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Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Shopping mall developer moves into Cambodia

An American property mogul whose Cambodian-born wife survived the killing fields of the Khmer Rouge is looking to raise up to $600 million on London's AIM market to build shopping centres and flats in Vietnam and Cambodia.

JSM Indochina is the brainchild of Craig Jones, a 41 year-old from Santa Monica, whose Californian-based JSM firm already sits on $1.5 billion worth of US shopping malls. Now Mr Jones has turned to the AIM market to pull in investors to back his plans to bring US-style malls from Pnom Penh to Ho Chi Min City and Hanoi.

JSM is already planning for Pnom Penh a 325,000 square feet mall where it has signed a pre-let to Parkson, the Malaysian department store, to become its anchor tenant taking about two thirds of the space. Land permits are also in place to add onto the site a 600 place car-park and 100 serviced appartments.

The Pnom Penh project and a handful of other early stage assets worth an esimated $35 million will seed the JSM Indochina fund. The fund intends to partner with local Vietnamese and Cambodian developers for its building projects.

Mr Jones who said he was born "at the height of the American involvement in the the Vietnam war" said: "I am so proud of what I and my wife are doing for South East Asia.We are helping with jobs and the distribution of wealth. The distribution of goods in the country is not very good as there are not many high quality retail outlets. We will help all the people. Hypermarkets are for everybody."

Mr Jones' wife and family lived under the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, the regime which was responsible for the death of an estimated one million of its own people under the brutal dictatorship of Pol Pot who assumed control once the Americans left. "They left Cambodia in 1982, ending up in California two years later. She lost her father and three sisters. We are really helping the country by building malls and replenishing the housing stock. This will be a multi-billion dollar company."

JSM has hired Lehman Brothers and Evolution Securities to raise new money for the Indochina fund. It is understood they already have commitments of about $300 million with 25 per cent of investors hailing from the US and UK.

Asked why he had chosen the AIM market to raise funds and not the US markets, Mr Jones said: "We have a global investor base and London is the centre of the global financial world. It would be wrong to use and American bourse."

The company told investors today in an intention to float prospectus it will "pursue a further pipeline of prospective investments in excess of $300 million over the next 12 months."

The new fund will be chaired by Mike Tanner, currently a non-executive director with Berkeley Group Holdings, London's largest housebuilder, and who spent 10 years until retirement in 2004 as managing director of George Wimpey's southern division.
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UN to determine status for Cambodia's centuries-old monument

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) - A U.N. committee is expected to rule on Cambodia's request for «World Heritage» status for a well-known 11th century temple during a meeting later this month, an official said Tuesday.

Cambodia began seeking the status five years ago for Preah Vihear temple from World Heritage, a committee of the U.N. cultural organization UNESCO. Such status encourages conservation and usually helps attract funds for preservation, in addition to raising the tourism profile of the site.

The committee will decide on the Cambodian bid during its meeting in New Zealand that is scheduled to start June 23, said UNESCO director in Cambodia Teruo Jinnai.
«It's now up to the committee. You have to wait,» he said.

The temple deserves to be given World Heritage status, he said, because of its unique historical and cultural value.

Preah Vihear temple is located on the top of a cliff in the Dangrek Mountains, about 245 kilometers (150 miles) north of the Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh. It is more easily accessible from Thailand, however.

The two countries have been at loggerheads in the past over ownership of the temple, which was held by Thailand until the International Court of Justice awarded it to Cambodia in 1962.

The World Heritage list currently includes Cambodia's Angkor archaeological site, where the famed Angkor Wat temple, the country's main tourist attraction, is situated.

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Cambodia sets genocide trial rules

A panel of Cambodian and international judges on Wednesday approved rules clearing the way for the UN-backed Khmer Rouge tribunal to put suspects on trial for genocide.

The decision, which ends months of infighting, is the first concrete step toward prosecuting one of the worst genocides of the 20th century since court officials were sworn in last July.

"These rules will ensure us ... fair and transparent trials," co-prosecutor Robert Petit told reporters, adding they had been adopted unanimously.

"Now that the rules are adopted, we can move forward."

The rules are essential because they govern every aspect of the tribunal's operations, but previous agreement had been held up because of wrangling over legal fees and other procedures.

Jurists at the tribunal praised the agreement and vowed to get quickly to work.

"We are aware that the world's eyes are on these cases," Cambodian co-prosecutor Chea Leang said.

Concerns about the rights of suspects — particularly whether steep legal fees would limit their access to lawyers — were among the issues that had held up adoption of the rules.

Rules ensure a fair trial

But Richard Rogers, with the office of the defence, said the rules would ensure a fair trial for the suspects in the genocide that left up to two million dead.

"The rules include all the fundamental rights that those accused need for a fair trial. That's a very good start for the defence," he said.

The first trials of the leaders of the 1970s regime had initially been expected this year.

However, the delays mean the trials are unlikely to start before early 2008, officials say.

Cambodian and foreign prosecutors who have been building cases since last year would probably send those files to investigating judges within weeks, Petit said.

The rules dispute had dragged on since November, with international and Cambodian jurists failing three times to come to an agreement before meeting for a final session last week.

The tribunal's opening last year had already been delayed by years of protracted negotiations between the United Nations and Cambodia.

The repeated deadlocks among the Cambodian and international judges raised concerns that the long-stalled tribunal would ultimately fail.

Quick trials are the last chance for Cambodians to find justice for crimes committed by the Khmer Rouge more than 30 years ago, with rights groups and legal advocates concerned that ageing former regime leaders will die before being brought to justice.

One defendant is in custody

So far only one possible defendant is in custody — former Khmer Rouge prison chief Kaing Khek Iev, also known as Duch — while several live freely in Cambodia.

The only other person to have been arrested for crimes committed during the regime, military commander Ta Mok, died in prison last July. Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot died in 1998.

Up to two million people died of starvation and overwork, or were executed during the communist regime's 1975-1979 rule.

The Khmer Rouge abolished religion, schools and currency, exiling millions onto vast collective farms with the aim of creating an agrarian utopia.
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