Friday, 5 February 2010

Bridge to the East

Photo by: Uy Nousereimony

via CAAI News Media

Friday, 05 February 2010 15:00 Uy Nousereimony

The sun rises over the partially constructed Prek Kdam bridge in Kandal province last month.

Recreational design

Photo by: Rick Valenzuela

via CAAI News Media

Friday, 05 February 2010 15:05 Jemma Galvin

Em Riem adjusts clothing on a mannequin Thursday in preparation for the opening of the exhibit “Recreation” at the No Problem Park House at No 55 Street 178. The exhibit showcases the work of 14 artists and designers and covers mediums from fashion and furniture to sculpture and photography. Among the artists and designers on display are Christine Gauthier of Waterlily, Parisian furniture designer Robotang and fashion designer Sar Chantho. The show runs through Sunday.

Trafficked fishermen jump ship


via CAAI News Media

Friday, 05 February 2010 15:05 Meas Sokchea and James O’toole

FIVE Cambodian men living in virtual slavery on a Thai fishing boat have escaped bondage, jumping ship in the open sea before being rescued by fishermen from East Timor, government officials and rights workers said Thursday.

Chan Soveth, a senior investigator for local rights group Adhoc, said the men fled the boat on January 21 after one of their compatriots fell ill at sea and died, his body tossed overboard by the crew.

“When they saw the fisherman’s dead body thrown into the sea they were frightened, and that’s why they jumped into the sea to flee,” Chan Soveth said, explaining that his organisation had received information on the case from UN authorities in East Timor.

Chan Soveth said the five men were aged 26 to 35 and hailed from Takeo, Kampong Cham and Battambang provinces. He said their names were Phuong Siem, Hun Tom, Hun Sokong, Hel Tay and Lean Thay.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Koy Kuong said the government had recently learned of the men’s plight, and was working with East Timor and Indonesia, site of the Kingdom’s nearest embassy, to secure their return.

“We have contacted the governments through our embassy [in Jakarta] to have them send those people back,” Koy Kuong said.

John McGeoghan, project coordinator with the Phnom Penh office of the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), said IOM staffers in East Timor and Cambodia were working with the countries’ respective governments to repatriate the men as quickly as possible.

“The men have been referred to us for assistance by the migration service of [East Timor] and are currently being provided assistance by IOM and [East Timor’s] Ministry of Social Solidarity,” McGeoghan said.

The men appear to have fallen victim to human traffickers, McGeoghan said, based on the false promise of work opportunities across the border in Thailand.

“Preliminary interviews with them suggest that they were promised construction jobs in Thailand,” McGeoghan said. “Others were promised jobs carrying fish on the shore from boats in Thailand.”

When they initially boarded the fishing boat, McGeoghan added, the men were told they would be at sea for three to four months. They learned only later that they were expected to work for four years.

While comprehensive data on the issue is nonexistent, trafficking experts say Cambodian men have quietly but consistently fallen victim to scams that land them adrift on Thai fishing vessels, labouring for little to no pay in brutal conditions.

“There is a continual flow of cases,” said Manfred Hornung, a monitoring consultant for the local rights group Licadho, estimating that his group has dealt with around 60 similar cases in the last year and a half.

Licadho is currently working to repatriate “six or seven” Cambodian men who escaped from their ships and made contact with authorities in Malaysia in December, Hornung said.

Lim Tith, national project coordinator for the UN Inter-Agency Project on Human Trafficking (UNIAP), said his group was working to secure the return of 15 others from Malaysia.

Despite these successes, however, Hornung said there are “a large number of cases that are completely unaccounted for”.

Lim Tith guessed that the number of Cambodians trafficked onto fishing boats is in the thousands, and McGeoghan said victims had surfaced “quite regularly over ... the past five years”.

One challenge in reaching these men, McGeoghan said, is that even when they are able to escape their original captors, they are often afraid or unaware of government agencies that can help them return home. Some are “trafficked between boats” and don’t see the shore for years at a time, he said, whereas others reach land only to fall prey to other forms of bonded labour.

On the ships, Lim Tith said, men are often drugged or beaten as captains seek to exact as much work each day as possible.

“The treatment on the ship of the crew is so cruel and inhumane that they just want to get off at any opportunity,” Hornung said.

There is still “some room for progress”, Hornung said, and regional governments have made significant improvements in recognising and processing these cases in recent years.

International enforcement as well as domestic poverty reduction are central to the fight against male trafficking, Lim Tith said, pointing also to the need to raise awareness about this phenomenon.

“Normally when people talk about human trafficking, they are talking about trafficking girls and women for sex,” he said. “Men are also victims of labour trafficking. Men are also victims of human trafficking.”

Central Internet plan spurs concern


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Friday, 05 February 2010 15:05 Brooke Lewis and Ith Sothoeuth

A GOVERNMENT proposal to funnel all local Internet service providers through a state-run exchange point has prompted renewed concern in light of news this week that a morality committee plans to ramp up its monitoring of controversial Web sites.

The government has long wanted to transfer exchange-point operations from two private Internet exchange points (IXPs) to Telecom Cambodia, a state-run entity that operates as an Internet service provider (ISP). The Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications declined to give a date for the proposed transfer on Thursday, but Kim Gjemmestad, managing director of Finder IXP, one of the two private IXPs, said the ministry was pushing for the change to occur this year.

On Tuesday, Ros Sarakha, an undersecretary of state at the ministry, said the government’s National Committee for Up-holding Social Morality plans to hold bimonthly meetings with ISPs to review Web sites featuring racy images of Cambodian women deemed in conflict with national values.

Critics who argue that the meetings could be a pretense for government censorship said the IXP transfer would give the government too much control over what Internet users can view.

“It sounds very similar to what happens in China,” said Ou Virak, president of the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights (CCHR). “The danger is that the Cambodian government is always looking to these models of control.”

Several industry insiders on Thursday pointed to a rumour that the proposed transfer had been prompted in part by a desire to combat terrorism, but Ou Virak said he did not believe that was the real reason.

“You don’t counter terrorism through controlling what happens online,” he said, adding that the establishment of a state-run IXP was more likely part of a broader effort to “control access to things people like us say – for example, anything critical of the government”.

Ou Virak said he was concerned by the type of monitoring described by Ros Sarakha, saying it amounted to “moral policing”. He added that a state-run IXP, through which all local ISPs would need to pass, could easily abuse its power.

“If they have the tool in their hands, they will misuse it,” he said.

Sieng Sithy, deputy director of the Directorate of Telecommunications Policies and Regulation at the Posts and Telecommunications Ministry, confirmed that the government is in the process of creating a single, state-run IXP, which he said would make it easier for the government to “control Internet security”.

“Internet security covers everything, including pornography, theft and cyber crime,” he said.

“If the headmaster blocks [a site], all [ISPs] also block it,” he said by way of explaining how the state-run IXP would work.

Move could cripple industry
Gjemmestad said he did not believe the switch to a state-run IXP was proposed with an eye towards censorship, adding that it was more likely financially motivated.

He said any effort to restrict access to certain Web sites could ultimately cost the government billions of dollars, and that it such a move would likely be futile because proxy servers could provide access to sites that other servers had blocked.

He added that, whatever the reason, the change could potentially cripple Cambodia’s fledgling IT industry because Telecom Cambodia plans to charge for a service that is currently being provided for free. Telecom Cambodia could not be reached for comment on Thursday.

Another industry insider, who did not want to be named, raised concerns a national dependence on Telecom Cambodia’s service, which he said has often lagged competitors.

“It hasn’t been very reliable in the past,” he said.

Sok Chanda, president and CEO of the ISP AngkorNet, agreed that having only one IXP in the country would cause many problems.

“First, the price might not be a bargain. Second, if that IXP is cut off, all of our [customers] are also cut off,” she said.

“[Telecom Cambodia] is a state-owned firm. They don’t work on Sunday, Saturday and holidays as well as nighttime. For example, if there is a problem at nighttime and they don’t solve it, all users who subscribe from us will not be able to use [the Internet].”

Health Ministery set to halt sale of stolen meds

Photo by: Tracey Shelton
Administrator Neng Khouy displays malaria drugs at the National Centre for Parasitology, Entomology and Malaria Control in June 2009.

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Friday, 05 February 2010 15:05 Khouth Sophak Chakrya and Kim Yuthana

THE Ministry of Health has ordered officials across the country to crack down on the illegal sale of medicines bearing the ministry’s image and a “not for sale” warning on their packaging, saying the medicines are likely stolen from hospitals and state medical practices.

The announcement, made over a local radio broadcast on Thursday by Chou Yin Sim, a secretary of state at the ministry, is part of an effort to rid the marketplace of “banned medicines”, which are continually sold by pharmacies despite the caution on the packaging.

“We expect that all health department officers will make an effort to enforce the law and eliminate all the banned medicines in pharmacies as well as private clinics,” he said, adding that the authorities would confiscate any illegal medicines they found.

Pen Monyrath, owner of the Koh Pich pharmacy on Sothearos Boulevard, said the ministry should fine or punish people who ignore its demands. “I have never ordered any banned medicines for sale,” she said.

But Saing Seng Khy, owner of the Lika pharmacy on Street 294, said that the crackdown would be useless if the ministry did not also punish the hospital staffers who sell the medicines to the pharmacies.

“If health staff [from hospitals] don’t steal them and sell to the pharmacists, then the pharmacists wouldn’t have them for sale,” he said.

He showed Post reporters a bottle of Oral Rehydration Solution, an anti-diarrhoea medicine, that had a logo of the ministry and the “not for sale” warning.

“This medicine is from Denmark, in support of the state hospitals,” he said. “We do not want to buy these medicines, but sometimes our customers ask for it because the hospitals do not have it.”

French govt questions CPP tactics


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Friday, 05 February 2010 15:04 Sebastian Strangio

FRENCH government officials have expressed concerns about the suspension of the parliamentary immunity of lawmakers from the opposition Sam Rainsy Party, according to a statement issued by the party on Thursday.

During a debate in France’s National Assembly on Thursday, the statement said, Foreign Affairs State Secretary Pierre Lellouche said that his nation “deplored” decisions stripping parliamentary immunity from SRP lawmakers Sam Rainsy, Mu Sochua and Ho Vann in 2009.

“We cannot accept these practices, which pertain to intimidation,” Lellouche said in response to a question from Chantal Brunel, chairwoman of the France-Cambodia Friendship Group at the Assembly. He added that the French government will continue to pay “close attention” and “actively follow” the situation facing the opposition in Cambodia.

When contacted on Thursday, Phay Siphan, spokesman for the Council of Ministers, said the French lawmakers clearly did not know the full story behind the suspension of the lawmakers’ immunity.

“We respect if there is a concern about this situation, but for me and for the government, those [French] parliamentarians should come and learn exactly what is involved,” he said, adding that the actions had been taken in accordance with the government’s commitment to the rule of law.

“We have to implement the rule of law,” he added.

“Everybody is under one law together.”

NACD denies abuse of addicts

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
Patients at the Orgkas Khnom, or My Chance, drug rehabilitation centre witness the destruction of a drug hoard last August.

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Friday, 05 February 2010 15:04 Chhay Channyda and Irwin Loy

AUTHORITIES are defending their treatment of drug users in government-run rehabilitation centres, insisting a prominent rights watchdog’s claims that addicts face forced detention and abuse at the controversial facilities are untrue.

In a press conference Thursday, authorities said the allegations contained in a Human Rights Watch report released last week were made “without any valid grounds”.

“The centres are not detention or torture centres,” said Meas Virith, deputy secretary general of the country’s anti-drugs bureau, the National Authority for Combating Drugs. “They are open to the public and are not secret centres.”

Officials from the NACD and other government bodies that run the 11 public rehabilitation centres said that reports of violence, torture and coerced treatment were false.

“There are no beatings at my centre, or anyone bleeding like the Human Rights Watch report accuses us,” said Ean Sokhim, director of Orgkas Khnom, or My Chance, a Phnom Penh municipality-run facility that figures prominently in the report.

“I think just sending drug users to rehabilitation centres is not a rights violation, because if you leave them on the street, they may harm people,” Ean Sokhim said.

The HRW report drew predominantly from interviews with 53 drug users who had been detained in at least one of the centres within the past three years.

Abuse ‘widespread’: HRW
Former detainees interviewed by the Post have reported violations similar to those alleged in the HRW report.

One former detainee said he had been held at various rehabilitation centres, including Orgkas Khnom, last year.

“In every last one, you get beat up,” said the former detainee, who asked that his name not be used.

The former detainee also said he witnessed violent punishments for apparent transgressions, including attempting to escape and failing to participate in physical labour or military-style drills on demand.

In an e-mail Thursday, Joe Amon, HRW’s director of health and human rights, said the report’s yearlong research was sound.

“The types of abuses described in [the report] were widespread and integral to how these centres operate,” Amon said.

He said authorities should take the allegations seriously and investigate claims of torture and ill-treatment.

“No other independent assessment has been conducted of conditions in these centres, and we absolutely stand by the accuracy of our findings,” Amon said.

“Simply dismissing the report as groundless may be convenient for the Cambodian government, but it does not relieve them of their obligation to respect international and national law.”

Duck, chicken culls go on in an effort to contain flu


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Friday, 05 February 2010 15:04 Chhay Channyda

AUTHORITIES continued to destroy ducks and chickens on Thursday in the second day of a cull intended to prevent an outbreak of bird flu from spreading beyond Takeo province’s Pralay Meas village, agriculture officials said.

“We destroyed 50 ducks and 150 chickens in Pralay Meas village today,” said Thai Ly, Takeo province’s chief officer of domesticated animals.

Thai Ly said that authorities would continue the cull until all fowl in the village were eliminated.

“At that point, we will closely monitor the village [for infections] for the next 30 days and continue to ensure that no poultry is sold or trafficked through the area,” he said.

Thai Ly said that officials will soon hold talks with farmers and vendors across Koh Andeth district to discuss the ban on selling poultry and other temporary measures critical to containing the bird flu outbreak.

Nhib Sron, director of the Takeo agriculture office, said that almost all of the ducks in the village had been destroyed on the first day of the cull, allowing authorities to focus their attention on elusive and highly mobile chickens.

“There aren’t nearly as many chickens as ducks in the village, which makes them harder to pin down, compounded with the fact that unlike ducks they tend to walk around everywhere,” he said.

He said that as an additional precaution, the perimeter of the village was being sprayed with an antibacterial agent called TH-4, although the compound is not effective against viruses.

Nhib Sron also said that authorities planned to confine the cull to Pralay Meas village despite instructions from the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries to kill all poultry within 5 kilometres of the outbreak area.

“Within the 5-kilometre range, we are still going to enforce the commercial ban on poultry and teach people about the dangers of the disease,” he said, adding that no human infections had been reported.

On Wednesday local authorities and representatives from several ministries launched their response to the outbreak, which centred on a village-wide poultry cull that saw 710 ducks and 350 chickens eliminated by day’s end.

The ministry ordered the cull on Tuesday after several ducks killed in an unidentified outbreak tested positive for the H5N1 virus, commonly known as bird flu. Before the results were announced, more than 19,500 ducks had died and 35,000 had fallen ill.

Cambodia reported its first case of H5N1 in poultry in January 2004. Four human cases of bird flu were reported in Cambodia between February and May of 2005, all of them fatal. There have been nine known cases of bird flu in Cambodia. Two of them, including the case of a Kampong Cham man diagnosed in December, have been non-lethal.

High power rates spark Kandal demonstration

Photo by: Uy Nousereimony
Kandal Stung district governor Choie Sobin faces villagers protesting high power rates on Thursday.

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Friday, 05 February 2010 15:04 May Titthara

A CROWD of around 200 villagers in Kandal province’s Kandal Stung district attempted to stage a protest in front of provincial headquarters on Thursday to demand lower electricity prices, but were dispersed by military police, villagers said.

Villager Cham Roeun Kunthear, 46, said that the private electricity provider serving the district, the Chhay Neng Company, was overcharging its customers and only providing them with half of the capacity mandated by the government.

“We intended to ask the provincial governor to intervene on our behalf in our dispute with the Chhay Neng Company. First of all, government policy allows each household a 10-ampere connection installed for US$27.36. Chhay Neng charges us $57.50 for installation, more than twice as much as they should, and the connection is only 5 amperes,” she said.

“We would also like to see the monthly price reduced from 1,700 riels to 1,100 riels per kilowatt-hour. The reason we feel justified in asking for this price reduction is because an officer of Electricite du Cambodge (EDC) met with us on October 19 and told us that the EDC charges households in similar villages 1,150 riels per kilowatt-hour,” Cham Roeun Kunthear.

The EDC power grid, which extends partially into Kandal province, has yet to reach most households in its service range. In some areas, independent local power companies such as Chhay Neng fill in the gap, but often charge rates even higher than major networks.

Villager Yev Sophat said that after military police blocked the protesters from entering the provincial headquarters, Kandal Stung district Governor Choie Sobin came outside and promised to hold a meeting on the issue on Friday.

“However, I’ve already lost confidence in the district authorities, because I’ve met with them about five times already and I did not get any resolution,” he said.

“If tomorrow’s meeting does not have a positive outcome, we will go protest in front of the prime minister’s house.”

Choie Sobin confirmed that he had arranged for a meeting on Friday and said he had “invited EDC officers to come meet with the villagers face to face in order to reach a resolution”, although he did not indicate whether Chhay Neng representatives would be present at the meeting.

Chhay Neng, the owner of the Chhay Neng Company, could not be reached for comment on Thursday.

The Kandal Stung protest comes as EDC customers, including those in Kandal province, learned on Wednesday that a steep price hike would take effect this month.

Since 2006, EDC customers in Phnom Penh as well as in Kandal province using less than 50 kilowatt-hours of electricity per month paid 390 riels per kilowatt-hour.

Under the new pricing system, those customers will pay 610 riels per kilowatt-hour. Those who use more than 50 kilowatt-hours per month will pay 720 riels per kilowatt-hour, EDC representatives announced at a meeting in Phnom Penh on Wednesday.

Takeo court to hear disinformation case


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Friday, 05 February 2010 15:04 Chrann Chamroeun and David Boyle

WELL-KNOWN Radio Free Asia reporter Sok Serey and four other men charged with spreading disinformation about a Cham Muslim community leader in Takeo province will stand trial on February 9, court officials confirmed Thursday.

The five men were charged in 2008 after a radio report by Sok Serey that featured comments from the four other defendants about a dispute between Cham Muslim community leader Ry Mab and 206 villagers from his mosque.

In a complaint filed to leaders of the Cham Muslim community in late 2008, villagers from Kampong Yol commune, Borei Cholsar district, called for Ry Mab’s dismissal, alleging he had stolen 10 million riels (US$2,406) from a local community project.

None of the accused were willing to comment on the case on Thursday, but Sok Serey’s lawyer, Muong Sokun, said his client would show up to court with evidence proving his innocence.

“As a lawyer, I will try my best to find justice for my client because he is innocent and he broadcasted this story keeping his subjects confidential – he didn’t damage the individual’s [Ry Mab’s] reputation as he is alleged to have done,” he said.

But investigating judge Tith Sothy said Sok Serey had acknowledged that his broadcast contained disinformation.

“The trial will definitely be held on February 9 against the five men on the charge of disinformation, after over four months of investigation,” he said.

The story at the heart of the dispute, which also featured two activists from the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights and two local church representatives, led another local church representative, Rim Math, to file a complaint against the five men.

CCHR President Ou Virak said his organisation would do its best to provide legal support for the two activists, but was careful to emphasise that they were not official representatives.

“They’re local activists, and they dared to speak to Radio Free Asia, and because of that they were charged, so obviously we’re trying to find legal representation for them,” he said.

Radio Free Asia was unavailable for comment on Thursday but issued a press statement that it would not comment on ongoing legal matters.

“We hope authorities follow due process of the law, and that any court trial is conducted in a fair, credible and transparent manner,” the statement said.

Free speech in a slide: Adhoc

Photo by: Pha Lina
A woman pays respects to the image of a spirit house attached to the fence around the former Dey Krahorm community. An Adhoc report has found that there were fewer land seizures in 2009 than in 2008.

via CAAI News Media

Friday, 05 February 2010 15:04 May Titthara

FREEDOM of expression took a turn for the worse in 2009, as critics and rights activists were regularly prosecuted for speaking out against the government, according a new report released by the local rights group Adhoc.

Adhoc president Thun Saray said the year saw at least 22 legal complaints filed by government officials against dissident politicians and civil society groups, as well as an additional 25 complaints against journalists – figures that parallel a similar crackdown in 2005.

“If we compare 2009 to 2008, freedom of expression has contracted because of government restrictions,” he said during the launch of the group’s annual report on Thursday.

“The right to freedom of expression gets better when elections are approaching, but there is a tendency for it to restrict after the election passes.”

The report indicates that threats against human rights defenders have been a major and continuing concern over the past three years. There were 164 legal prosecutions against human rights defenders in 2008, but in 2009, 235 activists – mostly involved with land rights issues – faced charges, and 147 were arrested. Of those, 89 were granted bail and 58 remained in custody. The remaining 88 have managed to elude questionable arrest warrants.

The report also states that rapes of women and children showed no sign of decreasing in 2009. A greater proportion of reported rapes in 2009 involved underage victims, with 78.2 percent under 18 years of age, compared with 67 percent in 2008. Out of the 460 cases received by Adhoc, 66 were mediated at local police stations and concluded with the informal payment of compensation, meaning no criminal charges were brought.

Despite a drop in the number of land seizures last year, the report added that a greater number of civilians were arrested and prosecuted in relation to land disputes compared with the previous year.

It added that many people have lost confidence in conflict-resolution mechanisms at the local level, which has forced an increased number to take their grievances to the national level.

However, the report states, national authorities “lack the attention and willingness to provide justifiable solutions to these conflicts, leaving these citizens with no further avenue for redress”.

“The authorities should recognise the people’s rights to housing,” Thun Saray said.

“They want to live in the town even if they have a narrow space because they can have jobs to support their families. The authorities should care about the poor people, too, and not just relocate people from the town to make the city clean for tycoons’ eyes.”

Cheam Yeap, a lawmaker for the ruling Cambodian People’s Party, said Adhoc had the right to report what it wanted, but argued that the proliferation of “TVs, radios, magazines, newspapers and NGOs” had increased the flow of information in the Kingdom. “People have freedom of expression, but they should not intrude on other people’s rights,” he said.

Regarding land evictions, he said authorities always talked to residents about the nature of the developments well in advance and provided fair compensation in the form of money, land or housing.

Om Yentieng, the chairman of the government’s Human Rights Committee, could not be reached for comment on Thursday.

Hun Sen promises to quit smoking


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Friday, 05 February 2010 15:03 Sam Rith

AFTER surviving the turmoil of Cambodian politics for two and a half decades, Prime Minister Hun Sen has announced that he is ready to tackle a more personal challenge – quitting smoking.

“For those who don’t smoke already, it’s better not to start … I also plan to stop smoking,” he said during the inauguration of the new Ministry of Commerce building in Phnom Penh on Thursday.

“When my children got married, [I] promised that I would stop smoking when I had grandchildren,” he said.

“But now my grandchild is one year and seven days old, and I still haven’t stopped.”

However, the prime minister says he’s already cut down on his smoking habit significantly, and that he does not suffer from nicotine withdrawal symptoms.

“I don’t smoke during flights or when participating in other international meetings,” he added.

Treatment for TB to be extended to all inmates


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Friday, 05 February 2010 15:03 Mom Kunthear and Khuon Leakhana

THE government plans to expand tuberculosis treatment to all 25 prisons nationwide by 2015 in an effort to curb the spread of the disease among those behind bars, officials said this week.

Dr Mao Tan Eang, director of the National Centre for Tuberculosis and Leprosy Control (CENAT), cited a 2005 survey finding that the tuberculosis infection rate among prisoners was “five to six times higher” than that of the general population.

“In 2005, we found that 45 of 1,275 surveyed prisoners had tuberculosis, meaning that the rate is higher than for other people,” he said at a workshop held for prison officials on Wednesday.

Heng Hak, director of the prisons department at the Interior Ministry, said on Thursday that 206 out of 13,374 total prisoners have tuberculosis.

“It is difficult for us to take care of them because we lack money, there are many prisoners, and the rooms they stay in are too small,” he said.

Presently, tuberculosis treatment provided by CENAT is available in only four prisons – two in Phnom Penh, one in Siem Reap province and one in Kampong Cham province, Mao Tan Eang said.

He said similar programmes would soon be established in prisons in Battambang and Banteay Meanchey provinces.

Troops criticised again in Kampot


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Friday, 05 February 2010 15:03 Chrann Chamroeun

AN activist from the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights said Thursday that members of an army unit threatened to kill him after he took a photograph of them cutting down fruit trees on disputed land in Kampot’s Chumkiri district.

“They had already cut down the villagers’ mango, coconut and guava trees before I came. I took only one photo when they were preparing to leave the farmland, but they saw me,” said the activist, 40-year-old Prum Piseth.

“They chased me and threatened to chop me to death with knives and axes, but I evaded them safely. Then they screamed that they would kill me the next time after failing to kill me this time,” he said.

On Wednesday, residents from the district filed a complaint in provincial court against members of the same army unit, who they said had been encroaching on their land and cutting down their fruit trees.

The allegations from the CCHR activist come exactly one week after Prime Minister Hun Sen told military officials to refrain from illegal land-grabbing during a conference at the Ministry of Defence.

The families and members of the military unit have been fighting over the land since 2001. The families say they have lived in the disputed area for decades, but the soldiers say the land was given to them by their former commander.

Representatives of the 300 families living on the disputed land, located in Chres commune, say the military unit has been trying to take control of it since 2001, but that the soldiers’ threats had stopped in 2006 and had not resumed until recently.

Mam Nang, one of the people who filed the court complaint, earlier this week accused members of the military unit of threatening to rape and kill her after she caught them cutting down her fruit trees.

The unit at the centre of the allegations could not be reached for comment on either Wednesday or Thursday, nor could Chhum Socheat, spokesman for the Defence Ministry.

The Chres commune police chief, Teth Bunnos, said Thursday that he believed Prum Piseth’s account of his interaction with the soldiers.

“There was really a threat to kill him from the soldiers, and we are researching and investigating it,” he said.

“When we arrived at the scene, the four soldiers had already left, and we don’t know their identities,” he said.

A resident who identified herself only as Nang said she had grown increasingly concerned for her safety in the past few days.

“It is very quiet here, and I just live with my younger brother and a baby in the house, and they have threatened to come again and again,” she said.

Prahok orb association struggles to catch buyers

Photo by: Uy Nousereimony
A man rests after catching fish for prahok in the Tonle Sap river in Kandal province as the season drew to a close in late January.

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This prahok is very good... they just haven’t reached the mainstream yet.
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via CAAI News Media

Friday, 05 February 2010 15:03 Rann Reuy

Siem Reap Province

ONE year after its inception, a Siem Reap-based association established to promote a special “aromatic” form of prahok, or fermented fish paste, is still having trouble attracting buyers, many of whom have been driven away by the product’s high price, its director said Thursday.

The Kampong Khlaing Prahok Orb Association, which has received support from the Ministry of Commerce, was established in February 2009 by 50 families from Kampong Khlaing commune, Sotrnikum district.

Director Prum Hong said most vendors are reluctant to sell prahok orb – which is distinctive because it is white and boneless, and because it is not made with chemical preservatives – for fear that customers will be unable to afford the going price of 10,000 riels (US$2.50) per kilogramme.

Ordinary prahok generally costs between 5,000 and 6,000 riels per kilogramme.

Khuon Chansarith, the director of the provincial Commerce Department, said the product had been poorly marketed, meaning most consumers weren’t aware of its existance.

“This prahok is very good because it has high quality and sanitation,” he said. “They just haven’t reached the mainstream yet.”

Prum Hong said he had shown some prahok orb at two trade fairs, one in Siem Reap last May and another in Phnom Penh last December, adding that she had managed to sell a combined total of 80 half-kilogramme bottles.

“But vendors and markets in Phnom Penh are still hesitant to sell it because it’s double the price of ordinary prahok,” she said.

Hun Sen urges leaders to reduce trade deficit

Photo by: Pha Lina
Prime Minister Hun Sen talks to government officials Thursday at the unveiling of the new Ministry of Commerce building in Phnom Penh.

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Friday, 05 February 2010 15:02 May Kunmakara

PM tells officials to keep prices stable and fight bureaucracy

PRIME Minister Hun Sen has called for the government to reduce its trade deficit by increasing exports in a speech at the launch Thursday of the new Ministry of Commerce building in Phnom Penh.

Following a year in which Cambodia saw an 18.2 percent drop in exports, the prime minister said that all departments of government could help improve the deficit, which fell 14 percent last year due in part to the economic crisis.

“I am calling for you to concentrate on enhancing supply and export capacity, and to reduce trade deficits,” he told about 1,000 gathered government officials at the event. “By helping to facilitate trade, through keeping prices stable and reducing bureaucracy, we can ease the export process.”

Cambodia’s deficit fell to US$1.589 billion last year from $1.848 billion in 2008 as imports on everything from raw textiles to construction materials fell as growth stuttered to halt – although the GDP figure is yet to be published for 2009, international organisations including the World Bank and International Monetary Fund were forecasting a small contraction in GDP.

Although the deficit value fell last year, imports were 30 percent greater than exports in 2009, compared with a 29 percent difference in 2008 as the gap continued to widen in the wrong direction.

For instance, Cambodia imported $1.58 billion in goods from Thailand, but exported just $77.73 million in return, meaning that Thai shipments counted for 95 percent of total bilateral trade with the Kingdom.

With Vietnam the disparity was little better at 83 percent, according to figures supplied by the Vietnamese Embassy in Phnom Penh.

Hun Sen acknowledged this huge trade gap Thursday, also highlighting Cambodia’s rising exports. Overall, however, the decline in exports outstripped the fall in imports last year – shipments to the Kingdom fell 17 percent, according to official figures.

With Vietnam in particular increasingly investing in agri-processing plants in Cambodia, the government could expect for this gap to close in the longer term, but more immediately the trade deficit looks set to widen, according to an International Monetary Fund report in December.

“As the recovery starts to kick in, the deficit is projected to widen to more than 11 percent of GDP in 2010, owing principally to sluggish exports trailing rising imports and oil prices,” it said.

Hun Sen called on small and medium-sized businesses to produce high-quality goods that could also tap into domestic demand.

Police Blotter: 5 Feb 2010


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Friday, 05 February 2010 15:03 Sen David

B’BANG GANGSTERS GET DE-SWORDED
Five gangsters were arrested in Battambang’s Banon district on Wednesday after being found in possession of samurai swords while walking through a village. Police say the men used the swords to intimidate villagers. One of the five men protested his innocence because he was merely holding the weapon and not using it to threaten people. Police said they will be sent to a local NGO for re-education.
DEUM AMPIL

SEX-DEPRIVED MAN SHOOTS LABOURER
A construction worker was shot by a man who was angry about being denied sex at a guesthouse in Phnom Penh’s Chamkarmon district on Wednesday night. Police said the accused went to the guesthouse to find sex but was refused by the owner. Angry, he exited the guesthouse and waved his gun at people nearby before firing on the 34-year-old victim, who was working late. The victim said he had never met the accused man before. The shooter was arrested and sent to court.
DEUM AMPIL

THREE CHILDREN DIE IN PURSAT POOL
A grandfather found his three grandchildren dead in a pool in Pursat town on Tuesday. According to police, they died because of the carelessness of the family, as the mother went to check on her ill husband in hospital while the grandfather looked after the children. When the grandfather awoke, he discovered the children in a pond behind the house. The father said his children – two girls and a boy, aged between four and eight – loved swimming.
KAMPUCHEA THMEY

TAIWAN DRUG DEALER GETS 3-YEAR SENTENCE
Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Tuesday sentenced a Taiwanese man to three years in prison after he was found guilty of trying to traffick drugs out of Cambodia. The 36-year-old man was arrested as he was waiting to board a plane to Taiwan at Phnom Penh International Airport, after custom officials found drugs hidden in his bags. A court official said the man was a dealer and user in Taiwan, and visited Cambodia to sell to young boys.
KAMPUCHEA THMEY

AIDS CLAIMS AFRICAN MAN'S LIFE: POLICE
Doctors said a Ghanaian man found dead in his rented house in Phnom Penh’s Chamkarmon districton Wednesday died from AIDS. According to police, the owner of the house came to demand rent for the month when he discovered the 52-year-old dead in a chair with his trousers off. Doctors said his trousers were off because he was suffering from diarrhoea.
RASMEY KAMPUCHEA

CP to raise production of feed by 20 percent


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Friday, 05 February 2010 15:02 Chun Sophal

CAMBODIA’S biggest animal feed producer CP Cambodia Co Ltd announced Thursday that it would increase production 20 percent this year in a bid to respond to farmers’ demand.

Wittaya Kreangkriwit, vice president of CP Cambodia, a subsidiary of its Thai parent firm, told the Post that his company would produce 144,000 tonnes of animal feed to sell throughout the country at US$500 per tonne.

“We want to encourage more and more farmers to raise animals in order to reduce meat imports from other countries into Cambodia,” he said.

In 2009, the company, which is located in Phnom Penh, sold 120,000 tonnes of animal food to its customers at US$460 per tonne, according to company data. Total sales were worth US$55.2 million. This year, sales are expected to reach $72 million, the firm estimates.

According to Wittaya, in 2010 the company expects to buy 100,000 tonnes of red corn, currently purchased at 1,100 (US$0.23) riels per kilogram, 6,000 tonnes of cassava at 850 riels per kilogram and 1,500 tonnes of soybeans at 2,400 riels per kilogram.

Rising prices
Last year, the company bought red corn at 850 riels per kilogram, cassava at 400 riels per kilogram and soybean at 2,000 riels per kilogram as food prices fell sharply on the highs experienced in the third quarter of 2008.

Kao Phal, director of the Department of Animal Health and Production at the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, said Thursday that increasing animal feed would lead to a rise in domestic meat production.

He added that many farmers are raising pigs, chickens and ducks on both subsistence and commercial farms because of high demand.

“Animal feed will, in the future, be used more and more as a basis for expanding animal farms to support meat exports needed by international markets,” he added.

Experts said they believed that farming in Cambodia is gradually becoming more commercial.

Yang Saing Koma, president of the Cambodian Centre for Study and Development in Agriculture, said that this is the case within pig and chicken farming in particular.

“Raising animals is a good choice for our farmers because they have a cheap local animal food supply,” he said.

Growth in ATMs slowed to just 10pc in 2009, NBC says

Photo by: Sovan Philong
An ACLEDA Bank customer uses an ATM machine in December at the lender’s headquarters on Monivong Boulevard in Phnom Penh. ACLEDA added 26 of the 33 new ATMs installed in the Kingdom last year, whereas ANZ Royal, which runs the most, adding no new machines.

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Friday, 05 February 2010 15:01 Nguon Sovan

Rate of new machines falls way below previous growth since first ATM in 2004

THE spread of ATMs in the Kingdom slowed to 10 percent growth last year, from 91 percent in 2008, new figures from the National Bank of Cambodia show.

The NBC annual report says that 371 ATMs are active in the Kingdom, up from 338 in 2008.

This 10 percent rise, in a year in which several new banks were launched, including Sacombank of Vietnam and State Bank of India, compares with a 91 percent annualised increase in the number of ATMs in 2008.

Stephen Higgins, CEO of ANZ Royal, said Tuesday that his bank did not install any new machines last year.

“So far, we have around 130 ATMs. We believe that the total number is about right for where Cambodia is today,” he said. “But in the last year, we did take some that weren’t being used very much and moved them into more popular areas.”

Some banks, however, have chosen to expand their operations throughout the Kingdom.

In Channy, president and CEO of ACLEDA, said Thursday that his bank installed 26 new ATMs last year, bringing its total number to 86. Of the new machines, one was installed in each of country’s 23 provinces with three additional cash outlets in Phnom Penh.

“We plan to reach 119 machines by the end of this year,” he added. In Channy explained that an ATM costs about US$30,000 to install, and that electricity shortages in rural areas have proved an obstacle to expansion.

New commercial banks launched in the last 12 months also plan to extend ATM coverage.

HwangDBS, which opened in Phnom Penh in July, has only two ATMs to cater for its 300 customers – who have received loans of $2.5million and deposited several million dollars so far, according to country head Han Penh Kwang.

“We plan to install more ATMs this year as we plan to open one or two new branches. The more ATMs we have, the more convenient our services are for customers,” he said.

Officials from the State Bank of India – though they have no plans to introduce ATMs in 2010 – are considering where expansion lies for cash machine provision.

“The future growth of this sector lies in the unbanked rural areas of Cambodia,” Ramesh Chandra Baliarsingh, State Bank of India’s chief executive in Cambodia, said Thursday.

“Too many ATMs, crowded in urban centres will strain limited resources and infrastructure available.”

Canadia Bank introduced the first ATM to the Kingdom in June 2004.

Building up bokator

Photo by: BYRON PERRY
Say Tevine (right) and Phearom Hok strike aggressive poses at the Mohanokor Bokator Club in Siem Reap.

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Friday, 05 February 2010 15:01 Byron Perry

Cambodian national kickboxing champion Say Tevine and his trainer Phearom Hok are teaching lucky Western disciples roundhouse kicks and kidney punches at Siem Reap Hostel every Thursday night.

The classes, which introduce the traditional Khmer art of bokator, start at 7:30pm, cost $5 and have been running for three weeks.

At the classes, the fighters instruct flabby barang on the correct way to punch downward from the head and how to grab a kick, twist the opponent into an awkward position and deliver a bone-breaking blow to the leg.

Muscular Say Tevine, 22, has Khmer tattoos across his chest and a sparkly, faux-diamond stud on an incisor tooth. He’s still buzzing from winning the gold medal in the 65kg weight class at the Bokator National Championships, held at Olympic Stadium in Phnom Penh in September. He didn’t win a lot of money, but he did gain a lot of pride and a nice medal. “I was incredibly happy to win,” he says.

Say Tevine and Phearom Hok were asked by Grand Master San Kim Sean, the boss of the Cambodia Bokator Federation in Phnom Penh, to move to Siem Reap and start a bokator club 10 months ago.

They established the Mohanokor Club in a dirt road neighbourhood near Psar Leu market on National Road 6, where they hold nightly classes for Siem Reap boys and men.

Phearom Hok says Mohanokor is the only bokator club in Siem Reap, and adds, “Most of our students are workers and tour guides. I love my culture and I want to keep it alive. I want the next generation to learn about the culture, so I love teaching. If you go to Bayon or Angkor Wat temples, the carvings on the wall show the history of bokator. It makes me proud."

New Raffles boss checks in


The dapper Robert Hauck is the new general manager of the Raffles Grand Hotel d’Angkor in Siem Reap. PHOTO SUPPLIED

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
My wife emailed saying she loves it here. once the wife is happy it's easy to settle in--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

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Friday, 05 February 2010 15:01 Post Staff

The new Raffles Grand Hotel d’Angkor general manager Robert Hauck has been in town for less than two weeks, but already he feels at home.

Hauck began his career at the Fairmont in Bermuda, part of Fairmont Raffles Hotels International – the group that owns all the Raffles properties. But for the last seven years he’s been with the Shangri-La hotel group, most recently serving as general manager in Taipei for almost three years.

“I’m glad to be back in the Raffles family,” said the immaculately turned out German.

Hauck, a triathlon enthusiast, had quite a presence at an interview in the Raffles lobby, even among the well-heeled luxury hotel guests. He wore a perfectly tailored dark suit with an open-collared shirt and cuff links, looking ├╝ber-dapper.

The hotelier began his new gig in Siem Reap by leaving to attend a conference for Raffles general managers in Dubai.

“It was the perfect way to start because I got to know everyone. My wife stayed in Siem Reap while I was gone, and she emailed me saying she loves it here,” he said. “Once the wife is happy it’s easy to settle in.”

Are there any big plans for the hotel under his tenure?

“Of course, but I can’t disclose them,” Hauck said. But already the hotel must be doing some things right – it has the highest guest satisfaction index in the Fairmont Raffles group.

Also in December the Raffles Grand Hotel d’Angkor was awarded a five-star certification by the Cambodian Ministry of Tourism, the first in the Kingdom according to Hauck.

“A five-person delegation stayed at the hotel and did an inspection,” said Hauck. “No other hotel has been recognised yet.”

Tiny dancers

Photo by: PETER OLSZEWSKI
Khmer girls dance at the Preah Ang Chiek Preah Ang Chhorm Shrine in Siem Reap.

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Friday, 05 February 2010 15:01 Aye Sapay Phyu and Cherry Thein

Fourteen young Khmer girls, dressed in flowing white garb with coconut flowers in their hair, danced sinuously to the rhythm of traditional classical music. The Preah Ang Chiek Preah Ang Chhorm Shrine in Siem Reap, next to the Royal Residence, was the venue enlightened by their sashays.

As the girls went through their paces on the evening of January 26, a growing band of lucky tourists gathered, gob-smacked, to watch this ritual unfold. The looks of delight on the crowd’s faces proved they knew they were seeing something special, but of course they were unaware of the significance of the proceedings.

They were unaware that the shrine where the ritual was taking place was the most sacred site in Siem Reap and that the images of the divinities within the shrine are considered the most powerful in the town.

They were unaware, too, that the ritual was unfolding in the presence of royalty and that two of the three women sitting on a prayer mat among the dancers were princesses, including one of Cambodia’s most legendary classical dancers, Her Royal Highness Princess Bopha Devi, and her daughter, Princess Norodom Sisowath.

The third woman was the “mother” of the tribe of little dancers, Lady Ravynn Karet-Coxen, although she was quick to tell 7Days, “You can drop the lady bit and just call me Ravynn Karet-Coxen as it is more in tune with the work I do with the most destitute, thank you.”

The dancing girls were part of a troupe that had been lovingly trained by Ravynn Karet-Coxen, the founder of the Nginn Karet Foundation for Cambodia (NKFC) Conservatoire Preah Ream Bopha Devi dance school, of which Coxen is chairperson.

Princess Bopha Devi, the patron of the school, had come to the sacred shrine on the evening of January 26 to partake in the ritual and to pray for the good health of the King Father and the King, to pray for the government so that it can lead the country well, and to pray to the dance divinity and the dance spirit of ancient Angkor.

But more importantly, the ritual at the shrine was the culmination of a day of celebration marking the third anniversary of Ravynn Karet-Coxen’s dance school at nearby Banteay Srei, the first and only in the Angkor Archaeological Park and the only school of its kind in the Kingdom.

The onlooking tourists were lucky to see the performance because usually the dancers are hidden and protected from the prying eyes to “preserve their purity” as Ravynn Karet-Coxen put it.

She said her school was not intended to train dancers to entertain people for money.

She claimed the dancing taught in her school helps the children learn to respect their god and divinities, and explained that the little dancers usually perform in temples and sacred areas for the gratification of the Gods and the King, and that last year the dancers performed their first royal private performance for the king’s birthday.

She added that her dancers are never allowed to wear heavy costumes, jewellery or make-up on their faces, like the so-called traditional dancers who perform in public for tourists. Her dancers are also instructed to dance in bare feet on Mother Earth, and not on carpets and stages.

“We do not dance just for happiness or money,” Ravynn Karet-Coxen emphasised. “And certainly not to entertain tourists in the hotels. We don’t need them. We are dancing for our God.”

The Phnom Penh Post News in Brief


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Last 16 round Cup ties

Friday, 05 February 2010 15:00 Dan Riley

WEEKEND matches at the Olympic Stadium will conclude the last 16 knockout round of the 2010 Samdech Hun Sen Cup. Takeo based club Kirivong will be favourites against impressive Kampong Chhnang team Rithi Sen Saturday at 2:00pm, while the later kickoff of 4:00pm sees talented provincial side Koh Kong face the might of the National Defence Ministry. On Sunday, inaugural Cup winners Khemara Keila meet Prek Pra Keila in the early kickoff before 2008 runners up Preah Khan Reach look to brush past last 16 debutants Oddar Meanchey.

AFF hold coach course

Friday, 05 February 2010 15:00 Ung Chamroeun

Football Federation of Cambodia (FFC) deputy general secretary May Tola, FFC official Keo Sareth, and Cambodian national team coach Scott O’Donell, completed a four-day seminar for technical directors in Petaling Jaya, Malaysia Wednesday, co-organised by the Asean Football Federation (AFF) and the French Football Federation. According to the official AFF website, a total of 18 representatives from all Asean countries except Brunei, and including Timor Leste, participated in the course which saw them work through practical sessions and intense theoretical classroom lessons with French coaching experts Gerard Houllier and Eric Mombaerts.

Game week 24 winner

Friday, 05 February 2010 15:00 Dan Riley

ANOTHER dozen fixtures were crammed into gameweek 24, but a relatively tepid set of scores kept the Post Fantasy league tallies low. A platonic menage a trois of managers made the top grade this time out, including Sok Bunneang’s Sangha FC (who also won game week 22), Chelsea Senior’s Chelsilia and the unconventionally named V.remee Y.U with his side Cam-sport. The tactician trio scored a total of 83 points each to claim their US$20 phone card voucher and T-shirt from Cellcard, with all teams featuring the unstoppable Nicolas Anelka of Chelsea for 10 points, while Sangha fielded Leyton Baines for 9 points and the other two picked Stephen Hunt for 12 points. Deadline this Saturday is the usual 6:30pm for transfers.

Boxing tourney at TV5


Friday, 05 February 2010 15:00 Ung Chamroeun

KAO Roomchang faces Sarim Vanthan, and Loek Vibol meets Keo Bunheng at the TV5 boxing arena in Takhmao Sunday for the last round of preliminaries in the 63.5-kilogram championship sponsored by K-Cement. Though the first match is relatively insignificant, with Kao Roomchang already qualified for the semifinals and his opponent already out, the second crucial bout sees veteran Loek Vibol making his 80th appearance in the ring against the 23-year-old from Preah Khan Reach club.

New commerce ministry

Friday, 05 February 2010 15:00 Soeun Say

PRIME Minister Hun Sen inaugurated the new US$5 million Ministry of Commerce building Thursday in Phnom Penh. The new ministry, located in the capital’s Toek Thla commune, Sen Sok district, was completed in December after nearly two and a half years of construction, according to a ministry press release Thursday. The Attwood Company completed construction of the two ministry buildings which sit within a 13,650-square-metre compound. The site includes a library and a video conference room.

Sex-abuse legislation tightened

http://www.smh.com.au/
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JONATHAN PEARLMAN
February 5, 2010

POLICE will be able to destroy computers carrying suspected child pornography even when the material is highly encrypted and impossible to access, under a tightening of federal sex-offence laws.

But police are also understood to be pressing the government for greater powers against suspects who refuse to reveal passwords.

At present, offenders who refuse to hand over passwords can be sentenced to up to six months' jail but are able to avoid longer sentences for incriminating material.

The commissioner of the Australian Federal Police, Tony Negus, said yesterday the new laws would give the police the ability to destroy computers - not just files - to ensure that potentially criminal material was not returned to offenders.

''In many instances, people use encryption devices to make it very difficult for us to ascertain exactly what is in a particular file in a particular computer. This will allow us to seize that encrypted computer device and have it destroyed, rather than the law, as it currently sits, where ultimately this would be returned to the owner,'' Mr Negus said.

The Home Affairs Minister, Brendan O'Connor, announced a range of measures to tighten federal sex-abuse laws, including a crackdown on child sex tourism and postal services to buy and distribute illegal pornography.

The changes include offences targeting commercial child-sex tour operators and people suspected of planning overseas child-sex trips.

''These laws will help make our children safer,'' Mr O'Connor said.

''The internet is endlessly transforming. We need laws to keep up with the technological changes.''

The AFP has been targeting ''child-sex tourism hot spots'' in Thailand, Cambodia and the Philippines, including towns and areas that are well-known destinations for overseas paedophiles.

The national manager of the federal police's high-tech crime operations, Assistant Commissioner Neil Gaughan, said police had seen an increase in child pornography involving penetration, including abuse by women. He said the material was mostly created in Russia and North America.

Offenders in Australia have been caught creating child porn privately but are not known to have created material for commercial use.

Mr Negus said child pornography rings were increasingly using social networking and were at the ''forefront of encryption''.

''This is a growing problem. As we get more into the technology our covert practices become more entrenched and enhanced, we are seeing more of this activity.''

The Government also yesterday passed legislation targeted at organised crime, including greater protection for undercover police and powers to charge criminals with ''unexplained wealth''.