Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Agriculture developers petition Hun Sen

A CONSORTIUM of 34 agricultural development companies led by tycoon Mong Reththy has filed a petition to Prime Minister Hun Sen requesting the cancellation of a government royalty.

A prakas, or edict, issued by the ministers of finance and agriculture last December ordered companies holding economic land concessions to reimburse the state for the value of any trees growing within concessions. Article 2 of the prakas said the number of trees must be tallied before concession land could be cleared.

The petition asks the premier to “adjust or cancel the article 2”, according to Mong Reththy. It was penned following a meeting by the firms at the end of August, after which it was claimed the royalty could “strangle” investment and hinder the development of concession areas.

Mong Reththy, president of Mong Reththy Group and co-chairman of the government-private sector working group on agriculture and agro-industry, said yesterday he had not yet received a response to the petition he filed “late last week”.

A spokesman for Sopheak-Nika Investment Group, which had been clearing forest to plant rubber trees in Stung Treng province since 2007, said yesterday that the company’s operations would suffer if the prakas was fully enforced.

“We plan to entirely finish our planting of rubber on the whole area [10,000 hectares] by 2017, but it will take longer to achieve this if the government remains firm on the prakas because we don’t have the money to pay for the currently standing trees,” said the spokesman, who asked not to be named.

The company has so far cleared and planted rubber on 2,500 hectares of the 10,000 hectares granted.

He said if the government did not agree to cancel the article, it could also consider an adjustment by allowing companies to cut the trees, sell them, and then hand over the money to pay to the government. Or, he added, the government could remove the trees and keep or sell the timber itself.

“We only need the land, not the wood,” he said.

Ho Sothy, chief of the Premier’s Cabinet, declined to comment yesterday. Chheng Kim Sun, director of the Forestry Administration, said previously that there were more than 100 land concessionaires operating in Cambodia controlling total area of more than 1.3 million hectares.
(source from phnompenhpost newspaper, Tuesday, 21 September 2010 15:01 Nguon Sovan)

Land disputes result in more arrests: Adhoc

THE rights group Adhoc has recorded a sharp increase in the number of Cambodians arrested and detained in connection with land disputes, as well as those implicated in complaints stemming from such disputes, according to figures released yesterday.

A total of 55 villagers have been detained in disputes between January and September 19, according to the figures. Ouch Leng, land programme officer for Adhoc, said yesterday that 37 villagers were detained in all of 2009.

Some 269 villagers were named in complaints spanning 14 provinces, up from 135 last year, Ouch Leng said. In addition to the 55 villagers who have been detained, 73 have been arrested and quickly released, according to the figures.

An accompanying report from Adhoc notes that some of these complaints and arrests have stemmed from this year’s most high-profile disputes, including an ongoing row in Kampong Speu province’s Thpong district over a land concession granted to the Phnom Penh Sugar Company, owned by Cambodian People’s Party Senator Ly Yong Phat.

Also cited is a dispute between families in Preah Vihear province’s Choam Ksan district and the Drugs and AIDS Research and Prevention Organisation, an NGO run by a one-star general who is also an adviser to Senate President Chea Sim. Last week, Preah Vihear provincial court charged and detained three villagers who have filed complaints accusing the NGO of human rights abuses.

Ouch Leng said the 2010 figures were evidence that the courts were working against ordinary Cambodians. “The courts feed the conflict. They do not find a fair resolution or justice for victims. Instead, they arrest and detain them,” he said.

But Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak said those arrested had staged illegal protests or otherwise broken the law. “Police have never protected people who have done wrong or have violated the law,” he said.

Prum Sithra, a secretary of state at the Justice Ministry, declined to comment.

( source from Phnom Penh post newspaper, Tuesday, 21 September 2010 15:02 May Titthara)

Future Cambodian Accountant in Financial statements

Finance Ministry Secretary of State Ngy Tayi and Lucia Real Martin, director of emerging markets in Asia for ACCA, lead an accounting panel yesterday. Photo by: Uy Nousereimony

THE Kingdom plans by 2014 to allow only Cambodian accountants and auditors to approve final company financial statements, but industry insiders yesterday said that the timeline might not be realistic.

Speaking at National Accounting Conference at Phnom Penh’s Hotel le Royal yesterday, Ministry of Economy and Finance secretary of state Ngy Tayi said that the 2014 goal was “our challenge, especially when the securities and exchange markets begin operation in mid-2011”.

However, with only 37 Cambodian accountants fully accredited by the Association of Charted Certified Accountants and 46 having completed the required examinations, experts questioned that supply could meet demand by the chosen date.

“I have my concerns whether it’s achievable,” said one accounting professional, who requested anonymity.

“The time frame of five years [from the announcement of the goal] is overly optimistic.”

World Bank senior financial management specialist Christopher Robert Fabling said in a speech that a significant amount of work was required to meet the government’s deadline.

“2014 is not that far away,” he said.

ACCA country head Dalis Chhorn would not comment directly on whether 2014 was an achievable goal yesterday, but said it commonly takes five to six years for a Cambodian to receive full ACCA accreditation.

Besides three years’ work experience and completion of an ethics module, she said candidates must take 14 separate examinations – some of which were passed by as few as 5 percent of candidates.

Some 18,215 Cambodians were enrolled in accounting programmes alone for the 2009-10 school year – over 11 percent of the entire Cambodian population attending institutes of higher education, according to statistics provided by the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport.

But Ministry’s Department of Higher Education deputy director general Mak Ngoy said there was a mismatch between the courses provided and job and knowledge requirements at yesterday’s conference.

“We are still far short of accountants,” he said, adding that by comparison that 2.56 percent of students studied science, and 4 percent agriculture.

Ngy Tayi said many students graduated in accounting but ended up working in other professions.

Targeting 100 fully accredited Cambodian accountants in 2013, he said auditors were crucial to the Kingdom’s revenue-collection efforts.

“Please verify all the numbers so the tax collectors can get the [correct] money,” he asked auditors.

Minister of Economy and Finance Keat Chhon said auditors should posses a strong family tradition in the profession.

“When they recruit tax collectors, they ask for a family name – it should be the same for accountants,” he said.

The minister said the remark was inspired by discussion of methods to attract members of so-called "Generation Y" to become accountants.

“I listened to Generation Y, and it made me think of genes,” he said.

Mobitel money-transfer mess

Photo by: Pha Lina
Cellcard umbrella on Sothearos Boulevard, in front of a WING outlet.
MOBILE-phone provider Mobitel has launched a money-transfer service, but officials say it has yet to apply for central bank oversight.

The Cellcard Cash service is described on Mobitel’s website as a way of storing cash, allowing users to make money transfers across Cambodia, top-up prepaid accounts, and pay certain bills through mobile phones.

In July, the National Bank of Cambodia confirmed that Mobitel would be required to submit to oversight of the scheme, as money transfers are considered banking and fall under NBC regulation.

Yesterday, NBC director general Tal Nay Im said Mobitel had "still not applied” for such oversight, though to her knowledge the service had not yet been put in place.

But when reporters visited Mobitel’s showroom on Phnom Penh’s Sihanouk Boulevard, a saleswoman confirmed that the service had been launched on Monday and was available for use. the full story in tomorrow’s Phnom Penh Post or see the updated story in online from 3PM UTC/GMT +7 hours. (New York 4AM, Los Angeles 1AM, Chicago 3AM, Paris 10AM, Toronto 4AM, Sydney 6PM, Bejing 4PM, Tokyo 5PM, London 9AM, Johannesburg 10AM, Riyadh 11AM, Mumbai 1:30 PM)

BBC News | Asia-Pacific | World Edition

Everything in Cambodia