Cambodia Update: Government Plans Stricter Internet Controls

Cambodia Update | September 17, 2015
Author: Daniel Henderson
 
 
THE COUNCIL'S TAKE
 
 

Cambodian Government Plans Stricter Internet Controls

On Sept 7, the Ministry of the Interior announced the formation of a new government “anti-cybercrime” department.  The unit will be responsible for monitoring online criminal activity ranging from hacking to online scams.  Senior Cambodian officials from the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) have called the move necessary to combat “incitement,” “racism” and “insulting remarks,” in addition to unspecified threats to national security.  Critics argue that the unit’s mandate may also extend to monitoring and punishing controversial speech.  Civil society groups have alleged that the department’s creation is part of a wider trend towards suppression of opposition groups.  In August 2015, the National Assembly passed a controversial law governing associations and non-governmental organizations.  The absence of a cybercrime unit has not stopped a series of high-profile arrests of social media users, including one student who allegedly called for a revolution against the Cambodian government.  In August, opposition Senator Hong Sok Hour from the Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP) was arrested for threatening to post on Facebook documents relating to the border dispute with Vietnam.  Prime Minister Hun Sen responded by accusing Senator Hong Sok Hour of treason.   

The Cambodia and ICT Committees have solicited input from members in regards to the Cybercrime Law and Telecommunications Law, and are considering submitting a letter of comment to the Cambodian government on the Council’s behalf.  Please contact Kim Yaeger at kyaeger@usasean.org and Daniel Henderson at dhenderson@usasean.org if you are interested in contributing.

 
IN THIS UPDATE
 
 
National Affairs
Opposition members defect to CPP
Test results please many
Cambodian Government Plans Stricter Internet Controls
Hun Sen Receives an Honorary Degree, Bringing Total Up to 12
Cambodia’s Two Suitors: China and the U.S.
CPP is Smacking Down Dissent: Analysts
Cambodia’s Montagnard Problem
Cambodia Rising Destination On Following Local Junket Marketing Falling
Gov’t rejects WB’s report
No Link Between Past Trauma and Poverty: Study
Cambodia’s Political Truce Breaks Down
Private sector plays key role in IDP
Too many unions: owners
East Commercial Center Nurturing a New Generation of Entrepreneurs
It’s good to talk
A ‘unique Khmer family’
Sokha Mocks CPP Over Plan to Steal Int’l Support
Disputes Continue Over Cambodian Government’s Official Map
US biz still keen on Kingdom; corruption a worry
30 Years On, Hun Sen Still Cambodian Matter Of Fact
Hun Sen takes one last shot at Todd
Autopsy of a Cambodian Election
Industrial policy to be released next week
PM lashes out at opposition
Senate votes on Hong Sok Hour

Customs
Initiative to self-certify origin of goods set up
Local Logistics Firms Struggle to Survive as Global Players Circle Market
Cambodia looking to join EAEU
Cambodia and WTO: Ratify Trade Facilitation Agreement

Defense & Security
With Flashy Campaign, Military Seeks Officers
Thailand, Cambodia agree to curb violence on border

Energy
Cambodia Well Suited for Solar, Though Use Remains Low
Draft petroleum law to be in place by the year’s end
Protesters March in Cambodia to Demand Environmental Activists' Release

Financial Services
New bourse rules to lure SMEs
FASMEC MFI enters the lending market

Food & Agriculture
Sar Kheng Orders End to Illegal Fishing Off Coast
Single rice brand stirs the pot

Health & Life Sciences
Cambodia sees surge in dengue fever cases in 8 months of 2015
Cambodian gov't approves health measures to prevent epidemics from outside
Children’s Hospitals to Get Extra $2M From Gov’t
Unlicensed Clinics Prove a Tough Issue to Treat

ICT
Flat-rate roaming deal signed with Cambodia

Insurance
Construction insurance can assure investors

Manufacturing
Cambodia’s 10-year industrial development policy introduced

Multilateral Trade Agreements
The push and pull of China’s orbit
 
 
ARTICLE CLIPS
 
 
National Affairs

Opposition members defect to CPP PPP 14th Sep 2015
Fifty-one opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party members defected to the ruling Cambodian People’s Party on Saturday, according to the CPP. The former CNRP members in Kampong Speu province were recognised as CPP supporters at a ceremony in Treng Trayoeng commune in Phnom Sruoch district presided over by Serey Kosal, a senior ruling party figure. “We hope to welcome more in the coming days. They joined with us because they are no longer happy to be members of the opposition,” he said, without elaborating. Kosal commanded troops loyal to the Funcinpec party during the factional fighting in the late 1990s, and was a self-described “hard-line” opponent of Prime Minister Hun Sen until his own defection to the CPP in 2008.

Test results please many PPP 14th Sep 2015
More than half of the students who sat the grade 12 national exam last month passed the high-stakes test, marking a significant improvement on last year’s results, when nearly two-thirds failed amid sweeping anti-cheating reforms. The results, which were released on Saturday, show that 55.8 per cent – or 46,560 students – passed the high school exit exam, which is a requirement for those hoping to enrol in four-year university courses. Of those who passed the test, the vast majority (nearly 36,000) only scraped by with an E grade. Just 108 candidates received an A. While the results are far from perfect, officials yesterday lauded them as evidence that reforms to the exam – which was traditionally rife with cheating – are working. Last year, when the reforms were introduced, just 25.72 per cent passed the first round of tests, and only 11 candidates received an A grade. The previous year had seen a pass rate of 87 per cent. Education Minister Hang Chuon Naron said yesterday that the result this year represented a “positive change”, which was achieved through the cooperation of teachers, proctors and students.

Cambodian Government Plans Stricter Internet Controls RFA 10th Sep 2015
Cambodia announced plans this week to form a new government department responsible for monitoring and cracking down on a range of vaguely defined “online” crimes, drawing expressions of concern from human rights groups and the country’s political opposition. Authorized by an Aug. 19 subdecree issued by the Ministry of Interior, the move will further restrict an already tightly controlled media environment in Cambodia and target government critics, a Cambodian press freedoms advocate told RFA’s Khmer Service. “Right now, the government can’t control online media or social media,” Cambodian Center for Independent Media Director Pa Nguon Teang said. “People rely on these media as independent sources for news, so the government is trying to find ways to threaten freedom of expression,” he said. Cambodia’s government has already cracked down on critical commentary online, sometimes charging online users with crimes they didn’t commit, Pa Nguon Teang said. “The government has interpreted some online content as ‘incitement’ or as causing ‘national unrest,’” he said, adding that authorities will then arrest those posting online simply for expressing their views. “And the courts, which are influenced by the government, will then send them to jail,” he said.

Hun Sen Receives an Honorary Degree, Bringing Total Up to 12 Cambodia Daily 10th Sep 2015
Prime Minister Hun Sen was awarded an honorary doctorate in “transformational leadership” by Malaysia’s Limkokwing University on Wednesday, adding to his extensive list of honorary degrees.

Cambodia’s Two Suitors: China and the U.S. Khmer Times 8th Sep 2015
To survive and prosper in a dynamic and complex region, Cambodia has to seek strategic proximity with all major powers. China and the US are the most important actors in the Asia Pacific region. Cambodia needs to develop good relations with both countries. As a small country, Cambodia does not have the capacity to shape the relations between major powers. Regional order is much dependent on how China and the US project their power and accommodate each other’s core interests. A stable and healthy Sino-US relation is thus the cornerstone of regional peace and development. China-Cambodian Ties Since 1997, Sino-Cambodian relations have been significantly strengthened. Bilateral comprehensive strategic partnership was reached in 2010. Currently Cambodia is China’s closest friend in Southeast Asia. For instance, Cambodia shares similar views with China with regards to the South China Sea disputes. Cambodia fully supports China’s “One Belt, One Road” initiative and China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB). US-Cambodian Ties US-Cambodian bilateral ties have gradually improved since early 2000s. Human resources development, security and economic relations are the main areas of cooperation. However, differences in democratic values and human rights remain the stumbling block in advancing ties to a new level. U.S. President Barack Obama made clear to Prime Minister Hun Sen at the bilateral summit in November 2012 that issues related to democracy and human rights are the main impediments to a strengthened bilateral relationship.

CPP is Smacking Down Dissent: Analysts Khmer Times 8th Sep 2015
All signs point to a continued crackdown on dissent by the Cambodian People’s Party, experts say, after another week featuring an arrest of an opposition member, as well as the announcement by the Ministry of Interior of a potential new cyber bill that could regulate speech online. On September 5, Cambodia National Rescue Party organizer Chea Tang Sorn was arrested after distributing leaflets warning of Vietnamese plans to undermine Cambodia. He has since been released. His incarceration is one of a steady stream of arrests targeting opposition members this summer, made under the pretense of protecting national security. “It looks like the honeymoon period with the opposition party is over,” said Carlyle Thayer, a Southeast Asia expert at the University of South Wales’ Australia Defense Force Academy. “[Hun Sen] has to keep them on a leash and restrained in their activities, and he has to map out a game plan for retaining power.” While the pace of the current crackdown is alarming, experts say that this is not new territory for Hun Sen. Markus Karbaum, a consultant and analyst of Cambodian politics, said that these crackdowns occur on a cyclical basis. “Since 2005, there have been numerous efforts in silencing opposition politicians as well as unionists and human rights defenders,” he wrote by email. “Phases of crackdowns are normally followed by politically negotiated solutions.”

Cambodia’s Montagnard Problem The Diplomat 8th Sep 2015
In May, while much of the international media focused on Cambodia’s preparation for the arrival of refugees coming to Cambodia from Nauru as part of a controversial $35 million aid deal with Australia, Phnom Penh took efforts to block the arrival of a less welcome group of asylum seekers. “[A]lmost 1,000 [Cambodian] troops were deployed along the Vietnamese border…Soldiers…said yesterday that the main objective was clear: to catch Montagnards,” reported the Phnom Penh Post in early May. Fleeing Montagnards, a Christian minority tribal group from the Central Highlands of Vietnam whose persecution there is well-documented, have long been an enduring thorn in Cambodia’s side. Phnom Penh, a signatory of the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol that mandates Cambodia allow asylum seekers to pursue protection claims, often deports them as illegal economic migrants. “Nowhere is the discrimination of treatment accorded to refugees more stark than in the comparison of the treatment of the Montagnards versus the red carpet treatment for the refugees from Nauru,” said Phil Robertson, deputy director of Human Rights Watch’s Asia division, to The Diplomat. But the Montagnards are not the only ethnic asylum seekers Cambodia has sent packing. In 2009, twenty Uyghurs, a persecuted Muslim minority from northwest China, who had fled to Cambodia were forcibly sent back to the People’s Republic. All of the adults were jailed, including four who received life sentences. Three days later Beijing announced $900 million in aid to Cambodia. While the deportation of the Uyghurs was widely and swiftly condemned by the West, the Montagnard expulsions, in comparison, have produced barely a peep.

Cambodia Rising Destination On Following Local Junket Marketing Falling Macau Daily 7th Sep 2015
Cambodia is seeking junkets to lure in more high-stake Chinese gamblers, as high rollers shy away from Macau under the intensified crackdown by mainland authorities, the Phnom Penh Post reported. The news report indicated that NagaWorld, the Southeast Asian country’s largest casino, would seize this opportunity to “further penetrate the regional and Chinese gaming markets, as junkets abroad sought to diversify their operations to other Asian regions.” The group’s VIP earnings in the first half of the year soared by 25 percent to USD108 million, much of which was ascribed to gamblers flying into the country via junkets. Since July, the casino has also been working with Chinese outbound travel agents to attract more patrons through its own flights from the capital of Hunan Province, Changsha. Despite the boost to gaming revenue, there is limited consensus on the greater economic contributions of such junket operations outside the gaming floors. Maggie Au, representative of the Jimei International Entertainment Group Limited which signed an agreement with the Cambodian casino in July, told the media that the nation’s tourism could benefit from loan activities as the group’s clients were also introduced to other Cambodian tourist destinations.

Gov’t rejects WB’s report PPP 7th Sep 2015
A World Bank report released last month shows that as of 2011-2012 only 7.9 per cent of Cambodia’s arable land was irrigated, with the a Ministry of Water Resources official contesting these numbers as old data and that irrigated land figures were higher than reported. The report, titled Cambodian Agriculture in Transition: Opportunities and Risks and published on August 19, shows the actual irrigated area in the Kingdom was around 317,000 hectares in 2011-2012, less than 8 per cent of 4 million hectare of total arable land in the country. Chan Yutha, spokesman and director of cabinet at the Ministry of Water Resource and Meteorology, rejected the report’s findings, and while he didn’t give figures for the total area under irrigation, said that if one were to only consider dry season paddy under irrigation it was higher than the World Bank’s total figure. “The report is very far from the real situation. Only considering the land [using irrigation] for dry season paddy it is around 500,000 hectares in 2014,” he said. Further contesting these numbers, Yutha said irrigation systems were reaching around 50 per cent of the 2.5 million hectares under rice cultivation, and this did not even take into account land irrigated for other agricultural products.

No Link Between Past Trauma and Poverty: Study Khmer Times 6th Sep 2015
Thirty-five years later, the psychological wounds caused by the Khmer Rouge remain fresh. Witnesses still break down in tears while testifying at the Tribunal. But how has the psychological trauma of the Khmer Rouge years affected the survivors’ economic status? A study of 3,200 Cambodians found a surprising answer to this question: past conflict-related trauma has no effect on economic well-being. Cambodians who suffered more direct trauma during the Khmer Rouge years were roughly as wealthy – or poor – as people who suffered less, according to the study “Trauma and Poor Mental Health in Relation to Economic Status: The Case of Cambodia 35 Years Later.” Even the study’s authors admit being surprised by the data. “We went into this study with the idea that the [genocide] in Cambodia could have had a prolonged economic effect,” the study’s lead author, Johan Jarl, told Khmer Times. “But we didn’t find that.” What they found instead was that there was no correlation between exposure to conflict-related trauma and economic status. While the article’s authors give many caveats for their research – published in the journal PLOS One late last month – they say it could lead to more effective forms of mental health treatment in the country.

Cambodia’s Political Truce Breaks Down The Diplomat 5th Sep 2015
An excellent article in this month’s Foreign Affairs, by Stephanie Giry, outlines the strategies Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen has used to stay in power. Now the longest-serving nonroyal ruler in Asia and the seventh-longest serving nonroyal ruler in the world, Hun Sen remains the ultimate survivor. He is a man who was one of the youngest foreign ministers in the world in the period after 1979, when he served in the government installed in Phnom Penh after Vietnam invaded and removed the Khmer Rouge. He was a former military man who made a gradual transition from the unschooled, rugged but naturally savvy former fighter from that time to a suave and charming head of government. For three decades, according to human rights groups, Hun Sen has used a combination of populist charm, control of the media through relations with media tycoons, outright intimidation, and relatively effective management of the economy to stay in power. Cambodia holds elections, but the deck tends to be stacked heavily against the opposition, with TV networks, the election commission, and other critical actors historically favoring the ruling party. In 2013, after his party, the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP), suffered a shock setback in national elections, nearly losing control of parliament to the opposition, Hun Sen appeared more conciliatory toward the opposition. Despite its virtual control of all broadcast media, Hun Sen and the CPP now faced a major challenge from young, urban Cambodians who could organize through social media and the Internet, and did not have the loyalty to the CPP that their parents and grandparents displayed. For many of these young Cambodians, Hun Sen’s basic promise of a rough kind of stability, after the destruction of the Khmer Rouge era, was not enough to vote for the CPP. In the wake of the opposition’s strong election showing, Hun Sen and opposition leader Sam Rainsy embraced each other and agreed to foster a “culture of dialogue” that, in Cambodia’s often-brutal politics, had been lacking in the past. Hun Sen allowed the opposition to get a license to run its own television station; terrestrial broadcast media had been dominated by stations that were pro-Hun Sen and pro-CPP, according to multiple human rights groups. The opposition halted its boycott of parliament and the two sides agreed to create a new election commission, which supposedly would be more impartial than its predecessor in overseeing the next national elections in 2018. Last year, some Cambodian observers speculated that Hun Sen would soon retire, and would not stand for prime minister in the 2018 elections.

Private sector plays key role in IDP PPP 4th Sep 2015
With the government’s long-awaited Industrial Development Policy released last month, Cambodia’s economy has been set a pathway towards diversification and sophisticated industries. The Post’s Ananth Baliga sat down with Mey Kalyan, Senior Advisor to the Supreme National Economic Council and a contributor to the new policy, to discuss the government’s economic vision and how the industrial policy will be implemented.

Too many unions: owners PPP 3rd Sep 2015
In a strongly worded defence of the proposed trade union law, employer association CAMFEBA released a position paper yesterday claiming the law would curb instances of illegal strikes and a proliferation of minority unions, which it says is needed to harmonise the country’s troubled industrial relations. With an average of seven registered unions per factory, across more than 600 garment and footwear exporters, the Cambodia Federation of Employers and Business Associations, or CAMFEBA, said the multiplicity of unions impedes consensus-building and restrictions are necessary on the number of people needed to form a union. However, independent unions claim that many of these unions are employer-sponsored and work only for the benefit of factory owners. Sandra D’Amico, vice president of CAMFEBA, said the paper was an attempt to clarify the position of employers on the proposed law. “Important for employers is having a law, and a union movement with which we can communicate and negotiate,” she said. With a large section of the paper dedicated to addressing issues relating to minority unions holding up the factory floor, DAmico said a two-tier system for large and medium-sized enterprises could help address the problem.

East Commercial Center Nurturing a New Generation of Entrepreneurs PPP 3rd Sep 2015
The Cambodian business sector is emerging like never before, believes CEO of East Land Development Co. Ltd., Sam Yang. However, steps still need to be taken to support innovative startups as they attempt to enter the market. Currently, Phnom Penh hosts a huge population of young up and coming business people. They are fast learners, extremely innovative, connected to world market trends and ideas through an intimate engagement with the internet and they are driven to start their own businesses. Meanwhile, International companies are increasingly interested in moving an office to Cambodia because investment incentives are some of the best in the region, and Cambodia is located in the heart of ASEAN. However, the current office space market in Phnom Penh is unsuited to the growing demand. These types of start-up businesses are not interested in high grade office space, as rental rates are too high, and instead, find themselves adapting villas or flat houses into office space. Yet, these types of office properties include no amenities suitable for modern business and don’t allow the development of micro-business communities and entrepreneurial opportunities that a designated office complex truly nurtures.

It’s good to talk SEA Globe 1st Sep 2015
The so-called “culture of dialogue” was established to guarantee a modus vivendi between Cambodia’s leading political parties. However, given the recent arrest of opposition senator Hong Sok Hour, despite his supposed senatorial immunity, after Prime Minister Hun Sen accused him of treason in a speech, the agreement is beginning to look a little one-sided. But Cambodian politics often follows its own logic, so it is still too early to assume the culture of dialogue has already failed. It does seem likely, though, that Hun Sen might now regard the concessions he granted the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), in return for dampening its disquiet over the 2013 national election results, as an own goal. With the reshuffling of the National Election Committee agreed, along with the CNRP being granted a licence for its own TV channel, the opposition looks to be in a good position to capitalise on its strong showing in the 2013 elections. As long as opposition leader Sam Rainsy shares this perspective, he will adhere to the culture of dialogue, irrespective of any provocation from his political rival.

A ‘unique Khmer family’ PPP 31st Aug 2015
In an apparent defence of his frequent absence from the Kingdom, opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party president Sam Rainsy said that visiting Cambodians in wealthy Western countries such as France or Australia was just as important as visiting them in Cambodia itself. “We all, whether living in Cambodia or abroad, belong to one unique Khmer family,” said Rainsy – who is currently on a tour in Australia – in a post to his Facebook page on Friday. “Therefore, when considering the regular visits that CNRP leaders pay to thousands of Cambodian people living in the USA, France or Australia, there is no difference from their regular visits to the Cambodian people living for instance in Cambodia’s Battambang, Kampong Cham or Prey Veng provinces.” A recent war of words between the ruling Cambodian People’s Party and the CNRP has brought into focus Cambodian communities living abroad, often the source of opposition complaints that the government’s border maps favour alleged Vietnamese encroachment. CNRP lawmakers Um Sam An, a US citizen, and Real Camerin, an Australian citizen, are both in the US fundraising as they tout the border issue. But the CNRP has distanced itself from its lawmakers’ statements about the border in the wake of a series of high-profile arrests and convictions, which included the August 15 arrest of Sam Rainsy Party Senator Hong Sok Hour on charges of “treason” for posting what he claimed was a fake section of a 1979 border treaty with Vietnam online.

Sokha Mocks CPP Over Plan to Steal Int’l Support Cambodia Daily 31st Aug 2015
Deputy opposition leader Kem Sokha has ridiculed a new campaign by the CPP to revitalize the historically weak support for the ruling party among overseas Cambodians, an effort that has included appointing ambassadors as country directors for the party. Speaking to supporters in the Australian capital of Canberra on Friday night, Mr. Sokha said there was an obvious CPP effort at hand to weaken the widespread and lucrative support for the opposition among Cambodians abroad. “They know who helps the opposition party—the CNRP—create such a strong force both spiritually and financially, brothers and sisters, and now they are looking toward that strength that is a part of the CNRP,” Mr. Sokha said. “They have a plan to draw away our brothers and sisters who live abroad from CNRP, and to reduce support for the CNRP,” Mr. Sokha continued, drawing laughs from the crowd. “They have sent some people, and they can send whoever—I don’t care, people won’t be bought, and we don’t care,” he said. “We believe the CNRP will still win.” In June, Prime Minister Hun Sen issued a directive charging seven new Cambodian ambassadors with leading new CPP committees in each country, with party spokesman Sok Eysan at the time denying any conflict of interest in the arrangement. The same month, the CPP announced a new effort to gain supporters overseas, putting Hun Manet, Mr. Hun Sen’s eldest son, in charge of a project to win support among youth living abroad and to counter bad press about the ruling party.

Disputes Continue Over Cambodian Government’s Official Map RFA 31st Aug 2015
A Cambodian official in charge of the country’s borders denounced an opposition lawmaker who accused him of lying about a map of the Southeast Asian nation he found in the U.S. Library of Congress, amid ongoing debate over the charts that the government uses to demarcate its border with Vietnam. Var Kimhong, chairman of Cambodia’s joint border committee, previously said he had retrieved the map of Cambodia on the fifth floor of the U.S. government’s library in Washington. But on Wednesday Um Sam An, a lawmaker from the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), wrote on his Facebook page that he had found the map on the basement floor of the institution, and suggested that Var Kimhong may have not travelled to the U.S. at all. Var Kimhong, however, told a press conference in Phnom Penh that he had never mentioned the floor on which he found the map. “I only said that we had this map a long time ago, and we kept it at the National Border Authority on the fifth floor of the cabinet ministers’ offices,” Var Kimhong said. “He [Um Sam An] said I had found the map on the fifth floor of the Library of Congress. He is twisting my words. I have never said that.” “I really don’t want to talk with him because he doesn’t speak with morality and dignity,” Var Kimhong continued. “It is not right to accuse a government official of lying about the maps.” The Library of Congress verified that it had the Cambodian map, but told RFA’s Khmer Service that it could not give any information about specific individuals who accessed items in its collections.

US biz still keen on Kingdom; corruption a worry PPP 31st Aug 2015
American businesses in Cambodia all expected positive profit numbers for the rest of 2015 and in 2016, while a large majority said that they plan to expand their operations in the Kingdom, according to a US Chamber of Commerce business outlook survey. The ASEAN Business Outlook Survey 2016, created in conjunction with the American Chamber of Commerce in Singapore, had 53 per cent respondents say that the ASEAN market was important for their worldwide revenue, a slight drop from the 59 per cent in 2014. “As a result, expectations for profit growth, workforce expansion, and increased investment, though still positive, show a moderate downward trend in this year’s survey relative to those of the past several years,” the report read. David Wigglesworth, general manager of Cambodia Beverage Company, said the report showed that US businesses were attracted to the ASEAN region because they can achieve strong growth here, unlike in other regions. “If you go back to an American or European environment, you’re lucky to be growing at 4 or 5 per cent,” he said. “It is an exciting place to be.” While a vast majority cited corrupt practices and law enforcement as a hindrance within ASEAN, Singapore and Brunei were the only exceptions. Respondents from Cambodia overwhelmingly cited corruption as an obstacle to conducting business in the Kingdom – 94 per cent saying it was a hindrance, higher than any other country.

30 Years On, Hun Sen Still Cambodian Matter Of Fact Forbes 28th Aug 2015
Cambodia is an increasingly notable exporter of soft goods to the West, and in fact an early (premature, really) member of the World Trade Organization. It’s a reasonably open society these days, with of course one of the world’s great tourism sites at Angkor Wat. Sporting barely 15 million people, it punches economically above its weight. All that said, Cambodia receives spotty attention in business media, Forbes included. We did manage some good coverage last year from then-contributor Megha Bahree, focused on labor strife in the garment sector as well as Chinese influence in the country, about which a lot more could be written. So I was heartened to read this narrative of Cambodian political tussles in the latest issue of Foreign Affairs by Stephanie Giry, an opinions editor for the International New York Times out of Hong Kong. She’s been following Cambodia’s story for a few years now in other writings.

Hun Sen takes one last shot at Todd PPP 24th Aug 2015
Boasting of his more than 30 years' ruling Cambodia, Prime Minister Hun Sen said on Saturday that he could teach a thing or two to the West about running a country while managing demands for change. The premier, who is Southeast Asia’s longest-serving current leader, recalled a conversation he had with former United States ambassador William Todd as the diplomat prepared to leave Cambodia earlier this month. “I told him, have you forgotten who His Excellency [William Todd] is speaking with? His Excellency is actually speaking with a professor who can teach him, his president, and the prime ministers of other countries about the issues that come with change,” Hun Sen said, speaking at a dinner held by an association of Cambodia’s most powerful tycoons on the capital’s Koh Pich, or Diamond Island. “If I didn’t understand change and couldn’t control it, how would it be possible for me to stay in power for over 30 years?” Hun Sen said he had grown weary of hearing calls for “change” from Western countries, mocking the US for the changes that had come about in some countries in the Middle East. “I am tired of the advice of some countries telling Cambodia to change,” he said. “I told [Todd] that because America’s inability to control ‘change’ in Libya, Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, ISIS is now active.” Hun Sen went on to say that Cambodia had undergone successful transformations without outside interference. “Cambodia has changed from a planned economy to a market economy through its own reforms,” he said. “I urge all foreigners to respect and understand Cambodia.” The US ambassador’s statements have provoked the ire of Hun Sen’s ruling Cambodian People’s Party in the past.

Autopsy of a Cambodian Election Foreign Affairs 24th Aug 2015
Khmer New Year is the closest thing Cambodia has to a High Holiday, and in April, Prime Minister Hun Sen celebrated it in style with his fiercest opponent. During a festival at the ancient temples of Angkor, he and Sam Rainsy ate together from a gigantic cake of sticky rice weighing more than four metric tons—a Guinness World Record. It was an uncanny scene, not least because the last time Sam Rainsy had made a major public appearance at Cambodia’s most glorious site, in September 2013, it was to call Hun Sen a cheat and a usurper. On that day, Sam Rainsy and 55 members-elect of the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party were boycotting the inaugural session of the new National Assembly to protest alleged fraud in the recent general election, which the CNRP had officially lost by a small margin. With the ancestral temples bearing witness in the background, they called for an investigation, vowing “not to betray the will of the people.” Cambodian politics appeared to be at an inflection point then, after years of civil war, military repression, totalitarianism, foreign occupation, an international trusteeship, and de facto one-party rule. By the government’s own tally of the votes, Hun Sen’s Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) had lost about one-quarter of its seats in the National Assembly. For months afterward, tens of thousands of Cambodians, led by the CNRP, took to the streets to pillory Hun Sen and ask him to resign. Yet today, the opposition cannot seem to get enough of rapprochement, touting a “culture of dialogue”—a phrase it repeats like a mantra—so far with little to show for it.

Industrial policy to be released next week PPP 21st Aug 2015
The government will next week release its Industrial Development Policy (IDP) that aims to keep the economy on its high-growth trajectory, a senior official confirmed yesterday. The IDP, first announced by Prime Minister Hun Sen in March, establishes a set of goals aiming to broaden Cambodia’s economic base, by promoting foreign investment into industries such as auto parts and electronicsmanufacturing as well as agro-business and food processing. “After we implement the policy, attracting investors is one of our main purposes,” Heng Sok Kung, secretary of state at the Ministry of Industry and Handicrafts, said yesterday. Sok Kung said the policy, which has been adopted by the Council of Ministers and will be released August 26, aims to address shortages in infrastructure and human resources. “Together with new investor law. which will be amended soon, with this policy we hope we will be able to attract large investors to Cambodia,” he said.

PM lashes out at opposition PPP 19th Aug 2015
Prime Minister Hun Sen likened opposition leaders to a gang of thieves confessing to their crimes after opposition head Sam Rainsy said his party would tame its attacks on the ruling Cambodian People’s Party regarding the Vietnam border issue. “A gang of thieves destroying the stability of this country who have come to confess: that is Mr Sam Rainsy and his party,” the premier said during a radio interview on Monday. “While they shake our hands, they step on our toes and use the culture of dialogue to destroy the royal government.” The comments came only hours after Rainsy had visited jailed opposition lawmakers at Prey Sar prison outside Phnom Penh, telling reporters that the Cambodia National Rescue Party would tone down its public criticism of the CPP over alleged Vietnamese encroachment on the border. “If we speak out publicly, it does not result in a gain,” Rainsy said at the time. But Prime Minister Hun Sen said staying quiet would not be enough. “To settle the doubts of the royal government and the CPP, Sam Rainsy’s party and Mr Sam Rainsy himself must correct all the dishonest points about the royal government and [the CPP], so the culture of dialogue can go ahead,” Hun Sen said.

Senate votes on Hong Sok Hour PPP 18th Aug 2015
As opposition leader Sam Rainsy met jailed Senator Hong Sok Hour and 14 party activists inside Prey Sar prison yesterday, the Senate was preparing to “pave the way” for further court proceedings against Sok Hour – preparations that concluded with the body effectively stripping the senator's parliamentary immunity. The move seemingly invoked portions of Article 104 of the Cambodian Constitution, which states that senators are not subject to arrest without the body's advance permission, except when caught in the act of committing a crime, or in flagrante delicto. At a meeting at the Senate yesterday, 47 ruling party senators voted to let the prosecution continue its ongoing case against Sam Rainsy Party member Sok Hour, who had been arrested at his home on Saturday. The chamber’s 10 other SRP senators boycotted the session. “The unanimous vote paved the way for the authorities, the court and the judicial police to continue the legal procedure,” CPP Senator and spokesman Mam Buneang told reporters after the meeting, adding that the Senate had examined a report prepared by police and the municipal court, a necessary step in invoking the in flagrante delicto clause.

Customs

Initiative to self-certify origin of goods set up The Phnom Penh Post 2nd Sep 2015
The Ministry of Commerce (MoC) has announced a program that will allow approved exporters to use their invoices to self-certify their products’ origin, removing the need to apply directly to the ministry each time a company needs to ship goods from Cambodia. Under the new self-certification initiative announced on August 13, exporters must meet a range of criteria, including experience in exporting to multiple destinations and a clean record of doing business in the Kingdom, according to a Prakas released by the Commerce Ministry. Companies can apply for the service at the ministry to have their application assessed by a steering committee for approval.

Local Logistics Firms Struggle to Survive as Global Players Circle Market Khmer Times 1st Sep 2015
The Kingdom’s logistics sector is becoming increasingly crowded, with small- to medium-sized players racing for a share of the growing market while struggling at the same time to reach international quality standards. Poor infrastructure and a culture of unofficial payments is keeping shipping costs high while poor access to credit keeps them from offering better services to clients, they say. They also worry that expanding opportunities, coupled with greater Asean integration, will entice more international players into the local market. “I face a lot of challenges from mega companies. We cannot provide a cost-advantage like them,” said Sok Teng, sales and marketing manager of ACL Logistics Co. Ltd. “The concern is that with Asean integration, big companies will come in and small companies will die.”

Cambodia looking to join EAEU The Phnom Penh Post 27th Aug 2015
Cambodia is seeking support from Belarus to become a member of the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU), an economic block of countries that includes Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Russia. The request from Cambodia was made at a meeting yesterday between Foreign Affairs Minister Hor Namhong and the Belarusian Ambassador to Cambodia Valery Sadokho. “It will be an important contribution into the regional and international integration of Cambodia,” Chum Sounry, a spokesman at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said yesterday.

Cambodia and WTO: Ratify Trade Facilitation Agreement Khmer Times 3rd Sep 2015
Cambodia officially became a member of the World Trade Organization in 2004, after almost a decade of membership negotiation. Expectations that Cambodia would benefit from trade liberalisation were high. Through its membership, Cambodia would expand its export markets to the world, in particular its textile and agricultural products, the two areas where Cambodia has a strong comparative advantage. Dr. Sok Siphana, former Secretary of State of the Ministry of Commerce and now government advisor, wrote in 2005: “Cambodia has, from the outset, made its position clear that it looked to the process of WTO accession as a positive externality to stimulate and make irreversible substantial trade liberalisation and more broadly based reforms.”

Defense & Security

With Flashy Campaign, Military Seeks Officers Cambodia Daily 11th Sep 2015
Against the sound of heavy drumming and chanting, the commercial quickly flips from scenes of elephant-mounted Angkorian warriors to the present day—young military cadets jogging in formation, performing calisthenics and playing football. Images of the cadets in classrooms and on computers then give way to shots of soldiers in camouflage firing assault rifles, launching rockets and leaping from helicopters with parachutes. The penultimate title card asks viewers to “Together join hands for the national interest.” The promotional spot—currently being aired on local television and posted online—is part of a campaign by the Ministry of Defense to bolster the ranks of its army officer corps, ministry spokesman Chhum Sucheat said on Wednesday. General Sucheat said the effort —which along with the TV spot includes a website, a frequently updated Facebook page and information booths at Phnom Penh’s Olym- pic Stadium and on Koh Pich island —was aimed at increasing awareness of the exams required to enter the army’s officer training courses and institutes. “Long ago, the Defense Ministry broadcasted about the military school examination,” Gen. Sucheat said, adding that the ministry halted its advertising efforts several years ago. “This year, though, the Defense Ministry has advertised actively because we want the youth to be interested in taking the exam to enter the military sector,” he said.

Thailand, Cambodia agree to curb violence on border Bangkok Post 31st Aug 2015
Thailand and Cambodia have agreed to scale back the use of violence against illegal border crossers, although Bangkok would not promise to stop shooting trespassers. The agreement revealed Monday by the Phnom Penh Post, was reached at last week's 5th Meeting of the Governors of Thai-Cambodian Border Provinces in Bangkok. Interior Minister Anupong Paojinda and his Cambodian counterpart Sar Kheng pledged to settle illegal migration and border-crossing issues "in accordance with both international and national humanitarian ... procedures of each country", a statement released after the three-day meeting read.

Energy

Cambodia Well Suited for Solar, Though Use Remains Low Voice of America 2nd Sep 2015
Cambodia has a high degree of solar radiation, making the country a good place for the renewable energy source, a report from the Asian Development Bank says. However, the number of places using it remains very low. There are potentially 134,500 square kilometers suitable to photovoltaic development, but only about 12,000 households, businesses and other establishments use the technology, the report says. Solar experts say people’s awareness of solar technology is low, and the price is still too high for it to be viable for many. “The number of solar users in Cambodia is still low because our media do not provide enough information to the Cambodian people, and they also lack knowledge of it,” said San Bunthan, a technical trainer at Picosol Cambodia, an organization that provides solar installation.

Draft petroleum law to be in place by the year’s end The Phnom Penh Post 1st Sep 2015
A draft of the long-anticipated petroleum law is 80 per cent complete, according to a Ministry of Mines and Energy official, and will put in place price mechanisms to ensure globally representative and competitive fuel costs. “We want to make sure the draft law is in compliance with ministry’s policy and consistency with other natural resources laws and regulations and international best practices as well as to attract investment in this new industry,” said Keo Tourt, director of administration at the Mines and Energy Ministry’s General Department of General Affairs. Tourt said the legislation will be in the form of a sub-decree and is being worked on in collaboration with experts and consultants on the management of oil and gas pricing.

Protesters March in Cambodia to Demand Environmental Activists' Release Radio Free Asia 31st Aug 2015
About 80 protesters marched in Cambodia’s southwestern Koh Kong province on Monday to demand the release of three activists detained earlier this month for interfering with sand-dredging operations blamed for local pollution and riverbank collapse, sources said. The protesters marched carrying banners along city streets to the provincial court, demanding that the court release the three and drop all charges against them, rights activist In Kongchit told RFA’s Khmer Service on Aug. 31. Authorities made no attempt to block the demonstration, In Kongchit—provincial coordinator for the Cambodian rights group Licadho—said.

Financial Services

New bourse rules to lure SMEs The Phnom Penh Post 15th Sep 2015
Cambodia’s market regulator has released listing criteria for a new trading platform – with reduced accounting and capital requirements – aimed at making it easier for small- and mid-sized firms to list on the fledgling stock exchange, Sok Dara, deputy director general of the Securities and Exchange Commission of Cambodia (SECC), said yesterday. The new “Growth Board”, to be launched on the Cambodia Stock Exchange (CSX), will require small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to have a minimum operating capital of $500,000, down from the $10 million for the main board, Dara said. The companies will be required to release only one year of audited financial results, as compared to the three years required for bigger companies.

FASMEC MFI enters the lending market The Phnom Penh Post 8th Sep 2015
Cambodia’s newest microfinance institution FASMEC Microfinance officially launched yesterday. With a start-up capital of $1 million raised from a handful of investors on the new company’s board, the MFI hopes to expand its loan portfolio by the end of 2016. “So by year end we may release $1 million in loans, and in 2016 we can find additional funding for $3 million to $5 million,” FASMEC Microfinance president Te Taing Por said. Named after the Federation of Associations of Small and Medium Enterprise of Cambodia, the new MFI is a distinct entity of its own, Taing Por said yesterday.

Food & Agriculture

Sar Kheng Orders End to Illegal Fishing Off Coast Cambodia Daily 8th Sep 2015
At a ceremony to install a former military commander as governor of Preah Sihanouk province on Monday, Interior Minister Sar Kheng chided local police for allowing a Russian faction to give the tourist hub a bad name and ordered an end to illegal fishing off the coast. Mr. Kheng, who has overseen a major reshuffle of some of the province’s most senior officials over the course of a turbulent year, officially handed power to Yon Min, former commander of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF) in Koh Kong province. The interior minister seized on the occasion to take aim at the maritime police for failing to secure Cambodia’s territorial sea and protect the livelihoods of local fishermen. “You are supposed to pay attention to the ocean—that doesn’t just mean issuing tickets to allow them to fish,” he said, referring to a system where fishermen, mainly from Vietnam, pay authorities for the right to fish—often using illegal methods—in Cambodian waters. “Don’t think I don’t know about this.” “Solve the problem,” he ordered.

Single rice brand stirs the pot Phnom Penh Post 2nd Sep 2015
The Agriculture Ministry and the Cambodia Rice Federation (CRF) are at odds over the branding of Cambodia’s premium jasmine rice that would help differentiate it from similar varieties sold by Thailand. The CRF is working on a new brand name that it hopes will help distinguish Cambodian rice in the international market. The national rice body wants to bring all varieties of jasmine rice under an umbrella brand name that it plans to announce at the Cambodia Rice Forum in November.

Health & Life Sciences

Cambodia sees surge in dengue fever cases in 8 months of 2015 Global Post 10th Sep 2015
Cambodia has reported 7,799 dengue fever cases in the first eight months of this year, a 250 percent rise from the 2,227 cases over the same period last year, a health official said on September 10. "We see a significant increase in dengue fever cases in this year's rainy season, but the surge is at a controllable level," Huy Rekol, director of the National Center for Parasitology, Entomology and Malaria Control, said in a report posted on the center's website. Over 80 percent of the total cases recorded in eight cities and provinces, Phnom Penh, Kampong Cham, Kampong Thom, Kampong Speu, Prey Veng, Kandal, Siem Reap and Banteay Meanchey, out of the kingdom's 25 cities and provinces.

Cambodian gov't approves health measures to prevent epidemics from outside Khmer Times 5th Sep 2015
The Cambodia's Council of Ministers on Friday passed a sub-decree on health measures to prevent global epidemic diseases from spreading to Cambodia. Under the sub-decree, health officials are authorized to check the health of every passenger who is suspected of contacting any epidemics from overseas to Cambodia through these ports of entry.

Children’s Hospitals to Get Extra $2M From Gov’t The Cambodia Daily 3rd Sep 2015
The Finance Ministry on Wednesday announced that an additional $2 million from the 2015 national budget would go toward the five Kantha Bopha Children’s Hospitals in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap City, which have provided free medical services to millions of Cambodians for more than two decades. This was in addition to the $3.2 million already promised to the independent hospitals from the government’s health budget. He said, “Next year, the contribution will be $6 million.”

Unlicensed Clinics Prove a Tough Issue to Treat Cambodia Daily 1st Sep 2015
Health Ministry has vowed to tighten regulations of the country’s largely informal health sector. In June, Sok Srun, director of the ministry’s hospital department, announced that 3,000 unlicensed doctors operating across the country had received warnings to stop administering injections. Health Minister Mam Bunheng claimed the same month that roughly 80 to 90 percent of the country’s clinics had been inspected. But unlicensed medical workers haven’t gone away. Despite the Health Ministry’s efforts, the demand for treatment from unlicensed medical workers and clinics remains, according to Indrajit Hazarika, a technical officer for the World Health Organization in Cambodia as shorter waiting times, perceived notions of quality and more flexible operating hours all contributed to people’s decisions to turn to unlicensed options when medical problems arise.

ICT

Flat-rate roaming deal signed with Cambodia Bangkok Post 25th Aug 2015
A single flat rate for international mobile roaming between Thailand and Cambodia is planned for early next year after an agreement was signed by telecom regulators from both countries. The pact between the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) and the Telecommunication Regulator of Cambodia is aimed at boosting cross-border trade, investment and tourism. The deal also covers a collaboration to minimise frequency interference between Thai and Cambodian mobile operators and promote cross-border frequency coordination. NBTC secretary-general Takorn Tantasith said a joint committee would be set up to encourage greater cooperation between the telecommunications industries in both countries.

Insurance

Construction insurance can assure investors PPP 3rd Sep 2015
While the Cambodian Building Code under the Construction Law is still years away from being in place, insurance may help assure investors and validate the quality and safety of construction projects. Although developers have to obtain building permits before putting up any new building, these permits are more procedural than accountable. Therefore, constructors are expected to self-regulate and abide by building codes from other countries, as well as to prove the quality of their construction projects. “A high property insurance protection is a good sign [of quality] that at least reflects the developer’s awareness and attitude towards safe design, construction and quality, which are factors that go hand in hand,” said David Ng, vice president of Forte Insurance. According to the insurance company, which insures Vattanac Capital and Gold 42 Tower project, construction insurance is project specific and non-renewable under the category of the engineering class of insurance. The company offers two kinds of construction insurance, Contractor’s All Risks and Erection All Risks. The former is for building and civil engineering construction, while the latter is for factory, equipment or machinery installation.

Manufacturing

Cambodia’s 10-year industrial development policy introduced Brunei Times 27th Aug 2015
Cambodia yesterday launched an Industrial Development Policy (IDP) 2015-2025, which sets out a roadmap promoting investment and broadening the country’s manufacturing base. Speaking during the launching ceremony, Prime Minister Hun Sen said the IDP connotes the necessity and urgency to embark on a “new growth strategy” that responds to the structural transformation of domestic economy and the changing regional and global economic architecture. “The IDP serves as a guide to promote the country’s industrial development that will help maintain sustainable and inclusive high economic growth through economic diversification, strengthening competitiveness and promoting productivity,” he said at the ceremony, which was attended by 500 people, including government officials, foreign diplomats and business executives.

Multilateral Trade Agreements

The push and pull of China’s orbit WP 5th Sep 2015
Nowhere is this more apparent than in Cambodia, a country that has found itself drawn into China’s orbit and lured away from the West with the promise of billions of dollars of easy money, offered with no strings attached, often in the blink of an eye, for roads, bridges and dams. “Without infrastructure, you can’t revive,” said Commerce Minister Sun Chanthol, in an interview. “We have been blamed for always going to China, but it is because we need infrastructure fast and quick, nothing more than that. Are there any conditions put on Cambodia by China? I can tell you, absolutely nothing. No conditions at all.” Xi says he wants to restore ancient trading routes, to create a new “Maritime Silk Road” through the seas of southern Asia and a new “Silk Road Economic Belt” across the deserts and mountains of Central Asia. The new Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, based in Beijing, and a $40 billion Silk Road fund will provide some of the money. China sees opportunity in Asia much the way the United States once saw — and grasped — opportunities in Latin America. Beijing’s plans are already unfolding across the region, with China simultaneously making new friends, and new enemies, as it spreads its wings.