Wednesday, 22 September 2010

JSM appoints CBRE to sell portfolio in Vietnam and Cambodia

http://www.property-report.com/

via CAAI

Byron Perry

Sep 22, 2010
 
Phnom Penh, Cambodia

JSM Indochina Ltd – a property fund set up to invest in retail and residential real estate in Vietnam and Cambodia – has appointed CB Richard Ellis to sell its portfolio, which is comprised of assets in Ho Chi Minh City, Phnom Penh, and Siem Reap.

The portfolio includes assets that are already operational, projects that are under construction, and land that is suitable for development of hotels, serviced apartments, and retail centres. One of the prime assets is a site next to Raffles Hotel in Siem Reap which has potential to become a mixed-use hotel or retail development. The Vietnam properties comprise two sites located in the District 2 of Ho Chi Minh City that are suitable for residential development. Assets in Phnom Penh include a top level serviced apartment building and hotel development site.

“We are extremely excited to take on this instruction. The assets located in the dynamic capital of Cambodia, Phnom Penh, offer exciting opportunities for investors to enter this developing market. The assets include one of the best established serviced apartments, catering to diplomatic, NGO and expatriate customers. As result of its success a new serviced apartment building is being constructed which will also form part of the sale. In addition, there is a prime riverfront hotel development site and a city centre site suitable for retail and hotel development,” said Mr. David Simister, Chairman of CBRE Indochina.

Cambodia eyes new airport for Siem Reap

http://www.flightglobal.com/

via CAAI

DATE:22/09/10

SOURCE:Air Transport Intelligence news

By Siva Govindasamy

Cambodia is looking to build a new airport near Siem Reap, the gateway to the temple ruins of Angkor that are the country's main tourist magnets.

A South Korean company is in talks with the Cambodian government on the project, according to local news reports. They are keen to be involved in the construction and operation of the proposed $1 billion facility, add the reports.

"They want to conduct a feasibility study of Cambodia's civil aviation sector," Long Chheng, deputy director at the State Secretariat of Civil Aviation, is quoted as saying. "We're very welcoming to any investment in the country's aviation sector."

He adds that there would be further discussions before his department sends the proposal to the Council for the Development of Cambodia, which coordinates and approves infrastructure projects in the country.

The proposed airport would be located 60km from Siem Reap to minimise the damage from noise pollution to the increasingly fragile Angkor Wat complex, the main attraction in the area. It would be able to accommodate larger aircraft that could allow direct links to cities in Europe and the USA, add the newspapers.

AKP - Agent Kampuchea Press


via CAAI

PM Leaves for the Second ASEAN-U.S. Leaders’ Meeting in New York

Phnom Penh, September 22, 2010 AKP -- Samdech Akka Moha Sena Padei Techo Hun Sen, Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Cambodia, departed here today for the U.S. to join the Second ASEAN-U.S. Leaders’ Meeting to be held on Sept. 24 in New York City, at the invitation of U.S. President H.E. Barack Obama.

He was seen off at Phnom Penh International Airport by Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister H.E. Sar Kheng, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister in charge of the Office of the Council of Ministers H.E. Sok An, Deputy Prime Minister and National Defense Minister H.E. Tea Banh, and Permanent Deputy Prime Minister Mrs. Men Sam An as well as many other high-ranking government officials.

U.S. Ambassador to Cambodia Mrs. Carol A. Rodley was also present on the occasion.

According to Delegate Minister attached to the Prime Minister H.E. Sry Thamrong, during the meeting, the ASEAN and U.S. leaders will re-examine the past cooperation and find ways to further deepen and increase their cooperation.

They will exchange views on some international issues such as the general election in Myanmar, Korean Peninsula issue, nuclear weapons issue in Iran, etc., he said, adding that the discussion will also touch on climate change, disaster management, energy security, food security, fight against terrorism and other security issues.

The ASEAN and U.S. leaders are expected to sign a non-nuclear weapons agreement in ASEAN, said H.E. Sry Thamrong.

The First ASEAN-U.S. Leaders’ Meeting took place in Singapore in November 2009.

On the sidelines of the meeting, Samdech Techo Hun Sen will also hold bilateral meeting with his Thai counterpart Abhisit Vejjajiva, he affirmed.

Besides, Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister H.E. Hor Namhong, who is accompanying Samdech Techo Hun Sen, will lead a delegation to participate in the High Level Plenary Meeting on MDG’s and the 65th Session of the United Nations General Assembly to be held from Sept. 20 to 22 and from Sept. 23 to Oct. 1 respectively, in New York City, said a press release of the Cambodian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation.

During the meeting, H.E. Hor Namhong will deliver speeches at the High Level Plenary Meeting on MDG’s on Sept. 21 and at the 65th Session of the UN General Assembly on Sept. 28. --AKP

(By SOKMOM Nimul)

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PM Hun Sen Calls for More Investment from Japan

Phnom Penh, September 22, 2010 AKP -- Prime Minister Samdech Akka Moha Sena Padei Techo Hun Sen has called for more Japanese investment in Cambodia.

Japan is the biggest donor country in Cambodia and big Japanese companies such as Mitsubishi, Merubeni, etc. have been present in the country, said Samdech Techo Hun Sen during a meeting with a delegation of Nippon Keidaren of Japan.

Anyway, the number of Japanese investors in Cambodia is still limited, said the Cambodian premier, thus appealing all Japanese companies that wish to invest in Cambodia to come and examine the investment possibilities in the country.

The private investment from Japan will help promote Cambodia’s development and its integration into ASEAN, he stressed.

For his part, Kenjiro Fukubayashi, head of the Japanese delegation, told Samdech Techo Hun Sen that the purpose of the visit of his delegation, which comprises of CEOs of different companies, members of the Japan Business Federation, is to learn more about trade, economic situation and investment atmosphere in Cambodia with an aim to further expand the trade relations and promote development of economic corridors as well as the whole regional economy. --AKP

(By KHAN Sophirom)

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Cambodia Applies for WHC Chairperson

Phnom Penh, September 22, 2010 AKP -- Cambodia has already submitted the application for the post of chairperson of the World Heritage Committee (WHC)’s 36th Session in 2012, affirmed Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister in charge of the Office of the Council of Ministers H.E. Sok An.

Cambodia is ready to host the 36th WHC Session to be held in 2012 in Siem Reap province, said H.E. Sok An, adding that the Kingdom will also celebrating in the same year the 20th anniversary of the inscription of Angkor Wat Temple as a World Heritage Site.

He further expressed appreciation for Australia’s support to Cambodia at UNESCO and WHC, H.E. Phay Siphan, secretary of state and spokesman for the Office of the Council of Minister told reporters after the meeting between H.E. Sok An and outgoing Australian Ambassador to Cambodia Ms. Margaret Adamson on Sept. 21.

In reply, the outgoing Australian ambassador expressed support for Cambodia’s application, and her satisfaction with the good diplomatic relations and cooperation between the two countries.

She also thanked H.E. Sok An for his support to her diplomatic mission in Cambodia and the royal government for its support to Australia’s role in ASEAN, East-Asia as well as other international institutions.

Australia is determined to further deepen and expand its cooperation with Cambodia, she stressed.

Cambodia became a member of WHC in 2009 and it was elected as WHC vice-chairperson in 2010. --AKP

(By LIM Nary)

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DPM Sok An Meets Indonesian Ambassador

Phnom Penh, September 22, 2010 AKP -- Deputy Prime Minister and Minister in charge of the Office of the Council of Ministers H.E. Sok An received here today newly appointed ambassador of the Republic of Indonesia to Cambodia H.E. Soehardjono Sastramihardjo.

In the meeting, both sides discussed on various issues within the framework of bilateral cooperation between Cambodia and Indonesia as well as vision for the future cooperation between both countries, according to the Office of the Council of Ministers.

The Cambodian deputy prime minister warmly welcomed the Indonesian diplomat to Cambodia and whished him to successfully fulfill his diplomatic mission here.

In reply, the newly appointed Indonesian ambassador informed H.E. Sok An that he will do his utmost to strengthen and consolidate the cooperation in every field between Cambodia and Indonesia. --AKP

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2010 One-Stop Administration Office in Preah Sihanouk Province Launched

Phnom Penh, September 22, 2010 AKP -- Deputy Prime Minister H.E. Sar Kheng, Minister of Interior presided over the launching of the 2010 One-Stop Administration Office in a ceremony held on Sept. 20 in Preah Sihanouk province.

In his remark at the ceremony, H.E. Sar Kheng said the opening of the one-stop administration office was supported by the development partners, of them World Bank gave a contribution to a project of the grassroots good governance for the public administration reform by raising the public service with the participation of the people, which is characterized quickly as transparency and accountability.

The objective of the administration reform is to have the administration at all levels become an instrument of a great energy to promote a public policy to the administration with effectiveness, neutrality, and transparency in a sense of responsibility, mainly in response to a good service provided to the population. --AKP

(By THOU Peou)

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State Civil Servants Receive A/H1N1 Vaccination

Phnom Penh, September 22, 2010 AKP -- As of Sept. 21, civil servants of ten Cambodian ministries, including the Ministry of Information, have received swine flu (A/H1N1) vaccination, donated by the World Health Organization (WHO), a senior official of the Health Ministry said.

Mr. San Chansoeun, director of the national vaccination program of the Health Ministry, said the A/H1N1 vaccination campaign has been launched since March this year and for the first step, 1.8 million doses have been already used.

Nine hundred thousand (900,000) doses of vaccine are being provided, he added.

The Ministry of Health is ready to provide more vaccination to other ministries upon their requests, underlined Mr. San Chansoeun. --AKP

(By CHEA Vannak)

Exodus by all means


Photo by: Heng Chivoan

via CAAI

Wednesday, 22 September 2010 15:00 Kim Yuthana

Phnom Penh residents leave the capital en route to the countryside ahead of last year’s Pchum Ben holiday. Minister of Interior Sar Kheng appealed on Monday for people to take care while driving during the annual Buddhist observance, which runs from September 24 until October 8. “There are so many serious problems, such as speeding, drunken driving, driving [vehicles ] overloaded with a lot of people and things ... that cause traffic accidents,” he said in a statement.

Disgraced cop tried again


Photo by: Heng Chivoan
Heng Pov during his trial in 2003

via CAAI

Tuesday, 21 September 2010 18:40 Chrann Chamroeun

JAILED former top cop Heng Pov faced trial again in Phnom Penh Municipal Court yesterday on a charge of illegal detention that dates back to 2003.

The notorious former Phnom Penh police chief was arrested in 2006 and sentenced to more than 90 years in prison after being found guilty of a litany of charges, including extortion, kidnapping and murder.

He was tried yesterday on the illegal detention charge in connection with a complaint lodged by Chan Seak, a local businessman who Heng Pov accused of robbery in 2003.

According to a letter of complaint read out to the court, Chan Seak claims he was detained for 48 hours following his arrest before an investigating judge released him due to a lack of evidence.

The letter further alleges that Heng Pov ordered Tuol Kork district police to re-arrest Chan Seak, and that he was illegally held from April to July 2003.

Heng Pov’s lawyer, Kao Soupha, said the case should be thrown out, since the relevant charge was not laid against his client until 2007, when he was already behind bars.

“It is unreasonable for the court to charge my client in 2007. They should have charged him in 2003,” he told the court. “It should have been brave and not just waited until he was imprisoned.”

He said the case should also be dropped for a lack of evidence, as Chan Seak had disappeared since the complaint was filed and was absent again during yesterday’s hearing.

According to a note submitted to the court by investigating judges, Heng Pov, who was also absent, said he would not answer any questions related to the charge until the courts freed up more than US$1 million of personal assets confiscated following his arrest.

“It seems meaningless for me to answer the charges because the court has never provided justice to me,” the note quoted Heng Pov as saying.

Deputy court prosecutor Chet Khemara called the request from Kao Soupha “unreasonable”, and said there was plenty of evidence to convict Heng Pov.

If found guilty, Heng Pov faces an additional 10 years in jail.

Presiding Judge Duch Kimsorn said no date had been scheduled for the verdict.

In April this year, the former police chief released a book from prison that was effusive in its praise of Prime Minister Hun Sen.

Observers speculated that the book might have been an attempt to secure a pardon.

Police accuse army of rape-case interference


via CAAI

Tuesday, 21 September 2010 19:02 Thet Sambath

A ROYAL Cambodian Armed Forces commander has refused police permission to question a soldier in his brigade who has been accused of raping two underage girls, according to officials in Oddar Meanchey province.

Roth Savon, provincial police officer in charge of crimes, said a 45-year-old woman in Trapaing Prasat district’s Preah Pralay commune informed police on Tuesday last week that her son-in-law, a 25-year-old low-ranking officer in RCAF Brigade 8, had raped her 8-year-old daughter.

“We asked the military commander to hand over the suspect to police in order to question him, but he refused,” Roth Savon said. “He said he wouldn’t hand him over to police unless there is a result from a [medical] examination letter.”

Roth Sovan said the woman had not filed a formal complaint, and told police just wanted to “inform” them of the incident.

He added, however, that police intended to pursue the case regardless of cooperation from the victim’s family or the military.

Srey Naren, provincial coordinator for rights group Adhoc, said the woman filed a complaint with his office on Friday, claiming that the suspect had raped her 8-year-old daughter on Monday last week, and had raped her 5-year-old daughter in April.

He said that the woman had not filed a complaint immediately after the first incident because another of her daughters, who is the suspect’s wife, had threatened to commit suicide if her husband was imprisoned.

“First she did not want to complain because she was worried about her daughter who is the suspect’s wife,” Srey Naren said. “But now she decided to file a complaint because she has understood that he should be punished according to the law.”

He added that the military should not interfere in the police investigation of the case.

“The military commander should allow his soldier to be questioned by police,” he said. “If he is found not guilty, he will be free to go back to work at his base.”

In Lorn, deputy district police chief, said on Monday that police would ask the court for an arrest warrant for the soldier once it had received the results of a medical examination that was conducted on Sunday.

“We already took the victim to make an examination yesterday, and we will collect it soon in order to send it to court for an arrest warrant,” he said.

Roth Sovan said yesterday that police had not yet retrieved the examination results.

Garment workers defy court


Photo by: Pha Lina
Garment workers in Kandal province shirk work to protest the suspension of 50 union representatives who participated in strikes last week.

via CAAI

Tuesday, 21 September 2010 20:13 Mom Kunthear and Brooke Lewis

ABOUT 10,000 garment employees in Kandal province have flouted a court-ordered deadline to return to work.

They instead opted to continue protesting against the suspension of more than 50 union representatives who participated in a large-scale work stoppage last week, a union leader said.

A coalition of rights groups condemned the suspensions, many of which were approved by the Kandal provincial court.

In a joint statement, the groups – including Licadho, the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights and the local branch of the American Centre for International Labour Solidarity – said at least 70 unionists had been suspended in Kandal, along with 22 others in Kampong Speu province.

The statement described the suspensions as “undisguised retributions” for participating in the strike, and said they were in violation of an article in the Labour Law that prohibited discrimination against union members.

Industry representatives have justified the suspensions by saying last week’s strike was illegal.

Labour leaders called off the strike, which was spurred largely by a July decision that set the industry minimum wage at US$61 per month, on Thursday after the Ministry of Social Affairs called for a meeting this month to discuss potential “benefits” for workers earning the minimum wage.

But fresh strikes began in Phnom Penh and in Kandal province on Friday afternoon when some labour leaders claimed more than 200 union representatives were suspended after factory owners accused them of inciting the original strike.

Employees at three factories in Kandal continued to strike in defiance of warnings – posted on factory walls – that they would “automatically” lose their jobs if they didn’t return to work by morning.

Kong Athit, secretary general of the Cambodian Labour Confederation, said that union leaders urged workers to stop striking, but that many had failed to return in the absence of their union representatives.

“There are more than 10,000 workers who have continued their strike in Kandal province, and I don’t know whether they will be fired or not,” he said.

He believed most strikers in other provinces had already returned to work.

Kong Athit said he had not heard of any workers being fired for ignoring the deadline.

Ken Loo, secretary general of the Garment Manufacturers’ Association in Cambodia, said the factory owners in Kandal province had extended the deadline by 24 hours. “In the three factories where the situation is most severe, the factories have decided to give one more day to the workers,” he said.

He added, though, that an investigating judge at the provincial court had already given at least one of the factories permission to fire workers who were striking on Tuesday.

Provincial court president In Vanvibol declined to comment yesterday.

On Monday, the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, an international NGO, condemned the government’s response to the strike, saying workers were “met with acts of harassment, intimidation and, in some cases, physical assault by the police and employers”.

Mobitel money-transfer mess


Photo by: Pha Lina
Cellcard umbrella on Sothearos Boulevard, in front of a WING outlet.

via CAAI

Tuesday, 21 September 2010 19:46 Jeremy Mullins

MOBILE-phone provider Mobitel has launched a money-transfer service, but officials say it has yet to apply for central bank oversight.

The Cellcard Cash service is described on Mobitel’s website as a way of storing cash, allowing users to make money transfers across Cambodia, top-up prepaid accounts, and pay certain bills through mobile phones.

In July, the National Bank of Cambodia confirmed that Mobitel would be required to submit to oversight of the scheme, as money transfers are considered banking and fall under NBC regulation.

Yesterday, NBC director general Tal Nay Im said Mobitel had "still not applied” for such oversight, though to her knowledge the service had not yet been put in place.

But when reporters visited Mobitel’s showroom on Phnom Penh’s Sihanouk Boulevard, a saleswoman confirmed that the service had been launched on Monday and was available for use.

The service was also begun after NBC released a prakas, or edict, on third-party processors on August 27.

It stated that “a person which is not a bank may not engage in the business of payment transactions or hold itself out as providing payment transactions”, unless it is entrusted through an agreement with a bank and is licensed by the NBC.

The prakas said that a licensed third-party processor would then be permitted to operate a number of services, including as “a service provider of money remittance by mobile phone or other means”.

Mobitel Chief Executive Officer David Spriggs declined to comment on the money-transfer service yesterday. Royal Group chairman Kith Meng also declined to comment, stating that he was in a meeting.

The firm’s operations manager, Kay Lot, has said that the firm did not consider the plan banking.

Other companies with mobile-banking or transfer schemes, however, are operating under NBC control.

ACLEDA Bank launched its Unity mobile-phone banking system earlier this year.

Its Executive Vice President So Phonnary said that National Bank of Cambodia was charged with oversight of the banking industry, and that “mobile banking is another part of our core banking system”.

An official at mobile transfer market leader WING said Tuesday that the company “100 percent” supported the August prakas, and that it would be a driver of standards across Southeast Asia.

“The NBC has been very thorough in creating this legislation to ensure that Cambodians are delivered high quality, secure and safe mobile banking,” WING Managing Director David Kleiman said.

Hun Sen to make Obama appeal


Photo by: Pha Lina
Prime Minister Hun Sen speaks at the inauguration of the Prek Phnov bridge in Russey Keo district yesterday.

via CAAI

Monday, 20 September 2010 19:24 Cheang Sokha and Sebastian Strangio

PRIME Minister Hun Sen has said that he would appeal to US President Barack Obama to cancel more than US$300 million in “dirty debt” accrued by the Lon Nol regime in the 1970s.

Speaking at the inauguration of Prek Phnov bridge on the outskirts of Phnom Penh, the premier said he would make the request when he meets Obama during this week’s ASEAN-US summit in New York.

“I will tell the US that the 1970-75 debt is considered as dirty debt and ask them to cancel it,” Hun Sen said. “If it is dirty debt how can we pay it? Even the bank will cancel this.”

The debt, which amounts to an estimated $317 million, was incurred by the republican regime that came to power in a 1970 coup backed by Washington, which showered the government with military and economic aid.

Cambodia has long opposed repayment of the debt, which it says fuelled the country’s civil war with the Khmer Rouge.

US officials, however, have said Cambodia is merely being held to the same standards as other countries.

“Our position on that debt is the same as our position on bilateral debt we have with any other country, which is that the government should come to the table, sign the agreement and start making payments,” US Ambassador Carol Rodley said in an interview in July.

An embassy spokesman said that under international law, governments are “generally responsible for the obligations of their predecessors”.

“We have made some proposals that we think would help resolve the issue consistent with our overall commitment to support Cambodia’s economic modernisation,” the spokesman said, and added that such an arrangement would “enhance Cambodia’s creditworthiness and ability to access international capital markets”.

ASEAN leaders are scheduled to meet with President Obama in New York on Friday.

As planned, Hun Sen will also hold sideline talks with his Thai counterpart Abhisit Vejjajiva to discuss the ongoing border dispute between the two nations, before returning to Cambodia on Sunday.

Court delivers sentences in land dispute


via CAAI

Wednesday, 22 September 2010 15:02 Rann Reuy

Siem Reap province

SIEM Reap provincial court yesterday handed down one-year suspended sentences to seven villagers from Chi Kraeng commune in connection with a long-running land dispute.

Judge Chhay Kong ruled yesterday that the seven men were guilty of causing injury to private property owners during a November 2008 altercation.

An eighth man, named Sinh Sam Lei, was also convicted in absentia of incitement, and ordered to serve a two-year suspended sentence, said Chhay Kong, who is responsible for three different court cases related to the dispute.

The seven Chi Kraeng villagers were acquitted on charges of incitement, while charges of causing injury and destruction of property were dropped against Sinh Sam Lei.

Ham Sunrith, a lawyer who works for the rights group Licadho, appeared to differ with the judge, claiming all eight men had been convicted for “illegally occupying private property”, and that the incitement charges had been dropped.

The row dates back to 1986, when one village was divided between Chi Kraeng and Anlong Samnor communes, in Chi Kraeng district, leaving an unspecified amount of farmland in dispute. Last year, the provincial court ruled that all of the land belonged to Anlong Samnor, triggering conflicts between the two communities.

Am Sam Ath, a senior investigator for Licadho, said the guilty verdict against the seven villagers was “unacceptable”, despite the judge’s decision to suspend the sentences. “We cannot accept that the court has said that the Chi Kraeng villagers injured ‘property occupiers’,” he said, adding that “there are no real land owners” in the case.

Licadho president Pung Chhiv Kek said four of the villagers still face charges in two other cases related to the dispute.

Chheng Savoeun, one of the convicted villagers, said outside the courtroom yesterday that he planned to appeal for intervention from Prime Minister Hun Sen, as well as national and international rights groups.

“Please help me and my group to be freed immediately… so I can live with my wife and children,” he said.

Lawmaker summoned over old case


via CAAI

Wednesday, 22 September 2010 15:02 Meas Sokchea

PHNOM Penh Municipal Court has summoned Sam Rainsy Party parliamentarian Chea Poch to appear in court this month in connection with a criminal defamation complaint filed against him more than six years ago, despite his constitutional immunity from prosecution.

In a summons issued September 2, court deputy prosecutor Ek Chheng Huot ordered Chea Poch, 30, to appear in court on September 29 to answer to the charge.

The case dates back to August 2004, when former royalist heavyweight Prince Norodom Ranariddh sued Chea Poch and SRP president Sam Rainsy for allegedly stating that he had accepted bribes in exchange for agreeing to form a coalition government with the Cambodian People’s Party.

In February 2005, the National Assembly suspended both lawmakers’ parliamentary immunity, forcing them to flee the country, before a political settlement in 2006 paved the way for their return.

When contacted yesterday, Chea Poch expressed confusion about why the case was being reopened.

“This issue took place in 2004 and 2005, but in 2006 a political compromise ended this story. The assembly has restored my immunity, and the assembly has also acquitted me,” he said.

In accordance with the Cambodian Constitution, parliamentarians cannot be prosecuted unless the National Assembly passes a two-thirds vote to suspend their immunity.

Chea Poch said no prosecution could move ahead until the assembly took this step.

“It is out of step with procedure because I have my immunity, so until the court requests to lift my immunity, I can’t appear for trial,” he said. “I don’t understand.”

He said he had not decided whether to appear in court, and that he intended to talk with his lawyer.

A week after issuing the summons to Chea Poch, the court also summoned Sam Rainsy, who is living in self-imposed exile overseas, in relation to a two-year-old defamation lawsuit brought by Foreign Minister Hor Namhong.

Chea Poch’s lawyer Moa Sophearith said yesterday that he would request that the court quash the charge, since the plaintiff had withdrawn his complaint, and that the long delay had invalidated the case.

Ek Chheng Huot said the September 29 trial date would be pushed back, but did not give a reason for the postponement, saying that the court was awaiting talks with Chea Poch’s lawyer. He said, however, that Chea Poch’s case would be heard and brought to a close.

Liv Sovanna, a lawyer for Prince Ranariddh, could not be reached yesterday.

Villagers questioned in pagoda land row


via CAAI

Wednesday, 22 September 2010 15:02 Mom Kunthear

MORE than 200 residents of Kandal province’s Kandal Stung district gathered in front of the provincial court yesterday as judges questioned two representatives in connection with a land dispute that drew attention from the rights group Adhoc last week.

Both Eang Yan and Chea Hy appeared at the court to answer questions concerning an ongoing row with Heng Development Company, which has threatened to evict nearly 300 families and level the Tuol Tamark pagoda.

Earlier this month, military police arrested Vorn Vun on suspicion of destroying private property in connection with the dispute, prompting Eang Yan and Chea Hy to go into hiding for fear of being arrested themselves.

Yesterday, Eang Yan said that while the two men had not been arrested or charged, they had received a stern warning from judges during the morning questioning session.

“The court did not find a solution for the villagers. Instead, they asked us to stop taking the company’s land,” he said.

Court officials could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Last week, Adhoc held a press conference in Phnom Penh condemning Heng Development Company, which it said was flouting court rulings handed down in favour of the families.

According to Adhoc, the dispute over the land in question first broke out in 2005, but the court sided against the company twice – once in October 2006 and again in February 2007.

Various altercations related to the dispute have led to the wounding of three villagers, Adhoc said.

Eang Yan said yesterday that court officials told him both he and Chea Hy would be summoned again for questioning at the Kandal Stung district police station, though he said no specific date had been set.

Tobacco warnings enforced


Photo by: Pha LIna
Locally produced cigarettes, bearing the government’s newly mandated health warnings, are displayed for sale along Sothearos Boulevard yesterday.

via CAAI

Wednesday, 22 September 2010 15:01 Keeley Smith and Sen David

THE Health Ministry has ramped up efforts to enforce a new sub-decree making it mandatory for all cigarettes sold in the Kingdom to feature written health warnings, issuing letters to an undisclosed number of firms that were not yet in compliance, an official said yesterday.

Khun Sokrin, director of the ministry’s National Health Promotion Centre, said that “most, but not all” tobacco manufacturers and importers had fulfilled the terms of the sub-decree, which went into effect on July 20. Health Minister Mam Bunheng said at the end of last month that few firms were in compliance.

On Monday, the ministry sent out two letters – one thanking companies that were using the warnings, and another “urging” those that had missed the deadline to begin using them, Khun Sokrin said.

In addition, he said, the ministry earlier this month aired a statement on Cambodia Television Network urging companies that have not complied to do so immediately. Officials have been delivering the same message on radio programmes over the past 10 days, he said.

“The deadline has passed,” Khun Sokrin said.

The sub-decree outlines three steps for enforcement: issuing warning letters, temporarily suspending violators and, finally, permanently closing down firms that fail to comply.

Khun Sokrin said yesterday that he was not at liberty to disclose the number or names of firms that were not using the warnings.

However, Kun Lim, head of corporate affairs for British American Tobacco Cambodia, said this week that at least eight out of 14 major distributing companies were in violation of the sub-decree.

“Enforcement is weak,” Kun Lim said. “I’d just appeal to the Ministry of Health and governing law agency to please step up, because it’s been a long time.”

Officials said last month that cigarette packages were still appearing on shelves without warnings because stores were unloading stock that had been delivered before the sub-decree went into effect.

Kun Lim said at the time that it could take three or four months for all of the old stock to be sold off.

But Kun Lim said yesterday that some firms had yet to send new stock featuring the warnings to stores, citing reports from staffers sent out by BATC to observe incoming market and wholesale stock.

Representatives of several of the eight firms identified by Kun Lim said yesterday that they had already complied with the sub-decree or that they would do so soon.

“Right now, the manufacturer has not put warnings on the packages, but we are still planning,” said Hen Lim, the Cambodian distributor for Hong Kong International Tobacco, which manufactures brands such as Marce, Phnom Meas and Yellow Elephant.

Hen Lim said that HKIT “supports” the new law “because it is a right for residents to know risks”.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, an official at Go Well Tobacco International Pte Ltd – the distributor of the brands GD, Panda and Era White and Blue – said the company had already placed warnings on its stock.

The warnings are a component of the World Health Organisation’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, which Cambodia ratified in 2005.

Last month, the Health Ministry announced a sweeping ban on all forms of tobacco advertising and promotion, which is also part of the effort to come into compliance with the convention.

Child sex: Court hears case against Australian


via CAAI

Wednesday, 22 September 2010 15:01 Chrann Chamroeun

Child sex

PHNOM Penh Municipal Court yesterday heard the case against an Australian man charged with purchasing child prostitution from two underage girls, court officials said.

Michael John Lines, 52, was arrested on March 17 in Sihanoukville after police accused him of having abused the girls in Phnom Penh’s Meanchey district since 2005. But lawyers for Lines and the victim both requested that the case be dropped, and Lines has denied the charge.

Chhith Vinea, a lawyer for the victims, said one girl was legally engaged to Lines in 2007, and that the other girl was his fiancée’s friend. He also said the fiancée was born in 1990, which he said proved she was 18 when they were engaged. “I request the court lift the charges against the accused at the behest of my client to allow them to live as a normal married couple,” he told the court.

Depending on whether the victims are deemed to have been underage at the time of the alleged abuse, Lines faces anywhere from between two and 15 years in prison if found guilty. No verdict date has been set.

Chinese police free abducted Cambodians


via CAAI

Wednesday, 22 September 2010 15:01 Vong Sokheng and Thomas Miller

CAMBODIAN officials yesterday welcomed a media report that said Chinese police had freed more than 10,000 abducted women, including some from Cambodia, since April last year.

China’s state-run Global Times newspaper reported yesterday that as part of an ongoing crackdown on human trafficking that began in April 2009, Chinese police have so far freed 10,621 kidnapped women and 5,896 kidnapped children.

Among the women freed were 1,099 foreigners, mostly from Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and Mongolia, who were sold as brides to Chinese men or forced to work as prostitutes, the paper said.

Koy Kuong, spokesman for the Foreign Affairs Ministry, said yesterday that he was unaware of the report, but urged Chinese officials to work with Cambodian officials to ensure the safety of Cambodian women.

“We have not yet been informed about the release of Cambodian women, but we hope that the police in China will communicate with the Cambodian embassy in Beijing, or help vulnerable women to communicate directly to the Cambodian embassy for help,” Koy Kuong said.

Chinese embassy spokesman Qian Hai said he had not received any information about the report.

Human rights workers at Adhoc and Licadho said they had not encountered the trafficking of women from Cambodia to China in their work, which they said focused on women headed to Malaysia, Taiwan, South Korea and Thailand.

The Global Times reported that a widening gap between the sexes in China – where there were 120 men to every 100 women as of 2005 – may be fuelling bride trafficking and prostitution.

Bith Kimhong, head of the Department of Anti-Human Trafficking and Juvenile Protection at the Ministry of Interior, said he also was unaware of the report. “I have not received any report related to the freeing of Cambodian women in Beijing,” he said.

“The Cambodian embassy will facilitate the help of vulnerable victims.”

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY AFP

Road blocked in Pheapimex protest


Photo by: Photo Supplied
Villagers block National Road 5 in Pursat province’s Krakor district yesterday as part of a protest against the alleged clearing of their land by local firm Pheapimex.

via CAAI

Wednesday, 22 September 2010 15:01 Khouth Sophakchakrya

MORE than 300 villagers gathered yesterday in front of Krakor district hall in Pursat province and blocked National Road 5 to protest the alleged clearing of their farmland by the local company Pheapimex.

“Our livelihoods rely on farming and collecting forest products, but now the company has bulldozed and confiscated about 3-4 hectares of rice fields from each family,” said Phorn Chea, a 50-year-old villager from Kbaltrach commune.

Ngeth Theavy, a coordinator for the local rights group Adhoc, said district authorities refused to meet with the villagers yesterday to discuss their complaint. Police also prevented the villagers from entering the district hall, which prompted them to block traffic on National Road 5 for about 30 minutes.

“The villagers demand that the company stop bulldozing their farmland and rice fields as well as the natural forest,” she said.

In 1997, Pheapimex was granted a 315,028-hectare land concession spanning Kampong Chhnang and Pursat provinces. The company, which is owned by Choeung Sopheap – the wife of Cambodian People’s Party Senator Lao Meng Khin – has come under fire because the concession is far in excess of the legal limit of 10,000 hectares.

Ngeth Theavy said the company planned to “develop agro-industry plantations such as acacia, cassava and other crops”.

Im Sarith, Krakor district governor, said he could not prevent the company from clearing land because of the 1997 concession agreement, and said the company had provided many jobs to local residents.

“We will visit the people’s rice fields on Friday,” he said. “We can ask the company to give back the rice fields if we find out that the company has bulldozed and confiscated rice fields belonging to the villagers.”

But Pheapimex representative Ty Kim Tok denied yesterday that the company had encroached on villagers’ land. “We can give the land back to them if they give evidence showing that the land belongs to them,” he said, and added that around 8,000 hectares had been planted so far.

David Pred, executive director of Bridges Across Borders Cambodia, described the Pheapimex concession as “the poster child for all that is wrong with the Royal Government’s policy of granting large-scale land concessions to private firms”.

“The concessionaire appears not to have complied with any of the ... safeguard provisions in the Sub-decree on Economic Land Concessions,” he said.

“If it is allowed to continue, the ramifications are going to be devastating for untold numbers of affected families in Pursat and Kampong Chhnang.”

Bail denied in DARPO case


via CAAI

Wednesday, 22 September 2010 15:01 Thet Sambath

PREAH Vihear provincial court has rejected a bail request for three villagers charged in connection with a complaint filed against an NGO that has come under fire for alleged human rights abuses, a court official said yesterday.

The three villagers – 45-year-old Sath Savoeun, 45-year-old Kim Sophal and 62-year-old Srey Sophan – were detained last Thursday after the court charged them with incitement, disinformation and forgery.

Investigating judge Sor Savuth said at the time that the villagers had forced families in Choam Ksan district to thumbprint and submit complaints against the Drugs and AIDS Research and Prevention Organisation, which is run by Pen Loem, a one-star general with the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces who is also an adviser to Senate President Chea Sim. The complaints accused the NGO, which has received a social land concession in the district, of subjecting families who live on the concession to “threats, rape and torture”, among other abuses.

Pen Loem, who could not be reached yesterday, has previously denied all allegations against DARPO, and claimed to have had the support of most of the families who live on the concession.

Yesterday, Sor Savuth said the release of the three villagers on bail would jeopardise the investigation of the case against them.

“I can’t let them out of prison. If they do go, they will destroy my investigation,” he said.

“I have already told their lawyer about this. Let the lawyer protest according to the law.”

Long Lun, who is representing the three villagers, said yesterday that he had not received word of the judge’s decision, but that he planned to take the matter to the Appeal Court.

“When I asked for my clients to be released on bail I had hope that it would happen,” he said.

“It is his right to deny this, but I will have to complain to the Appeal Court.” Sor Savuth also said that he believed the court possessed sufficient evidence against the three villagers to convict them.

“We have evidence that they are using fake documents and using other people’s thumbprints to complain against the Drugs and AIDS Research and Prevention Organisation,” he said. “They have confessed that they prepared these documents.”

Around 50 residents of the social land concession in Choam Ksan have convened in Preah Vihear town, where they met yesterday with officials from the rights group Adhoc and prepared a complaint to be filed at the provincial court today.

Sam Duong, the 30-year-old son of Sath Savoeun, said yesterday that the group “could not accept the judge’s bail refusal”, and that the three villagers “had not made any mistakes” in the case.

European operator Queenco signs for Sihanoukville hotel


via CAAI

Wednesday, 22 September 2010 15:00 Catherine James

EUROPEAN casino operator Queenco Leisure International Ltd will make its first foray into the Asian gaming market by taking control of Holiday Palace Hotel in Sihanoukville next April.

Listed in both London and Tel Aviv, Queenco has signed a memorandum of understanding to form a joint venture with Holiday Palace owner Paradise Investment Co to “develop, operate and finance” the hotel.

Queenco vice president for development Mark Vlassopulos said yesterday: “The intention of the company is to take over the existing hotel in April, renovate it and increase it in size – more or less double it – to a four to five-star international standard … including a casino."

The Israel-based company, which holds a 70 percent stake in the venture, has had its sights on a Cambodian operation for some time.

It bought a separate 9-hectare block of undeveloped beachfront in Sihanoukville in 2008 for US$10 million.

“We are definitely planning to develop it,” Vlassopulos said.

He said that he expected Southeast Asia to dominate the company’s focus for the next 10 years.

“The idea is to stimulate Sihanoukville’s growth with this first project, and in the meantime we will start to develop the raw land a year later, so towards the end of next year.”

Vlassopulos, who lived in Singapore for 10 years but is based in Switzerland, said that the company was attracted to Sihanoukville over other destinations for a number of reasons.

“We liked Cambodia since we first [arrived]. It is very business friendly, there is less competition and we can grow very quickly as Cambodia grows,” he said.

“Based on the regulatory framework for gaming, we think there is vast upside in the area, and Sihanoukville should be a major tourist destination in the years to come.”

Queenco owns four casinos across Greece, Romania and Serbia and is applying for a gaming licence for its nightclub in the Czech Republic, according to its 2010 interim report released last month.

Under Cambodia's gambling laws, NagaWorld has exclusive rights to run a casino within a 200-kilometre radius of Phnom Penh.

However, other operators are opening casinos on Cambodia's coastal and border areas.

Kampot province's first casino is set to open later this month about 300 metres from the Prek Chak border crossing to Vietnam.

Mobile money: WING grows as rival enters fray


via CAAI

Wednesday, 22 September 2010 15:00 Jeremy Mullins

Mobile money

WING mobile money-transfer service has partnered with Cambodia’s second-largest provider Metfone to enable payments via phones, after Mobitel launched its own service.

ANZ-owned WING provides money transfers and bill payments through mobile phones.

First launched in January 2009, the firm now partners with two-thirds of domestic telcos, excluding Mobitel, Beeline and Excell.

Despite Mobitel’s launching its own Cellcard Cash programme, after receiving a US$5 million grant from the GSM Association Foundation earlier this year, WING officials said they had not ruled out potential partnerships with any of Kingdom’s mobile providers.

ANZ already has links with Mobitel's owners – it partners with the Royal Group at ANZ-Royal Bank.

“WING has the largest market share and is open to working with all providers,” the firm’s Managing Director David Kleiman said.

Discussions are now under way to make WING services available at Metfone’s 190 stores. Metfone Managing Director Nguyen Duy Tho said he expects the service to assist rural and urban Cambodians to send money safely and affordably.

BVB sows breed future bacon


Photo by: Uy Nousereimony
Swine sleep at a Kampong Speu pig farm last May.

via CAAI

Wednesday, 22 September 2010 15:00 Chun Sophal

BVB Investment Company will import 500 sows from Thailand in coming weeks, the first step of its plan to sell 150 pigs per day by next June.

The female pigs will breed young piglets to be raised for meat on a US$19 million farm in Santuk district, Kampong Thom province, some 165 kilometres north of Phnom Penh, BVB President Duong Vibol said yesterday.

“We will keep importing more female pigs in the coming months to accomplish our aims,” he said.

Plans call for 2,500 total sow imports by the end of the year, with another 3,500 brought in during 2011.

BVB announced in May that it would build the pig farm. The farm is intended to eventually include a slaughterhouse and a meat processing plant.

Duong Vibol said he planned to meet growing demand for pork. “We will expand market supply more and more in the future until we reach a maximum reduction of pig imports,” he said.

Last month, Prime Minister Hun Sen ordered a temporary ban on all import of pigs from Vietnam and Thailand in a bid to prevent the spread of blue ear disease and pig diarrhoea in Cambodia.

But Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fishery Department of Animal Health and Production director Kao Phal said that BVB Investment received cooperation from the Department to ensure the health of its animals.

“For the time being, the main measure we have to take is to crack down on the smuggling of pigs or pig meat into the country because it may lead to the spread of disease, badly affecting our people,” he said.

Cambodia, Vietnam raise quota on vehicles


via CAAI

Wednesday, 22 September 2010 15:00 May Kunmakara

CAMBODIA and Vietnam have agreed to double the number of vehicles allowed to cross the border each day, in a bid to boost tourism and business activities.

The agreement was signed between both countries’ ministers of public works and transportation in Phnom Penh late last week, said Mom Sibon, secretary of state at the Ministry of Public Works and Transportation, yesterday.

The move would allow the total number of vehicles crossing international checkpoints each way – at Bavet and Trapaing Plong – to double from 150 to 300 per day.

“We see the number of Vietnamese tourists visiting our country is increasing, and business activities between our two countries are also growing. That requires us to increase the number of vehicles,” he said.

Tith Chan Tha, director general at the Tourism Ministry, confirmed that dramatic increases in Vietnamese tourists needed to be coupled with additional transport, and that his ministry has been working with transportation officials and other concerned parties for a long time.

“This is a very good step to boost cross-border activities,” he said.

Tourist arrivals from Vietnam rose about 46 percent in the first half of 2010 to 215,496, from 147,721 in the same period last year.

Freight company TNT Ex-press Worldwide (Cambodia)’s Country Manager, Sjaak de Klein, said yesterday: “We look forward to similar progress with the Thai-Cambodian border – that’s where an increase would allow for substantially more cross-border business.”

Forex forray: Interbank targets the Kingdom


via CAAI

Wednesday, 22 September 2010 15:00 Nguon Sovan

Forex forray

AMERICAN online foreign-exchange broker, Interbank FX, is seeking Cambodian partners in order to expand to the Kingdom.

“We are here to seek local partners such as banks, investment funds, securities brokerage and individuals,” said Peg Reed, Utah-based Interbank FX managing director of global partnerships, at a press briefing in Phnom Penh yesterday.

The company provides online platforms for foreign currency trading. She said that as Cambodia was an emerging market working towards the establishment of a stock market, it was the right time for the company to show its presence here.

“This is the first step in partnering with Cambodian financial institutions,” she said. “After we have a few local partners, we will set up an office here.”

Last year, the firm opened its office in Seoul, Korea. So far, it has served about 35,000 customers in more than 140 countries.

On Monday, Reed met with about 45 executives from banks and financial institutions but no deal has yet been inked.

Dump kids cook up bright future


Photo by: Nouserei Mony
Hotel and restaurant operations manager Tourn Kiv supervises a pupil in the kitchen at Lotus Blanc on Street 51, Phnom Penh.

via CAAI

Wednesday, 22 September 2010 15:00 Roth Meas

Three years ago, 25-year-old apprentice chef In Voleak was scavenging for steel, aluminium cans or plastic bottles amid the foetid stink of Stung Meanchey dump in Phnom Penh, along with his family of eight.

Today he’s looking beyond the confines of the dump to a new life working in a restaurant kitchen after his stint studying with non-profit organisation Pour un Sourire d’Enfant (For a Child’s Smile).

Lotus Blanc is PSE’s training school for hotel and restaurant staff in Phnom Penh. During a visit to the headquarters in Stung Meanchey district, young people move easily around the spotless kitchen, dressed neatly in clean white uniforms and chef’s hats.

Drawn from among the city’s poorest families and those living off the district’s rubbish dump, these youngsters have been given a second chance at education through PSE’s hotel school, established in 2002.

And for young chef In Voleak, the school has been a fresh opportunity.

“I feel sympathy for my life when I was younger. I used to collect cans and bottles from the dumpsite to sell. The job was quite risky because of all the viruses, and my legs used to be cut to pieces by shards of glass or sharp cans,” he says.

Born to a large family in Oudong district in Kampong Speu province, In Voleak moved with his family of eight to Phnom Penh in 2002. They lived near the city’s Stung Meanchey, collecting recyclable garbage for several years. But in 2008, In Voleak’s life changed when he was offered the chance by PSE to study cooking at its hotel school.

At Lotus Blanc, he’s learning how to cook Khmer and Western dishes, and the work has also taught him the importance of keeping clean, as well as food hygiene.

“To make our customers like our food, we have to make our service fast enough and our food hygienic and tasty,” In Voleak explains.

He’s one of about 48 catering students at Lotus Blanc, where customers can choose a wide selection of Khmer and Western dishes at the 95-seat headquarters’ restaurant and also at a second branch in Phnom Penh on Street 51.

PSE’s hotel and restaurant operation manager Tourn Kiv says that most of these students didn’t even have access to schools, so PSE offers them classes up to grade six to catch up on their education.

By the end of their two-year training stint, he says, they will be able to work in large commercial kitchens, Khmer or Western restaurants. They’ll also learn some English and French, maths, computers, sports, and get skills to enable them to have a successful social and professional life.

Tourn Kiv keeps lessons practical and steers away from a lecture format, believing that his students learn better by preparing dishes to exact recipes.

And many of the ingredients for Western dishes can be unfamiliar to students, he points out. The school imports some foods if they cannot find Cambodian ingredients.

“For our purpose, we want our children to understand how to cook, preparing and measuring out ingredients in dishes, and using food so they can develop by themselves more when they eventually work for other companies.”

PSE has brought in professional chefs from various restaurants in Cambodia to tutor the students, and graduates are trained to work to a standard suitable for hotels of three to five stars in Cambodia, said Tourn Kiv.

Students blossom at Lotus Blanc school


via CAAI

Wednesday, 22 September 2010 15:00 Roth Meas

SUCCESSFUL PSE graduate Khoeun Sambat, 28, left the Lotus Blanc course in 2005 and has won a chef’s job at Chayyam Resturant, behind Wat Langka in Phnom Penh. He says he was a former scavenger at Stung Meanchey dump too, until he was offered new hope by PSE in 2002.

“I was about 12 when my mother brought me to pick up plastic bags from the dump and wash them to resell on the market. There was an organization camping near the dump that offered food to us children every day, and one day they asked me whether I wanted to study.”

Khoen Sambat attended a general knowledge class for a year and spent two years in the food production class. As soon as he left PSE, he got a job.

“I could never imagine I could become a chef. I used to be a scavenger, eating food from the dump where were many flies and worms. Now I’ve got a job,” he said proudly. “Nobody looked down on me, but in contrast, they admired me that I could change my life from being a scavenger to a cook.”

A second Lotus Blanc training restaurant was opened in early 2009 along Street Pasteur in Phnom Penh.

“We opened the restaurants for students to have real practice. We want to expose them to the real working environment,” said PSE’s public relations manager Touch Len.

He said it was also an opportunity for customers to see the skills of various students, as some later employed them in their own businesses.

Cookery is just one course among many the hotel school offers. Other courses include food and beverage service, bakery and pastry, housekeeping and laundry, front office, as well as food and beverage management.

Lotus Blanc has about 300 students in total, of which 48 are studying cookery on the two-year course. Each study period includes a six-month internship at restaurants in Cambodia.

“About 400 of our graduates are now working everywhere in Cambodia – from Phnom Penh and Siem Reap down to Sihanoukville,” says Touch Len.

PSE has trained more than 7,000 Cambodian children so far in its network of schools, which offer vocational training for children at the dump and others with poverty-stricken backgrounds.

With a number of two-year courses including information technology, car mechanics, hairdressing and beauty, business administration or retail sales, Pour un Sourire d’Enfant has given skills and pride back to Cambodia’s most marginal teenagers.

Fire Gasoline in Phnom Penh

Effect of teachers is long lasting


A. Gaffar Peang-Meth

via CAAI

By A. Gaffar Peang-Meth • September 22, 2010

I was born and raised more than half century ago in the poor Southeast Asian kingdom of Cambodia.

When my parents' financial fortunes took a sharp dive and the family had to split up temporarily to survive, I lived on my own in an empty house, owned a pair of shorts and two shirts -- the second sewn by my older sister. I walked to school barefoot. I cooked rice on a three-legged, baked-mud stove using firewood, and I was scared of the dark. My circumstances had greatly changed from the days when I was driven to a private kindergarten in a black Citroen, attended by some helpers.

'Teacher affects eternity'

I grew up at a time of national insecurity fomented by the Khmer Issarak, the Vietminh, and increasing anti-French colonialist activities. I have written about my elementary school teacher at Russeykeo, a young "progressive" chap whose words greatly affected me. In a leaky, thatched-roof classroom, he untiringly pounded into kids' heads that we are humans, and each of us has "one kilo of brain" that is as good as any other brain, and that "we" are responsible for our future and the country's fate. It was us -- kids in the classroom -- who will or will not make future change happen.

"Bah!" I remember the thought I had then, as I looked around at some of my classmates: clowns, bullies, pants-wetters ... an assembly of the future?

Fast forward. At one time it was unthinkable that I would study abroad. Thanks to a high school exchange program, I graduated from Chagrin Falls High School in Ohio in 1962, returned to Cambodia as required by the exchange program, and came back to Ohio to begin my freshman year at Hiram College in 1963.

My father wanted me to be an engineer or a medical doctor. I didn't care for calculus, I hated dissecting animals and could not stand blood, so I majored in political science after my academic adviser loaned me some books on the making of the United States.

I was a political activist, even in college. In 1970, as a graduate student, I supported the group of Cambodians who opposed the Vietnamese occupation of Khmer soil as base of operations against the Americans and their allies.

In 1980, I received my Ph.D. degree from the University of Michigan, the same year I was naturalized a U.S. citizen. The Cambodian republic experiment failed miserably, and with the U.S. pullout from the region, the Khmer Republic crumbled. Pol Pot took over and more than 2 million died as a result. That regime was ousted by a Soviet-backed Vietnamese military invasion that decapitated the Chinese-backed Khmer Rouge in 1979.

In 1980, I joined the nationalist resistance Khmer People's National Liberation Front at the Cambodian-Thai border. The Front opposed Vietnam's invasion and occupation of Cambodia.

I read somewhere that "a teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops."

'Living antiquity'

When I stood before a very attentive introduction to political science class of Asians, Pacific islanders and students from the U.S. mainland in 1991 at the University of Guam to introduce myself with a short background as their teacher for the term, an islander rubbed his face and blurted, "Oh, a living antiquity!"

For the next 13 years, I taught political science at UOG, using my comparative analysis training acquired in Ann Arbor, an approach I was fortunate to have tested when I taught a graduate-undergraduate comparative politics course at Johns Hopkins in 1990. I used Western and Eastern political philosophies and theories; I backed them up with my practical experience and real stories from my service at the United Nations as a delegate, in diplomacy, in the resistance, as I sought to bring philosophies and theories alive. We described, analyzed and attempted to forecast what may lie ahead.

As some UOG students wrote in their evaluation of me, one said, "He did not teach to pass tests, but to think in order to live a life worth living."

Continue the traditions.

Once one has established oneself as an educator, the act of educating has become ingrained in the person, and I don't know if there's a stopping point.

Though I have retired from formal classroom teaching -- the Guam sunsets, the three-times-a-day swim at Ypao's salt waters that washed away stresses, anxieties and built physical strength; the plumerias that brought unforgettable fragrance, among others, are a thing of the past. The Pacific Daily News continues to provide me with an opportunity to write and share.

And so I write to share. I do have my own political and ideological preferences, which I propound from time to time. Otherwise I keep them to myself. Humility is my value: I respect others' views and ways and I seek to learn from them.

I have disagreed with others, privately or openly, but I do my best to refrain from being disagreeable -- some relationships have been hurt, some others have continued. Some cannot accept disagreement.

I judge from the number of e-mails I receive, and especially a few with strong reactions to my writings from people of both sides of the bench, that my purpose in writing to challenge thoughts has borne fruit.

I am grateful there are faithful readers, and those who anticipate my weekly column. It is freedom that ensures my opportunity to write, and I thank all media outlets that facilitate my exercise of free expression.

A. Gaffar Peang-Meth, Ph.D., is retired from the University of Guam, where he taught political science for 13 years. Write him at peangmeth@yhaoo.com .