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Prime Minister Hun Sen

Cambodia Upgrades Diplomatic Relations With Japan

Prime Minister Hun Sen agreed to upgrade Cambodia’s diplomatic relations with Japan to a “strategic level” during talks in Tokyo on Sunday, but also thanked his Japanese counterpart, Shinzo Abe, for making efforts to mend relations with neighbor China, according to media reports. During a state visit to Japan that ends today, Mr. Hun Sen also accepted $134 million in new loans for three infrastructure projects from Japan, Cambodia’s largest development aid donor. ... The bilateral meeting between Mr. Hun Sen and Mr. Abe followed a one-day Asean-Japan Commemorative Summit at which Japan and the 10-member Asean bloc agreed to ensure “freedom of overflight” in the region, a move China is likely to take as a rebuke to the air defense identification zone it has unilaterally imposed over disputed waters between it and Japan. ... Also according to AKP, the projects Japan signed up to pay for on Sunday included improvements to National Road 1 and Preah Sihanouk province’s referral hospital, as well as equipment to restore the western causeway at Angkor Wat. Japanese media reported that the development projects agreed to would include work on Cambodia’s power grid, irrigation facilities and a highway linking Phnom Penh with Thailand. Cambodian Defense Ministry Secretary of State Neang Phat was also on hand in Tokyo to sign an agreement on defense cooperation with his Japanese counterpart, though details on that deal were not available. Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan declined to comment Monday on whether closer ties with Japan or the “freedom of overflight” agreement might strain relations between Phnom Penh and Beijing, the country’s largest investor, and referred the question to Mr. Hun Sen’s Cabinet. ...

Hun Sen in Tokyo for Meeting With Japanese Prime Minister

Prime Minister Hun Sen was scheduled to meet with Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe in Tokyo on Sunday, a day after Japan and the member states of Asean agreed to ensure “freedom of overflight” in the region. The agreement will likely be taken as an affront by China, which recently imposed its own unilateral air defense zone over disputed waters between itself and Japan. While Japan is Cambodia’s largest development aid donor, China is the country’s largest investor and is considered to have closer ties with Cambodia than with any other Asean member. According to state-run news agency AKP, Cambodia and Japan were to sign a memorandum to enhance defense cooperation and exchange at Sunday’s bilateral meeting between the two prime ministers, along with unspecified economic deals. Cambodian Defense Minister Tea Banh said Sunday that the memorandum would see Japan provide Cambodia’s military with training, but he could not elaborate because he had not seen the deal. Mr. Hun Sen on Saturday met with Mitsuo Hidaka, president and CEO of Mitsui Oil Exploration Co., “stressing that he would like to see the first drop of oil soon” from Mitsui’s joint concession with Chevron off the Cambodian coast, AKP reported. Negotiations between Chevron and the Cambodian government on the terms of extraction have been stalled for several years. ... Mr. Abe took the occasion to announce a $19.4 billion aid package for Asean to be spent over the next five years on infrastructure projects and closing the regional development gap. ... ...

China, Cambodia to co-chair intergovernmental committee

Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Hor Nam Hong will visit China in January at the invitation of Chinese State Councilor Yang Jiechi, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei announced on Sunday. Hor Nam Hong and Yang will co-chair the first meeting of intergovernmental coordinating committee between China and Cambodia in Beijing, said Hong. ... He [Hor Nam Hong] said China and Cambodia will make a plan for further development in the meeting in January and explore general ideas and specific measures of cooperation in various fields, adding that the meeting will play a positive role in advancing the China-Cambodia comprehensive strategic partnership of cooperation. ...

Land-title program ‘Ineffective’

Land certificates handed out by Prime Minister Hun Sen’s youth volunteers have been seized by local authorities in some parts of the country and sold on to companies, a forum on land rights was told yesterday, amid reports of rising numbers of land conflicts. Speaking at the forum, Ky Chanra, a resident of Battambang province’s Bavel district, said youth volunteers had measured his land and produced a certificate, but the company continued to occupy the land as it had done since 2005. ... Yesterday’s meeting served as the launch of Cambodia: Land in Conflict, a report on land use published yesterday by the Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR). The report describes the volunteer-led titling program as ineffective, claiming that by and large the scheme has not sought to help communities affected by land disputes and that activists campaigning for the communities have been regularly arrested. “People in Pursat province’s Krokor district were granted land titles after the borders were demarcated by the students in December 2012. But the Pheapimex Company still continued occupying the land,” the report said. ... Thong Pha, from Kampong Speu province, said that while she was initially glad that youth volunteers were measuring her land, the feeling soon faded when the authorities stepped in and sold her papers to companies who wished to exploit the land. “They seized our certificates and then sold them to the companies. So I would like to ask the government to help us to get my land back, because I have lived in the area since the Khmer Rouge,” she said. ... ...

Cambodian PM heads for Japan, 4 deals planned to be inked

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen left here on Thursday for a week-long visit to Japan and the two countries are expected to sign four deals including defense cooperation, a senior official said. One of them is the memorandum on defense cooperation and exchanges between the two countries' defense ministries," said Srey Thamarong, minister attached to the prime minister, at the airport before departure. ... "They will also exchange views on regional and international issues including the Korean Peninsula and climate change among others," he [Srey Thamarong] said. ... ...

A minor melee mars day’s events

A day of peaceful demonstrations gave way to an evening of unrest last night as a handful of protesters were removed from a small patch of land across from the United States embassy and a grup of uninvolved people threw Molotov cocktails towards riot police at Wat Phnom.

Shortly after a Cambodia National Rescue Party rally marking International Human Rights Day ended at noon, some 300 people gathered in front of the US embassy, waving opposition party flags. ...

By 7pm, a group of about 15 people remained there, sitting down and lighting candles on carpet laid out on grass, while demanding justice and freedom. ...

About 20 Daun Penh district security guards stood in formation directly next to the protesters, with one using a loud speaker on top of his car to cajole the sitting demonstrators into dispersing. If they left now, there would be no violence, the guard said. They could come back the next day. ...

As Ouk Pichsamnang, a barber and former soldier, stood up among his sitting counterparts, telling police they would stay regardless of the consequences, more than 200 armed riot police gathered at Wat Phnom. ...

Daun Penh district security guards took the 11 to nearby Moha Leap guesthouse to stay the night, said Moeun Tola of the Community Legal Education Center, who spoke with Veng, one of those removed from the scene. The group later opted to spend the night at Wat Keang Klang, Tola said. ...

...

Disabled integration touted

Disabled Cambodians were promised a “society without barriers” by Prime Minister Hun Sen yesterday in a speech on Cambodia’s Day of Persons with Disabilities in Phnom Penh.

About 1,500 disabled Cambodians marked the day at a gathering of more than 2,000 people in the capital’s Koh Pich Exhibition Center. ...

Hun Sen pledged to recruit an additional 1,000 teachers annually over the next two years, adding that the recruitment of teachers to teach disabled students at the NGO would mean they received two salaries, one from the civil service and one from Krousar Thmey. It was unclear if this pledge could apply to other similar NGOs. ...

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H&M may raise prices to pay workers

Clothing giant H&M is considering raising retail prices and passing the buck onto the consumer to help pay higher wages to garment workers in poor countries.

There won’t be any price increases in the short-term, but it “might be a possibility” in the future, Helena Helmersson, head of sustainability at the Swedish clothing maker, told Agence France-Presse on Monday in Stockholm, where the company was meeting with advocacy groups.

Ken Loo, Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia secretary-general, welcomed the announcement as a “natural response” from one of Cambodia’s most prominent sourcing brands. ...

Dave Welsh, country director for labour rights group Solidarity Center/ACILS, was less optimistic about the proposal, given that huge corporate profits have rarely trickled down to workers. ...

...

Police hand in badges to mark end

Seventy National Police generals have been signed into retirement by Prime Minister Hun Sen, having surpassed civil servants’ mandatory retirement age of 60 years old. The request to retire the generals was made in a letter to King Norodom Sihamoni by the premier on November 27, and yesterday, some of the generals were relieved for the break – if unsentimental about their departure. ... ...

Hun Sen Orders Anticorruption Education for Students

Prime Minister Hun Sen on Friday issued a statement ordering that anti-graft education be incorporated into the national schooling system as part of a wider effort to stamp out corruption in the country. The statement, released in the lead-up to International Anti-Corruption Day, which falls today, celebrates arrests that the Anti-Corruption Unit (ACU) has made since its creation in 2010 and calls for the unit as well as other ministries to act further to stamp out corruption. “After passing the Anti-Corruption Law, the ACU has taken action independently to educate and prevent corruption with the active participation of all ministries, institutions and all levels of authorities,” Mr. Hun Sen wrote, adding that graft is still endemic in the government. ... “The Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport has also cooperated well with the Anti-Corruption Unit to compile lessons about anti-corruption that can be integrated into the student curriculum,” he [Hun Sen] wrote. ... [Education Minister] Mr. Chuon Naron added that the Education Ministry had also begun internal anti-graft reforms by recruiting new teachers through a transparent exam process. He said the ministry would soon also act to stop the practice of teachers collecting small daily fees from young students to supplement their meager incomes. Transparency International last week issued its annual Corruption Perceptions Index, which revealed Cambodia had slipped in the rankings to 160th out of 177 states in terms of public sector corruption. ...

Cambodia, Japan agree to provide visa-free for diplomatic, service passport holders

Cambodia and Japan agreed to grant visa exemption to diplomatic and official passport holders, aiming at further enhancing bilateral ties and cooperation, said a press statement from the Cambodian Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Monday.

The statement said the two countries have agreed to provide visa exemption for a period of 30 days to the holders of diplomatic and official passports of Cambodia and Japan. "Visa free will help facilitate and promote people-to-people exchange between the two countries," it said, adding that this visa exemption would be announced during the ASEAN-Japan Commemorative Summit to be held on Dec. 13-15 in Tokyo. ...

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Hun Sen to pen accords with Abe

Infrastructure-funding agreements and a memorandum on military cooperation will be signed when Prime Minister Hun Sen visits Japan next week, the government said yesterday.

The premier will meet his Japanese counterpart, Shinzo Abe, in Tokyo late next week, a statement released yesterday by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said. ...

...

Meet eyes Angkor management

Representatives from countries and preservation organisations across the globe gathered in Siem Reap yesterday as Prime Minister Hun Sen officiated the kickoff of an intergovernmental conference focused on Angkor Wat. ...

The event marks the third once-per-decade conference of the International Coordinating Committee for the Safeguarding and Development of the Historic Site of Angkor (ICC-Angkor), since forming in 1993. ...

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Aid Pledges Continue Despite CNRP Calls for Delay

Germany has pledged $64 million in aid donations to Cambodia for this year and next, amounting to a “substantial increase” over the past two years of official German assistance to the country, the German Embassy announced on Wednesday. Germany’s new aid package, the majority of which—$54 million—will go toward health and rural development, was pledged Wednesday despite a call by the CNRP for donors to delay signing official agreements with Prime Minister Hun Sen’s government until disputes over July’s national election are resolved. The World Bank said late last month that it too was preparing a two-year strategy plan for Cambodia, also likely to come with more aid pledges for the government. ... The statement also cites Chhieng Yanara, secretary-general of the Council for the Development of Cambodia (CDC), which takes the lead in the government’s relations with donors, saying that the government’s reform efforts would focus on good governance, “in particular the fight against corruption.” ... Starting in the 1990s, the government and its main aid donors held a top-level aid meeting roughly every 18 months. Originally known as the Consultative Group meeting, the government renamed the meeting the Community Development Cooperation Forum, during which donors pledged their assistance for the coming year and the government would agree on governance reform targets and update donors on progress made. Similar but lower-level meetings between donor representatives and government officials were held every six months. But the CDC has not called a Cooperation Forum since early 2010, or a meeting of the lower-level Government-Development Partner Coordinating Committee in more than a year. ... The suspension of the donor meeting also coincided with the rise of China as the country’s principal benefactor, and regular criticism by Mr. Hun Sen that the country’s traditional donors tied too many conditions to their assistance while China gave money without seeking any reforms. ... Peter Brimble, senior country economist for the Asian Development Bank, the current lead donor partner to Cambodia, said Thursday that the Bank’s charter demands that it “refrain from engaging in the political affairs of any member country.” The ADB will be giving $525 million for national and regional projects from 2013 through 2015, Mr. Brimble said. ... ...

To Celebrate Relations With China, Hun Sen Plants Rosewood Tree

Prime Minister Hun Sen and the visiting president of the China-Cambodia Friendship Association (CCFA) each planted a tree inside the Peace Palace compound in Phnom Penh on Wednesday to celebrate the 55th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the two countries. Gu Xiulian, president of the CCFA, planted an Osmanthus Fragrans sapling, the mature version of which has culinary and medicinal value, while Mr. Hun Sen planted a Dalbergia Cochinchinensis, which grows in the wild across Cambodia and is better known as Siamese rosewood. ... The planting of the single Dalbergia Cochinchinensis comes as Cambodia’s forests are being destroyed by illegal loggers looking to cash in on the value of luxury rosewood, much of which is shipped to China. Chinese import documents obtained last year revealed that more than 36,000 cubic meters—more than $60 million worth—of logs under the “rosewood” category had entered China from Cambodia between January 2007 and August 2012. Speaking after the planting ceremony, Mr. Thamrong said that Ms. Gu had praised Cambodia’s rapid development and support for China. ... ...

After Reform Promise, a Return to Statecraft as Usual

In an epic, six-hour address in September, Prime Minister Hun Sen apologized for the government’s many “problems” and promised a more reformist government over the next five years of his rule. Targeting corruption, deforestation and the lack of transparency across government sectors, the prime minister made clear that the CPP’s continued grip on power would depend on whether his ruling party could commit to stamping out its shortcomings amid a resurgent political opposition. ... The list of poor governance complaints against the government runs impressively long: the shooting deaths of civilians by police officers at two protests, the continued impunity enjoyed by the trigger-happy former governor of Bavet City, Chhouk Bundith, the hastened destruction of Ratanakkiri’s protected forests by illegal loggers, revelations that hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of donor aid money was pocketed by officials at the Ministry of Health and, most recently, the European Community’s sanctioning of Cambodia because the government sold the national ship registry to a private company that has issued national flags to foreign ships that have plundered the high seas. ... In his speech in September, and in the five-year policy platform released by the CPP the same week, Mr. Hun Sen also promised again to root out and crush corruption in the name of prolonging the CPP’s hold on government. ... The CPP will in this mandate break with decades of sanctioned pillaging of forest by “maintaining forest cover by strengthening forest protection, by way of tighter enforcement of the Law on Forestry [and] the suppression of forest offenses,” the CPP’s reform policy document stated also. Yet, in recent months, human rights groups and international natural resource monitoring groups have reported a renewed push by illegal loggers, particularly after the July election, to further deforest Ratanakkiri province. ... According to the study published by the scholarly journal “Science” last month, Cambodia lost nearly 12,600 square km of forest between 2000 and 2012, and gained only 1,100 square km of new forest in return, a net loss of 7.1 percent of the country’s forests. The study said that only Malaysia, Indonesia, Paraguay and Guatemala had higher rates of deforestation over the 12-year period. In October last year, Chinese import documents revealed that some 36,000 cubic meters of logs under the “rosewood” category have been recorded entering China from Cambodia between January 2007 and August 2012. Under Cambodia’s Forestry Law, the logging of rosewood is strictly prohibited. Searches for “rosewood” on the Chinese trading website Alibaba revealed agents in Cambodia openly offering to sell the wood to China for prices as high as $35,000 per cubic meter. ... ...

Thai Political Turmoil Could Affect Cambodia, Analysts Say

Political turmoil in Thailand, where protesters have overtaken government buildings and called for the premier there to step down, have sparked concerns in Cambodia that its diplomatic relations with its neighbor could again deteriorate. ... “The governments of Yingluck and Thaksin are close to Hun Sen,” said Lao Mong Hay, an independent political analyst in Phnom Penh. “If the [Thai] opposition takes power, the relationship would be difficult for Hun Sen, who has directly criticized the opposition.” Meanwhile, the Cambodian opposition is calling for its own anti-government demonstrations Dec. 10 and has called for Hun Sen to step down from a position it says has not been legitimized due to fraudulent elections in July. ... Supporters of Yingluck’s government and that of the ruling Cambodian People’s Party “have had a long-standing relationship, a very strong relationship,” he [Boston-based Global Strategy Asia founder Peter Tan] said. “So if the opposition, the Yellow Shirts, were to overthrow Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, my prediction is that the Yellow Shirts and the CPP government would probably not have the strongest, firm relationship.” ... However, Sok Touch, dean of Khemarak University in Phnom Penh, told VOA Khmer that any Thai government is likely to keep ties with Cambodia, which is a major market for Thai goods. “If Thailand does not try to have a good relationship with Cambodia, this market will be grabbed by Vietnam and China,” he said. ...

Cambodia Garment Wages Set to Rise as H&M Pushes New Approach

Swedish clothing giant H&M recently announced a program to boost wages for garment workers in its sub-contractor factories around the world, including in Cambodia, where the company is a leading buyer. H&M's announcement comes at the end of a turbulent year in the garment sector in Cambodia and elsewhere. In the coming weeks, the Cambodian government will announce a rise in the current $75 monthly minimum wage for garment workers. The size of the increase is not yet known, but authorities are under pressure to improve wages and working conditions in the country's most important industry. ... In part, that pressure is political. The opposition made astonishing gains in July's election, partly by promising to double the monthly minimum wage. That pledge won over many of the country's 400,000 garment workers, most of whom are young women who support their impoverished rural families. ... In October, H&M's CEO, Karl-Johan Persson, discussed wages with Prime Minister Hun Sen in Cambodia and met with local labor unions. Shortly after the visit, H&M unveiled a five-year roadmap intended, in part, to guarantee a fair living wage for workers and an annual review of workers' wages. ... Industrial disputes are nothing new to Cambodia's garment industry, which over the last two decades has grown from nothing to become a $4 billion a year export business. It is a pillar of the economy and the key foreign exchange earner. Most of its products go to the United States and the European Union. ... Dave Welsh, the country representative of the Solidarity Center, a non-profit affiliated with the U.S. labor movement, welcomes H&M's decision. Welsh said it is no secret that the Cambodian government fears that buyers in the cutthroat garment trade might abandon the country should wages rise too fast. However, the roadmap laid out by H&M, a key player in the garment sector here, should help to alleviate those fears. ... Meanwhile, Cambodia's garment workers are waiting to hear how much they will earn next year. Already some independent unions are threatening further action unless the minimum wage doubles to $150. ... ...

Cambodia's progress cannot be separated from China's support: PM

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said Wednesday that the country's development in all fields could not be detached from China's aid and vowed to further deepen ties between the two countries. ... According to the figures recorded by the Cambodian Finance Ministry, to date, China has provided a total of 2.89 billion US dollars in the forms of grants, interest-free loans, and concessional loans to Cambodia for infrastructure projects such as roads, bridges, irrigation system, ports, and electricity. Besides, China is the largest investor in Cambodia. From 1994 to 2012, total Chinese investment in Cambodia has reached 9.17 billion US dollars. On the trade side, two-way trade was valued at 2.83 billion US dollars in the first nine months of 2013 and is expected to reach 5 billion US dollars by 2017. For tourism, Hun Sen foresaw that Cambodia was expected to receive at least 400,000 Chinese tourists in 2013. According to the Ministry of Tourism, during the first ten months of this year, some 376,570 Chinese tourists have visited Cambodia, up 42 percent year-on-year, placing China the second largest source of visitors to Cambodia after Vietnam. ... ...

State-Owned Properties to Be Sold, Swapped

Six prime government-owned properties in Phnom Penh and Battambang province have been reclassified as privately held state properties in order to pave the way for the land to be sold or swapped with private companies, according to a sub-decree signed November 8. Signed by Prime Minister Hun Sen, the sub-decree changes the status of six government administration buildings from unsellable state-public property to state-private property. The properties fall under the purview of the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications and the Ministry of Industry, Mines and Energy, and cover more than 64,587 square meters of land in total. ... One of the properties reclassified by the sub-decree is the Boeng Pralit Commune Post Office branch on Sihanouk Boulevard near the intersection with Monivong Boulevard, the capital’s second largest post office building, covering 1,584 square meters. Another post office, the Olympic district branch, was also privatized. In Battambang province, 62,740 square meters of state land belonging to the Ministry of Industry, Mines and Energy were reclassified. ... ...
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