Cambodia Update: Draft NGO Law Sparks Controversy

Cambodia Update | May 2015
Authors: Daniel Henderson
 
THE COUNCIL'S TAKE
 
 
  • The Council recently conducted its annual business mission to Cambodia on May 07-08.  Please click here to read the press release.
  • US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Scott Busby has just completed a two-day visit to Cambodia. During his visit he met with representatives of international NGOs, local civil society groups and government officials. His visit follows the publication of an article by U.S. Ambassador William E. Todd, addressing the reemergence of the controversial draft NGO law.  In the article he urged the Royal Government of Cambodia to consider the effect the law might have on Cambodia’s image as an investment destination. These high profile discussions by U.S. government officials, have helped raise awareness of the draft NGO law after 272 local and international NGOs released a joint statement demanding the government scrap it. Meanwhile, Cambodia’s Cyber-Crime Law is also prompting fears when the Ministry of Posts & Telecommunications announced it will be sent to the Council of Ministers and National Assembly for a vote soon. This follows a December 2014 announcement that the Cybercrime Law had been “scrapped.” Critics fear that the government will clamp down on online freedom of expression. To access the December 2014 Council’s Take, please click here. 

 
IN THIS UPDATE
 
 

National Affairs
Amb Todd Op-Ed - The Importance of Trade Unions 
+ Amb Todd Op-Ed: Doing More to Attract Foreign Direct Investment 
Amb Todd Op-Ed: A Mission to Expand Bilateral Trade and Investment
CPP Lays Out Plan to Woo Cambodians Overseas
Arbitration leader quits after degree
Australia's Donaco International Bets $360 Mln On Cambodia Border Casino For Thai Gamblers
Graft ‘holding back’ SMEs: report
Corruption Takes Toll on SMEs, Report Says
Cambodia’s Anti-Corruption Law Update
Cambodia’s ‘Cyber War’ Legislation Targets Online Critics
Cambodia appoints 7 new ambassadors to foreign countries
PM urges increase of Chinese investment
Laws, tax collection lacking, gov’t says
Cambodia: Between China and the United States
'World is watching' as Cambodia considers controversial NGO law: US ambassador
Report Highlights Fears of Impending Cyber-Law in Cambodia
Commerce Delegation Meets With U.S. Businesses
Improved economic conditions help riel use
ACU accuses district official of corruption
Cambodia gets travel laurel
Politics in Cambodia: The faithful couple
What went wrong with corruption app?
A safer home for Cambodia’s girls
Cambodia needs more U.S. investment: PM
PM calls for a halt to collusion
NGOs in Cambodia Warn Against New Draft Law
Cambodia accuses foreign law firms of introducing anarchy
Cambodia strongman PM seeks 2018 re-election
SMEs to benefit from trademark protocol
SME policy still needs work
Foreign lawyers put on notice
Hun Sen to Seek Fifth Term as Cambodia’s Prime Minister
Cambodia: Drop Restrictive Organizations Law
US investors put off by uncertainty and corruption
Cambodian students need a ‘global education’
New business registrations up during first quarter

Customs
Study aims to improve port-to-port shipping
Cambodia To Host the 25th Meeting of ASEAN Customs Director-General in 2016
Cambodia, Thailand to discuss raising border-crossing quota

Defense & Security
China Donates Heavy Weaponry to Military
Cambodia ‘can’t afford’ to buy Indo weapons
China Just Gave Cambodia’s Military a Boost
Cambodia's new bomb divers aim to make its rivers safe

Energy
Cambodian Contractor Proposes Logging Forest to be Cleared For Hydropower Dam

Financial Services
Banking profits up, construction credit climbing
MFIs see $109M increase in deposits in Q1
Lack of finance holds back businesswomen

Food & Agriculture
New policy to boost farming
Sugar company pulls out
Dogged by abuse allegations, Mitr Phol pulls out Cambodia
Project in Cambodia Finds Success in Improving Nutrition
Cambodia Project Improves Nutrition Among Rural Poor
Rice competitiveness a worry
Studies of biocontrol agents yields high results
Demand for agriculture land dips as price of rubber and produce become unstable
Agriculture Ministry looking into price-fixing allegations
Productivity rests on rainfall

Health & Life Sciences
Dengue cases up: gov’t
WHO: Cambodia's Mental Health Services 'Critically Neglected'
Household practices related to disease transmission between animals and humans in rural Cambodia

ICT
Internet users in Cambodia expected to reach 9.5 mln by 2020: official
Huawei to build subsea cables connecting Malaysia, Cambodia, Thailand
Telekom Malaysia in Cambodia-Malaysia-Thailand cable pact
Delayed underwater cable project resurfaces

Infrastructure
While improving infrastructure, keep our streets safe for children
Sector sweats on ICAO audit
Thailand-Cambodia infrastructure development underway in Sa Kaeo
Attention turns to waterway transport

Manufacturing
Industrial Disputes in Cambodia: Beyond Strikes

 
ARTICLE CLIPS
 
 
National Affairs

Amb Todd Op-Ed - The Importance of Trade Unions Cambodia Herald 1 Jun 2015

Much of the discussion on trade unions in Cambodia relates to the garment sector. According to the Ministry of Industry and Handicraft, about 700,000 Cambodians currently work in the 1,200 garment businesses located throughout the country, with women representing 90 percent of these employees. The garment industry has been a key vehicle for economic growth, becoming the primary means for attracting foreign investment and creating opportunities for many Cambodians to supplement their family incomes. Providing such opportunities, however, is only a half measure if laborers are subjected to poor conditions or are treated unfairly. With the large number of garment workers in the country, trade unions play a crucial role by representing the interests of laborers, promoting safer working environments, and negotiating for employees’ benefits. Along with supporting workers in disputes with management, Cambodian unions also help with social services, financial assistance, and medical support. In the past, I have highlighted examples of companies that value strong corporate social responsibility practices in Cambodia, such as General Electric’s contributions to schools and medical training; Tiffany & Co. providing free medical care for its workers; and Pactics offering its employees fair wages, reasonable working hours, safe and clean working conditions, and even subsidies for motorbike helmets for a safe commute. However, there are reports of some companies in Cambodia that are not as committed to improving labor standards for their employees. This is another reason why trade unions matter, as they are often the only institutions that can give a voice to neglected workers.

Amb Todd Op-Ed: A Mission to Expand Bilateral Trade and Investment Cambodia Herald 11th May 2015
Before I conclude, I would be remiss if I did not mention the many contributions of the private sector in promoting economic growth, including the American Chamber of Commerce in Cambodia and the U.S.-ASEAN Business Council, both of which are very active in this trade mission. Organizations like these play a valuable role by partnering with us to develop bilateral trade relations between the U.S. and Cambodia. AmCham Cambodia and the U.S.-ASEAN Business Council understand, as I do, that increased U.S. investment in Cambodia can benefit both of our countries. It brings quality, high-paying jobs to Cambodia and opens up new markets and revenue streams to U.S. business. Trade is a fundamental aspect of the U.S.-Cambodia relationship, and increased trade can only bring our two nations closer together. U.S. and other international businesses have a choice of where to invest – Cambodia competes for foreign direct investment with other ASEAN countries, including Vietnam, Burma, and Thailand. As recent investments by leading companies like Coca-Cola, Tiffany & Co., and American Licorice show, more and more U.S companies recognize Cambodia’s potential. As I embark on this third reverse trade mission, I sincerely hope that the relationships we build on this visit will continue to expand U.S.-Cambodia bilateral economic ties for years to come.

Amb Todd Op-Ed: Doing More to Attract Foreign Direct Investment Cambodia Herald 26th Apr 2015
FDI brings many benefits to developing nations, which is why many in business and government are working to help Cambodia. The Embassy, for example, is working closely with the Ministry of Commerce to highlight opportunities for U.S. investment in Cambodia. In a few weeks, I will embark on my third reverse trade mission to the United States along with Senior Minister Sun Chanthol. The delegation – which includes 20 top Cambodian business people and the chairman of the American Chamber of Commerce in Cambodia – will visit San Francisco, Atlanta, and Washington, D.C. to talk about opportunities for investment in Cambodia. I believe that the bridges built during this reverse trade mission will lead to more FDI to Cambodia and significant benefits including opportunities to increase trade for both of our countries. The Cambodian government currently has a competitive package of incentives to increase FDI. Cambodia’s pro-business regulatory framework is very attractive to investors. Businesses can own 100 percent of their own businesses without need of a partner. Profits can be easily repatriated and there are tax incentives for qualified investments, such as tax holidays for up to nine years. One of the most attractive aspects is the low corporate tax rate for all other investments – the lowest in ASEAN except for Singapore.

CPP Lays Out Plan to Woo Cambodians Overseas Cambodia Daily 2 Jun 2015

In a recent letter to its overseas party branches, the ruling CPP lays out a plan to counter the bad press it gets abroad and beef up its support among the Cambodian diaspora, currently a key source of funds for the opposition. The plan includes recruiting more members to its overseas branches and putting Hun Manet, Prime Minister Hun Sen’s eldest son, in charge of a new push to build up the party’s support among overseas youth. 

Arbitration leader quits after degree PPP 1st Jun 2015
Cambodia's Arbitration Council announced last week that the head of the labour relations body, Sok Lor, has officially left his position as executive director. The Friday email from acting executive director, Men Nimmith, said Lor, who had been on a sabbatical from the council for nearly a year while he completed a master’s degree in law at Harvard University, resigned. “The Arbitration Council Foundation [during] Mr. Sok Lor’s tenure, it was a progressive period,” Nimmith said. “I see Lor has done a very good job, having great relations with partners, donors, and he has maintained the functions to be independent.” Nimmith will remain acting head of the council while the board of directors looks for a permanent replacement, he said. The process could take up to two months. Dave Welsh, country director for labour group Solidarity Center, yesterday praised Lor, who headed the Council since 2009, and hoped that the standards he set remain in place. “In a context where [labour] dispute resolution and access to justice and the rule of law are deeply flawed, the Arbitration Council really stands out,” Welsh said.

Australia's Donaco International Bets $360 Mln On Cambodia Border Casino For Thai Gamblers Forbes 30th May 2015
Cambodia’s 14 clusters of casinos in towns just over its borders with Thailand and Vietnam function as Macau does for China, offering a nearby, culturally familiar setting for gamblers from the other side of the border to do what they can’t do back home. The scale is just a little bit different. Macau has massive resorts with hundreds of tables that collectively bring in seven times the casino revenue of Las Vegas. Cambodia’s border casinos mostly have a dozen or two tables that are often a few big player wins away from insolvency. In Bavet, the main border cluster for players from Ho Chi Minh City, there’s a scale copy of Bellagio called Winn, the name written in the same script that adorns Wynn Resorts properties, and a weed-strewn driveway leading to its locked entrance. Many border casinos seem like punchlines in search of a joke.

Graft ‘holding back’ SMEs: report PPP 29th May 2015
Corruption continues to hamper the potential of Cambodia’s small- and medium-size enterprises, a new report has found. The report, released yesterday by Transparency International Cambodia, reviewed corruption perceptions among 100 SMEs in the Kingdom. It found that nearly half of the respondents had to pay unofficial fees for registering their company with the government, while 60 per cent reported corruption as having a damaging influence on their business. Just 61 of the respondents had registered with the Ministry of Commerce or Department of Taxation, but a majority of them had to dole out bribes or “tea money” in the process. “Up to present, although good governance is still a very serious issue, Cambodia has enjoyed steady economic growth and reasonable development,” said Ok Serei Sopheak, chairman of the board at Transparency International Cambodia. “But business integrity is critically needed if we want this to be sustainable.” When presented with the findings of the TI report, Ken Ratha, spokesman for the Ministry of Commerce, said the ministry would welcome “concrete evidence” of corruption and measures had been put in place at the ministry to tackle graft. “We cannot change everything overnight but we are doing everything we can to reform the ministry,” Ratha said.

Corruption Takes Toll on SMEs, Report Says Cambodia Daily 28th May 2015
A majority of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Cambodia believe corruption has adversely affected their businesses, according to a report released Wednesday by Transparency International Cambodia (TIC). The report, “Corruption Perceptions in Cambodian Small and Medium Enterprises,” details the corruption-related struggles facing SMEs operating in the country through interviews with those businesses’ chief executives, directors and general managers. “SMEs in Cambodia have long been operating in the shadows, often running operations that are half formal-half informal, leaving the door open to all forms of corruption,” TIC director Preap Kol writes in the report. Of the 100 individuals interviewed, 57 responded that they believed “corruption is one of the external factor[s] impeding the progress of their company,” while 47 interviewees said they had heard of or experienced issues with corruption in their business. The report added that the inconsistency between those two figures was possibly due to hesitancy among respondents about discussing corruption. “The survey that we conducted confirmed the general perception that corruption is the obstacle to businesses in Cambodia including the SME,” said Pech Pisey, TIC’s director of programs. A lack of awareness of the existing legal framework regulating SMEs and lax enforcement of those laws were among the factors contributing to widespread bribe paying, the report noted.

Cambodia’s Anti-Corruption Law Update Sciaroni & Associates 28th May 2015
The anti-corruption activities of the Royal Government of Cambodia are moving apace as the Anti-Corruption Unit (ACU), an entity created in tandem with the promulgation of the 2010 Anti-Corruption Law (ACL), continues to find new and innovative ways to implement the law. The law, which embraces a strict standard of liability (much like the British Anti-Bribery Law), makes even facilitation payments illegal. Most of the enforcement actions involve arrests of government officials. But the ACU has been deployed in the past year in some very interesting ways. For example, the ACU worked with the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports and the police to monitor the national high school examinations last August. In the past, the national exams have been plagued with rampant cheating, resulting in high passage rates. This last year, under the watchful eye of the ACU, the trend was reversed, with a very high failure rate. Another innovative use of the ACU was to tackle the issue of ghost workers in the government, in which salaries are collected for non-existent employees. The Royal Government of Cambodia (RGC) has taken two proactive measures to enhance anti-corruption efforts in the business community. The first is a campaign to have individual companies sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the ACU. These MOUs do not obligate the private sector to do anything more than is required by the 2010 Anti-Corruption Law (ACL), nor do they give the ACU any enhanced powers or authorities than those already granted by law. Both parties simply pledge to follow the law and cooperate in suppressing corrupt actions. So what is the purpose of the MOU? Companies may sign for several reasons, but the main purpose of the MOU is that it can be used to ward off requests for unofficial payments from government officials. These officials are surely aware that the ACU is making arrests of government officials on an almost weekly basis, so the production of the MOU by a company when under-the-table payments are requested can work as a deterrent to the illegal request.

Cambodia’s ‘Cyber War’ Legislation Targets Online Critics The Diplomat 27th May 2015
Media freedom is guaranteed in the Cambodian constitution but it is undermined since the mainstream media is largely controlled by families close to the ruling party. This is not the case for online media where censorship is almost non-existent. The government, however, is already targeting regulation of the Internet, which could further restrict free speech in the country. In 2010, only 300,000 Cambodians had access to the Internet. By 2013, however, that number had surged to almost four million, or about a quarter of the country’s population. There are now 1.7 million registered Facebook users. Suddenly, ordinary Cambodians, including those living in rural areas, have the opportunity to receive news and information provided by the political opposition and other critical voices.

Cambodia appoints 7 new ambassadors to foreign countries Xinhuanet 27th May 2015
Cambodia has appointed seven new ambassadors to foreign countries, according to an ambassador on Wednesday. Chhum Bunrong was appointed as the Cambodia's ambassador to the United States, Foreign Ministry spokesman Koy Kuong was named as the ambassador to Australia and New Zealand, Sman Manan as the ambassador to Kuwait, Norng Sakal as the ambassador to Indonesia, Chea Kimtha as the ambassador to Japan, Chea Thirak as the ambassador to Belgium, and Pich Khunpanha as the ambassador to India. The ambassadors paid a courtesy call on National Assembly President Heng Samrin on Wednesday prior to their departure for the posts. Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Chhum Bunrong said that Heng Samrin told them to do all their best to further promote ties and cooperation between Cambodia and those host countries. "Heng Samrin advised us to try all our best to strengthen and expand friendly relations and cooperation in all fields with the host countries," he said. "He also advised us to react timely to any news that is deemed as slanders on Cambodia." The National Assembly president also told them to promote Cambodia's political stability, full security, democratic process, human rights respect, and election process. Moreover, he urged them to attract investors and tourists in those countries to Cambodia.

PM urges increase of Chinese investment PPP 26th May 2015
Prime Minister Hun Sen called for more Chinese investment into Cambodia during a meeting with China’s Vice Minister of Commerce Gao Yan in Phnom Penh yesterday. According to Eang Sophalleth, spokesman for Hun Sen, the premier told Gao that the Kingdom held great potential for Chinese firms. “Prime Minister Hun Sen suggested to Gao that there is big potential for cooperation between both countries, especially at the special economic zone in Sihanoukville – which is already backed by China and requires the Chinese government to attract more investors there,” Sophalleth said. The Sihanoukville Special Economic Zone is the largest economic zone by area in Cambodia and has rounded up a total of $320 million in investment since construction began in 2008. It is a joint venture between Chinese companies and a firm owned by Cambodian People’s Party Senator Lao Meng Khin. Gao Yan told Hun Sen that her visit was planned to boost China’s trade in Asia. “This visit hopes to spur cooperation on trade with Cambodia in parallel with China’s [maritime] Silk Road for the 21st century policy.” Between 1994 and 2012, China invested a total of $9.17 billion into Cambodia, with most of the investments going towards agriculture, infrastructure, garments, and mining, according to the Council for the Development of Cambodia

Laws, tax collection lacking, gov’t says PPP 26th May 2015
A lack of regulations coupled with tax breaks provided to attract investors to the Kingdom are major reasons for low receipts in 2013, according to a government statement presented before a National Assembly committee yesterday. Following a review of the 2013 National Budget, the Ministry of Economy and Finance found that a lack of tax regulations in the natural resources, casino and telecommunication sectors were hampering collection efforts in these industries. At the same time, free trade agreements, reduced imports and government subsidies on certain products were limiting state revenue potential, the audit found. “Cambodia has a gambling law, but we do not have a casino law. The government is drafting the law now. What we can do in the meantime is to have authorities go in and look at their revenues and evaluate for volunteer contributions before we can implement fiscal taxation,” said Cheam Yeab, chairman of the National Assembly’s Second Commission on Economy, Finance, Banking and Audit.

Cambodia: Between China and the United States The Diplomat 20th May 2015
The Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) is facing two major strategic challenges: its collective unity and balancing between China and the United States as they compete for influence in the region. As an ASEAN member state, one of the major challenges for Cambodia’s current and future strategic situation is and will be the competition for influence between the United States and China. This strategic challenge will shape Cambodia’s current and future agenda for political reform, economic development, foreign policy, and national defense. Both China and the United States have been competing for interest and influence in Southeast Asia in general and in Cambodia in particular. As a result, Cambodia faces tough decisions in choosing between the two superpowers and in balancing its relationships with China and the United States so that Cambodia’s interests are not compromised. Cambodia is also striving to gain the most possible benefit out of this superpower rivalry. In particular, Cambodia will need to carefully balance its relationship with China to ensure that effective Cambodia-U.S. relations are not compromised. Both China and the United States are considered to be vital to Cambodia’s economic and security development, and a collaborative approach will deliver an optimal outcome for Cambodia.

'World is watching' as Cambodia considers controversial NGO law: US ambassador UCA News 20th May 2015
In a strongly worded article, outgoing US Ambassador William Todd has called on the Cambodian government to properly consider controversial new legislation governing NGOs, trade unions and the internet, a call welcomed by civil society representatives yesterday.

Report Highlights Fears of Impending Cyber-Law in Cambodia VOA 20th May 2015
The Cambodian government is drafting laws to curb cyber-crime and govern telecommunications, but critics worry these laws will clamp down on the few opportunities for free speech in the country. The Internet, social media and mobile devices have all allowed a space for expression that has been unprecedented in the country. Conversations about poverty, deforestation and land grabs are free from government control. In a new report, Going Offline? The Threat to Cambodia’s Newfound Internet Freedom, the rights group Licadho says the new laws, if passed, would expand governmental authority into cyberspace and curb those freedoms, potentially by going after service providers.

Commerce Delegation Meets With U.S. Businesses Commerce Delegation Meets With U.S. Businesses 16th May 2015
A delegation from Cambodia’s Ministry of Commerce was in the US this week, seeking greater trade ties and deals with large corporations. The delegation, led by Commerce Minister Sun Chanthol, met with representatives from Coca-Cola, General Electric and other companies, as well as the US-Asean Business Council. Kathleen Santillo, head of the council, said they were seeking business and investment opportunities, following a trip to Cambodia earlier this month. The talks come as US President Barack Obama seeks a major international trade agreement, the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Improved economic conditions help riel use PPP 11th May 2015
The use of Cambodian riel increased last year, suggesting increased confidence in the use of the local currency, while the riel’s real exchange rate compared with the dollar remained stable, according to a National Bank of Cambodia report. While the central bank’s Supervision Annual Report 2014 did not provide exact figures for riel use in the country, it stated that demand for the local currency had risen significantly last year, buoyed by increased tax collection and growth in the economy. “Increasing use of riel as currency is clearly reflecting increased confidence of [people] with the riel,” the report said. The report also reveals that the central bank bought US dollars from the market 143 times last year, totalling $802.7 million, in order to maintain stability of the riel. This buyback infused 3,210 billion riel ($790.9 million) into the market, twice the amount of 2013. While the riel was stable against the US dollar, the report shows that the real exchange rate of the Cambodian riel dropped 6.9 per cent against the Thai baht last year, 4.7 per cent against the Chinese RMB, and 3.9 percent compared to the euro, impacting the country’s export competitiveness. Mey Kalyan, senior advisor to Supreme National Economic Council, said that the increased use of riel was encouraging, but the depreciation against the euro last year caused a decrease in exports to the EU, one of Cambodia’s biggest export destination. “I am a little bit worried as the US dollar is strong and we [the riel] are linked closely with the US dollar. So, the price of our products increased compared to Thailand and Vietnam, lowering our competitive advantage against these exporters,” Kalyan said. He added that, according to estimates, Cambodia’s economy was about 84 per cent dollarised in 2014, which was less than preceding years, suggesting the increased use of the riel is an emerging trend.

ACU accuses district official of corruption PPP 11th May 2015
The deputy governor of the capital’s Meanchey district, Hiek Chan Leang, is under investigation for alleged bribery in construction contracting, the head of the anti-corruption body revealed yesterday. Om Yentieng, head of the government’s Anti-Corruption Unit (ACU), told a packed room of local officials in Tuol Kork district yesterday that Chan Leang was suspected of presiding over a raft of corrupt practices in the construction sector in the district, which has seen a building boom in recent years. He said that Chan Leang had allegedly taken bribes from would-be developers in exchange for illegally issuing construction permits, circumventing the normal licence application process, “so it means the ACU will investigate the deputy governor”. Pich Keo Mony, Meanchey district governor, admitted yesterday that there was truth to some of the allegations levelled against Chan Leang. “I have advised [Chan Leang against this behaviour] and blamed him, because everything should be lawful. We cannot do anything illegal,” he said. Chan Leang was singled out for investigation because he heads the committee responsible for issuing construction permits, Yentieng said. But Chan Leang said the ACU was “confused” by his office’s paperwork and maintained that his house was in order.

Cambodia gets travel laurel PPP 11th May 2015
Cambodian tourism authorities expect the sector, which saw tourist arrivals drop in 2014, to get a boost this year, after the country was accorded an award for being the best cultural and heritage tourist destination at last week’s World Travel Fair in Shanghai. Tith Chantha, secretary of state at the Ministry of Tourism, said the award was based on criteria such as clean and green environment, good security for tourists, food and hospitality services among others. The fair had 50 countries participating and showcasing their tourism sites and products in a bid to attract Chinese tourists. “It is the positive sign for us to prove that we got noticed for our green and good tourism sites. Of course, it benefits our tourism industry a lot as it will promote us and more tourists will come,” he said. “Chinese tourists have increased around 20 per cent every year, compared to other tourist arrivals. Once, we get this award, for sure, there will be more Chinese tourist [coming to Cambodia],” he added. Data from the Ministry of Tourism showed that 560,335 Chinese tourists arrived in the country last year, an increase of more than 21 per cent compared with 2013 and second only to Vietnamese travellers. Ang Kim Eang, president of the Cambodia Agent of Travel Agents, said the award will not only to attract Chinese tourists into the Kingdom but also to promote Cambodia to other potential markets.

Politics in Cambodia: The faithful couple The Economist 9th May 2015
After Hun Sen bet $5,000 on Manny Pacquiao defeating Floyd Mayweather in boxing’s “fight of the century”, the Cambodian prime minister refused to pay up, arguing that the Philippine hero did not deserve to lose to Mr Mayweather on points. So far, so usual for Cambodia’s strongman: boxing is just like an election, really, only less violent. The opposition has long claimed that Mr Hun Sen’s ruling party stole the last election, and there has been blood on the streets since. So what to make of the unusual: the recent spectacle of Sam Rainsy, the opposition leader, consorting with Mr Hun Sen, his nemesis who has ruled Cambodia for 30 years and who drove Mr Sam Rainsy into exile for the better part of a decade?

What went wrong with corruption app? PPP 9th May 2015
Since it was released, Justice For Sale has been viewed over a quarter of a million times and shared on Facebook by over 16,000 people. “Film depends on emotions, and the bigger the theme, the stronger it is in the end,” explained Matthew Robinson, owner of Khmer Mekong Films who made the short. “It’s difficult to make a short film with emotion about a dowdy faced policeman taking a couple of dollars off someone. That’s not going to have any impact.” Preap Kol agrees that dramatic instances of corruption are easier to publicise than low-level law breaking, but he is a firm believer in the trickle-down effect. “It’s like shrimp soup in Cambodia,” he said, explaining that because the antennae get knotted together it’s hard to extract one without pulling the others out with it. Despite Kossow’s departure, Kol thinks that Bribespot will start racking up hits as soon as the comprehensive list of correct fees and fines is published next month. Bribespot volunteer Visal said that until then, anyone unsure whether or not an exchange was above board should post it on the site anyway, and he’d do the research himself. “Everything that gets put on Bribespot, I will respond,” he said.

A safer home for Cambodia’s girls WP 8th May 2015
The image of a child sex-trafficking victim that most of us carry in our minds is probably something like the blurry, black-and-white shot taken in 2003 of a 5-year-old girl in a shanty settlement called Svay Pak, just outside Phnom Penh. The girl’s name is Taevy. My organization, International Justice Mission, obtained the undercover footage while investigating the commercial sexual exploitation of children in Cambodia and collaborated with “Dateline NBC” to tell the story. According to a recent broadcast from CNN’s “Freedom Project,” Cambodia is still ground zero for the child sex trade. The report described Svay Pak’s “big business” of selling prepubescent girls to foreign pedophiles for thousands of dollars. This disturbing narrative was all too real a dozen years ago, but it’s not anymore. The truth is that the Cambodian police dropped the hammer on the criminals who buy and sell little girls and have virtually obliterated the crime from the kingdom. There’s now a much better story to tell: how a poor country came to protect its children and how U.S. diplomacy and assistance helped it do it.

Cambodia needs more U.S. investment: PM PPP 7th May 2015
Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said Thursday that the Southeast Asian nation wanted to see more investment from the United States, particularly in agriculture, manufacturing industry and services, a spokesman said. The prime minister made the remarks during a meeting with a visiting group of 19 American business executives led by Kathy Santillo, regional managing director of the U.S.-ASEAN Business Council, Sry Thamarong, a spokesman for Hun Sen, told reporters after the meeting. The delegation came from eight U.S. giant companies, including ConocoPhillips, the third-largest U.S. oil producer, Exxon Mobil, the world's largest publicly traded international oil and gas company, General Electric (GE) and Coca-Cola, he said. "The prime minister expressed his desire to see more U.S. investors in Cambodia and presented the group the country's favorable atmosphere for investment,"he said, adding that Hun Sen also encouraged them to explore the possibility to invest in agriculture, manufacturing industry and services. According to the spokesman, Hun Sen said Cambodia has hugely invested in transportation infrastructure and electricity, which are a key foundation for attracting investment. In addition, the country has also focused on human resources development to serve labour markets. Meanwhile, Hun Sen said Cambodia will launch on-line business registration service by the end of this year to facilitate foreign investors seeking to do businesses in the country.

PM calls for a halt to collusion PPP 5th May 2015
Prime Minister Hun Sen urged provincial governors yesterday to stop government officials from colluding with traders to fix agricultural commodity prices, giving farmers no choice but to sell their products at below-market rates. The PM’s call comes a day after the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries released an announcement stating that an investigation would be launched into the possible scheme. “Please look into the issue. Do not only wait for the Ministry of Commerce or the Agriculture Ministry [to take action],” he said speaking at the groundbreaking ceremony of National Road 55 in Pursat province. “This is a serious case. If found to be the case, officials who are found plotting with traders will be punished,” he added. The premier went on to say that prices for agricultural products should be determined by “free market mechanisms”. “Those who offer the highest price will get the products. Let the price be set by the free market,” he said. Chan Sophal, the governor of Battambang province, said there were no such cases of official involvement in price rigging schemes in his province.

NGOs in Cambodia Warn Against New Draft Law VOA 4th May 2015
Local and international civil society groups in Cambodia warn a new law aimed at non-governmental organizations could harm the country's economy and slow development. Speaking to journalists at a press conference Monday in Phnom Penh, representatives of nearly 270 international and national civil societies working in Cambodia claimed the draft law, called “Stop and Consult,” will impact over 4,000 development projects if enacted without proper consultations. They warned that more than one million Cambodians could be laid off as the measure puts pressure on NGOs and forces some of them to close. “The social impact will be severe,” said Soeung Saroeun, executive director for Cooperation Committee for Cambodia. “I would like to ask who helped the orphans, disable children, and HIV/AIDS positive children previously? Who helped Cambodia to the [status of] first rank country in fight HIV/AIDS? It is civil society.”

Cambodia accuses foreign law firms of introducing anarchy Global Legal Post 30th Apr 2015
Long-running hostility towards foreign lawyers has erupted again through a statement from a senior court official telling state prosecutors to 'eliminate the anarchy' produced by the activity of foreign law firms.

Cambodia strongman PM seeks 2018 re-election Yahoo! 29th Apr 2015
Asia's longest-serving leader, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, announced his intention on Wednesday to run for another term, warning that only his re-election in 2018 would keep the country from civil war. The announcement will come as little surprise to Cambodians, who have heard the 63-year-old, self-styled "strongman" promise to stay in power until he is 74 and also predict a descent to the dark days of conflict without him at the helm. "Hun Sen will win again, that's because the victory is with peace like this. People don't have to flee and crawl," Hun Sen said in a speech, making his customary reference to himself in the third person. Analysts say the former Khmer Rouge soldier, who has been prime minister for 30 years, appears intent on building a political dynasty by promoting his three U.S. military-trained sons to top positions in the ruling Cambodian People's Party (CPP) and the army. Hun Sen's rule has seen him chided by rights groups for authoritarianism, stamping out critics and using his influence over judges, police and the media to stifle his political opponents.

SMEs to benefit from trademark protocol PPP 29th Apr 2015
From mid-June, companies with a production base in Cambodia that want to protect their product’s trademark overseas will be able to register in the Kingdom, rather than having to register their product in individual countries abroad. Cambodia joined an international system of trademarks, known as the Madrid Protocol, in March and official use of the scheme comes into force in June, senior government officials said yesterday. Once enforced, the protocol will allow Cambodian companies to protect their products in 110 foreign countries by registering their trademark with the Ministry of Commerce. Prior to the protocol coming into play, local firms would need to register their trademark in individual jurisdictions in order to receive the protection of their products in that particular country. Talking to reporters yesterday, Ouk Prachea, secretary of state of the Ministry of Commerce, said the move would benefit small and medium-size enterprises. “Once we join the member of Madrid Protocol, we hope that number of trademark registrations will increase significantly,” he said.

SME policy still needs work PPP 29th Apr 2015
The Ministry of Industry and Handicraft released an early draft of the SME Promotion Policy yesterday that is aimed at providing a national-level framework to promote and regulate SMEs as well as spell out a clear tax regime for the sector, with the ministry working to complete it before the ASEAN Economic Community integration later this year. The policy aims to provide a clear roadmap for SME development in the Kingdom by creating a national definition of SMEs, simplifying tax rules in order to get businesses to adopt better bookkeeping techniques, and tax compliance as well as improving technology adoption capabilities. Speaking at a policy consultation meeting in Phnom Penh yesterday, industry and handicraft minister Cham Prasidh said SMEs play a significant role in the country’s economy and a comprehensive policy was needed to combat rising competition. “This year, we are going into the integration of ASEAN Economic Community, which means we are going into regional and global competition. SMEs are contributing a lot to the country economy and employment, therefore, we need promotion policy to support them for a strong foundation to enter competition,” he said. Sok Piseth, president of the Young Entrepreneur Association of Cambodia, said the policy needed more concrete substance, especially when it came to the definition of an SME, as the 2005 definition being outdated.

Foreign lawyers put on notice PPP 29th Apr 2015
In the latest chapter of the Cambodian Bar Association’s crusade to clamp down on foreign lawyers practising in the Kingdom, a high-ranking court official has informed all city and provincial prosecutors to “eliminate the anarchy” stemming from non-native lawyers’ activities. “To protect the professionalism of the bar association, we have to cooperate to respect the rule of law, especially the law on the legal profession, and work together to eliminate the anarchy from foreign lawyers who are practicing without registering in Cambodia,” a letter from prosecutor general of the Court of Appeal Ouk Savuth reads. The letter, which was signed on April 2 and posted on the Bar Association of the Kingdom of Cambodia’s website yesterday, does not specify how the action would be taken. According to the Law on the Bar from 1995, foreign lawyers cannot represent clients in the Kingdom as long as their countries of origin do not reciprocate the arrangement, although they can work in commercial association with Cambodian lawyers. The Bar Association has long quarrelled with foreign lawyers working in Cambodia, appealing to various government institutions to clamp down. In a February 17 letter from the association sent to the Ministry of Economy and Finance, the body said 12 firms in Phnom Penh each had one to 10 foreign lawyers working for them, decrying their impact on the rule of law. “A study from the inspection authority of the Bar Association shows the continuing [operation] of foreign lawyers in Cambodia can cause negative impacts on rules and regulations, politics, economy and social society,” the letter read.

Hun Sen to Seek Fifth Term as Cambodia’s Prime Minister Radio Free Asia 29th Apr 2015
Prime Minister Hun Sen announced Wednesday that he would seek a fifth term as prime minister of Cambodia and threatened to end the current culture of dialogue with the opposition if a politician from the party continued to publicly criticize the ruling party. Speaking at an inauguration ceremony in the southwestern city of Sihanoukville, Hun Sen criticized a speech by Kem Sokha, deputy president of the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), on April 20 in which he said if the CNRP won the next elections, it would not take revenge against the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) .

Cambodia: Drop Restrictive Organizations Law HRW 27th Apr 2015
The Cambodian government should drop plans to revive a discredited draft law that severely restricts the activities of nongovernmental organizations and associations, Human Rights Watch said today. The government has indicated that it plans to adopt a new law in May 2015, with Prime Minister Hun Sen saying he would use it to “handcuff” groups that did not comply. The government should immediately make the draft Law on Associations and Nongovernmental Organizations (LANGO) public and engage in an open consultation process with nongovernmental groups. Cambodia’s donors should inform the government that they will reject attempts to arbitrarily de-register organizations or otherwise curb basic freedoms to association and expression. “Nongovernmental groups in Cambodia have long played a crucial role in providing essential services to the public and holding the government accountable,” said Brad Adams, Asia director. “But the threat to ‘handcuff’ those who oppose this law shows an intent to clamp down on groups that criticize human rights abuses, corruption, and other government misdeeds

US investors put off by uncertainty and corruption PPP 26th Apr 2015
Despite high-profile US companies like Coca-Cola announcing plans to expand their footprint in the Kingdom, foreign investment from the US remains low compared to regional heavyweights. Large US businesses appear reluctant in setting up in the Kingdom due to corruption concerns, an unpredictable regulatory environment, and a lack of economic attractiveness that allows US interests to thrive. According to the Ministry of Commerce, the US ranked sixth on the list of total approved investments from 1994 to September 2014, with $1.3 billion invested, well below China, which was ranked first at $10.1 billion. Meanwhile, total foreign direct investment in Cambodia hit $4 billion last year, with China, Malaysia, and Japan taking the top three spots. Corruption remains one of the major factors keeping US companies away. According to an American Chamber of Commerce survey for 2015, 82 per cent of American businesses in Cambodia were dissatisfied with corruption – the second highest in the region after Laos. But the cost of payoffs to the bottom line is far from the only worry. American businesses operating abroad are subject to the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, a stringent law that prevents US companies from engaging in bribery. Coupled with unpredictability in Cambodian laws, it can make US investors think twice before committing to Cambodia. In 2011, the Cambodian government banned facilitation payments, such as paying officials fees to speed up regular services, like processing paperwork. It wasn’t until this was made illegal in Cambodia that this type of fee became punishable under the FCPA, creating further difficulties for US businesses eying the Kingdom.

Cambodian students need a ‘global education’ PPP 24th Apr 2015
As Cambodia prepares to participate in the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC), set to take effect at the end of this year, one of the most pressing issues facing the Kingdom is the need for a system of global education for its students and young people. The AEC seeks to integrate Cambodia’s economy and markets with the rest of those in ASEAN. This is an extremely bold initiative and will necessitate that Cambodians up their game if they want to participate effectively in and benefit from the expected economic benefits for the entire region, one of the fastest growing areas in the world. Foreign investors have regularly lamented the difficulty of finding qualified employees to hire for their local investment projects. Many companies have reluctantly come to the conclusion that most new staff will have to be trained (or retrained) in-house, including those applicants proudly waving multiple diplomas. With the AEC around the corner, this hurdle for the private sector in the Kingdom, barring targeted and immediate action, will only become higher. Of even greater concern, the AEC, in theory, includes the free flow of labour. Will better-trained Malaysians, Thais or Filipinos, fluent in English, well-grounded in international business practices and cross-culturally savvy, come to Cambodia and out-compete Cambodians for jobs in their own market? Conversely, how will Cambodians be able to operate effectively in their neighbours’ business environments?

New business registrations up during first quarter PPP 23rd Apr 2015
Cambodia saw a 4 per cent increase in new registered companies for the first three months of 2015, with 1,108 businesses registering with the Ministry of Commerce, compared to 1,066 during the same period last year. The ministry’s data currently does not specify the country of origin or which sector these businesses operate in, but Ken Ratha, a ministry spokesman, said Chinese companies led the pack followed by Japan and South Korea. “The trend of large investment by the Japanese, such as Aeon mall and other brand name companies, are coming in increasingly, making other Japanese companies interested in the Cambodia market.” Ratha said that a majority of the companies were agro-business related and a clear breakup, based on country of origin and business type, will be available only later in the year. According to the ministry’s data, the number of new company registrations increased over the last five years after experiencing a slump in 2008 and 2009. While the number of registrations in 2007 were more than 2,800, this figure dropped to 2,744 and 2,003 in the following two years, on account of the global economic slowdown following the financial crisis in 2008.

ASEAN

Cambodia: ASEAN should stay out of S.China Sea fracas World Bulletin 11th May 2015
Cambodia threw its support on Thursday behind China's position on settling South China Sea disputes, arguing that territorial conflicts should be tackled between claimants and not involve the regional ASEAN grouping. In a rare foray by a non-claimant state into the most sensitive issue facing the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Cambodia conveyed its message during a meeting it called with diplomats from 28 countries. "Territorial claims in the South China Sea must be settled with countries involved," its Foreign Affairs Secretary of State Soeung Rathchavy told reporters after the closed-doors meeting. "ASEAN can't settle this dispute. We are not a legal institution, it's the court that settles who's right and wrong." China claims 90 percent of the strategic waters and has long said ASEAN is not a party to the dispute and rows should be addressed bilaterally. Vietnam, Philippines, Brunei and Malaysia have competing claims. The holding of the meeting was Cambodia's most overt move on the issue since a bitter row over the wording of a paragraph on maritime tensions in a draft communique at a summit in 2012. Cambodia, which held the rotating ASEAN chairmanship at the time, was accused of driving a wedge through the 10-member bloc when its refusal to be drawn on China's actions in the South China Sea resulted in the customary end-of-summit communique not being issued for the first time since the grouping's inception in 1967.

Clippings

Cambodians Set to Join Qatar’s World Cup Workforce The Cambodia Daily 20th May 2015
A recruitment agency and a Qatari construction firm interviewed about 100 workers Tuesday in Phnom Penh hoping they will be among the first group of Cambodians to join hundreds of thousands of migrants working on Qatar’s highly criticized 2022 World Cup construction projects. Kierth Thavarath, managing director of Phnom Penh’s KCTC Manpower Supply, and Ali Kansa, managing director of Tawasol Group Qatar, interviewed the workers at the National Technical Institute. Both men said they would attempt to send the workers to Qatar as soon as possible.

Customs

Study aims to improve port-to-port shipping PPP 11th May 2015
The Ministry of Public Works and Transportation is looking at the potential of enhancing the waterway connection between Phnom Penh’s port and a deep sea port in Vietnam in an attempt to slash the Kingdom’s transportation costs. Speaking at a seminar yesterday on water connectivity, Public Works and Transportation Minister, Tram Iv Tek, said his ministry was conducting a feasibility study with the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) to make way for larger-vessel trade between Phnom Penh and Cai Mep, a container terminal port in Vietnam’s southeastern coastline. “Cambodia’s inland waterways have the capacity of carrying [vessels] from Vietnam or any third country such as China, Singapore, and the European Union to Phnom Penh with potentially low costs,” he said at a seminar in Phnom Penh. “We want the Phnom Penh Port, which we have already expanded, to be a hub for big vessels in Cambodia.” According to JICA advisor Hidetoshi Kume, it takes 5 hours for goods to reach Vietnam from Phnom Penh over land but 40 hours using waterways. Because of shallow waters, around half of riverine access between Phnom Penh and Cai Mep is limited to 100- to 150-tonne vessels. Economic analyst Srey Chanthy said the ministry’s initiative would boost Cambodia’s trade capabilities, if successful.

Cambodia To Host the 25th Meeting of ASEAN Customs Director-General in 2016 Agence Kampuchea Presse 26th May 2015
Cambodia will host the 25th Meeting of ASEAN Customs Director-General next year, according to Cambodia’s General Department of Customs and Excise (GDCE). GDCE Director-General H.E. Kun Nhim was nominated as Chair of the 25th Meeting of ASEAN Customs Director-General and the 18th Meeting ASEAN-U.S. Business Council. The information was revealed by H.E. Kun Nhim who has returned home recently from the 24th Meeting of ASEAN Customs Director-General held in Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei Darussalam, from May 20 to 22.

Cambodia, Thailand to discuss raising border-crossing quota The Phnom Penh Post 25th May 2015
Cambodia and Thailand will begin discussions next month to increase the number of buses and trucks crossing the border – currently 40 crossings a day – in a bid to spur tourism and increase the transport of goods, according to an official at the Ministry of Public Works and Transport. The two countries will discuss a bilateral transport agreement in Bangkok on June 5 that will increase the number of border crossings to 500 a day in the next three years and open up more border crossings to ease the flow of vehicles, announced Vasim Sorya, director general of administration at the Ministry of Public Works and Transportation. “Cambodia and Thailand have been in discussions for a bilateral transport agreement for some time now. This time, Thailand has requested for a high-level meeting to discuss a bilateral transport agreement with Cambodia, hoping that an agreement could be reached this time,” he said.

Defense & Security

China Donates Heavy Weaponry to Military The Cambodia Daily 25th May 2015
China handed over a batch of military equipment to the Ministry of Defense on Saturday that officials said they would use strictly for training, including spare parts and trucks mounted with rocket launchers. As Cambodia’s most generous military aid donor—as well as its biggest investor—China made the handover at a ceremony in Kompong Speu province at the Army Institute, itself the product of Beijing’s largesse, according to a recent Reuters report. “The receipt of the special military material today from China’s Defense Ministry is another historic achievement among the assistance that the Chinese government has provided Cambodia’s Defense Ministry,” Lieutenant General Chao Phirun, who heads the ministry’s materials and technical services department, said at the ceremony.

Cambodia ‘can’t afford’ to buy Indo weapons The Phnom Penh Post 23rd Apr 2015
A government spokesman yesterday poured cold water on an offer by Indonesia to sell Cambodia weapons, citing budget constraints and the Kingdom’s preference for peace. The proposal by Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo was discussed with Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen on Tuesday at the World Economic Forum in Jakarta. Widodo suggested that Cambodia could buy weaponry and uniforms as a follow-up to previous training programs run by Indonesia for Cambodian soldiers, the Indonesian Embassy confirmed. Acknowledging the friendly ties between the countries, government spokesman Phay Siphan said Cambodia wouldn’t buy weapons because “we don’t have any money” to do so.

China Just Gave Cambodia’s Military a Boost The Diplomat 27th May 2015
On May 23, China delivered a range of defense equipment to Cambodia as part of Beijing’s ongoing efforts to boost the capabilities of one of its key partners in Southeast Asia. According to The Cambodia Daily, the delivery included 44 vehicles – including jeeps, rocket-launcher mounted trucks and at least a half-dozen anti-aircraft guns mounted on wheels – 20 forklifts, four mobile kitchens, some 2,000 kg of unspecified chemicals and 10,000 kg worth of spare parts. The delivery was formalized through a handover ceremony between Cambodian defense minister Tea Banh and Chinese ambassador Bu Jianguo which took place at the Infantry Institute in Kampong Speu province – a facility which was itself funded by Beijing.

Cambodia's new bomb divers aim to make its rivers safe The Guardian 25th May 2015
It was on an unrelentingly hot day last week when Sok Chenda dived into the Mekong river and helped change how Cambodia deals with a deadly chapter from its history. He slipped into the warm water, adjusted his mask and scuba gear, steadied his breathing and slowly began his descent several meters below, where the river water gradually turns from pale to thick, acidic yellow. Down there, in a lonely world of swirling sediment and the sound of one’s own breathing, Chenda was feeling for something in the cloudiness. And then he saw it: a live, 500lb (225kg) Mark 82 aircraft bomb that had wedged itself in the riverbed, still in the same position 40 years after it had fallen. Working meticulously and methodically Chenda carefully fixed a cable to the metal carcass connecting the bomb to an inflatable lift bag. The bomb was pulled free and towed to land where it was then driven to a desolate field and sawed into three parts by a remote-controlled machine. The explosive matter was then set alight. The Mark 82 was a relic from the 1960s and 70s, when Cambodia was pounded by an estimated 2.7m tonnes of ordnance dropped mostly from American planes as the war in Vietnam spilled over the border.

Energy

Cambodian Contractor Proposes Logging Forest to be Cleared For Hydropower Dam Radio Free Asia 28th Apr 2015
The owner of a cement company in Cambodia plans to log a vast tract of forest designated for clearance by the government as part of a controversial hydropower dam project, prompting concerns from a local rights group that the firm may harvest luxury timber outside of the proposed area. The private contractor will apply for a license to log wood from 36,000 hectares (89,000 acres) of land earmarked as a reservoir for the Lower Sesan 2 hydropower dam in Cambodia’s Stung Treng province and will export the timber to neighboring Vietnam, company owner Suos Bunnarith said Tuesday. “I will submit a request to Samdech [Prime Minister Hun Sen] and if Samdech allows it, we will begin,” he told RFA’s Khmer Service.

Financial Services

Banking profits up, construction credit climbing The Phnom Penh Post 8th May 2015
The National Bank of Cambodia’s Supervision Annual Report 2014 showed that profits for the banking sector stood at $311 million, a 30 per cent increase from 2013, with commercial banks bringing in major portion of these profits – $305 million. Leading the pack was Acleda Bank with $82 million in profit, followed by Canadia bank with $61.2 million, $40.1 million for Cambodian Public Bank and $18.6 million for ANZ Royal Bank. The NBC report shows that the greatest losses came from new entrant Hong Leong Bank, with a loss of $2.28 million, and Cambodia Mekong Bank and Cathay United Bank losing $2.2 million and $1.83 million respectively.

MFIs see $109M increase in deposits in Q1 The Phnom Penh Post 1st May 2015
Cambodian microfinance institutions recorded $109.55 million – or a 20 per cent increase – in new deposits for the first quarter this year, compared to the same period last year, according to data from the Cambodia Microfinance Association (CMA). Bun Mony, president of the CMA and CEO of Sathapana, said deposit growth in the last quarter was good and he expected growth for the rest of the year to match the 100 per cent achieved in 2014, if not outperform last year. “I think this year will be better than last year because of political stability and companies will be able to do better business,” Mony said.

Lack of finance holds back businesswomen The Phnom Penh Post 30th Apr 2015
Although Cambodia’s women entrepreneurs are well positioned to expand their businesses, many remain stuck maintaining micro-enterprises, a senior National Bank of Cambodia official said yesterday, with a lack of access to larger loans holding back business potential. The NBC joined the United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) yesterday for a conference on women and enterprises in an effort to accelerate the ability of women to access appropriate financial services and products.

Food & Agriculture

New policy to boost farming PPP 29th May 2015
The long-awaited Agricultural Extension Policy, rolled out yesterday by the Agriculture Ministry, will focus on making up-to-date knowledge and technology accessible to farming communities and increase efficiency and productivity in the sector. The policy will be implemented by an advisory committee, with commune- and provincial-level offices communicating technical know-how and supplying raw materials to farmers, said Mak Soeun, director of the Department of Agricultural Extension. “One agricultural extension agent will be placed in every commune to coordinate with other agricultural extension agents from the private sector and development partners. They will be the ones who will transfer and provide the right and updated knowledge and technology to everyone involved,” he said. “The purpose of having this policy is to have a clear roadmap for everyone to follow.” Soeun said the policy will be implemented using five steps: strengthening of the regulatory framework on agricultural extension; increasing the capacity of officers and agents; incorporating affordable and practical farming techniques; improved information and messaging; and better delivery systems for this information. At least 2,000 additional agricultural-extension specialists will be needed to fill the gaps in human capital. Currently, there are only 70 agricultural-extension officers at the national level and less than 1,000 at the provincial level, Soeun said.

Sugar company pulls out PPP 11th May 2015
Asia's largest sugar producer, Thailand’s Mitr Phol Sugar Corporation, has withdrawn from its three plantations in Oddar Meanchey province following years of criticism over alleged illegalities and human rights abuses at the concessions, a development watchdog has said. The three Mitr Phol concessions in Oddar Meanchey’s Samroang and Chongkal districts, totalling nearly 20,000 hectares, were visited by representatives of the Coca-Cola Company last year as part of its supply-chain audit after it committed to a “zero tolerance” approach to land grabbing in 2013. Mitr Phol, one of three major suppliers to Coca-Cola, owns stakes in three sugar firms in Cambodia: Angkor Sugar, Tonle Sugar Cane, and Cane and Sugar Valley. “Mitr Phol has decided to withdraw from the concessions,” Eang Vuthy, executive director of local NGO Equitable Cambodia, said yesterday. “We have informed the government land committee. The EU and government are conducting a joint audit of the concessions, so we are advocating that they expedite the case.” “The legal land owners were evicted and they should be compensated and their land returned,” he added. When the Mitr Phol subsidiaries were awarded the concessions in 2008 they pledged to invest millions of dollars to develop the sites and said the projects would create nealry 5,000 jobs for local people. But what the villagers got instead were years of forced evictions and land loss; loss of habitat and access to water; an overall deterioration of income; increased migration to Thailand; and the destruction of areas of archaeological significance, according to a report released today by Action Aid and Oxfam.

Dogged by abuse allegations, Mitr Phol pulls out Cambodia Bangkok Post 11th May 2015
Mitr Phol Sugar Corp has pulled out of its three plantations in Cambodia’s Oddar Meanchey province after years of allegations about illegal business practices and human-rights abuses, a media report said Monday. The Phnom Penh Post reported that Asia's largest sugar producer withdrew from its concessions, which total 20,000 hectares, after an audit in 2013 by the Coca-Cola Co as part of its "zero tolerance" campaign against land appropriation. Mitr Phol, one of three major suppliers to Coca-Cola, owns stakes in three sugar firms in Cambodia: Angkor Sugar, Tonle Sugar Cane, and Cane and Sugar Valley. "Mitr Phol has decided to withdraw from the concessions," Eang Vuthy, executive director of local NGO Equitable Cambodia, told the Post Sunday. "We have informed the government land committee." Eang Vuthy said the European Union and Cambodian government both were conducting audits of the concessions and the NGO is encouraging them to expedite the case. "The legal land owners were evicted and they should be compensated and their land returned," he added.

Project in Cambodia Finds Success in Improving Nutrition VOA 10th May 2015
Tim Green is a nutrition expert from Canada's University of British Columbia. He led a pilot food project in a rural province of Cambodia. It was successful in improving the nutrition of hundreds of families. Now, the program is expanding. Mr. Green says that experts consider diversity of foods an important part of a healthy diet. Generally, he says, the more kinds of meat, rice and vegetables that people eat, the better. But he says that is not the case in Cambodia, even though diets are reasonably diverse. "Because what we find is that people eat tiny little amounts of food. So they may report eating pork (pig meat) every day, but it may only be five to 10 grams.” The lack of nutrients is sometimes called "hidden hunger." It is especially a problem for children and women. For example, Mr. Green's research found that the lack of Vitamin B1 is common. This can result in very young babies dying in less than a day after showing signs of B1 deficiency. But, adding Vitamin B1 to fish sauce can solve the problem. The sauce is commonly used in Cambodian foods. Mr. Green’s team did just that.

Cambodia Project Improves Nutrition Among Rural Poor VOA 5th May 2015
Although Cambodia grows enough rice to meet the needs of its people, millions do not get enough micronutrients in their diets – a deficiency with long-term debilitating consequences. Next week a $3 million Canadian-funded project will look to replicate and scale up the successes of a pilot program that was tried in one rural province. Hidden hunger Malnutrition remains a serious problem in Cambodia: figures released this year by the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization show that one in three children under five suffers from stunted growth brought about by a poor diet. Although Cambodia is considered “food secure,” there are still many whose diet has problems," said Professor Tim Green, a nutrition expert from Canada’s University of British Columbia. “So what that really means is that they have adequate amounts of white rice. There are enough calories or kilojoules for the population, but they’re missing a lot of key essential micronutrients.” That lack of micronutrients, vitamins and minerals, affects both physical and mental development, and can cause lifelong problems.

Rice competitiveness a worry PPP 23rd Apr 2015
The executive committee of the Cambodia Rice Federation (CRF) will meet with two ministries today to explore the possibility of reducing the logistical and energy costs of transporting rice, a key factor to keeping Cambodian rice exports competitive compared to neighbouring countries, a CRF official said. The meeting is being held with the Ministry of Public Works and Transport and the Ministry of Mines and Energy, said Kim Savuth, head of the CRF’s cost competitiveness executive committee. Savuth added that high energy and logistics costs were some of the main reasons why Cambodian rice remained more expensive than that of its neighbours. “Buyers like to say that rice from Vietnam is cheaper than rice from Cambodia. That is why we ask why Cambodian rice becomes more expensive after milling when the paddy rice is cheap,” Savuth said. “Besides the higher cost of transportation, the cost of goods transferring at the port is also higher comparing to neighbouring countries. We have sent a request to the Ministry of Public Works and Transport for intervention to cut prices at the port and for some transporting companies to at least [have prices] comparable to neighbouring countries,” he said.

Krispy Kreme doughnuts come to Kingdom PPP 23rd Apr 2015
American-style doughnuts are set to roll into the Kingdom after US-based doughnut chain Krispy Kreme announced it would open 10 shops across Cambodia over the next five years. Krispy Kreme has signed an agreement with Express Food Group (EFG), a Cambodian subsidiary of Bangkok-based RMA Group, to introduce the popular doughnut brand in Cambodia, though details of the agreement have yet to be made public. Saing Ngorn, CEO of RMA Group Cambodia, said the locations of the stores are still under discussion, with the first store set to open at the end of this year. Ngorn said that the company was not fazed by the increasing number of upscale cafés and bakeries in the capital, saying American-style doughnuts were still a niche market. “There is no real doughnut in the Cambodian market right now and we see strong growth in the food industry,” he said. “We are delighting Cambodians with original tastes and experience world class services from Krispy Kreme,” Ngorn added. EFG manages other international chains in the Kingdom such as the Pizza Company and Dairy Queen.

Studies of biocontrol agents yields high results Phnom Penh Post 12th May 2015
Officials from the ministry of agriculture provided an overview for the implementation of the ASEAN national guideline to regulate the trade and use of biological control agents, a step forward for adopting green farming technologies that can increase yields and reduce the damage to crops, while also weaning the country off the dependence of chemical pesticides.

Demand for agriculture land dips as price of rubber and produce become unstable Phnom Penh Post 8th May 2015
While rubber prices decline and agricultural production remains unstable, the demand for agriculture land has declined as well. Srun Polet, who owns a 500 hectare rubber farm in Bor Keo District, Rattanakiri Province, said that the demand for agriculture land has declined with falling rubber prices, while other agricultural produce—most notably cassava—have become financially unstable.

Agriculture Ministry looking into price-fixing allegations Phnom Penh Post 4th May 2015
The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry said yesterday that they were investigating a possible secret agreement between middlemen or traders in the supply chain to manipulate the price of agriculture commodities, leaving farmers with no option but to sell their products at a lower price. The announcement mentions traders – who procure commodities from individual farmers for big exporters – who were not abiding by free market principles and grouping together to set lower prices for commodities, limiting farmers’ bargaining powers and forcing them to sell at below-market rates.

Productivity rests on rainfall Phnom Penh Post 28th Apr 2015
Banking on more favourable weather conditions this year, the Ministry of Agriculture is predicting a 3 per cent increase in rice production for the 2015-2016 season, after a prolonged drought period saw a downturn in last season’s harvest. Rice productivity last year fell to 3.07 tonnes per hectare, down 2.67 per cent, from an average of 3.1 tonnes per hectare in 2013. The total harvest last season was 9.32 million tonnes of paddy, down 0.7 per cent from the 9.38 million tonnes in 2013, according to annual report from the ministry.

Health & Life Sciences

Dengue cases up: gov’t PPP 11th May 2015
A report released last week by the National Center for Parasitology, Entomology and Malaria Control (CNM) reports 502 cases of dengue fever in the first 16 weeks of 2015, a 67 per cent increase from the same period last year. Dated May 6, the report notes that 300 cases of the mosquito-borne disease were documented by CNM in 2014’s first four months. Of cases recorded this year, 80 per cent were in Phnom Penh, Kandal province, Siem Reap province, Kampong Thom province, Prey Veng province, Banteay Meanchey province and Kampong Cham province. Only one case, so far, was fatal. CNM director Dr Huy Rekol said that while he believes there has been an uptick in dengue cases this year, an increased focus on documenting dengue infections is likely a factor in the large increase. “This [increase] is maybe related to . . . designing the national dengue [monitoring] system,” Rekol said in an interview yesterday. “Because of the national dengue [monitoring] system, the data is greater.” One of the tactics introduced this year is the inclusion of health workers from the private sector, Rekol said. Private practitioners must now report all dengue cases they treat to CNM.

WHO: Cambodia's Mental Health Services 'Critically Neglected' Voice of America 18th May 2015
Cambodia has some of the world’s worst mental health statistics – largely due to the effects of Pol Pot’s murderous Khmer Rouge regime. Yet mental health services remain underfunded and – in the words of the World Health Organization – “critically neglected." There’s little sign of that changing in the near future, in part because few Cambodian students are interested in psychiatry as a career.

Household practices related to disease transmission between animals and humans in rural Cambodia Biomed Central 9th May 2015
Cambodia has experienced numerous fatal human cases of zoonotic influenza and extensive influenza information campaigns have been run, yet only a few of the households in a recent survey reported the threat of zoonosis to be a concern in their village. Zoonosis awareness was positively related to hand washing behaviour, but other practices associated with an increased or decreased likelihood of exposure to zoonotic pathogens were unaffected by awareness. The findings indicate a knowledge-to-action gap among rural farmers and highlight the necessity for reconstructed interventions in zoonotic disease control.

ICT

Internet users in Cambodia expected to reach 9.5 mln by 2020: official Xinhua 5th May 2015
Cambodian Minister of Posts and Telecommunications Prak Sokhonn said Monday that the country' s internet users are likely to reach up to 9.5 million by 2020, or 65 percent of the nation's estimated 14.7 million people. "In Cambodia, internet penetration rate is currently just over 30 percent,"he said at the opening of a telecommunication seminar, which was co-sponsored by Huawei, a leading global information and communications technology solutions provider. "We predict that by 2020, internet penetration rate will reach almost 65 percent due to increased connectivity and demands for access to all kinds of information and data, especially from young people,"the minister said.

Huawei to build subsea cables connecting Malaysia, Cambodia, Thailand ZDNET 28th May 2015
Huawei Marine has announced plans to build a submarine cable system that will connect Malaysia, Cambodia, and Thailand, with a total design capacity of more than 30Tbps. It signed a design and deployment agreement Monday with a consortium comprising Telekom Malaysia, Symphony Communication Public Company, and Telcotech. Stretching some 1,300 kilometers, the Malaysia-Cambodia-Thailand submarine cable system will provide connectivity between Cherating in Malaysia and Rayong in Thailand, and comprise a branching unit that will establish connection between the main network into Sihanoukville in Cambodia. When operational, it will also mark the first time Cambodia will have access to a large capacity, high-speed submarine cable infrastructure.

Telekom Malaysia in Cambodia-Malaysia-Thailand cable pact Digital News Asia 27th May 2015
Telekom Malaysia Bhd (TM) said it has signed an agreement with Symphony Communication of Thailand and Telcotech of Cambodia to form a consortium to build a Malaysia-Cambodia-Thailand (MCT) submarine cable system. The cable system will adopt 100 Gigabits per second (Gbps) upgradable technology with a design capacity of at least 30 terabits per second. The system is expected to be ready for commercial traffic by the end of 2016, TM said in a statement. The MCT cable system will play an important role in the business growth of the Asean (the Association of South-East Asian Nations) region, especially in telecommunication sector, it added. “It will become the catalyst for other growing industries in Indochina that require telecommunication infrastructure,” said TM executive director and group chief financial officer Bazlan Osman.

Delayed underwater cable project resurfaces The Phnom Penh Post 22nd May 2015
Internet provider Ezecom said it would help build the Kingdom’s first undersea communications cable, a long-delayed project that was originally announced in 2013 and slated for completion at the end of last year. The construction of the Malaysia-Cambodia-Thailand cable will “bring faster, more affordable broadband to the people of Cambodia and connect the country to the rest of the world like never before”, a company statement released yesterday reads. The contract is to be signed through Ezecom-owned group Telcotech with Telkom Malaysia and Thailand’s Symphony Communication on Monday.

Infrastructure

While improving infrastructure, keep our streets safe for children PPP 11th May 2015
In response to this man-made tragedy, the royal government of Cambodia has made a great achievement through its passage of the new robust road traffic law in January this year. It is an important step for improving road safety with the aim of reducing road crashes and the deaths and injuries that result. The new law addresses key risk factors including speeding, drink-driving and nonuse of helmets with fines increased up to five times the old law with hefty penalties. The new law also limits the number of people per motorcycle to two adults and one child. And all motorcycle users (including children age 3 and above) are required to wear a helmet correctly. When enforced, the new law will prove an important tool to reduce road traffic deaths and injuries and save many lives. Phnom Penh City Hall’s introduction of public bus services could be another positive step towards reducing traffic congestion deaths and injuries. Much more could be done. Improved roadways with separate lanes for motorcyclists are one idea. Motorcycles comprise more than 80 per cent of the road traffic but share the road with four-wheeled and heavy vehicles. The Third UN Global Road Safety Week, 4-10 May 2015, is a milestone in the Decade of Action. The Week, through its global campaign #SaveKidsLives, seeks to highlight the plight of children on the world’s roads and generate action to better ensure their safety. Implementing the package of ten key strategies noted here would do much to achieve the goal of the Decade of Action to save five million lives, and would make a significant contribution towards creating more vibrant and liveable communities and attaining safe and sustainable transport to the benefit of all who use the roads.

Sector sweats on ICAO audit PPP 7th May 2015
The UN’s International Civil Aviation Organization is planning an audit of Cambodia’s aviation authority in November, officials confirmed yesterday. The announcement of a pending review comes just months after an industry report warned that Cambodia’s lax regulations could lead to an ICAO blacklisting. Cambodia fared poorly during its last full audit by the ICAO in 2007, with all criteria ranked substantially below international standards. Areas including navigation services and accident investigations were graded at almost 40 per cent below international safety levels. Contacted yesterday, Sinn Chanserey Vutha, spokesman at the Sate Secretariat of Civil Aviation (SSCA), said that his organisation had already begun reviewing a questionnaire from ICAO in anticipation of an audit in November. Vutha said he recognised the country’s aviation sector had some deficiencies, but was optimistic that the SSCA had improved significantly over the past years. “Our performance is better than before and we hope that we can solve many of the issues mentioned. But we agree that we cannot be as good as advanced countries,” he said. “We always worry because we are a developing country lacking human resources – we lack human and financial resources. We can’t predict the result, but we are worried and we are trying [to get a good result],” he said of the upcoming ICAO review.

Thailand-Cambodia infrastructure development underway in Sa Kaeo Thai Visa 3rd May 2015
The Ministry of Transport is expediting the infrastructure revamp in Sa Kaeo province to facilitate connectivity between the border province and Cambodia. According to Transport Permanent Secretary Soithip Traisut, the infrastructure development project includes construction of a 10.5-kilometer bypass linking the border province to Cambodia, improvement of Route no.3397 to connect the highway with rural roads, enlargement of two-lane Sipen Road into a four-lane one and extension of Khlong Sib Kao – Khlong Luek – Aranyaprathet rail route to Poipet in Cambodia.

Attention turns to waterway transport The Phnom Penh Post 1st May 2015
The government has received a grant of $5.5 million from the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) to conduct a feasibility study on how the Kingdom’s waterways and ports can be better utilised for transport. The feasibility study is looking at how to improve the movement of goods along 215 kilometres of rivers and estuaries from Phnom Penh to Kampong Cham and Kratie provinces, said Sokhom Pheakavornmony, secretary of state for Public Works and Transport, yesterday. “We received a grant aid of $5.5 million from the Korean government through KOICA to improve waterways on Mekong River which is in line with government strategies for this mandate which is to improve linkages of waterways, roads, rail and air transportation,” he said.

Manufacturing

Industrial Disputes in Cambodia: Beyond Strikes The Diplomat 22nd May 2015
Discussions of Cambodia’s 2013 election tend to revolve around the violent clashes that took place between protesters and the armed forces. The widely cited reason for such widespread discontent is that many people, especially the poor, have been unable to see significant improvements in their living conditions, notwithstanding the rapid pace of Cambodian economic growth in recent decades, which has lifted millions out of extreme poverty. What took place in the aftermath of the 2013 election was a clear signal that the status quo needed to be re-examined. Emboldened by the government’s refrain from the use of force to disperse the Cambodia National Rescue Party’s (CNRP) protests, labor unions and other groups came out en masse in the hope of forcing the government to accept their terms. Although some might have been affiliated with the opposition, many were simply trying to make their voices heard.