Archive for March, 2011

KI Media Teur Chavay Krong Phnom Penh Chea Nona? – “Who’s the Phnom Penh Ci…

31 March, 2011


Kep Chuktema (in white shirt), the Phnom Penh city governor, walking with Choeng Sopheap, wife of Lao Meng Khin – the owner of Shukaku, Inc. – which is in cahoot with the government to grab lands in Boeung Kak Lake (Photo: Koh Santepheap)

Posted By Heng Soy to KI Media at 4/01/2011 03:01:00 AM

KI Media New Mekong Dam a Go, and a Blow to Megafishes?

31 March, 2011
Cambodia Fisheries personnel release a Mekong giant catfish. The 5-foot (1.5-meter) megafish weighed nearly 100 pounds (50 kilograms). (Photograph by Chor Sokunthea, DCS/DY/Reuters)

Livelihoods and dozens of aquatic species at risk, according to those opposed to the Xayaburi dam.

March 25, 2011
Ker Than
for National Geographic News

A meeting between four Southeast Asian countries this week could determine whether construction of the first of up to a dozen controversial dams on the Mekong River can proceed.

The dams are designed to generate electricity for the region, but environmentalists fear they will disrupt the Mekong’s delicate freshwater ecology—which supports the endangered giant Mekong catfish and dozens of other critical species—and threaten local communities who rely on the river for food and jobs.

“We believe the Mekong River dams should not be built,” said Ame Trandem, a campaigner for the environmental group International Rivers.

The Xayaburi Dam in northern Laos is the first of 11 proposed dams planned for construction on the lower Mekong River. Nine dams are planned for Laos, and two others are slated for Cambodia.

The approximately 3,000-mile (4,800-kilometer) Mekong River is traditionally separated into two parts on maps: The upper Mekong flows through China, where it is known as the Lancang River, while the lower Mekong runs alongside Myanmar and through Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam before emptying into the South China Sea.

The Xayaburi Dam will take eight years to complete and cost an estimated $3.5 billion. It will generate 1,260 megawatts of electricity, most of which will be sold to Thailand.

According to Trandem, the Laotian government has said it would use the revenues from the dams to further national economic growth and redevelop the country, where the average citizen makes $2,400 per year.

The World’s Largest Freshwater Fishery

In terms of biodiversity, the Mekong River is second only to the Amazon among the world’s great rivers. As a home to more than 1,000 fish species, the Mekong supports the world’s largest freshwater fishery, and it provides food and income–through fishing, farming, ecotourism, and other jobs–for many of the 65 million people who live in the Lower Mekong basin.

The Mekong is unique among the world’s large rivers because “the fish diversity is extremely high, the diversity of migratory species is extremely high, and human dependence upon these species for fisheries is extremely high,” said Peter McIntyre, a freshwater conservation expert at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

“You put all of that together, and putting a large dam in the Mekong is likely to cause major problems.”

International Rivers estimates that about 2,100 people would be forced to resettle if the Xayaburi Dam were built and that the livelihoods of another 200,000 people could be impacted directly.

Environmental and Social Costs

Laos has urged neighboring countries to not block the Xayaburi’s construction and maintains that the dam will have minimal environmental impacts.

A February 14 note by the Laotian government to other Mekong River member countries said the Xayaburi “relies upon a technologically advanced design to produce the cleanest and renewable electricity with no pollution . . . and a minimum of effects upon the environment in the vicinity.”

University of Wisconsin-Madison’s McIntyre said he is skeptical of this claim. “There’s never been a dam put in place on a large river that didn’t have a substantial ecological impact,” he said. “That’s just a fact.”

The Laos government has yet to make its environmental impact assessment (EIA) report for the Xayaburi Dam publicly available, but the Mekong River Commission (MRC)—an intergovernmental group created in 1995 to coordinate water resource issues among Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam—has commissioned its own environmental review of a series of proposed dams on the Mekong mainstream, including the Xayaburi.

The MRC’s 198-page Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) report, published in October 2010, recommended a 10-year building freeze on all Mekong dam construction projects to allow time for more studies on the dams’ environmental and societal impacts to be conducted.

“My intuition is that if you really account for the full sweep of negative impacts to humans and fish species, it would be hard to justify a dam on the Mekong River,” McIntyre said.

Laos recently indicated it would resist the SEA report’s recommendations. “We have no reason to believe that the Project should be delayed any further,” the Laotian government said in a statement.

Environmental groups and scientists say the risks posed by the dams far outweigh any of their potential benefits.

Biologists have warned the Xayaburi Dam would block the migratory routes of dozens of fish species and could place 41 fish species at risk of extinction, including the critically endangered Mekong giant catfish.

The builders of the Xayaburi Dam have promised to create “fish passages” that would allow fish to continue their migrations.

But International River’s Trandem said no fishery technology currently exists that can guarantee safe passage for the Mekong’s numerous fish species.

“Right now, all the evidence points to the fact that fish passages will not work on the Mekong River because you’re dealing with such a high volume of fish and such a large number of fish species,” Trandem said.

A Precedent

Investors for Xayaburi and the other proposed Mekong dams need look no farther than the Mun River dam in Thailand to see all the things that could go wrong, the nonprofit conservation group WWF has said.

Built in the 1990s, the dam on the Mun River, the Mekong’s largest tributary, was a “notable economic failure” that caused massive environmental and social disruptions, WWF said.

At $233 million, the Mun River dam cost investors twice the original estimate, according to WWF, and energy production fell to a third of expected capacity during the dry season. Return on investment dropped from a projected 12 percent to 5 percent. Other environmental groups estimate that more than 20,000 people have been affected by drastic reductions in fish populations upstream of the Mun River dam site and other changes to their livelihoods.

“The lessons of Thailand’s Mun River dam are still fresh: Hasty environmental and social impact studies can lead to a bitter lose-lose situation for both fishermen and dam owners,” Suphasuk Pradubsuk, National Policy Coordinator with WWF-Thailand, said in a statement.


Under the Mekong Agreement, the four MRC nations (China and Myanmar are “discussion partners,” but not MRC members) are required to consult with one other on any large construction projects on the main stem of the Mekong River. Countries are supposed to reach an agreement about whether the projects should proceed, and if so, under what conditions.

In October 2010, Laos formally began the six-month MRC approval process for the Xayaburi Dam. A final decision is expected April 22, following a meeting between the four MRC member countries in late March.

However, because no MRC member nation has veto power, construction of the Xayaburi Dam’s construction could move forward even if the other countries oppose the project.

“We’re not a regulatory body and have no specific enforcement powers, but all countries fully support this prior consultation process and aim to reach a consensus,” said MRC chief executive officer Jeremy Bird.

Mekong management is complicated by the fact that the river meanders through no fewer than six countries in Southeast Asia, many of which have had histories of bloody conflict with one another.

Citing a desire to avoid “regional conflict,” U.S. Senator Jim Webb, chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations Subcommittee on East Asian and Pacific Affairs, recently said the U.S. should consider withdrawing funding to the MRC if construction of the dams proceeds. The MRC is funded by Australia, Sweden, the United States, the European Union, and other countries, as well as donors like the Asian Development Bank.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton echoed that sentiment last fall during a visit to Vietnam, when she recommended a “pause before major construction continues.”

Brendan Buckley, a paleoclimatologist at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University in New York City, whose team is using tree-ring data to model the climate of the Mekong basin during the last millennium, said he thinks construction of the Mekong dams is inevitable.

Laos and Cambodia “need the standard of living increases that would come from building these kinds of development projects, so they’re going to happen,” Buckley said.

But whether the dams are built “intelligently with some ecological balance remains to be seen.”

Dam History

Plans for hydropower dams on the lower Mekong River main stem date as far back as the 1950s, but war and political instability in the region, as well as concerns about earlier dam designs, prevented them from being built.

But interest in hydropower dams on the Mekong has seen a resurgence in recent years, said MRC’s Bird.

This has been driven in part by concerns about climate change and a shift toward renewable energy sources that have low carbon footprints.

International River’s Trandem said the success or failure of the Xayaburi Dam project could determine the fate of the other proposed Mekong dams.

“What happens to the Xayaburi will set the precedent for what happens in the future on the Mekong,” Trandem said.

“If the four countries realize that the Xayaburi is not a good idea, it’s unlikely that the other [main-stem Mekong] dams in Cambodia and Laos would ever go forward.”

Posted By Heng Soy to KI Media at 4/01/2011 02:54:00 AM

KI Media Snacking snake: New species grabs a bite

31 March, 2011

31 March 2011
Caitlin Stier, contributor

(Image: Jeremy Holden)

Locked in what appears to be an embrace, this ruby-eyed green pit viper (Cryptelytrops rubeus) is lunging for its next meal: a hapless tree frog.

Rarely observed, the snake is native to the forests of Cambodia and southern Vietnam. Despite its striking appearance – blood-red eyes with emerald coils – rubeus was not previously categorised as a distinct species because of the similarities to its yellow-eyed cousin, the large-eyed green pit viper (Cryptelytrops macrops).

Now, with the help of a genetic study, Anita Malhotra of Bangor University, UK and colleagues have identified rubeus as a unique species.

Posted By Heng Soy to KI Media at 4/01/2011 02:47:00 AM

KI Media Vatican sends annual Message to Buddhists for Vesakh

31 March, 2011

Thursday, March 31, 2011
Source: VIS

Made public today was the annual Message to Buddhists for the Feast of Vesakh, issued by the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue. This year Vesakh, the most important Buddhist festivity, is celebrated on 8 April in Japan, on 10 May in Korea, China, Taiwan, Vietnam and Singapore, and on 17 May in Thailand, Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Myanmar and Laos.

In the message, which is entitled: ‘Seeking Truth in Freedom: Christians and Buddhists live in Peace’, Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran and Archbishop Pier Luigi Celata, respectively president and secretary of the pontifical council, note that “in the pursuit of authentic peace, a commitment to seek truth is a necessary condition. … This human striving for truth offers a fruitful opportunity for the followers of the different religions to encounter one another in depth and to grow in appreciation of the gifts of each”.

The English-language text continues: “In today’s world, marked by forms of secularism and fundamentalism that are often inimical to true freedom and spiritual values, inter-religious dialogue can be the alternative choice by which we find the ‘golden way’ to live in peace and work together for the good of all. … Such dialogue is also a powerful stimulus to respect for the fundamental human rights of freedom of conscience and freedom of worship. Wherever religious freedom is effectively acknowledged, the dignity of the human person is respected at its root; by the sincere search for what is true and good, moral conscience and civil institutions are strengthened; and justice and peace are firmly established”.

Posted By Heng Soy to KI Media at 4/01/2011 02:43:00 AM

KI Media Life sentence for Comrade Duch?

31 March, 2011

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia, March 31 (UPI) — The prosecution in the case against a Khmer Rouge prison chief called for a life-in-prison sentence for atrocities committed in the 1970s.

The Extraordinary Chamber in the Courts of Cambodia is charged with trying surviving leaders of the Khmer Rouge regime for alleged crimes against humanity committed during the 1970s.

Kaing Guek Eav, commonly known as Comrade Duch, was director of the notorious Tuol Sleng prison, or S-21, in Phnom Penh. He was convicted in July of crimes against humanity committed during the Khmer Rouge reign.

Andrew Cayley, one of the prosecutors at the tribunal, said a life-in-prison term was appropriate for Duch given the severity of the regime’s actions in Cambodia.

“We call for the imposition of a life term, reduced to 45 years simply to take account of that period of illegal detention,” he said in a statement to the tribunal. “But for the purposes of history, a life term must be imposed in this case.”

Duch is challenging his sentence. He claims he wasn’t a senior leader in the Khmer Rouge regime and faced death if he didn’t carry out their wishes.

“I survived the regime, only because I respectfully and strictly followed the orders,” he said.

Posted By Heng Soy to KI Media at 4/01/2011 02:40:00 AM

KI Media SRP remembers 1997 victims

31 March, 2011
A man pays his respects to the deceased at a ceremony yesterday to remember the victims of a 1997 grenade attack on members of the Sam Rainsy Party in Phnom Penh. The attack left 16 opposition activists dead and over 100 wounded. The perpetrators have yet to be brought to justice. (Photo by: Heng Chivoan)

Thursday, 31 March 2011
Kim Yuthana
The Phnom Penh Post

During a commemorative ceremony yesterday the opposition Sam Rainsy Party urged the Government to seek justice for victims of a brutal grenade attack in 1997.
The attack left at least 16 people dead and more than 100 injured.

More than 50 monks said prayers for the dead, while SRP members said that justice would not be served unless the Government identified and arrested the perpetrators.

About 200 SRP members had gathered outside the old National Assembly building on March 30, 1997, to protest the impunity of Cambodia’s judiciary.

Four grenades were lobbed into the crowd in a well-orchestrated attack that the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation concluded later to have involved Government officials.

“I would like to call on the Government to open an investigation into this criminal case and find out who the real killers were and bring them to justice,” said Chan Virak, who lost his sister in the 1997 attack. He added that families of the dead have been waiting for 14 years to see justice.

During yesterday’s event, which was attended by an estimated 200 party representatives and members of victims’ families, SRP President Kong Kam said the “grenade attack had been planned”.

Sam Rainsy addressed participants of yesterday’s ceremony via video conference and said family members of the victims still suffer because they have not received justice.

“We still remember what happened unfairly to demonstrators at that time,” he said.

“We continue our commitment to push the Government and the US Federal Bureau of Investigation to investigate and arrest the killers.”

Teng Savong, a secretary of state at the Ministry of Interior and once the head of the investigative team in charge of the case, said yesterday that police officials had not yet closed the file but that they were no closer to identifying any suspects.

“We have not yet apprehended any of the killers,” Teng Savong said.

Posted By Heng Soy to KI Media at 3/31/2011 11:01:00 PM

KI Media Duch: It wasn’t me

31 March, 2011
Former S-21 prison chief Kaing Guek Eav, better known as Duch, sits in the courtroom at the Khmer Rouge tribunal on the outskirts of Phnom Penh in July 2010. (Photo by: Reuters)

Thursday, 31 March 2011
James O’Toole and Cheang Sokha
The Phnom Penh Post

Kaing Guek Eav struck a defiant tone yesterday in his final appearance before the Khmer Rouge tribunal, denying responsibility for his leadership of S-21 prison and asking the court to release him “in order to seek justice and truth for the Cambodian people”.

Speaking at the end of three days of appeal hearings before the tribunal’s Supreme Court Chamber, the man better known as Duch offered only a token expression of apology over the course of a 25-minute address in which he asserted that he falls outside the court’s mandate to try “senior leaders” and those “most responsible” for crimes committed under Democratic Kampuchea.

The argument represents a dramatic break from the approach taken by Duch and his defence over six months of trial hearings in 2009, during which he accepted qualified responsibility and essentially pleaded guilty. All this changed when he challenged the court’s jurisdiction and asked for an acquittal during closing arguments in November of that year, a strategy the defence has carried forward in its appeal.

Donning reading glasses and reading from a legal pad on which he composed his remarks over the course of yesterday’s hearing, Duch told the court that he had been forced to adhere to the line of a “criminal party”.

“The senior leaders, the most responsible persons, were others, not me,” he said. “According to the notion of senior leaders and most responsible persons, we refer to those who had the authority to design the [party] line and have it implemented. It wasn’t me.”

The remarks echoed claims made repeatedly this week by defence lawyers Kar Savuth and Kang Ritheary, who said Duch was no different from dozens of other KR-era prison chiefs throughout the country, all of the rest of whom have escaped prosecution. Duch said S-21 was “like the other torture centres where torture was employed”, claiming he was not permitted to make decisions on the “smashing” of detainees.

“Whatever you were ordered to do, you had to do it, otherwise you would end up being smashed,” he said. “I survived the regime because I respectfully and strictly followed the orders.”

Duch’s address came at the end of a day devoted to appeals of decisions on reparations and civil party admissibility in the original judgment, handed down last July. In that judgment, Duch was found guilty of crimes against humanity and grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions, sentenced to 30 years in prison.

Prosecutors have accused Duch of lacking remorse for his crimes and have called in their own appeal for him to have his sentence increased to 45 years, commuted from a life sentence only because of his excessive pre-trial detention.

Co-prosecutor Andrew Cayley said yesterday that Duch’s cold address had “underscore[d] all of the arguments that we made about sentencing”. Prominent civil party Bou Meng, one of the few living survivors of S-21, said he too was unmoved by Duch’s plea for acquittal.

“Whether he received orders from his superiors or he did it by himself, he has to be punished,” Bou Meng said.

Civil party lawyers argued yesterday that the reparations awards in the July judgment, which called for statements of apology made by Duch at trial to be collected and published and for the names of admitted civil parties to be printed in the verdict, were insufficient.

“The victims feel that such apologies are not genuine, and that when the apologies or names are published on the website, it’s not acceptable for the victims or the civil parties, who by no means have access to such materials,” civil party lawyer Kim Mengkhy said. “It is meaningless.”

Civil party lawyers have proposed ideas including the construction of a memorial stupa at S-21 and the recommendation that the government name a national commemoration day for victims, though the Trial Chamber found last year that these proposals were outside the scope of reparation options available to the court. In the aftermath of the judgment last year, the tribunal adopted rule changes that will allow judges to grant more expansive reparation awards in future cases.

An additional point of contention yesterday was the Trial Chamber’s decision to declare inadmissible the claims of 24 civil parties among the 90 who had been involved in court proceedings throughout the case. Civil party lawyer Hong Kim Suon said the tribunal had “outright misled” these people by not informing them that their claims could be rejected until the day of the verdict.

Kang Ritheary argued, however, that civil parties needed to present evidence to substantiate their claims.

“You cannot just make a plain statement and then it becomes evidence,” he said.

Duch himself mentioned the victims only briefly yesterday, allowing that he did maintain responsibility for “suffering at S-21 and for psychological damage for the victims throughout the country”. In closing his remarks, however, he returned to the issue of jurisdiction and his own limited culpability.

“I would urge your honours to decide and consider, on the issue of personal jurisdiction, that I do not fall within the jurisdiction [of the tribunal]”, he said. “This is the principle you should abide by in order to seek justice and truth for the Cambodian people, as well as for the former Khmer Rouge soldiers and cadres, especially the middle level, who do not fall within the jurisdiction of this tribunal.”

Posted By Heng Soy to KI Media at 3/31/2011 10:13:00 PM

KI Media Local farmers must not be forgotten in global land rush

31 March, 2011
Residents of the Boeung Kak lakeside during a protest in Phnom Penh, Cambodia against eviction. A local developer and a Chinese investment company have been given a 99-year lease from the Cambodian government to develop the lake. Photograph: Mak Remissa/EPA

Vast tracts of farmland in poor nations being gobbled up by foreign investors could undermine small farmers’ rights and food security in the host countries

Thursday 31 March 2011
Darryl Vhugen

From Ethiopia’s lowlands to the hilltops of Madagascar, hundreds of thousands of acres of farmland in the developing world are being gobbled up by investors creating super-sized farms.

This high-stakes global land rush, which has the potential to transform, for good or ill, developing nations, is essentially a third wave of outsourcing.

The first wave, in the 70s and 80s, sent manufacturers scrambling to lower-wage countries; the second involved white-collar service jobs primarily to India and other English-speaking, low-wage countries.

This third wave has sent investors, eager to capitalise on rising food and energy prices or shore-up their own country’s food security, to lease or buy huge tracts of cheap land in the developing world.

Already, about 2.6 million hectares in soon-to-be-independent southern Sudan has been leased or acquired by international investors. An additional 2.5m hectares has been acquired in Ethiopia, Ghana, Madagascar, Mali and Sudan. Some nations, including Madagascar and Mozambique, have received requests from investors for more than half of their cultivable land area.

As recent Guardian coverage illustrates, host countries appear eager to accommodate investors who bring promises of modernisation of agricultural production, infrastructure, technology and employment. However, the risks and unintended negative consequences are potentially severe: loss of smallholder farmers, food scarcity, increased landlessness, marginalisation of the poor, social unrest, unsustainable resource use, and environmental degradation.

Emerging economies must proceed with caution. In this global “land rush”, governments in much of the developing world confront a crucially important choice: will they proceed with a sustainable agricultural development strategy that benefits all of their people? Or will they settle for narrower, more immediate gains that actually cause harm to local communities?

The initial indications are not promising. Many of the deals approved by developing country governments are not the product of a fair or transparent process. Some threaten to undermine the food security of the host country. Many threaten to undermine the land rights and livelihoods of local communities. Few offer adequate compensation – in the form of equivalent land or cash – or suitable alternative employment for the displaced local farmers.

The stakes are high because more than 75% of the world’s poorest families subsist in rural settings. More than 1 billion of these people have little or no legal control over the land they till. If meaningful gains on global poverty, hunger and food security are to be made, governments must to do more to accelerate legal land rights for their citizens.

Most governments recognise this, at least on paper. But untitled land is easily confused with “empty” land, which makes way for an attractive investment for corporate interests. In reality, land – particularly productive land – is rarely empty or unused. Poor and marginalised people typically have legitimate, long-standing traditional claims to such land, although these are often not reflected in public records.

As a result, these land deals often require the involuntary displacement of huge numbers of small farmers. The displacement common in these arrangements leads to increased poverty and potentially to social unrest, which can spoil the investment and even destabilise the government.

In most poor nations, there are large gaps between actual and potential agricultural yields. But the best route to closing this gap usually is not super-sized farms. In most labour-intensive agricultural settings, small farms are more productive than large farms. They could become even more productive – and as a result likely minimise unrest – if developing country governments provide these family farms with secure land rights that allow farmers to invest in their own land and improve their harvests.

Understanding and respecting the plight and rights of smallholder farmers is essential if investments are to be socially legitimate, legally secure and economically viable.

Indeed, the key to successful long-term, sustainable agricultural investments is to align incentives so that, if one party succeeds, all parties succeed. To achieve this “win-win-win” outcome, governments should insist that investors invest in the local farmers, not just the farmers’ land. This can be done in a variety of ways, but the local farmers and their communities must be partners in the process – not simply moved off their ancestral land, with or without compensation. Local farmers, if not a part of a project’s success, are likely to find a way to be a part of its failure.

• Darryl Vhugen is a senior attorney and land tenure specialist with Landesa, a non-profit organisations that has advised and partnered with government departments and other groups in more than 40 countries to help extend secure land rights to the rural poor

Posted By Heng Soy to KI Media at 3/31/2011 10:07:00 PM

KI Media Air France’s first flight to Cambodia in 37 years lands in capital

31 March, 2011
French Secretary of State for Transport Thierry Mariani (C-R), attends a launching ceremony at Phnom Penh international airport, Cambodia, 31 March 2011. Air France resumes flights to Cambodia after a 35-year interval. The thrice weekly flights between Paris and Phonm Penh via Bangkok, will utilise an Airbus A340, then in May 2011 will replace the Airbus A340 with a Boeing 777, with a greater capacity. EPA/MAK REMISSA

Mar 31, 2011

Phnom Penh – Air France’s first commercial flight to Phnom Penh in nearly four decades landed in the Cambodian capital on Thursday.

The arrival of flight AF274 marked the resumption of a service that the company terminated in 1974 as the Khmer Rouge was on the cusp of taking control of Cambodia.

The chief executive of Air France KLM, Pierre-Henri Gourgeon, said the reopening of the service to Phnom Penh after 37 years was ‘really emotional.’

‘(Cambodia) is a country that developed (bonds) in the past very strongly with France,’ he said. ‘We feel we are in a French-speaking area. We understand the culture.’

Air France ended its service in mid-1974 because ‘instability was worryingly high,’ he said.

Within a year Pol Pot’s ultra-Maoist movement had captured the capital. The Khmer Rouge held power for nearly four years during which as many as 2.2 million Cambodians died.

Gourgeon said Air France would run three flights a week between the two countries, and confirmed a future schedule could include Siem Reap, the country’s tourism centre and home to the famed Angkor Wat temple complex.

‘Siem Reap is very important, but as far as I understand it, it was easier from a commercial and diplomatic point of view to start in Phnom Penh,’ he said.

The new service will add 40 tons of cargo capacity weekly between the two nations, which Gourgeon said should help to boost bilateral trade.

Air France said it would operate Boeing 777 aircraft on the route, with a one-hour stopover in Bangkok.

The new Paris-Phnom Penh route is part of Air France KLM’s strategy to boost growth by adding 11 destinations this year.

Tourism is a rapidly growing industry in Cambodia, and one of the four pillars of the economy along with agriculture, construction and garment manufacturing. Around 2.5 million people visited the country last year.

Cambodia has strong ties to France, its former colonial power. It gained its independence in 1953 after 90 years of foreign rule as part of French Indochina, which also included Vietnam and Laos.

Posted By Heng Soy to KI Media at 3/31/2011 09:57:00 PM

KI Media Air France becomes first European airline to offer flights to Camb…

31 March, 2011

31 March 2011

PARIS (BNO NEWS) — After a 37 years absence, Air France is once again offering scheduled flights between Paris and Cambodia. It makes Air France the only European airline to operate flights directly to Cambodia.

The inaugural flight, flight 274, landed in the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh on Thursday. “We are proud to be the first European airline to once again operate scheduled services between Europe and Cambodia, as part of our growth strategy on routes to Asia where we are increasing capacity,” said Pierre-Henri Gourgeon, CEO of Air France KLM.

Gourgeon said the airline will operate three weekly return flights between Paris and Cambodia, promoting economic and cultural ties with the region.

The flights are being operated by Airbus A340-300 aircraft until May 9, after which a Boeing 777-200 aircraft will take over. The route is also expected to help boost the opportunities for transporting goods such as fresh produce and textiles between France and Cambodia. Air France will offer hold space with a weekly cargo capacity of up to 40 tonnes.

The launch of the Paris – Phnom Penh route is part of the Air France KLM group’s growth strategy with a 5.7 percent increase in capacity, with the launch of 11 new destinations in 2011 to Phnom Penh, Bata, Billund, Freetown, Lima, Monrovia, Orlando and Cancun for Air France, and Xiamen, Miami and Aalborg for KLM.

Posted By Heng Soy to KI Media at 3/31/2011 09:31:00 PM