Different Bits of Information – Questions for All to Consider – Sunday, 2.8.2009

Posted on 4 August 2009. Filed under: *Editorial*, Week 623 |

The Mirror, Vol. 13, No. 623

Foreign Investors Are Coming to Cambodia – Thai Investors Seek Investment Partners in Cambodia – Vietnam Invests US$200 Million in Banking and in an Airline – and even though the number of European tourist decreased heavily, the number of Asian tourists rose significantly. The number of tourists from Vietnam is now higher than that from Korea, which had been top for several years. “Therefore, there is nothing to worry.”

In addition to the usual stories about foreign grant aid, accepted – or expected – to continue to flow, there were also reports about voluntary donations, publicly reported, from private business – the examples we quote are from external sources. To what extent is such a culture of voluntarily sharing for public interest purposes also developing within the Cambodian business community, or among Cambodian individuals who can consider their private property as a basis for generous sharing? Behind the official grants from Japan are, of course, the resources of Japanese people, who share them through the channels of their government:

  • Swiss Construction Company Holcim Grants US$90,000 for the Conservation of Temple Paintings of the Bakong Temple
  • Khmer Machas Srok Expresses Appreciation to The Phnom Penh Post for Granting Money to Mr. Hang Chakra [in prison for 12 months for alleged disinformation and defamation]
  • The Vietnamese Bank for Investment and Development Donates US$800,000 to the Cambodian Red Cross
  • Japan Grants More Than US$33 Million for Three Big Projects [National Road 1 improvement, aquaculture project in Sihanoukville, rural clean water supply in Memut, Kompong Cham]

“So there is nothing to worry?” There are also strange gaps

“According to a report by the United Nations International Labor Organization in 2007, among 10,000 Khmer graduating students each year, only 10% can find jobs” – then probably there should be also hardly any job openings here:

A New Big Website for Staff Recruitment in Cambodia Is Operated

This assumption was completely wrong: there is a huge number of job openings, all clearly arranged according to 30 job categories and 30 locations, in Phnom Penh and in the provinces. Why this discrepancy? There had been frequently, over the years, some criticism of the educational system, not being aware of and geared towards the labor market. Instead of some hesitating remarks, now the Prime Minister has contributed his view:

“The Prime Minister of the Royal Government of Cambodia, Mr. Hun Sen, had voiced his concern that higher education does not have much quality, but the institutions are more concerned with quantity, and he blamed some universities to have poor management…

“Does the Royal Government of Prime Minister Hun Sen have specific measures to strengthen the state and the private higher education? Education analysts expressed the concern that if the Royal Government does not take strict actions, the quality of education in Cambodia will fall into a deep crisis, and it will be difficult to restore the situation to normals as most educational institutions care only about profits. This analyst asked the Royal Government to check the operation of the national Accreditation Committee of Cambodia for educational quality assessment administered by the Council of Ministers, which so far does not take any action.”

Even if a solution is far away and a complex task, it seems that the place where the necessary action is not being taken has been identified. Instead of tasking the Ministry of Education with serious reforms of the educational system, a kind of super-ministry was created in the form of the Accreditation Committee of Cambodia. It will be interesting to see what kind of consequences the clear analysis of the Prime Minister will have on the structure “ which so far does not take any action” according to analysts of the system.

There were more occasions where the Prime Minister sharply criticized members of the administration. We quote another report from this week:

“Prime Minister Samdech Hun Sen said, ‘Since a long time, the riverbank [in Kandal] was not repaired, but just now when the water rises, they get started. Now the water broke some parts of the riverbank, and I almost want to hit the Kandal provincial governor one day. After I phoned him and gave an order, the work started – if I had not phoned, nothing would happen.’
“Prime Minister Samdech Hun Sen also repeated his previous recommendation to look at the roads. Samdech explained, ‘When I say again to look at the roads, that means: first, there must not be illegal check-points along the roads, and second, if the road is damaged, it must be repaired.

“His warning is not only aimed at the Kandal provincial governor, Prime Minister Samdech Hun Sen encouraged also other governors in Cambodia to be highly responsible in repairing roads in their respective regions, and they should build more recreational places without waiting for the prime minister to shout and give orders before they take any initiative.”

So there is negligence at high levels in the administration? There are illegal check-points? Were there not orders given years ago to abolish them?

Obviously severe problems exist in some layers of the administration which wield power:

  • A Big Gambling House in the Center of Phnom Penh Was Raided and More Than 80 Gamblers Were Arrested; the Owner of the Gambling House, Che Im, Was Arrested for a While, but Then Was Released again after a High Ranking Official Intervened – Who?
  • Sixteen of Poor Citizens Hired to Transport Wood from the [Thai side of the] Dangrek Mountains Were Surrounded and Arrested by Thai Soldiers, and One Could Escape – Who in Cambodia can hire people to illegally cross into Thailand in this military security area around the Preah Vihear Temple?
  • Former Kandal Market Director and District Governor Signed a Permission to Allow [private electricity] Producers to Operate, Violating a Directive by the Municipal Governor – Does he now know the rules?
  • The Krakor District Authorities in Pursat Warned Forest Protection Activists [who collected thumbprints of citizens to request the government to ban logging and forest clearance by private companies ] – Do they not also protect the forest? In whose interest are the officials working?

Here, we did not take up any of the many international voices expressing concern about the state of affairs in Cambodia. Whenever international voices raise some concern, they are frequently rebuked by official voices in Cambodia: They are biased and inaccurate, they really do not know what is happening in Cambodia!

Obviously the Prime Minister knows, and sometimes his patience is almost running out in view of what is happening in the administration.

Please recommend us also to your colleagues and friends.

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