Monday, 21 March 2011

Plan for ‘one-stop’ centres for women

via CAAI

Monday, 21 March 2011 15:02Khoun Leakhana

THE Ministry of Women’s Affairs yesterday announced a plan to create “one-stop service” centres nationwide that would merge existing services for victims of rape and domestic violence.

The plan follows an earlier announcement by the Women’s Affairs Ministry in December to establish a similar service centre in Phnom Penh, which would also collate nationwide data on abuses against women and children.

Minister of Women’s Affairs Ing Kantha Phavi said yesterday that she was working closely with the United Nations Development Programme in Cambodia, UN partner organisations and NGOs in discussing the establishment of the centres.

“In the past, we saw problems happening with victims feeling upset or hopeless in seeking intervention, as most offenders were released because victims could not find evidence and services to help victims were too far away,” said Ing Kantha Phavi.

Ing Kantha Phavi said that the plan could materialise within one to two months and the centres would merge with existing legal, health and local authority services that assist victims of rape and domestic violence.

“We are studying from neighbouring countries around us like Bangladesh, Vietnam, Thailand and Malaysia, including some countries which have executed the plan,” she said.

Ros Sopheap, executive director of Gender and Development for Cambodia, said that she supported the Women’s Affairs Ministry’s plan to establish the centres.

Real estate training school in the works

via CAAI

Monday, 21 March 2011 15:01 May Kunmakara

A TRAINING school for the real estate industry was set to open in Cambodia in order to improve professionalism in the sector, officials said.

Speaking to more than 300 real-estate agents, bankers and business people at a two-day real estate seminar at Sunway Hotel in Phnom Penh on Friday, President of the National Valuers Association Sung Bonna said he hoped the centre would open “this year”.

“The real estate sector is one of the key sectors [in] the development of country’s economy. I’ll try my best to set up the professional training school for the sector – we really need it at the moment,” he said.

“We will cooperate with Singapore to offer very professional skills [training] from [Singaporean] experts,” he said.

“Our purpose is to develop and to help the sector to be more professional and knowledgeable.

"Now, I feel that Cambodia needs more and more human resources for the improvement of the sector.”

The initiative, in particular the potential to improve property evaluation, was widely supported by the business community.

Dieter Billmeier, vice president and adviser to Canadia bank welcomed the initiative.

“It would help to introduce more professionalism into the sector for an upgrade of property assessment, evaluation, the quality of materials and construction. “

“It would definitely have a positive aspect for banks and financial institutions here in Cambodia, because it would increase the trust in outside judgment in the evaluation process for any property,” he said.

Last year about 15 percent of Canadia’s total loan portfolio were mortgage loans and about 9 percent were building and construction loans.

The bank aims to increase the percentage for both sectors combined by between 5 and 8 percent this year.

Sok Siphana, economic advisor to the Prime Minister, said during an opening speech that Cambodia needed to build capacity in real estate.

“The clients, the markets need your professional opinion and skills,” he said.

President of Singapore Institute of Surveyors and Valuers Lim Lan Yuan also supported the idea, pointing to Singapore’s experience in creating professional valuation services.

“I can see this kind of thing happening in Cambodia,” he said.

“Asia has a lot of potential ... we see it in China, India, and Vietnam. At the moment Cambodia is the next one. Cambodia is now an emerging country with increasing population and improving economy – in this sense there will be potential for real-estate investment.”

Sung Bonna hopes that full-time training courses would last for six months and would be recognised by the government.

“We also plan to [enable students to] study abroad during the course because we want them be more professional and comply with international standards,” he said.

Cambodia’s land values fell last year compared to 2009, according to the valuers association.

It estimated commercial and residential land prices averaged about US$2,000 to $4,000 per square metre for 2010, down from $2,500 to $4,500 per square metre for 2009.

Border vendors trade concern

Eav Sroh cuts fruit at a market stall in Aranyaprathet, Thailand, on the Thai-Cambodian border earlier this month. Some say trade has been steadily declining since violence erupted at Preah Vihear in February. Photo by: Cheang Sokha
via CAAI

Monday, 21 March 2011 15:01Cheang Sokha

Poipet, Banteay Meanchey province

OFFICIALS from Cambodia and Thailand say it is business as usual along their border despite the clashes that broke out in early February, but a month later many vendors in the area beg to differ.

Last month’s hostilities were just the latest in a series of clashes between Thai and Cambodian troops along the border near Preah Vihear temple.

Tensions in the area have been heightened since 2008, when UNESCO listed the 11th-century structure as a World Heritage site for Cambodia over Thai objections.

After the recent violence erupted, Prime Minister Hun Sen urged trade between Cambodia and Thailand to continue.

High-ranking officials from Thailand’s Sa Kaeo province and Cambodia’s Banteay Meanchey province, west of Preah Vihear, recently told The Post that the fighting did not affect business between the two countries.

“The trading of goods is proceeding as usual. There is no sign of a drop” in business, said Winai Wittayanugool, vice governor of Thailand’s Sa Kaeo province.

He claimed that more than 10,000 Cambodians make their way into Thailand’s Rung Cloeur market everyday.

“Business operation is [as] usual, and there is not anything cutting off the relationship between the two countries,” he added.

Authorities in Sa Kaeo and Cambodia’s Banteay Meanchey province have regularly contacted each other when anything has happened along the border to resolve the matter, he said.

His counterpart across the border, Banteay Meanchey Deputy Governor Chhum Vannarith, also said that the exchange of business and trade has not changed and local farmers from Cambodia are exporting rice, corn, cassava and fruit to Thailand.

“Before we were concerned that the border fights between the two countries will affect the people, but we have cooperated and talked to avoid disputes and the situation remains normal,” he said.

But that is not how some vendors see it. Sam Sary, whose wife sells clothes at Aranyaprathet’s Rung Cloeur market near the border at Poipet, said that business has been steadily declining since the fighting resumed in February. Thai businessmen have decreased both the amount of goods they import and export from Cambodia.

“It is difficult to make business here now. The selling is not so good,” he said.

“The people still fear more fighting, that it might erupt anytime.”

Another vendor, 21-year-old Phal Sreysal, who sells second-hand coats to Thailand, said that for almost a year orders have dropped to 2,000 to 3,000 coats a week from 5,000 to 6,000 a week.

“The Thais have dropped their buying recently,” he said.

“We now sometimes face difficulty with money transferring. Since we’ve have border problems, business has been quite difficult,” he said.

The big question for these vendors is whether the violence in Preah Vihear could eventually make its way to Banteay Meanchey, further hurting business.
One vendor, Sam Sary, seems to think not.

“I don’t think the fighting will spread out to this area as this is the international border gate,” he said.

Open licensing would help to cut corruption

via CAAI

Monday, 21 March 2011 15:00Steve FinchHits: 152

WHEN India conducted an auction for 3G wireless licences last year, generating close to US$15 billion in revenues for the country, the process marked a drastic improvement on licensing for 2G services that took place in 2008.

WHEN India conducted an auction for 3G wireless licences last year, generating close to US$15 billion in revenues for the country, the process marked a drastic improvement on licensing for 2G services that took place in 2008.

Although convoluted – the process required 183 rounds of bidding over 34 days – last year’s auction was considerably more transparent than the earlier 2G process in which the IT and Communications Minister A Raja is alleged to have dished out cheap licences to favoured businesses and individuals. He resigned last November and is under investigation for corruption.

In the wake of the 3G licensing scandal engulfing Deputy Prime Minister Nhek Bun Chhay and the manner in which many businesses licences are distributed here, Cambodia should take note.

The main difference between the two processes in India was that last year’s auction – a transparent process in which companies were required to openly stake their claim to a licence – replaced the notoriously opaque “first-come-first-served” transactions.

It is the latter system of licensing that unfortunately remains the norm in Cambodia.

And it’s a system responsible for the recent allegations against the Deputy Prime Minister, mismanagement in the telecoms sector, the possibility licence revenues are not reaching state coffers and the perpetuation of a culture of graft that threatens investment and undermines the economy.

If Prime Minister Hun Sen is to lead a serious effort to tackle corruption, a problem he acknowledged last week in identifying the need for a “well-regulated environment for business”, then there would be no better place to start than licensing procedures.

Licensing represents the front line of interaction between the state and the private sector, and is therefore highly prone to acts of corruption. And for a country like Cambodia, negative repercussions as a result are substantial and wide-ranging.

Cases in which licences are distributed for the personal gain of the issuer almost always result in lost revenues for the state, a situation Cambodia can ill-afford given the miniscule government budget.

India’s 2G scandal is likely to have cost the country about $7 billion in lost licence fees.

How much money has Cambodia lost in the past due to its own under-regulated and opaque licensing system?

Although senior politicians in Cambodia continue to congratulate themselves on passing recent anti-corruption legislation, measures such as this have thus far remained largely antidotal. They do not address the root cause of corruption before it can take place.

By switching to an open bidding process to allocate operating licences for sectors such as telecoms, mining and energy, Cambodia would eradicate the possibility for the kind of corruption related to licensing documented in major sectors of the economy.

Every time a licence is issued in this country in murky circumstances, a precedent for impropriety is laid for the business concerned and the cycle of graft begins again.

Cambodia could break this cycle without too much difficulty. Just ask India.

Royal ears for young writers

British author Sue Guiney pictured during a workshop with children at Siem Reap-based NGO Anjali before the children read out their stories in front of an audience.

Sue Guiney, author of Cambodian-based novel Clash of Innocents.
via CAAI
Monday, 21 March 2011 15:00 Nicky McGavin

CHILDREN and teenagers from Siem Reap’s Anjali House read aloud their poems and prose in front of an audience including Princess Norodom Bopha Devi last Friday night at Van’s Restaurant in Phnom Penh.

Their stories were brought to light following a creative writing programme set up at Anjali House by British writer Sue Guiney and Cambodian national Boris Van.

Their partnership was established in London, after Guiney launched her novel set in Cambodia, Clash of Innocents, published by Ward Wood Publishing.

Over the course of five days, Guiney introduced the kids to poetry and short-story writing using the themes “my life and family” and “my dreams”. Guiney followed up the children’s work through her blog, and the results were presented last week at Butterflies Restaurant near Wat Bo in Siem Reap.

The children read a selection of their own works published in a special magazine. As they read, their own photographs from a previous project were screened to provide a backdrop and a frame for their words.

“The project helps us to get a real insight into the kids’ lives and where they’re coming from,” said Sam Flint, director of Anjali.

Richard de Groot, a German volunteer who has been working with the young adults at Anjali for the past year said: “They’d never encountered a form of expression like poetry before. But they loved getting their ideas and feelings down on paper. Sue showed them how to organise their words and ideas, and they had a lot of fun. They are all learning English at school, but this gave them the opportunity to work with words and the language.”

The children’s work invoked their fears of war and conflict, their ideas of love, and traditional legends and stories. The results were impressive, and demonstrated a sophisticated grasp of metaphor and rhythm. They were, in a word, inspiring.

Friday’s event in Phnom Penh was organised with the help of Boris Van and his father Tuon Van. Princess Norodom Bopha Devi may have especially enjoyed the story about the princess who saved Cambodia.

Surrealist night to remember at Sofitel

Emmanuelle Becquemin and Stéphanie Sagot perform as the duo La Cellule.

via CAAI

Monday, 21 March 2011 15:00Post Staff

TWO surrealistic performances by French avant-garde duo La Cellule will be staged at Sofitel Phnom Penh Phokeethra on Friday and Saturday, March 25 and 26.

Dishes, table settings and kitchenware will take on a new guise in their act, playfully called Do Disturb, which they will perform in Sofitel properties in Beijing, Manila, Phnom Penh and Hanoi.

Using a cocktail party as their framework, artists Emmanuelle Becquemin and Stéphanie Sagot transform bunches of flowers into giant headpieces and unveil silver domes to reveal a mini grand piano on a plate.

This whimsical subversion of famed French hospitality and table service will charm guests, who become a part of the performance as they are surrounded by waiters wearing edible hats. Energising and laugh-inducing, this evening will bring art to the table in a way never seen before.

“La Cellule have the distinction of being simultaneously humorous and thought-provoking,” said the Sofitel General Manager Didier Lamoot. “This event will turn le service à la Française on its head – a cocktail party cleverly re-invented and re-imagined, and a night to remember.”

The pair who are appearing under the auspices of the French Embassy have performed at art festivals across Asia, South America and in Paris, among other engagements.

Tickets are available at the hotel on 023 999 200, or visit  or  for more information.

Students offered 50 Aussie scholarships

Australian Ambassador Penny Richards with Health Minister Dr Mam Bunheng.

via CAAI

Monday, 21 March 2011 15:00Sarah Macklin

MORE than 50 Cambodian students will be offered scholarships to pursue their master’s or doctorate degrees in Australia this year, the Australian Ambassador to Cambodia, Penny Richards, announced last week.

Applications are now open for the Australian Leadership Awards and Australian Development Scholarships to support their education costs overseas. The closing date is May 31.

Over the last 17 years, 440 students from Cambodia have been awarded the scholarships, with many returning to take up positions of leadership in all sectors, said the ambassador.

“Study has covered a broad range of areas, including health, agriculture and rural development, infrastructure and law and justice,” said Richards.

“We have more than 40 alumni working in the Ministry of Health, one of our four main areas of development cooperation with the royal government of Cambodia.

These include reducing rural poverty, improving health services, supporting infrastructure for growth, trade and travel, and promoting access to justice, she said.

Health Minister Dr Mam Bunheng said: “I hope that the 2011 Australia Awards will provide great opportunity for Cambodian people to absorb new skills, knowledge and experiences and also to strengthen the relationship between the two countries.”

For further information on the scholarships offered, please visit .

Labour firm under scrutiny

Women stand on the balcony of the T&P Co Ltd training centre in Phnom Penh’s Sen Sok district where a 35-year-old trainee died earlier this month. Photo by: Pha Lina

via CAAI

Monday, 21 March 2011 15:02Matt Lundy and Mom Kunthear

A 16-YEAR-OLD Kampong Thom woman who was trained at labour recruitment firm T&P Co Ltd was sent to Malaysia in December, a local rights advocate said yesterday, contrary to the company’s reports that she had been released from its training centre earlier this month.

Moeun Tola, head of the labour programme at the Community Legal Education Centre, said a delegation from CLEC visited Sorm Sophary’s village in Kampong Thom province’s Stung Sen district yesterday to confirm the trainee’s return. He said multiple villagers – including Sorm Sophary’s sister, cousin and next-door neighbours – said she was underage while training at T&P and was sent to Malaysia on December 31.

“When we checked in the village, the girl named Sorm Sophary was not [there],” said Moeun Tola. “The villagers told us that [she] called her parents a week ago and told them she was in Malaysia.”

Sorm Sophary was named among five women that were released from T&P following allegations of forced detainment leveled against the company. Last week, the CLEC found that two of the women – Yorn Srey Leab and Sok Phal of Kampong Chhnang province – had their ages changed from 17 to 21, as well as their names, on T&P documents to make them eligible for work abroad.

The only trainee to be publicly released in front of local authorities was Srun Channang, a 23-year-old from Kampong Cham province, on March 11.

A T&P labour trainer, who declined to be named, said yesterday that she didn’t know who Sorm Sophary was or her whereabouts. However, a T&P broker who recruited the 16-year-old, and who also spoke on condition of anonymity, said she had already flown to Malaysia.

Mounting controversy about the Kingdom’s labour recruiters has caused Prime Minister Hun Sen to order an investigation into their practices, according to a Facebook update on Friday from Minister of Information Khieu Kanharith.

He said Hun Sen had ordered the Anticorruption Unit to investigate complaints against “social labour office[s]”, following reports in the media.

Phay Siphan, spokesman for the Council of Ministers, said he wasn’t aware of those orders.

Keo Remy, spokesman of the ACU, could not be reached for comment yesterday.

The United Nations’ International Labor Organisation weighed in on the T&P controversy on Friday, issuing a statement that said there is “a pressing need for legislation in Cambodia for better regulation of recruitment agencies”.

“The Ministry of Labour is aware of this and ILO is currently providing technical assistance on the development of rules and regulations on operation of private recruitment agencies and pre-departure orientation,” the statement read.

In a letter to the National Assembly last week, opposition lawmaker Son Chhay called on Labour Minister Vong Sauth to explain the lack of oversight into recruitment firms’ practices.

Mathieu Pellerin, a consultant with rights group Licadho, said yesterday the labour ministry has had “a track record until now of closing their eyes to abusers” in the recruitment industry. However, he said there are many levels of government “that are implicit in the [illegal] practices of recruitment agencies”.

“You’ve got the Ministry of Interior issuing passports with wrong ages,” he said. “I mean, we had cases of [migrant workers] 15 or 16 years old, and they have passports saying that they’re 21.” Additional reporting by David Boyle

Investigate pensions: PM

via CAAI

Monday, 21 March 2011 15:02Vong Sokheng

The Ministry of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation has requested further information as to why former government employees and the disabled have not been receiving benefits, following an order from Prime Minister Hun Sen Friday that the Anti-Corruption Unit investigate the issue.

Hem Bora, director of the national fund for veterans at the Ministry of Social Affairs, said yesterday that there were an estimated 94,000 retired government workers, including a large number from the ministries of Defence and Interior, on the government’s payroll.

“We have been assigned by the minister of social affairs [Ith Sam Heng] to make a clear report about the budget supporting the salary of retirees … and we will also try to find out a reason why we could not pay them,” he said.

Hun Sen asked the ACU to investigate the issue and the Council of Ministers to ensure former government employees and the disabled receive pensions regularly and on time during Friday’s Council of Minister’s meeting.

“[Hun Sen] suggested that the Anti-Corruption Unit has to investigate and take legal action to punish any official that impedes or affects the transparency of the national budget to support the disabled and retired officials,” said a Council of Ministers statement released Friday.

Minister of Information Khieu Kanharith said yesterday that Hun Sen ordered the investigation after receiving individual complaints and seeing local media reports.

Last week, three teachers filed a complaint to the Ministry of Social Affairs saying they had not received their pensions 14 months after retiring.

Rong Chhun, head of the Cambodian Independent Teacher’s Association, said the problem was widespread and linked to corruption.

Hem Bora said yesterday he was unsure of the cause of the problem.

“In some cases, there are new retirees who have been transferred [from other ministries] but have not been added to the list for payment before the budget package was approved.”

Hem Bora said officials had been punished or warned by the ministry for abusing the pension system in the past, but the issue may linger.

“Some officials have tried to take benefit from our retirement pensions by buying and selling, such as a veteran who died but whose name remained on the list to receive a monthly pension,” Hem Bora said.

Sale of sacred hill sparks protest

via CAAI

Monday, 21 March 2011 15:02Tep Nimol

VILLAGERS from 96 households in Takeo province’s Tram Kak district staged a non-violent protest to block a private company from destroying a protected sacred hill on Thursday, a representative of the group said yesterday.

Heng Try, A representative of Thmey village said employees belonging to an unknown businessman were repelled by the villagers when they attempted to clear Tuol Ang Yeay Pov hill using land clearing machinery and trucks.

“They want to destroy it to dig up artifacts [which] the villagers don’t want, the villagers want to keep it and build a Buddhist hall for worship,” Heng Try said.

Tuol Ang Yeay Pov hill, a 30 by 40 metre ancient site of worship dating back at least 800 years to the reign of king Jayavarman VII, is recognised as a protected site of worship and as state property by Tram Kak district’s cultural department, Heng Try said.

Meth Phai, deputy governor of Tram Kak district, confirmed the site was protected state property and said officials from the district culture department had investigated the site on Friday to make sure the businessman’s actions had not impacted on the site.

“No one has the right to clear the hill because it is the villagers’ collective land [and is] state property,” he said.

Srey Saroeun, deputy chief of Thmey village also confirmed the hill was protected state property under the jurisdiction of the district culture department.

Thursday’s wasn’t the first time a businessman had tried to profit from the sacred hill, Srey Saroeun said.

In March, 2009, the former chief of Thmey village, Ty Chhe, attempted to sell Tuol Ang Yeay Pov hill along with surrounding rice paddies to a private businessman, he said.

“Suddenly, villagers made a complaint, submitting a letter to the district authority [requesting] that they help intervene,” he said.

Srey Saroeun added that district authorities reacted by issuing a letter stating that the land was state property.

Officials prepare adoption law

via CAAI

Monday, 21 March 2011 15:01Summer Walker

Cambodian officials met last week with the United States Special Adviser for Children’s Issues as they prepare to implement a new law on international adoptions, an attempt to bring order to a process that has been plagued by allegations of corruption and human trafficking.

The Kingdom’s Law on Inter-Country Adoption, passed in December 2009, is set to be implemented next month, said Khoun Ranine, an undersecretary of state at the Ministry of Social Affairs. The law aims to bring Cambodia in line with the 1993 Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Cooperation in Respect of Inter-Country Adoption, which sets strict terms for who should be eligible for international adoptions and how those adoptions should be regulated.

Although Cambodia has already ratified the convention, countries including the US, Australia, France and Canada have effectively placed moratoriums on adopting children from Cambodia, citing concerns about the Kingdom’s ability to comply with the guidelines.

US Special Adviser Susan Jacobs met with government officials and local diplomats on Thursday and Friday of last week to discuss the implementation of the new law and its compliance with the Hague Convention, the US embassy said in a statement.

“The United States looks forward to working with the Cambodian government as it establishes a child welfare system and will review carefully the implementing regulations related to the new law on inter-country adoptions as they are issued,” the embassy said, adding that a date had not yet been set for the resumption of inter-country adoption with the Kingdom.

Under the new law, Khoun Ranine said, the Social Affairs Ministry will establish a body called the Inter-Country Adoption Administration that will regulate the adoption process and coordinate with foreign countries.

The ICAA will be responsible for arranging and approving adoptions, he added, matching prospective parents with Cambodian children. Local agencies facilitating international adoptions will be required to work through the body.

Questions remain, however, about whether the new legislation will be able to overcome the issues of “baby selling” and corruption that have dogged the Cambodian adoption process in the past.

“I have nothing against the parents who will love these children,” Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker Ly Srey Vyna said. “However, these people will inadvertently enrich corruption in adoption, because the process in Cambodia is full of illicit activity.”

UNICEF country representative Richard Bridle said the government needed to make sure that it had the resources necessary to properly manage and monitor the adoption process. For orphaned children, he added, the government should “promote community-based alternative care and only use inter-country adoption when all local and national options are exhausted.”

Gunmen kill three in Battambang

via CAAI

Monday, 21 March 2011 15:01Mom Kunthear

District police officials are investigating three suspects in connection with the murder of three family members who were shot and killed at their house in Serei Meanchey commune in Battambang province’s Sampov Loun district early on Saturday morning.

Sampov Loun district police chief Pich Saren said yesterday that Kong Ki, 50, Oum Chet, 40, and their daughter, Kong Chany, 17, died instantly, and a second daughter, 9, was hit by a bullet that had first struck one of her family members and sent to the district hospital with severe injuries.

“We are investigating to arrest the suspects who killed three members in a family.”

“We suspect that it is a personal case between the victims and the suspects because the suspects did not take money or any property from the victims’ house.”

Pich Saren said that the suspects brought guns to the victims’ house and, after calling Kong Ki’s name, one suspect shot him twice as he came out of the house.

Pich Saren said the same suspect shot Oum Chet once when she came looking for her husband and shot their daughter Kong Chany once before shooting a motorbike parked in the house three times.

“There were seven people in the house, but the other four hid themselves under the bed,” Pich Saren said. “So the suspects did not see them.”

He added that the survivors did not recognise the suspects’ faces because it was dark and they were hiding.

Sun Tek Battambang provincial coordinator for the local rights group Licadho, said that this was the first murder case in Battambang province this year.

“We want to urge the police and officials to investigate to arrest the suspects as soon as possible for punishment through the law,” he said.