Union leaders in court over ‘detainment’ of factory boss

24 Apr

By Buth Reaksmey Kongkea, The Pnhom Penh Post, 24 April 2014

Harta Packaging Industry staff hold placards outside Phnom Penh Municipal Court yesterday in a show of support for two union leaders attending questioning inside

Harta Packaging Industry staff hold placards outside Phnom Penh Municipal Court yesterday in a show of support for two union leaders attending questioning inside. Hong Menea

Two union leaders were summonsed and questioned by a municipal court prosecutor yesterday over allegations they illegally detained the boss of a packaging factory in Por Sen Chey district’s Choam Chao commune during a strike.

According to Phnom Penh Municipal Court deputy prosecutor Ek Chheng Huoth, Sorn Bora, the chief of the production department at Harta Packaging Industry and president of the Cambodian Friends Union, and Phann Moeung, deputy president of the same union, illegally detained Siva Kuwah, a Chinese national, on February 11.

Chheng Huoth said yesterday that he had yet to decide whether they would be charged and that he wished to question them further.

Lieutenant Colonel Yim Sarann of the Por Sen Chey district police said the pair had been sued by Kuwah for inciting more than 300 employees to strike and detain their boss.

“They surrounded the factory, blocked it and did not allow the boss to leave,” he said. “They surrounded the factory for about a week.”

Bora yesterday denied the allegations, saying that, in fact, Kuwah had been protected by police throughout the strike.

Neither Kuwah nor his lawyer could be reached.

Families in Ratanakkiri decry forest loss

24 Apr

By Phak Seangly, The Pnhom Penh Post, 24 April 2014

A hundred ethnic Kreng families filed a complaint to the Ratanakkiri provincial authorities yesterday asking them to stop the alleged ongoing clearing of a 500-hectare state forest, which they say a former commune chief illegally sold to land brokers about two years ago.

Kreng ethnic community representatives in Kon Mon district issued a letter to the provincial governor and the local Forestry Administration through rights group Adhoc yesterday, asking them to take legal action in the case.

“We rely on it for our livelihood,” one part of the letter reads.

“It is not acceptable that they clear our forest for their own property.”

A land broker and his workers had previously been arrested for clearing 40 hectares of the forest, Adhoc provincial coordinator Chhay Thy said.

Provincial Deputy Governor Nab Bunheng said he had received the letter and would assign officers to investigate the case.

Local and foreign business interests form luxury property joint venture

24 Apr

By Hin Pisei, The Pnhom Penh Post, 24 April 2014

Signatories of a joint venture aimed at Cambodia’s luxury real-estate market plan to get under way by building a Grade A office tower on Norodom Boulevard.

Signatories of a joint venture aimed at Cambodia’s luxury real-estate market plan to get under way by building a Grade A office tower on Norodom Boulevard. PISEI HIN

A mid​ strong demand growth in the Grade A office sector, a joint-venture agreement signing event was held at the Sofitel Phokeethra last week, establishing an investment company, provisionally called Kingdom Luxury Development Co, which aims to build a Grade-A office tower Phnom Penh.

The joint-venture signatories are Cambodia Properties Limited Ltd (CPL), which has 17 years’ local experience in the commercial, retail, residential and industrial sectors of the Cambodian real-estate market; TriAsia Group, which has wide-ranging local business interests; independent property investor Sor Thida; and architect and interior designer Lorenzo M Martini.

 

Content image - Phnom Penh Post

 

Cheng Kheng, CPL director and president of the Cambodian Valuers and Estate Agents Association, was one of the four signatories. He said he was honoured to be part of a consortium with so much collective experience in the property sector, and in building Grade-A office space in particular.

According to Kheng, it is currently a good time to invest in the construction sector in Cambodia due to strong demand for Grade-A office space. He added that the numbers of both personal and business investors that are active in Cambodia continue to rise.

“I’m happy to sign an agreement with both local and international companies for preparing Grade-A office construction project in Phnom Penh,” he said.

The joint venture plans to first commence construction of a 25-storey office tower in early 2015 on Norodom Boulevard. Covering an area of 78,000 square metres, and built at an estimated cost of $50 million of dollars, the plan is for the tower to be completed within three years.

According to the joint venture, the tower will include five floors of parking.

“Our Grade-A office space project will commence construction in early 2015 and will take three years to complete,” said Kheng. “Upon completion, investors will have their own office space that they can either use themselves or rent out.”

Kheng declined to comment on the exact location of the project, but confirmed it would be on Norodom Blvd. He added that the tower would include amenities such as massage, stream, sauna, a swimming pool and retail outlets.

He said the joint venture’s mission was ultimately to raise the bar in terms of not just commercial property development but also residential.

 

Content image - Phnom Penh Post

 

Sor Thida, an independent property developer and fellow signatory of the joint-venture agreement, said the commercial tower slated for construction on Norodom would not be too late to take advantage of Asean Economic Integration in 2015, because the majority of current office space was either Grade B or Grade C.

“Asean Economic Integration will require at least one or two years, so by the time construction is completed many investors will be flowing into Cambodia,” she said.

Tomoyuki Yokoi, CEO of TriAsia, a well-known name in Japan and a company that already has significant investments in Cambodia, said he was happy to be part of the joint venture in Cambodia because he saw a strong, emerging economy here, and his company can bring high construction standards to the market.

“My company is excited to be able to invest in Grade-A office space construction here,” said Tomoyuki, whose TriAsia Group operates in the Kingdom under the slogan “Made in Cambodia, Quality from Japan”.

Evictions at airport planned

24 Apr

By Khouth Sophak Chakrya, The Pnhom Penh Post, 24 April 2014

A man tends to his shop yesterday on a property in Phnom Penh’s Por Sen Chey district that has been marked for destruction

A man tends to his shop yesterday on a property in Phnom Penh’s Por Sen Chey district that has been marked for destruction. Pha Lina\

Dozens of houses have been marked for demolition near Phnom Penh International Airport as authorities say the families must be moved to bring the site in line with international standards.

Civil aviation officials visited Chrey Chisark village in Por Sen Chey district’s Choam Choa commune with cans of spray paint, marking the houses that would be removed.

Sok Nath, 45, a villager whose house has been marked for eviction, yesterday implored the authorities to issue a land certificate to his family.

“My family has lived in this village since 1980, so we do not want to move from this peaceful village. We want to spend our lives here if the authorities were to give us a legal certificate,” he said.

The move could spark fresh protests against evictions at the airport, where another community in 2012 welcomed US President Barack Obama to Cambodia by painting “SOS” on their roofs in an attempt to highlight forced evictions.

In July 2012, 182 families were told their homes would be demolished to make way for a “buffer zone” around the airport. Residents maintain they live on the land legally, but City Hall says they have built their houses illegally.

Nath added that the plan for the “buffer zone” only affected a third of his property, meaning he should be allowed to continue to live on the remainder of his land.

Soy Sokhan, deputy secretary of state for civil aviation, said that if the families were not moved, the International Civil Aviation Organisation could blacklist Phnom Penh International Airport, which would severely reduce the number of inbound flights, adding that the demarcation had been carried out so that appropriate compensation could be determined.

“Until now, we did not know the number of the houses that will be affected by the plan,” he said, adding that the data collected by the team at the airport would be sent to an interministerial panel, which would then decide on the levels of compensation.

Accused 21 brought to capital

24 Apr

By May Titthara and Laignee Barron, The Pnhom Penh Post, 24 April 2014

Prak Sovannary, the wife of Independent Democracy of Informal Economy Association president Vorn Pov, attends a gathering in front of Phnom Penh’s Prey Sar prison

Prak Sovannary, the wife of Independent Democracy of Informal Economy Association president Vorn Pov, attends a gathering in front of Phnom Penh’s Prey Sar prison. Hong Menea

A group of 21 detainees who have been held at Kampong Cham’s remote CC3 prison since they were arrested during garment worker protests in early January were transported to the capital yesterday morning ahead of their hearings at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Friday, dampening fears they would not be able to attend their own trials.

Kea Sovanna, director of the CC3 prison, said he had received an order from the director of the prisons department at the Ministry of Interior to bring all the detainees to Phnom Penh yesterday, where they would be held at Prey Sar prison.

“I do not know if they will be sent back [to CC3],” he said, adding it would depend on the court’s decision.

Twenty-three people in total were arrested on January 2 and 3 as workers calling for a higher minimum wage clashed with authorities outside the Yakjin garment factory and the Canadia Industrial Park. All of the detainees have been charged with aggravated intentional violence and aggravated intentional property destruction.

Two of the 23 were released on bail, but the other 21’s requests were denied despite numerous appeals.

Prak Sovannary, the wife of Independent Democracy of Informal Economy Association (IDEA) president Vorn Pov, who has been denied bail four times, said yesterday that she was happy he would finally be able to defend himself in court.

“I would like to implore the court officers to consider the facts and judgment based on legal procedure to provide justice for the 21 detainees because they did not do what they are accused of,” she said.
Rights groups have repeatedly called for the charges against the 23 to be dropped.

“The government is keeping the 23 hostage as leverage to get the CNRP [into] the National Assembly . . . they will not be free until the political deadlock is resolved,” Moeun Tola, labour head at the Community Legal Education Center, said yesterday.

“If the court is professional, and bases its judgment on the facts, then the 23 will all be released. If not, it proves the courts are another political tool for the CPP,” he said.

Ministry of Interior spokesman Khieu Sopheak declined to comment on the case yesterday aside from confirming that the ministry had arranged the transfer of the 21 to Phnom Penh.

On why these 23 in particular were arrested during the January protests, “how many thousands of people would you prefer were arrested?” he said.

Ou Virak, chairman of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, said yesterday that the government was trying to make “an example” out of the protesters to deter other would-be demonstrators and would likely drag out the trials.

“I expect the trial to take a long time. I don’t expect verdicts this Friday. I think it will just be introducing charges and possibly some prosecution witnesses,” he said.

Protest over Khmer Rouge land dispute

24 Apr

By Chhay Channyda, The Pnhom Penh Post, 24 April 2014

About 80 villagers calling for the release of two former Khmer Rouge soldiers allegedly arrested for illegally occupying land in Malai district rallied outside Banteay Meanchey Provincial Hall, locals and rights group Adhoc said yesterday.

Community representatives Ly Khley and Hoeun Vy were detained on Tuesday for allegedly leading nearly 80 families to reoccupy territory they claim was distributed by the government in early March, said Van Phin, the wife of Khley.

“The government gave my [the land] to my husband and other soldiers when they integrated with the government in 1996 and 1997,” she said, adding that each family was allotted 5 hectares.

The land dispute dates back to 2004, according to Soum Chankea, provincial coordinator for Adhoc.

“The people have filed complaints with all levels of government authorities but still no solutions have been reached,” said Chanka, adding that four high-level government officials have been implicated in multiple complaints submitted by the affected community members.

Deputy commander of Regiment E67 Ros Thoeun and former deputy chief of staff Mao Kiry are both accused by villagers of violating government policy by selling the land off to “dealers”, said Chanka.

Commander of Battalion 671 Chhun Krenh and former commander Ket Tieng also stand accused of land-grabbing.

The four military officials could not be reached yesterday.

Embracing a place called home

24 Apr

By Sean Teehan and Phak Seangly, The Pnhom Penh Post, 24 April 2014

Children climb the stairs of the ‘Courtyard House’ in Phnom Penh

Children climb the stairs of the ‘Courtyard House’ in Phnom Penh. The house was one of three winners in the 2013 Future of Sustainable Housing in Cambodia competition. Building Trust International

Before this past September, Nov Borom, a 52-year-old mother of five, lived with both a tenuous housing situation and HIV.

But through a collaboration of several NGOs who sought to provide Cambodia’s most vulnerable people with housing able to withstand the region’s rainy season and floods, she now calls a relatively sprawling 4-by-11-metre brick house in Phnom Penh’s Por Sen Chey district home.

“I am very happy that I am able to live in a home like this,” Borom said yesterday. “This is the first time in my life that I have had my own home since the Pol Pot regime.”

Borom, whose husband died in 2001, had lived in a small cottage house built on land owned by a pagoda in Meanchey district. The situation was such that her family could be thrown out of their meagre living space at any time, she said.

The ailing mother’s luck changed following results of the 2013 Cambodia Sustainable Housing International Design Competition held by Building Trust International, Habitat for Humanity Cambodia and Karuna Cambodia.

Along with assistance from representatives from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Collective Studio and members of the Cambodian Society of Architects, the three NGOs challenged architects in October 2012 to imagine innovative housing designs that serve the needs of Cambodians living in poverty and disease.

“They’re pretty dramatically different because they were conceived by completely different designers and architects,” Don Boring, country director for Habitat, said in his Phnom Penh office yesterday.”

Since the contest, Habitat and the Housing Trust have maintained a relationship and will continue working together on projects, Boring said.

The competition attracted more than 600 entrees, whose submissions must be low-cost houses able to endure flooding and other weather concerns for Cambodian families, a statement from Building Trust says.

Early last year, the panel selected 10 winning designs, three of which have been built and are now occupied by villagers stricken with poverty and serious diseases like HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis, said Chhun Sona, a Habitat program manager.

Months before construction began, Borom was invited to select for herself which design best fit her needs, she said.

In addition to Borom’s house, the “Open Embrace” design, people have moved into one “Courtyard House” design and one “Wet and Dry House” design in Phnom Penh, Sona said.

With labour and other expenses, each house cost less than $3,300, said Kok Chandarith, a Habitat construction team leader.

All three designs move away from traditional material such as concrete and tin, into the direction of material such as bamboo and palm, a Housing Trust statement says.

Borom feels more at ease in her new, permanent home, she said. She looks forward to her children moving into the house.

“My children support me,” Borom said.

 

Kreung Villagers in Ratanakkiri Say Illegal Loggers Are Back

24 Apr

By Aun Pheap, The Cambodia Daily, 24 April 2014

English4

ADB Loans $75M for Flood Recovery Efforts

24 Apr

By Matt Blomberg And Ben Sokhean, THe Cambodia Daily, 24 April 2014

English3

Workers Protest Over Reps Summoned to Court

24 Apr

By Eang MengLeng, The Cambodia Daily, 24 April 2014

English2

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