Monday, 11 October 2010

Foreign Ministry to be asked to lodge complaint against Cambodia

via CAAI

The Justice Ministry will seek help from the Foreign Ministry to lodge complaint against Cambodia for allegedly allowing arms training for red-shirt warriors to be held on its ground, a senior official said Monday.

Pol Lt Col Payao Thongsen, an investigator in charge of terrorism case for the Department of Special Investigation, said the Foreign Ministry would be asked to protest against Cambodia's alleged interference in Thailand's national security by training the dissidents to oppose against the Thai government.

Payao alleged that 39 red-shirt people had received arms training in Siem Reap for three weeks.

The Nation

Red carpet for Royal return


Photo by: Heng Chivoan

via CAAI

Monday, 11 October 2010 15:00 Heng Chivoan

King Norodom Sihamoni arrives at Phnom Penh International Airport from China yesterday afternoon. The King, who landed at 3:40pm, had completed a 13-day tour that featured a stop at the Shanghai World Expo and a visit with his parents in Beijing. Top government officials – including Prime Minister Hun Sen, Senate President Chea Sim and National Assembly President Heng Samrin – were on hand yesterday to greet him.

They’re going the full cycle


Photo by: Sreng Meng Srun

via CAAI

Monday, 11 October 2010 15:00 Sreng Meng Srun

When you’re in the recycling business, the loads can sometimes become quite taxing, as the rear wheel of this motorcycle-drawn trailer attests. A family and their pooch head for an environmentally friendly payment facility in Phnom Penh yesterday after a hard day’s collecting.

Photo courtesy of: NASA

via CAAI

Sunday, 10 October 2010 14:07 James O’Toole and Mom Kunthear

An official at the Cambodian embassy in the United Kingdom reportedly told a British labour activist to “go to the moon” after he inquired about unrest in the garment industry.
The Telegraph reported that Ben Rickman, secretary at Brent Trade Union Councils, wrote an email to the embassy expressing concern about the suspensions of union representatives in connection with strikes by garment workers.

“It is none of your business!” said an email reply from the embassy's official address signed "Webmaster".

“Please report to your clown boss to stop this childish game and stop this circus at once? Thank you.”

Rickman replied, demanding a “sensible answer”, only to be rebuffed in similar fashion.

“Please go to the moon and stay there until you get an answer. Cambodia is not part of the British Empire.”

The Cambodian ambassador to the UK, Hor Nambora, has courted controversy in the past with his fiery media statements, taking aim at watchdog group Global Witness as well as media outlets including the BBC and The Economist.

Strike cases ongoing

The Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers Democratic Union, a local labour group, said last week that 131 union representatives remained suspended pending court decisions on the legality of last month’s strikes.

601 workers who protested these suspensions, CCAWDU said, have been dismissed from their jobs because they ignored court orders requiring them to return to work within 48 hours.

Ken Loo, secretary general of the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia, disputed the figure, saying that just 358 workers had been fired.

Um Visal, a labour dispute resolution officer at CCAWDU, said that he planned to write a letter to the ministries of labour and social affairs asking them to intervene to allow the workers to return to their jobs.

In a speech last month, Prime Minister Hun Sen called for factories to withdraw lawsuits related to the strikes.

Tightening the belt


Photo by: Heng Chivoan
Models show off denim and undershirts at a fashion event at the recently opened Lucky Department Store yesterday.

via CAAI

Sunday, 10 October 2010 14:12 Jeremy Mullins

American jeans company Levi’s has launched its first Cambodian outlet, but company officials have said its primary competition will initially come from the domestic black market.
Located in Phnom Penh’s Lucky Department store, the outlet is run by licensee DKSH (Thailand) Ltd.

DKSH general manager Kevin Cornning said:“It’s really a venture into the unknown.”

He emphasised DKSH began with similar circumstances in Thailand with one or two stores some 20 years ago, and had since increased its outlets to 145.

DKSH was licensed to produce and sell Levi’s products in Thailand, and its Phnom Penh branch represented its first foray outside the country, he said.

While DKSH does not plan to manufacture any Levi’s products in the Kingdom, the US-based company Levi Strauss & Co does produce clothing in Cambodia.

These Cambodian-produced wares are now exported to foreign markets.

Cornning acknowledged that the Levi’s brand’s local production may lead to genuine products “falling off the back of a truck” and ending up for sale on local markets, which could then compete with sales from the genuine store.

However, he said domestic demand for legitimate brand-name clothing was maturing, pointing to fashion names such as Mango opening outlets in Phnom Penh.

“If we were the only brand name [launching right now], we’d be a little concerned,” he said.

He said counterfeit Levi’s products were also available in local markets, but that experience from Thailand showed customers were interested in spending extra money for genuine goods.

“There’s always a consumer who wants a real, authentic product,” he said.

Levi’s Cambodia Manager Chariya Preap said the firm’s focus would be on an upper-middle class demographic, as its pricing was higher than most other retailers presently operating in Phnom Penh.

“Everyone knows of Levi’s,” she said. “The emphasis [of the new store] is on authenticity, that Levi’s is selling authentic products.”

The firm is keeping its eye on sales at its first store, and testing products to see which product lines resonate with Cambodia’s consumers. DKSH is considering expanding with up to three more Cambodian stores during 2011, she said.

Meanwhile, Levi Strauss & Company has announced plans to add another 50 stores in China, Singapore, and South Korea under its dENiZEN brand.

The dENiZEN clothing line targets 18-to 28-year-olds, and includes jeans, tops and accessories, the company said in a statement from August.

“There’s this consumer in rapidly emerging markets in developing countries around the world, China being the most notable,” said Aaron Boey, a president in charge of the Asian operations.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY BLOOMBERG

Delegation of journalists to visit Bangkok


via CAAI

Sunday, 10 October 2010 14:11 Cheang Sokha

Minister of Information Khieu Kanharith will lead a delegation of journalists to Bangkok next week to meet with representatives of the Thai government and media.

Nouv Sovathero, a secretary of state at the Ministry of Information, said the group will visit Thailand next week for four days to meet with Thai journalists and government officials to discuss information related to the border dispute between the two nations.

“The purpose of the visit is to build understanding between the journalists,” Nouv Sovathero said.

“We will share information before publishing news, to avoid confusion.”

Last month, Ongart Klampaiboon, office minister for Thai premier Abhisit Vejjajiva, met with Khieu Kanharith in Phnom Penh for a similar meeting.

The trip comes after a Bangkok Post article on Thursday quoted a Thai government intelligence report as saying that 11 recently arrested Thai nationals had received weapons training in Cambodia.

The group fled Thailand after the dispersal of antigovernment protests in Bangkok in May, the newspaper said. They allegedly received training in a jungle area roughly 200 kilometres from Siem Reap town with 28 others.

“The report said the training, which lasted about six weeks, was a rudimentary course and only some of the participants had a chance to try shooting assault rifles and grenade launchers,” the Bangkok Post said.

The group was arrested October 2, but members were not charged with any crime and were later placed in Thailand’s witness protection programme, the article said.

Tith Sothea, spokesman for the Council of Ministers’ Press and Quick Reaction Unit, denied that any Red Shirt training activities had taken place in the Kingdom.

“It is completely exaggerated information, and the information is baseless,” Tith Sothea said.

“Cambodia has never provided a base to any foreign national to do anything against their own country.”

He said the media and groups of “Thai extremists” had a habit of spreading false reports because sensitive information between the two countries was not shared properly.

Abhisit and Prime Minister Hun Sen discussed their countries’ ongoing dispute and the redeployment of troops around Preah Vihear temple during last week’s Asia-Europe Meeting in Belgium, foreign minister Hor Namhong said.

Speaking to reporters at Phnom Penh International Airport after returning from the meeting, Hor Namhong said Cambodian officials also urged the Thai parliament to approve the minutes of the three Joint Border Committee meetings held in 2008 and 2009.

JBC discussions have been stalled pending a repeatedly-delayed vote in the Thai parliament to approve of the latest rounds of negotiations.

Three women murdered


via CAAI

Sunday, 10 October 2010 14:09 Chran Chamroeun and Mom Kunthea

Kandal provincial police have said they have no clues as to the motive behind a triple murder in Takhmao town during the final day of the Pchum Ben festival, bringing to four the number of multiple homicides nationwide in as many months.
Chan Savoeun, deputy provincial police chief, said an inquiry was launched after three women were found shot dead on Saturday morning in a café adjoining a home.

“We haven’t yet concluded any reasons for the killing, which was apparently not a jewellery robbery as we have not lost any jewellery,” he said.

He said police had discovered the bodies – which appeared to have each been shot several times before being dragged into a bedroom and laid on a bed together – after a neighbour reported hearing gunfire about 3.30am on Saturday.

“It was a very brutal and ‘modern’ killing,” he said.

The victims were 47-year-old Sok Ky; her daughter, 24-year-old Seng Muoy Kea; and a 17-year-old waitress who Chan Savoeun declined to name.

Chan Savoeun said the Bopha Kampoul Phnom Restaurant and Coffee Shop, where the murders took place, was owned by Sok Ky’s younger sister, and that police were now investigating any “internal issues” that might have led to the killings.

Police suspect more than one gunman was involved.

Contrary to Chan Savoeun’s assessment, Takhmao district police apparently believe robbery was the cause of the killings.

Chhuon Makara, provincial coordinator for the rights group Adhoc, said that district police had told him the case did involve a robbery.

“We will not launch any investigations about these killings after being told by Takhmao deputy district police chief Min Bunchean, who is in charge of penal crimes and is leading this investigation, that it was related to robbery,” he said.

Min Bunchean declined to comment, saying he was “too busy to speak with a reporter”.

In August, 35-year-old Kouch Samnang allegedly murdered five family members and injured three others before taking his own life in Svay Rieng province.

According to police, the violence began when Kouch Samnang was prevented from raping Srey Mab,
his 16-year-old sister-in-law whom he had allegedly sexually assaulted twice before.

In July, 50-year-old Sles Yeb, a soldier with Royal Cambodian Armed Forces Battalion 203, allegedly opened fire on residents of Kroch Chhmar district in Kampong Cham province, killing three people and injuring four.

Later the same month, Phnom Penh police brought preliminary premeditated murder charges against a police officer accused of killing two people and injuring three others with an AK-47 in Sen Sok district.

Festival sees road deaths rise


Photo by: Pha Lina
A truck packed with passengers, bottled water, two motorbikes and other goods leaves from Central Market ahead of the holiday weekend.

via CAAI

Sunday, 10 October 2010 14:08 Mom Kunthear

Preliminary figures indicate that there were more road deaths during the final three days of this year’s Pchum Ben festival than there were last year, despite the fact that fewer collisions were recorded.
Him Yan, director of the Department of Public Order at the Ministry of Interior, said there were 99 collisions this year, down from 125 in the same period last year.

“There were 25 people who died, 123 who were seriously injured and 116 who were lightly injured,” he said.

In contrast, he said, the ministry recorded 18 deaths during the final three days of last year’s Pchum Ben festival.

Some 125 collisions were recorded during that period, along with 148 serious injuries and 131 light injuries, he said.

“We have noted that the main cause of road accidents and traffic jams is speeding,” Him Yan said.

Among the accidents, more than 50 percent were believed to have been caused by speeding, 21 percent by drunken driving and 10 percent by reckless driving.

Sann Socheata, road safety programme manager for Handicap International Belgium, said yesterday that it would take several months to put together complete statistics for the three-day stretch.

Last year, HIB, which collects reports both from police and from hospitals, recorded 50 road deaths during the final three days of Pchum Ben, she said.

Nevertheless, she said HIB was confident that an increasing number of Cambodians were complying with the Law on Land Traffic.

This view was echoed by Hun Hean, the police chief in Banteay Meanchey province, who said yesterday that there was only one traffic accident recorded there during the end of the festival.

“I see that the people understand more about the traffic law, and especially when they are driving they respect each other,” Hun Hean said. “That’s why we do not have traffic jams.”

Kheng Sum, deputy police chief in Siem Reap province, said there had been “a few” collisions recorded there during Pchum Ben, but that none had resulted in fatalities.

“I don’t know the exact number of injuries, but there was not any serious traffic accidents in my province,” he said.

Other provincial police officials said yesterday that they could not provide precise statistics on traffic collisions.

Govt hands out old Rainsy ‘apology’


via CAAI

Monday, 11 October 2010 15:02 Meas Sokchea and Thomas Miller

THE government has distributed what it calls an “apology” letter that Sam Rainsy wrote to Prime Minister Hun Sen in 2006, though the self-exiled opposition leader has disputed that characterisation.

Tith Sothea, a spokesman for the Council of Ministers’ Press and Quick Reaction Unit, said the government distributed the letter to local media last week so that “national and international public opinion know that Sam Rainsy has apologised”.

In his 2006 letter, Sam Rainsy wrote, “I am regretful for having conducted improper acts towards Samdech [Hun Sen] such as accusing Samdech of being the mastermind behind the grenade attack on the protesters on 30 March 1997 in front of the National Assembly”.

The attack, which targeted an opposition rally, left 16 dead and more than 100 wounded.

Sam Rainsy said in an email yesterday that his 2006 letter was not an apology.

“I might ‘regret’ the way I had ‘improperly’ acted as a tribunal in straightforwardly accusing Hun Sen and Norodom Ranariddh of various crimes because I actually was not a tribunal, whose role is to investigate first before coming to any conclusion and handing down any sentence,” Sam Rainsy wrote.

“However, I have preserved my right to believe, and I do and still believe, in the responsibility of Hun Sen and Norodom Ranariddh in the related crimes.”

Tith Sothea said, however, that the letter had “equal value to an apology”.

The letter was part of a political settlement that allowed Sam Rainsy to return to the Kingdom in February 2006. Sam Rainsy had fled the country the previous year after losing his parliamentary immunity in connection with a defamation complaint filed by Prince Norodom Ranariddh.

The SRP leader, a veteran of legal battles with the ruling Cambodian People’s Party, had accused Norodom Ranariddh and Hun Sen of corruption in the formation of their coalition government.

On Wednesday, the Appeal Court is set to hand down a ruling in relation to Sam Rainsy’s January conviction at the Svay Rieng provincial court for racial incitement and destruction of public property as part of a protest he staged near the Vietnamese border.

The opposition leader, currently living abroad, received a 10-year jail term at Phnom Penh Municipal Court last month for disinformation and falsification of public documents after he published maps and held a series of press conferences earlier this year to discuss alleged Vietnamese encroachment on Cambodian territory.

Three summoned in disinformation case


Photo by: Will Baxter
You Ren, 26, along with other villagers from Kampong Speu province’s Omlaing commune, protest against the arrest of village representatives You Tho (You Ren’s father) and Khem Vuthy outside the Kampong Speu provincial court in March. The two were arrested for their alleged involvement in the torching of a makeshift office belonging to the Phnom Penh Sugar Company, which is owned by CCP Senator Ly Yong Phat.

via CAAI

Monday, 11 October 2010 15:01 Khouth Sophakchakrya

A RIGHTS worker and two village representatives have been summoned to appear in Kampong Chhnang provincial court on October 21 to answer to an array of accusations laid against them by a company owned by the wife of a government minister.

Sam Chankea, a provincial coordinator for the rights group Adhoc, has been accused of disinformation by KDC International, a company headed by Chea Kheng, the wife of Minister of Industry, Mines and Energy Suy Sem. The complaint stems from a December 26, 2009 interview with Radio Free Asia, in which Sam Chankea suggested that the clearance of disputed land in Kampong Tralach district by KDC International might have been illegal.

Meanwhile, Pheng Rom and Reach Seima – two representatives of Lorpeang village, where the land is located – have been accused of defamation and of obstructing the company’s development attempts by staging repeated protests, Pheng Rom said.

All three men were initially summoned to appear for questioning in late September, and then again on October 6. However, the court agreed to postponements on both occasions because of scheduling conflicts with their lawyer.

The company, which claims to have purchased land in the village in 1996, said in 2007 that it had struck a deal with 105 families to gain ownership rights to 145 hectares. However, rights groups say that 64 families never agreed to the deal. Since 2002, the company has filed complaints against villagers five times, including a case last year in which the village chief was convicted of forging residents’ thumbprints on a complaint stating that the villagers had never sold their land.

Penh Vibol, a Kampong Chhnang provincial court prosecutor, said he would “take legal action if [the accused] do not appear to make clarifications on the set court date”.

Sam Sokong, a defence lawyer provided to the three accused men by the legal aid NGO the Cambodian Defenders Project, said he would accompany his clients to court on October 21.

Meanwhile, in Kampong Speu province, a couple has been summoned to appear in court today in a case related to a dispute with a sugar company owned by Cambodian People’s Party Senator Ly Yong Phat. Duong Sophat, a community representative from Omlaing commune in Thpong district, said the provincial court had summoned Puth Yoeun and his wife Ouk to answer to allegations that they are living on the company’s land.

According to statistics compiled by Adhoc, during the first nine months of 2010 a total of 272 people had been the subject of complaints filed by companies involved in land disputes, while 128 arrests had been made and 55 people were in detention.

Ratanakkiri renews logging crackdown


via CAAI

Monday, 11 October 2010 15:01 Buth Reaksmey Kongkea and Thet Sambath

RATANAKKIRI provincial governor Pav Ham Phan said yesterday that he had instructed civilian and military police to renew efforts to crack down on illegal logging following a series of smuggling reports received during the Pchum Ben festival.

Meanwhile, officials warned that those engaged in illegal logging were in the process of changing or had already changed their methods in response to a sustained crackdown spurred by comments made by Prime Minister Hun Sen earlier this year.

Ray Rai, the provincial police chief, said yesterday that three men were arrested on Friday after they were caught trying to smuggle more than 100 metres of illegal luxury wood across the border to Vietnam.

He said they had been transporting the wood in a truck when they were arrested, but that they had been released after questioning.

“We arrested three people and confiscated a large truck with more than 100 cubic metres of luxury wood in Ratanakkiri during the Pchum Ben festival,” Ray Rai said.

“They have now been released after confessing to being poor farmers who were paid US$100 each to transport the wood.”

Ray Rai said that although the three arrested men turned out not to be the owners of the wood, police had identified those suspected of paying the farmers to transport it.

“We know the suspects and their whereabouts, and we are now working to arrest them in connection with illegal logging and wood smuggling activities in Cambodia,” he said.

Pav Ham Phan said yesterday that this and other instances of illegal logging and smuggling had prompted him to call for more police attention to the practices, particularly in O’Yadav district.

“Illegal logging and trafficking of woods occurs because some officials and armed forces are involved,” he said.

Both Pav Ham Phan and Ray Rai said they had noticed a shift in tactics on the part of illegal loggers and smugglers, and that they believed this was due in part to a spate of raids that occurred earlier this year as part of a high-profile crackdown ordered by Hun Sen in a January speech. For one, Ray Rai said, suspects are more likely now to use vehicles other than the trucks and cars they preferred in the past.

“They are changing their business activities from transporting the wood with trucks or cars to transporting them with local carts or motorbikes,” he said. Pav Ham Phan said he had noticed an uptick in reports of wood smuggled by boat into Vietnam.

Beyond transportation, Ray Rai said one of the most significant changes was that illegal logging rings were increasingly selling wood to local woodwork shops, where they are crafted into furniture and other products before being exported to Vietnam or to other Cambodian provinces.

Pen Bonnar, provincial coordinator for the rights group Adhoc, claimed that he knew of more than 30 woodwork shops in Ratanakkiri that had knowingly accepted illegally logged wood and turned it into furniture before exporting it.

Also yesterday, officials in Siem Reap province said a Forestry Administration official had been killed in Angkor Thom district. Sin An was found dead on October 6, his head having apparently been chopped with axes. Keo Sambath, the provincial deputy police chief, said officials suspected that the killing had been carried out “for revenge for his work cracking down on illegal logging”, but that they were still investigating.

Diplomatic move: Cambodia, Sierra Leone establish ties


via CAAI

Monday, 11 October 2010 15:01 Uong Ratana

Diplomatic move

CAMBODIA established full diplomatic ties with Sierra Leone last week in an agreement signed at the United Nations.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Koy Kuong noted yesterday that the countries shared turbulent histories, but had moved beyond these challenges and were looking forward to their partnership.

“This new establishment of Cambodia and Sierra Leone’s diplomatic ties will help promote bilateral cooperation, trade, investment, tourism and other developments between the two countries in the future,” Koy Kuong said.

Through most of the 1990s, Sierra Leone was gripped by a civil war that ultimately stretched 11 years and only concluded in 2002. As in Cambodia, a United Nations-backed tribunal was established to try individuals accused of war crimes as part of the conflict, which killed tens of thousands and displaced more than 2 million people.

Former Liberian president Charles Taylor is currently on trial in the Netherlands in relation to the conflict.

Koy Kuong said there were no plans for Cambodia and Sierra Leone to open embassies in their respective countries.

BUTH REAKSMEY KONGKEA

Verdict for acid attack upheld


Photo by: Rick Valenzuela
The profile on the Interpol website of Chea Ratha, the former deputy chief of staff of the National Military Police, who is wanted in connection with a 2008 acid attack.

via CAAI

Monday, 11 October 2010 15:01 Chrann Chamroeun

THE Supreme Court has upheld convictions against Chea Ratha, the former deputy chief of staff of the National Military Police, and five accomplices who were found guilty last year on charges related to a 2008 acid attack.

In November, the Appeal Court handed the six offenders prison sentences of between 15 and 18 years each. They were also ordered to jointly pay US$100,000 to the victim, Ya Soknim, who was left permanently disfigured by the attack.

Hong Sopheak, a lawyer for Ya Soknim, said yesterday that last week’s Supreme Court ruling, which upheld that of the Appeal Court, was “acceptable and just” for his client.

He noted, however, that the six culprits, who were sentenced in absentia, had not yet been brought to justice.

“Police officials are still carrying out the court’s order to apprehend the six accused, who now remain at large,” he said.

The courts ruled that Chea Ratha – previously acquitted of two similar incidents – ordered the attack after Ya Soknim’s niece, prominent beauty queen In Soklyda, fled a forced lesbian relationship.

In May 2008, shortly after In Soklyda went into hiding, Ya Soknim was attacked near Russian Market by two people, one of whom poured a litre of acid onto her face and chest.

She suffered extensive burns as a result, losing one ear, one breast and most of her vision.

Shortly after the attack, Interpol joined the hunt for Chea Ratha, who was never arrested, and is believed to have remained abroad since fleeing Cambodia.

Prison chief says facility needs work to be secure


via CAAI

Monday, 11 October 2010 15:01 Kim Yuthana

KRATIE provincial prison officials said yesterday that the facility needed to undergo renovations to make it more secure after five inmates escaped last week with the aid of a saw, scarves and blankets.

“We have two wooden buildings with zinc roofs which were built in 1982, and they are very old now,” said Sam Sarorn, the prison chief. “Moreover, on the day of the incident, we could not hear the prisoners sawing through the wall because it was raining very heavily.”

The prison, which was inspected by officials from the Department of Prisons at the Ministry of Interior immediately after the escape, is too old, thin-walled and overcrowded, he said.

“I hope that the Department of Prisons will initiate a plan to renovate the prison buildings because they are already rotten and decaying,” Sam Sarorn said.

Heng Hak, director general of the Department of Prisons at the Ministry of Interior, declined to comment yesterday on whether the prison would be renovated.

Two of the escapees – Ith Samean, 35, and Thoun Nal, 22 – were recaptured shortly after last week’s escape when they attempted to return to their home villages. However, 29-year-old Keo Phea, as well as convicted murderers Yen Nara, 26, and Saom Soknang, 27, still remained at large as of yesterday, Sam Sarorn said.

“We have already sent identifications of those prisoners to police forces throughout the country so that they can help hunt for the prisoners,” he said.

Chan Sokhim, chief of Kratie’s Serious Crimes Bureau, said, “So far, we do not have any clues.”

Police Blotter: 11 Oct 2010


via CAAI

Monday, 11 October 2010 15:01 Mom Kunthear and Sun Narin

Argument over juice drives teen to poison
An 18-year-old woman recently tried to kill herself in Kratie province’s Prek Prasab district after her mother became enraged with her for trying to drink orange juice. The victim’s mother, who had angrily warned the 18-year-old against drinking the juice for fear that it would exacerbate her stomach ache, said that after a short argument the young woman drank poison instead. Doctors were able to keep her alive despite the fact that she had guzzled the poison.
KOH SANTEPHEAP

Boy accused of raping 6-year-old during swim
Pursat provincial police have arrested a 16-year-old boy accused of raping a naked 6-year-old girl while she was swimming. The accused reportedly told police that he saw the girl swimming naked with her brother, and that he decided to remove his clothing before jumping in to swim alongside her and pull her close to him. However, he denied raping the girl. Police sent the boy to court for questioning.
KOH SANTEPHEAP

Booze and banter leads to a cleaver in the head
A man was arrested after he allegedly chopped his friend in the head with a meat cleaver following a boozy argument in Battambang province’s Ek Phnom district last Monday. Police said the accused and the victim were drinking with five others, and that the group had consumed 3 litres of wine. An argument broke out between the pair, prompting the accused to pull out the cleaver and hack at his friend’s head, seriously injuring him. Police sent the suspect to court.
KOH SANTEPHEAP

Father stabs son-in-law to cut off argument
A 36-year-old man remains in serious condition after his father-in-law stabbed him last week. The wife of the victim, who lives in Kampong Chnnang province’s Rolea Bier district, said he had been in a drunken stupor and was shouting at her when her father intervened, taking a knife and stabbing him so savagely that his intestines were exposed. During previous drunken outbursts from her husband, the wife noted, her father had managed to exercise patience. Doctors said they were confident that the victim would live, but noted that his intestines had been cut in multiple places.
KOH SANTEPHEAP

Woman dies in crash with car in Battambang
A 70-year-old woman died after a car crashed into her motorbike in Battambang province’s Mong Russey district, police said. The accident reportedly occurred as the woman was making a left turn on the motorbike. Police added that the driver of the car was in a state of shock after the accident and drove to the nearest police station. His car has been confiscated pending an investigation.
RASMEY KAMPUCHEA

Hun Sen talks with Abhisit


via CAAI

Wednesday, 06 October 2010 15:02 Cheang Sokha

PRIME Minister Hun Sen met with Thai premier Abhisit Vejjajiva at a summit in Belgium, where the two leaders affirmed their commitment to a demobilisation of troops stationed along their contentious border.

According to state television channel TVK, Hun Sen and Abhisit met for about 15 minutes on the sidelines of the Asia-Europe Meeting on Monday. The two-day summit was set to conclude yesterday.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Koy Kuong said Cambodian officials welcomed further talks aimed at resolving the border dispute. Hun Sen and Abhisit are slated to meet again later this month at an ASEAN meeting in Hanoi.

“Cambodia’s position remains that we can use bilateral or multilateral mechanisms,” Koy Kuong said yesterday. “We are prepared to resolve the dispute by any means necessary.”

Abhisit said he and Hun Sen had “exchanged views over the dispute in an effort to press ahead for progress in tackling the issue apart from current efforts being made through parliamentary procedures”, Thai state media reported yesterday.

The countries are working to demarcate their border through a bilateral committee, though the process has been stalled since last year pending approval of the latest round of talks in the Thai parliament.

Chea Dara, deputy commander of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces stationed at Preah Vihear temple, said yesterday that commanders from the two sides were slated to meet next week to discuss a redeployment of troops stationed at the Cambodian border.

“This is a great sign, and the purpose of the meeting will be to prevent military confrontations,” Chea Dara said.

“The two militaries from both sides have good cooperation, and we shared lunch and ate cakes together recently.”

Weather hits profit as tourists stay home


via CAAI

Monday, 11 October 2010 15:01 Rann Reuy

THIS year’s Pchum Ben festival saw tourism numbers decline in Cambodia’s coastal provinces, as industry insiders said poor weather on the last day kept many would-be travellers at home.

The Pchum Ben festival – which ran from Thursday to Saturday last week – traditionally sees Cambodians return to home provinces to pay respect to their ancestors, and many also slip in some holiday time.

Minister of Tourism Thong Khon said Cambodians traditionally visited pagodas during the festival.

“We observe that Phnom Penh almost completely empties out during Pchum Ben,” and festival celebrants were increasingly taking part in tourist activities after visiting pagodas, he said.

Sboang Sarath, Preah Sihanouk provincial governor, said some 1,000 vehicles had carted visitors into the province during the first two days of the festival, but arrivals had tapered off due to heavy rain on the last day. Better weather last year attracted a larger number of visitors.

The owner of Preah Sihanouk province’s Apsara Guesthouse, Kong Dina, said all 10 rooms of her guesthouse had been rented out during the first two days of the festival, but that rain had sent many guests packing and kept visitors off the beach.

An influx of tourists to Kep province pushed up the cost of seafood, according to Kep’s Seagull restaurant manager Chheng Kim. The price of sea crabs rose from the usual 25,000 riels (US$5.90) to around 40,000 riels ($9.40) per kilogram.

Meanwhile the owner of Rattanakkiri province’s Chheng Lok hotel, Chea Somaly, said the business did not earn as much during the festival this year as visitors were kept away because of bad roads and heavy raining.

“In previous years, we increased the cost of rooms and still didn’t have enough rooms,” she said.

“This year we decreased room costs but only a few guests came.”

IMF sees Kingdom on track to solid recovery


via CAAI

Monday, 11 October 2010 15:00 Nguon Sovan

Washington

INTERNATIONAL Monetary Fund senior officials praised Cambodia for its economic performance this year and said the country’s foreign direct investment was set to grow up to 20 percent.

The IMF’s senior economist and chief of mission to Cambodia, Olaf Unteroberdoerster, said on Saturday at the sidelines of the at the IMF-World Bank annual general meeting in Washington that foreign direct investments into Cambodia had “turned the corner” this year and on current trends would increase about 20 percent over 2009 – although it would take some time before it fully recovered.

“As the excess from a pre-crisis construction boom is being unwound, FDI is expected to remain below its 2008 peak level for a couple of years,” he said.

Cambodia’s FDI was $515 million in 2009 and was $795 million in 2008.

In the updated World Economic Outlook just released in Washington, the IMF maintained its forecast for Cambodia’s GDP growth at 4.8 percent for 2010 and 6.8 percent for 2011 – the same rates it predicted in April.

Although Cambodia’s GDP growth is significantly positive, the report showed it is still lower than its immediate neighbours, Laos, Vietnam and Thailand, which are growing at 7.7 percent, 6.5 percent and 7.5 percent respectively this year.

“Cambodia’s economy is certainly recovering well from the contraction [minus 2 percent] we saw last year,” said Anoop Singh, director of the IMF’s Asia and Pacific Department. He was speaking on Saturday in the press briefing on the economic outlook for the Asia and Pacific region.

He said the IMF had been carrying out a financial-sector assessment programme for Cambodia and believed it was an important time for Cambodia in its efforts towards development of a crisis-management framework and improved supervision and regulations. He also said the government was proactively looking at the policies that would improve the business environment.

Anoop Singh said that when comparing Cambodia to other low-income countries in Asia, it remained the case that two important steps were needed. “To raise the tax ratio, I should mention that Cambodia’s tax-to-revenue ratio to GDP lags many comparator countries in the region by at least five to seven percentage points,” he said.

“Most importantly, as in other countries, [Cambodia needs] to raise infrastructure investment including in agriculture, but also, I think the main point is to broaden and improve the business environment, attract capital into Cambodia, and broaden the sources of growth.”

More tourists may not bring salvation


via CAAI

Monday, 11 October 2010 15:00 Steve Finch

CAMBODIA’S tourism industry has enjoyed surprising success in encouraging foreign visitors to the Kingdom following the global economic crisis – arrival numbers were up last year and continue to soar in 2010. However, although more people are entering Cambodia, key indicators show the sector has a long way to go before the numbers of the pre-crisis era fully return.

Though government figures show a 15 percent rise in total arrivals in the first eight months of 2010 compared to last year, most of these gains came from the near-50 percent climb in Vietnamese visitors – already the most numerous travellers to the Kingdom. Travel industry executives will hardly be excited by this statistic as many Vietnamese come to Cambodia for only a few days and are considered to spend much less on average than tourists from North America and Europe.

United States visitors fell more than 4 percent and those from the United Kingdom dropped 3.75 percent to the end of August, a sign the sluggish global recovery is still hurting. Travellers look to be choosing conservative destinations rather than far-flung Cambodia.

The government has done a good job balancing the drop in Western tourists with increases from the region – certainly opening more border gates and reducing traffic restrictions with Vietnam has helped. But this has contributed to a structural shift in the tourism industry towards lower-spending, short-term visitors.

Government data show the average international visitor spent about US$1 less per day in 2009 compared to 2008 – just under $112 – which resulted in a fall of around $2 million across the industry. The average visitor stayed just 6.45 days last year, compared to 6.65 days in 2008. This statistic represents deeper structural problems in the sector, as the average stay was falling even before the onset of the economic crisis, a sign that more people are coming but are moving through more quickly – an effect attributable not just to more short-term visitors from Vietnam.

Cambodia has struggled to establish itself as a destination that demands attention outside of Angkor Wat and the capital Phnom Penh. The persistent challenge of attracting airlines to fly to Sihanoukville testifies to this problem – there are still no scheduled flights to the beach resort’s recently upgraded airport. This is not likely to be for no reason – Air Asia in particular has expanded all over the region. But the carrier only chooses destinations offering a good opportunity to make a profit after conducting market research, just like any airline.

The key for Cambodia’s tourism industry is, therefore, to encourage visitors to explore outside Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, while trying to recover Western tourists.

Cambodia’s Ministry of Tourism is targeting 2.4 million arrivals this year and 2.8 million for 2011, which would represent impressive year-on-year growth of 11 percent and 16.7 percent respectively. However, the key question remains: Will the industry actually bring in more money?

OZ bucks downtrend in gold miner shares


via CAAI

Monday, 11 October 2010 15:00 Jeremy Mullins

SEVERAL of Cambodia’s listed gold miners have seen share prices decline to near 52-week lows, despite prices for gold bullion reaching record highs of US$1,366 an ounce on the New York Mercantile Exchange last week.

Transol Corporation, 100 percent-owner of miner Liberty Mining International, saw its share prices close the week at A$0.004 (US$0.004) on the Australian Securities Exchange, below its 52-week high of A$0.016 reached in November 2009. However, the firm has seen its shares climb in recent weeks since bottoming at A$0.003 in August 2010.

With five project areas in northern Cambodia, Liberty Mining is exploring for gold as well as base metals, according to Transol’s website.

Elray Resources – the parent company of Cambodia’s Angkor Wat Mining – saw its shares hover near 52-week lows at US$0.0165 in Over The Counter trading Friday. The firm had traded as high as US$0.40 as of December 2009, coinciding with the firm announcing a letter of intent to acquire a gold exploration property in Ecuador.

Another Australian miner active in the Kingdom, Southern Gold, closed Friday at A$0.073, hovering near its 52-week lows. The firm’s shares have declined in ASX trading from highs of A$0.18 reached late last year.

OZ Minerals was an exception to many of the publicly listed gold miners exploring the Kingdom. It closed on Friday at a 52-week high of A$1.57 on the ASX, up 63.5 percent from its low of A$0.96 reached June 30th.

The firm had announced an inferred gold resource of 605,000 ounces on its Okvau tenement in Mondulkkiri province in March this year, and is conducting ongoing operations in Australia and exploration activities in Cambodia.

Meanwhile, transport and logistics firm Toll Holdings – the commissionaire of Cambodia’s partially reopened railway – saw shares end the week at A$6.86, up 4.3 percent from its Monday open of A$6.58. The firm hit a 52 week of A$6.89 on Wednesday, the day before releasing its annual report.

Gold for immediate delivery closed on Friday at $1,336.30 per ounce in London, having earlier reached $1,341.40.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BLOOMBERG

Leading Edge: IMF puts emphasis on the positive


Photo by: Nguon Sovan
Olaf Unteroberdoerster, International Monetary Fund’s Cambodia chief of mission, in his office in Washington, talks up Cambodia’s prospects.

via CAAI

Monday, 11 October 2010 15:00 Nguon Sovan

The International Monetary Fund’s senior economist and Cambodia chief of mission Olaf Unteroberdoerster sat down with reporter Ngoun Sovan to talk about the outlook for the Kingdom’s economy and the banking sector during the IMF-World Bank annual meeting in Washington DC, held from October 8-10.

So how is Cambodia’s economy doing this year?
We [the IMF] project real GDP growth to reach 4.8 percent in 2010, a significant turnaround from 2009. We see that a broadening export-led recovery has been taking hold since the beginning of the year. Garment exports and tourist arrivals, notably by air, are bouncing back, both growing between 10 to 20 percent year-on-year in the second quarter of 2010.

Construction activity, however, appears to remain sluggish with growth of most related imports still negative, while a late start of the rainy season may dent agricultural output growth.

In line with the economic recovery, headline inflation is expected to increase from last year and average about 4 percent this year.

FDI activity has turned the corner, and based on current trends would increase about 20 percent over 2009. However, as the excess from a pre-crisis construction boom is being unwound, FDI is expected to remain below its 2008 peak level for a couple of years.

What do the IMF’s projections look like for next year?
For 2011 and over the medium-term, we expect growth to gradually return to about 6-7 percent, while inflation would remain stable at about 3 percent, broadly in line with trading partner countries. However, achieving Cambodia’s growth potential, in our view, will very much depend on efforts to strengthen the business environment and enhance public sector revenues and service delivery.

On the other hand, a better-than-expected return to medium-term investments in the power sector and rural infrastructure could offer significant upside potential.

What is the pace of economic development in Cambodia compared to fellow ASEAN member countries?
Cambodia enjoyed the highest growth rate of any low-income country in Asia during 2000-07. But then it was hit hard by the global crisis due to longstanding structural vulnerabilities, including a narrow export base and an underdeveloped financial system.

What are your key recommendations for the development of Cambodia’s economy in coming years?
In our annual consultation with the Royal Government of Cambodia, which was just held a few weeks ago, discussions focused on the dual policy challenge to safeguard hard-won gains in macroeconomic stability and policy credibility, and lay the foundations for broader-based and inclusive growth.

Fiscal policies will play a key role in this regard. We were encouraged by the fiscal outturn through July suggesting that the budget target of a gradual fiscal consolidation is on track. However, we think that further fiscal adjustments are needed for 2011 and the medium term.

As the economic recovery gains traction, the recourse to domestic financing, and thus the injection of significant additional riel liquidity should be eliminated to avoid undue external and inflation pressures. Moreover, further consolidation would enable Cambodia to retain its favourable debt sustainability outlook and rebuild its capacity to absorb potential future shocks.

How can the Cambodian government continue to improve its finances?
We strongly support the government’s emphasis on further improving revenue administration. Gains in tax collection offer the best hope for Cambodia to meet the dual objective of securing fiscal sustainability and mobilising resources for its development needs.

In addition, further progress along the government’s public financial management reform program will be critical to secure gains from enhanced revenue administration and improve the effectiveness of social priority spending.

Cambodia is set to have 30 commercial banks by the year’s end. What have you observed about the situation of banking in Cambodia this year?
In our recent visit we recommended the National Bank of Cambodia for taking actions to safeguard the health of the banking system. We were also encouraged by the broad agreement during the discussions on the findings of the IMF-World Bank Financial Sector Assessment Program mission in March 2010 and on the understanding that robust supervision of banks and strict enforcement of prudential regulations, including on the new minimum capital requirements, remain key to sustained stability.

However, it is also clear that the supervisory framework and resources will also need to keep pace with the development of a broader financial system, that, at some point the future, may also include a stock market.

With a bettering economic situation this year, some bankers expect profits to climb as bank lending increases – is this a view you share?
Amid ample liquidity in the banking system, credit growth has turned the corner and, on current trends, we believe it could run well above 20 percent in the second half of the year.

For the banks, the economic recovery is an opportunity to clean up balance sheets and address potential vulnerabilities that emerged during the crisis, while further bolstering public confidence in the system.

What assistance is the IMF providing Cambodia this year, and what’s planned for 2011?
The IMF continues its intensive policy dialogue with the government. Moreover, Cambodia remains one of the major recipients of technical assistance from the IMF in the region, including in the areas of fiscal management, financial system stability, and macroeconomic statistics.

Our current representative is Milan Zavadjil, who is also the Senior Representative in Indonesia. He frequently visits Cambodia, and is supported there by our permanent local office staff.

Prisoners enjoy festival rice cakes


Photo by: Roth Meas
Ready to cook ... Sek Sarom is seen with thousands of rice cakes ready for grilling. The cakes arecollected from temples around Battambang province and distributed to about 1200 prisoners in Battambang to celebrate the Pchum Ben festival.

via CAAI

Monday, 11 October 2010 15:00 Roth Meas

EVEN prisoners benefited from this year’s Pchum Ben festival honouring the dead in Battambang province.

Thanks to the generosity of spirit of one woman, Sek Sarom, hundreds of volunteers from Battambang’s Dhammayietra Centre, NGOs, villages and Preah Sihanouk Raja Buddhist University collected rice cakes left as offerings from about 120 pagodas around the province’s five districts at the weekend.

They had a busy few days leading up to Saturday’s distribution of the rice cakes to prisoners at Battambang Prison, gathering at a school to build 10 giant barbecues from donated bricks, and using gifts of charcoal and bamboo sticks to grill the cakes overnight.

Helpers manage to grill about 1000 rice cakes, which were driven the next morning in motorbike-drawn carts to the prison, explained Sek Sarom, who started the project in 2000 when she was a student at the Dhammayietra centre for peace studies and meditation.

The idea was sparked by her volunteer work as a language tutor to inmates at Battambang prison, she said.

“Normally during the Pchum Ben festival, prisoners wait for their family members to come and visit, but most of them are too busy to come. We stand in as their family to offer them rice cakes.”

This is Cambodia’s only scheme to aid prisoners during the Pchum Ben festival, but the idea may well spread to other provinces.

But at first, Sarom said the scheme attracted plenty of criticism, even from Buddhist monks. “People wondered why we sent food to thieves, robbers, and other bad people. But now they don’t say anything. Some pagodas now help to grill rice cakes for us and even give us a call if we forget to pick them up.”

About 1200 prisoners were given cakes this year, including 50 women.

Sek Sarom carries on this task because she feels pity for the prisoners, who are an unloved and largely forgotten section of society, she said.

And this year prisoners got extra gifts of comfort from the effort, Sek Sarom explained. “We have a plan to add instant noodles and soap into the care packages.”

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Thailand's ‘Red Shirts’ Rally in Defiance of Emergency Decree

Daniel Schearf

Bankok 10 October 2010

via CAAI
 
Photo: AP
Anti-government demonstrators stage a peaceful protest at Democracy Monument lighting candles and singing songs in honor of comrades killed by security forces in May. Bangkok, 10 Oct 2010.

In Thailand thousands of anti-government protesters paraded and rallied in the Thai capital, Bangkok, in memory of supporters killed in May in clashes with security forces. The demonstration was organized despite emergency laws forbidding such gatherings.

Police watched as anti-government protesters, dressed in red, chanted their respects for Thai Major General Sae Daeng, who was assassinated there by a sniper in May as he was being interviewed by journalists. Sae Dang supported their two-month occupation of Bangkok's historic and commercial districts and calls for new elections, underscoring political splits in the military.

Demonstrators then piled into trucks and onto motorcycles and paraded through areas where street clashes with security forces left 90 people dead, most of them protesters.

Parts of Thailand, including Bangkok, have since been under a state of emergency that outlaws public gatherings, restricts the media, and gives greater powers to police.

The parade disrupted traffic, but was otherwise peaceful and ended at Bangkok's Democracy Monument, a tribute to Thailand's 1932 change to a constitutional monarchy.

Thousands of protesters gathered at the monument and wore shirts and held posters opposing the current government of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva. The protesters, many of them from the countryside, say his government is supported by elites who conspired with the military to bring down their elected leaders.

For fifty four-year-old Kosin Teamsuwan the rally was all about democracy.

"The red shirts want democracy, democracy to my country, for the people. And, the red shirts have the support that ... they want justice for the people all in Thailand."

Critics say the red shirts want to bring back former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in a 2006 military coup and now lives in exile to avoid a sentence for corruption charges.

Last month, about 10,000 red-shirt protesters peacefully marked the four-year anniversary of the coup.

Thai authorities have made no attempt to prevent recent demonstrations, including by the yellow shirts, who rally against the red shirts and claim to protect Thailand's monarchy.

Thailand's factions seem to be testing how far they can pressure the authorities before elections, which the government is required by law to hold by the end of next year.

South Korea: Cambodia: Korean Priest: mission brings us closer to the model of Christ

via CAAI

Fr. Paul Cho Hae In, a priest of the Archdiocese of Uijeongbu speaks to AsiaNews about his three years of mission in Cambodia. "A missionary is a bridge between two peoples, the people of the missionary territory and his own Church which is enriched by his mission".

Saturday, October 09, 2010
By Asia News

Seoul - With over 690 missionaries worldwide, 313 in Asia alone, the Korean Church is now a point of reference for many of the small and young Catholic communities of the continent. Marking the Day for Korean missionaries abroad, on 1 October in Seoul, AsiaNews interviewed Fr Paul Cho Hae In, a priest of the Diocese of Uijeongbu, for three years a missionary in Cambodia.

Ordained in 1994, Fr. Cho asked in 2001 to go on a mission. His request was accepted by the Congregation of Maryknoll missionaries and in 2002 he left for Cambodia. Until 2005 he worked together with lay priests and nuns in the village of Kan An Long An, on the outskirts of Phnom Penh. Returning to his homeland, Fr. Cho now manages the Diocese of Uijeongbu consultation center for foreign workers in Korea.

As a diocesan priest, how do you see your experience as a foreign missionary?

After 6 years as a diocesan priest, I felt the need to renew my priestly life, so the desire to experience an overseas missionary was born in me.

My three years in Cambodia were very helpful for my life. I understand that a priest can grow in his vocation, accepting the challenge of the mission in an environment different from his.

Is there a particular reason that drove you to choose Cambodia as a missionary territory?

I asked to go to an Asian country, also because being Asian I thought I'd give a better contribution to the culture and people with feelings similar to mine.

With the help of Fr. Gerard Hammond of the Congregation of Maryknoll missionaries, I arrived in Phnom Penh in 2002. Here I spent the first six months studying the Khmer language in a private school in the capital and I began to become involved in missionary activities.

What were your missionary activities during your stay?

I lent a hand in the management of educational programs for school children in the village of An Long Kang An. The area was very poor and had a high rate of illiteracy. We taught children the Cambodian alphabet, so as to enable them to continue their studies. Not knowing the language well I was in administration and ran the school library and organized play activities for the children.

What struck you most about the Cambodian people?

The children's eyes, which are truly pure, I will never forget them. The Cambodian people are still marked by the Pol Pot regime, in which over 2 million people died in death camps, considered enemies of the people. People are very suspicious and often tell lies to each other. Lying is a tendency that people acquired to survive the Khmer Rouge regime and, unfortunately, the wound is still open. I once visited a family where the father had been persecuted by the men of Pol Pot. Years later, he still mutters senselessly, numbed by the trauma.

What difficulties did you experience as a missionary?

Upon arriving in Cambodia, I wanted to become one with the Cambodians. But over time I realized that I would never be like them, because I was born and raised in a different environment. I understand however that I must recognize this diversity and accept it with serenity. The same happened to me with the idea of total poverty. Although they desire to be one with the poor, it is often difficult for missionaries to live a radical poverty in a concrete way, because they live in a structure that can not be deprived of everything.

What advice would you give to diocesan priests involved in missions?

Although my experience of three years is very little, I tell them that it's worth it. Being in Cambodia, I was able to see my priestly vocation with new eyes, thanks to the challenges and tensions that I experienced. The Korean Catholic Church is stable and prosperous, in a way that offers few opportunities for this type of experience to the diocesan priests. If we want to be more vigilant in our vocation, we should try to jump into these challenges, even going abroad as missionaries. Living as a priest means not only living the sacraments, but also trying to draw closer to the model of Jesus, who has lived for the people and with the people, especially the poor. A missionary is a bridge between two peoples, the people of the missionary territory and his own Church which is enriched by his mission.