Eight Companies Will Invest in Agro-Industry Crops on More than 50,000 Hectares of Land – Monday, 1.2.2010

Posted on 1 February 2010. Filed under: Week 650 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The Mirror, Vol. 14, No. 650

“Phnom Penh: The Royal Government, represented by the Minister of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries, Mr. Chan Sarun, and representatives of eight companies signed, on 29 January 2010, contracts on agro-industry crop investment on more than 50,000 hectares of land. Most investments focus on rubber plantations in three northeastern provinces of Cambodia.

“The signing ceremony was held at the Ministry of Agriculture. The chief of the cabinet of the ministry, Mr. Hong Nareth, informed Rasmei Kampuchea, saying, ‘After the Minister of Agriculture had received the authorization from the head of the government, we organized this official contract signing ceremony.’ The 8 companies received economic concession land of more than 50,000 hectares for investment. Among the 8 companies, 1 company is from Malaysia, 1 from South Korea, 4 are from Vietnam, and 2 are local companies.

“Based on the contracts, he said that the Malaysian company will invest in agro-industry crops on more than 7,800 hectares of land in Mondolkiri. The South Korean company will invest to plant rubber trees on 6,600 hectares of land in Kratie. The companies from Vietnam will plant rubber trees and agro-industry crops, raise animals, and establish processing factories on 20,900 hectares of land in Kratie and Ratanakiri. Local companies will invest in rubber and agro-industry crops plantation on 16,900 hectares of land in Kratie.

“Speaking on behalf of the Royal Government, the Minister of Agriculture welcomed the investments by all investors that respond to the Royal Government’s needs. He considered the official decisions and deals at this time as mutual beneficial contributions and joint development efforts for Cambodia to reduce poverty, to create employment, and to transfer agro-industrial techniques to Cambodian people.

“The minister reminded all companies which have received the right to invest that they have to implement their activities according to the contracts. In the meantime, the ministry is ready to cooperate to ensure that the investment becomes successful.” Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.18, #5113-5114, 30-1.1-2.2010

Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Monday, 1 February 2010

Deum Ampil, Vol.4, #401, 30.1.2010

  • Human Rights Watch Backs Prime Minister’s Warning to [army and navy] Generals [over their illegal actions and corruption]

Kampuchea Thmey, Vol.9, #2164-2165, 30-1.1-2.2010

  • An Armed Clash Broke Out at Point 532, Resulting in the Death of a Siamese [Thai] Soldier [Khmer soldiers claimed that Thai soldiers started shooting at Khmer soldiers first, when they tried to approach the Thai soldiers to ask why they came into Khmer territory]
  • Samdech Dekchor Hun Sen: The Draft of an Anti-Corruption Law Has an Article about Property Declaration [all officials, such as military and police officials and politicians, are required to declare their property, otherwise they will be punished; but he did not predict when this law will be approved]

Khmer Machas Srok, Vol.4, #593, 30.1.2010

  • The Ministry of Interior Said It Decided to Dismiss the Police Official [a second lieutenant] Oung Dara Who Raped a Woman in a Karaoke Parlor [already in October 2009 in Phnom Penh, by now his whereabouts are not known]

Koh Santepheap, Vol.43, #6871-6872, 30-1.1-2.2010

  • A Siamese [Thai] Student Who Tried to Enter the Preah Vihear Temple at Noon [illegally] Was Held
  • Two Robbers Robbed a Gold Seller, Taking Away 500 Chi of Gold [approx. US$66,500] and Riel 4 Million [approx. US$930 – Phnom Penh]
  • Swiss Musicians Played Music to Entertain Prisoners [in Kampot; this event was organized by the Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights, LICADHO]

Phnom Penh Post [Khmer Edition], Vol.1, #101, 1.2.2010

  • The Start of a Car Manufacturing Company’s Operations [a branch of the Korean Hyundai Motor Company] Was Postponed [to be established in Koh Kong by the end of this year, as the construction had been affected by bad weather]

Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.18, #5113-5114, 30-1.1-2.2010

  • Eight Companies will Invest in Agro-Industry Crops on More Than 50,000 Hectares of Land
  • A Mother [who had high blood pressure] and Her Son [who had mental disorders] Jointly Committed Suicide [by hanging, as they could not find money to support their lives – Phnom Penh]
  • A Woman Was Arrested for Driving a Car and Killing a Motor-Taxi Driver by Causing an Accident, and Injuring Another Person Seriously [Phnom Penh]

Sereypheap Thmey, Vol.18, #1867, 1.2.2010

  • [The Sam Rainsy Party spokesperson and parliamentarian] Mr. Yim Sovann Encouraged [the Prime Minister] to Arrest Corrupt Senior Military Officials so that They Can Be Convicted

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Mondolkiri Canceled Economic Land Concessions of 50 Companies – Saturday, 9.1.2010

Posted on 9 January 2010. Filed under: Week 646 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The Mirror, Vol. 14, No. 646

“Mondolkiri: The Mondolkiri provincial authorities had decided to cancel the concessions of 50 companies that had planned to invest in agriculture in Mondolkiri, because those companies do not operate.

“According to different sources of information, some companies received economic concession land in Mondolkiri, but they do not develop anything following their contracts, and some cut trees and sold them, affecting the lives of the citizen. Therefore, the authorities decided to cancel the concession contracts of those companies.

“The new Mondolkiri provincial governor could not be reached for comment regarding this issue, because he had a meeting. The Mondolkiri deputy governor, Ms. Si Sokuntheary, could not be reached either, as she was busy. Anyway, according to a notification by the Mondolkiri authorities dated 4 January 2010 that Kampuchea Thmey received on 8 January 2010, the Mondolkiri authorities announced to cancel the concessions for land of 50 companies located in Mondolkiri. This was done by a letter dated 25 December 2009 of the Mondolkiri authorities canceling the legal validity of the concessions giving control over concession land by 53 companies. But 3 companies asked for a delay.

[…]

“The present notification of the authorities identified the three companies which had asked for a delay: the Heng Heang Siv Chanthou company, the Green Resources company, and the Agri-Resources company. The notification stressed that the canceling of 50 concessions became valid from the day it was signed. In the meantime, the authorities emphasized that they will not take responsibility for any companies that continue to operate, violating this notification, and the authorities informed the companies that really intend to invest there, to come to contact the Mondolkiri authorities.” Kampuchea Thmey, Vol.9, #2146, 9.1.2010

Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Saturday, 9 January 2010

Areyathor, Vol.16, #1426, 8-9.1.2010

  • [The president of the Cambodian People’s Party and president of the Senate] Samdech Chea Sim Is Concerned that War Could Break Out if the [Khmer Rouge] Tribunal Indicts More People

Deum Ampil, Vol.4, #383, 9.1.2010

  • The Royal Government Approved the Draft of a Cambodian-Chinese Consular Agreement [to promote the free flow of trade]

Kampuchea Thmey, Vol.9, #2146, 9.1.2010

  • Mondolkiri Canceled Economic Land Concessions of 50 Companies
  • A Traffic Accident Killed Three People and Caused Two Motorbikes to Be Destroyed by Fire [a car hit the motorbikes – Svay Rieng]

Khmer Machas Srok, Vol.4, #576, 9-11.1.2010

  • [Two] Families Victimized by Yuon [Vietnamese] Land Grabbing and Detained by the Khmer Authorities Asked for Intervention by the King [over the removal of border markers]
  • Mr. Sam Rainsy Will Agree to Let the Court Convict Him if the Arrested Farmers Are Released and Their Land Is Returned

Koh Santepheap, Vol.43, #6853, 9-10.1.2010

  • A Strong Press Makes Democracy More Lively; as a Basis, Journalists Need to Have Knowledge about the Law and to Have Ethic Positions [according to a training course organized by the Club of Cambodian Journalists]
  • Vietnam Invited Mr. Obama to Pay an Official Visit [to attend the ASEAN summit in October 2010 in Hanoi]

Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.18, #5095, 9.1.2010

  • Three Companies [Si Chan Thun Development and Investment, Green Development, and Si Ngea Development] in Preah Vihear Are Late in Planting Rubber Trees after They Received the Right from the Ministry of Agriculture to Do so
  • The First Video Conference Cabinet Meeting Was Held Successfully [Phnom Penh]

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The Sereypheap Market Is Totally Demolished to Take the Land to Construct Flats for Sale; Market Vendors Can Just Cry – Thursday, 31.12.2009

Posted on 31 December 2009. Filed under: Week 645 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The Mirror, Vol. 13, No. 645

“Phnom Penh: There was a protest by the Sereypheap Market vendors in the Veal Vong commune, Prampi Makara district, Phnom Penh, after they received a notification from the local authorities on 29 December 2009. In the morning of 30 December 2009, the authorities, armed forces, and prosecutors of the Phnom Penh Municipal Court decided to remove the market, based on a warrant of the Phnom Penh Municipal Court.

“In the morning of 30 December 2009, some armed forces were found deployed since 3:00 a.m. until 12:00 o’clock in the compound of the Sereypheap Market, when the enforcement of warrant began, while all vendors were shouting to protest, raising banners and photos of Samdech Dekchor Hun Sen and of Her Excellency [his wife]. Finally, the protest could just make them cry, as the authorities implemented the warrant by deploying security forces around the area of the market, locked the gates of the market, and totally demolished the market.

“In the morning of 30 December 2009, all the market vendors did not agree with the warrant and marched to the residence of Samdech Dekchor Hun Sen near the Independent Monument, but their march was blocked by security forces who dispersed the march into different groups. Anyway, in the morning, about 10 vendors arrived at the Independence Monument. Then, some police and other representatives of the authorities came to coordinate the actions and suggested all the vendors should go to gather under the Boddhi tree in front of the Botum Vatei pagoda, or to gather in front of the National Assembly. The vendors agreed with the coordination by the authorities, but while another group of other vendors reached the Monivong Boulevard at the corner of the Ou Russey twin roads, the Sereypheap Market was already totally destroyed and demolished by the authorities.

“By the evening of 30 December 2009, there were no interventions from any institutions for the protesting vendors, when the stalls in the market had been totally removed.

“It should be noted that on 29 December 2009, 200 vendors wrote a letter to Samdech Dekchor Hun Sen, counting that the Sereypheap Market vendors make contracts every three years. But on 1 December 2009, the director of the market issued a notification to order the vendors to stop selling anything from 31 December 2009, as he will take the land to build flats. The notification to the vendors to stop their operations in the Sereypheap Market is a violation of the contract with the director of the market, Mr. Lim Kimpheng, and this affects the poor livelihood of the vendors who earn an income by selling things to raise their families, which does not enable them to find new places, as they have no land for cultivation to support their living.” Kampuchea Thmey, Vol.8, #2138, 31.12.2009

Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Thursday, 31 December 2009

Areyathor, Vol.16, #1425, 31.12.2009

  • The World Bank Prepares to Help Cambodia [to improve livelihood of citizens whose houses were demolished and who are encountering evictions, taking away their land for “development”]

Deum Ampil, Vol.3, #375, 31.12.2009

  • A Cambodian Official [the spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Koy Kuong]: Cambodia Will Not Be Affected, though the Siamese [Thai] Court Canceled the Preah Vihear Temple Support Agreement
  • The Battambang Authorities Arrested a Wood Trader for Burning a Bridge in Samlot District [to block the way of the authorities who went to crack down on illegal wood transports]
  • Cambodia Expects to Receive Up to 3 Million Tourist Arrivals in 2010 [because there are plans to create more tourism sites at the northeast and the southwest – according to the Minister of Tourism, Mr. Thong Khon]

Kampuchea Thmey, Vol.8, #2138, 31.12.2009

  • [The Minister of Economy and Finance] Mr. Keat Chhon: The Cambodian Economy Will Recover in 2010 [by achieving 3% growth in 2010, while in 2009 it was 2%]
  • The Sereypheap Market Is Totally Demolished to Take the Land to Construct Flats for Sale; Market Vendors Can Just Cry

Koh Santepheap, Vol.42, #6845, 31.12.2009

  • A Siamese [Thai] Court Canceled the Joint Statements of Cambodia and Thailand during the Administration of [the former Thai prime minister] Mr. Samak’s Government [to support Cambodia to list the Preah Vihear Temple as a world heritage site]
  • The Former [Thai] Convicted Spy Sivarak [who shared the Flight Plan of Thai ousted and fugitive prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra] Will Come Back to Cambodia to Continue Working in the Cambodia Air Traffic Services [CATS, as an engineer]

Phnom Penh Post [Khmer Edition], Vol.1, #79, 31.12.2009

  • Seventy Four Communities in the City Face Evictions [among 410 poor communities in Phnom Penh, 74 have received letters to inform them to leave their communities; Mr. Ny Chakriya of ADHOC said that the government always uses the pretext of development to evict citizens from the city, not offering proper compensation. However, the Phnom Penh deputy governor, Mr. Man Chhoeun, said, ‘Development is for all of us, but not only for a certain group. We clean the city which is part of developing the city’]
  • The Government Will Deliver the CATS Company Back to Thailand [to be controlled by the Samart Corps]

Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.17, #5087, 31.12.2009

  • Cambodia Will Not Make any Change to the Environment at the Border Regions with Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam
  • [The Thai Foreign Minister] Kasit Piromya Asked Samdech Dekchor Hun Sen to Stop Supporting Thaksin Shinawatra [in order to restore diplomatic ties]
  • [The Minister of the Council of Ministers] Mr. Sok An: Only 5% of Youth between the Age of 18 and 23 Can Enter College [lower than Laos 12%, Indonesia 17%, the Philippines 28%, and Thailand 40%]

Sereypheap Thmey, Vol.17, #1845, 31.12.2009

  • Civil Society Expressed the Concern over [future] Evictions of Citizens from Their Communities after the Expropriation Law Has Been Adopted
  • The Authorities Armed with Electric Batons and Shields Blocked [nearly 100] Sereypheap Market Vendors to Protest in Front of the Residence of [Prime Minister] Hun Sen [Phnom Penh]

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The National Assembly Prepares to Release the Salaries of Personnel through a Bank, and to Collect Taxes on the Salaries – Monday, 30.11.2009

Posted on 1 December 2009. Filed under: Week 641 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The Mirror, Vol. 13, No. 641

“Phnom Penh: Personnel of the National Assembly (not to be confused with the 123 parliamentarians) is required to receive their salaries through a bank account and to pay taxes for their salaries; according to the plan, this will start from January 2010.

“On 25 November 2009, 73 persons employed at the National Assembly, in positions of directors and deputy directors of departments, are preparing documents and have their photos taken to fill in application forms to open accounts at the ANZ Royal Bank. This is the first step. Next comes the filling of forms by normal staff of the National Assembly – their total number is not given. But it is known that those staff are under the administration of the secretariat of the National Assembly, where at present, there are 1,200 staff members and some other contracted persons.

“Officials of the National Assembly in charge of this work said that the National Assembly organizes to release the salaries through a bank, following public financial reforms of the Royal Government. Also, this eases the release of the salaries for civil servants at other cities and in the provinces, as they need not come to collect their salaries in Phnom Penh, and it improves the efficiency of the management of resources. The release of salaries to staff of the National Assembly through a bank will begin in January 2010.

“The private ANZ Royal Bank received the exclusive right from the Cambodian government to handle the release of the salaries of civil servants and officials of all ministries and institutions. This agreement was made in mid 2007.

“The head of the commercial communication section of the ANZ Royal Bank, Mr. Nou Netra, who is organizing the documents to open bank accounts for the staff of the National Assembly, said that so far, the ANZ Royal Bank has already prepared to release the salaries for 35 of the 36 state institutions, and it has been operating at 27 ministries.

“Meanwhile, personnel of the National Assembly will also have to pay taxes on their salaries, which had been decided to begin in October 2009, but the National Assembly had asked to delay it until early 2010.

“During a meeting between the secretariat of the National Assembly and tax officials of the Ministry of Economy and Finance last week, tax officials mentioned the order of Prime Minister Samdech Hun Sen regarding the collection of taxes on salaries of civil servants at all ministries and state and private institutions.

“Monthly salary taxes will be collected in accordance with the amendment of the taxation law that was published to be used on 31 March 2003.

“The ranges for the collection of taxes on staff salaries are set as follows:

  • from Riel 500,001 [approx. US$125] to Riel 1,250,000 [approx. US$312]: 5%
  • from Riel 1,250,001 to Riel 8,500,000 [approx. US$2,125]: 10%
  • from Riel 8,500,001 to Riel 12,500,000 [approx. US$3,125]: 15%
  • more than Riel 12,500,000: 20%.

“It should be noted that the total number of staff of the National Assembly and the total amount of their salaries are not given. But the amount of their salaries depends on their experience and certified level of education. Normal staff who are high school graduates earn more than Riel 600,000 [approx. US$150], and heads of departments earn Riel 1,200,000 [approx. US$300] and above.” Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.17, #5060, 29-30.11.2009

Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Monday, 30 November 2009

Deum Ampil, Vol.3, #349, 29-30.11.2009

  • Army Commanders at the [Cambodian-Thai] Border Meet Each Other More Often and Play Sports, while Diplomatic Ties Are Still Tense
  • Cambodia Will Ask to Extend the Time Necessary to Clear All Mines from Cambodia for 10 More Years [at a an international conference in Colombia about mines and other explosion devices]

Kampuchea Thmey, Vol.8, #2111, 29-30.11.2009

  • A Branch Director of the Acleda Bank in Kompong Cham and His Girlfriend Were Arrested for Taking Nearly Half a Million Dollars [Phnom Penh]
  • A Court Decided to Release a Man Accused of Rape and of Taking Photos to Extort Money [from his sister-in-law, due to lack of evidence – Phnom Penh [according to another source, the man tried to catch her for committing adultery with another person]

Khmer Machas Srok, Vol.3, #542, 29-30.11.2009

  • [Sam Rainsy Party parliamentarian] Mr. Yim Sovann: There Should Be No More Tensions, while the Border Issues near the Preah Vihear Temple Are Being Solved

Koh Santepheap, Vol.42, #6818, 30.11.2009

  • To Eliminate Gender Inequality, there Must Be an Increasing Number of Women Officials [according to a workshop organized by the Ministry of Labor and the Ministry of Women’s Affairs]

Phnom Penh Post [Khmer Edition], Vol.1, #56, 30.11.2009

  • [More than 100] Sam Rainsy Party Members Defected to the Cambodian People’s Party [however, the spokesperson of the Sam Rainsy Party, Mr. Yim Sovann. said that the number was exaggerated, because there were only two or three members who defected]

Rasmei Angkor, Vol.16, #1478, 30.11.2009

  • Nine Types of Foodstuff [6 tonnes] Worth US$200,000 Arrived as Humanitarian Aid from South Korea [to assist victims of the typhoon Ketsana]

Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.17, #5060, 29-30.11.2009

  • The National Assembly Prepares to Release the Salaries of Personnel through a Bank, and to Collect Taxes on the Salaries
  • [Thai Prime Minister] Abhisit Vijjajiva Asked Cambodia to Consider Asking for a Loan [from Thailand, to construct a road with the amount of about US$41 million] again, as the Military Commanders Promised that there Will Be No Armed Clashes
  • Siamese [Thai] Black Clad Soldiers [that is from the Special Border Protection Unit] Shot at a Group of Khmer Citizens, Killing One Youth [they had entered the forest to cut trees on Thai territory – Oddar Meanchey]
  • The National Assembly Asked the Government to Provide Documents and to Explain the Border Demarcation [with Vietnam]

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Considering Public Financial Resources – Sunday, 22.11.2009

Posted on 23 November 2009. Filed under: *Editorial*, Week 639 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The Mirror, Vol. 13, No. 639

This Saturday, we reported: “According to a recent notification from the Council of Ministers, the Royal Government decided to suspend all promotions for government positions in 2010. If a promotion in any position is planned, it has to wait until 2011.” That was even more surprising than another report which the Mirror carried on 10.11.2009: “The Government Cuts Salaries of Advisers” – which, in a way, was only the correction of a violation of common sense (and economic justice): Why should only some public servants, employed full time, get a second salary for an additional function as adviser, a task to be adhered to during working hours which are already covered by another salary? But such double, or even multiple payments for some persons, seem to have gone on for years. In many other countries, the Auditor General – being an independent position without special loyalties – might have intervened many years ago.

When working to select and to present texts for the Mirror, related to some new millions of dollars “to help Cambodia,” it is surprising that quite often the text does not specify whether this refers to a credit to be paid back, or to a grant. Even some statements of preference, from where it is more agreeable to receive funds – whether there are conditions of transparency or of human rights adherence part of the agreement, or whether funds come without such expectations – do not distinguish between grants and loans. Though the latter have a minor condition: they have to be paid back.

The Mirror referred last month to the loans of about US$ 1 billion Cambodia had contracted with China in 2008 and 2009, continuing: “We are not aware that details about the timing and the terms of the re-payment obligations were published. Neither did we see any evaluation of the situation in terms of what is called a “sustainable external debt” – which is defined by some scholars of economics as “a situation where a country is expected to be able to meet its current and future debt obligations in full, without recourse to debt relief, rescheduling of debts, or the accumulation of arrears, and without unduly compromising growth.”

Some old debts did received special attention in recent reporting. On 11 November 2009, one paper had reported, supposedly based on information from high ranking Cambodian officials, that the Russian Government is considering to cancel the US$1.5 billion debt that Cambodia owes to Russia. But this had to be corrected on the basis what high ranking Russian officials said: when the president of the National Assembly and his delegation returned without success from Russia: “Russia Refuses to Cancel Debt” – it was clear that in spite of similar efforts in 2006 and 2008, the Russian government had not agreed to wipe out these old debts from the 1980ies. While we did not see details about the related negotiations, it is interesting to remember what had been reported formerly in 2007: that the Russian government is prepared to consider arrangements for the old debts under three conditions:

  1. Russia asks for the resumption of Moscow-Phnom Penh flights, for the promotion partly of tourism, and partly of investment.
  2. Russia asks Cambodia to strengthen military relations between the two countries by asking the ministries of defense of the two countries to have good relations again, because so many members of the Cambodian armed forces studied in Russia; therefore, the Cambodian Government should accept the request and organize those who studied military affairs in Russia again, and Russia, in turn, promises to accept Cambodian students to study in Russia.
  3. Russia sees the possibility to exploit natural gas in Cambodia, and asks the Cambodian National Assembly to facilitate relations, so that Russia can come to invest in oil drilling, because Russia has long years of experience in [oil and] gas drilling and hopes that Cambodia will allow Russian investors to come to invest in natural gas exploitation in Cambodia.

We do not remember that these points – especially as they relate also to untapped oil resources – have ever been mentioned in the more recent reports about maritime oil resource negotiations with a number of other countries. It should therefore be no surprise that the latest delegation to Russia to discuss the old debts did not bring the expected solution: that Russia would simply write off US$1.5 billion.

Another old, much much smaller debt, also shows up from time to time. We quote old headlines as a reminder:

  • 16.2.2008: US Demanded Debt [of approx. $154 million out of the debt of $339 million], Cambodia Said the Debt Was Owed by an Illegal Government [of the Khmer Republic]
  • 18.2.2008: US Discusses Debt Owed by Lon Nol Era; General Opinion Says US Should Better Cancel the Debt
  • 8.9.2009: America Hopes that an Agreement on the Cambodian Debt to the USA Will Be Achieved Soon to Cancel the Cambodian Debt
  • 23.9.2009: The Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Mr. Hor Namhong Will Discuss Possible Solutions to the Debt from the Time of General Lon Nol’s Regime [the Khmer Republic] of More Than US$300 Million That Cambodia Owes America

To look forward to comprehensive information about all debt obligations, in light of what economic theories say about an appropriate “sustainable external debt” ratio is not unreasonable.

The recent dramatic decisions, to cut the salaries of the large number of advisers, and to freeze all promotions in the civilian and uniformed services, “aiming to save state resources in 2010,” is a signal of a new approach to handle public funds.

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Royal Railway Workers Protest over Salaries, after the Royal Railways of Cambodia Have Been Contracted over to a Private Company – Wednesday, 18.11.2009

Posted on 19 November 2009. Filed under: Week 639 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The Mirror, Vol. 13, No. 639

Apologies for the delays, which may continue for some days, as I am attending the UN Internet Governance Forum meetings in Sharm el Sheikh/Egypt with a busy schedule, in a different time zone, and then raveling back to Cambodia. I try to produce in time as much as possible.

Norbert Klein

“Phnom Penh: The Cambodian government had signed an agreement to hand over the railway to the Toll Cambodia company to conduct the rail transportation operations for 30 years; the transport operations on the Cambodian railways as a public enterprise was terminated at the end of October 2009.

“The Minister of Public Works and Transport, Mr. Tram Iv Tek, said that of the more than 1,000 railway staff and officials, only 670 are accepted by the company to continue working, while some of the others remain under the control of the Ministry of Public Works and Transport.

“An employee responsible for transport operations, Mr. Nguon Chan Hon, told Deum Ampil in anger, ‘Already 47 days have passed, but the company has not released the salaries of the workers; we do not cause any trouble, but we just want our salaries paid, because no one seems to responsible for it, after some were changed back from being on an autonomous enterprise, back to be under the state again.’ He added, ‘Development at the Royal Railways of Cambodia totally stopped, trains run at speeds of 40km/h down to 5km/h. What I tried to do all is lost.’

“A train driver, Mr. Nou Navy, said, ‘We do not want to trouble the leaders, but we want to ask about our salaries since October, and in November it is the 15th day. When the door is closed like this, we do not know the day set for the salaries to be paid. I met the head of accounting, and they said that a date has not yet been set, and we have to wait, because at present, there are four train lines operated: the Sokimex line, two coal train lines, and the Touk Meas line. A date cannot be specified yet, therefore you have to wait.’

“He added, ‘Even while it is a public workplace, it is not known where the specially designated money from the government, Riel 20,000 [approx. US$5] has gone. We have received nothing since the day Samdech Hun Sen announced to designate some money. At present, I only earn a salary of Riel 116,000 [approx. U$29] per month, and I have been working as a train driver for 28 years. Other workers shouted annoyingly, ‘Even nobody is promoted to new positions, and nobody knows when the salaries will be paid; if there are promotions, this happens only to their partisans.’

“Another driver, Mr. Sam Yan, said, ‘I would like to ask the Royal Government to pay attention to the workers, because for many years, they earned Riel 60,000 to Riel 70,000 [US$15 to US$17] and the highest level is Riel 120,000 [approx. US$30], for people in leadership positions only. Therefore, you people on the higher levels, please help to check this, so that staff workers stay calm.’

“A train engine mechanic, Mr. Soy Sambath, said, ‘More than 20 years ago, when I entered to work here in 1979, 80% of the railway infrastructure was left undestroyed, but today, by this hour, it is zero. It has to be rebuilt again from zero to 100%; most of the land had been leased away, and there is not even the necessary money to pay the salaries for the workers. If the money received for leasing land, formerly belonging to the railway, would be made know to the workers, and the money would be offered to the workers for their salaries, they would be satisfied.’

“Another worked, a lathe mechanic, Ms. Sokhim, said, ‘During 1979 and 1980, when the country just woke up from war, the railways managed to earn profit, but now when the country has peace, things have disintegrated, and there have been frequent derailings and other train accidents.’

“[Royal Railways of Cambodia Director-General] Sokhom Pheakavanmony told Deum Ampil, ‘I had already received the report and they are justified to worry, because as we all know, since 15 November 2009, the Royal Government decided, announced through Decrees 163 and 164, to hand over the Royal Railways of Cambodia to the Toll Cambodia company. Normally, when a cooperation is terminated by such an immediate transfer, the workers did not get any information, making them think that they lost their salaries. But actually, it is not so. Their salaries are guaranteed by clear contracts from the Ministry as well as from the Royal Railways of Cambodia. Their salaries are not lost, but it is just because they did not receive any clear information.’ He added that soon they will get information, which can reach only 40% to 50% of them, as some staff do not stay in one place, and some workers stay at far away provinces, so time is needed to access the information. ‘Therefore, there is no problem, We solved it already and today, we have just finished discussing it.’ He went on to say ‘Railways are a public enterprise, controlled by the public enterprise law, and the management of staff is based on regulations… . Normally, it is like this, when the railways is handed over to a new company. There could be some struggle between different opinions, and the management must follow the decisions of the government.’

“The under-secretary of state in charge of the Royal Railways of Cambodia, Mr. Touch Chankosal, told Deum Ampil, ‘I did not know that the workers had protested.'” Deum Ampil, Vol.3, #339, 18.11.2009

Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Deum Ampil, Vol.3, #339, 18.11.2009

  • Royal Railway Workers Protest over Salaries, after the Royal Railways of Cambodia Have Been Handed over to a Private Company
  • Civil Organizations and the Government Hold a Social Accountability Seminar [under the theme of working together for social accountability]

Kampuchea Thmey, Vol.8, #2001, 18.11.2009

  • Cambodia Has No Plan to Negotiate with Siam [Thailand] to Solve the Diplomatic Disputes [according to the spokesperson of the government, Mr. Khieu Kanharith]

Khmer Machas Srok, Vol.3, #532, 18.11.2009

  • [Opposition party president] Sam Rainsy Brings the His Protest over the Suspension of His Immunity to the European Union Parliament and World Parliaments of the World
  • Thai Deputy Prime Minister Sutheb Thaugsuban Warned to Use the Airforce to Destroy [Thai ousted prime minister] Thaksin Shinawatra’s Plane if it Crosses Siamese [Thai] Airspace

Koh Santepheap, Vol.42, #6808, 18.11.2009

  • The Koh Kong Authorities Prepare 30,000 Hectares of land for a Chinese Company [“Union Development”] to Develop [to construct hotels, casinos, golf courses, and tourist areas]
  • Punishment over the Removal of Temporary Border Markers [at the Cambodian-Vietnamese border]: [head of the National Border Committee] Va Kimhong: At the West There Is [Thai Prime Minister] Abhisit Vijjajiva Who Does Not Recognize the Border, at the East There Is Sam Rainsy

Krong Long Vek, Vol.7, #164, 18.11.2009

  • Flooded Mangrove Forest in Siem Reap Is Being Destroyed by Evil Merchants

Phnom Penh Post [Khmer Edition], Vol.1, #48, 18.11.2009

  • Japan Plans to Provide Nearly US$2 Million to Strengthen Tourism [in Cambodia, through a road traffic safety project from 2010 to 2013]
  • Cambodia and the Philippines Will Start Direct Flights between the Two Countries [in 2010 – according to the Minister of Tourism, Mr. Thong Khon]
  • The United Nations Delivered an Award to the Head of the Cambodian Red Cross [Prime Minister Hun Sen’s wife, Ms. Bun Rany, for her successful leadership in fighting against AIDS and HIV, and in reducing discrimination against people infected with AIDS]
  • Three Wheel Motorbikes [Tuk-Tuk or Romorque Motos] Are Free from Fines for a While [until the end of 2009 for not having number plates]

Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.17, #5050, 18.11.2009

  • [Thai Prime Minister] Abhisit Vijjajiva Hopes that the Thai Man Suspected of Spying Will Be Released, but Cambodia Said It Depends on the Courts
  • Police Solve the Murder Case at the Tay Tay Restaurant [where a police official was shot dead; four suspects have been arrested, but the chief perpetrator is not identified yet – Phnom Penh]

Have a look at the last editorial – you can access it directly from the main page of the Mirror.
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Can Changing Priorities Change the Law? – Sunday, 8.3.2009

Posted on 13 March 2009. Filed under: *Editorial*, Week 602 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The Mirror, Vol. 13, No. 601

Apologies for the delays in publishing – due to my international travel. I try to catch up as soon as possible.

Norbert Klein

The life of a society is not like a mechanism which works according to preset laws of physics or chemistry. The different agents in a society – all the people, and some people with special functions – may see different things getting more important, and they change their mind. But not every change of mind can lead to a change of the rules according to which a society works.

Some of such changes are surprising. We take some examples from quite different fields, just to show that a direction was taken, or a result was reached, which had not been expected at all.

On 22 January 2009, General Ke Kim Yan was removed from his position of Royal Cambodian Armed Forces commander-in-chief by Prime Minister Hun Sen. This had triggered concerns among some generals at military garrisons and at divisions, being afraid that they too might be removed, but Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense Tea Banh had affirmed that there are no such shifts to come -m but they came. Later, on 7 February 2009, we mirrored a report that the Prime Minister had explained that the removal of the commander-in-chief was part of the ongoing military reform. The rumors that there might be more involved showed up in the press on 13 February 2009, claiming that the Prime Minister had ordered to take legal action against Mr. Ke Kim Yan. More detailed information reached the public, when the official Chinese news agency Xinhua reported three days later that the government criticized the press for publishing leaked information (without denying its content). According to the minutes, “the Council of Ministers has been informed and commented on the termination of the position of commander-in-chief of HE Ke Kim Yan based on two reasons: First, reforming the RCAF rank and file by adhering to work effectiveness in the military rank and file. Second, involvement with land issues by a top and powerful person in the military rank and file and doing business by using the name of military for personal gain.” The minutes went on to describe a resolution by the Council of Ministers to have both military and government bodies investigate Ke Kim Yan’s land dealings.

And the end? This week came the final clarification: The Prime Minister announced that Mr. Ke Kim Yan will be the 10th Deputy Prime Minister, heading the drug control administration.

The 14th ASEAN Summit was held from 27 February to 1 March 2009, in Hua Hin, Thailand. After the ASEAN Charter had come into force in December 2008, the summit was under the heading ‘ASEAN Charter for ASEAN Peoples,’ to start a new era of ASEAN with people at the heart of cooperation. It had therefore been expected that the summit would focus on human rights, but the global financial crisis moved up to the top of the agenda.

Nevertheless, it had been foreseen because of this orientation of ASEAN – being for the ASEAN people – some people not from the governments, but from civil society, would also have a chance to meet and to discuss with government leaders. But as it was reported, the government representatives of Cambodia and Myanmar threatened rather to boycott this meeting than to discussion the creation of an ASEAN human rights institution with civil society persons. So the persons from Myanmar and from Cambodia withdrew, in order not to be an obstacle to this important discussion.

Even so, by the end of the summit, it had not been possible to find an agreement about the nomination of an ASEAN human rights commissioner, also the creation of the ASEAN human rights organization did not progress well. The plan originally announced was not achieved.

But the final declaration of the summit continues to uphold the vision of ASEAN as “a rules-based community of shared values and norms, a cohesive peaceful, stable and resilient region with shared responsibility for comprehensive security, as well as a dynamic and outward-looking region in an increasingly integrated and interdependent world.”

The confidence, that events and decision will be proceeding according to set rules, is basic for the stable development not only for an international community like ASEAN, but for every society. That is why the events described above are confusing for the public – for “the people” – because the rules according which events proceeded, and the values and norms applied, are not transparent to the public.

Now there is another field where it is not clear how rules-based proceedings – a state of law, as another terms says – were applied in the closure of the gambling chain CamboSix, which was announced by the Prime Minister on 24 February 2009 during a graduation ceremony, explaining the negative social consequences of gambling. But CamboSix had, after all, a license to operate, issued by the competent authorities of the government, valid until the year 2011. Now, about an estimated number of 6,000 to 8,000 workers lost their jobs, and the Minister of Finance was quoted that though the government had issued a license, there are “no particular contract links between both parties.” But the international partial co-owners see this differently: CamboSix, partly owned by foreign companies, claims to have lost more than US$12 million in investments made before the withdrawal of their license, and they will ask for compensation according to the legal protection provided to investors in general.

Raising this question is not giving an endorsement for gambling. But how is the public to understand this action? Just five days prior to this suspensions, the Secretary of State of the Ministry of Economy and Finance Chea Meng Chhieng had stated the 2009 goals of the state to collect a 12.5% tax, to produce more tax income over the 2008 figures: US$20 million, tax income from all kinds of gambling.

As we had reported on 24 February, the Prime Minister had ordered the Ministry of Economy and Finance to observe all hotels that have entertainment clubs and all types of electronic entertainment centers, as they are required to prohibit Khmer citizens to enter for gambling. “If there is any violation of the rules, like permitting Khmer citizens to enter, the Ministry of Economy and Finance must revoke their licenses and immediately stop their operation within 24 hours.”

Police in Phnom Penh, who do not understand the difference between computer based gambling and computer games, have closed also about 20 of the 160 shops hosting the role-playing game Justice X-War 2, though this is a game where the participants do not bet and cannot win any money. Even the Secretary-General of the government’s National Information Technology Development Authority, Dr. Phu Leewood, was quoted in the Cambodia Daily to regret this confusion: “Gambling is betting, while gaming is not. I used to play games a lot when I was at university.” But shops stay closed, and many people who wanted to register for the upcoming game tournament at the Cambodia ICT World Expo, scheduled for 3 to 5 April 2009, do not dare to come forwards, as they are afraid to be mistaken to be gamblers.

So far, there are many reports how the soccer-betting company CamboSix is affected. Is this regulation also be enforced where a hotel has a gambling room with slot machines? According to recent observations, there does not seem to be such checking in force at the Naga Casino – the biggest such establishment in Phnom Penh.

On 4 September 2007, we had mirrored a Khmer newspaper report that a door was opened too late for a Cambodian 4-Star General to enter the casino, so he called four police vans and had three Malaysian Naga Casino foremen handcuffed – followed by a report one day later that $150,000 were spent for the release of these three Malaysian employees of Naga Casino.

On Friday, we carried a headline that the Prime Minister apologized to the public for the late action of closing gambling institutions. There are also reports that there is an understandable wide public support for this action. It might falter again, if the public will see – as in the past – that the enforcement of sudden government decrees, and the enforcement even of laws, continues to be selective.

In spite of the failure of the recent ASEAN summit to nominate an ASEAN human rights commissioner for the ASEAN human rights organization to be created, the vision of ASEAN as “a rules-based community of shared values and norms” remains as a hope that all member countries will make progress, if this vision is upheld, and will be “peaceful, stable and resilient, as well as dynamic and outward-looking” as the final ASEAN summit document says for the whole community.

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Links and Lessons from Far Away Africa – Sunday, 28.12.2008

Posted on 30 December 2008. Filed under: *Editorial*, Week 592 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The Mirror, Vol. 12, No. 592

When we mirrored, on 26 December 2008, that Captain Moussa Dadis Camara had declared himself president of Guinea, after a coup following the death of President Lansana Conte, 74, I first did not think that this deserved much attention in the Mirror.

Then I remembered some connections: on 19 June 2008 we had mirrored that the Cambodian Prime Minister had decided to sell 120,000 tonnes of rice and to send agricultural experts to Guinea, responding to a request by the prime minister of Guinea. At that time I had wondered what kind of link might exist to this small country in Africa – hardly anybody knows where it is located.

But already in 2001 an ambassador of Guinea had presented his credentials and diplomatic relations were established – though Cambodia does not have an embassy anywhere in Africa, while having diplomatic relations with 17 countries in Africa.

In March 2008, 15 artists from the circus school in Guinea “Centre d’Art Acrobatique Keïta Fodéba” were in Cambodia for 3 months.

In November 2008, during the opening of the Least Developed Countries Ministerial Conference in Siem Reap, the Prime Minister spoke about new possibilities of cooperation at a time of rising prices for rice: “I have looked at the list of participants and it reminds me of a number of countries in Africa that I visited in the times when I was Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs [1979 to 1990]. Recently Guinea contacted Cambodia to purchase some agricultural products. This has made me think that in time of crisis there are always opportunities as at the time of fuel and food crisis, Cambodia could see the opportunity of expanding production to provide food for both local and the world.”

Research brought to light more and more facts that seem worthwhile to consider in relation to Cambodia. Guinea is obviously a country which has had a lot of problems. The death of the president was considered by a group of younger military leaders as a chance to act They seem to have seen no other possibility to rectify the situation but a coup d’etat – against the constitution and the laws of their country, though completely without bloodshed or using force.

What had happened?

Guinea is in West Africa, about one third bigger than Cambodia, but with only 10 million people compared to Cambodia’s 14 million. It is rich in minerals and has the world’s biggest reserves of bauxite, which is the basis to create aluminum. At present it is fourth in the world in bauxite production, after Australia, Brazil and China. It has also diamonds, gold, iron, nickel, and uranium.

Since its independence from France in 1958 – five years after Cambodia – it has had only two presidents: Sékou Touré until 1984, and General Lansana Conte, who seized power after the death of his predecessor; the support of the armed forces was essential for his power throughout the years. During these years, multi-party elections were held for the first time in 1993 when General Conte, as head of the military government, was elected president of a civilian government – this was the same year that the elections organized by UNTAC were held in Cambodia. Conte was reelected in 1998 and in 2003, but all three elections were said to have had irregularities. In the meantime, an electoral term was extended from 5 to 7 years, after the president’s party had won 91 of the 114 seats. It is said that “he ruled the country with an iron fist for 24 years.”

Guinea’s immense riches have attracted the major mining companies from different countries: AngloGold Ashanti (from South Africa), Billiton (the world’s largest mining company, from Australia – since 2006, Billiton is also conducting bauxite exploration in Mondolkiri, with “the exclusive rights to negotiate a mining agreement with the government” at the end of their study, and there is also a Billiton Petroleum office in Phnom Penh), Global Alumina (from the USA), Rio Tinto (UK and Australia), and RusAl (from Russia). Some pictures show how the bauxite is collected by big machines, and then transported to be shipped out of the country. A major contractor on the Guinean side says:

“In collaboration with the Government and people of Guinea, Guinea Alumina Corporation will develop a world class alumina business that provides value to shareholders, sustained economic and social benefits to the people of Guinea, and a quality supply of alumina to the world.”

But in spite of such lofty declarations and the riches of the country, Guinea is listed in position 202 when comparing the per capita income in different countries – lower than Cambodia. Cambodia is in position 180 on the same list of 225 countries.

A lack of transparency about how “the people of Guinea” benefit from these riches, compared to the share taken by the international companies, led to dissatisfaction, accusations of high level corruption, and strikes in 2006 and 2007, and violent protests.

When Captain Moussa Dadis Camara declared himself president and suspended the constitution, he stated as the justification the mismanagement and corruption of the former government. He created a 32-member National Council for Democracy and Development – replacing the ministers with 26 military officers and 6 civilians – and promised to hold elections in two years. There had been tensions in the military since several months, when younger officers had expressed their opposition to the corrupt practices of some of the higher level officers.

During the coup nobody was arrested, but the members of government were dismissed, as well as 22 generals close to the former political powers. It is reported that Captain Moussa Dadis Camara met with politicians, religious leaders, trade union representatives, and members of civil society, declaring that the main motive for taking power is to fight corruption and to secure the interests of the country: all contracts with international companies, which had invested billions of dollars, will be canceled for review, to root out corruption; whoever has misappropriated state assets or personally benefited from public resources will be punished.

The international reaction? A voice representing the international companies said: “It is very likely that the new regime may seek to extort monies from current operators and prospectors and that a new democratic regime may try to impose heavier royalties and taxes,” even calling it “extortionary pressure” if the new government would try to negotiate more balanced agreements about their own resources being sold abroad.

It is interesting that voices from the international community, which had not questioned the corruption involved in the arrangements of “exporting” the mineral wealth of the country without transparency and without benefits for the people, is now raising mainly the concern about having violated the results of the electoral system of the country.

It is remarkable, however, that President Abdoulaye Wade of Senegal, one of the neighboring countries, is calling to recognize and to support the new government, because of its positive goals.



Considering this history of Guinea – allegations of corruption based on bad governance and misuse of resources, which finally led to an effort for a radical new beginning – it is appropriate to remember that Prime Minister Hun Sen has repeatedly spoken about his concerns of a similar situation for Cambodia: growing dissatisfaction by people who do not see that the society provides them justice, who might resort to attempts to bring about a radical change. On the other hand, he has also raised concerns that people who see their chances of illegal enrichment too much controlled by the government might attempt to grab power in order to exercise their greed without restraint. These statements shall not be forgotten.

In 1999, the Prime Minister had said: “Should we not manage the land issue in a good manner, we might have to face a farmers’ revolution.” He mentioned this again in 2004, addressing the National Forum on Land Management in the presence of national and international representatives.

In 2002, opening the Consultative Group Meeting between representatives of the Cambodian Government and representatives of cooperating countries and international institutions, he said:

“We are conscious that corruption in the public machinery, be it judiciary or administrative or any other, increases transaction costs for everyone and reduces predictability in law enforcement and implementation of the government’s policies… The government believes that enactment of adequate laws and regulations to prevent and punish corruption is crucial for addressing this problem. In this spirit, the Royal Government is committed to finalize the draft of the Anti -Corruption Law before the end of June 2003.”

In February 2007, the Chinese People’s Daily Online quoted the Cambodian Prime Minister:

“The land grabbers dare to get a lot of land illegally while we have always appealed again and again to stop… The land grabbers are not simple people, they must be powerful people in the government. I asked the question, do they dare to conduct a coup d’etat in the future?” And he is quoted to have replied himself that they really dare to do so. “So before they conduct a coup d’etat, we need to take action against them.”

What happened in Guinea should not happen in Cambodia. The political action necessary has been pointed out by the Prime Minister clearly enough.

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