Monday, 29 March 2010

Conference focuses on valuations

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Monday, 29 March 2010 15:00 Soeun Say

THE National Valuers Association (NVA) held a seminar on property assessment over the weekend in a bid to train realtors and earn confidence among potential investors.

More than 60 representatives of real-estate companies, property developers, law firms and government offices attended the two-day seminar in Phnom Penh, which taught real-estate assessing at international standards, Sung Bonna, NVA president and owner of Bonn Realty Group, told the Post Saturday.

Cambodian realtors need more professional skills to properly assess property values, especially as the economic crisis has squeezed the sector, he said.

Bonna Realty General Manger Keuk Narin said Sunday the training provided would help boost investor confidence in Cambodia, whose property and real-estate markets underwent a frantic boom prior to the economic downturn in 2008.

“Some investors looking to do business in the real-estate market still are not confident with Cambodia’s real-estate assessors,” he said. A survey suggests 80 percent of foreign investors are confident of real-estate valuation, said Seng Sopheak, valuation manager of Cambodia Properties Ltd.

FTB assets rose 5pc in 2009

Foreign Trade Bank officials open a new branch Friday at Sihanoukville Autonomous Port. The bank’s assets rose 5 percent in 2009.

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Monday, 29 March 2010 15:00 May Kunmakara

Troubled bank that had 32pc NPL rate in 2008 opens Sihanoukville port branch


FOREIGN Trade Bank of Cambodia (FTB) assets rose to US$275 million in 2009, a 5 percent increase from 2008, while gross loans and advances to customers climbed to $108 million, a 7 percent rise for the same period, according to the bank’s annual figures.

“We saw that during the hard time of the global economic crisis, our total assets rose, FTB’s general manager, Gui Anvanith, told the Post Friday during the launch of a new branch of the bank at Sihanoukville Autonomous Port. “This was because prior to the … crisis we were already careful with many of our services, to avoid many large impacts.

“Now the difficulties have gone, and we’re left with a lot of money to provide loans, and that’s why we’ve seen our loans also increase,” he said.

Annual figures for the bank show a rise in capital to $33 million, 17 percent shareholder equity growth, to $42 million, and a 2 percent increase in deposits, to $227 million.

The bank is now assessing its non-performing loans (NPL) and profit, with an audit expected next week, Gui Anvanith said.

“We have not finished the audit, but we know that NPL and profit are much better than a year earlier,” he said.

The FTB posted a massive non-performing loan ratio of 32 percent for the end of 2008, by far the largest in the country. By comparison, Canadia Bank, which retains a stake in the FTB, is aiming for a 4 percent NPL ratio this year. The 2008 NPL ratio for ANZ Royal Bank was 2.6 percent.

Nevertheless, Gui Anvanith said the FTB would continue to grow as the global and Cambodian economies recover.

The bank had not decided whether to make loans in the real-estate sector, he said, but “will support any customers who have a solid business background”.

The new branch in Preah Sihanouk province will also help the bank, he added. The port branch will provide a “one-stop service” for port activities and will offer banking services to traders and investors, he said.

FTB’s port branch is part of a strategy to differentiate FTB from other banks in the coastal province, which typically operate near markets in Sihanoukville town.

“Where is the heart of the economic activity of Sihanoukville?” he said. “The answer is the port.”

Port Director General Lou Kim Chhun said the facility was “the main economic gateway for the country”, the site of many companies and of trade activities, but that it needed a bank.

Stock Roundup: Oz recoups after filing in ongoing class action

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Monday, 29 March 2010 15:00 Steve Finch

AUSTRALIAN firm Oz Minerals recorded a strong end to last week’s trading in what has been a volatile period for the extractive industry.

Oz Minerals was down 0.43 percent to A$1.16 (US$1.05) in Sydney for last week but produced a late rally Friday to climb 1.31 percent on news that it was taking action after a shareholder class action accusing the company of hiding maturing debt in a 2008 financial statement.

News reports Friday said Oz, which operates mineral concessions in eastern Cambodia, would file a cross-claim against KPMG in a federal court over allegations that it did not sufficiently flag debt in reviewing the Melbourne-based miner’s accounts up to the end of the first half of 2008.

Southern Gold, another Australian miner exploring for minerals, including gold, in the east of the Kingdom, saw its share price plummet 8.33 percent in Sydney over the past five days over concerns after tycoon Ken Talbot sold an 18.1 percent stake to unknown investors on March 19, according to a company statement.

In an apparent attempt to quell investor fears, Southern Gold issued an announcement Tuesday, described as “bizarre” by some analysts, introducing the new stakeholders. But as the company failed to identify who they were, the stock fell a further 4 percent the same day, and Southern Gold saw a poor week.

Vimpelcom, owner of mobile brand Beeline, recorded a strong rally in New York Friday coming off mostly solid financial results at the end of the previous week in closing up 3.23 percent Friday in New York to $17.89.

The stock was up slightly at 0.39 percent over the past five days’ trading to cap a 52-week period in which it has sunk as low as just $6.25 and a high of $22.55.

China-ASEAN Resources, owner of a Cambodian logging concession that suffered a huge drop in production last year, recommended not offering a year-end dividend in a Thursday announcement, prompting shares to fall 13.46 percent last week to US$0.09 in Hong Kong. The stock has plummeted 28 percent in the past three months’ trading.

Meanwhile, confusion continued at JSM Indochina last week as the regional property investor said in a Wednesday announcement, “the Board has not been able to confirm all of the company’s contractual commitments and liabilities” in order to return uninvested capital ahead of completing a 2009 audit.

Disagreement over unspent capital led to a board split and sackings at the end of last year.The firm has not traded on London’s AIM board since March 18.

New ceramics from artists' designs

Photo by: Uy Nousereimony
Prize-winning designs and the resulting ceramic products are displayed at an awards ceremony at Imperial Garden Villa and Hotel in Phnom Penh on March 19.

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Monday, 29 March 2010 15:00 Roth Meas

GERMAN Technical Cooperation (GTZ), a nongovernmental organisation that specialises in technical cooperation for sustainable development, last week revealed the winners of a pottery design competition it had sponsored with the aim of promoting clay products from Kampong Chhnang province.

The organisation issued a call last month for art students at the Royal University of Fine Art, Norton University and Setec University to submit drawings of original designs for clay pots, jugs and other objects.

The winners’ drawings were taken to Kampong Chhnang province, where potters made real products based on the designs.

Peter Bolster, the GTZ team leader in charge of the Private Sector Promotion program, said the competition was aimed at raising the living standards of people in Kampong Chhnang province by promoting the production of pottery there. “We wanted to offer more chances for the potters to get new, creative ideas, which is a requirement for the market,” he said.

Prum Samay, a 25-year-old student from the Royal University of Fine Art, submitted two drawings that won the first and third prizes. “It took me a long time to explore ideas after I heard the competition announcement in February, but once I got the ideas it only took one or two days to make the drawings,” he said. He said his first drawing, which won third prize, was “not so inventive”, showing a design for a jug with artwork on its body.

“My second drawing was also a jug, but it consisted of two connected containers and also included artwork. This won one first prize,” he said.

“I invent by inserting Cambodian art styles into my designs so they look attractive,” Prum Samay said. “The artwork was inspired by traditional art seen on the walls of ancient temples and Buddhist shrines.”

If coming up with the initial designs was a challenge, the next step in the process was even more difficult.

Eour Nara is a 25-year-old potter from Andong Russey village in Kampong Chhnang who turned Prum Samay’s second drawing into a tangible object. She said potters in Kampong Chhnang province usually follow “old models” to produce traditional clay pots, cookers and other objects.

“This was the first time we tried to shape objects based on drawings. At first I was afraid to try because the drawing looked complicated, and the art looked very flowery,” Eour Nara said.

Despite her initial misgivings, she decided to try. She spent two days with Prum Samay, discussing the shape of the jug and the decorations. In the end, they succeeded in producing an attractive product.

“I guarantee the jug will never leak, but there are some problems with stability. I hope to update the design and make a higher-quality product for my next project,” she said.

Eour Nara said she believes the competition will help raise awareness about clay products, enabling potters to boost their sales. “We don’t have many customers now, maybe because they don’t have a clear idea about what we’re producing,” she said.

Competition organiser Kang Proeung said about 75 students submitted a total of 120 drawings for the contest. From these, a nine-member jury chose 25 drawings from 19 students for consideration. These 25 drawings were taken to the villages of Andong Russey, Trapang Sbov and Banh Chhcod in Kampong Chhnang province, where 25 potters each chose one drawing to work on. Six prizes were given – three for designers and three for potters – with first prize in each category earning US$300, second prize $200 and third prize $100.

Chan Sorey, the secretary of state at the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, said at the awards ceremony on March 19 that she admired the ability of the potters – most of whom were women – to create new designs. “In this free-market era potters cannot follow the old models all the time; otherwise, they cannot compete with others,” she said.

Bong Savath, rector of the Royal University of Fine Arts, said pottery is a traditional art form in Cambodia that dates back more than 1,000 years. He added that clay artefacts are found at ancient sites throughout the country.

“Clay has been used to make pots and ceramics for a long time, and it’s even been [used] to make devotional objects to bury with corpses,” he said. “I admire potters in Kampong Chhnang province because they’re not only earning money from pottery but also playing an important role in continuing an important part of Cambodia culture.”

German Technical Cooperation also announced that a similar competition will be held in the future for silversmiths in Siem Reap province.

Live on TV: Thai PM vs. anti-government protesters

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By JOCELYN GECKER (AP) – 37 minutes ago

BANGKOK — Thailand's prime minister met his political opponents on live television Sunday to try to defuse a crisis that has produced huge demonstrations and sent him fleeing to live at an army base, but the protest leaders said new elections are the only answer.

Viewers across the nation watched three men in red and three in blue — the "Red Shirt" protest leaders, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajva and two advisers — shake hands with strained smiles across a conference table before reiterating their sharply different stances. More talks were set for Monday, but Sunday's three-hour meeting offered little reason to believe any agreement could be reached.

"Our request is simple and direct. We would like Parliament dissolved to return power to the people, so they can make their decision," said Veera Muksikapong, one of the protest leaders.

Abhisit has repeatedly rejected the protesters' demands that he dissolve Parliament, arguing that calling new elections will not fix Thailand's deep political problems.

"The wound in this country cannot be healed by dissolving Parliament," Abhisit said. "I have to make a decision based on a consensus from the entire country, including the Red Shirts."

"If I dissolve Parliament, what color shirts will spring up next?" he asked.

The talks were a relatively calm moment after more than two weeks of protests that have drawn more than 100,000 people to peaceful but increasingly confrontational rallies against a government that demonstrators consider illegitimate. The protests have raised concerns of violence and prompted travel warnings from three dozen countries.

"Can we bring a pleasant atmosphere back to the country?" Vejjajva asked during the talks, which included tension, some laughter, a few jokes and a plea from the protesters to take a bathroom break after two hours.

Abhisit has been sleeping and working at an army base outside Bangkok since the protests started March 12. He had initially refused protesters' demands for talks on live television but abruptly reversed course Sunday "to restore peace and minimize the chance of violence," his office said. He met protest leaders at an academic institute in a Bangkok suburb.

The talks were broadcast on a giant screen at the main protest site, in the historic heart of Bangkok, where thousands of red-shirted protesters watched and waited for direction from their leaders.

"For now, we are not going to mobilize any more red shirts," protest leader Jatuporn Prompan said as he exited the talks. "But we hope that tomorrow we get a clearer picture."

Sunday's talks gave the Red Shirt leaders new legitimacy but offered a face-saving situation for both sides, analysts said.

"The prime minister has defused the tension quite nicely," said Somchai Pagapasvivat, political science professor at Bangkok's Thammasat University.

"The meeting today and tomorrow won't achieve anything concrete. But it's a truce. It's a temporary win-win situation for both sides," he said. "There's no exit now, but in the future it will depend on who can garner more support."

Thailand's political crisis started in 2006 when protesters wearing yellow shirts demanded the ouster of then-Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, whom they accused of corruption. Thaksin was toppled later that year by a military coup.

Four years later, Thaksin remains at the center of Thailand's political conflict. He has helped orchestrate the Red Shirt protests from Dubai and other locations since fleeing a corruption conviction in 2008.

The Red Shirt movement — known formally as the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship — consists largely of Thaksin supporters from the country's poor, rural heartland and pro-democracy activists who opposed the army takeover.

Protest leaders have portrayed the demonstrations as a struggle between Thailand's impoverished, mainly rural masses — who benefitted from Thaksin policies of cheap health care and low-interest village loans — and a Bangkok-based elite impervious to their plight.

Thaksin's allies won elections in December 2007, but two resulting governments were forced out by court rulings. A parliamentary vote brought Abhisit's party to power in December 2008. The Red Shirts say his rule is undemocratic and that only new elections can restore integrity to Thai democracy.

Abhisit must call a new election by the end of 2011, and many believe Thaksin's allies are likely to win — which could spark new protests by Thaksin's opponents. The Yellow Shirts occupied Government House for three months in 2008 and then shut Bangkok's airports for two weeks.

The Red Shirts, who say they are committed to nonviolence, launched protests this month with a made-for-TV "blood sacrifice." After collecting donated blood from supporters that filled dozens of jugs, they splattered the blood at Abhisit's office, his private residence and his party headquarters.

A string of non-fatal grenade attacks at government offices in Bangkok have heightened tension. A dozen soldiers and four civilians were wounded in weekend blasts at the army base serving as Abhisit's office and at two state-run TV stations.

Female leaders show the way for Earth Hour 2010

Ten years before irreversible damage is done to planet, says former New Zealand PM Helen Clark

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by ClickGreen staff
Published Sat 20 Mar 2010

With a week to go before the people of the planet switch off for Earth Hour, prominent women across the globe are leading the way to encourage the people of the world to show what can be done to fight climate change.

Leading female identities include former New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark, First Lady of Peru, Pilar Nores de Garcia, and Princess Sita Norodom of Cambodia, who have all given their support to the world’s largest action on climate change.

"Climate change is a truly global challenge. Scientists tell us that we have about ten years left in which to prevent a rise in greenhouse gas emissions which could cause catastrophic and irreversible impacts on the world's climate,” said Mrs Clark, who has been a supporter of Earth Hour since 2008.

“There is still time to prevent the worst from happening, but there needs to be decisive action across the board - from governments, industry, communities, and citizens,” she added.

At Peru’s Earth Hour 2010 launch, the First Lady of Peru, Pilar Nores made an emphatic request for women to lead the initiative this time.

“I am certain that this will achieve a larger participation”, she emphasized.

“Earth Hour is an excellent opportunity for our country to reflect on this issue, but above all to begin a change of attitude towards reducing our energy consumption, and by doing so, contributing towards making a stand against climate change in the long term”, said the First Lady.

As the official Ambassador for Earth Hour in the Kingdom of Cambodia, Princess Sita Norodom will host a candle-lit cocktail party at Le Royal Restaurant, the fine dining table of the Raffles Hotel Le Royal in Phnom Penh.

“I truly believe that Earth Hour provides an opportunity as well to communicate what efforts are done or planned to actively protect the environment in Cambodia,” she said.

Other leading ladies and Earth Hour supporters from around the globe include:

* The First Lady of Belize, Mrs Kim Barrow

* Supermodel Gisele Bundchen

* World Economic Forum’s Young Global Leader 2010, Dr Eva Dichand of Austria

* Chinese Actress Li Bingbing

* Singer Leona Lewis

* Panda Ambassador in Chengdu, Mei Lan

They are joined by female citizen leaders who have taken it upon themselves to make a difference by amplifying Earth Hour in their countries, such as PhD student, Lamia Ben, in Casablanca who first heard of Earth Hour in 2007 and this year has brought together a team of friends to make Earth Hour official in Morocco for the very first time.

This year’s female supporters join an esteemed alumnus of past Earth Hour ambassadors including Cate Blanchett, Nicole Kidman, Zara Phillips and African singer, Achieng Abubra.

Earth Hour Director, Liz Potter, says that Earth Hour demonstrates the determination of the world’s citizens for a better, healthy world.

“Earth Hour’s message of hope and action for a better, healthier planet transcends race, culture and religion. Earth Hour brings together cities, communities, businesses and individuals on the journey to positive action on climate change,” Ms Potter says.

“It is empowering that some of the great women of the world are helping to unite the many voices from all over the globe who are taking action for a better planet.”

Tour To Start On Late Mass. Cambodian Monk's Book

Mar 28, 2010

LOWELL, Mass. (AP) ― Organizers behind the publication of a poetry collection by a late Lowell Cambodian monk are scheduled to launch a nationwide tour promoting the book.

The Light of Cambodian Children and Cambodian Expressions will release the book by Ly Van Aggadipo (AHG'-gah-DEE'-poh) on Thursday at Middlesex Community College in Lowell.

The book describes the horrors of the Khmer Rouge regime through the eyes of Ly Van, who died in January 2008.

Following the Lowell event are stops in Chicago, Philadelphia, St. Paul, Minn., and Long Beach, Calif. Tour stops will feature readings and accompanying musical performances by two Cambodian artists.

The book's editor, Samkhann Khoeun (SAM'-Khan COW'-un), said the tour will bring the monk's story to various Cambodian American communities across the country.

Queensland adventurers claim to find remains of Sean Flynn in Cambodia

ADVENTROUS SPIRIT: Sean Flynn in Vietnam in the late 1960s. Picture: Tim Page Source: The Courier-Mail
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by Sophie Elsworth
From: The Courier-Mail
March 28, 2010

WO Queensland adventurers think they have found the remains of Sean Flynn, the dashing son of screen legend Errol Flynn.

Flynn's disappearance during the Vietnam War in 1970 prompted an international mystery spanning 40 years.

David MacMillan, 29, and Keith Rotheram, 60, went to Cambodia on a search partly funded by the Flynn family.

They have spent four months digging in a remote north-eastern pocket of Cambodia after a local – who has since died – informed them of nearby wartime executions.

"I've been on an expedition there for four months, I had hand digging crews, we just dug hole after hole and we slit trench after trench," Mr MacMillan said yesterday.

"We found human remains and a jaw bone."

On March 14, the pair discovered four well-preserved teeth, two of them still bright white.

The remains have been flown to the US where DNA tests will be performed and checked against Flynn's dental records.

He was known for his excellent teeth and Mr MacMillan, a Nambour-born graphic designer who lives in Vietnam, said an expert who studied photographs of the remains said they showed signs of dental work done in the US when Flynn was a budding actor.

Flynn was working as a photojournalist for Time magazine when he disappeared along with another US journalist on April 6, 1970.

Many attempts were made to find the 28-year-old but proved unsuccessful.

Mr Rotheram, from the Gold Coast, said the findings were part of an "adventure of the decade".

"It's the greatest mystery of the world. Where is Sean Flynn? We were making a documentary on the final search for Sean Flynn," he said.

"In our opinion, we have a 50 per cent chance of it being the remains of Sean Flynn."

The pair worked in 45C heat using hand shovels before opting for a much easier method.

"We went about it the Gold Coast way, I went in there with a bobcat," he said.

"By hand, we spent weeks and weeks and weeks, but by backhoe it took us about an hour-and-a-half before we found something.

"It's right in the middle of nowhere, you had to know where you were digging or you had no chance."

Flynn's 53-year-old sister, Rory, has written of her relief over the find in an email.

"I grew up with Sean and also named my son after him, so we have hoped and prayed that his remains would be found," she wrote.

"Information came to me in the past year that motivated this private search and we hope that the person found is my brother so that he can finally come home."

One early theory claimed Flynn was executed by lethal injection.

A witness who helped Mr MacMillan and Mr Rotheram described a Westerner matching Sean Flynn's description being executed in 1971.

The witness said the man was forced to dig his own grave and then was battered to death with a rock after his executioner's gun jammed as he tried to shoot his victim in the back of the head. Other finds include clothes, and jungle vines used to tie up a prisoner.

It is believed Flynn was executed by brutal rebel soldiers belonging to Cambodia's Khmer Rouge.

His grieving mother, Lili Damita, Errol Flynn's first wife, spent huge sums on failed expeditions to find Sean before she died in 1994.

He was the image of his movie idol father, the star of films such as The Adventures Of Robin Hood and Captain Blood.