Monday, 21 January 2008

Cambodian police nab 20,000 methamphetamine tablets

(Photo: Koh Santepheap newspaper)

Mon, 21 Jan 2008
DPA

Phnom Penh - A police operation in the Cambodian capital nabbed 20,000 methamphetamine tablets, or more than 2 kilos of the drug, local media reported Monday. Khmer-language newspaper Koh Santepheap quoted deputy Phnom Penh police chief Reach Sokhon as saying the accused drug courier, Nai Thai, 33, had confessed to possession and implicated a second man, Put Nailhy, 48, as the owner of the drugs.

The paper quoted Sokhon as saying the bust, one of the largest to date of the highly addictive drug, took two months to carry out.

Cambodia has a massive problem with the cheap and addictive drug, nicknamed ya ba, which enables people to work long hours, and police are now battling local producers as well as imports from neighbouring nations.

Mia Farrow accused of breaking into museum

Phnom Penh (dpa) - Cambodian police and officials said Monday that the show of force to stop American actress Mia Farrow from staging an anti-China rally at a former Khmer Rouge prison was only increased after she had earlier staged a night-time break-in.

Farrow and supporters from local German-funded organization Center for Social Development (CSD) were stopped from burning a symbolic torch at the Toul Sleng Genocide Museum Sunday when the museum was shuttered and up to 200 police roped off access.

"The problem Sunday was made worse after the actress and a group of supporters forced their way into the museum after closing time Saturday and started taking pictures," Toul Sleng Museum director Chey Sopheara said by telephone.

"They shoved a guard and tried to force a gate. They entered through the guard's entrance and then behaved in a very rude way and made a big problem for our staff," he alleged.

Police confirmed they had received a report of a disturbance at the former torture centre featuring Farrow Saturday night and had stepped up security in light of her group's behavior.

Farrow's global Dream For Darfur rally aims to bring attention to China's economic support of Sudan ahead of the August Beijing Olympics, but Cambodia banned the rally, saying it involved the country in foreign politics and did not respect Khmer Rouge victims.

Up to 16,000 people were tortured or murdered at the former high school which the Khmer Rouge converted into a notorious torture machine. Up to 2 million Cambodians died during its 1975-79 regime.

Sopheara said Farrow and her supporters had toured the centre without incident Saturday morning in the company of journalists, but had returned by themselves after closing time and forced entry.

"After they behaved like that, we had to be careful," he said.

CSD executive Yim So Theara confirmed the group had returned to the genocide museum after closing time and slipped in through the guard's entrance to take pictures, but denied causing any problem.

CSD's American-Khmer director Theary Seng said she was too busy to comment. Farrow left Cambodia Sunday, according to So Theara.

Cambodian hilltribes turn to tradition to stop land rush

21 Jan 2008
DPA

Phnom Penh - Cambodian hilltribe people will try self-policing and implement traditional fines in an effort to stop illegal land sales, a rights activist said Monday. Pen Bonnar of local human rights organization Adhoc confirmed local media reports that the Kreung ethnic minority of Rattanakiri province in the country's far north-east had turned to tradition to stop members of their community selling off land.

"They have to do something because people are selling off all their land even though it is illegal and they need it to grow crops," Bonnar said by telephone.

People found selling community land will now face fines of a jug of rice wine and a pig.
Community leaders will have to forfeit a jug of wine and a cow. Cash fines would also be enforced, he said.

Land-grabbing and illegal sales of land are massive problems in Cambodia, which has only recently established a cadastral commission after 30 years of civil war. The Khmer Rouge regime wiped out ownership, and many people are uncertain which land is for the state, the community or themselves.

Remote ethnic minorities also sometimes fail to understand a cash economy, selling land without understanding they can no longer work on it after they receive the money.

Sacravatoons: Dream for darfur 2008

Courtesy of Sacravatoon : http://sacrava.blogspot.com/

Farrow faces off with Cambodia police

A policeman tries to stop US actress Mia Farrow and Khmer survivor Theary Seng, who is an author and executive director of the Centre for Social Development, from making their way to lay flowers at Tuol Sleng genocide museum in Phnom Penh on Sunday.Photo: Reuters


January 21, 2008

Cambodian police blocked American actress Mia Farrow from holding a genocide memorial ceremony at a Khmer Rouge prison on Sunday, at one point forcefully pushing her group away from a barricade.

The Cambodian Government had barred the ceremony several days ago and today police sealed off all roads leading to the Khmer Rouge's infamous Tuol Sleng prison, which is now a genocide museum in the capital, Phnom Penh.

The actress and her group arrived at one of the barricades and refused to go away. Police started pushing the group, which eventually returned to a waiting car and drove off, according to an Associated Press reporter at the scene. Nobody appeared to have been hurt.

Farrow, who is working with the US-based advocacy group Dream for Darfur, was in Cambodia as part of a seven-nation tour of countries that have suffered genocide to call attention to the humanitarian crisis in Sudan.

An estimated 1.7 million Cambodians died during the Khmer Rouge's genocidal reign from 1975-1979.

Thousands of Khmer Rouge prisoners were tortured at the Tuol Sleng prison before being executed outside the capital at the site known as "the killing fields".

Farrow had planned to light an Olympic-style torch outside the former prison to send a message to China - the next Olympic host and one of Sudan's major trading partners - to press the Sudanese Government to end abuses in Darfur.

The Cambodian Government, which has strong economic and political ties with China, said days ago it would prevent the 62-year-old actress from going through with the ceremony. The Government accused Farrow of having "a political agenda against China" and staging the event for political rather than humanitarian reasons.

Farrow denied that her intentions were political in an interview on Saturday, and said she was determined to press ahead with the ceremony.

"It's pretty harsh to be against a ceremony that honours the victims of Darfur and genocide survivors everywhere," Farrow said.

Dream for Darfur has taken its torch-lighting campaign to other places that have suffered mass killings - the Darfur-Chad border, Rwanda, Armenia, Germany and Bosnia-Herzegovina - to honour genocide victims and call attention to the violence in Darfur. The group plans to head to China following its Cambodia visit.

Dream for Darfur claims China has sold weapons to the Sudanese Government and has defended Khartoum's actions in Darfur at the UN Security Council, while Chinese oil operations in Sudan have helped fund genocide there.

China, the biggest backer of the Khmer Rouge's communist regime in the 1970s, is a major donor to Cambodia and has been described by Prime Minister Hun Sen as Cambodia's "most trustworthy friend".

Cambodian police block Darfur rally

A policeman, left, attempts to stop U.S. actress Mia Farrow, second right, and group from making their way to lay flowers at Toul Sleng Genocide Museum in Phnom Penh Sunday. Cambodian police barred Hollywood actress Mia Farrow and other activists from laying flowers at a “Killing Fields” museum on Sunday, as part of a campaign to end atrocities in Sudan’s Darfur. (Reuters)

Monday, January 21, 2008
By Ek Madra,
Reuters

PHNOM PENH -- Baton-wielding police barred Hollywood actress Mia Farrow from holding a rally in Cambodia's "Killing Fields" on Sunday as part of a campaign to end atrocities in Sudan's Darfur.

Some 100 military police blocked Farrow, who fronts the Dream for Darfur pressure group, and her fellow activists from entering the compound at Tuol Sleng, the Phnom Penh high school that became Pol Pot's main torture center.

"Darfur has nothing to do with Cambodia. Go protest in Darfur," Phnom Penh police chief Touch Naruth told reporters after the hour-long stand-off ended without incident.

The group, which had planned to lay flowers and light a symbolic Olympic torch in the compound, has held similar events in Chad, Rwanda, Armenia, Germany and Bosnia as part of a campaign to persuade China to push Khartoum into ending the violence in Darfur.

"Our hearts are breaking for what happened in Cambodia today," Farrow later told a news conference, accusing Beijing of putting pressure on Cambodian authorities.

"The Chinese government was trying to prevent us from commemorating the genocide in Cambodia and denying survivors the opportunity to show solidarity with the people of Darfur," she said.

"We wish Beijing to exercise a similar amount of diplomatic pressure on Khartoum to end the genocide in Darfur."

Beijing is hosting the 2008 Olympic Games and human rights groups have targeted China in the hope of using the spotlight thrown on the country to influence Chinese foreign policy.

China, a major investor in Sudan's oil industry, has been accused of breaching international rules and fanning bloodshed by selling Sudan weapons that have been diverted to Darfur.

International experts estimate 200,000 people have died and 2.5 million others have been driven from their homes in years of fighting. The Sudanese authorities put the death toll at 9,000 and say the West has exaggerated the conflict.

"I grieve every day about what is happening now," Omer Ismail, a Darfur survivor and activist, told reporters.

"As we gather here, in my beloved Sudan (there are) the attacks, the rapes, the systematic murder of innocent men, women, and children."

Cambodian government spokesman Khieu Khanarith had said Farrow's group would face "consequences", including deportation, if they pressed ahead with the rally.

"What they will be doing at Tuol Sleng is not to commemorate the victims of the Khmer Rouge, but to use Khmer skulls to pressure China. This is an insult to the Cambodian people," he said.

In an earlier interview, Farrow said Phnom Penh was putting the interests of Beijing, one of its biggest donors, above the memories of the estimated 1.7 million victims of Pol Pot's 1975-79 reign of terror.

"We came here with the deepest respect," she told Reuters, tears welling up in her eyes. "I am sad because I think it's a good thing to do."

Widow fights insurance company for $1-million payout

Adrienne Tanner,
Vancouver Sun
Sunday, January 20, 2008

NANAIMO - In the spring of 2003, Sotha Kong began a lengthy trip to his homeland of Cambodia, where he was shot and killed. Or so says his widow Padimass, who was left behind in Nanaimo to raise their five children.

However, the life insurance company balking at paying out her husband's million-dollar policy insists Sotha is still very much alive.

Manulife Financial Services Inc. has fought the claim in court on two fronts. The company claims Sotha lied about his health when he took out the policy in 2001 and that reports of his death were faked.

Last week, his widow won the first round when Supreme Court Justice Bruce Butler found that Sotha had answered honestly all of the questions about his health. However, the issue of whether Sotha is dead or alive is still "on the table," said John McGreevy, one of two lawyers representing Padimass in the case.

"It's still not resolved how it will play out," he said.

The Kongs were born in Cambodia and married in 1994. They had three adopted children and two of their own, whom Sotha supported by working as a truck driver, the court documents state. The couple owned a home in Nanaimo and land holdings in Cambodia.

After the birth of their son in 2001, they each applied for life insurance policies that would pay out $1 million if either of them died.

"Ms. Kong said that the couple wanted to make appropriate provision for all of their children in the event that something happened to either of the parents," the court documents state.

Because of the size of the death benefit, the Kongs were required to answer questions about their health and submit a medical examiner's report.

In 2003, Sotha went to Cambodia to attend a ceremony for his elderly mother. It was supposed to be a short visit. But while he was there, a business opportunity arose and Sotha stayed on for months longer.

In late February of 2004, Padimass got word her husband had been shot and killed. She flew to Cambodia, where authorities gave her what they said were her husband's remains and she arranged for a cremation. Padimass returned with a death certificate and autopsy report prepared by the Cambodian government, which she produced when attempting to collect her husband's life insurance benefit.

The company quickly launched its own investigation. It reviewed the medical questionnaire Sotha filled out when he bought the policy and compared it to records held by his family doctor.
The company then took issue with answers he had given to questions about his heart.

Company officials also contacted police in Cambodia, seeking information about the murder.
According to the court file, the company "produced documentation from the Meanchey Provincial Court in Cambodia that concludes that Mr. Kong is 'currently alive.'"

At the outset of the trial, the judge essentially split the case in two, said Avtar Dhinsa, the second lawyer representing Padimass. His reasoning was that if Sotha was found to have lied about his health, the policy would be invalid, making the more difficult to prove question of whether he was alive or dead redundant.

In his ruling released Friday, Butler found that Sotha did not misrepresent his medical history. Lawyers for the family say they will now approach the company and ask them to pay out on the claim. McGreevy said his client is hoping for a speedy resolution.

"She's had a hard time," he said. "Since this happened, she's had very difficult financial circumstances."

Dhinsa said the delay and court battle has hurt not only Padimass, but the couple's five children.
"To suggest they are playing some kind of hoax on the kids or something, that's just ludicrous."

Radio Australia 20/01/08


Sunday 20/01/2008

Radio Australia 19/01/08


Saturday 19/01/2008

Radio Australia 18/01/08


Friday 18/01/2008

A Move Toward the Coming Elections: Three Political Parties Express Their Positions for the Competition

20 January 2008.

The Mirror, Vol. 12, No. 543

“Phnom Penh: Representatives of the Cambodian People’s Party [CPP], of the Sam Rainsy Party [SRP], and of the Norodom Ranariddh Party [NRP] stated their policies in an analysis forum on strengthening the culture of multi-party democracy on 18 January in a move toward the fourth term parliamentary elections. Each party affirmed to respect the Constitution and liberal multi-party democracy, and said that they will accept the results of the 2008 election.

“Mr. Cheam Yeap, the representative of the CPP, said in the discussion of the forum that in the extraordinary congress of the CPP, which was held recently, seriously discussed the work to prepare the fourth term parliamentary elections, so that the competition is conducted on equal terms without violence, in order to hold the elections with dignity, maintaining good reputation, having the elections free, fair, and reliable, and to punish those who commit offenses.

“Concerning the application of the Constitution, Mr. Cheam Yeap said, ‘We always apply it very strictly. However, sometimes we meet difficulties and shortcomings that cannot be avoided.’ He went on to say, ‘We respect the Constitution, apply democracy, and respect human rights.

“Mr. Sam Rainsy, the president of the SRP, said, ‘Previously, concerning the selection of leadership, we used appointments.’ But the SRP has conducted reforms by using elections from the low level up to the higher level, from villages up to the steering committee of the party. He added that he wants to strengthen democracy, to respect each other, and it is necessary to adhere to a culture of non-violence; he wants that all parties consider each other as competitors and not as enemies intending to kill each other.’

“Mr. Sam Rainsy said that the government will change when other parties get a majority of votes, but if the CPP wins, it will continue to hold power. Nevertheless, whether the SRP or other parties win, whoever wins, they will hold power; this is democracy, there is no democratic country in which one party holds power forever.

“Mr. Muth Chantha, the representative of the NRP, said that the NRP respects the equality of partners, it does not use violence or force to put pressure on other parties, and it does not use state resources to buy Khmer citizens’ feelings. He added, ‘To have many parties to participate in elections is not enough to call it democracy.’ He complained, ‘Some parties are just established to split votes away from another party; this is not in accordance with a culture of liberal and multi-party politics.

“Mr. Chhim Phal Vorun, the director of an institute of civic studies, said that this forum has the goal to strengthen multi-party and liberal democracy for the coming elections. He continued that his institute invited representatives of four political parties which participated in 2007 in elections, or those with seats in the National Assembly, but the NRP did not yet participate in the elections at that time. Mr. Monh Saphan, the representative of Funcinpec who participated in the forum, did not agree to make any comment.”

Koh Santepheap, Vol.41, #6249, 19-20.1.2008

Military Ranks Said Sold To 'Chinese, Taiwanese' To Raise Money for Army Chiefs

21 Dec 07
By Srei Ka
Moneakseka Khmer
Translated from Khmer and posted online

There is a ridiculous story emanating from the armed forces. It is about the sale of military ranks to make money for the chiefs to finance their electoral campaigns. We are not sure whether this story is a joke made up by some officers or it is a true story. But if it is true, it surely is a most sadly hilarious anecdote. However, even if it is not true it still sounds like it is, for at the end of this year [2007] there have been many promotion requests at the colonel and general levels.

An officer attached to the Defense Ministry said that some of the aspiring officers want a star but lack the supporting status; so, they ask for additional posts to be given concurring to their present positions, such as becoming advisers to a minister or a state secretary so that they can get a star. Others are already bearing a star but seek auxiliary duties even if they are posts without portfolio so that they can get another star. And those who already have two stars on their shoulders are also striving to have three stars.

This officer at the Defense Ministry said that if the four-star rank is not the topmost echelon in the armed forces reserved for the elite only, thereby inaccessible to most, many people would have scrambled to be given four golden stars, especially those who have a lot of money. This officer further said that the three-star rank, too, is not easy to get but there are quite a few three-star generals in the armed forces because the rich can buy three stars just by making themselves advisers to the leader. In particular, those with one star or two stars can be numbered by the metric tons. We say this because Hun Sen recently claimed in public that if we weigh the stars [on the generals' shoulders] we can have tons of them. However, the government does not have any measure to prevent this inflation of ranks.

The officer at the Defense Ministry pointed out that just in Brigade 70, of which according to the work structure or military cadre the commander must be only a one-star brigadier, there are already dozens of officers bearing stars. Although in the armed forces at present there are already thousands of generals, especially generals with one star or two stars, promotions are announced with no end in sight. There are promotions virtually every month.

Seeing this inflation of military ranks, some curious minds have asked for the reason behind the promotions. This question has been responded with some mockery that ranks are being sold to make money for the chiefs to finance their electoral campaigns.

In time of war the military ranks were accorded on combat merit. Any units that went to the battlefields and won successes and those who served the tasks of the fighting forces well were given promotions as encouragement. Therefore, in time of war the military ranks were promoted according to the merit, the feats, and the sacrifices of each combatant. Now, however, things are not the same. Ranks are awarded not because of merit or achievements but on how much money one can afford to pay. Some persons do not even know where the barracks is but they are seen bearing stars like other generals.

Many with stars nowadays are claimed by some officers as being of Chinese roots because their names are not purely of Khmer origin. This has caused some resentment among the veteran fighters who have to salute or kowtow to those big daddies and big brothers from Chinatown who have never been in a barracks before. This statement should not be construed as racial discrimination. We are talking about fairness to the veteran soldiers because many have been soldiers all their lives but have no money or high ranks and instead are being insulted.

Some officers said that it is tolerable to them for the Chinese living in Cambodia and are Cambodian citizens to pay for the military ranks. But what is unacceptable is that some factory owners who are mainland Chinese or Taiwanese but they, too, bear stars on their shoulders. This is too ridiculous.

Asked to explain the existence of high-ranking officers who never know their quarters, barracks, or units, the military personnel experts say that ranks are being sold to get money for financing the chiefs' electoral campaigns because the 2008 national elections are approaching. A number of army commanders have been going to the localities one after another. When they canvass they need money. If you do not sell the ranks, where can you get money for the chiefs?

The officer at the Defense Ministry said that a scrutiny of the list of the year-end promotions shows that there are many who will get promoted. Despite the monthly promotions, there has been no reduction or halt to them. This has made some foreign military observers claim that in 3 or 4 years to come Cambodia will no longer have foot soldiers. There will be only officers with stars commanding fellow officers with stars because the commanders and deputy commanders, as well as the bureau chiefs, all have the same number of stars. If the chiefs and the subordinates all have high ranks, then who will salute whom, who will obey whom?

The officer at the Defense Ministry said that there is no problem if there are too may big shots. What is the problem is that the personnel experts have said they are selling ranks to make money for the chiefs to finance their electoral campaigns. A star costs not in the thousands but in the tens of thousands of dollars. Therefore, it sounds plausible when they talk about selling ranks to make money for financing the electoral campaigns.

We do not know whether Prime Minister Hun Sen is aware of this or not, but the officers at the Defense Ministry as well as the Armed Forces Supreme Command said that we should ask Tie Banh, minister of national defense, and Ke Kimyan, supreme commander of the armed forces, and we will know the answer unless they have not reported it to Hun Sen. However, whether Ke Kimyan and Tie Banh report this or not, Hun Sen must know about it because he is the one who signs the promotion requests to be submitted to the King. Therefore, Hun Sen must be well aware of what is happening.

Dengue Fever: the most infectious band

PHOTO COURTESY OF KEVIN ESTRADA
By R.J. Smith
NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE,
LOS ANGELES
Monday, Jan 21, 2008

Dengue fever is a Los Angeles band featuring a Cambodian-born singer and five American alt-rockers who regularly embarrass her onstage.

On the cover of its new album, Venus on Earth, the guitarist Zac Holtzman, with a long beard and goggles, drives a scooter with the vocalist Chhom Nimol sitting demurely behind him sidesaddle, the way a good Cambodian girl would ride through the streets of Phnom Penh. Dengue Fever, which specializes in an unlikely mix of 1960s Cambodian pop, rock and other genres, is a lot like that image. Propriety and smart aleck indie rock race by, blurring together.

It is a band of rollicking lightness that keeps coming up deep. At a recent show in the Echo Park neighborhood here, the male members were downright goofy, but Chhom, singing mostly in Khmer and dressed in shimmering Cambodian silk garments she designs herself, looked like old-school royalty, a queen before the hipoisie. No wonder she seemed to roll her eyes from time to time onstage. But after the set, when she lighted a candle onstage to honor those killed by the Khmer Rouge, her voice broke and tears ran down her face.

"I think we balance each other out," Holtzman said in a recent interview. "She'll bring the whole place to a hush, and that would be a long night if it was just that. And then we smash the place up."

Dengue Fever formed after the Farfisa organ player Ethan Holtzman, Zac's brother, traveled to Cambodia in 1997, discovered 1960s Cambodian pop and returned with a stack of cassettes. This was not the sort of roots-driven folk sounds ethnomusicologists crave; this was locally produced, gleefully garish trash infused with the surf guitar and soul arrangements that Armed Forces Radio blasted across the region during the Vietnam War. It flourished until the Khmer Rouge came to power in the 1970s and functionally dismantled Cambodian culture.

Dengue Fever's music is a tribute to that lost pop. But the six members of Dengue Fever form a quintessential Los Angeles crew, with a mix of backgrounds and interests that seems fitting in a region with the largest Cambodian population in the US (in Long Beach, south of downtown Los Angeles) and a flourishing indie rock scene (in the hills east of Hollywood). The band is the musical equivalent of that ultimate modern Los Angeles marker, the polyglot strip-mall sign. It too offers a cultural mash-up; beyond the obscure Cambodian pop you can hear psychedelia, spaghetti western guitars, the lounge groove of Ethiopian soul and Bollywood soundtracks.

Seeing Hands, on the new album, has an almost Funkadelic groove, while Sober Driver is an all but emo complaint about a guy who drives the cute girl everywhere and gets nowhere.

Now Dengue Fever is starting to make its mark far from its hometown. The band recently returned from the Womex world music festival in Seville, Spain, where it was one of a handful of acts to play showcase performances. British publications have included it in "next big thing" roundups, and Dengue Fever's songs have been on television and film sound tracks, including Jim Jarmusch's Broken Flowers. A new documentary, Sleepwalking Through the Mekong, that follows the group on its first trip as a band to Cambodia, seems likely to gain it further notice.

"The underground people are getting hip to world music, and the world music side is getting hip to how you don't have to have a dreadlock wig and Guatemalan pants to be cool," said the bassist Senon Williams, sitting in his backyard with Chhom and Zac Holtzman.

"Now that Nimol is going to start singing more in English," he added, "it's making new things possible for us. Nimol really wants to connect with the American audience more now."

Dmitri Vietze, a publicist and marketer for many global music acts, sees the band as "part of a larger developmental pattern" in world music. "Can you stick them in the world-music bin at brick and mortar retail stores?" Vietze asked. "I don't know. But ... they are a part of a huge and promising future."

Older generations of Cambodians in California are sometimes critical. "They don't want me to show off too much of my dress," she said. "They always tell me, 'Don't forget you're a Cambodian girl.'" But the younger generation responds to Dengue Fever and even breakdances to its reinvention of a mongrel music that is itself a reinvention of a mongrel music from the West.

Folk music it's not, but in one crucial way Dengue Fever has folk resonances. To Chhom and other young Cambodians in the States, pop singers like Sinn Sisamouth and Ros Sereysothea, who died in a labor camp in Cambodia in the 1970s, hit a nerve that blues singers or hillbilly bands do for many Americans: the music takes listeners back home, to a home that doesn't precisely exist anymore.

Cambodian police block Mia Farrow's Darfur rally

U.S actress Mia Farrow (C) and Theary Seng (L), Khmer survivor, author and executive director of the Center for Social Development, hold lotus flowers as police stop them from making their way to the Toul Sleng Genocide Museum in Phnom Penh January 20, 2008. Farrow says she will ignore a deportation threat and pursue plans to light a symbolic Olympic torch in Cambodia's "Killing Fields", as part of a campaign to end atrocities in Sudan's Darfur.
REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea


Sun Jan 20, 2008
Reuters

By Ek Madra

PHNOM PENH (Reuters) - Baton-wielding police barred Hollywood actress Mia Farrow from holding a rally in Cambodia's "Killing Fields" on Sunday as part of a campaign to end atrocities in Sudan's Darfur.

Some 100 military police blocked Farrow, who fronts the Dream for Darfur pressure group, and her fellow activists from entering the compound at Tuol Sleng, the Phnom Penh high school that became Pol Pot's main torture centre.

"Darfur has nothing to do with Cambodia. Go protest in Darfur," Phnom Penh police chief Touch Naruth told reporters after the hour-long stand-off ended without incident.

The group, which had planned to lay flowers and light a symbolic Olympic torch in the compound, has held similar events in Chad, Rwanda, Armenia, Germany and Bosnia as part of a campaign to persuade China to push Khartoum into ending the violence in Darfur.

"Our hearts are breaking for what happened in Cambodia today," Farrow later told a news conference, accusing Beijing of putting pressure on Cambodian authorities.

"The Chinese government was trying to prevent us from commemorating the genocide in Cambodia and denying survivors the opportunity to show solidarity with the people of Darfur," she said.

"We wish Beijing to exercise a similar amount of diplomatic pressure on Khartoum to end the genocide in Darfur".

Beijing is hosting the 2008 Olympic Games and human rights groups have targeted China in the hope of using the spotlight thrown on the country to influence Chinese foreign policy.

China, a major investor in Sudan's oil industry, has been accused of breaching international rules and fanning bloodshed by selling Sudan weapons that have been diverted to Darfur.

International experts estimate 200,000 people have died and 2.5 million others have been driven from their homes in years of fighting. The Sudanese authorities put the death toll at 9,000 and say the West has exaggerated the conflict.

"I grieve every day about what is happening now," Omer Ismail, a Darfur survivor and activist, told reporters.

"As we gather here, in my beloved Sudan (there are) the attacks, the rapes, the systematic murder of innocent men, women, and children."

Cambodian government spokesman Khieu Khanarith had said Farrow's group would face "consequences", including deportation, if they pressed ahead with the rally.

"What they will be doing at Tuol Sleng is not to commemorate the victims of the Khmer Rouge, but to use Khmer skulls to pressure China. This is an insult to the Cambodian people," he said.
In an earlier interview, Farrow said Phnom Penh was putting the interests of Beijing, one of its biggest donors, above the memories of the estimated 1.7 million victims of Pol Pot's 1975-79 reign of terror.

"We came here with the deepest respect," she told Reuters, tears welling up in her eyes. "I am sad because I think it's a good thing to do."

Personal Journey: A tourist, and a native, and comfortable

Writer Somanette Seang , at Angkor Wat, survived the Khmer Rouge genocide and arrived in the United States at 7.


The Philadephia Inquirer
Sun, Jan. 20, 2008

By Somanette Seang
For The Inquirer

It had been more than 26 years since I was in Cambodia. I survived the Khmer Rouge genocide of the 1970s and, at age 7, emigrated to the United States with my mother, grandmother, aunt and cousin.

Until last summer, I never felt ready to return to Cambodia because I struggled with feelings of survivor's guilt. Why did I live when an estimated 1.7 million Cambodians died?

My fear was that I would be just another tourist instead of Khmer. In the end, I was a Khmer tourist.

I arranged to volunteer as an English teacher in Siem Reap through the nonprofit organization Journeys Within Our Community (www.journeyswithinourcommunity.org). I would be teaching two English classes at Wat Thmey (New Temple). Wat Thmey is an old temple with a modest memorial dedicated to about 50 people who died at the hands of the Khmer Rouge.

My "classroom" was the open foyer of the temple, and I had a dry-erase board. My students were teenagers and young adults who could not afford to enroll in a high school or university.
Poverty is prevalent throughout Cambodia, even as the country builds and develops.

My 17 students did not know what to make of me initially. I looked Cambodian enough, but there was an intangible characteristic that made me not quite truly Khmer. I told them my story of emigration and the loss of the father I never knew. Several of them told me stories of their impoverished lives in the rice paddies, helping their families find aluminum and plastic reusables in the polluted city, or selling beef on a stick and coca (soda) along the dusty and crowded streets of Siem Reap.

The students did not dwell on their struggles; they showed hope and determination. For the week I was there, they rode their bicycles - the luckier ones rode borrowed motos - to class. We studied present-tense verbs and vocabulary for different modes of transportation. But mostly, we talked about Cambodia. They were eager for me to know and love their country.

Because they wanted me to see the true beauty of Siem Reap, two of my students, Saphour and Vanna, picked me up on Saphour's moto (it is amazing how many people ride at once on a moto) and took me to Angkor Wat. I had read and seen pictures and movies about the 12th-century stone temple built with three levels and four galleries. The galleries' walls are covered with hand-carved, detailed scenes of battles, gods, heaven and hell. When I walked onto the gateway of Angkor Wat, I felt completely proud to be Cambodian.

My students thanked me for being their teacher. But truly, I was the most thankful. I may have taught them grammar, as my father might have done when he was a teacher, but they taught me about hope and self-acceptance. It was fine to be a Khmer tourist.

A helping honeymoon

Boys at Knar School eat a lunch of noodles. Ponheary Ly's clients, mostly American tourists, help support Cambodian schools with their donations.
The Philadephia Inquirer
Sun, Jan. 20, 2008

By Chris Gray
Inquirer Staff Writer

SIEM REAP, Cambodia - Let's be honest: It was the specter of tigers, temples, and tom yam soup that led my husband and me to honeymoon in Southeast Asia. We wanted an adventure to remember, on a continent where neither of us had been.

But as I researched our trip, I realized that we should spend at least a little time practicing "voluntourism," giving back to people who are still struggling for the basics after decades of war and poverty.

We found a way to have it all in Siem Reap, Cambodia, home of the ancient temple complex Angkor Wat - and Ponheary Ly, a tour guide who considers it her mission to help educate as many Cambodian children as possible.

I found Ly, a Siem Reap native and survivor of dictator Pol Pot's labor camps, through the Asia message board on Fodors.com. Ly, 44, is a veteran guide who has arranged private tours of Angkor Wat and other Siem Reap attractions in both English and French - languages she learned in secret during the Vietnamese occupation of Cambodia - since 2000.

A former English teacher, Ly has also worked for seven years to enroll children in Cambodian schools. While public school in the country is ostensibly free for the first three years, many rural children do not have the $12 necessary for shoes, school supplies or uniforms, she said.

"As a teacher, I knew about the difficulties of the kids and families who couldn't send the kids to schools. Also, I found that the kids are smart, but they don't have any occasion to show how smart they are. To build the country, we have to build the education for all people, especially the kids."

It's a message that Ly's clients - mostly Americans who prefer independent travel with native guides to packaged tours - could support. In addition to touring the temples, more and more visitors asked Ly whether they could visit the schools and donate money for bicycles, supplies and uniforms.

Lori Carlson, formerly of Austin, Texas, was one such convert. When she visited here in 2005, Carlson was struck by Ly's background and dedication. On her return to the States, she founded the Ponheary Ly Foundation (www.theplf.org), a registered nonprofit that channels money directly to the schools.

As of December, Carlson, 48, had raised $90,000 for five schools - and quit her job to move here to work fulltime with Ly. She formed a board of directors for the PLF, which distributed school supplies to 1,955 children last fall.

"I believe the travelers who go to visit the temples at Angkor Wat understand they bear at least some of the responsibility to gently nudge these children toward school rather than reinforce the idea that it's good to stand on the corner and beg dollars from tourists," she said.

With such strong advocates, Don and I were excited to meet Ly and do our part. We arrived here to find a city undergoing massive change. The number of tourists visiting Angkor Wat, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1992, has exploded in recent years, spurring an increase in hotels, shops, restaurants and other businesses.

While the influx of dollars has been good for many Cambodians (merchants prefer U.S. dollars to the Cambodian rial), it's disconcerting to see barefoot bicyclists ride past $800-a-night hotels. Young children hawk maps, books and trinkets near the temple grounds; tuk-tuk drivers fight over $1 fares.

That's not to say that Don and I eschew luxury (it was our honeymoon, after all). We turned down a $20 room at Ly's simple guesthouse, primarily because it didn't have a pool, which we considered essential to deal with the area's crushing humidity. At $95, our poolside room at Bopha Angkor was spacious yet not ostentatious, and the package included daily breakfast, a traditional Khmer dinner, and a massage.

Just a few hours after we landed, we went to Angkor Wat with Ly's brother Dara as our guide. There are more than 300 temples in the complex, but Dara steered us to the ones that would provide the most interesting backdrops for my husband, the photographer.

As we sweated in the 90-degree heat, I asked Dara about his family's experience under the Khmer Rouge. He told us that his father, a teacher in Siem Reap, was among the first wave of educated people to be killed under Pol Pot's regime. As a result, Dara and his siblings were sent with their mother to the countryside to work.

It's a sobering tale, and we heard more from Ly over the next few days. Ly, who was 13 when the Khmer Rouge came to power, and her siblings survived, mainly because villagers would leave food for them at night.

"We were given this much rice," Ly told us, holding up the tip of her finger. Dara would "crawl out on all fours, like a cat" to get extra food; sometimes, actual cats or monkeys would have gotten to the rations instead, she said.

Still, the extra nourishment kept the family alive - and the Khmer Rouge noticed. Officials asked her mother why her children were still alive when so many other youngsters had died, Ly said. When her mother refused to answer, she was horribly beaten.

Such atrocities were common in the Pol Pot years. Yet most Cambodians don't like to talk about the time under the Khmer Rouge, Carlson said. It's rare to find it discussed in schools, primarily due to the country's Buddhist beliefs, which hold that people - even war criminals - are responsible for their own karma.

Ly is different, Carlson said. She understands that it's important to talk about the past so it doesn't happen again. We were talking in Ly's van, on our way to deliver lunch to the 476 children at Knar school, out in the Cambodian countryside. On the road, we saw men on bikes toting crates filled with piglets and open huts with children playing in the dirt.

Cambodian families expect all children, no matter how young, to contribute economically, Ly told us. Which is why even the kids who are lucky enough to go to school attend for a half day; at home, they are needed for chores, farm work, or other ways to make money.

In addition to a donation made before our trip, we gave Ly $40 for lunch, which buys two noodle packets for each child. That's essential, Carlson said, because if the child received only one packet, he or she would take it home to the family instead of eating it. The school tries to feed the children at least once a day to make sure they have enough energy to learn, Carlson said.

We arrived at Knar School, which consists of several one-story classrooms. As Don carried the boxes of noodle packets into the rooms, the children's eyes grew wide. They straightened in their seats and thanked us by pressing their hands together and bowing.

Carlson and Ly showed us around the school and talked about the improvements that have been made. Incentives such as bicycles, uniforms, and extra noodle packets show the families that there are tangible benefits to their children attending school, Carlson said.

"I would like to have my country be the same as the other countries," Ly said, with Cambodian children able "to have good education to work well to get out from the poor life."

The children seemed to love school, showing off their uniforms and books. An impromptu game of soccer ensued, with Don in the thick of it. It was an emotional sight for me, which sparked later discussion: Although we had been together several years, Don and I had never talked about the greater good we could accomplish as a couple.

It's a conversation that all newlyweds should have, wherever their honeymoon takes them. For us, road-testing our fledgling marriage in an underdeveloped country not only gave us the adventures we sought, but also set the course for a more permanent path. And that's definitely a trip worth taking.
________________________________

Two Sides of Cambodia

There are no direct flights to Siem Reap from the United States. You can fly there from various Asian cities, including Bangkok, Hong Kong, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Ho Chi Minh City, and Hanoi.

British Airways flies to Singapore from Philadelphia International Airport with one stop. The lowest recent round-trip fare was about $1,815. Singapore Airlines flies nonstop from Newark Liberty International Airport for about $1,970 round trip.

We stayed at Bopha Angkor (www.bopha-angkor.com), booking the "Poolside Evasion package." The cost was $285 for both of us for three nights, including airport transfers, breakfast, a dinner, and a massage for two.

We booked Ponheary Ly as a guide by e-mail (ponheary@yahoo.com). Ly charged us $145 for 21/2 days of touring, which included three half-day sessions at Angkor Wat, the visit to Knar School, and a visit to the floating village on Tonle Sap lake.

More information

To donate or read more about the Ponheary Ly Foundation, go to www.theplf.org. Or e-mail Lori Carlson at donate@theplf.org.

Haverford teenager is volunteer teacher

"It was a lot of fun," Croom Beatty says of teaching English in one of Ponheary Ly's schools. He has spent part of the last two summers at the task.
The Philadephia Inquirer
Sun, Jan. 20, 2008 rer

Lyle Beatty worried about many things when her 16-year-old son, Croom, went to Cambodia to teach English in 2006.

She didn't think about cobras.

Sure enough, her son came close to one while touring a temple in the countryside near Siem Reap.

Snake scares aside, Croom Beatty - now 17 and a senior at the Haverford School - has spent part of the last two summers teaching English in schools sponsored by the Ponheary Ly Foundation.

The Beatty family, of Haverford, met Ponheary Ly while touring Angkor Wat in 2005. Lyle and her husband had prepared their four children for the trip by watching The Killing Fields and learning about Cambodian history. But nothing compared to hearing Ly's personal stories, Lyle Beatty said.

"It was life-altering," she said.

Upon returning, Croom e-mailed Ly to ask what he could do to help. He envisioned raising money or giving a presentation at his school. Instead, Ly suggested that he return to Cambodia to teach. So Croom flew to Asia to teach for two weeks before meeting up with his family.

"The first day I walked into the school, I was very nervous," Croom said. "She dropped me off and had me do my own thing. When I walked in, everyone started giggling. It was challenging."

Eventually, Croom became more comfortable. Last summer, he returned with a friend for three weeks. They lived in the Ly guesthouse and rode their bikes to and from the school, witnessing Cambodian life firsthand.

"It was a lot of fun," he said. "Her family treated me like one of their own. The second year was a lot more relaxed. I got to know the kids better.

"It's amazing to see the potential of some of the students. . . . I was expecting to maybe give them enough English to work in a hotel. Some of them are exceptionally smart. They want to be doctors and teachers."

Lyle Beatty says her son has "learned so much. It went from being a vague do-gooder type thing to realizing what is there and the difference that one person or a lot of people can make."

- Chris Gray

If you tire, press on; touring temples brings understanding

Angkor Thom is near the better-known Angkor Wat and almost as impressive. The complex was built as a royal city.

The Philadephia Inquirer
Sun, Jan. 20, 2008

SIEM REAP, Cambodia - Frequent travelers call it "temple fatigue," the wave of exhaustion that sets in when you've seen one (or five) ruins too many.

It comes with the territory here. Not only is Siem Reap home to Angkor Wat, one of the world's largest religious monuments; the area also houses more than 300 other monuments, all beautiful and significant, in various stages of decay. If you take in too many at once, even the most intricate carvings can seem mundane.

But there's nothing like immersion to understand the complex history of the Khmer people. At one time, their empire spread from modern-day India to Vietnam, encompassing both Buddhist and Hindu faiths. One king, Jayavarman VII, commissioned hundreds of stone structures throughout the country, all within 30 years (although Angkor Wat, which graces Cambodia's flag and currency, was built by a predecessor, Suryavarman II).

So even if your feet hurt, your shirt is damp with sweat, and you feel you never want to see another temple again, somehow you need to find the energy to visit just one more.

Here are a few of the must-see sites at Siem Reap, all covered by a $40 three-day pass:

Angkor Wat. The early-12th-century structure is as immense and awe-inspiring as it looks in pictures. Both a capital and a temple honoring the Hindu god Vishnu, Angkor Wat is too large to take in all at once. We toured in the morning, avoiding the crowds, and then returned at dusk to see the iconic three stone towers bathed in golden-hour light. Definitely a See-You-Before-You-Die sight.

Angkor Thom. Just up the road from Angkor Wat and built almost a century later, Angkor Thom is almost as impressive. A former royal city, the Angkor Thom complex is most famous for the Bayon, a Buddhist temple that features enormous faces carved from stone. There are plenty of other monuments here, too; we especially liked the South Gate, with a row of stone angels and demons holding a large naga (snake) on either side of the road.

Ta Prohm. If you've seen Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, you're familier with Ta Prohm, also known as the "jungle temple." Here you can see what happens when nature goes unchecked: Huge trees have engulfed the buildings and crushed the walls with their roots. Despite the crowds, it's an otherworldly sight and eerily romantic; Don and I both picked this one as our favorite.

Banteay Srei. Off the beaten path in the countryside, Banteay Srei is the oldest of the temples we visited (one guidebook placed its consecration date at 967 A.D.). It was also tinier and perhaps the most beautiful, because of the intricate carvings of Aspara dancers and Hindu gods. We particularly loved how the red sandstone appeared pink in the morning light.

- Chris Gray

'Go protest in Darfur', Cambodia tells Mia Farrow

A military policeman stops Khmer survivor, author and activist Theary Seng and US actress Mia Farrow from making their way to lay flowers at the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum. (Reuters: Chor Sokunthea)

ABC News

Baton-wielding police have barred Hollywood actress Mia Farrow from holding a rally in Cambodia's "Killing Fields" as part of her campaign to end atrocities in Sudan's Darfur.

Some 100 military police blocked Farrow, who fronts the Dream for Darfur pressure group, and her fellow activists from entering the compound at Tuol Sleng, the Phnom Penh high school that became Pol Pot's main torture centre.

"Darfur has nothing to do with Cambodia. Go protest in Darfur," Phnom Penh police chief Touch Naruth told reporters after the hour-long stand-off ended without incident.

The group, which had planned to lay flowers and light a symbolic Olympic torch in the compound, has held similar events in Chad, Rwanda, Armenia, Germany and Bosnia as part of a campaign to persuade China to push the Sudanese administration into ending the violence in Darfur.

"Our hearts are breaking for what happened in Cambodia today," Farrow later told a news conference, accusing China of putting pressure on Cambodian authorities.

"The Chinese Government was trying to prevent us from commemorating the genocide in Cambodia and denying survivors the opportunity to show solidarity with the people of Darfur.
"We wish Beijing to exercise a similar amount of diplomatic pressure on Khartoum [Sudan's seat of government] to end the genocide in Darfur."

Beijing is hosting the 2008 Olympic Games and human rights groups have targeted China in the hope of using the spotlight thrown on the country to influence Chinese foreign policy.

China, a major investor in Sudan's oil industry, has been accused of breaching international rules and fanning bloodshed by selling Sudan weapons that have been diverted to Darfur.

Cambodian government spokesman Khieu Khanarith had said Farrow's group would face "consequences", including deportation, if they pressed ahead with the rally.

"What they will be doing at Tuol Sleng is not to commemorate the victims of the Khmer Rouge, but to use Khmer skulls to pressure China," he said.

"This is an insult to the Cambodian people."

- Reuters

Shooting victim’s parents try to cope

Foss High School security officer Eugene Haynes-Ransom keeps his eye out for trouble in school hallways, watching video monitors. He’s a Foss grad.
The News Tribune.com
KRIS SHERMAN; kris.sherman@thenewstribune.com
Published: January 20th, 2008

Tears flow easily, and dreams remain unfulfilled in the East Side Tacoma home of Ry Sou and Rorth Kok.

Sometimes, when she can no longer tolerate the soul-deep ache, Sou walks up the stairs to her son’s bedroom, sits on his sleigh bed, and talks to him.

She thinks about opening the closet but does not.

The memories of her son, Samnang Kok, are too strong there, she says. They lie in the look and feel and smell of the clothing he wore as a student at Foss High School. They hide in his shoes. They lurk in his belongings.

Samnang Kok, a 17-year-old junior, was shot and killed a year ago in a school hallway, minutes before classes were to resume following winter break. He died there, next to a bank of lockers, on Jan. 3, 2007.

He was shot three times with a 9 mm handgun.

Douglas S. Chanthabouly, then an 18-year-old junior, is charged with first-degree murder in Sam Kok’s death. He has pleaded not guilty and remains in Pierce County Jail awaiting trial.

Sou and Kok miss their son every day, their grief perhaps scabbed over a bit but still raw.
“It’s hard,” Sou says, balancing her 3-year-old grandson, Makhai – Sam’s son – on her lap. She speaks in halting English, thick with the accent of her native Cambodia, but her pain needs no translation.

“He say every day, ‘Is Daddy gone?’” Sou says, retrieving the small, pink plastic clock her grandson pushed off the table in play. “‘Daddy go heaven, now,’ he say. ‘I hate someone kill my daddy.’”

Makhai lives with his mother, Tiari Johnson, but frequently spends time with his grandparents.
The family hasn’t filed a claim against the Tacoma School District, and Sam Kok’s parents don’t seem interested in one.

They’re more concerned, they say, with the welfare of their grandson and of their daughter, Lisa, a freshman at Lincoln High School. The couple also has two grown sons.

Sou, a cashier at the Emerald Queen Casino, says she’s talked to administrators at Lincoln about the need to keep her daughter safe.

“I want all the students to be good,” she adds. “I don’t want trouble.”

Sou was pregnant with Sam when she emigrated to the United States. She gave him a name that means good luck.

“I come from Cambodia, and I find freedom,” she says, pausing to pluck a napkin from the table and use it to blot tears. Kok does the same, wadding the napkin up and wiping it across his lined face.

“I take care of my son,” Sou continues. “I go to work. My son go to school. … When I am old, I plan my son take care of me.”

“He’s a good son,” Kok says quietly, his small frame quaking with the effort. “He help a lot. He good kid. He really smart.”

The couple expected Sam to watch his own boy grow to manhood, too.

When Sam wasn’t studying or helping his parents around the house, he watched cartoons with Makhai or played simple games with his son, an exuberant, small moving object.

“He like a small car,” Sou says, pointing at her grandson. “Zoom, zoom, zoom. … He look like his daddy,” she adds, pointing to Makhai’s dark, shining eyes.

It is those same eyes, in the larger Sam version, that peer at the world from above a teenage smirk in the life-size photo that hangs on the wall in the bedroom that was Sam’s. Below it rests a mini shrine – candles; an ornate cross; a vase of pink, orange and yellow flowers; incense; a pack of cigarettes and a lighter awaiting their owner.

“I look at the pictures. I cry,” Sou says. “I talk. I say, ‘Why? Why? My son go to school. Why my son die?’”

Kris Sherman: 253-597-8659

Mountain top site marks border with Laos, Cambodia

Representatives of Viet Nam, Laos and Cambodia inaugurate a border landmark yesterday. — VNA/VNS Photo Sy Huynh

HA NOI — The governments of Viet Nam, Laos and Cambodia yesterday inaugurated a border landmark at the point where the three countries converge.

Among those attending the ceremony were Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Dao Viet Trung, his Lao and Cambodian counterparts, and leaders of three provinces: Kon Tum of Viet Nam, Attapu Province of Laos and Rattanakiri Province of Cambodia.

The triangular border landmark, with three faces, stands on a mountain, 1,086m above sea level. It is more than 2m high and made of marble.

At the ceremony, representatives of the three governments said they appreciated the landmark, which represents the border identified by agreements signed among the three countries.

They said the landmark symbolises the will, aspiration and determination of the governments and peoples of the three countries in solving territory and border matters. The landmark was also evidence of the belief, understanding and friendship between the three countries, the meeting heard.

Also yesterday, Bo Y bordergate, which links Viet Nam’s Kon Tum Province with Laos’ Attapu Province was officially opened after being upgraded.

Trung and a number of senior officials attended the ceremony.

Viet Nam’s Bo Y and Laos’s Phu Cua bordergates are expected to boost trade between the two countries.
The Vietnamese Government is investing in upgrading infrastructure at Bo Y.

Local authorities have received 34 investment applications worth of VND19.2 billion ($1.2 million), in addition to 15 other ongoing projects worth of VND422 billion ($26.3 million).

A long-term development plan for Bo Y bordergate zone is in the pipeline and is expected to further increase trade, investment, and tourism in the region.

— VNS

Authorities block Mia Farrow from genocide ceremony in Cambodia

CBC News
Sunday, January 20, 2008
Canadian Press: THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia - Cambodian police blocked American actress Mia Farrow from holding a genocide memorial ceremony today at a Khmer Rouge prison.

At one point, officers forcefully pushed Farrow's group away from a barricade.

The Cambodian government had barred the ceremony and police sealed off roads leading to the Khmer Rouge's infamous Tuol Sleng prison, which is now a genocide museum in the capital, Phnom Penh.

Farrow and her group arrived at one of the barricades and refused to go away.

Police started pushing the group, which eventually returned to a waiting car and drove off without anyone getting hurt.

An estimated 1.7 million Cambodians died during the Khmer Rouge's genocidal reign from 1975-1979.

Farrow was in Cambodia as part of tour of seven nations that have suffered genocide to call attention to the current humanitarian crisis in Sudan's Darfur region.

Cambodia shutters genocide museum to block US actress Farrow

Sun, 20 Jan 2008
DPA

Phnom Penh - Cambodian police locked down a former Khmer Rouge prison Sunday with barricades in a 300 metre radius after US actress Mia Farrow vowed to continued with a scheduled anti-China rally. More than 200 officers were posted to block the elderly actress and entourage that had intended to light a torch at the Toul Sleng Genocide Museum.

Farrow's global Dream For Darfur rally draws attention to China's economic support of Sudan and the war in Darfur ahead of the August Olympics, but China is one of Cambodia's staunchest allies and authorities banned it and threatened arrests and deportations.

In the end, however, it was an anticlimax, with Farrow and friend Seng Theary, director of her Cambodian partner agency Center for Social Development, forced to stand forlornly on the wrong side of the barrier holding wilting white water lilies in scorching heat for an hour in a 70-strong crowd before giving up.

Farrow said little, letting the outspoken young US-Khmer rights activist Seng do all the talking as they pleaded fruitlessly for entry. But the pair suffered more jostling from journalists, who appeared to outnumber Dreamers, than they did from police.

Some Farrow supporters tried to threatened police with US embassy intervention, but were rebuffed. Phnom Penh security chief Police General Hy Pru turned up to supervise, and the rally ended quietly.

Police said there were no arrests.

Cambodian officials were vehement in denying permission to the organizers. Government spokesman Khieu Kanharith branded them ignorant foreigners attempting to use Cambodia's genocide as a fund-raising vehicle.

Museum director Chey Sopheara was among those who felt the ceremony would hijack the memories of the up to 16,000 people who were tortured or killed in former school.

At a press conference after the rally, Farrow, 62, and Seng expressed disappointment but no regrets. On Saturday, authorities allowed Farrow to tour the museum sans torch and Sunday said the problem was the torch and the agenda, not Farrow herself.

Up to 2 million Cambodians died in the 1975-79 Khmer Rouge regime.

They’ve Got Those Mekong Blues Again

The members of Dengue Fever are, from left, Ethan Holtzman, Senon Williams, Zac Holtzman, Paul Smith, David Ralicke and Chhom Nimol.


By R J SMITH
January 20, 2008
LOS ANGELES

DENGUE FEVER is a Los Angeles band featuring a Cambodian-born singer and five American alt-rockers who regularly embarrass her onstage. On the cover of its new album, “Venus on Earth” (M80), the guitarist Zac Holtzman, with a long beard and goggles, drives a scooter with the vocalist Chhom Nimol sitting demurely behind him sidesaddle, the way a good Cambodian girl would ride through the streets of Phnom Penh. Dengue Fever, which specializes in an unlikely mix of 1960s Cambodian pop, rock and other genres, is a lot like that image. Propriety and smart aleck indie rock race by, blurring together.

It is a band of rollicking lightness that keeps coming up deep. At a recent show in the Echo Park neighborhood here, the male members were downright goofy, but Ms. Chhom, singing mostly in Khmer and dressed in shimmering Cambodian silk garments she designs herself, looked like old-school royalty, a queen before the hipoisie. No wonder she seemed to roll her eyes from time to time onstage. But after the set, when she lighted a candle onstage to honor those killed by the Khmer Rouge, her voice broke and tears ran down her face.

“I think we balance each other out,” Mr. Holtzman said in a recent interview. “She’ll bring the whole place to a hush, and that would be a long night if it was just that. And then we smash the place up.”

Dengue Fever formed after the Farfisa organ player Ethan Holtzman, Zac’s brother, traveled to Cambodia in 1997, discovered ’60s Cambodian pop and returned with a stack of cassettes. This was not the sort of roots-driven folk sounds ethnomusicologists crave; this was locally produced, gleefully garish trash infused with the surf guitar and soul arrangements that Armed Forces Radio blasted across the region during the Vietnam War. It flourished until the Khmer Rouge came to power in the 1970s and functionally dismantled Cambodian culture.

Dengue Fever’s music is a tribute to that lost pop. But the six members of Dengue Fever form a quintessential Los Angeles crew, with a mix of backgrounds and interests that seems fitting in a region with the largest Cambodian population in the United States (in Long Beach, south of downtown Los Angeles) and a flourishing indie rock scene (in the hills east of Hollywood). The band is the musical equivalent of that ultimate modern Los Angeles marker, the polyglot strip-mall sign. It too offers a cultural mash-up; beyond the obscure Cambodian pop you can hear psychedelia, spaghetti western guitars, the lounge groove of Ethiopian soul and Bollywood soundtracks. “Seeing Hands,” on the new album, has an almost Funkadelic groove, while “Sober Driver” is an all but emo complaint about a guy who drives the cute girl everywhere and gets nowhere.

Now Dengue Fever is starting to make its mark far from its hometown. The band recently returned from the Womex world music festival in Seville, Spain, where it was one of a handful of acts to play showcase performances. British publications have included it in “next big thing” roundups, and Dengue Fever’s songs have been on television and film soundtracks, including Jim Jarmusch’s “Broken Flowers.” A new documentary, “Sleepwalking Through the Mekong,” that follows the group on its first trip as a band to Cambodia, seems likely to gain it further notice. (It plays the Mercury Lounge on the Lower East Side on March 4, and at Southpaw in Brooklyn on March 5.)

“The underground people are getting hip to world music, and the world music side is getting hip to how you don’t have to have a dreadlock wig and Guatemalan pants to be cool,” said the bassist Senon Williams, sitting in his backyard with Ms. Chhom and Zac Holtzman.

“Now that Nimol is going to start singing more in English,” he added, “it’s making new things possible for us. Nimol really wants to connect with the American audience more now.”

Dmitri Vietze, a publicist and marketer for many global music acts, sees the band as “part of a larger developmental pattern” in world music. “Can you stick them in the world-music bin at brick and mortar retail stores?” Mr. Vietze asked. “I don’t know. But as far as how they fit into world music in a larger philosophical context, they are a part of a huge and promising future.” He noted that the American market had been introduced to world sounds most often by American artists who love and emulate them, like Paul Simon. Now, he said, he sees a movement toward music made and influenced by √©migr√©s: “We’re seeing more and more bands like Dengue Fever.”
Ms. Chhom speaks in broken English that her band mates struggle to first understand and then interpret for a reporter. Born in Battambang, Cambodia, Ms. Chhom moved to Long Beach in 2000, when she was 21. Both her parents were wedding singers, and she followed in the family business. An invitation to sing in Minneapolis brought her to America, and her sister, already living in Long Beach, introduced her to the local dinner-club scene.

Ms. Chhom stressed how important the music that inspired the Holtzman brothers was to her when she was growing up. One favorite is the great Khmer pop singer Sinn Sisamouth, who sang with Ms. Chhom’s father on a movie soundtrack. Sinn Sisamouth was a royal court singer of ballads in the 1950s who by the end of the ’60s was called “the king of Cambodian rock ’n’ roll,” with a queasy garage sound and a mellow nod to Nat King Cole, reinventing the rock wheel on a Pacific rim. Sinn Sisamouth disappeared after the Khmer Rouge took over. An artist close to the old government of Prince Norodom Sihanouk, he is said to have died in a labor camp.

Bouncing Mr. Williams’s 1-year-old son on her knee, Ms. Chhom seemed a little bored with the interview process, her deftly drawn eyebrows often forming a skeptical V. She already had a reputation as a singer in Cambodia when she auditioned, along with several other Cambodian women, for Dengue Fever in 2001. When her competitors saw her, Zac Holtzman said, they politely excused themselves, assuming she would automatically get the gig. In 2002, while Dengue Fever was recording its debut album, Ms. Chhom was stopped in a routine check by immigration agents during an orange alert and was detained for having a lapsed green card. She spent 22 days in confinement, and upon her release sang endless nights in a Cambodian dance club in Long Beach called the Dragon House to pay off her legal fees. The band’s second album was titled “Escape From the Dragon House,” a reference to Ms. Chhom having paid off her legal fees and putting her immigration troubles behind her.

As far as connecting with her band mates, that’s still a work in progress. When they first started playing together they had to establish a sense of trust across language and cultural barriers. Now they hang out sometimes after a show, but even socializing can be complicated.

“Sometimes I go out ,and I like to dance because in Cambodia I could never go to clubs and dance like that,” Ms. Chhom said.

Zac Holtzman responded, “There’s always a few nights on tour when we go out and do a few clubs and some dancing ——”

Ms. Chhom interrupted emphatically : “I don’t want to talk, I want to dance. And these guys all like to talk. I know it’s the American style, they like to drink and talk and talk, but to those people I just say, ‘Hi, bye, let’s go dance.’ ”

Older generations of Cambodians in California are sometimes critical. “They don’t want me to show off too much of my dress,” she said. “They always tell me, ‘Don’t forget you’re a Cambodian girl.’ ” But the younger generation responds to Dengue Fever and even breakdances to its reinvention of a mongrel music that is itself a reinvention of a mongrel music from the West.

Folk music it’s not, but in one crucial way Dengue Fever has folk resonances. To Ms. Chhom and other young Cambodians in the States, pop singers like Sinn Sisamouth and Ros Sereysothea, who died in a labor camp in Cambodia in the 1970s, hit a nerve that blues singers or hillbilly bands do for many Americans: the music takes listeners back home, to a home that doesn’t precisely exist anymore.

“Sleepwalking Through the Mekong,” directed by the Los Angeles filmmaker John Pirozzi, shows what happens when that 1960s pop makes its way back across the Pacific. It follows Dengue Fever on a 2005 trip to Cambodia, and in the penultimate scene the band sets up a stage in a slum full of corrugated shacks and plays a concert. The reaction is festive at times, but there are also some slack-jawed, unreadable expressions. Whether that’s the impact of lost pop music coming back to life or the surreality of American rockers dropping down from postmodern Los Angeles, is a question the band is smart enough to leave unanswered.