Archive for October, 2008

Cambodia to double military budget to 500 mln dlrs after clashes

October 29, 2008

PHNOM PENH (AFP) — Cambodia will double its military budget next year to about 500 million dollars following a deadly firefight with Thailand at their disputed border this month, a lawmaker said Wednesday.

Parliament is set to approve the new military budget in a session in early November, said Cheam Yeap, head of the parliament’s finance commission.

“We need our soldiers to have enough capacity to protect our sovereignty and territorial integrity and have proper equipment and weapons,” he told AFP.

“We also want our soldiers to have better training and to be better equipped with weapons and other military tools,” he said.

The lawmaker added that Cambodian soldiers also needed new bases and better pay from the government.

But the decision to vastly increase military spending will likely rankle many international donors, who provide about 600 million dollars per year for the impoverished country’s national budget.

Many of Cambodia’s Cold War-era weapons mis-fired during the October 15 firefight between troops on disputed land near the ancient Preah Vihear temple which left one Thai and three Cambodians dead.

While Thailand has a 300,000-strong armed force and a well-equipped air force, Cambodia’s much smaller military is badly equipped, badly trained and disorganised, according to a Western military official in Bangkok.

Tensions between Thailand and Cambodia flared in July when the 11th century Preah Vihear temple was awarded United Nations World Heritage status, rekindling long-running tensions over ownership of land surrounding the temple.

Although the World Court ruled in 1962 that it belonged to Cambodia, the most accessible entrance is in Thailand’s northeastern Si Sa Ket province.


October 30, 2008 at 6:04 am Leave a comment

UNESCO to post signs at Preah Vihear temple

PHNOM PENH, Oct. 29 (Xinhua) — The Cambodian National Committee, in partnership with the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), will post signs at Preah Vihear temple to create a protection zone around the World Heritage site, national media reported Wednesday.

The move follows claims by Cambodian officials that a statue and staircase at the 11th-century monument were damaged by Thai grenades during clashes on Oct. 15 that left three Cambodian soldiers and a Thai trooper dead, the Phnom Penh Post said.

Phay Siphan, secretary of state at the Council of Ministers, said three signs will be posted around the temple on Nov. 7 to prevent further damage to the site.

“Preah Vihear is not just Cambodian property, but world property,” he told the Post.

“Cambodia and Thailand are both members of UNESCO, so we want their cooperation in protecting the temple,” he added.

Hang Soth, director general of the Preah Vihear Authority, said the new signs will demarcate a new protection zone to deter fighting in the area.

“There will be no further shooting on the temple or in the protection zone,” he said.

“We will post the signs, and Thai soldiers must join us in respecting the boundary,” he added.

Editor: Lin Liyu

October 30, 2008 at 6:02 am 12 comments

Thai parliament gives green light for border talks with Cambodia

October 29, 2008

BANGKOK (AFP) — Thai parliament has given the government the green light to launch talks with Cambodia aimed at settling a long-running border dispute which boiled over into violence, officials said Wednesday.

The next round of talks aimed at ending a military stand off on disputed land near Cambodia’s ancient Preah Vihear temple will be held next month, after a border firefight on October 15 killed one Thai and three Cambodians.

“Parliament has granted the government two frameworks of negotiation,” said Virachai Plasai, a foreign ministry official in charge of legal affairs.

“The two frameworks will allow the government to launch negotiations with Cambodia in order to solve the boundary and border issues,” he told reporters.

Initial issues to be hammered out, beginning when the two sides meet from November 10 to 14, are the redeployment of troops on disputed land near Preah Vihear and removing landmines from the area.

In the longer-term, Virachai said, the two countries would try and settle ownership of patches of disputed land along Thailand and Cambodia’s 798-kilometre (495-mile) shared border.

The Cambodian-Thai border has never been fully demarcated, in part because it is littered with landmines left over from decades of war in Cambodia.

Tensions between the neighbours flared in July when the 11th century Preah Vihear was awarded United Nations World Heritage status, rekindling long-running tensions over ownership of the surrounding land.

Two rounds of emergency talks after the October 15 clashes made little progress, with both sides only agreeing not to fire on each other again.

October 30, 2008 at 6:00 am Leave a comment

Cambodia, Vietnam to ink agreements on bilateral cooperation

PHNOM PENH, Oct. 29 (Xinhua) — Cambodia and Vietnam will sign five agreements soon in the fields of visa exemption, goods transportation across the border and information exchange of radio stations, said a press release here on Wednesday.

The signing ceremony will be held while Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen visits Vietnam in early November to participate in regional summits, said the press release from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation.

Hun Sen will lead an official delegation to attend the third summit of the Ayeyawady, Chao Phraya, Mekong Economic Cooperation Strategy (ACMECS) and the fourth regional summit among Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam, it said.

The delegation will includes the premier’s wife Bun Rany, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Hor Namhong, Commerce Minister Cham Prasidh and other senior government officials, it added.

Editor: Deng Shasha

October 30, 2008 at 5:58 am Leave a comment

Govt hopeful for new Toyota plant

The Phnom Penh Post – October 22, 2008

Written by Chun Sophal

Commerce minister says demand for new automobiles is rising as more wealth increases

THE government is working to convince Japanese automaker Toyota to build a new manufacturing plant in Phnom Penh’s Special Economic Zone, Commerce Minister Cham Prasidh told the Post.

“We want Toyota here because demand for cars in Cambodia has reached the level where we could support a new plant,” he said.

He added that the company could reach a decision on the new plant as early as next year.
“I think the plant will play an important role in reducing the import of old cars that are not safe and that pollute the environment,” he said.

Pen Siman, director general at the Customs and Excise General Department, said in early February that Cambodia expected to import about 30,000 automobiles this year, of which 80 percent were used.

This was up from 2007, when Cambodia imported 25,000 automobiles – 70 percent of them used Toyotas.
Next year is an ideal time to open a new manufacturing plant, Cham Prasidh said, because more Cambodians have begun to reap the benefits of strong economic growth and are purchasing new cars in greater numbers.

“There should be no reluctance on Toyota’s part in establishing a new manufacturing plant in Cambodia because they have studied the market here for a long time,” he said.

“We will request that if they decide to proceed with this, they will build the plant in Phnom Penh’s Special Economic Zone,” he said.

The commerce minister said two groups of Japanese investment delegates will visit Cambodia next month to evaluate the capability of investing in the country.  

Kang Chandararot, director of the Cambodia Institute for Development Study, said a new automobile plant in Cambodia would complement the country’s present economic situation.

“It’s time Cambodia had an automobile plant because the country has shown the trustworthiness of its infrastructure and markets,” he said.

He said attracting Japanese investors would be an important step toward creating thousands of new jobs for Cambodians.
“The new plant would strengthen multiple sectors of the economy, particularly the jobs sector,” Kang Chandararot said.

He added that the government has previously stated its commitment to economic expansion that would ensure a consistent economic growth rate of at least 10 percent.

Kong Nuon, general manager of the TTHK Co Ltd, which currently holds a monopoly on Toyota imports-about 1,000 new cars every year-said economic growth in Cambodia is promising.

But he added that it is not substantial enough to support a new manufacturing plant.
“The government’s intentions are good, but Cambodia’s car market is not big enough to warrant a new plant,” he said.

October 22, 2008 at 8:30 am Leave a comment

Is Cambodia ready for its own stock market? – October 21, 2008

Capital markets can be vital tools of development, helping the better companies in poorer countries to get access to the money they need to grow, creating wealth and employment in the process.

However, given the fragile nature of stock markets, it is important that countries don’t run before they can walk. Which is why Cambodia’s decision to press ahead with the launch of its own stock exchange next year is slightly concerning.

After all, this is a country where business and personal disputes are still routinely settled with a late night shoot-out in the capital, Phnom Penh. Is Cambodia really ready for the wild fluctuations, the speculators and the scams that typically dominate new equity markets in developing economies?

Whatever you think, you have to commend the Cambodian government’s resilience in sticking to its plans for a 2009 launch, despite the ongoing global turbulence.

Hang Chuon Naron, secretary general of Cambodia’s Ministry of Economy and Finance, told the Phnom Penh Post that he hopes a stock market will provide a more long-term source of finance than the foreign aid (around $600m annually) that the country is currently reliant upon.

“We hope the stock exchange will provide longer-term finance compared to what we have relied on in the past, such as banks, national budgets, foreign aid and foreign investment,” he said. “I think in five or ten years, the stock exchange will play a key role in strengthening Cambodia’s financial sector, but we must proceed carefully to build trust from our people and investors.”

But while he’s right about the long-term benefits of a stock market as a cheap place to raise capital, the problem across the developing markets of Southeast Asia is the pre-dominance of short-term speculators, chancers and crooks.

This article in today’s Bangkok Post sums up the dodgy share trading scene over the disputed border in Thailand rather nicely.

“On any given day, investor cliques can join hands, even sometimes with company management and major shareholders, to push share prices one way or the other,” the article notes. “For these investors, fundamentals are meaningless – indeed, the larger and more prominent the company, the less attractive it is for speculators, due to the greater difficulty in manipulating prices for large-cap stocks.” While Southeast Asia’s comparatively inexperienced and poorly funded regulators do their best to get on top of these types of market abuse, they are generally fighting a losing battle against the better-funded and more powerful crooks.

But trading scams on illiquid markets are not just the preserve of Asia. When I covered London’s Aim market for The Telegraph, I would get a complaint at least once a week from an investor concerned about alleged insider trading or ramping/deramping. And, on more than one occasion, I shared lunch or a drink with small-cap executives and brokers who showed a well-hardened disdain for market rules and minority shareholders.

October 22, 2008 at 8:23 am Leave a comment

Malaysia to ask for Thailand, Cambodia to settle conflicts peacefully

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct. 21 (Xinhua) — Malaysia is expected to ask for Thailand, Cambodia to solve their conflicts peacefully in the spirit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), a senior official said on Tuesday.

Malaysian Foreign Minister Dais Yatim made this remark at a hotel in Putrajaya, administrative center of the Malaysian Federal Government, after he had a luncheon with the heads of missions of Americas in Malaysia.

Dais said that he would travel to Bangkok and, if possible, to Cambodia, to convey a message from Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi suggesting the two countries solve their conflicts without resorting to the use of arms.

He also hoped that more ASEAN countries would join to ask for Thailand and Cambodia to discuss ways to solve the problem between them without involvement of arms.

Dais told reporters that he believed that the conflict between Thailand and Cambodia would not widen.

Dais was scheduled to visit Thailand late Tuesday and Wednesday, according to the Malaysian Foreign Ministry.

Editor: Yan

October 22, 2008 at 8:19 am Leave a comment

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