Second Flying bridge Complete by 2012

During the bridge construction breaking ceremony at the Royal University of Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s prime minister Hun Sen said that the flying bridge at Pet Lok Sang intersection was scheduled to be complete before the ASEAN summit hosting in Cambodia that is before April 2012.

He said that this is the second flying bridge and there will be third and fourth bridge in the future, adding he agreed  totally on the another new  flying bridge plan study at the end of Mean Chey bridge.


Interview with Pen Sithol on the topic “Qualification Framework”

By SUN Narin

Cambodia’s higher education has not been improving yet. So far, the country has not had a national qualifications framework which shows qualification of the degree holders and tells the skill and competency a person has after finishing the course. Pen Sithol is the director of the department of Standards and Accreditation for Higher Education.

Mr. Pen Sithol

Question: How is it important to our education system?

Pen Sithol: It’s very important to any education system because it tells the framework so curriculum developer needs to match curriculum at university with the framework and also telling the learners what to do, what they expect to have as the learning outcome when they finish the course.

Question: As far as I know so far Cambodia does not have that kind of qualification framework. So I want to know the difficulties of creating it.

Pen Sithol: Em….Actually we have the study part way telling the learners when they finish one level to another level, but we don’t have certain qualification framework yet. Based on the education law, the ministry has to develop this qualification frame. It is not very difficult but it takes time because it involves with other state holders in order to develop qualification framework. What have to find out what the needs in the market, skills and competency need at the market and then we can develop that qualification framework.

Question: So how it is difficult to study the market needs?

I don’t think it is difficult.  As I said it takes time, and the ministry of education based on their plan, they will start develop qualification frame in 2012 and as far as I know that the ministry of labor and vocational training they got the qualification already but it is not implemented yet.

Question: I wonder what the involved sides of that.

Pen Sithol: The first thing we have to think of the skill needed at the market and we have to you, know, and invite all the stage holders. Those who will use human resource. I mean from the university. They have to produce the human resource based on the need in the market. And that the qualification framework can show what qualification, what the quality of learners that they have to match the market needs.

Question: Is it the process of making it?

Pen Sithol: I don’t think so. But As I know from the ministry of education, they said that there will be in 2012. They just start that. According to Aquan, Asean Quality Assurance Network, they promise that by 2012 all the country members must have qualification network.

Question: So I want to know what is the plan from your department.

Pen Sithol: Actually we have plan for many years, but because we don’t have enough human resource and and also enough fund to do that, but we plan to do that because in our accreditation, we need also qualification framework so that we can do program qualification work.

Question: What is your optimism towards Qualification framework?

Pen Sithol: yes thank you. Hopefully by the end of 2012 the ministry will develop qualification frame work. From that framework, our higher education system will change. Curriculum will change. We will focus on competency and learning outcome. So our human resource will be better after we got qualification framework.


Cambodia’s success in tackling HIV/AIDS threatened

PHNOM PENH  (December 27, 2010) : Cambodia’s widely hailed efforts in tackling HIV/AIDS are under threat with foreign donors likely to cut funding over the next two decades, a study said on December 22. “The success that Cambodia has had with its AIDS programme is at risk because of the possibility that external partners will withdraw financial support too quickly,” said Richard Skolnik of the Results for Development Institute (R4D).

The Cambodian government will have to spend more of its own money in the fight against the virus, study co-ordinator Skolnik added.

New HIV infections have dropped from around 15,500 annually in the early 1990s to about 2,100 in 2009. And around 93 percent of 33,500 AIDS patients who are eligible are receiving anti-retroviral treatment.

External partners fund 90 percent of the country’s AIDS programme, which currently costs just over 50 million dollars a year.

But as a result of the global financial crisis and a shift in donor priorities, those funds are likely to shrink in the coming years and Cambodia “will need to significantly increase its own allocation”, the report states.

The study, “The Long-Run Costs and Financing of HIV/AIDS in Cambodia”, was compiled by a team of government officials with assistance from UNAIDS and US-based R4D, which specialises in health policy analysis.

The authors compared several financing scenarios from now until 2031, four decades after HIV/AIDS was first detected in Cambodia.

Each option has a different price tag and a different rate of success in preventing new infections, and all assume the government and external donors will eventually split the costs evenly.

Luxury market the key for cambodia

Bangkok Post Newspaper

Didier Lamoot is the general manager of the new $50 million, 201-room five-star Sofitel Phnom Penh Phokeethra hotel. He has opened hotels across the world, in markets as diverse as Mauritius and Tunisia. Ahead of Sofitel’s soft launch this past weekend, he talked to Soeun Say of the Phnom Penh Post about Cambodia’s potential.

Q: What do you think about Cambodia’s hotel industry and what is your general perception of the Kingdom?

A: In 2004 to 2005, a lot of people were asking, “Why build a luxury hotel in Phnom Penh?” All upscale hotels were losing money by that time, as occupancy and room rates were really below average.

But by 2007 to 2008, all professionals from our sector were pushing us to open, as they needed more luxury rooms. Times are changing fast and Phnom Penh is following the trend, maybe more than anywhere else in the main Southeast Asian capitals.

What potential did hotel investors see in Phnom Penh?

Confidence in the future – Phnom Penh is on the map to attract more businessmen, investors, and tourists. It is the domestic hub of Cambodia.

As a newcomer in the capital, what is your strategy to gain market share?

Since 2009, we have noticed a change in the way people were using hospitality. The habits and expectations of the different type of clients are not so framed anymore.

A businessman will need all the corporate and exclusive services, especially high and efficient [internet] connectivity, but also all resort facilities in one – colonial style with high technology combined together.

Also, the hotel must have space. Our location by the river, in a beautiful park, makes our hotel very attractive.

What do you think about Cambodia’s hotel services compared to other countries in the region, such as Vietnam, Thailand or Laos?

I’m used to saying that the first wonder of Cambodia is the Khmer culture. The people are very service oriented. In 2007, the Sofitel Angkor Phokeethra [in Siem Reap] was awarded 100% for service among a list of the 500 best hotels over the world. Only 10 hotels worldwide were ranked 100%. Cambodia can be proud of this achievement, due to the kindness and professionalism of its people.

Do you see any effort by the government to improve hotel services to meet international standards?

The Ministry of Tourism under the leadership of Dr Thong Khon is very active in helping and structuring our sector of activity. The private sector works very well with the public sector to achieve the classification of the hotels and restaurants, strategy, marketing, communication.

The concept of a clean city, clean hotels and good service raises the quality level to international standards for all.

In the first six months of 2010 just 37 hotels in the Kingdom’s had registered for a star rating following a 2004 sub-decree. What do you think of this, in comparison to the region?

Our industry has started to be structured in the right way under the Minister of Tourism orientation. This takes time. Even if we are a little bit behind, we [will] go very fast. Very soon we will be at the same level, even above that of the other countries in Asean.

Can you compare the hotel market in Cambodia to Thailand and Vietnam?

Khmer culture makes the difference from a service prospective. In addition, our neighbours are more targeting mass tourism and we cannot compete with this strategy. Cambodia is a luxury destination. We must target this segment as a priority.

The people, the history, the archaeology, the seaside and the quality of natural agriculture – like rice from Battambang, pepper from Kampot, the sugar palm, the freshness of the fish from the Tonle Sap – the biodiversity, not having polluting industries, is what people is expecting.

We have all [these things] in one and we must communicate that. The upgrade of the infrastructure will contribute to attracting travellers.

How did the economic crisis affect the sector and what are its future challenges?

We had the economic and a political crisis at Preah Vihear at the same time the average spend per visitor decreased a lot. Also, the market changed in 2008 to 2009.

Many professionals could resist [booking] thanks to their ability to use better distribution channels, mainly through internet. But the appropriate answer was to maintain quality and consistency of products and services.

The most important [challenge] is to develop to coast to become a full destination.

We need our tourists to book one week at the beach and to do an extension to Siem Reap all year long. Air France will fly starting in March to Phnom Penh – this is fantastic news for the future. We need to have domestic flights with proper services, schedules and destinations, especially to Sihanoukville. That is the priority.

A surge of tourism increases access not just to well-known sites such as Angkor but also temples in regions once off-limits due to skirmishes.

A surge of tourism increases access not just to well-known sites such as Angkor but also temples in regions once off-limits due to skirmishes.

Two decades ago, the great ruined temple complex at Angkor in central Cambodia was an uncrowded dream destination. But as the country emerged from decades of poverty and suffering, mass tourism arrived at the UNESCO World Heritage Site. With it came sightseers by the busload and the transformation of the hamlet of Siem Reap at Angkor’s threshold — an amiable but ballooning tourist trap with a new international airport, a branch of the Cambodian national museum, a trendy restaurant row and an abundance of hotels, including high-enders Raffles and Sofitel.

If the speed of transformation is any indication, 2011 is the time to visit the diminutive Southeast Asian country lodged between Thailand and Vietnam, not just to take advantage of Siem Reap’s amenities but to go beyond Angkor to wonders still lost in the Cambodian jungle.

There are, for example, vestiges of the Khmer Empire as remarkable as Angkor all around Cambodia, including an older group of temples in the Sambor Prei Kuk area; Koh Ker, northeast of Siem Reap, opened to visitors since land mines, laid during the civil wars, were removed; and majestic Preah Vihear, on a mountaintop in the north where, until recently, Thai and Cambodian troops were engaged in a border skirmish.

The once-inaccessible Cambodian countryside, with its lime-green rice paddies, jungly mountains, swollen lakes and rushing rivers, increasingly is opening, thanks to adventure travel agencies that take visitors there by horse, motorcycle and helicopter. Guests at 4 Rivers Floating Lodge, a new eco-resort on the Tatai River in western Cambodia, get the chance to spot secretive rhinos and elephants in the wild, while boat trips up the great Mekong River cruise through the habitat of the rare, freshwater Irrawaddy dolphin on their way to the friendly Laotian border town of Chhlong.

Christmas is in the heart of Pinoys in Cambodia

By Leti Boniol Philippine Daily Inquirer

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia—It will be Mylene Malabanan’s second Christmas away from home this year. She will be spending Christmas Eve with Filipino friends also working in this southeast Asian capital, as she did last year. As for Christmas Day, “it’ll probably be just a regular Saturday for me.”

In a country where Buddhism reigns, Christmas is a struggle for thousands of Filipino professionals here, so they stick together, at least for the noche buena.

Mylene’s idea of Christmas is “just staying home with the family, seeing the children’s faces light up when they open their gifts, hearing their laughter, picture-taking, eating. I won’t have those here.”

Her friend Marie Anne ‘Maan’ Abrera, an account director and producer for a production company who has been working for five years here, says she has learned how to cope. “You miss your family, friends, and the tradition.” Still, she says the Filipino “community here will try to celebrate the way it is supposed to be” as “Christmas is in our hearts.”

But there is a good side to being away, she says: “I am not pressured to give gifts.”

Another Pinoy friend, Leon Franco Dionco, a creative director for a fashion magazine, says Filipinos are flexible and know how to maximize what they have so they can still enjoy Christmas together.

Three years in the Cambodian capital, Franco, an advertising graduate from Manila, has observed that since 2008, Christmas decor has been popping up in the city. He surmises that Phnom Penh is slowly being influenced by international holidays.

Mylene now sees “a lot of commercial establishments hanging Christmas decors. Bookstores also sell Christmas trees, some establishments have big Santa inflatables in front of their shops.”

Maan said she is sad in a way because some sectors in the city are “celebrating commercially without really understanding the true meaning of Christmas.”

Franco says he prefers to celebrate Christmas in a simple way. It is New Year’s Eve he is waiting for, and at Mylene’s office, December 31 is the one they really celebrate.

Cambodian, Vietnamese parliamentarians boost cooperation

A delegation of the Vietnam- Cambodia friendship parliamentarians group, led by Head of the NA committee for deputies’ affairs Pham Minh Tuyen, is visiting Cambodia from Dec. 22-27.

During the visit, the delegation met with representatives of the Cambodia-Vietnam friendship parliamentarians group, headed by permanent Deputy Prime Minister Men Sam An.

At the meeting, the two sides informed each other of their countries’ political situation and economic achievements and review their bilateral cooperative activities.

They agreed to further exchange information and delegations so as to strengthen friendship between the two nations.

The delegation was received by acting President of the Cambodian National Assembly Nguol Nhel and visited some localities in the country as part of the working visit.

Groundbreaking report looks at LGBT Cambodians

The Cambodian Center for Human Rights released a groundbreaking report on the 9 December titled “Coming Out in the Kingdom: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender People in Cambodia.”

Rex Wockner

The Cambodian Center for Human Rights released a groundbreaking report on the 9 December titled “Coming Out in the Kingdom: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender People in Cambodia.”

It says that LGBT Cambodians face unique challenges, including ostracism from their families and communities that often leads to economic hardship as well as discrimination by employers and authorities.

The report argues that the concept of homosexuality as understood in “the West” may not directly transfer to Cambodia.

“The Cambodian understanding of sexuality is derived from concepts of gender, character and personality,” it says. “The focus on these character traits and outwardly visible characteristics instead of sexual orientation means that many Cambodians who are homosexual do not identify themselves as such.”

Buddhism, the report says, generally tolerates homosexuality.

“Homosexuality, whilst seen as an oddity, does not attract the kind of aggressive reaction as can be seen in Christian or Muslim cultures,” it states. “Buddhism itself places no value on marriage or procreation. Marriage and procreation are considered positive if they bring about love and respect, but may be deemed negative if pain or strife is caused. However, in Cambodia, cultural, social and economic pressures override Buddhist teachings on marriage — family values are incredibly important and pressure is strong for sons and daughters to marry and have children.”

“Sexual behavior amongst male youths may be seen as harmless experimentation, since women are expected to remain ‘pure’ until marriage,” the report continues. “Youthful indiscretions may be forgotten or may continue unnoticed. However, eventually men are expected to marry and father children. Given traditional gender roles, women have less ability to pursue same-sex relationships than homosexual males, either privately or publicly.”

“The risk of ostracism from a close family network and economic difficulties posed by living outside the family network may mean that LGBT persons do not live the lives they wish to or have to conduct homosexual relationships in secret,” the researchers conclude.

Nonetheless, an LGBT community is emerging in the nation. A pride celebration, which includes workshops, movies, art exhibits and social gatherings, launched in 2003. Four hundred people attended the culmination of the events in 2009.

Pride organisers have formed an organisation called RoCK to support LGBT people and raise awareness among non-gay Cambodians.

A gay “scene” has developed in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap.

And “the Internet has allowed gay Cambodian people to connect to other gay people, thus raising awareness of a wider, global LGBT community and the possibilities of participating in this,” the report said.