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Sunday, February 01, 2009

Cambodia-Boost to pork industry

CAMBODIA - Local pork producers and agriculture officials are pressing ahead with plans to boost the local industry by improving processing facilities, cutting feed prices and cracking down on smuggling.

This year, the government set up additional border inspection points to stem the illegal flow of animals entering the country and is providing free veterinary services to farmers, reports The Phnom Penh Post.

"We don’t charge for veterinary services for locally bred animals, but we charge 100 riels (2.42 cents) per kilo for imported ones," said Kao Phal, director of the Animal Health and Production Department at the Ministry of Agriculture.

"We are trying to attract more investment in animal food production ... to keep the price low for farmers and create jobs," said Kao Phal.

Officials are also cracking down on smuggling and have installed new inspection points at the border and inside the country.

Each day 800 pigs are imported from Thailand and Vietnam with many more smuggled. Kao Phal said that three smugglers have been caught this year and fined.

Mong Reththy, head of Mong Reththy Group, said his company is spearheading an effort to improve sanitary standards and reduce processing costs.

The company is building a US$1 million processing factory capable of producing 10 tonnes of pork per hour.

The facility will export local pork and pork products within five years, he said.

"We can sell pork abroad at $10 per kilo, but only $5 locally, so we need to encourage exports. Firstly, we need to improve our sanitary standards otherwise nobody will buy local pork," said Mong Reththy. "I think we can export some of the pork and leave local farmers to supply the Cambodian market."

He said that his company will not undercut local farmers, but will raise the standards of the industry.

The facility would source its feed locally, he said, which would allow farmers to sell low-quality grains in-country.

The company hopes to take advantage of Cambodia’s free trade agreements by targeting China and Japan as export markets.

In the long term, the company would make dried pork and sausages for export at a $1.8 million facility, said Mong Reththy.

Srun Pov, the first deputy president of the country’s biggest pork association, the Cambodian Pig Raisers Association, said that farmers earn nearly double if they process pork locally.

"We are asking the government to encourage local processing to boost the Cambodian pork industry," he said.

He urged the government to focus on cutting feed prices ,which can account for 70 per cent of farmers’ costs.
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Cambodia's private sector exports of milled rice expected to rise 10 folds in 2009

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia may see a 10-fold increase in private sector milled rice exports this year, up to 200,000 tons from 20,000 tons in 2008, due to greater milling capacity and emergence of new markets, national media said on Monday.

The rise would come despite higher government stock requirement, English-language daily newspaper the Phnom Penh quoted the Federation of Cambodian Rice Miller Associations (FCRMA), as saying.

The private sector is required to maintain minimum stocks of 500,000 tons in 2009, up from 400,000 tons in 2008, it said.

About 300,000 tons have already been collected from the latest harvest, and the industry is using 15 million U.S. dollars of low-interest bank loans to enhance the capacity and quality of milling through upgrading infrastructure, said FCRMA president Phou Puy.

The industry has also expanded the overseas market and plans to export over 200,000 tons of rice to Germany, Malaysia, Brunei and Saudi Arabia, he added.

Among the countries beside the Mekong River, where rice plantation is popular, Cambodia only lags behind Thailand and Vietnam in the fields of rice exports.

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Efforts to Limit Khmer Rouge Trials Decried

By SETH MYDANS


PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — At first glance it seems to be simply a numbers game: whether to try 5, 10 or more defendants for the deaths of an estimated 1.7 million people at the hands of the Khmer Rouge three decades ago.

But as a United Nations-backed tribunal prepares to hold its first trial hearing this month, the wrangle over numbers is reinforcing longstanding concerns about the tribunal’s fairness and independence.

The Cambodian government, critics say, is trying to limit the scope of the trials for its own political reasons, a limit that the critics say would compromise justice and could discredit the entire process.

“To me, it’s the credibility of the tribunal which is at stake, its integrity and therefore its credibility,” said Christophe Peschoux, who runs the Cambodia office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.

The first defendant is the man with perhaps the most horrifying past: Kaing Guek Eav, known as Duch (pronounced DOIK), the commander of the Tuol Sleng torture house in Phnom Penh, where at least 14,000 people were sent to their deaths. His trial is to open with a procedural hearing, set for Feb. 17, during which more substantive sessions, involving witnesses and evidence, are expected to be scheduled.

Four other defendants, all of whom were members of the Khmer Rouge Central Committee, are also in custody, waiting their turns to face charges on crimes that occurred while they were at the top of the chain of command from 1975 to 1979. As much as one-fourth of the population in Cambodia died from disease, hunger or overwork, or were executed under the Khmer Rouge’s brutal Communist rule.

Those five defendants are enough, Cambodian officials say.

But foreign legal experts counter that within reasonable limits, the judicial process should not be arbitrarily limited.

After a decade of difficult and not always friendly negotiations between the United Nations and the Cambodians, a hybrid tribunal is in place, with Cambodian and foreign co-prosecutors and co-judges in an awkward political and legal balancing act.

Now, even before Duch’s trial gets under way, that balance is being tested.

Last month the foreign co-prosecutor, a Canadian named Robert Petit, submitted six more names to the court for investigation, saying that he had gathered enough evidence to support possible charges. Mr. Petit’s Cambodian counterpart, Chea Leang, objected — not on legal grounds, but for reasons that appear to reflect the government’s position on the trials.

Additional indictments, the Cambodian prosecutor said, could be destabilizing. She said they would cost too much, take too long and violate the spirit of the tribunal, which she said envisioned “only a small number of trials.”

Prime Minister Hun Sen, who bargained hard with the United Nations over the shape and scope of the tribunal, has said that trying “four or five people” would be enough, although there is no formal limit on the number.

Indeed, Peter Maguire, author of “Facing Death in Cambodia,” suggests that Mr. Hun Sen’s plan might be to try only Duch — “a garden-variety war criminal” — and hope the other defendants die before they can be tried.

The additional names submitted by Mr. Petit have not been made public. But people close to the court say that none of them hold a significant position in Cambodia’s current government.

Mr. Hun Sen and several senior members of his government were Khmer Rouge cadres, but experts say they do not fall under the scope of the tribunal and are not at risk of prosecution.

The mandate of the court is to try the top leadership of the Khmer Rouge and “those most responsible” for the crimes — that is, people like Duch, who is accused of overseeing the torture and killing of thousands.

In Cambodia, though, courts do not head off in their own directions without tight control from Mr. Hun Sen or the people around him. Some advocates of the tribunal, called the Extraordinary Chambers of the Courts of Cambodia or E.C.C.C., see it as challenging this top-down control by offering Cambodia a model for a more independent judiciary.

“Some in Phnom Penh are apparently frightened that the E.C.C.C. might actually succeed, that it might serve as an example of accountability that could be applied more widely,” said James A. Goldston, executive director of the Open Society Justice Initiative, a New York-based organization that pursues legal reform.

“With the Feb. 17 start of the first trial fast approaching, now is the moment to show that the court is not a tool of the Cambodian government,” he said.

Most Cambodians are eager to see Khmer Rouge leaders on trial, according to a survey published last week by the Human Rights Center at the University of California, Berkeley.

But the poll found that about one-third of people answering the survey had doubts about the tribunal’s neutrality and independence, perhaps because of their experience with their own corrupt and coerced judiciary.

Confidence in the tribunal has also been eroded by allegations of kickbacks that are familiar in the Cambodian court system. The United Nations has investigated the allegations but has not released its findings.

Now, with the dispute between the two co-prosecutors in the open, the checks and balances of the hybrid court will meet their first major test.

The dispute must now go to a panel known as the pretrial chamber, whose makeup reflects the supermajority structure of the tribunal — three Cambodian judges and two foreign judges.

There is nothing so far to suggest that this process will not work as it should, said David J. Scheffer, a human rights law professor at Northwestern University School of Law who took part in talks to create the tribunal.

The real test, Mr. Scheffer said in a recent article in The Phnom Penh Post, will be whether the judges in the pretrial chamber “step up to the plate and do their duty with the highest degree of judicial integrity.”

“We can all assess that when their decision is rendered,” he said.

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