Saturday, December 20, 2008

Prince Ranariddh (L) and PM Hun Sen (R).Phnom Penh - Mr. Chea Chanboribo, spokesman for Prince Ranariddh, on 18th December has written a letter rejecting reports published in the

Prince Ranariddh (L) and PM Hun Sen (R).Phnom Penh - Mr. Chea Chanboribo, spokesman for Prince Ranariddh, on 18th December has written a letter rejecting reports published in the

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Seng Sopheak: Victim of bird flu infection

Seng Sopheak, infected by H5N1, rests at Calmet hospital in Phnom Penh December 13, 2008. The 19-year-old Cambodian who ate dead poultry has been confirmed with H5N1 bird flu, the country's first human case in more than 18 months, the World Health Organization (WHO) and government said on Friday. REUTERS/Stringer

Slowly, but surely: the path to Uncle Ho's Indochinese

Slowly, but surely: the path to Uncle Ho's Indochinese Federation under Vietnamese control

Vietnam boosts legislative ties with Laos and Cambodia

VNA (Hanoi)

VietNamNet Bridge - Vietnam will continue its legislative cooperation with Laos and Cambodia, including exchange of experiences and mutual assistance in policy making and encouraging people to support commitments made by the countries.

The idea was shared by Vice Chairwoman of the Vietnamese National Assembly Tong Thi Phong with her guests, Deputy Prime Minister and MP of Cambodia Men Sam An, and Vice Chairman of the Lao NA’s Committee for Cultural and Social Affairs Pholsena Phonethep, during their meetings in Hanoi on Dec. 13.

The two foreign officials are leading delegations to attend the Asian Forum of Parliamentarians on Population and Development (AFPPD) which is held in Hanoi from Dec. 13-14.

Phong and her guests exchanged views on social affairs of common concern, such as gender equality, childcare and protection.

She appreciated the Cambodian and Lao delegations to the AFPPD and the role of Cambodian and Lao MPs in boosting the traditional relationship and comprehensive cooperation between Vietnam , Laos and Cambodia .

The guests expressed thanks to the Vietnamese NA, Government and people for their wholehearted assistance to the national construction and development of both Laos and Cambodia.

Vietnamese Farmers Said Knocking Down Svay Rieng-Tay Ninh

Vietnamese Farmers Said Knocking Down Svay Rieng-Tay Ninh Border Markers

08 Dec 08
Koh Santepheap
Translated from Khmer by Anonymous

After agreeing to plant the border posts between the two countries in Prasat commune, Chantrea district, Svay Rieng province, border defense officials have expressed their desire for a solution to the Vietnamese people's practice of growing rice inside Cambodian territory. Concerning this case, Phea Sam-at, chief of Prasat commune's Border Defense Police [BDP] station, said that the Vietnamese used to grow rice in the border village of Kandal, Prasat commune, Chantrea district. However, on 6 November the border commission headed by Khum Ponban, himself (Phea Sam-at), Oeun Sophal, deputy chief of Prasat commune's BDP station, Kev Chhean, chief of Prasat commune, and several border defense officials cooperated with the Vietnamese side headed by Thuong Minh Duc, chief of the Vietnamese border defense station, the head of Phuoc Chi commune, and several Phuoc Chi militia members in inspecting the borderline. After that, the two sides agreed on demarcating the border and planting border posts No. 178 and 179 adjacent to the Vietnamese border commune of Phuoc Chi in Tan Bien district, Tay Ninh province.

After the official planting of the border posts, the Vietnamese people who used to grow rice on Cambodian soil before tried to plow and till the land again. The Cambodian officials reminded them that both sides had announced that the people should respect the borderline marked by the border posts, and at that time the Vietnamese people who used to grow rice on that land did not raise any objection.

Phea Sam-at further said that when it was time for the dry-season rice cultivation, the Vietnamese side represented by the head of the border defense station who was in frequent contact with him requested that the Vietnamese farmers be allowed to farm the above-mentioned land like before (in relation to the border posts, this land is about 400 meters inside Cambodia), but he himself, as well as all other border defense officials, did not dare to permit the Vietnamese to grow rice there again, preferring to wait for an advice from the higher authorities. Later, on 20 November Oeun Sophal, deputy chief of Prasat commune's BDP station, informed Sin Veasna, deputy commander of Prasat commune's Border Defense Police Battalion [BDPB] 609, of the Vietnamese people's request for permission to resume growing rice near border posts No. 178 and 179. However, Sin Veasna declined to give them the permission, asking them to wait for a decision from higher up. He also informed the Vietnamese side that the higher authorities had yet to give them any permission to resume farming in Cambodian territory. But the Vietnamese then claimed that they had already contacted Men Kengli, commander of BDPB 609, who gave them green light to temporarily grow rice in that area. This permission was given when Thuong Minh Duc, head of the Vietnamese defense station, participated in a meeting in Prasat commune, Chantrea district, and asked Men Kengli to allow the Vietnamese people to temporarily grow rice there. For this reason, on 1 December several Vietnamese started plowing the land with great fanfare and in that process they knocked down some border posts and caused other to lean abnormally. The BDP then made a report on this incident.

Phea Sam-at further disclosed that when he went to inspect border posts No. 178 and 179 and a number of smaller 4x4 posts, these posts were seen lying on the ground while border post No 178 was found leaning askance. Witnessing that, Phea Sam-at went to see the chief of Phuoc Chi commune, Thuong Minh Duc, asking the Vietnamese side to summon the Vietnamese who plowed the rice field for a settlement. The Vietnamese side then summoned the owner of the tractor that ran over the border posts; but the tractor owner claimed that he was only hired to plow the land. He said he was told by the owner of the rice field to plow over the border markers; so, he just did what he was told to do. Although the border posts were bulldozed over, the suspect was not arrested and the Vietnamese still continue to plow the land without listening to our Cambodian police's order to stop. The order was ignored because the Vietnamese said that the Vietnamese government did not stop them from growing rice in that area, and the Cambodian side, namely Men Kengli also had already authorized them to continue cultivating that land, albeit temporarily, until there is an official announcement by the border committees of both sides.

Concerning this case, Colonel Men Kengli, chief of BDPB 609, told reporters that he did not have any power to allow the Vietnamese to grow rice on this land nor did he have any right to forbid them from doing so. This is the prerogative of the higher authorities or the border committees. He went on to say that the border committees have planted border posts to demarcate the borderline, but in the past there was difficulty in transporting materials for planting these border posts because of the road's muddy condition. This is why only small 4x4 posts were used on a temporary basis. As for the case in which the Vietnamese people came in to cultivate the land, he said he did not dare to stop them. He just allowed them to continue growing rice temporarily because this area was state-owned property.

According to Has Phallarith, head of the first group of the border post planting commission, the border posts that had already been planted constituted important landmarks for identifying the borderline. The Vietnamese must not be allowed to touch or damage them. The authorities on both sides must protect these markers, he said. As for the people who used to grow rice in any spot they must be allowed to temporarily continue to grow it there pending the planting of the main border posts and the official demarcation of the borderline. Then, we will ask the Vietnamese people to stop coming in and growing rice there, he said. Also concerning this issue, the border defense authorities have appealed to the higher authorities to resolve the problem in which border posts were knocked down in the place mentioned above so that there is a balance of force between the Cambodian and Vietnamese authorities.

Pardoned Prince Ranariddh Appointed Head of King's Supreme Council

Pardoned Prince Ranariddh Appointed Head of King's Supreme Council

Ranariddh (L), Hun Sen (C) and Sihamoni (R) during the latter's crowning

11 Dec 08
By Sakkada Moneaksekar Khmer
Translated from Khmer by Anonymous

After the recent fourth parliamentary elections were held, that is, after the two political parties that paid only lip service as royalist were handed the most shameful defeats at the polls on 27 July 2008, a number of royalties have walked out of the political scene in order to hide their shame and disgust.

Among the royal family members who had announced their departure from politics and who were so shamefaced and humiliated that they no longer dare to re-enter the political scene are Prince Norodom Sirivuddh and Princess Norodom Vajjara. And recently, Prince Norodom Ranariddh, former president of the FUNCINPEC [National United Front for an Independent, Neutral, and Peaceful Cambodia] Party, also publicly announced his decision to quit politics, preferring to devote his time helping to handle the affairs of his half-brother, King Norodom Sihamoni.

Prince Ranariddh was sentenced in absentia by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court to spend 18 months in prison as of the day he is arrested and to pay $150,000 to the FUNCINPEC Party through its Secretary-General Nhoek Bun-chhai. Finding himself in an impasse before, Prince Ranariddh then resorted to a political solution. After the 27 July elections Prince Ranariddh announced his refusal to form any political alliance with the Sam Rainsy Party under whatever circumstances. Prince Ranariddh, then head of the Norodom Ranariddh Party [NRP] fleeing into exile in Malaysia to dodge the court's arrest warrant, voiced his recognition of the polls' results and even urged the Cambodian People's Party [CPP] with Hun Sen as its vice president and prime minister candidate to form a coalition government with the two-seated FUNCINPEC Party as soon as possible to avoid the same political deadlock as in the 2003 third general elections.

Sources among the NRP officials said that after being granted royal pardon Prince Ranariddh immediately announced his divorce from politics and offered to assist the king in handling his affairs. His Majesty King Norodom Sihamoni then appointed the prince to the post of chairman of the Supreme Council of the King without waiting for any recommendation from Prime Minister Hun Sen. The sources said the king just signed a royal decree appointing Prince Ranariddh by himself last weekend.

According to the same source, Prince Ranariddh is asking the minister of the royal palace [Kong Sam-ol] to officially appoint dozens of his aides so that they would have their own offices and positions inside the Royal Cabinet. These aides, it was said, are the same men from the sycophant entourage of the prince when he still was NRP president.

Observers said that although Prince Ranariddh used to announce that he would abandon or end his political career he some times appears to still bear great influence over the NRP, keeping it at his beck and call. Moreover, although the NRP has already been handed to Chhim Siek-leng to lead as its provisional president, Chhim Siek-leng is just a nominal party president. All the important leadership decisions, it is observed, is made by Yu Hokkri, secretary-general of the NRP and MP for Kampong Cham constituency. It is also said that Yu Hokkiri is running the NRP together with Sau Rani, another confidant of Prince Ranariddh and MP for Prey Veng constituency of the current fourth National Assembly.The same source further disclosed that after Prince Ranariddh announced his retreat from politics and became very cozy with Hun Sen and other CPP officials, the prince immediately asked for the inclusion of a number of NRP officials, his closest underlings, into the corps of government advisers and advisers of various national authorities. Those peeved for failing to get the advisory jobs left the NRP and defected to the CPP. Some of them were then appointed undersecretaries or secretaries of state while others were made government advisers.

This fourth government is completely led and controlled by the CPP although the FUNCINPEC Party with its two seats has been made its partner in the coalition government and the NRP its partner in the National Assembly. These two satellite parties have not received any important posts in either the government or the National Assembly, not even as members of the National Assembly's specialized commissions. It is only after they submitted applications through the offices of National Assembly Speaker Heng Samrin that the MPs from the FUNCINPEC Party and NRP were included among the members of the House's specialized commissions and were given a bigger salary than the MPs without any posts in the nine specialized commissions of the National Assembly.

Vietnam Communists suspend official over Japan bribe case [

Vietnam Communists suspend official over Japan bribe case [-Can't Hun Sen imitate his Vietnamese bosses?]

Dec 12, 2008

Hanoi - The Vietnamese Communist Party has suspended an official accused of taking hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes from a Japanese company while in charge of Ho Chi Minh City's largest infrastructure project, a party official said Friday.

The accused official, Huynh Ngoc Si, had already been relieved in late November from his government posts as director of Ho Chi Minh City's East-West Highway Project and deputy director of the city's Department of Transportation.

On Thursday, Si was suspended from his Communist Party posts as well.

Si is accused of taking 820,000 dollars in kickbacks between 2003 and 2006 from the Japanese firm Pacific Consultants International (PCI). The case has already put several Japanese executives in jail.

'Si was not shocked, but calm, when I announced the decision' to suspend him, said Ho Hoang Son, head of the Party's supervisory committee for the Ho Chi Minh City Department of Transportation.

'If he is found guilty, we will expel him from the party,' Son said. 'But if he is innocent, we will consider resuming his posts.'

On November 12, four PCI officials accused of bribing Si pleaded guilty in Tokyo district court to violating the Unfair Competition Prevention Law, which bans Japanese citizens from bribing foreign government officials.

The case led to public anger in Japan, but until recently Vietnam said it lacked evidence to investigate Si.

Last week, at an annual meeting of foreign aid donors to Vietnam, Japan announced it was halting all new official development assistance (ODA) to Vietnam until authorities investigated the case thoroughly. Japan provided Vietnam with over 200 million dollars in ODA in 2007.

On Tuesday, Vietnamese police announced they were opening an investigation into the PCI case.

Vietnamese media have noted legal discrepancies which could prove an obstacle to prosecution. Vietnam may find it difficult to summon the four convicted Japanese executives as witnesses in the case because the two countries have not signed an extradition treaty.

Students send worldwide message

Students send worldwide message

December 12nd 2008
Martine Chenier, Colonel By (Canada)

Colonel By’s Amnesty International group has raised the bar in hopes of raising awareness, support and funds for global issues. On Dec. 10, the program is joining many other Amnesty groups across the country to celebrate Human Rights Day in the Write for Rights campaign.
The members will join together to collect signatures to help persuade the Canadian government to aid other countries, and some times our own, in the resolution of world issues.

There will be letters available to protest the forced evictions in Cambodia after officials are threatening to force approximately 150 families from their homes and the land in the centre of the city of Phnom Penh, more commonly known as Group 78, and move them in Andong. Most of those are underprivileged street vendors, teachers and junior civil servants. There are also others demanding justice and the safety of a human rights defender and her family in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and to support Iranians protesting for the equality of women, to name a few.

The group took over the school’s atrium at lunch hour with all the required information and supplies in order to help the cause.

“We’re going to have tables where people can either sign a pre-written letter or write their own letter, as well as an information table, and a bake sale,” states one of Colonel By’s Amnesty International programs leaders, Amar Nijhawan. “The letters will be sent to the appropriate government representatives, depending on the letter-writing case we choose.”

Amnesty International will also be holding a few other events in order to inform Colonel By’s students about the issues around the world.

“We have also talked about having a buy-in with guest speakers and a documentary in late March,” continues Amar about the future goals of the program.

Singaporean group introduces "floating" toilets in Cambodia

Singaporean group introduces "floating" toilets in Cambodia

13 December 2008
By Channel NewsAsia's IndoChina correspondent Anasuya Sanyal (S'pore)

CAMBODIA: In rural Cambodia, only 16 per cent of residents have a proper toilet -- the lowest rate in Southeast Asia.

However, one Singaporean group is working to change that.

On Cambodia's great lake, Tonle Sap, water stretches for miles in every direction.

But getting clean drinking water and proper sanitation is another story entirely.

Homes here are floating platforms and must move seasonally, and outhouses are simply a wooden plank over the open water.

Water and sanitation issues are of crucial importance to people who are on Tonle Sap, where safe drinking water comes at a price and toilet facilities are rudimentary.

People have no choice but to contaminate the very same water they use for drinking and washing.

Singaporean non-governmental organisation Lien Aid aims to make a difference in this community of about 10,000 people.

They are introducing the concept of "floating" toilets which are affordable, locally-made, and therefore sustainable.

"It is actually a simple system… We're going to use locally available buckets where they can collect the faeces. We are going to use some locally available agent to dry the faeces, that is, using ashes and other local material," said the CEO of Lien Aid, Sahari Ani.

One key to the project is that locals will have to source and build their own toilets, to ensure that all parts of the community are involved.

"The toilet that we introduce to the community -- they are very happy to get that one and they try to find their own resources to contribute to the project," said the director of the Department of Rural Health Care, Ministry of Rural Development, Chea Samnang.

A young couple, who has two children with another on the way, says they are happy to have a simple and hygienic toilet.

They worry that people's lifelong habits will be difficult to change.

But they hope the affordable toilets will catch on with the lake's residents, just like other modern conveniences that have done so.

And it is testimonies like theirs that makes this project look set to be flush with success.

[ASEAN Charter:] Silence raises questions of relevance

[ASEAN Charter:] Silence raises questions of relevance

Saturday December 13, 2008
Bangkok Post


The postponement of the 14th Asean summit, earlier scheduled for next week (Dec 15-17) in Thailand, raises questions about the relevance of the Asean charter to the current political, economic and security challenges the region faces.

The Asean foreign ministers therefore have to convene a special meeting on Monday to discuss the re-scheduling of the summit and other relevant matters, to shore up the waning confidence in this regional organisation and to celebrate the much-awaited charter at the Jakarta-based secretariat.

Within the region, there have been doubts that the Asean charter, to be spearheaded under the Thai chairmanship, would succeed in "revitalising a people-centred community and reinforcing human development and security for all the peoples of the region".

Even more doubtful is the prospect of the new organs envisaged by the charter, in particular the Asean human rights bodies - expected to be completed by the end of the Thai chairmanship next year. Critics fear that without substantive changes to the way Asean has been operating, the new organs would end up as decorative pieces put in the charter just to lure domestic and international attention.

Asean's relative silence towards the political bickering and airport siege in Thailand that spilled over to the point they could qualify as violations of human rights - apart from the fact that they caused the Asean summit to be postponed - indicates that the core policy of "non-interference" and "constructive engagement" is likely to be the order of the day.

Sunai Phasuk, coordinator of Human Rights Watch in Thailand, said Asean's silence on Thailand's case adds to the impression that the regional body is ineffective in dealing with human rights violations. Burma also would be a case in point.

"It is just a contradictory signal. Asean said the new Asean human rights mechanism will promote and protect the rights of the Asean peoples, but their bulwark non-interference principle certainly goes against the nature of these two human rights aspects, to begin with," said Mr Sunai.

Without any strong reaction from Asean, the grouping is seen as condoning such anti-democratic trends as the week-long takeover of Suvarnabhumi and Don Mueang airports in Bangkok by protesters going under the banner of the People's Alliance for Democracy.

"Thailand and Burma are adequate test cases for the toothless Asean. The governments of Asean have preached what they cannot offer. But they need to show to the world that this region also has some effective mechanisms like what Africa has," he said.

Chulalongkorn University associate professor Thitinan Pongsudhirak shared a similar view. The Thai example and how Asean responded to it can be a precedent for countries like Burma, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam, as well as Asean dialogue partners including China, to cite for a future slide along an undemocratic path.

"What happened in Thailand has also affected the spirit of Asean, its efforts in creating a rule of law within the region. China considers our case a lesson. And it may be justified if it chooses to withhold a democratisation process for fear of political turbulence," said Mr Thitinan.

Other regional human rights bodies such as the Asia Human Rights Commission have also called for greater global attention to the political tension in Thailand, which has gone on for several months without any discernible reaction from domestic human rights bodies.

"Having vacillated on the 2006 coup, the international community cannot afford to let things go on without some meaningful intervention this time. If Thailand slips further backwards it will be to the detriment not only of its own but the entire region's. At a time that repressive anti-democratic forces are either making a comeback or strengthening their positions almost everywhere, Thailand cannot afford to be lost," the Hong Kong-based AHRC stated.

Members of the Asean civil society consider the charter a state-centric tool, being written by government officials without genuine, broad consultations with civic groups. The charter provides no institutionalised mechanisms, such as the NGO Consultative Status to the UN, in which a civil society can contribute to or comment on the decision-making process.

Pokpong Lawansiri, from Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (Forum-Asia), said that to Asean leaders, the civil society's role is to be informed about decisions that are made, not to play any role in their making.

He added, however, that the regional body should take note that there has been increasing interest among civil society groups in seeing the association become more relevant and capable of handling issues that concern the peoples of the member countries - migrant workers and human trafficking, among others.

Pairoj Polphet, president of the Union of Civil Liberties, said the new government of Thailand must put the organisation of the Asean summit at the top of its priority list.

"As chairman of Asean under the new context of the charter, our ability to host the summit as soon as possible is a key message to not only the regional bloc but the international community that our political stability has been recovered."

Mr Pairoj added that civil society would not go against Asean cooperation projects but would like to have a say in regional affairs as they would affect people's lifestyles and well-being.

It is now in the hands of Asean officials and governments whether to shape the Asean human rights body (whose official name has yet to be created) to the high expectations people have of it.

Economic crisis in Cambodia, from the World Bank's point of view: with bad luck comes some good?

Economic crisis in Cambodia, from the World Bank's point of view: with bad luck comes some good?

Takeo (Cambodia) 03/09/2008 Rice export may be the only growing sector of the economy. Daily labourers harvesting the first of two yearly crops of a landowner. They are paid the grass that is left after the rice has been threshed. They use it to feed their cows. (Photo: John Vink / Magnum)

By Stéphanie Gée
Ka-set in English
Click here to read the article in French
Click here to read the article in Khmer

East Asia will not be spared the impacts of the global economic storm which started in the developed countries and has been severely raging throughout the world since September 15th, the World Bank (WB) warned in its latest report, released on Wednesday December 10th. However, according to projections made by Jim Adams, vice-president of the World Bank, the region of East Asia and Pacific, pulled by China's line of dynamism and better-prepared to face the crisis than it was in 1997 when it was hit by the financial slump, will contribute about a third of the total global growth in 2008. But what about the small Kingdom of Cambodia, who stood out over the past ten years with important growth records - GDP growth averaged 11.1% between 2004 and 2007 - achieved thanks to open policies? The WB forecast a GDP of 6.7% for 2008 for the country, but the product should plummet down to 4.9% for 2009.

Hard times for the four key drivers of Cambodia's growth

“The unfavourable external environment will now lead to less demand for Cambodian exports, fewer tourists, and less foreign investment”, Stéphane Guimbert, a senior economist for the Cambodian branch of the World Bank, explained. “Inflows of foreign direct investment are projected to slow from a record high of 10% of GDP in 2007 to 5.2% in 2009, as foreign investors become more cautious about investing in developing countries, in a context of unstable economic situation.

So, the four key drivers of Cambodia's economic growth will suffer severe blows: first of all, the sector of agriculture: it offers substantial opportunities for Cambodia, a rice exporter, but the scope for a robust supply response remains uncertain given the recent decline in prices and limited investment in the sector. Then, the garment industry, hit by the slowdown in the United States, its main export market, weakened by competitiveness issues due to high inflation and an increase in workers' wages, and affected by the lifting in 2009 of safeguards measures by the United States and the European Union on China, a major competitor in garment exports. Thirdly, the sector of construction is slowing down too, due to the consequences of the crisis on Korea who had until now been acting as a locomotive for the Cambodian construction sector. Finally, tourism has been directly affected by weaker global economy on the one hand and the border disputes with Thailand on the other hand. The WB reported that a slowdown in tourist arrivals was noticeable in the first six months of 2008.

The World Bank's recommendations

As some do not hesitate to say that this economic depression may well be the worst in the world since the 1930s, one may wonder what a small country like Cambodia could do to respond to the crisis with its own resources. Vikram Nehru, the World Bank’s Chief Economist for East Asia and the Pacific, admitted frankly, from Tokyo, that “Cambodia was unlucky to [have been] caught in the crisis at this particular time”.

Stéphane Guimbert, for his part, put forward four key policies which could help lessen the impact of the shock wave on Cambodia. To start with, he advocated the strong supervision of the banking sector to avoid financial risks. “The financial sector is still very young in Cambodia. If there is a problem, the situation could get worse very quickly!” he warned, adding that the government was on the right track in this field. He also suggested the establishment of fiscal stimulus meant to support growth without jeopardizing macroeconomic stability.

Another key policy, he added, would be to offer trade and investment facilitation to mitigate the adverse effect of the external environment. And finally, the economist advised that social safety nets should be prepared to help the most vulnerable cope with the slowdown in growth

Keeping the garment sector in good health

In such a context, Cambodia seems bound to lose its market shares in the United States since demand will clearly be reduced. The Kingdom will then be forced to seek new markets, Vikram Nehru advised.

Cambodia must boost its competitiveness - “it must be one of the country's priorities”, Stéphane Guimbert insisted – by facilitating trade, offering fiscal stimulus and dealing with labour-related conflicts. The World Bank economist reminded that the country suffered from its dollarised economy since the American dollar has been appreciating against other currencies circulating in the region due to the inflation this year.

With bad luck comes ... some good?

The World bank economists yet want to believe that there may be a few advantages to take from the current situation of crisis, at least in the medium term. In the case of Cambodia, the sector of agriculture, which is still far from being exploited in the best way, could be boosted more, with a view to support economic growth. “Although the price of rice has gone down after a peak in May-June, it is still higher than it was before. This allows farmers to invest more in their land and buy pumps for irrigation or more seeds and fertiliser to increase their crop yields and make more profit...”, Stéphane Guimbert suggested.

Then, before the crisis actually vanishes and investors, currently sitting on their liquidities, come back to speculate, the latter will keep thinking twice before committing to any project, worried about the financial risks they would potentially take. To Stéphane Guimbert, it is time for Cambodia to do everything in its power to reduce these risks by improving the climate for investment. Moreover, Cambodia, according to the economist, must dare implementing “slightly more ambitious” expenditure policies, particularly when it comes to infrastructure projects and social protection nets, which will have a beneficial effect on potential growth in the medium term. The Cambodian government seems to be taking this track, judging by the 2009 budget, widely increased (US$1.8 billion) and adopted on Tuesday December 9th by the National Assembly.

The measures already taken by the government

In order to slow down inflation and lessen financial sector risks, the Central Bank tightened its monetary policy, as pointed out in the World Bank report. With further details, the WB described that the Central Bank doubled reserve requirements in July 2008, introduced a ceiling on loans to the real estate sector, tripled capital requirements in September 2008 and introduced restrictions on cash withdrawals from the Central Bank in October 2008.

The government continues to advance structural reforms, although with some slowdown at the time of the elections. Progress has also been made in upgrading the legal framework for investment, notably with the enactment of the Law on Secured Transactions, which makes it possible for a business to use its moveable and intangible assets as security for a loan. The World Bank pointed out that this had allowed Cambodia to skip 15 places in the 2009 “Doing Business” Report.

Last but not least, the World Bank assessment quoted another important reform recently enacted, namely the introduction in May 2008 of ASYCUDA, or Automated System for Customs Data, at the Port of Sihanoukville.