Toll Plans to Import New Trains into Cambodia – Friday, 27.8.2010

Posted on 28 August 2010. Filed under: Week 679 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The Mirror, Vol. 14, No. 679

Important Announcement

Would you please mouse-click, further up on this page here, on About The Mirror to read information about changes planned to be implemented, starting from 1 September 2010.

Thanks,

Norbert Klein
Editor of The Mirror

“According to the Ministry of Public Works and Transport, the Toll Royal Railway company [TRR] plans to spend US$81 million to bring in new trains to Cambodia.

“It is part of the project to improve the Cambodian railways and it will cost millions of dollars. It is an important transportation system for Cambodia.

“A Secretary of State of the Ministry of Public Works and Transport, Mr. Toch Chankosal, said, ‘The company plans to buy 11 locomotives, 111 railroad cars, and other parts of trains, in order to start operations at the end of this year or early next year.’

“He added that TRR is preparing the necessary documents to be submitted to the Council for the Development of Cambodia to ask for permission for the import of trains. However, he did not tell from which countries those trains will be bought. He said the repairing of the Cambodian railroad system continues, but the company expects that the presently available trains would not be enough.

“He said, ‘In fact, we have many locomotives that can be repaired, but they are still not enough so we need to import more.’

“The Senior Country Economist, Cambodia Resident Mission, of the Asian Development Bank [ADB], Mr. Peter Brimble, said that the important reason for the improvement of the Cambodian railroad system, partly funded by ADB, is to develop the transportation system to be cost effective. He said, ‘The cost of the transportation of agricultural products is a key factor, and if you do not have efficient transportation means, there will be difficulties with the export of those products. Also, I think the basic idea behind the project is relating to cost efficiency.’

“Mr. Toch Chankosal said that this is the first step to facilitate heavy-weight transport that can also help to reduce road destruction.

“ADB and AusAID has provided US$141 million aid to TRR to repair rail tracks of 254 kilometer from Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville, and another line of about 388 kilometer from Phnom Penh to Poipet, as well as the third line of about 48 kilometer from Poipet to Sisophon [Banteay Meanchey].

“Mr. Brimble said that ADB has no plan to provide more aid for the construction of railroads in Cambodia in the future, but he thinks that the repair of the railroad to the Sihanoukville port in Sihanoukville will receive encouragement.

“The Chief Executive Officer of TRR, Mr. David Kerr, declined to comment on the information about the import of new trains, while an ADB senior economist, Mr. Peter Broch, said that he cannot give figures provided by the Ministry of Public Transport and Works regarding the transportation.

“TRR belongs to the Toll Holdings company of Australia that holds 55% of the shares, while the rest of 45% is controlled by the Royal Group of Oknha Kith Meng. Last year, these collaborative companies receive a 30 years concession to operate the railway network in Cambodia.” Phnom Penh Post [Khmer Edition], Vol.1, #246, 27.8.2010

Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Friday, 27 August 2010

Kampuchea Thmey, Vol.9, #2338, 27.8.2010

  • A [Sam Rainsy Party] Parliamentarian Sued Three Police Officers at the Prosecutor of the Appeals Court [as they arrested a Sam Rainsy Party activist without an arrest warrant – Kompong Thom]
  • Police Arrested a Laotian Man Alleged to Smuggle 854.5 Gram of Drugs [Preah Vihear]

Koh Santepheap, Vol.43, #7045, 27.8.2010

  • While Three Men Were Riding a Motorbike to Sing Karaoke, Three Other Men Ambushed Them, Killing One Who Died after He Was Sent to a Hospital [police are investigating to arrest the perpetrators – Kompong Speu]
  • The Australian Embassy Donated [fifteen] Reading Books to the National Library of Cambodia

Moneaksekar Khmer, Vol.17, #3969, 27.8.2010

  • An Active [Vietnamese] Drug Smuggler in Stung Treng Was Released Temporarily by the Stung Treng Municipal Court

Nokor Wat, Vol.1, #41, 27.8.2010

  • An Asian Development Bank Delegation Supports the Anti-Corruption Law [of Cambodia]
  • A Russian Tycoon [Alexander Trofimov] Who Had Sexual Relationships with Nineteen Girls [some underage] Was Convicted to Serve Eight Years in Jail [his imprisonment was reduced from 17 years, after he wrote a letter confessing his guilt and apologizing]

Phnom Penh Post [Khmer Edition], Vol.1, #246, 27.8.2010

  • Toll Plans to Import New Trains into Cambodia
  • The Prime Minister Encourages the Asian Development Bank to Help Build Irrigation Systems to Promote Agriculture

Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.18, #5287, 27.8.2010

  • VSJMAXX Company [name may be wrong, though several Khmer publications have the same – or company may be fake, offering to handle US$2billion without having a web site] from the United States of America Has the Ambition to Invest US$2 Billion in Agriculture in Cambodia [to do farming and to create animal food factories and international level rice milling factories]
  • Disabled Veterans and Retiring Civil Servants Complained about Difficulties to Get Their Salaries [as they were told to wait from day to day – Kompong Thom]

Have a look at the last editorial – you can access it directly from the main page of the Mirror.
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Cambodian People’s Party Officials Were Accused to Be Behind the Creation of Reservoirs – Thursday, 12.8.2010

Posted on 13 August 2010. Filed under: Week 677 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The Mirror, Vol. 14, No. 677

“The Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology sent a letter to Prime Minister Hun Sen, naming some district governors and commune chiefs, saying that the Ministry suspects them as being involved in collusion to protect illegal reservoirs which are ruining the Tonle Sap lake.

“During a session of the Tonle Sap Authority yesterday [11 August 2010], the Minister of Water Resources and Meteorology, Mr. Lim Kean Hor, stated that many local authorities collude with merchants to encourage farmers to claim that they own those reservoirs in an attempt to protect the reservoirs, whereas they are not allowed to be created around the Tonle Sap lake.

“He said, ‘We reported and sent the name list of those people to Prime Minister Samdech Hun Sen to consider and to decide an appropriate measure.’

“He added that he and his fellow officials just follow the Prime Minister’s order.

“In April, the Tonle Sap Lake Authority received an order from Prime Minister Hun Sen to demolish illegal reservoirs around the Tonle Sap lake, as well as those the Region 2 and 3 that are determined as conserved areas of flooded forest.

“239 illegal reservoirs set to be demolished in Region 2 are located in the six provinces of Banteay Meanchey, Battambang, Kompong Chhnang, Kompong Thom, Pursat, and Siem Reap.

“The president of the Tonle Sap Lake Authority, Mr. Lim Kean Hor, stated also that 45 reservoirs were destroyed since 25 June 2010 and 288 markers were put in those regions.

“He added, ‘Though rainy reason blocks the destruction of those reservoirs and though we temporarily suspended the destruction, we still watch over the issues every day.’

“According to Mr. Lim Kean Hor, almost 10,000 hectares of the wet area surrounding the Tonle Sap lake are destroyed each year for the creation of reservoirs, the expansion of agricultural land and fishing lots, and of charcoal business operations.

“Deputy Prime Minister Yim Chhayly said that the potential of the Tonle Sap lake can support the living of nearly four millions Cambodian people settling around the lake.

“He added, ‘The Tonle Sap lake is an important pulse of economy, of environment, and of culture in Cambodia.’

“He went on to say, ‘We must cooperate to protect and conserve the Tonle Sap lake and engage in the conservation for the development of eco-tourism.’ However, he said, ‘The Cambodian People’s Party must acknowledge what we did, because party officials such as district governors and commune chiefs signed on documents to allow the creation of those illegal reservoirs.'” Phnom Penh Post [Khmer Edition], Vol.1, #235, 12.8.2010

Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Thursday, 12 August 2010

Kampuchea Thmey, Vol.9, #2325, 12.8.2010

  • [The Minister of Water Resources and Meteorology] Lim Kean Hor Warned that Commune Chiefs and District Governors Should be Sued if Flooded Forest Is Still Being Destroyed by Wicked People
  • Documentary Books about Duch’s Sentence Will Be Distributed this Morning

Koh Santepheap, Vol.43, #7032, 12.8.2010

  • In the First Six Months, There Were 3,065 Traffic Accidents, Where 908 Persons Were Killed [a decline by 26 deaths – compared to the same period in 2009], 2,807 Were Seriously Injured, and 2,807 Persons Were Lightly Injured [in Cambodia countrywide]
  • The Royal Government Gave Koh Pich Land Titles [to the Oversea Cambodian Investment Corporation of the director general of the Canadia Bank, Mr. Pung Kheav Se; the Koh Pich island covers a total area of 100 hectares and was contracted for 99 years for development]

Moneaksekar Khmer, Vol.17, #3956, 12.8.2010

  • The US Senate Reduced the Military Aid to Cambodia by Half for 2011 to US$500,000 [considering also the deportation of 20 Uighurs by the Cambodian government to China]
  • The Tonle Sap Authority Plans to Seize All Rice Fields in the Flood Forest Areas and Warned that Some Officials Will Be Jailed [according to officials, more than 360,000 hectares of the total area of more than one million hectares of flooded forest have been destroyed]

Nokor Wat, Vol.1, #28, 12.8.2010

  • The Parliament Will Suggest to the Ministry of Economy to Monitor Tax Officials [as there are irregularities in tax collection; a parliamentarian, Mr. Cheam Yeap, said that he will ask the Ministry to take action against corrupt officials who collect tax more than the set amount]
  • The Ministry of Health Called on the 24 Municipal Governors to Join to Take Measures to Combat Infectious Diseases

Phnom Penh Post [Khmer Edition], Vol.1, #235, 12.8.2010

  • An Iranian News Agency Said that Cambodia Opposes Sanctions [the Fars News Agency of Iran quoted the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Cambodia, Mr. Hor Namhong, during his visit to Iran, as having said, ‘The policy based on sanctions is condemned everywhere and only constructive and positive policies can settle the problem]
  • A Man Was Arrested on Suspicion of Distributing Leaflets against Leaders of the Cambodian People’s Party [Phnom Penh]
  • Cambodian People’s Party Officials Were Accused to Be Behind the Creation of Reservoirs

Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.18, #5274, 12.8.2010

  • Cambodia Will Have a New Professional Association to Respond to Hazards of Chemical Substances [a New Professional Association will be created on 19 August 2010; it aims to gather experts in chemicals to conduct studies and to participate to prevent hazards from chemicals in Cambodia]

Have a look at the last editorial – you can access it directly from the main page of the Mirror.
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A 30 Years Commemoration – Civil Society in Cambodia – Sunday, 29.11.2009

Posted on 30 November 2009. Filed under: *Editorial*, Week 640 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The Mirror, Vol. 13, No. 640

The past weak saw a special anniversary celebration, which is in no calendar of national events: 30 years since NGOs started to work in Cambodia. Nowadays, when the participation of NGOs – foreign and national – is assumed as a regular feature of life in society, it is surely not easy to understand the extraordinary nature that foreign NGOs came to Cambodia in 1979. At that time, the majority of UN member states considered the Cambodian government to be illegal. The so called “Western” countries and the People’s Republic of China agreed on the point that the Khmer Rouge representative continued to legally represent Cambodia at the United Nations until 1990. Seeing this agreement between these two world powers normally not much in agreement, many Third World countries went along with this understanding. Only the socialist countries (except China) and India established diplomatic relations with the government in Phnom Penh after the end of the Khmer Rouge regime. And US citizens, working in Cambodia, even if their salaries did not originate from the USA, had to pay “punitive taxes” in the USA.

30 Years NGOs in Cambodia Celebration

30 Years NGOs in Cambodia Celebration

Eva Mysliwiec, now the director of Youth Star Cambodia, who had came to Cambodia in May 1980, spoke at the commemoration, on behalf of the NGO Organizing Committee, about the three decades of NGO partnerships with the people and government of Cambodia, saying,

“It is very moving to look around this room and to see so many people who have contributed to the Cambodia in which we live today. How far we have come since 1979!

I remember well my arrival in May 1980, in a country devastated by war and genocide. I remember vividly my first meeting with Samdech HUN Sen who was then Foreign Minister and 28 years old.”

There were only five NGOs, who had dared to break the boycot of their home governments: the American Friends Service Committee, CIDSE, Church World Service, OXFAM, and World Vision – now, as the Prime Minister announced in his speech, there are 3,207 NGOs and associations, that is 1,933 NGOs and 1,274 other associations. Eva Mysliwiec continued:

“The core of NGO work was focused on massive relief, meeting health needs and restoring agricultural production in order to prevent famine. Because of the embargo imposed by the Western Community and with precious few resources, NGOs found themselves in a unique role where they had to provide massive infrastructure assistance as well… NGO work in the eighties spanned virtually every sector of Cambodian society and economy, from the restoration of urban and rural water supply, to the rehabilitation of infrastructure, the provision of basic agriculture, education and health inputs, etc. – the list is endless.”

But in spite of all this emphasis on practical actions, she said:

“In my view, the most valuable role the NGOs played in the eighties was solidarity: bearing
witness to the suffering of Cambodian people, bearing witness to the unearthing of mass graves, bearing witness to the continuing hardship caused by the embargo and isolation and especially bearing witness to the resilience, ingenuity and determination of people to rebuild their country. They created a bridge between Cambodian people and the people in countries whose governments did not recognize Cambodia.”

This history has to be remembered, when nowadays, sometimes the opinion is expressed that NGOs have one role only: “to provide humanitarian assistance” – quite different from the wide variety of activities NGOs are engaged with in other countries of the world.

All the more it was interesting that also the keynote speaker, Ingrid Srinath, Secretary General of CIVICUS (“Promoting a worldwide community of informed, inspired, committed citizens who are actively engaged in confronting the challenges facing humanity” – with member organizations in 110 countries), described the fundamental task of civil society not just in terms of development or humanitarian project implementations, but located their role in the present situation, after the collapse of many schemes based on an free-market system, where human rights an democratic are more under threat than before.

“In Latin America, Africa, Eurasia and Asia authoritarian governments are being permitted to crack down with impunity on civil society and media freedoms through new, draconian legislative and fiscal controls if they control access to energy resources, investment or markets… Funding for defending these rights, for strengthening civil society architecture and for building solidarity across civil society groups is also much harder to come by as donor resources are stretched by increasing domestic needs and by more immediate humanitarian needs…

“The possibilities of mounting a coherent challenge to the economic paradigm of market fundamentalism and the patent inequity of the institutions of global governance have never been greater. For the first time in history peoples from Michigan to Manila, Madrid to Mali, and Mumbai to Moscow can share the realization that the root causes of their individual problems, and hence their interests, are in fact, identical. From slums to forests, fishing communities to assembly-lines, indigenous peoples to suburbia – the people we so often refer to as ‘ordinary’ are increasingly aware of the connectedness of their causes. It’s up to us as civil society to provide the means for them to mobilize in solidarity with each other. We have unprecedented access to the information, networks and technologies that permit us to support their struggles against tyranny and injustice…

“Speaking in Moscow a few months ago, Barack Obama affirmed that ‘meeting these challenges requires a vibrant civil society; the freedom of people to live as they choose, to speak their minds, to organize peacefully and to have a say in how they are governed; a free press to report the truth; confidence in the rule of law and the equal administration of justice; a government that’s accountable and transparent.’

“We know from experience that active citizenship is the only antidote to this takeover of governance and that investing in the creation, nurturing and protection of civil society rights is the only vaccine. We know, or ought to, that empowering people to defend their own freedoms to exist, engage and express is not only the most sustainable development strategy but the only morally defensible one…

“Despite, or rather because of, our lack of hierarchical command and control structures, our diversity and belief in values-led approaches, civil society is better equipped to grasp, respond to, and evolve collective solutions that require a fundamental shift in world-view than either governments or businesses. And possibly better at displaying the humility required to build the cross-sectoral partnerships without which we cannot possibly resolve these crises…

“Doing so will take more than a business as usual approach from us. It will take each of us as individuals, organizations and alliances setting aside our egos, our brands, our narrow self-interests and our differences to come together in unprecedented levels of collaboration and genuine partnership that focuses on amplifying the voices of those least heard, and of finding common cause across boundaries of nationality, geography and thematic interest.

“If we can aspire to that ideal, we may, just may, address the stupendous challenges before us and even realize the goals you have all dedicated your lives to, whether you approach that goal through the lens of volunteerism or human rights, faith or secularism, charity or human rights – the overarching goal of civil society in all its forms – a world based on equity and justice.”

Such a challenge to reflect, to consider a clear fundamental orientation for the day-to-day work of civil society is important. And it is equally important that civil society communicates clearly to the other sectors of society its claims and commitments. It is important to see what the suggested orientation is: “to struggle against tyranny and injustice, and for equality.”

The address of the Prime Minister dealt, according to reports, a lot with the planned NGO Law. There is some apprehension among the NGO community, because a current draft is not available for public discussion in the community.

Some examples given, why an NGO Law is important – like to prevent terrorist acts planned under the cover of NGOs – were widely not seen as convincing: the intended terrorist attack against the British Embassy had been stopped in time, and the Indonesian terrorist Hambali was arrested – both without an NGO law.

The following reported concern of the Prime Minister is surprising. There are detailed and elaborate forms from the Council for the Development of Cambodia – CDC – where NGOs have to describe source of funding and work plans – on the national level and in the provinces – which serve exactly this purpose since many years ago, though the Prime Minister said now:

“The Royal Government wants to know where NGOs get the money from and how they use it for what. ‘Just this they do not want to tell.’”

Here are obviously some misunderstandings about administrative processes involved. In addition, most donors, providing financial resources to NGO, have requirements for professional auditing, and the results are not secret. Compared to the recent calls by the Prime Minister to curb multiple remuneration payments to government advisers, combined with the repeated calls by the Prime Minister to economize gasoline usage by a better control on the use of public vehicles, allows the assumption that the handling of finance in the NGO world is comparatively well organized and transparent.

What is important, therefore, is the clear statement of the Prime Minister, that the NGO Law will not interfere with the normal activities of NGO: “I guarantee that it is not an action to restrict the freedom of NGOs, please believe me.” Should lower level authorities try to act differently, civil society can appeal to this public promise of the Prime Minister.

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