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Hun Manet Faces Billboard Fiasco, FDI Soars as Economy Tanks, Local Students Safe in Israel
Good morning, Cambodia. It's Friday, October 13. Happy Pchum Ben!
HOLIDAY CHEER: Government is stepping in to boost a slow-to-start Pchum Ben holiday season, asking businesses to offer discounts. Something must be done, or 2023 will mark the worst 2-year period of economic decline in a decade.
LEGGING IT: Stop right there! Japan halted a vocational program for Cambodians after it learned that more than 9,000 visiting trainees went missing in 2002 alone. Authorities are scrambling to fix the problem — and find the escapees.
TALL TALE: He’s 5-foot-4, health-oriented and, according to the government, too short to be a Cambodian gym teacher. Now, he’s an internet sensation after a video of police beating him as he protested the height requirement went viral.
Hang in there! That’s what the Strongman told a group of terrified female college students pinned down in southern Israel after a classmate was killed in the surprise attacks by Hamas, the Palestinian terrorist group.
At least 450 Cambodians, mostly students, live in Israel. Hun Sen encouraged them to stand strong with the Jewish nation, saying they should have considered the dangers before choosing to study abroad.
Israeli forces had moved all the students to safety by Friday. The Cambodian government said they would remain in the country and there were no plans to bring them home.
Predictions of an economic upturn in the second half of the year are fizzling.
Exports to the U.S., the Kingdom’s top buyer, are down more than 2% over the first nine months of 2023. Trade with the U.K. is down 14%. Handbag exports have fallen 13%, clothing 17%, footwear 25%, and bicycles, not long ago a shining star, a whopping 43%.
One bright spot is foreign direct investment, which hit a record $3.76 billion in the first nine months, but that’s unlikely to save an otherwise gloomy year.
Tourism Ministry officials are meeting with private-sector leaders to discuss recovery strategies — and not a moment too soon.
In Siem Reap, authorities are pushing businesses to offer deep discounts over the Pchum Ben holiday, hoping to jumpstart the traditional high season, which is off to a slow start. Officials claim better times are coming, highlighting the opening of the new Siem Reap airport and the number of airlines preparing for more flights.
Remember the giant Hun Manet billboards festooned across Times Square? The ones honoring the new premier as he visited New York to speak at the U.N.? The same ones crowed about by father, son and social media? They were internet fakes.
The government promised to plant more than one million trees each year, increasing forest cover to 60% by 2030 and boosting the lucrative sale of carbon credits. Critics argue that the protection of existing forests, which are disappearing at record rates, is far more important.
Two court victories for environmentalists had little value, according to rights leaders, who said the decisions were likely tied to the reinstatement of $18 million in U.S. aid. The Regional Court of Appeal dropped a charge of illegal land clearing against a popular Ratanakiri campaigner, and a Koh Kong court granted bail to two activists arrested in June. All vowed to continue protesting environmental policies.
Plainclothes police battered an aspiring Phnom Penh gym teacher twice as he protested outside the Ministry of Education. Keo Sovannrith was rallying against his expulsion from a state-run training program for being too short. He plans to sue city officials for the assault.
The beautiful cable-stayed bridge linking Koh Pich to Koh Norea, which has been under construction since 2020, will be used for a limited time during the Pchum Ben holiday weekend. The $38 million bridge is expected to formally open Oct. 23.
Kampong Phluk, the floating village best known as a destination for camera-toting tourists, makes its Hollywood debut in “The Creator,” a futuristic tale of mankind’s battle with artificial intelligence. The Guardian called it a “sci-fi spectacular.” Others have been less charitable: Minh Bui Jones, founding editor of the Mekong Review, called it “garbage.”
Immigration authorities in Japan suspended accepting vocational trainees from three unnamed Cambodian organizations after more than 9,000 recruits escaped. The Justice Ministry of Japan is working with Cambodia to address the problem, which threatens the program’s existence.
BACKPAGES: From The Cambodia Daily Vault
October 13, 2003
Villagers in the northwest continue to demine their own land, despite warnings by the government and mine action agencies that they leave land mines alone, a study published last month found.
October 11, 2003
Five Sihanoukville port customs officials were charged with drug trafficking Friday and authorities in Phnom Penh arrested an RCAF two-star general and a lieutenant colonel as part of ongoing police operations to smash heroin smuggling rings in Cambodia.
October 8, 2003
Though laying low since April, Kompong Thom province’s notorious bandit gangs have struck again with a double kidnapping and the killing of a military officer in Sakream commune, Prasat Balang district, officials said Monday.
October 7, 2003
The Council of Ministers has adopted a draft agreement with the US promising not to send US or Cambodian citizens to the International Criminal Court for war crimes or crimes against humanity.
An ambitious plan to re-engineer the carbon market could play havoc with net zero goals and raises questions about human rights.
Photos: Angkor Wat, Daniel Mennerich, Flickr. Koh Norea Bridge, City Hall.
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