Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Battambang vendors protest

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Tuesday, 09 March 2010 15:04 May Titthara

REPRESENTATIVES of 91 vendors from Snoeng Market in Battambang province’s Banon district travelled to Phnom Penh to file a complaint against their proposed relocation and called on the Ministry of Interior for help, a vendor said Monday.

On January 20, Banon district authorities sent vendors a letter that said the old market is due to be affected by the upgrade of National Road 57, which runs from Battambang to Pailin, and gave them until January 22 to move to a new market – a deadline that was not met.

One vendor representative, Suon Vannak, denied that the market would block the roadwork. “We would like to as intervention from [Minister of Interior] Sar Kheng to help stop local authorities tearing down our market,” he said.

Mil Sophal, owner of the new market site, said authorities had tried to help the vendors. “When we saw that some vendors would be affected by the development project, we built a new market for them to continue their business,” he said.

“We [offered the new site] free for them for six months, and after six months they have to pay 20,000 riels [about US$4.80] per month.”

Women vulnerable at work


Staff from the rights group Licadho visited Siem Reap Prison on Monday to distribute presents to female inmates and their children to mark International Women’s Day, officials said. Prison deputy director Tinh Proek said 70 women, including five who are pregnant, are currently detained in the prison, and that five children live there with their mothers. The distributed gifts included toys, clothes, bread, shampoo and underwear. Huoy Mey, a 47-year-old inmate, said she had not heard of International Women’s Day before but was grateful for the gifts. “I had inner happiness,” she said, adding: “I don’t know this day because I have lived in the forest, so I never knew it.”

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Tuesday, 09 March 2010 15:04 Tep Nimol and Bejan Siavoshy

Panels highlight dangers facing female migrant and domestic workers.

FEMALE migrant and domestic workers in Cambodia lack knowledge about laws and regulations in place to protect them from rights abuses, some of which are not strong enough in the first place, experts said during a series of panels held Monday to mark International Women’s Day, an official government holiday.

Tep Kim Vannary, deputy director of the Cambodian Women’s Movement Organisation, said young women from the provinces who travel to Phnom Penh to support their families are often vulnerable to harassment, discrimination, exploitation and sexual abuse or violence.

“Most women migrants don’t know about their rights and labour laws. That is why they’re usually mistreated by their employees and don’t know where they can get help,” she said.

Ya Navuth, executive director of the Coordination of Action Research and Mobility, said on Monday that many women do not have the option of returning home when they encounter rights abuses because their families are dependent on them for income.

She urged the government to strengthen laws protecting workers from the provinces.

“Until now, Cambodia does not have laws to protect migrant workers. That is why there are many cases of them enduring violence, sexual assault and mistreatment from their employers,” she said.

Yem Serey Vath, national project officer for the International Labour Organisation, raised similar concerns with respect to domestic workers, noting that this group is often undocumented and unorganised.

He said ILO officials would meet in June to discuss proposed laws for both workers from the provinces and domestic workers in Phnom Penh.

San Arun, a secretary of state at the Women’s Affairs Ministry, said by phone after the panel that government officials shared NGOs’ concerns about the plight of both groups.

A total of 32 local and international NGOs, trade unions and associations participated in the different panels, which were organised to raise awareness about challenges facing female garment and entertainment workers as well as domestic workers and migrants.

“Women are key actors in social development, and they are present in all sections of the economy,” according to a press release for Monday’s event. “Women represent 40 percent of the world’s workforce, while in Cambodia they represent 50 percent.”

The press release stated that workers in the groups addressed by the panels “are not sufficiently valued by society and are more vulnerable to discrimination, abuse and substandard working conditions.”

Party Merger: SRP refuses to give up party name

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Tuesday, 09 March 2010 15:04 Tha Piseth

Party Merger

Opposition leader Sam Rainsy has said his eponymous party will not change its name, despite statements from the Human Rights Party (HRP) that the proposed merger between the two political groups is contingent upon its rebranding. “As [Sam Rainsy] said during a video conference on Saturday, the party has more supporters than the Human Rights Party, and if we change the name there will be problems,” said Sam Rainsy Party spokesman Kimsour Phirith. Kem Sokha, president of the HRP, however, said that “Sam Rainsy is afraid of internal problems”, adding that “maybe somebody inside the party wants to take control”. He said the HRP did not wish to co-opt its ally, but, rather, needed to invent a new name under which both parties could unite. “If we don’t discuss this with each other, then how can we do this [merger]?” he asked. Kem Sokha has called for the two opposition leaders to join forces to challenge the dominance of the Cambodian People’s Party. But he said last month that although he was “100 percent” certain of a merger between the HRP and smaller opposition groups, he was not sure what Sam Rainsy would do.

Six dead after inhaling toxic gases inside well

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Tuesday, 09 March 2010 15:04 Khouth Sophakchakrya

SIX men died over the weekend in Kampong Cham province after inhaling toxic fumes while trying to clean a well, officials said Monday.

The incident occurred on Saturday, after the men climbed more than 10 metres down into a century-old well in what was supposed to have been a routine operation to scrape away a buildup of mud.

Sok Phorn, chief of Trea village, said the men died after inhaling noxious fumes from the engine of a water pump.

“The six men died of poisoning from the smog of the engine, because they put the water pump engine into the well,” Sok Phorn said.

A witness said the men died one after another. At first, one man climbed in to operate the pump. When he didn’t reappear after more than 10 minutes, a second man descended into the well, only to be overcome by the fumes.

Six men were missing before a seventh, 45-year-old Khem Chak, prepared to climb in as well. But Khem Chak said he stopped when the sixth man, still struggling with the fumes, called out for help.

“The villagers and I threw the rope into the well to save him, but his hand slipped from the rope when we pulled him halfway out of the well,” he said.

The six men have been identified as Sam Mong, 45, Seng Sroeun, 38, Mong Mang, 21, Huong Heng, 35, Bun Bou, 51, and Thul Thoeun, 32.

The chief of the commune where the deaths occurred said authorities are now deciding what to do with the well.

“We will consider burying the well, or banning people from using it temporarily,” Men Sarun said.

In the meantime, Sok Phorn, the village chief, said the community of 100 families is making funeral preparations.

“The families have suffered so much,” he said.

Trade with Hong Kong sank 16pc in January

Women shop for shoes and purses in a Hong Kong discount shop. Cambodian shoe exports to the territory rose 617 percent in January. BLOOMBERG

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Tuesday, 09 March 2010 15:03 May Kunmakara

Struggling garment sector blamed for drop in bilateral trade

BILATERAL trade between Cambodia and Hong Kong plummeted around 16 percent in the first month of 2010 compared to January 2009, statistics showed.

Data released by the Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKTDC) Saturday stated that the total bilateral trade was US$36 million in January 2010, a drop of 16 percent compared to total estimated trade of $43 million for the same period of 2009. No figures for 2008 were given.

Hong Kong exports fell 18.5 percent to $34 million, and Cambodian exports were said to have risen in turn by 144.5 percent to $2 million. The Kingdom’s exports of footwear were said to have increased by 616.5 percent and men’s knitted fabric went up 151 percent.

The figures were a slight improvement to the 22.2 percent annualised dip, to $480 million in 2009 from $608 million to 2008, recorded for total bilateral trade made between the Kingdom and the Chinese special administrative region last year. Hong Kong’s total annual exports to Cambodia fell an annualised 23.1 percent to $467 million in 2009 from $608 million. Cambodia’s exports to Hong Kong increased 29.8 percent to $13 million [of which re-export was worth $6 million] from $10 million.

Nguon Meng Tech, director general for the Cambodia Chamber of Commerce (CCC), said Monday the decline in trade was fueled by the closure of Cambodian garment factories last year – Hong Kong acts as a transit point between Cambodia and other nations in the textile industry.

“Most investors from Hong Kong had interests in garment industry in Cambodia when the sector was impacted by the global financial crisis,” he said.

The Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training reported that at least 106 garment and shoe factories closed and another 66 factories suspended operations in Cambodia last year, leaving about 90,000 employees out of work.

This is likely to have impacted Hong Kong’s major exports to the Kingdom. Cambodian imports of textile yarn declined 40.7 percent last month, compared to January 2009, while clothing accessories were down 34.5 percent, and textile and leather machinery declined 46.3 percent. Exports of passenger cars declined by 53.2 percent but veterinary products rose by 182.5 percent and office machinery by 330.5 percent.

Despite mixed messages from the latest statistics, government officials remain hopeful for the future.

Ministry of Commerce Secretary of State Ok Boung told the Post Monday that since the China-ASEAN Free Trade Area was introduced in January, trade in the region had improved.

“People in the ASEAN nations are beginning to know about Cambodia – that’s why our exports to ASEAN as well as to Hong Kong have gone up," he said.

Yamaha plant construction delayed again

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Tuesday, 09 March 2010 15:03 Nguon Sovan

CONSTRUCTION of Yamaha Motor Cambodia Ltd’s (YMCL) US$11.5 million Phnom Penh plant has been delayed further due to unfavourable market conditions, its managing director said Monday.

The building of YMCL’s factory in the Phnom Penh Special Economic Zone (PPSEZ) was announced by joint-venture partners Toyota Tsusho Corp and Kong Nuon Import and Export Co in September 2008. However, the plan was put on hold one year ago as the economic crisis hit Cambodia.

The project “is still under consideration. The construction may restart some time in the second half of this year, but we are not sure,” said YMCL managing director Matoba Michifumi. “Demand for motorcycles in Cambodia is sharply down at the moment. We’re still watching the economic situation. That is the reason we have put the construction of the plant on hold. The plant, if opened, might oversupply the market.”

In the best-case scenario, motorbikes produced by the plant would not be on sale until late 2011. Even if construction was to start, it would still take between 10 months and a year to complete, he added.

Michifumi said that the economic crisis had reduced bike orders and also caused people to purchase second-hand or cheaper bikes, rather than new models.

He declined to disclose the number of Yamahas sold each month in Cambodia, citing business confidentiality, but said sales were expected to recover this year.

However, the recovery is set to be limited and far lower than the amount sold in 2007 and 2008.

The company forecast, prior to the crisis, that the demand for new motorcycles was around 140,000 a year. Since the crisis, this figure has been revised to 100,000 a year.

Vouch Lay, owner of Vouch Lay Motorcycle Shop in the capital’s Prampi Makara district, said Monday that the motorcycle market has recovered slightly since the beginning of this year, but profits are low.

He added that last year, one motorcycle sale made a profit of $20 to $30. That has been slashed to just $5 a motorcycle, but he said his shop does have more customers.

“Less profit is better than nothing,” he said.

UN course to boost use of ICT to improve governance

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Tuesday, 09 March 2010 15:02 Ellie Dyer

Four-day course briefs 20 government ministries on technology

THE use of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) will prove a “catalyst” for the Kingdom’s development, the secretary general of the National Information Communications Technology Department Authority (NiDA) said Monday.

Speaking on the eve of the UN’s Asian and Pacific Training Centre for ICT’s (UN-APICT) four-day training programme for government officials, Leewood Phu told the Post: “ICT is a major factor in helping the development of Cambodia. It’s the catalyst for the sector.”

The UN-APICT course, to be held at Phnom Penh’s Intercontinental Hotel, has been funded by the United Nations and is set to inform officials on how to apply ICT technology to improve governance and development.

According to a press release Friday, representatives from more than 20 government ministries are set to attend today’s programme launch, along with university academics and international development agency representatives.

The course is designed to illustrate the growing role of technology within the Cambodian government infrastructure.

Phu, who did not disclose the cost of the programme, said he believes that in the coming years the use of computer technology will benefit the government.

He pointed to the recent introduction of video-conferencing at Council of Ministers meetings – which allow military personnel and district leaders to view conferences remotely – as a recent innovation that has improved governance. The use of email, rather than couriers, to send documents was also highlighted by the NiDA official.

“As of today, people will see a distinct change in the way we work,” he added. “The immediate impact [of this] will be better public services, as our work can be done more speedily than before.”

He added that ICT development is ongoing within government sectors. Officials are now converting English computer keyboards into Khmer language.

Khmer Unicode is also being introduced so that all the government’s computers can “talk to each other”.

According to the secretary general, the use of ITC forms one of the core ideas in the government’s strategy for development.

Cambodia’s recently established e-government system, named the Provincial Administration Information System, has grown to serve 10 out of the country’s 24 provinces.

Hello set to launch new Bold

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Tuesday, 09 March 2010 15:02 Steve Finch

MOBILE phone operator Hello will introduce Research in Motion’s (RIM) latest Blackberry Bold handset to Cambodia at the end of this month, Brand Manager Gary Foo told the Post by email.

The Kuala Lumpur-based company will ship “a few thousand units” of the new Bold 9700, he said. Hello first launched the 3G Bold handset in the Kingdom in July, following its Blackberry launch at the end of April.

“We’ve seen encouraging take up of our Blackberries in the past couple of months and we would like to continue to capitalise on this trend,” Foo said, adding that the Cambodian smartphone market was expanding as mobile users in the Kingdom increasingly take up more sophisticated handsets.

Financial results from the last quarter showed Hello’s active users increased by 12 percent compared with the previous period, the firm’s strongest quarter-on-quarter subscriber growth in 2009.

Hello CEO Simon Perkins told the Post on February 24 that the Malaysian firm “spent heavily” on its 3G network in the fourth quarter to support data services.

Fourth-quarter financial results released last month showed the firm invested 5 percent of total capital expenditure in Cambodia last year, compared with just 2 percent in 2008. This was against a backdrop of a 47 percent reduction in expenditure over the same period – down to 3.015 billion Malaysian ringgits (US$885.6 million) from 5.652 billion ringgits the previous year.

Market leader Mobitel is the only other operator in Cambodia’s saturated mobile marketplace to offer RIM’s Blackberry handsets and data services.

China to close gap between urban and rural in congress

A paramilitary guard mans his position on Tiananmen Square as delegates attend a session of the National People’s Congress inside the Great Hall of the People on a snowy morning in Beijing on Monday. AFP

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Tuesday, 09 March 2010 15:01 AFP

Parliamentary representation for countryside dwellers to rise

BEIJING – China will increase rural representation in its parliament, according to draft legislation unveiled Monday amid concern over a widening gap between its countryside and cities.

The move appeared to be a response to growing calls for the government to address a worsening rural-urban wealth divide that has seen the vast countryside largely left behind in China’s economic boom.

The amendment to the election law of the national people’s congress (NPC) would foster “equality” among the nation’s constituencies, Wang Zhaoguo, a top legislative official, said in a speech to the Communist Party-controlled body.

Wang said rural delegates now represent four times as many citizens as their urban counterparts, which effectively gives urban areas greater representation.

The amendment would equalise those ratios, he added.

“The number of deputies to the National People’s Congress shall be allocated ... in accordance with the principle that each deputy represents the same number of urban and rural people,” Wang said.

It was unclear what sort of actual political impact the shift could have. The NPC is widely viewed as a mere rubber stamp for the ruling party’s directives.

However, some observers say dissenting voices do get heard – behind closed doors – in shaping legislation.

Wang gave no other figures on the current composition of the NPC. About 2,900 delegates are attending the current session, which opened Friday and ends on March 14.

According to Wang, it would be the first change to the rules since 1995. NPC delegates are elected by provincial assemblies.

The divide between China’s massive yet poor countryside of 900 million farmers, and its booming cities have leapt to the top of the national agenda.

Government figures showed the urban-rural income ratio grew last year to 3.33 to 1 in 2009, which state media reports called the widest since the nation launched its capitalist economic transformation three decades ago.

The government has indicated mounting concern over the possibility of widespread unrest involving marginalised citizens. AFP

Long Sophy sets up Pom Saray final

Photo by: Robert Starkweather
Kao Roomchang (right) and Long Sophy turned in a sweat-drenched five-round performance Sunday in their light-middleweight semifinal contest at TV5 arena in Takhmao.

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Tuesday, 09 March 2010 15:00 Robert Starkweather

Long Sophy outfights Kao Roomchang to score a surprising decision victory in their 63.5-kilogram tournament semifinal Sunday and set up a Pom Saray final

KAO Roomchang stood no further than five rounds from a title shot Sunday. All he had to do was best Long Sophy, whom he stopped in the third round when the two met in October.

With a place in the light-middleweight tournament finals at stake, the pair turned in a furiously paced fight-of-the-year contender at the TV5 boxing arena in Takhmao. And behind a relentless barrage of knees, Long Sophy derailed Kao Roomchang’s title hopes with a stunning upset decision.

“That’s twice now,” said a frustrated Kao Roomchang, blood seeping from a swollen mass of scar tissue above his left eye. “I will quit fighting.”

In December, Kao Roomchang dropped a razor-thin decision to Van Chanvey in the finals of a lightweight tournament held at the CTN boxing arena. Kao Roomchang had beaten Van Chanvey once earlier in the tournament, and few expected the outcome of the pair’s second meeting to be any different.

But Van Chanvey squeaked past Kao Roomchang with an evasive tactical strategy, going on to lose badly to 60-kilogram title holder Lao Sinath, whom Kao Roomchang had also previously beaten.

On Sunday, with the October stoppage of Long Sophy still fresh in memory, Kao Roomchang’s shot at a title yet again seemed assured.

“They are all here to see Kao Roomchang,” said Long Sophy, shadow boxing before the fight, with a big smile. “They want to know what round he is going to knock me out.”

Long Sophy made losers of them all.

In the second round, he grabbed Kao Roomchang around the chest and never let go, scoring with knees to the body.

Kao Roomchang answered with spinning backs, heavy overhand rights and hard elbows in a high-wattage finish to a furious round.

Keeping up the pace, the pair brawled frenetically through rounds three and four. Kao Roomchang landed elbows and head-snapping overhand rights. Long Sophy countered with knees.

Heading into the final round, the outcome still far from decided, Long Sophy hammered away at the body with knees, and Kao Roomchang finally began to slow. “I knew I had him in the fifth,” Long Sophy said.

In the second semifinal match Sunday, Pom Saray cut Kao Bunheng in the third round with a flying elbow on his way toward earning a victory decision.

After a subdued opening round, Kao Bunheng appeared to take control of the fight in the second. He stalked Pom Saray around the ring, walking through his punches and scoring with kicks to the body.

But the cut in the third, a long, deep gash down the middle of Kao Bunheng’s forehead quickly changed the momentum of the fight, and Kao Bunheng struggled to retake the lead.

Pom Saray stayed evasive, circling and countering with left hooks and low kicks as Kao Bunheng charged headlong forward.

When the final bell rang, Kao Bunheng dropped to his knees and banged the canvas with his glove.

“It’s bad luck,” he said. “It’s just bad luck.”

Long Sophy will face Pom Saray in the tournament final March 21. Kao Bunheng will meet Kao Roomchang in the match for third place.

Pom Saray enters the final with an undefeated tournament record, including inflicting Long Sophy’s only loss.

The earlier win offers little comfort to Pom Saray. As Kao Roomchang discovered, previous victories mean nothing when the opponent is Long Sophy.

The Phnom Penh Post News in Brief

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Businesswomen meet

Tuesday, 09 March 2010 15:00 Ellie Dyer

THE first event held by a new group representing Cambodia’s businesswomen has taken place, attracting an audience of 75 female professionals to Phnom Penh’s Intercontinental Hotel on Friday. The networking and discussion session, organised by the International Finance Corporation (IFC), came just three days before Monday’s International Women’s Day. Organisers described it as the first opportunity for the Kingdom’s independent businesswomen, many of whom are members of a specialist “Cambodian Women in Business” group on social networking site Facebook, to meet one another. Among the issues discussed was the lack of business information, personal support and links to the marketplace available for new commercial start ups. Problems challenging social norms – for example, having a one-to-one meeting with a male client – were also discussed, the IFC told the Post in an email Monday. The possibility of starting a new business association for women was also a topic of conversation. The meeting was a precursor to a workshop to be held in partnership with the Ministry of Women’s Affairs later this month.

New packaging rules

Tuesday, 09 March 2010 15:00 Soeun Say

FOOD packaging is subject to new directives aimed at improving the quality of Cambodian goods, the Ministry of Commerce (MoC) has announced. According to a report obtained by the Post Sunday, the ministry has issued guidelines in order to define a clear legal responsibility for products on sale to the general public. It wants packages of multiple wares, like those sold together in gift packages, to be labelled with the name and address of a trader. Invoices must also be provided by sellers, the new rules state. “The MoC will observe and control all goods in the Cambodian market in order to strengthen the quality of goods, services and safety. It will protect users from using goods which have expired,” the report stated.

Anlong Veng :Soldier suspected in shooting Police in Oddar

Tuesday, 09 March 2010 15:03 Tep Nimol

Anlong Veng

Meanchey’s Anlong Veng district are searching for a soldier suspected killing a villager who was transporting wood to build his house, a district police official said Sunday. The soldier, 53, stopped the victim’s truck and demanded a payment of 20,000 riels (US$5) on Saturday, Anlong Veng district police Chief Nguon Rithy said, and when the man refused, the soldier shot him three times in the stomach. Nguon Rithy added that the soldier is likely hiding in the forest. “I think we will be able to catch the man when he is out of food.”

Cambodian Ambassador-Designate Presenting Copies of his Letters of Credence

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State Secretary Oľga Algayerová met today with Ambassador-Designate of the Kingdom of Cambodia residing in Berlin Widhya Chem who presented to her the copies of his Letters of Credence.

Both partners appreciated the good level of mutual relations and expressed their interest in further development of cooperation on bilateral and multilateral level. Both sides exchanged views on current international and regional developments. The State Secretary expressed to the new Cambodian Ambassador wishes of success in his mission.

Asean Rocket Comments Draw Hun Sen’s Ire

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By Chun Sakada, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
08 March 2010

Prime Minister Hun Sen lashed out a senior Thai Asean official on Monday for remarks critical of Cambodia’s military rocket exercise last week.

Asean Secretary-General Surin Pitsuwan was quoted by the Bernama news agency Friday saying the test-firing of some 200 rockets in Kampong Chhnang province could have signaled instability in the region.

Speaking to a group of disabled soldiers in Kampot province Monday, Hun Sen said Surin had “interfered in Cambodian internal affairs” with his remarks.

“Cambodia just tested the BM-21 rocket launcher,” Hun Sen said. “It is not your business as Asean secretary-general. Why have the Thai prime minister and deputy prime minister not reaceted to this at all? But the Asean secretary-generally showed his concern that the region is not secure because of Cambodia’s launch of rockets?”

Surin was not properly fulfilling his “very neutral” role as secretary-general, Hun Sen said.

Cambodia and Thailand remain at odds over a small strip of frontier west of Preah Vihear temple, where nearby the Thai military ran its own exercises last year. Thai officials were forced to apologize for the exercise after shells fell on Cambodian territory and fighter planes crossed Cambodian air space.

Cambodian officials have denied Thursday’s exercise was a show of force in the standoff.

On Sunday, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs sent an official letter to Surin, chastising him for remarks that could “bring about a bad image” to another Asean country.

“Normally, and in principle, an Asean secretary-general should exercise some self-restraint,” Foreign Minister Hor Namhong wrote.

AI Finds Reported Rapes on the Rise

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By Heng Reaksmey, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
08 March 2010

The number of reported rapes in Cambodia is on the rise, Amnesty International reported Monday, calling on the government to act against the impunity and discrimination that lead to sexual assault.

Victims of a rape face “failures in the criminal justice system” along with “psychological pain and a perceived loss of dignity” when perpetrators are allowed to go free, Donna Guest, Amnesty International’s deputy Asia program director, told reporters on International Women’s Day.

“Dozens of survivors told us that they face extortion, ignorance and disbelief from officials whose job it should be to assist them and protect their rights,” Guest said in a statement. “For too many survivors of rape, the pursuit of justice and medical support adds further distress to the initial abuse.”

Amnesty International, which issued a 60-page report on sexual violence in Cambodia on Monday, called on the government to publicly condemn sexual violence, to improve its for investigation and punishment of the crime and to provide proper reparations, “including health and psychological services,” to the victims.

“Sexual violence in Cambodia is a difficult case because the suspect does not face the law,” said Kek Galbru, president of the rights group Licadho. “If we want to reduce the sexual violence coming down, the Cambodian government should cooperate with NGOs and all national authorities to find the solution on how to prevent suspects from escaping the law.”

Sy Define, secretary of state for the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, said the government had not identified an increase in sexual violence.

The Ministry of Women’s Affairs had taken steps to train justice officials and police “to understand what to do when they are facing the problem of sexual violence,” she said.

Cambodian PM lambasts ASEAN secretary general

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Mon, Mar 08, 2010

PHNOM PENH (AFP) - Cambodian premier Hun Sen on Monday said the head of Southeast Asia's regional body was unsuitable for the job, accusing him of "crazy work" for reportedly questioning a recent rocket drill.

Hun Sen was responding to comments printed in local newspapers attributed to Surin Pitsuwan, the secretary-general of the 10-member Association of Southeast Nations (ASEAN) and a citizen of Thailand, with which Cambodia has tense relations.

"I think that his excellency Surin Pitsuwan is not suitable as ASEAN secretary general," Hun Said said during a speech on national radio, adding: "if you are stupid, don't do it".

Cambodian newspapers carried reports by Malaysia's Bernama news agency quoting Surin as saying that

"Cambodia might have signaled as though the region was unstable" by firing rockets last week during a border dispute with Thailand.

But Hun Sen said Cambodian troops were merely testing equipment when they fired some 200 rockets last Thursday at an airfield 180 kilometres (about 110 miles) from the Thai border.

His speech to disabled Cambodian military veterans in southern Kampot province went on to accuse Surin of "crazy work" interfering in Cambodian affairs.

The premier pointed out that leaders of other Southeast Asian countries, including Thailand, showed no concerns about the test, and called for Surin to retract his statement or face a confrontation when leaders meet next month in Hanoi.

"If he doesn't make a correction I will attack this secretary general during the ASEAN meeting," Hun Sen said.

Addressing Surin directly in the speech, he added: "You must make a correction... The rockets did not hit your head."

Hun Sen has recently made a number of fiery speeches railing against Thai "invaders" and "thieves" in disputed territory around an 11th century temple on their border, where there have been deadly clashes in the past two years.

Cambodia and Thailand have been locked in nationalist tensions and a troop standoff at their disputed border since July 2008, when Cambodia's Preah Vihear temple was granted UNESCO World Heritage status.

Four soldiers were killed in clashes in the temple area in 2008 and three more in a gunbattle last April. Smaller flare-ups continue to be reported between troops in the area.

Cambodia: Rape of children is a growing threat

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By Robert Carmichael
Monday, March 08, 2010

Amnesty International says rape and sexual crimes committed mainly against women and children has become a growing problem in Cambodia. To mark the 100th International Women's Day, the human-rights group Amnesty International is releasing a report on the scourge of rape and sexual violence in Cambodia. Amnesty's report, called Breaking the Silence, criticizes what it says is a culture of impunity, corruption, and indifference to victims of sexual violence. The result is justice denied for Cambodian women, and increasingly for Cambodian girls.

During its research, Amnesty interviewed 30 victims of rape, as well as 50 non-government aid workers, police and government officials, and even a number of perpetrators. Brittis Edman, who wrote the report, explains its focus, “What we specifically looked at is the aftermath of rape, what are the obstacles that victims face when they seek justice and when they seek access to services.”

Amnesty found that victims seeking help ran into several problems that made their situation even worse. “Police often do not take them seriously, they do not necessarily investigate,” added Edman. “They ask for bribes to launch an investigation. Court officials typically ask for bribes at all levels of the process.”

Edman says medical specialists generally do not provide much in the way of free treatment, meaning victims need to pay money, which they often do not have, if they want help. There are only a few places in Cambodia where victims can go for help. One of those is called Banteay Srei, which is based in Battambang province in western Cambodia. Banteay Srei provides a safe house, counsels victims, and connects them with non-government organizations that provide legal services and health services.

Sun Maly is Banteay Srei's team leader. She says demand for its services has increased dramatically since it was set up five years ago. Last year Banteay Srei helped 71 victims of rape, which was almost twice the number it helped the previous year. Sun Maly says part of the reason for the rise is that more women and local officials are aware of Banteay Srei's existence.

But, she says, the problem of rape and sexual violence against women is getting worse. And that is not due to a lack of sufficient laws. “Cambodia has good laws, but they are not enforced and the perpetrators are not punished,” said Sun Maly. “And that provides a model for other people to follow suit.”

Sun Maly says most rape victims helped last year by Banteay Srei were girls. “The number of rape victims we helped was 71, and most were underage,” she added. “The majority, around 80 percent, were just 12 or 13 years old.”

Amnesty's Edman says half of the rape victims she interviewed for the report were children. And she stresses that she did not set out to interview child victims. Instead, the high proportion simply reflects the large numbers of children, mainly girls, who are victims of rape and who were being helped by the non-government organizations that coordinated interviews.

Why does Edman think so many children are becoming victims of rape? “Children are clearly more vulnerable in many ways. What we have seen in the research is that those who live in poverty are more vulnerable, we have seen that sex workers are more vulnerable, and it appears also that children are more vulnerable.”

In its report, Amnesty outlined five pages of recommendations for the government. Among those is wholesale reform of the way rape allegations are investigated and processed through the court system. Amnesty says bribes demanded by police must cease, more female police officers should be recruited and trained, and courts should be more sympathetic to victims. The rights group also says the practice of paying compensation to victims in exchange for charges being dropped should cease.

But most importantly, says Edman, the government must vocally condemn rape. That would cost the government nothing, but would provide comfort to victims and let society know that the crime of rape would not be tolerated. As one women, who was raped by a monk last year, told Amnesty of her unresolved case: “If he cannot be touched, and is not brought to account, he can do it again. This would make him arrogant and a terrible role model to the people.”

Robert Carmichael is a VOA correspondent in Phnom Penh.

An ongoing effort

via CAAI News Media

Team Cambodia raising funds for the Milton School

By Kevin Mertz
Published: Friday, March 5, 2010

MILTON — “We say we left our hearts in Cambodia.”

Those words, by Milton Area High School senior Nicole Unroe, describing the strong emotions a contingent of students and chaperones felt as they left Cambodia in 2008, serve as a testament to the importance of an upcoming fundraiser.

The high school’s Team Cambodia will hold an all-you-can-eat spaghetti dinner from 4 to 6 p.m. Saturday, March 13, in the high school cafeteria.

Mike Conn, a high school history teacher who spearheaded a fundraiser which netted over $35,000 to build The Milton School in Cambodia, said the goal of the dinner is to raise several thousand dollars to add a new classroom and to buy a computer for the Cambodian school.

Conn said Milton’s efforts to raise the funds to build a school in Cambodia were the result of a summer trip he made to the nation several years ago.

“I was touched by the lack of opportunity for education for the kids we saw,” he said. “I mentioned it to my AP history class the first day of school. I showed them the images (from Cambodia).”

His students were immediately moved to action and formed Team Cambodia. The group partnered with American Assistance for Cambodia, a nonprofit organization which has built 450 schools in Cambodia.

Conn said Team Cambodia contributed the money which was raised through a variety of fundraisers in the Milton area to American Assistance for Cambodia. The organization used that money to build a three-classroom school, known as the Milton School in Cambodia, in Kampong Cham.

Work on the school was completed on Dec. 10, 2008. One day later, Conn said he and the group from Milton arrived in Kampong Cham to see the result of their fundraising effort, and to take part in the dedication of the school.

Some of those who participated in the educational trip say it’s an experience that changed their lives forever. It’s also the driving force behind their continued fundraising efforts for the school.

“It opened our eyes to go over there and see how much something a school like that means to them,” Unroe said.

Tenth-grader Elaine Waldron also participated in the trip and was moved by the passion the children in Cambodia had for their new school. In the United States, Waldron said many kids take school for granted and don’t appreciate the educational opportunities they have.

“Most of the kids (in Cambodia) had the biggest smiles on their faces,” Waldron said. “You could tell they loved their clothes, they wore uniforms.”

Conn said the spaghetti dinner is the only fundraising activity Team Cambodia is holding this school year. He said it will take around $9,500 to fund the construction of another room and to purchase a computer for the school.

He said if the dinner raises several thousand dollars, an organization in Asia will match that money to fund the addition at the school in Cambodia.

Conn said Milton and surrounding communities were very generous with their support of Team Cambodia. He and the students involved in the latest fundraising effort are hopeful that support of the Milton School in Cambodia will continue for years to come.

“I’m hoping people don’t forget about the school,” senior Sarah Haas said. “It’s not just this fun little project we had.”

Haas was among the group from Milton to make the trip to the school and said those who went will always have a special tie to Cambodia.

“We got to see what we did (through our fundraising), not just us, but the entire community,” Haas said. “The (school) kids, we got to interact with them. It felt so good to know we made a difference.”

Kellie Brouse, a social studies teacher at the Milton Area High School was involved with the fundraising efforts, and also went on the trip to Cambodia in 2008. When she saw the school in Cambodia, and the students who attend, Brouse said she was very proud of what the local community had accomplished through the fundraising efforts.

“It was one of the most gratifying things I’ve done in my career,” Brouse said. “It was one of the most worthwhile things I’ve ever seen.”

Conn said he was also proud to see the results of the student’s efforts. Today, over 300 seventh- and eighth-grade students attend the school. He said that’s double the number of students who initially attended the school, hence the need for the expansion.

Haas is hopeful the spaghetti dinner will not only raise the necessary funds to finance the expansion, but she also hopes it will serve as a reminder to local residents that their continued efforts are needed to help ensure the children of Kampong Cham continue attending school.

“Don’t forget about Cambodia and don’t forget about the children,” Haas said.

Tickets for the spaghetti dinner are $6 and may be purchased in advance by contacting the Milton Area High School at 742-7611.

Donations are also being accepted. Checks, made payable to Team Cambodia, may be mailed, in care of Mike Conn, to the Milton Area High School, 700 Mahoning St., Milton, Pa. 17847.

Staff writer Kevin Mertz can be reached at 570-742-9671 or e-mail

Q&A-Why are experts worried about a possible new strain of drug-resistant malaria?

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08 Mar 2010
Written by: Thin Lei Win

A health worker checks a blood sample for malaria in the only hospital in Pailin in western Cambodia. Bordering with Thailand, this former Khmer Rouge stronghold and dusty gem mining town is now better known for a malarial parasite that is worrying health experts in the region. Studies and research show artemisinin-based therapies - currently the most effective treatment against malaria - are taking longer to cure some of the patients. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj

PAILIN, Cambodia (AlertNet) - A number of studies have shown that in areas along the Thai-Cambodia border, conventional malaria-fighting treatments derived from artemisinin took almost twice as long to clear the parasites that cause the disease, suggesting the drugs were losing potency in the area.

The studies shine a spotlight on the remote province of Pailin, the origin of three drug-resistant malaria parasites over the past five decades.

Artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACT) are currently the most effective treatment against P. falciparum, the most lethal type of malaria.

Here are some questions and answers about the subject:


When a parasite survives and/or multiplies despite the patient receiving and absorbing the drug given in doses equal to or higher than those usually recommended, drug resistance occurs. It can cause malaria treatment to fail.

Using sub-standard or counterfeit drugs, incorrect dosage or in the case of artemisinin, using it alone, can all cause resistance.


As one of the Khmer Rouge's last battlegrounds, the small province covering 1,066 sq km was a difficult place for locals to access healthcare. In the past, its dense jungles created the perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes and the booming gem mines of the 1980s and 1990s brought an influx of foreign migrants with low immunity.

Often, they did not seek treatment in public health facilities, preferring over-the-counter medicines which led to drug resistance.

Today, few gem mines are left but many domestic migrants still move in and out of Pailin, working as odd job labourers in agricultural and construction sectors.


Dr. John MacArthur, chief of the President's Malaria Initiative at the U.S. Centres for Disease Control and Prevention said: "The U.S. government and other donor nations are spending millions and millions rolling out these ACTs and what we're now concerned about is that history will repeat itself with resistant strains migrating from Asia thus rolling back the significant gains that have been made in malaria control in Africa."

If the current strain of the artemisinin-resistant parasite spreads like it did 50 years ago to Africa, where most of the malaria burden lies, and make ACTs useless, the global ramifications could be huge.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), beyond the human toll, malaria causes a decrease Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by as much as 1.3 percent in countries with high levels of transmission.


The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is funding a $22.5 million containment programme -- the first of its kind -- led by WHO and a few other organisations to ensure the parasite does not go beyond Thai-Cambodia border.

The programme faces numerous challenges however, including reaching and monitoring a mobile population not reflected in official records, enforcing the ban on monotherapy and counterfeit drugs in Cambodia's many unlicensed drug stores, and shortcomings on different screening methods.


So far, health care experts have expressed worries about the parasites being present along the Thai-Myanmar, Vietnam-Cambodia and Myanmar-China borders but there has been no confirmation.

Late last year, Malaria Consortium warned the parasites may be spreading to other parts of Southeast Asia.

"Nobody can say how long it will take for the parasite to spread," Dr. Chansuda Wongsrichanalai of USAID's infectious disease team in Bangkok said. "If there's a big movement of people then it will surely escalate the situation."


There are no real alternatives to ACTs currently. The only non-ACT in the market currently is malarone. However, its pricey tag and vulnerability - atovaquone, a component of malarone, is said to be even easier to develop resistance according to USAID -- makes it impractical for large-scale public health programmes.

Reuters AlertNet is not responsible for the content of external websites.

Lending Scheme to Bring Solar to Cambodia’s Poor

via CAAI News Media

March 8, 2010

A business in Cambodia’s Kandal province aims to provide loans and solar equipment in one location.

With access to solar-powered energy products for Cambodia’s rural poor extremely limited, the solar energy company Kamworks and the Cambodia Mutual Savings and Credit Network are partnering to provide low-interest loans to customers hoping to outfit their homes with solar panels, while Kamworks will provide and install the equipment.

Directors at the two companies said the scheme — the first of its kind in Cambodia — will help the country’s rural poor gain access to renewable energy.

“You have to say the investment for solar-powered technology is higher initially than fossil fuels,” said Jeroen Verschelling, a director at Kamworks. “Even though there is a payback time of less than one year, people still find it very hard to make the investment.”

Mr Verschelling said all the equipment Kamworks produces will have to be of the highest quality as “the moment it stops working the client will stop paying” back the loan and the foundations of the entire partnership will come undone.

Buyers interested in equipping their homes with solar technologies will first pay a visit to Cambodia Mutual Savings, which will share retail space with Kamworks at a building in Cambodia’s Kandal province, to take out a loan ranging from $25 to $599, depending on the product. A visit to Kamworks would complete the purchase.

Customers can go for a small solar-powered lantern, which aims to replace kerosene lighting at a cost of $25, or they can purchase a complete solar home system, which ranges from $199 for a 20-watt array to $599 for 80 watts.

The lantern comes with a one-year warranty, while the panel systems are covered for 20 years.

“This should create less dependency on fossil fuels for power,” said Mr Verschelling. “We are trying to do something about climate change.”

Mr Verschelling said that entering the market before the national grid expands is probably its best bet with less than 20 percent of rural inhabitants with a sustained power supply for electricity.

“I’m not sure if the grid is really the answer for the poor parts of society,” he said. “It’s not a clean energy source as most of the energy comes from fossil fuels.”

Moreover, once the loan is paid off, households fitted with the solar products should see their living costs decline.

“It is totally new and if it is efficient we can develop it further,” said Christine Dellocque, managing director at Cambodia Mutual.

Ms. Dellocque said the lender had determined interest rates for the loans — which could be as low as 1.7 percent — by conducting studies of household wages and saving capabilities among potential borrowers in Kandal province.

Before a loan is handed out, Cambodia Mutual will ensure that borrowers have set up a savings account at the company, a measure Ms. Dellocque said will act as security to the loan.

“If clients have a capacity for saving, they also have the capacity for credit,” she said.

Ms. Dellocque added that using traditional collateral — land titles and property — as security for such small loans was unbalanced. Instead, the solar panels themselves will be used as collateral, she said.

Battling to get women workers their due

via CAAI News Media

Monday, March 08, 2010


It was after toiling in a towel factory and seeing up-close the pathetic conditions of the female factory workers that Rehana Yasmeen, along with other workers, decided to constitute a union by the name of Hosiery Garment Textile Workers Union in 1997.

Then onwards, there was no looking back. The union is now actively working for the rights of the workers, especially the female workers, raising awareness and educating them.

Yasmeen’s struggle against the indiscriminate labour system started after the sudden death of her husband when she was left alone and penniless. “I had a five-month-old baby to take care of and did not know what to do.” Yasmeen then became a home-based worker, sewing laces on frocks for minor girls. Later, she switched to sewing baby towels which enabled her to earn a meagre Rs20 per 200 pieces.

“In 1996, I joined a towel-producing factory, United Factory in the SITE Industrial Area, where women cut, sewed, packed, and labeled towels, which were exported. By working in the factory, the hazardous conditions under which the women worked and the way they were treated by the owners of the factories was exposed.”

According to Yasmeen, due to the threads of the towels, a lot of women suffered from sinus and chest infections. “There were no health precautions for the women. Also, they were under-paid and overstressed, as they worked 12-14 hours at a stretch. Meanwhile, harassment and abuse gripped women at the workplace but fearing losing their jobs, they did not speak up about the crimes. Women are treated like slaves in factories.”

Having a B.Ed degree, Yasmeen was better off than the others as she was aware of her rights and spoke against any unjust treatment meted out to the women. But she realised that she could completely work for the rights of the women when she was out of the factory. After leaving factory, she formed the union, of which she is the General Secretary today. She later became a labour councilor in 2001 of Baldia Town, UC-6.

Yasmeen then took up the task of educating women on their problems and how too speak up. “Women suffer from a lot of problems. They are not given appointment letters when they are working in a factory; there is no social security for them; there is no concept of maternity leave for the women.

Factories don’t even have the simplest facilities such as drinking water or separate washrooms.”

Currently, Yasmeen’s union has 600 female workers, majority of them working in garment factories. Yasmeen who has traveled to Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka to discuss the plight of female workers feels that women are becoming aware of their rights. “The conditions have improved a little bit as the female labourers are speaking up for their rights. But there is still a long way to go before women will be completely empowered and be treated as equals of their male counterparts,” she said.

Report From Cambodia's Garment Factories

via CAAI News Media

Monday 08 March 2010
by: Anne Elizabeth Moore, t r u t h o u t

Meet the international working class - the faceless laborers that likely had a hand in stitching together your mid-range jeans, your jaunty parka or your favorite silky smooth T-shirt: They are super giggly and sharing snacks in the back of a converted military pickup truck over their lunch break.

Garment workers returning after a lunch break. (Photo: Anne Elizabeth Moore / t r u t h o u t)

In fact, they're downright cute as buttons, and make about that, too. Cambodia offers a national monthly minimum wage for garment workers of $50. This is still higher than in some countries, but Cambodia's economic boom means that prices and wages in almost all other sectors have risen rapidly in recent years. In 2009, the Cambodian Labour Union Federation and the National Institute of Statistics determined that the minimum wage to support the conditions factory workers lived under was $93 per month. Yet, recent talks to grant laborers a living wage stalled immediately.

"It is too much money to consider when the economic crisis has affected the sector," the president of the Free Trade Union of Workers Chea Mony admitted to the press mast month. Ninety-three garment factories closed and 60 suspended work in 2009, leaving 68,190 workers - close to 20 percent of the force at last tally - out of jobs, according to official Ministry of Labour records. Many women, with few other opportunities in the developing nation, took jobs as sex workers. The so-called entertainment industry grew rapidly, and some fear HIV transmission rates are on the rise too.

In the truck, though, no one's concerned. Six of them, matching kerchiefs tied over their brows, nestle together in the back, three in the front, all in respite from the heat of the torrential noonday Cambodian sun, not eating very much because they can't afford to. They each have smooth, light brown skin; bright, charming eyes; and luscious, dark hair. They could be models or - given some time and the funds to study - accountants, scientists or lawyers. Instead, they are garment workers, but I've come to find out if they have a contingency plan.

"Are you worried that your factory will close down?" I ask the group, and they laugh.

"Not worried," my translator explains. "They would be happy."

Concerned there may be a language problem, I ask again, more shrill: "What will you do if the factory closes down?"

I'm not sure what I'm expecting - panic, acknowledgment or a fully worked-out five-point plan - but more laughter is not it.

"Forever," the translator explains over their guffaws, meaning that the factory will never close, and they will continue working there until they cannot work anymore. "Not stop," he clarifies. They're still giggling, but it's no longer funny.

I do know this: I did not expect the choice among a return to poverty, a life in the entertainment industry and garment work - the occupation of around 300,000 women in Cambodia, and the nation's third-biggest money maker - to be so bleak. So bleak it's funny.

The tittering pack of five girls and solitary boy in the back of the military vehicle - to represent the gender ratio in the Cambodian textile industry we would need five more girls, but there isn't room in the truck - touch each others' arms affectionately and tell animated stories. They wear matching kerchiefs to tie back their hair. It's a factory requirement that creates a monotone visual on the floor, and allows bosses to identify workers easily. Plus, it gives them another reason to fire infringers.

I am traveling with my partner, an academic who writes about jeans. When we approach, the group quiets, but only for a moment.

Later, we find out that our translator and friend Mr. Lee told them we were not reporters, so they would talk to us. He explained that we are just tourists who like factories. Still, they fear being fired without the meager stipend a factory closure would bring, so they do not give their names. To further protect them, I will not name their place of employment, either.

This particular group sews and packs jeans for sale in Mexico, Panama, China, Canada and the US. Such information wouldn't usually be available to workers in individual factories, but this group, at the end stages of production, gets to read the boxes. (Many garments, jeans in particular, go through several different international ports before they are completed. This leaves most workers completely in the dark about where their handiwork is retailed - and sometimes, what the final product looks like.)

Most of the clothes produced in Cambodia - 70 percent - are intended for US export. This means that if these same workers were doing these same jobs under US standards - that is, if things switched up a bit and either the pay scale was exported or the entire labor force was imported - they would be earning about 30 times what they do now.

Each member of this group makes $55 per month base pay. The slight increase over the minimum gives them bragging rights, and may quell some protests, but to get enough to send $50 or $60 back home to the provinces, this group works seven days per week, which can bring in as much as $100. (Around 20 percent of the country's 14 million people are estimated to rely on the pay of a garment worker.)

Women who've left the factories say that forced overtime is common, but the workers in the truck do not complain, as jobs cuts and layoffs are often threatened in retaliation. Many work through illness, fearing the loss of wages or of their job. (In-factory health clinics are sometimes available, but lines are often too long and the care too insubstantial to make the wait worthwhile.) One woman tells me of a regular occurrence on the factory floor: that a worker will faint in the stifling heat. This is a fireable offense in the garment industry.

This group doesn't know how much the jeans they make sell for, which is probably good. A reporter friend told me once about a plane that crashed into the ocean near Kep. Packed and priced T-shirts and jeans washed ashore, and the locals who found them couldn't believe their eyes. They asked her, "This is how much people pay?" One was laughing so hard, my reporter friend was concerned he would asphyxiate.

None of the women in this group yet has children, and each lives with up to four other girls in a small concrete room. Advancement is unlikely, and the garment factory workers realize it. "Do any of you want to be managers?" we ask, and Mr. Lee translates their raucous response: "Oh, they would like."

Female managers at the factories are rare - by some estimates only 6 percent of the managers in the country are women, most are rumored to be related to owners. When asked what it would take to advance through the hierarchy, the girls basically agree: Time. Time to study accounting, earn a high school diploma, attend university. Plus, they add sadly, "the owners only recruit high quality."

Some factory workers supplement incomes with piecework, and a very few work already in the entertainment sector. The most popular of the part-time job, though, according to the Women's Agenda for Change, is money lending: loaning other factory workers a few bucks under high interest rates.

These workers, though, are just too tired. When we ask, "what do you do after work?" they look at us askance.

"They sleep," Mr. Lee says.

Undaunted, we try again: "Have you visited the city center?" It is 20 minutes away, a trip that might cost 12 and a half cents on the moto of a friendly driver." Two years ago," one says. The others are silent.

"A few months ago, these were all empty," our translator and guide Mr. Lee explains as he leads us through the dank, but lively concrete caverns that house the garment factory employees who reside and work along the southernmost edge of Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

"Now," he says, "they fill."

Mr. Lee has brought us home to meet his wife, who just quit the factories. The walkway is jam-packed with motorcycles, toys, drying clothes. The walls are crumbling. The only security system is the massive padlocks on each door. He opens the door to one of the flats and, in Khmenglish - a mix of Cambodian and English that adds gratuitous S's and sees no need for verb tenses - asks us to step into his home.

It is small. The tile floors are utilitarian enough, but the walls crumble and mold with years of abuse. Most walls do not see as much human contact as these: but when three people sleep, cook, eat, read, wash and dry laundry, relax, bathe, play - and, if the inhabitants are lucky, store their motorcycle - in a space approximately eight feet by ten feet, the walls are going to show wear.

The tiny abode is occupied by Mr. and Mrs. Lee and their three-year-old son. They pay $25 per month. Utilities aren't included, and add another $5 to $10 every month. Water for cooking and drinking must be purchased separately. (Rents vary, depending on the size of the room and the number of people sharing it, but it's hard to find a place to sleep near the factories for less than $15 per month, before utilities.)

With overtime, a worker can bring in as much as $85 to $120, but a 2009 Cambodian Institute of Development Study found that workers earn an average of $79 per month. After rent and utilities, and the $50 most send back to the provinces every month, garment workers are left with between $4 and $9 per month for food, in a city where it's hard to eat on less than $1.25 per day. It's a particularly tight fit for families with kids to feed.

A few months ago, despite losing his own job with an NGO, Mr. Lee asked his wife to leave the garment factory job because, although they needed the money, they missed their son. There is no childcare available to workers and young Lee Hira was living in the provinces with grandma so they could both work. Visits were rare.

Now Hira is home - such as it is - and the family's together. When the boy is old enough for school, Mrs. Lee will look for more work in the factory. She was worried a few months ago, when there were so many open rental units in their building.

But now, she thinks, things are looking up.

"Can we go inside the factory?" I ask Mr. Lee after we've left his home. We're out on the street in front of another factory hoping, like wallflowers at a high-school dance, that someone approaches us.

Cambodia got into the garment sector in the mid-1990s to take advantage of the Multi-Fibre Agreement, a quota system that offered developing nations a fair shot at exporting apparel to the lucrative US market. At the time, inspections and unions and oversight of factories all flourished. This allowed Cambodia to proclaim itself "sweatshop-free," even as details of conditions in some factories painted a less-than-rosy picture.

At the end of 2004, however, the Multi-Fibre Agreement ended, and the textile industry in Cambodia panicked. Some closed up shop immediately, some simply laid off workers. Many that stayed open doubled workload but not pay, changed contracts to make it easier to fire employees or simply stopped meeting workers' demands for rights.

The good thing about the "sweatshop-free" aura that still clings to the garment industry is that factories are supposed to allow outside monitors to come through for inspections. In practice, however, only 300 factories are registered with the International Labor Organization's Better Factories Cambodia program, which sends only 12 inspectors out, in pairs and with advance appointments, to monitor compliance.

Mr. Lee denies my request without saying no. "They scared you want to take a photo," he says. "The owner of the garment factory - sometimes they scared, some foreigner want to know if they are breaking regulations."

They should be. During the 2008 inspections, the most recent year for which reports are available, Better Factories Cambodia found only 97 percent compliance with the minimum wage pay standards for regular workers, and 70 percent compliance for casual workers. Legal requirements regulating payment for maternity leave were only adhered to 74 percent of the time, sick leave paid out 66 percent of the time and a lowly 8 percent of the companies inspected adhered to laws limiting compulsory overtime. Half the companies failed to meet basic health and safety requirements.

But while Mr. Lee and my traveling companion are otherwise engaged, I meander closer to the factory door. A friendly guard waves me in. "Hi!" she says enthusiastically, but this turns out to be the only English she knows.

A not-so-friendly guard, standing with four uniformed pals, grips his rifle in greeting. I gesture toward the two picnic tables full of eating women and turn on the charm. "I'm starving, what kind of food do you serve here?" I ask him.

He laughs and pokes his chin toward the door. "We don't make anything here," he says. "You must leave."

A whole family on a motorbike stops when we wave. A four-year old girl stands on the seat in front of her mother and behind her father, who steers. None wear helmets. The first law requiring them was passed recently, but only about half the riders on the street wear them still. They are from Kandal province. On their motorcycle, a trip home takes about two hours.

They tell us they pay $25 per month rent, utilities included - which means their room must be impressively tiny. They send as much money home as possible and, during the rainy season, return home to work the rice fields.

Agriculture barely beats out the garment industry in national income, but working in the country's two grossest-earning sectors doesn't seem to be helping the crew from Kandal, whose down time at one job is spent at the other.

"What is better," we ask, "to work at the farm or to work in the factory?"

In the factories, Mr. Lee explains, "Every month they get the monthly pay. But the farmers? Not every month. For a few months, four months," he says, they make enough to survive. But after that? "Finish."

The husband is speaking, but the wife looks tired. They need to rush home, cook dinner, get to sleep, wake up, eat a meager breakfast, bring the daughter to their friends and check in for work in the morning. They have a few more months of this before they go back to the farm, but after that they'll return to the factory and pick up where they left off.

If they didn't, you might not have anything to wear.