By Mech Dara, The Cambodia Daily, March 7 2014
The government has no intention of withdrawing its signature from the International Labour Organization’s freedom of association convention, despite calls for it to reconsider its position, a Ministry of Labour spokesman said yesterday.
“I don’t think we will withdraw. The prime minister [Hun Sen] has already said he will commit to freedom of association,” said the ministry’s Heng Sour. “To my understanding, the government has no intention to [withdraw].”
At the Government-Private Sector Forum on Tuesday, Nang Sothy, from the forum’s industrial relations group, called on Prime Minister Hun Sen to consider whether the ILO’s convention 87 was benefiting Cambodia, in the wake of union-led garment strikes in January in which security forces shot dead at least four workers and factories lost millions of dollars.
“The government should reconsider about continuing to be a signatory of the convention 87 and whether it benefits [Cambodia],” Sothy said.
Sandra D’Amico, vice-president of the Cambodian Federation of Employers and Business Associations (CAMFEBA), which is part of the industrial relations working group, said yesterday that the call was not aimed at limiting the right to unionise.
“It’s really important to point out that a number of countries including the US have not ratified this convention,” she said.
“Employers are challenging the government … to make sure we get benefit from our ratification.”
In January, CAMFEBA began taking out paid advertisements in newspapers saying that convention 87 did not guarantee the right to strike, a claim an ILO labour law expert later rejected in an email to the Post.
D’Amico said yesterday that the business community was not trying to be hostile towards unions and that, in fact, suspending the right to freedom of association would be “devastating”.
“We’re in the middle of diversifying the economy, and there’s absolutely no way that we would want to go down that route.”
If Cambodia did decide to withdraw its signature from convention 87, it would be in for a “complex” process, said Maurizio Bussi of the ILO’s decent work team. “Obviously, this is something that could not be done overnight,” he said.
An ad hoc committee comprised of representatives from the European Union, the Ministry of Commerce, provincial administrations and the sugar industry met again yesterday at the ministry’s headquarters to continue its discussion of issues faced by those displaced by sugar plantations.
The committee touched upon topics such as discrepancies between the EU’s tally of affected families and the government’s, as well as whether a third party will be needed to assess sugar companies’ procedures for compensating affected families, ministry spokesman Ratha Ken said.
Though no final decisions were made, Ken added, the details of the meeting will remain under wraps until further talks are held.
“At the moment we need to cross-check more … between the government and the EU,” Ratha said. “We agreed to keep this confidential at the moment, because we need to further the discussion soon.”
EU Ambassador Jean-François Cautain did not respond to requests for comment yesterday, while fellow attendees the governor and deputy governor of Koh Kong province declined to comment on the meeting.
Cambodian sugar exports to Europe now receive favourable treatment under the EU’s “Everything But Arms” agreement. However, products can be barred from the agreement if they are found to be directly linked to human rights abuses, and in January, members of the European Parliament reiterated calls for an investigation of reported abuses caused by Cambodian sugar plantations.
Hydropower developers in southern Laos have fired back at the World Wildlife Fund after the conservation group issued two disparaging reports in as many weeks on the Don Sahong dam project.
WWF released a brief on February 19 alleging that construction of the 260-megawatt damcould result in the demise of the endangered Irrawaddy, or “Mekong”, dolphin.
“As a scientist, I am appalled by the direction that WWF has chosen to send this debate – out of touch with reality into the realms of hype and scaremongering,” said Don Sahong environmental manager Peter Hawkins.
The WWF’s dolphin paper claimed that water quality, sediment flow, habitat degradation and increased boat traffic brought on by the project, as well as explosives used in excavation, could decimate the remaining 85 dolphins.
“The project is a little more than one kilometre upstream of . . . the Cheuteal Pool, which is inhabited by a group of only six dolphins. These animals are ‘reproductively isolated’ by distance, from all other dolphins in the Mekong,” said Hawkins.
The project’s Environmental Impact Assessment, made public by Laos last September, cited that potential negative impacts to the downstream Irrawaddy dolphins “can be mitigated”.
“These are the only dolphins remaining in Lao PDR,” said Gerry Ryan, WWF-Cambodia technical advisor. “The dam will also increase the extinction risk of the entire . . . population due to the loss of range, resilience, and demographic potential from the probable extirpation of the dolphin group in the transboundary pool.”
Earlier this week, WWF called the project’s impact assessments scientifically invalid, a chorus joined by other conservation groups.
“Acceptable and valid biodiversity surveys . . . do not only look at the immediate area, but also take into full account the broader changes impacting habitat quality and food availability,” said Tracy Farrell, senior technical director for Conservation International-Cambodia.“There are six dolphins living directly at the dam site, however, the impacts of dams are rarely solely limited to the local or immediate area.”
In yet another case of district security guards assuming the role of police officers, three evictees of the capital’s Boeung Kak lake area were detained in the capital yesterday morning and taken to a police station.
Daun Penh district security guards seized Em Srey Touch, 41, Sia Nareth, 56, and Sath Pha, 40, as they gathered with a group of about 10 former Boeung Kak villagers demanding more compensation outside Phnom Penh’s City Hall.
“The guards arrested me while I was getting off a tuk-tuk in order to try to meet with [Phnom Penh governor] Pa Socheatvong,” Srey Touch said.
The three were taken to Phnom Penh municipal police headquarters, questioned and released later without charge.
After the three were detained, about 50 protesters gathered outside the police station demanding their release, which came after each of them agreed to ink all 10 fingers and thumbs on a document containing details of their interviews.
The increase in security guards working for the Phnom Penh municipality or the districts over which it presides has been noticeable this year as men in non-descript clothing, often wearing motorcycle helmets, have forcibly detained or clashed with protesters.
In late January, City Hall spokesman Long Dimanche said many of those guards had received no government security training and were detaining people as civilian “public order” officers.
Dimanche said yesterday that the three protesters had been targeted as a way of preventing traffic delays along Monivong Boulevard, where City Hall is situated.
“The arrest is just advice to them since they tried to block the road,” he said. “This can lead to traffic congestion and social disorder.”
The protesters are part of a group of villagers who accepted compensation some years ago to leave their homes at Boeung Kak after the ruling Cambodian People’s Party awarded the area to a company owned by its senator Lao Meng Khin.
Those detained yesterday said their families had accepted $8,500 in compensation after Meng Khin’s company, Shukaku, had flooded their homes with sand and put pressure on them to vacate.
That compensation, however, has not been enough for them to establish new homes of an equivalent standard and many have since fallen into debt, they say.
By Sum Manet, The Pnhom Penh Post, March 6 2014
A report on land prices in Phnom Penh that claims to be the first of its kind has canvassed a large number of correspondents to comprehensively gauge property values in the city’s various districts and communes.
Released on March 3, Land Price 2014, which was produced by VTRUST Property, is the result of a survey of 660 correspondents in Phnom Penh’s nine districts and 96 communes.
Chit Uys Stevexo, CEO of VTRUST Appraisal, said that the findings of the study should be helpful for property evaluators in appraising land prices clearly and transparently.
The survey found the average price of land in Phnom Penh to be $1,140 per square metre, with wide fluctuations depending on the precise location. The lowest per-square-metre price for land was just $10 in parts of economically undeveloped Sen Sok district. Unsurprisingly, fashionable BKK1 commanded the highest prices, reaching as high as $5,900 per square metre.
Chrek Soknim, dispute director of VTRUST Property, said there had been a revival of land sales in recent months, as investor confidence overcame political uncertainties.
The land surveyed in the report was largely residential, accounting for 64 per cent of the total, with the remainder either commercial or in industrial zones or developing areas. The majority of the land surveyed was already built on, with vacant lots accounting for 38 per cent of the total.
The report also notes that land prices in Phnom Penh did not decrease in 2010, unlike many other cities in the world where property bubbles burst.
While the report reaches no solid conclusions about the trajectory of land prices in the Kingdom’s capital, it notes that land prices have consistently nudged north over the past few years, despite a speculative bubble between 2008 and 2010 that resulted in over-supply.
Meanwhile, the report found a substantial discrepancy in prices between fashionable downtown areas and what it refers to as “sub-street areas”, where per-square-metre prices averaged $940.
According to VTRUST Property, it collected its information by sending research teams of 10 out into the field, and the majority of the information collected was via person-to-person interviews or telephone calls. Real estate agents accounted for only 10 per cent of the information collected.
Soknim said he expected prices to continue to increase for the foreseeable future.
“I expect land prices will increase around 10 to 15 per cent this year and that property transactions will also increase by around 25 to 30 per cent,” he said. In 2015, I think that the situation will improve even more with ASEAN Economic Integration, which should lead to an increased flow of investors coming to Cambodia, pushing land prices up by 20 to 25 per cent.”
According to developer Nuri D&C, the luxury condominium block De Castle Royal is still on track for completion within several months, with the official target set for May.
With most of the heavy lifting done, the emphasis is now is on essential “software”.
One piece of this is property management, which will be handled by CB Richards Ellis (CBRE), according to newly appointed De Castle Royal general manager for property development Jayson Lee, who has a long history in the business.
CBRE Cambodia property manager Simon Griffiths, who is engaged on the project at a pre-consulting level ahead of De Castle’s completion, told the Post in November last year that the luxury condominium development represented a “new level” for Cambodia.
The pre-consulting phase involves streamlining services and systems before they come into play. When that happens, Lee insists, De Castle will be the best-managed apartment complex in Phnom Penh, adding further value to market advantages, such as the fact it is located in the heart of up-and-coming Boeung Keng Kang I, more commonly known as BKK1, on Street 288.
“We chose CBRE because they have the experience,” says Lee, who adds that not only is it one of the world’s largest real-estate service companies, but also has extensive local experience, established by getting an early start in what was at the time an immature market. Lee cites local examples such as Phnom Penh Tower, which CBRE manages, and the company’s experience in far more mature markets, such as Hong Kong and Singapore.
“We should choose the best property management service for De Castle, and we expect CBRE to be the best,” Lee says.
“You have to have a good, experienced management team in place, not only to meet international standards that the property owners expect, but also to meet local Cambodian legal requirements,” he adds.
Meanwhile, the 32-storey building, which will house 414 residential units ranging in size from one to eight bedrooms, as well as parking for up to 474 cars, will also feature a host of other ground-breaking amenities for Phnom Penh.
Lee points to the radio-frequency identification (RDIF) cards that will provide security not only for the condominium development’s seven-storey garage but also for access to every floor of housing units, where doors will add another level of security to the overall complex.
“We’re also ensuring that every unit will have fibre-internet to the door, and we’re in negotiations with major telecommunications companies at the moment, so that when they roll out 4G in April-May, De Castle will be the first place to have 4G,” he says.
Lee adds that a “management app” is being developed, making it possible for condominium residents to apply for management services, such as cleaning and trash disposal, among other things, with a click.
“There’s a lot more,” Lee says. “The gym and swimming pool are going to be internationally managed so that they match the standards of the world’s best gyms, with trainers and activities.
“Basically, it’s all about setting new standards for Phnom Penh.”
Siem Reap city land prices have continued to increase year-on-year since 2008, despite the impact of the global economic crisis elsewhere.
Sorn Seap, general manager of KEY Real Estate, said that land prices in Siem Reap city in early 2014 saw an increase of 15 per cent compared with the first half of 2013, and the average price of land was now around $1,010 per square metre. But he also noted that while land prices were increasing in the city, they were stable on the outskirts of Siem Reap.
“Siem Reap city is small, but the demand for land is high so land prices downtown increase every year, while on the outskirts of the city they’ve remained stable,” he said.
A recent study by KEY Real Estate divided Siem Reap into nine zones.
In Zone A, which includes the Pub Street area along the main road, land is priced at between $2,300 and $4,000 per square metre, and at $1,200 to $1,700 per square metre on the sub-roads. In Zone B, which extends from the Central Market to National Road 6, prices on the main road range from $1,500 to $2,300 and from $500 and $1,000 per square metre on the sub-roads.
In Zone C, which includes the main road in the Angkor Night Market area, prices range from $950 to $2,300 per square metre, and from $300 to $600 on the sub-roads. Zone D stretches from Wat Domnak to Wat Reach Bo via National Road 6, and prices range from $1,000 to $2,000, and on the sub-roads from between $300 to $800 per square metre.
Zone E stretches from Wat Reach Bo to National Road 6 and prices there range from $800 to $3,000, and from between $100 to $300 on the sub-roads. Zone F stretches from Sameki Market along National Road 6 to Angkor Pyongyu, and land prices on the main road range from $800 and $3,000, and from $100 to $250 on the sub-roads. Zone G ranges from the Sokha Hotel (next to National Road 6) to the western outskirts of the city, where prices range from $800 to $1,500, and from $100 to $300 per square metre on the sub-roads. Zone H stretches along the main road from Krom Market to the western outskirts of the city, and price range from $600 to $800 and from $70 to $200 on the sub-roads.
In Zone I, which stretches from Angkor High School prices range from $170 to $350 on the main road and from $50 to $180 per square metre on the sub-roads.
Seap said he is very optimistic about property in Siem Reap.
“I see the property sector continuing to trend upwards in Siem Reap province due to annual economic growth, the flow of investors into the country, and ASEAN Economic Integration in 2015, which will result in a more open local market.”
Meanwhile, at present the tourism sector is the main catalyst in boosting the prospects of other sectors, in particular the real estate sector, he added.
The number of foreign tourists coming to Cambodia grew to around 4.2 million in 2013 compared to around 3.5 million in 2012, an increase of 17.5 per cent. Total income from the tourism sector in 2013 was about $2.5 billion compared to $2.2 billion in 2012, a 15.5 per cent year-on-year rise, according to statistics provided by the Ministry of Tourism.