Long-term plan to ease congestion nearly done

22 Aug

By Chan Muyhong, The Phnom Penh Post, 21 August 2014

After more than two years of research and development, a transportation plan designed to ease traffic congestion in Phnom Penh has been completed and will be soon submitted to the government for approval, officials said yesterday.

Long Dimanche, spokesperson of Phnom Penh City Hall, told the Post that the analysis takes in to account population growth, urbanisation and the expected increase in the level of traffic congestion over the next two decades. Developed in conjunction with the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), the plan considers the options available to reduce the number of vehicles in the city, including more busses, a tramway, a subway and even a sky train, Dimanche said.

“We will not be able to deal with traffic congestion issue by that time if we have not developed a master plan from now,” he said.

“The master plan will be used as a guideline to develop the city and the possibility of realisation of the plan will depend on actual demand and possible funding,” he added.

The drafted “Transportation master plan for 2035” will be revealed to public by JICA on August 27 before it is submitted to the government for approval.

Ear Chariya, Independent Road Safety Specialist, said he hoped the government would focus on providing more public transportation services rather than building more roads as it is less expensive and would not ease long-term congestion.

“We need more public transportation services, such as buses and tram ways or a subway,” he said.

Aya Miura, Project Formulation Advisor for Investment Promotion and Economic Development Section of JICA, confirmed in an email yesterday that the plan is expected to be finalised this year and is a more comprehensive 2001 version.

PM looks to US to justify use of force

22 Aug

By Meas Sokchea, The Phnom Penh Post, 22 August 2014

A factory worker shot by police is carried away during a protest on Veng Sreng Boulevard earlier this year

A factory worker shot by police is carried away during a protest on Veng Sreng Boulevard earlier this year after a government crackdown. Hun Sen has condemned police violence in Ferguson, Missouri. Heng Chivoan

Prime Minister Hun Sen yesterday compared Cambodia’s deadly government crackdowns favourably with attempts in the United States to quell days of unrest following the fatal shooting of an unarmed black teenager by a white policeman.

Speaking at a graduation ceremony at the National Institute of Education, Hun Sen said the crackdown on demonstrations in Ferguson, Missouri – where police officer Darren Wilson shot dead 18-year-old Michael Brown on August 9 – has not been met with the same criticism levelled at his forces when they move in to contain protests.

In Ferguson, “demonstrators just throw bottles of water [on the authorities] and they are arrested immediately, but America says nothing”, he said. Whereas “in our country, [demonstrators] burned cars, threw stones and shot with slingshots when we tried to control the situation, and they said that we abused human rights”.

Multiple clashes between demonstrators in Ferguson and police from local and state law enforcement occurred in the aftermath of the shooting earlier this month. Responding to the protests and instances of live gunfire, looting and rioting, a curfew was put in place, and the governor called in the National Guard. Dozens of people, including journalists, have been arrested since the shooting.

Contrary to the premier’s claim of imbalance, the heavy-handed actions have drawn international rebuke and comparisons with abuses committed during the civil rights movement in the US.

Hun Sen yesterday went on to compare the eight-month lockdown of Freedom Park, Phnom Penh’s designated protest space, with the curfew imposed on Ferguson after the governor declared a state of emergency.

The premier reasoned that Freedom Park is just a small area that was closed temporarily because of unrest, while in Ferguson an entire town was put into lockdown between midnight and 5am.

While government investigations into the fatal violence of early January – when government forces opened fire at striking garment workers, killing at least five – and other clashes had been cited repeatedly as the reason for the park’s closure, results of any probe have remained elusive since the razor wire came down.

Meach Sovannara, a Cambodia National Rescue Party member and Cambodian-American citizen, told the Post that Hun Sen was lying to the country and making unfair comparisons.

“He told [his] citizens a lie. Speaking of the law, in America, people are given rights to hold demonstrations.” Sovannara said.

Ou Virak, chairman of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, said he agreed that the US government is “no angel”, but said this does not justify the actions of Hun Sen’s forces.

“The US needs to clean up its act too, [but] that doesn’t mean that the crackdowns here were OK,” he said.

Teachers to receive pay boost: PM

22 Aug

By Chhay Channyda, The Phnom Peenh Post, 22 August 2014

About 110,000 teachers and other education staff across the country will receive pay rises between September and April as part of government salary reforms, Prime Minister Hun Sen said yesterday.

Speaking at a graduation ceremony, Hun Sen said the reforms will eliminate “level D” employees, promoting them to “level C”. Teachers at all other levels, except those at “level A”, would receive increases of about 30 per cent, he said.

“Let the officials who get low salaries receive the raises first,” he added, referring to a promise that wage reforms will follow in other ministries.

Rong Chhun, president of the Cambodian Independent Teachers’ Association, who has in the past lobbied for a $250 minimum wage for teachers, welcomed the increases but said the vast majority of teachers would still earn far below the salary needed to live a decent life.

“[This] will not make the lives of teachers and civil servants better because inflation is still high,” he said.

Tetanus thought to be culprit in prison death

22 Aug

By Mom Kunthear, The Phnom Penh Post, 22 August 2014

Rights group Adhoc is investigating the case of a 32-year-old man who died on Wednesday night while in pretrial detention in Ratanakkiri.

Chhay Thy, provincial coordinator for Adhoc, said yesterday that the death marks the second time since 2012 that a suspect in that provincial prison has died at the hospital. He did not say whether the first case also involved pretrial detention, a practice that has drawn scrutiny from the Ministry of Justice.

“They sent the prisoner, who was seriously sick, to the provincial hospital intentionally so they would die at the hospital, better than to die in the prison,” Thy said.

Thy plans to meet with prison officials soon and to talk with inmates.

Ratanakkiri provincial prison chief Tin Sovanny said yesterday that the detainee, Kim Sun, was sent to jail back in May after being accused of intentionally murdering his older brother. He had convulsed before, but not heavily, and prison officials were able to treat him, Sovanny said. This time was different.

“We sent him to hospital immediately when he had a high temperature and convulsions,” Sovanny said, adding that though the hospital did not send back a report, he suspects Sun had tetanus, which can result in body spasms.

Sovanny said he sent a letter to the provincial prosecutor requesting Sun’s release, but it was too late. He gave the body to the family.

But Hing Phan Sakunthea, director of the prison, suggested the cause might have been malnutrition or mental illness. He also said that Sun had asked to go home.

“His disease was serious before he was sent to our hospital,” he said,

Phen Dyna, Ratanakkiri province’s deputy police chief, said yesterday that he checked the victim’s body in case he had been beaten, but couldn’t find any signs of foul play.

“As I know, the victim has been sick for a long time,” Dyna said.

According to Licadho, pretrial detainees make up more than 60 per cent of Cambodia’s prison population.

Rules to limit their stays behind bars have not been widely adopted.

Rainy season timing blamed

22 Aug

By Charles Rollet and Pech Sotheary, The Phnom Penh Post, August 2014

Villagers tend to their flooded crops in Kandal province last week

Villagers tend to their flooded crops in Kandal province last week. The National Committee for Disaster Management yesterday warned that though floods are receding, they could return. Heng Chivoan

Floods have claimed 45 lives and forced over 11,500 families to leave their homes as of August 19, according to National Committee for Disaster Management vice president Nhim Vanda, who spoke yesterday at a conference in the Cambodiana Hotel dedicated to addressing the problem.

The floods have come early in Cambodia this year. They usually begin around mid-September, like last year, when 168 people were killed.

Vanda said that even though waters are currently receding across the country, it is possible the floods will come back at the end of September and in early October, with potentially devastating results.

“If there are storms and rain like there were in 2013, there will be a high risk of poverty and hardship, the prime minister told me,” Vanda said.

According to Caroline McCausland, country director for Action Aid, if floods come again, farmers affected by the current round could see their food security at risk.

“Many farmers can replant in mid-September, but if the floods come back, it will cause migration and an increased poverty cycle,” she said, adding that no one was certain whether the floods would return.

Claire Van der Vaeren, the UN’s resident coordinator in Cambodia, said this year’s weather has been unusual, with floods coming in early and water shortages affecting 10 provinces along with Phnom Penh.

“This year’s rainy season has the particularity of bringing both flooding and drought, making the role of the National Committee’s task force all the more critical,” Van der Vaeren said.

Some at the conference blamed climate change for the irregular weather and called for aid from richer, high-polluting countries.

“This is surely the impact of climate change. It’s [only] August,” said Cambodian Red Cross director of disaster management Uy Sam Ath.

“If a second flood comes again according to predictions, then it’s not over yet. So we are still in need of support to save people.”

Vanda agreed, saying that Cambodia needed funds to combat extreme weather caused by climate change.

“I don’t blame the powerful countries [for climate change] – if I did they wouldn’t give us assistance,” Vanda said.

Villagers ‘arrested’ over land row

22 Aug

By Chhay Channyda, The Pnhom Penh Post, 22 August 2014

Three people locked in a land dispute with a military police officer in Svay Rieng province were yesterday arrested at their homes, accused of destroying property, a villager said.

Long Sokheng, 29, said military police arrived at the disputed land, in Chantrea district, at 6:30am to arrest the villagers, including 65-year-old Koeut No, who presides over weddings and funerals. “When Uncle Koeut No was preparing himself for a funeral, military police arrived and handcuffed him,” he said.

The 74 families involved in the dispute say they lived peacefully on the land from 1980 until Sim Chheang, a military police officer, claimed in 2004 to have bought the land. The Supreme Court ruled in his favour in 2012.

Chheang, military police and provincial court officials could not be reached yesterday.

Has Yet, Chantrea commune police chief, said he was yet to hear of the arrests, adding that military police were working with the court on a case against the villagers.

Parties promise KDC solutions

22 Aug

By Pech Sotheary, The Pnhom Penh Post, 22 August 2014

Ruling party lawmakers address a crowd during a visit to Lorpeang villagers staying in the Boeung Kak community

Ruling party lawmakers address a crowd during a visit to Lorpeang villagers staying in the Boeung Kak community yesterday. PHOTO SUPPLIED

Lawmakers from both the ruling party and the opposition yesterday met with and promised Kampong Chhnang villagers they would seek a solution in their 12-year-long land dispute with KDC International.

Five Cambodia National Rescue Party representatives visited the Lorpeang villagers jailed over their involvement in the bitter dispute between 82 villagers and an agribusiness owned by Minister of Mines and Energy Suy Sem’s wife.

At the same time, lawmakers from the Cambodian People’s Party met with protesting villagers camped out in the capital’s Boeung Kak community to protest their case. The ruling party politicians promised to help arbitrate a solution, and asked the villagers to return to their hometown, according to Ke Chan Mony, a CPP lawmaker for Kampong Chhnang.

In response, the village representatives delivered a blunt, three-point petition: first, release and drop charges against the five jailed representatives; second, settle their land dispute with KDC; and third, stop building fences around their land.

Chan Mony told the villagers she would intervene regarding the contested land, but added the caveat that the ruling party “cannot solve the dispute on our own”.

“We will do whatever we can to get the five released, but we have to discuss how, because it is under the court’s jurisdiction,” she said.

Om Sophy, a representative for the Lorpeang villagers, said she’s heard the same lukewarm promises from the ruling party representative before.

“If she could settle the dispute, she would have done it a long time ago and not let it drag on for over 10 years, making us suffer by getting beaten and jailed,” Sophy said.

At the Kampong Chhnang provincial prison, CNRP representatives echoed similar promises to four detained village representatives. A fifth arrested has been hospitalised due to injuries allegedly sustained during a clash that led to arrests.

“We will work together to get the five released and ask the provincial authorities and cadastral offices to give back the land that was seized by KDC,” said Ho Vann, one of the lawmakers visiting the prison.

KDC representatives could not be reached for comment.

Lawmaker Urges Land Dispute Villagers to Go Home

22 Aug

By Aun Pheap, The Cambodia Daily, 22 August 2014

English3

Police Arrest Three Villagers Over Decade-Old Land Row

22 Aug

By Phorn Bopha, The Cambodia Daily, 22 August 2014

English2

Prime Minister Calls Land Dispute Critic a ‘Stupid Boy’

22 Aug

By Khy Sovuthy, The Cambodia Daily, 22 August 2014

English1

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