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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Free access to free flowing information – Sunday, 27.6.2010

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

The Mirror, Vol. 14, No. 670

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Improving Communication by Communicating – Sunday, 6.6.2010

Posted on 7 June 2010. Filed under: *Editorial*, Week 667 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The Mirror, Vol. 14, No. 667

The major event during the week was the meeting of the Cambodia Development Cooperation Forum, which brought more than 100 representatives from donor countries and from international financial organizations to Cambodia, to meet with representatives of the Cambodian government. One newspaper quoted a Cambodian official as saying, before the meeting: “Cambodia Hopes to Get US$1 Billion Aid as Expected.” As expected! On the other hand, just days before this meeting, a group of local NGOs released a study with a critical call to the donor community, suggesting that donors should press the government to fulfill agreed requirements carrying out major reforms in the country and to apply Joint Monitoring Indicators defined in the past. Global Witness, the UK based monitoring agency supported by 17 trusts and foundations, 4 development organizations from different countries, and 7 governments, suggested that the donors should take “a coordinated stand against the horribly subverted dynamic of aid in Cambodia in which their country’s money props up the basic functions of the state, leaving an elite free to exploit the state’s assets for personal profit.”

There are voices saying that the pledge of about US$1 billion is a sign that the donors don’t care about critical statements – either deploring the fact of the pledges realize “as expected,” or taking the pledges as a sign of a flat endorsement of the Cambodian government’s policies. Both these opinions are wrong.

To publish critical evaluations of aid effectiveness some days before such a meeting helps to get broad attention. But to expect that it would greatly affect the meeting, assumes that the international donor delegates arrive to sit around the table and then decide on the spot how much to pledge. They all come with the results of a year’s deliberations at home, considering information and opinion gathered and discussed with others, and decisions prepared towards the meeting.

Both sides then, in the formal meeting, share their well considered long range statements:

“Samdech Dekchor Hun Sen: The aid provided by development partners is a very important contribution for the development of Cambodia. Prime Minister Hun Sen announced that the government will use the aid effectively, adding that the government will continue to solve major problems such as corruption, land ownership, and judicial reform.”

“The World Bank country director, Ms. Annette Dixon, said, representing the donors, that she lauded the development of Cambodia since the Cambodian Development Cooperation Forum held in December 2008, but the progress of the government is still limited in terms of its work to improve strategic planing and to manage aid. She said, ‘It is important for the government to take the lead in aligning resources to development priorities.’”

That is more than a hint that the donors think that available resources are not aligned to development priorities.

What went on during the closed-door meetings may have been more mutually engaging – but the most important things will happen – or not happen – during the course of the year which starts now towards the next meeting. And it will depend on the monitoring of ongoing events and the related discussions – including the regular follow-up in the press and by government and non-government agencies’ observations.

This is a field of hard work: to observe, to analyze, to compare, to speak up, to share – regularly and consistently.

There will be questions requiring answers, and if the questions do not get answers easily, they have to be repeated and made more precise and receive follow-up, maybe again and again. This is the role of the public, and especially of the media. That is why the press is also called “the fourth power” in a state – independent also, like the three others: the legislature, the executive, and the judiciary, mutually separate, as Article 51 of the Constitution of the Kingdom of Cambodia requires.

The Mirror tries to contribute to this important process.

One element of regular surprise is information like the following, which we carried during this week:

  • Oknha Ly Say Kheang, a Big Trader Destroying the Forest, Appeared in Sihanoukville after Having Escaped from Arrest for a While [he was spotted driving a luxury car and relaxing in Sihanoukville]

A fugitive from prison. Was he arrested?

  • More Than 60 Persons [police, military police, soldiers, as well as a prosecutor, a commune chief and a village chief] Surrounded a Site where a Military Captain is Storing Luxury Grade Wood [seizing 922 pieces of wood, but the owner of the wood has not been arrested]

Why 60 persons for one suspect? And he was not arrested?

  • The Authorities Seek to Arrest Citizens over a Land Dispute [with the Heng Development Company; two persons were arrested for inciting villagers to go to protest in front of Prime Minister Hun Sen’s residence]

“Every Khmer citizens shall be equal before the law” says Article 31 of the Constitution. But some get arrested and others not! So many cries for help trust in the highest authority of the government, carrying pictures of the Prime Minister and the First Lady. When will this confidence wear out if there are too many disappointments?

  • The Government Declared to Fight Corruption [Prime Minister Hun Sen said that there are only a handful of corrupt officials, and the government will encourage other officials to fight corruption together]

We will read it in the press.

And here is a variety of related observations:

An interesting source of income for the state reported:

  • Within Three Weeks, Nearly Riel 2 Million [approx. US$470] Has Been Charged from Those Throwing Away Rubbish in Public Places

Not much, less than US$500. There is no report how much was collected from new, big cars driving around town without neither temporary nor permanent license plates. Almost every day when I am driven around town on a motorcycle-taxi, I see some. Probably there was nothing to report because nothing is being collected from them.

The President of the National Assembly Heng Samrin Does Not Allow Sam Rainsy Party Parliamentarians to Visit and Monitor the Putting of Border Marker Number 270 in Takeo [at the Cambodian-Vietnamese border; the Sam Rainsy Party claims that the marker is planted on Khmer territory, while the government denies it]

Members of the National Assembly, elected by the people (The Cambodian people are the masters of their own country. All power belongs to the people – says Article 51 of the Constitution), need a permission before they can travel inside of the country? Article 40 of the Constitution sound different: Citizens’ freedom to travel, far and near, and legal settlement shall be respected. We did not reed that the parliamentarians claimed this Constitutional right.

The result:

  • Sam Rainsy Party Parliamentarians Were Prevented from Visiting and Checking a Border Marker [in Takeo, as their visit was blocked by more than 30 armed forces and more than 50 local citizens]

And finally a dilemma:

  • The Opposition Party President Sam Rainsy Plans to Go to the Philippines to Meet with Parliamentarians and Democrats in Asia [at the end of this month, to welcome the newly elected president of the Philippines when he takes office]

Probably there will be many international guests there, especially from the ASEAN region. Among them politicians from Cambodia. But Mr. Sam Rainsy is facing the court in Cambodia, though he is abroad to avoid arrest – but he is free in France, and he is free to travel.

Could another politician from the ASEAN region, the former Thai Prime Minster Thaksin Shinawatra, also go to the Philippines? Maybe not. There is a search warrant for him from Interpol, and the Thai government is now in the process to send arrest warrants for Mr. Thaksin through Interpol to 187 countries, which makes it more and more difficult to travel anywhere. Except to Cambodia:

  • Cambodia Expressed [through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs] the Position Not to Extradite Thaksin to Thailand

He was convicted by a Thai court for corruption – for arranging the sale of valuable Bangkok land without bidding and at a low price, to his wife. But he left the country – “temporarily for about a week,” after paying bail – and did never return.

Everybody is equal before the law? Not quite.

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Officials: Cambodia Hopes to Get US$1 Billion Aid as Expected – Thursday, 3.6.2010

Posted on 4 June 2010. Filed under: Week 667 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The Mirror, Vol. 14, No. 667

“Government officials and donors met on Wednesday in Phnom Penh for the [third] Cambodia Development Cooperation Forum. During the forum, the donors appealed to the government to speed up key reforms tied to the provision of aid. More than 100 representatives from donor countries and from international financial organizations attend the Cambodian Development Cooperation Forum with plans to grant aid before the meeting ends on Thursday. Officials of the Cambodian government expect that the government will get the envisaged aid of US$1 billion.

“During the speech to open the forum, Prime Minister Hun Sen announced that the government will use the aid effectively, adding that the government will continue to solve major problems such as corruption, land ownership, and judicial reform. He said, ‘The Royal Government has made its utmost effort to firmly and deeply implement various reform programs and consider them a “life or death” issue for Cambodia.’

“The World Bank country director, Ms. Annette Dixon, said, representing the donors, that she lauded the development of Cambodia since the Cambodian Development Cooperation Forum held in December 2008, but the progress of the government is still limited in terms of its work to improve strategic planing and to manage aid. She said, ‘It is important for the government to take the lead in aligning resources to development priorities,’

“During the closed-door meeting on Wednesday, the delegations discussed the National Strategic Development Plan Update for 2009-2013 of the government, as well as the policies to ensure the macroeconomic stability during this time of a global economic crisis. In December 2008, Cambodia received pledges of US$951.5 million, compared to US$650 million in June 2007.

“The spokesperson of the Royal Government, Mr. Khieu Kanharith, said after the meeting on Wednesday that the meeting went smoothly and there were not any objections from donors. He said, ‘I don’t know how much money the government will receive from donor countries this year, but I estimate it will reach our expectations.’

“Also, the Minister of Economy and Finance, Mr. Keat Chhon, said that the aid tendency keeps increasing, and the requirement of the government will rise to as much as US$1 billion in 2010.

“The Cambodian Development Cooperation Forum has been analyzed carefully in the past few weeks, and local and international non-government organizations called on the donors to press the government to fulfill the agreed requirements carrying out major reforms in the country and to apply the Joint Monitoring Indicators. Fifteen local non-government organizations said in a document released on Tuesday, ‘It is not enough to throw money at problems and hope the ruling party will act in the interest of the people.’

“A report released on Monday by Global Witness suggested that the donors should take ‘a coordinated stand against the horribly subverted dynamic of aid in Cambodia in which their country’s money props up the basic functions of the state, leaving an elite free to exploit the state’s assets for personal profit.’

“An advisor of the government, Mr. Raoul Jennar, said during the forum that the government and the donors have been successful in cooperating to create new laws, and he hopes that the donors will provide strong support during the Cambodian Development Cooperation Forum. He said, ‘The government has made many achievements in recent years where more than 260 laws have been adopted during the previous decade. The problem is that development needs highly skilled human resources; this is a problem that Cambodia is facing.’

“Other participants said that the government should care more about the involvement by civil society rather than focusing on foreign policy makers.” Phnom Penh Post [Khmer Edition], Vol.1, #185, 3.6.2010

Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Thursday, 3 June 2010

Areyathor, Vol.17, #1442, 3-4.6.2010

  • 2,000 Workers Strike in Kompong Chhnang [against their shoe factory owner, who is forcing them to work overtime]

Deum Ampil, Vol.4, #494, 3.6.2010

  • Sam Rainsy Party Parliamentarians Are Still Defiant and Want to Visit the Border Marker Number 270 [in Takeo though the president of the National Assembly did not give them a permission for this visit]

Kampuchea Thmey, Vol.9, #2265, 3.6.2010

  • Samdech Dekchor Hun Sen: The Aid provided by Development Partners Is a Very Important Contribution for the Development of Cambodia
  • The Cambodian and the Indonesian Governments Signed an Agreement to Mutually Waive Visa Fees for Normal Passport

Khmer Machas Srok, Vol.4, #672, 3.6.2010

  • [Sam Rainsy Party spokesperson] Yim Sovann: Sam Rainsy Party Parliamentarians Will Visit the Border Marker Number 270 Today

Koh Santepheap, Vol.43, #6972, 3.6.2010

  • Ms. Mu Sochua Said that She Will Not Pay the Fine of Riel 16.5 Million [approx. US$4,000] in the Case She Lost [against Prime Minister Hun Sen over defamation], but She Would Rather Go to Jail [the Supreme Court upheld the judgment of the Appeals Court]
  • A Grenade Was Thrown at a Dancing Event, Resulting in One Death and Thirteen Injured People [perpetrators are not yet identified – Oddar Meanchey]
  • The Japanese Prime Minister [Mr. Hatoyama Yukio] Resigned from His Position after Staying in Office Less Than One Year

Moneaksekar Khmer, Vol.17, #3896, 3.6.2010

  • The National Bank of Cambodia Bought Riel Notes with US$3 Million to Support the Dwindling Value of the Riel [the present exchange rate is approx. US$1 to Riel 4,260]

Phnom Penh Post [Khmer Edition], Vol.1, #185, 3.6.2010

  • Officials: Cambodia Hopes to Get US$1 Billion Aid as Expected
  • [Minister of Foreign Affairs] Hor Namhong: Cambodia Is too Lazy to Respond to Thailand over an Extradition Request for Mr. Thaksin [confirming that Cambodia will not honor an arrest warrant from Interpol to extradite Mr. Thaksin, though the Thai government plans to send it through Interpol to 187 countries]
  • Disabled People [through 150 representatives of 620 families of veterans from Kompong Cham] Protested in Front of the Prime Minister’s Residence [in Phnom Penh] over a Land Dispute [asking for intervention by Mr. Hun Sen to distribute 4,000 hectares of land to the ‘Association Cripple Development’ in Kratie, because on 24 April 2010, the provincial authorities claimed that the land belongs to private companies]

Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.18, #5224, 3.6.2010

  • Cambodia Denied It Has Provided Training Shelter in Cambodia for Thai Red-Shirt Armed Militants [a Thai military commander had commented that Thai red-shirt armed militants had been in Anlong Veng district, Oddar Meanchey]
  • The Asian Development Bank Grants US$2.2 Million for a Project to Assess the Impact of Legal Procedures of the Economic, Social and Cultural Council

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Malaysian “Investments” – Saturday, 15.5.2010

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

The Mirror, Vol. 14, No. 664

Note:

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

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

Norbert Klein
Editor of the Mirror

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some comments were reported in The Cambodia Daily:

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

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

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

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

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The Case That a Military Police Officer Drove a Lexus Over a Young Girl’s Head Killing Her in Ang Snuol Was Not Solved According to the Law – Monday, 26.10.2009

Posted on 27 October 2009. Filed under: Week 636 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The Mirror, Vol. 13, No. 636

“Kandal: A military police officer who drove a Lexus and killed a girl in Baek Chan commune in Ang Snuol District was detained for a short period and was then released, after there had been a request from his unit.

“The perpetrating car was confiscated and kept at the Kandal Police station to solve it as a civil case with a compensation for the victim’s family according to the law.

“It should be noted that at 8:30 on 22 October 2009, there was a traffic accident on National Road 4 in Trapaeng Sang village, Baek Chan commune, Ang Snuol district, Kandal, where a Lexus car hit a girl driving a motorcycle from the opposite direction, killing her immediately.

“The driver of the car, Thong Sienglong, 35, a National Military Police officer, was arrested, after he had tried to escape, driving more than 7 km. Both the driver and the car were sent immediately to the Kandal Police station for further action.

“The victim, a girl, Theng Socheata, 17, was a student living in Proh Tala village, Kravan commune, Chbar Mon district, Kompong Speu. The car run over her head, breaking her skull so that her brain was spilled, killing her immediately at the site of the accident. The victim drove a 2008 C125 Honda, from west to east. The car drove from east to west at high speed, and at that moment, another motorbike crossed the road from south to north, hitting her motorbike so that she fell down, and the Lexus car run immediately over the girl, killing her.

“The Kandal police chief, Mr. Eav Chamroen, said on 24 October 2009 that the driver was released in the evening of the day of the accident, on 22 October, after he and his car had been sent to the police station. He added that the reason, why the driver was not sent to the court, was because he is a National Military Police officer and his unit had come to request to release him. The car is still kept, until a compensation is arranged for the victim’s family. He said, ‘If an agreement cannot be reached, we will send this case to the court.’

“He added, ‘This case has not yet been sent to the court, because we still conduct further investigations. After checking the site of the accident, we found that the motorbike fell into the car’s lane, and therefore this accident was the unintentional result.’

“Mr. Eav Chamroen went on to say, ‘By law, if a person hits someone to death, the car owner must compensate the victim. But if the car owner does not provide compensation, we will send the case to the court to be solved according to the law.’

“He continued to say that the police is investigating, to find the driver of the motorbike that hit the girl’s motorbike so that she fell down, where then the car run over her and killed her. ‘This is an unintentional case.’

“According to court official, this traffic accident has not yet been reported to the court. But the court knows about the release of the driver.

“The same official added that in case of a traffic accident happening, if the driver is arrested, the police must send both the driver and the car as evidence to the court to take action, but not to release them quickly at a police station’.” Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.17, #5030, 25-26.10.2009

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Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Monday, 26 October 2009

Deum Ampil, Vol.3, #320, 25-26.10.2009

  • The Exchange of Questions between the Cambodian and Siamese [Thai] Leaders about Thaksin Shinawatra Was the Most Interesting Issue during the ASEAN Summit [considered in the Thai press as a war of words]

Kampuchea Thmey, Vol.8, #2081, 25-26.10.2009

  • Monks and a Gang of Teens Bought Wine for Drinking at a Pagoda, Leading to Quarrel and Fighting, Killing One and Wounding Five [Phnom Penh]
  • The Prampi Makara District Police Does Not Allow Journalists to Enter to Collect Information like Before [police seem to be afraid that journalists know too much, like in the case of illegal interventions to release offenders secretly, claiming higher orders – Phnom Penh]

Khmer Machas Srok, Vol.3, #517, 25-27.10.2009

  • The Unrepresented Nations and Peoples’ Organizations Are Trying to Help Khmer Kampuchea Krom People to Have a Human Rights Representative in Yuon [Vietnam]
  • Mr. Sam Rainsy Reacts against Mr. Hun Sen’s Accusation [that he used his recent presence at Thailand at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club to attack the Cambodian government – Mr. Sam Rainsy said that he has spoken about the situation of Cambodia also in other countries]

Koh Santepheap, Vol.42, #6788, 26.10.2009

  • The Cambodian Senior Delegation Returned from the ASEAN Summit, but Cambodian-Thai Issues Were Not Covered during the Press Briefing
  • A Truck Loaded with a Container Struck a Tourist Car on National Road 33, Killing Two People and Seriously Injuring Four [Kampot]
  • ASEAN Asked Burma to Conduct Free Elections

Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.17, #5030, 25-26.10.2009

  • The Case That a Military Police Officer Drove a Lexus Over a Young Girl’s Head Killing Her in Ang Snuol Was Not Solved According to the Law
  • The Thai King Appeared in Public Again after He Had Entered a Hospital
  • A Scandal Exploded at the Tep Nimeth Pagoda where a Thai [62-year-old] Monk Was Arrested for Child Debauchery [he had sexual relationships with many Cambodian children – Koh Kong]

Sereypheap Thmey, Vol.17, #1815, 26.10.2009

  • [Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation] Hor Namhong: Cambodia Is Not Afraid of [Thai] Yellow Shirt Demonstrators’ Threats [demanding the Cambodian government to withdraw troops and villagers from the disputed area near the Preah Vihear Temple within seven days, otherwise they will demonstrate to surround the Khmer Embassy in Thailand]

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No Need to Wait for a Law on Access to Information: The Press in Cambodia Faces Rejection When Trying to Get Information – Monday, 29.12.2008

Posted on 30 December 2008. Filed under: Week 593 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |


The Mirror, Vol. 12, No. 593

“Phnom Penh: In an attempt to play a better role as conveyor of messages from citizens to the Royal Government and from the Royal Government to citizens, the Club of Cambodian Journalists held the Fifth Editors’ Forum of Cambodia under the motto ‘Assessments by Editors of the Situation of Access to Information’ in the evening of 27 December 2008 at the Himawari Hotel in Phnom Penh, with a Secretary of State of the Ministry of Information, Mr. Nov Sovatharo, chairing. This important forum was supported by the Konrad Adenauer Foundation like the previous forums.

“There was an active discussion after four speakers – Mr. Puy Kea, a reporter of the Kyodo News Agency of Japan, Mr. Pen Bona, co-editor of Cambodge Soir, Mr. Net Phatra, representing the Phnom Penh Post, and Mr. Chea Sayna, the editor of Koh Santepheap – expressed their opinions related to easiness and difficulties related to ‘Access to Information and Problems Faced.’ At the end, the editors’ forum decided to release the following joint declaration:

Joint Declaration of the Fifth Editors’ Forum of Cambodia ‘Access to Information without Waiting for a Law about Access to Information’
27 December 2008
Himawari Hotel
Phnom Penh, Cambodia

All of us, 35 people (as seen in the attached list with our signatures [not included here]) editors, publishing both through newspapers and through radio and TV in Cambodia, met during the Fifth Editors’ Forum in Phnom Penh on 27 December 2008 to discuss and to assess the situation of access to information which we face in our professional work during the year, and to find solutions. Under the theme of ‘Access to Information and Different Problems Faced speakers raised problems, expressed views, and provided recommendations related to:

  • The situation of access to information for foreign news agencies in Cambodia
    • Access to information related to the Preah Vihear border disputes
    • Access to information at different provinces countrywide
    • Access to information at central level (in Phnom Penh, at ministries, at private companies)

    Then, the Fifth Editor’s Forum of Cambodia discussed, in general, all points raised in the forum by the speakers and joined to assess the situation of access to information in Cambodia with high responsibility.

    Problems Identified Limiting Access to Information

    After discussions and assessments by the Fifth Editors’ Forum, the following problems are seen:

    1. Spokespersons or Public Relations Officials, or Information Officials: Many ministries and other state institutions, like the National Assembly, the Senate, as well as organizations and companies, do not have spokespersons or public relations officials, or information officials who professionally fulfill these tasks. This becomes a major obstacle against the flow of information for the general public, as guaranteed by the Constitution of 1993.
    2. Provision of Documents: In general, official documents are necessary, to be sure that a report and its information is made correctly, official documents are mostly not confidential documents, official documents have to be published by individual institutions and ministries that have to provide information to the public, and to publish about their own activities…, but often, such documents are not provided or prepared for publication and provided to journalists, not even their annual reports, and reports about the orientation of their work in the new year.
    3. Different Programs, Activities, and Meetings: Meetings that should be open are often declared to be internal and confidential affairs of the institutions, and journalists are asked to leave the meetings. At the same time, the work plans of the leaders of ministries and of other institutions are usually kept locked away in a drawer in the administration’s office, so that it sometimes seems that leaders of ministries are more secretive than the prime minister – and sometimes they do not seem to work.
    4. Announcements of Information: A small number of ministries announce information about some important events. But, regrettably, most ministries and institutions do not announce information, and some information is announced unexpectedly late.
    5. Regular Meetings and Press Conferences: In contrast to what is done in other modern countries, most ministries and institutions do not hold press conference or meet with journalists at all, although there were important and big problems to be explained and published. This makes the public to feel uninformed about the activities and the work of such ministries or institutions.
    6. Websites: Websites are one of the most important sources of information in this era of information technology. Most ministries and institutions have their own websites. This is an encouraging start. However, regrettably, most websites of ministries and of institutions are not kept updated with new information. Therefore, their websites cannot provide information and do not indicate where information can be found.

    Conclusion

    The weaknesses and gaps mentioned above are problems working against the access to information, and therefore the efficiency of different services, especially of public services, is questioned. Nevertheless, these problems can be addressed without waiting for a law about access to information. Corrections can be made through a change of behavior of some officials, and by a reorganization of the working structures at different institutions and ministries. The Royal Government has done a lot of work for people’s wellbeing and for national development, but the above shortages seems to swallow all achievements and accomplishments, when they are not shown to the public: to know, to hear, and to see. In the meantime, some facts in the social and economic life are ignored or are not solved in time, and consequently, everyone is a loser, both the Royal Government and the citizens.

    Appeal in a Situation that a Law about Access to Information Is Not Yet Adopted
    1. The Fifth Editor’s Forum of Cambodia would like to ask all ministries and institutions to appoint information officials or public relations officials, or spokespersons, and to organize their work so that they can work professionally and can fulfill their different tasks, such as to provide documents, to provide data about the work and about their activities, and especially to be able to respond to questions from journalists.
    2. All ministries and institutions should hold press conferences or meet with journalists regularly, to provide information about their activities and about the work of their ministries and institutions, and they must be conducted at least once per month.
    3. In cases of emergency, all ministries and institutions should release timely information for publication for the sake of the public. The publication of timely information can sometimes avoid danger and damage.
    4. All ministries and institutions should create their own websites to provide information to the public. As for some ministries and institutions that already have their own websites, they have to update information on their websites every day when there is new information.
    5. The Fifth Editors’ Forum of Cambodia will observe and assess the provision of information, and the Sixth Editors’ Forum, to be held again in 2009, will promote and strengthen the role of the Cambodian press in Cambodian society and in the international arena.

    Phnom Penh, 27 December 2008”
    Koh Santepheap, Vol.41, #6537, 29.12.2008

    Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
    Monday, 29 December 2008

    Kampuchea Thmey, Vol.7, #1832, 28-29.12.2008

    • Siem Reap Court Detains Three People, including a Journalist [of Sangkum Khmer], over a Land Dispute in Chi Kraeng District [for using violence against a real estate owner, and for provoking crimes, while residents said that they are arrested unjustly]
    • Pakistan and India Send Troops to their Border, Increasing Tension
    • China Sends Warships to the Gulf of Aden [to help fight Somali pirates]

    Khmer Machas Srok, Vol.2, #314, 28-30.12.2008

    • Secretary of State of the Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology Tan Vanthara Appeared at a Gambling Site of the Phnom Penh Hotel
    • [Former military police officer] Chea Ratha Said Something about the Place Where She Is Hiding [she is living in a pagoda in a foreign country], Adding that She Is a Victim Regarding the Acid Attack [on the aunt of Ms. In Soklida, a well-known film star, with whom she had an affair]
    • [Former Thai Minister of Foreign Affairs] Noppadon Pattama Will Raise the Preah Vihear Temple Problem, to Attack [new Prime Minister] Abhisit Vejjajiva [during the meeting of the Thai parliament]

    Khmer Sthapana, Vol.1, #170, 28-29.12.2008

    • Dey Krahom Community Residents Face Eviction on 30 December 2008 [after the Chamkar Mon district office issued the last notice for the rest of 91 families (of 1274 families) at the Building Block area to leave by 30 December 2008]

    Koh Santepheap, Vol.41, #6537, 29.12.2008

    • No Need to Wait for a Law on Access to Information: The Press in Cambodia Faces Rejection When Trying to Get Information
    • Negotiation with Siam [Thailand] Is Still the Position for Border Issues and It Is the Most Appropriate Choice to Avoid War [said spokesperson of the government and Minister of Information, Mr. Khieu Kanharith]
    • Red-Shirt Demonstrators [supporters of the ousted Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra] Start to Surround the Thai Parliament [to prevent the presentation of the policy statement by Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva]
    • Israel Attacked Hamas in Gaza Causing Many Deaths [as revenge for Hamas rocket attacks on Israel – at least 271 people were killed and more than 620 others were injured. – Status on 29.12.2008: 1 soldier and 3 civilians were killed in Israel; more that 310 persons were killed in Gaza, and hundreds wounded]
    • More Than 98,000 Civilians Killed in Iraq [since 2003]

    Meatophum, Vol.52, #716, 29-31.12.2008

    • If [Minister of Foreign Affairs] Mr. Hor Namhong Does Not Assign His Son, Whom Should He Assign? [he will appoint his son, Hor Monyrath, to be ambassador in Japan from 2009]

    Moneaksekar Khmer, Vol.15, #3651, 29.12.2008

    • The Spokesperson of the Government [Mr. Khieu Kanharith] Said that If an Armed Clash Happens along the Khmer-Siamese [Thai] Border, Cambodia Would Need 20,000 Troops
    • Members of the European Parliament Prepare to Sue Yuon [Vietnamese] Airline [for preventing them, Mr. Marco Panella and Mr. Marco Perduca, to board a plane from Cambodia to Vietnam]
    • The Director of the Cambodia Mine Action Authority Was Removed from His Position Related to Corruption [over the collapse of financing for the mine-sniffing dog raising and breeding program – Mr. Sam Sotha was replaced by Mr. Chum Bunrong, an advisor of Prime Minister Hun Sen]

    Rasmei Angkor, Vol.15, #1336, 29.12.2008

    • The Public of the [Phnom Penh] City Welcomes that the Authorities Curb Down Illegal Motorbike Pawn Shops [because such places are said to increase robberies in the city – nearly 2,000 motorbikes were found, 70% do not have number plates or tax stickers]


    Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.16, #4780, 28-29.12.2008

    • The Ministry of Interior Starts to Release Money instead of Rice to Police in 2009 [because of quality problems, late delivery, and loss of rice – instead of 1 kilogram of rice Riel 2,800 is paid – approx. US$0.70 – no information given how many kg in total are provided per month]
    • The Setting of Cambodia-Vietnam Border Markers Is Delayed until 2012 [the Cambodian-Vietnamese border of 1,270 km needs to be marked with 370 markers, worth more than US$15 million, and Vietnam is responsible for the whole expenses]

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

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    Friday, 5.9.2008: Freedom of Press Increases, but Freedom of Expression in Public Declines

    Posted on 6 September 2008. Filed under: Week 576 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

    The Mirror, Vol. 12, No. 576

    “Phnom Penh: The Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association – ADHOC – assessed that over the course of time, the freedom of the press has increased, but the freedom of expression in the public has declined.

    “Mr. Thun Saray, the president of ADHOC, reported on 4 September 2008 to journalists in a meeting to sum up the results of the 2005 to 2009 strategic plans, that Cambodia goes through a high rate of economic growth and noticeable poverty reduction. As for the freedom of the press, ADHOC is not the evaluator, but different press organizations assessed that the situation is better than from 2005 to 2006. While the economy and the freedom of the press flourished, the freedom of expression in public went down.

    “Mr. Thun Saray added that previously, the freedom of expression included the right to hold demonstrations in public, and so the poor were allowed to protest by marching in public places or in front of different embassies. But at present, their rights are almost completely eroded, while land disputes still exist without proper solutions; high ranking officials, the powerful, and the rich, still violate land rights of communities and of citizens.

    “According to reports of ADHOC, observing the human rights situation in Cambodia, Cambodia gained a high rate of economic growth and achieved noticeable poverty alleviation during more than 15 years. However, the distribution of the benefits of the economic growth is not equal, which results in increasing inequality on the receiving side of the gains. One important reason for this inequality is that natural resources are not equally distributed, especially land. Based on reports of the United Nations Development Program – UNDP – in 2007, the rich, in total about 20% of the population, own between 59% to 70% of the land, while the land ownership of the poor, approximately 40% of the total populations, declined from 8.4% to 5,4% during 1999 to 2003 and 2004 (in a period of 4 to 5 years only). Inequality in owning important cultivation property, like land, leads to a major crisis, because it relates to the everyday living of almost 80% of the total populations who live in rural areas, and this will lead to continue to increase the inequality of production, of income seeking, and of land use in the future. Land grabbing and poor administration of natural resources (specifically, in the field of forestry and fisheries) are major factors for the increase of a status of having no land, of inequality of land ownership, and in the distribution of benefits from those resources.

    “Land grabbing is mostly committed by the powerful and the rich, by using different tricks, and by private companies that had received economic land concessions from the government, but they do not properly implement what they contracted.” Kampuchea Thmey, Vol.7, #1738, 5.9.2008

    Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
    Friday, 5 September 2008


    Chakraval, Vol.16, #2808, 5.9.2008

    • Norodom Ranariddh Party Spokesperson [Suth Dina] Rejects Information about Intention to Join the Government


    Kampuchea Thmey, Vol.7, #1738, 5.9.2008

    • Freedom of Press Increases, but Freedom of Expression in Public Declines
    • Best-Selling Cambodian Dry Season Paddy Rice Is Transported to Siam [Thailand] Through Special Crossing Points [despite serious Cambodian-Thai border disputes]
    • [Thai Prime Minister] Samak Vows to Stay in Power Although [Thai Minister of Foreign Affairs] Taj Bunnag Resigned [he is also an advisor to the Thai King]


    Khmer Sthapana, Vol.1, #91, 5.9.2008

    • Municipality Rejects Demand for Market Prices; Boeng Kak Lake People Struggle [demanding solution for compensation at market prices]
    • Fisheries Official Expects that the Volume of Fish Raising Fish Will Increase This Year [in a workshop on 3 September 2008, Nao Thuok, the director of Fisheries Department of the Ministry of Agriculture, said that people in Cambodia and worldwide have high need of fish]
    • US to Provide $1 Billion [economic] Aid to Georgia


    Koh Santepheap, Vol.41, #6441, 4.9.2008

    • Khmer Vendors Enter to Sell Things as Normal in Rong Kloeu Market [in Thailand, near the Poipet border crossing]
    • Related to the Trial of the [former] Chief of the Tuol Sleng Prison, There Are More Than 1,800 Complaints, Among Them 28 Are Civil Complaints [according to Khmer Rouge Tribunal officials]


    Moneaksekar Khmer, Vol.15, #3557, 5.9.2008

    • Yuon [Vietnamese] Authorities Issued a Letter to Release Tim Sakhan [who had been defrocked on accusation of having perpetrated an offense against the Buddhist law, because he was accused to have destroyed the harmony between Vietnam and Cambodia] from Prison but It Does Not Allow Him to Travel to Cambodia
    • Mr. Sam Rainsy Writes to the King, Asking for Permission to Take the Oath [installing memberss of parliament] Separately [not on 24 September but on 25 September – because the Sam Rainsy Party is not satisfied with the results of the fourth term parliamentary election]


    Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.16, #4686, 5.9.2008

    • Japanese Government Grants ¥369 Million [approx. US$3,415,000] to the Royal Government of Cambodia [to increase food production and to improve the National Television Programs]
    • Intel Plans to Invest in Information Technology in Cambodian Education

    Click here to have a look at the last editorial – will the Prime Minister’s concern for the environment continue to be violated?

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