Looking back to Cambodia – from Hong Kong – Tuesday, 13.4.2010

Posted on 14 April 2010. Filed under: Week 660 |

Because of the Khmer New Year holidays 14 to 16 April 2010, life during this whole week is different; actually, already since Friday last week, music and the voices of people playing special New Year games, and of groups of friends going out together, indicated that the festive season began already.


This affects also publications, and some offices – also the Open Institute – are closed for a week. Our regular publications will therefore start only on Monday, 19 April. But we will supply our readers with some information also during this week.

The Mirror, Vol. 14, No. 660

This is written in Hong Kong, where I participate in conferences and workshops of the Internet Society – it’s Asian section. It provides me again with an opportunity to see what people here read in the press about Cambodia. And I add also some pieces of information which may be interesting to consider from Cambodia. All following reports are based on what readers of the South China Morning Post find in this important paper.

“Philippinos in HK start voting for president”

The conflicts in Thailand may lead to elections. There are elections in Sudan, though the majority of oppositions parties have withdrawn their candidates and called on their supporters not to vote. But in Hong Kong, the polling stations opened for one month for the 95,355 registered citizens from the Philippines who live in Hong Kong – almost 100,000 votes! They live and work abroad, but they can participate in the political life of their home country by casting their votes to elect the president of the Philippines.

“Vast eucalyptus plantations seen as cause of drought”

When the Mekong River Commission met recently in Thailand – The Mirror had reported about it under the heading “China Continues to Refuse to Become a Member of the Mekong River Commission” on Tuesday, 6.4.2010 – there were arguments about the reasons for the low water level of the Mekong: whether it had anything to do with the utilization of the water of the river upstream – dams for the generation of electricity and for agricultural irrigation, or whether it was just a change in climate. – A press report in Hong Kong adds aditional considerations.

“More than 26 million people and 18.5 million head of livestock have been short of drinking water since the draught struck Yunnan [雲南], Guizhou [貴州], Guanxi [广西], Sichuan [四川], and Chongquing [重慶] last autumn.

“Mainland environmentalists and researchers have partly attributed the drought and climate change in Guanxi and Yunnan to the widespread planting of eucalyptus after native forests were razed to make room for monoculture plantations…

“Eucalyptus plantations consume much more water than other trees because they grow much faster and are ready to log in just four to five years… He said local farmers were eager to plant eucalyptus because they could easily double their income.

Guanxi authorities were eager to spread commercial plantations and pulp and paper manufacturing across the region, even though commercial eucalyptus plantations were still a controversial topic among biologists and environmentalists.”

“Free-Range thinking”

The Mirror had reported on 28 February 2010 about intentions announced by a deputy department director of the Ministry of Post and Telecommunications to control, and maybe cut, the free flow of critical information on the Internet – “Internet Governance, Censorship, and the UN Multistakeholder Approach” – 28.2.2010. Similar activities are going on in China since a long time ago. Now there are also reports in the Hong Kong press, commenting on the longer perspective role of the Internet, arguing more deeply:

“Despite the political control of the Internet, a vibrant current of online activism has surged for years.
“Chinese leaders will find that a better informed citizenry can help curb corruption, promote social justice, hold government officials accountable, and aid in enforcing laws and regulations.

“Wary as they are of the Internet’s subversive potential, top leaders have publicly acknowledget the Web’s costructive tole in channeling public opinion and exposing corruption.”

“Hard-up army turns to private firms for cash”

“Cambodia’s military is turning to private sponsors to help boost its budget…

“In 2010, the Cambodian defense budget stands at US$274 million, a 23 percent increase on 2009… Cambodian military spending accounts to 14 percent of the total budget, compared to 1.7 percent for rural development…

“One of the prime minister’s advisers admitted it was unusual for an army to depend on private sector subsidies. Insisting on anonymity, the adviser said: ‘No other country is doing this, but we think we see it as an art of management when we don’t have enough defense budget…’

“The list of military sponsors includes a sugar plantation belonging to casino owner Ly Yong Phat in Kompong Speu province. The Phnom Penh Post reported that soldiers from the army’s batalion 313 recently were called in by Ly Yong Phat to intervene in a dispute with angry villagers who claimed the company had illegally grabbed their land as part of the sugar plantation…

“Two sponsoring corporations are strongly linked to foreign countries. Pheapimex Company, owned by an ethnic Chinese Cambodian, sponsors army division region 6, and has a partnership in a plantation agribusiness with Chinese company Wushishan. Another military sponsor is Metphone, owned by the Vietnamese military.”

It is always a challenge to look at oneself with the eyes of others.

Have a look at the last editorial – you can access it directly from the main page of the Mirror.
And please recommend The Mirror also to your colleagues and friends.

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