Cambodia Update: President of Cambodia’s Main Opposition Party Charged with Treason

Cambodia Update | September 8, 2017
Authors: Jack Myint and Natalie McDaniel
 
LOOKING AHEAD
 
 
  • September 26-28: Mission to the ASEAN Ministers on Energy Meeting (AMEM): The US-ASEAN Business Council is now registering senior-level executives for its Business Mission to the 35th ASEAN Ministers on Energy Meeting (AMEM) in Pasay, Metro Manila, from September 26-28. The mission schedule will consist of bilateral meetings with the ASEAN Energy Ministers, as well as relevant AMEM Dialogue Partners. We are also attempting to organize a luncheon dialogue with the ASEAN Energy Ministers and the ASEAN Secretariat to discuss regional energy issues. Click here to register.
  • September 28-29: Mission to the ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on Agriculture and Forestry (AMAF): The Council will be leading a business delegation to the 39th ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on Agriculture and Forestry (AMAF) in Chiang Mai, Thailand on September 28-29, 2017. This annual mission provides a platform for members to engage with the ten ministers of agriculture, senior agricultural officials, and the ASEAN Secretariat. Some key focus areas include Mutual Recognition Agreements (MRAs) and technology development in the agricultural sector. For more information, please contact Sunita Kapoor at skapoor@usasean.org.
  • October 12-13: Mission to the ASEAN Transport Ministers Meeting, Singapore: Please save the date for the US-ASEAN Business Council's second mission to the 23rd ASEAN Transport Ministers Meeting in Singapore on October 12-13, 2017. The Council has been invited to host the ten ASEAN Transport Ministers, Senior Transport Officials, and the Secretary General of ASEAN for a working luncheon. Bilateral meetings with priority countries will also be conducted. Please contact Sunita Kapoor at skapoor@usasean.org and Jack Myint at jmyint@usasean.org with any questions or to express interest.
  • October 17 18: Brunei Business Mission: Please save the date for the US-ASEAN Business Council's annual mission to Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei from October 17-18, 2017. The Council is currently developing proposals to engage the Government of Brunei on its priorities in an effort to diversify its economy, which will include the financial sector (electronic payments, insurance, banking and financial inclusion), ICT sector (digital economy, cyber security), and energy sector. If you would like to propose any ideas or if you have any questions, please contact Artha Sirait at asirait@usasean.org.
 
THE COUNCIL'S TAKE
 
 

President of Cambodia’s Main Opposition Party Charged with Treason

On September 5, Kem Sokha, President of the Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP), Cambodia’s main opposition party, was arrested on a treason charge. He was accused of “involving foreigners in secret plans against the Kingdom of Cambodia” in a statement issued by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court. The U.S. State Department said Sokha’s arrest seemed “politically motivated” and questioned Cambodia’s ability to organize credible national elections in 2018 that would enjoy democratic legitimacy. The Cambodian government further raised the possibility that the CNRP may be ruled out of elections if it fails to replace Sokha in accordance with Cambodian law. This development supports general concerns that Prime Minister Hun Sen is working to eliminate opposition at the expense of democratic practice in Cambodia. Furthermore, an official statement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs listed alleged collusion between the United States and Kem Sokha as one of his treason charges. Member companies should be advised of the growing risk resulting from the government’s increasingly anti-US/ anti-Western rhetoric. There will continue to be a general push in the Cambodian government to promote trade, investment, technological innovation etc. However, certain Cambodian politicians and government officials are more likely now to distance themselves from publicly engaging with U.S. firms until after the July 2018 general elections, making government advocacy tougher than it normally would be. The Council will continue to monitor progress on these developments.

Cambodia Requests U.S. GSP Review

On August 24, Cambodia requested that the United States review its Generalized System of Preference for Duty-Free and Quota Free (GSP-DFQF) to Cambodia at the meeting between Cambodia’s Secretary of State of the Ministry of Commerce Ok Boung and Marta Prado, Director for Southeast Asian and the Pacific at the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR). Beginning in 2005, the U.S. government promised to give Least Developed Countries—including Cambodia—DFQF to at least 97% of products originating from these countries. By 2017, Cambodia had received DFQF status for 82.6% of its products, the most prevalent of which includes vehicles, machinery, animal feed, fur, and non-woven textiles. Just last July, the U.S. government added Cambodian travel goods to its list of GSP imports. However, this still leaves several of Cambodia’s most active industries excluded from the GSP, such as footwear, textiles, and garments, which had been exported to the U.S. under its most-favored nation program. Cambodian exports to the U.S. were valued at $2.8 billion USD in 2016, with over 80% being textiles and footwear.

This push on GSP review from the Cambodian side may be a tough sell given its recent re-categorization as a lower-middle income nation. Cambodia’s GNI per capita reached $1,070 in 2015, exceeding the World Bank’s threshold of $1,025 GNI per capita for a low-income nation. The United Nations Committee for Development Policy reviews the list of LDCs and makes recommendations for inclusion and graduation every three years, with the next evaluation scheduled for 2018. Commerce Minister Pan Sorasak had warned that Cambodia must prepare to lose many grants, soft loans, and highly favorable trading privileges moving forward if Cambodia is re-categorized by the UN. Regardless, Cambodia benefits from a three-year grace period to negotiate the change in status.

Most textiles, apparel articles, and footwear are prohibited by U.S. law (19 USC 2463) from receiving GSP treatment. For Cambodia to successfully negotiate for tariff-free imports on footwear and textiles, a more viable route may be a Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT) with the United States, which has been one of the key advocacy points the Council has been pushing for in its interactions with leaders on both sides.

United States to Impose Visa Sanctions Against Cambodia

The United States will impose visa sanctions on Cambodia for refusing to take back foreign nationals deemed to be U.S. illegal immigrants. The sanctions process was triggered last week in a letter sent to the State Department by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Cambodia, along with eleven other nations, were designated as "recalcitrant" for not accepting, or delaying, repatriation of its own citizens after the U.S. has tried to deport them. A DHS source close to the deliberations leaked that Cambodia, Eritrea, Guinea, and Sierra Leone would face visa sanctions. The State Department and DHS have both refused to formally identify which four countries were chosen. It is currently unclear how the visa sanctions will directly impact U.S.-Cambodia business relations, if there will be exemptions made for trade delegations and visiting government officials, and if there will be a similar retaliation from the Cambodian side should the visa sanction were to take effect. The Council will continue to closely monitor developments on this situation.

U.S. Companies Remain Confident in Cambodian Investment Landscape

According to a recent survey conducted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and AmCham Singapore, U.S. companies doing business in Cambodia remain optimistic about the country’s overall investment environment but are dissatisfied with access to a skilled labor force, continued corruption in the bureaucracy, tax structure, and overall U.S.-Cambodia government-to-government relations. To access the survey, please click here.

 
 
 
IN THIS UPDATE
 
 
Regional Affairs
Ministry disputes Vietnamese data on timber
Cambodia’s close ties with China not hard to decipher
One Asean, one community and a common tax system
Window closes on Thai migrant registrations
Regional countries agree on safe labour migration
Parliaments of Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam vow to push development

National Affairs
Cambodia’s Hun Sen Vows to Lead For One More Decade
Cambodia Charges Opposition Leader Kem Sokha With Treason
CNRP to Be Investigated For ‘Color Revolution’
UN slams government over critics
Without Business Permit, Foreigners Will Be Denied Long-Term Visa
Cambodia closes 15 radio stations
Cambodia Orders Expulsion of Foreign Staff Members With American Nonprofit
In a digital age, government turns to Telegram for communication

Customs
Despite ban, timber exports to Vietnam nearing 2016 total
System from Japan to standardise local ports
Prayut visit bears fruit for Kingdom
Double tax agreement signed amid Thai visit
Kingdom joins group fighting tax evasion
Cambodia, China Sign MoU on Cooperation in the Field of Trademark and Branding
Tax deal with Cambodia cleared
Nontariff barriers continue to hinder regional trade
Russia’s Electronic Trading Platform Association seeks cooperation in e-commerce with private companies in Cambodia
Exports to US bounce back on revised GSP
Garment makers deny trade preference alarm

Defense & Security
Hun Sen Creates New Military Brigade After Border Dispute
Suspect: Trafficked Weapons From Japan Disarming Program
Cambodia PM gives ultimatum to Laos over 'invasion'

Economics
Government lays out three-year plan for $5.4B public investment
Delegates meet with US trade rep in Washington
Cambodia's tax agency denies crackdown is political
US and Cambodia to tackle trade facilitation and IPR

Energy
Cambodia government and KrisEnergy seal terms for Cambodia Block A oil development
Solar power set to shine in Bavet
Chinese nuclear pact in the works
PTT to help Cambodia in oil and gas sector

Financial Services
Cambodia, Thailand reach tax deal
Cambodia's insurance industry grows by 21 pct in 1st half
Banking in Cambodia: the money keeps flowing
Chea Serey's vision for the future of finance in Cambodia
Central bank launches online service
US Businesses Give Cambodia Mixed Marks

Food & Agriculture
Gov’t Aims to Increase Efforts to Stem Counterfeiting
US To Examine Cambodian Food Standards
Ministers of Agriculture in Mekong agree to step up the cooperation on boosting food safety
Cambodia’s first mega solar farm being realised
AgriTech accelerator for the Mekong region launched
MBI launches initiative to boost agro sector
Government says reports of GM crops in Cambodia are ungrounded
Ministry of Rural Development, KOICA host a workshop on Model Village
Interest in going organic grows with local farmers
Cambodia seeks Malaysia’s support in Halal food production training
Cambodia, New Zealand sign MoU on agricultural cooperation
Encouraging exports of Cavendish bananas to Asia and Europe
Hydroponic farming to be tested in Cambodia
Government directs support to rice farmers
Cambodian Agriculture Minister Presides Over Field Day on Potato Production in a Northeastern Province
Kingdom courts rice deal with Bangladesh
US examines food standards
GMS ministers to meet in Siem Reap
$5 million horticulture project

Health & Life Sciences
Exhaustion causes 73 to faint at H&M factory in Cambodia
NUS study: Deforestation in Cambodia linked to higher risk of ill health in young children
Manganese in Underground Drinking Water Is Cause for Concern
Permanent Ban on Commercial Surrogacy Planned
SokhaKrom App enhances healthcare accessibility
Preventing noncommunicable diseases in Cambodia
Hun Sen Promises Free Hospital Treatment, Checkups for Workers
Thailand to offer longer healthcare visas to CLMV

ICT
Malware vulnerability high in Kingdom, report notes
Paperless trade on the horizon
Push to connect rural areas
Ministry Orders Hardware, Software Companies to Register
Smart Axiata launches 4.5G services in Cambodia

Infrastructure
Room for growth in Cambodia’s aviation market
The Southern Economic Corridor: Boosting Trade and Investment in Cambodia
Cambodia port investment to boost trade volumes
Cambodia to ask Japan to invest $800 million in skytrain
DHL invests B2.7bn in supply chain
Hun Sen seeks hydropower deal with Thailand

Manufacturing
Industry 4.0: Executives on how ‘smart factories’ will impact Cambodia
Cambodia’s only rum distillery is taking on the world
Factories encouraged to invest more in tech
NGOs Are Optimistic as Mining Regulations Move Forward
 
ARTICLE CLIPS
 
 
Regional Affairs

Ministry disputes Vietnamese data on timber Phnom Penh Post 22nd Aug 2017
The Environment Ministry has contested Vietnamese customs data suggesting the trade in illegal timber remains vast, though Cambodian authorities will not release their own export records to show how much wood is flowing to the Kingdom’s eastern neighbour. In a recent statement, the ministry expressed “disappointment” with “NGOs” and “some media” for “distorting, exaggerating and misleading” the public about the current state of natural forests in Cambodia. It alleged that forestry crimes and timber exports abroad were overblown in an effort to undermine the government’s efforts to protect natural resources and as part of a “political agenda”.

Cambodia’s close ties with China not hard to decipher TODAYonline 22nd Aug 2017
Much has been made of Cambodia’s embrace of China. This is especially true after the Belt Road Initiative (BRI) began. Cambodia is viewed as one of China’s closest allies in South-east Asia, with strong government-to-government relations, and is perceived by many as China’s “vassal state” or “ever-loyal satrap”. Cambodian subservience to China, to most analysts, is not in doubt. Nevertheless, there are self-interests at play here. Cambodia is flanked by Thailand and Vietnam, and makes its political calculations accordingly. The size and economic development of these two neighbours, not to mention memories of historical conflict, are more influential to Cambodia’s decision to embrace China than anything else. The figures underline the stark contrast.

One Asean, one community and a common tax system Khmer Times 21st Aug 2017
There are high hopes for tax integration as member states of Asean transition into the Asean Economic Community (AEC) with free movement of goods, services, investment, skilled labour and free flow of capital. Jarkko Turunen, senior economist at the International Monetary Fund, talks to Khmer Times’ May Kunmakara and addresses the tax challenges of making Asean a single market and a single production base.

Window closes on Thai migrant registrations Phnom Penh Post 8th Aug 2017
Almost 200,000 undocumented Cambodians in Thailand took advantage of a two-week window – which closed yesterday – to get their necessary paperwork in temporary registration centres. A Thai law at the end of June imposed hefty fines on undocumented migrants and their employers if they were caught by police, though the implementation was suspended until December 31 following criticism. In part to prepare for the law to go into effect, 97 temporary centres were opened for workers to register. According to the Thai Labour Ministry, 183,677 Cambodians had registered by the end of the day on Sunday. A Thai Employment Department official said that the number was “in accordance with . . . [what] the Ministry of Labour has anticipated.”

Regional countries agree on safe labour migration Viet Nam News 3rd Aug 2017
Ministers of labour from Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Việt Nam (CLMTV) –agreed to improve their migration management system and share responsibilities in contributing to safe labour migration. The reaffirmation was included in the CLMTV joint declaration on safe labour migration at the 2nd Ministerial Conference on Labour Co-operation in CLMTV in Đà Nẵng yesterday. The ministers also committed to boosting information exchanges, and encouraging legal cross-border workers and employment through bilateral agreements among the five countries.

Parliaments of Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam vow to push development Xinhua 3rd Aug 2017
Representatives of the national assemblies of Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam (CLV) were discussing parliamentary cooperation for the triangle development area in the Lao capital of Vientiane. The sixth meeting of the Foreign Affairs Committees of the National Assemblies of the three countries is being held from Tuesday to Friday. In his opening remarks at the meeting on Wednesday, Lao National Assembly Vice President Lieutenant General Sengnouan Xayalath highlighted satisfactory achievements in joint development, such as creation of infrastructure for connectivity, cooperation among local authorities for environment protection, management of the use of natural resources, prevention of human trafficking and combating crimes in the triangle area, Lao local daily Vientiane Times reported Thursday. He pointed to the success in negotiations for an agreement on promoting and facilitating trade and the approval of 15 projects for infrastructure development in the area as an outstanding achievement to facilitate trade, investment, tourism and visits between the three countries. In his remarks, Chairman of the Cambodian National Assembly's Commission on Foreign Affairs, International Cooperation, Information and Media Chheang Vun said the Cambodian National Assembly praised the three governments for paying attention to the development of the triangle area by using all the potential to maintain peace, stability and development in the lower Mekong basin. Chairman of the Lao National Assembly's Committee on Foreign Affairs Eksavang Vongvichit mentioned some shortcomings in cooperation such as the coordination between related sectors at the central and local levels, and identified funding sources for implementing development projects agreed on by the three sides. "We, the Committees of Foreign Affairs, have to make more efforts in overseeing the implementation of the agreements, treaties and development plans agreed to by the government's of the three countries," he said. Chairman of the Vietnamese National Assembly's Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Nguyen Van Giau highlighted the tourism potential, especially for community-based eco-tourism and cultural tourism, which he said should be promoted.

National Affairs

Cambodia’s Hun Sen Vows to Lead For One More Decade Radio Free Asia 6th Sep 2017
Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen on Wednesday vowed to remain in power for another decade, a day after a court charged the head of the country’s opposition party with treason for allegedly trying to topple the government. Speaking to around 10,000 garment industry workers at a factory in the capital Phnom Penh, Hun Sen, 65, said he would run for two more terms as prime minister to defend the stability of the nation before considering whether to step aside.

Cambodia Charges Opposition Leader Kem Sokha With Treason New York Times 5th Sep 2017
The president of Cambodia’s main opposition party was formally charged with treason on Tuesday, after being accused by the country’s authoritarian government of plotting to overthrow its leaders with the backing of the United States. The charge comes amid a wider crackdown on dissent ahead of parliamentary elections next year, with a particular focus on groups linked to Washington. If convicted, the opposition leader, Kem Sokha, could be jailed for up to 30 years and his Cambodia National Rescue Party could be dissolved, under the terms of a law amended this year. Mr. Kem Sokha’s daughter, a party spokeswoman, said the opposition was in severe crisis since her father’s sudden arrest on Sunday, when armed police officers raided his house in the middle of the night and drove him to a remote prison on the border with Vietnam.

CNRP to Be Investigated For ‘Color Revolution’ The Cambodia Daily 30th Aug 2017
Opposition party members will be investigated for attempting to stage a color revolution, Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak told a local newspaper on Tuesday, in what one political analyst described as a move to “clear the deck” of obstacles in the way of a CPP national election victory next year. The CNRP denied the allegations.Separately, Interior Minister Sar Kheng announced on Tuesday that nine inactive political parties would be dissolved for failing to submit required documentation to the ministry. Meanwhile, Cambodia’s Mission to the U.N. in Geneva on Monday refuted criticism by the U.N.’s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) that the government was selectively targeting independent media and NGOs ahead of next year’s elections. The mission claimed the state’s actions were simple law enforcement.

UN slams government over critics Khmer Times 28th Aug 2017
The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, the opposition CNRP and a US senator have all expressed concern over the government’s crackdown on critical media and an NGO. The government has in the past few weeks threatened to shut down the Cambodia Daily newspaper over unpaid taxes, kicked the National Democratic Institute out of the country and shut down radio stations renting airtime to Radio Free Asia and Voice of America. Critics claim the crackdown is aimed at silencing critics ahead of next year’s national elections, while the government maintains that it is simply strengthening the rule of law and implementing newly passed amendments.

Without Business Permit, Foreigners Will Be Denied Long-Term Visa The Cambodia Daily 25th Aug 2017
News circulated on Thursday that foreigners without work permits would no longer be eligible for long-term visas after the turn of the month, a significant change in policy that could not be confirmed with immigration officials. “As of Sept. 1 no long term visas will be issued to foreigners without work permits,” a post to the Facebook page of the Overseas Press Club of Cambodia said on Thursday. “If freelancers can apply today or tomorrow they will need to give the address of their Cambodian employer.” Another Facebook page for Palm Tours and Travel, based in Phnom Penh, echoed the need for a permit, with a post stating: “6 Months and and 12 Months Cambodia visa extension need work permit or work certificate to apply.”

Cambodia closes 15 radio stations The Jakarta Post 25th Aug 2017
The Ministry of Information on Thursday claimed its shuttering of 15 radio stations across the country was not targeted at independent broadcasters, and took aim at the Cambodia Daily for failing to pay a huge tax bill, hours after the US State Department labelled the tax measure exorbitant and biased. On Aug. 21, Phnom Penh-based Moha Nokor – a radio station airing shows produced by Voice of America, Radio Free Asia and the Cambodia National Rescue Party – and its three provincial affiliates were asked to stop broadcasting and to shut down operations for allegedly violating their contract with the ministry. Meanwhile, near-identical documents on the Information Ministry’s website showed that seven other media owners were asked to stop broadcasting from the 11 radio stations they owned across 10 provinces, in line with ministry spokesman Ouk Kimseng’s claim on Wednesday that more than 10 stations would be closed.

Cambodia Orders Expulsion of Foreign Staff Members With American Nonprofit New York Times 23rd Aug 2017
In a statement, Cambodia’s Foreign Ministry accused the nonprofit of operating “with total contempt” while its application to comply with a law requiring registration of such groups was pending. The statement also referred to the nation’s tax code without specifying what the organization might have done to run afoul of tax regulations. The action against the National Democratic Institute drew a sharp rebuke from critics of the government. “There have been multilevel efforts by the government and government institutions to restrict and repress the opposition party, civil society and the media,” said Naly Pilorge, deputy director of advocacy at Licadho, a Cambodian human rights group.

In a digital age, government turns to Telegram for communication Phnom Penh Post 10th Aug 2017
Prime Minister Hun Sen, seen using a smartphone in 2013, has made active use of smartphones a requirement for government officials. AFP In a digital age, government turns to Telegram for communication So much of the government’s internal communications are now conducted over chats on messaging apps like Telegram and WhatsApp that Prime Minister Hun Sen last week announced that active use of smartphones was now required for a government job. “I place the condition: If you don’t know how [to use the apps], I will not appoint you, because you won’t be integrated with everyone else,” he said in an August 1 speech. “If you don’t know such things, we don’t need to appoint you, as you can’t be in the groups.”

Customs

Despite ban, timber exports to Vietnam nearing 2016 total Phnom Penh Post 16th Aug 2017
Cambodian timber exports to Vietnam over the first six months of the year have almost surpassed the total amount for all of last year, according to Vietnamese customs data, despite an existing ban on the trade – which one analyst said had “entirely failed” in light of the continuing multimillion-dollar trade.

System from Japan to standardise local ports Phnom Penh Post 8th Sep 2017
Japan's Nippon Automated Cargo and Port Consolidated System, a privatised company that provides online customs procedures for land and sea freight, is looking to provide its automated customs platform to Cambodia as part of an initiative to standardise procedures in Asean and facilitate Japanese business expansion in the region, according to a Japanese media report. The system, which has already cut import and export time in Vietnam and Myanmar, centralises processes such as quarantine inspections. Japan will provide the system for free after Prime Minister Hun Sen requested it from Japan’s Finance Ministry last month during a state visit.

Prayut visit bears fruit for Kingdom Phnom Penh Post 8th Sep 2017
Cambodia and Thailand agreed to open more border checkpoints, restart a long-delayed railway project and promote cooperation in trade and tourism yesterday. Prime Minister Hun Sen and his Thai counterpart, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, made the announcement in a joint press conference at the Peace Palace in Phnom Penh. Among other things, the two countries pledged to restart work on a long-delayed railway project to connect Phnom Penh and Bangkok that began in 2008, increase bilateral trade to $15 billion by 2020 (up from $5.6 billion in 2016), and open a drug-free “white zone” along the Cambodia-Thailand border.

Double tax agreement signed amid Thai visit Phnom Penh Post 8th Sep 2017
Cambodia and Thailand have officially signed a double taxation agreement (DTA) that protects each country’s nationals from dual taxation and aims to encourage bilateral investment and strengthen economic ties. Finance Minister Aun Porn Moniroth and Thai Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai signed the agreement yesterday in the capital, in the presence of Prime Minister Hun Sen and Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, who is conducting a state visit. While full details of the DTA between the two countries have yet to be released, the agreement follows Cambodia’s aggressive push to shield investors from being onerously taxed twice on multinational operations, and to improve compliance with ASEAN standards.

Kingdom joins group fighting tax evasion Phnom Penh Post 8th Sep 2017
Cambodia has become the 144th member of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development’s (OECD) Global Forum on Transparency and Exchange of Information for Tax Purposes, according to a press release. Greenland, Madagascar and Haiti also joined the Global Forum at the same time, bringing the total number of members to 146. The OECD platform strives to implement international standards for the exchange of tax and financial account information both automatically and upon request to fight international tax evasion and avoidance.

Cambodia, China Sign MoU on Cooperation in the Field of Trademark and Branding AKP 7th Sep 2017
The Ministry of Commerce of the Kingdom of Cambodia and the State Administration for Industry and Commerce of the People’s Republic of China reached a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on Cooperation in the Field of Trademarks and Branding in Phnom Penh on Sept. 6. The MoU was signed by H.E. Ouk Prachea, Secretary of State for Commerce, and visiting H.E. Ma Zhengqi, Vice Minister of State Administration for Industry and Commerce of China.

Tax deal with Cambodia cleared The Nation 6th Sep 2017
The Cabinet yesterday gave the green light to a draft agreement on the exemption of double taxation between Thailand and Cambodia. It aims to back this up with a similar deal with Brunei as part of Thailand’s effort to complete cooperation on this and other economic initiatives with all the 10 Asean members. The agreement will be co-signed in both countries’ joint Cabinet meeting during a visit by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and his Cabinet to Cambodia tomorrow, said Kobsak Pootrakool, Vice Minister at the Office of the Prime Minister.

Nontariff barriers continue to hinder regional trade Phnom Penh Post 6th Sep 2017
While tariffs across the Asia-Pacific region have dropped over the last 20 years as a result of bilateral and multilateral trade agreements, nontariff barriers such as red tape and quotas continue to hinder the economic growth of Cambodia and other countries in the region, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) said in a report released yesterday. The report posits that enhancing trade facilitation could stimulate trade and economic growth across the region following the demise of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement, which was intended to bring together 12 signatory Pacific Rim nations under a unified trading bloc. While Cambodia was never a member of the TPP, it stood to benefit from the enhanced regional trade it would have brought.

Russia’s Electronic Trading Platform Association seeks cooperation in e-commerce with private companies in Cambodia AKP 31st Aug 2017
Cambodian Secretary of State for Commerce H.E. Ouk Prachea received here on Aug. 29 a visiting Russian delegation led by Mr. Iliya Dimitrov, Executive Director of Association of Electronic Trading Platform (AETP), said a news release of the Ministry of Commerce. The meeting focused on the presentation of IT solution of SELDON Company and promotion of such the solutions to facilitate trade and economic cooperation between Cambodian and Russian businesses, it pointed out. Mr. Iliya Dimitrov informed H.E. Ouk Prachea about main operations and activities of SELDON such as cooperation with both private sector and the Government of Russia on provision of profile information of Russian companies and entrepreneurs and other services related to digital economy and e-commerce of private companies.

Exports to US bounce back on revised GSP Phnom Penh Post 11th Aug 2017
Exports to the US saw a modest rebound during the first half of the year, benefitting in part from new trade privileges that allow Cambodian-made travel goods to enter the world’s biggest consumer market duty-free, a Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia (GMAC) representative said yesterday.

Garment makers deny trade preference alarm Khmer Times 3rd Aug 2017
Garment makers yesterday sought to allay fears Cambodia could lose out on international trade preferences and tax breaks once it graduates into a lower-middle income country in the next few years. The reassurance from the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia came one day after Khmer Times and other local media reported that Cambodia could lose out on Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) tariff systems when the country becomes a “developing economy” within the next three years.

Defense & Security

Hun Sen Creates New Military Brigade After Border Dispute The Cambodia Daily 17th Aug 2017
Prime Minister Hun Sen established a new military brigade in Stung Treng province on Wednesday, less than a week after announcing and then resolving a border crisis with traditional ally and northern neighbor Laos. “We will establish a new Intervention Brigade 128, or call it Infantry Brigade 128, under the command of Military Region 1,” the prime minister said in a Facebook post on Wednesday while visiting the northern province. Region 1 covers the provinces of Stung Treng, Ratanakkiri and Mondolkiri. “These arrangements do not aim to wage war with neighboring countries, but aim to defend the country and people, and promote good relationships with neighboring countries,” Mr. Hun Sen said. The new brigade of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces would include thousands of soldiers, Defense Ministry spokesman Chhum Sucheat said on Wednesday, and would draw troops from existing units.

Suspect: Trafficked Weapons From Japan Disarming Program The Cambodia Daily 3rd Aug 2017
A man accused of international arms trafficking told authorities that he had taken the weapons nearly a decade ago from areas in Cambodia where a Japanese-funded program had worked to collect tens of thousands of illegal small arms, officials said. Op Vireak, a suspended employee of the Cambodian Mine Action Center (CMAC), the country’s largest demining organization, told police he had stockpiled 20 AK-47 assault rifles and three 82 mm grenades found in an underground cache in Battambang province in 2008. Mr. Vireak, whom CMAC identified as Ap Leancheu, was charged with trafficking weapons and explosives late last month alongside two other Cambodians after they were arrested in Battambang. Six Thai nationals were also arrested in Thailand.

Cambodia PM gives ultimatum to Laos over 'invasion' Aljazeera 11th Aug 2017
The prime minister of Cambodia has issued a six-day ultimatum to Laos to pull back its troops who have allegedly trespassed into a border area or face a military response. Hun Sen said on Friday that about 30 Laos soldiers crossed into Cambodian territory in April in northern Stung Treng province despite repeated requests by his government for them to leave the area. He said he had been in touch with the government of Laos. "I appeal to Laos Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith to withdraw troops from Cambodian territory without any conditions," Hun Sen said during a ceremony in the capital, Phnom Penh. Military commanders have been ordered to deploy troops along with multiple rocket launchers to the border area, he said, giving Laos the "ultimatum" of pulling out by August 17.

Economics

Government lays out three-year plan for $5.4B public investment Phnom Penh Post 28th Aug 2017
Cambodia will need to spend about $5.4 billion on public investment over the next three years to maintain its economic growth while reducing poverty, according to a draft outline of the government’s three-year programme for public investment. The government has budgeted $1.91 billion for public investment in 2018, $1.78 billion in 2019 and $1.71 billion in 2020, the document signed by the Council of Ministers and posted on the prime minister’s Facebook page on Friday said.

Delegates meet with US trade rep in Washington Phnom Penh Post 23rd Aug 2017
Delegates meet with US trade rep in Washington A Cambodian delegation led by Minister of Commerce Pan Sorasak met Assistant US Trade Representative (USTR) Barbara Weisel in Washington, DC, on Friday to continue negotiations regarding the proposed Cambodia-US Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA). The two sides evaluated Cambodia’s progress in meeting the benchmarks for a TIFA, including efforts to improve trade facilitation, labour and IPR protection, while high-lighting areas where additional work needed to be done. Trade between Cambodia and the US rose to $1.54 billion in the first half of 2017, a 14 percent increase compared with the same period in 2016.

Cambodia's tax agency denies crackdown is political Business Insider 17th Aug 2017
Cambodian tax authorities denied Wednesday there is a political motive for a crackdown on delinquent taxpayers that prominently targets media and civil society organizations critical of the government. The Department of Taxation said in a statement that the motive for seeking the tax payments is to support the national budget, and it is only an effort to make such organizations comply with the law. Cambodia, like other developing countries, has been casual about tax collection as it promoted economic development. Those singled out by the tax collectors include a long-established English-language newspaper, The Cambodia Daily, two U.S. government-funded radio stations, the Voice of America and Radio Free Asia, and local human rights groups.

US and Cambodia to tackle trade facilitation and IPR Just Style 15th Aug 2017
The United States and Cambodia have agreed to establish a number of working group to tackle issues including intellectual property, after the Office of the US Trade Representative earlier this year expressed concerns over the wide availability of fake garments in Cambodia. The move comes after the two countries met earlier this month under their Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) to discuss ways to further expand trade and investment between them. 

Energy

Cambodia government and KrisEnergy seal terms for Cambodia Block A oil development The Edge Singapore 23rd Aug 2017
The Royal Government of Cambodia and KrisEnergy today jointly announced the signing of fiscal and technical agreements for the nation’s first oil field development in Cambodia Block A in the Gulf of Thailand. Since 2014, KrisEnergy has been the operator of the Cambodia Block A. The group plans to develop the Apsara area, which is one of seven geological trends in the license where there is potential for oil and/or gas trapped. According to the agreement, KrisEnergy has 60 days to finalise its decision and thereby formally launching the Apsara project, which is expected to take up to 24 months to produce first oil.

Solar power set to shine in Bavet Khmer Times 22nd Aug 2017
Cambodia’s first large-scale solar power project is still in the trial testing stage, but is expected to be fully operational at the end of this month. The project is located near Bavet, a special economic zone in the Svay Rieng province, and is being implemented through a public-private partnership. Victor Jona, the director-general of the Ministry of Mines and Energy, said the solar project was being tested from August 15 to 31 and will be the first solar project to be linked to the nation’s power grid. “During the testing date, they are testing to find out the problems during the operation and I went there [to the Bavet solar farm] and observed that they prepared well for the trial operation,” he said. “If there are no problems with the operation, the operation officially starts from the 31st  of this month,” he added.

Chinese nuclear pact in the works Phnom Penh Post 17th Aug 2017
Cambodia and China are close to inking an agreement that would bring the Kingdom another step closer to developing its own nuclear technology, officials said yesterday, although it would not be used initially to bolster its electricity production. Ministry of Environment Deputy Director-General Tin Ponlok said the two countries are now in the technical stages of finalising a memorandum of understanding (MoU) under which China would provide expertise, research and scholarships to help Cambodia develop nuclear energy for “peaceful purposes”. The partnership won’t focus on electricity production, “although the option is there for the future”, Ponlok said. For now, the focus is largely on harnessing nuclear energy for medical and agricultural use, he said. “We have no illusions about the challenges associated with building a nuclear power plant for electricity production,” he said. “Our primary focus is on non-electricity production.”

PTT to help Cambodia in oil and gas sector Khmer Times 4th Aug 2017
The Cambodian Ministry of Mines and Energy and Thailand’s giant conglomerate PTT signed a cooperation agreement recently to strengthen Cambodia’s technical knowledge in the oil and gas sector. According to Meng Saktheara, secretary of state at the ministry, the agreement was signed between Cheap Sour, the Ministry of Mines and Energy director general of petroleum, and Tevin Vongvanich, president and CEO of PTT, in Bangkok on Monday. “The agreement will be another momentum to develop Cambodia’s oil and gas industry utilising the experience and knowledge from PTT,” said Mr Saktheara.

Financial Services

Cambodia, Thailand reach tax deal Khmer Times 8th Sep 2017
Cambodia and Thailand yesterday agreed to seek more strategies to boost bilateral trade, cross border development and investment to achieve the target of $15 billion in trade exchange between the two Asean neighbours by 2020. Both countries also reached an agreement on double tax avoidance and preventing the declaration of fraudulent income to avoid tax at the Third Cambodia-Thailand Joint Cabinet Retreat at the Peace Palace in Phnom Penh.

Cambodia's insurance industry grows by 21 pct in 1st half Xinhua 30th Aug 2017
Cambodia's insurance industry reported a total premium of 68 million U.S. dollars in the first half of 2017, up 21 percent over the same period last year, the Insurance Association of Cambodia (IAC) said in a press release on Wednesday. This sustainable growth is generated from seven general insurers and six life insurers in the country, the release said. IAC's chairman Huy Vatharo said the growth reflected higher understanding of the population and business institutions towards the concept of insurance. "With joint efforts from all insurers, insurance regulators, media, corporate social responsibility partners and all the relevant stakeholders, the industry is becoming more prominent and shares a significant success in the country's financial sector," he said.

Banking in Cambodia: the money keeps flowing Nikkei Asian Review 29th Aug 2017
The banking sector in Cambodia continues to achieve impressive growth, maintaining a decade-long trend. In the first half of the year, total deposits and loans climbed by annualised rates of 18.5 per cent and 22 per cent respectively, according to preliminary data from the country's central bank (see chart). Deposits are now equivalent to 80.5 per cent of Cambodia's gross domestic product; loans 91.1 per cent. This compares with bank deposit-to-GDP levels of about 120 per cent in more-developed Malaysia and Thailand, and bank loans-to-GDP ratios of 145 per cent for Malaysia and 173 per cent for Thailand, as of 2016. Cambodia could see deposits rise by about 50 per cent and loans by at least 60 per cent before its levels match those in middle-income Asean countries.

Chea Serey's vision for the future of finance in Cambodia Southeast Asia Globe Magazine 21st Aug 2017
The National Bank of Cambodia director general talks about dedollarisation, the decision to cap microfinance interest rates and the potential of blockchain technology. You’ve now been serving as director general the National Bank of Cambodia (NBC) for four years. How has banking evolved in Cambodia? I’ve seen a lot of new technology – especially 4G – coming into Cambodia. Tech plays a much more important role now in the banking system. When I first joined there were about two mobile payment providers, but now there are so many. That’s what we want to see because competition will ultimately benefit the customers. This year we’ve been able to launch FAST (Fast And Secure Transfer), which is a real-time money transfer from one bank account to another. All banks are required to be members. There are also many new instruments that allow the central bank to have more control over our monetary policy implementation. We have introduced our LPCO (Liquidity Providing on a Collateralised Operation) and we lend to local banks at a very low rate, which encourages them to lend more in local currency. We have also set up inflation forecasting and are working on GDP forecasting.

Central bank launches online service Khmer Times 17th Aug 2017
Cambodia’s Central Bank is to launch the National Bank of Cambodia Platform (NBCP) tomorrow, a trading system that allows all financial institutions to make transactions online, in a move to develop interbank connections as well as the FinTech, or financial technology, sector. Chea Serey, director-general of the NBC, told Khmer Times that the existing infrastructure is outdated and the cost of making transactions is high – the old system involves financial institutions having to prepare paperwork, it involves many staff and is time consuming. She said that before launching the NBC’s new online trading platform, the bank conducted a number of presentations to financial institutions, it conducted tests and sent NBCP related documents out to seek feedback from financial institutions. The feedback gave the bank careful assessments, and whenever justified, this feedback was translated into the design and specifications of the NBCP. “The introduction of the NBCP, which is an online trading platform, will allow participants to find out online who wants to do what transactions [buy or sell or repo transactions] at what price, negotiate online in a confidential manner and execute the transactions on a real time basis,” she said. “They can also use it to bid for LPCOs [liquidity-providing collateralised operations] and subscribe to NCDs [negotiable certificates of deposit] online without the need to be physically present at the NBC counters. This initial version of the NBCP is still limited, but it does provide convenience, transparency and a fast channel for financial institutions to transact,” Ms Serey added. Rath Youmeng, the treasury manager of Acleda Bank, said his bank had been testing the system and is preparing to register to use it. He said the new system will be more convenient and time saving for all financial stakeholders to engage with the central bank or other financial institutions. “I think it is a good system because it is a contribution for our FinTech development,” he said. “The NBCP will allow us to send any document to our regulator online which is very secure, time and cost saving. “At the same time, we can also do any LPCO or NCD online without going directly to the National Bank of Cambodia,” he added. Ms Serey said Cambodia’s interbank market is highly fragmented and barely active due to trust problems between market participants and the absence of a repo market. By launching the NBC platform, financial institutions will benefit because of a more transparent and secure market, it will promote trust among market participants, make more active management of liquidity in financial institutions, is cost efficient and less time consuming. She said that those using the system would be commercial banks, specialised banks, deposit taking micro finance institutions, leasing companies and money changers, who are now supervised and licensed by the National Bank of Cambodia. According to an NBC report, in the first half of this year Cambodia had 39 commercial banks, 15 specialised banks, seven microfinance deposit institutions, 66 microfinance institutions, 267 rural credit operators, 12 leasing companies and six foreign bank representative offices. The financial industry sector saw growth of 20.4 percent to $18.8 billion in outstanding loans, while deposits increased by 23.4 percent to $17.4 billion by the end of June.

US Businesses Give Cambodia Mixed Marks The Cambodia Daily 17th Aug 2017
U.S. companies doing business in Cambodia are optimistic about the country’s overall investment environment, but remain dissatisfied with the supply of cheap and skilled labor, corruption, tax structure, and attitudes toward the U.S., according to a new survey. Conducted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce last year and released earlier this month, the 2017 Asean Business Outlook Survey collected answers from 26 of the 98 members of the American Cambodian Business Council, known as AmCham, which responded to the online survey. The often-pessimistic snapshot of the Cambodian business climate supports findings by the ANZ Royal Business Confidence Index released in March, which noted a 7 percentage point drop in business confidence that it partially attributed to political instability.

Food & Agriculture

Gov’t Aims to Increase Efforts to Stem Counterfeiting VOA 22nd Aug 2017
The government has appealed to citizens to report cases of counterfeit products. Meach Sophanna, president of the interior ministry’s Counter-Counterfeit Committee, said smuggling and production of fake drugs, cosmetics, beverages, and food, posed a serious risk to health and safety. “The people, consumers, as well as companies that import original products, should cooperate with the committee if they have any information,” he said. “We will make efforts and have a strong commitment to benefit the people, the consumers, to manufacturers, as well as the businesspeople, to give them the opportunity to run a successful business by not allowing counterfeit products to undermine original ones,” he added.

US To Examine Cambodian Food Standards B2B CAMBODiA 14th Aug 2017
The United States, one of the Cambodia’s key trading partners, is going to assess sanitary and phyto-sanitary standards in Cambodia, opening up the opportunity for Cambodian agricultural products to be exported to the US. Sanitary and phyto-sanitary standards were one of topics discussed by Cambodian delegates and US trade representatives on strategic actions to taken to broaden and strengthen trade and investment under the US-Cambodia Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA).

Ministers of Agriculture in Mekong agree to step up the cooperation on boosting food safety AKP 8th Sep 2017
Agriculture ministers in the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) today endorsed a five-year strategy and action plan to build a region-wide food safety system. According to a news release of the Asian Development Bank (ADB), the system will be based on mutually recognised, science-based standards, product tracing, and information sharing, especially on hazard lists for key commodities. ADB hosts the Secretariat of the GMS, which comprises Cambodia, the People’s Republic of China (specifically, Yunnan Province and Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region), the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam.

Cambodia’s first mega solar farm being realised AKP 8th Sep 2017
Cambodia welcomes the country’s first-ever mega solar farm expected to feed 10 megawatts of power supply, according to a recent official Facebook post by the Ministry of Environment. Sitting in Bavet – a largest city of Svay Rieng province – the solar farm is operated by Sunseap Asset (Cambodia), the local subsidiary of Singapore-based Sunseap International, in cooperation with Cambodia’s Electricity Authority. The post quoted Director General of Electricité du Cambodge [Electricity of Cambodia] H.E. Keo Ratanak highlighting that the development means a milestone for the Royal Government of Cambodia’s effort to utilise renewable energy like solar power, which is harmless to the environment.

AgriTech accelerator for the Mekong region launched AKP 8th Sep 2017
As the Greater Mekong Subregion countries is conducting its three-day (Sept. 6-8) Second Agriculture Ministers’ Meeting in Siem Reap province, Cambodia, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and Australia launched a new agritech accelerator that will harness entrepreneurship and technology to transform the Mekong region’s agriculture industry into a leading global supplier of safe and nutritious food for all. Named MATCh (Mekong Agriculture Technology Challenges), the startup accelerator will support startups in agriculture to develop their products, network and learn from industry players, showcase their solutions, and access markets and funding. It is aimed at innovative early stage agritech startups and traditional agriculture businesses with new, scalable business models in Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, and Vietnam.

MBI launches initiative to boost agro sector Phnom Penh Post 7th Sep 2017
The Mekong Business Initiative (MBI) launched a new agritech accelerator programme in Siem Reap on September 6 that aims to harness entrepreneurship and technology to transform the region’s agricultural industry into a leading global food supplier, according to a press release. The Mekong Agriculture Technology Challenge is an initiative backed by the Asian Development Bank and the Australian government to support agricultural startups to develop products and regional supply chains. The programme is aimed at innovative early stage agritech startups and traditional agriculture businesses that have scalable business models in Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam.

Government says reports of GM crops in Cambodia are ungrounded Phnom Penh Post 7th Sep 2017
The government has denied the presence of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in the agricultural sector amid persistent reports that some local farmers may already be cultivating genetically engineered “hybrid” seeds, warning that countries could restrict or ban the import of Cambodian agricultural products if use of the biotechnology is confirmed.

Ministry of Rural Development, KOICA host a workshop on Model Village AKP 6th Sep 2017
The Ministry of Rural Development (MRD) in collaboration with the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) organised on Sept. 4 a Dissemination Workshop of Self-Supporting Rural Development Project with Saemaul Undong’s Participatory Approach. The event took place at KOICA’s recently-inaugurated Cambodia-Korea Rural Development Centre under the presidency of Minister of Rural Development H.E. Ouk Rabun, Ambassador of the Republic of Korea to Cambodia H.E. Kim Weonjin, and Director of KOICA Cambodia office, Mr. Jeong Yun Gil. According to a news release of KOICA, this workshop aims to introduce the new operational guideline to implement grassroots project of the year 2017-2018 and to share successful story from the excellent performance model village. In addition, this workshop is also to give Reward of Recognition to the outstanding villages for their best effort to implement village development project during 2016-2017.

Interest in going organic grows with local farmers Phnom Penh Post 6th Sep 2017
The Cambodian Centre for Study and Development in Agriculture (Cedac), an organisation that supports local farming families and agricultural development projects, has seen strong interest in organic farming and expects to double the number of certified organic farmers and area under cultivation within a year. “Farmers are increasingly interested in organic certification since it allows them to sell their products at a higher price and ensures that there is always a market for their goods, even if the organic farming process is complicated,” Cedac founder and former President Yang Saing Koma said on September 5.

Cambodia seeks Malaysia’s support in Halal food production training AKP 5th Sep 2017
Cambodian Prime Minister Samdech Akka Moha Sena Padei Techo Hun Sen has asked Malaysia to help training Cambodian Muslims on halal food production. The request was made here yesterday afternoon when the premier received visiting Minister in the Malaysian Prime Minister’s Department H.E. Dato’ Seri Jamil Khir Baharom, H.E. Eang Sophalleth, Assistant to Samdech Techo Hun Sen, told reporters after the meeting. The Cambodian leader also requested the Malaysian side to encourage more investors to Cambodia to invest in different sectors, especially in halal food production for export.

Cambodia, New Zealand sign MoU on agricultural cooperation AKP 1st Sep 2017
A memorandum of understanding on agricultural cooperation between Cambodia and New Zealand was signed here early this week at the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF). The signing ceremony took place under the presidency of H.E. Veng Sakhon, Minister of MAFF and H.E. Ben King, outgoing Ambassador of New Zealand to Cambodia. According to the MAFF’s news release, the MoU’s goal is to promote local agricultural productivity, boost local products, increase income and employment opportunities, and improve food safety. This five-year MoU worth NZD 6,475 million focuses on the strengthening the capacity of relevant officials and private sector in growing safe and good quality vegetable for local supply in order to reduce the import.

Encouraging exports of Cavendish bananas to Asia and Europe AKP 31st Aug 2017
Export of Cavendish bananas from Cambodia to Asian and European markets by a Vietnamese company is encouraging for the future of the fruit industry, according to a local media report. While the company has enabled production capacity of 150 tons of Cavendish bananas per day, added the source, only between 100 and 120 tons of the fruit a day are being available. Senior Representative of Hoang Anh Andong Meas Co., a subsidiary of Hoang Anh Gia Lai, was quoted in the source saying that his company is honoured to get licensed for operation in Cambodia and that it is expanding its production capacity. As cited in the report, the company’s General Manager Mr. Than Vutha said that its biggest export destinations are Asia, especially China and Japan, and Europe.

Hydroponic farming to be tested in Cambodia Khmer Times 25th Aug 2017
Japanese company Asian Gateway (Cambodia) will soon conduct a pilot project with a hydroponic farm in Cambodia. It will be tested at the Royal University of Agriculture (Chamkar Dong campus) in the first stage and after that will be used as a model for farmers and the private sector to implement across the whole nation. Asian Gateway’s president and founder, Tomonori Kimura, said at a meeting with Agriculture Minister Veng Sakhon on Wednesday that the hydroponic farm will be done in cooperation with the Royal University of Agriculture in Cambodia.

Government directs support to rice farmers Phnom Penh Post 15th Aug 2017
The government announced yesterday that it would “intervene” to support the price that farmers receive for their paddy rice, though without instituting a price floor or direct subsidies that would jeopardise a free market. Vongsey Vissoth, secretary of state at the Ministry of Economy and Finance (MEF), told representatives of the private sector and agricultural cooperatives that the government would take action to prop up the price that local rice farmers receive for their harvest.

Cambodian Agriculture Minister Presides Over Field Day on Potato Production in a Northeastern Province Agence Kampuchea Presse 15th Aug 2017
H.E. Veng Sakhon, Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, presided over the Field Day on Potato Production in Cambodia held in Mondulkiri, a red-dirt northeastern province, on Aug. 8. Ambassador of the Republic of Korea H.E. Kim Weon Jin was also present on the occasion. Mr. Sok Kheang, Director of Mondulkiri Provincial Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, said with the financial support from Korea Project on International Agriculture (KOPIA), the Royal University of Agriculture has been cooperating with Dankook, a Korean university, in testing the planting of potato varieties in the province.

Kingdom courts rice deal with Bangladesh Phnom Penh Post 15th Aug 2017
The Kingdom’s apex rice industry body has been meeting this week to discuss ways of nailing down a potentially massive deal with Bangladesh, which earlier this month inked a memorandum of understanding to purchase 1 million tonnes of Cambodian rice over the next five years. Bangladesh has been shopping around to fill its silos after devastating floods earlier this year reportedly wiped out a potential 700,000 tonnes of rice under cultivation, leading to a severe food shortage. Its government has reportedly discussed import deals with Thailand, Vietnam and India, but has yet to settle on a supplier. The Cambodia Rice Federation (CRF) convened on Tuesday for a strategy session aimed at clinching Bangladesh’s initial order of 250,000 tonnes of rice. The shipment calls for 200,000 tonnes of white rice and 50,000 tonnes of parboiled rice to be delivered in October.

US examines food standards Khmer Times 14th Aug 2017
The United States, one of the Cambodia’s key trading partners, is going to assess sanitary and phyto-sanitary standards in Cambodia, opening up the opportunity for Cambodian agricultural products to be exported to the US. Sanitary and phyto-sanitary standards were one of topics discussed by Cambodian delegates and US trade representatives on strategic actions to taken to broaden and strengthen trade and investment under the US-Cambodia Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA). Hean Vanhan, director-general of the Agriculture Ministry said it was important for Cambodia to be able to export agricultural products to the US because it was one of the big markets for Cambodia.

GMS ministers to meet in Siem Reap Khmer Times 11th Aug 2017
The second Greater Mekong Subregion Agriculture Ministers Meeting will be held in Siem Reap province early next month, with agro-food products, exploring new markets for agricultural products and solving issues in the sector expected to be high on the agenda. The meeting of agriculture ministers will be held from September 6 to 8 in Siem Reap province, home to the famed Angkor Wat, and one of the topics up for discussion will be agro-tourism. Agriculture ministers from the six GMS countries – Cambodia, China, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam – will attend the event and discuss the most important issues in agricultural sectors of the sub-region, said Hean Vanhan, director-general of the Agriculture Ministry’s general directorate of agriculture. As well as the main meeting, dialogue will be held between bilateral parties, Mr Vanhan said. “The main topics in the meeting will focus on increasing productivity in the agriculture sectors of the sub-region countries and also potential markets for agricultural products,” he said.

$5 million horticulture project Khmer Times 9th Aug 2017
New Zealand is to provide $5 million to support  the sustainable development of horticulture over a five-year period in Cambodia, New Zealand’s foreign minister Gerry Brownlee announced on Monday. New Zealand and Cambodia will soon sign a partnership arrangement in Phnom Penh to launch the initiative, according to Mr Brownlee who was quoted in a New Zealand government press release. He said that that the Cambodia Quality Horticulture Initiative will help Cambodian farmers increase their income by diversifying into more sustainable crops that will in turn improve production and food safety. “As in New Zealand, horticulture is essential to the Cambodian economy,” Mr Brownlee said. He said that as part of the initiative, New Zealand Crown Research Institute Plant & Food Research would provide Cambodia with the technical expertise to support the sustainable production and distribution of produce to markets. “The initiative will work closely with local partners that are supporting and sourcing produce from smallholder farmers.”

Health & Life Sciences

Exhaustion causes 73 to faint at H&M factory in Cambodia DailySabah 30th Aug 2017
Over 70 garment factory workers at an H&M supplier factory in Cambodia fainted due to exhaustion on Wednesday, according to local media. Government-aligned Fresh News reported that up to 73 female garment workers fainted at Berry Apparel due to ill health, and most were transported to local hospitals for treatment. The garment industry is the mainstay of Cambodia's economy and the single biggest employer of women, with some 500 factories hiring almost 500,000 female workers. Over the years, Cambodian apparel factories have become infamous for mass faintings, which are ascribed to excessive working hours, high temperatures and a poor diet.

NUS study: Deforestation in Cambodia linked to higher risk of ill health in young children NUS News 28th Aug 2017
Researchers from the National University of Singapore (NUS) have found that the loss of dense forest in Cambodia was associated with higher risk of diarrhoea, acute respiratory infection, and fever – which are major sources of global childhood morbidity and mortality – in children younger than five years old. Led by Assistant Professor Roman Carrasco from the Department of Biological Sciences at the NUS Faculty of Science, the team analysed health survey data from 35,547 households in 1,766 communities between 2005 and 2014, to investigate the relationship between child health and protected areas across different forest types in Cambodia. Mr Thomas Pienkowski, who is the first author of the study, said, “Currently, there are limited studies on the health benefits that forests may provide. Most research looking at the impact of deforestation on health focuses on single diseases, thus making it challenging to integrate into policy. Furthermore, it is unclear how these environmental threats can be mitigated, and if conservation tools such as protected areas can play a role.”

Manganese in Underground Drinking Water Is Cause for Concern Lab Manager 28th Aug 2017
Underground drinking water sources in parts of the U.S. and three Asian countries may not be as safe as previously thought due to high levels of manganese, especially at shallow depths, according to a study led by a researcher at the University of California, Riverside. Manganese, a metal that is required by the body in tiny amounts, can be toxic at elevated levels, particularly in children. Samantha Ying, an assistant professor of environmental sciences in UCR's College of Natural and Agricultural Sciences, led the study, which was published recently in Environmental Science & Technology. The paper describes manganese levels that exceed World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines in groundwater wells in Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, and the Glacial Aquifer, which spans 26 states in the northern U.S. and provides drinking water to more than 41 million Americans. Of the four regions, the Glacial Aquifer had the fewest contaminated wells.

Permanent Ban on Commercial Surrogacy Planned The Cambodia Daily 23rd Aug 2017
Commercial surrogacy in Cambodia will be permanently and completely banned if a long-awaited draft law is approved, according to an official on Tuesday at the Women’s Affairs Ministry, which began drafting the legislation nearly a year ago. “The main content of the law is that we absolutely ban commercial surrogacy, and any actions that get benefit or profit from surrogacy are completely banned,” ministry spokesman Phon Puthborey said on Tuesday. The government clamped down on the then-burgeoning and unregulated industry suddenly in October, announcing an emergency ban on the practice following similar bans in neighboring countries. Stephen Page, an Australian lawyer who specializes in surrogacy, said the ban had “long been predicted.”

SokhaKrom App enhances healthcare accessibility Phnom Penh Post 22nd Aug 2017
Cambodia’s IT industry is flourishing with the creation of innovative apps. The latest app to hit the market is providing a platform to make locating medical professionals and health services easier. Sok Sopheakmonkol, CEO and founder of startup company Codingate, said he pinpointed some issues in Cambodia’s healthcare system which he wanted to address through the free app. “I wanted to help cut down healthcare expenses and enhance access to healthcare services for Cambodian people,” he said. “With the SokhaKrom App, we want to positively contribute to the healthcare system.” The app provides easy navigation and details of the nearest pharmacies, hospitals, dental clinics or medical specialists, with an additional feature being short reviews that are made by the users.

Preventing noncommunicable diseases in Cambodia Phnom Penh Post 7th Aug 2017
The past century witnessed a global revolution in the control of communicable diseases. This was accomplished by improved access to clean water and sanitation, and by applying new scientific knowledge to population-based public health strategies and services, such as universal vaccine coverage to protect children against diseases such as measles and polio. In the 21st century, the unprecedented rise of noncommunicable diseases (NCD), particularly diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer and chronic respiratory disease, pose a new and urgent threat that may overwhelm these gains. There is clear evidence that the burden of NCDs in Cambodia is increasing. In 2014, these diseases caused more than half (52 percent) of all deaths in Cambodia, up from 46 percent in 2011. Nearly one in every five NCD deaths are people under age 70.

Hun Sen Promises Free Hospital Treatment, Checkups for Workers The Cambodia Daily 28th Aug 2017
In yet another potentially major new benefit to Cambodian workers ahead of next year’s national election, Prime Minister Hun Sen on Sunday announced that employees in some of the country’s key industries would soon be able to receive free checkups and treatment at state hospitals. The announcement came exactly a week after he showered a raft of new benefits on the country’s roughly 700,000 garment workers, in what many see as an unabashed bid for their votes in a coming election race expected to be closely run by the opposition CNRP, which pulled strong support from garment workers in 2013.

Thailand to offer longer healthcare visas to CLMV Khmer Times 15th Aug 2017
Thailand’s healthcare and wellness business is expected to grow since the Thai government’s visa extension scheme for people from Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Vietnam (CLMV) and China, who go to the country for medical treatment. The government is also extending long-stay, 10-year visas for citizens of 14 countries. The visa extensions are intended to enhance Thailand’s position as a world-class medical tourism hub, Noppadon Pakprot, the deputy governor for tourism products and business at the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT), told the Bangkok Post.

ICT

Malware vulnerability high in Kingdom, report notes Phnom Penh Post 4th Sep 2017
Cambodia is among the most vulnerable countries in Asia when it comes to viruses, spam, spyware and other cyberthreats, according to a recent report from Microsoft.

Paperless trade on the horizon Khmer Times 30th Aug 2017
Cambodia yesterday signed the framework agreement on the Facilitation of Cross-border Paperless Trade in Asia and the Pacific which aims to strengthen digital trade in the region. Once Cambodia ratifies the agreement, there are more benefits to Cambodia in terms of trade with other countries in the region who are members of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP), said Soeung Sophary, spokesperson for the Ministry of Commerce. “It will help digitalise Cambodia’s trade with other countries without using hard copies, which will save operations cost and quicken the time for approvals and coordination,” said Ms Sophary. According to UNESCAP, the treaty will come into force 90 days after countries have ratified the agreement.

Push to connect rural areas Khmer Times 29th Aug 2017
Telecommunication operators are being pushed to develop connecting telecommunication infrastructure to enable Information and Communication Technology (ICT) connectivity from urban to rural areas. The push has been made ahead of the release of the government’s ICT master plan for 2020. The connectivity of telecommunications and ICT is now available only in major cities across the country, but in rural areas telecommunication infrastructure development is needed, said experts in the industry at the edotco-organised International Infrastructure Summit held yesterday. The challenges for Cambodia’s ICT is connecting everyone in urban and rural areas, the experts said, while things like the digital economy, increasing digital startups and digital payment gateways are already in place. Tram Iv Tek, the Telecom Minister, said Cambodia’s ambition was to be digitally connected by 2020 and he recognised the crucial role played by public/private partnerships in achieving ICT readiness.

Ministry Orders Hardware, Software Companies to Register The Cambodia Daily 25th Aug 2017
The Telecommunications Ministry has begun disseminating information about a new requirement for technology companies to register for a license with the ministry. A broad range of companies, from tech startups and fintech companies to shops hawking keyboards, memory sticks and mouses, are affected by the change. In a sub-decree released last month, the ministry asked all companies that fall within information and communications technology (ICT) to apply for a license, but some entrepreneurs were unsure how it would apply to their businesses. According to the document signed on July 21, the ministry will require businesses who make or distribute computer hardware or software and companies related to technology to apply for a license.

Smart Axiata launches 4.5G services in Cambodia The Nation 22nd Aug 2017
Mobile operator Smart Axiata became the first company to launch 4.5G services in the Cambodia yesterday, a move that will position the firm to supply faster download and upload speeds when more devices carry the latest technology. The company’s CEO, Thomas Hundt, said 1,500 base stations have already been outfitted with 4.5G technology with the support of Chinese tech giant Huawei. He said while currently only three mobile handset models support the new technology, the infrastructure was being laid in preparation for the widespread adoption of 4.5G-capable devices.

Infrastructure

Room for growth in Cambodia’s aviation market Khmer Times 28th Aug 2017
Bassaka Air began operations in 2014 with the launch of its first flight from Phnom Penh to Macau. Three years later, it now flies to six destinations with plans for further expansion. Bassaka Air’s CEO Mark E Thibault recently spoke to Khmer Times’ Sok Chan and stressed that strategic partnerships were crucial for the small airline to survive in a competitive aviation market. KT: What are the efforts of Bassaka Air to assist the government to encourage two million Chinese tourists to visit Cambodia by 2020? Mr Thibault: I met with Tourism Minister Thong Khon and he told me about the China Ready campaign. I told him we were all set to assist. We have to go to the next level now by buying more aircraft, expanding office space and also bringing in Chinese speaking representatives into our commercial group. We also have to refurbish our old aircraft to make them more efficient. We realise that China is a very large market and also we want the Chinese travellers to experience Cambodian hospitality all the way from getting on a Bassaka Air plane and arriving in either Phnom Penh, Siem Reap or Sihanoukville and then returning back to China.

The Southern Economic Corridor: Boosting Trade and Investment in Cambodia ASEAN Business News 11th Aug 2017
Stretching eastwards from Myanmar through Thailand and Cambodia to Vietnam, the Southern Economic Corridor (SEC) aims to further integrate the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) by improving connectivity and trade. In Cambodia, new clusters are growing around border towns and in existing industrial hubs along the route of the SEC. Foreign businesses are investing in Cambodia, benefiting from both the country’s cheap labor pool as well as the improved connectivity brought on by the SEC.  The SEC is one of the many development projects initiated in the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS). The GMS is a natural economic area loosely connected by the Mekong River – the 12th longest river in the world. The GMS spans an area of 2.6 million square kilometers and a total population of 339 million people, as of 2015. In 2015, trade within the GMS amounted to US$444 billion.

Cambodia port investment to boost trade volumes Just-Style 9th Aug 2017
Trade volumes at Cambodia's Sihanoukville port are expected to grow thanks to Japanese investment that will see the construction of a new container terminal and improved cargo handling capacity. The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) aid organisation on Monday (7 August) signed a loan agreement with the Government of Cambodia in Tokyo to provide up to JPY23.5bn (US$214.2m) for the Sihanoukville Port New Container Terminal Development Project. JICA took a 13.5% stake in Cambodia's Port Authority of Sihanoukville (PAS) in June, via the authority's listing on the Cambodia Securities Exchange, deepening its involvement in a port it has helped to develop since 1999.

Cambodia to ask Japan to invest $800 million in skytrain Reuters 7th Aug 2017
Cambodia will ask Japan to invest $800 million in a skytrain system for the capital Phnom Penh, Prime Minister Hun Sen said on Monday during a visit to Tokyo. Inadequate infrastructure, particularly in rural areas, has partly deterred investors in Cambodia, one of the world's poorest countries. Hun Sen said on Facebook the skytrain would link the capital to its international airport. "Currently, many Japanese investors are interested in investing in Cambodia," Hun Sen said. Hun Sen, who is on a three-day visit to Japan, said Cambodia and Japan would also sign two other agreements following talks with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe expected later on Monday.

DHL invests B2.7bn in supply chain Bangkok Post 23rd Aug 2017
DHL Supply Chain, the world's leading logistics service provider, will invest 2.7 billion baht over the next three years to grow its footprint in this region. The outlay is specifically earmarked for Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia and Myanmar where the firm, part of Deutsche Post DHL Group, wants to tap growing logistics demand. The investment will go towards building new warehouse facilities, expanding its fleet of trucks, and introduction of new technology. That is expected to boost the company's combined warehouse space in those countries to 1.44 million square metres by 2020, creating 7,000 more jobs for a total of 17,000, said Kevin Burrell, chief executive of DHL Supply Chain for the Thailand cluster, which includes neighbouring states.

Hun Sen seeks hydropower deal with Thailand Bangkok Post 7th Aug 2017
The Cambodian government is to ask Thailand for help to build a hydropower plant in the border province of Koh Kong. Speaking at a cabinet meeting on Friday, Prime Minister Hun Sen said a possible agreement on the construction will be discussed by ministers from the two countries in Siem Reap from Sept 7-8. “We will use the third joint Cambodia-Thailand cabinet meeting to discuss an agreement to cooperate on building Stung Metek hydropower plant in Koh Kong province, on the border with Thailand’s Trat province,” the Khmer Times on Monday quoted Hun Sen as saying said. If the deal is successful, Hun Sen said it could be a good model for the country to develop its border areas with Laos and Vietnam in the future. “The more we can develop the borders the better it is for our whole country’s development. Countries develop based on two main factors -- domestic stability and development at the borders,” he said.

Manufacturing

Industry 4.0: Executives on how ‘smart factories’ will impact Cambodia Phnom Penh Post 30th Aug 2017
The next industrial revolution will introduce “smart factories” in which computers and robotics communicating wirelessly will handle physical processes with very little input from human operators, leaving few job opportunities for unskilled workers, executives of German industrial giants said during a briefing in Phnom Penh on Friday. The event, titled “Industry 4.0, the Next Level of Manufacturing”, focused on the future of the internet and advanced technologies in the manufacturing sector, including its impact on human labour. Markus Lorenzini, president and CEO of Siemens Thailand, said the “Fourth Industrial Revolution” was already in progress and would bring increased flexibility and efficiency to industry while increasing the demand for skilled labour.

Cambodia’s only rum distillery is taking on the world Southeast Asia Globe 30th Aug 2017
It’s not uncommon to see groups of guys gathered on the streets of Cambodia sharing swigs from plastic bottles filled with homemade rice wine. But the country, with its bountiful sugar cane, is also hospitable to a more refined spirit – namely, rum. As Cambodia’s first and only rum distillery, Samai is leading the way in helping the Kingdom onto the world drinks map – and it has put a true Cambodian spin on the tipple with its Kampot Pepper Rum. Even before Kampot pepper entered the mix, the distillery sought out local ingredients such as honey from Ratanakiri province and molasses from Koh Kong province. Thereafter, it made perfect sense to find a way to incorporate Kampot pepper – widely considered one of the world’s best peppers. The rum itself carries a sweet aroma with hints of guava and eucalyptus.

Factories encouraged to invest more in tech Phnom Penh Post 28th Aug 2017
The industry body for Cambodia’s garment manufacturers urged local factory owners to invest in the latest technology and machinery to increase efficiency and become more competitive as the country shifts to higher value-added manufacturing. Speaking at the launch of the annual Cambodia International Textile and Garment Industry Exhibition and the Cambodia International Machinery Industry Fair last Friday, Ly Tek Heng, operation manager at the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia, said that the organisation’s nearly 600 members need to seek out the best machinery for production. “From now on, producing higher-value products is necessary for our garment industry,” he said. “That is why we need to invest more in modern machineries with the latest technologies.”

NGOs Are Optimistic as Mining Regulations Move Forward The Cambodia Daily 18th Aug 2017
A report on the government’s efforts to install a new regulatory framework for a nascent mining industry paints an overall positive picture, while noting more than a dozen gaps in the rules that need to be addressed. Released by anticorruption NGO Transparency International Cambodia (TIC) on Wednesday, the report is intended to inform the government’s ongoing overhaul of regulations for mining exploration and industrial mining licenses. Extracted materials accounted for 0.1 percent of exports last year, the report notes, though the industry is expected to grow as infrastructure and regulations develop. At a conference in June between NGOs, mining companies and the Mines and Energy Ministry, officials reviewed a draft of the report and made recommendations, and the ministry agreed to address the problems raised in the final report by the end of next year.