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Friday, February 08, 2008

U.S. telecommunications firm to expand into Cambodia

PHNOM PENH, Feb. 8 (Xinhua) -- U.S. telecoms firm 3P Networks has negotiated with the Cambodian government to buy up the rights to frequencies, enabling it to offer cutting-edge multimedia services for the country, said a press release received here on Friday.

3P Networks Inc is currently in the final stage of negotiations with the Cambodian government to acquire significant frequency spectrum in order to implement unique cost-effective telecommunication solutions in Cambodia and in neighboring countries, it said.

Buying into Cambodia will enable a foothold for expansion into Laos and Vietnam, it said.

"Affordable and reliable telecommunications are critical for developing countries in their efforts to both attract investment capital and stimulate a robust domestic environment," it added.

The firm offers multiple products including TV, fixed and wireless Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) and broadband, which are very much in their infancy in Cambodia.

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EU delegation doubts land concession policy of Cambodia

PHNOM PENH, Feb. 8 (Xinhua) -- A European Union (EU) delegation here on Friday expressed doubt about the land concession policy ofthe Cambodian government and also provided ways to address its negative effect.

Some companies with land concessions from the government have been exploiting the soil and the people originally living there, said Harmurt Nassauer, chairman of the delegation of the European Parliament, the executive body of EU, for relations with the countries of the Association of the Southeast Asia Nations (ASEAN).

Their exploitation has led to confrontation and deprived the country of chances for sustainable development, he said at a press conference held upon the delegation's conclusion of its five-day visit to the kingdom.

"Field trips to some provinces told us that the land concession policy has become nightmare for the forestry-dependent communities," he said.

However, he added, the tension can be removed if both sides have good will and the companies do more good things to benefit the local communities.

Meanwhile, vice chairwoman Giovanna Corda told the press conference that some companies with land concessions have been exploiting the land through logging, which is negative for Cambodia.

The government must not allow them to ruin the country and proper management should be in place to protect these precious assets for all of us, she said.

The companies should help the local communities, like building schools and health care centers, but not destroy the nature and the people's living environment without thinking about the future, she added.

During its visit, the delegation respectively met Prime Minister Hun Sen, Deputy Prime Minister Sok An, Minister of Commerce Cham Prasidh and other government and parliamentary leaders.

It also traveled to Kampong Chhnang and Pursat provinces and visited some EU-funded forestry projects, according to the release.

Cambodia has more than 200 kinds of trees, but the tree coverage rate has decrease from 70 percent to the current 35 percent due to lack of protection and over logging.

Major developer can have hundreds of hectares of land for development if the government approves his plan. Concession period used to reach 99 years for such developers.

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Money woes threaten Cambodia's Khmer Rouge tribunal


The tribunal trying Cambodia's former leaders says it needs to triple its $56.3 million budget to try up to eight defendants

Phnom Penh, Cambodia - The top surviving Khmer Rouge leader appeared in court this week for the first time, three decades after the virulent communist regime allegedly oversaw the deaths of some 1.7 million people in Cambodia.

Nuon Chea, thought by many to be the movement's chief ideologue, is facing charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity at a United Nations-backed tribunal that began work in 2006.

His presence in the docket should be a sign of success for the court, which many hope will undercut decades of impunity that have plagued this tiny nation. But the fitful progress of Cambodia's hybrid tribunal has once again bogged down under budget woes, a lingering management scandal, and real worries that the tribunal's five aging defendants could die before judgments come in.

The Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) now plans to spend $170 million to try up to eight defendants, a process it anticipates could take until March 2011, according to a Jan. 30 budget estimate.

That's a big increase from the court's initial three-year budget of $56.3 million – an amount unfathomable to many ordinary people in Cambodia who live on less than $1 a day.

Helen Jarvis, a tribunal spokeswoman, emphasizes that Cambodia's court looks like a bargain compared with tribunals in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia, which have cost about $150 million a year. The Cambodian side of the court will start to run out of money in a matter of weeks, but donors have yet to publicly commit any funds.

"We recognize that a certain increase of the budget is justified," said one Phnom Penh diplomat on condition of anonymity. "We, however, are waiting for official clarification of these new figures and for detailed explanation of the considerable increase," he added.

Donor skepticism surged last year after reports revealed severe problems in hiring and management on the Cambodian side of the court. Allegations that Cambodian staff had to give money in exchange for their jobs have yet to be put to rest.

Now donors are looking for reassurance that their money will be well spent. The European Commission, which funds the Cambodian side of the court, has initiated an independent review to determine whether the court has made adequate reforms. Results may come in this month.

The United States, which has funded every major multinational criminal tribunal except the International Criminal Court (ICC), has yet to provide direct funding to the ECCC, despite signs late last year that the State Department was warming to the idea. President Bush's fiscal year 2009 budget request, released this week, doesn't include money for the tribunal, and the US Embassy in Phnom Penh says the issue is still being reviewed.

Some Cambodia watchers in Congress, which barred direct funding pending assurances that the court can meet international standards, remain skeptical.

"Congress remains sober about Cambodia, generally, and the KRT [Khmer Rouge tribunal], specifically," a senior congressional aide said by e-mail. "Those donors who have put funding on the table are griping how dollars were used and abused, and the administrative shortfall/concerns are well known. We will watch closely those international jurists who wrestle with the challenges every day; the greater stink they raise over corruption or political interference, the less chance Congress or other donors will want to pony up."

Meanwhile, the slow drama of justice plays out in a courtroom on the outskirts of Phnom Penh. Nuon Chea on Thursday asked to be released from the tribunal's detention center, where he has been held since his Sept. 19 arrest. He rose to address the court with the help of two guards. "I have no intention to flee my beloved country."

Chuon Choeun, a farmer brought to view the hearing by a nonprofit group, was one of about 100 Cambodians in attendance. He had never seen Nuon Chea before and even though he couldn't understand much of the legal rules under discussion, he found his first glimpse of the man he once believed was all powerful both bracing and strange.

He expected Nuon Chea to look more brutish, somehow. "His face looks fine. He's not nasty. His face is finer than mine."

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