Cambodia: Buddhist monks barred from water festival to prevent undignified behaviour

By the Associated Press

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — Buddhist monks in Cambodia will be banned from taking part in a water festival this month to prevent undignified behaviour such as mingling with scantily clad women and seeing couples kissing, the country’s chief monk said Wednesday.

During the Nov. 20-22 Boat Racing Festival monks will be required to stay in their pagodas and watch the event on TV, said 85-year-old chief patriarch Non Gneth.

“For a monk to walk freely with crowds of ordinary people during the water festival violates the rules of the Lord Buddha,” the patriarch said.

“If the monks walk freely, they will see women wearing sexy clothes or see people kissing. This violates their discipline,” he said. He added some younger monks carried mobile phones equipped with cameras at last year’s festival and took pictures of people dancing, drinking alcohol and kissing — all of which are not allowed, including the possession of cellphones.

Monks are supposed to adhere to a code of Buddhist precepts that include celibacy and not touching or being alone with women, not drinking alcohol and leading a contemplative lifestyle without material possessions.

A committee has been created to curb bad behaviour among monks and if any are seen mingling at the festival they will be reprimanded and sent for a re-education class before being returned to their temples, Non Gneth said.

Authorities estimate upward of 2 million people could descend on the capital, Phnom Penh, for the annual boat festival, also known as the water festival, which takes place at the end of the rainy season along the Tonle Sap River.

Some 400 wooden boats will compete in rowing contests that are part of a carnival-like atmosphere that also includes evening concerts, fireworks and late-night partying.

About 85 per cent of Cambodia’s 14 million people are Buddhist. The country has 4,000 Buddhist temples and more than 50,000 monks.

Cambodian war crimes trial monitor warns of “legacy of impunity”

Phnom Penh – An organization monitoring the UN-backed war crimes tribunal warned Wednesday that Phnom Penh’s vow to block the trials of five more ex-Khmer Rouge cadres risks undermining the court’s achievements.

The report by the Open Society Justice Initiative (OSJI), which is funded by US billionaire George Soros, said the court alone ought to decide whether to prosecute the tribunal’s final two cases.

That came after Prime Minister Hun Sen said last month that he would not allow the trials to go ahead, citing a risk of political instability.

Many observers regarded that as an excuse, rather than a valid reason, for barring the trials.

The OSJI said political interference risks leaving ‘a legacy of impunity rather than justice in spite of (the tribunal’s) accomplishments.’

‘Cambodia’s government has made clear its determination to abort any cases it finds politically inconvenient,’ said OSJI executive director James A Goldston.

‘The United Nations and international donors must ensure that any completion plan for the court guarantees fair trials and appeals in all remaining cases on its docket,’ he said.

The tribunal is a hybrid UN-Cambodian structure, with local and international staff in equivalent positions throughout.

The law governing the tribunal requires staff to be independent and not to ‘accept or seek any instructions from any government or any other source.’

Its mandate is to prosecute former senior leaders of the Khmer Rouge movement and those it considers ‘most responsible’ for crimes.

Minister of Information Khieu Kanharith has suggested that the final two cases – known as cases 003 and 004 – could be tried in Cambodian courts.

But the OSJI said that would be unacceptable because ‘intense political interference of Cambodian leaders’ had undermined the local courts.

Earlier this year, the tribunal sentenced Comrade Duch, the regime’s security chief, to 30 years for war crimes and crimes against humanity. Duch’s appeal will likely be heard early next year.

The court’s second case, against four elderly leaders of the movement, is scheduled to start next year.

The tribunal estimates that up to 2.2 million people died during the Khmer Rouge rule of Cambodia between 1975 and 1979, mainly from execution, starvation, overwork and disease.

The movement’s head, Pol Pot, died in 1998.

Research and Markets: Cambodia Pharmaceuticals and Healthcare Report Q4 2010


Wednesday 10th , 2010

In our Q410 Pharmaceutical Business Environment Ratings, Cambodia is last of the 17 pharmaceutical markets surveyed in the Asia Pacific region, with its situation unlikely to improve in the coming months. Transparency International rates the country as the fourth most corrupt in Asia, with only Laos, Myanmar and Afghanistan faring worse. Failure to address these structural issues will bode poorly for long-term growth and development.

Additionally, Minister of Commerce Cham Prasidh said on August 24 2010 that the governments decision to introduce competition laws in Cambodia has been deferred. He said the government will wait until 2011 to consider whether to implement the legislation, although a finalised draft version has been completed. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)s member states have been given until 2015 to comply with regional guidelines on competition policy. The authors are concerned that failure to meet the deadline may deter foreign companies from expanding in Cambodia as they await the finalisation of the competition laws.

In positive news, a US$5.9bn action plan that covers the development of physical infrastructure and trade facilitation in five Mekong countries (Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, Thailand and Myanmar) was approved in August. Cham Prasidh said on August 26 that Cambodia and Laos may get the most financing support for infrastructure development when the countries start implementing the plan in October. The authors believe the plan will lead to a significant increase in trade between the Mekong countries over the coming years and speed up economic development in Cambodia.

Cambodian sanitation ranks last in region

By Ran Reuy from Phnom Penh Post

Tuesday, November, 09

Fewer people in Cambodia have access to adequate sanitation facilities than in any other Southeast Asian country, according to a new report from the Ministry of Rural Development.

Only 29 percent of Cambodians had access to sanitation facilities as of 2008, said the report released on Monday, which draws on figures from the World Health Organisation and the UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme for Water Supply and Sanitation.

By comparison, 96 percent of people in Thailand, 75 percent in Vietnam and 53 percent in Laos had access to such facilities, according to the JMP 2010 report, which was released in March.

Furthermore, 67 percent of Cambodians living in urban areas had access to sanitation facilities in 2008, compared with only 18 percent of people in rural areas.

Chea Samnang, director of the Rural Development Ministry’s Department of Rural Heath, said on Monday that the number of toilets in the Kingdom’s rural areas was increasing at about 2 percent annually.

“We see it is increasing, but it is so slow,” he said.

He said he did not believe that the lack of progress in rural areas could be attributed to poverty levels, arguing that many people who did not own a toilet, which would cost about US$20-30, owned other “modern electrical items” such as motorbikes or telephones.

They Chanto, hygiene promotion officer at the ministry’s Rural Hygiene Education Office, said a substantial number of Cambodians defecate in the open, meaning that about “3,000 fresh stools were scattered into the environment each day”.