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Orphanages to get local oversight

Children sit outside at a Kampong Chhnang orphanage in 2014.

The Ministry of Social Affairs today will lay out its plans for the transfer of oversight of the Kingdom’s controversial network of orphanages to local governments, part of an ambitious attempt to move thousands of Cambodian children out of residential care and back into their communities. Sub-Decree 34, signed by Prime Minister Hun Sen in March, will be disseminated to authorities at a workshop in Phnom Penh. It hands the power to monitor and manage orphanages to the provincial, district and commune levels to “improve the quality of these services, as the people responsible for their delivery will be closer and more in touch with the needs of their communities”. Almost 80 percent of the estimated 16,579 children living in Cambodian orphanages have at least one living parent.

Vietnam rubber firm reaches accord with Ratanakkiri ethnic villages

Burial grounds on land in Ratanakkiri province owned by the Vietnamese rubber giant Hoang Anh Gia Lai, which will grant villagers access to the site as part of commitments signed last Wednesday.

In an agreement mediated by the International Finance Corporation’s watchdog mechanism, a controversial Vietnamese rubber firm has reached a deal with 11 ethnic minority villages affected by its Ratanakkiri operations to return nearly 20 community “spirit mountains”, restore streams filled or polluted by its activities and repair roads and bridges. The deal between the locals and the Hoang Anh Gia Lai (HAGL) rubber company was brokered by the IFC’s Compliance Advisor Ombudsman (CAO), and remains tentative pending government approval. Sat Vannak, a senior Ratanakkiri Provincial Hall official who attended the meeting, said authorities would only approve the agreement once a provincial hall task force demarcated the boundaries of the land HAGL promised to return to the communities.

Flooded areas vacated

A family vacates their home yesterday due to flooding along Stung Sen River in Preah Vihear province.

Heavy rains caused by Tropical Storm Sonca claimed the life of a second child in Preah Vihear province yesterday and are continuing to force evacuations and road closures across northern Cambodia, according to officials. Choam Ksan District Governor Chea Kemseng confirmed yesterday that a girl had died in the heavy flooding, the day after a 13-year-old boy from the same province was swept away by floodwaters and drowned. Forty-eight families in Choam Ksan district were also forced to evacuate their homes yesterday, according to Un Chanda, Preah Vihear provincial governor. Heavy rains are expected to pound northern Cambodia, Thailand, Laos and Vietnam for another two days.

Police arrest Australian actor over ‘drug trafficking’

Australian actor Mark Coutelas, 57, was sent to pre-trial detention on charges of drug trafficking in Preah Sihanouk province.

An Australian actor who was once the face of the popular Australian soft drink Solo was arrested by Military Police in Sihanoukville on Monday and detained on charges of drug trafficking, officials said yesterday. Mark Coutelas, 57, was charged on Tuesday and detained at the Preah Sihanouk Provincial Prison, provincial court spokesman Lem Bunheng said. He previously served time in Thailand for drug possession. Keo Sophal, the deputy commander of Preah Sihanouk Provincial Military Police, said Coutelas had been arrested on Monday at the Otres Lux guesthouse, with authorities allegedly seizing 100 grams of methamphetamine, marijuana, five pipes, a scale, a motorbike and a mobile phone as evidence.

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