Posts Tagged ‘Cambodia’
The National Election Committee (NEC) on Wednesday publicly released official election documents from eight polling stations in Battambang City, revealing that forms essential to calculating results had been left blank at two booths on polling day.
The Constitutional Council of Cambodia (CCC), which has ordered the release of sealed documents from Kratie and Battambang provinces, on Wednesday instructed the NEC to open “safety package A” from 12 polling stations in Siem Reap province in order to compare raw data with figures that gave the CPP a victory in preliminary election results.
That data though, represented on form 1102 as a total number of votes for each political party, was conspicuously absent from two of the eight packages from Battambang City.
“[It’s] a technical error. The Constitutional Council will have this heard before [a court of] law,” Uth Chhorn, spokesman for the Constitutional Council, said.
Koul Panha, director of the Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia, said that the blank forms raised serious questions, and condemned the Council for failing to release the total number of spoiled votes Wednesday.
“The question has to be asked: What records were used to give results from those two stations, because the 1102 is the document needed to record primary election results,” Mr. Panha said, adding that it was now impossible to verify results from the two booths.
Mr. Panha that the opposition CNRP had explicitly requested that the Council make available the number of spoiled and workable votes, but to no avail.
“I found it very strange that the CCC declined to announce those numbers,” he said. “They said they had no time, but from my observation, they only spent about one minute for each polling station at the announcement.”
Kuoy Bunroeun, a CNRP lawmaker candidate, said the blank documents rendered results from those booths illegitimate and called for the Constitutional Council to continue ordering the release of documents from the disputed July 28 election.
CPP lawmaker Chheang Vun on Friday said the door was open for opposition party president Sam Rainsy to become a lawmaker during the government’s fifth mandate, even though his parliamentary immunity has not yet been restored and he was not a candidate in last month’s national election.
Speaking to reporters at a press conference held at the National Assembly, Mr. Vun said Mr. Rainsy would be allowed to stand as a lawmaker after the next registration period for lawmakers opens in October and if another CNRP lawmaker agrees to resign in his place.
“Of course His Excellency [Sam Rainsy] can be a member of the National Assembly in the fifth mandate through the Law on the Election of Members of the National Assembly,” he said, referring to the recently amended Article 118 of the law.
Mr. Rainsy was not a candidate in the July 28 election because he was a convicted criminal at the time the party’s candidate list was submitted to the National Election Committee. But if one of the CNRP’s current elected National Assembly members resigns, along with all of its reserve candidates in a given constituency, Mr. Rainsy can take a seat in Parliament.
“After registration, his party’s candidates—both full candidates and reserve candidates—must all resign if they want His Excellency Sam Rainsy to appear on the candidate list,” Mr. Vun said.
Mr. Vun’s remarks came after senior CPP lawmaker and de facto party spokesman Cheam Yeap said last week that Mr. Rainsy had “no chance” of working as a lawmaker at the National Assembly in the fifth mandate.
Mr. Vun added that any decision to re-instate Mr. Rainsy as a lawmaker would not be a matter of compromise between the ruling CPP and CNRP, since there are already provisions in the law for such an eventuality.
Also Friday, Mr. Vun welcomed a decision made earlier in the day by the Constitutional Council of Cambodia to open sealed election documents showing the number of votes cast at each polling station. The CNRP has said the sealed documents must be consulted for a credible investigation into irregularities to go ahead.
Opposition leader Sam Rainsy on Friday visited vendors in Phnom Penh’s Olympic and Russian markets and appealed to voters disgruntled by preliminary election results awarding a victory to the CPP to join a planned opposition rally at Freedom Park on Monday.
As he toured both markets, Mr. Rainsy embraced his supporters as the animated crowds offered him gifts of flowers and jockeyed to take photographs and videos of the opposition leader.
Opposition party president Sam Rainsy visits shoppers and vendors at Phnom Penh’s Olympic Market on Friday in an attempt to generate support ahead of a large CNRP rally scheduled for Monday at Freedom Park. (Siv Channa)
“I am very happy and excited to meet with the vendors today because they have a special relationship with me—we are like siblings,” said Mr. Rainsy, who walked around the crowded markets unencumbered by any police or security guards.
Speaking to reporters at Russian Market, the second of the two markets he visited during the course of the morning, Mr. Rainsy reiterated his party’s stance that CNRP lawmakers will not sit in the National Assembly until a solution to the impasse over allegations of irregularities during the July 28 national election is reached.
“When we have justice for the people and earn their trust by not allowing [the CPP] to defraud voters and have an election victory that people accept—at that time we will join the meeting of the National Assembly,” he said.
Mr. Rainsy also told vendors that he hoped they would support his party’s attempts to bring transparency to the election by joining a rally at Freedom Park in Phnom Penh on Monday, though he continued to underline that the event should not be considered a demonstration against the election results, but rather an opportunity to inform supporters of the country’s current political situation.
“I hope that a lot of people will join in the gathering—but this is a rally, not a demonstration,” he said.
With the CNRP expecting at least 10,000 people to turn out for the rally, authorities have been engaged in a counter-campaign to discourage people from taking part, with a visible security buildup and ominous rhetoric seeking to frighten supporters and keep them from participating.
Authorities even circulated petitions at Phnom Penh markets asking people to support preliminary results showing a win for the CPP and promising not to join any demonstration called by the opposition.
Vendors, motorcycle taxi and cyclo drivers around O’Russei Market reported that market staff had gone around Monday intimidating people into giving their thumbprint, while NGOs said that several other communes around the city also complained of feeling pressured into endorsing similar petitions.
But on Friday, the vendors at Olympic and Russian markets expressed optimism that Mr. Rainsy and his party could help bring an end to the current political stalemate.
“I support Mr. Rainsy and he comes to the market to visit us,” said a 56-year-old market vendor, who gave her name only as Ms. Long for fear of reprisals.
“People believe that the Cambodia National Rescue Party had an election victory, but we don’t know why it was changed like this,” she added.
A 28-year-old pork vendor at Russian Market, who declined to give his name, said that he hoped Mr. Rainsy could become prime minister because he would bring more prosperity to his business.
“I think that he is a good leader for Cambodia and I hope that he will help our vendors to sell more and more goods,” he said.
CNRP officials met on Friday with Phnom Penh governor Pa Socheatvong to discuss final security arrangements for Monday’s rally, which is scheduled to begin at 4 p.m.
After the meeting Mr. Socheatvong said he had passed on the opposition party’s requests to the Interior Ministry with the stipulation that the rally finish by 6 p.m.
Interior Ministry spokesman Lieutenant General Khieu Sopheak said that he had received the request and had added some further rules ahead of the rally.
“We agree on three points: The gathering has to finish at 6 p.m., we will only allow 6,000 people to join and people from the provinces are not allowed to join in,” he said.
“We don’t allow them to march down the roads and the CNRP must have their own security guards to keep the gathering in place and cooperate with our forces outside,” Lt. Gen. Sopheak said, declining to say what measures would be taken if more than 6,000 people turn up to Monday’s rally.
CNRP lawmaker Mu Sochua said it would be difficult to moderate the number of people coming to the rally.
“If people come, people come. How do you stop them? All I know is there will be a lot of people,” she said.
Military police spokesman Brigadier General Kheng Tito said this week that any attempt to disturb security at the rally would not be tolerated and security forces were fully equipped to quash any violence.
Shortly after late Libyan leader Muammar el-Qaddafi was captured and killed by rebels in Libya in October 2011, Prime Minister Hun Sen said comparisons between himself and Muammar el-Qaddafi made by opposition leader Sam Rainsy were tantamount to threats of war.
“If they want to start a fight, Hun Sen is OK,” he said, stating that he was unafraid of any uprising from the opposition.
“If you want to make war, I would like to contribute a warehouse of weapons to you. But don’t use violence. You don’t have enough men to use those guns,” he said.
The opposition responded to Mr. Hun Sen by saying the prime minister was making a threat, though Mr. Hun Sen said he was merely offering “feedback” to an opposition party making threats of its own.
“If you compare me to a leader who lost an election, it is OK. If you compare me to a leader who was killed in battle again, it means you want to have a battle and I will take measures first,” Mr. Hun Sen said at the time.
Earlier the same year, Mr. Hun Sen said in a speech that uprisings against Tunisia’s Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali would not be repeated in Cambodia without severe consequences.
“I would like to tell you that if you want to have a strike as in Tunisia, I will close the door and beat the dog this time,” the prime minister said at the opening of a hospital facility in Kompong Cham province in January of that year.
Mr. Rainsy too has not been shy about raising the political situation in the Middle East, and Mr. Hun Sen’s comments in 2011 were triggered by Mr. Rainsy’s repeated suggestions of an uprising similar to the Arab Spring in Cambodia, and in particular his comment that Mr. Hun Sen “would meet the same fate” as Muammar el-Qaddafi.
Muammar el-Qaddafi was filmed as rebels captured and beat him before shooting him dead after a bloody civil war developed out of mass demonstrations that ousted his regime.
Upon his return to the country last month after nearly four years in exile, Mr. Rainsy commented that the 100,000-strong crowd that met him could be a sign of the beginning of an Arab Spring-type movement in the country.
But as the opposition prepares for a large rally in Phnom Penh’s Freedom Park on Monday to inform supporters about the current political deadlock, analysts and observers this week gave little sign that demonstrations over irregularities during the July 28 election could have any parallels to events in the Middle East.
Sok Touch, a political analyst at Khemarak University in Phnom Penh, said that any comparisons to demonstrations in the Middle East were overblown.
“Cambodia votes to elect its leaders, and this situation is not like a coup or a revolution…. Most Cambodians want the politicians to make concessions [over current disputes] for the good of the people,” he said.
Mr. Touch added that Cambodia did not have the same religious divisions as the Middle East.
“In the Arab world, they have two religious sects, and in Cambodia there is only one,” he said, referring to the split between Sunni and Shiite Muslims that has driven many of the revolutions and wars in the Middle East.
The opposition in Cambodia also does not have the same entrenched anger as exists in some Middle Eastern countries, which has spurred clashes between the government and opposition, according to Carlyle Thayer, an expert on Southeast Asian politics at the Australian Defense Force Academy in Canberra.
“Cambodia is not an oppressive country like Egypt, and…there is no Muslim Brotherhood here—the opposition has not been smoldering under oppression like the Muslim Brotherhood has for decades,” he said, explaining that contested election results were not the same as a coup. “The parallel would only be if the opposition took over government, and then Hun Sen used the military to take back government.”
But Mr. Thayer warned that if the CNRP holds demonstrations, some parallels in Cambodia could emerge.
“If you hold mass demonstrations in front of any regime that has authoritarian tendencies, you’re looking for an accident,” he said. “I think that people in Cambodia will be watching what is going on in Egypt, and [the crackdowns] may dissuade many from attending demonstrations.”
Still, independent political analyst Lao Mong Hay said there was much uncertainty over how peaceful any demonstration would be, as the opposition has felt more empowered after winning considerably more seats in the National Assembly.
“It seems the mood of many people right now is one of insisting on their claims—some have gone so far as to ask Prime Minister Hun Sen to go,” he said. “I think the mood of the CNRP supporters—both in Phnom Penh and across the country—is like that.”
“I’ve heard some people saying ‘We have to go all out for change,’ but it remains to be seen what will happen,” he added.
Though many students here have voiced their reservations about joining any mass demonstrations—the CNRP has said such a protest will only be called as a last resort if irregularities at the polls are not investigated properly—others are quite sure that many are ready to express their discontent on the streets.
A first-year international relations student at Pannasastra University, who asked not to be named, said that the power dynamic in Cambodia was different to many countries in the Middle East—in that only one side is armed—but that it is not out of the question that authorities could use violence on opposition protests.
“The government will use force if it is threatened…but the Cambodian people are ready to sacrifice themselves to stop Cambodia becoming communist again,” he said.
“The military is under the control of the government but almost half is not satisfied with the government,” he added. “If the demonstration occurs, the people living throughout the country and myself will rise up and join.”
Ton Pisey, a monk from Wat Neakovoan who studies English literature at Pannasastra University, said that the current situation was different to the aftermath of any of the past four elections, as this time round the youth in the country were united in making a stand for change.
“It’s completely different—even the power of the youth [has increased], because they now understand their political rights, so the support for the two parties is so different,” he said, adding that he hoped the differences between the parties could be solved without foreign intervention.
Soth Sathayar, 22, a third-year economics student at Norton University, said that violent response to opposition demonstrations were unlikely, as they would cause the government to lose domestic and international legitimacy.
“The opposition side here has no weapons,” he said.
“If the government here applies the same method of cracking down as in Egypt and Syria, the international community will condemn the Cambodian government.”
Indeed, anyone who issues orders to disperse opposition demonstrators using weapons would be liable to be sued at the International Criminal Court.
There is also the risk that aid money to the country could be cut in the event of an outbreak of violence against demonstrators.
The U.S. provided about $6 million in military aid to Cambodia in 2011, according to the U.S. Embassy. But it cut off all non-humanitarian aid to the country after factional clashes in Phnom Penh in 1997 saw the ouster of Mr. Hun Sen’s co-prime minister, Prince Ranariddh.
Mr. Hun Sen has already belittled calls in the U.S. to cut aid to Cambodia by boasting that any holes would easily be filled by generosity coming from China.
Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said that as long as the CNRP staged peaceful protests and applied for the requisite permits from Phnom Penh City Hall and the Ministry of Interior, there would not be any problems.
“We are prepared for crowd control and for rioting, but it does not mean we will definitely use force,” he said.
“We’re not like Egypt and Syria. The difference is Cambodia has experience of civil war and all of our leaders are elected to the Parliament,” he added. “The Cambodian people are now mature enough to deal with problems peacefully and not with violence.”
CNRP chief whip Son Chhay agreed.
“Cambodia is a small country. Our people do not have that type of divide in our society,” he said. “It’s a question of people’s rights. It does not have anything to do with religious fanatics and divides…and we have so much suffering in our recent history. I don’t think we’ll see bloodshed in the streets.”
Seven NGOs have raised their concerns that the government is using the law, media and Internet to further stifle freedom of expression, ahead of Cambodia submitting its first Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of human rights to the U.N.
The UPR is the process through which Geneva’s 47-member Human Rights Council assesses the human rights record of every U.N. member state.
NGOs were given until the end of June to give their input and after filing its first progress report in October—which will update the council on 91 human rights recommendations Cambodia accepted in 2009—an official delegation will travel there early next year to have the report reviewed.
Although it is dated June 24, the 12-page submission by the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, PEN International and Cambodian PEN, International Publishers Association, ARTICLE 19, the Cambodian Center for Independent Media, the Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia and the Southeast Asian Press Alliance was made public late Thursday.
“The [government] routinely targets journalists, non-governmental organizations and human rights defenders with legal and physical threats, which instill a deep sense of fear within the population and create a climate of self-censorship,” it says.
“Several Cambodian national laws actively restrict the right to freedom of expression, with vague and overboard language that allows for their arbitrary enforcement against critics of the government.”
The failure to decriminalize defamation, for instance, is one example the NGOs use to illustrate their point. They also said that the charge of “incitement to commit a felony” is used to silence human rights defenders, while the charge of “disinformation” is routinely abused by the judiciary.
A controversial law on the denial of Khmer Rouge crimes, which swept through the National Assembly without debate or a quorum of lawmakers, was also flagged in the submission.
“Holding an individual criminally liable for denials of historical events amounts to an unacceptable restriction on the right to freedom of expression,” it says.
The groups also note that Cambodia has failed to adopt a freedom of information law, “despite commitments dating back to 2007” from Prime Minister Hun Sen.
Drafts of such a law were rejected in 2010 and 2012, and the groups said a third draft this year was “dismissed by the ruling party on the basis that it was unconstitutional, despite international experts finding it to contain many of the main features of an effective freedom of information law.”
When it accepted the 91 recommendations, the group said Cambodia committed to ensuring freedom of expression and the press, but that “neither are a reality in Cambodia.”
The mainstream television and radio channels are dominated by broadcasters owned by the ruling party or powerful people connected with it, skewing reporting in favor of the CPP.
They also noted several attempts to censor certain websites deemed to be critical of the government, and said they are concerned a proposed cyber law will be restrictive.
With regard to the climate of freedom for NGOs, the submission makes note of the six-month suspension of land rights NGO Sahmakum Teang Tnaut on an allegedly trumped-up incitement accusation, the charging of Adhoc rights worker Chan Soveth for aiding a man involved in a land dispute and the murder of environmental activist Chut Wutty, all of which took place in 2012.
Mak Sambath, vice president of the government’s Cambodian Human Rights Committee (CHRC), said in May that about 80 percent of the recommendations have been implemented. On Friday, he defended the government’s human rights record.
“It’s been three decades of having civil societies report like this,” he said of the submission.
“They have continued to discredit the government’s efforts in developing freedom of expression, respect of human rights and other improvements in term of freedom of speech, media and Internet.”
He denied the claims that the quality of freedom of expression is deteriorating and accused the groups of “campaigning for the opposition party.”
He said the CHRC has held five inter-ministerial meetings on the progress report, which is due on October 28.
PHNOM PENH, Aug. 25 (Xinhua) — Cambodian opposition leader Sam Rainsy on Sunday called for people to join forces with his party to rescue the country from the current leadership.
“We vow to mobilize nationalists to stand up and struggle in order to liberate our motherland from the dictators and the bandits, who are looting, robbing our national properties and abusing poor and common people throughout Cambodia,” Sam Rainsy, president of Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), spoke to hundreds of supporters at Angkor Wat Temple in northwestern Siem Reap province during a prayer ceremony.
He said the ceremony was to pray to former Cambodian Kings to protect the nationalists and the CNRP’s victory in the parliamentary election on July 28.
“We will struggle for real democracy, human rights and dignity, ” he said.
Initial results showed that the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) of Prime Minister Hun Sen won the poll with 68 seats of the 123-seat National Assembly, while the CNRP got the remaining 55 seats.
But the CNRP rejected the results due to alleged irregularities, claiming that the party should win 63 seats, with the CPP getting the remaining 60 seats if alleged irregularities were fairly resolved.
Sam Rainsy did not say how to liberate Cambodia from the current leadership. But he had repeatedly threatened to boycott the new parliamentary session and call for mass demonstrations against the poll results if an independent probe committee was not formed.
Soldiers, police and military police with armored vehicles have been deployed on the outskirts of capital Phnom Penh since early this month in case of the opposition’s mass protests.
Under the constitution, a new parliament will be inaugurated no later than 60 days after the election.
Prime Minister Hun Sen has said that a new parliament and a new government would be sworn in as scheduled despite the opposition’ s boycott.
Hun Sen, 61, who has been in power for 28 years, will extend his term by five years through the election victory.
The Cambodian government has deployed troops to Phnom Penh, claiming they are needed in order to deal with any violence in the event of opposition protests over the election result.
Local media reported that security forces, numbering in the hundreds, were ordered to the capital late Thursday. However the government would not comment on numbers.
Yim Sovann, a spokesman for the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party, or CNRP, condemned the decision to send troops. “This is a threat and intimidation to the people that is illegal,” he said.
The government’s decision follows nearly two weeks of disagreement between the ruling Cambodian People’s Party and the opposition over a commission to investigate alleged electoral irregularities.
Yim Sovann insisted the opposition did not want violence, and said peaceful protest was the last resort should agreement on the commission not be reached.
“We, the CNRP, are looking for a peaceful solution to the problem – especially our stance to form a special commission to do the investigation and to solve the problem peacefully,” he said.
Cambodian security forces have a long history of partiality towards Prime Minister Hun Sen’s ruling CPP.
But government spokesman Phay Siphan said Friday that people had nothing to fear. The deployment, he said, came about partly in response to the opposition’s anti-Vietnamese comments, which he said could lead to violence.
During campaigning the opposition was criticized by rights groups and others for employing anti-Vietnamese rhetoric in a bid to appeal to those Cambodians mistrustful of their more powerful neighbour.
“The government has an obligation to make law and order in the city as well on the streets as well as respect the ordinary people, the way of their life. That’s our job, but we wish that all political parties will take care of their business peacefully in the office as well as in the National Assembly rather than urge innocent people onto the street – it doesn’t help,” said the spokesman.
Phay Siphan said security forces would remain in place in the capital until the results of the election were officially confirmed next month.
Both parties claim that they won the July 28 ballot, in which the opposition stunned the ruling party with a strong showing.
The CNRP has since insisted on an independent commission to investigate what it claims was widespread electoral fraud, and says the National Election Committee, which has responsibility for managing the vote, cannot be trusted to act independently of the ruling party.
Opposition leader Sam Rainsy, who is currently in the United States, has asked the United Nations to get involved in the investigation.
Yim Sovann said a meeting Friday between the ruling party and the opposition had seen some progress.
“The outcome is both delegations from both parties go back to discuss with their top leaders to discuss about the composition of the special committee. And second point that we agree that U.N. should be the observers,” he said.
But he added that it was too early to say whether the opposition’s leaders would accept the deal.
If Phoeung Sophoan has his way, Phnom Penh’s days as Cambodia’s capital city are numbered.
A secretary of state at the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction, Mr. Sophoan has big plans for a new 35,000-hectare capital city north of Phnom Penh called “Samdech Techo Hun Sen Dragon City.”
Mr. Sophoan claims the project has the nod from Prime Minister Hun Sen, and all he needs now is $80 billion to build it.
“If we study the history of any country, after you have great progress and then stability, you must have a new city,” Mr. Sophoan explained at his office on Tuesday.
He said that Dragon City would provide Mr. Hun Sen the chance to place his mark on the country like only the nation’s Angkorian kings have done.
“In the 12th century, we had Suryavaraman II who built Angkor Wat,” Mr. Sophoan said.
“When we go to Angkor Thom, we know this is the city of Jayavarman VII, and when we go to the Bakheng Temple, we know this is the city of Yasovarman I.”
“Now we are in the Samdech Hun Sen period—when we see this city, we will know this is the project of Samdech Hun Sen, the Dragon City,” the secretary of state said.
The mammoth city—containing hundreds of buildings and high rises designed in a sort of eclectic neo-Angkorian meets sci-fi movie style—would be strictly zoned into residential, commercial, cultural, educational and tourist segments, which would be laid out to resemble the face of a dragon.
“When you fly into Cambodia, you will see the lights like the head of a Naga, and you will know you are in Cambodia,” Mr. Sophoan explained.
With the borders of the new capital beginning just beyond Phnom Penh’s northern fringes—where the paths of the Mekong and Tonle Sap rivers divert—Mr. Sophoan’s city would end northwest of Udong, the last capital before King Norodom moved his court to Phnom Penh almost 150 years ago.
At the center of Dragon City, as its defining feature, will stand a 600-meter tall building, which would be the world’s second tallest if it is ever built.
At the apex of that heavens-piercing tower, Mr. Sophoan explained, will be Mr. Hun Sen’s headquarters, which the secretary of state has tentatively titled “Samdech Akeak Moha Senabakte Techor Hun Sen’s Imperial Residential.”
“[The building] will be 600 meters tall, and this one will have the headquarters for Hun Sen to control all of our country and see all of our country,” Mr. Sophoan said, illustrating the range of the prime minister’s lofty view with a map with nine blue arrows pointing outward from Dragon City to the farther reaches of the country’s borders with Thailand, Laos and Vietnam.
Mr. Sophoan, who was educated in architecture in France and returned to Cambodia in 1989, said that he began planning Dragon City in 2010 and pushed ahead after receiving a letter that year from Mr. Hun Sen expressing his approval of the mega-project tribute city.
“At first I did not work too hard because I worried that Samdech Hun Sen did not like it,” Mr. Sophoan said. “Now Hun Sen says that he is very interested in it and told me to find investors to fund the project.”
Mr. Sophoan claimed that plans for the city are progressing, and that a prominent construction firm based in Shanghai was in negotiations to help him secure the tens of billions of dollars he needs from China’s central bank to create his vision.
Information about the Shanghai-based company could not be found online Thursday, and Lim Leang Se, deputy chief of the prime minister’s Cabinet, said Wednesday that he had never heard of Mr. Sophoan’s Hun Sen Dragon City.
Mr. Sophoan’s project is not secret though.
He appeared on an English-language news segment called “This is Cambodia” on CTN—owned by Royal Group chairman Kith Meng —in March last year, in which the presenter described Dragon City as “part of the government’s response to an ever-increasing population and the country’s fast-paced economic growth.”
In the segment, Mr. Sophoan said that if China were to support the project, it would be “an architectural and urban planning revolution” and improve Cambodia’s image internationally.
Some are skeptical.
Mr. Sophoan’s plans for the new satellite city would be incredibly hard to realize for political as well as logistical reasons, said Simon Springer, an associate professor of geography at Canada’s University of Victoria who has studied Cambodia’s development over the past decade.
“It’s likening Hun Sen to one of the Angkorian God-kings…. It’s intensively problematic,” Mr. Springer said.
“The whole plan is beyond ambitious. Even where the funding could come from remains to be seen. Presumably, it would come from China—and China has numerous developments of entire cities like this that are almost entirely vacant,” he said.
Dragon City also would not be the first overly ambitious satellite city to fail.
About a half-dozen similar developments—all much smaller in scope—have been proposed over the past decade, with none having yet been completed and many scaling back after discovering a lack of demand.
One of the most high-profile satellites, the $1 billion CamKo City, broke ground in 2005 but ran into problems in 2011 amid accusations that its main South Korean investor was illicitly using deposited funds for business deals overseas.
Another satellite city—CPP Senator Ly Yong Phat’s 800-hectare Garden City—broke ground in April and is set to include a convention center, a national sports stadium, two ports, a golf course and an industrial park.
Surprisingly, the land Mr. Sophoan has demarcated for Hun Sen Dragon City actually encompasses Mr. Yong Phat’s land.
Stephen Higgins, who said in 2009 when he was CEO of ANZ Royal Bank that ANZ would not loan money to people looking to purchase property in satellite cities around Phnom Penh, said Thursday that Mr. Sophoan’s project was yet another pie-in-the-sky idea for a new city.
“Hun Sen is a very intelligent guy and I can’t imagine he’d be associated with something like this,” Mr. Higgins said. “It is not feasible. It is beyond a fantasy, and I don’t think it will get past the stage of just being this fantasy in someone’s mind.”
“There’s no property development in the world that is worth $80 billion,” he added.
“To get $80 billion when the country’s GDP [gross domestic product] is $12-13 billion…the idea is laughable.”
In spite of the nay saying and doubters, Mr. Sophoan is confident Hun Sen Dragon City will be a reality one day.
“It will take just 18 years to build if I have the $80 billion.”
By Saing Soenthrith – August 9, 2013
Two M381 rocket grenade shells were dumped on the windowsill of a house on Street 156 in Phnom Penh’s Tuol Kok district Thursday morning, according to Cambodian Mine Action Center (CMAC) director Heng Ratana.
Mr. Ratana said the shells were designed to be fired with an M79 grenade launcher and could not be detonated as they had not been wired as explosives.
“The shells are still in good condition and are high quality,” he said. “We removed them from the residents’ house at 9 a.m. this morning”
Tuol Kok district deputy police chief Cheng Sokthan said that the shells had been moved by CMAC’s safety team to “avoid chaos” in the city, but had not been a threat to anyone’s safety and had likely been placed in the window grate by whoever found them to attract attention from passersby.
“Maybe some scavengers found them at nighttime and kept them behind the house because that area of Street 156 is very narrow and a [busy] place where cars and trucks are repaired,” he said.
Mr. Sokthan said that because the shells were found intact, detonation would not have been possible.
“The residents weren’t scared because it wasn’t a bomb wired as a trap. [The shells] were alone and we did not find a wire or battery tied up to them,” which would be necessary in order to make a live bomb, he said.
The discovery of the shells came a day after a bomb exploded outside the Phnom Penh Municipal Court at 1:10 a.m. on Wednesday morning, shattering a wall of glass at a nearby bank but causing no injuries.
Chhay Sinarith, director of the Interior Ministry’s internal security department, said Thursday that his department had ceased its investigation into the blast and had handed over the responsibility for it and Thursday’s discovery to the Phnom Penh Municipal Police.
Deputy municipal police chief Hy Pru declined to comment Thursday and referred question to Municipal police chief Chhuon Sovann, who could not be reached.