Unlike Past Elections, Property Investors Remain Buoyant

June 28th, 2013 , The Cambodia Daily

Ahead of elections 10 years ago, people across the country would hoard rice in case the vote sent the country spiraling into a state of turmoil. Businesses across the country would bide their time before making any major investments. And those who could afford to would leave the country during the election period in case things took a turn for the worse.

But after 20 years of CPP rule, the levels of anxiety that once reverberated during election time have subsided. Across Phnom Penh, sizeable building projects are steadily rising from the ground and investors said Thursday they were unperturbed by the prospect of political change. …

One measure of how buoyant people are can be seen in the price of land. According to figures provided by Bonna Realty Group, Phnom Penh land prices have increased by 25 percent in the six months preceding this year’s elections.

Phalla Udom, a supervisor at Bona Realty … said … that land in central areas such as Phnom Penh’s Boeng Keng Kang 1 commune currently sells for $3,300 per square meter, up from about $2,800 six months ago.

A flurry of construction projects launched recently have also fueled land prices in the city’s outskirts, such as in Sen Sok and Pur Senchey districts, where prices have increased by 25 percent to $1,000 per square meter in the past six months.

In May, South Korea’s Booyoung Group broke ground on a $1.1 billion satellite city in Sen Sok district along Russian Boulevard, the second such development to break ground in Phnom Penh that month. …

Denise Hruby and Hul Reaksmey

Demand for cheap rentals outnumbers supply

June 20th, 2013 , The Phnom Penh Post

The boom in high-rise buildings in Phnom Penh indicates the robust economic growth of the Kingdom, but this trend does not include the lower-end accommodation where most economic migrants to Phnom Penh rent.

“Cheap rental accommodation plays a crucial role in providing appropriate settlements to those hundreds of thousands of people who spend less than US$100 per month for their temporary stays in Phnom Penh,” said Chrek Soknim, deputy director at Vtrust Property Co.

The urban population is increasing relentlessly, partly due to migrants from rural parts of Cambodia coming for study and work, as well as foreign expats and visitors. The population is of Phnom Penh is around 1.6 million, although other sources suggest it has hit 2.2 million recently.

The latest data indicates the number of factory workers was around 500,000, most of whom come from the provinces to work in Phnom Penh and Kandal province. …

The lower-level rental accommodation should be improved by investing in this subsector. “Investors should study and invest in this business to provide reasonable, secured rental services for lower- and middle-class tenants,” said Soknim. …

Sam Sopanharith

Standards Building Up Safety Fears

May 22nd, 2013 , The Phnom Penh Post

When a 100-metre-long section of a Phnom Penh garment factory crumpled in on itself like a cheap pup tent, Sen Sok district officials promised an investigation. …

The results of that investigation, which was to have taken place more than a year ago, in March 2012, were never made public, and officials at the time refused to release the names of those who owned the land the building sat on or the firm responsible for its construction. …

As one long-time real estate consultant put it: “It’s really waiting for the disasters to happen.”

Yesterday morning, on the sidelines of a conference on national industrial relations, a Ministry of Labor official reiterated Social Affairs Minister Ith Sam Heng promise to inspect all of Cambodia’s factories. …

According to the consultant, foreign construction companies who are accustomed to high levels of oversight often maintain those standards when operating in Cambodia. …

“You may have a system in place, you may have a procedure in place, but it may all be hollow. It may just be a show,” he continued. “So even if there is a department in the construction department or the ministry – at the minute there isn’t one – but even if there is one, it’s hard to tell how this country really enforces all that construction safety.”

Van Thol, vice president of the Building and Wood Workers Trade Union Federation of Cambodia (BWTUC), said that while he believes there are inspectors, he doesn’t necessarily believe they do their job. …

“Licensed construction companies are hired by a factory to do its construction, but those licensed firms rent out other, smaller, unlicensed construction firms to build it, and they don’t really follow the standards,” he said. …

Stuart White and Chhay Channyda

Wage Hike Leads To Rent Fears

May 10th, 2013 , The Phnom Penh Post

Cambodian Confederation of Unions president Rong Chhun yesterday appealed to landlords with properties close to garment factories not to take advantage of the industry’s minimum wage increase by raising rent prices.

The minimum monthly salary in the garment sector – Cambodia’s biggest export industry – officially climbed from $61 to $75 this month, and Chhun said rent prices were already showing signs of following suit. …

Some workers had been told their rent will increase by 15 per cent at the end of this month, Chhun said. …

Moeun Tola, head of the labour program at the Community Legal Education Center, said he had heard similar stories from garment workers in Phnom Penh, Kandal and Kampong Speu. …

Shane Worrell and Phak Seangly

Another complaint in Sen Sok

March 20th, 2013 , The Phnom Penh Post

Yet another resident of Phnom Penh’s Sen Sok district came forward yesterday to join “Crocodile Grandmother” Chhin Sokoutheary in accusing city and district officials of issuing a false sub-decree to acquire land in the vicinity of Pong Peay Lake in Phnom Penh Thmey commune.

Chea Savean, 62, a retired education official who is now the vice-president of the Cambodian-Asean Engineering and Technology Academy, said that despite assurances to the contrary from deputy district governor Chea Khema, Sen Sok and Phnom Penh municipal authorities included his land – which he maintains he bought with the knowledge of the government, and inhabited since 1989 – in a sub-decree that unlawfully reclassified it as state land. …

Buth Reaksmey Kongkea

‘Crocodile’ gran to file $100 million lawsuit

March 18th, 2013 , The Phnom Penh Post

Prominent businesswoman Chhin Sokountheary yesterday announced her intention to sue Phnom Penh Governor Kep Chuktema for falsifying documents saying she illegally occupied state land in Phnom Penh’s Sen Sok district in a bid to steal the land and develop a sports stadium on it.

Sokountheary, 57 – also known as Yeay Kraper, or “Crocodile Grandmother” – chairwoman of the board of directors of Layimex Holding Group, said she would be submitting her criminal lawsuit against Chuktema and some Sen Sok district officials to the Phnom Penh Municipal Court today, and would be seeking the return of her 34 hectares and $100 million in damages. …

Buth Reaksmey Kongkea

Factory pay protest continues

February 18th, 2013 , The Phnom Penh Post

Workers at the shuttered Yung Wah I and II factories in Kandal province will continue protesting today, despite the government already agreeing to pay them using company funds. Worker Soy Sokchea said yesterday that he and his colleagues would keep demanding benefits and seniority bonuses. …

Um Visal, labour dispute resolution officer at the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers’ Democratic Union, said yesterday that the workers had demanded the government pay them using company money that had been lodged as a type of bond. …

Meanwhile, more than 500 workers at Hi Fashion garment factory in Phnom Penh’s Sen Sok district will also protest to demand wages tomorrow. …

Mom Kunthear

‘Croc grandma’ gets four years

December 21st, 2012 , The Phnom Penh Post

The Phnom Penh Municipal Court yesterday convicted local tycoon Chhin Sokountheary of encroaching on public lands and sentenced her in absentia to four years and six months in prison. …

Phnom Penh Municipal Court judge Ly Lipmeng said yesterday that Sokountheary, who is also known as Yeay Kraper, or “crocodile grandmother,” was convicted as director of Layimex Holding Group with clearing more than 33 hectares of state land and filling in more than 300 square metres of the Pong Peay Lake in Phnom Penh’s Sen Sok district in August.

Buth Reaksmey Kongkea

National Bank Constructing New Office Building

December 20th, 2012 , The Cambodia Daily

The National Bank of Cambodia (NBC) is constructing a spacious new office building in
Phnom Penh’s Sen Sok district, though officials at the central bank yesterday insisted
there were no plans in store to vacate their current, storied headquarters on Norodom

“The headquarters will remain where it is on Norodom Boulevard,” said
Nguon Sokha, director general of the NBC. …

Khy Sovuthy and Joshua Wilwohl, P.19

Phnom Penh court reopens investigation on land case

December 14th, 2012 , The Phnom Penh Post

A verdict in the land encroachment case against a prominent businesswoman was not delivered as expected yesterday, after a judge ordered the case be re-investigated due to a lack of evidence.

Phnom Penh Municipal Court tried Chhin Sokountheary, director of Layimex Holdings Group, in absentia on December 3 over charges of encroaching on public land in the Pong Peay Lake area in the capital’s Sen Sok district in September. …

Buth Reaksmey Kongkea

Kep first province to wrap land-titling scheme

December 12th, 2012 , The Phnom Penh Post

Seven months after Prime Minister Hun Sen unveiled an ambitious plan to demarcate 1.8 million hectares of state land and formally acknowledge those who live on it, the completion of the first – albeit the smallest – of eight affected provinces has wrapped up.

Marking the end of demarcation in the coastal province of Kep yesterday, 684 families who have lived there, in some cases since the fall of the Khmer Rouge, were issued land titles and can now look forward to a safe future, Hun Sen boasted.

“People were not feeling secure enough to farm land they owned without proper land titles. Therefore, it was necessary for us to resolve these problems,” he said in a speech in Kep’s Damnak Changaur district.

“I hope that by the government legally handing over this land today, people will benefit… and the farmland will become an inheritance for generations to come.” …

Vong Sokheng and Shane Worrell

Families make plea to PM Hun Sen over eviction

December 11th, 2012 , The Phnom Penh Post

Despite a court-ordered land title in their favour, 163 families in Phnom Penh’s Sen Sok district last week watched excavators rip apart their homes at the behest of two district deputy governors.

The forced eviction, denounced in a petition delivered on Friday to Prime Minister Hun Sen, came despite a Supreme Court decision favouring the 163 families in Phnom Penh Thmey commune’s Rong Chak village. …

Buth Reaksmey Kongkea

Ahead of High-Level Meetings, City Sweeps More Than Streets

November 12th, 2012 , The Cambodia Daily

Authorities in Daun Penh district have rounded up more than 120 so-called homeless people, drug users and sex workers ahead of next week’s high-level meetings for Asean and international delegates in Phnom Penh, a district official said yesterday. …

Phnom Penh City Hall has also focused on making sure major roads such as Russian Boulevard, Preah Sihanouk Buolevard and Norodom Boulevard are kept clear during the meetings between November 15 and 20, municipal spokesman Long Dimanche said. …

Phok Dorn, P.17

Businesswoman calls on government to return land

September 11th, 2012 , The Phnom Penh Post

High-profile Phnom Penh businesswoman Chhin Sokountheary has called on Prime Minister Hun Sen to return 33 hectares of prime land in Phnom Penh’s Sen Sok district to her company, which lost the rights to it when the government claimed the land in July.

Sokountheary said she purchased the 34 hectares from villagers in the north of Pong Peay lake – in Phnom Penh Thmey commune – in 1979, and for the past 13 years, her company Layimex Holding Group has had control of the property.

The group was still awaiting a complete land licence – so-called hard plans – that would allow it to build schools, markets, hospitals and health clubs, developments in keeping with the government’s own poverty reduction goals, Sokountheary claims, when a governent sub-decree claimed all but one of the 34 hectares as state property.

The July 10 order, signed by Hun Sen, claimed land around the Pong Peay lake area, covering three communes in Sen Sok and Russey Keo districts, as a part of the Ministry of Water Resources’ flood protection policy. …

Buth Reaksmey Kongkea, P. 6

Dozens of City Offices Privatized

July 11th, 2012 , The Cambodia Daily

The government last month privatized more than a dozen department and commune offices in some prime locations around Phnom Penh, and will move many of them to Sen Sok district, according to documents and officials.

A sub-decree dated June 27 and signed by Prime Minister Hun Sen changes the status of 14 offices covering more than 37,000 square meters of land from state public property to state private property, which clears the way for the government to either sell the land or swap it.

In a swap, a private firm takes over the property in return for building the government new office buildings at another site. Critics paint the practice as a chance for well-connected firms to get their hands on prime real estate at a bargain. …

Kuch Naren, P. 10

Garment staff get pay, push for labour rights

November 11th, 2011 , The Phnom Penh Post

Garment workers who went on strike over delayed payment of wages and other alleged violations of labour law on Tuesday morning were paid on Wednesday by management at the Chea Ieng garment factory in the capital’s Sen Sok district.

Factory employee Sun Sopheak said yesterday that negotiations would continue on 12 other points of contention tomorrow.

“If the negotiations fail, all workers will resume the strike,” she said, adding that they were merely attempting to ensure that the company followed the law.

Employees said they were paid the legal minimum wage of US$61 for 48 hours a week of work, or about 29 cents an hour…


Maid agency raid rescues 22 women, girls

October 5th, 2011 , The Cambodia Daily

Following a raid on a Phnom Penh recruitment agency, military police yesterday detained two people and rescued 22 girls and women aged 13 to 25 who claimed they were being held against their will ahead of being sent to Malaysia to work as maids.

Municipal military police raided Century (Cambodia) Manpower Co Ltd in Sen Sok district at about 3pm after the family of a 15-year-old girl, who was being held at the center, filed a complaint against the firm, said Chea Chouk, chief of the municipal anti-human trafficking military police…

Khuon Narim and Phorn Bopha, p.1