ADB lends 75 mln USD to Cambodian bank to support small firms

May 28th, 2014 , Xinhuanet News

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) on Wednesday signed a 75 million U.S. dollars loan with Cambodia’s largest bank, Acleda Bank, to address the rising financing requirements of micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSME) in the country.

The agreement was inked between Christine Engstrom, director in ADB’s Private Sector Operations Department, and Acleda Bank’s president and CEO In Channy. …

Xinhuanet News Staff

Australian firm bets on Bavet

May 28th, 2014 , The Phnom Penh Post

Australian-listed Cell Aquaculture (CAQ) – a onetime a marine technology company – has purchased a casino on the Cambodia-Vietnam border in a bid to generate much-needed revenue after nearing bankruptcy in 2013.

On May 26, CAQ announced in a statement to the Australian Stock Exchange that it had hosted a soft opening for the Roxy Casino, which is located 200 metres from the border crossing in Bavet town, after a full renovation and refurbishment of the once-defunct operation. …

Eddie Morton

Foreign currency deposits see strong growth

May 28th, 2014 , The Cambodia Daily

Foreign currency deposits grew briskly during the first four months of the year, a sign that public confidence in Cambodia’s financial institutions is high despite the uncertainty after last year’s disputed national election, bankers said this week.

Cheam Teang, executive vice president of Acleda Bank Plc., said the bank’s foreign currency deposits increased more than 85 percent year-on-year—from $120 million in the first four months of 2013 to $225 million during the same period this year. The main currencies being deposited are U.S. dollars and Thai baht. …

At Malaysian-owned CIMB Cambodia Bank, foreign currency deposits grew from $153 million in the first four months of 2013 to $221 million in the first four months of this year, according to Heng Vuthy, the bank’s head of strategy and finance. …

Bun Than, CFO of Sathapana Limited, a member of the Cambodia Microfinance Association and one of the seven microfinance institutions that accept deposits, said foreign currency deposits are flowing in at a faster pace.

The MFI saw a 27.5 percent increase in the first four months from $80 million in 2013 to $102 million in 2014.

Jayant Menon, lead economist at the Asia Development Bank’s regional economic integration office, said an increase in foreign currency deposits can be beneficial for the economy if properly monitored.

“An increase in the money supply can spur demand and spending, which can boost growth, but can also lead to inflationary pressures if left unchecked,” he said. …

Kang Sothear

NGOs lobby China, companies over Sesan dam

May 28th, 2014 , The Cambodia Daily

A group of 15 local and international rights groups Tuesday sent a slew of letters to the Chinese government and companies involved in the Lower Sesan II hydropower dam in Stung Treng province seeking a halt to dam construction due to serious environmental and social impacts already being felt by local communities. …

“As one of the most damaging tributary projects in the Mekong River Basin, the Lower Sesan II Dam’s effects on biodiversity, food security, livelihoods and agriculture will be felt not only in Cambodia, but across the entire Lower Mekong region,” said Ame Trandem, the Southeast Asia Program director for International Rivers, in a statement announcing the letters had been sent. …

Meach Mean, coordinator of the 3S Rivers Protection Network, said there is deep concern that widespread illegal logging and unlawful fishing activities are occurring beyond the designated construction zone for the Sesan II. He added that previous letters sent to the Chinese Embassy and the companies involved had gone unanswered. …

Simon Henderson

State regulator warned Smart over luring qb subscribers

May 28th, 2014 , The Cambodia Daily

The Telecommunication Regulator of Cambodia (TRC) last week warned mobile operator Smart that it could face legal action for attempting to lure customers away from rival operator qb, and ordered Smart to resolve the issue “immediately,” according to a letter from TRC to Smart’s CEO obtained Tuesday.

The letter, dated May 19 and signed by TRC chairman Mao Chakrya, was sent the same day the Phnom Penh Municipal Court ordered Smart employees and partners to cut off contact with qb customers, and to cease advertising aiming to lure subscribers away from qb. …

Qb has accused Smart of damaging its reputation and financial interests after the two firms agreed to terminate a long-standing agreement that allowed qb customers to tap into Smart’s network when they were roaming. Before the termination agreement was carried out, qb began receiving calls from customers who said that Smart was contacting them to switch to Smart’s network. …

The letter goes on to say that Smart violated sections of Prakas 206 on network interconnection, which regulates domestic roaming agreements. The letter tells Smart to immediately stop luring qb customers and damaging qb’s reputation. …

A source with direct knowledge of the proceedings, who declined to be named because of the sensitivity of the matter, said Tuesday that qb will pursue civil and criminal charges against Smart because the larger operator had “jeopardized qb’s total shareholder investment,” which is estimated at more than $120 million. …

Smart CEO Thomas Hundt declined to comment Tuesday. Michael Fitzpatrick, qb’s chief marketing officer, said qb is waiting to hear from Smart before making its next move. …

Joshua Wilwohl

Northeast primed for colonisation: Rainsy

May 28th, 2014 , The Phnom Penh Post

Cambodia National Rescue Party president Sam Rainsy yesterday called on residents in the northeast provinces to defend their land lest the area be turned into a Vietnamese “colony”.

Rainsy’s comments were quickly condemned by both the Cambodian and Vietnamese governments.

Speaking to hundreds of people in Mondulkiri and Ratanakkiri provinces yesterday as part of a wide-ranging tour to meet supporters, Rainsy said the government has granted thousands of hectares of land to private companies that are Khmer in name only and really belong to Vietnam. …

Meas Sokchea

Villager travels to Parliament over land row

May 28th, 2014 , The Cambodia Daily

A representative of villagers involved in a land dispute in Mondolkiri province appealed to the government Tuesday to address their displacement after their shelters were destroyed by police and soldiers in a forced eviction Monday.

Chan Rithy stood outside the National Assembly in Phnom Penh on Tuesday with a letter he said he wanted to deliver to National Assembly President Heng Samrin calling for the release of two village representatives he said were wrongly arrested on the same day as the eviction. …

“We have many documents involved with the dispute and we want the National Assembly to know about the dispute with the company,” Mr. Rithy explained. “The authorities cooperated with the company to evict the villagers from their homes and took the land to give to the company without providing compensation.”

He said another village representative, who was arrested with her husband, was wrongly accused of having illegally sold families plots of land on the disputed rubber plantation. …

Sam Nhor, a village representative, said that at least 100 families from the Banong, Prov, Tumpuon and Kreang indigenous groups “have lived in this area since their grandfathers’ generation.”

Ben Sokhean

PAL still keen on Cambodia Air venture

May 27th, 2014 , Business Mirror

FLAG carrier Philippine Airlines (PAL) has not lost its interest in pursuing a joint-venture agreement with Royal Group of Cambodia (RGC) to establish Cambodia Airlines Co. Ltd.  PAL President Ramon S. Ang confirmed that his airline’s discussions for investment in the Cambodian carrier are ongoing, as he noted that delays were caused by the political issues hounding Cambodia earlier this year.

“It was just delayed by a bit because of the ongoing events there,” Ang said.  The airline was supposed to finalize the planned joint venture with Inter Logistics (Cambodia) Co. Ltd. (ILC) on July 15, 2013. This was later moved to October 15. But the signing didn’t happen as elections took place in Cambodia.  PAL expects to pour in $10 million for a 49-percent stake in Cambodia Air, which is currently 100-percent owned by ILC. RGC’s Neak Oknha Kith Meng, in turn, owns ILC.

The flag carrier was prepared to make a $1-million downpayment upon completion of closing conditions last year. The remaining $9 million would be paid upon a call option by the board of Cambodia Air. …

Lorenz S. Marasigan

CSX gets help from Thailand

May 27th, 2014 , The Phnom Penh Post

Cambodia Securities Exchange (CSX) will partner with the Stock Exchange of Thailand (SET) to bolster technical knowledge and potential investment into Cambodia’s nascent stock market.

An agreement between the two financial institutions was signed in Phnom Penh yesterday at the CSX office, a deal that will see the SET provide training courses for CSX staff as well as information sharing between the two exchanges, according to Lamun Soleil, deputy director of market operations department at the CSX. …

Hor Kimsay

More business with Oz sought

May 27th, 2014 , The Phnom Penh Post

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs yesterday urged Cambodia and Australia to increase trade ties and encouraged greater investment from the Pacific country.

Speaking at a seminar in Phnom Penh to mark the 40th anniversary of ASEAN-Australia relations, Soeung Ratchavy, secretary of state at Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, said that in the wake of a recent fall in overall trade, the two countries should set higher targets for their economic relationship. …

Chan Muyhong

HAGL called out at the UN

May 27th, 2014 , The Phnom Penh Post

A Cambodian delegation to the United Nations last week used the stage to shame the World Bank’s financial arm for failing to adequately monitor investments in a Vietnamese rubber giant accused of illegal logging, forced evictions and sexual harassment.

Representing 17 indigenous communities in Ratanakkiri that filed a complaint against Hoang Anh Gia Lai (HAGL) in February, the Cambodian delegation requested immediate suspension of the foreign concessionaire’s activities. …


Laignee Barron

Cell Aquaculture updates on soft opening of Cambodia casino

May 26th, 2014 , Proactive Investors

Cell Aquaculture (ASX:CAQ) has advised the soft opening of the Roxy Casino in Cambodia for which it has executed the Heads of Agreement to acquire.

It had in March agreed to acquire Roxy Casino and the Haikou Free Trade Zone project from vendors Noble Rate Limited, Tang Dashun and Beijing Properties in return for 533.3 million shares worth $83 million.

The Roxy Casino is located in Bavet City, Syay Rieng Province, Cambodia. …

Proactive Investors News Staff

Cambodian officials meet with buyers from global brands on garment issues

May 26th, 2014 , Xinhuanet News

Cambodian officials, led by Permanent Deputy Prime Minister Keat Chhon, on Monday met with a 18-member delegation representing global brands and trade unions to discuss garment worker rights and wages.

It was the second round of talks between Cambodian government officials and representatives of major brands including H&M, Gap, Levi’s and Puma, as well as IndustriALL Global Union after a similar meeting held here in February.

Speaking to reporters after a two-hour closed-door meeting, Heng Sour, spokesman for the Ministry of Labor, said the meeting touched on the issues of minimum wages for workers, draft trade union law, and 23 labor activists and workers arrested during violent clashes in January. …

Xinhuanet News Staff

Workers turn models on political catwalk

May 26th, 2014 , The Cambodia Daily

About 150 garment workers turned out to the Phnom Penh of­fices of the United Sisterhood Alliance NGO on Sunday to watch a politically charged fashion show entitled “Beautiful Clothes, Ugly Reality.”

Aimed to highlight “the income gap between Cambodian garment workers and the selected CEOs of brand companies,” according to show organizers, the two-hour program featured a medley of cat-walking, political theater and speeches calling for a $160 month­ly basic wage. …

After a brief dance described as “crackdown hip-hop,” which featured four young men “krump­ing” with their arms over house music punctuated by gun-shot sound effects, a group of about a dozen female garment workers, on their day off work, emerged onto the catwalk.

The workers-turned-models, who served as the stars of the rest of the show, presented a range of colorful clothing that had no unifying theme other than hav­ing been produced in a Cam­bo­dian garment factory. …

The models were then joined by a flurry of others, dressed as protesters and activists wearing the “$160” headbands of the na­tionwide garment worker strike that began late last year.

The group marched in frenetic circuits of the catwalk until the inevitable theater of repression ar­rived in the form of men dressed up as the notorious, helmeted district security guards.

With some of the guards armed with toy rifles, the forces and the protesters tussled in a choreographed back-and-forth. A protester was then shot dead in a dramatization of the strike repressions of January.

After the show, garment workers who attended said that the demands for a $160 basic monthly wage were still alive in their minds. …

Mech Dara and Alex Willemyns

To stop leaks, exam papers to be given to only one teacher

May 26th, 2014 , The Cambodia Daily

Copies of grade 12 examination papers will only be provided to a single teacher for each subject this year in order to identify the source of leaks, said Education Minister Hang Chuon Naron during a speech on Saturday.

Mr. Naron, speaking at the American University of Phnom Penh’s one-year anniversary, warned teachers that tests leaked to students before the exam will be traced back to them. …

Rong Chhun, president of the Cam­bodian Independent Teacher Association, said Sunday that Mr. Naron should look within his own ranks before pointing the finger at teachers.

“I want the minister to look to up­per-level officials,” said Mr. Chhun, explaining that some leaks could be coming from within the minis­try’s administration. …

Among the steps, Mr. Naron has invited NGOs to register independent monitors to help oversee the tests and has enlisted the aid of the Anti-Corruption Unit, which at one point threatened cheating students with prison time. …

Mr. Naron also recommitted to his recent freeze on new universities, besides those providing engineering and agriculture degrees.

“Now we have 105 universities and more than 250,000 students, but the subjects that they are teach­ing more than 50 percent for economics, business, and management,” Mr. Naron said.

“Investors say they need workers with new skills like engineering and agriculture.”

Ben Sokhean

More unionists charged on eve of brand meeting

May 26th, 2014 , The Cambodia Daily

The Takeo Provincial Court charged eight union representatives with incitement Sunday for taking part in a garment factory strike, bringing to 17 the number of unionists charged this month alone.

The latest in the spate of recent arrests came just ahead of today’s high-level meeting between government officials and major brands including H&M and Puma, who say they are increasingly concerned about the deterioration of workers’ rights in the country.

Takeo Provincial Court deputy prosecutor Tin Sochetra said the eight union representatives had failed to heed a recent court order instructing employees of the JSD Textile factory to head back to work. …

Kuth Piseth, a JSD employee, said about 1,000 of his fellow workers have been on strike since April 29, the day after the factory fired one of their colleagues for collecting signatures in hopes of starting up a local union branch. …

CCAWDU president Ath Thorn, who is also facing charges of inciting violence for his alleged role in a September protest at the SL Gar­ment factory in Phnom Penh, said the government had no right to ar­rest or charge his representatives. …

Police in Kompong Speu prov­ince arrested six union representatives on May 6 for helping workers stage a strike at a local shoe factory. The next week, po­lice arrested three more union representatives who had joined strikes elsewhere. Like those ar­rested on Friday, they were also all charged with incitement. …

David Welsh, the Cambodia country director of the Solidarity Center, a U.S.-based labor rights group, said the number of arrests in the past few weeks, while unusually high, was unlikely to seriously scare the unions out of staging more strikes. …

Representatives from international union groups and some ma­jor brands that source from Cam­bodia including H&M, Gap and Levi’s will meet with government representatives in Phnom Penh to­day to follow up on the labor rights concerns they raised at a similar meeting here in February. …

Mech Dara

Twenty put end to latest Caltex strike

May 26th, 2014 , The Phnom Penh Post

Petrol station workers who were back on strike on Friday returned to work yesterday as they prepare to file a complaint to the Ministry of Labour against US-owned Caltex over alleged rights abuse.

Yoeun Reth, one of 20 Caltex workers striking on Friday, said yesterday that the workers had reluctantly agreed to go back to the pumps. …

Mom Kunthear

Lawmaker blasts illegal logging in Stung Treng

May 26th, 2014 , The Cambodia Daily

Two draft laws on judicial reform were easily passed by the single-party National Assembly on Friday but the session was overshadowed by a rookie lawmaker’s attack on lax enforcement of forestry laws in Stung Treng province.

On the fourth day of the third plenary session of the Assembly—which the opposition CNRP’s 55 lawmakers-elect continue to boycott, claiming the 2013 national election was stolen—the 65 CPP lawmakers present unanimously passed drafts of the Law on the Status of Judges and Prosecutors and the Law on the Supreme Council of the Magistracy.

But while those two laws were pushed quickly through the Assembly, Loy Sophat, the former governor of Stung Treng province, who became a CPP lawmaker for the fifth mandate, took aim at other laws that he claims are not being enforced.

“The government allowed the construction of the Lower Sesan II hydroelectric dam and made laws on its construction and the clearing of the reservoir,” Mr. Sophat said. …

“In that area, logging is out of control,” Mr. Sophat said. “Some powerful people escape the law and take the opportunity to cut wood inside Virachey National Park and other areas and then transport them to this area [Sesan II].”

Mark Hanna, chief financial officer for Royal Group, said that while the partnership had faced this accusation previously—logging was halted temporarily in October after reports of trees felled outside the reservoir—he had no knowledge of any renewed complaints. …

Virachey National Park, which stretches from the northeastern tip of neighboring Ratanakkiri province into Stung Treng, is a 330,000-hectare swathe of forest touching the borders with Vietnam and Laos. It is ostensibly protected from loggers, but in fact luxury timber is often felled within the park.

Mr. Sophat charges that, while the protected forest is being destroyed—with the Sesan II concession as one safety zone for looted timber—authorities are ignoring those most responsible and focusing on small-time loggers. …

Khy Sovuthy