Thursday, 18 February 2010

DAP News ; Breaking News by Soy Sopheap

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PM Rejects Border Mine Planting Charge

Thursday, 18 February 2010 03:10 DAP-NEWS

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen on Wednesday rejected accusations that Cambodia had been planting new landmines along the border.

Speaking to some 1,000 deminers at the handover of de-mining equipment from the Japanese government, he said that “Cambodia has been allegedly accused of planting new landmines in the area along the borders. I wish to assure that those locations are densely contaminated with landmines and the landmines had been planted by various fighting factions in the past.”

“It is nothing surprising that, when someone enters the areas where landmines have not yet been cleared, he could have an accident,” he said. “Not to mention the fact that foreign soldiers have little understanding of the geographic layout of the area, as even soldiers of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces stationed at the borders and Cambodian villagers living near the mined areas also face danger if they enter the areas where landmines have not been cleared.”

Hun Sen said the number of mine casualties has dropped significantly but UXOs remain a major threat.

At the ceremony, the Japanese government donated 588 mine detectors, 44 deep-search detectors, spare parts for mine clearance machines and a mobile repair unit. The equipment is worth about US$5.5 million.

A report from Cambodian Red Cross said that in 2004-2005 the number of victims was as high as 800 people per year but in 2008-2009, this number had dropped to just over 200 victims, the premier confirmed.

Heng Ratana, Director-General of CMAC, said in the ceremony that CMAC is dedicated to its four core activities: Mine Awareness; Mine Marking and Survey Activities; Mine/UXO Clearance and Training.

“Currently, the Cambodian Mine Action Centre is staffed with 2,500 people who are employed in the Headquart er in Phnom Penh, Demining Units located in some provinces and the Training Centre in Kampong Chhnang,” he added.

Masafumi Kuroki, Japanese Ambas- sador to the Kingdom of Cambodia, said that “The Government of Japan has supported de-mining activities of CMAC in various forms of assistance amounting, up to date, over US$110 million which include the provision of de-mining equipment and technical cooperation since 1999, the provision of fund through UNDP, and the assistance to several NGOs working in de-mining activities.”

In another story, the Thai embassy in Cambodia will offer aid to a Thai convicted of planting landmines along Thai-Cambodia border and who was subsequently sentenced to 20 years in jail, Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya said recently.

Diplomats are looking into what assistance the government is able to provide, Kasit was quoted as saying by the Nation.

In a hearing last week, Suphap Vong Pakna confessed to planting at least five explosive devices along the Cambodia-Thailand border, claiming Thai soldiers paid him to do so.

Japan Donates US5.5 Million for UXO Clearance

Thursday, 18 February 2010 03:09 DAP-NEWS

PM Hun Sen on Wednesday presided over ceremony held to formally receive mine clearance equipment from the Japanese government.

“This time the equipment grant aid is worth US$5.5 million including 588 mine detectors, 44 deep search detectors, spare parts for mine clearance machines and a mobile repair and the maintenance workshop, he said.

The equipment aid is to support and ensure the continuity of CMAC’s de-mining operations, and “responds to the needs of the Cambodian people and the government to have the landmines and unexploded ordnance cleared in order to pave the way for the improvement of the Cambodian people’s livelihood and the reconstruction of the country” the PM told the ceremony.

“This large amount of the grant aid further indicates the strongly determined position of the government and people of the Japan in making significant contributions to enable Cambodia to deal with the challenges and the deadly legacy of the millions of landmines and UXO remaining scattered all over the kingdom, especially in the rural farming areas,” he said, adding that thousands of families are directly and indirectly exposed to the constant threats posed by this hazardous remnant of war.

Hun Sen highlighted that under win-win policy of the government, the war was finally brought to a close end at the end of 1998, but the burden remains to be shouldered by the government—not only in integrating human resources, building physical infrastructure, and solving other difficult problems—but also in handing the challenges leftover by the remnants of war, including landmines and other UXO, some of which date to the second war. “Battling the landmines and UXO problem is therefore a very important and strategic objective of the government and its development partners to determinedly undertake in our effort to ensure that Cambodia and its people will enjoy full safety and security after the complete peace and national unity have been restored,” he said.

The premier said that, despite the fact that the government and its development partners have joined hands to deal with the landmines and UXO for more than ten years, there is still huge number of landmines and other items of UXO scattered over villages, farmland, paddy fields and many other locations, and they still pose constant threats to innocent people who reside in former battle areas. “Many people have become permanently handicapped or tragically lost their lives to these hazardous items. More than these landmines and UXOs continue to pose formidable threats to the villagers using their land for growing crops to feed their families and cause great impediments to efforts of the infrastructure rehabilitation and reconstruction of the country,” he stressed.

He added, however, that as a result of the combined great efforts, the number of landmines and UXO casualties has dropped remarkably in recent years. According to the Cambodian Red Cross’s statistical report on landmines and UXO victims, in 2004-2005 the number of victims was as high as 800 people per year. By 2008-2009, this number dropped to just over 200 per year. “As a result, approximately, 27,000 hectares of land has been cleared of landmines, while around two million pieces of landmines and UXO have been removed. It proactively helps the government to rebuild the rural infrastructure and contributes to providing a safer land for people for farming and grow agricultural crops,” he noted.

Hun Sen said that the tenth anniversary of Ottawa Convention in Cartagena, Colombia not only approved Cambodia’s proposal to extend its landmines clearance mandate for another ten years, but also approved Cambodia to be the host country for organizing the eleventh conference which is scheduled to take place in November or early December 2011, with the expected attendance of some 900 participant s from over 150 countries and the major international organizations. At the same time, Cambodia will serve as chair of the convention for one year mandate in 2012. Moreover, CMAC should continue to strengthen its capacity to prepare for competition at the national and international levels in the free market of the de-mining sector, he added. Moreover, Masafumi Kuroki, Japanese ambassador to Cambodia said that this is fifth time that my government provides a package if equipment to Cambodia’s de-mining activities following 1 to phase four assistance in 1999,2000, 2002, and 2004 respectively. The Japanese government has supported de-mining activities of CMAC in various forms of assistance amounting, up to date, over $110 million which include the provision of de-mining equipment and technical cooperation since 1999, the provision of fund through UNDP and the assistance to several NGOs working in de-mining activities, he said. “ It is a fundamental objective of the aid policy of the Japanese government to contribute to the peace –building, to promote development and to reassure human dignity in developing countries, he said, adding that CMAC has already cleared 25,141 hectares of land and 2 million landmines and uxos since 1999 up to 2009. I hope the assistance from the people and Japanese government with the provision of de-mining equipment will enable safer and more effective de-mining activities of CMAC and increase further the number of Cambodian people who can enjoy the peace dividend and lead peaceful life. In this way, Japan will continue to assist Cambodian in its efforts to develop the nation and to reduce poverty, he added.

Heng Ratana, director general of CMAC, said that CMAC is currently able to clear over 35 square kilometers each year. But CMAC will require resources and equipment, as well as funding of over US$95 million to support the operation for the next five years. “We are proud of our great achievement and satisfactory outcome but landmines and exploded ordnance continue to be major threats.”

Uneventful Chinese-Vietnamese New Year: Commissioner

Thursday, 18 February 2010

Phnom Penh Police Commissioner Touch Naroth reported an uneventful Chinese-Vietnamese New Year in the capital.

In an interview with Soy Sopheap, DAP Media Center Director-General, Touch Naroth said that this New Year’s had seen no serious mishaps like robbery, murder or fatal traffic accidents.

“However, I would express my regret that a rape case took place in the capital, and a small grass fire, but the authority intervened in time,” he added.

The commissioner claimed that the incidence of forbidden firecrackers in Phnom Penh was not on a large scale as “most Phnom Penh citizens understand better and pay attention carefully to protect and practice following the authority’s education.”

Valentise’s Day was also uneventful, the commissioner claimed, thanking the armed forces and security officials and local citizens for keeping order.

Playing the waiting game

Photo by: Sovan Philong

via CAAI News Media

Thursday, 18 February 2010 15:05 Sovan Philong

Khmer Krom asylum seekers deported from Thailand in December await news about their bid for Cambodian citizenship at a one-room rental home in Meanchey district on Wednesday. The group of 22, who are being supported by local NGOs until their paperwork is processed, say they fled government persecution in their native south Vietnam. Under Cambodian law, all ethnic Khmers are automatically eligible for Cambodian citizenship.

Balking at the cluster bomb ban

Photo by: Tracey Shelton
Roger Hess of Golden West Humanitarian Foundation points to a cluster bomb in Kampong Cham in 2008.

via CAAI News Media

Thursday, 18 February 2010 15:05 Irwin Loy

ADVOCATES for disarmament are declaring a “major milestone” after a global treaty banning the use of cluster bombs was ratified this week, meaning the long-awaited agreement covering the deadly weapons will take effect within six months.

But the news also casts a spotlight on Cambodia, which has so far held back from signing the Convention on Cluster Munitions despite having taken a leadership role in the international debate.

The convention was pushed forward Tuesday after a 30th country officially ratified the international agreement. It means that the treaty will enter into effect August 1, explicitly prohibiting all use of deadly cluster munitions and banning countries from producing, transferring or stockpiling the weapons.

Steve Goose, the arms division director at Human Rights Watch, said he was pleased by the “extraordinarily rapid pace” in which countries have supported the convention. “It shows the international community is unified in its conviction that this is a weapon that should not be used,” he said.

But Goose said he was “disappointed” that Cambodia and neighbouring Thailand still have not come on board.

“At the beginning of the diplomatic process, Cambodia was one of the more outspoken countries, saying that cluster munitions are like land mines,” Goose said. “They were one of the key spokespeople in trying to move the thing forward.”

However, Cambodia surprised observers when the convention was opened for countries to sign during a December 2008 meeting in Norway.

Though it declared “full support” for the convention, Cambodia was not among the more than 100 countries that signed on.

“Due to the recent security development, Cambodia now needs more time to study the impacts of the convention on its security capability and national defence,” Hor Nambora, Cambodia’s ambassador to the UK, said in a statement on December 4, 2008.

A Cambodian official said Wednesday that the government still intends to sign on to the convention “as soon as possible”.

“It’s the will of the government to sign,” said Prak Sokhon, secretary of state at the Council of Ministers and vice president of the Cambodian Mine Action and Victim Assistance Authority. “We would like to send a clear message that Cambodia doesn’t want to have such kinds of bombs.”

Prak Sokhon downplayed suggestions that authorities were reluctant to dismantle its cluster munitions if neighbouring Thailand, which disarmament observers believe possesses the weapons, doesn’t follow suit.

“Vietnam and Thailand are not signatories of the cluster munitions convention. But even if those two countries do not sign, Cambodia is still willing,” said Prak Sokhon, who said authorities must also examine what it has to do to abide by the strict language of the convention before agreeing to its terms.

“Signing the cluster munitions convention right now will firstly affect our defence capacity, but at the same time it would put us in a very difficult situation,” he said.

In Southeast Asia, the only countries to sign on to the convention have been Indonesia, the Philippines and Laos, which is believed to be the most heavily contaminated country for cluster munitions.

Cluster munitions are seen as particularly controversial weapons because of the residual damage they leave behind. Like land mines, unexploded cluster munitions can lie dormant for years before being unearthed, causing severe injury and death years after they are deployed.

“Cluster munitions are huge bombs which contain about 1,000 small bomblets inside,” said Sister Denise Coghlan of Jesuit Refugee Service, who has worked extensively on anti-land mine campaigns. “What happens is that once you drop one, the bomblets are exploded over the area the size of a football field.

“The theory is that they all go off. They explode on impact, and there’s no further damage. But this is completely not true.”

Unexploded cluster munitions in Cambodia are primarily the result of the US military’s secretive Vietnam-era bombing campaign in the Kingdom between 1969 and 1973, according to a 2007 analysis by the group Handicap International.

Between 1.3 and 7.8 million bomblets remained unexploded, the report said.

Many of the bomblets still pose a risk, particularly to children who stumble upon the deadly weapons.

“Cluster munitions are deadly,” said Jamie Franklin, country programme manager for the Mines Advisory Group (MAG), which has two explosive-ordnance disposal teams working in the eastern part of the country where the munitions are concentrated.

The tennis ball-sized devices most commonly found in areas MAG covers are deadly, containing explosives surrounded by a shrapnel casings designed to explode, fragment and injure.

Their wide blast radius means a single piece of ordnance often results in multiple casualties.

“People still do get injured,” Franklin said. “Over the last few years, casualties from [unexploded ordnance] are about to take over land-mine casualties on an annual basis.”

Over a six-month period last year, a MAG team in Stung Treng reported that 90 percent of the ordnance it cleared were cluster munitions, Franklin said.

UXO remains a threat
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Hun Sen warned Wednesday that millions of Cambodian families remain threatened by land mines and unexploded ordnance, with 670 square kilometres still believed to be contaminated.

“Thousands of families are directly and indirectly exposed to the constant threats posed by the hazardous remnants of war,” Hun Sen said during a ceremony to receive demining equipment from the Japanese government.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY CHEANG SOKHA

Age rule for acid buyers debated


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Thursday, 18 February 2010 15:04 Mom Kunthear

AUTHORITIES examining how to draft a new law that counters acid attacks are debating instituting a minimum age for people to buy the corrosive liquid, officials said Wednesday at a meeting with local vendors.

A Ministry of Interior committee met Wednesday with nine acid sellers in Phnom Penh, part of a series of meetings aimed at examining how to combat a recent spike in reported acid attacks.

“People who can buy and sell acid should not be younger than 20 years old,” said Ouk Kimlek, a secretary of state at the ministry and the committee’s deputy director.

Acid vendors could be required to demand and record identification from would-be purchasers as part of a new law, Ouk Kimlek suggested.

“The sellers should ask anyone who comes to buy acid for an identity card, their name, age and phone number, before selling to them, because it makes it easier for authorities to investigate,” he said.

Ouk Kimlek has proposed the age restriction as part of a draft law being considered. Other proposals include legislating stiff punishments – up to life in prison – for those convicted of using acid in a serious violent crime.

But the committee is also aware that regulations present logistical problems and could be difficult to enforce, Ouk Kimlek said, adding that he hoped both vendors and people who often require acid for legal purposes – the liquid is commonly used in motor vehicles, to clean jewelry and to unclog drains – will work with authorities to make any new law effective.

Some acid vendors, however, remain wary of proposed regulations.

Im Viravuth, an acid seller in Phnom Penh, who attended the meeting, said he was concerned that demanding personal details might dissuade his customers from returning.

“I am afraid that they will not come to buy again and I will lose clients in the future,” Im Viravuth said.

Phnom Penh Municipal Police Chief Touch Naruth said he was also concerned about what effects a new law might have on vendors. But he also urged citizens to work with government on the issue.

“Requiring the identity of acid buyers may not be good because it could affect the people who operate businesses,” he said. “But we would like to ask all vendors to cooperate with authorities.”

The police chief said that all forms of acid need not be regulated. Though concentrated acid can cause severe disfigurement and even death, diluted forms pose a lesser threat.

“We should find out what kind of acid can be harmful to people,” said Touch Naruth, who added that creating a law to regulate acid was the right solution.

“Acid attacks are cruel and criminal because it is not a normal liquid, but it is material that can kill and make someone become a disabled person forever,” he said. “We need to create a law to avoid it being used illegally.”

The ongoing discussions represent a policy shift for the government, which in January was against calls to regulate acid sales, saying the move would be difficult to implement.

Following a string of reported attacks last month, however, authorities announced the creation of a committee to examine the issue.

Ouk Kimlek said authorities have counted eight acid attacks so far this year.

Officials trained to spot WMD parts


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Thursday, 18 February 2010 15:04 Meas Sokchea

THIRTY government checkpoint officials have received training on how to identify materials used in the manufacture of weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) during a three-day workshop that started on Wednesday as part of a bid to help block the proliferation of such weapons.

The seminar, supported by the US Department of Energy, was attended by trainees from the ministries of Defense, Interior, Economy and Finance, as well as customs officials from airports and seaports across the country.

Deputy Prime Minister Keat Chhon told attendees that the workshop could increase knowledge for checkpoint officials engaged in identifying the illicit import or export of material used to create WMDs.

“In aiming to keep peace, political stability and social security for our people and for the world, we need to increase our ability, proficiency and cooperation to be accurate and not allow weapons of mass destruction to proliferate,” he said.

The Secretariat of the National Counterterrorism Committee has cooperated with the US government to install scanners at Sihanoukville port in order to detect radioactive materials, he said. More scanners would be provided to the General Department of Customs once those at
Sihanoukville port were fully operational.

Speaking at Wednesday’s workshop, US Ambassador Carol Rodley said that the private sector and government would continue to work together “to help identify sudden threats to international security, and to make sure that the threats are isolated”.

Police finish documentation for Khmer Krom deportees

Photo by: Sovan Philong
Khmer Krom asylum seekers await news on their bid for Cambodian citizenship at a home in Meanchey district on Wednesday.

via CAAI News Media

Thursday, 18 February 2010 15:04 Post Staff

DOCUMENTATION necessary for members of a group of Khmer Krom seeking Cambodian citizenship has been completed, a police official said Wednesday, amid fears that the 22 men, women and children who were deported from Thailand last year will lose the financial support of the NGO sheltering them at the end of the month.

Information for the individuals that was originally collected in January was sent to district authorities Wednesday, said commune Police Chief Tep Bora.

“The documents are complete now,” he said. “Before, it was difficult because the documents lacked information.”

The group was deported from Thailand as illegal immigrants after fleeing Vietnam, where they said they endured constant religious repression.

The asylum seekers have been waiting for formal identification from authorities since arriving in the Kingdom.

The identification cards are crucial for the group to visit hospitals, gain employment, enrol in schools and rent houses.

Five of the original group of 24 have returned to Thailand since December, fed up with government inaction regarding the issuing of the cards.

But a further three have since been deported by Thai authorities and have joined the group at Meanchey district’s Boeung Tumpun commune, where they have been assisted by the rights group Licadho.

Khmer Krom representative Thach Soong, 49, said Tuesday the group is still concerned about the lack of information it has received regarding the processing of the ID cards.

“We have completed the documents to send to the commune office and district office, but we have not heard any information,” he said. “We are still waiting to get legal [recognition] in Cambodia because we want to find jobs to support ourselves.”

He said that time is running out for the deportees, as Licadho can support them only until the end of February, and that their rent will run out at the end of March. “We are concerned about living. We have no jobs,” he said.

Vietnamese crackdown
In the meantime, Vietnamese authorities have banned Khmer Krom in Vietnam from watching television or listening to radio broadcasts from Cambodia, activists said, just a day after Cambodia’s Ministry of Information granted permission to the Khmer Kampuchea Krom Association (KKA) to produce programme ideas for state radio stations.

Thach Setha, director of KKA, said he had received word from Khmer Krom living in Vietnam that they had been warned against listening to or watching Cambodian broadcasts.

“Vietnamese authorities have released a written prohibition ... banning all Khmer Krom from watching TV and listening to radio from Cambodia,” he said, adding that Vietnamese authorities were patrolling around Khmer Krom houses and some pagodas. Violators “can face a savage fine of up to 10 million dong (US$535)”.

Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker Ho Vann criticised the prohibition as “racial discrimination”.

“I request that Vietnamese reconsider the stopping of the freedom to access media,” he said. “The Cambodian government ... allows the Vietnamese government and its people the right to set up broadcasting through Cambodia.”

A spokesman from the Vietnamese embassy in Cambodia could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

Overcrowded boat in Koh Kong sinks, killing seven, officials report


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Thursday, 18 February 2010 15:04 Mom Kunthear and Tep Nimol

SEVEN people died Monday after an overloaded boat sank in coastal waters off Koh Kong province, local officials said Wednesday, adding that four passengers were rescued.

Toun Sela, governor of Koh Kong’s Sre Ambel district, said tragedy struck on Monday after a family from Phnom Penh,who was visiting relatives in Sre Ambel district, rented a boat for a pleasure trip out to sea.

“They took a small boat that normally takes five or six people, but there were 12 people in the boat,” he said, adding that after leaving land, the boat sank when it got caught in a whirlpool.

Toun Sela said one of five people rescued on Monday later died. The bodies of six other passengers were not recovered until the following day.

“This is the first case of a boat sinking in Sre Ambel district, and it is because of an accident and carelessness,” he said. “I want to send a message to all people who like going out to visit the river or the sea, that they have to take care of themselves and they should not get over-excited without thinking about their safety.”

Mao Hak, director of the Department of Hydrology and River Works at the Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology, said weather conditions were normal, and that the sea around Sre Ambel District often appears calm and therefore safe, but that people should be careful, as the area can be treacherous.

He said that boat owners had a responsibility to warn renters about boat safety. “Most boat owners do not care about the safety of renters. They always overload boats,” he said, adding that many owners have life jackets but do not advise their customers to wear them.

He said that the ministry would resume a public-awareness campaign about water safety and urged people to follow the advice given.

“The ministry often used to inform people and publicise warnings for all boat drivers along the Mekong River and the sea to be equipped with life vests to protect their lives from disasters, but people have ignored these warnings,” he said.

Toun Sela said the bodies of the victims have been sent to a Koh Kong pagoda for a funeral ceremony.

The boat owner could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.

Tribunal to launch digital Web portal


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Thursday, 18 February 2010 15:04 James O'Toole

THE Khmer Rouge tribunal announced plans Wednesday to make court materials, including previously classified information, available digitally through a “virtual tribunal” project.

UN court spokesman Lars Olsen said the new portal will include “all case-related evidence which we can make public without copyright concerns”. This material, he added, will consist of “minutes of meetings from Democratic Kampuchea, situation reports from district chiefs, and all the evidence which has been classified” up to this point.

“The whole public case file would be included,” he said.

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THIS IS PART OF THE ONGOING EFFORTS FROM THE COURT TO IMPROVE ... OUTREACH ACTIVITIES.
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The “virtual tribunal” is being developed in partnership with the US’s Berkeley and Stanford universities, and will include court documents and videos as well interviews, education tools and expert commentary, the court said in a statement Wednesday. Olsen said no specific launch date has been set for the project, though the court hopes to unveil it “during this year”.

Youk Chhang, director of the Documentation Centre of Cambodia, said organising all of the court’s data on one site will make it easier for observers to follow proceedings.

“Even though the court’s public documents are already available, having this special software in place, it helps the public access better,” he said, adding that the project would “contribute to historical and legal education in Cambodia”.

Olsen said the finished product will hopefully be of use to both scholars of the Khmer Rouge era and members of the general public.

“This is part of the ongoing efforts from the court to improve and enhance its outreach activities in order to foster a greater understanding among regular Cambodians of the court process,” he said.

WWF seizes illegal meat, wood

Photo by: ROHIT SINGH/WWF
Five of seven chainsaws confiscated by WWF officers are shown after raids in Mondulkiri province earlier this month. The raids also led to the seizure of large amounts of valuable rosewood (inset).

via CAAI News Media

Thursday, 18 February 2010 15:04 Jacob Gold

A RAID conducted by a World Wildlife Fund (WWF) enforcement team on Wednesday at the market in Sen Monorom, Mondulkiri’s provincial capital, led to the confiscation of six kilogrammes of wild boar meat poached from the Mondulkiri Protected Forest, according to a release issued by the group.

Wednesday’s raid follows two successful busts earlier this month, the release said, during which patrols working with rangers from the Forestry Administration confiscated seven chain saws and large quantities of rosewood, which can sell for thousands of dollars per cubic metre, from four villages in the protected forest.

Keo Sopheak, senior project officer for the WWF’s Eastern Plains Landscape Project, which includes the Mondulkiri Protected Forest, said that enforcement teams need to maintain a rapid pace of operations in order to stem the flow of poached material from the forest.

“The number of seizures and the amount of illegal wildlife and wood confiscated is quite high,” he said. “In the case of wild meat, the average is 5 to 8 kilogrammes per raid, and wood seizures vary depending on the vehicle used for transporting wood.”

According to the release, the team that discovered the boar meat was tipped off by a call from an informant. Keo Sopheak said that this kind of tip is a relatively rare boon for a unit that depends on contacts visited on wide-ranging patrols.

“Most of our informants are from remote villages around the protected areas. As of now, we are not getting reports from the public about wildlife crimes. We are working to encourage more public involvement in our enforcement work,” Keo Sopheak said.

“As far as our informant tips are concerned, most of the time they are correct.”

Anyone wishing to report a violation of Cambodia’s wildlife laws can call WWF’s Wildlife Crime Hotline on 012404143.

TRAFFIC TOLL: Road deaths held steady over holiday


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Thursday, 18 February 2010 15:03 Mom Kunthear

TRAFFIC TOLL

Traffic accidents killed 31 people over the three-day Chinese New Year, a public safety official said on Tuesday – the same number as in 2009. Him Yan, director of the Department of Public Order at the Ministry of the Interior, said that although the number of people who died on the road over the period matched last year’s figure, the overall number of accidents saw a decline. “There were 127 road incidents across the country this year, resulting in 31 deaths, 135 serious injuries and 127 light injuries,” Him Yan said. “Last year, by comparison, there were 166 incidents, resulting in 140 serious injuries, 170 light injuries and 31 deaths.” Him Yan said that the leading causes of accidents during the holiday were speeding and drunken driving. “That’s why we need more Breathalysers and speed radars,” he said. “Right now there are only 24 Breathalyzers and five speed radars in the country.” According to laws introduced in February 2007, drivers who refuse a breath analysis face up to a month in jail and a fine of up to 200,000 riels. Drunken drivers face up to six months in prison and a fine of up to 1 million riels.

RCAF plates issued to 400 drivers: officials


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Thursday, 18 February 2010 15:03 Chhay Channyda

Amid accusations earlier this month from Sam Rainsy Party lawmakers that illegal use of official licence plates was rampant, the Ministry of Defence on Wednesday said that only 400 authentic Royal Cambodian Armed Forces plates had been approved since a 2007 law limited their use only to military personnel.

Ministry spokesman Chhum Socheat said all 400 applications were legal and that owners have paid all requisite fees on state-owned vehicles.

“Our policy for RCAF number plates is that all vehicle owners have paid vehicle taxes and have signed contracts to declare their vehicles state-owned,”he said. “This means the government may seize their cars in cases of illegal activity.”

Chhum Socheat said the ministry has stopped issuing the plates but that unregistered plates were still a problem.

“I believe there are more than 400 cars bearing RCAF plates, but military police have increased their enforcement to catch those cars bearing unpermitted plates,” he said, adding that any RCAF-registered cars involved in criminal activity could be confiscated and that the driver would face punishment from authorities.

In a letter dated February 5 that was addressed to Prime Minister Hun Sen and ratified by National Assembly President Heng Samrin, four SRP lawmakers urged the government to ramp up efforts to enforce traffic laws that ban civilian cars from using military plates.

The letter stated that under the 2007 law, anyone using unlawful plates had one year from the passage of the law to apply for civilian ones, and that while progress had been made, many drivers still used illegally obtained plates.

“Relevant ministries have taken measurements effectively so far,” the letter stated. “But recently, we have seen private vehicles bearing those military number plates that have violated the law.”

Men Sothavrin, an SRP lawmaker and signatory to the letter, said he has noticed that some vehicles bearing RCAF number plates were owned or driven by civilians, and some even by foreigners.

“Some people aren’t military officials, but use RCAF plates to do illegal logging,” he said. “It negatively affects RCAF’s reputation.”

He added that opposition lawmakers were not objecting to the use of military or police number plates by those entitled to apply for them and suggested that legitimate plate holders should paint their vehicles in military colours to help people determine which licences were legal and which ones were not.

Chhum Socheat said that the 2007 law does include such a provision but that it was rarely implemented or enforced.

“It is not a problem if legitimate plate owners do not spray [their vehicles] with military colours,” he said.

More funds must be funnelled to social spending to meet MDGs

Photo by: Pha Lina
Two children beg for money on a street corner near Olympic Stadium last month.

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Thursday, 18 February 2010 15:03 James O'Toole

REGIONAL governments must increase fiscal stimulus and social spending to counteract threats to their Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) posed by the global financial crisis, the UN and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) said in a report released Wednesday.

“Most stimulus measures have focused on areas other than social expenditures,” ADB Vice President Ursula Schaefer-Preuss said in a statement. “If we are to address the human impacts of the economic slowdown and achieve the MDGs, then social spending needs to be stepped up substantially.”

The MDGs are targets in areas such as health and education that the Cambodian government adopted in 2003 in cooperation with the UN, aiming to achieve them by 2015. The report noted the Kingdom’s progress towards MDGs related to sanitation and gender disparities in the health sector, though it cited Cambodia as one of the countries in the region most vulnerable to the effects of the financial crisis, particularly in the area of poverty reduction.

UN resident coordinator Douglas Broderick said in November that Cambodia’s social spending was low for the developing world. “On average, safety net expenditure in developing countries is in the range of 1 to 2 percent of GDP, but Cambodia’s estimated expenditure is currently lower than 1 percent,” he said.

In a draft of the National Strategic Development Plan update finalised in November, the government pledged to implement “a sizable fiscal stimulus package and a sharper focus on support for social safe net programmes”, though Cambodian Economic Association President Chan Sophal said that little progress had been made on such a stimulus to date.

“There are actually many existing efforts to help the poor or the poorest, it’s just that they are small projects,” he said.

Teen arrested on child sex charges


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Thursday, 18 February 2010 15:03 Chrann Chamroeun

A 19-YEAR-OLD man from Sen Sok district’s Phnom Penh Thmey commune has been detained for allegedly having sexual intercourse with a 12-year-old girl, police officials said on Wednesday.

Kuch Phirom, 19, was arrested on Friday after the girl’s parents filed a complaint with anti-human trafficking police, accusing the suspect of having a sexual relationship with their daughter, acting police chief of Phnom Penh’s Anti-human Trafficking and Juvenile Protection Bureau Touch Sarein said.

“At our police station, the suspect confessed to having consensual sexual intercourse with the girl four separate times from the end of 2009,” Touch Sarein said.

“He said they were both high school students and had been conducting a romantic relationship through phone conversations since September 2009.”

Touch Sarein said the case was not being treated as a rape, since testimonies from both parties involved suggested that the relationship was consensual.

But he said the case would still go to trial, adding: “The man must be prosecuted anyway for having sex with a minor under 15 years old.”

Touch Sarein said the girl’s parents had demanded financial compensation as well as prosecution.

Under Cambodia’s Suppression of Human Trafficking and Sexual Exploitation Law, adopted in 2008, the accused could face five to 10 years in prison for having sexual relations with the girl.

A trial date has not yet been set, Touch Sarein said.

Protected land given to Koh Kong villagers

Photo by: Sebastian Strangio
The 25,897-hectare Peam Krasop Wildlife Sanctuary, established in 1993, encompasses some of the world’s last intact mangrove coastal ecosystems.

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Thursday, 18 February 2010 15:03 May Titthara

THE government has approved a sub-decree reclassifying more than 1,000 hectares of protected land in Koh Kong province as social land concessions, officials said.

The sub-decree, signed by Prime Minister Hun Sen on December 31, has turned more than a 1,000 hectares of Peam Krasop Wildlife Sanctuary in Khemarak Phomin Ville’s Stung Veng commune over to housing and agricultural land for local residents.

“We plan to provide 1,053 hectares to families who have lived there for a long time and for poor people in the province that have no land to build a house,” said Phai Thuon, governor of Khemarak Phomin Ville.

The 25,897-hectare Peam Krasop Wildlife Sanctuary was established in 1993 to protect one of the world’s last intact mangrove coastal ecosystems.

Phai Thuon said the local authorities would provide 15-metre-by-50-metre plots for the estimated 500 to 600 families, living in the area. “We also plan to set up an economic development area, fishing community area, ecotourism, mangrove forests and also protect against illegal fishing,” he added.

Suop Phosen, Stung Veng commune chief, said the subdecree would finally legalise the presence of the 612 families – totaling 2,800 people – who have lived in the area since 1979. When the royal decree was handed down in 1993 establishing the protected area, he said, the people were considered to be living there illegally. “Now they have become legal again after the sub-decree was issued,” he said, adding that local authorities had been requesting a 2,000-hectare concession zone since 2007.

Anti-graft law set for passage after April 1


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Thursday, 18 February 2010 15:02 Vong Sokheng

THE country’s long-awaited Anticorruption Law is likely to be passed soon after the National Assembly reconvenes on April 1, Om Yentieng, senior minister and head of the Anticorruption Unit at the Council of Ministers, said Wednesday.

“NGOs and foreign experts [have been] deeply involved in the issue and now it is time for the government to put its hand into the process to combat corruption,” he told reporters after participating in the opening of an anticorruption training conference in Phnom Penh on Wednesday.

He said 62 members of the government’s Anticorruption Unit were taking part in the three-day training programme to learn how to design an anticorruption survey, and that three further training programmes, run by NGO Pact Cambodia with financial assistance from the US Agency for International Development (USAID), were scheduled between April and June this year.

Flynn Fuller, mission director of USAID, said Wednesday that the US would contribute training and financial assistance, and that Christine Lohrmann, a Danish researcher and expert on corruption in Cambodia, would lead the seminars.

“We know that the Anticorruption Law has been passed by the Council of Ministers and will go to the National Assembly for approval. It is expected that law will meet international standards and will be formally activated this year,” Fuller said.

“But it is only the first step and there will be many more to follow.”

He said the introduction of an anticorruption law would be a major accomplishment for the Cambodian government and implementing the law will be challenging and require a lot of hard work.

Cheam Yeap, senior lawmaker from the ruling Cambodian People’s Party, said that the National Assembly has not yet received the draft law on anticorruption from the Council of Ministers, but that he hoped the law would be passed by the end of June this year.

Sihanouk sends gift for Kim Jong Il’s birthday


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Thursday, 18 February 2010 15:02 Jacob Gold

KING Father Norodom Sihanouk sent North Korea’s Kim Jong Il a basket of flowers on Wednesday to congratulate the communist state’s supreme leader on the occasion of his 68th birthday, North Korean state media reported.

According to the report from the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), “a delegation of the Ministry of the Royal Palace of the Cambodian government led by Kong Sam Ol, deputy prime minister in charge of the Royal Palace, visited the DPRK Embassy on February 11 to lay the floral basket before the portraits of President Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il there”.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Koy Kuong said the gesture on the part of the King Father was not out of keeping with Cambodia’s diplomatic protocol.

“We have a relationship between North Korea and Cambodia. It’s normal, just as we have with other countries,” he said. “The relations between the two countries are normal right now.”

Police Blotter: 18 Feb 2010


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Thursday, 18 February 2010 15:02 Sen David

WOMAN KILLS SELF OVER FIANCÉ
A 20-year-old woman committed suicide by swallowing poison in Phnom Penh’s Dangkor district on Tuesday because she was angry at her fiancé. The woman’s family said they had decided to visit their family overseas, but that she had refused to go. When the family returned, they discovered the woman in her room with a suicide note blaming her fiancé for her decision.
KOH SANTEPHEAP

MAN, 19, ARRESTED FOR RAPING NIECE
A Siem Reap policemen arrested a man on Monday accused of raping his 17-year-old niece. Police said the drunken 19-year-old man raped the woman, who he was babysitting, while her family was visiting a pagoda. The victim complained to her parents who informed police. Neighbours said they often saw the accused watching sex videos in a local cafe.
KOH SANTEPHEAP

MAN KILLED ASKING FOR WINE MONEY
A 27-year-old man was stabbed to death by his brother-in-law in Takeo province’s Samrong district on Monday. The victim’s mother said her son demanded money off her to buy wine, which enraged the accused. He grabbed a knife and stabbed the victim three times before fleeing the scene. The mother of the victim has appealed to police not to arrest the fugitive, as he is a family member. However, police said they are still hunting for the man.
KOH SANTEPHEAP

Siem Reap vendors protest plan


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Thursday, 18 February 2010 15:02 Rann Reuy

SIEM REAP PROVINCE

Hundreds of fish and meat vendors protested in front of Siem Reap provincial hall on Tuesday over city officials’ plans to evict them to make way for banana vendors whose trade is currently spilling into the market’s car park and causing traffic jams, vendors told the Post on Wednesday.

Deputy governor of Siem Reap city, Oeun Pov, said 98 stallholders from Phsar Leu market were scheduled to be relocated. “Moving to the new site will not affect them because it is 20 metres from their old site,” he said.

However, protesters said over 100 stallholders would be evicted, and that some who had held pitches on the site for more than 10 years would lose regular customers if forced to relocate.

Sin Kimhorng, 25, said she was opposed to the plan because officials wanted her to move to a site that was very small and full of rubbish.

Y Rom, 35, said stallholders would lose income and die of starvation if authorities force them to move.

“We have sold on the site for more than 10 years. Why do they want to move us?” she said.

Oeun Pov said the market was a public space and officials had the right to relocate stallholders.

He said that the new site was full of rubbish, but that authorities would clean it up before moving them to the site.

“This market problem is a very complex issue. Authorities just invited them [to the provincial hall] so we could explain the plan, but they staged a protest outside the provincial hall,” he said, adding that he did not know what to do next besides discuss the issue with relevant officials.

Govt forecasts growth

Photo by: Rick Valenzuela
A labourer demolishes a home Wednesday adjacent to Posco’s Star River complex by the Tonle Sap river in Phnom Penh. The government says Cambodia’s economy grew last year.

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Thursday, 18 February 2010 15:01 May Kunmakara

Minister of Finance says Cambodia dodged recession in 2009

MINISTER of Economy and Finance Keat Chhon led Cambodian economists Wednesday in saying the country avoided recession last year despite unanimous projections by international analysts of negative growth for 2009.

The initial government GDP forecast for 2009 was later revised downwards from 6 percent GDP growth to 2 percent, and Keat Chhon said Wednesday that the Kingdom had seen its economy grow in the past year from US$11.1 billion in 2008.

Speaking Wednesday at a workshop on arms smuggling in Phnom Penh, Keat Chhon would not confirm the expected level of growth for last year, nor when it would be published – only that the National Institute of Statistics was still calculating the final figure.

“It is being upgraded now,” he said.

In contrast to the government’s positive outlook on last year’s economic performance – when the Kingdom was hit by the global economic crisis – the World Bank’s latest projection was for a 2.2 percent contraction, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) minus 2.75 and the Asia Development Bank (ADB) minus 1.5.

“I think the IMF, World Bank and ADB should revise their predictions,” said Kang Chandararoth, an independent economist and president of the Cambodia Institute for Development Study, acknowledging the 15.8 percent decline in garment and apparel shipments last year.

“I agree with the government’s projection that it is positive – it is right,” he said.

The tourism sector expanded slightly, he said, and agriculture showed a strong performance and lifted the entire economy in 2009.

The IMF projects that agriculture expanded more than 4 percent in 2009

The government doubled public spending last year, he added, projecting GDP growth of between 2.5 percent and 3 percent.

All of Cambodia’s key sectors except agriculture contracted last year as many people lost their jobs in the city and returned to the provinces to work on family land, he said.

The garment sector alone recorded a net loss of about 30,000 jobs last year, according to Ministry of Labour figures released Tuesday.

Exports fell 18.2 percent last year, outstripping the 15.83 percent fall in shipments of garments, the Kingdom’s main export industry, and imports slumped 17 percent.

Although total arrivals to the Kingdom rose 1.7 percent in 2009, according to Ministry of Tourism figures, air arrivals, which are considered to spend the most money when visiting, dropped 10.3 percent.

Mong Reththy issues pork warning


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Thursday, 18 February 2010 15:01 Chun Sophal

MONG Reththy, president of Mong Reththy Group, a company which breeds young pigs to sell to Cambodian farmers for rearing, said Wednesday that demand for pork in Phnom Penh has increased about 20 percent in the past year.

The capital requires about 2,000 pigs per day to meet demand, compared to 1,600 pigs a year ago, he said.

“We may face a serious shortage of pork at market in the future if the well-to-do in the country are not quick enough to invest their wealth in pig raising to help increase supply,” Mong Reththy said.

Pork prices at Phnom Penh’s five main markets have risen 6.5 percent so far this year, Trade Promotion Department figures showed Wednesday, the steepest price rise of any meat on sale.

Duck and beef were stable, and chicken prices fell 1.6 percent over the same period.

According to Mong Reththy, this year 730,000 pigs, worth a combined US$182.5 million, will be required to support Phnom Penh market demand. A live pig of about 100 kilograms or over is worth about 1 million riels ($250).

Chan Socheat, president of the Kampong Speu Pig Raising Association, which supplies 120 pigs per day to Phnom Penh markets, said Wednesday that his association had started pushing members to raise more pigs to benefit from demand.

“We also want the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries to have import quotas for pigs clearly limited in order to encourage Cambodian farmers to raise pigs and to help them sell more,” he said.

Last year the ministry licensed five domestic firms to import 800 pigs per day from Thailand to support Phnom Penh market demand. Importers were not matching this figure, said Buth Chanthou, president of Chanthou Meanchey Co, which represents the five companies, because they wanted to give Cambodia’s farmers the opportunity to sell more pigs.

“We import only 650 pigs per day,” he said.

Domestically produced animals sell to slaughterhouses for 200 riels per kilogram less than imported pigs.

About 2 million pigs are sold countrywide each year, Kao Phal, director of the Department of Animal Health and Production, said at an industry meeting this month. It remains unclear how many of these make it to Phnom Penh.

Futsal team head to Jakarta


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Thursday, 18 February 2010 15:00 Anthony Sutton

Cambodian team fly to Indonesia to play in AFC championship

JAKARTA

THE Cambodian Futsal team will fly into Jakarta, Indonesia’s hot and steamy capital city this morning for the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Futsal Championship qualifiers knowing they have a tough fight on their hands if they are to reach the finals in Uzbekistan in May.

Monsoon rains have been pelting the city of 12 million almost daily, bringing the already notorious traffic to gridlock. At least under the roof of the Indoor Tennis Stadium, the Cambodians will be kept dry as they work on unlocking their opponents in the group stage.

Their first opponents Saturday evening will be Vietnam, coached by 35-year-old Italian Sergio Gargelli. Cambodia’s neighbours have been preparing for this competition with a series of friendlies in Thailand, the last of which was a 3-1 win over ABAC.

Gargelli was appointed in January after the previous coach, Piemkum Pattaya of Thailand, was dismissed following a poor performance in the Asian Indoor Games at the end of last year. Such has been the determination of the Vietnamese to reach Uzbekistan, the squad were made to train through Tet, the Vietnamese New Year, while they were in Thailand.

Sunday sees the Kingdom’s men lock horns with Malaysia, who boast the proud record of having qualified for every AFC Futsal Championship since 1999. A poor showing at the ASEAN Football Federation Cup last year in Ho Chi Minh means confidence could be low in the Malay camp, but outwardly at least they are making the right noises with team manager Datuk Hamidan Amin optimistic they will progress, while at the same time sounding cautious about having to face Vietnam.

Cambodia’s final group stage game plays Monday evening when they take on the Philippines, coached by Iranian Ismael Sedigh.

If the lads manage to finish in the top two of their group, their struggles won’t be over. They will then have to face two from Australia, Indonesia or Myanmar, who will be a bit fresher having only played two games and taken vital rest days.

It’ll be a tall order for Cambodia to qualify from Jakarta against three strong teams. For the first time, players such as Suon Thon and Long Nasy have been plucked from the Cambodian Futsal League and the team have been putting in a lot of preparation over the last few weeks.

The Phnom Penh Post News in Brief


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New construction body

Thursday, 18 February 2010 15:00 Soeun Say

THE Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction has formed a new Cambodia Constructor’s Association, a ministry official said. Lao Tip Seiha, director of the Department of Construction, said Tuesday the new body had been formed on February 8 “for exchanging experience and skills with constructors in ASEAN countries”. In total, 819 building firms – 166 foreign-owned – would be invited to join the new association, he added. “It’s very good for our country – constructors can learn … from other ASEAN countries,” said Chhean Dara, construction site manager of LDL International Co.

Govt targets suburbs

Thursday, 18 February 2010 15:00 Soeun Say

PHNOM Penh needs to invest in housing, infrastructure and roads in suburban areas of the city to avoid haphazard expansion, Chhay Rithisen, director of the Department of Urban Affairs, told a workshop in the capital Wednesday. According to a government master plan for urban development that runs until 2020, Russey Keo will be the focus of efforts to offer housing for the city’s expanding population. As many as 10,000 families come to live in Phnom Penh each year, Rithisen said, 90 percent of which could be absorbed by suburbs.

CAMBODIA WELCOMES THAILAND’S STANCE ON BORDER ISSUE

http://news.brunei.fm/
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NAM NEWS NETWORK Feb 17th, 2010

PHNOM PENH, Feb 17 (NNN-AKP) — The Royal Government of Cambodia?s spokesperson Khieu Kanharith welcomed Thai stance on bilateral border solution, but the Thai government has to make sure over its stance first.

?The border disputes can be solved by many ways, the multilateral, bilateral and international ways, but the most important thing is whether Thailand has a real will to solve the issue or not,? Khieu Kanharith, also minister of Information, said at a press conference here.

This has been raised when Thai mass media on Sunday quoted Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva about the Thai government?s intention to bilaterally discuss on border tension.

The Ministry of Defense Rejected a Parliamentarian’s Request to Remove Royal Cambodian Armed Forces Number Plates – Wednesday, 17.2.2010

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

Posted on 18 February 2010.
The Mirror, Vol. 14, No. 652

“An opposition party parliamentarian asked the Prime Minister to take action to check and have Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF) number plates removed from private vehicles, but the Ministry of Defense said that there will be no more removals of such number plates.

“A Sam Rainsy Party parliamentarian from Kompong Thom, Mr. Men Sothavarin, told Rasmei Kampuchea by phone on 16 February 2010, ‘I asked the Prime Minister to take action to have RCAF number plates removed from private vehicles, because there have been a lot of irregularities occurring related to RCAF or police number plates. After the Prime Minister had ordered to take measures in this case, such cases almost disappeared. But recently, there appear again several cars using RCAF number plates, and such number plates are used even on some foreigners’ cars and on private trucks for [private] businesses; this can be considered as an illegitimate use of state cars for business, and driving for personal pleasure.

“Mr. Men Sothavarin added that before, he had asked the Ministry of Defense, but the Ministry did not respond. Therefore, this time he decided to ask the Prime Minister, because previously, after the Prime Minister had given orders, such number plates were removed.

“Mr. Men Sothavrin’s letter to the Prime Minister, sent through the president of the National Assembly, says that after the land traffic law had became valid, together with a public statement by the Prime Minister regarding private vehicles using state, police, and RCAF number plates, related ministries had effectively taken action to stop these trespasses, but recently, many private vehicles are again found using such number plates, which seriously violates the law.

“His letter mentions also some RCAF number plates, such as 2.8168, 2.0098, and 2.4191. The letter says that most of those plates are used by officials from units of armed personnel. Some others are used by civil servants and civilians, and some even by foreigners. The spokesperson, an Undersecretary of State of the Ministry of Defense, Mr. Chhum Socheat, spoke to Rasmei Kampuchea, saying that following the Prime Minister’s order, the Ministry of Defense had already taken action and there is no illegal use of number plates, as claimed by the opposition party parliamentarian. He added that the rest of cars with such number plates still being used are mostly contracted as state cars, or as cars volunteered to be used as state property, that have proper legal documents at the Department of Supplies [it is interesting that the Website of this one department of the Ministry of National Defense is registered under the general Internet domain .info and not under the Cambodian country domain .kh]

“Mr. Chhum Socheat went on to say that after there was an order from the Prime Minister, all persons applying for RCAF number plates to be used on private vehicles had to make contracts, putting those vehicles up as state vehicles, so that they can receive military number plates. He emphasized that he also sees many vehicles with RCAF number plates, but if one questions them, they all have proper legal documents.

“This spokesperson added that formerly, the Ministry of Defense had taken actions to remove many number plates and practically, there were really many vehicles affected. But at present, there is only a small number of vehicles using such number plates, and they all have proper legal documents – they do not use fake number plates or use them illegally as it was before. He claimed that all those cars have been taxed and are recognized as belonging to the state.

“Though there is such a claim from the Ministry of Defense, many citizens said that many cars of powerful officials are parked illegally and they do not obey the traffic law.”

Kampuchea Thmey, Vol.9, #2179, 17.2.2010
Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Helping a child more than half a world away

Katharine Marshall and her father, Jeffery Ford, right, eat with Mom Chinda, second from left, and another Cambodian student. (Special to the Press-Citizen)

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Rob Daniel • Iowa City Press-Citizen
February 17, 2010

Katharine Marshall has been sponsoring a child who is her age in Cambodia since she was 11 years old.

On Feb. 4, the 16-year-old City High senior got to meet that child, now 16 years old herself, when she and her father, Jeffery Ford, traveled to Cambodia.

Marshall said that five years ago, she and her family got involved with Friendship with Cambodia after a representative of the group spoke at a Rotary Club meeting in Champaign, Ill., where Marshall and her family were living at the time. Friendship with Cambodia is a nonprofit group that, according to its Web site, promotes cultural understanding of Cambodia and supports humanitarian projects in the Southeast Asian nation that still is reeling from the mass murders of about 2 million people, roughly a quarter of its population, in the late 1970s.

After that Rotary Club meeting, Marshall began to sponsor a child through the organization, sending $360 a year to help cover the girl's education, uniforms, textbooks and school supplies.

"Lots of times, their education is pushed back because of income," Marshall said.

A recent newsletter from Friendship with Cambodia prompted Marshall and her father to decide to travel to Cambodia and meet Mom Chinda, the girl Marshall sponsors, in person.

"My family likes to travel a lot, so my dad and I decided to go," she said.

Leaving Jan. 25, the pair flew into Siem Reap in northern Cambodia. They visited the ancient temple at Angkor Wat as well as the capital city of Phnom Penh and Kampot in the southern part of the country. Marshall said she was happy that they were among those who were taking a "socially responsible" trip that did not involve the thriving sex trade in Cambodia but was amazed at the poverty she saw.

"It was amazing how poor it was and how hopeful everyone seemed," she said. "They were really welcoming, and it was great to see."

After a three-hour taxi ride from Kampot, they arrived in Mom's village, where she met Mom and her extended family. Despite the language barrier, they got along well during the four-hour visit.

"She was really shy and quiet, but you could see she was really intelligent," Marshall said of Mom. "She was very pulled together. It was like meeting a sister almost. (Her family was) proud that she was getting an education."

Marshall and her father returned home to Iowa City on Feb. 6, and Marshall said she plans to continue to sponsor Mom as far as she goes in her education, even through college if the opportunity arises. She said she was impressed that the country was coming together after years of war and severe poverty with hope for the future.

"There's no way out for some people," Marshall said. "Their programs are becoming self-sufficient, so that's great to see."

Reach Rob Daniel at 339-7360 or rdaniel@press-citizen.com.