Saturday, July 24, 2010

Nokia launches in Cambodia

NOKIA plans to launch its first office in Cambodia today in a bid to ‘bring it closer’ to the domestic population after seeing regional sales decline in the second quarter, compared to last year.

Nokia’s Indochina general manager, William Hamilton-Whyte, said yesterday that the new office, to be opened in Delano Tower, Veal Vong commune, Phnom Penh, is aimed at building both brand and market awareness for the Finnish firm.

“The new office brings us closer to the Cambodian market,” he said at the capital’s InterContinental Hotel.

Initially employing four people, the office hopes to help boost domestic distribution of Nokia handsets.

The firm was the market leader for sales of mobile handsets in Cambodia, he said.

Nokia’s worldwide operating profit for the second quarter declined 15 percent year on year, but still totalled €660 million (US$849 million) according to an interim results report released yesterday.

Its Asia-Pacific second-quarter sales declined to $1.986 billion, 2 percent less than the same period in 2009, but represented a 15 percent increase over the first quarter.

“Net sales in the second quarter 2010 [worldwide] were adversely impacted by the competitive environment, particularly in the high end of the market,” the release added.

High-end phones, including those from Nokia’s rivals, are becoming increasingly popular in Cambodia.

Hello launched the first prepaid Blackberrys from Canada-based Research in Motion two months ago. Some five mobile operators are now providing 3rd Generation (3G) services in Cambodia.

Hamilton-Whyte said the firm plans to launch its Nokia C3 smart phone in the Kingdom today.

The phone, which has a full keyboard and internet access, would be targeted at young people interested in social networking.

But high-end products are best aimed at a niche market.

“If you’re selling a US$600 handset, you’re selling it in the city,” he said.

Hamilton-Whyte said the firm could do a better job of selling products beyond traditional handsets, but he declined to provide sales figures.

“Nokia does need to work on solutions and services,” looked to further sales from its online store by selling software for mobile phones, he said.

“Agricultural workers in India are using phone applications to find out about the price of crops and the weather, things that affect their business,” he said.

Cambodia’s largely rural population was more price- and brand-sensitive, he said, and built-in handset features such as flashlights and radios were important sellers particularly for people living off the electricity grid.

Nokia handsets would continue to be sold through K Thong Huot (KTH) Telecom Company, the firm’s existing partner, he said.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

HRW exhorts donors to seek policy change

HUMAN Rights Watch has called on international donors to pressure the government to close detention centres where sex workers are allegedly held against their will and abused.

A report released yesterday by the United States-based watchdog drew from interviews with more than 90 sex workers, some of whom accused law enforcement officials of engaging in severe beatings and rape.

At a press conference yesterday, the group said donors funding antitrafficking measures and police training should review and potentially suspend their contributions until the centres are closed and measures are put in place to punish offending officials.

“This is not a problem that cannot be dealt with,” said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at HRW. “The inaction of UN groups and embassies have aided and abetted the situation.”

The report calls on four donors, the US, European Union, Australia and Japan, to “review all funding, programming and activities designed to assist Cambodia’s police and Ministry of Social Affairs”.



We will work with our partners as well as the [government] to make sure any abuse is addressed.


However, the US and the EU said yesterday after the press conference that they were committed to maintaining their support of the Cambodian government.

In a statement, the US embassy said that over the past three years it had provided US$1.5 million for programmes that “helped train Cambodian police officers and staff from relevant NGOs on victim-sensitive approaches to trafficking cases”.

The embassy also said it “strongly supported the passage of the anti-trafficking articles included in the Law on the Suppression of Human Trafficking and Sexual Exploitation”.

HRW and other groups have taken issue with the law’s implementation.

The HRW report said USAID, the Unites States’ development arm, was set to give a total of $7.3 million between August 2006 and September 2011 to anti-trafficking measures.

Michelle Labeeu, chargĂ© d’Affaires ad interim of the European Commission’s delegation to Cambodia, said the EU was familiar with the issues raised in the HRW report.

“We are aware of the report about the abuses of sex workers in Cambodia, and we are following this issue very closely,” she said.

“We will work with our partners as well as the Government of Cambodia to make sure that any abuse is addressed by the relevant authorities of Cambodia.”

She said funding from the EU for human rights projects including anti-trafficking measures would total €1.2 million ($1.5 million) in 2010, up from €1 million the year before.

The Australian embassy said in an email that A$21 million (US$18.4 million) had been committed to the five-year Asia Regional Trafficking in Persons (ARTIP) Project, an initiative to prevent human trafficking in Southeast Asian countries including Cambodia.

The Japanese embassy said it did not have records of any bilateral aid going to the Social Affairs Ministry, and that it could not disclose the amount of money going to the ministry through international organisations as of press time.

Officials at the Interior and Social Affairs ministries could not be reached for comment.

Kingdom's deficit on ADB radar

100721_7aCAMBODIA’S current account deficit and high levels of public debt are “causing concern” at the Asia Development Bank, according to a new report, but the domestic economy is on pace to grow 4.5 percent this year.

The current account deficit – measuring the difference between a nation’s exports and imports, including foreign aid – was highlighted as a cause for concern in Cambodia, along with Laos and Vietnam, in the Asia Economic Monitor report, launched in Singapore yesterday.

Cambodia’s current-account deficit has averaged 4.6 percent of GDP over the last decade, the lowest among 14 Asian countries surveyed, meaning that the Kingdom has been importing more than it exports.

However, yesterday commentators said that a trade deficit was not necessarily a problem – provided that imported goods would be used to fuel future domestic production and create exports.

“A trade deficit doesn’t always reflect a country’s economic strength,” University of Cambodia economics lecturer Chheng Kimlong told the Post.
But officials at the ADB also say that it may be time for Cambodia to consider aspects of its economic policy.

“Indications [of economic recovery in Cambodia show] that it may indeed be time to begin to draw down the economic stimulus program,” ADB Senior Country Economist Peter Brimble wrote yesterday.

His comments came just one day after Cambodia’s Finance Minister Keat Chhon projected that government spending could increase by up to 50 percent to US$2.9 billion in 2011.

But the National Assembly’s Economy, Finance, Bank, and Audit Commission Chairman Cheam Yeap said yesterday that the $2.9 billion budget was an estimate that would be continually reassessed, keeping budgetary growth in line with government income.

Peter Brimble added that Cambodia’s public deficit, how much the government spends over its income as a share of GDP, was aimed to improve to 5.3 percent in 2010, from 5.9 percent in 2009.

Some analysts believe that keeping up fiscal stimulus in the coming year could benefit the country in the long term.

Increasing the Kingdom's public expenditure despite the recovery could be positive provided the money was well targeted, Leopard Capital managing partner Scott Lewis said.

“Investing in things like infrastructure is important in Cambodia,” he said. “It’s not like in other countries, where they are just sort of throwing money around.”

The Kingdom’s economy is slated to grow to 4.5 percent this year after GDP declined 2 percent in 2009 on the back of falling garment sales and slowing tourist receipts, according to the ADB report.

World Bank trade economist Julian Clarke said Cambodia’s economy had been able to “surf the wave” of increased international demand for garments pre-crisis.

“The recession in South Korea and Hong Kong, Taiwan has also lowered Cambodia's growth,” he wrote.

Commercial contracts on processing



DRAFT laws governing commercial contracts and a new commercial court, set to launch in 2011, are months away from being submitted to the Council of Ministers.

Var Roth San, director of the Department of Intellectual Property Rights at the Ministry of Commerce, said yesterday the laws were likely to be approved by the National Assembly in 2011 once they had been checked by the Council of Ministers – a move expected in “ two or three months”.

“Once they are passed, a commercial court will probably be established sometime in late 2011 or early 2012,” he told reporters yesterday at an advanced workshop on civil adjudication of commercial, intellectual property and international trade cases, held in Phnom Penh.

The two laws were being drafted under “technical assistance” from development partners and have already undergone multiple drafts and revisions to prepare them for the final approval, he said.

Ten judges, selected by the Minister of Justice from Phnom Penh’s municipal court and the provincial courts of Takeo and Kampong Chnang, were attending the four-day session at the InterContinental Hotel this week to gain advice from commercial judges from ASEAN-member countries.

“This workshop is timely for our country as the government reforms the judicial system and prepares to establish the commercial court,” Var Roth San said.

“It benefits our judges, whose experiences and knowledge [in commercial law] is low because normally they are working on the general [case disputes].”

Chhorn Ravuth, manager of Confirel Co Ltd (Cambodia) which makes sugar, wine and vinegar, welcomed the news and said it would give local producers more confidence in protecting product brand names and business-dispute resolution.

“This will be good for us as we will have a place where we can deal with disputes,” he said. “Now when we have problems, we don’t know where we can go so we just try to resolve by ourselves.”

Var Roth San said the government would also set up a sub-committee for Intellectual Property Rights Enforcement and a sub-committee for Education and Public Awareness.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Trafic police nighttime check

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Photo by: Pha Lina
Motorists and passengers cross at the junction of Monivong and Street 108. Police plan to establish checkpoints to reduce drunken driving.

INTERIOR Ministry officials plan to establish permanent nighttime traffic checkpoints in the capital and two provinces beginning August 1 as part of a bid to curtail drunken driving, the chief of the ministry’s Land Traffic Police said yesterday.

Speaking on the first day of a two-day conference on drunken driving and helmet use, Luy Chhin said the checkpoints in Phnom Penh and in Kampong Speu and Kandal provinces would be placed in areas that see frequent crashes.

“We must deploy more police forces at night to test for alcohol levels of drunk drivers,” he said, and added that police would make use of breathalysers provided by donors including Australia.

Under the initiative, which is expected to be expanded into other provinces and to eventually be made permanent, police will man the checkpoints between 7pm and 10pm, Luy Chhin said. There will be 15 in Phnom Penh, six in Kandal and four in Kampong Speu, he said.

The Road Crash and Victim Information System, which collects data from traffic police and health facilities, recorded 12,538 crashes last year, resulting in 21,519 casualties. Of those casualties, 2,353 are believed to have been caused by drunken driving.

RCVIS project manager Sem Panhavuth said yesterday that most crashes caused by drunken driving occurred between 6pm and midnight, with a peak between 6pm and 8pm. “In drunk-driving crashes, most of the fatalities are motorbike riders,” he said.

The Land Traffic Law calls for fines ranging between 6,000 riels and 25,000 riels (about US$1.50 to $6) for drunken driving, depending on vehicle type.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Villagers protest mine plan

HUNDREDS of villagers and local officials have thumbprinted a petition protesting against a planned titanium mine in Koh Kong province, and plan to pass the document on to Prime Minister Hun Sen through local officials on Monday.

The petition, which has been signed by the chief of Chi Phat commune, four village chiefs and about 500 villagers, will today be handed to the Forestry Administration’s chief coastal inspector, Vann Sophanna, who has also voiced opposition to the project.

Penned by conservation group Wildlife Alliance, the petition argues that the mine – expected to extract a million tonnes of titanium ore – will drive away ecotourism revenue and ruin the area’s biodiversity through water pollution and deforestation.

“All mining is done with water, and this will basically poison the waterways and ruin the fish population, and of course it will poison the people, animals and kill ecotourism,” Suwanna Gauntlett, the country director of Wildlife Alliance, said yesterday.

At a community meeting and inspection of the site earlier this week, Vann Sophanna said he personally opposed the mine because its planned location overlapped with 144,000 hectares of protected forest and would impact local ecotourism projects.

“We need to keep this forest cover green, so we will report the worst negative impacts and explain them to the inter-ministerial committee so they can balance the interests of preserving natural resources and the benefits of the mining exploitation,” he said.

He added that the final decision rested with the prime minister, who he hoped would support the concerns expressed in the petition.

Neither the developer of the mine, United Khmer Group, nor relevant government ministries could be reached for comment yesterday.

According to Wildlife Alliance, United Khmer communicated on June 10 that it company would construct a quarry of between 20 and 200 metres in depth over a 15,000-to-20,000 hectare area to extract high-grade titanium.

If successful, the company said, Chinese companies would then construct another three or four mines covering an area of about 100,000 hectares in Koh Kong in addition to the first mine.

Consensus Economics, a macroeconomic survey firm, forecast in late 2009 that in June of this year titanium ilmenite ore would be worth US$95 per metric tonne, meaning the mine could contain deposits worth around $95 million.

But Vann Sophanna said the mine would also doom a potentially valuable carbon sink established under the UN and World Bank-backed Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) scheme.

A preliminary survey by Wildlife Alliance and the Forestry Administration estimated such a scheme could be worth between $1.8 and 2.8 million per year in revenue to the government.

Under the REDD scheme, polluting companies in developed countries would pay the Cambodian government to protect 200,000 hectares of forest in Koh Kong to offset their own carbon emissions, with 40 percent of the revenue going back to the local community.

The mine area also intersects one of only seven remaining elephant corridors in Asia and is listed by Conservation International as one of 34 global biodiversity “hot spots”.

(source from Phnompenh post,Friday, 16 July 2010 15:03 David Boyle)

More power drawn from Vietnam

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Photo by: Sovan Pilong
Despite drawing 20MW more power from Vietnam, demand still outstrips supply in Phnom Penh.

A HIGH-RANKING government official revealed yesterday that Cambodia has drawn an additional 20 megawatts of power from Vietnam, after Prime Minister Hun Sen appealed to Hanoi to increase output to the Kingdom.

Ith Prang, secretary of state of the Ministry of Industry, Mines and Energy, said that Vietnam had begun supplying Cambodia with the extra power in late June.

It is now being distributed to consumers in Phnom Penh.

According to a power-purchasing agreement signed in 2001, Vietnam has agreed to supply 200MW of power annually to Cambodia from 2009 – but it has fallen short of the target and only supplied 100MW earlier this year.

In March, Hun Sen called for Vietnam to provide an additional 50MW to help meet domestic demand, 20MW of which has now been drawn.

“We have received 120MW of electricity supply from Vietnam so far [this year] and we do not expect that the Vietnam will supply any more power to us as it is also facing problem of inadequate supplies,” Ith Prang said.

He added that the additional power drawn was still not enough to meet present local demand.

Energy demand in Phnom Penh is currently around 300MW per year, and is set to increase by 25 percent in the next year.

“We are trying to push the constructions of hydroelectricity dams to be finished as soon as possible so that we can get more power to supply and respond to our local energy demand,” Ith Prang said.

According to the Ministry of Industry, Mines and Energy, from 2011 until the end of 2013, Cambodia aims to have a total of 869MW of power generated by hydroelectric dams at Kamchay, Attay, Tattay, Kirirom 3 and Russei Chrum Kraom River, together with a coal power plant in Preah Sihanouk province.

Leading edge: Understanding an audience

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Laurent Notin is general manager at Indochina Research Limited in Phnom Penh. SOVAN PILONG

Laurent Notin is general manager at the Phnom Penh base of regional market research firm Indochina Research Ltd. The company collates and analyses information from consumers to help a diverse range of businesses better understand their target audience and tailor their products accordingly.
How do you explain market research to businesses, and why is it important?
Market research collects information on a specific topic of interest to a client [an organisation or business] and analyses that information for the client in order for them to make an informed decision and thus reduce the risk of making a mistake.

It is not only about collecting data, it’s also about interpreting data and saying, OK, what does this mean and what are the actionable recommendations we can give to the client?
I usually explain that it’s like when you want to look for a new apartment.

You have to make a decision on which apartment is best for you. That doesn’t mean which one is the most superb, but which one best suits you. But to do that you need to collect a lot of information, about the offer, the cost, the location etc.

How do you collect all this information?
We’re very much based on consumer research. We have different methods, but to make it simple, we have two different key research types – quantitative surveys and qualitative surveys.

Quantitative surveys ask what do people like, when do they like it and where do they like it.

We collect the information through random face-to-face interviews where we send interviewers into the field where they knock on doors, and ask questions based on a structured questionnaire after selecting a respondent following predetermined selection criteria.

The qualitative surveys answer questions such as why people do the thing they do, and how do they do it. And there what we use is a focus group discussion. We select eight or so people to come together with a moderator who follows a guided discussion.

What sectors are active here in accessing market research?
What is very interesting for us is when we see competition building in one sector of activity. Because the more competitors there are, the more you need to be informed and collect information about your consumers because you want to be different from the competition.

Number one here is telecommunications.

Number two is FMCG [fast-moving consumer goods] especially the beer market, which is developing quite fast. But FMCG is a vast category.

Number three would be banking and finance – again there are a lot of competitors.

But this year particularly we’ve seen other clients coming in other sectors of activity, such as vehicles.

What’s behind that?
I think Cambodia is growing, so it’s more and more on the radar of worldwide companies.

I think the other reason is companies now have budgets to invest in market research and marketing – they’ve got money again.

Can a business of any size use market research?
Sure, market research is not only for big companies. It’s for absolutely everybody, but the thing is, it always comes down to budget.

Market research should be considered as an investment, because at the end of the day because you’re going to be able to make the right decision and earn money or save money. That’s the return on the investment.

Has the growth in your company been tough, given the development stage of business here?
It is true that market research in this part of the world is not very well known.

It’s a challenge for us, but we are very much aware of this challenge, so we deal with that and build with that constraint.

In the past five years we’ve been growing very steadily, and I’m very happy actually, except in 2009.

Like everyone, we were affected [by the global financial crisis].

I think one of the key factors in success is to build trust and that takes time.

Getting new clients on board, promoting oneself, explaining why market research is important, that takes time.

Tell us about your syndicated media index survey?
We have a survey that looks at the media-consumption habits – such as television, radio, newspaper, internet – of Cambodian people.

Syndicated means all the subscribers share the same results and they share the cost.

It’s very important because it’s about media.

In this country today companies, even international organisations, do not use the media as a real tool for maximising their efficiency of their communication to their target.

The media is quite a complex market.

For example, some television channels are bigger than others, but whether it will be worth advertising on the bigger channel depends on what you are selling and what is your target.

The idea of the survey is to help advertisers better plan, or for media companies to better sell their advertisements.

(source from Phnompenh post,Thursday, 15 July 2010 15:00 Catherine James)

Junior Chamber International (JCI) in Cambodia

THE Cambodian arm of an international entrepreneurs’ movement called Junior Chamber International (JCI) will officially launch later this month, boosting opportunities and providing advice for the Kingdom’s young businesspeople.

The nonprofit representative group, whose members will all be aged between 18 and 40, will launch on July 31 with the aim of promoting and cementing JCI’s presence in the Kingdom.

Businessman Chy Sila, general director of fast-food franchisor CBM Corp and chief executive of online management firm Sabay, is to be appointed president of JCI Cambodia after taking part in a 10-day training workshop in Japan this month.

He joined in March this year when it still had only “a few members”, he said.

“When I found out more about it I felt that a lot of things [it promoted] were part of my vision also,” 35-year-old Chy Sila said yesterday.
“JCI is about making a positive change in yourself and spreading that to other people.

“Many people in Cambodia, because of experiences of war and because of a hard life, see things very darkly. But I think it’s important to think positively. If you don’t think something will work, then it won’t because you never try.”

Chy Sila added that the group could help professionals to share their experiences with one another, a practice that is especially important for those just starting out.

“I remember when I started [my own business] 10 years ago. It was hard,” he said.

The nonprofit entrepreneur network hopes not only to develop business-to-business connections but to encourage members to help improve society through community projects.

This month, 20 JCI Cambodian members and 19 JCI Japan members visited Siem Reap to help lower-income families understand the importance of ensuring their children attend class and complete their educations.

JCI’s official headquarters will be opened at the CBM complex on Street 214, Phnom Penh.

Part of the launch will involve training for members, including a one-day workshop introducing them to aspects of JCI.

JCI has a 200,000-strong international membership.

It is open to entrepreneurs and individuals interested in business.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Data demand drives NTT's Kingdom entry

TOKYO-based NTT Communications opened its first Cambodian branch in response to increased demand for data services from Japanese companies, a company official said yesterday.

“We’re focusing on Japanese companies operating in Cambodia,” Miyazaki Hajime, NTT’s Bangkok-based general manager of products and services, said.

Operating as a subsidiary of NTT Communications (Thailand) Co, he said the new Phnom Penh branch, which opened late last week, would concentrate on data-communications services, such as setting up local area networks.

“We’re still assessing the market situation right now,” and discussions were under way with the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications to determine what businesses it could pursue, he said.

Hajime said NTT decided to enter the Kingdom after existing Japanese business partners requested that NTT provide data services for their operations here.

“There’s been gathering voices of business wanting to expand in Cambodia,” he said.

NTT Communications is owned by Nippon Telegraph and Telephone, the parent company of large mobile-service provider DoCoMo
.
However, Miyazaki Hajime says the firm has no intention of fighting for market share in Cambodia’s crowded mobile-service sector.

DoCoMo had been involved in bidding for Mobitel last year, sources say, but Miyazaki said he had no knowledge as to whether other NTT divisions were considering another move for Cambodia’s largest mobile provider.

Cambodia stays confident as IMF conference outlines risk

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IMF Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn delivers a speech at a conference hosted by the IMF and South Korea in Daejeon yesterday. AFP

Daejeon
ASIA’s high dependence on external economies could make it vulnerable to shocks, a Korean official told the International Monetary Fund (IMF) conference in South Korea yesterday, as stakeholders convened to assess the region’s role as the engine for global growth.

Yoon Jeung-hyun, Korea’s Minister of Strategy and Finance, said in his opening remarks that despite the recent rapid growth, the region’s “high dependence” on other economies remains, which “leads to inherent vulnerabilities to external shocks”.

Furthermore, “24 percent of population in the Asia Pacific region is still living in poverty, and poverty percentages in individual countries vary widely from 0.4 percent to 55 percent”.

Cambodian representatives at the two-day conference in South Korea’s central city Daejeon were confident the Kingdom’s 5 percent economic growth forecast for this year was a realistic target, although it was higher than the IMF’s projections.

The IMF projected that Cambodia’s economic growth rate would be 4.5 percent, compared with a regional growth rate of more than 7 percent.

Minister of Economy and Finance Keat Chhon, who is attending the conference, said Cambodia’s marginally higher aim of 5 percent was feasible.

The conference “is talking about the leadership of Asia – our country is also part of this leadership, and this year we will aim to reach about 5 percent [economic] growth”.

He said the government had come to the conference “to listen to the many countries of Asia, to collect knowledge, and take it to implement in our country”.

National Bank of Cambodia Governor Chea Chanto, also in attendance, said the Kingdom’s finance and banking sector had stood firm during the global economic crisis as the government, heeding signs of crisis in Western countries, took action to curb the fallout.

“We set a strategic plan to curb the impact of the crisis before it came,” he said. “It does not mean we took no impact – we did – but we managed well as we saw many foreign commercial banks come during that period because they trusted us.”

IMF’s managing director, Dominique Strauss-Kahn told conference delegates “Asia’s time has come. No one can doubt that Asia’s economic performance will continue to grow in importance.”

CCC signs trade deal

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Photo by: Julie Leafe
Imported Philippine products are displayed on the shelves of Filmart, on Street 51, Phnom Penh. The store has been selling and distributing Philippine products in Cambodia for two years.

CAMBODIA’S trade and investment ties with the Philippines are poised to grow following the signing of a memorandum of understanding calling for increased commercial interaction.

Agreed between the Cambodian Chamber of Commerce and the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the memorandum calls for increased bilateral interaction by respective business communities rather than containing specific deals, signatories said.

“Creating awareness is the key objective,” CCC President Kith Meng said at a signing ceremony at Phnom Penh’s InterContinental Hotel, during the First Philippine Trade and Investment Mission to Cambodia.

“I think Philippine businesses will participate more in Cambodia, and Cambodians will look for opportunity in the Philippines.”

Fostering bilateral ties would increase the number of Philippine investors and traders in the Kingdom, Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry vice president Roberto de Venecia said at the signing event.

“Bilateral trade and investment will increase over time,” he said Friday. “We are friends ... and Cambodia is an emerging market for business in Southeast Asia.”

Philippine-Cambodia Business Council agribusiness investment specialist Pablito Villegas said that Philippine companies were exploring the domestic market to secure rice exports, after stating to Philippine news outlet GMA News TV last week that the nation wished to buy up to 300,000 tonnes of Cambodian rice.

“The Philippines is presently 85 to 90 percent self-sufficient in rice production. It’s a major opportunity for Cambodia,” he said.

The Philippines’ President Benigno Aquino took office last month determined to guide the nation, a major importer, towards self-sufficiency in rice production, Villegas said.

However, he said that increasing international volatility of agricultural yields due to environmental factors would provide markets for Cambodian producers even if Philippine demand for rice imports eventually subsides.

“There will always be an opportunity for rice exporters,” he said.

Philippine investors could also bring modern rice-production technology and practices to the Kingdom, he said, benefiting the industry by boosting yields.

Trade between the two countries totalled US$18.3 million from January to November last year, according to the most recent statistics made available by the Philippine department of trade and industry.

In that time, Cambodia exported $9 million to the archipelago, and $9.3 million was shipped the other way.

Motobike demand decreases this year

Falling incomes after poor harvests and a sustained weak property market have affected motorbike sales in the Kingdom’s capital, dealers said after seeing a sales decline this year.

Wholesale and retail motorcycle sellers said yesterday that sales of motorbikes dropped by around 10 percent in the first half of 2010, compared to the same period last year, and blamed the global economic downturn.

Kim Chhay, one of many dealers operating on Phnom Penh’s Sihanouk Boulevard, said that his sales had fallen between 5 percent and 10 percent, and that no recovery was in sight.

“I don’t see any recovery yet because the economy is still not good,” he said.

“Cambodian farmers’ incomes from their rice harvest and cassava have dropped, so my customers are no longer as willing to purchase new bikes or update to the latest models,” he said.

He added that most of his clients came from Battambang and Svay Rieng provinces.

The falling demand has in turn put pressure on prices.

“Last year, a Honda Dream brand-new cost between US$1,630 and $1,700, and now it is just $1,530 per motorcycle,” Kim Chhay said.

Vouch Lay, owner of Vouch Lay Motorcycle Shop, said he had not seen motorbike sales pick up after economic highs of two years ago.

He said that during the property boom of 2008, he had sold between 1,500 to 2,000 motorbikes. Since the downturn, however, he has sold an average of only 200 motorbikes per month.

A common phrase at the peak of the boom alluded to people “selling land to buy iron”, and Vouch Lay said the property market helped to prop up motorbike demand, as people had more available cash.

“The property market has not recovered yet, so the people from the provinces no longer have money to exchange or upgrade their motorbikes or buy a new one,” he said.

Sang Heng, a small motorbike dealer in Chamkarmon district, also said his business had dropped around 10 percent this year.

“In the first half of last year, I sold around 300 motorcycles, but during the first six months of this year, I have only sold 250 motorcycles,” he said.

Sihanoukville Port on course for 2010 target

SIHANOUKVILLE Autonomous Port could exceed its total freight target for 2010 after six-monthly statistics revealed better-than-expected growth, according to a port official.

Ma Sunhuot, the port’s deputy director general, said the latest results mean it might surpass a target set at the beginning of 2010 – to ship 1,938,000 tonnes of goods in and out of the port this year, a 3.4 percent increase on last year’s total.

“Freight shipment in the region is increasing beyond what we have expected,” he said.

Freight shipment through Sihanoukville increased 13.6 percent during the first half of 2010, compared to the same period last year.

A total of 1.05 million tonnes was shipped between January and June this year, up from 921,330 tonnes shipped in the first six months of 2009.

Month-on-month figures indicated an 18.38 percent increase from May to June.

Ma Sunhuot said the increase during this year’s first half was the result of rising imports of oil and exports of acacia wood – a raw material for producing paper.

Sok Chheang, executive director of the Cambodia Trucking Association, said that his umbrella organisation had mainly transported raw materials for the garment sector, clothes and agricultural products.

Europe looks to cash in on Cambodian rice

THE Cambodian Small and Medium Industries Association will begin exporting 2,656 tonnes of rice worth nearly US$1 million to four European nations later this month.

Fetching $355 per tonne from buyers in Poland, Lithuania, Estonia and Sweden, the rice shipments would last from July until mid-August, and would be worth a total of $942,880 on the European market, association secretary general Outh Renne said yesterday.

“We hope companies will be able to export more rice to European markets in the coming years,” he said.

Some 1,440 tonnes of the 25 percent broken rice will be shipped to Poland, 1,000 tonnes to Lithuanian buyers, 168 tonnes to Estonia, and the remaining 48 tonnes will travel to Sweden, according to a report.

Last month, $583,000 worth of rice was shipped from Cambodia to Lithuania, Poland, Russia and Estonia.

The association also exported some 5,000 tonnes to European markets from January to July this year, and aims to ship a total of 7,000 to 10,000 tonnes to European countries including France, Lithuania, Russia, Poland, Germany, Estonia and Latvia during the rest of 2010.

It said it received support from the Ministry of Commerce and the Export Market Access Fund, a World Bank-supported organisation with the mission of addressing financial and technical constraints faced by Cambodian exporters.

(source from Phnompenh post, Monday, 12 July 2010 15:01 Chun Sophal)

Proposed court could guard IP rights

The Council of Ministers is considering setting up a Commercial Court to assist with enforcement of intellectual property rights in Cambodia, Ministry of Commerce Director General Ly Phana said.

Speaking at a “Disposal of Goods” workshop in Siem Reap, he said that some US$200 billion in counterfeit products were traded internationally each year, and that the Kingdom lacked a specific court to settle intellectual property issues such as disputes over fake goods.

“The government is thinking of setting up a commercial court,” he said Monday. “Studies have been conducted and regulations relating to setting up this court have been submitted to the Council of Ministers for review.”

The Kingdom has laws against fake products drafted with assistance from the World Intellectual Property Organisation, but enforcement had been spread between various provincial and municipals courts, the Court of Appeal, and Supreme Court, he said.

Enforcement of rights in a dedicated court would help build investors’ faith in the Cambodian market, according to a Ministry of Commerce Department of Intellectual Property Rights official.

Local rice prices stable against int'l freefall

RICE prices have remained relatively stable in the Kingdom this year, despite a decline in international prices of nearly 20 percent during the first five months of 2010, according to a United Nations report.

Domestic prices for two varieties of rice and paddy rice tracked by the Ministry of Commerce Trade Promotion Department have increased by an average of 3 percent overall from January 1 to the end of May, its statistics show.

Cambodian Economic Association president Chan Sophal said Cambodia’s rice prices often moved independently of the international market.
“It’s a smaller, niche market. Suppliers for the domestic market are usually local, and Cambodia is a net exporter of rice.”

The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) recorded a 19.9 percent drop in global rice prices in its bi-annual Food Outlook report released late last week, with its rice index falling to 201 points at the end of May, from 251 points at the beginning of the year.

International prices briefly surged in the last two months 2009 when the Philippines extended four large international tenders for 2 million tonnes of rice, but the FAO report suggested prices began declining in January after Philippine demand subsided into the new year.

Domestic prices remained relatively unchanged this year after falling from highs experienced during 2008, Cambodian Centre for Study and Development in Agriculture President Yang Saing Koma said.

“Prices have been relatively stable this year. Many people were expecting prices to increase more than they have,” and national and international rice prices negatively impacted supply-side producers, he said.

“I think for traders and producers it’s not so good, they were expecting a larger profit. But it’s good for consumers, especially poor people who want to buy rice.”

Prices in the Kingdom traditionally begin to rise in July, he added.

Paddy production was tentatively expected to increase 3.6 percent internationally to 707 million tonnes in 2010, according to the FAO. However, the report anticipated Cambodia may face a large decline in production this year.

“The impacts of water scarcity and high temperatures could be even more pronounced in Cambodia, where they are expected to cause a 22 percent retrenchment in output in 2010,” it said.

Yang Saing Koma said it was too early to accurately project this year’s yield, but said early indications were not favourable.

“Production depends on the weather. The start of this year’s rainy season has not been so good, but we have to wait and see.”

(source from Phnompenh post,Monday, 07 June 2010 15:01 Jeremy Mullins)

New third generation of mobile

Industry expert says phone providers are demanding more 3G infrastructure


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A Mobitel representative shows a phone connecting to its 3G network Monday at its main office on Sihanouk Boulevard. Pha Lina
CAMBODIA’S telecos are set to expand on the use of third-generation (3G) phone technology, spreading coverage from cities to rural areas, according to the in-country managing director of mobile infrastructure firm Alcatel-Lucent.

Jiangho Li told the Post Wednesday that domestic firms are increasingly demanding 3G infrastructure, such as mobile-phone transmitters, in order to compete in the Kingdom’s crowded telecoms market.

“It’s a challenging market. Operators need to adapt,” said the Alcatel-Lucent director. He added that his company supplies over 70 percent of market-leader Mobitel’s infrastructure.

The 3G technology allows larger data bandwidth on mobiles, increasing the ability of users to surf the internet or share videos or pictures.

At least five telecoms players, including Hello, Mobitel and Viettel, provide 3G to varying degrees. But coverage is presently clustered around Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, and Sihanoukville.

Alcatel-Lucent’s Jiangho Li said he thinks 3G will eventually be used to spread internet access to rural areas in the absence of land lines.

“Cambodia is not like other countries. There’s not very much fixed-line penetration, so that’s why everyone will use 3G,” he said. “There’s 40,000 to 50,000 fixed lines compared to around 5 million mobile users in Cambodia.”

Leading telcos are clearly embracing what are known as “value-added” services, such as internet provision via phone.

At an event held at Phnom Penh’s Raffles Hotel Le Royal on Thursday, operator Hello launched packages promoting data technology.
However, Marketing Manager Gary Foo said Monday it was important to remain focused on the business of attracting customers.

“While technology and innovation plays a very important role, we believe what’s more important is how we use it to make life more convenient for our customers and ensuring [technology] is relevant to their needs,” he said in an email.

Smart Mobile added that although it is investigating 3G’s potential, there are other forms of technology able to provide a similar level of data access.

“Data internet is not widely used yet on the Cambodian market. As this picks up, we have alternatives,” said Smart Mobile CEO Thomas Hundt. He highlighted similar technologies such as WiMax internet access.

But the cost for 3G equipment is rapidly dropping, and in many countries increased demand is leading providers to no longer install 2G equipment at all, according to Alcatel-Lucents’s Jinghou Li.

“Customers are asking for 3G,” he said.

In 2006, Prime Minister Hun Sen briefly banned 3G, alluding to the potential for using the technology for sending pornographic video content.
“I say wait another 10 years until we strengthen social morality,” he said in a radio address at the time.

Metfone, the Kingdom’s second largest provider by subscriber numbers, had previously planned to install 1,500 3G stations during the first quarter of the year.

Owned by Vietnam-based Viettel, Metfone managing director Nguyen Duy Tho previously announced plans to extend 3G coverage to every district in the Kingdom.

Metfone did not return request for comment on Monday.

Employment firm under scrutiny

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Photo by: Pha Lina
Workers participating in a training programme stare out of the window of a home operated by the Champa Manpower Group in Russey Keo district yesterday.

A DISTRICT official said yesterday that she plans to ask City Hall and the Labour Ministry to investigate a company accused of forcing more than 200 would-be migrant workers to live in squalid conditions in Russey Keo district.

Police discovered the 232 women and girls, who were being trained to work as domestic helpers in Malaysia, during a police raid on three villas in Chroy Changvar commune owned by the Champa Manpower Group.

District Deputy Chief Ly Rosami said local authorities were tipped off to the presence of the workers by people living next to the villas, who said they had found a note dropped out of a window by one of the allegedly detained workers. “There were 232 workers locked in the rooms in the three different houses,” Ly Rosami said.

She added that although the company was legally registered to train and send workers to Malaysia, it might have broken the law.

“The company is legal, but what the company owner is doing wrong is that he locked those workers in the room without having freedom,” she said.
The rooms in which the girls were kept, she said, were “like a duck or chicken cage because they are small and smell bad”.

The owner of the company, she said, had told officials that the women and girls were not typically detained but admitted that at the time of the raid he had temporarily detained several who were threatening to break their contracts.

Ly Rosami called on City Hall and Labour Ministry officials to decide whether the company should be closed down, and whether criminal charges should be filed against it.

City Hall and Labour Ministry officials could not be reached yesterday. As of last night, the trainees remained in the villas.

Sus Math, the director of the Champa Manpower Group, also could not be reached yesterday.

Teouk Ny, a 27-year-old Champa Manpower Group trainee who was among those living in the villas, said around 30 or 40 women and girls sleep on the floor in each of the four rooms of her building.

She added, though, that she believed the company had treated the trainees well.

“The owner takes care of all workers,” she said, and added that food and accommodation had been free during a training session that lasted about four months. In addition, she said, the company pays for passports and flights to Malaysia, and gives each trainee’s family between 480,000 and 500,000 riels (around $119) and some rice.

In return, the company is entitled to each worker’s wages for the first four months after finding them jobs in Malaysia. Teouk Ny, another would-be migrant worker, said several people had been detained against their will for around two months in her villa, but insisted that the company was not at fault.

“There are about five or six [trainees] who were locked in the room without being allowed out because they want to escape from the company,” she said.

“The company cannot let them go because they already took the money and rice for their family, and the company also prepared the passport and relevant documents.”

She added that she did not know whether people had been detained in the other two villas, but said the company owner allowed most of the residents in hers to come and go as they pleased. “I can go out every time without having a problem,” she said.

A 22-year-old trainee who identified herself only as Rotha, and who said she was the manager of Teouk Ny’s villa, told reporters that she needed permission from her boss before allowing them to enter.

She confirmed that several trainees had been held for around two months, but said that, following the visit from authorities on Monday, they had agreed to honour their contracts and remain in the villas.

She added that the company owner was “generous” and “never yelled” at trainees.

(from Phnompenh post, Wednesday, 14 July 2010 15:02 Mom Kunthear)

Government weighs need for law against computer crimes

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Photo by: Tracey Shelton
The government is considering legislation to tackle cyber crime. Computer hackers have targeted several state websites in the past year.
CAMBODIA may draft legislation aimed at preventing computer-based crimes, officials said yesterday, as foreign and domestic experts warned that the Kingdom was not immune to malicious attempts to spread viruses and steal information.

As Cambodia becomes more connected to the world, digital security threats have grown in size and complexity, Cybercrime Law Formulation Working Group (CLFWG) deputy head Nuon Pharat said at a workshop at the Council of Ministers’ building in Phnom Penh.

“Some Cambodians have become victim to these crimes,” he said. “Cambodian government websites and private companies have been attacked in the past few years.”

The Ministry of Commerce website was defaced on May 25, and the Ministry of Tourism’s online presence suffered similar online vandalism in February, CLFWG permanent member Ou Phannarith said.

“We need to prepare mechanisms to prevent these problems,” he added.

During a presentation, he showed the MoC website plastered with a hacked message stating “Panic system take over – one Turk against the world”.

Then the Ministry of the Environment was hacked by the “Iran Black Hats Team”, according to a slide show.

Cyber crime is broadly defined as “crime, plus computers”, Phnom Penh-based information security consultant Bernard Alphonso said during a presentation.

He added that cyber crime involves a computer or a similar device, such as a mobile phone, being targeted or used for illicit enterprises – such as hacking, phishing and spam emailing.

“The bad guys are after information,” he said. “Everyone has valuable information, but many don’t realise it’s valuable.”

Cambodia presently has no legislation specifically related to cyber crimes, said Alexander Seger, head of the Economic Crime Division at the Council of Europe.

But several other ASEAN nations have already enacted specific laws on the issue, he said. He added that the Council of Europe recognises that cyber crime as a global problem, and that tackling it only within Europe’s borders was not sufficient – hence his presence in Cambodia. “If I do something wrong in Germany or France it may affect you, and if you do something wrong it may affect me,” he said at the workshop.

He added that training of judges and police was another crucial step in the fight against cyber crime.

Although there is no specific law to tackle computer-based offenses, such crimes are to some extent recognised by Articles 427 to 430 of the Criminal Code covering information and computer technology.

Nuon Pharat said that the CLFWG was gathering input to determine whether new measures were required to expand on these articles.

Yesterday’s workshop kicked off the process of consulting stakeholders about the moves, National ICT Development Authority Deputy Secretary General Chun Vat said.

He said that it was too early to set a date to see legislation submitted.

(source from phnompenh post,Wednesday, 14 July 2010 15:02 Jeremy Mullins)

Saturday, July 10, 2010

MFIs' outstanding loans grow in second quarter

CAMBODIA’S biggest micro-finance institutions (MFIs) reported more outstanding loans in the latest quarter over the first three months of the year, though many said profits were shrinking due to operational expansions and declining interest rates.

Prasac, the largest domestic microfinance institution, recorded 12 percent growth in outstanding loans to US$72.9 million at the end of the second quarter, up from $65.2 million for the first quarter of 2010.

Prasac General Manager Sim Senacheert said economic recovery was translating to growth, particularly in the agricultural sector, which constituted 30 to 40 percent of the company’s portfolio.

“With economic recovery, we have fewer non-performing loans, so we can concentrate on growing our portfolio instead of solving delinquent loans,” he said. Prasac reported a non-performing loan rate of 1.44 percent at the end of the second quarter, a decline from 1.63 percent outstanding at the end of March.

However, the firm saw a 27 percent decline in before-tax profits to $457,055 for the latest quarter, down from $627,046.

“We’ve increased our staff by 15 percent, lowering our second-quarter profits to expand our business,” he said.

Cambodia’s third-largest micro-lender, Sathapana Limited, saw outstanding loans grow 4 percent to $44.28 million in the second quarter, up from $42.6 million in the first.

“The economic situation is getting better. We should distribute even more loans, but it’s only a slight growth on the first quarter because many people are on holiday,” chairman Bun Mony said yesterday.

Profits stood at 20 percent below expectations, he said, and blamed the figure on lower interests rates left over from last year adversely affecting the company portfolio.

Hout Ieng Tong, general manager of Hattha Kaksekar Limited, said its outstanding loan rate increased by 4 percent in the second quarter over the first because of growing demand from clients.

“The day-to-day business of most clients is getting better in all sectors,” he said.

Cambodia stock exchange: currency to be consider

CAMBODIA’S planned stock exchange ought to consider allowing listings in both United States dollars and riels, according to Asian Development Bank Office of Regional Economic Integration Chief Economist Jayant Menon.

After being asked for advice by bourse officials, Menon said he recommended allowing listings in both currencies to foster investors’ interest, rather than using the exchange as a tool to meet the government’s long-term aim to “de-dollarise”, or transition from the dollar to the riel.

“It’s not the time to address dedollarisation, it’s the time to address the success of the stock exchange,” he said at yesterday’s Phnom Penh launch of an ADB-published book, Dealing with Multiple Currencies in Transitional Economies, which he co-authored.

“I don’t think trying to use the exchange as a de-dollarisation tool will help it at this fragile stage.”

Stock exchange officials have not yet said which currency will be used for listings.

Ministry of Economy and Finance Secretary of State Hang Chuon Naron said in a speech at the book launch that the ministry was primarily focused on promoting economic growth.

“While dollarisation is important, we have to focus on creating jobs” and promoting growth, he said. He added that long-term economic growth would allow an unenforced transition to the riel.

With the US greenback used in more than 90 percent of domestic transactions, Menon said, there was a temptation to view de-dollarisation as an issue of sovereignty, as widespread use of the dollar means that the US accrues revenue that would have been Cambodia’s if the riel were more widely circulated.

“There’s some justification in feeling this way, but we shouldn’t be overly focused on lost revenue,” he said. “There’s clearly a cost [to using the dollar], but benefits are much harder to measure.”

The Kingdom had come through the financial crisis relatively well, Menon said, and the large domestic reliance on the dollar may have been a factor in its economic success.

He said a gradual approach to de-dollarisation, rather than drastic reform, was best.

Canadia Bank agrees to manage pensions

THE National Social Security Fund for Civil Servants agreed yesterday to cooperate with Canadia Bank in offering a pension and social security fund to civil servants.

The agreement was signed in Phnom Penh.

The new NSSFCS fund aims to manage and insure a social security fund for when a civil servant retires or becomes handicapped, pregnant, or is involved in an accident at work resulting in disability or death, according to Chou Ratanak, the director for the Fund, speaking at Canadia Tower.

“We will be offering the social security fund to them in order to reduce their difficulties while living with certain conditions,” he said.

The fund is to be tested initially in Phnom Penh, and will be available through the bank as a standalone bank account with its own ATM card, he said, and added that having the account accessible through the bank would allow the correct funds to get to the end-user in a timely manner.

“Moreover, they can save their money through the fund, which will also have an interest rate with Canadia Bank,” Chou Ratanak said.

The NSSFCS is also looking for a way to make it easier to provide health insurance, possibly in conjunction with a bank, in a partnership similar to the agreement signed with Canadia.

“NSSFCS is looking at issuing a sub-decree on health insurance social security for civil servants,” he said.

(source from phnompenh post news,Friday, 09 July 2010 15:01 Soeun Say)

Govt warns UN rights head over criticisms

THE Ministry of Foreign Affairs has accused the head of the United Nation’s human rights office of exceeding his mandate by criticising Monday’s deportation of two Thai Red Shirt activists, warning that further comments could prompt the government to reassess his presence in the country.

On Wednesday, Christophe Peschoux, the country representative of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said the deportation was a “political decision” that lacked proper procedure.

In a letter dated yesterday, the ministry warned Peschoux that he had no right to criticise the move, which it described as the “monopoly right” of the government.

The letter added that “any such activities in the future will lead the Royal Government of Cambodia to make a decision on your presence in Cambodia”.

The letter follows a similar warning sent to UN Resident Coordinator Douglas Broderick in March, threatening to expel him from the country for criticising the passage of the Anticorruption Law.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Koy Kuong said yesterday that the letter was sent to Peschoux to remind him to adhere to a January 2010 MoU signed with the Cambodian government.

“This does not mean [we] want to expel him. We just want to remind him,” he said.

Peschoux could not be reached yesterday, but Hang Chhaya, executive director of the Khmer Institute for Democracy, said such threats had been issued in the past to keep UN officials from becoming too vocal in their criticisms.

“Any false move and the government will pounce,” he said.
(source from phnompenh post newspaper: Friday, 09 July 2010 15:03 Sam Rith and Sebastian Strangio)

Saturday, July 3, 2010

The sand trade with Singapore

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Photo by: Sebastian Strangio
Sand is stored at a depot in Koh Kong town in February 2009.

SINGAPORE should address the negative environmental impacts of its sand trade with Cambodia as it prepares to host an international summit on sustainable urban development, global corruption watchdog Global Witness said.

Starting Tuesday, Singapore will host the World Cities Summit, a four-day urban development conference that will focus on “building liveable and sustainable communities”.

In a statement to be issued today, the London-based advocacy group said continued inaction with regard to its sand imports from Cambodia could undermine its credibility as host of the summit.

“Singapore is in danger of appearing hypocritical as it promotes its commitment to sustainability while simultaneously driving demand in an industry that is wreaking havoc on Cambodia’s coastal ecosystems,” Global Witness campaigner George Boden said in the statement.

Last month, Global Witness issued a report that said sand imports from Cambodia to Singapore had spiked despite a ban announced by Prime Minister Hun Sen in May last year.

The report estimated that as much as 796,000 tonnes of sand was being removed each month from Koh Kong province, the epicentre of a sand trade worth an estimated US$248 million annually in Singapore.

Senior CPP lawmaker Cheam Yeap said Sunday that he regretted Global Witness’s attacks on the government, repeating government claims that the group’s criticism is “baseless”.

“As Prime Minister Hun Sen has ordered, any sand-dredging company that operates and causes environmental damage to the ocean will not be allowed and will be completely banned from exporting,” he said.

Singapore’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of National Development (MND) did not respond to queries as of press time. But on May 11 the MND issued a statement that the city-state “does not condone the illegal export or smuggling of sand, or any extraction of sand that is in breach of the source countries’ laws”.

(source from Phnompenh post, Monday, 28 June 2010 15:03 Vong Sokheng)

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