Saturday, 10 July 2010

Spreading love in Siem Reap

via Khmer NZ

Saturday July 10, 2010
By ROSE YASMIN KARIM

Counting your blessings can be hard when all you see is the downside. The cure: Get a better perspective through ‘do-gooding’ and some down time in Siem Reap.

Wake up. Shower. Go to work. Go to gym. Eat dinner. Pass out. Rinse and repeat. When did your routine get, well, so routine?

Right about now, perhaps you’re thinking about giving, and getting away from it all. Hotel de la Paix, in Siem Reap, Cambodia lets you do both.

Your childhood dream? To save the world, obviously. But the tricky part about doing good is figuring out who really needs you now and whether the cause is legitimate. Hotel de la Paix’s Community Connections Programme offers a one-stop shop for all your charitable inclinations.

Have more heart than time?

Want to quit spending and start saving? Start by saving Khmer kids from cutting class by donating bicycles for them to get to school.

Most projects don’t require attendance. So no matter what you do, you can make an invaluable contribution to Cambodia’s many causes.

Think you’ve got nothing to offer? You do, baby, you do. Chickens, seeds or piglets generate money and food for a hungry family. Rice gives health and comfort to a starving child.

So, if your resolve to do more good deeds this year has resulted in paying your rent on time, take a gander at the humanitarian causes below. Now’s a great time to contribute a little of yourself. Act now and you’ll also receive warm fuzzy feelings — absolutely free.

Warning: Daily consumption may potentially make you a better person.

Shiny new bicycles for children who deserve them.

The ride of their lives

There’s no question that education can often make or break your luck in life. So how about giving some kid a leg up?

Child stars aren’t the only ones who miss out on their childhood. Life’s training wheels comes off far too soon for many Khmer children. Mastercard and Hotel de la Paix’s Pushbike programme helps to gets these orphaned, neglected or abused kids pedalling in the right direction — to school and a brighter future.

The intiative has raised funds for nearly 800 shiny, new bicycles for children from Siem Reap’s outlying villages.

How does it work? To roll with the programme, simply charge your stay at Hotel de la Paix with your MasterCard. MasterCard will then donate a bicycle and a school bag filled with school supplies to less fortunate children through reliable beneficiaries which include Sangkheum Centre Orphanage, Sunrise Orphanage, Green Gecko Orphanage — sanctuaries for children to learn, play, relax and enjoy being kids.

“I like listening to Korean hip hop and playing football,” says Khouch, a bright 15-year-old at the Sangkheum Centre for Children. To get to school, the eighth grader walks almost 15km every day. With his new bicycle, the journey will be a lot easier. “I hope I can be an English teacher one day. I want to make many friends and be rich.”

Nothing is as fun as hanging out with kids. But your friends might be getting sick of your borrowing theirs for the afternoon. If you wish to be more involved with the children, Hotel de la Paix will facilitate the introduction to the relevant organisation where you can personally direct your contribution.

Here’s your chance to give back. However you choose to get involved, it’s sure to brighten a child’s day.

The Hotel de la Paix Sewing Training Centre.

Sew perfect

You and your girl friends congregate for three main reasons: to pick up men, complain about said men, and comfort each other after break-ups. All worthy causes, but perhaps it’s time to take a cue from the band of poverty-ridden women at Hotel de la Paix Sewing Training Centre, a not-for-profit vocational facility run by a network of local monks from the Life and Hope Association.

At the centre, young, disadvantaged Khmer women between the ages of 16 and 22 are sponsored by MasterCard for a 10-month-long programme that teaches them sewing skills and offers a basic course on setting up a business.

The programme also includes basic financial literacy to help the women learn to manage their finances. Students also learn English and are each given a sewing machine and start-up kit of materials upon graduation so that they can return to their own villages and start their own businesses.

“These uneducated and unskilled women usually find work at construction sites, earning around US$1 per day for 16 hours of labour,” says Hotel de la Paix director of sales and marketing, Christian de Boer. “The initiative seeks to provide them with the skills to make a living so that they are not subjected to working environments which are unsafe and unsuitable. More women in Cambodia now have a chance to earn a decent living to support themselves and their families.”

Hotel de la Paix is located right smack in town.

Ngeab Pot is one of the beneficiaries of this programme. She was eight when she dropped out of school in a desperate attempt to keep her impoverished family afloat. Despite her age, Ngeab quickly found a job at a kiln, moulding bricks by hand for up to 80 hours a week. The reward for loading bricks to and from the kiln and grinding clay — a scant 5,000 riel per day (RM4).

When Ngeab came to the centre, she hardly knew how to fix a loose button or mend a broken seam. The 28-year-old, stooped and wasted from her years at the kiln, can now build a dream beyond the fierce heat of the furnaces.

“I want to open a small tailoring shop when I finish the course,” she says shyly, squeezing her chapped hands together. Once she has conquered the needle and thread, Ngeab will be able to earn US$3 (RM9) for a shirt she tailors.

Most visitors to Siem Reap cannot help but be touched by the challenges that exist in the lives of many who live here. And for guests at Hotel de la Paix who would like to experience first-hand a side of life less travelled, they may choose to sponsor a student for the entire course or for a month, or donate a sewing machine or a push bike.

The centre also educates and raises awareness about HIV and AIDs.

Want to rid Cambodia of malnutrition? Want to help build a home? Provide fresh, clean water? You can, even while sitting safely on this side of the world. Just check out the community sponsorship page of the Hotel de la Paix website (www.hoteldelapaixangkor), an online menu of sponsorship packages.

Now, go on. Throw your arms around the world. It really does make giving feel a bit like getting.

Cambodia To Host Large Scale Military Exercise Next Week

via Khmer NZ

PHNOM PENH, July 10 (Bernama) -- Cambodia will conduct its first ever large scale military exercise next week, a part of the United Nations Peacekeeping framework for strengthening peace and security, China's Xinhua news agency reported Saturday.

Chhum Socheat, spokesman of the Ministry of National Defence said that the military exercise codenamed "Angkor Sentinel 2010", will be conducted from July 17 to July 30, with 26 countries and more than 1,000 forces participating.

Among some of the participating countries are France, Indonesia, the Philippines, Australia, India, Italy, Germany, Japan, Mongolia and the United Kingdom.

Of those forces, the largest number will be coming from Cambodia as a host country and from the United States, the co-organiser of the exercise.

Chhum Socheat said the military exercise, which is part of the Global Peace Operations Initiatives (GPOI), a UN-US peacekeeping-training programme will be conducted in two separate exercise.

The first field exercise will be held in Kompong Speu province, about 50 kilometers from Phnom Penh and the second exercise will be conducted in Phnom Penh as part of the far command from headquarters.

Cambodia Warned UN Officials Not to Interfere in Cambodian Affairs – Friday, 9.7.2010

http://cambodiamirror.wordpress.com/

via Khmer NZ

Posted on 10 July 2010
The Mirror, Vol. 14, No. 672

“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Cambodia accused the director of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Cambodia, Mr. Christophe Peschoux, claiming that he acted beyond his role when he criticized the deportation of two Thai red-shirt activists on Monday 5 July 2010, and the Ministry warned that such comment from him might make the government reconsider his presence in Cambodia.

“On Wednesday, 7 July 2010, the director of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Cambodia, Mr. Christophe Peschoux, spoke to local media, saying that the deportation of the two Thais are ‘political decisions’ which lack appropriate procedure.

“In a letter dated 8 July 2010, the Ministry reminded Mr. Peschoux that he has no right to make such a criticism, as it relates to decisions within the exclusive right of the Cambodian government. The letter ends with the following remark, ‘Any such activities in future will make the Royal Government of Cambodia to decide over his presence in Cambodia.’

“This letter is similar to one sent in March to the United Nations Resident Coordinator, Mr. Douglas Broderick, which had warned to expell him from Cambodia for criticizing the process taken by the government for the adoption of the anti-corruption law.

“The spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Koy Kuong, said on 8 July 2010 that the letter was sent to Mr. Peschoux to alert him to respect a memorandum of understanding, signed on 1 January 2010 with the government. He added, ‘It does not mean that we want to expell him, but we just want to alert him.’

“Mr. Peschoux could not be reached for comment on 8 July 2010.” Phnom Penh Post [Khmer Edition], Vol.1, #211, 9.7.2010

Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Friday, 9 July 2010

_____________________

Hor Namhong's statement


Cambodian population to reach 17.5 mln by 2025

via Khmer Nz

July 10, 2010

Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen said Friday that his country's population will reach 17.5 million by 2025 citing the average birth rate at 1.54 percent per year.

In an open message to the World Population Day, Hun Sen said the Cambodian populations were recorded at 13.4 million in 2008 to about 14.3 million by July 2010.

He said with the capacity of having 3 to 4 children in one family and with an average birth rate of 1.54 percent per year, the country's populations will "reach 17.5 million by 2025".

He said women have played an important role in Cambodia's society and their roles have been elevated through the rectangular strategy set out by his government and their education was also recorded high.

Hun Sen said that literary rate among women at their ages of 15 and above was recorded having basic education from primary to graduate level was increased from 57 percent in 1998 to 71 percent in 2008.

Also, at the same time, women have been integrated and posted in the government cabinet, parliaments as well as other governmental institutions.

Cambodia holds it population census every 10 years and since 1993, Cambodia has held twice, one in 1998 showing 11,437,656 with 5.5 millions as males and 5.9 millions as females, and the second was in 2008 showed the populations increased to 13,388,910 with 6.5 millions as males and 6.9 millions as females.

Source: Xinhua

Cobras hope to create lasting footy presence in Cambodia

http://www.blogger.com/

via Khmer NZ

Saturday, July 10 2010
Contributed by: Aaron

On July 31st, the Cambodian Cobras will host the Vietnam Swans in Phnom Penh, in what the new Cobras hope will be the beginnings of a regular Cambodian presence on the Asian footy circuit.

Wearing Adelaide Crows jumpers with an added Cobra logo, the new club is the third team to kick the footy in Cambodia, after the Cambodia Crocs and Cambodia Kangas formed for tournaments in the past.

The Swans are reportedly excited to help their neighbours to help generate the interest and motivation at the new club, as they have also done in their friendly rivalry with the Lao Elephants.

The 2010 Asian Championships will this year be held in China for the first time, kicking off in Shanghai on October 16th in conjunction with the Melbourne vs Brisbane AFL exhibition match at the World Expo. League CEO Andrew Demetriou will be in attendance and meeting with all the Asian footy clubs at the Championships.

For more information, visit the Vietnam Swans website.

Cambodian diplomat sidelined with health problems in Long Beach

http://www.contracostatimes.com/

via Khmer Nz

By Greg Mellen, Staff Writer
Posted: 07/09/2010

LONG BEACH - Song Chhang had hoped to be celebrating this weekend in Washington D.C.

He certainly didn't expect to be in a bed in a nursing facility considering his life and wondering what the future holds.

"I still have so many things to do," the 72-year-old says wistfully.

There are stories yet to tell. He wants to see how things turn out in his Cambodian homeland. But now, he just doesn't know.

Chhang is a prominent if rather low-key Cambodian in Long Beach. He is French and American educated, the former Minister of Information for Lon Nol's government during the Cambodian civil war. In the United States he helped craft the legislation that paved the way for 150,000 refugees to flee Cambodia after the fall of Pol Pot's brutal Khmer Rouge regime, under which upwards of 2 million Cambodians died.

He returned to Cambodia around 1994 and was part of the Cambodian People's Party until he was ousted in the late 1990s.

This weekend, Chhang had looked forward to speaking at a special dinner among diplomats and fellow Cambodians to recognize the 60th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Cambodia and the United States.

The actual date of the beginning of Cambodia-U.S diplomatic ties was in July 15, 1950. That year, the U.S had sent its first ambassador to Cambodia to recognize its impending independence before the country's final separation from France in 1953.

Although relations have been rocky at times and even severed, in recent years the relationship has improved.

Later this month, there will be events in Cambodia to mark the anniversary, including a performance by Long Beach resident Sophiline Shapiro's Cambodian classical dance troupe of "Seasons of Migration."

Although he'd love to take it all in, instead, Chhang will have to hear second-hand from his bed at the Regency Oaks Skilled Nursing Care facility.

Initially, Chhang thought he suffered a stroke, but he says doctors are still doing tests.

Chhang traces his health problems to overextending himself in a recent visit to Phnom Penh for a reunion of war correspondents, or the "old hacks," as they called themselves. Before his ascension to Minister of Information, Chhang was a press liaison.

At the reunion, Chhang helped oversee the installation of a small memorial to the 37 journalists who died covering the civil war between 1970 and 1975. He was also part of a group that traveled south of Phnom Penh to plant a tree in memory of an NBC team killed there.

Chhang says he wrote and made eight different speeches over the reunion events.

Now he hopes to get out of his bed and do whatever he can to help his country. He had planned a speech about refreshing sometimes rocky relations between the U.S. and Cambodia before his country falls too much under the sway of China.

And he wishes to see a day when a more "spiritual leadership" comes to his country. That's would make the old man happy.

greg.mellen@presstelegram.com, 562-499-1291

Long Beach nonprofit trying to help another young Cambodian heart patient


via Khmer NZ

By Greg Mellen, Staff Writer
Posted: 07/09/2010

Doctors in Cambodia examine Bunlak Song, who was abandoned by his homeless birth mother at two days old.

Bunlak Song, 2, needs heart surgery.

At a dusty roadside store in Cambodia between Phnom Penh and the Vietnamese border, Peter Chhun found his latest cause, another life in the balance.

Bunlak Song, was only two days old when his homeless mother begged Siv Leng Chuy and Chin Song Hai, who were visiting their adult daughter in the hospital, to take her son. By nightfall the mother left the hospital and her child behind.

Bunlak's adoptive parents scratch out a living selling gas in plastic bottles to local taxis, motorcycles and tuk-tuks in their home village of Kampong Popil. But they have taken the boy in and say he has brought them luck.

However, they need a miracle if Bunlak, who will be 3 in October, is to live a normal life.

Bunlak suffers from several congenital heart defects, including a ventral septal defect, or a hole in the heart, and coarctation, or narrowing, of the aorta.

This has led to a variety of maladies, including hypertension in the lungs and a history of dyspnea, or labored breathing, since birth, according to a report by Dr. Luy Lyda of Angkor Hospital for Children.

Left untreated, the conditions could lead to a shortened life expectancy and declining health.

Chhun founded Hearts Without Boundaries, a small nonprofit in Long Beach to help children like Bunlak. Since 2008, Chhun has helped three destitute Cambodian children receive life-altering open heart surgeries not available to them in their home country.

Chhun annually travels to Cambodia with Variety Lifeline which provides minor heart procedures for children. He hopes after that visit to bring Bunlak to the U.S. in December if the boy is determined a good candidate for surgery.

In the interim, he hopes to broker a deal with a hospital to take on Bunsak.

Chhun's three previous clients, Davik Teng, Soksamnang Vy and Socheat Nha, were treated by surgeons who donated services and hospitals that either donated facilities or offered them at deep discounts.

Chhun met Bunlak and his family on a recent trip to Cambodia. He recalls talking to Chuy after a 5-hour trip to Siem Reap to have Bunlak examined.

"As we checked in at a small hotel," Chhun recalls, "she begged me, `Please help Bunlak, lok ta (grandpa), I hope and pray, and I pray very hard that you can save his life."'

Information about Hearts Without Boundaries is available online at heartswithoutboundaries.org. The group also has a page on Facebook.

Food, Dance and more at US folklife festival

Radio Free Asia: Resolution Regarding the scandal at Srah Chak Temple

China may lose ‘cheap’ tag on rising yuan, labour costs

via Khmer NZ

10 Jul 2010

SHANGHAI: Factory workers demanding better wages and working conditions are hastening the eventual end of an era of cheap costs that helped make
southern coastal China the world’s factory floor.

A series of strikes over the past two months have been a rude wake up call for many foreign companies — from makers of Christmas trees to manufacturers of gadgets like the iPad — that depend on China’s low costs to compete overseas.

Where once low-tech factories and scant wages were welcomed in a China, eager to escape isolation and poverty, workers are now demanding a bigger share of profits.

The government, meanwhile, is pushing foreign companies to make investments in areas it believes will create greater wealth for China, like high technology.

Many companies are striving to stay profitable by shifting factories to cheaper areas farther inland or to other developing countries, and a few are even resuming production in the West.

“China is going to go through a very dramatic period. The big companies are starting to exit. We all see the writing on the wall,” said Rick Goodwin, a China trade veteran, whose company links foreign buyers with Chinese suppliers. “I have 15 major clients. My job is to give the best advice I can. I tell it like it is. I tell them, put your helmet on, it’s going to get ugly,” said Mr Goodwin, who says dissatisfied workers and hard-to-predict exchange rates are his top worries.

Beijing’s decision to stop tethering the Chinese currency to the US dollar, allowing it to appreciate and thus boosting costs in yuan, has multiplied the uncertainty for companies already struggling with meagre profit margins. In an about-face mocked on “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart,” Wham-O, the company that created the Hula-Hoop and Slip ‘n Slide, decided to bring half of its frisbee production and some other products back to the US.

At the other end of the scale, some in research-intensive sectors such as pharmaceutical, biotech and other life sciences companies are also reconsidering China for many reasons, including costs and incentives being offered in other countries.

“Life sciences companies have shifted some production back to the US from China. In some cases, the US was becoming cheaper,” said Sean Correll, director of consulting services for Burlington, mass-based Emptoris. That may soon become true for publishers, too. Printing a 9-by-9-inch, 334-page hard cover book in China costs about 44-45 cents now, with another three cents for shipping, says Mr Goodwin.

The same book costs 65-68 cents to make in the US. “If costs go up by half, it’s about the same price as in the US. And you don’t have 30 days on the water in shipping,” he says.

Even with recent increases, wages for Chinese workers are still a fraction of those for Americans. But studies do show China’s overall cost advantage is shrinking.

Labour costs have been climbing about 15% a year since a 2008 labour-contract law that made workers more aware of their rights. Tax preferences for foreign companies ended in 2007. Land, water, energy and shipping costs are on the rise. In its most recent survey, issued in February, restructuring firm Alix Partners found that overall China was more expensive than Mexico, India, Vietnam, Russia and Romania.

Mexico, in particular, has gained an edge thanks to the North American Free Trade Agreement and fast, inexpensive trucking, says Mike Romeri, an executive with Emptoris, the consulting firm.

Makers of toys and trinkets, Christmas trees and cheap shoes already have folded by thousands or moved away, some to Vietnam, Indonesia or Cambodia. But those countries lack the huge work force, infrastructure and markets China can offer, and most face the same labour issues as China.

So far, the biggest impact appears to be in and around Shenzhen, a former fishing village in Guangdong province, bordering Hong Kong, that is home to thousands of export manufacturers. That includes Taiwan-based Foxconn Technology, a supplier of iPhones and iPads to Apple.

Foxconn responded to a spate of suicides at its 4,00,000-workers in Shenzhen complex with pay hikes that more than doubled basic monthly worker salaries to $290. Strike-stricken suppliers to Honda Motor and Toyota Motor, among many others, also have hiked wages.

Foxconn refused repeated requests for comment on plans to move much of its manufacturing capacity to central China’s impoverished Henan province, where a local government website has advertised for thousands of workers on its behalf.

But among other projects farther inland, Foxconn is teaming up with some of the biggest global computer makers to build what may be the world’s largest laptop production hub in Chongqing, a western China city of 32 million, where labour costs are estimated to be 20-40% lower than in coastal cities.

Given the intricate supply chains and logistics systems that have helped make southern China an export manufacturing powerhouse, such changes won’t be easy.

But for manufacturers looking to boost sales inside fast-growing China, shifting production to the inland areas, where many migrant workers come from, and costs are lower, offers the most realistic alternative.

Many factories in Foshan, another city in Guangdong that saw strikes at auto parts plants supplying Japan’s Honda, have left in the past few months, mostly moving inland to Henan, Hunan and Jiangxi, said Mr Lin Liyuan, dean at the privately run Institute of Territorial Economics in Guangzhou.

Massive investment in roads, railways and other infrastructure is reducing the isolation of the inland cities. “Develop the West” strategy aimed at shrinking the huge, politically volatile gap in wealth between city dwellers and the country’s 600 million farmers. Gambling that the unrest will not spill over from foreign-owned factories, China’s leaders are using the chance to push investment in regions that have lagged the country’s industrial boom.

They have little choice. Many of today’s factory workers have higher ambitions than their parents, who generally saved their earnings from assembling toys and television sets for retirement in their rural home towns. They are also choosier about wages and working conditions.

“The conflicts are challenging the current set-up of low-wage, low-tech manufacturing, and may catalyse the transformation of China’s industrial sector,” said Yu Hai, a sociology professor at Shanghai’s Fudan university.

Land conservation for Cambodia’s rural poor


via Khmer NZ

Jul 09, 2010

When the leader of the Khmer Rouge movement, Pol Pot, embarked on his reforming policies in the 1970s, which lead to millions being ejected from the cities and dying in the ‘killing fields’, he was striving to achieve the dream of an agrarian utopia, where peasants would live happily, without the need for money or possessions.

When the leader of the Khmer Rouge movement, Pol Pot, embarked on his reforming policies in the 1970s, which lead to millions being ejected from the cities and dying in the ‘killing fields’, he was striving to achieve the dream of an agrarian utopia, where peasants would live happily, without the need for money or possessions.

Thirty decades later, and with much progress in the rebuilding of the country’s institutions, the World Bank reports that Cambodia is achieving high rates of economic growth, cutting poverty significantly over the last fifteen years, though mostly in the cities. In rural areas, a drive to attract foreign investment has lead to many concessions being awarded to companies from China, Vietnam and South Korea, for running mines, power plants, farms and plantations. This has caused many land disputes and concern from outside that the poor are being dispossessed of their land without adequate compensation, especially since the country still lacks a strong, independent judiciary closed to any interference.

But despite commercial threats to the land, designated areas of Cambodia are now being protected by community forest schemes, demonstrating that the rural poor are not without power and resources, when provided with legal support.

One such project is in the eastern province of Kampong, where villagers have been encouraged to take a stand against illegal logging, by claiming rights to the land around the village, with the support of a Thailand-based international NGO. Logging has stripped Cambodia of much forestry, seeing tree coverage of the land plummet from 73% of Cambodia’s territory in the 1970s, to 59% by 2006. Between 1990 and 2005, the UN estimates that 2.5 million hectares of forest were cut down.

Around the village of Beng, the locals now legally protect the Prey Rong Knong forest, covering 281 hectares of land. In March last year, villagers signed a deal with the Cambodian authorities to manage the forest and its resources. This kind of community project is intended to reduce the trend of deforestation, which heavily impacts on climate change. At the same time, these schemes protect the land from outsiders, with an estimated 85 per cent of Cambodian households lacking any titles to their lands. And the forestry tract provides villagers with a long term livelihood, where they can collect fruits and mushrooms to sell and eat, create ponds to plant bamboo, and eventually harvest high-grade timber.

Nearly 200 other sites are awaiting verification from the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries and international supporters hope the government will grant longer leases on such forestry sites, despite the increasing pressure from commercial interests. If such community schemes continue to find governmental support, then through peaceful means, Pol Pot’s dream of a utopian peasant existence in the countryside has the chance of becoming a reality across Cambodia.


 

Cambodian government and unions agree wage increase; strikes could still be on

via Khmer NZ

Submitted by Ed on Jul 9 2010

Cambodia's government and several unions agreed on Thursday to a 9-percent minimum wage rise for garment workers but the industry's biggest unions said demands were not met and a strike was still possible.

Garment workers have threatened a nationwide strike in Cambodia, where minimum wages are among the world's lowest, if pay levels fail to rise sharply in an industry vital to the impoverished country's nascent economic recovery.

Labor Minister Vong Sauth said wages would rise from $56 a month to $61 from October 1st under a new four-year agreement that would be strictly enforced.

Chea Mony, president of the Free Trade Union (FTU), which had demanded a $70 minimum monthly wage and organised a strike for July 13-15, said that those who voted for the deal did not represent the majority of workers. He had not been invited to the talks.

"We were not included to provide opinions," he said, adding he wanted to see more details of the agreement before deciding whether to go ahead with a strike.

His union was one of two in the garment industry - Cambodia's third-biggest earner behind agriculture and tourism - that did not vote on Thursday.

Ath Thorn, president of Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers Democratic Union, which represents about 40,000 workers and had sought a $93 monthly wage, told reporters he would ask his members if they agreed with the new wage.

"If they don't agree with this, we will strike. A $5 wage increase is not the demand of the workers," he said.

Five largely pro-government unions backed the pay increase, which was in-line with a June 25th government recommendation to the Garment Manufacturer's Association in Cambodia (GMAC), which represents 230 factories employing about 200,000 people.

The workers currently receive $50 a month plus a $6 living allowance bonus.

Cambodia's garment industry shed almost 30,000 jobs in 2009 after a drop in sales to the United States and Europe. GMAC data showed the country exported garments, textiles and shoes to the value of $2.3 billion last year, down from $2.9 billion in 2008.

Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia boost parliamentary cooperation

via Khmer NZ

07/09/2010

Delegations from the external relations committees of the national assemblies of Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia met in Kratie, Cambodia, from July 6-8, to discuss the role of parliamentarians in boosting development at the border triangle area of the three countries.

The Chairman of the Cambodian National Assembly, Heng Samrin, delivered an opening speech at the conference, the second of its kind.

Participants reviewed the implementation of the cooperation agreements between the three governments on the Cambodia-Laos-Vietnam Development Triangle Area (CLV DTA) and discussed forms of cooperation between the legislative bodies, especially between the external relations committees of the three countries.

They agreed to enhance the three external relations committees’ role in supervising issues of mutual concern, particularly their prime ministers’ policies aimed at developing the border triangle area.

The three parties proposed to the three governments and their relevant agencies measures to speed up the development of the triangle area as well as plans for cooperation in other fields.

The conference passed a joint communiqué on the role of parliamentarians in boosting and developing the development of the Cambodia-Laos-Vietnam triangle area.

The communiqué hailed the three countries’ policies, which encourage development, investment and trade in the area.

They asked their governments to further boost trade and investment cooperation to narrow the development gaps in the area and give high priority to building a favourable environment for rapid development in the area.

They also agreed to boost coordination in implementing the cooperation agreements and bilateral treaties on demarcation and planting markers along the borderline of the three countries.

The third conference of the three external relations committees is scheduled to be held in Laos in 2011.

VNA/VOVNews

US support for Cambodia military in peacekeeping exercise condemned

via Khmer NZ
Posted : Fri, 09 Jul 2010
By : dpa

Phnom Penh - Human Rights Watch condemned US support for Cambodian military units participating in peacekeeping exercises next week in Cambodia, accusing those units of committing human rights abuses.

The human rights group said in a statement released Thursday in New York that material and money provided to Cambodian brigades taking part in the multinational exercise was unacceptable given those units' documented history of rights violations.

"For the Pentagon and State Department to permit abusive Cambodian military units to host a high-profile regional peacekeeping exercise is outrageous," said Phil Robertson, the rights group's deputy Asia director.

"The US undermines its protests against the Cambodian government for rampant rights abuses like forced evictions when it showers international attention and funds on military units involved in grabbing land and other human rights violations," he said.

The peacekeeping exercise, which was scheduled to begin Monday, involves more than 1,000 troops from 23 Asia-Pacific nations as well as US soldiers. It is part of the 2010 Global Peace Operations Initiative, a US-run effort to help train peacekeepers.

US embassy spokesman John Johnson said the US has provided military assistance and training for peacekeeping operations to the Cambodian military since 2006.

"The fact that a country that was recently a beneficiary of peacekeeping troops is now providing them to areas of conflict is a testament to the efforts of both countries," Johnson said, adding that US law required Washington to vet all participants in the exercise.

Human Rights Watch singled out for criticism a two-week field training exercise at the provincial headquarters of a tank unit that has been implicated in land grabs and evictions.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen announced this year a sponsorship programme that saw more than 40 businesses sign up to support military units.

Critics said the programme formalized existing arrangements whereby well-connected companies use military personnel to guard corporate assets, such as plantations.

The right group said the US should desist from training corrupt military units just to bolster international peacekeeping operations.

"Instead, military units that are called to deploy abroad as international peacekeepers must be true professionals, not only in technical expertise, but in their respect for human rights," Robertson said.

Cambodian-flagged fishing boats detained in Russia's Far East


http://en.rian.ru/

via Khmer NZ

09/07/2010
© RIA Novosti.

The Russian Coast Guard said on Friday it had detained two Cambodian-flagged fishing vessels near the island of Sakhalin in Russia's Far East on suspicion of poaching crab.

The first vessel, the Eliant, was spotted by a patrol boat in Russia's exclusive economic zone off the southern coast of the island on Thursday night. The vessel, with a crew of 14 Russians and one Ukrainian, carried 13 metric tons of live crab.

"The captain of the vessel failed to provide documents verifying the legality of the catch," said Irina Shebeko, a spokeswoman for the regional Coast Guard.

The second vessel, the Seven, was detained by an hour and a half later. The 17-member crew of the vessel was Russian and the catch of live crab amounted to 62 metric tons.

Russia banned exports of live crab in 2007, but large quantities are still smuggled out of the country, primarily to Japan and South Korea.

The Russian Coast Guard service is actively involved in fighting illegal fishing in Russia's territorial waters. Last year at least 20 boats, including many foreign vessels, were detained by the service.

YUZHNO-SAKHALINSK, July 9 (RIA Novosti)

Cambodian Activist Chooses Jail in Standoff with Prime Minister

Kate Woodsome | Washington
09 July 2010

via Khmer NZ

Photo: Heng Sinith
Cambodian opposition lawmaker Mu Sochua says she would rather go to jail than pay the prime minister for defamation.

“It is about the opposition party making all its efforts to fight a prime minister who acts as a dictator. And it is about time to make a move for change.” - Mu Sochua, Cambodian opposition parliamentarian

To be a critic of the Cambodian government is difficult and, sometimes, dangerous work. But to be a female activist is even more challenging in the male-dominated society. Mu Sochua, an opposition party parliamentarian, is one of the country’s most powerful women. She is now counting down the days until her arrest on charges of defaming Prime Minister Hun Sen.

Strong legs

It all started when Mu Sochua sued the prime minister for defamation. Last year, Mr. Hun Sen called Mu Sochua “cheung klang,” which means strong legs. Mu Sochua says “cheung klang” was used in a disparaging way to disrespect her gender and intimidate the opposition. She sued him for the equivalent of 12 cents in what she called a symbolic protest. The prime minister responded with his own defamation suit, alleging that her lawsuit unfairly disparaged him.

Cambodia’s courts struck down Mu Sochua’s case but upheld the prime minister’s. She has until July 15th to pay about $4,000 in fines. But she says she would rather go to prison.

“It is my conscience that tells me I have not committed any crime. It is my conscience that tells me that we have to stop living in fear, and fear of one man who has ruled Cambodia for over 30 years,” Mu Sochua says. “And for me, it’s a gender issue as well. Because if I allow it to happen, if I pay the fine, what does it mean to the value of women who represent more than half of the people of Cambodia?”

Women's rights

Mu Sochua was not always a member of the opposition. From 1998 to 2004, she served in the government as the minister of women’s affairs. Since then, many more women have joined the government. Mu Sochua says the social image of women has improved somewhat, but that the changes have not been institutionalized.

“The women who are elected from the ruling party, the party of the prime minister, unfortunately do not serve their constituency because they serve their party first,” she says. “Which means that they don’t challenge, they don’t monitor the implementation of the laws.”

Mu Sochua says she is unwilling to stay silent while Prime Minister Hun Sen intimidates the Cambodian people, including those in his own party.

“It’s not about me and the prime minister,” Mu Sochua says. “It is about the opposition party making all its efforts to fight a prime minister who acts as a dictator. And it is about time to make a move for change.”

Detention

Authorities have not said how long Mu Sochua would spend in prison if arrested. She says she is mentally preparing to be behind bars for six months. Her case is not unprecedented. In 2005, several human rights activists were also jailed for defamation but released in less than a month largely because of international pressure.

The world may be watching Mu Sochua’s case, as well. The Cambodian parliamentarian is a Nobel Peace Prize nominee and a U.S. citizen. But she says she is not using her status to try to avoid arrest. She says if going to prison will help illuminate Cambodia’s problems, then she is willing to do whatever it takes.

Western nations often raise concerns about democracy and human rights in Cambodia, but critics say they do not do enough to hold the Hun Sen government accountable. In June, foreign donors awarded Cambodia more than $1 billion in development aid on the same day the Supreme Court upheld the prime minister’s case against Mu Sochua.

‘Stunning’ HIV-AIDS Number Demand Attention: US Health Official

Nuch Sarita, VOA Khmer | Washington, DC
Friday, 09 July 2010

via Khmer NZ

Photo: AP
A Cambodian boy of a HIV affected family, looks on as a Cambodian medic hands over a bottle of pills to his mother in a living room at Tuol Sambo village.

“The epidemic is still raging, despite the fact in certain countries there seems to be a decrease.”

The HIV and AIDS epidemic is “still raging” around the world and requires continued attention, access to prevention, new treatments and a vaccine, a top researcher in Washington says ahead of an international conference scheduled for Vienna later this month.

Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institute of Health, said stigma, discrimination and rights violations are major obstacles to an effective response to HIV.

Despite growing momentum over the past few years, significant challenges remain in the fight against the disease, he told a group of reporters at VOA in Washington.

“The epidemic is still raging, despite the fact in certain countries there seems to be a decrease,” he said. “The numbers are still really very stunning…. There are 33-plus million people infected with HIV; 90 percent of them are in the developing world, and 67 percent of them are in southern Africa.”

A very brief window exists to prevent an HIV virus from becoming AIDS in a patient, he explained, making it almost impossible to eradicate with the tools we now have.

This year’s HIV and AIDS conference will explore infections in girls and women in southern Africa, as well as the fast-growing epidemics in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, he said.

Meanwhile, Cambodia continues to struggle with its own AIDS epidemic.

Mean Chhi Vun, director of the Health Ministry’s National Center for HIV/AIDS, told VOA Khmer that he will co-chair a session on the push for AIDS treatment and the expansion of programs to prevent the spread of the disease in mothers and children.

Cambodia is making headway, but it has work to do, he said.

“A surveillance program and other research in Cambodia indicated the decrease of HIV prevalence and incidence among high risk groups,” Mean Chhi Vun said. “Even though these findings reflect the success of prevention programs to prevent transmission, the rate of occurrence of new HIV infections is still high in the high risk groups and transmission among the general population continues.”

‘Unprecedented’ Cambodia, US Ties

Men Kimseng, VOA Khmer | Washington, DC
Friday, 09 July 2010

via Khmer NZ

Photo: VOA Khmer
King Sihamoni of Cambodia diplomatic papers from newly appointed US Ambassador Carol Rodley, 2009.

“It would be good if Cambodia could learn from a rich and democratic country, not a communist one."

Cambodia and the US are experiencing their strongest ties in 60 years, according to historians and other experts, in what has been a relationship with a lot of ups and downs.

Diplomatic ties were cut twice, in 1965 and 1975, and the countries were torn apart by the Cold War. Relations were strained further after the Cambodian People’s Party seized power in fighting in 1997. And the two countries occasionally clash on issues of human rights and democracy.

Despite all this, ties are growing.

“From economic growth projects to cultural exchange programs to military cooperation, the level of substantive collaboration is unprecedented,” Kenneth Foster, a spokesman for the US Embassy in Phnom Penh, told VOA Khmer. “In no time over the last 60 years have our two countries coordinated on a daily basis as much as we do now.”

Kenton Clymer, a historian of Cambodia-US relations, said Cambodia’s Cold War position and the US’s inability to “forge a policy” damaged the relationship. He suggested a non-ideological path of diplomacy to ensure a long-term relationship.


“It it is hard to predict the issues that will arise in the next, say, 60 years will be,” he said in a phone interview. “All I can say is that as long as both sides follow an intelligent and thoughtful diplomacy, that will prevent or at least mitigate problems that will arise.”

The US is now one of the biggest donors to Cambodia, providing development assistance topping $40 million per year. And unlike aid in the 1970s, which went to war-fighting, this aid is for development.

“Nowadays, cooperation between our two countries focuses on economic development, improving democracy, human rights [and] counterterrorism and fighting drugs and human trafficking,” Cambodia’s ambassador to the US, Hem Heng, told VOA Khmer in a recent interview.


Still, there are areas where Cambodia does not meet US expectations.

“Issues like human rights, democracy, and corruption are not properly addressed,” said Kem Sokha, president of the opposition Human Rights Party. “Whenever the US raises these issues, the government of Cambodia always objects. There are still disagreements over these big issues.”

Kem Sokha said Cambodia’s leaders often talk about US invasion and past mistakes, “but never talk about those of China.”

“It is obvious that current leaders lean to another side that is still contrary to the US stance,” he added.

The most recent strain came in December 2009, when Cambodia sent 20 Uighur Muslim asylum seekers back to China, in what some groups said was a violation of international obligations.

The US suspended a military aid package as a result, but there has been little other public fallout. China followed with a military aid package of its own.

That development disappointed some.

“It would be good if Cambodia could learn from a rich and democratic country, not a communist one,” said Yap Kimtung, president of the group Cambodia-Americans for Human Rights and Democracy.

However, it has not derailed the relationship, and a stream of celebrations are planned as July continues.

K.Rouge prison chief sacks his international lawyer

Duch has admitted responsibility for overseeing the murders of around 15,000 men, women and children Tuol Sleng prison

via Khmer NZ

By Patrick Falby (AFP)

PHNOM PENH — Former Khmer Rouge prison chief Duch has sacked his international lawyer just weeks before a verdict in his war crimes trial, the UN-backed court said Friday, after a rift emerged in his defence.

Duch, whose real name is Kaing Guek Eav, cited "loss of confidence" in his decision to dismiss Francois Roux as counsel at the Cambodian tribunal, where there has been discord between his international and local lawyers.

Duch's defence strategy imploded on the final day of his trial in November when he suddenly demanded his release after months of admitting responsibility for overseeing the murders of around 15,000 people at the Tuol Sleng prison.

During most of the trial, Duch's defence team focused on getting a lighter sentence by downplaying his position within the regime and by highlighting his remorse, his time already served and his cooperation with the court.

Prosecutors said at the time that the 67-year-old's sudden U-turn had raised doubts about his admissions of responsibility and his pleas for forgiveness.

Roux said in November the change in plea was a "bad surprise" and apparently linked to political interference in the trial, noting that Prime Minister Hun Sen had previously said he hoped the tribunal would fail.

His appeal for release "calls into question Duch's plea of culpability, but also the competence of the court," the French lawyer told AFP at the time.

At his verdict on July 26, Duch will continue to be represented by his Cambodian co-lawyer, Kar Savuth, who is also known to work for Hun Sen.

Kar Savuth in November argued that Duch wanted to be acquitted on the grounds that he was not a senior member of the Khmer Rouge hierarchy, while Roux had argued for leniency based on his contrition.

Both the Cambodian lawyer and Roux refused to comment on the sacking.

Theary Seng, founder of non-profit organisation the Centre for Justice and Reconciliation, called the timing of Roux's sacking "really suspicious", saying it could "create confusion and cynicism" about the tribunal.

"We are already very concerned that Cambodian officials at the court take orders from the government and now we have this on the eve of the verdict, so I'm perplexed -- as are many others following this process," she said.

But the UN-backed court said there was no reason to believe that the request was aimed at obstructing the proceedings and the move would not "unduly delay" the proceedings.

"It's not unusual in international criminal trials that from time to time a defendant asks for changes in legal representation because of a lack of confidence," said a spokesman for the tribunal, Lars Olsen.

The court, set up in 2006 as a final chance to find justice for victims of the blood-soaked regime, had already been mired in controversy over alleged political interference and allegations about kickbacks in return for jobs.

Duch is charged with crimes against humanity, war crimes, torture and premeditated murder.

In hearings over nine months last year, the defence repeatedly said he only carried out orders out of fear he and his family would be killed.

Duch's jail was at the heart of the 1975 to 1979 Khmer Rouge regime's security apparatus. Men, women and children were taken from there for execution at a nearby orchard that served as a "Killing Field".

Under their leader Pol Pot, the hardline communist Khmer Rouge wiped out nearly two million people as they abolished money and property and set up huge labour camps in their bid to take Cambodia back to a rural "Year Zero".

Pol Pot died in 1998. The joint trial of four other more senior Khmer Rouge leaders is expected to start in 2011, while the court is considering whether to open cases against five other former Khmer Rouge cadres.

Cambodia to promote solar energy using

via Khmer NZ

July 09, 2010

Cambodia's rural electrification fund is planning of 12,000 solar panel systems next month to help spread green power to rural villagers who are not connected to the national grid, local media reported on Friday.

The REF - a World Bank-supported public institution aiming to provide electricity to every Cambodian village by 2020 - plans to sell the solar panels to rural households on a monthly payment basis, executive director Loeung Keosela was quoted by the Phnom Penh Post as saying.

Foreign and domestic vendors will be invited to submit bids next month to supply the REF with 12,000 sets of solar panels, batteries and wiring, he said, which will then be sold individually to rural Cambodian households.

"If we procure in bulk sizes, hopefully the cost of individual systems will come down," he added.

The project is funded by the World Bank's 67.92 million U.S. dollars Rural Electrification and Transmission project loan, which is set to expire on January 31, 2012.

The REF previously experimented with grants directly subsidising the cost of solar panels for households, he said, but the plan had limited success. "Only about 90 systems were sold."

"Over the last decade, it seems demand for solar home systems are growing," Mao Sangat, director of privately owned supplier Solar Energy of Cambodia said.

At the first Asian Solar Energy Forum held in Manila earlier this week, Asian Development Bank (ADB) officials said Asia's developing nations were in a perfect position to harvest power from the sun, and added that assistance from development institutions was crucial to growing the industry, the post reported.

Source:Xinhua

Cambodia, Philippines Boost Trade and Investment

via Khmer NZ

Friday, 09 July 2010 11:58 DAP-NEWS / Tep Piset

CAMBODIA, PHNOM PENH, JULY 9, 2010-Philippines on Friday conducted the forum on the first Philippines Trade and Investment mission in Cambodia to speed up trade and investment for two countries in ASEAN.

“The bilateral trade between the countries is worth about 18 million US dollars that is shame for us. So we need to expand further,” Cambodia’s commerce minister Cham Prasidh said in his opening remark at the ceremony.

“I am confident that Cambodia –Philippines business and commercial engagement can be a win-win situation for both countries. Philippines investors and business should take opportunity to explore business opportunities in Cambodia,” he added. Cham urged Filipino investors and businesspeople to invest rice processing like creating rice mills to export milled rice to Philippines. here you can run your ownership with 100 per cent share and that is great chance for investors,"cham added.

Noe A. Wong, ambassador of Philippines to Cambodia said in ceremony that bilateral volume is narrow. But today we have to develop further for benefits of our relationship. Some companies are joining this event to display their products.

Cambodia and Philippines signed MOU between the Cambodia Chamber of Commerce and the Philippines –Cambodia Business Council of Philippines Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Cham said that The diplomatic relation between Cambodia and Philippines were established way back in 1957, and the bilateral relations have strengthened over the years through high level visits between leaders of the two countries.

Cham added the trade volume between Cambodia and Philippines in 2008 valued at over 8 million US dollars which Philippines at the valued over 1.4 million US dollars for the period from January to November 2009, total trade volume Cambodia-Philippines were 18 million US dollars while Cambodia exported to Philippines at valued over 9 million US dollars and Cambodia imported Philippines were over 9 million US dollars.

“The Cambodian government is encouraging investments activities including agriculture, and agro-industry, transport, and telecommunication infrastructure, energy and electricity, sectors, ad labor intensive industries and export oriented processing and manufacturing, and tourism related industries, human resources development, and processing industry , oil and gas and mining,” Cham added.

He continued that the Cambodia private sector contributed 90 per cent of employment in Cambodia. The agriculture sector has the largest share, comprising 70 per cent of total employment, followed services sector with 15 per cent and industrial sector 8 per cent. Agricultural sector accounted for 35 per cent of GDP while the services sector and the industrial sector accounted for 35 per cent and 20 per cent, respectively.

He added Cambodia is also one of the beneficiaries of the generalized system of preference (GSP) schemes operated by developed countries. Import tariffs on many products from Cambodia are exempted or reduce if requirements such rules of origin are fulfilled.

Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam To Jointly Develop Triangle Area

via Khmer NZ

PHNOM PENH, July 9 (Bernama) -- Parliaments of Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam have signed an approval for the three countries to jointly develop a triangle area, China's Xinhua news agency reported Friday.

Citing the joint statement, the agreement allows of having a joint-controlled border point as well as setting up of a website with English language as an international language and the three nations' national languages.

The joint statement was released on Friday after the two-day parliaments meeting, which kicked off on July 7 in Kratie province in Cambodia.

The meeting also discussed the roles of parliaments on how to help promote triangle development plan among the three countries.

The triangle development area covers four provinces in Cambodia: Rattanakiri, Stung Treng, Mondulkiri and Kratie, with three provinces in Laos and four provinces in Vietnam.

It is the annual meeting and Vietnam hosted the meeting last year.

In 2002, leaders of the three countries agreed to boost for economic benefit, promoting tourism, exchanging culture, as well as to well cooperate in social order, security and to reduce poverty.

Read my lips


Photo by: Pha Lina

via Khmer NZ

Friday, 09 July 2010 15:00 Pha Lina

Hok Bunnat, president of the Newspaper Distribution Association, rearranges books for sale in front of her home yesterday. At a press conference yesterday, she complained that, following their eviction two years ago from a site in Borei Keila, she and 24 other vendors have not been given new locations for their stalls.

Solar future for Cambodia


Photo by: AFP
Experimental aircraft Solar Impulse, with pilot Andre Borschberg onboard, flies above Payerne’s Swiss airbase during the first around-the-clock sun-driven journey. The breakthrough solar-powered flight opens a new chapter in aviation history.

via Khmer NZ

Friday, 09 July 2010 15:03 Jeremy Mullins

CAMBODIA’S rural electrification fund is planning a bulk purchase of 12,000 solar panel systems next month to help spread green power to rural villagers who are not connected to the national grid, its executive director said.

The REF – a World Bank-supported public institution aiming to provide electricity to every Cambodian village by 2020 – plans to sell the solar panels to rural households on a monthly payment basis, executive director Loeung Keosela said.

Foreign and domestic vendors will be invited to submit bids next month to supply the REF with 12,000 sets of solar panels, batteries and wiring, he said, which will then be sold individually to rural Cambodian households.

“If we procure in bulk sizes, hopefully the cost of individual systems will come down,” he added.

To obtain the new solar equipment, Loeung Keosela said rural families would be required to make a down payment, as well as monthly payments of around US$3 or $4 depending on the size of the system.

Many rural households already spend a similar amount per month on batteries or diesel generators, he said.

The project is funded by the World Bank’s $67.92 million Rural Electrification and Transmission project loan, which is set to expire on January 31, 2012.

The REF previously experimented with grants directly subsidising the cost of solar panels for households, he said, but the plan had limited success. “Only about 90 systems were sold,” he said.

Photo by: Julie Leafe
Khmer Solar marketing sales manager Nob Makara stands behind some of his company’s panels at the office in Phnom Penh on Wednesday.

Privately owned supplier Solar Energy of Cambodia director Mao Sangat said that private companies are increasingly selling solar power equipment in Cambodia, taking over from nonprofit organisations who began to provide renewable energy about a decade ago.

“Over the last decade, it seems demand for solar home systems are growing,” he said.

At the first Asian Solar Energy Forum held in Manila earlier this week, Asian Development Bank (ADB) officials said Asia’s developing nations were in a perfect position to harvest power from the sun, and added that assistance from development institutions was crucial to growing the industry.

Margaret Ryan, part-owner of the Kingdom’s oldest solar firm, Khmer Solar, said she welcomed nonprofit assistance from development bodies, provided it was well-structured. That firm has already extended $300,000 in credit from its Battambang office for households to purchase solar panels.

Minimum wage ruling set to spark garment protests


via Khmer NZ

Friday, 09 July 2010 15:03 Mom Kunthear

LABOUR officials have voted to boost the monthly minimum wage for garment workers by US$11, a figure that falls far short of what some major unions were demanding – prompting fresh warnings that a large-scale strike will be held next week.

During a meeting of the Labour Advisory Committee on Thursday, a panel of officials, factory representatives and union leaders voted to increase the minimum wage by $5. They also endorsed a plan to meld the existing $6 cost of living supplement into the basic wage, thereby raising the minimum wage from $50 per month to $61.

Labour Minister Vong Soth said the new wage would go into effect in October and remain in place until 2014.

“It was not approved only by the government, but agreed on by employees and unions,” he said.

Going into the meeting, some unionists had demanded wages ranging from $70 to $93. Last month, Chea Mony, head of the Free Trade Union of Workers of the Kingdom of Cambodia, threatened to stage a three-day strike starting July 13 if his demand of $70 was not met.

After the decision Thursday, Chea Mony said the strike plan remained in place.

“I cannot accept the $61 that the government approved,” he said. “My stance is the same. I will hold a protest strike on the same day to demand a minimum wage increase to $70.”

The prospect of other unions joining the strike was mixed. Ath Thun, head of the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers Democratic Union, called Thursday’s decision “unacceptable”, but said he needed to consult with his members before deciding whether to join the FTU strike.

Tep Kim Vannary, president of the Cambodian Federation of Independent Trade Unions, said her members wanted more than an $11 monthly pay rise, but added that she had approved the ruling – making her one of five voting union representatives who did so.

Ken Loo, secretary general of the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia, said employers would have preferred a smaller increase, noting that GMAC had asked for a bump of just $4. But he said he voted in favour of the government’s proposal in the interest of compromise, and urged unions to abide by it.

“We will ensure all our members comply with the increase, and we hope the workers will do similarly,” Loo said.

In explaining Thursday’s decision, Labour Minister Vong Soth suggested that boosting the minimum wage by too much could make Cambodia an unattractive destination for garment industry investors.

That sentiment was echoed by GMAC chairman Van Sou Ieng. “If we increase more than this, [employers] will stop investing in our country,” he said.

But labour advocates say employers enjoy comparatively comfortable profit margins. Research commissioned by the Community Legal Education Centre suggests garment industry profit margins trail only those seen in Bangladesh, said CLEC labour programme director Moeun Tola, who added that Thursday’s decision could provoke widespread anger among union members.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY IRWIN LOY