Archive for May, 2009

VimpelCom investing $200 mln in Cambodian phones

PHNOM PENH, (Reuters) – VimpelCom (VIP.N), Russia’s number two mobile phone operator, said it would invest $200 million in the Cambodian telecoms sector after taking a 90 percent stake in local mobile company Sotelco Ltd last year.

Anna Aybasheva, a spokeswoman for VimpelCom in Phnom Penh, said that this investment over three years included $70 million to develop the operation in 2009.

“We can see Cambodia’s market has very good potential, so we plan to develop our business here,” she told Reuters on Thursday.

The mobile phone penetration rate last year was low at around 25 percent but was expected to grow to 43 percent this year, especially with the entry of new operators, Aybasheva said.

Cambodia has a population of 14 million, 80 percent of whom live in the countryside, and about 4 million mobile subscribers, according to the government.

The Southeast Asian country has nine mobile phone firms, all foreign-owned except market leader Mobitel, which works in partnership with Luxembourg-registered Millicom International Cellular (MICC.O).

VimpelCom, which also operates in neighbouring Vietnam, said last July when it bought the Sotelco stake that it aimed for a market share of roughly 20 percent. (Reporting by Ek Madra; Editing by Alan Raybould)

Source: http://www.reuters.com/article/rbssTechMediaTelecomNews/idUSBKK9283520090521

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China provides 73m dollars loan to Cambodia for road construction

“China Agrees To Loan $73 Million for Construction of Road to Rattanakiri”]

Phnom Penh: The Ministry of Economy and Finance has announced that the Chinese Government on 19 May agreed to provide a $73 million concessional loan to Cambodia to build the section of National Road 78 –from O Pong Moan to Banlung Town in Rotanakiri Province –which cuts through beautiful natural forest.

Deputy Prime Minister Keat Chhon, economic and finance minister, representing the Royal Government, and Zhang Jinfeng, Chinese extraordinary and plenipotentiary ambassador to Cambodia, signed the agreement on the provision of the concessional credit at the Economic and Finance Ministry on 19 May.

After the signing, Deputy Prime Minister Keat Chhon said that the inking of this framework agreement would allow the Economic and Finance Ministry to negotiate with the Chinese Export and Import Bank to obtain credit for implementing this project.

He pointed out that the project to build the 121-km long section of National Road 78, from O Pong Moan (Stoeng Treng Province) to Rotanakiri Province’s Banlung Town, would contribute to the integration of Cambodia’s interior with the region, through connecting the country’s northeastern part and plateau to its central part and to the centre of Vietnam. He also said that building this road would encourage quicker transformation of the northeastern part into the country’s new economic zone, with this National Road 78 becoming a new economic corridor for collectively serving cross-border trade, transportation, and tourism.

He also added that moreover, the building of this road would enable Cambodia to fully utilize the potentials of Cambodia’s plateau and northeastern part, through developing agriculture, agro-industry, mineral resources, and cultural and ecological tourism, with the aim of alleviating poverty and promoting economic growth through diversified economic policy. In sum, this road would become an important economic blood vessel in the near future.

Source: http://news.tradingcharts.com/futures/6/4/124838246.html

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Response to article: Foreign Minister Critical of UNTAC’s efforts

bantey_chhmar_feb92-03By Vireak In

IIn the article “Foreign Minister Critical of Untac’s Efforts” where Cambodia’s foreign minister Hor Namhong said “The UN’s transitional authority, which occupied Cambodia in the early 1990s, did little for the country except put an election in place in 1993, but failed to end the country’s war”.

As a former UN staff in Cambodia, I find his comment somewhat offensive. I expect more from the leader. I join “Lao Monghay, a former member of the KPNLF who is now a researcher for the Asian Human Rights Commission, who said Hor Namhong’s criticism of UNTAC overlooked the work the peacekeepers did accomplish”.

Foreign minister Hor Namhong ignore the humanitarian work which UNTAC carry out before the 1993 election, the repatriation of some 360,000 refugees from camps along Khmer-Thai border. Most of the refugees were civilians, rice farmers from north-western Cambodia, who had sought refuge on the Thai border from the ongoing conflicts following the collapse of the Khmer Rouge regime following the invasion of the Vietnamese in 1979. Some refugees escape from the government that mean to provide them sanctuary, but fail to do so, instead people face with intimidation, starvation just to name a few, wonder why foreign minister Hor Namhong fail to acknowledge such a wonderful job by UNTACT.

At the time, the repatriation was considered to be the biggest operation ever undertaken by UN, many critic do not believe it is possible to carry out such an operation. Repatriate 360, 000 from Khmer-Thai border and then integrate the returnees into the community of their choice, issue the identification cards for all returnees so they are ready for the 1993 election.

I still remember the joy when the first convoy across the border and make their way to Sisophon, many of the children were born in the Camp and return to the country that they never knew, but they call it home. I still remember when we accompany the first envoy to Stung Treng, the road was so bad that we have make our trip by Helicopter. I still remember when we accompany returnee to the no-go zone, yet it was the wish of the returnees. I still remember how taught it was to negotiate land for returnees, some allocated land were so heavy laid with land-mine, thank to Cambodian Mine Action Centre (CMAC) returnees can settle safely in the allocated land.

Under the leadership of the late special envoy Sérgio Vieira de Mello, the repatriation operation was a very successful one. Sérgio Vieira de Mello (March 15, 1948 – August 19, 2003) was a Brazilian United Nations (UN) diplomat who worked for the UN for more than 34 years, earning respect and praise around the world for his efforts in the humanitarian and political programs of the UN. He was killed in the Canal Hotel Bombing in Iraq along with 21 other members of his staff on 19 August 2003 while working as the Secretary-General’s Special Representative in Iraq. The man whom I greatly admire and have the pleasure to work with.

It is undeniable that UNTAC has done so much for Cambodia, as in the word of President Sam Rainsy from the same article “Beyond the elections, the UN and the accords helped oust a Vietnamese force that would have had people living under a communist regime even today”.

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Green group praises Cambodian ban on sand export

(AP) — PHNOM PENH, Cambodia – An environmental watchdog group praised Cambodia on Wednesday for banning the export of sand, the dredging of which the group says degrades coastlines and depletes fish populations.

The London-based group Global Witness said it was pleased that Prime Minister Hun Sen’s government responded to its concerns over the potentially devastating impacts of sand dredging.

Hun Sen announced a partial ban on the practice and a total ban on exports on May 8.

Most sand exports have gone to Singapore, which has an ambitious land reclamation project, the group said. Indonesia had been Singapore’s main supplier of sand until January 2007, when the government in Jakarta banned its export.

The group-which has been critical of the country’s attitude toward the exploitation of natural resources-said the ban was a positive first step.

In a report issued three months ago, Global Witness said that “a huge sand dredging operation” began in Cambodia’s Koh Kong province last year.

The group estimated the activity to be worth at least $8.6 million per year in Cambodia.

Source: http://www.nola.com/newsflash/index.ssf?/base/international-3/1242222453199670.xml&storylist=international

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Exports to Cambodia to fall 30% this year: Border tensions also deter investors

(Bangkok Post – McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) — SIEM REAP, Cambodia — Thailand’s exports to Cambodia are set to slide by 30 percent this year, as the neighbouring state plunges into unprecedented economic and financial hardship.

Thailand’s exports including border trade are forecast to be worth US$14 billion this year, compared with $20 billion in 2008, said Jiranun Wongmongkol, Thailand’s minister counsellor (commercial) in Cambodia.

Leading exports are automobiles, motorcycles, refined oil, construction materials, rubber tyres, food and beverages.

The slump in trade is due to the global downturn, rather than continuing tension over the disputed Preah Vihear temples, she said.

“The drop is not due to the border dispute, but the global financial crisis that has cut consumer demand. The drop is mainly due to lower demand for building materials, consumer products and petroleum,” she said.

Over the first three months of this year, Thai exports to Cambodia sank 28.23 percent to $370.59 million, down from $516.37 million in the same period last year.

Cambodia’s garment exports, which rely mainly on the US market, have been hit especially hard by the slowdown. About 200 clothing factories have shut down and about 50,000 workers have been laid off, said Mrs Jiranun.

Further redundancies are also anticipated as the world and US economies remain in the doldrums.

Cambodia’s tourism has also been damaged by the world recession and by Thailand’s recent airport closures and political riots, which scared away tourists from markets such as the US, Europe and South Korea, who use Thailand as a gateway to Cambodia, said Mrs Jiranun.

The Preah Vihear dispute has also reportedly deterred 60 percent of the 200,000 to 300,000 Thai tourists who visit Cambodia each year.

Cambodia welcomed about 2.2 million foreign visitors in 2008, a figure it aimed to increase to 3.1 million in 2010. But foreign tourists are set to fall by more than half this year, say industry experts.

“Worse still, Cambodia’s economy is now in a very poor condition as it is suffering from deflation and a ‘bubble-burst’ as Thailand experienced during the economic crisis in 1997,” she said.

But Thai products still have potential in Cambodia — particularly food and beverages, which are very popular among its consumers — said Mrs Jiranun.

Chaiyapruk Phumimuang, managing director of Angkor T.K. Travel & Tour Co, which operates food chains and Tara Hotel in Cambodia, said Cambodia offers appealing investment opportunities, particularly in tourism and manufacturing, given its low labour costs.

“Thai investors are still reluctant to invest in Cambodia for fear of national conflict following the temple dispute, leaving investors from other countries such as South Korea, Singapore, Malaysia and Vietnam to rapidly overtake them,” said Mr Chaiyapruk.

source: http://news.tradingcharts.com/futures/9/3/124534339.html

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Cambodia demand Bt69 million compensation over border clashes

By Supalak Ganjanakhundee
The Nation

Cambodia has officially made its demand for more than US$2 million (Bt69 million) compensation from Thailand over damage following the clash between troops of both sides at Preah Vihear temple in April.
Phnom Penh presented its complaint to the Thai Foreign Ministry on Monday, saying the attack with heavy weapons by Thai troops against Cambodian territory near the Hindu temple on April 3 damaged a Cambodian market.

“A total of 246 stands within this market were completely destroyed, causing great hardship and misery to 319 Cambodian families who have lost their entire livelihood,” said a diplomatic note from Phnom Penh to Thailand.

“The material loss incurred on these families amounts to $ 2,150,500,” it said.

Cambodia demanded the Thai government take full responsibility for damage caused by the Thai soldiers and to appropriately compensate for the losses, it noted.

The border skirmish in April at the disputed area near the Preah Vihear temple killed three Thai and two Cambodian soldiers and injured many others. Phnom Penh has not demanded compensation for the loss of its troops.

Thai Foreign Ministry spokesman Tharit Charungvat said Thailand did not need to compensate Cambodia for the damage since the clash took place in Thai territory.

Thai troops fired to defend national sovereignty and maintain order in the area, he said.

The ministry would send a letter to Cambodia to reiterate Thailand’s position and insist the area belongs to Thailand, Tharit said.

The ministry’s legal affairs and treaties experts would consider whether Thailand will send a counter demand for compensation, he said.

The border dispute with Cambodia erupted last year as Thailand opposed Phnom Penh’s proposal to list the Hindu temple as a world heritage site.

The International Court of Justice ruled in 1962 the Preah Vihear belongs to Cambodia, but its surroundings have been claimed by both sides and have not yet been demarcated. The conflict sparked military clashes in October last year and again in April this year.

Source: http://www.nationmultimedia.com/2009/05/13/national/national_30102534.php

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Cambodia refutes U.S. underestimation of its anti-terrorism capability

The Cambodian Information Minister has refuted a U.S. State Department report about the country’s capability of countering terrorism as “not 100 percent correct,” national media said on Sunday.

The recently issued U.S. report about the global anti-terrorism situation claimed that terrorists might take advantage of the weakness of Cambodia, such as corruption, poverty and lax management of the border, to carry out illegal acts in its territory, despite the government had made a clear promise to crack down on this type of crime, the newspaper Jian Hua Daily quoted the minister as saying.

In addition, Cambodia lacked training and other resources to counter terrorism, it added.

Khieu Kanharith, also spokesman for the Cambodian government, said “there is no country in the world that can control its border with 100 percent accuracy, neither Cambodia.”

However, “the government has established strong and trustworthy relations with different communities in order to nip any social violence in bud,” the spokesman said.

Meanwhile, the newspaper also quoted a senior official of the Interior Minister as saying that there is minimum possibility that terrorists’ acts occur in Cambodia, and fighting against money laundering should be the kingdom’s priority in the anti-terrorism field.

According to official reports, no major terrorism case with global connection has occurred in the country so far.

Source:Xinhua

http://english.people.com.cn/90001/90777/90851/6649722.html

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Cambodian, Thai border talks end with no agreement

SIEM REAP, Cambodia (AFP) – - Cambodian and Thai defence ministers on Wednesday concluded border talks but said they could not agree to pull back troops from a tense territorial dispute near an ancient temple.

At least seven Thai and Cambodian troops have been killed in recent months in sporadic clashes between the neighbouring countries on disputed land around the 11th-century Preah Vihear temple.

Cambodian defence minister Tea Banh and his Thai counterpart Prawit Wongsuwan began this week’s talks by playing a round of golf in the northwestern tourist hub of Siem Reap on Tuesday.

The pair hailed progress by border negotiators from both countries, but Thailand’s Prawit told reporters after talks finished Wednesday that troops would remain in place until the border was demarcated.

“The issue of troop pullback… from the area near Preah Vihear temple depends on the negotiation related to border demarcation that has not been agreed yet,” Prawit told reporters in a joint press conference.

Tea Banh added that both countries were using all means possible to resolve the border dispute.

Troops from the two countries have been in a border standoff since tensions flared last July, when the cliff-top temple was awarded United Nations World Heritage status.

Ownership of the temple was awarded to Cambodia in 1962 but the two countries are in dispute over five square kilometres (two square miles) of land around it that has yet to be officially demarcated.

source: http://sg.news.yahoo.com/afp/20090429/tap-cambodia-thailand-conflict-talks-c8d5519.html

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Pol Pot ‘crueller than Gang of Four’

A former Khmer Rouge prison chief said regime leader Pol Pot was worse than China’s “Gang of Four” as he admitted further “cowardly” deeds at Cambodia’s United Nations-backed war crimes court on Thursday.

Duch – real name Kaing Guek Eav – is on trial for overseeing the torture and extermination of 15,000 people who passed through the regime’s Tuol Sleng prison, also known as S-21.

He told the tribunal that the regime’s hardline communist theory was worse than China’s cultural revolution, led by the so-called Gang of Four who orchestrated extremist social reforms over 10 years up to 1976.

“Pol Pot evacuated all the people from Phnom Penh city, smashed the former regime officials, smashed the capitalists, smashed the intellectuals. So only the peasant worker class remained,” Duch said.

The Khmer Rouge regime used the word “smashed” to refer to killing.

“This Gang of Four went one step forward, but Pol Pot went 10 steps forwards. Pol Pot’s theory was even crueller than the theory of this group of four,” Duch said.

Duch said his appointment as chairman of S-21 meant that his “duties became crimes against humanity by way of [overseeing] killing”, but said his early sympathy for the victims gave way to an instinct for self-preservation.

“I was compelled to go on,” he told the court.

“I was rather cowardly in that I did not contest but went on carrying out their orders and sometimes even exercised my power to ensure that myself and the lives of my family would be out of danger.”

Brought to justice

Earlier Duch told the court he knew the hardline communist regime would eventually be brought to justice.

He is charged with crimes against humanity, war crimes, torture and premeditated murder over the extermination of thousands of people between 1975 and 1979 at Tuol Sleng and the nearby “Killing Fields”.

However, he has denied prosecutors’ claims that he played a central role in the Khmer Rouge’s iron-fisted rule, and maintains he only tortured two people himself and never personally executed anyone.

Duch faces life in jail at the court, which does not have the power to impose the death penalty.

Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot died in 1998 and many believe the UN-sponsored tribunal is the last chance to find justice for victims of the regime, which killed up to two million people.

The tribunal was formed in 2006 after nearly a decade of wrangling between the United Nations and the Cambodian government and is scheduled to try four other senior Khmer Rouge leaders.

source: http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2009/04/30/2557633.htm?section=world

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