Tuesday, 15 April 2008

A bootiful gesture

BOOTS MADE FOR KICKING: New boots bring a smile to the face of a Cambodian child and (inset) David Lewis.

Source: Southern Courier
Author: Joshua Levi
Tue 15 Apr, 2008

Underprivileged Cambodian children are wearing the best soccer boots money can buy thanks to the generosity of Eastern Suburbs parents and the Indochina Starfish Foundation.

Eastern Suburbs Football Association representative David Lewis recently travelled to Cambodia with hundreds of soccer boots for the kids and saw firsthand the squalid conditions kids live in.

"The kids go to the rubbish dump every day and just collect items that they can sell so that their family can eat," he said. "They earn about 25 cents a day. I can't even describe the rubbish dump because it is literally mountains of rubbish, you can smell the stench from kilometres away."

Lewis said the foundation's program seemed to be working.

"Instead of throwing money at these people, we provide food to parents, which is worth a lot more than 25 cents, on the proviso that the parents send their kids to our schools," he said.

"Then we tell the kids that they can have the outfits and play soccer if they attend classes, so everyone wins."

Many Eastern Suburbs parents throw out soccer boots valued at nearly $200 after only a year because kids are grow out of them. Lewis now asks local clubs for boots at the end of every season to send to Cambodia.

"Our kids are kitted out better than their national soccer team," he said. "If you take into account that they earn 25 cents a day, you can only imagine what it must be like to get soccer boots worth more than $100 that, in many cases, have only been worn about 30 times."

Through his friend Puma Korea general manager Ian Woodcock, Lewis has also secured more than $10,000 worth of brand new puma gear.

Lewis said the foundation would now focus on providing better resources for education.

"Australian schools waste paper, books, coloured pencils and pens, these kids don't have basic supplies," he said. Over the next year we will have a major focus on collecting second hand items and items that we often waste."

Petra Nemcova horrified by human trafficking in Cambodia

April 15th, 2008
by admin

Washington, Apr 15 (ANI): Witnessing human trafficking first-hand during a recent visit to Cambodia left supermodel-turned-humanitarian Petra Nemcova totally shaken and horrified.

Nemcova was so shocked by the experience that she teamed up with Southeast Asian-based charity the Somaly Mam Foundation in an effort to raise awareness for the devastating crimes.

“It makes me so angry. Girls and boys get sold as young as four-years-old and are put in animal cages. Some of them never see the light anymore, Contactmusic quoted her as saying.

We met this girl who was 13 and a pimp made her lose her right eye. The words ‘pimp’ and ‘child’ should never be in the same sentence,” she added.

The Czech Republic-born model was very much moved by the foundation and its work, with its main purpose being to seek and rescue women and girls from the horrors of a life in brothels or on the streets.

Nemcova displayed her support by wearing a dress hand-sewn by women rescued by the group, to a recent charity gala.

The model had suffered her own hardship during her 2004 vacation in Thailand, where she got caught in a tsunami, receiving multiple broken bones and internal injuries and losing her fiance, photographer Simon Atlee. (ANI)

Survivor tale to inspire students

Press-Telegram Los Angeles
By Greg Mellen, Staff Writer

LONG BEACH - It was another typically busy day in the Wilson High library.

Librarian Lia Ladas was watching students meander through a school visual arts display, which was concluding its weeklong run at the school, on Thursday.

She was also eagerly looking forward to today's visit by a local writer for Author's Day.

Ladas, who has been at Wilson for four years, said this was the first time she had the funding to present an Author's Day program.

After a sellout response, she hopes to make it an annual occasion.

Today, Oni Vitandham, a survivor of the Khmer Rouge genocide in Cambodia, will talk to students about tales from her autobiography "On the Wings of a White Horse." She will also sign copies of her book for sale.

Vitandham says she has spoken more than 15 times locally in recent years. She will talk to students about her battle to survive in Cambodia between 1975 and 1979 during the brutal Khmer Rouge regime, under which about 1.7 million Cambodians died, and her subsequent tribulations as a refugee in the United States.

"I try to provide inspiration to kids," says Vitandham, who understands firsthand the despair, fear and poverty many teens live with in Long Beach.

Ladas said she was finally able to put on an Author's Day program when she received $250 in funding. She says that since announcing the presentation she has been inundated with interest and will have a standing-room-only crowd of 250 for each of the two sessions.

Vitandham will speak in one-hour blocks at 9:45 a.m. and 11:45 a.m. and will also be available at a lunch at 11 a.m.

The Wilson talk is the first in a busy slate for Vitandham, who is traveling to Goodyear, Ariz., near Phoenix, for three days of talks.

Ladas, despite the seating challenges, is happy with the Author's Day experiment. The librarian also provided study packets for teachers who will be bringing their classes to the talk.

"It's brought a whole new dimension to the job (of) dealing with the authors," Ladas said. "I'm enjoying it."

She also hopes Vitandham's book and story will highlight the need for more multicultural literature in schools.

Cambodia quietly marks Pol Pot's death


Agence France-Presse

PHNOM PENH -- Cambodia on Tuesday quietly marked the 10-year anniversary of Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot's death, amid fears that time is running out to try his aging surviving cadre before a genocide tribunal.

Pol Pot, the tyrant who turned Cambodia into the killing fields in the late 1970s, died on April 15, 1998, reportedly from heart attack, in the remote northern Cambodian outpost of Anlong Veng, the Khmer Rouge's final stronghold.

He was unceremoniously cremated under a pile of rubbish and tires.

"Pol Pot died a criminal, responsible for millions of lives," said Youk Chhang, director of the Documentation Center of Cambodia, which collects evidence of Khmer Rouge atrocities. "He is not the kind of person Cambodian people should commemorate."

Nhem En, deputy governor of Anlong Veng and a former Khmer Rouge member, told AFP by telephone: "It is the 10-year anniversary of Pol Pot's death, but there is no commemoration for his soul."

Up to two million people died of overwork and starvation or were executed under the 1975-79 rule of the Khmer Rouge, which abolished religion, property rights, currency and schools.

Millions more were driven from the cities onto vast collective farms as Pol Pot's ultra-Maoist regime sought to create an agrarian utopia.

"Pol Pot is a person the world hates," said Nhem En, a former photographer at the Khmer Rouge's notorious Tuol Sleng torture center in Phnom Penh.

A joint Cambodia-UN tribunal convened in 2006 after nearly a decade of haggling has experienced delays and a funding crisis, raising concerns that the defendants could die before standing trial for their alleged role in one of the 20th century's worst atrocities.

As tribunal officials try to pull together the additional $114 million needed to finish the process, many of the five defendants detained by the court complain of weakening health.

One of them, 82-year-old Ieng Sary, has been repeatedly hospitalized.

"If one of them dies (without standing trial), it is a failure for the court and is not acceptable," said Youk Chhang. "The justice that we wanted from Pol Pot died along with him."

Public trials of the regime's five top leaders are expected to begin later this year.

Originally budgeted at $56.3 million over three years, the tribunal has raised its cost estimates to $170 million, which would allow the court to continue operating until 2011.

Court officials travelled to the United Nations in New York in March to seek $114 million, but so far only Australia has come through, promising $450,000 more for the cash-strapped court.

International backers appear hesitant to pledge more money to the process amid allegations of mismanagement and political interference.


Caption: Petra Nemcova. Somaly Mam Foundation Benefit held at the Tribeca Rooftop Grill - Arrivals. New York City, USA - 08.04.08

Also see: Petra Nemcova
Courtesy of http://www.contactmusic.com

Supermodel-turned-humanitarian PETRA NEMCOVA was horrified after witnessing first-hand the brutality of human trafficking during a recent visit to Cambodia.

The Czech Republic-born model was so jarred by the experience she has teamed up with Southeast Asian-based charity the Somaly Mam Foundation in an effort to raise awareness for the devastating crimes.

She says, "It makes me so angry. Girls and boys get sold as young as four-years-old and are put in animal cages. Some of them never see the light anymore. We met this girl who was 13 and a pimp made her lose her right eye. The words 'pimp' and 'child' should never be in the same sentence."

Nemcova was so moved by the Foundation, which seeks to rescue women and girls from the horrors of a life in brothels or on the streets, she wore a dress hand-sewn by women rescued by the group to a recent charity gala.

The model suffered her own hardship during a 2004 vacation to Thailand, surviving multiple broken bones and internal injuries when a tsunami hit land, killing her then-boyfriend, photographer Simon Atlee, and leaving her stranded for hours in a palm tree.

Spirits of People Belief : Keeping out the bad spirits

This Ting Mong has a body of straw and a face drawn on paper

Keep your eyes open for Ting Mong like this next time you're in the countryside

Close-up of this Ting Mong that didn't scare away the cattle!

A Ting Mong found on Route 6 just outside Kompong Thom

Courtesy of Andy's Cambodia: http://www.andybrouwer.co.uk/

Scarecrows are usually found in a field of corn or other crops to scare away birds but in Cambodia they can also be seen outside homes and are called Ting Mong. As part of village life and the belief systems of Cambodians in the countryside, animism plays a central role in those beliefs which can be seen in the relevance of spirit forces like Neak Ta and the Ting Mong.

People believe that an unknown force is embodied in the scarecrow, puppet-like figure, which they call Ting Mong, that will protect them from disease or death. Often you will find these Ting Mong constructed using spare clothes and placed in front of the house doorway in the belief that it has the power to drive away the spirit of disease, danger or death including epidemics of dengue fever for example. Ting Mong is also the name given to the larger-than-life puppets with giant heads that you see at certain festivals in the Khmer calendar.

Visit Ten Historical Places of Cambodia

Courtesy of http://www.associatedcontent.com/
Apr 14, 2008

The Kingdom of Cambodia belongs to the Southeast Asian nations. Cambodia relies solely on its textile and garment production and industry as well as tourism to sustain the needs of the country. As for tourism, everybody wants to go visit Cambodia's historical places, and here are some of them.

1.) Angkor Archeological Park

This is the location of the world-famous Khmer civilization, a civilization so modern during its time that it still awes its present-day visitors. Here, you can visit the Temple of Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom as well as the Bayon Temple. The best way to view all that Angkor has to offer is to take one of their tours, since they are more comprehensive than by just touring it yourself.

2.) Bokor National Park

This national park is the site where an old and dilapidated French hill station is located. It is rich in history as a lot of Khmer lost their lives for the creation of this used-to-be magnificent building. But other than this, you can also see a myriad of floras and faunas in the national park.

3.) Kampong Cham

This is Cambodia's third biggest city and is also a popular tourist destination, although not as popular as Phnom Penh and Siem Reap. You can also see a lot of beautiful places here like the Nokor Wat as well as the Bamboo Bridge that connects Koh Paen to Mekong. This city is also rich in French influence.

4.) Kompong Luong

This floating town is a must-see if your destination is Cambodia. This is a floating village in Tonle Sap where you can experience Cambodian culture firsthand. It is a delight to any foreigner to see schools and houses and restaurants float over the lake of Tonle Sap.

5.) Phnom Penh

Recognized as the biggest city of Cambodia, it is also Cambodia's capital city. There is a lot you can do here like visiting the Sisowath Bay where you can enjoy its quasi-carnival ambiance. This is also where The Royal Palace is located as well as The National Museum.

6.) Banlung

Here in Banlung, you will definitely enjoy visiting Yeak Laom Volcanic Lake where you can take picnics as well as swim in the lake. Virachey National Park is also located here, or you can visit the Wat Rahtanharahm where you can find the famous reclining Buddha. There are also a lot of wonderful waterfalls that you can visit here like Cha Ong and Kan Chang.

7.) Battambang

These are the must-go-to places in Battambang. You have to visit Wat Banan or what they call small Angkor Wat, and you have to go to Wat Baydamram or the bat temple where you can see fruit bats live in hundreds. Wat Ek Phnom is also a must-see place in this area.

8.) Resort town of Kep

This is a favorite seaside destination in Cambodia. Here, get to enjoy the Cambodian sun as you dine in platforms and eat fresh seafoods, and this is a great place where you can just relax and enjoy the sun and the sea. Visiting the Rabbit Island is also a must as you will definitely enjoy its white sand beaches.

9.) Koh Kong

Koh Kong is more for the nature lover as you will definitely enjoy majestic views of mountains and waterfalls as well as jungles. You can also visit their local zoo and the casino here if you want a more modern touch. Boat tours are popular here as you visit its islands and mangroves.

10.) Siem Reap

It is another favorite tourist spot in Cambodia. What you can see here is the Landmine Museum, which is dedicated to teaching and educating both the locals and the visitors about the hazards of land mines. You can also find a floating village here called the Kampong Phluck.

Cambodia Protects Endangered Bird

In this photo released by Allan Michaud, a Bengal Florican is seen in Kampong Thom province, about 130 kilometers (80 miles) north of the capital Phnom Penh, Cambodia, on May 13, 2006. Conservationists in Cambodia think they may be turning the corner in their fight to save one of the world's rarest birds. Since 2005, a rush to turn grasslands into large-scale rice farms has gobbled up one-third of the habitat of the Bengal Florican in Cambodia, threatening the critically endangered bird with extinction. Most of the world's Bengal Floricans, believed to number less than 1,000, live in scattered pockets on the fringes of Cambodia's Great Lake.(AP Photo/Allan Michaud)


STOUNG, Cambodia (AP) — Conservationists in Cambodia think they may be turning the corner in their fight to save one of the world's rarest birds.

The Bengal Florican, known in Cambodia as "the whispering bird," is remarkable for a male mating display that amounts to a dance competition to attract a mate.

Since 2005, a rush to turn grasslands into large-scale rice farms has gobbled up one-third of the Bengal Florican's habitat in Cambodia, threatening the critically endangered bird with extinction.

Now, a land protection plan devised by the New York-based Wildlife Conservation Society, along with British-based BirdLife International and Cambodian authorities, appears to be slowing this controversial real estate grab.

Most of the world's Bengal Floricans, believed to number less than 1,000, live in scattered pockets on the fringes of Cambodia's Great Lake. The rest are in India, Nepal and Vietnam.

The Cambodian program to protect Florican habitat bans development in five zones totaling 135 square miles. Villages and farms within the zones can remain, preserving traditional ways of life.
Police patrol by motorbike during the dry season and by boat when floods come.

Since the program was adopted, three planned developments have been canceled and another put on hold, says Tom Evans, a Wildlife Conservation Society technical adviser in Cambodia.

"Some prospective developers have been deterred at an earlier stage when they learned that the areas had a special designation," he added.

More such zones, dubbed Integrated Farming and Biodiversity Areas, are planned.

In mid-March, the height of the dry season, the grasslands near Great Lake are at their bleakest. They stretch to the horizon, brown and flat under the blazing sun, with barely a tree to break the monotony. Smoke curls into the air where farmers burn off scrub to rejuvenate pasture for their cattle. Ox carts trundle down deeply rutted tracks. An occasional motor vehicle kicks up clouds of dust.

But for the patient and the sharp-eyed, this landscape offers a sight to behold: the courtship display of the male Bengal Florican.

The bird, a black-and-white bustard that looks like a small ostrich, struts into a clearing, stretches its long neck and ruffles up its feathers. Then, it flits into the air before fluttering back to the ground in an undulating pattern, like a parachutist caught in a crosswind.

As it descends, it emits a deep humming sound that has earned it its Cambodian name, "the whispering bird." The displays are usually carried out within sight of other males, in what amounts to an open dance competition to attract a mate.

"They're really unique," says Lotty Packman, a 24-year-old researcher from the University of East Anglia in England. "They're very striking and very charismatic."

Packman was spending long days in the heat, netting Floricans and attaching tracking devices to learn more about them, especially the elusive female of which very little is known.

"You can't conserve it if you don't know its natural history," Packman said after tagging and releasing a male with a solar-powered transmitter that will send back data every two days. "It's a race against time."

The species was rediscovered in Cambodia in 1999. Until then, the country's decades-long civil war had made detailed exploration of the countryside too dangerous.

But peace has proved to be a far greater threat.

Businessmen have snapped up thousands of acres of land in often murky deals and built more than 100 strip dams, which turn the grassland into emerald-green rice paddies that can produce rice during the dry season.

Conservationists have worked hard to win the villagers' support, but despite the restrictions on development, a new plantation has been laid out in one zone and preparations have been made for another. Signs marking the protected areas have been knocked down — it's not clear by whom.

Opposition Threatens Second Strike

By Chiep Mony, VOA Khmer
Phnom Penh
14 April 2008

The opposition will hold another public demonstration in coming weeks if the government fails to check the rising cost of goods, party president Sam Rainsy said Monday.

The party held a demonstration of about 300 people April 6, but Sam Rainsy said he would lead a larger one in late April or early May through the main streets of the capital.

Cambodians have been feeling the sting of inflation in recent months, with the cost of goods, including rice, as much as doubling.

The government has sought to curb the rising prices by enacting a partial ban on the export of rice, injecting government subsidized rice into the market and lifting a ban on pig and pork from Vietnam.

Sam Rainsy said Monday he would hold a demonstration with or without permission from municipal authorities and accused the police of barring supporters from the April 6 rally.

Police have denied those allegations.

“I will inform Phnom Penh Municipality about the demonstration,” Sam Rainsy said. “Even if the Phnom Penh municipality does not permit it, [the party] will still hold that demonstration.”

Phnom Penh Deputy Governor Man Chhoeurn said decisions over demonstrations were not officially his to make, but he warned that the Sam Rainsy Party should first seek permission before demonstrating.

“If he does not do in the right way, we have difficulty understanding this,” Man Chhoeurn said. “It is better that [he] should ask for permission.”

Foreigner Caught Mailing Drugs

By Sok Khemara, VOA Khmer
14 April 2008

Khmer audio aired April 11 (812 KB) - Download (MP3)
Khmer audio aired April 11 (812 KB) - Listen (MP3)

A Danish woman is facing charges of drug smuggling, after she was caught trying to mail pills containing codeine—a controlled substance—from a Phnom Penh post office, officials said Friday.

Axelexen Johanne Vinther, 45, had mixed thousands of tablets containing codeine among other medicine and toys in a package bound for the US, officials said.

Authorities confiscated about 1 kilogram of codeine tablets for lab inspection, said Phnom Penh Municipal Court prosecutor Sok Kalyan.

“They kept only the suspect codeine tablets, and took out the toys and medicine in the package,” he said.

Codeine, a widely used opiate, remains legal to buy over the counter in Cambodia, but illegal to ship overseas.

“We have implemented Cambodia and international law,” said Lt. Gen. Lour Ramin, secretary-general of the National Drug Authority. “If she claims innocence, why did she hide codeine with medicine and toys? Now it’s a court matter.”

Vinther has said she was asked only to mail a package in exchange for money, he added.
Court officials say there will be more investigation and lab work in the case.

Several foreign nationals are serving jail time in Cambodia for attempting to mail heroin.
Vinther faces up to 20 years in jail if convicted.

Gang Beats Policeman Unconscious

By Mean Veasna, VOA Khmer
Phnom Penh
14 April 2008

Khmer audio aired April 14 (586 KB) - Download (MP3)
Khmer audio aired April 14 (586 KB) - Listen (MP3)

One policeman was knocked unconscious and another one injured following an altercation with a “gang” on the second day of New Year celebrations in Bantey Meanchey province, officials said.

Policeman Meas Samuth, one of the injured, said his colleague was conducting a traffic investigation following a collision between a motorcycle and child, when a “two gangs” began blowing whistles.

“My friend asked them to stop,” he said, adding that they told the group the police were working.

“They did not stop,” Meas Samuth said. “And then my friend asked them to give him the whistle, but they didn’t want to.”

A fracas ensued, and the youths began beating the police, knocking one of them out, Meas Samuth said.

“They started fighting me, and I ran around like they were fighting a dog,” he said.
Ten teenagers were arrested following the fight, said Yort Roy, a police official in Banthey Meanchey.

WB UN Procurement - Cambodia, RURAL ROAD MAINTENANCE


Country: Cambodia


Financing: World Bank


Sector: Consultants

Loan/Credit Number: Credit No. 3822-KH, Project ID P071207

Contract/Bid Number: Expressions of Interest

Deadline: 7 May 2008

Tel: 1 (212) 963 1516
Fax: 1 (212) 963 1381

This request for expression of interest follows the update of the general procurement notice for this project that appeared in UN Development Business No. 723 of 31 March 2008.

The Royal Government of Cambodia through the Ministry of Economy and Finance has received a credit (Credit No. 3822-KH), from the International Development Association (IDA) toward the costs of the Provincial and Road Infrastructure Project (PRIP).

The objective of the Project is to assist the Royal Government of Cambodia to enhance the livelihood in the Project Provinces by providing sustainable access to markets and essential services through: (i) a program of road rehabilitation and maintenance; (ii) a program of capacity building and training; and (iii) development of improved public policies and strategies.

The Royal Government of Cambodia represented by the Ministry of Economy and Finance has appointed Crown Agents as Procurement Agents for selected World Bank funded projects in Cambodia.

The Ministry of Rural Development (MRD) as one of the implementing agencies of PRIP intends to use part of the proceeds of the credit for the services of a qualified international individual consultant to assist MPWT to undertake the first step towards the establishment of a full pledged Rural Roads Maintenance Management System (RRMMS). The Consultant is expected to set up the framework for the system in terms of its scope and overall design in cooperation with the MRD and World Bank. The services are estimated for one month effort of the Consultant.

The selected consultant must demonstrate the following qualifications:

Bachelor Degree relevant to the assignment
At least 15 years international experience on road management systems, training and institutional development
Experience in Cambodia and/or Southeast Asia is preferred

The Crown Agents, acting for and on behalf of the Ministry of Rural Development are requesting expressions of interest from qualified international individual consultants to undertake the above mentioned services. The successful consultant will be selected in accordance with Section V. Selection of Individual Consultants under the World Banks Guidelines: Selection and Employment of Consultants by World Bank Borrowers, (January 1997, Revised September 1997, January 1999 and May 2002).

In submitting their expression of interest, interested consultants must provide updated detailed curriculum vitae indicating personal and technical skills, academic qualifications, experiences in similar assignments and names of at least three (3) referees with contact (phone or fax and e-mail address). Expressions of Interest may be submitted electronically.

Interested consultants may obtain copies of the Terms of Reference (in English) for the assignment from the address below, Monday through Friday during office hours from 0830 to 1730 hours

Expressions of interest must be submitted to the address below on or before 1730 hours on 7 May 2008.

Notice Number: WB1607-726/08
UNDB Print Edition: Issue No. 726, 16 May 2008

Japan, ASEAN finish inking free trade pact

The Post
Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Agence France Presse

TOKYO: Japan and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations said Monday they had finished signing a deal to tear down trade barriers between the world's second-largest economy and the 10-member bloc.

The deal, which is set to come into effect later this year, was formally signed Monday by Malaysia, the last of the 10 members of the ASEAN bloc to sign off. In a joint statement, Japan and the ASEAN said they looked forward to the early operation of the agreement, saying it would provide "a strong impetus for further invigoration of trade and investment in the region.

"Under the pact, which was finalised in November, about 90 percent of trade between Asia's largest economy and the ASEAN bloc will be tariff-free within 10 years.

It will be the first multinational free trade agreement (FTA) for Japan, which also has been seeking to conclude a flurry of bilateral pacts amid a breakdown in global trade negotiations.

"Japan hopes that the early entry into force of this agreement will further invigorate the trade and investment relations between Japan and ASEAN," Japanese Foreign Minister Masahiko Komura said in a statement. He said Japan hoped the deal would also beef up "the strategic partnership between Japan and ASEAN," which groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. As a next step, ASEAN members and Japan will start domestic procedures, such as seeking legislative approval, to allow the deal to come into force.

Nation’s Khmer minority celebrates New Year


VietNamNet Bridge – The middle of April is a thrilling time for Khmer ethnic people in the southern province of Soc Trang as they await Chaul Chnam Thmey (New Year's Day) Festival, their biggest event of the year.

Preparations started days before the festival. With the festival kicking off today, the weekend saw Khmer ethnic people hanging flags, decorating the pagoda with flowers and tidying houses and ancestral altars.

Chaul Chnam Thmey is a holiday unique to the Khmer ethnic people, helping them pray for an abundant crop. It is similar to Lunar New Year festivities in the rest of Vietnam.

The festival is mostly a high-spirited event, full of folk games like singing competitions, tug-of-war, boat races on the river and wrestling.

The festival takes place over three days. On the first day of the New Year, people wash up to attend the festival procession and a ceremony following Khmer people's belief, honouring God.

The ceremony runs until mid-night. Buddhist priests recite scriptures to wish luck for the New Year.

On the second day, people bring vegetarian food to the monks. The monks thank them and wish happiness for the people. The food is intended for hungry spirits.

Khmer people hope for pleasant weather by building small sandy mountains as a symbol of the universe. A man called Achar hosts the ceremony in the afternoon.

On the third day, the people wash a statue of Buddha in a formal and solemn ceremony. People then visit the graves of their forefathers and commemorate their ancestors. Following the solemn day is an upbeat festival that runs until the evening.

On this occasion, many families bathe their grandparents and eminent monks in a simple ritual to recognise their honour.

The festival is a chance for the Khmer people to bring out their local specialities, including vermicelli, swallow's nest pie, fried pie made from rice, pork, shrimp, green pea and soy-bean and pineapple pie.

(Source: Viet Nam News)

Cambodia Suspends Foreign Marriages

By Rory Byrne Phnom Penh
14 April 2008

Byrne report - Download (MP3)
Byrne report - Listen (MP3)

Cambodia has temporarily banned marriages between foreigners and Cambodians because of concerns over the rising number of brokered unions involving poor, uneducated women. The move follows the publication of a report highlighting the abuse of many Cambodian brides who went to South Korea following hastily arranged marriages. Rory Byrne reports from Phnom Penh.

The ban will at least briefly halt the increasing number of marriages of poor Cambodian women to foreign men, mostly from Taiwan and South Korea.

Most such marriages are hastily arranged by brokers who charge clients up to $20,000 for each bride. Of this, only $500 to $1,000 typically goes to the Cambodian woman's family - the brokers pocket the rest.

A recent report by the International Organization for Migration says more than 1700 South Korean marriage visas were issued to Cambodian women in 2007, up from just 72 in 2004.

The IOM says the grooms were mostly factory workers and farmers who had trouble finding wives in South Korea because of their low job status.

While the report found no evidence of systematic abuse of Cambodian women who married South Koreans, it says that many do suffer violence.

Srey Roth is the director of the Cambodia Women's Crisis Center.

"Some they cannot stay with the husband because the husband (is) so violent," Roth said. "And then the husband forces them to earn money for support their family. And they cannot get the nationality (citizenship), so it means that they stay under the husband or mother-in-law's control."

Experts say that many marriage brokers from Taiwan and South Korea have moved to Cambodia since Vietnam banned them two years ago.

Now the Cambodian government appears to be cracking down. Three South Korean marriage agencies have been closed recently, accused of using arranged marriages as a front for people trafficking.

The blanket ban on foreigners marrying Cambodians is seen as the next step in the process, designed to give the authorities here more time to properly investigate brokered marriages.

Srey Roth opposes a blanket ban on mixed-marriages, but says that the government should run background checks on all foreigners who wish to marry Cambodian women.

"I want our government (to) have one department to investigate the guy before agree(ing) the foreigner (can) marry to our Cambodian (women)," Roth said. "They should know about the background and living situation and then tell our girl and then our girl can make the decision if they want to marry or not."

Although the IOM report focuses on marriages between Cambodians and South Koreans, it emphasizes that the potential for problems exists globally. It says all brokered unions needed to be better regulated.

Cambodian officials say the ban on foreigners marrying Cambodians will be lifted after the government develops a legal framework to address these marriages.

Ith Chhun of Phnom Penh before the revolution: Gone but not forgotten

World Tribune
Monday, April 14, 2008

By Donald Kirk

The young man approached me with a simple enough offer as I strolled through the grounds of the Royal Palace near the banks of the Tonle Sap in Phnom Penh all those years ago. Did I need a guide; maybe an interpreter?

The response was easy. Sure, why not? The price was right too – less than the equivalent of US$1for a one-hour look around as music tinkled from a pavilion and dancers rehearsed a ballet for Prince Norodom Sihanouk’s entourage.

Those were “the old days” when Cambodia was, as Prince Sihanouk liked to say, “an oasis of peace”, at least as seen by correspondents visiting from the far more dangerous war in Vietnam.

My guide, Ith Chhun, had learned English from Christian missionaries, and made just enough to support himself by showing people around the palace grounds.

He was happy to interpret for me for interviews in Phnom Penh and around the country.

Cambodia then was on the verge of the war that Prince Sihanouk had hoped to avoid by staying “neutral” while the North Vietnamese set up bases near the Vietnam border. He was travelling from Europe to Moscow and Beijing when he was overthrown in March 1970 by his U.S.-backed prime minister, Lon Nol.

As the war spread, Ith Chhun interpreted for an article I wrote for The New York Times Magazine on the terrible Cambodian army and for stories for the old Washington Star on battles down deceptively tranquil roads. One morning, as we drove towards the South Vietnam border, we discovered the bodies of 90 Vietnamese, men, women and children, mowed down by Cambodian soldiers as anti-Vietnam hatred ran wild.

Later, after I got back from writing a book on the widening war, I went down roads that seemed serene and secure, turning back when old men and women warned Ith Chhun the Khmer Rouge were nearby. While journalists were getting killed on forays from Phom Penh, I reported for the Chicago Tribune on villages terrorised by Khmer Rouge executions and on high-level corruption in the capital.

These memories flashed by as I read recently of the passing in New Jersey of Dith Pran, the Cambodian interpreter who became famous from the film The Killing Fields. Dith Pran worked mainly for The New York Times correspondent Sydney Schanberg. When Schanberg was away and Ith Chhun was with his family in some outlying town, Dith Pran worked for me and others.

He and Ith Chhun were among a small group of interpreters taking the same risks, setting forth with journalists in old Mercedes-Benz cars from the Hotel Royale in Phnom Penh.

I was in New York when Cambodia fell to the Khmer Rouge, in April 1975, two years after America had stopped bombing Cambodia and left US-equipped government soldiers to fend for themselves. I read about the evacuation of Schanberg and others from the French embassy, feared for Dith Pran’s life and was immensely relieved when he showed up in Thailand after four years surviving in a jungle ruled by the Khmer Rouge.

I wondered, though, what had happened to Ith Chhun. Stories of slaughter in the countryside, during the three years, eight months and 10 days of Khmer Rouge rule, reminded me of the kidnappings and executions that peasants had told Ith Chhun and me were going on in the early 1970s while scholars were writing that nothing bad would happen when the Khmer Rouge took over in an “agrarian revolt”.

I thought of Ith Chhun concealing any knowledge of English, throwing away his glasses, books and notes, and joining the peasantry as their new masters drove them from the cities into the fields. As a Christian in a Buddhist society, Ith Chhun would have been more vulnerable than even the Buddhist monks whom the Khmer Rouge killed off as they destroyed pagodas and shrines.

When I returned, in May 1985, after covering the 10th anniversary of “the fall” of Vietnam, I ran into people in markets, repair shops and drink stands who remembered me. Some pointed to scars on their bodies where they had been bound and beaten. They all told of the loss of relatives and friends.

I asked about Ith Chhun, revisited the palace, heard from drivers who thought maybe they had heard about him but weren’t sure. The last time I was there, six years ago, no one remembered him.
I wondered if his bones were among those piled up in “the killing field” that visitors see outside the capital – a sampling of all the places where people were bludgeoned or strangled by guards to whom shooting was a waste of bullets.

It was as if he had never existed, had vanished in a time of killing when 2 million people like him had died, their images faded in flickering memory, nameless and forgotten.