Its murder! Recent crime figures in Cambodia

An outline of murder figures

In comparing intentional homicide rates we find Cambodia is about as safe as living in…Idaho.

Fifteen years ago if you told friends you were going to Cambodia, they’d be quick to point out that it was a dangerous nation – on account of the landmines. But these days, with most of the minefields rendered safe, the three areas of fear are health, road safety and crime.

I thought I’d look up some reasonably recent figures (most crime data are 5 years old) and compare these figures to those in the USA.

First of all – perceptions. A global survey asked citizens in each country how serious the crime rates are and whether they believe crime is “High” in their country.  Put it this way, in Venezuela (2014) 97% felt crime rates were high in their country.  By contrast, 56% of USA citizens surveyed felt that crime was high in America. (39% in Canada.)  Meanwhile 38% of Cambodians felt that crime is High in Cambodia. And the lowest fear of serious crime? Japan and Singapore each boasted a mere 13% of respondents feeling that crime is High in their respective countries.

That was perception.  How about reality?   What is the intentional homicide rate per 100,000 people in various countries?  Again, let’s go to the top of the table: the Central Americas and Caribbean nations don’t look too safe.  Honduras (2016) delivered 57 intentional murder victims per 100,000 people, Jamaica came in 5th with 47 victims of intentional homicide (2016 figures) per 100,000 people.

So how does trigger-happy America compare?  The US has 5.3 intentional homicides per 100,000 people (2016) which is about the same as Cuba (4.99 per 100,000, 2016), and Thailand (3.2 per 100,000, 2016.)

Cambodia’s figures are, unfortunately older (2011) and at that stage the intentional homicide rate was 1.84 per 100,000. That’s about the same as Idaho and Maine.

Compare that to the UK (1.2 per 100,000) Australia (0.94 per 100,000, 2010) or Hong Kong which almost makes the bottom of the table (0.38 per 100,000) but is pipped by Monaco where, according to 2015 figures, zero homicides took places.

By the way these figures are look-uppable on Wikipedia Site where they quote United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime figures. Note these figures are at some variance compared to those published on NationMaster website which compares different nations on a wide range of issues.  I trust the UN figures more – but the definitions may account for this.  The UN cites intentional homicides per 100,000.  NationMaster reports “murders per 100,000.”

For a real crime story in Siem Reap:  Big Trouble at Killing Fields Pagoda

 

 

Advertisements

Is Chinese investment going to swamp Cambodia in debt?

YUAN

Direct foreign investment from China into Cambodia now outstrips that from all other sources combined. Is this a problem?

Right now the biggest national issue that everyone is talking about in Cambodia must surely be the topic of Chinese investment. Due to sizeable land transfers particularly around Sihanoukvlle, and with the instant-high-rise nature of Phnom Penh there is a strong and palpable perception that China is disenfranchising local Khmer people.

Property and real estate are the leading forms of foreign investment. In part because the effort going into starting an actual new business (such as a clothes or bicycle factory,) is still harder work in Cambodia than in most of its Asian neighbors. The World Bank puts Cambodia 138th on their Ease of Business Index – with neighboring Vietnam 69th and Thailand 27th by comparison. Cambodia lacks clear business laws and is penalised for the level of paperwork required.

So a big hotel is simpler. Sold as a property development – on a land concession made simple by the Government – the advent of Chinese-built hotels, run for Chinese tourists, with minimal wages going to local Khmer staff (who work 12 hour shifts) and with profits going straight back to China is a highly visible form of direct foreign investment that is hardly leading to a wealthier populace.

The Government has already overturned morality based laws (gambling for money is illegal in Cambodia but has been legalised for visitors to the little-Macau Chinese casinos of Sihanoukville.) So much for sovereignty.

Land concessions are also a big part of the perceived problem. Human Rights Watchdog LICADHO estimate that 2 million hectares of land have been made available for developers, local and foreign, but often at the cost to local land owners who have been kicked off their farms.Dispossessed, (as the ABC of Australia reported of farmers who lost their land to a Sofitel development in March 2016) protestors were shot and wounded by armed forces on behalf of the hotel group.

Here is a map detail land concessions across Cambodia. Concession awarded to Chinese interests are marked in red, local interests are in blue while Vietnamese interests are in green.  Source map is bigger, clearer and interactive. Click here.

CAMBODIAN LAND CONCESSIONS

But is Chinese money exposing Cambodia to a future of debt-laden servitude? Right now Cambodia’s foreign debt as a proportion of GDP is relatively modest, though climbing quickly. There are two prices to be paid though.  One is the social debt – the idea that Cambodians are becoming, and will remain, in a cheap labour economy.

Then there is the fiscal debt. Here Cambodia needs to watch itself. The question is: who owns the infrastructure. Historically this has always been the business of Government, but China has the capital and human resource to come in and extend the sea port, put in hydro schemes and develop the currently struggling road network – then the ‘rates’ must surely get paid to the country that funded these things.

This from the Hong Kong Trade Development Council website: August 2018.

At the end of last month, Cambodia’s Ministry of Public Works and Transport (MPWT) announced that work had been completed on 2,000 kilometres of new roads, seven major bridges and a container terminal servicing the Phnom Penh Autonomous Port. All these initiatives had largely been backed by the Chinese mainland, with funding provided from within the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

In an article published by the Phnom Penh Post, on March 27th, 2018, journalist Robin Spiess noted that China’s financing and investment of the Belt & Road projects in Cambodia could lead to a significant rise in public debt, and even take it to ‘distress’ levels.

According to a policy paper released by the Center for Global Development, Cambodia will likely see a significant rise in debt to China as a result of the Belt and Road Initiative. At the end of 2016, Cambodia’s total public and publicly guaranteed debt was $6.5 billion, a relatively low percent of the country’s $20 billion GDP. About half of that $6.5 billion debt was owed to China, according to the report.

Miguel Chanco, lead Southeast Asia analyst for the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), noted that the report was accurate regarding the risks to Cambodia, but also said any prediction of future debt levels was complicated by the overall lack of transparency of BRI projects.

“Our estimates put the country’s public debt stock at around 35 percent of GDP, which is well below the median for Asean and emerging markets at large,” Chanco said. “Having said that, I am concerned about the lack of transparency in many of China’s projects in Cambodia, as it makes it difficult to determine the latter’s overall sovereign debt commitments.”

Publicly declared projects at the end of 2016 were predicted to leave Cambodia indebted to China by an additional $3.5 billion though this figure might well be much higher.

One example is China’s proposal to develop over two million kilometers of national expressways [in Cambodia] by 2040”, which is a broad-brush swoop of a figure to begin with, and given the geo-technical engineering risks of building on a flat, sand-based terrain could easily blow out beyond the estimated cost of around $26 billion. A blow-out could leave the Kingdom significantly more in debt to China.

Meanwhile estimates of the national debt to 2020 is less fuzzy.

The EIU forecasted a rapid rise in Cambodia’s external debt in the next few years, according to Chanco. “We expect the country’s total foreign debt stock to rise to $17 billion by 2020,” he said.

Right now Chinese investment hasn’t pushed Cambodian debt prospects over the brink, unless you factor in the very real human rights costs. But in pure money terms Cambodia is going for the quick and easy path to economic growth.  It has a long wayto go however, before it becomes an economy – like that of Singapore – where business is easy to conduct and where locals are not in underpaid jobs. Current policy is growing the economy, but it is a recipe for dissatisfaction and a real sense of disenfranchisement.

I write these blogs as an observer of changing Cambodia. I’ve been involved in a small NGO since 2004 back when the tallest building in Phnom Penh was 8 storeys high. I hope expats, volunteers and others in the Cambodian community find these reports useful.  I try to compile hard data from credible sources.

Meanwhile: China and the US square-off in dispute over recent history.  Click here.

 

Holidays in Cambodia – 2017

January 01 International New Year Day
January 07 Victory over Genocide Day
February 11 Meak Bochea Day
March 08 International Women’s Day
April 14, 15, 16 Khmer New Year Day
May 01 International Labor Day
May 10 Visak Bochea Day
May 13, 14, 15 King’s Birthday, Norodom Sihamoni
May 14 Royal Plowing Ceremony
June 01 International Children Day
June 18 King’s Mother Birthday, Norodom Monineath Sihanouk
September 19, 20, 21 Pchum Ben Day
September 24 Constitutional Day
October 15 Commemoration Day of King’s Father, Norodom Sihanouk
October 23 Anniversary of the Paris Peace Accord
October 29 King’s Coronation Day, Norodom Sihamoni
November 02, 03, 04 Water Festival Ceremony
November 09 Independence Day
December 10 International Human Rights Day

CAMBODIA PLUS BACK TO WORK MAY 09 174.JPG

Holidays in Cambodia, 2016

unicef Import_012

Religious holidays, UN nominated days, national commemorations – visitors are often confused by unexpected holidays.

Confused by all the unexpected holidays in Cambodia? Booking a journey and wanting to include Pchum Ben?  Here’s an official list of holidays in Cambodia – 2016

January 01 International New Year Day
January 07 Victory over Genocide Day
February 22 Meak Bochea Day
March 08 International Women Day
April 13, 14, 15, 16 Khmer New Year Day
May 01 International Labor Day
May 13, 14, 15 King’s Birthday, Norodom Sihamoni
May 20 Visak Bochea Day
May 24 Royal Plowing Ceremony
June 01 International Children Day
June 18 King’s Mother Birthday, Norodom Monineath Sihanouk
September 24 Constitutional Day
September 30, October 01, 02 (Note, some sources include October 3rd as well.)
Pchum Ben Day – or Ancestors Day
October 15 Commemoration Day of King’s Father, Norodom Sihanouk
October 23 Paris Peace Agreements Day
October 29 King’s Coronation Day, Norodom Sihamoni
November 09 Independence Day
November 13, 14, 15 Water Festival Ceremony
December 10 International Human Rights Day

In Cambodia, on a Galaxy not so far away

CAMBO CHARTSMART

One pair of figures from the Asia Foundation study into mobile and internet in Cambodia, sums up the growth of smart-phone usage. In two years smart-phones doubled in market share, and if anything that growth is accelerating. By the end of this year more than half of all mobiles will be smart-phones.

Below we see who is getting the business: Samsung, for now, has half the smart-phone market, spearheaded with its Galaxy phones.

CAMBOCHART1

According to the report smart-phones are becoming increasingly a preferred source of news, weather and information.

Cambodia may have made a late start, but most of the country have skipped landline technology, PC computing and have jumped straight into the possibilities of 4G. A process that took the west at least 5 decades.

For more mobile phone facts and figures – click here.

 

 

Cambodia needs more than wells to achieve universal clean water access

FRESH WATER

UNICEF reports that 6 million Cambodians do not have access to safe, clean, drinkable water.  The problem is not just lack of wells.

The latest drought across Cambodia has shone the spotlight on the need for clean fresh water.  State initiatives to bring clean bottled water to drought-stricken villages has been useful, but only for the short term. What every Cambodian needs is steady, reliable access to clean fresh water. A recent UNICEF report, dated 2014, calculated that 6.3 million out of Cambodia’s 14.9 million population lacked access to clean drinking water. The problem is, in particular, a rural problem (80% of Phnom Penh’s population has access to clean drinking water,) and the main reason for the problem – the report stated – was that the Government has simply made other developments a higher priority. New roads have higher priority than access to water.

  • Some 40 percent of primary schools and 35 percent of health centers in the country do not have access to safe water and sanitation.
  • The lack of access to clean water leaves Cambodian children vulnerable to diseases such as diarrhea, which is the second leading cause of death among children under five, according to UNICEF.
  • According to WaterAid at least 380 children die each year from diarrhoeal diseases caused by unsafe water and poor sanitation.

Since 2014, according to international aid agency WaterAid there is now a national strategy, outlined by the Government, of reaching universal access to clean water by 2025: an objective that will not only play catch-up with the 6 million who lack adequate water supplies today, but will need to also reach the expanding population projected to reach at least 17.5 million by 2025.  Can they achieve this?

The digging of wells is the main solution in the rural villages though for the cities the provision of mains supply water is the main emphasis: treating lake, river sourced or well-sourced waters with full filtration systems as well as chemical treatment such as flouridation or chlorination.

Compounding the problem is the presence of two hazards in the ground and surface waters usually drawn upon by villages.  One hazard is naturally occurring arsenic: an issue that affects the whole Mekong delta region.  On this front Cambodia’s official ‘acceptable’ limit is 50 parts per million – in contrast to 30ppm in most Western countries.

An even more significant hazard is the presence of TTCs (thermo-tolerant coliform bacteria). For these bacteria, water treatment is needed.

Today in the face of drought, now and in the future, the provision of wells is a laudable initiative, and their are many agencies engaged with this – and worth supporting. My friend Savong has helped many well-building projects in rural Siem Reap.

But Cambodia also needs more reservoirs to effectively store water gathered during peak rainy periods and create a top-up for groundwater which, many experts believe, is sinking significantly.

The more wells or holes dug into the groundwater, the more pressure it loses causing well water levels to drop. That’s according to Mekong River Commission technical adviser Ian Thomas as reported in the Phnom Penh Post, last March 4th. A February Stanford University study found the more wells Cambodians dig, the harder it will be to extract water.

The building of reservoirs, (Angkor’s  East and West Baray are good examples from 1,000 years ago,)  would provide greater eco-stability for farming, fishing, and general water supply.

But for now, reservoirs and wells are just the start. Treating the water is also necessary. Water filters are a big part of the story. If you are supporting a water project, ask about the need for water filtration and treatment.

  • Sixty dollars will by a good basic bio-sand filter via Water for Cambodia.
  • Or Ceramic Filters, (they look like clay pots,) which are also recommended, are available through Resource Development International – who also supply water testing kits if you are worried about arsenic levels.

Further reading in this blog:

For more on the politics of water in Cambodia Who owns the Mekong? The intricate politics of water.

Also about the 2016 Drought

For other Facts and Figures about Cambodia