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2005 year in review

January

Quotas for garment exports to the US from Cambodia expire on Jan 1.

Chhoy Pisei

Cambodian Sman Esma El and Thais Abdul Azi Haji Chiming and Muhamm-mad Yalaludin Mading appealed on January 12 against their life sentences, after being convicted of plotting to bomb the US and British embassies.

Three men convicted to life in prison for plotting to bomb the US and British embassies

filed an official appeal on Jan 12, according to their defense lawyer Kao Soupha.

The Council of Ministers passes a sub-decree on Jan 12 establishing a state-run telecommunications

company called Telecom Cambodia.

Chevron Texaco confirmed on Jan 13 that it had discovered oil in four offshore wells

in the 6,278 square kilometer Block A field.

A Montagnard family seeking asylum is feared deported after being taken by police

from a UN shelter in Phnom Penh, according to Human Rights Watch.

On Jan 19 an "Inter-ministerial Working Group" is established by the government

to explore the purchase of Chinese patrol boats to monitor Cambodia's territorial

waters.

A Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries report released on Jan 20 indicates

that the four million tons of unhusked rice will be harvested, which includes a 463,000-ton

surplus above expected domestic consumption.

King Norodom Sihanouk leaves for Beijing on Jan 24 for medical treatment.

The British government announced on Jan 27 that it was pledging $1.2 million to the

funding of the Khmer Rouge Trial.

Health authorities are on high alert after discovering a logging company spreading

poultry-waste fertilizer over its plantation nurseries in Pursat province. The WHO

says they are concerned about the spread of the avian influenza virus.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees sends a four-person team to Ratanakkiri

on Jan 27 to begin identifying Montagnard asylum seekers from Vietnam.

Eight new members were elected to the CPP's Standing Committee at the party congress

on Jan 28 and 29. They are: Chea Chanto, Cheam Yeap, Chhay Than, Ek Sam Ol, Khuon

Sudary, Ouk Rabun, Pen Panha and Som Kimsuor.

Tit Sokhan, 25, from Kampot, dies from bird flu in a Vietnamese hospital on Jan 30.

February

The National Assembly voted in a closed door session on Feb 3 to remove parliamentary

immunity from opposition members Sam Rainsy, Chea Poch and Chea Channy. Chea Channy

was arrested the same day, Sam Rainsy left the country and Chea Poch went into hiding

for several days before he too left the country.

An outbreak of bird flu is reported in Takhmao and Kandal provinces on Feb 7.

The Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF) appoints 214 officers to the rank of one-,

two- and three-star generals in early February.

The International Labor Organization (ILO) announced on Feb 11 that it will transfer

responsibility for monitoring garment factories to the government, unions and manufacturers

by 2009.

The World Bank awards the first-ever Corporate Citizenship Awards to four Cambodian

companies on Feb 11: New Island Clothing, Hotel Cambodiana, Confirel, and Hagar Soya.

Bar and restaurant owners set up the Restaurant and Bar Operators Association of

Cambodia (ROAC) on Feb 11.

The Supreme Court on Feb 16 upholds a 2003 Appeals Court ruling convicting Chhouk

Rin of terrorism and sentencing him to life in prison. Rin goes into hiding.

King Norodom Sihamoni joins 20,000 well-wishers on Feb 18 to celebrate the 50th anniversary

of the Cambodian Red Cross.

Japan announces a $26.7-million contribution to support the KR Trials.

An agreement to give the World Food Progamme $900,000 to compensate for rice stolen

in 2003 and 2004 was signed on Feb 28 by Deputy Prime Minister Sok An.

March

Urban households spend more than twice as much of their total expenditure on bribery

as their rural counterparts, according to a study completed by the Center for Social

Development. The survey showed that courts, police and government ministries are

perceived as the most corrupt. Bribing judges and court officials cost an annual

payoff totaling $357.50 for those who have to pay the bribes.

International Women's Day on Mar 8 highlights the fact that 5.2 percent of Cambodia's

adult women are widows.

More than 70 monks representing 22 provinces and municipalities met on Mar 9 to form

the Association of Buddhists for the Environment.

The 15th Dhammayietra peace march started on Mar 10 with 83 monks and 30 lay persons.

The Japan Assistance Team for Small Arms Management burned 1,408 voluntarily surrendered

weapons in Siem Reap on Mar 13.

Prime Minister Hun Sen announced Mar 14 that he could no longer honor his October

2004 promise to postpone concession contracts.

More than 100 police tried to evict 218 families from a disputed plot of land in

Kbal Spean village, near Poipet on Mar 21. The villagers resisted and police opened

fire with automatic weapons, killing five people immediately and wounding four.

Seventeen prisoners are shot and killed during an escape attempt from CC3 Prison

in Kampong Cham province on Mar 23. A further 28 managed to flee, but 17 were later

recaptured. The death toll would rise to 20.

Meas Roun, 28, became Cambodia's second bird flu victim on Mar 23.

An ammunition dump in Battambang erupts on Mar 31. Explosions last for more than

nine hours; five people are killed and 20 injured.

April

A US company based in the state of Texas, the X-Change Corporation, issued a press

release on Apr 6 stating that the Cambodian government had granted the company offshore

drilling rights. The Cambodian government denies the claim.

One million people in rural areas are in need of emergency water and food after last

year's drought, says Nhim Vanda, first vice president for the National Committee

for Disaster Management.

A Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries report on Apr 7 says that total

rice production in 2004 was 4.17 million tons, down over 2003 by 705,000 tons.

A report written in January, 2005 for Prime Minister Hun Sen and obtained by the

Post documents widespread land grabbing in Siem Reap province. More than half of

Banteay Srey's 29,000 hectares of Permanent Forestry Estate have been illegally claimed

by private landholders, according to the report written by Vann Sophanna, director

of the Forestry Administration's northern region.

Officials at the highest levels of the Cambodian government are accused on Apr 15

by Richard Cross, lead investigator for the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement

office of complicity in scams that involve hundreds of babies and millions of dollars.

Fires in Phnom Penh over Khmer New Year on Apr 14 and 17 destroyed nearly 100 homes.

Action film star Jackie Chan visited Cambodia on Apr 21 to raise awareness about

landmine and UXO removal projects.

The walls of Wat Lanka, the French Embassy, Apsara TV and other buildings were spray-painted

with the initials CFF in the early morning hours of Apr 22.

At the third annual National Conference on Mine Action held Apr 28, Prime Minister

Hun Sen announced that the government would budget $800,000 for mine clearance in

2005.

May

Tourism Minister Lay Prohas said at the ministry's annual conference on May 2 that

Cambodia received 387,908 arrivals in the first three months of 2005, an increase

of 52 percent compared to 2004.

British golfing veteran Nick Faldo visited Siem Reap on May 2 to inspect the progress

of an 18-hole course he designed.

Presiding Judge Kim Sophorn sentenced Vietnamese Australian Gordon Vuong, aged 16,

to 13 years in jail on May 3 for trying to smuggle 2.1kg of heroin out of Cambodia.

The Cambodian Economic Association was officially launched on May 5 at Pannasastra

University.

A report released by the National Malaria Center of the Ministry of Health said that

the number of deaths from malaria had dropped 60 percent since 1999. However the

disease was still killing one Cambodian every day.

His Majesty Preah Karuna Preah Bat Samdech Preah Boromneath Norodom Sihamoni was

joined by well-wishers in celebrating His Majesty's 52th birthday on May 14.

The National Assembly approved on May 17 a new Law on Commercial Enterprises, seen

by the private sector as a key piece of legislation to improve Cambodia's appeal

to investors.

Cambodian soldiers reported on May 18 that Thai soldiers had dug trenches and set

up barbed wire along the neutral zone between the two countries near Preah Vihear

temple.

An amendment to the Constitution, lowering the number of MPs needed to reach a quorum

from 87 to 74, was passed by the National Assembly on May 18.

Royal cows ate lots of rice and corn during the annual Plowing Ceremony on May 26,

indicating 2005 would be a good harvest year.

June

Protesters outside the Sen Monorom headquarters of of logging company Wuzhishan on June 16. Phnong villagers maintained a blockade against the company in Dak Dam commune to protest what they said was the government's failure to enforce a stop-work order until land-ownership was settled.

The US government downgraded Cambodia to Tier Three on the State Department's anti-human

trafficking list. US embassy briefed NGOs on June 14 on the new anti-trafficking

requirements.

Cambodian Freedom Fighters (CFF) president Chhun Yasith, accused of plotting to overthrow

the Cambodian government, is arrested in Long Beach, California by the FBI on June

1.

The Supreme Court sent the drawn out fight for the Cambodian Bar Association case

back to the Appeals court on June 2. Five Supreme Court members ruled that the decision

to hold new elections was unfair, although the exact reason for the annulment remains

unclear.

Sixteen bars and restaurants were closed on Sihanoukville's Ocheteal Beach after

title to the land they occupied was transferred from military police to private hands.

All establishments were dismantled prior to the June 10 deadline to do so.

Family Health International and the Ministry of Defense launched the Model Man campaign

designed to get soldiers to drink less at a ceremony on June 13 in Kampong Cham.

PM Hun Sen assumed the presidency of the National Authority on Border Affairs on

June 14.

Four giant catfish are released - each weighing about 50kg - at the confluence of

the Tonle Sap and the Mekong rivers in a ceremony on June 15 presided over by Dr

Claude Martin of the World Wildlife Fund and Chan Sarun, Minister of Agriculture

forestry and Fisheries.

A 3-year-old Canadian boy was shot dead on June 16 when four masked gunmen held 28

kindergarten students and five teachers hostage for seven hours at the Siem Reap

International School. The four gunmen were arrested by police at the end of the stand-off.

Citizens protested on June 16 in Sen Monorom against Chinese company Wuzhishan's

activities in Mondolkiri province.

The Khaou Chuly Group announced a deal with Siam Cement of Thailand to build a new

cement factory in Kampot that will produce 850,000 tons of cement per year.

A report by the Center for Advanced Study and funded by USAID and the Asia Foundation

on citizen attitudes towards Commune Councils is released on June 27 which says that

most Cambodians are optimistic about the performance of the councils and the future

of their village, commune and country.

Former Cambodian Bar Association (CBA) Ky Tech and his supporters filed a complaint

with the Municipal Court on June 27 accusing newly elected head Suon Visal of forgery

over the use of the CBA's official stamp and bar letterhead.

The Ministry of National Assembly-Senate Relations completed a new draft of the Law

on Anti-Corruption on June 30.

July

Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao and Prime Minister Hun Sen signed five agreements

for $400 million in loans and grants for Cambodia on July 5 in Yunnan province.

A look at the construction industry indicated that Phnom Penh has been experiencing

a major boom for over a year. New home construction approvals numbered 8,879 in 2004,

compared to 1,182 in the year 2000, a jump of more than 650 percent.

The Bank of Agriculture and Rural Development of Vietnam (Agribank) announced on

July 11 that it would open a branch in Phnom Penh within two years.

Budget airline Jetstar Asia said on July 13 that it would begin services to Cambodia.

Legal Aid of Cambodia celebrated its 10th anniversary on July 14.

Cambodia's only domestic airline President Airlines ceases operations, citing low

load factors as the reason.

Safari World in Koh Kong is fined $57,000 on July 15 for illegally importing 36 orangutans

from Thailand.

Employment figures in the garment industry rebound after initial losses that followed

the end of quotas on Jan 1, according to Ken Loo, secretary-general of the Garment

Manufacturers Association of Cambodia. Between 265,000 and 268,000 workers are employed

in the sector.

Over a five-month period police collected 8,000,000 riel and confiscated about 5,000

cars and motorbikes during a crackdown on unregistered vehicles, according to Kim

Yidath, Phnom Penh municipal traffic chief.

Authorities forcibly deported 100 Vietnamese Montagnards on July 20.

An announcement is made on July 22 that 10 of the world's top clothing and shoe brands

pledged financial support for the International Labor Organization's "Better

Factories Cambodia" effort.

Funcinpec president Prince Norodom Ranariddh threatened to sack party members on

July 28 if they don't visit their constituents in the countryside.

August

Khem Sovannara

Bourn Samnang shouts against "injustice" as he is led from court on August 1 after he and Sok Samoeun were convicted of killing trade union leader Chea Vichea.

The Phnom Penh Municipal court on Aug 1 convicted Sok Samoeun and Bourn Samnang of

killing trade union leader Chea Vichea and sentenced them to 20 years in prison.

Sam Rainsy Party member Cheam Channy is convicted in a military court on Aug 9 of

organizing an illegal armed force for his role in a shadow defense cabinet known

as Committee 14. He is sentenced to seven years in jail. Amnesty International lists

Channy as a "prisoner of conscience."

Prime Minister Hun Sen said on Aug 11 that the Cambodian People's Party and Funcinpec

planned to formalize their alliance before the 2008 national elections in order to

strengthen their partnership in the coalition government.

Australian banking giant ANZ opened its offices in Phnom Penh, in partnership with

locally owned Royal Group.

Around 1,000 tons of vegetables are being exported to Cambodia from Vietnam each

month from the Vietnamese province of An Giang, according to a Trade Department officials

in a Vietnam News Agency report.

Khem Sovannara

Opposition MP Cheam Channy is led into military court on August 9 to be convicted of fraud and organizing an illegal army.

Michelle Lee is named to become the coordinator of the UN assistance to the Khmer

Rouge Trial, a position that will become effective on Sep 1. Lee, a Chinese citizen,

has worked in the UN system since 1974.

Holt International, a Christian organization involved in adoptions, completed a nationwide

survey of children in Cambodian orphanages which included photographing and fingerprinting

the children.

A draft law on the organization of courts gives the military court expanded jurisdiction

to cover any case "regarding the violation of people's security," causing

concerns among human rights observers and opposition party members about potential

abuses of power.

A three-year experiment aimed at reducing the damage rats inflict on rice crops has

yielded promising results but faces an uncertain future with cash-strapped farmers

in Kampong Cham province.

Cambodian-American lawyer David Chanaiwa took his Hummer for a joyride through Hun

Sen park late at night, damaging the grass and flowers. He is arrested and jailed

a day later.

SRP MP Chea Poch appeared before the Municipal Court on Aug 31 and stands by his

claims that Prince Ranariddh took $30 million in bribes from Hun Sen in return for

forming a new coalition government in 2004.

RCAF and the EU Assistance on Curbing Small Arms and Light Weapons project burned

4,110 weapons on Aug 31 in Kampong Chhnang.

September

Three ships from the Japan Maritime Self Defense Force paid a courtesy call at the

port of Sihanoukville on Sep 6.

Prime Minister Hun Sen is awarded the U Thant Peace Award for the second time on

Sep 6 by the Indian mystic Sri Chinmoy.

Phnom Penh Police Chief Heng Pov announced that he asked a visiting Chinese Police

delegation to consider donating closed-circuit television cameras to help monitor

city streets.

Siem Reap police swapped their inner-city station worth an estimated $7 million with

a plot 5km away worth a fraction of the original location.

Correctional Center 1 outside of Phnom Penh banned the use of money inside the prison,

to be replaced by coupons in an effort to curb stealing and limit spending by prisoners.

Two women were arrested at Chai Hour II Hotel on Sep 7, along with the hotel manager

Sam Leng, on the suspicion of human trafficking.

The Supreme Court refused on Sep 7 to conduct an investigation into the possible

involvement of Hun Sen in the 1997 grenade attack against the Sam Rainsy Party.

Notes with cryptic terrorist slogans turned up in men's toilets in the Sunway Hotel

on Sep 4.

Business Edge TV, a weekly Khmer-language television series that aims to educate

entrepreneurs on the fundamentals of business ownership, began its third season on

Sep 8.

Youth Star Cambodia-a "Peace Corps" like program to encourage volunteerism

among Cambodian young people is launched on Sep 9.

Sam Rainsy and three other individuals sued Prime Minister Hun Sen and members of

his bodyguard corps on Sep 9 in a US court for human rights abuses in Cambodia dating

back to the 1970s.

The Pizza Company, Cambodia's first international fast-food franchise, opened its

doors on Sep 13.

A new domestic violence law is passed by the National Assembly on Sep 16.

Buddhists across Cambodia marked the start of Pchum Ben celebrations on Sep 19.

A project, supported by the German Development Agency (GTZ), to encourage farmers

to grow organic rice in Kampot and Kampong Thom has been so successful that it is

expected that next year's harvest will reach export markets.

The International Finance Corporation announced on Sep 21 that it had awarded ACLEDA

Bank its 2005 Client Leadership Award.

The Cambodian Human Rights Action Committee (CHRAC) appealed to the government and

other NGOs to raise funds for victims of drought in Kampong Speu. Radio Free Asia

reports on Sep 21 that five people died from starvation.

A small demonstration against Hun Sen by the Student Movement for Democracy on Sep

27 is quickly quashed by police.

October

Officials close down the Khmer Rouge Experience Café on Oct 1 saying that

the café was in poor taste. The theme restaurant served watery gruel, dove

eggs and tea for $6.

The finals of the Srey Sroh Pros Saat 2005 contest are held on Oct 1. More than 10,000

contestants vied for top honors.

PM Hun Sen says on Oct 6 that he will sue anybody who accuses him of ceding land

to Vietnam.

Cheam Channy says on Oct 6 that he will not appeal his seven-year prison sentence

for allegedly raising a rebel army.

The Youth Movement of the Funcinpec party says on Oct 6 that it supports 20,000 university

deans, professors and students from around the country who say they plan to protest

the return of Sam Rainsy.

PM Hun Sen signed a Supplemental Border Treaty with Vietnam on Oct 10 in Hanoi.

Mom Sonando, Beehive Radio director, is arrested on Oct 11 on charges of defamation

and incitement related to an interview Sonando did with Sean Pengse on Sep 20 concerning

the Supplemental Border Treaty.

PM Hun Sen suspended the mandatory computerized scanning of exports at Sihanoukville

port on Oct 14, after the inefficient two-week old system held up the shipment of

90 containers.

On Oct 14 PM Hun Sen said he is suing four people for defamation because they signed

an Oct 11 statement as members of the Cambodia Watchdog Council: Rong Chhun, head

of the Independent Teachers Association; Man Nath, president of the Cambodian Independent

Civil Servant Association; Ear Channa, deputy secretary-general of the Student Movement

for Democracy; and Chea Mony, president of the Free Trade Union of Workers in the

Kingdom of Cambodia.

Ear Channa and Man Nath flee to Thailand. Rong Chhun is arrested on Oct 15 as he

was trying to cross the Thai border in Poipet. He is charged with defamation.

King Father Norodom Sihanouk said he will not return to Cambodia and will follow

the example of a Khmer prince who died in exile, according to an Oct 16 statement

sent from Bejing.

Prince Sisowath Thomico leaves the country on Oct 18, fearing arrest for comments

he made on the new border treaty.

The chart-topping band Michael Learns to Rock conducts a televised concert on Oct

19.

The International Federation of Human Rights released a statement on Oct 20 calling

for the release of Sonando and Chun.

Cambodia is ranked for the first time in the Global Index complied by Transparency

International, an NGO working to combat global corruption. The survey placed Cambodia

130th out of 159 countries.

Oct 29 marked the one-year anniversary of the coronation of His Majesty Norodom Sihamoni.

November

The UN on Nov 1 named Kenyan attorney Yash Ghai to replace Peter Leuprecht as Special

Representative for Human Rights in Cambodia.

Air Asia, a Malaysian budget carrier, begins service to Cambodia.

The Ministry of Health said on Nov 2 that only 100 courses of Tamiflu, the anti-viral

drug used to treat Bird Flu, are available in the country.

The Economic Institute of Cambodia in a report released on Nov 3 said that in 2005

economic growth will be 5 percent, down from 7.7 percent in 2004.

Yim Voeunthan, Secretary of State in the Ministry of Agriculture, said on Nov 3 that

the figure of 10,000 cows and buffalo infected with foot-and-mouth disease was wildly

inaccurate. He said the virus had killed seven cows and infected 1,190 cows and buffalo.

World Bank economists said on Nov 4 that Cambodia's economic growth will be 6.1 percent

in 2005, down from 7.7 percent in 2004.

Electricity prices were raised from 800 riel to 890 riel per kilowatt hour on Nov

5.

The National Assembly voted on Nov 11 to approve the Supplemental Border Treaty with

Vietnam after discussion on the issue that spanned seven hours and which saw SRP

members walk out before the vote.

The government said it is in the final stages of negotiations with Chinese state-owned

company Sinohydro about the construction of a $280 million 145-meter high dam on

the Kamchay river that will flood 2,600 hectares of Bokor National Park in Kampot

province.

The Ministry of Labor began registering workers to be able to secure legal employment

in Thailand on Nov 14, after a nine-month hiatus. It is estimated that there are

183,000 Cambodians working in Thailand.

Funcinpec held its party Congress on Nov 14.

More than one million revelers converged on Phnom Penh for the annual Water Festival

Nov 15 to 18. Around 20,000 competitors took part in races involving 399 boats, including

633 women. Boat crews from Thailand, Laos, Myanmar, Vietnam and China also participated.

RCAF, in cooperation with a US military contractor, completed the destruction of

Cambodia's inventory of SA-3 ground-to-air missiles on Nov 18. The US government

provided a grant of $900,000 for the project.

A growing number of pregnant women are insisting that their husbands or relatives

find at least one goose egg to boil for them in the belief that eating it will make

their child smarter.

Wildlife experts warn that the Buddhist practice of releasing birds to earn merit

may help spread Bird Flu and other diseases.

The CPP held its party Congress on Nov 23, adding 121 new members to the Central

Committee.

Ten NGOs announced on Nov 24 they would not participate in observing the upcoming

Senate elections.

King Norodom Sihamoni signed the Supplemental Border Treaty with Vietnam on Nov 30.

December

The Ministry of Religions and Cults issued new regulations Dec 1 restricting the

activities of monks prohibiting them from begging for food in crowded places such

as markets, solicit donations using loudspeakers or stroll with women along the riverside.

Newspaper editor Hang Sakhorn is arrested Dec 2 on charges of criminal libel stemming

from a story about bribery and public officials.

PM Hun Sen told 450 government officials and lawmakers at a conference on Dec 6 that

land grabbing must stop. The PM said that between 1979 and 2002 250,000 hectares

of forest had been grabbed by powerful people in the armed forces.

Chea Sokhom and Un Ny are sentenced on Dec 9 to life in prison for their involvement

in the botched Jun 16 school siege in Siem Reap that resulted in the death of a Canadian

toddler.

The new $60 million US Embasy became operational on Dec 12.

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