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Cambodia Kingdom

Monday, February 16, 2009

Cambodia's ATM networks grow despite crisis

PHNOM PENH, Despite concerns over the impact of the global credit crunch on local financial institutions, Cambodian banks are expanding their network of ATMs to provide customers with easier access to their money, national media reported Monday.

In Channy, president and chief executive of ACLEDA Bank, told the Phnom Penh Post that the growth of ATMs has boomed in the last few years as living conditions improve and greater progress is made in modernizing the kingdom's bank sector.

"In 2007, (we) had 20 ATMs. Now, we have 60 ATMs with plans to reach 100 by the end of this year," In Channy said.

"Our ATMs have been installed in all parts of Cambodia," he said.

"Our long term expansion strategy will include an expansion of our network to 500 ATMs and 240 branch offices nationwide," he added.

Meanwhile, Kunkanel Nong, a marketing manager at the Canadia Bank, said that Canadia currently operates 48 ATMs throughout Cambodia, up from 25 in 2007, and that the bank expects to reach 60 ATMs by the end of this year.

The first ATM in Cambodia was introduced by Canadia Bank in June 2004, according to the National Bank of Cambodia's (NBC) 2007annual report.

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News leak on ex-military chief angers Cambodian government

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia, The Council of Ministers have chastised the press for publishing information from a leaked government document that revealed it began probe into the real estate holdings of recently removed military chief Ke Kim Yan, national media said on Monday.

The publishing of information contained in the official minutes of a meeting of the Council of Ministers held on Jan. 23, one day after Ke Kim Yan's ouster as Commander in Chief of Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF), amounted to "incitement and provocation of a bad political environment," English-Khmer language newspaper the Cambodia Daily quoted a statement of the council as saying.

"The government is investigating to find the people who leaked its internal documents and will take strict measures against these individuals," the statement added.

The minutes, which found their way into the hands of several media outlets late last week, revealed that Ke Kim Yan was removed in part because of his land dealings.

According to the minutes, "the Council of Ministers has been informed and commented on the termination of the position of commander-in-chief from HE Ke Kim Yan based on two reasons:

"First, reforming the RCAF rank and file by adhering to work effectiveness in the military rank and file.

"Second, involvement with land issues by a top and powerful person in the military rank and file and doing business by using the name of military for personal gain."

The minutes went on to describe a resolution by the Council of Ministers to have both military and government bodies investigate Ke Kim Yan's land dealings.

Since his removal, ruling party and military officials have repeatedly claimed that his ouster was solely to promote reforms within the military.
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Cambodia genocide trial to begin

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia: The first trial of a Khmer Rouge leader was to begin Tuesday as part of efforts by a U.N.-assisted genocide tribunal to punish those responsible for the deaths of an estimated 1.7 million Cambodians after more than three decades of delayed justice.

When the communist Khmer Rouge came to power in 1975 after five years of bitter civil war, many of their countrymen thought peace was at hand. But in their effort to remake society, they instituted a reign of terror that lasted nearly 4 years and ended only by an invasion by neighboring Vietnam.

To get even one of the Khmer Rouge leaders on trial is seen as a breakthrough, as many victims feared that the defendants, now aging and infirm, would die before facing justice. But there are real concerns that the process is being politically manipulated and that thousands of killers will escape unpunished.

"It's going to be a very big day for the Cambodian people because the justice that they have been waiting for 30 years it starting to get closer and closer," said tribunal spokesman Reach Sambath.

Kaing Guek Eav — better known as Duch, who headed the Khmer Rouge's largest torture center — is the first of five former Khmer Rouge leaders scheduled to stand trial. He is charged with crimes against humanity.

Duch, 66, is accused of having committed or abetted a range of crimes including murder, torture, rape and persecutions at S-21 prison in Phnom Penh — formerly a school — where up to 16,000 men, women and children were held and tortured, before being put to death.

The prison, also known as Tuol Sleng and now a genocide museum, provides gruesome evidence.
Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot's Maoist plan for a peasants' paradise collapsed under a disastrous agricultural policy and rampant paranoia about supposed traitors; thousands were executed, while many more died of starvation, exhaustion and disease.

Duch's hearing before the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, as the tribunal is called, will deal with procedural issues, and testimony is expected to begin only in late March. Up to 1,000 people are expected to attend the hearing, which will last two or three days, Reach Sambath said.

The trial comes 30 years after the fall of the Khmer Rouge, 13 years after the tribunal was first proposed and nearly three years after the court was inaugurated.

The tribunal has been plagued by political interference from the Cambodian government, allegations of bias and corruption, lack of funding and bickering between Cambodian and international lawyers.

Some observers believe Prime Minister Hun Sen — a former Khmer Rouge officer himself — is controlling the tribunal's scope and reach by directing the decisions of the Cambodian prosecutors and judges.

Others in detention facing trial are Khieu Samphan, the group's former head of state; Ieng Sary, its foreign minister; his wife Ieng Thirith, who was minister for social affairs; and Nuon Chea, the movement's chief ideologue.

"I think the possibility is definitely there that this can deliver justice," said Heather Ryan of the New York-based group Open Justice Initiative, which seeks to work with the court and NGOs to ensure that international standards of justice are met.

"But ... there are hurdles that need to be overcome before we get to that point and unless and until the government of Cambodia and the United Nations demonstrates seriousness about getting over those hurdles I think there will be a serious doubt the ultimate value of these trials."
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