Monday, 19 July 2010

Small producers export and win big

via Khmer NZ

Monday, 19/07/2010
,
VietNamNet Bridge – There are no statistics on exports by small merchants and household-producers, but they have been exporting quite a wide range of products, from footwear and clothing to fine arts, spices and medicated oil.

Unlike larger companies, small producers do not launch ad campaigns. Their customers learn of their products through word-of-mouth.

Thoai Phan, a medicated oil workshop owner in HCM City revealed that “Viet Kieu (overseas Vietnamese) like my products, because they are cheap and have high quality. They purchase my oil as gifts for relatives and friends back home. Then those people introduce it to each other. As a result, more and more people purchase my medicated oil from abroad.

Nowadays, he sells his products to five countries, including 500-600 boxes (60 bottles of oil per box) every month to Cambodian wholesalers. A trade company from the Philippines buys 1000 boxes a month and he also sells the oil to China at the border market. Fluctuating orders come regularly from Malaysia and Indonesia. Thoai Phan also sells to Viet Kieu and travelers in Vietnam.

The medicated oil is cheap, while the quality is in no way inferior to Singaporean or Chinese products, so, it can fit the pockets of consumers.

Anh Hai only sold spice products to restaurants and housewives in HCM City at first, but they have become more and more famous as housewives recommend them and introduce the products to foreigners. Therefore, Anh Hai has expanded the business, distributing at Ben Thanh, An Dong and Vuon Chuoi Markets.

Anh Linh company is now making 500 wedding gowns to sell to France and 300 gowns to sell to Japan. A representative of Anh Linh brand claimed that the company spends nothing to advertise as clients arrive on their own. Linh, the owner, remarked: “I can sell products because they are cheap with high quality.”

“Importers from Cambodia, Japan and the US have been buying footwear products from us, because they are satisfied with the quality. Especially, they like leather products with manual decoration whose prices are cheaper by 40-50 percent than those from other countries,” added Dao, the owner of Duc Tai footwear workshop at Ben Thanh Market.

Ly Dai Son, the owner of Anh Hai spice brand, would rather produce and small on a small scale than expand and be unable to control the quality.

Thoai Phan remarked that he could increase the volume if he accepted deferred payment. He will not do so, however, because it is risky.

“I want to expand my business. I want to set up a company, establish sales agents and register my trademark in foreign countries. Yet medicated oil is considered as medical product and is a conditional business. I am following procedures to set up an agent in China, but I still cannot get license,” Phan said.

Meanwhile, Linh has set up Anh Linh Wedding Gown Company to have a legal entity that allows her to export wedding gowns more easily. However, she complains that even though Anh Linh Company makes wedding gowns from A to Z, she still cannot export products with the Anh Linh brand name.

Source: Saigon tiep thi

'HIV test a crime, AIDS 'cure' killed a whole generation'


via Khmer NZ

RussiaToday | July 18, 2010

Thousands of experts, scientists and politicians from around the globe have gathered in Vienna to discuss HIV/AIDS prevention. But the convention has also attracted sceptics who oppose mainstream beliefs surrounding the deadly virus. To discuss the alternative HIV/AIDS conference RT talks to Joan Shenton, founder of the Immunity Resource Foundation.

Survivor recounts genocide



via Khmer NZ

Monday, July 19, 2010 - Tacoma, WA

Cambodia: Woman says it’s too important to forget horrors

VENICE BUHAIN; Staff writer

LACEY — For Lacey resident Rokaih Vansot, who fled at age 4 with her family from the killing fields of Cambodia, the history of what happened to her relatives under the Khmer Rouge is too important to forget.

But those memories are painful for both her mother, who lost 33 members of her family to the genocide perpetrated by the Khmer Rouge between 1975 and 1979, and for her father, who lost 39 members of his family to that regime. Those numbers do not include extended family members, she said.

“For my family, it is still very fresh – all the violence and the punishments,” said Vansot, a human resources consultant with the state Department of Transportation. Vansot spoke to a group organized at Pleasant Glade Elementary School by the Olympia Jewish-Muslim Listening Group, an organization formed to encourage conversation and understanding after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Vansot and Tacoma author Daran Kravanh, a Khmer Rouge survivor who authored a survival memoir of the regime, “Music Through the Dark: A Tale of Survival in Cambodia,” were invited to speak about the Cambodian genocide under the rule of the Communist Party of Kampuchea, known commonly as the Khmer Rouge.

In 1975, Cambodia was taken over by the Khmer Rouge, and the Communist party’s reforms, including seizing control of agriculture, education and local government, led to the deaths of about 21 percent of Cambodia’s population. At least 2 million Cambodians died of starvation, disease or by torture and execution by the Khmer Rouge.

Kravanh recounted how police officers, students, city officials, doctors and other educated people would disappear, or be “reassigned” under the paranoid eyes of the Khmer Rouge.

He said children were brainwashed into spying on their parents for the government.

“If the children found one – that his mom or her mom was a policeman or something – then your mom disappeared,” Kravanh said.

Kravanh and his wife and co-author, Bree Lafreniere, alternated between reading from his memoir of how his talent and love for playing the accordion brought out his will to survive and the help of unlikely supporters, and talking about his experiences and playing songs that he wrote or performed during that time.

Many of the Cambodians refugees now living in Lacey are Cham, a Muslim ethnic minority that was targeted by the Khmer Rouge.

Vansot, who is Cham, said that the Khmer Rouge would persecute the Cambodian populace with their meal rations.

“They served pork to Muslims, and did not give any to people who ate it,” she said.

Her sisters, both under age 10, were forced to do agricultural work and taught to love the Communist party, which provided their food and other needs, instead of their parents, Vansot said.

Vansot said she has few vivid memories of Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge. Her older sisters and her parents, until recently, have avoided discussing it.

“It’s been difficult for them to share that information,” she said.

Her parents get upset when discussing her grandparents, uncles, aunts and their families who all died under the Khmer Rouge.

“I want to find out as much history and data, so it’s not lost,” Vansot said. “My mother says, ‘I don’t want to remember. Just leave it.’ That’s her way of healing. She’s lost so many family members.”

Anise Ahmed, an organizer with the Olympia Jewish-Muslim Listening Group, said that the young people in the Cham community want to know their family histories, but their older family members still are too traumatized to talk about the Cambodian genocide.

Vansot “had the courage to ask her parents,” he said. “A lot of young people want to know.”

U.S. Returns Angkor-Era Artifacts To Cambodia



http://english.ntdtv.com/

via Khmer NZ

2010-07-19

Dancers help celebrate the return of seven artifacts to Cambodia's national museum by the United States.

The return is a measure of goodwill as both countries celebrate 60 years of diplomatic ties.

Ties that hesitated but survived through secret U.S. bombings during the Vietnam war and the rule of the Khmer Rouge.

These artifacts - from the Angkor period - include sandstone divinity statues and decorative temple fragments.

The oldest piece dates from between the 10th and 12th centuries.

After a presentation of the artifacts by a U.S. official, Cambodia's culture minister spoke of his happiness.

[Him Chhem, Cambodia Culture Minister]:
"Today it seems that our antiquities souls are back home. We are very happy to receive them today, and we thank the generosity of the United States people and the United States government."

This isn't the first time the U.S. has returned artifacts to Cambodia - so far 27 pieces have come home.

City continues to promote investment in Cambodia, a key market

via Khmer NZ

Monday ,Jul 19,2010

Ho Chi Minh City will continue promoting investment in many fields of the key market in neighboring Cambodia, said Deputy Chairwoman of Ho Chi Minh City People’s Committee Nguyen Thi Hong at the Vietnam – Cambodia Trade, Service and Tourism Fair 2010 (HCMC Expo), held from July 15-19 in Cambodia.

A stall at the HCMC Expo 2010 held in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. (Photo:cpv.org)

HCMC Expo 2010 is part of the HCM city People’s Committee’s effort to help Vietnamese firms introduce their products within the Cambodian market as well as create cooperation between enterprises of the two countries, said Hong.

Since 1999, many projects invested by HCM City’s firms in sectors such as trade, agriculture, health and education have brought positive effects and profits.

HCMC Expo 2010 attracted thousands of people from Phnom Penh and adjacent areas, who participated by purchasing goods and services from over 200 businesses with products ranging from consumer items to education, tourism and health care.

Many representatives from Vietnamese firms agreed that participation of thousands of Cambodians affirmed the solid position Vietnamese products hold in the market.

Within the framework of the HCMC Expo 2010, many activities such as cultural exchange, trade promotion and seminars took place, marking a developmental step for Vietnamese companies seeking to penetrate Cambodian markets.

According to a report from the city People’s Committee, bilateral trade between the two countries reached US$432 million in the first quarter of the year, an increase of nearly 130% over the same period last year. Officials expect two-way trade to reach US$2 billion this year, a year-on-year increase of 43%.

By Loc Nam, translated by Son Ha

Cambodia's prisons on track to be world's most overcrowded by 2018

via Khmer NZ

Posted : Mon, 19 Jul 2010
By : dpa

Phnom Penh - A Cambodian human rights group warned Monday that the country's prisons are on track to become the world's most overcrowded within a decade should the prison population continue to grow at its current rate.

Cambodia's prisons are operating at an average overcapacity of 167 per cent with more than 13,300 prisoners in a system built to take 8,000, said the Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights, known by its French acronym LICADHO.

"Some of these prisons date back to the early 1900s, and are scarcely fit for habitation," LICADHO said in its report.

The organization said prisons were already full six years ago, and since then the prison population has grown by 14 per cent a year.

Naly Pilorge, LICADHO's director, said government efforts to build more prisons would not solve the problem of "dire overcrowding and crumbling infrastructure."

"The prison population is increasing dramatically each year, and by 2018 we will have the most overcrowding of any country compared to population," Pilorge said. "So the government must find and use other solutions that have been used in other countries."

She said one solution lay in the judiciary imposing non-custodial sentences on some convicts.

And given that 3,800 people, or around 30 per cent of the entire prison population, are in jail awaiting trial, another would be to ensure pre-trial detention was used only in exceptional circumstances.

"We have included other possible solutions including community work instead of sending certain people to prison," she said.

The report noted the case of the second most-overcrowded prison, which is in Takhmau near Phnom Penh.

It was built four years ago as a model prison with help from the Australian government, but has over three times its planned capacity with 1,042 inmates in a facility designed to take just 314.

Cambodia Demands Thailand to Make First Move in Reconciliation Offer


via Khmer NZ

19 July 2010

Cambodia has rejected Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva's call for reconciliation talks, demanding that the Thai government send its ambassador back to Phnom Penh first.

The Cambodian government has turned down a request made by Thailand's Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, calling for bilateral talks to restore ties between the two countries.

Cambodian Foreign Ministry spokesman Koi Kuong said Cambodia will do nothing unless Thailand makes the first move.

He added that the Cambodian government considers the fact that Thailand has downgraded its diplomatic relations with Cambodia to the level of Charge' d'Affaires as insignificant.

However, Kuong stressed that if the Thai authorities send their ambassador back to Phnom Penh, the Cambodian government would do the same.

Last November, Thailand and Cambodia recalled their ambassadors over a political dispute regarding the appointment of ousted former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra as Cambodia's economic adviser.

The recall marked the lowest point in recent diplomatic relations between the two countries.

Meanwhile, tensions seem to have eased a bit after Cambodia recently deported two red-shirt supporters wanted by Thai authorities for their involvement in the bomb attack near the Bhumjaithai Party headquarters, and its cancellation of the 'Day of Anger' campaign that has been planned by radical Cambodian activists to foster hatred against Thailand.

Garments go up in smoke


Photo by: Pha Lina

via Khmer NZ

Monday, 19 July 2010 15:00 Tang Khyhay

A man tosses a bucket of water onto the smouldering remains of a garment warehouse in Dangkor district after a blaze tore through the building yesterday morning. Neth Vantha, director of Phnom Penh Municipal Fire Department, said the fire, which destroyed between 20 and 30 tonnes of clothing, was caused by faulty wiring inside the warehouse. No injuries were reported.

US defends military ties


Photo by: AFP
A Cambodian paratrooper comes in to land carrying an American flag during military exercises in Kampong Speu province on Saturday. More than 1,000 personnel from 26 countries are involved in the United States-sponsored “Angkor Sentinel” exercises.

via khmer NZ

Monday, 19 July 2010 15:03 Vong Sokheng

Kampong Speu Province

A SENIOR United States diplomat yesterday defended his country’s support of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces, amid accusations that the partnership was benefiting abusive military units.

William Burns, the US undersecretary of state for political affairs, acknowledged concerns voiced with respect to military aid given to Cambodia, but emphasised that the partnership would lead to positive reforms.

“Our military relationship is about ... working toward effective defence reform, toward encouraging the kind of civil-military relationship that is essential to any healthy political system,” Burns told reporters yesterday after a ceremony marking the return of antiquities to Cambodia.

His remarks came less than a week after the US-sponsored “Angkor Sentinel” exercises, which involve roughly 1,000 military personnel from 26 countries, kicked off after Phnom Penh ceremonies.

On July 8, US-based Human Rights Watch blasted the exercises, saying participating Cambodian military units were complicit in rights abuses such as illegal land seizures, arbitrary detentions, torture and political violence.

“The US should not be training corrupt and abusive military units for global peacekeeping,” Phil Robertson, HRW’s deputy director for Asia, was quoted as saying.

Other critics have since weighed in, saying the US tacitly condoned such abuses by holding the exercises in Cambodia.

Burns said yesterday, however, that all participants in the exercises were subjected to rigorous vetting. “We’re very mindful of the concerns that were expressed, but we take those into account as we conduct our military-to-military relationships,” he said.

Nonetheless, Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker Mu Sochua said yesterday that the criticisms had merit.

“There are very clear cases of the involvement of the military in land-grabbing,” she said.

The government has rejected the accusations of misconduct, calling them “politically motivated”.

Om Yentieng, head of the government-led Cambodian Human Rights Committee, last week said all military officers involved in illegal activities were punished by their superiors.

Peacekeeping exercises continued on Saturday at the headquarters of the Royal Cambodian Armed Force’s ACO Tank Command in Kampong Speu province. Annual human rights country reports from the US state department have twice linked the unit to alleged land grabs.

In a speech to mark the opening of the two-week training session, Prime Minister Hun Sen praised bilateral military cooperation between the US and Cambodia, and highlighted the Kingdom’s transformation from a country that was a destination for United Nations peacekeeping forces to one that now deploys peacekeepers in conflict areas.

“From a country that used to receive blue-hat armed forces to help keep peace, Cambodia has become a country that has the ability to send blue-hat armed forces to other countries to keep peace,” Hun Sen said.

As part of the exercises, participating personnel will receive training in areas including communications, UN rules and food distribution.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY IRWIN LOY

Sky-high prisoner numbers a concern


via Khmer NZ

Monday, 19 July 2010 15:02 May Titthara and James O’Toole

CAMBODIA’S prisons could be the most overcrowded in the world inside a decade without broad-based reform of the Kingdom’s criminal justice system, according to a new report from rights group Licadho.

The report, scheduled for release today, says that even substantial increases in capacity over the next few years will do little to stop the overcrowding that plagues penitentiaries.

“It really needs to be a systematic approach,” said Licadho consultant Jeff Vize. “It’s more of a criminal justice issue that the prisons alone can’t handle.”

Heng Hak, director general at the Ministry of Interior’s General Department of Prisons, declined to comment at length on the report.

He said, though, that his office was working on a “master plan” for penal reform that he said would be finalised and submitted to ministry officials at a still-undetermined date.

The department hopes to address the overcrowding issue in part through the construction of Pursat province’s Correctional Centre 4, which government officials say will eventually house 2,500 prisoners. CC4 opened in January and housed 154 prisoners as of last month, Licadho said.

Even with the construction of a new CC4-sized prison every year, however, the Kingdom will be unable to properly accommodate its prisoner population if inmate growth levels continue apace. If the prison system adds 400 beds per year over the next decade, which Licadho says is “roughly the current growth rate”, the prison system will be at 165 percent of capacity in 2019, assuming 5 percent annual growth in the inmate population.

This estimate, Licadho says, is conservative. If the average annual growth rate of the past five years, 14 percent, continues, Cambodia could add 400 beds per year and still end up with the most overcrowded prison system in the world by 2018, the report says.

Bjorn Rahm, head of office for the International Committee of the Red Cross in Cambodia, said that his organisation was working with the government on an assessment of prisoner population growth .

“It is likely that there will not be one solution to the problem, but a combination of different actions that could or should be taken,” Rahm said.

Court summons Omlaing trio


via Khmer NZ

Monday, 19 July 2010 15:02 May Titthara and Will Baxter

THREE village representatives linked to a land dispute involving a sister of Prime Minister Hun Sen have been called to Kampong Speu provincial court to answer to allegations that they tried to kill employees of a developer, two rights groups said yesterday.

HLH Agriculture, which is jointly controlled by Hun Seng Ny and Singaporean Ong Bee Huat, has accused the representatives – Min Pek, Suong Davin and Hang Boeun – of attempting to kill several of the company’s employees during a November 2008 protest over 450 hectares of disputed land in Omlaing commune, located in Kampong Speu’s Thpong district, said Ouch Leng, a land programme officer for the rights group Adhoc.

The three village representatives, who have not been charged with any crime, dismissed the allegations as baseless yesterday.

“On that day in 2008 we were walking back from our rice fields carrying machetes,” said Hang Boeun, 46.

“We only wanted to see the other villagers protesting against the HLH Agriculture staff because they were preventing them from clearing our farmland.”

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On that day in 2008 we were walking back from our rice fields carrying machetes. We only wanted to see the other villagers....

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Hang Boeun said five other villagers were summoned for questioning in 2008 in connection with the incident, but no arrests were ever made.

Min Pek, 45, expressed concern that the court would reflexively side with the company.

“I know that poor people never win in court against the rich, but I have to appear at the court because if I don’t go I will face arrest,” he said.

Hun Seng Ny has been cooperating with Ong Bee Huat since March 2009 to develop agro-industrial corn plantations in Kampong Speu, Ouch Leng said, and added that the company had a history of impinging on land claimed by villagers.

In March 2009, HLH Agriculture was also awarded a 9,985-hectare concession in nearby Oral district.

According to its contract with the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, the company is required to pay just US$1 per hectare in annual rent.

Ong Bee Huat could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Naly Pilorge, director of the rights group Licadho, said the company “has publicly admitted that the prime minister’s sister is [its] local partner”.

“So any concession this company has is linked to her,” she said.

Kampong Speu provincial Judge Keo Mony declined to comment on the Omlaing case yesterday.

Inside Cover: 19 Jul 2010


via Khmer NZ

Monday, 19 July 2010 15:02 Roger Mitton

Earlier this month, the United States celebrated 60 years of diplomatic relations with Cambodia and marked the 15th anniversary of normalising ties with Vietnam.

You might, therefore, assume that the Americans would be chummier with Cambodia than Vietnam.

After all, they’ve been hooked up, diplomatically speaking, for four times as long. Cambodia has a Western-style, open-market economy and a multiparty political system that permits a degree of free speech.

In contrast, Vietnam’s economy remains command-driven, its media is entirely state-owned, and no political bodies can exist except the Communist Party.

But your assumption would be wrong. Washington strongly favours Vietnam, a country whose traditional enemy is China – which happens to be America’s strategic competitor in today’s world.

So, given that my enemy’s enemy is my friend, the US actively courts Hanoi. It has recently become Vietnam’s top foreign investor and is boosting military ties.

It has welcomed Vietnam’s leaders to the White House, and US presidents have twice visited Hanoi in the past decade. Washington also bends over backwards to mute its criticism of human rights abuses and the lack of democracy in Vietnam.

Not so when it comes to poor little Cambodia, however. The US has strangled this 60-year-old marriage, turning it into a relationship devoid of vibrancy and of any potential for mutual enrichment.

And it has done so because Cambodia accepted a loan from the US almost 40 years ago and has not yet repaid it.

Back in those far-off days, the Americans, in their zeal to defeat the Vietnamese communists – the very people they are now sucking up to – gave the brutal anti-communist regime of General Lon Nol aid worth $276,211,806 at a rate of 3 percent interest.

Modern-day Cambodia has long requested relief from this ancient loan, but Washington says no way, José. Pay up or stay out in the cold. America wants its pound of flesh, which it claims now amounts to $444 million with interest.

Cambodia has tried to be reasonable, suggesting lower interest rates or a debt swap similar to one given Vietnam in 2000.

But Washington says Cambodia should not qualify for debt forgiveness because it is not a heavily indebted country and lacks a balance of payments crisis. Furthermore, the proposed Cambodia Trade Act of 2010 forbids extending debt relief to Phnom Penh as a punishment for returning 20 refugee-seeking Uighers to China last December.

Two days after those Uighers were repatriated, China signed 14 deals with Cambodia worth more than $1 billion. Washington’s Shylockian avarice is playing right into Beijing’s hands.

As Ernest Bower, Southeast Asia director at Washington’s Centre for Strategic and International Studies, said: “Shortsighted US debt policy and narrowly-focused legislators are driving hopes for American engagement with Cambodia into the ground.”

Prison farm may face a rough road


via Khmer NZ

Monday, 19 July 2010 15:02 May Titthara and James O’Toole

Pursat Province

THE road to Pursat province’s Correctional Centre 4 narrows as it wends past rice paddies and into the forests of the Cardamom Mountains, stretching less than two metres across at some points over rocky, loosely-packed earth.

Prison officials hope the facility will one day house 2,500 prisoners who will receive agricultural training as they serve their out sentences. Observers say, however, that there is more rough terrain ahead before these ambitious plans can be realised.

Prisoners first arrived at CC4 in January, and 154 were housed there as of last month, according to local rights group Licadho. As part of what the government says is a nation-wide rollout of vocational training programmes in correctional centres, inmates at CC4 spend their days farming corn, cassava and other crops.

This arrangement is in stark contrast to other detention facilities, which rights groups have criticised for confining prisoners to their cells for days on end, with little opportunity for work or exercise.

As prisoners passed behind him carrying buckets of water and farming equipment last month, CC4 director Hin Sophal extolled the virtues of the agriculture programme and spoke of his ambitions for the facility.

“I want this prison to be run according to international standards, with five branches that can house 2,500 prisoners in total,” Hin Sophal said, surveying the grounds from his temporary office.

Prisoners, though perhaps fearful of voicing complaints, said CC4 was a clear improvement over the prisons where they had previously been held.

“When we work we can see the clouds, and that makes us feel happy,” said Heng Chamroeun, 23, who was previously housed at Pursat provincial prison.

This sentiment was echoed by 26-year-old Nou Rotha, formerly of Phnom Penh’s Prey Sar prison, who alluded to the abuse of prisoners that rights groups say is widespread.

“I don’t have any desire to try and escape from this prison because it doesn’t have a punishment room like Prey Sar,” he said.

Nevertheless, if CC4 is to expand to accept offenders serving long sentences, it will need to add concrete walls to ring the facility, Hin Sophal said.

CC4’s proposed expansion – which has not been finalised by the government – has already drawn concern. Christophe Peschoux, the country representative of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said a planned juvenile wing at the isolated site would be extremely difficult for parents to visit. In a report set to be released today, meanwhile, Licadho says previously floated plans for commercial agriculture at CC4 could violate Cambodian and international law.

Even in its current form, CC4 faces difficulties. Nou Ratha said prisoners often do not have clean drinking water, which officials must bring in from elsewhere. As the rainy season makes traversing the dirt road to the site more difficult, officials may face challenges transporting prisoners and granting them urgent medical care.

Jeffrey Lum, a medical adviser with Prison Fellowship Cambodia, said that while the prisoners appeared to be sustaining themselves on the crops they farm, water and sanitation remain challenging issues. Even in view of these difficulties, however, he said prisoners at CC4 “seem to be happier” than those at other facilities.

“I sense that they are quite willing to work, to get out,” he said as he conducted check-ups on prisoners queued up outside one of the dormitories. “Just to do something.”

Mu Sochua pay deal queried


Photo by: Heng Chivoan
US envoy William Burns presents a statue to Deputy Prime Minister Men Sam An during a ceremony marking the handover of seven Khmer artefacts at the National Museum yesterday.

via Khmer NZ

Monday, 19 July 2010 15:02 Meas Sokchea

A SENIOR lawmaker says it may be impossible for the National Assembly to dock pay from opposition Parliamentarian Mu Sochua, a move that has been suggested as a possible way around her refusal to pay court-ordered compensation to Prime Minister Hun Sen.

Cheam Yeap, a parliamentarian with the ruling Cambodian People’s Party, said yesterday that the National Assembly cannot abide by any court request to seize Mu Sochua’s salary if she does not consent to it.

“Mrs Mu Sochua has confirmed again and again that she will not pay. She agrees to go to jail,” said Cheam Yeap, who is also chief of the National Assembly’s Finance and Banking Commission. “In this situation, if we cut her salary without her agreement, it is impossible.”

Mu Sochua was facing arrest over her refusal to pay 16.5 million riels (US$3,895) in court fines and compensation levied against her after she was convicted last year of defaming Prime Minister Hun Sen. But in a letter dated Thursday – the court’s original deadline for Mu Sochua to pay her fine – Phnom Penh Municipal Court Judge Chea Sok Heang instructed prosecutor Sok Roeun to enforce the law by asking the National Assembly to seize Mu Sochua’s salary to cover the 8 million riels ($1,888) ordered as compensation for Hun Sen. The order came after a lawyer representing Hun Sen asked the court to demand that her salary be docked, the letter said.

In a separate letter addressed to Mu Sochua, dated Friday, Sok Roeun said the court had postponed its plans to have the lawmaker “detained by force”, and that the premier’s compensation for “mental damage” must be paid first.

“Therefore, [we] decided to temporarily postpone detainment by force, allowing the court to enforce by demanding mental damage compensation first,” Sok Roeun said in the letter.

Cheam Yeap said the National Assembly had yet to receive an official request from the court.

But he suggested Mu Sochua could sue the National Assembly if her salary were cut against her will.

Yesterday, Mu Sochua said she would refuse any attempt by the court to seize a portion of her salary.

“If my salary is taken without my agreement, it is a violation of my rights,” she said. “I do not agree to have my salary cut.”

Municipal Court officials could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Meanwhile, a senior United States diplomat appeared to wade into the dispute, urging Cambodian authorities to respect “freedom of expression”.

“It’s very important to weigh carefully issues like defamation suits, because oftentimes the kind of criticisms and debate that go on is best conducted in the political arena rather than through the judicial system,” US Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs William Burns said at a press conference.

‘Returning the soul’
The diplomat was in Cambodia for a brief visit this weekend that included the repatriation of artefacts that had been smuggled out of the country.

“Returning these items is like returning the soul of Khmer ancestors to their bodies after dozens of years of separation and so, reviving the bodies,” said Minister of Culture and Fine Arts Him Chhem.

The seven pieces had been seized by US customs officials in two operations, including one that involved a suspect selling artefacts on the auction website Ebay.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY CHEANG SOKHA

Police Blotter: 19 Jul 2010


via Khmer NZ

Monday, 19 July 2010 15:00 Tha Piseth

TRAFFIC TUMBLE RESULTS IN HEAD INJURIES FOR TEEN
A 19-year-old woman employed at a karaoke bar suffered a serious head injury after she fell from the back of a motorbike early Friday morning. Police said the woman was on her way back from partying with some friends when the motodop driving her home tried to overtake a car. The woman tumbled from the back of the bike and landed on her head. She was then sent to hospital for medical treatment. The incident occurred in Daun Penh district.
RASMEY KAMPUCHEA

POLICE ARREST WOMAN ACCUSED OF COPYING FILES
Police have been tight lipped about a woman accused of copying sensitive documents from the Interior Ministry. Investigators have not publicly released information about what was contained in the documents or why the woman was allegedly copying them. But they say the woman, 40, was arrested last Thursday at her home in Phnom Penh’s Daun Penh district.
RASMEY KAMPUCHEA

CALL OF NATURE LEADS TO ASSAULT ATTEMPT
A 43-year-old man has been accused of attempting to sexually assault a woman while she was urinating outdoors. The assault allegedly occurred last Tuesday in Battambang province when the woman’s husband was away. The woman said she was urinating behind her house when she felt the accused man, who she said was a drunkard, put his arm suggestively on her shoulder. Villagers rushed to her help, however, before the situation grew more dire. The man allegedly confessed to the accusations, telling police that he had loved the woman for a long period of time.
KOH SANTEPHEAP

HIGH-SPEED VANDALISM ON HIGHWAY TO THE BEACH
Police in Preah Sihanouk province have arrested two men accused of intentionally breaking a car’s side mirror in the middle of the highway. The two men, 19 and 22, allegedly overtook a car last Monday while driving into the province. The car driver, who was apparently upset, started honking his horn, prompting one of the “gangster” suspects to throw a stone at the car and break the mirror. The car driver stopped and apprehended the men himself, then delivered them to police in Prey Nob district.
KOH SANTEPHEAP

US seeks reports on resource acquisition


via Khmer NZ

Monday, 19 July 2010 15:02 Sebastian Strangio

A SWEEPING financial reform bill passed by the United States Senate last week will force US-listed oil, gas and mining companies to publicly divulge payments made to secure access to resources in foreign countries including Cambodia.

The provisions, passed on Thursday as part of the 2,300-page Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, will require the companies to disclose the payments to the US securities and exchange commission by 2012.

Companies will be obliged to report to the SEC the “type and total amount of such payments made for each project”, as well as “the type and total amount of such payments made to each government”.

These include “taxes, royalties, fees (including licence fees), production entitlements, bonuses, and other material benefits” relating to extractive industry revenues.

Cambodia is home to somepublicly traded resource companies – including Chevron, Total, Petronas, ConocoPhillips and Mitsui & Company Ltd – that would be required to publicise further payments made to secure oil-exploration rights or offshore oil concessions in the Kingdom under the newly passed legislation.

In April, Prime Minister Hun Sen revealed that French oil giant Total had paid US$28 million to secure offshore oil exploration rights in the Gulf of Thailand, prompting requests for further disclosures.

In a statement on Friday, Oxfam America applauded the new regulations, saying they would improve the transparency of public revenues in Cambodia.

“Public disclosure of revenues and how they flow from industry to government is fundamental to improving governance, helping any government’s efforts to prevent and curb corruption, and improve revenue management,” Mona Laczo, Oxfam America’s deputy regional director for East Asia, said in the statement.

Ou Virak, president of the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights, also welcomed the new bill, saying the issue of under-the-table payments had long been a concern in the extractive resources industry.

“It is a good thing for the US to pass a bill that forces companies to disclose all unofficial fees,” he said. “I think it will be far-reaching.”

Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said he was not familiar with the new regulations, but reaffirmed the government would pursue resource revenue transparency “in the same spirit” as in its fight against corruption.

Officials drop suit against royalist paper


via Khmer NZ

Monday, 19 July 2010 15:01 Kim Yuthana

THE Ministry of Information has withdrawn a lawsuit against the royalist-aligned Khmer Amatak newspaper after its publisher promised to correct an article marking the 13th anniversary of July 1997’s bloody factional fighting.

Bun Tha, the paper’s publisher, said yesterday that he wrote to Minister of Information Khieu Kanharith on Thursday to offer the correction, after the ministry filed a lawsuit against the paper earlier in the week.

“I have met with His Excellency Khieu Kanharith, and he noted in his reply to me that he agreed to withdraw the lawsuit ... and requested me to publish my correction,” Bun Tha said.

The article, titled, “The 13th anniversary of the 5-6 July 1997 coup d’état signals Hun Sen’s grabbing of monopolistic power”, recalled the violent factional fighting in which Prime Minister Hun Sen vanquished his Funcinpec opponents.

The episode, sometimes described as a coup d’état, led to more than 100 deaths, and many more Funcinpec loyalists fled overseas, including ousted first prime minister Prince Norodom Ranariddh.

At the time, Hun Sen said he moved against Funcinpec because the party was conspiring with remnants of the Khmer Rouge. The act nonetheless alienated Western countries including the United States.

In its lawsuit, the Ministry of Information said that the article did not quote government publications issued to explain the 1997 events, and that it amounted to “intentional misinformation”.

Tith Sothea, head of the Press and Quick Reaction Unit at the Council of Ministers, said the lawsuit was withdrawn due to the “good will of the Information Ministry”, and that it had been intended to “remind all journalists to re-examine and improve their code of conduct”.

Chan Soveth, a senior monitor for rights group Adhoc, also said the lawsuit should serve as a reminder of the importance of adhering to high standards in journalism.

“In order to avoid suing each other ... all journalists must stick to their code of conduct and professionalism,” he said.

Khieu Kanharith could not be reached yesterday.

Migrants freed after deportation


via Khmer NZ

Monday, 19 July 2010 15:01 Mom Kunthear

STUNG Treng province officials released 19 Cambodians who were deported from Laos last week, and the man accused of attempting to smuggle them into Thailand has been sent to the provincial court for investigation, officials said yesterday.

Sun Leang, chief of the provincial Anti-Human Trafficking and Juvenile Protection Bureau, said the 19 would-be migrant workers, who each paid the broker 50,000 riels (US$11.80) to ensure their safe passage, were re-educated before their release.

He added that a further seven Cambodians remained on the run and had perhaps already made it to Thailand. “Cambodian and Lao authorities are searching for them to bring back to Cambodia,” he said.

He said provincial officials arrested a broker allegedly engaging in similar practices earlier in the month, along with another in May. He added that he believed migrants were increasingly being routed through Laos in response to steeper bribes charged by officials at the Poipet crossing in Banteay Meanchey province.

“Now, most people change their behaviour when crossing the border,” he said. “Before, they travelled through Poipet, but they have to spend more money.”

Hou Sam Ol, provincial monitor for the rights group Adhoc, said the 19 Cambodians likely had no other employment options apart from those in Thailand, and called on officials to create more jobs in Cambodia.

Foreign developers anticipate home run


Photo by: Julie Leafe
Construction work continues on Phnom Penh’s Diamond Island development yesterday.

via Khmer NZ

Monday, 19 July 2010 15:01 Nguon Sovan

DEVELOPERS have tipped a sub-decree allowing foreigners to own up to 70 percent of a condominium complex to boost Cambodia’s real-estate and construction sectors, despite a mellowing of the proposal from an initial draft.

Approved by the Council of Ministers on Friday, the sub-decree provides a 70 percent cap on the proportion of a housing development a foreigner can own.

The figure has fallen from an 80 percent limit set out in a draft presented by the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction last month, but remains far higher than the 49 percent earmarked in early versions of the foreign ownership law last year.

“The decision ... was to grant a greater percentage share to Cambodians and not make foreign ownership too dominant,” Nonn Pheany, spokesperson for the Land Ministry, said yesterday.

Despite the change, she billed the sub-decree as a starting point in encouraging foreign investors to push development forward.

Land and house prices in Cambodia have dropped between 40 to 60 percent from those recorded at the peak of the housing boom in early 2008.

Bretton Sciaroni, senior partner of Sciaroni & Associates and legal adviser to the government, said yesterday that the sub-decree had opened up
Cambodia’s economy to new opportunities.

“It would help Cambodia in a number of ways, not just to generate more long-term businesses but also to attract new outside investors,” he said.

He hinted that the move would help make Cambodia an attractive regional proposition, as the sub-decree is more “open” than housing laws in neighbouring countries.

In Thailand, foreigners are allowed own just 49 percent of a building.

Developers at Phnom Penh’s satellite cities also welcomed the government’s move yesterday, expressing hope that it will develop the market by boosting sales – as the number of investors able to buy into property increases.

“We expect that through the provision, more foreigners will consider Cambodia,” said Touch Samnang, project manager at the capital’s Diamond Island complex, yesterday.

Sung Bonna, president and CEO of Bonna Realty Group, also felt the sub-decree would make Cambodia a more attractive proposition to foreign investors.

But he warned that the sub-decree alone was not enough to secure FDI for the Kingdom's economy.

“Cambodia needs to grant more incentives to investors in various sectors,” he said.

Rights issue: Pair accused over labour programme


via Khmer NZ

Monday, 19 July 2010 15:01 Tep Nimol

Rights issue

The rights group Adhoc has filed a complaint with Ratanakkiri provincial court accusing two people of taking an 18-year-old ethnic Tampuon woman to a labour-training programme in Phnom Penh without informing her family.

Chhay Thy, provincial investigator for the group, said he had submitted the complaint to the court last Friday, but chief court clerk Prak Soeun said yesterday afternoon that he had not yet received it.

According to the complaint, Ta Keng, 50, and his 18-year-old daughter, Keng Bun, enrolled Leith Dauth in a programme run by the Champa Manpower Group, in Russey Keo district. The employment firm was the target of a raid last week in which officials discovered 232 women and girls living in squalid conditions.

Despite a call from Deputy District Governor Ly Rosami for the firm to be investigated, officials announced that it would be allowed to expand in order to better accommodate its clients. Ta Heng denied any wrongdoing, saying Leith Dauth enrolled in the programme of her own accord.

Red Shirt chief hasn’t fled here, Cambodia says


via Khmer NZ

Monday, 19 July 2010 15:01 Cheang Sokha

THE Ministry of Foreign Affairs yesterday rejected a Thai media report placing Red Shirt leader Arisman Phongruangrong in Cambodia, saying border officials had not seen his name on any registration lists.

The report in the newspaper The Nation said Surachai “Rang” Thewarat, who was arrested on Thursday on terrorism charges, told investigators from the Thai department of special investigation that he had travelled with Arisman to Cambodia, and that Arisman was still in the country.

Koy Kuong, spokesman for the Cambodian Foreign Affairs Ministry, said yesterday that the report was baseless. “Cambodia completely rejects the untrue information that Arisman or even the shadow of Arisman is in Cambodia,” he said. “All of the gates along the border reported that there is no report of someone with this name crossing the border.”

He added that if Surachai did in fact tell authorities what was attributed to him, he likely did so in a bid to mitigate any punishment he might receive. “The comment made by Surachai is an attempt to fault Cambodia in order to reduce his punishment only,” Koy Kuong said.

“Cambodia has never tolerated any person who has committed terrorism, and these people will be repatriated to their country if they are
arrested.”

The Council of Ministers last month issued a similar, albeit more forceful, denial after a report on ASTV said that Arisman and fellow Red Shirt leader Suphorn Atthawong were hiding out in a casino in Banteay Meanchey province’s Poipet town.

On July 5, the government deported to Thailand two terrorism suspects it had previously said were not in Cambodia.

Also on Sunday, General Chea Dara, deputy commander in chief of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces, said he had instructed troops stationed along the border to prepare for encroachment attempts on the part of Thai pro-government Yellow Shirt activists.

He accused the activists of straying “dangerously close” to Ta Moan Thom temple over the weekend.

Group 78 families mark eviction


Photo by: Pha Lina
A former resident of the city’s Group 78 community prays at a ceremony Saturday marking the one-year anniversary of the eviction of 146 families from the site in Chamkarmon district.

via Khmer NZ

Monday, 19 July 2010 15:01 Jake Schoneker and Tang Khyhay

MORE than 50 demonstrators gathered on Saturday at the former site of the Group 78 community in Chamkarmon district to mark the one-year anniversary of an eviction that saw city officials clear the homes of 146 families for development.

“We’ve gathered here today to tell the government that it needs to give proper compensation to those who are evicted from their homes,” said Lim Sambo, a former resident of Group 78. “We need to make people aware of what happened to us.”

The Group 78 families claim they should have been eligible for ownership of their land under the 2001 Land Law, but that the government refused to accept their applications for land titles. Most were given US$8,000 in exchange for evacuating their homes.

Several residents said last week that this amount was not enough for them to buy new homes in the city. Instead, they said they had been forced to move to remote resettlement sites such as Trapaing Anchanh, about 25 kilometres from the city.

“I decided to buy land in Trapaing Anchanh because it’s cheap,” said Pach Khan, one of the evicted residents.

He was among the former Group 78 residents who said they needed to continue working in the capital despite having moved away from it, resulting in higher transportation costs.

“I’m a moto-taxi driver,” he said. “I can’t do any business where I live now. That’s why I have to come to the city to work.”

Beyond this inconvenience, rights workers say moving to sites like Trapaing Anchanh results in a much poorer quality of life overall.

“Generally, families find themselves living in greater poverty, with worse access to drinking water, electricity and poor sanitation. As a consequence they can suffer from more health problems,” said Janice Beanland, spokeswoman for Amnesty International Southeast Asia.

City Hall officials could not be reached on Sunday. Last week, however, Mann Chhoeun, the former deputy governor who was in charge of the Group 78 evictions, reiterated his earlier argument that the families had no right to the land because it was state-owned.

Saturday’s demonstration allowed families affected by various land disputes to try to raise awareness about their respective situations. About 30 of the demonstrators said they face eviction from the Boeung Kak lake area, where a controversial development project threatens to force thousands of families from their homes.

“We’re here to join together, to protect our land,” said Rous Saen, a 73 year-old Boeung Kak resident. “The pain of the Group 78 families is just like the pain of people from Boeung Kak. We are all victims.”

Cambodian trade with HK up


via Khmer NZ

Monday, 19 July 2010 15:01 May Kunmakara

CAMBODIA’S bilateral trade with Hong Kong grew nearly 14 percent during the first five months of the year compared to the same period last year, Hong Kong Trade Development Council figures show.

Trade between the two climbed in line with increased consumption in markets around the globe, said Cambodia Chamber of Commerce Director General Nguon Meng Tech.

“The world economy is recovering, and people are beginning to make more purchases after being very strict during the financial crisis,” he said.

Two-way trade totalled US$231 million this year to the end of May, up 13.8 percent from $203 million for the same period 2009, according to the figures.

However, the improvement is off a low base as trade with Hong Kong plummeted 22.2 percent to $480 million in 2009 from $617 million in 2008. Hong Kong exported $225 million of goods to Cambodia this year to May, a 14 percent increase from $197 million for the same timeframe in 2009, and Cambodia exported goods worth over $6 million the other way, a 10.4 percent increase on last year.

The Kingdom’s garment industry was a major source of exports to Hong Kong, with footwear and textiles increasing this year. Of Hong Kong’s two main exports to Cambodia, shipments of cotton fabrics were up 26 percent, and knitted or crocheted fabrics climbed 27.8 percent.

However, such imports are a cause for concern, according to Nguon Meng Tech, as Cambodia misses out on fully benefiting from its garment industry, because it still imports most of the raw materials used for production. “If either local or foreign investors built fabric manufacturing factories [here], Cambodia wouldn’t need to spend as much money on imports,” he said.

Holding back progress on HIV


Photo by: Heng Chivoan
Children in Phnom Penh turn out for International AIDS Day in 2008. A vienna conference is focusing on AIDS and human rights.

via Khmer NZ

Monday, 19 July 2010 15:01 Elaine Pearson

Opinion

---------------------------------------

Elaine Pearson

THE biannual International AIDS Conference began yesterday in Vienna, bringing together tens of thousands of HIV experts, activists and officials from around the world. The theme of this year’s conference is human rights – a recognition that only by protecting and advancing human rights can we effectively end HIV transmission and ensure access to AIDS treatment.

The Cambodian government has been praised as one of the world’s few HIV success stories for reducing the spread of HIV among adults. But while the global spotlight is on Vienna, Cambodia’s human rights abuses and inaction in stemming HIV among some of its most vulnerable, impoverished and voiceless citizens – such as sex workers and people who use drugs – is undermining that success.

Officially, the Cambodian government promotes human rights in its response to HIV. In practice, the picture is much different.

For example, according to the government’s strategic plan for HIV and drug use, HIV prevention efforts must “ensure that human rights are upheld.”

People who use drugs in Cambodia – particularly those who inject – are at heightened risk of HIV infection; at least one in four people who inject drugs are estimated to be HIV-positive. However, instead of addressing either the issue of drug use or HIV with treatments that have been proved effective, the mainstay of the government’s strategy is police sweeps and detention.

Drug users interviewed by Human Rights Watch describe horrific abuses in detention for so-called “treatment”. Former detainees – including children – tell us that they have been shocked with electric batons, whipped with twisted electrical wire, regularly beaten, and chained standing in the sun. Some tell us of being raped by staff or coerced into donating their blood.

Sex workers arrested in arbitrary police sweeps and sent to so-called “rehabilitation” centres tell of equally horrific abuses. In a report to be released tomorrow, Human Rights Watch documents rape, beatings, and the ill treatment of sex workers by police during arrest and by guards at a centre near Phnom Penh, Prey Speu.

A female sex worker detained there told of a beating after she tried to escape: “Five guards beat me up. When I used my arms to shield my face and head from their blows, they beat my arms. The guard threatened to slit our throats if we tried to escape a second time, and said our bodies would be cremated there.”

Sex workers, drug users, homeless people, and street children are picked up in street sweeps and sent to these centres without any legal process. Our research found that when HIV-positive people are detained, they often have to stop taking their medicine. Interrupting treatment can cause HIV to develop resistance to treatment – endangering their lives or requiring costly second – or third-line therapies. We talked to one homeless, HIV-positive woman who was detained by Phnom Penh police last year. When she asked a police officer to return her confiscated HIV medicine, he replied: “You complain a lot! Jump into the truck!” She was subsequently detained – illegally – for days without medications at Prey Speu.

Ironically, the government has cited HIV prevention as one rationale for police roundups of sex workers, particularly before large public festivals in Phnom Penh. Prior to last year’s Water Festival, for example, the deputy governor of Daun Penh district justified the detention of sex workers by saying: “We don’t want to see the boat racers bringing disease such as HIV/AIDS back to their wives.”

The government – and, until recently, UN agencies – have claimed that people remain in Prey Speu voluntarily. However sex workers released just last month told Human Rights Watch how guards watched them at all times, beat and threatened those who tried to leave, and even “followed us to the toilet so we didn’t escape.”

Following a Human Rights Watch report released in January documenting abuses of drug users in government centres, some UN agencies spoke critically about drug detention centres, with WHO and UNAIDS joining Human Rights Watch in calling for them to be closed. From a public health point of view, this makes sense – in addition to being ineffective at treating drug dependency, detention centres can act as incubators of infectious diseases.

Protecting the rights of people living with and vulnerable to HIV is just one more reason why Cambodia needs to permanently close centres used to unlawfully detain sex workers, drug users and other vulnerable populations.

Instead government agencies should solicit input from the groups they claim to be serving to design community-based programmes – with peer educators and counselors to work with marginalised groups on a respectful, voluntary basis.

The slogan of the Vienna conference is “Rights Here, Right Now”, but if all that comes of the conference is rhetoric on human rights, an opportunity to end the AIDS epidemic will be lost. While the world celebrates attention to human rights and HIV in Vienna, concrete action is urgently needed in Cambodia.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Elaine Pearson is acting Asia director at Human Rights Watch.

Huadian secures financing for hydropower plant in Koh Kong


via Khmer NZ

Monday, 19 July 2010 15:01 Ellie Dyer and Chun Sophal

FINANCING for a US$412 million hydropower plant to be built in Koh Kong province has been agreed, according to lawyers who oversaw the deal.

The Singapore branch of international law firm Herbert Smith confirmed that it had reached the close on the energy plant deal for the Steung Russei Chrum Kraon hydropower project.

The plant is to be built and owned by affiliates of China’s Huadian Power International Corporation.

The firm gave legal advice to the Export-Import Bank of China, which signed a financing deal with Huadian, according to reports earlier this year.

“We are very pleased to achieve the close on a major financing project such as this.

“It is one of the largest foreign investments in Cambodia to date and will no doubt be seen as an important step in the evolution of that power sector,” said partner Richard Nelson in a statement last week.

It added that the closing of the deal was “a noteworthy achievement” and “robust” insurance had been taken out to mitigate country risk.

DFDL Mekong provided Cambodian legal advice, it detailed.

Ith Prang, secretary of the state of the Ministry of Industry, Mines and Energy, said yesterday that Huadian is building roads and bridges for access to a Koh Kong dam site.

“We are trying to push the company to speed up and finish its construction so that power can be generated to respond to the power shortage in the country,” Ith Prang said.

According to a plan set down early this year, the construction of the dam, which will be able to generate 338 megawatts of electricity per year, will be finished in 2014.

The site of the dam was opened in March.

Last week, Cambodian officials said that they had drawn a further 20MW of power from Vietnam this year to help meet consumer demand.