Category Archives: Government

Human Rights Leaders Arrested Leaving US Embassy, Later Released


Land rights activist Yorm Bopha shouts as she is pulled into a police vehicle by authorities near the US embassy in Phnom Penh

Land rights activist Yorm Bopha shouts as she is pulled into a police vehicle by authorities near the US embassy in Phnom Penh. Pha Lina

Ban foes undeterred

Wed, 22 January 2014
Eleven rights activists delivering petitions to foreign embassies yesterday morning were pulled into waiting vans by district security forces and detained before being released after questioning in the early afternoon.

Dozens of men wielding batons and wearing navy blue uniforms and black motorcycle helmets arrived at the US embassy as a small number of activists gathered to deliver a petition signed by 181 NGOs calling for the release of 23 people jailed after a crackdown earlier this month.

Tep Vanny from the Boeung Kak lake community and Rong Chhun, president of the Cambodian Independent Teachers Association, were arrested as they left US embassy property along with a staff member of the Housing Rights Task Force (HRTF) and Chheang Thida, director of the Cambodia Union Association at the Kin Tay garment factory in Chak Angre Krom commune.

Shortly after her arrest, Vanny told the Post that she had been unjustly detained.

“We were questioned related to gathering at the US embassy to file the petition. The authorities always arrest me and other people without arrest warrants,” she said.

Two US embassy security guards were seen negotiating with the security forces and protesters during the stand-off.

Sean McIntosh, spokesman for the embassy, condemned the arrests, adding that the embassy officials were requesting that the activists demonstrate on public property across the street.

“The US embassy condemns the arrests of the activists today who were attempting to exercise their constitutional rights to peaceful assembly and expression,” he said. “We continue to urge the Cambodian authorities to rescind their ban on demonstrations in Phnom Penh.

“In keeping with security procedures, the group of activists was asked to conduct its demonstration in the public space across the street from the embassy.”

Another seven activists, including prominent Boeung Kak representative Yorm Bopha, were arrested when security forces blocked the road as they attempted to reach the French embassy on Monivong Boulevard.

The remaining activists then delivered petitions to the British embassy, the headquarters of Unicef and to Amnesty International Asia researcher for Cambodia Rupert Abbott, who had arrived at the Unicef offices to observe.

“We’re going to try to raise international awareness about what’s happening and call on the government to stop this crackdown and really try to look for a way forward,” Abbott said. “In the short-term, [we will try] to help bring national reconciliation and everybody together, but also in the long-run for systematic human rights reforms.”

Phay Siphan, spokesman for the Council of Ministers, said the arrests were a legitimate enforcement of the ban on public gatherings in the capital.

“The question is one of public order. The temporary ban has been issued from the City Hall,” he said. “Those people, the leaders of the demonstration, we can’t let them disturb public order. They were arrested and brought back to the Municipal Police office.”

Shortly after 11am, activists gathered at Phnom Penh Municipal Police Station to demand the release of the 11 detained protesters. All were released at 1:30pm after signing a document stating they will not “induce or participate” in illegal demonstrations.


Land rights activists call for the release of 23 detained people yesterday in front of the US embassy in Phnom Penh.

Land rights activists call for the release of 23 detained people yesterday in front of the US embassy in Phnom Penh. Pha Lina

Chhun of CITA said: “The government usually urges us to obey the law, but they are government forces and they did not obey the law. We just filed a petition to the embassies and we have not set up a protest or demonstration, but they arrested us. How can we believe in government to implement the law?”

Ou Virak, president of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, condemned the use of unofficial private security guards to enforce the ban on gatherings.

“They must be learning from China and Vietnam. These are basically hired thugs; it’s a lot easier to hire thugs than pay police properly. The police have been pretty bad, because the salaries are pretty low,” he said. “How do we know these people are trained to handle arrests? To me it’s illegal, but it tells me a lot about the Cambodian security sector.”

Government spokesman Siphan said he thought the practice was justified.

“They are hired by City Hall. We call them ‘police agents’. They are working at private security [firms] and are hired by City Hall to enforce public order. I don’t see what’s wrong with that,” he said.

Contact authors: Daniel Pye and Khouth Sophak Chakrya

Hun Sen’s Eye on Twitter

Hun Sen’s Eye @HunSensEye

I’m the eye of Hun Sen, not Hun Sen. It’s lonely in here, so I need a creative outlet. Social media consultant for misunderstood strongmen everywhere.

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We’re officially celebrating the end of the KR, but we’re also proud of setting the bar for success so low. #Cambodia #PrampiMakara

Cambodia defends deadly crackdown on protests


Striking workers go back to work as government official says opposition’s actions made police to crack down on protest.

Cambodia’s government has defended its violent crackdown on anti-government protesters and striking garment workers as the ruling party marks what they call the victory day over the Khmer Rouge regime.

“The Cambodian People’s Party will do whatever to defend the constitution and the royal government of Cambodia that was formed through an election,” Heng Samrin, Chairman of the Cambodian National Assembly, said during a ceremony on Tuesday.

Violence overshadows Cambodia’s celebrations

The government was marking what it sees as the 35th anniversary of the victory day against the communist Khmer Rouge regime on Tuesday. The Khmer Rouge killed about one in five Cambodians after seizing power in 1975 up until 7 January 1979.

Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen made his first public appearance at the event since a violent crackdown, but did not comment about the operation that left four dead and many more injured.

Al Jazeera’s Scott Heidler, reporting from Phnom Penh, said on Tuesday that a high ranking government official addressed the crackdown during the ceremony, saying the opposition was “disrespecting the country’s laws” that prompted the response from the security forces.

Heidler reported that the government promised to continue seeking dialogue with the opposition.

Back to work

Meanwhile, tens of thousands of garment workers returned to work in Cambodia, ending a two-week pay dispute.

A union and the country’s garment factory association estimated that between 65 and 70 percent of workers had returned to factories as of Tuesday.

Cambodia has faced continuing trouble since an election in July last year that the opposition say was rigged.

“Now we are working on the diplomatic front, on the commercial front, on the legal front. We are in touch with unions and worker’s organisations all over the world to condemn violence on workers and to help workers to achieve that goal that demands $160 a month as the minimum wage,” said Cambodian opposition leader Sam Rainsy.

The protests are the biggest challenge in many years to the authoritarian rule of Prime Minister Hun Sen, who has led the country for almost three decades.

Protests over the election have been generally peaceful, but a strike by workers in Cambodia’s key garment sector has put extra pressure on Hun Sen’s regime.

Violent Weekend Crackdown on Labor Protests Led to End of Strike; Factories Reopen


Updated Jan. 6, 2014 12:35 p.m. ET

Workers carry a protester who was wounded during clashes. Zuma Press

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia—A nationwide strike in Cambodia’s garment industry petered out Monday after a violent weekend crackdown on political and labor protests, allowing most factories to resume production.

The fizzling of one of Cambodia’s largest strikes in recent years brought relief for many garment manufacturers, who have complained of mounting financial losses because of missed shipments and lost orders. The strike—started Dec. 24 by tens of thousands of workers demanding higher wages—also stoked concerns over a widening fallout for this Southeast Asian economy that relies heavily on garment manufacturing as its main export earner and biggest formal-sector employer.

Police in Phnom Penh prevented land-rights activists from filing a petition with France’s embassy on Monday. Getty Images

Union officials and workers halted their protest after police on Friday opened fire on a labor demonstration, killing at least four people and injuring dozens more. Authorities also arrested 13 workers before extending the crackdown to opposition supporters, dispersing them from their main rallying point in the capital on Saturday and banning further protests indefinitely.

Opposition leaders and rights groups have condemned the violence, but labor and industry officials credited the crackdown for ending the strike.

“Most, if not all, factories reopened today [Monday], though only about 50% to 60% of workers came back,” said Ken Loo, secretary-general of the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia, which represents roughly 600 factories. “Many workers had gone back to their hometowns to avoid trouble, but they should be returning over the next few days,” he said.

Oum Mean, secretary of state at the Ministry of Labor, estimated that roughly 80% of factories were open Monday, excluding those in the vicinity of Veng Sreng Boulevard—the site of Friday’s shootings.

At Veng Sreng, located in southern Phnom Penh, the area’s convivial bustle has been muted by a heavy security presence. Since Saturday, heavily armed soldiers have patrolled the two-lane thoroughfare in jeeps—mounted with light machine guns—and heavy trucks, keeping a close watch on residents and the few workers who stayed behind. “There’s far less vehicle and pedestrian traffic than usual,” said Cheang Vinna, a 31-year-old who works at one of the factories along Veng Sreng Boulevard. “Most workers have left in fear.”

The strike started as a protest against the government’s offer last month to raise the industry minimum wage 19% to $95 a month, starting in April—well short of union demands for $160 a month. Workers then scorned a sweetened offer made by officials last week—a 25% increase to $100 a month, starting in February—and defied government orders to return to work by Jan 2.

The Asia Floor Wage Alliance, a group of trade unions and labor rights activists, estimates that a living wage for Cambodian garment workers should be $283 per month.

Unionists still hoped to achieve their goal, but said they would rethink their approach after the Friday’s clashes. “We don’t currently have plans for more protests since the situation has worsened. We don’t want to see more lives lost through violent suppression,” said Ken Chheanglang, vice president of the National Independent Federation Textile Union of Cambodia. “We appeal to workers to return to work and earn their wages first, while we decide our next strategy.”

Garment manufacturing is Cambodia’s biggest export business, supplying apparel to retailers mainly in the U.S. and European Union. The industry earned nearly $5.1 billion in the first 11 months of 2013, up 22% from the period in 2012, according to the Commerce Ministry. Cambodia has about 800 garment and footwear factories that employ about 600,000 workers, mostly women, labor officials say.

Manufacturers favor the country for its low-wage costs, but strikes are frequent because of what union leaders say is widespread discontent with meager salaries, poor working conditions and lax enforcement of labor laws.

Industry officials say it is difficult to gauge financial impact from the latest strike, though a rough assessment—based on historical export data and the number of working days lost—suggests that garment makers may have lost hundreds of millions of dollars in output.

Many factories have temporarily shifted production out of Cambodia while others may be considering a longer-term relocation, said Mr. Loo, the industry association official.

“Besides loss of production time and costs incurred on making alternative production and shipping arrangements, there are intangible costs as well,” such as reputational damage, he said.

Broader economic impact, however, should be limited barring any fresh flare-up in labor unrest, economists say. Chan Sophal, president of the Cambodian Economic Association, said he still expects economic growth in 2013 to come in at roughly 7%, as many had projected before the strike. “If the risks don’t recur, growth could be maintained at roughly 7% this year,” he said.

Write to Chun Han Wong at

Chairman Royce Responds to Reports of Violence in Cambodia


JAN 5, 2014

Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, issued a statement following reports in Cambodia of elite military units and plainclothes policemen beating and murdering peaceful protesters:

“Hun Sen has brought Cambodia to the brink.  No longer content to marginalize the opposition, the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) is now killing peaceful protesters, and has issued warrants for both Sam Rainsy and Kem Sokha, both who have been forced into hiding because of the CPP’s crackdown.  It’s time for Hun Sen to end his three-decade grip on power and step down.  The people of Cambodia deserve far better.”

Cambodia Cracks Down on Protest With Evictions and Ban on Assembly


  • Thomas Cristofoletti/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

  • Nicolas Axelrod/Getty Images

  • Samrang Pring/Reuters

  • Mak Remissa/European Pressphoto Agency

  • Heng Sinith/Associated Press

  • Heng Sinith/Associated Press

  • Heng Sinith/Associated Press

  • Samrang Pring/Reuters

  • Samrang Pring/Reuters

  • Samrang Pring/Reuters

  • Omar Havana/Getty Images

  • Luc Forsyth/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
Published: January 4, 2014

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — Seeking to quash one of the most serious challenges to the nearly 30-year rule of the country’s authoritarian leader, Cambodian authorities evicted antigovernment protesters on Saturday from a public square and banned all public gatherings as a court summoned two opposition leaders for police questioning.

After months of inaction in the face of growing public dissent to his rule, Prime Minister Hun Sen appeared to signal that he was entering a more aggressive posture toward his critics. The crackdown came after a clash on Friday between protesting garment workers and the Cambodian police that left four of the demonstrators dead. The workers have been at the forefront of growing protests against Mr. Hun Sen’s government.

Mr. Hun Sen’s party claimed victory in July elections, which the opposition and independent observers say were riddled with irregularities. Since then, the opposition has called for him to step down.

In a country with a history of violence against opposition figures, the two opposition leaders wanted for questioning, Sam Rainsy and Kem Sokha, appeared to go into hiding.

“They are in a safe place,” said Mu Sochua, an opposition politician who was elected as a lawmaker in July but has boycotted Parliament along with the rest of the opposition.

Last weekend, the opposition staged a protest march of tens of thousands of people through the streets of Phnom Penh, an act of defiance on a scale rarely seen during Mr. Hun Sen’s more than 28 years in power. After the crackdown Saturday, the opposition announced it was canceling a march planned for Sunday.

In a statement, the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party urged its followers to remain calm “while the party seeks alternative ways” to continue its campaign against Mr. Hun Sen’s government.

Many parts of Phnom Penh were unaffected by the crackdown, including the main tourist area along the Mekong River. But elsewhere, hundreds of police officers and soldiers blocked roads, broke up crowds of bystanders and cordoned off the public square, known as Freedom Park, where the protesters had been gathering.

The dispersal of demonstrators from Freedom Park by the police and others was highly symbolic. In 2009 the government officially designated the square as a place where Cambodians could express themselves freely, roughly modeling it on Speakers’ Corner in London. The square has been the center of protests led by the opposition since the elections in July. Protesters who have camped out there since mid-December have included Buddhist monks, elderly farmers and human rights advocates.

The Cambodian Center for Human Rights, an independent advocacy organization, accused the government on Saturday of a “violent clampdown on human rights” and said protesters were chased out of the square by “thugs dressed in civilian clothes” who were armed with steel poles and other makeshift weapons, an observation corroborated by journalists who were present.

A number of protests during Mr. Hun Sen’s time in power have been broken up by shadowy groups. In 1997, a grenade attack on a protest led by Mr. Sam Rainsy left at least 16 people dead.

On Saturday, Cambodia’s Ministry of Interior issued a statement saying that the eviction of protesters “was conducted in a peaceful manner without any casualties.” Recent protests, the statement said, “led to violence, the blocking of public roads and the destruction of public and private property,” an apparent reference to the clashes between garment workers and soldiers on Friday, among other recent episodes.

The statement said all protests and public assembly were banned “until security and public order has been restored.” It also advised “all members of the national and international community to remain calm and avoid participating in any kind of illegal activity that could have negative consequences on the national interests.”

Mr. Hun Sen has been credited with stabilizing the country after the brutality of the Khmer Rouge, whose genocidal policies led to the deaths of 1.7 million Cambodians. But in recent years he has accumulated highly centralized power, including a praetorian guard that appears to rival the capabilities of the country’s regular military units.

Economic growth that has brought modernity and prosperity to Phnom Penh has exposed stark inequalities in the country, where well over a third of children are malnourished. Only one-quarter of the Cambodian population has access to electricity. The streets of Phnom Penh are shared by luxury cars and families of four squeezed onto dilapidated motorcycles.

Garment workers, who number in the hundreds of thousands, have been the most aggressive in seeking higher wages. Striking workers are demanding a doubling of the monthly minimum wage to $160 from $80, an increase that the industry says will make it uncompetitive.

In the clash on Friday, garment workers confronted officers with rocks, sticks and homemade firebombs. The police fired into the crowd with assault rifles, witnesses said. In addition to the protesters killed, at least 20 people were injured.

A version of this article appears in print on January 5, 2014, on page A9 of the New York edition with the headline: Cambodia Cracks Down on Protest With Evictions and Ban on Assembly.

Workers Face Police Gunfire Amid Unrest in Cambodia


  • Thomas Cristofoletti/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

  • Nicolas Axelrod/Getty Images

  • Samrang Pring/Reuters

  • Mak Remissa/European Pressphoto Agency

  • Heng Sinith/Associated Press

  • Heng Sinith/Associated Press

  • Heng Sinith/Associated Press

  • Samrang Pring/Reuters

  • Samrang Pring/Reuters

  • Samrang Pring/Reuters

  • Omar Havana/Getty Images

  • Luc Forsyth/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
A Cambodian protester carried a wounded worker in Phnom Penh.
Published: January 3, 2014

HONG KONG — Military police officers on Friday fired on protesters demanding higher wages for Cambodian garment workers, killing at least three people, officials said, as protests against the decades-old rule of Prime Minister Hun Sen entered a volatile new phase.

The garment workers are demanding a doubling of their monthly wages, and they have been at the forefront of growing protests against Mr. Hun Sen’s authoritarian government. On Sunday, tens of thousands of people rallied to demand that he step down.

But Friday’s violence south of Phnom Penh, the capital, was a sharp escalation in the unrest. Protesters resisted police efforts to break up the demonstrations, and some threw homemade explosives, setting fire to vehicles, and pelted officers with rocks and other projectiles. As the street battles raged, the police fired live ammunition and smoke canisters to try to quell the disturbances.

Another large opposition rally is planned for Sunday, again intended to turn out tens of thousands of people to force an end to Mr. Hun Sen’s rule. In July, Mr. Hun Sen’s party claimed victory in disputed elections that the opposition and many independent monitoring organizations said were deeply flawed.

The week of protests represents a surprisingly robust threat to the rule of Mr. Hun Sen, whose party tightly controls the police, the military, the judiciary and much of the news media.

Chuon Narin, deputy chief of the Phnom Penh Municipal Police, told The Associated Press that the three people who were killed in Friday’s violence died when police officers in a southern suburb of the capital fired AK-47 automatic rifles to clear a road that had been blocked by protesters who were burning tires and throwing objects.

“So far, three are confirmed dead, two injured, and two men were arrested by armed forces,” the deputy police chief said after the morning clash.

Some of the protesters were armed with cleavers and machetes, and at one point they set fire to a health clinic that demonstrators said refused to treat the injured.

One of the people who was shot, Ha Srey Oeun, 28, a garment worker, said she had not been taking part in the protests “because I’m four months pregnant and I was afraid I would be beaten up or struck.”

“I just went to buy some food for lunch,” Ms. Srey Oeun said. “I don’t know why I got shot. I was very far away from the protest group.”

Hospital officials said at least 23 people had been injured in the unrest.

Because of the violence, the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party withdrew on Friday from planned talks with the government that were aimed at trying to resolve the crisis. In pulling out of the talks, the group cited the violence against both the garment workers and monks taking part in the protests.

“We condemn the act of violence against the monks, against the workers who are demanding the minimum wage of $160,” Yim Sovann, an incoming opposition lawmaker,told The Phnom Penh Post. The garment workers currently receive a monthly minimum of $80.

Friday’s violence was an outgrowth of protests that began Thursday night, and police officers began moving in after midnight, only to be repelled by the demonstrators. The violent turn in the protests and the forceful police response have raised fears that the situation will spin out of control in the prelude to Sunday’s planned demonstration.

The capital has been rattled by labor unrest in recent days, with labor leaders calling a national strike last week because of anger over the government’s latest minimum-wage proposal. The garment industry is Cambodia’s largest source of export earnings, and the labor movement to increase wages in the sector is closely aligned with the political opposition to Mr. Hun Sen’s government, providing a deep well of support for the demonstrations.

A version of this article appears in print on January 4, 2014, on page A4 of the New York edition with the headline: Workers Face Police Gunfire Amid Unrest In Cambodia.

In Cambodia, Pressure Mounts on a Longtime Leader


PHNOM PENH — Cambodian garment factory workers Then Any and Vong Pov aren’t showing up for work anymore. They make pairs of jeans sold in American stores at prices per pair higher than their $80 monthly income and struggle to make ends meet.

It sounds like an all-too familiar story of labor disputes in one of Asia’s poorest countries, but this time it’s different. Their strike has taken on a new significance and is presenting a rare challenge to one of the world’s longest-serving leaders, Prime Minister Hun Sen.

The pair are just 18 and have only basic education, but are among 350,000 new and powerful allies of a political opposition seeking a re-run of a July election they say was stolen from them by the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP).

Huddled behind barbed wired fences and stared down by riot police outside Hun Sen’s offices are hundreds of factory workers demanding a doubling of wages and threatening to shut down roads and cripple an industry worth $5 billion a year.

“I can’t feed myself,” said Then Any, as workers hurled water bottles towards police lines.

Vong Pov added: “Factories must give us a raise, otherwise, we will strike continuously.”

Instrumental in courting support of disgruntled workers who make clothes and footwear for brands like Adidas, Gap and Nike is Sam Rainsy, whose once-impotent party reinvented itself this year to tap resentment and present Hun Sen with an unprecedented electoral challenge.

Rainsy has led the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), its supporters and now garment workers on rallies and marches of tens of thousands of people in the past two weeks, demanding Hun Sen agree to a new election after he rejected calls for an independent probe into results of the July poll.

Protests of this scale are rarely seen in Cambodia, where despite his authoritarianism, the self-styled “strongman” has steered the country from a failed state to an unprecedented spell of stability and growth after civil war and the horrors of the 1970s Khmer Rouge “killing fields” reign of terror.

“This is about the incapability of the ruling CPP, the people want them out,” top CNRP member Yim Sovann told Reuters.

“We have no other options other than to demand for the election reforms and another election.”


The CPP won 68 seats in the July election to the CNRP’s 55, according to the National Election Committee, but CNRP says that body is one of many under CPP’s influence and maintains it was cheated out of 2.3 million votes.

Hun Sen, 61, has been in power for 28 years and has vowed to rule Cambodia into his seventies. He appeared to have rode through protests that fizzled out a few months ago, but the opposition has returned to the streets with reinforcements from unions representing nearly 500 factories.

The government recently agreed to increase the monthly minimum wage for garment workers from $80 a month to $95, but CNRP says it would push that to $160 if it wins an election.

The protests have put the government in a tight squeeze and many Cambodians worry security forces with a reputation for zero tolerance will crack down harshly.

CPP lawmaker Cheam Yeap said pay rises should be incremental and workers were unaware of the damage they could cause.

“They’re strangling themselves,” he said. “When investors close factories, we can’t find hundreds of thousands of jobs for the people. Businesses are worried. They might say ‘bye bye’.”

The Labour Ministry on Monday threatened six unions with lawsuits and ordered factories to reopen and workers to return by January 2, vowing “serious measures” against non-compliance.

Ou Virak, a political analyst and human rights advocate, said the situation was precarious and the government’s strategy was not to cave in, but to cling on and hope protesting workers run out of money.

“The ruling party is nervous,” he said. “Will they respond with more concessions? Or with crackdowns to guarantee their continued rule?”

“This is untested territory for the ruling CPP. They know how to fight wars and battles, but not when people are taking to the street in such masses.”

(Writing by Martin Petty; Editing by Nick Macfie)

Cambodia Ranked Most Corrupt Country in the Region


Cambodia Ranked Most Corrupt Country in the Region

VOA Khmer, Khoun Theara

04 December 2013

Cambodia is now ranked as being perceived by investors as Southeast Asia’s most corrupt country, surpassing Laos and Burma on Transparency International’s annual corruption index.

Cambodia ranked 160 of 175 countries in the report, with its index score a mere 20 out of 100. That’s two points lower than last year, marking the first year Cambodia has fared worse than its regional neighbors on the index.

The index is derived from surveys of perceived corruption by investors and others in the private sector concerning the public sector and is undertaken each year by a partnership of seven international institutions, including the World Bank and the World Economic Forum.

“The government should not consider this as a critique, but as a mirror for improvement,” Ok Serei Sopheak, board director for Transparency International Cambodia, told VOA Khmer Tuesday.

The least-corrupt countries worldwide were Denmark, New Zealand and Finland. In the region, Singapore was ranked fifth, Brunei 38th and Malaysia 53rd overall.

Cambodia’s ranking comes despite the passage of an anti-corruption law and a specialized unit to tackle the problem.

“The government needs to enforce the anti-corruption law without exception,” said Preab Kol, executive director of Transparency International Cambodia. “It needs to enhance its auditive and investigating systems to increase accountability. Third, raise awareness in the public to put pressure on and report crimes of corruption. If there is just political rhetoric and threats without any concrete measures, there is no hope for any improvement.”

This year’s lower ranking for Cambodia could be a result of the country’s post-election political crisis, which worries investors and erodes their trust, Preab Kol said.

Neither Om Yentieng, head of the government’s Anti-Corruption Unit, nor Phay Siphan, government spokesman, could be reached for comment Tuesday.

Cambodia consistently scores poorly on the annual global index. And the corruption problem is not lost on its international donors.

Christine Lagarde, head of the International Monetary Fund, who visited Cambodia this week, told a group of students at a local university that Cambodia needs stronger institutions and governance. “It needs a better business climate, based on impartiality and predictability,” she said.

Preab Kol said a decrease in foreign investment in the country could occur if the corruption issue is not addressed.


Phnom Penh to Add 5 Districts


Capital will add up to five districts

2013-11-17 23:22

In the midst of rapid urban population growth, Phnom Penh City Hall has applied to create as many as five new districts in the capital, a spokesman said yesterday.

“We plan to split some districts,” City Hall spokesman Long Dimanche told the Post, adding that the geographical boundaries of the city itself weren’t expanding. “We will do it before the May 2014 [council] elections.”

The plan, designed to improve governance and service delivery, had already been submitted in proposal form to government ministries, Dimanche said.

“We want people close to the public services that the authorities provide. If districts are large, they can’t serve the needs of the people. So we have to separate districts to better meet their needs,” he said.

“I do not know whether there will be three or five, but I have heard it is three.”

Sak Setha, secretary of state at the Ministry of Interior, said the government was reviewing City Hall’s submission, which would affect Meanchey, Russey Keo, Sen Sok, Por Sen Chey and Chamkarmon districts.

“We’re studying the possibility of creating three or four districts,” he said.

When asked whether the creation of new districts could result in the ruling Cambodian People’s Party strengthening its position before May’s election for district and provincial-city council members, Setha said it was possible but unlikely.

In a population survey released by the Ministry of Planning in August – halfway between the 2008 and 2018 censuses – it was revealed that 21.4 per cent of Cambodia’s population lives in cities.

That was an increase on the 19.4 per cent recorded in the 2008 census, when Cambodia’s overall population was some 10 per cent smaller.

In July, the Post reported that the allocation of National Assembly seats has not changed since before 1998, despite ballooning urbanisation. NGOs said this effectively lowered the worth of a vote in opposition strongholds such as Phnom Penh.

In 1998, the percentage of people living in urban areas was 15.7. The consensus conducted before that – way back in 1962 – found 10.3 per cent of the population living in cities.

Kem Ley, a social researcher and political analyst, said creating new districts was “not the right direction” for the government to take.

Instead, the government needed to be directly addressing issues that urban population growth gave rise to, such as traffic congestion, overcrowding and an unequal spread of infrastructure.

“If we learn from other countries … we should not just create new districts for people to occupy high positions,” he said.

Ley said the government should consider subsidising factories or institutions such as universities to relocate to the outskirts of Phnom Penh or, in some cases, provincial areas.

“This is in order to release the people and stop the traffic jams,” he said. “In [the future], there will be many more cars, people – if the government does not design a better plan, it will bring more stress to drivers.”

San Chey, founder of the NGO Affiliated Network for Social Accountability in East Asia and the Pacific (ANSA), said dividing up districts would be an expensive undertaking and it was time for the government at district and commune levels to be transparent about their budgets.

“If district officials are closer to people, but public services are still the same, it’s not good to be creating more districts,” he said. “We have seen the government order local authorities to post public [spending], but they don’t follow orders.”

In 2010, more than 20 communes were cut from Kandal province and incorporated into four Phnom Penh districts: Dangkor, Russey Keo, Meanchey and Sen Sok. Dangkor was later split in two, creating Por Sen Chey district.

District authorities said at the time that the creation of a new district was necessary because Dangkor was “too wide to govern”. Since the split, the Post has reported on a number of infrastructure issues that have been hampering villagers in Por Sen Chey district.