Editorial | Articles about Cambodia | Khmer

Thursday, November 29, 2007

'Nepotistic' Hun Sen Said Arranging for Son Hun Manet To Become Defense Minister

15 Nov 07
By Sreika
Moneakseka Khmer
Translated from Khmer and posted online

The rumor that Hun Sen's eldest son Hun Manet is going to be Defense Minister has triggered a general alarm within the Cambodian People's Party [CPP] because there are many CPP army chiefs suitable for this position. Besides, since the power between the Chea Sim and Hun Sen factions has already been clearly defined why there is this rumor about Hun Sen's eldest offspring becoming Defense Minister?

According to the schema of the power sharing arrangement between the Chea Sim and Hun Sen factions, the Ministry of National Defense [MND] belongs to the Chea Sim side while the Supreme Command of the Armed Forces [SCAF] goes to the Hun Sen side because within the military frameworks the SCAF can give orders in battles or carry out military undertakings while the MND takes care of policy only. It is for this reason that Hun Sen has accepted the power within the SCAF frameworks, allowing the Chea Sim faction to take over the MND. As for Ke Kimyan, longstanding army chief of the CPP in the Chea Sim faction, he has agreed to give up his top post in the SCAF in exchange for the post of Defense Minister to be relinquished by Tie Banh because in the CPP Tie Banh is regarded as an old ox waiting to drop dead from the foot-and-mouth disease.

Moreover, because the government led by the CPP wanted to maintain tight diplomatic (as received) relations with Thailand, both politically and militarily speaking, the seat at the MDF has been reserved for Tie Banh for a long time. Now, however, the ties between Thailand and Cambodia, both political and military, have become dormant or moribund since the coup d'etat in Thailand last year or since Thailand was controlled by the generals. Consequently, Tie Banh now seems to be much less worthy to the CPP, in the eyes of both the Chea Sim and Hun Sen factions, because Tie Banh is neither a Chea Sim or a Hun Sen man. He is a member of the wing of Say Phuthang, the second most powerful man in the CPP during the Communist era. Therefore, when the Chea Sim and Hun Sen factions are wrangling over the power in the armed forces, Tie Banh is automatically going to be rejected.

According to a high-ranked CPP official, because of the plan to redistribute the party's internal power within the armed forces, the CPP leaders have all agreed with one another that in the coming term Kun Kim will be Supreme Commander and Ke Kimyan Defense Minister. But suddenly there was a rumor floating around. The recent rumor that Hun Sen's eldest son Hun Manet is going to be the next Defense Minister has shocked people throughout the CPP. However, as the rumor that his son would be the next Defense Minister was shaking up the CPP, Hun Sen diverted attention from this problem by launching an attack against the opposition party instead. He did not talk about internal developments in the CPP for fear that people would know that there is trouble inside his party.

On 14 November, yesterday, Hun Sen claimed at the ceremony distributing diplomas to graduate students that his son is not going to be Defense Minister now but he does not know about the future. Hun Sen admitted that his son does work in the Defense Ministry but for the time being he is not Defense Minister.

Political analysts said that to hear Hun Sen speak like that one gets the impression he has already made all necessary arrangements for his son. It is just that this is not yet the right time; it is going to be later or when the opportunity comes. For this reason, Hun Sen dares to claim that for now his son is not yet Defense Minister but that no one can predicts the future.

Also yesterday Hun Sen attacked a political party he did not mention by name. He only said that this party has a president whose wife is an MP. He said that because of that this party is very nepotistic while he himself is not nepotistic at all. Although Hun Sen did not call this party by name most people understood that he meant the Sam Rainsy Party [SRP].

According to a political analyst, Hun Sen cannot criticize other parties of being nepotistic because his CPP is the most nepotistic of all parties.

Some officials in the CPP also agreed that Hun Sen is the most nepotistic leader because almost all power in the government is wielded by his men. For example, Cabinet Minister Sok An is not only his big guru but also his in-law. Cambodia's top police chief Hok Langdi is also a Hun Sen in-law, and so are a few other government officials.

The CPP officials said that in the past Sok An and Cham Prasith were not on very good terms with each other, but now Cham Prasith has become Sok An's in-law; therefore, Cham Prasith has also become a Hun Sen man. So, when one talks about power in the government, one knows that almost all the civilian, police, and military officials have become Hun Sen's men. And we have not yet talked about Hun Neng, Hun Sen's big brother who has been a veteran governor of Kampong Cham province. Hun Neng was briefly transferred from Kampong Cham according to Chea Sim's conditions or demand but he has since returned to Kampong Cham province.

According to a political analyst, if Hun Sen criticizes the SRP of being nepotistic because the wife of its president is an MP, then he is wrong because the same thing happens in the CPP and the FUNCINPEC [National United Front for an Independent, Neutral, and Peaceful Cambodia] Party as well. In the FUNCINPEC Party a husband is the party's president while his wife is the party's prime ministerial candidate. The CPP even sent a message to congratulate the wife of the FUNCINPEC Party's president for her nomination. The same takes place in the CPP. Hun Sen is Prime Minister and his wife is the chair of the Red Cross. Moreover, the wives of many other CPP leaders and CPP officials also have played important roles.

Therefore, if we talk about power networking in the government, Hun Sen is the most nepotistic. Even some CPP officials have concurred with this assessment. For this reason, Global Witness recently published a report exposing the logging activities in Cambodia that were made possible through large-scale nepotism.

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Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The Value of Wearing Eyeglass!

They both wear eyeglasses, which one should I vote for?

Actually, the story happened almost five years ago in Angkor Borei district, Takeo province during my visit to my brother-in-law. I was very happy every vocation during my study abroad because I could visit my family and our country. And the memory of the visit is written down in my dairy, but it never publicized. Yet this one is very funny it does reflect the way some people judge thing in our motherland.

Psychologically, in Cambodia to wear glasses is to give another value to the person himself. People are viewed and valued differently sometimes by the glasses they wear, particularly, the sunglasses and the eyeglasses. To wear the sunglasses, one is viewed as socialized, civilized, sexy, and yet sometime he is viewed as the blind or even a gangster. The eyeglass has somehow different value. It is viewed as the symbol of the educated, intellectual, gentleness, and politeness.

Taking the opportunity of my visit to my brother in-law, I also traveled around to see the daily life of the people in the district and to share my political idea with the local people. I hired a boat from Angkor Borie dock and traveled to Bakdai Khmer-Youn border accompanied by a police and my friends. It cost 32000 Riel for a round trip. We had some stops to talk with the people along our way in Praekda and Bakdai villages in Koktlok Commune. Their living standard is visibly hard and poor. The rich family has a zincs house with the size of 5m x 6m and the 90% of the houses are 3×4m size cottage covered with palm tree or thatched roof. Remarkably, we had a nice conversation with a family. We talked things ranging from daily life to politics. Now let’s go straight to the point of the topic.

Ps: How many parties participated in the commune election?

Woman: Two parties- The CPP and the Funcinpec

PS: Do you know who are the leaders of those parties?

Woman: Yes, Samdech Hun Sen and Prince Norodom Ranarith the son of Samdech Auv.

PS: Which party did you vote for?

She was quiet and smiled, and then she spoke in a low voice, "It is secret." But you can know later who she voted for. Then I continued: Do you know Sam Rainsy Party (SRP)?

Woman: I heard it.

PS: Do you know who the leader of SRP is?

Woman: No.

Then, I told her the name of SRP’s leader. And we explained her about SRP’s political platform. She listened to us with interest. Then I continued the question. Have you seen Hun Sen and Prince Norodom Ranarith?

Woman: Yes, I see them on TV. I watched TV at that house. She pointed to the house about 100m away.

Ps: So you never see Sam Rainsy, right?

Woman: No, I never see him.

During that time, SRP was not as strong and widely well-known as it is today not only in the commune but even in the district level regarding to Angkor Borei.

Ps: Do you want to see his picture?

Woman: Yes

Then I took a picture of Mr. Sam Rainsy from the SRP’s leaflet that one of my friends had it with him to show her. Surprisingly, she shouted, “Oh! He wears eyeglasses just like Sam Dech Hun Sen.” Then she continued, “According to your explanation and his picture; I think he is really good, too. So which one should I vote for because they both wear eyeglasses?” We all laughed and paused for a while!

Psychologically, I immediately understood her decision making value. So I continued to convince her by telling her a story that happened before that when I took a motor taxi in Phnom Penh from my house, Bueng Kengkang II, to riverside. At that time, I had a very good conversation with the motor taxi driver as well. We talked mostly about politics and we found out that we had some memories in common, i.e., we participated in the 1998 demonstration and we witnessed the brutality of the Hun Sen police. But it was even more interesting when he answered one of my questions that if Sam Rainsy and Hun Sen had something in common. He told me that they did have the commonness such as they both are brave, stubborn and to my surprise is that he added that they both wear eyeglasses. I put doubt about this why he thought that it is characteristically important for these leaders. Then I asked him with wonder why they wore glasses. He personally and distinguishingly answered that Sam Rainsy wears eyeglasses because he is a intellectual. He is well-educated and gentle. As for Hun Sen he wears eyeglasses because he is blind.

So this is the story! What do you think?

Blogger: http://sokheounpang.wordpress.com/

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Monday, November 19, 2007

Not enough oil troubles Cambodia's waters

PHNOM PENH - Could Cambodia's much-touted energy potential, which the World Bank and others had earlier estimated in total at 2 billion barrels of oil and 10 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, become a bust before it ever boomed? Expectations of an energy resource bounty have now suddenly dampened as top Cambodian officials strike a more cautionary tone.

A senior Cambodian energy official last December publicly estimated that the 6,278-square-kilometer Block A that US energy giant Chevron is now drilling could contain as much as 700 million barrels of oil, or nearly twice the earlier 400-million-barrel estimate. Government officials had estimated in January that they hoped to ramp up production by as early as 2009, three to seven years earlier than the World Bank projected as possible.

Marking a notable departure from that optimism, this month Prime Minister Hun Sen told a major business conference in Phnom Penh that the "speculation is highly premature". And despite the over 600 mostly foreign business delegates in attendance at the Cambodia Investment, Trade and Infrastructure conference, Chevron declined to take part in panel discussions on Cambodia's natural resources. The company had previously said it would publicly disclose its findings and estimates in April or May.

Hun Sen's comments and Chevron's low profile have led to downward revisions in some concerned quarters of the government's earlier bonanza estimates. Ever since Chevron reported promising energy finds in Cambodian waters in December 2004, there has been widespread hope that energy exports could transform one of Southeast Asia's poorest countries into a major regional oil-and-gas producer.

According to a joint study last year by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and Harvard University, depending on the size and accessibility of the proven reserves, energy-export revenues could double Cambodia's current gross domestic product. Although Cambodian officials have at times freely bandied around buoyant potential energy reserve figures, Chevron itself has shied from publicly stating hard numbers.

Yet speculative hopes and rising global prices have spurred ramped up multinational exploration activities in Cambodia. Since Chevron's supposed find, other international energy concerns, led by Thailand's PTT Exploration and Production, Indonesia's Medco and China's China National Offshore Oil Corp, have taken up new exploration positions in Cambodian waters.

The news has also galvanized new interest in the potential of Cambodia's 27,000 square kilometer Overlapping Claims Area with Thailand, which lies untapped due to a long-running dispute between the two governments. The two sides are expected to resume talks next year after Thailand elects a new government in December.

All of this has occurred despite the fact that no petroleum project in Cambodia has yet to reach an advanced development stage - let alone achieve actual production. As far as the much-anticipated discoveries in offshore Block A are concerned, Chevron has said the deposits are subject to difficult geology and that further appraisal is required before it can estimate how much might be extracted.

Indeed, there are even industry rumors that Chevron may instead move to sell its operating interest in the block, as the deposits may not be as large as the company requires to replace its proven reserves. If so, it could dampen broad foreign investor sentiment in the country, which has recently experienced a boom as foreign capital pumps up property prices and brings the moribund service sector to life. It's unclear how much of the upbeat sentiment is contingent on Chevron's oil-and-gas find, but if the company were to come up dry at Block A it would undoubtedly hurt investor interest in the country.

Foreign investor perception is now crucial to Hun Sen's government, which is reaping the political benefits of an unprecedented post-war economic boom. Now some energy industry analysts are starting to wonder whether government officials disingenuously pumped up expectations about Chevron's find to spur investor interest in other less promising exploration blocks.

There was a measure of surprise among energy industry analysts when the Block A estimates were first touted. Earlier exploration in those same offshore Cambodian waters by Britain's Enterprise Oil, Premier Oil and Japan's Idemitsu in the mid-1990s found only moderate indications of oil and gas. All three companies decided that the find was not significant enough to warrant investment in further drilling and development.

Windfall downsides
Meanwhile, there are lingering questions about the governance quality of the administration of Hun Sen, which ranks towards the tail end of international corruption rankings. Watchdog groups have already expressed their concerns that an energy windfall could be squandered by poor management and official corruption.

Warnings have been made by a wide array of international development assistance agencies, including the World Bank, the UNDP, Oxfam and the International Monetary Fund, that if mismanaged the country could actually face economic and social harm from a fossil fuels boom. In a small economy, rapid and large energy exports risk high rates of inflation and a fast-appreciating currency, which in turn would threaten the international competitiveness of the country's other export-oriented manufacturing industries, including garment exports.

There are also fears of potential environmental damage, particularly as the government toys with the idea of awarding onshore petroleum exploration blocks in the Tonle Basin lake region, a crucial area of the greater Mekong eco-system on which millions of Cambodians depend for their nourishment and livelihoods. Judging by the rampant, often government-sanctioned logging industry, environmental and social concerns are often subordinated to economic gain in Cambodian extractive industries.

Government officials say they are well aware of the challenges and pitfalls of natural resource-driven development. Deputy Prime Minister Sok An told the recent gathering of investors, "We have received many questions about what we are going to do with the [oil and gas] revenues as and when they come. My answer is that we have very much to do - rebuilding and developing our economy and enhancing the quality of the lives of our people."

Testing such assertions will be the establishment of a new petroleum law, which is now being deliberated in Parliament and will likely give a firmer legislative and regulatory base for petroleum industry development. The national energy sector currently operates under fairly ad hoc regulations, first adopted in 1991. In 1998, the Cambodian National Petroleum Authority was established to act as the key government agency in managing development and operation of the industry, where upstream companies operated under a production sharing contract regime which is comparable with international standards.

Now, apparently to subdue its critics, the government says it might join the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), a recently established international mechanism with a secretariat in Oslo, Norway, which brings governments and companies together to promote good governance over natural resource-generated revenues.

First proposed in 2002 by British prime minister Tony Blair, the EITI features a coalition of governments, investors, companies and non-governmental organizations supported by multilateral and bilateral agencies such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. Both corporate and government practices are monitored by the EITI and reforms are proposed for their consideration.

More than 20 countries in Africa, South America and Central Asia, all with large petroleum or mining industries, have joined the EITI. However, there are currently no Asian members, apart from natural gas-rich Timor Leste, formerly known as East Timor. The EITI's member companies, meanwhile, represent some of the world's largest Western energy concerns, including the BG Group, Burren Energy, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil, Petrobras, Shell, Statoil, Talisman Energy, Total and Woodside.

BG Group, Chevron and ConocoPhillips all have oil-and-gas interests in Cambodia, as do many of the mining companies which have signed onto the initiative. And the government will nonetheless come under EITI principles and guidelines as part of their loan programs with the World Bank and other agencies - whether or not Cambodia's highly anticipated energy bonanza is eventually or ever realized.

Andrew Symon is a Singapore-based journalist and analyst specializing in energy and mining. He may be reached at andrew.symon@yahoo.com.sg.

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Friday, November 16, 2007

ASEAN single market faces obstacles: analysts

SINGAPORE (AFP) — Southeast Asia's plans for a unified market by 2015 hinge on painful reforms that could be derailed by red tape, vested interests and foot-dragging, observers say.

Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) leaders holding their annual summit in Singapore from Sunday are expected to approve a blueprint for an ASEAN economic community embracing more than half a billion people.

"Political will is the key. If countries don't have the political will to push through with these reforms, this will remain just a dream," said a Southeast Asian trade official, talking on condition of anonymity.

"Can governments, for example, resist pressure from domestic interests against allowing foreign airlines to fly domestic routes?"

Analysts have lauded ASEAN for moving forward by five years its timetable for economic integration, from 2020 to 2015.

But they said the 40-year-old organisation faces a formidable task in establishing a unified market and production base that would help it compete against Asian giants China and India.

Some of the reforms could come up against entrenched domestic business interests and face resistance from officials in departments such as customs, a major source of corruption in some countries, they said.

Complicating the situation are disparities between the group's more developed members Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand, and lower-income states Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam.

As a first step to integration, ASEAN has marked 12 priority sectors for the elimination of tariffs and non-tariff barriers by 2010.

These are agricultural, rubber and wood-based products along with air travel, Internet linkages, automotives, electronics, fisheries, healthcare, logistics, textiles and apparel, and tourism.

ASEAN also plans to liberalise the services sector, open formerly-closed sectors to foreign investors, harmonise and streamline customs procedures, and ease the movement of professionals.

ASEAN transport ministers agreed in November that national airlines can fly between capital cities by the end of 2008 under an open-skies pact that could be expanded later to include secondary cities.

Mike Barclay, regional vice president of the industry trade body, the International Air Transport Association (IATA), said however that ASEAN still had a "long way to go" in freeing up aviation.

"We don't see any relaxation of foreign ownership controls... we don't see the opportunity for airlines to operate domestic sectors in another ASEAN country," Barclay told an aviation conference in Singapore last month.

Philippine Trade Secretary Peter Favila said in August there could be "unintended pockets of bureaucratic red tape" that could slow the blueprint's implementation, but voiced confidence this could be overcome.

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) Institute identified in a recent report the huge scale of some of the reforms ASEAN states must undertake.

"A shift to knowledge-based economy is crucial for Malaysia and Thailand and institutional and governance reforms and restoration of good investment climate should be priorities for Indonesia and the Philippines," it said.

Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam need to build infrastructure like transportation and telecommunication facilities. They also need legal, judicial and governance systems and a skilled work force, the ADB's research arm said.

"These countries are still not ready for the ASEAN economic community," said analyst Hiro Katsumata of the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore.

ASEAN's six wealthier states could form the core of an economic community by 2015, with the poorer members joining later, Katsumata suggested.

The ADB Institute paper highlighted the wide disparity within ASEAN in terms of market openness and urged financial and technical help for ASEAN's poorer members.

For example, ASEAN's average tariff import rate is 9.53 percent, ranging from zero tariffs in Singapore to 17.92 percent in Vietnam.

It takes an average 32 days to import an item in ASEAN, varying from three days in Singapore to 45 days in Cambodia and 78 days in Laos.

An average 64 days are required to start a business in ASEAN, ranging from six days in Singapore to 163 days in Laos and 97 days in Indonesia.

"The greatest challenge is to narrow the development gaps within ASEAN," the paper said.

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With six proposed dams threatening the sustainability of the Lower Mekong River

Public Statement - for immediate release

16 November 2007


With six proposed dams threatening the sustainability of the Lower Mekong River,

Cambodian civil society calls for the MRC to address its shortcomings


In light of the recent reports that feasibility studies for six hydropower dams are underway on the Lower Mekong River, the Rivers Coalition in Cambodia (RCC) would like to respectfully call on the Mekong River Commission (MRC) and its international donors to address the shortcomings of the MRC in failing to prevent these potentially devastating projects from moving ahead and by failing to adhere to its regional responsibilities as outlined in the 1995 Mekong Agreement. We request that open and transparent dialogue on these issues commence with the MRCs annual governance meeting now being held in Siem Reap , Cambodia .


Given the importance of the MRC as a regional water governance institution responsible for ensuring sustainable development and the management of the river and its resources, we urge the MRC to end its silence on the major social and environmental impacts these six dams will produce while also fulfilling its obligations as outlined by the Agreement. Under the Agreement, the MRC is to conduct assessment for the protection of the environment and the maintenance of the ecological balance of the Mekong River Basin (Article 24) and should make every effort to avoid, minimize and mitigate harmful effects that might occur to the environmentfrom the development and use of the Mekong River Basin water resources (Article 7).


Feasibility studies are now being conducted by Thai, Malaysian and Chinese companies for six hydropower dams, one of which is the Sambor dam located in Cambodia . Another - the Don Sahong dam- would be located only one kilometer from the Cambodia-Laos border. The MRC should act quickly to ensure that regional studies, dialogue, and consultation are initiated and carried out. As the livelihoods of millions of Cambodians are strongly linked to the vitality of the Mekong River , the MRC should utilize its information and research to inform decision makers and the public of the environmental, social and economic risks of these projects.


Lastly, we would like to call on the MRC to recognize the severity and complexity of adverse transboundary impacts which have occurred from past hydropower development projects within the basin. The unresolved case of the Yali Falls dam on the Sesan River is just one example of how the MRC has not been able to prevent, ameliorate or mitigate the harmful transboundary impacts of hydropower development. While the case of Yali Falls has highlighted the urgent need for greater accountability and transparency among stakeholders and the need for improved public participation within a projects decision-making processes, other dams on the Sesan have continued to be developed in a non-transparent manner without adequate consideration for downstream impacts. Until remedy is brought to the communities living along the Sesan River and there are institutional mechanisms established to ensure compliance of the Agreement along with conflict resolution, among others, within the MRC, we fear further hydropower development in the region will continue following this unsustainable and avoidable path.


The RCC is a coalition of civil society organizations working to protect and restore river ecosystems and river-based livelihoods in Cambodia and is composed of the following Cambodian organizations: 3S Rivers Protection Network, Cambodian Volunteers for Society, Conservation and Development on Cambodia , Cultural and Environmental Preservation Association, Fisheries Action Coalition Team, and NGO Forum on Cambodia . For more information, contact:


  • Mr. Ngy San, Deputy Executive Director of NGO Forum, T: +855 12802290 or E: san@ngoforum.org.kh
  • Mr. Tep Bunnarith, Executive Director of CEPA, T: +855 12895624 or E: tep@cepa-cambodia.org
  • Mr. Kim Sangha, Coordinator of 3SPN, T: +855 12629221 or E: sesan@camshin.net

END

3S Rivers Protection Network (3SPN)
P.O. Box 89007,
Banlung Town,
Ratanakiri Province,
Cambodia
Telephone: (855) 75974112
Email: sesan@camshin.net

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Thursday, November 15, 2007

Southeast Asia faces challenges in time of prosperity

The gathering of Asian leaders around the 13th Association of Southeast Asian Nations Summit next week in Singapore comes at a moment of historic challenge in a region which, despite great progress in recent years, remains home to most of the world's poor.

Published on November 15, 2007

The year ahead promises another strong economic performance - though in an environment more fraught with risks and uncertainties. According to the World Bank's latest East Asia and Pacific Update, developing East Asia is set to notch 9.7 per cent growth in 2008 (down from 10.1 per cent in 2007) as the world economy hovers around 3.4 per cent this year and the next. But behind the encouraging projection for East Asia are several critical concerns that will occupy policymakers' attention, even as they press ahead with signing the new Asean Charter and implement the blueprint for an Asean Economic Community by 2015.

While Asean and the other Asian leaders meet, attention will also focus on the complex task facing the leadership of China and India. China, having sustained better than 10 per cent growth for 25 years now faces an uncomfortable disparity between income levels on the prosperous coastal zone and the more remote western provinces and generally between urban and rural areas. At the same time, China's environment policy has not been able to cope with its rapid growth. Maintaining high growth while closing the income gap and restoring the environment is a delicate balancing act, and one with implications far beyond China's borders.

India, which has growing engagement with the economies of East Asia, is also confronting a large agenda of reforms as it seeks to maintain high growth rates and lift hundreds of millions more people from poverty.

These could include strengthening policies that improve infrastructure performance, better-designed labour regulations to attract more labour-intensive investment and the creation of jobs for India's under-employed millions.

For the 10 members of Asean, the big questions at the summit will centre first on the cohesion of the grouping itself, both in response to internal issues and growing external competitive challenges.

High on the agenda will be the recent events in Burma, where millions remain in poverty while the rest of the region has been opening and growing. For years, Asean has been concerned about the so-called CLBV group - Cambodia, the Lao PDR, Burma and Vietnam.

Today, the focus is narrower: Vietnam is closer to the wealthier six members and growing strongly; Cambodia is registering double-digit growth and about to receive large revenues from oil and gas discoveries, and the Lao PDR is receiving new investments and reducing poverty after a period of steady reform. Burma remains the most serious cause for concern and the world is looking to the collective counsel of Asean and the broader East Asia Summit members (China, Korea, Japan, India, Australia, New Zealand) to help the United Nations and Burma chart a peaceful way forward - an outcome that could open the way for new economic opportunity and international assistance for the people of Burma.

Each country faces its own set of reform questions, made more pressing by the competitive pressure of China and India in an increasingly fast-paced, open and global marketplace.

The forces which Southeast Asia rode to prosperity in the 1970s, 80s and 90s now have the ability to work against the region unless it accelerates reforms which make it a more attractive and open investment destination. The challenges range from raising the skills and innovativeness of the labour force, to creating sophisticated financial systems, to maintaining social cohesion, to greatly reducing corruption. Without tough policy and institutional changes, countries now at the middle-income level stay where they are.

Malaysia, which has successfully achieved middle-income status, now faces the challenge of accelerating growth to reach developed country status by 2020 while maintaining national cohesion in a multi-racial society. Thailand, after recovering strongly from the financial crisis, has seen international confidence in its economic management shaken by the 2006 coup.

The country is now contending not just with the complexities of an election based on a new constitution, but with the challenge of restoring investor confidence necessary for strong economic growth. Indonesia, having brought the debt burden down spectacularly and generated increasing rates of growth faces the continuing challenge of creating sufficient new jobs for labour market entrants and spreading benefits to the poor. The most populous nation of Asean finds itself with 105.3 million people clustered around the $2-a-day income level, still highly vulnerable to shocks.

Challenges exist also for the smaller economies, with none looming larger than Cambodia's ability to benefit from oil and gas revenues. In many countries, the so-called resources curse has seen such revenues undermine good governance and generate instability.

There are, however, a number of positive examples of managing such resources, and Cambodia's medium-term efforts to reduce rural poverty and improve governance standards will depend heavily on decisions made about productive and transparent management of these additional revenues from oil and gas.

The year ahead is also likely to be memorable as the turning point in the global cycle. After five years of sustained and accelerating expansion, the US economy is slowing and global monetary policies are being tightened. The outlook remains for a "soft landing" and continued expansion, but

one that is weighted with more uncertainties and with greater volatility.

Peter Stephens

Peter Stephens is regional communications manager of the World Bank's East Asia and Pacific Region.

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Economic Success Based on Various Factors

A century ago, German sociologist Max Weber posited that Western-style economic development could not occur in Asia because of Asians' adherence to Confucianism, an ancient Chinese ethical and philosophical system propounded by Kung (Master) Fu Tzu, 551 B.C.-479 B.C., who preached, among other things, individual morality and ethics, as well as how rulers should exercise political power properly.

Wikipedia defines Confucianism as a "complex system of moral, social, political, philosophical and quasi-religious thought." This thought influences the cultures of China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan and Korea, in North and East Asia; in Singapore and Vietnam in Southeast Asia; and in the territories with large Chinese settlements, until the present day.

Although generally considered "Asian" values, Confucian values do not form the cultures of all peoples and governments in Asia. But Confucius' social ethics and moral teachings have co-existed and blended with Taoism and Buddhism; and Confucian values and other Asian values have become complementary as they co-exist peacefully.
Like many different species of trees that form the same forest, Asia, as a continent of great social, cultural, ethnic, linguistics, religious and political heterogeneity, nevertheless finds its commonalities. Hence, the perception of "Asian" values: the importance of the community over the individual; order and harmony over personal freedom and individual rights; saving and wise management over laissez-faire; hard work and respect for government; and family and loyalty.

Of interest, one of Confucius' principles, "What you do not want done to yourself, do not do to others," brings to mind the Golden Rule, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you," displayed, among other places, on Norman Rockwell's mosaic at the United Nations Headquarters in New York today.

Thus, in the 1990s when governments and countries that adhere to Confucianism produced what was known as East Asia's "economic miracles," Max Weber's century-old assertion was stood on its head, and Confucian values were cited as contributing to the region's extraordinary economic development.

But it was Southeast Asia's Confucian, Singapore's Lee Kuan Yew, and predominantly Muslim Malaysia's Mohamad Mahathir who emerged as the two most vocal proponents of "Asian" values contributing to the region's economic miracles. The success of these authoritarian rulers has been used by other autocratic Asian leaders to justify their authoritarian regimes in the face of liberal Asian opponents, such as Malaysia's Anwar Ibrahim or Cambodia's Sam Rainsy, and of Western critics.

For a long time, Eastern philosophies had insisted that while human rights and individual freedom espoused by the West are an admirable goal, they are meaningless and cannot exist in societies riddled with chaos and insecurity; only in an environment of order, stability and security can they survive and thrive.

While culture matters very much, there are other factors -- people, education, health, morale, effective management, administrative efficiency -- that help contribute to economic development.

When non-Confucian Malaysians copied Confucian Lee Kuan Yew's ways of governing and building the nation-state, Malaysia rose as an economic power-house at the heels of the four Confucian "Asian dragons" of Singapore, Taiwan, South Korea and Hong Kong.

A former Singaporean diplomat and scholar, Kishore Mahbubani, argued that Asians battled to promote Asian values as Western values and the Western-led globalization reached Asians' doorsteps, and Asians felt the need to promote self-esteem through the search for personal, social and national identities in a Western-dominated world.

According to Anthony Milner of the Faculty of Asian Studies, it was the consciousness of Asian, Confucian or Islamic identity that reinforced "resistance" to a universal, global community and has a Western flavor.

In a 1996 publication of the Institute of Philosophy and Public Policy, Xiaorong Li contended that Asian values actually advocate picking and choosing from other cultures to suit their political interests, as with the idea of free expression. Li, who dismissed autocratic leaders' argument that economic development goals override political and civil rights, argued that because starving and illiterate masses choose a "full belly" does not mean that deprivation will cease.

I wrote last week about Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama, who warns, "food, shelter and clothing" don't transform people in need from being "only half human," because they need something else to sustain their "deeper nature: the precious air of liberty."

Perhaps it was Newsweek's Fareed Zakaria who summed it up best when he wrote that in the final analysis, while culture does matter as a contributing factor to a society's economic development, for Singapore's development it was neither culture nor Confucius but Lee Kuan Yew's effective way of running a clean and competent government that brought the island republic, once infested with malaria, into what it is today.

That government, built on Confucius' teaching of meritocracy, not only has effective institutions, but has acquired mass identification and support from Singapore's diversified peoples of different ethnicities who see themselves, first and foremost, as nationals of Singapore. All of these factors influence one another and altogether contribute to the island's impressive economic development. Singapore is on an equal footing with First World societies.

The people and leaders on Guam may find something they are able to learn from the discussion above to improve and build the island.

We can be "cynical" -- a word used by a former student of mine from the University of Guam, now a law student in the West Coast -- about what can be done on Guam, but things will not happen the way we would like unless individual initiatives are undertaken by people of strong will.

A. Gaffar Peang-Meth, Ph.D., is retired from the University of Guam, where he taught political science for 13 years. Write him at peangmeth@yahoo.com.

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Interview with Khieu Samphan After Ieng Sary's Arrest


13th November 2007
Translated from Khmer by Khmerization

Heng Reaksmey(HR): Hello Mr. Khieu Samphan.

Khieu Samphan: Hello, thank you.

HR: Mr. Khieu Samphan, in relations to the fast forward developments of the Khmer Rouge (KR) Tribunal in the last few weeks, do you anticipate that the KR Tribunal will summon you to appear in the near future?

Samphan: In relation to this I did not receive any news. I did not know or hear anything about that, but I heard people said many different things. And especially I have seen a broadcast on CTN TV last night which said that amongst the five KR suspects four have already been arrested. Only one suspect is still free and should be arrested soon. In the broadcast they mentioned my name clearly. I do not feel bad. If the tribunal wants to summon me any time I will go willingly. They do not need to arrest me. They just summon me and I will go. On the other hand, I have already chosen my lawyers. But most importantly, I have my own reasons. For example, the reason why I agreed to be the President of the Presidium of Democratic Kampuchea after Prince Sihanouk resigned in April 1976. So I have my own reasons. Other than that I can give you some more examples if you allow me to say it here.

HR: Please go on.

Samphan: O.K. First I'd like to say that I have my own reasons. I want to say it here so that the public will know and the tribunal can also consider before hand before they proceed with my case. First, why did I agreed to be the President of the Presidium of Democratic Kampuchea? Because at that time I thought that I was not only representing the KR regime, but also representing my whole nation which wanted to be independent and sovereign from America and Vietnam who has the ambition to force Cambodia to join their Indochinese Federation. This was one of the most important reasons that I wanted to tell you. Secondly, I would like to say that there were three people in charge of the Presidium (Permanent Executive Committee). But we never met and we did not have any office in which to work in.

HR: Mr. Khieu Samphan, you said that there were three people who were in charge of the Presidium. Can you tell me right now who those people were?

Samphan: If you want me to say their names I can tell you right now. First, I was the president. Second, Mr. So Phim was the first vice-president. Mr. So Phim was also the secretary (governor) of the Eastern Zone. And third was Mr. Ros Nhim, alias Moul Sambath, who was the second vice-president and he was also the secretary (governor) of the Northwestern Zone. There were three presidents of the Presidium but we never convened any meetings. And we did not have any office or any departments to control. If you want to know more you can ask any surviving members of the KR regime. So this has confirmed that I did not have any powers. My position was only ceremonial, only a symbol or a representation of our nation, including the KR regime, representing our nation that wanted to be independent and sovereign like I have told you earlier.


HR: Thank you, Mr. Khieu Samphan. Up until today, are you scared about the prospect of you facing the tribunal?

Samphan: I did not have anything to fear, like I told you earlier. I have never done anything wrong toward me nation and my people. I never sold my nation. Even one cent I have never stolen from my nation. The only thing that I will do is to tell all about what I have done from 1975 to 1979. I have just told you about the structure of the presidium. I even can tell you one more thing that some people said that they cannot believe that I did not know what had happened during the KR regime. I read in the newspapers that many people cannot believe why a head of state did not know anything. This is what I wanted to tell you also.

HR: Go ahead.

Samphan: Because in the KR regime they have their own rules. During the Democratic Kampuchea regime, those who were evacuated from Phnom Penh knew about those rules. Their rules stated that people only need to know about their own jobs and roles. You don't need to know about other people's jobs. The rules at that time were very clear. People at every level must observe those rules. It doesn't mean that because you are a head of state you don't need to observe those rules? Those rules also applied to me, so I never wanted to know about other people's jobs and other people were too scared to tell me about anything. And I only stayed in one place and never traveled anywhere so I knew nothing about what had happened. This is what I wanted to tell you.

(To be continued on part 2, 3 and 4...)
This is the first part of a 4-part interviews with Khieu Samphan (pictured) conducted by Mr. Heng Reaksmey of Voice of America Khmer Program following the arrests of Ieng Sary and his wife, Ieng Thirith on Monday, 12th November 2007.

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Sam Rainsy's letter to Keat Chhon requesting for the application of appropriate measures to lower gasoline price


Kingdom of Cambodia
Nation – Religion – King

National Assembly

Phnom Penh, 14 November 2007

To H.E. Keat Chhon
Minister of Economy and Finance

Subject: Request for appropriate measures to lower the retail price of gasoline in Cambodia.

As Your Excellency is well aware of, the retail price of gasoline sold along the streets in Cambodia is much higher than those in neighboring countries. The list below indicates the price of 1 liter of gasoline sold on 14 November 2007:

* Cambodia: 4,400 riels
* Thailand: 3,658 riels (1 liter costs 31 Baths; 1 Bath is equivalent to 118 riels)
* Vietnam: 2,877 riels (1 liter costs 11,600 Dongs; 1,000 Dongs are equivalent to 248 riels).

In the name of poor people whose livelihood has deteriorated significantly due to increasing prices of goods, in particular the price of gasoline which has increased to an unacceptable level, I am requesting Your Excellency to take the following measures to lower the price of gasoline to a level on par with those observed in neighboring countries.

* Measure # 1: Lowering taxes on gasoline from over 1,000 riels per liter to 300 riels per liter.
* Measure # 2: Lowering the profit margin of gasoline distributors from more than 500 riels per liter to 200 riels per liter.

The combination of the two measures above would lower the price of gasoline by 1,000 riels per liter (a reduction of 700 riels from Measure # 1, and a further reduction of 300 riels from Measure # 2), thus lowering the price of gasoline from 4,400 riels to 3,400 riels per liter.

May I add that:

- Measure # 1 will help end gasoline smuggling which is endemic and reaches a very high level in Cambodia because our taxes are much higher than those in neighboring countries and because of rampant corruption. Due to smuggling, a large portion on taxes on gasoline do not end up in the State coffer, but instead they end up in the pockets of corrupt people who benefit from the support from powerful government officials. Following the lowering of gasoline taxes as proposed above, those who have been smuggling will have no more incentive to continue their illegal activities, and on the other hand, the lower taxes will be collected on the entire volume of gasoline imported into Cambodia. Therefore, the state will collect more revenues than before [a lower tax rate applied to a larger volume produces more revenues for the State than a high rate applied to a much smaller volume due to large-scale smuggling], while the population can buy gasoline at a lower price than before. Only the corrupt people who have been involved in smuggling will incur income losses, but the government should not protect these dishonest companies and businessmen.

Furthermore, may I remind Your Excellency that when crude oil price and gasoline price increase on the international market, States usually lower taxes on gasoline, just like what the Vietnamese government did recently.

- Measure # 2 is aimed at lowering the excessive profit margin of retail companies which are colluding to fix the selling price as high as they please, by choking off consumers. I am not talking about foreign companies (Total and Caltex/Chevron) which are paying the proper amount of taxes to the State, but I am pointing at some of the Cambodian companies (Tela and Sokimex) which are backed by powerful government officials, which are involved in smuggling and corruption and which are exploiting the hardworking people any way they want.

It is regrettable that, in current Cambodia, workers receive relatively low salaries, yet the price of goods are very high in comparison to those in neighboring countries where workers receive much higher salaries than ours, and the price of goods are much lower than in our country.

Trusting that Your Excellency will take the appropriate and fair measures as requested above, I convey to Your Excellency my sincere regards.

(Signed) Sam Rainsy
Member of Parliament

CC:
- Office of His Majesty the King
- Council of Ministers
- National Assembly Secretariat
- National and international Media
- Archive

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Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Khmer Justice

November 14, 2007
Commentary By YOUK CHHANG
Published by The Wall Street Journal
Phnom Penh, Cambodia: They live a privileged and comfortable life, while the majority of Cambodians still earn less then a dollar a day.Cambodians often refer to the Democratic Kampuchea regime, which was responsible for the deaths of nearly a quarter of the population between 1975 and 1979, as the "Pol Pot-Ieng Sary clique." Although few people knew the identities of the secretive leaders of Democratic Kampuchea until after the regime fell, they knew about Ieng Sary by the mid-1970s. By placing his name next to Pol Pot's (the two were brothers-in-law), Cambodians clearly recognize him as one of the masterminds of the genocide. Monday's arrest of Ieng Sary and his wife, Ieng Thirith, is a victory for all those who suffered through the cruelty of their rule.
Ieng Sary became an ardent communist while he and Pol Pot were studying in Paris in the 1950s. Later, in Democratic Kampuchea, he served as both deputy prime minister and foreign minister. After escaping to the gem- and timber-rich Khmer Rouge zone of Pailin near the Thai border in 1979, he continued to hold senior positions in the Khmer Rouge until 1982, even though he had been given an in-absentia death sentence in 1979 by the Vietnamese-backed government. In 1996, he was pardoned by King Sihanouk at the request of then co-prime ministers Hun Sen and Prince Ranarridh, in exchange for his defection to the government in the name of peace and reconciliation.

His wife Ieng Thirith was one of the few women who held power during the regime. Minister of social affairs during Democratic Kampuchea and head of the regime's Red Cross Society, this strong woman came from a well-to-do family and met Ieng Sary while she was studying Shakespeare at the Sorbonne. Ieng Thirith has denied that she was a member of the Central Committee, saying she only wanted to serve her country and people, and never wanted any "high position." She also claimed that without the sacrifices of those who joined the revolution, Cambodia would have been erased from the world map.

Like perpetrators everywhere, both have denied any wrongdoing and are seemingly without remorse. In 1999, Ieng Thirith wrote to a Phnom Penh newspaper, praising those who left their comfortable villas and took up residence in Cambodia's jungles during the early 1970s to defend their motherland. She has never wavered from the ideals of a Maoist-inspired revolution in which peasants would rule.

But the couple, who are now in their mid-70s, have not chosen to live according to their ideals. Instead of adopting the modest circumstances of the people they claim to revere, they have a lavish villa in downtown Phnom Penh and regularly fly to Bangkok for medical treatment. They are also active Buddhists and have built a stupa at their local pagoda. They seem to forget that the Communist Party of Kampuchea had eliminated Buddhism, considering it, like all other religions, to be "reactionary."

Cambodians are quick to grasp the irony. This husband and wife, who were among the chief architects of Cambodia's killing fields, serve the revolution in name only. They live a privileged and comfortable life, while the majority of Cambodians still earn less then a dollar a day. The poor, in whose name the revolution was formed, are perhaps even poorer because of them and they are still powerless today. The Khmer Rouge left us with a terrible legacy in 1979 -- a country whose education system, religion, banks, commerce, communications and agriculture had all been destroyed. About three-quarters of the survivors were widows who were left to pick up the pieces and move on.

Ieng Sary, Ieng Thirith, Pol Pot, Nuon Chea, Khieu Samphan and others turned all Cambodians (except themselves, of course) into peasants during Democratic Kampuchea. The entire population was forced into the fields to grow rice and build irrigation systems, yet a huge percentage of them starved to death or died of overwork and untreated diseases. Ieng Thirith visited the irrigation projects many times during Democratic Kampuchea and doubtless saw the results of the regime's policies. The revolution may have failed, but its effects are still very much with us today.

The arrests of Ieng Sary and Ieng Thirith will at last give ordinary Cambodians a victory. This couple, who have changed little and still fail to understand the pain their victims endured, will finally be called into account and perhaps soon see justice done in a court of law. The arrests of the most politically untouchable of the Khmer Rouge leaders is a powerful message to the people of Cambodia and gives us hope that our country will move toward a better future.




Mr. Chhang is the director of the Documentation Center of Cambodia, an independent nongovernmental organization that holds the world's largest collection of documents from Democratic Kampuchea.

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Tuesday, November 13, 2007

EMOTIONAL VOTERS




Source: Alternatives Watch
Date: 10 November 2007

EMOTIONAL VOTERS

A friend has raised an interesting point the SRP, or any party wishing to become the next ruling party, may want to consider for the 2008 election campaign. He notes the CPP has already begun spreading the word that if it loses the election, there will be war again. The prime minister has publicly insinuated that if a war is to start under another prime minister after the next election, it will not be his responsibility. The friend argues the SRP's attempt to raise an expectation that it will win the next elections can only damage its chance of success. Such a campaign will only turn voters' worry into fear as they know the CPP has the capability of making war; it controls armed forces that are neither independent nor impartial.

The friend's opinion signifies the importance of emotion in elections, which is supported by Drew Western, who argues in his book "The Political Brain: The Role of Emotion in Deciding the Fate of the Nation" that voting is an emotional exercise. Western says the political mind is a passionate mind. The vote will depend on who has played successfully on voters' fears, harnessed voters aspirations and hope for the future, or pricked voters' consciences. Western does not agree with cooler heads who think that, when choosing their political leaders, voters rely on those laudable Enlightenment virtues of rationalism and empiricism, that they analyse facts and figures, dispassionately weigh up costs and benefits, make clear-head comparison of policy, issue by issue.

According to Western, the election is a battle of stories. The CPP story is that it was the 7 January liberator putting an end to mass killings. It has delivered peace and stability, and one of the best economic growths for years. The opposition may point to holes in the story, however. The gap between rich and poor is still large, if not expanding. Rural Cambodia that makes up a large section of the country is still doing tough, and there is no end in sight.

With the CPP story, the prime minister often speaks of war and instability serving as a warning to electorates of upheavals without him in charge. It seems the prime minister has been a faithful disciple to the US Vice-President Dick Cheney's 1 percent doctrine: if there is only 1 percent chance of terrorist attack, act as if it were a certainty.

If the western psychology as Drew Western expounds works within the Cambodian context, the electorate's emotional - not rational - response to the stories, will deliver victory in 2008 to the CPP with the help of the SRP. The former's story may have holes in it, but it will play the fear card to stir the voters' emotion. With its campaign for an outright win, the SRP, perhaps unintentionally, will make the fear real. In the face of such congruent campaigns from both major parties, the emotional side of the Cambodian voters will definitely have nothing to lean on besides preserving the status quo.



Ung Bun Ang



QUOTABLE QUOTE

"The heart has its reasons which reason knows nothing of."

Blaise Pascal (1623-1662), French philosopher, mathematician, and physicist. Pensées.

WAY TO GO

The SRP president, who has secured an indefinite term for his SRP presidency, wants a limit of one term for prime minister. He is quoted to have said, "We want to give opportunities for our well-educated younger generations. When only one person consolidates all the power, it means that person insults or looks down on other educated people."

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