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Thursday, January 22, 2009

Expert calls for Cambodian gov't to lower bank reserve rate

PHNOM PENH, The government must lower the reserve rate of banks so that financial institutions can loan more money and fuel the economy in the grips of a financial slowdown, national media reported on Thursday.

The National Bank of Cambodia, in an attempt to lower inflation and cool the lending market, began requiring in May 2008 that banks double their reserves from 8 to 16 percent of all their foreign currency.

"Inflation is coming down particularly in food and energy costs(since December 2008) and now the danger is the economy slowing down, so at some stage (the government) might relax some of its policies on credit squeezing," English-Khmer language newspaper the Cambodia Daily quoted John Brinsden, vice president of the Acleda Bank, as saying.

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The reserve rate has significantly cut Acleda's ability to issue loans, he said, adding that outstanding loans at Acleda grew just 5 percent in the last six months of 2008 after the central bank doubled the reserve rate.

Prior to that, in the first six months of 2008, outstanding loans at Acleda grew 50 percent to more than 450 million U.S. dollars, he said.

"We just do not have the funds we would like (available)," he added.

The Cambodian economy enjoyed double-digit increase during the 2005-2007 period, but down to below 10 percent in 2008 and will further slide to around 5 percent in 2009, according to the forecasts by experts and international financial institutions.

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Cambodian armed forces commander fired

The head of Cambodia's armed forces was dismissed from his post Thursday and replaced with a longtime loyalist of Prime Minister Hun Sen with whom he served in the Khmer Rouge in the 1970s.
A royal decree announced the removal of Gen. Ke Kim Yan, the commander in-chief of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces, who was replaced by his deputy, Gen. Pol Saroeun.

No reason was given for the move. Information Minister Khieu Kanharith said it was a normal reshuffle, which was initiated by the government.

After Ke Kim Yan, 53, failed to support Hun Sen's 1997 coup against then co-Prime Minister Norodom Ranariddh, he was marginalized and left without any real power. He was threatened several times with dismissal by the prime minister, whose control of the country is virtually unchallenged.

Ke Kim Yan joined the Cambodian armed forces in 1979 and became its head in 1999. Politically he allied himself with Hun Sen's rivals in the ruling Cambodian People's Party leadership.

Pol Saroeun, meanwhile, is known to have close ties to Hun Sen. Both served during the communist Khmer Rouge regime that took power in 1975, and both fled the murderous group before it was ousted in 1979.

Several other top members of the ruling Cambodian People's Party are also former members of the Khmer Rouge, whose radical policies are widely considered responsible for the deaths of at least 1.7 million people though execution, starvation, overwork and starvation. Several members are the regime have been charged with war crimes at a U.N.-backed genocide tribunal.
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Cambodia opposition seeks Obama's help in murder probe

PHNOM PENH (AFP) — Cambodia's opposition leader Thursday urged US President Barack Obama to help find the killers of a prominent union boss, as hundreds of people gathered to mark five years since his murder.

Chea Vichea, who headed the country's largest labour union and was a vocal critic of Prime Minister Hun Sen's government, was gunned down at a Phnom Penh newsstand on January 22, 2004.

The daylight murder shocked Cambodia and badly fractured the country's nascent workers' movement. It was condemned by rights groups as a brutal attempt to silence opposition-linked unions.

"I beg US President Barack Obama to help Cambodian people find the criminals to bring them to justice," opposition leader Sam Rainsy told a crowd Thursday at the spot where Chea Vichea was shot.

The politician marched through Phnom Penh with some 300 garment workers and unionists to place wreaths and light incense sticks at the newsstand.

Sam Rainsy criticised authorities for failing to arrest the real culprits, but said he hoped that a "push from outside" would bring "change" in the case of Chea Vichea's murder over the next year.

Cambodia's highest court late last month provisionally released two men convicted of killing Chea Vichea and ordered the case to be re-tried, citing unclear evidence.

The two men, Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun, had been arrested just days after the union chief's 2004 death, convicted of murder and quickly sentenced to 20 years each in prison.

The United States and UN welcomed the decision by the court to order a retrial. International and local rights watchdogs had called the conviction and trial deeply flawed and said the true perpetrators remained at large.

But two other labour leaders have also been murdered since Chea Vichea's killing, in an escalation of attacks against workers' rights advocates.

Their deaths cast a pall over Cambodia's key garment industry, with several major clothing labels warning the government that swift justice was needed for their continued presence in the country.
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Indian doctor gets prestigious Cambodian award

New Delhi (PTI): Chinkholal Thangsing, a doctor from India, who is currently Asia Pacific bureau chief of AIDS Healthcare Foundation, has been honoured with a prestigious Cambodian award for his contribution towards humanitarian services in the country.

'Royal order of Sahametrei' is conferred primarily on foreigners who have rendered distinguished services to the King and to the nation by Royal decree of the King of Cambodia, a release issued by AIDS healthcare foundation (AHF) here said.

"The award recognised Thangsing's exemplary contribution and dedication towards humanitarian services rendered by him and and the organisation for the people living with HIV/AIDS and general public in Cambodia," it said.

Giving away the award, Cambodia's Health Minister Mam Bun Heng said, "This is a big honour and my proud privilege to hand over the 'Sahametrei' to you, to honour and recognise your selfless dedication and contribution to better the lives of our people."

AHF is the US' largest non-profit HIV/AIDS healthcare, research, prevention and education provider. Its bureau operates in Cambodia, China, India, Thailand, Vietnam and Nepal.

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