Dredging for development

June 2nd, 2014 , The Phnom Penh Post

With some people eating lunch off a tablecloth on the ground as children played in the distance, the scene in a small village in Phnom Penh’s Russey Keo district yesterday afternoon looked somewhat like a picnic.

But villagers had gathered there, a few metres from a work crew, in an attempt to prevent a development firm from continuing to dump sand onto an area they say was lush and fertile until dredging began without warning last week.​ …

Khouth Sophak Chakrya and Sean Teehan

Cambodia needs 26.5 bln USD for next five-year development plan

May 30th, 2014 , Xinhuanet News

The Cambodian Council of Ministers on Friday approved a five-year development strategic plan (2014-2018), which needs financial resources of 26.5 billion U.S. dollars to achieve the target, according to a news statement released after a weekly cabinet meeting. …

The plan is designed to develop infrastructure, agriculture and irrigation system, energy, economy, education and health in the country. “It is estimated that the country needs about 26.5 billion U.S. dollars for five years, or 5.3 billion U.S. dollars a year, in order to achieve this development plan,” the statement said. “The goal is to ensure the sustainable development of economy and poverty reduction.” …

Cambodia attained a 7.6-percent economic growth last year, according to government figures. Poverty rate has fallen from 53 percent in 2004 to 20 percent last year. …

Xinhuanet News Staff

Gov’t orders halt to Koh Pich expansion

May 30th, 2014 , The Cambodia Daily

The owner and developer of Koh Pich in Phnom Penh has been ordered by the government to scale back its expansion of the island, according to the Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology.

According to a statement posted to the ministry’s website on Wednesday, the Overseas Cambodian Investment Corporation (OCIC) has gone beyond its approved artificial expansion of the small island in the Bassac River and has yet to scale back to the approved limit. …

The statement says a hectare of the unapproved expansion is still to be scaled back but offers no other details, including any information on how much OCIC had originally exceeded its limit.

Neither Water Resources Ministry spokesman Chan Youttha nor OCIC project manager Touch Samnang could be reached for comment. …

OCIC has already developed the island extensively, with everything from massive convention halls to restaurants, amusement parks and luxury villas, and has plans to add office buildings and what would be one of the world’s tallest towers if it is ever built.

Mech Dara

As verdicts loom in 25 protest related cases, acquittals sought

May 30th, 2014 , The Cambodia Daily

Verdicts will be handed down Friday in two garment protest-related cases that rights groups say were built on a weak body of evidence.

The two cases occurred months apart but followed a similar narrative: Garment workers fed up with their calls for a higher monthly minimum wage took to the streets. Rocks were then thrown in violent clashes with armed police, who ended up shooting bystanders or the protesting workers dead.

One of the clashes took place in Stung Meanchey on November 12, where police shot dead seller Eng Sokhom during a protest by SL Garment workers and arrested Men Sok Sambath, then 14, and Vanny Vanan, 17.

Then on January 2 and 3, the military police shot dead at least five protesters during garment strikes while 23 unionists, workers and bystanders were arrested and accused of violence and property damage. …

In separate statements, the Cambodian Center for Human Rights and Adhoc called for the men’s acquittal.

“The trials were marked by a lack of evidence presented by the prosecution,” Adhoc said. “What evidence was produced was accepted unquestionably by the trial judges, who appeared at times to be outright hostile to the defense.” …

Lauren Crothers

K Speu families threaten to take back farms

May 30th, 2014 , The Cambodia Daily

Representatives for about 250 families involved in a long-running dispute with an agri-business firm in Kompong Speu province have filed a complaint with rights group Adhoc and say they will attempt to retake land that was stolen from them.

About 60 of the villagers traveled to Phnom Penh on Thursday to publicize their case through the media and held a press conference at Adhoc’s head office.

Som Kong, one of the villagers, said the families have been farming the disputed 950 hectares since the 1980s and filed numerous complaints with various government authorities to no avail after the Master International Corporation Group started taking it over in 2006. …

Kuch Naren

Monks protest over institute

May 30th, 2014 , The Phnom Penh Post

A group of about 100 people, including 50 or so monks, attempted to march yesterday to protest outside Phnom Penh’s Buddhist Institute, but were thwarted by droves of military police and district security guards on Sisowath Quay.

No violence occurred as Independent Monk Network leader But Buntenh called off the march after vocally denouncing the government, which he alleged was selling off the institute’s land to casino operator NagaCorp.

The march came despite the Ministry of Cult and Religion insisting on Tuesday that the destruction of part of the entrance and wall surrounding the institute was only to assist the construction of an electricity substation on the institute’s grounds by NagaCorp and Electricite du Cambodge. …

Chhay Channyda

Company digs trench around family’s home

May 30th, 2014 , The Cambodia Daily

Hang Chantha watched in horror last weekend as a private company battling to take her land dug a four-meter-deep trench around the perimeter of her home.

“After the company dug, I could not sleep at night; I was afraid my house would fall,” she recounted Thursday, sitting beneath her elevated home with her grandchildren playing nearby. “I have many children up there.”

The Heng Development Company has muscled its way into Phnom Penh’s Prek Kampoes commune in the past few years, scooping up at least 300 hectares of land behind Ms. Chantha’s home.

Ms. Chantha, 53, and two of her neighbors have refused to sell their homes, located just off National Road 2 and leading into Heng Development’s large swath of land. …

Ms. Chantha, who says that she always carries her land ownership title in her handbag, explained Thursday that she has been sleeping beneath her home since the trench was dug.

Looking at cracks that have appeared in the land under her home, she said she’s too afraid to sleep in her elevated home, which she recently raised to escape floods.

“My land has started to break; it’s very dangerous,” she said. “We are a poor family and the company thinks it can do whatever it wants.” …

Ben Sokhean and Alex Consiglio

Villagers defy ban, march to Gov’t buildings

May 30th, 2014 , The Cambodia Daily

More than 200 people from the group Land Communities for Peace marched from the Anti-Corruption Unit (ACU) to the National Assembly on Thursday in defiance of a ban issued by City Hall.

Phnom Penh deputy governor Khuong Sreng said the protest would not be allowed after meeting on Monday with representatives of the group, who told him of their plans to lead a march of more than 1,500 villagers from across the country to raise awareness of deforestation, land disputes and problems related to economic land concessions. …

Mom Sakin, a representative from Kratie province, said that ACU officials had welcomed the group and assured them that they would discuss the issues raised with the unit’s president, Om Yentieng. …

Mech Dara

Cross at your own risk

May 30th, 2014 , The Phnom Penh Post

Since he began making the perilous journey to Thailand to log rosewood 10 years ago, Sao Sophon* has had plenty of time to calculate the cost of dying.

“When we cross the border to Thailand, our lives are equal to $80 or $90, because that is the amount we can earn for each trip. If the Thai soldiers shoot us, that is what our lives are worth,” Sophon said.

Sitting on the back of the large two-wheeled cart that he pulls from Oddar Meanchey province into Thailand, Sophon, the head of an illegal logging cartel, told the Post that the hunt for lucrative rosewood leads loggers on a gruelling four-hour trek over the sprawling Dangkrek Mountains and into neighbouring Thailand. …

May Titthara and Alice Cuddy

Gov’t adviser files suit against fraud accusers

May 30th, 2014 , The Cambodia Daily

The man accused of leading a multimillion-dollar scheme in which hundreds of mostly elderly Japanese investors lost thousands of dollars in fake real estate projects in Cambodia has filed a defamation suit against the lawyers who made the accusation.

Ikuo Konno, 58, who is the CEO of local development company AAP International Cambodia Co. Ltd. and an adviser to Deputy Prime Minister Ke Kim Yan, said Thursday that he filed suit against Japanese lawyer Egawa Go as well as his associates for defamation and malicious denunciation. …

At the press conference, the lawyers distributed a document stating that through fact-finding during civil proceedings in Japan, Mr. Konno was revealed as the mastermind of the scheme and that most of the money stolen from the victims has already been transferred to Cambodia.

The lawyers said they represented 45 out of 99 victims in Japan who have been swindled. The total damage being claimed by the 99 victims is $20.1 million. …

Khy Sovuthy

Lawyers call for arrest of investment scammer

May 29th, 2014 , The Cambodia Daily

Lawyers for 45 Japanese in­vestors who lost thousands of dollars in fake real estate projects in Cambodia called Wednesday for more victims to come forward in an effort to pressure the Cambo­dian government to arrest the scheme’s ringleader, who they say still lives in the country. …

They said the scheme has been going on since 2012 and that Jap­anese police have been investigating the case since last year. They also said the scam’s ringleader, Ikuo Konno, lives in Cambodia, and called on local authorities to take action to arrest him. …

“The fraud case has been happening since 2012 with the ringleader, a Japanese man Ikuo Konno,” said Mr. Isao at the press conference. “According to witnesses, people said that Mr. Ikuo Konno lives in Cambodia now, and Ikuo Konno also an­swered before a Japanese court that he lived in Cambodia and had accepted Cambodian citizenship in 2013.”

Mr. Konno appears to be the CEO of a local development company called AAP International (Cambodia) Co. Ltd. AAP’s website says that the company relocated its operations to Cambo­dia—though it is unclear when or from where—and that the country offers a prosperous business climate. …

Khy Sovuthy

Borey River Town developer eyes second, $100 million property investment

May 29th, 2014 , The Phnom Penh Post

Following the success of Borey River Town, the investor behind it has announced plans to inject $100 million into developing a new project.

General manager Teng Rith says that construction of Borey River Town is now 50 per cent complete, with some 80 per cent of the units already sold.

The company is now contemplating investing $100 million in a new 25-hectare property development near Borey River Town that will be both residential and commercial, Rith says.

The construction of Borey River Town has been carried out with an investment of $20 million.

The river town comprises 26 twin villas, five single villas and 60 flats. …

Siv Meng

De Castle Royal partners with The Place for first-class gym workout

May 29th, 2014 , The Phnom Penh Post

The management of the 32-storey De Castle Royal condominium project in BKK1 has announced that the The Place, widely regarded as Phnom Penh’s only independent five-star gym, will manage the development’s fitness centre.

This means the air-conditioned De Castle Royal gym will be fully fitted out with state-of-the-art equipment supplied by Italy’s Technogym, which Alexandre Vessella, The Place’s gym manager, described to the Post in an interview late last year as “the best sports equipment brand on the market”.

The Place will also manage De Castle Royal’s 25-metre swimming pool, says property manager Nimol Mam, who adds that the pool will be built to the same dimensions as the one at The Place, which is located at No 11 Street 51, and will also include a poolside garden. …

Post Staff

Grand Twins again delays bourse listing

May 29th, 2014 , The Cambodia Daily

Grand Twins International (Cambodia) Co. Ltd., a Phnom Penh-based manufacturer of clothes for U.S. athletic brands, has again delayed its listing on the Cambodia Securities Exchange (CSX), officials said Wednesday.

The company was expected to list Thursday, but technical problems prevented it from doing so, according to Kuy Vat, chairman of Phnom Penh Securities (PPS), the underwriter for Grand Twins. …

Grand Twins was originally scheduled to list May 8 but in mid-April, PPS issued an announcement that said the date was pushed to Thursday. It offered no explanation.

No announcement had been made on the PPS website Wednesday, but a large banner displayed the results of Grand Twins’ book-building process, which records investor demands to determine the price for an IPO.

It lists Grand Twins’ final price as 9,640 riel, or about $2.41.

When it does list, Grand Twins will be the second company on the bourse and the first private company trading shares. …

Hul Reaksmey

Ocean garment workers on strike after factory halts operations

May 29th, 2014 , The Cambodia Daily

About 1,000 workers protested outside Ocean Garment factory in Phnom Penh’s Pur Senchey district on Wednesday to demand compensation for being out of work while the factory suspends its operations for a month due to flagging demand from buyers, a union leader said.

Workers have been protesting since Saturday after the factory announced it would suspend production from Monday until June 26. …

Mech Dara

Construction, sales of Casa Meridian to get under way this weekend

May 29th, 2014 , The Phnom Penh Post

The Hong Kong-invested Casa Meridian project plans to launch sales and start construction at the end of this month.

Casa Meridian is a skyscraper condominium development on Diamond Island (Koh Pich), which developers there hope will become a modern commercial and residential area of Phnom Penh by the end of 2017.

Casa Meridian sales manager Om Ban An said the company would launch sales and start construction on Saturday. …

Siv Meng

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