BANGKOK, April 6 -- The Mekong River Commission (MRC) has raised concerns with Laos over the Pak Lay hydropower dam on the Mekong River.
While Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam have accepted a prior agreement on the proposed 770 megawatt hydropower project in Laos’ Xayaboury Province, they have jointly released the statement calling on the Lao government to make every effort to address and mitigate potential adverse cross-border impacts of the project. Somkiat Prajamwong, Office of the National Water Resources (ONWR) secretary-general and head of Thailand’s representatives to the MRC Joint Committee Special Session, said that after the conclusion on Pak Lay Dam’s prior consultation process, the three MRC members commented on the potential transboundary impacts to neighbouring countries from the construction and operation of the project. Somkiat said that Thailand and other two Mekong states asked Laos to prevent the possible adverse impacts of the dam to the river’s hydrology and ecosystems by ensuring that the dam will be properly designed.
“We requested Laos to pay attention on the potential socioeconomic and environmental transboundary impacts from the proposed dam to the Thai communities along Mekong River bank in eight North Eastern provinces,” he said. “We also would like to be assured that the dam is safe and there will be a comprehensive program for monitoring the impacts of the project during construction and operation stages and sharing of information on the river’s hydrology, water quality, and fisheries among the MRC members.”
The proposed site for the dam is about 100 kilometres upstream from the Thai border at Loei’s Chiang Khan District. Cambodia also said that further assessment on the transboundary environmental impacts and proper mitigation plans and measures are still needed to ensure that the people downstream will not be affected by the dam. However, Laos member Chanthanet Boualapa said that his country is committed to addressing negative impacts from the dam seriously and welcomed future engagement, joint monitoring and information sharing to improve the project.
BANGKOK, January 11 -- Exports of rice last year declined slightly, according to a report issued by the Secretariat of One Window Service for Rice Export Formality.
Cambodia exported 626,225 tonnes of rice to international markets in 2018, a drop of 1.5% compared to 2017, the Khmer Times reported. Local firms exported mainly three types of rice: fragrant rice (493,597 tonnes shipped, or 78.82% of total rice exports), long-grain white rice (105,990 tonnes, or 16.93%), and long-grain parboiled rice (26,638 tonnes, or 4.25%), it added. The largest market for Cambodian rice continues to be the European Union, which imported almost 270,000 tonnes, equivalent to 42.98% of total exports. By individual country, the largest buyer was China (170,000 tonnes), followed by France (90,000 tonnes), Malaysia (40,000 tonnes), Gabon (30,000 tonnes), and the Netherlands (26,000 tonnes).
Hun Lak, vice president of the Cambodia Rice Federation, said throughout the year exports were significantly lower than in 2017, but that a high volume of shipments in December helped close the gap. “We thought that the fall in rice exports would be bigger than 1.5% because this year we had only one harvest for our first-grade rice,” he said, noting, however, that total export value was unchanged compared to 2017 because fragrant rice fetched a high price in the international market. High-quality fragrant rice now sells for $885 per tonne, while the lower quality one fetches $750, according to Lak.
In 2018, producers complained of high production costs that limited their ability to purchase seeds. This, in turn, meant rice millers did not have enough rice to process and export.
“For 2019, the government has agreed to lower electricity costs which will be a good thing for the sector. This year we will also have more storage facilities. The big issue now remains transportation costs,” Lak said.
Players in the local rice sector are still awaiting the EU’s final say on whether it imposes tariffs on Cambodian rice. A final decision is due on Tuesday. Lak said the safeguard investigation into whether Cambodian rice imports affect European farmers was launched by Italy and Spain, who wanted to protect their own rice sectors. “The tariffs will make our rice in the European market very uncompetitive. “If these tariffs are approved, we will have to shift our focus from the EU market to other countries. We are trying to diversify into markets like China,” Lak said, adding that Cambodia needs to continue lowering production and transportation costs while improving the quality of its products.
Earlier this week, the Khmer Times reported that uncertainty in the tariff issue was causing the delay of rice shipments abroad, with overseas buyers reluctant to go ahead with exchanges. Chan Sokheang, chairman and chief executive officer of local rice exporter Signatures of Asia, said “Due to this uncertainty, buyers are delaying shipments. They are waiting for European Commission’s decision.
“If the EU activates the tariffs, many buyers will cancel their orders and our rice sector will be hurt.”
NAKHON PHANOM, December 31 -- Police on Monday were trying to identify the bodies of two men dumped into the Mekong River with concrete placed inside their ruptured bellies. The bodies washed up on a riverbank in this northeastern province.
Police suspected the victims were political activists. The two bodies were found in That Phanom and Muang districts handcuffed and with their ankles tied together. Their bellies had been ripped open and chunks of concrete stuffed inside them. The bodies had then been placed in sacks and dumped into the river. Local police collected samples from the bodies for examination at a forensic facility in Khon Kaen province. Sources said national police chief Chakthip Chaijinda ordered police handling the case to speed up the investigation in order to verify the belief that the victims were political activists.
According to sources, relatives of political activists in Bangkok contacted Nakhon Phanom police, requesting to see the bodies and provide information that might help identify them. Detectives were quoted as saying that the handcuffs found on the bodies were often used in Laos and Vietnam. Nakhon Phanom police commander Thanachart Rodkhlongtan said the men were murdered about a week ago, and their bodies may have been dumped into the Mekong River five days ago. Police would try to identify them from relatives' information and DNA tests, he said.
PHOMN PEHN, December 17 -- A lawyer representing a Khmer Rouge leader who was sentenced to life imprisonment last month is threatening to seek up to US$1 million in damages over his dismissal by the international tribunal that handed down the sentence.
Victor Koppe was dismissed last Thursday on the advice of Cambodia’s bar association, which said that the Dutch national had not been a member of the bar in the Netherlands for nearly three years and should not therefore be practising law in Cambodia. He nonetheless appeared in court on November 16 to witness the verdict against his client, 92-year-old Nuon Chea, for committing crimes against humanity including genocide. It is unclear what effect, if any, Koppe’s dismissal will have on the verdict, which is now at the appeals stage. Britta Boehler, Koppe’s lawyer, claims her client was given permission to appear by the tribunal’s defence section chief Isaac Endeley. In an email addressed to a number of tribunal officials and seen by the Post, Boehler describes Koppe’s dismissal as illegal because Cambodia’s bar association only requires foreign lawyers to be a member of the bar in their home country at the point of registration, not on a continuing basis. She further accused tribunal spokesman Neth Pheaktra of distributing misinformation about the case before suggesting an amount that would be sought in compensation for damages including “punitive damages”. “Mr Koppe reserves the right to seek monetary compensation for all damages incurred or to incur in the future,” she said in the email. “Presently, I estimate the compensatory damages to amount to US $1 million.”
Pheaktra, who has dismissed any accusation of wrongdoing, said Koppe’s dismissal was in line with the tribunals “internal rules”. Suon Visal, head of the Cambodian bar association, said Koppe had not been “honest with [the] legal profession as required” in his failure to notify it about his lack of registration in the Netherlands. Visal went on to criticise Endeley, the defence section chief, for not checking the foreign lawyer’s qualifications and allowing Koppe to represent his client despite knowing that he was disbarred. Endeley did immediately respond to requests for comment. The United Nations-backed Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia has spent nine years and more than US$300 million prosecuting the leaders of the country’s Khmer Rouge. Between 1975 and 1979, at least 1.7 million Cambodians – a fifth of the country’s population – lost their lives under the regime. As well as Chea, the tribunal has convicted 87-year-old Khieu Samphan for crimes against humanity and Kaing Guek Eav, former head of the Khmer Rouge prison system.
PHNOM PENH, November 16 -- Cambodia's Khmer Rouge regime committed "genocide" during its reign of terror from 1975 to 1979, a UN-backed war crimes court said on Friday in an historic ruling.
"Brother Number Two" Nuon Chea, 92, and Khieu Samphan, 87, are the last surviving senior leaders of the communist group that brutally ruled the Southeast Asian nation. The tribunal judging their criminal responsibility for the deaths of an estimated 1.7 million Cambodians also found them guilty of committing crimes against humanity and other breaches of the Geneva Conventions.
"The chamber ... finds that the crimes of genocide... were committed" against ethnic Vietnamese and Cham Muslims, presiding judge Nil Nonn said - the first time the court has issued such a ruling. The large crowd of spectators attending the session included members of the Cham, a Muslim ethnic minority.
The leaders are already serving life sentences after being convicted in a previous 2011 to 2014 trial of crimes against humanity connected with forced transfers and disappearances of masses of people.
The Khmer Rouge sought to achieve an agrarian utopia by emptying the cities to establish vast rural communes. Instead their radical policies led to what has been termed "auto-genocide" through starvation, overwork and execution.
Lah Sath, a 72-year-old Cham man from eastern Kampong Cham province, brought his wife and four young granddaughters to the session. He said he often heard people talking about the trial and sometimes watched it on TV, but decided it was time to see it with his own eyes. Just talking about the Khmer Rouge brought back horrible memories of life under their rule, he said. The Cham were treated as enemies and exploited without mercy as they were forced to do intensive farm labour, he recalled.
Lah Sath said his younger brother was killed by the Khmer Rouge for failing to take good care of a cow.
The tribunal has carried out just one other prosecution resulting in the 2010 conviction of Kaing Guek Eav, known as Duch, who as head of the Khmer Rouge prison system ran the infamous Tuol Sleng torture centre in the capital, Phnom Penh. Prime Minister Hun Sen has declared he will allow no further case to go forward, claiming they would cause instability.