Tuesday, 30 March 2010

State President affirms close ties with Cambodia


via CAAI News Media

03/30/2010

Vietnam wants to strengthen the traditional friendship, fine neighbourliness and cooperation with Cambodia, State President Nguyen Minh Triet told co-prosecutor Chea Leang at a reception in Hanoi on March 30.

Mr Triet acknowledged the positive developments in cooperative relations between the two countries through regular exchange of high-level visits, especially a Cambodia visit by Party General Secretary Nong Duc Manh last December.

He noted that bilateral ties in economics, trade and investment have grown and flourished recently and that Vietnamese businesses have increased investment in telecommunications, energy, mining, rubber plantation and waterways transport in Cambodia.

He welcomed the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) between the Supreme People’s Procuracy of Vietnam and the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, laying a legal framework for increasing cooperation between the two agencies. He proposed that the two agencies implement the MoU effectively to help elevate bilateral relationship.

Ms Chea Leang briefed Mr Triet on the outcome of her working session with the Supreme People’s Procuracy of Vietnam and said both sides will work and build a mechanism for exchanging information and expertise.

She said her agency wants to make further contributions to strengthening the friendship and cooperation between Cambodia and Vietnam.

Retiree paid to get Danish woman out of Cambodian jail


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Monday, 29 March 2010 08:56 RC News .Man who paid Cambodian authorities to release Danish woman from jail has done the same before

When Johanne Vinther Axelsen was released from a jail in Phomn Penh last week, no one knew why the Cambodian authorities suddenly allowed the move.

What appeared to be the prospect of 15 years in prison instead turned into a sudden trip home for the Danish woman on Thursday, who had been charged with illegally sending pills to the US.

In early 2008, Axelsen sent 53 packets of more than 10,000 headache pills containing codeine and valium to her son in the US. The son, Niels Eikeland, had evidently told her that the shipment was perfectly legal.

But now it has come out that retiree Mikkel Hass paid 40,000 kroner of his own money to get Cambodian police to let Axelsen go. Axelsen herself was unable to pay the sum, and the Danish authorities – who had negotiated on her behalf for her release – were unwilling to do so.

But it isn’t the first time Hass has dipped into his own pockets to get a Danish prisoner released from overseas.

In October of last year, Hass paid 20,000 kroner to Thai authorities for the release of James Christensen, who was being held for alleged arson.

Hass told Berlingske Tidende newspaper that more people should be willing to help Danes in similar situations.

‘If you have the money and you’re deciding whether to buy a boat or make a difference in someone’s life, what’s the best choice?’ Hass asked rhetorically. ‘I personally have no doubts about that.’

The Situation of Women in Cambodia Is Improving – Monday, 29.3.2010

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

Posted on 30 March 2010
The Mirror, Vol. 14, No. 658

“Phnom Penh: The US Ambassador to Cambodia said that the situation of women in Cambodia is improving.

“The US Ambassador to Cambodia, Mrs. Carol Rodley, said so at the US Embassy during an event at the occasion of the International Women of Courage Award on 26 March 2010, ‘The situation of women in Cambodia is improving and there is hope that the future will be good for women.’

Note:

“Washington, 10 March 2010. First lady Michelle Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton honored women human rights activists from around the world with this year’s Women of Courage awards at a special ceremony 10 March 2010 at the State Department…

“The awardees this year are Shukria Asil of Afghanistan, Colonel Shafiqa Quraishi of Afghanistan, Androula Henriques of Cyprus, Sonia Pierre of the Dominican Republic, Shadi Sadr of Iran, Ann Njogu of Kenya, Dr. Lee Ae-Ran of South Korea, Jansila Majeed of Sri Lanka, Sister Marie Claude Naddaf of Syria and Jestina Mukoko of Zimbabwe.”

“Ambassador Rodley has been the recipient of the Department’s Senior Performance Award, the State Department’s Human Rights and Democracy Award, the American Foreign Service Association’s Christian Herter Award for creative dissent, the James Clement Dunn Award for leadership, the Director of Central Intelligence Exceptional Humint Collector Award and an Intelligence Community Seal Medallion. Her foreign languages are Khmer, German, Spanish, Urdu, and Hindi.”

“Regarding the Prime Minister’s order to crack down on some entertainment night clubs, in an attempt to reduce rape and human trafficking, she said, ‘Recently, Cambodia has strengthened law enforcement against human trafficking, against drug smuggling, and against other places prone to crimes in Phnom Penh.’ She added that according to recent law enforcements activities, human trafficking has been found at places suspected to be brothels. When the authorities took legal action, victimized women who were sex workers were, in general, not arrested. In many cases, all victims were sent to rehabilitation centers.

“Ms. Carol Rodley stressed, ‘The important thing is to educate women, so they can change themselves, so that they can get proper jobs.’

“Relating to this case, the Minister of Women’s Affairs, Ms. Ing Kantha Phavi, said, ‘The situation of women in Cambodia in health, in their economic possibilities, and in the legal sector has improved.’ She added that the government has created many laws to protect women and their families.

“She went on to say that the Ministry of Women’s Affairs fully supports the policy of Prime Minister Samdech Hun Sen, who had ordered the authorities in all provinces and in the capital city to shut down places operating illegal activities, as this is a problem that affects our Cambodian youth. Violence in society results from ethically problematic and unwelcome activities which happened and have a bad impact on society.

“Ms. Ing Kantha Phavi continued to say that the government had created a National Committee Against Trafficking in Women and Children. This committee focuses on four major fields in order to assist victims who suffer from trafficking and from violence against women: 1. Interception, 2. Conviction, 3. Protection, and 4. Rehabilitation and Integration.

“Also, the government has cooperated with development partners and civil society organizations and has achieved good results. The number of arrested perpetrators increased because of timely and effective interventions from police, which led to more convictions of perpetrators by the courts. The Ministries of Women’s Affairs, of Education, of Information, of Culture and other ministries have joined to publish information about human trafficking, so that citizens at the community level can better submit crime reports in time.”

Deum Ampil, Vol.4, #446, 29.3.2010
Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Monday, 29 March 2010

Climate change may have rang the death knell for Angkor's Khmer civilization

http://feeds.bignewsnetwork.com/
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Tuesday 30th March, 2010

In a new study, researchers have come across evidence which suggests that climate change may have helped bring about the fall of Cambodia's ancient Khmer civilization at Angkor nearly 600 years ago.

Historians have offered various explanations for the fall of the empire that stretched across much of Southeast Asia between the 9th and 14th centuries, from deforestation to conflict with rival kingdoms.

But the new study offers the strongest evidence yet that two severe droughts, punctuated by bouts of heavy monsoon rain, may have weakened the empire by shrinking water supplies for drinking and agriculture, and damaging Angkor's vast irrigation system, which was central to its economy.

The kingdom is thought to have collapsed in 1431 after a raid by the Siamese from present-day Thailand.

"Angkor at that time faced a number of problems-social, political and cultural. Environmental change pushed the ancient Khmers to the limit and they weren't able to adapt," said the study's lead author, Brendan Buckley, a climate scientist and tree-ring specialist at Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory.

"I wouldn't say climate caused the collapse, but a 30-year drought had to have had an impact," he added.

Scientists, led by Buckley, were able to reconstruct 759 years of past climate in the region surrounding Angkor by studying the annual growth rings of a cypress tree, Fokienia hodginsii, growing in the highlands of Vietnam's Bidoup Nui Ba National Park, about 700 kilometers away.

By hiking high into the mountain cloud forests, the researchers were able to find rare specimens over 1,000 years old that had not been touched by loggers.

After extracting tiny cores of wood showing the trees' annual growth rings, researchers reconstructed year-to-year moisture levels in this part of Southeast Asia from 1250 to 2008.

The tree rings revealed evidence of a mega-drought lasting three decades - from the 1330s to 1360s - followed by a more severe but shorter drought from the 1400s to 1420s.

The droughts may have been devastating for a civilization dependent on farming and an irrigation system of reservoirs, canals and embankments sprawling across more than a thousand square kilometers.

"The droughts could have led to crop failure and a rise in infectious disease, and both problems would have been exacerbated by the density of the population," Buckley said.

The study also finds that the droughts were punctuated by several extraordinarily intense rainy seasons that may have damaged Angkor's hydraulic system.

The study suggested that during a normal monsoon season, Angkor's hydraulic network could have handled heavy downpours, but after extended droughts, the system may have been vulnerable to massive siltation and clogging. (ANI)

Observe International Workers' Day in Siem Reap

http://www.responsesource.com/
via CAAI News Media

Monday, 29 March 2010

People who have booked accommodation in Siem Reap may be interested to know that Cambodia celebrates International Workers' Day.

The holiday on May 1st is one of the many that people in the country choose to celebrate.

Also known as May Day in other parts of the world, it is widely considered to be a celebration of social and economic achievements.

Locals will have the day off work, allowing them to gather in public to support workers' rights.

In addition, many people may take the opportunity to relax with friends and family on the public holiday.

The tradition of supporting workers' rights on May 1st has been established since 1891; when people around the world were called on to demonstrate in memory of those killed in the Chicago riots of 1886.

In Cambodia, May Day is followed by several religious or cultural festivals, including the Royal Ploughing Ceremony at the beginning of the rice growing season and the Birthday of King Sihamoni, the country's head of state.

This year, the monarch will be celebrating his 57th birthday, which typically involves much celebration up and down the country as well as a large fireworks display over the river in the capital Phnom Penh.

Cambodia: No Justice for Grenade Victims

via CAAI News Media

US Should Revive Inquiry Into 1997 Attack and Reassess Aid to Units Linked to Abuse

March 29, 2010

The United States claims that human rights and the rule of law are primary policy goals in Cambodia, yet it withdrew the FBI just when it was close to solving the case and has done nothing for over a decade to resolve it. This attack has cast a shadow over Cambodia that will only be lifted when the perpetrators are brought to justice.
Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch

(New York) - The US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) should revive its investigation into the deadly 1997 grenade attack on an opposition party rally in Phnom Penh that left at least 16 dead and more than 150 wounded, Human Rights Watch said today.

The Cambodian government has failed to take any steps to investigate or hold perpetrators accountable, despite strong evidence of complicity by Prime Minister Hun Sen's bodyguard unit in the attack. The FBI undertook an investigation into the grenade attack because a US citizen, Ron Abney, was among those wounded.

"The United States claims that human rights and the rule of law are primary policy goals in Cambodia, yet it withdrew the FBI just when it was close to solving the case and has done nothing for over a decade to resolve it," said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. "This attack has cast a shadow over Cambodia that will only be lifted when the perpetrators are brought to justice."
In a well-planned attack on March 30, 1997, four grenades were thrown into a crowd of approximately 200 supporters of the opposition leader Sam Rainsy, who had gathered to protest judicial corruption. At least 16 protesters and bystanders were killed, including children, with limbs torn off of nearby street vendors.

Members of the personal bodyguard unit for Hun Sen, then the co-prime minister, were deployed in full riot gear at the rally. They opened their lines and allowed the grenade throwers to escape, then threatened to shoot people trying to pursue them.

Instead of investigating and prosecuting the perpetrators of the grisly attack, Hun Sen announced that the demonstration's organizers should be arrested. In 2009, Hun Sen gave high-level promotions to two military officials linked to the grenade attack, Hing Bunheang, deputy commander of Hun Sen's bodyguard unit at the time of the attack, and Huy Piseth, who ordered the deployment of the unit to the demonstration that day.

"The Cambodian government should be investigating those implicated in the attack, not promoting them," Adams said. "Since the UN peacekeeping mission arrived in 1992, well over 300 people have died in political attacks, yet not one government or military official has been held to account. Cambodia is the textbook case of impunity for human rights abusers."

Human Rights Watch said that US assistance to military units linked to the grenade attack and other serious abuses compounds Cambodia's deeply entrenched culture of impunity for human rights violators.

Since 2006, the United States has provided more than $4.5 million worth of military equipment and training to Cambodia. US aid includes counter-terrorism training to personnel from Hun Sen's bodyguard unit and Brigade 70, who have been moved to a special anti-terrorist unit that was created in January 2008. US training has also been provided to members of Airborne Brigade 911, which has been implicated in well-documented violations, including arbitrary detentions, killings and other attacks, torture, and summary executions.

"Rather than continuing the FBI probe into the killings, the US has channelled military aid to units linked to the attack and other recent serious abuses," said Adams. "The US is sending mixed signals about its commitment to the human rights of the Cambodian people."

Angkor Wat doomed by drought, floods, suggests tree ring study


http://content.usatoday.com/
via CAAI News Media

Mar 29, 2010

The ancient Cambodian capital of Angkor Wat suffered decades of drought interspersed with monsoon lashings that doomed the city six centuries ago, suggests a Monday tree-ring study.

A 979-year record of tree rings taken from Vietnam's highlands, released by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal and led by Brendan Buckley of Columbia University, finds the, "Angkor droughts were of a duration and severity that would have impacted the sprawling city's water supply and agricultural productivity, while high-magnitude monsoon years damaged its water control infrastructure."

By Elsevier, Department of Angkor Conservation

Alternating effects of El Nino and La Nina conditions in the Pacific Ocean, as the northern hemisphere shifted a period of medieval warmth to the "Little Ice Age" of the 17th Century, may have whipsawed the region where Angkor Wat once stood. The "hydraulic city", center of the Khmer empire from the 9th to the 15th Century, was built of impressive temples standing amid nearly 400 square miles of canals and reservoirs called "baray", according to a 2009 Journal of Environmental Management study.

Many of those canals and baray appear silted up by drought, says the PNAS paper, which left them wide open for flooding from the intense monsoons of the early 15th century. "Much like the Classic Maya cities in Mesoamerica in the period of their ninth century 'collapse' and the implicated climate crisis, Angkor declined from a level of high complexity and regional hegemony after the droughts of the fourteenth and early fifteenth centuries," says the study. " The temple of Angkor Wat itself, however, survived as a Buddhist monastery to the present day."

A 2005 Journal of Archaeological Science study found that a typical Angkor temple may have taken more than a century to build.

While some scholars suggest that trade interests led to the capital moving to Phnom Penh in the mega-monsoon era, the study concludes, "decades of weakened summer monsoon rainfall, punctuated by abrupt and extreme wet episodes that likely brought severe flooding that damaged flood-control infrastructure, must now be considered an additional, important, and significant stressor occurring during a period of decline. Interrelated infrastructural, economic, and geopolitical stresses had made Angkor vulnerable to climate change and limited its capacity to adapt to changing circumstances."



Tree Rings, Climate Change and the Rainy Season from Earth Institute on Vimeo.
By Dan Vergano

BOONE LIFE: Cambodian Buddhist monk a spiritual leader


Mey Savann is the the only Cambodian Buddhist monk who lives and practices in Missouri. He came to the Wat Angkor Cambodian Buddhist Temple in Hallsville in October 2005 after learning that the Cambodian Buddhist community was in need of a spiritual leader. ¦ Caitlyn Emmett

via CAAI News Media

Monday, March 29, 2010
BY Caitlyn Emmett

HALLSVILLE — A haze of sunlight streams in through the trailer temple’s window, illuminating the peaceful quiet that envelops Mey Savann as he begins to close his eyes and chant.

Savann is a Cambodian Buddhist monk and the spiritual leader at the Wat Angkor Cambodian Buddhist Temple in Hallsville. He is the only Cambodian Buddhist monk who lives and practices in Missouri.

Savann immigrated to the United States from Cambodia in 2001. In October 2005, he moved to Hallsville to become the spiritual leader for the Cambodian community in mid-Missouri.

“The reason I like to reside here in Hallsville is because of spreading the religion of Buddhism, which is my main object," Savann, who only speaks Cambodian, said through a translator. "I moved from California [to Missouri] because there was no Buddhist monk who resides here.”

As a Cambodian Buddhist monk, Savann’s day-to-day activities include five main things: searching for donations, meditation, thinking about the life of Buddha, trying to figure out the life beyond ours and trying to understand what the future will hold.

Savann said he became a Buddhist in 1980 when he was just 18-years-old. He said he became a monk because “to become a monk is to represent the culture, the tradition, of the Cambodian family.”

According to Buddhist tradition, monks rely on lay people to provide them with their basic needs.

“In our community, we have maybe more than 300 or 400, but it’s throughout the state – it’s not just from Columbia," said member Phillip Path. "We have people from St. Louis, Kansas City, and other surrounding areas from here, and it’s not just Cambodian, we have many other nationalities too that become Buddhist members."

Different families within the local Cambodian community provide Savann with food on different days. “Sometimes I like all the food, but sometimes I have to watch for my health too, and so some food I cannot eat as much of,” Savann said.

Being surrounded by community is a comfort to Savann. He said he feels that being the only monk and living alone can become a bit lonely sometimes. Savann does not like to focus on the future and instead pays attention to the present, but he said he hopes that someday another monk may join him and help in his work.

Another step towards transparency

Photo by: Pha Lina
Police stop vehicles with tinted windows in the capital on Monday. Prime Minister Hun Sen ordered the crackdown during a Council of Ministers meeting on Friday, and officials said Monday that it would enhance security and order.

via CAAI News Media

Tuesday, 30 March 2010 15:05 Kim Yuthana

POLICE have begun a crackdown on cars with tinted windows, as ordered by Prime Minister Hun Sen in a meeting Friday at the Council of Ministers.

Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak said Monday that police were taking a hard line with owners of cars with tinted windows, forcing them to remove the window tinting “to ensure security and order for the Cambodian people”.

“Police will eliminate cars with tinted windows from the road,” Khieu Sopheak said, adding that he did not yet have precise figures on the number of drivers who had been disciplined because police were still preparing their reports.

Am Sam Ath, a technical supervisor for local rights group Licadho, said he supported the government’s anti-tints initiative, though he added that it must be applied in a sustained fashion that does not exempt the rich or powerful.

“We want this practice of the police to continue forever, rather than being sporadic like before,” Am Sam Ath said.

Photo by: Pha Lina
Police stop vehicles in Phnom Penh on Monday as authorities force drivers to remove window tinting in what they say is an effort to increase security in the capital.

However, Yim Sovann, spokesman for the opposition Sam Rainsy Party, questioned the wisdom of the recent crackdown. He said the government could be focusing on far more serious offenses – including corruption and a culture of impunity among security forces – and added that there may in fact be some benefits to tinted windows.

“Cars with tinted windows can sometimes keep politicians secure,” Yim Sovann said.

On the corner of Street 360 in Phnom Penh’s Chamkarmon district on Monday afternoon, municipal police could been seen stopping cars with tinted windows and forcing them to remove the darkened covering from their windows.

No fines were collected, however, and drivers were free to leave as soon as their windows had been restored to normal.

The checkpoint was also used as an enforcement point for other ongoing traffic initiatives, such as motorbike drivers who lacked helmets and whose motorbikes lacked mirrors were stopped and fined.

Foreign adoptions by 2011


via CAAI News Media

Tuesday, 30 March 2010 15:05 Mom Kunthear and Irwin Loy

CAMBODIA plans to reopen the door to foreign adoptions by the end of March 2011, officials said Monday, meaning the Kingdom has one year to meet strict international guidelines put in place to prevent child trafficking.

The announcement comes after the National Assembly passed a law aimed at governing international adoptions last December. Observers say the law is crucial to ending the allegedly widespread practice of “baby-buying”, but some have raised questions about the government’s ability to enforce it.

At a workshop Monday, Social Affairs Minister Ith Sam Heng said authorities want to finalise a system for foreign adoptions of Cambodian children by the end of March 2011.

“The government will start to receive adoption proposals from ... other countries who want to adopt Cambodian children,” Ith Sam Heng said.

“We have one year – 12 months – to implement and enforce the inter-country adoption law.”

Despite the proposed timeline, it remains to be seen whether the law will be stringent enough to ensure compliance with the 1993 Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Cooperation in Respect of Inter-country Adoption, which sets strict terms on who should be eligible for international adoptions and how those adoptions should be regulated.

Though Cambodia has ratified the convention, countries including the US, Australia, France and Canada have effectively placed moratoriums on adopting children from Cambodia, citing concerns about the Kingdom’s ability to comply with the guidelines.

Rights groups have long raised allegations that adoptions in Cambodia have fuelled child trafficking.

A 2002 briefing by rights group Licadho raised alarms over what it said were “clear patterns and networks” aimed at purchasing babies and young children for adoption. Licadho alleged that impoverished women were coerced into giving up their children and said that some orphanages and adoption facilitators profited from the exchanges, often with the help of corrupt local officials.

Problems persist despite the government’s attempt at reforms, said Licadho President Pung Chhiv Kek.

“The fact remains that illegal adoptions are still an issue,” said Pung Chhiv Kek, who wondered whether authorities will be equipped to enforce the Hague Convention – and whether other jurisdictions will determine that Cambodia has sufficiently met its obligations to lift their moratoriums.

“It is to be seen that this convention is strictly enforced,” Pung Chhiv Kek said, linking the issue to corruption. “Adoption will always remain a concern as long as birth certificates and other documents can be forged or purchased easily.”

Organisations that work with children have also expressed concern. In a briefing submitted to the UN’s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in December, the NGO Friends International urged countries to “refrain from lifting their respective moratorium until Cambodia fully complies with the requirements set forth by the Hague Convention”.

“Private orphanages continue to exist without proper monitoring in the country, and so does the commerce of children,” the NGO said in its briefing.

December’s law provides a framework for how children can be adopted, but authorities still must flesh out the tools that will allow its implementation.

Authorities have proposed capping the number of adoption agencies allowed to operate in the Kingdom and are debating whether to charge prospective parents a US$5,000 fee, Ith Sam Heng said Monday.

From 1998 until 2009, more than 3,500 orphan children were adopted by foreign parents, he said.

Timber raids a success: officials


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Tuesday, 30 March 2010 15:05 Cheang Sokha and Sebastian Strangio

FORESTRY officials say they have seized roughly 3,000 cubic metres of valuable timber in nationwide raids in the past two months, as municipal authorities raided warehouses stocking contraband timber in Russey Keo district over the weekend.

Forestry Administration Director Ty Sokun said Monday that the current crackdown, which began with a directive from Prime Minister Hun Sen in January, has led to around 100 raids and seizures totalling 3,000 cubic metres of hardwood.

“We will file all these cases to the courts. We have confiscated the valuable timber, and the owners will be fined and punished,” he said.

He also said that forestry officials are conducting investigations to determine the owners of the confiscated wood, many of whom are believed to be prominent businessmen.

“Since we started our operations, many timber owners have run away or thrown their timber away fearing arrest,” he said, adding that nationwide operations would be intensified in the coming weeks.

During a Council of Ministers meeting Friday, Hun Sen called on officials to maintain a hard line against suspected timber smugglers and to punish them without exception. “The crackdown on logging perpetrators is a crackdown on criminals who are considered national traitors,” he said, according to a statement released after the meeting.

The crackdown has so far implicated some prominent figures. Late last week, authorities in Siem Reap province raided warehouses belonging to tycoon Sok Kong, senator and businessman Lao Meng Khin and Ang Try, the owner of the Tiger Beer licence for Cambodia.

Authorities also raided four warehouses in Phnom Penh’s Russey Keo district over the weekend, district deputy police chief Chan Sahuth said Sunday.

“All woods were confiscated and transferred to forestry officials,” he said. “We are continuing to seek other locations, but I think it is almost finished.”

Nhim Seila, deputy military police commander for Siem Reap, said that since the four stockpiles were raided last week, seven people – including two low-ranking military police officers – have been arrested.

He said he was “waiting to cooperate” with court and Forestry Administration officials, and that he would provide armed security for them in the event of any further raids.

Mixed motives
Bunra Seng, country director of Conservation International, said he was “very happy” with news of the crackdown, and urged the government to maintain its campaign.

“The people just look at the pond, but they don’t know how many fishes there are. But when there’s a crackdown like this, we can see how much illegal activity there is in Cambodia, how many people are involved and who they are,” he said, though he added that he wanted “more details” on the scope and aim of the campaign.

Some observers, however, said the current campaign – like others in the past – will do little to prevent illegal logging in the long term.

“These crackdowns happen sporadically.... If you look at history, [the logging] will continue after this calms down,” said Ou Virak, president of the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights. He said that Hun Sen’s current zeal for eradicating illegal logging is more likely linked to a quarrel between senior officials over scarce timber resources.

“There might be different groups fighting for the same piece of cake,” he said. “My bet is that it’s [designed] to put an end to quarrelling within the ruling elite.”

Government critics also point to the fact that prominent figures, such as those linked to the Siem Reap stockpiles, have not yet been prosecuted for possessing illegal timber.

“We welcome the operation, but I wonder why authorities only confiscated the timber and did not arrest the perpetrators and punish them,” Sam Rainsy Party spokesman Yim Sovann said Sunday.

Ou Virak said that without clear punishments, there was no financial incentive to get out of the illegal wood trade. “It clearly makes sense for people to take the risk: The rewards are very great, but the punishments are minimal. And you always have the option of paying your way out,” he said.

However, Ty Sokun said that in the cases of Sok Kong, Lao Meng Khin and Ang Try there was insufficient evidence to file complaints to the courts.

He said Sok Kong’s warehouse had the necessary licences to stock rare hardwoods, while the timber at Lao Meng Khin’s facility was likely owned by his relatives, who had maintained the stocks for several years for use in a hotel development.

Officials were still investigating the case of Ang Try, and are waiting to see if he has the necessary approval from the authorities, Ty Sokun said.

“The cases in Siem Reap have not yet been filed to the court,” he said.

According to the 2002 Forestry Law, he said, people convicted of illegal logging or receiving benefits from the sale of valuable timber face fines of between 10 and 100 million riels (about US$24,000) and face between one and five years’ jail.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY RANN REUY

Man charged with stock fraud


Photo by: Pha Lina
Khin Udom Vithoeurith appears at Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Monday. The director of Cambodia Trading Post magazine has been accused of making an illegal public offer of securities.

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Tuesday, 30 March 2010 15:05 Chrann Chamroeun

THE Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Monday charged the director of a local magazine with making an illegal public offer of securities after a complaint was filed against him by the Ministry of Economy and Finance.

Prosecutor Hing Bunchea said Khin Udom Vithoeurith, director of the Cambodia Trading Post magazine, had been charged under Article 48 of the Kingdom’s 2007 Law on the Issuance and Trading of Non-Government Securities, with the offence carrying a potential jail term of between one and five years.

Khin Udom Vithoeurith said he had been detained by municipal military police on Sunday before appearing in court on Monday. He said that he had not sold any securities, but had only conducted a seminar on the subject last month at Phnom Penh’s Holiday Villa hotel.

“The court prosecutor repeatedly accused me this morning of selling stock market shares, but I explained that I was not selling – I was only providing training about the theory of stock markets in order to educate the Cambodian people,” Khin Udom Vithoeurith said.

Cambodia’s stock exchange has not yet opened, though it is expected to do so by the end of this year after repeated delays. Sihanoukville Autonomous Port, Telecom Cambodia and Phnom Penh Water Authority are set to be the first three companies listed on the exchange, a joint venture between the Korean Exchange company and Economy and Finance Ministry.

Officials at the ministry could not be reached for comment on Monday.

Pair make bail in land dispute

Photo by: Will Baxter
You Ren (third from right) stands among villagers from Omlaing commune protesting outside the Kampong Speu provincial court last Wednesday against the arrest of her father, You Tho, and Khem Vuthy. Both men were freed Monday after being detained over a land dispute.

via CAAI News Media

Tuesday, 30 March 2010 15:05 May Titthara

KSpeu men charged in row with Phnom Penh Sugar must check in with court.

Kampong Speu provincial authorities on Monday released on bail two men who had been detained for six days for their alleged role in the torching of a makeshift office of a company owned by a Cambodian People’s Party senator, villagers and rights groups said.

You Ren, 26, whose 62-year-old father, You Tho, was one of the two released men, said she was happy her father had been allowed to leave the provincial prison, but said she was concerned that he had been told he would need to check in twice a month with the provincial police office.

“My father is sick and old. It’s very hard for him to come two times a month, but he has to because he’s afraid the police will arrest him again,” You Ren said.

“It’s an injustice for my father because he was not involved in burning down the company’s property,” she added, referring to the March 18 protest during which the Phnom Penh Sugar Company’s makeshift office was burned to the ground.

The company has been granted a 9,000-hectare land concession in Omlaing commune, which rights groups say could be in violation of Cambodia’s Land Law if, as suspected, owner Ly Yong Phat is also the beneficiary of an adjacent 10,000-hectare land concession. Under the Land Law, concessions are limited to 10,000 hectares.

About 300 villagers from Omlaing commune turned out Monday in front of the provincial court to welcome the release of You Tho and Khem Vuthy, the other representative.

They were arrested last Wednesday on what rights groups have said are likely unfounded charges, including incitement, arson and destruction of property.

Am Sam Ath, technical supervisor for the rights group Licadho, echoed the concerns of You Tho’s daughter about the terms of their release.

The village representatives “have to check in at the provincial police office two times a month from April onwards and appear any time the authorities need them, and if they do not comply the police can arrest them”, he said, adding that these restrictions could be particularly disruptive because both men live far from the provincial capital.

Khut Sopheang, the provincial court prosecutor, emphasised that the release was provisional, saying: “They have to return to the court any time we need them.”

Khut Sopheang declined to comment on whether the court would issue any more summonses or arrest warrants.

Muon Kunthear, the wife of Khem Vuthy, said she, too, was happy that her husband had been let out on bail, but that she was worried he would be arrested again if the dispute between villagers and the Phnom Penh Sugar Company led to more protests or confrontations.

“They will still put pressure on my husband. If the villagers continue to protest and demand to keep their land, the authorities will arrest my husband and put him in prison again because they accuse him of inciting the villagers,” she said.

Hi Hoeun, an Omlaing villager, said Monday that employees from the Phnom Penh Sugar Company – escorted by Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF) Battalion 313, which is receiving support from the company under a controversial military-private sector partnership programme – were still surveying the disputed land.

Delegates to ASEAN’s rights body draw fire


via CAAI News Media

Tuesday, 30 March 2010 15:05 Sebastian Strangio

A COALITION of more than 70 regional NGOs has condemned eight ASEAN members, including Cambodia, for failing to respond to its demand for a consultative meeting about the newly created ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission for Human Rights (AICHR).

According to a statement issued Monday, the Solidarity for Asian Peoples Advocacy Taskforce on ASEAN Human Rights stated that only the AICHR delegates from Thailand and Indonesia had responded to its request to hold a civil society consultation on the AICHR’s rules of procedure as it met in Jakarta Monday.

“As representative[s] of a human rights institution, the refusal to meet with civil society is in itself a contradiction of the spirit and principles of human rights,” Yap Swee Seng, the co-convenor of the task force, said in the statement.

The AICHR was established on October 23 last year, during the 15th ASEAN summit held in Hua Hin, Thailand.

Om Yen Tieng, the chairman of the government-run Cambodian Human Rights Committee, could not be reached for comment Monday.

Ex-SRP lawyer accepts CCHR post


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Tuesday, 30 March 2010 15:04 Vong Sokheng

KONG Sam Onn, a lawyer who was served with a bar complaint last year while representing Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker Mu Sochua during her high-profile defamation dispute with Prime Minister Hun Sen, has been appointed director of programmes for the Cambodian Centre for Human rights, the organisation said Monday.

“I think it is a good job to promote human rights, and I will work to help the nation and devote my love to the nation,” said Kong Sam Onn, who ceased representing Mu Sochua and defected to the ruling Cambodian People’s Party after the bar complaint was filed by government lawyer Ky Tech.

“I am a member of the CPP, but it doesn’t mean that a member of the CPP will work to oppose human rights in Cambodia,” he said.

Kong Sam Onn has also represented Sam Rainsy and Ho Vann, another SRP lawmaker.

He has worked as a legal consultant at the Khmer Rouge tribunal and as a senior manager at the Cambodian Defenders Project, a legal aid NGO.

Ex-governor of Ratanakkiri loses official status


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Tuesday, 30 March 2010 15:04 Sam Rith

KING Norodom Sihamoni has issued a Royal decree revoking the civil servant status of former Ratanakkiri provincial governor Kham Khoeun, who in 2006 was sentenced to 17 years in prison for his involvement in an illegal logging ring.

“This order will erase Kham Khoeun, who has been punished with imprisonment, as a senior administration official at the Ministry of Interior,” states the decree, which is dated February 12 and was published in the Royal Work Book released on February 26.

Kham Khoeun was one of seven officials prosecuted for their involvement in an illegal logging ring in Ratanakkiri province’s Andong Meas district. The scheme involved felling trees in Virachey National Park and transporting the lumber across the border to Vietnam.

Pen Bonnar, the provincial coordinator for the rights group Adhoc, said Monday that although all seven officials were convicted and ordered to serve prison terms, only one is currently behind bars.

That official – former Ratanakkiri police chief Yoeung Baloung – was given a 13-year prison term for environmental destruction and “lying and concealing the truth”.

“As I know so far, Yoeung Baloung was moved from Prey Sar prison to the provincial prison,” Pen Bonnar said Monday.

He condemned the authorities for failing to apprehend the six other officials.

“We want the government to implement the law equally,” he said.

Senior Cambodian People’s Party lawmaker Cheam Yeap said Monday that the decree marked the fact that the appeals process in the case against Kham Khoeun had been exhausted.

Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak said Monday that police were still looking for Kham Khoeun, who officials have previously said was living in Laos.

“We are still working to implement the court’s verdict, but we have not yet found him,” Khieu Sopheak said. “We don’t know where he is, but we will find him.”

Police Blotter: 30 Mar 2010


via CAAI News Media

Tuesday, 30 March 2010 15:03 Sen David

PENNILESS MAN KILLS HIMSELF IN CAPITAL
A 30-year-old hotel worker committed suicide on Saturday at his home near Phnom Penh’s Kandal market in Daun Penh district. According to the man’s family, he hanged himself after having an argument with his mother on Saturday over her refusal to give him money.
KAMPUCHEA THMEY

‘GANGSTER’ GROUP GETS HAMMERED
Five “gangsters” were arrested on Sunday in Takeo province’s Daun Keo district after attacking and injuring one another during a drunken argument. Police said the quintet were armed with hammers, and that several were seriously injured. Local residents said they were happy to see the arrests made, as the group had been a constant source of disturbances in the area.
KAMPUCHEA THMEY

PAIR ON THE HOOK FOR ILLEGAL FISHING
Two men were detained on Saturday in Battambang province’s Thmor Koal district on Saturday for illegal fishing. Police said the pair were arrested following a complaint from local residents, who claimed that their unorthodox methods had decimated local fisheries over the past six months. Some members of the community were jealous of the high number of fish the duo were hauling in on a daily basis, one resident added.
RASMEY KAMPUCHEA

RAPE THWARTED IN MEANCHEY DISTRICT
A 29-year-old man was detained on Saturday in Phnom Penh’s Meanchey district after allegedly attempting unsuccessfully to rape a local woman. Police said the suspect, a construction worker, broke into the house and attempted to assault the victim before being thwarted by her neighbours, who heard her cries for help. The woman said the suspect was friends with her husband, who was at work at the time of the incident.
RASMEY KAMPUCHEA

MOTORBIKE ACCIDENT CLAIMS TWO MEN
Two men were killed in Phnom Penh’s Tuol Kork district on Sunday in a head-on collision between their motorbikes. Police said the men died instantly, though their deaths could have been prevented had they been wearing helmets. The narrow road, police added, was a dangerous place for the men to be driving so quickly.
DEUM AMPIL

FORMER KARAOKE SINGER FOUND DEAD
A 25-year-old karaoke singer was found dead in a guesthouse in Sihanoukville on Sunday after she swallowed poison. The guesthouse owner said he sent the woman to a hospital upon discovering her, but to no avail. Local residents speculated that the woman may have been depressed because she had trouble earning money.
DEUM AMPIL

Govt pledges ‘flexible’ use of new protest law

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
Police stop villagers involved in a land dispute in Dangkor district en route to a planned demonstration in front of Prime Minister Hun Sen’s Takhmao home earlier this month.

via CAAI News Media

Tuesday, 30 March 2010 15:04 Cameron Wells and Meas Sokchea

GOVERNMENT officials said Monday that a controversial law regulating public demonstrations will be implemented in a “flexible” manner, that protest organisers will be given significant leeway, and that the law will facilitate communication between protesters and the authorities.

Article 7 of the law, which will come into effect in June, requires any group wishing to hold a peaceful protest to submit a notification letter to municipal or provincial authorities no less than five working days before the intended date of the protest. Organisers of protests on private property and in “freedom parks” designated for public gatherings can submit notifications 12 hours ahead of time, provided they are attended by a maximum of 200 people.

The law also states, in Article 20, that a demonstration can be banned if there is evidence that it might threaten public security.

Nouth Saan, a secretary of state for the Ministry of Interior, said during a workshop in Phnom Penh on Monday that authorities planned to apply the law in a far less rigid fashion that its text might indicate.

“We are not going to count [participants], just give us an estimated number,” he said. “The implementation of the law will be flexible.

“There is no specific number here. The government will not restrict that, if it’s 2,000, 5,000 or 20,000 [people], it doesn’t matter,” he said.

He said the notification requirements are intended to give authorities enough time to prepare road closures and provide security in case demonstrations become violent.

Phon Bunthal, head of the Interior Ministry’s Legislation Council, said one purpose of the law was to open up the lines of communication between authorities and demonstrators.

“This is a new culture, to meet and discuss,” he said.

“If a demonstration is not allowed, they can discuss it further with authorities. If there is no solution, they can go to the courts.”

He added that authorities would face punishment under the law should mistakes be made in its implementation.

“We can arrest, detain and fine [participants] – they will be responsible for any offences. And if there are any serious administrative mistakes [by officials], they will be fired,” he said.

Yim Sovann, spokesman for the opposition Sam Rainsy Party, said after the workshop on Monday that the law should be changed to reflect the more lenient implementation terms that officials had outlined.

“What they said is not the law. The law says a maximum of 200 people,” he said. “If you have political strength, you should make the amendment.”

Families in KCham say Veterans Association is trying to take their land


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Tuesday, 30 March 2010 15:04 May Titthara

REPRESENTATIVES of 160 families in Kampong Cham province’s Tbong Khmum district on Monday staged a protest outside the local office of the Cambodian Veterans Association, which they have accused of trying to force them from their land.

However, Chin Saren, the chief of the Kampong Cham branch of the association, said it had received a social land concession from the government for the 803 hectares that have been claimed by the families, adding that he believed many of the protesters did not actually live on the disputed land.

Sos Mayan, who took part in Monday’s protest, said the families had been living on the land since 1979, and that the association had rejected their request to continue farming there.

“We asked permission from the officers to grow vegetables, but even though we asked they did not allow us to,” she said.

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Before deciding to grant a ... concession, they need to do their research.
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Chin Saren said the association wanted to plant rice and tobacco on the land, and that the proceeds would benefit veterans and their families in the province. He said that more than 200 of the 803 hectares was uninhabited, and that only 10 families would be affected by the concession.

He said the company would not provide compensation to any families beyond the 10, and that many of the protesters belonged to families that had logged illegally in the area.

“We don’t have a policy for providing compensation for villagers who are cutting down trees and taking over state property for selling. They are not real villagers in the commune. They are from outside,” he said.

“We will provide compensation only to the real 10 families, and they have agreed to take the relocation land already.”

Neag Sovath, provincial coordinator for the rights group Adhoc, said the government should take steps to avoid granting concessions that overlap with land that has already been settled.

“Before deciding to grant a social or economic land concession, they need to do their research and don’t overlap with villagers’ land,” he said.

Suon Sokly, the governor of Tbong Khmum district, could not be reached for comment on Monday.

NGO seizes illegal meat from home in Kratie


via CAAI News Media

Tuesday, 30 March 2010 15:04 Tep Nimol

OVER 35 kilograms of wild animal meat and some live animals were confiscated from a house in Kratie province’s Krakor commune during raids conducted Friday by the environmental group WildAid, local authorities said.

So Veasna, chief of Kratie town’s military police, said 25 kilograms of wild boar meat, 10 kilograms of deer meat and eight civets – some living, some dead – were confiscated in the raid on the house of a villager who was suspected of dealing in illegal wildlife.

“WildAid officials launched the crackdown independently – they did not need cooperation from the authorities,” he said.

So Veasna said that the perpetrators had not been arrested because they managed to escape before the raid.

“Our police forces are hunting for the suspects in order to bring them to face the law,” So Veasna said.

“We plan to meet with representatives of WildAid to discuss future cooperation between the organisation and authorities in an effort to crack down on other wildlife offenses.”

A WildAid official declined to comment Monday.

Six more ill in Kratie as tests made for cholera


via CAAI News Media

Tuesday, 30 March 2010 15:04 Mom Kunthear and Brooke Lewis

KRATIE provincial hospital has admitted six new patients suffering from severe vomiting and diarrhoea, its deputy director said Monday, as officials continue to await test results to determine whether cholera was responsible for the deaths of five people late last week.

Chhneang Vutha said some 200 people had come down with severe diarrhoea and vomiting province-wide in the past five days. He said 69 had been treated by the hospital and the rest by health centres.

“I have not yet received the results from sample testing regarding whether it is a cholera case or not,” he said, adding that hospital workers would continue to educate patients about the role of hygiene in preventing the illness from spreading.

Pieter van Maaren, country representative for the World Health Organisation, said he had not yet received reports from the Health Ministry on the cholera test results, but that he had been informed that health officials in Kratie were “in full control of the situation”.

“This is something that is being investigated,” he said. “As with all cholera cases, I want to make it very clear that cholera can only be confirmed by laboratory investigation.”

Nevertheless, Toun Ngork, the governor of Kratie’s Chet Borei district, said Monday that he remained convinced that all five people who died in the district had been stricken with cholera.

“I confirmed from the health officials in the province that they died because of cholera,” he said. “They got it because most people in this district drink [unboiled] water.”

Van Maaren said that beyond providing an official diagnosis, the test results would be helpful in devising measures to prevent the illness in Kratie from spreading. But he reiterated the position of the WHO and the government that the diagnosis was not a primary concern.

“In essence it doesn’t make any difference to us whether acute watery diarrhoea is caused by cholera or something else, because the treatment is the same,” he said.

“In all cases the primary treatment that has to be taken is plenty of fluids.”

Sihanouk Ville: Frenchman kills self in guesthouse


via CAAI News Media

Tuesday, 30 March 2010 15:03 Chrann Chamroeun

Sihanouk Ville

A 30-year-old Frenchman was found dead on Friday night in Preah Sihanouk province in what local officials said was a suicide. Sihanoukville police Chief Man Sour said Monday that the man was discovered at the resort town’s DD Canada guesthouse, having apparently hanged himself. Laurence Bernardi, first secretary of the French embassy in Phnom Penh, identified the deceased as Hyacinthe Navas, and said embassy officials were in contact with his family. “There is every indication that the cause of death is a suicide. We will of course wait for the police report, which will confirm it,” Bernardi said. Navas’s body was taken Saturday to Calmette Hospital, Man Sour said.

Petronas scheduled to exit Cambodia in April

Photo by: Pha Lina
Vehicles fill up Monday at the only remaining Petronas petrol station in Cambodia, located on Mao Tse-tung Boulevard in the capital. The Malaysian energy firm is scheduled to leave Cambodia next month, according to representatives.

via CAAI News Media

Tuesday, 30 March 2010 15:01 Nguon Sovan

After cutting petrol stations to just one, Malaysian firm to leave

THE Malaysian oil company Petronas Cambodia Co Ltd will quietly withdraw its business from Cambodia next month, becoming the second oil supplier to leave the country in recent years, a local company staff member told the Post Monday.

“We were extremely shocked when the company told us that they would withdraw investment in Cambodia from next month,” said the staff member, who asked not to be named.

In an internal memo sent from Petronas’ 29 Cambodian staff members to management in November, employees said they were disheartened to hear the news.

“We know that Petronas Cambodia Co Ltd was not making any profit for the past several years, but in recent years we have turned around the company from making losses to breaking even, and this year we are making a profit,” they wrote. “We hope that in the future we will do our best to make more profit for the company.”

The staff memo requested $5,000 per person for “pocket money” on top of six months’ severance required by law, “so that some of our staff can do some small business for their living”. Some staff told the Post that Petronas paid some employees Monday $1,000 each by cheque. Others had been paid more, they said, but less than the requested $5,000.

The Petronas withdrawal follows the exit of Shell Co in 2007. With the Petronas exit, Cambodia will now have 11 petrol distributors.

Petronas opened in Cambodia in 1994 with 19 stations, but these gradually dwindled to one, the staff member said.

Total assets for the Cambodian branch of the Malaysian national company stood at $7.5 million, including an oil-storage facility in Samrong Thom commune, Kean Svay district, Kandal Province.

Petronas has sold its assets and licences to American Lube Co Ltd, a local oil dealer, the staff member said.

Petronas had undertaken wholesale and power plant supply but sales dropped consistently, from 10,000 tonnes per month in 2006 to around 2,000 tonnes a month today, the staff member said.

An engineer at the company said Monday he was not aware of the pullout, but he confirmed the sale of assets to American Lube.

“It may be just changes from foreign management to Cambodian management in order to create more business effectiveness,” he said.

Jalaludin Omar, CEO of Petronas Cambodia, and Ngy Iem Tiong, president of American Lube, could not be reached for comment Monday.

Baitang in rice export deal with Italian firm


via CAAI News Media

Tuesday, 30 March 2010 15:01 Chun Sophal

BAITANG Kampuchea Plc has signed an agreement to sell 562 tonnes of rice worth nearly US$500,000 to Italy-based PHAM Distribution SAL.

“Under this agreement, we hope that the company will gain more experience in supplying rice to foreign partners,” Ny Lyheng, deputy director general of Baitang Kampuchea, told the Post Monday.

According to the agreement, signed by senior representatives on both sides Friday, Baitang Kampuchea will start supplying rice in mid-April at $880 per tonne.

Un Buntha, deputy director general of the Domestic Trade Department, said Monday that domestic companies have been selling rice at scales too small for the international market, though that may be changing.

“I think that these Cambodian companies will be able to export tens of thousands of tonnes of rice from next year because they have been preparing production lines for many years in an attempt to support large-scale export,” he said.

Ny Lyheng said his company can only export a small amount because Cambodian rice isn’t well-known internationally.

“We hope that the company will be able to find buyers who can buy rice in larger amounts soon,” he said.

Companies from Australia and France are considering importing rice from Cambodia, but they have not yet reached any formal agreements, he added.

Baitang Kampuchea signed deals in January with 350 local rice mills from 10 rice-producing provinces to band together and export rice in large quantities.

Cambodia’s rice surplus for export is estimated at 3 million tonnes per year, worth about $13 million, with Europe the biggest buyer in recent years.

Kaing Meng City sales disappoint


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Tuesday, 30 March 2010 15:00 Soeun Say

THE US$30 million development of Kaing Meng City outside the capital has been dampened by the real estate downturn, with sales in the doldrums, a project official said Monday, following the visit of a government team aimed at spurring the project forward.

Infrastructure has been completed, and nearly all 1,500 plots of land have been sold, but further movement has stalled, Yun Hong, sales manager for the development, told the Post.

“We have started sales for the second phase, but we cannot sell anything,” he said. “When the property market was booming, we sold a plot for more than US$30,000. Now we are selling at $20,000 a plot, but nobody is interested in buying.”

Kaing Meng City, which lies on 300 hectares of land in Kandal Steung District, Kandal Province, began in March 2008, just before Cambodia’s property and real estate markets slumped.

The developer had hoped to sell plots of land and to build houses on them, but the economic downturn stopped them, Yun Hong said. Now, he was hard-pressed to sell even the land.

“They [investors] cannot buy land to build the houses for sale,” he said. “I hope the property market will rebound in 2011.”

Officials from the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction inspected the site last week as part of an ongoing effort to encourage developers to complete projects.

“They are working very slowly,” Tanheang Hanida, chief of the Technical and Control Office at the ministry’s Construction Department, said Monday. “We’ve pushed them to go ahead with their plans, despite the impact of the global financial crisis, to feel good and confident about their project.”

Yun Hong said the developer welcomed the officials. “We will cooperate and push ... to go faster,” he said.

Angkor ticket revenues up 20pc during Q1


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Tuesday, 30 March 2010 15:00 May Kunmakara

A CLIMB in quarterly ticket revenue for tickets to the Angkor temples reflected a slight recovery for a tourism sector hurt by global and regional uncertainty, officials said Monday.

Ticket sales grew 20 percent for the first quarter of 2010 compared to the same period last year, according to figures from Apsara Authority, the agency that manages the temples.

The new figures marked a recovery from 2009 sales, which had dropped 10 percent from levels in 2008, at the onset of the economic downturn.

“We’ve seen a recovery in the whole sector for several months this year, allowing our revenues to increase around 20 percent so far,” Apsara Director General Bun Narith told the Post. “However, last year the impact of the global crisis, the [H1N1] outbreak, as well as political turmoil in Thailand, all impacted the drop in foreign visitors to the Angkor Wat temples.”

Tourism Minister Thong Khon said the sales figures reflected the sector’s overall recovery. Revenue declined on the back of a 5 percent fall in foreign visitors to Siem Reap in 2009, he said.

“But I see that in recent months this year, foreign tourists increased around 25 percent [in Siem Reap], which would contribute to the increase of ticket sales revenue,” he said.

The government allows more than 5,000 foreign delegates to visit the temples for free each year, he said.

Last year, the revenue from ticket sales dropped to around US$27 million from nearly $30 million the year before, he added. Cambodia saw revenue of $32 million in 2007.

Although revenue is down, tourist arrivals grew slightly in 2009, up 1.7 percent from 2008, according to the ministry. January arrivals were up 6.36 percent from the same month last year.

Bun Narith said political unrest in Thailand and the military standoff on the Thai border were no longer hurting Cambodia’s tourism sector.

“Now our tourism gateway is changing destinations, from the usual Thailand to Vietnam,” he said. “We saw tourists in the region increasing a lot last year”, especially from China, Singapore, and South Korea, as well as Europe and the United States, he said.

About 5,000 people now visit Angkor Wat every day, he said, with foreign visitors using a weeklong pass over the course of one month, instead of seven days in a row.

“I don’t dare say what percentage we will take this year, but it will be quite a bit better than last year, because the crisis is over,” said Bun Narith.