Monday, 27 September 2010

Proper framework vital for new stock market


via CAAI

Monday, 27 September 2010 15:01 Heng Dyna

Dear Editor,

The establishment of a bourse in Cambodia is expected to promote domestic savings and enhance the functions of our financial system, thus increasing the quantity and quality of investment. But will the stock market play an important role in allocating capital to our economic activity and industry?

The answer will depend much on the progress of our economic and institutional fundamentals: sound macroeconomic environment, healthy and developed banking sector, the transparency and accountability of our institutions, and shareholder protection.

The bourse might not perform efficiently in allocating investment resources as expected, given the huge costs of doing business, poor financial infrastructure, and weak regulatory and institutional arrangements Cambodia is facing now.

Without improvements in institutional quality and legal frameworks, Cambodia can, of course, be easily well prepared for a new casino in mid-2011, or even sooner. It would be a casino where stock price and information manipulation, insider trading and accounting fraud are widespread. Furthermore, a stock market, like other asset markets, can develop its own speculative dynamics, which may be guided by irrational behaviour. The irrational exuberance can adversely affect the real sector of the economy, as it is in danger of becoming the by-product of a casino.

To overcome these serious problems and limitations, Cambodia will need technical and institutional improvement. Though it is demanding, Cambodia needs to take steps to improve legal and accounting frameworks, private-sector credit evaluation capabilities and public-sector regulation to address serious problems of informational and disclosure deficiencies. In this regard, bankruptcy and accounting law need to be in place, and the move to insulate the regulatory and supervisory authorities from political pressure and corruption is quite essential.

The development of a stock market per se does not ensure benefits. Only after Cambodia addresses institutional and infrastructural bottlenecks can it expect an environment conducive to successful economic growth and active domestic and foreign participation in the market. The expected problems of the small size and low liquidity of the proposed stock market in the first several years after opening can positively serve as lessons for the Cambodian authorities to learn to supervise and regulate.

Meanwhile, for many reasons, focus should be zeroed in not only on opening the stock market itself, but also on strengthening the banking sector.

First, the bourse in its early stages will be just a complement rather than substitute for the banking sector. Second, strengthening the financial intermediaries can promote stock-market development as the former provides many supporting services. Third, the banking sector will continue to play a major role in financing for Cambodia’s economic development in the decades to come.

Heng Dyna
Canberra, Australia


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Send letters to: newsroom@phnompenhpost.com or PO?Box 146, Phnom Penh, Cambodia. The Post reserves the right to edit letters to a shorter length. The views expressed above are solely the author’s and do not reflect any positions taken by The Phnom Penh Post.

PM clinches rogue red shirt deal in New York


via CAAI

ABHISIT PRAISES HUN SEN AFTER US MEET

Published: 26/09/2010

NEW YORK : Cambodia has pledged to send rogue red shirts caught on its territory back to Thailand and resolve the border dispute near Preah Vihear temple through talks, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said yesterday.

The Thai and Cambodian leaders met on Friday for the first time since Thailand opposed Cambodia's management plan for the Hindu temple at the World Heritage Committee meeting in Brazil in August.

"Cambodia's Premier Hun Sen told me that if he finds wanted red shirt protesters in his country, he will send them back to Thailand," Mr Abhisit said yesterday.

They met after the summit between the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and the United States on Friday.

Relations between the countries eased after former premier Thaksin Shinawatra gave up his job as economic adviser to Phnom Penh in August.

Cambodian authorities arrested wanted red shirts Kobchai Boonplod, 41, and his wife Varissareeya Boonsom, 42, in Siem Reap on July 3 and handed them over to Thailand two days later in Phnom Penh.

They are fighting charges of possessing and setting off explosives to cause harm to people and property, and taking a bomb into a public area.

Police suspect they are the masterminds of the June 22 bombing near the Bhumjaithai Party HQ. The pair, who allegedly fled to Cambodia to escape the law, denied the charges.

Mr Abhisit praised Hun Sen for Phnom Penh's cooperation in sending the two back to Thailand.

Some leaders of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship are believed to have fled to Cambodia after the army dispersed their protest in May.

Mr Abhisit said he and Hun Sen agreed that work on demarcating the boundary between the countries should proceed as planned.

Thailand and Cambodia signed a memorandum of understanding in 2000 to set up a Joint Boundary Commission to demarcate overlapping parts of their boundary.

But the framework for border demarcation has not been approved by parliament as required by the constitution.

"We would like the [negotiation] process to move forward and will not let border problems affect our overall relationship," said Mr Abhisit.

The two leaders also agreed to foster ties through various activities to avoid conflicts.

"I think the relationship between us will improve if we proceed as agreed," said Mr Abhisit.

Before returning to Bangkok, the prime minister met a group of Thais who live in the US.

He said a better political atmosphere is needed in the country before he calls a general election. "I have never ruled out an early election although I can serve my full term and stay until early 2012.

"I am willing to hold an early election if it will solve political problems. But if dissolving the house leads to violence, an election will be meaningless," he told his Thai audience.

Thirty red shirt protesters shouted at Mr Abhisit in front of the Plaza Athenee hotel on his way back from the Asean-US summit at the Waldorf Astoria hotel.

Yelling at his motorcade, they protested against the military crackdown on red shirt demonstrators in May.

The group held aloft banners, with one reading: "PM: You can't fool the world. 91 killed."

Cambodian garment workers struggle to stitch together living

via CAAI

2010-09-27
By Michelle Fitzpatrick

PHNOM PENH, Monday 27 September 2010 (AFP) - It's mid-morning in the Cambodian capital and Pat La is one of dozens of workers breaking for lunch at the Pine Great Garments plant, which makes clothes for US retailers like Gap and Walmart.

The 30-year-old mother was among the tens of thousands of textile workers who took part in a four-day mass strike earlier this month to demand higher wages -- the latest bout of worker unrest in Asia.

She says she joined the stoppage because she cannot get by on the 50 dollars a month she earns making T-shirts.

"I am working to survive," the softly-spoken woman, who left her home province of Prey Veng east of Phnom Penh to eke out a living in the capital, tells AFP as she scans nearby stalls for a bite to eat after the early shift.

Half her wages are spent on rent, she explains, and after paying for food, bills and baby formula for her four-month-old daughter, "there is nothing left".

By putting in overtime beyond the basic eight-hour day and working six days a week, Pat La can push her monthly income up to 60 or 70 dollars.

It is more than many people earn in Cambodia, where gross national income per capita stood at 640 dollars in 2008, or roughly 53 dollars a month, according to the World Bank.

The country has a big rich-poor gap, with about 30 percent of the population living below the poverty line in 2007, according to the Bank's data.

Pat La's colleague Chhom Saroth, 22, who also took part in the walkout, says working at the plant "is a good job".

"But if we don't do overtime, we cannot survive on our basic salary," she adds.

The mass strike from September 13 to September 16 came after the government and industry set the minimum wage for garment and footwear staff at 61 dollars a month.

That is more that a textile worker would take home in Bangladesh, where thousands of garment workers also took to the streets of the capital in August to demand higher wages.

But Cambodia's unions say it is not enough to cover living expenses and want a base salary of 93 dollars.

The industrial action only ended when the government stepped in and arranged talks between the two sides that started on Monday.

Pat La has low expectations for the negotiations and says she is willing to settle for less than unions are demanding.

"Maybe from 80 dollars a month -- that would do," she says.

Union leaders say that at the height of the strike, some 200,000 garment workers across the country failed to show up for work.

But secretary general Ken Loo of the Garment Manufacturers' Association in Cambodia (GMAC) estimates that 45,000 people missed work during the stoppages, of which about 20,000 picketed outside factories.

Ahead of Monday's talks, manufacturers warned that increasing the minimum wage was out of the question, "but there is always room for negotiation with respect to other allowances or bonuses", says Ken Loo.

Union leader Ath Thun, head of the Cambodian Labour Confederation, accepts that the employers are unlikely to budge on the wage issue, and says the unions will instead seek other concessions, such as daily food allowances.

Cambodia's garment industry -- which also produces items for brands such as Benetton, Adidas and Puma -- is a key source of foreign income for the country and employs about 345,000 workers, mainly women.

"I believe working conditions are generally good for the garment workers," says Tun Sophorn, a national coordinator at the International Labour Organisation, who has visited dozens of Cambodian factories.

"Labour inspections have intensified" and there are "strong unions" in the workplace, he explains.

The industry was hit hard last year when the global economic crisis saw exports drop to 2.7 billion dollars, from 3.1 billion dollars in 2008.

However, during the first seven months of this year, exports increased 13.4 percent to 1.6 billion dollars, according to the Ministry of Commerce.

GMAC says the strike cost the sector 15 million dollars and harmed its reputation abroad.

"We know that a few factories have had their orders cancelled" as buyers worry about possible damage to their brand image, Ken Loo says, declining to name the plants or customers involved.

But Pat La, who doesn't know the retailers she is sewing for, has more pressing concerns on her mind.

Taking part in the walkout cost her four days' pay so she expects to take home just 40 dollars this month -- not enough to make ends meet -- and going on strike again would be a luxury she cannot afford.

"I am broke now," she says with a shy smile.

Foreign Ministry To Draft Plan To Revive Thai-Cambodian Bilateral Ties

via CAAI

EW YORK, Sept 27 (Bernama) -- Thailand's Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya said on Monday that the ministry will draft a plan to revive Thai-Cambodian bilateral ties with cooperation by many sectors and at various levels before forwarding it for the prime minister's approval soon, Thai News Agency (TNA) reported.

The foreign minister made the remarks after Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen talked for half an hour on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York agreeing that warm relations between the two neighbouring countries are vital for the benefit of their people.

The diplomatic standoff between the two neighbouring countries resulted in part from Cambodia's unilateral management plan for the environs of the ancient Preah Vihear temple that sits on contested land claimed by both Thailand and Cambodia.

Kasit said he will start the drafting process once he returns to the Thai capital and expects to forward it for the premier's approval soon.

The plan to restore the relationship with Cambodia includes operations and activities at both local and central levels, Kasit said.

For local operations, the foreign ministry will coordinate with the Second Army Area, the Royal Thai Navy, and with the governors of provinces adjacent to the Cambodian border.

Cultural, sports and academic exchange activities between the peoples of the two kingdoms will be held, while medical and humanitarian aid as well as landmine clearance and disposal operations will be conducted mutually, according to the foreign minister.

"We also want to seek cooperation with Cambodian authorities in the registration of Thai and Cambodian [nationals] living along the borders and foragers in order to avoid violence in case they stray and accidentally trespass into the (other country's) territory," said Kasit.

"Troops of both sides can contact each other. When a problem occurs, they should talk to avoid the use of violence and must be able to identify and distinguish local residents foraging along the border from criminal rings.

"We must speed up joint operations in suppressing criminals and syndicates smuggling illegal products," Kasit said.

The Thai foreign minister said the opening of more border checkpoints should be opened to facilitate trades, transportation and tourism along the border. But the checkpoints should be opened in appropriate areas which are not under disputed area or risk for stepping over landmines.

The policy at the central level is involved with assistance in development roles in various fields. The draft will cover operations for the new (fiscal) year which will begin in October, he said.

Kasit also expressed hope that Cambodian Minister of Information and Cambodian media will accept his invitation to visit Thailand and discuss the ongoing disputes to create better understanding between the two nations.

-- BERNAMA

Cambodian King Leaves for China's World Expo

via CAAI

2010-09-27
Xinhua
Web Editor: Xu Leiying

Cambodian King Norodom Sihamoni left Phnom Penh on Monday for China to attend the celebration of China's National Pavilion Day at Shanghai World Expo 2010 at the invitation of China.

China's National Pavilion Day at Shanghai World Expo will be celebrated on Oct. 1, the Chinese National Day.

Meanwhile, King Sihamoni will also visit other countries' national pavilions during his stay in China, including his country 's pavilion, according to the officials of Chinese Embassy in Cambodia.

Seeing the King off at the Phnom Penh International Airport were Cambodian Senate President Chea Sim, National Assembly President Heng Samrim, Prime Minister Hun Sen and Chinese Ambassador to Cambodia Pan Guangxue, as well as other members of Royal family.

Bathing Buddha


Photo by: Heng Chivoan

via CAAI

Monday, 27 September 2010 15:01 Heng Chivoan

A Cambodian woman performs a blessing by pouring water over a statue of the Buddha yesterday morning at Svay Pope pagoda in Chamkarmon district. Yesterday was the third day of the annual Pchum Ben festival.

Lapping up technology


Photo by: Pha Lina

via CAAI

Monday, 27 September 2010 15:00 Pha Lina

Attendees at the Kingdom’s third BarCamp information technology forum check out some of the latest developments in the sector. The two-day event, held at Puthisastra University in Phnom Penh, wrapped up yesterday.

Hun Sen and Abhisit vow to cooperate


Photo Supplied
Prime Minister Hun Sen and his wife Bun Rany arrive at Phnom Penh International Airport after their return from New York.

via CAAI

Sunday, 26 September 2010 20:07 Cheang Sokha

IN their first face-to-face meeting since the resumption of full diplomatic ties last month, Prime Minister Hun Sen and his Thai counterpart, Abhisit Vejjajiva, pledged to scale down tensions at the countries’ contentious border and rehabilitate their strained relationship.

Speaking to reporters at Phnom Penh International Airport upon the return of the Cambodian delegation from the ASEAN-US Leaders’ Meeting in New York, Council of Ministers secretary of state Prak Sokhon said the two leaders had met for about half an hour on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly.

“The meeting between the two premiers this time has been constructive, and will build understanding and good relations between the neighbouring countries,” Prak Sokhon said.

Hun Sen and Abhisit will have the opportunity to speak again at next week’s Asia-Europe Meeting in Belgium, and at the ASEAN Leaders’ Meeting in Vietnam in late October, Prak Sokhon said.

Abhisit said he and Hun Sen had “agreed to enhance the relations by promoting constructive activities and avoiding military confrontations, as well as fostering cooperation at ... ministerial levels”, Thai state media reported.

Relations between Thailand and Cambodia soured last year after ousted former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra was appointed as an economics adviser to the Cambodian government.

Thailand withdrew its ambassador to Cambodia in protest over the appointment, and Cambodia responded in kind.

Tension flared again at a meeting of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee in Brazil that concluded last month, as Cambodia submitted its management plan for Preah Vihear temple over Thai objections.

With the announcement of Thaksin’s resignation later in the month, however, officials from both governments have struck more conciliatory tones. Prak Sokhon said Abhisit and Hun Sen had agreed to boost trade at the Poipet border crossing and to verify and exchange information before issuing public statements.

During his meeting with ASEAN leaders on Friday, US President Barack Obama said he saw the region as a vital plank of his foreign policy.

“ASEAN itself has the potential to be a very positive force in global affairs,” Obama said.

The White House said Obama used the talks to raise the issue of the coming elections in Myanmar, which have been widely derided as a sham to preserve military rule.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY AFP

Animal killer on the run


via CAAI

Sunday, 26 September 2010 21:42 Mom Kunthear

Authorities in Mondolkiri province’s Keo Seima district have yet to find the killer of a pregnant elephant shot dead earlier this month.

“Police and conservation officials have not yet found the killer more than 20 days after the shooting,” said Kim Sokheng, O’ Am village chief in the Keo Seima district.

He said the elephant was shot four times and had her trunk, two tusks and tail cut off.

Phen Pheaktra, deputy director of Keo Seima Biodiversity Conservation, said that the organisation partnered with village officials and posted a 2-million-riel reward for the discovery or capture of the killer on September 20.

“The elephant nearly gave birth, but unfortunately she was killed,” Phen Pheaktra said.

He said officials had expanded the hunt for the poacher to Vietnam after hearing the trunk, tusks, and tail were sold there, but had not found anything conclusive.

Of the 300 elephants that inhabit Cambodia, 116 are protected in Mondolkiri’s Keo Seiman conservation area, Phen Pheaktra said.

Sam Rainsy sues Hun Sen


Photo supplied
Protestors in New York on Friday rallied against human rights abuses in Cambodia and the 10 year jail sentence handed down to opposition leader Sam Rainsy by Phnom Penh Municipal Court.

via CAAI

Sunday, 26 September 2010 22:07 Meas Sokchea

SELF-EXILED opposition leader Sam Rainsy has officially filed a lawsuit against Prime Minister Hun Sen in a United States court, accusing him of involvement in a 1997 grenade attack on an opposition rally that killed 16 and wounded more than 100.

The suit, filed in New York last week by Morton Sklar, a lawyer at the World Organisation for Human Rights USA, seeks the prosecution of Hun Sen and other senior officials on charges of allegedly carrying out the attacks and obstructing the course of justice.

It recognised that Hun Sen would be difficult to prosecute, but said the purpose of the suit was “to make clear [Hun Sen’s] direct involvement in both the original grenade attack itself, and in the efforts by his subordinates to cover up the crimes”.

On March 30, 1997, four grenades were thrown at a rally held by the opposition Khmer Nation Party – the predecessor to today’s SRP – killing and injuring scores of bystanders.

In addition to Hun Sen, the lawsuit accuses Generals Huy Pised and Hing Bun Heang – commanders in Hun Sen’s personal bodyguard unit – as well as then-municipal police chief Mok Chito of obstructing a US investigation into the attacks, which injured US citizen Ron Abney.

“No one that directly interferes with a US criminal investigation should be treated with impunity because they are foreign citizens, or committed their violations of US law in foreign nations,” the lawsuit says. “If they can avoid responsibility for past acts, they are emboldened to commit further abuses, and that seems to be the pattern that is developing.”

The complaint was timed to coincide with Hun Sen’s visit to New York, where he attended a meeting of the United Nations General Assembly and the ASEAN-US Leaders’ Meeting on its sidelines. In 2005, during another visit by Hun Sen to New York, Sam Rainsy filed a similar complaint that resulted in the Cambodian leader’s being served a subpoena by US officials.

Unveiling the lawsuit by live videoconference from Paris on Friday, Sam Rainsy said that in 2005, the premier was “terrified” after being subpoenaed by US officials and had implored the SRP leader to withdraw the complaint. He said, however, that he would not agree to a similar deal now.

“This time, even if Mr Hun Sen implores me, bows his knee before me, I will not agree,” Sam Rainsy told reporters.

Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan dismissed the comments, saying that Sam Rainsy’s lawsuit would have no effect since he was trying to take the law “into his own hands”.
“Samdech [Hun Sen] has never implored Sam Rainsy, but Sam Rainsy has implored Samdech,” Phay Siphan said. “Sam Rainsy has never won any case in the world during his lifetime.”

Government spokesman and Minister of Information Khieu Kanharith said that the government’s investigation into the grenade attack was still open, and that the whereabouts of three suspects – including one of Sam Rainsy’s bodyguards – were unknown.

“The government has never closed this case. If we have something new, we would continue with further investigations,” he said.

Tit for tat
The lawsuit was made public just days after Phnom Penh Municipal Court sentenced the SRP president to 10 years in prison after being convicted of disinformation and falsifying maps showing alleged border encroachments from Vietnam.

The sentence, which comes on top of the two-year term handed down against him by Svay Rieng provincial court in January, drew a strong response from local and international rights groups, who urged the international community to stand up and take note.

In a statement issued in New York on Friday, Human Rights Watch said that the verdict had “shattered Cambodia’s pretence of democracy” and urged US President Barack Obama to address the issue during Friday’s ASEAN-US Leaders’ Meeting.

“President Obama and other world leaders need to let Hun Sen and his government know that the free ride is over,” Sophie Richardson, acting Asia director at Human Rights Watch, was quoted as saying. “Cambodia cannot sentence the leader of the opposition to 10 years in prison for peaceful expression without expecting serious consequences.”

The statement claimed that the sentence was part of a “concerted and longstanding campaign against Rainsy” and urged nations that donate to Cambodia to take major actions – such as withdrawing their ambassadors – in protest.

When asked about the HRW comments, Khieu Kanharith said the opposition party had to obey the ruling of the courts.

“The free-lunch era is over,” he said. “You can’t enjoy impunity because of your status as opposition party. [If] you commit [an] offence, you have to pay.” WITH ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY NETH PHEAKTRA

Cows sent to rehab


via CAAI

Sunday, 26 September 2010 21:46 Phak Seangly

POLICE in Phnom Penh’s Dangkor district have captured 12 cows that were roaming “anarchically” and disrupting traffic.

Dangkor district governor Kit Sopha said he had ordered police to arrest the 12 wayward cows over the weekend.

The bovines are being detained at the My Chance Centre, a drug-rehabilitation facility in the city’s Sen Sok district.

“This is not the first time we have cracked down on roaming cows,” Kit Sopha said.

The animals had been detained in connection with the Kingdom’s Land Traffic Law, which prohibited animals from “walking in a disorderly manner on a public road”.

Their owners must now write letters to City Hall in order to get their animals back, he said.

In March, police in Dangkor district detained 15 cows and bulls after a spate of incidents in which lustful bulls had vigorously pursued potential mates, disrupting traffic and endangering passersby. Local officials said at the time that seven of the animals were to be slaughtered and used to feed troops stationed at Preah Vihear temple.

Yin Kea, deputy department chief of Dangkor district, said wild livestock had proved a consistent problem.

“Authorities have repeatedly informed cow raisers not to allow their animals to roam because it can cause traffic accidents, congestion and public disorder,” Yin Kea said.

Bets each way


Photo by: Soeun Say
New Ha Tien Vegas Casino & Hotel that opened in Kampot last week.

via CAAI

Sunday, 26 September 2010 19:19 Soeun Say

KAMPOT province’s first casino has opened along the border with Vietnam, prompting a mix of celebration and concern among residents.

The nine-storey US$50 million Hatien Vegas Entertainment Resort is about a kilometre from Prek Chak international border in Russei Srok Khang Lek Commune, Kampong Trach district.

At the grand opening of the Cambodian-American joint venture, general manager Paul Simmonts said: “We were interested in the area because we believe that it will develop. We also believe that the casino industry in Cambodia is growing very strongly.”

The gambling centre will be marketed primarily to Vietnamese tourists, but Hatien Vegas plans to promote itself throughout the region in countries such as Singapore, Malaysia and Laos.

The four-star hotel and casino has 161 rooms, 80 gaming tables, five VIP gaming rooms, 150 gaming machines, 20 massage rooms, and several restaurants, bars and entertainment areas.

The company is also planning investment in a similar project in Takeo province, according to Simmonts.

Reaction within Kampot has been mixed. Although many welcomed the casino, others were concerned about its social impact.

Kang Sao Khorn, deputy governor of Kampot province, highlighted that the newly opened casino, capable of employing 1,000 workers, would provide much-needed jobs in the area.

She said: “A lot of people in this province leave home to work outside the country, so it can reduce that issue and also reduce poverty and human trafficking.”

The deputy governor said she hoped that the complex would also boost tourism. Another large casino development, owned by chairman of Sokimex Group Sok Kong, is being constructed on Bokor mountain, close to the provincial capital Kampot.

However, despite the buzz, some residents remain unconvinced. Lim Chheut, 36, of Kampot’s Kampong Trach district, said he would rather see investment in the province’s agricultural sector.

“I am very worried for those who are gaming in the casino – they may forget to do work or do something wrong for society if they lost all the money,” Lim Chheut said.

Leading government officials have also warned that the domestic sector is still under pressure following a slump in business during the economic crisis.

Ros Phearun, deputy director of the finance industry department at the Ministry of Economic and Finance, said on Thursday that some international investors have found it difficult to find local partners. Casinos in Poipet and Bavet have seen profits slump, and some have gone bankrupt.

Development company hexed


Photo supplied
Villagers from Kandal province perform a Buddhist ceremony on Friday, “cursing” a company they say has stolen their land..

via CAAI

Sunday, 26 September 2010 19:47 May Titthara and Chhay Channyda

VILLAGERS in Kandal province say they fear arrest after they staged a ceremony to curse the development company with which they are locked in a land dispute.

On the first day of the Pchum Ben holiday, about 400 villagers joined a ceremony at Tuol Tamark pagoda in Kandal Stung district to curse the Heng Development Company, which has threatened to level the pagoda and push 292 families off their land by October 28.

Community representatives said unidentified officials in black uniforms were patrolling the area.

“I am worried about my safety because police and military police have mistreated villagers here before,” said community representative Ly Siha, 30. “I am afraid they will arrest me.”

Various altercations related to the dispute have led to the wounding of three villagers, the arrest of one man and the issuing of arrest warrants for two others, according to local rights group Adhoc.

Earlier this month, military police arrested 45-year-old Vorn Vun on suspicion of destroying private property in connection with the dispute.

Kandal Stung district military police chief Chin Vanny said the villagers were mistaken about the security presence.

“My military police officers did not go on patrol in the village,” Chin Vanny said. “I don’t know why the villagers said that.”

Kandal provincial Police Chief Eav Chamreun said he was unfamiliar with the case.

Villagers say rulings from the Kandal provincial court in 2006 and 2007 have awarded the land in question to the 292 families, and that the Heng Development Company is flouting the court orders.

“We believe that during Pchum Ben, evil spirits are released from hell. We tried to use the court system to solve our problems, but the authorities do not care, so now we’re using magic spirits to help us,” said community representative Ieng Yan, 55.

“We cursed the person who is taking over the villagers’ land to melt into salt, but now we are worried about our safety because the police may arrest us,” he added.

Ouch Leng, land programme officer for Adhoc, said it was a reflection of the government’s poor handling of the case that the villagers had resorted to the cursing ceremony.

“The court dares not take action according to the law and is letting that company do whatever it wants to the villagers,” Ouch Leng said. “This company does not have the documents to do this according to the law.”

But Sieng Chanheng, director of Heng Development, said it could be the villagers who feel the wrath of the spirit world.

“They are living anarchically and illegally on my land, but they are cursing me, so that curse will return back to them,” she said.

Police Blotter: 27 Sep 2010


via CAAI

Monday, 27 September 2010 15:01 Sun Narin

Stress of bigamy too much for crazed man
An intra-household love triangle in Banteay Meanchey province’s Malai district took a turn for the obtuse on Friday when a 25-year-old man stabbed his two wives and then turned the knife on himself. All three survived, as neighbours heard the commotion and sent them to a local hospital, though one of the wives remains in serious condition. Following the attack, the perpetrator explained that the polyamourous relationship had soured because the two wives never listened to each other, and that he had sought to end the conflict by killing the women and then himself. Police said they had not yet made inquiries about the case.
RASMEY KAMPUCHEA

Spirit feared at fault in crematorium accident
One man was killed and other seriously injured on Thursday in Kampong Thom province’s Stoung district when a tree fell on them at a local crematorium. The men were cremating a body when the tree collapsed. Some local residents speculated that the spirit of the recently deceased had played a role in the incident, though others said it was just an accident.
KOH SANTEPHEAP

Father and son found murdered in Pursat
A father and son were found dead last Wednesday at their home in Pursat province’s Krakor district. The two victims, 46 and 16, were stabbed to death at around 10pm in a cottage near their rice field. Police said they believed that at least three assailants had staged the attack for revenge of some kind, though they have yet to identify any suspects.
KOH SANTEPHEAP

Homeless woman dies in Daun Penh district
A 47-year-old homeless woman was found dead on Thursday evening in Daun Penh district’s Srah Chak commune. Local residents said the woman worked washing clothes for members of the community, and would buy and drink wine at the end of each day’s work. She was initially suspected to have passed out drunk when she was discovered, but local authorities later realised that she had died. Police said they were unsure whether the woman’s death had been caused by drunkenness.
RASMEY KAMPUCHEA

Spoiled teens attack unsuspecting drinker
A 23-year-old man in Kampong Chhnang province was injured in a seemingly random attack on Thursday evening as he was drinking at a local beer garden. Police said the perpetrators were two spoiled teenagers. As the victim was drinking, the teens called to him to asked him to join them at their table. As he approached, they jumped up and one slashed him in the stomach with a knife, seriously injuring him. The perpetrators escaped and police are currently searching for them.
KOH SANTEPHEAP

Decade sees huge jump in traffic deaths


via CAAI

Monday, 27 September 2010 15:03 Brooke Lewis and Chrann Chamroeun

TRAFFIC-related deaths in the Kingdom have increased by 328 percent over the last decade, according to a new international study.

The Kingdom, along with Malaysia and Argentina, was one of only three countries where the number of traffic-related deaths had increased over the 2000s, according to a report from the International Traffic Safety Data and Analysis Group, an agency of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development.

The report notes, however, that the three countries “have only recently joined IRTAD and hope to benefit from the expertise of the group in designing road-safety measures”. The figures for Cambodia are under review.

The report, which was released September 15 and draws on police records, found that the number of traffic-related fatalities in the Kingdom has increased at an average rate of 17.5 percent annually since 2000.

Figures in the report, however, suggest that the rate of increase is slowing.

There were 1,717 traffic-related fatalities in Cambodia last year, representing a 4.8 percent increase on the 1,638 deaths recorded in 2008.

Jeroen Stol, country director for Handicap International Belgium, said yesterday that he could not confirm the figures, as he had not yet seen the report, but he noted that there had been a “continuous increase” in traffic-related fatalities in Cambodia.

He said the rise was attributable in part to the fact that road-safety measures were not being improved in proportion with the increasing number of vehicles on the road.

“There is a huge increase in economic development and that goes hand-in-hand with an increase in the number of motorbikes and cars on the roads,” he said. “But the systems to improve road safety are not being put in place yet.”

He said that improved training for drivers and stricter law enforcement were key to reducing the number of deaths.

Tin Prosoeur, deputy chief of the Traffic Department at the Interior Ministry, yesterday questioned the accuracy of the 328 percent figure. “We acknowledge that traffic fatalities are still increasing, but they have not jumped up to these high statistics,” he said.

Farmers begin early harvest


via CAAI

Monday, 27 September 2010 15:03 Khouth Sophakchakrya

MORE than 1,400 farming families in Svay Rieng province have begun harvesting their wet-season rice crops nearly two months ahead of time, while the rest of the province’s farmers are only beginning to transplant their rice seedlings.

The families are the beneficiaries of high-yield, fast-growing rice varieties granted by a development project run by the Food and Agriculture Organisation and the European Union.

Kong Voeun, 39, a farmer from Romeas Hek district’s Doung commune and recipient of rice seeds and chemical fertilisers under the FAO-EU project, said the new rice provided a much higher yield than traditional varieties.

“I have never been received 5 tonnes per hectare of rice field,” he said, whereas previous harvests normally came in at between 2 and 3 tonnes per hectare.

Workers fired for illegal strike


Photo by: Heng Chivoan
Cambodian Labour Federation President Ath Thun speaks to garment workers at a protest in Phnom Penh earlier this month.

via CAAI

Monday, 27 September 2010 15:02 Mom Kunthear

MORE than 3,300 garment workers have been fired from three factories in Kandal province after striking in defiance of court orders, union representatives said yesterday.

Unionists said the workers, who had been striking for around a week and were fired on Friday and Saturday, have threatened to organise larger protests if they are not reinstated in their jobs after an industry meeting today.

Keo Boeun, a union representative at the Goldfame Enterprise factory, said workers at his factory had agreed on Thursday to call off their strike, but had learned upon arrival at work on Friday that many of them had been fired.

“All of the workers agreed to return to work on that day, but there were more than 3,000 workers who were not allowed to work,” he said.

Around 10,000 workers began striking in Kandal province on September 17 to agitate for the reinstatement of more than 200 union representatives who had been suspended following a large-scale strike that began on September 13 and was called off in its fourth day.

Although numbers dwindled throughout last week, an industry representative estimated on Thursday that around 7,000 had ignored warnings that they would be fired if they did not return to work as ordered by the court, which had deemed the strikes illegal.

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

Keo Boeun said yesterday that the fired workers would strike if they were not reinstated after the meeting.

“The workers said that if the factory owners don’t allow them to return to work after the meeting between the unionists and the Social Affairs Ministry officials, a big strike will start again,” he said.

Un Sokrith, a union representative at the Winner Garment factory, said 237 garment workers had been fired on Saturday. Phin Sophea, a union representative at River Rich garment factory, said 108 workers had been fired. Both said workers would strike if they were not reinstated.

Chea Vuthet, a representative from Goldfame factory, declined to comment yesterday. Representatives from the other two factories could not be reached.

Soldier loses limb to mine in Anlong Veng


via CAAI

Monday, 27 September 2010 15:02 Thet Sambath

A SOLDIER was injured on Thursday after stepping on a land mine while patrolling a remote area along the Thai border in Oddar Meanchey province’s Anlong Veng district, his commander said yesterday.

The soldier, Sim Pheat of Anlong Veng, was sent to a hospital in Siem Reap province for treatment.

“His leg was blown off by a mine while he was patrolling the border,” said Kong Knar, commander of Royal Cambodian Armed Forces in Anlong Veng district. “This is the first time one of my soldiers has been injured by a mine since tension with Thai soldiers began two years ago.”

Heng Ratana, director of the Cambodian Mine Action Centre, said that in demining efforts in Oddar Meanchey, populated areas took precedence over mined areas with no residential populations to speak of.

“We still have more mines along border in places that don’t have people,” Heng Ratana said. “It is in our plan to [demine them], but right now our priority is focusing on places where people are living and farming.”

206 Cambodians were injured by mines and unexploded ordnance between January and August this year, Heng Ratana said, as the Kingdom struggles to clear the dangerous remnants of decades worth of conflict.

Anlong Veng district deputy governor Peuy Saroeun said yesterday that local authorities had told residents to exercise caution when travelling in remote areas.

“We have advised people to be careful in areas that have mines and to report them to local authorities, because mines exist in many places in this region,” Peuy Saroeun said.

‘Anarchically’ roaming cattle sent off to rehab


via CAAI

Monday, 27 September 2010 15:02 Phak Seangly

POLICE in the capital’s Dangkor district have captured 12 cows that were roaming “anarchically” and disrupting traffic, local officials said yesterday.

Dangkor district governor Kit Sopha said he had ordered police to arrest eight wayward cows on Saturday and another four on Sunday. The bovines are being detained at the My Chance Centre, a drug rehabilitation facility in the city’s Sen Sok district.

“This is not the first time we have cracked down on roaming cows,” Kit Sopha said.

He added that the animals had been detained in connection with the Kingdom’s Land Traffic Law, which prohibits animals from “walking in a disorderly manner on a public road”. Their owners must now write letters to City Hall in order to get their animals back, he said.

In March, police in Dangkor district detained 15 cows and bulls after a spate of incidents in which lustful bulls had vigorously pursued potential mates, disrupting traffic and endangering passersby. Local officials said at the time that seven of the animals were to be slaughtered and used to feed troops stationed at Preah Vihear temple.

Yin Kea, deputy department chief of Dangkor district, said wild livestock had proved a consistent problem.

“Authorities have repeatedly informed cow raisers not to allow their animals to roam because it can cause traffic accidents, congestion and public disorder,” Yin Kea said.

Gravel firms shut down


via CAAI

Monday, 27 September 2010 15:02 Tha Piseth

KAMPONG Cham provincial governor Hun Neng has ordered the closure of four gravel and sand transportation companies for damaging roads with overloaded lorries, local officials said.

The four companies closed on Friday, according to Thuch That, Kampong Cham town mayor. He said they had damaged roads and spread debris along the Mekong River. “This road was repaired last year and it is now again in crisis,” Thuch That said.

Three of the four companies have also been ordered to pay for damage to the road, he said.

Sixty-five year old Seng Poun, the owner of one of the companies, said he would not pay the full cost of repairs, as the lorries were only partially responsible for the damage.

Anti-graft unit prepares first public report


via CAAI

Monday, 27 September 2010 15:02 Vong Sokheng and Kim Yuthana

THE Kingdom’s newly formed Anticorruption Unit is scheduled to release the first report on its progress in combating corruption later this week, after holding meetings today with civil representatives to discuss graft complaints submitted by the public.

Keo Remy, newly appointed spokesman of the National Anticorruption Commission said that the ACU’s president, Om Yentieng, would meet with NGO workers today.

“I don’t know about the topics of discussion, but I think that they may potentially discuss the work that the ACU has done so far, such as a mechanisms for safeguarding individuals who to file a complaint to the ACU,” he said.

He added that following the meeting, the ACU planned to release its first public report, if the NAC is able to finalise the ACU’s most recent internal progress reports. “I think that if the report is approved by the NAC, we will be able to release it on September 28 with the participation of the media,” Keo Remy said.

The Civic Alliance for Social Accountability, a coalition of 11 nongovernmental organisations, confirmed that it planned to meet with graft officials today to submit a compilation of corruption complaints against 80 officials accused of levying illegal road taxes.

San Chey, the Cambodia-based network fellow of the Affiliated Network for Social Accountability in East Asia and Pacific, a regional umbrella group, said that at least 10 members of the coalition would attend the talks in order to seek its full cooperation in fighting against corruption in Cambodia.

“We will discuss with the head of the ACU about the possibility of being a partner of the ACU and submit corruption complaints related to road tax collection filed by Cambodian people in 14 provinces,” he said.

San Chey said that road-tax collection agents had forced people to pay as much as US$1 million in illegal road taxes every year. “We have to be a partner of the ACU in order to make sure that our work will encourage government’s tax agency to change their behaviour,” he said.

Charges laid over explosion


Photo by: Heng Chivoan
Firefighters attempt to put out a blaze that resulted from the explosion of a petrol tanker in Prampi Makara district last Wednesday.

via CAAI

Monday, 27 September 2010 15:02 Kim Yuthana

PHNOM Penh Municipal Court has charged the owner of a garage operating out of a petrol station with arson following the explosion of a fuel tanker near the station last Wednesday, court officials said.

Deputy court prosecutor Heang Sophak said yesterday that Nuth Samoeun, 49, was charged on Friday in relation to the explosion of the Sokimex fuel truck, which destroyed around five homes and sent a plume of black smoke rising over the city.

The driver of the truck, which was carrying around 8,000 litres of petrol at the time of the incident, faces similar charges, Heang Sophak said, but fled the scene following the explosion and is still on the run from the authorities.

Arson, as defined under Article 53 of the UNTAC Penal Code, applies to “any person who damages or attempts to damage the property of another through use of fire or explosives” and carries a punishment of between one and three years in prison.

Witnesses said that last week’s explosion, which occurred when petrol dripping from the Sokimex tanker was ignited by its exhaust, destroyed five homes and at least five vehicles parked in the area.

No major injuries were reported at the scene of the blaze, which took more than 20 fire trucks and 60 tanks of water to extinguish.

Heang Sophak said that around 10 people had also lodged had complaints to local authorities and the Phnom Penh Municipal court seeking civil compensation from Nuth Samoeun. He would not reveal the specific number of complainants or give an estimate of the total cost in damages incurred by the fire.

Miner runs $430,000 deficit in Cambodia


via CAAI

Monday, 27 September 2010 15:01 Jeremy Mullins

AUSTRALIAN miner Southern Gold lost more than US$430,000 operating in the Kingdom over the last year, according to its annual report, but remains in a “strong position” for future development.

Although still largely conducting exploration activities, it reported losses of A$449,467 (US$430,634) in its Cambodian business for the twelve months ending June 30, according to data released Friday.

The firm singled out several findings in northeast Cambodia for note, including a previously announced sample of 11.36 grams of gold per tonne of rock at a depth of 1 metre at it is Anchor project near Snoul, in Kratie province.

“In a country with no history of large scale commercial gold and base metal mining, Southern Gold is in a strong position holding both tenements and having expertise to further explore the region,” it said on its website.

Southern Gold wrote off exploration expenditures of A$1.48 million (US$1.42 million) for its Australia and Cambodia tenements during the year, and posted an A$1.23 million loss over the period.

But it claimed promising results for an Australian property, adding that its first Bulong South gold resource statement was “believed to be the first
in a story that will grow substantially”.

Gold prices have been testing all-time highs in recent weeks, briefly climbing above US$1,300 a troy ounce in New York on Friday.

Boost for 10 rice types


Farmers in Svay Rieng province harvest a strain of rice that grows in 100 days as part of a programme sponsored by the Food and Agriculture Organisation and the European Union. Photo by: Khouth Sophak Chakrya

via CAAI

Monday, 27 September 2010 15:01 Chun Sophal

THE Cambodian Agriculture Research and Development Institute has announced plans to promote increased production of 10 different strains of rice, which studies indicate may boost yields by up to 59 percent.

The different varieties of rice were selected because they produce fine, long grains suitable for export, according to Institute director Uk Makara.

Chosen in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, he said yesterday the Cambodian Agriculture Research and Development Institute would advertise the strains directly to farmers.

“Paddy production will increase in the future if local farmers and the private sector grow these species,” he said.

CARDI is a semi-autonomous institute founded by the government in 1999, and aims to improve agricultural science and technology to better farmers’ livelihood and the commercial agriculture sector. Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Undersecretary of State Kit Seng said yesterday: “Our country will not be able to increase paddy production if we do not encourage farmers to switch to high-quality species.”

A survey conducted by CARDI showed farmers who used recommended seeds saw yields increase 59 percent regardless of growing methods. The survey was conducted among 8,000 families in 14 provinces.

Debate widens on Siem Reap airport.


via CAAI

Sunday, 26 September 2010 21:40 Ellie Dyer and Nguon Sovan

AIRPORT management company Société Concessionaire Des Aéroports believes Siem Reap’s existing aerodrome can cope with future traffic demand, despite recently approved plans to build an alternative US$1-billion facility.

The Council for the Development of Cambodia last week announced it had approved investment from South Korean firms Camco Airport Co and Lees A&A Co to build a new airport at the tourist hub.

Provincial and central government officials said that a new facility, set 60 kilometres from the provincial capital, was needed to land large, long-haul planes and to protect historic Angkor Wat.

However, Société Concessionaire Des Aéroports (SCA) – which has a concession to run Siem Reap, Phnom Penh and Sihanoukville airports until 2040 – has questioned such claims.

SCA chief executive officer Nicolas Deviller has told the Post that the existing airport – set to handle 1.5 million passengers during 2010 – has an “ultimate capacity” of 6 million to 7 million passengers a year.

“Expert studies show that this level of traffic will be reached at earliest between 2025 and 2030,” he said in an email. “Siem Reap can handle flights with a range of 10,000 kilometres. All destinations within Asia, Australia or the Middle East, and some European destinations, can be served directly.”

The statement contradicted remarks made by State Secretariat of Civil Aviation that any expansion of the airport would negatively affect Angkor Wat, highlighting the importance SCA places on preserving the historic temples.

“To make it simple: no temples, no tourists, no air traffic,” Deviller said.

“Special air-traffic procedures set to protect the temples [including a ban on airplanes flying over the complex] have an impact on airport capacity, but they still allow the development of Siem Reap airport for at least 20 years up to its ultimate capacity.”

He said the firm was working with UNESCO and the Apsara Authority on scientific studies to ensure that future growth did not damage historic sites.

The government official in charge of airport engineering, SSCA Undersecretary Eng Sour Sdey, stood firm on the new airport. A 3-kilometre runway and weight restrictions limited the size of aircraft landing at Siem Reap, he said.

Eng Sour Sdey claimed the SSCA was in the dark about project details as it was being handled by the Council of Ministers. Final approval will eventually be decided by Prime Minister Hun Sen.

MFIs should remember to aid the poor along the way



via CAAI

Monday, 27 September 2010 15:00 Steve Finch

CONFIRMATION that Cambodia’s largest micro-lending organisation Prasac will start to accept deposits represents the latest sign the Kingdom’s microfinance sector is booming.

But MFIs need to be weary of straying too far from their original mandate – notably, to financially assist the country’s rural poor.

Cambodia’s MFI sector has become one of the most buoyant in the region, as shown by the decision of major microfinance investor BlueOrchard Finance to set up its first Asia office in Phnom Penh last month. However, in many ways, Cambodia’s MFI market appears to be losing sight of the model in its purest form, as represented by Bangladesh’s Grameen Bank.

Using a model that turns traditional finance on its head, the Grameen mantra dictates that borrowers club together so that localised peer pressure is the driving force behind timely repayment. The success of this approach is unquestionable – Grameen records non-performing loan rates rarely achieved among conventional lenders.

“There is no legal instrument between the lender and the borrower in the Grameen methodology,” according to the organisation.

Its group lending structure is the key. However, in Cambodia microlenders have increasingly, and openly, moved away from Grameen-style lending towards a traditional retail banking model.

In what it may well see as an inevitable step for growth, Prasac has stated its intention to become a commercial bank in five years. This is perhaps unsurprising following the success of ACLEDA Bank – given its expansion into Laos and the lender’s rising attraction following investments by Jardines Matheson and Leopard Capital. ACLEDA was once a humble MFI before the market expanded to 22 licensed institutions, five of which now accept deposits.

As noted by BlueOrchard’s Cambodia Director Julie Cheng: “The market has become very competitive in the past couple years, with very fast growth by a number of MFIs.”

But most of these rewards are not being passed on to Cambodia’s poorest. Although micro-loan interest rates did come down slightly last year, deposit-taking MFIs have yet to show significant benefits being passed down to borrowers.

To help reduce the cost of borrowing, Cambodia needs to establish a fully functioning credit agency. Furthermore, deposit-taking MFIs need to move towards savings rates that do not rank among the highest in the world, in some cases more than 10 percent – as when savings rates are more sensible, microlenders lower lending rates.

Perhaps most importantly, the sector needs to safeguard a focus on the methodology. By maintaining non-collateralised lending, Cambodia can ensure that MFI money reaches the most vulnerable populations.

The result is not only one of ethical advantage. Borrowers that suffer only humiliation from peers for loan default have little to lose financially and therefore everything to gain by borrowing and repaying on time. That can reap huge economic benefits on a countrywide scale.

Art benefits mine-clearing hero


Landmine clearer and CNN Hero finalist Aki Ra spoke at the opening of a sculpture exhibition in Siem Reap. Photo by: Ros Sambol

via CAAi

Monday, 27 September 2010 15:01 Nicky Hosford

CNN Top 10 Hero Aki Ra spoke about his experiences both as a child soldier and clearing landmines during the opening of an exhibition by international sculptor Blake in Siem Reap.

“I want to clear all the landmines in Cambodia, to help make peace and to help the children survive and give new life,” Aki Ra told guests at the opening of the show called Fragments at Hotel de la Paix.

His Cambodian Self Help Demining Team will receive all funds raised by the exhibition’s sales and donations. The show runs until November 3 in Siem Reap before opening in Phnom Penh at Meta House on November 5.

The opening evening was a double win for Aki Ra, who later learned he had been selected as a finalist in CNN’s Top 10 Heroes from among thousands of people worldwide.

Twisted torsos feature prominently in artist Blake’s sculptures, now on show at the Hotel de la Paix in Siem Reap until November 3. The show, titled Fragments, moves to Phnom Penh on November 5 at Meta House. Photo by: Ros Sambol

Aged 10, Aki Ra became a child soldier for the Khmer Rouge regime, which taught him to lay landmines. Later he worked for UNTAC helping to map and clear mines, and founded his own NGO to clear farmland and give new life to those working in Cambodia’s rural areas.

Artist Blake, who is known only by a single name, has crafted sculptures of beautiful but blasted human bodies. It’s fitting that the exhibition opened in Siem Reap, which is where Blake first learned that the many limbless people he saw in Cambodia and Vietnam were continuing casualties of wars long finished, and the landmines that were laid to fight them.

In the hotel’s Arts Lounge last Thursday, dry ice hung in the air over the shattered sculptures. Attendees were fascinated by the works, which sell for between $19,000 and $30,000.

The sculptures themselves take an extraordinarily long time to create, as Blake relies on ancient techniques used by the Greeks and Romans for casting bronzes.

Casting call
Each piece usually takes about a year to finish. Models spend between 60 to 100 hours posing, while Blake slowly carves their silhouettes out in clay, which then goes through several processes of casting in plaster, wax, rubber and porcelain before it is ready for the final bronze pouring. It’s a devotional act that drives home the importance of his message.

Blake was teaching at the Fine Arts University in Hanoi in 2003 when he took a few weeks out to tour around the region. He recalls being shocked at the number of amputees he encountered, but that shock turned to horror when he found out the real cause of their awful injuries.

“I was so upset by it all. I remember watching the Vietnam War on TV when I was a kid. It should have been over, but here it was, still taking casualties,” he said.

The artist took that horror home with him, where he set about trying to develop something that would help to bring this tragedy to an end.

By 2007, the result was a series of 19 sculptures of the human form that are beautiful in form and execution, except that each shows the ravaging consequences of an encounter between a soft, vulnerable human body and the indiscriminate destruction of these dreadful weapons. Each sculpture is named after a different kind of landmine.

This is art that aims to raise awareness and to raise funds to help educate vulnerable communities and clear fields of mines. The evening started with a short film showing projects supported by the money raised so far, almost US$250,000 now. Then Blake spoke about the need to keep raising awareness of this issue.

“The issue had been forgotten after [Princess] Diana died. Since then, everyone thought it was resolved and people switched focus. Ecology and a green future became the priority. But there is no land more contaminated than a minefield,” Blake said. At current rates of clearance, it would take 1,000 years to clear all the landmines in the world, he added.