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Cambodia Business News From PhnomPenhPost.Com
A group of 10 women, including seven well-known Boeung Kak lake activists, and a monk arrested and convicted at breakneck speed in November had their convictions upheld at the Appeal Court this morning.
But most of the group – who were part of two separate cases – had their sentences and fines slightly reduced, according to Presiding Judge Nguon Im’s verdict.
Five of seven Boeung Kak women who allegedly blocked traffic on Monivong Boulevard during a November 10 protest had their sentences, handed out just a day after their arrests, reduced from one year to 10 months.
Kong Chantha, Song Srey Leap, Bo Chhovy, Nong Sreng and Phan Chhunreth were also ordered to pay a fine of 1.5 million riel, about $375, instead of the original 2 million.
Tep Vanny, the most well-known of the seven, did not receive a reduced sentence, but Nget Khun, a 75-year-old known universally as “mummy”, had her sentenced and fine halved to six months and one million riel.
Vanny’s fine was dropped to 1.5 million riel.
Separately, three of the four in the second case – who were arrested on November 11 while protesting outside the Phnom Penh Municipal Court for the release of the Boeung Kak seven – had their sentenced reduced.
They were all convicted on November 12 for “intentionally inciting violence against a public authority”.
Im Srey Touch, Heng Pich and Phoung Sopheap were given 10 months. Their fines were dropped from two million to 1.5 million riel.
But Soeun Hai, a monk from Stung Meanchey pagoda, like Vanny, had his one-year sentence and 2 million riel fine upheld.
Judge Im said this was because he is a Buddhist monk but had “destroyed the religion” with his alleged actions.
Hopes had been high that the Boeung Kak seven would be acquitted, given one of three judges at Friday’s appeal hearing had cast doubt on whether the group had actually obstructed traffic.
The immediate reaction to the verdict outside the court was despondent.
Nou Chivoan, the 16-year-old son of Nong Sreng, was inconsolable. He lay on the footpath next to a portrait of his mother.
“This is injustice for my mother. She has not done anything wrong. She just protested to demand that City Hall intervene to help pump sewage water [out of our houses],” he said between fits of tears.
“But the authorities and the court have instead only arrested and detained my mother.”
Representatives from local rights groups on the scene also condemned the Appeal Court verdict, citing a lack of evidence and alleging the court’s decision was motivated by the government’s spite towards the longtime activists. ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY KEVIN PONNIAH
Looking to the future, 2015 is already shaping up to be a busy year. We are hoping to continue our busy program of high-level bilateral visits. Another highlight will be welcoming the first group of Australian students to Cambodia through the New Colombo Plan’
In 26 January each year, Australians celebrate Australia Day. It is an opportunity for our diverse country to think about where we have come from and where we are all heading. Here in Cambodia, it is also an opportunity to reflect on Australia’s relationship with Cambodia and to celebrate with our friends and counterparts.
Over the past year, Australia’s relationship with Cambodia has continued to strengthen. Our Prime Ministers met in Myanmar in November. And Cambodia hosted a number of visits by senior Australian Ministers, including our Foreign Minister, the Hon Julie Bishop MP, in February.
We have worked closely together on a number of important issues. Our police and immigration departments and defence forces have supported each other to fight transnational crime, including people smuggling, terrorism, child abuse and drug trafficking. We also worked with Cambodia to develop a refugee settlement program under the bilateral memorandum of understanding signed last year. We have had frank discussions on human rights, electoral reform and sustainable development. And together we supported initiatives on malaria and disaster risk reduction through the East Asia Summit.
Alongside these complex, and often challenging issues, our joint celebration of 2014 as the 40th anniversary of Australia-ASEAN relations was a highlight. In Phnom Penh, we hosted events with the Cambodian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation and the Cambodian Institute for Cooperation and Peace to mark the anniversary, and reflect on Australia’s close and longstanding relationship with our region. At the ASEAN-Australia 40th Anniversary Summit in Nay Pyi Taw, moreover, leaders agreed to elevate Australia’s relationship with ASEAN to the strategic partnership level, and to hold regular future summits. We are proud to be in the highest group of ASEAN’s external partners, along with our friends from China, Japan, Korea and India.
But that was not the only anniversary. In 2014, we also celebrated the 20th year of our scholarships program in Cambodia. I enjoyed meeting more of the 500 Australia Award alumni, and learning more about the impact they have made in Cambodia.
Of course scholarships are only part of our development assistance to Cambodia. In 2014, Australia funded vital infrastructure, supported Cambodian farmers and helped improve the delivery of health services. We also supported land-mine clearance and worked closely with the Cambodian Government to tackle violence against women, and to promote justice.
Australian companies also continued to make a significant contribution to Cambodia’s development. On the back of increasing garment imports, tourism and Cambodian students travelling to Australia, our two-way trade grew to over US$300 million in 2013–14.
Looking to the future, 2015 is already shaping up to be a busy year. We are hoping to continue our busy program of high-level bilateral visits. Another highlight will be welcoming the first group of Australian students to Cambodia through the New Colombo Plan.
Under the original Colombo Plan in the 1950’s, 60’s and 70’s, tens of thousands of students from across Asia, including Cambodia, received scholarships to study in Australia. The scheme is fondly remembered in Australia and across the region. For many Australians it was an opportunity to study alongside people from all across Asia—many of whom went on to become leaders in their home countries.
Under the New Colombo Plan, the Australian Government is supporting more Australian students to study throughout Asia and the Pacific. Cambodia is a popular destination. In 2015, over 100 Australian students will come to Cambodia under the scheme. They will undertake projects including studying monkeys in Mondulkiri, teaching in Phnom Penh and researching soil science in Siem Reap.
By spending time here these students will gain a deeper understanding of Cambodia and the region—just as Cambodia’s Australia Award scholars learn more about Australia. They all help to build the close personal connections between Australia and Cambodia.
This is also what Australia Day in Cambodia is all about. Whatever your connection to Australia—expat, tourist, alumni, colleague or friend—I wish you all a happy Australia Day, and a safe and successful 2015.
Alison Burrows, Australian Ambassador to Cambodia.
The Australian Chamber of Commerce in Cambodia (AusCham) was established to support small and medium-sized enterprises gain a foothold and succeed in Cambodia. Originally dating back to the mid nineties under the moniker of ABAC (The Australian Business Association of Cambodia), AusCham provides a social setting to establish good relationships between the two countries. With 90 members associated with AusCham, the organization operates alongside Australian businesses, the Australian Embassy and the Cambodian Government. The Vice President of AusCham, Stephen Higgins, spoke with the Phnom Penh Post about the value of the organization.
“We have been able to create a deep relationship with the business community here. Not only do we support Australian businesses operating in Cambodia, but we also help communicate with investors wanting to do business in Australia,” said Higgins. “We strike a balance between the social and business environment by hosting networking events and training courses.” Recently, AusCham and the Australian embassy conducted a seven hour workshop on anticorruption practices. Additionally, AusCham has brought in ANZ’s CEO Michael Smith to give lectures to its members.
“With the help of the embassy and businesses, we share useful advice with our members about Cambodia’s economy. Cambodia is a very unique market, and in many ways a lot easier than other countries to do business,” said Higgins while comparing the Kingdom to Thailand and Vietnam.
However, while Cambodia remains a lucrative place to conduct business and launch enterprising ventures, it also has it challenges. And Higgins was quick to point out that investors need to be aware of the market they are entering into.
“People look at the growth of the market (in Cambodia) and think it is an easy place to succeed, and there are a lot of companies that have, but it is important that people gain local insights and local advice,” he said. He went on to say that a lot of Australian investors are eager to enter into Cambodia, but once they are confronted with bureaucratic malaise, they often pulled out.
Those that pullout often have inadequate knowledge of the business climate in Cambodia. But Higgins remains firm that as Cambodia continues to modernize their regulatory practices, Australian investment will continue especially in the mining and the agribusiness sector.
Higgins predicts, as Cambodia’s middle class grows and wealth is accumulated, the core industries in Cambodia will change.
“In the future we will see a shift away from garment industry as more high tech industries enter into the market. As investors look to diversify their supply chains, we will likely see companies invest in electronics and electric motors. This will allow for the workers to be better paid,” he said, adding that it is important for companies to empower and train their workforce.
Through the glass walls of IDP country director Sreng Mao’s office on the first floor of the Australian Centre for Education, Santhor Mak Campus, he can see young university-aged students vigorously studying in the computer lab.
Without a vacant seat in the adjacent room, there is quiet collegiate air as western teachers stride back and forth, ready to answer questions. The students—attentively fixed on their course work that includes writing and reading tests, as well as computer-assisted language learning software—are developing their English language proficiency.
“With four campuses in Cambodia, three in Phnom Penh and one in Siem Reap, we teach an average of 12,000 students a year. And our fourth location, near the Russian Market, just opened and we already have classes near full capacity,” said Mao.
With 17 years of experience working at ACE and its affiliate, IDP Education, Mao has witnessed the changing demand in English Language Training (ELT) in Cambodia.
“ACE was first established in Cambodia in 1992 by IDP Education,” he said. IDP Education, an Australian-based organization, has over 40 years of experience. As one of the world’s largest student placement firms, IDP Education has over 70 student offices in 24 countries and has placed over 300,000 students internationally.
When the first campus opened its aim was to provide English language training to those supporting the United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC).
“That is when we first gained the reputation for our quality education programmes,” said Mao.
Shortly after that, ACE expanded their educational ambitions by introducing their services into the public realm, Mao explained.
“With over twenty years of experience in providing the highest standards, we are widely considered to be the leading provider in English language training (ELT),” he said. “Our education programmes get a lot of very positive feedback internationally. And we are receptive to the changing demands of ELT programmes in Cambodia.”
ACE has met the needs of Cambodia’s dynamic economic growth by offering a multitude of programmes for students as young as eight years old.
The most popular is the General English Programme. From there, ACE has launched a diversity of professional offers including Business English which focuses on networking, negotiation, proposal writing and reporting skills.
Their English for Academic Purposes course helps those pursuing a master’s degree. The course schedule includes researching, problem solving and critical thinking skills. Additionally, further specialized courses include medical English, finance and accounting, as well as hospitality training.
While English is the bridge language of the ASEAN, their newest advanced programme, aptly named English for ASEAN, is one of the timeliest and forward-thinking programmes on offer to date.
“The programme is designed to equip Cambodians for the upcoming free flow of labour [in ASEAN]. It gives our students a well-rounded education to increase their chances of employment not just in Cambodia, but also abroad. It teaches our students how to manage cultural differences while educating them about the various ASEAN countries,” said Mao.
Apart from learning English for ASEAN the students learn from various industry leaders who visit classes to understand real world business case studies in order to enhance their professional development, while also having networking opportunities.
“This will create a vital recruiting ground for successful candidates. Also, the English for ASEAN programme teaches students about different political practices across the region.”
“The key to the success of this programme is that it is proactive and robust. It focuses on future demand. We are helping to prepare our students with specific examples of their upcoming employment opportunities,” said Mao.
“The skills that we are teaching allow our students to understand the international standards that are required in business. And, in the future, it will show the ASEAN community the capability of Cambodian professionals,” he said.
“We are proud to be a leader in English Language Training in Cambodia. And we are proud to help our students succeed and reach their maximum potential.”
ANZ’s developing their local staff to be international bankers in the region
The partnership formed last year between ANZ Royal from Australia and Hattha Kaksekar Limited (HKL), a local microfinance institution in the Kingdom of Cambodia, will provide additional benefits to customers from both institutions.
Sitting down at his office on Kramuon Sor Boulevard, Grant Knuckey, CEO of ANZ Royal bank, explained the benefits between the two banking institutions. He said “the partnership and alliance with HKL is a pioneering one in the market. It’s the right formula for commercial banks and MFIs to cooperate for mutual benefit. One aspect of this is using technology solutions to allow customers to utilize one institution to pay to accounts in the other one, effectively in real-time”.
ANZ Royal have recently invested $10 million in a new payments and cash management system called Transactive, which Knuckey explained is one of the keys to making the partnership actually ‘functional’, as well as providing a world class transaction banking system to its own customers.
“The partnership also allows us to better support our customers in more remote areas of the country,” said Knuckey. “Effectively customers could access an ANZ Royal account even though they’re walking into a HKL branch.”
“For ANZ, we think that the Transactive investment is forward thinking, as opposed to building lots of branch infrastructure,” he said. “It helps customers make their businesses more efficient and profitable.”
ANZ is also a leader in human resource development. Every year the bank offers many opportunities for local staff to train at regional branches overseas.
“Our biggest resource is the quality of our team. We hire good people with huge potential. And then we train them to be great bankers.”
“There are many ways that we develop our staff, but a great thing is that we give them the opportunity to train across the ANZ network. This is not just Australia as people may think, but more often places like Singapore, China, Taiwan, Vietnam and Laos,” he said.
“More than that, we have supported our staff to apply for Australian and New Zealand scholarships, allowing them to study abroad for one to two years. ANZ Royal staff have been very successful in gaining these scholarships.”
Each year there are at least 30 to 40 Cambodian staff trained overseas. “And over the last few years, some of our local staff have been placed permanently at our offices in China, Taiwan, Singapore and other regional locations,” he said.
“That’s an integral part of our commitment to develop and train our local staff,” he concluded.
ANZ staff share experiences
For the last ten years Sophina Khiev has worked for ANZ Royal bank, a time that has flown by. Beginning his career with ANZ Royal in the Business Development Unit offering payroll services for companies and NGOs, he moved across multiple roles in retail banking from managing premier banking to running the bank’s Olympic Market branch and mortgage business in 2008. Now he is the Associate Director for Multinational Corporate and Financial Institution Group for nearly two years after four years spent with Global Markets [business unit].
When he began his career, he recalled that he had little experience in the International Banking industry. However, over the years he has been offered various opportunities to broaden his skills across different parts of banking and climb the ladder.
“Without ANZ Royal, I may not have had the opportunities to learn so many things about great banking practices and enjoy those valuable overseas experiences that help built up my banking skill today,” he said. Sophina was often sent to train and work in ANZ’s overseas offices especially in Singapore and China. “I sometimes worked with our regional team to provide financial solutions for big companies that operate across the globe,” he said.
“During my secondment with Global Markets at ANZ Shanghai office, I have concentrated on understanding the flow of Chinese investment into Cambodia and connect those Chinese companies to our local team. I also worked with our Shanghai team to help ANZ Royal access to Chinese Yuan for our customers’ trade settlement,” Sophina added.
In terms of understanding the fast paced world of banking and investment, Sophina has learned the importance of ANZ’s regional connectivity and capability and how that would help customers’ investment and trading in Cambodia.
“In the banking industry, I think Cambodia is still presenting many opportunities as an emerging market and that’s a reason why we’ve seen increasing presence of foreign banks over the last few years,” Sophina said. “So we need to speed up, and that is why ANZ Royal bank in Cambodia is always forward-looking and brings in innovative banking solutions into the country to better serve our clients.”