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Saturday, July 21, 2007

Cambodia to present big events to attract more tourists

Cambodia will present big events late this year to attract more tourists to visit the country and help boost the economy and reduce poverty, said Tourism Minister Thong Kong here on Thursday.

"We will have night markets soon in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap province, home of the Angkor Wat temples, organize the Johnnie Walker Cambodia Golf Open 2007 in Siem Reap, conduct better celebration of the Water Festival than previous years in Phnom Penh, hold half marathon in Siem Reap, and join the World Culture Expo 2007 from Sept. 7 to Oct. 26 in South Korea," he told reporters at the half-year review meeting of his ministry's work.

Cambodia is also preparing to host the Angkor International Tourism Expo 2007 in Siem Reap in early October and the ASEAN (the Association of Southeast Asia Nations) Boat Racing soon in Phnom Penh, he added.

"These events can show tourists that our country is stable and peaceful to visit," he said.

The plane crash in June, which killed 22 people, had limited impact on the kingdom's tourism industry, as the government had worked hard in the rescue operation and the aviation companies will strengthen the control of their planes' quality, improve safety measures for tourists and adopt better flight routes, he said.

In the first six months of this year, Cambodia received 975,349 tourists, about 20 percent increase over the same period last year, and most of them were from South Korea, Japan, the United States, Vietnam and China, he said.

At the end of this year, we estimate to have about two million foreign tourists in all, he added.

Last year, 1.7 million foreign tourists visited Cambodia, harvesting over one billion U.S. dollars for national revenues.

Tourism is one of the three pillar industries of Cambodia. The Angkor Wat temples in Siem Reap, the clean beach resorts in Sihanoukville and the Phnom Penh city are travelers' hottest destinations.

Source: Xinhua.
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Cambodia: Former Cambodian Police Chief Sentenced To 14 More Years In Prison

PHNOM PENH, CAMBODIA: A Cambodian court sentenced a former police chief to 14 more years in prison for possession of counterfeit currency after he was slapped with a 26-year term for other crimes, a prosecutor said Thursday (July 19th).

Former Phnom Penh police chief Heng Peo, 49, was already serving a 26-year sentence after being convicted of several crimes, including ordering the assassination of a judge in 2003 and illegal possession of weapons, said prosecutor Sok Kallyan.

Phnom Penh Municipal Court Judge Chey Sovann sentenced Heng Peo on Wednesday (July 18th). His wife Ngin Sotheavy, 39, who is living in exile in Finland, was also sentenced in absentia to 13 years in prison on the same charge.

Police seized US$30,000 in counterfeit U.S. currency in a raid of the couple's house in July last year, the prosecutor said.

Heng Peo was once in the inner circle of Cambodia's strongman Prime Minister Hun Sen.

After fleeing Cambodia in July last year, Heng Peo sought refuge in Malaysia, but was deported in December after losing a court battle to stay there while seeking asylum in another country. (AP)
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Japanese company to invest in Cambodia for bio-diesel

A Japanese company will invest 800 million U.S. dollars in Cambodia to plant castor bean and refine castor oil into bio-diesel, company source said here on Friday.

The Biwako Bio-Laboratory Co., Ltd. from Japan will plant castor bean on 48,000 hectares of land in Kompong Speu and Kompong Cham provinces and then establish a factory to refine castor oil into bio-diesel which is expected to replace gasoline, said Mitsuo Hayashi, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the company.

"Now we are waiting for the result of the oil sample test in the laboratory in Japan. We want to know what kind of seeds will be planted to provide high turnouts," he said.

Some 48,000 hectares of castor plants will yield 100,000 tons of castor oil annually and 40,000 tons of bio-diesel after refinery, he said.

The company needs 500,000 hectares of land for the project in 20 years and the Cambodian government is now helping to find land, he added.

Mitsuo is among the 30 representatives of the Japanese delegation currently on visit to Cambodia. Kozo Yamamoto, Deputy Minister of Economy of Japan, leads the team to find investment opportunities here.

Japan is the largest donor country for Cambodia but has little investment in the kingdom.

Source: Xinhua.
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S. Korea provides 30 mln USD loan to Cambodia to equip gov't IT system

The South Korean company Kisan Telecom Co. Ltd has signed an agreement with the Cambodian government to provide a loan of 30 million U.S. dollars for the public Information Technology (IT) system project in Cambodia, local media reported on Friday.

The loan will be used to equip the government's IT management system, including Internet access for government institutions in 10 provinces and cities of Cambodia, the Raksmey Kampuchea newspaper said.

The agreement was signed by Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister Sok An and Park Byung Ki, CEO of Kisan Telecom company, on behalf of both sides, the newspaper added.

IT system has become a key role in the whole society and Cambodia needs to have and develop IT system management in government institutions, Sok An was quoted by the newspaper as saying.

Cambodia also needs more human resources for IT system management, he added.

This is the second time for a South Korean company to provide loan with low interest rate for Cambodia to equip the government IT system. In the previous time, a South Korean company provided a loan of 20 million U.S. dollars for the Cambodian government.

Source: Xinhua.
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AP Exclusive: Former Khmer Rouge leader says he is ready to face trial for genocide

PAILIN, Cambodia (AP) - The top surviving leader of Cambodia's Khmer Rouge, accused of genocidal policies that led to the deaths of an estimated 1.7 million of his countrymen, said unhesitatingly Thursday he was ready to be judged by an international tribunal.

«I will go to the court and don't care if people believe me or not,» Nuon Chea, the chief ideologue for the communist Khmer Rouge when they held power in the late 1970s, said in an exclusive interview with The Associated Press.

He spoke a day after prosecutors in the tribunal examining the deaths submitted a confidential list of five former Khmer Rouge leaders they believe should be tried, along with the evidence to back the charges. Judges will decide whether to proceed with indictments.

«They didn't specify the names of the people, but I know I'm included,» Nuon Chea said at his home in northwest Cambodia near the border with Thailand.

Cambodian and international prosecutors submitted evidence including thousands of pages of documentation and the locations of more than 40 mass graves.

Now an ailing 82-year-old, Nuon Chea _ the former «Brother Number Two» in the Khmer Rouge, right-hand man to the group's notorious leader, the late Pol Pot _ has consistently denied any responsibility for the mass brutality.

«I was president of the National Assembly and had nothing to do with the operation of the government,» he said Thursday. «Sometimes I didn't know what they were doing because I was in the assembly.

Cambodian scholars dispute the claim, and believe he was an instrumental policy-maker.

The prosecutors said the acts allegedly carried out by the five unnamed Khmer Rouge leaders «constitute crimes against humanity, genocide, grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions, homicide, torture and religious persecution.

«I had no intention to kill my people,» said Nuon Chea. «The tribunal shouldn't rely solely on the law but on intention as well.

Former Khmer Rouge leaders have usually denied knowledge of large-scale killings, despite a preponderance of evidence, most dramatically mass graves around the country.

They sometimes blame neighboring Vietnam _ Cambodia's traditional enemy _ for the killings. After a series of bloody border raids by the Khmer Rouge on Vietnamese villages in late 1978, Hanoi invaded Cambodia to oust the Khmer Rouge and install a puppet government, garrisoning the country for about a decade.

«There are two kinds of war, one to protect your country, one where you invade another country,» said Nuon Chea, in apparent reference to the battles with Vietnam. «I was trying to protect my country.

He said there were more police than usual stationed outside his small house since Wednesday evening's announcement of the legal moves in Phnom Penh, and he had to be careful about what he said.

«It happened 30 years ago and it's very difficult to remember. Some of them (tribunal members) never experienced that. They weren't there, how could they know what was going on.

Marcel Lemonde of France, one of the tribunal's co-investigating judges, declined to discuss when the suspects' names would be made public and when they might be arrested, though he indicated it could be soon.

«We are encouraged by the progress of the (tribunal) and look forward to the day when identified suspects are brought to justice,» said U.S. Embassy spokesman Jeff Daigle.

Ros Saroeun, a 53-year-old motorbike-taxi driver, reflected the opinions of many older Cambodians, commenting that «I am delighted they will be brought to trial, because they have caused the death of more than 30 of my relatives.

The late Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot died in 1998 and his former military chief, Ta Mok, died in 2006.

In addition to Nuon Chea, former Foreign Minister Ieng Sary and former head of state Khieu Samphan live freely in Cambodia but are in declining health.

Kaing Khek Iev, also known as Duch, who headed the Khmer Rouge's S-21 torture center, is the only former senior official in government custody.

His lawyer, Ka Savuth, said Thursday that he had been informed that his client was soon to be transferred from a military prison to the detention facility at the tribunal's headquarters, an indirect confirmation that he was one of the five suspects named by prosecutors.

He said Duch «welcomed the news and wished for his trial to take place as quickly as possible.

According to tribunal rules, the maximum penalty for conviction of crimes falling within its jurisdiction is life imprisonment.

Cambodia first sought U.N. help in 1997 to set up a tribunal, but it took years of tough negotiations before the two parties signed a pact in 2003 agreeing to hold trials.

Associated Press writer Ker Munthit in Phnom Penh contributed to this story.
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