PHNOM PENH, August 12 -- While Cambodia welcomes an ongoing influx of Chinese tourists, investment and development, the world at large increasingly suspects that China is launching a military buildup in the country for stronger Chinese influence in Southeast Asia.
Dara Sakor, a new China-backed coastal resort in Koh Kong province, located some 400 kilometers southwest of Phnom Penh by road, covers almost 20 percent of the country's coastline. Having obtained a 99-year land lease from the Cambodian government, the Chinese developer was allowed to develop on 36,000 hectares of land in the province, raising questions about China's intentions in Cambodia. Washington has repeatedly shared its concerns about the matter with Cambodia's leadership. In November last year, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence wrote a letter to Prime Minister Hun Sen raising the issue of China's presence and the land concession in Koh Kong awarded to Union Group. U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Joseph Felter as well as U.S. Congressman Steve Chabot also expressed concerns about the Chinese presence in Cambodia. But both the Cambodian government and the Chinese company denied the allegations and claim there is no hidden agenda behind the massive project. Wang Chao, vice president of Union Group, said the $3.8 billion project is part of the "One Belt and One Road Initiative" of Chinese President Xi Jinping and purely for commercial and tourism purposes. He said Union Group found the area to be ideal as it is close to a national park, standing on a coastline with a beautiful beach and suitable for a deep-water seaport.
Kyodo News reporters recently traveled to the site, where they witnessed extensive construction under way, with an 18-hole golf course, a hotel, and one casino already completed. Dara Sakor International Airport, which has a 3-kilometer tarmac, is set to open in October next year. Once completed, it will be the largest airport in Cambodia, capable of handling Boeing 747s and Airbus A380s. According to Cambodia's tourism statistics, 2 million out of 6.2 million foreign tourists who visited Cambodia in 2018 were Chinese. Tourism Minister Thong Khon said Cambodia expects to receive 3 million Chinese tourists next year, 5 million a year by 2025 and 8 million a year by 2030.
The United States fears that China's presence will ultimately increase its capacity to enforce territorial claims and economic interests in the South China Sea, where it is engaged in a territorial dispute. The dispute involves China and four members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations -- Brunei, Malaysia, Philippines and Vietnam. Vietnam, Cambodia's neighbor in the east, has been strongly critical of China's behavior in pressing its claims in the South China Sea. For about a year now, Chinese have been seen moving further to several parts of Cambodia including those along the country's border with Vietnam to pursue business opportunities, particularly where gambling is allowed. Citing unnamed U.S. officials, the Wall Street Journal reported last month that China has signed a secret agreement with Cambodia that would allow Beijing to use Ream naval base, strategically located in southern coastal Cambodia. According to the Journal, an early draft of the deal, seen by U.S. officials, would allow China to use the base for 30 years, with automatic renewals every 10 years after that. China would be able to post military personnel, store weapons and berth warships, according to the draft. Ream naval base is located not far from the new airport, images of which show what appear to be preparations for runway turns needed for quick takeoffs and landings by military aircraft, the Journal said. Wang of Union Group denied allegations that the Dara Sakor project is connected with Beijing establishing a military presence. "The project is purely for commercial and tourism. I can assure you that it's not at all built for any military purpose. It's an open place and we welcome those who want to visit the site for clarification," he said. Phay Siphan, chief spokesman of the Cambodian government, also denied the allegation. "Frankly, it is impossible for China to have such a military presence in Cambodia as it goes against the ASEAN principle and the country's Constitution," he said. "It's not smart for Cambodia to allow China to do so; thus Cambodia can't make it happen," he added.
PHNOM PENH, July 22 -- China will be able to place armed forces at a Cambodian naval base under a secret agreement the two nations have reached, The Wall Street Journal reported on Sunday, although Cambodian officials denied such a deal had been struck.
The agreement, reached this spring but not made public, gives China exclusive access to part of Cambodia’s Ream Naval Base on the Gulf of Thailand, the Journal reported, citing US and allied officials familiar with the matter. Such an arrangement would give China an enhanced ability to assert contested territorial claims and economic interests in the South China Sea, challenging US allies in Southeast Asia. Chinese and Cambodian officials denied such an agreement existed.
Earlier this month, the US Defence Department suggested China may be attempting to gain a military foothold in Cambodia. China will be able to place armed forces at a Cambodian naval base under a secret agreement the two nations have reached, The Wall Street Journal reported on Sunday, although Cambodian officials denied such a deal had been struck. The agreement, reached this spring but not made public, gives China exclusive access to part of Cambodia’s Ream Naval Base on the Gulf of Thailand, the Journal reported, citing US and allied officials familiar with the matter. Such an arrangement would give China an enhanced ability to assert contested territorial claims and economic interests in the South China Sea, challenging US allies in Southeast Asia. Chinese and Cambodian officials denied such an agreement existed, according to the Journal.
“This is the worst ever made up news against Cambodia,” Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen told the pro-government news site Fresh News on Monday. “No such thing could happen because hosting foreign military bases is against the Cambodian constitution.”
SIHANOUKVILLE, July 13 -- An ongoing massive influx of Chinese into Cambodia's coastal city of Sihanoukville is generating mixed reactions among local residents.
The Chinese began flocking to Sihanoukville about three years ago and their population is now estimated at the same number as Cambodian residents, or around 80,000, according to Mayor Y Sokleng. But other municipal officials suggested the number of Chinese is actually two or three times higher, with the city having been transformed from a sleepy beachtown into a bustling city complete with traffic jams. Sihanoukville, the capital of Sihanoukville Province, is located at the tip of an elevated peninsula in the country's southwest on the Gulf of Thailand. It is about 230 kilometers southwest of the capital Phnom Penh. Chuon Narin, the provincial police chief, said that almost 90 percent of business operations in the city, ranging from hotels, casinos, restaurants to massage parlors, are run by Chinese. Among the 71 casinos, 48 of them are operated by Chinese, and some 90 percent of 436 restaurants in the province are managed by Chinese nationals, he added. Currently, there are nearly 200 hotels and guesthouses in the province, of which 150 are run by Chinese. They also run 41 karaoke clubs and 46 massage parlors, the police chief added. These days, many Cambodians who travel to Sihanoukville wonder whether Sihanoukville can retain its traditional charm amid the sea of Chinese signboards seen everywhere in the city.
Sim Vireak, strategic adviser of the Asian Vision Institute based in Phnom Penh, shared his view that the lack of Cambodian-ness is clearly evident in Sihanoukville. The signboards are mostly in red, with some feature misspelled Khmer characters that shop-owners seemingly took directly from Google Translate, he said. Sok Samnang, 49, a government civil servant who lives in Phnom Penh, said he could not believe his eyes when he went to Sihanoukville with his family recently. "I could see Chinese nationals everywhere. They are walking in the streets and are in restaurants as well as construction sites, making this city, the roads and beaches unclean," he said. The local authorities are not denying the fact that due to the rapid influx of foreign arrivals and investments, especially Chinese, they are facing a lot of challenges including water and electricity shortages. The collapse of a Chinese-owned building under construction in Sihanoukville last month that claimed 28 lives had led to calls for the Cambodian government to look into rumors of shoddy and illegal construction.
Following the tragedy, former Sihanoukville Provincial Gov. Yun Min resigned, with his successor, Kuoch Chamroeun, vowing to improve sanitation and keep the environment clean in Sihanoukville. There are nearly 200 projects under construction in the city, mainly built by Chinese. In relation to security and social order, traffic police are reportedly tending to stop more Chinese nationals than Cambodians who break traffic laws in the town these days. In the meantime, more than 400 Chinese nationals, so far, have been arrested in the city and deported to China, mostly for involvement in online scams. While sentiments against the Chinese are divided, Nim Sothea, a social observer, said, "I'm not advocating for communism, but I think there's so much to learn from China. So much! And there's nothing wrong about being close to China." He pointed out the benefit of doing business "with whomever allows us to put food on the table." Vann Sokheng, president of the Sihanoukville Chamber of Commerce, said that in the past, Sihanoukville was a sleepy town, having just a dozen hotels, with a seven-story hotel on the beach being the highest structure. Now many are rising up to 30 stories or higher. He acknowledged some negative impacts on the local people resulting from the Chinese presence, saying some Cambodian families had to relocate outside of the city or to other provinces because of the cost of living. The land price, for instance, at his current office has risen from $50 to $3,000 per square meter in just a few years' time while leases for office space have skyrocketed. However, he also pointed out that some Cambodians regard those living in Sihanoukville are being the luckiest in the country due to having more chance of becoming rich overnight for just selling their land or leasing it to Chinese. "Many local residents are lucky enough to have $1 million, a few million or even tens of millions," he said.
While ordinary Cambodians appear to believe that the rising luxury hotels are being built for Chinese tourists, the national government is viewing the town as a model of fast development. It plans to welcome leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations there in 2022. Sim Vireak said that the development of Sihanoukville should not become an example of failure, but to ensure the Cambodian-ness and inclusiveness of development. "To that end, the responsibility falls heavily on the Cambodian side in terms of law enforcement and concrete implementation of national development policies," he added.
Author: Pete McGee
PHNOM PENH, July 8 -- Cambodia's rice exports to the European Union fell sharply in the first half of the year following the imposition of tariffs, official data showed on Monday, but the loss was offset by increased sales to China.
The EU in January imposed tariffs for three years on rice from Cambodia and Myanmar, aiming to protect EU producers such as Italy following a surge in imports from the two Asian countries. For the first six months, rice exports to the EU fell 32% from the same period last year to 93,503 tonnes, according to data from the Secretariat of One Window Service for Rice Export Formality, a joint private-government working group. However, rice exports to China rose 66% over the same period to 118,401 tonnes, while total rice exports rose 3.7% to 281,538 tonnes, with Australia emerging as a new market.
Kann Kunthy, vice president, of Amru Rice (Cambodia) Co Ltd, which exports the grain to foreign countries, said that the EU tariffs meant Cambodian long grain white rice was no longer competitive.
"Exports to the EU have declined after the safeguard measure so China and other new markets, especially Australia, are picking up," Kunthy told Reuters. "Losing a market is never good, but the good thing is that we find other markets," he added. Kunthy said Amru had concluded a deal with an Australian rice importer and anticipated annual exports of about 20,000 tonnes. Sales to Australia reached 8,035 tonnes in the first half of this year. Under a trade programme known as Everything But Arms (EBA), all Cambodian exports to the EU are duty free except arms. The block accounts for more than a third of Cambodia's exports, including garments, footwear and bicycles.
However, in February the EU started an 18-month process that could lead to a suspension of Cambodia's EBA status over its record on human rights and democracy. In April, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said China will help Cambodia if the EU withdraws the EBA. China had also agreed to import 400,000 tonnes of Cambodian rice, according to Hun Sen's Facebook page.
Author: Pete McGee
PHNOM PENH, July 1 -- After years of protesting, two Cambodian farmers make their case this week in a Bangkok court against Thai sugar giant Mitr Phol, who they blame for the loss of their livelihoods.
The stakes are high for the farmers and the company. The villagers from Cambodia are trying to convince the court that their claim is worthy of being treated as a class action, a rare occurrence in Thai legal history. If they succeed, their claim could open the door to hundreds more plaintiffs who also say Mitr Phol ruined their lives. If they fail, they say it would probably be too expensive for them to continue their fight. For Mitr Phol, the cost of losing the case could climb into the millions of dollars, according to a non-governmental body fighting for the farmers. But Mitr Phol denies being responsible for their plight. “They took our land,” Hoy Mai, one of the two farmers, told The Peet Journal. “I lost everything. My children did not go to school and I had no farming land … I survive by the day,” said Mai, the anger showing on her face. The 56-year old woman was arrested in October 2009 after she and other farmers protested against their land being forcibly taken to make way for sugar production by Mitr Phol’s subsidiary Angkor Sugar.
Earlier that month, about 100 houses, including hers, were burned down. She was arrested along with a handful of other activists on what she claims were spurious charges. Being pregnant at the time, Mai endured what she describes as “horrible conditions” and gave birth while being held. “I delivered the baby in a hospital. As soon as I delivered I was sent back to prison with my baby,” she said in an interview in Cambodia’s capital Phnom Penh. “I was not even given a day to rest.” She and fellow farmer Smen Te, 62, have now traveled to neighboring Thailand to testify in front of a Bangkok court. In April last year, they lodged a complaint against Mitr Phol to represent 711 families in Oddar Meanchey province who had lost their land. The hearings scheduled until Friday will build the basis for a court decision that is expected in a few months. The ruling will determine whether the cases are similar enough to proceed with their class action suit.
The farmers stand against an industry giant
Mitr Phol says it is the world’s fifth-biggest sugar company and the largest such firm in Thailand. Last year, it recorded a revenue of 95 billion Thai baht ($3bn) and a profit of $30.5m. The two Cambodian villagers bringing the case to Bangkok are claiming damages totaling about four million Thai baht ($128,000). The land rights non-governmental organization supporting them in their fight, Equitable Cambodia, declined to give a figure for how much the 711 households that were affected by the land clearing could receive in compensation if the case was to be granted class-action status. But a representative for the NGO says it could run into the millions of dollars. After eight months in prison, Mai was released. Her husband returned from Thailand, where he and their children had worked as construction workers during her absence to make a living, she told The Peet Journal. Within a month, he was dead. Mai blames Mitr Phol for the loss of her husband: the hospital told her he had suffered a stroke due to high blood pressure. She said stress caused by the land dispute and an arrest warrant issued against him in connection to the case triggered this.
Mitr Phol rejects allegations
The company rejects all responsibility for the plight of the farmers. After the Thai court initially accepted the complaint - but said the two parties should attempt to settle the matter outside court - the company rejected negotiation attempts, according to human rights group Inclusive Development International. But Mitr Phol disagrees. “We've only got the temporary land concessions from the Cambodian government and never had any sugar operations there. After we investigated concession land and found it not suitable for cane planting, then we returned all the lands to the government and closed all the companies there,” said Krisda Monthienvichienchai, Vice Chairman of Mitr Phol Sugar Corporation’s Executive Committee, in an email to The Peet Journal. Eang Vuthy, director of Equitable Cambodia, said although the company did not possess the land anymore, the villagers have yet to see their land returned. “Mitr Phol has failed to respond to the claims by community members particularly after the land was deemed unfit for the purpose of growing sugar despite having been illegally taken from community members in 2008,” he told The Peet Journal in a message. “What is more, the land was returned not to the people but to the Royal Government of Cambodia in 2015.” But again, Mitr Phol’s Krisda said this was not his company’s responsibility. “We got the land from government so that’s why we had to return and got the approval from the government,” he said.
Author: Pete McGee
กรุงเทพฯ 25 มิถุนายน -- การให้บริการรถไฟใหม่ทุกวันระหว่างกรุงเทพฯและสถานีชายแดนบ้านคลองลูกในจังหวัดสระแก้วจะเริ่มขึ้นในวันที่ 1 กรกฎาคมการรถไฟแห่งประเทศไทยประกาศ
จะมีสี่เที่ยวต่อวันสองทิศทางในแต่ละทิศทางรักษาการผู้ว่าการรัฐ SRT วรวุฒิม Mala กล่าวเมื่อวันอังคาร รถไฟโดยสารธรรมดา No 275 จะออกจากกรุงเทพฯสำหรับอรัญประเทศและคลองลูกเวลา 5.55 น. และมาถึงที่สถานีชายแดนเวลา 11.17 น. รถไฟโดยสารธรรมดาหมายเลข 279 จะให้บริการในเส้นทางเดียวกันออกจากกรุงเทพฯเวลา 1.05 น. ถึงสถานีชายแดนเวลา 5.27 น. รถไฟโดยสารธรรมดาขาเข้าหมายเลข 280 จะออกจากสถานีคลองลูก (ตลาดโรงเกลือ) เวลา 6.58 น. มาถึงกรุงเทพเวลา 12.05 น. และรถไฟโดยสารธรรมดาหมายเลข 276 จะออกจากสถานีชายแดนเวลา 15.003 น. มาถึงกรุงเทพเวลา 7.40 น นายวรวุฒิกล่าวว่าก่อนหน้านี้ประเทศไทยและกัมพูชาได้ลงนามในข้อตกลงร่วมกันในการให้บริการรถไฟเชื่อมระหว่างสองประเทศ รฟท. ได้จัดให้มีรถไฟขับเคลื่อนดีเซลสี่ขบวนและเปิดสถานีชายแดนบ้านคลองลูกเมื่อวันที่ 22 เมษายนเขาคาดการณ์ว่าบริการใหม่นี้จะช่วยอำนวยความสะดวกในการเดินทางของนักท่องเที่ยวชาวไทยและชาวต่างชาติที่ต้องการข้ามชายแดน สำหรับการจองตั๋วขั้นสูงหรือข้อมูลเพิ่มเติมผู้เดินทางสามารถติดต่อบริการศุลกากร SRT ผ่านสายด่วน 1690 ได้ตลอดเวลาหรือเว็บไซต์ www.railway.co.th หรือ @ pr.railway หน้า Facebook ไม่มีใครรู้ว่ากัมพูชาจะเริ่มปฏิบัติการรถไฟเมื่อติดกับปอยเปต บริการรถไฟระหว่างสองประเทศสิ้นสุดลงเมื่อ 45 ปีก่อนท่ามกลางความขัดแย้งที่เกิดขึ้นจากสงครามกลางเมืองในกัมพูชา
The new daily train service between Bangkok and Ban Klong Luk border station in Sa Kaeo province will start running on July 1, the State Railway of Thailand announced. There will be four trips a day, two in each direction, acting SRT governor Worawut Mala said on Tuesday. Ordinary passenger train No 275 will depart Bangkok for Aranyaprathet and Klong Luk at 5.55am and arrive at the border station at 11.17am. Ordinary passenger train No 279 will operate on the same route, leaving Bangkok at 1.05pm, reaching the border station at 5.27pm. Inbound, ordinary passenger train No 280 will depart Klong Luk station (Rong Kluea market) at 6.58am, arriving in Bangkok at 12.05pm, and ordinary passenger train No 276 will depart the border station at 1.53pm, arriving in Bangkok at 7.40pm. Mr Worawut said Thailand and Cambodia earlier signed an agreement to jointly operate the train service linking the two countries. The SRT had provided four diesel-powered trains and opened the Ban Klong Luk border station on April 22. He predicted the new service would facilitate the travels of Thai and foreign tourists wanting to cross the border. For advanced ticket bookings or further information, traveller cancontact the SRT customs service via hotline 1690 around the clock or website, www.railway.co.th or @pr.railway Facebook page. It is not known when Cambodia will begin operating trains from adjoining Poi Pet. Train services between the two countries were terminated 45 years ago, amid conflict arising from the civil war in Cambodia.
PHNOM PENH, June 24 -- The Cambodian government has set up a committee to inspect the quality of all under-construction buildings in southwestern Cambodia’s Preah Sihanouk province after an unfinished building collapsed on June 22, leaving at least 25 people dead.
The committee is led by Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction Secretary of State Lao Tip Seiha and with members from the council of ministers, interior ministry, environment ministry, national police, tourism Ministry, and Preah Sihanouk provincial authorities, according to a decision signed by Prime Minister Samdech Techo Hun Sen late on Sunday. “The committee has duties to inspect technical standard, construction licenses, construction standard, safety standard, and quality of buildings at construction sites in Preah Sihanouk province,” the decision said. It also instructed the committee to evaluate the qualifications of construction companies and to update the already-constructed buildings.
The move came after a seven-story building, that was under-construction, in Sihanoukville city collapsed early on Saturday, killing at least 25 workers and injuring 24 others. All of the victims were Cambodian workers, the provincial authorities said in a statement on Monday morning, adding that the rescue operation is still going on to search for more victims. “So far, about 75 percent of the debris at the site has been removed,” the statement said.
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.