Thursday, March 27, 2008

Grain prices soar globally

Rice shortages are appearing across Asia. In Egypt, the Army is now baking bread to curb food riots.
| Correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor

Rice farmers here are staying awake in shifts at night to guard their fields from thieves. In Peru, shortages of wheat flour are prompting the military to make bread with potato flour, a native crop. In Egypt, Cameroon, and Burkina Faso food riots have broken out in the past week.

Around the world, governments and aid groups are grappling with the escalating cost of basic grains. In December, 37 countries faced a food crisis, reports the UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), and 20 nations had imposed some form of food-price controls.

In Asia, where rice is on every plate, prices are shooting up almost daily.Premium Thai fragrant rice now costs $900 per ton, a nearly 30 percent rise from a month ago.

Exporters say the price could eclipse $1,000 per ton by June. Similarly, prices of white rice have climbed about 50 percent since January to $600 per ton and are projected to jump another 40 percent to $800 per ton in April.

The skyrocketing prices have prompted millers to default on rice supply contracts and bandits to steal rice as they aim to hoard the crop, and sell it later, as prices continue to rise.

“The farmers are afraid as their fields have been robbed in the nighttime,” says Sarayouth Phumithon, an official at the Thai government’s Bureau of Rice Strategy and Supply. “This is just the beginning. The problem will get worse if the price keeps increasing.”

The reported thefts in five rice-growing provinces in central Thailand are the first signs of criminal activity in this region stemming from the sharpest global spike in commodity prices since the oil crisis in the mid-1970s. Across the world, higher food prices are triggering thefts and violence – both by people who can’t afford to eat and those who want to make an easy buck.

Three men delivering food for the World Food Programme (WFP) in Sudan were reported killed Tuesday, the latest in a surge of attacks that have delayed the arrival of vital supplies to some 2 million people in the region.

So far this year, the UN agency says 56 trucks have been hijacked in Sudan; 36 trucks remain missing, and 24 drivers are unaccounted for. The WFP says that banditry has reduced by half the amount of food normally transported to the western region of Darfur at this time of year.

“All parties must recognize that the drivers of humanitarian vehicles and their cargo are serving a neutral purpose,” WFP Sudan representative Kenro Oshidari said in a statement.

Last year, the Food and Agriculture Organization’s food price index increased an unprecedented 40 percent from 2006, and this year it is projected to continue rising. Surging oil prices (in turn, boosting fertilizer and transport costs) combined with a drop in production due to droughts in Australia and the Ukraine have helped to drain global food stocks.

While rice production is rising, consumption is growing faster. The US Department of Agriculture forecast rice stocks to fall to their lowest level since the mid-1970s, and wheat stocks are projected to hit their lowest point since 1946, the year after World War II ended.

These factors, combined with a falling US dollar, steadily rising demand from developing countries, and biofuel policies that mop up excess cereal production, have all helped boost world prices.

The FAO expects food prices to stay high for the next three to five years, presenting a challenge for governments trying to keep domestic food prices low in order to keep poor citizens properly fed and avoid mass protests and social unrest.

Some countries like Vietnam, India, and Pakistan have banned grain exports. On Wednesday, Cambodia’s prime minister ordered a two-month ban on rice exports to neighboring Thailand and Vietnam “to guarantee food security.”

Meanwhile food importers Indonesia, Korea, and Mongolia have cut or reduced import tariffs. As Philippine farmers warned that the country was facing a serious rice shortage, the government signed a deal Wednesday to import 1.5 million metric tons (1.65 million US tons) of rice from Vietnam.

Analysts note that the current shortage isn’t hitting as many people as hard as past shortages. As incomes rise worldwide, food is a smaller portion of the family budget. “Governments have tried to protect domestic prices from fluctuations in international prices, and they have succeeded in the past,” says Sumiter Broca, a policy analyst at the FAO. “The key point is that the proportion of income spent on food is much lower than it used to be, so that provides a cushion. The situation is not as serious as it was in 1974.”

Citizens of Nepal and India now spend about 35 to 40 percent of income on food, down from about 70 to 80 percent in the early 1970s, Mr. Broca says. In developing countries, food costs eat up only about 7 percent of household incomes.

The FAO expects food prices to stabilize and eventually drop as farmers plant more grains. That’s already starting to happen with wheat and corn. But the next few years could be difficult.

On Monday, the WFP, a UN agency that distributes food aid to some 70 million poor people, made an “extraordinary emergency appeal” to donor countries for $500 million to prevent cutbacks in its global operations.

In the past two weeks, two rice suppliers in Cambodia defaulted on contracts with the WFP, claiming the new higher prices would offset any penalty for reneging on the contract.

“That’s extremely worrying, as it indicates the price of rice, just like the price of wheat, is now continuing to increase,” says Paul Risley, a WFP spokesman. “That makes it very difficult for us to find rice at an affordable price. The ability to end malnutrition is limited when food prices are so high.”

Countries with higher foreign exchange reserves and food stocks, including China, Japan, and India, can still afford the high food prices if necessary. But nations with low currency reserves like the Philippines, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Nepal may need assistance from international financial institutions to afford food if prices continue to spike.

Although higher food prices mean trouble for consumers and governments, they do increase incomes for farmers – assuming their crops aren’t stolen. Still, farmers aren’t making as much money as a middleman with a good-sized warehouse.

Rice millers in Thailand are defaulting on contracts with exporters to capitalize on higher prices, and speculators are renting warehouses to store paddy. Rice in paddy form (in the husk) can be stored for about a year and a half before quality starts to deteriorate, and milled rice can be held for another six months.

“Nobody dares to sell now as we don’t know where the price is going,” says Chookiat Ophaswongse, president of Thailand’s Rice Exporters Association. Although Thailand, the world’s largest rice exporter, has shipped record amounts in January and February, traders have lost money on futures contracts as prices have jumped more quickly than anyone expected, he says.

In the Philippines, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has vowed to crack down on rice hoarders. The government has ordered police to stake out warehouses and follow trucks to see where the rice was going, she said.

Thailand may try to sell off 2.1 million tons of rice stocks to keep domestic prices low. But as long as prices stay high, Thai farmers will need to burn the midnight oil keeping watch over their fields.

“Most farmers must sell crops immediately as they don’t have a good warehouse that can withstand attacks from rats, birds, chickens – or human thieves,” says Mr. Sarayouth.

Associated Press reports were used in this story.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Japan's JOGMEC to explore copper, zinc in Cambodia

TOKYO, March 27 (Reuters) - State-owned Japan Oil, Gas and Metals National Corp said on Thursday it will spend $4.5 million over a three-year period to jointly explore metals, including zinc and copper, in eastern Cambodia with an Australian miner.

JOGMEC has started exploration in the areas of North Kratie North and Kratie South, located 200 kilometres northeast of the kingdom's capital, Phnom Penh, with Southern Gold Ltd

Cambodia turns to hydropower, to villagers' alarm

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

CHAY ARENG RIVER, Cambodia: Along the Chay Areng Valley in the remote Cardamom Mountains of Cambodia, children still scamper barefoot through one of the last remaining tracts of virgin jungle in mainland Southeast Asia.

If they take the same paths in a few years, they will probably have to be swimming.

Faced with a rapidly growing but power-starved economy, Prime Minister Hun Sen has decided that the rivers flowing from one of the few elevated spots in a relentlessly flat country should become a source of energy.

In the past two years he has agreed to at least four Chinese-financed hydropower projects as part of a $3 billion plan to raise the country's electricity output from just 300 megawatts today to 1,000 in a decade, enough to power a small city.

The indigenous communities in the forests in the Cardamoms appear to be the ones that will pay the biggest price.

"We have been living here without a dam for many generations; we don't want to see our ancestral lands stolen," 78-year-old Sok Nuon said, lighting a fire inside her wooden hut nestled among trees near the Chay Areng River.

"I do not want to move, as it takes years for fruit trees to produce crops," she said. "By then, I'll be dead."

Few people argue that Cambodia's 14 million people do not need more power.

After decades of war and upheaval, including the Khmer Rouge "killing fields" of the 1970s, the economy has finally taken off, growing at a rate of nearly 10 percent a year.

But its antiquated power plants, fueled mostly by diesel fuel, can meet only 75 percent of demand, meaning frequent blackouts and prices around twice those in neighboring Thailand and Vietnam. Those factors inhibit faster economic expansion.

With the closer ties Hun Sen has cultivated with Beijing over the past five years, Chinese cash and dam-building expertise has become a solution to the pains of breakneck growth.

"Chinese investment in hydropower is so important for Cambodia's development," Foreign Minister Hor Namhong said in January after meeting with his Chinese counterpart, Yang Jiechi.

But critics maintain that much of the planning is taking place with scant regard for the long-term impact on the environment in a country where most people still rely on agriculture for their livelihoods.

"Poorly conceived and developed hydropower projects could needlessly and irreparably damage Cambodia's river system with serious consequences," said Carl Middleton of the U.S.-based group International Rivers Network.

But the Chay Areng project hardly appears to be a model of transparency. The deal was signed in late 2006 with China Southern Power Grid, one of the two electricity network operators in China, to build a 260-megawatt plant at an estimated cost of $200 million, with a completion date of 2015.

The first that villagers knew of the project was when Chinese engineers turned up this year to start working on feasibility studies. Officials at Southern Grid and in the Cambodian government have been reluctant to discuss the details of the studies.

The Chinese Embassy in Phnom Penh denied any shortcuts were being taken in the dam construction.

"They comply with environmental standards and are approved by the Cambodian government," said a Chinese diplomat who was granted anonymity because of the political sensitivity surrounding the project. "We just want to help Cambodia as much as we can."

Environmentalists who have conducted their own studies say the reservoir created by the dam will cover 110 square kilometers, or 42 square miles, and displace thousands of indigenous people in nine villages.

More than 200 animal species, including elephants, sun bears, leopards and the endangered Siamese crocodile, would be affected upstream, said Sam Chanthy of the NGO Forum on Cambodia, a foreign-financed group in Phnom Penh.

Downstream from the site, the delicate ecosystem of the flooded forest, home to some of the world's rarest turtle species as well as hundreds of types of migratory fish, would also be at risk from disruptions to water flow, Chanthy said.

Eng Polo, who works for the wildlife group Conservation International, agreed. "It won't take long for these invaluable assets to disappear when the dam is built," he said.

UNDP recommends joint development of overlapping Thai-Cambodia oil fields

PHNOM PENH, March 27 (Xinhua) -- An United Nations Development Program (UNDP) conference has suggested that a joint development area (JDA) is probably the best way to begin developing offshore oilfields claimed by both Thailand and Cambodia, local media reported Thursday.

Elinar Risa, former advisor to the Timor-Leste Minister of Natural Resources and Energy, said that JDAs, where neighboring countries agree to split income from overlapping oil and gas fields, are in most cases preferable to continued disputes, according to the Mekong Times newspaper.

JDAs can reduce political tensions and increase investor confidence, Risa said during the UNDP Fuelling Poverty Reduction with Oil and Gas Revenues Conference in Phnom Penh.

A JDA deal between Timor-Leste and Australia sees income from overlapping fields split 90/10 in favor of Timor-Leste.

A 27,000 square km offshore area, larger than the total area off all Cambodia's undisputed potential oil fields and thought by experts to hold rich hydrocarbon deposits, has been claimed by both Cambodia and Thailand.

Cambodian officials have argued that any income should be evenly split between the two countries but there is yet to be any binding agreement.

Luxury golf course for Cambodia's former Khmer Rouge zone: PM

PHNOM PENH (AFP) — Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen said Wednesday that he wants a luxury golf course to be built in the former Khmer Rouge stronghold of Pailin, adding that even ex-rebels liked to hit the greens.

"Now if Pailin had a golf course, it would be a good thing," the premier said, speaking at a road construction project in the remote town near the Thai border that was one of the last refuges of the communist guerrillas.

The area is already home to a number of casinos, and has become increasingly open to tourism since the Khmer Rouge surrendered in 1996, which was the last year that Hun Sen was in Pailin.

In Pailin "the sound of monks chanting has replaced the sound of gunfire," Hun Sen said, adding that Pailin governor Ee Chhean, a former rebel fighter, was no stranger to the greens.

Cambodia doubled its number of luxury golf courses last year to four and hopes to have eight by 2010 in a bid to lure more high-end tourism from the fast-growing sport in Asia.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Wife buyers turn to Cambodia after crack down on marriage brokers in Vietnam

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia: The brides-to-be are brought down from poor Cambodian villages and herded into city hotels, where they are lined up and put on display for prospective grooms flown in from South Korea.

Over the past four years, some 2,500 women have wedded South Korean men, passing through an underground matchmaking business that few in Cambodia knew existed until recently.

A report to be released next month by the Geneva-based International Organization for Migration sheds light on the growing phenomenon. A crackdown on marriage brokers in neighboring Vietnam is pushing the activity into Cambodia, according to the report, an advance copy of which was obtained by The Associated Press.

"It's become a big business," said John McGeoghan, an IOM project coordinator in Cambodia. "We now see that these marriage brokers are popping up in Cambodia. This is a new market for them, and there's a lot of money to be made."

Potential grooms reportedly pay brokers up to US$20,000 (euro13,000), the IOM report says. The bride's family receives at most US$1,000 (euro650), with the rest pocketed by brokers. It is unclear how many are now operating in Cambodia.

The grooms, mostly factory workers and farmers, have trouble finding wives in South Korea because they are low-income earners, IOM says. Although some of the marriages prove successful, others herald loneliness, broken promises, divorce and sometimes violence, the report says.

Kim In-Kook, a South Korean embassy official, confirmed that the number of marriage visas issued to Cambodian brides soared from 72 in 2004 to 1,759 last year. He declined further comment.

Growing South Korean investment and tourism in Cambodia is also playing "a significant role in the expansion of transnational marriages" between the two countries, the IOM report says.

Cambodia's government publicly acknowledged the issue for the first time this month, apparently alarmed that it could slide into human trafficking, in which women are tricked or forced into marriage.

Earlier this month, the Interior Ministry announced it was canceling licenses of two South Korean companies for engaging in the matchmaking business. The firms had registered as export-import firms to secure legal entry into the country, a ministry official said on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to release information.

Interior Minister Sar Kheng denounced the firms' activities as "human trafficking."

Prime Minister Hun Sen spoke out on the problem shortly after, telling law enforcement agencies to be stricter in issuing marriage certificates "to prevent deceptive activities." He also urged parents "not to be so easygoing" about sending their daughters into brokered marriages with foreigners.

Traditionally, marriages in Cambodia are arranged by parents. Now, brokers are approaching Cambodian families. If interested, the families provide photos of their daughters, which are sent to South Korea or posted on Web sites, the IOM report says.

Brokers arrange 4-to-6 day marriage tours to Cambodia for prospective grooms, most of whom have expressed interest in more than one woman, the report says. The men are ushered through something akin to underground speed-dating, followed by a marriage ceremony.

"Most of the matchmaking occurs in restaurants or small hotels located in or near Phnom Penh," the report says, referring to Cambodia's capital city. "There the men typically select a bride from as many as 100 who are made available."

The women are mostly in their late teens and early 20s, attracted by promises of high living standards and money, the report says.

It cites one marriage in which a South Korean man promised to make monthly remittances to his bride's family, but was too poor to keep the promise. "This caused tension and arguments that resulted in domestic violence," the report says.

The woman is seeking divorce, but has received threats from the Cambodian marriage brokers, who have told her she would be charged US$1,000 if she returns and her parents would be harmed, the report says.

"It's not as romantic and wonderful as (the women) thought it would be," McGeoghan said.

Vietnam and Cambodia to closely cooperate in tourism, culture

VietNamNet Bridge – Vietnamese and Cambodian officials have met to discuss concrete measures to boost the bilateral cooperation in tourism, culture and sports.

In a meeting between the visiting Vietnamese Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism Hoang Tuan Anh and Cambodian Tourism Minister Thong Khon, the two sides expressed their satisfaction of the bilateral cooperation in tourism, and agreed in principle on measures some work to be done in the coming years to attract tourists and encourage their citizens to visit the other country.

They also agreed to set up a committee in charge for developing tourism cooperation between Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. The Cambodian side pledged to look into Vietnam’s suggestion of simplifying exit and entry procedures to facilitate the cross-border tourism.

Working with the Cambodian Ministries of Culture and Fine Arts, and Education, Youth and Sports, Minister Anh and his Cambodian counterparts stressed the need to intensify the exchange of delegations in order to boost cooperation in culture and sports.

The Vietnamese side agreed to help train Cambodian workers in music, archeology and cinematography at Vietnam’s art schools. Vietnam will also share experiences with Cambodia in hosting the Southeast Asian Games (SEA Games) and training athletics in preparations for the latter’s hosting the 27th SEA Games.

The Vietnamese Minister is on a working visit to Cambodia from March 23-26.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Former Japanese PM pledges to support Cambodian Government

Sunday, March 23, 2008; Posted: 10:26 PM

Phnom Penh, Mar 23, 2008 (Asia Pulse Data Source via COMTEX) | Former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has committed to completely supporting the leadership of Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen.

Abe made the commitment at a meeting with PM Hun Sen while leading a Japanese parliamentary delegation to visit Cambodia from March 21-23.

At the meeting, Abe praised achievements gained under the leadership of PM Hun Sen over the past years and agreed to ask the Japanese Government to provide financial assistance as well as to send observers to Cambodia ?s general elections scheduled for July 27.

Japan will also keep granting aid and loan packages for Japan ?s mega-projects in Cambodia , such as the construction of sea port and special economic zone in Sihanouk city, and will call Japanese investors to pour more money into the Southeast Asian nation.

Cambodian king to visit Brunei Shell Petroleum refinery

Phnom Penh - Cambodia's King Norodom Sihamoni is scheduled to receive a guided tour of the Brunei Shell Petroleum complex during his official visit next week, according to an itinerary received from a palace source Sunday. Sihamoni is scheduled to arrive in the oil-rich sultanate at the personal invitation of Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Monday for a three-day visit.

Brunei, a fellow member of the 10-member Association of South-East Asian Nations, has said it is advising Cambodia on management of potentially rich offshore oil reserves which the currently impoverished nation expects to tap by the end of the decade.

The royal visit is reciprocal after the sultan's visit to Cambodia last April.

Brunei Shell Petroleum Sdn Bhd in the oil fields of Seria is a company jointly owned by the sultan's government and Royal Dutch Shell, according to the Brunei Petroleum Unit website.

The government site says the Petroleum Unit acts on behalf of the Brunei government "as a regulatory body prudently monitors and oversees all activities that are carried out by concessionaires holding concession areas in Brunei Darussalam."

Sihamoni is scheduled to end his visit Wednesday after a series of engagements featuring meetings with Brunei Crown Prince Haji Al-Muhtader, a banquet hosted by the sultan in his honour and meetings with various officials expected to further focus on oil and gas.

Donors have voiced concern that endemic corruption may turn Cambodia's potential oil wealth into a curse.

Brunei, however, has been very supportive of Cambodia in its bid to use oil to assist it in shrugging off its donor dependency after 30 years of civil war.

Cambodia's Sudden Energy Wealth

Making the most of sudden energy wealth


The discovery of oil and gas off the coast of Cambodia continues to fuel an immense amount of media speculation about the size of the reserves, the amount of revenues they will bring in and how these revenues will be spent. However, there has been little discussion about the immense challenges developing countries like Cambodia face in developing their reserves: for example, the intricately complex pre-production issues, such as negotiating contracts and ensuring environmental safeguards.

Moreover, other vital questions such as how to optimise fund flows, enhance human resources and ensure the competitiveness of non-petroleum industries like agriculture and manufacturing are rarely addressed in the media.

This is also understandable: these issues are highly technical. They are discussed by technocrats and economists in language that often leaves journalists and the public scratching their heads. Perhaps this should change. Maybe it is time for the media to take a more technical and less dramatic look at Cambodia's nascent petroleum industry.

Over the past few years, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has been working closely with the government of Cambodia, the Cambodian National Petroleum Authority, the Norwegian government, and other partners, to examine models used by various countries to develop their petroleum reserves, with the goal of finding one that would be most effective in Cambodia. This is an ongoing process involving numerous partners directed towards a primary goal: fuelling poverty reduction through oil and gas revenues.

This goal is both an ethical imperative and one that makes economic sense. There is universal agreement on this. Unfortunately, however, it is not an easy goal to reach. Many countries _ including developed ones _ have encountered myriad and unexpected economic difficulties in developing their resource wealth, such as a rising exchange rate that hobbles the export competitiveness of manufacturing and agricultural industries.

Still, there are plenty of examples of countries that have successfully harnessed their petroleum and mineral resources to benefit the overall economy, as well as their citizens. Norway stands out and, among developing countries, Timor-Leste is leading the way, due in part to its successful negotiations with Australia for developing an overlapping claims area.

Both of these countries will be sending large delegations to the upcoming conference in Phnom Penh: ''Fuelling poverty reduction through oil and gas revenues _ comparative country experiences''. The 21/2-day event will bring Cambodian and international policymakers, technocrats and global experts together for a series of technical discussion sessions from March 26-28. More than 300 participants, including high-level delegations from more than 10 developing countries and senior executives from global oil and mining firms, will attend.

Issues on the agenda are crucial _ and not just for Cambodia. There is a market driven scramble to find new petroleum sources around the globe. This is expanding exploration and drilling to new, potentially petroleum-rich countries in the developing world. These countries face severe disadvantages in developing their resource wealth, as was pointed out at a high-level meeting on oil and gas development in Doha last September.

The Cambodian government sent a delegation to Doha, which brought together policymakers well versed in the art of developing and managing petroleum reserves, with those facing the daunting task of building institutions and frameworks from scratch.

The major disadvantages faced by developing countries include a lack of technical expertise and knowledge when negotiating and managing commercial relations with major petroleum companies, as well as gaps in institutional capacity.

The latter presents an unenviable conundrum: how can a developing country afford to swiftly build up the capacity of its petroleum-sector institutions before the anticipated revenues have begun to flow in?

Another question, raised at the Doha meeting, was how to effectively design and establish regulatory frameworks and compliance mechanisms that will eventually oversee a petroleum sector whose full reserves have yet to be reliably assessed.

As Cambodia's delegation to the Doha conference pointed out, their predicament is far from unique. Part of their solution is to bring the messages of Doha home. Our shared goal is that this week's ground-breaking conference encourages informed discussion about the foundation the Cambodian government must build to develop its petroleum and mineral reserves in ways that maximise benefits to the country and its citizens, safeguards the environment, ensures increased prosperity, and creates a legacy of rising opportunities for future generations.

Jo Scheuer is country director, UNDP Cambodia.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Cambodia vigilant for chemical, nuclear weapon imports

PHNOM PENH, March 12 (Xinhua) -- The Cambodian government has remained committed to preventing any chemical or nuclear weapons smuggled into the country, said English-Khmer language newspaper the Mekong Times on Wednesday.

"The government still continues to prevent the import of chemical and nuclear weapons to keep peace and stability, while countries around the world are facing threats of terrorism," said Em Sam An, secretary of state at the Interior Ministry while addressing a National Awareness Workshop of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) here on Tuesday.

Cambodia cooperates with several other countries on weapons control and has held a strong stance on the issue since 1993, he said, adding that the country has destroyed over 190,000 weapons since then.

"The Interior Ministry has prohibited the circulation of chemical weapons and cut down on the level of weapons in the country with positive results from the crackdowns conducted by the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces," he said.

Cambodia ratified CWC in July 2005, becoming the 170th member of the convention.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Splendour of a magnificent past

The remains of the mighty Khmer empire are there for us to see at Angkor Wat in Cambodia, writes Vaasanthi

As I stand before the magnificent temples I can hardly think of the tumultuous history of the land on which they have been standing for centuries. As if mocking history, they are a reminder of a past splendour that also speaks of what must have been an unrivalled empire spanning across South East Asia. Forgotten to the world for centuries, hidden behind the steaming jungles of Cambodia, rediscovered in the 19th century by diligent French explorers, the thousand-year-old stunning religious monuments of Angkor Wat stand as a testimony to human aspirations and imagination.

From Bangkok in Thailand, it is an hour’s flight to Siem Reap the nearest town to the fabled temples of Angkor in Cambodia. Siem Reap, a little more than a village before, is now undoubtedly Cambodia’s fastest-growing town.

It seems to have undergone a metamorphosis ever since the miraculous discovery of the temples. The past decade has seen its rapid growth from a sluggish impoverished village to a booming tourism spot. It is brimming with tourists from all round the world and quickly reinventing itself as a sophisticated centre for the new wave of visitors passing through each year. There are 100 hotels and thousand guesthouses and the number is going up every month; restaurants and bars every week.

It is still a small town with all the charm that goes with small towns. Thanks to tourism development the roads are good and the streets clean and oh, the people from old to the young and the very young always smiling and friendly. Who can say that this has been a land ravaged mercilessly in recent history by war and crime? They seem to have put their lives of recent past of terror and trauma behind to revel in the memory of a glorious past, which now remains a source of inspiration and national pride.

Contemporary Cambodia is the successor state to the mighty Khmer empire which during the Angkor period (9th to 15th centuries) ruled much of what is now Laos, Thailand and Vietnam. The remains of the empire are there for us to see at Angkor Wat, the ultimate of Khmer genius, described by travel brochures as ‘unrivalled in scale and grandeur in Southeast Asia’.

Tough times
The first glimpse of Angkor Wat is indeed staggering especially if you remember what Cambodia has gone through. Things were good in the past, culminating in the vast Angkor empire, unrivalled in the region during four centuries of dominance. Then the bad set in, from the 13th centuries neighbours steadily chipped off chunks of its territory. In the twentieth century it went downright ugly, as a bloody civil war lead to the brutal rule of the Khmer Rouge (1975-79) from which Cambodia is still recovering.

But meet the man in the street, you will hardly see any rancour towards the evil done. Cambodians have weathered through poverty, bloodshed and political chaos but their smiles have not faded. The tourists that throng and rush to the temple campus in the wee hours of the morning to catch the magnificent view of Angkor Wat at the first light of dawn are not bothered either. Their main worry is the overcast sky that threatens to break into a pouring rain.

As the sun slowly lights up the sky Angkor Wat turns into an ethereal golden hue with its reflection weaving magic in the lily pond. It is like divine inspiration. And yet it is the work of human hands that toiled to create such divinity out of sand stone. It takes some time to see how big the temple complex is.

Angkor’s monuments are spread throughout a huge forest. Heading north from Siem Reap, you first come to Angkor Wat, then the walled city of Angkor Thom to the east and west of this city are two vast reservoirs which helped to feed the Angkor Thom population. Further east are the temples of Ta Prohm and Pre Rup and in the north east is the beautiful well preserved temple of Banteay Srei. There are in fact a hundred temples and probably more.
What is of particular interest to the Indian visitor is the remarkable evidence of the spread of Hinduism and its gods and fables across the seas and the earth more than a thousand years ago. Angkor Wat temples are a celebration and glorification of the Hindu god Shiva and the mythologies of Ramayana and Mahabharata.

Though the lingams are no longer there and stone statues of the Buddha have taken over, the carvings of scenes from Ramayana and Mahabharata on the walls of the long corridors of Angkor Wat have been restored and are intact. Hinduism and Buddhism were both the preferred faiths followed alternately according to the reigning king’s belief. The myth of the churning of the milk ocean by Asuras and Devas seems to have fascinated Angkor sculptors and kings. There are two huge rows of the scene at the gate of Angkor Thom temple.

Naga worship must have been prevalent as the snake motifs with erect hoods are carved in stone almost in all the temples. In the temple of Bantaey Srie, which is praised as the jewel of Angkor, the pillars come alive with dancing apsaras and the gateways are filled with exquisite carvings depicting scenes from the Ramayana.
So the story goes...

There is an interesting story about the origin of the Indian connection. Cambodia came into being, so the story goes through a union between a Hindu Brahmin named Kaundinya who sailed by and a princess, the daughter of a dragon king who ruled the watery land. They fell in love and the king gave the land as dowry to Kaundinya to rule over. The kingdom was called Kambuja. The myth may or may not be true but it does say something about the cultural influences that affected Cambodia. Cambodia’s religious royal and written traditions stemmed from India. Buddhism spread there when Asoka sent his emissary to Cambodia. The long list of powerful Angkor kings has Hindu names beginning from Jayavarman II- who started building Angkor Wat two hundred years before Raja Raja Chola built the big temple of Tanjavur— the list has names like Yashovarman, Harsha varman, Rajendra Varman, Ishwara Varman— similar to the names of the Pallava kings of south India.

The French ‘discovery’ of Angkor in the 1860s made an international splash. It was only in 1901 the Ecole Francaised’Extreme-Orient began its long association with Angkor by funding an expedition to the Bayon temple.
In 1907 Angkor, which had been under Thai control, was returned to Cambodia and the EFEO took responsibility for clearing and restoring the whole site. Since the temples had Indian connection and the theme Hinduism, the cooperation of the Indian government was also taken for some sites. It was a stupendous task indeed. The monuments of Angkor were left to the jungle for many centuries. A large number of monuments are made of sandstone that tends to dissolve in prolonged exposure to wind and rain.

Monuments that wow!
At Ta Prohm, the jungle had stealthily made an all out invasion. The huge roots swoop down the monuments as if to devour them and the visual is at once breathtaking and awesome. What is striking about the sculptures is that no structure is made out of single rock boulders like you see in the temples of South India, but an assembly of blocks. The remarkable symmetry and serenity that prevails in the faces of the Bayon temple is truly amazing.
The temples of Angkor are the heart and soul of Cambodia. When our guide made a repeated reference to ‘My people, my country’ there was not only a natural pride but also the belief that Angkor was a true symbol of inspiration for the people to rise to eminence leaving behind the memories of suffering and trauma…

Cambodia's thriving real estate market enriches the elite
Sunday March 9, 2008

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP): An old hospital was razed to make way for Phnom Penh's tallest building _ a 42-story twin condominium tower. A garbage-strewn slum became prime real estate after police evicted its dwellers to a parched rice field outside the capital.

Cambodia is experiencing a construction boom fueled by foreign investment, particularly by South Koreans, and buying and selling among the country's few nouveaux riche _ while leaving the poor majority behind. Shopping malls and tall apartment buildings are sprouting up, transforming the capital's landscape that once bore the charm of colonial French-styled villas but resembled a ghost town at the fall of the genocidal Khmer Rouge regime nearly 30 years ago.

Political stability and robust economic growth of nearly 10 percent have lured investors to the real estate market that has seen prices surge over the last few years _ though they are still lower than in neighboring Vietnam or Thailand.

"Cambodia was sleeping for many years and now it's waking up,'' said Claire Brown, managing director of Britain-based Claire Brown Realty who began buying and selling property in Phnom Penh two years ago.

"Everybody wants to get a piece of the action,'' she said by phone. "The time to get in is now because soon it's going to be too late.''

Prime city land prices have tripled over the last two years to US$3,000 (euro2,000) per square meter. Those kinds of returns have drawn rich and middle-class Cambodians, as well as those living abroad.

"In buying and selling land, they could get profit 100 or 200 percent a year, if they make the right bet on the right location,'' said Dith Channa, the sale manager of CPL Cambodia Properties Ltd., a Phnom Penh-based real estate agency.

But the soaring real estate market is also widening the gap between the rich and the poor.

"Phnom Penh city is getting modern every day _ of course for the wealthy,'' said Chhorn Et, a former slum dweller now living with hundreds of others in a village in the middle of rice field about 20 kilometers (12 miles) from the capital.

"The government swept us away because they regarded us as very unpleasant for their eyes,'' said the 34-year-old woman who scavenges for discarded cans and bottles to sell for a living.

The flourishing property market is also happening in the shadow of problems of land rights disputes that, in recent years, have often pitted the poor against wealthy developers with links to the Cambodian political establishment.

"We're moving toward possibly about 10 percent of the population owning 90 percent of the land in Cambodia,'' said Naly Pilorge, director of the nonprofit human rights group Licadho.

That could fan social and political unrest, she and others have warned.

The biggest projects are being funded by South Korean investors and companies, which have been the leading investors in Cambodia following the resumption of diplomatic ties between the two countries in 1997.

Investment and tourists from South Korea have surged following a 2006 visit to Cambodia by former President Roh Moo-hyun.

World City Co. Ltd., a South Korean company, is investing US$2 billion (euro1.3 billion) to build a "satellite'' urban complex called Camko City on a 120-hectare (300-acre) area on the northwest side of Phnom Penh. The project, the single biggest foreign direct investment in Cambodia to date, will include residential, commercial and public facilities _ villas, condos, trade and financial centers, office buildings, shopping centers, hotels, schools and hospitals.

Meanwhile, at a busy corner leading up to the city's landmark Independence Monument, an old government hospital has been torn down to make way for a 42-story condominium and shopping complex worth about US$250 million (euro162 million). That's going to dramatically change Phnom Penh's skyline, where the tallest building now is a 15-story hotel.

It is going to be the first luxury residential building and tallest structure in Cambodia, said Kim Tae-Yeon, chairman of Yon Woo Inc., a South Korean developer.

Kim said the towers will have about 500 units of apartments, office space and retail shops with price tags ranging from US$112,000 (euro72,647) to US$1.8 million (euro1.17 million) a unit.

Construction will start next month and take 3 1/2 years to complete, but Kim said nearly half of the units have already been bought.

In recent years, Siem Reap, a northwestern town near the famed Angkor Wat ruins, also has seen a frenzy of hotel and guesthouse construction for the growing numbers of tourists.

Thrilled with the boom, Prime Minister Hun Sen has said it has been made possible by the political stability he has brought. In a recent speech he warned that if he is not re-elected in July elections, property prices could nosedive.

"It was a threat, a dirty trick to gain votes,'' said Son Chhay, an opposition party lawmaker.

Son Chhay and some human rights workers, including Pilorge of the human rights group Licadho, believe that the boom is partly fueled by people laundering money from illegal logging, drug trafficking and tax evasion by plowing the cash into the real estate market.

"This is not going to be healthy for the Cambodian economy,'' Son Chhay says.

There are also concerns that the rapid price gains are creating a bubble that will eventually pop.

Eric Sidgwick, senior economist at the Asian Development Bank office in Phnom Penh, said the real estate market has been "driven by a combination of genuine demand for business-related and residential construction,'' as well as a growing population, increased urbanization and speculation.

Still, there were "reasons to be concerned about the recent increase in real estate prices and the dangers of further inflating a speculation-led bubble,'' he said in an e-mail. He declined to comment about any possible link between money laundering and the property market boom.

Meanwhile, poor residents like Chhorn Et, the former slum dweller who was moved outside the capital, are left to cope with a stark reality in their new village, which has no running water or sewage system.

Although each family has been given a small piece of land, they complain of the lack of means to support their livelihoods. They have to travel daily to the capital to do odd jobs as motorbike taxi drivers, construction workers or scavenge for bottles and cans to sell to buy food.

Many of them are too poor to afford a latrine and have to use a nearby rice field as a toilet, said 37-year-old Mom Somaly, a mother of five children.

Pointing to a distant land-for-sale sign, she said "soon they may not even have a field to use as toilet any longer.''

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Tunc Holding AG:Tendering for projects in Cambodia

DJ Tunc Holding AG:Tendering for projects in Cambodia, Laos and Burundi

ots.CorporateNews transmitted by euro adhoc. The issuer is responsible for
the content of this announcement.

Tunc Telekomünikasyon, the Turkish subsidiary of Swiss Tunc Holding AG, (News)
announces its participation at the bid invitation of Timeturns Telecom Company
(115446, Moscow, Kolomenskiy proezd, Building 14, 4th floor, Office 1, Russian
Federation, Moscow Representation Office). Timeturns Telecom Company owns GSM
licenses of Laos, Burundi and Cambodia and was assigned by three GSM operators
to develop the GSM networks in these countries. In case of an acceptance of the
bid the agreement contains a volume of $ US 60 Mio. Within the scope of these
project Tunc Telekomünikasyon would be responsible for planning and erection of
turnkey GSM networks (Network Implementation).

During a meeting with Bülent Recepoglu, CEO of Tunc Holding AG, and Georges
Mouhaweje Ghassan, General Manager of Timeturns Telecom Company, in Moscow on
the 1st March of 2008 the details of Tunc Telekomunikasyon A.S. bidding offer
were reviewed. Tunc Telekomunikasyon A.S. is planning to build 240 full turnkey
stations for each country and to take over GSM stations maintenance-failure
works in Laos, Burundi and Cambodia.

With the participation Tunc Holding AG works on the intended expansion of its
operational business to the countries of Southeast Asia. Tunc Holding was able
to establish itself already in 12 countries of Asia Minor, Central and Western
Asia as well as in Eastern Europe through its seven subsidiaries and several
projects. For this reason and for beeing an experienced service provider there
is great confidence to achieve the acceptance of bid.

Tunc Holding AG has been founded in November 2007 and provides through its seven
subsidiaries engineering and support services in the area of telecommunications
systems. Tunc Telekomünikasyon A.S. as operational nerve centre of the group is
located in Ankara, Turkey. The Turkish subsidiary operates as highly qualified
provider in the GSM sector since 1992. The broad range of services includes from
site survey and infrastructure to the erection and maintenance of
telecommunications systems. Since 1996, the activities have been continuously
expanded to include the area of electricity distribution systems with associated
services, renewable energy and internet technology.

The shares of Tunc Holding AG are traded in the Open Market of Deutsche Börse
Frankfurt (ISIN: CH0036270582, WKN: A0M92R).

Baby dolphin's health causes concern in Cambodia

PHNOM PENH, March 7 (Xinhua) -- Though infant mortality is on the decline among Cambodia's endangered Mekong Irrawaddy dolphin population, the overall health of the baby dolphins is of concern, national media on Friday quoted expert as saying.

Two of the nine baby dolphins born in 2007 died - one in January and another last week, said Touch Seang Tana, head of the governmental Commission of Mekong Dolphin Conservation.

In 2006, 14 babies were born, six of which died, he said, adding that these numbers were encouraging given the fact that the previous years saw an average of 15 babies die.

"Before there were a lot of deaths. Now there is only two," he was quoted by English-Khmer language newspaper the Cambodian Dailyas saying.

The improvements are attributed to education campaigns over the last couple of years warning villagers not to use gill nets and encouraging them to find work in tourism instead of fishing.

However, the surviving baby dolphins are underweight and look unhealthy, he said, adding that the baby dolphin dying in January weighed only 3.8 kg and the baby found last week tangled in a fishing net 4 kg, some one kg shy of the normal weight.

"The remaining babies are small," he said, adding that the baby dolphin’s failing health is partly due to a shortage in the fish their mothers eat, which is something he attributed to global warming and shifting temperatures.

World Wildlife Fund' Cambodia Country Director Teak Seng said that global warming may be a threat to the dolphins, but there is no conclusive evidence to support the theory.

"We don't have any scientific evidence that supports this casual relationship, therefore further research needs to be conducted," he said.

"While dolphins are very sensitive to changes in their environment, such as water temperature and quality, other factors may be more influential such as diseases and water pollution," he added.

According to the Commission of Mekong Dolphin Conservation, there are currently 140 to 150 dolphins in Cambodia, over some 90 in 2006.

The Cambodian government has adopted a series of measures to protect the animal, such as no use of fishing net in its inhabiting area, and encouragement of local people to salvage those struggling in nets.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

South Korean President to visit Cambodia this year

PHNOM PENH, Feb. 26 (Xinhua) -- South Korean President Lee Myung Bak will visit Cambodia sometime this year, at the invitation by Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen during their Monday meeting in Seoul, a senior official said here Tuesday.

Lee will visit Cambodia to strengthen the cooperation in the fields of trade, investment, economy and personal relations, Hor Namhong, Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, told a press conference.

The press conference was held upon the return of a senior Cambodian delegation led by Hun Sen from the swearing-in ceremony of Lee Myung Bak in Seoul.

"The visit will bring about closer economic ties between the two sides to help develop Cambodia," Hor said.

Since Lee was former economic advisor for Hun Sen, the two men have had deep personal relations, Hor said, adding that this year is also the 11th anniversary of the establishment of the diplomatic relations between the two countries.

As the No. 1 foreign investor in Cambodia, South Korea is contributing large amount of money in the construction field in Cambodia, Hor said.

Dengue Fever combines the indie and the Cambodian to create sounds enigmatic and modern

Border Crossings

By Matt Diehl

“World” has often proven a dirty word for music fans – just ask the members of Dengue Fever. Sure, this sextet, hailing from Los Angeles’ hipster Eastside, formed around an interest in ’60s-vintage Cambodian psychedelic rock, and features Cambodian singer Chhom Nimol frequently singing in her native language. Still, that doesn’t mean they fit any particular pigeonhole. “Starting in the ’80s, world music clichés turned off a lot of people,” Dengue Fever bassist Senon Williams explains. “It was repulsive to those who were into something more rootsy and raw.” Indeed, much of what was available as world music seemed to embody unfortunate stereotypes – the noble savage, the docile, uneducated native. “So much so-called ‘world music’ seemed frozen in time, trying to preserve tradition rather than move things forward,” Dengue guitarist and songwriter Zac Holtzman explains. “We’re not just like, you know, the Guatemalan hat band,” adds Holtzman’s brother, Ethan, who plays organ in the band. “We need to pick up one of those pan flutes,” Williams groans. “Or maybe stick a bone through our noses.”

For Dengue Fever, however, the world-music tag has ultimately proven more blessing than curse, especially in the wake of new interest in non-Western sounds from maverick musicians capturing attention of late. Gogol Bordello draws huge crowds for their blend of Ukrainian gypsy sounds and urban punk rave-up; Beirut blew up the blogosphere with their Brooklyn-meets-Balkan hybrid grooves; Extra Golden and Vampire Weekend, meanwhile, combine indie-rock stylings with the indestructible beat of Africa, resulting in significant artistic dividends. Having formed in 2001, Dengue Fever – which also includes David Ralicke on brass and Paul Smith on drums/percussion – found themselves at the head of the pack. “It’s like a new little movement,” Williams explains. “It’s happened in the past with people like Peter Gabriel, Paul Simon, and David Byrne, but in my eyes that was different; they were grabbing things and using them for themselves. It wasn’t a band. Now it’s like, ‘This is just music.’ We’re not trying to do something ‘authentic.’” “If you’re in your dorm room with a drum machine and listening to Fela, then whatever,” adds Smith. “Yeah, but I never thought I’d see Gogol Bordello on David Letterman!” adds Zac, causing the whole band to crack up.

Don’t be surprised if you find Dengue Fever showing up on your idiot box, either. According to Dave Neupert, who heads up the Silver Lake-based digital marketing company, M80, that also serves as Dengue Fever’s indie record company, the band’s latest album, Venus on Earth, has transcended all expectations since its release in late January. “We’ve sold 4,000 units, and the campaign is just beginning,” Neupert claims, adding that everyone from major media outlets like NPR and Spin magazine to influential bloggers are supporting the band. “45 percent of that is digital sales,” he adds, “when the industry standard is under 10 percent. It’s blowing my mind.”

It’s refreshing to see such adventurous, border-crossing music growing in acceptance. Decidedly trippy, infused with an eerie, infectious melodicism, Dengue Fever’s music resembles a radio transmission from another dimension, oozing atmospheric nostalgia for a time and place that never existed. Onstage, the band’s front line cuts a decidedly odd yet intriguing persona: Zac Holtzman’s looming beanstalk frame and long, dark beard contrasts with petite, gorgeous Nimol outfitted in elaborately colorful Cambodian traditional dress, swaying alluringly to the unpredictable rhythms. No, this isn’t your mother’s indie rock – unless your mother grew up in Angkor Wat.

Dengue Fever’s origin is almost as unlikely as their sound. In 1998, Ethan Holtzman, burnt out from his day job as a case manager specializing in schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, sold his car and bought a one-way ticket to Southeast Asia. Traveling for half a year, he found that nowhere affected him like Cambodia. “It felt so lawless,” he explains of his feelings for the nation torn apart by so many struggles – war, famine, revolution, genocide. “The Khmer Rouge were still present, and people were very cautious. Missiles had exploded near where I was staying weeks before; some French backpackers had recently been killed on a train. There were also still landmines buried around, and I’d seen people maimed from them. But it was such a memorable country, so raw. You could do anything – if you wanted to buy a hand grenade for five dollars and throw it, you could.” Dengue’s distinctive moniker comes from the affliction that beset Ethan’s Scottish travel partner, who fell ill after being bit by a disease-carrying mosquito. “He said it felt like your bones are being crushed from the inside,” Holtzman recalls. “The music, the disease, and the country all blurred together.”

When Holtzman returned, he and his older brother Zac bonded over a shared love for ’60s Cambodian psychedelic rock. In Ethan’s absence, Zac – a musician who’d played for over a decade with Bay Area country-punkers Dieselhed – had been given the compilation Cambodia Rocks!, and quickly fell in love with the music’s exotically strange twists and turns. Together, Ethan and Zac haunted the clubs and restaurants of Long Beach’s Cambodian community known as “Little Phnom Penh,” looking for a singer to complete their unexpected musical odyssey. When they found Chhom Nimol singing at a restaurant called Dragon House, they knew their search was over. Nimol had been a star in Cambodia, but had stayed illegally in the United States after being brought over for a series of Cambodian New Year celebrations at a Rochester, Minnesota, temple. “It was fun to pop into clubs and see her because we had a crush on her: she was so cute, and sang so well,” Ethan explains.

Despite suspicions – and a limited knowledge of the English language – Nimol joined the Holtzman brothers, who recruited Williams (also a member of Radar Bros.), Ralicke (who’s appeared with the likes of Beck, Ozomatli, and Brazzaville) and Smith (a studio engineer who’d briefly played with Ethan in another band). Almost immediately, Dengue Fever captured interest: Matt Dillon put them on the soundtrack of his directorial debut City of Ghosts, and even hung out at numerous band rehearsals. Dillon still regularly attends Dengue shows.

Indie fans, meanwhile, were won over by the band’s raucous first show at Spaceland and the uncanny sounds captured on Dengue Fever’s eponymous first album, largely a collection of vintage covers by revered Cambodian rockers like Sinn Sisamouth. “The old songs the band covers are golden oldies that everyone in Cambodia knows,” explains John Pirozzi. Pirozzi is the director of Sleepwalking Through the Mekong, an acclaimed documentary about the band’s first trip to Cambodia, where they jammed with local musicians and brought Khmer nationals and expats together for the first time on the dance floor, with “songs that represented a better time for those who survived Pol Pot.”

Dengue Fever began exploring original material, however, on their 2005 sophomore effort, Escape from Dragon House; Nimol even began singing in English (Holtzman sends his words to a Khmer translator based in Washington, D.C.). Dengue Fever’s evolution gelled even further on the swirling, evocatively unique sounds on Venus on Earth. “We’re not copying anything,” Williams says. “If that’s what you’re looking for, you might as well hire somebody from … .”

“National Geographic,” interjects Zac, to more laughter.

At the core of Dengue Fever’s appeal is Nimol, who Williams calls the band’s “siren.” Despite her fondness for caked-on makeup and stripper-style high heels – “Those are her comfortable shoes,” jokes Smith pointing at the strappy, spiky stilettos adorning Nimol’s feet. “She hikes in those! – Dengue’s frontwoman exudes alluring innocence. “A lot of singers strut their stuff and lick the mic stand,” Williams explains, “but Nimol is even sexier because she’s composed and secretive.” Nimol indeed proves enigmatic in person, rarely making eye contact and covering her mouth as she speaks in confident, yet still broken, English. “I like the New Wave, and also the hip-hop and the reggae,” she says of her musical inspirations. “I write songs about love only … guy and girl, broken heart. But my heart is not broken. I’m not in love – I’m too picky! I love myself!”

At one point, Nimol’s immigrant status threatened to stop Dengue Fever for good. Returning from a gig in San Diego opening for Jonathan Richman, police stopped Ethan Holtzman’s car at a checkpoint on the 5 Freeway. “They looked at me and thought I was Mexican lady,” Nimol explains. Instead, after checking her identification, authorities discovered Nimol had overstayed her visa. Caught in the wake of post-9/11 hysteria, she was brought into custody, where she entertained her fellow jailbirds with renditions of Celine Dion hits. “Jail was scary,” Nimol recalls. “I was feeling afraid I was going to be sent back to my country. But they said, ‘You have good voice!’” A series of benefits at the Short Stop and the Derby, along with some help from Amnesty International, got her sprung. “Singers have gotten acid thrown in their face in Cambodia for associating with the wrong politicians,” Smith says. “It was an important part of her defense. If she had been sent home, she could’ve been a target.”

Nimol and crew have moved on to greater, more legal successes. Venus on Earth’s sales keep growing, Sleepwalking Through the Mekong has appeared at prestigious film festivals, and Dengue Fever is gearing up for yet another international touring schedule; the band has already played everywhere from Holland and Portugal to Russia, and are now stars in Cambodia, thanks to nonstop media coverage of their tour there. “CTN, the Cambodia Television Network, did a two-hour special on us that aired two to three times a day the entire time we were there,” Williams explains. “I took a break to vacation in Kampot, and when I had to get back to Phnom Penh, I went to grab the bus. The woman selling the tickets was like ‘Why are you taking the bus? You’re famous! Famous people don’t take the bus!’”

Even Nimol’s tradition-bound family is coming around. “At first, my sister said to Zac, ‘You never have Nimol sing,” Nimol says. “She is very original Cambodian, so she doesn’t understand. But last time we play Echoplex, she said music is good, but told me I not in Cambodia anymore and need to learn to dance more rock and roll!” It’s this cultural crossroads, in fact, that ultimately gives Dengue Fever its unique place in music today – a fact not lost on the band itself. “We can play both indie-rock and world-music markets now,” Ethan explains. “And when we play the world shows, people are looking at us like we’re this new thing.”

“It’s fun not fitting in anywhere,” Zac adds, “but getting to play everywhere.”

Asian nations vie to become biggest Cambodia investors

Published: Thursday, 28 February, 2008, 08:13 AM Doha Time
PHNOM PENH: China overtook South Korea as Cambodia's largest foreign investor last year, but Japan had shown an increased interest in investment as opposed to aid, a senior Cambodian economist said yesterday.
Speaking at a press conference in the capital, the secretary-general for the government's Council for the Development of Cambodia (CDC), Sok Chenda, gently chided Western nations for lagging behind Asian nations in foreign direct investment.
He said between 1994 to 2003 investment from Western nations made up just 15% of the country’s total, with 60% coming from Asian nations such as Malaysia, China and Korea.
“I can’t predict foreign investment figures for 2008 but I hope for even more. Prime Minister Hun Sen just returned from a visit to South Korea yesterday and we are hopeful that will generate renewed investment interest there,â€‌ Chenda said.
“There is also new interest from other quarters, and especially Japan. Japanese investors have certainly now entered the doors of our home.â€‌
Approved foreign investments from 1994 to 2007 totalled $14.83bn, he said, with China accounting for $1.76bn of that total and South Korea $1.5bn.
Industrial investments made up 34% of that total, followed by the service industry with 32%.
Agriculture made up just 7%, but Chenda said that was a promising area of growth and with a boom in global bio-fuel demand and the recently launch of several food processing factories in Cambodia it was expected to continue to grow.
However, he admitted the less developed nation still faced obstacles, such as Cambodia’s terrible balance of trade and lack of secondary industries, which meant container ships arrived full but often left with room to spare.
He also appealed to foreign governments to help Cambodia strengthen its ability to curb money laundering, pointing out that the country lacked an investment board to investigate potential investors thoroughly, such as the boards set up in Thailand and Japan.
“Competing regionally remains less than easy. Trading partners use the words â€کfriendly’ and â€کco-operation’, but of course they always look after their own interests,â€‌ he said. – DPA

Vietnam and Cambodia to boost border-area co-operation

The two sides vow to work together to develop their border provinces.
Deputy PM Nguyen Sinh Hung attends the Viet Nam-Cambodia border province co-operation and development conference. — VNA/VNS Photo Nhan Sang

Phnom Penh — Viet Nam Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Sinh Hung amd Cambodia’s Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister SarKheng reiterated the importance of the border talks between their two countries in a joint communique issued yesterday.

The deputy prime ministers had just co-chaired the fourth meeting to enhance co-operation and development of the Viet Nam-Cambodia border provinces.

The talks had been held in an atmosphere of friendship, solidarity and mutual understanding, their communique says.

The meeting had been attended by senior provincial representatives of Viet Nam and Cambodia as well as ministries and institutions of both countries.

The following is an edited version of the communique.

1. The meeting was to implement the provisions of the Joint Communique issued after the third meeting for Co-operation and Development of Cambodia – Viet Nam’s border provinces in Long Xuyen, An Giang Province, Viet Nam on December 25, 2006.

2. It was conducted in an atmosphere of friendship, solidarity, and mutual understanding and had reiterated the necessity and importance of the meeting as a key mechanism in co-operation that had progressed from day-to-day security maintenance and socio-economic development to strengthening and deepening the friendship and multi-sided co-operation of common interest for both countries.

3. Both Viet Nam and Cambodia had warmly welcomed and highly valued the State visit by Viet Nam President Nguyen Minh Triet to Cambodia in February 2007 and other official visits by senior representatives of both countries.

4. Both teams of negotiators expressed their satisfaction with and said they highly valued the outcomes of the 9th Cambodia-Viet Nam Joint Economic, Cultural, Scientific and Technical Co-operation Commission meeting held in Phnom Penh on August 21 last year.

Both considered the meeting had contributed to strengthening friendship and co-operation in all areas of common interest including the relations between the border provinces of both countries.

5. The negotiators welcomed the outcome of the second Ministerial Meeting to promote trade and investment in the Cambodia-Lao-Viet Nam Development Triangle on February 16-17, 2008. They also welcomed the results of the Commerce Ministerial Committee Meeting in Preah Sihanouk Ville, Cambodia, on February 18-19, 2008 and the First Meeting of the Foreign Ministers of Mekong-Japan held in Tokyo from January 16-17, 2008.

6. The negotiators reviewed the implementation of points agreed at the 3rd Co-operation and Development Meeting between their border provinces and expressed satisfaction with and highly valued the outcomes of excellent co-operation that had followed. The negotiators considered this fruitful co-operation as an important contribution to strengthening friendship and co-operation between the two countries.

7. The negotiators agreed that they highly valued the yearly growth of trade between their countries and this would be strengthening to enhance the efforts made by their governments to promote bilateral trade of US$2 billion by 2010. All agreements, agreed minutes and MoUs signed by two countries to facilitate trade and investment along the borders of both countries would continue to be monitored. This would include the exchange of goods and services, the establishment of markets and economic zones along the borders, the organisation of trade exhibitions and advertising of products.

The negotiators also agreed to continue strengthening measures to prevent and suppress contraband and fake goods crossing their borders.

8. The negotiators agreed to promote further co-operation to develop transport infrastructure to link the border zones of both countries and encourage border authorities to use their respective resources for mutual co-operation. They also agreed to promote implementation of cross-border transport services at the key international checkpoints identified in the Agreement on Road Transport Protocol.

The negotiators agreed to accelerate construction of Road 78 from Ban Lung to O Yadav, Rattanakiri Province, Cambodia, and the feasibility study for the Chrey Thom bridge, Kandal Province, to Khanh Binh, An Giang Province.

9. The negotiators agreed to promote the construction of the 220kV transmission line from the border to Phnom Penh. It was also agreed to encourage Vietnamese companies to invest in electricity generation in Cambodia. Cambodian will facilitate the building of two hydro-electricity stations on the Sesan river by Viet Nam companies after they complete their feasibility studies in June 2009.

The negotiators agreed to facilitate Viet Nam companies to conduct feasibility studies and explore for oil and minerals in Cambodia. Viet Nam will conduct short training course on oil exploration for Cambodia.

10. The negotiators agreed to continue mutual support in developing agriculture and promoting investment industry using agricultural produced in areas along the border.

The promotion of rubber cultivation in border provinces was also agreed with companies of the two countries to work in partnership to secure appropriate concession of land for rubber in accordance with Cambodian law.

Both agreed to continue to protect and take measures against insects that destroy rice and other crops and jointly maintain natural resources, ecosystems and wildlife.

Both agreed to help farmers of both countries to use water from rivers and canals along the border.

11. The negotiators agreed to continue to co-operate in providing border medical services. Viet Nam will help Cambodian provinces with medical checks for the treatment of eyes disease among Cambodians living on the border by allowing them enter Viet Nam and seek medical treatment at Vietnamese provincial hospitals for the same fees as paid by Vietnamese.

12. The negotiators agreed to continue mutual support in the building of the capacity of personnel for the border provinces. Cultural and sports exchange will be promoted and the young and people on both sides of the border encouraged to jointly organise events.

13. The negotiators agreed to the joint promotion of tourism in the border provinces.

14. The negotiators welcomed the implementation of the demarcation of the border based on the Border Demarcation Supplementary Treaty. It was also agreed to give high priority to border demarcation and quicken the process.

15. The negotiators evaluated co-operation between the two countries and said agreed to effective measures to maintain public order at their border. This would include the further strengthening of security and public order at the border to ensure peace, friendship, co-operation and sustainable development. Both countries would continue to tighten control of illegal migration, illicit drug trafficking, human trafficking, particularly women and children and cross-border crime.

The negotiators reiterated their policy of their countries to prevent the use of their territory by hostile forces against the security of both countries. They also agreed to promote co-operation to resolve any border differences in the spirit of friendship, peace, and mutual understanding.

16. The negotiators agreed to ask their Governments, ministries, and institutions to continue their support of local authorities in border provinces so as to promote effective co-operation between their border provinces.

17. The negotiators agreed to establish new border checkpoints, change the names of some and consider the upgrading of others so as to facilitate border crossing by residents and the peoples of both countries to encourage the exchange of goods and services.

18. The negotiators supported the in principle approval of both Governments for the peoples of both countries who hold ordinary passports to be visa exempt.

19. The negotiators expressed great satisfaction with the border events organised to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Cambodia and Viet Nam – June 26, 1967-June 26, 2007.

20. The negotiators agreed to continue regular meetings between border provinces, districts and communes to further promote implementation of the agreed points and draft new plans for co-operation for their Governments to consider.

21. The negotiators agreed to organise the 5th Co-operation and Development Meeting for Cambodia-Viet Nam Border Provinces in Viet Nam in 2009 at a venue and time to be announced. — VNS