Monday, 5 April 2010

News in Pictures

Thailand's Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva (2nd R) and his counterparts from Vietnam Nguyen Tan Dung (R), Cambodia Hun Sen (L) and Laos Bouasone Bouphavanh, pose for a photo during the Mekong River summit in Hua Hin April 5, 2010. Leaders of four countries badly hit by falling water levels in Mekong river, Southeast Asia's longest waterway, met on Monday with China, blamed by activists for squeezing the upper stream of the river with dams. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj

Thailand's Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva (2nd R) and his counterparts from Vietnam Nguyen Tan Dung (R), Cambodia Hun Sen (L) and Laos Bouasone Bouphavanh sit in their chairs during the Mekong River summit in Hua Hin April 5, 2010. Leaders of four countries badly hit by falling water levels in Mekong river, Southeast Asia's longest waterway, met on Monday with China, blamed by activists for squeezing the upper stream of the river with dams. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj

Thailand's Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva (2nd R) and his counterparts from Vietnam Nguyen Tan Dung (R), Cambodia Hun Sen (L) and Laos Bouasone Bouphavanh get ready for the start of the Mekong River summit in Hua Hin April 5, 2010. Leaders of four countries badly hit by falling water levels in Mekong river, Southeast Asia's longest waterway, met on Monday with China, blamed by activists for squeezing the upper stream of the river with dams. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj

Thailand's Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva (2nd R) and his counterparts from Vietnam Nguyen Tan Dung (R), Cambodia Hun Sen (L) and Laos Bouasone Bouphavanh toast with champagne after adopting a declaration during the Mekong River summit in Hua Hin April 5, 2010. Leaders of four countries badly hit by falling water levels in Mekong river, Southeast Asia's longest waterway, met on Monday with China, blamed by activists for squeezing the upper stream of the river with dams. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj

Thailand's Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva (2nd R) and his counterparts from Vietnam Nguyen Tan Dung (R), Cambodia Hun Sen (L) and Laos Bouasone Bouphavanh hold hands after adopting a declaration during the Mekong River summit in Hua Hin April 5, 2010. Leaders of four countries badly hit by falling water levels in Mekong river, Southeast Asia's longest waterway, met on Monday with China, blamed by activists for squeezing the upper stream of the river with dams. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj

Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen (R) listens as his Thai counterpart Abhisit Vejjajiva addresses the Mekong River summit in Hua Hin April 5, 2010. Leaders of four countries badly hit by falling water levels in Mekong river, Southeast Asia's longest waterway, met on Monday with China, blamed by activists for squeezing the upper stream of the river with dams. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj

Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen (L) gets ready for his speech as his counterparts from Thailand Abhisit Vejjajiva (R) and Laos Bouasone Bouphavanh sit next to him during the Mekong River summit in Hua Hin April 5, 2010. Leaders of four countries badly hit by falling water levels in Mekong river, Southeast Asia's longest waterway, met on Monday with China, blamed by activists for squeezing the upper stream of the river with dams. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj

A Cambodian motor taxi man drive his motorbike loaded mango sacks and ingredient bunches at the Mekong River bank as helped by porters to get off from ferry in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Monday, April 5, 2010. Leaders of four countries whose citizens depend on the Mekong River for their livelihoods get the chance Monday to confront China over claims that it is draining off their lifeblood with the building of large dams upstream. China and Myanmar will join the summit meeting of the Mekong River Commission, whose members are Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

A Cambodian man sleeps on an hammock lnear the Mekong River bank at Taprum village, out skirt of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Monday, April 5, 2010. Leaders of four countries whose population depend on the Mekong River for their livelihoods get the chance Monday to confront China over claims that it is draining off their lifeblood with the building of large dams upstream. China and Myanmar will join the summit meeting of the Mekong River Commission of which Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam are members. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

A Cambodian boy plays volleyball near the Mekong River bank at Viel Sbov village, out skirt of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Monday, April 5, 2010. Leaders of four countries whose population depend on the Mekong River for their livelihoods get the chance Monday to confront China over claims that it is draining off their lifeblood with the building of large dams upstream. China and Myanmar will join the summit meeting of the Mekong River Commission of which Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam are members. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

Hun Sen's surprise position on Thaksin a positive sign : PM


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By Supalak Ganjanakhundee
The Nation

Hua Hin - Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen's surprise message he would not allow ex-PM Thaksin Shinawatra to use his country as a base to attack the Thai government, was a positive sign for the two countries to normalise diplomatic relations, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said Monday.

"Prime Minister Hun Sen is a leader who knows very well about the interests of people and interests of the country to maintain good relations with neighbouring countries," Abhisit told reporters.

Neighbours should seek only good relations for the benefit of economic, trade and investment, with no intervention in the internal affairs of others, he said.

Hun Sen made a surprise move on Sunday over the bilateral ties between Thailand and his country as he told Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsubhan that he would not allow Thaksin to enter Cambodia during the red shirt protest in Thailand.

Prime Minister Abhisit said he was briefed by Suthep on the message and interpreted it as a good sign to pave the way to mend bilateral ties.

"I won't analyse why he changed his stance, except to take it into account as a good sign for normalisation of relations," Abhisit said.

Relations between Thailand and Cambodia soured when Hun Sen appointed Thaksin as his economic adviser in October and rejected a Thai request for his extradition when Thaksin was in Phnom Penh in November last year.

Mekong summit issues declaration of cooperation

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, from left, Lao Prime Minister Bounyang Vorachith, Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and Vietnamese Nguyen Tan Dung share a toast at the end of the first Mekong River Commission Summit in Thailand's southern resort town of Hua Hin Monday, April 5, 2010. (AP Photo)

A Cambodian motor taxi man drive his motorbike loaded mango sacks and ingredient bunches at the Mekong River bank as helped by porters to get off from ferry in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Monday, April 5, 2010. Leaders of four countries whose citizens depend on the Mekong River for their livelihoods get the chance Monday to confront China over claims that it is draining off their lifeblood with the building of large dams upstream. China and Myanmar will join the summit meeting of the Mekong River Commission, whose members are Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

By GRANT PECK
Associated Press
2010-04-05

China strongly rejected claims that its dam-building policies are environmentally harmful, as the four downstream countries through which Asia's mighty Mekong River flows agreed Monday to step up protection and promotion of the waterway.

Leaders of the four Mekong Basin nations _ Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam _ held a one-day meeting to address climate change and other challenges to the health of the river, which provides jobs and sustenance to some 65 million people in six countries.

"This summit is sending a message, that all the countries in the Mekong Region, both its upper and lower parts, are stakeholders, and we all have to take joint responsibility for its long term sustainability," Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said in an opening speech.

The meeting of the member-nations of the Mekong River Commission, along with China and Myanmar _ through which flow the upstream reaches of the river _ comes as the Mekong's water levels are at their lowest in nearly 20 years.

The commission's scientists say this year's low flow and consequent drought can be attributed to an early end to the 2009 wet season and low rainfall during the monsoons.

But environmental activists have said massive dams being built by China are draining off water from downstream areas, with potentially disastrous consequences for farmers, fishermen and the ecology at large.

China stressed that its dam projects on the Mekong's upper reaches, which China calls the Lancang, do not affect the downstream countries.

"China's ongoing hydropower development of the Lancang River has little impact on the water amount and environment of the Lancang River and the lower reaches," said Chinese Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Song Tao, leading his country's large contingent at the meeting.

"Quite the contrary, by way of the regulating effect of the water dams, hydropower development of the Lancang River can improve navigation conditions and help with flood prevention, drought relief and farmland irrigation of the lower reaches," he said.

In response to the concerns of some downstream countries, China took many steps on its own initiative to protect the environment. "Some actions even came at the expense of hydropower development," he said.

Song cited cancellation of a hydropower project to avoid impact on fish migration; construction of an additional reservoir to control water fluctuations; and a large scheme to minimize affecting water temperatures in the river.

In an unusual diplomatic gesture of openness, China last month began releasing to its Mekong neighbors closely held information on dry season water flows in its section of the river, making it easier to forecast problems downstream.

"We have started this work and hope that it can help the downstream countries overcome the difficulties brought by the drought at an early date," he said.

"China itself is also a victim of the present severe drought," he noted.

The release of such information from upstream points in China _ rainfall and dam inflows and outflows _ has been a major concern of the downstream countries seeking early warning to cope with floods and droughts.

"Trans-boundary cooperation is vital when a resource is shared by more than one country, as is the case with the Mekong Region. Sharing knowledge and data is among the crucial measure to mitigate problems ... as well as helping (to) alleviate poverty in the region as whole," said Thailand's Abhisit.

Abhisit said the Mekong leaders agreed on areas for "priority action," including researching and addressing the threat to livelihoods posed by climate change, and intensifying efforts to effectively manage the risks from flood, drought and rising sea levels.

Concerns grow over local fish supply

The government has guaranteed internal seafood supply even as foreign demand for Cambodian products has grown. (Photo: Stock File)
New Zealand

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CAMBODIA
Monday, April 05, 2010

Cambodia exported 30,000 tonnes of fish products worth USD 30 million last year, the government reported. However, these exports negatively impacted local supply.

In 2009, 20,000 tonnes of fresh fish and 10,000 tonnes of processed fish were exported, an increase of 5,000 tonnes of fish over the previous year, the Ministry of Agriculture’s Fisheries Department said on Tuesday.

“We do not want to export too much because we want to give an adequate supply to local demand,” said Sam Nov, deputy director of the department.
He declined to specify the amount of fish needed for Cambodia’s residents.

The national government has been attempting to balance the rising international demand for Cambodian fish products with the dietary needs of Cambodians themselves, who rely on freshwater fish as a food staple, Phnom Penh Post reports.

Some 465,000 tonnes of fish were caught by the country in 2009, a hike of more than 25 per cent from the previous year, according to the report by the Fisheries Department. Of that amount, 390,000 tonnes consisted of freshwater fish.

At the same time, only 25,000 tonnes worth USD 25 million were exported. This was made up of 17,000 tonnes of fresh fish and 8,000 tonnes of processed fish.

Cambodia is an exporter of elephant fish, grouper, lobster, crab and prawns and processed freshwater fish to Australia, China, Hong Kong, South Korea, Singapore, Thailand, the US and Vietnam, among other markets.

Although the government will not quit exporting fishery products, the amount of products exported will depend on how much remains, Nov explained.

Both domestic and international demand for Cambodia’s fish is climbing. Vietnam and Thailand particularly have increased their demand, and some companies have begun capitalising.

Canadian Nautisco Seafood Manufacturing began running a processing plant in Preah Sihanouk Province last September for a cost of USD 4 million.

At that time, Nautisco officials said they wished to have an output of 30 tonnes of frozen prawns per day - up to 500 tonnes per month. This represents a remarkable rise over Cambodia's typical shrimp catch.

Nautisco said it wants to export its prawns to Canada, Eastern Europe, Japan, Russia and the US.

Despite trends, it is too early in the year to foretell what the 2010 catch will be, analysts said.

Thau Kimsreang, president of Thau Kimsreang Import Export, said the government does not promote the export of fishery products. Thau Kimsreang shipped around 300 tonnes of processed fish in 2009.

“We do not think that in 2010 our company will be able to export as much fish as last year,” he stated.

Narrowing the development gap within ASEAN


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04/05/2010

Supporting ASEAN member countries, namely Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam (CLMV) to narrow the development gap, reinforce unity and promote regional integration is always considered one of the top priorities for ASEAN cooperation.

The 16th ASEAN Summit (ASEAN 16) will take place in Hanoi from April 8-9. Before the event, a Voice of Vietnam (VOV) reporter interviewed the Deputy Head of the Institute for Diplomatic Strategy Research, Luan Thuy Duong.

Reporter: ASEAN member countries have carried out many support projects to narrow the development gap to enhance unity and promote regional integration. Can you elaborate on how effectively these projects have been implemented?

Mrs Duong: In 2002, only 48 projects were put into action but the figure has now increased to 200 of which 165 have been funded by other organisations. These projects have focused on supporting ASEAN countries at a lower development level, including Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam. Many positive results have been recorded in areas such as infrastructure development, economic integration, information and communications technology, human resource development, poverty reduction, environmental protection, and tourism development.

These projects have contributed to the setting up of the sub-Mekong River development project and the East-West Corridor project as part of ASEAN’s efforts to build a united ASEAN community by 2015.

Reporter: What steps should ASEAN countries take in the future to ensure the timetable roadmap for the community?

Mrs Duong: The plan to narrow the development gap in ASEAN includes two main phases: the first, from 2002-2008 and the second, from 2009-2015.

To meet the 2015 target, ASEAN needs to carry out two important agreements signed at the 14th ASEAN Summit in Thailand last year with a focus on 181 specific measures to narrow the development gap and build the united community based on three pillar communities. Of this number, 93 measures are taken to build an economic community, 82 for a cultural and social community and the remainder for security-politics community.

In the near future, ASEAN will give priority to infrastructure and human resources development project in CLMV.

Reporter: The theme Vietnam has proposed for its 2010 ASEAN Year is “Towards an ASEAN Community: From Vision to Action”. Can you talk about Vietnam’s role in speeding up the second phase of the plan?

Mrs Duong: To reach all the set targets in line with Vietnam’s theme, the country will focus on three main issues: First, accelerating the implementation of sub-regional programmes and projects to develop the Greater Mekong sub-region, regions with the potential to grow in eastern ASEAN and the development triangle and quadrangle.

Second, it is essential to promote dialogue with other ASEAN partners and include programmes for narrowing the development gap in joint projects with ASEAN partners.

Third, Vietnam will hold seminars and forums to call for funding and investment in Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam.

Reporter: Thank you so much.

Landmine benefit Tuesday


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Marcel Honoré
The Desert Sun
April 5, 2010

Peabody's Cafe in downtown Palm Springs will host its third annual benefit for Cambodian Landmine Removal 7 to 9 p.m. Tuesday.

Attendees will be able to bid on exotic items made in Cambodia as well as items donated by Palm Springs merchants, according to a Small Hotels of Palm Springs (SHoPS) e-mail. The items to be auctioned typically value $30-$50, the e-mail stated.

Cambodian Landmine Removal has “a huge impact on those in especially rural and more remote areas who suffer from the fear of living amongst old land mines and far-to-often (sic) the devastating injuries sustained when encountering them directly,” the e-mail stated. “This organization also takes care of about thirty youngsters who've lost limbs due to landmines.”

Those interest can RSVP by sending an e-mail to peabodyscafe@gmail.com with a head-count in the subject line, the e-mail stated.

Peabody's Cafe is at 134 S. Palm Canyon Drive

Cambodia shows willingness to restore ties: Thai PM


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HUA HIN, April 5 (TNA) - Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva on Monday said Cambodia has sent positive signs that could lead to normalised relations between the two neighbouring countries.

Mr Abhisit said Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban was assured by Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen that he would not allow fugutive ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra to use Cambodia to launch political attacks against the Thai government.

Thai and Cambodian leaders met during the first Mekong River Commission (MRC) Summit between April 4 and 5 in Thailand's seaside resort of Hua Hin, southwest of Bangkok.

Mr Abhisit said due to the Cambodian leader's positive gesture, the return of the Thai ambassador to Phnom Penh would be discussed between officials of the two countries and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs would be the main agency in this matter.

However, the Thai prime minister declined to comment on Mr Hun Sen's reversed position, saying only that the responsibility of a national leader is to benefit his people.

Mr Suthep on Sunday said after meeting wiith Mr Hun Sen that the Cambodian premier had assured him he would not allow former Thai prime ministerThaksin to enter Cambodia and use it as a base to launch political attacks against Thailand.

He also assured Mr Suthep during the 40-minute discussion that he would not let his personal relations with Mr Thaksin affect bilateral relations with Thailand.

Mr Hun Sen has been at loggerheads with the Thai government, especially with his Thai counterpart Abhisit, after his government appointed Mr Thaksin as its economic adviser late last year and refused to extradite him to Thailand.

Mr Thaksin, ousted in a bloodless coup in September 2006, was sentenced by Thailand’s Supreme Court Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions to a two-year prison term in absentia for having a conflict of interest in Bangkok’s Ratchadaphisek land purchase case.

Tensions between the neighbouring countries flared after the United Nations cultural body UNESCO approved Cambodia's bid in July last year to list the 11th century Preah Vihear temple as a world heritage site, while the question of sovereignty over the 4.6 square kilometres of surrounding land has never been clearly resolved.

The two neighbouring countries however reiterated to solve the border conflicts peacefully through the Joint Boundary Committee, while there were some clashes between the soldiers of two countries along the border.

The situation deteriorated when the Cambodian government appointed the convicted ex-Thai premier as its economic adviser and announced that it will not extradite Mr Thaksin if requested by Thailand.

Thailand carried out its first retaliatory move against Cambodia by recalling its ambassador to Phnom Penh in November last year and reviewing cooperation with Cambodia.

The Cambodian government however ignored Thailand's stance, and recalled its ambassador to Bangkok as a reciprocal action. (TNA)

New Cambodian law would allow foreigners to buy property _ above the ground floor

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From The Associated Press, April 5, 2010

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) - Foreigners will be able to buy real estate in Cambodia — as long as it's above the ground floor — under a proposed law that cleared the lower house of parliament Monday.

Cambodia's National Assembly approved the long-awaited Foreign Ownership Property Law after a three-day debate by a vote of 85 to 11. It needs to pass the Senate and King Norodom Sihamoni before becoming law, both of which are considered technicalities.

Until now, foreigners could not own land or property in the impoverished Southeast Asian country, though many skirted the law by teaming up with Cambodian buyers.

The proposed law gives foreigners the right to buy real estate at least one floor above the land, in keeping with the ban on foreign land ownership.

The law also states that foreigners would not be able to buy property within 20 miles (30 kilometers) of Cambodian borders, a constraint intended to protect national sovereignty.

Im Chhun Lim, Minister of Land Management, told lawmakers that the adoption of the law would help attract foreign buyers and strengthen Cambodia's economy.

"This law will promote the investment sector by encouraging the construction of luxury, high-rises," he said.

Cambodia's economy relies mainly on the agriculture and tourism sectors, but foreign investors have helped the economy's rapid growth.

China is a leading foreign investor in Cambodia, with some 349 Chinese companies invested in Cambodia mainly in agriculture projects, construction and dams, according to the Chinese Embassy.

Long Beach turns out for Cambodian New Year parade

Members of the Cambodian Culture & Art Preservation Association step out behind a flag bearer during the sixth annual Cambodian New Year parade on Anaheim Street in Long Beach on Sunday. (Stephen Carr, Staff Photographer)


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The multicultural melange set off on its sixth annual trip down Anaheim Street to a large and appreciative crowd.

By Greg Mellen, Staff Writer
Posted: 04/04/2010

LONG BEACH — The multicultural melange that is the Cambodian New Year parade set off on its sixth annual trip down Anaheim Street Sunday morning to a large and appreciative crowd.

The number of parade participants was down for a second straight year, possibly due in part to the economy or this year's date coinciding with Easter. Some of the Christian, Latino and interfaith organizations were not on hand this time around.

However, the crowd was at least as large and enthusiastic as in prior years and the spirit of the event was equally buoyant.

And, as seems to be tradition with the event, the grim-looking morning clouds seemed to disperse on cue with the 10:14 a.m. parade start from Junipero Avenue.

Among the honored guests at the parade was Cambodian Ambassador to the United States Hem Heng, who was making his first trip to the Long Beach event.

"As a Cambodian, it makes me very proud," Heng said. "It is an indication of the prestige of the Cambodian-American people in Long Beach.

"Also this parade can make others know better the Cambodian people."

Heng said having Cambodians stage an all-American event such as a parade, which is unknown in Cambodia, was a fitting way for cultures to mix and interact.

As always, a wide range of ethnic, cultural and social organizations, clubs and groups were on hand. They ranged from a variety of Khmer youth and arts groups, to a large contingent of Hmong, to police, a fire engine, politicians, civil leaders and two guys in kilts.
One of those kilted guys was Peter Joseph, the co-owner of the Big Red Bus, which was ferrying members of the United Cambodian Community down Anaheim.

Asked about his attire, Joseph said, "We wear these everywhere we go.

"It's just how we roll."

All through the parade route and throughout the day snapshots of the mixing of cultures were evident:

There was Mkott Pich jewelry store, festooned in United States and Cambodian flags.

Pre-parade blessings given by monks and Cambodian and black Christian ministers.

Former ambassador Sichan Siv reading a letter from Cambodian King Norodom Sihamoni, praising the parade.

The entertainment troupe of Serey Raph doing a representation of the Cambodian folk opera Lakhon Bassac, or The Giant Never Wins, from the bed of a truck.

A Jeep accompanying the Cambodian Veterans Association with a Cambodian flag in the front and a Chicago Cubs wheel cover on the spare tire in back.

Postparade entertainment that ranged from traditional Cambodian ballads, to rap by Long Beach's Prach Ly, to an 11-year-old boy doing Michael Jackson dance moves.

A Cambodian man buying his daughter a paleta, a fruit ice pop, in the park.

As the afternoon waned, diagonally across the street from the park celebration, another fitting symbol of Americana was getting under way — a carnival.

Cambodian law to let foreigners buy real estate

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Monday April 5, 2010

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) -- Foreigners will be able to buy real estate in Cambodia -- as long as it's above the ground floor -- under a proposed law that cleared the lower house of parliament Monday.

Cambodia's National Assembly approved the long-awaited Foreign Ownership Property Law after a three-day debate by a vote of 85 to 11. It needs to pass the Senate and King Norodom Sihamoni before becoming law, both of which are considered technicalities.

Until now, foreigners could not own land or property in the impoverished Southeast Asian country, though many skirted the law by teaming up with Cambodian buyers.

The proposed law gives foreigners the right to buy real estate at least one floor above the land, in keeping with the ban on foreign land ownership.

The law also states that foreigners would not be able to buy property within 20 miles (30 kilometers) of Cambodian borders, a constraint intended to protect national sovereignty.

Im Chhun Lim, Minister of Land Management, told lawmakers that the adoption of the law would help attract foreign buyers and strengthen Cambodia's economy.

"This law will promote the investment sector by encouraging the construction of luxury, high-rises," he said.

Cambodia's economy relies mainly on the agriculture and tourism sectors, but foreign investors have helped the economy's rapid growth.

China is a leading foreign investor in Cambodia, with some 349 Chinese companies invested in Cambodia mainly in agriculture projects, construction and dams, according to the Chinese Embassy.

Cambodian children set to kick at World Cup in Johannesburg

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English.news.cn 2010-04-05

PHNOM PENH, April 5 (Xinhua) -- Eight Cambodian teenagers will compete in a football tournament and cultural exchange in South Africa during the 2010 FIFA World Cup to highlight the need to eradicate land mines and unexploded ordnance (UXO) worldwide, local media reported on Monday.

The team members, four girls and four boys aged 13 to 15 from Battambang, Banteay Meanchey and Pailin provinces, were selected by the organization Spirit of Soccer and the Cambodian Football Federation to compete in the Football for Hope Festival in Johannesburg.

"I think it's a great opportunity for them to be a part of the training," said Rachel Haig, senior program adviser for Spirit of Soccer in Cambodia was quoted by the Phnom Penh Post as saying.

"These kids have never been on a plane.... They have no idea where South Africa is, so we're trying to mentally and culturally prepare them for this journey."

Spirit of Soccer, an international NGO that uses football to educate children about the dangers of land mines in Cambodia and Iraq, was one of 32 organizations chosen to sponsor a team for the tournament.

Two of the Cambodian team members have relatives who have been victims of UXO accidents, and a third team member witnessed a UXO accident involving a neighbor.

Haig explained that the first week of the festival will involve cultural exchange activities during which the members of the 32 teams will meet to talk about the effects of land mines and about issues they face in their daily lives.

According to the Cambodian Mine Action and Victim Assistance Authority (CMVIS), from January 2009 to January 2010 there were 257 mine/explosive remnants of war (ERW) casualties in Cambodia.

Editor: Li Xianzhi

new year for Cambodian Americans

Wearing the traditional costume of a Cambodian apsara dancer, Natalie Buor, 21, who lives in Long Beach, waits for the start of the city's sixth Cambodian New Year parade. (Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times / April 4, 2010)

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By Corina Knoll
April 5, 2010

Dressed in a bright red uniform with a green scarf around his head, David Thong beamed Sunday as he kicked and punched an imaginary attacker while thousands watched.

The 43-year-old was leading a group of students in a demonstration of labokator, an age-old martial art, at the sixth annual Cambodian New Year parade in Long Beach.

Being able to publicly show off the Cambodian fighting technique on such a grand scale was a sign of how far the community had come, Thong said.

"We have the ability to show to the world that we live here now," said Thong, who arrived in Long Beach two decades ago.

For years, the Cambodian community in Long Beach, believed to be the largest outside Southeast Asia, has gathered to celebrate the Cambodian New Year, a three-day event that takes place in April. Census figures show 25,000 ethnic Cambodians in Long Beach, though community leaders place the figure at twice that.

In 2005, organizers added a parade featuring traditional dancers, drummers, pedicabs and colorful floats.

Beginning at Junipero Avenue, participants marched west on Anaheim Street to Warren Avenue, a one-mile stretch of restaurants, jewelry stores and markets considered to be the heart of what was designated the nation's first Cambodia Town in 2007. Afterward, Douglas MacArthur Park was swarming with families playing carnival games and listening to a woman singing in Khmer on a stage.

Phylypo Tum of the Cambodian Coordinating Council, which organizes the event, said the parade is a chance to showcase the history and customs of a burgeoning population that was established in the 1970s by refugees escaping the Khmer Rouge.

Tum said it was difficult to find sponsors for this year's parade. He hopes to cover its cost at another celebration on Saturday at El Dorado Park, at which admission will be charged.

Joe Som, 25, said he returns to his hometown at least once a week.

Having moved from Long Beach to Anaheim Hills earlier this year, he has found it difficult to be far from a neighborhood that represents his ethnic roots.

"We couldn't stay away," he said. "Each weekend we have to come down here. Long Beach just feels like home."

Som and his girlfriend, Makayla Seng, 26, attended the parade to cheer on participating friends and family.

"It's so new to the community that we want to support them," Seng said. "It's a big step, and it means a lot for us all to cooperate and put this on."

Chenda Yong, who immigrated to the United States in 1980 and grew up in Long Beach, has made a point of attending the parade since it began in 2005.

"It's about keeping an identity," Yong, 39, said. "It represents belonging and that we do have a place here."

An Giang to tap Cambodian vegetable market


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April, 05 2010

AN GIANG — The Cuu Long (Mekong) Delta province of An Giang should better exploit its great potential to export vegetables to Cambodia, experts advise.

As Cambodia can meet only 60 per cent of the vegetable demand for its residents, it is having to import vegetables from Viet Nam and Thailand, they say.

Vegetable exports to Cambodia have surged from 5 – 7 tonnes per day in 2007 to 70 – 80 tonnes per day in 2010.

Lim Sokun, secretary of state for foreign affairs of Cambodia's Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, said wholesale turnover between Viet Nam's An Giang Province and Cambodia's Kampot Province had soared from US$40 million in 2007 to $60 million in 2008.

In An Giang, vegetables at the Long Binh wholesale market, sourced from various other provinces, are mostly exported to the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh.

Everyday, about 50 – 70 tonnes of fresh vegetables and fruits from Cuu Long (Mekong) Delta provinces and Da Lat City are exported to Cambodia.

The Long Binh Market in An Giang Province's An Phu District appears to be Cambodia's biggest agricultural product market. But the district only meets 10 per cent of export demand, so traders have to source vegetables from other wholesale markets in HCM City and Da Lat.

Local authorities have announced plans to cultivate 635ha of high-quality farm produce in order to expand vegetable exports to Cambodia.

Each Cambodian trader typically buys one or two tonnes of vegetables and takes them to markets in Phnom Penh.

Since An Phu District does not have a wide variety of products, traders get them from wholesale markets in Chau Doc, Chau Phu and Cho Moi Districts.

For some products like potato, carrot and cauliflower, traders use wholesale markets in HCM City, which gets them from Da Lat.

Nguyen Van Kiet, a farmer in Thanh Phu Hamlet, Khanh An District, said that he was no longer afraid that vegetables would become unmarketable or have their prices fall, like rice.

"We plan to increase the land area for cultivating farm produce in three hamlets, An Khanh, An Hoa and Khanh Hoa," said Duong Van Hoa, chairman the People's Committee of Khanh An District.

At present, only 40 per cent of agricultural land in Khanh An District is used to produce vegetables.

Meanwhile, An Phu Commune officials have announced plans to cultivate organic vegetables for export on an area of 1,370ha, with a total investment of VND22.7 billion ($1.1 million). — VNS

DAP News ; Breaking News by Soy Sopheap

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Merger Positions DFDL Mekong as Legal and Tax Advisory Hub for Leading Businesses in Cambodia

Monday, 05 April 2010 07:24 DAP-NEWS

The DFDL Mekong legal and tax firm announced on Monday that it has merged with a law firm in Thailand, bringing its total number of offices in the Mekong region to eight, including one in Cambodia.

The law firms of DFDL Mekong and McEvily & Collins announced they will merge, creating a 90-attorney firm with national and international reach. The official merger took place January 1, 2010, according to DFDL statement on Monday.

DFDL Mekong’s Regional Managing Partner in Cambodia Martin Desautels says the merger uniquely positions his firm to provide legal and tax advice to Cambodia-based businesses seeking to make direct investments in Laos, Vietnam, Thailand and Myanmar.

“DFDL Mekong’s office has a long record of helping companies and investors protect their investments and maximize their opportunities,” said Desautels. “This merger will enhance our ability to provide companies in Cambodia with the tax and legal advice they need as they make investments in the Mekong region.”

The merger, mutually agreed to by the shareholders at both firms, combines DFDL Mekong’s multi-faceted corporate, tax, finance, mergers, energy, real estate and public policy practices with McEvily & Collins’ exceptional real estate tax, corporate finance and M&A practices.

DFDL has operated offices in the Mekong region since 1994.

The merged firm will take on the DFDL Mekong name and the partners of McEvily and Collins will be partners of DFDL Mekong. The fifteen lawyers from McEvily and Collins’ offices in Bangkok, Koh Samui and Phuket will continue in their roles with DFDL Mekong. The merger was the result of previous collaborations between the firms on client projects.

“This merger has significantly strengthened our base in the Mekong region, and provides businesses and investors with excellent local counsel in Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia and Laos,” said DFDL Mekong Founder David Doran. “While other law firms may be scaling back or holding steady, we have taken this as an opportunity to grow our team and our business. As the economy continues to rebound, we will be ready for more opportunities in the Mekong region.”

McEvily & Collins was founded in 1993 in Bangkok, and expanded to include offices in Phuket and Koh Samui. In 1999 McEvily & Collins was the first international law firm to open in Phuket.

“Merging the strength of our property practices in Koh Samui and Phuket with DFDL Mekong’s regional reach gives our clientele a whole new host of options, particularly to some of the successful property developers in Thailand who now want to replicate their success in other markets and resort areas in Southeast Asia,” said Collins, who will remain based in Phuket.

Mekong PMs Agree to Priorities Climate Change as Summit Ends

Monday, 05 April 2010 07:23 DAP-NEWS/ Soy Sophea

China agrees to increase cooperation with Mekong Basin countries

Prime Ministers of Cambodia, Lao PDR, Thailand and Viet Nam have agreed that adjusting to the challenges posed by climate change is a regional priority, as high-level talks in Hua Hin come to a close on Monday.

On behalf of delegates at the summit, Abhisit Vejjajiva, Prime Minister of Thailand, summarized nine areas of “priority action,” for Mekong River Commission Member Countries, which included climate change and responding to droughts. He called on the countries present to “avoid the risks of harmful effects that might result from natural occurrences and man-made activities, and to protect the immense value of the Basin’s natural ecosystems.”

“We encourage the MRC to further integrate climate change adaptation in its work,” said Mr. Abhisit, “and to significantly expand cooperation with Dialogue Partners, Development Partners and other stakeholders. In this connection, we welcome and call on upstream Riparian States to join the MRC in the future.”

In the past, the MRC has said that the Mekong region is one of the most vulnerable in the world to the long-term impacts of climate change, due to a relatively high proportion of people living on low incomes and regional low government capacity to deal with the issue, according to MRC’s press statement.

“Besides committing to increasing efforts to adapt to climate change across the basin, the Mekong governments have agreed to intensify efforts to protect people at risk from flooding; encouraging river navigation and trade; improve basin water quality; and evaluating the opportunities and challenges of proposed hydropower schemes,” said Jeremy Bird, the CEO of the Mekong River Commission (MRC), which, together with host country Thailand, organised the summit.

The declaration endorses a statement issued earlier in the week by an international conference of over 200 experts in river and water management that called on Mekong Countries to work together to protect water resources in the region when considering any future development projects.

The upper basin includes parts of China and Myanmar and both countries have been Dialogue Partners to the Mekong River Commission since 1996. China has been increasing technical cooperation in recent years.

Meanwhile, China has agreed to share information on its river flows and dam operations. In a side meeting between the MRC and China at the Summit, China provided further hydro-meteorological data concerning the operation of its dams on the mainstream Mekong during the current dry season.

“This is a significant step forwards in engagement between China and the countries of the Lower Mekong Basin as it improves transparency. It is the first time that China has shared this dry season data with downstream countries,” said Mr. Bird, “and is a significant increase in the level of cooperation also seen by the participation of a high level delegation from China at the summit.”

“It is hoped that access to this kind of data is another step towards an open understanding of how Chinese dams operate and we look forward to expanding the range of data that is shared,” said Mr. Bird.

This follows earlier moves by China to release hydro-meteorological data from Jinghong power station on the mainstream Mekong and the Man’an tributary.

Activists have recently claimed water shortages in northern Thailand and Lao PDR, are caused by Chinese dams on the mainstream of the Mekong. The MRC has said in earlier statements that there is no evidence to back up this claim, reiterating that current water shortages are due to the regional drought.

The summit reaffirmed its commitment to shared sustainable water resources in the basin.

Ten demonstrators arrested

Photo by: Courtesy of Adhoc
Police arrest a resident of Kandal province on Sunday during a protest concerning land claimed by both farmers and a private development company.

via CAAI News Media

Monday, 05 April 2010 15:03 May Titthara

Rights group says police used violence to end roadblock in Kandal province.

TEN residents of Kandal province were arrested Sunday after the violent conclusion of a protest in which 400 demonstrators blocked a section of National Road 2 to express their outrage at a private development company that on Friday dispatched bulldozers and excavators to disputed rice fields, a local rights group said.

The protest, which backed up traffic for 5 kilometres, began early Sunday morning and ended at 5pm, when about 100 regular and military police arrived in Kandal Stung district to disperse the group, said Ouch Leng, a land programme officer for Adhoc. When the protesters refused to disperse, Ouch Leng said, the police beat some with batons and arrested 10 men and women.

Kandal provincial police chief Eav Chamreun denied that police had beaten any of the protesters, and said that they had attempted to negotiate with the group for “about four hours” before deciding to arrest some of them. He said he did not know how many had been arrested, but that they were being held at the Kandal Stung district police office.

“Most of the people we arrested are ringleaders and drunken men, so we arrested them and will hold them at the district police office for questioning. They cannot take the road as their hostage,” he said.

A representative of the protesters, 45-year-old Than Vuthy, said they had decided to protest after three excavators and three bulldozers from the Heng Development Company appeared on Friday near a 200-hectare section of disputed land in Prek Sleng commune.

Chhun Sirun, the Kandal provincial governor, said he had ordered police to disperse the protesters because they were disrupting traffic, and that residents of his province would not be allowed to stage the types of protests that occurred last month in Kampong Speu province, where villagers embroiled in a land dispute with a company owned by a Cambodian People’s Party senator blockaded roads and, at one point, burned down a makeshift office building.

“These villagers will not have success like in Kampong Speu because this land belongs to the Heng Development Company, which has had ownership for a long time already. They have blocked the road, and now they will face the law,” Chhun Sirun said.

Than Vuthy and other protesters said that 843 families would be kicked off their rice fields if the Heng Development Company were allowed to develop the land. He also accused Meas Sokhen, chief of Prek Sleng commune, of selling the land to the company in secret and pocketing the proceeds.

Meas Sokhen said she believed the 843 figure was probably inflated, and that some of those families may have farmed the land in the past but left it idle for years. She denied having taken part in any illicit land deals.

She said villagers in her commune had been farming the land since 1986. Though district and provincial officials said the company had purchased the land in 1996, she said it had succeeded in convincing only 14 families to sell their plots at a rate of 1 million riels (US$239) per hectare.

Oeung Chanry, another representative of the protesters, said the company had been unable to produce documentation proving that a sale had taken place.

Photo by: Pha Lina
Villagers gather near excavators on Sunday during a protest related to a land dispute in Kandal province.

“The company has come to grab our land, and to violate us, and they say they bought it from the villagers, but we want to see the documents, and to see whose name is on the documents,” she said. “But the company representatives said we would not be able to see the documents. They said they could do what they wanted, because we are villagers and we don’t know about the law.”

Company officials could not be reached for comment on Sunday.

Owned by Sieng Chanheng, the Heng Development Company was granted a land concession totalling 8,654 hectares by the Council of Ministers in September 2006 in Ratanakkiri province’s Andong Meas district, according to the Web site of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, which stated that the concession was for “investment in agro-industry and other trees”.

Pen Bonnar, Ratanakkiri provincial coordinator for the rights group Adhoc, said Sunday that the Ratanakkiri concession had not led to any disputes.

“That land concession was in the forest, so it didn’t affect the villagers’ farmland, so there was no problem with the villagers,” he said.

Hun Sen attends Mekong summit


via CAAI News Media

Monday, 05 April 2010 15:03 Will baxter and Cheang Sokha

PRIME Minister Hun Sen arrived in Thailand on Sunday to attend a two-day summit of the Mekong River Commission (MRC), convened amid regional concerns about drought and low river levels, on a trip that marked the premier’s first visit to the neighbouring country since Thai-Cambodian relations began to deteriorate last year.

The first day of the two-day summit consisted primarily of bilateral meetings, with a joint declaration expected today. Hun Sen’s arrival in the Thai resort town of Hua Hin reportedly coincided with protests by around 100 activists from the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD), known as Yellow Shirts, who branded him an “enemy of Thailand”.

In a Saturday statement submitted to the Thai government, the PAD accused Hun Sen of “trying to seize Thailand’s territory along the common border as well as ... in the Gulf of Thailand”, according to the Thai News Agency.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Koy Kuong said Sunday that Thailand had secured the summit site for Hun Sen and the other delegates, and that Cambodia was unconcerned about the protesters.

“These people are useless. We don’t care about them,” Koy Kuong said.

Although Hun Sen was planning to meet on the sidelines of summit with representatives from Laos and China, Koy Kuong said, he did not intend to meet directly with Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva.

The last time Hun Sen travelled to Thailand, for an October ASEAN summit, he criticised Abhisit’s government and said he planned to appoint fugitive former Thai prime minister and bitter Abhisit rival Thaksin Shinawatra as an economic adviser. The fallout from Thaksin’s appointment led to a diplomatic tit-for-tat, with each country withdrawing its respective ambassador.

In a possible step towards rapprochement, however, Thailand’s The Nation newspaper reported Sunday that Hun Sen told Thai Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban on the sidelines of the MRC summit that Thaksin will not be invited to Cambodia during the ongoing antigovernment protests in Thailand.

Thai government spokesman Panitan Wattanayagorn said that although there were “no plans” for a bilateral meeting between Hun Sen and Abhisit – Abhisit was set to meet with leaders from Vietnam and Laos – the Cambodian premier’s trip to Thailand could nonetheless be seen as a step forward in the countries’ relationship.

“We have many common concerns about the management of the river,” Panitan said. “We welcome participation of all leaders in this regard.”

Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam – the four countries that make up the MRC – are expected to press visiting Chinese representatives during the summit to provide information on their damming practices and release water held upstream.

MRC communications adviser Damian Kean hailed the summit as “a recognition of the importance given to shared management of the basin’s water resources”, noting that the gathering marked the first time that heads of government had been present at an MRC meeting.

One concern likely to be aired at the summit is the claim that Chinese hydropower dams on the river may be the cause of this year’s historically low river levels, a claim that the Chinese have repeatedly denied.

Echoing the statements of other Chinese officials, Qian Hai, spokesman for the Chinese embassy in Phnom Penh, said last week that China’s dams are not responsible for the Mekong River’s falling water levels downstream, pointing instead to a region-wide drought.

The MRC’s own analysis, Kean said, suggests that drought is the main culprit.

Carl Middleton, Mekong programme coordinator for the International Rivers organisation, said the debate can’t be settled definitively until China expands the amount of information it makes public on the subject. Currently, China has agreed only to share data until the end of the drought, and only for the lower points of the river in China.

The currently available data, Middleton said, do not include the Xiaowan dam in southwest China, which could be the cause of the Mekong’s falling levels if water from the last rainy season is still being stored there.

“If it still has water remaining, then it is possible to release some downstream to alleviate the drought conditions,” he said.

In a statement Friday, the MRC warned that the Mekong basin and the ecosystems dependent on the river, which is at its lowest level in nearly 20 years, could be threatened by expanding populations and the construction of further dams.

“Over the past five years, significant changes have taken place in water-related resources, and this is likely to continue, which may put livelihoods under threat,” the statement read.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY JAMES O’TOOLE

Govt officials arrested in logging bust


via CAAI News Media

Monday, 05 April 2010 15:03 Cheang Sokha and Tep Nimol

FORESTRY officials in Pursat province have been arrested after being accused of involvement in illegal logging, authorities said, in what appears to be a continuation of a recent effort to crack down on the illicit practice.

The three officials were arrested last week on suspicion of being involved in the transportation of logs into Koh Kong province from neighbouring Pursat, a provincial government official in Koh Kong told the Post.

The official, who asked not to be named because he is not permitted to speak to the media, said authorities arrested the head of a district Forestry Administration office and an associate Saturday, as well as another official last Monday.

Military police spokesman Kheng Kito would only confirm that two Pursat forestry officials had been arrested for alleged involvement in illegal logging.

Contacted by the Post on Sunday, Koh Kong provincial court prosecutor Top Chhun Heng, who is handling the case, declined to comment.

The arrests come after Prime Minister Hun Sen warned military commanders in January that he would no longer tolerate illegal logging committed by high-ranking officials.

Since then, authorities have publicised seizures of illegal wood throughout the Kingdom.

Last Thursday, four forestry officials in Kampong Cham province were questioned by the provincial court after they were accused of illegal logging as well, according to Vong Sam Ath, a Memot district council member.

Officials prosecuted in previous crackdowns have not always been punished.

In 2006, former Ratanakkiri provincial governor Kham Khoeun was sentenced to 17 years in prison after being convicted of involvement in an illegal logging ring, but officials have said they believe he is currently living in Laos.

And though six other officials were convicted in the same case, only one is behind bars, according to Adhoc.

Photo exhibit marks PM’s birthday

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
A woman views a photograph of Prime Minister Hun Sen and Cuban leader Fidel Castro at an exhibition at Wat Phnom Museum on Friday.

via CAAI News Media

Monday, 05 April 2010 15:03 Mom Kunthear

Shots chronicling Hun Sen’s political career to be displayed at Wat Phnom Museum this week

NEARLY 200 photos of Prime Minister Hun Sen have been put on display by the Cambodian Photographers Association (CPA) to mark the premier’s 59th birthday, the group said Sunday, as King Father Norodom Sihanouk issued a statement praising “the nonstop and continued night-and-day progress of the nation and the Cambodian people”.

Keo Nuon, secretary general of the Cambodian Photographers Association and a former reporter for Agence Kampuchea Presse, the government press agency, said Sunday that the photos, which chronicle the premier’s life and career since 1978, will be displayed at Wat Phnom Museum until April 9.

“This is the first time we have held a Hun Sen photo exhibition because ... I want to let the next generation know that it is not easy to be a country’s leader,” he said.

“The next generation should follow his example in their own lives, especially when leading in work, in order to receive great successes.”

Information Minister and government spokesman Khieu Kanharith said at the launch of the exhibition on Friday that it was not intended only to venerate the prime minister. “It is to address the young generation so they can understand the history of the great leader of Cambodia and his hard work from the collapse of the Khmer Rouge until today,” he told reporters.

The King Father has also issued his own personal birthday greeting to the premier, just days after arriving back in the country from Beijing.

“I and the Queen Mother have the pleasure to warmly praise Samdech [Hun Sen], the valorous, intelligent, extremely clever leader and the supreme nationalist who received great successes in all fields,” the ex-monarch said in a statement.

“May you receive other big victories forever, and may you be blessed with long life, class, good health and strength.”

Sam Rainsy Party spokesman Yim Sovann said Sunday that it was not right to focus on just one man when many other politicians had contributed to building the country.

“There are many politicians who have participated in protecting the country, and there are many nationalists,” he said.

Although Hun Sen’s birthday is officially recorded as April 4, 1951, his official biography lists August 5, 1952, as the true date of his birth.

Study tallies costs of crashes

Photo by: Pha Lina
Victims of a traffic collision that took place in January sit near the Australian embassy. A new report from Handicap International Belgium says that crashes cost Cambodia US$248 million last year.

via CAAI News Media

Monday, 05 April 2010 15:03 Chhay Channyda

TRAFFIC accidents cost Cambodia US$248 million dollars last year in property damage, medical costs and other areas, marking a 114 percent rise since 2003, according to a new study by NGO Handicap International Belgium.

“This is a huge amount that Cambodia lost while the government and all people are working hard to reduce poverty,” Touch Chankosal, a secretary of state at the Ministry of Public Works and Transport, said at the launch of the report on Friday. “It is so sad that $248 million was lost to preventable road crashes.... It means that we still could not reduce the economic impact of road crashes to the national economy.”

The study, modelled on a study produced by the Asian Development Bank in 2003, divided the losses into five categories: property damage, administrative costs, medical costs, lost output and human costs.

Human costs, defined in the study as the “cost of pain, grief and suffering of casualties”, totalled $73 million, a figure that was reached by assigning a dollar amount to four types of casualties. Each fatality cost $7,864, each serious injury cost $3,869, each disability cost $24,601 and each “slight injury” cost $131.

Property damage, the next-largest category of loss, cost the Kingdom $60 million. Administrative costs, defined in the study as “time spent by traffic police, insurance companies and courts”, totalled $43 million, and medical costs totalled $18 million.

The study also attempted to quantify the economic output lost as a result of casualties. This was done by tallying productivity losses for victims and caregivers during recovery periods, time spent looking for new jobs and, in the case of fatalities, their expected incomes from the age of death to “retirement age”. In all, productivity losses totalled $53 million.

According to the 2003 ADB study, the cost of traffic accidents amounted to 3 percent of GDP. Using a December assessment from the International Monetary Fund, the cost of traffic accidents in 2009 amounted to 2.3 percent of GDP.

In his remarks at the launch event Friday, HIB Country Director Jeroen Stol said more than 50 percent of the 1,717 recorded traffic fatalities last year were “those in the productive age”. Most were on motorbikes, he said, and 76 percent sustained head injuries.

Stol added that the 2009 fatality rate of 12.3 per 10,000 registered vehicles is “almost double” the ASEAN goal for 2010, which is seven fatalities per 10,000 registered vehicles.

Chev Hak, deputy chief of the Phnom Penh Traffic Police, said on Friday that one obstacle to making the roads safer is that many drivers were unaware of traffic laws, and others are reluctant to comply with them.

“Even if we whistle a hundred times,” he said, “people will not stop.”