Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Poipet in tourism drop

Photo by: Will Baxter
A lone tourist walks through the grounds of the Bayon Temple in Siem Reap province last year.


Tuesday, 03 May 2011 15:02Sieam Bunthy

The recent border conflict with Thailand led to 17 percent fewer tourists entering Cambodia through the Poipet international border crossing in April compared to the month previous, according to officials.

Some 62,651 visitors entered Cambodia through the Banteay Meancheay province checkpoint in April, down from 75,636 in March, figures provided by immigration authorities show.

Leak Romnea, chief of Poipet checkpoint’s Administration Officer, said the sudden decline was due to the ongoing Thai-Cambodia border clashes.

“The number of visitors fell in the days following the explosions which occurred on April 22 – people are afraid,” he said. However, he stressed that the Poipet crossing itself has been physically unaffected by the fighting.

“Although the conflict erupted on the Oddar Meancheay province border, Poipet international gate remains open and trans-border ... transportation has not been affected.”

Cambodian Association of Travel Agents President Ang Kim Eang said the declining number of visitors was due to two main factors – the border conflict at the end of April, and the beginning of the wet season.

Thai visitors in particular were staying away, he said.

Tourists entering through Poipet are often headed to Siem Reap province, as well as Battambang and other nearby provinces.

Although arrivals had dropped in April, figures show 2011 has been stronger overall than 2010 for visitors entering through Poipet.

Some 297,289 total visitors have entered the Kingdom through the Poipet gate during the first four months of 2011, an increase of 69,397 visitors on the same period last year, according to the figures provided by Poipet checkpoint officials on Sunday.

Minister of Tourism Thong Khon pointed to the increase so far in 2011 as evidence of a growing tourism industry, though allowed that April’s eruption of hostilities has impacted the sector, particularly with a decrease of Thai visitors to the Kingdom.

“The conflict at the border between Cambodia and Thailand has not hit other foreign tourists coming to Cambodia, but the number of Thai visitors has decreased,” he said.

Mega Green plans exports as rice forecast increased


via CAAI

Tuesday, 03 May 2011 15:02 Sieam Bunthy

Mega Green Company plans to export up to 50,000 tonnes of rice in 2011, largely due to increased demand from the European Union, according to Director General Outh Renne.

The firm claims to have already shipped 10,000 tonnes to Europe in 2011 to date.

Mega Green’s processed rice sold for prices beginning at US$385 a tonne, with prices rising for higher quality product, he said.

The European Union has removed tariffs and quotas on the majority of imports, including rice, from Least Developed Countries such as Cambodia under its Everything But Arms initiative.

Rice exports ought to continue to rise, said Outh Renne, with demand also increasing from the Philippines, as well as interest from buyers in China and the Middle East.

“The Philippines is a big market, demanding more rice,” he said, adding his company hoped to export 5,000 tonnes to the country this year.

Prime Minister Hun Sen has set a goal of one million tonnes of milled rice exports by 2015, which Outh Renne said the Kingdom could achieve. However, he added the process would not be without difficulties.

He highlighted the need to increase loans by commercial banks to local rice millers to purchase paddy for processing, the requirement to develop domestic infrastructure, and that strong links had to be established with exporters and buyers.

Meanwhile, the Food and Agricultural Organisation’s April rice market monitor report released yesterday bumped up its estimate for the Kingdom’s 2010 crop to 8.3 million tonnes, from 8 million tonnes previously.

“A considerable surplus from a record 2010 crop is anticipated to enable Cambodia to step up 2011 exports by 8 percent to 1.4 million tonnes, the bulk of which is expected to flow unrecorded, mainly to Vietnam and Thailand,” it said.

It said Cambodia’s 2011 rice crop could hit 8.5 million tonnes, though it noted the main crop was planted in June.

qb launches a 2G network

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
Employees of mobile service provider qb man a promotional tent on Sothearos Boulevard in Phnom Penh yesterday. qb has just announced its launch of a 2G mobile network in the Kingdom.


via CAAI

Tuesday, 03 May 2011 15:02Tom Brennan

Service provider qb has launched a second-generation mobile network in Cambodia, according to Chief Executive Officer Alan Sinfield.

The firm has operated a 3G network since its startup in 2008, but its new 2G service now provides qb with nationwide coverage, he said yesterday.

Sinfield declined to discuss the launch in detail yesterday, pending a formal announcement later in the week. The firm is currently running a number of promotions to attract a variety of new customers, he said, and he wanted to measure their impact before discussing the 2G initiative.

Yesterday, Marc Einstein, an Asia Pacific telecommunications analyst at Frost & Sullivan based in Japan, who follows the Cambodian market, said qb’s attempt to leapfrog 2G service by launching with 3G had met with some difficulty, as 3G services were too expensive for the bulk of Cambodians.

He noted the level of competition in the Kingdom, calling it “the most saturated [telecoms] market in the world.“

A Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications presentation from January this year listed qb’s owner Cadcomms as a holder of a 3G licence only.

Following January’s merger between Smart Mobile and Star-Cell, five Cambodian GSM operators hold licences to provide both 3G and 2G service, while Beeline does not hold a 3G licence, the presentation showed.

Beeline General Director Gael Campan did not return request for comment yesterday. In March, Campan wrote that Beeline operates its EDGE technology at speeds that were better than many 3G+ operators in the domestic market.

Vimpelcom – the owner of Beeline – is looking to “beef up their market share” in Southeast Asia, Einstein said yesterday.

In March, Amsterdam-headquartered Vimpelcom completed its purchase of a 78 percent stake in Laos’ Millicom Lao Company for US$88 million, and last month announced financing of up to $500 million for its Vietnam joint venture, GTEL-Mobile.

Dance project hip-hops into theatre

Carnet de Voyage brings a tuk tuk on stage for a hip-hop collaboration with Tiny Toones dancers. CCF Below, choreographer Nabil Ouelhadj in Yemen. Photo by: SAMIR AKIKA


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Tuesday, 03 May 2011 15:00 Sarah Macklin

HIP-HOP dancers from Phnom Penh are in rehearsal this week and next with French choreographer Nabil Ouelhadj for two special performances at Chenla Theatre on May 11 and 12.

The young dancers are from Tiny Toones, an NGO that works with vulnerable children to educate them and encourage their artistic blooming through dance and music.

Other youngsters have travelled from their home town of Battambang to take part in the workshops. They have been learning arts, music and dance through the Battambang Development Base, which works which street children in association with the established arts school Phare Ponleu Selpak.

Together they are rehearsing with the French choreographer to adapt a dance show called Crazy Car. Naturally the dance will include a real tuk tuk, as a nod to Cambodian influences.

But Ouelhadj sees the work as a collaborative effort, the reflection of multiple encounters with the local artists while working here.

The dance show is called Carnet de Voyage, or Book Travel. “It presents a multiplicity of spaces and energies, a symbiosis between the architecture of the vehicle and the dancers, whose encounters adopt the rhythm of the traffic,” explains the choreographer.

“They explore the plasticity of this space, a place of possibilities in which their freedom is expressed by means of imitative trajectories, giving the public the impression of an immobile journey’,” he says.

Despite the impenetrable artspeak, his shows are a real spectacle of colour and movement, showing influences as varied as Chinese circus and hip-hop, blending audiovisual feasts of sound and hues to create his own vision.

The project is very much a reflection of the energy, enthusiasm and openness of spirit of artists from various horizons, says Ouelhadj, who comes from Lille.

His travels are with the Racines Carrées company in Cambodia are under the auspices of the French Cultural Centre (CCF) in Phnom Penh, and his dance career has taken him from performances in Germany and France to Yemen and Cambodia.

Ouelhadj first travelled to Cambodia last year as a choreographer and interpreter in a production directed by Samir Akika, called I Should Be So Lucky and Unusual Symptoms. While in Phnom Penh, he began meeting Cambodian artists from all kinds of directions, working in contemporary dance and hip-hop.

These meetings – transcending the barriers of language and culture – inspired him to create a new artistic language of dance in this new work, thanks to the initiatives of the CCF, who invited two other French hip-hop dancers and break dancers.

Tickets to the two performances are free from CCF at 218, Street 184, Phnom Penh or from Amrita Performing Arts at 128 Sothearos Boulevard.

See Carnet de Voyage, preceded by the work Pensée Contemporaine with choreography by Khen Somnang, at Chenla Theatre, May 11 and 12, at 7pm.

From fish and frogs to buffaloes Support for poor rural people in Svay Rieng


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Tuesday, 03 May 2011 15:01Post Staff

SEVEN years ago in 1994, a grand total of 45 buffaloes made their way to Svay Teab village in rural Cambodia courtesy of the Japanese. It was the same year the Rural Economic Development Association was established as an NGO and the start of a moving story of REDA’s work from care and counselling to tackling agricultural and drug problems and building a children’s orphanage.

In this article JUNE VINCENT, a volunteer management advisor with REDA, writes of the years and the work of the NGO since its inception, from helping to improve family living standards and addressing poverty and food shortages, to the battle with the HIV epidemic, the building of infrastructure, skills training and the provision of an orphanage in a struggling rural community centre.

AFTER the Khmer Rouge regime, followed by occupation by Vietnamese forces, rural families in Cambodia had very little in the way of income that could enable them to support their families. Families were repatriated from the Thai border refugee camps in 1993 and those who had fled to Vietnam returned to their home districts in many cases with nothing but the clothes they wore and what they were able to carry. Land titles had not been re-established and people were living with few of life's basic necessities and they didn't even have enough food.

The Rural Economic Development Association, better known as REDA, is an NGO that was established in 1994. A small group of people who were repatriated to Svay Rieng in 1993 could see that there was serious hardship in the rural communities where they were living and they were keen to help the people improve their living standards. Added to this the HIV epidemic was rapidly taking hold in Cambodian communities.

The founders of REDA decided that in order to help these families they needed to undertake some positive action, as quickly as possible, not an easy task in those difficult days.

The first assistance received was in 1994 from a Japanese NGO, Japan Lay Missionary Movement (JLMM), who donated 45 buffaloes for 45 families in the Svay Teab district in Svay Rieng Province. At that time REDA had three staff who worked for no salaries for three years during which time they assessed which families had the highest level of need and who should receive a buffalo. Two of these original staff still work at REDA. After three years the buffaloes were handed over to the families and their community for future use and breeding.

In 1995 the World Food Program (WFP) began distribution of food for work in Svay Rieng province. Workers manually dug tracks for roads and in return received rice and cooking oil. There were 2000 families supported in this manner. Today the WFP still supports a total of 470 very poor PLHIV and Orphan and Vulnerable Children (OVC) families every month in Svay Rieng Province.

It was quickly becoming apparent that there was an urgent need for education about HIV and prevention activities as the rate of incidence was spiralling rapidly. Meanwhile western societies were also coming to grips with HIV and advances were being made medically in managing HIV once a person became infected.

In 1996 a new network of NGOs was established to fight this epidemic as a project of the International HIV/Aids Alliance and was registered as a local NGO in 2000. This organisation, called Khmer HIV/Aids NGO Alliance (KHANA) has operated as a linking organisation between the International HIV/Aids Alliance and local Cambodian NGOS.

The Royal Government of Cambodia, Khana and its partners such as REDA have made huge inroads into halting the spread of HIV from an estimated high of 3% in 1998 to 0.5% at the end of 2009, with approximately 63,000 people living with HIV (PLHIV) in Cambodia today.

REDA sought funds to be able to support those who had become infected with the HIV virus. With financial support through Khana and Family Planning International New Zealand, they provided a care and support system to enable their clients to stay well at home and try to begin to generate some income through the provision of vocational training, such as sewing, small engine repairs, agriculture and small business enterprises. REDA staff built fish tanks in 2000 and fish and frogs were imported from Thailand to begin a fish and frog farming program where the villagers could learn how to have their own fish ponds and maintain a healthy fish farm and improve the quality of their diet.

In 2005 visitors from the Social Fund arrived at REDA to see the staff providing training under a tree in the REDA compound and agreed to fund new buildings to include offices and training rooms.

It was never the intention of the REDA management to have an on-site orphanage, but in 2005 a family of three children were brought by their grandparents to live at REDA as they were unable to provide the care a growing family required because of their age and infirmity. One child was very sick with HIV and needed medicine and constant care and supervision.

Starting with the arrival of these children, an informal orphanage developed over the following years to the stage where it required registration with the Ministry of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation and full-time care givers, a teacher and a cook. Also some suitable child-friendly accommodation was required and although this is not fully resolved as yet, a grant in 2005 from the NZ Embassy in Bangkok provided a kitchen and dining/school room.

REDA continues to seek suitable donor support for the children as families that have asked REDA to care for their children have made it clear that they prefer them to stay close by within the province so that family kinship and contact is maintained.

Training in agricultural skills has been a priority for REDA as it became aware that many of the skills needed to develop alternative food sources had been lost. The PLHIV who are part of REDA's Integrated Care and Prevention (ICP) have been invited to receive training in these skills, along with women who are of household heads, poor families and where possible family groups are included.

Like many NGOs in Cambodia, REDA struggles to maintain financial viability and is very dependant on donor support. Without this support the lives of the rural poor would remain very bleak and difficult, with high infant mortality and maternal death rates, increases in HIV and TB cases, poor educational attainment especially in girls and other associated issues that go hand in hand with poverty, persistent hunger and a poor diet.

REDA directors, management and staff are highly appreciative of donor assistance that helps those families who are still struggling today.

Frontier projects, research help nature and rural life


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Tuesday, 03 May 2011 15:00 Charles Amery

THE need for volunteers in Cambodia is always a continuing and pressing one for many NGOs, local and international, who work nationwide on many hundreds of projects aimed at all areas of the social, educational and environmental fabric and development structure within the Kingdom.

They come from all parts of the world, a band of international travelling volunteers of varying ages, skills, backgrounds and education and work on projects throughout the nation from Phnom Penh into the rural depths of a country where help is needed at every level of society.

Frontier Cambodia is one international NGO that offers its volunteers a rich experience seeing and researching the amazing biodiversity of the Cambodian forests and interacting with the communities that live within them.

Frontier is currently working in collaboration with institutions in five countries across four continents with Frontier-Cambodia collaboration between the Society for Environmental Exploration (UK) and the Department of Nature Conservation and Protection within the Ministry for the Environment, Phnom Penh.

Last month (April) two more volunteers arrived supporting their research during the current phase of their project while in the previous phase, 11 took part. They back up four staff working in country, two of whom will be in Cambodia for the rest of the year.

At the request of the Ministry of Environment, they are working on a Biodiversity Survey and Training Project in a community forest in the province of Oddar Meanchey.

The project has been implemented by the Frontier-Cambodia Tropical Forest Research Programme, collaboration between the Society for Environmental Exploration (UK) and the Department for Nature Conservation and Protection, Ministry of Environment in Cambodia.

Oddar Meanchey is a protected forested area rich in all variety of reptiles, amphibians, birds, insects and many species of relatively unknown and extremely elusive mammals.

“Our main focus for the forest project, presently located in Oddar Meanchey, is to obtain a wide variety of data relating to biodiversity levels, obtaining data on species abundance, measuring forest clearance within the vicinity of our camp and conducting night-time surveys and other areas of interest,” said Country Co-ordinator for Frontier-Cambodia Aaron Sexton.

“We have also conducted a series of community surveys to discuss environmental issues with the local people and to source information regarding endangered species that are thought to be present in the area. Our ability to conduct these surveys is aided by the local rangers that are employed through the Ministry of Environment and the rapport we have built up with the forest communities that are situated around the camp.”

Frontier works closely with many institutions both overseas and in the UK. Their conservation programmes are a partnership with local, national and international conservation agencies, NGO’s, governments, universities and communities.

They currently have overseas offices and operations in Cambodia, Fiji, Madagascar, Tanzania and Costa Rica.

Frontier believes wildlife conservation in Cambodia is in its infancy and that an increasing human population and demands of a growing economy threaten the country’s natural resources and the resulting environmental problems urgently need to be tackled.

They say that with many of Cambodia’s remaining forests remote and mostly unexplored, large, relatively intact, and often with linking corridors the potential for conservation of native fauna, particularly wide-ranging species, becomes that much more achievable.

Researchers and conservation workers, says Frontier, are becoming more prevalent in Cambodia and increasing efforts in the country as the wealth of wildlife indigenous to the Kingdom offers a new frontier in which to explore and help conserve.

And Frontier’s volunteers are never ones to shirk a challenge and a responsibility for with their major work currently in the disputed border area where fighting has seen several deaths of the military over the past two weeks, they have never stopped work during the ongoing Thai-Cambodia feud.

“ Contact between the two parties, the field researchers and myself in Phnom Penh, is a very regular occurrence to ensure that each party is fully aware of the ongoing situation, “ said Aaron Sexton.

“We also have locally sourced rangers within our camp who monitor the situation through listening to the local radio stations for news updates and also have the ability to be contacted if the fighting or shelling encroaches into the region we work.

“The team of staff, volunteers and rangers are safe and well and if there is any suggestion that the fighting flares up or extends beyond its current remit then a conscious decision will obviously be necessary to evacuate or relocate.”

Branding: Creating an identity

Mark van Luyk holds sessions. The co-founder of BrandOutLoud, he is the man who created the images and photos on this page to promote company communication.

via CAAI
Tuesday, 03 May 2011 15:00 Charles Amery

THERE are many many hundreds of NGOs, local and international, in Cambodia but there is one thing many have in common – the need to get their message across. The need to create their own recognisable identity, their own brand. To become professional communicators to much better promote their organisation and their work.

By doing this they can pull themselves out of what sometimes appears a morass of well intentioned but disparate NGOs, and find a more sustainable way to address potential sponsors and supporters through which they can grow, develop and become more independent.

Enter BrandOutLoud – a nonprofit organisation specialising in branding and communications for NGOs.

Established in 2007, the concept started when both founders, Judith Madigan and Mark van Luyk, saw the need of NGOs for professional communication during their volunteering and travelling year in Southeast Asia.

“At that time I was working with local staff members towards strengthening their capacity, while Mark provided the NGO with great, powerful imagery. Often, that material ended up somewhere in a ‘slide-show’ or worse in a drawer. Many NGOs didn’t have any idea how to effectively implement the imagery within their communication,” said co-founder Judith Madigan.

Following a pilot project in Indonesia in 2006, Madigan and Van Luyk worked together, combining their skills and backgrounds, on the photography and communication for a local NGO.

That work for the NGO, which was a major success both for them and the NGO involved, identified what many similar organisations needed – branding and communication skills.

So the two of them decided to take this concept to the next level and establish a non-profit organisation, resulting in BrandOutLoud.

Based in the Netherlands and with a core team of 12 specialists and volunteers, BrandOutLoud works on-site with NGOs and NPOs worldwide.

The aim is to empower NGOs by means of a strong sense of brand identity and powerful imagery to support that. Add to that the necessary basic communication skills and tools, the local NGOs are able to further develop themselves and their work independently.

The communication tools are deployed to address potential donors and current supporters, including sophisticated photography, graphic design, copy and an outstanding online presence.

Once its visual identity and concept is established, BrandOutLoud helps the aid organisation to implement the newly developed communications. With a professional structure in place, they are able to promote themselves in a positive and successful way.

In 2007 BrandOutLoud took on its first project in Cambodia: All Ears Cambodia. This was followed in 2010 with another project: CDMD (Cambodian Development Mission for Disability). All Ears Cambodia was a small local aid organisation providing medical services to people with ear and hearing problems and the partnership began when it approached BrandOutLoud to see if there was scope for promoting the organisation more professionally and effectively.

One of the results of the joint project was the exceptional photographic images which carried the general communication as well as several photo-documentaries.

A new website was also launched and All Ears’ organisation style and concept was underpinned by a full range of communication tools from an e-newsletter to signboards.

Since then the organisation has grown and gone through considerable development and is planning to establish an All Ears International charity.

In May 2010 BrandOutLoud started to work with CDMD, an independent Cambodian non-governmental organisation working towards an inclusive, barrier-free and rights-based society for people with disabilities.

In collaboration with their funding partner CBM CEARO in Bangkok, BrandOutLoud developed their branding, design and communication. As a result this aid organisation is now promoting itself proudly with a new professional look and the right tools in place such as a website and strong imagery.

“BrandOutLoud supports NGOs/ NPOs (aid organisations) with the development of their own branding, design and communication. Our aim is to encourage them to use this new professional appearance and practical communications tools in order to promote their organisation and their work,” said Madigan.

“We strive to enable aid organisations – in a more sustainable way – to address potential sponsors and supporters, by which they can grow and become more independent. We believe powerful imagery is the key to successful communication: Visualise to persuade.

“This is what we do. Visualising the strengths, resilience and moreover the dignity of the people being supported – not as victims, but as leaders of their own change, as opposed to pitiful and shocking imagery and messages. In this we envision the necessity to shift from negative communication used only too often in the sector.

“In short, key team members spend 3-4 months on-site with the NGO/NPO. In close partnership we develop their brand (visual) identity, marketing and communication. We believe developing a professional set of communication tools such as business cards, brochures, posters, a website and similar items, is all about identity. Knowing who you are and what you stand for.

“Each local NGO has its own story, own voice. That is their brand. And this is the core of our work. Visualising their story about who they are and what they stand for.

“A great example was with our latest project in Cambodia with CDMD. During the evaluation the director commented on the development of their logo. Saying that all elements of themselves came together in the design, and BrandOutLoud had been a vehicle for doing that. That is the biggest compliment we can get because it is about them. It is their story. We are the vehicle.

“In the first year of BrandOutLoud we were more focused on the outcome – as in terms of visual branding, the professional communication tools. Only over the months working in close partnership, we saw the change within the local NGOs themselves, becoming more proud of who they are and what they stand for.

“This ownership and process of empowerment became as important as the original outcome. Tutorials, clinics and various brainstorm sessions play an important role. Nowadays, we also provide workshops and training towards learning marketing and communication and its tools to help the NGOs develop their own strategies,” said Madigan.

“As the problems regarding marketing and communication that NGOs are facing are universal, we are open for projects globally. Though we have found that because of our previous experience in the Asia region, word has spread and organisations are finding us more and more and it is that which actually keeps us coming back to Asia/Pacific.”

Women get guidebook to aid equality


via CAAI

Tuesday, 03 May 2011 15:00Post Staff

LOCAL NGO the Open Institute has gathered together and compiled for the first time all the available information on the laws and services relating to the rights of women and children in a recently published book.

The Women’s Guidebook with a print run of 5000 has gone to 24 municipalities, workers in rural communities, local libraries and is also being distributed through the Government’s Women’s Affairs ministry.

The Open Institute is a local non-governmental and not-for-profit organisation which supports the social and economic development of Cambodia by working in three major fields: gender, information technology, and the development of Khmer language.

The book brings together a depth and variety of information with the aim of bringing to women, especially in rural areas, an increased awareness of the laws and services related to rights for women and children in a bid to improve gender equality and reduce domestic violence.

The book includes information and contact details for government and NGO services including legal aid, reproductive health and local officials. It also explains that domestic violence is illegal and that officials have a right and duty to intervene to protect victims.

Chim Manavy, executive director of the Open Institute, said that the 210-page Women’s Guidebook would be especially useful for women in remote areas who may not be aware of available support services.

“It is a very good book which will assist them, has gone to 24 municipalities and will go further afield,” she said.

“It is interesting and informative and never before has all the information been put together in one book. It is a very good way to communicate about domestic violence and has gained access to interested villages through local authorities, council members, chiefs of police and others.”

About 40 percent of Cambodian women are illiterate and with a low education do not understand. Village chiefs meet with villagers to show them and talk to them with the aid of the book and much of its impact will rely on the local authorities helping to disseminate the information.

'Responsible tourism' the way ahead


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Tuesday, 03 May 2011 15:00Charles Amery

“RESPONSIBLE tourism” which aims at maximising the economic, social and environmental benefits of tourism, is becoming a leading segment in the global tourist market.

And “responsible tourism” has become a priority sector for the SNV Netherlands Development Organisation an NGO which operates in Cambodia as well as internationally and employs teams of specialist Pro-Poor Responsible Tourism advisers in countries throughout Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Balkans.

They work in the countries both to develop destinations and to support tourism businesses to integrate environmentally, economically, and socially responsible practices into their operations.

In its aim to help increase the Cambodian tourism sector’s focus on “responsible tourism” SNV launched a Responsible Travel Cambodia pilot project beginning last October which since then has brought international presenters to Phnom Penh and provided business mentoring for seven selected tour companies.

This has included working with the companies and their staff and performing an analysis of their businesses to identify and prioritise the most profitable opportunities for the business in developing responsible practices and selecting the best solutions for business improvement.

Action plans are also being developed for the tour companies through business development workshops.

The aim is to help the companies increase their opportunities for the burgeoning “responsible” market.

SNV Pro Poor Sustainable Tourism Sector Leader Trevor Piper, who works with a small local and international team in Cambodia, said the project was ongoing and a third workshop with the seven companies would be held this month (May).

“The project is going well and has included international presenters covering many issues relevant within the sector of responsible tourism,” he said.

“We will review and appraise its success and look at a possible proposal for gaining support on a wider basis with a view to continue regular workshops and take the program nationwide.

“SNV is working with the industry and the Cambodia Association of Travel Agents (CATA) and the Ministry of Tourism with whom we have a very supportive and good relationship.

“There is a high level of awareness of responsible, sustainable tourism and we want to work out how this can be used to effect in Cambodia.”

At the launch of the project late last year, Tourism Ministry Secretary of State Kousoum Saroeuth said a World Travel Market survey found that about 71 percent of tourists thought that their travel plans should benefit the local community, and 85 percent thought that trips should have a low environmental impact.

“I would like to encourage all concerned parties, especially the private sector ... to join in with responsible tourism in the context of community development, protection of ecotourism and biodiversity,” he said.

SNV believes that to keep up with the strong environmental attitudes of many international travellers and capture a bigger piece of the growing tourism market Cambodia had to look closely at its “responsible tourism” role in the Kingdom.

Tourism is the second largest sector in Cambodia’s economy, and contributes about 15 percent of the country’s total GDP in 2008. Tourism is now worth up to US$1.5 billion annually.

As one of the world’s largest industries, accounting for an estimated almost 10 percent of global GDP and employing more than 20 million people according to the World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), tourism is particularly significant for developing economies, who receive an estimated 30 percent of all global tourism expenditure.

“We don’t want to just eliminate the negative impacts of tourism but rather also introduce positive impacts,” said Trevor Piper, who added that SNV studies showed demands from the key European and North American markets were changing.

“Tourists want more meaningful connections with local people and greater understanding of the local cultural, social and environmental issues,” he said.

Seventy percent of British and North American tourists previously surveyed by SNV said they would be willing to pay up to $150 more for a two-week stay in a hotel that had a “responsible environmental attitude”.

Also several Cambodian hoteliers said an increasing number of tourists prioritised sustainable practices in their travels.

The success of Responsible Tourism as a travel product was one of the major findings of a ground-breaking study commissioned by SNV Netherlands Development Organisation and undertaken by Stanford University’s Centre for Responsible Travel (CREST) and released last year.

It made a series of in-depth marketing recommendations for service providers in or wishing to enter the Responsible Tourism market in developing countries.

It was pointed out that in a world of change, one constant in the last 25 years had been the sustained growth of tourism both as an activity and an industry and that in recent years tourism has been increasingly recognised for its potential to contribute to poverty reduction.

Tourism entrepreneurs worldwide are working hard to promote socially responsible and environmentally sustainable tourism practices internationally and with consumers becoming increasingly aware of the potential impact of their tourism dollar, it is becoming a leading market segment worldwide.

AKP - The Agence Kampuchea Press

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PM: Thai Armed Forces Launch over 50,000 Artillery Shells into Cambodia

AKP Phnom Penh, May 3, 2011 – Thai armed forces has launched over 50,000 artillery shells, from 105 mm to 155 mm, into Cambodia during the latest war between the two neighboring countries in Cambodia’s Oddar Meanchey province.

Cambodian Prime Minister Samdech Akka Moha Sena Padei Techo Hun Sen told here this morning at Cambodian Red Cross (CRC)’s headquarters during a meeting to mark the 148th anniversary of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Day.

Some of these 50,000 shells are unexploded, said the Cambodian premier, thus calling on the CRC and relevant authorities to educate people about the danger of unexploded shells and to destroy them.

He further said that as of May 3, about 40,000 evacuees, or more than 10,000 families, who fled home for shelters due to the latest fighting, have returned home, except some 200 families whose houses are too close to the fighting zones remain at the same sites for a few more days until the situation has returned to normalcy.

According to the Cambodian prime minister, there is a negotiation between the two countries’ frontline military commanders on Tuesday morning to ease the situation so that it can return to that before Apr. 22, 2011.

Thai armed forced has resumed its attacks against Cambodia since Apr. 22, killing and injuring Cambodian soldiers and civilians, and forcing thousands of civilians to flee homes for safety.

Article in Khmer by CHIM Nary
Article in English by SOKMOM Nimul


National Assembly President Presides Over BAC’s General Assembly

AKP Phnom Penh, May 3, 2011 – National Assembly President Samdech Akka Moha Ponhea Chakrei Heng Samrin presided over the closing of the general assembly of Buddhist Association of Cambodia (BAC) held here on Apr. 30.

Speaking at the ceremony, Samdech Heng Samrin urged for promoting BAC’s structural organization and heightening the Buddhism principle awareness and the state law to the monks and the Cambodian Buddhist circles to enable them to support the association.

He hoped that the members of BAC will make a new change with a high quality to attract the support from the outsiders with the aim of enhancing the Buddhism in Cambodia as well as in the world.

The national assembly president also attributed the development of Buddhism in the country to the national reunification and reconciliation in the country, mainly “Win-Win” policy of the royal government led by Prime Minister Samdech Akka Moha Sena Padei Techo Hun Sen.

The two-day meeting was carried out successfully, conforming to the aim and the request expected, in which the working progress reports was presented and the objective in the future was set.

The Buddhist infrastructure in Cambodia includes about 4,000 pagodas with nearly 54,000 monk residents, and Buddhism is the religion of over 90 percent of the population. Buddhist monks are also highly respected in Cambodian culture.

Article in Khmer by PAL Song
Article in English by THOU Peou


Cambodia, Japan Reach Customs Agreement

AKP Phnom Penh, May 3, 2011 – Cambodia’s General Department of Customs and Exercise (GDCE) under the Ministry of Economy and Finance and the Customs and Tariffs Bureau of Japan (CTBJ) agreed upon here last week on a number of points of cooperation between the two countries, especially the later assistance to the Cambodian customs at the international forums, according to GDCE.

H.E. Dr. Pen Simon, GDCE Director General met with Mr. Atsuo Shibota, Head of CTBJ in Phnom Penh last Thursday, to discuss the cooperation, especially the trade facilitation between the two countries.

GDCE has to strengthen its cooperation with the ASEAN countries and Japan as well as with other countries over the world to ensure the security and the smooth flow of goods supplies in the aftermath of the tsunami occurred in Japan last March, said Dr. Pen Simon.

Despite the natural disaster in Japan, the trade exchange volume between Cambodia and Japan is stable, he said.

GDCE has just signed a cooperation agreement with its S. Korean and Vietnamese counterparts.

By Noeu


Cambodian Customs Chief Meets with WCO Secretary General

AKP Phnom Penh, May 3, 2011 – Cambodian General Department of Customs and Excise Director General H.E. Dr. Pen Simon, met here last week with Mr. Kuniko Mikuriya, Secretary General of World Customs Organization (WCO).

During the meeting, Mr. Kuniko Mikuriya, who came to Cambodia to join the Meeting of Customs Directors-General of the 10 ASEAN countries and Japan along with the Asian Development Bank (ADB), praised Cambodia for its rapid development in all sectors, especially in the customs field.

He highly evaluated Cambodia’s active participation in WCO’s activities, the country’s integration in the region and the world, particularly the implementation of customs modernization program in Cambodia.

Mr. Kuniko Mikuriya also told Dr. Pen Simon of his visit, the purpose of which he said, is to further strengthen the cooperation between Cambodian customs administration and WCO and to promote the integration of Cambodian customs administration in the region and the world, as well as to strengthen the capacity and efficiency of WCO member countries’ customs administration.

By LIM Nary


Cambodian Workers Celebrate Labor Day

AKP Phnom Penh, May 3, 2011 – Thousands of workers gathered here on May 1 to mark the 125th International Labor Day.

Addressing the gathering, Mr. Ath Thun, President of Cambodian Labor Union, proposed some suggestions to the Royal Government of Cambodia, including limiting a reasonable wage for workers in all sectors, particularly service and construction.

On the occasion, all workers’ representatives also submitted some petitions to the National Assembly and the Royal Government of Cambodia to help solve some of their issues.

By KHAN Sophirom


EDITORIAL: The Smokescreen Diplomacy of Thailand Uncovered

AKP Phnom Penh, May 3, 2011 – The government of Thailand is taking the task of lay out the smokescreen diplomacy, while the Statesman and Privy Council president Prem Tinsulanonda is calling on all Thais to show their full support for the Thai soldiers in the ongoing war of aggression against Cambodia.

The Bangkok Post, on Wednesday 27 April 2011 reported under the title China, Vietnam urged to pressure Cambodia that “The Foreign Ministry has also asked China and Vietnam to help convince Cambodia to turn to the negotiating table. The request was made through Chinese ambassador to Bangkok Guan Mu and Vietnamese ambassador to Thailand Ngo Duc Thang during a meeting with Permanent Secretary Theerakun Niyom yesterday. Defence Minister Gen Prawit will visit China today. His official schedule is to discuss the submarine project development but observers believed he would raise the Thai-Cambodia dispute issue with his Chinese counterparts.”

This was smokescreen diplomacy, because on the same day The Bangkok Post reported under the title Prem: Support our soldiers at border that “Statesman and Privy Council president Prem Tinsulanonda on Wednesday called on all Thais to show their full support for the soldiers performing their duty on the volatile border with Cambodia.” Certainly this is the blessings and the encouragement to Thai military armed forces to wage the war of aggression against Cambodia, reconfirming “Bangkok’s threat to use military action to force Cambodian troops from areas that Thailand considers in dispute,” as reported by The Nation on the same day by quoting DPA.

It is urgent that the international community intervenes forcefully to avoid further bloodshed and the destabilization of ASEAN and the region. The Thai government, the Thai military and also many Thai newsmen should stop speculating that Cambodia causes the war on the border because Cambodia was trying to take the issue back to the UN. On that point, His Excellency Marty Natalegawa, who serves as ASEAN chair, told The Nation Editor-in-Chief Suthichai Yoon “It’s already in the UN. It’s not a question of bringing it back to the UN. The genie is out of the bottle.”

May 3, 2011
Prof. Pen Ngoeun
Member of the Advisory Team of Press and Quick Reaction Unit of the
Office of the Council of Ministers;
Senior advisor and member of the Academic Committee
Puthisastra University, Phnom Penh, Cambodia;
Former Dean and Professor of the Faculty of Business and Economics
Pannasastra University of Cambodia;
Former Assistant Controller at Phibro Inc.; and
A subsidiary of Citigroup Inc., New York City, USA, until 2000

(The comments are solely the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the Royal Government of Cambodia.)


ASEAN-Japan on Trade Facilitation

AKP Phnom Penh, May 3, 2011 – The concept of an “Asia Cargo Highway” as a long-term goal to create smooth flows of goods in Asia was discussed and adopted in Apr. 28-29 meeting of Customs Directors-General of 10 ASEAN countries and Japan along with the Asian Development Bank (ADB) in Phnom Penh.

“In the past, Customs Administration had the role and responsibility to collecting taxes at the customs offices along border gates. The role and responsibility have now been expanded to service provision in terms of social and environmental security and safety protection.”

“That is, they are to ensure that only quality goods can be imported or exported. This kind of service provision should never be a trade barrier but a trade facilitation, which is a key expectation from Customs Administration,” addressed the meeting Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economy and Finance H.E. Keat Chhon.

For the next step, according to the report of the World Customs Organization (WCO), “the ASEAN Customs administrations will work with Japan Customs, ADB, the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and the WCO to identify priorities through policy consultations to realize the Master Plan on ASEAN Connectivity, the Asia Cargo Highway and other trade facilitation visions step-by-step.”

By MOM Chan Dara Soleil


DELGOSEA Selects Kampot Municipality and Choam Chao District for Pilot Projects

AKP Phnom Penh, May 3, 2011 – Kampot Municipality has been selected as a pilot city for Eco-Savers Program, modeling on Marikina City in the Philippines; and Sangkat Choam Chao as pilot district for a program of Humane Relocation and Empowerment of Street Vendors, following the model of Solo, Indonesia.

The projects were presented in a recent workshop in Phnom Penh by Soy Kosal, Chairman of the National League of Commune/Sangkat (NLC/S), who said that they were part of the projects being implemented by the Partnership for Democratic Local Governance in Southeast-Asia (DELGOSEA) in five countries: Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand, the Philippines and Indonesia.

Seng Vy, Director-General of the General Department of Administration – the Ministry of Interior, said the first Workshop on the Eco-Savers Program in Kampot Municipality and the Humane Relocation and Empowerment of Street Vendors Program at Choam Chao District was of importance in paying more attention to improving the environment, public order, sanitation and health.

Ms. Susan Stephen, representative of DELGOSEA, said that the projects would also involve the training on the related skills and the visits to Thailand, the Philippines and Indonesia to exchange the experiences in the successful implementation.

Article in Khmer by PAL Song
Article in English by Ravuth M.


Malaria-free Cambodia Aimed in 2025

AKP Phnom Penh, May 3, 2011 – The Royal Government of Cambodia has strategized for a malaria-free status for the country by 2025, said Health Minister Mam Bunheng when chairing the opening of the Annual Conference of Malaria Control Activities on Apr. 29.

“Given the said commitment, the Royal Government of Cambodia has been trying to mobilize national and international resources. An indispensable approach to achieve the commitment is a meaningful participation from all relevant stakeholders,” added H.E. Dr. Mam Bunheng.

It is expected to totally eliminate malaria parasite resistant to medication by 2015 and to see no more falciparum malaria and dead cases of the disease by 2020 in a manner that 5 years later there will be no longer malaria cases in Cambodia.

Cambodia witnessed 35 percent decrease of malaria case in the country in 2010 compared to 2009. While 69,280 cases of malaria were reported in 2009 with 209 deaths, there were 44,659 cases of the disease reported in 2010 with 135 deaths.

According to the Director of the National Center for Malaria Control Dr. Duong Socheat, the overall decreasing rate of malaria cases in Cambodia indicates the effectiveness of the protection interventions.

Increasing public awareness leading to positive behavior change about malaria prevention and treatment and their utilization of treated mosquito nets against malaria are among primary interventions mentioned.

By MOM Chan Dara Soleil


UNICEF Provides Over US$4 Million to Help Cambodia’s Education Sector

AKP Phnom Penh, May 3, 2011 – The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has decided to provide US$4,131,694 to help develop Cambodia’s education sector in 2011.

The fund agreement was signed here last Wednesday by Minister of Education, Youth and Sports H.E. Im Sethy and UNICEF Country Representative Mr. Richard Bridle.

The agreement particularly focuses on capacity building of educational officials, aiming at promoting school registration for all six-year old children, reducing school repetition and dropout, and ensuring the sustainability of educational system, etc.

By KHAN Sophirom


Many Local Muslims See bin Laden Death as a Curative

Chun Sakada, VOA Khmer
Phnom Penh Monday, 02 May 2011

via CAAI

Photo: Soeung Sophat, VOA Khmer
A crowd of mostly young Americans have gathered in front of the White House after President Obama's announcement of the death of Osama bin Laden. Even at 2:00am on Monday, May 02, 2011, they continue to celebrate the news, shouting "U-S-A, U-S-A!"

 “I think that the terror war happened greatly in Osama bin Laden’s time, but after Osama bin Laden’s death, the terror war will be reduced toward a low level.”

A number of Cambodian Muslims welcomed news that Osamba bin Laden was killed in Pakistan Monday, and some said they hoped it would improve religious rifts that followed the terror attacks in the US nearly a decade ago.

US President Barack Obama confirmed bin Laden’s death at the hands of an American strike team late Sunday night on the East Coast, as huge crowds gathered in jubilation in front of the White House in Washington and at Times Square and Ground Zero in New York.

The announcement came Monday morning in Cambodia, which has been a willing ally in US counter-terrorism efforts since 9/11 and after it was discovered a major Southeast Asian terrorist leader, Hambali, found haven here in 2003.

Cambodian Muslims have said in the years since they felt unfairly stigmatized, despite some US efforts to engage the community, particularly through radio programs and diplomatic efforts.

Les Sos, a 37-year-old Muslim living in the Russei Keo district of Phnom Penh, said he hoped bin Laden’s death would mark an end to the fear of terrorist attacks around the world and reduce violence in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq.

He also said he hoped it would mean a “stronger belief in each other” among Muslims and those of other faiths.

“The threat of terrorist acts under the leadership of Osama bin Laden can be reduced or eliminated,” said Rorni Atam, 26, a Muslim student at Preah Kussomak University. “With the architect of terrorism and al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden dead, his organization will fade.”

Sun Dara, 23, said he worried the killing would bring on retributive strikes from Al Qaeda, which has not been eliminated.

Chhith Tok, a 24-year-old student, called the killing “real justice” for the terror acts committed under bin Laden’s banner.

The killing marked “a victory for the United States and the world for advancing peace and prosperity,” he said. “I think that the terror war happened greatly in Osama bin Laden’s time, but after Osama bin Laden’s death, the terror war will be reduced toward a low level.”

Chheang Vannarith, executive director of the Cambodian Institute for Cooperation and Peace, said the loss of bid Laden would weaken global terrorism. “I hope that the United States will increase its respect of human rights more and more,” he said.

Am Sam Ath, head investigator for the rights group Licadho, said the US had restricted some freedoms in the wake of bin Laden-led terror attacks. With bin Laden’s death, he said, “I think the United States will largely reopen people’s rights and freedoms.”

Thailand-Cambodia: Villagers return as clashes ease

Local people have been staying in camps and temples to avoid the fighting

via CAAI

Civilians who fled fighting between Thailand and Cambodia have begun returning home, as 10 days of border clashes eased.

Tens of thousands of villagers had been staying in temporary camps and temples as troops exchanged artillery fire in jungle areas both sides claim.

A truce agreed on 28 April did not end the fighting but reduced its intensity.

The clashes, which began on 22 April, have killed 17 people, including one civilian.

"These people have returned to their houses because the situation now is calm," said Pech Sokhen, the governor of Cambodia's Oddar Meanchey province.

"I hope that the fighting between the two sides will keep decreasing over time."

Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva confirmed people were returning to their villages. "The military will monitor the border. We will remain very careful," he said.

The fighting has not stopped completely. A Cambodian commander said Thai shelling continued on Sunday night, while a Thai commander said the two sides exchanged automatic fire - but reports say it is confined to smaller areas.

It has centred around the two temples of Ta Moan and Ta Krabey, which sit in a hilly jungle area that both sides say belongs to them.

Clashes were also reported last week at the hill-top temple of Preah Vihear, a flashpoint for the dispute.

Parts of the Thai-Cambodian border have never been formally demarcated, spurring nationalist sentiment in both countries.

Fighting took place three years ago in the run-up to a general election in Cambodia, and this latest outbreak comes with the Thai government due to call an election in the coming days.

Evacuees head home as Thai-Cambodia tensions ease

Cambodian and Thai soldiers have been exchanging artillery shells along their disputed jungle frontier since April 22

via CAAI

BANGKOK — Thousands of civilians who fled the deadliest fighting in decades on the Thai-Cambodian border have returned home as tensions ease on the disputed frontier, officials said Monday.

Although sporadic skirmishes continued, the situation had improved enough for many of the 85,000 people who authorities said sought refuge in temporary camps or temples on both sides to return to their villages.

"People started returning home after the authorities analysed the situation and established there is not likely to be any problem," said Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva.

"The military will monitor the border. We will remain very careful," he added.

In northeast Thailand, evacuation centres along the border were reported to have begun closing as civilians headed home following more than a week of cross-border artillery shelling.

In Cambodia, the deputy president of the National Committee for Disaster Management, Nhim Vanda, said more and more evacuees on that side of the frontier were also returning to their villages.

"The situation is good now. People are less worried."

The neighbours have come under increasing international pressure to end the violence, which has left 17 people dead since April 22.

An attempted truce announced on Thursday after military-level negotiations proved short-lived, but the fighting has since subsided and appears to be confined to a smaller area away from areas populated by civilians.

Ties between the neighbours have been strained since the 900-year-old temple Preah Vihear was granted UN World Heritage status in July 2008.

The World Court ruled in 1962 that the temple belonged to Cambodia, but both countries claim ownership of a 4.6-square-kilometre (1.8-square-mile) surrounding area.

On Friday Cambodia said it had asked the World Court to clarify that ruling.

The most recent deadly clashes have been mainly centred around two temple complexes about 150 kilometres (90 miles) west of Preah Vihear.

Seven Thai troops and nine Cambodian soldiers have died in the exchanges of artillery shells, grenades and small arms fire. Bangkok has said a Thai civilian was also killed and some homes were damaged on both sides.

Time for ASEAN Peacekeeping Force


via CAAI

By Fuadi Pitsuwan
May 02, 2011

The latest clash between Cambodia and Thailand has underscored the need for a regional peacekeeping force. Indonesia should push for one now.

The latest clash between Thai and Cambodian troops over a disputed area surrounding the ancient Preah Vihear temple along the two countries’ border should be a wake-up call for ASEAN.

Years of negotiations have proved ineffective in resolving the crisis as Thailand’s insistence that the issue is a bilateral one has been sharply rejected by Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen. Hun Sen’s response has been to call for UN peacekeepers to be deployed to the area, a call that raises an interesting question—is it time for ASEAN to seriously consider a peacekeeping force?

Ad hoc ceasefire agreements reached after each clash have been too fragile and prone to being breached by both sides—every time a skirmish has broken out, each side has been quick to blame the other.

Political efforts to find a solution, meanwhile, have been complicated by the domestic politics of both countries. Hun Sen has been accused by his political opponents of exploiting the border dispute to maintain his tight grip over his country, while Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, who is expected to dissolve the Thai parliament in early May, is loathe to appear weak heading into an election. All this is complicated by the close relationship between Hun Sen and the de facto leader of the Thai opposition, former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

Indonesia, as chair of ASEAN, has played an outstanding role in trying to broker a resolution to the dispute, but it can only do so much. For example, it put proffered the suggestion of dispatching a team of Indonesian observers to monitor the disputed area to avoid further clashes. This proposal was reportedly actually agreed on by the political leaders of both sides in the dispute, but there have been suggestions that objections from the Thai military, which feels uneasy with the idea of having a third party present in the conflict zone, have meant the idea is still on hold.

The latest clash started late last month, and many observers believe it is the most serious so far. At the time of writing, the official death toll stood at 17, although this is expected to increase. A temporary, fragile ceasefire was reached between the two militaries last Thursday, but quickly broke down after only 10 hours, leaving a tense situation and the prospect of war looming over the border.

What can ASEAN do to prevent all-out conflict? It could start by pooling the resources of all member states—including Thailand and Cambodia—to establish and deploy a peacekeeping force at the first opportunity.

This wouldn’t be the first time such a force has been considered. Back in March 2004, Indonesia’s then-Foreign Minister Hassan Wirajuda moved to propose the establishment of a regional peacekeeping force. Indonesia’s current foreign minister, Marty Natalegawa, voiced his support back then, saying: ‘ASEAN countries should know one another better than anyone else, and therefore we should have the option for ASEAN countries to take advantage of an ASEAN peacekeeping force to be deployed if they so wish.’ However, the idea was opposed by a number of other foreign ministers, who noted ASEAN’s stated principle of non-interference in countries’ domestic affairs.

The problem with Wirajuda’s proposal at the time is that it was akin to planting a seed without soil and water—there was really no immediate benefit that ASEAN member states could see from engaging in such cooperation, meaning the environment just wasn’t right.

But with the ASEAN Charter, a legally-binding document signed in 2007, calling for ASEAN to become an economic, socio-cultural and political-security community, the time has come for the idea of an ASEAN peacekeeping force to be put back on the table.

The inaugural ASEAN Defense Ministerial Meeting, along with eight other dialogue partners (ADMM+) in October last year, has provided an excellent foundation for a bolder form of security cooperation among ASEAN member states. Indeed, the ASEAN Political and Security Blue Print, which supplements the Charter, already has language backing peacekeeping cooperation. It eyes: ‘(Establishment of) a network among existing ASEAN Member States’ peacekeeping centres to conduct joint planning, training, and sharing of experiences, with a view to establishing an ASEAN arrangement for the maintenance of peace and stability, in accordance with the ASEAN Defense Ministers’ Meeting (ADMM) 3-Year Work Programme.’

The African Union, which in many ways looks to ASEAN for inspiration as a successful regional bloc, has already formed the African Standby Force (ASF), to be deployed as a preventive measure aimed at averting conflict. Although still a work in process, it’s designed to consist of five brigades with 4,500 personnel, 350 vehicles and four helicopters per brigade.

The ASF has engaged in exercises with significant assistance from the EU and the United States. ASEAN member states currently have deployed 5,000 personnel worldwide as part of various UN Peacekeeping operations, yet these forces have no presence in their own backyard.

The benefits of an ASEAN peacekeeping force would go beyond resolution of the Thai-Cambodian border conflict. Any region must have its own processes and mechanisms for ensuring confidence and stability to maintain economic growth and sustainable development. ASEAN has made a remarkable transition into a formidable player in Asia and beyond, and a regional peacekeeping force would build on this progress and contribute to a greater sense that the region can take care of itself in times of crises—manmade or natural.

Of course, there’s bound to be opposition to any such development. Back in 2004, Singaporean Foreign Minister S. Jayakumar was quick to dismiss the idea, arguing that: ‘ASEAN is not a security or defence organization…Perhaps sometime in the future there may be scope for such an organization.’

Yet it should be clear that that future has now arrived, and as chair of ASEAN this year, Indonesia should again explore the possibility.

If it is to have legitimacy in the current spat, any force would clearly need to consist of an equal number of Thai and Cambodian troops, stripped of their respective national military uniforms in favour of one bearing the ASEAN flag. To ensure neutrality, an Indonesian four-star general could serve as commander. If Indonesia was somehow to make such a peacekeeping force happen, it could well be the country’s single most important contribution to the future of ASEAN during its chairmanship.

It will, of course, inevitably have to keep pushing to bring the idea to fruition and overcome opposition from some of its neighbours. But the country is the only member of ASEAN with sufficient political capital and respect to put forward a proposal for such a paradigm shift in ASEAN’s security cooperation.

The ASEAN Summit to be held this weekend in Jakarta presents a timely opportunity for Jakarta to really step up.

Fuadi Pitsuwan is an associate at The Cohen Group, a strategic advisory firm headed by former Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen and an adjunct research scholar at Georgetown University’s Asian Studies Department. The views expressed here are his own.