Thursday, 24 February 2011

Asia's border wounds won't close easily

via CAAI

By Dinggang

The long steps extend up to Prasat Preah Vihear, over 500 meters high. The ancient Hindu temple stands at the cliff edge and each stone carving there records the history of the ancient Khmer kings.

Unfortunately, now people can only appreciate the temple's beauty through photos. Due to the continuous exchange of fire between the Thai and Cambodian armies, this world-class landscape has become a danger zone.

The thunder of guns at Thai-Cambodian border forces us to once again feel the heavy burden of national development in Asia.

When we look through the boundaries of Asia, certain place names, locations, or sea regions will suddenly see familiarity - not from geography books, but from news of border conflicts.

Almost all of Asian neighbors have border disputes. Conflicting sovereignty claims still divide the region.

Russia and Japan are competing over the South Kuril Islands. Malaysia and Singapore are quarreling in the international court over the sovereignty of another island. Myanmar and Bangladesh almost went to war at sea over marine disputes, and Japan and South Korea are continuing to dispute the sovereignity of the Liancourt Rocks.

The injuries of the past still leave bruises today.

The historical reasons for the sovereignty dispute are mostly related to the colonial invasion and partition. The colonial powers came and grabbed the land, and after they left, sovereignty? problems remained.

The Thai-Cambodian border conflict can be traced back to the French colonial expansion of the late 19th century, while the Kashmir issue resulted from the British colonial policy of "divide and rule." The long confrontation of the Cold War meant these wounds weren't healed. ?

In recent years, Asian has been booming economically. The cooperation between Asian countries, especially Southeast Asia and East Asia countries, has deepened, forming a new source of global economic power.

However, economic development is not enough to heal past wounds.

It could ease the pain to a degree, but due to mutual suspicions and hidden injuries, even slight frictions can develop into conflicts.

The more troublesome news is that with economic development, many countries have entered a new period where public opinion has a stronger influence over diplomacy.

Territorial and water disputes can easily lead to a violent reaction from the public, which tends to squeeze the government's scope for strategic choices and forces them to follow public opinion.

Historically, Europe experienced a period of intense conflicts over sovereignty which were often resolved through war.

Asian countries cannot afford to pay the price of war, and the current international environment does not allow it.

It is also impossible to let foreign powers return to Asia and guide the redrawing. This will only bring endless troubles.

Moreover, there is no power in the world that now has that kind of strength.

Balance achieved with the help of outside powers can only lead to a more serious imbalance. Resolving sovereignty disputes with external strength is not a rational choice and will eventually pull the opposite knot even tighter.

The cure also requires a comprehensive set of measures and implementable mechanisms that Asia doesn't have.

The injuries to Asia's development can only be cured by increasing mutual understanding, reducing the pressure of sovereignty dispute, gradually establishing an effective security mechanism and finally curing the injury through continuous cooperation.

The places where disputes often take place are still the focus of global media attention. This is not only the fate of Asia, but also the key to deciding whether Asian countries can embark on a new road of peaceful development.

The author is a senior editor with the People's Daily.

dinggang@globaltimes.com.cn

Cambodia criticised over attempts to regulate NGOs

via CAAI

Prak Chan Thul

Cambodia has come under fire over a draft law to regulate non-governmental organisations that critics, including the United States, say is another attempt by the authorities to restrict public freedom and silence dissent. Skip related content

Cambodia says it wants to regulate more than 3,000 foreign and local NGOs and civil society groups, but opponents argue the law will give the state powers to shut them down for no reason and with no right of appeal.

The draft follows the passage of draconian laws in the past 18 months that increased punishment for defamation and placed restrictions on protests. Rights groups say that is designed to intimidate government critics and the political opposition.

Ou Virak, director of the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights, said the law would give the Interior Ministry "boundless discretition" to disband any body it disagreed with and many organisations would be unable to meet registration requirements.

"Such a result will have chilling repercussions for the freedom of association and expression of ordinary people and will significantly reduce the democratic space in Cambodia," he said. Cambodia, one of Asia's poorest countries, is enjoying an unprecedented period of stability and economic growth after decades of civil war.

But critics and aid donors say its democratic credentials are still lagging those of other Asian countries and that its human rights record is worsening.

During a visit to Cambodia this week, Daniel Baer, deputy assistant secretary of the United States Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labour, said the proposed law was unnecessary.

"The United States has made clear that we have concern about the law, that we see Cambodian civil society as something that Cambodia should be proud of," he told reporters on Tuesday.

"There's a vibrant group of voices here and that's something that ought to be protected and preserved," Baer said. "We don't yet understand the necessity of the law."

PUBLIC BACKLASH

Prime Minister Hun Sen's ruling Cambodian People's Party is widely accused of abusing its parliamentary majority to pass laws curtailing freedom of expression and leaning on the judiciary to punish critics.

Political commentator Chea Vannath said the draft law could lead to a public backlash and limit the country's attractiveness as it seeks to lure foreign investors and tourists.

"People in some countries have risen up against their governments, causing foreign investors a big loss," she said, referring to anti-government unrest in several Arab states. "It is understandable that investors want to invest in a country that is fully democratic."

The government defended the bill, saying the law was required under the constitution and would help NGOs do their work better.

"There are increasing numbers of NGOs and associations so there needs to be a law to regulate them," Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesman Koy Kuong said.

(Editing by Martin Petty and Alan Raybould)

Cambodian mother and baby die from bird flu

via CAAI

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) -- Health officials say a Cambodian mother and her 11-month-old son died from bird flu after preparing and eating meat contaminated by the deadly H5N1 virus.

Cambodia's Ministry of Health and the World Health Organization issued a statement late Wednesday saying the 19-year-old mother died Feb. 12 and her son on Feb. 17. They got sick two days after handling and eating infected poultry during a visit with relatives in eastern Prey Veng province.

Cooked meat is safe to eat, but undercooked or raw poultry can infect humans if ingested. Slaughtering or preparing sick or dead birds can also cause infection.

The cases follow the death of a 5-year-old girl earlier this month in the capital, Phnom Penh, which has also been linked to contact with sick poultry.

US backs ASEAN efforts to resolve Thailand-Cambodia border spat

via CAAI

By The Associated Press (CP)
WASHINGTON — The U.S. has welcomed ASEAN's efforts to resolve a deadly border dispute between member states Cambodia and Thailand.

Forty observers from Indonesia will monitor a cease-fire after violence broke out this month near the ancient Preah Vihear temple, scene of a long-running territorial dispute. Indonesia is current chair of the Southeast Asian grouping.

State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said Wednesday the U.S. also supports the ASEAN foreign ministers' call for Cambodia and Thailand to resume bilateral negotiations "at the earliest opportunity."

The 10-nation group, long criticized as ineffectual, is trying to take a more active role in regional affairs.

At least eight people have died in the recent fighting, and thousands have been displaced.

Santi Asoke head condemns use of force


via CAAI

Published: 24/02/2011
Deploying military force is not the way to solve the border dispute with Cambodia, says the head of the Santi Asoke Buddhist sect.

"I do not support the call by People's Alliance for Democracy leader [Sondhi Limthongkul] for military force to solve the border problem or seize back the disputed area," Samana Photirak said.

"But it's understandable that people have strong emotions. That's the reason we are here - to remind us that peace is around," he told an audience at the Foreign Correspondents Club yesterday.

Despite his reservations, he said PAD's stance of defending Thai territory and standing up to Cambodia was righteous.

"We all know what [Cambodia Prime Minister] Hun Sen is like, so we have to stop him from acquiring our land.

"The 4.6 square kilometres of disputed area [on the border with Cambodia] is ours and this is not a misunderstanding."

Samana Photirak avoided answering a question about Thailand and Cambodia's agreement to invite Indonesia to deploy observers on the two sides of the disputed border area, saying only that Santi Asoke had no plans to end its protest.

Supporters of the Santi Asoke sect and PAD have been blocking two roads near Government House in protest against the way the government is handling the border dispute.

Samana Photirak said Santi Asoke had come out to push for "real" democracy, and save the disputed land.

He said it was the duty of Asoke supporters to help the nation when it was in trouble and when people in office made a mess of things.

"We succeeded in a non-violent 193-day protest in 2008, and we will succeed again," he said, referring to the protest in which the sect joined forces with the PAD at Government House to dispel the Samak Sundaravej and Somchai Wongsawat administrations.

He said the situation this time was worse than in 2008.

"This administration fools people through complicated, well-organised and mobilised fronts to appear democratic."

Samana Photirak said no true political party could really serve the people and act democratically.

"Even the New Politics Party [PAD's party] is unlikely to get there.

"It would matter more if we could get a person who is really honest and would manage the country for the benefit of the people. The person could be a dictator or authoritarian, but as long as they govern without greed and desire, that is fine," he said.

PM: Thailand is ready to respond


via CAAI

Published: 24/02/2011

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva says Thailand is prepared to strike with full force against Cambodia if it continues to violate Thai sovereignty.

Bridge over troubled waters Army engineers build a makeshift bridge across a river near the border village of Phum Srol in Si Sa Ket. The structure, designed to accommodate tanks, is planned for use in case bridges are destroyed in fighting. JETJARAS NARANONG

Mr Abhisit insisted yesterday that Thailand had the right to act against Cambodia - and he has the staunch backing of the army.

There has been speculation about whether Thailand would respond to Cambodian aggression after Indonesia was invited to deploy 15 observers to inspect the two sides of the disputed border area.

The invitation was issued on Tuesday during the Association of Southeast Asian Nations foreign ministers meeting chaired by Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa in Jakarta.

"There isn't any agreement that leaves us unable to protect our sovereignty," Mr Abhisit said. "If [Cambodia] provokes [future] clashes, we have the right to launch a full retaliatory attack."

Army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha backed the premier, saying there would be no withdrawal of troops. Thai forces remained in position in the disputed 4.6-square-kilometre border zone.

"No one is saying anything about withdrawal." Gen Prayuth said.

"Who would do that? If Cambodia doesn't pull its troops back, we can't. If Cambodia doesn't cease fire, we can't."

United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation director-general Irina Bokova's special envoy on the Preah Vihear temple, Koichiro Matsuura, will travel to Bangkok and Phnom Penh from tomorrow until Tuesday to discuss how to safeguard the centuries-old temple, a Unesco world heritage site, with the Thai and Cambodian prime ministers.

Mr Matsuura, a former Unesco director-general and a former chair of the World Heritage Committee, will also examine with both sides ways of reducing tension and promoting dialogue about the preservation of the temple, Unesco said in a statement released yesterday.

Ms Bokova has voiced concern over damage to the Hindu temple caused by the fighting between Thai and Cambodian soldiers earlier this month.

Thailand blamed Cambodia for using the temple as a military base to open fire on Thai soldiers

The Thai military said they had no choice but to fire back.

Former Thai ambassador Asda Jayanama, the chair of the Thai-Cambodian Joint Boundary Commission, has flown to Paris to clarify the Preah Vihear situation with Ms Bokova.

Acting government spokesman Panitan Wattanayagorn said the Unesco representative would meet the prime minister, Natural Resources and Environment Minister Suwit Khunkitti and Foreign Affairs Minister Kasit Piromya tomorrow.

Mr Panitan said security officials would not allow him to visit the border because the situation was still sensitive and tense.

DAP News. Breaking News by Soy Sopheap

via CAAI

Cambodia Promotes Right Access to Information

Thursday, 24 February 2011 06:03 DAP-NEWS/ROS RITHEA

PHNOM PENH, CAMBODIA, FEB 24, 2011-The information minister Khieu Kanharith said on Thursday that rights access to information is need for people and related to their living conditions, and feeling, and their favorite to get the information in the new era of the information.

“We are proud of implementing the requests for people about the rights access to information,” the minister said in the annual work meeting of the ministry.

“We are optimistic about the press work in our country, and it grew remarkably and it provided the quick information for people,” The minister added, noting that each year, we have implemented the main role for providing the information and entertainment for publics.

The right access to information is not an isolated matter of the ministry but it related to other many issues and state agencies. Cambodia plans to approve the law access to information.

“So far the international community has said that Cambodia is working on the right track towards development, peace, security, stability and democratic promotion, and human rights and people’s health care,” the minister added.

He said that the country in 2010 achieved 5 per cent growth for marco-economic fields and in 1993, the poverty rate stood 43 per cent but now it has 26 per cent in 2010, with the commitment from the government to reduce one per cent annually.

“We are trying to provide the information with the form of the quickness, strangeness, confidence for anytime and anywhere,” The minister said, adding that: “According to the census 2008, Cambodians has 13.4 millions with 2,841, 897 families. And 1,645,891 families owned TV sets in a family about 58 per cent of the total families. At the same time, 1.149,807 families have a radio set respectively in the proportion of about 40.81 per cent. Now, there are 99.22 per cent of our citizens accessed to information.

“We do not count the radio and cassette players installed in the cars.

According to the report from the information ministry, now in Cambodia it has 623 newspapers, magazines, and bulletins in Khmer language and in 2009; it has 556, increasing yearly.

Moreover, it has 74 newspapers, magazines, bulletins, which published at foreign countries imported and sold here.

Cambodia has 11 foreign news agencies, and 27 journalists associations, one radio association and one TV association, 40 radio stations based in Phnom Penh and 51 radio stations at provinces, 10 TV stations based in Phnom Penh and relayed 7 TV stations at provinces and two cables companies TV with broadcasting 102 channels from worldwide. And 5 foreign TV stations relayed into Cambodia, 5 publishing agencies and 84 printing houses. And 49 billboard making companies and 25 TVs stations broadcasted online.

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OPINION: Abhisit Vejjajeva’s Beating the War Drum

Thursday, 24 February 2011 05:58 DAP-NEWS

The war of aggression with the intention to invade and occupy territory under Cambodia’s sovereingty by Thailand’s Armed Forces is imminent if the report by The Bangkok Post on 24 February 2011 under the title: “PM: Thailand is ready to respond” is accurate.

Only one day after Thailand had claimed of a Thai diplomatic victory at ASEAN’s 22 February 2011 Foreign Ministers meeting in Jakarta, Indonesia, and only one week after Thailand had claimed of a Thai political victory at UNSC’s 14 February 2011, in New York City, USA that the Prime Minister of Thailand Abhisit Vejjajiva is frantically beating the war drum and showing off evidences of Thai military activities in the area facing the Temple of Preah Vihear border area that “Thailand is prepared to strike with full force against Cambodia if it continues to violate Thai sovereignty.” Let’s dissect this arrogant statement and see, what does it mean and what does it stand among all civilized nations of ASEAN and the World Community.

First, Thailand’s accusation of Cambodia of violating Thai sovereignty is exactly the same case as in “The Wolf and the Lamb,” by French fabulist and poet, Jean de La Fontaine (1621-1695), in which Thailand is a mean and cruel wolf that exerts the threat of a “full force” war against Cambodia, with its Armed Forces superiority, including modern weaponry, modern fighter-jets and a navy including a carrier.

Second, to support its accusation, Thailand must have the courage to tell ASEAN and the World Community, when Cambodia violated Thailand sovereignty, and how long already Cambodia has violated Thailand’s sovereignty, and how and why the violation occurred.

Third, Thailand must have the courage to tell ASEAN and the World Community that it is a bully boy and prepares to trample under foot all international treaties, conventions, commitments, and agreements, namely the 13 February 1904 Convention (or Treaty), the 23 March 1907 Treaty, the 15 June 1962 ICJ’s Judgment, recent commitments expressed at the UNSC and at the 22 February 2011 ASEAN foreign ministers meeting.

Fourth, the ASEAN and the World Community, especially Indonesia with the appreciation of the UNSC and ASEAN members including Cambodia has committed to send observers very soon to the Thailand side as requested by Thailand before and at the Jakarta meeting, and to the Cambodian side under Cambodia’s request announced by Samdech Akka Moha Sena Padei Techo Hun Sen, Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Cambodia in the morning of 17 February 2011. This should have made Thailand celebrating a happy moment, but it turns out that Abhisit Vejjajeva is beating the war drum louder and louder in defiance of it “own granted request”.

Fifth, ASEAN and the World Community have witnessed the way Thailand treats ASEAN and the World Community…with contempt and the way Thailand behaves…like a snake in the grass. Samdech Techo had said last weeks that “they (Thai PM and FM) are a lot more slippery than the slimy eels, and Cambodia must be careful.”

Sixth, it is high time for ASEAN and the World Community to bring the “wild bull” into the stable, in order to avoid bloodshed, destruction and misery to innocent civilian people who wish to leave peacefully and in harmony with one another in either side of the recognized international frontier line.

Seventh, Cambodians, rich, poor, city dwellers, peasants, old and young are united behind the Royal Government and its Armed Forces under the wise leadership of Samdech Akka Moha Sena Padei Techo Hun Sen to defend Cambodia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity based on existing binding treaties, agreements and commitments and with all Cambodia’s available resources, legal, political and military when the war of aggression intended to invade and occupy Cambodian territory is imposed on Cambodia by Abhisit Vejjajeva.

The plea of the Cambodian people to ASEAN and the UNSC and other International Organizations: please stop the imminent war of aggression of Thailand against Cambodia, before it is ignited by Thai militarists and insane politicians.

Prof. Pen Ngoeun
Senior advisor and member of the Academic Committee
Puthisastra University, Phnom Penh, Cambodia,
Former Dean and Professor of the Faculty of Business and Economics
Pannasastra University of Cambodia,
Former Assistant Controller at Phibro Inc.,
A subsidiary of Citigroup Inc., New York City, USA, until 2000

______

Commentary: Incompetence or Karma?

Wednesday, 23 February 2011 06:53 DAP-NEWS

Who, if anyone, is in charge of the Thai Air Force? Is it the Thai Defence Minister? Someone else in the government? A military commander? The Yellow Shirts?

The question arises because all of these people, and more, seem to be issuing orders to Thailand’s Air Force and/or explaining its actions. And mostly they disagree with each other.

Let’s start with the Yellow Shirts. Although the Yellow Shirts put Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva into office by occupying the Bangkok airport a few years ago, they are increasingly upset with his inability to disband UNESCO, overrun Preah Vihear or convince the rest of the world that Thailand is the only country that has any heritage worth mentioning.

On 3 February, there was a Yellow Shirt demonstration in Bangkok led by Major General Chamlong Srimuang. According to the Nation newspaper, Chamlong called on the Thai government “to withdraw Thailand from membership of the World Heritage Committee, disavow 2000’s memorandum of understanding on bilateral border demarcations” with Cambodia and to “send F-16 fighters flying over the controversial spots along the Thai-Cambodian border”. The report continued:

“The airborne powers of the Thai air force could be used in lieu of ground or naval forces against the Cambodians who only have some dilapidated MiG-21 fighters to counter the relatively modern American-made combat jets, said the general.”

The same Nation article quoted the Thai Defence Minister, General Prawit Wongsuwan, as saying that “Military ties between Thailand and Cambodia remained firm and friendly”. However, the Minister has some peculiar ideas about friendship. Or perhaps a Major General in the Yellow Shirts outranks a General in the government. Whatever the reason, five days later Prawit had adopted Chamlong’s idea regarding the Air Force.

Prawit told the Thai Cabinet “that Cambodia was unlikely to exacerbate the situation because it did not have a strong military. ‘Cambodia’s air force is not powerful, and I warned my counterpart [Cambodian Minister of National Defence] Tea Banh that we would fly jet fighters if they did not stop,’ Prawit was quoted as saying.” (Nation, 9 February)

Unfortunately, the Nation’s report did not make clear what Cambodia was supposed to “stop” in order to avoid being menaced by the Thai Air Force. Perhaps General Prawit meant that Cambodia would have to stop not having a powerful air force.

Two days later, on 10 February, two Thai fighter planes flew along, and possibly across, the border near the Preah Vihear Temple. Thai Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban told the Thai News Agency that this had not happened, and anyway it was only normal flight training.

Mr Suthep was contradicted by Air Chief Marshal Prachin Chantong, who told the Bangkok Post that two Thai planes “flew very close to the Cambodian border by mistake”. Prachin reportedly said that the planes were participating in the Cobra Gold military exercises with the United States and Singapore. They were supposed to stay at least 10 kilometres from the border, but “by mistake” had flown within two or three kilometres.

It might be too cynical to discount the “mistake” explanation. Mistakes seem to be endemic in the Thai Air Force, perhaps because its personnel can’t be sure whose orders they are supposed to be following. A more serious mistake occurred on 14 February, when two Thai F-16s crashed; fortunately the pilots ejected safely. Initial reports indicated that the planes may have collided with each other. Perhaps Major General Chamlong told them “Turn right!” while Air Chief Marshal Prachin was telling them “Turn left!”

However, we should also mention the possibility that the crashes were not a mistake in the usual sense of the word. In both Thailand and Cambodia, the majority religion is Buddhism. It is a central Buddhist belief that a person’s good or bad behaviour today affects their future fortune. Some Buddhists might be inclined to see the loss of two military planes as karmic retribution for the Thai military’s shelling of both the Temple of Preah Vihear and Wat Keo Sekha Kiri Svarak.

Prime Minister Abhisit is working overtime to prevent international observers seeing what his troops have been and are doing. But can he hide them from the Buddha?

By Allen Myers

Lake residents unveil plan


Photo by: Will Baxter
Employees of Shukaku Inc pump sand into an area previously occupied by homes and businesses at Boeung Kak lake’s Village 1 in December last year.

via CAAI

Thursday, 24 February 2011 15:02 Khouth Sophakchakrya

Residents from the city’s Boeung Kak lake say they will continue to press requests that city authorities grant them on-site housing at the controversial lakeside development, following City Hall’s rejection of a land sharing plan last week.

Boeung Kak representative Ly Mom said that the plan was submitted to municipal authorities late last month, requesting that 15 hectares of land be set aside for residents likely to be displaced.

The plan, which covered 12 percent of the 133-hectare area, envisioned green space, roads and markets in addition to housing for residents, was rejected by Phnom Penh Governor Kep Chuktema on February 17.

“However, we are not hopeless and we will still try making demands until there is a just reply and the win-win policy of the government,” Ly Mom said yesterday during a public presentation of the plan.

In a statement released yesterday, residents claimed that the Boeung Kak project, which is being developed by obscure local firm Shukaku Inc, had violated their legal rights under the Cambodian Constitution and the 2001 Land Law.

Residents at the lake were initially offered three options by the authorities as compensation for leaving their homes: cash compensation, relocation to the outskirts of the city or on-site housing. The statement said that residents preferred the third option, but that no such plans have been made public.

“To get negotiations under way, the remaining 1,000-1,500 families living in the Boeung Kak area have decided to agree to the third option of on-site development,” the statement said. “Because no on-site development plan has been put forward by the company, we have developed our own plan to solve the land dispute between Shukaku Inc and our community.”

The rejection of the land sharing plan constituted a breach in the initial lease agreement signed between Shukaku and the municipality in 2007, the statement added.

“We call on the [Municipality] and Shukaku Inc to reconsider their stance and accept this olive branch the Boeung Kak community is offering,” it said.

Sia Phearum, secretariat director of the Housing Rights Task Force, said city authorities should review the plan suggested by the lakeside residents.

“City Hall’s rejection could make villagers lose confidence in the government. We want to see the citizens happy rather than cry due to development,” he said.

Kep Chuktema could not be reached for comment yesterday. Lao Vann, a Shukaku representative, said that he was not aware of the land sharing plan, but added that the company would not be able to take it on board in any case.

“We just practice the project of the authorities and we have a clear contract, so we will not do anything that is out of the contract,” he said.

Land dispute: Protests grow in Prey Lang


via CAAI

Thursday, 24 February 2011 15:02 May Titthara

Land dispute
An additional 100 protesters gathered yesterday in Kampong Thom province’s Sandan district, joining roughly 200 villagers that have demonstrated since Sunday against a rubber company they fear will clear their forested land.

The villagers are continuing to protest outside the offices of CRCK Rubber Development Company – which was granted a 6,044-hectare concession last year – despite efforts by district and military police to stop them.

The villagers came from communities in Kampong Thom, Stung Treng and Preah Vihear provinces that border Prey Lang forest, one of Cambodia’s largest at about 200,000 hectares. They fear the company will destroy forested land they depend on for their livelihoods.

Long Sokun, Kampong Thom deputy police chief, declined to comment in detail on the protest, but said “I don’t know why they deployed a lot of police around that place”.

Last July, more than 100 villagers gathered in Phnom Penh to deliver petitions to Prime Minister Hun Sen’s cabinet and the Ministry of Agriculture requesting action to protect Prey Lang.

Reporter files assault complaint over attack


via CAAI

Thursday, 24 February 2011 15:02 Mom Kunthear

A journalist in Siem Reap province filed a complaint on Monday to provincial police officials against a logger he claimed assaulted him at a petrol station.

Ly Phalla, a journalist at the province’s National Development newspaper, said the incident occurred on Saturday night in Siem Reap’s Slakram district. He said a car with two passengers followed him to the petrol station, where one of the passengers allegedly assaulted him.

“There was a man that got out of the car and hit me on my head, ear, temple and left eye,” said Ly Phalla. “I am lucky that the surrounding people helped and then [the perpetrators] drove their car to escape.”

Sort Nady, the provincial police chief, said yesterday that he hadn’t received Ly Phalla’s complaint, but would “take measures through the law” when it was received.

Sou Choeun, director of the Siem Reap Angkor Journalists Alliance, said that reporters have a right to report disputes, but only under work-related circumstances.

“The suspects have to be punished if they hit reporters when they are reporting the news, but it’s different if the dispute is a personal one,” he said.

Joint human rights project announced


via CAAI

Thursday, 24 February 2011 15:02 Thomas Miller

The United States-based Robert F Kennedy Centre for Justice and Human Rights and the Cambodian civic education organisation CIVICUS launched an education programme in Phnom Penh yesterday designed to inspire students to become rights defenders.

Kerry Kennedy, a daughter of Robert F Kennedy and president of the RFK Center, recounted her own awakening to the cause of human rights in remarks at Pannasastra University before several hundred students.

She said a number of traumatic events during her youth had a deep impact on her.

The assassinations of her uncle, US President John F Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr and her father, Robert F Kennedy, as well as friends’ experiences of domestic violence, discrimination and rape, seemed “chaotic” and left her feeling powerless.

She was then introduced to the field of international law through an internship with Amnesty International, where she learned about abuses of Salvadoran refugees in the US.

“But I also learned that all of the horrible things that had happened in my life were violations of international law. And that there were people in my country and around the world – human rights defenders – who were organised and were putting an end to these violations, and that I could join them,” Kennedy said.

The project includes a curriculum for students and a photo exhibition at Meta House based on Kennedy’s book, which profiles human rights activists with photographs by the Pulitzer prize-winning American photographer Eddie Adams.

A play also based on Kennedy’s book will be performed at the Pannasastra University auditorium tonight at 5pm.

Surya Subedi, the United Nations special rapporteur for human rights, told students that human rights work takes a long-term commitment.

“The value of human rights education cannot be measured. Some of the work we do today may bring results tomorrow. Some of the work we do today may bring results in five years time,” he said. “So we have to be persistent.”

Garment workers protest


Photo by: Heng Chivoan
Garment factory workers exit through the front gate of June Textiles company in Phnom Penh’s Sen Sok district yesterday, where protesters are seeking the dismissal of two factory managers.

via CAAI

Thursday, 24 February 2011 15:01 Mom Kunthear and Adam Miller

About 2,000 garment workers at the June Textile Company in Phnom Penh’s Sen Sok district held a protest yesterday, demanding that the company fire two high-ranking factory officials, according to worker representative Chhoub Nith.

“The workers are not satisfied with the two high-ranking factory managers and they want the factory director to fire them,” he said yesterday.

“If the factory does not fire them, then the protests will keep going without a deadline.”

Meng Kry, administrative director, and Ung Sokret Yuthea, information technology manager, were accused of firing workers without cause, altering workers’ union affiliations and creating forged documents to claim a percentage of workers’ salaries, Chhoub Nith said.

The workers also staged a similar protest on February 11, but the two officials were not fired.

“The unions don’t have any proof to say that they are guilty.They always make false allegations,” Albert Teoh, director of the factory, said yesterday.

He added that problems arose when a union leader was replaced, causing a rift within the factory.

“Tomorrow maybe they want to get rid of the whole management ... the union denies everything and misleads the workers, by saying the management is wrong,” he said.

Meng Kry and Ung Sokret Yuthea could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Doung Sinat, a textile worker at the factory, said yesterday that she protests voluntarily in order to gain benefits for the workers.

“There is no one forcing me or the other workers to protest to demand the company fire Meng Kry and Ung Sokret Yuthea, who always take workers’ benefits. We will keep protesting until the company fires those two men,” she said.

Religion dept: Workers say they are not getting paid


via CAAI

Thursday, 24 February 2011 15:01 Chhay Channyda

Religion dept

Eight employees from the department of cults and religion in Preah Sihanouk province have filed a complaint to the provincial court against three senior officials they accuse of not paying their salaries.

The complaint said that three employees have not received payments since January 2010, while another five employees have received 100,000 riel (US$25) per month, about 40,000 riel lower than their salary.

Am Sakhorn, a 48-year-old employee at the department, said yesterday her salary has been frozen for over a year.

“I didn’t even get a cent,” she said. “The director took our money to pay for his own expenses, and when we asked about it, he replied that the money was to help soldiers at Preah Vihear”.

Kong Sinath, the director of the department and one of the targets of the accusations, said each of the eight officials had been fully paid.

“I would like to deny all accusations because it’s not true,” he said. “All thumbprints of the complaints were not original.”

When asked about Am Sakhorn, Kong Sinath said that “I paid my own money to her sometimes”.

Siem Reap river families agree to relocate


via CAAI

Thursday, 24 February 2011 15:01 Thik Kalyann

More than 400 makeshift homes along the Siem Reap riverbank will be relocated in April as part of a planned environmental cleanup project, said Oeun Pov, deputy governor of Siem Reap city, on Tuesday.

Oeun Pov said 274 families living on the riverbank between Spean Neak Bridge and the former Provincial Tourism Department will be relocated to Veal Village in Sambuor commune, along with 173 other families living in homes near the Siem Reap Crocodile Farm.

“The 447 families agree that the provincial government has tried to find a mutually acceptable resolution for this issue,” he said.

Each family relocated to Veal Village, which lies about 7 kilometres outside the town, will receive a 7-by-15-metre plot of land and US$200 cash from the provincial government as well as “unspecified assistance” in moving their belongings

The provincial government has also promised to provide sanitation assistance and will install a toilet on each plot and build wells in the new community.

Oeun Pov said the relocation project would be funded by a $40-million grant from the Korea International Cooperation Agency under an agreement between Cambodia and South Korea to clean up the Siem Reap River. Veal Village already had its own hospital and a police presence, and the provincial government had plans to install more electricity infrastructure in the area, he said.

“I felt happy with what I will get from the provincial authority, because I do not own the land where I live on the riverbank,” said Saroum Chivon, a cloth seller living near Wat Polanka.

But grocery seller Chea Meung Sokthy said the US$1,214 in compensation she will receive for relocating her business from nearby the Siem Reap Crocodile Farm pales in comparison with the price she paid for the land. “I bought this land for $3,500 when my daughter was two years old in order to live here and sell groceries to support myself. I knew that it was government land but I had no land, so I decided to buy it,” she said.

“I don’t know whether there will be a market and school or not, but I hope that I still can run my business when I move to the new place. We also really need a hospital. I hope that the new village will have one.”

Cultural roots key to securing land rights for ethnic Kreung


Photo by: Tep Nimol
Ethnic Kreung people sit in a hut during a visit earlier this month by an EU delegation to La Ak village, in La Ak commune, in Ratanakkiri province’s O’Chum district.

via CAAI

Thursday, 24 February 2011 15:01 Summer Walker and Tep Nimol

Oun Champei, the La Ak village chief and a Kreung indigenous community member, fears that urban culture is threatening his people’s traditional way of life.

To confront this, older members of the community started an initiative in 2009 to revive their culture by holding traditional dance and music classes for young people in the village.

However, only twenty people have participated in the classes since 2009. One class member, Hen Sophat, 16, said she was learning the dances to keep indigenous traditions alive, but would prefer to live an urban lifestyle. She added that she had tried skin whitening lotion and had multiple ear piercings because she thought it was fashionable.

Elders from the indigenous Kreung community in Ratanakkiri are up against stiff competition as they work to instill their cultural heritage in younger community members who are swayed by urban culture and lifestyles.

Not only do their efforts matter for cultural preservation, but exhibiting tradition is part of a larger effort for indigenous communities to register collective land, a right first granted in the Land Law of 2001.

“We put a lot of effort into preserving our culture, because we fear it may disappear with the younger generations. Now we see other cultural influences, such as modern music, drawing the attention of our youth. The next generation may forget their traditions,” said Veng Bunmorng, community leader in La Ak village.

“We are seeing rapid changes with youth, especially in communities that are close to towns. Groups in remote areas are maintaining stronger ties to tradition, and some are even strengthening their identity,” said Sao Vansey, managing director of the Indigenous Community Support Organisation, which helps fund the classes.

He added that groups trying to preserve traditional ways of life may be aware of what is at stake, as identity and recognition as an indigenous group is now closely related to whether a group will secure collective land rights with the government.

Since the government will not register collective land without an official legislative process, an NGO-sponsored pilot programme launched in 2003 has created a three-step process for indigenous recognition, registration and land titling, according to Yin Sopheap, a land rights advisor for UNDP at the time.

Indigenous communities must request recognition as an indigenous group from the Ministry of Rural Development, apply for legal recognition with the Ministry of Interior, and finally submit an application for a community land title from the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction.

During the first phase, groups submit an application to the MRD and are visited by a working group, which then submits a second report to the ministry for consideration after having interviewed community members.

Sao Vansey said to be recognised by the Ministry of Rural Development, a community needs to prove it is a collective unit sharing common language, customary law and culture, including art, dance and ceremonial events.

“We had to tell them about our dances, ceremonies and arts, such as weaving, to show our ethnic identity through our culture and tradition,” said community leader Veng Bunmorng.

He said his community was successfully recognised as an indigenous group by the Ministry of Rural Development and has submitted community bylaws and an application for legal recognition from the Ministry of Interior.

The ICSO’s Sao Vansey said the Kreung in La Ak have recently received an official recognition letter from the Ministry of Interior and will move ahead with the land registration phase in 2011.

According to an International Labor Organization update in December 2010, 17 communities, excluding the 3 pilot groups, have been legally recognised by the Ministry of Interior and are eligible to apply for land registration. Thirty-one have been recognized by the Ministry of Rural Development and will now apply to be certified as legal entities.

However, no indigenous group has received a communal land title in the 10 years since the Land Law was passed.

Sao Vansey said, after the pilot program, each step has taken roughly one to two years for each group, and that it remains unclear how long the land titling step may take.

After a seven to eight year process, the three pilot communities are still waiting for their land titles after approval was granted in 2010, according to Sek Sophorn, the national project coordinator for the Support to Indigenous Peoples Project at the ILO.

There is hope that by increased communication among different communities and NGOs, indigenous groups can strengthen their culture and community, Veng Bunmorng said.

“We have contact with other ethnic minority groups and share many of the same traditions. If we all work together we have a better chance of not losing our heritage.”

Additional reporting by mom kunthear

Change mooted for receipt system


via CAAI

Thursday, 24 February 2011 15:01 May Kunmakara and Jeremy Mullins

THE Ministry of Economy and Finance has finished a draft prakas aiming to standardise receipts for payments such as licensing fees and fines in a bid to increase transparency and government revenues.

Minister Keat Chhon said on Tuesday that the revamped receipt system would replace one that had been in place since 1984, and was set to become a standard system across the government. A standardised system of receipts would ensure the transparency required for payments ending up in the national treasury, he said.

“[Ongoing] economic and political improvements and subsequent reforms require a change in behaviour – especially changing the old habits,” he said. “Receipt revenue plays an important role for increasing internal revenue.”

The receipt system will specifically be issued for customers making non-taxation revenues, such as licensing and processing fees, fines, and other payments to any government ministry. World Bank official Leah April agreed the receipts would assist the government in becoming more transparent in its revenue collection efforts.

SME close-up: Competition heats up for bakers


via CAAI

Thursday, 24 February 2011 15:01 SIEM BUNTHY

COMPETITION between the Kingdom’s bakers is heating up, confectionaires have said, leading the Kingdom’s Apsara Bakery chain to put US$200,000 toward enlarging its factory in Russei Keo district in Phnom Penh.

The factory expansion, set to be finished next year, would allow the bakery chain – which owns five branches in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap – to hire more workers to add to its 70 employees, who are trained to produce 30 different types of cake.

On public holidays, its employees rise to up to 300 to cope with demand.

“We have growing local demand,” said Apsara’s Production Manager Peng Chhorn.

He said his firm intend to export its own cakes to international markets in the future, but initially it was looking to produce standardised quality goods for the international stage.

Meng Saktheara, general director at the Ministry of Industry, Mine, and Energy, said that growing bakery production had reduced imports from neighbouring countries and lowered prices.

While fellow baked goods manufacturer Keo Mom, director of LYLY Company, which makes crackers, said that high raw material costs and a lack of skills were challenges for the sector.

Hello’s profits fall 58 percent


An employee of Hello waits on a customer at the company's service centre in Chamkarmon district in December last year. Photo by: Will Baxter

via CAAI

Thursday, 24 February 2011 15:00 Jeremy Mullins

MOBILE operator Hello saw its profit after tax fall by 58 percent in the fourth quarter, compared with the previous three months, according to a presentation from parent firm Axiata Group released yesterday.

Subscribers climbed 16 percent while revenues declined 3 percent in the fourth quarter, compared with the quarter before, the results showed.

While Axiata did not detail specific dollar amounts for Cambodia, the group echoed comments by many in claiming the service provider market is overcrowded. Hello continues “to face competitive challenges in an over-crowded market”, Axiata stated yesterday.

In November, the most recent month for which statistics gathered by the government are available, Hello claimed 870,000 subscribers, placing it as the third largest provider before the merger between Smart and Star-Cell.

Meanwhile, the firm also unveiled a new pricing scheme yesterday, termed “Hello Laor”, offering unlimited on-net calls for either a daily or a monthly fee.

Chief Executive Officer Simon Perkins was quoted as saying in the release that the pricing plans would lower costs for customers. Perkins could not be reached for further comment yesterday.

Axiata Group as a whole also fell into the red for the latest quarter after booking a 1.1-billion-ringgit (US$356-million) impairment stemming from its investment in India’s India Cellular Ltd yesterday, reflecting the intense competition from new operators, it said in a statement.

The impairment contributed to a 367-million-ringgit group loss at Axiata for the three months ending December 31, compared with a 558.3-million-ringgit profit a year earlier, the Kuala Lumpur-based company said.

Axiata had also previously announced an impairment on the goodwill of Hello Axiata of 49 million ringgit. Axiata fell 1.2 percent to 4.98 ringgit at 4:17pm in Kuala Lumpur trading yesterday. ADDITIONAL REPORTING BLOOMBERG

Star buckles up for road safety


Yeoh meets children at Sampov Meas School. Photo by: SRENG MENG SRUN

via CAAI

Thursday, 24 February 2011 15:00 Ou Mom

HOLLYWOOD film star Michelle Yeoh has filmed a documentary promoting road safety in Cambodia as part of her work as a global road safety ambassador.

This week she visited children at Sampov Meas Primary School to help teach students and teachers to wear helmets while riding on a motorbike.

“I’ve travelled in many countries and seen the terrible impact that ... a lack of basic road safety can have on people’s lives,” said the star of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Memoirs of a Geisha.

“[Someone] is killed or maimed on the roads every 30 seconds [worldwide]. These tragedies are so sad and so unnecessary because we have the ability to prevent this by wearing helmets,” Yeoh said.

The documentary and helmet initiative is part of the United Nations Decade of Action for Road Safety. Yeoh met Public Works and Transport Minister Tram Iv Tek while in Cambodia to press for quick passage of a law making helmets compulsory for motorbike passengers.

Currently the law only requires motorbike drivers to wear helmets. However, wearing a helmet cuts the likelihood of death from a traffic crash by 42 percent, according to the Cambodia Helmet Vaccine Initiative.

Last year, 1,709 Cambodians died in road crashes.

“This documentary for the UN Decade Action for Road Safety will highlight not only the tremendous burden of road traffic crashes but also the inspirational stories of people who are working to make our roads safer,” said Saul Billingsley, deputy director general of the FIA Foundation.

According to media assistant Naro Mol, Yeoh arrived in Cambodia on Saturday, visited Siem Reap on Tuesday, and flew back to Hong Kong yesterday.

Modern dance at Chenla Theatre


via CAAI

Thursday, 24 February 2011 15:00 Roth Meas

CONTEMPORARY Cambodian dancers join force with artists from Laos, Thailand and France this weekend for performances of new dance works at Chenla Theatre on Friday and Saturday, with a performance at Diamond Island on Sunday.

Under the aegis of the French Cultural Centre (CCF), the Cambodian artists will perform a contemporary dance called Garuda, while the foreign artists will together dance a work called Fang Lao, or Listen to It.

Cambodian choreographer Hun Pen, 28, says she wrote the contemporary dance Garuda featuring a mythical bird who falls in love with a man, who is an intelligent community leader.

But their differences lead to arguments and, says Hun Pen, the story can be interpreted as the difficulties of people who leave their own countries to live abroad and have to adapt to new cultures and identities.

“For example, they were born in one place and grew up there, so they can not adapt themselves absolutely into a new location. They cannot forget their own culture and their identity. Some day their original identities and culture will come out.”

Hun Pen will perform as a dancing garuda, accompanied by traditional musicians.

Entrance is free to the dances at Chenla Theatre, which start at 7pm on Friday and Saturday. Tickets are available from the CCF in advance.

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To the Cambodian Association in Christchurch

Dear fellow Cambodian in Christchurch,

As discussed over the phone with the Cambodian Association in Christchurch today, the CAAI would like to offer to those Cambodian in Christchurch whome lost their houses and have no where to go or family with elderly parent or family with young kids and willing to get away from Christchurch for a little while please contact your association president as soon as possible as the CAAI can be able to provide food and shelter for them in Auckland.

We will helping you in everything you needs and especially the monks are willing to help you in meditation so that you will get better from the suffering that you have gone through the earthquake.

Your Sincerely

CAAI