Thursday, 31 March 2011

Heather Graham Talks To GlobalGrind About Education In Cambodia (PHOTOS)

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Unless a horrific tragedy happens, as consumers and producers of media, we sometimes forget that the world beyond America's borders is inhabited by human beings who have less than us. We also forget that there are people with enterprising spirits and hearts who are interested in alleviating the suffering of the less fortunate. Hollywood actress Heather Graham is one such person.

Graham, who performed memorably in films like "The Hangover" and "Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me," has been an active member of the The Cambodian Children's Fund. The not for profit organization aims to provide education for children suffering horrific poverty in the East Asian country, whose infrastructure and economy was annihilated during both the Cambodian Civil and Vietnam War.

GlobalGrind caught up with Graham hours before a fundraiser for The Cambodian Children's Fund on Monday night in New York. Here's some of what she said.

GlobalGrind: So why are we here tonight?

Heather Graham: The Cambodian Children’s Fund is the most inspiring thing I’ve ever seen and they are educating these kids that live in garbage dumps. They are giving them an amazing [opportunity for education] – it’s incredible.

Photo credit: Scott Neeson.


GG: You’ve been to Cambodia before. Tell us about your experience there.

Heather: Well, I’ve been twice and the first time I went, I was losing my mind because, with only a little bit of money there, you could make a difference between someone being trafficked, like a five year old, and someone going to school, getting a job and having a normal life. The last time I went with Scott, [Neeson (founder of CCF)] and we were walking around and we found these little girls and they’d never been to school. One was eleven, one was nine and one was five: none of them had been to school. And [Scott] just picked them up and said, “I’m going to enroll them in this program.”

These little girls were dazed, like they couldn’t believe it. Then I came back a couple days later and they were beaming. I sponsored one of them and she wrote me this letter, like she would watch these kids go to school and she was so wishing she could go to school. So, now she’s going to school and she wants to be a teacher.

GG: Tell us the importance of education.

Heather: Well, I think, especially for women, for a lot of women in this country, education makes a huge difference. Men need education, too, but women are so hard working, really. I think it’s the micro finance [loan programs that are responsible]: if you give a woman a loan there’s a 95% chance she’s gonna pay you back. The male percentage is not as good in the developing countries.

Above: A Cambodian child in school.


GG: What do you want to get out of tonight?

Heather: I want people to learn about the charity and get as inspired as me. I want people to support the charity and maybe sponsor some kids; it’ so rewarding, like you get to exchange emails with these kids in Cambodia. It’s amazing. So I want more people to know about it.

GG: If there’s one thing that you can tell someone that wants to give, but doesn’t have the money to give, what should they do?

Heather: Well, if they just go onto the website www.cambodianchildren’sfund.org and learn about it, and maybe [kids can] even talk to their parents about it; just know that this is going on in the world; and know that [Scott Neeson] sold everything and moved to Cambodia and cares about these people and that he’s trying to make the world a better place.

Above: A Cambodian child in school


Two Cambodian boys playing in a refuse dump in Cambodia.


A child runs with a shredded kite on a street in Cambodia.

Cambodia inaugurates monument to Vietnamese volunteer troops

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30/03/2011

(VOV) - A monument to Vietnamese volunteer troops was inaugurated on March 30 in Kompong Chnang province, 100km from Phnom Penh capital.

It was built on an area of over 500sq.m, replace the old one, which was smaller and beyond repair, and symbolises the solidarity and strong attachment between Vietnam and Cambodia.

The funding for construction came from the Vietnamese Overseas Association in Cambodia and Kompong Chnang’s three sister cities and provinces, Can Tho, Soc Trang and Hau Giang in Vietnam.

Website carrying ancient Cambodian manuscripts launched

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By Monica Kotwani
Posted: 30 March 2011

SINGAPORE: The Singapore Embassy in Cambodia, together with UNESCO, has launched a website, carrying contents of ancient Cambodian manuscripts.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the Embassy has been supporting UNESCO, through a fund, for the last two years in its work to digitise the manuscripts.

The manuscripts, written on latania leaves, faced extinction in the 1990s.

They are Cambodia's only written heritage available, apart from stone inscriptions, and an information source for researchers on the country's religious and cultural practices and customs.

The website was launched on Wednesday evening at the French Cultural Centre in Phnom Penh.

DAP News. Breaking News by Soy Sopheap

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Cambodia needs 1 bln USD for sustainable rural electrification by 2030: report

Thursday, 31 March 2011 09:04 DAP-NEWS

PHNOM PENH, March 30 (Xinhua) -- Cambodia needs one billion U.S. dollars to develop all types of electric powers over twenty-year period to reach its political targets of 70 percent of rural households connecting to electricity by 2030, said a new report released on Wednesday.

The one-year-studied report, titled "Sustainable Rural Electrification Plan in Cambodia", said that the estimated one million U.S. dollars investment will be used to build sub- transmission networks, hydro-mini-grids, biomass mini-grids, new diesel mini-grids, distributions (transformers and meters), solar home systems, Photovoltaic (PV) services for community facilities, solar battery charging stations.

"Currently, only 15 percent of rural households can access to electricity," Sat Samy, secretary of state for the Ministry of Industry, Mines and Energy (MIME), said Wednesday during the receipt of the report from the French Ambassador to Cambodia, Christian Connan.

"The report will be a roadmap for Cambodia to achieve its political targets of 70 percent of rural households connected to electricity by 2030," he said.

The report had been conducted by a French firm, Innovation Energie Devlopment, upon the request of the MIME with the financial support by the government of France.

Cambodia's strategy is to supply electricity to all villages in Cambodia by 2020, and by 2030, at least 70 percent of the Cambodia 's rural households will be able access to electricity.

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Cambodia needs 350 mln USD to achieve its rice export target by 201

Thursday, 31 March 2011 09:04 DAP-NEWS

PHNOM PENH, March 30 (Xinhua) -- Cambodia needs 350 million U.S. dollars to boost rice paddy production and rice exports to hit one million-ton a year from 2015, said a senior finance official on Wednesday.

Of the amount, 200 million U.S. dollars will be used to purchase rice paddy from farmers for processing and 150 million U. S. dollars for building hi-tech post harvest technology, Hang Chuon Naron, secretary of state for the Finance Ministry, told reporters after a seminar on environment, agriculture and development.

"Currently, the country's high-tech rice mills are capable to process only 200,000 tons of rice per year, so to meet the target of exporting 1 million tons a year by 2015, it needs to invest other five times, or around 150 million U.S. dollars, in building sophisticated rice mills," he said.

"So far, we have mobilized about 50 million U.S. dollars from banks and development partners for this task," he said.

The country, in August last year, set up a rice paddy production and rice export policy aiming to increase rice exports in Cambodia to one million tons a year from 2015.

Hang Chuon Naron said that the target markets that Cambodia focusing on are the Europe and China.

Chan Sarun, minister of agriculture, forests and fisheries, said in the seminar that in order to meet the need in foreign markets, the ministry has actively advised farmers to grow ten types of rice seeds that are popular among foreign countries.

"Now the issue that we need to give more attention to is sanitary and phyto-sanitary in order to adapt to international agreements in protecting interests of our trade partner countries," he told the seminar with 150 participants, who are government officials from the ministries of agriculture, commerce, finance, environment, industry, and rice exporters, millers, bankers as well as development partners.

Cambodia produced 8.25 million tons of rice paddy in the harvest season 2010-2011. Of this figure, the country has 3.9 million tons of rice paddies, or 2.5 million tons of milled rice left over for exports this year, said Chan Sarun.

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Cambodia sees high growth in telecommunication in 2010: report

Thursday, 31 March 2011 09:03 DAP-NEWS

PHNOM PENH, March 31 (Xinhua) -- Cambodian Ministry of Posts and Telecommunication earned revenues of 28.5 million U.S. dollars in 2010, up 53 percent from 18.6 million U.S. dollars in a year earlier, said the ministry's report released Thursday during its annual conference.

The revenues came from tariffs from telecommunication companies, internet operators, license fees, postal service and air waves, according to the report.

Currently, the country has two fixed phone operators -- Telecom Cambodia and Camintel Co. and nine mobile phone operators: Cam GSM (Mobitel), Mfone, Hello Axiata Company Limited, Applifone (Star- Cell), CADCOMMS (QB), Metfone (Viettel), GT -Tell (Excell), Sotelco (Beeline), and Smart Mobile.

By the end of 2010, the number of mobile phone and fixed phone users has sharply increased to about 10.9 million or 76.2 percent of the country's 14.3 million people. It was up 69 percent from only 6.44 million users by 2009.

Among the 10.9 million users, 10.54 million have been using mobile phones and 358,750 people using fixed phones.

Vietnam's Metfone has the largest users of 4.52 million, followed by Mobitel of 2.7 million and Mfone of 1.1 million, said the report.

Also, in the kingdom, there have been 20 internet service providers serving 193,858 customers to date.

"We see that telecommunication industry has rapidly developed both scopes and operational infrastructure expansion to rural areas in recent years," Minister of Posts and Telecommunication So Khun said during opening the annual conference. "This reflects the confidence of foreign investors in Cambodian telecommunication market."

"In the vision of Cambodian government, the development of posts and telecommunication sector is one of the priority sectors for the economic growth and the country will put all its efforts to develop it to be as developed as those in advanced countries," he added.

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Cambodia receives 127,053 deportees from Thailand and Vietnam in 2010

Thursday, 31 March 2011 09:02 DAP-NEWS

PHOM PENH, March 30 (Xinhua) - Cambodia has received 127,053 deportees from Thailand and Vietnam in the whole year of 2010, according to a government's statistics.

The statistic seen Wednesday showed that in the whole year of 2010, there were 127,053 deportees, among them 38,572 were women, 76,610 men and 11,871 children who were under 15 years of age.

At two important international border points with Thailand, that is, at Poit Pet in Banteay Meanchey Province and Cham Yeam in Koh Kong Province, there were 126,467, while at two major international border points with Vietnam at Bavet and Bos Morn, both in Svay Rieng Province, there were 586 deportees.

Human trafficking becomes one of the major issues being discussed worldwide, especially, in Asia.

In the last two decades, many Cambodian people have been migrated into Thailand and Malaysia and as well as Vietnam.

There are many reasons that cause to both legal and illegal migration to those neighboring countries.

Among those reasons were poverty, lack of education, desires to improve family economic condition, lack of domestic markets, lack of understanding about human trafficking and others.

The illegal migrants are normally lured by deceptive brokers, and they are later ended up with facing challenges of violence, exploitation and human rights abuses in the countries where they were taken to.

According to Cambodia's law, human trafficking is a serious crime which involves in the cheating or deceiving of people into sexual servitude or labor for the purpose of exploitation.

AKP - The Agence Kampuchea Press


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Chinese-language Classes for Cambodian Soldiers Opened

Phnom Penh, March 31, 2011 AKP –The Confucius Institute of the Royal Academy of Cambodia has opened an institute for Chinese-language classes at the brigade No.70 of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces located in the outskirts of Phnom Penh.

The opening of the Chinese-language classes for Cambodian soldiers will contribute to building their capacity, said President of the Royal Academy of Cambodia Dr. Khlot Thyda at the opening ceremony held on Mar. 28, adding that the institute is not only a center of language and culture, but also a bridge for Cambodian soldiers to be able to continue their studies in China.

She further underlined the royal government’s policy to continue to strengthen and expand the ties of friendship with China and its irreversible stance to support the China’s one policy.

The royal government has been paying high attention to the dissemination of both countries’ languages and cultures and supporting the Confucius Institute of the Royal Academy of Cambodia, Dr. Klot Thida said.

For his part, Mao Sophann, commander of the brigade No.70, expressed thanks to China for supporting Cambodian soldiers to learn Chinese language.

Mr. Zhang Jianlin, Chinese military attaché to Cambodia and Mr. Gan Xiaoying, rector of China’s Jiujiang University, were also present at the opening ceremony.

The Confucius Institute of the Royal Academy of Cambodia was opened in Cambodia in December 2009. –AKP

By SOKMOM Nimul

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Experts Discuss How Prevention Pays: Saving Lives and Minimizing Destruction in Natural Disasters

Phnom Penh, March 31, 2011 AKP – Specialists convened here yesterday for the Cambodia launch of a joint World Bank-United Nations report showing how preventive measures can lower vulnerability to natural hazards such as earthquakes, storms, floods and droughts.

Natural Hazards, UnNatural Disasters: the Economics of Effective Prevention, globally released last November, estimates that the number of people exposed to storms and earthquakes in large cities could double to 1.5 billion by 2050, according to a news release of the World Bank.

Damages from disasters can be catastrophic, as the world is witnessing now in the tragic aftermath of Japan’s earthquake and tsunami. However, prevention is critical, a lesson that surely save many lives in Japan.

According to the report, by 2100, even without climate change, damages from weather-related hazards may triple to US$185 billion annually and factoring in climate change could push costs even higher. In the case of tropical cyclones it would add another US$28-68 billion, says Natural Hazards. But the report argues that much can be done to reduce the toll from such hazards–even in the face of increased risk from climate change.

“A deeper questioning of what happened, and why, could prevent a repetition of disasters,” says the report, a two-year collaboration of climate scientists, economists, geographers, political scientists and psychologists. The report has received praise from six Nobel Laureates, among others.

“Typhoon Ketsana inflicted huge losses on our country in term of social economic and development,” said H.E. Ross Sovann, Deputy Secretary General, National Committee for Disaster and Management and Ketsana Project Manager. “Because Cambodia is prone to natural hazards and has limited coping capacity, we should all agree that doing a better job in preventing disasters will help us will try deal with tomorrow’s challenges.”

Cost-Effective Measures Possible

A key message of the report is that “prevention pays, but you don’t always have to pay more for prevention,” says report team leader Apurva Sanghi, a World Bank senior economist. Cost-effective preventive measures include greater access to hazard-related information and regulatory changes to remove distortions, such as abolishing rent and price controls and providing secure titles to encourage better repair and upkeep of buildings. The report also proposes cost-effective, hazard-specific infrastructure: for example, schools that double as cyclone shelters or roadways that double as drains. Sometimes increased spending is warranted–for example to develop and maintain early warning systems–and “even modest increases can have enormous benefits,” says the report.

“This is an important and timely report,” said Mr. Qimiao Fan, Cambodia Country Manager, World Bank. “The message that prevention pays if done right will certainly resonate in Cambodia.”

The report was funded by the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery, a partnership of 35 countries and six international organizations, including the World Bank, which helps developing countries reduce their vulnerability to natural hazards and adapt to climate change. –AKP

SRP remembers 1997 victims

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
A man pays his respects to the deceased at a ceremony yesterday to remember the victims of a 1997 grenade attack on members of the Sam Rainsy Party in Phnom Penh. The attack left 16 opposition activists dead and over 100 wounded. The perpetrators have yet to be brought to justice.

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Thursday, 31 March 2011 15:02Kim Yuthana

During a commemorative ceremony yesterday the opposition Sam Rainsy Party urged the Government to seek justice for victims of a brutal grenade attack in 1997.
The attack left at least 16 people dead and more than 100 injured.

More than 50 monks said prayers for the dead, while SRP members said that justice would not be served unless the Government identified and arrested the perpetrators.

About 200 SRP members had gathered outside the old National Assembly building on March 30, 1997, to protest the impunity of Cambodia’s judiciary.

Four grenades were lobbed into the crowd in a well-orchestrated attack that the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation concluded later to have involved Government officials.

“I would like to call on the Government to open an investigation into this criminal case and find out who the real killers were and bring them to justice,” said Chan Virak, who lost his sister in the 1997 attack. He added that families of the dead have been waiting for 14 years to see justice.

During yesterday’s event, which was attended by an estimated 200 party representatives and members of victims’ families, SRP President Kong Kam said the “grenade attack had been planned”.

Sam Rainsy addressed participants of yesterday’s ceremony via video conference and said family members of the victims still suffer because they have not received justice.

“We still remember what happened unfairly to demonstrators at that time,” he said.

“We continue our commitment to push the Government and the US Federal Bureau of Investigation to investigate and arrest the killers.”

Teng Savong, a secretary of state at the Ministry of Interior and once the head of the investigative team in charge of the case, said yesterday that police officials had not yet closed the file but that they were no closer to identifying any suspects.

“We have not yet apprehended any of the killers,” Teng Savong said.

T&P workers hid from inspections

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Thursday, 31 March 2011 15:03 David Boyle and Mom Kunthear

Human rights groups accused the T&P labour firm of hiding underage trainees from their Kampong Chhnang recruitment centre at a nearby farm yesterday, ahead of government inspections.

Moeun Tola, head of the labour programme at the Community Legal Education Centre, said he witnessed a truck bearing the T&P Co Ltd insignia transport about 17 women to a nearby farm in Rolea Ba’ier district’s Choeung Kreav commune at 7:40am yesterday.

“The official from the Ministry of Labour was going to inspect the T&P centre in Kampong Chhnang and then the company removed some trainees who they believed to be underage to their farm in Damnak Kei village,” he said.

An anonymous trainer within the centre and local residents had confirmed to him that the farm belonged to T&P owner Sam Pisey, he added.

Sam Chhankea, Kampong Chhnang provincial coordinator at local rights group Adhoc, said in the past two days he had seen the truck make three trips to the farm, located about 16 kilometres from the centre, with about 20 females per trip.

“I think most of the workers that the company moved from the center are underage, and maybe they will have to stay at the farm for a long time because they brought plates, pots and food with them,” he said.

Keo Thea, director of the municipal Anti-Human Trafficking and Juvenile Protection Office, said yesterday that he didn’t know the specifics of investigations in Kampong Chhnang but confirmed cases against T&P Co Ltd had been sent to the court.

“We are searching and secretly investigating recruitment centres that we suspect [of trafficking] and we have never abandoned our work,” he said.

A trainer from the T&P centre who declined to give her name, confirmed the trainees were moved amid concerns authorities would discover they were under the legal working age.

“They have moved [them] to the farm since Tuesday and then transported them back to the centre in the evening when it is quiet to make sure no one knows,” she said.

Pair held over prison drug buns

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Thursday, 31 March 2011 15:02May Titthara

Two men were arrested for allegedly hiding methamphetamine in Chinese buns and attempting to sneak them in to prisoners at Prey Sar prison on Monday, and they will be sent to Phnom Penh Municipal Court today to face drug trafficking charges.

Chhoub Sok Heng, Dangkor district deputy police chief, said that police had detained the suspects at Dangkor district police station in Phnom Penh on suspicion of drug trafficking violations before they were to be sent to court today.

He said the suspects, a 33-year-old teacher and a 29-year-old guesthouse worker, were both arrested by Prey Sar prison guards at the prison’s Correction Centre 1, after they attempted to sneak the drugs into the prison concealed in Chinese snacks for their friends, who are currently incarcerated at the prison.

He added that police also confiscated a luxury car, 500 milligrams of methamphetamine, 990,000 riels (about US$245), US$118 and four mobile phones from the two suspects.

“It is very lucky that we arrested them on time; if not it would have been out of order in the prison,” Chhoub Sok Heng said yesterday.

Duch: It wasn’t me

Photo by: Reuters
Former S-21 prison chief Kaing Guek Eav, better known as Duch, sits in the courtroom at the Khmer Rouge tribunal on the outskirts of Phnom Penh in July 2010.

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Thursday, 31 March 2011 15:03James O’Toole and Cheang Sokha

Kaing Guek Eav struck a defiant tone yesterday in his final appearance before the Khmer Rouge tribunal, denying responsibility for his leadership of S-21 prison and asking the court to release him “in order to seek justice and truth for the Cambodian people”.

Speaking at the end of three days of appeal hearings before the tribunal’s Supreme Court Chamber, the man better known as Duch offered only a token expression of apology over the course of a 25-minute address in which he asserted that he falls outside the court’s mandate to try “senior leaders” and those “most responsible” for crimes committed under Democratic Kampuchea.

The argument represents a dramatic break from the approach taken by Duch and his defence over six months of trial hearings in 2009, during which he accepted qualified responsibility and essentially pleaded guilty. All this changed when he challenged the court’s jurisdiction and asked for an acquittal during closing arguments in November of that year, a strategy the defence has carried forward in its appeal.

Donning reading glasses and reading from a legal pad on which he composed his remarks over the course of yesterday’s hearing, Duch told the court that he had been forced to adhere to the line of a “criminal party”.

“The senior leaders, the most responsible persons, were others, not me,” he said. “According to the notion of senior leaders and most responsible persons, we refer to those who had the authority to design the [party] line and have it implemented. It wasn’t me.”

The remarks echoed claims made repeatedly this week by defence lawyers Kar Savuth and Kang Ritheary, who said Duch was no different from dozens of other KR-era prison chiefs throughout the country, all of the rest of whom have escaped prosecution. Duch said S-21 was “like the other torture centres where torture was employed”, claiming he was not permitted to make decisions on the “smashing” of detainees.

“Whatever you were ordered to do, you had to do it, otherwise you would end up being smashed,” he said. “I survived the regime because I respectfully and strictly followed the orders.”

Duch’s address came at the end of a day devoted to appeals of decisions on reparations and civil party admissibility in the original judgment, handed down last July. In that judgment, Duch was found guilty of crimes against humanity and grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions, sentenced to 30 years in prison.

Prosecutors have accused Duch of lacking remorse for his crimes and have called in their own appeal for him to have his sentence increased to 45 years, commuted from a life sentence only because of his excessive pre-trial detention.

Co-prosecutor Andrew Cayley said yesterday that Duch’s cold address had “underscore[d] all of the arguments that we made about sentencing”. Prominent civil party Bou Meng, one of the few living survivors of S-21, said he too was unmoved by Duch’s plea for acquittal.

“Whether he received orders from his superiors or he did it by himself, he has to be punished,” Bou Meng said.

Civil party lawyers argued yesterday that the reparations awards in the July judgment, which called for statements of apology made by Duch at trial to be collected and published and for the names of admitted civil parties to be printed in the verdict, were insufficient.

“The victims feel that such apologies are not genuine, and that when the apologies or names are published on the website, it’s not acceptable for the victims or the civil parties, who by no means have access to such materials,” civil party lawyer Kim Mengkhy said. “It is meaningless.”

Civil party lawyers have proposed ideas including the construction of a memorial stupa at S-21 and the recommendation that the government name a national commemoration day for victims, though the Trial Chamber found last year that these proposals were outside the scope of reparation options available to the court. In the aftermath of the judgment last year, the tribunal adopted rule changes that will allow judges to grant more expansive reparation awards in future cases.

An additional point of contention yesterday was the Trial Chamber’s decision to declare inadmissible the claims of 24 civil parties among the 90 who had been involved in court proceedings throughout the case. Civil party lawyer Hong Kim Suon said the tribunal had “outright misled” these people by not informing them that their claims could be rejected until the day of the verdict.

Kang Ritheary argued, however, that civil parties needed to present evidence to substantiate their claims.

“You cannot just make a plain statement and then it becomes evidence,” he said.

Duch himself mentioned the victims only briefly yesterday, allowing that he did maintain responsibility for “suffering at S-21 and for psychological damage for the victims throughout the country”. In closing his remarks, however, he returned to the issue of jurisdiction and his own limited culpability.

“I would urge your honours to decide and consider, on the issue of personal jurisdiction, that I do not fall within the jurisdiction [of the tribunal]”, he said. “This is the principle you should abide by in order to seek justice and truth for the Cambodian people, as well as for the former Khmer Rouge soldiers and cadres, especially the middle level, who do not fall within the jurisdiction of this tribunal.”

Resentment over NGO law spreads

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Thursday, 31 March 2011 15:03Thomas Miller and Vong Sokheng

Organisation representing hundreds of NGOs and associations yesterday came out strongly against the second draft of the government’s controversial NGO law, some threatening political fallout, while the government defended the law.

Three umbrella groups, which have represented hundreds of organisations in closed-door negotiations with the government in recent weeks, said they saw “no progress” in the second draft.

“The [majority] of the changes are minor and fail to address the fundamental concerns raised by [civil society organisations],” Sok Sam Oeun, executive director of the Cambodian Defenders Project, said in a statement released by the Cooperation Committee for Cambodia, NGO Forum and the Cambodian Human Rights Action Committee.

“The most significant problem remains at the heart of the law: Registration is still mandatory,” the groups said.

Several networks representing dozens of community groups and associations also denounced the law yesterday, saying at a press conference in Phnom Penh that they had been deceived by the government.

“The latest draft is more restrictive for civil society organisations, which is contrary to the response that the Ministry of Interior gave to us by telephone, that they had accepted the majority of our proposed points,” the groups said in a statement.

“The latest draft law is a law to control civil society rather than to promote the rights of citizens in creating and forming organisations and associations.”

Several of the networks said there would be political fallout if the law was not changed significantly.

“We will not vote for the government if the ruling party does not respect our will. We have more than 1,000 local associations.... Therefore, the effective judgment over the Government’s policy is through the upcoming elections,” Vorn Pao, president of the Independent Democracy of Informal Economy Association, said yesterday.

Um Mech, a representative of ethnic minority groups in Kampong Thom province, said lawmakers would be held accountable for their votes on the law.

“We are the voters. If the law is adopted without protecting our benefits and our rights, we will not vote for the government,” he said. “We voted for our representatives in the National Assembly because we need them to protect us, and now if they will approve the law without thinking about our interests ... This is the way of democracy.”

Um Mech said high rates of illiteracy among indigenous people would make the law’s registration and reporting requirements “a huge obstacle” to his organisation’s work. He also expressed concern about his ability to take on politically sensitive issues.

“Before this law, at least 30 people have been imprisoned for claiming their own land. If the law is adopted, there will be more people imprisoned,” he said.

The draft legislation has been roundly criticised for setting out vague and arbitrary government authority, mandatory registration and reporting requirements deemed burdensome for small organisations.

The second draft also contains no explicit right to appeal government decisions, either to the courts or ministries.

The newest draft created a registration exception for “mass organisations”, also translated as “community-based organisations”, but did not define the term.

Nouth Sa An, secretary of state at the Ministry of Interior, defended the law.

“The allegation that we have not changed the draft is unacceptable. We have adopted about 90 percent of the changes requested by civil society,” he said yesterday.

Nouth Sa An said he did not know when the law would be submitted to the Council of Ministers, though he reportedly told NGO representatives in a meeting on Tuesday the deadline was the end of the week.

“We are waiting to see an approval from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs over the requests to change the draft law,” he said

Ouch Borith, secretary of state at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, could not be reached for comment yesterday, and spokesman Koy Kuong said he did not know about the matter.

In an analysis of the law released yesterday, local rights group Licadho said the new draft contained the same flaws as the first and would “further disempower Cambodian communities”.

“It must be remembered that the freedoms of association, expression and assembly in Cambodia are already heavily restricted, particularly at the community level,” the report said.

“Anyone who is perceived to be challenging local or government officials is open to persecution, including arrest, detention, threats and violence. The draft law must be assessed within this context,” Licadho said.

Court concludes case over forged passport

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Thursday, 31 March 2011 15:03Buth Reaksmey Kongkea

Phnom Penh Municipal Court concluded its trial yesterday against two Cambodian police officers and a Bangladeshi national for producing a fake passport.

Presiding Judge Duch Kimsorn said that Seng Phirun, 48, an officer of the Phnom Penh military police, Ky Sam Ath, 43, deputy chief of the passport police office in the Ministry of Interior, and Sid Dik, 36, a Bangladeshi national, were charged for the production of an illegal passport for a second Bangladeshi man, Na Simorn, 35.

Duch Kimsorn said that Sid Dik was arrested on May 14 last year in the Stung Meanchey commune of Phnom Penh’s Meanchey district, after complaints were filed by Na Simorn.

Ky Sam Ath and Seng Phirun were arrested on June 17 based on the testimony of Sid Dik, Duch Kimsorn said.

Na Simorn said that he decided to stay in Cambodia in 2008, but his Bangladeshi passport was stolen, so he paid Ky Sam Ath US$2,500 through Sid Dik to make him a valid passport.

“I knew that my passport was fake when I applied for a visa to visit Thailand in early May 2010 from the Thai embassy in Phnom Penh. I then filed a complaint to the passport department at the Ministry of Interior,” he said in court yesterday.

Na Simorn asked the court for justice under Cambodian law and compensation of $5,000.

Duch Kimsorn said that a verdict in the case would be announced on May 8.

Montagnard concerns: HRW

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Thursday, 31 March 2011 15:03Thomas Miller

State-sponsored harassment of Montagnards in Vietnam has increased in recent months, Human Rights Watch said in a report to be released today, raising questions about how Cambodian refugee policy might deal with a new wave of asylum-seekers from the Central Highlands.

“Vietnam’s state media has presented the latest round of arrests, beatings, and intimidation as a response to conflicts between rubber plantation guards and ethnic minority highlanders,” the report states.

Vietnamese authorities have claimed “success” at preventing hundreds of people from fleeing the Central Highlands illegally for Cambodian territory, HRW said. Vietnam has also received hundreds who were repatriated from the Kingdom.

“There is some question as to what’s going to happen if we have another wave of asylum seekers coming to Cambodia,” Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at HRW, said yesterday from Bangkok. “Will they be treated fairly?

“This is very, very political for the Vietnamese. They are construing in the Central Highlands that any organised religion outside the control of the government is a threat to national security.”

Last month, the government ordered the closure of a United Nations refugee centre that had housed members of the Vietnamese minority group temporarily before resettlement to a third country or voluntary repatriation since 2005.

Cambodian government policy is to deal with all asylum seekers under immigration laws and the sub-decree on refugee status, Foreign Ministry spokesman Koy Kuong said yesterday.

“Those who come to Cambodia illegally, we treat the same as illegal immigration.”

HRW has said the sub-degree does not meet international standards and grants overly broad authority to the minister of interior to “unilaterally” determine refugee status. Three days after the procedures were adopted, in December 2009, the government forcibly deported 20 ethnic Uighur asylum seekers to China.

The government has said there is no persecution against Montagnards in Vietnam.

“Since Vietnam is now at peace and has neither internal conflict not persecution against Montagnards, there is no reason for more Montagnards to seek asylum in Cambodia,” Hun Sen wrote in a January letter to six United States lawmakers.

Some Tack Fat workers take buyout

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Thursday, 31 March 2011 15:03Tep Nimol

Former employees of the Tack Fat garment factory split yesterday over a compensation offer from the bankrupt manufacturer after a fraction of the more than 1,000 laid-off workers accepted an offer one union representative said amounted to about US$200 each.

Ke Soksithiny, a member of the government lead committee overseeing compensation negotiations, said 100 workers had accepted a deal offering three out of the five points of compensation the company is required to pay as stipulated in Cambodia’s 1997 labour law.

“The central government does not side with the workers and mistreat the employers; their dispute is like the tongue and the teeth that we must coordinate,” he said.

Financial needs during Khmer New Year had influenced the workers’ decision to accept the compensation deal, he added.

However Yong Leab, president of the Tack Fat Free Trade Union, said only 20 workers who had been at the company for 10 to 15 years had accepted an offer of nearly $200.

“Most of [the workers] are broke and have just delivered a baby,” she said.

Rice export target given price tag

Villagers harvest rice in Siem Reap province late last year. Cambodia hopes to meet an export goal of one million tonnes per year by 2015. Photo by: Will Baxter

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Thursday, 31 March 2011 15:01Chun Sophal

ACHIEVING Cambodia’s goal of exporting one million tonnes of rice per year by 2015 will require investments of US$350 million over the next four years, according to a Ministry of Economy and Finance official.

“Cambodia currently has the capacity to produce 200,000 tonnes of rice for export, because we lack capital and high-standard rice mills,” said Ministry Secretary of State Hang Chuon Naron
yesterday.

Speaking on the sidelines of a conference on “Environment, Agriculture and Development”, he said that it would take $150 million to build high quality rice mills, and another $200 million to buy unprocessed rice from farmers, to meet the 2015 goal.

The Government was working with commercial banks on easing financing restrictions, aiming to increase loans for rice traders and mill owners, Hang Chuon Naron said in his conference speech.

Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Chan Sarun said increased focus on the agricultural sector meant it was expected to grow further in the years ahead.

Cambodia’s total rice harvest is expected to hit 8.25 million tonnes this year, with supply exceeding demand by 3.9 million tonnes, he said.

Last month, the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organisation revised upwards projected 2010 rice production in Cambodia to 8 million tonnes, noting much of the surplus ends up as unofficial cross-border exports to neighbouring countries.

Cambodia Centre for Study and Development in Agriculture President Yang Saing Koma said that the availability of financing and high interest rates were the largest hurdle towards meeting the 2015 rice export target.

“This is a problem,” he said. “We need a lot of money.”

A majority of Cambodians depend on the sector for a living, making rice farming important for economic growth but also for employment in rural areas, he said, adding that the goal of one million tonnes’ exports by 2015 was achievable. Increased lending ought to come from several sources, including commercial banks, state-owned Rural Development Bank, the Government, and development partners, he said.

“The problem is money, as well as the interest rate. It’s still relatively high compared to Vietnam and other countries,” he said.

ACLEDA Bank President In Channy said commercial banks in Cambodia had increased their loans to the agricultural sector significantly over the past year.

“Commercial banks may cooperate with an increase in credit to the sector,” he said.

ACLEDA Bank accounted for some 58 percent of overall lending to the agriculture, forestry and fishery sector in 2009, the latest year for which National Bank of Cambodia statistics are available.

Last month, the World Bank and the Government launched a programme to improve access to loans by agri-business by guaranteeing 50 percent of loans to the sector by participating commercial banks.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY JEREMY MULLINS

World Bank says disaster plan ‘critical’ for agriculture

World Bank Country Manager Qimiao Fan speaks at the launch of a report titled ‘Natural Hazards, UnNatural Disasters: The Economics of Effective Prevention’ yesterday in Phnom Penh. Photo by: Sovan Philong

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Thursday, 31 March 2011 15:01May Kunmakara

A WORLD Bank official said yesterday that the effective prevention of disasters such as floods and droughts, regular problems in Cambodia, was “very important” for the economic development of the Kingdom.

Qimiao Fan, World Bank country head for Cambodia, speaking at the release of a joint report on both natural and manmade disasters conducted by the World Bank and the United Nations, said Cambodia was “one of the most affected country’s in the Southeast Asia region” by such disasters.

“Effective [disaster] prevention is critical not only for [Cambodian] agriculture, but it is very important for poverty reduction, improving roads and sustainable development in this country,” he said.

Aslam Perwaiz, head of disaster risk management systems for the Asian Disaster Preparedness Center in Bangkok, said that over the past 10 years Cambodia has been affected by a series of exceptional floods and by widespread but highly localised agricultural droughts.

He said he hoped the report would be taken to heart in the country.

“We gained experiences and learned many lessons from previous natural disasters in Cambodia,” he said.

“The report must be seen as a helping hand to design appropriately and implement disaster risk-reduction strategies.” Qimiao Fan called for partnerships between the public and private sectors to get Cambodia in a position of preparedness for such events.

“We should have public policy and a market mechanism” in place to accomplish these goals, he said.

“In my view, it is critically important that disaster prevention should be added in [many industries] in strategic planning and budgeting our development prospects,” he added.

Qimiao Fan also said reliable information about weather forecasts, as well as the regular disclosure of relevant information for the public, should be easily accessible.

Ross Sovann, deputy secretary general of the National Committee for Disaster Management in Cambodia, said that the government considers disaster prevention a national priority for the Kingdom’s macroeconomic development.

“We have to insure that disaster management, which includes disaster reduction and emergency management, is national priority,” he said.

However, he said that like many other countries, Cambodia still lacks the necessary human resources and building capacity at the moment. He called for more investment in order to increase that capacity.

Cambodia was hit by Typhoon Ketsana in late December 2009, causing an estimated $132 million in damage and losses, Aslam Perwaiz said.

Beeline progress ‘back in track’

A Beeline customer service representative waits on customers at the company’s service centre in Daun Penh district. Photo by: Will Baxter

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Thursday, 31 March 2011 15:00 Ellie Dyer

THE Chief Executive Officer of VimpelCom, the majority-owner of Beeline, was “encouraged” by its fourth quarter results in Cambodia despite extending its Southeast Asian losses for a second successive quarter. The company made a loss of US$9.8 million in its mobile operations in Cambodia and Vietnam, before depreciation and amortization, in the fourth quarter of last year.

That compares to a loss of $8.8 million in the third quarter and $8.1 million loss in the second quarter of 2010.

Revenues, however, grew around 38 percent to $6.9 million in quarter four, from $5 million in quarter three.

Active subscribers in the region were said to have hit 651,000 while average revenue per user hit $3.8 – the highest in any quarter of last year.

VimpelCom CEO Alexander Izosimov said that in Cambodia “we managed to reverse the negative trends” and that “at year end, the development of our business in Cambodia was back in track,” according to a transcript of a conference call posted online by Seeking Alpha.

He also pointed to its limited relations in Vietnam, stating that it intended to “re-launch” in the country.

Meanwhile, Izosimov highlighted the recent acquisition of Millicom Laos which he said has helped in “extending our footprint in South East Asia and completing what we intended to do i.e. creating clusters in the Indo-China peninsula”.

Gael Campan, General Director of Beeline in Cambodia, did not reply to a request for comment yesterday.

Globally, VimpelCom – which has agreed a purchase of Wind Telecom SpA - said profit rose 63 percent in the fourth quarter as it added subscribers and consolidated units. Net income advanced to $461 million from $283 million a year earlier, VimpelCom said in a statement. Sales gained 22 percent to $2.82 billion.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BLOOMBERG

Vattanac starts to tower

Photo by: PHA LINA

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Thursday, 31 March 2011 15:00 Soeun Say

Vattanac Properties yesterday signed a contract with CB Richard Ellis in order to make it the sole leasing agent for Vattanac Tower, a mixed-use development in Phnom Penh. Construction on the 38-storey tower, started in 2009, is expected to be completed in September 2012. A 129,000-square-metre mixture of offices, shops and serviced apartments will be housed at a site on Monivong Boulevard. It will also serve as the head office of Vattanac Bank and Vattanac Capital. Sam Ang Vattanac, executive director for Vattanac Properties, said he was pleased to have CBRE on board.

Artists’ auction to raise funds for Japan

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Thursday, 31 March 2011 15:00Ou Mom

A GROUP of Cambodian artists has banded together to organise an auction of paintings next Monday, April 4, to aid relief efforts after the Japan earthquake and tsunami on March 11.

Organiser Poy Chhunly, whose idea it was to run an auction and event at FCC restaurant, said: “I have been watching events unfold since the occurrence, but I didn’t know how to help those who have lost family members and lacked food, clothing and had no houses.”

So far he has managed to contact about 40 established artists who will bring their own works to be auctioned on the night, while another 100 paintings or so by new artists will be sold without a reserve price for those who appreciate rural landscape art.

“My aim is to show solidarity and mutual help during emergency, and another of my aims is that I want our society that does not understand art to understand art, to help each other based on their ability via art, and I would like to bring mainstream art to all Khmer who want to help Japanese people,” said Poy Chhunly.

All proceeds from the night would be handed straight to the Japanese Embassy, he pledged.

“No matter how much has been sold, 100 percent of the funds collected from the exhibition will be sent to the Embassy of Japan, and I believe that there will be a lot of Khmer people wanting to help Japan,” he said.

“We can help via paintings, and we also want to invite other like-minded artists to participate by contributing and putting their works up for auction on Monday night.”

Tor Vutha, a painting professor and an independent artist with Phare Ponleu Selpak association, who will put two of his paintings up for auction, said that he took part in this event because he believed that art was about helping each other, showing culture and virtues.

“Japan is in the same part of the world as us, and Japan has been helping Cambodia enormously, including providing grants. As an artist, I can find a way to raise funds for them in return,” he said.

His painting for the auction expressed a divided view of the tsunami, he explained, on two canvases with Japanese characters and English letters seeking news of relatives lost in the tragedy.

This exciting exhibition and auction by Cambodian artists from Battambang, Siem Reap, and Phnom Penh will be held on Monday, April 4, from 7pm at the Foreign Correspondents Club, Sisowath Quay, corner of Street 178, Phnom Penh.

Constructive Cambodian

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Wednesday, 30 March 2011 15:00Tharum Bun

Tharum Bun considers the tragedy in Japan as it relates to Cambodia and the world

How Japan as a nation bounced back after its defeat in World War II, and more recently the double natural disasters of the massive earthquake and tsunami, followed by the nuclear plant’s continuing crisis, have made me wonder how the Japanese have coped and overcome some of the worst things in the world’s history.

To further understand this, it’s worth delving deeply into Japanese philosophy and literature. The awareness of impermanence has always been a cultural tradition on this country of islands of more than 127 million people. As a widely-regarded Japanese poet simply put it in his poem, To Live: “To live, to live now, means to become thirsty, to be dazzled by the sun filtering through the tree leaves, to unexpectedly remember a melody, to sneeze, to join hands with you.”

Being able to possess an answer to this philosophical question on life has probably helped them get through the numerous major disasters they’ve faced, including this 2011 earthquake and tsunami, the strongest one in its recorded history. The 9.0-magnitude undersea earthquake off the Japanese coast also triggered the tsunami that killed more than 10,000, despite modern Japan’s infrastructure such as buildings and sea walls that were built to help protect human lives from natural disasters.

Cambodians and the Japanese have been in similar situations where the unprecedented number of deaths should not have happened at all. In Cambodia, this horrific history remains a work in progress for Cambodia as the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia is helping to explain the regime’s roles in mass murder, whereas in Japan, a quick recovery is high on the agenda. But it’s that great foundation within the Japanese culture and their traditions that can make this nation breath new life, making it an invaluable lesson for people in Cambodia to learn. For instance, during and after the recent tragedy, many people pointed out the stoic Japanese set of core values, honour, dignity, discipline, civility and grace, among other things that can dramatically change the course of consequences this country faces.

While this tragedy was beyond anyone’s control, it’s the Japanese people who are at the heart of this crisis. Their moral code, strong faith in Buddhist philosophy and the Shinto religions, conformity and consensus which are considered virtues in Japanese culture are invaluable for Cambodians to try to understand.

Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge atrocity left about two million people dead. In Cambodia’s case, it was the slave labour that worked as a killing machine. Last year, hundreds of people died in the so-called bridge stampede as millions visited Phnom Penh to celebrate the annual Water Festival. The government admitted that it was the country’s second worst tragedy since the Khmer Rouge. It was due to human error. Until we’re able to admit this bitter lesson, and learn from it, we should not be able to build new bridges, satellite cities and the city’s facilities and infrastructure just for the sake of Cambodia’s modern urbanisation.

As we’re able to learn what’s going on as Japan’s crisis unfolds, it’s heart-wrenching to see how a natural disaster took away lives in a matter of minutes. However, we shouldn’t forget how the survivors and those not affected joined hands to get their feet up and off the muddy ground and to believe that each person is not alone and that life is about suffering and revitalisation.

As Shuntaro Tanikawa, the Japanese poet, ended his poem: “To live, to live now, means a bird flaps its wings, the sea thunders, a snail crawls, people love, the warmth of your hands, life itself.”

When we talk to young Cambodians who have spent a couple of years in Japan, they tell us how much they praise modern Japan, while also acknowledging that all this modernity came from nowhere, but the traditions and culture that make up Japan today.

Future experts in the kingdom’s extractive industry

Development of the Kingdom’s extractive industry is only beginning. But, experts agree that there is great potential in the mining of oil and rare minerals in Cambodia. Vorn Makara and Tet Chan look into the efforts being made to prepare Cambodia’s university students to be leaders in the industry when it takes off.


via CAAI

Wednesday, 30 March 2011 15:00Vorn Makara and Tet Chan

Extractive industries” is a term many young people are not aware of, but they are familiar with the words “oil and gas,” and chances are those words bring money to mind.

The main duty of students is studying. However as citizens, the have to participate in the government’s activities and the nation’s development. The extractive industry, or EI, is something new for Cambodia, but people, especially young ones, do not seem to be paying any attention to the subject or care how the government will use the revenue from EI transparently.

Sounsau Sathya, senior assistant at the Extractive Industries Climate Change Program at Youth Resource Development Program (YRDP), said “youths’ knowledge regarding extractive industries is still limited because they have no chance to get EI information, which is not readily available yet”.

Studying Economics and Rural Development at the Royal University of Agriculture, Seurm Heurng said he knows a little information about extractive industries. “I am not so interested in this sector because I think that the benefits are for high ranking people.”

EI is new for Cambodia and encompasses all companies engaged in activities related to the exploration and production of non-renewable natural resources such as oil, gas and minerals.

Joining a workshop on EI information at YRDP, Try Ngoun Eng, a junior student at Panassastra University, said he gained a lot of information and knowledge about EI.

“Before I had not known about the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, but now I can get more knowledge and experience,” he said, adding that he always raises topics related to EI to do presentations for his academic courses in order to tell other young people about the impacts and benefits of the EI sector.

Oil-rich countries like Azerbaijan and East Timor can control the EI revenue effectively to develop their countries because they have used EI revenue transparently and accountably. It is written in the Cambodians for Resource Revenue Transparency newsletter that if Cambodia’s government can do so, Cambodians will see positive changes, including economic growth, political stability, a substantial rise in private investment and increases in public spending that improve health care, education and infrastructure, all of which will alleviate poverty.

Sek Pisey, a senior student majoring in geography at the Royal University of Phnom Penh, said it is good to pump out the oil or gas, but he is worried about spending of that revenue.

“I am afraid that that revenue will be used improperly, which cannot benefit people,” he said.

Sounsau Sathya also expressed his concerns. “If we cannot control EI revenue thoroughly, we will lose revenue from EI resources and the next generation cannot take advantage of that.”

Oil-rich resource countries like Azerbaijan and East Timor have become members of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, meaning that they have to reveal all the information related to the EI sector in their countries to their people, and they also creates a fund to save EI revenue for their country’s future. Cambodia has not had this kind of transparency yet, but recently the Ministry of Economy and Finance has put information on its website about state financial operations.

Mam Sambath, executive director of the NGO Cambodians for Resource Revenue Transparency, said the government is willing to control EI revenue.

“The government showed some part of mining revenue through the Ministry of Finance website, but it is not detailed,” he said.

Cambodia has divided up 26 onshore and offshore petroleum blocks in order to allow private energy companies to access the Kingdom’s oil and gas reserves. According to a document from the National Petroleum Authority, there are more than 20 companies authorised to explore for oil and gas, and in a report from the Ministry of Industry, Mineral and Energy, some 60 firms have the licenses to extract minerals.

After searching and studying about oil deposits for many years, the Chevron company will be the first to drill for oil in Cambodia at its first project known as Block A in December 2012.

According to Mam Sambath, the Cambodian government has now drafted a law to deal with the EI sector and the government will allow civic participation in sharing their opinions over EI.

“We expect that they [the government] will take the revenue from oil and gas resources to develop prioritised sectors,” said Sounsau Sathya.

He added that EI is very important for all young Cambodians to know about because youth is an impetus for changing society towards development, so they can join hands with the government to use and observe that revenue transparently.

Prospects in the Thai gulf

CHEVRON will likely be the first company to tap Cambodia’s oil resources, as it recently extblished a permnant office in Cambodia and, in a press conference earlier this year, reiterated its commitment to begin production by the end of 2010. The American company owns a 30-percent stake and is the operator of 485,000 hectare offshore oil Block A, located in the Thai gulf, shown here.

. ChevronTexaco (CVX) will start looking for oil in Cambodian waters by drilling five exploration wells about 140 kilometers off the port city of Sihanoukville. A preliminary estimate of the volume of crude oil was 400 million barrels.

Sok An – who is also Chairman of the Cambodian National Petroleum Authority – said the office would increase cooperation between Chevron and the CNPA, partially by offering increased training opportunities for Cambodians, said Ek Tha.

“It is very good timing. And you know very well that we need skilled people to work on Chevron’s offshore project,” Ek Tha quoted the Deputy Prime Minister as saying at a March 23 meeting.

Thai investors 'welcome in Cambodia'


via CAAI

Published: 30/03/2011
Online news:

Despite the long-standing border conflict between the two countries, the Phnom Penh government insists Thai investors are welcome in Cambodia.

Thai investors, too, are confident the tense border conflict will not affect their investment plans.

Cambodian Minister of Tourism Thong Khon said Thai investors are eligible for tax privileges and Thai products imported by them are exempted from taxation for a period of three to eight years.

Mr Thong Khon was full of praise for such Thai businessman as Supachai Verapuchong, managing director of the Sofitel Phnom Penh Pookeerhra Hotel, for his continued investment in Cambodia even though the hotel, formerly known as the Royal Phnom Penh, was severely damaged in an anti-Thai rioting in Phnom Penh in December 2006.

Prime Minister Hun Sen's policy is to encourage more foreign investment in Siem Reap, Phnom Penh and Koh Kong.

Countries in this region which have invested in Cambodia are China, South Korea, Japan, Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam and Thailand. Those from elsewhere include Australia, Portugal, England, the United States and France.

Mr Supachai, who invested more than two billion baht in the five-star Sofitel Phnom Penh Pookeethra Hotel, said even though the relations between Thailand and Cambodia are plagued with uncertainty he has confidence in the Cambodian government's policy toward investors, including those from Thailand.

In 2006, Mr Supachai invested US$40 million in the Sofitel Ankor Hotel and a golf course in Siem Reap.

"Despite turbulence, Thailand and Cambodia are neighbours. We have to walk together as friends," he said.

"In four years from now, there will not be a tariff wall in Asean. The question is whether Thai investors and the Thai government are eady for the days ahead, when business competition will be tougher.

"So we should establish business ties, which will subsequently lead to improvement of relations in other fields," Mr Supachai said.

Tea Banh: Prawit agrees to Indonesia GBC meeting


via CAAI

Published: 30/03/2011
Online news: Local News

Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwon has agreed to attend the General Border Committee (GBC) meeting in Indonesia, according to Cambodia's Defence Minister Tea Banh.

Gen Tea Banh announced the agreement in an interview with the Bangkok Post in Phnom Penh on Wednesday.

Gen Prawit has repeatedly said he would not go to the GBC meeting, scheduled to be held in Bogor, Indonesia, on April 7-8. He has said the GBC should be purely bilateral and the meeting held in either Cambodia or Thailand, not in Indonesia or any other third country.

Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwon (left) and his Cambodian counterpart Tea Banh (Photo by Thiti Wannamontha)

Gen Tea Banh claimed he had talked over this matter with Gen Prawit and that the Thai minister had agreed to go to the meeting in Indonesia.

He said he would himself leave for Indonesia on April 6.

"The Thai side can't insist not going because it has agreed with the United Nations Security Council and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to let Indonesia mediate talks with Cambodia," Gen Tea Banh said.

"I still believe Gen Prawit will definitely go to Indonesia for the April 7-8 meeting. I'll be waiting for him over there," he added.

An informed source said Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen has made it a policy for the Cambodian army that in talks with their Thai counterparts they must insist on not withdrawing Cambodian troops from the 4.6 square kilometre disputed area.

Hun Sen has said Cambodian soldiers were duty-bound to remain in the area, regardless of for how long.

His objective is for Thailand to accept observers from Indonesia into the disputed area for inspections, the source said.

The source also said Hun Sen would not be happy if he happened to see a Cambodian soldier talk to a Thai soldier in the Thai language.

"The prime minister said Cambodian soldiers must speak Cambodian, and use an interpreter if necessary," the source said.

Meanwhile, the Phnom Penh government insists Thai investors are welcome in Cambodia despite the long-standing border conflict between the two countries.

Thai investors, too, are confident the tense border conflict will not affect their investment plans.

Cambodian Minister of Tourism Thong Khon said Thai investors are eligible for tax privileges and Thai products imported by them are exempted from taxation for a period of three to eight years.

Mr Thong Khon was full of praise for such Thai businessman as Supachai Verapuchong, managing director of the Sofitel Phnom Penh Pookeerhra Hotel, for his continued investment in Cambodia even though the hotel, formerly known as the Royal Phnom Penh, was severely damaged in an anti-Thai rioting in Phnom Penh in December 2006.

Prime Minister Hun Sen's policy is to encourage more foreign investment in Siem Reap, Phnom Penh and Koh Kong.

Countries in this region which have invested in Cambodia are China, South Korea, Japan, Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam and Thailand. Those from elsewhere include Australia, Portugal, England, the United States and France.

Mr Supachai, who invested more than two billion baht in the five-star Sofitel Phnom Penh Pookeethra Hotel, said even though the relations between Thailand and Cambodia are plagued with uncertainty he has confidence in the Cambodian government's policy toward investors, including those from Thailand.

In 2006, Mr Supachai invested US$40 million in the Sofitel Ankor Hotel and a golf course in Siem Reap.

"Despite turbulence, Thailand and Cambodia are neighbours. We have to walk together as friends," he said.

"In four years from now, there will not be a tariff wall in Asean. The question is whether Thai investors and the Thai government are ready for the days ahead, when business competition will be tougher.

"So we should establish business ties, which will subsequently lead to improvement of relations in other fields," Mr Supachai said.