Friday, September 28, 2007

Cambodia seeks help from Brunei on oil

By Azlan Othman

Mr Nan Sy, Cambodian Ambassador (R) and Mr Pham Binh Man (L), Vietnam Ambassador. - AZLAN OTHMAN
Vietnam and Cambodia could cooperate with Brunei on technical expertise on oil and gas exploration, said the newly-appointed Vietnamese Ambassador to the country, Mr Pham Binh Man, and Mr Nan Sy, Cambodian Ambassador to the country, after their meeting at the Cambodian Ambassador's Residence in Jln Bengkurong yesterday.

After they met to enhance the two diplomats' cooperation, Mr Pham told Bulletin that during the recent visit by Vietnam's Prime Minister to Brunei last month, three MoUs were signed on the avoidance of double taxation, petroleum and sports cooperation.

The newly-appointed Vietnamese Ambassador said as Vietnam is developing, the country can learn from Brunei's expertise in oil and gas exploration. "We have to put into practice the action on the recent MoU signing on petroleum cooperation," he added.

Meanwhile, Mr Nan Sy said Brunei's technical expertise in oil and gas would be valuable in assisting Cambodia. He also proposed to the Brunei government the possibility of direct flights between the two countries to further enhance trade and tourism.

"Brunei could be a hub for visitors from Sarawak who wish to go to Siem Reap or Phnom Penh in Cambodia which is also popular for its Angkor Wat," he added.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Major Drug Discoveries Found in Cambodia




25 September 2007

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The recent discovery of two huge methamphetamine laboratories in Cambodia has led to fears that the country is becoming a major regional center of illegal drug production and consumption. Authorities say that tougher anti-drug programs in neighboring countries have led some major drug producers to shift production to Cambodia. Rory Byrne reports for VOA from Phnom Penh.

Meth lab discovered
This methamphetamine lab is the largest discovered in Cambodia
This meth lab recently discovered in Phnom Penh's Dangkor District is the largest ever discovered in Cambodia. Police at the scene confiscated laboratory machinery, $100,000 in counterfeit notes, guns and huge quantities of methamphetamines.

Police say the lab was used to manufacture and test new generations of increasingly potent illegal drugs.

Another so-called super-lab recently discovered in Kompong Speu province, west of Phnom Penh, was used to make the raw materials needed to produce methamphetamines.

Police say they discovered almost four tons of drug-producing chemicals, enough to make hundreds of thousands of pills.

Lars Pederson
Lars Pederson
Lars Pedersen is the head of the United Nations Office on Crime and Drugs in Cambodia. "This puts Cambodia in a higher league in terms of the drug problem. It's now clear that we have drug production taking place in Cambodia. The main drug, which is abused in the country -- and that goes through the country -- is metamphetamines."

The U.N. says 60 percent of the world's 25 million methamphetamine users are living in Asia. Eighty percent of those are under 26 years of age.

In the past, drug enforcement officials say traffickers used Cambodia solely as a transit point. Most drugs came down the Mekong River from Burma and Laos into Cambodia en route to Thailand and Vietnam. Some got shipped further to Australia, the U.S. and Europe.

Pedersen says that the recent discoveries of production facilities in Cambodia reflect a growing drug problem in the region. "It's part of a worsening trend in general in the region," he says. "But trafficking in Cambodia is also influenced -- trafficking and production for that matter -- is also influenced by the crackdowns in Thailand, by a tougher policy in Thailand and in China for that matter, also. So it's a matter for traffickers, producers, to find alternatives and this country is a very attractive alternative."

Robert Bruce
Robert Bruce
Robert Bruce is with GSM Consultancy and works with governments in the region to safely dispose of illegal drugs. He says that the Cambodian government and other partners deserve credit for acting quickly to try to contain the methamphetamine problem. "It's really unfortunate that Cambodia is being used as a production center but at the same time I think it's very good that the government is stepping in early, supported by donors and supported by other governments to take actions before it becomes more widespread."

Pedersen says methamphetamines made in Cambodia pose a threat to all countries. "We should not forget that it affects all of the rest of the world because drug production in the magnitude that we see here is not only intended for the Cambodian market, it is intended for the world market."

U.N. officials say that greater cooperation between law enforcement and government officials in the region is needed if the threat from illegal amphetamines is to be contained.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Economic Brief: Oil and Gas Dynamics in the Gulf of Thailand'

''Economic Brief: Oil and Gas Dynamics in the Gulf of Thailand''

recent report from the International Monetary Fund (I.M.F.) has stated that in a moderate scenario oil revenue income for Cambodia would start at US$174 million by 2011 and peak at $1.7 billion per year by 2021. These predictions are based on the current project led by Chevron off the coast of southern Cambodia that looks set to begin production in 2008. The project holds an estimated reserve of 700 million barrels of oil in a technologically challenging arrangement. The I.M.F. predictions do not include the potentially larger basin that is currently in a disputed Overlapping Claims Area (O.C.A.) on the maritime border between Thailand and Cambodia. The Cambodian Ministry of National Defense has recently announced plans for a tripling in the size of the navy in order to provide security for the oil production facilities. According to Cambodian Minister of Defense Tea Banh, the recent expansion plans cite anti-terrorism and anti-piracy as the underlying justification for the expansion.

The implications for Cambodia are significant. The economic benefits of the resource revenue generated by the oil projects have the potential to make considerable improvements to Cambodian society. However, factors are already in place which suggest that the impact may not be positive. The income based on resource rents would in effect double the country's G.D.P. in the initial stages of the project. If this massive input is managed poorly, it could lead to severe inflation and have a considerable impact on the garment sector that currently makes up 80 percent of Cambodia's export economy.

Significant governance issues, chronic rates of corruption, a significant population bubble of young adult males, a reported high rate of availability of small arms due to 30 years of internal conflict, weak economic institutions, a recent history of civil war and a predilection toward political violence suggest that Cambodia has a strong possibility to face other and more considerable obstacles on the path to economic benefits. The pattern to date of resource extraction benefit in the forestry and fishing sectors is one of collusion between the political and military elite for self-enrichment at the expense of traditional stakeholders. According to some observers, the diversion of benefits from social investment to self-enrichment has meant that the social cleavages within the society have had little opportunity to heal. If this pattern is extended to the oil and gas sector, then the potential for systemic abuse is strong as is the potential for social unrest.

The tripling of the size of the Cambodian navy will likely make Cambodia's neighbors nervous. The O.C.A. with Thailand in particular is a sensitive area due to the considerable resources represented under the claim. Border disputes with Thailand in the past have been a cause for nationalist displays of violence, producing an alarming opportunity for nationalist political expression especially in the face of domestic social unrest due to the previously mentioned impact of resource revenue. Instruments are in place for the resolution of the disputed area, but there has been no movement since the memorandum of understanding was signed in 2001. Despite a diplomatic breakdown in 2003, the two sides continue to meet annually in an attempt to resolve the dispute.

In regard to China, the post-coup (1997) relationship with the country continues to strengthen. Economic, strategic, diplomatic and cultural ties have filled the void left by the international community, which generally withdrew from Cambodia after 1997. China continues to be the major donor for the Cambodian armed forces and is likely to remain so in the near future. The diplomatic benefit of the relationship for China accrues from the anti-Taiwanese stance of the Cambodians, along with an important ally in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (A.S.E.A.N.) community. The discovery and production of oil in the immediate vicinity of China will only strengthen Beijing's efforts to cultivate and promote a regional ally.

In regard to the United States, for the first time in three decades the U.S. Navy paid a visit to Cambodia early in 2007. The United States has had poor relations with Cambodia since the coup in 1997, but it is now making strong overtures to the present leadership. In February, the ten year ban on aid to the country was lifted and a bilateral trade and investment framework agreement was signed in 2006 to promote better trade relations. The benefits for the United States include economic interests in the oil and gas sector, governance and democracy promotion in the region and an attempt to counter Chinese influence in Southeast Asia. The strongest opportunity for Washington to influence Cambodian policy in the short term lies in the garment sector, which faces an end to favorable trade status at the end of this year. Cambodian officials have been lobbying Washington to provide some reprieve from the anticipated sharp impact that the cessation of quotas will generate.

The bottom line is that the sudden and considerable flow of resource revenue may have a serious impact on the Cambodian state. The O.C.A. between Thailand and Cambodia offers a strong potential for revenue sharing and bilateral cooperation but requires a concerted effort to avoid nationalist sentiment and a problematic precedent of conflict over border issues. Chinese influence may continue to deflect and dilute international efforts to establish the strong governance and economic institutions required to properly manage the inflationary impact of the large revenue increase. The seemingly positive news of an oil and gas discovery must be tempered in light of the complex issues surrounding revenue generation and its impact in Cambodia.

The Power and Interest News Report (PINR) is an independent organization that utilizes open source intelligence to provide conflict analysis services in the context of international relations. PINR approaches a subject based upon the powers and interests involved, leaving the moral judgments to the reader. This report may not be reproduced, reprinted or broadcast without the written permission of enquiries@pinr.com. PINR reprints do not qualify under Fair-Use Statute Section 107 of the Copyright Act. All comments should be directed to comments@pinr.com.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Cambodian mining development is a difficult issue

Some of Indochina’s last protected areas are being opened to mineral extraction with few protections in place

cambodiamineCambodia’s once-abundant natural resources, whose timber reserves already were stripped to fund its disastrous civil war, are ripe for more exploitation. Saddled with a weak and often corrupt government, it is now in danger of seeing its mineral rights looted, as even officials charged with protecting the environment say the time has come to sacrifice some protected areas to mining development.

Environment Minister Mok Mareth said in a recent interview that a balance must be struck between conservation and development, hinting that the balance would fall on the side of development. "There are too many people worried that it may destroy all the resources, all biodiversity, all ecosystems," he said. "Of course, it's right. It destroys some part, not all. We have to understand that."

In considering exploitation, the ministry obtains binding guarantees that companies will respect the environment and not harm indigenous rights, he claimed, adding that Cambodia was in the process of changing from "100 percent conservation" to a system that can accommodate development.

"We're in the phase of what we call transition," he said.

The issue of how that transition is handled came to the fore in recent weeks when, through a little-known Australian firm, Indochine Resources, two flamboyant Australians won the right to explore for unnamed minerals in 180,000 hectares, or 54 percent, of Cambodia’s Asean-heritage listed Virachey National Park. The concession itself was as big as 254,600 hectares.

Both the Cambodian Environment Ministry and the World Bank, which has funded the management and conservation of the park to the tune of nearly $5 million, were caught by surprise.

The two are geologist Jeremy Snaith and David Evans, who in April became known across Australia as the “bananas in pajamas” after their nude antics aboard a Sydney-Abu Dhabi flight and subsequent arrest for sexual harassment and drunkenness forced them out of their company, Jupiter Mines. That an area so large and so sensitive was now in the hands of men ensnared by a drunken slapstick scandal gave pause to some. The World Bank, for one, announced it was seeking clarification from the government.

“[W]e continue to encourage the government of Cambodia to make good choices when they pick business partners… to ensure that their partners are committed to socially and environmentally responsible development,” a World Bank official wrote in an email.

A rumor in Phnom Penh held that a more reputable Australian mining firm also seeking the concession had been beaten out by Indochine Resources. The case is only one chapter in an unfolding story in Cambodia, which devotes a surprisingly large share of its territory to conservation. According to a 1992 review by the UN's World Conservation Monitoring Center, Cambodia's set-aside level of 26.3 percent was far higher than the land reserved for conservation in Thailand (16.3 percent), the US (11 percent), Indonesia (10 percent) or Australia (5.3 percent).

The country’s 32 environmentally protected areas, such as Virachey National Park, cover more than a quarter of its landmass. These areas also contain gold, copper, chromium and bauxite, creating the potential for Cambodia’s regulators to see dollar signs without foreseeing desolation.

Critics question whether Cambodia has the means, or even the desire, to control how and where mines are dug, or to determine whether the environmental damage they cause is acceptable. Global Witness, the environmental watchdog, has contended that the country’s natural resources until now have formed little more than a cash cow for the country’s elite and that exploiting Cambodia's resources in the absence of the rule of law will not necessarily lead to development or increased prosperity.

For their part, government officials have in recent months repeatedly and rather ominously from the point of view of environmentalists, said that riches to help lift Cambodia out of poverty should not be beyond reach simply because they lie buried beneath the turf of an endangered species.

Environment chief Mok Mareth maintained that the 47,845 square kilometers of land devoted to protecting the environment are hardly sacrosanct.

Critics who feel his ministry is weak and routinely shoved aside in favor of more muscular industrial interests simply do not understand, he added.

"When we developed that," Mok Mareth said of Cambodia's system of protected areas, first created in 1993 around the time that the UN mandate period ended, "we didn't know all the potential of our natural resources, our richness. So we need to have the exploration.”

Cambodia is hardly different from much of the rest of the world, where many protected areas are also routinely open to mining. Authorities permit mining in about 78 percent of South Australia's 332 protected areas, according to the state's regional government.

In Cambodia, however, the matter comes down to a question of management. At a 2004 workshop, Environment Ministry officials and conservation NGOs found that mining was already occurring in nine protected areas and threatening 13 of them.

Since then, the government has lifted a prohibition on mining in protected areas and has invited companies like Indochine Resources as well as BHP Billiton, Southern Mining Company and Oxiana Ltd to explore for minerals sometimes in parts of sanctuaries believed to be crucial for protecting biodiversity.

All four companies have promised to be good to Cambodia's environment. But such deals are being struck even though many of the country's protected areas are under-funded, understaffed, lack comprehensive management plans and most importantly, do not have zoning to protect their most environmentally sensitive areas. These problems, outlined by the 2004 workshop, persist to this day, NGOs say.

Seng Teak, country director for the Worldwide Fund for Nature, said last week that certain core zones must be protected from mining, as the viability of other ecosystems depends on them.

It's called a core zone, he said, "You can't touch that area from a biodiversity point of view."

Mok Mareth said, however, that a consensus with other ministries had emerged that even future core zones were not necessarily off limits for exploitation.

"We got already the reaction, even from the Ministry of Tourism, Ministry of Industry, Ministry of Agriculture and others," he said.

"They also raised the concern: If I accept conservation of this area, a core zone, if we can find a billion dollars for the mining there, how can we exploit these millions of dollars in this area?”

“We did not define any core zones to date," he added.

However, Seng Teak said Cambodia is simply not yet ready to deliver its protected areas into the hands of mining companies.

"I think it may be too early to bring the companies in to invest in the protected areas. It has to have clear zoning," he said. "The right to use the resources should be based on a clear land use plan first."

In weighing development against conservation, the government is poised to make a fateful decision, Seng Teak said.

"The crossroads is balancing the two, because the government sees economic development as a priority and conservation second," he said. "It's a challenge to make that decision."

Mystery aircraft explosion over Cambodia

Locals state that an aircraft exploded and debris fell to the ground near the rugged mountaintop temple of Preah Vihear in Cambodia.

A loud explosion in the sky rocked Preah Vihear province on Wednesday, with debris from a small unmanned aircraft falling 17 km from the province's historical temple, local media said on Friday.

After the explosion, a piece of debris weighing around 20 kg fell on Ta Mey village in Choam Khsan district, said Nuth Teng, a provincial army bureau chief, adding that the unmanned aircraft may have belonged to the Thai military.

Cambodian aviation officials assumed that the debris came from a remote controlled aircraft, saying that it could be a Thai training plane, reported Cambodian-language newspaper the Moneaksekar Khmer.

Witnesses at the time thought the sound was an airplane exploding in mid-air, reported another Cambodian-language newspaper the Kampuchea Thmey.

"It may have accidentally shot out from a (military) exercise in Thailand," Nuth Teng said, adding that investigators after the incident tried to collect and reassemble the craft but were unable to say exactly what it was, reported English-language newspaper the Cambodia Daily.

Thai officials denied at the time that such an incident had occurred, it added.

Cambodian Defense Minister Tea Banh has yet to show any reaction to the issue, reasoning that he had not been fully informed of the incident.

The explosion did not kill or injure any villagers.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

IMF: Cambodia's macroeconomic stability to continue

A visiting delegation from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has praised on Cambodia's sound economic progress, predicting that the economy will grow by 7.75 percent next year on the back of continued expansion in its four pillar industries, local media said on Wednesday.

IMF announced that Cambodia has implemented macroeconomic strategies well and that GDP in 2007 will rise by 9.5 percent over 2006, based on solid growth in the agriculture, construction, tourism and garment sectors, reported Cambodian-language newspaper the Rasmei Kampuchea.

In 2008, the figure will drop to a respectable 7.75 percent, as although garment exports are expected to rise, the speed of growth will be reduced by regional competition and a decrease in demand and export targets, reported another Cambodian-language newspaper the Koh Santepheap.

"There is increased regional competition and some softening of demand in key export markets. These factors are likely to persist in 2008, but real GDP growth is projected to remain strong at 7.75 percent," said an IMF statement.

IMF praised Cambodia for its income gathering, concluding that extra capital will now be available to enable the government to bolster all sectors.

The delegation, led by Jeremy Carter, an IMF advisor for the Asia-Pacific region, also predicted that government revenues will continue to increase and recommended the government with improved tax collection strategies, said the Rasmei Kampuchea.

IMF will continue to help organize accounting of the national budget and cash management, but the government should increase caution to prevent monetary risks as Cambodia now has an increased cash flow, it added.

According to official figures, Cambodia, although one of the most impoverished countries in the region, has scored consistent economic growth in the past decade. The increase rates even reached two digits in the peak period.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Cambodia officially launches new traffic law

Cambodia's comprehensive new traffic law, signed by King Norodom Sihamoni on Feb. 8, was officially launched here on Tuesday with the attendance of approximately 1,000 people and ambassadors to Cambodia, local media said on Wednesday.

Deputy Prime Minister Sok An, also Minister of Council of Ministers, who presided over the event, said that the announcement on the official implementation of the new traffic law was hoped to encourage all Cambodian nationals to change indifferent attitudes to the law, increase understanding about the law and respect it while driving their vehicles, said Cambodian-language newspaper the Rasmei Kampuchea.

The deputy minister said efforts to strengthen the implementation of traffic law, which is an effective means to reduce road accident rates, are also hoped to contribute to the development of social economy to rapidly eradicate the poverty of Cambodian people.

Public Works and Transport Minister Sun Chanthol stated that most traffic accidents in Cambodia, where about four people died and 17 were injured by road accidents each day in 2006, are caused by human error including speeding and drunk driving, which accounted for 94 percent.

Based on the new law, drivers of vehicles over 49cc are obliged to hold licenses with each license having 12 points, according to English-language newspaper the Cambodia Daily.

Points will be deducted for violations with one point being docked for driving without a helmet, while more serious violations like drunk-driving will result in up to six points being deducted. If a driver loses all of his points, he or she loses his license and will not be granted a new one for at least six months.

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) reported that in 2003, Cambodia lost 116 million U.S. dollars, or 3 percent of GDP, as a result of traffic accidents.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Vietnam's dollar deposits drops to 25-35%

The dollarisation in Vietnam’s national economy seems to be eased recently, but it remains the big challenge for Vietnam’s banking system to integrate the currency into the world.

The dollar – everywhere and at all times

In 1992, the dollarisiation in Vietnam was described as ‘serious’ with 41% of deposits at banks being in dollar. The figure now is 25-35%, which shows that Vietnam has been successful in combating dollarisation. However, no one can deny that dollars are being used everywhere and are present in all transactions.

Under the current regulations on forex management, only the institutions and individuals which are allowed to collect money in foreign currencies in Vietnam’s territories can place advertisement pieces and quote goods’ and services’ prices in foreign currencies. However, in fact, price quotations in foreign currencies can be seen everywhere in big cities like Hanoi and HCM City.

Nguyen Thi Thu, the owner of a luxury jewellery shop at Diamond Plaza, said that she knew the regulations on quoting prices in VND. However, her customers are mainly international guests, therefore, the price quotation should be in dollars for better understanding. Other trade centres and hotels in Hanoi and HCM City all calculate hotel room rates and other fees in foreign currencies. In order to avoid punishment, they quote prices in both VND and US$.

Computer trading firms have been found as the entities most often violating the regulations on price quotation. Even a quotation in both VND and US$ is considered as violating laws.

Dim role of management authorities

In HCM City, there are 800 operational transaction points serving money exchange, most of which are gold shops. According to the HCM City Branch of the State Bank of Vietnam, if banks want to provide money exchange services, they have to be licenced by the state bank. Meanwhile, gold shops only need to fulfill procedures to become bank agents to be eligible to provide the services.

Under the current laws, violators of the regulations on price quotation and illegal money exchange have to pay a fine of between VND5-12mil. However, the HCM City branch of the state bank has discovered and imposed a fine on only one case so far this year: a home appliance centre in the city.

Explaining this, Nguyen Thi Minh Lan, Head of the Forex Management Division under the HCM City branch of the central bank, said that the thin labour force of the division did now allow it to punish all violators, especially as violations have become spread out.

Le Xuan Nghia, Head of the Banking Development Strategy Department under the State Bank of Vietnam: It is necessary to limit transactions in foreign currencies

The dollarisation has made monetary policies more complicated as there always exist two kinds of interest rates, the rates for foreign currency deposits and loans, and for local currency, which do not always go in the same direction.

A dollarised economy would cause exchange risks for enterprises and commercial banks. The international exchange market always fluctuates as nations all float the exchange rates.

The dollarisation has generated the habit of using foreign currencies in transactions. Therefore, the important measure in order to curb the dollarisation is not to accept deposits in foreign currencies. Most countries in the world do not accept deposits in foreign currencies. In the immediate time, it is necessary to reconsider the licencing of foreign currency trading, strictly ban advertisement and price quotation in foreign currencies. The central bank should raise the required compulsory reserve ratio of foreign currency deposits, a preparatory step to prohibiting foreign currency deposits in the future.

However, all the above mentioned measures need to be carried out on the basis of the controlled inflation. It is very important if Vietnamese people have confidence in the local currency and use VND in payment and savings.

Dao Hong Chau, Deputy Director General of Eximbank: Vietnam needs to build up the prestige of the local currency

The dollarisation will continue if people do not believe in the stability of the VND. Banks now still provide inconvenient services, and as a result, people don’t make foreign currency transactions via banks. A Can Tho-based company has to make payments to a HCM-City based company, and it takes cash to HCM City instead of using banks’ services because it believes that this takes less time.

In fact, the dollarisation not only originates from the demand and habits of the public, but from credit institutions as well. You may see that the information about the VND/US$ exchange rate is always put on the top of thelectronic boards at banks’ transaction points.

Cambodia's new Internet based "e-visa" system

Working on the new upgrade of e-Visa lanes can be fun all the time especially when you are working near the ancient Angkor visited by millions of tourist every year. We are glad that Cambodia e-Visa has been helping to promote Cambodia tourism in the last one year. More than 25,000 travelers applied their Visa online from their country before-hand and it is becoming one of the prefered way of getting Visa by most travelers.

Featuring Cambodia e-Visa in AirAsia’s in-flight Travel 3Sixty magazine.

Travelers without e-Visa are queuing up at the on-arrival counter to apply for their Visa.

Many tourists are visiting Cambodia every year.

Mandalay Inn, 3 minutes’ walk to famous Pub street and Old Market. Great stay here!

Managing by A friendly, honest and helpful professional Hotelier family.

Found our e-Visa brochure in the restaurant of Mandalay Inn.

The construction of Cambodian Cultural Village (CCV) started in mid year of 2001, opened to the public in September 24, 2003, with total area of 210,000 meter-square, CCV assembles all the miniatures of famous historical buildings and structures, local customs and practices of all races.

There are 11 unique villages, which represent different culture heritages and characteristics of 19 multi races. At each village, the tourists will be able to enjoy the excellent wood houses, carving, soft skill in stone, traditional performances in the different style such as: Apsara Dancing, performance of ethnic minorities from Northeast of Cambodia, traditional wedding ceremony, Circus, Popular games, Peacock dancing, Acrobat, elephants shows, boxing, and more…

This dance is from Pailin. There are peacocks and peahens in Pailin. Kola people are one of the minorities living in Pailin district in Battam Borng Province , the west of Cambodia . Most of them believe that this king’s birth always bring lucky for them. They perform it in New Year or National Festival…..

Upgrading from 2 e-Visa lanes to 7 in total.

Tour from Japan who use eRunner service

After welcoming, a picture was taken with happy tour guide and immigrationn officers.

Google Web Internet Cafe, one of the important stop for many travelers in Siem Reap.

Bar Street and the famous Red Piano bar

The French influence is strong and the long sticks of French bread are a common sight. It is our breakfast on the day going to Angkor Wat.

Miss the sunrise. One side of the pavement are under restoration.

Smiling restoration team happily at work, drawing the pavement design in detail

Maybe the drawing is just too detail ;)

A picture of Angkor Wat from another side

Riding to Angkor Wat is great, but you need to be early and have more bread with you. Prepare to get dark.

Angkor Coex, venue of coming Aitex Cambodia 2007 exhibition.

Blue Pumpkin where you can find free Wifi and nice ice cream

Nice environment, the only set back is Blue Pumpkin close early at 11pm…

Heading to Phnom Penh with Mekong Express (mekongexpress@online.com.kh). The guide from the bus company makes this trip a very informative one.

FCC Phnom Penh, offering nice view to the River side

The Bright Lotus Guesthouse (sammy_lotus@hotmail.com) is just walk away from River side, right behind FCC

A view from the the guesthouse to the Palace

Another view from guesthouse.

Travelers queueing up at Phnom Penh on arrival counter to apply for their visa.

Upgrade from 2 to 7 e-Visa lanes.

Cambodia attracts more tourists from Vietnam


11:39' 13/09/2007 (GMT+7)


VietNamNet Bridge - The Cambodian Tourism Administration has announced it will invest $3.7 million in a infrastructure project in Kep City, 170 kilometers from Pnompenh in the Southeast, with the aim of attracting tourists from Vietnam.

Thanks to cooperation with Vietnam and Thailand, the project will open a cruise ship route between Kep City in Cambodia and Ha Tien in Vietnam to meet the increasing demands of Vietnamese tourists to travel to Cambodia.

Moreover, Cambodia will quickly upgrade Xihanucvin international airport to attract more foreign tourists.

In 2007, the Cambodian tourism sector set a target of greeting 2 million tourists, up 300,000 people against 2006.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Thai-Cambodian project seeks to preserve 12th century trade route

On the road to Angkor

Bilateral project seeks and preserves 12th-century trade route built by the ancient Khmer

Published on September 9, 2007

Braving the sizzling late-summer heat of the border jungle between Surin province in lower Northeast Thailand and Uddor Mean Chey province in northern Cambodia, I joined researchers tracing a route trodden by the ancient Khmer from Angkor to Phimai.

"Stay on the track," we are warned from time to time. The trail has not been completely cleared of landmines.

This route has been in use since ancient times and parts of the road can still be seen - laterite blocks covered with moss and lichen.

"We are on the ancient road from Angkor to Phimai, believed to have been used since the time of King Jayavarman VII in the 12th century," explains Colonel Surat Lertlum of the Chulachomklao Royal Thai Military Academy at the Ta Mean pass in Surin Province.

The reason we are out here in the stifling heat is that this trail will soon become a "living" route, thanks to the Living Angkor Road Project. The project is a joint Khmer-Thai endeavour of the Authority for the Protection and Management of Angkor and the Region of Siem Reap (APSARA), the Chulachomklao academy, and Thailand's Prince of Songkhla and Silpakorn universities' Fine Arts Departments. Financial support has come from the Thailand Research Fund.

Stretching southeast from Phimai in Nakhon Ratchasima onto the Khorat Plateau, leading across the Phnom Dongrak mountain range on the Thailand-Cambodia border and on to Angkor, the 254-kilometre Angkor-Phimai road is believed to be one of five royal Angkor roads linking its dominions in what are now modern-day Laos, Vietnam and Thailand. They were built in the reign of Jayavarman VII, reputably the greatest king of ancient Angkor.

According to ancient Prah Khan stone inscriptions, Jayavarman VII was a follower of Mahayana Buddhism. He built hospitals and 17 rest houses for travellers and pilgrims on the route from his capital to Phimai. The laterite rest houses - agnisala in the Khmer language, dhammasala in the argot of French archaeologist Louis Finot - are of uniform size and style. Dotted along the route 12-to-13 kilometres apart, their five south-facing windows once contained Buddha images and lights to guide travellers at night.

The hospitals, or arogyasala, looked after sick pilgrims and the health of local residents.

Surat is leading our five-day expedition on foot to explore the remains of the agnisala and arogyasala, setting out from Phimai.

At the Ta Mean border pass in Surin we visit temples and an agnisala, the best preserved of all on the Thailand side, according to archaeologist Pongdhan Sampaongern.

Evidence here suggests earlier French archaeologists might have been wrong in their belief that the ancient road cut through Chong Chom, or Osmach. The agnisala and laterite suggests that this is the true route, explains Surat.

The Angkor-road project started in 2004 and is the first in Thailand to take a multi-disciplinary approach, using remote sensing to complement historical, archaeological and cultural information, says research fund deputy director Silaporn Buasai.

Other new discoveries include two formerly missing agnisala - Prasat Ampil and Prasat Chan in Cambodia - many stone bridges, and ancient industrial relics such as iron furnaces and ceramic kilns.

"These roads are like those of the Roman or Chinese empires. The Khmer used their roads as military and trading routes supplying the capital at Angkor," Pongdhan says

On the second day, entering Cambodia at Osmach we are greeted by Khmer researchers from Apsara, led by archaeologist and anthropologist IM Sokrithy.

We visit agnisalas only reachable on foot. They are dilapidated but still recognisable. Water tanks constructed of laterite are clearly visible. The original boundary markers with still-visible Mahayana Buddhist features were modified as Hindu stupa during the reign of Srindravarman a century after Jayavarman VII.

We found the Spean Toap bridge, which is in good condition and still being used today. "This is the longest ancient bridge, and about 10-metres high," explains Sokrithy.

To get an idea how large royal processions along this route were in its heyday, we view bas-reliefs at the gallery of the Bayon temple. "There were likely many hundreds of soldiers on foot, with several hundred elephants and horses," Sokrithy says.

Heavy modern vehicles will soon be banned in the vicinity of the ancient road to ensure the area's preservation for archaeological and cultural tourism.

"Culture has no boundaries and a road is a link between people. There is an old saying: 'If we have roads, we have hope,' says Sokrithy.

By the fourth afternoon we reach Angkor, entering by the Western Gate of Angkor Thom, believed to be the original departure point for the Angkor-Phimai road.

Pongdhan believes the road preservation project can generate cultural tourism and improve bilateral relations between neighbours. Surat has plans for an animation game to help young people learn and enjoy the history of the road.

For more information visit larp.crma.ac.th and www.autoriteapsara.org.

Aree Chaisatien

The Nation

The writer was a guest of the Thailand Research Fund.

Cambodian military contingent leaves for Chinese training

About 60 soldiers from different departments of the Ministry of National Defense of Cambodia left for China on Friday to get military training courses, an official said.

"We have received scholarships from the Chinese government to study in military sections," Meng Hay, an official in the information and propaganda department of the Ministry of National Defense, told Xinhua at the Phnom Penh International Airport where the soldier students had gathered in early morning before setting off to China.

"When we arrive in China, we will go to study at different schools in different provinces," he said, adding that each soldier will learn a professional skill, such as anti-terrorism, infantry, computer, Chinese language, navy, airplane repairing, tank and artillery.

"I am very happy to have the opportunity to learn in China because I can upgrade my knowledge about infantry," Meng Hay said.

He added that he got high scores at the Royal Military Academy of Cambodia in Phnom Penh and upgraded his English language skills nearly a year before he passed the test to get the scholarship

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Who is who in Cambodia’s Internet Scene!

Posted in Cambodia & Beyond by reak at 11:15 pm |

Ever wonder how Cambodia connects to the internet? well, you probably don’t really care, as long as you are able to search, browse, read, watch, surf, chat, talk, blog all those world wide web craps. Even if you care, you would only point out to the usual suspects namely Online, CityLink, TeleSurf, AngkorNet or MekongNet.

If you really want to know though, the Cambodia’s Internet Scene is actually a lot more just the above companies. To be exactly, as of August this year, there are up to 20 (twenty) internet entities in Cambodia. (by comparison, our neighbors Laos has less than ten, while Vietnam has just over twenty)

Not all of the twenty are internet service providers (ISP), but it’s still pretty impressive considering a report of only 44,000 Cambodians have internet access compared to 16 millions in Vietnam.

Interesting enough, out of the twenty, 6 of them are brand-new start-up companies registered in 2007 including one with “THE BEST VERVICE IN THERE”. Yes, it’s “VERVICE“. Don’t believe me? Here is the list of Who is who in Cambodia’s Internet scene: Cambodian Internet ASN Aug07.pdf

Disclaimer: Such info is freely available in the internet. Use it at your own risks. Vireak shall not be liable for any loss or damage. Don’t ask how I get all these. Go figure out yourself!

Registering a .kh domain, the Cambodian way to the internet

Posted in Untold Scandals by reak at 11:57 pm |

Ever wonder how to register a .kh domain? Let me share a few things when I registered a .com.kh domain a few years ago (can’t believe I always remember the things that happened long long ago, but not the things that I learnt yesterday…will anyone ask me what I learnt yesterday?).

Well, since it’s 2 years ago, it may or may not be the case now. I followed the below step-by-step procedure:

  1. read the rules by the Ministry of Post and Telecommunications (MPTC) as in this website
  2. download the application form
  3. use word editor such as MS Words to fill in the form
  4. send the 100% completed form to dns-admin@dns.net.kh
  5. wait for a response (which took me 10 days)
  6. if the name is approved, you need to present a original and certified true copy of the original trade/organization certificate (for business or organization) or Identity Card/Birth certificate (for personal)
  7. make payment and wait for the DNS to propagate
  8. done!!!

Sounds simple right? just follow steps…but here are some points that made the whole process nothing short of dramatic:

  1. only email applications were accepted
  2. the domain costs US$40 for first year and US$30 for subsequent renewal
  3. you need to have at least 2 Server IP addresses and hostnames before registering, which itself was weird ‘coz generally we only buy hosting server after we get the domain name, but in Cambodia, you need to buy server first before getting the domain
  4. the 2 Server IP addresses must be in different networks…which was of course expensive to buy 2 hostings…but I managed to convinced the administrator to put only one network
  5. virtual IP addresses and hostnames were not supported because that time the administrator was not aware of it…I believe this is not the case now (if you can convince)
  6. the office is located inside the Ministry of Post and Telecoms near Wat Phnom, in a small room in the south building in the 3rd or 4th floor (can’t remember, try your luck to find it)
  7. since it was in Phnom Penh, I needed to travel down from Siem Reap
  8. at that time there was One and only One administrator in the office
  9. for some reasons, the One and only One administrator did not work in the afternoon, the office hours was every morning Monday to Friday only (damned I arrived at PP on friday afternoon, 3 days gone for nothing)
  10. the copies of the certificates (trade/organization/personal) must be certified by the Phnom Penh or provincial Municipality
  11. after the registration is done, the admin won’t allow the domain owner any control over the DNS…I’m not too pleased with this the domain owner is supposed to have control over his own domain. I got the feeling that the admin might hold the domain for ransom…and indeed it was
  12. when I asked to change the server IP addresses, the admin charged me US$10 for the change…how did it feel? the domain owner asked to change his own domain and got charged US$10… in Cambodia a few clicks = US$10
  13. the whole process took me over 1 month from start till the domain was up and running
  14. the most blatant excuse I got was “Cambodia is not as technologically advanced as other countries, you know?” SIC!!

All these were 2 years ago, so I don’t know about the situation now. I’m sure if the process can be cut to within one week and price goes down to US$10-15 per year, there will be a .kh domain boom in Cambodia…thanks to the youth and the young tech savvy entrepreneurs. The things that the MPTC fail to see is that if they make the price competitive to international domains and eliminate all those 10 dollars fees, there will an exponential increase in new registrations which will bring more revenue.

As it stands now, most local businesses turn to international domains as there are alot easier, alot cheaper and alot faster. They can also have full control and free support.

US Marines on duty in Cambodia - Part 2

U.S. Marines Make an Investment in Cambodia’s Future

My comments: I love the Marines but this is only the beginning of what the real mission will be, and that is to protect the oil that Chevron has discovered off the coast of Cambodia and balance Chinese expansion into the region as well as the world. If you want to read more about how this story began and where it is headed, click on this link.

Cambodia, Security and American Oil Interests

Phnom Penh International Airport, Cambodia
August 29, 2007
Story by Sgt. Ethan E. Rocke, MCB Camp Butler

Marine Donation
Marines deliver nearly 2,000 pounds of school supplies, clothing and toys to the Catholic charity Maryknoll at the Phnom Penh International Airport in Cambodia. (Official U.S. Marine photo by Sgt. Ethan E. Rocke) Full Size

Marines from Marine Aircraft Group 36, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, delivered almost 2,000 pounds of school supplies, clothing and toys to the Catholic charity Maryknoll at the Phnom Penh International Airport in Cambodia during a recent stop in the country.

Sister Regina Pellicore, Maryknoll’s project director for health and education in Cambodia, accepted the donation for her organization, which, among a myriad of other charitable endeavors, works to educate underprivileged Cambodian children.

"What we want to provide for the children is a good education as well as other social services," Pellicore said. "I believe Cambodia’s future lies in education, and this contribution will help to educate 1,200 children."

MAG-36 service members collected materials from the military community on Okinawa for months and unit leaders enlisted help from the U.S. Embassy to find an organization that could best use the donation to benefit Cambodia’s people, according to Army Maj. Chris Mills, chief of the Embassy’s Office of Defense Cooperation.

"The embassy has a strong relationship with Maryknoll," Mills said. "Many of these children are already struggling just for survival, and what (Maryknoll does) is truly commendable. We’re very happy to be able to support that."

MAG-36 Commanding Officer Col. Ben Mathews and MAG-36 Sgt. Maj. James Peterson personally delivered the donation to Sister Pellicore. The unit leaders made the trip on a KC-130 from Marine Aerial Refueler Squadron 152 during a two-part mission to deliver the materials and pick up a detachment of service members from Marine Wing Support Squadron 172 who completed civil assistance projects in southern Cambodia Aug. 26.

"With MWSS-172 down here, we saw an opportunity for a good delivery," Mathews said. "We’re going to try and keep this going for years to come."

US Marines on duty in Cambodia - Part 1

My comments: I love the Marines but this is only the beginning of what the real mission will be, and that is to protect the oil that Chevron has discovered off the coast of Cambodia and balance Chinese expansion into the region as well as the world. If you want to read more about how this story began and where it is headed, click on this link.

Cambodia, Security and American Oil Interests

US Marine Corps

By Sgt. Ethan E. Rocke, MCB Camp Butler

KAMPONG SOM PROVINCE, Cambodia (Aug. 31, 2007) — It’s 9 a.m. and the daily crowd of patients is lined up outside the makeshift medical clinic at the Ma’Ahad El-Muhajirin Islamic Center in southern Cambodia. They peer inside the building, watching a Navy medical team at work.

As medical officer, Lt. Jonathan Endres sees his fifth patient of the day, his face is bright and his spirits high. He knows exactly how to help 9-year-old Mutiah Zaynuttin. The rash on her scalp is textbook, and she has a mild cold. Endres writes her prescription, smiles and sends her next door to another dim, shabby room that serves as the team’s pharmacy.

Zaynuttin is one of the approximately 500 residents of the center, located in the midst of Kampong Som Province’s remote farmland. She is the 98th patient Endres and his team of corpsmen from the Okinawa-based Marine Wing Support Squadron 172 have seen since they began a medical civil assistance project here two and a half days earlier. She is one of the 96 whose ailments the “docs” have been able to effectively treat, and she is one of the patients that leaves Endres smiling.

But as Endres and his docs measure their worth with the care and comfort they can provide the sick, and the other patients – those few whose serious illnesses they can’t treat in this environment – weigh on their minds.

Their humanitarian mission is a familiar one that Okinawa service members carry out in countries all over the Pacific.

“It’s very challenging,” said Endres, who is deployed on his first medical civil assistance project. “You do what you can and want to help as many people as you can, and we are able to treat the majority. There are only a few that we got stuck on, and that’s frustrating.”

By the project’s third day, there were two patients Endres could not help. One, he suspects has hepatitis and another appears to be in the beginning stages of tuberculosis.

Many patients U.S. teams see on humanitarian assistance missions have never seen a doctor. And while they are the minority, cases that exceed a deployed team’s capabilities are a disheartening reality for American doctors accustomed to Western health care standards.

The team’s enlisted leader Chief Petty Officer Joe Palmares, a 20-year Navy veteran who planned and coordinated the Cambodia medical project, has been faced with that reality several times; the Cambodia mission marks the ninth medical civil assistance project he has been involved with while stationed on Okinawa.

“There are times that you really wish you could provide more,” he said. “Every time we do this, you can only do so much, so we do the best we can and hope.”

Their best means treating patients every day from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and also providing preventive medicine training that covers topics such as hygiene and preventing heat casualties.

Most patients have several diagnoses many of which are the result of poor living conditions. Infections and parasites are among the most common problems in the small Cambodian community.

The medical team hopes to lengthen its impact beyond the two weeks they are on the ground by showing the residents how to better protect against disease and infection, a responsibility that falls to preventive medicine technician Petty Officer 1st Class Kelly R. Wallen, who is also deployed on his first civil assistance mission.

“This can be an emotionally draining experience,” he said. “It’s backbreaking work at times, but I actually look forward to getting up in the morning, knowing it’s going to be hard, because I know I’m going to help people.”
Wallen and his colleagues share a driving sense of compassion and commitment that is a constant reminder to them that, while they cannot help everyone, there is something very special about helping those they can.

“We come out here and we care,” said Palmares. “That’s our mission, and we do it well. As Americans, we are very blessed. We’re such a strong country, and that’s why we provide this humanitarian relief, because we can and because we should. You can’t provide everything, but to touch somebody’s life, that’s special. They will cherish this; they will remember this.”

Cambodia can earn 174 mln USD from oil production in 2011: IMF

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has predicted Cambodia could earn 174 million U.S. dollars from oil production in 2011, with the windfall rising to 1.7 billion U.S. dollars after 10 years, said the latest issue of the Phnom Penh Post published this weekend.

The IMF said in its new report that 2011 is a realistic date to assume that U.S. oil giant Chevron would begin production given that oil is already produced on both sides of Cambodia's waters in the gulf of Thailand, the newspaper said.

It projected that after 10 years of production Cambodia's share of oil revenues would peak in 2021 at 1.7 billion U.S. dollars. Then revenues would begin to decline.

The IMF called the report a "moderate scenario", which was based on a variety of assumptions, such as oil production sharing agreements, size of recoverable resources and oil prices.

The Cambodian government's current revenues are 11.5 percent of current GDP, or 632 million U.S. dollars, so an additional 174 million U.S. dollars in new revenues from a new source is a significant windfall, the newspaper said.

Cambodia to open land to foreign investors?

Cambodia's private sector has urged the government to allow foreign ownership this week saying an open-minded real estate market would promote economic growth.

The Cambodian investment law was amended back in 2005 to allow foreign ownership of permanent fixtures, but as yet has not been enforced. The non-implementation of the act has in fact rendered the amendments as a forgotten law, and as such has now become out dated. In the current legal understanding, the old law will only allow a property investment in the name of a Cambodian national but with the pressure from the private sector to increase wealth, urgent action will be required.

Chris Green, Head of Research at Obelisk International says ‘The key improvements to the property investment law would open up a whole new economic world to the country of Cambodia. These measures would not only further develop Cambodia's property investment market, but the new interest from those investors who want to take advantage early, will not only create a boom putting Cambodia on the map, but will also make the country more competitive with its neighbours.’

American lawyer and chairman of the International Business Club, Bretton Sciaron comments on the property investment news ‘There are several reasons for urgent action, this is already a sector of the economy that is dynamic, but foreign ownership of apartments, condominiums and other such structures on the land will help spur further economic growth. Such a regulatory development will provide a dramatic indication that Cambodia has an investor-friendly environment.’

Vast new building projects have increased over the past few years, including a great number of satellite cities worth billions of dollars that when completed will fundamentally alter the appearance of the capital. After years of disorder within Cambodia, the country is now turning things around as a growing economy posting a steady 11% growth over the last three years, fuelled by a strong tourism industry and clothing manufactures.

Cambodian Commerce Minister, Cham Prasidh said that Cambodia still relies on international aid for half of its annual budget, but must now diversify by seeking more varied foreign investments. ‘There are other sectors we are trying to encourage, but we have to find out what are the sectors where we can be competitive. If we try to produce the same thing as Thailand or Malaysia, it will be very difficult’.

For more information on overseas property investments and to find out about Obelisk International’s latest projects, contact: Obelisk International on 0808 1600670 or email info@obeliskinternational.com or visit our website http://www.obeliskinternational.com

Monday, September 3, 2007

Ex-Khmer Rouge stronghold bets the pot on casino boom

PAILIN, Cambodia (AFP) — From the road one is immediately aware of the "Danger Mine" signs -- tiny red squares with the distinctive white skull and cross bones flashing warnings from the surrounding bushland.

Landmines -- thousands of them -- lie unseen, in some places only metres (yards) from the road.

But the hidden killers are one of the few reminders left of the war that raged a decade ago across this remote hill country in Cambodia's western-most reaches.

The tanks that were commonplace have since given way to truck convoys rumbling across from Thailand, past casinos and highrise hotels that residents hope signal a rebirth for this former Khmer Rouge stronghold.

These ex-guerrillas, whose misguided dream of a classless agrarian utopia had violently rejected the fruits of capitalism, are now in the business of making money.

On the roads leading to the border, some 30 kilometres (18 miles) away from Pailin town, garish billboards emblazoned with playing cards and roulette wheels suggest riches are waiting for gamblers -- mostly Thais flocking to Cambodia for one-day high stakes excursions -- at the Diamond Crown and Caesar casinos.

More than a dozen casinos dot the borders with Vietnam and Thailand, raking in an estimated tens, if not hundreds of millions of dollars each year and fueling the economies of several hard-scrabble Cambodian cities along the way.

The largest, Poipet in Cambodia's northwestern corner, has emerged as a key gaming centre and trading hub with Thailand.

Considered by many as a magnet for vice, Poipet is still viewed with envy in this stripped down frontier town of tidy but stunted buildings whose illicit gem and timber trade financed the Khmer Rouge during the communist movement's last years.

"Poipet is much bigger than Pailin, we cannot compare," said the town's deputy governor Ieng Vuth.

Until recently, Pailin was Cambodia's "wild west," cut off from the rest of the country, the final refuge of a murderous regime that at the height of its power in the late 1970s had killed nearly a quarter of the country's people.

The town today is still a rambling low-slung place that chokes in dust during the dry season and is a hard two-hour drive from the nearest city Battambang.

Roads into town are lined with single-storey stalls -- cutters and dealers wringing the last few dollars out of a gem trade that dried up years ago. The surrounding hills are bare, logged out in the 1980s and 1990s.

The gaming industry seems the quickest route to stardom for a tiny municipality with little else to offer other than its proximity to Cambodia's biggest source of punters: Thailand.

"The big money for the border area is in casinos -- our market is for Thais," said Ieng Vuth, whose father Ieng Sary served as the Khmer Rouge's foreign minister during the regime's 1975-79 rule.

Thais, who are banned from gambling in their own country, come across by the hundreds each day and are thought to play as much as 100 million dollars a year in Cambodian casinos.

Besides the Caesar and Diamond Crown, a third casino, the Krom, is staffed and running in Phrum village, an otherwise desolate outpost between Pailin and Thailand that has become a cluster of gambling dens and at least four hotels.

A fourth casino is also in the works, Ieng Vuth said.

Young women, neatly dressed in skirts, vests and bow ties, shuttle back and forth between the casinos and the adjacent hotels. At the Diamond Crown, a huge annex is being built to handle the overflow of visitors.

"When I saw Pailin for the first time it was a jungle area, but now it is developed and has many buildings," said Chhim Sovann, a 37-year-old fruit dealer who moved to the area 10 years ago after the Khmer Rouge defected en masse to the government and effectively crippled the movement.

"Now, Pailin is becoming a money making town," he told AFP, standing in front of the Caesar, a colonnaded gambling den bejeweled with lights across its white facade.

Hopes are that the money from Pailin's casino boom will pave the way for other development. The area is most seriously lacking roads, and Ieng Vuth said this is discouraging both investors and visitors.

Elsewhere in Cambodia, record numbers of tourists have dumped billions of dollars into the economy over the past two years, and Pailin -- behind the curve by several years -- wants to take advantage of this unprecedented boom.

"Pailin has many hills and waterfalls, and we want to develop those areas as tourist destinations," Ieng Vuth said.

"If we talk about natural assets, Pailin is so beautiful. When we have good roads many people will go back and forth."

Foreign investment in the sector, though, remains disappointing, he said.

"Many investors have studied about tourism development, but they have not signed contracts yet," he added.

Still, signs that Pailin is slowly emerging as a tourist destination are already appearing.

Tidy brick and tile homes or freshly painted guesthouses have sprung up among the tin-roofed shacks, giving Pailin the quaint, prosperous appearance of a small Thai town.

The Hang Meas hotel, originally a spartan way-station for traveling government and NGO officials, has had a karaoke and discotheque installed, while foreign tourists, non-existent here only a few short years ago, can be seen wandering past lively fruit vendors and smiling children.

"Pailin has huge potential for economic development. We have many nice resorts," said Khlok Nguoy, cabinet chief of Pailin Municipality, adding that hundreds of South Korean tourists have already begun visiting the area.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Ideal Capital to come to Phnom Penh

Ideal Capital wins BPO jobs for RM2bil projects

Datuk Alex Ooi
PENANG: Ideal Capital Intelligence Sdn Bhd, a Penang-based company specialising in business process outsourcing (BPO) services, has secured residential and commercial projects with an estimated gross sales value of over RM2bil.

Chief executive officer Datuk Alex Ooi said these projects included the RM1.1bil Cambodia World Trade Centre in Phnom Penh, the RM52mil Semantan One commercial complex in Kuala Lumpur, the RM350mil Fei Fei eco-tourism resort in Shenyang, China, and RM500mil The One-Penang Cyber City commercial project.

An artist’s impression of Ideal Capital projects in Cambodia.
“These projects will kick off between September and early 2008,” he told StarBiz.

Ideal Capital's BPO services allow its clients from the property, construction, and infrastructure sectors to outsource their short- and long-term property development needs to the company.

These services cover business concept planning, marketing, evaluation and monitoring, as well as financing.

“Our objective is to help clients reduce the development cost of their projects by at least 10% while boosting the gross sales value by at least 30% to 40%,” Ooi said.

Projects handled by Ideal Capital include Attwood Business Centre and Ideal Garden Homes that were completed early this year in Phnom Penh, and for which gross sales value increased to RM42.5mil from RM27.2mil.

Ooi said the company’s revenue was generated from fees and share of profit.

“Last year, we generated RM40mil in revenue. This year, we expect revenue to grow to RM40mil due to the increase in the number of large-scale projects secured.

“We plan to franchise our business model to Vietnam, China and Cambodia next year. We are also going for listing in the Hong Kong Growth Enterprise Market board in early 2008,” he said.

Travel Cambodia - Phnom Penh, Angkor Wat, Sihanoukville and Roads From Hell

Cambodia is a land on the mend. From 1977 through 1980, the Khmer Rouge ruled the country, fanatics bent on genocide. Millions were killed and the period was put to film in the movie, “The Killing Fields.” Fortunately, those days are over and the country is becoming a tourist destination.

Cambodia is a land of incredible contrast. Thick forest, mountains and pristine rivers compliment amazing white beaches. When you get down to it, however, travelers know Cambodia for two things, Angkor Wat and the nastiest roads around. But, let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

Phnom Penh

Phnom Penh is the capital of Cambodia. The city is a combination of old French beauty and modern condominiums. The city is full of amazing Wats [Buddist monasteries], including Wat Ounalom, Wat Phnom and Wat Moha Montrei. Modern buildings surround these monasteries and it’s difficult to avoid a feeling that the old ways are being lost.

Still, the vibrancy of the city is impressive considering the fact that it was completely abandoned for three years in the last 70s. During this period, the Khmer Rouge tried to return the Cambodian people to their agricultural heritage and evacuated all cities. The only exception, of course, is Tuol Sleng, a high school used to torture and kill “enemies of the state.” Just beyond the city, one will also find the infamous killing fields where thousands upon thousands were put to death.

Sihanoukville

Sihanoukville is a small, sleepy village on the Southwest edge of Cambodia. Fairly undeveloped, the area is an oasis similar to the beaches of Thailand. The difference, however, is the lack of tourists. Depending on the time of year, the beaches can be more or less empty and privacy assured. Rooms run between $5 and $15 a night and come with private bathrooms. If you are looking to lounge professionally, Sihanoukville is a very good place to do it.

Angkor Wat

Stunning. There is no other word for the temples of Angkor Wat. Angkor Wat is a temple surrounded by hundreds of others. Each is unique and worth a look. The most famous are Angkor Wat, Bayon and Ta Phrom. Angkor Wat is in the best shape as well as the most known. The Bayon is impressive, but the constant mob of tourist makes it a pain to visit. Ta Phrom is amazing because it has been left to the jungle, which is to say trees and the structure have become one in many areas. If you have seen Tomb Raider with Angelina Jolie, you have seen Ta Phrom. Personally, I prefer Angkor Wat to the Pyramids in Egypt.

Roads From Hell

Cambodian roads are evil. There is simply no other way to put it. The country is hit by monsoons every year and is still recovering from the Khmer Rouge. This combination has resulted in roads with huge potholes, missing bridges and pretty much the worst elements of Dante’s Hell. Avoid them if at all possible!

The rise and rise of a Cambodian capitalist


By Shawn W Crispin

PHNOM PENH – Kith Meng's is the bold new face of Cambodian capitalism. Widely considered the country's richest entrepreneur, the Sino-Khmer businessman presides over a sprawling business empire held under his Royal Group of Companies which has leveraged into and helped drive Cambodia's recent economic boom.

With impeccable political connections - including not least his role as a personal advisor to Prime Minister Hun Sen - Kith Meng, 37, has secured a growing trove of lucrative government concessions, licenses and land deals that his Royal Group has in sometimes controversial fashion translated into big business profits.

Those include his controlling stakes in CTN television, mobile telecom leader Mobitel, the Camlot lottery company and a 45% stake in a commercial banking joint venture with Australia's ANZ Bank, where he serves as board chairman and reportedly drives strategic decision-making.

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