Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Cambodia sees more than 50% drop in dengue cases

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English.news.cn
2010-06-09

PHNOM PENH, June 9 (Xinhua) -- Dengue fever cases this year have more than halved compared to the first six months of 2009, local media reported on Wednesday, citing officials of Health Ministry.

However, health officials warn that more dengue infections are likely during the forthcoming rainy season, which is arriving late.

Seven people died in the first five and a half months of this year, the same toll as last year, but reported infections have decreased in the same period from 2,431 to 1,111, the ministry's dengue control program director Ngan Chantha was quoted by the Cambodia Daily as saying.

"The number has decreased, but we are calling on people to remain careful with the breeding of mosquitoes during the rainy season," Chantha said.

"From the 21st to 22nd week, the jump in cases is quite high," Chantha said, noting there were 242 cases in week 22. "We should be vigilant because July is a highly vulnerable month."

The decrease in dengue fever cases is due to the delayed rainy season, increased public awareness and health care system improvements, said Hai Ra, head of dengue control at Kompong Cham provincial health department.

In the first 21 weeks of this year there were 122 reported cases of dengue with two deaths in Kompong Cham, down from 315 cases with three deaths during the same period last year, Hai Ra was quoted as saying.

Kompong Cham is the second-most affected province after Phnom Penh, followed by kandal and Siem Reap.

Editor: Lin Zhi

DAP News ; Breaking News by Soy Sopheap

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Cambodia and China Expand Business Potential

Wednesday, 09 June 2010 07:27 DAP-NEWS

CAMBODIA, PHNOM PENH, June 9, 2010-“Cambodia and China meet for talks about ASEAN-China Economic Region and Cambodian Market Potential at Naga World Hotel,” According to the statement said on Wednesday.

“Cambodia-China good relations will help to attract and to create more investments in Cambodia; especially, during the last 15 years, China invested 6000 million U.S dollars in hydro-power plant, business, tourism, agriculture, telecommunication, and 1500 km road infrastructure,” the statement added.

The meeting for talks between Cambodian and Chinese leaders will help to further increase more Chinese businesses in Cambodia.

Edited by Mr. Rasmey (Mr. Go for It)

International Seminar of Tourism Transportation of Mekong Countries Will Do in Cambodia

Wednesday, 09 June 2010 05:24 DAP-NEWS/ Tep Piseth

CAMBODIA, PHNOM PENH, June 9, 2010-Cambodia will host the international seminar of land transportation system of Mekong countries in late this month to speed up the regional transportation integration and tourism facilitation crossing borders,” the statement from the tourism ministry of Cambodia said.The participants will come from Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos, and Thailand to monitor challenging matters and the cooperation of making easiness travelers and to facilitate the tourists in region to share benefits,” it added. Last year,

Cambodia harvested about 2 million tourists to see here and it increased about 2 per cent. And a foreign tourist from western countries spent about 6-700 US dollars for their stays each time when he or she visited here and that money poured directly to economic blood of poor people through buying local products and transport, and souvenir.


PM Hun Sen Bans Gambling During FIFA World Cup 2010

Wednesday, 09 June 2010 10:08 DAP-NEWS/ Tep Piseth

CAMBODIA, PHNOM PENH, June 9, 2010-Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen on Tuesday announced that the local people should not bet money during FIFA World Cup 2001 in South Africa which will be held from June 11- July 11.

He appealed to local people to just clap their hands to congratulate the sport competition but they should not bet money. At the same time, He ordered local police authorities to crack down on the football gambling both open and illegal places and the police should not arrest the football spectators because it will have live broadcasting from the event in the country.

“Please, watch football for the entertainment, He said, adding that previous times, when football tournaments of FIFA World Cup and EU Cup, football team won or lost for the scores but the gamblers in Cambodia lost or won in money.

He highlighted that the largest football gambling industry Cambosix already shut down its business.

Grinding out a living

Photo by: Sovan Philong

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Wednesday, 09 June 2010 15:00 Uong Ratana

Knife-sharpener Eam Say, 68, works on a pair of scissors Monday at the Borei Keila community in central Phnom Penh.

Report cites judicial injustice


Photo by: Pha Lina
Surya Subedi arrives Tuesday at Phnom Penh International Airport.

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Wednesday, 09 June 2010 15:03 Brooke Lewis and Vong Sokheng

MORE than one-third of defendants in Cambodian courts are tried and convicted in absentia, according to a study released this week designed to show what its authors describe as the failure of the judicial system to ensure equality of arms.

The study, published by the Centre for Justice and Reconciliation, catalogs the experiences of 799 defendants in 484 public trials held in five courts: the Municipal, Appeal and Supreme courts in Phnom Penh, as well as the provincial courts in Kandal and Battambang.

“In a criminal case, the prosecutor is the government and has all the resources of the state to bring a case against a defendant who may not even understand the charges against them,” said Daravuth Seng, the CJR’s international co-director of justice programmes.

The report states that in order to “balance this inequality”, judicial officials must place a higher premium on equality of arms, a legal principle that encompasses the right to be tried in person, the right to defence counsel and the right to examine and cross-examine witnesses.

At the Appeal Court, 69 percent of defendants included in the study were tried in absentia. The problem at the appeal level was also documented in a study released last month by the rights group Licadho, which found that hundreds of prisoners nationwide are being denied their right to appeal due to a lack of infrastructure and an inefficient bureaucracy.

The CJR report states that witnesses were examined by judges in only 18 percent of trials monitored, and that only 6 percent of trials were conducted with both victims and witnesses present.

Figures for the total number of defendants tried without counsel are not given in the report, but 94 percent of the 467 defendants facing felony charges – those who would be subjected to the most serious punishments – were represented by counsel.

Although this is a large proportion, the report calls for court officials to ensure that all defendants are informed of their right to counsel, and that free representation is provided to people who cannot afford it.

“International standards require that 100 percent of defendants are represented by counsel, should they choose to have representation,” Daravuth Seng said.

Of the defendants tried in absentia, only 43 percent were represented by defence counsel, a figure that the report says underscores “the glaring abuse of the equality of arms principle, because there was no one to challenge the prosecution’s assertions”.

Sea Tong, inspector of court affairs at the Justice Ministry, on Tuesday acknowledged that prisoners are often unable to attend their own appeals.

“It is difficult for us. We lack the budget, and some prisons are too far from the court. Therefore, the transportation is a problem for us,” he said.

Tith Sothea, a member of the Press and Quick Reaction Unit at the Council of Ministers, also said that some improvements need to be made to the judicial system, but that the government has clear strategies in place to enact them.

“We are in the process of making judicial system and court reforms, and we respect the independence of the court and decisions of the court,” he said.

“We believe that every trial proceeds in accordance with all aspects of the law.”

The release of the report coincides with a visit from Surya Prasad Subedi, the UN’s special human rights rapporteur to Cambodia, who is set to assess the judicial system during his third mission here.

Im Sophea, CJR’s national co-director of reconciliation programmes, said the report was not released to coincide with Subedi’s visit, but described the timing as a “fortunate coincidence”.

“We will meet him tomorrow, and we will present the report and discuss these issues,” he said.

Subedi is scheduled to meet with King Norodom Sihamoni and Prime Minister Hun Sen as well as civil society representatives and judicial officials before leaving Cambodia next Thursday.

Russei Keo project raises fears


Photo by: Pha Lina
A mechanic works on a vehicle at a garage along National Road 6 that has been forced to cede land to the highway expansion project underway in the background on Tuesday. City officials met Tuesday to discuss the specifics of the project.

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Wednesday, 09 June 2010 15:03 Khouth Sophakchakrya

Authorities say as many as 236 families could lose land to highway expansion

CITY officials met Tuesday to discuss the construction of a 2.5-metre median strip that will be built as part of plans to expand National Road 6, as residents living close to the road accused them of failing to address concerns that they they will lose their homes to the project.

Suong Sothan, a resident of Keanklaing village in Russei Keo district’s Chruoy Changvar commune, said villagers would volunteer to move as long as authorities provide them with 5-by-12-metre plots of land in Meanchey district’s Stung Meanchey commune, or pay US$8,500 in cash compensation.

Sueng Phun, a village representative, said: “We do not object to the road-expansion project, but we want the authorities to provide us with decent compensation.”

The US$143,199 project, which is intended to ease traffic jams on a 4-kilometre stretch running from the Cambodian-Japanese Friendship Bridge to a new Ministry of Health building, will expand the road from a width of 25 metres to 60 metres, including a 3-metre-wide pavement on each side and a 2.5-metre median strip.

Russei Keo district governor Khlaing Huot said that at the Tuesday meeting officials had talked about ways to beautify the median strip with a garden as well as other aspects of the project, but declined to elaborate.

He did note, though, that officials had not broached the subject of relocation or compensation for families that stand to be affected by the project.
Photo by: Pha Lina
Steamroller driver Eang Ly, 50, leads a tipper lorry to the National Road 6 expansion site on Tuesday.

“We know the road-expansion project will impact many homes of residents who live on or near the sidewalk. We are still considering the people’s request to only expand the road by 27.5 metres and also considering relocation options,” he said.

A May 25 letter signed by National Assembly President Heng Samrin urged local officials to consider scaling back the road expansion in response to a request from 100 families who fear they will lose their homes if current plans go ahead.

Chruoy Changvar commune authorities now say that as many as 236 families could be affected by the project. Meas Rachana, a secretary to Chrouy Changvar commune chief Pich Saroeun, said that around 88 families are set to lose their entire homes to the project, and that 148 families would lose part of their land.

Chan Soveth, a senior investigator for the rights group Adhoc, said the authorities should find a resolution for the residents and make sure they have new homes before the development project moves ahead.

Soldiers fire shots near Thai border


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Wednesday, 09 June 2010 15:03 Thet Sambath and Sebastian Strangio

CAMBODIAN and Thai troops exchanged warning shots along the border in Oddar Meanchey province’s Trapaing Prasat district on Tuesday morning after a “misunderstanding” emerged between the two sides, government and military officials said.

Touch Ra, deputy chief of the Thailand-Cambodia Relations Office at the Chom international border gate, said troops from both sides let off short bursts of small-arms fire along the border in Chhouk Ron commune at around 9:45am.

“There was a clash between Thai and Cambodian soldiers this morning when they were patrolling,” he said. “The situation is now normal after commanders at the site of the fighting talked to each other by phone.”

He added that no soldiers from either side were injured in the incident.

Chhum Socheat, spokesman for the Ministry of Defence, said that the clash – which lasted for about six minutes – began when a group of around 10 patrolling Cambodian soldiers met a group of Thai mixed forces, including forestry officers, police and soldiers.

“We supposed they were illegal and they supposed we were illegal, and then the clash occurred,” he said.

An earlier exchange of fire in Oddar Meanchey province took place on April 19, when troops traded shots in two brief skirmishes in Samrong district.

According to one Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF) officer stationed at the border, Cambodian soldiers opened fire on Tuesday after they saw Thai soldiers patrolling inside a prohibited area.

“They fired in the air in order to frighten them and make them return to their base,” said the officer, who declined to be named.

Sao Socheat, the deputy commander of Military Region 4, said Thai commanders apologised afterwards.

But Colonel Veerachon Sukondhadhpatipak, deputy spokesman of the Royal Thai Army, said he was informed Monday that the Thais fired warning shots when they saw Cambodian soldiers illegally removing timber from the Thai side of the border.

“They found that logs were burned, and this made them upset, and they released their anger and frustration by shooting in the air,” he said.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Koy Kuong denied that allegation, saying the incident was the result of a misunderstanding between the two sides.

He added that it would have little effect on the already frosty relations between Cambodia and Thailand. “The problem has been solved by the commanders at the border. The situation is normal now,” he said.

Meanwhile, RCAF commanders stationed along the border in Oddar Meanchey and Preah Vihear provinces began military training sessions Monday designed to prepare them for Thai encroachments, military officials said.

Yim Phim, commander of RCAF Brigade 8, said Tuesday that he is attending the training sessions, which will take place in Preah Vihear’s Choam Ksan district and last for 35 days.

“We all have decades of experience in fighting, but we need to exchange experience with other people to strengthen our ability,” he said. RCAF officers stationed in Military Region 4 are attending the training, along with officers stationed along the border in Preah Vihear province, Yim Phim added.

Second union warns of strike

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
International Labour Day last month. On Tuesday, he said he had yet to hear back from the government concerning demands made at the rally

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Wednesday, 09 June 2010 15:03 Tep Nimol and Mom Kunthear

ANOTHER major union is threatening to strike if its wage demands are not met, a labour leader said Tuesday, joining a garment sector union that has already warned it is considering a three-day walkout.

Rong Chhun, president of the Cambodian Independent Teachers Association (CITA) and head of the Cambodian Confederation of Unions (CCU), said he has yet to receive a response to demands made more than a month ago during a Labour Day rally.

At the rally, he asked for reduced work hours for the members of both bodies, a boost to monthly teacher salaries and the creation of a labour court for workers.

“We have not received a response from government officials until now.... If there is no solution for us, then a strike will happen in the very near future,” Rong Chhun said Tuesday, though he declined to give a date for any potential action.

The labour leader said he sent a letter yesterday morning to Prime Minister Hun Sen, reiterating his demands.

“We have not received a response from the authorities more than one month after we raised the issue,” he said. “So I have to send a letter to remind them.”

Rong Chhun’s warning comes as the Free Trade Union of Workers of the Kingdom of Cambodia (FTU) continues to threaten a strike in an effort to advance its own minimum-wage demands. Both the FTU and CITA fall under the umbrella of the Cambodian Confederation of Unions.

The FTU is demanding a 40 percent increase in the monthly minimum wage for its roughly 86,000 members, who work predominantly in the garment sector.

Union president Chea Mony said Tuesday that he is waiting for an official response from employers before asking the Interior Ministry to approve a strike.

Oum Mean, a Labour Ministry secretary of state, said both unions should engage in negotiations before resorting to strikes.

He also cautioned the workers to temper their expectations.

“We want them to get higher wages, but we don’t know how much they will get,” he said.

Garment sector workers and employers have previously agreed to renegotiate minimum monthly wages by the end of the year. Ken Loo, secretary general of the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia, said the FTU should wait to see what the negotiations produce before threatening labour action.

“The mechanisms are in place for proper negotiations,” Loo said, adding that a strike at this point “would go beyond the framework that was set for minimum wage negotiations.”

At this stage, none of the parties in the garment sector have set a specific date to begin negotiations.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY IRWIN LOY

Draft union law is sent out for consultations


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Wednesday, 09 June 2010 15:02 Mom Kunther and Tep Nimol

A WORKING group charged with creating Cambodia’s first-ever law on trade unions has sent a draft to worker and employee representatives, asking for their recommendations in the hope that the legislation can be adopted early next year.

Oum Mean, a secretary of state at the Ministry of Labour, said the initial draft was completed last week.

“We sent the draft law to the factory and worker representatives, in order for them to discuss among themselves whether they agree with the law or not,” he said.

The parties now have roughly one and a half months to examine the draft law and formulate recommendations on how to improve it. Oum Mean said the draft legislation is designed to build on the existing Labour Law, expanding regulations concerning the roles and rights of unions and employers.

“This law is important for the protection of both workers and employers,” he said.

Cambodian Confederation of Unions President Rong Chhun said he thought the draft targeted unions while protecting employers and the government.

“I think that some articles in the law seem to pressure union leaders. This law does not guarantee freedom to the union leaders,” he said.

Rong Chhun took particular issue with provisions requiring unions to file financial reports, including both income and expenses, with the government every year. Unions face the revocation of their statuses if they fail to comply.

Chuon Momthol, president of the Cambodian Union Federation, had higher praise for the draft law. He said “70 to 80 percent” of it was positive, though he expressed concern that transitional requirements could force existing unions to reapply for union status when the new law comes into effect.

Sandra D’Amico, vice president of the Cambodian Federation of Employers and Business Associations (CAMFEBA), said her group believes articles on collective bargaining in the draft law need to be further refined or clarified.

But she said the law’s creation would be a positive development, especially if more stringent regulations help to consolidate Cambodia’s many unions. Labour Ministry statistics, she said, show there are at least 1,725 trade unions across the country.

“The law will hopefully encourage a responsible and accountable union movement, which will result in a healthier trade union movement,” she said.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY CATHERINE JAMES

Logging raids net no charges in PVihear


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Wednesday, 09 June 2010 15:02 Chrann Chamroeun and Cameron Wells

MORE than 20 raids stemming from a crackdown on illegal logging this year have led to zero prosecutions thus far in Preah Vihear province, the director of the provincial court said Tuesday.

Sao Savuth added, however, that court officials have no plans to follow the lead of their counterparts in Ratanakkiri province, who on Monday said they would soon ask Forestry Department officials why complaints had not been filed in connection with roughly 45 raids carried out there.

In January, Prime Minister Hun Sen ordered a crackdown on illegal logging that has led to a spate of raids and confiscations in provinces across the country, though observers have criticised the lack of related prosecutions.

Sao Savuth said Tuesday that investigations connected with raids in his province were ongoing, though he declined to provide a specific number.

“Almost all of the cases sent to court contained only evidence,” he said. “No illegal wood sellers or government and forestry officials have been arrested.”

Meanwhile, Sok Leang, deputy director of the Siem Reap provincial court, said he knew of only five illegal logging raids conducted in that province this year.

He said these had led to some investigations of officials and wood vendors, and that summonses for “relevant people” had been issued, but declined to elaborate further.

“We have summoned relevant people and will keep on interrogating them in connection with forestry crimes,” he said.

Im Sophan, chief prosecutor at the provincial court in Mondulkiri, declined to comment at all on whether arrests or prosecutions had been carried out in connection with illegal logging raids, describing the issue as an “internal affair” of the court.

Several observers on Tuesday expressed concern that the crackdown on illegal logging would have little lasting effect if perpetrators were not held accountable for flouting the law.

Tep Bunnarith, executive director of the Culture and Environment Preservation Association, said Tuesday that he believes not enough action has been taken by law enforcement to target individuals.

“The actions taken are not enough, unless the government dares to arrest both officials and wood sellers,” he said. “The government should have a monitoring system and information-sharing system for the public and observers to see how much the [crackdown] is being enforced.”

He added that confiscated wood should not be sold or put up for auction, but instead donated to “local communities”.

“Any logs confiscated should be provided to local communities for housing or school construction, or other infrastructure. If they are sold, the money should be used for social funding or community development programs,” he said.

Sam Rainsy Party spokesman Yim Sovann said he was not optimistic that prosecutions would occur. “It is impunity,” he said. “They are never brought to justice.”

But Bunra Seng, country director of Conservation International, said the crackdown had been somewhat effective even in the absence of prosecutions.

“Especially in my area, Koh Kong, it’s very quiet,” he said. “Compared to 2009, it is very quiet. I want the crackdown to continue.”

‘Jungle girl’ not raped: doctors


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Wednesday, 09 June 2010 15:02 Mom Kunthear

DOCTORS at Ratanakkiri provincial referral hospital have quashed speculation that Rochom P’nhieng, Cambodia’s “jungle girl”, was raped before she fell into a dugout toilet, where she was discovered by a neighbour last Friday.

Sal Lou, who says he is Rochom P’nhieng’s father, said Tuesday that, after performing tests, doctors had ruled out his previous suspicion that she was sexually assaulted before being thrown into the latrine.

“The doctor told me that my daughter is fine, so we can leave hospital,” he said. “My daughter really wants to leave the hospital because she does not like to stay there.”

Hing Phan Sakunthea, the director of the hospital, said Tuesday that Rochom P’nhieng had suffered no serious injuries during her latest ordeal.

“She does not have a big problem with her health; she just has itches on her skin,” he said, but added that he would continue to monitor her health.

Rochom P’nhieng, believed to be 29 years old, was discovered in the wilds of Ratanakkiri in January 2007 and taken in by a family that says she is a daughter who went missing in 1989 while herding buffalo.

Last month, Rochom P’nhieng shed her clothes and fled from her family’s home into the forest for the third time since 2007, before turning up in the toilet.

Sal Lou said his family would try to keep a close eye on Rochom P’nhieng, but he was concerned about what might happen when they leave the house for work.

Chhay Thy, provincial monitor for the rights group Adhoc, questioned whether the family could ensure her safety and expressed doubts about the health checks she received. “The doctors just saw the outside of her body where they saw the itch and small wound, and allowed her to go back home,” he said.

He said the circumstances of her case remain suspicious due to the small size of the hole she fell into, and vowed to continue his own investigations.

Graft body gets two appointees


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Wednesday, 09 June 2010 15:02 Kim Yuthana

TWO former Constitutional Council members were picked to sit on a new body designed to oversee the government’s anticorruption drive Tuesday.

The National Assembly and the Senate each made selections to fill one of 11 positions on the National Anticorruption Commission, which was created after the passage of the long-delayed Anticorruption Law this year.

The National Assembly chose former Constitutional Council member Top Sam. Out of 106 parliamentarians who turned out to vote, 83 voted in favour of Top Sam, 13 voted against, two abstained, and another eight votes were voided, National Assembly President Heng Samrin said.

The Senate also chose a former member of the Constitutional Council as its representative, with 45 of 53 senators present choosing Prak Sok, said Chea Son, a Cambodian People’s Party lawmaker. Prak Sok is also a member of the ruling Cambodian People’s Party’s central committee.

Other institutions, including the Supreme Council of the Magistracy, are expected to choose candidates to fill the remaining positions on the commission.

Asked to elaborate on his plans in his new role, Top Sam noted that he was just one of several members on the new body.

“We hope that all members will work together to ... move forward for the elimination of corruption in Cambodia,” he said.

But opposition Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker Yim Sovann said he had no confidence that the new body would be able to curb graft.

“As most CPP members are corrupt and as most components of the [National Anticorruption Commission] ... are also from the CPP, the political willingness to reduce and eliminate corruption in Cambodia will not be successful,” he said.

Court rejects request for border panel


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Wednesday, 09 June 2010 15:02 Meas Sokchea

THE Court of Appeal on Tuesday upheld a ruling rejecting a request by the lawyer for self-exiled opposition leader Sam Rainsy to form an independent, bipartisan committee to investigate claims of Vietnamese border encroachment, lawyers said.

Choung Choungy, the lawyer for the Sam Rainsy Party president, submitted the request in April at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court, where his client is facing charges of falsifying public documents and spreading disinformation in connection with a dispute concerning encroachment allegations in Svay Rieng province.

In January, Sam Rainsy was sentenced in absentia to two years in prison for his involvement in an October stunt in which he assisted residents of Svay Rieng’s Chantrea district in uprooting border posts. The charges at the municipal court stem from press conferences held after the verdict, when, speaking by video link, he presented what he described as additional evidence of encroachment. If convicted, he faces up to 18 more years in prison.

Choung Choungy asked for the creation of an independent committee including representatives of the opposition as well as of the ruling Cambodian People’s Party.

The request was rejected on May 19, with the Municipal Court noting that the government already has a committee dealing with border issues.

Appeal Court Judge Nhoung Thul declined to comment on Tuesday’s hearing, which was closed to the public. But both Choung Choungy and government lawyer Ky Tech said the Municipal Court’s decision had been upheld.

“The Appeal Court has decided not to allow the formation of this committee, like the first court did,” Ky Tech said.

He added that investigating judges at the Municipal Court were only empowered to assess complaints brought by prosecutors, not to form committees.

Choung Choungy blasted the decision, and asserted that the government’s border committee was biased against his client.

“I would like to say that the government’s border committee places more of a burden on my client,” he said. “I requested to form a mixed committee that would be neutral and that would have participation from my client’s party.”

Municipal Court prosecutor Sok Roeun said Tuesday that the case against Sam Rainsy was still being investigated.

Sand dredgers back in Koh Kong

Photo by: Matt jacobson
A barge laden with sand plies the Koh Pao River upstream from Koh Kong town last November. Dredging operations have allegedly increased in the province after a downturn last year.

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Wednesday, 09 June 2010 15:02 Vong Sokheng

Ships have reportedly bolstered operations in area, and there are also concerns on the Mekong

SAND-DREDGERS have resumed large-scale operations in Koh Kong province’s salt-water estuaries since June 2 after a drop-off in dredging activities as a result of a sand-export ban last year, local fishermen said Tuesday.

Matt Sen, a 47-year-old fisherman from Village 4 in Smach Meanchey district’s Dong Tung commune, said Tuesday that about 10 transport ships are now waiting in the ocean to transport sand offshore.

He added that fishermen were using around 8 litres of gasoline per day in order to access deepwater areas where the fish are still plentiful, and blamed the dredgers for fish declines in shallow areas.

“I don’t know about the environmental impact. I only know that when there are sand-dredging companies in the sea there are no fish,” he said.

Last month, London-based watchdog Global Witness released a report on Cambodia’s sand trade that said that up to 796,000 tonnes of sand was being removed from Koh Kong each month.

The group estimates that the annual value of these shipments is US$28.7 million in Cambodia and $248 million once the sand reaches Singapore, and that the trade is being conducted with little regard for international standards or local laws.

Last month, fishermen and local officials told the Post that dredging – including one large-scale operation run jointly by Hong Kong’s Winton Enterprises and the local LYP Group – had stopped in the area following the sand-export ban, which was announced by Prime Minister Hun Sen in May and July of last year.

Pech Siyon, director of the Koh Kong provincial Department of Industry, Mines and Energy, also said last month that only one company, Udom Seima Trading, was dredging in the area. He added that the LYP/Winton operation had shut down pending the renewal of its sand-export licence.

When contacted Tuesday, he denied the fishermen’s claims that dredging had increased, saying the situation remained unchanged.

“I have no information about whether the company will have its licence for export renewed or not, but the sand-dredging companies are still operating as normal,” he said.

Fresh dredging concerns have also been raised by villagers living along the Mekong River in Kandal province’s Khsach Kandal district.

On Sunday, around 200 villagers from Chong Koh village protested against operations that they say are eroding riverbanks and threatening farmland.

Khsach Kandal Governor Kong Sophon said an unnamed sand company had received a dredging licence from the government, but that some of its operations had been undertaken in areas where dredging was not permitted

“Our local authorities, village representatives and the company will meet tomorrow to resolve the complaints filed by the villagers,” he said.

Govt warns of MDG failure in maternal car


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Wednesday, 09 June 2010 15:02 Brooke Lewis

WOMEN’S Affairs Minister Ing Kantha Phavi is set to tell a global conference on maternal health that Cambodia is not on track to meet its Millennium Development Goal for lowering the maternal death rate.

She will also call for more action on the part of “global leaders” and donors to address the problem, according to a copy of a prepared speech posted on the conference’s website.

Her remarks, prepared for a forum of health and finance ministers from more than 30 countries with high maternal mortality rates at the Women Deliver 2010 conference in Washington, notes that Cambodia is falling behind its neighbours in ensuring safe deliveries.

The national MDG calls for the maternal mortality rate to be reduced to 140 deaths for every 100,000 live births by 2015.

“With a maternal mortality ratio of 461, Cambodia ranks among the highest in the region, and we are not likely to reach our goal,” she states.

The conference, billed by its organisers as the largest ever conference on maternal health, bringing together 3,500 participants from 140 countries, began Monday and ends today.

In her statement, Ing Kantha Phavi cites factors contributing to Cambodia’s high maternal mortality rate, including the limited availability of emergency obstetric care, newborn care, services to ensure the safe termination of pregnancies, midwives and infrastructure.

“The benefits are clear,” she says of heightened attention to the issue. “Keeping women healthy and educated has human rights benefits for women, as well as education, health, nutritional, and social benefits for their children. Society as a whole benefits.”

Chan Theary, executive director of the Reproductive and Child Health Alliance, said she hopes the conference will help focus action from donors and other partners on the issue of maternal mortality.

“I think we need to have a concrete plan and implement this plan,” she said, and added that increased funding is also required.

However she said she is optimistic that the MDG for maternal mortality can still be reached.

“I think right now the government is giving this issue more attention, and that if donors, government and other partners all work together, we can achieve this goal,” she said.

Artefacts unearthed at Bayon temple

Photo by: Rann Reuy
Archaeologists point to images detailing artefacts discovered at Bayon temple on Monday, the first day of a twice-yearly conservation meeting in Siem Reap.

Wednesday, 09 June 2010 15:01 Rann Reuy

Archaeologists from Cambodia and Japan have recovered an assortment of nearly 1,000 items

Siem Reap Province

CAMBODIAN and Japanese archaeologists have since January unearthed about 1,000 artefacts buried beneath Bayon temple in Angkor Thom, according to a report released Tuesday during a conference concerning conservation efforts in the Angkor Wat temple complex.

The findings include pieces of gold, hardware, tools and religious relics, according to the report, released as part of the 19th Technical Committee meeting of the International Coordinating Committee for the Safeguarding and Development of the Historic Site of Angkor, which concludes today.

Kou Vet, chief of the archaeological unit for Japan-Apsara Safeguarding Angkor, said in a statement that his team had also discovered ceramics thought to have been imported from Thailand, Vietnam and Japan.

“Because the excavation survey is still being conducted, our data is insufficient to draw the final conclusion” when it comes to each item’s age, he said, and added that the artefacts would be taken to Japan for further testing.

Heng Kamsan, deputy director of the Archaeology and Prehistory Department at the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts, said Tuesday that the recent work at Bayon had been more fruitful than an excavation of the northern gallery conducted in 1994.

“At that time, we did not know whether our excavation techniques were good enough or if we had dug deep enough to find anything,” he said. The ongoing excavation work, he said, represents a “peak success”.

The creation of the ICC, co-chaired by France and Japan, was one of the conditions for the approval of Angkor Wat as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1992.

Programming on Monday, the first day of the twice-yearly meeting, included a tour of Angkor Thom organised by the Apsara Authority designed to showcase the contributions of Cambodian architects and archaeologists.

The agenda for today includes presentations on efforts to advance sustainable development at the site.

Global Index: Kingdom drops in peace rating


via Khmer NZ News Media

Wednesday, 09 June 2010 15:01 Cameron Wells

Global Index

Cambodia has fallen six places in this year’s Global Peace Index, coming in at No 111 out of 149 countries. Hill and Knowlton, a UK-based research firm that produced the rankings on behalf of the Institute for Economics and Peace, said in a statement released Tuesday that the drop was attributed to a “significant jump” in the homicide rate and in military expenditures. The index assigns each country a score of 1 to 5 – with 1 being the best – in 23 separate categories, including perceived criminality, access to weapons and number of ongoing conflicts. Cambodia was given a mean score of 2.252. By contrast, New Zealand topped the rankings for the second consecutive year with a score of 1.202. Alexander Breedon, a junior account executive with Hill and Knowlton, said the homicide score was “based on a homicide rate per 100,000 people”. “In 2009, Cambodia received the best possible score of 1. In 2010, Cambodia scored a 4,” he said. Cambodia fared better overall than Myanmar and Thailand, but worse than Vietnam and Laos.

Education key to commerce

Photo by: Sovan Philong
A village teacher conducts a class last week in Neak Leung in Prey Veng province. Experts say that better educational opportunities, particularly those focusing on vocational skills, could help Cambodia overcome a skills shortage and foster greater economic development.

via Khmer NZ News Media

Wednesday, 09 June 2010 15:01 Jeremy Mullins

Analysts say a skills shortage has slowed further development in the Kingdom

CAMBODIA is experiencing a skills and talent shortage hindering further development, experts say, agreeing with international assessments that education could be better tailored to meet employers’ needs.

Calling it a “global crisis in education”, World Economic Forum (WEF) on East Asia participants said in a release that education was not meeting employers' demands in countries around the world.

“Nation-building is about developing our human resources. The people are the most important. But in human resource development, we are falling behind,” forum participant and Lippo Group of Indonesia chief executive officer James Riady said, according to a release.

USAID Cambodia Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprise chief of party Curtis Hundley said extending domestic value-added manufacturing will require increasing training for technical vocations.

“Garments are the main export industry in Cambodia. All production for garments could be in Cambodia – buttons, zippers, fabric could all be manufactured here, but right now the industry is all CMT: cuts, make and trim.”

The domestic business environment can be very difficult, and it is often hard to attract investment, he said. A supply of Cambodian technical experts and effective middle and upper management would help draw more manufacturing, not just in the garment industry, he added.

Cambodia faces a number of challenges in order to solve a domestic shortage of skills and talent, HR Inc Cambodia general manager Sandra D’Amico wrote in an email.

“Our biggest challenge is the lack of labour market information systems and links between industry and education institutions to ensure education meets the needs of industry.”

Coordination between different educators could also be improved, she said. “Technical vocational training (TVET) and Higher education need to compliment each other, not compete with each other.”

Standardisation of accreditation, and better marketing of educational possibilities would also help address the shortages, she said. “At the end of the day, people need a job.”

D’Amico recommended focusing on technical training to develop skills in the economy, and improving information dissemination as to opportunities to help bridge the education gap.

“There are too many university graduates that are doing jobs suitable for technical vocational training graduates.”

Despite warning that a crisis in education is under way, World Economic Forum panelists said that East Asia nations have reason for optimism.

“You have talented and motivated people who excel. But what do we do to unlock that potential?” Viet Thai International Joint Stock Company chief executive officer David Thai said, according to a WEF release. The WEF on East Asia was held June 6 and 7 in Ho Chi Minh City.

Cambodian Skills Development Centre (CASDEC) Director Tep Mona said one domestic attraction to foreign investors is the inexpensive labour available domestically.

She said 80 percent of middle and upper management at the Kingdom’s garment factories are foreign expatriates, and that foreigners have greatly assisted in developing the sector with their knowledge, but that it is time to develop domestic employees capable of doing the job.

“Low labour costs, if combined with the right skills, could make the industry very competitive,” she said, and added that such a combination could entice other industries to enter the domestic market.

“If we have skilled people who can do the job, factories will stay longer.”

The present education system produces plenty of graduates of higher education, but could better address the needs of industry, she said.

To develop middle management capable of working in the garment sector or other industries, CASDEC has begun offering a certificate program for management.

The domestic skills and talent shortage creates challenges for businesses operating in the Kingdom, Sandra D’Amico said.

The deficiency results in "a big need for employers to do on-the-job training as well as invest in training and building their own workforces”.

Global crisis slashes Kingdom’s tax revenue


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Wednesday, 09 June 2010 15:01 Nguon Sovan

THE Kingdom’s tax revenue dropped over 8 percent last year because of the impact of the financial crisis on customs revenue, a senior Ministry of Economy and Finance official said Tuesday.

A total of US$1 billion was collected by the state in 2009, an 8.25 percent decrease from the $1.09 billion that flowed to its coffers the previous year.

Ministry of Economy and Finance secretary of state Hang Chuon Naron said revenue at the Department of Customs and Excise had decreased, but that more money was collected by the ministry’s Tax Department last year.

“During 2009, the year of the financial crisis, tax revenues increased slightly while customs revenue dropped around 10 percent, as the nation’s GDP growth declined from 10.3 percent in 2007 to 0.1 percent last year.”

The Customs Department generated 13.32 percent less revenue, collecting $640.2 million last year from $738.6 million a year earlier. However, domestic tax receipts increased 2.78 percent to $362.2 million in 2009, up from $352.4 million the year previous, the figures showed.

Still, tax-collection trends were positive, Hang Choun Naron said at a seminar on training assessments for the Ministry of Finance. He said government revenues grew an average of 26 percent annually since the launch of public finance reform in 2005.

“The growth in revenues has gradually increased the government’s reserves in the National Bank of Cambodia to $700 million,” he said. “We have reformed from a state of budget deficit to having lots of cash in hand.”

Overall government expenditure was anticipated to be $2 billion in 2010, up from $1.8 billion last year.

He said he expects tax receipts to increase this year as the economy improves and the government implements several new taxes.

“To meet increasing expenditure, the government has placed a 100 percent tax on luxurious motor vehicles over 12 horsepower. It has also begun a new tax on all land assets, whether or not they have buildings, except land used for agriculture.”

Cambodia Institute for Development Study president Kang Chandararot said customs revenue clearly declined last year.

“As we all know, foreign trade and investments in Cambodia declined last year due to the impact of the crisis, so when imports-exports activities went down, customs and excise collection declined as well,” he said.

He added that domestic tax collection has more room to increase government revenues.

“Internal tax collection will continue to grow if officials strengthen their collection efforts and push more businesses to pay tax, as some of them now try to evade it,” he said.

Pen Simon, director general of the Customs Department and Sim Eang, Tax Department director general, could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

Police Blotter: 9 Jun 2010


via Khmer NZ News Media

Wednesday, 09 June 2010 15:00 Phak Seangly

FAMILY TORN APART BY CROSSBOW ATTACK
An intergenerational family conflict in Siem Reap province has ended in the death of a 44-year-old man, allegedly at the hands of his 26-year-old crossbow-wielding son. Police said the attack happened Sunday, when the two men were drinking together. The suspect asked his young son to bring him a cigarette. The son refused, police said, and his willfulness enraged the suspect, who allegedly started beating the boy on the spot. The 44-year-old man objected to this and began beating on his son-in-law. In response, the son-in-law grabbed a crossbow and allegedly shot the victim in the chest.
KOH SANTEPHEAP

WOMAN ATTACKED OVER MEAL DISPUTE
A 49-year-old man in Kandal province has been arrested on suspicion of attacking his wife with a cleaver. Police say the man asked his wife to make him lunch. She obliged, preparing a delightful spread featuring fried pork and fresh vegetables. But the man, who was drunk, demanded fried prahok. The woman refused to make another dish and started hitting her husband. He, in turn, began destroying their property, then grabbed a cleaver and allegedly struck his wife twice in the head.
KOH SANTEPHEAP

BELT-WHIPPING BOYS WARNED BY COPS
Two high school students in Kandal province have been arrested for jumping on each other, chasing each other around and whipping each other with belts. The bizarre incident happened Saturday, and police said they did not know what prompted it. The two students, aged 17 and 18, were released after their parents signed a contract promising to rein in their unruly progeny. Police warned that the students would be punished if caught abusing each other again.
KAMPUCHEA THMEY

TEEN EARRING THIEVES SUMMONED TO COURT
Police in Poipet town have arrested three girls accused of trying to steal earrings from a child. The girls, aged 14, 15, and 16, were arrested after a woman complained that she saw them trying to snatch earrings from her 6-year-old daughter. The girls allegedly confessed, and admitted to stealing earrings from children in two other provinces. They have been sent to court.
KOH SANTEPHEAP

Garment exports improve in first five months of 2010

Photo by: Tracey Shelton
Commerce Ministry statistics show garment exports through May rose 11 percent over last year’s figures.

via Khmer NZ News Media

Wednesday, 09 June 2010 15:01 May Kunmakara

Commerce Ministry credits int’l recovery, internal measures

CAMBODIA’S garment and textile exports rose over 11 percent in the first five months of 2010 year on year, statistics show. Officials said the growth was spurred by a recovery in foreign purchasing power as global markets continued recovering from the financial crisis.

The Kingdom exported US$1.062 billion in garments during the period, an 11.43 increase over $953 million in exports January to May 2009, according to figures obtained from the Ministry of Commerce.

Sector growth was the result of recovering economies in foreign countries and government attempts to link suppliers with foreign buyers, MoC foreign trade director general Sok Sopheak said.

“As suppliers, we should clearly understand the needs of buyers, and must commit to fulfilling orders in a timely fashion.”

He added that internal restructuring of bureaucratic procedures helped boost month-on-month orders.

“We have made it more convenient for garment suppliers by cutting down on unnecessary procedures and paperwork,” he said. “This is the internal factor for growing exports, and the external factor is the recovery of the global economy.”

Cambodia Institute for Development Study president Kang Chandararot said several garment factories had previously gone bankrupt and withdrawn their investment, benefiting remaining investors.

“Many garment factories who survived the low demand caused by the crisis last year are now strong and competitive as the sector recovers, but those who ran away lost their chance to turn a profit.”

Garment Manufacturers’ Association in Cambodia president Ken Loo said the recovery of the global economy led to a surge in consumption.

“The first five months of this year were better than last year because of the improved global economy.”

However, he added that it is too early to predict progress to the year’s end. “Of course, it looks good,” he said. “We are recovering, but we have to wait and see whether the global economy continues recovering, because US employment levels are still not very good.”

The global impact of the Greek sovereign debt crisis also concerns him, he said.

“If economic recovery is hindered by [the Greek crisis], it will affect the global economy, not just Cambodia. We depend on international consumers to purchase our garments – if these countries don’t buy, we don’t have orders.”

Garment exports to the US increased nearly 8 percent to $643.4 million from $594.4 million, according to the statistics. Shipments to the European Union increased 10.4 percent, to $247.6 million during the first five months, from $224.3 million for the same period in 2009, and exports to other foreign markets rose 26.5 percent to $171 million from $135.2 million.

May also experienced growth in garment exports of nearly 27 percent compared with the month last year, reaching $216.4 million from $170.8 in 2009.

Kang Chandararot predicted the sector would continue to improve.

“I believe that the garment industry improves the nation’s economy as global economic conditions return to normal.”

Exploring new markets would diversify the garment industry and lead to the improvement of regional trade, he said.

“We won’t rely on only the US and EU.”

Cambodian garment and textile exports dropped 15.83 percent in 2009 to $2.658 billion, from $3.158 billion a year earlier, according to the Ministry of Commerce.

Central bank to make third dollar sell-off to stabilise falling riel


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Wednesday, 09 June 2010 15:00 Nguon Sovan

Today’s sale follows $4 million in dollar auctions last month that have yet to raise the value of riel markedly against the United States currency.

THE National Bank of Cambodia’s (NBC) third attempt to stabilise the declining riel is under way as the second of three US$1 million currency buys takes place today.

A total of $3 million was to be auctioned off to purchase riel in separate lots Monday, Wednesday and Friday of this week, an NBC statement signed by deputy director general Nguon Sokha released Monday said.

This is the third intervention by the NBC to stabilise the riel after its first package of $4 million auctioned late last month and the second $3 million last week failed to stop the riel’s continued decline.

Bidding for Monday’s $1 million lot saw nine money changers participate. The winning bid of 4,232 riels per dollar was won by a money changer based in Phnom Penh’s Olympic Market, said a central bank official requesting anonymity.

The depreciation of the domestic currency is not unique to Cambodia, as the US dollar has strengthened against many foreign currencies, including the euro, Cambodia Institute for Development Study president Kang Chandararot said Tuesday.

“It’s good the NBC releases US currency to appreciate the riel,” he said. “The riel will likely rise as euro currency recovers in value.”

He estimated there is $500 million worth of riels in circulation in Cambodia, and said the currency’s decline is also due to a drop in trade and investments denominated in dollars.

The riel had depreciated 1.74 percent by Tuesday, to 4,263 per US dollar from 4,190 in mid-April, according to Ministry of Commerce daily statistics.

This week’s three separate $1 million auctions take place at the NBC’s Phnom Penh headquarters on Norodom Boulevard. Commercial banks, licenced money changers and companies are able to bid, according to the NBC’s statement.

The euro has depreciated 15 percent against the US dollar since May, trading at $1.19 Tuesday from $1.40 per euro early last month.

Reththy Group factory set to start producing bricks and roof tiles


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Wednesday, 09 June 2010 15:00 Chun Sophal

Joint venture with unknown Vietnamese partner is expected to produce up to 80 million bricks per year, most of which will be sent to Vietnam

Mong Reththy Group will officially open its US$5 million brick and roof tile factory – a joint venture with an unnamed Vietnamese company – in Preah Sihanouk province next week.

Company president Mong Reththy told the Post on Tuesday that operations are expected to begin on June 18, and that the charcoal energy-operated facility could produce up to 80 million bricks per year, primarily for export to neighbouring Vietnam.

“We hope that this yard will be able to produce better-quality brick and roof tiles to supply domestic demand as well as export markets than facilities operated by hand, using wood as the energy source,” he said.

Ministry of Industry, Mines and Energy industry department Director General Meng Saktheara said producing tiles locally is important in making the Kingdom less dependant on imported construction materials.

He said imported materials account for nearly 40 to 50 percent of brick and roof tiles currently used in Cambodia, although he acknowledged exact figures are difficult to obtain because of a substantial unofficial trade in such materials.

“I think that the establishment of the yard will help increase our ability to supply local and international markets, increase income for the national economy and maintain trade stability for our country,” Meng Saktheara said.

Late last year the Mong Reththty Group signed with a Vietnamese company to invest $5 million to build the brick and roof tile yard on 15 hectares in the Cheung Kor commune, Prey Nub district, Preah Sihanouk province.

Mong Reththy refused Tuesday to name the company’s Vietnamese partner.

“I think that it is not necessary for us to discuss our partner’s share at the moment,” he said.

The Khaou Chuly Group announced last month that it had also invested $5 million in a roof tile factory in Phnom Penh’s Russey Keo district that it expects to produce up to 10 million tiles per year.

New car assembly plant to go online this year


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Wednesday, 09 June 2010 15:00 Soeun Say

Chinese-owned Khmer First Car Factory to build heavy vehicles and trucks for multiple makers

The government has approved a car assembly factory to be built in the Kingdom this year, according to an official at the Ministry of Industry, Mines and Energy (MIME).

MIME department of industrial affairs Deputy Director Hort Pheng told the Post on Monday that a Chinese-owned factory – called the Khmer First Car Factory Co – had been approved to be built in Chom Chao commune for large-vehicle assembly.

“The company is yet to begin construction and operate car assembly, but it will start this year,” he said. “It is currently preparing the assembly equipment to be installed in the factory before production can begin.”

The company is not linked to a specific brand, but will assemble cars from various makers, specialising in large vehicles such as pickups, minibuses and trucks between 1.5 tonnes and 4 tonnes, said Hort Pheng.

He added that the plant expects to assemble between 1,000 and 2,000 vehicles each year.

Chinese investor Yao Chang Sheng is the registered owner of the Khmer First Car Factory Co, according to documents filed with the government.

Hort Pheng said the company’s capital investment topped US$3 million, and the factory would be built on a 14,600-square-metre block in Kbal Damrey village in Dangkor district – about 10 kilometres southwest of Phnom Penh.

“Now, we are seeing many investors interested in coming to Cambodia because of the good policies of the government and political stability. It makes them more confident to invest in our country – if not, why would they come to invest here?” he said.

Company representatives could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

Cambodia Chamber of Commerce director general Nguon Meng Tech said the car assembly factory would be good for the country, as it would help create jobs for Cambodians and help the economy.

“We hope that the company’s investment will help develop Cambodia’s economy better,” Meng Tech said.

A Koh Kong-based car assembly plant owned by South Korea’s Hyundai distributor KH Motors in a joint venture with Cambodia’s Ly Young Phat Group, is still under construction and also slated to open by the end of the year.