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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

ADB approves another 42 mln USD to rehabilitate Cambodia railway

The Asian Development Bank (ADB)on Wednesday approved another 42 million U.S. dollars investment in the rehabilitation of Cambodia's dilapidated railway, a move that will position the country at the center of a growing trade network in the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS).

The financing will bring ADB's total investment to 84 million U.S. dollars approximately 60 percent of the 141 million U.S. dollars rail project, according to ADB news release.

With this additional financing, freight trains will begin operating between Kampot, near the border with Vietnam, and the capital Phnom Penh in 2011. The entire railway system will be operational in 2013.

Cambodia's rail network is in tatters following decades of neglect, with the last 48 kilometers of track extending from the Thai border destroyed during wartime.

In addition to rehabilitating and reconstructing 600 kilometers of rail network, including rebuilding the destroyed link to Thailand that will reestablish railway traffic between the two countries, the infusion of new funding will enable the development of a modern freight and rolling stock maintenance facility on the outskirts of Phnom Penh.

"This upgraded rail network will position Cambodia as a true sub-regional transport hub, creating new jobs and business opportunities in the manufacturing and logistic services sectors," said Peter Broch, Senior Transport Economist in ADB's Southeast Asia Department.

The new railway will directly connect to Cambodia's national highway network, and to a major river port in Phnom Penh, using the rail network with road and inland water transport systems connecting Northeast Cambodia and Vietnam's Mekong Delta.

"Cambodia's modern railway will be the backbone of a regional transport system interlinking Cambodia with major industrial and logistics centers in Bangkok and Ho Chi Minh City," said Mr. Broch.

In addition to creating new jobs and spurring economic growth, the revitalized railway will also enhance international trade, reduce the costs of imports, ease road traffic and diminish road hazards.

Source: Xinhua
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Thai FM never directed official to collect intelligence in Cambodia: Minister

The Thai Foreign Ministry has never directed its Thai diplomat to collect intelligence information from Siwarak Chutipong in Cambodia, hence he is not required to explain about the matter, Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya said Wednesday, Thai News Agency reported.

Siwarak, 31 years old, who worked as an engineer at Cambodia Air Traffic Services Co Ltd, had been arrested in Cambodia from Nov. 11, according to an arrest warrant of prosecutor of Phnom Penh Municipality Court.

Cambodia's court had charged Siwarak of having had the confidential information affecting Cambodia's national security.

Siwarak was sentenced to seven years in jail last week, but he was granted a royal pardon from Cambodia's King on Dec. 11, and he was set free on Dec. 14.

As Kasit said he is glad Siwarak has been freed and arrived safely in Thailand, the Thai foreign minister has also insisted the ministry has never directed such the order to the Thai diplomat, Kamrob Palawatwichai as charged.

Kamrob, who was a former first secretary of Thailand's Embassy in Cambodia's capital Phnom Penh, was allegedly ordered to collect the intelligence information from Siwarak.

Kasit also said the Thai ministry had fully attempted to help Siwarak, while he was fighting in Cambodia's court for freedom.

Source: Xinhua.
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Vietnam, Cambodia bilateral trade posts over $1 bln in first 10 months

Bilateral trade between Vietnam and Cambodia stood at 1.05 billion U.S. dollars in the first ten months of this year, down 28 percent year-on-year, according to the information center of Vietnamese Ministry of Industry and Trade on Wednesday.

Of the total, Vietnam raked in 907 million U.S. dollars from exports to the Cambodian market while spending 142 million U.S. dollars on imports from Cambodia, said the center.

For the whole year, Vietnam is expected to earn 1.2 billion U.S. dollars from sales to Cambodia and spend 170 million U.S. dollars on purchases from this market, local newspaper Vietnam Investment Review cited the estimates from the Ministry of Industry and Trade on Wednesday.
In 2010, Vietnam targets to increase bilateral trade with Cambodia to 2 billion U.S. dollars.

To reach the target, the ministry put forward a number of measures including boosting trade promotion activities and improving quality of Vietnamese products.

Last year, two-way trade between Vietnam and Cambodia reached 1.64 billion U.S. dollars, up from 1.19 billion U.S. dollars in 2007,according to the center.

Source: Xinhua
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Two Khmer Rouge leaders charged in Cambodia

Noun Chea, left, a former Khmer Rouge leader and right hand man to Pol Pot, sits during a hearing Monday, Feb. 4, 2008, at the UN-back genocide tribunal in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith, POOL)

The Associated Press

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — The UN-assisted tribunal trying former leaders of Cambodia's Khmer Rouge has charged two defendants with genocide for the first time.

Tribunal spokesman Lars Olsen said Wednesday the co-investigating judges issued the charges this week against the group's top ideologist, Nuon Chea, and former foreign minister, Ieng Sary.

The tribunal is seeking justice for an estimated 1.7 million people who died from execution, overwork, disease and malnutrition as a result of the ultra-communist group's policies during its 1975-79 rule.

Nuon Chea and Ieng Sary have already been charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity, as well as homicide and torture. They are being held in the tribunal's jail and are expected to be tried next year.

Olsen said they were charged with involvement in the deaths of members of the country's ethnic Cham and Vietnamese communities.

Some Chams, who are mostly Muslims, were among the few Cambodians to actively resist Khmer Rouge rule. The Khmer Rouge brutally suppressed the rebellions, which occurred in several villages.

Prejudice against Vietnamese runs high among many Cambodians, who see their eastern neighbour as predatory. The Khmer Rouge shared the communist ideology with Vietnam but had very strained relations with it, and mistrusted even veteran members of their own group with ties to Hanoi. They launched bloody attacks against Vietnamese border villages, which in late 1978 resulted in an invasion by Vietnam that ousted them from power.

The tribunal tried its first defendant, prison chief Kaing Guek Eav, this year on charges of crimes against humanity, war crimes, murder and torture.

Kaing Guek Eav, also known as Duch, commanded S-21 prison in Phnom Penh, where up to 16,000 people were tortured and taken away to be killed. A verdict is expected next year, and he faces a maximum penalty of life imprisonment if found guilty. Cambodia has no death penalty.
Olsen said it would be determined later whether the two other Khmer Rouge leaders in custody -- former head of state Khieu Samphan, and former Social Affairs Minister Ieng Thirith, the wife of Ieng Sary -- would also be charged with genocide.

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Cambodia: UN report voices some concern over rights of garment workers

16 December 2009 – Although working conditions in Cambodian garment factories continue to improve, some concern remains over restrictions imposed on workers’ rights and lingering discrimination, according to a new report from the United Nations International Labour Organization (ILO) released today.

ILO’s Synthesis Report on Working Conditions in Cambodia’s Garment Sector, which assesses compliance with Cambodian labour law and international labour standards, noted generally high levels of conformity despite increased pressure on the clothing industry from the current economic crisis which is responsible for the closure of 70 factories and the shedding of 70,000 jobs in the country.

The report raises some unease over the drop in the proportion of factories whose workers belong to a trade union. The figure is down by eight per cent from the previous report, to about 76 per cent of factories monitored.

In addition, the percentage of factories that discriminated against workers, usually based on gender, is slightly down but still remains at 10 per cent of the 172 businesses monitored, with 1 per cent of factories engaging in anti-union discrimination and 3 per cent interfering with workers’ rights to freedom of association.

The report noted that there is now full compliance with minimum wage requirements for regular workers – up from 99 per cent – but no change for casual workers, with 11 per cent of factories employing such staff failing to meet minimum pay standards.

ILO said that now more than ever, the industry needs to focus on increasing productivity and maintaining “industrial peace” to ensure continued success in the garment sector.

In partnership with the UN Development Programme (UNDP), ILO’s Better Factories Cambodia division is overseeing a study examining the social and economic effects of the recession on a group of 2,000 garment workers, both employed and unemployed.

The study’s initial results show that even among workers who are employed, nearly half have experienced a reduction in their income compared to last year, providing an argument for developing social safety nets as most workers have very few savings to help them ride out the crisis and a single income usually supports several family members.
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Relations with Thai govt cannot be normal, says Cambodian PM

PHNOM PENH : Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said Wednesday that foundering relations with Thailand would not be normalised until Bangkok's current government was voted out of office.

Relations between the countries, which have fought a string of deadly gunbattles on their border since last year, plunged last month when fugitive former Thai premier Thaksin Shinawatra became an economic adviser to Cambodia.

Both recalled their ambassadors in November, and diplomatic tensions were further raised when Phnom Penh refused to extradite Thaksin during his first visit as economic adviser.

"I tell you (Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva) I'm waiting for the Thai next government to come to power and for them send back the ambassador," said Hun Sen in a speech at Phnom Penh ceremony.

"You raise the issue of Thaksin, but you forget the issue of Preah Vihear," he said, in reference to the 11th century Khmer temple at the centre of the deadly border dispute between the two countries.

"I want to say that relations cannot be normalised as long as you are still invading me," Hun Sen added.

Thaksin, who arrived back in Cambodia Sunday, stepped up his economic advisory role Wednesday as he addressed senior government officials on how to boost investment and tourism.

The telecoms mogul, ousted in a 2006 coup, was credited this week by the Cambodian government for the release of a Thai air traffic control employee jailed for seven years for spying on Thaksin's previous visit.

After the man's arrest last month, Cambodia expelled the first secretary to the Thai embassy and Thailand retaliated in kind.

Angered by Thaksin's presence in Cambodia, Thailand last month also put all talks and cooperation with the neighbouring country on hold and has torn up an oil and gas exploration deal signed during Thaksin's tenure as prime minister.

Twice-elected Thaksin is living abroad, mostly in Dubai, to avoid a two-year jail term for corruption handed down by a Thai court in September 2008.

But he remains an influential political figure in Thailand, stirring up mass protests by his "Red Shirt" supporters against the current government.

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