Tuesday, May 31, 2011
Malaysia on Monday lauded Thailand and Cambodia's commitment to solve their border dispute peacefully as Cambodia referred the conflict to the International Court of Justice in the Hague.
"Tensions in the Cambodian-Thai border have caused a great deal of concern in the region and this was evident during the recent Asean summit in Jakarta," Malaysia's Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said in a speech at the 25th Asia-Pacific Roundtable here.
Cambodia sued Thailand to the International Court of Justice on Monday, asking the court to order Thai troops to withdraw from the disputed area around the ancient temple Preah Vihear.
Both countries have been claiming sovereignty to the more than 900-year-old temple and its surrounding areas for the past few decades.
Cambodia last month asked the International Court of Justice to explain its ruling in 1962 that the temple belonged to Cambodia.
Latest clashes between Cambodian and Thai troops killed at least 20 and injured dozens while tens of thousands fled the area in April.
If we take a look at the historical perspective, the ties between Indonesia and China date back to ancient times.
Some pundits even mentioned that the two countries had actually started their relations since the fifth century.
But one thing is sure; history vividly record the voyage by Admiral Zheng He to Indonesia, which left a strong cultural imprint in Indonesia. He constructed, among other things, the famous Sam Po Kong Temple in Semarang, Central Java. Nowadays, the temple continues to serve followers of different religions and faiths.
The historical closeness of our two nations is also seen by the existence of nine saints (wali songo) who preached
Islam throughout the Java Island, in which, eight are believed to be of Chinese ancestral background.
It is therefore not surprising to learn that Indonesia was among the first to recognize and establish diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China once it came into being.
Indonesia and China have ever since been cooperating to help establish regional and global order, in particular in combating colonialism — one of the noble causes emanating from the Asian-African Conference, organized in Bandung in 1955.
It is to be admitted though that for historical reasons the bilateral ties were once briefly disrupted. But immediately after the two countries decided to resume diplomatic relations in 1990 the relationship has only grown from strength to strength.
There is also an overarching consensus across all political spectrums in Indonesia on the importance of having good, cooperative and friendly ties with China. And, I can confidently say that it is in the vital national interest of Indonesia to see China prosperous, united, and stablly governed.
Indeed, with the two prosperous, stablly governed, and united giants cooperating well, the security, stability and prosperity of the region will be fully guaranteed.
Meanwhile, with the ASEAN-China Free Trade Area (ACFTA) kicked off last year; a new niche of business opportunity opens wide. Amidst concerns voiced by several industrial sectors at home, our business communities need to make full use of the preferential policies contained therein in order to expand our export products to China and vice-versa.
ACFTA also offers the increased capital flows from China into our country. It also contributes to the sharp increase of our two-way trade volume from US$28.3 billion (2009) to $42.7 billion (2010) in less than a year. Much needs to be done, but it is indeed a good start.
In other words, China has recently provided Indonesia with huge opportunities.
Indeed, with the world’s largest population, two-digit economic growth, and more than $3 trillion in national reserves, China has become one of the global powers whose cooperation is prerequisite in order to establish a world that is stable, peaceful and prosperous.
We will not be surprised if in less than a decade China becomes the largest economy in the world.
It is against this promising backdrop that Indonesia and China need to harness all of their potentials to the fullest in order to continue to provide stability and prosperity not only for their peoples, but also to all in the region, for without the cooperation of these two big countries, regional stability and prosperity will be absolutely elusive.
The mushrooming of bilateral ties between the two countries is therefore in the interests of all countries in the region.
Discussing regional security and dynamism could not be separated from the role of Indonesia. In this regard, Indonesia has always been open to new ideas as far as new regional architecture is concerned.
And, in line with the tagline of “one thousand friends, zero enemies” introduced by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, we are committed to actively promoting the existing order to a higher level while championing constructive political and people-to-people contacts and focusing on economic development.
Against this backdrop, the ASEAN Community, ASEAN+ processes, ARF, APEC and East Asia Summit constitute a multi-pronged avenue towards the formation of an East Asia community with ASEAN playing a central role. As the current chair of ASEAN, Indonesia will ensure that ASEAN continues to be the driving force in any new regional architecture.
In our view, there are at least three main priorities to be achieved during Indonesia’s tenure as the chair of ASEAN.
First, to ensure that in 2011, there will be significant progress of the ASEAN Community which is based on three pillars: an ASEAN Security Community (ASC), an ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) and an ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community (ASCC). Second, Indonesia will ensure that the regional architecture and regional environment remain conducive to development.
Third, Indonesia will also start the deliberations on post-2015 vision for ASEAN, namely ASEAN Community in a global community of nations.
For me this is a confirmation of the inevitable — that Indonesia will keep playing a crucial role in promoting peace, stability and prosperity in the region.
This is partly shown by Indonesia’s tireless efforts to mediate the border conflicts between Thailand and Cambodia, as hoped by countries around the world and the United Nations.
The writer is a Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy graduate and currently serves as Ambassador of the Republic of Indonesia to the People’s Republic of China and concurrently accredited to the Republic of Mongolia. The article is an excerpt of his speech presented before the Diplomatic Briefings Series organized by the Asia Society Hong Kong, on May 18, 2011.
Source: China Post
After 15 years of discreet and patient diplomacy over the overlapping claims in South China Sea, both the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and China have now showed signs of fatigue at the lack of progress towards a resolution as well as joint development schemes. Incidents of alleged intrusions and confrontations in the resource-rich maritime territories among various claimants have increased in the past two years.
But the most serious one occurred on March 2 when the Philippine oil exploration ship, MV Veritas Voyager, was harassed by the Chinese Navy patrol boats at Reed Bank. It topped the agenda when Chinese Defense Minister Gen. Liang Guanlie visited the Philippines last week. The incident immediately harked back to the event in March 1995 when the Philippines confronted China after the discovery of new structures in the Mischief Reefs, which subsequently led ASEAN to issue a joint statement, the first and only one, expressing “serious concern” over Beijing's action.
Over those years, there were high hopes that the Declaration of the Conduct of Parties in the South China in 2002 would not only encourage the claimants to restrain from any activity that would destabilize the whole region but help to resolve issues related to territorial sovereignty. Somehow the long-standing pledge for the promotion of trust-building measures and mutually beneficial cooperative continue to be an elusive aim in the past nine years.
One stumbling block remains the wordings of the implementing guidelines of the 2002 document, which was agreed upon when their bilateral relations were at the zenith.
The ASEAN claimants, Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and China still fight over them when their senior officials last met in Medan, Indonesia. Given the current tension and growing mutual suspicion, especially between China and Vietnam/Philippines, it is doubtful if they could finalize the guidelines in time for next year's 10th commemoration in Phnom Penh, when Cambodia chairs the 20th ASEAN summit. Their collective assertiveness showed that the disputes in South China Sea represent their core national interests.
More than conflicting parties like to admit, the relatively benign environment which ASEAN and China used to enjoy tackling the South China Sea problem since the Mischief Reef in 1995 effectively ended last July.
The dispute got an international stamp when the U.S. Secretary Hilary Clinton raised the issue openly on the freedom and safety of navigation in South China Sea and expressed a strong support for the ASEAN document.
Furthermore, the U.S. also offered to facilitate diplomatic efforts to find a resolution. From that moment on, China and the ASEAN claimants knew full well that the conflicts have been thrown open into an international arena — something they kept under wraps for the past 15 years.
China was quite happy to continue negotiations with ASEAN over the guidelines without intervention from other players. Back in 1994, when China was still a consultative partner of ASEAN, visiting Chinese Foreign Minister Qian Qichen told ASEAN counterparts in Brunei Darussalam that Asian countries must solve their problems in an Oriental Way.Somehow this approach rings hollow and does not bode well with the current atmosphere.
The lack of progress coupling with growing claimants' presence and visible physical structures has provided the raison d'etre for the ASEAN claimants, in particular Vietnam and now the Philippines, to harden their pursuits for more tangible outcomes.
To add fuel to the fire, last week, the two ASEAN countries agreed to work on a joint exploration oil and gas project in the disputed areas.
Previously, ASEAN claimants and China held bilateral negotiations trying to craft collaborative frameworks that would be acceptable to both sides — settling sovereignty issue with ASEAN claimants and overall cooperation with all ASEAN members. Unfortunately, some claimants viewed the exercise as a foot-dragging tactic to further strengthen presence in claimed islands or islets. At the moment, Vietnam occupies 23 islets while China and Malaysia occupy seven each. The Philippines has claimed the so-called Kalayaan island Group made up of 54 islands, reefs and shoals.
Last July in Hanoi, Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi was visibly upset when the South China Sea issue was brought and discussed openly at the ASEAN Regional Forum. It was a radical departure from the modus operandi agreed at the Huangzhou meeting between China and ASEAN in April 1995, both sides successfully kept the dispute within their turf.
At this hill resort meeting, ASEAN for the first time jointly called on China to be more transparent about its claims over the South China Sea including the significance of the nine-dot line. The lack of better answers and practice gradually pushed the ASEAN claimant beyond the bilateral framework. The fact that the dispute last year received a wider international attention was also partly attributed to the ASEAN chair's diplomatic maneuverability.
One immediate consequence of this shift would be the less-polite aspect of China's attitude and policy towards ASEAN. It is currently in a reset mode. Beijing views the ASEAN positions over the guidelines as problematic as undermining its sovereignty claims. With ASEAN members juggling their positions between the claimants and non-claimants as well as China's ambivalence on ASEAN as individual nations and as an organization, the ASEAN-China relations will be under severe tests from now on.
Without the law-binding code of conduct, it is hard to foresee long-term peace and stability in the region's maritime territory.
The whole scheme of things is further complicated by the new strategic landscape coupling with the rise of China and its blue navy fleets as well as the U.S.'s proactive engagement in Asia. As such, it is not hard to envisage additional non-claimant players or facilitators that want to guarantee the safety of sea lanes for their vital mercantile activities.
Finally, if the ongoing disputes are not properly handled, it would have huge spill-over effects on the broader China-U.S. rivalry in this region. The Philippines, not to mention Japan and South Korea in Northeast Asia with their overlapping claims of Islands with China, has a treaty alliance with the U.S. For instance, a small incidental armed attack in the Kalayaan Island chains can easily turn ugly amid growing China-U.S. rivalry. The Philippine government is confident that any attack on a Filipino ship in the areas under its administration is a direct attack on the U.S. as stipulated in the defense treaty with the U.S.
Monday, May 30, 2011
May 30, 2011
THE HAGUE - CAMBOIDA on Monday launched a legal battle before the UN's highest court, asking it to order an immediate Thai troop withdrawal from an area around the ancient temple of Preah Vihear, scene of heavy clashes earlier this year.
'We will ask the court to swiftly provide the provisional measures to protect the peace and avoid an escalation of the armed conflict in the area,' said Cambodia's Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Affairs Minister Nor Namhong, who represents Cambodia at the court.
'Thailand is under obligation to withdraw any troops in the area around the temple,' he told a panel of 16 judges at the Hague-based International Court of Justice (ICJ). He insisted that Thailand must 'respect the sovereignty and territory of Cambodia.'
The 11th-century temple complex has been at the centre of a legal wrangle between Thailand and Cambodia - it was taken to the ICJ in 1958, said court documents.
The UN court ruled in 1962 the 800-year-old Khmer temple belonged to Cambodia, but both Phnom Penh and Bangkok claim ownership of the 4.6 square kilometre surrounding area.
Cambodia last month asked the ICJ to explain that ruling, with the ICJ saying it would rule on a clarification at a later stage.
PHNOM PENH | Mon May 30, 2011
PHNOM PENH May 30 (Reuters) - Trading on Cambodia's long-awaited stock exchange, which was scheduled to start in July, has been delayed yet again until the end of the year because companies planning listings need more time to comply with regulations, operators said on Monday.
Ek Sonn Chan, director general of state-owned Phnom Penh Water Supply Authority (PPWSA), said there were many details still to be ironed out but his company was going ahead with plans for a $20 million flotation.
"It's going to be a small offering, about 15 percent," he said, adding the company did not need the money for expansion. Rather, its listing was to help set ground rules for other companies wanting an Initial Public Offering (IPO).
Han Kyung-tae, managing director of Tong Yang Securities (Cambodia), which is helping PPWSA and state owned Telecom Cambodia to prepare listings, said the Cambodia Securities Exchange (CSX) already had systems and a platform in place, and there would be a "soft launch" on July 11.
"It's not going to be an easy task but as an underwriter, I am positive for a first IPO at the end of this year," Han Kyung-tae said.
In a statement posted on its website on Monday, the Finance Ministry said it was following the experience of other countries that had launched their market first so that it would have time to prepare for securities trading later.
At least 10 private companies want to list on the bourse besides state-owned PPWSA, Telecom Cambodia and Sihanoukville Autonomous Port, according to a government official, who declined to provide further details.
The stock exchange will quote share prices in the local riel currency , despite pleas from foreign investors who would prefer dollars because that would make it easier to assess risk.
The bulk of Cambodia's financial transactions are in dollars, which make up 90 percent of deposits and credits in the banking system in one of Asia's poorest countries.
The Securities and Exchange Commission of Cambodia has granted licences to 15 securities firms to operate on the CSX -- seven underwriters, four brokers, two investment advisers and two dealers, most of them partly or wholly owned by Malaysian, Vietnamese, Japanese, South Korean or U.S. companies. (Reporting by Prak Chan Thul; Editing by Alan Raybould)
By Bloomberg News
May 30, 2011
The value of bad loans at Vietnamese banks may increase as borrowers’ cash flows weaken because of higher interest rates, Moody’s Investors Service said today.
Vietnamese banks for which information was available from annual reports in English booked a higher value of non- performing loans as of the end of 2010 compared with a year earlier, Moody’s said in a note today.
“This trend is continuing,” wrote Christine Kuo, a Singapore-based senior credit officer for Moody’s. “The increase reflected weakening corporate cash flows as a result of lower profits owing to rising costs and higher debt-service burdens because of rising interest rates.”
Vietnam’s central bank this month increased its repurchase rate to 15 percent, up from 14 percent previously and from 10 percent at the beginning of the year. Lending rates at commercial banks have climbed as high as 28 percent, VinaCapital Investment Management Ltd. said last week.
Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung said in February that the government will aim to curb credit growth at less than 20 percent this year, down from an earlier target of 23 percent.
“A slower pace of credit expansion will help control inflation, benefiting banks’ funding and asset quality,” wrote Kuo. Vietnam’s year-on-year inflation rate in May reached 19.78 percent, the highest in more than two years.
“While tighter credit will lead to rising non-performing loans this year and possibly next year, lower credit growth will encourage banks to focus on better borrowers,” Kuo wrote.
--Jason Folkmanis in Ho Chi Minh City. Editor: Tony Jordan
To contact the reporter on this story: Jason Folkmanis in Ho Chi Minh City at firstname.lastname@example.org
Seven land rights and religious freedom activists went on trial in Vietnam on Monday on subversion charges which US lawmakers decried as a "stain" on the country's rights record.
Three of the accused, who are being tried by a court in southern Ben Tre province, are members of US-based opposition group Viet Tan, said the organisation, also known as the Vietnam Reform Party.
The defendants are all land rights activists and include a 52-year-old Mennonite pastor who is a veteran advocate on behalf of dispossessed farmers in the Mekong Delta, Viet Tan said. Two others are also Mennonite evangelists.
Most were arrested between July and November last year, Viet Tan said, adding that all are charged under Penal Code Article 79 based on their "affiliation" with the opposition group.
The charge of attempting to "overthrow the people's administration" is punishable by jail or a death sentence upon conviction.
Viet Tan calls itself non-violent and pro-democracy, but Vietnam -- a one-party communist state -- calls it a "terrorist group".
Land disputes and complaints that residents have been cheated out of compensation have become the most common cause of protests in Vietnam, a mainly rural country that is rapidly industrialising.
In a letter Thursday to Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung, five members of the US Congress described the case as "a stain on your government's increasingly troublesome religious freedom record".
The letter, led by Republican Representative Ed Royce, expressed hope that the charges against the "peaceful" activists would be dismissed.
Amnesty International has said dozens of peaceful political critics have been sentenced to long prison terms since Vietnam launched a crackdown on free expression in late 2009.
Vietnam says it has achieved significant progress on human rights.
30 May 2011
Vietnam's foreign ministry has accused China of increasing regional tensions in an escalating territorial dispute.
A rare weekend news briefing followed a confrontation in the South China Sea between a Vietnamese oil and gas survey ship and Chinese patrol boats.
Vietnam says the boats deliberately cut the survey ship's cables in Vietnamese waters. China denies the allegation.
China, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan all claim territories in the South China Sea.
The area includes an important shipping route and is also thought to contain oil and gas deposits.
The spat comes just days before a regional security conference in Singapore.
Beijing said its defence minister would attend the International Institute of Strategic Studies to promote co-operation and stability in the Asia Pacific region.'High speed'
The latest clash involving Chinese patrol boats occurred 120km (80 miles) off the south-central coast of Vietnam and some 600km south of China's Hainan island.
"The Vietnamese navy will do everything necessary to firmly protect peace and the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Vietnam," foreign ministry spokeswoman Nguyen Phuong Nga said.
One of three Chinese patrol vessels on the scene intentionally cut a submerged cable towed by the ship, the Binh Minh 02, said Do Van Hau, deputy chief executive of state oil and gas group PetroVietnam, which was operating the ship.
"Chinese vessels were at very high speed and did not respond to our ship's warning and then cut the cables of the Binh Minh 02, about 2km from where it was positioned," he said.
China's foreign ministry blamed Vietnam for the incident, saying its oil and gas operations "undermined China's interests and jurisdictional rights".
China's claim in the South China Sea is by far the largest, and includes the Spratly and Paracel archipelagos.
Taiwan recently said it would improve the defence capability of more than 100 coastguard troops stationed in a disputed area of the South China Sea.
Taiwan's decision was announced shortly after the Philippines increased the pressure recently by lodging a protest at the United Nations against China's claims to the area.
Last year, China sharply rebuked US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton when she said the US supported the freedom of navigation in the area and offered to facilitate multilateral talks on the disputes.
May 30, 2011
PHNOM PENH -- Some 300 Cambodian tobacco-free activists on Monday gathered here to mark the World No Tobacco Day and called for the government to raise taxes on tobacco products in order to discourage smokers.
"Tax increases for cigarettes will be the most effective means to reduce the number of death caused by tobacco use," Mom Kong, the executive director of the NGO-Cambodia Movement for Health, said at the event. "Moreover, the increase will generate more tax revenues for the state coffer."
Ho Naun, the National Assembly's chairwoman of the Commission on Public Health and Social Welfares, expressed her full support for the demand.
"I believe that it's a major measure to discourage smokers," she said.
According to the statistics of the planning ministry, currently, nearly 2 million out of the country's 7.5 million Cambodian adults have been consuming smoke or smokeless tobacco (betel quid).
It is estimated that about 99 million U.S. dollars have been spent on cigarettes and tobacco annually in Cambodia.
Editor: Zhang Xiang
May 30, 2011
(VOV) - Zero tax rates are applied to selected products imported from Cambodia, according to a circular from the Ministry of Finance (MoF).
Selected products must have Certificates of Origin Form S issued by Cambodia’s authorized agencies to be allowed through the pairs of border gates agreed between the Vietnamese Ministry of Industry and Trade (MoIT) and the Cambodian Ministry of Commerce.
They must meet regulations on quotas following the instructions of the MoIT.
The MoF’s circular took effect at the same time with the agreement signed between Vietnam’s MoIT and Cambodia’s Ministry of Commerce as from November 1, 2010.
Despite initial hiccups and in true Asean spirit, he said, both parties had agreed to refer the dispute to the International Court of Justice (ICJ).
"The last few months have been rather challenging for Asean. Tensions in the Cambodian-Thai border have caused a great deal of concern in the region, and this was evident during the recent Asean Summit in Jakarta.
"In seven hours' time, Cambodian and Thai advocates will begin to argue their cases in The Hague," he said in his keynote address at the 25th Asia-Pacific Rountable here.
Also present at the three-day roundtable organised by the Asean-Institutes of Strategic and International Studies (Asean-Isis), a network of leading think-tanks in Southeast Asia, was the Raja Muda of Perak, Raja Dr Nazrin Shah.
Muhyiddin said the peaceful resolution of conflicts was the bedrock of Asean as embodied in the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation (TAC).
"Even when it may seem expedient to use force, Asean member states have taken the laborious path to peace and upholding the TAC. We must remain vigilant and reaffirm our commitment to this tradition.
"If Asean member states don't take the TAC seriously, we shouldn't expect the other signatories to do so. We have a moral duty to lead by example, and thereby binding signatories such as China, India, the European Union, Japan and the United States to their pledges on the non-use of force in the settlement of disputes," he said.
He was also heartened that in the case of the South China Sea dispute, China had shown its willingness to work with Asean to formulate a code of conduct (COC).
"A binding and working COC will go a long way towards ensuring stability in the South China Sea. We hope that this momentum will lead to meaningful steps towards the resolution of the dispute," he said.
"There's no better affirmation of the strong ties between Asean and China than a peaceful and expeditious resolution to our overlapping claims in the South China Sea," noted Muhyiddin.
The deputy prime minister was also delighted that this year marked the 20th anniversary of Asean's dialogue relations with China, saying that the ties had grown from strength to strength as the region reaped the benefits of China's phenomenal economic growth.
"We recall with gratitude when Beijing refrained from devaluing the yuan during the turbulent years of the Asian financial crisis of the late 1990s. A friend in need is a friend indeed, and China has proven to be a very good friend," he said.
Muhyiddin said that for some, China's rapid development had caused a certain degree of unease.
He said: "The People's Liberation Army's efforts to modernise its equipment and doctrine have generated a great deal of discussion about China's growing strengths.
"But rather than speculating on Beijing's designs and intentions in the region, we would be better served by recognising the strategic adjustments that have to be made in accommodating China's re-emergence as a major power."
Muhyiddin said he was confident that Asean's role at the centre of regional cooperation would continue to grow in importance, especially as the world's strategic centre of gravity shifts towards Asia.
He also pointed out that in about four and a half years, Asean would mark yet another milestone with the construction of the Asean highway network and Singapore-Kunming rail link under the Asean Connectivity Master Plan.
By all accounts, he said, intra-regional trade had grown and would continue to grow, with the movement of goods set to be easier than in any time in history.
"These are very important building blocks towards the realisation of the Asean Community. It's a development that I believe will significantly enhance Southeast Asia's economic growth and integration," he added.
May 30, 2011
Source: Monsters and Critics
Vientiane - Laos and Cambodia have agreed to discuss border issues, including surveying and addressing drug trafficking in the remote area, the state-run Vientiane Times newspaper reported Monday.
The two governments agreed to more work related to border surveys and demarcation, the daily said.
Other measures included improving collaboration between border agencies and improving border facilities to help maintain order and make legal crossings easier.
The countries share a 540-kilometre border in a region where the Mekong River flows from Laos into Cambodia.
PHNOM PENH, May 30 (Xinhua) -- Cambodia is scheduled to inaugurate the long-awaited Cambodia Securities Exchange (CSX) on July 11, according to the statement of the finance ministry released to the media on Monday.
And the first securities trading will begin towards the end of 2011, added the statement dated on May 26.
The ministry explained that the above two different dates being planned are based on the experience of some countries, which scheduled the start of the securities market operator first, in order for this operator to have enough time in preparing the process of the first securities training.
The CSX is a securities market operator, a securities clearing and settlement facility operator, and a depository operator.
The head-office of the CSX is located in the kingdom's tallest building, Canadia Tower in Phnom Penh.
Three state-owned enterprises--Sihanoukville Autonomous Port, Telecom Cambodia and Phnom Penh Water Supply Authority--have been preparing IPO (Initial Public Offering) to list in the upcoming CSX.
The plan to open CSX was initiated by Korean Exchange in 2007.
Editor: Xiong Tong
Despite an average income of $650, Cambodians enjoy arguably the most competitive mobile market in the world. Still, the eight operators’ numbers don’t add up.
Photo Credit: Matt Wakeman
Ngo Menghorn is a typical student in Phnom Penh. Like many 23-year-olds in the Cambodian capital, he owns a motorbike, more than one mobile phone and goes through SIM cards like they’re going out of fashion.
‘I don’t remember how many SIMs I’ve used because I always change them out,’ he says, adding that he has probably brought at least 40 in his two years as a mobile user.
His preferred network Mobitel—currently number two by market share—sells SIM cards for less than the value of credit each provides. Mobitel sells SIMs for 5,500 riels each ($1.35) loaded with $6 in call credit amid fierce competition for customers. The catch is credit is only good for a week unless the user upgrades to a more expensive call plan.
‘It’s hard to contact me because I always change my SIM card,’ admits Menghorn, adding he has taken advantage of promotions on eight different Cambodian operators.
Emptying his pockets, three SIM cards fall out, not including the one in use in his pink Nokia handset. Menghorn’s mobile usage habits in a market of eight operators—this in a country with a population of 15 million people who have an average annual income of just $650, according to the World Bank—are typical.
‘(Before) when companies had promotions…they distributed SIMs for free,’ says Seng Bopha, whose family runs two mobile phone shops in central Phnom Penh. It’s a business model that attempts to attract customers with cheap tariffs in the hope they’ll stay loyal. And although many users stick to the same network used by friends and family members to take advantage of low in-network rates, constantly rotating SIMs, cost-conscious users like Menghorn switch between networks on an almost a weekly basis.
With so many operators competing just to stay alive, attractive promotions are never ending. Typical off-network rates outside of special offers range from $0.05 to $0.08 per minute, but call rates are meaningless because callers rarely pay them. Just over four years ago in-network calls cost $0.20 per minute in Cambodia prior to an influx of new operators in early 2009.
‘Most observers say Cambodia is the most competitive (mobile phone market) in the world,’ says Simon Perkins, CEO of Hello, a Cambodian subsidiary of Kuala Lumpur-based operator Axiata.
Only neighbouring Laos, with four operators and a population of six million, and Hong Kong with its six operators competing for nearly nine million people, come close to Cambodia in terms of mobile phone markets in the region, analysts say.
Although Posts and Telecommunications Minister So Khun claims 86 percent penetration in Cambodia based on the data submitted by the country’s operators, most industry observers agree there are anywhere between five and six million active users, more like about 37 percent usage. With so many SIMs floating around as operators remain motivated to inflate user statistics to attract buyers and mergers—and boost their share price in a bid to survive—Cambodia’s mobile numbers simply don’t add up.
Market leader Metfone—owned by Vietnamese military-run Viettel—reported 2.37 million users in October last year, but by the end of December this figure had jumped to 4.22 million. The firm’s public relations department in Phnom Penh didn’t respond to questions on its customer base.
‘The reporting of customer numbers in Cambodia is a problem, with some operators choosing to inflate their numbers to fuel their own rubbish,’ says Perkins, who estimated there are six million active users in the country.
The result of all this is a market losing millions of dollars every year where SIMs, market share and brand names struggle to gain relevance. Mfone, a local subsidiary of Thaicom, lost more than $13 million in Cambodia in 2010 amid ‘a price war and intense competition in the market.’ Beeline, owned by New York Stock Exchange-listed Vimplecom, has racked up losses in Southeast Asia for every quarter since launching in Cambodia in May 2009, its latest financial results showed. And Excell, the lowest-placed operator in Cambodia by users, was registering a market share of zero percent by the end of last year as the Telecoms Ministry calculated data to just one decimal place. Meanwhile, Perkins says average revenues per user (ARPU) have now fallen to $3 or less per month in Cambodia when the ‘nonsensical user numbers’ are factored in. India, considered to have among the lowest ARPU rates in Asia, registers about $7 for every user each month.
So just how did things get so bad for business in Cambodia’s mobile industry? After all, the country’s economy grew 6 percent in 2010, according to the International Monetary Fund, and is forecast to accelerate to about 6.5 percent GDP growth this year.
‘The government didn’t price spectrum,’ says one long-time observer of Cambodia’s mobile industry, requesting anonymity. Instead, the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications (MPTC) simply doled out operating licences as part of a closed, opaque process, he says, adding that this has left the government facing accusations of corruption.
In March, Deputy Prime Minister Nhek Bun Chhay acknowledged one of his advisers served as a paid representative of a company that transferred a 3G licence to a Hong Kong-based firm from which he had been accused of receiving bribes. His case has been brought to the attention of Cambodia’s new Anticorruption Unit.
‘The policy of the government is to increase usage and decrease the price of mobile phones,’ said Telecoms Minister So Khun in response to allegations of government corruption. ‘The procedures for bidding are different from one country to another.’
As operators search for solutions and users enjoy among the cheapest call rates on the planet, Cambodia’s mobile industry is now entering a critical shake-up. Two smaller firms, Smart Mobile and Star Cell, merged in January, bringing the number of operators down to eight. Meanwhile, So Khun says the government might in June finally pass a telecoms law that has been stuck in the drafting phase for about a decade amid disagreement within the government and with the private sector. The new legislation would establish a separate regulator and detail rules on mergers and acquisitions, which some operators complain have remained hazy for too long, stalling market consolidation.
‘(M&A) policy from MPTC is still unclear,’ says Thaicom’s Managing Director of International Business Atip Rithaporn.
Once the market does start to consolidate it’s anyone’s guess how many operators will survive. So Khun predicts ‘about six’ would be left, while the market observer previously mentioned suggested ‘two to three is the maximum long-term.’
With newly-merged Smart Mobile, Mfone, Hello and Beeline all claiming the number-three spot in the past year, and new 4G network Emaxx launching in 2012, the stakes in Cambodia’s feverishly competitive mobile phone market couldn’t be higher.
Steve Finch is a Phnom Penh-based freelance journalist. His articles have also appeared in The Washington Post, TIME.com, Foreign Policy, The Phnom Penh Post and The Bangkok Post.
By Stephen Magagnini
There are many paths to happiness and enlightenment, and several converged Sunday at Sacramento Buddha Day, the 2,600th anniversary of Buddha's birth, death and moment of enlightenment.
Punctuated by gongs, chants and lion dancers, the virtual United Nations of Buddhism convened at the Kim Quang Temple, 3119 Alta Arden Expressway.
"Only in America can all these different cultural traditions come together and form a new American Buddhism," said Beth Johnson of Sacramento's River Song Meditation school. "The main benefit of practicing Buddhism is to reduce your experience of suffering, move toward happiness and be a benefit to others. Buddha's teachings are still bringing as much benefit today as they did 2,600 years ago."
Several thousand spiritual seekers could sample Theravada ("Way of the Elders") – the more traditional form of Buddhism practiced in Sri Lanka and Southeast Asia – or Mahayana ("Great Vehicle"), a newer, scholarly version.
Also available was Vajrayana, a Mahayana variation practiced in Tibet, the Himalayas, Bhutan, Mongolia and parts of eastern Russia, explained Kishore Scherchand, a Nepalese Buddhist scholar.
Let's not forget Zen Buddhism, a strict Mahayana variation practiced in Japan and the United States that emphasizes emptying your mind and thinking about nothing, explained Sacramento Buddhist teacher Ravi Verma. "You're supposed to sit in front of a wall and not move for as long as five hours, so when you work very hard at it, you can become suddenly enlightened."
An immigrant from Bodhgaya, India, where Buddha found enlightenment under the Bodhi Tree, Verma said, "Buddhism did not convert people – people converted Buddhism and gave it the flavors of the local customs."
Sacramento's rich melting pot has allowed him "to sample all these traditions and take the best of each."
Verma's nonprofit One Bodhi Tree assists a local senior center. He's among a growing number of socially engaged Buddhists, a more secular variation found in America.
"It's more meditational, and many don't visit the temple," Scherchand said. "It's more likely practiced inside your living room."
Though some adherents of Theravada have clashed with Mahayanas over whose tradition offers the true Dharma (or method leading us to human perfection), the core beliefs are the same.
All believe life is suffering and everything's impermanent and in a state of constant change. Each sect shares the five precepts: Don't kill (that's why many Buddhists are vegetarians); don't take what's not given; abstain from sexual misconduct, having sex without a long-term relationship; abstain from false speech; abstain from intoxicants that make you heedless. "If you sit in front of the TV without taking care of your responsibilities, that is a form of intoxication," Verma said.
Buddhism's nonjudgmental: You judge yourself and make choices based on what you believe will cause the least harm. "Buddha said, 'Don't believe anything just because somebody in robes tells you,' " Varma said.
Meditation – a way to have more control over your thoughts, cravings and attachments – plays a key role in all forms of Buddhism.
To free yourself from anger, emotional reactions and stress, five minutes of mediation daily "is much more beneficial than sitting Sunday for an hour," said Linda Thorell of Sacramento's Lion's Roar Dharma Center, who led a meditation exercise.
To calm, relax and empty your mind, focus on your natural breathing by counting to 10, Thorell said, and if your mind wanders, start over.
"The first few months, your mind goes berserk thinking about phone calls, emails," Verma said. "It took me a year before I started seeing the benefits. Now I'm addicted."
Verma has also limited his teenage sons' cellphone and Facebook usage "because the more distracted you are, the more you suffer."
Chanting is a form of meditation. Kimberly Pell of the Buddhist Church of Sacramento says her practice of "Pure Land Buddhism" expresses gratitude by reciting the Zen chant, "namo amida butsu," meaning "I bow to the Buddha, or take refugee in Amida Buddha," an aspect of Buddhism representing wisdom and compassion.
Parakrama Gurusinghe, president of the Sri Lankan Buddhist Temple of West Sacramento, explained that he and other Theravadas are striving to become enlightened to break the cycles of birth, death and rebirth.
Many ethnic Buddhists practice by going to the temple and giving money and food to priests who read texts, chant and meditate for them, Verma said.
"I believe you can't get over your suffering unless you work for others. And some Buddhists who reach enlightenment can control how they die and can come back specifically to help others."
The charred earth left by campfires is one of the few signs that thousands of Vietnamese ethnic minority Hmong took over a remote community in early May awaiting their "messiah."
Yet many questions surrounding the incident continue to burn, and critics say government attitudes to religion are partly to blame for the country's worst known case of ethnic tension in about a decade.
Crowds of the Hmong, a mainly Christian group, camped for a week around two hillocks in the far northwest of the communist nation in what has been labelled a cult.
Although the devotees' motivation was apparently sincere, they were inspired by leaders preaching "a toxic blend" of separatism and millennialism, mixed with traditional belief in a Hmong king coming as a saviour, said a foreign diplomat.
The gathering in Dien Bien province was eventually dispersed with help from security forces, sources said, but restricted access and information has kept details hazy concerning both the Hmong intentions and the authorities' response.
"Why did they bring up the riot police and the military?" the Hanoi-based diplomat said on condition of anonymity, calling the response "heavy-handed".
"They've just been very non-transparent across the board in dealing with the issue," the diplomat added, questioning why communist authorities waited three weeks to allow foreign journalists into the area.
A team of AFP reporters made the trip to Huoi Khon village under government control on Friday, but was not allowed to conduct independent interviews or to make the journey alone.
Officials have said the Hmong were lured by unidentified "individuals with ill intentions" who spread rumours that a "king" would arrive and lead them to a promised land.
According to the British-based religious freedom group Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), the Hmong have "a mythical belief in their culture that a 'messiah' figure will appear and found a Hmong kingdom."
They and other sources said the prophecy of US radio preacher Harold Camping, who claimed the world would end on May 21, was a key to the gathering's timing.
The result was the country's worst case of ethic tension since about 2,000 Montagnards fled to Cambodia in 2001 and 2004 after troops crushed protests in the Central Highlands.
Ethnic relations can still be a sensitive matter in Vietnam, where a 2009 World Bank report cited "widespread cultural stereotypes" as a factor in the high poverty rate among ethnic minorities compared with the majority Kinh group.
Some of the Hmong, a Southeast Asian ethnic group, helped US forces against North Vietnam during the secret wartime campaign in neighbouring Laos, and faced retribution after the communist takeover.
"They are not seen as loyal citizens... and many Hmong view themselves as Hmong first, Vietnamese second," said CSW.
From the provincial capital Dien Bien, the gathering site at Huoi Khon village is reached by a stomach-churning six-hour drive snaking through forested mountains in one of Vietnam's poorest regions.
Ly A Tinh, who lives in the hamlet of four houses, said the Hmong sealed off two hills for their gathering. "My wife and children wanted to get vegetables but they did not let them get through," he said.
The remains of what appeared to be at least seven campfires could still be seen on one of the hills, where holes had been punched into the earth, suggesting crude structures had been built.
Discarded instant noodle wrappers, a small packet of shampoo and a torn piece of traditional cloth were among garbage left behind.
Officials say they persuaded the Hmong to return home, giving them transport and financial assistance.
"I would like to reaffirm that we didn't use any form of violence and force to deal with the situation," said Giang Thi Hoa, vice-chairwoman of the provincial government.
A military source however told AFP that "minor clashes" occurred after the army sent reinforcements, while one resident said hundreds who feared arrest fled into the forest after security forces told the crowd to disperse.
The resident said many remained in the area until well after the government said things had returned to normal, finally going home after the messiah did not appear on May 21.
On Friday, AFP saw a military truck loaded with armed soldiers travelling away from Muong Nhe district where the Hmong gathered.
It was not clear what the troops' mission was but the truck's tell-tale red army licence plate had been obscured, and the soldiers were concealed under a tarpaulin.
Provincial officials say seven unnamed people who "reacted aggressively" have been detained for investigation, and outsiders agree the government had reason to be concerned.
A call for autonomy would be a "red flag" to security officials, according to Australia-based Vietnam analyst Carl Thayer.
Christian and other Hmong "have borne the brunt of discrimination by local authorities", he added.
PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) — As the sun sets and the last tourist departs his vast, fairy-tale palace, the gentle, dignified man is left almost alone with memories of happier times, before he became the reluctant king of Cambodia — and perhaps its last.
King Norodom Sihamoni may be heir to a royal line trailing back some 2,000 years, but he always seemed more suited to the arts scene in Europe, where he was a ballet dancer, than the rough and tumble politics of his homeland. Now, close aides and experts say, he has become figuratively, and more, a prisoner in his own palace.
The chief warden: Prime Minister Hun Sen, who rose from a poor rural background to become a brilliant and crafty, some say ruthless, politician.
Hun Sen consolidated power in a 1997 coup as Cambodia slowly emerged from being dragged into the Vietnam War and its own civil war. While the country is nominally democratic, he uses all the machinery of government to lock up critics and ensure his re-election. Human rights groups allege that he and his business friends are enriching themselves, while most of the population remains mired in poverty.
His control extends over the palace. The king is surrounded by the government's watchdogs, overseen by Minister of Royal Affairs Kong Som Ol, an official close to Hun Sen. Sihamoni is closely chaperoned on his few trips outside palace walls, with the media kept away. Although the constitution endows him with considerable powers, these have never been granted.
"I think we can use the words 'puppet king.' His power has been reduced to nothing," says Son Chhay, an opposition member of Parliament and one of the government's few outspoken critics. "The king must please the prime minister as much as possible in order to survive. It is sad to see."
It wasn't always so. Sihamoni's flamboyant and charismatic father, Norodom Sihanouk, bestrode the country like a colossus for decades. Many regarded him as a god-king, and thousands flocked to the plaza fronting the Royal Palace for fireworks and other lavish celebrations on his birthday.
Sihanouk abruptly abdicated in 2004 following confrontations with Hun Sen. Son Chhay and others say Sihamoni accepted the crown under pressure from parents hoping to ensure the survival of the monarchy.
Seven years later, "sad, lonely, abandoned" are words sympathetic Cambodians often use when describing Sihamoni. The 58-year-old monarch spends much of each day signing documents, receiving guests and handling other routine business, then retires mostly to dine alone and read, says Prince Sisowath Thomico, Sihanouk's private secretary and an adviser to his son.
Unlike his father, who had six wives and numerous lovers, Sihamoni is a lifelong bachelor and unlikely to leave an heir.
His birthday passed recently with little notice. Within the palace's crenelated walls, among the graceful pavilions and gilt spires, there was no sign of activity. Outside, knots of people went about their normal evening pastimes at the grassy, riverfront square, feeding pigeons, lounging on reed mats and snacking on lotus seeds and noodles.
"The king is a good, gentle man, a symbol of Cambodia. But he has one problem: no power. He only stays inside the palace. On television the leaders bow down before him but behind his back there is no respect," said Sin Chhay, a young civil servant at the plaza. "You could say that Hun Sen is the real king of Cambodia."
Information Minister Khieu Kanharith insists the king is involved in social and religious affairs and judicial reviews, receives a monthly report from Hun Sen on government activities and makes recommendations on them.
"The current King Sihamoni has played an important role in restoring the ... monarchy. As a king and symbol of national unity he maintains strict neutrality and doesn't become involved in any political activities," he said. "To say that he's a prisoner in the palace would be inappropriate."
Sihamoni, a former ballet dancer and cultural ambassador, spent 25 years in Czechoslovakia and France. That European past, Western diplomats say, is his great escape.
He returns regularly to what is now the Czech Republic, calling it "my second homeland," and has said his time in Prague "belongs to the happiest in my life." Fluent in the language — which reportedly vexes his keepers trying to eavesdrop on conversations with Czech visitors — he avidly reads Czech theater reviews and savors DVDs of ballets and operas.
He keeps in close touch with the family that cared for him after he arrived in the Czech capital at age 9. Thirteen years later, he graduated from Prague's Academy of Musical Art.
Shortly after, he joined his parents, who were being kept under virtual house arrest within the palace by the brutal Khmer Rouge government, which came to power after defeating a U.S.-backed government in 1975. Sihamoni worked in the palace gardens and cleaned out the throne hall.
An estimated 1.7 million people died during the Khmer Rouge reign of terror, including more than a dozen of Sihanouk's children and relatives.
Three decades later, the country is still coming to terms with that period. A U.N.-assisted tribunal is trying a handful of the surviving leaders of the Khmer Rouge, but the trials have been plagued by long delays and corruption allegations.
Sihamoni has had only ceremonial involvement with the tribunal. Any deeper association would irritate both Hun Sen and Sihanouk, who for a time allied himself with the Khmer Rouge but has also supported the trials.
After the fall of the Khmer Rouge, Sihanouk went to Paris, from where he backed resistance against a Vietnamese-installed government that replaced it.
Sihamoni also went to the French capital and stayed on even after his father was restored as king in 1993. He taught, performed and choreographed classical Cambodian dance as well as Western ballet and served as ambassador to the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.
He gave up this much-cherished life to become king in 2004.
The king's high privy councilor, Son Soubert, who is aligned with one of the two small opposition parties with parliamentary seats, says the government has blocked passage of two constitutional provisions: the formation of a potentially powerful Supreme Council of National Defense headed by the king, and an annual National Congress that would continue the tradition of citizens appealing directly to the monarch.
Commenting on the congress, the information minister said that in today's Cambodia such a meeting would be a mess and powerless to override any decisions made by an elected National Assembly.
Some question just how much power Sihamoni wants to wield or is capable of exercising.
"If he were to try to take a political role I have no doubt Hun Sen would act to diminish him and the monarchy generally almost immediately. Which is why he is effectively a prisoner in the palace," says Milton Osborne, an Australian historian and author of a Sihanouk biography. "He could very well be the last king of Cambodia."
Prince Sisowath Thomico, the adviser, insists there is no animosity between king and prime minister and says Cambodia's monarchy has merely entered a new stage, shedding its political role.
"The king now serves as a guardian of the past, of tradition, the moral character of Cambodia and points the way ahead for future generations," he says. "We leave the present to the government."
By most accounts, Sihamoni is still largely respected, especially in the countryside. He is probably considered less relevant in urban areas, especially among an extremely young population — the median age is about 23 — that was not around during Sihanouk's heyday, before violence engulfed the country.
Prince Norodom Ranarridh, who heads a pro-monarchy party, believes Cambodians are "still royalists at heart" and holds a nuanced view of his half brother.
The king doesn't exercise his prerogatives under the constitution to avoid jeopardizing an institution he regards as more important than himself, Ranarridh said. At the same time, Sihamoni's personality is unassertive, so he falls comfortably into the role of doing the minimum.
"So both the king and prime minister are very happy with the situation. It is some kind of a gentlemen's agreement," the prince says, laughing.
But he adds: "I don't think my brother is very happy. He would like to be somewhere else."
Associated Press writer Grant Peck in Bangkok contributed to this story.
Participants of "Walk the World", the ninth year it has been held in Singapore to raise awareness and funds for child hunger, surpassed the target of S$60,000 for the School Feeding Programme in Cambodia.
The morning event that began in Dalbergia Green in East Coast Park was conducted across 41 countries this year.
Since 2002, TNT Express has invested more than US$50 million (S$61.8 million) in the partnership with the World Food Programme. Those who wish to contribute to the cause can log on to www.movingtheworld.org. SHARON SEE
30 May, 2011
While in Hanoi on a research trip in November 2010, I visited Dr. Andrew Hardy, head of the Hanoi branch of École française d'Extrême-Orient (French School of Asian Studies: EFEO).
EFEO was the same renowned archaeological organization that was instrumental in excavating and preserving the ancient ruins of Champa (Vietnam) and Angkor (Cambodia).
As we chatted over tea in his office, surrounded by an extensive library of scholarly manuscripts, I felt like I was in the opening scenes of an Indiana Jones film, back at Marshall College and being prepped for my next adventure.
Dr. Hardy explained that over the last five years, he and a team of archaeologists had uncovered a rampart spanning 127.4 kilometers, beginning in Quang Ngai Province (central Vietnam) and winding its way through mountains, jungles and farmland, south into the province of Binh Dinh.
Built in 1819, the “Long Wall of Quang Ngai” was the longest monument in Southeast Asia and the most important archaeological discovery in Vietnam for the past century.
I was already planning to head south in a few days. I couldn’t resist the opportunity to try to find the wall myself.
Spirits and Swastikas: Journey into Hrê territory
As my train neared the ancient port town of Hoi An, I encountered the worst rainy-season flooding that I’d ever seen. The train glided across churning brown seas.
Lotuses and swastikas, adorning the tip of submerged tombs, poked out from the waves.
A friend of mine named Bich met me at the station in Quang Ngai City. There were neither maps of the wall nor any signs at the time, and most of the wall wasn’t accessible by road, so he would help me find my way.
We drove through forested hills and small villages, passing Hrê longhouses on stilts. Thatched roofs hung over latticed walls backed by woven grass mats.
Spirit alters laden with fruit stood by the road, resting atop tall bamboo stalks and decorated with tufts of grass.
Dr. Hardy had told me that the Hrê ethnic minority might have built the Long Wall in cooperation with the Vietnamese, partitioning the two communities for the purpose of mutual security and regulation of trade.
The Outpost at 'Deo Chim Hut'
Heavy rain made the drive difficult. A flash flood destroyed the bridge ahead so we took a long detour over the mountains at Deo Chim Hut (Sucking Bird Winding Road).
As I drove we heard rocks tumbling and trees snapping on the slopes above. Landslides crisscrossed over the road ahead. Bich nervously suggested we turn back and ask directions before proceeding, which turned out to be fortuitous.
A farmer showed us that the very wall we were looking for was just behind the road, hidden by foliage. A few ancient pottery shards lay scattered on the ground. Ceramics were among the many items traded along the wall.
I stood on the cornerstone of a ruined fort near the wall. Armies of black biting ants ran up and down the thorny tree beside me.
My eyes followed the two-meter-high stone wall down into the valley. I wondered what it was like to be a soldier guarding this post, almost two centuries ago, at the edge of a jungle inhabited then by elephants and man-eating tigers.
Up to our knees with snake and sickle
Next we drove south to Thien Xuan Village, parked our motorbike and waded across a river.
A green vine snake dropped out of the tree in front of me. The mildly venomous snake’s exaggeratedly long, pointed snout pushed through the tall grass, reminding me there may be more dangerous creatures lurking in the undergrowth.
We soon arrived at a four-meter-high stretch of the wall, this time made of earth, and followed it for an hour through flooded farmland and rice fields, wading up to our knees.
Water buffaloes wallowed in mud as farmers tended to their rice in the distance, below forested mountain peaks. This will be a spectacular hike I thought, once there is a decent trail.
I stopped to talk to a farmer but jumped back when, clearly mentally disturbed, he raised a long, sharp sickle above his head. With his other outstretched hand he kept chanting “Money, money.”
I gave him a few bills, hoping to diffuse the situation, and we turned to leave. For the next 20 minutes he followed behind as though in a trance, hand outstretched and sickle held high in the air, until we managed to lose him at the river.
We hopped on the motorbike and drove back to Quang Ngai City. Reflecting on the day’s adventure, I hoped to return to the great wall soon; once more infrastructure is in place.
Although there were a few challenges at the time, the wall has the potential to be one of Southeast Asia’s greatest tourism assets.
Editor’s Note: The Long Wall of Quang Ngai was designated a National Heritage Monument on March 9 and an inauguration ceremony was held on May 8. Four archaeological sites at the wall have now been signposted along nearby roads, making it no longer necessary to wander through the underbrush in order to visit the wall. Intensive discussions are now underway between the government and international experts regarding how to conserve and sustainably develop the wall and surrounding countryside for tourism.
Bambang Hartadi Nugroho, Jakarta
The Cambodia-Thailand territorial dispute and violent conflict has remained a widely discussed topic, not only during the recent ASEAN summit, but also at the ASEAN Civil Society Conference (ACSC)/ASEAN Peoples’ Forum (APF).
The growing concern is due to the fact that the quarrel between the two neighboring countries has marred the image of the organization and may destabilize the region, not to mention its impacts on civilians who live near the disputed area.
As reported, the discussion of this issue during the summit was not an easy process. Both parties disagreed over many alternatives of peaceful settlement offered by members of the group.
Yet in the end they finally agreed that Indonesia as the chair of ASEAN would play a role as an observer and mediator.
Without any intention to underestimate the effort and role that the Indonesian government, in particular the Foreign Ministry, has played so far, we have to realize that there will be many limits for Indonesia to carry out its job.
Those obstacles arise due to the nature of observer’s role itself and the fact that Indonesia is the only one playing the role. In the end, these limitations may also determine the success or failure of this process.
To begin with, in a spectrum line which represents the role, authority and equipment of peacekeeping efforts, an observer is located at the far left of the line, with peacekeeping missions in the middle and peace enforcement forces at the far right.
As the role of peacekeeping operation is to maintain a cease-fire by creating a buffer zone between both conflicting sides and peace enforcement to compel disputants to a cease-fire, an observer has neither the role nor authority.
Its role is purely to observe and report the situation without any intention to create a buffer zone. This is also due to the fact that an observer mission usually has no military equipment whatsoever that can be used to defend itself, let alone force both sides to stop fighting.
Moreover, unlike peacekeeping and peace enforcement missions whose members are mostly military personnel, an observer mission at most times consists of civilians.
Even one person can act as an observer because there is not really much to do in this role.
Such characteristics will by default become the flaws of any observer mission, including in the case of Cambodia-Thailand. While Indonesia’s observer team was not established, let alone present, it barely could do anything when the skirmish between troops erupted last April.
Beside its lack of capacity to urge both sides to lay down arms, the observer’s mandate would not permit it to do so either. Another limit is the lack of consent from both Cambodia and Thailand in Indonesia’s mediation role.
The initial stance of both sides in resolving the conflict demonstrated a hesitance toward the adoption of a regional mechanism.
Cambodia, at first, bypassed its co-members of ASEAN and called for attention from the UN Security Council to intervene.
Thailand, on the contrary, was very eager to resort to bilateral negotiation. Those initial preferences reflected the parties’ lack of trust in the middleman. In a business of resolving conflicts, trust from the mediated parties is vital. A lack of trust, therefore, will be a major complication toward the peace process.
In this case, the lack of confidence in Indonesia might be a result of the perception that the country was a dominant actor in the region but its ability to manage domestic conflicts was in doubt.
For the parties to trust a third party, they first must be sure on its neutrality. Being neutral does not only mean favoritism on one side, but also freedom of interest.
Naturally, a third party will always be suspected of hiding vested interests. Such suspicion will loom larger when the third party is a “big power”, assuming that it would have more interest in the conflict.
It explains why in most cases around the world where a third party was involved, be that as an observer, peacekeeper, or peace enforcer, major powers such as the US seldom took part.
In the context of the Preah Vihear conflict, Indonesia’s stature as the “regional big power” can weigh in negatively towards its acceptance by Cambodia and Thailand.
Although Indonesia clearly has no particular interest in the disputed territory, it is understandable that the parties may suspect Indonesia is looking for a bigger political leverage within the organization by, for instance, working in favor of one side.
Additionally, Indonesia’s initiative may also be perceived as a breach of sovereignty and a violation of the ASEAN sacrosanct principle of non-interference. Doubts over the Indonesian government’s ability to solve domestic conflicts may also be the root of this trust deficiency.
Although Indonesia managed to resolve major conflicts such as the Aceh rebellion, recent developments at the national level indicate a decline in the government’s ability or will to address conflicts such as separatism in Papua.
With those problems at hand and the ambition to maximize its role as the current ASEAN chair, what Indonesia should do is look beyond the Cambodia-Thailand conflict.
That is to say that instead of focusing only to resolve this conflict, Indonesia must seek to design a proposal for a dispute settlement body. The idea to set up the ASEAN Institute for Peace and Reconciliation is a positive move. However, the institute needs more authority in resolving conflicts instead of issuing recommendations.
For example, it gets to decide which dispute settlement mechanism is to be applied in certain cases, including, when needed, whether observers or a peacekeeping mission are necessary to be sent.
Furthermore, to ensure its impartiality, the institute has to consist of neutral representatives from all ASEAN countries; for instance, academics, prominents of the civil society movements and former diplomats whose experience has been proven but no longer have direct ties with their respective governments.
Intervention in the form of sending peace missions to end the violence and maintain cease-fire is essential because only in that way both sides can start peace talks.
And last but not least, such an intervention is pressing to protect civilians from falling victim to armed conflicts or being affected in any way directly or indirectly. That is, of course, if ASEAN really cares about its people.
The writer is an assistant lecturer in international relations at the University of Indonesia.
Saturday, May 28, 2011
Hot competition continues in Cambodia's mobile sector as market rationalisation begins.
Cambodia has successfully managed its transition into a vibrant telecom market. Despite the country's status as one of the least developed nations in the world and whilst it remains one of the poorer countries in Southeast Asia, Cambodia's efforts to expand and upgrade its telecom infrastructure have certainly been bearing fruit. There was very little infrastructure remaining from before the tumultuous Khmer Rouge days. As a result, Cambodia bypassed rebuilding the fixed-line market and quickly launched into alternative technologies, jump-starting its telecommunications infrastructure with digital technology. Not surprisingly, mobile services have completely overwhelmed the market. By end 2010, there were nine mobile operators vigorously competing with each other in a market segment that was growing at a healthy rate.
Coming into 2011 there were an estimated 8.4 million mobile subscribers (penetration 55%) in the country. The market was still in a very strong expansion phase as evidenced by the keenness shown by foreign operators seeking to be part of it. Most significantly some rationalisation had commenced in the market with two operators merging, thereby reducing the number of operators to eight.
Some limited fixed-line growth had earlier come about in Cambodia through investment under foreign assistance, but this mainly benefited the capital Phnom Penh and geographical coverage has not increased significantly since that effort in the 1990s. The number of fixed-line services remained relatively static for some years at around 50,000; by early 2011 the numbers were starting to edge upwards. In the absence of any substantial fixed-line growth, however, mobile telephone services continue to completely dominate the overall telecom market in Cambodia. In fact mobiles represent more than 99% of the total number of telephone services in the country.
- Cambodia's mobile market continued on its positive expansion path in 2010 and into 2011, although the annual growth was slowing;
- With mobile penetration of around 56% coming into 2011, the market has passed the eight million subscriber milestone;
- Cambodia had nine licensed mobile operators in a crowded, highly competitive market that invited questions about its likely overcrowding and the possible need for some sort of early rationalisation. The expected rationalisation had started in late 2010;
- The development of fixed-line services continues to languish, although the market has picked up a little momentum;
- The internet segment has also been languishing for some time, but there are promising signs that the widespread introduction of wireless broadband services will see a long-term surge in growth;
By 2010 there was evidence that the anticipated surge was starting, after Internet subscriptions grew by almost 100% in 2009.
This report provides an overview of the trends and developments in the telecommunications markets in Cambodia.
Subjects covered include:
- Key statistics;
- Market and industry overviews;
- Major operators (mobile and fixed);
- Regulatory environment;
- Mobile market;
- Internet market;
- Telecom market forecasts for selective years to 2020.
Key Topics Covered:
1. Executive summary
2. Key statistics
3. Country Overview
4. Telecommunications market
5. Regulatory environment
6. Telecommunications infrastructure
7. Internet market
8. Mobile communications
9. Cambodia's broadcasting market
11. Related reports
- Cambodia GSM (MobiTel)
- Hello Axiata (formerly TMIC)
- AZ Communications
- Applifone (Star Cell)
- Smart Mobile (Latelz)
- VimpelCom/Beeline Cambodia
For more information visit http://www.researchandmarkets.com/research/d06dd2/cambodia_telecom
Research and Markets
Laura Wood, Senior Manager,
U.S. Fax: 646-607-1907
Fax (outside U.S.): +353-1-481-1716
Internationally renowned landmine activist Tun Channareth will travel from Cambodia to the United States to accept an honorary doctoral degree from Seattle University at its graduate commencement ceremony in June.
In 1997, Channareth was chosen to accept the Nobel Peace Prize on behalf of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL).
A soldier in 1982 resisting the Khmer Rouge regime, Channareth stepped on a landmine near the Thai–Cambodian border and lost both of his legs. Since then, he has traveled the world as an ambassador of the ICBL, urging governments to make landmines history.
“Mr. Channareth has reached out with compassion in service to other landmine victims, while working tirelessly to rid the world of these insidious weapons,” said Seattle University President Stephen Sundborg, S.J.
“He is an inspiring example to our students of our mission as a university that empowers leaders for a just and humane world.”
Channareth was nominated for the university honor by professors whose students had worked with him during a recent service-learning tour in Siem Reap, Cambodia. To assist Channareth’s work, the students helped raise $2,000 for rural education and health projects.
His advocacy continues every day within his own country, as he spends much of his time working at the Jesuit Service Center in Siem Reap, building and delivering affordable wheelchairs for landmine victims throughout the country.
“I am excited about this honorary degree,” Channareth said. “The real winners are people around the world who are threatened daily by landmines and cluster bombs. The congratulations should go to Seattle University students, faculty, and staff, because they see these global issues and take leadership action.”
Seattle University President Stephen Sundborg described Channareth as an inspiring example to students.
“Mr. Channareth has reached out with compassion in service to other landmine victims while working tirelessly to rid the world of these insidious weapons,” Sundborg said SU’s graduate commencement ceremony is at 3 p.m. on June 12 at KeyArena, Seattle Center. ♦
For more information, visit www.icbl.org.
May 28, 2011
(VOV) - Vietnam is currently implementing rubber growing projects in Cambodia, aiming to plant 100,000 hectares of rubber trees in five Cambodian provinces by 2012.
The projects are part of a trade promotion plan approved by the Prime Ministers of both countries at the Vietnam-Cambodia business conference in April 2011.
A seminar was held in Phnom Penh on May 27 to offer tax reductions and exemptions for businesses involved in rubber growing projects in Cambodia.
Cambodian officials highlighted the significance and benefits of these projects, saying that the projects helped upgrade infrastructure, provide clean water, build houses for workers and pagodas for religious followers, thereby improving local people’s incomes.
UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova Convenes meeting between Cambodia and Thailand to discuss conservation measures for Temple of Preah Vihear World
NESCO has facilitated three days of bilateral and individual consultations between delegations from Cambodia (led by Vice-Prime Minister. Sok An) and Thailand (led by Suwit Khunkitti, Minister of Natural Resources and Environment) to discuss conservation issues concerning the World Heritage site of Preah Vihear. The meeting took place ahead of the forthcoming 35th session of the World Heritage Committee that will be held at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris from 19-29 June, 2011.
The meeting, held in an open atmosphere of dialogue and cooperation, sought to foster common understanding of the issues affecting the World Heritage site, and to reach agreement on enhancing its state of conservation following recent threats to the property.
The Director-General while expressing satisfaction that the two Parties had responded positively to her invitation and affirmed their will to protect and preserve the Temple from future potential damages, voiced her disappointment at the fact that no agreement was reached between the Parties on concrete steps ahead of the forthcoming World Heritage Committee session.
“I appeal to both countries to pursue efforts towards achieving a common agreement before the World Heritage Committee session in June in a spirit of cooperation and constructive dialogue” said the Director-General, Irina Bokova.27.05.2011
While Cambodian and Thai delegations are gathering in Paris for the preparatory meeting for the forthcoming 35th session of the World Heritage Committee from 19 to 29 June, the Thai government became even more flagrant in its efforts to intoxicate and mislead the world regarding its invasion of Cambodian territory and the damage it caused to the Temple of Preah Vihear.
On 26 May, the Bangkok Post reported, under the headline “PM says Thai troops didn’t fire at the Temple”: “ Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has rejected allegations by Phnom Penh that the ancient Preah Vihear Temple was attacked by Thai troops in recent border armed clashes ”.
At the meeting of the Thai and Cambodian delegations with UNESCO in Paris, Thai Minister of Natural Resources and Environment, Suwit Khunkitti, according to a source close to the Thai delegation who requested anonymity, repeated the same falsehood and lie, and claimed that there had been no damage to the Temple.
The leaders of the Thai government must think that the rest of the world has also a good memory. In early March 2011, the Thai government loudly objected when Cambodia organized a visit to the Temple by military attachés from 12 countries, who were able to see for themselves some of the damage caused by more than 400 Thai artillery shells, including cluster munitions, fired from 4 to 7 February.
Will Mr. Abhisit and Mr. Suwit now tell the world that the visit they objected to didn’t take place and that the attachés did not see the damage they saw?
The Cambodian National Authority for Preah Vihear has sent a report on stone damage to the Temple, which was listed as a World Heritage Site in 2008, to UNESCO. The Cambodian government has prepared several documentaries showing some of the damage, which the Cambodian delegation to the preparatory meeting has shown to interested delegates. These documentaries are available to the Thai delegates if they can bear to see evidence that the chief of their delegation is out of touch with reality.
Of course, it would be better if national and international experts could visit the Temple in person to inspect the damage. But the Thai government objects to such visits as too dangerous. But what danger is there if the Thai military is not firing at the Temple?
Therefore, the international community must not fall into the Thai incessant tricks and this big lie in the 21st century. It is also an imperative for the world community to help the restoration and the preservation of this sacred Temple, especially to prevent a renewed military attack by Thailand.
Press and Quick Reaction Unit of the Office of the Council of Ministers