Friday, 4 April 2008

In Honor to the Legendary Photographer Dith Pran

Dith Pran speaks with President Ronald Reagan May 24, 1985 in Washington, D.C.

by John Koblin
March 30, 2008

Dith Pran, the New York Times photographer whose disappearance and escape from the clutches of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia was famously chronicled in the movie The Killing Fields, died in New Jersey. He was 65.

The Times has an obituary up on its web site, along with a slide show and a recent video interview. Pran, who was battling cancer, also gave an interview to the Star-Ledger on March 19.

Bill Keller sent this out to his newsroom today:

"To all of us who have worked as foreign reporters in frightening places, Pran reminds us of a special category of journalistic heroism—the local partner, the stringer, the interpreter, the driver, the fixer, who knows the ropes, who makes your work possible, who often becomes your friend, who may save your life, who shares little of the glory, and who risks so much more than you do."

A Sam Rainsy Party Activist Was Chopped 10 Times With An Axe

By Khmerization
http://khmerization.blogspot.com/


A Sam Rainsy Party activist from O’Khmum village, Sdao commune in Ratanak Mundol district, Battambang has been hacked 10 times with an axe and is now in a critical condition.

Cheat Sineath, 24, had been attacked at 12 midnight on the 28th of March. The attacker was identified as Ouch Kosal. Mr. Heng Sochea, father of the victim complained that, despite the attacker had been identified the police refused to arrest him.

Mr Heng said: “In the morning the police in Sdao commune had asked me to pay them for the petrol. We lodged a complaint on the afternoon of 29th but they only arrested the suspect at 20:30 PM on the 30th, but later that day the suspect was released.”

The chief of Ratanak Police, Mr. Lim Sern, dismissed the accusations by saying that: “There is no clear evidence to the allegations to charge the suspect. It is only an allegation from the witness without concrete evidence, corroborated between the victim and the witness and then made the allegations. It is very hard for us to charge the suspect. So, we have to provide justice to all concerned, but we will send the suspect to the prosecutor soon.”

President of the human right organisation LICADHO, Battambang branch, Mr. Soun Tek, said that if the police did not seek warrant for the arrest of the suspect it would allow the suspect a chance to escape. He said: “I have observed that when the people reported the case to me that they have lodged a complaint to the police, the police said that they will arrest the suspect tomorrow and when tomorrow comes, they another tomorrow.”

It must be noted that as the July election draws near, political violence increased, as in the case with every previous election.

A Norodom Ranariddh Party Activist in Svay Rieng Had Been Murdered

By Khmerization
http://khmerization.blogspot.com/


A Norodom Ranariddh Party (NRP) campaigner in Svay Rieng was gagged, stripped naked and murdered.

Mr Nguon Ngan from Svay village, Samlei commune of Kampong-Ro district had been missing since 23rd March while he went to repay 300,000Riels (approx. $US85) to Mr. Bo, whom he bought the buffaloes from.

Mr Muth Chantha, a spokesman for the NRP, said that Mr. Ngan, after handed the money to the owner of the buffaloes stopped by at Mr. Sang’s café to have a drink of coffee there. At approximately 11 PM he left for his home, but he never reached his home.

His body was found on the 27th in a shallow grave in a palm bush approximately 4 kilometres from the café where he stopped to have a drink.

Mr Muth Chantha have told Radio free Asia that, due to injuries on the body of the copse, it can be assumed that he was not murdered due to robbery as he was gagged, stripped naked and was buried in a shallow grave. And at the time of the murder the victims did not have any valuable possessions with him.

Mr. Muth Chantha assumed that the murder could be politically motivated as Mr. Ngan had always come to the same café and spoke in high praise of Prince Ranariddh. As a result, in the past, he had clashed with some members of other political parties. Mr Muth Chantha also reasoned that Mr. Ngan is a good speaker who was able to convince many people to join the NRP in the past, and this would make him a target of political harrasment.

Mr Muth Chantha said that Mr. Ngan had been bludgeoned to death with a blunt objects. He told Radio Free Asia that Mr. Ngan’s bicycle, which he had used to travel on the night of the murder, had been located hidden under a house. 3 suspects, the owners of the house, had been identified and were arrested, but were later released by the police.

Mr. Muth Chatha said, the release of the three suspects was suspicious and regrettable. He added that the NRP will continue to push the authority to thoroughly investigate this murder.

Sacravatoons : "Kaing Kek Ieu's proposal"

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

Landmines: International Day For Mine Awareness


scoop.co.nz
Friday, 4 April 2008
Press Release: Terry Evans

International Day for Mine Awareness

Landmines continue to kill around the world. More than a decade after the 1997 Ottawa Convention on landmines came into force, 159 countries have signed on to destroy their stocks of anti personnel landmines and are attempting to demine areas of land. Yet dangers still remain for those living in mined areas.

April 4 was declared International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action by the UN in 2006 to raise awareness about landmines and to continue the progress towards their eradication.

Events are held around the world to spread information about the dangers of landmines and the importance of demining activity.

Right now:

* Nearly six thousand people were killed or injured by landmines in 2007
* Half a million mine survivors are living in need of support
* Around 174 million mines are still waiting to be destroyed

Landmines remain a serious barrier to development in countries such as Cambodia and Uganda. Even when they are not fatal, they strip people of the ability to work and often harm children. Farmers and labourers face daily risks as they work on mined land, but the need for an income means that they continue to work.

An ongoing threat

In Cambodia from 1978 until the end of 1989, around six million landmines were laid in a 700-kilometre strip, mostly along the Thai-Cambodia border. Millions of cluster bombs and more than a million tons of general purpose bombs were dropped on the south-east of the country during the 1960s. Cambodia remains one of the most heavily mined countries in the world.

Red Cross works to deliver assistance to landmine survivors in Cambodia through the Landmine Survivors Assistance Program, providing healthcare, prosthetics and micro-loans for business.

The program helps landmine survivors by enabling them to earn an income and be physically independent. This eases the burden on their families, and will help the Cambodian Government with the management and provision of disability services.

The threat of explosive remnants of war, including cluster munitions, accompanies the threat of landmines in many post-conflict countries. Cluster munitions are particularly dangerous as they can disperse explosive submunitions (bomblets) over very wide areas and civilian casualties can be very high when these weapons are used in populated areas.

Currently there is discussion within the international community to establish a treaty which will ban the use of cluster munitions by the end of 2008; commonly known as the Oslo Process. Red Cross is deeply concerned about the effects cluster munitions have on civilian populations.

Mine risks outlined in Cambodia


FIFA.com
Friday 4 April 2008

On 14 March, the organisation Spirit of Soccer staged a unique competition in Cambodia: the Mine Risk Education Soccer tournament.

Seventeen teams, including four U-14 sides from districts directly affected by mines, converged as Spirit of Soccer, a Football for Hope Implementing Partner and streetfootballworld Network Member, attempted to convey a potentially life-saving message through football.

Spirit of Soccer was set up in 2006 in the province of Battambang in northern Cambodia, one of the most heavily mined areas in the world. The Cambodian Mine Action Centre (CMAC) estimates that there may be as many as four-to-six million mines and unexploded ordinances in Cambodia and, according to estimates, at the present rate it would take 100 years to clear them all.

Making matters worse, during the country's near-three-decade long war the mines were strategically placed for maximum human damage. More than 40,000 Cambodians are missing a body part with 40 per cent of victims being young boys.

The message, therefore, was vital, and in his opening address, Mr. Yenu, the Deputy Governor of Battambang addressed the importance of sport in mine risk education and praised the efforts of Spirit of Soccer After that, it was down to the highlight of the event - the football - which the youngsters played with skill, passion and energy that belied the brutal March heat.

'Healthy and strong' In the U-14 boys' category, the 12 teams were divided into four pools which left each team with just two 45-minute games before the semi-finals. The sides from Battambang playing in the SALT league generally proved too strong for the visiting teams from the other districts, although the last four were remarkably well matched, with KCS, Crossroads, Catholics and ASPECA all fought out goalless draws.

Penalty shootouts were therefore required and though both went into sudden death, KCS and Catholics advanced to the final. The latter side seemed destined to win that concluding match 1-0 after they grabbed an early lead but only with a few minutes left on the clock KCS's efforts paid off with a great shot from 25 yards finding its way into the net. The KSC keeper then went on to become the hero of an engrossing finale, saving three penalties in a 4-3 shootout win.

Sey Chunthuen, a defender in the victorious KCS team, enthused afterwards about the tournament and its message, expressing the hope that more Cambodian children can play the game in a safe environment and perhaps join the competition next time.

In the girls' category, a tight group stage featuring just five goals was again followed by two penalty shootouts to decide the finalists, with New Hope Children's Home and Compassion Church winning out. Remarkably, the final too ended in a goalless stalemate and the New Hope team emerged triumphant from the shoot-out, claiming a 2-0 victory.

Despite a lack of goals, the fans present were clearly impressed by the players' efforts, and the girls themselves loved every minute. One of those involved, 16-year-old Kluen Tie, had only been playing football for two months and while she was nervous about competing in front of so many people, she thoroughly enjoyed the experience and felt that she had benefited from the Mine Risk Education message.

She said: "I hope that next year even more teams from the province can play with us and that everybody will be healthy and strong and nobody will get hurt by a mine."

Final Ranking
Girl's category:
1. New Hope Children's Home
2. Compassion Church
3. Catholics Student Center

Boys category:
1. KCS (Khmer Community Service)
2. Catholics Student Center
3. ASPECA Orphanage

Fair Play Trophy:
1. Rotanak Mondul School

UN says markets crucial to climate pact

Cambodia trash scavengers pick through a pile of debris in this Thursday, June 15, 2006, file photo, at the Stung Meanchy trash dump on the outskirts of Phnom Penh, Cambodia. At the U.N. Climate Conference in Bangkok this week, the carbon market idea is getting a boost in negotiations as there is a call for a new pact on global warming aimed at keeping temperatures from rising so high they trigger an environmental disaster.(AP Photo/David Longstreath, File)


David Longstreath, File
Sam Dy, 13 years, searches for bits of plastic or other trash that might be of value at the Stung Meanchy dump on the outskirst of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, in this Thursday, June 15, 2006, file photo. At the Bangkok, Thailand, U.N. Climate Conference, the carbon market idea is getting a boost in negotiations as there is a call for a new pact on global warming aimed at keeping temperatures from rising so high they trigger an environmental disaster.

By MICHAEL CASEY
AP Environmental Writer

BANGKOK, Thailand - Back in the late 1990s, Henry Derwent had the unenviable job of selling a British government proposal that markets be used to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The idea was to create a system in which energy-intensive companies would buy and sell pollution permits, giving them a financial incentive to cut their carbon dioxide emissions.

It was a tough sell. Environmentalists condemned it as morally reprehensible and business leaders said it was bad economics. Even an investment bank refused to take part because it would sully its reputation.

But these days, Derwent is feeling vindicated.

The British set up a carbon trading market in 2002, followed by the European Union in 2005. New Zealand's system is expected later this year. The United States plans a regional greenhouse gas initiative in the nine Northeast states by 2009, and Australia wants a national system by 2010. All global warming bills in the U.S. Congress include a federal cap-and-trade mechanism.

While many people still oppose emissions trading over concerns that it would allow companies to keep polluting, most environmentalists and European governments now view the practice as the easiest and most comprehensive way to regulate industrial emissions.

"You are using profit motive to achieve a public good, and this is just brilliant," Derwent, now head of the International Emissions Trading Association, said on the sidelines of this week's U.N. climate change conference in Thailand.

The carbon market is getting a boost in negotiations this week in Bangkok to piece together a new global warming pact aimed at keeping temperatures from rising so high they trigger an environmental disaster. Negotiators have until late 2009 to complete work on an agreement to take effect when the Kyoto Protocol runs out at the end of 2012.

Emissions trading is seen by many as the glue that will hold the system together by reducing greenhouse gas production while generating funds to develop clean technology and help poor countries adapt to environmental changes such as rising sea-levels.

"A functioning carbon market will be critical to a successful agreement," U.N. climate chief Yvo de Boer told The Associated Press ahead of the Bangkok meeting.

A carbon trading market - or "cap-and-trade" system - works much like any commodities market except that traders make their fees selling a ton of carbon dioxide instead of corn or copper.

Countries that agree to reduction targets are given permits for an amount of allowable carbon dioxide emissions, and the permits are passed onto businesses. Companies can choose to cut their emissions by retrofitting a factory and selling their permits for a profit - or continuing to pollute and buy additional units of carbon dioxide on the open market.

Under the 1997 Kyoto pact, countries also can earn credits by investing in environmentally friendly projects in developing countries.

A major attraction of carbon markets is their ability to generate money to be put toward cutting emissions and helping countries adapt to the effects of climate change.

The World Bank predicts that by 2030, it will cost between $28 billion and $67 billion annually to relocate villages, build sea walls and help farmers adapt to the worsening weather.

But carbon trading has plenty of critics, many of whom argue that it does little or nothing to actually cut greenhouse gases. The EU system, for example, has had a minimal impact on emissions in its first two years.

The system has also been criticized for leaving out sectors like transport and focusing on less profitable companies like cement or chemical producers that must cut output or make major investments to reduce emissions.

Other critics, like research fellows Benjamin Sovacool and Toby Carroll at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy in Singapore, say market solutions increase poor nations' dependence on the industrialized world for such things as clean technology, allow industries to keep polluting, and fail to change consumer consumption patterns.

"Until people consciously realize the situation that the world is in and change their own patterns of behavior, you can't change anything," Carroll said. "One of the reason carbon trading is so acceptable to the powers-that-be is that it doesn't substantially impact on existing operations."
Carroll and others argue that a more effective way to cut emissions would be a pollution tax.

While supporters agree that carbon markets alone cannot reduce emissions, they insist they can change behavior. They noted that the European system has resulted in a number of coal plants being mothballed and they predict they will spur investment in expensive but clean technologies like solar energy and carbon sequestration and storage in which carbon dioxide is stored underground.

"The point of the market is to find the most efficient way to reduce emissions," said Greenpeace's Bill Hare, who supports the market but admits he has concerns about the lack of regulations.

"The tighter the cap, the higher you will see carbon prices and the more incentive to switch to investments to lower emitting technology and practices," he said.

Also, carbon trading will generate money to meet funding needs of developing nations, proponents say.

"There is certainly reason to be optimistic," said Miles Austin, head of European regulatory affairs for the carbon trading firm EcoSecurities. But he also said much of the future growth depends on a new climate pact that includes binding emissions reduction targets.

"The growth will begin to tail off by the end of the year if there isn't increased clarity about what will happen post-2012," when the Kyoto protocol expires, he said.

RIGHTS-CAMBODIA: Property Boom Forces Evictions of Urban Poor

By Andrew Nette

PHNOM PENH, Apr 4 (IPS) - Sitting in a wooden house in the urban poor community of Dei Krohome, Touch Ratha recounted a tale of intimidation, secrecy and the blurred line between police, government officials and the private company that she says has been trying to evict her and her neighbours.

Ratha’s story is an increasingly common one in Cambodia which is experiencing an unprecedented property boom that is literally changing the landscape of this impoverished country. It is also resulting in forced and, according to housing and human rights groups, unlawful evictions.

Many families have already left Dei Krohome, ‘Red Earth’ in the Khmer language. They have accepted the company’s offer of relocation to alternative land on the outskirts of Phnom Penh and avoid the campaign of harassment that Ratha says the company is undertaking.

"I said no to them because it is too far," she said of the relocation. "I want to live here near schools, electricity, fresh water and business opportunities. If I have to leave here I will fall into poverty."

New offices and apartment stores overlook Dei Krohome, which is situated on prime riverside real estate in Phnom Penh.

It also abouts a block of flats designed by renowned Cambodian architect Vann Molyvann in the 1960s, but now in serious need of refurbishment. Lines of washing hang from the apartments and the scorch marks of a past fire still scar the buildings.

"If they move on the Dei Krohome community, a lot of people think this building will be next," commented Bunn Rachana, a project officer with the Housing Rights Task Force who is familiar with the case.

While reports of land grabbing date back to the 1980s, the current spike in forced evictions is unprecedented, the result of a real estate boom and an explosion in property speculation.

Many local and foreign observers believe the boom, which commenced in 2002, was partly kick-started with money repatriated by various Khmer business interests keen to escape increased scrutiny by international banks post the 9/11 attacks.

"Now it has taken a life of its own," said one foreign observer. "There is a lot of Asian money here as well as a lot of investment both domestic and international."

"We are even starting to see high risk high return investment now coming into Cambodia post the sub-prime crisis in the United States. You can now measure increases in land prices in Phnom Penh and other major urban centres on monthly basis,’’ he added.

In February, Amnesty International (AI) released a report estimating that approximately 150,000 Cambodians currently face the threat of eviction from their homes -- "a modest estimate" according to Brittis Edman, a London-based AI researcher.

Although the report focused on rural areas where people are being evicted to make way for large-scale tourism and agricultural developments, it clearly states the problem is also happening in urban areas.

"It is not government policy because it is not written down anywhere, but it is becoming the practice of developers that if they want a piece of land and they are prepared to disregard the rules and procedures laid down they can do it," said Edman. "This was not the case in the nineties."

The report also highlighted cases in which human rights defenders and land rights activists have been intimidated and arrested by the very people who are supposed to protect them: police and members of the armed forces. "The Cambodian authorities are failing to protect -- in law and practice -- the population against forced evictions," it stated. "Government representatives are often actively involved in or fail to act when laws are applied selectively or by-passed altogether."

Echoing concerns expressed by local housing rights activists, AI said there is a marked increase in using the court system to silence activists.

There were over a hundred cases in 2007 of activists being accused, charged and sometimes convicted of incursion on private property.

"The element of collusion between state parties who claim land and authorities undermines any kind of protection that affected communities may have," said Edman.

"I consider the work we do to be dangerous,’’ Yeng Virak, executive director of the Community Legal Education Centre, which represents local people in several high profile land cases, told IPS. ''Our people have been threatened and intimidated. NGOs (non government organisations) have been accused of inciting people to use the legal process, which frankly I would think is funny, if it were not so serious.''

The Cambodian government denies forced evictions occur.

At a recent donor meeting, Chhann Saphan, secretary of the ministry of land management, said that persons evicted from land in Phnom Penh had been occupying it illegally.

Many Dei Krohome residents have been in the community since the 1980s. The government originally promised them ‘a social inclusion concession’ under which a private company would get part of their land for commercial development in return for building new housing for the community.

Instead, the deal was changed and the residents told to give up all of Dei Krohome to a private company, the 7NG Group, and accept new apartments 20 km away on the outskirts of Phnom Penh.

The residents claim they were never asked nor did they agree to alternative housing away from their community, and that a handful of community representatives signed a contract without their knowledge or consent.

Dei Krohome now resembles a battlefield. The houses of those who remain are interspersed with empty spaces where the homes of those who have chosen to leave once stood.

While many residents are nervous about talking to the media, Ratha is happy to discuss the lack of information provided by 7NG Group and their efforts to intimidate the remaining families. She said this includes hiring hooligans to make trouble and provoke residents, and bringing in bulldozers to knock down buildings.

Housing rights NGOs say the company is also resorting to legal action against a number of the residents, accusing them of various crimes.

A 7NG Group site office and showroom is situated around the corner from Dei Krohome. Security guards sit outside the office. A company representative said that no one was available who could comment on the community’s claims.

Given the determination of the community to stay, 7NG Group recently changed tactics and offered to buy them out for 5,000 - 7,000 US dollars each.

"The residents believe this is nowhere near enough given that land prices are currently running at between 5,000 and 6,000 dollars per sq metre and, at some places, up to 15,000 dollars," said the Housing Rights Task Force’s Rachana.

Cambodia’s land laws have gone through radically different regimes, and not kept pace with decades of war and dislocation resulting in massive movements of people.

While many Cambodians live on land, the ownership of which is clearly defined, many others do not have clear title. It is these grey areas that are the target of the current spate of land grabbing.

A new land law that was introduced in 2001 was hailed as a step forward, but it is yet to be fully implemented. Specifically, the most progressive aspects require the issuing of sub-decrees that are yet to be passed. Other aspects of the law, such as strict limits on the granting of land concessions above 10,000 hectares, have been ignored.

The upshot is that land ownership in Cambodia, already unequal, is getting worse. A recent World Bank report put the figure of landless rural poor at over half a million and growing in 2007.

The situation is so serious that many say it could result in wider unrest. "Failure to open honest dialogue with the people, and to find fair solutions for them which respect the law and their land rights, will only worsen the situation and leader to broader civil unrest," said Naly Pilorge, director of the local human rights NGO ‘LICADHO’.

Recently LICADHO joined several NGOs to call for a moratorium on involuntary evictions until the implementation of a strict legislative framework for resettlement rights.

Even Prime Minister Hun Sen appears to be taking notice. He has personally intervened in one dispute and threatened to dissolve the National Authority for the Resolution of Land Disputes, seen by many as a lame duck, for its lack of activity.

Observers expect to see more action from the Prime Minister in the lead-up to national elections in July, but few believe there will be fundamental changes.

TEXT-S&P affirms Cambodia ratings, outlook stable

Fri Apr 4, 2008
Reuters

SINGAPORE (Standard & Poor's) April 4, 2008 -- Standard & Poor's Ratings Services said today it affirmed its 'B+' long-term foreign and local currency and 'B' short-term foreign and local currency sovereign credit ratings on the Kingdom of Cambodia.

The outlook remains stable.

"Supporting the ratings on Cambodia is the country's record of strong growth in a framework of prudent macroeconomic policies and the continued engagement of international donors," said Standard & Poor's credit analyst Agost Benard.

"This, together with the concessional nature and favorable terms of Cambodia's debt should ensure continued external liquidity improvement, in turn underpinning debt service capacity."

"The ratings on Cambodia are constrained by vulnerability of growth and external liquidity due to the country's underdeveloped and narrow economic profile," added Mr. Benard.

The ratings are also constrained by the country's high, albeit declining, public sector debt and its exceedingly low revenue mobilization capacity.

Political stability and a liberal economic and trade regime generated an average real GDP growth of 9% between 2000 and 2007, resulting in an estimated 70% rise in per capita GDP.

Nevertheless, agriculture, which contributes 30% of GDP, suffers from output volatility and lacks an associated downstream processing light industry, while the industrial sector revolves around low value-added garments and textiles.

And, while Cambodia has a favorable tax structure, some sectors, such as agriculture, remain outside the tax net.

The narrow revenue base, combined with pressing capital expenditure needs, requires ongoing budget support by foreign donors.

"The outlook on the ratings could improve if the government implements measures to boost the chronically low revenue collection. The outlook could also be revised upward if there is an increased effort to materially raise investments by addressing the existing multitude of deterrents.

However, the outlook on the ratings could be revised downward if there is fiscal slippage or reduced donor support due to deviation from prudent macroeconomic policies or an adverse change in debt management strategy," noted Mr. Benard.

Muslim claims upset Hun Sen

The Bangkok Post

ACHARA ASHAYAGACHAT

PHNOM PENH : Comments by the Surayud Chulanont government last year about the involvement of Cambodian Muslims in Thailand's southern insurgency have upset Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen. Speaking at the Fourth Asia-Pacific Regional Interfaith Dialogue yesterday, Mr Hun Sen said tolerance and respect of other religions were important for peace and harmony.

Mr Hun Sen's remark comes two days before he is due to meet former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was toppled by the 2006 coup. The pair will play a game of golf together in Angkor City.

''Conflicts among certain religious followers take place due to differences in cultures and civilisations, and discrimination against each other,'' the Cambodian leader said.

''The problem in Thailand's south is its internal affair, but certain military spokesmen said Cambodian Muslims were crossing the border to help Thai militants,'' he said.

Cambodia, which denies the claims, asked Thailand not to make such remarks. Despite those requests, the military carried on making the assertions.

''I told former prime minister Surayud Chulanont that those comments were a big mistake. You [Thailand] have to solve your own problems and should not bring hard times to Cambodian Muslims.

''I asked Gen Surayud to make corrections,'' said the Cambodian premier.

''Stupid and unwise spokesmen created a small problem for everyone and their neighbours.''

Hun Sen also criticised the tendency for some commentators to link Muslims with terrorism.

The two-day Interfaith Dialogue is sponsored by Australia and New Zealand and is the first time a Buddhist country has hosted the regional meeting of various faith leaders.

Use meditation to improve your health

Jeff Cook/QUAD-CITY TIMES Somnieng Hoeurn, a Buddhist monk from Cambodia, chants during one of the meditation classes he teaches in Davenport.


By Deirdre Cox Baker
Thursday, April 03, 2008

Somnieng Hoeurn rhythmically chants an ancient verse as seven pupils seated in a Davenport home listen closely and learn how to meditate.

Hoeurn, a Buddhist monk from Cambodia, is in the Quad-Cities on a year-long visa to study at St. Ambrose University and teach meditation techniques. In the classes, pupils learn to relax, breathe deeply and focus on their mind.

Meditation is used by some medical professionals because it appears to have long-term benefits as far as emotional and physical well-being is concerned. It tends to ease conditions that are worsened by stress, including allergies, arthritis, cancer, chronic pain, heart disease and depression, according to the Mayo Clinic and its Web site, mayoclinic.org.

Meditation, when properly followed, can play a role in decreasing stress-related hormones, according to Dr. Edward Creagan, an associate medical editor for Mayo Health Solutions and a contributor to the Web site. That includes cortisol, which is associated with high blood pressure.

“When we are calm, serene, feel validated and with a sense of peace, the result is lower blood pressure,” he said.

Hoeurn works with the Midwest Buddhist Education Center, which also involves Steve Spring, a Davenport accountant. Classes are held on Monday nights at 216 W. Locust St., Davenport, and on Thursdays at the Davenport School of Yoga, 421 Brady St.

“People will discuss how meditation is transforming and how it improves their emotional experience and their relationships with family, friends and co-workers,” Spring said.

Hoeurn believes meditation’s focus on the mind explains how it helps other parts of the body. “A healthy mind will produce physical health,” he said.

Meditation has been practiced for thousands of years in Eastern cultures. Western culture encourages formidable roadblocks to meditation, including busy, over-committed lives with no free time, Spring said.

Also, Westerners do not often see the importance of taking time to develop mental health, according to the monk. “You take one-two hours a day to feed your stomach, take 10 minutes a day to feed your mind,” Hoeurn encouraged the class.

A mind-centered focus also provides time to form appropriate responses to life’s challenges, he said. “Most of the problems in the world can be traced to people who are quick to anger. They have very quick responses,” he added.

The monk led two 15 to 20-minute sessions during Monday’s class. “Ease, ease your body,” he quietly told the students. “Focus on your breath, breathe deeply, slightly and release slowly.”

Hoeurn encourages the meditators to set aside from their minds thoughts and feelings and focus instead on breathing slowly in and out. Students should sit quietly and try to disregard discomfort, he advises.

“Focus mindfulness on breath and ignore the body,” said the monk, who sat cross-legged on the floor for more than an hour. “But if it hurts too much, please move,” he added with a grin.

Tracy and Brian Tuftee, six-month newlyweds from Davenport, have attended several classes led by Hoeurn. Tuftee said she felt positive after one 15-minute session, “smiling in my heart, if not physically smiling.”

She has been interested in meditation for years and tried it with another instructor, but felt she did not get enough guidance. Regularly meditating has helped her calm down “pretty quickly,” she said, and also has benefited the relationship with her husband.

General forms of the wide-ranging practice include yoga, Tai chi, guided meditation and Qi Gong, according the Mayo Clinic Web site.

Lives are improved with regular meditation practice, the monk believes. “Your life will be so great,” Hoeurn says. “You will be living in heaven on earth!”

The War on Democracy

The Dominion Post
Friday, 04 April 2008

GRAEME TUCKETT

The War on Democracy sees John Pilger doing what he does best, and doing it at the absolute top of his game.

Pilger is an important and divisive figure. He is one of a very few film-makers who work tirelessly to expose the cruelties and catastrophes that our capitalist-imperialist system visits upon some of the poorest and most vulnerable people on Earth. (And let's not even bother arguing about whether recent American foreign policy constitutes "imperialism". It does.)

Pilger was the man who introduced the world to the Cambodian genocide with his film Year Zero: The Silent Death of Cambodia, and also exposed the murderous rule of Indonesia in East Timor with Death of a Nation: The Timor Conspiracy.

All of Pilger's films – there's about 20 in all – have been typified by a rigorous and painstakingly researched presentation of some very hard facts, by a great willingness to point the finger at the western sponsors of corrupt and illegal regimes, and by Pilger's own great stooped presence; sometimes lecturing, sometimes downright patronising, but always urgent and very watchable.

The War on Democracy will rate up there with Pilger's very best and most important work.

Pinned to the backdrop of a long exploration of the policies and presidency of Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, Pilger's film takes detours into Chile, Haiti, El Salvador, Brazil and Argentina to expose some of the evil that North American interference and corruption has allowed to flourish in those countries.

Pilger's final thesis is that "people power" – as typified by Chavez's supporters – is the "seed beneath the snow" that will eventually prevail over the appallingly anti-democratic and vastly hypocritical United States.

See this film. The six o'clock news won't look the same after.

Food Price Crisis To Worsen

ABN Newswire

Sydney, Apr 4, 2008 (ABN Newswire) - Across the developing and emerging economies of the world, and in some developed economies for that matter, governments are opting to shoulder some of the burden of higher food prices or try and control their immediate direction.

The efforts are likely to be fruitless and very expensive for the countries involved, consumers and taxpayers.

From India to Egypt governments are slashing import tariffs on foodstuffs and curbing exports, as well as boosting subsidies: all to try and ease the impact of what will be the big story of 2008 and 2009 - the soaring cost of food.

As we reported this week, an exploding price for rice is the latest cause of much government action.Egypt, India, the Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia, Cambodia, parts of Africa, Mexico, Italy, China, Russia, Argentina: the list is growing by the day of governments who now see the rising cost of food and all the social and political problems that brings, as far more important that good governance, low debt, the US recession, subprime debt or American foreign and economic policy.

Even in the developed world the impact is startling. Biofuels in Asia, Europe and the US are withering because of rising costs for corn, canola and palm oil.

Food riots have happened in Mexico over the cost of tortilla flour. Italians have protested about the sharp rise in the cost of flour for pasta and bread.

Farmers are being blamed in some countries, such as Argentina and parts of Europe; in the US it's causing an explosion in land values and incomes in parts of the country that have been slowly withering away.

The irony won't be lost on Americans that in the midst of a recession farmers and some of the biggest companies in the US (think Cargill and Archer Midland) will be booming, some with record incomes, and much of it (like Europe) subsidised.

Longer term, however, the side-effects of this largesse will be ugly. Forgoing revenues and paying subsidies hurts national budgets.

India, for example, spent $US600 million on rice and wheat subsidies in 2004-05. Given the surge in rice, maize and wheat prices since then, the cost could be up by a third to a half: something approaching $US1 billion, which a country like India can ill afford, even in the midst of its boom (which is slowing anyway).

In the Philippines, the rice subsidy could top the half a billion dollar mark this year, according to the Asian Development Bank, and the country is scouring Asia and the US for around 1.5 million tonnes of rice at subsidised prices because its stocks have run down.

Indonesia which is thinking of banning some rice exports, like China, India, Vietnam and Egypt, may have to pay $US2.2 billion in food subsidies this year, or around 3% of spending by the national government.

That's three times earlier estimates.Nearby Malaysia is looking to boost rice imports and hitting a wall because the Philippines has been mopping up as much grain as it can get.Indonesia and many other countries in Asia also subsidise energy costs and they have skyrocketed with the rise in oil prices over the past three years.

Indonesia is thinking of cutting rice exports, even though it will have a surplus this year of around two million tonnes (it imported just over 1 million tonnes in 2007).

Soaring food and fuel prices are driving global inflation. Consumer prices in China hit an annual rate of 8.7% in February, an 11-year high, and reached a 13-month peak in India of 6.8%.World prices for rice, wheat, soybeans and corn have all increased sharply: rice and wheat prices have doubled in the year - rice is up 30% or more in a week.

Oil prices are up more than 50% in the past year, and more for some derivatives. High petrol prices in the US, now at record levels, are pointing to further upward pressures in the American summer and the so-called driving season when they usually spike in July-August.

The United Nations warned in February that 36 countries, including China, face food emergencies this year, as stockpiles of grains such as rice, wheat, corn and soybeans drop to multi-decade lows around the world and in key supplier nations like the US and Australia.

The World Bank said this week it considered soaring food and fuel prices as greater challenges to East Asian governments than the financial turmoil in the United States and slowing global growth.

Since 2003, oil and non-oil commodity prices have respectively more than tripled and doubled. However, of greater immediate concern for policy makers is the surge in commodity prices over the last 6–9 months––especially for food––that has pushed headline inflation higher and sparked concerns about the adverse effect on the poor.

"In the medium-term the answer clearly lies in greater fuel efficiency, stronger and more productive global agriculture and an open international trading system.

But in the short-term the bigger concern is to alleviate the harsh burden this imposes on the poor," the bank said this week.As we said yesterday, it's a similar outlook from the Asian Development Bank.

"The major risk lies not so much in softer growth but in rising commodity prices and accelerating inflation,'' the Bank said yesterday. "Appropriate macroeconomic responses to accelerating inflation are likely to include tighter monetary policy and some exchange-rate appreciation.''

"Indeed, published inflation rates disguise the true extent of underlying inflation pressures due to the presence of subsidies, administrative price controls and cuts in excise taxes," it said.

The subsidies used by many governments in the region to cushion the impact of soaring fuel and food prices are posing a threat to budgets and the bank said that cash handouts to the poor may be a better and cheaper option.

"If governments do not rethink these expensive and inefficient subsidy programs, fiscal costs could escalate sharply and require painful adjustments (or accelerating inflation, or both) later," the ADB said.

"Carefully targetted direct income support for the poor, within strict budgetary limits, might better alleviate stresses, and at much lower cost."

Saudi Arabia has cut import taxes across a range of food products this week, slashing its wheat tariff from 25% to zero and reducing tariffs on poultry, dairy produce and vegetable oils.

On Monday, India scrapped tariffs on edible oil and maize and banned exports of all rice except the high-value basmati variety, while Vietnam, the world's third biggest rice exporter, said it would cut rice exports by 11%.

In Argentina, farmers called off a protest against attempts by the government of President Cristina Fernández to redistribute the benefits of rising commodity prices by increasing export taxes on soybeans and other crops.

The World Bank said this week in its half year report:

Non-oil commodity prices increased 15 percent in dollar terms over 2007, a fifth year of solid dollar price gains.That was only a precursor to even more rapid 20 percent gains in just the first 2 months of 2008.

Grains, edible oils, and metals prices have been especially buoyant in recent months, supported by strong investment and physical demand (the latter especially from developing countries) as well as by a variety of more specific factors on both the demand and supply sides of the markets.

Low initial stocks; rising input costs (especially energy); competition for limited arable land; weather-related production shortfalls; and strong demand for food, animal feeds, and biofuels have produced a surge in prices for corn, wheat, rice, and soybeans.

Grain and edible oil prices rose 21 percent and 15 percent, respectively, in just the first 2 months of 2008. Metals prices gained 27 percent in the same period, led by iron ore, copper, lead, aluminum, and precious metals.

China's consumption of the 6 main metals traded on the London Metal Exchange (LME) grew by nearly one-third, or 5.8 million tons, in 2007, up from an average 16 percent growth rate in the previous 7 years.

Growth in Chinese demand alone more than offset lower 2007 consumption in the OECD. A 21 percent increase in China's steel production––the largest in the world––helped set the scene for a 65 percent increase in iron ore prices in early 2008.

The pattern of terms of trade losses and gains in 2008 should be qualitatively similar to that of the last four years, but with higher food prices adding a new twist.Higher food prices are expected to have relatively small effects at the level of national income––as distinct from possible distributional effects––in economies such as Cambodia, Indonesia, and Lao PDR.Economies such as China, Philippines, and Papua New Guinea could see somewhat larger net losses of approximately 0.5 percent of GDP.

On the other hand, rice exporters such as Thailand and Vietnam likely will see substantial income gains because of high rice prices.

Combining the effect of higher food prices with those of additional increases in oil and metals prices, the region could experience an aggregate income loss of approximately 1 percent of GDP in 2008.Income losses of this size perhaps could have been overlooked when the region's economy was growing very rapidly in 2006-07.

However, they could have a more negative effect if the global credit market crisis results in significantly lower growth in East Asia.

The sharp rise in international food prices is likely to have a significant impact on the living standards of the poor throughout the developing world, posing one of the more urgent and difficult problems facing governments today.

Food comprises a larger share of the consumption basket of the population in most developing East Asian economies than it does in developed countries.

In the U.S. the share of food in the consumption basket of the average household is 15 percent, while in East Asia it ranges between 31 and 50 percent (31 percent in Malaysia, 34 percent in China, 36 percent in Thailand, 40 percent in Indonesia, 43 percent in Vietnam, and 50 percent in the Philippines).

In Cambodia the share of food in total consumption is 59 percent in rural areas and 40 percent in urban. Internationally traded food products are also a large proportion of the food consumption of the poor – 56 percent in Cambodia for example, and 64 percent in Vietnam.

The impact of food price increases on the poor also depends on whether they are net food consumers whose real income will be reduced by higher food prices, or net producers of food, who will tend to benefit.

The urban poor and landless rural workers are generally net food consumers as, typically, are a significant fraction of poor small landholders.

In Cambodia these three types of poor households comprise 46 percent of the poor, with another 18 percent being small land holders who are self-sufficient but not net sellers of food.

In Vietnam the proportion of net consumers among the poor is 47 percent, with another 19 percent being net self-sufficient. In Indonesia 76 percent of the poor are net rice buyers, including some 72 percent of the rural poor.

Here it is estimated that every 10 percent increase in rice prices reduces the real value of the expenditure of poorest tenth of the population by 2 percent.

Other things being equal, the surge in food prices is therefore likely to increase poverty in the low and lower middle income countries of the region, although against that must be set the poverty reducing impact of continued robust economic growth.

We estimate that every 1 percent increase in per capita consumption reduces the poverty rate for East Asia as a whole by around 1 percent (at the $1 a day level).

In the slightly longer term there will also be a supply response as net food consumers move towards becoming net food producers in response to higher prices.

What the net effect of these complex interactions on poverty rates in the region in 2008 will be is not yet clear.

But it seems probable that, depending on how much food prices increase during the year, the pace of poverty reduction in the region will not be as rapid as in the recent past and may even reverse.

(Poverty rates at the $1 a day level fell by 11-12 percent a year in 2002-2007, while those at the $2 day level fell by 8-9 percent a year.).

Rising food prices are quickly taking on a high profile around the region, eliciting a range of policy responses.Broadly speaking these have been designed to protect the poor through new or existing safety net programs or to moderate the rise in food prices by one means or another.

The instruments applied are generally fiscal measures such as taxes and subsidies or administrative measures.In other countries, such as Vietnam, government strategy is to design and adopt safety net programs that are universal but where participation by the poor is fully subsidized and participation by the near poor is partially subsidized.

Maternal morality rate remains high in Cambodia

chinaview.cn
2008-04-04

PHNOM PENH, April 4 (Xinhua) -- Official survey has shown that the maternal morality rate remained high in the last five years, while childhood morality rate dropped by 6 percent each year, English-Khmer newspaper the Mekong Times said on Friday.

The number of women who died giving birth is estimated at around 472 per 100,000 live births from 2000 to 2005, Eng Huot, secretary of state at Ministry of Health, was quoted as telling the 29th annual national health conference here on Thursday.

"We have seen that, on average, the childhood morality rate has dropped by 6 percent per year, but the maternal morality rate is not dropping. It remains high," he said.

He didn't elaborate on the reason. The paper quoted opposition lawmakers as saying that the budget prioritized for this sector was largely not being used.

Cambodia, with a weak health sector, has for years been making efforts to reduce maternal and childhood death rates.

In 2008, the National Assembly approved a budget of some 101 million U.S. dollars for the health sector, around 20 percent more than 2007, in order to improve the sector to a standard comparable to the other countries in the region.

Editor: Sun Yunlong

Letter from Tioulong Saumura to the Cambodia Daily

Tioulong Saumura, MP (Ms.)

Phnom Penh, 31 March 2008

Letter to the Editor,
The Cambodia Daily

Dear Sirs,

In its issue dated 31 March 2008, The Cambodia Daily reported that I was "implicated in detention claims" made by former SRP commune councillor Tim Norn, who alleged that I "detained her in Phnom Penh to prevent her from joining the CPP".

Had I been contacted by your reporter*, I would have brought the following information to his knowledge:

1- On Saturday 16 February, Ms. Tim Norn came to the SRP headquarters and requested a meeting with me. She told me that former SRP MP for Kompong Thom Sok Pheng had convinced her to defect to the CPP and gave her $200, but that she regretted her decision and was scared because she had already taken and spent the money. She asked me to give protection to her and her family

2- I replied that she has the right to choose which political party she wants to be a member of, she has the right to then change her mind, resign and join another party. But, once she has resigned from SRP and put her thumbprint on a written statement saying that she joins CPP, she is now a member of CPP and nobody at SRP has anything to do with her anymore.

3- As she seemed frightened and kept on repeating that she did not want to go back to her village in Baray district, I said that we are a political party, not a shelter and advised her to submit her case to a human rights organisation such as Licadho or the UN Centre for Human Rights. I phoned Licadho to check whether it was open on Saturday.

4- Ms. Tim Norn went to Licadho's office by her own means. Later, I joined her when she was talking to Licadho's staff, confirmed that she was a former SRP activist, made sure that she was taken care of, and came back to my office.

The claim that I detained Tim Norn does not make sense:

1- I have no means to force anyone to stay anywhere against his/her will. I don't even know how long she stayed with Licadho, when she left and why.

2- The Sam Rainsy Party is an organization made-up of volunteers who adhere to the ideals advocated by President Sam Rainsy. What binds us together is the common faith in the ability to bring about changes by peaceful, legal, non-violent and democratic means. The strength of the party is based on the free will of our members. In our party, nobody can "force" anyone of us to donate our time, effort, money, and risk our assets, peace of mind, lives. So, there is no rationale for me to try to keep someone by force.

3- Tim Norn having ceased being one of our members, I still wanted to help her on humanitarian grounds, which is what I often do when I meet people needing assistance. That is why I advised her to seek assistance from a human rights organization and from the UN Centre for Human Rights.

In your article, you quote SRP Secretary General Eng Chhay Eang saying that he did not know when I would return to Cambodia. Actually, I am leaving Paris tomorrow 1st April, arriving on the 2d. My schedule is linked to the preparation of the autobiography of MP Sam Rainsy. The deadline of the French publisher was today 31 March. MP Sam Rainsy had to attend the commemoration of the grenade attack on 30 March, I took care of the final round of proof-reading before giving the imprimatur today.

Yours sincerely,

Concerns over Political Intimidation and Obstruction prior to the 2008 National Assembly Elections Preparation Stage

COMFREL - NICFEC - CHRAC
Joint Statement
On
Concerns over Political Intimidation and Obstruction prior to the 2008
National Assembly Elections Preparation Stage
COMFREL, NICFEC and CHRAC are greatly concerned over the ongoing situation of political influence over the judiciary system, court and law enforcement armed forces (1), especially the recent arrests and attempted arrests, the use of violence toward political parties’ activists and the ongoing obstruction of some political parties’ activities. These cases take place repeatedly in Phnom Penh, Pailin, Kampong Thom, Takeo and Kampong Chhnang, with a negative impact on the environment for fair and free elections.

Arrests political parties’ activists without a court warrant and without in-depth investigation cause an environment of fear and mean that non-ruling parties’ activists dare not do anything. According to CHRAC’s Statement, Mr. Tout Saron, Kampong Thom’s Baray’s Ponro Commune Chief, was summoned at Toul Kroeus Market, Baray District by police officials led by Baray District Police Chief without showing a court order. In the meantime, there is a question about the different answers given by victim Toeum Norn, first when she met with a LICADHO officer and an officer of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in Cambodia, and then later. On February 18, 2008, at the LICADHO office, Mrs. Toeum Norn did not make a complaint about detention against her will. Instead, she asked for help from LICADHO to protect her and her family, as she had previously defected from the Sam Rainsy Party to the Cambodian People’s Party and later wanted to go back to the Sam Rainsy Party. But, later on she said she was afraid the Sam Rainsy Party may kill her (2).

According to the CHRAC investigation, Mrs. Toeum Norn did not lose her rights to communicate with her friends and family. And there is nothing to prove that Mrs. Toeum Norn was either detained or arrested.

There has been obstruction and prevention towards some political parties, including the Sam Rainsy Party, the Human Rights Party, the Norodom Ranariddh Party and FUNCINPEC from carrying out political activities such as meetings and, in some cases, local authority crackdowns on meetings and taking down of a political party’s signboard. Evidently, there was violence involved in taking down a Sam Rainsy Party signboard, causing Member of Parliament for Phnom Penh H.E. Mr. HO Vann to be injured on March 22, 2008. The taking down of a Sam Rainsy Party signboard also took place in Pailin. A Norodom Ranariddh Party signboard in Banteay Meanchey was also taken down. In total, until now, there have been at least 20 cases of taking down of political parties’ signboards. These cases, which have happened to non-ruling parties, have not been addressed fairly and effectively.

The political party and candidate registration for the elections is due within less than one month. However, the Prince Norodom Ranariddh case has not been settled yet. This can be considered as contributing to an unequal election contest: the leader, and maybe a potential candidate, of one party cannot contest in the upcoming elections.

Civil society highly appreciates the efforts of the Royal Government and competent authorities who have ensured that the 2008 pre-election environment has seen no cases of murder and severe violence towards politician. However, the competent authorities should continue to try their best to stop arrests, intimidation and violence towards political party activists and politician. The Royal Government, competent authorities and relevant stakeholders should make efforts to effectively settle any case to ensure a good environment for free and fair elections and to ensure politicians and political party leaders (such as Prince Norodom Ranariddh) can contest in the elections fairly without any fear.

Phnom Penh, March 27, 2008

COMFREL NICFEC CHRAC

______________
For further information, please contact:
1. Mr. KOUL Panha, COMFREL's Executive Director, 012 942 017
2. Mr. HANG Puthea, NICFEC's Executive Director, 012 959 666
3. Mr. SOUN Sareth, CHRAC's Secretariat, 012 830 422

-------
(1) This was noted in LICADHO and ADHOC’s report on Cambodian Human Rights December 2007: ‘Charade Justice’.
(2) According to LICADHO’s report and the Cambodia Daily, published on March 24, 2008 (P
.5).

Calling all our Compatriots to Join - SRP


Click on Picture to zoom in

Calling all our Compatriots to Jointhe Mass Demonstration
Organized by SRP Members of Parliament
to Demand that the Government Lower the Prices of Merchandises
or Provide Salary Increases for Civil Servants and Factory Workers
Commensurate with the Prices of Goods

The Sam Rainsy Party (SRP) is organizing a mass demonstration in Phnom Penh on Sunday, April 6, 2008, to demand that the government lower the prices of merchandises or provide salary increases for civil servants, factory workers and all employees commensurate with the prices of goods.

Over the past few months, the prices of goods have been soaring, in particular for gasoline, rice, meat, fish, vegetables and all kinds of foodstuffs. For example, currently, the price of gasoline has increased to almost 5,000 riels per liter and the price of rice is close to 4,000 riels per kilo.

The increase in the prices of goods is caused by several factors. Some of these factors are related to the situation on the international markets, whereas others are related to ineptitude in the economic management of our country. It is a fact that the prices of goods have increased in neighboring countries, but these increases are minimal compared to the rate of inflation in our country where the prices of goods have increased from twofold to threefold (100% to 200%) over a one-year period.

The sharp increase in the prices of goods in Cambodia is due to corruption and incompetence on the part of the government.

Corruption is behind the heavy tax burden on the population (in particular for gasoline), but the bulk of the taxes collected does not go to the state coffer, instead, it goes in to fill the pockets of corrupt government officials. Corruption is also behind commercial monopolies in various sectors of the economy because a number of cunning merchants and dishonest companies pay bribes to government officials in order to obtain those monopolies so that they can curtail competition and increase the price of goods and services as they please. Meanwhile, the inept government is unable to manage the economy properly and causes the riel (our national currency) to weaken vis-à-vis neighboring countries' currencies, which is another cause for the sharp inflation in Cambodia.

When Sam Rainsy was the Minister of Economy and Finance between 1993 and 1994, the prices of goods on the market were low and stable. At that time, the price of one liter of gasoline was only 600 riels, and one kilo of rice cost only 600 riels. The riel was much stronger (2,500 riels to the US dollar), which helped curb inflation.

In order to reduce the prices of goods on the market right now, the SRP demands that the government adopt the following measures:

1- Lower taxes on gasoline from the current 1,200 riels per liter to 500 riels per liter, and lower the profit margin made by gasoline distributors from 700 riels to 400 riels per liter. These two measures alone will lower the overall price of gasoline by 1,000 riels per liter, and they will bring down the price of gasoline to be in par with prices in neighboring countries. This is a necessary condition to stop the illegal smuggling of gasoline.

2- End the commercial monopolies granted to a number of cunning merchants and dishonest companies which allow them to increase the prices of goods as they please because of the lack of effective competition. This situation is possible because of the protection provided to these cunning merchants and dishonest companies by corrupt government officials.

3- Ensure an adequate economic, financial and monetary policy so as to preserve the stability of the riel and to prevent it from depreciating against neighboring countries' currencies such as the Thai Bath.

4- Control the printing of bank notes so as to avoid issuing paper money in an irresponsible and disorderly manner. Ensure that any increase in the money supply match with actual economic growth and the level of foreign reserves owned by Cambodia. If the government continues to inflate the money supply by secretly printing bank notes, especially for political reasons (to buy votes before the upcoming elections), the riel will continue to depreciate and inflation will continue to accelerate.

5- Implement land reform by distributing unused state-owned lands to landless farmers or those who do not have enough land to live on, so as to increase agricultural production nationwide. Rice production in particular will be increased to a maximum in order to meet demand and to lower the price of this staple on the market. For the tens of thousands of hectares of lands grabbed or stolen from the State or from the people by corrupt government officials and cunning businessmen, they must be returned back to the people so that Cambodian farmers can effectively plant crops needed to counter inflation.

If the government is unwilling or unable to implement the five above-described measures to lower the prices of goods, then it must increase the salaries of civil servants, teachers, policemen and soldiers, as well as factory workers and all employees at a rate that is commensurate with the rate of inflation. For example, if the prices of goods double, salaries must also be doubled.

Otherwise, the people's living conditions will undeniably deteriorate and the government will have to take the responsibility for this deterioration in the people's living conditions.

[signed]

The 24 SRP Members of ParliamentFor more information please call 092 854 053 or 012 858 857 or 012 731 111

Cambodian PM accuses media of linking Islam with terrorism

Radio Australia

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen has accused major media organisations like CNN and the BBC of unfairly linking terrorism to Islam.

He made the comments in an opening speech at a two-day international conference on interfaith cooperation for peace, being held in Phnom Penh.

Hun Sen said it is inaccurate to link the world's 1 billion Muslim population to acts committed by small numbers of people.

He said when terrorism occurs in one place, a politician or the media will link it to Muslims as a whole.

''Terrorism is terrorism. It has nothing related to religion,'' he said.''Therefore, all politicians and media should change their attitudes in using any words relating to Islam.''

He said the "biggest mistakes" had been made by major television networks such as America's CNN, Britain's BBC and TV5 of France.

Representatives from the 10 ASEAN member states are taking part in the conference, as well as Australia, New Zealand, Fiji and Papua New Guinea.

Shin Satellite Subsidiary Launches DTH Service In Cambodia

April 3, 2008

[Satellite Today – 4-3-08] Cambodian DTV Network Ltd. is launching a new direct-to-home (DTH) service in Cambodia, Shin Satellite announced April 3.

The Shin Satellite subsidiary will launch Techo-DTV, which will be the first satellite television network service that provides DTH television programming to every household in Cambodia.

The viewers will be able to receive all local channels and some international channels, with a pay TV service becoming available in the near future.

The price is $75, including a 60-centimeter Ku-band satellite dish and set-top-box unit.

“The Techo-DTV service will not only be focused to provide the existing Khmer channels but to be equipped with the potential capability to develop new programs for long-distance education to rural areas,” Nuthapong Temsiripong, general manager of Cambodian DTV Network, said in a statement

Two Internews Trainees Fight HIV/AIDS in Cambodia

Sangoeun with a monk at Impoverish Meas Monastery, before meditation with HIV positive soldiers. Both are HIV/AIDS trainers.

internews.org

(April 3, 2008) Phnom Penh – For years, Sergeant Yoeun Sangoeun’s weapon was his AK-47 rifle, used to fight enemies like the Khmer Rouge. It was only three years ago through Internews Mekong Turnaround project that he discovered another weapon – the media.

On July 14, 2001, Yoeun Sangoeun began to conquer an invisible enemy. Since he was diagnosed with HIV that fateful day, he has learned first hand of the discrimination and injustice against soldiers living with HIV. Together with Internews’ network of journalists and the Internews Europe Mekong Turnaround project, Sangoeun has created a series of stories that have significantly impacted this largely marginalized group.

Sangoeun, now 40 years old, leads a support group for HIV-positive soldiers and their families who receive treatment and reside at Preah Ket Mealea military hospital in Phnom Penh.

Sangoeun joined ten HIV-positive representatives of diverse backgrounds for a basic Internews training in communication skills in 2005, and an advanced training in 2006. Hands-on mentoring in an Internews Local Voices project complements formal training. This instruction and preparation aims to improve journalists’ coverage of HIV -issues.

So when he learned that his fellow soldiers were to be evicted from the hospital and left with no choice but to return to their military units despite their fragile health, Sangoeun was quick to put his new media communication knowledge to use. Sangoeun got the new knowledge during his Internews training on media, ethics and HIV/AIDS in November 2007.

One of the journalists with whom he worked was Chheang Bopha, an experienced print journalist and Internews trainee with Radio France International. Bopha – a woman – is conspicuous in the male-dominated profession, but her prominence in the field is also due to her balanced coverage of important political and social issues. Sangoeun arranged for her to interview soldiers who had been evicted or who anticipated a similar imminent fate. (See the text transcript of the radio report (PDF), aired in Khmer-language on RFI and FM 102, November 2007 by Chheang Bopha)

According to Sangoeun, most soldiers have opportunistic illnesses or are on anti-retroviral treatment (ART) and are too weak to work. “Currently, they’re using anti-retroviral drugs to prolong their lives and their health isn’t better yet. Some still have low CD4 levels,” he said.

Sangoeun said that while some are strong enough to return to their military units and are able to get medical services nearby, most are too weak and thus have nowhere else to go because their bases are their official registered residence.

The soldiers’ plight was aired locally in Khmer-language on France International Radio and Beehive Radio, FM 102. Following the broadcast, the deputy chief of the military hospital, a one-star general, approached Sangoeun to negotiate the soldiers’ return.

It was the latest victory for PLHIV (People Living with HIV) in Cambodia, and a prime example of how powerful the media and PLHIV can be when they join forces to reduce social stigma and discrimination against HIV/AIDS. Earlier, Sangoeun’s cooperation with Koh Santipheap (Island of Peace) journalist Meng Leng revealed corruption in the medical field, exposing doctors who were illegally selling ARVs to HIV-positive soldiers in the military hospital. The resulting shift in policy was unusual in a country where rampant corruption plagues the health system. A feature about his military life also provided a rare glimpse into the life of HIV-positive soldiers.

These success stories illustrate how the Internews Europe Mekong Turnaround project effectively raised the voices of many PLHIV in the media. Early this year, Sangoeun was selected for a six-month Internews internship aimed at refining his media skills and enabling him work with other PLHIV to improve their ability to advocate through the media.

The project is funded by DFID (The Department for International Development)

Local Buddhist temples plan for April 13 new year observance

Thursday, April 3, 2008
The Dallas Morning News

During the 1970s, Paul Thai, like most of his fellow countrymen, lived in terror during the reign of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia.

Despite the many hardships from those years, the Dallas police lieutenant said, one of his fondest childhood memories was celebrating Chaul Chnam Thmey, or the Cambodian new year.

For many years, Lt. Thai has worked in Dallas to re-create the celebration, which falls on April 13 this year.

"In Cambodia, the new year observance lasts three days and three nights," said Lt. Thai, one of the first Asian-Americans to serve in the Dallas Police Department.

"During this time, everyone was off from work and all businesses were closed. It was a very exciting event for everyone, and especially for my family."

"My family would get together with our relatives and go to the Buddhist temple, where we played games," said Lt. Thai, who works with the neighborhood police coordination unit.

"At night we would watch outdoor movies at the temple ...What a treat!"

Several Asian countries celebrate the start of the new year this month – including Cambodia, Thailand, Laos and Myanmar (Burma). The celebrations combine Buddhist beliefs, ancient astrology and the solar calendar. Festivities last from three to seven days and are marked by the pouring or sprinkling of water for a symbolic cleansing for the new year.

Leck Keovilay, a Laotian community volunteer, said the day before the new year is spent cleaning house and preparing food. "The second day, we normally go to the temple and offer food to the monks and spend the day praying. The next day is spent celebrating, visiting with friends, holding parades and attending festivals."

Several area Buddhist temples will hold new year celebrations. The festivities are free and open to the public and will take place from 10 a.m. to about 4 p.m. Food is often brought to the monks, who offer blessings for the coming year. At most locations, there will be food booths, cultural performances, games, parades and, of course, the splashing of water.

Cambodia launches first satellite TV network

chinaview.cn
2008-04-03

PHNOM PENH, April 3 (Xinhua) -- The national Television of Kampuchea (TVK) and the Cambodian DTV Network Limited (CDN), a branch of the Shin Satellite Company from Thailand, here on Thursday launched Techo-DTV, the first satellite TV network of Cambodia.

"From now on, people in all the corners of Cambodia will be able to watch all programs of our TV networks easily through this satellite TV network," said Khieu Kahnarith, Cambodian government spokesman and Minister of Information.

People who live at all kinds of geographical locations will be able to watch TV programs through this satellite TV service, he said.

The Cambodia National Election Committee (NEC) will be able to use this satellite TV network to educate people about election process for the general election in July, he added.

Kem Kunnawadh, director general of TVK, said that Techo-DTV is the country's first satellite television network service that can provide Direct-to-Home (DTH) television programs to every household in the kingdom.

The viewers will enjoy watching all local Khmer channels and some foreign channels, he said, adding that people can also subscribe to pay TV service in the near future.

Dumrong Kasemset, Chief of Executive for the Shin Satellite Company, said that the main benefit of Techo-DTV service includes digital quality of picture and sound similar to that of DVD and convenience to install at every location of houses and buildings.

The DTV service sells 75 U.S. dollars with satellite dish and antenna.

Urban Cambodian people can now access cable TV networks, while about 20 percent of the 14 million population in remote places can't access TV service. Satellite TV will be their solution if they can afford it.

Editor: Song Shutao

Cambodia King Ratifies Asean Rights Charter,Says Ministry-AFP

4-3-08

PHNOM PENH (AFP)--Cambodia's King Norodom Sihamoni has ratified a landmark new human rights charter aimed at transforming the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, the foreign ministry said Thursday.

The king ratified it on Monday, making Cambodia the sixth member of the bloc to do so, the ministry said in a statement.

The charter, signed in Singapore last year, aims to commit the region's disparate nations to promoting human rights and democratic ideals while setting out principles and rules for members.

"The Asean Charter is an historic milestone document," the ministry said.

"All Asean member countries are fully committed to bring the charter into force by the time of the next Asean summit in Thailand later this year," the statement added.

Brunei, Laos, Malaysia, Singapore and Vietnam have already ratified the charter, which also transforms the 40-year-old Asean into a legal entity, giving it greater clout in international negotiations.

The bloc wants all 10 members to ratify it before an annual summit in Thailand in December.
The charter was the result of a long, controversial drafting process that saw some of the strong recommendations from elder statesmen watered down or dropped, including provisions on sanctions and expulsion.

Asean's original five members were Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand. Brunei, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam joined later.

US Cambodian Seeks to Unite Victims

By Taing Sarada, VOA Khmer
Original report from Washington
03 April 2008

Khmer audio aired April 2 (1.84 MB) - Download (MP3)
Khmer audio aired April 2 (1.84 MB) - Listen (MP3)

Nou Leakhena founded the Applied Social Research Institute of Cambodia as a way to bring Cambodians together, to help them heal, and teach them to trust .

Working with those traumatized by the brutality of Cambodia's wars, the Khmer Rouge or the current government, Nou Leakhena , who is Cambodian-American, is slowly building a community of understanding, healing, and, she hopes, justice.

The Institute is also compiling data on trauma suffered by Cambodians.

"The root of the problem is that the people themselves don’t trust each other, even the Khmer people in America," Nou Leakhena, PhD, said in a recent interview. "The key factor for the local Khmer people in seeking justice is whether they should be united between Khmer and Khmer and build up strong solidarity among each other, then demand justice by itself before asking for assistantce from outside.”

The Institute is recording information from victims of the Khmer Rouge, and helping people identify whether, under the laws of the Khmer Rouge tribunal in Phnom Penh, they are victims.

The Institute held a forum in March that gathered around 100 participants, who shared their experiences and testimonies.

"It is our belief that the testimonials given will not only benefit the mental health of the participants in the immediate and long term, but they will also help provide critical evidence to be used in the prosecuting Khmer Rouge leaders in captivity," Nou Leakhena said.

The Institute not only wanted to help tribunal proceedings, but to assist modern Cambodia.
"There are all kinds of human rights violations happening in Cambodia now," she said. "The powerful and rich violate the poor and the powerless."

Koy Saveun, a participant for the Institute's March forum, said the gathering was important to help him "clearly identify what justice is."

"Before you seek justice in society, you had better seek justice from yourself and your family," he said.

Pig Imports Shake New, Worrisome Sector

By Ros Sothea, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
02 April 2008

Khmer audio aired April 2 (1.73MB) - Download (MP3)
Khmer audio aired April 2 (1.73MB) - Listen (MP3)

Cambodian pig farming is increasingly changing from a family-owned business to big agricultural business.

This has led some to worry about the health of eating pork, but now farmers in this emerging sector are facing a new problem: the lifting of a government ban on the import of pigs.

Most farmers say that if they provide food they make themselves, it takes a lot of time to grow a pig, and even then the pig won't be that big, after eight months.

If, however, a pig is raised with food additives in a pig yard, farmers see large, 100-kilogram pigs in just five or six months.

Until the government lifted the import ban last week, these farmers were enjoying a boon in prices, and in pig size, two months sooner than they were used to.

Now, many farmers say they are exasperated and may leave the trade altogether.

Tan Yek Sun, a pig farmer in Kampong Cham province, told VOA Khmer recently she had been raising pigs for the past 10 years, about 400 in total.

Now, she said, pigs won't sell at a high price, thanks to competition from imports from abroad.
"Farmers will die, and they are going to stop raising pigs, because the price of pigs is decreasing," she said.
According to the Ministry of Agriculture, 23.8 million pigs were raised by single families in 2007.
Meanwhile, there are about 287 large-scale pig farms, most of which use food additives, worrying experts.

Meng Kimse, an agricultural expert at the Center for Studies and Development of Cambodian Agriculture, said some additives, which consist of antibiotics and hormones, can be carcinogenic.

Despite such worries, Cambodians are unlikely to stop eating pork altogether.

"I am worried about the health effects of additives," said Keo Mom, a Phnom Penh housewife who eats pork daily. "But I have no choice but to buy pork."

Heng Pov Pleas for Frozen Assets

By Chiep Mony, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
03 April 2008

Jailed former police chief Heng Pov has appealed to an adviser of Prime Minister Hun Sen to release court-frozen funds so that he can continue to defend himself against a battery of charges.

Heng Pov, who, as the police chief of Phnom Penh, was in the top circle of Cambodia's security apparatus, is serving a sentence of more than 40 years for involvement in murders, kidnappings and possession of illegal weapons and counterfeit bills.

In an April 1 letter to Om Yentieng, head of Cambodia's Human Rights Committee and adviser to Hun Sen, Heng Pov pleaded for the release of the frozen funds.

Heng Pov wrote he needed the money for his lawyer, school fees for his children and medication for himself.

Phnom Penh Municipal Court had not responded to similar requests in the past, he wrote.
Lawyer Kao Sopha confirmed Heng Pov had asked for the funds to be released from Canadia Bank, where Heng Pov has more than $900,000.

Heng Pov requested to withdraw $200,000, Kao Sopha said, adding Heng Pov had money in other banks but he did not know how much.

Om Yentieng has yet to respond to the letter, and he could not be reached for comment Thursday.

Phnom Penh Municipal Court Chief Chiev Keng declined comment Thursday.

Heng Pov is facing demands of compensation from victims, Phnom Penh Municipal Court Investigating Judge Sao Meach said.

The courts froze Heng Pov's funds in 2006, writing that the money would be held until all cases against him are heard.

Australia Grants Tribunal Extension Money

By Mean Veasna, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
03 April 2008

Khmer audio aired April 3 (949 KB) - Download (MP3)
Khmer audio aired April 3 (949 KB) - Listen (MP3)

The cash-strapped Khmer Rouge tribunal received $456,000 from Australia Thursday, enough, officials said, to continue the Cambodian side of operations through December 2008.

"We consider [the tribunal's] continued operation and smooth and ongoing activity in the prosecution of those trials to be of a high priority, not just for Cambodia, but for the region and the world," said Australian Parliamentary Secretary for International Development Assistance Bob McMullan, who announced the contribution Thursday.

The infusion will allow the Cambodian side to operate as long as the UN-side of the hybrid courts, as the courts move from the investigation to trial phase.

"This is a very good sign, a very encouraging sign for us, for the second phase," tribunal spokeswoman Helen Jarvis said.

In total, the tribunal is seeking as much as $114 million to extend proceedings against five jailed Khmer Rouge leaders through 2011.

While some donors are considering further funding, others have said they need assurances the tribunal will meet international standards.

"Australia is contributing among the others," Council Minister Sok An said at the announcement of the funding Thursday. "The other countries within the international community…will contribute, and I think we will have no problem on the issue of financing."

With the Australian money "we have so far enough funds to run until the end of 2008," he said.

Thaksin to Visit Hun Sen for Weekend Golf

By Heng Reaksmey, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
03 April 2008

Former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra is scheduled to make an unofficial visit Saturday and Sunday for a round of golf with Prime Minister Hun Sen, Thai media reported Thursday.

Government spokesman Khieu Kanharith confirmed Thaksin would visit, but said he was not sure whether the former premier was coming this weekend or next.

Thaksin, who was ousted in a bloodless coup in 2006, has retained close ties with Cambodia, Hun Sen has said.

Thaksin lived in exile for 17 months, returning to Thailand in February. Under Thaksin, the Thai government faced allegations of corruption and rights abuses, and he was prime minister during the 2003 anti-Thai riots in Phnom Penh.