Friday, September 30, 2016



The hidden cost of Cambodia’s coastal development
Patrick Cordwell - 29 Sep, 2016

As the dust settles on bulldozed beachfront businesses, many Cambodians are losing out, writes Patrick Cordwell. 
Tourism is booming in Cambodia, and visitors are quickly realising there’s more to the country than the magnificent temples of Angkor. An increasing number of arrivals are seeking the golden sands of the Southern coastline as investors pour money into Cambodia’s beaches. But many locals are paying a high price for the rapid development.
Foreign visitors to Cambodia have more than doubled since 2006. With nearly five million tourists visiting the country in 2015, entrepreneurial locals along the Kingdom’s coastline have taken advantage of the recent boom.
Countless Cambodians have set up shop along beachfronts with bungalows, bars and restaurants welcoming visitors by the bus load. Their revenue has grown in step with the increasing tourism, with flow-on affects for local communities. These thriving ventures offer jobs and income for thousands of locals.
But their success may also be their downfall.
Earlier in the year, businesses along Otres Beach in Sihanoukille were served eviction notices and ordered to vacate almost immediately. The government, they were told, was to bulldoze their shop fronts.
According to the law, they had every right to. Cambodia’s 1992 Land Law designated the coastline public land – it’s impossible for individuals to possess actual land titles. Even though many have operated there for years, the business owners have no legal basis to occupy the land.
The consequences for the many locals whose livelihoods depend on the beach-front enterprises were severe.
Thousands of jobs disappeared along with the businesses. The financial security of many local Cambodians was destroyed, including many of the poor and vulnerable who relied on the beach-front ventures for their livelihoods. As one owner reported as the demolitions were imminent, “I don’t know what I will do when this is over”.
The situation is even more dire for the business owners. Because the land is public, there will be no compensation nor any legal recourse available to them.
This is disastrous for those who invested everything in their business. One restaurant owner took out an US$80,000 bank loan to open a business on the beach less than two years ago. With only $10,000 repaid, the loss of his business would force him to take desperate measures; “I will have to sell my house.”
Why is the government calling in the bulldozers in the first place? The authorities claim the beaches are being cleared for strictly environmental reasons. Officials repeatedly state that the businesses are being demolished to preserve the beach for the next generation.
But existing development plans for Otres Beach tell a different story. Where ramshackle establishments once stood, a London company plans to erect a beachfront resort based around a 3,000 room casino.
Likewise, Royal Group (Cambodia’s largest business conglomerate) has already started construction on a US$3 billion resort complex on Koh Rong island just off the coast. Though the company has promised to leave swathes of rainforest intact, plans show an island covered with luxury hotels.
Rapidly increasing numbers of tourists have caused property prices to sky-rocket in turn. Commercial interests have become more powerful as the government looks to investment in tourism industry as a new source of revenue.
But the government’s motivations for clearing the beaches changes nothing. For the countless locals who have relied on beach-front business, the consequences remain the same.
The dust may have settled on the plots where Otres Beach’s rickety businesses once stood, but this is far from the end for many entrepreneurial Cambodians. Plenty of bungalows, bars and restaurants remain on Cambodia’s beaches, ripe for development in a country where investment is desperately needed.
After all, like the waves crashing against the shores, tides always change.
 Patrick Cordwell is an international studies/law student at the Australian National University and a contributing writer at The Monsoon Project — a student-led website on Asia and the Pacific supported by New Mandala and where this article was first published. 

Thursday, September 29, 2016


~ Thinking outside the box about Cambodia



Cambodia's domestic airports gifted for public use

27 Sep 2016 at 13:30   WRITER: KHMER TIMES




PHNOM PENH - Prime Minister Hun Sen transferred control of some of the Kingdom’s domestic airports to local government authorities for public use during a cabinet meeting last Friday.
“We handed over airfields to provincial authorities to manage and use for state or public interest,” Mr Hun Sen said. 
The government decided to relinquish control of some airports to make way for a variety of government projects, he said, but said airports in Kampong Chhnang, Battambang, Koh Kong and Stung Treng provinces would be kept for their original purpose.
Authorities in charge of one airport in Mondulkiri province were planning to fill the space with huge orchid gardens.
“We keep some and we also hand over some to provincial authorities for public use,” the premier said. 
State Secretariat of Civil Aviation spokesman Sin Chanserey Vutha said the four remaining airports would be maintained to handle the expanding domestic flight service in the future.
“Following Prime Minister Hun Sen’s comments, we are now preparing solid documents to manage those domestic airports to keep as reserve airports and implementing the long-term strategy for the future,” Mr Chanserey Vutha said.
He added that the government gave up control of the dilapidated airport in Mondulkiri province because human resources and finances were lacking and flights had stopped operating there.
In addition, he said, the government only needed one domestic airport for all four regions of the country. The airport in Stung Treng province serves the northeast, Koh Kong province’s airport covers the southern coast, Battambang province’s airport serves the northwest and Kampong Chhnang province’s airport serves the center of the country.
“Therefore, there is no need to create more domestic airports in the same regions,” Mr Chanserey Vutha said.
The airport in Mondulkiri province had been used for helicopters and small aircraft from Phnom Penh, but without concrete flooring and facilities common to modern airports it had fallen into disuse. Provincial authorities decided to convert the land into a public park, after approval from Mr Hun Sen.
Svay Sam Eang, deputy provincial governor of Mondulkiri, told the Khmer Times that provincial authorities were planning to turn the 20-hectare dilapidated airport into a public park.
“We already set up the master plan to prepare the land to be a public park for people to enjoy exercise and facilitate physical activity like people living in Phnom Penh,” Mr Sam Eang said, adding that because the land is in the central part of town, there had been safety concerns when planes landed.
“That’s why we wanted to convert the land into a public park, because the planes  stopped using it  almost a decade ago and the location was not suitable for planes landing.”

http://www.bangkokpost.com/news/asean/1096176/cambodias-domestic-airports-gifted-for-public-use




Cambodia’s most luxurious hotels: Private islands,
posh stilt houses, and a bed in a 616ft-high building

A number of new extravagant openings look set to turn gritty Cambodia into an exclusive retreat for the travel elite

Anna Rhodes, Mary Lussiana  Monday 26 September 2016


Cambodia has long been considered one of South-east Asia’s grittier destinations, perhaps better suiting the intrepid backpacking type than the traveller accustomed to cold towels and cocktails on arrival. But after the country’s first-ever private island resort, Song Saa, opened in 2012, the luxurious potential of Cambodia caught the eye of cash-splashing globetrotters tired of the crowds flowing into Bali and Thailand. 
And now the new wave of Cambodian luxury is set to make an even bigger splash, with three brand-new, top-tier big-hitters set to open in the coming months. Here, we take a look at the most opulent options for new hotel stays in Cambodia. How well this new luxury will sit in one of the world’s poorest countries remains to be seen. 

Rosewood Phnom Penh 
Phnom Penh is one of the region’s more challenging cities – an often chaotic place where Cambodia’s genocidal recent history hangs particularly heavy. It is also, however, a beautiful destination, sitting where the Mekong and Tonlé Sap rivers meet and offering an exotic skyline of traditional Khmer architecture.
And there’ll be a bit of added sparkle come next year, when the Rosewood Phnom Penh opens on the top 14 floors of the Cambodian capital’s (and indeed the country’s) tallest building, the 616ft-high Vattanac Capital Tower One. Offering a panoramic view of the city and the Mekong below, its position in the Central Business District along Preah Monivong Boulevard places guests on a buzzy thoroughfare, barely 1km from top sights including the unmissable Royal Palace. 
The luxurious development – designed to resemble a rising dragon – will feature 175 rooms and suites, a 120-seat bistro, two specialty restaurants and a sky bar on a cantilevered terrace. 
In addition, there will be a relaxing spa with five treatment rooms and a 20-metre swimming pool on the 33rd floor, no doubt letting you make the most of those views as you do your laps. 
Rosewood Phnom Penh is scheduled for completion in 2017 (rosewoodhotels.com

Six Senses Krabey Island
The Six Senses brand has made a habit of creating fabulously luxurious hideaways in far from obvious destinations (see its fantastic village-like resort in Zighy Bay, Oman), and next year will see its latest open on Koh Krabey, a private island off Cambodia’s south coast.
Comprising 40 pool villas dotted around the 30-acre island – which lies a short boat transfer from the forests and wetlands of Ream National Park - all villas include a private plunge pool and some will also offer that particularly dreamy tropical experience, the outdoor shower.
An elevated bar will give stunning sunset views out to sea to pair with your cocktails – and you needn’t feel too guilty about indulging, as there’s a big focus on wellness here, too. The spa will feature a menu of ancient Cambodian healing traditions and “multi-day rejuvenation journeys”, along with yoga and detox workshops. A special juice bar promises to incorporate the rich varieties of fresh fruits and herbs from the island.
Fun-sounding extras include Cinema Paradiso – a poolside outdoor cinema screening classic movies – and an observatory with astronomical telescope and scheduled stargazing sessions is also planned. 
Six Senses Krabey Island is due for completion in 2017 (sixsenses.com)

Phum Baitang, Siem Reap
Siem Reap and its temples of Angkor are Cambodia’s biggest draws, and for that reason the town isn’t short on swish hotels. What it is short on, however, is peace and quiet, which is why the launch of Phum Baitang earlier this year offered a welcome dose of tranquillity to the area’s hotel scene.
Located just outside of Siem Reap, in the Cambodian countryside, Phum Baitang – which translates as “Green Village” – consists of 45 villas designed to mimic a typical Cambodian community (on the outside, at least - your typical rural-dwelling Cambodian is unlikely to have a Nespresso machine). Wooden thatched houses on stilts are dotted across the lemongrass and verdant paddy fields, creating luxurious serenity that’s still within easy reach of the temples teeming with crowds. 
All the villas have terraces from which you can thoroughly absorb the jungle feel – and 20 of them have private pools. The resort also offers two restaurants: Bay Phsar, which brings local flavours to the table; and Hang Bay, which draws from across the globe (think wafer-thin pizza straight from the wood-fired oven in the garden). 
There is also an on-site spa, aptly named “Spa Temple”, as it is carved in stone. It houses five treatment rooms as well as a sauna, steam room, fitness room, yoga pavilion and relaxation area.
Phum Baitang, Phum Svaydangkum, Sangkat Svaydangkum, Siem Reap, Cambodia (00 855 63 961 111; phumbaitang.com). Terrace villas from $270 (£193) room only. 

Alila Villas Koh Russey 
The hotly anticipated Alila Villas Koh Russey will be located on unspoilt Koh Russey island in the Gulf of Thailand, less than 5km off the coast of southern Cambodia. The five-star eco resort is set to serve up pristine bays, dramatic peninsulas, white-sand beaches and tropical forests. 
It’s also a good option for families thanks to a kids’ club and villas that offer the privacy of their own terrace, pool and garden. The resort is due to open in the second quarter of 2017.
Villas are due to be completed in 2017 (alilahotels.com


Read more



Cambodia seeks China's help as rice prices plummet
26 Sep 2016 at 18:38




PHNOM PENH - Cambodia is seeking early implementation of China's plan to annually purchase 200,000 tonnes of Cambodian rice, to help prevent plummeted rice prices from falling even further, a senior government official said Monday.

Hor Namhong, deputy prime minister in charge of foreign affairs, said he made the request in a meeting with China's new ambassador Xiong Bo, while also explaining that the sharp decline in rice prices is seriously affecting Cambodian farmers.

Chinese Premer Li Keqiang, in his meeting with Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen in Laos early this month, pledged to double China's annual purchase of 100,000 tonnes of Cambodian rice to 200,000 tonnes, starting from next year.

Since last month, the price of rice has fallen from $240 per tonne to $192, leading to protests by some farmers and prompting the government to grant $27 million to millers to buy rice from them.
The deputy prime minister also called for early disbursal of China's pledged loan of $300 million to Cambodia for building warehouses and drying facilities.

Cambodia is a diplomatic ally of China, while the latter is a major provider of low-interest loans and grants to the Southeast Asian country.



http://www.bangkokpost.com/news/asean/1095533/cambodia-seeks-chinas-help-as-rice-prices-plummet

Cambodia's controversial refugee deal with Australia turns two
26 Sep, 2016  Erin Handley


Scott Morrison (left), the then-Australian immigration minister, shakes hands with
Interior Minister Sar Kheng after signing the refugee deal in September, 2014. Heng Chivoan

Two years ago today, to the sound of clinking champagne glasses, Interior Minister Sar Kheng inked a deal with Australia’s immigration minister to accept refugees detained on Nauru.
At the time, details of the agreement were shrouded in secrecy and courted by controversy. The deal cast Cambodia as both a pawn in Australia’s heavily criticised refugee policies, and as a complicit agent in helping the wealthy nation avoid its international obligations.
In the past two years, five refugees took up the offer, but of those five, only one still remains – Mohammed Rashid, a Rohingya muslim who has been in and out of hospital and repeatedly voiced his discontent with his living conditions.
The meagre results of the expensive deal, under which Australia was to provide support for the “successful implementation” of the “permanent resettlement” for refugees, have long been panned by refugee advocates and human rights bodies alike.
On its two-year anniversary, many have called for the deal to be scrapped entirely. On September 28, 2014, two days after the deal was signed, a father of two detained on Nauru said he would “kill his whole family including the children because they deserve more out of life”.
The words were spoken to a Save the Children staff member on the island, who went on to record that the man’s loved ones “deserved a future that he could not provide them because he did not get on a boat and come [to Australia] to be resettled in Nauru or Cambodia”.
That incident report was followed by another, and another, seven in total over the next year naming Australia’s pact with Cambodia as a point of distress.
The troubling reports only came to light last month, with the leaked “Nauru Files”, published by the Guardian, which provided details of cases of abuse and self-harm in thousands of documents. Despite the effect the news of the scheme was having on Nauru, four refugees volunteered for the journey, and three arrived in June 2015. Mohammed, the fifth, arrived in November that year.
A man from Myanmar was the first to return home, in October 2015. An Iranian couple followed suit in February this year, while another Iranian man departed in April. The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) was tasked with resettling the refugees in Cambodia, for which A$15 million has been allocated by the Australian government to provide accommodation, language lessons and employment training.
The agency was criticised by Rashid when he revealed his health struggles in March this year. IOM declined to comment for this article.
Connect Settlement Services last month was quietly contracted to fulfil the same role in the Kingdom, with two staff members deployed here; although last week Connect announced it would not continue its work on Nauru after December, spokesman Laurie Nowell said that would likely have no bearing on its Cambodian commitments, as they are two separate contracts.
The last two years have seen two Australian immigration ministers in the job, two resettlement agencies contracted for the work, A$40 million in aid to Cambodia and just one refugee still on Cambodian soil. The numbers, critics suggest, amount to a failure.
Human Rights Watch Asia deputy director Phil Robertson said the deal had “gone down in flames”.
“This was a refugee dumping deal, pure and simple – with Australia paying blood money to a poorer country to accept responsibility for people that Australia didn’t want,” he said.
“The deal should be scrapped, and whatever funds are still committed to this deal should be returned to the Australian taxpayer. This deal was a seriously rights-abusing agreement, and it should never be repeated anywhere else by the Australian government.”
Ian Rintoul, of the Australian-based Refugee Action Coalition, said the scheme was a farce and doomed from the start. “There was never any prospect of Cambodia providing a durable solution for refugees transferred there,” he said. “The Cambodia deal is essentially finished. There are no refugees remotely interested in going there.
“The deal should be officially ended and repudiated by Cambodia.”
Both said vulnerable people had simply sought an escape from the horrors of Nauru.
“The fact that so few came to Cambodia even when things were that bad on Nauru speaks volumes for how poorly regarded the Cambodia option was,” Robertson said.
Australian Greens party immigration spokesman Nick McKim said while recent national audits into the scheme “highlighted major deficiencies” in the spending of public money, further investigation was underway and he hoped more details would be revealed in Senate Estimates Hearings next month.
“Ultimately, the people on Manus Island and Nauru should be resettled in Australia where we can look after them properly in line with our moral obligations and international agreements we are party to,” he said.
Although Cambodian immigration officials earlier this year indicated that two new Iranian refugees had expressed interest in coming to the Kingdom, anonymous sources on Nauru cast doubt on their accounts, and no visit to Nauru was made.
While the director of Cambodia’s refugee department, Tan Sovichea, said on multiple occasions that they were simply waiting for Australian authorities to give them the green light to visit and inform the interested refugees about Cambodia, the call never came.
When asked if there was any stalling of travel arrangements of refugees who wished to come to Cambodia, a spokesman at the Australian Department of Immigration and Border Protection yesterday said that he could not comment on individual cases, but stressed the deal was still open for anyone who opted to take it.
“Refugees in Nauru continue to have the option of volunteering for settlement in Cambodia,” he said in an email. “The Department continues to work with the Cambodian Government to ensure the successful implementation of the settlement arrangement.”
He stressed that Australia’s policies – labelled “cruel in the extreme” by Amnesty International – aimed “to provide safe and legal migration pathways to those in need and to discourage people from risking their lives by relying on people smugglers”.
The refugee department’s Sovichea could not be reached over the weekend, but the department’s Kerm Sarin was circumspect about the now two-year-old deal.
“I could not say it was successful, but it is voluntary; they volunteer to live in Cambodia,” he said.
Sarin denied that the low retention rate was problematic or highlighted issues with resettlement.
“We didn’t get any bad feedback from them,” he said.
“When coming here to Cambodia, maybe there’s a culture, a language difference. It may not be the impact of the MoU or the refugee service providers, it could be voluntary – that they were away for a long time and they wanted to go home.
“I hope they are safe,” he said.




Ties with Cambodia enter 'new chapter'
Setting past misunderstandings aside, leaders Prayut and Hun Sen are redefining bilateral relations
26 Sep 2016 at 06:30

Cambodia and Thailand are going through a new stage in their bilateral relations. The two countries, whose relations had turned sour, have opened a new chapter of "win-win cooperation".
The new chapter of Thai-Cambodian relations started when Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen made the first state visit to Thailand in 14 years last December, hailed by both sides as a milestone in enhancing previously frayed diplomatic relations between the two countries.
Hun Sen and his Thai counterpart Prayut Chan-o-cha had an informal meeting ahead of a joint cabinet meeting to mark 65 years of Thai-Cambodian diplomatic relations. Discussions included bilateral cooperation on regional issues to strengthen diplomatic ties.
"Currently, relations between Thailand and Cambodia have been more than normal. You see many Thai trade fairs and exhibitions have been held across Cambodia while a lot of Thai and business visitors have travelled [here] in the past year," Phay Siphan, Cambodian government spokesman, told Thai journalists who recently visited Cambodia as part of a media exchange programme between the Thai Journalists Association and Club of Cambodian Journalists.
Phay Siphan said relations between the two countries are the best they have been in a while and the two depend on each other "like a brother and sister".
After the joint cabinet meeting, Cambodian authorities headed back to Phnom Penh to determine how to implement a new policy for the benefit of both countries, said Phay Siphan.
"We are also thinking about the next joint cabinet meeting but we have not yet scheduled it," added the Cambodian government spokesman.
"We can't change many things overnight but together we can change our mindset. We must sit and talk together and respect each other's opinions. All forms of cooperation between the two countries are important."
Tensions between Cambodia and Thailand came to a head in January 2003 when riots broke out in Phnom Penh after a Cambodian newspaper incorrectly reported that Thai actress Suwanan Kongying, known as Kob, stated that Angkor Wat, Cambodia's prized heritage site, belonged to Thailand.
On Jan 29 of that year, the Thai embassy in Phnom Penh was burned, and hundreds of Thai immigrants, diplomats and businessmen fled the country to avoid violence. Thais in Bangkok protested in front of the Cambodian embassy, burning Cambodian flags. This led to the Thai government severing diplomatic ties with Cambodia.
Another long-running point of contention has been sovereignty of the 11th century Preah Vihear temple and land surrounding it. Both countries lay claim to the relic, and in 2009 exchanged fire as tensions mounted.
In 1962, the International Court of Justice ruled the temple belonged to Cambodia, though ambiguity remained over the land. In 2013, the court ruled that most of the disputed land around it should also go to Cambodia, though it said Cambodia had no jurisdiction to rule on a hill nearby.
Both governments welcomed the ruling.
Nattawut Pothisaro, Thai ambassador to Cambodia, said the two countries have agreed to put controversial issues aside in a bid to restore ties and "focus on positive issues".


 

Zero Vietnam investment in Cambodia
23 Sep 2016 at 16:08
WRITER: KHMER TIMES


The pipeline for foreign direct investment (FDI) from Vietnam to Cambodia has almost run dry, with the country seeing almost zero inflow of Vietnamese funds into projects in the first half of the year, according to an official in the Council for the Development of Cambodia (CDC).
Chea Vuthy, deputy secretary-general of the CDC, said the Cambodia-Vietnam business forum on Thursday that Vietnam’s investment from 1994 to 2015 reached $1.76 billion, while there was no Vietnamese investment inflow in the first six months of this year, the Khmer Times reported on Friday.
Currently, Vietnam is ranked fifth in terms of total investment in the country after China, South Korea, the European Union and Malaysia. By 2020, total Vietnamese investment in Cambodia is projected to reach $6 billion, and according to the Vietnamese embassy this would make Vietnam one of the biggest investors in the Kingdom.
But Vuthy tried to downplay the dismal FDI from Vietnam in the first half of the year.
“It does not matter if we do not have any Vietnamese investment coming in, though we are a bit baffled. We hope business relations will improve and there will be some investment projects in the second half of the year,” he said.
Ha Thi Thanh Binh, general secretary of the Association of Vietnamese Investors in Cambodia, said that so far there were about 182 approval investment projects from Vietnam -- totaling about $2.85 billion -- that have been registered with the CDC.
“This year, however, there have been only four investment projects from Vietnam and we are waiting for approval from the government to begin operations. They are still pending,” she told the business forum.
Nguyen Duc Thanh, president of the Vietnam Institute for Economic and Policy Research said that he was surprised there was no investment flow from Vietnam to Cambodia for the first six months of the year.
“It may be due to several factors like the economic situation in the country, political reasons or the slowdown in the agricultural sector,” he said.
“Investors in Vietnam want to invest in Cambodia’s agricultural sector. But when the global prices of agricultural commodities fall, they can be quite reluctant to invest out of fear of making big losses,” added Thanh.
Thanh pointed out that while a majority of investors from Vietnam were interested in agro-industries like rubber, the current global depressed prices for natural rubber were deterring them investing in Cambodia.
Mey Kalyan, senior adviser to the Supreme National Economic Council, told the Khmer Times that good trade relations with Vietnam were important for Cambodia.
“We have to make our investment polices to be more attractive to the Vietnamese and we hope they will return back to our country,” he said.
“There’s still work to be done and we can’t just allow the Vietnamese to stay away from Cambodia.”
Bilateral trade between Vietnam and Cambodia in 2015 was $3.37 billion. Cambodia’s exports to Vietnam were $954 million, while imports amounted to $2.41 billion

Sunday, September 25, 2016


Cambodia PM vows to 'eliminate' opponents who protest
Posted 19 Sep 2016 14:48


PHNOM PENH: Cambodia's strongman premier vowed on Monday (Sep 19) to "eliminate" his opponents if they push ahead with plans for nationwide protests against an ongoing government crackdown that has sparked international alarm.
The latest rhetoric, some of Prime Minister Hun Sen's strongest in recent months, ratchets up worsening political tensions in the kingdom, which will hold national elections in 2018.
Rights groups have accused long-ruling Prime Minister Hun Sen's administration of arresting scores of critics and tying up other opponents in legal cases.
The main opposition party's deputy leader Kem Sokha has been holed up for weeks in his office, sleeping on a makeshift bed.
He was handed a jail sentence earlier this month for refusing to appear in court over an alleged sex scandal prosecution that the opposition say is politically motivated.
His party has threatened to hold nationwide demonstrations if moves are made to arrest him or if the crackdown continues.
"Don't threaten (me) with demonstrations in exchange for talks. No way, youngest brother!," Hun Sen said at a university graduation ceremony Monday, in a characteristically lengthy speech.
"This is not just a warning, it is more serious than a warning because it is an order to eliminate those who destroy security and social order," he said, adding that foreign countries had no right to criticise his administration.
Last week a group of 36 states - including the European Union and the United States -- issued a joint statement saying they were "deeply concerned" about escalating political tensions in Cambodia.
Hun Sen, a former army commander who defected from the Khmer Rouge, has dominated Cambodian politics for the past 31 years.
His administration claims it has brought much needed peace and stability to a nation ravaged by civil war.
But opposition groups have gained ground in recent years amid growing disillusionment with endemic corruption, rights abuses and political repression.
The opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) accuses Hun Sen of denying it a majority by rigging the 2013 election in his favour, a charge the premier denies.
CNRP's top leader and Hun Sen's chief rival, Sam Rainsy, has spent nearly one year in self-imposed exile to avoid arrest warrants he claims are politically-motivated.
More than a dozen of opposition figures, including two MPs, are currently in prison facing charges, while more than 20 political activists and rights workers have faced legal action over the past year.
Four land activists were sentenced on Monday to six months in jail each for allegedly insulting public officials during a protest in 2011.
 - AFP