Contraband Is Massively Imported while Members of the Authorities Are Collecting Colossal Amounts of Money – Monday, 23.8.2010

Posted on 24 August 2010. Filed under: Week 679 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The Mirror, Vol. 14, No. 679

“Phnom Penh: State income declines, because some members of the authorities and customs officers take monetary advantage from the import of contraband and they put the money into their own pockets. After they receive bribes, they allow merchants to import these goods smoothly.

“According to regular observations at the Tumnup Dach border crossing at the Ou Bei Choan point in Ou Chrov district in Banteay Meachey, merchants do not pay money to the state, but to a group of members from various authorities or to customs officers.

“It should be noted that many gas tubes of merchants, with no taxes paid to the state, are massively imported but those merchants pay money to illegal check points along the way where soldiers, police and customs officers collect money. Each truck loaded with gas tubes has to pay them from US$30 to US$50, depending on how big or small the trucks are, so that they are not held up by these officers.

“According to trustworthy information that Kampuchea Thmey received from the Tumnup Dach border crossing at the Ou Bei Choan point, many merchants pay money to officers along the way instead of paying taxes. Some gas companies complained that they cannot sell their gas gainfully, as other merchants import a lot of gas without paying taxes and sell it at cheaper prices. Therefore, it is really difficult at present for companies working legally to sell their goods.

“Regarding to the above cases, some legally operating gas companies ask the heads of custom offices to help crack down on such activities. Particularly, the Ministry of Commerce should help to normalize the problem, otherwise state income will certainly drop.” Kampuchea Thmey, Vol.9, #2334, 22-23.8.2010

Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Monday, 23 August 2010

Kampuchea Thmey, Vol.9, #2334, 22-23.8.2010

  • Contraband Is Massively Imported while Members of the Authorities Are Collecting Colossal Amounts of Money
  • [UN Secretary General] Ban Ki-Moon Is Already Prepared to Solve the Border Disputes between Cambodia and Thailand [according to the spokesperson of the United Nations, Mr. Farhan Haq]

Note:

The Cambodian press report reads too much into the release by the Office of the Spokesperson for the UN Secretary-General.

The HIGHLIGHTS OF THE NOON BRIEFING, FARHAN HAQ, ACTING DEPUTY SPOKESPERSON FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL, U.N. HEADQUARTERS, NEW YORK, Friday, August 20, 2010, carry at the end a brief note:

OTHER ANNOUNCEMENTS

SECRETARY-GENERAL HOPES CAMBODIA AND THAILAND WILL RESOLVE BORDER DISPUTE THROUGH DIALOGUE: In response to a question, the Spokesperson said that the Secretary-General hopes that Cambodia and Thailand will resolve the dispute along their border amicably through dialogue. He stands ready to help the parties.

On 20 August 2010 a publication in the region had reported that “The deputy spokesperson for UN Secretary General, Farhan Haq, replied to an email from the Cambodian press on August 18 saying that, ‘The Secretary-General is willing to mediate situation when both sides request him to do so.’”

The added explanation, “when both sides request him to do so” is almost a standard response – it is a polite, clear expression that no action will be taken if such a request comes only from one of the two sides.

But even this press report way rejected by Mr. Farhan Haq: he said that the report that Mr. Ban Ki-Moon was “willing to mediate” was inaccurate. He said that all he sent out was that Mr. Ban Ki-Moon “stands ready to help.”

What counts until now is the brief final note at the end, after several elaborate reports about other world affairs, in the official release of the HIGHLIGHTS OF THE NOON BRIEFING of 20 August 2010.

Koh Santepheap, Vol.43, #7041, 23.8.2010

  • There Are 454 Hotels with 23,349 Rooms in Cambodian, Where Eight Are Five-Star Hotels
  • Australia Provided aid [AUD 4 Million or approx. US$ 3.60 Million] for the Construction of Justice Police Buildings [in five provinces: Banteay Meanchey, Battambang, Kompong Cham, Kompong Thom, Prey Veng]

Moneaksekar Khmer, Vol.17, #3965, 23.8.2010

  • [Prime Minister] Hun Sen Had Often Warned against It, but Frequently Heads of Some Institutions and Units Continue to Nominate Their Children’s Spouses or Other Relatives to Take Their Positions When They Retire

Nokor Wat, Vol.1, #37, 22-23.8.2010

  • The Royal Group [of Oknha Khit Meng] Plans to Invest US$2 Billion on Rung Island [the investment project of the Royal Group was approved by the Council for the Development of Cambodia in 2008, and the company is seeking additional investment capital. It aims at attracting high class tourists to visit the island. The first phase of the project will have been finished within five years from now, to create an international airport, port, hotels, a golf course, and other recreation facilities for tourism – according to a Secretary of State of the Ministry of Economy and Finance, Mr. Hang Chuon Narong]
  • Police Intercepted [two] Robbers Allegedly Involved in Almost 20 Robberies in Phnom Penh
  • Two Male Construction Workers Were Attacked with Acid over an Alleged Love Affair [the second acid attach in Phnom Penh in four days]

Phnom Penh Post [Khmer Edition], Vol.1, #242, 23.8.2010

  • [Thai Prime Minister] Abhisit Is Ready to Negotiate with [the Cambodian Prime Minister] Mr. Hun Sen over Border Disputes [during the Asia Europe Summit in Brussels in October 2010]
  • The Prime Minister Warned He Will Remove Officials Who Irregularly Intervene in the Process of Making Appointments and to Change Them
  • A Trade Union Criticized a Sub-Decree about the Employment for Handicapped People [the head of the Cambodian Free Trade Union of Workers, Mr. Chea Mony, said that the government creates this policy just to make it look good, though many disabled people are victims of land grabbing – according to the sub-decree all state institutions and ministries have to recruit 2% of their staff from disabled people, and the private sector has to employ at the rate of 1%]

Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.18, #5283, 22-23.8.2010

  • The European Union Provides Nearly US$9 Million for the Cambodia Climate Change Alliance Program [to help strengthen the capacity of the National Climate Control Committee and the Climate Change Department of the Ministry of Environment, to coordinate the formation of national policies and strategic plans about climate change]
  • 183 Kilogram of Snakes [for export to Vietnam] Were Seized from Merchants and Were Released into the Vaiko River [three suspects were arrested – Svay Rieng]

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The Petrolimex Company of Vietnam Opens a Representative Office in Cambodia – Tuesday, 03.8.2010

Posted on 5 August 2010. Filed under: Week 676 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The Mirror, Vol. 14, No. 676

“The National Oil Corporation of Vietnam, Petrolimex, launched its representative office in Phnom Penh on 2 August 2010.

“During the inauguration, the director of Petrolimex, Mr. Dui Ngoc Bao, said that the representative office has the role to promote the name of the company and to do market research as well as to find trade opportunities for oil, gas, and related products, and other services in Cambodia.

“He added, ‘It is a significant step in our strategy to expand our corporation and to promote our operation on the international market, especially also on the Cambodian market

.”The Minister of Foreign Affairs of Vietnam, Deputy Prime Minister. Pham Gia Khiem [Phạm Gia Khiêm], said that Petrolimex has been operating in Cambodia since 1990, and the oil products this company supply more than half of the oil demands in Cambodia, earning US$700 million each year.

“The Minister of Commerce, Mr. Cham Prasidh, said that this company has supplied oil for local companies in Cambodia for nearly 20 years, and the oil of this company is competitive in quality and in price. He said, ‘Cambodia consumes about 1 million tonnes each year, and 80% of the oil is supplied by Petrolimex. We do not even need to check the quality of the oil, since we know well that the oil produced by the company is of high quality’.

“Mr. Cham Prasidh added, ‘Also Sokimex and Tela buy oil from Petrolimex.’ He went on to say that besides these two companies, Price Victory, Chevron, and Total might also buy oil from Petrolimex.

“He said, ‘The opening of the representative office of Petrolimex in Cambodia is a new step for the oil sector in Cambodia. I encourage the company to open its branch office in Cambodia soon, because it can help advertise the company, though agreements and contracts on operation cannot be signed.’

“The deputy director of Sokimex, which supplies 30% of the market in Cambodit, Mr. Hy Heng, said on 2 August 2010 that Sokimex has bought oil from Petrolimex since 1993, and the representative office to be opened will facilitate his company in contacting Petrolimex.

-“He said, ‘The oil market in Cambodia is very competitive – more than 10 oil companies are operating in Cambodia at present. The representative office of Petrolimex will offer information about the competitive oil market here.'” Phnom Penh Post [Khmer Edition], Vol.1, #228, 3.8.2010

Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Tuesday, 03 August 2010

Kampuchea Thmey, Vol.9, #2317, 3.8.2010

  • Siamese [Thai] Troops Demanded Khmer Troops to Withdraw from the Veal Intry Area [near the Preah Vihear Temple. Siamese demonstrators warned to demonstrate in front of the Preah Vihear Temple on 7 August 2010]

Koh Santepheap, Vol.43, #7024, 3.8.2010

  • The Minister of Health of Vietnam [Mr. Nguyen Quoc Trieu – Nguyễn Quốc Triệu] Met with Samdech Dekchor Hun Sen [during his visit to strengthen cooperation in the health sector between both countries]

Moneaksekar Khmer, Vol.17, #3948, 3.8.2010

  • Khmers Crossing the Border Illegally to Cut Illegally Trees in Siem [Thailand] Face Torture and Detention, while Yuons [Vietnamese] Coming to Cut Trees Illegally in Cambodia [in Mondolkiri] Were Freed after They Paid US$1,000 in Fines
  • Grade Quality Wood Trading to Yuon [Vietnam] Is Anarchically Active through the Chrey Thom Border Crossing

Nokor Wat, Vol.1, #20, 3.8.2010

  • This Week, 43 People Were Infected with Swine Flu A/H1N1 [according to an official of the Ministry of Health]
  • In the First Six Months of 2010, More Than 100,000 Tonnes of Rice Were Exported [an increase by 2,356% compared with the corresponding period last year]

Phnom Penh Post [Khmer Edition], Vol.1, #228, 3.8.2010

  • Cambodia Warned Thailand That There Will Be Tension if Thailand Continues to Increase the Number of Troops along the Border
  • The Petrolimex Company of Vietnam Opens a Representative Office in Cambodia

Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.18, #5266, 3.8.2010

  • Cambodia Announced that the Thai Objection Were Not Successful during the Meeting of UNESCO [see also the last Mirror editorial “Preah Vihear – Who Said What and Why” – you can click here]
  • The Ministry of Health of Cambodia and the City of Ho Chi Minh in Vietnam Signed a Memorandum of Understanding [on cooperation to develop human resources and to conduct research]
  • Each Year 20,000 Cambodians Traveled to Receive Medical Treatments in Vietnam [according to the Ministry of Health of Vietnam]

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New Sub-Decree: Foreigners Can Own 70% of Condominiums – Monday, 19.7.2010

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

The Mirror, Vol. 14, No. 674

“Construction development companies have received some information about a new sub-decree that allows foreigners to own about 70% of condominium buildings, in order to promote the real estate and the construction sectors in Cambodia.

“The sub-decree adopted by the Council of Ministers states that foreigners in Cambodia can have about 70% of ownership rights of houses.

“This figure is lower than that which had been proposed in the draft of the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning, and Construction which had determined that foreigners can own 80%. Nevertheless, this percentage is still higher than that had been proposed in the first draft about foreign ownership in 2009 which was only 49%.

“The spokesperson of the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning, and Construction, Ms. Nun Pheany, said on Sunday, ‘Such a decision is to allow Cambodians to own more real estate in order to prevent too much ownership by foreigners.’

“Though the percentage for the control of real estate by foreigners is now lower, the sub-decree is still a starting point to encourage foreign investors to help develop the real estate market in Cambodia.

“Ms. Pheany believes that to develop that field cannot rely only on local buyers.

“Analysts agreed that the adoption by the government about the ownership rights of foreigners can help to boost the Cambodian economy that is being seriously affected by the global financial crisis.

“Prices of land and houses in Cambodia declined by 40% to 60% compared to 2008 when prices went sky-rocketing.

“A senior partner of the Sciaroni & Associates Company and a legal adviser to the government, Mr. Bretton G. Sciaroni, said on Sunday that the sub-decree will provide a new opportunity for the Cambodian economy. He said, ‘It can help Cambodia in many ways. It helps create not only long term operations, but also attracts new foreign investors. He thinks that the sub-decree will turn Cambodia to be a country with some attraction in the region, as the decree is not too strict compared to neighboring countries.

“He said, ‘We are more open and have a better atmosphere than Thailand.’ In Thailand, foreigners can own houses merely up to 49%.

“Companies constructing satellite cities in the Phnom Penh area welcomed the decision of the government and hope that this will assist the development of the real estate market in Cambodia and increase the selling of houses, when investors can purchase more real estate property.

“The director of the construction project on Koh Pich island, Mr. Touch Samnang, said, ‘This sub-decree is good for the development of the real estate market in Cambodia. We expect that through the provision of ownership rights, more foreign investors will consider investing in Cambodia.’

“His company is constructing 168 houses and villas at Koh Pich island, and this has been achieved already by 40%.

“The executive director of the Bunna Realty Group, Mr. Sung Bunna, thinks that this sub-decree will make Cambodia become an attractive place for foreign investors. But he warned that this sub-decree alone is not sufficient to attract investors to come to Cambodia, adding, ‘Cambodia needs to have other incentives.'” Phnom Penh Post [Khmer Edition], Vol.1, #217, 19.7.2010

Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Monday, 19 July 2010

Kampuchea Thmey, Vol.9, #2304, 18-19.7.2010

  • Cambodia Will Send Deminers for a Peace Keeping Mission in Lebanon [under the system of the United Nations, said Prime Minister Hun Sen – in September 2010]

Koh Santepheap, Vol.43, #7011, 19.7.2010

  • Big Mineral, Oil, and Gas Companies Have to Declare the Amount of Money Paid to the Royal Government [Oxfam praised the US Senate for requiring the declaration by US registered mineral, oil, and gas companies of payments to different governments around the world as a legal obligation]
  • Samdech Dekchor: Cambodia and the United States of America Still Have the Potential to Expand Cooperation [he said so during a meeting with US Under-Secretary of State Mr. William Burns]
  • A Firefighter Association in Japan Donated 20 Firefighter Trucks to the Phnom Penh Municipality

Nokor Wat, Vol.1, #7, 18-19.7.2010

  • [Sam Rainsy Party member] Mu Sochua Called the Legal Institutions Controlled by the King Powerless [when there is no response to a Sam Rainsy Party letter to the King to ask for intervention regarding her defamation case against Prime Minister Hun Sen; so far there is no reaction yet from officials of the Royal Palace]
  • Cambodia Has a High Potential to Plant Rubber Trees on as Many as 600,000 Hectares [at present rubber trees are planted on 139,210 hectares, and Cambodia can already produce more than 40,000 tonnes of rubber each year for export]

Moneaksekar Khmer, Vol.17, #3935, 19.7.2010

  • The Legal System and Corruption Are Priorities for Reforms in Order to Encourage a Good Atmosphere to Attract Investors
  • [Sam Rainsy Party parliamentarian] Mu Sochua: The Sam Rainsy Party Asked the United States of America to Guarantee the Return of Sam Rainsy and Free and Fair Elections [during a visit of Mr. William Burns]

Phnom Penh Post [Khmer Edition], Vol.1, #217, 19.7.2010

  • New Sub-Decree: Foreigners Can Own 70% of Condominiums
  • A US Official [Mr. William Burns]: Military Ties between Cambodia and America Are More Than Donations of Materials [but they aim at national defense reforms towards the encouragement of civil and military relations that are crucial for a political system]
  • The United States of America Delivered Seven Artifacts to Cambodia [as part of the celebration of the 60th anniversary of diplomatic ties between both countries]

Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.18, #5253, 18-19.7.2010

  • Seventy Five Guards Are Deployed to Protect Porpoises from Extinction [in Stung Treng]
  • Barai Tuek Thla Reservoir Resort Will Face Drought if There Is No Rain [it was built during the Angkor era – Siem Reap ]

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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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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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Petro Vietnam Signed an Agreement on Oil Exploration in Block 15 with the Cambodian National Petroleum Authority – Saturday, 14.11.2009

Posted on 16 November 2009. Filed under: Week 638 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The Mirror, Vol. 13, No. 638

Apologies for the delays, which may continue into the coming week, as I am attending the UN Internet Governance Forum meetings in Sharm el Sheikh/Egypt with a busy schedule, in a different time zone. I try to be timely as much as possible.

Norbert Klein

“The Cambodian National Petroleum Authority and the Petro Vietnam Exploration Production Corporation, which is part of the Vietnam Oil And Gas Group, signed an agreement on oil exploration in Block 15 (XV) in the evening of 12 November 2009 at the Intercontinental Hotel in Phnom Penh.

“The ceremony was organized under the presidency of the Minister of the Council of Minister, Deputy Prime Minister Sok An, by the head of the Cambodian National Petroleum Authority, and by a Deputy Prime Minister of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, Mr. Hoàng Trung Hải [Hoang Trung Hai].

“This agreement was signed by Mr. Sok An and by director of the Petro Vietnam Exploration Production Corporation General Director of Petro Vietnam Exploration and Production Corporation Nguyễn Vũ Trường Sơn [Nguyen Vu Truong Son].

“The deputy director of the Cambodian National Petroleum Authority, Mr. Ho Vichet, said that the oil sector in Cambodia attracts the attention from many international oil companies to invest in it. Practically, some companies have been offered the right to study and to explore oil in Cambodia both in the sea and on land. Positive results of oil exploration in the Cambodian sea in Block A resulted in trust about the existence of oil resources both in the sea and on land in the Kingdom of Cambodia.

“Mr. Ho Vichet added that so far, the government has offered oil companies the right to study and explore all oil blocks, and each company is fulfilling their tasks at their respective blocks, following the agreements. Also, there are some companies signing agreements on inland oil on with the Royal Government of Cambodia and others are continually following up to invest also in the fields at those blocks that still remain unexplored.

“The head of the Board of Directors of the Vietnam National Oil and Gas Group, Mr. Đinh La Thăng [Dinh La Thang], said that this is a new breaking of a record regarding cooperation in the field of oil exploration between the two countries. Block 15 is located at the northeast of the Tonle Sap Lake in the Cambodian inland, where oil availability is estimated for 30 years, and gas availability for 35 years, and the exploration will take 7 years.

“As for Vietnamese Deputy Prime Minister Hoang Trung Hai, he said that the signing of an oil agreement for Block 15 is the fist cooperation between Cambodia and Vietnam in the oil sector, which is being considered by the Vietnamese government as potential sector to encourage economic development, and to ensure energy stability in the country. ‘The signing today marks a better cooperation between the two countries.’

“Deputy Prime Minister Sok An said that this agreement will provide a lot of benefits, like human resources development, exchange of experience in the oil sector, creation of new jobs, income which contributes to achieving success for the goals of the Royal Government to develop the economy and the society, as well to reduce poverty. ‘I consider the event today as a new testimony which clearly demonstrates a long term development of traditional, historical, and strategic relations inherited between the people of Cambodia and the people of Vietnam, especially by strengthening economic cooperation and of investment in the private sector.’

“The Deputy Prime Minister added that to successfully develop the oil and gas sectors, Cambodia necessarily needs joint cooperation in investment with highly experienced and successful companies. He said, ‘In this sense, I would like to highly assess the right decision of the Petro Vietnam, and I would like to express my appreciation towards the Vietnamese leader and government for encouraging and supporting investment projects in Cambodia. The ceremony today is not only a sign of a new success in good cooperation between the two countries, but I think it is also the opening in a broader sense for further investments between Cambodia and Vietnam. The Royal Government of Cambodia always supports and encourages different companies in Vietnam that are operating and plan to invest in Cambodia.” Deum Ampil, Vol.3, #336, 14.11.2009

Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Saturday, 14 November 2009

Deum Ampil, Vol.3, #336, 14.11.2009

  • Petr Vietnam Signed an Agreement on Oil Exploration in Block 15 with the Cambodian National Petroleum Authority
  • [The Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation] Deputy Prime Minister Hor Namhong Leads a Delegation to Attend the World Summit on Food Security [from 16 to 17 November 2009 in Rome, Italy]
  • [Head of the Cambodia Red-Cross and Prime Minister Hun Sen’s wife] Bun Rany Will Receive an HIV/AIDS Leadership Award from UNAIDS [on 17 November 2009 for her noticeable leadership in the battle against HIV in Cambodia and in the region]

Kampuchea Thmey, Vol.8, #2098, 14.11.2009

  • The Special Paratrooper Brigade 911 Was Withdrawn from the Preah Vihear Border Region
  • On 17 November 2009, There Will Be an ASEAN-Japan Security Exercise at the Sihanoukville Port
    The A/H1N1 Flu Killed Already 3,900 US Citizens

Khmer Machas Srok, Vol.3, #529, 14.11.2009

  • Mr. Sam Rainsy: The Cambodian Authorities Listen to Yuon [Vietnam] to Suspend His Immunity
  • [Thai ousted prime minister] Thaksin Shinawatra Has Not Been Seen to Go to Meet with the Khmer King [after he was named advisor of Prime Minister Hun Sen and of the government]
  • [Thai Prime Minister] Abhisit Vijjajiva Said that the [Thai] Embassy in Cambodia Is Not Closed, and He Does Not React against the Expulsion of the First Secretary [of the Thai Embassy] from Cambodia

Koh Santepheap, Vol.42, #6805, 14-15.11.2009

  • Puea Thai [opposition] Party Delegation Came through the Poipet Border Crossing to Meet Mr. Thaksin Shinawatra in Siem Reap
  • Thaksin Shinawatra: In Order to Have Further Development, the Focus Must Be on Agriculture and Tourism, for Which a Clean Environment is important, and High Security Is Required for Tourists [speaking to Cambodian economists]
  • Cambodia and Laos Signed an Agreement to Exchange International Telecommunication Services [to connect international phone services directly to each other, as well as to other countries in the region]

Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.17, #5047, 14.11.2009

  • Cambodia Asked [other ASEAN countries] Not to Raise the Cambodian-Thai Dispute during the ASEAN-US Summit
  • Sam Rainsy Party Parliamentarians Asked for a Delay of the Session to Suspend Mr. Sam Rainsy’s Immunity [on 16 November on the ground that the complaint of the Svay Rieng Court over his participation to remove temporary border markers at the Cambodian-Vietnamese border is not a civil case, but a territorial complaint]

Have a look at the last editorial – you can access it directly from the main page of the Mirror.
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Different Challenges to Act? Different Conceptions of Communication? – Sunday, 29.3.2009

Posted on 30 March 2009. Filed under: *Editorial*, Week 605 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The Mirror, Vol. 13, No. 605

Looking back at the end of a week to the past information carried, it is often difficult to understand easily what happened – or what not happened.

On Friday, we mirrored a report that in January 2009, there were 40 children under the age of six living with their parents in prisons. “The Prison Department of the Ministry of Interior is asking the Ministry of Economy and Finance to increase the monetary allowances for prisoners from Riel 1,500 [approx US$0.37] to Riel 2,800 [approx. US$0.69] per day, so that they can eat enough food.” And: “It should be remembered that children living with their parents in prison are not prisoners, and they must not receive any punishment…”

An increase from US$0.37 to US$0.69 per day is an increase of US$0.32 per day per person, that is $12.80 for all 40 children per day; that is $384 per month. For all 40 children for one whole year, this upgrade would cost $4,604.

Here are some other figures to which we referred during the week, as they had appeared in The Mirror:

  • US$200,000 were donated by the Japanese Government to the Khmer Rouge Tribunal
  • US$18 Million had been loaned to the Government, but the World Bank might withdraw them
  • US$7.07 million were spent for the Senate in 2008
  • US$12.6 million are provided to Cambodia by the World Bank to expand international trade
  • US$100 Million is a loan from the International Finance Corporation of the World Bank Group to expand a mobile phone network
  • US$35 million on loan from Japan for the construction of clean water production

And US$4,604? Of course all these other moneys were not designated to feed 40 children under six in prison, and the paperwork on the way from the Prison Department of the Ministry of Interior to the Ministry of Economy and Finance, and then the search where, in the national budget to find US$4,604, also takes its time, while sorting out regulations.

But: “It should be remembered that children living with their parents in prison are not prisoners, and they must not receive any punishment…” Who is in charge? Who cares? Who could even care to get things moving, without being in charge?

= = =

But there were other problems to be faced, and not only by 40 children, but by the whole nation.

Not many publications have a prestigious history like The Economist from London. It began publishing in 1843 and has continued as a weekly magazine until the present. In 2007, it had a world wide circulation of more than 1.3 million.

In addition to its publications, The Economist has also a research arm, the Economist Intelligence Unit, and it is regularly organizing Economist Conferences around the world. Such a conference was held early this year also in Cambodia, on 16 February 2009 in Siem Reap, under the heading: Business Roundtable with the Government of Cambodia – On the verge of a breakthrough? [see The Mirror report in Rasmei Kampuchea of 13.2.2009] The Prime Minister was a keynote speaker at this conference. It was considered a special event that an Economist Conferences had been organized and was held in Cambodia. This had been announced:

Key issues to be discussed included:

  • In light of recent oil and gas discoveries in the Gulf of Thailand, what is the government doing to settle border claims with its neighbors?
  • With predictions that oil could start flowing by as early as 2011, how will the government manage Cambodia’s newfound wealth?
  • In evaluating the investment climate, are private equity firms being overly optimistic?
  • What new business opportunities are there for investment in Cambodia’s much needed infrastructure?
  • Given the recent boom in property development and construction, is greater regulation of the industry necessary and if so, what impact will this have on property investors?
  • How will Cambodia’s garment industry deal with greater competition from China and Vietnam? What is being done to boost efficiency in this important industry?
  • With a recession hitting the US, what is Cambodia doing to diversify its export markets?
  • How will the government offset growing inflation and an increase in commodity prices, particularly of oil?
  • Is Cambodia’s economy ready to move away from de facto “dollarization” to the Riel and what will this mean for business?

That this event was planned – as the many other Economist Conferences around the world – for high level business leaders, was obvious from the admission prices to participate in his one-day-only event:

US$ 990 Early Registration Fee (by 9 January 2009)
US$1,250 Standard Registration Fee
US$1,000 Corporate Network Members’ Fee

These high level conferences are prepared by the Economist Intelligence Unit, which is described on their own Internet website with the following ambitious words:

The Economist Intelligence Unit is the world’s foremost provider of country, industry, and management analysis. Founded in 1946 when a director of intelligence was appointed to serve The Economist, the Economist Intelligence Unit is now a leading research and advisory firm with more than 40 offices worldwide. For over 60 years, the Economist Intelligence Unit has delivered vital business intelligence to influential decision-makers around the world. Our extensive international reach and unfettered independence make us the most trusted and valuable resource for international companies, financial institutions, universities, and government agencies.

The appreciation for the fact that Cambodia had been the site of an Economist Conference turned into hostility, after – on 19 March 2009, the Economist Intelligence Unit published a 34 pages document: Manning the barricades – Who’s at risk as deepening economic distress foments social unrest?

In this document, the basic methodology of compiling the document is laid open, for three possibilities, asking If things feel bad now, how much worse could they get? – and it describes the third and worst possibility with the following words:

Failing confidence in the Dollar leads to its collapse, and the search for alternative safe-havens proves fruitless.
Economic upheaval sharply raises the risk of social unrest and violent protest. A Political Instability Index covering 165 countries, developed for this report, highlights the countries particularly vulnerable to political instability as a result of economic distress…

The political implications of the economic downturn, informed by the results of the Social and Political Unrest Index, are discussed at length in the second half of the report.

The full report, in both PDF and HTML format, is available online at http://www.eiu.com/special.

Putting a lot of detailed data from many countries through these procedures, which contain among others also terms developed by the Political Instability Task Force at the George Mason University in the USA, which elaborate also about further terms which we quote here:

Economic distress appears to be almost a necessary condition for serious instability, but it is not a sufficient one. There are many instances of declines in GDP per head that have not been followed by political instability. It is only when economic distress is accompanied by other, underlying or structural features of vulnerability that there is a high vulnerability to or risk of serious outbreaks of political and social unrest.

Defining political unrest

We define social and political unrest or upheaval as those events or developments that pose a serious extra-parliamentary or extra-institutional threat to governments or the existing political order. The events will almost invariably be accompanied by some violence as well as public disorder. These need not necessarily be successful in the sense that they end up toppling a government or regime. Even unsuccessful episodes result in turmoil and serious disruption. The assessment of what constitutes a “serious threat” still requires judgment and can be arbitrary, but this is a step forward from having no definition at all.

Political Instability Index

The overall index on a scale of 0 (no vulnerability) to 10 (highest vulnerability) has two component indexes—an index of underlying vulnerability and an economic distress index. The overall index is a simple average of the two component indexes. There are 15 indicators in all—12 for the underlying and 3 for the economic distress index.

As a result, a table is automatically calculated from the hundreds of data collected. We quote only the beginning of the resulting Political Instability Index of Rank, Country, and Score:













1

Zimbabwe8.8
2Chad8.5
3Congo Kinshasa8.2
4Cambodia8.0
4Sudan8.0
6Iraq7.9
7Cote d’Ivoire7.8
7Haiti7.8
7Pakistan7.8
7Zambia7.8
7Afghanistan7.8

Naturally, this ranking for Cambodia on Position 4 (from 165, with some countries sharing the same ranking number) was received with surprise, and even rejection. Considering the final results, it was quickly dismissed as a report supposedly produced with a hidden agenda against Cambodia. – More surprising is how the Cambodian embassy in England reacted against the Economist Intelligence Unit’s report, which misunderstands the report as made up of arbitrary statements targeting Cambodia – and therefore asking the Economist Intelligence Unit to “issue a retraction.” This is misunderstanding is obvious from the following excerpts of the letter of the Cambodian ambassador to the Economist Intelligence Unit:

Dear Sir,

On behalf of the Royal Government of Cambodia, I am writing to express my deep concern and disappointment with your latest report, “Manning the Barricades” in which you highlight Cambodia as one of the countries most at risk of suffering serious social unrest as a consequence of the on-going global financial crisis.

Your scaremongering allegations are highly dangerous as they could be construed as actively inciting unrest. They also happen to be a gross distortion and misrepresentation of Cambodia’s true position and there can be no justification for these claims.

May I suggest that it is insulting for you to claim that Cambodia is more politically unstable than the war-torn nations of Iraq and Afghanistan…

You also appear to have rather arrogantly dismissed any serious evidence which contradicts your own claims; not least that provided by the Prime Minister of Cambodia, Hun Sen, who only in February 2009 addressed a Business Round Table event co-hosted by your own organisation.

You may recall that the Prime Minister used that occasion to record that Cambodia had just enjoyed a decade of blistering growth, more than doubling its per capita GDP between 1998 and 2007. He attributed this great success to political stability, forging deeper integration with the global trade and investment communities; and improved macro-economic management.

You also seem to have ignored Cambodia’s sizable oil and gas deposits, its wealth of natural resources as well as its growing reputation as a “must visit” tourist destination and as a center of enterprise and investment….”

It is extremely unfortunate that the result of an analysis of hundreds and hundreds of international data, which fully agree with the assessment of Cambodia’s economic growth during the last years, is not seen for what it says: that countries which had a high growth rate based on factors now being eroded by the international economic crisis, are facing a more serious danger of disrupting instability than countries which have been anyway politically instable, and economically at a low level. The Economist Intelligence Unit is not questioning past achievements – but it is sounding a warning that these achievements are now facing a most serious challenge, and therefore the new situation merits utmost attention.

This week’s reflection is much longer than usual.

It was written with the hope to improve communication between Cambodian and international voices, which is often mis-communication: while facts are presented with an invitation to rationally discuss them, they are emotionally dismissed. This is not useful, and ways have to be found to communicate better.

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The Use of Agricultural Chemical Pesticides Is Still Popular despite Knowing that They Are Dangerous – Friday, 13.2.2009

Posted on 14 February 2009. Filed under: Week 599 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The Mirror

“Phnom Penh: Even though there are reminders from officials of the Ministry of Agriculture to be careful when using agricultural chemical pesticides, at present, many farmers at different places said that they still cannot give it up. Farmers in Kandal said that the use of agricultural chemical pesticides is still a crucial method that cannot be given up so that their crops provide good yields to meet the markets and their needs. In the meantime, experts found that there are up to 147 types of agricultural chemical pesticides sold on markets, and among them between 40 and 50 types strongly harm the health of consumers.

“Mr. Nob (name provided by the writer), 48, a farmer in a commune of Kandal S’ang district, said that so far, he still uses agricultural chemical pesticides, although he knows that they can affect his health and that of the consumers, because there is no choice.

“Kandal borders on Phnom Penh, and it is a province which supplies agricultural products, such as vegetables and fruits to the markets in Phnom Penh and in other provinces. Some districts along the lower Mekong and Basak rivers are also sources of vegetables.

“Mr. Nob is a farmer growing many kinds of crops, such as cabbage, salad, and [edible] Khatna flowers in his village, in order to supply them to the markets in Phnom Penh. The method he uses to take care of his crops until they provide yields is to use agricultural chemical pesticides that he can buy easily from different places in his locality.

“He said, ‘I must use them so that my crops grow well, and if I do not use them, worms will eat all the crops.’ According to his description, he and his villagers have so far not seen any official experts in agriculture coming to instruct them and to explain the impact of the use of agricultural chemical pesticides, and to start to produce natural poison or natural fertilizer, although nowadays, the Minister of Agriculture and some organizations are encouraging citizens to cut down on the use of agricultural poison or chemical fertilizers, saying one can change to natural fertilizer and natural methods of pest control.

“Responding to this problem, the Svay Prateal commune chief in S’ang, Kandal, Mr. Nuon Soeun, said that agricultural officials did never come to explain the impact of the use of agricultural chemical pesticides and chemical fertilizer, but previously, there were organizations coming to help educate farmers some time, but the farmers seemed not interested in it. He added that natural pesticides are likely more difficult to produce and more tiring than to use chemical pesticides.

“He went on to say, ‘I also used to produce poison to prevent insects from destroying some types of crops, it takes half a month at least to find the resources and to mix them. As for chemical pesticides, I just go to the market to buy them, mix them with water, and apply it on crops; that’s all.’

“According to his experience, to produce natural poison to prevent insects, farmers need to find many different resources such as the bark of the Sdao tree, the poisonous fruit of the Sleng tree, and the poisonous bark of the Kantuot tree, and soak them in water that is then used to apply to the crops. He said that doing so is complicated and can make farmers get tired of it. According to information from him, among more than 3,000 families, most of them take up cropping, and up to 90% of them use agricultural chemical pesticides or chemical fertilizer.

“At present, the Ministry of Agriculture, especially the Minister of Agriculture, Mr. Chan Sarun, who always goes directly to different localities countrywide, appeals to farmers to change their habits from using agricultural chemical pesticides and chemical fertilizer to using natural poison and natural fertilizer. The change, that the Ministry of Agriculture wants, is to ensure the health of the farmers themselves and also of the consumers; that is to care for the quality of soil and water – without any poison. Many hazards might happen because farmers use chemical pesticides without proper instruction from experts. Also, the ministry encourages its officials to go to educate farmers at their localities about these problems.

“The S’ang district governor, Mr. Khim Chankiri, and the director of the Kandal Agricultural Department, Mr. Bun Tuon Simona, denied what residents had mentioned: that expert officials never reach out to them to instruct them about the impact of chemical pesticides, and they said that these problems are what they actually are focusing on.

“Mr. Chankiri added that before, district officials went to instruct them about these problems, and moreover, the department had sent officials. He continued to say, ‘Most of them thought it was wasting their time, instead of working on cropping, but they did take part. This is why they said that there was never any official going to educate them regularly.’ As for Mr. Tuon Simona, he said that so far, the agricultural department went to educate them regularly about how to create natural fertilizer and many different measures to protect crops and prevent impacts of the use of agricultural chemical pesticides and chemical fertilizer.

“However, according to another farmer in another province and some other people, they said the same about the presence of agricultural officials. They said that they rarely saw agricultural officials going to meet farmers, except when there were ceremonies to accompany their higher officials. Actually, relating to this problem, obviously there should be more active outreach by experts than before, rather than pointing to the statements of higher officials. They often assume that lower officials are inactive for different reasons, or they create just project expenses about non existing tasks. Therefore, farmers cannot receive what the Minister wants.

“Regarding this problem, the director of the Cambodian Center for Study and Development in Agriculture [CEDAC], Dr. Yang Saing Koma, said that generally, the use of agricultural chemical pesticides and chemical fertilizer has become already a habit of the farmers. Thus, to change them, takes time and needs participation.

“He added, ‘If the use of chemical products has already become their habit, it is most difficult to change.’

“By now, there are hundreds of types of agricultural chemical pesticides and chemical fertilizer on the local markets – according to a study by the Cambodian Center for Study and Development in Agriculture .

“The project coordinator of CEDAC, Mr. Keam Makarady said that in 2008, the center found there were up to 147 types of agricultural chemical pesticides and chemical fertilizer at the markets all over Cambodia, among which 53% were imported from Vietnam and 37% from Thailand. Among them, from 40 to 50 types can enter into vegetables and fruit, when pesticides are administered on them.

“He emphasized, ‘Talking about chemical substances, we found 147 types, but talking about commercial names of pesticides, there are up to 606 types.’

“According to the findings of the center in 2007, there were only 132 agricultural chemical pesticides on the market, and 472 commercial names. Therefore, within one year, all his increased greatly.

“He said that that those kinds of pesticides are harmful to the health of users, particularly farmers, who use and touch them directly.

“Based on Mr. Makarady words, those pesticides can directly affect farmers, for example they cause getting dizzy and having to vomit, they can damage the stomach and the bladder, cause skin diseases, and weaken the health. They indirectly affect also consumers who eat their products, especially chemical pesticides that can enter into vegetables and fruit.

“Relating to the use of agricultural chemical pesticides and chemical fertilizer, a farmer in Kandal, who grows banana, said (by not mentioning his name), that – in order to meet their demands – farmers use those chemical pesticides. He added that if they grow and their products depend only on the nature, farmers cannot harvest enough to meet the demands of the market.

“He emphasized, ‘After a banana tree loses its flowers, it takes three months for bananas to ripe. But if chemicals are applied, they can make it ripe within two months. Just apply chemicals one or two times, and small bananas grow really big, and they look as if they had been pumped up like a balloon.”Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.17, #4820, 13.2.2009

Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Friday, 13 February 2009

Cheat Khmer. Vol.1, #17, 13-15.2.2009

  • The International Monetary Fund – IMF – Warns about Serious Effects on the Cambodian Economy [if the government does not have proper measures to prevent the effects of the global economic slowdown]
  • The United Nations and the Ministry of Interior Join to Fight Torture

Kampuchea Thmey, Vol.8, #1872, 13.2.2009

  • [The president of the Cambodian People’s Party and president of the Senate] Samdech Chea Sim Still Supports [the vice-president of the Cambodian People’s Party and prime minister] Samdech Dekchor Hun Sen [he said that the Cambodian People’s Party is still strong and has no internal splits, and that he still supports Mr. Hun Sen to be the prime ministerial candidate of the party]
  • More Than 40 Families Protest in Front of the Municipality with Accusations that Their Land Is Violated [Oddar Meanchey]

Khmer Aphivaot Sethakech, Vol. 7, #341, 13.2.2009

  • The Opposition Parties Asks Samdech Dekchor Hun Sen to Explain the Global Witness Report and to Arrest the Perpetrators to Be Convicted

Khmer Machas Srok, Vol.3, #343, 13.2.2009

  • [Prime Minister] Hun Sen Orders the Council of Ministers, Administered by Sok An, to Take Action against [the former commander-in-chief of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces recently removed] Ke Kim Yan according to the System of Laws [seizing all his machineries, and recalling all soldiers defending his land, to return to their barracks]
  • The Organization World Education Reminds [Minister of Education, Youth, and Sport] Im Sethy to Reinstate Mr. Sun Thun at His Previous Place [Mr. Sun Thun was removed from a high-school to teach at a lower-secondary school, accused of defaming government leaders during his teaching]

Khmer Sthapana, Vol.2, #202, 13.2.2009

  • Plan to Collect Taxes in 2009 Might Yield Up to US$500 Million [no figures for 2008 provided for comparison]

Koh Santepheap, Vol.42, #63, .2.2009

  • Minister of Information [Khieu Kanharith] Asks the Region Marketing Director of the Voice of America [Mr. Neal Lavon] to Help Officials of the National Television [by sending them to receive training in the United States of America]
  • The Ministry of Interior Does Not Allow to Hold an Extraordinary Congress of the Norodom Ranariddh Party on 15 February 2009 [because the acting president of the Norodom Ranariddh Party did not legally give the right to Mr. Em Sitha, with his signature, indicating that he is the representative of the party]

Moneaksekar Khmer, Vol.16, #3686, 13.2.2009

  • Yuon [Vietnamese] Authorities Still Ban Khmers to Build a Pagoda Fence Near the Border in Kompong Cham’s Memut District [even though it is not in Vietnamese territory; the district governor, Mr. Chek Sa On, the person who signed the permission for the construction is also the person who came to prohibit it, said that it is a problem on the national level]

Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.17, #4820, 13.2.2009

  • The Use of Agricultural Chemical Pesticides Is Still Popular despite Knowing that They Are Dangerous
  • In Ten More Years the Cambodian Economy May Have a Stronger Competitive Position [according to a leading institution in organizing conferences]
  • Note (from the announcement):

    Economist Conferences

    Siem Reap, 16 February 2009

    Fees: US$990 Earlybird fee (register by 9 January 2009) – US$1,250 Standard fee

    Business Roundtable with the government of Cambodia – On the verge of a breakthrough?

    “His Excellency Prime Minister Hun Sen has confirmed his support and will deliver the opening keynote address at the event.

    …Cambodia’s prospects as both a tourist destination and a center for enterprise and investment – on paper at least – appear bright.

    …Cambodia will continue to struggle to reassure the international community that the political system itself is sound and fair… How the new government responds to stabilize the economy, and address pressing issues such as poverty and public-sector corruption, will have a significant bearing on the country’s attractiveness to foreign direct investment.

    Key issues to be discussed include:

    • In light of recent oil and gas discoveries in the Gulf of Thailand, what is the government doing to settle border claims with its neighbors?
    • With predictions that oil could start flowing by as early as 2011, how will the government manage Cambodia’s newfound wealth?
    • In evaluating the investment climate, are private equity firms being overly optimistic?
    • What new business opportunities are there for investment in Cambodia’s much needed infrastructure?
    • Given the recent boom in property development and construction, is greater regulation of the industry necessary and if so, what impact will this have on property investors?
    • How will Cambodia’s garment industry deal with greater competition from China and Vietnam? What is being done to boost efficiency in this important industry?
    • With a recession hitting the US, what is Cambodia doing to diversify its export markets?
    • How will the government offset growing inflation and an increase in commodity prices, particularly of oil?
    • Is Cambodia’s economy ready to move away from de facto ‘dollarization’ to the riel and what will this mean for business?”
  • The UN World Food Program Will Grant US$25 Million for Project Implementations in Cambodia
  • The Economic Policy Committee Asks the Government Four Points in order to Reduce Taxes to Help the Garment Sector [the four measures are: 1. Reducing burdens of taxes, and other expenses. 2. Improving commerce, especially garment export. 3.Commercial financing, and 4. Improving professional relations and responsibility by all sides in the frame of law]
  • Leaders of Different Religions from 16 Countries Meet in Cambodia [they are from Australia, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Burma, England, India, Italy, Japan, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Thailand, Tibet, Uganda, United State of America, and Vietnam]
  • The Financial Crisis Makes Cambodia to Loose US$676 Million, and 44,600 Workers to Loose Employment

Samleng Yuvachun Khmer, Vol.16, #3484, 13.2.2009

  • Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva Prohibits Rohingya Refugees to Enter Siam [Thailand]

Have a look at the last editorial – you can access it directly from the main page of the Mirror.

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Not to Discuss Means Not to Clarify – Sunday, 8.2.2009

Posted on 10 February 2009. Filed under: *Editorial*, Week 598 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The Mirror, Vol. 13, No. 598

The week brought further challenges to publicly clarify how the whole of society can deal with difficult problems.

The human rights organization ADHOC had published a report, describing quite specifically cases from the year 2008, and saying that human rights defenders, “providing advice to victims of land and resource seizures or seeking redress with the courts or authorities, or the release from detention of their community representatives,” have been the particular target of threats and accusations of incitement to protest. – Probably not many people might have expected a full agreement with this statement from the side of the authorities. Still, the response from the head of the Human Rights Committee of the government is disappointing because of its very general nature: “I think I cannot agree with the ADHOC report, and though some problems arose, I do not deny them, but it seems that I cannot agree with the assessment, and it is not done well.”

The failure to communicate mutually – the rejection to communicate – is even more painful to observe in relation to the recent report of the UK base organization Global Witness, ‘Country for Sale – How Cambodia’s elite has captured the country’s extractive industries,” about which we had mirrored sections from the Khmer press on Friday. This organization has accumulated information and experience in many countries, and is supported by private and public funds. They share their work with the international public on their website; they describe themselves with these words: “Global Witness works to increase transparency in the granting of mineral concessions, in the flow of revenues from oil and gas companies to governments, and in the trading of resources.”

Global Witness produced a 72 pages report with hundreds of details of information, most of it on the basis of describing legal provisions of the Kingdom of Cambodia, combined with facts which are available in published reports of the international companies involved, or are on the Internet. And in addition, Global Witness describes also in much detail which questions they raised – and to which of them they did, or they did not get responses. A careful reading of the study takes some hours, because of the many details documented. The document is full of surprises.

It is equally surprising, how quickly the study was rejected in a press release from Cambodian Embassy in London, accusing Global Witness “of pursuing a malicious campaign to try and discredit the country and its leaders. The Government is working hard to establish a sound and comprehensive framework governing the extractive industries. These will reflect best practice and be based on the principles of transparency and accountability.”

It is again surprising and indicative of the level of public information sharing, that a Secretary of State at the Ministry of Industry, Mines, and Energy, contradicts the Ambassador, when he is quoted to have said, “So far, no oil has yet been produced, we just known that there is oil. Therefore, we have not planned how to use it, because no oil has been extracted yet.”

The Cambodian Embassy in London – without addressing a single detail in the report, refutes it by a cynical graphic, calling it A collection of rubbish – with a picture showing the study already in a rubbish bin.

This spectacular picture does not only condemn the results of the studies of Global Witness to the rubbish bin, but throws away – unintentionally? – also the impressive list of laws and decrees of the Kingdom of Cambodia, which are all quoted and referenced in the study. Global Witness explains: “In the course of its investigation into Cambodia’s oil, gas and mining sectors, Global Witness obtained a number of key documents. Global Witness believes that it is important that these documents, which include key regulations for the extractive industries are easily available in the public domain.”

Legislation governing Cambodia’s oil sector

Primary legislation

  • Petroleum Regulations 1991
  • Royal Decree on the Formation of Cambodian National Petroleum Aithority

Secondary legislation

  • First amendment to the Regulations
  • Second amendment to the Regulations
  • Draft Model Petroleum Agreement

PSC [Production Sharing Contracts]

Global Witness understands that fees charged by the Cambodian Government in the PSCs vary depending on the contracting company. Global Witness has not been able to confirm whether any of the PSC holders entered into the form of contract laid out here in the draft model petroleum agreement, but understands that the draft is likely to have been used as a model for the final contracts.

 
Legislation governing Cambodia’s mining sector

RGC – Royal Government of Cambodia; MIME – Ministry of Industry, Mines and Energy; MEF – Ministry of Economy and Finance;
Prakas – Decree

Mineral Resources Management and Exploration

  • 1996 Law on Environmental Protection and Natural Resources Management
  • Law on Protected Areas

Secondary legislation

  • MIME Circular 001
  • MIME Instruction Circular 002
  • MIME Prakas 340
  • Sub-decree 008
  • Sub-decree 113
    1994 Prakas on Protected Areas

The following are in Khmer:

  • MEF & MIME Prakas 006
  • MEF MIME Prakas Cost for Registration
  • MEF & MIME Prakas on Annual Land Lease
  • MEF & MIME Prakas on Mineral Royalty
  • MIME Prakas 011
  • MIME Prakas 340
  • MIME Prakas 1133 
  • MIME Prakas 942
  • MIME Prakas 1133
  • MIME Prakas 1192
  • RGC Decision 10
  • RGC Decision 20 
  • RGC Decision 43
  • RGC Draft Sub-decree on Defining Mining zone 
  • RGC Order 01
  • RGC Sub-decree 08
  • RGC Sub-decree 113
  • RGC Sub-decree on Conditions to Grant, extent & right transfer of Industry Mining License
  • RGC Sub-decree on Defining Authority and Role of mining officer
  • RGC Sub-decree on Suspension & revocation of mineral license

In spite of all the initial refusal to discuss details, it can only be hoped that a public dialogue, on the basis of existing laws and regulations – wherever including revisions by the legislative bodies of the country – can lead to a equitable and careful use of the riches of the nature.

As Monday, 9 February 2009, is a National Holiday, the Mirror will not publish translations from the press on this day.

There is a variety of interpretations of this important commemoration of Meakh Bochea: that Buddha, the Enlightened One, pronounced the principles of his teachings, summarized threefold: to do good, to abstain from doing bad, to keep a pure mind.

Without stepping back from time to time, from the daily conflicts, it may be impossible to come close to the three teachings.

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Global Witness Encourages Donor Countries to Use Their Influence on the Government to Check how Oil, Gas, and Minerals Exploration Licenses Were Given – Friday, 6.2.2009

Posted on 8 February 2009. Filed under: Week 598 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The Mirror, Vol. 13, No. 598

Global Witness released a report for 2008 with big titles on the book cover ‘Country for Sale – How Cambodia’s elite has captured the country’s extractive industries.’ This book describes mysteries, corruption, and irregularities related to the provision of concessions to foreign oil, gas, and minerals exploring companies in Cambodia – but some high-ranking officials of the Cambodian government denied all Global Witness allegations.

“Global Witness, based in London/England, an organization monitoring the exploitation of global natural resources [‘Global Witness works to increase transparency in the granting of mineral concessions, in the flow of revenues from oil and gas companies to governments and in the trading of resources’], released a [72 pages] report on 5 February 2009 with the title, Country for Sale, in which it revealed many things about top officials of the government of Cambodia, allegedly involved in and colluding with corruption, jeopardizing forests and other natural resources.

“The report of Global Witness said that during the last 15 years, 45% of the land in Cambodia has been contracted out by concessions to foreign entities, and millions of dollars were received by the government from private companies to secure their concessions – but it is known that this money was lost and did not go to the books of the Ministry of Economics and Finance. Global Witness reports that its investigations discovered that oil, gas, and mineral exploring licenses were provided secretly to ruling officials and their relatives, and especially, that they are controlled by the military of Cambodia. Those top military officials are General Ouk Koasa, the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces – RCAF – commander in charge of military development regions; Minister of Commerce Cham Prasidh’s brother, Mr. Cham Borei; Prime Minister Hun Sen’s younger cousin, Okhna Dy Chouch or Hun Chouch; army commander, General Meas Sophea; a senator, Oknha Ly Yong Phat; a special advisor to Prime Minister Hun Sen and the chairperson of the Commission on Human Rights of the government, Mr. Om Yentieng; a senator and director of the Pheapimex Company, Mr. Lao Meng Khin; the RCAF commander-in-chief, General Pol Saroeun, and Oknha Try Heng.

“The report of Global Witness found that RCAF forces were deployed to guard areas rich in mineral resources such as in Preah Vihear, Stung Treng, and Pursat, and citizens’ land in those areas was grabbed through threats and violence. The report spoke also about the institution in charge of the oil and gas industry, called the Cambodian National Petroleum Authority, an institution under direct control of the government – administered by Deputy Prime Minister Sok An

“Global Witness added that all ministries, departments, institutions, or authorities do not have any power over that institution, adding that the same politicians and powerful people involved in illegal logging now take control over the oil, gas, and mineral resources, and a handful of powerful people ruling the country have awarded expensive land concessions to private companies without transparency. Global Witness stated that mineral resources and the forest in Cambodia exist only once, and when those valuable natural resources are exhausted, they will disappear forever. All persons mentioned in the allegations by Global Witness regarding corruption, like some generals, oknhas, high-ranking officials of the government, such as General Ouk Koasa, Mr. Cham Borei, Mr. Dy Chouch or Hun Chouch, General Meas Sophea, Senator Ly Yong Phat, Senator Lao Meng Khin, and Oknha Try Heng could not be reached for comment. However, some government officials who provided interviews to Global Witness, claimed that the Global Witness report exaggerates the facts and is not true.

“Global Witness found that a special advisor to Prime Minister Hun Sen and the president of the Human Rights Commission of the Royal Government of Om Yentieng, has received a mineral exploration license quietly; he said that Global Witness has distorted information about the Cambodian government for many years, adding, ‘I think that if that organization Global Witness knows what is right and wrong, and has trust towards the respect of the truth, one could call it to swear an oath with me. If I am wrong, I would die, and if I am not wrong, it [Global Witness] would die. This would be a quick and trustworthy method for the listeners to judge. But I believe that if they [Global Witness] want to lie, they do not lack continuing lying stories. Therefore I think that this is not strange and surprising, because they have lied for many years already. They have distorted information about Cambodia for many years.’

“A Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior, Mr. Tea Banh, reacted strongly to the Global Witness report, saying that he cannot accept allegations by this organization without any evidence. Mr. Tea Banh added that those having mineral exploration licenses have them all legally.

“The RCAF commander-in-chief, General Pol Saroeun, about whom Global Witness has written in the report, accusing him of having received a mineral exploration license quietly, denied that he is involved as a businessman, he said that he is just a military person. Mr. Pol Saroeun added, ‘No, I never had a company. I never do business. I am a soldier. Why is Global Witness accusing people like silly? They seem to look down on people too much.’

“A secretary of state of the Ministry of Industry, Mines, and Energy, Mr. Ith Prang, said that the oil resources ow being explored to be exploited in future, have not yet produced even one percent of what is expected. The Cambodian government is not stupid in managing all natural resources.

“He continued to say, ‘So far, no oil has yet been produced, we just known that there is oil. Therefore, we have not planned how to use it, because no oil has been extracted yet. But the government is not stupid in distributing revenues of its resources.’ A secretary of state of the Ministry of Environment, Mr. Prach Son, said that many oil and mineral exploration companies in Cambodia are from foreign countries, from China or from Australia. All those companies get exploration licenses in Cambodia, but they are not allowed to take raw materials to their countries.

“Global Witness has tried to ask for explanations from government officials, oknhas, generals, companies mentioned in its report, but has, so far, not received sufficient explanations. It has not even obtained a response from Prime Minister Samdech Hun Sen reacting to the report since it was released officially. There is only the Li Phoeung [?] company of China that provided an explanation, but Global Witness does not show the details [original unclear – actually, only the Swedish company Lundin Petroleum responded to the inquiries of Global witness – but for information referring to their website].

“The Global Witness director, Mr. Gavin Hayman, said that what the Cambodian government should do is not to provide new concessions too quickly to private companies. The Cambodian government should rather verify and conduct audits on the concessions already provided to those private companies. He went on to say that all donor countries should put pressure on the Cambodian government not to provide new concessions too quickly to private oil, gas, or mineral exploration companies, and to verify them again. The report has found that 70 companies have already received concession contracts and are exploring minerals. Those concessions have been provided without transparency, because there is no clear system in place for providing concessions, besides delivering them to high-ranking officials of the government. Also, he voiced concern about the loss of mineral resources for which concessions have been provided to foreign companies involved in serious human rights abuses in Cambodia, and the government should work effectively to control them.

“Global Witness showed in its report that some oil exploration companies in Cambodia had paid money to the Cambodian National Petroleum Authority, and that money was probably not put into the National Treasury. The report added that oil, gas, and mineral exploration companies are required to pay kickbacks for signing up to bids for concessions with the Cambodian National Petroleum Authority. Like a company from Indonesia, PT Medco Energi Internasional, which has spent US$7.5 million to the Cambodian National Petroleum Authority. Moreover, each company having stakes in mineral exploration according to contracts, is also required to pay taxes annually. In the first year, a tax with the amount of US$800,000 was required to be paid for each concession.

“Global Witness added that in 2006 and 2007, money was not seen to have been put into the Ministry of Economy and Finance. The report said also that an oil exploration company has been exploring oil along the Tonle Sap Lake, the biggest freshwater lake in Southeast Asia, which produces between 40% and 70% of fish for the Cambodian people. The Tonle Sap basin is part of a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. Global Witness criticized donor countries for not using their influences through development funds to improve good governance, while the annual international aid for Cambodia is equal to half of the national budget.” Khmer Aphivaot Sethakech, Vol. 7, #336, 6.2.2009

Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Friday, 6 February 2009

Cheat Khmer, Vol.1, #13, 6-8.2.2009

  • The Sam Rainsy Party Appointed Ms. Ke Sovannarath Secretary-General [before she was acting secretary-general]

Khmer Aphivaot Sethakech, Vol. 7, #336, 6.2.2009

  • Global Witness Encourages Donor Countries to Use Their Influence on the Government to Check how Oil, Gas, and Minerals Exploration Licenses Were Given
  • [One faction of] The Norodom Ranariddh Party Asks the Presidents of the National Assembly and of the National Election Committee to Remove [NRP secretary general] Mr. You Hockry and Mr. Sao Rany [from the other faction of the NRP] as Members of Parliament

Kampuchea Thmey, Vol.8, #1866, 6.2.2009

  • Cambodia Holds the Third Economic Forum [United Nations Development Program, Asian Development Bank, World Bank, and other development partners joined the event [Note: the member of the National Assembly Ms. Mu Sochua, was denied access by bodyguards; this surprised the German ambassador so much that he skipped to participate in this event]

Khmer Sthapana, Vol.2, #198, 6.2.2009

  • Military Police Surround the Mobitel Company and the Station of the Cambodian Television Network – CTN [of Oknha Kith Meng, for several hours] – Reason not Known
  • A Meeting of the Cambodian and Thai Ministers of Defense Will Be Held Today in Phnom Penh [to discuss border problems]

Koh Santepheap, Vol.42, #6571, 6.2.2009

  • Tragedy of a Farmer Family Who Rode a Cart Loaded with Firewood and Hit an Anti-Tank Mine, Triggering an Explosion, Killing Three People and Injuring Two More [a man and his two small sons died, his 6-year old daughter suffered serious wound, and his wife was lightly injured – Battambang]
  • A Car Coming Out from a House Pushed a [female] Student against a Wall, Killing Her [police are investigating, to ask for an arrest warrant for the car driver, also a woman]

Moneaksekar Khmer, Vol.16, #3680, 6.2.2009

  • Real Estate Property of Ke Kim Yan Is Expropriated as Property of the Cambodian People’s Party [according to a high ranking official close to Prime Minister Hun Sen]
  • [Around 20] Military Personnel of the First Region Used Violence to Evict Citizens from Their Land [and threatened to shoot those who dared to protest – Recheanukoul village, Stung Treng commune and district, Stung Treng]

Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.17, #4814, 6.2.2009

  • The Philippines Reduce Taxes for Goods from Cambodia
  • The Ministry of Foreign Affairs Promises to Update Information on Its Website [after there was criticism from the public; however, confidential documents will not be published]
  • Japanese Investors Are Satisfied with Plan to Invest along Cambodian Beaches [in Koh Kong]
  • The National Bank of Cambodia Signs an Agreement with Citi Bank for Training about the Bond Market [officials of the National Bank of Cambodia will be sent to receive training in New York]
  • An Official of National Television [TVK] in Pursat Was Murdered in a Guesthouse [a woman rented a room to sleep with the murdered man, and two other men who had rented a room next door are also suspected in this robbery and murder]

Samleng Yuvachun Khmer, Vol.16, #3481, 6.2.2009

  • The Tokyo Government Blocks the Entry of [Thai ousted prime minister] Thaksin into Japan

Have a look at the last editorial – you can access it directly from the main page of the Mirror.

And please recommend us also to your colleagues and friends.


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