Disney buys up carbon credits in Mondulkiri

Source : The Phnom Penh Post / Mon, 25 July 2016 by and

Members of a Keo Seima Wildlife Sanctuary patrol pose for a photo with confiscated chainsaws in Mondulkiri, where Disney has purchased carbon credits. WCS

The Walt Disney Company has purchased $2.6 million in carbon credits in the forests of Mondulkuri province – marking the largest carbon credit sale to date in Cambodia and breathing life into a carbon-trading program many had written off as all but dead.

In collaboration with the Cambodian government and brokered by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), the US-based media giant will purchase 360,000 tonnes worth of carbon emissions in Keo Seima Wildlife Sanctuary in a bid to offset its global carbon footprint.

The funds from the sale will be earmarked to help the government protect the sanctuary from illegal logging and the encroachment of “large-scale plantation crops such as rubber”, a press release from WCS stated.

The deal comes despite the government having long been criticised for issuing economic land concessions for rubber plantations that in turn uprooted old-growth forests.

Yang Donal, a representative for WCS, confirmed that this is the largest sale so far under the UN-backed Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation program, aka REDD+.

“This purchase is a really good way to preserve the forests in our country,” he said, adding that the two-year deal would kick off in 2017.

Based on WCS estimates, Keo Seima Wildlife Sanctuary, which encompasses almost 300,000 hectares, has nearly 1 million metric tonnes of carbon credits up for grabs. Donal said that while Disney decided to purchase only a percentage of the credits available, the company could renew or expand its purchase once the initial contract ends in 2019.

The wildlife sanctuary is home to more than 60 animal and plant species that that have been placed on the global Red List, a criteria given by the World Conservation Union that cites the threat of extinction.

“If we preserve the forest and prevent it from being logged, the [forest will] be able to continue to collect carbon. If the forest is logged, it will lose everything,” said Donal, adding that the forest has long been plagued by illegal logging and deforestation activities.

Sao Sopheap, spokesman for the Ministry of Environment, said that 90 per cent of the $2.6 million would go towards “ground” activities to stop deforestation and encourage sustainable practices.

“This is a model for carbon credits and forest preservation that we hope we can replicate across Cambodia,” he said, adding that the ministry often lacked sustainable financing to preserve protected areas.

“We are hopeful that external support will allow us to mobilise our sustainable capabilities and actually lead to restoration of forests that have already been degraded,” he said.

Often touted in developing countries with tropical vegetation, carbon credits are generated through emission-reducing schemes that can be purchased to offset a company’s allowable emissions where pollution caps are applied; or when a company, like Disney, has adopted internal carbon tax policies to reduce pollution and promote sustainable investments.

Additionally, carbon credits can be purchased on a “voluntary market” fuelled by companies looking to mitigate their environmental footprint.

While the carbon credit scheme has been around for more than six years, it has remained a tough sell for investors. In 2009, environmental sustainability NGO Pact Cambodia tried to enter the carbon market with a proposed purchase of $1.2 million worth of credits in the forests of Oddar Meanchey.

The project, which was meant to sell carbon credits to third-party buyers in exchange for reduced logging, was abandoned in 2013 when the agreement to stop deforestation failed to materialise and the government was unable to secure buyers, leaving the REDD+ program in doubt.

However, Ross Sinclair, country program manager for WCS, believes that Disney’s investment marks a renewed interest in the scheme.

“This is a huge deal for Cambodia. It puts this country front and centre in global efforts for REDD+,” he said adding that it shows that the Kingdom is finally ready for “performance-based” payments that will allow the country to access funding earmarked under the UN Climate Agreement, known as COP21, reached late last year.

While he admitted that REDD+ and the carbon credit market in general is currently not a viable commercial investment, companies like Disney are not looking to gain a profit. “Looking purely at revenue, in many cases, the cutting of a forest is more profitable than REDD+,” he said.

However, when all environmental concerns are taken into account, it provides the path towards mitigating future climate change.

“As the world moves towards a regulated climate deal, the value of ‘standing carbon’ in places like Seima will only grow,” he said.

Disney buys up carbon credits in Mondulkiri

Sea of Mourners Carries Kem Ley Home

Source : The Cambodia Daily /  July 25, 2016 by

Tram Kak district, Takeo province – Tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of mourners followed Kem Ley’s body from Phnom Penh to his provincial hometown on Sunday as thousands more lined the way for what was the largest funeral procession Cambodia has seen since the royal cavalcade for the late King Norodom Sihanouk in 2013.

They had come to pay their respects to the popular political analyst, who, at the age of 46, was gunned down while drinking his morning coffee at a favorite convenience store in Phnom Penh on July 10.

Thousands of mourners escort the body of slain political analyst Kem Ley through Phnom Penh on Sunday on their way to his hometown in Takeo province. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)

Though the man arrested for the murder claims to have acted in rage over a $3,000 debt he was owed, Kem Ley’s death has been broadly felt as an attack on the democratic principles he worked to promote as an analyst, researcher, commentator and government critic.

After leaving Phnom Penh’s Wat Chas pagoda shortly after dawn, the hearse bearing his body crawled through the city and along National Road 3 at a snail’s pace—a train of vans, cars and motorbikes snaking slowly behind it for several kilometers—before arriving at his mother’s home in Takeo’s Angtakob village by dusk.

As the government had asked, the event remained apolitical—at least on the surface. Mourners and onlookers waved smiling portraits of Kem Ley along with Cambodian and Buddhist flags and bouquets of fresh-cut lotus buds.

But scratch at the surface, ask anyone who attended, and there were no doubts that Kem Ley died for speaking his mind, another victim of the country’s string of political assassinations.

Sum Phan, a university student who often heard the analyst speak on the radio, said Kem Ley had died a martyr.

“He died for the Cambodian people. He dared to sacrifice his life. He dared to speak the truth,” said Mr. Phan, who had donned a crisp white shirt emblazoned with Kem Ley’s face to watch the procession roll past.

“I totally believe it was politically motivated, because his analyses strongly affected the powerful people,” he said. “He spoke about border issues, about immigration from Vietnam, economic land concessions and deforestation.”

Prime Minister Hun Sen has taken on the accusations and denied them flatly, insisting that the government would not have ordered the murder because it had the most to lose from the backlash.

But the premier’s case gained no traction among Sunday’s mourners.

The size of the crowd may have recalled the late king’s funeral procession three years ago. But in spirit, it harked back to the funeral march for union leader Chea Vichea, who, like Kem Ley, was gunned down in a brazen daytime shooting with all the hallmarks of an ordered hit.

“I don’t believe the man they arrested is the real killer,” said Moeung Dara, waiting for Kem Ley’s body to pass. “I strongly believe it was politically motivated because it is the same thing over and over again.”

Mourners cry as Kem Ley’s body is moved from Phnom Penh to his hometown in Takeo province on Sunday. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)

Like many others, Mr. Dara said he came to know Kem Ley by way of his frequent guest appearances on the country’s few independent radio stations after the 2013 national election.

“I liked to listen to him. He spoke the truth and he was honest about deforestation, land grabbing and human rights violations,” he said. “I came here today because I am very hurt. Khmer have killed Khmer.”

Some of Kem Ley’s colleagues and fans say his popularity stemmed from a knack for translating political events into language the masses could readily grasp. Not long before his murder, he posted a series of political “jokes” to his Facebook page, biting jabs at the establishment dressed up as pithy anecdotes of country life—astute satire in the vein of George Orwell’s “Animal Farm.”

He had announced plans for 99 of the posts, and to have them collected into a book by year’s end, but made it through only 19.

Seated under a tent at Kem Ley’s family home, Prak Sam Eng, who had traveled from Prey Veng province for the funeral, said the slain analyst had a gift for straight talk.

“He got right to the point about the people who did bad things,” she said. “It was easy to understand what he said. He used simple language that ordinary people could understand. That’s why so many people have come to join the funeral.”

Like nearly everyone else, Ms. Sam Eng was convinced the analyst’s murder was political.

The body of slain political analyst Kem Ley arrives at his hometown in Takeo province yesterday. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)

“I once heard Kem Ley say on the radio that he had been threatened but that he was not afraid because he had three visas: one for the hospital, one for jail and one to sleep at the pagoda.”

“In my heart, I loved him,” she said. “He protected the nation and the land. He had no weapons to threaten anyone. He was a good person.”

As night fell on the family home, a steady stream of mourners continued to file in and out of the grounds for a last look at Kem Ley through the glass case in which he arrived, his body draped in his country’s flag.

The funeral committee’s original plans were to transfer the body to a wooden coffin and bury it in a cement-lined grave in the backyard this morning. Last night, relatives said the burial might be delayed, though others on the committee said it would go ahead as planned.

Sea of Mourners Carries Kem Ley Home

In pictures: The funeral procession of Kem Ley

Source:  The Phnom Penh Post / Mon, 25 July 2016

Organisers load the body of Kem Ley onto a vehicle at Wat Chas pagoda in Chroy Changvar early yesterday morning. Pha Lina
Onlookers wait in Chroy Changvar yesterday with their motorbikes adorned with Kem Ley posters as the political analyst’s funeral procession gathers. Pha Lina
People wait in Phnom Penh’s Chroy Changvar district just before seven o’clock in the morning for Kem Ley’s funeral procession to begin. Pha Lina
Men attach a photo of slain political activist and Grassroots Democracy Party founder Kem Ley to a motorbike. Athena Zelandonii
A vehicle with a portrait of Kem Ley attached to the bonnet leads the procession over the Chroy Changvar bridge into Phnom Penh yesterday morning. Hong Menea
A monk holds a poster of Kem Ley as he travels toward Monivong Boulevard on a truck yesterday. Hong Menea
A woman holds a poster of Kem Ley as she travels in Kem Ley’s funeral procession yesterday. Hong Menea
Members of the public stand on the back of a truck and spectate as thousands of people travel along Phnom Penh’s Monivong Boulevard. Hong Menea
Monks follow a truck bearing large portraits of Kem Ley as a convoy of vehicles travels though the streets of Phnom Penh. Hong Menea
Thousands of people travel over the Chroy Changvar bridge in a convoy just after seven o’clock yesterday. Athena Zelandonii
Kem Ley’s wife Bou Rachana holds a portrait of her slain husband in Phnom Penh as she begins the journey to Takeo province yesterday morning. Pha Lina
Thousands of people cover a stretch of Phnom Penh’s 6-lane Monivong Boulevard as the procession for Kem Ley travels through Phnom Penh. Hong Menea
Monks walk along the road as people wait to pay their respects to Kem Ley during his funeral procession yesterday. Hong Menea
Monks walk past a woman holding a poster of Kem Ley in Phnom Penh. Hong Menea
Members of Kem Ley’s procession hold posters as they travel along Russian Boulevard yesterday by truck. Hong Menea
A truck mounted with a large portrait of Kem Lay crawls along Phnom Penh’s Russian Boulevard yesterday morning at nine o’clock. Pha Lina
Motorists from Kem Ley’s procession question the closure of a petrol station on Russian Boulevard. Scott Howes
A man holds a Kem Ley poster and watches as a convoy of mourners travels toward the airport yesterday morning. Hong Menea
Thousands line the street side near the airport as a procession for slain political analyst Kem Ley turns onto National Road 3. Pha Lina
Two women tearfully observe Kem Ley’s funeral procession yesterday. Athena Zelandonii
Kem Ley’s funeral procession reaches its end at the Chom Chao roundabout near Phnom Penh International Airport. Pha Lina National
In pictures: The funeral procession of Kem Ley

Thousands fill streets of Phnom Penh to bid farewell to Kem Ley

Source : The Phnom Penh Post / Mon, 25 July 2016 by and

Thousands of people gather on Phnom Penh’s Monivong Boulevard yesterday morning to pay their respects to slain political analyst Kem Ley. Hong Menea

As the sun rose over Wat Chas in the capital’s Chroy Changvar district yesterday, the body of Kem Ley, encased in a glass casket and draped with a Cambodian flag, began its final journey.

Tens of thousands of Cambodians took to the streets to pay their respects to the slain political analyst as his funeral procession slowly rolled from the capital to his home province of Takeo, where he is expected to be buried today, according to his wife.

Ley was shot twice at close range while drinking his morning coffee at a petrol station in Phnom Penh on July 10.

“He was a person who dared to expose the truth,” said 28-year-old volunteer Neang Sinen, just before the analyst’s body departed the pagoda at about 6:45am in a truck converted into an elaborate wood-panelled hearse.

“This is why many people come here to join and share our regret. We’ve lost an important person.”

Preceded by several trucks carrying white parasols, a traditional band, huge posters of the anti-government critic and scores of monks, the convoy was surrounded by throngs of motorbikes, cars and tuk-tuks, which filled the street, flooded onto Chroy Changvar Bridge and spilled through thousands of onlookers waiting on the other side.

The casket containing the body of slain political activist Kem Ley is loaded onto a vehicle early yesterday morning at Wat Chas in Chroy Changvar district.
The casket containing the body of slain political activist Kem Ley is loaded onto a vehicle early yesterday morning at Wat Chas in Chroy Changvar district. Pha Lina

As the convoy passed along Monivong and then on to Russian Boulevard, thousands more lined the streets, waving Cambodian flags, holding pictures of Ley or readying their camera phones as they waited for his body to pass.

With tears in his eyes, Aom Dara, 35, waited near the Royal University of Phnom Penh.

“He is the most important guy in Cambodia, the reason is because he speaks out about what is black and what is white,” Dara, a factory worker and translator, said.

“Freedom is when people speak, and he was an example for us.”

But for the sound of Buddhist prayers, traditional music and scores on foot chanting, any distinction between the formal procession and the thousands of motorbikes, cars, vans and trucks who joined them as they headed to Takeo was quickly lost.

By the time the carriage reached Phnom Penh International Airport at about 11am, Russian Boulevard had become a sea of every vehicle imaginable stretching for kilometres in both directions.

“He was the one who spread the knowledge, did research and analysis about Cambodia’s development,” said 28-year-old IT worker Pitou Chan, who waited more than three hours near the airport to watch the procession.

In pictures: The funeral procession of Kem Ley

“There are a lot who hold PhDs in this country, but they curry favour with the government and they will not share the reality, but he is the one who stood up and shared the truth.”

Though the alleged gunman, arrested soon after, claimed Ley owed him money, many – including the suspect’s family – say they don’t believe his “confession”, with Ley’s criticism of the government, political work and high profile leading to a prevailing view that his killing was a political assassination.

Responding to accusations of government involvement – levelled directly by Cambodia National Rescue Party leader Sam Rainsy and chanted by mourners at the crime scene – the ruling Cambodian People’s Party and prime minister quickly condemned the killing and even sought to suggest the opposition party was to blame.

As the procession made its way through the provinces, villagers lined both sides of National Road 3. Thousands of motorists held flags aloft. Many wore T-shirts printed with Ley’s face and his familiar slogans, such as “wipe your tears and continue the journey”.

“We demand justice,” read others, reflecting an extreme cynicism surrounding the current investigation by Cambodian authorities.

Bou Rachana, Kem Ley’s wife, holds a portrait of her late husband as the funeral procession makes its way through Phnom Penh yesterday morning. Pha Lina

When the casket reached Ley’s family home in Tram Kak district’s Labou commune in the early evening, 32-year-old garment worker Khim Srey Teang was among the mourners taking their seats under the marquee.

Scores more flocked to the casket, resting in what was once Ley’s front courtyard.

“He was a straight talker,” Srey Teang said, saying she doubted “the real killer” would be caught after referring to other cases where government involvement was suspected.

“In all the previous deaths, they have not found out who the killer is.”

Sitting in the family’s four-room home, its corners stuffed with reports and walls decorated with Angkorian-style carvings, Ley’s wife, Bou Rachana, who has publicly acknowledged a desire to seek asylum abroad for her and her children, had a simple request.

“I just want to ask for my family’s safety,” she said.

Thousands fill streets of Phnom Penh to bid farewell to Kem Ley

Officials Seize 1,100 Kg Of Rosewood After Chase

Source : The Cambodia Daily / July 20, 2016 by

Forestry officials in Preah Vihear province confiscated more than 1,100 kg of valuable rosewood early on Tuesday morning, while the two men suspected of transporting the wood were on the run, officials said.

Noun Sokhom, deputy chief of the Forestry Administration’s Preah Vihear cantonment, said two Lexus drivers failed to stop when forestry officials attempted to pull them over upon receiving information that they were transporting the luxury wood through Choam Ksan district.

“We ordered the drivers to stop, but they kept driving in an attempt to escape,” Mr. Sokhom said.

The drivers abandoned their cars at separate locations in Chheb and Kulen districts before escaping on foot, he said, adding that the car left in Chheb was carrying 55 pieces of rosewood weighing 660 kg.

Officials found an additional 129 pieces of wood weighing 458 kg inside the second car, which was abandoned near the Kulen Tbong pagoda, according to Pich Borin, head of the Forestry Administration’s office in Kulen district.

“We brought the car and the wood to the Forestry Administration cantonment office, and we are now investigating to find the wood owners,” Mr. Borin said.

Officials Seize 1,100 Kg Of Rosewood After Chase

Reporters Without Borders ‘Concerned’ by Threats

Source: The Cambodia Daily / July 20, 2016 by

International media advocacy group Reporters Without Borders said in a statement released on Tuesday that it was concerned by what it characterized as a “surge” in threats against journalists and news organizations in Cambodia in recent weeks.

The statement noted that such threats appeared to be on the rise in the wake of a July 7 report by Global Witness detailing the manifold business interests of Prime Minister Hun Sen and his family.

After local newspapers covered the release of the report, members of Mr. Hun Sen’s family accused them of colluding with Global Witness, while government spokesman Phay Siphan said he did not want “the messenger to get killed,” in an apparent reference to the press.

Reporters Without Borders said these and other developments were worrying.

“The reactions of all these officials and members of the prime minister’s family are outrageous even if not entirely surprising,” Benjamin Ismail, the head of the organization’s Asia Pacific desk, said in the statement.

“We caution Hun Sen’s government against any judicial reprisals against media outlets,” he said. “Gagging the press would just make things worse for him.”

Mr. Siphan said on Tuesday that his complaint was only with reporters who “abuse their own ethic[s] and professionalism.”

“Who is in jail because of their reporting?” he asked. “They are corrupt, yes, they abuse their professional[ism], yes. You have to be fair with the government, too,” he said.

“White people speak very good English and twist the story—I don’t like it.”

Reporters Without Borders ‘Concerned’ by Threats

US Envoy Urges Government to Release NGO Staff

Source : The Cambodia Daily / July 20, 2016 by  

A visiting U.S. human rights envoy on Tuesday urged the government to release and drop charges against five current and former rights workers arrested in April amid what he called a deteriorating political situation in which the courts have disproportionately targeted state critics.

The four employees of local rights group Adhoc were arrested along with a former Adhoc officer now working for the National Election Committee (NEC) and charged with bribing a witness for allegedly paying a woman to deny an alleged affair with deputy opposition leader Kem Sokha. Adhoc has rejected the accusation, which has been widely condemned as politically motivated.

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Tom Malinowski (C), leaves after he paid his respect to the body of Kem Ley, an anti-government figure and the head of grassroots advocacy group "Khmer for Khmer" at a pagoda in Phnom Penh July 19, 2016. REUTERS/Samrang Pring
US Assistant Secretary of State Tom Malinowski attends the wake of slain political analyst Kem Ley in Phnom Penh on Tuesday. (Pring Samrang/Reuters)grassroots advocacy group “Khmer for Khmer” at a pagoda in Phnom Penh July 19, 2016. REUTERS/Samrang Pring

Tom Malinowski, U.S. assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights and labor, said he had petitioned government officials to release the rights defenders.

Continue reading “US Envoy Urges Government to Release NGO Staff”

US Envoy Urges Government to Release NGO Staff