the Defence Ministry in Bangkok. AFP

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I see nothing that would suggest that the Thai army is divided. It is an army that obeys."
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Thursday, 04 February 2010 15:05 Didier Lauras

Country waits for upcoming Supreme Court decision over former PM Thaksin Shinawatra’s billion dollar-fortune

Bangkok

THAILAND is entering a new phase of political turbulence, bracing for a key court ruling on the frozen fortune of ousted premier Thaksin Shinawatra amid rumours of another coup.

On February 26 the Supreme Court will decide whether the 2.2 billion dollar fortune of the telecoms tycoon – frozen in the months after he was deposed in 2006 – can be seized by authorities.

And that deadline, concerning a man who still deeply divides Thai society, is stepping up the political pressure.

Supporters of Thaksin, who now lives abroad to escape a prison term for corruption, have held small rallies almost daily since the start of 2010, and promise to swell their ranks ahead of the verdict.

These “Red Shirt” demonstrators – many from the rural north and northeast – want to pressure the judges over the decision and overthrow the government led by Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva.

In recent months their biggest protest has numbered around 30,000. But there were 100,000 of them last April when they disrupted a major Asian summit and rioted in Bangkok, where clashes with authorities left two people dead.

A supporter of ousted former premier Thaksin Shinawatra slaps giant clappers together during a protest at the Defence Ministry in Bangkok on Tuesday. AFP

“There continues to be divisions and there continues to be a number of people who are pursuing their agenda of unseating the government,” Abhisit told AFP over the weekend.

The 45-year-old premier came to power in late 2008 when the previous pro-Thaksin government collapsed after protests by the ultra-royalist “Yellow Shirts”, who are aligned with the traditional Thai elite.

He heads an increasingly shaky six-party coalition. But Paul Chambers, a Thailand specialist at Heidelberg University in Germany, said his downfall would lead to an early election that none of his allies can afford.

“The coalition is more likely to stay afloat rather than cave in,” he said. “The dangers to Abhisit currently exist more in terms of violent attacks on his person, rather than his forced removal from the prime ministerial chair.”

On Monday, bags of human excrement were thrown into Abhisit’s residential compound – an act of aggression the government attributed to the Red Shirts.

The Oxford-educated PM has also warned of a growing risk of political violence in Bangkok in the coming weeks, especially as the army, historically united in defence of the Thai monarchy, has shown unusual signs of discord.

A grenade was thrown at the national army headquarters in January, causing no casualties but widely reported by the Thai press to be aimed at the office of the army chief, General Anupong Paojinda.

On Monday, Major General Khattiya Sawasdipol, an outspoken supporter of Thaksin, was charged with illegal possession of weapons and confirmed by police as the main suspect in the attack.

The affair has whipped up speculation in the Thai press about possible disaster scenarios: an explosion of Red Shirt violence, splits in the army and even a military coup.

“Political life in Thailand is immature,” said one Western analyst, requesting anonymity, who downplayed rumours of an imminent putsch.

“I see nothing that would suggest that the Thai army is divided. It is an army that obeys,” he said. “There are Red Shirts in the military, but in 2006 they participated in the coup because these were the orders.”

But this obsession with coups illustrates the difficulties Bangkok has faced since Thaksin’s ousting in 2006, an incident that removed the only premier ever to have been re-elected.

“Thailand entered a new phase of civil-military relations after the 2006 coup,” said Chambers. “Soldiers were granted more institutionalised prerogatives and, simultaneously, began to exercise more informal clout.”

Jacques Ivanoff, an anthropologist at the Research Institute on Contemporary South-East Asia, said he thought Thai democracy as it currently operates has reached its limit.

“It’s an explosive scenario, with a lot of tensions in every direction, and a government that does not move and cannot move,” he said.

“And when Thailand asks too many questions about itself and does not know where to go, the only institution that works is the military.” AFP

Govt defends electricity tariff


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Thursday, 04 February 2010 15:05 May Kunmakara

GOVERNMENT officials on Wednesday defended an adjustment in electricity pricing that has generated concern from customers who fear that their monthly utility bills may increase to unsustainable levels.

A new electricity tariff for Phnom Penh residents was finalised Wednesday after being debated for more than a year. Government officials say the new tariff will subsidise the expansion of Electricite du Cambodge (EDC), the Kingdom’s flagship power provider, into the outskirts of Phnom Penh and neighbouring provinces.

“We want to be fair between people who live in the city and those who live on the outskirts of Phnom Penh and in Takhmao,” Ty Norin, director-general of the Electricity Authority of Cambodia (EAC), said Wednesday at a question-and-answer session held at the Cambodiana Hotel.

Since 2006, EDC customers in Phnom Penh using less than 50 kilowatt-hours of electricity per month have been paying 390 riels (US$0.09) per kilowatt-hour. Under the new pricing system, customers will pay 610 riels per kilowatt-hour if they use less than 50 kilowatt-hours in a month. Those who use more than 50 kilowatt-hours will pay 720 riels per kilowatt-hour.

Officials say this increase is necessary because the government subsidies that have kept electricity prices down for many consumers in the past few years are unsustainable.

“This [new tariff] will assure that there is sufficient income for a stable and sustainable national grid,” Ty Norin said, adding that the increased revenue to EDC will hopefully spur “enlargement of the electricity supply from substations of the national grid to other provinces and rural areas”.

The new tariff, which consumers will see reflected in their bills beginning next month, will be applied to EDC users in Phnom Penh, Kandal province’s Takhmao town and Kampong Speu province’s Chba Mon town. Government officials say businesses stand to gain from pricing reforms, with rates for commercial customers varying depending on a range of factors including their size and location relative to the power grid.

Ith Praing, secretary of state at the Ministry of Industry, Mines and Energy, said EDC has yet to expand its coverage to the outskirts of Phnom Penh and Kandal province, leaving people in these areas without electricity or forcing them to rely on expensive generators or private companies for power.

“I want to call on the 30,000 customers in Phnom Penh city to share with those who do not have access,” Ith Praing said.

Bun Na, 45, a resident of Boeung Kak I commune in Tuol Kork district who attended the meeting Wednesday, said she was worried that the new tariff would become a burden.

“The government should not increase the price at a time when we are struggling for income. If the price increases, we will have to reduce our usage,” said Bun Na, who is unemployed. She added that she uses about 70 kilowatt-hours of electricity per month.

Others worry that the tariff will hurt small-scale businesses in the capital that are treated the same as private consumers for billing purposes.

As part of the pricing reforms, foreign embassies, international NGOs and houses rented by foreigners will now pay 820 riels per kilowatt-hour – the same rate as government facilities – rather than the 890 riels per kilowatt-hour they paid previously.

“Some embassies complained to us that we are not fair and are discriminating against them,” Ty Norin said in explaining this decision.

Duck culling begins in Takeo

Photo by: Rick Valenzuela
Ducklings waddle and pace before their sunset feeding time at Chea Em's farm and family home in Svay Em commune in Pursat's Sampov Meas district on Tuesday 21 October 2008.

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Thursday, 04 February 2010 15:05 Chhay Channyda and Jacob Gold

HUNDREDS of ducks and chickens in Takeo province’s Pralay Meas village were destroyed on Wednesday in the first day of a cull that officials said was ordered to contain a newly confirmed outbreak of the H5N1 virus, commonly known as bird flu.

Kao Phal, director of the Animal Health and Reproduction Department at the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF), said that authorities killed about 710 ducks and 350 chickens in and around Pralay Meas village, located in Romenh commune, Koh Andeth district. The ministry’s bird flu containment protocol requires all farm fowl within a 5-kilometre radius of the outbreak zone to be destroyed.

“This disease is faster than a war,” Kao Phal said. “If you are exposed to the virus you can get infected, so we have to educate people about how to avoid getting sick.”

Experts have noted, however, that the strain of the virus in Takeo likely has little ability to infect humans.

Mao Nhorn, Romenh commune chief, said that local authorities “got the results of the test early Tuesday but tried to prevent word from spreading among the villagers”, who might have then spirited away the infected ducks in the night before culling teams could arrive on Wednesday. As an added precaution, authorities formed a perimeter around the village before starting the cull.

“Some people asked to burn the ducks themselves, but we told them the ducks needed to be given to officials,” Mao Nhorn said. “Others hesitated because they did not want their ducks to be killed, but after we educated them about bird flu, then they understood.”

Thai Ly, chief of domesticated animals at the Takeo province agriculture department, said that nearly 20,000 ducks had died and that 35,270 had fallen ill before the first specimens were sent for testing on January 31, and that an unspecified number had succumbed to the virus since then.

He said Wednesday’s cull was accompanied by the gathering of additional bird samples from around the affected village.

Yang Saing Koma, president of the Cambodian Centre for Study and Development in Agriculture (CEDAC), said most ducks in the affected area were kept in small numbers by families who used them for household egg consumption and who would be able to replace the animals fairly easily.

However, he said the area also supported a significant number of commercial duck farms, also specialising in eggs. It is these farmers, he said, who would be hardest-hit by the cull.

“Right now there are no subsidies at all,” he said. “For me, I think they should receive some kind of support.”

Yang Saing Koma estimated that after a scenario such as a total bird flu cull, the average commercial duck farm could recover in six months.

Cambodia reported its first case of H5N1 in poultry in January 2004. There have been nine known human cases of bird flu in Cambodia, seven of them fatal.

Racy Web site still open via domestic ISPs


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Thursday, 04 February 2010 15:05 Ith Sothoeuth and Brooke Lewis

A CONTROVERSIAL Web site that the government condemned last year for its pictures of scantily clad Khmer women was accessible from at least half of the local Internet service providers contacted by the Post on Wednesday, despite statements by the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications that it had been blocked.

Ros Sorakha, an undersecretary of state at the ministry, said Tuesday that www.reahu.net, the Web site of the Khmer-American artist Koke Lor, was not accessible anywhere in Cambodia. The government last year requested that ISPs block access to the site because its images – one of which features a topless apsara wearing the clothes of a Khmer Rouge soldier – were deemed to be in conflict with national values.

The claim from Ros Sarakha came during the annual conference of the National Committee for Upholding Social Morality, during which she also said the committee would begin meeting every two months to review Web sites featuring racy images of Cambodian women, and would consider blocking access to some of them.

Of the 12 ISPs reached this week, only four – AngkorNet, Camintel, Telecom Cambodia and Online – could confirm that they had blocked access to www.reahu.net on their networks. Staffers at two other ISPs said they were unable to access the site but could not confirm that it had been blocked. And representatives from six others said they had never been asked to block it.

Sieng Sithy, deputy director of the Directorate of Telecommunications Policies and Regulation at the Posts and Telecommunications Ministry, said Wednesday that the ministry had sent a request for the site to be blocked to all ISPs after the Ministry of Women’s Affairs raised concerns about its content last January. “Most [ISPs] have blocked it already,” but some still provide access, he said. “We ordered them to block not only this site, but [all] Web sites that might affect Khmer culture.”

Though he noted that the ISPs had been asked, and not ordered, to block the site, he said the ministry would take action against ISPs that had not complied. He declined to say what that action might be or when it would take place. “The ministry is very busy now. We have many tasks to do,” he said.

Speaking to the Post shortly after his site was blocked last year, Koke Lor expressed surprise that the government would bother to target it.

“It’s a form of art that is acceptable the world over. Look at the bars and prostitution here – people seem to find that acceptable, yet they block my Web site,” he said.

Koke Lor said in an email Wednesday that he believed the government was focusing on his Web site as a way of distracting the public from more difficult challenges.

“There are bigger problems in Cambodia than a harmless Web site,” he said. “My analogy is this: Let’s say you’re in grammar school and you want to show everyone that you’re tough. What do you do? You go pick on the little nerdy kids because the other kids are bigger and meaner than you are.”

Hun Sen warns against nepotism

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
Front, left to right: Prime Minister Hun Sen and Funcinpec's Nhek Bun Chhay. Behind them: Senior Minister Kol Pheng, a former education minister and founder of Pannasastra University; Education Minister Im Sethy (behind Hun Sen) and General Ke Kim Yan, head of the National Authority for Combating Drugs. They are leaving a graduation ceremony at the National Institute for Education on Wednesday 03 February 2010

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Thursday, 04 February 2010 15:04 Vong Sokheng and Meas Sokchea

PRIME Minister Hun Sen warned government officials on Wednesday to avoid granting unjustified promotions for personal or partisan reasons.

Presiding over a graduation ceremony at the National Institute of Education, Hun Sen chided the Funcinpec party, former coalition partners with his own Cambodian People’s Party (CPP), for rampant nepotism and partisanship during the parties’ power-sharing arrangement from 1993-1997.

“Do not intervene for promotions – today there are a number of our civil servants who have been promoted to their positions because of the influence of others,” Hun Sen said, vowing to stamp out this practice.

Hun Sen singled out former Funcinpec secretary general Nhek Bun Chhay and former education minister Kol Pheng for their pursuit of greater power within the coalition.

“I nearly dropped blood from my eye to see [Funcinpec] demanding to share the position of education minister when they held just 20 percent of votes, but I shared nearly 50 percent” of government positions, Hun Sen said.

In response to the remarks, Yim Sovann, spokesman for the opposition Sam Rainsy Party (SRP), said nepotism and partisanship originated primarily from the CPP, and called on Hun Sen to target those both inside and outside his party whose work is compromised by conflicts of interest.

“We would be happy to see the wishes of the prime minister become true, but the fact is now that land-grabbing, corruption, nepotism and partisanship are committed by the powerful members of the ruling CPP,” Yim Sovann said.

Hun Sen also alluded briefly to the conviction of SRP president Sam Rainsy last month of destruction of property and racial incitement in connection with an October protest in which he uprooted wooden markers on the Vietnamese border in Svay Rieng province.

“Going to uproot the posts, going to take someone’s land, violating the law, it is difficult,” Hun Sen said, without mentioning Sam Rainsy by name, and adding that he did not mean to “insult anyone indirectly”.

The prime minister’s comments came just one day after the release of a survey by the International Republican Institute (IRI) that stated in part that Cambodians would like to see their leaders focus more on the development of the country and less on political spats.

Those hoping to unseat the ruling CPP would do well to keep this point in mind, IRI country director John Willis said Wednesday.

“I think the opposition is effectively being distracted from talking about the issues that voters care about – jobs, health care, the economy,
farmland,” he said.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY JAMES O’TOOLE

Farmers set to call soldiers to Kampot court


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Thursday, 04 February 2010 15:04 May Titthara

RESIDENTS of Kampot province’s Chumkiri district filed a complaint in provincial court on Wednesday against members of an army unit they say are encroaching on their land and cutting down their fruit trees, escalating a standoff that began in 2001.

Man Nang, 39, one of the people who filed the complaint, said four Royal Cambodian Armed Forces soldiers visited her village in Chres commune on Monday to cut down mango, coconut and guava trees, adding that the soldiers “threatened to rape and kill me if I am stubborn with them”. She said the soldiers all belonged to the same unit.

The court complaint comes less than one week after Prime Minister Hun Sen warned top military officials to refrain from participating in illegal land-grabbing operations.

“It is time to stop every activity involving illegal business or the support of illegal business. [I] don’t care how many stars or moons you have – I will fire you, and nobody will keep corrupt commanders in their seats,” Hun Sen said at the end of a conference on military reform at the Ministry of Defence last week. “In Cambodia, the prime minister directly controls the troops.”

Members of the military unit identified by Mam Nang as having threatened the villagers in Chres commune on Monday could not be reached for comment, nor could Chhum Socheat, spokesman for the Defence Ministry.

Long-simmering dispute
Mam Nang said the military unit had been trying to encroach on land belonging to 300 families in Chres commune since as early as 2001, but that the threats had stopped in 2006 and did not resume until this week.

She added that a complaint had also been filed with Ou Yoeun, the chief of Chres commune, who said he had long been familiar with the case.

“The reason that armed forces come to cut down the villagers’ trees is because their former commander gave them land that overlapped with the villagers’ land,” he said.

Helmet law crackdown ensnares thousands, Interior Ministry says

Photo by: Pha Lina
Leang Leng polishes helmets at his shop on Mao Tse-tung Boulevard in Tuol Tumpong commune on Wednesday.

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Thursday, 04 February 2010 15:04 Chhay Channyda

PHNOM Penh Traffic Police fined 14,269 motorbike drivers for not wearing helmets in January as part of an effort to ramp up enforcement of a regulation mandating the usage of helmets that went into effect more than a year ago, according to a newly released report from the Interior Ministry.

Him Yan, director of the ministry’s Department of Public Order, said Wednesday that local police would continue to enforce the helmet regulation for motorbike drivers.

“An increased focus on enforcement will continue as a way to educate and punish those who insist on riding without helmets,” he said.

Under an amendment to the Land Traffic Law that was introduced in January 2009, all motorbike drivers must wear helmets or pay a fine of 3,000 riels (US$0.73).

But road safety advocates say the effectiveness of the law has been hindered by spotty enforcement, a problem that persists in part because Traffic Police rarely work at night.

“Ninety percent of people use helmets during the day, but only around 40 percent wear helmets at night,” Him Yan said. “People are afraid that police will fine them, but they don’t wear them at night because Traffic Police do not work then.”

Chev Hak, deputy chief of the Phnom Penh Traffic Police, said people were now starting to understand the law.

“We have started to deploy Traffic Police at night to catch those who abuse the law. Traffic accidents happen more at night.”

Official fears cholera cases in Prey Veng


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Thursday, 04 February 2010 15:04 Tep Nimol

SIX villagers in Prey Veng province have been stricken with an illness that one commune official said he believed to be cholera, although health officials have yet to hand down an official diagnosis.

The villagers from Reak Chey commune have suffered from intense diarrhoea and vomiting since Monday, commune chief Hong Sophal said.

“We have sent a man to Calmette Hospital [in Phnom Penh] because he is suffering, even though the doctors here have tried to help him,” he said.

The man’s daughter, Srun Vanthon, said her father’s condition has not improved since entering the hospital, and that doctors have not told her what is causing her father’s illness.

“He is still in bad condition,” she said. “I am worried about his life.”

Health officials have not confirmed the presence of cholera in the area.

Sambath Narin, the director of the health centre in Reak Chey, said he has not met with anyone complaining of similar symptoms.

“I cannot say it is cholera because I have not met with the patients,” he said. “Few people here have diarrhoea or are vomiting.”

Ly Sovann, deputy director of the Communicable Diseases Control Department at the Ministry of Health, said he also had not received reports of cholera outbreaks in Prey Veng.

The information comes after Vietnamese media reported that seven Cambodians infected with cholera were being treated in Vietnamese hospitals.

The report in Thanh Nien Daily said that the seven patients, all from Takeo and Kandal provinces, had been admitted to Vietnamese hospitals between January 19 and 28. A total of 45 people were first admitted with symptoms of “acute diarrhoea”, but the report did not specify whether any of the other patients were Cambodian. The report said the patients were being treated in An Giang, which borders Cambodia and is also home to an ethnic Khmer minority population.

In early January, Cambodian health officials warned citizens against a potential cholera outbreak.

EU to fund $7.4m in NGO food projects


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Thursday, 04 February 2010 15:04 Khouth Sophakchakrya

THE European Union announced Wednesday that it would put up US$7.4 million in new funding for six NGO-run food-security projects targeting vulnerable groups.

Rafael Dochao Moreno, the charge d’affaires for the Delegation of the European Union to Cambodia, said the funding was made necessary by a surge in food and energy prices and the impact of the global financial crisis.

“I expect that poor Cambodian farmers, in particular those affected by volatile food prices, will be able to avoid hunger and reduce their poverty,” he said, addressing NGOs gathered at a conference in Phnom Penh on Wednesday.

The money has been earmarked for projects run by both local and international groups, with the largest sums – $1.9 million and $1.7 million, respectively – going to a World Vision project aimed at fighting poverty and a civil society development project run by the French NGO Agronomes et Veterinaires Sans Frontieres.

The EU currently manages a portfolio of 24 food-security projects in the Kingdom, Dochao Moreno said.

Court finds American guilty of sexually abusing underage girls

Photo by: Uy Nousereimony
American citizen Harvey Alexander Johnson, who was convicted Wednesday of committing indecent acts against three underage girls, arrives at Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Tuesday.

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Thursday, 04 February 2010 15:04 Chrann Chamroeun

PHNOM Penh Municipal Court on Wednesday found an American man guilty of committing indecent acts against three underage girls and sentenced him to one year in prison.

Harvey Alexander Johnson, 57, was also ordered to pay US$3,000 in compensation to one of the victims as well as a fine of 4 million riels ($962).

Police arrested Johnson in August 2009 in Phnom Penh’s Boeung Kak commune after the local child protection NGO Action Pour Les Enfants (APLE) presented authorities with statements by 10 underage girls accusing him of sexual abuse. He pleaded not guilty during a hearing on Tuesday.

Presiding Judge Chhay Kong said Wednesday that Johnson would be deported after serving his one-year term.

Samleang Seila, APLE’s country director, said he was relatively pleased with the verdict, adding that he was concerned that Johnson, an English teacher, would have continued to abuse young girls had he not been arrested.

“The sentence seems to be too light, but it is acceptable because the victims were not abused too seriously,” he said.

Johnson faced up to five years in prison, but Samleang Seila said the one-year sentence was sufficient in light of the fact that Johnson will be deported.

“The deportation of the man from Cambodia will provide safety for the victims, and will prevent him from continuing his sexual abuse against other girls in Cambodia,” he said.

Defence lawyer Dun Vibol said he would appeal the compensation total. “My client’s acts were not serious against the victim. He just intended to touch the girl within the teacher-student relationship.”