Friday, August 31, 2007

American giant GE opens offices in Vietnam and Cambodia

The US giant GE Group will expand its operations in Viet Nam, according to a GE official.

“We want to share our resources with Viet Nam through our experiences in pioneering enterprise management, law conformity and business transparency in Viet Nam,” said Colin Low, GE National Executive for Singapore, the Philippines and Viet Nam.

GE’s tentacles are felt throughout virtually every corners of global business with its six arms or GE Infrastructure, GE Industry, GE Commercial Finance, GE Consumer Finance, GE Healthcare and NBC Universal leaders in their respective fields.

Since it established its representative offices in Ha Noi and Ho Chi Minh City in 1993, GE Viet Nam has worked with partners such as Viet Nam Airlines, the Viet Nam Railway Corporation, Electricity of Viet Nam and the Viet Nam Oil and Gas Corporation (PetroVietnam).

GE Establishes New Branch Office in Cambodia

InterContinental Hotel, Phnom Penh
July 23, 2007

GE Branch
Launch of the GE branch office in Cambodia. Full Size

The respected U.S.-based company General Electric made its presence felt in Cambodia with the launch of a new branch office in Phnom Penh. The branch office will be part of a network of regional branch offices of General Electric International, Incorporated, a wholly owned subsidiary of the General Electric Company. The launch, held at the InterContinental Phnom Penh, was attended by U.S. Ambassador to Cambodia Joseph A. Mussomeli, HE Deputy Prime Minister Sok An, other high ranking government representatives, GE senior management, and business associates from the region.

In his remarks, Ambassador Mussomeli said, "The fact that an American company as prestigious as General Electric is opening an office in Cambodia illustrates the promising investment opportunities that exist here. Cambodia is open for business, and we hope that many more American companies will follow in GE's footsteps."

President, GE International, Mr. Ferdinando Beccalli-Falco, said, "We’re very excited with Cambodia. GE goes where there is growth and currently there is a lot of expansion in Cambodia driven by garment exports, infrastructure building, increasing consumption and tourism." According to a GE news release, the decision to invest was also buoyed by promising signs of the emergence of a vibrant and competitive private sector and great untapped potential to attract higher levels of foreign direct investment.

GE is a high technology-driven company that plays a key role in many sectors. Recently, it has significantly grown its emerging markets strategy, with projections that the company will get 55% to 60% of its revenue from outside the US within the next 5 years, compared with 50% now.

"Emerging markets are becoming vital to global companies due to their explosive growth," said Pornlert Lattanan, President, GE Thailand/Cambodia. "GE has been growing 20% annually in Southeast Asia, and we expect a similar growth pattern in Cambodia. We need people on the ground to support our growth plans. Hence you have today’s branch launch," he explained.

Operating in six other countries in Southeast Asia since the late 1960s, GE’s presence in Cambodia will mean more jobs for Cambodians as the company looks to the country as a key revenue contributor to its annual revenue of USD 6 billion in Southeast Asia.

HE Deputy Minister Sok An said, "We welcome more public and private sector partnerships to create a dynamic and stabilizing economy. GE’s presence in Cambodia really helps affirm our place in the emerging markets."

GE has a long tradition of innovation, dating back to the world's first practical incandescent lamp invented by GE's founder, Thomas Edison in 1876. Other innovations include the development of the X-ray, the jet engine, CT-scan, the world's first 4D ultrasound system, capturing 3D images live, and recently developments in nanotechnology. GE carries a blue-chip reputation with accolades including "World’s Most Admired Company" by Fortune Magazine, and "World’s Most Respected Companies" by the Financial Times in multiple years.

The US giant GE Group will expand its operations in Viet Nam, according to a GE official.

“We want to share our resources with Viet Nam through our experiences in pioneering enterprise management, law conformity and business transparency in Viet Nam,” said Colin Low, GE National Executive for Singapore, the Philippines and Viet Nam.

GE’s tentacles are felt throughout virtually every corners of global business with its six arms or GE Infrastructure, GE Industry, GE Commercial Finance, GE Consumer Finance, GE Healthcare and NBC Universal leaders in their respective fields.

Since it established its representative offices in Ha Noi and Ho Chi Minh City in 1993, GE Viet Nam has worked with partners such as Viet Nam Airlines, the Viet Nam Railway Corporation, Electricity of Viet Nam and the Viet Nam Oil and Gas Corporation (PetroVietnam).

GE Establishes New Branch Office in Cambodia

InterContinental Hotel, Phnom Penh
July 23, 2007

GE Branch
Launch of the GE branch office in Cambodia. Full Size

The respected U.S.-based company General Electric made its presence felt in Cambodia with the launch of a new branch office in Phnom Penh. The branch office will be part of a network of regional branch offices of General Electric International, Incorporated, a wholly owned subsidiary of the General Electric Company. The launch, held at the InterContinental Phnom Penh, was attended by U.S. Ambassador to Cambodia Joseph A. Mussomeli, HE Deputy Prime Minister Sok An, other high ranking government representatives, GE senior management, and business associates from the region.

In his remarks, Ambassador Mussomeli said, "The fact that an American company as prestigious as General Electric is opening an office in Cambodia illustrates the promising investment opportunities that exist here. Cambodia is open for business, and we hope that many more American companies will follow in GE's footsteps."

President, GE International, Mr. Ferdinando Beccalli-Falco, said, "We’re very excited with Cambodia. GE goes where there is growth and currently there is a lot of expansion in Cambodia driven by garment exports, infrastructure building, increasing consumption and tourism." According to a GE news release, the decision to invest was also buoyed by promising signs of the emergence of a vibrant and competitive private sector and great untapped potential to attract higher levels of foreign direct investment.

GE is a high technology-driven company that plays a key role in many sectors. Recently, it has significantly grown its emerging markets strategy, with projections that the company will get 55% to 60% of its revenue from outside the US within the next 5 years, compared with 50% now.

"Emerging markets are becoming vital to global companies due to their explosive growth," said Pornlert Lattanan, President, GE Thailand/Cambodia. "GE has been growing 20% annually in Southeast Asia, and we expect a similar growth pattern in Cambodia. We need people on the ground to support our growth plans. Hence you have today’s branch launch," he explained.

Operating in six other countries in Southeast Asia since the late 1960s, GE’s presence in Cambodia will mean more jobs for Cambodians as the company looks to the country as a key revenue contributor to its annual revenue of USD 6 billion in Southeast Asia.

HE Deputy Minister Sok An said, "We welcome more public and private sector partnerships to create a dynamic and stabilizing economy. GE’s presence in Cambodia really helps affirm our place in the emerging markets."

GE has a long tradition of innovation, dating back to the world's first practical incandescent lamp invented by GE's founder, Thomas Edison in 1876. Other innovations include the development of the X-ray, the jet engine, CT-scan, the world's first 4D ultrasound system, capturing 3D images live, and recently developments in nanotechnology. GE carries a blue-chip reputation with accolades including "World’s Most Admired Company" by Fortune Magazine, and "World’s Most Respected Companies" by the Financial Times in multiple years.

KFC is coming to Cambodia

Malaysia's QSR to open KFC outlet in Cambodia

KUALA LUMPUR: QSR Brands Bhd is expanding its restaurant business under the KFC brand into Cambodia.

The first outlet was expected to be operational in Phnom Penh by year's end, chairman Tan Sri Muhammad Ali Hashim told a press conference yesterday.

The group initially plans to open four outlets in the capital city as well as other major towns, and thereafter open two new restaurants each year.

The expansion into Cambodia involves the setting up of a joint-venture company with two local partners, Royal Group of Companies Ltd and Rightlink Corp Ltd. QSR will hold 55% while Royal Group and Rightlink will have 35% and 10% respectively.

QSR's initial investment is about US$3mil, which will be funded internally.

From left: QSR Brands Bhd managing director Jamaludin Md Ali, chairman Tan Sri Muhammad Ali Hashim and deputy chairman Ahamad Mohamad at the press conference in Kuala Lumpur on Thursday
The group is hopeful the Cambodia operations would contribute to profits in the first year. “Many people prefer to eat white meat,” Ali said, adding that the country had a population of more than 14 million.

At present, the group's overseas operations, namely in Singapore and Brunei, contribute about 15% of revenue.

If the latest venture proved to be successful, the group would consider expanding the Pizza Hut and Ayamas brands to Cambodia as well, Ali said, adding that KFC had yet to have a presence in Myanmar and Laos.

Meanwhile, for the first half ended June 30, QSR reported an 8.1% growth in pre-tax profit to RM31.9mil owing to new product offerings, increase in the number of outlets and better performance at associate KFC Holdings (M) Bhd (KFCH).

The group opened 10 new Pizza Hut outlets in the first six months. Its Singapore business saw a 61.7% jump in pre-tax profit to RM3.5mil in the first half from RM2.2mil a year earlier.

Revenue rose 5.1% to RM213.4mil compared with RM203.1mil in the previous corresponding period while earnings per share (EPS) improved to 11.55 sen from 10.22 sen.

QSR declared an interim gross dividend of four sen per share for the second quarter.

KFCH, meanwhile, posted a 10.4% surge in pre-tax profit for the six months ended June 30 to RM67.1mil from RM60.8mil a year earlier. Revenue grew 11.7% to RM808.4mil against RM723.8mil previously while EPS improved to 23.37 sen from 21 sen.

Revenue at KFC restaurants expanded 12.2% to RM620.3mil while that at its integrated poultry division increased 9.7% to RM149.4mil.

“In Malaysia, 24 new restaurants were opened in the first half and 13 existing restaurants were remodelled during the second quarter,” said Ali, who is also chairman of KFCH.

Revenue from the KFC chain in Singapore grew 92% to RM5mil during the first six months from RM2.6mil previously while its Brunei business turned around with a pre-tax profit of RM368,000 from a loss of RM68,000.

Nonetheless, the profits were partially affected by higher costs of commodities like corn, soybean meal and palm oil, which led to higher costs of poultry products.

KFCH proposed an interim gross dividend of eight sen per share for the second quarter.

Sokha Helicopter Airline opens in Cambodia

New Cambodian helicopter airline Sokha has begun daily helicopter services for the wealthy between several destinations in Cambodia, local media said on Thursday.

The new airline was officially launched here on Wednesday, during a ceremony presided over by Deputy Prime Minister Sok An at the site of a newly-built 500-square-meter heliport, said Chinese- language newspaper the Sin Chew Daily.

Sokha Airline is a branch of Sokimex Company Ltd, said Airline Manager Dy Vichea, adding that the airline's purpose is to offer national and international tourists flight services.

It has six helicopters, including two Ecureuil 550 A2 helicopters which can carry five passengers, and one Robison R44 helicopter which can carry three passengers, he added.

Sokha will cover six routes daily, including Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville, Phnom Penh to Siem Reap town, Phnom Penh to Battambang town, Phnom Penh to Poipet, Phnom Penh to Bavet and Phnom Penh to Bokor.

One way flights from Phnom Penh to Poipet cost 1,100 U.S. dollars per passenger, while to Bokor Mountain it costs 2,536 U.S. dollars, and Sihanoukville 700 U.S. dollars.

The rates may seem quite high, said Sok Kong, the airline's chairman who is also president of Sokimex Company Ltd. But he said that he believes that wealthy people will be willing to pay for the convenience and pleasure of flying in a helicopter.

Sokha Airline offers high-efficiency and high-speed services while also providing a humanitarian service, for example in remote areas in times of flooding and other natural disasters, said Deputy Prime Minster Sok An.

He stressed that the airline service can contribute to economic growth and benefit the tourism industry and it is a reflection of investors' confidence in the country.

Cambodia opens new heliport, luxury service

Phnom Penh - Cambodia launched a new heliport and helicopter airline on the Vietnam border, officials said Thursday. Svay Rieng province transport official, Sao Sokuy, said the heliport was officially opened and Sokha Airline simultaneously launched Wednesday in a ceremony presided over by Deputy Prime Minister Sok An.

Sokha Airlines is a subsidiary of Sokimex Company Ltd, a regional petroleum giant which has recently begun diversifying its assets into areas including luxury hotels and resorts at both the pristine beaches of Sihanoukville and the Siem Reap gateway to the Angkor Wat temple complex.
Sokuy said the heliport covers three hectares.

Sokha Airlines comprises six helicopters, including two Ecureuil (Squirrel) 550 A2 machines with a five-passenger capacity and a four-seater Robinson R44.
Sokimex CEO Sok Khong declined to comment on speculation that the heliport, located in a remote area of the country with few tourist attractions and nearly 150 kilometers from the capital, was being set up in anticipation of a new resort and golf course which will straddle the Vietnam-Cambodia border.

Sokha Airlines will fly from Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville, Phnom Penh to Siem Reap, Phnom Penh to Cambodia's second city of Battambang, Phnom Penh to the Thai-Cambodia border crossing of Poipet, Phnom Penh to the Vietnam-Cambodia border crossing of Bavet and Phnom Penh to the former French colonial hill station of Bokor.
Tickets are priced from 700 dollars but range up to 2,500 dollars one-way, making the comfort and convenience of helicopter travel in the country a luxury reserved only for the very wealthy.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

The online world can learn a lot from Cambodia....

No matter how evolved we think the Internet has become, if we're really honest with one another, we know there are only a handful of times when an online process is truly and utterly simple.

I was fortunate enough to experience one of these precious moments of simplicity last week when applying for a tourist visa to Cambodia, which I'm visiting next month.

A week later, I am still dumbfounded by the fact that you actually can apply for a visa online.

While I know this should be the case (after all, if we can file our taxes online, then why not a tourist visa application?), I've never come across an online visa application process before--well, not one that works anyway.

I don't know about you, but, sadly, it's my experience that most embassy and foreign consulate websites offer nothing more than an address and phone number, if you're lucky!

So imagine my (pleasant) surprise when I landed on what is, by far, one of the best websites I've ever come across--both within and outside the travel industry.

The website of the Royal Embassy of Cambodia is everything a website ought to be: informative, well-designed, easily navigated, and attractive.

But best of all, I was able to apply for my visa with just a few keystrokes and received my visa via email in under an hour.

Amazing!

What's more, the site provides detailed instructions on how to attach a photo to your visa application. (Unusually, the instructions are not, apparently, translated by someone whose first language is not English.) There is even a link provided for those who need to download photo software.

Even better, the Cambodians don't seem to mind if you take a photo with your mobile (which I did), and provide instructions on how to upload the photo to your desktop.

The website says it encourages tourists to apply for a visa online in the name of helping to protect the environment (even though you need to print your visa, at least you don't have to waste environmentally toxic petrol commuting to the embassy).

I suppose that kind of helps to offset all those carbon emissions I'll be pumping into the atmosphere as a result of flying to Cambodia from London in the first place.

Oh well, you know what they say...every little helps.

Tricia Holly Davis, chief writer, Travolution

Minister of Information Supports President of the Club of Cambodian Journalists

“Phnom Penh: The Minister of Information supports Mr. Pen Samitthy, president of the Club of Cambodian Journalists [CCJ] and editor-in-chief of Rasmei Kampuchea, to be the representative of Cambodian journalists to participate in the Confederation of ASEAN Journalists.

“Mr. Khieu Kanharith, the Minister of Information, provided such support as he participated in the General Assembly of the CCJ, which was held at Suon Samnieng Restaurant during the evening of 25 August. The Minister said that in Cambodia, there are up to 15 journalists’ associations. However, he noticed that the CCJ has many activities. Therefore, he decided in favor of Mr. Pen Samitthy, the president of the Club of Cambodian Journalists, to be the representative of Cambodia [for Cambodian journalists] in ASEAN. He added that he will write to send Mr. Pen Samitthy’s name to ASEAN.

“Speaking to more than 100 members of the CCJ, Mr. Khieu Kanharith stated that it is the position of the Ministry of Information that the Ministry does not want journalists to be detained. He said that as a result, Cambodia has become a country in which press freedom ranked first in ASEAN. He continued that he even wants that the press freedom in Cambodia to be ranked first in Asia, and if possible, it would be best to be ranked first in the world.

“Mr. Pen Samitthy, the president of the Club of Cambodian Journalists and the editor of Rasmei Kampuchea, said, ‘On behalf of all journalists, I am delighted about any support by the government for the promotion of press freedom in Cambodia.’ He added, ‘Democracy will be in good progress if a country has complete press freedom, which enables journalism to play a role as an independent monitor of what happens in society.’

“Moreover, he also said that in the present globalized world, Cambodian journalists and journalism in general must also enter into wide cooperation in the region and in the world. In collaboration with the journalists in the region and in the world, Cambodian journalists and journalism in general can gain experience and catch up with the development situation in the whole world.

“Mr. Pen Samitthy is a member among 15 members of the Board of Directors of the CCJ, which has been elected by the members of the CCJ. After getting the support from the members of the CJJ, the Board of Directors decided unanimously to elect Mr. Pen Samitthy as president of the CCJ; the CCJ had ever increasing activities under his leadership for the last two terms. As for Mr. Prach Sim, the editor of Pracheaprey, he has been elected as secretary-general of the CCJ.” Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.15, #4374, 28.8.2007

Cambodia asks Germany to continue its aid

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen has called for Germany to continue its aid for new development projects and push for greater German involvement in commerce and investment, local media said on Tuesday.

The appeal was made during the Monday meeting at Cambodia's National Assembly between Hun Sen and Hellmut Konigshaus, a member of a German delegation which arrived in the kingdom on Aug. 20 for a one-week visit, reported Cambodian-language newspaper the Kampuchea Thmey.

Hun Sen said that German aid has successfully addressed the needs of both the Cambodian government and the people, and asked Germany to expand its commerce and investment sectors in Cambodia and to open bigger markets for Cambodian products.

Hellmut Konigshaus expressed admiration for the Cambodian government's efforts to bring rapid development to a nation which suffered three decades of civil war, adding that he hopes cooperation between Cambodia and Germany will continue to flourish.

Konigshaus also said that Cambodia has successfully implemented the projects supported by the German government in Siem Reap and Kompong Thom provinces.

Source: Xinhua

Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam develop joint tourism


Tourism officials from Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam met in Cambodia’s Sihanoukvile last week to engineer ways to boost the development of tourism in the three countries’ common coastal areas.

Cambodia’s Secretary of State for Tourism Thong Khon said after the meeting that participants have agreed upon measures to strengthen cooperation among the three countries in order to turn their common sea area into an attractive tourism destination.

The meeting was held on August 24 under the sponsorship of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) at the initiation of Cambodian authorities.

High on the agenda of the meeting were discussions on the training of human resources for sea tourism, linkage tours between tourism destinations in the three countries as well as the exchange of experiences and tour operation management in the tourism sector.

The second meeting of its kind is scheduled to take place in Thailand in 2008.

Monday, August 27, 2007

‘Turtle mania’ puts WWF Cambodia on the world media stage

Follow that turtle! Photos and footage of Cantor¹s giant soft-shell turtle and its release into the Mekong River in Cambodia¹s northeast were in big demand from media outlets across the globe.
© WWF Cambodia / You Porny
The Cantor¹s giant soft shell turtle is one of the world¹s largest species of freshwater turtle.
© WWF Cambodia / You Porny
26 Aug 2007
In May, the world’s media beat a path to WWF Cambodia’s door – to cover the story of a soft shelled turtle that spends 95% of its time under the sand and out of view.

The story started with the discovery, by a WWF-led survey team, of a female
Cantor’s giant soft shell turtle (Pelochelys cantorii), one of the world’s largest and least studied freshwater turtles, during a survey of the Mekong River in March 2007.

The stretch of the Mekong River where the turtle lives is an area that was closed for many years to scientific exploration because it was one of the last strongholds of the former Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia. The survey was the first detailed study of the area since security restrictions were relaxed in the late 1990s.

In a subsequent visit to the area, researchers also found a nesting ground for the species and brought eggs, an adult turtle, and additional hatchlings captured by fishermen back to Phnom Penh.

The combination of a live specimen, eggs, hatchlings, and the mystery of a pristine area of the Mekong River ‘re-discovered’ seemed too good a media opportunity to miss.

“All the ingredients were there for a good story, but getting it all together was going to be hard. We had a core team of media professionals from WWF International, WWF US, and Conservation International (CI) advising to coordinate and implement a media release out of WWF Cambodia’s office,” Chris Greenwood, WWF Cambodia’s Communication Advisor said.

Seth Mydans, a journalist with the New York Times was invited to join WWF and CI staff at the turtle release site, which led to a prominent article in both the New York Times and the International Herald Tribune.

The overall result was one of the most successful media engagements in WWF Cambodia’s history. Both Cambodian and international press covered the story in print, and footage of the turtle’s release and interview material which detailed the significance of the turtle was used by BBC, CNN, and numerous other media outlets. At last count, around 200 websites featured the story and interest from magazines and related media groups continued for about a month after the media release date.

For more information please contact:
Chris Greenwood, WWF Cambodia Communications Advisor
chris.greenwood@wwfgreatermekong.org

Thailand's Samart may sell Cambodia air traffic stake

NUNTAWUN POLKUAMDEE

Samart Corp is considering divesting its 100% stake in Cambodia Air Traffic Service (Cats), according to unnamed sources.

Cats, which has 22 years remaining on its 30-year concession from the Cambodian government to offer air traffic control services, could fetch a hefty price from foreign buyers, considering the economic and tourist potential of the country.

One source said foreign buyers have suggested a pricetag as high as $1 billion to buy the company.

But advisers to the Vilailuck family, the major shareholders of Samart, are advising that a share sale should only be for a 20% to 25% in Cats.

"The value of the company rests with the concession and monopoly rights. The protection period has a significant amount of time remaining, and the potential value is very high," one source said. "There have been a number of offers so far. But no firm buyer has yet been selected."

Sources said Samart's investments in Cambodia offer significant upside potential as the Cambodian economy continues to grow and open up to foreign investment. Economic growth over the past three years has averaged 11.4% and is projected to reach 9% this year, compared to just 4% for Thailand.

Cambodia's favourable location in Indochina also offers benefits to Cats for air traffic moving to Thailand, Hong Kong and Vietnam.

Watchai Vilailuck, the Samart president, said no decision had been made on the company's policies toward its Cats subsidiary. Samart wanted to expand its I-Mobile brand into the region, given the significantly higher margins offered to the company from sales when compared with handset sales for international brands like Nokia or Motorola.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Waiting For Affordable Internet in Cambodia

Honestly, I don’t bother writing this blog entry, if I don’t have internet connection directly to my laptop. As a Cambodian blogger, I believe that I am one of the lucky few those do not have to go to the internet cafe. One of my friends said that he would not bother go to internet research for his study, if he have to pay for hourly internet. Sadly, in Cambodia we have to pay hourly or per megabyte basis for internet, because, the unlimited bandwidth is not an affordable option. The long-wait for affordable internet connection has not delivered any significant result. As an internet user, I do not just accept the high price of internet connection, I spend my free time research, understanding the factors behind the cost of internet, and I also find the best option to reduce my internet connection expenses.

Internet has been in Cambodia for a decade, yet the price of internet connection is still high. Although the price has been coming down steadily, most Cambodian still cannot afford the internet connection. Today the average cost of unlimited 64kbps connection is US$ 200 per month, too much for a country where the GDP - per capita: purchasing power parity - $500(2006 EST.)
Isn’t it? Following are my understanding of what’s going on in Cambodia internet industry.

  • Highly Regulated Market: Despite entrance of new ISPs, Cambodia ISPs industry is remain highly regulated. For a company to offer internet connection services to customers, it has to obtain an ISP license through Ministry of Post and Telecommunications. There is no information on how many licenses have been issued, but, there are currently 11 ISPs in business. According to MPTC, 4-6, Oct 2006 “To answers the market needs, MPTC has issued licenses to some companies of using different wireless systems up on new technology development.”
  • Lack of Infrastructure: Cambodian has more mobile than land-line phone. Therefore, DSL is not the answers to the problem. Wireless is the only solution possible if a company plan to mass market the services. Most of ISPs are deploying own solution as with xDSL systems, wireless broadband system such as Wi-Fi, WiMax, and satellite broadband to provide internet access for their customers. Until now those wireless system are not reliable or successful for business case. (MPTC, 4-6, Oct 2006). Although total bandwidth in Cambodia has grown significantly, from 9.5mbps in 2001 to 160mbps in 2006, the international gateway is at its bottleneck (AFACT, 2006). Currently, there are only 2 existing fiber optic links to Phnom Penh, one from the country’s west border with Thailand, another links to Vietnam. There is also another link from Siem Reap to Thailand. Although, there is plan to put more fiber optic links, I don’t expect immediate result in lowering cost in the near future.
  • Competitiveness: Although there are many ISPs compete against each other, Camnet remain a dominant player in the market. Because most of ISPs do not operate their own international gateway. Thus, in the up stream market Camnet is the only dominant supplier in the market.

So many factors to keep the price of internet connections high, But the bottom line is Cambodian internet users have to pay those high price. Sadly, this will limit the resources that Cambodian students need to seek for knowledge, creativity, and sharing information. As I said above, I don’t bother blogging, if I have to go to internet cafe to post blog entries, and I am glad that there are many bloggers who spend their precious time and money in the internet cafe, to share information and knowledge. The long wait for affordable internet connections has not yet finish, so keep waiting… References: 1. MPTC Slide presentation at 13th Sub-regional Telecommunication Meeting for Cambodia, LAO P.D.R., Vietnam, and Myanmar. 4-6 October 2006, Yangon-Myanmar. 2. AFACT, 2006 “Cambodia Progress Report”, International Institute of Cambodia.

External Links:

Friday, August 24, 2007

Cambodian Defense Minister meets with both US and Chinese officials

China’s military build-up could threaten security: US

PHNOM PENH: The region’s top US military commander on Tuesday expressed concern over China’s rapid military build-up, just days after an unprecedented display of Beijing’s firepower during war games with Russia.

“China professes to be advocating a peaceful rise”, said Admiral Timothy J Keating, head of the US Pacific Command, during his first official trip to Cambodia, where he met with senior defence officials.

“Some of the systems they’re developing and some of the capabilities that they’re demonstrating would indicate to us that perhaps their intentions aren’t exactly beneficial to security throughout the pacific”, he said. “So we’re watching carefully,” he added after talks with Cambodian Defence Minister Tea Bahn. Cambodia has in recent years become a stronger focus for both Washington and Beijing. China, a former patron of the genocidal Khmer Rouge regime, continues to eclipse the impoverished country’s other donors with hundreds of millions of dollars in largely-unconditional aid.

Just moments before Keating’s arrival at Cambodia’s defence ministry, Chinese ambassador Zhang Jin Feng was seen leaving with a delegation of senior Chinese military officials.

Zhang divulged little about her talks, and Keating downplayed the ambassador’s appearance, and said that his visit to Cambodia this week was not to counter Beijing’s regional military influence.

“I don’t view my visit as offsetting anyone else’s. We’re anxious to have more transparency with China,” he said. “We are not competing against the People’s Republic of China militarily.” But after years in the diplomatic wilderness, Cambodia’s star has abruptly begun to rise with the United States.

US chief visit: The United States and China have begun to ease suspicion over their military intentions but uncertainties persist over Beijing’s long-term goals, a senior US military official said on Tuesday.

US Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Mike Mullen said after meetings with top Chinese commanders and a visit to a naval training base that he had developed a better grasp of Beijing’s military modernisation. “There’s a long way to go, but I’m reassured,” he told reporters during a visit to meet Chinese defence and foreign policy officials. “I’m very encouraged about their commitment to continuing to improve this relationship.”

“It really is that long-term-where-are-you-going question that is one we need to continue to just reach a better understanding of,” he said.

China says its growing military strength is a force for peace that does not threaten any other country. But across the region some worry that Beijing’s military plans could risk war over Taiwan, the self-ruled island that Beijing says is part of its territory, or destabilise East Asia.

Mullen said Taiwan came up in talks, but nothing new was said. The United States switched diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing in 1979, recognising “one China”, but is obliged by the Taiwan Relations Act to help the island defend itself in case of attack. Mullen said China’s navy appeared to be a mix of old and new and that he had noticed it had developed new ships and what he called “very capable submarines”. agencies

My comments: Further thoughts and information about this 'dance' can be found here at:

Cambodia, Security and American Oil Interests

US ready to provide Cambodia with anti-terror training

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) _ The top U.S. military commander in the Pacific says the U-S is ready to help train Cambodia's military to fight global terrorism.

Hawaii-based Admiral Timothy Keating says U.S. assistance could involve sharing information, training in surveillance techniques and tracking the flow of terrorist finances around the world.

The Hawaii-based admiral spoke in Phnom Penh after meeting withDefense Minister Tea Bahn during a two-day visit to Cambodia.

There have been fears that Cambodia could be used as a base by terrorists because of its relatively porous borders and poor law enforcement capability.

Keating says the U.S. is anxious to provide whatever help it can so Cambodian authorities may participate in exercises and learn lessons the United States has learned.

My comments to this news is "I told you so....."

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Cambodia to train 2,000 marines to protect Chevron's oil

Cambodia's government says it will triple the size of its navy to provide security for offshore oil sites.

The minister of defense , Tea Bahn, has confirmed the plan after parliamentarians called for better protection for foreign oil companies against terrorism.

The minister says the government intends to increase the number of sailors from 1,000 to 3,000, and train 2,000 marines.

In 2003, only four of Cambodia's 12 Soviet-built ships were operational.

In 2005 China gave six patrol boats to Cambodia to bolster its ageing fleet, but it is still unclear exactly how many ships the country has in the water.

Cambodia hopes to begin production as early as 2010 following the discovery of vast oil and gas reserves off its coast two years ago.

US energy giant, Chevron, which made the initial discovery, is expected to drill more test wells next year.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Largest pre-industrial settlement found at Angkor, Cambodia

A huge urban sprawl once surrounded Cambodia’s famous Angkor Wat temple, according to a newly created map. The scale of the settlement makes it more plausible that the inhabitants of Angkor brought on their own society's collapse through environmental degradation. The new map uses data from high-resolution, ground-sensing radar and aerial photographs to augment extensive fieldwork.

By detecting slight variations in vegetation and ground moisture due to underlying ruins, the radar reveals in unprecedented detail the location of temples - including 94 newly identified temple sites plus another 74 that have yet to be checked on the ground - ponds, roads and canals.

Researchers in the Greater Angkor Project at the University of Sydney in Australia, together with colleagues in Australia, Cambodia and France, used the techniques to survey the entire watershed of the Angkor region.

More, including a view of the map at New Scientist

Len's on Cambodia beauty


photo by Scott Smeltzer / Press-Telegram
Greg Mellen of the Long Beach Press Telegram in the United States brings us another of his regular updates from the Cambodian Long Beach community.
Photos of a changing land aim at a fresh view
Botumroath Keo Lebun wants to change the way the world sees Cambodia. And she's taking a rather literal approach toward her goal. While much of the world attention on Cambodia is focused on tourism at the suddenly crazily popular Angkor Wat temple complex and the resuscitated Khmer Rouge tribunals, Lebun wants to show a different picture of Cambodia.
So beginning today, a month-long photography exhibition of LeBun's images entitled "Rivers of Life" opens in Long beah. "I wasn't interested in the typical things," Lebun says. "I was more interested in documenting the beauty of the country. I wanted to show a beautiful place."
Lebun is a native Cambodian, but was born just before the Khmer Rouge rise to power. And while she has no real memories of the murderous reign of the regime, which left about 1.7 million dead in its wake, she was profoundly affected. Her father was killed when she was three months old. Lebun and her family were forced from their home in Kampot Province and shipped to Battambang Province near the Thai border. When the Vietnamese ousted the Khmer Rouge in 1979, Lebun and her family moved to a refugee camp and in 1981 to the Bronx inNew York City. "Another war zone," she says ruefully. Lebun refers to herself as a 1.5-generation Cambodian, influenced by the culture and traditions of her mother, but highly Americanized.
She graduated from Buffalo University with a degree in political science. It was on a trip to Cambodia in 1998 that she met noted Vietnam War photographer Philip Jones Griffiths and discovered a new interest. Since then, Lebun has honed her artistic skills, returned to Cambodia to work for a nongovernmental organization or NGO, received a master's degree from the Columbia School of Journalism and attended the School of International and Public Affairs.
During the trips to Cambodia, Lebun said she began to make connections through her images.
"They say food and learning are the way to understand your culture," Lebun says. "For me it was through (photography)." As a political scientist and journalist, Lebun understood one side of Cambodia: the geopolitics of the area, the evolving society and the influences that are changing the country. But through photography, she discovered something more elemental, something pure that is disappearing from the landscape. That's what she's trying to present in her exhibit - a lifestyle and a culture defined by the Tonle Sap and Mekong River. These are people and a culture that aren't seen in burgeoning Siem Reap, the gateway to Angkor Wat, or Phnom Penh, but are being subsumed by the changing culture. "With all the land grabbing going on, there is a beauty that will be gone," Lebun says. "I give it like 10 years." As a self-proclaimed 1.5-generation member, Lebun feels a responsibility to the Cambodian-American community.
Tonight, Lebun plans to auction some of her pieces with a portion of the proceeds going to the Cambodia Town Inc., helping to promote the newly designated stretch of Anaheim Avenue.
When not working at her full-time job as a program coordinator at USC, she is active as a volunteer in the Cambodia Culture and Arts Association, where she has been doing grant writing. She hopes later this year to begin a photojournalism book about the Cambodian Community in Long Beach. For the moment, however, Lebun's focus is on tonight's festivities, beginning at 6:30. She plans to have a Cambodian band, Cambodian finger food and, she hopes, a Cambodian celebrity or two. "It's going to be a hot night," Lebun says.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Saturday, 18.8.2007: Thais Plan to Invest More Than $500 Million in Construction of Electric Sky Train Lines in Phnom Penh

“Phnom Penh: A foreign newspaper said recently that the Bangkok Mass Transit System [BTS] from Thailand plans to build two electric sky train lines in Phnom Penh soon in order to add a transportation system, also guaranteeing safety and reducing the number of traffic accidents in Phnom Penh.

“Officials of the Cambodian Ministry of Public Works and Transport said regarding the construction of electric sky train lines in Phnom Penh, that the Thai company will build two lines costing more than US$500 million. One line is to go from the Cambodian-Japanese Friendship [Chroy Chongva] Bridge to the Preah Monivong Bridge, and another line is to go from Phsar Thom Thmei to the Stung Meanchey Bridge.

“The construction of the electric sky train lines in Phnom Penh will start from 2008 and finish in 2011, and then the train operation will start. In late 2006, experts from Phnom Penh, and experts from China conducted a study along the Russian Federation Boulevard at the Ambassador Junction [leading from this boulevard towards Tuol Kork] and the junction near Tuek Thla, in order to plan the construction of bridges across those junctions to facilitate the traffic and to reduce traffic jams there.

“Officials of the Cambodian Ministry of Public Works and Transport said that in Cambodia, the Royal Government has a project to reconstruct, repair, and develop the two railway lines in the country, that is one line from Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville, and another line is from Phnom Penh to Poipet at the Cambodian-Thai border area, to be linked to the railway in Thailand. The railway line from Sisophon to Poipet is to be repaired with a donation from Malaysia.

“The officials added that the reconstruction and development of the railway lines in Cambodia are, at this time, part of the development project of ASEAN railway lines, linking Singapore, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, and other countries in the region toward Kunming in China. As for the ASEAN railways which will link Cambodia to Vietnam, they will link the Cambodian railway on the north of Phnom Penh across Kompong Cham to the Cambodian-Vietnamese border, and this section has been studied by Chinese experts.

“In Phnom Penh, traffic jams can be reduced somehow at the main entrances to the city, after the construction of the electric sky train lines by the Thai company is completed and the train operation starts.” Kampuchea Thmey, Vol.6, #1421, 18.8.2007

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Cambodia begins its journey to democracy

By BOB BROWN A tragic echo of the Vietnam War was the genocide of Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge regime in neighboring Cambodia, four years immediately following the U.S. withdrawal from Vietnam, where an estimated 1.7 million people, or about 20 percent of the country's population, were killed. Cambodia's tragic history has made its journey toward democracy a long one.

On a recent trip to Cambodia, I was invited by a U.S. Agency for International Development-sponsored program to make the case for democracy in a country that has traveled a rough road to achieve it.

I spoke to approximately 50 members of Prime Minister Hun Sen's ruling Cambodian People's Party, as well as the top leadership of two smaller "royalist" parties, both with ties to the family of Cambodia's aging "King Father," Norodom Sihanouk.

King Sihanouk was a personal friend of Vietnam-era Sen. Mike Mansfield. I know from personal experience that the Mansfield name is still magic in much of Asia, and although I was unable to present them to him directly, the king thankfully accepted gifts I brought for him from the Mansfield Library at the University of Montana.

He responded to me in writing, characterizing Mansfield as "a very great statesman I greatly admire, and a great and true friend to our country and our people (who) with his usual humility and patience worked hard to stop the war in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia."

Democracy and peaceful change

I took Sen. Mansfield's efforts in the region 35 years ago as inspiration while preparing for my democracy lectures. With co-presenter John Willis of the International Republican Institute, I gave the Cambodian political party leaders an overview of the democratic options open to them, particularly after a long history of authoritarian rule.

I reminded the party leaders that change is ongoing and constant. I told them that democracy is the only system of government that makes peaceful change possible. I told them that if peaceful change is impossible then violent change becomes inevitable.

I pointed out that the instability caused when governments are violently and unpredictably overthrown makes planning for a positive future impossible. Countries that are democracies are good places to live, I explained, because the stability made possible by peaceful change creates the environment for economic growth and a higher standard of living.

I emphasized that a free and independent press and open and honest elections are as essential to making democracy work as democracy is to stability. And I concluded that an independent judiciary is necessary to the protection of human rights, which are fundamental to citizen participation within the democracy.

Taking steps toward openness

I doubt that Cambodia will become a textbook example of a stable democracy any time very soon, but I think we succeeded in planting a seed that may in time grow. The Cambodian political parties, including the CPP, are taking steps toward allowing more openness and decentralization of decision-making within their organizations.

Cambodian civilization extends much further back in time than ours. They have been governed by monarchs, French colonialists and communists. They have no tradition of government by the consent of the governed. Democracy will come to them, in a way that fits them. Democratization of political parties is not "Western-style" democratic government characterized by competition between open and free political parties, but it is certainly a step in the right direction.

In the continuum of history, the participation and stability that "party democracy" might enable is dramatic progress from the "Killing Fields" of Pol Pot just three decades ago. I hope to have had a small part in Cambodia's journey toward democracy.

Bob Brown, is a senior fellow at the Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Missoula. He formerly served as a Montana legislator and secretary of state.

Copyright © The Billings Gazette, a division of Lee Enterprises.

(Sports) South Korea Company finances Cambodia to build Taekwondo training center

A South Korean company has donated 300,000 U.S. dollars for Cambodia to build the Taekwondo Training Center, local media reported on Friday.

The center will become a bridge of friendship and cooperation between Cambodia and South Korea, Cambodian-language newspaper the Kampuchea Thmey quoted Lee Joong Keun, president of Boo Young Company as saying.

Bun Sok, Secretary of State of Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports, said that both sides signed the memorandum of understanding on Aug. 15 and the center will be built inside the Olympics Stadium in Phnom Penh.

"My ministry considers this sport field influential for Cambodia, because our Taekwondo players used to receive golden medals on the international stage," he said.

Earlier in April, the South Korean company had donated 100,000 U.S. dollars to help train Cambodian Taekwondo players and purchase equipment for them.

Source: Xinhua

Cambodia bans pig, pork imports

17 Aug 2007
Cambodia on Thursday banned the import of live pigs and pork products, citing fears that outbreaks of pork-borne diseases in other countries could devastate farms in the country.

The move came as China battles a recent outbreak of blue ear disease that led to a mass cull of pigs.

In neighbouring Vietnam, 26 people have been admitted to a Hanoi hospital with a bacterial infection from diseased pigs, leading to two confirmed human deaths.

Twenty others were treated this year in southern Vietnam for the same illness.

Smuggling
Thursday's ban is also aimed at cutting down on pork products smuggled into the country, mostly from Vietnam.

Contraband pork raises "the possibility of infection among pigs in Cambodia and could block the development of family farms," said the public directive, which was ordered by Prime Minister Hun Sen.

Most small family farms in rural Cambodia have at least one pig, and pork is a key source of food, as well as an important commodity for often impoverished farmers.

The order does allow piglets to be imported for breeding or research purposes, as long as they receive approval from the agriculture ministry.

Journey to Cambodia

Many teenagers spend their summer vacations going to movies or the beach, but Hudson’s Rachel Belanger spent her school vacation in a different way than most teens.

Belanger, 16, spent the month of July in Cambodia with an organization called the East-West Center and 20 other students from across the country for a four-week program called "Partnership for Youth: Reporting for Change," in order to create a documentary about various aspects of Cambodian life.

"I never learned about Cambodia’s history or the Khmer Rouge in school, so I was surprised to find out that between 1975 and 1979, about 1-in-4 Cambodians died from execution, starvation, or disease, or that about half a million Cambodians died in the early seventies when the United States illegally bombed Cambodia during the Vietnam War," she said.

Belanger’s journey began with a three-day orientation in Hawaii, before moving on to the city of Siem Reap for six days, then six days of homestays in the Kandal province of Cambodia, before ending the trip with a nine-day stay in Phnom Phen, the capital of Cambodia.

While in Cambodia, Belanger experienced many layers of Cambodian society by studying the social, political, educational and economic issues the country has faced by speaking with families in various villages, spending time with teenagers and university students, and by living with a host family for six days.

Belanger’s host family was a family of rice farmers which included a 47-year-old widow and her three children in their 20’s. She remarked that although there was no running water, phone line or mail service, the children all had cell phones and used e-mail at Internet cafes in Phnom Phen and lived simple and happy lives.

Her group will be creating a 15-20 minute documentary about the educational opportunities Cambodian children have, and the need for both academic and vocational training in the country and enter the documentary in a film festival in Missouri.

"We’re aiming to have the documentary completed by the November submission date for a film festival in Colombia, MO where two of my group members are from," she said. "We’ve also discussed a book drive in our own communities to send books to some of the schools we visited or even fundraising so some of our Cambodian friends can come to our schools for a year."

In addition to completing the documentary, Belanger and her group will give presentations at their schools about their trip, write op-ed pieces about Cambodia and participate in other follow-up activities such as radio segments or photo exhibits.
Last summer Belanger went to the tsunami affected regions of Thailand with the same organization for a program called "Partnership for Youth: Building Disaster-Resilient Communities."

Belanger, who is entering her second year at Simon’s Rock College in Great Barrington, MA, a liberal arts school for students who have completed tenth and eleventh grade, feels one of the major lessons she learned was although many Cambodians live in poverty, they are still able to live happy and productive lives.

"We met many people who lived in poverty, and many of us were quick to think about how lucky we were to live in the United States," Belanger said. "I realized this only confirmed our cultural obsession with material goods and our assumption that everyone is after the American dream. I realized I shouldn’t take pity on a family that finds happiness and has hope for the future despite all the challenges they face."
http://www.townonline.com/hudson/homepage/x875774415

Friday, August 17, 2007

Life in Phnom Penh, Cambodia

2007-08-16 Life in Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Our friends at Burly.We have had a pleasant chance to meet our friends in Cambodia this year. First Bill and Betty came over from the US on their six month tour around China and South-East Asia. Together we explored Phnom Penh and Angkor, and made a virtual tour to the famous temples. Bill & Betty travel a lot spending around half a year abroad. We met in Buenos Aires, Argentina, where we both used to live. You can read about Bill's and Betty's travels at Bill's blog.

After the first of May came Helena who took care of Santeri when he was a baby. Helena is living in Kuala Lumpur where we celebrated last Christmas with her family. Helena used to live in China for some years, and according to her Phnom Penh is very much alike. She had been travelling in the neighbouring countries but this was her first visit to Cambodia.

Our latest guest was Arto who bicycled from Finland to South-East Asia. Arto's trip begun one year ago, in June 2006. He first explored Europe (Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Russia, Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Moldova, Bulgaria, Turkey), and then took a flight to India. The whole bicycle trip (including Thailand and Cambodia) amounts to over 9.000 kilometres. You can read more about these travels at Arto's blog.

Cambodia as a long-stay destination

South-East Asia is a very popular tourist destination which may partly explain the astonishing amount of friends we have met here. When we were living in South America, nobody came to see us. From Europe the more natural direction seems to be the east. Of course Thailand still draws most of the tourists in the region, but the situation is rapidly changing. Vietnam seems to have grown more popular, and also Cambodia had 20% more visitors during the first quarter of the year (Source: News Asia). Thailand's volatile situation is an obvious reason for the development, another is Cambodia's flexible visa system. There are no visa-runs unlike in Thailand. Besides, Cambodia is exotic. It is more traditional and genuine as it hasn't become westernised like the neighbouring countries. You can't for example find a McDonald's here which we find especially charming. Instead, you can enjoy some very happy, or even ecstatic pizza with strange herbs, if you like.

A chinese restaurant at the end of the universe.

Cambodia is advertising itself as a bit unsafe and adventurous destination. Land mines and violent past of Khmer Rouge is attracting those who want to prove that they dare. Hotels have signs prohibiting explosives and guns in their premises, and roadside advertisements ask farmers to give away their Kalashnikovs. However, we have found the country secure and relaxed. People are friendly and humble, excluding the foreign NGO trash with their big SUV's trying to hit pedestrians. Money makes people arrogant, and Cambodia is not an exception.

Two persons can live in Cambodia with less than 300 € a month. That includes hotel accommodation in a new hotel, two restaurant meals a day, snacks and monthly visa costs. Check out the price comparison between Finland and Cambodia below and see for yourself.

Finland versus Cambodia (Aug 2007 €/us$=1.38)

TitleFinland €Cambodia €
Baguette / piece1,290,43
Basic cheese /kg6,25,94
Yoghurt /can0,240,33
Water melon /kg1,190,33
Apples /kg1,901,23
Chicken /kg2,701,95
Chicken in marinade /kg6,353,00
Instant coffee /kg4213,41
Renting DVD2,000,18
Hotel room /night764,35
Whisky / 0.7 L15,901,09
Lunch in a restaurant /pp81,09
Massage / 1 hour /pp17-453,62

As a country, Cambodia is very much like Thailand but without dictators, king worshipping cults, visa-runs and western fast-food chains. There are a few things you might want to know when living in Phnom Penh. Obtaining extension for Cambodian business visa is easy, but the system is corrupted. That was one of the few things that made us feel uncomfortable. Travel brochures, local magazines, and guides advertised that the official way exists, but it is very slow and complicated. We tried the legal way and ended up discovering that the legal way was just a smokescreen. Offial price for a one-year visa is US 180$ and the so called express visa costs US 243-280$, depending on where you buy it. Non-immigration office, where we applied for the official visa, was insisting that we have to show them a resident certificate. We discovered that such certificate does not exist any more. The only way to get that piece of paper would be to pay for the tourist police US $50 for writing it. In the end, it was cheaper to buy the express visa which does not require any paperwork and is ready in one day. We tried to find out if anyone had actually got an official visa extension and asked around from the police, travel agencies, local expat newspaper and other foreigners we met here, but found nobody. We wrote a newspaper article about the corruption, took some photos, and made interviews. If you are interested in running the story, please let us know.

Arto bicycling.
Arto came to see us by bicycle.
Santeri´s little friends.

Santeri and his friends.

There are also some smaller issues worth to take into account on a long stay. Some shops, especially bigger supermarkets like Thai Huot, Lucky Market and BIG A -supermarket usually short-change. We are not sure if this happens only to tourists or not, but they usually give 100 riels short. If you ask for the missing money, the manager comes to you and you get the note without any questions asked. This implies that it is a company policy instead of being a little private business of the cashier. Keep a calculator in your pocket to check the change. Having a two currency system (US dollars and riels) at the same time complicates things a little bit.

Helena came to see us from Malaysia.You might also want to check the best before dates of products if there is such information available. For example Lucky Market was happily selling expired condoms and they continued selling them after our complaints. They could not see anything bad in possibly infecting people with HIV by selling outdated condoms that might break in use. It was also sad to witness how western countries spread revengefulness to Cambodians by demanding for the Khmer Rouge tribunals.

The rest of the annoyances are similar to most undeveloped countries. There is no public transportation which we solved by walking. The quality of service varies a lot, even with the same service providers. The idea of clean and cleaning is pretty far away from western standards. Our solution was so stick with a small amount of service providers and try to make them understand our expectations. This worked out pretty well. Lack of hygiene, however, was something we could not find a fix for. We talked about writing a booklet about washing hands and not touching other people's food etc., but did not do it in the end. Cambodians love to touch everything with dirty hands, especially things they are not buying or things that someone else is buying. If they drop something to the floor, they pick it up and pack it for you like nothing happened. Insisting changing the product helps, but you have to do it by yourself. Taking these little annoyances in account, we can highly recommend Phnom Penh for a relatively hassle-free long-stay.

Related photos.

Vietnam, Cambodia look to build on the future

Vietnam, Cambodia have agreed to work more closely in the field of construction.

A memorandum of understanding was signed in Phnom Penh on August 14 by Vietnamese Minister of Construction Nguyen Hong Quan and Senior Cambodian Minister of Land Management, Urbanisation and Construction Im Chun Lim.

Cooperation will include exchanges of visits and the sharing of experiences in civil engineering management, urban planning and construction.

The Vietnamese Construction Ministry also committed to organise training courses for Cambodian construction students and land and construction management officials in either Vietnam or Cambodia.

The Cambodian minister said his country is growing fast and there will be a surging demand for new buildings and urban areas. He hoped that Cambodia’s construction cooperation with Vietnam will bring benefits to both countries.

The same day, Minister Nguyen Hong Quan paid a courtesy visit to Prime Minister Hun Sen and Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Office of Council of Ministers Sok An.

Minister Quan’s August 13-18 Cambodia visit’s agenda includes working sessions and field trips to Prey Veng, Phnom Penh, Sihanoukville, Siem Reap and Kampot.

From: http://ki-media.blogspot.com/2007/08/vietnam-to-help-cambodia-build-future.html

Vietnam's Viettel sets sights on Laos, Cambodia


09:14' 17/08/2007 (GMT+7)


VietNamNet Bridge - Viettel, the military-owned mobile service provider, said last week that it had completed negotiations to become a founding share-holder in two Cambodia-based companies.

Viettel will invest US $1.2 million, equivalent to a 8% stake, into the Vietnam-Cambodia Joint Stock Bank. The bank’s primary aim is to provide financial services to Vietnamese companies operating in Cambodia.

Viettel will also invest VND 120 billion (US $7.5 million), representing 5% of charter capital, into EVN-Cambodia JSC, which will construct hydroelectric plants on the Mekong river.

Viettel’s staff will invest VND 48 billion into EVN-Cambodia.

According to Nguyen Duc Quang, deputy head of foreign investment at Viettel, the mobile service provider is the first Vietnamese telecom company to invest directly abroad.

Viettel is also finishing negotiations with Laos Asia to set up a joint stock company to supply telecom services in Laos.

“We would contribute 49% of the company’s charter capital,” Quang said.

Last year, Viettel set up Viettel Cambodia, a wholly owned subsidiary and the company’s first foreign venture.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Same ol' Cambodia

By BRAD BARNES --

People in Southeast Asia have a pidgin English saying that tourists have clung to.

Same same, but different.

It's practically a national slogan in Cambodia, where I've just come from. It's on billboards. It's screen printed on T-shirts and every product imaginable in street markets, where you can buy barbecued tarantulas, fresh produce, or a pirated copy of the new "Simpsons" movie for $3. One guest house one-upped the slogan, claiming "Same same, but better ."

Which reminds me, I found myself looking a lot at girls' legs while spending two weeks in the country.

See, my wife and I were trying to figure out if it was OK for her to wear short pants around in a land that still holds extremely conservative values with regard to women.

It's a country where public displays of affection are frowned upon. Men and women aren't supposed to openly even give each other a peck on the cheek. We saw an entire family of five riding together on a 125-cc motorbike -- seriously, everyone drives motorbikes in Cambodia -- and the two women were riding side-saddle, which is considered more tasteful.

Things are changing there. Young girls are starting to wear shorts, and I even saw a couple holding hands on the streets of Phnom Penh. But these people belong to a new generation, and the folks we were interacting with probably didn't like them any more than they like Americans tromping all over their ancient temples.

We were definitely going to walk the temples, but my wife decided, for the most part, to forgo the shorts.

We spent a few days in the country's beach town of Sihanoukville, where the usually emerald waters of the Gulf of Thailand were a silty blue-gray from the heavy rains of the wet season.

For the better part of three days, my traveling friends and I would sit in a beachfront bar, eating a dish called fish amok and drinking Mekong buckets of Red Bull, Coca-Cola and what probably passes for whiskey. Then we would plunge into the crashing sea.

The water was particularly rough one afternoon, with the waves crashing onto Occheuteal Beach irregularly, but frequently, from two directions. You could duck under one wave and come up just in time to get plastered by another.

It was great fun.

My friend Phil and I were bodysurfing. My legs ached from trying to fight the strong current pulling me sideways. I was out of breath from diving under and over waves in order to get deep enough for a good ride.

I caught a good wave and coasted in to knee-deep water only to find that two others had ventured into the water with us.

One was a naked Cambodian boy who looked about 6 but was probably 10. The other was a grown Cambodian woman, who was wearing a full dress.

All of us were taking ragged, open-mouthed breaths and waiting for the next onslaught from the gulf.

This was carpe diem moment for all of us. Our differences had been washed away. Our skin color didn't matter. Our skin covering didn't matter.

We were different. But we were same same.

Contact Brad "Jetlagged" Barnes at 706-571-8524 or bbarnes@ledger-enquirer.com

Cambodia Ups Navy Patrols to Protect Oil

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — Cambodia is boosting its navy to help protect newly discovered offshore oil fields that could prove lucrative for the impoverished country, officials said Friday.

As part of the plan, the government recently transferred a brigade of soldiers from the army to the navy, said Yim Sovann, an opposition party lawmaker who heads a parliamentary committee on defense and the interior.

The transferred soldiers are now undergoing training in naval skills, he said.

The move "responds to the routine need to protect maritime borders and, more especially, the offshore oil fields being explored in Cambodia," said Yim Sovann, a lawmaker from the Sam Rainsy Party.

"What we are doing is simply to safeguard environment at sea and maritime borders, prevent terrorist acts and provide security to companies," he said. "We are not going to put up any menacing presence to anyone."

He declined to elaborate on the size of the navy or the hardware involved in the expansion plan, citing military confidentiality.

Defense Minister Tea Banh also said that naval expansion is under way but declined to give any details.

"It is our duty to provide safety for companies doing business in our country," he said.

"You do not wait until problems have already occurred to go out and provide defense," he said. "That is not called defense. It has to be thought out in advance."

In recent years, offshore oil has become a hot topic of debate in Cambodia following the discovery of oil in the country's southwestern seabed by U.S. energy giant Chevron Corp. in 2005.

Although it remains unclear whether the find will be commercially viable, the discovery has prompted hope of a boost to economic growth. It has also brought fears that, if not properly managed, the discovery could further worsen widespread corruption in Cambodia.

A national defense policy paper in 2006 set maritime security as one of the country's strategic priorities.

It said Cambodia's sea border is vulnerable to security threats, including terrorism and transnational crime.

Despite a shortage of resources, it said, the navy is the government's lead agency for offshore operations to protect maritime assets, including "organic and inorganic natural resources of the continental shelf, under the sea and on the sea surface, and other activities leading to exploration and business."

Agricultural disaster looms in flood-affected Cambodia

Phnom Penh, Aug. 15 (Xinhua): More than 19,000 hectares of rice paddies in the north-east of Cambodia have been submerged under flood waters for over a week, threatening food-security and livelihoods there, local media said on Tuesday.

An estimated 15,000 hectares of paddy fields in Kompong Thom have been inundated, with 60 percent possibly ruined, while about 3,000 hectares in Preah Vihear have been flooded with 80 percent of fields affected, Nhim Vanda, first vice president of the National Committee for Disaster Management, was quoted by Cambodian-language newspaper the Kampuchea Thmey as saying.

In Ratanakiri province 1,660 hectares have been flooded with about 80 percent of fields possibly destroyed, said Nhim Vanda, who has been dispatched into the field to monitor the flood situation in each province.

The flooding, which began earlier this month, has also forced the evacuation of 19,000 people from their homes, though approximately 80 percent have now returned, said the paper.

Two adults in Preah Vihear drowned along with nearly 100 buffalos tied in stables, and around four kilometers of national roads in the province and seven kilometers of provincial tracks have also been destroyed, it added.

Four districts in Kompong Thom adjacent to Preah Vihear have suffered from the floods, which originated in the latter province, said Nhim Vanda, adding that about 70 rescue boats have been sent to the region.

Agriculture is Cambodia's third largest pillar industry.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Cambodia, Vietnam start installing border markers

Cambodia and Vietnam on Wednesday kicked off their joint operation to install markers to precisely define their 1,270 km-long land border.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen and his Vietnamese counterpart Nguyen Tan Dung witnessed the first plantation of the border markers at the Bavet-Mocbai international border crossing.

Hun Sen said it was a historical work which would benefit the younger generation of both countries.

The installation of permanent and clear markers met the long demand of both peoples to solve the border issue and would turn a new page of history full of hope, he added.

Nguyen Tan Dung said that "we consider it a historical event as it is a victory for both peoples."

With the border clarified, both countries' economy would surely get improved, he added.

Wednesday's inauguration was arranged under the bilateral border agreement signed by both sides in 1985 and the amendments to it signed on Oct. 10, 2005.

Cambodia and Vietnam plan to install 353 border markers and the work is expected to be finished in 2008.

The border dispute between Cambodia and Vietnam can be traced back to the 19th century when France colonized the two countries and the traditional demarcation was changed. Later after 1979, the border lines were also re-drawn without common knowledge and approval of both peoples.

Source: Xinhua

Angkor's Ancient Enormity Uncovered

August 13, 2007—The largest religious complex in the world, Cambodia's Angkor Wat (pictured) is the jewel in the vast Angkor archaeological site.

The lost city was an ancient wonder of urban sprawl, according to a new survey that uncovered 74 temples and more than a thousand artificial ponds in Angkor's "suburbs."

The Khmer Empire's King Suryavarman II built Angkor Wat between A.D. 1113 and 1150 to honor the Hindu god Vishnu. Carved from soft sandstone, the temple complex's statues crumbled and toppled in the wake of Angkor's decline. Still guarded by a 4-mile (6.4-kilometer) moat, the restored Angkor Wat today fuels a booming tourist trade at the modern town of Siem Reap.

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2007/08/photogalleries/Angkor-pictures/

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Cambodia: Angkor was a city ahead of its time

The technology for harvesting water that enabled the Khmer to thrive also led to their fall, researchers say.
By Thomas H. Maugh II, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
August 14, 2007
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The ancient Khmer city of Angkor in Cambodia was the largest preindustrial metropolis in the world, with a population near 1 million and an urban sprawl that stretched over an area similar to modern-day Los Angeles, researchers reported Monday.

The city's spread over an area of more than 115 square miles was made possible by a sophisticated technology for managing and harvesting water for use during the dry season -- including diverting a major river through the heart of the city.

But that reliance on water led to the city's collapse in the 1500s as overpopulation and deforestation filled the canals with sediment, overwhelming the city's ability to maintain the system, according to the report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The hydraulic system became "not manageable, no matter how many resources were thrown at it," said archeologist Damian Evans of the University of Sydney in Australia, the lead author of the paper.

But during the six centuries that the city thrived, it was unparalleled, particularly because it was one of the very few civilizations that sprang up in a tropical setting, said archeologist Vernon L. Scarborough of the University of Cincinnati, who was not involved in the research.

Just one section of the city, called West Baray, was many times "larger than the entire 9-square-kilometer hillock on which sat Tikal, the largest city in Central America," he said.

"The scale is truly unparalleled," added archeologist William A. Saturno of Boston University, who also was not involved.

"Forest environments are not good ones for civilizations . . . because they require intensively manipulating the environment," he said. "Angkor is the epitome of this, and it is going to be the model for how tropical civilizations are interpreted."

Old and new technologies

http://www.latimes.com/news/science/la-sci-angkor14aug14,0,7025071.story?coll=la-home-cente


Ancient urban sprawl surrounded Cambodia's Angkor

Mon Aug 13, 2007 6:05PM EDT

By Tan Ee Lyn

HONG KONG (Reuters) - Archaeologists have published a new map showing an extensive ancient settlement surrounding Cambodia's Angkor Wat that supported large numbers of inhabitants before and after the famous temple was built.

Now obscured by vegetation and low-lying clouds, the ruins spread over 1,000 sq km and were made up of thousands of houses, roads, manmade ponds and canals, researchers from Australia, Cambodia and France said in the latest issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

http://www.reuters.com/article/scienceNews/idUSHKG13858420070813

Bicycling through Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand and Laos.

Biker in Paradise

Published on August 12, 2007

Michael Deveney takes his readers on an amiable ramble by bicycle through Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand and Laos.

A middle-aged Brit expat with wife and kids and job in Ho Chi Minh City, he took up cycling to gain a modicum of fitness.

"I do what I can to make sure the tones are not quite jelly and are a bit firmer than blancmange," he writes. "I am aiming for a midriff that's not so much a six-pack but more a bag of shopping. From nice shops."

"Lollipop Fury" is the name of his book and he'll explain why. The author adopts a breezy, jokey, conversational tone throughout which can be greatly entertaining but also irritating as he rambles off on maddeningly irrelevant tangents.

But the main trunk of his story is fascinating: four glorious bike trips from Ho Chi Minh City to Pattaya, from Luang Prabang to Vientiane, from Ubon Ratchathani to the Bolaven Plateau in Laos, and from Mae Hong Son to Chiang Rai.

On his first trip he leaves home at six in the morning and reaches the Cambodian border in three hours.

"Miracle rice, miracle irrigation, work, work, work - Vietnam is a verdant and vibrant advert for the earth's fecundity. Doing! You cross the border and the green turns to brown. Mile upon mile in every direction, tough, unforgiving villages. No rain for ages, no crops in sight, not a plant, not a worker; the contrast couldn't be greater. This is Svey Rieng Province in Cambodia, one of Cambodia's poorest at the best of times and now as raggedy-ass as could be."

On the beach in Sihanoukville, he checks into a hostel where Rule No 1 posted on his door reads: "No condoms, no sex". And behind the reception desk are "a dwarf, a transvestite and a man in a black vest with a body-builder's physique. How did I miss this?"

On he pushes to Pattaya where he devotes 20 pages to the mores of bargirls. Nothing new here but he does show a keen understanding of their dear mercantile hearts.

He comes into his own in Laos where he's overwhelmed by sheer joy as he cycles alone through the mountains outside Luang Prabang.

"One thing I notice is that I am listening to the sound of silence, something that I have not heard for a long time - a tautology but you know what I mean. After living in Ho Chi Minh City for a while this is like brain medicine. Let's call it aural therapy. Happy ears, happy thoughts. It's more like a kind of gestalt therapy commissioned by the music of the void. Wow, who said that? Kerouac? Teilhard de Chardin? Me?

"This is a beautiful stretch of road, the limestone peaks soaring ahead of me - it's a bluetooth landscape. The descent, when it comes, is an adrenaline rush so I let go of the brakes to see what it's like but when I pass 60kph I rein things in … This is almost perfect cycling: warm sunshine, the fields being cultivated, the air smells alpine fresh and it looks like Grindelwald or somewhere. You wouldn't be surprised to see this vista as the subject of a 1000-piece jigsaw."

He is equally exhilarated on trips along the mountainous Burmese border in northern Thailand, and in the Bolavan Plateau in southern Laos. And in his intimate, chatty style, he brings the reader along with him.

"It is green up here on the plateau with lots of trees and bushes … Everyone has got coffee beans drying in front of their houses which are sturdy and made of a kind of clapperboard. A steady income lifts the life-chances up a notch or two and you can see it in the dress, the gardens and things lying around in them - like satellite dishes instead of antennae. Gardens even have hedges and ponds; the houses look like homes. The cool air smells like an English country lane in spring …

"Everyone on the plateau shouts hello and beams a huge smile, even the adults - these are the best farang wavers yet, they positively rush to the road when they see me, as a family; 'Come on Grandpa, look lively - all together now, helloooo!'

"It's as if the plateau is a Conan Doyle lost world where innocence has survived intact. Their happiness is so infectious it has left me in a carefree mood. 'Helloooo!' I yodel back."

Where Deveney loses the reader, or at least this one, are his boring asides about his favourite books, movies, TV shows, football games and family jokes. We really don't want to hear it. You feel the urge to thump him and say, "Get back to the story!"

But this is a minor irritant. When he's on track, Deveney tells his stories well and I can't wait to hear more of them.

James Eckardt's eighth book, "Singapore Girl", published by Monsoon Books, is on sale at Kinokuniya, Bookazine and Asia Books.