Fraud? International Cooperation for Transparency – Sunday, 25.4.2010

Posted on 26 April 2010. Filed under: *Editorial*, Week 661 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The Mirror, Vol. 14, No. 661

Cambodia entered into many different international relations since the new Constitution of the Kingdom of Cambodia was promulgated in 1993 and a new phase of history for the country began. International integration was one of the main policy goals of the government – regaining the seat for Cambodia in the United Nations, which had been held by a representative of the Khmer Rouge until 1991, long after the Khmer Rouge had lost their grip on the country, establishing new diplomatic relations, gaining membership in ASEAN, in the World Trade Organization [WTO], etc., and entering into many bilateral agreements – with other governments, with international organizations like the Asia Development Bank, and with Non-Government Organizations through the Ministry of Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation.

Some of these agreements have consequences in detail, which were not all foreseen or discussed with those who are affected – for example: the membership in the WTO will require that copyrights of international companies for computer software will have to be enforced from 2013 onward, and the import of goods and services from other countries has to be liberalized. Though this may have difficult consequences for some sections of the Cambodian economy, other sectors welcome it.

During the past week, a five-year Accountability in Governance and Politics program, financed by the USA, was inaugurated by Deputy Prime Minister Sok An and the US Ambassador Carol A. Rodley, according to which the Cambodian government will cooperate, implementing specific projects, with the International Republican Institute, the National Democratic Institute, and the International Foundation for Electoral Systems. According to the nature of this program, international transparency will be necessarily be enhanced, even when this may relate to difficult challenges to be faced internationally.

What this can mean can be deducted from a difficult processes developing at present in the USA. Goldman Sachs – a full-service global investment banking and securities firm – one of the top financial institutions of the USA, is facing at present charges by the US Securities and Exchange Commission [“The mission of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission is to protect investors, maintain fair, orderly, and efficient markets, and facilitate capital formation”] of fraudulently having contributed to the wide breakdown of financial systems, by systematically entering into contract with people and companies who were supposed not to be able to pay back what they borrowed. To give a small-scale example: one internal e-mail, now leaked, says “I’ve managed to sell bonds to widows and orphans” making “some serious money” for the bank; one section manager made a profit of $1 billion for the bank – but then the whole system collapsed and needed much higher government assistance. The future will show how this will be handled.

Once international government agencies get involved, the chance of achieving real transparency is higher. Repeated corruption allegations raised, for example, by the non-government agency Global Witness in the UK were easily dismissed here as not coming from a government agency, without dealing with their specific documentations. They had also raised questions related to the role of the – then – head of the Forestry Department, Mr. Ty Sokun, which were quickly and strongly rejected as “nonsense” and “lies” at that time, but recently he was removed from his position. The situation will be different in a case which is receiving ever more prominence recently.

The Australian Company BHP Billiton – “the world’s largest diversified natural resources company” – entered into a mineral exploration agreement with the Cambodian government in 2006 to explore for bauxite in Mondolkiri – unprocessed aluminum ore; parts of the exploration site, a 996-hectare mining concession, were in protected natural forest areas. It had also been announced that this was just for exploration, a decision could be found only later, as the transport of bauxite, or the production of aluminum which requires huge amounts of electricity, need further studies. But this plan was abandoned in 2009 because the studies had shown that bauxite mining in Mondolkiri would not be cost-effective.

But recently, during this month of April 2010, BHP Billiton announced that United States Securities and Exchange Commission is investigating corruption allegations which may relate to Cambodia, though this is not yet sure.

According to the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act of the USA, a company which has made illegal payments, can be fined to pay “up to twice the benefit that it sought to obtain by making a corrupt payment,” and staff involved may have to serve five years in prison.

Neither the US Securities and Exchange Commission nor BHP Billiton has stated that there were actually illegal payments. But the present investigations are based on some reports dating back to 2007.

According to various sources on the Internet, the Minister of Water Resources Lim Kean Hor had reported in the National Assembly at that time that the Prime Minister had informed him from Australia that BHP had paid US$2.5 million as “tea money” for the concession. BHP said, however, that this money was designated for a “social development fund” for health and education projects in Mondolkiri. According to other sources, BHP confirmed to have paid US$1 million to the government in 2006 to secure the concession agreement.

Later inquiries produced various incongruous pieces of information: that the money was not used, as designated, for health and education in Mondolkiri, but for irrigation in Pursat, and the records of the the Ministry of Economy and Finance show for 2006 only US$443,866 as income from mining concessions.

By Saturday, not only the US Securities and Exchange Commission was dealing with the BHP case, but also the UK Serious Fraud Office [“an independent Government department that investigates and prosecutes serious or complex fraud, and corruption. We are part of the UK criminal justice system”].

A “social development fund” of the Cambodian government had also been mentioned before, in relation to substantial payments from Caltex, having obtained the right for off-shore oil exploration. While one government argument, why an NGO law is urgently needed, was the request to gain more transparency about social and development funds (which are, for NGOs, regularly audited by public auditing companies anyway), we have not seen any similar reporting so far about the government’s social development fund – its purpose, its administrative arrangements and it’s oversight bodies, and its assets and disbursements.

The Cambodia Daily carried on 24/25.4.2010 an article, “Precise Meaning of ‘Tea Money’ Up for Debate.” And Mr. Phay Siphan, the spokesperson of the Council of Ministers, is quoted to have pointed to the new anti-corruption legislation which shows that the government is committed to “highlight transparency.” – He will surely be able to shed more light onto this affair.

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“Copyright Enforcement Will Cost Jobs and Prevent Access to Education and Entertainment” – Sunday, 4.4.2010

Posted on 5 April 2010. Filed under: *Editorial*, Week 658 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The Mirror, Vol. 14, No. 658

The past week brought quite a number of reports on the follow-up to the Prime Minister’s order to crack down on rampant illegal activities – especially deforestation – and on the sudden results of activities by the authorities, who before did not seem to know much about the warehouses of stored luxury grade wood, probably cut illegally. But now, in a couple of days, thousands of cubic meters of such wood is found. And there are questions considering the Prime Minister’s speech: “Are Oknhas Who Own and Operate Wood Storehouses in Siem Reap [also] Considered Betraying the Nation?” And: “Why Do the Authorities Not Arrest the Owner of the Tiger Beer Company Like They Arrested Yeay Mab for Illegal Wood Trading?” The next days and weeks and months will show more clearly if the present campaign is only a short-lived campaign, or if it is the beginning of some real change, that laws will be applied clearly, publicly, and strongly in future.

The Mirror carried a small headline on 1 April 2010 which also threatened stern legal action: “The Ministry of Information Released a Circular Prohibiting the Copying of Works of Authors Who Have the Copyright for Documents Being Copied” – the license of copy-shops which do this will be canceled, the Circular said, and they will be dealt with according to the law.

When this regulation is implemented, it will affect many hundreds of businesses which are operating publicly all over town in Phnom Penh, and surely also in many other provincial centers. But not only these businesses and their employees will be affected – it will have a very deep, and negative, impact on many sectors of society: first of all on education.

We repeat here a part of a study which has been published on the website of the World Trade Organization – WTO – which predicts grave negative social consequences.

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

[Boldface added by The Mirror]

Source

When Cambodia was accepted into the membership of the WTO in 2004, the enforcement of copyrights – after a period of transition – was part of the deal. Cambodia had applied for membership mainly to get easier access to the markets of other WTO member countries; there had been not so much public debate about what other changes would come. Now, many documents related to Cambodia are on the WTO website – with many points to be considered and to be arranged and applied.

A visit to any of the many copy-shops shows that a large section of their business probably falls under the newly announced prohibition. They will either have to stop producing a lot of educational and study materials – or see their business licenses being revoked and their shops closed. But, as the WTO study says: not only thousands of employees of copy-shops will lose their employment – the whole population will be affected, as the study says: it will cut off many from educational and entertainment materials, as the originals of what is being copied are all much more expensive than the copies available until now.

The protection of intellectual property is nowadays a very high priority of the USA and of other economically strong countries. Any new trade agreement – bilateral or multilateral – has to accommodate these interests. And this does not only relate to books, but – as pointed out in the study above – also to information on CDs and DVDs, for entertainment and for education, and for production by computers: computer software.

Many people and the media have been moved to accept the term “piracy” for copying books or computer programs without the agreement of the original authors. But this term is wrong: “Pirates” take something away, so that the original owner does not have it any more, and they do it violently – if there is resistance, they often kill. By accusing people who share copies to be “pirates,” the argument becomes an ethical one between legal owners – mostly strong – and underpaid teachers in a poor educational system who copy educational material for students who do not have the money to buy original books.

What is hardly known is an aspect of US history: in the 19th century, the USA copied British books and argued that the USA, as a developing country at that time, could not accept the British reservations against copying of material which the USA needed for its development.

With the consent of the author, Roberto Verzola, a researcher in the Philippines, a section of his study is shared here:

Towards a Political Economy of Information – Studies on the Information Economy

Part I. Information and Intellectual Property Rights (IPR)

Chapter 3: U.S. Piracy in the 19th Century

Nineteenth century America was a major center of piracy. The principal target of U.S. pirates was the rich variety of British books and periodicals. The U.S. was a perennial headache among British authors and publishers, because foreign authors had no rights in America. American publishers and printers, led by Harpers of New York and Careys of Philadelphia, routinely violated British copyright and ‘reprinted a very wide range of British publications.’

James Barnes, who wrote an excellent book on this subject, said that the Americans were ‘suspicious about international copyright,’ and were afraid that recognizing international copyright meant ‘exploitation and domination of their book trade.’ Barnes noted that ‘as a young nation, the United States wanted the freedom to borrow literature as well as technology from any quarter of the globe, and it was not until 1891 that Congress finally recognized America’s literary independence by authorizing reciprocal copyright agreements with foreign powers.’

Barnes continued: ‘In 1831, an Act to Amend the Several Acts Respecting Copyrights was signed. It extended the copyright term from fourteen to twenty-eight years, with the option of renewal for an additional fourteen. If an author died, his widow or children could apply for the extension. For the first time, the law allowed musical compositions to be copyrighted. But not a word on international copyright. In fact, foreign authors were explicitly barred from protection, which in essence safeguarded reprints.’

Even the U.S. president at that time, John Quincy Adams, was himself ‘strongly opposed to international copyright.’em>

In 1837, Senator Henry Clay introduced a copyright bill before the U.S. Senate. Within days, ‘a flood of negative memorials reached Washington,’ and objections deluged both houses of Congress. The U.S. Senate’s Patent Committee rejected ‘the intention of the measure,’ its reasons sounding very much like the justification today of Third World countries for their liberal attitude towards intellectual property. The Committee’s reasons were:

  • A copyright agreement would promote higher book prices and smaller editions. The point was driven home by comparing the retail prices of new books in England and America, for it was universally acknowledged that English books were disproportionately more expensive.
  • A large portion of the U.S. publishers’ business ‘would be reduced perhaps as much as nine-tenths, certainly as much as three-fourths, if copyright be granted to foreign books.’
  • Copyright has never been regarded among nations as ‘property standing on the footing of wares or merchandise, or as a proper subject for national protection against foreign spoliation.’ Every government has always been left to make such regulations as it thinks proper, ‘with no right of complaint or interference by any other government.’
  • The U.S. reprinters advanced their own arguments for reprinting British publications without regard for international copyrights
  • They were making available to the American people cheap books which would otherwise be very costly if they had to compensate foreign authors. It was generally acknowledged that the low prices of American books would inevitably rise after the passage of a copyright treaty.
  • Access by the American printing industry to British works provided Americans with thousands of jobs.
  • Books are ‘unlike other commodities’; whereas it took the same amount of labor to create each new hat or boot, ‘the multiplication of copies of a book meant a saving on each additional facsimile.’

Several bills were introduced in 1870, 1871 and again in 1872, but they were all opposed by American publishers and the printing unions. And so it went. In the early 1880’s, the copyrights movement gained more strength, but not quite enough to overcome the more powerful forces that benefited from free and unrestricted access to foreign publications.

In July 1891, the U.S. Congress adopted the Chace International Copyright Act of 1891, establishing a framework for bilateral copyright agreements based on reciprocity. While the act granted copyright to resident and nonresident authors for a period of 28 years, renewable for another 14.

In 1952, the U.S. joined the Universal Copyright Convention [and also, for reference: Universal Copyright Convention, as revised in 1971], but not the Berne Convention, which was considered the ‘premier instrument of international copyright.’ Under the Universal Copyright Convention, the U.S. retained such protectionist measures as the requirement of manufacture in the United States.

In the meantime, the U.S. had been exerting tremendous pressures against Third World governments to adopt strict intellectual property laws and to strengthen their enforcement. By the late 1980’s, a number of governments, including Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan and South Korea in Asia, had finally succumbed to U.S. pressure.

And so in 1989, the U.S. finally and belatedly acceded to the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works.

All the former arguments of the USA and the actions of their government and parliamentary bodies sounds very familiar: these are the arguments from many developing countries today. It took the USA decades, until 1952 and 1989, to accept the conditions, which they now declare to be essential for international trade relations. Some social action groups, and some parliaments and governments try to stand up in the same way as the USA did in the 19th century.

But, as the study published on the WTO website says, there is ample fear that the results of copyright enforcement for Cambodian society at large may be very negative. Who is to blame, and who will have to bear the consequences? There are, of course, also efforts under way to have the whole concept and structures of copyright legislation fundamentally reconsidered, as it was developed under very different international conditions and mostly before modern information technology radically changed the possibilities of access to and sharing of information. It is up to society, and up to the governments caring for their societies, to get this process moving ahead.

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

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

The Mirror, Vol. 14, No. 658

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:

Thursday, 1 April 2010

Deum Ampil, Vol.4, #449, 1.4.2010

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

Deum Tnot, Vol.3, #100, 1.4.2010

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

Note:

A World Trade Organization study predicts grave negative social consequences:

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

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

[Boldface added by The Mirror]

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

Kampuchea Thmey, Vol.9, #2216, 1.4.2010

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

Koh Santepheap, Vol.43, #6923, 1.4.2010

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

Moneaksekar Khmer, Vol.17, #3847, 1.4.2010

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

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

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

Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.18, #5165, 1.4.2010

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

Note:

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

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

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

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

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

Some organizations turn their concerns into a public campaign:

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

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

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The Government Decided to Provide Ownership Rights in Co-Owned Buildings also to Foreigners – Saturday, 5.12.2009

Posted on 6 December 2009. Filed under: Week 641 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The Mirror, Vol. 13, No. 641

“In the morning of 4 December 2009, the Royal Government of Cambodia approved a draft about the provision of ownership rights in co-owned buildings [‘condominiums’] also to foreigners, based on a draft by the Ministry of Land Management and Urbanization in consultation with the Ministry of Justice.

“According to an announcement from the Council of Ministers, the above draft consists of 8 chapters and 24 articles, and it responds to the Royal Government’s policy to attract investors, as well as to facilitate the growth of the real estate market, and to boost development to reduce poverty.

“At the same time, the cabinet meeting approved also the draft, comprising of 6 chapters and 13 articles, for a royal decree about the creation of a national maritime security committee.

“The national maritime security committee is to be used as an instrument on the national level to regulate, manage, and strengthen maritime security. It will also be the focal point for the coordination and cooperation between other relevant authorities, to strengthen the effective management and integration of different services for the sake of our nation, and for the expansion of cooperation with foreign countries.

“The announcement went on to say that during the cabinet meeting, also the draft for a royal decree about the formation of a secretariat for the National Council for Children, and its operation, was approved.

“Based on 15 years experience, and considering the changed conditions in the country because of developments in all sectors, and also of other problems challenging children, the National Council for Children must make change to its assigned structure in order to uplift the quality of this social sector, and to prove that the Royal Government cares about the living conditions to ensure the four rights [?] of Cambodian children, as well as to protect them.

“During the meeting, an agreement about an ASEAN commerce for the preparation of an ASEAN free trade zones, and an ASEAN treaty about combating terrorism were approved to be sent to the legislative body for ratification.” Deum Ampil, Vol.3, #354, 5.12.2009

Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Saturday, 5 December 2009

Deum Ampil, Vol.3, #354, 5.12.2009

  • The Government Decided to Provide Ownership Rights in Co-Owned Buildings also to Foreigners
  • Four Robbers That Had Robbed two Gold Sellers [husband and wife, about three years ago, taking a car and jewelry worth about US$30,000] Were Arrested while They Were Buying a Car [Phnom Penh]

Kampuchea Thmey, Vol.8, #2116, 5.12.2009

  • The World Trade Organization Director Welcomes the Fifth Anniversary since Cambodia Became a Member of the World Trade Organization
  • Samdech Hun Sen Set a Deadline at Five O’Clock on 4 December 2009 for [Thai Prime Minister] Abhisit Vijjajiva to Reply [whether to send the Thai ambassador back to Cambodia or not, otherwise he will launch the construction of the road from Siem Reap to Oddar Meanchey without using a Thai loan]

Khmer Machas Srok, Vol.3, #547, 5.12.2009

  • Siamese Spy Siwarak Dropped His Bail Bid at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court [and changed his defense lawyer]

Koh Santepheap, Vol.42, #6823, 5-6.12.2009

  • Cambodia and Vietnam Held a Bilateral Meeting to Discuss Assistance for Victims of Human Trafficking
  • Cambodia and Vietnam Agreed to Finish the Border Demarcation in 2012 [according to a meeting between the Cambodian and the Vietnamese Ministers of Foreign Affairs]
  • The Number of Visitors to Siem Reap Increases Again [within 11 months of 2009, there were 2.044,577 visitors, compared to the corresponding period last year, there were 2,062,488, but it had been further down in previous recent months]

Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.17, #5065, 5.12.2009

  • [The Thai ousted prime minister, convicted for corruption, who fled the country breaking his bail promise] Thaksin Shinawatra and [former Thai general and prime minister] Chavalit Yongchaiyudh Plan to Help Arrange the Release of the Thai Engineer and Alleged Spy [according to former Thai Minister of Foreign Affairs Mr. Noppadon Patama]
  • Vietnam Helps to Build Five Radio Stations in Cambodia [for the national radio to expand its broadcasts in provinces with no good access to radio: Mondolkiri, Preah Vihear, Prey Veng, Ratanakiri, and Siem Reap]
  • [Twenty one] Civil Society Organizations [as well as international organizations that work on human rights and legal affairs] Asked to Meet the King to Talk about the Human Rights Situation [on 10 December 2009, the International Human Rights Day]

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Independence Day – Monday, 9.11.2009

Posted on 10 November 2009. Filed under: Week 638 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The Mirror, Vol. 13, No. 638

National holidays are not all the same. We are just behind the Water Festival which brings big crowds from the provinces to the capital city for several days. This year, 391 boats had been registered to participate in the boat racing, and 6,500 police were prepared to keep things organized and safe.

And there were special health concerns – more than in other years, because of the danger of A/H1N1 virus infections, and the Communicable Disease Control Department of Ministry of Health had prepared 500,000 leaflets with information and advice how to protect oneself from this disease – “covering up cough and wash hands among others” – as well as, as every year, from HIV/AIDS, for which the Population Service International’s 1,000 volunteers were to distribute 250,000 condoms during the three days of the Water Festival.

A big, traditional event where up to a million people from all provinces participate.

Quite different: Independence Day. Everybody knows the Independence Monument, the landmark at the crossing or the Norodom and the Sihanouk Boulevards. But Independence Day? Talking to people, one gets the understandable impression that this is an “official” holiday for people in public office and politics, but as for real life, it is something from the distant past.

“Cambodian Independence day today? That is just another holiday. Not bad.”

But it is interesting that Cambodians abroad also celebrate it – like the Cambodian community in Lowell in the USA, and a group of Cambodian students in Japan:

“Gathering the Cambodian community at our university for an Independence Day Celebration! Cheers to all Cambodians! Cheers for the independence of Cambodia from French colonization!”

Distance changes the perspective with which one sees things, and even fosters closeness.

We close with the text from a foreign newspaper – the Manila Bulletin from the Philippines – sending not only formal congratulations for the day, but being interested in and recapitulating Cambodian relations in a friendly way:

Kingdom of Cambodia National Day

The Kingdom of Cambodia celebrates its National Day on 9 November, Monday. On this day in 1953, King Norodom Sihanouk declared the country’s independence from French colonial rule.

Diplomatic relations between the Philippines and Cambodia were formally established in 1957.

Although our relations were affected by the Khmer rouge regime in 1975, the Philippines and Cambodia have maintained cordial ties since the resumption of diplomatic relations in 1995 and the reopening of the Cambodian Embassy in Manila in 1999. The two countries have concluded agreements on economic and trade relations, agricultural and agribusiness collaboration, and tourism cooperation.

Cambodia is a member of the United Nations, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the Asian Development Bank (ADB), and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). It joined the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 2004 and attended the inaugural East Asia Summit in 2005.

Cambodia has established diplomatic relations with numerous countries, including the United States, Australia, Canada, China, the European Union, Japan, and Russia. As a result of its international relations, various charitable organizations have assisted with both social and civil infrastructure needs.

We congratulate the people and government of the Kingdom of Cambodia headed by His Majesty, King Norodom Sihamoni, and H. E. Prime Minister Samdech Hun Sen, and its Embassy in the Philippines led by Ambassador In May, on the occasion of their National Day.

.

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Thursday, 24.7.2008: Develop Jobs and Provide Vocational Training to Reduce Poverty

Posted on 25 July 2008. Filed under: week 570 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The Mirror, Vol. 12, No. 570

“Phnom Penh: In order to help the citizens from poverty, strategies of the government have to emphasize the provision of jobs which promote productivity and increase family income – this means that jobs and work are important ways to free the citizens from poverty.

“During the third terms (2003 to 2007) of the Cambodian government led by Samdech Akak Moha Senapadei Dekchor Hun Sen, work and vocational training have significantly contributed to develop the national economy and to alleviate poverty of the citizens.

“The labor market is very broad and complicated, covering from work at small villages to work at big enterprises, with workers of different races. Nowadays, Cambodia’s main labor force reserve is in rural areas, so we should not overlook the need of our citizens who need the most basic and simple skills to improve the livelihood of their families.

“According to a report of the Ministry of Labor and Vocational Training, in 2004, the agricultural sector used up to 60% of the total labor force, but this sector contributed only 32% to the GDP. This showed that agricultural productivity was still low, so that citizens working in this sector earned low incomes.

“Mr. Chea Sophoan, secretary of state of the Ministry of Labor and Vocational Training, said recently in an intervention during a national conference about the improvement of the life of citizens through different accomplishments – implementing the Rectangular Strategy of the Royal Government from 2004 to 2007 – that as a result of training and other activities, the number of trainees in the technical and in the vocational sectors increased steadily, in 2005 there were 27,894; in 2006 there were 47,987; and in 2007 there were 88,367.

“In 2006, the number of students studying for university degrees was 94,310, where 92% studied skills related to the service sector, 5% studied related to the industrial sector, and 3% studied agriculture. As for students who studied in vocational technical schools (for ‘associate degrees’), the number was 16,912, equal to only 15%. So the supply of new members of the labor force did not responded to the needs of the labor market.

“At the same time when addressing problems in the agricultural sector, as seen above, also the garment sector faces problems.

“At the time when Vietnam became a member of the World Trade Organization [January 2007], quota for the export of garments came to an end.

“Barriers put up by the United States and by the European Community against garment imports from the People’s Republic of China will expire on 1 January 2009.

“The Generalized System of Preferences [GSP – a system under which industrialized countries grant trade preferences to developing countries] of the United States will continue until 2010.

“The economy of the United States is declining.

“The above factors provide the starting point for the competition of the Cambodian garment industry.

“Based on recent studies, the production efficiency is very low – around only 30% to 40% – but Cambodia should have reached the level of 60% to 70%. The increase in productivity is an important factor to bring success in international competition.

“Generally speaking, the quality and the level of education of the labor force are still low. Studies about the labor market show that the development of capacity and of skills of the labor force are an important factor to increase productivity, increase family income, and reduce poverty.

“To find adequate jobs for young people and to provide the labor market with a labor force that has enough capacity and skills requires to develop a realistic vocational and technical education system as a priority that cannot be disregarded.

“It should be noted that previously, the Ministry of Labor and Vocational Training had set certain policy goals: 1. To provide services for those who seek jobs at private enterprises and institutions, and 2. To contribute to create more jobs, to reduce unemployment, and to increase income.

“It is therefore important to assist in training basic skills for citizens in rural areas. Such training not only helps to improve the livelihood of poor citizens, but it also provides opportunities for them to continually promote their levels of knowledge and skills through training, organized from low to higher levels, and the levels move up steadily. Vocational and technical educational systems are the second provider of an opportunity for young people who had lost the possibility for general studies when they were children in the general education system [from grade 1 to grade 12]. To help change the social situation of poor people is an important factor to gain social stability, and this could also bring harmony into the Kingdom of Cambodia.” Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.16, #4649, 24.7.2008

Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Thursday, 24 July 2008


Deum Tnot, Vol.1, #16, 24-25.7.2008

  • Prime Minister Hun Sen’s Eldest Son [Hun Manet] Was Assigned to a Position in the National Committee on Counter-Terrorism [with the rank of captain, by sub-decree #75, dated 29 January 2008]

Kampuchea Thmey, Vol.7, #1701, 24.7.2008

  • Price of Fuel and Khmer Riel Remain Stable in July 2008 [fuel is Riel 5,750 per liter, and Riel 4,160 is equal to US$1.-]


Khmer Machas Srok, Vol.2, #205, 24.7.2008

  • The Complaint of Cambodia Is Not Yet Included in the July Agenda of the UN Security Council; Giovanni Boccardi, Chief, World Heritage Committee, Asia/Pacific Unit, Said That They Cannot Intervene in a Border Dispute
  • Sam Rainsy Party Parliamentarians Asked the National Assembly [on 22 July 2008] to Consider the Joint Communique between [Deputy Prime Minister and Senior Minister in Charge of the Council of Ministers] Sok An and [former Thai Minister of Foreign Affairs] Nappadon Pattama to Be Invalid
  • Khmer Troops Have Sent Weapons to the Disputed Region to Fight Air Force Planes and to Fight Tanks
  • The Cambodian Confederation of Unions [on 23 July 2008] Called All Taxi Drivers and Bus Companies to Keep Prices of Transportation Normal during the Traveling Period [of workers] to Vote

Khmer Sthapana, Vol.1, #57, 24.7.2008

  • A Very Well-Known Pharmaceutical Company [P.P.M] in Cambodia Calls for the Use of Local Medicines [because most of Cambodian people prefer medicines imported from foreign countries]
  • The UN Considers the Dispute between Cambodia and Thailand as a Hot Agenda


Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.16, #4649, 24.7.2008

  • Develop Jobs and Provide Vocational Training to Reduce Poverty
  • The UN Will Hold a Meeting on Thursday Morning about the Preah Vihear Dispute
  • [Minister of Information] Khieu Kanharith: Cambodia Takes a High Moral Stand to Solve the Border Issue [by depending on international regulations as policy]
  • An Indian Rice Millionaire [who is a close friend of Royal Cambodian Armed Forces Commander-in-Chief Ke Kim Yan] Has Asked to Buy 100,000 Tonnes of Rice per Year from Banteay Meanchey [according to Ung Ouen, Banteay Meanchey governor]
  • Son Killed Father Using a Sickle to Cut His Throat [because his father often caused domestic violence, Prey Chhor, Kompong Cham]
  • A US General [General Norton Schwartz] Warned Russia about Basing Nuclear Weapons Capable Bombers in Cuba [22 July 2008]


Samleng Yuvachun Khmer, Vol.15, #3367, 24.7.2008

  • The Second Negotiation of ASEAN about the Khmer-Siam [Thailand] Disputed Region Failed [23 July 2008]
  • There Are Nearly 90,000 National, International, and Political Observers for the Election [on 27 July 2008]

Click here – and have a look at the last editorial – The Cambodian-Thai border crisis develops while the Khmer public is not aware what the Cambodian government representatives had agreed upon, to get the Preah Vihear Temple listed as a World Heritage Site, on a most narrowly defined piece of land.

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