#Cambodia – New rules for digital payments

The central bank has issued new regulations governing the licensing of payment services providers (PSPs), requiring that all firms providing online services to accept electronic payments have at least $2 million in registered capital, a move expected to increase the stability of the sector and encourage the consolidation of its smaller players.

A prakas signed by National Bank of Cambodia (NBC) Governor Chea Chanto on June 14 and released on June 20 establishes that all PSPs in Cambodia must obtain a licence from the NBC to operate. The licensed firms are required to demonstrate a minimum registered capital of 8 billion riel (about $2 million) and deposit 5 percent of their paid-up capital with the NBC.

PSP licences are valid for six years, with an annual licensing fee of 20 million riel ($5,000), according to the prakas.

The new regulations aim at better governance of third-party processors (TPPs) that act as intermediaries to complete payment transactions, and reflect the rapid growth of financial technology (fintech) solutions.

Chea Serey, director-general of the NBC, explained that any entity wishing to provide digital payment services, including banks and other financial institutions, must now first obtain a PSP licence.

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“This prakas is targeted at the existing institutions that provide payment services or institutions that start to provide payment services,” she said. “This means that most of the existing institutions operating under a third-party processor licence would be required to be relicensed by the NBC.”

Some of the larger firms that operate as payment services providers include Wing, True Money, Asia Wei Luy and PayGo.

According to Serey, the new regulation aims to increase the security of digital transactions while enhancing fair competition and innovation in the fintech sector.

“Currently, innovation in payment areas is moving very fast, but the regulatory framework for payment systems in Cambodia is still behind and the scope of existing regulations cannot cover new payment innovation,” she said. “As a regulator of payment systems, the NBC needed to update and formulate new regulations according to the market’s needs.”

Tomas Pokorny, CEO of Pi Pay, a new payment solutions company that is currently in its beta-testing phase in Cambodia, said the prakas significantly raised the entry requirements for PSPs. Yet he said he expected the new regulations would have a positive impact in that they clearly delineate who can legally provide digital payments.

He added that previously, many entities, even nonfinancial ones, could offer payment services by satisfying the flexible requirements of a third-party processor licence, but now the sector will shift to more-established institutions.

“We believe that albeit this requirement is much higher than the previous relatively low fees for TPP licences, it is rather a good move,” he said. “I think it won’t hinder the expansion of fintech in general, but will rather boost further reclassification of the market.”

Pokorny said it was possible that the high minimum capital requirements would eventually lead to a consolidation of the sector, though he noted this could in turn increase competition in the market and benefit consumers. He added that even with the new prakas, Cambodia’s financial regulations remain some of the most advantageous of developing economies.

“It may raise higher financial requirements for financial operators, however, it also expands their possible service by allowing them to operate in a more innovative and flexible environment,” he said. “We believe it is a necessary step to bring Cambodia closer to the rest of Asean, where the fintech sector has been blossoming for the last couple of years.”

Source – PhnomPenhPost

#Cambodia – Ground broken for oil refinery

After years of delays and setbacks, the Cambodian firm set to operate the Kingdom’s landmark oil refinery finally broke ground yesterday on a $1.62 billion project with an updated completion date set for the middle of 2019.

The oil refinery, which will be built on 365 hectares across Kampot and Sihanoukville provinces, was first expected to be completed in 2014 after receiving full financial funding from the Export-Import Bank of China in December 2013.

Developed by private firm Cambodia Petrochemical Company (CPC), the refinery plans did not move forward until May of last year when the company granted a $620 million first phase construction contract to the state-owned Chinese National Petroleum Company. Construction was then outsourced to China’s Sino Great Wall International Engineering Group.

When all phases of the project are finally completed, the facility is expected to have an annual refining capacity of 5 million tonnes of crude oil, according to Vinh Hour, chairman of CPC. He added that the refinery would reduce the need for imports and improve national security by creating domestic reserves.

“Any country that does not have a stockpile of petroleum can be in a dangerous situation because if there is uncertainty in the international market and supply stops, the economy will grind to a halt,” he said.

Hour said that the refinery project was delayed for numerous years because of a prolonged environmental impact assessment process and a long wait for Chinese financial backers to give the go ahead for construction.

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The refinery would be dependent on crude imports from the Middle East in the near term and would initially be used for domestic distribution, though Hour claimed that once Cambodia produces its own oil, the facility would help the country become a net exporter.

KrisEnergy, the Singaporean firm with full rights to Cambodia’s Block A oil field in the Gulf of Thailand, is close to finalizing a revenue sharing agreement with the Cambodian government to begin the first domestic crude oil production. Extraction could begin within 24 to 26 months of the agreement.

Cheap Sour, director general of the general department of petroleum at the Ministry of Mines and Energy, said the refinery would fulfill domestic demand while lowering prices at the pump.

“We hope that the oil refinery project will lower the price of petroleum in the market and benefit consumers,” he said, adding that the waste from the factory can be used to produce plastic and fertilizer.

“This refinery will help us to gain energy independence,” he said.Danish petroleum expert Tommy Christensen said that while the refinery could add “national value” to Cambodia’s energy supply chain, it would be difficult for the company to be profitable as long it relied on large amounts of crude imports.

“Cambodia’s national interest is to have their own crude production and possible refining capacity, but as long as they have to import crude oil in competition with neighboring countries, in particular Thailand, then the economics might not work for Cambodia,” he said.

He added that once Block A finally begins production, having domestic capabilities could place Cambodia on the global energy trade map.

However, he said the refinery was built with a fundamentally flawed business model as it was not a Cambodian state-run initiative, which would have created more value for the economy.

“This is not a Cambodia initiative, but a private sector and Chinese strategic interest initiative,” he said. “And due to [strict] regulations in [China], Cambodia is the nearest country they can invest in.”

“If Cambodia was really the owner of the refinery, with its own crude oil production in years to come, then taxation and revenue from this refinery would benefit the economy on a larger scale.”

Han Phoumin, an energy economist for the Economic Research Institute for Asean and East Asia, said the venture could occupy a unique and lucrative place in the domestic market due to the fact that oil imports to Cambodia are heavily monopolized.

However, he noted that if the refinery was primarily built to feed China’s energy appetite, it could struggle with established competition.

“Of course, any refinery in Southeast Asia will find it difficult to compete with Singapore’s refineries which can produce efficiently with the best quality products at a fair price,” he said. “It should be cautioned that many refineries in Asia cannot make profit.”

Source – PhnomPenhpost

Harley-Davidson throttles into #Cambodia

Harley-davidson, the iconic and globally recognised US motorcycle manufacturer, will soon be roaring into Cambodia with the country’s first dealership set to open in the next few months.

Located across from the Phnom Penh International Airport, the Harley-Davidson dealership is expected to open this June, according to Steve Beattie, general manager of Harley-Davidson Phnom Penh. The franchise rights for Harley are owned by HGB Group, a local investment firm that already has a foothold in the Kingdom’s luxury motorcycle and automotive market.

Beattie was quick to note that the famous motorcycle line is more than just a brand name and has over the decades evolved to invoke a lifestyle among avid Harley-Davidson riders worldwide. He hopes that the showroom will act not only as a dealership but provide a place for riders and enthusiasts to gather before cruising on the Kingdom’s roads.

“The whole point with Harley-Davidson is that it is not purely motorcycle focused,” he said. “When you buy a Harley-Davidson, you then make it your own. You will spend time, thought and money on making that bike something that is very personal for you.”

Cambodia already has a few Harley-Davidson riders who are well acquainted with the brand and they will form the company’s core customer base, Beattie explained. The group will then primarily target the more affluent segment of the population who can afford the costs of high-end motorbikes and gear, he added.

“We are tapping into an existing market with the existing riders because they are our core customers,” he said. “They are the guys that have supported the brand in Cambodia despite not having a dealership, but obviously we also want to broaden that appeal and we want to encourage new customers.”

The dealership will be comprised of a shop offering a wide array of Harley-Davidson motorcycles as well as brand merchandise, accessories, spare parts, riding gear and a full-service mechanic that will be able to handle customisation demands.

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Cambodia – New mobile app blazes trail into cashless payments

Cambodian software development firm Pathmazing officially launched its Tesjor mobile application for meal ordering yesterday, aiming to kickstart digital payments in the country by only offering cashless transaction options.

The application allows users to order food from 85 restaurant outlets in Phnom Penh for dine-in, pick up or delivery. The platform is backed by several digital payments options, including partnerships with Wing, Pay&Go, Acleda Bank, as well as integration with ABA Bank’s newly developed PayWay payment gateway that enables payments for Visa and MasterCard holders.

Steven Path, CEO of Pathmazing, said during the launch ceremony that the primary purpose of the app was to place Cambodia on a trajectory towards a more digital economy and widespread e-commerce activity.

He added that Tesjor was currently the only platform in the country that relies entirely on digital payments.

“Today, we believe that e-commerce is at the launching pad, and we are going to experience explosive growth, especially in the next couple of years,” he said. “What we believe, in order to accelerate e-commerce, is that we need to require e-payments.”

Tesjor aims to instil trust in online payments to help steer customers away from their reliance on cash and spur the growth of digital payments and e-commerce, Path explained.

United States Ambassador William Heidt emphasised during a speech for the event that Tesjor was developed by Cambodians and represented a source of pride for the burgeoning tech sector in the Kingdom.

“The launch of Tesjor is great news for Cambodia’s tech sector as well as concrete proof for one very important thing, and that is that the ingredients for successful tech ventures are now in place in Cambodia,” he said. “This is an app that I am pretty sure is going to revolutionise the dine-in and carry-out business in Cambodia, and eventually the tourism business too.”

Tesjor, which translates to “tourism” in Khmer, also intends to position itself as a platform for tourists visiting Cambodia through which they could pay for nearly all their expenses directly on the app. Minister of Tourism Thong Khun has endorsed the application for its potential benefits to the country’s tourism sector.

Cambodia bans breast milk exports after international media coverage

Cambodia has permanently banned the sale and export of human breast milk a week after suspending exports by an American company that was harvesting it from impoverished mothers.

In a letter to the Ministry of Health yesterday, Cambodia’s governing Council of Ministers officially banned the sale and export of pumped human breast milk, putting an end to a controversial industry that has grabbed attention locally and worldwide.

Cambodian women began selling their breast milk to the Utah-based Ambrosia Labs over a year ago. They would generally earn between $7 and $10 per day for the sale of their milk, a sum that allowed many to support their families. But welfare officials argue the practice is exploitative and could impact the nutrition of the women’s children.

“Even if Cambodia is poor, it is still not alright for people to sell breast milk,” read the Council of Minister’s letter, which was signed by Secretary of State Ngor Nongly.

The Ministry of Health immediately responded by releasing a statement on its Facebook page asking Ambrosia Labs, which is currently the only company known to export Cambodian women’s breast milk, to terminate its activities immediately.

The government suspended Ambrosia’s trade a week ago after news of it gained traction in local and international media. The trade was first exposed by The Post in 2015, and drew wider attention after a recent article on the women’s website Broadly, part of Vice.com.

The sale of breast milk is a global trend, with mothers selling their excess lactation online via sites like Only the Breast to mothers who need it for their newborns, as well as to bodybuilders seeking “liquid gold”, cancer patients and breast milk-fetishists who get a sexual charge from consuming mother’s milk. Ambrosia insists its milk is sold to mothers who cannot supply enough milk on their own.

Company spokesmen could not immediately be reached to comment on the permanent ban.

At its annual meeting on Tuesday, the Cambodian Ministry of Women’s Affairs named the sale of breast milk and participation in commercial surrogacy as two of the newest issues impacting Cambodian women today. She noted that a law regulating the commercial surrogacy industry, in which a woman rents her womb to carry the child of strangers, should be completed in the near future.

“At first the sale of breast milk seemed to be happening on a very small scale, but now it seems this company was selling a lot of breast milk,” said Minister of Women’s Affairs Ing Kantha Phavi.

Phavi argued that the sale of breast milk could stunt children’s growth and development by thwarting the government’s efforts to promote breastfeeding among new mothers.

“The government had a program to push women to breastfeed their babies instead of using powdered formula,” she said. “But now women are selling their breast milk and continuing to feed their babies with formula.”

Ambrosia, however, has maintained that its work helps Cambodian mothers and children by encouraging women to breastfeed longer while providing them with a steady income. It said it allowed donors to pump no more than twice a day to ensure they had enough to feed their own children.

In a statement after the suspension it said: “We believe in empowering the mothers of Cambodia with a way to make money while nurturing their families, as well as others, through the donation of their excess milk.”

Ros Sopheap, executive director of the NGO Gender and Development for Cambodia, welcomed the government’s decision on Tuesday, saying that rather than empowering mothers, the breast milk industry was fuelling social inequality in Cambodia.

“The company has said that it is providing economic opportunities, but I don’t agree. They are not really helping the women, they are treating them as a tool to benefit themselves,” Sopheap said. “This is really against women’s rights and human rights. Even if the women agree to sell their breast milk, they are targeting poor and under-educated women.”

But some Cambodian mothers selling their breast milk have lamented the loss of the industry, saying it provided important supplemental income.

Chek Srey Toy, a 19 year-old mother of a one-year-old girl, said the $10 she made selling her breast milk every day allowed her to support her daughter.

“I would give some of my breast milk to my daughter and the rest to the company to sell,” she said. “I am very sorry that they closed. I am very poor, and I don’t know what to do.”

Cambodian King Norodom Sihamoni calls for vote free from threats, intimidation

A leaked statement from King Norodom Sihamoni circulated on social media since Sunday, nearly a month after he signed it, calls on citizens to vote for their preferred party in the upcoming elections without “worry of suppression, threats or intimidation”.

The statement, signed by the King on February 20, asks Cambodians to vote and exercise their right to a secret ballot, with CNRP official and royal family member Prince Sisowath Thomico calling it a regular pre-election appeal, similar to ones issued during the reign of King Father Norodom Sihanouk.

“But, I am very surprised the King signed it on February 20 and it was only just released,” he said.

The King is currently in China for routine medical checkups, though another decree he signed while overseas – this one bestowing honorifics on late deputy prime minister Sok An – was distributed the same day as its signing.

The King did not, however, sign recent amendments to the Law on Political Parties, also passed while he was abroad, leading some to suggest he objected to the controversial legislation.

The election remarks had circulated on social media for two days before being posted to the National Election Committee’s Facebook page yesterday. Royal family spokesmen could not be reached yesterday for information on the apparent lag between signing and dissemination.

While ruling party spokesman Sok Eysan said the King was only reminding people to feel secure in casting their ballot, CNRP Vice President Mu Sochua said the timing of the message, amid heated political tensions, would resonate with voters.

Source – PhnomPenhPost

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Cambodia – Microlender in monster deal

Hong Kong financial giant The Bank of East Asia and Sri Lanka’s LOLC announced on Friday that they have jointly acquired a majority stake in Prasac Microfinance, Cambodia’s largest microfinance institution (MFI) by assets, in what could be the largest acquisition of a Cambodian lender to date.

According to a joint company release, The Bank of East Asia (BEA) and LOLC acquired a controlling share of Prasac by purchasing minority stakes held by Dragon Capital Group Ltd, Belgian Investment Company for Developing Countries SA (BIO) and the Netherlands Development Finance Company (FMO).

The acquisition raises LOLC’s existing holding from 22 percent to 70 percent, with BEA holding 21 percent. Prasac retains the remaining 9 percent stake.

The deal was valued at $186 million by Sri Lankan media. Prasac and its shareholders could not be reached yesterday for confirmation, nor was the National Bank of Cambodia (NBC) available to confirm whether it had approved the acquisition.

Prasac is Cambodia’s largest deposit-taking MFI with an asset portfolio of $1.3 billion and over $660 million in deposits, according to the joint statement, which added that the deal would help pave the MFI’s path toward becoming a licensed commercial bank.

Sim Senacheert, CEO of Prasac, was quoted in the release as saying that BEA was a strategic investor that would “further contribute to sustainable economic development and financial inclusion in Cambodia”.

David Li, chairman and chief executive of BEA, said the deal marked the financial group’s first foothold in Cambodia and would help it expand its reach to the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC).

“Through Prasac, our bank will further strengthen its presence in Southeast Asia. This strategic investment will enable us to better capitalise on the opportunities arising from China’s ‘Belt and Road Initiatives’,” he was quoted as saying.

This is not the first time Prasac has worked toward securing a strategic investor, a move widely seen as the central bank’s requirements for commercial bank licence eligibility.

In August 2016, the NBC scuttled a deal between Prasac and South Korean financial giant Woori Bank for a 50 percent stake, claiming that the Korean lender was not one of the preferred bidder’s acknowledged by the independent regulatory body.

Cambodian MFIs have attracted the interest of international investors, with several large mergers and acquisitions announced in recent years. In January 2016, Thailand-based Bank of Ayudhya reached an agreement to acquire the local MFI Hattha Kaksekar – a deal that was valued at upwards of $140 million.

BEA’s stake in Prasac would mark the entry of Hong Kong’s third-largest bank into the Cambodian market. The financial group reported $98.7 billion in consolidated assets as of the end of last year.

Source – PhnomPenhPost

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Cambodia – Probe finds high-ranking officials involved in smuggling timber to Vietnam

Timber trucks driven by Vietnamese nationals that were seized in Mondulkiri province last month. The case prompted an investigation into possible collusion between authorities and illegal loggers.

An official investigation has found that more than a dozen police, military police and army officials allegedly colluded with Vietnamese timber smugglers to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars in bribes, according to a letter from National Police Commissioner Neth Savoeun.

Signed by Neth Savoeun on March 9 and addressed to Interior Minister Sar Kheng, and disseminated by pro-government media outlet Fresh News yesterday, the document details the investigation that followed the interception by authorities in February of a timber haul in Mondulkiri’s O’Raing district in which seven Vietnamese nationals were arrested.

What’s more, the document constitutes a rare admission by authorities of high-ranking officials’ apparent involvement in the cross-border timber trade, despite myriad accusations from observers and activists.

According to the letter, three officials – Tea Khaimeng, a Royal Cambodian Armed Forces officer responsible for border checkpoint ‘Kor 3’ in Keo Seima district; Em Songhour, an RCAF officer stationed at O’huch checkpoint; and Chum Rattanak, the National Police’s border police chief at O’huch – allegedly received a total of $170,000 from a Vietnamese trader named Uk Nhor.

The officials allegedly shared the bounty with several others, including $10,000 to Provincial Military Police Commander Sak Sarang, $6,000 to a Forestry Administration official named only as “Nak”, and $22,500 to the O’huch border police chief Leang Phearoth.

The letter pins Rattanak, Phearoth, Khaimeng, Songhour and the Vietnamese trader as the “masterminds of the collusion to log, collect and haul the [timber] to Vietnam”.

In all, 11 National Police officials are implicated by the letter, which requests the interior minister to authorise court charges against Rattanak and Phearoth. For the nine others, administrative disciplinary actions, such as reassignment or “education”, is recommended.

Interior Ministry and National Police spokesmen contacted yesterday were unavailable or declined to comment. Jurisdiction for officials involved who are not in the National Police force falls outside of the Savoeun’s purview.

Military police spokesman Eng Hy and RCAF Border Regiment 103 Commander Yin Chathy, the superior of some of those implicated, said investigations are ongoing.

According to Hy, “officials from different institutions are looking into it”. Vong Sokserey, the provincial Forestry Administration director, claimed ignorance of the allegations and declined to comment.

Meanwhile, Sak Sarang, the Mondulkiri provincial military police commander accused of taking $10,000 in bribes, denied the allegation or having any connection to any of the other officials named.

“I have never met those people. In short, I do not know them. I have never even seen their faces,” he said, before hanging up on a reporter. Among those implicated are Sarang’s older brother and Keo Seima District Military Police Commander Sak Sarun.

Preap Kol, the director of Transparency International Cambodia, noted that the Anti-Corruption Unit should be involved in further investigations, adding that the corruption apparent in the letter suggests the “indicated briberies are a tip of the iceberg if compared to the records of timber trade by the Vietnamese authorities”.

According to a report on Vietnamese customs data published last year, the combined value of timber legally imported by Vietnam from Cambodia rose from $45.7 million in 2013 to $379 million in 2015.

This latest crackdown on allegedly corrupt officials falls under a broader effort by the anti-logging commission created last year on the orders of prime minister Hun Sen.

The task force claimed in April to have put an end to logging in the eastern provinces, though when Post reporters investigated in June, they found rampant logging, collusion by authorities and witnessed bribery at border checkpoints.

Sok Rotha, provincial coordinator for rights group Adhoc, said the group will insist that the officials named see their day in court.

“If there is no action against the perpetrators, it will create more impunity.”

Source – PhnomPehnPost

Cambodia – Disabled woman fired at factory

Twenty disabled workers, all women, travelled to Phnom Penh yesterday from Kampong Speu province to make a plea for the government to investigate what they see as discrimination by Shimano (Cambodia) Co Ltd. They accuse the garment factory of abruptly firing them without cause last month.

The women, 14 of whom use wheelchairs, held a press conference at the offices of the Cambodian Disabled People’s Organization, where some broke down in tears.

Seng Bopha, 29, said they were among nearly 90 disabled workers at the factory until she and the 19 others were dismissed on February 23 without cause.

“We need our jobs,” she said. “We were forced by the company to thumbprint our severance pay.”

Chhoun Chanveasna, 32, had worked at the factory for a decade, and received $2,730 in involuntary severance pay.

“We were forced out of the job immediately,” she said. “They did not inform us before.”

Reoun Srey Mom, 34, said she was also forced to receive $1,278 in severance for her four years of work. Srey said the company had claimed after workers complained that the firings were due to financial problems, but she questioned the real motive.

“Why did they fire the disabled workers first?” she asked.

Ngin Saorath, executive director of the Cambodian Disabled People’s Organization, said his NGO will send a letter to the Council of Ministers, the Ministry of Labour, the Ministry of Social Affairs and the Ministry of Women Affairs in the hope that an inter-ministerial committee will be created to look into the case.

“It’s unfair,” he said. “It shows discrimination [toward] disabled people.”

Sa Voeun, a representative for Shimano, denied that the dismissals were discriminatory but declined to comment on the reasons, saying the issue was a confidential internal matter and maintaining all workers had been paid.

Velibor Popovic, a governance specialist at UNDP, said the UN Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which was ratified by the Cambodian government in 2012, “prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability with regards to all matters concerning all forms of employment”.

The right to work for people with disabilities is further protected by Article 33 of the Cambodian Law on Protection and the Promotion of the Rights of People with Disabilities, Popovic added.

Moeun Tola, head of labour rights group Central, said officials need to examine whether workers were terminated based on their disability or performance. If it was based on performance, a review into whether the employer made adjustments to assist the disabled workers would also be needed, maintaining that if it had failed to do so, the workers wouldn’t be at fault.

“We need to have a serious investigation to find the reason behind those people being terminated,” he said.

Aside from looking into whether discrimination was linked to the dismissal, officials should also investigate whether the employer followed legal labour requirements, such as giving proper notice of termination, Tola added. Under the Labour Law, workers need to be given prior notice ranging from one week to three months, depending on the length of employment.

“You cannot just force people to sign severance packages without following the legal procedures,” he said.

Tola said the practice of employing disabled people in this industry is still “not quite common”, despite a loosely enforced government mandate that disabled people make up at least 1 percent of a private employer’s workforce.

However, Mey Samith, executive director of the Phnom Penh Center for Independent Living, said the practice was gaining momentum, and that some employers were willing to make necessary adjustments.

“People with disabilities have the abilities to work in different ways,” he said.

source;PhnomPehnPost

Authors: Sen David and Yesenia Amaro

Personal note

We people of the other world, why we buy all our Brand-Names from factories the in this sort countries the break all the rules.
Go think for you buy a Brand shirt, suite or bag.
The all made in horrible circumstances with underpaid people.  

Cambodia International Film Festival

Now in its seventh year, the festival is attracting filmmakers, stars, students and fans from around the city and the globe. This week’s events offer a wide range of themes for movie, art and music lovers, and a unique platform for the Kingdom to celebrate its creativity

When the Cambodia International Film Festival began in 2009, it was responding to a very specific need: films made in the country simply did not have a platform for screening. With no major cinemas, the crewmembers often would not even have a chance to view their own work on the screen.

“We started to say ‘we should bring some of these films back,’” says Cedric Eloy, the chief executive officer of the Cambodian Film Commission and one of the festival organizers. After beginning with an approximate audience of a thousand people, the festival has grown yearly, and organizers expect this incarnation, which begins tonight and runs through Thursday, to exceed 20,000 attendees.

Despite expanding alongside the industry, Eloy says the festival has maintained its mission – to give filmmakers a platform, to present trends in local cinema to outsiders working in the industry, and to develop a local knowledge base about movies from all over the world.

For the first time, this year’s edition will be held in the spring, where Eloy expects it to remain in coming years. The lineup is an intoxicating mix of local and regional films, with Western offerings sprinkled throughout, as well as a celebration of local music, arts and dance. Because of the range of films, the organisers have tried to arrange the agenda as much as possible by theme – for example, there will be a showcase of Lao cinema, a series on the Rwandan genocide, and a collection of films for children.

“There’s really a desire to make it accessible to a large audience without it feeling too overwhelming, so that’s why there’s an intention to have all these different themes,” Vanaka Chhem-Kieth, a press officer for the festival, says. On top of providing nearly a week of entertainment for residents, the festival is also an opportunity to foster a local film ecosystem.

“We do film production and film training most of the year, so we connect everything we do [with the festival] … and people can make professional connections between Cambodia and other industries [elsewhere],” Eloy says. “A lot of people, when they come to present their film here, discover that there is an industry. They make connections and might have an idea for other projects. So it leads to other films in the future and other collaborations.”

Director Rithy Panh, whose documentary Exile will be making its Cambodian premiere, sees the festival as an opportunity for locals to see and hear perspectives potentially unfamiliar to them.

“You have nearly 30 different countries [where films being shown are made] and these are 30 different points of view and ways of doing cinema differently, and I find that it’s important for our youth to discover these different viewpoints,” he says. “It’s not sufficient [for success] to have a good diploma in management. You also need culture.”

In order to make the festival as accessible as possible for the public, the organisers have implemented a ticketing system that allows the first half of the audience to get in free, while all subsequent tickets cost just $1.

For admission to all the events, and the perk of getting to skip lines, the public can purchase a pass for the entire festival for 50,000 riel ($12.50). In line with targeting a young, local audience, Koh Pich will host a series of open air events, including a screening of Davy Chou’s celebrated film Diamond Island.

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