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Monday, January 19, 2009

Cambodia's Funcinpec, NRP agree to alliance for may election

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia's two main royalist political parties, the Funcinpec and the Norodom Ranariddh Party (NRP), have decided to combine forces for May's district and provincial council elections, national media reported Monday.

Officials from the two parties met on Thursday to hold talks and agreed to assist each other in the upcoming election, in which commune councilors will vote to choose the first-ever district, provincial and municipal councils, Funcinpec Secretary-General Nhiek Bun Chhay was quoted by the Cambodia Daily newspaper as saying.

"We have agreed to unite with each other during the council election on May 17," he told the newspaper.

He added that the two parties uniting to form a single party would make sense because the NRP was originally born out of Funcinpec.

NRP spokesman Suth Dina confirmed that the discussions between the two parties were held and the two parties would cooperate for the May election.

In late 2006, Prince Norodom Ranariddh formed the NRP shortly after being ousted from the presidency of Funcinpec, effectively splitting the royalist vote.
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Cambodia to Finish Bourse Listing Details by April

By Daniel Ten Kate

Jan. 19 (Bloomberg) -- Cambodia, the second-poorest country in Southeast Asia, plans to complete the listing requirements for its first stock exchange by April in preparation for a December opening, a top exchange official said today.

“Everything is on schedule so far,” Ming Bankosal, director-general of the Securities and Exchange Commission of Cambodia, said by phone from Phnom Penh. “We will finalize the issuing requirements by the end of the first quarter, and after that we’ll accept applications from companies.”

Cambodia, which abolished money under the Khmer Rouge three decades ago, is seeking to lure foreign funds as the global economic recession has led to drops in tourism, garment exports and commodity prices. The International Monetary Fund said the economy may grow 4.75 percent this year, which would be the slowest since 1998.

The government has targeted 20 companies to sell shares during the exchange’s first year of operation. They include Sokimex Group, the country’s biggest petroleum company, and Acleda Bank Plc, its largest bank, Kao Thach, head of the Ministry of Economy and Finance’s financial market division, said last year.

Regulations

“The starting date is not really the key issue,” said Douglas Clayton, chief executive officer of Leopard Capital, one of several private equity firms that plans to invest in companies and cash out through share sales in the local market. “I won’t mind if it’s delayed for another year because it might give them more time to get the regulations in order.”

Leopard Capital has raised about a quarter of the $100 million it’s targeting for a fund that closes at the end of March. Opportunities are rife for those with cash on hand who can benefit from falling prices, Clayton said.

The global financial crisis, which cut the value of stock markets in neighboring Thailand and Vietnam by at least half last year, has not deterred Cambodia from pressing forward with a stock exchange, Ming said. The SECC is in the process of developing tax breaks and other incentives for companies to list, he added.

“Now the U.S. is in the process of recovery and this recovery can spread to the world,” Ming said. “We hope that in late 2009, everything will be okay.”

The listing requirements in Cambodia will likely be modeled on the Kosdaq, South Korea’s second stock market that was set up 12 years ago for small- and medium-sized firms as well as venture start-ups, according to Kao Thach. Companies seeking a Kosdaq listing need to be in business for at least three years with minimum paid-in capital of 500 million won ($495,417) and debt-to-equity ratio of less than 150 percent of the industry mean.

To contact the reporter on this story: Daniel Ten Kate in Bangkok at dtenkate@bloomberg.net

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Cambodia's first Khmer Rouge trial to start mid-February

PHNOM PENH (AFP) — Cambodia's UN-backed genocide tribunal on Monday officially set February 17 as the start date for the long-awaited first trial of former Khmer Rouge leaders accused of atrocities in the 1970s.

Court documents said the hearing for former prison chief Kaing Guek Eav -- better known as Duch -- will be for crimes against humanity and grave breaches of the Geneva Convention as well as premeditated murder and torture.

Duch, 66, will be the first leader of Cambodia's brutal 1975-1979 communist regime to stand trial at the tribunal, an initial step towards justice for the up to two million people who died under Khmer Rouge rule.

He will be tried for "his acts or omissions in Phnom Penh and within the territory of Cambodia between 17 April 1975 and 6 January 1979," said the court documents, released to the media on Monday.

Duch was indicted last year for allegedly overseeing the torture and extermination of more than 12,000 men, women and children when he headed Phnom Penh's notorious Tuol Sleng prison, known as S-21.

"This is what we have been waiting for for so long," said Tuol Sleng survivor Vann Nath, who made it through years in the prison because he was put to work painting pictures that celebrated the regime.

"Now we know the clear date for the trial. And we hope that we will know the truth that we have been waiting 30 years for," added Vann Nath.

A mathematics teacher who became the Khmer Rouge's torturer-in-chief, Duch has been in prison since 1999 for his role at Tuol Sleng. He was formally transferred to the tribunal in July 2007.

Thousands of inmates were taken from the centre he ran for execution at Choeung Ek, now infamously known as the Killing Fields.

The indictment last August gave a detailed breakdown of the horrific conditions at Tuol Sleng and Duch's alleged role in the atrocities, saying that every prisoner who arrived there was destined for execution.

"Duch personally tortured or mistreated detainees at S-21 on a number of separate occasions and through a variety of means," the indictment said.

Chum Mey, another survivor of Tuol Sleng who was spared because he was put to use repairing car engines, called Monday's announcement "another step toward justice."

"I want Duch to speak about the truth of the regime and where he got the order to kill the people," Chum Mey said.

Up to two million people were executed or died of starvation and overwork as the regime emptied Cambodia's cities, exiling millions to vast collective farms in a bid to forge a communist utopia.

Duch is one of five Khmer Rouge leaders who have been detained by the court for their alleged roles in the regime.

Also in detention awaiting trial are "Brother Number Two" Nuon Chea, former head of state Khieu Samphan, ex-foreign minister Ieng Sary and his wife Ieng Thirith, who was the minister of social affairs.

Established in 2006 after nearly a decade of negotiations between Cambodia and the UN, the long-stalled tribunal has met controversy as it seeks to prosecute crimes committed 30 years ago by senior Khmer Rouge leaders.

At least two of the top Cambodian tribunal officials have been accused of corruption by some defence lawyers in connection with an alleged scheme where local staff were forced to pay kickbacks for their jobs.

Youk Chhang, director of the Documentation Centre of Cambodia which chronicles Khmer Rouge crimes, said the court needed to do better.

"Many have feelings of reservation. It's been three years and over 50 million dollars, and now we have a small case coming up," Youk Chhang said.

"It's just a beginning -- a little tiny light in the tunnel," he added.

The tribunal received a boost earlier this month when Japan's foreign minister pledged funding of 21 million dollars during a visit to Cambodia.
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