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Thursday, April 05, 2007

Cambodian anti-corruption law no magic bullet, says World Bank

Phnom Penh - Long-awaited Cambodian anti-corruption legislation was just part of a package of necessary reforms and not a 'magic bullet' to ensure revenues such as from oil and gas were harnessed effectively, a senior World Bank official said Thursday.

Speaking at the launch of the bank's East Asia and Pacific update for April entitled 10 Years After the Crisis, Cambodian World Bank country manager Nisha Agrawal said the way expected new revenues such as oil and gas were used by the government 'were very important for Cambodia's future.'

But she added that focusing on anti-corruption legislation alone was a mistake and oversimplified the situation in developing nations such as Cambodia.

'All an independent anti-corruption body can do is receive allegations. You need an independent judiciary to make an anti-corruption law work. You can't just pass a law and have an independent judiciary overnight,' she said.

'Public financial management reform is as important, or perhaps more so, than the anti-corruption law,' she said, adding that the World Bank viewed the progress made by the Cambodian government on that aspect as positive.

Cambodia expects to begin oil and gas production from potentially rich offshore deposits by 2010 and economists say how those revenues are used could make or break the Cambodian economy.

One stumbling block to development critics have pointed out is endemic corruption, and the government promised donors that anti-corruption legislation would go before parliament by the end of last year, but failed to meet the deadline, causing some donors to threaten to withold funding if delays continued.

'We would like to see people think about the whole package of good governance. There is no magic bullet,' Agrawal said.

She said in regards to oil, there were positive examples such as Indonesia, Malaysia and Botswana and negative examples such as Nigeria.

'It is really for the Cambodian people themselves to decide what model they will follow. Obviously, we hope they choose a good model,' she said.

The World Bank said in a country specific press release that Cambodia's economic performance had continued to be robust, with real gross domestic product (GDP) growth projected at about 10.5 per cent - the third consecutive year of double digit growth.

It added that the four economic growth pillars of garments, tourism, construction and agriculture were expected to continue to thrive in 2007, with growth in Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) expected to be sustained and oil and gas 'likely to bring about even higher growth.'

Per capita GDP stood at 480 dollars in 2006 - a figure Agrawal said Cambodia could hope to boost significantly as oil and gas revenues began to enter the economy.

Continued urbanisation, if properly planned, could also benefit the country, according to the report. Cambodia's projected rates of urbanisation were for a 291 per cent increase by 2030, but 72 per cent of those living in urban areas are currently classed as slum dwellers by the bank.

Agrawal said besides as yet untapped industries such as oil and gas, established industries such as tourism also had the potential to be more efficient contributors to the economy by taking on a more pro-poor focus.

'For instance, it's not just about how we can get more tourists ... but how they can benefit Cambodia more,' she said.
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His Majesty arrives in Cambodia

His Majesty is greeted on arrival at the Phnom Penh International Airport. - Infofoto

HRH the Crown Prince, HRH Prince Mohamed, HRH Prince 'Abdul Azim, HRH Prince 'Abdul Malik and HRH Prince 'Abdul Mateen at the Brunei International Airport to bid farewell to His Majesty. - Jason Leong

His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam arrived in Phnom Penh last night to begin his State Visit to Cambodia. Present at the Brunei International Airport to bid farewell to His Majesty were His Royal Highness Prince Hj Al-Muhtadee Billah, the Crown Prince and Senior Minister at the Prime Minister's Office, His Royal Highness Prince Mohamed Bolkiah, His Royal Highness Prince 'Abdul Azim, His Royal Highness Prince 'Abdul Malik and His Royal Highness Prince 'Abdul Mateen.
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Peace Corps sends first ever mission to Cambodia


Three Americans sang the Cambodian national anthem in the Khmer language at a ceremony in Phnom Penh on Wednesday to herald the official start of the U.S. Peace Corps' first volunteer program in this impoverished Southeast Asian nation.

Over the next two years, 28 U.S. volunteers will be stationed across seven Cambodian provinces teaching English to rural schoolchildren.

"I believe that the Peace Corps' program in Cambodia will open new opportunities for future generations of Cambodians," Ron Tschetter, the volunteer group's Washington-based director, said in a speech before swearing in the 15 female and 13 male volunteers.

The volunteers have spent the past eight weeks living with families in Kampong Cham province, about 80 kilometers (50 miles) east of Phnom Penh, so they could learn to speak Khmer and adjust to the local culture.

The ceremony Wednesday highlighted how well the volunteers mastered the language in just two months.

All 400 attendees stood as Sam and Kara Snyder, a couple from Buffalo, New York, and Autumn West, from Greenback, Tennessee, opened the event by singing the national anthem in Khmer.

They then sang the U.S. national anthem while their fellow volunteers and American officials stood to attention with their hands on their chests.

Conor Cronin, from Scarsdale, New York, delighted the audience by delivering a speech in Cambodian, with Felicidad Garcia, from Miami, Florida, acting as his translator for the American guests.

The crowd laughed when Cronin joked that he was chosen to give the speech because he was "the most handsome volunteer."

"We, the volunteers, have come to Cambodia from different parts of America, each with a different history. But we are all here ... with the same commitment to serve as best as possible in every way," Cronin said.

Cambodia is the 139th country to receive a mission from the Peace Corps in its 46-year history. The group has about 7,500 volunteers in 73 nations.
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Clarke native will travel to Cambodia for human rights

By Rebecca Maynard

Kerry Desjardins, a lifelong Clarke County resident, is dedicated to promoting human rights, and this summer will have the opportunity to participate in a human rights delegation in Cambodia.

Desjardins, who graduated from Clarke County High School in 2005, is a sophomore at George Mason University, double majoring in Peace and Conflict Analysis and Resolution, and Global Affairs.

Desjardins said she was first attracted to human rights issues when she was a high school freshman, when she discovered and studied the Cambodian Genocide."I've always been interested in social justice issues, like civil rights, but I didn't realize it was such a global issue," Desjardins said.

She said that more than 2 million people were killed in the Cambodian Genocide from 1975 to 1979, and that today more than half of the Cambodian population is under age 25."We learn about the Holocaust, but we don't hear about this," Desjardins said, adding that the government kept some of the details from the American people.

She listed human trafficking, HIV/AIDS, poverty and government instability as major human rights concerns in Cambodia today.

Desjardins will be taking part in the 2007 Cambodia Human Rights Delegation, when a tribunal is expected to take place. While she will not take part in the tribunal directly, she will be working with Cambodian youth to try to discover ways to make change in the country.

"My research on the Cambodian Genocide led me into information about other genocides," Desjardins said, listing Armenia and Rwanda as two examples.

She finds autobiographies particularly helpful in her research, as they allow the reader a first-hand account from those who have experienced the events. She recommended "Stay Alive My Son" by Pin Yathay.

Desjardins said she is very excited to have the opportunity to travel to Cambodia..

"I consider this to be the opportunity of a lifetime, which holds a great deal of personal meaning," she said.The trip, which is coordinated through a non-profit organization called Youth Connect, will last a month and will include about nine students from all over the United States.

Desjardins said she applied as soon as she heard about it.She will travel to Phnom Penh for training, field work and visits to the Documentation Center of Cambodia and the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum."I'm kind of nervous about the museum," Desjardins said, because of the horrible and emotional events it will no doubt portray.

She will also do field work in Batambang.

Desjardins is also a dedicated volunteer here in the United States, where she is involved with Amnesty International and the Tahirih Justice Center, a pro-bono immigration law firm and social services provider that helps women seeking gender-based asylum in the United States.

After graduating, she hopes to attend Peace University in Costa Rica to work on a master's degree in a human rights-related field, and then to be a human rights lawyer, possibly working in Latin America."The gap between the rich and the poor is the widest in the world there," Desjardins said.

Right now, she is busily fund-raising for her trip, which will cost between $4,120 and $4,530. Donations are tax-deductible and are very much appreciated.

Citizens who would like to support Desjardin's human rights efforts with a money donation may send checks directly to Global Youth Connect, 15 Gage St., Kingston, NY 12401, made out to Global Youth Connect with "Kerry Desjardins" written in the subject line.

For more information about the program, call 845-338-2220 or visit www.globalyouthconnect.org/cambodia2007.doc .

"I never dreamed I would get to visit Cambodia so early in life, if ever," Desjardins said. "Learning about the history of Cambodia and the strength of its people changed my life, and I feel so lucky to be given this opportunity." Read more!

HM Leaves on Cambodia Visit

By Asri Razak

Bandar Seri Begawan - His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu'izzaddin Waddaulah, the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam, left for a four-day official visit to Cambodia yesterday evening.

Upon His Majesty's arrival at the Royal Pavilion in Brunei International Airport a doa selamat was read by the State Mufti.

Present at the airport to bid farewell were His Royal Highness Prince Hj Al-Muhtadee Billah, the Crown Prince and Senior Minister at the Prime Minister's Office, His Royal Highness Prince Mohamed Bolkiah, Minister of Foreign. Affairs and Trade, His Royal Highness Prince Haji Abdul Azim, His Royal Highness Prince Abdul Malik and His Royal Highness Prince Abdul Mateen.

Also present to bid farewell to His Majesty were PengiranPengiran Cheterias, cabinet ministers, members of councils, deputy ministers and senior government officials.

Today at the Throne Hall, Royal Palace in Phnom Penh, His Majesty will be attending an audience with King Norodom Sihamoni, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

His Majesty will also receive courtesy calls from Prime Minister Hun Sen, Senate President Chea Sim and National Assembly President Heng Samrin, and also attend a State Banquet.

The topic of oil and gas is expected to be discussed following separate engagements between Nan Sy, the Cambodian ambassador to Brunei and Minister of Energy at the Prime Minister's Office, Pehin Orang Kaya Seri Utama Dato Seri Paduka Hj Yahya Begawan Mudim Dato Paduka Bakar and Fred Smeenk, the Director of Brunei Natural Liquified Gas (BLNG) earlier this February.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said the same month that Cambodia expects production from potentially rich offshore oil and gas deposits by 2010. Cambodia has said it welcomes advice from other countries on strategies to manage its new resource.

His Majesty is also scheduled to visit a demining project at the Cambodian Mine Action Centre (CMAC) in Phnom Penh. Since its establishment in 1992 up to 2006, the CMAC has discovered and destroyed 1,494,480 landmines and unexploded ordinances (UXOs - anything explosive that has failed to detonate, and may detonate anytime). The CMAC said 600 people were maimed or killed every month before the centre's establishment.

On the last day of the official visit, His Majesty will be visiting the Bayon Temple and the Angkor Wat temple complex.

Bordered to the North by Thailand and Laos, Cambodia's capital city Phnom Penh with approximately a population of two million, is the centre of commerce, industry, tourism, administration, and industry. Diplomatic relations between Brunei Darussalam and Cambodia were established on June 9, 1992. Read more!