Hun Sen nixes Kampong Speu bus station to appease vendors

Source: Phnom Penh Post |Fri, 5 August 2016, by and

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Vendors from a Kampong Speu market protest at the Ministry of Land Management in June, calling for the government to intervene in the relocation of a local bus station. Pha Lina

Vendors in Kampong Speu’s Chbar Mon town yesterday became the latest beneficiaries of Prime Minister Hun Sen’s tour of the provinces as the premier declared the contract for an already-constructed but long-opposed bus terminal null and void.

The new bus terminal, twice the size of the old facility, was built by Chhoun Kim San Import Export in 2012. However, it was never used because vendors refused to move the 400 metres to the new terminal as it is closer to the town’s market, and they feared their clients would shop there instead.

The prime minister’s decision by fiat, announced on his Facebook page after a meeting with provincial officials, put an end to the matter, though left plans for the building, constructed with public funds, yet to be determined.

“The old bus station will be kept the way it is for vendors to continue selling there,” Hun Sen wrote on Facebook. “At the same time, the provincial governor needs to discuss with the company to find a compromise solution.”

The decision marks a victory for the vendors, who last month petitioned the Ministry of Urban Planning to reconsider the plan to open the new station.

Provincial Governor Vei Samnang said yesterday that while the new terminal was “beautiful”, he was pleased Hun Sen had made the decision to keep the people happy.

“If we remove the people from there, they will be angry with us; so I am fine with it,” he said, adding that Hun Sen had ordered that national funds be used to compensate the company so as not to burden the province.

For his part, Chhoun Kim San said he was disappointed the new terminal had been shelved.

“I made the investment for five or six years, but now it is cancelled,” he said. “I don’t have any further opinion about that.”

Kim San said the governor had previously offered him a contract to collect fees from vendors at the old bus station by way of compensation.

However, the vendors did not pay him.

“For the compensation, I cannot say how much; let the government decide how much I have lost,” he said, adding that he had also paid a $100,000 deposit to the Ministry of Commerce when awarded the project.

The move exhibited shades of a January decision by the premier to abruptly scrap a private company’s contract for collecting tolls on National Road 4, a move popular with drivers, but which left the concessionaire in need of a solution.

Government spokesman Phay Siphan yesterday said that the bus station decision was taken keeping in mind the wishes of the people.

“We understand at the end of the day taxpayers’ money has to be used, but what we prefer is to make the people happy,” he said. “[This project] is a lesson learned.”

Hun Sen’s decision was emblematic of how the government is running the country, said Son Chhay, the chief whip of the opposition Cambodian National Rescue Party.

“People at the provincial level are incapable and should have tackled this at the provincial level,” he said, adding that sub-national officials were appointed by Hun Sen and the ruling party but often lacked the competency to take decisions that would benefit citizens.

Ou Virak, the founder of the Future Forum think tank, said the decision came as little surprise. Despite the fact that national elections are still two years off, he said, the ruling party has been nervous since the close-run result in 2013.

“[Hun Sen] will go for two or three days to the province and take these decisions, but it will not do much,” he predicted.

Hun Sen nixes Kampong Speu bus station to appease vendors

Company halts clearing of Kandal flooded forest

Source: Phnom Penh Post |Fri, 5 August 2016, by

A local company halted its reported land-clearing operation in Kandal province’s Lvea Em district on Monday after local villagers found out it was damaging a state-owned forest where fish spawn in the wet season, local authorities said.

Barong commune police chief Thorng Muth said that since July 18, the Sinh Dai Company had cleared 100 to 200 hectares of the flooded forest using six tractors, two excavators and a bulldozer.

“They removed their equipment on the night of August 1 after people flocked to see them,” he said, implying the company feared the villagers’ reaction. “They were clearing without the commune authority knowing.”

Kandal Provincial Governor Mao Phirun sent officials from the Fisheries Administration (FA) to investigate after local media reported on the clearance, but said he did not know whether Sinh Dai was the company responsible.

“I have not received the official report from the Fisheries Administration,” he said. “We still do not know whether [the clearing] was legal.”

Vith Tharith, an FA official in Kandal, said when his team arrived, they did not see the vehicles, and people told them the company had bought the land.

“We have documents of buying and selling, with signatures of the village chief and commune authorities, but we are investigating,” Tharith said. “We do not allow the flooded forest to be destroyed because it shelters the fish.”

Muth said the company had previously cleared other areas and had ignored commune and district authorities.

 

Company halts clearing of Kandal flooded forest

PM gives input on Sihanoukville beaches, maritime boundaries

Source: Phnom Penh Post |Fri, 5 August 2016, by

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Prime Minister Hun Sen speaks before an audience of civil servants and soldiers in Preah Sihanouk province yesterday. Facebook

On yet another leg of his whistle-stop tour of the country, Prime Minister Hun Sen yesterday met with civil servants and soldiers in Preah Sihanouk province, where he instructed environmental officers to improve the Kingdom’s beaches and called on the navy to conduct more joint patrols.

The premier has so far visited eight provinces during his campaign to meet state workers and troops and, in his words, “solve problems”.

Down on Cambodia’s coast yesterday, Hun Sen told officials in Sihanoukville to clean up the beaches in order to attract more tourists, while also asking that they monitor water consumption and water flow in the area to keep tabs on the environmental situation.

He also told members of the country’s navy to work on maintaining and improving cooperation with their counterparts in Vietnam and Thailand, whose fisherman often stray across the Kingdom’s maritime boundaries.

“The navy has to patrol together in overlapping waters with Vietnam and Thailand in order to prevent smuggling, drug trafficking, human trafficking and piracy, and to avoid clashes between fishing boats at sea,” he said.

PM gives input on Sihanoukville beaches, maritime boundaries

No airport for Kampong Speu, PM tells gov

Source: Phnom Penh Post |Fri, 5 August 2016, by

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A plane flies over houses near Phnom Penh International Airport in 2014. Vireak Mai

Prime Minister Hun Sen yesterday nixed a proposal to build an airport in Kampong Speu, saying he disagreed with the idea, the province’s governor said yesterday.

The premier took the decision at a meeting with provincial officials yesterday, said Kampong Speu governor Vei Samnang. Samnang said he shared the proposal – which he said had been made by Vinci Airports – with Hun Sen, who rejected it, citing the mountainous nature of the province, which would make it difficult to land aircraft.

“Prime Minister Hun Sen said that those who did the study about the airport plan were not right, so there is no plan to build the airport now,” he said.

While the national government was unaware of the plan, Samnang said Vinci Airports held a meeting with provincial authorities in June floating the proposal, while at the same also looking at five other provinces to build an airport.

“I just wanted my province to be famous,” Samnang said. “That is why I wanted to have the airport here.”

Cambodia Airports, in which Vinci is a majority stakeholder, declined to comment on the proposal “while the matter is being addressed”.

No airport for Kampong Speu, PM tells gov

Koh Kong community petitions government, EU in land dispute

Source: Phnom Penh Post |Fri, 5 August 2016, by

villagers_from_koh_kongs_chi_khor_leu_commune_march_toward_the_national_assembly_yesterday_where_they_delivered_a_petition_hong_menea
Villagers from Koh Kong’s Chi Khor Leu commune march toward the National Assembly yesterday where they delivered a petition over a land dispute. Hong Menea

Seventy-four people representing 147 families from Koh Kong yesterday handed petitions to the European Union and three national institutions asking that their land be returned or that they be paid proper compensation regarding a years-long dispute over an economic land concession (ELC).

In 2006, a 2,239-hectare ELC in Sre Ambel and Botum Sakor districts was handed to the Koh Kong Sugar Industry Company, at that time part-owned by CPP Senator Ly Yong Phat.

Yesterday’s group represented a portion of the original families affected, and claim ownership of 782 hectares of land. Community representative Phav Nheoung said she submitted petitions to the Ministry of Agriculture, the Ministry of Land Management, the National Assembly and the EU.

“We are faced with food shortages as we have lost our land,” said Nom Vannary, another community member. Ministry of Land Management spokesman Cheam Sophal Makara said the ministry’s working group would study the issue and offer a solution within a week.

The group said it would not leave Phnom Penh until their problem was solved.

The sugar company could not be reached for comment.

Koh Kong community petitions government, EU in land dispute

Leopard numbers dwindling, study finds

Source: Phnom Penh Post |Fri, 5 August 2016, by

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A leopard walks through a section of Mondulkiri Protected Forest in the Kingdom’s Eastern Plains in 2009. WWF

Indochinese leopards should be classified as endangered, according to a new report that highlights the dwindling numbers of the species in Cambodia and Southeast Asia.

The study, published in Biological Conservation earlier this week, estimated a regional population of between 973 and 2,503 of the mammals.

Cambodia is thought to have just 132 leopards, with between 18 and 55 of those adults believed capable of breeding.

In Mondulkiri province the leopard, which is listed as “vulnerable” on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List, saw a 70 per cent decline between 2009 and 2014. Only two leopards have been detected in Preah Vihear province in the past three years.

“Poaching for the wildlife trade was likely the main reason for the decline of leopard numbers,” the report noted. “Recently interviewed poachers . . . received $55–$60 per [kilogram] of leopard bones from Vietnamese traders.

“Unless more effective protection is provided, poaching might soon lead to the extirpation of the leopard population in Eastern Plains Landscape, similar to that recently observed for tiger.”

Wildlife Alliance founder Suwanna Gauntlett said there had been no sign of the leopard in the southwest Cardamom Mountains for more than a decade: “Leopards have mostly disappeared from protected areas in Cambodia due to weak law enforcement and heavy poaching.”

Ministry of Environment spokesman Sao Sopheap said the drop in numbers was concerning, adding that the ministry was training more rangers to improve capacity and law enforcement.

Leopard numbers dwindling, study finds

Phnom Penh’s 2035 master plan in minimal use

Source: Phnom Penh Post | Thu, 04 August 2016, by 

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A photo of the city map zonings that was circulated on social media when the 35-page Khmer summary of the master plan was released in December 2015. FACEBOOK

Phnom Penh City Hall’s new building has massive offices occupying most floors, bringing to mind impending important meetings that would decide the fate of the capital city – if it follows the city’s master plan intended for use until 2035.

Hinging on what former City Hall spokesman Long Dimanche said earlier this year, that “the governor has approved the plan to build a public library in our new building where [Phnom Penh’s] master plan will be placed in, so anyone can come and study the document there”, Post Property’s visit to the new building last week was a futile one that yielded a locked library door on the tenth floor.

Termed “Phnom Penh Land Use for 2035”, the master plan – originally a 330-page document funded by the French Embassy, titled Livre Blanc, and belatedly approved after eight years – was conveniently summarised into a 35-page document in Khmer that was released to the public at the end of 2015.

“We had to write it in Khmer as a sub-decree in order to get Prime Minister [Hun Sen] to sign and approve of it,” said a municipality official working in the Urbanization Division, who requested anonymity.

To see the master plan in its physical form, according to the official, would require submitting a formal permission grant to the governor. The library, where it is placed, is also out of bounds to the press and is open only to a few select members of the public.

Less elusive is the prototype of the entire city, which is in place at the new building’s exhibition hall together with extracted pictures of the city’s master plan and map zonings, and where “friends of the staff and my students come to see [them] all the time,” the anonymous official, who is also a university lecturer, said.

The grounds on whether the Phnom Penh Land Use 2035 is actually being implemented or exists merely for formality’s sake remain unknown.

On whether it is necessary for developers to be shown the master plan before planning to build a project, he said, “The master plan is the city plan [until] 2035, so whether they want to or not, they have to look at it,” insisting that because it was signed by the Prime Minister, it is a sub-decree that needs to be implemented: “They must look at it.”

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The prototype of the city lays in an exhibition hall in the Phnom Penh Municipality’s new building. FACEBOOK

The official continued, “The master plan indicates which direction the developments are taking. Therefore, it is being used in anything related to the city development.”

“It has been implemented in the transportation sector, such as the city belts. Expanding the roads or leaving space for the roads, or granting land titles all follow through with the master plan.”

Cambodian Valuers and Estate Agents Association (CVEA) president Kim Heang, who has not seen the master plan, explained, that as per protocol, it was a must for every real estate developer to check the master plan before submitting a proposal to build a project.

“Developers need to know the trend of developments, where they should go to and what kind of project [is suitable] for the [respective] areas.”

Heang admitted there were questions shrouding the effective implementation of the master plan.

“No one can confirm whether it exists or not. The master plan is the plan for a long term development in Phnom Penh, so it can be changed at any time till further notice.”

Furthermore, some developers of prominent projects in the city have declined to comment on the subject, citing fragility of matter, leading to more ambiguity concerning the master plan’s lack of enforcement.

Only last Tuesday, the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction had demanded more due diligence from city and provincial authorities in cracking down on illegal construction sites nationwide of which there were more than 300 last year.

Although the master plan and a construction permit are separate, Heang said the master plan was very important in helping a developer obtain a construction permit.

By not being transparent about construction and real estate development policies from the get-go, running into problems like illegal building sites have now taken a toll on the Kingdom, especially in the capital.

Heang strongly suggested that the government conduct public forums in educating relevant stakeholders in the making of or updating of the master plan, “so that the government can get more ideas from industry professionals for a better future for Cambodia.”

Phnom Penh’s 2035 master plan in minimal use