LICADHO: Prisons in Cambodia Could Become Detention Places with the Highest Prisoner Rates in the World – Tuesday, 20.7.2010

Posted on 21 July 2010. Filed under: Week 674 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The Mirror, Vol. 14, No. 674

“Phnom Penh: The Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights [LICADHO] has found that prisons in Cambodia could become detention centers with the highest prisoner rates before or by 2018. Such a prediction is based on the results from the observations of 18 among the 25 prisons countrywide.

“The findings from the observations of LICADHO, released on Monday, 19 July 2010, show that there are 12,646 prisoners in 18 prisons in 13 provinces, as observed by LICADHO. In December 2009, one third of the prisoners in detention did not yet have a hearing. Some prisons do not have proper living condition for prisoners.

“Prisons in Cambodia have scarce resources, and the overcrowding of prisons leads to ever more serious conditions in the prisons.

“According to the report of LICADHO, the increase in the number of prisoners from day to day might lead to a situation where Cambodia has a prison system with the highest prisoner rates in the world before or by 2018, because in some prisons in Cambodia there are three times more prisoners compared to the designed capacity. For example, in the Takmao prison, the official capacity is only 314 prisoners, but actually, there are up to 1,042 prisoners. The M2 rehabilitation center in the Prey Sar prison in Phnom Penh, houses up to 777 women and children while the official capacity is merely 300. The Kompong Thom prison has 208 prisoners, while the official capacity is 50 prisoners only.

“The head of the investigation section of LICADHO, Mr. Oum Sam Ath, said that the major cause for the overcrowded prisons in Cambodia nowadays is that some offences should not lead to imprisonment, while now many suspects are detained temporarily before they get sentenced, affecting the judicial systems and the prisoners’ health. Also, there is overcrowding because many prisoners are jailed beyond the term of their conviction.

“Mr. Oum Sam Ath added that LICADHO recommended to the Prison Department of the Ministry of Interior to discuss this situation with the Ministry of Justice and with the court system, to solve the problem of overcrowded prisons by checking the terms of imprisonment, and by releasing prisoners facing minor accusations, like misdemeanors, on bail.

“Nevertheless, the head of the Prison Department of the Ministry of Interior, Mr. Heng Hak, said that the current number of prisoners is not the highest rate in the world.

“He went on to say, ‘At present, we are dealing with overcrowding by constructing new prisons or expanding the housing capacity of the existing prisons, such as M2 and M3, and by repairing old buildings as well as constructing new ones, like in Pursat, where we built a new prison – M4 – which can house 2,500 prisoners.’

“Mr. Heng Hak added that nowadays, the conditions for prisoners are better, as they now get a food support of Riel 2,800 [US$0.65] per day.

“Before, their food support was only Riel 1,500 [US$0.35]. The health of prisoners is better than before, as they are cared for by the government by cooperating with non-government organizations working on health issues, to check and to treat prisoners.

“It should be noted that at present, there are 25 prisons nationwide with 13,325 prisoners; LICADHO found that 90% of the prisoners are overcrowded, as these 25 prisons can house merely 8,000 prisoners.” Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.18, #5254, 20.7.2010

Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Kampuchea Thmey, Vol.9, #2305, 20.7.2010

  • Samdech Hun Sen Announced to Continue a Long-Term Career in Politics
  • The Opposition Party Asked the United States of America to Guarantee [opposition party leader] Mr. Sam Rainsy’s Return [but so far, there is no response]
  • In This Year’s [lower secondary school] Grade 9 Examinations, 91.81% of the [159,724] Students Passed Which Is Comparable to Last Year

Koh Santepheap, Vol.43, #7012, 20.7.2010

  • Two Female Workers Jumped from the Second Floor of a House to Escape [from the VC Manpower Company, sending workers to Malaysia] – One Was Seriously Injury [she broke her spine], the Other One Ran Away [Phnom Penh]

Moneaksekar Khmer, Vol.17, #3936, 20.7.2010

  • The United States of America [during a visit by US Under-Secretary of State Mr. William Burns] Asked Cambodian Politicians to Think about the Freedom of Expression in Politics before They Decide to Use Court Systems to Solve Problems
  • The US Senate Created a New Law Requiring Companies Registered at the US Stock Exchange to Declare Their Payments to the Cambodian Government before Starting Oil and Gas Exploitation Later in 2012

Nokor Wat, Vol.1, #8, 20.7.2010

  • Cambodia Continues to Develop the Preah Vihear Area without Caring about Thai Warnings [Thailand claimed that the demarcation of the area between both countries have not been finished, but Cambodia claimed developments are made only on Cambodian territory]

Phnom Penh Post [Khmer Edition], Vol.1, #218, 20.7.2010

  • Those Who Attempt to Overthrow Hun Sen Using No-Democratic Means Will Receive a Response by Force [the Prime Minister warned the opposition parties for recently discussing his health condition]
  • Cambodia Angkor Air Will Buy Two Planes [Airbus 321, which cost about US$99.5 million each] to Expand Its Flights [so there will be five planes in total]
  • The Khmer Rouge Tribunal Closed Investigations of Case 002 [involving former Khmer Rouge leaders Khiev Samphan, Ieng Sary, Ieng Thirith, and Nuon Chea]

Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.18, #5254, 20.7.2010

  • LICADHO: Prisons in Cambodia Could Become Detention Places with the Highest Prisoner Rates in the World
  • Samdech Dekchor Wants Universities to Be Established in All Provinces [to reduce the expenses of students who seek to further their education in cities]
  • The National Budget for 2011 Amounts to Riel 12,000,000,000,000 [approx. US$2,800 million, compared with 2010 when it was Riel 8,000,000,000,000 or approx. US$1,900 Million – according to the Ministry of Economy and Finance]
  • Garment Workers of Two Factories with About 2,000 Workers Strike to Demand Improved Work Conditions in 16 Points [such as an extra payment of US$10 for female workers who have delivered a baby buy milk powder, and the permission for a 90 days absentee regulation during pregnancy – Phnom Penh]

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Using Computers: Upholding Rights and Freedoms while Fighting Crime – Sunday, 18.7.2010

Posted on 21 July 2010. Filed under: *Editorial*, Week 673 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The Mirror, Vol. 14, No. 673

The Ministry of Defense hopes that the use of computers will help better to cut down the names of ‘ghost soldiers’ from the salary lists of the military. This was expressed by the spokesperson of the Ministry of Defense, Lieutenant General Chhum Socheat, who said that the present census of all soldiers will be more accurate and thorough this year than in previous years. “It is an annual census to find out the real number of soldiers and of the children of those soldiers, and to cut out the names of soldiers who have retired or who died, or are not present anymore.” There are some traditional elements in this process, even surprising ones – if one assumes that soldiers would be known, present, and listed at their command posts: “All soldiers of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces are required to show up at their command posts. The soldiers will there be asked to identify themselves by showing themselves and their ID numbers, as well as to specify the number of children they have at present in the lists… the names of soldiers who do not show up will be deleted from the salary lists of the Ministry of Defense.”

Considering the results of a similar exercise in 2008, where – according to Mr. Cheam Yeap, a member of the National Assembly from the Cambodian People’s Party – the government found 10,000 ghost soldiers and 10,000 ghost police, for whom salaries were regularly paid out (to whom?), the new findings might again bring considerable savings to the national budget.
Lieutenant General Chhum Socheat added that there is confidence that this year, the data will be accurate, because of the use of a computer system to store all documents.

The newly created Anti-Corruption Unit of the government will start with to collect about 100,000 declarations of assets, and this process is to be implemented before November 2010, “to facilitate a quick enforcement of the law.” Though the Anti-Corruption Unit is to keep all these documents, it has not been announced how this is going to happen practically. Even trusting the capacities of computer systems, it will be difficult to receive and file more than 1,000 asset declarations per day during the remaining days before November.

But the past week brought also a different reminder about the power of computer systems: Cambodian authorities began creating legislation against cyber crimes. “A workshop about the creation of legislation against cyber crimes was held on 13 July 2010 at the Council of Ministers, and government officials, officials of national and international organizations, and representatives of Internet Service Providers, of telecom companies, of technology companies, of publication institutions, and of other relevant fields participated in the workshop… The advancement of technology is a double-edged sword. It can make many things easier and provides abundant benefits for quick development. But it also creates opportunities for criminals to use it to commit various offenses.” This double reality was pointed out: that by now communication technology plays an ever growing role in society – but on the other hand, Cambodia is also experiencing similar problems and threat as they happen in other countries also, which can be a threat for security, economy, and the general and political life of a society.

This Cambodian workshop was held also to consider how other countries are dealing with this new world wide problem. The head of the Economic Crime Division of the Council of Europe, Mr. Alexander Seger, referred to the Budapest Convention on Cyber Crime of 2001, which had been developed during four years before it was presented to the member states of the Council of Europe, but which is also open for other states to sign and to access, so that among the 47 countries which signed it, there are also non-European countries: Canada, Japan, South Africa, and the United States of America.

These preparatory efforts in Cambodia are considering the same range of criminal activities which happen also in other countries around the globe. “Cambodia has already experienced many problems that allow cyber criminals to commit offenses using such technology. There are many cases where all must pay attention, to prevent cheating on the Internet, to receive the inheritance from someone illegally, not to respond to electronic messages asking for passwords, or messages threatening someone, stealing of passwords, and the distribution of child pornography into computer systems, or the sending of spam mails.”

What is remarkable is the fact that the Budapest Convention on Cyber Crime does not only point to the threats which can come from criminal use of the Internet, and to the need to protect society from them. Included in this document of 28 pages is also a warning that the need for criminal prosecution shall not violate fundamental rights of the citizens to be protected:

The member States of the Council of Europe and the other States signatory hereto,… Convinced of the need to pursue, as a matter of priority, a common criminal policy aimed at the protection of society against cyber crime, inter alia, by adopting appropriate legislation and fostering international co-operation;…

Mindful of the need to ensure a proper balance between the interests of law enforcement and respect for fundamental human rights as enshrined in the 1950 Council of Europe Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, the 1966 United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and other applicable international human rights treaties, which reaffirm the right of everyone to hold opinions without interference, as well as the right to freedom of expression, including the freedom to seek, receive, and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, and the rights concerning the respect for privacy;

Mindful also of the right to the protection of personal data, as conferred, for example, by the 1981 Council of Europe Convention for the Protection of Individuals with regard to Automatic Processing of Personal Data;…

Have agreed as follows:

Each Party shall adopt such legislative and other measures as may be necessary to establish as criminal offenses under its domestic law, when committed intentionally…

followed by chapters on Illegal access, Illegal interception, Data and System interference, Misuse of devices, Computer-related forgery and fraud, Offenses related to child pornography and to infringements of copyright, etc.

When representatives of governments, of the business community, and of civil society – according to the multi-stakeholder principle introduced by the United Nations for dealing with questions of the present Information Society – met in June for an Asia-Pacific Regional Internet Governance Forum in Hong Kong, the issue of cyber security was also high on the agenda. While there was an emphasis on legal measures to assure the security and stability of the Internet, and on technical facilities to implement such controls, a group of civil society representatives from Southeast Asia made their common concern public in a 2010 Southeast Asia Civil Society Declaration on Internet Governance.

This Southeast Asian reflection starts with a references to the UN Summits for the Information Society of 2003 and 2005, especially with their Declaration of Principles, which the representatives of governments from around the globe had voted upon:

We, the representatives of the peoples of the world, assembled in Geneva from 10-12 December 2003 for the first phase of the World Summit on the Information Society, declare our common desire and commitment to build a people-centered, inclusive and development-oriented Information Society, where everyone can create, access, utilize and share information and knowledge, enabling individuals, communities and peoples to achieve their full potential in promoting their sustainable development and improving their quality of life, premised on the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations and respecting fully and upholding the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Building on this guideline, which had led to the setting up of the Internet Governance Forums, this civil society declaration says among others in a longer text:

Key Observations of the Asia Pacific regional Internet Governance Forum

In response to the first Asia-Pacific Regional Internet Governance Forum Roundtable in Hong Kong on 15-16 June 2010, we, netizens, journalists, bloggers, IT practitioners and nongovernmental representatives from across Southeast Asia, offer the following observations from the Roundtable:

Critical issues of Internet governance in Asia should guide future discussions on Internet governance policy:

Openness

Open access to information is the right of every individual, a right that serves as a fundamental venue for one’s knowledge- and capacity-building. Access to information ultimately helps foster creativity and innovation, thus promoting sustainable human and economic development. Openness is key to a democratic and open society. Restrictions on freedom of opinion and expression online, such as state censorship which blocks Internet intermediaries, is one of the threats to open societies. Intimidation and state censorship facilitate self-censorship, a hazardous social phenomenon that further undermines democracy and openness.

Access

The Internet is for everyone; it is a public good. Yet a Digital Divide between those countries and communities with Internet access and those without persists, and has not been sufficiently addressed in discussions on Internet governance. Proceedings at the Asia-Pacific Regional Internet Governance Forum indicated a higher priority must be placed on addressing not only the global digital divide, but also regional and national ones. While Singapore enjoys high Internet access rates (70% penetration), countries like Burma and Cambodia are at the other end of the spectrum (0.22% and 0.51% penetration, respectively), ranked the lowest of 200 countries studied in the World Bank.

Internet access is fundamental for progress. Various factors, such as political, economic and social development, poverty levels, and technological infrastructure affect whether and how often people can access the Internet. Internationally coordinated efforts must be made to address domestic policies that contribute to the digital divide in Southeast Asia and find solutions to bridge the gap.

Cyber Security

Definition of cyber security must include elements that address the right to privacy and to civil and political freedom.

An individual’s right over his/her own privacy, including personal data and information, must not be sacrificed…

Today’s information society connects personal IT devices directly to the outside world, no longer storing personal data on a single server. Given the involvement of the government and businesses (especially state-owned enterprises) in running such technologies, surveillance and identity theft remain a constant threat against Internet users.

In this regard, any national security policy must not deviate from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and all international human rights covenants to which states are parties…

The references of the Budapest Convention on Cyber Crime and of the Southeast Asia Civil Society Declaration on Internet Governance to human rights and freedoms, not only threatened by criminal action, but also by efforts to impose extensive control, are important reminders that security must be human security.

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Free access to free flowing information – Sunday, 27.6.2010

Posted on 3 July 2010. Filed under: *Editorial*, Week 670 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The Mirror, Vol. 14, No. 670

The Constitution of a country is its basic law – all other laws and regulations have to follow the guidelines of the Constitution. The Constitution is also a basic guideline for the citizens of a country, especially in a country where the Constitution declares (inscribed in the name of the people: “WE, THE PEOPLE OF CAMBODIA” as its Preamble states): “Cambodian people are the masters of their own country,” living in the Kingdom of Cambodia that has adopted “a policy of Liberal Democracy and Pluralism” as stated in its Article 51. The Constitution, written in 1993 by the elected representatives forming the first National Assembly of the newly established Kingdom of Cambodia, established a high and clear vision for the future after the troubled and violent decades of the past: “to restore Cambodia into an ‘Island of Peace’ based on a multi-party liberal democratic regime guaranteeing human rights and the respect of law, and responsible for the destiny of the nation.”

The Constitution lays out also clearly where the responsibility for the destiny of the nation is located: “All power belongs to the people.”

To fulfill the goals laid out is a daily challenge – not just to be celebrated on Constitution Day on 24 September every year, remembering the signing of the new Constitution on 24 September 1993 by King Sihanouk, and not only on the days every five years, when the members of the National Assembly are elected as the legislative power, with the authority over the creation of a new government, through which the people exercise their power.

To fulfill this challenge requires, among others, that the people can know what is going on in the country over which they are the masters: access to correct and transparent information is a fundamental condition for the Constitution to be alive.

The media play an important role in facilitating the access to information. We had the headline this week “Khmer Journalists Need More Training to Write Investigating Information [to write such information, journalists have to investigate to collect strong evidence to support their conclusions]” – an indication that there is still work to be done. Some time ago it was also decided that all Ministries shall have an official spokesperson, and there had also been special training events for persons taking on these new roles.

Unfortunately, the situation is often far away from the goal to be achieved. There are regular reports in the press, almost every week, that a reporter calling a Ministry to get some information is directed to a different person, and from there to a third person, and finally the answer is “no information available.” Or after being re-directed to several other sources, the caller ends up with the original contact. Or the called party hangs up as soon as they understand the call is from a journalist.

There are other cases where the information is clear – but it is difficult to understand it, as it is only a partial answer to a public question.

A case of this type of a response is the elaborate response given in the National Assembly by Deputy Prime Minister Sok An to an opposition request for clarification about “tea money” paid by foreign oil and mineral exploring companies, about which The Mirror carried a report in the Friday edition. There was, in response to the information given, some praise in the national and international press – but there was also frustration.

“In the case that there is money paid, like reward money for signing, paid into the state budget, the Ministry of Economy and Finance and the National Petroleum Authority deposits it into an account at the National Bank of Cambodia. The money is the income from oil for the Royal Government of Cambodia to be used, and the use of the money is not dependent on the companies signing the oil deals, like in the case of the social development foundation. The money for the social development foundation is also deposited into an account at the National Bank of Cambodia, but before the money can be taken out to be spent on any projects, there needs to be a discussion with company that signed the oil deal, as, in general, that money is used to serve the development in areas designated when the oil deal was signed.”

But there were no total figures given, no explanation why such payments were not reflected in past accounts of the national budget, and no information about the administration of the Social Fund – who is responsible, and according to which criteria; no NGO could get away with such vague information.

And there are cases where the information is clear – but it is difficult to understand the arguments used and not used.

The demarcation of national borders is an important affair, often loaded not only with practical, but also with emotional elements. Clear, transparent information can always help to defuse a tense situation. Why are then the Khmer authorities prohibiting farmers from doing cultivation on the fields next to the temporary Border Marker Number 270 in Takeo, and people trying to visit the site to verify what is really going on were are prohibited from visiting? We did not find that the media were given the precise geographical coordinates, and detailed mapping reference – why only general reference to some border agreements?

Similarly, but even less transparent, is the argumentation in the following press report:

“An Expert Official [the head of the Border Committee of Cambodia, Mr. Var Kim Hong]: [Opposition party president] Sam Rainsy’s Map Is Fake [he claimed that the 1:100,000 map deposited at the United Nations in 1964 does not have grids, while the map that Mr. Sam Rainsy published on the Internet has grids; the Phnom Penh municipal court issued an arrest warrant for Mr. Sam Rainsy for faking public documents and spreading disinformation].”

If the original map deposited at the United Nations does not have a grid, showing the geographical coordinates of Latitudes and Longitudes of the depicted locations – how is it possible to determine where the contested border posts are actually located? It is faking the map, if the claim is made that the original maps did contain the grid of geographical coordinates but it actually did not – but it is helping to clarify the situation, if the geographical coordinates of Northern Latitude and Eastern Longitude are later provided so that the place of the border line can be clearly shown. – The legal struggle against the grid on the map seems to criticize that clarifying information is provided, while not saying that the information provided is wrong – nor providing alternative information with the assertion what is right.

That the public handling of information and the access to it is crucial has been underlined again by the top UN officials on 3 May 2010 – marking the annual World Press Freedom Day – calling for the promoting of the universal right to publicly-held information as well as ensuring the safety of all those who work in the media, adding that “some journalists risk intimidation, detention and even their lives, simply for exercising their right to seek, receive and impart information and ideas, through any media, and regardless of frontiers.” That is what UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon said in a message for the World Press Freedom Day. It is a continuing challenge and a task not yet fulfilled.

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Sok An Clarified the US$28 Million Tea Money from the Total Company – Friday, 25.6.2010

Posted on 27 June 2010. Filed under: Week 670 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The Mirror, Vol. 14, No. 670

Note:

Apologies – delays of the publication may occur until 17 July 2010 because of my international travel.

Norbert Klein
At present still in Brussels/Belgium at the meetings of ICANN – the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, but soon again on the way – to Canada. I am not yet sure when I will be able to send the Saturday installment – maybe tomorrow, maybe only later.

“The Minister of the Council of Ministers, Deputy Prime Minister Sok An, officially provided a written clarification regarding oil and gas issues, as well as the US$28 million paid by Total after a Sam Rainsy Party parliamentarian from Phnom Penh, Mr. Son Chhay, had asked seven questions.

“According to the letter of Mr. Sok An sent to the president of the National Assembly, Mr. Heng Samrin, on 9 June 2010 and released on 24 June 2010 to respond to Mr. Son Chhay’s questions, it explains that the Royal Government never provided licenses to any oil company for exploitation, but signed oil deals to allow companies to study and explore oil and gas resources. Companies with which such oil deals have been made by the Royal Government are:

Campex,
Chevron,
CNOOC [China National Offshore Oil Corporation],
CPHL Petroleum,
Enterprise Oil,
GS-Caltex,
Idemitsu,
JCL Petroleum,
JOGMEC [Japan Oil, Gas and Metals National Corporation],
Kris Energy,
Kuwait Energy,
Lunin,
Medco,
Mitsui Oil Exploration Company,
Petrovietnam,
Polytec Petroleum Corporation,
Premier Oil,
PTTEP,
Resourceful Petroleum,
Singapore Petroleum Corporation,
Total,
Woodside.

Some of these companies had given up and left, because the oil and gas resources they were researching cannot be developed commercially.

“Responding to the questions that Mr. Son Chhay had asked, ‘What policies allow companies to gain profit before they get exploitation licenses?’ – Mr. Sok An said that these companies are qualified, they have sufficient techniques and resources to explore, they have proper programs responding to the needs for exploration, care about the environment, have the ability to enter into competition, they can provide appropriate benefits to Cambodia, and they meet other points stated in the regulations for oil exploration from 1991.

“Responding to the questions, ‘What payments do they have to make before they get a licenses? What payments have to be made into the state budget? If there are such payments, since when have such payments been implemented?’ – Mr. Sok An said that the companies do not have to pay all money before they receive oil deals. But when a company gets a deal, they might pay some money, like reward money for signing, and money for a social development foundation. But they are not obliged to pay it, and it depends on negotiations based on the expected oil potential. In the case that there is money paid, like reward money for signing, paid into the state budget, the Ministry of Economy and Finance and the National Petroleum Authority deposits it into an account at the National Bank of Cambodia. The money is the income from oil for the Royal Government of Cambodia to be used, and the use of the money is not dependent on the companies signing the oil deals, like in the case of the social development foundation. The money for the social development foundation is also deposited into an account at the National Bank of Cambodia, but before the money can be taken out to be spent on any projects, there needs to be a discussion with company that signed the oil deal, as, in general, that money is used to serve the development in areas designated when the oil deal was signed.

“Another question is, ‘Where has the US$28 million payment of the Total company been used, and where has this been published? What policies were used to determine the amount of US$28 million?

“Mr. Sok An responded that the amount of money paid by Total is US$26 million (US$20 million as reward money for signing, and US$6 million was for the social development foundation). The rest of US$2 million is for processing the administrative work which the company volunteered to pay for the long term. No money has been paid to any individual who is an official of the Royal Government. The government manages and uses the income from the oil and gas resources through the same entrance and exit [that is the national budget]. As for the social development fund into which the oil companies paid, it is not so much and it depends on the potential of the resources; the foundation had been established in 1995.

“Mr. Sok An made these clarifications in response to the Sam Rainsy Part parliamentarian, Mr. Son Chhay, who had sent a letter with questions on 7 May 2010, through the National Assembly.” Khmer Amatak, Vol.11, #784, 25.6.2010

Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Friday, 25 June 2010

Deum Ampil, Vol.4, #513, 25.6.2010

  • The Prime Minister Absolutely Firmly Ordered that No Primary Schools and Health Centers Should be Sold [especially those in Phnom Penh – previously, some primary school directors and heads of health centers had sold or relocated institutions for their own benefit]
  • The [SBJ] Bank of Vietnam Invests US$3 Million in Gold Minerals Development in Cambodia
  • More Than 6,000 Families at the Northeast Received Free Treatments from American Medics

Kampuchea Thmey, Vol.9, #2284, 25.6.2010

  • Samdech Dekchor Hun Sen Called On Citizens to Obey the Traffic Laws during the Inauguration of the Sky Road [in Phnom Penh]
  • Australia Has the First Female Prime Minister [Ms. Julia Gillard] after a Grim Party Revolt

Khmer Amatak, Vol.11, #784, 25.6.2010

  • Sok An Clarified the US$28 Million Tea Money of the Total Company

Khmer Machas Srok, Vol.4, #690, 25.6.2010

  • [Prime Minister] Hun Sen Must Cooperate with the Federal Bureau of Investigation [FBI] to Arrest the Persons Who Made the Grenade Attack in Front of the [former] National Assembly, to Be Convicted like [the Cambodian Freedom Fighters leader] Chhun Yasith [convicted to serve a life time prison term for attempting a coup d’etat in Cambodia in 2000]

Koh Santepheap, Vol.43, #6991, 25.6.2010

  • The 24th Synthesizing Report of the ILO Shows the Recovery of the Garment Sector [in Cambodia – the rate of export within five months of 2010 was more than that within the corresponding period last year; the rate of employment increased a little since 1 November 2009 and the rate of unemployment which results from the global financial crisis is stable – it is not deteriorating]

Moneaksekar Khmer, Vol.17, #690, 25.6.2010

  • Sam Rainsy Party Leader [Mr. Sam Rainsy] and Parliamentarian [Ms. Mu Sochua] Who Are Facing Arrest Will Attend the ASEAN Free Parties’ Forum in the Philippines as Honorary Speakers [from 27 to 29 June 2010]

Phnom Penh Post [Khmer Edition], Vol.1, #201, 25.6.2010

  • The Prime Minister Said that the Sam Rainsy Party Was Also Involved in the Unsuccessful Coup [by the Cambodian Freedom Fighters – CFF]
  • Thai Soldiers Shot and Killed a Khmer Worker when He Was Returning from Work [accusing him of illegally trafficking motorbikes across the border – the spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Koy Kuong, condemned this fatal shooting and waits for an explanation from Thailand]
  • The Mong Riththy Group [Company] Invests US$10 Million to Plant Rubber Trees at a Seashore Region in Sihanoukville in 2010 [on 5,000 hectares of land]

Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.18, #5233, 25.6.2010

  • Samdech Dekchor Asked the Ministry of Transport of China to Invest to Construct [many] Roads in Cambodia According to the Built-Operate-Transfer [BOT]

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Civil Society Calls for a Halt for the Provision of Economic Concession Land to Private Companies – Monday, 17.5.2010

Posted on 18 May 2010. Filed under: Week 665 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The Mirror, Vol. 14, No. 665

“Phnom Penh: Civil society organizations working in Cambodia asked the Royal Government of Cambodia to temporarily stop providing economic concession land to private companies, because these provisions affect the life of many citizens.

“The Cambodian Human Rights Action Committee, the NGO Forum on Cambodia and a special Housing Rights Task Force said in their statement that by now, the Royal Government of Cambodia has offered concession land to many local and foreign private companies. It is noticed that the provisions are not in line with the Land Law, Article 59, which states, ‘Concession land can be allocated only up to a maximum of 10,000 hectares per case.’ However, there are cases that many areas of concession land with more than 10,000 hectares were delivered to different companies that are owned by only one person.

“The statement of these civil society organizations mentioned also irregularities relating to the provision of economic concession land and suggested to the government to temporarily halt providing concession land to private companies until the government can guarantee the protection and respect of legal provisions, and they asked the government to check the existing concession land arrangements, and to cancel illegal concession land contracts if found.

“In the meantime, civil society organizations asked the government to publicize and to update information about the provisions of economic concession land on the website of the Royal Government.

“The head of the Investigating Unit of the Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association [ADHOC], Mr. Ny Chakriya, said during the press conference held in the morning of 12 May 2010 at the Sunway Hotel, that according to observations, the provision of economic concession land has affected the life of many citizens, especially when companies started to use machinery to clear land before they get economic concession licenses from the Royal Government. He added that what is also noticeable is that some companies have the right to order armed forces to protect their land, and most such forces protect the benefits of those companies rather than protecting the benefits of the citizens.

“Also the Executive Director of the Cambodian Defenders Project, Mr. Sok Sam Oeun, said during the conference that the provision of economic concession land cannot be over 10,000 hectares according to the land law, and so far, ‘we have seen that those who had been provided with concession land, whatever mistakes they may have committed, they did not get punished.’ Those who sign to provide concession land continue to do things just as they like, as they know that they will not be punished. To change this, the Royal Government must determine penalties for institutions having the authority to provide concession land.

“In the evening of 12 May 2010, Kampuchea Thmey could not reach representatives of the Royal Government and of the Ministry of Agriculture for comments regarding the suggestions of those civil society organizations.” Kampuchea Thmey, Vol.9, #2247-2250, 13-17.5.2010

Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Monday, 17 May 2010

Areyathor, Vol.17, #1439, 13-14.5.2010

  • The Prime Minister Called on Troops to Protect the Forest and Land in the Area of Their Bases

Deum Ampil, Vol.4, #476-479, 13-17.5.2010

  • Cambodia Rejected the Concern Raised by Siam [Thailand] Saying that Cambodia Does Not Respect the Memorandum in 2000 Much [it was signed by the two governments to recognize the integrity and the territory of both countries, based by treaties and pacts recognized internationally – a source where to find the text of the 2000 Memorandum was not given]
  • The Lawyer of Samdech Dekchor Hun Sen Will Stand with [Sam Rainsy Party parliamentarian] Mu Sochua at the Supreme Court on 2 June 2010 [over the defamation case filed by the Prime Minister]
  • Diarrhea in Kompong Cham Increased to 251 Cases
  • [Thai Prime Minister] Abhisit Canceled the Plan for Elections on 14 November 2010 and Ordered 80 Tanks to Suppress Red-Shirt Demonstrators [opposing the government – after the demonstrators had rejected the condition for the elections: that the protesters have to start to end their blockades]

Kampuchea Thmey, Vol.9, #2247-2250, 13-17.5.2010

  • Civil Society Calls for a Halt for the Provision of Economic Concession Land to Private Companies
  • The Prime Minister Called on Citizens to Be Careful while the Weather Is Abnormally Hot [especially sanitation is important, as recently there are cases of diarrhea happening in some provinces]
  • Nearly of the 40,000 AIDS Patients [92%] Received ARV Medicines from the Ministry of Health
  • The Prime Minister Warned Army Commanders to Report in Detail about the Border Situation, neither to Exaggerate, nor to Understate the Reality
  • The Royal Government Decided to Take 640,000 Hectares of the Flooded Forest Area around the Tonle Sap Lake for Conservation
  • An 8-Year-Old Dutch Boy Survived, while 103 People Were Killed in Libyan Plane Crash

Khmer Machas Srok, Vol.4, #655, 15.5.2010

  • Global Witness Asked International Donors to Press [Prime Minister] Hun Sen’s Government [to ensure that all money collected from the selling of natural resources’ exploration rights will be recorded in the national budget, and be allocated in a way beneficial to the Khmer citizens]

Koh Santepheap, Vol.43, #6954-6957, 13-17.5.2010

  • The Construction of the Phnom Penh-Cho Ray Hospital (Bệnh viện Chợ Rẫy) Worth About US$40 Million Was Started [with investments by the Ho Chi Minh City Medical Investment Joint Stock company and the Sok Kong Import Expert company]
  • Villagers Get Sick and Died and Barriers Were Put to Ban Outsiders to Go in; Since April Seventeen People Died in Siem Pang District [Stung Treng – vomiting and “diarrhea” denying it is Cholera]
  • The King Plans to Visit Japan for Five Days [from 16 to 20 May 2010]
  • Traveling Was Banned in Bangkok; Clashes between Soldiers and Protesters Resulted in 25 Deaths and 200 Injured People
  • [Conservative leader] Mr. David Cameron Becomes the New Prime Minister of England

Moneaksekar Khmer, Vol.17, #3881, 17.5.2010

  • Land Concessions Are a Concern of Citizens Who Own No Land for Cultivation

Phendei Khmer, Vol.8, #36, 19-25.5.2010

  • A Horrific Accident: A Bus Struck a Korean Made Truck, Killing Four People and Injuring Thirty Three Others [Siem Reap]

Phnom Penh Post [Khmer Edition], Vol.1, #170-172, 13-17.5.2010

  • The Prime Minister Supports the Khmer Rouge Tribunal to Bring Justice for Khmer Citizens
  • Diarrhea Continues to Rage in Four Provinces [Kompong Cham, Kratie, Ratanakiri, and Stung Treng; so far, 34 people died – health officials continue to claim it is not Cholera]
  • The Kompong Thom Authorities Wait for a Decision from the Ministry of Agriculture to Provide Rice Fields to Former Kroya Villagers [who were evicted since 2009 – Kompong Thom]
  • Khmer Krom Citizens Asked for Permission [from the Phnom Penh Municipality] to Celebrate the [61st] Anniversary of the Loss of Land [to Vietnam; at the park in front of Wat Botum on 4 June 2010]
  • The Phnom Penh Municipality Plans to Construct 12 Roads in the Boeng Kak Area

Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.18, #5196-5199, 13-17.5.2010

  • The United Nations Sees that the Economic Situation of Cambodia Is Better Than 2009 [the economic growth of Cambodia is predicted to be 4%]
  • A Bus of the Cambodia Angkor Express Carrying Tourists Hit a Motorbike, Killing Two People and Seriously Injuring Two Others [Phnom Penh]
  • Lightning Hit a Villa and Tropical Storm Destroyed More Than 40 Houses in Siem Reap

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Voluntary and Charitable Donations – Sunday, 16.5.2010

Posted on 18 May 2010. Filed under: *Editorial*, Week 664 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The Mirror, Vol. 14, No. 664

In many societies it is usual that corporations, and rich and not so rich individuals make donations for causes they consider important for the public good. During the past week it was reported that more than US$7 million was collected as donations during the celebration of the Cambodia Red Cross and Red Crescent Society’s anniversary on 8 May; it is the largest humanitarian organization in Cambodia, having also individual Members, and Volunteers. This is an impressive organization which has collected an impressive sum. To see whether or not this is the beginning of a spirit of voluntarism in society, it would be good to know how much the same charitable donors are making available to lift up the economic situation of orphanages, to create and maintain scholarships for needy students from the provinces, to support organizations engaged in the promotion of awareness of the endangered environment and its protection, and many similar endeavors.

In many countries, the Red Cross is one not-for-profit NGO like any other NGO – it receives private and corporate donations, like other NGOs receiving private and corporate donations; often these are encouraged by special tax reduction or tax exemption regulations for supporting such causes for the public good. Over the years I became aware that many persons in Cambodia, dealing with foreign NGOs working in the country, are not aware that these depend to a more or less strong degree on regular private donation, often from people in the middle and lower income brackets in their countries, and not only on public money. But it seems to be hardly a usual feature that Cambodian NGOs, working for the public good, receive similar donations from those who have money, in Cambodia. If there are worthwhile examples, it would be good to have them reported more prominently, and not only for the Cambodian Red Cross and Red Crescent Society.

But whatever the source of such funds – it is usual that that they are accounted for regularly and publicly. One argument of the government of the Kingdom of Cambodia, why a special NGO law is necessary, was always that the finances of NGOs – as agencies handling social funds – have to be monitored publicly. Though NGOs have responded that they are subject to regular public audit already, and these audit reports have been available anyway, the request to make their financial records public was always among the main arguments to create such legislation.

Now it is all the more surprising, that the financial volume and the operating procedures of the Social Fund of the government, even it’s existence, referred to sometimes over the years, are not similarly transparent, and there are additional allegations that government representatives have received substantial monies, supposedly for a social fund, which cannot be found in any verifiable public financial record.

The present round of discussions was triggered by reports that an Australian mining company, which had operated for a limited period in Mondolkiri, is under corruption investigation at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, because it is also listed on stock exchanges in the USA. There are allegations that this may relate to payments to Cambodia. While the government was asked for precise, detailed information supported by documents, to be presented to the National Assembly, additional questions were added relating to payments from the French company Total. Some of the related, but not clarified pieces of information:

  • The Indonesian company Medco Energi said they paid US$4.5 million into a government social fund.
  • The Australian company BHP Billiton paid US$ 2.5 million as “tea money” – according to a statement by the Minister of the Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology in the National Assembly.
  • Payments of US$20 million by the French oil company Total, paid as a “signature bonus,” are not publicly traceable.
  • In addition, some of the monies are said to have be designated to pay for specific activities in Mondolkiri or in Pursat etc., but different, related information, cannot be reconciled.

Now the Prime Minister gave the task to explain the situation to the National Assembly to two Deputy Prime Ministers, the Minister of the Council of Ministers Sok An, and the Minister of Economy and Finance Keat Chhon. According to Mr. Phay Siphan, the spokesperson of the Council of Ministers, the Prime Minister “said that all revenues must go to the national budget.” Obviously that is not what happened so far.

Interesting explanations and revelations relating to the past can be expected – combined with the hope that the order of the Prime Minister will be molded into clear administrative procedures for the future.

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Malaysian “Investments” – Saturday, 15.5.2010

Posted on 17 May 2010. Filed under: Week 664 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The Mirror, Vol. 14, No. 664

Note:

After having been knocked out late on Monday, 10.5.2010, by a bad, but not clearly identified intestinal infection, I am sorry that I could not earlier, and cannot more speedily, catch up again, but maybe it will be done by Monday, 17.5.2010, noon.

Because of the King’s Birthday National Holiday on 13.5.2010, which was extended into further days, it is now intended to have publications, during the current week, only for Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday.

Norbert Klein
Editor of the Mirror

I welcome to see Comments in response to publications on The Mirror. When there are Comments, I consider them not as “Letters to the Editor,” but as comments, and I hope other readers may also comment on the Comments.

But the the special situation of this week allows me to respond directly to one comment in detail.

In response to our translated article headline “Malaysian Investors and Investments Are Coming to Cambodia while Cambodia Is Still Unable to Export Its Products” on Monday, 10.5.2010, there was the following Comment noted:

“Do you find this investment not good to your country??”

The “you” is obviously not myself, but the journalist of Khmer Amatak who wrote the article – or all readers in Cambodia. But I will present some subsequent information from the local press.

Before the Billion-Dollar – US$! – deals were signed, there was not much known about their content, only that they would have a total volume of about US$1 billion. This is somewhat surprising, as Article 90 of the Constitution of the Kingdom of Cambodia says: “The National Assembly is an organ which has legislative power, and performs its duties as provided for in the constitution and laws. The National Assembly shall approve the national budget, State planning, loans, financial contracts, and the creation, modification and annulment of tax.” As the financial contracts would also involve one between a Malaysian private company and the Cambodian government, some information towards the National Assembly and the public might have been expected.

All reports in the press welcomed this huge Malaysian investment – for example the spokesperson of the Council of Ministers, Mr. Phay Siphan, was quoted in The Cambodia Daily saying “he was aware of the deals and believed that the investment would be a huge plus for the Cambodian economy.”

The climate of the reporting changed later, however, after it was revealed that the major part of the deals – the contract between the Malaysian company Nexbis and the Cambodian government (to provide items to print, including identity cards, passports, and visa – the contract is with the Cambodian Ministry of Interior) was not a Malaysian investment, but a contract for which the Cambodian government will have to pay US$700 million – an amount which corresponds to about 35% of the Cambodian government’s budget for 2010. This payment obligation covers the major part of the “one billion deal” which had been considered to be Malaysian investments in Cambodia.

Some comments were reported in The Cambodia Daily:

  • “That’s a very sizable sum” – Bretton Sciaroni, chairman of the International Business Club.
  • “I am in darkness. I know nothing” – the spokesperson of the Ministry of Information, Lieutenant General Khieu Sopheak.
  • No information provided – the spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Koy Kuong.
  • National Police spokesperson Kirth Chanthatith said he did not know “what was going on.”
  • Ministry of Interior foreign police department in charge of visas Pen Piseth said he knew nothing.
  • Deputy director of the Ministry of Interior’s passport department said he was completely unaware of the deal.
  • The director of the Immigration Department of the National Police Thong Lim: “I do not know about the deal.”
  • The Secretary General of the Ministry of Finance and Economy Hang Chuon Naron said he was unaware of the deal, “I don’t have any information about this. But I think it is not realistic.”

No surprise that now the question is raised, how this deal was concluded – obviously without an open process of competitive bidding. And the question of priorities, to find US$700 million for one of the biggest single deal ever entered into, has not been discussed in the National Assembly, responsible for the national budget.

And in addition, questions are raised about the nature of the company Nexbis – formerly Entertainment Media & Telecoms Corporation – which was hardly known in Cambodia. Now more and more information is coming from Australia, where Nexbis is listed on the Australian Securities Exchange – but it has not reported the Cambodian deal.

In closing, I repeat the Comment received. It is a question to the readers of The Mirror: “Do you find this investment not good to your country?”

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The United States of America Announced to Provide US$5 Million to the Khmer Rouge Tribunal for Two Years – Thursday, 1.4.2010

Posted on 2 April 2010. Filed under: Week 658 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The Mirror, Vol. 14, No. 658

“Phnom Penh: The United States of America announced to grant US$5 million to the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC), the Khmer Rouge Tribunal, for two years from 2010 to 2011 for the United Nations side of the budget.

“This provision of funds of US$5 million was announced by the US Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes Issues, Mr. Stephen Rapp, in the afternoon of 31 March 2010 in a press conference at the US Embassy in Cambodia.

“During the conference, Mr. Stephen Rapp praised the process of the Khmer Rouge Tribunal, though there had been reports of accusations locally and internationally.

“Mr. Stephen Rapp said that the Khmer Rouge Tribunal works hard and overcomes all critics to ensure its continuity.

“In recent months, the Khmer Rouge Tribunal had been accused over corruption among Khmer officials and was alleged of being the object of interference by the Cambodian government. Regarding this problem, Mr. Stephen Rapp stressed that the United States of America is not concerned about these accusations. The USA consider that the Khmer Rouge Tribunal is heading to achieve justice for Khmer citizens who were killed during Democratic Kampuchea, the Pol Pot Regime.

“The spokesperson of the Khmer Rouge Tribunal, Mr. Dim Sovannarom, expressed his satisfaction toward the United States of America for deciding to provide funds so that the Khmer Rouge Tribunal can continue its proceedings.

“Mr. Dim Sovannarom said that because of the funds from the United States, the Khmer Rouge Tribunal hopes that other countries that had announced to provide funds like the United States, will now also deliver them soon to the Khmer Rouge Tribunal for the two years of 2010 and 2011.

“Within the total amount of more than US$85 million, it is seen that the United States of Americas is the only country that provide funds to the Khmer Rouge Tribunal only for the United Nations side of the budget.” Deum Ampil, Vol.4, #449, 1.4.2010

Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:

Thursday, 1 April 2010

Deum Ampil, Vol.4, #449, 1.4.2010

  • The United States of America Announced to Provide US$5 Million to the Khmer Rouge Tribunal for Two Years

Deum Tnot, Vol.3, #100, 1.4.2010

  • The Ministry of Interior Released a Circular Prohibiting the Copying of Works of Author Who Have the Copyright for the Document to Be Copied [the license of places running such copy operations will be canceled and they will be dealt with according to the law]

Note:

A World Trade Organization study predicts grave negative social consequences:

Cambodia’s Accession to the WTO: ‘Fast Track’ Accession by a Least Developed Country

The implementation of copyright law will affect education and other fields relating to human resource development. In a poor country such as Cambodia, books, CDs and VCDs with copyright simply cannot be afforded because they would be too expensive for the average citizen. Pirated CDs, VCDs, and DVDs as well as copied books, unlicensed films and even imitations of circus performances and pantomimes may soon cease to exist in Cambodia. With the majority of the population earning less than one dollar per day, the enforcement of copyright law would take away the livelihood of thousands, and cut off many from educational and entertainment materials.

[Boldface added by The Mirror]

Source:
http://www.wto.org/english/res_e/booksp_e/casestudies_e/case8_e.htm

Kampuchea Thmey, Vol.9, #2216, 1.4.2010

  • The Royal Government Stores Emergency Food Worth US$35 Million for Poor Vulnerable People [where US$17.5 million is from a grant and US$12.5 million from a loan from the Asian Development Bank]
  • The Japan Mine Action Service [JMAS] Grants More Than US$120,000 for Mine Clearance in Battambang

Koh Santepheap, Vol.43, #6923, 1.4.2010

  • Kompong Cham and Koh Kong Forestry Officials Were Removed from Their Positions and Arrested [for working for their personal gain, trading and storing wood illegally]
  • A Truck Carrying More Than 100 Workers Overturned, and 21 Workers Were Killed or Injured [two workers were killed – Phnom Penh]

Moneaksekar Khmer, Vol.17, #3847, 1.4.2010

  • [A Phnom Penh Municipal Deputy Governor from the Cambodian People’s Party] Using a Conference [about data systems and statistics] for Political Propaganda Made Sam Rainsy Party Councilors Walk Out of the Session

Phnom Penh Post [Khmer Edition], Vol.140, #143, 1.4.2010

  • The [former] King, Samdech Euv [the King Father] and Samdech Mae [the King Mother] Return to Cambodia [from China]
  • More Than 400 Convicts Will Be Pardoned or Their Punishment Will Be Reduced by the King during the Khmer New Year [including for the editor-in-chief of the pro-Sam Rainsy Party newspaper Khmer Machas Srok, Mr. Hang Chakra]
  • More Than 60 Families Do Not Agree to Leave the Burnt Area [of the Railway Community in Tuol Kork district, Phnom Penh, to resettle at the Dangkao suburb – the authorities said that they will not evict them by force, but they will persuade them to agree to relocate to a new place where they can have better living conditions]

Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.18, #5165, 1.4.2010

  • The Construction of the Russey Chrum River Hydro-Electric Dam Will Be Started by a Chinese Company [China Huadian Corpoationhave a look by clicking on the name of the company – [中国华电集团公司, short 中国华电], one of China’s five largest power producers] with an Investment Capital of US$558 Million [taking three years to finish – Pursat]

Note:

It is interesting to see also in publications in the People’s Republic of China reporting about citizens concern, when the may have to leave their traditional villages to make room for the construction of a dam – in this case also by the same China Huadian company – and different officials make contradictory statements, leaving the people concerned.

http://www.nujiang.ngo.cn/Dynamics-en/rumours-of-dam-building-leave-villagers-fearing-for-their-future

“Rumors of dam-building leave villagers fearing for their future

“According to the latest rumor, headway has been made with the dam-building plan – which has been halted since 2004. Approval, it is said, has been given for the construction of at least one of the proposed 13 dams to start in the next few months.

“But a top local official firmly denied the rumored approval – reportedly announced by another local government official at a Communist Party meeting last month.”

Some organizations turn their concerns into a public campaign:

“Water and Life. We are holding this ‘Nujiang River Sentiment’ exhibition to invite you to join us and struggle to save the last natural river in the world.”

http://www.nujiang.ngo.cn/ <— A picture and questions.

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The Asian Development Bank: Achieving the Millennium Development Goals is in Danger – Friday, 19.2.2010

Posted on 20 February 2010. Filed under: Week 652 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The Mirror, Vol. 14, No. 652

“While within five years the global Millennium Development Goals should be reached, the United Nations and the Asian Development Bank said in a report on Thursday, 18 February 2010, that the global economic crisis had made Cambodia to walk ‘off track,’ and the government policies must focus on social welfare.

“Placing Cambodia together with Nepal and Laos, this report says that these countries are very much in danger due to a slow development process, which does not contribute to preventing poverty and child malnutrition.

“Cambodia walks ‘off track,’ not fulfilling more than half of the benchmark points listed in the global development goals, not fulfilling these Goals in seven of the eight Goals, which include to eradicate extreme poverty and the reduction of child mortality rates, to drop by two thirds of the 2009 rate by 2015.

“In 2003, Cambodia added one more Goal to the eight Millennium Development Goals, increasing their number to nine: the clearance of mines and unexploded ordnance and the aid for the victims.

“This report shows that only 20% of the Cambodia population were covered by any social protection projects. Only more than 1% of the GDP of Cambodia is spent on social protection measures, less than the
expenses in other countries such as Bangladesh, Nepal, and Pakistan.

“The vice president of the Asian Development Bank, Ms. Ursula Schaefer-Preuss, said on 18 February 2010 in a statement that most stimulating measures focus on other fields rather than on social protection. ‘If we want to solve impacts of the economic downturn and achieve the Millennium Development Goals, necessary expenses on social protection must be increased substantially.’

“Relating to these comments, the Director of the UN Development Program’s Regional Bureau for Asia and the Pacific, Mr. Ajay Chhibber, warned that if there is no better social protection, people will fall back into poverty again.

“Among the 21 development indicators in this report, Cambodia is making slow progress in 9 indicators, including registration at primary schools, completing school education, child mortality, malnutrition, and maternal health care during pregnancy.

“Based on this report, there is no progress regarding the accomplishment of environmental sustainability in forestry cover and carbon emissions absorption.

“Anyway, this report says that Cambodia had achieved some specific Millennium Development Goals, such as combating HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis, and supplying clean water. Also, the gender equity goals at most schools will be accomplished.

“A parliamentarian from the Cambodian People’s Party, the chairperson of the Commission on Economy, Banking, and Audits of the National Assembly, Mr. Cheam Yeap, said that the government made plans in the national budget to help people who have difficulties.

“He added that the government had asked the National Assembly to provide US$18 million in addition to help people in agriculture.

“He went on to say that Prime Minister Hun Sen had asked bank officials to increase loans with low interest rates for the public. The spokesperson of the Council of Ministers, Mr. Phay Siphan, referred questions to the Council for the Development of Cambodia, but Secretary-General Sok Chenda could not be reached for comment.

“In an interview with the country representative of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), Mr. Ajay Markanday, he said that it is necessary to concentrate on investments in agriculture.

“He added that to address food security problems and starvation in developing countries, it is really important to focus on the amount of investment to strengthen agriculture. And a sustainable solutions for food security must be found.

“He continued to say that public funds have to be provided to create jobs for members of the poorest in the society, mostly of those are living in remote areas.

“Mr. Markanday added that when the economy starts to recover, food prices will likely rise. He added that the impact of this problem on the levels of poverty and malnutrition depend on the capacity of a country to counter it, based on the achievement of economic growth through investments.” Sereypheap Thmey, Vol.18, #1877, 19.2.2010

Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Friday, 19 February 2010

Deum Ampil, Vol.4, #414, 19.2.2010

  • The Government Allowed Siamese [Thai] Embassy Officials to Meet Their Prisoner [sentenced to serve twenty years in prison for planting landmines in Cambodia]

Kampuchea Thmey, Vol.9, #2181, 19.2.2010

  • The Ministry of Information Advised Radio and Television Stations to Stop Reading Texts from Newspapers and Making Additional Comments
  • The Khmer Rouge Tribunal Received a Medal for “Most Innovative Use of Technology During a Trial” [by the Law Technology News Awards magazine, based in the United States]

Khmer Machas Srok, Vol.4, #606, 19.2.2010

  • [Sam Rainsy Party parliamentarian] Son Chhay Said to Arrest the Chief Drug Smugglers Is Better Than to Create Rehabilitation Centers [for drug addicts]

Koh Santepheap, Vol.43, #6888, 19.2.2010

  • The UN Human Rights Council Rejected the Global Witness Report about Illegal Logging [accusing that families of some Cambodian leaders to cut trees – according to an announcement by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation.

Moneaksekar Khmer, Vol.17, #3812, 19.2.2010

  • The Asian Development Bank Warned that If Cambodia Does Not Make More Efforts, It Will Fall Into Serious Poverty

Phnom Penh Post [Khmer Edition], Vol.1, #115, 19.2.2010

  • The Authorities Set a Deadline for Illegal Pharmacies to Ask for Licenses [according to the Ministry of Health, there are more than 2,000 pharmacies operating countrywide where more than 1,000 have no licenses]
  • Construction Projects Approved in 2009 Declined by More Than 47% [amounting to only over US$200 million, while in 2008, they amounted up to US$381 million]
  • The Anti-Acid Crime Draft Law Will Reach the Government after the Khmer New Year [for adoption and to be sent further to the National Assembly]

Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.18, #5120, 19.2.2010

  • Japan Promised to Provide Aid [of about US$20 million] for the Development of the Cambodia-Vietnam-Laos Triangle Zone
  • After a Woman Was Gang Raped, Her Hands and Legs Were Tied and She Was Then Drowned in a Sewage Ditch in the CAMKO City Construction Area [the perpetrators are not yet identified – Phnom Penh]
  • [The president of the Human Rights Party] Mr. Kim Sokha Guaranteed that He Will Provide Financial Support for [two] Villagers Imprisoned for Removing Temporary Border Markers [offering them money and rice amounting to about US$100 per month for each family]

Sereypheap Thmey, Vol.18, #1877, 19.2.2010

  • The Asian Development Bank: Achieving the Millennium Development Goals is in Danger
  • [The President of the National Assembly] Heng Samrin Sent an Opposition Parliamentarians’ Questions over Border Issues with Vietnam to [Prime Minister] Hun Sen to Respond

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The Government Explains Land and House Taxes and the Road Taxes’ Increase – Tuesday, 1.12.2009

Posted on 2 December 2009. Filed under: Week 641 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The Mirror, Vol.13, No.641

“Phnom Penh: Government officials and parliamentarians from the Cambodian People’s Party explained in detail the regulations for setting of taxes on land and houses, and the increase of road taxes in 2010. This decision is part of the decisions for the national budget for 2010 which the National Assembly discussed and approved on Monday 30 November 2009.

“Defending the national budget draft for 2010, officially known as a financial management law for 2010, during the parliament session on Monday morning, the Minister of Economy and Finance, Deputy Prime Minister Keat Chhon, said that the increase of road taxes and the collection of taxes for real estate including land, houses, buildings, and constructions are a measure to seek additional income while Cambodia is encountering an economic and financial crisis.

“Deputy Prime Minister Keat Chhon added that measures of the government to create taxes on land and houses is not expected to bring in much here in Phnom Penh, because there are 180,000 houses from which only US$3 million to US$9 million can be made. This tax collection will surely be made from high ranking officials and rich people, but it does not have an impact like the tax rates of land and houses in foreign countries, where up to 1% of the total value is charged. In our country, it is only 0.1%. The government will use it to reduce the state support of resources to under national levels and to expand taxation culture which is a movement for direct tax income in the future.

“Deputy Prime Minister Keat Chhon stressed that this new tax was created after proper studies, by an assessment committee, but it is not to frighten the people.

“This statement of the Minister of Economy and Finance is a defense and a response to the criticism of Sam Rainsy Party parliamentarians when the parliament begun discussing to approve a draft of the national budget for 2010.

“The total national budget for 2010, about US$2 billion, was criticized by the Sam Rainsy Party because of the increased expense allocated for national defense and security, which amounts to about US$274 million, while expenses allocated for agriculture and contributing to the development of the national economy were increased by only 5%.

“Sam Rainsy Party parliamentarians also opposed the policy to collect land and house taxes, and to augment road taxes from automobiles, which is proposed as a measure to increase income for state expense in 2010.

“Parliamentarian and spokesperson of the Sam Rainsy Party, Mr. Yim Sovann, said during the parliament session that to augment road taxes and the collection of land and house taxes are strange moves and cannot be supported. Both the rich and the poor cannot cry during the economic crisis at present, because their houses and their land cannot be sold, and some even are indebted to banks.

“The parliamentarian Yim Sovann suggested that the government should try to be brave to collect other taxes, like from visits to the Angkor Wat Temples [contracted to a private company], from forest exploitation, from land contracted out as economic concession land, and to monitor the selling of state property, so that it becomes transparent. Doing so, the state will have increased income and does not need to collect taxes from houses and to increase the road tax.

“The National budget law for 2010 says that taxes will be collected from real estate such as land, houses, buildings, constructions, and others, with a value over Riel 100,000,000 [approx. US$25,000]. The tax will be collected annually at a rate of 0.1% of the total value of the real estate. But the tax excludes agricultural land, and land and buildings of the government, of communities, or individuals who serve religious or humanitarian activities. But houses for normal citizens must pay taxes.

“The budget law for 2010 foresees also an increase of taxes on means transportation including automobiles (road taxes):

  1. Vehicles with a power over 12 HP to 17 HP, within 5 years from their production date, have to pay Riel 500,000 [approx. US$125] each year, and after the 5th years, it is Riel 360,000 [approx. US$90].
  2. Cars with a power over 17 HP to 24 HP, within 5 years from their production date, have to pay Riel 1,600,000 [approx. US$400], and after the 5th year, it is Riel 1,200,000 [approx. US$300].
  3. Cars with a power over 24 HP, like Lexus’ and Land Cruisers, had to pay only Riel 1,000,000 [approx. US$250] for road tax in the previous year, but next year, they will be charged Riel 2,000,000 [approx. US$500].
  4. As for passengers’, general transportation, and tourists’ cars with a power of 12 HP, and small motorbikes, their taxes are kept at the same level.

“However, 106 parliamentarians among 109, who were present during the session on Monday morning, raised their hand in favor of the overall content to accept the draft of the national budget for 2010 to be discussed and approved. The Parliament session continued until Monday afternoon, and the parliament plans to continue to discuss the national budget law, which consists of 6 chapters and 20 articles, on Tuesday morning.” Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.17, #5061, 1.12.2009

Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Deum Ampil, Vol.3, #350, 1.12.2009

  • The Prime Minister Ordered All State Institutions and Provincial Authorities to Review All Agreements with the Siamese [Thai] Government
  • More Than 40 Persons from Civil Society Organizations of Cambodia Will Attend the Geneva Meetings [on 1 December 2009, of the UN Human Rights Council, of the first Universal Periodic Review of human rights practices in Cambodia]

Kampuchea Thmey, Vol.8, #2112, 1.12.2009

  • Samdech Dekchor Considers [Thai prime minister] Abhisit Vijjajiva and [Thai foreign minister] Kasit Piromya as Evil Persons for Cambodia [but he proclaimed to support all Thai investors]
  • Samdech Hun Sen Warned Members of the Royal Family Who Speak Publicly Affecting the King’s health
  • The Odor of a Decaying Body of a Woman Was Found in the Forest, and It Is Assumed that it is a Case of Rape Murder [Kandal]

Khmer Machas Srok, Vol.3, #543, 1.12.2009

  • [Prime Minister] Hun Sen Got Angry with [the Thai Minster of Foreign Affairs] Kasit Piromya after [the Thai Prime Minister] Abhisit Vijjajiva Rejected Negotiations to Restore Diplomatic Ties [as long as the convicted and fugitive former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra is an official adviser to the Cambodian government

Koh Santepheap, Vol.42, #6819, 1.12.2009

  • Samdech Dekchor: Agreements with Thailand Were Suspended, and Even Scholarships for Students Were also Suspended, so that Nobody will Owe Any Gratitude to Thailand
  • Illegal Loggings Still Exist without Any Effective Measures to Prevent Logging in Kompong Thom

Phnom Penh Post [Khmer Edition], Vol.1, #57, 1.12.2009

  • The Khmer Prime Minister Warned Thai Leaders Not to Look Down on Khmers, and He Suspended all Aid from the Government of [Thai Prime Minister] Abhisit Vijjajiva
  • [Former Khmer Rouge leader] Nuon Chea’s Lawyer [Mr. Michael Pestman] Asked the Court to Investigate the Prime Minister for Political Interference [in the Khmer Rouge Tribunal; Mr. Pestman said that Mr. Hun Sen had told all witnesses not to cooperate with this tribunal, accusing Mr. Hun Sen of committing a criminal mistake, which seriously affects legal investigations by this court]

Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.17, #5061, 1.12.2009

  • Samdech Hun Sen: [Thai Prime Minister] Abhisit Vijjajiva Should Stop Finding Ways to Press Cambodia
  • The Government Explains Land and House Taxes and the Road Taxes’ increase
  • A Car Struck a Motorbike, Killing One and Injuring Three [Phnom Penh]

Sereypheap Thmey, Vol.17, #1823, 1.12.2009

  • Vietnamese Garments with Cambodian Labels [“Made in Cambodia”] to Be Exported to America Are Found [to exploit the Cambodian export quote limits from Vietnam

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