Thursday, 10 June 2010

PM warns on World Cup bets

Photo by: Bejan Siavoshy
NagaWorld Hotel and Casino displays football memorabilia as part of its promotion campaign for the World Cup. The casino plans to screen matches and organise World Cup-themed raffles.

via Khmer NZ News Media

Thursday, 10 June 2010 15:03 Vong Sokheng and Cameron Wells

Hun Sen says not to make wrongful arrests or demand bribes

PRIME Minister Hun Sen on Wednesday warned against placing bets on the upcoming FIFA 2010 World Cup, though he also told police to refrain from making wrongful arrests or demanding bribes during gambling raids.

Speaking at a graduation ceremony at the National Institute of Education in Phnom Penh, the premier emphasised that the tournament – which begins in South Africa on Friday night and runs through July 11 – should be enjoyed merely as spectacle.

“I would like to take this opportunity to appeal for people not to bet, but to watch the World Cup for fun,” he said. “Don’t make the year of the World
Cup the year of lost money. The winners are in other countries, but the Cambodian people here are the losers.”

He said police should make sure that all people rounded up in raids have actually been gambling, rather than reflexively arresting entire groups gathered to watch football matches. He also warned against the collection of bribes, saying, “It is not good for us to do.”

In February of last year, Hun Sen abruptly ordered the closure of the country’s sports betting outlets and slot-machine parlours, saying they had been responsible for a decline in national morals. Cambo Six, a Hong Kong-owned sports betting agency, was among the largest targets of the crackdown.

Phnom Penh Municipal Police Chief Touch Naruth said Wednesday that both Cambodians and foreigners would be subject to arrest if caught gambling. “Both Cambodian people and foreigners have to respect the laws of the Kingdom, and I will not allow the opening of places for football betting,” he said.

Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak echoed this statement, saying the gambling ban “would continue”.

“It has been banned for over a year now. The last one was Cambo Six,” he said.

Sok Sam Oeun, director of legal aid NGO Cambodian Defenders Project, noted that gambling is only legal at venues that have been officially licenced.

“The casino must be commercially licenced with the government,” he said.

Philomena Chan, director of marketing and communications for NagaWorld Hotel and Casino, said Wednesday that management there had no plans to permit betting on World Cup matches, though she said the casino would screen the matches and organise World Cup-themed raffles.

“For the time being, we do not have that [gambling] activity,” she said.
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YOUR SAY: WORLD CUP GAMBLING BAN
 
Heng Yun, 47
Van driver
“I am very happy that the premier has allowed us to watch the World Cup this year. But I am very disappointed because I cannot bet on the matches.”




Pao Samnang, 18
Student, Cambodia Baptist Bible College
“Watching the World Cup will make me feel very excited, but I do not support anyone who wants to bet on the matches. We can watch the World Cup on television, but don’t place wagers if you love your lives.”



 
Saom Chan, 30

Taxi driver

“I think that not just me but everyone in the world is very happy to be watching the World Cup. But betting on football is not good. It can cause people to lose their money.”

PM calls for transparent aid

Photo by: Uy Nousereimony
Prime Minister Hun Sen addresses an audience of graduating students at the National Institute of Education on Wednesday.

via Khmer NZ News Media

Thursday, 10 June 2010 15:03 Cheang Sokha

Hun Sen blasts claims that the government has misused money from donors

PRIME Minister Hun Sen has called on government officials to ensure that US$1.1 billion in development aid pledged by international donors at a conference last week is used properly.

During a graduation speech at the National Institute of Education on Wednesday, the prime minister also rebuffed critics who say the government has misused foreign development aid, charging that donors themselves are responsible for where and how the funds are spent.

He said opposition parliamentarians who have criticised the government following $1.1 billion in pledges should take their concerns directly to donors.

“I would like to stress that of the $1.1 billion, we know only the figure, so the others who criticise us, don’t ask the government – ask donors themselves, because they have embassies in Phnom Penh,” Hun Sen said.

“They did not give us the $1.1 billion to carry it for them. They have their own projects ... so don’t be so ignorant.”

He added that development projects are handled by donor countries, and that Cambodia only joins in the inauguration of projects after they are completed.

The comments came a week after the most recent Cambodia Development Cooperation Forum (CDCF), at which international donors pledged a total of $1.1 billion in development assistance for 2010, despite concerns about a lack of government transparency in the spending of aid money.

A briefing paper issued last week by 15 local NGOs lamented what it described as a decline in freedom of expression over the past year, and said donors could appear “complicit” if they did not pressure the government to rein in its legal offensives against outspoken critics.

Sam Rainsy Party spokesman Yim Sovann said Wednesday that many foreign-funded development projects have been the subject of scandals because of the corruption of government officials, and argued that the government has not been sufficiently transparent in applying the money.

“Some projects, which are run by the government institutions, the donor and development partners can’t control,” he said.

“Previous experience shows that the government has had problems with the World Bank and the World Food Programme – all these are linked with corruption.”

In his speech Wednesday, Hun Sen also addressed the series of warning shots that were exchanged by Cambodian and Thai troops stationed along the border near Oddar Meanchey province on Tuesday, describing it as a “small issue”.

“[Tuesday’s] clash did not expand the dispute along the border. I think this may have been caused by a misunderstanding. We do not want to have disputes. We want to shorten the disputes and expand the solutions,” the prime minister said.

Chhum Socheat, spokesman for the Ministry of Defence, said Tuesday that no injuries were reported when border troops from both sides fired warning shots in the air in Trapaing Prasat district at around 9:45am.

He said the six-minute exchange took place when a group of around 10 patrolling Cambodian soldiers met a group of Thai mixed forces, including forestry officers, police and Thai soldiers.

The incident followed an exchange of fire in Oddar Meanchey on April 19, when troops traded rifle shots and rockets in two incidents in Samrong district.

Women detained after attempted acid attack


via Khmer NZ News Media

Thursday, 10 June 2010 15:03 Mom Kunthear

MILITARY police on Tuesday arrested and detained two women suspected of planning an acid attack in Phnom Penh’s Daun Penh district, after passersby overheard them plotting the crime and informed authorities, officials said Wednesday.

Thorng Piset, district military police commander, said two women had been caught in possession of more than a litre of acid, which one of the two later admitted was intended for use in an attack.

The target, a 20-year-old student, was walking alone along a road in Daun Penh’s Chaktomuk commune Tuesday evening when she was accosted by the two women, who began to hit her without explanation, Thorng Piset said.

Passersby alerted police after overhearing one of the women, who were still scuffling with the victim, order the other to “please bring acid to me to pour on her”, he said.

“But she was not doused with acid because the villagers helped her in time,” he said, and added that police who had already been in the area arrived to intercept the women, who had gone to collect the acid.

He said one of the suspects later admitted to police that she had planned an acid attack on the student, who she suspected was having an affair with her husband.

He added that the case had been passed on to the municipal military police.

Chan Veasna, municipal military police secretary, said the suspects were being detained, but that he was not sure whether they would be charged.

“It was just an argument, and they can negotiate with the victim to get free, because the suspects did not yet pour acid on the victim,” he said.

According to a report released last month, Phnom Penh is the site of the second-highest number of attacks in the Kingdom, accounting for 16 percent of 236 acid cases recorded by the Cambodian Acid Survivors Charity (CASC) between 1985 and 2009.

CASC programme manager Chhun Sophea said Wednesday that arrests made to pre-empt acid attacks would signify a “big breakthrough”.

“Hopefully this will deter other people from planning attacks,” she said.

She added that she hoped the case would not be settled out of court.

“I think there should be some kind of charges laid,” she said.

Though she could not provide exact figures, she said that the number of acid attacks nationwide appears to be declining after a reported spike in December and January, and that CASC has not recorded any new attacks since late March or early April.

Assembly OKs new law on civil procedure


via Khmer NZ News Media

Thursday, 10 June 2010 15:02 Meas Sokchea

THE National Assembly on Wednesday approved a new law governing court proceedings that do not involve lawsuits, a move that drew criticism from observers who described the legislation as unnecessary.

Justice Minister Ang Vong Vathana said the new law was intended to improve upon the code of civil procedure adopted in 2007, and that it would assist the courts in resolving civil issues more efficiently.

He went on to describe the law as an example of positive judicial reform.

“I would like ... for procedures to be fair, just and transparent,” he said.

Hy Sophea, secretary of state in the Ministry of Justice, said the draft law was designed to assist in processing civil cases that require a court ruling, but for which there is no disputing party.

He cited as an example divorce rulings for couples who have already agreed to separate.
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We already had the civil code. we should not have created another law.
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Opposition Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker Son Chhay said Wednesday that the assembly should not have devoted time to deliberating the law, saying there were more pressing matters to attend to.

“The government should pay attention to strengthening judicial institutions and following through on promises to donors,” he said.

“We see that the courts are corrupt and do not fulfill their duties because we have not made a law to control them properly.”

Sok Sam Oeun, executive director of the legal aid NGO Cambodian Defenders Project said the creation of the new law appeared to be a pointless exercise.

“We already had the civil code,” he said.

“We should not have created another law: It is not different from the previous code, and it is not necessary to create a new law if the previous law
has not been used.”

The new law, which has 10 chapters and 56 articles, was passed with a majority of 80 votes, with just seven parliamentarians voting against it, Ang Vong Vathana said.

The National Assembly began debating the draft law on Tuesday. The first five chapters of the law were approved during that session.

Road collisions increased in May

Photo by: Sovan Philong
The aftermath of a three-vehicle collision at the corner of Monivong Boulevard and Street 484 is shown earlier this year.

via Khmer NZ News Media

Thursday, 10 June 2010 15:02 Chhay Channyda

AFTER dipping in April, the number of road traffic collisions recorded in May matched last year’s total, and resulted in about the same number of deaths, according to figures provided by the Ministry of Public Works and Transport.

Preap Chanvibol, director of the ministry’s Land Transport Department, said Tuesday that 649 collisions had been recorded in May, up slightly from 634 the year before. These resulted in 202 fatalities, compared to 205 last May.

The numbers of both collisions and deaths typically increase each April and May compared to the first three months of the year, due to the high level of travel associated with holidays such as Khmer New Year and the Royal Ploughing Ceremony.

This past April, however, the number of traffic accidents recorded by the ministry fell from 526 to 433, suggesting that progress could be made towards the ASEAN goal of 7 road deaths per 100,000 people each year. Cambodia recorded 12.6 road deaths per 100,000 people last year.

The May figures revealed that the number of motorbikes involved in road accidents jumped from 409 in April to 750 in May.

“We found that motorbikes were involved in about 70 percent of accidents. This is high, and we are worried that more motorbikes will be involved in more accidents going forward,” Preap Chanvibol said.

“Traffic accidents and fatalities just keep increasing even though the government has enforced the helmet rule better this year,” he added.

An amendment to the Land Traffic Law adopted in January 2009 imposed a fine of 3,000 riels (about US$0.75) for motorbike drivers caught without helmets.

Sem Panhavuth, project manager for the Road Crash and Victim Information System at the NGO Handicap International Belgium, said Wednesday that he had not finished totalling the number of accidents in April and May.

According to statistics from the first three months of the year, he said, speeding was the cause of 50 percent of accidents, and compliance with the helmet regulation remained patchy.

“Some people still do not want to wear helmets,” he said.

Clock ticking on approval of cluster ban


via Khmer NZ News Media

Thursday, 10 June 2010 15:02 Irwin Loy and Chhay Channyda

ADVOCATES for disarmament are calling on Cambodia to sign and ratify a convention banning cluster bombs before it enters into force in less than two months.

In the middle of a conference in Santiago, Chile, where delegates are discussing the next steps to take with respect to the Convention on Cluster Munitions, several groups are taking particular aim at Cambodia and a handful of other countries for not signing on.

“As a highly affected country, Cambodia knows the devastating effects of cluster munition use on families,” Handicap International said in a statement.

The convention was ratified earlier this year, and its stringent regulations banning the use of cluster bombs and requiring the destruction of stockpiles will come into effect August 1.

Cambodia has so far opted not to sign the convention, despite its being an early and active proponent of the ban.

Leng Sochea, the deputy secretary general of the Cambodian Mine Action Authority, said the government still plans to sign it eventually, but that officials must first study its implications.

“Cambodia is one of the victims of land mines,” he said.

Defence Minister Tea Banh, meanwhile, said the country needs to ensure that it can protect itself.

“We will sign in the future,” he said. “Now we need to protect our country and our sovereignty first from other countries like Thailand, which has border problems with us.”

Jamie Franklin, country programme manager for the Mines Advisory Group, said he took officials at their word that they are committed to signing the treaty at some point.

But he, too, urged them to do so “as soon as possible”, noting that the first states party meeting scheduled after the treaty comes into force will take place in Laos in November.

“It will certainly be good for the government to sign on to the treaty before the meeting,” he said.

“It would be a good stage ... for the government to seek international support for clearing [cluster munitions].”

Chea Mony reconsiders resignation

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
Union leader Chea Mony addresses garment workers during a rally in Phnom Penh on May 1.

via Khmer NZ News Media

Thursday, 10 June 2010 15:02 Tep Nimol

CHEA Mony said Wednesday that he was reconsidering plans to step down as president of the Free Trade Union of Workers of the Kingdom of Cambodia, saying he had been inundated with requests from members who want him to stand as a candidate in elections scheduled for later this month.

On May 16, Chea Mony announced that he would resign from his position at the end of his current term and would not stand as a candidate in the June 27 elections. He cited health reasons for his decision, and added that a change of leadership could benefit the FTU.

“I want the union to be progressive,” he said. “If we want our country to be progressive we must have a change of leader.”

On Wednesday, Chea Mony said he is still ill and physically weak, but that statements of support he had received had given him “emotional strength”.

“I have a disease, and I have held the position for two mandates already, which means six years,” he said. “In the future I have no will to be president of the union anymore, but now I have received hundreds of letters from workers requesting me to be a candidate for the president election, and the letters encourage me to consider putting myself forward again.”

Cambodian Confederation of Unions president Rong Chhun said he would put himself on the ballot if necessary, but that he would prefer for Chea Mony to continue in the post.

“Nobody wants to be president now because they would like Chea Mony to continue his work,” he said. “We will try our best to push Chea Mony to be president again. If there is no choice, I will do it, but I have not registered my name for election.”

FTU secretary general Mann Seng Hak said people who had originally intended to stand for the role of president had bowed out of the running to “leave space blank for Chea Mony to be president for the next term”.

He added that there are currently no other candidates for the position.

Illegal border entries closed in crackdown


via Khmer NZ News Media

Thursday, 10 June 2010 15:02 Thet Sambath

BETWEEN 30 and 40 illegal border crossings in Banteay Meanchey province have been closed in an attempt to curb the smuggling of pigs, gas, petrol, fruits and expired perishable foods from Thailand to Cambodia, provincial officials said Wednesday.

“We have closed more than 30 illegal border crossing points along the border with Thailand to stop smuggling, and this closure is forever,” Banteay Meanchey deputy governor Im Phoansophal said.

He expressed concern about the smuggling of expired food – including fruits, raw chicken, goat meat and packaged products – that he said had sickened some Cambodians.

The smugglers, he said, “have brought in spoiled foods for people to eat, which is making people’s health deteriorate, and this has caused the state to lose income”.

He declined to provide any figures supporting this claim, though he accused local businessmen of resorting to smuggling in order to evade taxes.

“Businessmen have always used these illegal crossing points to smuggle their goods. They prefer to do things this way because they don’t want to pay tax on items, and they think it will cost less to just bribe local officials,” he said.

He noted that Thai and Cambodian villagers living along the border could still legally exchange goods on a small scale.

The crackdown, which took place in Malai, O’Chrov and Thmar Puok districts, was ordered by Deputy Prime Minister Ke Kim Yan, he added.

Om Chantha, Banteay Meanchey’s provincial cabinet chief, said almost 40 smuggling paths had been blocked off, and that the crackdown had been delayed so as not to aggravate cross-border tension with Thailand.

“We have known for awhile that there were illegal crossing points along the border, but we needed to take time for our investigation and had to delay the crackdown because of tension with Thailand,” he said.

Soum Chankea, provincial coordinator for the rights group Adhoc, also said Cambodia lost a substantial amount of income due to illegal smuggling, though he blamed local police for accepting bribes and “looking the other way”.

“Hundreds of millions of riels are lost every year because of these crossing points. Smugglers don’t pay tax on items; instead they give bribes to the police to feed their units,” he said.

“It makes me question why they are taking action now. Why did they not take action before this?”

Ranariddhs reach a settlement

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
Prince Norodom Ranariddh and Princess Marie Norodom Ranariddh appear together at the former headquarters of Funcinpec in October 2006.

via Khmer NZ News Media

Thursday, 10 June 2010 15:01 Vong Sokheng

PHNOM Penh Municipal Court has approved the divorce of Prince Norodom Ranariddh and Princess Marie Norodom Ranariddh, and ruled that the latter is entitled to half of the former Funcinpec president’s estate, court officials said Wednesday.

Chev Keng, the court’s president, said the decision was handed down on Tuesday after the couple agreed to a reconciliation deal.

“The court decided to issue the verdict of divorce after the two parties reached an agreement to share the property,” he said.

Liv Sovanna, the lawyer for Norodom Ranariddh, declined to comment on the ruling on Wednesday, describing it as a “personal issue”.

Chea Chanboribo, the prince’s personal spokesman, declined to comment beyond saying that Norodom Ranariddh is currently travelling “back and forth” between homes in Malaysia and Phnom Penh.

Norodom Ranariddh filed for divorce from Princess Marie in 2006 after meeting and falling in love with Ouk Phalla, with whom he now has a son. Ouk Phalla, a former dancer with the Royal ballet, was at the time married to former Funcinpec minister Veng Sereyvuth.

Originally elected president of Funcinpec in 1992, Norodom Ranariddh led the party to a stunning victory in the UNTAC-sponsored elections in May 1993, at which point he became first prime minister. He was ousted as a result of factional fighting with the Cambodian People’s Party in 1997.

Sex criminal’s sentence suspended

Photo by: Pha Lina
Frenchman Olivier Madrieres is escorted out of Phnom Penh Municipal Court after a hearing on Wednesday.

via Khmer NZ News Media

Thursday, 10 June 2010 15:01 Chhay Channyda

PHNOM Penh Municipal Court on Wednesday found a 48-year-old French national guilty of purchasing sex with a child prostitute, and sentenced him to two years in prison.

All but seven months of the sentence given to Olivier Madrieres, however, was suspended, and he is due for release in two weeks because of time already served.

Judge Ke Sakhorn also ordered Madrieres to pay 3 million riels (US$716) in compensation to the victim.

Olivier was arrested last November after police said they found him having sex at a guesthouse in Daun Penh district with a girl who they said was 16.

Madrieres and his lawyer, Dun Vibol, have said that the girl was in fact 20 at the time, a claim they both reiterated on Wednesday.

“He is not a paedophile like the accusation said,” Dun Vibol said of his client.

“He has no bad intention to hurt the victim. She agreed to go with him and she was already 20 years old.”

Speaking after the verdict was read out, Madrieres said: “I will leave Cambodia soon after I’m released from prison. All the media have named me as a paedophile. For my country, it is terrible.”

He also said that he had slept with the victim only after she showed him an identification card that indicated she was 20.

Nuon Phanith, a lawyer for the victim provided by the child protection NGO Action Pour Les Enfants, expressed disappointment on Wednesday at the length of the sentence, and said there was a chance Madrieres would “seek revenge” upon his release because the court had not ordered that he be deported.

“In many paedophile cases, the court always orders the deportation soon after their release. I’m worried that after he’s free, he will seek revenge on the victim’s family,” Nuon Phanith said.

He added that he did not consider the sentence to be severe enough to deter other potential paedophiles.

Police Blotter: 10 Jun 2010

via Khmer NZ News Media

Thursday, 10 June 2010 15:00 Sen David

MAN CAN’T PAY FOR BIKE, KILLS SELF
A 25-year-old man in Sen Sok district hanged himself on Monday after his wife refused to allow him to purchase the modern motorbike he had his eye on. His wife revealed the details of the argument to police after the man’s body was located, saying that they didn’t have enough money for the motorbike, and that she had suggested buying a cheaper one.
DEUM AMPIL

COP ROBBED IN BED IN KAMPONG CHAM
Three robbers in Kampong Cham province’s Memot district targeted the house of a police officer on Monday night, making away with an unknown amount of money and jewellery. The police officer said he had been on edge all day Monday, largely because his dogs were barking around the clock. He even investigated the woods around his house before going to bed, but he did not see anyone. As he was falling asleep, the robbers entered the house and demanded money and jewellery from him and his wife. They managed to escape, as the police officer was too frightened to chase them because they were wielding guns. Police are investigating the case.
DEUM AMPIL

DEN OF CARD ADDICTS RAIDED IN KANDAL
Police in Kandal province’s Koh Thom district raided a den full of men who are said to be addicted to card-playing, arresting seven of them. The operation was carried out on Sunday, and caught a group of about 20 men cockfighting and playing “illegal card games”. They all managed to escape when police descended on the house, but authorities later managed to nab seven of them. A nearby resident said many of the men were members of the same extended family, and that they all were “addicted to card-playing”. He expressed concern about the security risks caused by such games being permitted in the village. Police are continuing their search for the 13 men who absconded after the raid.
KAMPUCHEA THMEY

OFFICER CAUSES CRASH, PAYS VICTIMS
A senior police official in Stung Treng province crashed into three cars while driving to the capital to visit relatives, injuring three people seriously. Police who responded to the scene of the accident said the Stung Treng officer had been driving carelessly, resulting in the collision. They immediately took the suspect in for questioning, and he agreed to pay all three of the victims US$1,000. Witnesses reportedly commended the suspect for agreeing to compensate the victims rather than “using powerful functions” to threaten them.
KAMPUCHEA THMEY

Kingdom gets back on track with overseas sugar exports


Staff of the Koh Kong Sugar Industry at Laem Chabang port in Thailand. Photo courtesy Koh Kong Sugar industry

via Khmer NZ News Media

Thursday, 10 June 2010 15:01 Nguon Sovan

Shipment of 10,000 tonnes is on its way to the UK – the first in four decades

Cambodia shipped its first export of raw sugar to an overseas market in four decades on Friday last week, with the 10,000 tonne cargo destined for the United Kingdom.

Koh Kong Sugar Industry, which opened its factory for operation in January, said that the shipment left last Friday from Laem Chabang port in Thailand’s Chonbori province.

“We made our first shipment last week since the plant officially opened for operation in January,” Korn Posayanond, research and business development manager at Khon Kaen Sugar Industry Public Co Ltd – the factory’s 50 percent shareholder – told the Post on Wednesday.

He declined to disclose how much the shipment was worth, saying it was confidential.

The Post estimates 10,000 tonnes of raw sugar would yield about US$3.31 million, based on Wednesday’s prices on the Bloomberg agriculture index, which said one pound of raw sugar was valued at $0.15.

Korn Posayanond said crushing operations for next year’s exports would begin in November, and that the factory has already planted and expected to harvest between 200,000 and 250,000 tonnes of sugarcane for this year’s harvest. But he said there are concerns as to whether this level is sustainable.

“We expect to increase our export volume to between 20,000 tonnes and 25,000 tonnes of raw sugar to Europe’s markets next year,” he said.

“However, our greatest concern is the shortage of sugar-cane due to the low yield resulting from land condition and poor farming techniques,” he said, and added that in Thailand 1 hectare of sugar cane yields up to 60 tonnnes, whereas in Cambodia the yield is only 42 tonnes.

The company is seeking to contract more farmers to grow sugarcane exclusively for the factory in order to address the possible shortfall, he said.

“We are calling on farmers to grow sugarcane to supply our factory. We will supply them sugarcane seeds and fertiliser free of charge, but they have to sell their sugarcane yield to us,” he said.

He said the factory would give them a fair price – a tonne of sugarcane for 900 baht, or US$27.50.

Bunlert Pramkerson, the governor of Koh Kong province, said Wednesday that the province is cooperating with the factory to encourage farmers to take up the offer.

“Our officials are informing farmers about the demand for sugarcane from the factory and encouraging them to grow it because it is a sustainable source of income for them,” he said.

Koh Kong Sugar Industry is a $60 million joint venture by three partners – Thai investor Khon Kaen Sugar Industry Public Ltd holds 50 percent, Taiwanese investor Vewong Corporation holds 30 percent, and Cambodian investor Ly Yong Phat holds 20 percent.

The three companies have received certain privileges under the investment-promotion measures of the Cambodian government, such as 90-year concessions for sugar cane plantation areas of some 20,000 hectares in Koh Kong, as well as tax incentives, according to a previous interview with Khon Kaen Sugar Industry’s CEO Chamroon Chinthammit.

The plant has the capacity to crush 700,000 tonnes of cane per year, with an expected raw sugar output of about 70,000 tonnes of sugar per year.

Wholesaler eyes Cambodia-made chocolate



Photo by: Sovan Philong
Adrian Restle displays delicacies made from his imported chocolate.

via Khmer NZ News Media

Thursday, 10 June 2010 15:00 Jeremy Mullins

CHOCOLATE wholesaler Grand-Place plans to begin making its high-quality chocolate in Cambodia next year, managing director Adrien Restle said.

Selling its Belgian-inspired sweets to the Kingdom’s restaurants and bakeries as well as “all but two” of Phnom Penh’s leading hotels, the wholesaler imports about 70 percent of its chocolate from its production facility near Ho Chi Minh City and the rest from points further afield, notably Europe.

Chocolate is damaged at temperatures higher than 28 degrees, making transportation of the treat a challenging process under the Kingdom’s hot sun. Rather than continuing to ship products in temperature-controlled containers all the way from Vietnam, Restle said, the logical next step is production in the Kingdom itself.

“We plan to manufacture made-in-Cambodia chocolate,” he said. “Cambodia imports lots of its finished products. My idea is to lead a transformation, to have production [of high value-added goods] in Cambodia.”

The plan is part of Grand-Place’s vision to produce quality chocolate entirely in Asia, he said. A test batch of cocoa beans is presently growing in Vietnam. Once harvested, a separate firm will process the beans under contract, and then return the cocoa to Grand-Place to make chocolate.

Eventually, the firm would like to conduct a similar experiment in Cambodia, but Restle admits this is a longer term project. “There are no cocoa trees in Cambodia, but they can be planted here,” he said, and added that growing cocoa in the Kingdom would require working closely with the Ministry of Agriculture.

The firm plans to double its staff in Cambodia from four to eight in order to make the products, with an eye to employing 12 people once production gets rolling in a year. Restle credits his current Khmer staff with boosting the firm’s domestic sales to the mass market.

“I can work with five-star hotels, but it’s my colleagues who are driving sales with bakeries,” he said.

Grand-Place bills itself as a chocolate company from Belgium, rather than as a Belgian chocolate company, a distinction based on the origin of much of its chocolate.

To officially label the chocolate as “Belgian” would require its manufacture in the famously chocolate-friendly European country, but Restle contends that Grand-Place’s Vietnamese-made products are indistinguishable from its products in Europe. Grand-Place uses Belgian recipes, Belgian training, and is Belgian owned, he says.

Cambodians prefer sweet compound chocolate over more bitter couverture types popular in Europe, he added.

“In Asia, people are not used to couverture’s bitter taste. People here prefer sweeter products,” he said.

Sweet tooths throughout Asia may lead Vietnam-based Grand-Place to expand further afield. It already sells its products through an office in Japan, but is eyeing new locations, possibly in India or China. “There are over 1 billion people in China, of which maybe 1 percent eats chocolate. The potential is huge,” Restle said.

Expansion in the Kingdom is stymied for now by lack of demand, he said. The firm’s main office was in Phnom Penh, with a satellite office in Siem Reap, but Restle said the next domestic target, Sihanoukville, is some years away from supporting a Grand-Place outlet.

Chocolate is a plastic product that could be molded to meet patrons’ wishes, he said, and Grand-Place holds workshops every six months aimed at increasing chiefs’ knowledge.

“The first chocolate demo we held was in August 2009 at the Cambodiana Hotel. 80 people joined for training about how to use chocolate,” he said.

He declined to release sales figures, citing tight competition among chocolate manufacturers, but said its margins were crucial in the wholesale chocolate business.

“As we are a B to B supplier, our business works on volume, and works on the margin,” he said.

Improving the transportation sector

Photo by: Sovan Philong
Cambodia Bus Association President Sok Chanmony at his office in Phnom Penh. The association aims to create better collaboration and more efficient service among the Kingdom’s transport companies through membership in its organisation.

via Khmer NZ News Media

Thursday, 10 June 2010 15:00 May Kunmakara

Cambodia Bus Association President Sok Chanmony says he seeks to improve awareness of legal matters while fostering cooperation and dialogue with bus operators and the government

What is the mission of the Cambodia Bus Association?
CAMBA was established on April 1 to strengthen the quality of service to customers and to protect our profession and skills as service providers for land transport in Cambodia. We want to educate our members to clearly understand new land traffic laws and other regulations.

We would like all bus companies to be members of the association in order to be able to benefit each other and avoid conflict in doing business in the industry, but especially to establish an official voice with the government institutions and foreign institutions concerning industry matters. It would make it easier to solve problems in exchanging information, particularly in regard to cross-border transportation.

What is the requirement for a bus company to become a member?
Any bus company with more than two buses that have been approved by the Ministry of Public Works and Transportation can be a member of the association. We currently have 10 companies out of more than 20 as members.

There are three kinds of membership – permanent, ordinary and honorary. Each one has different levels of cost, requirements and benefits.
Members are also required to buy insurance to cover their passengers. In the near future, we will require members to do a report on the number of customers because it makes it easier to track passenger numbers.

What are the benefits of membership?
When companies join the association, we share the information we have from the government. We will try to set up the single bus fair to eliminate tea moneys which some bus companies give to moto taxi drivers to get customers. Some companies try to reduce prices below the market price, giving a bad image of other companies in the industry. So, we want to eliminate this behavior and improve service to benefit customers as we’ve seen our neighboring countries, Vietnam and Laos, have already done. The association will also play an important role in facilitating inbound and outbound transportation.

Why was CAMBA established at this time?
It’s because we see the numbers of bus companies increasing very quickly as demand increases. There are a lot of duties we have to deal with, especially with cross-border transportation. Furthermore, related to the ticket fare, those who don’t agree to have a single price make it confusing and complicated for customers. So we were facing a lot of difficulties whenever we had problems or the government wanted a bus company representative to discuss some issue or traffic law – we didn’t have a single voice which gave us and the government a bit of a headache.

Does the government get involved in management?
We are an independent entity, but we work in collaboration with the government on improving the Land Traffic Law and to get some directives from them on the quality of our service for the image of our country.

How do you transparently manage your profit?
All our expenses are made under the approval by our board and permanent members – we don’t let someone make the decision solely. And, we always conduct the internal audit every month to make sure the Association will financially survive.

Do you have government support for the Association?
Of course, the government supported us a lot when we established the Association, and helped especially with drafting our regulations.
It wants bus companies to respect the new Land Traffic Law and reduce traffic accident and disorder among the companies. Especially, it wants us to do business in fair competition.

Has there been any impact during the financial crisis on the industry?
We saw a 30 percent decline in the number of customers.

Are you optimistic about the progress of CAMBA?
We will try to boost some other bus companies nationwide to join the association and to eliminate the bad behaviour and activities which always occurs at some bus companies that impact the image of our country. I hope that if we don’t achieve 100 percent membership, we get to at least 70 percent. I hope our association will keep progressing to give the best service to customers and to participate with the government for the development of the country’s means of transportation.

Guangzhou delegation explores bilateral investment opportunities


via Khmer NZ News Media

Thursday, 10 June 2010 15:00 May Kunmakara

Two-way trade between Cambodia and China’s Guangzhou sub-province increased over 46 percent in the first four months of 2010 compared with the same period last year, and it will grow still more, according to the head of a trade-seeking delegation from the province.

Yu Ruheng, vice president of the China Council for the Promotion of International Trade Guangzhou Council (CCPITGC), who led 50 Chinese companies comprising 80 businesspersons in a two-day visit to the Kingdom, said total imports-exports between the regions were estimated to have reached US$1.4 million in the first four months of this year, from $924,065 for the same period last year.

“This shows a very good surging point. However, the trade volume is still quite limited, meaning we have a lot of potential for further improvement,” Yu Ruheng said at the meeting of the delegation with Cambodian businesses on Wednesday at Phnom Penh’s NagaWorld Hotel and Casino.

China signed the ASEAN Free Trade Agreement in early January this year (C-AFTA) to lower some trade tariffs with the aim of reducing them to zero by 2015.

But trade flows have seen year-on-year growth between the Kingdom and the sub-province in the past two years despite the “tsunami” of the world economic crisis, Yu Ruheng said, pointing out that bilateral trade had risen to $3.8 million in 2009, up 2 percent from $3.7 million in 2008.

Cambodia Chamber of Commerce (CCC) President Kith Meng told the delegation at the NagaWorld meeting that Cambodia’s pool of labour is large and growing, the political environment is stable, and that the country is further enhancing competitiveness with further infrastructure projects in roads, railway and electricity.

“You have chosen a very good time to visit Cambodia. This country has developed significantly in recent years and will continue to do so,” Kith Meng said. “Improvements in both the road and rail system will permit easier movement of goods around the country and to export points, particularly for Greater Mekong countries.”

He added; “By combining China’s experience in developing a manufacturing base with an increasingly reliable electricity supply here, and a large and relatively low-cost labour force, we can rapidly grow Cambodia’s manufacturing industry,” he said.

Guangzhou’s exports to Cambodia were mainly machinery, electronics, furniture, light products and medicine, and Cambodia’s exports to the sub-province were agricultural products, fish and timber.

Liu Xian Ming, vice president of Guangzhou Light Industry & Trade Group Ltd, whose products are already exported to Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia, said it was his first time to the Kingdom, and that he found the meeting very fruitful. He said he expected to find a Cambodian partner to do business with as a result.

Guangzhou is the capital and sub-provincial city of the 10 million-person Guangdong province in southern China.

The Phnom Penh Post News in Brief


Domestic Trade: Poultry farms feel pinch of illegal imports

via Khmer NZ News Media

Thursday, 10 June 2010 15:00 Chun Sophal

The Cambodian Chicken Raisers Association says poultry farmers are struggling to sell their products because of rampant smuggling of eggs and chicken meat from other countries. Chhay Sok Huor, association president, said Tuesday that local farmers can’t improve sales unless unofficial imports from neighboring countries are stopped. At present, the association’s members, which include about 230 farmhouses, sell about 450,000 eggs and 30,000 chickens to local markets per day – a little less than half the total daily demand across Cambodia, he said. “We will be able to sell twice as many ... into local markets compared to what we are selling now if the authorities were able to prevent illegal import ... from abroad,” he said. Association figures show that some 500,000 eggs and 7 tonnes of chicken are unofficially imported from Vietnam and Thailand. Local farmers sell for average prices of 300 riels (US$0.07) to 350 riels per egg and 8,500 riels to 9,500 riels per kilogram of chicken, whereas imported products normally sell at 200 riels per egg and 8,000 riels per kilogram of chicken.


Child sex case: Swede’s appeal is postponed

Thursday, 10 June 2010 15:01 Kim Yuthana

Child sex case
The Appeal Court on Wednesday postponed a hearing in the case of a Swedish paedophile who in January received a six-and-a-half year sentence for having sex with his 9-year-old adopted son and two other boys. Judge Nhoung Thul said Johan Brahim Escori, who was 62 at the time of his conviction, had failed to appear at the court, and that the hearing would be rescheduled for August. He noted that all parties, including Escori, had been issued summonses for the hearing, but that only representatives of the Swedish embassy in Phnom Penh had appeared. Escori was arrested on May 7, 2009 at a hotel in Phnom Penh where he had been staying with his adopted son. The Municipal Court in January ordered him to may 4 million riels (US$955) in compensation, and ruled that he would be deported after serving his sentence. Neither his lawyer nor the prosecutor handling the case could be reached for comment on Wednesday.


Migrants: Men’s return from India pushed back

Thursday, 10 June 2010 15:02 Mom Kunthear

Migrants

The repatriation of eight Cambodian men believed to have been trafficked to India has been delayed after an organisation that has agreed to pay for their return flights requested more documentation, a Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman said Tuesday. Koy Kuong said earlier this week that they were due to return to Cambodia on Wednesday. He said Wednesday, though, that officials in India working for the International Organisation on Migration “need more information”, though he added that he did not expect the delay to be lengthy. “The sponsors for buying the plane tickets for those eight men in India need more information about those people from our embassy in India and the Indian authorities, so they have to suspend their return to Cambodia,” he said. The men are suspected to have struck a deal with a middleman in Cambodia that they thought would lead to jobs in Thailand, only to find themselves being transported to India unexpectedly. Bruno Maltoni, a project coordinator at the IOM in Phnom Penh, said Wednesday that he did not know when the men would be returned.

Témoignage de Mr Phim Pak un des propriétaires des Rizières près du borne 270.MPG

Cambodian farmer Phim Pak testifying about the potential loss of his rice field from the continuation of border posts planting in Anh-chanh village, Borey Chulsa district, Takeo province:



Land property titles issued by the Cambodian authority to Anh-chanh villagers:



Click on the border sketch above to zoom in

Cambodian Capital's Colonial Architecture Disappears

Robert Carmichael | Phnom Penh
09 June 2010

via Khmer NZ News Media

Photo: VOA - Robert Carmichael
Cambodia's soon to be renovated Hotel le Royale, Phnom Penh, May 2010

Cambodia's capital, Phnom Penh, is in the midst of an architectual transformation. Most of the buildings in the relatively young city are only two or three stories tall. But now much of the city's century-old French colonial architecture is being demolished, to make way for modern high-rises.

The change is being driven Cambodia's dramatic economic growth over the past decade, creating jobs and new infrastructure to one of Asia's poorest countries. A robust economy also means that the capital's old French colonial architecture is being rapidly replaced with modern residential and office high-rises, altering the city's skyline.

Some architects and historians here say as many as 40 percent of the colonial buildings that survived decades of war and the brutal Khmer Rouge government have been demolished in the past 20 years.

VOA - Robert Carmichael
Signs of architectural transformation in Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh

Michel Verrot is a French architect Michel Verrot, a longtime Cambodian resident, heads the Heritage Mission, a French-funded project trying to preserve what remains of the architecture from 150-year-old French colonial period. Verrot explains that during France's rule, Phnom Penh was designed as a city of gardens, avenues and pleasing views -- now lost in the rush to modernity.

"What is happening is that all the views are becoming very, very disturbed, with things very, very different without any idea, without any global idea of the town development," said Verrot. "This is really today the most important problem. The second one is that everything is done without any general plan. We do the things one after one," Verrot said.

The Heritage Mission has mapped the architectural history of Phnom Penh, and has helped restore several buildings, including the iconic Central Market, which is a favorite with tourists.

And owners have restored a few commercial buildings, like the Hotel le Royal.

Verrot thinks the government has little interest in preserving old buildings. He says that is in part because the gem of Cambodian architecture - the temple complex of Angkor Wat - so dominates discourse that it leaves little space for other types of architecture.

But Cambodia's colonial architectural heritage is also part of the country's history, even if recalling that past can prove uncomfortable.

Cambodia's top culture ministry official Samraing Kimsan says his office's ability to preserve the city's architectual history is limited. The task is made more complicated, he adds, by the attitude of many Cambodians.

"They do not understand or do not love the traditional and old style of building," said Samraing Kimsan. "They do not understand."

Samraing Kimsan says the ministry struggles to educate people to value old buildings despite a lack of money in the budget to preserve historical structures. He adds, the French government has funded some preservation efforts, but that money may not last.

"Everywhere in Cambodia the provincial departments are all French colonialist buildings. So many old buildings are French buildings - (they) need to be restored. France has not much money," Samraing Kimsan said. "But the government needs to get money. But we are now on the way of development."

Samraing Kimsan himself seems less than enthusiastic about colonial buildings, describing them as windy, in need of air-conditioning, and expensive to restore. His preference is to develop a modern, Khmer-style architecture that marries the old with the new.

However, tourism is a key industry here in Cambodia, and the government is encouraging tourists to stay longer than the usual three days at Angkor Wat, in the town of Siem Reap. Verrot says preserving old buildings in Phnom Penh would fit with that aim. He and other preservation advocates also note that renovating old buildings has other benefits.

They say it is much cheaper to renovate than to rebuild. Renovation uses local materials, while new buildings require expensive imported steel and glass.

But the government does not see Phnom Penh as a heritage town, as it does Siem Reap. And critics say that means the focus for the capital is on modernity: glass and marble high-rise towers, as in other Southeast Asian cities, such as Bangkok.

The Conditions of the US$1.1 Billion Aid Require Hun Sen to Keep His Promise about Reforms and to Adhere to Policies of Transparency and Good Governance – Wednesday, 9.6.2010


via Khmer NZ News Media

Posted on 10 June 2010
The Mirror, Vol. 14, No. 668

“Donors and aid organizations provide development aid to Cambodia because they want the Cambodian government to create mechanisms to fight corruption, effectively implementing an anti-corruption law. In 2010, Cambodia received pledges of US$1.1 billion of aid from donors, where Japan provides US$131 million, comparable to China that provides more than US$100 million. The third big donor is the United States of America that provides US$68 million, Germany more than US$65 million, and Australia more than US$61 million. Besides, the Asia Development Bank, the World Bank, and many other global institutions provide most of the rest of the aid amounting to US$352 million.

“Also, twelve organizations of the United Nations provide more than US$86 million, and European countries, including through the European Commission, provide more than US$255 million, among which Germany provides most with US$65 million.

“Besides the intention to see the government organize anti-corruption mechanisms, the donors and aid organizations as well as international financial institutions focus on the plans to maintain macro-economic stability and to reduce the poverty of Khmer citizens, by suggesting that increased aid efficiency is essential, and they hope that the Cambodian government will use the aid efficiently and transparently, to encourage economic growth. If Cambodia cannot achieve economic growth, poverty alleviation will be difficult. Therefore, the donors and aid organizations will step up their mechanisms to carefully monitor the use of aid.

“The country director of the World Bank in Cambodia called for concentration to strengthen the economic basis, like through the improvement of competitiveness and of the investment atmosphere, the provision of concession land that benefits the poor, solutions for citizens who lose their land, public administration reforms, and especially the improvement of transparent control and use of income from natural resources.

“The International Monetary Fund, an institution that provides technical assistance on finance and banking, suggested that the Cambodian government has to cut down the national deficit that increased by 6% in 2009 down to 5% by eliminating tax exemptions, though they are important to attract investors.

“Formerly, in order to attract investors to Cambodia, the government decided not to tax factories or enterprises newly opened during the first two or three years, depending on whether those factors or enterprises had gained profit or lost.

“Also, the representative of the European Union demanded the improvement of education quality and the promotion of primary education, fields which are still weak. He said that the number of people who cannot attend school is still high. Thus, the government has to ensure that boys and girls have equal opportunities to go to school, so as to increase educational opportunities for girls. And the government has to decrease the number of students that drop out from school.

“Not only in Cambodia, but also in other developing countries in the world, financial aid is crucial for the development of these countries.

“Among the more than 14 million Khmer citizens, about 4 million live under the poverty line. In 2006, Cambodia received more than US$700 million financial aid, and the figures keep increasing from year to year, where in 2010 the aid pledges increased to US$1.1 billion. Nevertheless, expert officials estimated that in 2011, the aid will decline to US$958 million and in 2012 to US$750 million.

“The opposition parties suggested to donors and aid organizations not to provide aid to the government, accusing the government of committing corruption, and the government does not use the aid properly. But the aid keeps rising anyway.

“It is good that the government is successful in trusting donors and aid organizations in its ruling. But what the government had promised is not just to satisfy the donors. The government must work on its weak points and should not arbitrarily react against criticisms. Particularly, it should be able to carry out its commitment to conduct public administrative and judicial reforms, to strengthen the transparent management of income from oil and gas resources, and to strengthen the effective implementation of the anti-corruption law.

“If the government can achieve success following its commitments, we believe that the aid to be provided in 2011 would be more than that in 2010.”

Khmer Amatak, Vol.11, #777, 9.6.2010
Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Cambodian government suppressing film about murder, says director


via Khmer NZ News Media

Bradley Cox accuses authorities of blocking screenings of investigative documentary Who Killed Chea Vichea?

Ben Child and agencies guardian.co.uk
Wednesday 9 June 2010

Show of hands ... Cambodian People's party leader Chea Sim (centre) prays at a ceremony on the widely criticised political group's 55th birthday. Photograph: Mak Remissa/EPA

A documentary about the unsolved murder of an influential Cambodian trade-union leader who fought for increased wages and improved working conditions has been banned by the country's government, according to its director.

Bradley Cox, a US film-maker working in the south-east Asian state, said the authorities had blocked all screenings of his film Who Killed Chea Vichea? over the past month. The 55-minute piece, which had its European debut at the Cannes film festival last month, does not accuse the Cambodian government of orchestrating the killing of a figure who was linked to the opposition Sam Rainsy party, but does deal with the subject of corruption within the impoverished country of 14 million people.

Vichea, leader of the Free Trade Union of Workers of the Kingdom of Cambodia, was shot in the head and chest on the morning of 22 January 2004 as he waited at a newspaper stand in the capital, Phnom Penh. Cox was on the scene with a camera moments later and has been following the case ever since. Two men were tried for the murder and sentenced to 20 years each in prison, but both were provisionally released by the Cambodian supreme court last year and the case remains unsolved.

Cambodia is in theory a multi-party democracy under a constitutional monarchy, but the ruling Cambodian People's party has been accused by human rights groups and opposition lawyers of abusing its parliamentary majority to push through laws that limit freedom of expression.

"This is what governments do when they don't want their own people to know the facts and when they can't afford to show weakness, even for an instant," Rich Garella, one of the producers on the film and a former managing editor of The Cambodia Daily, told Reuters. Cox said: "I would encourage Cambodian government officials to practice what they preach."

Last month trade unionists attempted to screen the film at the very spot where Vichea was murdered, but riot police arrived swiftly to dismantle and seize the screens.

The Cambodian information minister, Khieu Kanharith, told Reuters that the documentary might have been banned "because it intends to accuse the government of murder". The authorities have reportedly labelled the film an illegal import and vowed to prevent screenings "wherever they are held".