Cambodia announces plan to build country's biggest prison

Friday, August 21, 2009

August 20, 2009

Phnom Penh - The government has approved a plan to build Cambodia's largest prison, capable of holding 2,500 inmates, national media reported Thursday.

Cambodia currently has 24 prisons with a combined capacity of 12,500 prisoners. Many jails are overcrowded.

Heng Hak, the general director at the Ministry of the Interior's prisons department, told the Cambodia Daily that inmates would learn skills such as farming and animal husbandry.

"One of the most important functions in government prison reform is to make a big change in prisons from a place of punishment to a place of education and vocational training centres for prisoners," he told the Cambodia Daily newspaper.

Heng Hak said the grounds of the new centre, called Correctional Centre 4, or CC4, will cover 846 hectares in Pursat province.

"It will be the biggest prison (in Cambodia)," he said. "We expect that CC4 will be a key tool in resolving the matter of overcrowding."

Australia is providing support for CC4 through its government aid programme. The project's corrections adviser, Cheryl Clay, told the Cambodia Daily that the new prison would have five sections capable of holding 500 inmates each.

Clay said the vocational training programmes would help to cut violence and aggression.

"This is a way for providing some meaningful skill development and meaningful activity, and is an accepted way of creating an avenue for more income for the prison," she said.//dpa
READ MORE - Cambodia announces plan to build country's biggest prison

Police scramble to confiscate leaflets critical of premier

Submitted by Mohit Joshi

Phnom Penh - Police in the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh scrambled to gather up hundreds of photocopied leaflets critical of Prime Minister Hun Sen that were scattered around the capital, local media reported Thursday.

The leaflets, which were left at a number of locations in the capital around 2 am on Wednesday, accuse the prime minister of being a dictator, of being politically subservient to Vietnam, and of "selling the nation."

Government spokesman Phay Siphan told the Phnom Penh Post newspaper that Cambodians would not be influenced by the leaflets.

"This has happened many times before, but the result is always the same at the elections [with victory for Hun Sen]," said Phay Siphan.

Police are investigating the origin of the leaflets. (dpa)
READ MORE - Police scramble to confiscate leaflets critical of premier

Leaflets knock prime minister

Photo by: Tracey Shelton
A man examines copies of the anti-government leaflets that accuse Prime Minister Hun Sen of destroying the Khmer nation’s once-great reputation.

The Phnom Penh Post
Thursday, 20 August 2009
Meas Sokchea

Unsigned paper circulated across capital accuses Hun Sen of diminishing Kingdom's glory

HUNDREDS of anonymous anti-government leaflets condemning Prime Minister Hun Sen as an "absolute leader" and a "puppet of Vietnam" appeared around the streets of Phnom Penh in the early hours of Wednesday morning.

The leaflets, bearing a small picture of the premier, warned Cambodian citizens that their present leader was single-handedly responsible for reducing the once-great Khmer nation to ruins.

Partly handwritten and partly typed in Khmer, they accuse the prime minister of "selling the nation" and called on the people of Cambodia to oppose Hun Sen's "puppet regime".

"I am so proud that I was born Khmer," reads one, a copy of which has been obtained by the Post. "The Khmer race built Angkor. I remember the time when Khmer glory was well-known all over the world. We were feared and admired for our civilisation, culture and fine arts, but all that has now disappeared because of the absolute regime of the present government."

The leaflets were printed on A4 paper and appeared in prominent public places across the city - including Wat Phnom - before sunrise, but were swiftly taken down by police, witnesses said.

The government played down the leaflets' significance on Wednesday, insisting that Cambodians would not be swayed by acts of political subversion, and that the real test of their loyalty would be the ballot box.

"This is not the first time such a thing has happened," Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said. "This has happened many times before, but the result is always the same at the elections."

Police confirmed on Wednesday that they were investigating the incident, but said the allegations made in the leaflets were "out of date" and failed to take into account the government's current rate of development.

Kirt Chantharith, chief of general staff and spokesman for the commissioner general of the National Police, said: "[They] should not use words like this to insult the leader, but the leaflet is out of date. This game is very old and hasn't worked. National development has been thinking ahead."

Phnom Penh police Chief Touch Naruth echoed the sentiments. "Some people had burned it already because it is saying the same old thing, but they know the true situation," he said.

Ou Virak, president of the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights, was critical of the language used in the leaflets, warning that the use of such openly inflammatory rhetoric could be counterproductive.

"Insulting someone is not necessarily freedom of expression," he said. "Writers should have clear morals and avoid insulting the government."
READ MORE - Leaflets knock prime minister

Duch faces professor's wife

Photo by: AFP
S-21 chief Duch said Wednesday that he did not know how his former professor died.

Kickback scheme

THE Pre-Trial Chamber on Tuesday effectively ended an attempt by Nuon Chea's defence team to have the Office of the Co-Investigating Judges look into allegations of corruption at the tribunal. The defence in March asked the judges to obtain the results of a UN graft review prompted by allegations of a kickback scheme, as well as "anything else suggesting an organised regime of institutional corruption". The judges said in April that they did not have jurisdiction to launch an investigation. The Pre-Trial Chamber ruled Tuesday that an appeal from the defence was inadmissible.

The Phnom Penh Post
Thursday, 20 August 2009
Cheang Sokha

S-21 prison chief maintains he knows nothing about his former teacher's fate.

THE wife of Phung Ton, a respected law professor who at one point taught Tuol Sleng prison chief Kaing Guek Eav, told Cambodia's war crimes court Wednesday that her grief had only intensified in the more than 30 years since her husband was detained at the torture facility and later executed.

"I have never been happy," said civil party Im Sun Thy, 70.

"I have been terrified and living with trauma."

She added that her grief had at times driven her to contemplate suicide.

Im Sun Thy, who had asked to be accompanied by a court-provided medic during her testimony, said she had not come to the court to seek revenge, but rather to find out the truth about what happened to her husband, who was detained in December 1976.

Phung Ton's daughter, Phung Sunthary, 53, who also testified Wednesday as a civil party, said she did not believe Duch's past claims that he had no idea what happened to the professor after he disappeared into Tuol Sleng.

"How could the chief of the secret police unit not know what happened to my father?" she asked. "Was the chief of S-21 a puppet?"

She went on to say that she would not accept Duch's apology if he refused to specify how her father had been killed.

"I will close the door for the accused person to apologise" if Duch does not reveal the true story of Phung Ton's death, she said.

Duch said again Wednesday that he did not know at the time that the professor had been held at Tuol Sleng, adding that he had not issued the order to arrest Phung Ton.

"For my professor, I did not know of his detention or that he was suffering from insufficient food or bad living conditions," he said, adding that he had been upset himself when he learned of Phung Ton's fate.

Also Wednesday, UN court spokeswoman Yuko Maeda announced the UN had nominated a replacement for international co-prosecutor Robert Petit, whose resignation goes into effect September 1.

Maeda said the UN had submitted the nomination to the Supreme Council of the Magistracy and was optimistic that the candidate would be approved. She declined to provide any information about the candidate.

Sam Pracheameanith, Cabinet chief at the Ministry of Justice and assistant secretary general of the Supreme Council of the Magistracy, said Wednesday that the body had not yet received the appointment request. He declined to say how long the approval process might take, though the UN has said it hopes to have the replacement in place before Petit departs.
READ MORE - Duch faces professor's wife

Cambodians accused of illegal Thai logging

The Phnom Penh Post
Thet Sambath

Eleven Cambodian men were arrested in Thailand on Monday for illegal logging, and nine more are missing in connection with such cases, said sources in Oddar Meanchey province.

The logging is allegedly taking place in Thailand's Khun Han district, Sisaket province, across the border from Oddar Meanchey's Trapaing Prasat district in Cambodia, a provincial official said.

"Thai military officials told me that 11 Cambodian men were arrested by Thai authorities as they were logging in Thai territory, and a number of other men have gone missing since the start of the logging crackdown," Touch Ra, deputy chief of the Thailand-Cambodia relations office at the Chom international border gate, said Wednesday.

Bun Pin, a member of the Trapaing Prasat district council, was angry with Thai soldiers who are rumoured to have shot at Cambodian loggers.

"Thai armed forces should not use guns to shoot unarmed people," he said. "They should use the law to punish them when they are arrested and found guilty."

Chhoun Ra, 41, of Trapaing Prasat said her son, 20-year-old Pov Poy, is among the missing.

"I am very worried for my son's safety," she said. "I don't know whether he is alive, dead, injured or arrested."

Officials at Thailand's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Wednesday that they were unaware of this situation and unprepared to comment.
READ MORE - Cambodians accused of illegal Thai logging

Families in Dangkor deny bribing official

The Phnom Penh Post
Chhay Channyda

A group of 120 Phnom Penh families denied paying a government official US$200,000 to intervene on their behalf in a land dispute in a letter released to local media.

The thumbprinted letter, dated Monday, came from families living in the capital's Kakab commune, Dangkor district.

In March 2008, the Council of Ministers issued a directive ordering that the families be allowed to remain on 6 hectares of land in Kakab. This land was also claimed by a woman in the area, 60-year-old Huot Sarom.

Controversy emerged when Seng Yean, deputy director general of inspection at the Ministry of National Assembly-Senate Relations, was accused of accepting a bribe from a local woman, Di Prem, on behalf of the families.

Seng Yean was removed from his position on July 31 by an order from Prime Minister Hun Sen, and the two were officially charged by Phnom Penh Municipal Court on August 7.

In their letter, the families wrote that they "do not have enough money" to raise the sum allegedly paid to Seng Yean, and that while Di Prem offered them assistance in filing their complaint against Huot Sarom, she was not paid any money.

The letter added that Huot Sarom had not respected the government directive granting the 6 hectares of land to the families.

We are the owners, but we are also the victims.

Representatives of Huot Sarom, however, rejected the families' denials, reiterating their claims that Seng Yean had been bribed.

Kao Ty, the lawyer for Huot Sarom, said on Wednesday that his client has worked in the rice fields around Kakab commune since 1979, and that the families' letter was "unjust" toward Huot Sarom.

"The 6 hectares of land belong to Huot Sarom. Those people have land in the same village nearby," Kao Ty said. He claimed the letter was written only to cover up the bribe.

Kong Kimly, Huot Sarom's 30-year-old son, said Wednesday that his mother had not seized anyone's land, echoing Kao Ty's claim that the families reside in a different part of the village.

"We are the owners, but we are also the victims," he said.

Seng Yean and Di Prem were unavailable for comment. Local media reported on Saturday that the two fled the country after being charged by the Municipal Court, though these reports have not been substantiated.

Sin Visal, a judge at Phnom Penh Municipal Court, told the Post on Wednesday that he was looking into the bribery charges, but that a resolution would take time.

"I have just received this case, so I will have to investigate it," he said.
READ MORE - Families in Dangkor deny bribing official

Fresh calls for liberal drug law

Photo by: Tracey Shelton
Drug users smoke a mix of methamphetamine and heroin in Phnom Penh’s Boeung Trabek neighbourhood in this file photo.

The Phnom Penh Post
Khoun Leakhana

DRUG law enforcement efforts should draw a clear distinction between those who traffic in drugs and those who use them, the head of the National Anti-Drug Authority (NADA) said on Tuesday.

Deputy Prime Minister Ke Kim Yan, president of NADA, said he will push for amendments to a new draft Drug Law before it is submitted to the Council of Ministers, in an effort to encourage the rehabilitation of the country's drug addicts.

"We want to make sure the law clearly differentiates between criminals who traffic, smuggle and deal illegal drugs, and victims who need to be educated and treated," Ke Kim Yan said at a meeting on the draft law at the Minsitry of Interior on Tuesday.

He added that between 30,000 and 40,000 people, most aged 15-35, were now involved with drugs in Cambodia.

"Without our treatment and rehabilitation services, the above-mentioned people will become a big illegal drug market in Cambodia because they cannot stop using drugs."

The NADA president's comments came following recommendations made by Prime Minister Hun Sen in his address on June 26, the International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, when he asked that "all involved institutions join forces to build drug addict-rehabilitation centres and be active in taking measures to reduce the number of drug addicts".


Hun Sen also announced plans for a new rehabilitation centre in Kampong Speu province, emphasising the need to treat drug users.

Ke Kim Yan said that under the current system of rehabilitation, addicts often relapse, burdening the system.

"To respond to Hun Sen's calls for an effective resolution on this problem, we need a law that clearly mentions rehabilitation and treatment for these people because most of the ... drug addicts are jobless street children."

He added that there are currently 13 drug rehab centres across the country but expressed hopes that improved rehabilitation would mean the number would not increase after the law is approved.

He said it was not clear when the draft law would be sent to the Council of Ministers.

A report from NADA released on July 25 revealed that 733 drug addicts have gone through rehabilitation programmes at the 10 state-run drug rehabilitation centres during the first half of 2009. The figure decreased compared to the same period last year, during which time 1,005 victims were rehabilitated.

Mok Dara, NADA's secretary general, said the number of drug addicts had decreased because authorities had implemented five measures in line with government policies, including reducing supply, reducing demand, strengthening law enforcement officials and strengthening international cooperation on anti-trafficking efforts.
READ MORE - Fresh calls for liberal drug law

Teaching college staff fear school land sale

The Phnom Penh Post
Khuon Leakhana and Mom Kunthear

STAFF at the provincial teacher training college in Takeo province have sent a letter to the Ministry of Education seeking clarification about the status of a pond on the college grounds that they fear has been sold off without their consultation.

Buth Nol, 26, a teaching instructor at the college, said that the staff wanted clarification about the status of the pond, which is currently being filled.

"The prime minister has ordered that no one can sell or exchange public property such as school land," he said. "[We] just want the provincial governor or the director of the education department to stop the landfill and tell us the reason for [it]."

He added that the staff have planned protests to stop the filling if authorities do not give them a convincing reason.

Kong Pov, director of the college, said that the filling of the pond began a month ago, but that he had never been told by local authorities about the reason for the activity.

"I think it is a mistake to do this without informing me," he said, adding that the workers may have the backing of the provincial governor.

When contacted on Wednesday, Takeo Governor Srey Ben said he did not wish to speak over the phone.
READ MORE - Teaching college staff fear school land sale

Vietnam investors in talks to build cashew nut facilities

Photo by: Sovan Philong
A shopkeeper arranges imported cashew nuts at a convenience store on Monivong Boulevard.

I applaud the Vietnamese investors for setting up a factory in our country.

The Phnom Penh Post
May Kunmakara

Two processing factories will each have capacity to process 5,000 tonnes a year, but owners say they will buy 60,000 tonnes and export the remainder to Vietnam

Cambodia's reliance on Vietnam for its cashew nut exports could be reduced next year if negotiations between officials from the neighbouring countries to build two cashew nut processing plants in Cambodia come to fruition.

Mao Thora, a secretary of state at the Ministry of Commerce, said Wednesday that authorities from Kampong Thom and Kampong Cham provinces were discussing the venture with counterparts from Vietnam's Binh Phuoc and Dong Nai provinces.

"They have reached an agreement and now need to sign a [memorandum of understanding] to take to the government to get permission to build the factories," he said.

He did not name the companies involved in the proposal; nor did he disclose the anticipated cost of the two projects, which would be based in special economic zones in Kampong Thom and Kampong Cham provinces.

Mao Thora said warehouses to store the raw cashew nuts would be completed in the fourth quarter of this year, and that he "hoped" construction of the two factories would begin by mid-2010.

Each factory is to have the capacity to process 5,000 tonnes of raw cashew nuts per year, he said.

Le Bien Cuong, commercial counsellor at the Vietnamese Embassy in Phnom Penh, said he expected the agreement to be signed next month and hoped construction could begin early next year.

He said the factory owners would talk to the government to secure land for cashew cultivation, as they also hoped to export raw cashews.

"We will not only buy cashews to supply our Cambodia production, but also to export for processing in Vietnam," he said.

Mao Thora said the Vietnamese side promised to buy 60,000 tonnes of cashews from local farmers every year: 10,000 for processing locally and 50,000 tonnes for export to Vietnam. Raw cashews fetch around US$800 per tonne, he said.

Vietnam is Southeast Asia's biggest cashew producer.

Help welcomed
The director of the Cambodian Centre for Agricultural Studies and Development (CEDAC), Yang Saing Koma, said that the majority of Cambodia's agricultural products, including cashew nuts, were exported to Vietnam for processing.

"We lack the technology needed for processing and packaging," he said.

"I applaud the Vietnamese investors for setting up a processing factory in our country because we will be able to process and package cashews to sell locally and to export to foreign markets," Yang Saing Koma said.

No figures were available Wednesday on Cambodia's raw cashew exports.

However, the Economic Institute of Cambodia estimated annual production at between 30,000 and 50,000 tonnes in March 2007, or roughly 1.3 percent of total world production.

It said that less than 5 percent of Cambodian cashew nuts was processed domestically, with the remaining 95 percent exported informally to Vietnam.

Cambodia has around 80,000 hectares under cashew cultivation, according to Commerce Ministry figures.

Around 20,000 additional hectares were recently planted with cashews, but they were recently converted into a rubber plantation, Mao Thora said.
READ MORE - Vietnam investors in talks to build cashew nut facilities

Malaysian chain to raise its presence in Cambodia by multiple boutique hotels

The Phnom Penh Post
Nathan Green

LEADING Malaysia hotel chain Holiday Villa Hotels and Resorts expects to open two properties in Cambodia over the next eight months and is scouting locations for "four or five" boutique hotels, regional manager Charles Bain said.

The company will open a hotel in Kampot province in around six weeks, but a three-star hotel originally slated to open in Sihanoukville next month will now open next February, he said. He would not give the reason for the delay.

Construction on a second hotel in Kampot province will begin in "two to three months", he added.

The company. which currently operates one hotel in Cambodia on Phnom Penh's Monivong Boulevard, is looking to capture a growing market for boutique hotels in Cambodia.

The "four to five" boutique hotels would all be located "around coastal areas", Bain said.

Bain was speaking to the Post after an article in Malaysia's Business Times Monday said the chain plan to open a hotel in Sihanoukville and another in China's Henan province.

The company is owned by Malaysian-listed Advance Synergy Group. Bain refused to disclose further details on the company's Cambodia plans, citing disclosure requirements on the Malaysian bourse.

The company has 3,390 guest rooms and suites in 18 hotels and resorts worldwide, according to its Web site.

Its latest, the Holiday Villa Hotel and Residence City Centre in Doha Qatar, opened on July 20, and the company also opened properties in Halong Bay, Vietnam, and Shenzhen, China, this year.

The company's current Cambodia property, Holiday Villa Hotel and Suites Phnom Penh, has 74 rooms.
READ MORE - Malaysian chain to raise its presence in Cambodia by multiple boutique hotels

Microfinancier backs high rates

The Phnom Penh Post
Nguon Sovan

Industry representative says high interest rates reflect lenders’ borrowing costs in offshore markets plus costs incurred managing loans

A senior industry representative defended Cambodia's microfinance institutions (MFIs) Wednesday over the high interest rates charged.

Speaking on the sidelines of an industry conference, Cambodian Microfinance Association (CMA) board member Sim Senacheert said that the rates reflected the borrowing costs of the lenders.

"If the rates are too high and the market did not accept them, then we wouldn't be able to disburse the loans," he said.

Between 60 and 70 percent of all capital disbursed by microfinance lenders in Cambodia is borrowed from international partners who charge between 10 and 11 percent per annum, said Sim Senacheert, who is also the general manager of the Prasac Microfinance Institution.

The Cambodian lender then calculates the interest rates it will charge based on the borrowing costs and expenses, such as wages, rent and transport, he said.

These account for around 15 percent of the value of loans, and a further 1 or 2 percent is then added to hedge against default risk.

"After these expense calculations, we add 5 to 7 percent into the loan for profit," he said, adding to an interest rate anywhere from 28 percent to 34 percent per annum.

Subsidies needed
Cambodia Economic Association President Chan Sophal said Wednesday that interest rates across the sector were too high, but he stopped short of accusing the sector of profiteering on the loans.

"The interest rates charged by MFIs in Cambodia are higher than rates charged in Vietnam or Thailand, but that is because Cambodian MFIs must pay high interest rates themselves when they source financing," he said.

He called on the government to subsidise MFIs to ensure they could offer low rates.

"In some countries, governments subsidise MFIs so those MFIs can lend to customers at lower interest rates," he said. "But in Cambodia, there is no subsidy for MFIs."

Free market
National Bank of Cambodia Director Tal Nay Im said Cambodia is a free market, and that the central bank would not intervene. Rates should be set by lenders and borrowers, she said.

However, rates have come down drastically in recent years to a little over 29 percent per annum on average across the sector, she said.

"Before 2003, the interest rates were very high, ranging from 70 percent to more than 100 percent per annum, but it has gradually declined to 40.2 percent in 2003 and to 29.16 percent last year," she said.

Lending rates at major banks in Cambodia range from around 12 percent to 16 percent, depending on the terms of the loan, she said.

CMA figures released earlier this month showed outstanding microcredit loans dropped 2.7 percent quarter on quarter to US$426.1 million in the second quarter of the year.

Non-performing loans increased from 1.75 percent to 3.39 percent over the same period.

NBC Governor Chea Chanto said there were 20 licensed MFIs in Cambodia as of the end of June, two of which were licensed to take deposits; 25 registered rural credit operators; and more than 60 NGOs offering unofficial credits in rural areas.

He said the sector was expanding its presence in rural areas and had disbursed $274.3 million in rural credits to 857,000 customers as of mid-2009, up 25 percent and 24 percent, respectively, on a year earlier.
READ MORE - Microfinancier backs high rates

Police Blotter: 20 Aug 2009

The Phnom Penh Post
Thursday, 20 August 2009
Lim Phalla

Sing Chreung, 26, was arrested on Monday after his 22-year-old girlfriend, who had been living together with him five months, reported to police that he had raped her and demanded US$1,000 dollars compensation from him. They are both garment workers renting an apartment in Chaom Chao commune, in Phnom Penh's Dangkor district.

A young girl was caught and taken to the police by villagers when she stole two necklaces and two bracelets from 28-year-old Lim Davy's gold shop on Sunday morning. The crime took place at Veal Rinh market in the Veal Rinh commune of Preah Sihanouk province. The girl was identified as Sok Chantha, 19, from Kampot province.

Seven people were arrested by Poipet police after they had been reported to the police for not having money to pay Ponleu Neak Tip Karaoke, where they had been enjoying themselves with nonstop drinking, eating and singing for two days, from Sunday through Tuesday. Their bill at the end of the binge totaled US$750. The seven men, Pen Chetra, 25; Eng Sito, 26, Tim Piseth, 26; Ly Pros, 40; Cheng Sokkhoeun, 24; Ang Sok Eng, 29; and Son Ratha, 26, all live in Banteay Meanchey province's Poipet commune and told police they had been waiting for money to be transferred from Thailand.

The body of a man was found in a river on Sunday evening by villagers in Tuol Neang Sav village, in Kampong Thom province's Kampong Svay district. According to the police, the dead man was called Peng, 31, and was killed on Saturday night, cut to death with a machete by his friend Lim Ban, 22, who was helped by Chreung Chein, 29, and Chhot Suy, 20, when they had a conflict after they got drunk together. The three suspects, who were arrested by the police, were all from Siem Reap province.

One of two thieves was arrested by Brampi Makara district police for snatching the handbag of 20-year-old Khiev Channy, a singer at Phnom Leu Phnom restaurant, on Sunday while she was riding a motorbike taxi along Monivong Boulevard. The bag, which contained US$80 and a cell phone, was retrieved and returned to the victim. Nothing was lost.
READ MORE - Police Blotter: 20 Aug 2009

$12 million rescue package deployed to fight drought

Yem Bunlong looks across a drought-ravaged paddy in Takeo province around this time last year.

I believe that we can save the drought-stricken rice crop.

The Phnom Penh Post
Thursday, 20 August 2009
Chun Sophal

Dry weather has already afflicted large tracts of the country, but government meteorologists say rains will come in September

The government has already activated a $12 million emergency package to help farmers afflicted by a drought taking hold across the country, a Finance Ministry official said Tuesday.

"We hope that through this measure, our agricultural sector will still be able to achieve high yields and we will be able to ameliorate declines in the living standards of our farmers," Kong Vibol, a secretary of state at the Ministry of Economy and Finance, told the National Assembly.

The money would be used to irrigate rice fields hit hardest by the drought, he said.

Around 42,414 hectares of the 2.26 million hectares planted with rice this year had been hit by drought by August 12, and 517 hectares of rice crops had been destroyed, according to the Ministry of Agriculture.

Drought had affected 13,706 hectares of rice paddy in Battambang province, 12,379 hectares in Pursat province, 8,527 hectares in Prey Veng province, 5,528 hectares in Kandal province, 2,502 hectares in Takeo province and 172 hectares in Kampong Thom province, the ministry said.

Ministry of Agriculture Secretary of State Teng Lao said the ministry and provincial authorities have already deployed resources to help farmers save their rice crops, but that damage remained unavoidable in some areas.

"I believe that we can save the drought-stricken rice crop if the disaster does not last long because this year our farmers grew 'light' rice, which takes a shorter time to be ready for harvest than 'heavy' rice", Teng Lao said.

Seth Vannareth, director of the Meteorology Department at the Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology, said the drought would not last long, and that rain would soon fall.

"Cambodia has lacked rainfall this year, as you can see, but from September onwards the problem will vanish," he said.

Drought is a particular problem for Cambodia, as the proportion of land irrigated is among the lowest in the region. That means most areas produce only one crop a year, during the wet season.

Agriculture generated around 29 percent of gross domestic product in 2007, and 59 percent of the population relies on the sector for their livelihood, according to the World Bank.

Output has been growing at 4.4 percent per year over the past decade, lagging other sectors of the economy but outpacing neighbouring Laos and Vietnam, whose agricultural sectors grew 3.9 and 4 percent, respectively, over the period.

Rice covered 2.6 million hectares in 2007, accounting for two-thirds of arable land and 90 percent of cultivated land, and production grew from 3.4 million to 6.8 million tons from 1997 to 2007, according to the UN Development Programme.

Yields are low at around 2.6 tons per hectare, compared to a regional average between 3.5 and 4 tonnes per hectare, the World Bank has said.
READ MORE - $12 million rescue package deployed to fight drought

Courting TV audiences

Dramatic tension: The WMC production crew prepare to shoot a scene for Scales of Justice. PHOTO SUPPLIED

We hope that making a law-based drama will make it easier for cambodians to engage with the subject.

The Phnom Penh Post
Thursday, 20 August 2009
Roth Meas

The third series of a televised courtroom drama hits screens this weekend with hopes that its messages will educate viewers about the legal process

LIFE imitates art. At least that is what the people behind Scales of Justice, a television courtroom drama produced by the Women's Media Centre (WMC), hope will occur as audiences tune in to the ongoing saga of lawyer Pich Sotheary and police official Meas Chamnan, which begins its third instalment this weekend.

Wary of its notorious corruption, impenetrable language and labyrinth of procedures, Cambodians often find their own judiciary inaccessible - something WMC hopes to change by presenting the courts as entertainment, said 29-year-old production manager Uch Thavy.

"This story details court procedure, which many people find difficult to understand," she said.

"We hope that making a law-based drama will make it easier for Cambodians to engage with the subject," Uch Thavy added.

The original Scales of Justice, which is supported by USAID and AUSAID, was shot last year and gained widespread popularity.

Uch Thavy hopes this third instalment will continue in the same vein - presenting viewers with situations that they might encounter in real life.

Several of the six, 30-minute episodes delve into the realm of domestic discord that may be familiar to audience members who have ever battled their brethren over money.

One episode follows characters as they try desperately to gain control of an inheritance following the death of the family patriarch.

The second also features a family fight over money, but this time the characters are faced with dividing an inheritance after a messy divorce.

The producers of Scales of Justice focused on these scenarios because they are the most common to come before the Kingdom's courts, Uch Thavy said.

"People should pay a lot of attention to their childrens' birth certificates, which are often used to clear up disputes in the event of a death," she said.

The same holds true when marriages fall apart and families begin squabbling over who gets what.

"The judges often consider dividing some of the inheritance, even though the parents may have been divorced," Uch Thavy added.

The third episode is driven by the classic whodunit: a dead body and a murderer somewhere on the lose.
Leading man: Famed Cambodian actor Tep Rindaro adds kudos and star power to the production. PHOTO SUPPLIED

Producers admit that they diverged from the more complex but common civil disputes as a way to keep the audiences interested in their message.

"The entertainment aspect is there to keep people watching it, but our main intention is to put across the messages of law that are woven into the story," Uch Thavy said.

Uch Thavy said court officials from Phnom Penh and Kandal province were consulted before the scripts were penned to lend an air of credibility to the drama.

The often contrived movie sets of traditional dramas were also abandoned for real courtrooms, judges' chambers and prosecutors' offices in an attempt to bring a level of gritty realism to the series, Uch Thavy said.

The series was shot in Kandal, Kampong Cham and Kampong Chhnang provinces, she added.

Star power
Also keeping audiences tuned in should be the return of Cambodian actor Tep Rindaro as policeman Meas Chamnan.

Along with dedicated young lawyer Pich Sotheary, played by Keo Sereyrath, Tep Rindaro's honest cop Meas Chamnan will "work hand-in-hand to fight for the victims and even find romance along the way", according to the WMC's Web site.

Though the pair will feature less prominently in the third instalment - the action will instead centre on Meas Chamnan's sister - they still remain the soul of the programme, producers said.

Uch Thavy said she was reluctant to guess how the latest episodes would fare among Cambodian viewers.

But she said that a test screening won rave reviews from Women's Media Centre presidents, donors and the Ministry of Culture's Film Art Department.

Copies of previous instalments were also requested by the Senate, Uch Thavy said.

The first episodes, which cost US$122,845 to produce, will be screened Saturday on TVK and Sunday on TV3, at 6pm and noon, respectively
READ MORE - Courting TV audiences

Local academics to go to Europe

This year's group of Cambodian students and teachers will head to various educational institutions around Europe. PHOTO SUPPLIED

The Phnom Penh Post
Thursday, 20 August 2009
Joel Quenby

Thirty-six Cambodians are jetting off to study and teach abroad as a result of EU programme that makes it one of the Kingdom’s major scholarship donors

IT is a chance that thousands of Cambodian students surely dream about: the opportunity to study and teach at European universities in far-flung countries including France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Romania, Spain and Turkey.

Sometimes dreams come true. And, according to a press release from the European Commission delegation last week, in the 2009-10 academic year, 36 Cambodians will study or teach in degree programmes from undergraduate to postdoctorate level in Europe, courtesy of the EC's Erasmus Mundus scholarship programme.

"I'm delighted to see that the number of Cambodian students and academic staff selected under this year's programme has been increased seven times compared to last year, which brings the EU to one of the biggest scholarship providers in Cambodia," said Rafael Dochao Moreno, charge d' affaires ad interim of the EC Delegation to Cambodia.

"Cambodian students and academic staff will have the opportunity to study and teach in Europe between three months and three years, which, I am sure, will be a very enriching experience, both from an academic and personal perspective."

"One of the most important subjects that we opened for this year programme is journalism.

"By completing their course in journalism, I hope our Cambodian students will bring back to their home country valuable experiences and insights on European approaches to freedom of the press as well as the best practices of how the media play an important role in contributing to the development of European social, economic and democratic values," added Dochao.

In addition to fields related to communication and information sciences, the fortunate Cambodian students and teaching staff will pursue degree programmes in numerous other fields.

As part of the educational exchange programme, 1,561 European students and academic staff will visit partner institutions in countries outside Europe while 6,063 of their respective counterparts from outside the EU will visit European establishments.
READ MORE - Local academics to go to Europe

PKR's Rith Dikar dreams of ending drought

Preah Khan Reach co-owner and former player Rith Dikar smiles in the stands as he watches his team beat Spark FC 3-1 in the Cambodian Premier League on Wednesday at Olympic Stadium.

The Phnom Penh Post
Thursday, 20 August 2009
Ken Gadaffi

PREAH Khan Reach (PKR)'s long pursuit of a Cambodian Premier League title looks set to bear fruit this season, with the team all but qualified for the lucrative postseason knockout competition, known as the Super 4. The military police-backed team seems destined for the title, providing they can overcome the threat from previous league winners Phnom Penh Crown, Khemara Keila and Naga Corp.

With the top four standings of the CPL to be determined solely on the outcome of the Super 4 competition, former PKR player and co-sponsor Rith Dikar knows they have their best chance in five years of claiming the premier division title, which would also qualify PKR for the coveted AFC President's Cup.

Rith Dikar, one of a consortium who finance the team also known as PM (Military Police), voiced his satisfaction with the squad and technical crew, led by former national team coach and current Cambodian U19s handler Prak Sovannara.

Preah Khan Reach is noted for recruiting power men. The team is made up of arguably the tallest and strongest bunch of players in the CPL, many surpassing 6 feet tall, including local players. Rith Dikar attributed his team's physical prowess to a strict training regimen, which includes extensive gym work. "I think that if my players are big and strong it will give them advantage to do everything on the field," he opined.

Rith Dikar, a member of the Cambodian national team for eight years from 1999 to 2007, also noted that the standard in Cambodia has improved tremendously compared to when he used to play with the national team. "We usually lost by a large goal margin and rarely scored," he remembered. "But now, Cambodian teams hold their own with others."

Preah Khan Reach is one of the few CPL clubs with a strong management structure. "I have a company and business, which help to support the team financially," said Rith Dikar, adding that his team still experience problems like other CPL clubs. "General Sao Sokha [FFC President] usually tries to help," he said.

Despite solid financial backing, Rith Dikar claimed his team would still welcome additional sponsorship, although he admitted he wasn't sure what form the sponsorship would take yet.

Photo by Nick Sells (
READ MORE - PKR's Rith Dikar dreams of ending drought

Bloomberg's Karen Leigh Packs DC Bags for Cambodia


Wednesday, Aug 19

Bloomberg's Karen Leigh is "trading in golf pool and helo landings for the splendors of Phnom Penh." She'll still be working for Bloomberg, and additionally the Cambodia Daily, just now in the home country of Maddox Pitt.

FBDC caught up with Leigh as she packs her bags for a big move from Washington...

Why Cambodia? Credit my overwhelming desire to see monks riding tandem bikes.

What differences do you anticipate going from covering the White House to working in the "splendors of Phnom Penh," as you put it? How are you preparing? It's going to be hot, loud and crowded -- a lot like White House briefings. To prepare, I've been getting massages, spending as much time as possible with the friends and getting on a seriously first-name basis with Jack and Stella.

What and who will you miss most in DC? Late night walks around the monuments. Biking along the canal. Fighting with White House security when I forget my Hill pass. Forcing Georgetown tourists onto the street. Running home to shower after Marine One departures. Our Colonel, Al Hunt. My favorite boss, Robin Meszoly. Descriptions of Phil Elliott's home cooking. Making Jeff Mason sing (ask him for selections from "South Pacific.") Soliciting life advice from the goddess-like Julie Mason. Tennis with Perry Bacon. Never having to pay for drinks (Mike Memoli). The questionable tie fashion of Keith Koffler and Hans Nichols. Julianna Goldman, Athena Jones, Christina Bellantoni and Sunlen Miller, all lovely, who have brightened many a pool. And Roger Runningen, who was there on my first day at the White House last January and coined my nickname -- Annette -- based on the "American President" character who, like me, was excited on day one she could barely get through the Northwest Gate.

You campaigned hard for Julie Mason's White House Correspondents Association (successful) election and now you're skipping town. What does this mean for campaign promises of White House South Lawn ice luges and briefing room massages? I'll be working from afar to ensure that each promise is fulfilled. The luge tournament will be timed for the Vancouver Olympics and I'm working on getting Gibbs to cut a hole in the podium so we can use it as a massage table.

After the jump, Leigh's goodbye messages for her media friends...

Any goodbye messages for your Washington media friends? Don't panic, but I heard J. Crew is discontinuing all khaki products. (And stripes. And loafers.) Also, consider Phnom for your next vacation. The average temperature is a cool 90, it's sometimes considered safe to walk by yourself and trekking on dirt roads is great for the legs.
READ MORE - Bloomberg's Karen Leigh Packs DC Bags for Cambodia

Cambodia to join ANRPC; Philippines to follow

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (Aug. 19, 2009)—The Royal Government of Cambodia is joining the Association of Natural Rubber Producing Countries.

Cambodia later this year will join China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Vietnam as members. In the latest issue of the ANRPC's statistical bulletin, Djoko Said Damardjati also said that the Republic of Philippines has said it is in the process of completing the process of joining the group.

Chan Sarun, honorable minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries of Cambodia, on July 21 inked relevant documents and nominated H.E. Ly Phalla, director general of the General Directorate of Rubber, to be the country’s official representative.
READ MORE - Cambodia to join ANRPC; Philippines to follow

Cambodia dam threatens livelihoods, will increase hunger - campaigners

19 Aug 2009

Written by: Thin Lei Win

BANGKOK (AlertNet) - A planned hydropower dam in northeast Cambodia could displace around 5,000 people, create health problems from poor water quality and sharply reduce fish stocks which would lead to a rise in poverty and hunger for tens of thousands of villagers, campaigners and academics said.

Vietnam has said it will invest $600 million to build two hydropower plants on the lower Sesan river in neighbouring Cambodia, which are expected to produce over 500 MW of electricity.

The Cambodian government, which sees hydropower development as a top priority, is currently studying feasibility plans for the dams. Once completed, the Lower Sesan 1 and 2 plants will feed several areas in Cambodia and Vietnam, one of the region's most fastest-growing economies.

The NGO Forum on Cambodia (NGOF) says the 75-m Lower Sesan 2 plant may have a negative effect on fisheries as far downstream as the Mekong Delta in Vietnam -- the rice bowl of the country -- and as far upstream as Laos and Thailand in a report it launched on Wednesday.

A Vietnamese-commissioned assessment of the environmental impact of the dam noted it would "very likely" stop fish migration, affecting the diets and livelihoods of some 30,000 people upstream most of whom get 95 percent of their daily protein intake from fish. NGOF puts the number at 78,000.

Construction of the dam which is expected to take four years will inundate almost 25 percent of the surrounding agricultural land, while damaging the quality of the water which in itself could create health problems, Chhith Sam Ath, NGOF's executive director, told AlertNet.

Other campaigners are worried that the dam will have a negative impact on biodiversity and ethnic minorities' culture and land rights.


Many villagers living along the Sesan and Srepok rivers are worried that dam means losing their land, crops and livelihood and being forcibly resettled on to less fertile land.

In a three-part community video, which was posted on YouTube and produced with help from NGOF, a villager appeals to the government not to go ahead. "We are simple people that depend on the river for everything," he says.

An elderly woman says she is worried the new dam will cause homes to be flooded and property to be lost. "I'm old now, so it will be impossible for me to plough new fields and start a new farm," she said.

Locals are also unhappy about compensation plans.

NGOF said people upstream were offered money to compensate for one year's worth of fish loss, when the loss would be felt for generations. However, it said no compensation was proposed for downstream villagers, who are expected to suffer from poor water quality and a reduced quantity of water.

Cambodia is not alone in focusing on hydropower. Vietnam, Thailand and Laos as well as China are all in the race to build dams on the Mekong. The river supports one of the world's most diverse fisheries, rivalled only by the Amazon, with an estimated commercial value of around $2 billion.

Countries in the lower Basin are heavily dependent on the freshwater from the Mekong -- meaning the 'mother of all rivers' in Lao -- and its tributaries and its unique cycle of flood and drought for crop cultivation and fishery.

A recent United Nations report warned that China's construction of mega dams such as the recently completed Xiaowan, which at 292 m is the world's tallest, is a great threat to the river. Already, Vietnam's Mekong Delta is facing a reduction in ground water due to over-pumping.

The dams are likely make the situation worse "by lowering dry season flows and increasing saline intrusion; by stopping fish from entering Ton Le Sap lake which is a breeding ground; and by cutting back on spring floods which wash and enrich the soil," Professor David Dapice, an economist at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, told AlertNet.

Reuters AlertNet is not responsible for the content of external websites.
READ MORE - Cambodia dam threatens livelihoods, will increase hunger - campaigners

Sen disregards covenant on rights

A. Gaffar Peang-Meth

August 19, 2009

One can learn much from old sayings and words of the wise. An African saying goes, "One must talk little and listen much." The Turks say, "Those who know do not talk; those who talk do not know." The Swedes say, "Whine less, breathe more; talk less, say more."

Mother Teresa of Calcutta implored, "There should be less talk. ... Take a broom and clean someone's house. That says enough."

Eleanor Roosevelt, whom Americans called "the best first lady" in United States history, is known for her work to improve the lot of the underprivileged. She said, "Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people."

In contemporary Cambodian politics, the small minds that delight in digging and throwing dirt at those they don't like are "willing executioners," tools of the ruling autocracy that needs them to overwhelm, distract and disrupt legitimate debate on issues of public and national interest. A boneless tongue that flaps, Cambodians say, turns a lone black crow into 10 ravaging crows.

Father Lawrence G. Lovasik, a missionary, wrote: "Only the ignorant and narrow-minded gossip, for they speak of persons instead of things," and that, "it is just as cowardly to judge an absent person as it is wicked to strike a defenseless one."

Lord Buddha teaches, "The evils of the tongue are lying, slander, abuse and idle talk."

Recently, a Khmer reader inquired about the meaning of the Khmer saying, "Somdei sar jiat," which, literally, means "words reveal one's race." The intent of the saying was to convey that words, spoken and written, reveal the kind of a person one is. One's value, worth, dignity -- or lack thereof -- are intertwined in his words.

American essayist, philosopher and poet Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, "Words are alive; cut them and they bleed."

Last April 24, The Cambodia Daily's front page article, "Mu Sochua To Sue Premier For Defamation," reported on Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen's nationally broadcast speech on April 4, in which he affirmed that he wouldn't help villagers who side with the opposition. He spoke to the audience about a Mu Sochua, woman "cheung klang," or "strong legs," a derogatory term, who in the 2008 election campaign "hugged" someone and then complained her blouse had been "unbuttoned" by force.

The Daily said that in June 2008, an army officer "twisted her arm, thus making her blouse buttons come undone," so Sochua filed an "assault complaint."

At an April 23 press conference, Sochua announced her lawsuit against Sen for defamation, seeking 500 riels, or 13 cents. On April 27, The Daily reported on its front page: "Prime Minister To Countersue Mu Sochua."

Thus began a Khmer political ramvong, a popular slow dance in which participants move around and around in a circle to the sound of drums.

"Executive control of the court is an established fact and it is known that the court lacks independence," lamented the Asian Human Rights Commission in a press release.

On June 10, the Phnom Penh Municipal Court dismissed Sochua's lawsuit, claiming no defamation had occurred, but processed Sen's countersuit against Sochua.

On June 15, Human Rights Watch called on Sen's regime to "cease its threats, harassment, and spurious legal action against opposition members of parliament and lawyers defending free expression." The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights-Cambodia declared, "the use or the threat of legal action ... is a serious threat to democratic development which may undermine the efforts of the past 16 years to rebuild a tolerant and pluralistic environment in Cambodia."
Those words didn't matter to Sen and his ruling party.

On Aug. 4, the Court ordered Sochua to pay 8.5 million riel ($2,500) in fines to the state, and 8 million riels ($2,000) in compensation to Sen, for defaming the premier.

A day later, Sen, who likes to use ceremonies as platforms and the media as tools, warned in a graduation ceremony speech in Phnom Penh that government critics should "be careful with the language of 'dictatorial regime.' Be careful, one day legal action will be used" ... and "when legal action is used, you guys would say freedom of expression is prohibited, but your expression is wrong."

Sen, recipient of a University of Hanoi honorary doctorate, no doubt meant every word he said. For the last few months, several criminal defamation and disinformation lawsuits have been filed against government critics -- politicians, journalists and a 22-year-old law student.

Sen, premier of a country that signed the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and incorporated it into Cambodian law, tramples that law, tells the world it doesn't understand free expression as he does and makes clear he doesn't care who thinks what. Unconditional Chinese aid and assistance to keep him and his autocratic regime afloat allows him to thumb his nose to the West, who lecture him to respect the international standards of good governance.
That seems to leave Cambodians on their own.

One Web site, one group and a few others send out the message: "Cambodian younger generations are the hope, the catalyst and the agent of change for Cambodia."

Certainly, their time has come. My hat is off to them, I wish them success.

A. Gaffar Peang-Meth, Ph.D., is retired from the University of Guam, where he taught political science for 13 years. Write him at
READ MORE - Sen disregards covenant on rights

Economic Crisis Fuelling A Rise In Malaria Deaths In Cambodia

Submitted by Anna Tomova on Wed, 08/19/2009 -

The Cambodian health ministry says malaria deaths are up 58% in the first six months of the year, compared to the same period in 2008, with the global economic crisis getting part of the blame.

Early rains, including late arrival of mosquito nets from the government for the wet season, are some of the contributing factors authorities say.

But significantly, job opportunities in Cambodian cities have dried up due to the financial crisis, forcing many workers to migrate to remote forest areas like Pailin and Oddar Meanchey provinces on the Cambodia-Thai border, in order to find work. But, these forests also carry the highest risk of contracting malaria for migrants moving east to west, as they have little immunity to malaria.

It is not just lack of immunity that sees many falling victim to the parasite, it is also because the parasite is developing immunity to current medication. According to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, malaria parasites in western Cambodia have become resistant to Artemisinin, a first line treatment drug. Before, it took
48-hours to kill the parasite, now in some cases it takes 80-hours.

However, Dr Habib Najibullah from the World Health Organisation (WHO) in Cambodia, puts it down to better data collection, as he believes the methods of recording malaria data have improved greatly, with more cases being identified, which could account for the rising figures.

The WHO started a 22.5-million U. S. dollars cross-border project to contain the drug-resistant malaria strains, in February this year.
READ MORE - Economic Crisis Fuelling A Rise In Malaria Deaths In Cambodia

Thai soldiers built houses inside Khmer territory in Chup Koki village

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Thai soldiers set up camps on the disputed areas.

Source: Khmer Sthapana newpspaer

Reported in English by Khmerization

A Cambodian military source said Thai soldiers had secretly built many houses inside Khmer territory near Ta Moan Thom and Ta Krabey temples in Ouddor Meanchey province.

A military officer who spoke on condition of anonymity said Thai soldiers had built houses inside Chup Koki village, Ampil commune of Banteay Ampil district for about one month already for their soldiers live.

He said Thai soldiers commenced building houses since July and now 10 houses had been completed already.

Mr. Neak Vong, commander of division 42 based at Ta Moan Thom temple and Gen. Chhum Socheat, spokesman for the Cambodian Defence Ministry, cannot be contacted for any comments.

However, Mr. Hour Bunthy, deputy commander of Border Protection Unit 42 based at Chup Koki Village West, said currently there is no Thai house in Chup Koki, by adding that houses previously built by Thai troops had been dismantled and demolished already after strong protests from senior Cambodian government officials.
READ MORE - Thai soldiers built houses inside Khmer territory in Chup Koki village

U2 announces Amnesty award to Aung San Suu Kyi


U2 has announced that Aung San Suu Kyi has been given Amnesty International's highest honour - The Ambassador of Conscience Award for 2009
READ MORE - U2 announces Amnesty award to Aung San Suu Kyi

US senator concludes Myanmar visit

US Senator Jim Webb (L) meets with Myanmar's top military leader Than Shwe in Naypyidaw August 15, 2009.

YANGON: Democratic Senator of the United States Jim Webb concluded his three-day visit to Myanmar Sunday afternoon, bringing out from the country along with him an imprisoned American citizen John William Yettaw who was released and deported by the Myanmar government.

Meeting with the press before departure at the Yangon International Airport, Webb, Chairman of the East Asian and Pacific Affairs Subcommittee of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said he hopes that the US-Myanmar relations would improve, thanking the Myanmar government for freeing Yettaw.

Webb also said the US Administration is reassessing its policy towards Myanmar and he would make proposals for the move after he is back to the country.

Webb arrived in Myanmar on Friday on a three-day visit as part of his two-week tour to five Southeast Asian nations at the invitation of Myanmar Foreign Minister U Nyan Win.

During his visit in Nay Pyi Taw, Webb met with Myanmar top leader Senior-General Than Shwe, Chairman of the State Peace and Development Council, Prime Minister General Thein Sein and the State Constitution Drafting Commission, led by Chief Justice U Aung Toe, on the government side.

Webb also met with leadership of 10 legal political parties including the National League for Democracy (NLD) and National Unity Party (NUP) and that of some ethnic peace groups from Kachin, Shan and Kayah special regions as well as representatives of some social organizations.

A handout picture taken on May 13, 2009 and provided by Myanmar News Agency shows US Citizen John William Yettaw in Yangon. [Agencies]

He was arranged by the government to meet with NLD leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who is under suspended 18 months' sentence of confinement to her residence during which she is allowed to meet guests with permission.

Aimed at exploring opportunities to advance US interests in Myanmar and the region, Webb's Myanmar visit also represents the first ever one to the country of a member of the US Congress in over a decade.

The visit came days after a Myanmar district court sentenced on August 11 the 54-year-old epilepsy-suffering American, John William Yettaw, along with Aung San Suu Kyi, to seven years' rigorous imprisonment on conviction of charge of entering into Aung San Suu Kyi's restricted lake-side residence for three days in early May.

Webb's five-nation trip had also taken him to Laos and he is proceeding to Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia after Myanmar visit.
READ MORE - US senator concludes Myanmar visit

Vietnam, Cambodia mull rice venture to steady prices

Workers harvest rice in a Mekong Delta paddy.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Vietnamese and Cambodian officials met this week to discuss setting up a state-owned joint rice mill project to control prices, a local association said.

An official from the Vietnam Food Association said Thursday that the Southern Food Corporation (Vinafood 2) and the Bank for Investment and Development of Vietnam would be the Vietnamese partners, representing a 60 percent stake in the Cambodia-based joint venture.

The first rice venture between the two countries would combine the rice processing experience of the Vietnamese partners with Cambodia’s rice production sector, which has been largely untapped for exports, said the official.

Vietnam is the world’s second biggest rice exporter, having shipped nearly US$1.7 billion worth of rice in the first seven months this year.

Cambodian rice yields have been increasing and its government has encouraged businesses to process for export, according to the association.

About 1 million tons of Cambodian rice was ready for export, said the association. The competition, as well as a high summer-fall yield in Vietnam, was pushing prices down, according to local officials.

The new venture is expected to help prevent prices from falling, the association said.

The association aims to prevent price drops by asking members to buy 400,000 tons of the grain from farmers in order to increase its rice stockpiles.

Regional association

A Thai official said Saturday that five Southeast Asian nations may set up a rice-trade association next year to cooperate in stabilizing rice prices.

Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar will also cooperate on other issues related to food security and production, said Chiya Yimvilai, a spokesman at a meeting of ASEAN economic ministers in Bangkok. The countries would also work together on developing rice products, he said.

“It won’t be like OPEC,” said Chiya, speaking at a press briefing. “Our objective is to help prevent prices from falling too much, but we won’t jointly set the prices.”

Reported by Minh Quang (With additional reporting by Bloomberg)
READ MORE - Vietnam, Cambodia mull rice venture to steady prices

CAMBODIA: Government Pulls Out Legal Weapons Against Dissent

PHNOM PENH, (IPS) - These are tough times to be either a journalist or an opposition politician in Cambodia.

That is because the government of Prime Minister Hun Sen is cracking down on both the opposition-aligned media and politicians from the opposition Sam Rainsy Party (SRP).

In June, an editor of a newspaper affiliated with the SRP was jailed for a year for publishing a story the government objected to. The publisher of the newspaper ‘Moneaksekar Khmer', was told this month that he would be sued after publishing a series of articles that the prosecutor said was designed to sow conflict between government ministers.

On the political front, two opposition members of parliament were stripped of their immunity and are being sued. Their lawyer recently quit their cases and the SRP and crossed over to the ruling Cambodian People's Party (CPP) after being told he would be sued.

Two other opposition MPs have been told they could have their immunity taken away too. Two NGOs have also received threats of lawsuits.

There are fears that this South-east Asian country's democracy is under threat as the CPP -- which won more than two-thirds of the seats in the 2008 general election and which controls all the organs of state and the judiciary û moves against dissenters.

”We are being treated like the enemies of the state. It's a crisis in this country,” veteran opposition MP Son Chhay said.

But government spokesman Phay Siphan says the government is simply using the courts to target those people it considers to be spreading disinformation or threatening the country's stability.

”According to the Constitution, everyone has the right to say anything they like,” Phay Siphan said. ”But the Constitution prescribes clearly that (people may not) abuse other people's rights. So the government has to protect that.”

That is cold comfort to local and international observers such as Amnesty International and Reporters Without Borders, both of which have issued statements expressing concern about recent events. Human Rights Watch country specialist Sara Colm says recent events are a matter of ”extreme concern”.

”To have all of these different sectors of society effectively silenced is definitely a step backwards for the whole democratic process in Cambodia,” Colm said, adding that the right to express views critical of the government is being eroded. ”It's a very worrying trend in Cambodia to see lawsuits filed and even criminal charges levied against people for simply doing their jobs.”

In the legal action against the media, some noted that the prosecutors are using a law that allows journalists to be jailed for what they write. That is what has happened with Hang Chakra, the editor who in June began a one- year jail term after his newspaper ran a series of articles reporting that a senior government minister's staff had committed corrupt acts.

But the law the government ought to use in such cases is the 1995 Press Law, critics say. Local human rights group Licadho says the Press Law's provisions do not permit the jailing of media professionals found to have breached its provisions. It states that ”no person shall be arrested or subject to criminal charges as a result of expression of opinion”.

So why did the government prosecutor use the older law in the case against Hang Chakra? Phay Siphan says that is a question for the prosecutor, not the government, to answer. But, he says, the information minister has recently said that he does not want to see media workers jailed for what they publish.

To critics, the CPP, which has never been known for being tolerant of criticism, has become even more thin-skinned lately.

”We totally 100 percent accept that criticism,” Phay Siphan insisted. ”But insulting û no. And misleading û no. Freedom of expression is different from insulting and misleading.” He maintains that the government is simply balancing the right of expression against its duty to maintain law and order. It is ”concerned about national security too'”, he added.

At the SRP headquarters, opposition MP Son Chhay believes there are a number of reasons for the government's action against critics. First, the ruling party is worried about the social unrest that the effects of the global economic crisis could spark among younger Cambodians who are hard put finding jobs. Second, he says, there is dissatisfaction within the CPP over what critics call Hun Sen's autocratic style.

Son Chhay says Cambodia risks a reversal in its young democracy. To avoid that, he says donor nations, which pledged more than 950 U.S. million dollars to the Cambodian government this year, should pressure the government into making reforms.

”We don't want to live lives like the North Korean people û we have suffered enough,” he said of the kingdom's traumatic decades of war and the genocidal rule of the Khmer Rouge.

But the government's actions seem to be making many cautious about criticising it, for fear of being sued for disinformation, defamation or incitement. Son Chhay admits that official intimidation has led the opposition to conclude that these are bad times to speak out.

”We have no alternative,” he said. ”I think we will quiet down for a while. We are not going to speak too much. We are not going to raise the issue of corruption. We are not going to speak about landgrabbing. We are not going to talk about the corrupt court system.”

It does not help that the judiciary is not entirely independent, which is why the government wins its court cases, he adds.

This explains why the publisher of ‘Moneaksekar Khmer' tried to resolve his case as he did. Days after being told he would be sued for incitement and disinformation, Dam Sith wrote a grovelling letter of apology to Hun Sen begging forgiveness.

But in Dam Sith's defence, he has seen what happens when the media and the CPP collide. Last year, Dam was jailed for a week for publishing a story that offended the foreign minister. Shortly before the 2008 general election, one of his journalists was shot dead û the tenth to be murdered since 1993. None of those murder cases has been solved, and they are unlikely to be.

In his letter, Dam Sith told the prime minister that he would cease publishing his newspaper if Hun Sen saw to it that the court case was dropped. The government lawyer who filed the case told the English-language ‘Phnom Penh Post' on Jul. 10 that Hun Sen had instructed him to withdraw the complaints against Dam Sith.

The result is that the country's non-CPP media just became even weaker. Licadho's annual media report shows that the CPP effectively controls all eight of the nation's TV stations, most of its radio stations, and by far the majority of the Khmer-language newspapers.
READ MORE - CAMBODIA: Government Pulls Out Legal Weapons Against Dissent

Palm Beach County health care workers travel to help heal in some of the world's poorest parts

Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

Saturday, August 15, 2009

WEST PALM BEACH — This West Palm Beach nurse can't help everyone.

But she's determined to try.

That's why she treks to Cambodia every summer and sees children and adults whose bellies are empty and whose faces are thin. They're dying of malnutrition, dehydration, diseases that they probably wouldn't die from here in the United States.

Regina Clark, a nurse manager at Columbia Hospital, is one of many hospital staff members who spend their summer vacations not relaxing by the beach, but working in remote countries. They've dedicated their lives to helping the sick in America, and now they're taking their mission overseas.

"There were some that we know won't live long enough to get the help, and that's what breaks your heart," Clark, 53, said of the people in Cambodia.

That's how it is across the globe, in poor villages where doctors are scarce and modern medicines don't exist. So Clark and many other local nurses and doctors have committed themselves to helping each year.

Mission through music

Clark and 31 others traveled to Cambodia in July with a group called Musicianaries International - a nonprofit ministry dedicated to spreading God's love through music.

The group - which included doctors, nurses and professional musicians - delivered more than 500,000 containers of medicine, 700 school uniforms, 2,700 toothbrushes and toothpaste, 295 mosquito nets and 330 tons of rice.

They traveled the country in vans and spent time by the borders along Thailand and Vietnam. Their goal? To see people who have never been to hospitals.

"They're such a starving population. The average age is about 22," said Clark, who was on her third summer trek as a volunteer. "There's such a need for medical care."

Common medical problems include malnutrition, skin rashes, eye conditions and dehydration. Yet they still manage to smile.

"The people ... they warm your hearts," she said.

"You don't have to be fluent in the language to know they welcome anything. It's a great feeling."

Educating the islanders

While Clark headed for Cambodia, Dr. Michael Wolford traveled to the island of Tanna off the east coast of Australia. He was in the South Pacific with a group called Healthcare Ministries, a worldwide medical outreach program of Assemblies of God World Missions.

Wolford, 44, is an emergency room physician at Columbia Hospital and Palm Beach Gardens Medical Center.

In Tanna, he found many children suffering from malnutrition and ringworm or tapeworm.

He talked to the people through a translator about healthy living, encouraging them to take better care of themselves.

For almost three weeks, Wolford treated many men for high blood pressure and others for skin problems.

Because the island is primarily jungle, most who live there use machetes.

"It was unbelievable to see 5- and 6-year-olds swinging around machetes," he said.

Wolford said he enjoys showing people that there are others in this world who care about them.

"I've been blessed with talents I can share with people," he said, "and there's a world of people who need help."

Helping in Haiti

When his cousin died 10 years ago of liver cancer, Dr. Serge Thys wanted to keep his memory alive.

So he and others created the Gaskov Clerge Foundation, named after his cousin, with goals that include helping the sick in Les Cayes, Haiti, where Clerge and Thys were born.

Thys, 56, is the chairman of the psychiatric department at Columbia Hospital and also medical director of youth services.

This month, he returned from a trip to the southern part of Haiti where people have no access to any form of health care.

He and more than 60 of his colleagues built makeshift clinics in churches and schools and saw almost 3,000 people.

Like Clark and Wolford, Thys vows to continue his travel each year.

"It's priceless," Thys said. "You end up receiving much more than you give. This is the most beautiful part."
READ MORE - Palm Beach County health care workers travel to help heal in some of the world's poorest parts

5 Asean countries get their act together

Sun, Aug 16, 2009
The Nation/Asia News Network


Major Asean rice-producers Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and Burma plan to form an association to create a sustainable system for trading and production.

The plan was unveiled yesterday following Cambodian leader Hun Sen's initiative at the Asean Summit in Cha-am in late February. It focuses on price stabilisation, food security in the region and rice development. It aims for price stability next year.

It comprises the five countries of the Ayeyawady-Chao Praya-Mekong Economic Cooperation Strategy (Acmecs) and will set up an Acmecs Rice Traders Association.

Thailand, Laos and Cambodia have agreed in principle and plan talks with Cambodia and Burma during the Asean Economic Ministers Meeting, which ends today.

For some years Thailand and Vietnam have cooperated to curb price-cutting in the export market through data exchange.

A Thai source close to the negotiations said they solved Thailand's major problem on circumvention by neighbouring countries, diluted price-cutting in the region and stabilised prices.

"It will create a supply chain in the region which will strengthen bargaining power in the world market," the source said.

Chaiya Yimvilai, adviser to the commerce minister, said yesterday that Laos proposed Thailand and Vietnam draw up the plan.

Thailand and Vietnam are white-rice producers while Laos focuses on sticky rice.

Laos has approached Thailand as a partner in a joint venture with Kuwait to grow rice in Laos.

The Lao government has allocated 200,000 hectares.

Laos has 2 million hectares set aside for rice, but only 900,000 are actually under the crop.

Meanwhile, the Asean-Australia and New Zealand Free Trade Agreement comes into force on January 1.

Australia and New Zealand are important trade partners of Asean, with bilateral trade in 2008 valued at US$67.2 billion (Bt2.3 trillion). They were the seventh largest export market of Asean.

Asean exports to Australia and New Zealand reached nearly $44 billion last year. Major goods were fuel, machinery, automobiles, gold and electrical appliances.

Chaiya added that Thailand and Australia would increase trade in services under the Thailand-Australia Free Trade Agreement. Australia wants to see more business-to-business trade.

Australian Trade Minister Simon Crean said the Asean-Australia and New Zealand Closer Economic Relations (CER) pact would benefit trade and investment growth during the global economic downturn.

"The pact will not only open market access between the two regions but also capacity-building and integration among us," he said, and though technical details remained to be worked out, it should be implemented on schedule early next year.

Crean also strongly supported Asean's bilateral pacts with six trading partners forming the Asean+6 group.

Asean and its partners must create a framework for East Asian integration, he said.
READ MORE - 5 Asean countries get their act together

S'pore supports Thai ASEAN chairman's statement on Myanmar

By Bhagman Singh
Channel NewsAsia
15 August 2009

SINGAPORE: Thai Foreign Affairs Minister Kasit Piromya is in Singapore for a two-day visit.

In his meeting with Foreign Affairs Minister George Yeo on Saturday, they discussed regional developments, including the recent trial verdict of Myanmar's Aung San Suu Kyi.

An MFA statement said Mr Yeo affirmed Singapore's support for the Thai ASEAN chairman's statement on Myanmar, which was released on August 11.

He also expressed Singapore's support for Mr Kasit's proposal for a joint appeal letter from ASEAN foreign ministers to the Myanmar government, asking them to grant Ms Suu Kyi amnesty for the remainder of her sentence and to allow her to decide for herself whether to participate in the General Elections scheduled for 2010.

The ministers touched on bilateral relations as well and reaffirmed the excellent cooperation between the two countries.

Mr Yeo said he is looking forward to welcoming Mr Kasit back to Singapore from October 13 to 14 to co-officiate the opening of the 9th Coordinating Meeting of the Thailand-Singapore Civil Service Exchange Programme (CSEP).
READ MORE - S'pore supports Thai ASEAN chairman's statement on Myanmar

Civil Society Said that Courts in Cambodia Sentence Poor People without Defense Lawyers – Saturday, 15.8.2009

Posted on 16 August 2009
The Mirror, Vol. 13, No. 625

“Non-government organizations in Cambodia said that some courts at some provinces and cities hear some poor people or [suspected] criminals without lawyers. This problem was mentioned in a foreign radio program aired in Khmer on this Thursday.

“Recent reports of human rights organizations and people with professions in the field of law said that some courts in Cambodia hear suspects with criminal accusations without defense lawyers, which leads to violations of the law and of human rights.

“The head of the investigations section of the Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights (LICADHO), Mr. Oum Sam Ath, said that there are two kinds of suspects who need defense lawyers: first, underage suspects, and second, criminal suspects. He said, ‘Regarding lawyers for the first type, if a court asks the Bar Association to appoint a lawyer to defend a defendant, and there is no lawyer nominated, the courts think they lack lawyers; as for the other case, it is that the courts thinks that the defendants do not have money, and there is lack of lawyers anyway; this is the courts ’mistake.’

“He added that by law, when investigations are conducted on underage suspects or on criminal suspects, it is required to have defense lawyers for them, and not just during the hearings only. Mr. Oum Sam Ath emphasized that questioning or hearing these suspects without their defense lawyers is against the law, and it cannot provide justice to those suspects.

“An investigating official of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, Mr. Chhim Savuth, said that it happened that criminal suspects had no defense lawyers, because most suspects do not know the law, and do not appeal or ask the court to find a defense lawyer for them; some contact non-government organizations for defense lawyers.

“The director of the Cambodian Defenders’ Project, Mr. Sok Sam Oeun, said that at present the government does not provide defense lawyers for the poor. Poor suspects, who can afford to find lawyers, are helped by the Cambodian Bar Association and by lawyers of non-government organizations. He added that the problem of having no defense lawyer for some criminal suspects does not result from a lack of lawyers, because there are about 600 lawyers in Cambodia. Besides, there are 29 lawyers at his organizations and lawyers from other non-government organizations that work to defend suspects. But the major problem is that these lawyers do not have money to go to conduct investigations as the government does not provide them money.

“He said, ‘Those working privately do not have money. Therefore, how can they help, while in our legal system the government does not think about defense lawyers for the poor? The state leaves this task to the Bar Association, which is also a private group.’

“Mr. Sok Sam Oeun added, ‘In Cambodia, the respect for citizens’ rights does not comply with international standards, and we should conform to international standards to solve these problems.’

“One of ten criminal suspects in Borei Cholsar, Takeo, Yeu El, said that he and other suspects were accused of vandalism on 16 July 2009, but the court heard them without lawyers, as they did not have money to hire them. During the hearing, the judge did not allow them to speak about the reasons why the plaintiff sued them. After the hearing, the Takeo Municipal Court sentenced each of them to serve one year in prison, and ordered them to pay Riel 1 million [approx. US$250] in compensation to the plaintiff.

“The judge of the Takeo Municipal Court, Mr. Cheng Bunly, said, like Mr. Sok Sam Oeun, that the courts do not have money to hire private lawyers to defend suspects; there are only lawyers from non-government organizations. Lacking money, the court finds it difficult to go out to conduct investigations.

“A court monitor of the Center for Social Development, Mr. Sem Sopha, said that according to his observations of nine courts in Cambodia, in 2008, there were 4,155 suspects in total, where 2,077 had defense lawyers, and among them, 1,552 were criminal suspects, while 270 criminal suspects did not have defense lawyers. This is the problematic situation of the court systems at present.

“A Sam Rainsy Party Parliamentarian, Mr. Son Chhay, said that funds that the National Assembly allocated for the Ministry of Justice are smaller than the funds for some other ministries, such as for the Ministry of Defense, for the Council of Ministers, and for the Ministry of Interior. He added that this creates the problems in the administration of the courts, and also, even though the judges and the prosecutors have fairly high salaries, there is still corruption in the court system.”

Khmer Machas Srok, Vol.3, #469, 15.8.2009
Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Saturday, 15 August 2009
READ MORE - Civil Society Said that Courts in Cambodia Sentence Poor People without Defense Lawyers – Saturday, 15.8.2009

Event brings together all things Cambodian

JOYCE CHEN; The News Tribune
Published: 08/16/09

Cambodians from across the Puget Sound mingled with community leaders Saturday in Tacoma at the first statewide Khmer conference.

Highlights of the all-day conference included bilingual presentations on social services, women’s health, immigration and deportation processes, and several traditional dance performances. Among the guest speakers were Sen. Rosa Franklin, D-Tacoma.

Booths promoted everything from education programs to church groups, with tables covered with gold jewelry, ceremonial masks and cowhide-bound Bibles.

Cambodian Women’s Networking Association President Sok-Khieng Lim said that the conference arose from a need to “re-educate each other about Cambodian culture, religion and history.”

Tacoma was chosen as the host city because of the South Sound’s sizeable Cambodian population.

Lim said that one of the aims of the event was to bridge the gap between older and younger generations.

“Cambodian people are very religious, and the elders were concerned that the younger people didn’t understand,” Lim said.

More than 90 percent of Cambodians practice Theravada Buddhism, the state religion in Cambodia since the 1300s.

About 200 people attended the conference at La Quinta Inns and Suites hotel. Organizer Hak-Ry O’Neal said she was pleased by the cross-section of community members who attended.

“It’s wonderful to see people joining us from Oregon and California,” she said.

For those who couldn’t make the drive, the proceedings were broadcast live on the Internet.

Kayomi Wada of Federal Way said her favorite part of the conference was a public service panel discussing Asian Pacific Islander coalitions.

“I thought it was exciting to see so much programming on Khmer history and culture,” she said. She added that she particularly enjoyed the cultural dances.

Monthy Chea of Issaquah hoped that the conference would motivate younger Cambodians to get in touch with their roots.

Chea added that the event inspired her to teach her 11-year-old daughter more of the Cambodian language.

“I’ve been here 34 years, and there was a point growing up when I didn’t want to associate with being Cambodian,” she said. “When I got older, I started valuing the culture.”

Joyce Chen: 253-597-8426
READ MORE - Event brings together all things Cambodian