Thursday, August 29, 2013

ASEAN Ministers Wrap Up Summit in Brunei

Aug 29, 2013
Southeast Asian defense ministers are expected to hold fresh talks on territorial disputes as they meet with their counterparts from elsewhere in Asia, as well as the United States on Thursday.

The final day of the two-day meeting is being held at a Brunei resort overlooking the South China Sea, where several ASEAN member nations have tense overlapping territorial claims with China.

The ASEAN Defense Ministers' Meeting-Plus, as the gathering is known, is bringing together ministers from the 10 ASEAN nations, the United States, China, Japan, South Korea and other regional powers.

During Wednesday meetings with ASEAN defense ministers, U.S. officials said Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel discussed the need to enhance cooperation and lower tensions in the region.

Analysts do not expect a breakthrough on the disputes, as China has been reluctant to even discuss the issue at such meetings. It instead prefers to deal with each rival claimant separately, a position that gives it a much greater advantage.

A Thursday editorial in the Global Times, China's Communist Party's official mouthpiece, said the ASEAN meeting is not the appropriate place to resolve maritime disputes.

ASEAN foreign ministers have been pushing for China to work towards signing a binding Code of Conduct to help prevent conflict in the territorial disputes.

Brunei, the Philippines, Taiwan, Vietnam and Malaysia are embroiled in territorial disputes with China over several resource-rich islands in the South China Sea. Japan and China are engaged in a separate dispute in the East China Sea.

Many of the nations accuse China of using its rapidly advancing military to more aggressively defend what it views as its territory. Some of the nations have expanded their defense cooperation with the United States, as a result.

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations consists of Singapore, Brunei, Cambodia, Malaysia, Vietnam, the Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand, Burma, and Laos.

The ADMM-Plus will help lay the groundwork for October's East Asian Summit, which will be attended by world leaders, including U.S. President Barack Obama. The meeting is also expected to focus on other regional and international security and trade issues.

Thai village under siege from marauding monkeys

In a Thai village, homes are raided, property is pinched and locals are attacked by dastardly gangs operating beyond the law -- but the perpetrators are not men, but monkeys.

"They creep into my house when they see me sleeping, they go into the kitchen and take cooking oil, sugar and even the medicines that I hide in a cabinet," said Chaluay Khamkajit, after years battling with pesky primates who are thought to have been drawn into Khlong Charoen Wai village by habitat loss.

"They took my snacks, I can buy new ones, but the medicines are important to me," the 72-year-old said, as she and her husband demonstrated a variety of anti-monkey devices including a homemade lock for the fridge and the more direct deterrent of a sling-shot.

Around 150 households in the shrimp farming community in Chachoengsao province on the east coast, 80 kilometres (50 miles) from Bangkok, have suffered raids by so-called "sea monkeys" -- long-tailed macaques -- for about a decade.

An increasing number of shrimp farms, coupled with the associated deforestation, is thought to be behind a surge in monkeys venturing into built-up areas.

"They could find food easily in the past but when there is less forest, they have to find food in people's houses," said village headman Chatree Kaencharoen, expressing frustration at some villagers who give food to the incorrigible creatures.

"Sometimes, a few hundred monkeys come at once -- especially at dawn and dusk when it is cooler. They know it is time to be fed," he said.

Conservation group WWF said people have encroached on the monkeys' habitat -- not the other way around.

"People have moved closer to nature, that is why there is an increased chance of interaction between human and animals," WWF Thailand director Petch Manopawitr told AFP.

"Macaques can adjust their behaviour quite well -- they learn in similar ways as humans -- and when they know that they can find food in a village, they come."

The spread of villages into formerly dense jungle has caused other clashes between people and beasts in Thailand.

"Wild pigs eat farm plants. But the villagers can also shoot the pigs and eat them," said Petch, adding that elephants and tigers were a less edible source of village disruption.
And the WWF says the problem is accelerating.

In a recent report, the conservation group said demand for farmland could strip the Greater Mekong region -- Thailand, Cambodia, Myanmar, Laos and Vietnam -- of a third of its remaining forest cover over the next two decades without swift government action.

Between 1973 -- the first point of available data -- and 2009, Thailand lost some 43 percent of its natural woodland, the WWF said, although it praised the country for its network of national parks.

Khlong Charoen Wai's monkeys spend their days hanging out on the narrow bamboo bridges that meander across the coastal swampland at the edge of the village.

Mothers lounge with babies slung across their chests, while others leap between nearby mangrove trees.
They tend to flee when approached. But when nobody seems to be looking, they climb onto roofs, leaving trails of muddy footprints as they stalk into homes through any openings they can find.

Residents have been forced to seal their houses with nets, lock their windows despite the tropical heat, and secure their property the best they can.

"They pushed over a 21-inch television, which fell and smashed. They even stole a rice cooker, managed to open it and scooped out the rice to eat," said Chatree.

Local authorities tried to curb the monkey raids -- even attempting to sterilise the intruders. But that effort was on too small a scale according to deputy village head Tawin Songcharoen.
"We cannot stop them," he told AFP.

Long-tailed macaques sit on bamboo bridges in Chachoengsao province on July 15, 2013. Marauding groups of the animals have been stealing and attacking villagers in Khlong Charoen Wai.

Graphic fact file on long-tailed macaques. For an AFP feature on a Thai village where around 150 households have suffered food raids from maurauding macaques that have become accustomed to scavenging from humans.

A long-tailed macaque strides past a village in Chachoengsao province on July 15, 2013. The spread of villages into formely dense jungle has caused clashes between humans and animals in Thailand.

Cambodian Court Acquits Two in Slaying of Journalist

cambodia-oudom-suspects-sept-2012-1000.jpg Authorities bring military officer An Bunheng and his wife to court to face murder charges, Sept. 16, 2012. RFA

A Cambodian provincial court today dropped charges against a military police officer and his wife accused of murdering a reporter investigating the country’s illegal timber trade, drawing protests from the journalist’s wife and from human rights and environmental advocacy groups.

Hang Serei Oudom, a reporter for the Vorakchun Khmer newspaper, had been looking into claims of illegal logging and extortion when he went missing on Sept. 10, 2012.  His battered body was found two days later in the trunk of his car.

Military police captain An Bunheng and his wife were taken into custody the next day after police and a court prosecutor said they had found evidence linking them to the crime at the couple’s restaurant in Cambodia’s northeastern Ratanakiri province.
After questioning three witnesses and reviewing written statements from another seven, the Ratanakiri Provincial Court dropped all charges against the pair, citing a lack of evidence sufficient to win a conviction against them.
Hang Serei Oudom’s last article before his death was published on Sept. 6, 2012 and accused the son of a local military police commander of involvement in illegal logging.
Speaking to RFA’s Khmer Service today, Hang Serei Oudom’s wife Im Chanthy protested the court’s ruling, calling it “very unjust.”

“First the court says it has evidence, and now they claim they don’t,” Im Chanthy said. “Please help me. There is no law in Cambodia.”

Defense lawyer Heng Sotheara meanwhile applauded the verdict freeing his clients, while deputy prosecutor Chea Sopheak said he had not yet decided whether to appeal the court’s ruling.
'Influential people'

Rights groups had called for a thorough investigation into Hang Serei Oudom’s death, noting that the journalist had written about influential people, including businessmen and provincial officials involved in the trafficking of luxury wood.

In a statement Wednesday, the Club of Cambodian Journalists condemned the court’s verdict and urged authorities to “reinvestigate the case in order to provide justice to the victim and his family.”

The Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR) meanwhile noted that the Ratanakiri court had refused in initial proceedings last year to examine the link between Hang Serei Oudom’s death and his reporting on illegal logging.

And though the court’s investigation was reopened in April after briefly being closed, “no further evidence was collected,” CCHR said on Wednesday.

“The Cambodian justice system has yet again failed those who risk their lives to defend their rights and protect the country’s rapidly vanishing forests,” the London-based environmental advocacy group Global Witness said, calling the court’s ruling an example of Cambodia’s “shocking culture of impunity.”

Without the support of Cambodian authorities and the courts, “environmental defenders like Hang Serei Oudom will continue to be killed and some of Asia’s last remaining intact forests will be gone,”  Global Witness said.

Hillary Clinton Pledges Aid for Cambodia's Unexploded Bomb Problem

Hanoi, Vietnam -- (SBWIRE) -- 08/28/2013 -- During the Vietnamese war American forces dropped a staggering 2 million tons of ordnance on the Southeast Asia country of Laos. This unbelievably, adds up to more than a ton for every man, woman and child in the country. So complete was the devastating carpet bombing, that today, almost 40 years after the end of the war, many people, especially children, are still being maimed as they step on unexploded mines and bombs.

It is estimated that of the 270 million cluster bombs that landed on Laotian soil, approximately 90 million failed to explode. Over the decades that followed they have caused complete devastation to so many people here in this beautiful, tranquil country. Last month Hillary Clinton visited the country and met with the Foreign Minister Mr. Thongloun Sisoulit and pledged that America would finally fulfil its obligation and assist the country to get rid of the remaining lethal weapons.

The former First Lady was taking part in a weeklong tour of Southeast Asia to promote diplomatic relations in the region. Threatened by China’s dominance in the world, she was trying to improve America’s international standing in the region and gain favour from some of the fastest growing markets in the world.

Speaking in typical US diplomatic speak she said, that together with Laotian leaders, she had, "traced the arc of our relationship from addressing the tragic legacies of the past to finding a way to being partners of the future." No doubt with one eye on the general public’s opinion of her countries military action in Iraq and Afghanistan, her government is trying to change the perception of US actions in recent years.

The bombs have of course had a terrible financial effect in the country, with huge swathes of good farming land lying fallow, as the threat from unexploded bombs is far too great to go near. These and other economic problems were on the agenda as the leaders also discussed environmental concerns over the possibility of building a dam on the Mekong River. The construction of a dam is an extremely sensitive issue. The Mekong spends most of its 3000 miles in the country. Further down stream it passes through Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam. Any damming would have consequences for those countries.

Visiting a prosthetic center in Laos, which is funded by the US, she said that America had to do more. The cleanup has been painfully slow, with only an estimated one percent of the affected areas having been declared safe. Although the US has provided approximately $47 million since the end of the war, much more is needed. It has pledged a further $9 million for this year and more will follow.

This is the first visit by a United States Secretary of State for 58 years. This trip to Laos by Hillary Clinton is seen as a very positive move as Laos, wary of Chinese assistance, struggles to compete in the region of Indochina. Providing assistance that would mean the dam not being built, would be a major boost for the country’s neighbors as well of course to Laos.

Senior CPC leader to visit four countries

Web Editor: Sun Tian
Senior Communist Party of China (CPC) leader Liu Yunshan will pay official visits to Belarus, Ukraine, Sri Lanka and Cambodia from Sept. 4 to 12.

Huang Huaguang, spokesman of the International Department of the CPC Central Committee, announced the visits here Thursday.

Liu, a member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee and secretary of the Secretariat of the CPC Central Committee, will make the visits at the invitation of the Presidential Office of Belarus, Ukraine's Party of Regions, the Foreign Ministry of Sri Lanka and the Cambodian People's Party and Funcinpec Party.

Cambodia opposition chief: Planned protest not to topple gov't

Xinhua | 2013-8-29
By Agencies

Cambodia's long-time opposition leader Sam Rainsy said Thursday that a mass protest, planned on Sept. 7, has no intention to overthrow the current government of long-serving Prime Minister Hun Sen, but to demand for the poll irregularity probe committee.

"The massive nonviolent protest is not aiming to topple the government at all, but to demand for the establishment of an independent committee to look into alleged poll irregularities," Sam Rainsy, president of the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), said in a press conference at the party's headquarters.

He said it was unclear if the party would hold a mass protest only in Phnom Penh City, or throughout the country.

Rainsy called for the ruling Cambodian People's Party (CPP) to resume negotiations towards the establishment of a special committee for poll irregularity investigation.

"If talks between the two parties towards the formation of an independent poll probe committee have been resumed, we will cancel our protest plan," he said.

In a letter to Sam Rainsy on Thursday, Pa Socheatvong, governor of Phnom Penh City, said that any protest must comply with the Law on Peaceful Demonstrations and the principle in maintaining public order as stated by laws.

"The Phnom Penh Municipality hopes that Mr. President of the CNRP will have high spirit and real will to cooperate with authorities to maintain social stability and peace, which are the genuine aspirations of the Cambodian people," he said in a letter.

The country held a general election on July 28. Initial election results showed that the ruling CPP of Prime Minister Hun Sen won the election with 68 of the 123 parliamentary seats, while the CNRP of Sam Rainsy got the remaining 55 seats.

But the CNRP rejected the results, saying that it should win 63 seats, with the CPP getting the remaining 60 seats if alleged poll irregularities were fairly resolved.

Tep Nytha, secretary general of the National Election Committee, said there was no need to discuss the formation of any independent committee since the initial election results had been already released and the final results would be issued on Sept. 8.

The opposition party has repeatedly threatened to call mass protests against the poll results.

Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister Sar Kheng wrote a letter to Sam Rainsy on Aug. 8, saying that peaceful demonstrations are the rights of people, but protesters and their leaders must comply with the regulations of the Law on Peaceful Demonstrations.

"In case that a protest has led to violence, destruction to national security, and damage to public or private properties, the protest leaders and offenders must take full responsibilities in front of the law for consequences arising from the protest," he warned.

Soldiers, police and military police with armored vehicles have been deployed around Phnom Penh City since early this month after the opposition's protest warning.

Under the country's constitution, a new parliament will be inaugurated no later than 60 days after the election.

Prime Minister Hun Sen said on Aug. 2 that a new parliament and a new government would be established as scheduled despite the opposition's boycott.

According to the constitution, he said, a new government would be formed by a 50 percent plus one majority, or 63 lawmakers, in the new parliament.

Hun Sen, 61, who has been in power for 28 years, will extend his power for further five years through the election victory.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Thai cement company to invest in US$386m plant in Myanmar

Publication Date : 27-08-2013

Siam Cement Group on Monday said it would invest 12.4 billion baht (US$386 million) for its first integrated greenfield cement plant in Myanmar to serve the rising demand in that market.

Kan Trakulhoon, president and chief executive of SCG, said the board of directors approved the investment to construct its first fully integrated cement plant in Myanmar under that country's Foreign Investment Law.

Construction is expected to begin by mid-2016. The cement plant, with annual output capacity of 1.8 million tonnes, will be strategically located in Mawlamyine, where there is a long-term supply of limestone complemented by access by boat to Yangon, Myanmar's primary commercial hub.

The plant will include a 40-megawatt power plant with the latest clean technology for internal power consumption, supporting port facilities, and other infrastructure for future expansion.

"SCG has solidified its position as one of Myanmar's market leaders in terms of dependable product attributes, brand exposure, supply-chain efficiency, and depth of distribution channels," Kan said. "The Myanmar cement market was estimated at approximately 4 million tonnes in fiscal year 2012, and is forecast to grow annually at 10 per cent over the next five years."

In fiscal 2012, SCG exported about 1.7 million tonnes of cement to Myanmar.

Kan said this project was a major investment to support growth of the cement-building-materials business in Myanmar and elsewhere in Asean after recent announcements that it would construct cement plants in Indonesia and Cambodia. It is in accordance with the company's strategy to become a sustainable business leader in Asean.

With a majority stake in the Myanmar plant, SCG says it places importance on sustainable development. That includes the 40MW power plant, a 9MW waste-heat generator system for reduced electrical usage, supporting port facilities, and other basic infrastructure.

SCG's stock price yesterday closed at Bt410, down by 0.97 per cent from last Friday.

Bualuang Securities yesterday noted in research that the cement, petrochemicals and building-material businesses would strengthen SCG's growth in the next few years.

The growth of its cement business will be driven by rising sales revenue backed by new investment and the increasing demand in Myanmar, Cambodia and Indonesia.

Bualuang said the two new cement plants in Indonesia and Cambodia would be able to operate commercially in 2015 and the one in Myanmar in 2016.

For its building-materials business, SCG will focus more on mergers and acquisitions.

Cambodian Opposition Holds Protest Rally Amid Vote-Tampering Suspicions

Source: RFA
A top court ordered Cambodia's electoral body on Monday to unseal voting records in a second province as the main opposition party held a 20,000-strong rally with an ultimatum to the government to set up an independent probe on widespread irregularities in recently-held national elections of face a larger demonstration.

In an urgent statement, the Constitutional Council of Cambodia ordered the National Election Committee (NEC) to open packages with secured ballot information in Battambang province “in order to verify votes and vote-counting records.”

Last week, the Council, which is the final arbiter of the election results, had ordered packages with key voting data to be unsealed for Kratie province following claims by the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) of massive election irregularities, including one million voters delisted from the electoral rolls.
In a stunning development, an RFA Khmer Service reporter who witnessed the opening of the Kratie packages at the weekend noticed that they had already been unsealed, raising concerns among election watchdog groups of vote tampering.

Some of them have accused the NEC, which oversees the country’s polls, of being a tool of the government after it announced preliminary results awarding a victory to Prime Minister Hun Sen’s ruling Cambodian People Party (CPP) despite complaints of irregularities.

Freedom Park rally
At Monday’s rally, CNRP President Sam Rainsy accused the NEC of stealing votes from the opposition and giving them to the CPP.
CNRP supporters rally in Phnom Penh's Freedom Park, Aug. 26, 2013. Photo credit: RFA
"The NEC stole our votes for the CPP and now they claim they want to find the thief," he said. Prompting cheers from the crowd, Sam Rainsy and his deputy Kem Sokha said that if an independent committee to investigate irregularities is not established before the NEC announces official results of the polls, the CNRP will lead much larger mass demonstrations.

"The voters have voted and demanded changes and when we want change, we want to change the top leader first," Sam Rainsy said, amid chants of “change” from the crowd.

Sam Rainsy said the planned demonstrations would be staged in the tradition of Indian civil disobedience leader Mahatma Gandhi’s non-violence movement.

Observers said that the CNRP gathering in Freedom Park in Phnom Penh on Monday was meant as a test of the party’s supporters before the planned larger mass demonstrations.
CNRP supporters rally in Phnom Penh's Freedom Park, Aug. 26, 2013. Photo credit: RFA. 
Following criticism that voting records had been mishandled, the Constitutional Council court ordered the NEC to open original ballot records from eight polling stations in Battambang city on Wednesday. “The opening of those packages must be done at the Council of Ministers on August 28 at 8 a.m.,” and the court will monitor the process, the Council statement said.

Kek Galabru, founder of local rights group Licadho, said irregularities in security packages in Kratie province have raised concerns over similar problems in other provinces.

“If we see places where there are more irregularities that might have affected the allocation of seats in the National Assembly, there should be reelections in those places,” she said.

The NEC’s preliminary findings supported the CPP’s claims that it won 68 parliamentary seats to the CNRP’s 55.  The CNRP claims it won at least 63 seats in the National Assembly.

DVDs distributed
Meanwhile at the Ministry of the Interior, officials released a DVD that it said was aimed at documenting for foreign diplomats and nongovernmental organizations an alleged move by Sam Rainsy to overthrow the government by calling for mass protests .

Ministry of the Interior spokesman Khieu Sopheak said the DVDs, titled “Documents Related to Holding Massive Demonstrations for Social Change,” were aimed at revealing the “bad intentions” behind Sam Rainsy’s calls for mass demonstrations.

“It shows [leaders of the opposition party] campaigning to ask people to hold demonstrations to topple the government in 2013,” he said.

He added that the government will fulfill its duty to protect the country if any mass demonstration turned into riots.

Hun Sen had warned previously of protests by his CPP to counter any mass opposition demonstrations and had deployed troops, tanks and armored vehicles in the capital to boster security which the opposition said was a move to intimidate the people.

Kratie security packages
Sam Rainsy said any failure by the NEC to open the packages of further original ballot records would also prompt mass demonstrations.

At Sunday’s hearing when NEC officials opened the Kratie security packages—which contain original vote counts from polling stations in the province on voting day—10 out of 13 were found to have been unsealed.
They were opened in front of reporters, opposition officials, and representatives from the Constitutional Council.

NEC Secretary General Tep Nytha said the irregularity might have occurred due to lack of employees’ proper training resulting from budget constraints.

CNRP lawmaker Kuy Bunrouen claimed that the original ballot records in the packages were at odds with preliminary results released by the NEC.

He said they included invalid ballots that are missing from the packages and lower vote tallies for small opposition parties.

The Constitutional Council is still reviewing the complaint about the Kratie irregularities, along with others filed to the NEC.

Cambodia wants more Malaysian investors for agriculture: PM

 Xinhua | 2013-8-27
Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said Tuesday that the country wanted more Malaysian investors in its agricultural sector, particularly the rice industry.

Speaking in a meeting with Tun Mohd Khalil bin Yaakob, governor of Malaysian state of Melaka, at the capital's Peace Palace, the premier said that the Cambodian economy was projected to grow by 7. 6 percent this year.

He asked Khalil to help encourage Malaysian investors to Cambodia, especially to make investment in rice mills in order to process Cambodian rice for export.

Khalil promised with the premier to help attract investors to Cambodia. He said his visit to Cambodia was to explore possibilities to further develop tourism sector between the two countries.

Meanwhile, he also hailed Cambodia for rapidly social and economic development under Hun Sen's leadership.
Cambodia and Malaysia, both members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), have developed ties well in politics, economics, trade and tourism.

Malaysia is the third largest investor in Cambodia. According to the Council for the Development of Cambodia, from 1994 to the end of last year, Malaysian investment in Cambodia had reached 2. 62 billion U.S. dollars.

The bilateral trade was valued at 376 million U.S. dollars last year, up 17 percent year on year.

On tourism side, the country has greeted 60,650 Malaysian visitors in the first six months of this year, up 13 percent compared with the same period last year, according to the latest tourism data.

Monday, August 26, 2013

ASI willing to unravel Tamil link to China

 Unravelling the links Tamils had with China in ancient times could soon be a reality as the Archaeological Survey of India has said it is willing to lend its expertise to that country if a request is made through appropriate government channels.

"We would love to research the link of Tamils with China. However, we can do this only if a request comes through appropriate authorities like the External Affairs Ministry," ASI Additional Director General B R Mani told PTI.

There have been reports of Hindu temples in China and its links with South India and Tamil traders dating to the 13th century.

Historians believe the Chedian shrine may have been a network of more than 12 Hindu temples or shrines, including two grand big temples built in Quanzhou and surrounding villages by Tamil traders who lived here during the Song (960-1279) and Yuan (1279-1368) dynasties.

Quanzhou Maritime Museum vice curator Wang Liming had said China would welcome any help from Indian scholars "as this is something we need to study together."    

While stating that ASI would like to research links of Tamils with China, Mani said expeditions of Indians to far away places had always been a subject of interest and pointed out that Sindhi traders had built the Baku Fire Temple in Azerbaijan centuries ago.

"Not only in Azerbaijan, but in several other countries like Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos and Jawa, many structures have been built by various Indians in different times," he noted.

Asked to shed more light on the Tamil link to ancient China, noted archaeologist and historian S Ramachandran said the Tamils shared a very long history with the dragon nation.

"The Thirukaneeswaram inscriptions belonging to the 14th century speaks of a Shiva temple near the Canton port area in China," he said, adding the inscription was documented by T N Subramaniam in the South Indian Temple Inscriptions series published by Government Oriental Manuscripts Library in 1957.

Myanmar and the politics of Asean slogans

Publication Date : 26-08-2013

After a series of closed door discussions and numerous rephrasing by policymakers including foreign experts, Myanmar has finally picked the theme "Moving forward in unity towards a peaceful and prosperous Community" for its engagement with Asean next year. Like previous Asean chairs, the title reflects Naypyidaw's agenda and priorities when it takes up the grouping's chairmanship in 127 days.

The 10-word slogan, the longest ever in Asean history, was personally given a nod by President Thein Sein recently. Earlier a few versions were put forward for consideration focusing on the centrality of Asean, economic cooperation and community building as well as political and economic reforms taking place in the past two years. The chosen theme was a neutral and encompassing. "It is very comprehensive," said a senior Asean official, who attended the Asean Economic Ministerial meeting in Bandar Seri Begawan, where Myanmar made the official announcement.

After the Asean leaders endorsed the 2014 chair in November 2011, Myanmar has studied the themes and performances of each Asean chair since 2008 when the Asean Charter was adopted. That year, Singapore chaired Asean with an impressive theme "One Asean at the Heart of Dynamic Asia," echoing the island's desire to increase the grouping's profile beyond Southeast Asia.

Thailand succeeded Singapore with a major task to implement the new charter. Bangkok was true to its slogan, "Asean Charter for Asean People," with packed programmes of civil society groups' participation, which scared a few Asean leaders away. Then came Vietnam with a simple theme: "Towards the Asean Community: From Vision to Action." It did not take long for the chair to find out that spurning common actions among the Asean members were an uphill task.

Indonesia took over Vietnam's chair with a shoo-in goal, "Asean Community in a Global Community of Nations." As the only Asean member in the G20, Indonesia wanted to be the Asean voice among the world's most economically advanced countries. Asean's position was uplifted. But it was temporary.

Last year, Cambodia's messianic theme of "One Community, One Destiny" had the opposite effect. As the last country to join Asean in 1999, the practice of Asean Way had yet to sink-in. But Cambodia should be credited for narrowing development gaps among the old and new Asean members but very few people took notice.

"Our People, Our Future Together" is the current theme advocated by the chair, Brunei. True to form and substance, every move the chair initiated is based on consultations and consensus. The remaining four months would be smooth paving the way for a conservative but holistic approach by the next Asean chair.

Myanmar has good reasons to be cautious with the role. First, Naypyidaw will serve as the chair for the first time--16 years after its admission. It skipped the 2005 slot due to domestic crisis along with pressure from the Asean colleagues. It does not want to adopt an "overtly" forwarding looking tone as it could sound a bit patronising. Second, the theme must be tropical enough to reflect norms and values as well as the inspiration of Asean and its peoples. In this case, Myanmar had to forego the so-called non-Asean elements related to their reforms. Finally, it must also resonate well with the situation at home.

The chair's domestic condition would certainly dominate the next year's Asean agenda, especially the situation in Rakhline State and the fate of Rohinya people. Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei would raise the issue. This time the chair cannot get away scot free. Myanmar turned down the planned Asean special meeting on in October to discuss Rohinya issue, which was later cancelled. Concerned Asean countries affected by the influx of Rohinya prefer a regional solution.

Much is at stake for Myanmar especially its manner in handing sensitive issue with transnational and international impacts. It will serve as a barometer of the depth and scope of the ongoing three-year reforms. As a late comer, Myanmar is learning from the Asean experience. After Indonesia turned democratic in 1998, a few years later the country opened up and discussed internal problems with Asean. At the recent Asean annual meeting, Jakarta reported voluntarily on its human rights condition to the Asean Intergovernmental Commission for Human Rights.

Myanmar was relieved after the deadline for the Asean Community was postponed to Dec 31, 2015. That means the chair has an additional year to prepare grounds for the AEC realisation. As the theme suggested, Myanmar now is confident that it can be a catalyst for the strengthening of community-building in Asean.

Maybank IB eyes Cambodia, Laos capital markets

By Ng Bei Shan

Maybank IB eyes Cambodia, Laos capital markets

KUALA LUMPUR: Maybank Investment Bank Bhd (Maybank IB) plans to leverage on its parent, Malayan Banking group's presence in Cambodia, Laos to penetrate their capital markets there.
Maybank IB chief executive officer Tengku Datuk Zafrul Abdul Aziz said on Monday he was looking at organic growth for the investment banking business in the two countries.

Speaking to reporters after the launch of Maybank IB's fifth branch at Mutiara Damansara, he said: "We are still doing preliminary studies on these two markets. As they are frontier markets, we are definitely growing organically."

Maybank 12 branches in Cambodia and one branch in Laos.

Tengku Zafrul also launched its Powerbroking and M2U Mobile Apps on the Android platform.
Equities regional head managing director Ami Moris expected 25% to 30% revenue growth from its online and mobile contributions.

Thailand On Alert Over H5N1 Virus Along Thai-Cambodian Border

BANGKOK, Aug 26 (Bernama) -- Thai public health officials are monitoring the H5N1 bird flu virus in seven provinces bordering Cambodia following the rising number of death cases in the neighbouring country, Thai News Agency (TNA) reported.

Statistics from the World Health Organisation (WHO) showed patients infected by the H5N1 virus have been reported in Egypt, Bangladesh, China, Cambodia, Vietnam and Indonesia.

Out of 24 patients in those countries, 17 including nine from Cambodia have died from the virus.

Public Health Minister Dr. Pradit Sintavanarong said the monsoon season in Asian countries has enabled the virus to spread easily from animals to humans.

Although no death cases from the virus have been reported in Thailand since 2006, Dr. Pradit said an outbreak is possible due to the increasing number of cases in Cambodia.


Friday, August 23, 2013

CIMB May Miss Break-Even Target on RBS Banking Units Buy

CIMB Group Holdings Bhd. (CIMB), Malaysia’s second-largest bank by assets, may not break even as planned by the end of this year on its 2012 purchase of most of Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc (RBS)’s Asia-Pacific investment banking assets.

As stocks and currencies slide, “I don’t know” if the businesses will cover costs associated with the acquisition, Chief Executive Officer Nazir Razak said in an interview with Bloomberg TV’s Haslinda Amin yesterday.

CIMB bought most of RBS’s Asia-Pacific cash equities and investment banking units last year for 88.4 million pounds ($138 million) to extend its regional reach. The Malaysian lender and larger rival Malayan Banking Bhd. (MAY) have been expanding abroad as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations further opens the region’s markets to create an economic zone modeled after the European Union by 2015.

“Investment banking business is a function of markets,” said Nazir, speaking in Singapore. “If the markets are effectively much slower than what we forecast, it might not meet the original target.”

The MSCI Asia Pacific Index fell 0.8 percent yesterday, extending its six-day slump to 4.7 percent as the prospect of reduced U.S. monetary stimulus and Asia’s faltering growth outlook fueled a sell-off. The Philippine Stock Exchange Index tumbled 6 percent, the most in two months, as trading resumed after a three-day closure. Indonesia’s (JCI) benchmark fell 1.1 percent, dropping 20 percent from a record three months ago.

Currency Slide

Thailand’s baht and the Malaysian ringgit slumped to three-year lows against the dollar yesterday and the Indonesian rupiah sank to the lowest since 2009.

“Currencies have depreciated significantly, interest rates are about to rise, and where borrowers and companies haven’t quite factored this situation in or didn’t quite believe it would come so soon, some would have to feel some pain,” the bank’s chief executive said.

Investment banking contributes 5 percent of CIMB’s annual profits and any delay in breaking even on the RBS acquisition is “not going to rock the boat,” said Nazir, the younger brother of Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Razak.

Shares of CIMB fell 0.1 percent at 7.57 ringgit in Kuala Lumpur as of 12:25 p.m. today, compared with a 0.4 percent gain for the benchmark FTSE Bursa Malaysia KLCI Index. The stock has declined 0.9 percent this year.

Southeast Asia

On June 10, CIMB said it won approval from Bursa Malaysia Securities Bhd. to sell shares on the Stock Exchange of Thailand. Subsidiary CIMB Thai Bank Pcl (CIMBT), which has 150 branches in the country is “very small,” Nazir said.

“Banking is a business of size” and the listing will allow customers to perceive CIMB as “a much bigger bank” in the country, he said.

In other Southeast Asian countries such as Cambodia and Vietnam, the bank will seek to start fresh operations, he said.

In the Philippines, where CIMB in June had to scrap a plan to buy 60 percent of Bank of Commerce from San Miguel and other shareholders for 12.2 billion pesos ($276 million), it will pursue acquisitions. “We will revisit Philippines and try and find other opportunities,” said Nazir.

CIMB’s April 2012 purchase included RBS’s cash equities units in Australia, China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, the U.S. and the U.K., and equity capital markets and mergers and acquisitions divisions in Australia, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan and Thailand.

CIMB retained more than half of the 600 staff employed by RBS in the region, Nazir said in an interview in June 2012.

Economic ministers agree to establish Asean+6 FTA by 2015

Publication Date : 23-08-2013

The 16 economic ministers of Asean+6 have agreed to finalise the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership by 2015, when the Asean Economic Community takes full effect.

"The ministers agreed that this free-trade agreement should be a single schedule of commitment that should not be separately negotiated by some countries," Thai Commerce Minister Niwatthumrong Boonsongpaisan said yesterday.

The ministers from 16 countries joined their first ministerial meeting and the 45th Asean Economic Ministers Meeting in Brunei this week.

The RCEP will become the largest free-trade area with 3.35 billion people, or more than half of the world population. Its gross domestic product would be US$17.1 trillion, or 27 per cent of global GDP. Combined trade is worth $740 billion, he said.

The RCEP comprises the 10 Asean nations and China, South Korea, Japan, India, Australia and New Zealand.

The second round of RCEP negotiations by officials is set for September 23-27 in Brisbane, Australia.

During the AEM meeting in Brunei, Asean member states also agreed to encourage each country to cut at least one non-tariff barrier a year.

Malaysia and Indonesia were urged to reduce their high duties on alcoholic beverages by 2015. If both countries do not want to cut import tariffs, they should at least lower excise taxes to show their sincerity in dismantling trade barriers.

Vietnam and Cambodia have been called on to minimise duties on petrochemical products.

Asean countries have been advised to accelerate integration plans for the AEC. The ministers also agreed to the 10th pact of service business liberalisation among Asean members.

The Failed Promise to Cambodia

The National Interest 

The deeply flawed July 28 general election in Cambodia attracted scant international attention. This is in sharp contrast to 1993, when the United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC), with a $1.5 billion budget, administered the first election carried out by a UN agency following the 1948 UN-supervised Constitutional Assembly election in South Korea.

UNTAC was established by the 1991 Paris Peace Agreements. It was created as part of the “survivors' guilt” over the failure of the international community to intervene to prevent the genocide carried out by the Khmer Rouge. The “killing fields” period, in which up to two million Cambodians perished, stood as a stark reminder of the failure of the UN and other international organizations to prevent mass murder even after the Holocaust. UNTAC was established to restore the credibility of the international community by transforming a Cambodia emerging from civil war, genocide and foreign invasion into a model for democracy and human rights—and to allow a graceful UN exit from the country. Two decades later, as witnessed on July 28th, the world appears to little remember or even care about the pledge to restore and revitalize Cambodia.
One of the great historic ironies is that, despite these international efforts, a former Khmer Rouge cadre, Hun Sen, now sits at the center of power in Phnom Penh. A member of the group of henchmen responsible for the greatest genocide in post-World War II history continues to unilaterally call the shots on the political future of Cambodia. This is a country which, with its demographics of an extremely young population and its location at the heart of the dynamic Asian “economic miracle,” could have the potential for fulfilling all the promise of UNTAC's previous efforts.

Instead, a dark shadow again extends over Cambodia. International press reported on August 9 the movement of armored vehicles and troops into the vicinity of the capital of Phnom Penh, due to reports of planned opposition protests over the election results. The domestic crisis deepened on August 17 when the country’s National Election Committee (NEC) rejected the opposition complaints regarding voting irregularities, stating that "many of them didn't warrant further investigation." The results, reporting that Hun Sen’s ruling party, the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP), had taken 48.79% of the vote in the July 28 poll and had won 68 out of 123 parliamentary seats, enough for a parliamentary majority, still stand. The opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) claims that, without the irregularities, it would have won at least 63 seats, enough for its own parliamentary majority. In frustration, its representatives walked out of their last meeting with the NEC.

The final recourse lies with the Constitutional Council, which held a meeting on August 20th to consider nineteen separate allegations of election irregularities. The Council reportedly has seventy-two hours to complete its investigation. Only time will tell whether a last-minute agreement, reached by the ruling and opposition parties in the National Assembly, to jointly investigate allegations of voting irregularities will have any bearing on the Constitutional Council's final ruling on the matter. Win or lose, the strong opposition showing in the elections was a slap in the face to strongman Hun Sen. He is used to having his way during twenty-eight years of continual rule and does not hesitate to use strong-arm tactics when necessary. The ruling party decision to join the opposition in an investigation, therefore, could prove little more than a gambit by the Hun Sen faction to buy time to allow popular furor over the discredited election results to die down.
The opposition remains ready to take to the streets if the current impasse is not resolved in what is popularly perceived as an equitable manner. The American Embassy in Phnom Penh responded to the ongoing impasse by publicly stating that "we still say that an investigation into irregularities needs to happen. The outcome of these electoral disputes needs to be something that Cambodian people as a whole will be happy with."
Reports of voting irregularities on July 28 include the removal of eligible voters from the voting lists, the inclusion of multiple names on some voting lists, and indications that some pro-Cambodian People's Party (the ruling party) voters were allowed to cast their ballots multiple times. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki had commented on these reports on July 29, noting that "we call for a transparent and full investigation of all credible reports of irregularities. We urge all parties and their supporters to continue to act in an orderly and peaceful manner in the post-election period."

Sam Rainsy, head of the opposition CNRP, has called for a return of a United Nations role to address election issues as UNTAC once did. Rainsy returned to Cambodia just prior to the July elections after receiving a royal pardon from the king for his conviction on previous trumped-up charges. His name did not, however, appear on the voter rolls and he was not eligible for candidacy in the elections. Rainsy, in an August 5 letter to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, stated that “under the terms of the Paris Peace Agreements ... both the UN and the Kingdom of Cambodia have a legal obligation to ensure that our country’s ‘liberal and pluralist democracy’ be grounded in ‘free and fair elections’...“We believe that numerous irregularities in electoral processes produced an outcome that does not properly reflect the will of the people.”

It should provide the United Nations little comfort that, after all the time and treasure expended on creating “a liberal and pluralist democracy” in Cambodia that the country will likely remain, as cited above, in the hands of an infamous former Khmer Rouge cadre. Hun Sen carries a permanent physical reminder of his Khmer Rouge ties in the form of a glass eye, the result of a wound he sustained while participating in the Khmer Rouge's final assault on Phnom Penh in 1975. Hun Sen broke with the Khmer Rouge not out of any moral conviction but because, as Battalion Commander in the country's eastern region, near the Vietnamese border, he was targeted in a 1977 party purge as an underperformer. He fled with his battalion to the rival Vietnamese before he too could become a victim of the killing fields. He returned to Cambodia in 1979 with the invading Vietnamese army. On that occasion, Prince Norodom Sihanouk famously referred to him as “a lackey” of the Vietnamese.

Hun Sen might have abandoned his Khmer Rouge colleagues, but he did not put aside their murderous tactics. In 1987 Amnesty International called his regime to account for the torture of thousands of political prisoners using "electric shocks, hot irons and near-suffocation with plastic bags.” He defiantly refused to honor the 1993 UNTAC-sponsored election results, refusing to step down from the post of prime minister but instead brokering a deal that left him in place as “second prime minister” to Prince Ranariddh's “first prime minister.” By 1998 he had managed to push Ranariddh aside and resume his position as sole prime minister.

Extra-judicial killing of those who represent an inconvenience to the regime is the modus operandi in Hun Sen's Cambodia. In April 2012 environmental activist Chut Wutty was shot dead by a military-police officer while investigating illegal logging in western Cambodia in the vicinity of a Chinese hydropower construction site. His murder was still the talk of the town when I visited Phnom Penh last summer. More recently, in April of this year, Houn Bunnith, a staffer with the legal-aid NGO International Bridges to Justice (IBJ) was shot in the neck and killed by a military-police officer in Kandal province.

This is all a far cry from the Cambodia envisioned by the United Nations and the international community at the time of the supervised elections two decades ago. The question now is this: what will be the international response to the recent flawed elections and the continued, extensive human-rights abuses in a land that already suffered so much at the bloody hands of the Khmer Rouge?

Dennis P. Halpin was the Cambodia analyst in the Department of State's Bureau of Intelligence and Research from 1985 to 1987.

Cautious China endorses Cambodia poll result

By Aug 23, 2013

Hun Sen still stays out of the action, reports Asia Sentinel’s James Pringle
China appeared Wednesday to endorse the Cambodian People’s Party’s narrow July 28 election victory, while at the same time calling for a swift resolution to the country’s perilous political situation, which has raised the real possibility of violence in the streets.

Ending a situation where he had vanished from the political scene for almost three weeks and become a virtual recluse, Prime Minister Hun Sen was on hand to welcome Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi after the election produced a 68-55 seat victory for the CPP, representing Hun Sen’s largest fall in support since UN-supervised elections in 1993.
Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen. Pic: AP.

Diplomats said that Wang, in background talks with Hun Sen, probably warned his Cambodian ally of the dangers ahead, with an opposition rally scheduled for next Monday by the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) of former French banker Sam Rainsy. Sam Rainsy was permitted to return to Cambodia from exile just 10 days before the election, although he was not allowed to stand for office.

The Chinese, though they are close allies and backers of the seemingly endlessly-lasting Cambodian regime, usually take a pragmatic view of politics and are doubtless alive to the dangers. That’s why it took almost three weeks for Wang to actually come here.

Military officials said Wednesday if violence were to occur at the forthcoming rally, fire trucks and thousands of military police and civilian police would be on hand, “and we are ready to crack down if any violence occurs.”

Cambodia’s long-ruling leader has spent significant time off the radar, and people wondered what he was doing. After all, the 61 year old strongman, who has been in power for 28 years, is a man who was seldom more than a day out of being the cynosure of all eyes. But he has remained a virtual recluse, surrounded by bodyguards in his mansion-like residence in downtown Phnom Penh or in his nearby prime ministerial offices.

Continue reading at Asia Sentinel

Cambodia’s lost city

The Star
The statue of the sleeping Buddha at Phnom Kulen, Cambodia. - Photo from Wiki Commons
The statue of the sleeping Buddha at Phnom Kulen, Cambodia. - Photo from Wiki Commons

A new archaeological project in Cambodia has revealed a vast ancient city around Angkor Wat that is exciting the archaeological world and has captured travellers’ imaginations.

IT’S 7am at Angkor Wat and there’s not a tourist in sight. It’s blissfully quiet, the first clear June morning after two days of torrential rains. The only souls around are a small group of Buddhist pilgrims, lighting incense at the rear of the spectacular Khmer temple.

I’m not here for sightseeing, however, I’m heading further into the forest surrounding the stupendous temple complex with Australian archaeologist Dr Damian Evans to meet the archaeologists from Cambodia, the Philippines and the United States, who are working on new excavations.

The release in June by the US National Academy of Sciences of a report on the results of a high-tech survey of Khmer Empire sites, undertaken in April 2012, has rocked the archaeological world and captured travellers’ imaginations.

A monumental, sophisticated, densely populated urban landscape, which dates back more than 700 years, has been identified. It includes and connects Angkor cities such as Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom and Bayon, with the rarely visited medieval city ruins of Phnom Kulen, Beng Mealea and Koh Ker, over 100km away.

Evans was one of the report authors and the lead archaeologist and director of the project, which only became known outside local and archaeological circles with the release of the report this month.

As we make our way through dense vegetation, he explains how eight key archaeological groups, including the Cambodian government’s Apsara Authority, which manages archaeological sites, collaborated on the project. It began with the survey using an airborne laser scanning instrument called Lidar, strapped to a helicopter, to search for ruins and other structures (the size of the area covered by the helicopter doing the survey was 320 sq km). Developed in the 1990s, it’s only recently that the technology has matured to the level where it can penetrate dense vegetation and provide extremely detailed models of the forest floor.

“For archaeologists, these lumps and bumps that we see in the forest, each has a meaning,” Evans explains, pointing out gentle mounds. “These are all the traces of the civilisation of the city associated with Angkor Wat that has disappeared. It’s these contours that we study.”

Smoke wafts from the fires lit to keep mosquitoes at bay. Dotted between the mounds are several rectangular holes in the ground where Dr Miriam Stark from the University of Hawaii and her team are at work.

“We’re really interested in understanding residence patterns, where and how people lived and who they were,” Stark explains excitedly, showing me X-ray-like images of the area we’re in. “Before, it took more than three intensive weeks of (preparation) before we knew where to dig. Now, with Lidar, it’s as if you just peel a layer off and it’s there!”

Scholars have based their idea of all medieval cities around the world on European cities, explains Professor Roland Fletcher, director of the Greater Angkor Project. But now, it seems there was a colossal low-density urban sprawl here, a conurbation of different places with massive working citadels with enormous infrastructure.

“This is a highly managed system, the most extensive pre-industrial city in the world,” he says, though referring to its complexity rather than its size. “The Lidar results show there were three cities [here] at the end of the 9th Century – the largest was on top of Mount Kulen, creating an (equivalent to) industrial 19th-Century Britain.”

The city is so enormous it is unlikely to ever exist as one excavated site, but tourism here is likely to increase. There’s talk of a cutting-edge museum presenting the exciting new discoveries, new archaeological sites in the future, and greater interest in little-visited outlying temples already accessible to the public.

We decide to head to one of these Phnom Kulen, a site rarely visited by tourists, with just a few companies offering expeditions and treks there.

“Phnom Kulen is a sacred mountain,” Tat, our guide from Backyard Travel tells us en route. His ancestors called this place Mahendraparvata, or the Mountain of Indra, King of the Gods. “We call it the Mountain of the Lychees now. Look, you can see it here,” he says, pointing to a long, low, flat plateau that barely rises above the palms, banana plants and rubber trees that skirt the road.

Mahendraparvata was never really “lost” – the mountain has long been known as the location of the sandstone quarries that built Angkor’s cities, as well as the source of water for a complex system that irrigated the vast empire.

When we visit, people are wading in the River of A Thousand Lingas, a section of the stream boasting stone carvings on its floor. Villagers frequently stumble across finds, recently some bronze, copper and sandstone statues of Hindu gods. But the Lidar survey confirmed that Mahendraparvata was part of a city, and much larger than suspected – maybe as big as present-day Phnom Penh.

We leave our air-conditioned four-wheel drive behind and soon we’re bouncing along muddy tracks on the back of motorbikes behind guides familiar with the landmine-riddled mountainside, that was the last stronghold of the Khmer Rouge.

They lead us towards the summit. It’s a slow journey, over narrow, bumpy dirt trails – only the most intrepid travellers come here. Scattered across the mountain are ruined, foliage-covered temples, ancient highway markers and, at Sras Damrei or Elephant Pond, massive statues of an elephant and lions. The thought that more sites like this could soon be discovered is thrilling.

Back in Siem Reap we take to the air in a helicopter to get a better idea of what this urban landscape might have looked like. Had I taken the flight two weeks’ ago, I would have gasped at the magnificence of the isolated temple structures with their imposing walls and moats.

Now, I see patterns of bumps and lines on the vast floodplain as beautiful remnants of an immense, effervescent city that technology and archaeology are finally bringing to life.

While many believe this site will become one of Asia’s greatest wonders, and tourism bodies are eager to see excavations progress quickly and more archaeological sites opened up to visitors, the extraordinary size of the area means work will be costly and take years.

In the meantime, however, the intrepid can play at being Indiana Jones at undeveloped sites on Phnom Kulen, and temple cities such as Beng Mealea and Koh Ker – and let their imaginations run wild.

Backyard Travel ( offers one-day expeditions to Mount Kulen for US$136 (RM433) per pax, and day trips to Koh Ker and Beng Mealea for US$126 (RM401). HeliStar ( offers flights over Angkor, including Mount Kulen and Koh Ker, starting from US$90 (RM287) per pax. - Guardian News & Media

Prime Minister Hun Sen of Cambodia Meets with Foreign Minister Wang Yi Saying that Cambodia and China Share a High Degree of Mutual Trust

On Aug. 21, 2013, the Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen met with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Phnom Penh, capital of Cambodia. 

Hun Sen said that Cambodia and China are close neighbors, with a high degree of mutual trust. This year marks the 55th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relationship between Cambodia and China and for the "Cambodia-China Year of Friendship". The two sides should take this opportunity to deepen mutual trust and cooperate more closely with each other to bring the bilateral comprehensive strategic partnership up to a new high. Hun Sen as well briefed Wang Yi the latest development of domestic situation in Cambodia. He stressed that the Cambodian People's Party is willing to smoothly go through the post-general-election transitional period and form a new Congress and Government through friendly consultations as soon as possible, abide by the constitution and the laws.

Wang Yi said, Cambodia recently finished the general election smoothly, and the preliminary results showed that the People's Party got a majority in the Congress. The Chinese leaders sent out at the first minute the congratulations to the People's Party. 

In recent years, under the leadership of the Prime Minister Hun Sen, Cambodia is committed to maintaining social stability, promoting economic development and improving people's livelihood, and has made great achievements in various fields. China and Cambodia are good neighbours, good friends, good partners and brothers. The most important characteristics of China-Cambodia relationship are mutual understanding, mutual trust and mutual support, especially at crucial moments. My visit this time is to carry forward all these good traditions. 

The Chinese government under the new leadership attaches great importance to relations with Cambodia. We will unswervingly develop friendship with Cambodia, and deepen the comprehensive strategic partnership. We will support Cambodia ruling out external interference to pursue a development path in line with its own national conditions and the interest of the people. We will provide firm support to the Cambodian government for the efforts to safeguard stability, to develop economy and to improve the livelihood of the people.

Wang Yi said, as a good friend of Cambodia, we hope and believe that all political parties of Cambodia will give priority to national stability, unity and the people's interest, resolve differences through negotiation and start a new session of Congress and the Government as soon as possible.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Chinese tourists to Cambodia up 55 pct in H1

Web Editor: qindexing

Some 231,000 Chinese visited Cambodia in the first six months of the year, up 55 percent compared with 149,000 over the same period last year, a report of Cambodia's Tourism Ministry showed Monday.

China is the third largest tourist source to Cambodia after Vietnam and South Korea, the report said.
Kong Sopheareak, chief of the statistics and planning department of the Tourism Ministry, attributed the remarkable growth to direct flight connection, attractive Cambodian tourism sites, and friendly relationships between the two countries.

"Close relationships between the Cambodian government and the Chinese government have encouraged more Chinese tourists, investors and businesspeople to Cambodia," he told Xinhua over telephone on Monday.

The Southeast Asian nation received 334,000 Chinese visitors in 2012, up 35 percent year-on-year.
In June, the Tourism Ministry unveiled its five-year strategic plan to attract at least 1.3 million Chinese visitors by 2018.

Under the plan, the country would prepare entry-exit application forms and announcements at airports in Chinese language, write signs on main roads in Chinese, conduct studies to establish China Towns and train more Chinese speaking tour guides.

Tourism Minister Thong Khon said it was vital to encourage owners of hotels, restaurants and tourism resorts to use three languages, Khmer, English and Chinese, on billboards, or promotional leaflets or brochures.
"Chinese are rich now, more and more Chinese visit abroad," he said. "Cambodia and China have had very good diplomatic ties, which are favorable for us to attract more Chinese to Cambodia."

Tourism is one of the major sectors supporting the Cambodian economy. Last year, the country received 3.58 million foreign tourists, up 24 percent year-on-year, and generated a total revenue of about 2.2 billion U.S. dollars, or 12 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP). said the Tourism Ministry.

The country is a destination for ecological and cultural tourism, and is well-known for its 12th century Angkor Wat Temple, a world heritage site, and the 11th century Preah Vihear Temple, another world heritage site.

Besides, it has a pristine coastline stretching in the length of 450 kilometers in four provinces of Koh Kong, Preah Sihanouk, Kampot and Kep. The coastline was recognized as one of the world's most beautiful bays in May, 2011.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Cambodian king calls for post-election harmony

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) — Cambodia's king has issued a public statement calling for a peaceful resolution of the country's political standoff following contested elections last week.

King Norodom Sihamoni's message Wednesday came a day after the opposition Cambodian National Rescue Party threatened to hold a massive protest to demand an impartial investigation of alleged widespread electoral irregularities.

The ruling Cambodian People's Party says it won 68 of the 123 National Assembly seats against the opposition's 55 in the July 28 polls. Long-serving Prime Minister Hun Sen has made clear he expects another term.

Hun Sen's tough reputation has raised fears he might use force to quash the protest. Final election results are to be announced next week, or next month if official protests are filed.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

$15 Million Funding Available for Empowering Communities for Health

Federal Grant Opportunities
Copyright © Targeted News Service, 2013


WASHINGTON, Aug. 7 -- The U.S. Agency for International Development-Cambodia has announced that it expects to award a maximum of three discretionary cooperative agreement grants to enhance the skills of village health support groups, strengthen their technical linkages to health centers and institutionalize them under local government structures for long-term sustainability.

The award ceiling for this funding opportunity is $15 million.

This funding opportunity is open to Cambodian nongovernmental organizations.

A funding opportunity notice from the USAID-Cambodia states: "The Goal of the updated USAID/Cambodia draft Country Development Cooperation Strategy is 'Cambodia's transformation to a healthy, prosperous, democratic country accelerated.' Three Development Objectives (DOs) are defined to help achieve this Goal: DO1: Stable democratization that promotes accountable governance and the rights of the people. This project will promote community awareness of rights related to health care and health care financing, and seek to increase local government accountability in ensuring those rights are respected; DO2: Delivery of health services strengthened for improved health status of vulnerable populations, within which there are 3 Intermediate Results (IR) all of which this project directly addresses: i. Quality of maternal and child health (including RH/FP, WASH and Nutrition) services in communities and facilities improved in a sustainable manner ii. Capacity and accountability of the health care delivery system strengthened; and iii. Effectiveness and efficiency of infectious disease control programs improved; and DO3: Poverty reduced in selected geographic areas and targeted populations. This Project will support the poverty reduction aims of the Health Equity Fund (HEF) by improving the transparency and accountability of beneficiary targeting, in close collaboration with a separate USAID Social Health Protection (SHP) Project."

The funding opportunity number is RFA-442-13-000004. The application closing date is Aug. 30. For more information, contact Honey Sokry, NewsFocusCode FedGrants NWNAgrants federalgrants TNSFG130806

For more information about Targeted News Service products and services, please contact: Myron Struck, editor, Targeted News Service LLC, Springfield, Va., 703/304-1897;; To subscribe to our Federal Grant Opportunities Newsletters, contact Dona Harms at:

Column: Refugees have complicated and messy lives, but my parents were shown compassion

by Phillina Sun
The child of Cambodian parents fleeing Pol Pot’s regime, Phillina Sun says her parents’ cultural dislocation was eased by the welcome they found in the US. In a response to assumptions about refugees, she offers a personal account of the ones she knows best – her mother and father.

TODAY I THOUGHT of my parents after reading about a legal challenge to the policy of direct provision here in Ireland.  In the past, I have always been baffled by some Irish comments concerning “asylum-seekers”. There is an antipathy to refugees here, a way of framing them that discounts their experiences and dismisses them as “benefits-seekers” and “job-takers”.

This negative attitude toward refugees in everyday Ireland is, I think, reflected and/or influenced by the detention and exclusion of refugees.  So, today, I felt compelled to list some observations of the refugees I know best, because I want to consider the trajectory of their lives, and the possible life-trajectories of other people like them.

A semblance of the middle-class American dream

In the mid-1970s, my parents arrived in the US as refugees from Cambodia, with assistance from the government and Christian groups.  With advice and loans from kin, they were able to start a doughnut shop in San Diego, where mom worked long hours every day of the week while dad worked in electronics in another city. After they sold the doughnut shop, mom took a night course and became an assembler of robots. Dad works at home, selling secondhand computer parts via the internet.

Through hard work, adaptation, and years of separation and heartbreak, my parents achieved a certain, albeit precarious, semblance of the middle-class American dream: the two-story house in a nice neighbourhood, a good education for the kids, second helpings at dinner, US bus tours for vacation, and life insurance as a psychological bulwark against the uncertainty of their children’s futures.

Culturally, my parents travel between worlds

Physically, my parents live in San Diego. Culturally, they travel between worlds.  They raised my brother and I, US citizens by birth, as Americans, even as my parents were not comfortable with what  being “American” might mean. What is “American” but a mix of improvised signs and gestures?  Mom watches soaps both American and Cambodian, and dad is an avid viewer of Chargers football games and Khmer karaoke videos. (Dad also listens to Spanish radio, which is telling of our proximity in San Diego, geographically and culturally, to Mexico). Mom and dad are comfortable in their improvised world of computer flea markets, Khmer-language Christian meetings, Hawaiian buffets, and seaside festivals.

Although my parents miss the Cambodia of their youth, they return only for brief trips, typified by family reunions and melancholy tours of a countryside forever altered by the depredations of frontier capitalism and de facto dictatorship. Not that they haven’t encountered hardships and hostility in the US.  Although their refugee past is not so urgent a memory for them, my parents are aware that, as immigrants, they are sometimes viewed as newcomers, no matter how long they’ve lived in the US.  There’s always a chance that someone might come up to them and yell, as in the past, “Go back to China!” Belonging, for my parents, is always contingent.

The state is no substitute for society

Nevertheless, my parents have the life they’ve improvised due to their initial treatment in the US  by certain parties who welcomed them. This care was encouraged, in part, by media attention on the plight of Cambodians during the Pol Pot years, which elicited the Christian aid that helped my parents and, with their kinship networks, enabled them to emerge from the limbo of refugee status. (How, I wonder, would their treatment differ now, in post-9/11 America, where that welcome is being retracted in a heightened anti-immigration culture?)

In Ireland, there is scant welcome for the refugees of the 21st century. The refugee or “applicant” is an “asylum-seeker” first, before s/he is a refugee, preempting the realities implied by the statement “I am a refugee”, realities which would otherwise require address. “Asylum” suggests the space and time of safety; the asylum-seeker is caught in an unsafe space and time. Direct provision further delays empathy by segregating the individual into grim, for-profit centres where all aspects of life are fully regimented by the state.

The state is no substitute for society, for the possibilities of community. With his or her life so completely circumscribed via direct provision, the individual has no or little cultural or social capital, consigned as an invisible non-person to a legal and existential purgatory.

What I know about my parents’ time as refugees is little, garnered from anecdotes, legal documents, and a couple of pictures, of children holding hands in a Thai refugee camp. They tell me bit by bit, and I piece their histories together, knowing that these accounts are not exact; some things are deliberately left forgotten. The limbo of the refugee camps was short, alluded to by a couple of photos buried in a box beneath other photos – of my brother and I as children, of visiting family, of trips to the sea – visual markers of survival and resilience in the aftermath of that refugee past.

I offer this account of the refugees I know best as a response to presuppositions about refugees and as a consideration of possible refugee trajectories.  This is not to suggest that every refugee, once welcomed, will eventually become a “model citizen”.  Complicated and messy, lives will not fit into neat, pre-set molds – nor should they.  But every human being deserves recognition of his or her rights and care, regardless of their circumstances and no matter where he or she is in the world.  With the pain of dislocation eased by their welcome, my parents could move beyond the trauma of that moment, free to improvise home and belonging.

Malaysian firms urged to venture into Cambodia's agri sector

 07 August 2013

PHNOM PENH: Malaysian companies have been urged to venture into Cambodia's agriculture sector especially in paddy planting and opening up rubber estates.

In making the call, Raja Saiful Ridzuan, Deputy Chief of Mission at the Malaysian Embassy here, said Malaysian firms, with its vast expertise in agriculture sector, could come in to tap the opportunities available in this Indo-Chinese nation.

"Cambodia is a booming economy and it offers abundant opportunities for development particularly in the agriculture sector.

"They have plenty of land and manpower but not so much technological know-how and expertise that are crucial to develop and modernise the sector further.

"Only one Malaysian company is involved in the agricultural field in Cambodia, while Padiberas Nasional Bhd (Bernas) is currently conducting a feasibility study in this country," he told Bernama, here.
Cambodia is the world's fifth largest rice exporter.

Raja Saiful said other sectors that Malaysian companies could consider venturing into were construction and urban development.

He said the embassy was prepared to provide information and assistance on local regulations to any Malaysian firm keen to set up businesses in Cambodia.

"The business fraternity in Cambodia is a very close-knit one. The Malaysia Business Council in Cambodia is also ready to offer advice and services on the setting up of business ventures here," he said.
Currently, there are about 95 Malaysian companies operating in Cambodia, the majority of them are in banking, tourism and trading.

Trade volume between both countries hit RM1.6 billion last year, a three-fold increase over the 2010 figures.
Malaysia's main exports to Cambodia are electrical and mechanical parts and components as well as industrial raw materials while Cambodia's exports to Malaysia are mainly rice and rubber. -- BERNAMA

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Opposition vows mass protest over Cambodian election deadlock

PHNOM PENH | Tue Aug 6, 2013
(Reuters) - The result remains hotly disputed, but Cambodia's recent general election has put long-serving Prime Minister Hun Sen on a collision course with a resurgent opposition and revealed widespread unhappiness with his iron-fisted rule.

While analysts aren't writing off the chances of the politically ruthless Hun Sen ruling for another five years, they said the result signals a restive and youthful Cambodian population eager for change.

Both Hun Sen's Cambodian People's Party (CPP) and the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) have claimed victory in the July 28 poll. The official result will not be announced until Thursday, at the earliest.

CNRP president and long-time opposition leader Sam Rainsy declared himself prime minister on Monday and called for a mass demonstration in Phnom Penh on Tuesday that could augur months of political deadlock and possibly violent protests.

Information Minister Khieu Kanharith said the CPP won 68 seats, while the CNRP won 55. The CNRP says it won 63 and the CPP 60. It also claimed 1.3 million names were missing from electoral rolls and that Hun Sen's party stuffed ballot boxes with illegal votes.

Even by Hun Sen's own count, the election represents a dismal performance by an Asian strongman viewed during the campaign as all but invincible.

Many Cambodians feel CPP policies have enriched a select few and created a yawning poverty gap, analysts say. Huge tracts of land have been granted to foreign companies while the poor fight eviction with little hope of justice from the police or courts.

CPP policies are "out of step with a more and more open society", said independent social analyst Kem Ley, adding Hun Sen's control of the media was less effective now many that many people get information from internet social media outlets.

Kem Ley believes a CNRP boycott of parliament could lead to mass protests led by young Cambodians. "It's going to be like Egypt," he said.

Frustrations also fester in the civil service, say analysts, where low-ranking officials have watched their superiors grow rich while their own wages have stagnated.

The CNRP's election promises included pay rises for civil servants and garment workers.

Hun Sen made conciliatory remarks after the election, saying his party was ready to talk to the election commission and the opposition about alleged irregularities.

He has since reverted to a more familiar tone of defiance, warning that if the opposition boycotts parliament its seats will be redistributed to other political parties.

In a recent speech he publicly scorned U.S. lawmakers for their pre-election threats to cut financial assistance unless the election was deemed fair. "Don't talk so much," he said. "If you want to cut, just cut it."
He also suggested the generosity of China, Cambodia's biggest investor and close diplomatically, would compensate for any cut in $1 million of U.S. military aid.

But Hun Sen's hailing of close ties with Beijing could backfire with many Cambodians, who resent China's economic and political dominance of their tiny country.

Hun Sen, 61, who once vowed to stay in office until his mid-70s, will focus on retaining power rather than addressing popular discontent, said analyst Kem Ley.

"There is no way (the CPP) will reform to gain popularity," he said.

But CPP lawmaker Chheang Vun, who called the election result "a victory for our people", acknowledged his party must pay greater heed to the youth.

"Their thinking is not the same as the old people like us, so we must turn to them ... and give young people what they want," he recently told journalists.

Despite a poor election result, Hun Sen will not face any leadership challenge from inside the CPP, said Lao Mong Hay, a veteran Cambodian human rights activist.

"He has centralised all power and prevented his colleagues from proving themselves and rising to prominence," he said.

Hun Sen has comfortably won every election since Cambodia returned to full democracy in 1998 after decades of war and turmoil that included the 1975-79 "Killing Fields" rule of the Khmer Rouge.
This time, however, he faced formidable opposition from the CNRP, formed after two parties merged last year and boosted by Sam Rainsy's return from exile in July after a royal pardon removed the threat of a jail term hanging over his head.

CNRP allegations of election fraud are being investigated by the National Election Committee, a government body viewed as dominated by the CPP.

"It is inconceivable to me that Hun Sen would allow any investigation that he couldn't control," said Carl Thayer, a Cambodia expert at the Australian Defence Force Academy in Canberra. "This election result will not be the end of Hun Sen for the next five years. But his pledge to say in office until he is in his seventies looks shaky."

Cambodia: Social media fuels new politics

By Marta Kasztelan
Aug 6, 2013

Speaking Freely is an Asia Times Online feature that allows guest writers to have their say. Please click here if you are interested in contributing.

PHNOM PENH - The recently concluded general elections in Cambodia, won narrowly by the ruling Cambodian People's Party (CPP), highlighted the growing political role of social media. Throughout the election period, Facebook users took to their smart phones and computers to share information and on polling day report electoral irregularities.

Although the vast majority of Cambodians still live in the countryside, changes in technology and demography mean that more and more young people are joining social networking sites. According to social media agency We Are Social, currently one new user joins Facebook every two minutes in Cambodia, translating to an average of 1,000 new members per day.

Social media users were among the 3.5 million 18- to 30-year-olds registered to cast ballots in the July 28 elections for the National Assembly. (Altogether there were 9.5 million registered voters). While many youth voters expressed their discontent with the CPP by voting in large numbers for the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), they also rallied for political and social change online.

"Facebook was a great space for the public to air their concerns about the elections, and it was one of the very few platforms with independent information, because most media are controlled by the CPP and were peddling pro-government news," said Un Samnang, a report writer at election watchdog Comfrel.

Civil society organizations criticized the lack of independent media and censorship measures introduced by authorities ahead of the elections. Reporters Without Borders, a press freedom advocacy group, condemned a government-imposed ban forbidding local radio stations from broadcasting foreign media commentaries and opinion polls during the five days prior to the elections and on the polling day.

"We strongly condemn the failure to rescind this directive, which tramples on freedom of information. The authorities are clearly trying to restrict voter access to radio programs that are outspoken and do not toe the government line. Unobstructed access to independent news and information is the cornerstone of any free election," the watchdog group said in a statement.

Even though the ban did not apply to local media outlets, most radio stations chose to self-censor their news during the week before the election out of fears of losing their operating licenses, Comfrel's Samnang said. He underlined that Facebook helped to fill the news void by allowing people to keep each other abreast of new developments in the days before the election.

When on election day a popular Facebook page "I Love Cambodia Hot News" posted a video of a fight at a polling station after allegations of vote rigging, it was almost immediately shared by 1,326 users and "liked" by 1,663.

Social media users also called on fellow Cambodians to return to polling stations and observe the ballot count. According to a social media specialist at the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights, Lach Vannak, young voters posted photographs of their own ballot count and were fearless in reporting irregularities.

"Seventy percent of all Cambodians are below the age of 35. Most of them have no recollection of the horrors of the Khmer Rouge regime. They are young and are not afraid to say what they think. Facebook became a place where they share and discuss the latest news," Vannak said.

Both the CPP and CNRP tapped into social media, with the latter relying more on the platform due to its restricted access to mainstream Khmer media. Opposition leader Sam Rainsy used his Facebook page to reach out to youth voters and to galvanize support for his party. Even the announcement about his return from self-imposed exile a week before the polls first appeared on a social networking site.

Using Facebook for political gains, however, does not come without a cost. Vannak points out that now voters will follow-up on campaign promises. "People begin recording what you promise and they will demand that you follow through," he said. "So Facebook could play a role in making the new government more transparent and accountable."

According to 26-year-old political science graduate Ou Ritthy this trend goes beyond the elections. Ritthy, who is organizing informal discussions about politics for youth in Phnom Penh, believes Facebook is becoming a place for social justice and democracy debates and will eventually lead to a change in political culture.

"We organize small meetings in real life, but the most significant conversations take place on Facebook. I like to post controversial statements and provoke an online discussion. Democracy was born out of discussion," he said.

Ritthy thinks that young people using social media to talk about politics and current affairs are the future of Cambodia. "They will be our leaders. And I am not only talking about political leaders. One day, they will be leaders of a family or a community."

Cambodia opposition party seeks UN help to resolve disputed poll

AFP/Phnom Penh
Cambodia’s opposition leader Sam Rainsy yesterday called on the UN to help resolve the country’s disputed election in order to protect “the victory” of the people.

The nation has been stuck in a political impasse since Premier Hun Sen’s long-ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) claimed it had won last month’s poll - one of the most hotly contested votes seen in the country.
Rainsy, who returned from self-imposed exile to lead the opposition after receiving a surprise pre-election royal pardon, has claimed his Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) actually won the July 28 poll.

“Tomorrow, we will hold a big rally... to demand the UN comes and resolves the election problem in order to protect the victory of the Cambodian people,” Rainsy told a small rally in the capital Phnom Penh.
The CPP said it had secured an estimated 68 of the 123 lower house seats, with CNRP taking 55.

But the result - marking the lowest support for Hun Sen’s party since 1998 - has been rejected by the opposition, who claim widespread voting irregularities.

Rainsy has said his party won a majority of 63 seats and has vowed to prevent the CPP “stealing victory”.
The official result is not expected until later this month.

Rainsy’s CNRP on Saturday agreed to work with the CPP and the National Election Committee to set up a joint committee to probe alleged election fraud.

But Rainsy has since said his party will not be involved in the process until the UN is allowed to referee the investigation, a level of involvement rejected by the government and the NEC. They say the international body can only act as an observer.

“We do not trust NEC at all. We will join the investigation only when the UN comes,” Rainsy told reporters.
On Friday, the UN said that disputes over the election must be “adjudicated fairly” but added it had not yet been asked to join any enquiry.

The US also urged a probe into alleged misconduct but said the opposition gains marked a positive step toward democracy.

Hun Sen - who has been in power for 28 years - has welcomed a probe but has also vowed to establish a government under his leadership if the opposition refuses to join parliament.

The 60-year-old former Khmer Rouge cadre, who defected from the murderous regime, has vowed to rule until he is 74.