Thursday, 25 September 2008
CAAI would like to inform you all that it was a great honour that the Prime Minister of New Zealand, the Right Honourable Helen Clark and Honourable Chris Carter will coming to our CAAI's temple, Wat Oddom Samagum Khmer, to join us on our Pchum Ben festival this Saturday 27 September 2008 at 10 am.
Place: Wat Oddom Samagum Khmer, 105 Wyllie Road, Papatoetoe, Auckland
The CAAI is cordially invite you all to join this special event.
Written by May Titthara
Thursday, 25 September 2008
The National Bank hopes that raising the minimum amount of money institutions must have will strengthen sector
The National Bank of Cambodia this week announced two new measures to increase capital reserves amid a US financial meltdown.
In an official document entitled "New Requirements and Criteria for Licensing Approval of Banks", the NBC upped capital requirements for commercial and specialised banks to 150 billion riels (US$37.5 million).
The prakas would apply to locally incorporated commercial banks "with at least one influential shareholder".
In addition, rural specialised banks with single or multiple shareholders will require reserves of at least 10 billion riels and 30 billion riels, respectively.
"We have announced these measures in order to strengthen the financial status of banks in Cambodia," Tal Nay Im, director general of NBC, told the Post Wednesday.
Rapid economic growth in the Kingdom has led to a banking boom, with local and foreign banks tapping both the commercial and retail market.
One local financial expert said that the new rule is largely intended to cut the number of new startups in the overheating sector.
" WE ANNOUNCED THESE MEASURES ...TO STRENGTHEN THE FINANCIAL STATUS OF BANKS IN CAMBODIA. "
"The government is worried about the number of new bank applications. They don't want to say ‘no' to new investment," said the official who asked not to be named.
"This government is saying, ‘We welcome new banks, but you do have to be stronger financially'," the official said.
He added that the new rule could lead to consolidation in the industry with smaller banks merging or partnering with larger banks.
The new regulations will take effect immediately, according to the bank announcement, but institutions licensed prior to the changes will have a grace period to comply.
Banks licensed before the adoption of the new regulations "shall increase their capital equal to the minimum capital ... no later than the end of 2010," the document stated.
In Channy, CEO and president of Acleda Bank, said the new capital requirements would enhance liquidity and increase confidence in the banking sector.
He said Acleda already exceeds the minimum capital requirements but that weaker banks could be adversely affected.
Charles Vann, deputy general director of Canadia Bank, agreed that the new measures would protect and strengthen Cambodia's banking sector.
He said the rules were less a reaction to troubles in foreign markets than an effort to improve the economic climate at home.
"My bank will not be affected by the new requirements because we have plenty of capital to meet the new NBC regulations," he said.
Impact on small firms
Although large banks are expected to be unaffected by the rule, experts said small companies could be forced to close.
Pech Vannthoeun, general manager of the Peng Heng SME Specialised Bank, said his institution has no connections to prominent shareholders or outside investors.
"If we had to comply immediately with the new regulations, we would face problems," he said. "But we have until 2010 to increase our reserves, and I intend to look for partnerships with foreign investors to help the bank."
He said in the short term the bank would try to increase capital on its own to avoid relying on outside shareholders.
"I still think the new regulations are an important step because higher capital reserves will allow banks to extend more credit and low-interest loans to local borrowers," he said.
A biannual report released by the central bank in August showed inflation spiked to 25 percent in the first half of 2008, driven by unprecedented lending and higher investment, as well as rising global commodity prices.
The bank had responded to inflationary concerns two months prior by bumping capital reserve requirements from eight to 16 percent."
The NBC is well aware of the challenges that private sector growth and foreign investment could pose for the stability of the banking sector," NBC Director General Chea Chanto told the Post in June.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY GEORGE MCLEOD
Written by Georgia Wilkins and Khoun Leakhana
Thursday, 25 September 2008
The National Museum has acquired a full-time archaeological team to restore and conserve its large ceramic collection in an on-site conservation lab
CHAP Sopheara is putting Cambodia's history together piece by piece - literally. As one of the National Museum's new stellar ceramics conservators, she will be responsible for dusting, arranging and gluing together the fragments of history that the country almost left behind. The process is slow, she says, but rewarding.
"If we conserve the past and restore it to its former shape, it can stand up again," she said.
As part of a new joint project with the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, DC, the museum will now be housing a full-time archaeological team to work on restoring and conserving the museum's large ceramic collection in an on-site conservation lab.
Hab Touch, director of the museum, which has developed and refined its extensive ceramics collection to make it the biggest in Cambodia, said the laboratory was in operation but would not officially begin work on the ceramics collection until October.
It is the latest of many US-sponsored heritage donations and is likely to be part of an ongoing exchange between the two countries.
In August the US donated US$45,000 to help the National Museum rebuild its library and preserve its collection of rare books. It also contributed $15,000 to a metal conservation lab earlier this year.
Embassy spokesperson John Johnson said that it was a no-brainer to fund Cambodian heritage.
"Cambodia has such a rich heritage," he said by phone Wednesday. "Anything we can do to preserve it is important."
" If we conserve the past and restore it to its former shape it can stand up again. "
The project will be managed by Paul Jett, head of the Department of Conservation and Scientific Research (DCSR) of the Freer and Sackler Galleries and will receive extra support from the Global Heritage Fund and Friends of Khmer Culture.
According to Tep Sokha, another conservator, the laboratory will take in trained archaeologists from the original conservation lab at the Royal University of Fine Arts so as to increase the space and ability for the museum to take in students for training in conservation.
An unrivalled collection
"It is certainly a positive development that the National Museum has established these laboratories," director of local conservation NGO Heritage Watch, Dougald O'Reilly, said in an email.
"[The laboratories] have a long history now of excellent work and training activities. I have worked closely with the ceramics restorers and can say their work is of the highest standards," O'Reilly said.
"It will hopefully result in a greater number of prehistoric artifacts going on display in the museum."
Bonnie Baskin, who developed the original laboratory at the Royal University of Fine Arts and trained the conservators, said the lab would be driven by dedication.
"I am intensely proud of the lab," she said via email, adding that the Cambodian conservators were outstanding, as there are "few people in the world with the intense interest in ceramics and conservation [that they have]".
Written by Key Kak
Thursday, 25 September 2008
Post-conflict society must move away from 'hit and run'
Long and painful civil conflicts in Cambodia have engendered the lost of trust and belief among Cambodians in an organised society functioning within laws and a framework of regulations.
With the return of peace and reconciliation, conflict's legacy, characterised by clan mentality and cronyism, has got the upper hand to take over benefits resulting from the "natural" economic development of the country.
Successful businesses are built on "hit and run" system or model without any long-term perspective of development. In the long run, this groundless and deplorable system will end up leaving cracks in the very fabric of society which will lead to the inevitable destruction of harmony and happiness of all Cambodians.
This factual assessment is not a prophecy but a simple equation based on logic and evidence.
To avoid the situation in which economic process is characterized by anarchy, chaos and social conflicts, it is time now to promote an opposite approach called "Clean Business Initiative" (CBI).
In launching CBI, the organisers have had no intention to be "a publicity campaign that will play business off against each other" but rather to convince the business community of the validity of the clean business principle.
By definition and in free society, doing business is to be engaged in a competition between people using skill and competence to deal with partners and other economic actors organised within the economic activities arena.
Therefore the basic rule is to offer equal opportunity to every economic actor without any invisible intervention, be it from political sphere of influence or pressure groups. The equal opportunity leads ipso facto to the transparency and integrity of the deal. As a member of the WTO, Cambodia is doing businesses with all partners in the region and in the world.
Nowadays businesses deal with each other globally by following the same rules. International Accounting Standards require a consolidation of financial statements between related companies and the International Standards on Auditing impose the terms "in all material respect" and "true and fair view" of companies' activities when it comes to external auditors to expressing the unqualified opinion.
To comply with this global rule, the requirement of integrity and transparency of businesses should not be a question. For the Cambodian Stock Market to be opened in 2009, it will be imperative to apply the global rule of integrity and transparency to all future listed companies and there will be no rooms for businesses built on cronyism to be listed.
As a matter of fact and to start the process, the Ministerial Prakas of the Ministry of Economy and Finance dated 26 July 2007 requires that some sizeable companies (600 to 700 companies in Cambodia according to the last assessment) should submit their financial statements to be audited by independent auditors.
This is a major step undertaken by Cambodian government to send signal to business leaders that doing business in Cambodia, clean corporate governance and integrity and transparency of financial statements should prevail.
In business, integrity and transparency are the ingredients of trust. Trust of shareholders and investors engenders mobilisation of huge capital to do business, trust of workers would enhance work productivity and trust of consumers would ensure profitability of businesses. The cycle should be normally renewed in harmony and in a sustainable way to create the spirit of "in business we trust".
In launching the CBI project, and for the sake of Cambodian economic development, we are promoting challenges between:
- Sustainable approach in doing business in Cambodia versus the standard "hit and run" approach;
- Equal opportunity based on integrity and transparency for all in doing business in Cambodia versus favoritism and cronyism;
- Happiness for all due to good repartition of business profits versus selfishness and greed of the clan and family.
The CBI's struggle to reverse the course of the "hit and run" model in doing business in current situation of Cambodia may be a dream and could be seen as a struggle between David and Goliath with huge difficulties ahead.
However it can be achieved if the CBI succeeds in gathering momentum to:
- get back trust among Cambodians in the rule of laws and regulations,
- convince business community that the "hit and run" model in doing business has no future in Cambodia with more appropriate educated citizens,
- create and promote a network of clean business community all over the Kingdom.
As a Cambodian and in my capacity of independent auditor, I think that it is unfortunate and quite negative for the future of business development in Cambodia to write that "belonging to a clean business club not does not solve the challenges that businesses face or exclude you from having to pay fees or corruption".
Together we can build a bright future for Cambodian people and Cambodia's next generation to come, and we can reverse the course of bad practice in doing business if each of us is willing to accept the principle of clean business.
Key Kak is an independent auditor and the chairman of Morison Kak and Associates in Cambodia. He is a member of the CBI steering committee.
Written by Nguon Sovan
Thursday, 25 September 2008
From an early age Leang Sothea knew she was different, but since having a sex-change operation in 2006 she hasn't looked back
BASED on the prediction of the midwife, Leang Sothea's mother's was certain the child would be a girl. Before she gave birth, she even started sewing girl's clothing for her new baby.
Leang Sothea was not born a girl, but the midwife wasn't exactly wrong either.
Feeling like a woman combined with the heartbreak of unrequited love prompted 26-year-old Leang Sothea, professionally known as "Popi", to undergo a sex-change operation in 2006, becoming one of the few transsexuals in Cambodia.
While Popi enjoys reading fashion catalogues, "hair decor" and excursions to the seaside, she is not just another pretty face.
From an early age, she knew she was different. By the age of eight, she knew she was attracted to boys. By 16, she started wearing women's clothing and cosmetics for the first time.
She told the Post that she felt an affinity to being female from birth. "It is my inclination by nature," she said.
As a transgendered woman in Cambodia, her life has often been filled with discrimination and misunderstanding.
The reactions from the public and her family - especially early on - were not always positive.
" I'VE BEEN DISCRIMINATED AGAINST AND FACED THE PUBLIC'S DISGUST. "
"I've been discriminated against and faced the public's disgust. The first time my parents realised that I wanted to be a girl, they were furious at me, but time gradually reduced their fury. Initially though, I was in a real dilemma; men didn't like me, and women didn't like me."
Crowned Cambodia's first transvestite beauty queen in 2001, Popi took the opportunity of her nationally televised victory to speak out for the rights of transgender people.
Beating out 30 other transvestites was a real turning point for Popi. She told the Post shortly after her 2001 victory, "Before people looked down on me, now wherever I go people like me."
The win even turned into a source of pride for her family. "Now my parents are happy that I won the contest. They are proud," Popi said in 2001.
Organised by the National Television of Cambodia, the pageant was both the first and last of its kind, making Popi the reigning Miss Gay Cambodia to this day. Popi explained this was due to the event being "severely criticised by the public for seriously affecting Khmer traditions and customs".
The beauty queen contest was surely influenced by similar competitions on Thai television, but "katoey" in Cambodia is nothing new.
One scholar told the Post that the Thai word for "transvestite" might have originated in the Khmer word "katoey," which used to describe both hermaphrodites and transvestites.
Back in 2001, she told the Post that she did not want to have a sex-change operation. What changed her mind?
Even after being crowned and receiving the 500,000 riel grand prize, she faced relationship problems.
"I was really heartbroken, because my boyfriends always walked out on me. I had about 10 boyfriends, one after another, but they always left me." She felt she needed to change her sex to be more comfortable in her relationships.
Nip-tuck took time
Popi's physical transformation to the female gender did not come all at once.
"At first, I only had my breasts done in 2004. I decided to have a breast surgery in Phnom Penh which cost me about US$2,000. At the time, my friend urged me to have my sex organ transformed. I considered it for a week before deciding to do it," she said.
In late 2006, she finally went under the knife in Bangkok.
In total, the operation cost her US$10,000, and she had to go without sex for four months until she fully healed, referring to this time as her "diet of sexual affairs".
But when asked whether she has any regrets, she replied without hesitation, "No, I am very satisfied with my current body. It was expensive, but it was worth it. Before, I was often discriminated against, and some people even expressed disgust with me."
Regarding her relationship situation, she told the Post, "Since I changed my organ, I only have two boyfriends, but now I leave them, instead of them walking out on me. I really love my current self. I can have whatever the girls have, except a baby."
While Popi is quick to admit that her life has at times been an uphill battle, she feels that she has now triumphed over adversity. Currently, Popi works as beautician and an actress.
She claims to have been in around 20 movies, often playing a gay person or a maid. Despite some career success and a newfound confidence in her relationships, she has yet to achieve all her goals.
"In the future, I would like to a marry a man, and open my own beauty salon in Phnom Penh."
The corruption watchdog Transparency International has released its annual ranking of countries and it is a mixed bag for Asia. While many Asian nations still languish towards the bottom of the list, there are slight improvements, with Indonesia rewarded for its efforts at tackling graft.
Presenter: Liam Cochrane
Listen: Windows Media
The regional giants rated towards the middle, with China ranking 72nd and India 85th, while Japan scored well, in 18th place. There was movement up the scale for others, including Indonesia, which jumped 17 places from its ranking last year. Fadhil Hasan is the director of the Indonesia's Institute for the Development of Economics and Finance.
HASAN: Well then I think if I have to single out one factor it's the existence and action of the committee of anti-corruption who have done a great job.
COCHRANE: The Corruption Eradication Committee in Indonesia has gone after corrupt officials, detaining people from the central bank, the attorney-general's office, parliament and the customs department. The crackdown was part of a promise by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to tackle graft when he was elected in 2004. He has been criticised by some for rebuking but not sacking two ministers who were implicated in a bribery scandal.
Overall, however, Fadhil Hasan says the arrests are having an effect on the way people do business and that, in turn, is helping grow the business environment.
HASAN: People now start to (be) afraid to do corruption. So (that) makes things more transparanet and makes costs of doing business and also transaction costs is less than before. Which means we are more efficient and more competitive in the economy. This is a factor that makes foreign investors and domestic as well more atttractive to invest in Indonesia.
COCHRANE: But corruption continues to plague other countries in Asia, with East Timor, the Philippines, Laos and Cambodia remaining among the most graft-ridden nations. Cambodia's economy has boomed in recent years, with foreign investors showing interest despite the lack of transparency. Aaron Bornstein is the chief of a US-funded anti-corruption program run by the organisation PACT. He says part of the problem is the lack of a legal framework to deal with the issue.
BORNSTEIN: There's not an anti-corruption law here and there's been one in discussion for 14 years or so. At the same time there's a lot of discussion of corruption in everday life.
COCHRANE: Mr Bornstein said that while the government might be ignoring the problem, its an issue that is on the minds of the public, with around 500 stories on corruption appearing in the Cambodian media each month. One new effort underway to tackle corruption is the Clean Business Initiative, launched by PACT this week. The initiative invites companies to register as a clean business and show their commitment to transparency.
BORNSTEIN: For 80 percent of them or so corruption is their main problem. They don't like it. So we are trying to build a platform so that more and more companies who want to opt out of that system can and will and will have a vehicle both for promoting integrity in business operations as well as adding their voice to those companies that already are trying to press the governmnet to enact business reforms and make it a bit easier to do business in this country."
COCHRANE: Aaron Bornstein says 40 companies have already signed up, including some major international brands with offices in Cambodia.
Young actor, Hunter Gomez, 16, with his passion for charity and children, has once again joined with family and friends to make a difference in the lives of children. Hunter, along with his sister Ashley Gomez, Tiffany Broderick, Andrew Broderick, Dustin James and Ken Bursey, all recently returned from a 2 week trip to Cambodia where they began filming for a documentary titled "Awake In Cambodia."
The documentary was the brainchild of producer Ashley Gomez, and was directed by Dustin James. Ashley hopes to use the film as a tool to start a non-profit to benefit Cambodian children that have been forced to the streets, living a life that is beyond the imagination of most Americans.
"Landfill Where They Live and Work" that is their life from sun up to sundown--children as young as 3 dig around to scavenge what they can
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Thursday September 25, 2008
Former prime minister Chavalit Yongchaiyudh has been appointed deputy prime minister in the Somchai Wongsawat cabinet, tasked with three urgent matters: reconciling with the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD), settling the border dispute between Thailand and Cambodia, and tackling southern unrest.
Gen Chavalit spoke to Bangkok Post reporter
Why have you accepted the post of deputy prime minister, when you used to lead the government?
I want to work for the country; even one day of my time is worth it. In the past, Thailand was second to none [in the region]. No countries could compete against us. Why did our leaders let the country slide backwards? Now, we can compete with only Cambodia and Burma. How could we dare to face up to our ancestors?
How long will the government stay in office?
It depends on our achievements. If the government performs well and works for the public, it can stay longer and continue its work.
As a senior political figure, how will you work? Will members of the government listen to you?
I don't care whether others listen to me or not. The main issue is whether we can solve the country's problems or not. I believe the disputes which occurred are urgent issues. If we can identify the the root causes, we can begin tackling the disputes at their origins.
What will you do about the PAD?
The problem occurred as state agencies neglected to address [the PAD's concerns]. But the new government is determined to solve the problem. We must tackle the problem as quickly as possible, through compromise and peaceful approaches. The most important principle is fair government, ruled by people and for the people. The government is determined to solve the problem in its tenure.
Have you consulted the prime minister about how you will solve the PAD problem?
We have not discussed it in detail. But my approach should be the same as that of the prime minister, particularly in our efforts to understand the PAD's intentions, in a bid to find a resolution.
What do think about the PAD's 'new politics' proposal?
It is a new political system that will overcome political problems. Several groups of people have tried to push for it. It's a version of people's politics in which the country is ruled by the people and for the people.
How will political problems be solved?
What I've talked about is the principle. But at the heart of this principle is the democratic system. There are many types of democratic rule, but two types in particular are popular. One is the Washington Consensus - a ruling system by the people and for the people. The other is the Beijing Consensus - a ruling system for the people but not by the people. It's the communist system. But both share the same goal - the benefit of the public.
What are your guidelines on negotiating with the PAD?
The main objective is to understand each other's intentions. We must show that we attach importance to the alliance's problem.
What are your policies to solve southern unrest?
A paper to solve the unrest has been prepared and I am ready to turn it into action.
How will you go about tackling the border dispute with Cambodia?
There is no problem, as I have close ties with Gen Tea Banh [Cambodia's defence minister]. We have known each other a long time. But I need to look into the dispute in detail before I go about devising a strategy.
VIENTIANE, Sept. 25 (Xinhua) -- The Mekong River Commission (MRC) on Thursday launched a consultation meeting for the regional Mekong Hydropower Program platform here on Thursday, aiming to shape a way for the river's future hydropower development, which is shared by Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Vietnam, Myanmar and China.
The Mekong River Basin is defined by the land area surrounding all the streams and rivers that flow into the 4,800 kilometer-long Mekong River. This includes parts of China, Myanmar and Vietnam, nearly one third of Thailand and most of Cambodia and Laos. With atotal land area of 795,000 square kilometers, the Mekong River Basin is nearly the size of France and Germany together. From its headwaters thousands of meters high on the Tsinghai-Tibetan Plateau, it flows through six distinct geographical regions, each with characteristic features of elevation, topography and land cover.
The most abundant resources in the Mekong River Basin are water and biodiversity. Only the Amazon River Basin has greater diversity of plant and animal life. So much water flows into the mainstream Mekong from the surrounding basin area where, on average, 15,000 cubic meters of water passes by every second. This water nourishes large tracts of forest and wetlands which produce building materials, medicines and food, provides habitats for thousands of species of plants and animals and supports an inland capture fishery with an estimated commercial value of 2 billion U.S. dollars per year. Known mineral resources include tin, copper, iron ore, natural gas, potash, gem stones and gold.
Farmers in the Mekong River Basin produce enough rice to feed 300 million people a year. Demand for agricultural products from the basin is estimated to increase anywhere from 20 to 50 percent in the next 30 years. Agriculture, along with fishing and forestry,employs 85 percent of the people living in the basin.
The Lower Mekong River Basin (Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam) is home to approximately 60 million people. There are over 100 different ethnic groups living within the basin's boundaries, making it one of the most culturally diverse regions of the world.
The Mekong River Basin is one of the most productive inland fisheries in the world. The basin provides a wide variety of breeding habitats for over 1,300 species of fish and the annual rise and fall of the river ensures a nutrient-rich environment on which fish can feed. Conservative estimates indicate that basin dwellers eat over one and half million tons of fish per year. The fishery provides a livelihood not just for fishers and their families but for thousands more who are employed full or part time making and selling food products and fishing gear, repairing boats and providing hundreds of related services.
Editor: Wang Hongjiang
PHNOM PENH, Sept. 25 (Xinhua) -- Cambodian military officials claimed that Thai military jets flew into Cambodian airspace Monday over two key flashpoints along the border, national media reported Thursday.
"Our troops have been standing by about 200 meters from Ta Krabey temple and this aircraft flew beyond them by a few hundred meters and circled around," Ho Bunthy, deputy commander of Border Military Unit 402, was quoted by the Phnom Penh Post as saying.
Cambodian troops were not given permission to fire, he added.
He called it a surprisingly brazen act given current tension over the border demarcation between the two countries and said he was given no orders on how to respond in the future after reporting the incident to his commander.
The aerial border breach was reportedly repeated around the same time over Ta Moan Thom temple, also without retaliatory shots fired, the newspaper said.
"I think the Thais used this aircraft to survey our troops standing along the border," said Neak Vong, deputy commander of Brigade 42, which is stationed outside Ta Moan Thom temple.
Neang Phat, secretary of state at the Cambodian Defense Ministry, told the Post he would "raise the issue" with Thai officials during negotiations scheduled for next week, but would not elaborate on the authority of military officials along the border to defend the sovereignty of the Kingdom's skies.
The border dispute between the two neighbors erupted after Cambodia's arrest of three Thai nationalist protesters on July 15,whom authorities allege crossed illegally into Cambodia close to the disputed temple site.
Since then, Thailand and Cambodia have been building up their forces near the temple and tensions have escalated, spreading to other temple sites along the border.
Written by Peter Olszewski
Thursday, 25 September 2008
PLAYERS in the FCC Indochine Cup teed off at the Angkor Golf Resort in Siem Reap last weekend after a day-one rain delay.But the course was in good shape despite the wet weather, due to supervisor Jim Gulbricky.
An experienced group of Vietnam-resident golfers took up the challenge to play against a select group of golfers representing Cambodia.
With 12 golfers per side, the format of the three-day event was loosely based on the Ryder Cup, but while a relatively inexperienced American team cleaned up at the Ryder, experience ruled at the Angkor and, to put it bluntly, Cambodia copped a hiding.
Cambodian team members are now resorting to the rallying call of all losers, saying the emphasis was really on socialising and friendship.
Vietnam took an early lead winning all four games with comparative ease. Day two heralded a change in format to foursomes, but there was no change in Cambodia's fortune, with Vietnam surging to a 7.5 - 0.5 lead margin after close of play. Cambodia started well on day three with Angkor Golf Resort manager Adam Robertson claiming the first full points of the weekend with an emphatic win. But it all fell away again for Cambodia, with Team Vietnam running out comfortable winners by 10.5 to 5.5.
Written by Post and Wire Services
Thursday, 25 September 2008
Cambodia's Leopard Group could manage investment from the UAE-based fund, with sights set on energy, agriculture and property development
DUBAI Group, an investment company managing more than US$40 billion on behalf of the emirate's ruler, said it may invest in Leopard Capital's Cambodia fund, the group's first investment in the Kingdom.
"We are interested in Cambodia,'' said Lim See Teik, a senior private-equity analyst at Dubai Investment Group, the asset management unit.
"There seems to be a lot of potential.''
The prospect of oil and gas development and political stability are luring foreign investments in Cambodia.
The Cambodian economy grew 9.5 percent a year from 2000 to 2007, the fastest pace in Asia after China.An official at the Finance Ministry said he had no details on the investment.
"I am unaware of the news, but if it materialises, we are pleased to welcome the investment," Hang Chuon Naron, a secretary general at the ministry, told the Post Wednesday.
Dubai Group has invested in other Southeast Asian countries, except for military-ruled Myanmar, Lim said.
The group bought a 30 percent stake in Malaysian bio-diesel company GBD Investment Ltd for $49.5 million in April.
"Cambodia is probably the missing link in the jigsaw,'' Lim added, declining to say how much Dubai Group will invest.
Cambodia ranked 166th among 180 countries in Berlin-based Transparency International's 2008 survey of perceptions about corruption. Myanmar was the most corrupt.
Dubai Group, which includes seven units with interests in asset management, conventional and Islamic banking, private equity and insurance, was set up as part of Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al-Maktoum's plan to diversify Dubai's economy.
Leopard Capital has invested in a housing project in Siem Reap.
The fund has identified potential investments in agriculture, commodities processing, a fast-food restaurant, banks, power plants and hotels, promising returns of about 25 percent a year, Chief Executive Officer Douglas Clayton said.
Earlier investments will offer much higher returns, he added.
"There is no shortage of opportunities,'' Clayton said. "Here, there are too many deals and not enough money; the country's changed faster than the perception has changed."
Leopard Capital told Bloomberg News it is taking longer than expected to raise the targeted $100 million amid the global financial turmoil.
The fund has raised $12.6 million and is set to attract additional commitments following meetings with investors from 17 countries in Phnom Penh last week Clayton, said.
"The fundraising environment for everyone is a bit tougher right now given the Western banking crisis, but there are still plenty of investors out there looking for safe havens of growth, and private equity in Cambodia is certainly one of the few in Asia,'' said Clayton.
Cambodia's stock market, scheduled to open by the end of 2009, will have a capitalisation of as much as $2.5 billion in 2014, or about 20 percent of the nation's gross domestic product, said Ken Stevens, chief investment officer of Leopard Capital. Leopard Capital plans to cash out of most of its investments through share sales in the local market.
"The key thing is the development of a capital market which has sufficient breadth and depth to allow exits from investments,'' Dubai Group's Lim said.
"That would be a key concern for us,'' he said.
No information on the investment was available on the Dubai Group's website, and a company spokeswoman would not confirm or deny Dubai Group's plans.
Written by George McLeod
Thursday, 25 September 2008
Agriculture and high technology earmarked by Israeli businesses as embassy says the country hopes to become a top investor
CAMBODIA may see a flood of Israeli trade and investment over the next year, according to an embassy spokesman.
"There is huge interest in Cambodia [in Israel]. Businesses are looking to [the Israeli government] to open new markets for them in Cambodia," said Tzahi Selzer, the economic and trade attache at the Israeli embassy in Bangkok.
The embassy said the first stage would see investment in agriculture, real estate, high technology and irrigation.
Israel is well-known for its agricultural technology, which includes high-tech drip irrigation and advanced greenhouses.
On the longer term, Cambodia could see Israeli investment in medical equipment and hydro-technology, such as desalinization plants.
"In the next year, you will hear a lot about Israel in Cambodia ... there aren't many places that are as promising as the Cambodian market. Israel has been in Vietnam and India, and is looking for new markets," said Selzer. The Bangkok embassy is in charge of Cambodia, but the attache said the Israeli government is considering opening a representative office in Phnom Penh.
The Israeli efforts come on the back of increasing interest in Cambodia on the part of Middle Eastern countries. A delegation from Kuwait visited Cambodia in August, and investment from Saudi Arabia and Iran has grown substantially. Dubai Group from the United Arab Emirates is expected to invest heavily in Cambodia through the Leopard Fund.
Selzer said his government's efforts are not intended to counter Arab and Iranian investment in the Kingdom.
"We hope to become one of the top-10 investors in Cambodia," he said. Israeli-Cambodian trade and investment is small, and only about 30 Israelis live in Cambodia, said the embassy.
The Israeli government's plans for Cambodia also include negotiations to ink investment agreements on double taxation and protection of investment.
By NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF
Published: September 24, 2008
World leaders are parading through New York this week for a United Nations General Assembly reviewing their (lack of) progress in fighting global poverty. That’s urgent and necessary, but what they aren’t talking enough about is one of the grimmest of all manifestations of poverty — sex trafficking.
This is widely acknowledged to be the 21st-century version of slavery, but governments accept it partly because it seems to defy solution. Prostitution is said to be the oldest profession. It exists in all countries, and if some teenage girls are imprisoned in brothels until they die of AIDS, that is seen as tragic but inevitable.
The perfect counterpoint to that fatalism is Somaly Mam, one of the bravest and boldest of those foreign visitors pouring into New York City this month. Somaly is a Cambodian who as a young teenager was sold to the brothels herself and now runs an organization that extricates girls from forced prostitution.
Now Somaly has published her inspiring memoir, “The Road of Lost Innocence,” in the United States, and it offers some lessons for tackling the broader problem.
In the past when I’ve seen Somaly and her team in Cambodia, I frankly didn’t figure that she would survive this long. Gangsters who run the brothels have held a gun to her head, and seeing that they could not intimidate Somaly with their threats, they found another way to hurt her: They kidnapped and brutalized her 14-year-old daughter.
Yet Somaly continued her fight, and, with the help of many others, she has registered real progress. Today, she says, the Chai Hour II brothel is shuttered. In large part, so is the Svay Pak brothel area where 12-year-old girls were openly for sale on my first visit.
“If you want to buy a virgin, it’s not easy now,” notes Somaly, speaking in English — her fifth language.
Somaly’s shelters — where the youngest girl rescued is 4 years old — provide an education and job skills. More important, Somaly applies public and international pressure to push the police to crack down on the worst brothels, and takes brothel owners to court. The idea is to undermine the sex-trafficking business model.
In her book, Somaly recounts how she grew up as an orphan and was “adopted” by a man who sold her to a brothel. Once when Somaly ran away, the police gang-raped her. Then her owner, on recovering his “property,” not only beat and humiliated her but tied her down naked and poured live maggots over her skin and in her mouth.
Yet even after that, Somaly occasionally defied him. Once two new girls, about 14 years old, were brought in to the brothel and left tied up. Somaly untied them and let them run away. For that, she was tortured with electric shocks.
As Cambodia opened up, Somaly began to get foreign clients, whom she vastly preferred because they didn’t beat her as well, and she began learning foreign languages. Eventually, a French aid worker named Pierre Legros and she got married, and together they started Afesip, a small organization to fight sex trafficking. They have since divorced, and Somaly works primarily through the Somaly Mam Foundation, set up by admiring Americans to finance her battle against trafficking in Cambodia. It’s a successful collaboration between American do-gooders with money and a Cambodian do-gooder with local street smarts.
The world’s worst trafficking is in Asia, but teenage runaways in the United States are also routinely brutalized by their pimps. If a white, middle-class blonde goes missing, the authorities issue an Amber Alert and cable TV goes berserk, but neither federal nor local authorities do nearly enough to go after pimps who savagely abuse troubled girls who don’t fit the “missing blonde” narrative. The system is broken.
A bill to strengthen federal anti-trafficking efforts within the U.S. was overwhelmingly passed by the House of Representatives, led by Carolyn Maloney, Democrat of New York. But crucial provisions to crack down on pimping are being blocked in the Senate in part by Senators Sam Brownback and Joe Biden, who consider the House provisions unnecessary and problematic. (Barack Obama gets it and says the right things about trafficking to the public, but apparently not to his running mate.)
With U.N. leaders this week focused on overcoming poverty, Somaly is a reminder that we needn’t acquiesce in the enslavement of girls, in this country or abroad. If we defeated slavery in the 19th century, we can beat it in the 21st century.
In rural Cambodia, a woman puts the finishing touches on a new communal latrine
Photo: UNICEF Cambodia
Constructing latrines is cheaper than buying them and saves communities money
“It's a big emphasis on letting communities do it themselves instead of us buying it for them,” said Hilda Winarta, UNICEF project officer for water and environmental sanitation, noting its efficiency and self-sustainability.
Since 2005, eight villages of 800 families each have been declared open-defecation-free, a major achievement as 2008 is designated the International Year of Sanitation by the UN.
But despite such progress, huge challenges remain.
Toilets continue to remain taboo in many parts of Cambodia, with villagers often seeing open defecation as more natural.
“When I need to do it, I usually go to the bushes right outside the village,” Sam Than, who lives in the countryside in northwestern Battambang province, said. “I don't understand why anyone would spend money on a toilet. They don't need it when they have bushes.”
NGOs are looking for ways to get around behavioural differences in the countryside, where people often question the need for sanitation. Samnang contends that sanitation coverage is more a matter of education than poverty.
In neighbouring Vietnam and Thailand, with similar rural poverty levels, access to latrines is high at 68 and 99 percent respectively.
“It's not a poverty issue. Some wealthy people in the countryside don't have good sanitation, and some poor families do have it,” he said. “It's an issue of access to the right information.”
Sanitation as second priority
The MRD has not yet gathered enough data to fully measure the overall impact of CLTS, which began in 2005, when the government released its last official sanitation report. The next one is set for 2010.
At the same time, there still remains a lack of widespread recognition of the problem.
“Water has been funded together with sanitation and because water is more visibly demanded, it always takes priority,” Jack Sim, founder of the World Toilet Organization (WTO) in Singapore said. “Politicians tend to shy away from the subject.”
Some point to a lack of coordination between sanitation groups as another shortfall.
As many as 20 NGOs conduct sanitation activities in Cambodia, but there is little coordination between them, according to the 2007 WSP report.
CLTS may alleviate that problem as the project integrates the government, UNICEF, Pact Cambodia and several other organisations in sanitation awareness projects.
Children at risk
Children are especially at risk from sanitation-related diseases. According to UNICEF, 12,600 under-fives die every year from diarrhoeal diseases in Cambodia, accounting for 21 percent of all deaths in that age group.
Sanitation also correlates with education levels in most villages.
“We've found that villages with better sanitation coverage also have more children in school,” Winarta said. “Obviously, if they aren't sick with diarrhoea, they're more likely to be at school.”
PHNOM PENH, CAMBODIA: Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen promised to combat corruption and advocate good governance as he unveiled the country's new Cabinet on Thursday (25 Sept).
Cambodia's newly elected lower house of parliament, overwhelmingly packed with lawmakers from Hun Sen's ruling party, voted to approve the Cabinet, which is filled with the same ministers who served in Hun Sen's administration the past five years.
"A new term but with the same old face," Hun Sen, 57, told the National Assembly after the vote.
Hun Sen's Cambodian People's Party took 90 of 123 seats in July elections, ensuring that it will have a free hand in virtually all legislative matters.
Hun Sen, Asia's longest-serving leader, said his new government will not "waver in its commitment to accelerate development and comprehensive reform."
He has made similar promises in the past to foreign aid donors, who give hundreds of millions of dollars in aid each year to the impoverished Southeast Asian nation.
But critics have often criticized his government for doing little to control corruption, illegal logging and land-grabbing by well-connected businessmen.
Cambodia was ranked 166 among 180 countries in Transparency International's 2008 Corruption Perceptions Index, where the No. 1 country is the least corrupt. Transparency International is a Berlin-based international non-governmental agency.
Hun Sen responded to the findings with his trademark rebuff, saying many issues in Cambodia have been exaggerated by his critics.
"It is their right to write whatever they want," he said. "Nothing is perfect in this world. Social injustice and corruption occur everywhere. The difference is how small or big they are."
All 26 lawmakers of the Sam Rainsy Party, Cambodia's main opposition group, boycotted Thursday's vote, as did three other lawmakers from the Human Rights Party. The two parties have disputed the results of July's election, saying they were rigged to help secure votes for Hun Sen's party. (AP)
No political crisis or formal faux pas. For his first opening session, the King who accessed to the throne in 2004 has accomplished his mission with honours: to represent the nation and remain independent from the parties.
Dressed in a simple suit, he entered the Assembly in the company of high dignitaries, before reading a speech of about ten minutes. “My congratulations go to the different government institutions for the work they’ve accomplished, which contributed to putting Cambodia on the international scene”, said the King in a quiet voice and carefully pronouncing each word. Norodom Sihamoni then expressed his satisfaction of seeing most of the parties gathered in the hemicycle: “The members of this Assembly represent the Cambodian population, they have to prioritise the interests of the nation above any other consideration. “The King has drawn up a list of priorities of the new legislation: peace, respect for human rights and territorial integrity. The elected representatives of the nation have to work together in order to ensure social justice and good governance”, he declared, advising the deputies to establish the best possible bonds “of unity and solidarity”.
The opposition leader who had declared his intention to boycott the first session of the National Assembly joined the opening ceremony on Wednesday 24 September at 8am.
Sam Rainsy renounced to boycott the opening ceremony of the 24th of September despite his threats since the announcement of the election results of the 27th of July.
The SRP Leader, who had stated that he would travel to his Kampong Cham district on the day of the swearing-in, joined the National Assembly in order to be present at the ceremony presided by King Norodom Sihamoni, with other deputies of his party.
While most deputies were wearing their ceremony costumes, Sam Rainsy listened to the King’s speech wearing civilian clothes.
Kem Sokha, President of the Human Rights Party, shunned the ceremony, as well as the two other elected representatives of his party. The three HRP deputies stayed outside the Assembly.
The King has congratulated the elected representatives on their election and gave them some advice during a speech which lasted about fifteen minutes. “Cambodia has to follow the way of democracy, of good governance, and has to improve its legal system”, declared Norodom Sihamoni.
The authorities are following the progress of the crisis while reassuring people about the situation within the country.
The sanitary scandal of milk laced with melanin continues to stain China’s reputation and goes now beyond the borders of the Empire.
In Cambodia, an anonymous source from Camcontrol, the department of the Ministry of Commerce in charge of the inspection of goods imported into the Kingdom, told Cambodge Soir Info that “the offending milk powder isn’t available in Cambodia”. However, the department allegedly sent a warning message to all its representatives throughout the 24 provinces.
“None of the 22 Chinese milk producers introduced an official import application in Cambodia”, specified this same source, adding that agents have visited all the large markets from the capital, without finding any suspect brick of milk. Milk could indeed have been imported illegally into the country. Others worry that dishonest producers could be tempted to sell their stocks in the Kingdom.
Friday 19 September at the O’Russey Market; some shop owners are distrustful. Interviewed by Cambodge Soir Info on the presence of Chinese milk on her shelves, a saleswoman declares that the product was imported from Malaysia but refused to sell it. “I’m keeping this brick for myself”, she said, before making it quickly disappear.
Melanin, a chemical substance which provoked the death of four infants, was detected in 69 baby milk brands. Until this day, 53,000 children have been treated and 13,000 are still being hospitalised. About twenty companies are likely to be involved throughout China.
The crisis is far from over. Melanin has been discovered in Singapore, in other dairy products like ice-cream, yoghurt, biscuits, etc…
September 25, 2008
September 23, 2008 marked the 1,700th day that Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun have spent in prison for a crime they did not commit.
Despite overwhelming evidence of their innocence, the two men continue to serve 20-year prison sentences for the murder of trade union leader Chea Vichea. They remain in Phnom Penh's PJ prison, where they have been since their arrests on January 28, 2004.
On the Tuesday morning, over 70 family, friends and supporters gathered outside of PJ prison in a show of solidarity to release balloons to mark the 1,700th day in prison for the two men. The group gathered outside the prison walls adjacent to the two men's prison cell in the hopes that they would be able to see the balloons and hear that people are still supporting them.
Attending the gathering were Sok Sam Oeun and Born Samnang's parents joined by Chea Vichea's brother Chea Mony. Each addressed the gathering thanking the people for their ongoing support and calling for justice for the two men.
"Please do not lose your hope. There will be the day you will receive the justice that you have long been denied," Chea Mony told the crowd, in comments intended for the two imprisoned men and their families.
Also present at the gathering were Cambodian Independent Teachers Association president Rong Chhun, Community Legal Education Centre Executive Director Yeng Virak, and Voice of Democracy Radio Director Pa Nguon Teang , all of whom have been unjustly imprisoned in the past.
"We all know that Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun are not guilty; however the government still keeps imprisoning them," Pa Ngoun Tieng told the crowd, "I have been jailed before and I too know the feelings of injustice these men feel."
First Posted 09/25/2008
PHNOM PENH -- Cambodia's parliament re-elected Hun Sen as prime minister Thursday, extending his 23-year grip on power, at a session boycotted by parties disputing the results of the July general election.
Only 94 of the 123 elected members of parliament showed up, and unanimously raised their hands to approve the nomination of the parliament's president and the new government.
Hun Sen promised before the session that his government would use its new five-year term to "accelerate development and push for deep and wide reforms" of the southeast Asian nation.
His Cambodian People's Party (CPP) took 90 seats in the July 27 election, while the main opposition Sam Rainsy Party (SRP) received 26 seats.
The royalist parties -- Funcinpec and the Norodom Ranariddh Party -- picked up two seats each, and the Human Rights Party (HRP) three seats.
SRP and HRP lawmakers did not attended Thursday's session and have claimed widespread irregularities in the July poll.
The opposition leaders could not be immediately reached for comment.
The CPP's overwhelming majority in parliament means this year is the first time since 1993 that the country has not been left in political deadlock after an election.
The previous general election, in July 2003, led to a year of stalemate as parties wrangled over forming a coalition government.
Hun Sen has a reputation for trampling on human rights to secure power, but a booming economy has bolstered his standing in a country still struggling to lift itself from the ranks of the world's poorest.
In Cambodia, respect for elders extends beyond holding the door for old ladies. Even the dead get their due during Prachum Benda, also called Ancestors' Day or Festival of the Dead, which kicked off last weekend. Cambodian Buddhists believe that the deceased stuck in the spirit world need their help so families deliver food to monks in an attempt to reach the souls of their ancestors and friends by virtue of the monks' sermons.
Everything climaxes on the 15th day of the waxing moon during the tenth month of the Khmer calendar, called "Pheaktrobotr." This year, it falls on September 30.
Metropolitan Khmers flood out of the capital city of Phnom Penh to spend time with relatives at their homes in the countryside. There, they cook, pray, cook and pray some more. At the end, the hope is that loved ones received the Karmic boost they needed for reincarnation.
Today is a National Holiday - Constitution Day - and while we do not have a regular publication, we use this opportunity to highlight some questions, related to the Constitution, related to the size of Cambodia.
The following is, first a quote from the Constitution of the Kingdom of Cambodia, followed by some other statements:
CHAPTER I - SOVEREIGNTY
Article 2:The territorial integrity of the Kingdom of Cambodia, shall absolutely not to be violated within its borders as defined in the 1:100,000 scale map made between the year 1933-1953 and internationally recognized between the years 1963 – 1969.
A map of this scale is not very precise - one millimeter on the paper of the map corresponds to 100 meters in nature,
The Government says:
The Land Area of Cambodia is 181,035 sq.km
This is stated together with a map of the ountry calling Angkor Wat “one of the world’s seven wonders.”
But we could not find a source, how this land area of 181,035 sq.km was established. As it is well known in the course of recently setting border markers with Vietnam and Laos, the border had to be defined anew, where there was no marking from before. At the border to Thailand, there are overlapping claims and areas with open questions – open, at least, according to one or to the other side, and therefore clarification on the spot is necessary.
Fore example, while the government of Thailand has accepted the 1962 ruling of the International Court of Justice that the Temple of Preah Vihear is on Cambodian territory, the boundaries of this part of the “Cambodian territory” has not been finally and mutually agreed upon.
The length of the Cambodian coastal borderline is estimated to be 440, 445, or 450 km, while the total borderline – on land – is much bigger. And the contested area around the Preah Vihear Temple is 4.6 sq.km – is this included or not in the 181,035 sq.km?
Only once everything is agreed upon with the three neighboring countries, a new calculation of the area of Cambodia will become possible. It will be interesting to see what the result will be, after all border questions will have been solved in mutual agreement with all neighbors.
By Chun Sakada, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
24 September 2008
Khmer audio aired 24 September (1.18 MB) - Download (MP3) Khmer audio aired 24 September (1.18 MB) - Listen (MP3)
The attendance of Sam Rainsy Party lawmakers followed weeks of threats to boycott the ceremony, potentially threatening to deadlock to the government or cost the opposition some positions in the Assembly.
Opposition leader Sam Rainsy arrived at the National Assembly building in Phnom Penh's Chamkar Mon district early Wednesday morning for the opening of the Assembly, with King Norodom Sihamoni presiding.
Reporters were barred from the Assembly session, and Sam Rainsy declined to speak to reporters afterward. His party won 26 of 123 National Assembly seats in July's election, second behind the 90 seats won by the Cambodian People's Party.
Sam Rainsy had said before Wednesday's session the election had been fraudulent and had called for a revote while threatening to withhold his candidates from Wednesday's ceremony.
Opposition lawmaker Son Chhay said lawmakers joined the government on Wednesday after Prime Minister Hun Sen promised to have the opposition role officially recognized by the government and to provide a budget for opposition operations.
Hun Sen addressed reporters Wednesday morning.
"All political parties joined the meeting around the king except the Human Rights Party of Kem Sokha," Hun Sen said. "I promised to get the request by Sam Rainsy discussed in the National Assembly ad hoc [committee] to be put in the internal rules."
Human Rights Party lawmakers Kem Sokha, Yem Ponhearith and Ou Chanrith stayed at their headquarters in Phnom Penh Wednesday morning, watching the Assembly ceremony on TV.
"We are following a request from the voters to boycott," HRP President Kem Sokha said by phone.
"The fourth legislative National Assembly meeting is a new opportunity in history for the legislative institution," King Norodom Sihamoni told incoming lawmakers, and it was imperative the Assembly hold Cambodia's interests above all others.
Original report from Phnom Penh
24 September 2008
Khmer audio aired 24 September (1.09 MB) - Download (MP3)
Khmer audio aired 24 September (1.09 MB) - Listen (MP3)
The Cambodia government sent a request to Thailand’s foreign ministry Monday officially requesting it halt incursions into the Ta Krabey temple in Oddar Meanchey province.
In a letter sent from the Cambodian Embassy in Bangkok, officials said the Cambodian government “strongly urges the Thai side to stop sending Thai soldiers into [Ta Krabey], pending demarcation work of the Joint Boundary Commission on Demarcation of Land Boundary.”
Maj. Seng Sophal, deputy chief of the Thmar Doun district police post, near Ta Krabey, said Wednesday around 10 armed Thai soldiers were guarding the temple, and a Thai helicopter had circled the temple five times on Monday.
The Ta Krabey temple is part of the Ta Moan temple complex, which has become a second point of contention in an ongoing military standoff that started with Preah Vihear temple in July.
“Although we heard that the Thai side is sending its soldiers into the temple, the Cambodian government’s stance is that this needs to be negotiated by bilateral talks,” Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said.
A Thai Embassy official in Phnom Penh declined to comment on the letter, saying he had not seen the request. The Thai government has gone through two foreign ministers since the standoff began.
Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesman Sin Bunthoeun said Wednesday Cambodia and Thailand will plan bilateral talks on the disputed areas after the formation of Cambodia’s government.
Cambodian lawmakers swore in to the new government in a ceremony Wednesday.
Original report from Washington
24 September 2008
Khmer audio aired 24 September (1.84 MB) - Download (MP3)
Khmer audio aired 24 September (1.84 MB) - Listen (MP3)
Cambodians living in the US who have seen loved ones deported under a continuing US policy say the US and Cambodian governments must compensate the families and ensure good living conditions for those sent back.
Since mid-2002, the US has followed a policy to send non-citizens convicted of crimes back to Cambodia, following time served time in US detention.
Yi Sam’s husband was one of them. A resident of Lowell, Mass., with two young daughters, Yi Sam said her husband, Khis Pross, is being punished twice for his crimes. The deportation policy was inhumane and unjust, she said. Both daughters cry day and night and have difficulty eating and sleeping, she said.
“Before, my husband always helped pay the cost of living,” she said. “But now I have no one to help me with this.”
The deportation policy was “a kind of racism,” she said. “They kick them out like kicking dogs and cats.”
Another Lowell resident, Mao Sophann, said the deportation policy had brought much hardship to separated families, as returnees find it difficult to find work in Cambodia.
“They separate or break from their families,” he said. “It is terrible, and the children and wives are still here.”
“The Cambodian and American governments should compensate them, take care of their livelihoods and provide enough education to the deportee’s family,” he added.
Senior government advisor Om Yintieng said the Cambodian government had little choice but to accept the deportations.
“If we don’t accept them, [the US] will close issuing visas to Cambodian people who want to go to America,” he said. “What can we do? Do you think we are so stupid with this? Don’t you know that our Khmer people have difficulty with that?”
Dimple Rana is an advocacy leader with the group Deport Diaspora, in Lowell. She said immigration judges in the US do not allow Cambodian immigrants facing deportation to review their cases.
“People who have gone in front of immigration, they have no justice, and they have no due process,” she said. “Their cases are not reviewed. The judges can’t look at their cases and say, ‘OK, this person has children who are US citizens, this person has a wife or husband who is a US citizen, this person, this person has not committed a crime for many years, this person is a tax-payer in the United States.’ All these factors, the immigration judges don’t have the right to look at.”
John Johnson, a US Embassy spokesman in Phnom Penh, said the US funds a local organization to help deportees learn to read and write Khmer and helps make the adjustment of deportees “as smooth as possible.”
24 September 2008
Khmer audio aired 24 September (1.54 MB) - Download (MP3)
Khmer audio aired 24 September (1.54 MB) - Listen (MP3)
[Editor’s note: Nearly 200 deportees have been sent by the US government to Cambodia since mid-2002, following convictions of crimes and time served in US detention. Their integration into Cambodia—for some a country they’ve never seen—is a concern for their families. Lt. Gen. Khieu Sopheak is a spokesman for the Ministry of Interior. He spoke to VOA Khmer by phone from Phnom Penh.]
Q. Cambodian immigrants and Cambodian-Americans are concerned that family members who are deported by the US government could serve in Cambodia’s jails. Is this possible?
A. I would like to tell the Cambodian people that under the constitution of the Kingdom of Cambodia, the government has an obligation to protect all Cambodian people, wherever they live. Please don’t worry. The government has the obligation to protect all of you.
Q. Could you clarify the government procedure for managing deportees?
A. I would like to tell you that this is our blood and we don’t want everybody who is our blood who have arrived in our Cambodia to further suffer or face any other guilt. We must do everything to protect our people after they are deported, and only our homeland can take care of them and provide them shelter.
Q. How many Cambodian immigrants have arrived in Cambodia since the US government began deporting them, and when did the US government start to deport them?
A. The US government has deported 189 Cambodian immigrants, including one woman, within 19 times.
Q. How many Cambodian immigrants will be deported next?
A. We really don’t know how many Cambodian immigrants will be deported, but after we agree with each other we respect a case-by-case policy.
Q. What do you mean case by case?
A. First, our Cambodian people had not yet become US citizens when they committed crimes over there. They must serve jail time over there, and after they serve jail time over there then their Cambodian homeland welcomes them, because they are still Cambodian citizens. So we need to check case by case, whether they are our Cambodian citizens or not.
Q. What are the living conditions of those deportees in Cambodia?
A. Among the 189 deportees, 159 were picked up their families and brought back to their homelands. Thirty-one other deportees have still not yet found their families and are supported by the nongovernmental organization called RISP (Returnee Integration Support Program). RISP is helping them by providing education and seeking jobs for them to do.
Q. When did the Cambodian and US governments agree on the deportation issue and what is the exchange for this?
A. I don’t think we have an exchange for this deportation issue. I think they all still Cambodian because they haven’t changed their citizenship yet. Even if they changed their citizenship, they are still Cambodian. Our government does everything by the limit of the law. I really don’t have any exchanges. If they made our people suffer, then we must have our obligation to take care them.
Q. When did the Cambodian government and the US agree on the deportation issue?
A. I think it is since June 22, 2002, after a Memorandum of Understanding between Cambodia and the United States government. I think that the deportations started then.
Q. Countries such as Vietnam or Laos did not accept returnees. But Cambodia did. Senio government advisor Om Yintieng has said that if the Cambodian government did not accept the returness, the US would have restricted or halted visas to Cambodians hoping to visit the US.
A. I have only one answer, that if our people are being expelled, where should our people live? They have their own homeland. So they can come back to their homeland. Khmer has only one homeland. Our homeland is the Angkor homeland.
Q. What kind of support do they receive from the government?
A. We are trying hard to let their families know about their presence in Cambodia, and then it will become normal, because Cambodian people never let their relatives starve to death.