Friday, 6 May 2011

Angelina Jolie Shoots Louis Vuitton Campaign in Cambodia

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Written by sasha on May-6-11

Actress Angelina Jolie arrives at the 68th Annual Golden Globe Awards held at The Beverly Hilton hotel on January 16, 2011 in Beverly Hills, California. (Getty Images)

It's official, Angelina Jolie is the new face of Louis Vuitton. She's been spotted in Cambodia shooting with Annie Leibovitz. The ads are for the brand's Core Values campaign and Angelina was reportedly paid $10-million for a series of print ads.

The reason for choosing Cambodia is clear. Angelina's first son Maddox was adopted from there and the location is near and dear to her heart. However, unlike other philanthropic engagements, this one is promoting a luxury lifestyle inaccessible to majority of the people who live in the country.

What do you think, will using Cambodia as a backdrop for a high end campaign be a positive promotion?

Vietnam troops 'use force' at rare Hmong protest

Hmong hilltribe women sit making clothes with manual sewing machines in front of their house in the northwestern mountainous province of Dien Bien, Vietnam, in 2007. Vietnamese soldiers clashed with ethnic Hmong after thousands staged a rare protest in the province of Dien Bien area calling for greater autonomy and religious freedom, a military source said Thursday.(AFP/File/Hoang Dinh Nam)  

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by Ian Timberlake  – Thu May 5

HANOI (AFP) – Vietnamese soldiers clashed with ethnic Hmong after thousands staged a rare protest in a remote mountain area calling for greater autonomy and religious freedom, a military source said Thursday.

The Vietnamese army sent troop reinforcements after the demonstrations broke out several days ago in Dien Bien province in the far northwest of the communist nation, near the border with China and Laos.

Soldiers "had to disperse the crowd by force", according to the military source, who did not provide details of any casualties or the number of troops involved.

"Minor clashes occurred between the Hmong and security forces," he added.

Protesters numbered in their thousands and "the army had to intervene to prevent these troubles from spreading", the source said.

It is Vietnam's worst known case of ethnic unrest since protests in 2001 and 2004 in the Central Highlands by the Montagnards. About 1,700 of them fled to Cambodia after troops crushed protests against land confiscation and religious persecution.

In a statement citing Le Thanh Do, a senior provincial official, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Hmong had gathered since early May and camped in unsanitary conditions believing that a "supernatural force" would arrive to lead them to "a promised land".

"Abusing the information, some people instigated and campaigned for the establishment of a separate kingdom of Hmong people, causing disorder, insecurity and an unsafe situation," it said.

The mainly Christian Hmong, among Vietnam's poorest people, are a Southeast Asian ethnic group who helped US forces against North Vietnam during the secret wartime campaign in Laos. They faced retribution after the communist takeover.

A foreign diplomat said he heard "that all of a sudden some guy sort of declared himself king and gathered people together."

Some Hmong have previously called for a separate Hmong Christian state, he said.

A local official in Muong Nhe district, about 200 kilometres (125 miles) northwest of Dien Bien town, told AFP that more than 3,000 Hmong were still gathered on Thursday.

The scenic Dien Bien region is normally popular with Vietnamese travellers, some of whom warned each other on a Web chatroom to stay away from the area because of a "Hmong uprising".

The US-based Center for Public Policy Analysis, an outspoken supporter of the Hmong cause, said 28 protesters had been killed and hundreds were missing. The claims cannot be independently verified,

In a statement from the Center, Christy Lee, executive director of the Washington-based campaign group Hmong Advance, cited "credible reports" of a major crackdown.

The operation was in response to Hmong people's protests for land reform, their opposition to illegal logging, "or because of their independent Christian and Animist religious beliefs", Lee said.

Local authorities had detained several people and opened an investigation, the military source said, adding the Hmong were "incited" by local people wishing to exploit the May 7 anniversary of Vietnam's victory over French colonial forces at Dien Bien Phu in 1954.

"We are very concerned," the military source said. "The Hmong called for freedom of belief and the setting up of a locally autonomous region."

Carl Thayer, an Australian-based Vietnam analyst, said sending military reinforcements would be "quite extraordinary" given Vietnam's multi-layered security apparatus which includes local militias and troops, and mobile riot police.

The foreign ministry statement made no mention of military involvement. It said "cadres" were dispatched to persuade the people not to believe "distorted" information.

"At present some of the people have returned home," it said.

Vietnam is a one-party state where public gatherings are strictly controlled and all traditional media are linked to the regime.

Border embarrasses ASEAN

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
Ouk Damry, a member of the National Assembly, speaks during an ASEAN-ISIS conference held in Phnom Penh yesterday.

Friday, 06 May 2011 15:03David Boyle and Cheng Lita

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The Secretary General of the Association of South East Asian Nations admitted its failure to resolve Cambodia and Thailand’s border dispute had become “embarrassing” yesterday, as delegates at a Phnom Penh conference of the regional body warned its relevance was threatened by the issue.

Ahead of an ASEAN summit in Indonesia this weekend, Secretary General Surin Pitsuwan said attending regional leaders should give the border dispute a “high level of attention”.

“It has been so embarrassing for ASEAN already, not being able to solve this problem,” he said.

“But ASEAN has tried. I think you have to recognise the fact that ASEAN has never been so pro-active before this year on this issue.”

In February, at a meeting of ASEAN foreign ministers, it was agreed in principle that Indonesian observers would enter the border area. But Thailand has yet to confirm the terms of reference for their deployment.

Pou Sothirak, a Cambodian government advisor, told an ASEAN Institute of Strategic and International Studies conference in Phnom Penh yesterday that if the dispute was not resolved, other member nations would revert to settling disputes by force.

“The border clashes between Cambodia and Thailand are now threatening the very existence of ASEAN – if this now develops into a full blown war ASEAN must do something right,” he said.

Dr Tang Siew Mun, director of foreign policy and security studies at the Institute of Strategic and International Studies in Malaysia, agreed the issue had becoming embarrassing for ASEAN on the sidelines of yesterday’s conference at the capital’s Cambodiana hotel.

“This is definitely a test case on how ASEAN functions as a community because ASEAN needs to, for lack of a better work, to police.

“It needs to keep the peace within the community itself,” he said.

“If we can’t do that, then what’s the point in having this community, we need to be able to solve problems within ourselves.”

The ASEAN charter, which came into effect in 2008, commits the regional body and its member states to a principal of non-interference with fellow members'

Cambodia is due to takeover chairmanship of ASEAN at the beginning of next year.

Thai and Cambodian forces continued to honour a ceasefire yesterday negotiated the previous day, Ouk Damry, a member of the National Assembly told the ASEAN – ISIS Conference.

“The sound of fighting has stopped and villagers returned to their villages,” he said.

Case 004 in the spotlight

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Friday, 06 May 2011 15:03James O'Toole

Local activist Theary Seng has announced plans to file a civil party application at the Khmer Rouge tribunal against a trio of former cadres she says are the subject of investigation in the court’s controversial fourth case.

Theary Seng identified the following three people as Case 004 suspects in a statement yesterday: Im Chem, a KR district chief in Banteay Meanchey province; Yim Tith, aka Ta Tith, deputy secretary of the KR’s Northwest Zone; and Aom An, aka Ta An, deputy secretary of the KR Central Zone.

The tribunal has yet to confirm the identities of the suspects in this case, though Im Chem in particular has been widely suggested as a possible defendant.

Theary Seng’s announcement follows a similar move last month in which she lodged a civil party application for Case 003 against former KR navy commander Meas Muth and air force commander Sou Met, both of whom have long been named as potential suspects. She said yesterday that the court’s complete lack of transparency in its Case 003 and 004 investigations had pushed her to take her complaint public.

“These judges are hiding behind the confidentiality issue, they are abusing the confidentially issue,” she said. “I’m taking my fight [to] the public arena because it’s my only safeguard.”

The tribunal’s investigating judges announced last week that they had concluded investigation in Case 003, though the unnamed suspects in this case were not questioned during the investigation and no lawyers have been appointed for them. In addition, the court has made no effort to solicit civil party applications for the case, after nearly 4,000 people applied to participate in Case 002, nor to collect complaints that could aid in the prosecution of the suspects.

These developments have led tribunal observers to charge that the judges are intentionally botching the investigation under pressure from Prime Minister Hun Sen and other government officials who have expressed opposition to Cases 003 and 004.

Theary Seng said yesterday that her Case 003 civil party application had been rejected, but that she planned to appeal. Under court rules, prospective civil parties in the case have just eight more days to submit applications, though they have been given no indication by tribunal officials of the scope of the 003 investigation.

Theary Seng said she was “100 percent certain” that the identities of the suspects she had named in Cases 003 and 004 were correct, citing “conversations” and “public documents”.

Tribunal officials reacted angrily last month to Theary Seng’s naming of Sou Met and Meas Muth, calling it “reckless” and “irresponsible”.

United Nations court spokesman Lars Olsen said yesterday that the court “has already made clear what it thinks about naming people in the public”.

“We think it’s unfortunate that this practice continues,” he added.

Aom An, now 78, currently resides in Battambang province’s Kamrieng district, according to research by the Documentation Centre of Cambodia. Im Chem, 66, is a district official in Oddar Meanchey province’s Anlong Veng district, while Yim Tith – brother-in-law of murderous KR military commander Ta Mok – became a general in the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces following his defection to the government and currently splits his time between Phnom Penh and Battambang.

DC-Cam director Youk Chhang said “only the court” should disclose the names of suspects, though in a statement yesterday, he called for more transparency from judges at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, as the tribunal is formally known.

“The millions of Cambodian survivors of the regime deserve to know what the ECCC is doing in their name, yet the Court has provided no meaningful information to the public about Cases 003 and 004 since the [judges] began their investigations 20 months ago,” he said.

Clair Duffy, a trial monitor with the Open Society Justice Initiative, said she was “sympathetic” to victims concerned that the court would not give them the chance to participate in its third and fourth cases.

“[The investigating judges] have realised that the more people that have access to information about these investigations, the harder it’s going to be to dismiss these cases,” she said.

Defending the paedophiles

Photo by: Pha Lina
Dun Vibol, a defence lawyer, speaks to reporters from The Post last week at his office in Phnom Penh.

I think that being a lawyer is like being a doctor – you have to work for the patient when they need assistance

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Friday, 06 May 2011 15:02 Adam Miller

As a lawyer who specialises in paedophile cases, Dun Vibol defends some of the most controversial criminals in Cambodia.

From his modest office at an independent law firm next to Phnom Penh Municipal Court, the 33-year-old has acted for more than 35 foreigners in sex and drug crime cases since 2005. Of those, two saw charges dropped and another three recieved suspended sentences.

This year, he has defended James Allan Morrow, a 46-year-old American charged in March with purchasing child prostitution and producing a pornographic video involving an 11-year-old girl, and 35-year-old French designer and photographer Mathias Cassar, charged in March with producing and distributing child pornography.

“I think that everyone deserves justice and I think that they deserve to have a good lawyer to represent their case because of the weak institution of the judiciary system here,” says Dun Vibol, who previously worked as a legal assistant at the NGO Legal Aid of Cambodia.

“Sometimes when I represent them I don’t have a good feeling, but I have no choice. I think being a lawyer is like being a doctor – you have to work for the patient when they need assistance.”

The young, personable lawyer admits that defending foreigners can be lucrative, but he also struggles with the disturbing nature of his cases and uses his own moral barometer to justify his work.
“It is better to work with foreigners, because it pays better than working with Cambodian nationals,” he says, adding “sometimes I don’t hope that I can win the case, but just go through the system”.

“I get a lot of stress. Sometimes I have to be alone in a quiet place to concentrate,” he says, adding that defending sex offenders can take a toll on him emotionally and causes him emotional stress.

Dun Vibol himself has also faced his share of criticism, particularly over his opinions on the non-governmental organisations that work to protect children from sex offenders.

Last year, he found himself in a dispute with NGO Action Pour Les Enfants, which has been investigating child sex offenders and conspirators since 2003 and has assisted in the arrests of 169 suspects as of March this year. APLE country director Samleang Seila filed a defamation complaint against Dun Vibol on May 12 last year, after Vibol was quoted in The Post as saying that APLE engaged in entrapment “in most child sex cases related to foreigners”.

The complaint was dismissed by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court but an appeal was lodged by APLE with the prosecutor general two months ago.

Despite the pending appeal, Dun Vibol still feels that the legal process regarding child sex crimes is largely biased against suspects, and that NGOs and police frequently “take sides with the victims”.

“If we look at the activities of the NGOs here, they can do whatever they want. It’s not like other countries like America or in Europe. They can investigate and follow someone without any permission from the police, so that’s why I can say that they use entrapment,” he says. “They push the police to investigate and the police must listen to them.”

Accusations of entrapment by NGOs have also been made in court. Vibol defended outspoken convicted rapist Graham Cleghorn from New Zealand, who was sentenced to 20 years imprisonment in 2004.

He represented Cleghorn in the Supreme Court in November of last year over disinformation charges, after Cleghorn claimed that the five victims in his case, who all worked for him, were paid up to $10,000 each by the Cambodian Women’s Crisis Centre to testify against him.

APLE strongly denies the entrapment accusations. Project assistant Joerg Langekotz describes the claims as “a load of rubbish” saying: “APLE has our own code of ethics which specifically states, ‘no entrapment and no setting anybody up’. If it did take place, I would stop working here immediately.”

Samleang Seila adds that the judiciary would never willingly accept evidence gathered under false pretences and that “it is unthinkable to use children to entrap offenders, and we will always condemn that”.

Bith Kimhong, director of the anti-human trafficking and juvenile protection department at the Ministry of Interior, agrees. “We cooperate with NGOs to observe the activities of foreigners walking with girls....
but entrapment is never used. [NGOs] have signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Ministry of Interior so they always cooperate with authorities,” he said.

APLE also denies any suggestion that it is biased against foreigners. So far it has assisted in the arrest of 44 Cambodians, the highest demographic in their eight-year history.

Beyond the issue of entrapment, Dun Vibol claims that NGOs such as APLE can take a lead role in investigating suspects sometimes without notifying the police.

However, APLE says it only aids investigations with police approval and Bith Kimhong also emphasises this point: “If NGOs suspect anyone they first report them to our authorities then we will work on the issue together, they cannot do the investigation alone because the law does not allow them to do so.”

Yet APLE admits it carries out some independent enquiries. Langekotz says: “We do investigate beforehand.... if we see [an adult] under suspicious circumstances, of course we do a background check.... all of these findings we accumulate, and if the child confirms it, we talk to police who help us to find out the suspect’s identity.”

Some experts have questioned the value of Cambodian NGOs in aiding in criminal cases.

Steve Morrish, executive director of anti-human trafficking and exploitation organisation SISHA and a former police detective in Australia, says that “too many NGOs are trying to do police-type work and investigations and they are not qualified to do so, and that is where problems occur”.

“There is a lot of criticism that says the Cambodian court system and the police must be corrupt because they’ve released an offender ... but the majority of the time it happens it’s because the courts in Cambodia have rules for evidence and nine times out of 10 NGOs haven’t provided quality, credible evidence and this is why these people are released.”

Photo by: Pha Lina
Graham Cleghorn (left) arrives at Phnom Penh Municipal Court for a hearing in November 2010.

Pepper and salt: It must be Kampot

Photo by: Hector Bermejo
Worker Buth Samoeun gives some tender loving care to a pepper plant on Ngoun Lay’s Kampot Pepper plantation in Kampot province.
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Friday, 06 May 2011 15:01 Mark Bibby Jackson

Pepper might be big business in Kampot, but it is not as big as it used to be. “When I was young there were pepper trees everywhere,” says Ngoun Lay, 60, president of the Kampot Pepper Association.

“In the past, pepper growers were very rich men,” he added. “In the 1950s and ’60s, 8,000 tonnes of Cambodian pepper were exported to international markets each year. At that time we had 3 million pepper trees.”

This number dwindled during the Khmer Rouge regime as priority was given to rice production.

“Pepper trees start to die if you don’t take care of them for two to three months,” says Ngoun Lay.

Despite coming from four generations of pepper farmers, Ngoun Lay grew a few pepper trees for his family during the barbaric regime.

Founded in 2008, the Kampot Pepper Association represents 143 pepper producers in Kampot and Kep, the vast majority of which are family producers like Ngoun Lay. There are also 40 farmers growing pepper who are not members, because they do not meet the association’s minimum criteria of having 100 pepper trees.

According to Ngoun Lay, the province has a long history of pepper plantation dating back to the 13th century.

“The soil here is different from other places,” he says. “We have red soil and soil with sand, so during the rainy season it is easy for the water to flow fast and in the dry season the earth is still wet under the surface. That’s why the pepper here is so good.”

It is also 100 percent organic. “If they use chemicals, we do not let them join our association,” he says.

This year promises to be a good one for pepper farmers. Whereas only 10 tonnes of pepper was produced in 2009-10, Ngoun Lay anticipates 15 to 16 tonnes this year. And next year he hopes for 20 tonnes.

In part this is due to an increase in the number of mature trees. In 2009 there were only 19,000 mature trees, now there are 27,000.

Another factor is that this year’s crop promises to be good, at least judging by Ngoun Lay’s own plantation. “There are more fruit this year,” he says. “So I hope to have a bumper year.”

Ngoun Lay attributes the growth of Kampot Pepper to the passing of a law on Geographical Indications in 2008. Before, anyone could call their pepper Kampot, thus damaging the quality and reputation of the product.

Quality is something the Kampot Pepper Association places great importance upon. It employs a team of 12 to travel around various plantations to ensure the quality of the pepper is maintained and that members are meeting the 20 articles of association.

Although some producers who are not part of the association still call their pepper Kampot, at least now the association has a means of recourse.

“Some people are stealing our name to put on their pepper after they have seen that our product is popular,” says Ngoun Lay, who knows of at least three companies that have tried to call their pepper Kampot despite not being part of the association.

“After we inform them, they have to omit the name from their products because our name is registered. If they are not a member of the Kampot Pepper Association they can not use our name.”

Ngoun Lay’s modest aim is to achieve 100 tonnes of pepper production per year. “We hope that Kampot Pepper will become more famous and consumers will buy our pepper because they recognise the quality of our pepper,” he says.


Triathlon Federation hold aquathlon event

Photo by: Photo Suppied
Triathlon coach Rowdie Loughlin (left) stands with Cambodia’s Narak Kun and presidents of the triathlon federations of Thailand (right) and the Philippines.
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Friday, 06 May 2011 15:00 H S Manjunath

The newly formed Cambodian Triathlon Federation is staging its inaugural Aquathlon competition involving a 700-metre swim and a 5-kilometre run at the National Sports Complex this Sunday, with the first race beginning at 8:30am. The contest in the Children’s category for boys and girls aged 10-15 years will feature a 250-metre swim followed by a 2.5-kilometre run.

Participants will first take a plunge for the swimming leg at the Olympic Stadium pool and then break into their run around the sprawling sports grounds.

National Triathlon coach Rowdie Loughlin revealed that, despite a lack of official funding, the federation had sent its first Cambodian triathlete, Narak Kun, to an international race in Thailand’s Chaiangsaen province last month.

“[Sunday’s] event will see Cambodians competing with expats. We already have over 30 entries including 10 members of the national team and in all we expect about 100 participants on the race day,” Loughlin told the Post on Wednesday.

“We hope that the race will uncover Cambodian talent for endurance sports. The race will be modified and promoted among the wider population to attract talented youngsters from all backgrounds.

“We have pulled together a great mix of national swimmers including two Olympians, a national athlete, national triathlete and several expatriate triathletes along with lesser trained but determined members of the Phnom Penh community,” he added.

Registration for the race is open until today with a fee of US$10 for foreign nationals and $5 for foreign children, while Cambodian adults pay 2,000 riels (US$0.49) and children 1,000 riels. Further details can be obtained from Rowdie Loughlin on 077359828.

NGOs pen letter on draft procurement law

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Friday, 06 May 2011 15:03Vong Sokheng

An alliance of NGOs has written a letter to the Ministry of Economy and Finance raising concerns over the ability of the government’s draft procurement law to promote transparency in public contracts, calling for more consultation before the legislation is sent to the Council of Minsters.

The alliance, which includes NGO Forum, the Cambodian Defenders Project and the Affiliated Network for Social Accountability, cited concerns over the definitions of key terms in the draft law and its provisions for transparency and fairness in the public procurement process, according to a draft of the letter obtained by The Post yesterday.

“Preliminary analysis [has] indicated some points in the law are still not clear or do not follow international best practices,” the letter read. The groups called for greater public consultation with civil society organisations before the law is passed to the Council of Ministers. Ou Bon Long, a secretary of state at the Ministry of Economy and Finance, said Wednesday that the move is scheduled for next week.

San Chey, a fellow at the Affiliated Network for Social Accountability in East Asia said the Finance Ministry should establish a feedback process incorporating all parties potentially affected by the legislation.

“I think that the draft law on procurement may also affect the private sector. That is why we sent a letter,” San Chey said.

Peace holds before summit

Photo by: Sovan Philong
Cambodian and Thai commanders meet at Ta Moan temple near the border in Oddar Meanchey province yesterday.

via CAAI

Friday, 06 May 2011 15:03 Cheang Sokha and May Titthara

Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong flew to Jakarta yesterday morning with the aim of holding sideline talks with his Thai counterpart at this weekend’s ASEAN summit, following deadly clashes between the two countries.

Speaking to reporters at Phnom Penh International Airport before his departure, Hor Namhong said that the Foreign Minister of Indonesia, Marty Natalegawa, was set to hold separate meetings with Cambodia and Thailand today. A joint meeting, to discuss the provision of unarmed observers at the border, was due to be held at a later point.

Thailand and Cambodia first agreed in principle for neutral observers to be stationed along the border after fighting erupted in February near to Preah Vihear temple.

The terms of reference for their entry, however, have yet to be finalised by Thailand.

“We hope that when the Indonesian observers arrive, we can secure the ceasefire,” Hor Namhong said, adding that he had unofficial information that Thailand had accepted the terms for the observers’ deployment.

Natalegawa, however, said yesterday that he was still “waiting” for a letter from Thailand agreeing to the terms. Cambodia has already provided the observer approval, he added.

The prospect of talks between Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, and Thai premier Abhisit Vejjajiva were also put under the spotlight yesterday.

The Bangkok Post reported yesterday that Abhisit had indicated that he had no intention of participating in talks.

“Don’t forget that I met Hun Sen four times late last year, and then in February, clashes erupted,” Abhisit was quoted as saying. “And I insist that each clash is not an accident. It is an intention to internationalise the issue.”

Thani Thongphakdi, spokesman for the Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said yesterday that Abhisit did not want to meet with Hun Sen at the summit in Jakarta because the atmosphere was “not conducive” to negotiations. Thani stressed that instead of trying to involve other countries in the dispute, Cambodia should negotiate with Thailand bilaterally.

“I think that this issue was brought up by Cambodia, so therefore we feel that this issue should not burden ASEAN,” Thani said. “ASEAN already has a lot on its agenda.”

At the border yesterday, a ceasefire continued to hold after intense fighting that began on April 22 and has since killed at least 18 people.

Military commanders from both sides met from 9am to around 11.30am yesterday to affirm the ceasefire implemented this week. Cambodian commander Neak Vong of Royal Cambodian Armed Forces infantry division 41, said the two sides had agreed to allow five unarmed soldiers from each side to be stationed at Ta Krabey and Ta Moan temples – the centre of much of the recent fighting along the border near Oddar Meanchey province. A fence built around Ta Moan temple will also be removed.


Calls for more police powers

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Friday, 06 May 2011 15:02Khouth Sophak Chakrya and Mary Kozlovski

Anti-human trafficking and juvenile protection police need broader powers to conduct undercover investigations in order to crackdown on entertainment venues that exploit young women, human rights workers said yesterday.

Field Office Director for International Justice Mission in Cambodia, Patrick Stayton, said at a meeting of the United Nations Inter-Agency Project on Human Trafficking in Phnom Penh yesterday that the Ministry of Justice should issue a prakas giving anti-human trafficking police more scope in undercover operations.

“Right now … [police officers] could go into an establishment pretending to be a customer, dressed up in non-police uniform, but what they’re told is that all you can do is make observations,” he said, adding that Cambodian officials feared committing entrapment. “So they can see and listen but they can’t take it a step further.”

While the number of “traditional” brothels had declined due to crackdowns last year, young women largely between the ages of 15 and 17 were hired by “entertainment establishments” such as karaoke bars and beer gardens, where customers could pay a fee to take them off the premises for sex, Patrick Stayton said.

Ten Borany, deputy director of the anti-human trafficking and juvenile protection department at the Ministry of Interior, said yesterday that it was difficult for undercover police to protect workers who leave venues with customers.

“We send undercover police to karaoke bars, nightclubs, beer gardens or guesthouses that hide human trafficking, to observe and monitor … but we cannot arrest [owners and managers] even if we know that they commit human trafficking because it is a drinking venue,” he said.

“The customer and the hostess cannot not talk directly about sex in the venue but if they agree to go somewhere and the hostess agrees to leave with the customer, the police cannot arrest them.”

Under Cambodian law it is not illegal for a female between the ages of 15 and 17 to engage in consensual sex with an adult, Patrick Stayton said.

Moeun Tola, head of the labour program at the Community Legal Education Centre, said yesterday that the authorities often waited for complaints before launching investigations into human trafficking.

Drugs bust: Not very Happy Hippis charged

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Friday, 06 May 2011 15:02May Titthara

Eight people were charged with drug production, drug trafficking and drug use at Preah Sihanouk provincial court yesterday, after police raided the Happy Hippi guesthouse in Sihanoukville on Monday.

Deputy provincial prosecutor Ream Chanmony said yesterday that military police raided the Happy Hippi guesthouse on Monday night.

The Australian owner, his Vietnamese wife, a female Cambodian employee, two Russian men, one Swedish man, one Canadian man and one American man were arrested.

“I have charged all of them with drug production, drug trafficking and providing a place for drug use and I decided to detain them for further investigation,” Ream Chanmony said yesterday.”It is difficult for me and I need some time because I have no translators to interpret for them.”

The website for the Happy Hippi advertises pictures of marijuana and ”home-made” drugs and is adorned with a logo of a smoking smiley face.

Ream Chanmony added that authorities had checked rooms during the raid and found a range of drugs and drug production materials.

June Textile workers plead

Photo by: Pha Lina
About 200 garment workers formerly employed by the June Textile factory gather at the office of the local rights group Adhoc yesterday to seek help after their factory burnt down in March.

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Friday, 06 May 2011 15:02 Phak Seangly

About 200 workers from June Textile Company gathered at Adhoc’s office in Phnom Penh yesterday, asking help in receiving compensation after a fire shut down the factory last month and caused millions of dollars in damages.

Brach Davy, 49, a garment worker who had worked at the company for 18 years, said: “We can’t wait for a solution anymore. We still have to spend money on our homes and food.” She added that some workers had been forced to leave their rented rooms because they could not afford to pay the fees.

Brach Davy said that workers were demanding that the factory offer them the five points of compensation the company is required to pay under Cambodia’s 1997 labour law.

So far, factory owners had only agreed to give US$20 to each employee for each year they had worked with the company.

Chan Saveth, head of monitoring for the rights group Adhoc, said in front of the crowd of workers that Adhoc had no power to put pressure on the factory owners, but they would work with relevant officials to find a solution.

Oum Mean, secretary of state at the Labour Ministry, said yesterday that the issue is still being resolved.

No one at June Textile was available for comment.

Credit bureau for overlap in loans

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Friday, 06 May 2011 15:02May Kunmakara

Overlapping loans continue to plague Cambodia’s small lenders, but plans to launch a credit bureau this year may alleviate these concerns, industry insiders said yesterday.

Cambodia currently has no nationwide method of tracking who has received loans, meaning many people borrow from more than one institution without the lenders’ knowledge, according to Cambodia Microfinance Association Chairman Chea Phalarin.

“The main challenge [the MFI sector] faces is offering loans to a customer who already has loans from a different MFI,” he said. “This can lead customers into heavy indebtedness.”

“Although we support cooperation among the different MFIs and local authorities, we are still confronted with this issue – that’s our major concern.”

He said he expected the launch of the credit bureau to allow different financial institutions to access customer information, to see if a potential borrower has already been extended credit by a separate MFI.

“We are progressing [on launching the credit bureau] – we hope it will materialise by the end of the year,” he said.

In Channy, President of ACELDA Bank, said the situation facing non-performing loans was improving, but said the overlapping loans were still a problem for the sector.

He echoed calls that a credit bureau could help cut down on the problem.

“It will help the lending environment – it means the borrower’s information will automatically be registered into this credit bureau to avoid the overlapping loan,” he said.

In Channy highlighted the unnecessary costs that could be removed with the bureau.

“It saves us time we spend evaluating loans, and customers will also receive loans in a shorter time. In addition, it can reduce our operational cost.”

ACLEDA Bank Senior Vice President and Head of Credit Division In Sithann said the credit bureau was an initiative of the National Bank of Cambodia, with support from the International Finance Corporation.
The bureau itself is a joint venture between Singapore-based Vida Advantage and the Cambodia Microfinance Association and Association of Banks in Cambodia.

“We are progressing with the project, and applying at the Commerce Ministry for registration, before we receive another licence from the NBC,” he said. “We expect it will be officially launched in July, or later, of this year.”

Vida Advantage holds 49 percent, while the remainder is held by banks through the CMA and ABC. ACLEDA holds a 5 percent stake in the venture.

MFIs and Banks are beginning to submit customer data to the bureau, to test software, and to standardise the data from banks, he said.

Prasac MFI CEO Sim Senacheert said his MFI faced many problems with overlapping loans, and applauded the initiative. “The problem will be resolved when the bureau is launched,” he said.

However, he added concerns that some MFIs would still extend loans to customers even if they already had loans in the pursuit of profits.

A CMA report released last week showed the non-performing loan rate was improving at the Kingdom’s 24 microfinance institutions, while outstanding small loans not including ACLEDA had increased 51 percent in the first quarter 2011 compared to the quarter previous.

NBC and credit bureau officials could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Cambodia’s star hotels

Photo by: Will Baxter

via CAAI

Friday, 06 May 2011 15:02Soeun Say

A man rides a motorbike past the 5-star Hotel de la Paix in Siem Reap city.

The Ministry of Tourism instituted a rating system for hotels over six years ago, though the majority have not registered for a rating, statistics show.

Ministry officials say they have been pushing for wider adoption of the system.

“International tour agents only contact hotels if they hold classifications, as this lets them know precise prices for rooms based on their star rating,” said Ministry of Tourism director of Toursim Industry Department Prak Chan Dara yesterday.

Some 59 of the Kingdom’s 455 hotels have applied for a rating, which ranks hotels up to 5 stars, according to ministry statistics. Hotels that do not apply could face fines of up to 20 million riel (US$4,720), or possibly have operating licences cancelled, said Prak Chan Dara.

Inflation to grow, but tolerable

via CAAI

Friday, 06 May 2011 15:01Liam Barnes

Cambodia should expect price inflation of 6 percent this year, according to a United Nations report released yesterday, which government officials said was a tolerable level.

Rising food price and a declining United States dollar were leading to price increases for Cambodia, the United Nation’s Economic and Social Survey of Asia and Pacific 2011 said.

The report noted Cambodia’s prices increased by 4.1 percent in 2010, after decreasing 0.7 percent in 2009 and increasing by 25 percent in 2008.

Minister of Economy and Finance Deputy Secretary General Ros Seilava said at the report’s release in Phnom Penh that 6 percent inflation for 2011 was a manageable level.

“A six to seven percent increase in inflation is expected this year, however to a certain level, this could be tolerated,” he said.

The UN’s report estimated the Kingdom’s GDP would expand by 6.2 percent this year, led by growth in the garments, tourism and agriculture sectors.

It also highlighted challenges in diversifying the domestic economy away from heavy reliance on exports to specific Western countries.

Ros Seilava said the Cambodian government’s pro-trade policies and incentives to foreign investors would help the domestic economy grow.

He noted the government may have underestimated the economic implications of the global financial downturn on the domestic economy, but said experts were now more prudent in their approach.

“The situation was misjudged, however the government are now closely following inflation,” he said.

“I think everything is now under control.”

Travel industry’s multiple threats

via CAAI

Friday, 06 May 2011 15:01Uong Ratana

The latest results for Cambodia’s travel sector this week showed the Kingdom is still in the midst of an impressive recovery, but there are signs recent threats to the industry may be starting to take their toll.

With the knock-on effects from the Japanese tsunami, clashes on the border with Thailand, unrest in the Middle East and high oil prices, can Cambodia’s tourism sector end this year as well as it started?

In the shorter term, events on the border, in Japan and the Middle East have certainly slowed growth from the impressive 18 percent annualised rise in visitors recorded in January – total arrivals were up 13.9 percent for the first quarter. Most notable was the huge drop in Thai tourists, down 34 percent overall in the January-March period compared to last year as Thailand fell from sixth position in January to outside the top 10 in March in terms of tourist numbers to Cambodia. The drop in Japanese visitors was not as dramatic but there was a 6.6 percent fall on arrivals in March, the month in which the disaster hit the northeast of the country.

Although the Middle East is far less important a market for Cambodia in comparison to Thailand and Japan, the knock-on effects from turmoil in the region may be more profound in the longer term when the price of oil is factored in. Representing just 0.3 percent of all arrivals to the Kingdom, formerly promising growth in Middle Eastern visitors fell from nearly 21 percent in January to negative 0.8 percent in March.

Cambodia is likely to suffer more though from the recent rise in oil prices that have been fuelled by unrest in the Middle East – jet fuel is up a staggering 40 percent compared to the same time last year.

In recent weeks the result has been a flurry of rising fuel surcharges within the airline industry which has raised the cost of reaching Cambodia. Vietnam Airlines and Dragon Air have both increased fares this month, as Korean Air and Asiana did in April. Thai Airways has already raised its ticket prices three times this year and the national flag carrier Royal Angkor Air announced to agents last week it will raise its fuel surcharge for the first time following its mid-2009 launch.

“To cope with this (rising fuel prices), not only [has] Cambodia Angkor Air … made effort to optimise our productivity, we have also been carrying out many cost-saving solutions to partially cover the loss of our performance,” the airline said in an announcement to tour operators.

CAA is set to raise prices by US$2 per one-way fare between Siem Reap and Phnom Penh and $5 on international routes. Meanwhile, Air Asia reintroduced a fuel surcharge on Tuesday for the first time since November 2008, meaning flights from Kuala Lumpur to Cambodia on the budget carrier have risen $4 per one-way flight, or roughly just over 3 percent.

Analysts have pointed out that high fuel prices hardly dented passenger loads before the economic crisis, but then generally speaking major economies including the United States and United Kingdom were performing well then. They are not at the moment which coupled with other psychologically threats to the airline industry – including the recent killing of Osama Bin Laden – means travellers will be less inclined to fly.

With the rise in fuel prices outstripping the recovery and subsequent increase in disposable incomes in many countries, surely Cambodia’s tourism sector is facing a slowdown in growth as a result. The question is: How bad will it be?

Artist takes Angkor temples into new dimensions

Photo by: Peter Olszewski
Bruno Levy’s spaced-out Angkor art certainly brings something new to Siem Reap’s art scene.

Bruno Levy creates artworks that are a combination of futuristic kitsch, present-day reality and ancient Angkorian mysticism

via CAAI

Friday, 06 May 2011 15:01Peter Olszewski

Siem Reap computer artist and techno geek Bruno Levy has been shooting for the stars with his ambitious Angkor-Planet Project, a far-out flash-based interactive online guide to the Angkor ruins, backed with a real-time gallery in Siem Reap.

But Bruno has crashed to Earth with his latest commercial side venture, Magic Postcards.

It seems he can’t win with these special optical illusion postcards printed in China – hold the postcard one way and there’s a vision of a monk standing against a temple background. But tilt the card and the image changes. The temple background remains the same but instead of a monk, there’s a woman dressed in a slightly racier version of ancient Angkorian garb.

Back in 1992 the music trio Right Said Fred had a hit singing “I’m Too Sexy for My Shirt,” but in the here and now in 2011, Bruno is sighing that he’s too sexy for Siem Reap.

Or at least his magic postcard is. Recently a Khmer-language newspaper called for official scrutiny of the postcards as not being in keeping with “Khmer culture”, and said that the Apsara Authority, who had recently banned some foreigners from the temples for wearing “sexy dress”, would investigate the matter.

But while Bruno says he hasn’t heard from any authorities, including Apsara, and isn’t aware of “being under investigation”, he’s had to withdraw his postcards from sale at retail outlets.

“I cannot sell them at the moment,” he despairs. “Many shop owners have read this article. One shop owner immediately told me they would stop selling the cards, and other owners told me they were worried. So I had to withdraw them all from sale.”

Bruno has consigned the Magic Postcards business to the “too difficult” basket for the moment, but in the meantime he’s keeping busy evolving his weird website, and creating his extra-large computer-generated temple artworks that are a combination of futuristic kitsch, present-day reality, and ancient Angkorian mysticism.

Previously, Bruno was a Parisian director of documentaries for French companies but he says that in a gradual evolution, he “followed the technological movement”.

This led him to become an artistic computer programmer in ad land. But then his fascination with Cambodia led him to visit the country on and off for almost 10 years before he packed up his laptops and moved permanently to the Kingdom of Wonder four years ago, eventually settling in Siem Reap with his Khmer true love.

In Siem Reap, he’s taken his strange but compelling far-out art into the universe of his mind and into the outer reaches of the world wide web, creating his global Angkor-Planet website in which he shares his personal vision; past, present and future.

In some of his computer-generated paintings, Angkorian temples become Star Wars-like space platforms surrounded by light floating off into the darkness of the outer cosmos, and UFOs infiltrate other temple scenes.

Everything about Bruno and his work suggests that he is a Yoan, a practitioner of Yoism – a techno geek cult that claims to be “the world’s first open source religion”, or the “open source truth process”.

It began in the US in the mid-1990s and its practitioners, or “participants”, call themselves Yoans.

Yoism is loosely based on more famous open source movements such as Wikipedia.

In July 2006, the Los Angeles Times reported: “Yoism – a faith invented by a Massachusetts psychologist – shuns godly wisdom passed down by high priests. Instead, its holy text evolves online, written by the multitude of followers – much the same way volunteer programmers create open-source computer software by each contributing lines of code.”

But even though his art echoes their principles of mixing and matching religious memes and themes, when this is put to him he breaks out in a bout of incredulous bewilderment, either feigned or otherwise.

“Yoism?” he queries, “What is Yoism? I have never heard of it.”

Perhaps it’s just sheer coincidence that on his trippy website one of the really great and grabby interactive features is a paint-your-own-Yoan.

He claims his use of the word Yoan comes from a Khmer word which is derived from Pali and when coupled with the Pali word for yantra means something along the lines of “Buddha forming yantra”.

In the end, though, whatever his geeky cosmological humour reveals or doesn’t reveal, the reality is that his art is eye-catching in its weirdness, and perhaps all that can be said about Bruno is God bless him – whoever or whatever God is in his website at any given moment.

Rolling with Riviere

Photo by: Michael Sloan
Johannes Riviere poses in the garden of Cuisine Wat Damnak

via CAAI

Friday, 06 May 2011 15:00 Michael Sloan

Juggling the competing demands of customers, suppliers and staff when starting a new restaurant is stressful enough without adding a two-month-old baby into the mix.

But that’s the situation former Hôtel de la Paix head chef Johannes Riviere and his partner Carole Salmon, a former teacher, find themselves in, following the opening of their new restaurant Cuisine Wat Damnak on April 23.

The new venture features a set menu of traditional Cambodian foods made from locally sourced ingredients and based on recipes Riviere perfected during his time at Hôtel de la Paix and an earlier stint as a cooking instructor at Sala Bai Hotel School.

According to Riviere, Cuisine Wat Damnak is unique in having a menu comprised of several lesser known Cambodian dishes in a restaurant setting.

“My intention was to create a restaurant centred around quality Cambodian food. I insist on the word Cambodian and not Khmer, as Khmer has a strong sense of national identity, and it leaves out Chinese, Cham Muslim and Vietnamese-influenced foods, all of which are represented in the menu.”

Featuring freshly caught fish from Tonlé Sap Lake and locally grown vegetables and meats such as quail, the $15 set menu at Cuisine Wat Damnak is a six-course banquet. It includes an eclectic mix of dishes
ranging from grilled puffer fish to pork shanks served with pumpkin and deep fried shallots.

Riviere’s partner Carole, told 7Days the sheer amount of food served has resulted in several light-hearted complaints from customers.

“They complain a bit about the size of the portions but they all finish their dessert so I think its fine,” she said.

Being able to exercise total control over their restaurant’s menu is one of the factors that led the couple to start planning its opening back in October 2010, according to Riviere.

“In de la Paix it’s difficult because when you work in a hotel you have to please your customer. If your customer shows up and wants to have carbonara pasta and it’s not on the menu you have to have it, and if you show up on Christmas Eve and you want a unique menu, I have to do it for you.

“Here there’s not those demands made – if you don’t like the menu you can go somewhere else” Carole, who met Riviere during a Japanese cooking class he was teaching at Sala Bai, said she cannot remember the exact moment the couple decided to open Cuisine Wat Damnak, but said she suspects the thought of one day opening a “fine dining Cambodian restaurant” had been in the back of Riviere’s mind since 2008 when he published the cookbook Cambodian Cooking, featuring local recipes.

“It was a long process, but the preparation has paid off. By the time we started we knew the right places to buy and the right construction people. Being fluent in Khmer was a big help,” she said.

While the 25-seat restaurant has been full most nights since it opened, Riviere expects a lull in customers during May, which will give the couple time to furnish the upstairs floor of the restaurant to create space for another 20 diners.

“Right now we’re still establishing ourselves. We have an opening menu which offers an occasion for the kitchen to practice and the service to work together. So far our reception has been good and I definitely think there is room for us in Siem Reap,” he said.

Man About Town: 6 May 2011

via CAAI

Friday, 06 May 2011 15:00 Peter Olszewski


LAST night, Thursday May 5, HÔtel de la Paix’s Arts lounge launched a new dual exhibition by Chan Davy and Dy Proeung.

Chan Davy graduated from Phnom Penh’s Reyum Art School before continuing in Reyum’s experimental workshop program, which concluded with the 2007 exhibition In Transition. His work has been selected for numerous international exhibitions.

Dy Proeung graduated from the Royal University of Fine Arts in Phnom Penh in 1960 before working for Angkor Conservation and École Française d’Extrême-Orient (EFEO). Earlier in his life he spent six years painstakingly reproducing miniature sculptures of several temples, one of which was given to King Sihanouk as a birthday present in 1995.

His miniature model of the Banteay Srey temple was the striking centrepiece of the exhibition last night.

According to the press release, the exhibition, titled The Scale of Angkor, gives “unique perspectives on both the vastness and grandeur of the architectural vision, and the intricacy and artistry to be found in even the smallest details therein”.
The exhibition runs until July 5.


SIDDARTH Mehra, the personable general manager of the Amansara, Siem Reap’s most expensive hotel and “home” to some of the world’s most exclusive travellers, is leaving.

Before signing on at Amansara, he was resident manager at the Amanbagh luxury hotel in Jaipur, India. Before that he worked in management at The Imperial New Delhi, and at The Oberoi Group.

Amansara staffers are not permitted to make statements to the media, but the hotel did confirm Siddarth’s departure by saying starting dates for his successor “are not yet announced”.

But it is believed the new GM, New Zealander Sally Baughan, who was introduced to some members of the travel industry at an exclusive cocktail party at the hotel on Saturday night, will sign on in about a month after returning briefly to New Zealand.

In the mid 2000s she was the GM of Amanresort’s Jaipur hotel, Amanbagh, from where Siddarth Mehra came before his Siem Reap stint.

Meanwhile Siddarth will depart Siem Reap shortly, heading for his new post at a sister Amanresort’s hotel, the Amandari, in Ubud, Bali.


OUR story in the April 22 issue of 7Days about Siem Reap-born Helene Bizot, daughter of Françoise Bizot, author of the seminal work The Gate, has resulted in quick action on behalf of Wikipedia’s correction department.

The story explained that Helene was often confused with a French actress of the same name. Furthermore, the story explained that while Helene is the mother of a son to actor Gerard Depardieu, many online sources, including Wikipedia, incorrectly identify the French actress as the mother of Depardieu’s “love child”, to indulge in tabloid parlance.

Within days of this story appearing in 7Days, Wikipedia amended its entry, citing The Phnom Penh Post.


SiIEM Reap’s de-miner Aki Ra, one of the top 10 CNN heroes of 2010, is back in town after a fundraising jaunt in the US.

In late March he attended an auction and fundraiser at the trendy Peabody’s Café in Palm Springs, California, and one of the promotional draw cards of the night was “Dinner with Aki Ra and the chance to blow up a landmine”.

Thankfully, no landmines were exploded at the café. What this really meant was the monies raised would help blow up landmines back here in Cambodia.

Guests were also informed that they could get some “really cool stuff”, including jewellery made from unexploded bombs, signs from a minefield, and “Cleanup soap – wash away the dirt while you wash away landmines”.

AKP - The Agence Kampuchea Press

via CAAI

ASEAN Political Security Community Council Meet

AKP Jakarta, May 5, 2011—In the afternoon of Friday, ASEAN member countries met in their 5th ASEAN Political Security Community Council here, the capital of Indonesia, chaired by H.E Dr. Marty Natalegawa, Foreign Minister of Indonesia.

In addition to the host country, the head delegates to the function were foreign ministers from Cambodia, Brunei, Laos, Myanmar, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnmam.

by Kimseng


DPM Sok An Leaves for Kuala Lumpur

AKP Phnom Penh, May 6, 2011 – Deputy Prime Minister H.E. Sok An left here yesterday for Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia to attend the ICAPP Conference on Natural Disasters and Environmental Protection, taking place from May 5 to 7.
H.E. Sok An, also Minister in charge of the Office of the Council of Ministers, was accompanied by H.E. Yos Son, Chairman of the Commission for International Affairs of the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) and other high-ranking officials.

The Cambodian delegation is scheduled to return home on May 8.



DPM Sar Kheng: NGO Law Is Not Unconstitutional

AKP Phnom Penh, May 6, 2011 – Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister H.E. Sar Kheng has reacted against some NGOs’ criticism over the draft NGO law, which, they said, is unconstitutional and restricts the rights of civil society.

“The royal government has no intention to threaten or restrict the rights of associations and NGOs, but the NGO law will help them instead,” explained H.E. Sar Kheng at a graduation ceremony held here on May 5 at Chaktomuk Conference Hall.

“During the drafting, we have studied and done research on association and NGO laws of different countries in the region and the world. [...] We have held a seminar to discuss the draft law with the participation of all stakeholders including NGOs and associations,” he said.

Foreign ambassadors accredited to Cambodia and visiting delegations of the European Union and the U.S. State Department also expressed their support to this draft NGO law.

According to the Cambodian deputy prime minister, some 3,000 NGOs and associations have been now operating in Cambodia.

By KHAN Sophirom