Cambodia – Plan for Jurassic park is hatched

A Malaysian investment firm and its Cambodian-registered partner are looking to build a “Jurassic Theme Park” as part of a proposed $51 million entertainment complex that would include a casino, hotel and 500 serviced apartments set to rise in Prey Veng province near the Vietnamese border, according to a filing on the Malaysian stock exchange yesterday.

MQ Technology Bhd, a Malaysian investment holding company, said in the filing that it intends to form a joint venture with the newly established Cambodian Resort and Entertainment Ltd (CRE) to build the proposed development, with construction to be completed within the next six years.

The official filing on the Malaysian bourse provides new details on a speculated proposal for a casino and theme park development that the Post first reported on Monday.

According to a signed memorandum of agreement (MoA), Star Acres Sdn Bhd, a wholly owned subsidiary of MQ Technology, would hold 70 percent of the joint venture with CRE holding the remainder. The agreement states that Star Acres would shell out an initial $1.5 million to build the dinosaur-themed amusement park, while both partners would provide management services for the project’s 5.1 hectares of land.

Robbie Hari Krishnan Tatparandam, executive director of MQ Technology, who is spearheading the proposed development, said the project was still in its early stages. “Right now, the agreement is just to conduct a feasibility study to see if the project has potential,” he said, adding that his role in the company – which specialises in high-precision mould-making and magnetic coils for hard-disk drives – was to restructure the business to make it more profitable.

“We are trying to look for other investment potential outside of what we traditionally do, and we are already trying to build a theme park in the southern Malaysian state of Malacca,” he said.

MQ Technology has already raised nearly half of the $13.5 million needed to complete the Malaysian project, which is being developed on 3.7 hectares of reclaimed land, through the issuance of additional shares earlier this year, he said.

Tatparandam said the company was looking at all available options to raise capital for the Cambodian project. Few details are known on CRE, which was registered at Cambodia’s Ministry of Commerce in May by Chan Loong Wai, a resident of Malaysia.

According to Tatparandam, CRE is a Cambodian-based holding company established by Star Acres and MQ Technology in anticipation of the project. He said the company was already actively investing in scaling up an existing casino in preparation for its grand investment scheme.

“CRE has already invested $3 million into an existing casino in Prey Veng to refurbish the casino floor and improve the karaoke area,” he said.

While Tataparandam could not recall off-hand the name of the existing casino, Ros Phirun, deputy director of the finance industry department at the Ministry of Economy and Finance (MEF), said there were only two casinos in the area that had been granted licences: Monaco Casino and Arunbopea Casino.

Michael Ho, whose name is listed as a contact on commercial registry documents for both CRE and Arunbopea Casino, said in an email yesterday that he was a friend of the chairmen of the two companies, though he denied any involvement in the project.

According to Pich Song, governor of Preah Sdech district in Prey Veng province, a group of Malaysian investors purchased the Arunbopea Casino two months ago from Hak Leng, a Cambodian business tycoon. “The deal is already done,” he said. “Right now, the casino is not operational as the Malaysians are remodelling it.”

He added that documents the MEF provided him show the casino’s licence is due to expire at the end of the year. “The company will have to apply for a new licence before it resumes operations,” Song said. While the MEF’s Phirun said that he was unaware of the details of the $51 million project, he suggested its success would depend on its ability to draw Vietnamese to its casino and Cambodians to its theme park.

“I believe they are investing more to create an integrated resort,” he said. “From my understanding, currently there are very few visitors from Vietnam coming to Prey Veng and the casinos there are empty. So a better destination would be welcomed.”

Source: PhnomPenhPost


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Cambodia – Dumping in river continues

A man looks over a large pile of rubbish that has been dumped along the bank of the Bassac River in Phnom Penh’s Chbar Ampov district in Phnom Penh yesterday. Heng Chivoan

Nearly a month after the Ministry of Environment asked Phnom Penh City Hall to stop villagers in Chbar Ampov district from disposing their trash in the Tonle Sap river, residents yesterday said no one had yet come to clean the area or end the practice.

Yors Run, who only moved into a house in Derm Sleng village three days ago, said he took the matter into his own hands yesterday by instructing a neighbor who owns a tractor to push the rubbish down toward the river because the smell was “very bad”.

Part of the riverside dump area, which had until then been covered with a 12-by-10-metre pile of steaming rubbish, was cleared, but the trash ended up instead spilling down directly into the river.

In the middle of the recently cleared area stood a sign bearing the names of the Interior Ministry and Environment Ministry. It informs illegal dumpers that leaving trash at the site would lead to a fine of up to $25 – if they are ever caught.

Residents said the sign was installed by the authorities a year ago but had collapsed. Run, the new resident and a former low-level military official, had changed that. “When the rubbish was cleared, I mended the sign so people won’t pour rubbish again,” he said.

Chhoun Srey Leak, a 22-year-old resident of Derm Sleng, said that no officials have yet come to inspect the site or to tell villagers to halt the practice of disposing trash into the river. Villagers were still using the river as a dumping site as of yesterday, she said, adding that residents feel neglected by the municipality because it had failed to provide the village with any trash collection services.

“They just don’t care about it because it has been there for so many years,” the resident said of the rotting trash. “It is a necessity that the Ministry of Environment take action, because we need the water . . . and when we throw the trash into the water it becomes very dirty and we cannot use it.”

Phnom Penh Waste Management Office official Noun Samnavuth declined to comment yesterday. Chheun Sothun, deputy chief of Phnom Penh’s environment department, claimed his officials had in fact worked with the city’s trash collection firm, Cintri, to remove garbage from the riverbank.

Yet Cintri manager Ith Chenda acknowledged no one had yet gone to clean up the site, and blamed a lack of proper roads and infrastructure in the Derm Sleng area. “We did not go to collect [the trash],” he said. “So the trash is where it used to be.”

Sothun said Cintri and the district authorities had only on Wednesday signed a new trash collection schedule for the city but that Cintri’s rubbish trucks will still not reach the beleaguered area. Instead, they will inform residents of nearby trash dumping sites, he said.

He added that the commune would send officials to educate people not to throw their trash into the river. Environment Minister Say Samal said that his ministry’s officials were still discussing the issue and working with city officials to find a long-term sustainable solution.

“I think it’s better to work together rather than to point the finger,” the minister added.

Source: PhnomPenhPost

Malaysia enthrones new king in lavish ceremony

KUALA LUMPUR – Malaysia on Tuesday installed its 15th king, Sultan Muhammad V, a relatively youthful monarch known for his fondness for four-wheel driving and other extreme sports.

In a ceremony steeped in pomp and centuries of tradition, the 47-year-old Sultan, dressed in gold-coloured traditional Malay formal wear, took the oath of office in the national palace in Kuala Lumpur.

The ceremony, marked by honour guards and Islamic prayers, was televised nationally and attended by Prime Minister Najib Razak and hundreds of guests decked out in Islamic finery.

Sultan Muhammad V, currently the ceremonial ruler of the conservative Islamic northern state of Kelantan, takes the national throne under the rotating monarchy in place since independence from Britain in 1957.

     In a unique arrangement, the throne of the Muslim-majority country changes hands every five years between the rulers of the nine Malaysian states still headed by Islamic royalty.

Sultan Muhammad V studied at St Cross College at Oxford and the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies, according to official media.

He is known for a relaxed public persona, taking part in walkathons to promote health, and has been photographed wearing a baseball cap backwards.

The Sultan “fills his free time by reading and has an interest in extreme sports such as four-wheel drive expeditions and endurance challenges and shooting,” Bernama news agency said.

Despite the merely ceremonial role, Malaysia’s Islamic royalty command great respect, especially from Muslim Malays, the country’s majority group, and criticizing them is strictly forbidden.

Portraits of the king and queen adorn government buildings throughout the country. The king is also the symbolic head of Islam in the nation, as well as the nominal chief of the military.

Malaysia’s sultans trace a lineage back to Malay sultanates of the 15th century. The king is referred to as Yang di-Pertuan Agong, or “He Who Is Made Lord”.

Sultan Muhammad V replaces Sultan Abdul Halim Mu’adzam Shah from the northern state of Kedah, now 89, who was king previously in the 1970s and became the first person to hold the position twice.

Source: TheNation

Thailand – Cool places to chill

Thailand – Floods in South threaten pomelo plantations after 10-day downpour

SEVERE flooding in the South is threatening plantations of the country’s famous pomelo fruit that have been under water for more than 10 days.

Many Siamese Ruby pomelo trees at farms in Nakhon Si Thammarat have died. The citrus fruit earns the country as much as Bt1 billion in exports each year.

The flood situation was still severe in certain areas yesterday as the water level failed to recede due to a high sea tide and poor drainage. As a result, many pomelo farms in Nakhon Si Thammarat’s Pak Panang district – the only Siamese Ruby plantation area in Thailand – suffered major losses.

Pak Panang Lang Irrigation and Maintenance Project director Kornnarom Wannakul said officials were trying their best to drain water out of pomelo farms by using big pumps to divert water to the Gulf of Thailand.

So, the floodwater was going down in the cultivation area for Siamese Ruby pomelos and most farms were safe, Kornnarom said.

However, some farmers complained that the flood relief effort was limited to large pomelo farms and many small ones were still flooded, with no sign of help arriving. They demanded the authorities provide water pumps to tackle the flood situation on their farms.

Meanwhile, floodwater started to turn foul in some parts of Trang, which have been inundated for over a week.

Although many areas have dried out, eight tambons in Muang and Kantang districts |were still under water, with local people complaining that some floodwater had begun to turn foul.

Putrid floodwaters

At Tambon Bang Rak in Muang Trang polluted water from the provincial treatment facility and nearby landfill flowed into the area, turning floodwater putrid. This area has been flooded since Suterday of last week, mainly because of a high sea tide.

In Trang, 58 tambons and eight districts were declared flood disaster zones. Almost 47,000 people were affected, with one casualty. Many schools remained closed, but it was expected that the situation would return to normal by next week.

In regard to flood relief efforts, Deputy Premier General Prawit Wongsuwan said the government had deployed military personnel to help people in all areas and there was nothing to worry about.

Prawit also stated that His Majesty King Maha Vajiralongkorn and the Royal Family cared about the people’s burden from flooding and would try to help his subjects as much as possible.

Source: TheNation

Chuwit among inmates to be released from prison under royal pardon

OUTSPOKEN former MP Chuwit Kamolvisit will probably be among the first batch of 30,000 inmates released under an amnesty granted to mark His Majesty King Maha Vajiralongkorn’s accession to the throne, according to Corrections Department director-general Kobkiat Kasiwiwat.

Chuwit, who began serving a jail term early this year, qualified for early release under the royal pardon, Kobkiat said.

Those qualified mostly included inmates with fewer than two years to serve on their sentence. They were expected to be released within the next three days.

While 55-year-old Chuvit qualified for release, another high-profile inmate, Chalermchai “Major Teung” Matchaklam, a former Army officer jailed for the murder of then-Yasothon governor Preena Lipattanaphan in 2001, did not qualify because he has been cited for “poor behaviour”.

Chalermchai was rearrested and jailed in August after breaking the terms of his parole.

Kobkiat said that each prison had set up a committee – including a provincial governor, a judge and a public prosecutor – to consider releasing well-behaved inmates under the royal pardon. Convicted rape-murder offenders, drug traffickers and people jailed for public fraud were ineligible.

After inmates are released, relevant agencies would check on them to prevent re-offending, he added.

Kobkiat added that people in jail for violating Article 112 of the Criminal Code relating to lese majeste, who were categorised as “general offence” inmates, had their jail terms reduced.

Chuwit, a massage parlour tycoon-turned-politician, and 65 other people were sentenced to two years in jail by the Supreme Court in late January for the 2003 demolition of bars and shops at Bangkok’s Sukhumvit Square night entertainment areas. The controversial 10-rai (1.6-hectare) plot was turned into a public park funded by Chuwit in 2005.

According to the Royal Gazette, early releases were granted to convicts who were doing public service, who were being released on probation, who had less than a year of their terms to serve, or who had served not less than one-third of their jail terms.

Blind or seriously sick inmates were also considered for release, as were women serving their first jail terms who had already served more than half the sentence.

The royal pardon was also granted to prisoners aged more than 60 who had served not less than five years or at least one-third of their jail terms, as well to inmates under 20 years old who had done more than half their sentences or had less than two years left to serve.

Death sentences will also be commuted to life imprisonment, the Royal Gazette said.

Source: TheNation