Cambodia Update: Revival Of Political Tensions

Cambodia Update | Nov 3, 2015
Author: Daniel Henderson


Revival of Political Tensions

On October 28, Prime Minister Hun Sen delivered a televised address condemning the assault of two parliamentarians from the opposition Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP).  His comments were in reference to an incident which occurred outside the National Assembly on October 26, during which CNRP MPs Nhay Chamroeun and Kong Sakphea were dragged from their vehicles and beaten unconscious.  In his address, Prime Minister Hun Sen pledged to find and prosecute the unidentified assailants, who were allegedly attending a protest against CNRP Vice President Kem Sokha.  On Oct 30, Kem Sokha was voted out of his position of Vice Chairman of the National Assembly by the majority Cambodian People’s Party (CPP). CNRP lawmakers say the move is unconstitutional as a Vice Chair can only be removed in the event of illness, death or resignation.  The CPP maintains it has the right under the terms of a political settlement negotiated with the opposition in 2014.   

The incidents are the latest blow to the “culture of dialogue” between the CNRP and the ruling CPP, which was originally aimed to improve the domestic political environment.  CNRP President Sam Rainsy has accused the Hun Sen of orchestrating the assaults in retaliation for opposition protests staged during the Prime Minister’s recent visits to New York and Paris.  Sam Rainsy has said that he will wait for the results of an official investigation before pursuing a complaint further. 

Hun Sen has repeatedly accused the opposition of undermining Cambodia’s “dignity” by coinciding demonstrations with his international visits.  Recent months have also witnessed markedly aggressively rhetoric concerning the prospects of a CNRP victory in the 2018 elections, which he predicts would lead to civil war.  The Cambodian legislature has also passed a number of controversial laws which the CPP has defended as necessary to combat “incitement,” “racism” and “insulting remarks,” in addition to unspecified threats to national security.  In August, opposition Senator Hong Sok Hour from the CNRP was arrested and his parliamentary immunity disregarded for posting allegedly seditious comments on social media relating to Cambodia’s border dispute with Vietnam.  Prime Minister Hun Sen responded by accusing Senator Hong Sok Hour of treason and justifying the move on the grounds that “We respect immunity, but in cases of flagrante delicto, they can be arrested immediately.” 

The prospects for a return to civility are grim as old grudges begin to resurface. The CPP feels that the “culture of dialogue” is not respected when Hun Sen is greeted by protestors in front of foreign dignitaries. The CNRP argues that the relationship is better characterized as a monologue from the CPP.  Looking to the future, the CPP is increasingly anxious about a repeat at the 2017 Commune elections, 2018 Senate elections and 2018 general election. Although it won the vast majority of seats in the 2012 Commune elections, the vote count indicated a coming tidal wave in the 2013 general election. Either way, the drive to “Rebrand Cambodia” runs the risk of backtracking.  

National Affairs
CPP Loyalists Leading Lawmaker Assault Probe
Water Festival cancellation brings drought for capital’s vendors
‘Pitfalls ahead’ for web freedom, report finds
Races hung out to dry
NEC kicks off e-voting registration test
Cambodia Pins Economic Hopes on AEC
More Signs of Gov’t Role in Lawmaker Attacks
Hun Sen Pledges $250 Civil Servant Salary by 2018
Cambodia vote revives political tensions
Business-minded tweens publish book
Business rankings edge up
CNRP lawmakers beaten
Prime Minister Distances Himself From Beatings
Cambodia Ease of Business Is Improving, But More Needed
World Bank says Cambodia's business environment improves
‘World watching’ inquiry
Cambodia’s Business Environment Improves; Electricity Reliability and Ease of Start Ups Cited as Key Reforms
Cambodia's PM condemns attacks on lawmakers, rails at opposition
Minister Details Online Business Registration Plans to Parliament
Union Agrees to Stop Protests; Factory to Set Aside Complaint
Demonstrators Beat Up 2 Cambodian Opposition Lawmakers
Hun Sen, Pondering Defeat, Has War on Mind
A downside to economic success
Hun Manith New Head of Military Intelligence
Hun Sen Warns Opposition of Backlash by Armed Forces
Cambodia - Fractured politics and a culture of monologue
Defense, Education Get Boost in New Budget
Budget figures released
Protecting whistleblowers
Unions unite to demand big reforms
China, Cambodia Boost Cooperation During Hun Sen’s Visit
Cambodia Pivotal for China’s New Silk Road
New Budget: Massive Boost for Election Body
Cambodia PM Starts to ‘Like’ Facebook as Opponents Woo Voters Online
Hun Sen talks poverty
Malaysia: a country in crisis?
Villagers Burn CNRP Sign Over Lack of Gifts
PM’s son grilled on prospect of taking over Cambodia
How Cambodian nationalism is driving border disputes with Vietnam
Draft Statistics Law Approved by Assembly
PM Warns Cham Over Dangers of New Gov’t

Automation key to customs efficiency
Cambodia port authority hits the road to sell IPO to investors
‘Scrap’ cars scrutinised
New logistics frontier

Defense & Security
Cambodia and China to cooperate on security

Hun Sen to Meet With Fuel Firms Over Prices

Financial Services
Asean: Cambodian exec wins Young Asean Insurance Manager Award
Quick, easy and in places the banks can’t get to
Banking on cashless transactions
Cambodia: Bank deposit insurance proposed

Food & Agriculture
Gov’t smoke signals on tobacco tax
The end of Cambodia’s rice industry?
Minister Promises Further Drops in Poverty, Hunger Rates

Health & Life Sciences
Study Says Number of Adult Smokers Down
Dengue cases up 300%
Budget for a Rising Economy

Moving beyond cash-on-delivery
SIM card registration drive stalling

Construction investment surges in 2015 despite poor permit ranking
Local and foreign developers sign $100 million MoU on affordable housing
Congestion costing ‘$6 million a month’

Analysts: Cambodia Should Not Focus on Trans-Pacific Partnership
National Affairs

CPP Loyalists Leading Lawmaker Assault Probe Cambodia Daily 3rd Nov 2015
Last week’s protest in front of the National Assembly had all the hallmarks of an event organized by the CPP to make a point. It was promoted beforehand by Prime Minister Hun Sen as a response to opposition demonstrations that had angered him. Many of the men protesting against deputy opposition leader Kem Sokha had military haircuts and wore pieces of red cloth—a longtime signal of CPP allegiance during episodes of violence against opponents. Some were even known security forces in plain clothes. Finally, as the event came to an end, several dozen protesters dragged two opposition lawmakers out of their cars and beat them bloody. Opposition leader Sam Rainsy was quick to accuse Prime Minister Hun Sen of orchestrating the attacks, while civil society groups noted that police posted at the protest did not try to stop the beatings. Human Rights Watch (HRW) described the event as typical of CPP attacks over the years.

Water Festival cancellation brings drought for capital’s vendors PPP 3rd Nov 2015
The abrupt cancellation of this year’s Water Festival has had an economic fallout on small businesses that see the annual event as a windfall for their marketing and sales efforts, and had already invested in promotional materials. The cancellation marks the fourth time in five years that the government has pulled the plug on the three-day annual celebration, which traditionally draws hundreds of thousands of people to the capital for its boat races on the Tonle Sap river. Prime Minister Hun Sen signed a government directive on Saturday stating that the cancellation was due to the river’s low water level and drought concerns. Pundits, however, suspect the decision was aimed at preventing opposition parties from mobilising the expected flood of visitors to their advantage. The festival was held last year for the first time since 2010, when a stampede on the final day of festivities killed more than 350 people and brought about a suspension of the event. While the crowds were thin last year, organisers and businesses hoped this year’s Water Festival, scheduled for November 24 to 26, would be a commercial bonanza.

‘Pitfalls ahead’ for web freedom, report finds PPP 3rd Nov 2015
While Cambodia lacks a “rigorous, systematic approach to internet censorship”, new programs regulating telecommunications, online expression and cybercrime threaten the relative freedom it currently enjoys, according to a new report. The Freedom on the Net 2015 report, released on Friday by American watchdog organisation Freedom House, assigned the Kingdom a ranking of “partly free” – the same status it has held for the past two years – based on the criteria of “obstacles to access”, “limits on content” and “violations of user rights”. Cambodia was ranked 38th out of the 65 countries surveyed, with a score of 48 out of 100, with zero being the best possible score. The report highlights a still-unapproved telecommunications law drafted in 2014 that would impose sweeping controls on the sector for the purposes of “effective security, national stability and public order”, potentially leaving the door open for censorship. Last year also saw the announcement of a Ministry of Information program aimed at restricting the online publishing of “immoral content”. When asked yesterday as to whether any content had been targeted on these grounds, Ministry of Information spokesman Ouk Kimseng stated, “We don’t have any restrictions at all.”

Races hung out to dry PPP 2nd Nov 2015
Citing low water levels of the Tonle Sap as the cause, Prime Minister Hun Sen yesterday justified his decision to call off the upcoming Water Festival in Phnom Penh in a speech in Kampot, even as some observers suggested political concerns motivated the event’s abrupt cancellation. The decision, announced on Saturday, came as an unexpected about-face less than two weeks after the premier personally promised the festival would go on, regardless of the drought, and admonished local authorities to prepare to handle the influx of hundreds of thousands of visitors that the annual event brings. However, observers said yesterday, it was precisely that influx – coming amidst one of the most politically tense periods in the last year – that the government was hoping to avoid by cancelling the festival. “The reason why [it was cancelled] is that we usually race the boats in Phnom Penh when the water level is at least between 7 metres and 8 metres, but the water level in Phnom Penh today is only 5.07 metres,” Hun Sen said yesterday. Further justifying the decision, Hun Sen noted that areas along the river lack adequate water to farm rice, and ordered the Ministry of Economy and Finance to reallocate the festival’s budget to buy fuel to operate water pumps that would irrigate dry rice fields.

NEC kicks off e-voting registration test PPP 2nd Nov 2015
The National Election Committee yesterday kicked off the 15-day trial of its new electronic voting registration system at 25 stations throughout the country. NEC spokesman Hang Puthea said that the registration test plans to enrol about 30,000 people, though those people will have to register again when the completed system goes live in early 2016. NEC deputy director Kuy Bunroeun said yesterday that the new form of registration will rely more on photographs and fingerprints, to prevent ineligible people from enrolling, reduce multiple registrations of a single voter and make the whole process more transparent. Lun Chheng Kai, director of the Phnom Penh Municipal Election Commission, said that the test will help demonstrate the benefits of electronic enrolment and work out kinks in the process. For example, he said, it’s hard for the machines to read thumbprints when potential voters already had ink on their fingers from marking registration receipts. Prospective voters also complained that there are still too many papers to fill out, making the process time-consuming, especially when all the registrants have to wait in line for a single computer.

Cambodia Pins Economic Hopes on AEC VOA 2nd Nov 2015
Cambodians are expecting a 'seamless transition' when the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) is launched in two months and hopefully heralds a second investment wave, capable of transforming this country's pool of unskilled labor into a manufacturing hub. The first investment wave followed Cambodia's ascension to the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 2004 and gave this country's hopelessly war ­torn and almost nonexistent economy a lift with the garment and tourism industries, and big spending on infrastructure that followed. Sok Siphana, a senior government advisor, said neighboring countries Thailand and Vietnam would continue to be the big producers of cars and white goods, but Cambodia would get its chance to emerge as a key manufacturer of smaller components and parts like electrical harnesses.

More Signs of Gov’t Role in Lawmaker Attacks Cambodia Daily 2nd Nov 2015
The U.N. has called for the government to respect its promise for an independent investigation into last week’s assault of two opposition lawmakers, as Human Rights Watch issued a report casting further suspicions on the government’s role in the attack. CNRP lawmakers Nhay Chamroeun and Kong Saphea were beaten bloody last Monday by men taking part in a CPP-aligned protest in front of the National Assembly to demand that deputy opposition leader Kem Sokha resign as the Assembly’s vice president. Opposition leader Sam Rainsy, who has been reticent to criticize Prime Minister Hun Sen since agreeing to a political detente last year, has accused the premier of organizing the attack, describing it as an example of his “fascist methods.” Mr. Rainsy has said he will reserve further judgment until the government has finished its investigation into the assaults that left Mr. Chamroeun and Mr. Saphea requiring surgery. The U.N. on Friday night stressed the need for the credibility of such an investigation. Ravina Shamdasani, a spokeswoman for the U.N.’s High Commissioner for Human Rights, issued a statement noting that the attack on the lawmakers appeared to be “an organized attack” and had occurred during a period of government hostility toward the opposition. “We welcome the establishment of an investigative commission into last Monday’s incident, but we stress that the investigation will only be credible if it is independent, impartial, thorough and prompt. Those responsible for the violence must be brought to justice,” Ms. Shamdasani said.

Hun Sen Pledges $250 Civil Servant Salary by 2018 Cambodia Daily 2nd Nov 2015
Prime Minister Hun Sen announced Sunday that civil servants and members of the armed forces will receive a minimum monthly salary of about $250 by 2018, the next year a national election is scheduled to be held. Speaking to retired soldiers in Kampot province’s Chhouk district, Mr. Hun Sen also promised to increase pensions for former government employees and soldiers. “Our goal is to get the lowest salary from 480,000 riel, equal to $120, for civil servants and armed forces who are working, up to 1,000,000 riel [about $250] during 2018,” Mr. Hun Sen said, adding that pensions would also rise proportionately. “The increase in the salary of civil servants and armed forces will not only be done for those who are working but also the ones who are retired and disabled,” he said. “The lowest will get 480,000 riel, or $120.” In the 2013 election, the CNRP campaigned on a platform of increasing civil servant salaries to $250, a pledge Mr. Hun Sen said at the time was impossible because it would require increased taxes on farmers.

Cambodia vote revives political tensions Al Jazeera 30th Oct 2015
Cambodia's deputy opposition leader has been voted out of parliament in a move that is on shaky legal grounds. Kem Sokha's removal on Friday potentially shatters the "culture of dialogue" that has supposedly developed between the country's two main political parties which are headed by bitter rivals, Sam Rainsy and Hun Sen, the Cambodian prime minister. Sokha's party, the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), boycotted the vote. So it was left to the 68 members of Hun Sen's ruling Cambodian People's Party (CPP) to cast the ballot. The Cambodian constitution allows for the removal of the National Assembly vice chairman - that is, Sohka - only in the event of illness, death or resignation. But CPP legislators argue that they are within their rights to remove him, according to a report in the Cambodia Daily. Because the CPP supported Sokha's ascension to vice president, they claim that they now have the right to remove him. Chheang Vun, the National Assembly spokesperson, said he had "no time" to comment.

Business-minded tweens publish book PPP 29th Oct 2015
By the end of their academic year in June, nine Cambodian whiz kids between the ages of 10 and 12 had done something that many won’t in a lifetime: they wrote a book. The Cambodian Economy, published in English with Khmer translation, is a 160-page primer on key business sectors in the Kingdom. Presented alongside clear charts and colourful illustrations, the material is designed to be easy to understand and accessible for all students, whether they’re from Phnom Penh or remote provinces. But rather than economists, the book authors — and the team of researchers who brought the material together — were all students 12 years and younger at the Liger Learning Center, a private school located outside central Phnom Penh. Over the next two weeks, hundreds of copies of the book will be delivered to Hang Chuon Naron, the Minister of Education, Youth and Sport, and distributed to government schools throughout the Kingdom. “The ministry goal is to distribute two books to every secondary school in Cambodia, so that [kids] can learn and … can know more about what their country [is] doing right now,” explained co-author and student Nuon Sineoun Samnang, now 13.

Business rankings edge up PPP 29th Oct 2015
Cambodia improved its ranking for the ease of doing business from 133 last year to 127 in 2015, making marked progress in the number of days and procedures required to start a business, though it is still ranked well below the world average, according to a World Bank study released yesterday. The Doing Business 2016 report ranks Cambodia behind most of its fellow ASEAN member states, save for Laos and Myanmar. The critical issue of ease of starting a business continues to register a dismal ranking of 180 out of 189 countries, only a slight improvement from the 184 it placed last year. “It is true that Cambodia drastically reduced time and procedures to open a business, but the ranking is relative and other economies are doing better than Cambodia,” said Jean Arlet, who co-authored the annual report. One of the most important metrics is the time required to start a business. While in Cambodia this took 87 days, the world average was just 20 days, and more than half of the 25 countries in the East Asia and Pacific region required 20 days or less to incorporate a business, according to the report. Increasing Cambodia’s ease of starting a business has been a pet project of Commerce Minister Sun Chanthol, who earlier this year said that reforms, such as online registration of businesses, could rocket the Kingdom’s ranking to 21. However, Chanthol qualified that claim by saying the drastic improvement would only be possible if other countries do not make any progress.

CNRP lawmakers beaten PPP 29th Oct 2015
Two opposition lawmakers, Nhay Chamroeun and Kong Sakphea were beaten unconscious during protests in Phnom Penh, as over a thousand protesters descended upon the National Assembly. Deum Ampil News

Prime Minister Distances Himself From Beatings Cambodia Daily 29th Oct 2015
A cool and collected Prime Minister Hun Sen appeared on state television last night to call for calm in the wake of Monday’s savage beating of two CNRP lawmakers, which both the opposition party and civil society groups have accused Mr. Hun Sen of orchestrating. The premier also demanded that the perpetrators of the assault, who were attending a protest against CNRP Vice President Kem Sokha, be promptly arrested, a demand opposition leader Sam Rainsy said he hoped was sincere.Mr. Rainsy has accused Mr. Hun Sen of organizing the assaults on the lawmakers in retaliation for opposition protests that have met him on his recent trips to the U.S. and France. The prime minister began his speech last night by drawing a possible link. “When I traveled to attend a U.N. summit in September 2015, the opposition assigned roughly 40 to 50 people to stage a protest there while I was meeting with about 300 compatriots,” Mr. Hun Sen said. “Once again, when I traveled to France as a state guest representing the Cambodian race—with saluting troops at the airport and motorbikes draped in Cambodian flags—the opposition organized a protest with about 100 attendees as I met with nearly 1,000 Cambodians,” he said.

Cambodia Ease of Business Is Improving, But More Needed Cambodia Daily 29th Oct 2015
Government reforms have made doing business in Cambodia easier over the past year, according to an annual World Bank report released Wednesday, a contrast to previous years in which doing business in the country has become increasingly complicated compared to other countries. The report, “Doing Business 2016,” ranks countries based on 10 factors including starting a business, getting electricity, registering property, getting credit, paying taxes, enforcing contracts, trading across borders and resolving insolvency. In the past year, Cambodia has risen in the overall ranking among the 189 countries surveyed in the report, from 133 last year to 127 this year, due in part to reforms in the processes of starting a business and improving access to electricity. “Cambodia made starting a business easier by simplifying company name checks, streamlining tax registration and eliminating the requirement to publish information on the new company’s incorporation in the official gazette,” the report says. These changes saw a slight improvement in Cambodia’s ranking in the “starting a business” category, up to 180 from 185 last year.

World Bank says Cambodia's business environment improves Shanghi Daily 28th Oct 2015
The World Bank said Wednesday that Cambodia has continued to improve its business environment over the past year. Among 189 economies, it is now ranked at 127. In its 'Doing Business 2016' report released here, the World Bank said Cambodia is ranked 127 among 189 economies in 2015, compared with 133 in 2014. "The country was one of two economies worldwide that recorded a reform to improve electricity reliability," the lender said in its press statement. "The country has also improved the time it takes to start a business and in reducing the number of procedures needed." The statement said in the future, the Southeast Asian country will have the opportunity to improve its business environment further--in particular by abolishing the minimum capital requirement to start a new business. "Cambodia has made solid progress in promoting a better business environment," Alassane Sow, World Bank Country Manager for Cambodia, said in a press conference. "These improvements will help Cambodia to achieve its goal of enhancing business investment and job creation," he said. According to the report, Singapore is rated No. 1 in the world on the World Bank's annual ease of doing business measurement, followed by New Zealand, Denmark, South Korea and China's Hong Kong.

‘World watching’ inquiry PPP 28th Oct 2015
The Ministry of Interior yesterday said it would establish a special commission to investigate the brutal attacks against two opposition lawmakers outside the National Assembly on Monday, a probe the party suggested should have no excuse for failure amid “clear video evidence” of the perpetrators’ identities. “The whole world is watching,” said Cambodia National Rescue Party spokesman Yim Sovann yesterday, noting that security camera footage from both the National Assembly and nearby Australian Embassy captured the assailants on film before they masked their faces ahead of the attacks. “We can see their faces clearly, we know what groups they came from and we know who they were with,” Sovann said. “[The government] claims this is a country of justice, peace, the rule of law, so they must act, especially the Interior Ministry”. According to National Police deputy chief Chhay Sinarith, Deputy Prime Minister Sar Kheng, who is also interior minister, yesterday called for the commission to thoroughly investigate the incidents and establish who the perpetrators were. “Sar Kheng has set up this commission in order to try to uncover the identities of those involved in causing injuries to the lawmakers,” he said.

Cambodia’s Business Environment Improves; Electricity Reliability and Ease of Start Ups Cited as Key Reforms World Bank 28th Oct 2015
Released today, Doing Business 2016: Measuring Quality and Efficiency finds that East Asia and the Pacific is the second most represented region, after Europe, in the world's top 20 economies. Moreover, a majority of economies in East Asia and the Pacific are undertaking reforms to further improve the regulatory environment for small and medium-sized enterprises. During the past year, 52 percent of the region's 25 economies1 implemented 27 reforms to make it easier to do business. Using comparable methodology, Cambodia is ranked 127 among 189 economies in 2015, compared with 133 in 2014. The country was one of two economies worldwide that recorded a reform to improve electricity reliability. Cambodia has also improved the time it takes to start a business and in reducing the number of procedures needed. In the future, Cambodia will have the opportunity to improve its business environment further – in particular by abolishing the minimum capital requirement to start a new business.

Cambodia's PM condemns attacks on lawmakers, rails at opposition Reuters 28th Oct 2015
Cambodia's prime minister on Wednesday condemned a violent assault on two opposition parliamentarians as "cheap" and unforgivable and took aim at political rivals for stirring tensions with street protests that hurt the country's image. In a rare televised address, Hun Sen called for calm and said those who dragged the lawmakers out of their cars and kicked them on the ground following a rally on Monday would be brought to justice. "We can't tolerate and forgive those who committed this," he said. "Regardless of who they are - whether they are supporters of the Cambodian People's Party (CPP), the royal government, the opposition party - whoever committed this cheap act must be punished." The two Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) lawmakers were attacked after a demonstration by supporters of the ruling CPP outside the national assembly. The address follows the collapse in July of a fragile truce between the two main parties, in which the CPP agreed to a series of concessions in return for the CNRP ending its year-long parliamentary boycott.

Minister Details Online Business Registration Plans to Parliament Cambodia Daily 27th Oct 2015
Commerce Minister Sun Chanthol told parliament Monday of plans to overhaul the current system of registering a business in Cambodia, an often slow and corrupt process, by moving the entire system online, where registration will open on December 7. The World Bank currently ranks Cambodia 184 out of 189 countries on the ease of “starting a business,” a ranking deemed “unacceptable” by Mr. Chanthol Monday during a discussion in parliament on investment and trade in the country. “We are not happy with the score. That’s why the Royal Government has to work very hard to review the registration [process], like going to look at the business registration system in Singapore, which stands at No. 2 in the world, and New Zealand, which stands at No. 1 for business registration,” Mr. Chanthol said. Mr. Chanthol predicted that reforming the registration process would drastically improve Cambodia’s ranking. “Our score would improve to 21 from 184, assuming that other countries stay the same,” he said, explaining that the new online process—which has been in the works since May—would reduce the time required to register a business from the current five to seven days to only an hour. Mr. Chanthol said the reform would also reduce the role of brokers, who currently liaise between government officials and prospective businesses, collecting fees in the process. Son Chhay, an opposition lawmaker and deputy head of the National Assembly’s finance commission, said that less dependence on brokers, along with plans for higher salaries for civil servants, should curb corruption

Union Agrees to Stop Protests; Factory to Set Aside Complaint Cambodia Daily 27th Oct 2015
Demonstrations surrounding the establishment of a new union at a garment factory in Kompong Speu province ended Monday after management dropped their complaint against two jailed workers in exchange for protesters agreeing to return to their jobs, a court official and unionists said. Management of the Agile Sweater factory in Chbar Mon City agreed to drop the complaint of fraud and incitement against three workers looking to gain a foothold for the Union Federation of Asean Workers (UFAW), but still plans to fire them, according to an official. “The factory and I today decided to drop the complaint because we have reached an understanding and we want all the striking workers to go back to work,” said Sok Ravuth, an adviser to the factory’s managers and president of Trade Union Worker Federation of Progress Democracy (TUWFPD), the sole union operating in the factory. Uong Phary and Y Thary, who were jailed last week, were charged along with Heang Dy, who is in hiding, following a campaign to encourage workers to defect from TUWFPD and join UFAW, which promised to remain independent of the factory. Although the factory agreed to drop charges against the three, allowing for the release of Mr. Phary and Mr. Thary, the men will still be dismissed from their jobs, according to Mr. Ravuth.

Demonstrators Beat Up 2 Cambodian Opposition Lawmakers WPR 26th Oct 2015
Two members of Cambodia's opposition party were beaten up Monday outside the National Assembly by protesters who were demanding that the deputy opposition leader step down as parliamentary vice president. More than 1,000 demonstrators had gathered Monday morning to demand the resignation of Kem Sokha, deputy leader of the Cambodia National Rescue Party. Kem Sokha has been more aggressive than party leader Sam Rainsy in his criticism of long-serving Prime Minister Hun Sen, who has replied in kind. Monday's protesters appeared to be supporters of Hun Sen's ruling Cambodian People's Party. Opposition spokesman Yim Sovann said lawmakers Nhoy Chamreoun and Kong Sakphea were beaten after leaving the morning session of the assembly. One was knocked temporarily unconscious and the other was seen with a bloodied nose. The opposition party issued a statement appealing to authorities to immediately arrest and prosecute the attackers. In the past two years, gangs of man with sticks, staves and other home-made weapons have often confronted protests by the opposition and other dissidents, while police stand aside.

Hun Sen, Pondering Defeat, Has War on Mind Cambodia Daily 26th Oct 2015
Twenty-four years after the peace that ended Cambodia’s two decades of civil war, Prime Minister Hun Sen, one of the architects of the peace, has started beating the drum for the next war he says will tear the country apart. With the message that peace can continue only on his terms, the prime minister has in the past month presaged massacres of Muslims, mutinies by the wealthy and the return of the Khmer Rouge if the CNRP wins the national election in 2018. The threats heightened last week when Mr. Hun Sen, apparently casting aside the pretensions of civilian government, foreshadowed rebellions by the CPP-aligned chiefs of the military and police under a CNRP regime. “These groups will bring in their forces and react,” Mr. Hun Sen warned, musing about a newly-elected CNRP government attempting to replace the two commanders, who are members of the CPP standing committee.

A downside to economic success PPP 24th Oct 2015
For more than two decades, Cambodia has notched up stunning economic growth, while efforts to alleviate poverty and increase industrial activity are beginning to pay dividends. If it continues on course, the county is set to make the transition from a least developed economy (LDC) to a lower-middle income country by next year. While the status upgrade would affirm Cambodia’s economic openness, higher wages and increasing foreign investment, it could also lead developed countries to scale back their foreign aid and economic assistance, economists warn. As per the World Bank’s criteria, a least developed country has a gross national income (GNI) per capita of less than $1,045, middle-income countries are in the range of $1,045 to $12,746, and high-income countries are above that level. Cambodia’s draft national budget for 2016, passed by the Council of Ministers this week, projects GDP per capita to reach $1,325 next year – more than double what it was 10 years earlier. While GDP measures the total economic output of a country, the World Bank bases a country’s income status on GNI per capita, which is a nation’s total income divided by its population. In its East Asia and Pacific Economic Update released in April the World Bank projected Cambodia’s GNI per capita – pegged at $1,020 in 2014 – would reach $1,096 in 2015, putting the country beyond the threshold of a middle-income country.

Hun Manith New Head of Military Intelligence Cambodia Daily 23rd Oct 2015
Prime Minister Hun Sen’s middle son, Hun Manith, has been appointed as director of the Defense Ministry’s military intelligence unit, according to a sub-decree issued by his father last month, making him the second of the premier’s sons to ascend to the upper echelons of the military. The appointment was defended Thursday by Defense Minister Tea Banh, who said that anybody accusing Mr. Hun Sen of nepotism for promoting his child to a top military position had “mental problems.” Major General Manith joins his elder brother, Lieutenant General Hun Manet, who heads the Defense Ministry’s counterterrorism department, as one of the youngest senior military officials in the country at age 34. He will replace Chea Dara, a four-star general and deputy commander in chief of the army, who became head of the military intelligence department in 2012 following the death of its longtime chief, the formidable CPP stalwart Mol Roeup. “Modify the position of Chea Da­ra, deputy commander of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces and director of the department of military intelligence,” Mr. Hun Sen wrote in the September sub-decree promoting his son. “Appoint Major General Manith to be the director of the department of military intelligence.” General Banh said Thursday that the decision was made long ago and had simply not been publicized.

Hun Sen Warns Opposition of Backlash by Armed Forces Cambodia Daily 23rd Oct 2015
A future CNRP government would face a powerful backlash if it attempted to replace CPP loyalists Pol Saroeun and Neth Savoeun as the commanders of the military and National Police, Prime Minister Hun Sen warned Monday. In his latest threat of civil strife or outright war if the opposition party wins the 2018 national election, Mr. Hun Sen told a graduation ceremony in Phnom Penh that the CNRP had been disingenuous in pledging not to sack any state employees if it comes to power. “Their policy message is: ‘Keep the old officials and give them a pay raise,’” Mr. Hun Sen said. “Then, the [CNRP] supporters who sold their cows, buffalos and even sold their dogs to help the party, where will the jobs be for them?” “If you keep the old, the new ones cannot enter,” he said, predicting that the people who currently support the opposition would complain about not getting positions after “struggling almost to death” to bring the party to power. “Then if they dare to touch Neth Savoeun and Pol Saroeun, these groups will bring in their forces and react,” Mr. Hun Sen warned. “Even the provincial governors will react… and [say] ‘Why didn’t you keep your promises?’ General Saroeun and General Savoeun, who are both members of the CPP’s powerful standing committee, lead the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces and the National Police, respectively. Over the past month, the prime minister has repeatedly warned of civil war and violence if the CNRP wins the 2018 election, comparing opposition leader Sam Rainsy’s plans for Cambodia with those of Pol Pot in the 1970s.

Cambodia - Fractured politics and a culture of monologue DW 22nd Oct 2015
The July 2014 agreement between Prime Minister Hun Sen and opposition leader Sam Rainsy was born of a close-run general election the previous year and a subsequent deadlocked, and at times bloody, political process that saw the opposition refuse to take the 55 seats they had won until allegations about electoral fraud were addressed. But eventually, after months of opposition-led protests and increasingly violent suppression by the authorities, the two sides came to an arrangement. Under its terms, Hun Sen and Rainsy agreed to discuss key issues, while party worthies would resolve lesser disputes. The idea behind the détente, which saw a marked improvement in relations between members of the two parties, was to ratchet down tensions. For a few months, at least, it worked. The bonhomie reached its high-water mark in mid-July this year when the two men and their families dined together at a luxury hotel. Situation has 'turned around' Now, laments opposition chief whip Son Chhay, it appears to be at an end. "To have [the two leaders] able to sit down, to talk, at least to get to know each other, was a very good thing," he told DW. "That the situation has now turned around is very disappointing."

Defense, Education Get Boost in New Budget Cambodia Daily 22nd Oct 2015
Buoyed by increased revenues gained by recent tax-collection reforms, next year’s national budget will provide across-the-board spending increases, including a 28 percent boost for education and a 17 percent boost for defense, according to a draft approved Wednesday. Marking three straight years of significant increases for the two ministries—all since the ruling CPP’s shock losses at the 2013 national election—total government spending will rise 12.3 percent to $4.27 billion next year from $3.8 billion this year. The draft was approved by Prime Minister Hun Sen in a Council of Ministers session Wednesday, with spokesman Phay Siphan posting the draft document to his Facebook page after the meeting’s conclusion. Among the biggest winners are the security forces, with the Defense Ministry to receive a 17.3 percent increase to $379 million and the Interior Ministry, which controls police, to receive a 21.6 percent raise to $275 million. Other major beneficiaries will be the Education Ministry, which has been allocated about $497 million—an increase of 28.2 percent from last year—and the Agriculture Ministry, up 25.1 percent to $46 million.

Budget figures released PPP 22nd Oct 2015
The Council of Ministers yesterday approved its 2016 budget, which will increase 12.18 per cent from last year to $4.3 billion, with education set to get another significant injection of funds and the Labour Ministry also receiving a sizeable boost. Released on social media by government spokesman Phay Siphan, the draft budget, which now must be approved by parliament, continues the government’s push to fund improvements in the Kingdom’s education sector, which was handed some $502 million, a 28 per cent increase on last year’s allocation. Education Ministry spokesman Ros Salin said the ministry would forge ahead with reforms targeting teacher education, school inspections and curriculum development. Allocated $42 million, the Ministry of Labour enjoyed a 45.8 per cent boost to its finances, extra money that would be invested in a vocational training institute to train people in mechanics, electronics and electricity, according to spokesman Heng Sour. “This increase shows the commitment of the government to improve the capacity and productivity of the workforce,” Sour said.

Protecting whistleblowers PPP 22nd Oct 2015
A staff member had been working for an international organisation until 2002 when his organisation no longer liked him. Why did his organisation stop liking him? Simply because he had revealed a scandal, indeed the corruption scandal. But this is not a sole case. Many other dedicated staff members have gotten fired for exposing criminal acts. These individuals were punished because they had done the right things. They had disclosed criminal acts and some organisations and influential individuals – being more concerned with keeping reputations than upholding integrity – could not tolerate such disclosures. In other words, these former staff members were punished because they had blown the whistle. The above examples vividly tell us that protecting whistleblowers isn’t an easy job and requires stringent commitments from everyone, both in the domestic and the international arena. Even at places where there is in place a firm policy for protecting whistleblowers, courageous employees may have been fired simply because they were trying to do what they honestly and reasonably believed to be the right thing to do.

Unions unite to demand big reforms PPP 22nd Oct 2015
A group of nine garment industry unions and coalitions released a letter yesterday making 13 demands for sweeping reforms in the sector, saying they would take to the streets in protests if their calls for improved working conditions and labour relations were not heeded. The statement expressed “deep regret” that the government set next year’s minimum wage at $140 earlier this month instead of the $160 unions had been pushing for, and asked the government, employers and buyers to address a wide range of longstanding grievances. The demands include a ban on using short-term contracts; the dismissal of court cases against union leaders, which are widely seen as politically motivated; establishing a national minimum wage for other sectors of the economy; setting price controls on food, petrol and daily items for garment workers; a $15 monthly transport allowance; a $1 daily lunch allowance; bolstering social services; and resolving other worker grievances. “Our demands are not coming from nowhere because we have been demanding them from employers since 2013, but in the last few years we’ve had a strong focus on the minimum wage, [so] we did not focus on other benefits,” said Pav Sina, president of the Collective Union of Movement of Workers. Sina said the letter would be sent to the Ministry of Labour today, and sent again twice over the next two weeks.

China, Cambodia Boost Cooperation During Hun Sen’s Visit The Diplomat 21st Oct 2015
From October 12 to October 17, Cambodian prime minister Hun Sen was in China for a series of meetings, including one with Chinese president Xi Jinping to strengthen Sino-Cambodian relations. While in China, Hun Sen attended the Global Tourism Economy Forum Macao 2015, the Asian Political Parties’ Special Conference on the Silk Road, the 2015 Global Poverty Reduction and Development Forum, and the 6th Xiangshan Forum – China’s newly upgraded security forum that some characterize as Beijing’s answer to the Singapore-hosted Shangri-La Dialogue. But the highlight of the trip was his meeting with president Xi on October 15, which saw the signing of several agreements. Hun Sen’s visit focused on a number of areas. Chief among them was infrastructure and China’s “Belt and Road” initiatives. The statement from China’s foreign ministry on Hun Sen’s meeting with Xi specifically mentioned his attendance at the Silk Road conference. The statement also added that Cambodia “renders full support and hopes for comprehensive involvement in the ‘Belt and Road’ initiatives proposed by President Xi Jinping.”

Cambodia Pivotal for China’s New Silk Road Khmer Times 21st Oct 2015
China’s flagship “One Belt, One Road” initiative was first proposed by President Xi Jinping during his visits to Kazakhstan and Indonesia in 2013. This initiative consists of “the Silk Road Economic Belt” and “the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road”, building on the principle of equality and mutual benefit. Both are based on ancient trading routes linking China with Europe. The Belt and Road initiative will connect the Asia-Pacific economic circle with the European economic circle with a market of 4.4 billion people and a combined GDP of $21 trillion. Despite these prospects, some countries that stand to benefit the most from this initiative remain skeptical and suspicious. They are concerned that China might use this initiative to expand its influence in the region. In addition, the territorial disputes between China and some of its neighbors further reinforce such a perception. For example, the ongoing tension over the South China Sea between China and some ASEAN member states could complicate China’s efforts to promote its initiative in the region. Although Cambodia is not a claimant to the maritime territories in the South China Sea, it has been closely involved in initiating various proposals to bring about a peaceful solution such as the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in 2002. Yet, it still came under fire for the non-issuance of the joint communiqué during the ASEAN Foreign Ministers Summit in 2012.

New Budget: Massive Boost for Election Body Khmer Times 21st Oct 2015
Funding for the National Election Committee would increase a massive 300 percent as the country prepares for commune and national elections in the next few years under a draft of next year’s budget approved by Cabinet yesterday. According to the draft law, the government would increase the budget for the NEC by from $7 million to $28 million. The increase is needed to complete voter registration next year for the 2017 and 2018 elections. The NEC budget represents 1 percent of the government’s projected spending. The spending will cover administrative costs, support election reform and finish the digital voter registration. Hang Puthea, the NEC spokesman, said that this increase was in response to requests for more funding to handle the labor-intensive process of registration. “After the declaration of election reform, we decided to change voter registration to an electronic version,” he said. “So we need more budget to buy computers, fingerprint scanners, cameras and other equipment.” Mr. Puthea pointed out that the budget still may not be enough to cover the NEC’s costs associated with the new voter registration system

Cambodia PM Starts to ‘Like’ Facebook as Opponents Woo Voters Online Irrawaddy 21st Oct 2015
Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen is taking a belated leap into the digital age in a bid to court young, urban voters as he tries to fend off unprecedented competition from the opposition after three decades in power. The former Khmer Rouge soldier has started to enthusiastically embrace Facebook for the first time, coming round to the platform after almost losing a 2013 election when the opposition won a surge of support online. The self-styled “strongman” has until recently denied using Facebook, but when an account bearing his name received its millionth “like” last month, he finally admitted it was his, coinciding with the government’s moves to ramp-up its cyber presence. “He uses his own messages to reach out to people and to answer questions people want to ask him,” said government spokesmen Phay Siphan, when asked why Hun Sen started using Facebook. Seventy percent of Cambodia’s 15 million population are under 30 years of age, while nine million of its citizens use the Internet. Hun Sen’s Facebook, which now has 1.2 million “likes,” carries images and videos of new infrastructure and credits him with Cambodia’s speedy economic development. Some of the 63-year-old’s most recent activities were sharing links to what he says are his favorite TV shows, “Cambodian Idol” and “The Voice”—local spin-offs of hit US talent contests. In June, Sen’s government held two mandatory classes for 400 heads of Phnom Penh schools, which included showing them how to get Facebook accounts and write supportive messages for the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP), according to people who attended the sessions. Government spokesman Phay Siphan said the classes were part of a broader exercise to train civil servants across the country to use social media to improve lines of communication.

Hun Sen talks poverty PPP 19th Oct 2015
Prime Minister Hun Sen has outlined Cambodia’s strategy for tackling poverty in a keynote speech to a United Nations forum in Beijing marking the 2015 International Day for Eradication of Poverty. Addressing the gathering of leaders on Friday, the premier lauded the 1 billion people brought out of poverty worldwide since 1990, noting Cambodia’s achievement in reducing the population living below the poverty line from 53.2 per cent to 13.5 per cent between 2004 and 2014. Yet he also emphasised the continued risk of thousands of Cambodians slipping below the threshold into poverty. “People living close to the poverty line – in rural areas, those who are deprived of any protection from the government and those who receive minimal economic opportunities – are prone to falling back into poverty through economic shock or natural disasters such as droughts, or rising food and oil prices,” he said. “Because poverty is multifaceted . . . we must create an opportunity for all people to participate in socioeconomic activities.” Toward this goal, Hun Sen outlined five key strategies: maintaining long-term economic growth; investing in agriculture and infrastructure to ensure food security; accelerating trade liberalisation; upgrading education; and promoting financial inclusion.

Malaysia: a country in crisis? SEA Globe 19th Oct 2015
On the weekend of August 29-30, thousands of Malaysians rallied as part of Bersih 4.0, a series of demonstrations held across Malaysia and in 70 further cities across the world. Wearing trademark yellow T-shirts, the protesters, who were mostly of Chinese and Indian descent, were there ostensibly to rally for electoral reform. But given the circumstances – including a prime minister embroiled in a multimillion-dollar corruption scandal, a tanking economy and dissatisfaction over a general sales tax – it was seen by the world’s media as a manifestation of widespread discontent with the government and the direction the country is taking. This feeling of general malaise and a buildup of pressure for change were underlined by the appearance at one of the rallies of 90-year-old Mahathir Mohamad, the influential former prime minister and ‘kingmaker’ of the country’s political scene. Of late, he has been doling out sharp criticism of his former protégé and current prime minister, Najib Razak, and is now openly calling for “people power” to topple Najib if he does not step down.

Villagers Burn CNRP Sign Over Lack of Gifts Cambodia Daily 17th Oct 2015
Apparently incensed by a lack of largesse from the CNRP, about 15 villagers in Od­dar Meanchey province burned a sign bearing the opposition par­ty’s logo during a protest on Fri­day morning, local police and party members said. The protest was led by Kem Ko­sal, a disaffected former CNRP activist who also led a defection of 564 party members in Oddar Mean­chey to the ruling CPP in August. More recently, Mr. Kosal spearheaded a protest against CNRP President Sam Rainsy when he visited the province last week. In his latest anti-opposition dem­onstration on Friday, the newly fledged CPP member led about 15 people in a protest in Sam­raong City, congregating on the land of lo­cal resident Chum Yann, 63, where a wood-and-vinyl CNRP sign had stood for the past five years. After Ms. Yann and Mr. Kosal berated the opposition party for not providing local villagers with money or gifts, members of the crowd pushed the sign over, then held a lighter to it and watched it go up in flames, according to video footage of the protest posted to the website of the Fresh News service. “At around 10 a.m. on Friday morning, people knocked down the sign of the Cambodia National Rescue Party and also they burned it, accusing the CNRP of not re­specting them or providing donations for five years,” said So San, the city police chief.

PM’s son grilled on prospect of taking over Cambodia News Fulton County 17th Oct 2015
Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen’s eldest son, a Royal Armed Forces lieutenant general, has given a televised interview in which he says “not no, not yes” to the prospect of taking over from his father. Hun Sen, a 63-year-old former Khmer Rouge battalion deputy commander, has ruled Cambodia for 30 years and shows no signs of giving up that grip on power. However, analysts have said that he has been shaping up a strong and secure line of dynastic succession in order to ensure that his legacy lives on. Hun Manet, a 37-year-old who has for years been widely tipped to be his father’s successor, has denied having been groomed for the position – a response over which an analyst expressed doubt Saturday.

How Cambodian nationalism is driving border disputes with Vietnam EAF 16th Oct 2015
To strengthen national unity and identity, Cambodian leaders have for generations tried to construct, or reconstruct, nationalist ideology around Cambodia’s enduring border disputes. The border disputes have become the main topic in Cambodian domestic politics and foreign policy since Cambodia gained independence from France in 1953. The disputes are the result of the unclear frontier demarcation by the colonial administration, and have led to armed conflicts between Cambodia and its neighbours. But some political leaders have gone too far and become ultra-nationalist. In Cambodia’s electoral democracy, some political parties have promoted a type of nationalism that positions itself explicitly against the country’s bigger neighbours to gain popular political support. A lack of political transparency, understanding and participation has made the general public more vulnerable to populist and nationalist policy agendas. Anti-Vietnam nationalism and a perceived Vietnamese threat gained momentum since 2009, when the current opposition leader Sam Rainsy allegedly encouraged villagers to uproot border markers on the Cambodia–Vietnam border in Svay Rieng province. The border disputes intensified after lawmakers from the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) led a few hundred activists to the to-be-demarcated border region in north eastern provinces, leading to clashes and violence in June. The border tension is compounded by an anti-Vietnamese political rhetoric that has gained steam since the general election in July 2013. The opposition parties have accused the government under the leadership of the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) of being under strong influence from Hanoi, of ceding territory to Vietnam and of allowing Vietnamese immigrants to illegally enter and work in Cambodia. Since April 2014 more than 2000 illegal Vietnamese immigrants have been deported. The opposition parties will continue to use the ‘Vietnam threat’ factor as a key part of its strategy to gain popular votes in the upcoming commune election in 2017 and the national election in 2018.

Draft Statistics Law Approved by Assembly Cambodia Daily 15th Oct 2015
A new law on the collection and dissemination of statistical data is set to be put to a vote at the National Assembly later this year after being approved by a parliamentary commission Wednesday. “This law is being created with the clear goal of allowing us to get plentiful data and information to serve researchers and policy planners in various sectors and allow them to prepare their strategies based on accurate analysis,” Planning Minister Chhay Thorn told reporters after a meeting of the Assembly’s planning commission. Pol Ham, a CNRP lawmaker and the chairman of the commission, said he expected the law to be debated during the next general session of the National Assembly, which begins on Tuesday. If passed, the law would replace a 2005 law on statistics, which did not make sufficient provisions for the government funding of statistical data collection, according to Hang Lina, director general of the National Institute of Statistics. Because of this, she said, data collectors did not have adequate financial incentives to do their jobs well. “Before, we didn’t have enough funds,” she said. “This meant that officials did not have encouragement to collect the data thoroughly.”

PM Warns Cham Over Dangers of New Gov’t Cambodia Daily 15th Oct 2015
Prime Minister Hun Sen used the occasion of the Islamic New Year on Wednesday to warn the country’s Cham Muslims that a change in government could lead to widespread slaughter and persecution of Muslims, like under the Khmer Rouge in the 1970s. In his second recent statement seemingly comparing the opposition CNRP to the Khmer Rouge, Mr. Hun Sen said in a message posted to his personal Facebook page that his government saved the nation’s Cham Muslims, while an unnamed political party might lead them into disaster. “The government has always supported and promoted the rights of religious freedom, rights of equal employments and rights of participation in all forms of social affairs to all Cambodian Muslims in the country,” Mr. Hun Sen wrote in a message in English and Khmer. “We all remember well from the ‘Khmer Rouge’s Propaganda of Revolutionary Changes’ more than 30 years ago, which resulted in an almost complete disappearance of Cambodian Muslims from the country,” he added. “At this moment, all Cambodian Muslim brothers and sisters should again be aware of inciting propaganda from a political party to galvanize the change…similar to the Khmer Rouge’s Propaganda in the past.” Mr. Hun Sen said that the country’s Cham Muslims should look at the destruction that has swept countries like Syria, Iraq and Egypt since the advent of the Arab Spring, which began with small groups protesting for democracy.


Automation key to customs efficiency The Phnom Penh Post 29th Oct 2015
Private-sector enterprises urged Cambodia’s Customs Department yesterday to introduce an online application and payment system for shipments, rather than the manual method used currently that eats into time and resources. At a luncheon jointly organised by CAMFEBA and the American Chamber of Commerce, a Tax Department official said a strategy was in place to improve customs clearance operations and establish a single-window system, though the department was waiting for funding to implement it. “We are developing the program and hope to have it in the future,” said Sang Sinavith, deputy director for planning, technique and international affairs at the General Department of Taxation.

Cambodia port authority hits the road to sell IPO to investors JOC 27th Oct 2015
Cambodia’s Phnomh Penh Autonomous Port has launched a roadshow to lure investors for its Dec. 11 stock market listing aimed at raising funds for expansion to cope with rising trade volumes. The state-owned port authority, operator of the country’s second largest container port, Phnom Penh, is seeking to raise up to $6.4 million by floating 20 percent of the company on the Cambodian Securities Exchange (CSX). If successful, the listing would make PPAP just the third company to list on the Cambodian bourse. Around 4.1 million shares are being offered to investors, 40 percent of which are expected to be taken up by institutions. “So far 80 percent of the offering has been booked,” said Han Kyung Tae, managing director of Yuanta Securities, the sole underwriter, book runner and lead manager for the IPO. “We secured about 70 percent of the offering from our clients, and another 10 percent was allocated for PPAP’s employee stock ownership plan. We expect much more investment and are very confident the IPO will be successful.”

‘Scrap’ cars scrutinised The Phnom Penh Post 20th Oct 2015
Cars imported as scrap metal and unofficially assembled in Cambodian garages violate the law and pose a safety risk, the General Department of Customs and Excise has said. Customs officials have started paying more attention to the practice, which authorised importers have complained about for years. According to a statement released on Friday, the department recently seized and destroyed several cars made from scrap and spare parts. “Using this type of vehicle would diminish safety standards and possibly cause an . . . accident,” customs stated. “Moreover, it also could cause damage to the infrastructure and loss of income to the Ministry of Economy and Finance.” Duties on car imports bring in a third of all customs revenue collected in Cambodia, according to the Finance Ministry.

New logistics frontier Bangkok Post 19th Oct 2015
Cambodia's ambition to play a bigger role in the regional and global supply chain has driven its government to streamline multiple infrastructure projects to improve logistics and land transport. Geographically sandwiched between two major economies of the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS), Thailand and Vietnam, Cambodia wants to become a hub for goods transport in the GMS and strengthen the backbone of a new labour-intensive production base. "You invest in Cambodia not to serve the consumer market of 15 million, but you need to invest to serve the 200-plus million in the GMS, the 600 million of Asean and eventually the whole world," said Sun Chanthol, Cambodia's minister of commerce. As a cornerstone of its policy, the country has approved 34 special economic zones (SEZs), with 11 currently in operation and 23 being built. Some are located along the borders with Thailand and Vietnam, while the rest are mostly located in Cambodia's coastal provinces.

Defense & Security

Cambodia and China to cooperate on security Phnom Penh Post 27th Oct 2015
Cambodia has endorsed China’s appeals for greater ASEAN security cooperation in fighting terrorism following Friday’s ministerial dialogue on regional law enforcement and security in Beijing, according to Chinese state media. The calls came during the two-day summit at which China’s vice-minister of public security, Li Wei emphasised the need for more intelligence exchange and joint investigations, in particular in relation to the activities of the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, which Beijing deems terrorists. Based in China’s restive western regions, the militant Uighur separatist group is believed to have ties to Muslim extremism, and Chinese police have claimed that its members have illegally crossed into Thailand, Vietnam and Malaysia en route to the Middle East for training. Sar Kheng, Cambodian vice-prime minister, is reported to have said it is necessary to establish an efficient and high-level communication platform under which ASEAN countries and China could build trust in combating such crimes. However, rights groups have expressed concern that these mechanisms could be used as cover to airbrush ill-treatment of Uighurs and conflate refugees with terrorists. “Cambodia and Thailand have now shown their willingness to toss aside basic obligations under international law to do Beijing’s bidding on this issue,” says Sophie Richardson, Human Rights Watch’s China director.


Hun Sen to Meet With Fuel Firms Over Prices Cambodia Daily 20th Oct 2015
Prime Minister Hun Sen said Monday that he plans to personally meet with the country’s petroleum retailers to address the fact that fuel prices in the country have not fully reflected downward global pricing trends. Speaking at a graduation ceremony at the National Institute of Education in Phnom Penh, Mr. Hun Sen said he would call the “big bosses” of the petroleum firms operating in the country in order to set up a meeting. “I will meet with the gasoline sellers directly,” Mr. Hun Sen said, adding that it would be more difficult to convince foreign-owned firms to lower their gas prices than their local competitors. “I will work directly, calling the big bosses to meet, but Cambodian companies are easier to work with than the foreign ones because they have to ask their owners overseas,” he explained. Since the beginning of this year, the Commerce Ministry has held regular meetings with the seven major gas companies operating in Cambodia in an attempt to create new rules that will ensure that fuel prices at the pumps correspond to fluctuations in global prices.

Financial Services

Asean: Cambodian exec wins Young Asean Insurance Manager Award Asia Insurance Review 2nd Nov 2015
The Young Asean Insurance Manager Award 2015 (YAMA) has been awarded to Ms Oudamsoriya Hun, Head of Legal & Corporate Integrity, Prudential (Cambodia) Life Assurance. The award was presented to Ms Hun during the closing dinner of the 18th Asean Insurance Regulators Meeting (AIRM) & the 41st Asean Insurance Council (AIC) Meeting in Phnom Penh last week. The award honours outstanding young managers from the Asean region for their achievements, contributions and dedication in the insurance industry. The accolade is also meant to encourage, motivate and inspire other managers to become leaders in the Asean insurance sector.

Quick, easy and in places the banks can’t get to The Phnom Penh Post 2nd Nov 2015
Growth in money transfer services – used to send money home to the provinces – is being driven by internal migration and mobile phone penetration Chhen Sarath works at a bank, but when the time comes to send money home to his parents in Kampot province, he heads to a money transfer booth in Phnom Penh’s Olympic Market. On this particular day he pulls $50 out of his wallet and hands it to the booth’s Wing agent. The domestic remittance service is quick and cheap, providing an alternative to both banks and informal agents, according to Sarath. “It’s fast and the fee is not high,” he said, adding that the service is convenient because the company’s network of 4,000 agents means his parents do not need to travel a long way to pick up the money.

Banking on cashless transactions The Phnom Penh Post 30th Oct 2015
With Cambodians beginning to embrace online shopping and other e-commerce activities, there is a pressing need for local online payment platforms similar to PayPal or Stripe to process their transactions. Bongloy, a homegrown online payment gateway, was developed to replace the prevalent cash-on-delivery system currently favoured by Cambodian e-commerce businesses, enabling them to go completely online. The Post’s Ananth Baliga sat down with former Silicon Valley startup consultant David Wilkie, managing director of Bongloy, to discuss the experience of developing a payment platform in Cambodia and the growing demand for online payment processing.

Cambodia: Bank deposit insurance proposed Asia Insurance Review 15th Oct 2015
A deposit insurance scheme is deemed as needed in Cambodia, which is the only country in ASEAN with the exception of Myanmar that has yet to implement such a scheme. The debate over a deposit insurance scheme arose following a proposal put forward at a recent banking conference organised by the National Bank of Cambodia (NBC), the Kingdom’s central bank. The proposal is for the deposit insurance fund to be administered by a legally separate entity within the central bank that would step in to pay depositors in the event of a bank’s collapse, reported the Phnom Penh Post.

Food & Agriculture

Gov’t smoke signals on tobacco tax PPP 29th Oct 2015
A year after bumping rates by 10 per cent, the Ministry of Economy and Finance is eyeing another tax increase on tobacco products. The news came yesterday at the unveiling of a new report on the nation’s smoking habits, which found that while smokers declined as a proportion of the total population – from 19.5 per cent in 2011 to 16.9 per cent in 2014 – the number of male smokers grew from 1.34 million to 1.55 million in the same period. The report, compiled by the Ministry of Planning, found that the heaviest smokers can be found among people between 45 and 64 years of age, 47 per cent of whom have a habit. Only 4 per cent of them managed to quit in the past 12 months. “The increase of male smokers demonstrates that the tobacco industry has more influence on the people of a developing country like Cambodia, in particular among male youths, who are an important resource and [source of] labour for the country’s development,” the report said. The report, which was echoed by health groups yesterday, blamed still-high smoking rates on the cheapness and wide availability of cigarettes. The study also found that passive smoke inhalation remains a problem in restaurants, state institutions, public places and health facilities.

The end of Cambodia’s rice industry? SEA Globe 25th Oct 2015
A combination of erratic weather, poor infrastructure and an inefficient government has experts predicting that Cambodia’s rice industry could collapse within a decade Rice has been the lifeline of villagers in northern Cambodia for thousands of years and, in all this time, little has changed in the way that the staple is planted. It is arduous, mechanical work for farmers such as Kim Laysim, who lives in Preah Vihear province’s Ta Tong village. From the roosters’ early wakeup calls until the sun sets upon their fields, almost everyone in Laysim’s town dibbles seeds into the ground before the monsoon rains flush nutrients into the soil. But not this year. The rains, Laysim says, have come too little, too late. “I just finished growing rice in late August. There’s no rain this year, so cultivation was very late. Now I’m very worried because we are facing drought, so the yield we’ll be able to get will be low,” she says. Some areas are expected to lose 50% of yield. If Laysim lived in Thailand or Vietnam, she wouldn’t be as worried. Wide-ranging government subsidies, low-interest government loans and improvements in rice-related infrastructure have created stable rice industries in these neighbouring countries. But not so in Cambodia.

Minister Promises Further Drops in Poverty, Hunger Rates Khmer Times 19th Oct 2015
Cambodia will continue to see reductions in poverty, hunger and malnutrition as it continues to prioritize development of the agricultural industry, Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ouk Rabun said on Friday at an event to mark World Food Day in Kandal Province. Mr. Rabun said Cambodia had already been lauded by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization as a model for other developing countries for its achievements in meeting its Millennium Development Goals of reducing poverty, hunger and malnutrition.

Health & Life Sciences

Study Says Number of Adult Smokers Down Khmer Times 28th Oct 2015
The percentage of smokers over the age of 15 has dropped from 19.5 percent in 2011 to 16.9 percent last year, according to the National Adult Tobacco Survey which was released October 27 by the National Institute of Statistics.

Dengue cases up 300% The Phnom Penh Post 23rd Oct 2015
The number of dengue fever cases in Cambodia has skyrocketed, with children hit hardest by the killer disease, according to new government figures. Incidences of dengue leapt by more than 300 per cent to 11,828 cases between January and September this year, compared to just 2,853 cases in the same period in 2014, according to a report published on Monday by the National Center for Parasitology, Entomology and Malaria Control.

Budget for a Rising Economy Khmer Times 20th Oct 2015
Government spending on social welfare and economic development could both see double-digit growth next year, according to a document summarizing expenditures in next year’s budget that will be discussed at a Cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Hun Sen October 20. He is expected to approve a 16 percent increase in the budget for next year, to $4.36 billion, from $3.75 billion this year, according to Cabinet-level sources. Social spending will see a double-digit rise of 15.68 percent to $1.209 billion next year, from slightly more than $1 billion this year, according to the document obtained by Khmer Times. The funding will be spread across nine ministries, including education, health and environment, though the document does not stipulate how much funding each ministry will receive.


Moving beyond cash-on-delivery The Phnom Penh Post 23rd Oct 2015
WorldBridge Commerce announced yesterday the integration of Acleda Bank’s online payment services into its online shopping marketplace MAIO Mall. The partnership adds an online payment option to MAIO Mall’s existing cash-on-delivery model. The Post’s Ananth Baliga spoke to Tomas Pokorny, CEO of WorldBridgE Commerce, about the partnership with Acleda, logistical challenges for e-commerce sites, and the possibility of major online shopping platforms, such as Amazon, entering the Cambodian market. What is the partnership between Acleda Bank and WorldBridgE? Essentially the partnership started in 2014. We had an announcement in September 2014 to announce the launch of the partnership for the e-commerce business in Cambodia. Today is the official launch because it took us a couple of months to develop the payment gateway software, which is provided by Acleda and is now integrated with our website.

SIM card registration drive stalling The Phnom Penh Post 22nd Oct 2015
One month after the government announced a crackdown on unregistered mobile phone lines, retailers are still selling SIM cards without the required identification documents, and the major telecom companies have done little to curtail the practice. “I heard about the stricter regulations, but I’m still selling SIM cards without collecting ID because the telecom companies have not informed me of any policy changes yet,” said Prak Sophea, a sales clerk at TTN Phone Shop, who was offering unregistered SIM cards yesterday of the three leading mobile companies for $2 each. In a joint press conference on September 22, officials from the National Police and the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications warned that they would begin enforcing a 2012 directive that requires retailers to collect identification documents before selling mobile phone SIM cards to customers.


Construction investment surges in 2015 despite poor permit ranking PPP 29th Oct 2015
Construction and real estate investments in Cambodia have experienced a 13.75 per cent growth rate in the third quarter of this year, compared to that of last year, despite Cambodia being ranked one of the more difficult countries in which to do business. According to a report by the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction (MLMUPC), in the first nine months of this year the construction sector and real estate investments in Cambodia have a combined worth of $1,752 million. That is an increased value of $1,540 million since last year and an equivalent to a 13.75 per cent growth rate. During a phone interview earlier this week, Lao Tip Seyha, Deputy General Director of the Construction Department of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction told Post Property that “the Korean investors rank first in the sector investment, followed by the Chinese, Japanese, British and Malaysian.” When asked about the assets of the foreign and local investors in Cambodia, Lao said that from the year 2000 to the first nine months of this year, 239 foreign investment projects worth about $3.292 million have been licensed, covering a total area of 9.6 million square meters. The rest goes to projects either run by local investors or shared between local and foreign investors. However, according to the annual ‘Doing Business’ report that was published by the World Bank Group yesterday, Cambodia ranked 127 out of the 189 countries surveyed in the study when it came to ease of doing business and occupied the even lower 181st position in dealing with construction permits. For example, the Cambodian permission-giving process on average required 20 procedures and took 652 days until the permit was granted. Neighbouring Thailand, for comparison, requires 17 procedures and 105 days until completion, according to the report.

Local and foreign developers sign $100 million MoU on affordable housing PPP 29th Oct 2015
Local property developer, World Bridge Land, Co. Ltd., and Singapore-based companies are planning to invest 100 million dollars on housing for the middle and low-income class in 2016. Sear Rithy, general director of World Bridge, Co. Ltd, said in a press conference that after signing a memorandum of understanding with the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction yesterday, housing for the low and middle-income class will begin construction in collabortation between the ministry and Strait Construction Group Pte, Ltd, a company experienced in housing for the low and middle-income class in Singapore. “The company will study the needs for housing and income of the people as soon as possible to start the project next year,” Sear said. “The company already has the land; we need a big area of land to construct community-type housing, and we’re only thinking about building one-storey housing before moving onto higher buildings.” Regardless, Sear will not disclose the price of the housing until the study on the type of housing and income is complete. Im Chunnlim, senior minister of the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction said due to the reformation on the property sector, especially on cheap housing for the middle class, Cambodia’s government has drafted a policy on housing which indicates seven choices to solve housing issues, one of which is a collaboration between private sectors.

Congestion costing ‘$6 million a month’ The Phnom Penh Post 28th Oct 2015
Phnom Penh authorities yesterday offered an economic argument for ministries, motorists and citizens to respect traffic laws, claiming that congestion-related costs in the capital were setting the country back about $6 million per month. Speaking at a national seminar, Effects of Traffic Congestion on Environment and Welfare: Challenges and Solutions, at the Royal Academy of Cambodia, Phnom Penh City Hall Deputy Governor Eang Onny said factors including a growing urban population, expanding towns and increasing consumer activity and tourism were contributing to a major problem of congestion and accidents on the nation’s roads. “The majority of the loss is on petrol, as well as lost working time, which is affecting economic efficiency,” he said. “These losses do not yet include traffic accidents, which are causing a loss to the national budget and population totalling $300 million every year.”


Analysts: Cambodia Should Not Focus on Trans-Pacific Partnership VOA News 19th Oct 2015
As the US-led Trans-Pacific Partnership moves forward, analysts say Cambodia should focus on other obligations in the region. Jayant Menon, lead economist for the Asian Development Bank, told VOA Khmer from Manila that Cambodia would do better to try to meet its obligations under ASEAN and the World Trade Organization, rather than worry about the TPP. He added that Cambodia can consider the TPP at a later date. The U.S.-led partnership agreement, which so far includes 12 countries, will likely not change things much within ASEAN, he said. But the language of the agreement still needs to be hammered out in meetings next month, “and we’ll have a better idea what exactly it looks like,” he said. The ASEAN nations included in the TPP are Brunei, Malaysia, Singapore, and Vietnam. Chab Sotharith, senior fellow of the Cambodian Institute for Cooperation and Peace, said Cambodia does not need to join them yet.