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Hun Manet Reveals His PhD, Chinese Hackers Hit Hard, Police Puncture Nitrous Parties
Good morning, Cambodia. It's Friday, November 10, and this is your Weekly Dispatch.
PARTY OVER: Chea Mony and Rong Chhun are synonymous with the political opposition. The labor leaders this week quit the Candlelight Party and joined the newly formed Nation Power Party. Is this a new era — or a last hurrah?
RED LINES: Personal debt soared to more than $14 billion in the third quarter, equal to roughly $870 for every Cambodian. More than 50% was tied to property loans, with banks, families and more fearing an ever-ominous bubble.
FEVER PITCH: Prince Norodom Amarithivong and relatives in the Royal Family have invested in a top Thai football club. The prince is promising joint ventures, while outraged local fans want that money spent on home teams.
So much for “iron-clad” friendships.
Chinese cyberspies have hacked into the networks of at least two dozen Cambodian government agencies, including the Ministry of Defense, giving diplomatic migraines to Hun Manet’s fledgling administration.
The new prime minister has no good counter moves. He can remain silent and pretend the cyber attacks never happened, or downplay it with assurances that Cambodia has nothing to hide. Protesting, which could risk billions in annual loans and investments, is out of the question.
Critically, the government’s computers remain compromised, and while officials would typically turn to China in times of need, all they can do now is look the other way in embarrassment.
The latest tourism figures are wildly misleading.
According to the topline numbers, Cambodia recorded nearly 4 million tourist arrivals over the first nine months of the year, up more than 210% compared to 2022. The figure suggests the tourism industry is well on its way to recovery — but that’s simply not the case.
Angkor Wat, the Kingdom’s premier tourism destination, recorded a mere 602,570 foreign visitors through October, or about 67% less than the 2.2 million counted in 2019, before the pandemic.
A full recovery, analysts predict, is still years away.
Environmental experts are calling on the government to return land taken under the long-failed policy of economic land concessions.
Around 2.25 million hectares, nearly 15% of the country, remains under the control of concessionaires more than a decade after the government stopped the program, which promised jobs and economic growth but yielded little more than mass forced evictions and deforestation.
Most of those hectares now lay unused and fallow, abandoned and stripped of valuable trees. Allowing locals to farm the areas would relieve untold hardships, experts say, while potentially pumping millions into the economy.
Structural Integration? A Cross-Country Study.” The paper explores the workings of small- and medium-sized businesses, although it does not look specifically at Cambodia. Critics had accused the prime minister of keeping the work confidential. Instead, he welcomed their feedback.
Two prominent Candlelight Party leaders called it quits, dealing a significant blow to the Kingdom’s main opposition group. Chea Mony and Rong Chhun, heavyweights of the organized labor movement, jumped ship with several colleagues to the little known Nation Power Party, a move that likely signifies a new era in opposition politics — one without Sam Rainsy or Kem Sokha.
The Ministry of Environment vowed greater scrutiny of new mining projects, acknowledging that commercial interests needed balancing against cultural and ecological concerns. Keo Rattanak, the minister of mines and energy, lamented the long row of quarries along National Road 4 and said mountains with religious or cultural significance must be protected.
Consumers racked up a record $14.3 billion in debt in the third quarter, or about $870 for every man, woman and child in the Kingdom. More than half is tied to mortgages in the troubled real estate sector. The World Bank suggests such high debt levels are risky, and insiders say several banks are struggling under the weight of bad loans.
Cambodia deported 25 Japanese nationals arrested in September for allegedly running an international phone scam ring. The U.N. estimates 100,000 people are involved in the Kingdom’s notorious cyber scam industry, which operates under the protection of well-connected tycoons and corrupt police.
Fans are furious with the Cambodian royals who invested in a Thai football club. The group, led by Prince Norodom Amarithivong, signed a joint venture with Police Tero, a team in Thailand’s top division. The prince said collaborations with Cambodian teams were in the works, and local players would gain valuable experience in Thailand.
Police raided the Number 9 club on Bassac Lane during a weekend crackdown on “happy balloons” filled with nitrous oxide, briefly detaining more than 100 patrons, including several foreigners. Cambodia has no laws restricting the use of nitrous oxide, also known as laughing gas, but authorities are pushing to ban it after a surge in recreational use.
BACKPAGES: From The Cambodia Daily Vault
November 6, 2003
Phnom Penh’s brothels will be allowed to remain open through the weekend, despite having been ordered to close during previous Water Festivals, city officials said Tuesday.
November 5, 2003
Gary Glitter, the British glam-rock legend whose career lurched to an abrupt halt in 1999 after he was convicted on child pornography charges, is suing the Ministry of Women’s and Veterans’ Affairs for defamation, his lawyer said Tuesday.
November 4, 2003
A Sunday evening dance-floor scuffle led to the second shooting in six days involving children of powerful Phnom Penh families, police officials said Monday.
Sarada Taing was worried sick. A U.S. citizen who was born in Cambodia, he was running from Washington an online, independent news broadcast for audiences in Cambodia and around the world. On his weekday Khmer-language video talk show, which draws between 50,000 and 80,000 viewers, he airs investigative reports on corruption, money laundering, land grabs, deforestation, human rights abuses and human trafficking — challenging the authoritarian government.
Photos: Hacker, public domain. Hun Manet, Facebook.
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