China pledges support for Cambodia election after EU, withdraw Reuters 28th Dec 2017
China will provide equipment for Cambodia’s 2018 election, including ballot boxes and booths, an official said on Thursday, the first such pledge from abroad since the European Union and the United States withdrew their support. China is Cambodia’s biggest foreign donor. The two countries have become increasingly close amid an ongoing crackdown by Cambodia’s government on critics, civil society groups and independent media that rights group say amounts to the destruction of democracy. The European Union and the United States withdrew their backing for the election after a court dissolved the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) in November at the government’s request. In 2016 China, which has contributed to Cambodian elections since the reinstatement of national polls in 1993, donated vehicles and other supplies worth some $11 million.
Detained Cambodian opposition leader calls for free and fair vote Reuters 1st Jan 2018
Cambodia’s detained opposition leader Kem Sokha called for free and fair elections in the Southeast Asian country in a New Year’s message on Monday. Kem Sokha, head of the banned opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), was arrested in September. He is accused of trying to overthrow the government of strongman Prime Minister Hun Sen with American help and of espionage - charges he denies and says are politically motivated. In a two-page letter read by his daughter Kem Monovithya and posted on Facebook on Monday, Kem Sokha said Cambodia faces losing aid and its export markets abroad as well as condemnation by the international community after the CNRP’s dissolution.
Cambodia's Hun Sen vows to stay in power for at least another 10 years Reuters 27th Dec 2017
Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen vowed to extend his more than 30 years in power by at least another decade on Wednesday, weeks after the highest court dissolved the main opposition party ahead of a 2018 general election. The Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) was dissolved in November at the request of Hun Sen’s government, signaling what one rights group called the “death knell” for democracy in the Southeast Asian country. At a speech given to thousands of garment workers on Wednesday at a pagoda on the outskirts of Phnom Penh, Hun Sen said he would stay in power for another two terms and asked workers to vote for his Cambodian People’s Party (CPP).
Hun Sen says Cambodia is self-sufficient and does not need other countries to 'destroy peace anymore' The Straits Times 25th Dec 2017
Prime Minister Hun Sen repeated his insistence that Cambodia is self-sufficient and does not need the support of outside countries on Saturday (Dec 23), while continuing to equate "peace" with development. During the opening ceremony of the sixth Sea Festival in Kep, the Premier called on citizens to "unite together to protect peace", which he seemed to contend is under threat due to foreign interference. Throughout a crackdown on the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) that saw the group dissolved and its leader Kem Sokha arrested, the government has accused the US, the EU and some international NGOs and media outlets of backing a conspiracy to overthrow the government. Since the CNRP's dissolution, the US and EU have pulled funding for the upcoming national elections, and the former has applied visa sanctions on certain government officials.
Cambodia Breaks With the West The Diplomat 22nd Dec 2017
The dissolution of the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), the only relevant opposition party in Cambodia, caught a lot attention abroad, but was not the main event in 2017. It was just one part of a fundamental strategic change that affects not only Cambodia’s domestic politics, but also its international relations. The deterioration of Cambodia’s ties to the United States was merely collateral damage of the democratic destruction. Instead, during the whole year, tensions were actively pushed by the Cambodian government, without a sufficiently plausible reason. With the visa sanctions imposed by the United States in early December, relations reached a new low, with grave disadvantages for both sides.
Panel calls for strong measures against Cambodian government Phnom Penh Post 21st Dec 2017
Politicians and civil society members in New York called on the United Nations to take harsh measures to restore democracy in Cambodia during a panel on Tuesday, even recommending leaving Cambodia’s seat at the UN empty and putting senior ruling party officials on a blacklist. The discussion, co-hosted by the missions of the United States and European Union to the UN, was held by Kem Monovithya, former opposition official and daughter of jailed opposition leader Kem Sokha; Cambodian Center for Independent Media (CCIM) head Pa Nguon Teang; and Human Rights Watch Asia Advocacy Director John Sifton. In the panel, recorded by Radio Free Asia, Monovithya asked the signatories of the 1991 Paris Peace Accords to ask the UN to review Cambodia’s membership.
Cambodia's Hun Sen challenges EU and to freeze assets Reuters 15th Dec 2017
Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen encouraged the United States and European Union on Friday to freeze the assets of Cambodian leaders abroad in response to his government’s crackdown on the opposition and civil society. Hun Sen, the strongman who has ruled Cambodia for more than three decades, has taken a strident anti-Western line ahead of a 2018 election and has dismissed donor criticism of the dissolution of the main opposition party. The United States and European Union have suspended funding for next year’s election and Washington has put visa curbs on some Cambodian leaders. There is no current proposal for asset freezes by either the United States or European Union, but some lawmakers have floated the idea.
Ex-Cambodia opposition officials challenge politics ban The Straits Times 12th Dec 2017
Senior members of the now-dissolved opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) have filed a complaint to the Supreme Court asking that it reopen last month's dissolution case to allow them to submit evidence, even though there is no legal recourse for appeal of a decision by the highest court. In a near-universally condemned decision, the court ruled on Nov 16 to dissolve the country's main opposition, the CNRP, and to ban 118 of its officials from politics for five years. "We are not satisfied with the verdict of the Supreme Court and are filing a complaint to demand the Supreme Court reopen the hearing," reads the new request, signed by former deputy president Pol Ham, chief whip Son Chhay and others.
Defense minister responds to US over visa restriction Khmer Times 7th Dec 2017
Defense Minister General Tea Banh responded strongly to the United States which restricted visa for some government officials over the dissolution of the CNRP. Speaking at the National Disabled Persons Day this morning, Gen Banh said that it is their business, so they can do whatever they want, in reference to the US state department statement. He said that the US should consider about its own affairs with the investigation into the alleged Russian involvement with the US elections of last year and what happens in Cambodia as both are based on the rule of law.
US to issue visa sanctions against Cambodian officials ‘undermining democracy’ Phnom Penh Post 7th Dec 2017
The US State Department will issue visa restrictions on individuals “involved in undermining democracy in Cambodia”, the Trump administration announced overnight yesterday, following the dissolution of the main opposition party last month and the arrest in September of former opposition leader Kem Sokha. According to a press statement by department spokesperson Heather Nauert, the step is in “direct response to the Cambodian government’s series of anti-democratic actions”, citing the Cambodia National Rescue Party dissolution, the banning of its officials from politics, Sokha’s imprisonment, restrictions on civil society and the “suppression of independent media”.
U.S. to Restrict Visas for Cambodians Undermining Democracy Time 7th Dec 2017
The Trump administration announced Wednesday it will restrict visas for Cambodians “undermining democracy” in the Southeast Asian nation following the dissolution of the main opposition party and a crackdown on independent media. The State Department said it was a direct response to “anti-democratic actions” by the Cambodian government but did not disclose which individuals would be affected. It said visa records are confidential under U.S. law.
Sink-or-swim time for ASEAN latecomers as tariffs come down Nikkei Asian Review 1st Jan 2018
Defense & Security
Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam are no longer getting the kid-gloves treatment in the ASEAN Economic Community. As late entrants to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, the four countries were initially exempted from abolishing some tariffs when the bloc established the AEC at the end of 2015. As of Monday, however, they are fully integrated members of the community -- with all that entails. Now, the AEC is expected to pursue deeper economic integration by lowering nontariff barriers and relaxing investment rules.
Joint Patrols Put Vietnam-Cambodia Military Ties in the Headlines The Diplomat 13th Dec 2017
Last week, representatives from the navies of both Vietnam and Cambodia met for another iteration of their ongoing meeting to discuss what both sides have designated as joint patrols. The interaction offered a glimpse into one manifestation of defense realm of the relationship as both sides commemorate their 50th anniversary this year. Vietnam-Cambodia ties are longstanding and Hanoi continues to factor prominently in Phnom Penh’s foreign relations today; one rhetorical manifestation of this being the continued references in official statements to Hanoi’s role in overthrowing the Khmer Rouge in 1979 which paved the way for the current regime led by Prime Minister Hun Sen in 1979 (albeit with a more positive spin focused on saving Cambodia from the genocidal Pol Pot regime). Ties are maintained not only at the national level, but also between local authorities and groups in managing more sensitive areas of the relationship such as resolving outstanding border issues.
What’s With the New Philippines-Cambodia Military Pact? The Diplomat 8th Dec 2017
This week, the Philippine and Cambodian governments announced that they had concluded a new defense pact following the second iteration of a joint commission set up to advance bilateral cooperation. Though details are still quite sparse, the development nonetheless highlighted the ongoing collaboration between the two countries since President Rodrigo Duterte came to power last year. Though the historical ties between the Philippines and Cambodia stretch back centuries, the formal establishment of contemporary ties began in 1957 and continued despite the turbulence that the Vietnam War and the rise and fall of the Khmer Rouge generated. While agreements had been signed on various issues in the post-Cold War period, the countries more recently decided to set up a Joint Commission for Bilateral Consultations (JCBC), which would be a forum for both sides to review past agreements and undertake new areas of cooperation as well.
Pushed to the capital’s margins Khmer Times 3rd Jan 2018
Cambodia is rapidly growing, and nowhere else in the country is that fact better reflected than by the state of its capital, Phnom Penh. The city – once seen as just another pit-stop for hardy tourists who wanted to make their way around the ‘Banana Pancake’ trail – is rapidly expanding, both in terms of land and population size, as well as in its diversity. But with growth, comes a conundrum – the parallel increase in inequality. Figures relating to the distribution of income in Cambodia wildly vary from one agency to another, but on average, the Gini coefficient for the kingdom is worryingly high for a developing nation. The Asian Development Bank, for instance, estimated that in 2014, on average, the richest 20 percent of households in Cambodia consume five times as much as the poorest 20 percent.
Cambodia's export under GSP up 19 pct in 2017 - Xinhua | English.news.cn Xinhua 27th Dec 2017
Cambodia exported products worth 9.5 billion U.S. dollars under the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) in 2017, up 19 percent from 8 billion U.S. dollars in 2016, according to a Commerce Ministry's annual report on Wednesday. The country's export from its 11 special economic zones was valued at 1.19 billion U.S. dollars this year, up 12 percent from 1.06 billion U.S. dollars last year, the report said. In its status as a Least Developed Country, Cambodia has received GSP from many countries which allow its products to be exported to their markets with reduced tariffs or duty-free.
Gold processing to begin next year Khmer Times 19th Dec 2017
Following the recent approval of its environment and social impact assessment by the Ministry of Environment, the kingdom’s first gold-processing plant will begin operations next year, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Mines and Energy said on Monday. The new factory will be built by Indian mining firm Mesco Gold, which was granted the first commercial mining licence in Cambodia in September last year for its Phum Syarung gold mine in Ratanakkiri province. “They will start their factory sometime during the first or second quarter of the coming year,” said Yos Monirath, spokesman for the Ministry of Mines. He said the new facility will be a medium-sized plant, but did not specify its exact capacity.
ASU research offers hydropower dam energy solution without sacrificing Mekong food supply ASU Now 7th Dec 2017
The Mekong River is an economic engine for fishermen and a food source for millions of people worldwide. Nearly 100 hydropower dams are planned for construction along tributaries off the river’s 2,700-mile stretch, which flows through Burma, China, Vietnam, Laos, Thailand and Cambodia. But while the dams are expected to provide clean energy to the region, if not managed properly, they also have the potential to offset natural river patterns, which would damage food production, supply and business. Arizona State University Professor John Sabo and collaborators have proposed a solution in the Dec. 8 issue of Science magazine that allows dam operators to generate power in ways that also protect — and possibly improve — food supplies and businesses throughout the Mekong river basin. “We have figured out the relationship between river flows and fish catch, and we have developed an algorithm for dam operators to use that will increase fish harvests and still generate power,” Sabo said. “Dams are going to be built no matter how much fuss we make; our research shows how we can be more strategic about the buildout and operations of these dams in the Mekong.” The proposed solution, the first of its kind for this problem, can be applied to other large river systems around the world facing similar tradeoffs.
NBC disavows Cambodia-based digital currency Phnom Penh Post 1st Jan 2018
Food & Agriculture
The central bank has threatened legal action after a Japanese tech firm announced the development of a Cambodia-based cryptocurrency with the claim that the National Bank of Cambodia (NBC) was backing the new digital tender. The NBC, which has previously warned of fraud related to the peddling of cryptocurrencies, said in a statement that it had never allowed the purchase, sale or circulation of any form of cryptocurrency in the country.
China Looks into Agricultural Banking and Packaging Investment in Cambodia Agence Kampuchea Presse 24th Dec 2017
A Chinese firm is interested in investing in promoting loan access and packaging process in agricultural industry of Cambodia. The investment plan was revealed in a recent meeting between Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries H.E. Veng Sakhon, and visiting General Director of Weihai Dragon Union Agriculture Mr. Long Yunhai at the ministry office here in Phnom Penh.
Cabinet Ministers Discuss 3 Important Documents Agence Kampuchea Presse 22nd Dec 2017
According to the Press and Quick Reaction Unit of the Office of the Council Minister, the cabinet ministers discussed the draft National Action Programme to Combat Desertification 2017-2026, the draft Report on the Progress of the Implementation of Cambodia Industrial Development Policy 2015-2025, and the request to send the Framework Agreement on Comprehensive Economic Cooperation between the Republic of India and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to the legislative body for ratification. After the discussion, the cabinet ministers decided to return the draft National Action Programme to Combat Desertification 2017-2026 to the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries for amendments, and approved the draft Report on the Progress of the Implementation of Cambodia Industrial Development Policy 2015-2025, it added.
Export of Cambodia’s Milled Rice Increases by over 17% for First 11 Months Agence Kampuchea Presse 22nd Dec 2017
For the first 11 months of 2017, Cambodia exported a total of 562,237 tons of milled rice, up 17.20 percent compared to the same period in 2016. According to statistics of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, during the period, Cambodian milled rice was exported to 63 countries around the world, mainly to China (164,979 tons), France (70,741 tons), Poland (41,469 tons), Malaysia (35,209 tons), Bangladesh (26,970 tons), England (25,889 tons). By the end of November this year, rainy paddy rice cultivation ended successfully with 106.45 percent of the yearly plan, said the source.
Minister’s Insights in Agriculture Diversification Agence Kampuchea Presse 14th Dec 2017
Health & Life Sciences
Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries H.E. Veng Sakhon has shared insights on agriculture diversification with a Cambodia-based delegation of World Bank. Led by Ms. Chamroeun Motita, the bank’s delegation outlined its new agriculture sector diversification project in Cambodia aiming to promote farmers’ sustainable livelihood and contribute to the country’s economic growth. H.E. Veng Sakhon welcomed the initiative and suggested the team to look into rehabilitation of necessary irrigation infrastructure and application of appropriate technology that will ensure stable production and supply.
Workshop on Knowledge and Experience Sharing “Community-based Health Operation and Management Course in Japan Agence Kampuchea Presse 3rd Jan 2018
Director General of Health Techniques of the Ministry of Health H.E. Mrs. Or Vandine (Pic. 1) addresses the participants while she was presiding over the opening ceremony of a Workshop on Knowledge and Experience Sharing “Community-based Health Operation and Management Course in Japan” organised in Kampong Cham province this morning.
Premier Reminds 8 Important Points Related to Workers’ Welfare Agence Kampuchea Presse 28th Dec 2017
Prime Minister Samdech Akka Moha Sena Padei Techo Hun Sen has reminded all stakeholders of eight key points to be monitored permanently in order to improve the welfare of workers, especially those in the garment, textile and footwear sector, in 2018. While holding here yesterday a get-together with more than 14,000 workers and employees in Khan Pursenchey along the National Road No. 3, Samdech Techo Hun Sen reiterated that those eight important points are the monthly minimum wage of US$170, free medical checkup and treatment at state-owned hospitals, three-month maternity leave with 120 percent of monthly wage, maternity allowance, social protection in health schemes of which employers are in charge, house rental fees and water and electricity costs to be followed up closely, implementation of social protection in pension scheme starting from 2019, and support for overseas Cambodian migrant workers to get legal status.
Commune/Sangkat Council Members To Get Free Medical Care from 2018 Agence Kampuchea Presse 14th Dec 2017
Some 60,000 commune/Sangkat council members, and village chiefs, deputy chiefs and assistants will have access to free medical checkup and treatment at state-owned hospitals from next year onward. The announcement was made by Prime Minister Samdech Akka Moha Sena Padei Techo Hun Sen at the get-together with more than 15,000 workers and employees from 13 factories and enterprises in Kob Srov area, Khan Pursenchey, Phnom Penh yesterday.
Gains made in fight against TB Phnom Penh Post 6th Dec 2017
Cambodian health officials in a statement on Monday lauded the country’s success in cutting back the tuberculosis mortality rate by 55 percent in 16 years – a triumph highlighted in a recent WHO report, which also found a $19 million funding gap for TB in the country this year. While the Ministry of Health’s National Center for Tuberculosis and Leprosy Control, in a statement, attributed the gains mainly to the commitment of the Cambodian government, the report shows that the government only contributed $3.5 million to the national TB budget for 2017, less than 10 percent of the total $37 million budget. International donors put forward $14 million, leaving the rest unfunded.
Cambodia regulator to stop intervening in "epic price war" between mobile operators Telecompaper 3rd Jan 2018
The Telecommunication Regulator of Cambodia (TRC) has announced it will no longer intervene in the so-called “epic price war” between mobile operators, claiming that end-users actually benefitted from lower prices, The Phnom Penh Post reports, citing TRC spokesman Im Vutha. “If there is a sign that one operator is dominating the market and could potentially lead the market exclusively, we will intervene,” Vutha said. This decision follows a year of warnings against below-cost mobile deals, which the TRC previously called “suspicious” and “unfair”. According to Vutha, the situation is under control – even if the same deals persists – and is providing benefits to the public. “So far, the lower cost of internet services being provided by telecom operators has been a benefit for other sectors, like payment services, financial services, e-commerce and online shopping”, Vutha said.
NBC warns against fraudulent digital coin schemes Phnom Penh Post 6th Dec 2017
Chea Serey, director general of the National Bank of Cambodia (NBC), warned yesterday of increased fraudulent activities linked to local firms promoting cryptocurrencies, claiming that because Cambodia lacks regulations surrounding their use, they remain a risky investment tool.
Local SMEs are urged to digitise payments Phnom Penh Post 20th Dec 2017
Cambodian businesses need to adapt and digitise their financial operations if they want to remain competitive regionally and around the world, industry insiders said yesterday. Over 200 small- and medium- sized enterprises (SMEs) attended the first annual Tech Startup and SME Forum, hosted yesterday in Phnom Penh, which encouraged SMEs in the Kingdom to streamline online payments, promote their products and improve consumer experience. According to Tram Iv Tek, minister of posts and telecommunications, the adoption of technology by startups and entrepreneurs could mean the difference between success and failure in a competitive market.
Kingdom’s startups stuck in the middle with no capital Phnom Penh Post 20th Dec 2017
Despite Cambodia having a vibrant startup scene with entrepreneurs launching ventures on a near daily basis, businesses trying to tap into financial resources for growth have difficulty accessing capital and are stuck in the unbankable “missing middle”, according to a recent study. According to a study by the Dutch Good Growth Fund (DGGF), a $200 million investment initiative that is researching potential investments in the region, a third of Cambodia’s small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) have outgrown microfinancing options but remain too small to attract large investors. The study showed that while short-term capital loans are offered by banks to registered businesses, small businesses without assets are unable to secure funding and debt financing is largely nonexistent.
Cambodian airports up passenger volume by 25% Khmer Times 22nd Dec 2017
Cambodia Airports has hit another milestone this year as eight million passengers have accessed the Kingdom’s three international airports. “Today, we [Cambodia Airports] have hit the new mark at 8million passengers across the three international airports and it is a great day for everybody,” said Eric Delobel, CEO of Cambodia Airports. Mr Delobel said that the passenger volume at the airports in Cambodia was 7million last year, but this year it has increased by 25 percent totalling 8million passengers. He attributes this to the attractiveness of the Kingdom of Cambodia.
ADB tackles clean water access in Cambodia Khmer Times 11th Dec 2017
The Asian Development Bank’s (ADB) board of directors recently approved more than $50 million in loans to help expand and improve urban water supply and sanitation services in four of Cambodia’s largest provincial cities. As part of the provincial water supply and sanitation project, the ADB will be administering a $10 million grant from the Japan Fund for the Joint Crediting Mechanism to help finance a new energy-efficient wastewater treatment plant in Battambang. The bank will also administer a $43.54 million loan co-financed by the Agence Française de Développement (AFD). The cities that will benefit from the project are Battambang, Kampong Cham, Siem Reap and Sihanoukville, all important commercial, industrial and tourist centres in the country.
Retail giant Walmart to buy more in Cambodia Khmer Times 28th Dec 2017
US retail multinational Walmart will increase orders of Cambodian garments and footwear products in the upcoming year and will also start buying travel goods manufactured in the kingdom, according to a company statement. The American retail giant’s positive announcement comes amid an escalating diplomatic row between Cambodia and its Western partners. In a letter dated December 6 and addressed to Cambodia’s Minister of Labour Ith Samheng, Walmart said Cambodia is a key element in the corporation’s international supply chain.