The Sihanokville symbol

Tao Pi Sihanoukville July 2014 by Leito Rango

The Tao Pi Monument in July 2014. Photo by Chan Bora.

Aspect of the renovated Tao Pi Monument in Sihanoukville (Two Lions Square.) The public administration includes new lights around the roundabout, redesigned the gardens – well… practically removed the gardens and put tiles – and gave more visibility to this monument that represents Sihanoukville. They mean the Royal Family of King Norodom Sihanoukville, the founder of the city that was the first big urban project to open the doors of Cambodia for international trade after the French colony. The construction of the only international sea port of the Kingdom began in 1955 in a jungled area that today is the 4th Cambodian city after Phnom Penh, Battambang and Siem Reap. King Norodom Sihanouk passed away on October 15, 2012 in Beijing. This month Cambodia marks the second anniversary of the Father of the Nation that has his perpetual memory in this port city.

Phnom Penh’s AEON Mall for a dreamer city

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Aeon Mall at the river side on July 9, 2014. Photo A. Rodas.

I visited AEON Mall today in Phnom Penh. Fortunately there was not too much rain in the city, so it was possible to move in my favorite urban transport: tuk-tuk (still I have to check the urban bus.) Entering the 205 million dollars mall, I remembered October 1999 when I arrived for the first time to Phnom Penh from Bangkok and then I could made a lot comparisons between two of the Southeast Asian capitals. Phnom Penh was a dusty town full of  thieves, beggars, electricity service was limited, Internet was dominated by a single poor service company, unpaved roads, odors from a nonexistent sewage system… Then, before this huge mall between Diamond Island (Koh Pich) and Sothearos Boulevard, one friend pointed to it and said “A big mall for a poor country.” In fact it is, but I don’t share the same intention of the announcement. It is similar to the comment of one visitor to my social communication section: “But these boys don’t see coming from poverty… they have laptops!” Sure, they have, because I have been promoting that they give value to education even in the middle of their poverty to be able to break their poverty circle.  Continue reading

When water can not pass

One of the best tests for Phnom Penh and its development comes during the raining season. It is then when we discover what is not too good like flooding in different streets, many times becoming authentic rivers more than 4 meters high. Here 147 Street. You can send your own report on floodings to Urban Voices Cambodia. Photo Courtesy.

Countries with the Harshest Drug Laws in the World

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In Cambodia, you can be sentenced to many years in prison or even life in prison for possessing drugs. Unlike many other South Asian countries, Cambodia does not mandate the death penalty for drug trafficking.

In countries like Dubai, just bringing in certain prescription medication  can result in you being put in prison. In many countries, drug laws are still taken incredibly seriously and many will still sentence you to death for trafficking or dealing in them. In fact, Cambodia is one of the only South Asian countries which doesn’t execute for drug offences.

If you want to read more about the drug laws in Asian, South American and Middle Eastern countries, this guide describes which ones  still use the death penalty and which ones will hand out a lengthy prison sentence.

By Claire Harding.

Gold miner died in Battambang

Photo Courtesy Dap News.

Chea Somieng, 29, died in Battambang. Photo Courtesy Dap News.

Battambang. A miner, Chea Somieng, 29, died when the land he was digging with other 3, sank, falling several meters inside of what could be an old well in Chumka Srav Village, Barang Chalak Commune, Phnom Prik District, Battambang Province, near the border with Thailand. Somieng went to look for gold with other three miners at the yard of the house of Mr. Phiek Ieth last Saturday afternoon. According to the report of Sok Sothoat, chief of the Distrital police, the incident happened at 4:30 PM. His companions tried to take him out, but the humidity of the land made the process slow and they could recover only the body of Somieng at 11 PM. Mining is normally an unregulated activity in Cambodia performed without security measures.

Read more in Dap News.

It’s not crack down on migrant workers, said Thai Junta

It seems that the Thai Junta is sensitive to the Media. Instead to lead a systematic persecution and censorship as any classical military dictatorship we use to know, they call on to “instruct” journalists what to say and how and to promote an image of a deep pacification of the Thai society. This attitude has broken already the borders this Friday during a press conference in Sa Keo Province, when they invited more than 100 Cambodian journalists for an “enhancing social understanding.” In the conference the Sa Keo’s governor Phakarathorn Tianchai explained that it was not a crack down on Cambodian migrants, but an administrative reform to live in peace and to work on the improve of migrant’s working conditions.  Probably true and we hope. However, it is necessary to remember that the Junta began to change its attitude toward the deportation operative when several human rights organizations and the same Cambodian government denounced such operation as “inhumane and degrading treatment” of workers. Another fact that cannot be ignored is that the deport operation was done without any warning to Cambodia that had to attend the arrival of more than 250 thousand persons especially at the Poipet border. Human rights organizations, media and Cambodian government should remain vigilant in this situation. The answer is not of a lobby but of practical good actions to ensure the protection of human rights to Cambodian workers.

CNN enlists 7 best Cambodian islands

CNN’s reporter Linda Goldberg enlists what she thinks the 7 best Cambodian islands. “They’re still massively undeveloped compared to their Thai neighbors, but Cambodia’s islands are starting to get the attention they deserve,” she writes. The seven islands are Koh Rong, Koh Rong Sanloem, Song Saa, Koh Ta Kiev, Koh Tang and Kog Totang. Each island is described with a recommendation such as an island for partying (Koh Rong) or for luxury (Son Sa). The Cambodian coast from Thailand to Vietnam is of 400 kilometers and the Cambodian sea is formed by a prolific archipelago of islands and islets that remain in a very natural condition. The growing Cambodian tourist industry is already looking to them as a next setting to attract more visitors, something that could be good for the national economy, but endangers a fragile ecosystem and the life of islander families, rarely included in development plans. I normally complain of the lack of faculties in Cambodia such as archeology or marine biology. A growing city such as Sihanoukville should have a public university specializing young people in subjects like the protection of the marine ecosystem. You find the coast full of smart developers measuring islands, beaches and towns to build resorts and casinos, but there is nothing about big projects for the ecosystem protection and promotion.

Australian contribution to Cambodia: more poors!

What if you are an Iranian man with a family that thinks that migration is the only way to open opportunities to your children and chooses a country like Australia. After so many hardships on the way, mostly by sea since 91% of illegal migrants to that country enter by boats, you are detained and scheduled to be relocated in… Cambodia. Probably you will think all efforts to change your social situation has been in vain. It would not be difficult to guess that Australia is sending you to one of the poorest countries of Asia. Just this month the Thai Military Junta deported 200 thousand illegal Cambodian workers, a very expensive and arguably decision. But the fact is that near half million Cambodians are working in Thailand because they don’t think they can improve their standard of life in their own country. How is it possible that a country like Australia “donates” more poors to a poor country?

It must come from a very wrong mentality. Probably a certain xenophobia, racism and lack of humanism. How is it possible that a country made by migrants reaches so extreme policies such as dump poor people to a poor country? The evil is both sided: uncertainty for the migrants and more social problems for a society like Cambodia that is struggling to defeat poverty.

CNN International, Angkor Wat is in Cambodia… Oups!

CNN International

The joke of this weekend: CNN International wrote in its Facebook pageThailand’s Angkor Wat is only no. 6 – so what’s the world’s top landmark?” – Oups! The statement attracted the Royal Ministry of Tourism that learned them that Angkor Wat is in Cambodia:

Professional Media must pay attention. Sometime your word could kill thousands of people or the peace. CNN must know about this. In this case CNN should train staffs or recruit professional staffs to handle this work. We strongly hope CNN won create this mistake again (Cambodia Tourism Mag Ctm)

Appeal for humanitarian aid in Poipet migrants

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Cambodian migrant workers deported by the Thair Military Junta in Poipet. Photo Seun 06.18.2014

Caritas Cambodia is leading a campaign to attend the humanitarian crisis caused by the Thai Military Junta with the deportation of thousands of Cambodian workers, legal and illegal. So far, last June 14 Saturday, there were 100,000 migrant workers deported; last June 15 Sunday, 27,000 more crossed the border. It is expected that there will be 25,000-30,000 deportees per day just in Poipet border alone. Continue reading

Somaly Mam, a big pot of milk scam

The last reports on the two stories of Somaly Mam – the fake and the real – is only a tip of the iceberg and it is a big tip. She attracted international attention for the organization that has her own name as an activist against sex and human trafficking, specialized in the rescue and support of girls and young women, who are victims of sexual slavery. In this article by Simon Marks of Newsweekly, the journalist that uncovered her fraud, it is said that she got a long list of prominent international admirers that include former US secretary of state Hillary Clinton, actresses like Meg Ryan, Susan Sarandon and Shay Mitchell, New York Times Pulitzer-winning columnist Nicholas Kristof, Queen Sofia of Spain, former Facebook adviser Brandee Barker and Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg. Such public attention gave so much financial capacity that her “refugee center” known in French as Agir Pour Les Femmes en Situation Précaire, AFESIP (in English would be “Acting for Women in Precarious Situation”) became international, opening offices in Laos, Thailand, Vietnam, France and Switzerland.  Continue reading

ABA Bank opens in Kampot

ABA Bank Kampot Branch May 2014Our promising city of Kampot opens today the branch of a new bank in town: ABA (Advance Bank of Asia Ltd), a joint Cambodia – South Korea enterprise that started in 1996 and today is growing as an option to provide commercial banking services. Other banks in Kampot Province include Canadia, Acleda, Amret and Cambodian Public Bank. ABA offers services such as deposit account, credit, trade finance, money transfer and cash management. It has also an ATM in its own offices, located just in Kampot downtown, near the Main Traffic Circle. ABA has 20 branches, mostly located in Phnom Penh. Provinces include Siem Reap, Sihanoukville, Battambang, Kampong Cham, Kampong Speu, Kampong Thom, Pursat, Chbar Ampov, Chom Chao, Takhmao, Takeo, Kampot and Kampong Chnang. It has more than 60 ATMs and 325 million in deposit portfolio. The deposit and customer base extends to 40,000 accounts with 4,000 borrowers.  

Foreigners in Thailand

If you are traveling to Thailand in this moment or you are there, it is appropriate to take some security measures. Keep contact with your embassy. Traditionally, Thai political turbulences keep distance from the tourist industry, but be aware of incidents. Here some recommendations:

- Keep your passport and all travel documents with you all the time. Provide it to any authority if they request to see them.

- If you are travelling in group, please stay all the time in connection with your agency and the tour leaders, especially passing any security checkpoint.

- You have to know that the taxi services at the Suvarnabhumi Airport are available 24 hours. The taxis have a sticker displayed on the front windscreen as Suvarnabhumi Taxis. Please use them, because officials will allow access for those vehicles only.

- If you need any other information or assistance, contact the Survarnabhum Airport Call Center (number phone: 1722).

- Keep with you the number phone of your embassy or consulate and follow news.

- The press has been restricted (censorship). Please don’t take photos or videos of sensitive areas. Stay aways from political gatherings of security checkpoints.

- The army announced a countrywide curfew from 10PM to 5AM. Please follow instructions by the authorities.

Other interesting links:

Planning a travel to Cambodia

The boy and the ox in Siem ReapI am not a tourist agency and for this reason I have the duty to give some advices to those who want to plan a trip to Cambodia. Although this country seems small in the map, actually it’s not too small and it has more things than what you can imagine. Actually the official slogan “Kingdom of Wonder” is rather exact. Let us see some advices for your travel to our dear country. Continue reading

The World Bank Report

You can get the World Bank report in this link. It is an extensive and very accurate research on East Asia. There are some facts about Cambodia we need to follow such as the lack of skilful workforce that would make the Cambodian economy vulnerable. But there are other facts to point out as well. Here I make a list of those facts described by the report in regard to Cambodia.

  1. Cambodia remains with a significant problem in malnutrition of children together with Papua New Guinea and Timor-Leste.
  2. We are among the faster labor productivity growings in the planet.
  3. Most Cambodians continue to work in the informal sector (primary sector) and not in wage and salaried employment. It is also because Cambodia continues to be a rather agricultural society.
  4. Cambodia rank poorly with regard to friendly investment climate (place 137 in the world.)
  5. In Cambodia training program relied more in centralized planning and government supply than by market demand.
  6. Cambodia is near the worst performance Micronesia limit in “ease of doing business” rank in East Asia.
  7. Cambodia is considered an agrarian society with near 80% of its population living in rural areas. It means we need to raise the productivity of agriculture in order to free labor and human capital to work in rural off-farms enterprises and eventually to migrate to town and cities.

Urban Voice Cambodia’s workshop

Urban Voice Cambodia invited me to give a speech on its workshop this Saturday at Eden Park in Phnom Penh. The workshop was to present the website to different people and to explain the role of urban voices on the development of a city like Phnom Penh. The name of the activity was “The city speaks!” Continue reading

Cambodia since 1999, a video documentary

I share this video documentary by Teleantioquia about Cambodia. It is in Spanish, but you can understand most of the story. We are doubling it in Khmer and English… coming soon. A good resume of what is Cambodia, its history, Siem Reap, Phnom Penh, Kampot, Kep and Sihanoukville and how I see Cambodia since 1999.

Albeiro Rodas in Cambodia – Part 1, Teleantioquia, 2014.

Albeiro Rodas in Cambodia – Part 2, Teleantioquia, 2014.

Albeiro Rodas in Cambodia – Part 3, Teleantioquia, 2014.

Albeiro Rodas in Cambodia – Part 4, Teleantioquia, 2014.