Cambodia Update: October 11, 2018

Cambodia Update | October 11, 2018
Authors: Riley Smith and Tra Nguyen
 
LOOKING AHEAD
 
 

October 29-November 2: Singapore International Energy Week: The Singapore International Energy Week (SIEW) is an annual platform for energy professionals, policymakers and commentators to discuss and share best practices and solutions within the global energy space. SIEW aims to facilitate the exchange of ideas and discussions on pertinent energy-related issues, while simultaneously meeting the strategic objectives of Singapore’s commitment to becoming a global leader among energy companies converging on the event, as well as to provide a platform to showcase innovative products and solutions in the energy marketplace. For more information, please click here.

October 30-31: 2018 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 36th ASEAN Ministers on Energy Meeting (AMEM) in Singapore. The mission will take place Tuesday, October 30, to Wednesday, October 31, and will consist of bilateral meetings with ASEAN Energy Ministers and relevant AMEM Dialogue Partners. Click here to register.

 
THE COUNCIL'S TAKE
 
 

EU Launches Review, Threatens Revocation of Cambodia’s “Everything but Arms” Trade Status

On Oct 5, the European Union (EU) announced that it was launching a six-month review of Cambodia's "Everything but Arms" (EBA) status with the EU, meaning Cambodia could lose duty-free access to the trade bloc within 12 months, under EU rules. The review is in response to human rights concerns following Cambodia’s general election in July, which was widely criticized as unfair due to a crackdown on the political opposition ahead of the polls. The announcement came after the EU officially warned Cambodia that it would lose its special trade status following the re-election in July of Prime Minister Hun Sen, who has been in power for over three decades. European Commissioner for Trade Cecilia Malmstrom did say that the EU would consider clear and demonstrable improvements before actually suspending trade preferences, but it is unclear what such improvements would include. 

The run-up to the July polls was marked by numerous efforts to hobble the opposition. Last year, the main opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) was dissolved by Cambodia’s Supreme Court on accusations that it plotted to overturn the government. Many CNRP leaders fled the country as a result. CNRP leader Kem Sokha spent over a year in prison on treason charges and remains under house arrest after being released on bail on September 9. In addition to targeting the opposition, the government launched a crackdown against non-governmental organizations, right groups and independent media. Both the United States and the EU criticized these actions in the run-up to the vote and condemned the July election as lacking credibility. 

The EU’s announcement is a swift rebuke of Hun Sen and his Cambodian People’s Party-led government. In the weeks prior to the announcement, Hun Sen had undertaken what analysts saw as an attempt to regain international legitimacy following the heavily criticized elections, even traveling to New York to make an official visit to the UN General Assembly on September 27.

The attempts by the Cambodian government to smooth things over with the EU, the United States, and other countries that criticized the elections underscores the importance of these markets to the present economy of Cambodia, especially that of the EU. Cambodia's exports to the EU went from negligible levels less than a decade ago to being worth approximately 5 billion euros (US$5.8 billion) last year. Around 40% of Cambodia's foreign sales go to EU countries, and many of these exports are from the country's textile, garments, and footwear industry, which is vital to Cambodia's economy.

Responding to the EU's threat of trade sanctions, Hun Sen said Cambodia must defend its sovereignty at all costs. Hun Sen did not comment on how the removal of EBA status could affect Cambodia's exports. Extensive investments and loans from China in recent years indicate that China might be willing to take up some of the slack, and such a development would fit in Cambodia's pattern of balancing relations with the West and China. Regardless, maintaining EBA Status was a priority for Hun Sen and his government, and the hole left in Cambodia's economy by its revocation could prove challenging to fill.

 
IN THIS UPDATE
 
 

Regional Affairs
EU initiates process to withdraw Cambodia’s trade preferences
EU to hit Cambodia with trade sanctions, says Myanmar may follow
Hun Sen extends condolences, donates $200K to Indonesia
Cambodia upholds OHCHR mandate
Cambodia, Vietnam move to boost border trade


National Affairs
Plan for two new provinces scrapped
Cambodia’s Supreme Court Overturns Defamation Conviction of Election Official, Citing Lack of Evidence
Cambodia PM warns at UN against questioning of one-party election
Sar Kheng: ‘Justice has won’
Peace is fragile, Hun Sen says

Economics
New tax incentives to increase SME sector competitiveness
Kingdom’s public debt-to-GDP ratio remains low risk, says IMF
Cambodia economy to grow 7.25 pct this year, says IMF
ADB Revises Down Cambodia’s Inflation Forecast

Energy
Government explains petrol price jump
Energy-hungry Cambodia shows no sign of backing down on coal
Phnom Penh looks to go green in its war on waste
USAID Awards Tetra Tech $21 Million Contract for Sustainable Landscape Management and Biodiversity Conservation in Cambodia

Food & Agriculture
Smartphones help to save forest in Cambodia
Say goodbye to pesticides in Cambodia’s veggie production
Rice farmers pinched by flooding
Rice seeds to be distributed to flood victims this weekend
Population growth fuels deforestation: PM
Stung Treng combats illegal deforestation
Trader told to return protected forest land
Minister pushes the implementation of agriculture policy
Food Expo Begins
Chemical analysis systems to increase food safety
Heifer, Khmer Organic to build up organic agriculture
FAO, Ministry of Agriculture drafting smallholder rubber farming programme

Health & Life Sciences
Malaria’s ticking time bomb
Poverty falling at rapid pace, says UNDP
No change in tobacco death toll despite efforts

ICT
UnionPay seeks bigger role in local digital economy
New tech centre to prepare youth for Industry 4.0
Kingdom mulls tax as e-commerce booms

Infrastructure
SME parks to drive up competitiveness: gov’t
Improving construction sector safety
Kampot rail scheme dismissed as ‘fantasy’
Development projects, land sales registration move gets thumbs-up
Sihanoukville to get Chinese tourist mall
Cellcard ready to upgrade infrastructure to 5G
Water taxis, rail lines boosting regime’s credibility, says Minister
Construction begins for Sihanoukville’s first-ever mall

Manufacturing
New minimum wage for Cambodian textile workers: $182
GMAC addresses industrial rubbish

Travel & Tourism
Sihanoukville tourism First half of 2018 sees 1.3M visitors
Ticket revenue at Angkor soars to more than $85 million
Preah Vihear’s ancient Koh Ker temple seeks World Heritage Status

 
ARTICLE CLIPS
 
 
Regional Affairs

EU initiates process to withdraw Cambodia’s trade preferences Khmer Times 6th Oct 2018
The European Union officially notified Cambodia yesterday that the procedure for the withdrawal of its preferential trade treatment under the ‘Everything but Arms’ (EBA) scheme had already “been launched”. Writing in the European Commission’s official blog, EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom said she and EU High Representative Federica Mogherini had notified Cambodia yesterday (Friday) that the EU was launching the process for the withdrawal of their EBA preferences.

EU to hit Cambodia with trade sanctions, says Myanmar may follow Channel NewsAsia 5th Oct 2018
The European Union told Cambodia on Friday (Oct 5) it will lose its special access to the world's largest trading bloc, and said it was considering similar trade sanctions for Myanmar in a toughening of EU policy on human rights in Southeast Asia. After months of pressure from rights groups and the European Parliament, the EU's trade chief Cecilia Malmstrom said the bloc was ready to punish abuses in both countries by removing trade preferences. The EU warned Cambodia in July that it could lose its special trade status after elections returned a strongman to power after 30 years in office, and it has censured Myanmar over its treatment of the Muslim Rohingya.

Hun Sen extends condolences, donates $200K to Indonesia Khmer Times 2nd Oct 2018
As the death toll continues to rise from the earthquake that struck Indonesia, Prime Minister Hun Sen has sent his condolences to Indonesian President Joko Widodo and families of victims while also providing $200,000 in humanitarian aid. “I am extremely saddened to learn about the loss of so many lives, hundreds of thousands missing and displaced as a result of the massive earthquake and the ensuing Tsunami which left a trail of devastation on Palu city of Sulawesi Island this weekend,” Mr Hun Sen said.

Cambodia upholds OHCHR mandate Khmer Times 29th Sep 2018
The Prime Minister announced that Cambodia will uphold the Memorandum of Understanding concerning the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) allowing it to continue to operate in Cambodia for two more years. The announcement was made at the meeting between Hun Sen and UN Secretary-General António Guterres in New York on Saturday, Sept.29.

National Affairs

Plan for two new provinces scrapped Khmer Times 5th Oct 2018
Prime Minister Hun Sen decided to halt the planned creation of two new provinces carved out of Kandal, Ratanakkiri and Mondulkiri, and ordered the Interior Ministry to stop its study into this issue. In August 2018, Interior Minister Sar Kheng sent a letter to the premier requesting the creation of the provinces to, as we reported, “improve the effectiveness of administration, security, public order, local development, and public services.”

Cambodia’s Supreme Court Overturns Defamation Conviction of Election Official, Citing Lack of Evidence Radio Free Asia 1st Oct 2018
Cambodia’s Supreme Court on Monday rejected the defamation conviction of deputy secretary-general of the National Election Committee (NEC) Ny Chakrya citing a lack of evidence, ordering the country’s Appeal Court to hold a retrial of his case.

Cambodia PM warns at UN against questioning of one-party election Pulse 29th Sep 2018
Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen warned Friday against any questioning of the legitimacy of his controversial reelection after a top UN official doubted whether the polls could be regarded as democratic.

Sar Kheng: ‘Justice has won’ Phnom Penh Post 24th Sep 2018
There was an effort by foreign powers to delegitimise Cambodia’s national elections, Deputy Prime Ministry Sar Kheng told a crowd over the weekend, but he made it clear the effort had failed. The remark came in Sar Kheng’s closing address at the end of a two-day National Election Committee (NEC) assembly in Kampot province which focused on the July 29 national election.

Peace is fragile, Hun Sen says Phnom Penh Post 24th Sep 2018
Prime Minister Hun Sen said peace in Cambodia remains fragile because of ongoing meddling in the Kingdom’s internal affairs by foreign powers. In a written statement on the International Day of Peace on Friday, the prime minister called on all citizens to work with the government to thwart outside “tricks” meant to destabilise the Kingdom.

ASEAN

UnionPay seeks bigger role in local digital economy Khmer Times 18th Sep 2018
UnionPay, a Chinese provider of electronic payment services, is looking to play a bigger role in Cambodia’s expanding digital economy.

Cambodia, Vietnam move to boost border trade Bangkok Post 17th Sep 2018
Cambodia and Vietnam have agreed to boost bilateral tradeto US$5 billion (163 billion baht) with the acceleration of a border trade agreement following an increase in trade volume between both countries.

Economics

New tax incentives to increase SME sector competitiveness Khmer Times 4th Oct 2018
A new sub-decree issued this week creates a slew of tax incentives for small and medium-sized enterprises in the Kingdom, and confirms that the sector is now one of the government’s main priorities. Sub-decree No 124 – signed by Prime Minister Hun Sen, and issued Tuesday – sets us tax incentives for SMEs in selected industries, a move the government hopes will enhance competitiveness and create more jobs for Cambodians.

Kingdom’s public debt-to-GDP ratio remains low risk, says IMF Phnom Penh Post 4th Oct 2018
Cambodia's public debt-to-GDP ratio remains low risk this year. This means the Kingdom is able to afford more debt to maintain economic growth while assuring good returns on its investments, says Jarkko Turunen, a senior economist at the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Cambodia economy to grow 7.25 pct this year, says IMF Reuters 2nd Oct 2018
Cambodia’s economic growth should stay at 7.25 percent this year and 7 percent next year, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) said on Tuesday.

ADB Revises Down Cambodia’s Inflation Forecast VOA 28th Sep 2018
The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has updated its forecast for Cambodia, revising down its estimate of the country’s inflation rate to 2.6 percent from 3.2 percent. Economic growth is expected to remain steady at about 7 percent, according to the ADB.

Energy

Government explains petrol price jump Phnom Penh Post 5th Oct 2018
The retail price of petrol in Cambodia has increased for the third straight month, upsetting many who work in low-paying jobs, such as tuk-tuk drivers.

Energy-hungry Cambodia shows no sign of backing down on coal Eco-Business 27th Sep 2018
As Cambodia’s economy goes through a rapid expansion with foreign investments pouring in, the country is turning to polluting coal power to meet growing energy demands, risking the health of the people and the welfare of the environment.

Phnom Penh looks to go green in its war on waste Phnom Penh Post 21st Sep 2018
Phnom Penh is looking to go green in its efforts to tackle the mountain of waste – nearly 3,000 tonnes – that the capital now produces each day, Keo Channarith, the director of the Dangkor Dumpsite Management Committee, said on Thursday. “If we look at the figures over the past three years, the capital’s waste has increased by 60,000 tonnes per year, dramatically increasing to an average of 2,700 tonnes a day in 2018,” Channarith said.

USAID Awards Tetra Tech $21 Million Contract for Sustainable Landscape Management and Biodiversity Conservation in Cambodia Financial Post 18th Sep 2018
Tetra Tech, Inc. (NASDAQ: TTEK) announced today that the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) awarded the Company a $21 million single-award, five-year contract to improve biodiversity conservation and strengthen sustainable and resilient development in the Prey Lang region of Cambodia.

Food & Agriculture

Smartphones help to save forest in Cambodia ScandAsia 10th Oct 2018
University of Copenhagen, Danmission, the IT company Web Essentials and local peacebuilding organizations in Cambodia have developed an app for smartphones that helps protecting the forest. The app “Prey Lang App” makes it easy for local forest patrols in Cambodia to geo-reference, document, and upload data about forest resources and illegal logging.

Say goodbye to pesticides in Cambodia’s veggie production Khmer Times 3rd Oct 2018
Food safety is an issue in Cambodia. Due to high pressure from pests and plant diseases, vegetable producers are still predominantly relying on chemical pesticides. But there is a way out of that, as Srinivasan Ramasamy points out, with the use of bio-pesticides and pheromones that increase crop productivity while allowing for simultaneous reduction in the use of chemical pesticides.

Rice farmers pinched by flooding Khmer Times 3rd Oct 2018
More than two thousand hectares of rice fields and farmland in Ek Phnom district have been inundated by water overflowing from the Tonle Sap; rice farmers are feeling the effects. In Prek Norin commune, the majority of residents are rice farmers and floodwater can be seen covering their fields as far as the eye can see.

Rice seeds to be distributed to flood victims this weekend Khmer Times 3rd Oct 2018
The Agriculture Ministry will distribute about 3,000 tonnes of rice seeds to the farmers affected by floods across the Kingdom, an official said yesterday. Ngin Chhay, director general of the ministry’s general agriculture department, said the ministry has prepared about 3,000 tonnes of rice seeds to aid farmers whose crops were destroyed by floods.

Population growth fuels deforestation: PM Khmer Times 1st Oct 2018
Prime Minister Hun Sen has accused villagers and supporters of the now-defunct opposition party of cutting down trees and encroaching on protected forests.

Stung Treng combats illegal deforestation Phnom Penh Post 24th Sep 2018
Stung Treng provincial authorities on Friday ordered a crackdown on more than 200 families who had burned forests illegally, urging them to put an end to all illegal land clearing activities.

Trader told to return protected forest land Phnom Penh Post 24th Sep 2018
The Kampong Speu provincial environment department has rejected a request for ownership of a large plot of disputed land after finding that it is located in a protected wildlife sanctuary. The land is the subject of an ongoing court case between trader Sieng Samen and Natural Resource and Wildlife Preservation Organisation director Chea Hean.

Minister pushes the implementation of agriculture policy Khmer Times 19th Sep 2018
The Agriculture Minister, Veng Sakhon, last week urged officials to work harder in the implementation of the country’s new agriculture development policy. During a meeting last week, Mr Sakhon told officials the goal of the agricultural development policy is to bolster the development of the agriculture sector. It will ensure food security and nutrition and will help reduce poverty. It will also boost productivity, diversification, as well as the commercialisation of the final products. He said the policy will help achieve sustainability in the sector and resilience to climate change, as well as aid in the implementation of Good Agricultural Practices in animal production, animal health and the management of fisheries.

Food Expo Begins The Phnom Penh Post 14th Sep 2018
Leaders in the Kingdom’s food industry will gather next week for the Camfood, Hotel and Camcafe expo. According to AMB Tarsus Events Group, the organiser of the conference, more than 350 companies from 30 countries in the region will participate. Exhibitions will showcase local companies operating in the food and beverage supply sector, as well as hospitality equipment providers, according to Andrew Siow, director of AMB Tarsus. This is an important event for Cambodia to attract investors and tourists. The expo kicks off on September 19 and runs for three days.

Chemical analysis systems to increase food safety Khmer Times 26th Sep 2018
Local produce can now be checked for pesticide residue using the technique known as chromatography–mass spectrometry (LC-MS) after the Ministry of Agriculture acquired LCMS systems that can be deployed to farms around the country. LCMS systems, which have never before been used in the Kingdom, are used to identify, characterise and quantify unknown and known compounds in a number of sectors, including biotechnology, environment monitoring and food processing.

Heifer, Khmer Organic to build up organic agriculture Khmer Times 25th Sep 2018
Heifer International Cambodia and Khmer Organic Cooperative last Friday signed a collaboration agreement that will give 35,000 smallholder farmers in 64 agricultural communities greater market access and boost the price of their products. The smallholder farmers concerned are producers of chemical-free vegetables, or raise pigs and chickens.

FAO, Ministry of Agriculture drafting smallholder rubber farming programme Khmer Times 25th Sep 2018
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the Ministry of Agriculture are teaming up to establish a project that will focus on lifting the living standards of smallholder rubber farmers in Cambodia, Myanmar and Thailand. A project plan is now being drafted by the parties involved and is expected to be ready this week.

Health & Life Sciences

Malaria’s ticking time bomb Nature.com 10th Oct 2018
To eliminate malaria, public-health officials are trying to cover the region with volunteers and health workers who can dispense malaria drugs promptly, and report any signs of an upsurge. They are also looking to researchers for tools that can forestall drug resistance, technologies that improve detection of the parasite, and evidence on strategies for rooting it out. The pressure is on. “Everybody has fears of malaria resurgence,” says Myaing Nyunt, a malaria researcher at Duke Global Health Institute in Durham, North Carolina. She worries that donors will tire of the cause, and that the people in the Greater Mekong region will grow to resent the obsession with malaria when they have more pressing needs. Yet if the effort lets up, malaria will roar back.

Poverty falling at rapid pace, says UNDP Khmer Times 3rd Oct 2018
Poverty in Cambodia has fallen dramatically over the last two decades, and continues to fall at a rapid pace, said a high official of the UNDP to Khmer Times yesterday. All the poverty rateslines, either based on income and other dimensions, have seen big reductions at a gradual pace, often surpassing its peers in the Asia Pacific region and in the world.

No change in tobacco death toll despite efforts Phnom Penh Post 2nd Oct 2018
Some seven million smokers die of tobacco-related illnesses each year. Another 600,000 die from inhaling second-hand smoke. Of these figures, 10,000 are Cambodians.

ICT

New tech centre to prepare youth for Industry 4.0 Khmer Times 2nd Oct 2018
As part of plans to adapt to technological trends, the government announced last week the construction of a centre inside one of the nation’s leading universities that will focus on the skills young tech entrepreneurs need to succeed in the digital economy. Dubbed the ‘Techo Startup Centre’, the facility will teach the skills demanded in tomorrow’s jobs, particularly entrepreneurship in the tech industry, and will boost the small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) sector, said Aun Pornmonirath, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economy and Finance.

Kingdom mulls tax as e-commerce booms Phnom Penh Post 27th Sep 2018
The Cambodian government is studying the possibility of introducing a tax on e-commerce sales and designing policies to support the expansion of the sector, as online trade is accelerating economic growth in the Kingdom.

Infrastructure

SME parks to drive up competitiveness: gov’t Khmer Times 2nd Oct 2018
Construction of the country’s first ‘cluster zone’ for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) will not start for another few months, but the government is already urging family-owned businesses to join these industrial parks, arguing that they will improve the competitiveness of local firms.

Improving construction sector safety Khmer Times 1st Oct 2018
Labour Ministry officials met with members of Japan’s parliament and the International Labour Organisation to discuss a project aimed at improving safety standards in the construction sector on Thursday. The first phase of the project was launched in 2014 and ended in 2017, and focused on the general labour sector.

Kampot rail scheme dismissed as ‘fantasy’ Phnom Penh Post 1st Oct 2018
Kampot provincial governor Cheav Tay created an unauthorised investment scheme last week. But the plan has been dismisssed as a “baseless fantasy”. He set up a firm called Kampot Capital Development, which plans to raise $50 million from individual investors to develop a high-speed rail and a provincial airport.

Development projects, land sales registration move gets thumbs-up Phnom Penh Post 27th Sep 2018
Cambodian property insiders have welcomed a new measure that reinforces the government’s requirement that all commercial land sales and development projects must be registered with the proper authorities.

Sihanoukville to get Chinese tourist mall Phnom Penh Post 24th Sep 2018
Furi Real Estate announced a $10 million joint venture with an unnamed company from Macau to develop the first commercial shopping centre in Sihanoukville, a project aimed mainly at Chinese customers, the company’s director told The Post. Chin Chan Len, the director of the project, known as Furi Times Square, said the large influx of Chinese tourists and investors has left Sihanoukville with a shortage of accommodation and commercial centres.

Cellcard ready to upgrade infrastructure to 5G Khmer Times 4th Oct 2018
Cellcard one of the leading mobile operator in the Kingdom, yesterday said it is ready to upgrade its mobile infrastructure to 5G, adding that it is targeting a commercial launch of the services in the second quarter of 2019.

Water taxis, rail lines boosting regime’s credibility, says Minister Khmer Times 25th Sep 2018
The launch of the water taxi and rail services this year enhanced the government’s credibility and served as an example of the efforts made by the authorities to provide good services to the public, said Transport Minister Sun Chanthol to Khmer Times in an exclusive interview.

Construction begins for Sihanoukville’s first-ever mall Khmer Times 24th Sep 2018
With an investment of nearly $10 million, construction of what will become Sihanoukville’s first mall began on Thursday. Furi Times Square Mall, a shopping centre that will be built on a hectare of land and include an Amazon and an Starbucks cafe as well as a movie theater, is due for completion in September next year.

Manufacturing

New minimum wage for Cambodian textile workers: $182 Investvine 6th Oct 2018
Cambodia raised the monthly minimum wage for garment workers by $12 on October 5 to $182, fulfilling an election promise by premier Hun Sen. A commission of union, government and employers tasked with determining the minimum wage for workers in the textile, garment and footwear industries said the raise will come in effect from January 2019.

GMAC addresses industrial rubbish Khmer Times 1st Oct 2018
The Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia has asked the Environment Ministry to tackle a lack of industrial waste collection at factories in Phnom Penh. GMAC said that members in the area have complained about the mishandling of industrial waste by Sarom Trading Company, designated by the government to collect and dispose factory waste eight times per month.

Travel & Tourism

Sihanoukville tourism First half of 2018 sees 1.3M visitors Phnom Penh Post 3rd Oct 2018
The Preah Sihanouk provincial Department of Tourism says Preah Sihanouk province received more than 1.3 million tourists during the first semester of this year. Of this, over one million were domestic tourists and 290,782 foreign, with Chinese accounting for 84,664 – up 10.12 per cent compared to the same period last year.

Ticket revenue at Angkor soars to more than $85 million Khmer Times 2nd Oct 2018
The government earned $85.5 million in revenue from the sale of tickets at the Angkor Archaeological Park during the first nine months of the year, a hike of nearly 13 percent, figures released yesterday by Angkor Enterprise showed. From January to September, more than 1.9 million people visited the Angkor complex, an increase of about 8.5 percent compared to the same period last year, Angkor Enterprise said.

Preah Vihear’s ancient Koh Ker temple seeks World Heritage Status Phnom Penh Post 24th Sep 2018
The Cambodian government is preparing a proposal to register the ancient Koh Ker temple in Preah Vihear province as a Unesco World Heritage Site. Minister of Culture and Fine Arts Phoeurng Sackona made the announcement last week at a meeting in Siem Reap province, of the International Coordinating Committee for Safeguarding and Development of the Historic Site of Preah Vihear.