China, Cambodia to co-chair intergovernmental committee

December 16th, 2013 , People's Daily Online

Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Hor Nam Hong will visit China in January at the invitation of Chinese State Councilor Yang Jiechi, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei announced on Sunday.

Hor Nam Hong and Yang will co-chair the first meeting of intergovernmental coordinating committee between China and Cambodia in Beijing, said Hong. …

He [Hor Nam Hong] said China and Cambodia will make a plan for further development in the meeting in January and explore general ideas and specific measures of cooperation in various fields, adding that the meeting will play a positive role in advancing the China-Cambodia comprehensive strategic partnership of cooperation.

People's Daily Online
http://english.peopledaily.com.cn/90883/8485533.html

Land-title program ‘Ineffective’

December 13th, 2013 , The Phnom Penh Post

Land certificates handed out by Prime Minister Hun Sen’s youth volunteers have been seized by local authorities in some parts of the country and sold on to companies, a forum on land rights was told yesterday, amid reports of rising numbers of land conflicts.

Speaking at the forum, Ky Chanra, a resident of Battambang province’s Bavel district, said youth volunteers had measured his land and produced a certificate, but the company continued to occupy the land as it had done since 2005. …

Yesterday’s meeting served as the launch of Cambodia: Land in Conflict, a report on land use published yesterday by the Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR).

The report describes the volunteer-led titling program as ineffective, claiming that by and large the scheme has not sought to help communities affected by land disputes and that activists campaigning for the communities have been regularly arrested.

“People in Pursat province’s Krokor district were granted land titles after the borders were demarcated by the students in December 2012. But the Pheapimex Company still continued occupying the land,” the report said. …

Thong Pha, from Kampong Speu province, said that while she was initially glad that youth volunteers were measuring her land, the feeling soon faded when the authorities stepped in and sold her papers to companies who wished to exploit the land.

“They seized our certificates and then sold them to the companies. So I would like to ask the government to help us to get my land back, because I have lived in the area since the Khmer Rouge,” she said. …

May Titthara
http://www.phnompenhpost.com/national/land-title-program-%E2%80%98ineffective%E2%80%99

Cambodian PM heads for Japan, 4 deals planned to be inked

December 12th, 2013 , Global Post

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen left here on Thursday for a week-long visit to Japan and the two countries are expected to sign four deals including defense cooperation, a senior official said.

One of them is the memorandum on defense cooperation and exchanges between the two countries’ defense ministries,” said Srey Thamarong, minister attached to the prime minister, at the airport before departure. …

“They will also exchange views on regional and international issues including the Korean Peninsula and climate change among others,” he [Srey Thamarong] said. …

Global Post News Staff
http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/xinhua-news-agency/131211/cambodian-pm-heads-japan-4-deals-planned-be-inked

A minor melee mars day’s events

December 11th, 2013 , The Phnom Penh Post

A day of peaceful demonstrations gave way to an evening of unrest last night as a handful of protesters were removed from a small patch of land across from the United States embassy and a grup of uninvolved people threw Molotov cocktails towards riot police at Wat Phnom.

Shortly after a Cambodia National Rescue Party rally marking International Human Rights Day ended at noon, some 300 people gathered in front of the US embassy, waving opposition party flags. …

By 7pm, a group of about 15 people remained there, sitting down and lighting candles on carpet laid out on grass, while demanding justice and freedom. …

About 20 Daun Penh district security guards stood in formation directly next to the protesters, with one using a loud speaker on top of his car to cajole the sitting demonstrators into dispersing. If they left now, there would be no violence, the guard said. They could come back the next day. …

As Ouk Pichsamnang, a barber and former soldier, stood up among his sitting counterparts, telling police they would stay regardless of the consequences, more than 200 armed riot police gathered at Wat Phnom. …

Daun Penh district security guards took the 11 to nearby Moha Leap guesthouse to stay the night, said Moeun Tola of the Community Legal Education Center, who spoke with Veng, one of those removed from the scene. The group later opted to spend the night at Wat Keang Klang, Tola said. …

Khouth Sophak Chakrya and Sean Teehan
http://www.phnompenhpost.com/national/minor-melee-mars-day%E2%80%99s-events

Disabled integration touted

December 11th, 2013 , The Phnom Penh Post

Disabled Cambodians were promised a “society without barriers” by Prime Minister Hun Sen yesterday in a speech on Cambodia’s Day of Persons with Disabilities in Phnom Penh.

About 1,500 disabled Cambodians marked the day at a gathering of more than 2,000 people in the capital’s Koh Pich Exhibition Center. …

Hun Sen pledged to recruit an additional 1,000 teachers annually over the next two years, adding that the recruitment of teachers to teach disabled students at the NGO would mean they received two salaries, one from the civil service and one from Krousar Thmey. It was unclear if this pledge could apply to other similar NGOs. …

Vong Sokheng
http://www.phnompenhpost.com/national/disabled-integration-touted

H&M may raise prices to pay workers

December 11th, 2013 , The Phnom Penh Post

Clothing giant H&M is considering raising retail prices and passing the buck onto the consumer to help pay higher wages to garment workers in poor countries.

There won’t be any price increases in the short-term, but it “might be a possibility” in the future, Helena Helmersson, head of sustainability at the Swedish clothing maker, told Agence France-Presse on Monday in Stockholm, where the company was meeting with advocacy groups.

Ken Loo, Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia secretary-general, welcomed the announcement as a “natural response” from one of Cambodia’s most prominent sourcing brands. …

Dave Welsh, country director for labour rights group Solidarity Center/ACILS, was less optimistic about the proposal, given that huge corporate profits have rarely trickled down to workers. …

Daniel de Carteret and May Kunmakara
http://www.phnompenhpost.com/business/hm-may-raise-prices-pay-workers

Police hand in badges to mark end

December 9th, 2013 , The Phnom Penh Post

Seventy National Police generals have been signed into retirement by Prime Minister Hun Sen, having surpassed civil servants’ mandatory retirement age of 60 years old.

The request to retire the generals was made in a letter to King Norodom Sihamoni by the premier on November 27, and yesterday, some of the generals were relieved for the break – if unsentimental about their departure. …

Meas Sokchea
http://www.phnompenhpost.com/national/police-hand-badges-mark-end

Hun Sen Orders Anticorruption Education for Students

December 9th, 2013 , The Cambodia Daily

Prime Minister Hun Sen on Friday issued a statement ordering that anti-graft education be incorporated into the national schooling system as part of a wider effort to stamp out corruption in the country.

The statement, released in the lead-up to International Anti-Corruption Day, which falls today, celebrates arrests that the Anti-Corruption Unit (ACU) has made since its creation in 2010 and calls for the unit as well as other ministries to act further to stamp out corruption.

“After passing the Anti-Corruption Law, the ACU has taken action independently to educate and prevent corruption with the active participation of all ministries, institutions and all levels of authorities,” Mr. Hun Sen wrote, adding that graft is still endemic in the government. …

“The Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport has also cooperated well with the Anti-Corruption Unit to compile lessons about anti-corruption that can be integrated into the student curriculum,” he [Hun Sen] wrote. …

[Education Minister] Mr. Chuon Naron added that the Education Ministry had also begun internal anti-graft reforms by recruiting new teachers through a transparent exam process.

He said the ministry would soon also act to stop the practice of teachers collecting small daily fees from young students to supplement their meager incomes.

Transparency International last week issued its annual Corruption Perceptions Index, which revealed Cambodia had slipped in the rankings to 160th out of 177 states in terms of public sector corruption.

Mech Dara and Alex Willemyns
http://www.cambodiadaily.com/news/hun-sen-orders-anticorruption-education-for-students-48830/

Cambodia, Japan agree to provide visa-free for diplomatic, service passport holders

December 9th, 2013 , Xinhuanet News

Cambodia and Japan agreed to grant visa exemption to diplomatic and official passport holders, aiming at further enhancing bilateral ties and cooperation, said a press statement from the Cambodian Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Monday.

The statement said the two countries have agreed to provide visa exemption for a period of 30 days to the holders of diplomatic and official passports of Cambodia and Japan. “Visa free will help facilitate and promote people-to-people exchange between the two countries,” it said, adding that this visa exemption would be announced during the ASEAN-Japan Commemorative Summit to be held on Dec. 13-15 in Tokyo. …

Xinhuanet News Staff
http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/world/2013-12/09/c_132954103.htm

Meet eyes Angkor management

December 6th, 2013 , The Phnom Penh Post

Representatives from countries and preservation organisations across the globe gathered in Siem Reap yesterday as Prime Minister Hun Sen officiated the kickoff of an intergovernmental conference focused on Angkor Wat. …

The event marks the third once-per-decade conference of the International Coordinating Committee for the Safeguarding and Development of the Historic Site of Angkor (ICC-Angkor), since forming in 1993. …

Thik Kaliyann
http://www.phnompenhpost.com/national/meet-eyes-angkor-management

Aid Pledges Continue Despite CNRP Calls for Delay

December 6th, 2013 , The Cambodia Daily

Germany has pledged $64 million in aid donations to Cambodia for this year and next, amounting to a “substantial increase” over the past two years of official German assistance to the country, the German Embassy announced on Wednesday.

Germany’s new aid package, the majority of which—$54 million—will go toward health and rural development, was pledged Wednesday despite a call by the CNRP for donors to delay signing official agreements with Prime Minister Hun Sen’s government until disputes over July’s national election are resolved.

The World Bank said late last month that it too was preparing a two-year strategy plan for Cambodia, also likely to come with more aid pledges for the government. …

The statement also cites Chhieng Yanara, secretary-general of the Council for the Development of Cambodia (CDC), which takes the lead in the government’s relations with donors, saying that the government’s reform efforts would focus on good governance, “in particular the fight against corruption.” …

Starting in the 1990s, the government and its main aid donors held a top-level aid meeting roughly every 18 months. Originally known as the Consultative Group meeting, the government renamed the meeting the Community Development Cooperation Forum, during which donors pledged their assistance for the coming year and the government would agree on governance reform targets and update donors on progress made. Similar but lower-level meetings between donor representatives and government officials were held every six months.

But the CDC has not called a Cooperation Forum since early 2010, or a meeting of the lower-level Government-Development Partner Coordinating Committee in more than a year. …

The suspension of the donor meeting also coincided with the rise of China as the country’s principal benefactor, and regular criticism by Mr. Hun Sen that the country’s traditional donors tied too many conditions to their assistance while China gave money without seeking any reforms. …

Peter Brimble, senior country economist for the Asian Development Bank, the current lead donor partner to Cambodia, said Thursday that the Bank’s charter demands that it “refrain from engaging in the political affairs of any member country.”

The ADB will be giving $525 million for national and regional projects from 2013 through 2015, Mr. Brimble said. …

Zsombor Peter
http://www.cambodiadaily.com/news/aid-pledges-continue-despite-cnrp-calls-for-delay-48718/

To Celebrate Relations With China, Hun Sen Plants Rosewood Tree

December 5th, 2013 , The Cambodia Daily

Prime Minister Hun Sen and the visiting president of the China-Cambodia Friendship Association (CCFA) each planted a tree inside the Peace Palace compound in Phnom Penh on Wednesday to celebrate the 55th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the two countries.

Gu Xiulian, president of the CCFA, planted an Osmanthus Fragrans sapling, the mature version of which has culinary and medicinal value, while Mr. Hun Sen planted a Dalbergia Cochinchinensis, which grows in the wild across Cambodia and is better known as Siamese rosewood. …

The planting of the single Dalbergia Cochinchinensis comes as Cambodia’s forests are being destroyed by illegal loggers looking to cash in on the value of luxury rosewood, much of which is shipped to China.

Chinese import documents obtained last year revealed that more than 36,000 cubic meters—more than $60 million worth—of logs under the “rosewood” category had entered China from Cambodia between January 2007 and August 2012.

Speaking after the planting ceremony, Mr. Thamrong said that Ms. Gu had praised Cambodia’s rapid development and support for China. …

Khuon Narim
http://www.cambodiadaily.com/news/to-celebrate-relations-with-china-hun-sen-plants-rosewood-tree-48609/

After Reform Promise, a Return to Statecraft as Usual

December 5th, 2013

In an epic, six-hour address in September, Prime Minister Hun Sen apologized for the government’s many “problems” and promised a more reformist government over the next five years of his rule.

Targeting corruption, deforestation and the lack of transparency across government sectors, the prime minister made clear that the CPP’s continued grip on power would depend on whether his ruling party could commit to stamping out its shortcomings amid a resurgent political opposition. …

The list of poor governance complaints against the government runs impressively long: the shooting deaths of civilians by police officers at two protests, the continued impunity enjoyed by the trigger-happy former governor of Bavet City, Chhouk Bundith, the hastened destruction of Ratanakkiri’s protected forests by illegal loggers, revelations that hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of donor aid money was pocketed by officials at the Ministry of Health and, most recently, the European Community’s sanctioning of Cambodia because the government sold the national ship registry to a private company that has issued national flags to foreign ships that have plundered the high seas. …

In his speech in September, and in the five-year policy platform released by the CPP the same week, Mr. Hun Sen also promised again to root out and crush corruption in the name of prolonging the CPP’s hold on government. …

The CPP will in this mandate break with decades of sanctioned pillaging of forest by “maintaining forest cover by strengthening forest protection, by way of tighter enforcement of the Law on Forestry [and] the suppression of forest offenses,” the CPP’s reform policy document stated also.

Yet, in recent months, human rights groups and international natural resource monitoring groups have reported a renewed push by illegal loggers, particularly after the July election, to further deforest Ratanakkiri province. …

According to the study published by the scholarly journal “Science” last month, Cambodia lost nearly 12,600 square km of forest between 2000 and 2012, and gained only 1,100 square km of new forest in return, a net loss of 7.1 percent of the country’s forests.

The study said that only Malaysia, Indonesia, Paraguay and Guatemala had higher rates of deforestation over the 12-year period.

In October last year, Chinese import documents revealed that some 36,000 cubic meters of logs under the “rosewood” category have been recorded entering China from Cambodia between January 2007 and August 2012. Under Cambodia’s Forestry Law, the logging of rosewood is strictly prohibited. Searches for “rosewood” on the Chinese trading website Alibaba revealed agents in Cambodia openly offering to sell the wood to China for prices as high as $35,000 per cubic meter. …

Alex Willemyns
http://www.cambodiadaily.com/news/after-reform-promise-a-return-to-statecraft-as-usual-48602/

Thai Political Turmoil Could Affect Cambodia, Analysts Say

December 5th, 2013 , VOA Khmer

Political turmoil in Thailand, where protesters have overtaken government buildings and called for the premier there to step down, have sparked concerns in Cambodia that its diplomatic relations with its neighbor could again deteriorate. …

“The governments of Yingluck and Thaksin are close to Hun Sen,” said Lao Mong Hay, an independent political analyst in Phnom Penh. “If the [Thai] opposition takes power, the relationship would be difficult for Hun Sen, who has directly criticized the opposition.”

Meanwhile, the Cambodian opposition is calling for its own anti-government demonstrations Dec. 10 and has called for Hun Sen to step down from a position it says has not been legitimized due to fraudulent elections in July. …

Supporters of Yingluck’s government and that of the ruling Cambodian People’s Party “have had a long-standing relationship, a very strong relationship,” he [Boston-based Global Strategy Asia founder Peter Tan] said. “So if the opposition, the Yellow Shirts, were to overthrow Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, my prediction is that the Yellow Shirts and the CPP government would probably not have the strongest, firm relationship.” …

However, Sok Touch, dean of Khemarak University in Phnom Penh, told VOA Khmer that any Thai government is likely to keep ties with Cambodia, which is a major market for Thai goods.

“If Thailand does not try to have a good relationship with Cambodia, this market will be grabbed by Vietnam and China,” he said.

Sok Khemara,
http://www.voacambodia.com/content/thai-political-turmoil-could-affect-cambodia-analysts-say/1803539.html

Cambodia Garment Wages Set to Rise as H&M Pushes New Approach

December 4th, 2013 , VOA Khmer

Swedish clothing giant H&M recently announced a program to boost wages for garment workers in its sub-contractor factories around the world, including in Cambodia, where the company is a leading buyer. H&M’s announcement comes at the end of a turbulent year in the garment sector in Cambodia and elsewhere.

In the coming weeks, the Cambodian government will announce a rise in the current $75 monthly minimum wage for garment workers. The size of the increase is not yet known, but authorities are under pressure to improve wages and working conditions in the country’s most important industry. …

In part, that pressure is political. The opposition made astonishing gains in July’s election, partly by promising to double the monthly minimum wage. That pledge won over many of the country’s 400,000 garment workers, most of whom are young women who support their impoverished rural families. …

In October, H&M’s CEO, Karl-Johan Persson, discussed wages with Prime Minister Hun Sen in Cambodia and met with local labor unions. Shortly after the visit, H&M unveiled a five-year roadmap intended, in part, to guarantee a fair living wage for workers and an annual review of workers’ wages. …

Industrial disputes are nothing new to Cambodia’s garment industry, which over the last two decades has grown from nothing to become a $4 billion a year export business. It is a pillar of the economy and the key foreign exchange earner. Most of its products go to the United States and the European Union. …

Dave Welsh, the country representative of the Solidarity Center, a non-profit affiliated with the U.S. labor movement, welcomes H&M’s decision.

Welsh said it is no secret that the Cambodian government fears that buyers in the cutthroat garment trade might abandon the country should wages rise too fast. However, the roadmap laid out by H&M, a key player in the garment sector here, should help to alleviate those fears. …

Meanwhile, Cambodia’s garment workers are waiting to hear how much they will earn next year. Already some independent unions are threatening further action unless the minimum wage doubles to $150. …

Robert Carmichael
http://www.voanews.com/content/cambodian-garment-wages-set-rise-hm-pushes-new-approach/1803179.html

Cambodia’s progress cannot be separated from China’s support: PM

December 4th, 2013 , Global Times

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said Wednesday that the country’s development in all fields could not be detached from China’s aid and vowed to further deepen ties between the two countries. …

According to the figures recorded by the Cambodian Finance Ministry, to date, China has provided a total of 2.89 billion US dollars in the forms of grants, interest-free loans, and concessional loans to Cambodia for infrastructure projects such as roads, bridges, irrigation system, ports, and electricity.

Besides, China is the largest investor in Cambodia. From 1994 to 2012, total Chinese investment in Cambodia has reached 9.17 billion US dollars.

On the trade side, two-way trade was valued at 2.83 billion US dollars in the first nine months of 2013 and is expected to reach 5 billion US dollars by 2017.

For tourism, Hun Sen foresaw that Cambodia was expected to receive at least 400,000 Chinese tourists in 2013. According to the Ministry of Tourism, during the first ten months of this year, some 376,570 Chinese tourists have visited Cambodia, up 42 percent year-on-year, placing China the second largest source of visitors to Cambodia after Vietnam. …

Global Times News Staff
http://www.globaltimes.cn/content/829836.shtml#.Up_pgtIW2ls

State-Owned Properties to Be Sold, Swapped

December 4th, 2013 , The Cambodia Daily

Six prime government-owned properties in Phnom Penh and Battambang province have been reclassified as privately held state properties in order to pave the way for the land to be sold or swapped with private companies, according to a sub-decree signed November 8.

Signed by Prime Minister Hun Sen, the sub-decree changes the status of six government administration buildings from unsellable state-public property to state-private property. The properties fall under the purview of the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications and the Ministry of Industry, Mines and Energy, and cover more than 64,587 square meters of land in total. …

One of the properties reclassified by the sub-decree is the Boeng Pralit Commune Post Office branch on Sihanouk Boulevard near the intersection with Monivong Boulevard, the capital’s second largest post office building, covering 1,584 square meters. Another post office, the Olympic district branch, was also privatized. In Battambang province, 62,740 square meters of state land belonging to the Ministry of Industry, Mines and Energy were reclassified. …

Kuch Naren
http://www.cambodiadaily.com/news/state-owned-properties-to-be-sold-swapped-48527/

Cambodian ruling party faces test over next 5 years

December 4th, 2013 , Global Times

Cambodian political analysts said Prime Minister Hun Sen needs to make “serious and deep reforms” over the next five years to restore his popularity after his party survived with a slim majority in July’s disputed general election. …

Sok Touch, deputy director of the Royal Academy of Cambodia’s International Relations Institute, attributed the falling popularity of Hun Sen and his party to cronyism, rampant corruption, forced evictions, illegal immigration and lack of an independent judicial system. …

Another important reason that the CPP had lost many supporters during the past five years is that although the country has seen a sustainable annual economic growth of around 7 percent, many poor people have not been benefited by this growth.

“The annual growth is high, but the beneficiaries of the growth are those who have high resources, not include the poor people,” Sok Touch said. …

“Structural power constraints, factionalism, and nepotism have been limiting Hun Sen’s effective reform efforts,” he [Asia Pacific Studies lecturer at the University of Leeds Chheang Vannarith] told Xinhua.

“Judicial reform is the most urgent, and the court has to be independent,” he said, adding that the parliament needs to challenge and closely follow up policy implementation by the executives.

Moreover, he said, the Anti-Corruption Unit needs to operate independently so that it can effectively address the chronic and widespread corruption in the country.

“Public trust and confidence in Hun Sen will be restored if his deep reforms deliver positive results,” Vannarith said. …

In Hun Sen’s new cabinet approved by the parliament in September, many members of the previous cabinet retained their posts, except the ministers of finance, education, agriculture, environment, industry, and telecommunications. …

Phay Siphan, spokesman for the Council of Ministers, said the government is committed to fighting against corruption, enhancing social justice and good governance, and reducing poverty to improve the living conditions of the Cambodian people.

“The government, under the leadership of Prime Minister Hun Sen, has a clear roadmap towards reforming these issues. I believe that fruitful results from the reforms will gradually deliver in the coming years,” he said.

Global Times
http://www.globaltimes.cn/content/829846.shtml#.Up_bWNIW2ls

Final mission for volunteers

December 4th, 2013 , The Phnom Penh Post

In their final deployment as part of Prime Minister Hun Sen’s national land-titling program, 55 student youth volunteers will be sent to measure 50,000 hectares of land following a nearly six-month moratorium on the program.

The deployment was officially launched at a ceremony in Kandal province yesterday by Hun Manith, the prime minister’s middle son.

So far, the volunteers have measured about 1.2 million hectares of land across the country out of an estimated two million expected to be measured under the scheme.

Im Chhun Lim, minister of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction, said the more than 800,000 hectares of land that remains to be measured will be the responsibility of surveyors from the ministry. …

May Titthara
http://www.phnompenhpost.com/national/final-mission-volunteers