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 ]

Have a look at the last editorial – you can access it directly from the main page of the Mirror.
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Changing Approaches to Old Problems – Sunday, 13.6.2010

Posted on 14 June 2010. Filed under: *Editorial*, Week 668 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The Mirror, Vol. 14, No. 668

Though the development of labor unions has progressed over the years, there were always also tensions. First, it has to be acknowledged that there will always be tensions, that is: between labor unions on the one side, through which workers express their opinion and negotiate their claims and rights – and the owners of the enterprises where they work. Both sides need each other, and it is always necessary to work towards an equilibrium between both sides and their interests.

In many countries with a market economy system, it is the state that is watching over this balance of power so that it is fair and helps maintain social peace and, if possible, also economic progress in a society. But when one of these sides has the impression that the state does not take a neutral position, but is favoring one side over the other, relations get strained.

The recently passed legislation to restrict public demonstrations by limiting the number of participants to 200, and to designate a place for these people to meet, restricting their public display by marching together, followed by announcements that the Ministry of Labor is drafting a new law on Labor Unions. While there was no general opposition to regulate the role of labor unions by law, it was greeted by suspicion that it is another attempt to control the unions, for example be imposing some mechanisms how they have to report their finances transparently. – It is not publicly known that the government is planning to impose similar regulations on the other side. The Ministry of Labor has indicated that the draft of the law would be made available for discussion in time – again this is not yet seen to come, after the draft anti-corruption law had been kept confidential almost until the time when it was discussed and voted upon.

At the same time where such a move to more regulation by the state is perceived in Cambodia, there are unprecedented movements in China that workers of some international companies are breaking out of the system of the Chinese, state regulated labor unions, where workers have started to act independently – not 200, but close to 20,000 in one place – to claim public attention to their situation.

The Bangkok Post presented an interesting analysis and overview of these developments – and its problems – on 13 June 2010:

On Friday morning, about 17,000 workers at a Honda car parts plant in Zhongshan, China, held a protest march to the factory gates. They were demanding an almost doubling of their wages and the right to form their own labor unions, as opposed to the government controlled national federation of trade unions. This was the third Honda plant hit by a work stoppage in the last two weeks…

It is more that a little ironic that China, a country that in March announced a new certification system for reporters which requires training in Marxist theories, has been seeing increasing incidents of labor groups demonstrating for greater rights.

It is, of course, a basic premise of Marxism that capitalism exploits the working class, who are the true producers of wealth in society.

The events in Zhongshan follow close on the heels of the bad publicity surrounding a spate of suicides at the giant Foxconn Technology group… which employs more than 300,000 workers making iPhones and other electronic devices. Workers at the compound complained that they were driven like robots by the excessively fast assembly line…

The company agreed to a 65% pay increase for workers, which it says will be passed on to the buyers of its electronic goods.

It is encouraging that the company has taken steps to improve the lot of workers, but this coincides with the announcement that the company might move some of its production lines back to Taiwan, if the government there offers enough incentives, especially lowering the minimum wage for hiring foreign laborers.

The awakening of China’s labor force has to be considered a good thing, but striking a balance that allows a much better quality of life for workers, and enough profitability to keep the companies offering foreign direct investment interested will be a challenge for the workers, for the companies, and for the government.

The Mirror had reported recently about a protracted labor conflict – and that the plan of workers to suspend their work for three days, to demand an increase of salaries, and that the employer obey the labor law, is still not canceled.

Such developments may have an influence also on Cambodia. Not only in terms of labor-management relations in Cambodia, but it may also lead to new job opportunities for Cambodian workers abroad – an increasing number of people finding employment and economic returns in other countries: in Malaysia, in South Korea, and increasingly in some Arab countries.

And this at a time – though in a different context – when the Cambodian Watchdog Council is requesting that the number of foreigners living in Cambodia should be made more transparent, and probably more controlled.

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National Holidays: Labor Day – Sunday – Royal Ploughing Ceremony – Saturday/Sunday/Monday, 1.-3.5.2010

Posted on 3 May 2010. Filed under: *Editorial*, Week 662 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The Mirror, Vol. 14, No. 662

While the time runs and runs evenly, the different calendars – related to the year of the sun, or related to the phases of the moon, or related to cultural history and social-political events – have their own ways. And sometimes they lead to interesting crossings.

The Royal Ploughing Ceremony, roughly at the beginning of the rainy season, marks the start of the planting time. And royal astrologers will observe the preferences of the drought animals during the ceremony, which food they prefer – offered to them on seven trays, with beans, corn, grass, rice, sesame seeds, water, and wine – to predict the coming season’s harvest.

We do not keep a record for The Mirror to compare the predictions with the actual results of the harvest several months later. But we just assume that there is some margin of error in the predictions, according to the different animals involved.

During the week, the Prime Minister criticized the big Institutions of the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and the Asia Development Bank, for making different predictions for the performance of the Cambodian economy by the end of the year. While the different economic benchmarks monitor and evaluate probably hundreds of data – every institution working independently – is it not surprising that their predictions, depending on so many factors not under their control – are still fairly similar?

The international financial turmoil has brought also a lot of unforeseeable changes for the Cambodian workers in the export and tourism industries, who create a major share of international income for Cambodia. Their work in the textile and shoe factories, and their work to serve foreign tourists visiting the country, is commemorated during Labor Day.

While some international tourist advisories advertise the Royal Ploughing Ceremony as an event worthwhile to visit and observe, some embassies advise tourists to avoiding meetings and events of the organized workers unions, as these may be related to conflicts in society.

One important, positive statement had been reported during the week. The Prime Minister was reported to have said, “Trade Unions Are Not My Enemy, and to Demonstrate Is Their Right.” Though Article 36 of the Constitution of the Kingdom of Cambodia clearly states that “Khmer citizens of either sex shall have the right to form and to be member of trade unions,” also the notion can be found often assuming that there is a fundamental conflict between the government and the labor unions. Industry and labor have, by their very nature, different interests. But the experience of economically strong democratic countries with a market economy system – like France or Germany of Japan – shows that their strength grew from a political system which allowed for both strong unions and strong associations of industrialists.

In spite of this statement by the Prime Minister, tensions between the authorities and organized labor were building up before the Labor Day, because of the unresolved murder of the former leader of the Free Trade Union of Workers of the Kingdom of Cambodia, Chea Vichea, who was killed in January 2004. Two people were apprehended at that time; when they were presented to court with the claim that they had confessed to have committed the murder, they revoked, but though there were no witnesses testifying against them, and no evidence beyond their confessions in prison presented, they were sentenced to 20 years in prison. Because of these publicly discussed irregularities, also the former King Sihanouk expressed his doubt that the real murderers were in prison. In 2007, the Appeals Court upheld their conviction, in spite of several witnesses assuring that one of the accused was not in Phnom Penh on the day of the killing, but 60 km away. After nearly five years in prison, the Supreme Court cited unclear evidence and called for a new investigation in December 2008; since that time, the two accused are provisionally out of prison. By now, there is no public information about what happened since.

When Chea Vichea was killed, Bradley Cox, who had made a documentary “Cambodia: Anatomy of an Election,” happened to be not far away, and he arrived some minutes after the killing. He was able to document the murder scene, and later follow the story further – the funeral, and the subsequent police and court actions.

Now the brother of Chea Vichea, Chea Mony, is the president of the Free Trade Union, and they had the plan to publicly show this documentary, “Who Killed Chea Vichea” [a trailer is available here]. The Khmer media had reported during the week various reasons why the authorities will not allow this documentary to be shown – the film would have to be first presented to the Ministry of Culture with a request to get it approved, or: this documentary has been imported illegally – while the Union intended to show it anyway near the place where Chea Vichea has been gunned down, while he was reading a newspaper.

This is a report from 1 May 2010 on the Internet:

1 May 2010 –
Cambodia screening is stopped before it starts

Cambodian workers who hoped to see Who Killed Chea Vichea? on Saturday didn’t get so much as a bite of popcorn before police intervened and tore down the screen.

Here’s what we’ve got so far, from witnesses on the scene:

The workers’ march arrived at the screening site, in front of the newsstand where Vichea was killed, around 5:00 p.m.

They were met by a force of some 100 police, many in riot gear, as well as local officials and a large group of other men not in uniform, presumably plainclothes security forces.

The organizers went ahead and erected the screen, which was made out of sheets. The police immediately told the main organizer, Rong Chhun of the Union Confederation, to take it down as he did not have a permit. When he refused, they pushed in and pulled it down.

Mr. Chhun returned with a second screen, accompanied by opposition members of parliament, but that screen too was seized.

The workers resisted only briefly. “We did not want to have a big scene as we were outnumbered,” said one participant. “They were there to break down anything and for sure it would have been real force had we resisted and shown the movie.”

So far there are no reports of any arrests or injuries.

So the film was not shown publicly – in Cambodia. But the events of 1 May 2010 will probably contribute to get much more attention for it internationally, where it is scheduled to be shown at the following film festivals:

filmfestivals

filmfestivals

The demonstrations on 1 May 2010 of the Free Trade Union of Workers of the Kingdom of Cambodia were not focused on the past. The ILO report in The Mirror from last Friday, 30.4.2010, “More Than 1,500 Workers Die Every Year in Cambodia because of Occupational Accidents” shows more problems ahead, in addition to the demands to raise the minimal wages – while facing the consequences of the international economic crisis, including an increasing competition for garment exports from other big exporters in the region – from China and from Vietnam.

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The 15th Royal Government-Private Sector Forum Was Held – Thursday, 29.4.2010

Posted on 30 April 2010. Filed under: Week 662 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The Mirror, Vol. 14, No. 662

“Phnom Penh: The 15th Royal Government-Private Sector Forum was held in the morning of 27 April 2010 at the seat of the Council of Ministers. The forum was chaired by the Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Cambodia, Samdech Akkak Moha Senapadei Dekchor Hun Sen; other leaders of the Royal Government, from the private sector, and many other development partners, and diplomats attended the forum.

“Like at the previous time, the aim of the meeting, considered to be a kind of open ministerial session, is to jointly monitor the practical progress and improvements achieved, to see how problems, which were raised during the 14th Royal Government-Private Sector Forum had been addressed, and to know what other problems investors face in Cambodia.

“The Minister of Economy and Finance, Mr. Keat Chhon, said during his speech opening the Royal Government-Private Sector Forum that the Royal Government had led the Cambodian economy to get across a most difficult stage of the economic crisis, where the Royal Government managed to ensure financial stability as well as macro-economic and social stability, established a more favorable environment for economic and business activities, and strengthened social safety for the citizens.

“He added that encountering the global economic crisis, the Royal Government had continually intervened in the taxation system for garment and shoe factories as well as for other industries supporting these fields. Reduced tax payments on income of the garment and shoe factories was extended until the end of 2012, resulting in monthly losses for the state of about Riel 4,000,000,000 [approx. US$940,000]. To reduce the Value Added Tax (VAT) rate to 0% during that time resulted in additional losses for the state of about Riel 4,300,000,000 [approx US$1 million] per month in 2008 and it increased to as much as approx. Riel 9,300,000,000 [approx. US$2.2 million] in 2010.

“The Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Cambodia, Samdech Dekchor Hun Sen, chaired the event and waited to address all problems after they had been raised by the eight private sector groups. Then he dealt with the problems of the working teams for agriculture and for industry, relating to the export of agricultural products, even though it is recognized that there has been improvement in the commercial sector. Before the private sectors can export anything, they have to ask for permissions from many places, wasting much money and time. To export more than 200 tonnes of rice is even more difficult and takes even longer time. The private sectors needs to gain permissions from the Green Trade structure, that has the exclusive right to export rice. Then they need to ask for permission from many other ministries and institutions. Also, the working teams mentioned that for the transportation of livestock from Preah Vihear to Phnom Penh this process required to cross up to 37 check points, and companies have to pay both official and unofficial money at all those posts. Therefore, they asked the government to eliminate these activities.

“Regarding these issues, Samdech Dekchor Hun Sen said that such type of unimportant checkpoints should be abolished at all levels, especially when such activities are carried out by institutions which are not authorized for this, and he called to abolish such licenses required by unnecessary institutions, so that export business becomes more competitive exporting agricultural products of Cambodia.

“As for the tourism working team, Mr. Ho Vandy asked the government to reduce the price of plane tickets of Cambodia Angkor Air from Phnom Penh to Bangkok, to allow flights from Bangkok to Siem Reap, and to add another flight from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap, and to begin local flights between Siem Reap and to Sihanoukville.

“In response, Samdech Dekchor Hun Sen said that Cambodia adheres to a free market economy. Thus, the government cannot set prices of flights as it is done in a planned economy. In relation to the request to begin flights between Siem Reap and Sihanoukville, he said that the government does not provide exclusive rights to Cambodia Angkor Air, and other companies can operate direct flights. He encouraged Mr. Ho Vandy – if he could make any airline to start direct flights to Sihanoukville he will request that Mr. Vandy should get a medal for this incentive.

“Samdech Dekchor Hun Sen also addressed issues in other sectors, mostly concentrating on the lowering of tax for the import of raw materials and for means of transport, and the lowering of VAT. At the same time, he addressed also problems relating to trade unions and workers. In addition, he clarified some cases, where the private sector had called to strengthen the competition of the garment sector by considering that the expensive prices of telecommunication, transportation, and electricity are a burden.” Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.18, #5183-5184, 28-29.4.2010

Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Thursday, 29 April 2010

Areyathor, Vol.17, #1437, 29.4.2010

  • Samdech Dekchor Hun Sen Was Nominated as a Member of the Royal Academy of Cambodia

Deum Ampil, Vol.4, #463-464, 28-29.4.2010

  • The Government Encourages the Private Sector to Export Agricultural Products
  • Two Murderers Were Arrested for Killing a Woman to Rob Her Lexus Car to Sell it in Vietnam [Phnom Penh]
  • The Prime Minister Reminded the Authorities to Crack Down on Illegal Check Points

Kampuchea Thmey, Vol.9, #22-342235, 28-29.4.2010

  • Samdech Dekchor Hun Sen: The BHP Billiton Mining Company Did Not Give Illegal Money to Cambodia [to get a mining exploration concession from the government]
  • The Ministry of Foreign Affairs Warned Ambassadors in Cambodia Not to Interfere in the Internal Affairs of Cambodia

Koh Santepheap, Vol.43, #6942, 29.4.2010

  • The Khmer Rouge Tribunal Will Decide on Bail Requests of [former Khmer Rouge leaders] Ieng Sary, Ieng Thirith, and Khiev Samphan on 30 April 2010
  • Samdech Hun Sen: Trade Unions Are Not My Enemy, and To Demonstrate [on 1 May 2010, the International Labor Day] Is Their Right
  • The Australian Embassy Provides Scholarships to 40 Cambodian Students Every Year
  • The National Children’s Hospital Receives Medical Equipment Donated by the Korea International Cooperation Agency [KOICA, worth about US$200,000]

Moneaksekar Khmer, Vol.17, #3866, 29.4.2010

  • The Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia [COMFREL]: The Power of the National Assembly Is in the Hands of Only One Party, and Complaints against Mr. Sam Rainsy [filed by the government] Are Dangerous for Democracy
  • [Sam Rainsy Party parliamentarian] Son Chhay Asked the Minister of Justice to Confirm the Conditions Under Which Courts Can Detain Citizens

Phnom Penh Post [Khmer Edition], Vol.1, #159-160, 28-29.4.2010

  • [Prime Minister] Hun Sen: The Money from the [Australian] BHP Company Is Not Corrupt Money [he confirmed that the government was not involved in corruption with the BHP company in providing mining exploitation rights in Cambodia, but he said that this company did provide more than US$2 million for social development projects]
  • Tourists Arrivals Increased by Almost 10% in the First Quarter of 2010 [there were more than 680,000 tourists, mostly from Korea, China, and Japan]
  • Visakh Bochea Was Internationally Celebrated in the Angkor Area in Siem Reap [with an international “Trail of Civilization and Performance” with participation from Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam]
  • Cambodia Lifts the Ban on Marriages between Khmer Women and South Korean Men
  • The International Monetary Fund: Cambodia Should Improve Investment Atmosphere [in order to attract big investors: maintaining the macro-economic environment stable, improving the physical infrastructure such as roads, ports, and electricity supply, ensure a high level judicial system that is independent, and keep a well educated labor force]

Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.18, #5183-5184, 28-29.4.2010

  • The 15th Royal Government-Private Sector Forum Was Held
  • Samdech Dekchor Hun Sen Criticized Big Institutions of the World [the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and the Asia Development Bank, for making different [independent] forecasts about the Cambodian economy]
  • 88% of Garment Factories Were Affected by the Economic Crisis while 12% Were Not [according to the International Labor Organization]

Have a look at the last editorial – you can access it directly from the main page of the Mirror.
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Carbon Dioxide Emissions Become a Means for Cambodia to Ask for Money – Wednesday, 9.12.2009

Posted on 10 December 2009. Filed under: Week 642 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The Mirror, Vol. 13, No. 642

“Criticism will have no influence in making Cambodia, a poor country, to reduce the emission of CO2 which pollutes the environment. But the provision of funds is the best way to help to reduce the emissions that lead to global climate changes.

“While the government will express its position during the discussions about climate change in Copenhagen, the coordinator at the national level of the office of climate change of the Ministry of Environment, Mr. Tin Ponlok, said, ‘We should not focus on the problems of industrialized countries.’

“Mr. Tin Ponlok added, ‘As many industrialized countries as possible must provide specific financial support to help developing countries to adapt themselves to the impacts from climate change.’

“His appeal was based on the core agenda of the discussion at the climate conference in Copenhagen, which is being held during 11 days, where Cambodian officials from some relevant ministries will encourage the provision of more financial support for the efforts of this country to reduce the impact from climate change.

“In November, during the final discussions about climate change in Barcelona, the developed countries decided not to reply to requests for financial support, which would require them to prepare resources from 1% to 5% of their countries’ GDP for a fund on climate change for poor countries.

“In Copenhagen, developed countries are trying to estimate how much resources they should contribute, and they consider whether a reduction of CO2 emission by 40% by 2020 is too high or not, which would mean to be at a comparable level with the amount of emissions in 1990, a goal that developing countries are appealing to achieve.

“Mr. Tin Ponlok said that Cambodia is the one, among the 8 most vulnerable countries, under threat from climate change, that was selected into a pilot program of the World bank, the Climate Resilience project, which aims to expand efforts to combat the impacts from climate change, and it is expected that Cambodia will not be able to reduce CO2 emission unless financial support, especially for new technologies, is increased.

“Mr. Tin Ponlok spoke to participants, students, officials from non-government organizations, and government officials, saying, ‘It will not happen through the market economy, unless developed countries provide funds to least developed countries, otherwise we can not join significantly to reduce our CO2 emissions.’

“According to the World Bank’s estimation, US$10 billion in total per year have to be provided for climate change assistance to developing countries, compared to the estimated annual needs, US$75 million is for adaptation, and US$400 billion for the reduction of impacts from climate change.

Note:

The numbers in the previous paragraph do not match. We bring therefore a section of a World Bank Study which was probably the background for the Cambodian newspaper report above:

The Costs to Developing Countries of Adapting to Climate Change
New Methods and Estimates

The Global Report of the Economics of Adaptation to Climate Change Study
Consultation Draft

Four lessons stand out from the study:

First, adaptation to a 2° Celsius warmer world will be costly. The study puts the cost of adapting between 2010 and 2050 to an approximately 2oC warmer world by 2050 at $75 billion to $100 billion a year. The estimate is in the upper range of existing estimates, which vary from $4 billion to $109 billion. Although the estimate involves considerable uncertainty (especially on the science side), it gives policymakers—for the first time—a carefully calculated number to work with. The value added of the study lies in the consistent methodology used to estimate the cost of adaptation—in particular, the way the study operationalizes the concept of adaptation.

From a 109 pages World Bank document: The Costs to Developing Countries of Adapting to Climate Change (strangely enough it is not dated, but probably still recent).

“In a report of the World Wildlife Fund last month, Phnom Penh is considered the 3rd most vulnerable city in Asia regarding climate change, together with Calcutta. The World Wildlife Fund said that Cambodia is vulnerable to the impacts from climate change, such as droughts and floods.

“Mr. Tin Ponlok added, ‘Developing countries, especially the least developed countries, are the victims of climate change.’

“He went on to say, ‘We are not at the root of the problem,’ adding, ‘developed countries must act, and developing countries can join voluntarily.’

“However, regarding this position, environmentalists thought that putting all the burden on developed countries can make poor countries have a pretext to develop differently as they like [without considerations for the environment].

[…]

“In a new report in October, the NGO Forum on Cambodia said that the government should open the market for decentralized energy production. In addition, a statement released yesterday by the Asian Development Bank voiced some concerns about future consequences that the developing countries in Asia may create for the environment.

“The Asian Development Bank said, ‘While the emissions of CO2 on average into the atmosphere is in a low level at present, when the economy grows, incomes increase, then most emission of CO2 will come from vehicles, electricity plants, and deforestation.’ The CO2 emission in the world by developing countries in Asia might increase up to 40% easily, before or by 2030.

“The power development plan of Cambodia for 2010 to 2020 calls for the construction of coal fired electricity generators at 9 places, which will add more CO2 emission from Cambodia, and 9 hydro-electric dams.

“Though they made an appeal for decentralized power systems, the executive director of the NGO Forum on Cambodia, Mr. Chhit Sam Ath, said recently in an interview, ‘The developed countries should really commit themselves to reduce greenhouse gases in their countries, and compensate developing countries for damages on those countries, as they do nothing [for substantially polluting the environment].’

“He added, ‘Compensation should be provided in the form of the transfer of technologies, capacity building, and financial support for developing countries, so that they have the ability to deal with climate change problems.

“A coordinating official on climate change of the non-government organization GERES, Mr. Heng Pheakdey, agreed with this idea.

“He said that developing countries like Cambodia need a proper and ambitious agreement in which industrialized countries must commit themselves to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases more strongly and more quickly. This aid should be linked with conditions that can be accepted.

“He added, ‘Nevertheless, it still depends on the government to use those resources to invest in renewable energy and to provide incentives to attract more investments in this sector.’

“The executive director of Oxfam America in Cambodia, Mr. Brian Lund, wrote in an email, saying, ‘It is very important that the least developed countries, including Cambodia, create different systems to work towards climate change.’

“He added, ‘Remember that this is a global issue, so everyone is concerned whether the funds are spent properly and that the poorest and most vulnerable countries are supported.’

“However, it is expected that developing countries and also the least developed countries will be willing to help to care for the environment, but they should avoid using environmental reasons as a basis for asking for funds.” Sereypheap Thmey, Vol.17, #1829, 9.12.2009

Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Deum Ampil, Vol.3, #357, 9.12.2009

  • [The Council of Asian Liberals and Democrats – CALD – Nominated [Sam Rainsy Party parliamentarian] Ms. Mu Sochua as the Chair of the CALD Women’s Caucus
  • Samdech Ta [the Grandfather King] and Samdech Yeay [the Grandmother Queen] Sent Best Wishes to Samdech Chea Sim to Recover Soon [he is being treated in Singapore for hypertension]
  • Samdech Hun Sen Will Leave to Laos Today to Attend the 25th South East Asian Games

Kampuchea Thmey, Vol.8, #2118, 9.12.2009

  • Samdech Dekchor Hun Sen Congratulated [19] Khmer Students for Winning Prizes from the Isles International University in Europe
  • The Official of the World Health Organization [Dr. Michel Thieren]: 30,000 Cambodian People Have Diabetes

Note:

Also the Cambodia Daily of 9 December 2009 described the event, stating that 19 “senior officials, lawmakers and businessmen were awarded doctoral degrees yesterday morning by the Isles International University, an organization that appears to be an international diploma mill with strong links to the discredited Irish International University… which was exposed as having no links to Ireland’s educational system in 2006, after having awarded honorary degrees to a number of politicians, including to the premier himself….”

The member of the National Assembly, Mr. Cheam Yeap, said that the study was free, “but he paid $20,000 to have his thesis translated from Khmer to English,… Mr Mong Reththy said he had also paid $20,000 in the process of earning the doctorate.”

In an information sheet distributed at yesterday’s ceremony, Isles International University claims to have been ‘approved
by the Minister of Education in the Brithsh Isles of Grea Brivtain’ in an apparent reference to Great Britain. However, IIU’s name does not appear on a list of accredited, degree-awarding universities provided yesterday by the British Embassy in Phnom Penh.”

Khmer Amatak, Vol.10, #692, 9.12.2009

  • Samdech Norodom Sihanouk [the former King] Enters a Hospital in Beijing [for medical checkups] while [the President of the Senate] Chea Sim, Is Recovering from His Illness in Singapore
  • The Cambodian Angkor Air Is Served by Vietnamese Staff, and It Is Not Appropriate to Say that It Represents the Nation

Khmer Machas Srok, Vol.3, #550, 9.12.2009

  • Khmers who Live Abroad Held a Non-Violent Demonstration in Front of the UN Headquarters in Geneva in Switzerland [demanding real freedom and democratic rights for the Khmer people]

Koh Santepheap, Vol.42, #6826, 9.12.2009

  • The Department for Criminal Affairs of the Ministry of Interior Arrested Two Black Men for Using Fake Credit Cards [Svay Rieng]

Phnom Penh Post [Khmer Edition], Vol.1, #63, 9.12.2009

  • The Human Rights Party Asked the Ministry of Interior to Disclose the Number of Immigrants [in Cambodia]

Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.17, #5068, 9.12.2009

  • The Thai Spy Was Sentenced to Serve 7 Years in Prison and Ordered to Pay Riel 10 Million as a Fine [approx. US$2,500; for releasing information about the flight plan of former Thai prime minister, convicted and fugitive from his two years prison conviction for corruption, claiming that the disclosure of the flight plan affected the public order and security of Cambodia. Flight plans in most countries are always kept public, as a measure to facilitate the exchange of flight plan information for air traffic safety]
  • A Strong Woman Cheated a Korean Investor for Millions of Dollars [about US$10 million] and Was Arrested [Phnom Penh]
  • A Traffic Accident Grabbed Lives of Four People, because They Got Drunk, Riding Motorbikes and Hit a Car [coming from the opposite direction – Kompong Speu]
  • The European Union Grants an Additional US$1.3 Million for Human Rights Projects in Cambodia

Sereypheap Thmey, Vol.17, #1829, 9.12.2009

  • Carbon Dioxide Emissions Become a Means for Cambodia to Ask for Money

Have a look at the last editorial – you can access it directly from the main page of the Mirror.
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Knowing – Using – or Disregarding the Law – Sunday, 18.10.2009

Posted on 20 October 2009. Filed under: *Editorial*, Week 634 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The Mirror, Vol. 13, No. 634

Discussions about the law, or actions without much awareness or even disregard for the law, are reaching the media regularly, sometimes in increasing numbers – just like now. This reflects, of course, also a general awareness in certain sections of the public.

Whoever mentions the Constitution of the Kingdom of Cambodia is mostly happy about it, and since the introduction of the Senate into to political structures of the country, there was hardly any suggestion that the Constitution should be changed – though there have been repeated pleas that its implementation should be improved. Though one member of the National Assembly is reported to have said recently he regrets that the death penalty is excluded by the Constitution – an opinion quite contrary to international developments during the last decade.

But that does not mean that it is always clear how certain basic statements in the Constitution are to be translated into practice. The conflicts between different mobile phone service providers, going on since a couple of weeks already, have shown this.

The Constitution simply says in Articles 56, 57, and 63:

  • “The Kingdom of Cambodia shall adopt the market economy system.
  • The preparation and process of this economic system shall be determined by the law.
  • Tax collection shall be in accordance with the law…
  • The State shall respect market management in order to guarantee a better standard of living for the people.”

But had it been “determined by law” what, for example, as we mirrored on 15 October 2009, that “Road Tax Checking for 2009 Will Begin on 16 October 2009 Countrywide.” Why only now in October, one might ask – does this boost tax income, or did it delay payments to the state by those who have enough resources to own motorized vehicles?

The charges and payment methods of several old and new mobile phone providers – all supposedly operating according to a market economy system – led not only to confrontative discussions among them, but also to a disruption of certain services: some systems were said to not have forwarded calls to some other systems – the users, the consumers, suffered from these conflicts, so that finally appeals to the government were made to find solutions.

What had happened? Some newer companies had started to offer new fee and payment systems, including free calls between users of the same system, but charging for calls to others networks. Competitive pricing seemed for those who offered it within the market economy system, as in many other countries – where it is left to the market to see which company survives with the response they get from their customers.

The Constitution, concerned with the most favorable results for the end consumer, seems to support this also:

  • “The State shall respect market management in order to guarantee a better standard of living for the people.”

Cheaper communication costs seem to fulfill this goal.

It is always a good practice so look at innovative approaches in other countries – not necessarily to follow everything, but to seriously consider solutions others found in their context:

Earlier this year, the Tata corporation of India, dealing with cars, telecommunications, and steel, is setting up with the Japanese DOCOMO company, a new cellular service in the Indian market, where there are already more than 350 million customers. So Tata DOCOMO had to find ways to compete. All very similar to Cambodia – but on a much smaller scale. Tata DOCOMO used special lower cost pricing – charging per second where others charge per minute, charging SMS by the number of of letters sent, and not per message.

But it seems that decisions have been taken in Cambodia not to allow a “free market management,” by not allowing some companies to offer their customers free services. And even a special private company will be introduced to do the work which in many other countries is one of the tasks of the regulators, not of another private company – doing public coordination – which was not formed as a not-for-profit, and not by public bidding.

Not according to existing laws, but by administrative intervention, a market problem is being solved.

During the week, another crucial problem of acting within and according to the framework of the law was raised: Who knows what the law says – how is this made know? Known to the citizens what rights they have, and know to the law enforcement agents throughout the country – the police and the courts – which rights of the citizens they have to protect.

We repeat some observations from Saturday, 19.10.2009 – more details and the source is there:

Civil Society Wants to See that the Government Publishes the Contents of Law as Broadly as It Does at the National Assembly

“Though Article 13 of the Law on the Organization and Functioning of the Council of Ministers (1994) provides that “all norms and standards with general effect must be published in the Official Gazette,” the publication of Cambodian laws is intermittent, incomplete and poorly distributed…

“On the basis of the Cambodian specific experience … there is an argument that the publication and distribution of law in electronic form is an appropriate tool to address the question of access to information in a legal system which has operated without adequate access to even the most basic legal information.

“Though there are issues to consider with regard to the development of a legal information system which will work in the Cambodian context, the country would appear to be at a juncture whereby there is sufficient political will to commence a dialogue with government, academia and civil society with a view to developing a model for the sustainable provision of legal information via the internet. Ideally, any movements in this direction would be accompanied by a regulation requiring all institutions of state to provide certain identified classes of documents for free electronic distribution…”

But there are different opinions about the sequence in which new legislation is needed in society: “The Cambodian Free Trade Union of Workers Said that an Anti-Corruption Law Should Be Created before a Demonstration Law.” Why this sequence? “Because if corruption can be prevented, workers and citizens in general will not demonstrate or strike.”

Of course there are also those who just don’t seem to care, as long as the law enforcement leadership of the country does not care either, as we had mirrored:

“Koh Kong, Kompong Thom, and Prey Veng Governors Do not Care about Prime Minister Hun Sen’s Order to Crack Down On Gambling”

.

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Wednesday, 20.8.2008: A British Newspaper Says that If Hun Sen Does Not Change the Way of Ruling, Poor People Will Seek Different Means to Achieve Justice

Posted on 21 August 2008. Filed under: Week 574 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The Mirror, Vol. 12, No. 574

“Regarding endless land disputes almost everywhere in Cambodia under the rule of Prime Minister Hun Sen, The Guardian, a British newspaper, published an article on Sunday about the rule of Prime Minister Hun Sen and the Cambodian People’s Party, which had changed Cambodia from a dictatorship to a free market country, making the economy to develop very quickly, and building pagodas, roads, bridges, schools, and cinemas. However, the newspaper said that this free market system led to speculation in real estate properties such as buildings and land for profit; heritage is for sale, and the US dollar became their king.

“The article in The Guardian, which was quoted by Radio Free Asia for broadcasting yesterday, noted that land, owned by citizens since the 1980ies, can now be lost easily, because of the invasion by some capitalists who are close to Prime Minister Hun Sen. The Prime Minister is generally regarded as part of a ‘nouveau riche’ kleptocracy that siphons off foreign aid and ignores protests about human rights. It is said that Hun Sen used to care about the poor people for a long time, but it is regrettable that Hun Sen now cares only about the rising value of real estate properties and does not care to strengthen the nation, where the society suffers from an imbalance of concerns for justice for the economy.

The Guardian of Britain continued, ‘If Mr. Hun Sen had honorably resigned from his position in 1998 [after the surrender of the Khmer Rouge], he would have receive a good name among world leaders in history.’ This newspaper said that Hun Sen brought peace to Cambodia, but he has sacrificed the poor on the altar of an economic boom. This newspaper compared Hun Sen to some leaders of Brazil and Bolivia in South America who originally came also from the poor sector of society, but he has no plan to protect the poor who suffer under the powerful

[It is interesting that this detailed rendering of the article in The Guardian does not render the reference to the Khmer Rouge who ‘were backed militarily by China and diplomatically by the west’.]

“This well-known British newspaper went on to say that although Hun Sen is smart and intelligent and has political skills, Hun Sen’s success was based on survival, not on a vision for the future. If Hun Sen does not change his way of ruling, poor people will seek different means to achieve justice.

“Political and economic observers in Cambodia agree with the analysis of this article published on Sunday, 17 August 2008, in The Guardian, considering it to be an analysis that is in line with the current situation in Cambodia. Actually, Prime Minister Hun Sen, the vice-president of the Cambodian People’s Party, also comes originally from a peasant class background, but he does not protect the weak farmers at all who are violated by powerful people. Obviously, farmers, who suffer from land grabbing by high-ranking officials, dishonest oknhas, wicked merchants, and military officials, come regularly to protest in front of Prime Minister Hun Sen’s house at the ‘Tiger Cave’ Tuol Krasaing, but there are no effective solutions coming from Hun Sen for the victimized farmers.

“Political and economic observers in Cambodia added that just some days after the fourth term elections on 27 July 2008, suddenly land disputes erupted again brutally, such as in Stung Treng, Ratanakiri, Mondolkiri, Kratie, Kompong Chhnang, Kandal, Svay Rieng, Kampot, and Battambang. These reoccurring problems have not been solved by the National Authority for the Resolution of Land Disputes, administered by Sok An, Deputy Prime Minister and Senior Minister of the Council of Ministers. Therefore, some officials concerned with social affairs assume that there might be more serious land disputes, under the soon to be formed fourth term government, than there were under the third-term government.

“ These officials said that the fourth term government will be again led by Prime Minister Hun Sen, the vice-president of the Cambodian People’s Party, but Hun Sen does not have any clear policies to solve land disputes; therefore, land disputes will really erupt in all provinces countrywide. Another point is that those who use their power and violate citizens by grabbing their land are mostly high-ranking officials, dishonest oknhas, wicked merchants, and military officials, all are from the Cambodian People’s Party, and Hun Sen does not dare to disturb them. At last, a land revolution might break out, as predicted by Hun Sen himself, because the patience of the victimized citizens is limited, if the government does not take any action to solve the problems in time.

“Economic analysts said that the fourth term government, again led by Prime Minister Hun Sen, as vice-president of the Cambodian People’s Party, might not lead to real growth of the national economy, because Hun Sen does not have economic skills and he can only borrow money from foreign countries and ask for funds from the international community, to extend the breath of his government. Moreover, Hun Sen does not have any clear policies to fight corruption; he just says so to make it sounds nice, like the US Ambassador to Cambodia, Mr. Joseph Mussomeli, had clearly criticized. Even inflation and the price of fuel and of goods are skyrocketing, which affects the daily life of citizens – but Hun Sen is incompetent to solve these problems.

“Economic analysts continued to say that economic growth in 2008 will be lower than in 2007, and economic growth in 2009 will decline further compared to 2008, because of corruption and bureaucracy in important state institutions, where such affairs are spreading stronger without any intervention. This means that the government, led by the same incompetent prime minister and state institutions controlled by the same corrupt officials, will not make the economy grow; even foreign loans will be lost because of corruption. This will make poor citizens to suffer more, because the little economic growth is only for the benefit of corrupt officials and for partisans of powerful leaders.” Moneaksekar Khmer, Vol.15, #3543, 20.8.2008

Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Wednesday, 20 August 2008


Areyathor, Vol.15, #1351, 20-21.8.2008

  • [Bayon Television] Director-General Hun Mana [Prime Minister Hun Sen’s daughter] Accuses Sophon Magazine of Defamation and an Extortion Attempt for US$3,000 [from her staff member – the magazine wrote an article titled, ‘Does Sim Solika have a love triangle relation?’]


Chhanteak Kaun Khmer, Vol.1, #1, 20-27.8.2008

  • Samdech Krom Preah [Norodom Ranariddh] Is Eying the Position of President of the Constitutional Council
  • Many Illegal Sawmills Operate in Prey Nob District [Sihanoukville]


Deum Ampil, Vol.3, #82, 20-26.8.2008

  • [Kompong Cham Governor and Prime Minister Hun Sen’s older brother] Hun Neng Considers Khmer-Siamese [Thai] Border Dispute to Be a Military Exercise between a Battlefield Front and a Rear Battlefield [cooperation between troops and people]


Kampuchea Thmey, Vol.7, #1724, 20.8.2008

  • [US Ambassador Joseph A.] Mussomeli: Historically, Relations between America and Cambodia Have Never Been as Good as They Are These Days


Khmer Sthapana, Vol.1, #77, 20.8.2008

  • No New Agreements at the Meeting [about Preah Vihear between Cambodian and Thai foreign ministers] in Hua Hin [Thailand]
  • 70% of Vegetables at the Phsar Daeum Kor Market Are Imported from a Neighboring Country [that is from Vietnam]


Moneaksekar Khmer, Vol.15, #3543, 20.8.2008

  • A British Newspaper Says that If Hun Sen Does Not Change the Way of Ruling, Poor People Will Seek Different Means to Achieve Justice
  • Sam Rainsy: Sam Rainsy Party Has Appropriate and Strong Evidence to Reject Election Results


Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.16, #4672, 20.8.2008

  • [Deputy Chief Observer of the European Union’s Election Observation Mission] Graham Elson: [4th Term Parliamentary Election] Was Good but It Did Not Reach International Standards

Click here to have a look at the last editorial – apprehension while waiting for the results of challenging alleged election fraud, the final official election results, and the forming of a new government

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