The land of heroes
Our heroes
Our land
Cambodia Kingdom

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Hydrodam Plans Stir Ratanakkiri Unease

Patt Paing has five hectares of land by the Sre Pok river. She has a small wooden house, and she raises pigs. The 55-year-old leads a quiet life here in Village Two, in Ratanakkiri’s Koun Mom district. But over the past three years, life has been more difficult.

That’s because of the floods.

“I don’t have enough rice to eat because of the floods for the past three years,” she told VOA Khmer in an interview last week. “In previous years, I could harvest more than 1,000 buckets or over 10 tons of rice per season.”

The floods were caused by water releases from dams upriver, she said.

“The consecutive floods caused by the dams have left me almost nothing to eat,” she said.

At least five more dams have been planned on the Sre Pok and its sister river, the Sesan, both of which run into the Mekong River. Those dams will follow the 2002 construction of a 720-megawatt dam at Yali Falls on the Sesan in Vietnam.

Villagers, who gathered for an annual celebration of the 3S Rivers Protection Network here last week, say they don’t want more dams, the flooding from which damage livestock and farmland.

“The existing dam in Vietnam has already severely affected our livelihoods, so what will it be like if more dams are to be built on these rivers on the Cambodian side?” asked Meas Samith, a representative of indigenous villagers on the Sre Pok.

“For generations, I have never heard that when a dam is built, an escalator is also set up for fish to travel on,” he said. “When a dam is built, there is no more fish migration.”

Villagers here say the dams and the power they generate are not worth the cost.

“Can the electricity be eaten?” asked Piev Chhin, a 65-year-old fisherman from the Brov ethnic minority. “We live along the river, so if our house gets flooded, what is the use of having electricity?”

“The electricity is of no importance for us,” added Dy Bopi, a 55-year-old farmer in Koun Mom district. “We would rather us batteries or paraffin lamps instead.”

However, officials say that if Cambodia is to grow its economy, it will need more than batteries and lamps. Only about 20 percent of the country’s homes have access to power, and most of those are in the capital. And electricity prices here remain high, while Cambodia purchases electricity from Vietnam and Thailand.

Ratanakirri Governor Pao Hamphan told reporters here last week the proposed dams were not confirmed and that villagers should not worry about them too much at the moment.

“It’s just the information, as no company has come to talk to us about them yet,” he said.

A vice governor of Koun Mom district, however, said the government would proceed with the dams if assessments showed more benefits than costs.

“We don’t build dams to kill people,” he said, addressing a crowd of villagers. “We build them for their benefit.”

If Cambodia does not build dams, other countries will, he said. “How can we alleviate people’s poverty if we just wait and buy electricity from other countries?”

Villagers said last week the government should consider methods other than dams if it needs electricity.

“If they build dams, it’s not certain we would have electricity for use here,” said Nen Sokei, an ethnic Tompuon villager. “And if we do have electricity, we are not sure if we can afford to pay for the power supply.”
Read more!

Nestlé Advisory Board awards first Creating Shared Value Prize

Vevey, Nestlé’s Creating Shared Value Advisory Board today awarded the first Nestlé Prize in Creating Shared Value to the Cambodian branch of an international not-for-profit organisation which uses market-based approaches to increase the income of the rural poor by improving market access, increasing agricultural production and creating sustainable local businesses: International Development Enterprises (IDE) Cambodia (

Starting in 2005, IDE Cambodia developed a network of 60 independent small rural entrepreneurs in Cambodia called Farm Business Advisors. These advisors give technical advice to more than 4,500 small-scale farmers to help them boost their productivity, while selling them products such as high-quality seeds, fertilizer, plastic fencing and irrigation equipment and services. On average, farmers assisted by these advisors increase their net income by 27% from USD 382 to USD 480 per year. At the same time, the advisors earn an income from selling their products and services.

IDE Cambodia will use the Prize’s CHF 500,000 to recruit and train an additional 36 advisors, aiming to generate approximately USD 1.9 million in new income and benefiting around 20,000 people in more than 4,000 rural households across Cambodia.

IDE Cambodia Country Director Michael Roberts said: “It is an honour to receive this recognition from Nestlé. The prize will help us further IDE’s mission to create income opportunities for poor rural households. We hope to leverage the Prize to reach more than 75,000 rural Cambodian households in the next few years. On a global scale, this is still very small but we think there are big implications in what we are learning.”

Nestlé Chairman Peter Brabeck-Letmathe replied: “We congratulate IDE Cambodia on being the first to be awarded the Prize. The work they do is truly inspirational. IDE continue to grow their network of Farm Business Advisors in Cambodia while at the same time creating value for rural communities there. This is exactly what we mean by Creating Shared Value.”

Nestlé CEO Paul Bulcke added: “We had a vast range of inspirational entries from across the globe. IDE Cambodia is a leading project and the Nestlé prize money will help them to ensure that this project continues to thrive and expand.”

The Prize was created by Nestlé in 2009 to provide financial support of up to CHF 500,000 to individuals, NGOs, or small enterprises offering innovative solutions to improve access to, and management of, water, improve the lives of farmers and rural communities, or provide better nutrition to communities suffering from nutritional deficiencies.

The first edition, which received more than 500 applications from 79 countries, was awarded during Nestlé’s second Creating Shared Value Forum, a gathering of international leading experts in water, nutrition, rural development and the role of business in society, which took place in London on 27 May 2010.

The winner was selected by the Nestlé Creating Shared Value Advisory Board, an independent panel of internationally-recognised experts in corporate strategy, nutrition, water and rural development, including John Elkington, co-founder of SustainAbility; Michael E. Porter, Bishop William Lawrence University Professor at the Harvard Business School; Jeffrey Sachs, Director of The Earth Institute at Columbia University; and Nancy Birdsall, founding president of the Center for Global Development.

Notes to Editors

• Testimonials of farmers and Farm Business Advisors benefiting from the IDE project are available on An interview with Michael Roberts, Country Director, IDE Cambodia, is available via the same link.

• Photo and video material is available on this site.

• Creating Shared Value is a fundamental part of the way Nestlé does business. In order to create long-term value for our shareholders, we must at the same time create value for society at large.

• Nestlé committed an investment of CHF 500,000 to IDE Cambodia. This will be disbursed over a three-year period and will assist in the scaling-up of the project. The Prize monies will be used by IDE Cambodia to recruit and train a further 36 Farm Business Advisors, provide them with access to agricultural inputs, market information and microfinance, as well as the development and strengthening of the franchise system.
Read more!

Modern Masterpieces


Vann Molyvann, Cambodia's greatest living architect, recalls that the night his Olympic Stadium in Phnom Penh was completed, in 1964, "I took my wife to see the work." Sitting in the top tier of the stands, they listened to Dvorák's "New World Symphony" over the stadium's speaker system. "It was one of the great moments of my life."

In the years after Cambodia won independence from France in 1953, Mr. Molyvann—then scarcely in his 30s—set out under the tutelage of King Norodom Sihanouk to transform Phnom Penh from a colonial backwater into a modern city. But in the late 1960s the country was drawn into decades of war and terror, including years under the murderous Khmer Rouge regime, and Mr. Molyvann's vision was virtually forgotten. The architect himself had to flee the country.

And while he returned in triumph after more than 20 years abroad, it was to find that grand titles didn't translate into influence in today's Cambodia. His legacy—structures in a style dubbed New Khmer Architecture—lives on, contributing significantly to the flair of the city, but even that is in danger as Phnom Penh, like other Asian capitals, clears historic buildings to make room for skyscrapers.

Cambodia is best known for its magnificent temple ruins at Angkor, remnants of a great Southeast Asian empire that covered the country's current territory as well as parts of Vietnam, Thailand and Laos. After Angkor fell to the Siamese in the 15th century, a new Cambodian capital was founded on the banks of the Tonlé Sap River. That city, Phnom Penh, remained an unstable settlement, caught up in the geopolitical ambitions of Cambodia's more powerful neighbors, until the French arrived in the 1860s. The colonial administrators drained the neighboring swamps and created a grid street plan, dotted with sumptuous villas, Art Deco markets and impressive government structures.

Even then, Phnom Penh was modest, small-town colonial France—and when Mr. Molyvann received a scholarship from the colonial government and set off for the Sorbonne in Paris, it wasn't with the dream of returning to remake it. He was a law student. But as he pursued his degree, and struggled with the compulsory Greek and Latin, he had an encounter that changed his life.

"I met Henri Marchal, the curator of Angkor for the École Française d'Extrême-Orient [the French School of Asian Studies]," Mr. Molvyann remembers, "and suddenly I knew I wanted to be an architect, so I changed to the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux Arts, where I studied until 1950 under Le Corbusier." He regards that modernist architect and designer as his greatest teacher.

After that, Mr. Molyvann stayed on in Paris for several more years, studying Khmer art. While he looks back fondly on the period, he is also keenly aware that some of Cambodia's later traumas had their origins in the Paris of that time.

"The Khmer Rouge was born in the Latin quarter of Paris," he says. As they debated their country's postcolonial future, Mr. Molyvann says, the city's 400 or so Cambodian students split between nationalists and Marxists. Khieu Samphan, whom he knew as a fellow Sorbonne student, would go on to become head of state in the Khmer Rouge government.

By 1956, Mr. Molyvann was back in Phnom Penh. Independence had broadened Cambodia's horizons, in part thanks to the efforts of King Sihanouk, who at various times officially dropped his title to serve as prime minister, head of state or president, though Cambodians continued to refer to him as king. With tremendous energy and not a little royal eccentricity, the young monarch—also politician, artist, filmmaker, womanizer and host to a series of foreign heads of state and celebrities—worked to create a modern nation with an eye on the past. The leading members of an emerging urban elite, many of whom, like Mr. Molyvann, had returned from Paris, sought to create architecture, music, films, literature and art that married Cambodian tradition with modernist thinking.

Nowhere was this more apparent than in new administrative, public and private building projects that sprang up all over the capital—transforming Phnom Penh, within little more than a decade, into one of Asia's most dynamic cities.

"It was difficult at the beginning, as Cambodians had never heard of architects," Mr. Molyvann remembers. "All they knew were engineers and builders. There was a real dearth of qualified Khmer experts, as the French had used Vietnamese to administer my country. But within 10 years of independence the management of the country and its capital was Khmer. It was incredible."

Mr. Molyvann was made chief architect for state buildings and director for urban planning and habitat in 1956 and given a number of ministerial posts in the following years. "I was designing the Independence Monument and was asked to present the king with a selection of marble," he recalls. "I was too afraid to speak to him personally, but he made some suggestions and we got on perfectly after that." Shaped like a lotus flower, the monument tower, completed in 1960, remains one of Phnom Penh's landmarks.

Mr. Molyvann had part of the floodplain south of the Royal Palace drained and filled, and on this "Front de Bassac" constructed the country's first high-rises, initially for visiting athletes for the 1966 Ganefo Games, a short-lived Asian alternative to the Olympics.

"We built the stadium for 60,000 people and surrounded it with a moat, so that the waters could run off in the rainy season," he says.

Stefanie Irmer, whose KA Tours focuses on New Khmer Architecture, sees the relation between water and city as crucial to the architect's vision for Phnom Penh. "Besides creating the 'Front de Bassac' area from wetlands," she says, "almost every building Vann Molyvann designed was surrounded by water—to keep the termites out, but also to integrate the buildings into the flood plain."

Many of Mr. Molyvann's buildings are traditional in one sense—they are shaped like familiar objects. Chaktomuk Conference Hall, one of his earliest designs, is like an open palm leaf. The library of the Institute of Foreign Languages (now part of the Royal University of Phnom Penh) was inspired by a traditional Khmer straw hat. The lecture halls of the institute rest on sharply angled concrete pillars that give them the appearance of animals, about to jump. They are still in use today, as is the library.

By the early 1960s, for the first time in almost 800 years, Cambodia was blooming. The Angkor ruins were the region's biggest tourist draw, and Phnom Penh had doubled in size and become a city others in the region admired.

But the politics were turning ugly. Norodom Sihanouk, serving as prime minister, began to suppress dissent. By the mid-1960s, the U.S. had combat troops in Vietnam; as American planes began bombing North Vietnamese positions in Cambodia, the country's policy of neutrality became a farce. The former king's repressive policies alienated the political left and some rural Cambodians, who began to join a shadowy communist movement, the Khmer Rouge. Meanwhile, the right and military had become fed up with his capriciousness and nepotism. When he left to visit China in 1970, a coup replaced him with army general Lon Nol. The Swinging '60s, the meteoric rise of a young nation, the building boom in the "Pearl of Asia"—it was all over.

Mr. Molyvann remembers days with hard choices. "Shortly after Lon Nol came to power, the Israeli ambassador advised me to take my family out of the country," he says; the ambassador, a friend of his, warned him about the crumbling security and the increasing persecution of those connected with the previous government. So when Mr. Molyvann left for a conference in Israel, with his wife, Trudy, and their six children, they didn't return. Instead they moved on to Switzerland, his wife's home country.

Five years later, the Khmer Rouge marched victoriously into Phnom Penh. The new rulers immediately emptied the cities, and for almost four years Phnom Penh was a ghost town. At least 1.5 million Cambodians, nearly a quarter of the population—Mr. Molyvann's father among them—lost their lives in the killing fields. The fledgling intellectual elite was snuffed out.

"I had no contact during those years," says Mr. Molyvann. "I had to give my children a new life, so we stayed in Lausanne." He continued to work as an architect in Switzerland, Africa and Laos, for the United Nations and the World Bank. The Vietnamese pushed out the Khmer Rouge in 1979, but Mr. Molyvann "could not think of going back." The new rulers "were still communists."

"It was not until 1993 that I returned—with the U.N.," he says. Initially, his homecoming was triumphant. He was appointed minister of state for culture and fine arts, territorial management and urban planning and contributed to the application for Angkor's successful recognition as a Unesco World Heritage site.

But he soon realized that the Cambodia he had left behind in 1970 no longer existed. Cambodian People's Party leader Hun Sen, who had been installed by the Vietnamese and who continued as prime minister after the U.N.-organized elections, gave Mr. Molyvann back his villa, but the architect's plans for Siem Reap—the province in which Angkor is located—were unappreciated. He had called for a "tourist village" set apart from both the temples and the old town of Siem Reap, integrated into the environment and with water conservation as a key goal.

"The government wanted to use the resources of Angkor to develop Siem Reap without the participation of the local people," Mr. Molyvann says. "In 1998, I became president executive director of Apsara (Authority for the Protection and Safeguard of Angkor), the government body created to look after the temples. Three years later, I was fired." Unchecked development in Siem Reap has led to a dramatic drop in groundwater levels, causing subsidence that has put the Bayon, one of the main temples in the Angkor area, in danger of collapse, according to experts from the Japanese Conservation Team for Safeguarding Angkor. Development has also driven up property prices and the cost of living, a hardship for the locals in a province that remains one of the poorest in the country.

But it was not just the government and developers standing against Mr. Molyvann and his vision. Bill Greaves, director of the Vann Molyvann Project, a nongovernmental organization engaged in recreating the lost plans of the remaining New Khmer Architecture sites, thinks postwar Cambodia is simply not aware of its past.

"Right now, Singapore and Shanghai are models for forward-looking cities, both for the government and the people," he says. "Hence Phnom Penh's different stages of history are likely to be discarded."

In the past decade, as investment has begun to pour into the Cambodian capital once more, colonial and 1960s buildings have been replaced by chrome-and-glass edifices, floodwater lakes have been drained, local media have reported almost daily evictions and ministers have gushed over the need to build skyscrapers in order to keep up with the neighbors.

The government frequently declares that preservation has to go hand in hand with development. In practice, it seems to walk well behind. Beng Khemro, deputy director general at the ministry for land management, urban planning and construction, says his department's hands are tied. "Many historical properties are in terrible condition," he says. "The people who own them don't understand the value of the past and would rather demolish them and build high-rises to make a profit. The past is not appreciated. Without a change in attitude amongst the population, we are fighting a losing battle."

Cambodia has preservation laws, and Dr. Khemro says he is trying to pass a regulation to get them applied in particular instances. He'd like to try a pilot preservation project away from Phnom Penh, he says, noting that Cambodia's second-largest city, Battambang, has many buildings from the French period.

"Also," he adds, "there's less pressure."

Molyvann advocate Mr. Greaves is skeptical about the survival of the architect's legacy. "The old buildings disappear at an alarming rate—even public edifices like the National Theatre, which was knocked down a couple of years ago, are not safe. We try and get there before the demolition crews arrive."

A drive around town with Mr. Molyvann illustrates his curious position in this free-for-all scramble for change. At the Independence Monument, guards at first refuse him entry. Only after his driver reveals the distinguished visitor's identity is the master architect, old and frail, allowed to climb the steps he designed half a century ago.

Passing the stadium, Mr. Molyvann looks at the haphazard development around his favorite creation. Appropriated by developers with government connections, the moat has been partly filled in to make space for shops and an underground car park; the result is annual flooding that threatens the entire sports complex.

With equal shades of sadness and anger in his voice, Mr. Molyvann says, "Today, it's not the state who owns the old properties, but the ruling party, the CPP."

—Tom Vater is a writer based in Bangkok..
Read more!

Cambodian Factories Seek Eco-Friendly Power Alternatives


PHNOM PENH — Almost every day for the past 15 years Cheang Vet, a roadside mechanic near Phnom Penh’s Cambodian-Japanese Friendship Bridge, has witnessed the constant flow of traffic making its way in and out of the capital by its main northeasterly access point.

But in the last decade, as the number of people employed in Cambodia’s garment sector has increased from about 25,000 in 2000 to around 300,000 today, he has noticed a steady increase in one particular type of vehicle entering Phnom Penh: heavy-load trucks carrying huge stacks of firewood.

“There are at least 10 trucks a day carrying about two and a half tons of firewood,” Mr. Vet estimated. “They tell me they are on their way to the garment factories on the other side of the city.”

The majority of the country’s garment factories — making clothes for brand names in the U.S. and European markets — use firewood to heat old-fashioned boilers that produce hot water for dying fabrics and steam for ironing.

Some factories depend on firewood to supply all of their energy needs, according to industry experts.

Indeed, the use of firewood for energy is widely considered better for the environment than fossil fuels, as trees can be replanted to offset carbon emissions released during combustion. But replanting plans are limited here, while demand for firewood is growing.

In the 1990s, large areas of Cambodia’s rubber plantations — planted by the French in the early 20th century — had aged to the point where their yields of latex, the sap from which natural rubber is made, had dropped considerably, requiring extensive replanting.

Felling old trees made large quantities of rubber wood available to the emerging garment and brick factories in the Phnom Penh region.

But, according to a report released last year by the French environmental organization Geres, this source of timber is running out.

The Geres report found that 69 of the 310 garment factories then registered with the manufacturers’ association said they were using rubber wood to produce steam for ironing and dyeing clothes. In total, Geres estimated that garment factories burned around 65,000 cubic meters, or about 2.3 million cubic feet, of wood every month.

But a “critical period” started in 2009, the report said, “where rubber wood will not be available in sufficient quantity to supply the industrial sector its energy requirements.”

Energy experts and environmentalists say that timber is now being obtained instead from the country’s remaining natural-growth forests.

Graeme Brown, a private consultant working on natural resource management issues, said that a heightened demand for new rubber plantation acreage was leading to forest clearance, creating a “ready supply of natural forest timber.”

With the costs of wood-fired heating far lower than the cost of electricity from the national grid — power prices in Cambodia are among the highest in the region because of poor infrastructure and the use of inefficient diesel generators — there are fears that demand for firewood will continue to grow.

Still, there are signs that Cambodia’s garment factories, after a decade of efforts to improve labor standards, are now starting to concern themselves with environmental issues, too.

Albert Tan, vice president of Suntex, a Singaporean-owned garment factory in Phnom Penh, said the company had brought in a team of engineers from Malaysia to assess ways the factory could use less energy.

Mr. Tan said that wasting less energy would allow the factory to burn less wood and would also reduce dependence on diesel-powered backup generators in the event of a power cut — a frequent occurrence in Cambodia.

“There are not many results yet, but some studies are going on to see how best we can be eco-friendly and take care of the environment,” he said.

The owners of the factory, which produces about 2.5 million pieces of clothing per month for export to client brands in the United States and Europe, are also considering installing a gasification unit that would convert biomass or organic waste into cleaner-burning, more efficient synthetic gas, he added.

Rin Seyha, managing director of SME Renewable Energy, in Phnom Penh, said his company had been approached by several garment factories looking to use gasification.

But the technology available in Cambodia is still insufficient for large energy users like clothing factories, he said, and potential clients are often put off by the cost of importing larger units.

A gasification plant with a one megawatt generating capacity, imported from India, costs $300,000. Mr. Seyha’s company sold just one plant to a garment factory last year and so far in 2010 has aroused interest in three more. After 70 factories shut down during the global financial crisis, there are now about 250 factories operating in Cambodia.

Cutting down on emissions from burning wood and protecting the forests would help the industry’s image with environmentally conscious consumer abroad. But profit-focused private investors often balk at the first hurdle when it comes to introducing more environmentally friendly technology, because they consider the costs involved to be too high, said Yohanes Iwan Baskoro, country director for Geres.

Investors need to be educated to understand that improved technology can achieve a profitable return for companies in the long run, he said, adding that as well as fiscal incentives from the government, the banking sector also needs more encouragement to provide loans for environmental improvement.

“If we can’t show that there is profits in it for them I don’t think they will participate,” Mr. Baskoro said.

Julia Brickell, resident representative in Phnom Penh for the World Bank’s private-sector lender, the International Finance Corp., also said lenders needed to be persuaded.

“Financial institutions may focus too much on the short-term costs of investing in energy-efficiency improvements and not immediately see the longer-term benefits for their potential clients in terms of cost savings,” Ms. Brickell said. “This may impact their willingness to provide financing for technological upgrades.”

Garment workshops often operate from leased premises and lack fixed assets to provide collateral for loans, she added. “This may also result in reluctance on the part of the financial institutions to extend financing for energy efficiency improvements.”

Still, some progress is being made. A factory in Kandal Province, near Phnom Penh, which supplies garments to Hennes & Mauritz of Sweden and Marks & Spencer of Britain, is a case in point.

Wood is still being used to heat the factory’s boilers, but the company is using its staff house to test energy saving technologies on a small scale.

“Every factory wants to save costs, and our biggest cost is electricity,” said a manager at the factory, who spoke on condition of anonymity because, she said, bosses in Hong Kong had asked her to keep a low profile.

The company, one of Cambodia’s largest with nearly 3,000 workers, has installed solar panels on the roof of its staff house, where 50 air-conditioned rooms accommodate the management. To discourage energy waste, anyone using more than 200 kilowatt-hours of electricity per month is charged 50 cents per extra kilowatt-hour used.

Marks & Spencer is advising the factory through its so-called Plan A corporate strategy, to focus on improving environmental standards. More efficient lighting, better insulation and improved temperature control are three measures that have been identified.

At another factory, in Phnom Penh, where roughly 1,000 workers make luxury menswear for export, a program to fit energy-saving light bulbs is under way. With 3,500 neon lights in operation throughout the day, a sizable reduction in electricity consumption is expected, the factory’s general manager said, also speaking on condition of anonymity.

But balancing the need for increased productivity — Cambodia’s work force is among the least productive in the region, reflecting poor training levels — against the investments needed for better environmental standards is an almost impossible challenge, this manager said.

“The bottom line is this industry — in particular the garment sector — is the toughest sector in terms of competition,” he said. “Some people just can’t afford to make some of the changes that are being recommended.”

And according to several economic analysts and consultants here, who declined to be named because of the delicacy of the issue, it is not in the interests of manufacturers to show they can afford to install environmentally friendly technologies, because their brand-name clients may respond by putting pressure on them to lower their costs.

Still, Kanwarpreet Singh, chief representative for the H&M clothing brand in Cambodia, said that the industry as a whole was looking into newer and cleaner technologies to improve its image.

“If you use a lot of firewood, then it is not good for the environment,” he said. “As a company we try to encourage other sources of energy.”

Although Hennes & Mauritz factories use firewood as an energy source, Mr. Singh said, the company was evaluating alternatives.

For now, though, those are still unclear, and as Cambodia struggles to recover from a slump last year in exports to key U.S. and European markets, improving energy standards in factories is not a priority, he said.

Garment exports, accounting for 90 percent of Cambodia’s total exports, dropped almost 20 percent by value in 2009, to $2.38 billion.

“Nowadays one has to compete globally,” said Permod Kumar Gupta, chief technical adviser for the United Nations Industrial Development Organization in Cambodia. “We have to think, in the coming years, if we are not able to compete economically, environmentally and socially then difficulties will remain in how to compete with countries like China.”

Regardless of environmental concerns, Cambodia’s garment sector desperately needs to improve energy efficiency, with some factories spending up to $1,700 to produce a ton of clothing — more than three times the amount in neighboring Vietnam.

“In terms of energy efficiency, the sectors that are using biomass are particularly wasteful,” said Mr. Gupta.
Read more!


25 May - Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today appealed to donors to provide urgent funding to the United Nations-backed court tasked with bringing justice to the people of Cambodia for the heinous crimes committed by the Khmer Rouge regime in the late 1970s.

The Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC), composed of both national and international judges and staff, were set up in 2003 under an agreement between the UN and the Royal Government.

The court is facing a shortfall of more than $21 million for 2010, including $14.6 million for the international component and at least $6.5 million for the national component. Neither of these figures includes future commitments for staff salaries and entitlements.

For 2011, the total budget of $46.8 million is unfunded, except for $1.1 million pledged by the Cambodian Government for the national component.

“Both components urgently need further funds,” Mr. Ban said in his remarks to the pledging conference held at UN Headquarters for the court, which is entirely dependent on voluntary contributions.

He emphasized that the court was established to bring justice to the people of Cambodia, and to prevent impunity for the most heinous of crimes. “They are vital part of efforts to secure Cambodia's long-term well-being, and a crucial element in the world's quest to strengthen international criminal justice,” he stated.

At least 1.7 million people are believed to have died during the period of Democratic Kampuchea, which lasted from April 1975 to January 1979. The ECCC is tasked with trying senior Khmer Rouge figures and others responsible for the worst atrocities committed during that period.

Mr. Ban noted that since it began its work in 2006, the court has made “impressive progress.”

Hearings in “case one,” against Kaing Guek Eav, alias “Duch,” the secretary of the notorious S-21 security centre, concluded last November and the trial chamber will issue its verdict in July.

“The hearings in this case demonstrated that the Extraordinary Chambers can conduct complex international criminal trials to international standards,” said the Secretary-General.

“Most importantly, they also demonstrated the deep interest of the people of Cambodia in the proceedings,” he stated, noting that more than 31,000 people visited the chambers to witness the hearings, most of them Cambodians who journeyed in from outside the capital.

In “case two,” the co-investigating judges may issue a closing order, or indictment, against four leaders of the Khmer Rouge regime – Nuon Chea, Ieng Sary, Ieng Thirith and Khieu Samphan – later this year.

As in the ongoing trial of former Liberian President Charles Taylor in the Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL), one person charged in case two, Khieu Samphan, is a former head of State, showing that no one is above the law.

“This is a fundamental principle in the world's fight against impunity, and it is encouraging indeed to see it in action today in Cambodia,” remarked Mr. Ban.

The Secretary-General expressed his gratitude to Member States for their generous contributions to date, and appealed to them to maintain and increase their support, even in the midst of the current economic environment.

“Without such support, the chambers cannot function,” he stressed. “It is as simple and stark as that.”

UN Legal Counsel Patricia O'Brien and Cambodia's Deputy Prime Minister, Sok An, made a similar appeal to the international community for urgent funding for the court in a joint statement issued after their meeting in the capital, Phnom Penh, last month.
Read more!