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Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Leopard Cambodia Fund backs local microfinance group IPR

Developing market-focused private equity group Leopard Capital has acquired a 33.7 per cent stake in a Cambodian microfinance institution (MFI), Intean Poalroath Rongroeurng (IPR).

The Cayman Islands-domiciled firm’s Leopard Cambodia Fund will back IPR, giving it the capital to fund new microfinance loans and update its information technology systems.

“IPR is unique among local MFIs as it supports Cambodia’s rice industry by helping farmers invest in better seeds, fertiliser and equipment,” said Douglas Clayton, Leopard Capital’s CEO.

The company was established and granted a MFI license in 2005. It was set up by entrepreneur Okhna Phou Puy in response to capital constraints faced by the Federation of Cambodian Rice Millers Association, of which he serves as Chairman.

Okhna Phou Puy is based in Battambang, Cambodia’s second largest city, and has set up businesses in rice milling, microfinance, consumer goods distribution,and real estate development primarily in Northwest Cambodia.

IPR provides individual loans to farmers and small agricultural businesses primarily in rural areas of Cambodia. The business offers working loans of between one and 12 months and investment loans from 12 to 36 months.

It operates in six provinces in Cambodia and has its headquarters in Phnom Penh.

“Leopard’s participation will help strengthen our management and reporting systems while facilitating further expansion of our loan book, foreign borrowings, and branch network,” said Hort Bun Song, CEO of IPR.

The Leopard Cambodia Fund, the southeast Asian country’s first private equity fund. was launched in April 2008, and raised $34m even during global financial turmoil.

It has since made eight investments in Cambodia in the telecommunications, banking, agriculture, food processing, energy, and housing sectors.

Leopard has raised other funds to invest in other Asian countries including Laos, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.

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Road Deaths Leveled Off in 2010: Report

More than 1,600 Cambodians died in road accidents in 2010, a number that has leveled off compared to the previous year, officials said Tuesday.

Him Yan, director of the Interior Ministry’s department of public order, said the death toll had dropped by five people, from 1,654 in 2009, while the number of injured also fell, by 770 people from 10,310 last year.

The slight decrease in fatalities was linked to stricter enforcement of helmet laws and measures to prevent drunk driving, Him Yan said. This was done through stricter law enforcement overall and public awareness campaigns, as well as the construction of better roads, he said.

In an annual report discussed by police and road safety advocates in Phnom Penh on Tuesday, speeding was identified as the No. 1 cause of accidents, accounting for nearly half, while drunk driving accounted for about 12 percent. Other causes include drivers not respecting the right-of-way, carelessness, and breaking of traffic laws.

Kong Sovan, a project manager for traffic safety for the World Health Organization, said tighter controls on helmet use and crackdowns on drunk drivers helped.

“In addition, we've provided training and professional equipment and materials to police to strengthen traffic laws and reduce road accidents in the future,” he said.

Prime Minister Hun Sen last year lambasted road accidents as the leading cause of death for Cambodians.

Sa Hua, undersecretary of state for the Ministry of Health, said road accidents were a cause for concern not only for people's health, but the national economy as well.

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Thai PM: Government will help obtain quick release of seven Thais jailed in Cambodia

BANGKOK, Jan 4 – Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva on Tuesday reasserted that all parties concerned are working to help secure the release of seven Thais, including Democrat MP Panich Vikitsreth, detained in Cambodia, to prevent the problem from escalating.

Thai authorities have cooperated with Cambodia using all channels to end the problem as soon as possible, Mr Abhisit said.

Mr Panich and members of the so-called 'Yellow Shirt' People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) protest movement were detained by Cambodian troops last Wednesday as they inspected the border of Thailand’s Sa Kaeo province with Cambodia's Banteay Meanchey province.

Referring to the video footage showing Mr Panich talking on a cell phone, saying he is in Cambodia and suggesting that the premier knew about it, the prime minister said that Mr Panich had just informed him that he would go to Prachinburi province to gather information about land occupancy problems facing local people, but he did not know who went with him.

Mr Abhisit said the video clip posted on YouTube was cut short to only one minute and that has caused confusion. In the full 4-minute clip, Mr Panich said he believed he was still in Thai territory and was on the way to Border Marker Number 46.

Seven Thais have been held in prison after they were charged by the court with illegal entry and illegally entering a military base along the border, crimes which in Cambodia carry penalties of up to six months and one year, respectively.

Meanwhile, Secretary-General to the Foreign Minister Chavanont Intarakomalsut said the border dispute must be verified under the process of the Thai-Cambodian Joint Boundary Commission (JBC). Thai-Cambodian border markers Number 46 and 48 are still in dispute and the border demarcation process must go forward. However, the case of the seven Thais should not be mixed with the issue of border demarcation.

Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya will clarify the situation of the seven at 8.30pm on Bangkok's state-owned television Channel 11 Tuesday, Government spokesman Panitan Wattanayagorn said.

Mr Kasit earlier reported to the Cabinet that the process to help seven Thais including Democrat MP Panich Vikitsreth detained in Cambodia was underway and the situation would be clearer in one or two days. Two lawyers are being appointed to defend the detainees against the charges.

The Cambodian court has scheduled the first hearing on Thursday at 8am.

Dr Panitan said the foreign ministry reaffirmed that the seven did not intend to trespass on Cambodian territory but they investigated the area after local residents complained that they could not work on their land. Mr Panich believed that the plot of land is located in Thai territory and did not intend to cause any adverse effects on the two countries’ relations, according to Dr Panitan.

However, the Royal Thai Survey Department has inspected the specific area where the Thais were arrested and its inspection report will be given later on Tuesday. (MCOT online news)
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