National Petroleum Authority to Change Hands

November 11th, 2013 , The Cambodia Daily

The Cambodian National Petroleum Authority (CNPA), formerly overseen by the Council of Ministers, will be integrated into the Ministry of Mines and Energy, according to senior CPP officials, the latest cut to the vast portfolio of government bodies controlled by Deputy Prime Minister Sok An.

Since July’s national election, Mr. An has seen no fewer than 13 state bodies shifted from the purview of the Council of Ministers to relevant ministries in what the government says is an effort to decentralize power within the administration of Prime Minister Hun Sen. …

Mr. Yeap confirmed Friday, following a meeting at the National Assembly, that the Ministry of Industry, Mines and Energy would be divided into two ministries—the Ministry of Mines and Energy and the Ministry of Industry and Handicrafts. The government is yet to decide which ministry would be headed by Cham Prasidh, the former commerce minister, who was named minister of industry, mines and energy in September. …

The CNPA has failed to meet its own target of extracting oil by the end of 2012, and has been widely criticized for the lack of transparency in its management.

In 2011, the Asian Develop­ment Bank (ADB) reported that the body failed to cooperate with ADB consultants as part of a $1 million project aimed at strengthening governance at the body. …

In 2009, London-based environmental watchdog Global Witness said that Te Duong Dara, the former director-general of the CNPA, who now owns a strawberry plantation in Mondolkiri, had maintained a “vice-like grip on information” at the CNPA, and had recruited “his own pool of loyal staff from other ministries, bypassing the trained staff within the CNPA.”

Aun Pheap and Colin Meyn

Cambodia Delays US Military Aid

August 14th, 2013 , The Cambodia Daily

Cambodia postponed U.S.-backed military assistance programs immediately after the July 28 national election, officials of both countries confirmed Tuesday, in a move that analysts said reflects a strain in relations after years of strengthening military ties.

The U.S. has in recent years expanded training and other funding for the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF), but the delay comes after U.S. lawmakers called for the U.S. to cut aid to Cambodia and the State Depart­ment’s insistence that allegations of irregularities at the polls last month should be credibly investigated.

In a press briefing in Washington on Monday, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said the suspension of military assistance was a unilateral move by the Cambodian government.

“Following the elections, the Cambodian Ministry of Defense postponed or canceled a number of international military programs, including with the United States. We would not categorize the cancelation of programs as a suspension of military ties. We haven’t indicated that we would suspend military ties,” Ms. Harf said. …

The U.S. Embassy said it had been told some military programs involving the U.S. and other countries had simply been postponed until a new government is formed. But a Defense Ministry official said that only U.S. military aid programs were put back, and insisted that both Cambodia and the U.S. had agreed upon the delay.

The Ministry of National Defense on Tuesday morning called a press conference during which Lieutenant General Nem Sowath, director-general of the general department of policy and foreign affairs at the Defense Ministry, confirmed to reporters that some joint programs with the U.S. had been delayed. …

“I want to explain that the word delay is different from suspend or cancel. Delay means now we put it off until later,” Lt. Gen. Sowath added, declining to say when the delay would be over. …

He said Cambodia had received $477,000 of FMF money so far this year.

While the State Department does not publish up-to-date figures, in 2011, Cambodia was expected to receive $1 million of FMF funds in total. Total assistance from the U.S. to Cambodia was $76 million last year. …

U.S. Embassy spokesman Sean McIntosh declined to name other countries whose aid programs had been delayed and stressed that only “limited” programs had been delayed in Cambodia.

“The affected number of U.S.-Cambodia bilateral activities largely involved senior leadership engagement. Working-level events are continuing as planned,” he said by email. …

Khuon Narim and Simon Lewis

Japanese oil study ‘Positive’

June 5th, 2013 , The Phnom Penh Post

The hunt for oil around northwestern Cambodia has unearthed “positive” results for Japan Oil, Gas and Metals National Corporation (JOGMEC), which intends to continue exploring the area in a project that could last at least six more years, a government spokesman said.

JOGMEC’s survey on the area known as Block 17, which spans across Siem Reap and Preah Vihear provinces, has netted “positive and encouraging” results, said the Council of Minister’s spokesman, Ek Tha. It has also led “to numerous new geological information and understanding of Cambodia onshore petroleum potential.”

Such findings are “a result of a three-year joint study between JOGMEC and the Cambodian National Petroleum Authority (CNPA), which includes Cambodia’s first ever onshore 2D seismic acquisition by way of using explosives,” he said. …

Mam Sambath, executive director of Development and Partnership in Action, said that if petroleum is eventually found and extracted, the company should consider the possible environmental impacts.

Pipelines would have to be installed to transport the petroleum to refineries, he said.

“If the pipeline leaks, it will pollute the environment and affect humans, animals and rice fields nearby,” he said. This is especially true because the area being surveyed is home to many protected areas and sanctuaries, he added.

May Kunmakara and Low Wei Xiang

Government To Push Digital Empowerment

April 30th, 2013 , The Phnom Penh Post

Senior government officials yesterday were promoting the development of the information and communication technologies (ICT) sector in the Kingdom, particularly the concept of digital empowerment among young people.

Deputy Prime Minister Sok An, who presided over the opening of ITU Asia-Pacific Regional Development Forum, held in Phnom Penh, said Cambodia is a country that has more mobile phone subscriptions than the entire size of the population. …

The growth of mobile phones has been considerable in Cambodian over the last few years: in 2012 numbers of mobile and fixed-line phones was 19.7 million; while the year before the numbers were 16.2 million, according to report of Ministry of Post and Telecommunication for 2012. …

Rann Reuy

ADB praises Cambodia for public debt management

March 27th, 2013 , The Cambodia Herald

Eric Sidgwick, Country director of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) to Cambodia applauded Cambodia for managing it’s, sometimes problematic, public debts. …

During the Wednesday meeting with Deputy Prime Minister, Sok An, Eric Sidgwick said, good management led to the positive changes of donations and loans to Cambodia. …

The government, with the collaboration of ADB, aims to increase the GDP of its citizens to $4,000 by 2030, he added.

The Cambodia Herald Staff

Strongman’s hand in BHP deal

March 26th, 2013 , The Sydney Morning Herald

A BHP Billiton mining deal being investigated for alleged corruption was personally overseen by Cambodian strongman Hun Sen, diplomatic cables reveal.
The miner’s aborted attempt to establish a bauxite mine in Cambodia, and its hospitality program for Chinese officials at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, are at the centre of a foreign bribery investigation by the Australian Federal Police and the US Justice Department. …

Diplomatic cables, several marked ”sensitive” and ”protected”, show for the first time Prime Minister Hun Sen’s close involvement in 2006 negotiations with BHP executives that led to him announcing to a private audience he would give ”BHP 1 million hectares of land” weeks before an agreement was signed and ”a possible tax holiday”.

They also reveal how BHP stopped all mineral exploration in Cambodia just months after a British non-governmental organisation published a 2009 report highlighting the company’s payment of $US3.5 million to Cambodian government departments and concerns it could not be accounted for.

There is no evidence suggesting any of the money went to Mr Hun Sen or his associates, and he has dismissed reports suggesting BHP was involved in bribery in Cambodia.

Richard Baker

Council Of Ministers Backs Hun Sen’s Plan To Rebuild Homes

March 22nd, 2013 , The Cambodia Daily

The Council of Ministers yesterday backed Prime Minister Hun Sen’s plan to rebuild the flattened homes of 49 families who were violently evicted earlier this month in Preah Sihanouk province’s Stung Hav district.

In a statement on Sunday, Mr. Hun Sen dismissed the Council of Ministers’ decision to give 352 hectares of land in Keo Phos village to local businessman Cheam Phen, and said the land should be given back to the villagers, with CPP Senator Mong Reththy overseeing the rebuilding of the 17 houses.

Mr. Hun Sen’s statement followed a letter released by the Council of Ministers and signed by Deputy Prime Minister Sok An to the Sihanoukville Provincial Court last month stated Mr. Phen was the rightful owner of the land.

But yesterday, the Council of Ministers called for the case in which Mr. Phen was awarded the 353 hectares to be fully reinvestigated, using letters from Interior Minister Sar Kheng and Mr. Hun Sen. …

Kaing Menghun, P.18

Rights Group Denounces Gag Order on Lawyers Before Election

February 13th, 2013 , The Cambodia Daily

New York-based advocacy group Human Rights Watch (HRW) has accused the Cambodian Bar Association of trying to silence potential government critics ahead of July’s national elections by imposing restrictions on lawyers making public statements.

The Bar Association and the Information Ministry have both issued edicts that official approval must be sought before lawyers speak to the media. The order followed the censuring of an outspoken attorney in a $65-million court dispute involving high-profile telecommunications companies. …

Simon Lewis, P.17

India to supply HR development assistance

February 5th, 2013 , The Phnom Penh Post

Cambodia has asked India to provide more assistance in the development of human resources to promote economic growth and enhance bilateral co-operation.

Deputy Prime Minister Sok An made the request during a meeting with Indian human resource development minister Mangapati Pallam Raju in Phnom Penh on Sunday, Ek Tha, a spokesman for the Office of the Council of Ministers, told reporters after the meeting. …

May Kunmakara

$20m mill will lift rice exports

January 24th, 2013 , The Phnom Penh Post

Cambodian company Soma Group has signed a joint-venture agreement with Thai-based CP Intertrade to build and operate a $20 million rice mill that will process fragrant rice for export.

Industry insiders say the mill will increase Cambodia’s rice export capacity and boost the Kingdom’s ability to produce quality rice for the international market.

The memorandum of understanding (MoU) was signed by Soma Group chief executive Sok Puthyvuth, the son of Deputy Prime Minister Sok An, and Sumeth Laomoranphorn, a representative of CP Intertrade, an agricultural distrib-ution company in Bangkok. …

Hor Kimsay

Cambodia has great potential for FDI

January 9th, 2013 , The Phnom Penh Post

An assistant to former US president Bill Clinton said Cambodia has many potential areas for foreign direct investment (FDI) from many countries, including the US.

Karen Tramontano, founder, along with Clinton, and president of the Global Fairness Initiative and CEO at Blue Star Strategies, met with Deputy Prime Minister Sok An in Phnom Penh yesterday.

“Cambodia has much potential in the garment industry, agriculture, tourism, construction and others, attracting a lot of foreign direct investment.” …

Cambodia’s total exports to the US increased by 0.2 per cent over the first 10 months of 2012.

They totalled $2.296 billion compared to $2.291 billion in the same period of 2011, according to data from the US Department of Commerce.

Data from the Council for the Development of Cambodia showed Cambodia received $8.6 million in foreign direct investment from the US over the first seven months of 2012.

By May Kunmakara

Deputy PM promises tighter fiscal controls

December 20th, 2012 , The Phnom Penh Post

Cambodia’s Deputy Prime Minister yesterday reiterated his commitment to criminalising money laundering and terrorist financing in the Kingdom.

Sok An reassured delegates at the Asia-Pacific Group (APG) on Money Laundering of Cambodia’s commitment to implementing comprehensive procedures to stop illegal monetary transactions. …

May Kunmakara

Angkor Wat site in danger: Deputy PM

December 7th, 2012

In a rare acknowledgement of deforestation concerns, Deputy Prime Minister Sok An, chairman of the National Commission for UNESCO, said the widespread clearing of forests around Angkor Wat was harming views of the historic temple complex.

Sok An made the remarks in Siem Reap at a Plenary Session of the International Co-ordinating Committee for the Safeguarding and Development of the Historic Site of Angkor (ICC-Angkor) on Wednesday, and stressed that the forest, known as Phnom Kulen, was degraded and needed immediate attention. …

Thik Kaliyann

PM mocks pay-rise promises

October 10th, 2012 , The Phnom Penh Post

Prime Minister Hun Sen mockingly declared that opposition pledges to increase the salaries of civil servants marked the arrival of “the season of promises” ahead of next year’s elections, during a speech yesterday.

The premier deemed boosting salaries by reducing tax losses attributed to graft unfeasible  because corrupt people were not forthright about their activities, adding that no one would lend the Kingdom money to lift wages – leaving only the option of taxing farmers to finance such a raise. ..

Cambodian teachers, bureaucrats and members of the armed forces can earn as little as $50 per month, but in a recent report by state news agency Agence Kampuchea Presse, Deputy Prime Minister Sok An was quoted as saying civil servant salaries had risen by 540 per cent since 2001. …

Meas Sokchea, P. 3

Sok An Wants Thai Waters Dispute Resolved

July 28th, 2012 , The Cambodia Daily

In his first public meeting in weeks, Deputy Prime Minister Sok An on Friday met with a delegation of Thai officials in Phnom Penh and pledged Cambodia’s commitment to resolve a decade-old maritime dispute over contested maritime space in the Gulf of Thailand.

Speaking to reporters at the Council of Ministers on his first full day back in the country after receiving medical treatment in Singapore, Mr. An said he hoped that negotiations on a power sharing agreement over the 27,000 square km area of resource-rich sea would pick up pace. …

Khy Sovuthy, P. 11

Chinese Firm to Invest $100M in Rice Mill

April 9th, 2012 , The Cambodia Daily

A Chinese company from Yunnan province will invest $100 million to build a rice mill and processing plant in Cambodia with a local firm and export 200,000 tons of milled rice to China beginning this year, officials said yesterday.

The Yunnan Pan-Asia Agricultural Cooperation and Development Company Ltd signed a memorandum of understanding with Cambodia’s Soma Group Company Ltd to build the rice mill and export the finished product during a meeting Friday between Deputy Prime Minister Sok An and a delegation of investors from Yunnan province, Council of Ministers spokesman Ek Tha said. …

Cambodia eyes Iranian oil imports

January 30th, 2012 , The Cambodia Daily

Deputy Prime Minister Sok An has told Iran’s ambassador to Cambodia that once an oil refinery in the country is operational, Cambodia would be able to import crude oil from Iran and export refined oil products to China, the Council of Ministers said on its website last week.

The announcement comes as both the US and the European Union have placed new sanctions on Iran in an attempt to get the country to abandon its alleged nuclear weapons program…

Olesia Plokhii and Hul Reaksmey, p.26

Pakistan, Cambodia talk economic ties

December 23rd, 2011

Pakistan and Cambodia yesterday discussed strengthening economic ties in areas such banking and transportation, a government official said.

Ambassador of Pakistan Fazal-ur-Rahman Kazi and Cambodia’s Deputy Prime Minister Sok An considered an agreement on the protection of trade and investment, Ek Tha, spokesman for the Council of Ministers, said.

Pakistan’s ambassador said he hopes an agreement will be signed next year, although there is no set timeline, according to Ek Tha…

Diana Montaño

FDI soars 250% over last year

October 13th, 2011 , The Phnom Penh Post

Foreign direct investment in the Kingdom soared 250 per cent year-on-year through August even despite the West’s economic woes, Deputy Prime Minister Sok An said yesterday.

A total of 87 projects worth US$5.6 billion were approved by the Council for the Development of Cambodia during the first eight months of the year, he said during a speech at the International Business Chamber of Cambodia conference in Phnom Penh.

“The economy is still seeing robust growth due to strong foreign direct investment in key sectors,” he said, pointing to construction and tourism, real estate, banking and product exports…


Yingluck adds fuel to gas talks

September 12th, 2011 , The Phnom Penh Post

Deputy Prime Minister and head of the Cambodian National Petroleum Association Sok An has called for the resumption of talks with Thailand over the disputed overlapping claims area in the Gulf of Thailand, believed to be rich in oil and natural-gas reserves.

The oil industry had the potential to be a lucrative resource for Cambodia’s developing economy, he told reporters at Phnom Penh International Airport on Friday…

(Vong Sokheng, p6)