Sunday, January 31, 2010

President of Boeing Southeast Asia and U.S. Ambassador visit Cambodia's DDD

“I’m moved, and I can tell you right now that this is going to be a longstanding relationship based on what I’ve seen today,” said Ambassador Skip Boyce, President of Boeing Southeast Asia on his visit to Digital Divide Data (DDD) on Wednesday, January 27.

Posted on 10.01.31 at 10:27 PM by Digital Divide Data

DDD CEO and co-founder Jeremy Hockenstein, GM Kunthy Kann, U.S. Ambassador Carol Rodley, DDD COO Mai Siriphongpanh, and President of Boeing Southeast Asia Skip Boyce

In a room filled with Cambodia’s key leaders from the business and development sector, Boyce abandoned the speech he had prepared for this occasion, because, he said, in such a friendly and intimate environment he would rather speak from the heart. “Boeing is not doing business in Cambodia; that is not why we are here.”

Boyce, former American diplomat to Indonesia and Thailand, was in Phnom Penh with other Boeing colleagues to launch the aviation giant’s new partnership with DDD in Cambodia. Boeing generously donated $50,000 through their Global Corporate Citizen program to support the education and IT training that DDD provides for disadvantaged youth. DDD and Boeing connected in late 2008 through the Clinton Global Initiative, a non-partisan catalyst that works to bring together a community of global leaders in an effort to stimulate innovative solutions to some of the world’s most pressing problems. Also in attendance at the reception were U.S. Ambassador Carol Rodley, and DDD’s CEO and co-founder Jeremy Hockenstein, as well as a number of executives and special guests.

Ambassadors Boyce and Rodley visited the DDD office prior to the reception, where more than 300 young Cambodians are employed in entry-level IT jobs as operators, while they are also obtaining a college degree. Operators generally work at DDD for four to five years, after which they graduate to higher level jobs that earn them six times the average income in Cambodia.

Skip Boyce complimented DDD’s work and highlighted how the organization provides opportunity to a generation of Cambodians who are eager to take it: “They are young adults who could be face down in the rice paddy, but they’re not. They’re looking up,” said Boyce.

In photo, from left: DDD CEO and co-founder Jeremy Hockenstein, General Manager Kunthy Kann, U.S. Ambassador Carol Rodley, DDD COO Mai Siriphongpanh, and President of Boeing Southeast Asia Skip Boyce.

More KFCs for Cambodia

QSR expanding in Cambodia


It plans to open five more KFC outlets, first Pizza Hut restaurant there

JOHOR BARU: QSR Brands Bhd will open five new Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) outlets and its first Pizza Hut restaurant in Cambodia this year.

Chairman Tan Sri Muhammad Ali said that three new KFC outlets would be in Phnom Penh city, and one each in Kampong Cham, about a two-hour drive from Phnom Penh, and in Battambang, near the Thai border.

He said the company decided to open an outlet in Kampong Cham as the district had a large Champa Muslim population.

Tan Sri Muhammad Ali Hashim…‘We will invest about RM4.8mil in the new outlets there and all will be opened this year.’

Ali said the Pizza Hut restaurant would be located along the Riverside Phnom Penh, a waterfront esplanade in the Cambodian capital that is popular with locals and tourists.

“We will invest about RM4.8mil in the new outlets there and all will be opened this year,’’ he told StarBiz.

Ali was speaking before giving away prizes to winners of the national level playoffs of the Catur Bistari Challenge 2009/2010.

He said the new outlets would bring the number of KFC outlets in Cambodia to 12.

QSR first ventured into the Cambodian fast-food business in April 2008. Of the present seven KFC outlets, six are in Phnom Penh city and one in Siem Reap.

“Sales have been good at all our outlets there and this year should be better in view of Cambodia’s positive economic growth,’’ Ali said, without disclosing the expected growth for the outlets.

“Prospects of the fast-food business in Cambodia are good as there are not many international brand names. There are other brands but mostly local,’’ he said.

QSR is the operator of KFC outlets in Malaysia, Brunei, Singapore and Cambodia. It is also the franchisee for Pizza Hut restaurants.

The company has a 50.2% stake in KFC Holdings (M) Bhd (KFCH) and obtained the franchise to operate KFC restaurants in Cambodia through KFCH.

The outlets in Cambodia are operated by Kampuchea Food Corp Ltd, a joint-venture company set up by QSR, investment and development company The Royal Group of Co Ltd of Cambodia, and Hong Kong-incorporated strategic investment holding firm Rightlink Corp Ltd.

QSR has 55% equity in the company while The Royal Group and Rightlink hold 35% and 10% respectively.

Ali, who is also KFCH chairman, said the company would next month open its first two KFC outlets in India – one each in Mumbai and Pune.

The Mumbai outlet would be located in a stand-alone food court which is still under construction in the city central area while the Pune outlet would be in Decann shopping centre.

Ali said KFCH would invest US$400,000 in each outlet and planned to have 20 outlets in major Indian cities by early 2011.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen points finger at corrupt army chiefs


Photo by: Pha Lina
Hun Sen speaks during the closing ceremony of a conference at the Ministry of Defence on Thursday.

PRIME Minister Hun Sen on Thursday warned of harsh sanctions for soldiers and military commanders involved in illegal businesses, identifying several officials by name who he said were guilty of corruption.

Speaking at the conclusion of a conference on military reform, held at the Ministry of Defence, Hun Sen said even high-ranking officers were not immune from the government’s effort to expose unlawful activity, calling this effort essential to plans discussed at the conference for military reform over the next five years.

“It is time to stop every activity involving illegal business or the support of illegal business. [I] don’t care how many stars or moons you have – I will fire you, and nobody will keep corrupt commanders in their seats,” Hun Sen said. “In Cambodia, the prime minister directly controls the troops.”

Hun Sen identified several generals who said were guilty of corruption: Sum Samnang, director-general of logistics and finance at the Ministry of Defence; Chao Phirun, director-general of the military’s materials and technical services department; Ung Samkhan, commander of the
Cambodian Navy; and Chhoeun Chanthan, chief of Senate President Chea Sim’s bodyguards.

The premier also acknowledged that many soldiers were involved in illegal activities including logging, land grabbing, smuggling and illegal fishing. “I declare my absolute order [to stop illegal businesses] -- otherwise military reform will not move forward,” Hun Sen said.

Following the passage of the Kingdom’s long-awaited Anticorruption Law, Hun Sen said, all government officials and politicians will be required to disclose their assets to a permanent committee to fight corruption, which will be housed at the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces headquarters in the capital’s Daun Penh district. A draft of the Anticorruption Law was approved by the Council of Ministers in December, and is likely to be passed by the National Assembly in April.

Yim Sovann, spokesman for the Sam Rainsy Party (SRP), said he was pleased to hear the prime minister address the issue of land grabbing by the armed forces.“What I am happy about is that he acknowledged past misdeeds,” Yim Sovann said, adding that the SRP’s recommendations on these issues had been ignored for years.

Thun Saray, president of local rights group Adhoc, called for Hun Sen’s recommendations to be put swiftly into action.

“His speech is very good, but we also ask for real implementation … sometimes when we take his speech to lower levels for implementation, they do not listen,” he said.

Chinese linked to filling of lake Boeung Kak Project


Rights groups raise fresh concerns about transparency of Boeung Kak project
Photo by: Heng Chivoan
Boeung Kak lake seen from a resident’s home on Thursday.

CHINESE companies have been closely involved in the controversial development of Phnom Penh’s Boeung Kak since its inception, according to news reports and local rights groups, who said they became aware of the companies’ role after a research group from China visited the site last week.

Pen Raingsey, manager of the land and livelihoods program at the NGO Forum, said the group, which included Chinese academics and journalists, revealed Chinese news reports confirming the deals.

“We weren’t aware that the investment in Boeung Kak was Chinese. We were surprised because our researchers tried to find the source of the funding, but weren’t aware of this,” he said.

It has long been unclear whether Shukaku Inc, the obscure local developer in charge of the 133-hectare commercial and housing project, has been backed by foreign investors.

But a series of Chinese-language news articles available online reveals a long history of Chinese involvement in the controversial project, following the signing of a US$79 million lease agreement between City Hall and Shukaku in February 2007.

In April of that year, the Kunming-based Yunnan International Economic and Technical Cooperation Corporation signed an agreement with CPP Senator Lao Meng Khin, the chairman of Shukaku, to develop Boeung Kak as a “multi-purpose living and recreation centre” called New East City, as well as a tourism “eco-garden” in Sihanoukville.

Present at the signing, according to state media, were Deputy Prime Minister Sok An and Qin Guangrong, the governor of China’s Yunnan province.

Additional Chinese news reports described the project as Yunnan’s “largest foreign investment”, putting the total cost of the project at around $1.5 billion. One said $680 million would be spent on the first construction phase, to run from 2007 to 2010, with the project to be completed in 2013.

The development at Boeung Kak – known in Chinese as wanguhu, or “10,000 Valley Lake” – has prompted continued controversy, with rights groups estimating that more than 4,000 families will be forced to make way for the project.

Housing rights activists say the 2007 lease agreement was illegal, and that many likely evictees have a legal claim to the land under the Kingdom’s 2001 Land Law.

In August 2008, Shukaku began filling the lake with sand, a process that has reclaimed large tracts of the lake’s surface, forcing some residents to move away from the site.

In January 2009, Chinese involvement in the Boeung Kak development hit a roadblock after Yunnan International’s parent company, Yunnan Copper Group, underwent restructuring and made an “orderly exit” from the project.
The Web site of the Shenzhen Jiajiahao company (left) shows Deputy Prime Minister Sok An and Phoeung Sophoan, a secretary of state in the Ministry of Land Management, meeting company officials to discuss the Boeung Kak lakeside development. The Web site of its parent company (right) shows a montage of lakeside photos and pictures of key officials.

As the filling continues, it is unclear whether other companies have moved in to fill the breach.

Qian Hai, spokesman for the Chinese Embassy, said he did not have “any information at all” about Chinese involvement in the Boeung Kak lake project and said reporters should contact Chinese news agencies.

There are strong indications, however, that Chinese companies are still interested in the project. On October 23 of last year, the Yunnan provincial government signed a funding agreement with China’s State Development Bank, securing funds for $2 billion worth of overseas investments.

According to a report in Chinese state media, the projects listed included the “integrated development projects” at
Boeung Kak, as well as tourism projects in Luang Prabang, Laos, and various venues for December’s Southeast Asian Games in Vientiane. The name of the developer was not given.

The Web site of Shenzhen Jiajiahao Investment Development Co Ltd, a Guangdong-based company, suggests that company stepped up following Yunnan International’s withdrawal from the project.

The site features photos of Chen Jiansheng, the company’s general manager, posing with Sok An, Nan Sy, Cambodia’s ambassador to Brunei, and Phoeung Sophoan, a secretary of state at the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction.

According to the site, which is dated August 2009, the photos were taken after company officials delivered a “preliminary report” on the Boeung Kak lake development and another referred to as the “‘Hun Sen Park’ project”. Yu Fengguang, chairman of the Guanxi provincial branch of the State Development Bank, was also present at the meetings.

The site also states that during the visit, company officials met with Foreign Minister Hor Namhong, who pledged “active support” from the Cambodian government for the projects.

When contacted on Thursday, Phoeung Sophoan confirmed that the photos were taken in 2008 or 2009, but did not know if Shenzhen Jiajiahao was still involved in the project. He said the Chinese company suspended the project as a result of “a problem” with its local partner – presumably Shukaku Inc. “If they continue to develop, it will be good for our Boeung Kak lake development,” he added.

Be Pharom, a Boeung Kak representative, said residents had not heard much about the development recently, adding that officials had told them that “the company is keeping quiet because of the economic crisis”.

The Shenzhen office of Shenzhen Jiajiahao could not be reached by phone on Thursday.

Secretive developers
The revelation of past and possible current Chinese involvement in the project comes after Prime Minister Hun Sen again praised Beijing for its generous economic aid.

“As always, the government and people of China have supported Cambodia in development of all fields, the move to push for economic and social development that will help reduce the poverty of the Cambodian people,” he said at the inauguration of National Road 62 on Wednesday.

Critics, however, said the potential involvement of Chinese firms will only weaken the flow of information surrounding the Boeung Kak project, which residents and housing rights advocates say has been carried out largely in secret.

“We feel a bit concerned about the Chinese investment … in this area,” said Pen Raingsey from the NGO Forum. “The access of information is a real concern.”
Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker Mu Sochua expressed concern that Chinese state firms had been given “carte blanche” by the Cambodian government.

“Everywhere China comes in with big projects, total support from the government and no room for the people to register their concerns. It shows what we fear most – that their rights to housing and development will not be on the agenda,” she said.

Youn Heng, deputy director of the Cambodia Investment Board’s Evaluation and Incentive Department, could not be reached on Thursday.

Boeung Kak LAKE: the main players
100129_02cShukaku Inc

The obscure local developer that signed a 99-year lease agreement with Phnom Penh Municipality in February 2007 to develop the Boeung Kak lakeside area. Little is known about the group, which is headed by Lao Meng Khin, a senator in the ruling Cambodian People’s Party. Shukaku has no known address, and repeated attempts to get in touch with the company have been unsuccessful. Rights groups have alleged the company is closely linked the Lao Meng Khin’s company Pheapimex. Local firm HSC has been handling the reclamation of the lake, which began in August 2008.
Yunnan International Economic and
Technical Cooperation Corporation

Based in Kunming, the capital of China’s Yunnan province, the state-owned Yunnan International is involved in a range of construction activities in Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar, Singapore, Malaysia and Hong Kong. The group signed an agreement to develop Boeung Kak in April 2007, but withdrew after its parent company, Yunnan Copper Group, dropped the project in January 2009. According to a report on the company’s Web site, Yunnan Copper also handed over its 52-percent stake in the Phnom Penh-Battambang power grid development to the China Datang Corporation.
Shenzhen Jiajiahao Investment
Development Co Ltd

The Shenzhen-based firm, a subsidiary of Guangdong New Golden Foundation Investment Development Co Ltd, appears most likely to have taken over the Boeung Kak development project from Yunnan International. The company’s general manager, Chen Jiansheng, held talks with Cambodian officials, including Deputy Prime Minister Sok An, in 2009, when the company presented its “preliminary report” on the Boeung Kak development. Cambodian officials said the outlook is unclear after the company suspended the project as a result of “a problem” with its local partner.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Thai fugitive ex-premier Thaksin ends third Cambodia visit (Roundup)

Phnom Penh - Thailand's fugitive former premier Thaksin Shinawatra left Cambodia for Dubai Thursday afternoon following an overnight visit, Cambodian government spokesman Prak Sokhon said.

The visit was Thaksin's third to the Cambodian capital since being named an economic adviser to the government there in October, a move that put further strains on the already tense relationship between Thailand and Cambodia.

Prak Sokhon said he did not know whether Thaksin had met members of Puea Thai, the opposition political party in Thailand with which he is linked, during his stay.

On previous visits to Cambodia Thaksin met his political supporters from Thailand, who have vowed to escalate anti-government protests there.

Describing Thaksin's stay in Cambodia as 'a stopover' en route to Dubai, Prak Sokhon said the former premier had not discussed the economy with government officials or with Prime Minister Hun Sen, with whom he dined Wednesday evening.

'When politicians meet politicians, they talk about politics,' he said.

The visit was unlikely to improve ties between Thailand and Cambodia, which remain at their lowest level in years.

Cambodia appointed Thaksin, who has a two-year jail sentence still to serve in Thailand for abuse of power, as an economic adviser to the government and to Hun Sen.

Those appointments and Phnom Penh's refusal to extradite Thaksin outraged Bangkok and saw both countries withdraw their ambassadors and senior embassy staff. The ambassadors have yet to return.

This month, the Cambodian government rejected a demand by Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya that Phnom Penh dismiss Thaksin as an adviser before relations between the two countries could improve.

Bangkok considers the appointment of Thaksin, the de facto opposition leader, as interference in its internal politics.

Thaksin was prime minister of Thailand from 2001 to 2006 before being toppled in a bloodless coup. He fled the country and has lived in self-imposed exile, mostly in Dubai, since August 2008.

The relationship between the two neighbours has been tense for more than a year with a number of clashes reported between their troops over a disputed piece of land near the 11th-century Preah Vihear border temple in northern Cambodia.

Read more:

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Angkor, Cambodia

January 27, 2010

If mythology and architecture fascinates you, make a trip to the Angkor region inCambodia. Angkor served as a seat of the Khmer empire from the 9th to the 13thcentury and is replete with ruins scattered among forests and farmland. Steeped in Hindu mythology and exuding classic architectural brilliance, Angkor has become a renowned tourist destination. Many of its temples have been restored and together form one of the most important sites of Khmer architecture. The resplendent temple of Angkor Wat is recognized as one of the largest religious monuments in the world. Besides Angkor Wat there are hundreds of temples and ruins that temple buffs would want to visit.

No traveler worth his salt should leave Cambodia without swinging by the Angkor Wat temple. It is one of the world’s most outstanding and engaging architectural wonders. This region in Cambodiawas originally built in the 12th century for King Suryavarman II to honor the Hindu God Vishnu. It has become a world famous tourist attraction on account of its mythical and cinematic appeal. Built to represent the Hindu Cosmology, its size alone defies the imagination. Its outer walls stretch to over a kilometer in each direction and are surrounded by a splendid moat. The temple itself is a sight for sore eyes with intricate bas relief sculptures and numerous vantage points that offer spellbinding views. Angkor Wat is undoubtedly the shining star of Cambodia and is even featured on its flag. Pay a visit to this ancient temple and experience the curious sensation of crossing over from the mortal world to the abode of the Gods.

Angkor Thom is another area worth visiting while in Angkor. This 12th century Buddhist city was founded by King Jayavarman VII and now comprises a mile long region speckled with gates, statues, stone temples and ruins. Some noteworthy landmarks include the Terrace of the Elephants, Terrace of the Leper King, the Phimeanakas Temple and the Bayon Temple. Drop by the Bayon Temple which is in the very heart of Angkor Thom and feast your eyes on its elaborate bas-reliefs. The Bayon was designed to represent the intersection of heaven and earth and is especially famous for the sphinx-like smiling faces of Avalokiteshvara.

If Tomb Raider captured your imagination, then you must drop by Ta Phrom. This place is one of the most atmospheric sites in Angkor and is intermeshed with trees and vines that are on their way to destroying this 12th century Buddhist temple. What’s most unusual is that the same roots tend to uphold other relics in Ta Phrom. Any time is a good time to visit and there’s plenty to explore. Ta Phrom is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Angkor apart from Angkor Wat and the Bayon Temple. Amble along its many alleys or find your own corner to soak in the ambience around you.

Hungry for some spectacular sunset views? Climb to the Bakheng Temple which is the highest point in the area between Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom. It is a 60 meter high summit offering incredible views of the setting sun. Tourists glut Bakheng mainly on account of its fantastic sunset views. The path to the summit is long and serpentine but well worth the effort.

There are several other places of interests in Angkor that are worth seeing. Angkor is an avid sightseer’s dream come true. There’s no other place in the world that offers such a potent mixture of myth, religion, architecture and ancient ruins. So plan a sightseeing vacation to Angkor and get taken back in time to a world where Kings and their many Gods symbolically dwelled under one roof.

Thaksin reportedly mulling govt in exile in Cambodia


FUGITIVE Thai former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra is reportedly considering establishing a government in exile, following a series of high-profile visits to Cambodia in his capacity as government economics adviser.

Speaking to his Red Shirt supporters in Thailand by videoconference on Saturday, Thaksin said he planned to set up a government in exile soon, the Bangkok Post reported. Thaksin said Monday, though, that he would act only in the event of a coup, according to Bangkok’s The Nation newspaper.

“If a coup is staged, we will form a government in exile together. Now, I have not set it up yet. I must wait for a coup to take place first,” Thaksin reportedly wrote on his Twitter feed.

Prime Minister Hun Sen said last month that he will wait for a new government to be set up in Thailand before normalising relations, and Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Koy Kuong declined to say whether Cambodia would play host to a Thaksin-led government in exile.

“We cannot comment on this now because it is not official information, and there is no official request directly made from Thaksin. Thaksin has travelled during his exile to many countries in the world, not just Cambodia,” Koy Kuong said.

Thai government spokesman Panitan Wattanyagorn declined to comment on the issue. Thailand issued a request for Thaksin’s extradition in November, during the fugitive billionaire’s first visit to Cambodia as a government adviser, that was summarily denied by Cambodian officials.

“A government in exile is a matter of the host country, so we have no position on that, but what we are here is … a legitimate government and a member of the United Nations,” Panitan said.

Thaksin, who was deposed in a 2006 coup and went into exile in 2008 to avoid a prison term for corruption charges, has incensed the Abhisit government and exacerbated tensions in Thai-Cambodian relations with his visits to the Kingdom in recent months.

In a November 16 letter to Abhisit, leaked through the Thai opposition last month and posted in English translation on Thaksin’s Web site, Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya addressed the possibility of a Thaksin-led government in exile.

In the letter, Kasit urged caution and pressed for “the normalisation of Thai-Cambodian relations”, though he added that military action could be warranted in several “worst-case scenarios” in which Thailand’s sovereignty is threatened, including Thaksin’s establishment of a government in exile in Cambodia.

Panitan said Monday that there was no reason to doubt the stability of the Thai government, despite large-scale rallies planned by the populist Red Shirts and fears of a conservative coup by the Thai military.

“Since last year, we’ve assured the international community that civility and law and order will be upheld, and we have done so,” Panitan said.

Kampot Cement saw sales fall 15pc in 2009


Cambodian subsidiary of Siam Cement reports light activity in construction sector led to low demand for building materials

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
Trucks wait in line at Kampot Cement's factory in Kampot province at the end of October. The firm saw demand fall last year but a company stakeholder said Tuesday sales were expected to pick up in 2010 as construction activity begins to recover.

We hope this year's sales will increase by 10 percent, as construction seems to be more active than before."

KAMPOT Cement Co, a joint venture with Thailand’s Siam Cement Group, said Tuesday that sales slumped 15 percent last year compared to 2008 as construction activity dropped following the onset of the economic crisis in the Kingdom.

Khaou Phallaboth, president of Cambodia’s Khaou Chuly Group, a stakeholder in the company, said that Kampot sold just 1.02 million tonnes of cement in 2009 compared to 1.2 million the previous year.

He did not give a revenue or profit figure, but the company sells cement at US$87 to $90 a tonne, which would place revenues between $88.74 million and $91.8 million.

“The fall in sales last year stemmed from bank restrictions on the disbursement of loans to trading bodies and building developers which were affected by the global financial crisis,” said Khaou Phallaboth.

According to a report by the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction, in the first 10 months of last year, total investment in the construction sector dropped 19.6 percent to just $1.89 billion from $2.35 billion over the same period the previous year.

Cement imports fell even more over the first three quarters of last year, by just over 23 percent, according to figures released by Sihanoukville Autonomous Port.

The last quarter of 2008 saw construction activity nosedive in Cambodia as foreign developers pulled out, capital dried up and demand for building materials plummeted.

Thai Mengly, manager of construction projects at New World City which builds residential property in Phnom Penh, said Tuesday that construction activity at his firm was hampered in 2009 because of a backlog as buildings stalled at the end of 2008.

“We cannot compare our construction in 2009 to that of 2008 because things stagnated by the global economic crisis,” he said. He declined to give construction data for last year.

In 2009, total demand for cement in Cambodia was reportedly 2 million tonnes in total, a 20 percent drop from 2.5 million tonnes in 2008, meaning that Kampot Cement beat the decline to capture a greater share of the overall market.

Khaou Phallaboth said that Kampot Cement’s operations had not been badly affected last year, despite the slump in only its second year of operations since its January 2008 start-up.

“We hope this year’s sales will increase by 10 percent, as construction seems to be more active than before,” said Khaou Phallaboth, adding that the firm would produce about 1 million tonnes this year and import a further 200,000 tonnes from its parent in Thailand.

His prediction echoed that of Siam Cement Pcl’s President Kan Trakulhoon, who told Bloomberg Thursday that sales for the whole group would expand at least 10 percent, a projection made on rising prices for cement. Still, higher oil prices would likely raise production costs, he added.

Kampot Cement said in late October that it was holding plans to double production capacity by the end of 2012 due to falling demand last year. Khaou Phallaboth told the Post at the time that demand for cement was unlikely to start to recover until 2011 into 2012, and that Kampot Cement will stall plans for a $200 million upgrade that would have seen production capacity jump to 2 million tonnes per year.

Siam Cement holds a 90 percent stake in Kampot Cement. Khaou Chuly’s stake is scheduled to rise to 20 percent following the expansion, for which there is currently no schedule.

Thailand's KSL set to double sugarcane output

B15bn investment planned over 5 years

KOH KONG, CAMBODIA : Khon Kaen Sugar Industry Plc (KSL) aims to invest about 15 billion baht over the next five years to double its sugarcane output in Thailand and continuously expand its presence in Cambodia and Laos.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen presses a button to start production at the new mill in Koh Kong as KSL chairman Chamroon Chinthammit (second from left) looks on.

Thailand's only listed sugar miller expects the group's total revenue to top 20 billion baht from last year's 12 billion baht when the expansion is completed.

Chairman Chamroon Chinthammit said the company would spend 6-7 billion baht to build a new factory complete with a power and ethanol plant in Sa Kaeo. The Bo Phloi mill in Kanchanaburi also requires an investment of 8 billion baht, of which half is being spent on the first phase of construction.

The group currently operates four sugar mills and cane farms in Khon Kaen, Chon Buri and Kanchanaburi, with combined sugar production of 5 million tonnes per crop.

KSL projects that its local sugarcane output will double to 10 million within five years, moving it from the fourth to third place in the country in terms of overall production, said Mr Chamroon.

The company on Monday inaugurated its $100-million sugar mill in Koh Kong, the first of its kind in Cambodia. The group, together with Cambodian and Taiwanese partners, has been granted a 90-year farming concession for 20,000 hectares in Koh Kong along the border of Thailand and Cambodia.

An estimated 240,000 tonnes of sugarcane will be processed in the 2009-10 season, the first year of operation.

"We are aiming for the total production of 2 million tonnes from Cambodia within five years while our crushing capacity in Laos will be expanded to 700,000 tones from 300,000 to 400,000 tonnes at present," Mr Chamroon said.

KSL has also been awarded a concession of 30 years for 10,000 hectares in Laos. The Sawannakhet mill, with total investment of $40 million, began operating at almost the same time as the Koh Kong plant.

Laos and Cambodia are among the 19 developing countries entitled to duty-free sugar exports to European markets. KSL has signed five-year contracts with London-based Tate & Lyle to supply all of its output from Cambodia and Laos at the price of 19 cents a pound.

Ly Yong Phat, one of Cambodia's top businessmen and a close ally of Prime Minister Hun Sen, holds 20% in KSL's joint venture while the Thai sugar miller controls 50%. The remaining 30% is owned by the Taiwanese partner Ve Wong Corp.

Speaking at the opening ceremony, Prime Minister Hun Sen vowed to seek the required land and labour for KSL, which needs 4,000 employees, saying the sugar industry was vital for the Cambodian economy. According to data from Thailand's Commerce Ministry, the country exports 300,000 tonnes of white sugar to Cambodia.

Chalush Chinthammit, KSL's assistant vice-president for business development, said the group expected up to 20% growth in revenue this year, thanks to the high sugar price, now at a 28-year high of 29 cents a pound, and higher production than last year.

Given the current supply shortage, sugar prices will remain on the uptrend, definitely breaking the 30-cent mark by the end of the second quarter, Mr Chalush added.

KSL shares closed yesterday on SET at 14.70 baht, up 50 satang, in trade worth 44 million baht.

Monday, January 25, 2010

A “Korean wave” washes warmly over Asia

Hallyu, yeah!

Jan 25th 2010 | SEOUL AND PHNOM PENH


AT FIRST glance, one might take Prum Seila to be the epitome of Westernised youth, a living stereotype born of two decades’ globalisation in Asia. This modish 23-year-old Cambodian film student cuts a striking image in a country of temples and rice paddy, his tilted newsboy cap and lavender sunglasses making the young ladies swoon at local film festivals.

Reuters Who could resist?

But Mr Prum isn’t aping Western fashion. Like many Asian youngsters, he considers the trends of North America (and Japan) to be insipid relics. “In Cambodia we watch Korean dramas, listen to Korean music, and take our fashion from South Korea,” he says. He names the South Korean singer Rain and the Korean soap opera “Full House” as his favourites. Next year he hopes to attend film school in Seoul, and eventually to bring more of their artistic nous to South-East Asia.

The Koreans have a word for Mr Prum’s infatuation:hallyu, or the love of South Korean cultural exports. An international phenomenon, hallyu is driving Seoul’s nascent but growing influence across Asia. South Korean popular culture rose from relative obscurity in the late 1990s when, after decades of draconian internal censorship came to an end in the 1980s, its television dramas began to be broadcast widely in China, Japan and South-East Asia. Exports of Korean video games, television dramas and popular music (“K-pop”) have all doubled since 1999, while the total number of cultural products exported since then has increased almost threefold, to $1.8 billion in 2008. In terms of market share, these numbers still rank modestly against the Japanese comic-book industry, which dominates 80% of the worldwide market, but sales of Japanese manga have halved since reaching their apex in 1995.

Some scholars find an explanation for hallyu in the family-friendly, Confucian teachings typical of South Korean dramas; these values, they say, appeal to Asians more than does the usual Western fare. But this explanation seems to require imputing a uniform mentality to at least two billion people. Michael Shin of Cornell University argues instead that by their rags-to-riches storylines these dramas are able to speak directly to audiences who have lived the Asian economic boom of the past two decades. Popular characters often abandon monotonous middle-class jobs to seek fame, or a “dream job”—perhaps suggesting that many Asians feel dissatisfied with their careers, despite the prosperity that has come with growth.

The first hints of hallyu came just as South Korea’s economy collapsed during the 1998 financial crisis in Asia, when GDP plunged by 7%. In the stagnant decade that followed, three administrations looked to hallyu as a tool of soft power, hoping to expand South Korea’s profile abroad along with demand for its cultural exports and tourism. Since 2005 the government has taken a more mercantilist approach. Organisations that introduce Korean culture overseas have won millions of dollars in government grants.

The efforts may be working. A survey conducted by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs in 2008 found that about 80% of respondents from China, Japan and Vietnam (three of the largest markets for hallyu) look to South Korean culture with high respect. It is not clear however that this esteem has increased trade and tourism. Park Jung-sook, a former soap-opera actress and now a scholar of hallyu, thinks the government should relax its aggressive marketing, lest foreigners recoil from the smell of nationalism. China is used to running a trade deficit with South Korea, but its deficit in the trade of cultural goods is ten times greater than in industrial goods. On several occasions since 2006 China has threatened to limit the number of South Korean soap operas and concert tours allowed into the country.

North Korea’s method is blunter. Pirated South Korean soap operas have become so widespread there that in recent years the regime mobilised border squads to execute DVD smugglers, according to the Korea Institute for National Unification, a think-tank funded by the South Korean government. A police commander who defected from the North last year says its leaders are getting nervous about the free-market fantasies spun by the imported dramas. (When North Korea revalued its currency in November, it essentially wiped out the country’s personal savings—and with them the black market for foreign goods.) Yet this backlash, uniquely, could work in Seoul’s favour. Roh Moo-hyun, the late president of South Korea from 2003 to 2008, once remarked that hallyu will someday unify the peninsula.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Cambodia reports clash with Thai troops on border

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Sopheng Cheang
Associated Press

Cambodian troops clashed Sunday with Thai soldiers near a temple that lies along a disputed part of their border and has been the scene of several deadly skirmishes in recent years, Cambodian military officials said.

Lt. Gen. Chea Tara, deputy armed forces commander and field commander for the area, said Cambodia suffered no casualties in the fighting in northern Cambodia, about 12 miles (20 kilometers) east of Preah Vihear temple. He said the fighting began when Thai troops intruded into Cambodian territory.

Defense Ministry spokesman Lt. Gen. Chhum Socheat said there were two firefights lasting about five minutes each. He could not say if Thai forces suffered any casualties.

Thai military authorities could not immediately be reached for confirmation of the fighting in an area.

The Cambodian officers said the area was calm after the fighting, but that both countries were on alert.

The area has been a flashpoint since 2008, when Thai nationalists protested Cambodian efforts to have the 11th century Preah Vihear temple named a U.N. World Heritage site. They claimed the move could invalidate Thai claims to small parcels of nearby jungle area.

In 1962, the World Court awarded the temple and the land it is on to Cambodia, but sovereignty over adjacent areas has never been clearly resolved.

The issue is closely linked to Thailand's domestic politics because the 2008 protests about the temple were led by the People's Alliance for Democracy, a group which was seeking to unseat the Thai government then in power because of its links to former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

Thaksin was ousted by a 2006 military coup after being accused of corruption and disrespecting constitutional monarch King Bhumibol Adulyadej.

The alliance raised the issue to stir up nationalist sentiment and attract support.

The furor caused both Thailand and Cambodia to reinforce their military positions in the area, and tensions have broken out into fighting on several occasions, leading to several deaths.

Relations between the two countries plunged further in November last year, when Cambodia named Thaksin an adviser on economic affairs. The appointment, and subsequent visits by Thaksin, set off a diplomatic row in which the two countries recalled their ambassadors. A Thai court in 2008 sentenced Thaksin in absentia to two years in prison on a corruption charge.

Cambodia has refused to extradite Thaksin.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Cambodia Takes to the Roads in Building Spree

January 18, 2010

The New York Times

Paving Over Cambodia's Violent Past
With financing from several foreign governments and the Asian Development Bank, hundreds of miles of roads are being completed and many more hundreds are under construction in Cambodia.
SIEM REAP, CAMBODIA — Bullet by bullet, workers removed the detritus of Cambodia’s past. They pulled 300 land mines and 30,000 rounds of ammunition from the red dirt and then laid down a thick layer of asphalt. Today, what would pass for a very ordinary road in wealthier parts of the world is precious pavement for a country motoring toward prosperity and trying to leave its bloody past behind.

Last month, the government inaugurated the newly refurbished Routes 5 and 6, both built during the French colonial era to connect the capital, Phnom Penh, with the Thai border.

Western Cambodia was the last holdout of the Khmer Rouge, the brutal regime toppled three decades ago. Rebel units held onto remote areas into the 1990s, skirmishing periodically with government forces and leaving the roads in total disrepair, a moonscape of potholes and mud that gave travelers sore backs and made for a crater-dodging, head-bumping ride.

Now enjoying the dividends of peace, Cambodia is halfway through a road-building spree with 10 projects totaling 1,173 kilometers, or 730 miles, of pavement still under way, said Prime Minister Hun Sen, who presided over the ceremony on Dec. 28. A further 11 major roads are under negotiation, he said.

The new roads make the storied temples of Angkor Wat a comfortable drive from the Thai border — and a short day’s drive from Bangkok. The roads also put more remote historic sites — in a country filled with them — within easy reach for tourists.

Roads are a big deal in Cambodia, and more than 5,000 villagers were summoned to attend the road’s official inauguration — farmers who arrived by bicycle, monks with freshly shaved heads, children in school uniforms. Organizers stenciled messages onto large banners strung across the canopy that gave shade from the searing sun: “Where there are bridges and roads there is hope.”

Cambodia’s road-building program is now taking “elephant steps, not mouse steps,” Mr. Hun Sen told the crowd.

Like the North-South Expressway in peninsular Malaysia, the American-built Friendship Road across Thailand’s northeast and the vast network of roads built by China over the past decade, roads are a key milestone of development in Asia.

For Cambodia, in particular, good roads help bring together a country fractured by civil war.

“This section was a very heavy battlefield,” said Pheng Sovicheano, the project manager of the road to the Thai border.

Mr. Pheng Sovicheano, who is also Cambodia’s deputy director general for public works, knows firsthand how bad the road was. During construction his driver drove into what looked like a large muddy pothole but turned out to be a small pond, flooding the car up to his chest.

Now, as a measure of Cambodia’s national reconciliation, some of the 360 workers Mr. Pheng Sovicheano hired to build the road were former Khmer Rouge soldiers.

Roads are expensive — $350,000 per kilometer for the road to the Thai border. But with many countries jockeying for influence in Cambodia the government appears to have no trouble finding financing. China is building a number of roads here, including one that passes through the former Khmer Rouge stronghold of Pailin.

Route 5 and Route 6 were financed with a low-interest, 32-year loan by the Asian Development Bank in Manila, an institution whose largest shareholders are Japan and the United States. South Korea is financing other road projects.

Mr. Hun Sen seems to enjoy playing these donors off each other. In his speech he chided the Asian Development Bank for its sluggish and bureaucratic two-year bidding process and praised the speed of Chinese projects.

“I compliment the way the Chinese companies work — very fast,” Mr. Hun Sen said, pointedly glancing over at the representative from the Asian Development Bank.

Political ties between Thailand and Cambodia have been strained by a territorial dispute near a 900-year-old mountaintop temple, Preah Vihear, but officials made no mention of the troubles.

Economic ties endure: By the end of this year western Cambodia will have three good roads leading to Thailand, connections that the government hopes will increase trade and investment. Western Cambodia gets most of its electricity from Thailand, and the company that built the road to the border, S.P.T. Civil Group, is based in Thailand. (The company has ties to Thaksin Shinawatra, the Thai prime minister deposed in the military coup of 2006 who last year was named Mr. Hun Sen’s economic adviser.)

The new roads will make it easier for Thai companies to sell more cement, instant noodles and other products across the border. For Japanese companies, the roads will link the supply chains of factories in Bangkok and in Ho Chi Minh City.

And for villagers in western Cambodia, it may help lift rock-bottom incomes.

Yong Da, a 39-year-old deliveryman in the town of Kralanh, has more than doubled his income because of the new road. “The road was bumpy, and I could not take much stuff on my motorcycle,” he said. He now makes $2.50 a day, up from a dollar a day.

The sheets of dust that enveloped the roadside are also gone, and villagers say their children no longer have trouble breathing.

Good roads and the end of the civil war have allowed villagers to take back the night. Travel after dark was discouraged two decades ago because of poor security and the perils of bad pavement.

But with modernity comes another type of danger. Mr. Pheng Sovicheano says he was driving to Phnom Penh one night recently when he came upon a road accident.

A young man had been killed on his motorcycle when he rammed into the back of a poorly lighted truck. The boy’s distraught mother blamed the good road, Mr. Pheng Sovicheano remembers.

“She said, ‘Before, when there were bad roads, he never drove this fast.”’

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Travel By Bus - HCMC to Phnon Penh

Traveling from HCMC to the Capital of Cambodia, Phnom Penh has never been easier, nor cheaper.

These days you can travel quickly and efficiently by air or road. Traveling by air is still expensive unless you can snag a cheap fare on the budget airlines. But the 1 hour flight time is appealing! While air is convenient, remember you need to pay for taxi's (or transfers) each way which can easily add 15USD to your trip.

A cheaper means of travel is by road. Numerous companies now operate express buses to and from Saigon/Phnom Penh for around 10USD per person (one way). Most will offer you a bottle water, small snack box and a company representative to help you through the border crossings. Companies include Mai Linh, Mekong Express, Capital Tours and several others.

Recently I traveled with the Mai Linh Company and here are my thoughts.


The bus we traveled was large 50 seater and fairly new, clean and had a great air-con system! Seats reclined and were comfortable. Each has a little pocket for storing books or a bottle of water and there was enough leg room to stretch out (I'm 178cm). Little pillows attached to the head rest make sleeping a breeze!


I know several people that have commented on speeding Mai Linh drivers, however our green bus, as are all Mai Linh vehicles, negotiated the roads safely and at a decent speed. I felt safe the entire trip!


Each bus service has a company rep. to help you through the border crossing and to look after you through the journey. The guy we had on the bus only spoke Vietnamese, which can make it difficult for travelers if you require something, however that said, he was friendly and smiled the entire trip. At the border we were meet by another Mai Linh Rep. who looked after the border crossing. He had basic English and was efficient but not overly helpful or friendly.

Visa's for Cambodia can be obtained at the border. There are three types of Visa's as shown by Cambodia Authorities:

Tourist Visa - 20USD
Holiday Visa - 25USD
Special Visa - Free (you need official paper work for this one)

Mai Linh staff help with the visa procedure and charge 24USD per person. So while I just did my own (for 20USD), you can pay a little extra and not have to worry about waiting in line. Otherwise jump the queue and help yourself.


During the journey we stopped just short of Tay Ninh, about 1 1/2 hours, for fuel and a toilet stop. We then traveled 45 mins to border and spent about an 1 hour completing both border crossing. 5 minutes from the border (Cambodia side) we stopped for 20 minutes at a small cafe which had food, drinks and ok toilets.

From here it's about 3 hours to Phnom Penh, including a ferry crossing, where it's possible to get out and stretch your legs or grab some photo's.

The bus left the Saigon office in Pham Ngu Lao at 6.40am and arrived into Phnom Penh, behind the Central Markets around 1.30pm.

My Opinion

For this journey, I have used Capital, Mekong Express and now Mai Linh. Each company charges about the same (10 - 12USD) and travel the same routes.

While Mai Linh has great buses they have just ok service. The best company in my opinion is the Mekong Express Bus which has superior service - and they give you really nice pastries!