Tuesday, 1 April 2008

Sam Rainsy Honors Victims of 1997 Grenade Attack at 11th Anniversary Commemoration







Pictures courtesy of Sam Rainsy Party : http://www.samrainsyparty.org/index.html
The International
Republican Institute
1225 Eye St., NW, Suite 700
Washington, DC 20005
(202) 408-9450
(202) 408-9462 fax
www.iri.org
For Immediate Release
March 28, 2008
Contact: Lisa Gates
202-572-1546
lgates@iri.org
Statement by the International Republican Institute
on the 11th Anniversary of a Grenade Attack on Peaceful Demonstrators in Phnom Penh, Cambodia

“Sunday marks the 11th anniversary of the tragic events of March 30, 1997, when 20 innocent people were killed and more than 100 injured during a peaceful demonstration of Sam Rainsy Party supporters. We are again reminded that for democracy to truly exist people must have the right to peacefully assemble and freely express themselves. Those who died on that day or continue to bear the scars of the attack made a terrific sacrifice for democracy and freedom in Cambodia – and that sacrifice should never be forgotten.

“IRI hopes the pre-election atmosphere allows political parties and citizens alike to freely express their views; and that the July 27 national assembly elections will allow all Cambodians to honor the memory of those who perished 11 years ago by courageously exercising their inherent right to freely choose their leaders.

“President Reagan once said, ‘Freedom is one of the deepest and noblest aspirations of the human spirit.’ IRI will continue to stand by the Cambodian people in their pursuit of freedom and a more democratic Cambodia.”
_____________________________
STATEMENT ON 11TH ANNIVERSARY OF GRENADE ATTACK.

Ron Abney, Cochran, Georgia ronabney@hotmail.com 478-934-8919, Cochran, Georgia, USA

DID THOSE KILLED ON MARCH, 30 1997 DIE IN VAIN?

What a sham and a farce the investigation of this tragic event has become. Every year we call on the Cambodian Government to investigate. We're asking the Hun Sen government to re-open a case which he never really opened.

The FBI found out within weeks of the attack that it was planned and carried out by Hun Sen's own private guards and covered up by Hun Sen's top police enforcers. What a crime was committed that day. We shouldn't be vague about culpability when we ask for a new investigation. So let's be real.

Did those slaughtered on 3/30/97 die in vain? Even today Hun Sen is the supreme and ultimate puppeteer of all that happens in Cambodia. He decides who will be exiled and who will be allowed back in the country. He decides how far each opposition party can go in criticizing has government. He makes sure the NEC is loaded with yes men who will validate the results of the election. He decides who will be jailed and who will be released. He decides the fate of pro-democracy party commune leaders who speak out and try to organize. His forces bribe opposition part officials to join CPP. And as we saw on 3/30/97 he decides when opposition goes too far.

He is a master of intrigue. He has told the world for years that his government will bring the Khmer Rouge leaders before his court for trail. How is that trial going by the way? These KR leaders are dying right and left of old age while the corrupt judicial system in Phnom Penh makes a farce out of a situation so tragic it still rips the heart out of those who suffered at the hands of Pol Pot.

Cambodia hasn't really changed. Everything looks shinier and tourists who fly from their own country to Bangkok or Hong Kong to Siem Reap and its five-star hotels and then back to their homes talk of how wonderful to see all the changes. They should travel about an hour from Siem Reap in any direction and see what has happened to the homeless who used to pack the streets of that great city.

Those gathered on 3/30/97 only asked for justice and political freedom. If they were alive today they would still be begging for basic human rights and the same freedom and opportunities that CPP officials enjoy.

In Cambodia everybody votes but nobody counts.

Cambodia: Infamous Grenade Attack Still Unpunished

Sam Rainsy following the grenade attack


Scene of the carnage following the grenade attack on 30 March 1997

31 Mar 2008
Source: Human Rights Watch

(New York, March 30, 2008) � The US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) should reopen its long-stalled investigation into the grisly grenade attack on an opposition party rally in Phnom Penh 11 years ago that left at least 16 dead and more than 150 injured, Human Rights Watch said today. The FBI investigation, which made significant progress in 1997, has been effectively abandoned. On March 30, 1997, a crowd of approximately 200 supporters of the opposition Khmer Nation Party (KNP), led by former Finance Minister Sam Rainsy, gathered in a park across the street from the National Assembly to denounce the judiciary's corruption and lack of independence. In a well-planned attack, four grenades were thrown into the crowd, killing protesters and bystanders, including children, and tearing limbs off street vendors. The grenade attack made headlines and provoked outrage around the world. On June 29, 1997, the Washington Post wrote:

"In a classified report that could pose some awkward problems for U.S. policymakers, the FBI tentatively has pinned responsibility for the blasts, and the subsequent interference, on personal bodyguard forces employed by Hun Sen, one of Cambodia's two prime ministers, according to four U.S. government sources familiar with its contents. The preliminary report was based on a two-month investigation by FBI agents sent here under a federal law giving the bureau jurisdiction whenever a U.S. citizen is injured by terrorism. ... The bureau says its investigation is continuing, but the agents involved reportedly have complained that additional informants here are too frightened to come forward."

"The FBI was close to solving the case when its lead investigator was suddenly ordered out of the country by the US ambassador, Kenneth Quinn," said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. "The FBI has damning evidence in its files that suggests that Prime Minister Hun Sen ordered the attack, but it has refused to fully cooperate with congressional inquiries or follow through on its initial investigation. Instead of trying to protect US relations with Cambodia, it should now finish what it started."

The FBI investigated the attack because Ron Abney, a US citizen, was seriously injured in the blast, which the United States at the time deemed to be an "act of terrorism." Abney had to be evacuated to Singapore to treat shrapnel wounds in his hip.

Instead of launching a serious investigation, then co-Prime Minister Hun Sen announced that the demonstration's organizers should be arrested and instructed police not to allow them to leave the country. (To read an Agence France-Presse account published at the time, please visit:
http://hrw.org/english/docs/2006/03/28/cambod13086.htm).

On the day of the attack, Hun Sen's personal bodyguard unit, Brigade-70 (B-70), was, for the first time, deployed at a demonstration. Photographs show them in full riot gear. The police, which had in the past maintained a high-profile presence at opposition demonstrations to discourage public participation, had an unusually low profile on that day. Officers were grouped around the corner from the park, having been ordered to stay away from the park itself. Also for the first time, the KNP had received official permission from both the Ministry of the Interior and the Phnom Penh municipality to hold a demonstration, fuelling speculation that the demonstration was authorized so it could be attacked.

Numerous eyewitnesses reported that the persons who had thrown the grenades were seen running toward Hun Sen's bodyguards, who were deployed in a line at the west end of the park near the guarded residential compound containing the homes of many senior Cambodia People's Party leaders. Witnesses told United Nations and FBI investigators that the bodyguard line opened to allow the grenade-throwers to escape into the compound. Meanwhile, people in the crowd pursuing the grenade-throwers were stopped by the bodyguards at gunpoint and told they would be shot if they did not retreat.

"This brazen attack, carried out in broad daylight, ingrained impunity more than any other single act in recent Cambodian history," said Adams. "But that appears to have been one of its purposes � to send the message that opposition supporters can be murdered without ever facing justice."

In a June 1997 interview with the Phnom Penh Post, Hing Bun Heang, deputy commander of Hun Sen's bodyguard unit and operationally in charge of the bodyguards at the park on March 30, 1997, threatened to kill journalists who alleged that Hun Sen's bodyguards were involved. Hing Bun Heang has since been promoted as deputy director of Hun Sen's cabinet and, in September 2006, appointed as supreme consultant to Cambodia's Senior Monk Assembly and assistant to Supreme Patriachs Tep Vong and Bou Kry.

The bodyguard unit B-70 remains notorious in Cambodia for violence, corruption, and the impunity it enjoys as the de facto private army of Hun Sen. According to a 2007 report by the nongovernmental organization Global Witness, "The elite Royal Cambodian Armed Forces Brigade 70 unit makes between US$2 million and US$2.5 million per year through transporting illegally logged timber and smuggled goods. A large slice of the profits generated through these activities goes to Lieutenant General Hing Bun Heang, commander of the prime minister's Bodyguard Unit."

In one notorious case in 2006, two soldiers from B-70 shot a Phnom Penh beer promotion girl in the foot for being too slow to bring them ice. They were arrested by military police, but released hours later by their commander. A representative of the commander said the victim would be paid $500 compensation by B-70, but no criminal investigation or prosecution ensued.

"Instead of investigating the senior officer in charge of the bodyguard unit implicated in the 1997 grenade attack and who threatened to kill journalists reporting on it, Hun Sen has promoted him," said Adams. "Apparently, Hun Sen considers such a person qualified for a senior position in the country's official Buddhist hierarchy."

Given the serious and credible allegations of the involvement of the Cambodian military in the grenade attack, Human Rights Watch expressed concern that the United States has increased military assistance and training to the Cambodian military before it completed its investigation into the 1997 attack.

Human Rights Watch called on the US to ensure that it is not providing any assistance or training to current or former members of B-70 or other Cambodian special military units with records of human rights abuse. In an effort to solidify counterterrorism cooperation, the FBI in 2006 awarded a medal to the Cambodian Chief of National Police Hok Lundy for his support in the US "global war on terror." Hok Lundy was chief of the national police at the time of the grenade attack and has long been linked to political violence.

"No credible explanation has ever been offered for the deployment or behavior of Hun Sen's bodyguards on March 30, 1997," said Adams. "Their actions may reach the highest levels of the Cambodian government, yet the FBI investigation has been dropped. The fact that the US is providing military assistance instead of investigating the grenade attack shows that it is effectively complicit with the Cambodian government in abandoning any hope for justice for the victims of this horrific attack."

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Sam Rainsy Appeals to FBI to Re-Investigate the Case of 30 March 1997

Cambodian opposition leader Sam Rainsy addresses people in front of portraits of the March 30,1997 grenade attack victims at a stupa during the 11th anniversary of the attacks, in Phnom Penh March 30, 2008. Rainsy called for the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to renew its probe into a grenade attack that killed at least 16 people more than a decade ago. The former finance minister addressed supporters outside Cambodia's parliament, where 11 years ago four grenades were hurled into a crowd of anti-government protesters, wounding at least 120 people.REUTERS/Khem Sovandara (CAMBODIA)

Posted on 1 April 2008.
The Mirror, Vol. 12, No. 554

“Phnom Penh: The Sam Rainsy Party [SRP] appealed to the Federal Bureau of Investigation [FBI] of the United States of America to re-open its investigation into the events of the hand grenade attack in front of the former National Assembly which happened eleven years ago, killing more than 10 demonstrators and injuring more than 100. The party criticized that the government has not yet made any progress in the investigations.

“A spokesperson of the Ministry of Interior claimed that the Ministry has not yet closed the case. The authorities welcome the Sam Rainsy Party if it is providing evidence, witnesses, or other reasons relating to the case.

“The general secretariat of the SRP issued a statement on 29 March 2008, focusing on the 11th anniversary of the commemoration of the death of the victims, killed by a hand grenade attack in front of the former building of the National Assembly on 30 March 1997.

“Eleven years ago, about 100 demonstrators, including garment workers, participated in a demonstration led by the SRP, demanding a reform of the judicial system in Cambodia. Thirty minutes after the start of the demonstration, four hand grenades were thrown into the crowd, leaving 16 dead and more than 100 injured.

“The statement of the SRP said, ‘Eleven years have passed, and the Cambodian government declared that the case of this hand grenade attack is still open, but the investigation has not yet made any progress. For eleven years, justice has not yet been found for the victims. This causes questions about the honesty of the government. The families of the victims wonder whether or not justice is being sought.’

“The SRP appealed to the FBI to re-open its investigation to ensure that criminals and those who are behind the attack cannot run away from justice, and to promote respect for the rule of law in Cambodia.

“General Khieu Sopheak, the secretary general of the Ministry of Interior and the spokesperson for the ministry, told Rasmei Kampuchea in the afternoon of 29 March 2008 by phone that ‘in the investigation of few years ago, our authorities found a suspect who is a Brazilian national, but afterwards the suspect denied to be involved. However, we still keep the case open. The Ministry of Interior has not yet closed the case, because persecution is still possible.’

“Concerning the statement that the SRP said that justice has not yet been sought for the victims, General Khieu Sopheak said that ‘the victims are Khmer people and they have Khmer blood like us. Therefore, we have to seek justice for them. The government and the authorities happily welcome if the SRP provides evidence, witnesses, or any other motivation concerning the case.’

“The spokesperson said that Mr. Sam Rainsy had written a letter to officially apologize to the Prime Minister that he would no longer make any allegations without clear evidence that the government was behind the event.

“As for the appeal of the SRP to the FBI to re-open its investigation, Khieu Sopheak said, ‘It is up to the FBI. We cannot give any comment concerning this request.’”

Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.16, #4554, 30-31.3.2008

China, Vietnam sign MOU on cross-border transportation

Apr. 1, 2008

(China Knowledge) - China and Vietnam signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) in Vientiane, the capital of Laos, on Sunday to include the Nanning-Hanoi corridor and Youyiguan-Huu Nghi Border Crossing Point in the Greater Mekong Sub-region (GMS) Cross-Border Transport Agreement, Chinese Xinhua news reported.

The GMS agreement, which includes Laos, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, China and Myanmar, aims at facilitate the cross-border transportation among the member countries by providing one-stop service on transport operations, transit traffic regimes, customs and phytosanitary and veterinary inspection, etc.

On Mar. 21, the Kunming-Bangkok highway within the Chinese territory has been completed, which will shorten the journey from Kunming to Bangkok to about 20 hours from the original 40 hours.

So far, a total of 26,000 kilometers of highways has joined or has been approved to join the Asia road network, accounting for 20% of the total Asian mileage.

China has also signed the Intergovernmental Agreement on auto transport with Russia, Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Vietnam and other 13 countries. The total international transport routes under operation amount to 201, of which 100 routes are for passengers and 101 routes for cargo.

Cambodia, Qatar sign MOU of direct flight

chinaview.cn
2008-04-01

PHNOM PENH, April 1 (Xinhua) -- Cambodia and Qatar set to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) of direct flight Tuesday afternoon, a Cambodian senior official said here Tuesday.

Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Nam Hong made the remarks after Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem bin Jabor Al Thani, Qatar Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, arrived at the Phnom Penh International Airport to pay an official visit in the kingdom.

The Qatar Premier's two-day visit is to strengthen the diplomatic relations between the two countries and to bring investments from the gulf-region countries to Cambodia, Hor Nam Hong said.

"We expand the direct flight service with Qatar to attract tourists and investors to our country," Moa Havannal, Secretary ofState for the Secretariat of Cambodian Civil Aviation, told Xinhua.

After signing the MOU, it will have a direct flight from Qatar to the Phnom Penh International Airport for first step, he said, adding that later the flights will be expanded to other airports.

The Qatar Premier will hold a talk with Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen and he will also meet with Cambodian King NorodomSihamoni, a press release from the Cambodian Foreign Ministry said.

World rice price hikes 'will not hurt supply'

By Qin Jize and Xin Zhiming (China Daily)
2008-04-01

VIENTIANE -- Rising international rice prices are not a cause for major concern in China, Premier Wen Jiabao said Monday.

"Please set your mind at rest because China has abundant supply of rice," Wen said, adding that the country has stockpiled about 40-50 million tons of rice.

He made the remarks on the sidelines of the Greater Mekong River Subregion Summit.

He admitted that the recent 30 percent jump in international rice prices did have an impact on China's food prices but said the country is largely self-dependent for rice.

Wen pointed out that the volume of rice traded on the world markets is less than a tenth of that in the Chinese market.

He said the central government has taken a series of measures to promote agricultural production such as raising farm subsidies, constructing irrigation works, and popularizing the use of science and technology.

"China is capable of feeding itself with its own rice production," Wen said, adding that the central government will ensure an ample supply of food including rice to compatriots in both Hong Kong and Macao.

Some Hong Kong and Macao residents have reportedly been rushing to buy rice in anticipation of rising prices.

Rising production costs and weather-induced disasters are behind the rising global prices, analysts said. Major rice producers, such as Vietnam, India and Egypt, have imposed curbs on rice exports, exacerbating the situation.

But in January this year, China's rice exports increased 49.7 percent to reach 138,000 tons, compared to the same period last year.

In February, the purchase price for non-glutinous rice rose to 1,700 yuan ($242) per ton on the domestic market, up 10.5 per cent year on year, according to reports quoting the Ministry of Agriculture.

To ensure price stability, the Chinese government last week raised the minimum purchase price of rice and wheat for the second time this year.

It has also increased direct subsidies for farmers.

"Those measures, especially the hike in the minimum purchase price, will boost production," said Xiao Haifeng, a professor at China Agricultural University. "Farmers have got the message from the authorities as changes in prices are always the most effective in influencing supply."

The move to raise the purchase prices would also help ease inflation pressure, analysts have said.

Last year, China imported 471,000 tons of rice, down 35 percent year on year - and given the small amount of imports, the high international prices would not have much impact on the country's overall price situation, analysts said.

The country's rice production was about 186 million tons last year, the fifth year of increases.

'Brave' Foe of Khmer Rouge To Go on Trial Today in L.A.

By JOSH GERSTEIN
Staff Reporter of the Sun
April 1, 2008

A Cambodian-American accountant is scheduled to go on trial in a Los Angeles courtroom this morning for allegedly inciting a failed coup attempt in his homeland, some 8,000 miles away.

The former leader of the self-styled Cambodian Freedom Fighters, Yasith Chhun, 51, is charged with violating the Neutrality Act, a law that dates to 1797 and bars Americans from taking up arms against countries with which America is at peace. Mr. Chhun also faces charges of conspiring to kill, to destroy property, and to use a weapon of mass destruction in connection with the unsuccessful putsch in November 2000.

Seven people, some or all of them insurgents, were reported killed in the attempt to oust the government of Prime Minister Hun Sen, a former brigade commander for the Khmer Rouge, which killed about 1.7 million people during its rule in the late 1970s.

"Chhun is a brave man," a former vice president of the Cambodian Freedom Fighters, So Sokhom, said yesterday during a telephone interview from his jewelry store in Arlington, Va. "It doesn't matter. Until the day I die, I still salute him. Nobody stood up to defend the Cambodians except for people like him."

Mr. Hun Sen was named a co-prime minister of Cambodia after United Nations-sponsored elections in 1993. In 1997, he forced out his counterpart, Prince Ranariddh, in what outsiders called a coup. Mr. Hun Sen's party won elections in 1998, but the campaigning was marred by violence and observers decried the elections as unfair.


Mr. Sokhom said he has never considered the prime minister to be a clean break from the murderous Pol Pot era. "Do you think Hun Sen's government is not Khmer Rouge? Hun Sen's government is Khmer Rouge people," Mr. Sokhom said. "The world doesn't care."

A congressman who met with Mr. Chhun and other leaders of the Cambodian Freedom Fighters, Dana Rohrabacher of California, said yesterday he is disappointed that the Justice Department is pursuing the case, which was filed in 2005. "I think this is still a wrongheaded prosecution," Mr. Rohrabacher told The New York Sun yesterday. "When this man and his group were planning their action to be taken against the Hun Sen regime, it was clearly not a democratic government and it was engaged in murdering its political opponents and repressing its people. You don't get rid of that type of negative force in society simply by wishing it away."

Mr. Rohrabacher argued that the prosecution is at odds with President Bush's speeches promising to promote democracy around the globe. "There's an old saying: You can't champion the oppressed unless you are willing to take on the oppressor," the lawmaker said. "If it's the premise of our government now that all violence against any government official anywhere is contrary to American policies, then we would have arrested our founding fathers."

Mr. Rohrabacher said it was "very possible" that he would testify in the case, but that neither the prosecution nor the defense had contacted him about doing so. He also stressed that even a noble goal did not permit those promoting democracy abroad to violate American firearms laws.

More than a dozen Cambodians, including government officials and others who allegedly witnessed or were injured in attacks planned by Mr. Chhun's group, have been flown to Los Angeles at the American government's expense to testify at the trial. Officials at the Cambodian embassy in Washington did not return calls seeking comment.

Neutrality Act prosecutions are unusual, but not unheard of. A similar case is pending in Sacramento against a former Hmong general, Vang Pao, and 10 other men accused of plotting to topple the communist government in Laos. The law has also been used recently to win convictions against Islamic militants in Virginia who trained to join forces fighting India in Kashmir.

However, prosecutions of seven men charged in 1988 with arming the Contras in Nicaragua ultimately foundered after a judge ruled that the case could not be pursued if American officials were covertly fighting the Nicaraguan government.

The judge on Mr. Chhun's case, Dean Pregerson, has dismissed that precedent. Last month, he deemed any covert operations against Cambodia "irrelevant" to the case. He also barred the defense from asking or arguing about any undercover operations America may have sanctioned in the Southeast Asian country.

Mr. Chhun's attorney, Richard Callahan Jr., did not respond to a message seeking comment for this article.

If convicted, Mr. Chhun faces the possibility of several life sentences. The charges also carried the potential of the death penalty, but prosecutors elected not to seek it.

Some observers said the American government's aggressive pursuit of Mr. Chhun stands in marked contrast to the aborted investigation the FBI carried out into a 1997 incident in which grenades were thrown into an election rally, killing 16 people and injuring more than 100 others, including an American who formerly worked for the International Republican Institute. An initial FBI probe was all but abandoned after evidence pointed to bodyguards for Mr. Hun Sen.

"I find it extremely curious," Brad Adams of Human Rights Watch said. "They went after this ragtag bunch that was not in power and did not systematically commit human rights abuses for many years like Hun Sen has and they, for political reasons, dropped the investigation into the grenade attack which many think derailed any chance of a serious multi-party political system there."

Other analysts have described the charges against Mr. Chhun, who promoted a Cambodian rebellion openly from a Long Beach strip mall, as a quid pro quo for Cambodian help in rounding up members of a an Islamic terrorist group, Jemaah Islamiya.

A spokesman for the prosecution, Thomas Mrozek, declined to comment on Mr. Chhun's case, citing the imminent trial. As for the alleged lack of vigor in other Cambodia-related cases, he said: "We pursue investigations and bring charges when we believe we can secure a conviction."

Golf course planned at former Khmer Rouge stronghold - Feature

The Earth Times
Tue, 01 Apr 2008
Author : DPA

Pailin, Cambodia - In a move that might make the late Cambodian despot Pol spin in his grave - if he had one - former Khmer Rouge cadres in their stronghold of Pailin have embraced a plan to cash in on the country's tourism boom and build a golf course. Not that they know much about the game. If football is the beautiful game, to the ultra-Maoist former guerrillas, golf is the mysterious one.

Last week, golf fanatic Prime Minister Hun Sen visited the remote area, more than 100 kilometres of rugged dirt road from the nearest city of Battambang, and proposed a golf course for the municipality.

Pailin is perched on the nation's north-western border with Thailand and is just four hours by road from Bangkok, but up to 10 hours from the Cambodian capital.

Hun Sen is possibly the only country leader in the world to list his golf scores on his website.

Cambodia is so serious about developing golf as an industry that it has appointed a special representative to the Council of Ministers. The former Khmer Rouge are ecstatic.

Once rich in gems and timber, these resources were all but stripped bare by the Khmer Rouge as they tried to keep the remnants of the rebel movement alive by selling them off before the rebels finally conceded to join Hun Sen's government in 1996.

Even journalists don't bother to go there anymore since four of its most infamous residents - former Khmer Rouge leaders Ieng Sary, his wife Ieng Thirith, Khieu Samphan and Nuon Chea - were arrested on orders from the court set up to try them. They are now languishing in a Phnom Penh jail.

Pailin's biggest draw is currently its mainly Thai-owned casinos, which operators say draw up to 10,000 Thais per month. But they lie within a quick sprint of the border and more than 12 rough kilometres from Pailin town, so most gamblers drop their money there and go no further.

Nor does Pailin have the attractions of other former Khmer Rouge border strongholds such as Anlong Veng, which at least boasts the makeshift cremation site of the movement's leader Pol Pot and Khmer Rouge military commander Ta Mok's home, complete with war room.

So the former hardline communists, who drove the country to destruction in their 1975-79 failed bid to turn the nation into an agrarian utopia bereft of social classes, which left up to 2 million dead, have joyfully embraced a new ideology - golf.

"We don't understand this game and at the moment it is just a speech by the prime minister, but it would be great for Pailin," says local Information Chief Kong Duong, once a Khmer Rouge propaganda chief.

He says he has never seen a golf ball, except on television.

"We don't know where we will put (the course), or how big it should be, but the idea is good."

Pailin Tourism Chief So Korng is candid. He freely admits that to him, an iron is for pressing clothes, a wood is something you cut down to make furniture, and Tiger Woods is a place you never go alone or unarmed.

But he agrees that the concept of this strange foreign game (so foreign that Cambodians don't have a word for it and use the English word instead) is attractive.

"People will have more jobs, and many people inside Cambodia and from overseas will come to visit Pailin and also see our natural attractions like our waterfall, gem shops, mountains and our agricultural programmes," he said.

Revenue from the golf course may even pay for a road to the municipality's remote afore-mentioned waterfall, which currently offers little more than precarious four-wheel drive access.

A former soldier who fought the Khmer Rouge in the early 1990's says the now-tamed rebels should also make good caddies.

"I have seen them climb mountains with two B-40 rockets strapped to their backs, so golf clubs should be no problem," he says. That would be a whole new revolution for a movement better known for its infamous black pajama uniform than plaid and plus fours.

But not everyone is convinced. A spokesman for local non-government organization Buddhism for Development says golf is for the rich, and he doubts there will be much trickle down for the impoverished former Khmer Rouge farmers in the area.

"The former Khmer Rouge are poor. They are too busy farming to have time to play golf," he said.

And then there is the image problem. In a 2006 interview, a senior Pailin tourism official laughingly admitted that the very concept of tourism remained somewhat alien.

"Before, our orders were to kill them, but now we invite them to visit and please spend money," he said.

Fore!

The bangkok Post

In a move that might make the late Cambodian despot Pol Pot spin in his grave, former KR cadres have embraced a plan to cash in on the country's tourism boom and build a golf course.

Not that they know much about the game. If football is the beautiful game, to the ultra-Maoist former guerrillas, golf is the mysterious one.

Last week, golf fanatic Prime Minister Hun Sen visited the remote area, more than 100 kilometres of rugged dirt road from the nearest city of Battambang, and proposed a golf course for the municipality.

Pailin is perched on the nation's north-western border with Thailand and is just four hours by road from Bangkok, but up to 10 hours from the Cambodian capital.

Hun Sen is possibly the only country leader in the world to list his golf scores on his website.

Cambodia is so serious about developing golf as an industry that it has appointed a special representative to the Council of Ministers. The former Khmer Rouge are ecstatic.

Once rich in gems and timber, these resources were all but stripped bare by the Khmer Rouge as they tried to keep the remnants of the rebel movement alive by selling them off before the rebels finally conceded to join Hun Sen's government in 1996.

Even journalists don't bother to go there anymore since four of its most infamous residents - former Khmer Rouge leaders Ieng Sary, his wife Ieng Thirith, Khieu Samphan and Nuon Chea - were arrested on orders from the court set up to try them. They are now languishing in a Phnom Penh jail.

Pailin's biggest draw is currently its mainly Thai-owned casinos, which operators say draw up to 10,000 Thais per month. But they lie within a quick sprint of the border and more than 12 rough kilometres from Pailin town, so most gamblers drop their money there and go no further.

Nor does Pailin have the attractions of other former Khmer Rouge border strongholds such as Anlong Veng, which at least boasts the makeshift cremation site of the movement's leader Pol Pot and Khmer Rouge military commander Ta Mok's home, complete with war room.

So the former hardline communists, who drove the country to destruction in their 1975-79 failed bid to turn the nation into an agrarian utopia bereft of social classes, which left up to 2 million dead, have joyfully embraced a new ideology - golf.

"We don't understand this game and at the moment it is just a speech by the prime minister, but it would be great for Pailin," says local Information Chief Kong Duong, once a Khmer Rouge propaganda chief.

He says he has never seen a golf ball, except on television.

"We don't know where we will put (the course), or how big it should be, but the idea is good."

Pailin Tourism Chief So Korng is candid. He freely admits that to him, an iron is for pressing clothes, a wood is something you cut down to make furniture, and Tiger Woods is a place you never go alone or unarmed.

But he agrees that the concept of this strange foreign game (so foreign that Cambodians don't have a word for it and use the English word instead) is attractive.

"People will have more jobs, and many people inside Cambodia and from overseas will come to visit Pailin and also see our natural attractions like our waterfall, gem shops, mountains and our agricultural programmes," he said.

Revenue from the golf course may even pay for a road to the municipality's remote afore-mentioned waterfall, which currently offers little more than precarious four-wheel drive access.

A former soldier who fought the Khmer Rouge in the early 1990's says the now-tamed rebels
should also make good caddies.

"I've seen them climb mountains with two B-40 rockets strapped to their backs, so golf clubs should be no problem," he says. That would be a whole new revolution for a movement better known for its infamous black pyjama uniform than plaid and plus fours.

But not everyone is convinced. A spokesman for local non-government organization Buddhism for Development says golf is for the rich, and he doubts there will be much trickle down for the impoverished former Khmer Rouge farmers in the area.

"The former Khmer Rouge are poor. They are too busy farming to have time to play golf," he said.

And then there is the image problem. In a 2006 interview, a senior Pailin tourism official laughingly admitted that the very concept of tourism remained somewhat alien.

"Before, our orders were to kill them, but now we invite them to visit and please spend money," he said. dpa

Qatar PM arrives in Cambodia for visit

Qatar's Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim Bin Jaber Al-Thani greets well-wishers upon his arrival at Phnom Penh international airport April 1, 2008.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA)


Qatar's Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabr al-Thani (L) is met by Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen upon his arrival at Phnom Penh international airport April 1, 2008. Sheikh Hamad is on a two-day official visit to Cambodia.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA)


Cambodian Muslims smile as they hold Cambodian and Qatari (L) national flags during the arrival of Qatar's Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabr al-Thani at Phnom Penh international airport April 1, 2008. Sheikh Hamad is on a two-day official visit to Cambodia.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA)

Qatar's Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabr al-Thani (R) is accompanied by Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen upon his arrival at Phnom Penh international airport April 1, 2008. Sheikh Hamad is on a two-day official visit to Cambodia.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA)

Qatar's Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabr al-Thani shakes hands with Cambodian officials as he walks with Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen after his arrival at Phnom Penh international airport April 1, 2008.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA)

Qatar's Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabr al-Thani (L) shakes hands with Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen upon his arrival at Phnom Penh international airport April 1, 2008. Sheikh Hamad is on a two-day official visit to Cambodia.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA)


Qatar's Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabr al-Thani (L) disembarks from his plane upon his arrival at Phnom Penh international airport April 1, 2008. Sheikh Hamad is on a two-day official visit to Cambodia.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA)
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chinaview.cn
2008-04-01

PHNOM PENH, April 1 (Xinhua) -- Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem bin Jabor Al Thani, the Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Qatar, arrived here on Tuesday to pay an official visit to Cambodia.

The Qatar Prime Minister's two-day visit will focus on investment in Cambodia and both sides plan to open direct flight, said Sin Bun Thoeun, the director of Information Department of theMinistry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Cambodia.

The Qatar Premier will be accompanied by businesspeople to find the possibility of investment in Cambodia, Sin Bun Thoeun said.

He added that the Premier is also the chairman of the Qatar investment group and the chairman of a major Qatar airline which owns a large number of planes.

The Premier's visit coincides with the start of the flight of his airline between Doha, Qatar and Siem Reap of Cambodia, he said.

The Qatar Premier will also visit the Angkor temples in Siem Reap province of Cambodia.

Editor: Du Guodong

The gallant guides for the foreign press

Boston.Com
By H.D.S. Greenway
April 1, 2008

THE WORLD got to know of Dith Pran, who died of cancer Sunday, through the power of movies, specifically "The Killing Fields," in which he was played by Haing Ngor, who won an Oscar for his performance.

I first got to know Pran - in Cambodia the first name often comes last - when he was a receptionist behind the desk of a hotel just outside the ancient ruins of Angkor Wat. That was more than 40 years ago when Cambodia was at peace while the war raged throughout the rest of what was once French Indochina.

If you flew in from Vietnam you could always tell you had crossed over the Cambodian frontier when you saw a train moving on the ground. Trains didn't run very much in Vietnam in those days. But Cambodia was an oasis of calm. And Angkor Wat was something that war reporters longed to see, especially since there was no one shooting at you. Pran arranged evening elephant-back rides to a high hill overlooking the Tonle Sap, Cambodia's great inland sea.

But the ides of March 1970, saw a coup that deposed Cambodia's eccentric ruler, Norodom Sihanouk. The war he had so assiduously maneuvered to avoid overwhelmed Cambodia with a fierceness that would eventually overshadow Vietnam in cruelty and access.

When the tourist business abruptly shut down - the Khmer Rouge ultimately burned Pran's hotel to the ground - Pran, along with many of his colleagues, moved to the capital, Phnom Penh.

There they found another, less wealthy and infinitely more dangerous group of clients, the foreign press, who desperately needed their services to get around in a country they knew little about.

Pran seemed to me to be the best of them. We worked together a couple of times, but when I tried to hire him permanently for The Washington Post, for which I was working, I got a polite no. He was signing up with Sydney Schanberg of The New York Times, and there began the extraordinary friendship that "The Killing Fields" portrayed.

I have often thought of those gallant guides and interpreters as similar to big-game hunters who would bring their exotic customers from overseas into close proximity to the dangerous beasts of war so that they could shoot their pictures and get their stories. If needs be they would risk their own lives to get their clients out of trouble.

It was these guides who taught us how to survive. If, for example, you came to a village and no children surrounded your car, you got out quick. For if the normally curious children were kept out of sight, then there was trouble in the neighborhood of which the adults might be too afraid to speak.

When the end came, and the Khmer Rouge entered Phnom Penh, Pran found his clients in more trouble than he could imagine. The fanatic Khmer Rouge were about to shoot Sydney, and his British colleague, Jon Swain, out of hand. Pran saved their lives by softly and persistently talking to their captors, who eventually let them go.

It was their white skins that immediately made Schanberg and Swain suspect, but later on it was their white skins and foreign passports that saved them in their refuge inside the French embassy. Pran's Cambodian skin almost cost him his life. Schanberg was unable to save Pran when the Khmer Rouge said all Cambodians had to leave the safety of the French Embassy compound, and so he slipped away, pretending to be an illiterate in a new genocidal society in which even to be able to read or write, or be caught with eyeglasses, was a death sentence.

The New York Times editor, Bill Keller, got it right when he spoke of a "special category of journalistic heroism - the local partner, the stringer, the interpreter, the driver, the fixer who knows the ropes," and who makes the work of "foreign reporters in frightening places" possible.

This is especially true today in Iraq where some 150 Iraqis have died trying to get the news or help foreign reporters in very frightening places. They seldom get the credit they deserve, but the news would not come to you without them.

H.D.S. Greenway's column appears regularly in the Globe.

Mekong region premiers meet, pledge to strengthen road, rail, power links

Tuesday, April 1, 2008
By Frank Zeller, AFP

VIENTIANE -- Mekong region premiers meeting in Laos on Monday pledged to strengthen road, rail and power links between their six countries, saying closer integration will boost trade and development.

The prime ministers of China, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Myanmar and Laos vowed to "deepen our economic cooperation and integration efforts," at their Vientiane summit with the Asian Development Bank (ADB).

They also pledged, in an advance of a summit declaration, to jointly tackle "the emergence of health risks, human and drug trafficking, and growing environmental threats, including those posed by climate change."

The summit brought together China's premier Wen Jiabao, Thailand's Samak Sundaravej, Vietnam's Nguyen Tan Dung, Cambodia's Hun Sen, Myanmar's Thein Sein, Laos' Bouasone Bouphavanh, as well as ADB president Haruhiko Kuroda.

The leaders of the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) -- an area long isolated and impoverished by revolution and war -- praised their "significant reduction in the incidence of poverty" since the group was founded in 1992.

The Mekong region was for decades a battleground for post-colonial struggles and the Vietnam war that in the 1960s and 1970s spilled into Laos as well as Cambodia, which then fell under the bloody reign of the Khmer Rouge.

Peace has brought prosperity. Over recent years, average economic growth in the region has topped six percent per year.

Exports from its members, excluding China, have grown from 37 billion dollars in 1992 to 179 billion dollars in 2006, said the ADB. Foreign direct investment has more than tripled to seven billion dollars in 2005.

Laotian Prime Minister Bouasone Bouphavanh said that by "transforming the country from a landlocked country to a hub for the GMS countries, the trade volume of the Lao PDR with the GMS countries has increased at an annual average rate of 20 percent."

Several highways are finished or nearly complete across the area united by Southeast Asia's largest river -- including roads linking China and Thailand, Myanmar and Vietnam, and Thailand and Vietnam -- the premiers said.

The group committed to extending transport links, including a rail line from Kunming in China's southwest Yunnan province to Singapore.

The Laotian prime minister also asked his neighbors and the ADB for support for a railway link from Thailand through Laos to Vietnam.

The Chinese, Laotian and Thai premiers also officially opened the modern Route 3 in Laos on Monday -- previously a road closed during the rainy season -- completing an overland route from Beijing to Singapore.

The GMS also said its six members were "in the process of building new power generation and transmission facilities... and have laid down the foundations for a future subregional trade and power market."

Other areas of cooperation included a planned GMS Information Superhighway Network, promoting the Mekong region as a single tourism destination, and pilot projects to protect transnational "biodiversity corridors."

ADB vice president Lawrence Greenwood said the group was shifting its focus toward streamlining rules, building up institutions and training officials.

"The main emphasis of this meeting has been to take the next step from the building of infrastructure to support the integration of the Greater Mekong Subregion and move to more emphasis on the 'software'," he said.

This aimed "to make sure the infrastructure -- the roads, the power plants, the transmission lines that get built -- truly lead to generation of economic activity... to reduce poverty," he said.

He said the 2008-2012 action plan of the summit included more than 200 projects, worth over 20 billion dollars in investments, in areas such as transport, tourism, power and the environment.

"The development of this subregion involves six countries, therefore it is a win-win development," said China's Prime Minister Wen on Sunday. "It is a cross-border development featuring mutual assistance."

An adventure to Indochina

Photo by Courtesy photoBoxford Selectman Steve Davis and his wife Carole stand in front of Angkor Wat in Cambodia, one of the Seven Wonders of the World.

By Brendan Lewis/blewis@cnc.com
Mon Mar 31, 2008

Boxford - In a climate of cultural and economic shift, a guided bike tour allowed Boxford Selectmen Steve Davis to experience the unchanged natural beauty of Vietnam and Cambodia during his recent trip to the Southeast Asian countries.

Traveling over to the Indochina countries with his wife, Carole, Davis was able to see most of Vietnam while riding along flatter terrain with a rugged mountain bike, a change from the road bike he uses on the hilly roadsides in Boxford.

Spanning over the first half of March, Davis found himself in front of one of the Seven Wonders of the World, a temple overgrown by thick jungle, and historic battle sites still around more than 30 years after the end of the Vietnam War.

Had the Davis’s gone a few months later, when the tourist season was over, it would have been a different trip all together.

“It just comes down in sheets,” Davis said about the rainfall after the December through March tourist season. “After that, you are certainly not going to be doing any biking.”

The purpose of the trip was family leisure, adding to a list of Davis biking destinations including Tuscany, Italy, Ireland, and Holland.

He and Carole Davis went throughout the entire country, biking around north and south Vietnam, absorbing much of the sociological and governmental changes across the land.

“I was surprised at how friendly they were to Americans,” Davis said about the Vietnamese people happy to see Americans. “I was surprised how much progress they made.”

Davis said the Vietnamese culture was very industrious now, leading to a seeming economic upswing throughout the county. While Vietnam is still a Communist society, it practices a capitalist government system, Davis said.

Riding on mostly flat paths, Davis and his wife rode through wooded sections and aside rice plantations, sometimes attracting the children in certain towns, who would wave and smile.

One of the more notable sights they came across was the Angkor Wat Temple complex in Cambodia, carrying along the 12th century tale of Vietnam emperors and their grandiose state temples.

When traveling to larger cities, such as Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City, Davis and his wife had to ditch the American-made mountain bikes for one simple reason.

“You couldn’t [bike]. It was too dangerous,” Davis said about narrow city streets, chaotically occupied by motor scooters and motorcycles, as cars are not only too expensive for most citizens, but don’t really fit the infrastructure. Although, he said traffic in Ho Chi Minh City was a bit more “orderly” than Hanoi, which he attributed to the presence of traffic lights.

Among other attractions the Davis visited included the spot where John McCain’s plane went down, the Hanoi Hilton, where American soldiers were held captive during the war, and the house of the first American ambassador to Vietnam, Henry Cabot Lodge.

The trip also brought light to a number of less-known facts about Vietnam for Davis.

“Communist party is very small compared to total population,” Davis said about the 80 million people in country, of which on 2.5 million are part of the communist party. Also, of the 80 million people, 70 percent are under the age of 30. The many males killed during the Vietnam War coupled with a burst in birth rates once the country was peaceful again contributed greatly to this statistic.

“It’s the night the lights went out,” Davis said about the baby boom.

During the Boxford selectman’s short trip to Cambodia, he and his wife saw the four major temples in the country, one which was purposely allowed to be overgrown by the jungle and, also, used to film the movie “Laura Croft Tomb Raider.”

PM, Cambodian leader clear the air on Phra Vihear

The Bangkok Post

Foreign Minister Noppadon Pattama has disclosed that Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej managed to discuss the issue on Phra Vihear temple with his Cambodian counterpart on the sidelines, whilst attending the Greater Mekong Sub-region summit.

“Thailand is not against Cambodia’s proposal to list Phra Vihear temple as a UNESCO World Heritage site as long as the surrounding land is not included as part of the request," he said. "I’m sure there won’t be any problems if we come to an agreement that Thailand will not be forced to give up land to Cambodia as a result of this request.”

Mr Samak also reportedly met with Chinese leader Wen Jiabao where he expressed full support for the Olympics 2008 which China will be hosting. Mr Samak vowed to do his best to ensure that the Olympics flame passes Thailand without a hitch.

Soaring food costs

Cheaper substitute: In a shanty town in Manila, Gelyn Poso feeds her children with shredded cassava as a rice substitute. Philippine farmers warned of a worsening rice crisis and said prices were expected to soar about 222% amidst a lean harvest.


A rice seller pricing rice for sale at Phnom Penh market. Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen announced a ban on rice exports for two months, to stabilise the cost of the country’s staple food.


thestar.com.my

Tuesday April 1, 2008

Food is increasingly getting beyond reach for the poorest nations as consumers worldwide grapple with the spike in prices of basic commodities.

IF YOU’RE seeing your grocery bill go up, you’re not alone. From subsistence farmers eating rice in Ecuador to gourmets feasting on escargot in France, consumers worldwide face rising food prices in what analysts call a perfect storm of conditions.


Freak weather is a factor. But so are dramatic changes in the global economy, including higher oil prices, lower food reserves and growing consumer demand in China and India.

The world’s poorest nations still harbour the greatest hunger risk. Clashes over bread in Egypt killed at least two people recently, and similar food riots broke out in Burkina Faso and Cameroon earlier this month.

But food protests now crop up even in Italy. And while the price of spaghetti has doubled in Haiti, the cost of miso is packing a hit in Japan.

“It’s not likely that prices will go back to as low as we’re used to,” said Abdolreza Abbassian, economist and secretary of the Intergovernmental Group for Grains for the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO). “Currently if you’re in Haiti, unless the government is subsidising consumers, consumers have no choice but to cut consumption. It’s a very brutal scenario, but that’s what it is.”

No one knows that better than Eugene Thermilon, 30, a Haitian day labourer who can no longer afford pasta to feed his wife and four children since the price nearly doubled to the local equivalent of US$0.57 (RM1.85) a bag. Their only meal on a recent day was two cans of corn grits.

“Their stomachs were not even full,” Thermilon said, walking toward his pink concrete house on the precipice of a garbage-filled ravine. By noon the next day, he still had nothing to feed them for dinner.

Their hunger has had a ripple effect. Haitian food vendor Fabiola Duran Estime, 31, has lost so many customers like Thermilon that she had to pull her daughter, Fyva, out of kindergarten because she can’t afford the US$20 (RM65) monthly tuition.

In the long term, prices are expected to stabilise. Farmers will grow more grain for both fuel and food and eventually bring prices down. Already this is happening with wheat, with more crops to be planted in the United States, Canada and Europe in the coming year.

However, consumers still face at least 10 years of more expensive food, according to preliminary FAO projections.

Among the driving forces are petroleum prices, which increase the cost of everything from fertilisers to transport to food processing. Rising demand for meat and dairy in rapidly developing countries such as China and India is sending up the cost of grain, used for cattle feed, as is the demand for raw materials to make biofuels.

What’s rare is that the spikes are hitting all major foods in most countries at once. Food prices rose 4% in the United States last year, the highest rise since 1990, and are expected to climb as much again this year, according to the US Department of Agriculture.

As of last December, 37 countries faced food crises, and 20 had imposed some sort of food-price controls.

For many, it’s a disaster. The United Nations’ World Food Programme says it’s facing a US$500mil (RM1.6bil) shortfall in funding this year to feed 89 million needy people.
In Egypt, where bread is up 35% and cooking oil 26%, the government recently proposed ending food subsidies and replacing them with cash payouts to the needy. But the plan was put on hold after it sparked public uproar.

“A revolution of the hungry is in the offing,” said Mohammed el-Askalani of Citizens Against the High Cost of Living, a protest group established to lobby against ending the subsidies.

In China, the price hikes are both a burden and a boon. Per capita meat consumption has increased 150% since 1980, so Zhou Jian decided six months ago to switch from selling auto parts to pork. The price of pork has jumped 58% in the past year, yet every morning housewives and domestics still crowd his Shanghai shop, and more customers order choice cuts.

At the same time, increased cost of food staples in China threatens to wreak havoc. Beijing has been selling grain from its reserves to hold down prices, said Jing Ulrich, chairwoman of China equities for JP Morgan.
“But this is not really solving the root cause of the problem,” Ulrich said. “The cause of the problem is a supply-demand imbalance. Demand is very strong. Supply is constrained. It is as simple as that.”

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao says fighting inflation from shortages of key foods is a top economic priority. Inflation reached 7.1% in January, the highest in 11 years, led by an 18.2% jump in food prices.

Meanwhile, record oil prices have boosted the cost of fertiliser and freight for bulk commodities – up 80% in 2007 over 2006. The oil spike has also turned up the pressure for countries to switch to biofuels, which the FAO says will drive up the cost of corn, sugar and soybeans “for many more years to come.”

In Japan, the ethanol boom is hitting the country in mayonnaise and miso, two important culinary ingredients, as biofuel production pushes up the price of cooking oil and soybeans.

Italians are feeling the pinch in pasta, with consumer groups staging a one-day strike last September against a food deeply intertwined with national identity.

In decades past, farm subsidies and support programmes allowed major grain exporting countries to hold large surpluses, which could be tapped during food shortages to keep prices down. But new liberal trade policies have made agricultural production much more responsive to market demands – putting global food reserves at their lowest in a quarter century.

Without reserves, bad weather and poor harvests now have a bigger impact on prices.

“The market is extremely nervous. With the slightest news about bad weather, the market reacts,” said economist Abbassian.

That means that a drought in Australia and flooding in Argentina, two of the world’s largest suppliers of industrial milk and butter, sent the price of butter in France soaring 37% from 2006 to 2007.

Food costs worldwide spiked 23% from 2006 to 2007, according to the FAO. Grains went up 42%, oils 50% and dairy 80%.

Economists say that for the short term, government bailouts will have to be part of the answer to keep unrest at a minimum. In recent weeks, rising food prices sparked riots in the West African nations of Burkina Faso, where mobs torched buildings, and Cameroon, where at least four people died.

But attempts to control prices in one country often have dire effects elsewhere. China’s restrictions on wheat flour exports resulted in a price spike in Indonesia earlier this year, according to the FAO.

Ukraine and Russia imposed export restrictions on wheat, causing tight supplies and higher prices for importing countries. Partly because of the cost of imported wheat, Peru’s military has begun eating bread made from potato flour, a native crop.

Poorer countries can speed up the adjustment by investing in agriculture, experts say. If they do, farmers can turn high prices into an engine for growth.

– AP

Sacravatoons : " FBI Investigation "

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



In Beauty Salons, a Rising Danger

By Win Thida, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
31 March 2008

Khmer audio aired March 31 (1.09MB) - Download (MP3)
Khmer audio aired March 31 (1.09MB) - Listen (MP3)

Srey Mom lies on a bed, covered in white tissue, in a room of a Phnom Penh cosmetic salon. The 50-year-old keeps still, as a beautician anesthetizes old tattoo marks under both eyebrows. And then the beautician begins her work, with an electric tattoo gun, its sharp needle darting.

The needle quickly pricks the skin, and small droplets of blood arise from the brows. Tears fall as Srey Mom struggles to remain patient.

This is just one example of procedures undertaken by more Cambodian women, as they seek beauty in a time of wealth.

Such procedures, including cosmetic surgery and breast enhancements, have especially come in vogue over the past year. But they are not always safe, health officials say.

"Because I want to be beautiful, and because I'm getting older," Srey Mom gives as explanation, once the procedure is done. "My eyes were drooping, so I wanted to have an operation. And my natural nose was too big. And I want these to be more beautiful."

Srey Mom, who comes from Siem Reap, says she has had to run from one salon to another, because the first two did a bad job. This is her third attempt.

Some salon owners see these operations as a sign of Cambodia's emergence into the modern world. But such practices by unskilled beauticians can be dangerous, health officials say.

Sunn Sary, a doctor and head of the department of hospitals at the Ministry of Health, said recently more and more salons have opened in Cambodia, though the ministry does not keep a registry.

Only some of these shops have trained beauticians or surgeons, and unskilled operations can lead to long-term problems, he said, including cancer.

The Ministry of Health, meanwhile, is seeking to get a better handle on the practice and will begin enforcing restrictions on salons by the end of 2008.

"People don't have enough awareness about beautification, and they don't learn about the dangers of the practice," Sunn Sary said. "These people cannot see the danger of the present moment, so they are eager to follow, one person after the other. But the consequence is in the future."

Workers Delay Strike for Negotiation

By Chiep Mony, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
31 March 2008

Khmer audio aired March 31 (0.99MB) - Download (MP3)
Khmer audio aired March 31 (0.99MB) - Listen (MP3)

A union of factory workers will delay a major strike until after further negotiations scheduled for Friday, officials said.

The Free Trade Union is seeking a salary increase for workers of $5, to $55 per month, to buffer the rising cost of goods.

The union met with government and management Monday, though no compromise has been found.

"This was a positive meeting, in which the private sector agreed to provide a $4 increase to salary workers," said Social Affairs Minister Ith Samheng.

The union said it would hold off on a strike until a decision was reached Friday.

FTU representative Rong Chhun said the union was still seeking "to hold the association as well as the government to increase the salary of the workers 20,000 riel [$5] added to the current salary of the workers."

Van Sou Ieng, president of the Garment Manufacturers Association of Cambodia, declined comment until after the meeting Friday.

Ath Thun, president of the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers' Democratic Union, said an increase of only $4 per month was not acceptable. Without a full $5 per month, he said there would likely be a strike.

"Because yesterday, we met with workers from 50 factories, and those workers agreed that they would strike if the salary is not increased, and if the increase is less than $5, we will not accept it," he said.

During the month of March, about 2,000 workers had stopped working due to low salaries, he added.

About 80 percent or 90 percent of them had gone home, and the rest had gone to find other jobs or open their own small businesses, he said.

US Group Calls for Freedom of Assembly

By Chun Sakada, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
31 March 2008

Khmer audio aired March 31 (663KB) - Download
Khmer audio aired March 30 (1.29MB) - Download (MP3)
Khmer audio aired March 30 (1.29MB) - Listen (MP3)

The International Republican Institute issued a statement Monday calling on authorities to allow freedom of demonstration, in the wake of a threatened gathering by the opposition party.

The Sam Rainsy Party said Sunday, during a ceremony to honor those killed in a 1997 grenade attack, that it would call a massive demonstration over the government's inability to curb rising inflation.

The IRI said Monday it hoped the period leading into July's general election will allow "political parties and citizens alike the freely express their views," especially to honor those killed in the grenade attack.

Ministry of Interior spokesman Lt. Gen. Khieu Sopheak said Monday the IRI should remain neutral.

"IRI's statement is not right, because international NGOs are to be neutral," he said. "And the July 27 election is not an election to honor the memory of anyone, but for development and national construction."

In issuing a statement linking the grenade attack, which killed at least 16 people, and the election, the IRI was serving as a "tool" for a political party, he said.

"I think this IRI statement is not different from the policy of the opposition party," he said.

Duch Returns to 'Killing Fields', and S-21 Prison

By VOA Khmer,
Washington
Video Editor: Manilene Ek
30 March 2008

Poch Reasey reports in Khmer - Download (WM)
Poch Reasey reports in Khmer - Watch (WM)

The head of the main Khmer Rouge torture centre on Tuesday February 26 was taken from a detention cell to the former regime's "killing fields" to stage a re-construction of his alleged crimes before officials of Cambodia's genocide tribunal.

Sixty-five-year-old Duch, has been charged with crimes against humanity for his role as commandant of the Khmer Rouge's notorious S-21 prison.

The prison and killing fields, which are now open to tourists, were closed to the public and press during the re-construction . It was unclear what form the re-construction would take.

Duch is one of five former high-ranking Khmer Rouge officials being held for trial. When Duch was in charge of Tuol Sleng prison in the late 1970s as many as 16-thousand men, women and children were tortured before being taken for execution in fields just outside the capital.

The following day, Duch was taken to the Khmer Rouge's notorious S-21 prison by Cambodia's UN assisted tribunal.

Three S-21 prison suvivors who are still alive said they wre invited to join the visit on Wednesday February 27. They said they do not harbour anger toward Duch anymore, but, if give an opportunity to face him during the visit, they would ask him why they had been imprisoned and tormented. Only 14 prisoners are thought to have survived S-21.

Duch's return to the S-21 prison was his first in nearly 30 years since the Khmer Rouge regime was toppled from power by an invading Vietnamese army.

Information for this report was provided by APTN.

Cambodia: Infamous Grenade Attack Still Unpunished

31 Mar 2008
Source: Human Rights Watch

(New York, March 30, 2008) � The US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) should reopen its long-stalled investigation into the grisly grenade attack on an opposition party rally in Phnom Penh 11 years ago that left at least 16 dead and more than 150 injured, Human Rights Watch said today. The FBI investigation, which made significant progress in 1997, has been effectively abandoned. On March 30, 1997, a crowd of approximately 200 supporters of the opposition Khmer Nation Party (KNP), led by former Finance Minister Sam Rainsy, gathered in a park across the street from the National Assembly to denounce the judiciary's corruption and lack of independence. In a well-planned attack, four grenades were thrown into the crowd, killing protesters and bystanders, including children, and tearing limbs off street vendors. The grenade attack made headlines and provoked outrage around the world. On June 29, 1997, the Washington Post wrote:

"In a classified report that could pose some awkward problems for U.S. policymakers, the FBI tentatively has pinned responsibility for the blasts, and the subsequent interference, on personal bodyguard forces employed by Hun Sen, one of Cambodia's two prime ministers, according to four U.S. government sources familiar with its contents. The preliminary report was based on a two-month investigation by FBI agents sent here under a federal law giving the bureau jurisdiction whenever a U.S. citizen is injured by terrorism. ... The bureau says its investigation is continuing, but the agents involved reportedly have complained that additional informants here are too frightened to come forward."

"The FBI was close to solving the case when its lead investigator was suddenly ordered out of the country by the US ambassador, Kenneth Quinn," said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. "The FBI has damning evidence in its files that suggests that Prime Minister Hun Sen ordered the attack, but it has refused to fully cooperate with congressional inquiries or follow through on its initial investigation. Instead of trying to protect US relations with Cambodia, it should now finish what it started."

The FBI investigated the attack because Ron Abney, a US citizen, was seriously injured in the blast, which the United States at the time deemed to be an "act of terrorism." Abney had to be evacuated to Singapore to treat shrapnel wounds in his hip.

Instead of launching a serious investigation, then co-Prime Minister Hun Sen announced that the demonstration's organizers should be arrested and instructed police not to allow them to leave the country. (To read an Agence France-Presse account published at the time, please visit: http://hrw.org/english/docs/2006/03/28/cambod13086.htm).

On the day of the attack, Hun Sen's personal bodyguard unit, Brigade-70 (B-70), was, for the first time, deployed at a demonstration. Photographs show them in full riot gear. The police, which had in the past maintained a high-profile presence at opposition demonstrations to discourage public participation, had an unusually low profile on that day. Officers were grouped around the corner from the park, having been ordered to stay away from the park itself. Also for the first time, the KNP had received official permission from both the Ministry of the Interior and the Phnom Penh municipality to hold a demonstration, fuelling speculation that the demonstration was authorized so it could be attacked.

Numerous eyewitnesses reported that the persons who had thrown the grenades were seen running toward Hun Sen's bodyguards, who were deployed in a line at the west end of the park near the guarded residential compound containing the homes of many senior Cambodia People's Party leaders. Witnesses told United Nations and FBI investigators that the bodyguard line opened to allow the grenade-throwers to escape into the compound. Meanwhile, people in the crowd pursuing the grenade-throwers were stopped by the bodyguards at gunpoint and told they would be shot if they did not retreat.

"This brazen attack, carried out in broad daylight, ingrained impunity more than any other single act in recent Cambodian history," said Adams. "But that appears to have been one of its purposes � to send the message that opposition supporters can be murdered without ever facing justice."

In a June 1997 interview with the Phnom Penh Post, Hing Bun Heang, deputy commander of Hun Sen's bodyguard unit and operationally in charge of the bodyguards at the park on March 30, 1997, threatened to kill journalists who alleged that Hun Sen's bodyguards were involved.

Hing Bun Heang has since been promoted as deputy director of Hun Sen's cabinet and, in September 2006, appointed as supreme consultant to Cambodia's Senior Monk Assembly and assistant to Supreme Patriachs Tep Vong and Bou Kry.

The bodyguard unit B-70 remains notorious in Cambodia for violence, corruption, and the impunity it enjoys as the de facto private army of Hun Sen. According to a 2007 report by the nongovernmental organization Global Witness, "The elite Royal Cambodian Armed Forces Brigade 70 unit makes between US$2 million and US$2.5 million per year through transporting illegally logged timber and smuggled goods. A large slice of the profits generated through these activities goes to Lieutenant General Hing Bun Heang, commander of the prime minister's Bodyguard Unit."

In one notorious case in 2006, two soldiers from B-70 shot a Phnom Penh beer promotion girl in the foot for being too slow to bring them ice. They were arrested by military police, but released hours later by their commander. A representative of the commander said the victim would be paid $500 compensation by B-70, but no criminal investigation or prosecution ensued.

"Instead of investigating the senior officer in charge of the bodyguard unit implicated in the 1997 grenade attack and who threatened to kill journalists reporting on it, Hun Sen has promoted him," said Adams. "Apparently, Hun Sen considers such a person qualified for a senior position in the country's official Buddhist hierarchy."

Given the serious and credible allegations of the involvement of the Cambodian military in the grenade attack, Human Rights Watch expressed concern that the United States has increased military assistance and training to the Cambodian military before it completed its investigation into the 1997 attack.

Human Rights Watch called on the US to ensure that it is not providing any assistance or training to current or former members of B-70 or other Cambodian special military units with records of human rights abuse. In an effort to solidify counterterrorism cooperation, the FBI in 2006 awarded a medal to the Cambodian Chief of National Police Hok Lundy for his support in the US "global war on terror." Hok Lundy was chief of the national police at the time of the grenade attack and has long been linked to political violence.

"No credible explanation has ever been offered for the deployment or behavior of Hun Sen's bodyguards on March 30, 1997," said Adams. "Their actions may reach the highest levels of the Cambodian government, yet the FBI investigation has been dropped. The fact that the US is providing military assistance instead of investigating the grenade attack shows that it is effectively complicit with the Cambodian government in abandoning any hope for justice for the victims of this horrific attack."

Cambodians mourn loss of 'Killing Fields' survivor

Lowell Sun
By Robert Mills, rmills@lowellsun.com
03/31/2008

LOWELL -- Dith Pran survived the killing fields, four years of beatings and enslavement that claimed the lives of nearly 2 million Cambodians, and in 1979, he escaped to the United States, where he told his story.

That story, portrayed in the Oscar-winning 1984 film The Killing Fields, helped spread awareness of the Cambodian genocide to the United States, where Dith, at 65, finally ended his journey yesterday.

Dith died of pancreatic cancer in a New Jersey hospital, according to Sydney Schanberg, his former colleague at The New York Times. Dith had been diagnosed almost three months ago.

Dith Pran was born Sept. 27, 1942, at Siem Reap, site of the famed 12th century ruins of Angkor Wat. As with many Asians, the family name, Dith, came first, but he was known by his given name, Pran.

In Lowell, where some estimates put the Cambodian population as high as 30,000, most Cambodians over 35 lived through the horror, which remains a difficult subject because so many wounds remain so raw, according to community leaders.

Vong Ros, executive director of Lowell's Cambodian Mutual Assistance Agency, said Dith is highly regarded throughout the community, where news of his death was beginning to spread last night.

"Through the movie, mainstream Americans got a glimpse of what happened to the Cambodians who lived during the Khmer Rouge years," Ros said.

The film told the story of Dith and Schanberg, who Dith worked with in Phnom Penh, the Cambodian capital, when the Vietnam War ended in 1975, and both counties were taken over by Communist forces.

Schanberg helped Dith's family get out but was forced to leave his friend behind.

The regime of Pol Pot, bent on turning Cambodia back into a strictly agrarian society, and his Communist zealots were blamed for the deaths of nearly 2 million of Cambodia's 7 million people.
With thousands executed simply for manifesting signs of intellect or Western influence -- even wearing eyeglasses or wristwatches -- Dith survived by masquerading as an uneducated peasant, toiling in the fields and subsisting on as little as a mouthful of rice a day.

Dith and Schanberg were reunited when Dith escaped 4 1/2 years later.

Eventually, Dith resettled in the United States and went to work as a photographer for The Times.

It was Dith himself who coined the term "killing fields" for the horrifying clusters of corpses and skeletal remains of victims he encountered on his desperate journey to freedom.

After Dith moved to the U.S., he became a goodwill ambassador for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and founded the Dith Pran Holocaust Awareness Project, dedicated to educating people on the history of the Khmer Rouge regime.

Local Cambodian leaders, such as Sambath Fennell of Lowell, say Dith never realized how much he had done to raise awareness.

"He was able to make his struggle heard in the public, and by doing that, he doesn't realize that he changed a lot of lives," Fennell said. "He eased some of the pain."

Samkhann Khoeun, former director of the Cambodian Mutual Assistance Agency, who survived the Khmer Rouge and came to the U.S. in 1984, compared the pain to a car accident or a fire.

"Within that period of feeling, there is half an hour or 45 minutes, I think you multiply that by four years," he said. "That's how deep and how painful that feeling is."

Ros said that's why it's so difficult for many to speak of their experiences, as Dith did.

Ros went through it, but he was younger. He said it's even harder for the older generations, who in some cases watched almost their entire family be dragged to death or die of starvation.

Fennell said he hopes the death will once again raise awareness of the atrocities as several of the Khmer Rouge leaders only now await trial on charges related to what happened. Many who survived are hopeful to finally have a bit of closure if justice is served.

The New York Times reported in an obituary published today that Pran had continued to hope, even in his last weeks, that others would continue his work.

"If others can do that for me," the paper quotes him as saying, "my spirit will be happy."
Filling the shoes of such a man will be a challenge, according to Khoeun.

"You're trying to educate and tell the story like Dith Pran did, bravely, courageously until his last minute," Khoeun said. "Will we ever find someone to step into his shoes and carry on his legacy?

"It's really challenging, but yet we have to continue telling the story," he added. "We have to continue saying the pain and the suffering, and hopefully through education, we'll stop the genocide, the holocaust, the killing field from happening around the world."

Dogged survivor of Khmer Rouge's killing fields

The Australian
April 01, 2008

Dith PranJournalist. Born Siem Reap, Cambodia, September 27, 1942. Died New Jersey, US, March 30, aged 65.

DITH Pran was the interpreter and journalist whose demonstration of friendship and endurance in the face of unspeakable atrocity inspired the film The Killing Fields. The film, which won three Oscars, portrayed how the Cambodian-born Dith risked his life helping to cover the arrival of the murderous Khmer Rouge in Pnomh Penh in 1975. He survived the holocaust that killed 30 to 40 per cent of his compatriots, eventually making it out of the country and becoming a photojournalist at The New York Times.

Dith was born in 1942 in Siem Reap, Cambodia, in the shadow of the ruined temples of Angkor Wat. At the time, the country, which was part of French Indochina, was under occupation by the Japanese, and Dith's father was a senior public works official.

Dith learned French at school and taught himself English privately. After leaving school in 1960, Dith became an interpreter for the US military, a job that ended five years later when the Americans left Cambodia. He worked as an interpreter a British film crew and tourists, and as a hotel receptionist.

When civil war broke out between the forces of US-backed dictator Lon Nol, who had seized power in Phnom Penh in 1970, and the newly born Khmer Rouge, the tourism trade was destroyed and Dith moved with his family to the capital.

There he met Craig Whitney, the Saigon bureau chief for The New York Times, and began working as an interpreter and guide for journalists. In 1972 the New York Times reporter Sydney Schanberg, who had been working in Singapore, transferred to Cambodia, and was met at the airport by Dith. The two became good friends, and soon Dith was working exclusively with Schanberg.

The Khmer Rouge became stronger and more ruthless, and by spring of 1975 chaos had engulfed Cambodia. The US had already withdrawn from Vietnam and, with Phnom Penh looking sure to fall too, the Americans decided to leave.

On April 12 the capital was evacuated of all American personnel and thousands of Cambodians sought to escape. Dith loaded his wife and their four children on to a US truck, but decided to stay with Schanberg to cover the story as the Khmer Rouge took over. Both Schanberg and Dith assumed that once the Khmer Rouge had taken hold of Phnom Penh peace would ensue. They were wrong. On April 17 the Khmer Rouge began the bloody emptying of the capital, forcing the city dwellers, some 60 per cent of Cambodia's 5 million population, out into the fields.

Dith and Schanberg went to investigate some of the casualties at a hospital. As they were leaving, they were accosted by troops, who rounded them up into an armoured vehicle. The Westerners complied, but Dith spent time arguing with the troops before getting in.

The group was later released, but it was only afterwards that Schanberg, who had thought Dith was arguing that he didn't want to get into the vehicle, learned that Dith had saved his life: the soldiers had been telling Dith to leave because they did not want him to see them shoot the Westerners, but Dith had risked his life by refusing to go.

Schanberg and his colleagues tried to return the favour later by having a fake US passport made to allow Dith to leave Cambodia. However, it did not pass muster, and Dith was forced to remain there while Schanberg and other foreign nationals left.

Schanberg supported Dith's family, who had earlier made it to New York, and through intermediaries at border camps in Thailand circulated photographs of his lost friend. Dith had become absorbed into the new Cambodia, or Kampuchea as the Khmer Rouge had renamed it.

Fearing the death that befell many seen as intellectuals, he cast off any sign, such as a watch, that might jeopardise his life, and masqueraded as an impoverished peasant. He crippled his vocabulary and went about giving the appearance of a simple villager.

Dith was put to work in the rice paddies, performing back-breaking labour during the day and undergoing political indoctrination by night. Food rations were just spoonfuls of rice a day and Dith and other villagers were reduced to eating bark, snakes and rats to survive.

In 1976 Schanberg was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for his coverage of the beginning of a holocaust that ultimately led to the deaths of between 1.5 million and 2 million Cambodians. He accepted it on behalf of Dith aswell.

In late 1977 Dith was given the privilege of relocating within the country and he became a house servant for a commune chief in the village of Bat Dangkor. In January 1979, when the Vietnamese invaded Cambodia and removed the Khmer Rouge, Dith went back to Siem Reap, where he was given a position as a village administrative chief. He dubbed the area "the killing fields", stretches of green where corpses had nourished the ground. Fifty members of his family had, he discovered, died there.

Dith met a group of Eastern European reporters through whom he managed to get a message to Schanberg. But meanwhile the Vietnamese learned that Dith had been involved with the press, and Dith decided it was time to try to escape.

On July 29, 1979 he set out to walk the 100km of landmines, booby traps and Vietnamese and Khmer Rouge forces that lay between him and the Thai border. On October 3 he arrived in Thailand where he asked a US official to contact Schanberg, who met him there on October 9.

Dith moved to the US where he was reunited with his family and was made a trainee photographer on The New York Times. He went on to a lengthy and successful career with the paper as a photojournalist.

He became a US citizen in 1986, and devoted his spare time to helping to ensure that nobody forgot the holocaust. Inevitably, he felt robbed by the death of Pol Pot in 1988 before justice could be served, but the Dith Pran Holocaust Awareness Project continues to maintain the memory of the slaughter.

Dith is survived by his partner Bette Parslow, three sons and a daughter by his former wife, Meoun Ser.

The Times