Thursday, 13 January 2011

Has Cambodia become a country for sale?

 via CAAI

By Mukul Devichand
BBC Radio 4, Crossing Continents

" Sometimes we need to use force because we cannot talk to people who don't understand the law and are trying to take advantage”   End Quote

Cambodian government official


Buddhist monk Lun Sovath has taken up the villagers' cause

In a remote part of northern Cambodia, a Buddhist monk in flowing orange robes is reciting a poem. The words are anything but traditional.

"There was a day when the hostile traders conspired with the corrupted authority," chants the Venerable Lun Sovath, using measured rhyming couplets in the Khmer language.

"Wake up all Khmers and unite," he continues. "Bring back our rice fields."

He has brought me to this scrap of scrubland, where 20 villagers now eke out a living picking mushrooms, to show me the ugly side of Cambodia's system of what he describes as "economic land concessions".

Behind a fence, we can see the ruins of a village and a brilliantly green expanse of fields.

The local people say they were forced off this land, without compensation, when a sugar plantation was established here by a Thai investor.

Private companies

The country's new system of land concessions is aimed at developing the economy and capitalising on its location in rising Asia.

Hoi An had to give birth to her baby in prison, after protesting against "her" land being taken by "force"

Cambodia is one of the region's poorest countries, and is still recovering from the devastating civil war that followed the tyrannical rule of the Khmer Rouge regime in the 1970s.

Since 2005, around 15% of Cambodian land has been signed over to private companies, a third of them foreign, using leases under which they promise to develop the plots and provide jobs. One of the biggest growth areas is agriculture, because of rising world food prices and scarce global supplies.

But reports of unfair and sometimes violent "land grabs" have overshadowed the process.

"They lit the houses first, and then they shot to scare people so they would run from the houses," recounts Hoi Mai, who says she lost her house.

She says the residents were literally forced out a year ago by military units acting on behalf of the plantation owner.

The Thai investors who have acquired the lease on this sugar plantation did not return my calls.

Khmer Rouge legacy

Ho Mai tried to appeal to the authorities, but she was arrested for her trouble, despite being heavily pregnant. They accused her of farming the land illegally. Her baby was born in prison.

Ho Mai is adamant that this plot is hers but she admits she has no legal documents to prove it.

This is not unusual in Cambodia. The ancient Khmer empire had few records and Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge regime in the 1970s banned all private property. Most land titles were burned, and many people moved around during the brutal civil war that raged afterwards.

So are foreign and local investors taking advantage of the chaos to take land for themselves?

"Without sounding callous, wouldn't it be nice if it was that easy?" asks Matt Rendall.

He is the land lawyer, in a sharp suit, who advised the government so closely that it is often said that he "wrote" Cambodia's investor-friendly 2001 Land Law.

He does not accept that the law encourages situations like that in O'Batman village. Instead, he says, foreign investors get caught up in a situation that is not of their making.

"For our investors, our investor clients, it's a problem they don't want," he says. "It's just going to cause them so much grievance and heartache on the ground here that it's just not worth it."

Government programme

Rendall and other international business people say they support the government's programme to issue land documents to the poor.

They would rather deal with people who have documents, because that would give them more certainty - which is better for business.

The land titling programme was initially funded by the World Bank, and other foreign donors. But they and the government have been criticised for being slow and ineffective.

The government points out that despite the problems, around two million land documents have now been issued to ordinary Cambodians.

"We as a government are making every effort possible to speed up the process of land registration," I was told by senior minister Im Chun Lim.

But one evening in Phnom Penh, I uncovered evidence of less savoury officials and business dealings.

I met a government official who explained to me anonymously how some investors get around the system.

Matt Rendall, a key adviser on the investor-friendly land law, denies it encourages land grabs

"Normally you don't need to even go via the ministry," He explained. "You can talk to the local officials, and you can just pay them to protect your land."

He told me the deals can be worth tens of thousands of dollars in bribes and payments for officials like him, whose normal earnings are the equivalent of US$200 a month.

He explained how in some cases, the officials use police or military units to make sure villagers leave the land.

"Sometimes we need to use force because we cannot talk to people who don't understand the law and are trying to take advantage," he says.

"We have to ask them to leave," he adds. "By law or by force."

Mukul Devichand's report for Crossing Continents is on BBC Radio 4 on Thursday 13 January at 1100 GMT and Monday 17 January at 2030 GMT. It will also be broadcast on the BBC World Service on 13 January. You can also listen on the iPlayer or download the podcast.

School projects in Cambodia continue for McCoy

http://www.cottagecountrynow.ca/

via CAAI

DENTAL HELP. Gravenhurst resident Lisa McCoy hands out dental supplies to Cambodian children recently.

Karen Longwell
Jan 12, 2011

Giving back has become the norm for local resident and Rotarian Lisa McCoy.

Last year McCoy celebrated the opening of the Muskoka School, an educational project funded in large part by area donors, in a remote area of Cambodia. She returned to the country this past fall to give out bicycles with Rotary Wheels for Learning, an international program of the Rotary Club of Gravenhurst.

While in Cambodia this time, she is looking for a new school project in the neighbouring country of Laos.

She is also involved with projects to distribute dental supplies and educational materials. She took some time to answer a few questions about her six-month trip.

Question: Where are you spending your six months?

I am spending five months in Cambodia and one month in northern Laos in the surrounding remote hill areas of Luang Prabang. I arrive in Luang Prabang on Dec. 25 and will have Christmas dinner with fellow Ontarian and Rotarian Steve Rutledge from Cobourg, Ontario. I will spend the month there researching a future Muskoka School site there for impoverished hill tribe children. I will also be researching the possibility of future Rotary Wheels for Learning bicycle distributions for poor children there.

In Cambodia, I have spent one month living in the small village of Trapeang Thum in Takeo province, bathing, eating, and [spending] day-to-day life as the rest of the village folk, up at 5 a.m. with the sun and to bed at 6 p.m.

I’ll be going out to the Muskoka School in Ta Trav village and will help distribute some of the 100 bicycles that were fundraised by our Giant Garage Sale that was held at the Gravenhurst Curling Club this past summer.

Question: What projects are you working on that Muskokans contributed to?

The Rotary Club of Gravenhurst’s international program Rotary Wheels for Learning has now distributed 155 bicycles to children in rural Takeo and Battambang provinces. A huge number of these were distributed to children of landmine survivors. We hope to raise funds to distribute another 70 bicycles for children in Battambang province before my April 1 return to Canada.

Bill and Dora Rathbun of Gravenhurst, Cathy Jordan and fellow members of the Rotary Club of Huntsville have contributed their time and dollars in selling close to 40 Cambodian silk scarves, which raised proceeds of close to $1,000 which so far has provided over 2,000 toothbrushes and tubes of toothpaste to over 2,000 children and their families.

Many folks in Muskoka have purchased lovely handmade woven bracelets made by poor women here in rural Cambodia. The $200 raised in sales has gone to start 10 women off in a one-week bracelet weaving course which was recently completed in rural Takeo.

Question: What does it mean for Cambodians to have a bicycle or dental care?

Every smile I receive when handing over that first bike for a child, every project that provides even the smallest improvement in a rural person’s life over here is what keeps me returning. Having lived for a month on a village level has given me a humbling appreciation for every grain of rice that a farmer harvests. The manual labour involved in harvesting rice is unimaginable, and the farmers barely make enough sporadic income from this to feed their large families.

Question: What was it like to live in a rural village for three weeks?

Village life is not by any means quiet, as many might think. There are farmers hand-threshing their rice well into the night as they beat it on large wood tables outside their homes. Dogs howl all night and in the daytime they run through everyone’s property killings neighbours’ chickens.

Rice, rice and more rice - that’s pretty well the village diet. One day we’d have it with fish from a nearby pond. The next day we ate it with fried frog from another pond. My friend Pauline and I were the only white people living in the village. No one spoke English, but we had a fun time communicating with the ever-friendly and smiling village people. All-in-all it was a fun experience, and always full of excitement and challenges.

More information on some of McCoy’s projects can be found at her blogs at

Questioning for general in weapons case


Photo by: Sovan Philong
Samith Virak following his arrest on Monday.

via CAAI

Thursday, 13 January 2011 15:02 Thet Sambath and Khouth Sophak Chakrya

A BRIGADIER general arrested this week for allegedly possessing illegal weapons has been sent to military court for questioning, officials said yesterday, as an associate of the officer was arrested in Siem Reap province.

Samith Virak, deputy director of the materials and technology department at the defence ministry, was arrested at his home on Monday and brought to military court yesterday for interrogation by prosecutors, said Ney Thol, head of the military court.

“I did not get a report about the suspect’s answers. Now this case is in the hands of the prosecutor and I am waiting on a report from him,” Ney Thol said.

Sao Sokha, the national military police commander, said on Monday that Samith Virak was arrested in September 2001 on suspicion of involvement with a group called the Cambodian Freedom Fighters, which staged an armed terrorist attack in 2000 on the Ministry of Defence and the Council of Ministers. He was released on bail in 2002, however, and his case was never brought to trial.

“We are investigating to find out who allowed this man to get a position at the Ministry of Defence,” Sao Sokha said on Monday, adding that police were also investigating “whether this man trafficked weapons or created any illegal movements or insecurity in the country”.

Sao Sokha said police had confiscated 12 illegal firearms from the general’s office and five from his house on Monday, adding that “Samith Virak” was an alias, and that the suspect’s real name was Pich Thoeun.
Prum Sornthon, chief prosecutor of the military court, said yesterday that he could not remember why Samith Virak’s case had never been brought to trial in 2002.

“I cannot say anything about that because there are too many cases,” Prum Sornthon said.

Peuy Pel, a lieutenant colonel in the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces, was also arrested yesterday in Siem Reap province’s Banteay Srei district for allegedly possessing illegal weapons including a rifle and a pistol.

The arrest and confiscation were done on land owned by Samith Virak, according to Ngem Sila, deputy military police chief for Siem Reap.

“We sent the suspect and the evidence including an AK-47 rifle and a K-54 handgun to Phnom Penh for the military court to take action through legal procedures,” he said.

A military officer who declined to be named said Peuy Pel’s arrest was linked to Samith Virak’s case. Police at the scene of Samith Virak’s arrest on Monday said the general was also under investigation for “other issues” aside from weapons, but declined to elaborate.

Man charged with rape of 15-year-old


via CAAI

Thursday, 13 January 2011 15:02 Buth Reaksmey Kongkea

KAMPONG Cham provincial court yesterday charged a local man with the rape of a 15-year-old girl following his arrest earlier this month, police said.

Leang Eng, the chief of police in Suong district, said the alleged sexual assault occurred on the evening of January 9 in Suong village. After fielding a complaint from the victim’s family, police found the accused hiding in a rubber plantation a day later and arrested him.

“The suspect was charged with juvenile rape and is being detained at the provincial prison for his upcoming trial,” said Leang Eng. He added that the accused, 25-year-old Morm Thy, could face between 10 and 20 years in prison if convicted.

Kim Rany, assistant officer for rights group Adhoc in Suong district, said the suspect and her assailant previously knew each other because they were neighbours.

Based on information given to Adhoc by the victim’s family, the sexual assault allegedly occurred after the suspect entered the victim’s house at 8pm, where she was watching television alone.

The suspect asked her to come outside, the family claimed, at which point he dragged her to a nearby rubber plantation and raped her several times.

“The suspect ... raped her three times before he freed her to come back to her home at about 11pm,” she said.

Kim Rany said 34 rape cases were reported to Adhoc officials in Kampong Cham in 2010, the majority of which involved girls under the age of 18.

WHO launches new anti-malaria plan


via CAAI

Thursday, 13 January 2011 15:01 Thomas Miller

THE World Health Organisation yesterday launched a global plan to halt the spread of drug-resistant malaria strains that have emerged along the Cambodian-Thai border, threatening the world’s “most potent” treatment for the disease.

The plan’s goal is to preserve the use of artemisinin-based combination therapies, or ACTs, the most effective way to treat malaria’s most deadly strain.

The WHO identified artemisinin-resistant parasites in early 2009 along the Cambodian-Thai border. It suspects but has not confirmed they have spread to other countries, including Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam.
“If these treatments fail, many countries will have nothing to fall back on,” the WHO warned in a statement.

Only 31 out of the 75 countries that should have been testing for resistance to ACTs actually did so in 2010, the WHO said.

Global efforts to contain and prevent the spread of artemisinin-resistant malaria would require US$175 million annually, according to the WHO.

The plan calls for $2.7 to $5.4 million in funds for the 270,000 living in parts of Cambodia with drug-resistant malaria strains, including all of Pailin and parts of Battambang, Pursat and Kampot provinces.

An additional $32 to $40 million is needed for the estimated 4 million people in nine provinces who are also deemed “at risk” of infection.

Steven Bjorge, WHO team leader for malaria in Cambodia, said health workers will “continue the steps that have been taken in the last year-and-a-half to contain the drug-resistant malaria”.

Those efforts involve a high level of mosquito bed net coverage, a free volunteer-based rapid-diagnosis system, availability of ACTs at local health centres and a crackdown on substandard drugs, he said.

“We’ve achieved nearly 100 percent bed net coverage, especially in the Thai-border area,” Bjorge said. Nets last about three years.

Last year, health workers introduced a new combination of drugs, dihydroartemisinin and piperaquine, which they will start to use throughout Cambodia this year.

Bjorge said they were not yet sure how fast ACT-resistant parasites were spreading, “so it’s going to be a big focus”.

“The problem, in Western Cambodia, is largely in mobile and migrant populations. Many of the people at risk are people working either in the forest or working in plantations,” he said.

Sending workers out to mobile encampments and distributing mosquito nets to plantation owners are two ways in which Bjorge said health workers are attempting to address that challenge.

Pirate attack: Rescued Cambodians repatriated


via CAAI

Thursday, 13 January 2011 15:01 Buth Reaksmey Kongkea

Pirate attack

A TOTAL of 15 Cambodian fishermen who were attacked in early November by Somali pirates were repatriated in December, the spokesman of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said yesterday, amending a statement last week indicating that the victims had not yet returned.

The 15 Cambodian nationals were among 23 victims – including seven Thais and one Yemeni policeman – who were attacked 70 nautical miles off the coast of Somalia by pirates, who hijacked their ship and later sunk it.

The fishermen were rescued while adrift in the Gulf of Aden by a Thai ship, the HTMS Pattani.

Koy Kuong said yesterday that the Cambodian victims were taken to Oman and then Thailand, before being sent back to the Kingdom.

“These people were safely returned to their homes since December 4, 2010,” he said.

Last week, Koy Kuong said the Cambodian embassy in Bangkok was “still working hard with Thai naval forces to find out [where they are] and to bring them back to their homes”.

BUTH REAKSMEY KONGKEA

Work begins on dam project in Koh Kong


via CAAI

Thursday, 13 January 2011 15:01 Cheang Sokha and Summer Walker

PRIME Minister Hun Sen yesterday presided over the groundbreaking of the Stung Tatay hydroelectric dam project in Koh Kong province, describing Koh Kong as “a battery province” that could help sate the country’s rising energy needs.

In his speech, the premier appealed to the private sector to invest in transmission lines to connect Stung Tatay and other dams to the power grid in Koh Kong province, encouraging involvement from both local and Chinese companies.

“We appeal to Chinese companies to invest in electric transmission lines, so that electricity can be connected to every place [nationwide],” Hun Sen said.

“We have electricity, so we need transmission lines.”

He said private investment was necessary because it is difficult for the government to secure loans from other countries.

The 246-megawatt Stung Tatay dam, which is being built by China National Heavy Machinery Co Ltd at a cost of US$540 million, is the second of four hydropower dams planned for the province to begin construction.

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The natural flow of the river will be significantly disturbed.

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On December 28, Hun Sen presided over the groundbreaking of the 338-megawatt Stung Russey Chrum Krom project in Koh Kong, which is being built by China Huadian Corporation.

The projects have drawn criticism from environmentalists, who have raised concerns about the impact the dams could have on Southern Cardamom’s Protected Forest and the livlihoods of local residents.

Ame Trandem, Mekong Campaigner for the NGO International Rivers, said yesterday that the dams pose a major risk to “more than 2,000 hectares of evergreen forest and animal habitat which are expected to be inundated by the dam’s reservoir”. She added that the “natural flow of the river will be significantly disturbed”.

Trandem said there has already been disruption and water pollution from the influx of construction workers to the area and called for construction to stop “until a proper environmental mitigation plan is developed and carefully implemented”.

Chhith Sam Ath, executive director of the NGO Forum, yesterday called for a committee of community leaders, local authorities, civil society, company representatives, and relevant ministries to be formed in a bid to increase transparency around dam projects and include local groups in decision making.

Speaking during the groundbreaking ceremony for the Stung Russey Chrum Krom project, however, Hun Sen lashed out at critics of the dams, saying environmental impacts were a natural consequence of economic progress.

“Is there any development that happens without an impact on the environment and natural resources? Please give us a proper answer,” Hun Sen said.

The premier said society inevitably exacts a toll on the environment, making a bizarre allusion to proposed taxes on carbon emissions in other countries.

“Only the wind that we breathe comes without a fee, but in other countries, they have to pay,” he said.

“Even with farts, there is a tax, and though they do not say the tax comes from farts, it is implied when they talk about the value of biodiversity.”

Excavation sparks protest


Photo by: Heng Chivoan
Residents of the Boeung Trabek lake area hold up portraits of Prime Minister Hun Sen during a protest against the digging of a reservoir by local authorities yesterday.

via CAAI

Thursday, 13 January 2011 15:01 Kim Yuthana

VILLAGERS on the outskirts of Phnom Penh yesterday protested against local authorities they claim are destroying their aquaculture crops in order to build a reservoir that is meant to prevent future flooding in Phnom Penh.

Nearly 30 villagers representing 184 families living near Boeung Trabek, in Chamkarmon district, gathered at the lake to express their concern and stop earth moving machines.

En Sokhum, 56, a representative of the villagers, said that they were concerned when the digging continued despite the request by villagers to cease excavation until their complaint had been remedied.

He was also suspicious that even though the village was situated on state land, the poor would the evicted and the land would be provided to wealthy people in the future.

Ouch Leng, a land program officer for rights group Adhoc, said that though the villagers lived on state land “the state should compensate them properly because they have been living there for years”.

Lo Yoy, Chamkarmon district governor, was unavailable for comment yesterday, but previously told The Post the reservoir was being built on vacant land and aquaculture crops could be replanted once the construction was completed.

On September 17, district authorities issued an eviction order for villagers residing illegally on state land to dismantle their homes within 10 days. The order further stipulated the authorities would take action if the request was ignored and prosecute villagers attempting to stop the construction.

Last month City Hall issued a separate order that the land set aside for the Boeung Trabek reservoir was not to be used for housing or any other purposes.

The order reiterated earlier warnings that those trespassing on state land would be taken to court.

Police Blotter: 13 Jan 2011


via CAAI

Thursday, 13 January 2011 15:01 Sen David

Student, 20, dead after ‘gangster’ street fight
A 20-year-old student died in hospital after a fight between two gangs in the streets of Phnom Penh’s Tuol Kork district on Monday. Police said the victim died from multiple head wounds probably caused by rocks thrown by the rival gang. The victim’s mother filed a complaint to police, but officials said the offenders would not be prosecuted because the deceased was a “gangster” himself. Police said they were searching for the suspects “to give them an education”.
RASMEY KAMPUCHEA

Disgruntled husband burns own house down
A 42-year-old man burned his own house down in Kampong Chhnang province’s Boribor district on Monday. Police said the man was angry because his wife had found a job in Thailand and left him to look after their 3-year-old daughter alone. A neighbour said the man had set fire to his house after filing a complaint to the commune chief about his wife. The neighbour said the man “looked crazy” and noted that it was “not reasonable” to burn your own house down. Authorities extinguished the blaze and no other buildings were affected.
KAMPUCHEA THMEY

Man injured in other couple’s domestic fight
A 24-year-old man was seriously injured after he attempted to break up a fight between a husband and wife in Siem Reap province’s Siem Reap district on Saturday. Police said the victim, a neighbour of the couple, had attempted to intervene after overhearing a dispute and that the husband, who had not appreciated the interruption, stabbed him in the arm. The victim said the man and his wife were often violent toward each other. The victim was sent to hospital.
KAMPUCHEA THMEY

Beggar found dead, supposedly from drink
A 50-year-old man was found dead in his hammock in Ratanakkiri province’s Banlung district on Monday. Police said the man, who was often seen begging for money in the local market, appeared to have drunk himself to death. It was unclear exactly when the man had died but police said the case was reported to them after neighbours investigated and discovered he was dead when they “wondered why the man slept in his hammock for a long time”.
KAMPUCHEA THMEY

Police hunt suspected murderer, 21, in Pursat
Police in Pursat province’s Krakor district said they were searching for a 21-year-old woman accused of killing her employer on Tuesday. Police said the suspect had been working as a domestic maid for the victim for more than two months when she allegedly attacked and killed him with a big rock before escaping with an unknown amount of cash.
KAMPUCHEA THMEY

Cambodian Princess to attend Czech opera ball


via CAAI

Thursday, 13 January 2011 15:01 Thomas Miller

PRINCESS Norodom Arunrasmey, the sister of King Norodom Sihamoni, will dance with ballet master Vlastimil Harapes at the Czech Opera Ball in Prague on February 5, the Prague Daily Monitor reported yesterday. Cambodian and Czech dancers will open the programme and proceeds from a raffle at the event will benefit charity projects in both countries. King Sihamoni, who was educated in Prague from 1962-75 and speaks fluent Czech, studied ballet at the Prague Conservatory, earning “first prize” in classical dance in 1971.

Water price set as authority revenues climb


Photo by: Wesley Monts
The water authority believes prices will be stable, despite its listing, benefiting those who wash large objects – like Sambo.

via CAAI

Thursday, 13 January 2011 15:01 May Kunmakara

STATE-OWNED Phnom Penh Water Supply Authority is unlikely to raise the price of water when it lists on the Cambodia Stock Exchange, according to officials.

The company has been ordered to list on the bourse along with two other state-owned companies when the CSX launches. The exchange start is set for July after delays.

“If the government stays the majority shareholder, it will be the government’s decision to raise or lower the price,” said General Director Ek Sonn Chan.

He said affordable, clean water was always one issue that the government considered important.

“I believe the government won’t [let someone else change the price] as current prices serve the people’s welfare.”

Securities and Exchange Commission of Cambodia Director General Ming Bankosal also said water prices would stay the same. “It is a necessity, because water benefits the whole society,” he said.

Instead, he said shareholders buying into the Water Authority’s initial public offering could expect healthy returns based on the company’s overall growth and its strong performance.

Throughout its history, the authority has sold water at a starting price of 550 riel (US$0.13) per cubic meter. Currently it can produce up to 280,110 cubic metres of water per day, with three treatment stations in Phnom Penh.

Meanwhile, the authority’s revenue increased 10 percent in 2010, climbing to more than 100 billion riel, or $24.7 million, which was 3 percent more than its target, according to Ek Sonn Chan.

“Increased revenue is in line with our plan to increase our customers – we had 14,000 new customers in 2010,” he said. “I do believe that if one invests in the PPWSA, they receive two benefits – first, they will gain more profits than just depositing in the bank at 5 percent interest rate, and second, their money will be secure.”

Vietnam trade rises, yet deficit widens


via CAAI

Thursday, 13 January 2011 15:00 May Kunmakara

CAMBODIA’S trade deficit with Vietnam widened over the first eleven months last year to US$1.383 billion, according to figures obtained from the Vietnam Trade Office in Phnom Penh yesterday.

“We cannot balance trade with them because they have a very big population and economy,” said Kong Putheara, Deputy Cabinet Chief of the Ministry of Commerce.

Vietnam exported some $1.593 million worth of goods to the Kingdom in 2010, up to the end of November, a 36 percent increase on the same period of 2009.

Meanwhile, Cambodia exported $210 million worth of goods to its eastern neighbour during the period, a 32 percent increase.

In 2009, the gap between Vietnamese exports and Cambodia’s was worth about $1.016 billion.

“Vietnam sees plenty of potential in Cambodia, compared with other countries, because of how close they are to us,” said Kong Putheara.

Tensions with Thailand had also provided opportunities for Vietnam to increase its business in the Kingdom, he said, adding Vietnam’s economic footprint here would continue to grow even as relations improved with Thailand

Cambodia’s major exports to Vietnam are agricultural products such as wood, rubber, cashews, rice, and corn.

Vietnam ships products such as vegetables, fruits, instant noodles, plastics, and cigarettes to the Kingdom.

Fish exports swim upward


Photo by: Will Baxter
Fish are sold at a Siem Reap market. Exports of fish from the Kingdom increased by one third in 2010.

via CAAI

Thursday, 13 January 2011 15:00 Chun Sophal

THE Kingdom exported US$40 million worth of fish to international markets in 2010, an increase of a third on the value of exports a year previous, according to a report.

Exports exceeded targets as in the 2010 fisheries produced more than enough to fulfill domestic demand, said Nao Thuok, director general of the Fisheries Administration. “We would not export more fisheries products if we had not [caught] much in 2010,” he said yesterday.

Some 35,000 tonnes of fish was exported in 2010, worth around $40 million – more than the 20,000 tonnes the administration had planned.

In 2009, Cambodia exported 30,000 tonnes of fish worth about $30 million to markets in countries such as China, Vietnam, and South Korea.Total fish catches amounted to 550,000 tonnes last year, of which 405,000 were freshwater, 85,000 were saltwater, and 60,000 were from fish farms.

The total catch had been 515,000 tonnes in 2009.

Nao Thuok said the strong fish catch last year was due to higher water levels.

Chantho Mean Cheay, a fish exporting firm, claimed much of the catch last year was made up of smaller fish, which generally brought in less revenue.

“The level for 2010 exports increased, but it was generally not big fish which fetch high prices,” said the firm’s chief executive officer Buth Chantho.

Preah Sihanouk province fish farmer Ung Puth Mulyka said that she had raised some 10 tonnes of bass and grouper in 2010, an increase of about two tonnes on 2009.

Hun Sen Cup wraps up its group stage


 
via CAAI
 
Thursday, 13 January 2011 15:00 Ung Chamrouen
 
Yesterday’s rounds of the 2011 Samdech Hun Sen Cup saw a predictable conclusion to the group stage, with all top tier teams advancing to the knockout round.
 
Games of note including a walkover for Kratie after Preah Vihear decided not to show for the match between the two already elimanted teams in group C.
 
Rithi Sen midfielder Ouk Chandarith was hailed man-of-the-match after his goal helped the Kampong Chhnang outfit win 2-1 against Banteay Meanchey, and grab a place in the next round.
 
In a watertight group D, Stung Treng took first place via their superior goal difference and Chhma Khmao edged second spot ahead Western University by means of goal scored. All three had finished in the group stage tied on five points apiece.
 
Wednesday’s results
 
  • Prek Pra Keila 2 Rithy Sen 0
  • Banteay Meanchey 0 Mekong K Uni 3
  • Preah Khan Reach 2 Chhlam Samuth 0
  • Kratie v Preah Vihear (Kratie given 3 points after Preah Vihear abandoned)
  • Western University 1 Kandal 0
  • Chhma Khmao 1 Stung Treng 1
  • Naga Corp 6 Kep 0
  • Takeo 0 P Sihanouk Autonomous Port 0

TFC names officials to head Futures events


via CAAI

Thursday, 13 January 2011 15:00 H S Manjunath

The Tennis Federation of Cambodia has named India’s ITF silver badge referee Puneet Gupta as the tournament supervisor for their upcoming back-to-back Men’s US$15,000 Futures events, to be held at the National Training Centre in Phnom Penh from January 24 to February 5.

Second in command for the tournaments will be bronze chair umpire from Uzbekistan Alexander Bagdasarov in a team of five officials that includes white badge holders Supreeth Kadavigere (India), Riyat Andrizar-Sagma (Indonesia) and Razmee Rawi (Malaysia).

TFC Technical Director and national team head coach Braen Aneiros told The Post yesterday that the services of two chair umpires from Thailand, eight Cambodian line judges and six local ball boys would also be employed for the Kingdom’s international debut at hosting ITF events.

Aneiros added that all the three courts at the NTC would be used for both singles and doubles events, while the two courts at the neighbouring Cambodian Country Club would be set aside for practice.

“There is a possibility that we could shift some of the late matches here and there depending on the situations arising out of unforeseen interruptions,” said Aneiros.

A quality field is expected to line up for the two tourneys which were upgraded to $15,000 prize-money status from an initial package of three $10,000 contests after Vietnam and Thailand backed out of their commitments to staging the third leg.

India’s Vishnu Vardhan, who holds a world ranking of 382, is expected to head an impressive list of foreign entries with top Cambodian national players Bun Kenny and Tan Nysan certain to get in as wild cards.

The sign-in for the first event’s qualifiers has been extended till 6pm on January 22. The qualifying round starts on January 24 with a card of 16 matches, and the eight qualifiers for the 32-player main draw will be identified the following day.

The main draw singles and doubles matches start on January 25, with the final scheduled for January 30.

For the second event, the qualifying round begins on January 29, with the first round of the main draw set for January 31. The event concludes on February 5 with singles and doubles finals.

Ducking out for a dip


via CAAI

Thursday, 13 January 2011 15:01 Sovan Philong

More than 650 ducks undertake a four-kilometre daily journey from their farm in Tuol Ponrol village to a nearby pond in Phnom Penh’s Meanchey district. The ducks are handled by a single wrangler, 37-year-old Roeun Sinat. In the evening, both the ducks and their wrangler return to life on the farm.

Anti-drug head questioned


Photo by: Sovan Philong
Moek Dara, secretary general of the National Authority for Combating Drugs, receives a medal from Prime Minister Hun Sen at a ceremony in February last year.

via CAAI

Wednesday, 12 January 2011 21:36 Chrann Chamroeun and Meas Sokchea

The secretary general of the National Authority for Combating Drugs was detained for questioning by national police on Tuesday, on the same day that anticorruption officials announced they were preparing to prosecute the former police chief of Banteay Meanchey province in a drug-related case.

Moek Dara, the secretary general of the NACD and director of the anti-drug crime department at the Ministry of Interior, was “summoned for interrogation” and “detained under supervision” along with an unnamed anti-drug police officer from Siem Reap province, Ministry of Interior spokesman Khieu Sopheak said.

“We didn’t arrest him, but we summoned him for interrogation on suspicion of a crime in cooperation with the Anticorruption Unit and according to police procedure,” Khieu Sopheak said.

“As spokesman, I cannot reveal the exact crime,” he added, saying the investigation was ongoing.

Moek Dara and the Siem Reap officer were still being held by national police as of late on Tuesday, Khieu Sopheak said.

Police and anti-drug officials were reluctant to comment on the case when contacted on Tuesday.

“I am sorry, but I cannot make any conclusions or evaluate his work because I am below him. Only top-level officials can make such conclusions,” said Meas Virith, deputy secretary general of the NACD.

Neak Yuthea, director of the department of legislation, education and rehabilitation at the NACD, also declined to comment on the case.

“I am terribly sorry, but I cannot talk about his interrogation because it is beyond my capacity,” he said.

Deputy national police chief Sok Phal said he was unaware of the case, while national police spokesman Kirt Chantharith could not be reached for comment.

However, Khieu Sopheak told the German press agency DPA that Moek Dara had been linked to the drug investigation against Banteay Meanchey provincial police chief Hun Hean and his deputy, Chheang Sun.

ACU deputy president Sieng Borath said on Tuesday that the unit was preparing a case against the pair.

“We will send them to face legal charges at the court within 48 hours,” Sieng Borath said.

“For now, we must do some additional investigating to seek other evidence, something our unit has been working on continuously.”

Hun Hean was removed from his post last week by order of Interior Minister Sar Kheng.

Banteay Meanchey Provincial Governor Ung Oeun said earlier this week that the former police chief had been under investigation for several months in relation to “several different drug crimes”.

Sieng Borath declined to specify what charges Hun Hean might face.

“We have researched a number of documents and it is involved with corruption in his work,” Sieng Borath said. “This is the important issue and this is why we are sending him to court. For other issues, we are still collecting evidence.”

Hun Hean – no relation to Prime Minister Hun Sen – has denied the allegations against him, suggesting they may have been engineered by a rival in the government.

NACD chairman Ke Kim Yan came to his position in 2009 after being removed from his post as commander-in-chief of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces amid allegations that he had been “using his military position to profit from land deals”, according to a leaked document from the Council of Ministers.

Some observers speculated at the time, however, that Ke Kim Yan’s removal was an effort by Hun Sen to weaken the government faction loyal to Senate President Chea Sim.
On Monday, ACU head Om Yentieng said in a speech to Ministry of Culture officials that three or four unnamed anti-drug police officers would be arrested in the following days for allegedly releasing detainees in exchange for bribes.

“We will arrest them so that they can be prosecuted in connection with arresting drug smugglers and then releasing them in return for taking bribes of between 20,000 and 160,000,” Om Yentieng said, neglecting to specify the currency of the alleged bribes.

Provincial official probed
Another Banteay Meanchey official, Provincial Prison Director Nuon Vanna, was also under investigation for corruption and was being held in pre-trial detention in Siem Reap province, investigating judge Im Vannak said yesterday.

The former warden is alleged to have accepted a US$40,000 bribe in exchange for releasing a Cambodian-American prisoner.

“We cannot say how long the investigation will take in this bribery case, but when it is completed, we will forward it to a trial judge to schedule a hearing,” Im Vannak said.

Thais questioned on spying


Photo by: Pha Lina
Thai detainee Veera Somkwamkid is escorted by police into Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Tuesday.

via CAAI

Wednesday, 12 January 2011 22:56 Cheang Sokha

Two Thai nationals facing espionage charges in connection with their arrest for trespassing in Banteay Meanchey province last month appeared for questioning at Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Tuesday, as tensions mounted in the high-profile case.

The two were part of a group of seven people, including Thai parliamentarian Panich Vikitsreth, who were apprehended by Cambodian troops in Banteay Meanchey’s O’Chrou district.

All seven have been charged with illegal entry and unlawfully entering a military base, charges that carry a maximum combined sentence of 18 months in prison.

On Tuesday, detainees Veera Somkwamkid and Ratree Taiputana Taiboon were also formally charged with collecting information that may damage national defence, a charge that could net them up to ten years in prison.

“The investigating judge, Ms. Chang Sinath, upheld the charge against my client,” said Pich Vicheka, Veera’s Cambodian lawyer.

“My client, however, remained silent under interrogation.”

While the Kingdom’s courts provide their own interpreters, Veera refused to speak without an interpreter appointed by the Thai Embassy, the Bangkok Post reported.

Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs deputy spokesman Thani Thongphakdi said on Tuesday that Bangkok was “concerned about the new charges”.

“We have always believed that the seven people did not intend to encroach into Cambodia … but we hope that they will have a chance to defend themselves in a court of law,” he said.

“We certainly respect the judicial process in Cambodia, and we hope the issue will be resolved as soon as possible, paving the way for the suspects to return to Thailand as soon as possible.”

Veera, a former leader of the “Yellow Shirt” People’s Alliance for Democracy, now heads the Thailand Patriot Network, a PAD splinter group. Ratree is reportedly his secretary.

Veera and the nationalist Yellow Shirts have staged repeated rallies at the Thai-Cambodian border to protest against alleged Cambodian encroachment.

He joined Panich on last month’s ill-fated excursion in an attempt to “investigate” the border demarcation process.

Pich Vicheka said on Tuesday that the detainees had yet to receive a response to a bail request submitted on Monday. A trial date has not yet been set.

Earlier this week, Prime Minister Hun Sen said the detainees could not expect to win early release if they are convicted.

“After they are convicted, they have 30 days to make an appeal, and after the conviction is effective, they have to serve two thirds of their sentences before we consider whether there is a pardon or not,” the prime minister said.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY JAMES O’TOOLE

Only 13 restaurants make the cut


Photo by: Pha Lina
A certification issued by the Municipal Health Department indicates that Origami Japanese restaurant in Phnom Penh is ‘hygienic safe’.

via CAAI

Wednesday, 12 January 2011 22:40 Tep Nimol

The Municipal Health Department issued notices certifying the hygiene of just 13 restaurants in Phnom Penh following health inspections of the capital’s 634 registered eateries over the course of 2010, officials said on Tuesday.

Sok Sokun, director of the municipal Department of Health, said the logos, which declare the restaurants to be “Clean, Green, Beautiful and Safe” and will be displayed for customer information, were only awarded to establishments that satisfied a list of 51 criteria set by the Ministry of Health.

The standards, he said, require that the restaurants; use produce that contains no harmful chemicals, prohibit live animals from being kept inside and insist that staff wash their hands before preparing food, among other things.

“We have set 51 conditions for restaurant owners [to meet] and the conditions are very difficult,” Sok Sokun said.

Foreign-owned restaurants fared well during health assessments, he said, because “their toilets and kitchens are placed far apart, but Khmer-owned restaurants have toilets and kitchens near each other”.

Ang Hok Srun, chief of the Health Ministry’s Food Safety Bureau, said Tuesday that customers could be assured that restaurants displaying the new logos had “total food safety”.

Sok Sokun said the 621 restaurants that failed the inspections would not face any immediate consequences.

“We cannot take serious measures against them because firstly, it affects on their income, and secondly, they are used to their old way of doing things, so changing their habits requires time,” he said.

The logo scheme was introduced at the end of 2009, when officials decided that the restaurant scene was ready to be held to more rigorous standards of hygiene.

“Before, it was difficult to decide to give them logos because they liked to use their old habits without being sanitary,” Sok Sokun said.

He said the system had not been introduced outside the capital yet, noting that it might take health officials “four more years to educate [provincial] restaurant owners” about the standards. Phnom Penh’s many unlicensed restaurants also were not inspected, he added.

Kim Liza, 28, owner of Guitar d’Amour restaurant in Phnom Penh, said she had yet to receive the logo to go with her hygiene certification, but hoped it would bear fruit.

“We hope in the future we will receive the logo and attract more clients to eat at our restaurant,” she said.

Sihanoukville’s first shopping complex is set to open early next month, according to its project manager Tous Saphoeun.


Photo by: Sebastian Strangio
A North Korean waitress claps her hands during a performance at Phnom Penh’s Pyongyang Restaurant in 2009.

via CAAI

Wednesday, 12 January 2011 21:40 Mary Kozlovski

Political tensions are on the boil in Korean eateries throughout Cambodia, amid reports the South Korean Embassy in Phnom Penh has urged its citizens to steer clear of the country’s North Korean government-run restaurants.

South Korean daily Chosun Ilbo reported on Monday that the embassy had asked tour agencies and residents’ associations to avoid patronising the restaurants after the DPRK’s alleged sinking of the South Korean warship Cheonan in March last year.

Park Jeong-yeon, general manager of the Phnom Penh branch of the Korean Association in Cambodia, confirmed the South Korean Embassy had “recommended” to tour agencies that they take tour groups elsewhere.

“Last year, the Korean warship was shot down by the North Koreans,” he said. “After then, the Embassy of [South] Korea in Cambodia recommended to Korean restaurants and tourist agencies not to go to North Korean restaurants.”

Since the sinking of the Cheonan, and North Korea’s apparently unprovoked shelling of Yeonpyeong Island in November 2010, relations between the two states have worsened. Park said the association has been campaigning for South Koreans to boycott North Korean restaurants “for years” in response to the DPRK regime’s belligerent behaviour.

The northern regime operates two restaurants in Siem Reap and one in Phnom Penh, part of a worldwide chain of eateries that funnels cash back to the government coffers in Pyongyang.

At the establishments, patrons can tuck into homely northern fare – including Pyongyang cold noodles – and enjoy dance and music performances by troupes of North Korean-born waitresses, who are carefully selected and trained for work abroad.

Following the sinking of the Cheonan and the attack on Yeonpyeong Island, however, Park Jeong-yeon said the KAC distributed signs and stickers to Korean restaurants throughout Phnom Penh, condemning the DPRK’s actions and urging Korean residents to avoid the eateries.

One sticker proclaimed, “We, Korean residents, don’t go to North Korean restaurants.” Another poster, a resolution condemning the sinking of the Cheonan, was also distributed.

Kimchi conflict
One Korean restaurant owner in Phnom Penh claims he was threatened and intimidated by North Korean authorities displaying the association’s material.

The restaurant owner, who did not wish to be named, said that around six months ago, three men came to his restaurant and started taking pictures. The men then tore the stickers from the toilets and removed an anti-DPRK poster from a board outside the eatery.

“They said they were taking orders from the North Korean Embassy. The North Korean Embassy told them to take pictures and take the [sign],” he said.

“My mother said ‘Stop, stop, stop’. Then they pointed their finger at my mother and I thought my mother was very scared of their strength. I thought that they would use their strength on my mother.”

The restaurant owner has since posted a new sign printed by the Korean Association, dated November 25 – two days after the shelling of Yeonpyeong Island – denouncing Pyongyang for trying to provoke a war between the two nations.

A spokesman for the South Korean embassy, who gave his name only as Yun, confirmed the Korean restaurant owner’s story.

“The Embassy understands the incident in Phnom Penh involving North Koreans is under investigation by the relevant authority of the Cambodian government,” he said via email.

Chosun Ilbo reported a similar incident at a restaurant in Siem Reap last month, where seven people “who appeared to be North Korean agents” allegedly tore down a sign criticising the North Korean military attacks.

Yun denied, however, that the embassy had encouraged South Korean citizens to boycott North Korean restaurants.

“The recent actions, including the boycott of North Korean restaurants, were completely voluntary decisions by the Korean citizens in Siem Reap, to express their regret over the North Korean provocations and take care of the safety and security of Korean tourists,” he said.

Park Jeong-yeon said that the South Korean Embassy remained concerned about South Koreans visiting restaurants run by the DPRK.

“The Embassy worries that people going to the restaurants will give information to the people who run the restaurants and they will educate [South Korean] people about ideology,” he said.

The North Korean Embassy in Phnom Penh could not be reached for comment on Tuesday. Staff at Pyongyang Restaurant, the North Korean establishment on Monivong Boulevard, also could not be reached.

Lean cuisine
Since the opening of the first North Korean restaurant in Siem Reap in 2002, similar eateries have sprouted across China and Southeast Asia, giving tourists a fleeting taste of life north of the 38th parallel.

The restaurants, though owned and operated by the DPRK, are patronised largely by South Korean tourists and expatriates.

Journalist Bertil Lintner, author of Great Leader, Dear Leader: Demystifying North Korean Under the Kim Clan, told The Post in 2009 that in the early 1990s, when both the Soviet Union and China began demanding that Pyongyang pay for goods in hard currency rather than barter goods, the DPRK was forced to open “capitalist” foreign ventures to make up funding shortfalls.

“The restaurants were used to earn additional money for the government in Pyongyang – at the same time as they were suspected of laundering proceeds from North Korea’s more unsavoury commercial activities,” Lintner said.

“Restaurants and other cash-intensive enterprises are commonly used as conduits for wads of bills, which banks otherwise would not accept as deposits.”

The Post reported in June 2009 that Pyongyang Restaurant in Phnom Penh, which opened in 2003, may have been hit hard by the global economic downturn.

According to Chosun Ilbo, around 120,000 South Koreans visit the two restaurants in Siem Reap each year, contributing an estimated 200-300 million won (US$179,000-269,000) to the North Korean regime.

However, the report suggests that the restaurants are suffering because of South Korean boycotts and that musical and dance performances by North Korean waitresses have been cancelled.

Though relations between the two Koreas seem to have warmed in recent weeks – on Tuesday Pyongyang restored a cross-border diplomatic “hot-line” between the two countries – recent events show that a culinary armistice may be some way off.

Coastal mall readies to open


Photo supplied
A computer-generated image shows the new Mittapheap Shopping Centre in Sihanoukville, part of the Pearl City Asia development near Sokha beach, which is set to open its doors “early” next month. The complex’s roof cost US$2 million alone.

via CAAI

Wednesday, 12 January 2011 18:37 Soeun Say

Sihanoukville’s first shopping complex is set to open early next month, according to its project manager Tous Saphoeun.
Construction on the US$10 million, two-storey Mittapheap Shopping Centre is nearly complete, with developers aiming to let out some 800 shops to merchants, he confirmed.

“We are the first shopping mall in Sihanoukville,” he said.

“We will attract clients to come here because of the prime location.”

Owned by prominent businessman Khaou Sambath, managing director of Thai Boon Roong Company and son of Theng Bunma, a well-known tycoon, it is part of the Pearl City Asia development.

It sits on 62 hectares in Mittapheap district in front of Sokha beach, with parking for 1,500 vehicles.

The roof for the complex cost $2 million alone, said Tous Saphoeun.

“We are nearly complete, and we will open doors for our clients in February.”

Although opening is one month away, Tous Saphoeun claimed the cost to rent one of the 800 shops had not been set.

Shop rental prices would be unveiled at the grand opening, he said.

Ministry of Tourism director general Tith Chantha said he welcomed the project, adding hopes it would attract local and international tourists to the coastal regions.

“This will play a part in developing tourism and boosting the sector,” he said.

“We really support this project, and hope it can attract more and more tourists in the future.”

Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning, and Construction official Lao Tip Seiha said Tuesday that the project’s licence was first approved in 2009.

The world economic crisis had hit the domestic construction sector, but some developers were continuing with projects, he said.

“We’re proud to have a new shopping mall in Sihanoukville,” he said, adding the area had plenty of room to expand.

Local tourism officials said the beachfront city was increasing becoming a destination for tourists.

“We’ve noted an increase in tourist visits here every year because there lots of good hotels and guesthouse, and potential for more,” said Som Chenda, director of the tourism department of Preah Sihanouk province.

Some 47 hotels and 115 guesthouses are presently in operation in Sihanoukville, and three more hotels are under construction, he confirmed.

Thai Boong Roong Company is also building a 17 storey five-storey Mittapheap hotel in Sihanoukville.

Work on the $40 million “luxury hotel” began on the first of January, according to Tous Saphoeun.

However, last year some Sihanoukville developers expressed concerns over the future of the town’s tourist industry due to the lack of flights running to the province’s airport.

In October, a representative from the private sector called the absence of a Sihanoukville flights “possibly the single most critical issue affecting tourism”.