Cambodia Update: Controversial Cybercrime Law Scrapped

Cambodia Update | December 2014
Authors: Daniel Henderson
 
LOOKING AHEAD
 
 
  • The Council, through the US-ASEAN Business Alliance for Competitive SMEs, is organizing a workshop on Good Business Practices for Improved Market Competitiveness in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, January 30, 2015. For more information, please click here
 
THE COUNCIL'S TAKE
 
 
  • On December 11, the Council of Ministers announced that the controversial Cybercrime Law, deemed as such due to its perceived silencing of parts of civil society, had been “scrapped.”  Spokesman Phay Siphan said that both the Ministry of Interior and Ministry of Posts & Telecommunications had shelved the draft piece of legislation as “it is not a priority.” Whether it reemerges as a priority remains to be seen.  In recent months, the government has continued to increase its control of the Internet and on October 17, the Ministry of the Interior passed a directive that ordered 12 telecommunications providers to allow inspections of their networks, billing records and data logs.  In the same month, Deputy Prime Minister Sok An (and Minister for the Council of Ministers) announced the creation of a “Cyber War Team,” tasked with safeguarding the “government’s stance and prestige” against social media. The Council will continue to monitor developments on this piece of legislation and in the area of freedom of information in Cambodia. If the teeth of the Cybercrime Law are implemented through directives rather than statutes, oppositions groups will continue to be wary.  Last July the Cambodian National Rescue Party secured the right to a television and radio station licenses when it agreed to end its yearlong boycott of the National Assembly. In November it received final approval to set up a radio station, but continues to wait on a television station license.  However these gains may have been in vain if broadcasts perceived as criticizing government policy are interrupted as threats to public order. To access the August 2014 Council’s Take, which highlighted the main implications of the Cybercrime Law, please click here.  
     
  • H.E. Cham Prasidh, Minister of Industry and Handicrafts has announced that a new comprehensive small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) policy is near completion. The policy is aimed at boosting competitiveness, improving training and upgrading safety standards.  Cambodia has an estimated 500,000 SMEs that accounts for 99 percent of all businesses and 1.67 million jobs.
     
  • On December 19, General Electric (GE) and Cambodia’s state-owned utility company Electricite du Cambodge (EdC) signed a deal to develop Cambodia’s electricity grid.  Under the agreement, GE will conduct a study of the power grid to analyze its performance. Additionally, GE will provide maintenance and services of the grid for the next five years.  The deal is an important step addressing the rising cost of energy in Cambodia, which both the World Bank and ADB have identified as a major hurdle to doing business.
     
  • In November, Coca-Cola announced an investment of US$100 million over the next four years to expand its factory in Cambodia.  The investment will add a further 300 jobs to the 650 staff that Coca-Cola’s currently employs.  Prime Minister Hun Sen’s office made the announcement after a meeting with Martin Jansen, Regional Director for the Coca-Cola Company’s Bottling Investment Group for China and Southeast Asia
 
IN THIS UPDATE
 
 

National Affairs
Ambassador Todd Op-Ed: Pushing Forward Judicial Reform
Ambassador Todd OpEd: The Importance of Transparency
Rainsy takes new role
Growth potential hangs on diversity
SME policy to roll out in 2015
Behind on education
Companies Sign Agreement to Fight Corruption
Cambodian Views on Democracy and Electoral Reform
Five firms to sign with ACU
Cambodian firms face bigger risk of economic crimes
The premier’s speech
New NEC Law Now Drafted, Ready for Parliament Introduction
Cambodia's culture of impunity: What price for a life?
This is my house: PM
Cambodia, Kuwait up export ties
Companies stripped of ELCs
The one and only: Hun Sen
Kek’s NEC eligibility in doubt
Opposition TV ‘will be truly independent’
Concessions small: Sochua
Hun Sen, Rainsy Settle Differences in Reform Deal
Thailand’s Cambodian charm offensive
Cambodian Opposition Gets Final Approval to Broadcast Throughout Nation
Cambodia eyes ties with Organization of Islamic Cooperation: FM
Experts, Asia-Pacific ministers to discuss rural development in Cambodia
Herbalife to Sign Anti-Graft Agreement With Gov’t

ASEAN
Cambodia scholar calls for boosting mutual trust, maritime security in Asia Pacific
China’s New Confrontationalism Could Spark Investment Boom in SE Asia
Frontier markets beckon, but there are bullets to dodge
Transparency Interanational: 2014 Corruption Perceptions Index

Defense & Security
Nephew of Hun Sen is made one-star general
Army wants students
Minister: Military License Plates Not Being Abused

Energy
GE, EdC ink $10M electricity deal
General Electric to Sign Power Deal With EdC
US General Electric to provide electricity grid maintenance services to EdC
Hydropower in Laos All latest updates Unquiet grows the Don
Gov’t forms OCA committee

Financial Services
New shopping website faces old e-commerce challenges
Cambodia: Insurance market to have 12th player
The rise of electronic payment systems
Cambodian students win out on ASEAN stock markets
ANZ’s technology investments a big risk ‘but worth it’: CEO
Examining a market on the rise
Grand Twins revenue plunges
New local insurance firm due soon: MEF

Food & Agriculture
Tobacco prices hurt farmers
Farmers air their agriculture concerns
Export standards too high: PM
Food and Beverage Pioneer Kouch Sokly Chats With KT
Coca-Cola to expand factory

Health & Life Sciences
Chained in cells: the plight of some of Cambodia’s mentally ill
Hun Sen “misinformed” over Cambodia’s mass HIV infection, says Françoise Barré-Sinoussi
HIV Infections Surge in Cambodian Village
Japanese Hospital to Open in Phnom Penh in 2016
+ Cambodia Commits to Stopping HIV Infections by 2020: UNAIDS

ICT
Controversial Cybercrime Law ‘Scrapped’
Information Minister Launches ‘Get Your Sexy Back’ Campaign
Early steps taken toward info law
Kingdom’s internet ‘partly free’
New push for film tax break

Infrastructure
Economic zone aims for Q1 IPO, CSX listing
PM appeals for the end of lax standards
ADB set to loan $800M over the next five years
GE to help improve Kingdom’s electricity
Public consultation set for Lao dam on Cambodian border
New ferry terminal approved in Kampot

Manufacturing
Dilemma for garment factories
Getting a rise

 
ARTICLE CLIPS
 
 
Regional Affairs

Experts, Asia-Pacific ministers to discuss rural development in Cambodia Xinhua 2nd Dec 2014
Some 200 agricultural development experts and government ministers from across Asia and the Pacific gathered here on Tuesday to discuss plans to transform rural areas in the region. The 2-day workshop on transforming rural areas in Asia and the Pacific was jointly organized by the Cambodian government and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD). “The experts and government ministers will discuss plans to transform impoverished rural areas and improve the lives of rural people,” said an IFAD’s press statement. “The regional conference will set out a strategy to transform rural areas into vibrant and economically viable communities, and will conclude with a concrete plan of action for IFAD and its partners and member states.” Addressing the opening ceremony on Tuesday, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said investment in agriculture, especially in small-scale farmers, is an essential factor not only to ensure food security and nutrition, but also to create jobs for peoples. “Such investment will provide a lot of benefits to rural peoples and drag millions of peoples out of poverty,” he said.

Herbalife to Sign Anti-Graft Agreement With Gov’t Cambodia Daily 28th Nov 2014
Herbalife, the multinational nutrition company under investigation by the U.S.’ FBI for its suspect business practices, will become the third company to sign a symbolic agreement with Cambodia’s Anti-Corruption Unit (ACU) that emphasizes the firm’s commitment to aboveboard operations in the country. The New York Stock Exchange-listed company, whose products include nutritional and weight-loss supplements, will sign a memorandum of understanding with the ACU on December 9 to show the anti-graft body that the company “is clean and clear,” said Sim Dyna, general manager of Herbalife (Cambodia) Co., Ltd. “We want to tell the government and ACU that we are clean…and a tax- and law-compliant company. We want the government to help us to fight against corruption and unnecessary spending,” he said, using a euphemism for bribery.

National Affairs

Ambassador Todd Op-Ed: Pushing Forward Judicial Reform Cambodia Herald 21st Dec 2014
The need for judicial reform goes far beyond specific cases. Without continued focus on improving the justice system, Cambodia’s economic and social development will face serious impediments.Put another way, if implemented properly, judicial reforms like those mentioned by the Prime Minister have the potential to generate a number of benefits for the Cambodian people. If the independence of the judicial branch is protected, judges can securely make decisions without interference from other government officials, armed forces, or the police. With judicial governance that is more reliable, court officials can be properly appointed and fairly punished, leading to increased accountability, less corruption, and greater confidence in the judicial system. Another benefit of these laws is in the area of Cambodia’s economic development. When speaking with the business community about Cambodia, local entrepreneurs and foreign investors often tell me that they have strong doubts regarding the judicial system and its ability to resolve commercial disputes. Although the country has a pro-business regulatory framework, concern about rule of law is a determining factor when a company decides to invest in Cambodia. Even in purely private disputes, courts have been unreliable and susceptible to external political influence and bribery. The creation of a commercial court is an ideal method for increasing professionalism, discouraging corruption, and diminishing the influence that comes from outside the courts.

Ambassador Todd OpEd: The Importance of Transparency Cambodia Herald 7th Dec 2014
The recent discussions about a whistleblower protection law are a step in the right direction. Last week, a joint commitment of the Anti-Corruption Unit and the National Assembly’s Anti-Corruption Committee announced plans to draft a law to provide safeguards for individuals seeking to expose corruption. This is promising news, particularly for civil society organizations that have been calling for effective whistleblower protection legislation for years. As we have learned in the United States, one of the best ways to combat official corruption and graft is by making it possible for people to report misconduct without fear of retribution. A good whistleblower law based on international standards could go a long way towards helping Cambodia tackle this longstanding problem. It is one thing to have a good whistleblower protection law, but it is another thing to enforce it fairly and effectively. Even the best law will have no effect if it is selectively enforced. This takes political and moral courage, as well as a change in culture for organizations that have become accustomed to small- and large-scale corruption. It is encouraging to see that Cambodia’s leaders are willing to consider measures to safeguard citizens who take the brave step to expose corruption and mismanagement. Hopefully, with this announcement whistleblowers will begin to be seen as valuable assets in identifying fraud, mismanagement, and other illegal activities that have long been kept hidden from the public.

Rainsy takes new role PPP 20th Dec 2014
The National Assembly yesterday unanimously approved a new law paving the way for Cambodian National Rescue Party president Sam Rainsy to be recognised as a “minority leader ranked as prime minister”. According to the new rule, minority parties with at least 25 per cent of seats in the assembly must appoint a minority leader, whose duty it is to negotiate with other parties. Parties with fewer seats would need to select another party to represent them. The new law is the result of an agreement last month that also saw a long-awaited analogue television channel pledged to the CNRP, which, in turn, dropped a demand that citizens with multiple nationalities be allowed to sit on a revamped National Election Committee. Rainsy said the new law would mean he could be a “political dialogue partner” with Prime Minister Hun Sen, creating a peaceful way to deal with issues such as the arrest of political and land rights activists.

Growth potential hangs on diversity PPP 18th Dec 2014
As Cambodia becomes increasingly integrated into the global market, the Kingdom needs to accelerate its efforts to diversify production or the local economy risks becoming stuck in a low-wage trap, the Asia Development Bank (ADB) warned yesterday. The economy’s four pillars of growth – rice, garments, tourism and construction – have all contributed to high levels of GDP over the past two decades, but only very basic products are being made within these industries, ADB assistant chief economist, Cynthia Young Park said yesterday. “Although they [Cambodia’s four pillars] will remain very important for the country’s medium growth prospects, this reliance on a very limited number of growth pillars presents some challenges and risks to the economy,” she said. According to a new report from the ADB, Cambodia: Diversifying Beyond Garments and Tourism, low quality of education, poor infrastructure, weak management within the public sector and a lack of tax revenues all hamper the Kingdom’s ability to move away from simple levels of production. The lack of product diversity, the ADB says, leaves Cambodia vulnerable economic slowdowns in key export nations.

SME policy to roll out in 2015 PPP 17th Dec 2014
The Cambodian government is nearing completion of a policy aimed at strengthening the Kingdom’s small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), a senior official said yesterday. Minister for Industry and Handicraft Cham Prasidh yesterday told reporters his ministry was preparing a comprehensive SME policy with the purpose of boosting the sector’s competitiveness. “Maybe during the first half of next year [2015], the policy will be ready for implementation,” he said during the National Conference on ASEAN Economic Integration in Phnom Penh. “But for now the policy remains in the preparation stage, and it is on schedule to be discussed with the private sector and relevant partners during January next year.” Prasidh said the policy will outline government’s strategy in solving technical training issues within the SME bracket, and will upgrade safety and quality standards for the sector. According to 2011 Cambodia Economic Census, Cambodia has more than 500,000 SMEs operating in the country, a figure that represents 99 per cent of all businesses operating in the Kingdom and an estimated 1.67 million jobs for Cambodians. Edward Clarence Smith, regional office director and representative for the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), welcomed the arrival of an SME strategy in the lead-up to the launch of the Asean Economic Community (AEC) in 2015. “There will be tremendous opportunity for SMEs from the integration of the AEC,” he said. Further integration of regional infrastructure, assuring good governance, greater investment in training and education, as well as developing a better understanding of regional free trade were all needed for Cambodia’s economy to capitalise on regional integration, Smith added.

Behind on education PPP 15th Dec 2014
Cambodia is expected to attain only one of the six internationally agreed-upon education goals set by UNESCO in 2000. Fourteen years ago, UNESCO urged countries all over the world, especially developing ones, to achieve six Education For All (EFA) goals by 2015. Cambodia, however, is only close to meeting one of the goals: universal primary education, Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports spokesman Ros Salin said. “Education in Cambodia is better than 15 years ago, and we will reach full enrollment for primary schools by 2015 . . . but I’m not sure about the other five goals,” Salin said. Currently, 98 per cent of children aged 6 to 11 in Cambodia are enrolled in primary schools, he said. Attaining universal primary education is also one of the eight Millennium Development Goals set by the UN for 2015. Cambodia is lagging on the other EFA goals, which are early childhood care and education, access to high school and adult education, a 50 per cent improvement in adult literacy, gender equality in schools and overall progress in quality of education.

Companies Sign Agreement to Fight Corruption Cambodia Daily 10th Dec 2014
Despite making a slight gain in Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index released last week, Cambodia still ranks 156 out of 175 countries surveyed. Speaking after the ceremony, Pactics president Piet Holten said he hoped more firms would join the initiative, and that it would eventually put an end to money being siphoned off as bribes in business transactions. “We have to start somewhere. This country cannot develop and we cannot do right to the people in this country when all kinds of money ends up in pockets where [it doesn’t] really belong,” he said. But Mr. Holten was unsure of what tangible change the agreement could effect. “I don’t know, I just signed it today, so I hope it’s going to help,” he said. Bretton Sciaroni, chairman of the International Business Chamber of Cambodia, said there has been “tremendous” interest from companies to become a signatory to the MoU, which he admitted was open to interpretation when it came to implementation.

Cambodian Views on Democracy and Electoral Reform Asia Foundation 10th Dec 2014
The Asia Foundation’s third national survey on democratic development in Cambodia released today suggests some sobering trends in public opinion, despite significant economic growth and poverty reduction over the last decade and what some see as a path toward relative stability post elections. The survey, a follow up from prior surveys conducted in 2000 and 2003, is based on 1,000 face-to-face interviews with Cambodian citizens in 23 provinces (excluding Kep) and Phnom Penh. Polling was conducted from May 19 to June 9 – after the government crackdown on growing anti-government demonstrations on Jan. 2-3, 2014, and before a compromise was reached by the opposition CNRP party and ruling CPP party on July 22, 2014, which ended the opposition’s boycott of the national assembly on claims of voter fraud during the 2013 national assembly election.

Five firms to sign with ACU PPP 9th Dec 2014
To mark International Anti-Corruption Day, five firms – consumer finance operator Mega Leasing, garment manufacturer Pactics, rice miller Loran Group, confectionary producer Aprati Foods (Cambodia) and US-based nutrition company Herbalife – are expected today to sign agreements with Cambodia’s Anti-Corruption Unit (ACU), promising to eliminate bribery from their companies, sources close to the deals confirmed. The companies would join Coca-Cola and Prudential as the only seven firms to commit to the ACU’s anti-corruption contract, which stipulates that signatories must operate entirely “corruption-free”. “It also promotes a transparency culture and creates a clear direction for staff to benchmark the laws and regulations while the staff is dealing with the governmental agency,” Paul Popelier, country manager of Coca-Cola said yesterday in an email. Coca-Cola was the first company in Cambodia to sign the ACU memorandum of understanding (MoU) last December. According to Popelier, the company has since reported instances of corruption to the ACU via a number of communication interaction “points”.

Cambodian firms face bigger risk of economic crimes PPP 9th Dec 2014
Businesses in the Kingdom experience economic crimes at almost twice the global average rate, according to a small-scale survey conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) Cambodia branch. PwC conducted the assessment during a seminar last week for the launch of the global Economic Crime Survey, which did not include Cambodia. Of the 27 Cambodian businesses who responded at the seminar, 85 per cent reported experiencing some form of economic crime in the past two years, much higher than the 37 per cent reported globally. Respondents included companies in the logistics, professional services and financial sectors. Although the sample was small, the results showed that certain forms of economic crime were of particular concern to companies here. For example, of the companies who said they were victims of economic crimes, the survey found 43 per cent of firms had experienced bribery and corruption in Cambodia over the last two years, the study’s global average was 27 per cent. The Kingdom’s years of economic growth could also have a darker side, said PWC partner Marius Kunneke, as such rapid expansion increases the opportunities for fraud. “It’s part of a global trend,” he said. Procurement fraud, asset misappropriation, and cybercrime were the kinds of fraud most expected by the Cambodian companies surveyed. Andrew Tan, PWC’s associate director for Cambodia and Laos, noted that opportunities for cybercrime have increased as companies adopt new technology. Charles Van, president of the Association of Banks in Cambodia, said that for Cambodia’s banking sector at least, new technology had helped the country leapfrog older security systems to strengthen cybercrime protections.

The premier’s speech PPP 9th Dec 2014
Prime Minister Hun Sen is known for his circuitous and colourful speeches. But one oration he delivered last week continues to draw cautious praise from a segment of the audience that is usually immune to his charms – the opposition. Optimism is high in the Cambodia National Rescue Party that the past few months of political wheeling and dealing with the ruling Cambodian People’s Party has led to what appears to be increasingly genuine commitment from Prime Minister Hun Sen to try and tackle critical national issues in a bipartisan manner. Aside from a recent decision to officially recognise minority parties and a minority leader in parliament that can engage in “dialogue” with him, they are also pointing to last Monday’s speech, which is being characterised as unprecedented by many long-time Cambodia watchers. Speaking to graduating university students in Phnom Penh, minus some of his usual bravado, Hun Sen outlined 12 points of “imbalance” in the Kingdom that have frequently been cited by government critics, and admitted that the number of key problem areas faced by policymakers had expanded under his watch. These ranged from monetary policy challenges and a trade deficit to weak infrastructure and low wages. The premier focused heavily on the country’s poor human resources, pointing out that while a lack of jobs is causing migration, there remains a shortage of workers in certain places and in certain industries.

New NEC Law Now Drafted, Ready for Parliament Introduction Cambodia Daily 9th Dec 2014
The CPP and CNRP election reform working groups met briefly at the National Assembly on Monday, releasing a statement saying that the draft Law on the Organization and Functioning of the National Election Committee (NEC) has been cleared by both parties for introduction to parliament. Under the political deal cut between Prime Minister Hun Sen and opposition leader Sam Rainsy on July 22, the chapter concerning the NEC inside the existing Law on the Election of Members of the National Assembly is to be excised from the statute and turned into its own specific law. In protracted negotiations that began August 11 and effectively ended in another deal between Mr. Hun Sen and Mr. Rainsy on November 28, the election reform working groups from the two parties then sparred over the details of the law, which is set to create a new and reformed NEC. Emerging from Monday’s talks, however, the teams from the CPP and CNRP said the law has now been completely drafted and is ready for the parliament, and that talks have now started over changes to the broader election law. “We completely agreed in the draft law on the meaning written in the seven chapters and 66 articles, so then we signed this note today to prove we have accomplished the draft law completely,” the CNRP’s Kuoy Bunroeun said.

Cambodia's culture of impunity: What price for a life? BBC 8th Dec 2014
Impunity enjoyed by the rich and powerful helps explain a lack of public trust in Cambodia's judicial and law enforcement institutions. Anti-corruption monitor Transparency International reported in 2013 that Cambodia's judiciary "was perceived to be the most corrupt institution out of 12 public institutions reviewed". Police officers fared no better. Bribery of officers was "widespread across the country," Transparency reported, noting that 65% of respondents reported paying a police office a bribe in the previous 12 months. In a 24 September statement to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, UN human rights envoy to Cambodia Surya Subedi said the list of impunity cases was "long and growing". "Little has been done to bring perpetrators to justice," he said. It is not just the rural karaoke clubs that are affected - famous entertainers have also been targeted. Cambodia's Royal Ballet star Piseth Pilika was shot and killed in 1999. In 2003, popular singer Touch Srey Nich was left paralysed after a shooting attack that also killed her mother. Another singer, Pov Panhapich, was left paralysed by a gunman's bullets in 2007.

This is my house: PM PPP 5th Dec 2014
Prime Minister Hun Sen yesterday sought to make clear that, although there will soon be two other people in Cambodia with a rank “equal” to his, only one man really calls the shots. Last Friday, Hun Sen and opposition leader Sam Rainsy agreed that the internal rules of parliament would soon be amended to officially recognise minority parties in the National Assembly, and specifically a US-style minority leader with a rank equal to the prime minister. When the amendments occur and Rainsy formally takes up the position, he will join Prince Norodom Ranariddh in the top echelon of symbolic titlehood. Ranariddh, as head of the Supreme Privy Council to the King, also enjoys a rank that on paper is equal to the stature of Hun Sen. But speaking to more than 1,000 graduates at the National Institute of Education in Phnom Penh yesterday, Hun Sen made it clear that such “equal” ranks carry no real power.

Cambodia, Kuwait up export ties PPP 3rd Dec 2014
Cambodia is looking to expand its agricultural exports into the Middle East. Minister of Commerce Sun Chanthol will today complete a three-day visit to Kuwait. The minister’s visit is aimed at opening new avenues for Cambodian-made agricultural goods to enter the Middle East region. “We want to open the new market in the Middle East because we have not focused too much on the region in past times. And we want to expand our export destinations,” said Ken Ratha, spokesman for the Ministry of Commerce. “It will also to pave the way for our private sector because the Ministry of Commerce also set up a department to handle Middle East related issues, which will facilitate commercial relationships, similar to that of the European Union,” he said. Kuwaiti media reported earlier this week that Khaled Al-Khaled, a member of the Kuwaiti Chamber of Commerce and Industry, met with Chanthol on Monday. “Cambodian keenness on encouraging foreign investment has positive effects on Kuwaiti investors and prompts them to carry out projects there,” Al-Khaled was quoted saying.

Companies stripped of ELCs PPP 3rd Dec 2014
The government has seized more than 50,000 hectares of economic land concessions from a number of powerful companies across the Kingdom, putting the areas under the control of the Ministry of Environment, according to sub-decrees signed last week. One decree signed by Prime Minister Hun Sen on Friday and obtained by the Post yesterday orders that licences for land totalling 41,632 hectares be revoked from seven companies, including the controversial and politically connected Khun Sear Import Export Company and Reththy Kiri Seyma Co Ltd. According to the decree, the land will be returned to wildlife sanctuaries under the control of the Ministry of Environment. Details of the original sub-decrees awarding the companies the ELCs will be “null and void”, it says. According to state news agency AKP, a separate sub-decree signed the same day revoked a further 10,154 hectares of ELCs from two companies in Kampong Speu and Kratie provinces. At a press conference last week, Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ouk Rabun stressed that the government has stopped granting ELCs to private firms and is checking that all those awarded land before the ban are utilising it correctly.

The one and only: Hun Sen SEA Globe 3rd Dec 2014
Although still in office, Hun Sen has already become a historic figure. His formative influence on his nation and its people cannot be disputed, although his legacy is certainly less clear cut: Many observers, especially of Western origin, have labelled him a ruthless dictator; others point out his achievements after years of war and genocide. Hun Sen’s remarkable career and talents are often swept under the carpet. Born in 1952, he joined the Khmer Rouge when he was just 16 and rose quickly through the ranks. He was a deputy regimental commander when he escaped the regime’s internal purges by moving to Vietnam in 1977, and just 18 months later – after the Vietnamese defeated the Khmer Rouge – he became Cambodia’s youngest ever foreign minister. In 1981 he entered the top circle of the new regime as deputy prime minister and a member of the National Assembly. In a society in which elderly people are afforded great respect, it seems impossible that the promotion of a young Hun Sen – who lacked higher education – was based solely on good fortune. During this period, he certainly made use of his outstanding ability to find powerful allies, forge interpersonal networks and isolate opponents. In December 1984, following the death of Prime Minister Chan Si, Hun Sen immediately took over most official duties before being officially elected by the National Assembly to become the new prime minister of Cambodia the following month. The 32-year-old became the youngest head of government in the world. It is important to remember the perilous state in which Cambodia found itself at this time. As well as the tremendous destruction meted out by the Khmer Rouge, the group continued a civil war from their strongholds near the Thai border. Apart from mostly communist states, Cambodia was isolated from much of the world.

Kek’s NEC eligibility in doubt PPP 2nd Dec 2014
Although Prime Minister Hun Sen and opposition leader Sam Rainsy on Friday agreed that no member of an overhauled National Election Committee could have multiple nationalities, it remains unclear whether rights activist and triple national Pung Chhiv Kek is out of the running for the only bipartisan position. Rainsy said in an email yesterday that despite his party’s acquiescence, he believed “there will be no change” on Kek as both parties’ favoured candidate to take the ninth and final spot on an NEC otherwise made up of political appointees. The Licadho president will be allowed to join the NEC if she “suspends” her French and Canadian citizenships while sitting on the committee, a vague solution that the opposition has painted as a compromise from Hun Sen. While neither side has outlined any legal procedure for how a temporary renouncement of citizenship could work, they continued to advance this argument yesterday after a final meeting between working groups drafting a new NEC law. “In spirit, we are still thinking about [Pung Chhiv Kek], but we must also look into the [criteria set] by our law,” said Kuoy Bunroeun, the opposition CNRP’s top negotiator. “Provided that [she] fulfils [the role] according to the legal conditions, we can accept [her].”

Opposition TV ‘will be truly independent’ PPP 1st Dec 2014
The opposition party will aim to deliver Cambodians television programming similar to that seen on CNN and the BBC, a spokesman said yesterday. As part of a political deal finalised on Friday, the government granted the Cambodia National Rescue Party an analogue television licence, enabling it to compete against the country’s traditionally government-aligned and -owned stations. CNRP lawmaker and spokesman Yim Sovann yesterday gave no indication as to when the station would begin broadcasting or whether presenters were already being groomed. But, he said, the CNRP already has a firm idea of what direction it wants the station’s programming to take. “We have to learn from international TV stations such as CNN, the BBC and Channel News Asia,” he said. “It has to respect a code of ethics and show professional programs. I assure you, it will be truly independent.” Because the opposition was so resolute about this, it would effectively forfeit any further influence it has over programming, Sovann said. This would leave content in the hands of an independent team of programmers – and leave the opposition party, in theory, subjected to as much scrutiny as the ruling Cambodian People’s Party.

Concessions small: Sochua PPP 1st Dec 2014
Once again since the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party ended its boycott of parliament in July, the party is finding itself rebutting claims that it has ceded too much ground to the ruling Cambodian People’s Party. In an agreement reached between Prime Minister Hun Sen and CNRP leader Sam Rainsy on Friday, the CNRP was granted a television station licence while Rainsy was made the parliament’s minority leader, a position formally “equal” to Hun Sen’s. In return, the CNRP relented on a major sticking point by agreeing that no members of the National Election Committee could hold multiple nationalities, seemingly ruling out rights activist Pung Chhiv Kek from the position. In an email to CNRP supporters, public relations director Mu Sochua appeared to address such criticisms against the party, saying that the “CNRP made no ‘major concessions’ on election reforms as reported by the media.” Although supportive of the agreement overall, Koul Panha, executive director of election watchdog Comfrel, said he had problems with the controversial clause. “On this point, it’s not that good,” said Panha. “In our political institutions and in the government, they have always included people [who have other nationalities] because so many were refugees and came from outside the country because of the killing fields.”

Hun Sen, Rainsy Settle Differences in Reform Deal Cambodia Daily 29th Nov 2014
Prime Minister Hun Sen and opposition leader Sam Rainsy, in a meeting on Friday at the National Assembly, settled the remaining disputes between the CPP and CNRP over the details of the sweeping electoral reform package promised in their July 22 political deal. A letter signed Friday by Mr. Hun Sen and Mr. Rainsy, who met on the sidelines of a plenary session of parliament, says a new draft law on the organization of the National Election Committee (NEC) and an amendment to the existing election law will be passed by the end of February 2015. “For the remaining disagreements in the draft law on the organization and functioning of the NEC, the top leaders of the two parties agreed to settle them completely,” the letter says. Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Kuoy Bunroeun, one of the CNRP’s lead negotiators in election reform talks, said the opposition party had given in to the CPP’s demand that members of the NEC be barred from holding dual citizenship. “Regarding the matter of nationality for all members of the NEC, we are not extremely intransigent,” Mr. Bunroeun said. “It means that those who want to be candidates shall renounce other nationalities after being voted in.” Mr. Bunroeun said that NEC members would be able to reclaim foreign citizenship once they left their position on the nine-member committee.

Thailand’s Cambodian charm offensive PPP 29th Nov 2014
The recent state visit by Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha to Cambodia represented part of the Thai military government’s uphill diplomatic battle to build and strengthen its legitimacy abroad. This visit occurred amid mounting diplomatic pressures from Europe and the US, calling for a rapid return to democracy. Legitimacy, security, and economic development are Prayuth’s three core interests. Building confidence and good relations with Thailand’s immediate neighbours is his top priority while also simultaneously approaching China to defuse diplomatic pressures from the West. Since the bloodless coup in May, which ousted the democratically elected Yingluck administration, the military regime claimed its necessary role to restore peace and order in Thailand, which has been hit by lengthy crises. Prayuth was elected as prime minister by the appointed members of the National Assembly in August and was later endorsed by the King. In October, he stepped down from his position as army chief to take up a civilian-style leadership role. He promised to carry out deep structural reform and restore national unity and development.

Cambodian Opposition Gets Final Approval to Broadcast Throughout Nation RFA 26th Nov 2014
The Cambodian government has given the final nod to the main opposition party to operate a radio station and broadcast throughout the country as part of a deal reached in July, opposition leader Sam Rainsy said Wednesday. The government agreed to grant television and radio station licenses to the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) as part of a July 22 pact that ended a standoff between the two parties following disputed 2013 elections. “Today the government has given us the right to set up radio stations [in the provinces] to rebroadcast programs [originally aired by stations in the capital] Phnom Penh which are affiliated with the CNRP,” Sam Rainsy told RFA’s Khmer Service. Sam Rainsy said that the party will begin working with 93.5 FM Moha Nokor Radio to set up substations in provinces, though he did not provide a timetable for the project’s launching.

Cambodia eyes ties with Organization of Islamic Cooperation: FM Cambodia Herald 25th Nov 2014
Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong said Tuesday that the Southeast Asian nation is willing to create relations with the 57-country Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC). Speaking during a meeting with Kuwait's ambassador to Cambodia Dherar Naser Al Tuwaijr, the minister said there are between 500, 000 and 600,000 Muslims living in Cambodia and they are good citizens in the Cambodian society. "Since there are a lot of Muslims living in Cambodia, the country wants to create closer cooperation with the member states of the OIC," he said, asking Kuwait to support Cambodia for its intention to get involved with the organization. For his part, Dherar Naser Al Tuwaijr said Kuwait was pleased to hear Cambodia's desire to establish cooperation with the OIC countries and pledged to lend support to Cambodia. He said Kuwait would stand as a bridge to help connect Cambodia and the OIC. Cambodian Foreign Ministry spokesman Koy Kuong said he was unsure if Cambodia eyed a status of an observer state or a member state at the OIC since it was the first talk on the matter. The OIC was founded in 1969 and headquartered in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

ASEAN

Cambodia scholar calls for boosting mutual trust, maritime security in Asia Pacific Shanghai Daily 13th Dec 2014
A Cambodian scholar on Saturday called for efforts to enhance the role of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in promoting mutual trust and maritime security in the Asia Pacific. A more relevant and coherent multilateral structure could help address old and new security challenges, said Pou Sothirak, executive director of the Cambodian Institute for Cooperation and Peace, at a forum on ASEAN development.

China’s New Confrontationalism Could Spark Investment Boom in SE Asia The Diplomat 8th Dec 2014
In recent months, Chinese authorities have levied multimillion-dollar fines against Western firms, sometimes on the flimsiest of justifications. Automakers Volkswagen and Chrysler, Korea’s electronics giant Samsung, and American multinationals GlaxoSmithKline and Johnson & Johnson were slapped with huge fines for what China called monopolistic behavior. Microsoft, Qualcomm and Daimler-Benz remain under investigation. Such charges sound like backdoor protectionism in an open market where dozens of car makers or household goods producers compete for consumers and where competition is cut-throat. It may not be a coincidence that these fines are applied to industries in which China has plans to create its own products but has failed to make significant inroads, such as high-end cars and computers. Enforcement of business regulations is often left to local officials who lack the experience and training necessary for a complex investigation of multinational corporations. Yet they end up hauling away reams of confidential company data. Huge fines are announced sometimes only a few weeks after the raid, while the companies in question have little opportunity to respond to the charges. In response to this and other problems, a number of companies have shifted production facilities elsewhere, mostly to Southeast Asia, including Vietnam, which has received significant investment projects. Samsung alone expanded its first facility in Vietnam with a total investment of $2.5 billion, and is building two additional ones to the tune of $3.4 billion – all this since the summer of 2013.

Frontier markets beckon, but there are bullets to dodge Straits Times 4th Dec 2014
As China's economy continues to slow, businesses may find new opportunities in South-east Asia as the Asean Economic Community's (AEC) end-of-2015 launch date approaches. The AEC promises a 10-nation market and new opportunities and returns. Yet, investor beware. The findings of the recently released World Bank 2015 Doing Business survey make abundantly clear that not all is well in many parts of South-east Asia. While Singapore continues to rank No. 1 in the world for ease of doing business, many of the region's so-called frontier economies continue to be characterised by pervasive corruption, and weak governance and rule of law. But opportunity exists even on the frontiers. In Cambodia's capital, billboards from multinational businesses and brands dominate bustling streetscapes. BMW, KFC, Samsung, Ford and Toyota are just a few of the consumer brands marketed in this Kingdom of Wonder - the branding adopted by Cambodia's tourism authority. On paper, Cambodia, along with Myanmar and Laos, may well seem an odd choice for foreign investors. These frontier markets lack the regulatory and financial institutions found in other more economically developed destinations in the region such as Malaysia and Thailand. Out of 189 economies covered in the latest World Bank survey, Cambodia ranked 135th, Laos 148th, and Myanmar 177th for ease of doing business. Add these countries' reputation for corruption - Laos ranks 140th, Myanmar an even lower 157th and Cambodia 160th in Transparency International's 2013 Corruption Perception Index - and you can see why businesses might want to steer clear.

Transparency Interanational: 2014 Corruption Perceptions Index sea Globe 3rd Dec 2014
Cambodia now ranks 156th out of 177 countries with a score of 21 out of 100 for transparency in the CPI. In 2013, Cambodia ranked 160 but improved this year to sit at 156. Kol said this puts the country on a level with Myanmar and Zimbabwe. The poor scores of other emerging markets in the region – such as Malaysia (52), Philippines and Thailand (both 38) and Indonesia (34) – indicate a general weak or ineffective leadership to counter corruption, posing threats for both sustainability of their economies and somewhat fragile democracies. Srirak Plipat, regional director for the Asia Pacific department at TI said the CPI was designed to send a message to countries at the crossroads. “It sends a loud statement that leaders must create societies that are more systematically resistant to corruption,” he said. “This means taking a more inclusive approach to fighting corruption.” TI, which published the list, said the CPI “ranks countries and territories based on how corrupt their public sector is perceived to be.” The index collates expert views on the problem from bodies such as the Economist Intelligence Unit, World Bank, Global Insight, the Bertelsmann Foundation, and other groups.

Defense & Security

Nephew of Hun Sen is made one-star general PPP 14th Dec 2014
Prime Minister Hun Sen has promoted his wayward nephew Hun Chea to brigadier general in the National Police, despite a less than sterling reputation as an upholder of law and order. Chea was promoted to the role under a Royal Decree published by the Council of Ministers on October 19, which was signed by Senate President Chea Sim on September 12. “Hun Sen, prime minister of Cambodia, must implement the decree from the day of its signing,” it reads. Chea has had several run-ins with the law himself over the years. In December 2010, Hun Sen made an unusual public appeal for Chea to return home after his uncle accused him of cheating on his wife and involvement with drugs. He also called on hotel owners to bar Chea from staying on their property. “According to the investigation, now [Hun Chea] is staying in a hotel with a woman, and there is a group of drug [users] involved with him,” Hun Sen said at the time. “[I] will not tolerate involvement in [drugs] . . . There must be law enforcement, it doesn’t matter if he is the nephew of the prime minister.”

Army wants students PPP 5th Dec 2014
As part of its plan to up Cambodia’s soldier count, the Ministry of Defence is recruiting 620 university students. The candidates from the 2014-2015 academic year are to be volunteers with no criminal backgrounds, according to an official announcement. The recruitment drive spans the month of December. “The General Command of the Royal Armed Forces of Cambodia, the general secretariat of the Ministry of Defence … and concerned institutions must implement this announcement from the date of signature,” the announcement read. The move is part of a plan to increase Cambodia’s army by 1,050 troops next year. According to an announcement from the Council of Ministers signed by Prime Minister Hun Sen in September, 700 troops will be added to Infantry Brigade 70 while another 350 will go to the General Command’s Bodyguard Unit. Officials have previously stated that the national budget for 2015 would put a heavy emphasis on defence, a move that has encountered resistance from the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party, who decry the lack of funds in other key sectors.

Minister: Military License Plates Not Being Abused Cambodia Daily 5th Dec 2014
During a National Assembly debate Thursday on the new traffic law, Defense Minister Tea Banh defended the proliferation of military license plates on Cambodia’s roads and insisted that his ministry was not abusing the system of military plates. The existing traffic law prohibits the use of Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF) license plates on privately owned vehicles, but this provision is rarely enforced. During parliamentary debates over the new law earlier this week, opposition lawmakers, including CNRP President Sam Rainsy, expressed concern about the “anarchy” caused by the large numbers of vehicles with RCAF plates. General Banh, who is also a parliamentarian representing Siem Reap province, remained silent during the previous debates, but Thursday said the time had come for him to respond. “For speakers to say that the Ministry of Defense has put too many vehicles on the streets with military license plates is far from the truth, and the comments suggesting this is the case are unacceptable,” he said, fiddling with the buttons on his suit jacket as he spoke. “I think they may have bad eyesight, or if they wear glasses, I don’t know what kind of glasses they are wearing that would make them see so many military plates

Energy

GE, EdC ink $10M electricity deal PPP 19th Dec 2014
US conglomerate, General Electric (GE) and the Electricité du Cambodge (EdC) yesterday signed an agreement, which is being touted as the beginning of better days for the Kingdom’s unreliable power grid. US Ambassador William Todd oversaw the signing of the deal, which will see GE provide advisory and research to the EdC for five years at estimated cost of $10 million. “We are looking at an agreement today to improve the electricity grid in Cambodia and I think the EdC deserves a lot of credit in that regard,” Todd said. “Two or three years ago, 25 per cent of Cambodia was on the grid. Today, that number is just under 50 per cent. And hopefully, through the study and the improvements and the efficiencies that GE is going to do, that number will be greater in the very near future.” As part of the agreement, GE will undertake a study of the Kingdom’s current power grid, analysing its performance and issues. The study is expected to take up to eight months to complete. GE will additionally provide software maintenance services to the EdC for a period of five years.

General Electric to Sign Power Deal With EdC Cambodia Daily 16th Dec 2014
U.S. conglomerate General Electric (GE) will sign a deal with Cambodia’s state-owned utility company Electricite du Cambodge (EdC) on Thursday to improve the country’s electricity grid, the U.S. Embassy said in a press release Monday. The multinational technology firm, ranked the seventh-most-valuable brand in the world by Forbes, will conduct a study of the grid, which currently relies on electricity imported from Vietnam to meet a growing demand for energy. “Through this contract, GE will provide electricity grid maintenance services to EdC and conduct a study of Cambodia’s electricity grid to identify ways that the grid can be improved,” the U.S. Embassy statement says. Both EdC and GE said they could not provide further details on the deal until Thursday. In an October report by the World Bank and Asian Development Bank, firms cited the high cost of electricity as the biggest obstacle to doing business in Cambodia.

US General Electric to provide electricity grid maintenance services to EdC Cambodia Herald 15th Dec 2014
US-based multinational conglomerate General Electric (GE) will sign a contract with Cambodia's state-owned Electricité du Cambodge (EdC) on Thursday, according to a press release issued Monday by the US embassy in Phnom Penh. US Ambassador to Cambodia, William E. Todd will preside over the signing ceremony at 10:00 a.m at the US embassy in Phnom Penh. The contract will be signed by GE Energy Consulting Managing Director Dr. Ravi Segal and EdC Director Keo Rattanak. "Through this contract, GE will provide electricity grid maintenance services to EdC and conduct a study of Cambodia’s electricity grid to identify ways that the grid can be improved," said the press release.

Hydropower in Laos All latest updates Unquiet grows the Don The Economist 20th Dec 2014
The Mekong river, sustaining around 60m people, mostly rural and poor, is the world’s largest and most productive inland fishery. It is hardly surprising, then, that NGOs and downstream governments are fretting about the impact of yet another planned upstream dam. On December 11th the Mekong River Commission (MRC)—an intergovernmental body of the four riverside, or riparian, states (Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam) along the lower Mekong—held a public consultation over Laos’s plan to dam the river two kilometres north of its border with Cambodia. Along with Vietnam, Laos’s other downstream neighbour, Cambodia is unhappy with the Don Sahong dam project. Environmental NGOs, such as the WWF and International Rivers (IR), worry about the damage it could cause to communities and fisheries—particularly the Mekong giant catfish and the rare Irrawaddy dolphin. So Nam, who heads the MRC’s fisheries programme, said that there was still too little data on how the Don Sahong would affect Mekong fisheries. He also said that the engineers’ proposals to mitigate damage—diverting water away from the channel across which the Don Sahong will be built, and making two other channels wider and deeper—would fail to attract migrating fish.

Gov’t forms OCA committee PPP 4th Dec 2014
Thailand and Cambodia are edging closer to rekindling negotiations over the long-contested, and presumably lucrative, Overlapping Claims Area (OCA) in the Gulf of Thailand. State-owned media, Agence Kampuchea Presse (AKP), yesterday reported that the Cambodian government had established a committee charged with negotiating the development of oil resources in the OCA with the Thai government. Deputy Prime Minister Sok An and Var Kim Hong, senior minister in charge of border affairs, will chair the committee, according to AKP. Minister of Mines and Energy Suy Sem will claim the position as vice chairman. “The committee is commissioned to negotiate, prepare for treaties and other legal documents related to the common development of oil resources in the maritime overlapping claims area between the two neighboring countries, to maritime border demarcation, and so on,” the AKP report said.

Financial Services

New shopping website faces old e-commerce challenges The Phnom Penh Post 18th Dec 2014
Worldbridge International Group (WIG) will launch a new shopping website next year in the hope of bolstering the Kingdom’s undeveloped e-commerce industry. Representatives from WorldBridge announced the new online shopping platform called MAIO Mall in Phnom Penh yesterday. The website is expected to be operational early next year under the subsidiary firm, WorldBridgE Commerce Co. Sear Rithy, chairman of WIG said that despite the challenges still facing the e-commerce industry, Cambodia has little choice but to embrace the digital shopping trend.

Cambodia: Insurance market to have 12th player Asia Insurance Review 15th Dec 2014
Cambodia's insurance market is to set receive its 12th player, according to the Ministry of Economy and Finance. The new local insurer is called People & Partner Insurance. Mr Chhay Rattanak, director of the Ministry’s insurance regulatory unit, told The Phnom Penh Post that the ministry had approved the establishment of the general insurance company in principle. The major criteria required by the ministry of the company have been met and thus the Ministry had agreed in principle to the new insurer, he said adding that the newcomer needs to complete some formalities before it receives the insurance licence. “There are just a few extra details remaining,” he said. Mr Rattanak could not confirm the exact date that the company would obtain a licence and officially begin operations, but said it would happen “soon”.

The rise of electronic payment systems The Phnom Penh Post 5th Dec 2014
Financial deepening or the percentage of Cambodians with access to formal banking services is pegged to almost double in the next six years, according to the Credit Bureau of Cambodia. But the success of such a rapid expansion depends greatly on access to payment systems. Visa, one of the world’s biggest payment providers, has operated in the Kingdom since 2001. Today, with 20 licensed Cambodian banks offering Visa solutions, the company is confident Cambodia is shifting away from a predominantly cash-based economy. Sean Preston, Visa’s country manager for Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos, spoke with the Post’s Eddie Morton about Cambodia’s payments arena.

Cambodian students win out on ASEAN stock markets PPP 3rd Dec 2014
Despite the Cambodian Stock Exchange (CSX) getting off to a sluggish start over the past three years, local university students are seemingly already on the way to becoming good stock-pickers. The country winners of CIMB Bank’s ASEAN Stock Challenge 2014, a regional simulated stock trading competition, were announced yesterday in Phnom Penh. The winners, two students from Zaman University who went by the team name of Dark Rangers, took home the $500 prize after almost doubling their virtual investments on ASEAN markets. “We chose to invest in stocks listed on the Thai market,” said 21-year-old Ly Meng, one half of the Dark Rangers winning duo. Thirty-two teams from Cambodian universities entered CIMB Bank’s annual competition. Each team is granted $80,000 of fake start-up capital to invest in ASEAN region markets over a period of three weeks. The team with the largest percentage increase at the end of the period is deemed to be the winner.

ANZ’s technology investments a big risk ‘but worth it’: CEO PPP 29th Nov 2014
Nearly a decade since entering the Cambodian market, banking giant ANZ Royal is looking forward to yet another year of massive growth due to its dedication to technology and innovation. Since 2005, ANZ Royal has expanded to serving around 75,000 retail, institutional and commercial customers through 17 branches spread throughout six provinces in the Kingdom. Last year, the bank was named the “Best Foreign Bank” in Cambodia by International Data Group. CEO Grant Knuckey credits the exponential growth to the bank’s commitment to emerging technology. “ANZ Royal is the catalyst for a wave of innovation in Cambodia’s banking sector,” Knuckey said. “When we first got here, there were no ATMs, credit cards or Internet banking and we brought them all to the market.” Soon, they became commonplace as more local banks followed ANZ Royal’s lead. “It was frankly a big risk but it was worth it,” Knuckey said. Today, the bank continues its pioneering tradition with the launch of new $10-million internet banking platform Transactive.

Examining a market on the rise PPP 29th Nov 2014
The Cambodian banking and finance sector has been marked by steady growth and structural improvement since the global financial crisis hit Cambodia in 2009. On average, commercial banks have increased their revenue by about 20 per cent per year since 2007, grossing $637million at end of the financial year 2013. In the section dedicated to the commercial banking sector on pages 4-14, our reporters will take a closer look at 10 of the 43 banks that are operating in Cambodia today. We will show you how different the banks are and how their size, corporate ethics and country of origin shape their product range. One bank, for example, adamantly avoids what they consider “risky” products in retail banking. Another bank with a strong expat customer base took a gamble on their clients’ affinity for technology and successfully introduced credit cards, ATMs and online banking to the Cambodian market. On page 27, we will discover how Cambodian-founded WING acquired a specialised banking licence and wrote history by becoming the first mobile payments operator in the world. In addition to banking, we also look at the vibrant microfinance sector (MFIs, pages 17-25) that serves more than 2 million customers as of mid-2014 and is marked by growth and diversity. From 17 institutions in 2007, the amount of MFIs has more than doubled to 35 today. During the past financial year, MFIs reached a combined revenue of around $205 million and could increase profits by around 37 per cent, with accumulated profits of around $53 million – a figure economist and SME expert Dr Dy Sovann of the general department of sub-national administration finance in the Ministry of Economy and Finance thinks is not high enough despite real economic growth of more than seven per cent over the past few years.

Grand Twins revenue plunges PPP 25th Nov 2014
Grand Twins International (GTI), one of two listed firms on the Cambodian Stock Exchange, has blamed third-quarter revenue losses on garment-worker demonstrations in December and January. On November 21, GTI posted a 40 per cent decline in revenue to $10.9 million for the three-month period ending September 30. The poor third-quarter performance contributed to an 8 per cent fall in revenue over the first nine months of 2014. “Due to the mass strike last year, our customer has re-allocated some productions to different [parts of the] region to assure the stability of the supply,” Stanely Shen, spokesman for GTI said yesterday. “Although GTI continued the daily operations without being affected [by the strikes], our customers took the necessary precautions by reallocating orders to avoid shortages that might have been caused in the future.… This order reallocation has caused our revenue to decrease dramatically,” he said. Exports declined across Cambodia’s garment sector during the third quarter after buyers reduced orders in the first six months of the year follow.

New local insurance firm due soon: MEF PPP 10th Dec 2014
Cambodia’s insurance market is to set receive a 12th entrant, after the Ministry of Economy and Finance confirmed yesterday it had approved a new local firm, People & Partner Insurance. Chhay Rattanak, director of the ministry’s insurance regulator, told the Post yesterday that the general insurance company had been given the green light and just needed to complete some additional criteria in it’s application to be granted a licence. “The quality of the company’s criteria has been mostly accepted, with just a few extra details remaining,” he said. “The major criteria required by the ministry have been completed and thus we agreed with them in principle,” he added. Rattanak could not confirm the exact date that the company would obtain a licence and officially begin operations, but said it would happen “soon”. The Post could not reach a PPI representative for comment yesterday. Cambodia’s insurance industry began in 1990 with one general insurance provider, the state-backed Cambodian National Insurance Company.

Food & Agriculture

Tobacco prices hurt farmers PPP 15th Dec 2014
Tobacco farmers in Kampong Cham province are concerned over declining prices amid sluggish demand for the crop. Chhay Vy, president of the Tobacco Farmers Association (TFA), said decreasing demand for Cambodia-grown tobacco from companies and Vietnamese buyers has resulted in a price fall during the 2014 harvest season to $1.25 per kilogram, down from $1.80 in 2013. “2014 was not a good year for tobacco farmers,” Vy said. “Prices have become lower compared to 2011 and 2013. Farmers are unable to make a profit on this pricing because planting tobacco requires time and labour, both before and after harvesting.” A large quantity of Cambodian-grown tobacco is cultivated, semi-processed then sold onto British American Tobacco Cambodia (BAT) under a “contract farming” system, according to Vy. The remainder is exported to Vietnam through private buyers. Of TFA’s 500 member family, about 300 have secured farming contracts with BAT. That number, however, could soon shrink. “BAT cannot buy all of the tobacco from farmers. Their demand has also decreased. Meanwhile, demand from other local tobacco companies has decreased, and even private traders now do not want to buy from us as demand from Vietnam is also falling,” he said. In response to Vy’s concerns, government officials say tobacco farmers should diversify their crops.

Farmers air their agriculture concerns PPP 5th Dec 2014
A lack of irrigation, rising costs of production and finding new markets to sell their produce are problems that plague Cambodian farmers, attendees at the annual National Farmers Forum were told yesterday. Organised by the Council for Agricultural and Rural Development at the Council of Ministers in partnership with the NGO Forum on Cambodia, donors and the private sector, the two-day conference provides a platform for farmers to discuss their concerns. Has San, a farmers representative from Battambang province, called on the government to intervene to help stabilise prices, which he said fluctuate from day to day. “We do not feel secure when the price of our paddy rice is up to traders’ decision,” he said. “We cannot keep up with the rising price to import fertiliser and pesticide if the situation is not improved.” Long Yen, a rice farmer from Kratie province, said 60 per cent of his harvest had been destroyed by both drought and flood this year. Yen appealed to the government for better irrigation systems in his province. “We have the water in the canal next to our rice field, but we do not have the means to bring the water into our rice field,” he said. Sudden shocks due to climate change and natural disasters can cause farmers and their families to dip below the poverty line, Tek Vannara, from NGO Forum on Cambodia said. “The main challenges farmers face are accessing the market, getting an effective price for their products, farming techniques, infrastructure, irrigation systems, access to funding and rights to use the land for farming,” he said.

Export standards too high: PM PPP 2nd Dec 2014
The food safety standards that rich nations apply to Cambodian agricultural goods are restricting the Kingdom’s export potential, Prime Minister Hun Sen said yesterday. Speaking at a graduation ceremony yesterday at the Institute of Technology of Cambodia, Hun Sen said that finding export markets for the Kingdom’s agriculture products was hindered by trade barriers in wealthy countries. “Some big developed countries still practise farmers’ protectionist policies as a barrier not to let our products flow into their countries,” he said, without naming any specific nations. Sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) procedures, or the rules concerning food safety, and the application of animal and plant regulations on exports were an added barrier, the prime minister said. “Some developed countries dare not lift import barriers for our agricultural products, or, even if they lift the barriers, they set out SPS restrictions, which means a [further] barrier for our products to access to their market,” he added. Hun Sen said it was “unfair” that poorer nations struggled to access the markets of developed countries when richer nations could easily export to less-developed countries.

Food and Beverage Pioneer Kouch Sokly Chats With KT Khmer Times 1st Dec 2014
CBM Corporation is investing in Cambodia’s future by meeting the needs of young university students and middle class workers through Cambodia’s casual and fine dining market. Mr. Kouch Sokly, owner of CBM, sat down with Khmer Times for an interview about the future of food and beverage in Cambodia and what drove the expansion of his companies. Q: What led you towards being a business owner? Well, for my partner and I, Chy Sila, it’s a long story. We first met in 1991 in a Chinese school. Then, in 1995, Sila decided to leave school and get a job as a tour guide. I was soon to follow and went to work for the same company, The Peninsula Tourist Company. Feeling as if we were not allowed to fulfill our potential, we left that company in 1997. We wanted to do something more than just show tourists around. We wanted more adventure and we decided to pursue our dreams. At that time we met a group of Taiwanese businessmen who wanted to invest in Cambodia. With their help we set up KTV and other nightclubs, but after a year we saw that there was no future for us in that business. After being tour guides for two years and taking tourists to nightclubs, the thought of continuing with the nightlife was not possible. So we moved into advertising. After a few other ventures, Sila and I started a small business selling music CD’s in 1998. That was our first prosperous business. With a small budget of only a few hundred dollars, we wanted to do something different. At the time, CD music was very expensive. Luckily, we made good friends with local NGOs and expats who would donate their music to us. That western music, along with Khmer and African music, gave us a huge selection. After about a year, we heard news that Cambodia was enforcing copyright laws, so we started to search for a long-term investment. So in 2002 we opened our first BBWorld, the largest and fastest growing restaurant chain in Cambodia. With five restaurants, we serve a selection of burgers, chicken, fries, drinks and desserts.

Coca-Cola to expand factory The Phnom Penh Post 28th Nov 2014
Coca-Cola plans to invest $100 million to expand its factory in Cambodia, as it reports its current sales have doubled. The plan was revealed at a meeting between Prime Minister Hun Sen and Martin Jansen, regional director of the Coca-Cola Company’s Bottling Investments Group for China and Southeast Asia. Eang Sophalleth, personal assistant to Hun Sen, quoted Jansen as saying he was “happy to do business here”. According to Sophalleth, Jansen informed Hun Sen his company had doubled within five years of operations here. From 2014 to 2018, Coca-Cola will invest another $100 million to expand its factory, he said. The company currently employs 650 staff, of whom 648 are Cambodian, and the investment is expected to add another 300.

Health & Life Sciences

Chained in cells: the plight of some of Cambodia’s mentally ill Channel 4 News 21st Dec 2014
Yet that is how most Cambodians try to treat mental illnesses. Traditional healers draw on a wide variety of techniques, remedies and potions to rid their patients of their ailments – including mental health problems – and it’s something Bunna, a trained psychologist, knows plenty about because his uncle happens to be a traditional healer. “They think that ghosts have infected the patient, or evil has got into the body, or causing something wrong.” While such culturally ingrained thinking represents a challenge to the mobile health team, Bunna says there is not much they can do about it. “I have told (my uncle) to be careful when treating mental health patients but I don’t stop him because I can’t. It would be bad to do that.” As for Father Kevin and the rest of the team, they hope to expand their service, sending out a health team in their rickety looking van every single weekend in the upcoming year. Nonetheless, the American priest is a realist. “I doubt this country will ever have enough trained people on hand to help treat mental health problems,” he said, “but we will do our best.” - See more at: http://blogs.channel4.com/world-news-blog/cambodia-mental-illness28517/2...

Hun Sen “misinformed” over Cambodia’s mass HIV infection, says Françoise Barré-Sinoussi SEA Globe 19th Dec 2014
Françoise Barré-Sinoussi – credited along with her colleague Luc Montagnier as the discoverer of HIV – has said that Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen has been “misinformed”, following his comments regarding an outbreak of the virus in Battambang province, in Cambodia’s northwest. A few days ago it emerged that more than 100 people from a district in Battambang had tested positive for HIV. A number of theories have been discussed as the reason for the outbreak, including malpractice by the local doctor, but when Prime Minister Hun Sen spoke to the press yesterday he cast doubt over the result’s validity. “Right now, 99%, I don’t believe it’s AIDS,” Hun Sen was quoted as saying in the Phnom Penh Post, referring to AIDS instead of HIV. “They might have a virus, but it’s not AIDS… Can an 80-year-old person get AIDS? And can young people who do not know anything get AIDS?” “I don’t know why he made those statements. My interpretation is that he has been badly misinformed,” Françoise Barré-Sinoussi, who won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2008, told Southeast Asia Globe on the phone from France. Since Hun Sen’s comments, various health agencies, including UNAIDS and the Institut Pasteur in Cambodia, have stated that there is little doubt over the tests’ accuracy.

HIV Infections Surge in Cambodian Village WSJ 19th Dec 2014
Concern is building over the number of people who appear to have been infected with HIV in a village in northwestern Cambodia, with health officials saying that at least 90 people have tested positive for the virus. Medical teams from the World Health Organization and the Joint United Nations Program on HIV and AIDS, or UNAIDS, have traveled to Roka village, near Battambang, to examine the high number of cases. An unlicensed doctor is being held in protective custody in the area for allegedly spreading HIV through the use of contaminated needles. The man, Yam Chin, couldn’t immediately be reached for comment. Local officials said they are also investigating other possible causes for the mass infections. The Pasteur Institute in the capital, Phnom Penh, on Friday said the confirmed number of infections had reached 90, while regional health officials say the number of infections has already surpassed 100. Prime Minister Hun Sen on Thursday appeared in a special television broadcast to announce what he described as a thorough investigation into the matter. Health officials urged people not to panic. The health crisis in Roka has transfixed the nation in recent days, partly because Cambodian authorities, with the help of foreign health organizations, had been successful in halting the rapid spread of the virus in the 1990s.

Japanese Hospital to Open in Phnom Penh in 2016 Khmer Times 27th Nov 2014
A Japanese private hospital will be built on Phnom Penh’s Chrouy Changvar peninsula, equipped with international standard equipment for treating patients. The hospital is to be open in 2016. Japanese diplomats, Cambodian officials and representatives of Sunrise Healthcare Service Co., the hospital’s parent company, participated in a groundbreaking ceremony at the site, about one kilometer from the east end of the Japanese Bridge. “The government of Japan has been supporting the government of Cambodia’s effort to improve healthcare through developing human resources and improving the circumstance of medical care facilities including the construction of national maternal and child health centers through grand aid, ” said Kumamaru Yujithe, Japan’s Ambassador. He added: “The new hospital will be staffed by highly skilled medical staff offering reliable medical treatment to Cambodian citizens and it will be well-equipped with Japanese state of the art medical equipment.” Hospital and Cambodian officials said the hospital will provide world class health care to the peninsula, an area that it to be one of several new satellite cities Phnom Penh’s historic core. Senior Minister of Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction Im Chhun Lim said: “The new Japanese hospital will be equipped with advanced medical tools and facilities for the treatment of the patients including surgery.”

ambodia Commits to Stopping HIV Infections by 2020: UNAIDS Sputnik 10th Dec 2014
Prime Minister of Cambodia Hun Sen has committed to stopping new human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infections by 2020, the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) said.The news came following Cambodian government's decision to allocate $3.7 million from 2015 to 2017 to HIV treatment.

ICT

Controversial Cybercrime Law ‘Scrapped’ Cambodia Daily 11th Dec 2014
Amid ramped-up efforts by the government to monitor and control the Internet, and plans to install surveillance equipment on the networks of mobile phone and Internet providers, the Council of Ministers has “scrapped” a controversial draft cybercrime law for the time being. “The draft has been scrapped already,” Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said Thursday. Mr. Siphan said the law, which rights groups worry would be a means to silence online dissent, was shelved because “it is not a priority.” “There used to be cooperation between the Interior Ministry and Telecommunications Ministry, but [now] it is not a priority and is in a dormant situation,” he said, adding that he was unaware of any plans to resume the drafting process. Posts and Telecommunications Minister Prak Sokhon said Thursday that his ministry’s work on the draft law stopped sometime last year. “I just asked my colleagues where the draft law is, because no one knows who is in charge of the draft. It seems now it is in the Ministry of Interior,” Mr. Sokhon said. “We don’t know what to do with it now,” he added. “We have no instructions.” Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak said his ministry was also no longer working on the cybercrime law. “I know nothing about it,” he said. The government’s decision to set aside the draft cybercrime law, however, comes as it is quickly ramping up efforts to control the Internet. A government directive dated October 7 ordered 12 mobile and Internet providers in the country to allow Interior Ministry officials to inspect their networks, billing records and data logs. On Wednesday, a senior official said the ministry planned to install surveillance equipment on those networks, but was waiting for the budget and approval from the “upper level.” Also in October, a proclamation signed by Deputy Prime Minister Sok An announced the creation of a “Cyber War Team,” whose mission is to monitor social media websites in order to “protect the government’s stance and prestige.”

Information Minister Launches ‘Get Your Sexy Back’ Campaign Cambodia Daily 11th Dec 2014
Information Minister Khieu Kanharith this week launched a marketing campaign titled “Get Your Sexy Back,” aimed at promoting a culture of moderate alcohol consumption among young people by linking excessive drinking to a loss of sexual attractiveness. Launched on Monday and presided over by the long-serving information minister, the campaign—which is sponsored by Tiger Beer and based around a Facebook page that encourages people to comment “That’s Not Me” on a picture of a man passed out drunk—will climax with a concert in Phnom Penh on December 24. “This is a beer promotion,” explained Peou Maly, secretary general of the National Road Safety Committee and one of the officials who participated in the launch. “But it [the launch] was shown with the intention to educate people not to drink past their limit.” “It’s to encourage a sentiment that people can drink with dignity, and to change people’s behavior,” Mr. Maly added. Roland Bala, the general manager of Cambodia Brewery Limited, which produces Tiger Beer in Cambodia, said the campaign is part of his company’s effort to employ socially conscious marketing techniques. “It’s all about responsible drinking and appealing to people to take responsibility,” Mr. Bala said. “When you drink, have a good time, but drink in moderation and keep looking good.”

Early steps taken toward info law PPP 9th Dec 2014
Following their first working group meeting yesterday, United Nations, opposition and civil society leaders commended the government’s transparency in the consultation process surrounding a long-awaited access-to-information law, though some questioned its commitment to implementing the legislation. The meeting, held at the Ministry of Information, is the first in a three-year consultation period that aims to engage the public and NGOs in the creation of a law suitable to Cambodia. It comes a year after Prime Minister Hun Sen urged the Ministry of Information to hasten the development of the law, which has been in the works since 2007. “Having an open process like this is very promising and is a testimony of how Cambodia is opening up,” said UNESCO Cambodia representative Anne Lemaistre. In the next three years, the working group will hold yearly community forums in five main regions across the Kingdom. They will also soon launch a website where the public can air their views about the legislation, which will start being drafted in mid-December. Currently, the committee is studying similar laws in 10 countries including the US, China and Thailand.

Kingdom’s internet ‘partly free’ PPP 8th Dec 2014
Cambodia's internet freedom has been ranked as “partly free” for the second year in a row, according to a report released by a watchdog on Friday. The Kingdom scored 47 out of 100 in a report from Freedom House, with 100 being the least free and zero the most free. The ranking comes amid concerns that a planned cybercrime law would severely restrict internet freedom in the Kingdom. Cambodia received similar scores to last year’s report in most categories, though the report noted that some political and social content was now blocked in the country when it wasn’t previously. “There have been attempts to silence people, like developing a glossary of banned words, but they have found ways to speak up through social media,” Transparency International executive director Preap Kol said. “The score remained the same but it’s still a low score . . . and it could go down considerably if the draft of the cybercrime law isn’t reformed,” Kol added.

New push for film tax break PPP 3rd Dec 2014
To create incentives for Khmer filmmakers, the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts and the Ministry of Information are putting forward a joint request for the government to reduce taxes on production and screening of local films, Cambodia’s culture minister said yesterday. Films that are produced in the Kingdom are subjected to a 10 per cent tax, while local cinemas take a 50 per cent cut of the profit earned by every film they screen. “Most producers complain to us about the high taxes … when it’s already hard to gain income from Khmer film production,” Culture Minister Phoeung Sakona said. “Cambodian films are progressing with difficulty compared to other Asian countries … and we hope that this plan will have a positive effect on the industry.” Both ministries are currently determining solid figures for the proposed tax cuts. They plan to send their request in the next few months. If the decrease is granted, Motion Picture Association of Cambodia president Nareth Ung said, it will greatly ease the financial burden on filmmakers. “With these high taxes, sooner or later, producers would lose interest … but if they get incentives, they would be more encouraged, because they could actually make a profit,” he said. Following taxes, filmmakers are left with less than 50 per cent of their profits, leading some of them to abandon their operations in the country, Sakona added. Despite the financial setbacks, Cambodian cinema has made significant strides in the past two years after the country attracted international attention following the release of several films shot in Cambodia or produced by local filmmakers.

Infrastructure

Economic zone aims for Q1 IPO, CSX listing PPP 19th Dec 2014
Phnom Penh Special Economic Zone – Cambodia’s largest industrial park – plans to raise $15 million in an initial public offering on the Cambodia stock market early next year, which would make it the third company to be listed. Carie Phou, PPSEZ’s public relations director, told the Post yesterday that the company is working with underwriter Campu Securities and is targeting the IPO in the first quarter of 2015. “We have been preparing all documentation in the last months and are making sure that we are in line with all requirements before doing the final step,” she said. “Going for an IPO is for us the opportunity to share our goals and vision for the country with others investors,” Phou added. Some 77 firms, employing more than 16,000 workers, currently operate in the zone, taking the industrial park to 80 per cent capacity. With the capital raised from the IPO, the Cambodian-Japanese joint venture company is considering a potential expansion, eying a 500,000-square-metre industrial zone in Poipet town, Phou said. “We also want to allow Cambodians and international investors to join us in further developing Cambodia’s industrialisation,” she said. Lamun Soleil, deputy director of the market operations department at the Cambodia Securities Exchange, said that the CSX had yet to receive the listing application from PPSEZ, but he welcomed firm’s intention to list.

PM appeals for the end of lax standards PPP 2nd Dec 2014
While offering no concrete solutions to the issue, Prime Minister Hun Sen yesterday appealed for graduating engineers to be aware of generally lax building standards that could have a long-term impact on public safety. Speaking at the graduation of students from the National Institute of Technology, Hun Sen said the graduates would be assured of jobs, because Cambodia is experiencing a construction boom. “However, the buildings are constructed, please ensure the construction is of a high quality. Don’t mess around. It is very dangerous; if not today, 20 years on it will be,” he said. “The houses will collapse”. Much of Cambodia’s infrastructure was redeveloped after the civil war, and international building standards have not been universally applied. Experts say the complete lack of a national set of standards has left workers unprotected and a failure to reform could have serious consequences. In October, at least four workers at the Nishiku Enterprise garment factory in Takeo province sustained minor injuries when the floor of the workshop collapsed. The factory and the construction firm that built it have so far faced no legal action over allegations of possible negligence.

ADB set to loan $800M over the next five years PPP 2nd Dec 2014
The Asian Development Bank announced yesterday it would provide Cambodia with over $800 million in loans over the next five years to help the Kingdom reduce poverty. Eric Sidgwick, ADB country director for Cambodia, said the next round of funding will run from 2014 to 2018 and centre on helping Cambodia’s most vulnerable citizens. Aside from building up infrastructure and improving the public sector, the plan aims to increase agricultural productivity and improve labour market skills by investing in vocational training. The ADB funding will focus on fewer – but larger – projects, said Sidgwick, noting that the Cambodian government said the bank had “too many small projects”. “The average size of our projects is going up to $35 million. A few years back it was around $19 to $20 million,” Sidgwick said. According to ADB economist Jan Hansen, Cambodia is expected to graduate to a lower-middle-income country “this year or the next year at the latest”. A country is considered lower-middle income once its citizens’ per capita annual income is over $1,045. In 2013, Cambodia’s was $950, said Hansen. As Cambodia gets wealthier, it is expected to lose some advantages accorded to least-developed countries, such as the concessional loans it receives from the ADB and preferential trade schemes from the United States and the European Union.

GE to help improve Kingdom’s electricity The Phnom Penh Post 17th Dec 2014
US conglomerate General Electric will help Cambodia improve its power grid, according to a statement issued yesterday by the US Embassy. GE and Electricité du Cambodge (EdC) will on Thursday sign an agreement that will see the US firm take a research and advisory role in improving Cambodia’s power grid, the statement says. “Through this contract, GE will provide electricity grid maintenance services to EdC and conduct a study of Cambodia’s electricity grid to identify ways that the grid can be improved,” the statement reads. US Ambassador William Todd will oversee the signing between GE energy consulting managing director Ravi Segal and EdC director Keo Rattanak. GE has about 300,000 employees across 170 countries and posted nearly $150 billion in revenue last year. The company established a footing in Cambodia in 2007 with a health care business and is currently launching a biofuel business.

Public consultation set for Lao dam on Cambodian border The Cambodia Herald 27th Nov 2014
The Mekong River Commission has announced plans for a regional public consultation next month on the Don Sahong Hydropower Project on the the border with Cambodia. "The regional public consultation will provide an additional forum for civil society, non-governmental organisations, research institutes, governmental organisations and regional and international organisations to be informed of the project and to discuss and share perspectives on issues of their concern and interest," a statement said. The MRC said the consultation would be held in the southern Lao city of Pakse on December 12 with an optional visit to the site and surrounding area on December 11.

New ferry terminal approved in Kampot The Phnom Penh Post 26th Nov 2014
Kampot’s new ferry terminal is expected to begin construction next year after approval yesterday of an $18 million loan from the Asia Development Bank. With a target completion date of 2019, the construction project is expected to increase visitor numbers to one of Cambodia’s lesser-known tourism destinations. “The development of this passenger pier will support an increase in tourism in southern coastal areas and help establish a new gateway between Southern Cambodia, Vietnam and other destinations in the Gulf of Thailand,” Eric Sidgwick, ADB country director for Cambodia, said in a statement. According to the ADB, funding will also be used to support road and water infrastructure development in Kampot province.

Manufacturing

Dilemma for garment factories PPP 10th Dec 2014
Cambodia's Ministry of Commerce has issued an ultimatum to Cambodia’s garment factories to sign up to the automated Certificate of Origin service by the end of the year or risk delays in receiving their certificate after this date. “From 1 January 2015 onwards, the Ministry of Commerce will give priority over the issuance of CO for the companies that have registered with the online system,” a December 4 statement released from the Ministry of Commerce reads. “[The Ministry of Commerce] will not be responsible for any delay in issuing CO for the companies that have not registered with the online system, even the issuance via the ordinary system,” the announcement continues. A CO certifies a product’s place of origin and is a requirement for many export destinations. The process for gaining the certificate has been moved online in a bid to cut back on red tape and informal fee requests that occur in face to face applications to the ministry. Since May, 426 garment and footwear factories have signed up to the commerce ministry’s automated system and over 17,000 certificates have been issued, according to the ministry’s announcement. Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia senior officer Cheat Khemara said yesterday that his organisation was encouraging all members to apply for the automated service. “It saves time and reduces unofficial payments,” he said. “It creates a better business environment.”

Getting a rise sea Globe 2nd Dec 2014
“I don’t think any sensible business person would begrudge people earning a decent living wage,” said Stephen Higgins, managing partner of Mekong Strategic Partners. “The issue is how quickly you get there. A 60% increase in the minimum wage in just two years, in a country with very low inflation, is quite remarkable. “The level of increase is well above any change in productivity, so that’s not ideal. And it will make it hard to attract new garment manufacturers to Cambodia, particularly given how Cambodia compares to other garment manufacturing countries.” The garment industry is vitally important to the Cambodian economy; it employs almost 200,000 workers and its exports are said to be worth $5 billion, or a third of the national GDP. On the other side, trade unions expressed their dismay that the minimum wage was not set higher – especially as they have been campaigning for an increase to $140 for the past year. Since late 2013, garment workers have regularly protested and gone on strike to demand this pay rise, with many of these demonstrations ending in violence and bloodshed. In January, five workers were shot dead by security forces during a strike outside a garment factory in Phnom Penh.