Water Festival Returns, Internet Arrests Continue, Hun Manet’s Hopes Soar
Good morning, Cambodia. It's Friday, November 24 — Happy Water Festival!
PRIDE & JOY: Bong Om Touk, the Kingdom’s beloved Water Festival, returns this weekend after years of pandemic delays. The centuries-old tradition will for three days unleash boisterous multitudes in the capital. It’s a party long overdue!
LOCKED UP: Add a non-political man to the dozens of Cambodians — including farmers, professors, rappers and monks — jailed for their posts on social media. As he asked the court: ‘“Why can’t people express their opinions?”
LOOK AWAY: “Parliamentary oversight” refers to holding elected officials to account for corruption, rights abuses and other crimes. In Cambodia from 2018-23, a watchdog group found zero “effective” examples of such oversight.
The Kingdom can’t shake its reputation as a haven for Chinese cyber scam mills, despite a recent increase in arrests and a change in tone from the new administration.
Stories from victims that accuse the police of being just as bad as the gangsters don’t help — one reported being extorted by immigration officials who refused her food or a lawyer.
Cindy Dyer, the U.S. ambassador-at-large, recently completed a two-day fact-finding mission. The U.S., like several other countries, is pressing the Kingdom to finally get tough, and asking why a crackdown is taking so long.
Promises, promises. The Ministry of Labor threatened brick factory owners who break the law with fines, closures and possible criminal charges.
“Blood Bricks,” a 2018 report, called the system “modern slavery,” but this is no recent story. (Violations were first documented by Licadho in 1999.) Authorities have long promised to clean things up, but not a single case has been prosecuted.
The situation is still a Dickensian nightmare. It’s on the new government to act.
VIP seating is being prepared for about 250 guests near the viewing platform in front of the Royal Palace. The area is among the best for watching the dragon boat races. Real-time translations will be available in English, French and Chinese.
Aside from the famous boat races, events include concerts, fireworks, art performances and evening parades of ornately decorated barges.
Expect roads east of Norodom Blvd., from Independence Monument to Street 154, to be closed to traffic. The best plan is to take a tuk-tuk and walk.
Parliamentary oversight has all but disappeared since the Supreme Court banned the CNRP in 2017, says TI Cambodia, the transparency watchdog. The group blamed the opposition party's collapse, lax monitoring laws and the government's lack of interaction with civil society for the shift. Change is unlikely as long as the CPP retains its stranglehold on power.
A social media post critical of the ruling party earned a Banteay Meanchey man three years in prison for defamation, incitement and insulting the king. In a Facebook live video, the man had asked whether the CPP would stop the flow of Vietnamese immigrants or tackle a host of social ills after winning the July election. The verdict sends a clear message: criticize the CPP at your own risk.
Hun Manet has asked for friction-free workplaces, calling on factory owners, the government and labor unions to quickly settle their differences for the sake of the economy — a big ask considering a prominent labor leader remains in prison and factory owners routinely flout labor laws.
The prime minister is brimming with confidence. Hun Manet, eyeing heavy government spending, predicted economic growth to hit 5.6% this year and 6.6% in 2024. The World Bank, by comparison, revised down its forecasts for both years, from 5.5% to 5.4% this year and from 6.1% to 5.8% in 2024. Either way, the Kingdom’s economy remains the envy of Southeast Asia.
The government will build two more hydropower dams in Koh Kong province. The $450 million build-operate-transfer contract was awarded to Khmer Electrical Power, owned by Oknha Kok An, the controversial tycoon with ties to Hun Sen. The Stung Russei Chrum Kandal will have a capacity of 70MW and the Stung Veal Thmor Kambot will have 100MW. No date for completion was announced.
The Ministry of Mines and Energy banned further mining in Prey Lang Wildlife Sanctuary. The ban was small consolation to local communities battling a Chinese-backed gold mine over health and environmental concerns, but may save others from a similar fate. More than a dozen companies hold permission to explore or extract minerals from the area, although only two are believed operational.
Send ‘em to the frontlines! That’s what Hun Manet jokingly said about a group of drunken cops who fired more than 200 rounds into the Kirirom night, alarming neighbors and setting off a manhunt for the birthday boy. Authorities sacked four National Police officers over the incident and are searching for the fifth.
BACKPAGES: From The Cambodia Daily Vault
November 21, 2003
Illegal logging operations appear to be thriving in the Oral Wildlife Sanctuary. Nine active sawmills were spotted during a flight that wound through the preserve last week.
November 19, 2003
The UN Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization proclaimed the Cambodian Royal Ballet to be a “Masterpiece of Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity” this month, bestowing the ancient dance and its performers with a prestigious honor reserved for only the world’s finest cultural arts.
November 18, 2003
Giving his strongest indication of who may be next in line for the throne, King Norodom Sihanouk predicted Monday that those in charge of determining his successor will be split between his sons Prince Norodom Ranariddh and Prince Norodom Sihamoni.
Battambang doesn’t have any Michelin stars but it does have street snacks like crunchy deep-fried bananas and turmeric-tinted minced-pork stuffed pancakes.
Srey runs a restaurant near Angkor Wat. She and thousands of others like her have been told to leave
Each year, more than two million tourists flock to Cambodia’s Angor Wat temple complex. Now the government is telling 10,000 local families at the site to move on, a directive Amnesty International says violates international human rights law.
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