Friday, July 31, 2009

Siam Cement sees profit drop in Q2


SIAM Cement Group, which owns 90 percent of Kampot Cement, has announced a 21 percent drop in profits for the second quarter to 1.553 billion baht (US$45.6 million) in its cement division.

In a statement Wednesday announcing financial results up to the end of June, the publicly traded company said net sales fell 11 percent in the second quarter to 11 billion baht "due to lower cement prices and sales volume".

However, first-half net profit was still up 10 percent year on year in the division due to "various energy savings programs", the statement added.
Siam Cement Group's overall results were more healthy - consolidated net profit increased 32 percent in the second quarter compared to the first to 6,837 billion baht, decreasing 5 percent year on year.

As the major shareholder in Kampot Cement - which has a domestic market share of about 50 percent - Siam Cement has a strong presence in the Cambodian cement market, which has seen declining sales on the back of the downturn in the construction sector.

Kampot Cement said this month that sales had fallen about one-third in the first five months of the year. The company added that it was unlikely to meet its 2009 sales target of 3 million tonnes.

The $127 million joint venture was established in January 2008, with Cambodia's Khaou Chuly Group holding the remaining 10 percent stake.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Cambodia's RCAF: Tending their border garden


An RCAF battalion stationed along the front lines near Preah Vihear temple has taken to growing food to supplement what soldiers say are meagre rations.
Photo by: Tracey Shelton
A member of Royal Cambodian Armed Forces Battalion 404 stands in the soldiers’ corn field at their base near the Thai border in Ta Thav village, Choam Ksan district, Preah Vihear province.

Preah Vihear Province
OVER the past year, soldiers in one Royal Cambodian Armed Forces battalion stationed along the Thai-Cambodian border in Preah Vihear province have learned how to supplement what they describe as meagre rations provided by the government - by growing their own food.

Though they say the tension with Thailand is never far from their minds, troops belonging to RCAF Battalion 404 find time each day to tend livestock and cultivate vegetables on their base, located about 2 kilometers away from the disputed Preah Vihear temple complex.

They have raised two pigs, 49 cows, and more than 1,000 chickens at their base in Ta Thav, in Preah Vihear's Choam Ksan district. In addition, they have also grown a variety of different vegetables, including cucumbers, pumpkins, potatoes, cabbage and corn.

"We have rations from the government, but it's not enough," said Ten Navun, a first lieutenant in the battalion. "That's why we decided to make our base self-sufficient."

There are slightly fewer than 1,000 soldiers in Battalion 404, currently stationed about 100 metres from the border with Thailand. All members of the battalion are former Khmer Rouge soldiers, Ten Navun said.

Colonel Sem Yo, the commander of the battalion, said the soldiers' time with the Khmer Rouge, during which they were often isolated in the forest and forced to fend for themselves, had prepared them well for their current conditions.

"You know we are former Khmer Rouge soldiers, so we have been taught how to farm, how to plant vegetables, how to grow rice. This is what we have learned, and now we continue to practice it. We have our own crops, so we don't worry about running out of food," he said.

Though many of the soldiers have been stationed in the area for years, Ten Navun said they became particularly interested in establishing a farm there in just the past 12 months, as the conflict with Thailand over UNESCO's decision to accept Cambodia's application to list Preah Vihear temple as a World Heritage site became increasingly hostile and, at times, violent.

He said the soldiers were worried that Thai soldiers would attempt to disrupt their supply lines and cut off their rations completely.

"We are planning to raise more chickens, cows, pigs and crops to have enough supplies for everyone here. This is our strategy to defend the border," he said.

He estimated that the battalion could survive for two to three months on its current food supply.

Building a permanent base
Sem Yo said he believed the base in Ta Thav could become the main RCAF base in the area, adding that he had ordered the troops to expand the camp by constructing houses and meeting halls.

Already, the camp is starting to look more settled. On a recent Monday morning, soldiers were at work planting vegetables and building houses.
Others played volleyball or card games to pass the time.

The sole woman with the all-male battalion, Than Ry, the 27-year-old wife of one of the soldiers, said she was doing her best to provide a civilising influence over the soldiers.

"They always make fun of me because I'm the only woman here, but I am happy to stay here and chat with them every day, even though there is tension at the border," said Than Ry, adding that she had been tasked with cooking for the soldiers and helping with the vegetable garden as well.

"I am not afraid of fighting by Thai and Cambodian soldiers," she said. "If there is a clash, I will hide in a trench with my husband."

One challenge that remains for the soldiers is to maintain a constant supply of fresh water. They have constructed a well near the base after receiving funding from RCAF Deputy Commander-in-Chief Hing Bun Heang, who is also the bodyguard commander for Prime Minister Hun Sen.

But because their camp is on a hilltop, the water has proved difficult to pump.

Currently, soldiers fetch water from wells at the bottom of the hill and transport it on trucks or motorbikes for 1 kilometer along the road into their camp.

Up until last month, before the road was finished, the soldiers were forced to walk up the hill while carrying their water and rice.

Officials in Phnom Penh praised the soldiers' resourcefulness, but they rejected the notion that the government was not providing them with enough food.

"The ministry has provided them with enough rations and food, but our soldiers have farmed and planted vegetables because they want to eat delicious food," said Chum Sambath, undersecretary of state for the Ministry of Defence.

"They have been trained to support themselves," he added, calling the battalion's practices part of a "military strategy".

Sok Vandeth, deputy commander of Border Police Battalion 795, who is also stationed at Ta Thav, said his battalion also tends a vegetable garden. He said it would be "impossible" to rely solely on government rations.

"We have nothing to do here but plant things for our food," he said.

Thailand lends Cambodia US$40 million for road project

BANGKOK, July 29 (TNA) - The Thai Cabinet on Tuesday approved a Bt1.4 billion (US$ 41.2 million) loan for a highway development project in the neighbouring country of Cambodia, a Thai government spokesman said.

The soft loan will be spent on upgrading Highway Route 68 from Kralanh to Samrong and O-Smach in Cambodia, according to Mr Vachara Kannikar.

Under the 30-year contract, Cambodia will pay 1.5 per cent annual interest, with a grace period for the first 10 years, and will begin repaying the principal from 2019 onward.

The Cabinet decision on loans to Cambodia takes effect without a need to seek parliamentary approval as it is not considered an international agreement under Article 190 of the Constitution, Mr Vachara explained.

The Constitution stipulates that any international agreement is required by law to be presented for parliamentary approval before putting it into practice.

In addition, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva assigned the National Security Council to consider opening more border crossings with Cambodia to boost border trade and bilateral cooperation. (TNA)

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Cambodia's cargo falls at country's main ports


THE nation's three main ports have announced lower cargo shipment volumes in the first half of 2009.

Revenues at the largest port - Sihanoukville Autonomous Port - were down 15 percent year on year to US$12.24 million, said chairman and CEO Lou Kim Chhun.

"Cargo shipped through the Sihanoukville Autonomous Port dropped 18 percent to 105,780 containers in the first half of this year," he said on Monday, blaming reduced garment exports to the US and Europe, and lower imports of vehicles and construction materials.

Lou Kim Chhun projected revenue of $28.8 million for 2008, and had forecast 6 percent higher revenue this year.

"But due to the crisis and based on the figures from the first semester, we don't expect a recovery this year," he said.
Revenues at Phnom Penh International Port were down 20 percent in the first half.

"Cargo shipments through the port, mostly construction materials, dropped roughly 30 percent, and that caused revenue to decline around 20 percent," said Hei Bavy, the port's chairman and CEO.

He did not recall the dollar revenue figure, but said it is unlikely that revenue will grow at the same rate as last year.

Tann Monivann, vice president of Oknha Mong Port, which is on the boundary of Koh Kong and Preah Sihanouk provinces, said cargo shipments - predominantly construction materials and fruit from Thailand - were down about 10 percent, adding without providing specific figures that revenue had not been affected.

History Of Cambodia

No one knows for certain how long people have lived in what is now Cambodia, as studies of its prehistory are undeveloped. A carbon-l4 dating from a cave in northwestern Cambodia suggests that people using stone tools lived in the cave as early as 4000 bc, and rice has been grown on Cambodian soil since well before the 1st century ad. The first Cambodians likely arrived long before either of these dates. They probably migrated from the north, although nothing is known about their language or their way of life.

By the beginning of the 1st century ad, Chinese traders began to report the existence of inland and coastal kingdoms in Cambodia. These kingdoms already owed much to Indian culture, which provided alphabets, art forms, architectural styles, religions (Hinduism and Buddhism), and a stratified class system. Local beliefs that stressed the importance of ancestral spirits coexisted with the Indian religions and remain powerful today.

Cambodia's modem-day culture has its roots in the 1st to 6th centuries in a state referred to as Funan, known as the oldest Indianized state in Southeast Asia. It is from this period that evolved Cambodia's language, part of the Mon-Khmer family, which contains elements of Sanskrit, its ancient relig
ion of Hinduism and Buddhism. Historians have noted, for example, that Cambodians can be distinguished from their neighbors by their clothing - checkered scarves known as Kramas are worn instead of straw hats.

Funan gave way to the Angkor Empire with the rise to power of King Jayavarman II in 802. The following 600 years saw powerful Khmer kings dominate much of present day Southeast Asia, from the borders of Myanmar east to the South China Sea and north to Laos. It was during this period that Khmer kings built the most extensive concentration of religious temples in the world - the Angkor temple complex. The most successful of Angkor's kings, Jayavarman II,
Indravarman I, Suryavarman II and Jayavarman VII, also devised a masterpiece of ancient engineering: a sophisticated irrigation system that includes barays (gigantic man-made lakes) and canals that ensured as many as three rice crops a year. Part of this system is still in use today.

The Khmer Kingdom (Funan)
Early Chinese writers referred to a kingdom in Cambodia that they called Funan. Modern-day archaeological findings provide evidence of a commercial society centered on the Mekong Delta that flourished from the 1st century to the 6th century. Among these findings are excavations of a port city from
the 1st century, located in the region of Oc-Eo in what is now southern Vietnam. Served by a network of canals, the city was an important trade link between India and China. Ongoing excavations in southern Cambodia have revealed the existence of another important city near the present-day village of Angkor Borei.

A group of inland kingdoms, known collectively to the Chinese as Zhenla, flourished in the 6th and 7th centuries from southern Cambodia to southern Laos. The first stone inscriptions in the Khmer language and the first brick and stone Hindu temples in Cambodia date from the Zhenla period.

Angkor Era
Bayon Temple, Angkor Thom The giant faces carved on the Bayon temple at the Angk
or Thum complex in northwestern Cambodia represent both the Buddha and King Jayavarman VII (ruled about 1130-1219). Although a Buddhist temple, Angkor Thum was modeled after the great Hindu temple complex of Angkor Wat.

In the early 9th century a Khmer (ethnic Cambodian) prince returned to Cambodia from abroad. He probably arrived from nearby Java or Sumatra, where he may have been held hostage by island kings who had asserted control over portions of the Southeast Asian mainland.

In a series of ceremonies at different sites, the prince declared himself ruler of a new independent kingdom, which unified several local principalities. His kingdom eventually came to be centered near present-day Siemreab in
northwestern Cambodia. The prince, known to his successors as Jayavarman II, inaugurated a cult honoring the Hindu god Shiva as a devaraja (Sanskrit term meaning "god-king"). The cult, which legitimized the king's rule by linking him with Shiva, persisted at the Cambodian court for more than two hundred years.

Between the early 9th century and the early 15th century, 26 monarchs ruled successively over the Khmer kingdom (known as Angkor, the modern name for its capital city).

King Jayavarman VII

The successors of Jayavarman II built the great temples for which Angkor is famous.
Historians have dated more than a thousand temple sites and over a thousand stone inscriptions (most of them on temple walls) to this era.
Notable among the Khmer builder-kings were Suyavarman II, who built the temple known as Angkor Wat in the mid-12th century, and Jayavarman VII, who built the Bayon temple at Angkor Thum and several other large Buddhist temples half a century later. Jayavarman VII, a fervent Buddhist, also built hospitals and rest houses along the
roads that crisscrossed the kingdom. Most of the monarchs, however, seem to have been more concerned with displaying and increasing their power than with the welfare of their subjects.
Ancient City of Angkor This map shows the layout of the ancient city of Angkor, capital of the Cambodian Khmer kingdom from the 9th century to the 15th century. The city's huge stone temples were both civic centers and religious symbols of the Hindu cosmos. Historians believe that Angkor's network of canals and barays (reservoirs) were used for irrigation.

At its greatest extent, in the 12th century, the Khmer kingdom encompassed (in addition to present-day Cambodia) parts of present-day Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, Myanmar (formerly
Burma), and the Malay Peninsula. Thailand and Laos still contain Khmer ruins and inscriptions. The kings at Angkor received tribute from smaller kingdoms to the north, east, and west, and conducted trade with China. The capital city was the center of an impressive network of reservoirs and canals, which historians theorize supplied water for irrigation. Many historians believe that the abundant harvests made possible by irrigation supported a large population whose labor could be drawn on to construct the kings' temples and to fight their wars. The massive temples, extensive roads and waterworks, and confident inscriptions give an illusion of stability that is undermined by the fact that many Khmer kings gained the throne by conquering their predecessors. Inscriptions indicate that the kingdom frequently suffered from rebellions and foreign invasions.

Historians have not been able to fully explain the decline of the Khmer kingdom in the 13th and 14th centuries. However, it was probably associated with the rise of powerful Thai king
doms that had once paid tribute to Angkor, and to population losses following a series of wars with these kingdoms. Another factor may have been the introduction of Theravada Buddhism, which taught that anyone could achieve enlightenment through meritorious conduct and meditation. These egalitarian ideas undermined the hierarchical structure of Cambodian society and the power of prominent Hindu families. After a Thai invasion in 1431, what remained of the Cambodian elite shifted southeastward to the vicinity of Phnom Penh.

Cambodia Dark Age
This map of Southeast Asia in the mid-16th century shows the major centers of power in the region prior to the arrival of Europeans. During this period, these kingdoms were constantly at war. Eventually the Kingdom of Ayutthaya (modern Thailand) expanded to the north and east, absorbing much of Lan Na and Lan Xang (modern Laos). Dai Viet (modern Vietnam) expanded to the south, taking over the r
emaining territory of the Kingdom of Champa and the southern tip of the Kingdom of Lovek (modern Cambodia). Toungoo evolved into modern Myanmar.

The four centuries of Cambodian history following the abandonment of Angkor are poorly recorded, and therefore historians know little about them beyond the bare outlines. Cambodia retained its language and its cultural identity despite frequent invasions by the powerful Thai kingdom of Ayutthaya and incursions by Vietnamese forces. Indeed, for much of this period, Cambodia was a relatively prosperous trading kingdom with its capital at Lovek, near present-day Phnom Penh. European visitors wrote of the Buddhist piety of the inhabitants of the Kingdom of Lovek. During this period, Cambodians composed the country's most important work of literature, the Reamker (based on the Indian myth of the Ramayana).

In the late 18th century, a civil war in Vietnam and disorder following a Burmese inv
asion of Ayutthaya spilled over into Cambodia and devastated the area. In the early 19th century, newly established dynasties in Vietnam and Thailand competed for control over the Cambodian court. The warfare that ensued, beginning in the l830s, came close to destroying Cambodia.

French Rule.


Phnom Penh, as planned by the French, came to resemble a town in provincial France. By t
he second half of the 19th century, France had begun to expand its colonial penetration of Indochina (the peninsula between India and China). In 1863 France accepted the Cambodian king's invitation to impose a protectorate over his severely weakened kingdom, halting the country'
s dismemberment by Thailand and Vietnam. For the next 90 years, France ruled Cambodia. In theory, French administration was indirect, but in practice the word of French officials was final on all major subjects-including the selection of Cambodia's kings. The French left Cambodian institutions, including the monarchy, in place, and gradually developed a Cambodian civil service, organized along French lines. The French administration neglected education but built roads, port facilities, and other public works. Phnom Penh, as planned by the French, came to resemble a town in provincial France.

The French invested relatively little in Cambodia's economy compared to that of Vietna
m, which was also under French control. However, they developed rubber plantations in eastern Cambodia, and the kingdom exported sizable amounts of rice under their rule. The French also restored the Angkor temple complex and deciphered Angkorean inscriptions, which gave Cambodians a clear idea of their medieval heritage and kindled their pride in Cambodia's past. Because France left the monarchy, Buddhism, and the rhythms of rural life undisturbed, anti-French feeling was slow to develop.
King Sihanouk, through skillful maneuvering, managed to gain Cambodia's independence peacefully in 1953. During World War II (1939-1945), Japanese forces entered French Indochina but left the compliant French administration in place.

King Norodom Sihanouk

On the verge of defeat in 1945, the Japanese removed their French collaborators and installed a nominally independent Cambodian government under the recently crowned young king, Norodom Sihanouk. France reimposed its protectorate in early 1946 but allowed the Cambodians to draft a constitution and to form political parties.

Soon afterward, fighting erupted throughout Indochina as nationalist groups, some with Communist ideologies, struggled to win independence from France. Most of the fighting took place in Vietnam, in a conflict known as the First Indochina War (1946-1954). In Cambodia, Communist guerrilla forces allied with Vietnamese Communists gained control of much of the country. However, King Sihanouk, through skillful maneuvering, managed to gain Cambodia's independence peacefully in 1953, a few months earlier than Vietnam. The Geneva Accords of 1954, which marked the end of the First Indochina War, acknowledged Sihanouk's government as the sole legitimate authority in Cambodia.

Modern State
Sihanouk's campaign for independence sharpened his political skills and increased his ambitions. In 1955 he abdicated the throne in favor of his father to pursue a full-time political career, free of the constitutional constraints of the monarchy. In a move aimed at dismantling Cambodia's fledgling political parties, Sihanouk inaugurated a national political movement known as the Sangkum Reastr Niyum (People's Socialist Community), whose members were not permitted to belong to any other political group. The Sangkum won all the seats in the national elections of 1955, benefiting from Sihanouk's popularity and from police brutality at many polling stations. Sihanouk served as prime minister of Cambodia until 1960, when his father died and he was named head of state. Sihanouk remained widely popular among the people but was brutal to his opponents.

In the late 1950s the Cold War (period of tension between the United States and its allies and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, or USSR, and its allies) intensified in Asia. In this climate, foreign powers, including the United States, the USSR, and China, courted Sihanouk. Cambodia's importance to these countries stemmed from events in neighboring Vietnam, where tension had begun to mount between a Communist regime in the north and a pro-Western regime in the south. The USSR supported the Vietnamese Communists, while the United States opposed them, and China wanted to contain Vietnam for security reasons. Each of the foreign powers hoped that Cambodian support would bolster its position in the region. Sihanouk pursued a policy of neutrality that drew substantial economic aid from the competing countries.

In 1965, however, Sihanouk broke off diplomatic relations with the United States. At the same time, he allowed North Vietnamese Communists, then fighting the Vietnam War against the United States and the South Vietnamese in southern Vietnam, to set up bases on Cambodian soil. As warfare intensified in Vietnam, domestic opposition to Sihanouk from both radical and conservative elements increased. The Cambodian Communist organization, known as the Workers Party of Kampuchea (later renamed the Communist Party of Kampuchea, or CPK), had gone underground after failing to win any concessions at the Geneva Accords, but now they took up arms once again. As the economy became unstable, Cambodia became difficult to govern single-handedly. In need of economic and military aid, Sihanouk renewed diplomatic relations with the United States. Shortly thereafter, in 1969, U.S. president Richard Nixon authorized a bombing campaign against Cambodia in an effort to destroy Vietnamese Communist sanctuaries there.

Khmer Republic
In March 1970 Cambodia's legislature, the National Assembly, deposed Sihanouk while he was abroad. The conservative forces behind the coup were pro-Western and anti-Vietnamese. General Lon Nol, the country's prime minister, assumed power and sent his poorly equipped army to fight the North Vietnamese Communist forces encamped in border areas. Lon Nol hoped that U.S. aid would allow him to defeat his enemies, but American support was always geared to events in Vietnam. In April U.S. and South Vietnamese troops invaded Cambodia, searching for North Vietnamese, who moved deeper into Cambodia. Over the next year, North Vietnamese troops destroyed the offensive capacity of Lon Nol's army.

In October 1970 Lon Nol inaugurated the Khmer Republic. Sihanouk, who had sought asylum in China, was condemned to death despite his absence. By that time, Chinese and North Vietnamese leaders had persuaded the prince to establish a government in exile, allied with North Vietnam and dominated by the CPK, whom Sihanouk referred to as the Khmer Rouge (French for "Red Khmers").

In 1975, despite massive infusions of U.S. aid, the Khmer Republic collapsed, and Khmer Rouge forces occupied Phnom Penh.

The United States continued bombing Cambodia until the Congress of the United States halted the campaign in 1973. By that time, Lon Nol's forces were fighting not only the Vietnamese but also the Khmer Rouge. The general lost control over most of the Cambodian countryside, which had been devastated by U.S. bombing. The fighting severely damaged the nation's infrastructure and caused high numbers of casualties. Hundreds of thousands of refugees flooded into the cities. In 1975, despite massive infusions of U.S. aid, the Khmer Republic collapsed, and Khmer Rouge forces occupied Phnom Penh. Three weeks later, North Vietnamese forces achieved victory in South Vietnam.

Democratic Kampuchea
Pol Pot Pol Pot is a pseudonym for the Cambodian guerrilla commander Saloth Sar, who organized the Communist guerrilla force known as the Khmer Rouge. The Khmer Rouge ousted General Lon Nol in 1975, establishing a brutal Communist regime that ruled until 1979.

Immediately after occupying Cambodia's towns, the Khmer Rouge ordered all city dwellers into the countryside to take up agricultural tasks. The move reflected both the Khmer Rouge's contempt for urban dwellers, whom they saw as enemies, and their utopian vision of Cambodia as a nation of busy, productive peasants. The leader of the regime, who remained concealed from the public, was Saloth Sar, who used the pseudonym Pol Pot. The government, which called itself Democratic Kampuchea (DK), claimed to be seeking total independence from foreign powers but accepted economic and military aid from its major allies, China and North Korea.

Khmer Rouge Carnage The Khmer Rouge, led by Pol Pot, killed close to 1.7 million people in the mid- to late 1970s. In this photo, human bones and skulls fill a museum in Cambodia that had been used as a prison and torture center during Pol Pot's reign, Sygma.

Without identifying themselves as Communists, the Khmer Rouge quickly introduced a series of far-reaching and often painful socialist programs. The people given the most power in the new government were the largely illiterate rural Cambodians who had fought alongside the Khmer Rouge in the civil war. DK leaders severely restricted freedom of speech, movement, and association, and forbade all religious practices. The regime controlled all communications along with access to food and information. Former city dwellers, now called "new people," were particularly badly treated. The Khmer Rouge killed intellectuals, merchants, bureaucrats, members of religious groups, and any people suspected of disagreeing with the party. Millions of other Cambodians were forcibly relocated, deprived of food, tortured, or sent into forced labor.

While in power, the Khmer Rouge murdered, worked to death, or killed by starvation close to 1.7 million Cambodians.

The Khmer Rouge also attacked neighboring countries in an attempt to reclaim territories lost by Cambodia many centuries before. After fighting broke out with Vietnam (then united under the Communists) in 1977, DK's ideology became openly racist. Ethnic minorities in Cambodia, including ethnic Chinese and Vietnamese, were hunted down and expelled or massacred. Purges of party members accused of treason became widespread. People in eastern Cambodia, suspected of cooperating with Vietnam, suffered severely, and hundreds of thousands of them were killed. While in power, the Khmer Rouge murdered, worked to death, or killed by starvation close to 1.7 million Cambodians-more than one-fifth of the country's population.

Recent Development
In October 1991 Cambodia's warring factions, the UN, and a number of interested foreign nations signed an agreement in Paris intended to end the conflict in Cambodia. The agreement provided for a temporary power-sharing arrangement between a United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC) and a Supreme National Council (SNC) made up of delegates from the various Cambodian factions. Prince Norodom Sihanouk, the former king and prime minister of Cambodia, served as president of the SNC.

The Paris accords and the UN protectorate pushed Cambodia out of its isolation and introduced competitive politics, dormant since the early 1950s. UNTAC sponsored elections for a national assembly in May 1993, and for the first time in Cambodian history a majority of voters rejected an armed, incumbent regime. A royalist party, known by its French acronym FUNCINPEC, won the most seats in the election, followed by the CPP, led by Hun Sen. Reluctant to give up power, Hun Sen threatened to upset the election results. Under a compromise arrangement, a three-party coalition formed a government headed by two prime ministers; FUNCINPEC's Prince Norodom Ranariddh, one of Sihanouk's sons, became first prime minister, while Hun Sen became second prime minister.

In September 1993 the government ratified a new constitution restoring the monarchy and establishing the Kingdom of Cambodia. Sihanouk became king for the second time. After the 1993 elections, no foreign countries continued to recognize the DK as Cambodia's legal government. The DK lost its UN seat as well as most of its sources of international aid.

The unrealistic power-sharing relationship between Ranariddh and Hun Sen worked surprisingly well for the next three years, but relations between the parties were never smooth. The CPP's control over the army and the police gave the party effective control of the country, and it dominated the coalition government. In July 1997 Hun Sen staged a violent coup against FUNCINPEC and replaced Prince Ranariddh, who was overseas at the time, with Ung Huot, a more pliable FUNCINPEC figure. Hun Sen's action shocked foreign nations and delayed Cambodia's entry into the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). By the end of 1997, Cambodia was the only nation in the region that was not a member.

Despite the coup, elections scheduled for July 1998 proceeded as planned. Hundreds of foreign observers who monitored the elections affirmed that voting was relatively free and fair; however, the CPP harassed opposition candidates and party workers before and after the elections, when dozens were imprisoned and several were killed. The election gave the CPP a plurality of votes, but results, especially in towns, where voting could not be dictated by local authorities, indicated that the party did not enjoy widespread popular support. Prince Ranariddh and another opposition candidate, Sam Rainsy, took refuge abroad and contested the outcome of the election. In November the CPP and FUNCINPEC reached an agreement whereby Hun Sen became sole prime minister and Ranariddh became president of the National Assembly. The parties formed a coalition government, dividing control over the various cabinet ministries. In early 1999 the constitution was amended to create a Senate, called for in the 1998 agreement. These signs that Cambodia's political situation was stabilizing encouraged ASEAN to admit Cambodia to its membership a short time later.

Pol Pot died in 1998, and by early 1999 most of the remaining Khmer Rouge troops and leaders had surrendered. Rebel troops were integrated into the Cambodian army. In 1999 two Khmer Rouge leaders were arrested and charged with genocide for their part in the atrocities.

Since the Paris Accords of 1991, Cambodia's economic growth has depended on millions of dollars of foreign aid. Foreign interest in Cambodia has decreased, however, and the country has received diminishing economic assistance. This development, along with the continued lack of openness in Cambodian politics, has made Cambodia's prospects for democratization dim, as well as its chances for sustained economic growth.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Vietnam invests 200 mln USD on Cambodian Air, banking

PHNOM PENH, July 26 (Xinhua) -- A signing ceremony was held on Sunday by Cambodia and Vietnam on the establishment of Cambodian Air Carrier which was a joint venture between Vietnam Airline and National Cambodia Air Carrier namely Cambodia Angkor Air.

"Vietnamese side has invested 100 million U.S. dollars capital in Cambodia Angkor air," Sok An, deputy prime minister and minister in charge of the Council of Ministers, said at the signing ceremony which was presided over by Prime Minister Hun Senand visiting Vietnamese Deputy Prime Minister Truong Vinh Trong, who is also representative of the prime minister of Vietnam.

"Cambodia will have 51 percent share and Vietnamese side controls 49 percent," Sok An said, adding that the Cambodian new airline will help to push the tourism sector in the Kingdom while the world has met with global economic and financial crisis. The Vietnamese investment on Cambodia Angkor Air will be processed for30 years, Sok An said.

Meanwhile, Vietnam has also invested another 100 million U.S. dollars to open the Bank for Development and Investment of Vietnamand Insurance sector in Cambodia.

This investment has showed the confidence from Vietnamese side on the economic growth of Cambodia, Sok An said, adding that it is the pride of the country that we have our own national flag in aircarrier. He stressed that the new airline we will launch the official flight tomorrow.

Prime Minister Hun Sen said at the ceremony that "I would like to urge the new Cambodia Angkor Air to strengthen the management on safety and security for all travelers".

Additionally, Thong Khong, Cambodian Tourism Minister told reporters that tourism is one of the key sector in the country and"this year we expected to have two to three percent increase on this sector." For the first six month of this year, the tourism sector decreased about one percent across the country, however, incapital Phnom Penh it has increased 14 to 16 percent so far.

Last year, Cambodia achieved about two million of the foreign tourists.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Australian Embassy caught in Cambodian shantytown dispute

By Sarah Dingle for AM

Posted Sat Jul 18, 2009 11:39am AEST

Children play in the Boeng Kak slum area of Phnom Penh on February 11, 2009.

For the last two decades more than 60 families have lived in the small shanty town near the Australian Embassy. (Nicolas Asfouri : AFP )

In Cambodia, human rights advocates are outraged at the forced eviction of slum dwellers from a waterfront area steps away from where a new Australian Embassy is under construction.

The city wants to develop the prime land. Lawyers say that military police and workers armed with axes were brought in to evict the last handful of families.

For the last two decades more than 60 families have lived in a small shanty town on the doorstep of the Australian embassy in Phnom Penh.

But now the land, once considered worthless, is in demand, with valuations setting its worth at $US15 million.

This week progress caught up with the families and they were forcibly evicted.

Daniel King is a human rights lawyer working on behalf of the families, known as Group 78.

"On Friday morning the police gathered, 150 police and 150 community breakers who have axes and tools to break up the community," he said.

The Cambodian authorities say the land is needed for a public road as well as for development by a private company.

Ownership rights are hard to prove in Cambodia, where many records were destroyed during the Pol Pot regime.

The United Nations has said it recognises their claim to the land.

Daniel King says the city of Phnom Penh did offer the families small payouts but it also waged a campaign of intimidation.

"Three families agreed to the $8,000 compensation policy, four families who had larger homes they found it an insult to be offered an $8,000 compensation package and held out and negotiated for a $20,000 compensation package," he said.

"However, the city hall decided that one of the families shouldn't receive the $20,000 because he had negotiated aggressively."

The nearby Australian Embassy has been drawn into the controversy.

It has rejected suggestions that the construction of its new Embassy building in Phnom Penh was in any way connected to the decision to evict Group 78.

Sarah Marland from Amnesty International says the Australian Government could have done more to help the families.

"Really their embassy is sitting right across the road from this site and it's just happened right under their noses," she said.

"So I think the Australian Government should be doing more for some of our poorest neighbours."

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Brothels spring up at Cambodian Thai border


Officials say conflict during the past year has been a boon to the sex industry.

Photo by: Tracey Shelton
Women sit outside a brothel in Sa Em village, Choam Ksan district, Preah Vihear province. Though recent border tension has reportedly dealt blows to commerce and tourism in Preah Vihear, it has proved a boon to another industry: sex work. Local officials say four brothels have cropped up in the past year to meet demand from Cambodian soldiers stationed along the border.
THOUGH border tension in the past year has reportedly dealt blows to local commerce and tourism, it has proved a boon to another industry: sex work.

In Choam Ksan district's Sa Em village, located about 20 kilometres from Preah Vihear temple, at least four brothels have cropped up in the past year, with more than 30 prostitutes serving a client base dominated by soldiers.

"They settled here after more soldiers started to be based here," Prak Phy, the Sa Em village chief, said Tuesday. "Our village never had brothels and prostitutes before the tension at the temple."

Kao Long, a Choam Ksan district official and former district governor, said most of the girls were from the capital and from Banteay Meanchey, Battambang, Koh Kong and Siem Reap provinces. He said there were also some Vietnamese girls working in the brothels.

Prak Phy said officials had at first tried to cooperate with local police to "crack down" on the girls when they first started arriving last July, though he said elimination of the brothels had proved "impossible".

He said he finally grew to accept that the brothels were necessary, as "many soldiers need their enjoyment when they are relaxing".

Kao Long said Tuesday that he did not expect law enforcement officials to conduct any brothel raids, despite the fact that prostitution is illegal.

He said it was important for officials "to educate the girls how to use condoms to prevent the spread of diseases". Beyond that, however, he said they were unlikely to get involved.

If there are more girls, please send them here so we can avoid … disputes.

Naly Pilorge, director of the rights group Licadho, said she had not heard of the Sa Em brothels, but she noted that brothels near the border were "difficult to regulate" because few NGOs have a presence there.

She added, "There is an increased risk to women and to minors - if there are any - due to the lack of an NGO presence."

Photo by: Tracey Shelton
A sex worker runs through the rain to see a client in Sa Em village, Preah Vihear province.
Benign presence
Prak Phy said he had no problems with the village's newest occupants. In fact, he said, he hoped more would relocate there.

"Sometimes, there are disputes among soldiers because there are fewer girls and more men, so the men need to wait for a long time when the girls are busy serving their clients," he said. "If there are more girls, please send them here so we can avoid having these disputes."

He added that the prostitutes could also "reduce expenses" for the soldiers, who would not need to travel so often to see their wives.

"These girls here help make the environment good and help relieve soldiers because most of them are far away from their wives for many months," Prak Phy said.

Doung Phat, who heads a health centre in Sa Em, said Tuesday that some NGO workers had visited the prostitutes at brothels and urged them to use condoms.

Prak Phy said he believed the girls were charging between US$20 and $50 per night.

"Their services cost a lot because there are more men than women and everything is expensive here," he said.

A Sa Em sex worker who only gave her given name, Nary, said she made more money near the border because there were more clients to serve, not because prices were higher.

She said she charged around $25 per night.

"It is not expensive here because I am in a dangerous place, near a battlefield," she said.

Cambodia's fibre-optic cable links region's data networks

Telecom Cambodia Director General Lao Sarouen speaks at Wednesday’s inauguration.

The Phnom Penh Post
Thursday, 16 July 2009

Laos connection completes first phase of infrastructure project to allow regional telecoms to provide next-generation services.

THE initial three-year phase of a huge IT project to build a telecoms network linking Cambodia with the region was completed when the fibre-optic cable to Laos was officially inaugurated on Wednesday. The laying of the cable was finalised last month.

Lao Saroeun, the director general of Telecom Cambodia (TC), the government telephone company, said more access points would be built along the new line, which has a transmission speed of 620 megabits per second.

Lao Saroeun said the completed line links the six countries of the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) - Cambodia, China, Laos, Myanmar, Vietnam and Thailand - and that the fibre-optic network now covers two-thirds of Cambodia.

"Telecom Cambodia hopes to continue developing other high-speed information links, including the Internet, using optical fibre ... and landlines on the existing network to efficiently provide Internet services," he said.

The 650 kilometres of fibre-optic cable runs from Siem Reap to Kampong Cham, and from there east to Memot and north to the Laos border via Kratie and Stung Treng. At Siem Reap it links with an existing cable that runs from Vietnam through Phnom Penh and south of the Tonle Sap to Siem Reap and the Thai border at Poipet.

The project - known as the GMS Information Superhighway - has been managed and run by TC and Huawei Technologies, a Chinese IT company.

Lao Saroeun said that now the fibre-optic network is in place, the project will upgrade 11 network stations and build 15 new stations to connect with the existing national network.

Minister of Posts and Telecommunications So Khun told attendees that the GMS project would help improve access to communications technology.

"The government is taking significant steps to build the ICT infrastructure, especially optical fibre, which is key to helping Cambodia catch up with opportunities using the next generation of telecommunications," he said.

So Khun said that other than the Telecom Cambodia, three more companies are currently improving the nation's telecommunications network.

They are China-based Cambodian Fiber Optic Communications Network Co, a local firm called Telcotech and Viettel from Vietnam.

The Chinese firm has built more than 2,200 kilometres of a projected 8,600 kilometres of underground fibre-optic cable in a five-year project that began in 2007. Telcotech is building an undersea cable, while Viettel has constructed more than 1,000 kilometres of land-based fibre-optic cable.

"The government will continue investing in and developing this backbone infrastructure to improve ICT sector, especially high-quality fibre-optic cables," said So Khun. "This will also contribute to the development of rural ICT."

Minister of Economy and Finance Keat Chhon told delegates that the GMS project was initiated by China in its July 2005 Kunming Declaration and would cost around US$66 million.

He said the project had three phases: The first was to build a fibre-optic network for the six GMS countries - this stage is now complete. The next phase is to upgrade the first phase and build a high-speed ring network between the GMS nations to help further develop their economies. The final step will connect all public services in Cambodia such as government, education and health.

"The GMS project will help strengthen cooperation between people and the GMS countries and will boost Cambodia's economy and the regional economy," Keat Chhon said. "It will also help Cambodia improve its ICT standard in the near future."

Cambodia, China complete phase 1 of GMS Information Highway Project

PHNOM PENH, July 15 (Xinhua) -- A signing ceremony for the completion of Phase 1 of the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) Information Highway Project in Cambodia was held here on Wednesday by China's Huawei Technologies Co., Ltd. ("Huawei") in collaboration with Telecom Cambodia.

Both parties provided a brief overview and arrangement of the work of Phase I of the GMS Information Highway Project - a project funded by the government of China - and voiced their support for the promotion and development of Phase 2 of the Project.

The event was graced by the presence of the Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economy and Finance Keat Chhon, Minister of Posts and Telecommunication So Khun, diplomats from Chinese Embassy and representatives of other technical experts.

"The project will help strengthening and foster the relationships between our people and nations in the GMS region, as well as to promote stronger Cambodia's and regional economies," said Keat Chhon, adding that "in particular, this project would play an important role in strengthening the relationship between China and Cambodia in developing tele-communication sector."

The GMS Information Highway Project Phase l - started from Dec.2007 and completed in June 25, 2009 - involved the task of laying an optical fiber cable over a total distance of 649.9 km and equipment upgrades for the 11 stations as well as the construction of 15 new stations along the route within the Kingdom of Cambodia.

The completion of the GMS Information Highway Project Phase l has brought about, within the Kingdom of Cambodia, the coverage of an optical transmission system in the Mekong Basin with a high capacity backbone in addition to interconnection with Thailand, Laos and Vietnam, promoting to a great extent the construction level of basic communication networks of Cambodia, building a solid foundation for further development in the Cambodian communications industry.

In the mean time, interaction between all countries of the Greater Mekong Subregion has been strengthened, making it a crucial contribution to the joint development of all nations in the subregion.

"I strongly believe that the development of telecommunication sector, GMS-IS, in Cambodia will strengthen the long-lasting cooperation between Cambodia and China as well as the cooperation in the Greater Mekong Subregion for sustainable economic growth and prosperity of all countries in the region," Keat Chhon said.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

How does one get from Siem Reap to Thailand's Ko Chang island?

The historic and cultural sites at Angkor are magnificent, but most travelers get templed out
eventually, so for those seeking an island escape in Thailand, here is a suggested itinerary

From the splendour of Angkor (left) to the tropical beach surrounds of Thailand's popular tourist isle Ko Chang.
So you're done with the temples, and it's time for some serious beach time. Where better to head than the glorious islands in Thailand's Trat province?
After all, the pier at Laem Ngop is just a share taxi, tuk-tuk, bus, another bus and a songtheaw ride away. Then from there you just need to settle on which island - Ko Chang, Ko Maak, Ko Kut, Ko Wai - oh decisions, decisions. Read on for the inside line on how to get between the two - and yes, it is possible to leave Siem Reap after breakfast (not brunch!) and be on the island in time for a before-dinner dip.

Siem Reap to the border
There are three main ways to get between Siem Reap and Poipet (the border town between Cambodia and Thailand and an absolute armpit of a town) - tourist minibus, share taxi and pickup truck.

The tourist minibus should be avoided at all costs, as it will inevitably transform into a scam-bus not long after leaving Siem Reap and you'll have precious time wasted as they waste your time. Take our word for it - do not take a tourist mini bus service to Poipet - they are all scams.

The pickup truck is only an option if you're trying to prove yourself to your travelling partner as being a hard-as-nails, down and dirty budget traveller. You'll certainly be dirty by the end, in fact you'll be absolutely filthy. You'll also lose time in Sisophon (where you'll need to change from one heap of junk to another), and you won't get to Ko Chang in the same day. You will save a few dollars though. If you still want to do it by pick-up, be a bit of a softie and opt for a seat inside the cabin.

A share taxi is the way to go - either hire the entire car yourself or buy a seat (or two) in one. This is, by far, the fastest way to get to the border. Expect to pay US$25-35 for an entire car.

The route map as seen on Google Maps. PHOTO SUPPLIED
The border
The Poipet border can be a bit time consuming at times, depending on crowds and how hard the officials feel like working. The most important piece of advice is to ignore all touts - ALL of them. You're best to get there as early as possible to avoid the crowds.

Once you're through both sides of immigration, continue on to the market and take a tuk-tuk to the government bus station in Aranyprathet (6 kilometres away).

A crossing can take as little as ten minutes or as long as three hours - this can be a real wild card when it comes to doing the ruins to beach run in a day.

Aranyprathet bus station
Aranyprathet bus station has buses to both Bangkok and Chanthaburi, but there are no direct buses to Trat. Instead, you need to catch a bus to Chanthaburi and then change buses there. The bus to Chanthaburi should take around three hours.

There's no need to leave the bus station, as buses to Trat leave from the same terminal you'll be dropped at coming from Aranyprathet. The bus to Trat should take between an hour and a half and two hours.

Once you are in Trat, you need to get a songtheaw to one of the three piers that serve the Ko Chang island group. All three piers are around an hour from Trat by songtheaw.

Laem Ngop to Ko Chang
There are three piers that send boats to Ko Chang. The main Laem Ngop pier, Centrepoint Pier, 4km north and Thammachart Pier some 9km from Laem Ngop.

The latter two double as car ferries and while Thammachart drops you at Ao Sapparot on Ko Chang, the other two, Laem Ngop and Centrepoint, will drop you at Dan Kao, which is a little further from all the main beaches.

Ferry cross the Andaman
Overall trip time
Siem Reap - border: 3-4 hrs (allow 1-3 hrs for border clearance) / Tuk-tuk to Aranyaprathet: 15 mins / Bus to Chanthaburi: 2.5 - 3 hrs / Chanthaburi to Trat: 1.5 - 2 hrs / Trat - Laem Ngop: 1 hr by sonthaew / Laem Ngop - Ko Chang: 30 mins - 1 hr
Ferries leave Laem Ngop six times a day between 7am and 5pm, take an hour and cost 100 baht. From Thammachart, ferries leave nine times daily between 7am and 7pm and take just 30 minutes, costing 100 baht. From Centrepoint departures are similar to Laem Ngop - six times daily between 7am and 5pm, take around 45 minutes and cost 100 baht.

All of the ferries are met on Ko Chang by songtheaws, which will transport you to your beach of choice.

Laem Ngop to Ko Wai, Ko Maak and Ko Kham
There is one slow boat a day from Laem Ngop pier to Ko Wai, Ko Maak and Ko Kham, leaving Laem Ngop at 3pm, taking around three hours and costing 300 baht. Speedboats services are also available.

Laem Ngop to Ko Kut
Boats leave Laem Ngop every Friday, Saturday and Tuesday for Ko Kut, but they leave at 9am so you'll need to overnight in Trat to get these. They pass by both Ko Wai and Ko Maak.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Australia's Southern Gold 'strikes gold' in Cambodia

Shares in the company leapt on news of the discovery, which identified gold intersections as rich as 8.8 grams per tonne.

Other metals including silver, copper and zinc also were located at the site.

Southern Gold managing director Stephen Biggins said the maiden drilling program validated the company's confidence in the area.

"I am delighted with the results of this first-pass drill program and look forward to aggressively following-up these results," Mr Biggins said in a statement.

At 1107 AEST, shares in Southern Gold were up 1.5 cents, 15 per cent, to 11.5 cents.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Hun Sen urges Thais to speed Road 68 funds

PRIME Minister Hun Sen has urged Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva to speed up an agreement to fund the reconstruction of National Road 68 connecting Siem Reap with the town of O'Smach near the Thai border.

During the inauguration of National Road 67 in Siem Reap Saturday, Hun Sen said Thai Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban should remind Abhisit to speed up Thai financial assistance for the project.

"Ministers from both countries have already discussed it with each other. Suthep should explain to Abhisit that the project is moving forward and should urge him to sign an agreement as soon as possible," Hun Sen said. Suthep attended Saturday's inauguration ceremony.

Hun Sen said he spoke with Abhisit about the project to rebuild the national highway, which runs from O'Smach in Oddar Meanchey province to Kralanh in Siem Reap province, during the 14th ASEAN summit in Pattaya in April and again on June 12 during Abhisit's state visit to Cambodia. He said the rebuilt road, expected to cost an estimated US$41 million, would benefit both countries.

"In order to see the importance of the cooperation... bilateral trade between the two countries in 2008 was worth $1.7 billion," he said.

"This point shows the importance of the road ... [which will] make trade between the two countries easier."

He said all outstanding disagreements between the countries had to be resolved through peaceful negotiations, adding that he hoped the border situation would remain stable.

Thai roads
Tram Iv Tek, minister of Public Works and Transport, said National Road 67, spanning 131 kilometres between Anlong Veng and Siem Reap, had a price tag of $38 million, a sum loaned by the Thai government.

Another Thai-funded highway, the 150-kilometre-long National Road 48 from Koh Kong to Sre Ambel in Koh Kong province, was officially inaugurated for public use last year.