Saturday, 5 July 2008

Last chance to see Davik

Long Beach, CA

By Greg Mellen, Staff Writer
Article Launched: 07/04/2008

LONG BEACH - Friends and supporters of Davik Teng will have a last chance to say goodbye before she and her mom return to their home in Cambodia next week.

Hearts Without Borders, the Long Beach nonprofit that found the 9-year-old with the heart defect and brought her to the Southland for open-heart surgery, will play host to a final benefit for Davik and her mom, Sin Chhon, Sunday at 5:30 p.m. at Golden Villa Restaurant, 1360 E. Anaheim St.

The cost of the dinner, which will be a Khmer buffet prepared by Sophy's Restaurant, is $25.

The event will include Khmer music. Money from the event will help Hearts Without Boundaries bring another ailing Cambodian child to the U.S.

Davik was discovered in a remote village outside of Battambang City in Cambodia. She suffered from a heart condition called a septal defect - a hole in her heart that was the size of quarter.

Because blood did not effectively flow through her heart she suffered from shortness of breath and fatigue. As the conditioned worsened, she faced the likelihood of a life of decreasing quality and likely ending in an early death.

Only open-heart surgery would improve her condition. After attempts to have the procedure performed in Cambodia failed, Hearts Without Boundaries negotiated with Childrens Hospital Los Angeles, which donated its facilities and staff to perform the surgery.

Davik underwent the procedure March 24. She has since been cleared to travel and will fly back to Cambodia July 10.

After Davik returns home, Hearts Without Boundaries hopes to find another child to save. The organization is currently negotiating with local hospitals for its next ailing child.

For information about the "Last Dance With Davik," call Peter Chhun at 818-640-6191 or Lakhena Chhuon at 562-397-5513.

Cambodia’s ‘Vietnam Village’, Did Cambodia has Vietname village on the map?

Members of a fishing family in Cambodia’s “Vietnam Village” mend their nets. Fishing is their main livelihood

Saturday, July 5, 2008

On the edge of Cambodia’s Prey Veng, there is a small village separated from the busy atmosphere of the town. Cambodian people call it “Vietnam Village.”

Residents, even the village leader Sau Huan, cannot remember when the village was formed.

Years ago, Vietnamese fishing boats traveled along the Mekong River’s branches from Vietnam’s southern region into Cambodia, forming a “floating village” in the neighboring country.

“Where there are rivers and fish, we go,” said Tam Thao, who has spent all her life fishing on the branches of the Mekong River.

Asked if she missed her hometown, Thao said she didn’t even know it.

“When I was young, my parents took me to many places to catch fish and avoid bombing raids,” she said.

“We floated to this place.”

Tran Van Lac, a local of the village, said when the number of “floating houses” reached nearly 100 in the early 1990s, Prey Veng Province’s Overseas Vietnamese Society bought some land for “floating” residents.

The area is now “Vietnam Village.”

The village, on low-lying land, often has to move to an area near Rong Dom Ray Pagoda in the July-October rainy season.

Each family has to pay between 30,000 and 50,000 riels (US$7.50-$12.40) for a place for their temporary homes during this period.

In the village, there are two modified vehicles used for lifting homes and moving them to the makeshift “relocation” area.

La Van Duong, who earns a living as a construction laborer, said he had been unemployed for several months as the soaring prices of construction materials forced some projects to be halted.

But he said he was not as miserable as most of the village’s residents, who only caught fish for their daily meals.

From February to May, when the river level drops, it is hard to find fish or shrimp, he said.
During that time, residents can earn about 6,000-12,000 riels ($1.50-$3) per day, enough to buy rice for that day only.

When someone falls ill, their family has to borrow money to pay for treatment, usually at high interest rates, he said.

Duong cannot enroll his six-year-old daughter, Linh, into schools as the family does not have the necessary papers.

Linh’s situation is common in the village, where most of the children do not have the chance to go to school.

The rainy season is coming, and water hyacinth is flourishing on rivers here.

The village residents, who are preparing for their move, live like the water hyacinth.

“Vietnam Village” may welcome some people from other areas and say goodbye to some of its residents after this season.

Source: Tuoi Tre

Noppadon slammed for blaming temple on previous govt

( – Democrat party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva slammed Foreign Minister Noppadon Pattama for distorting information by claiming that the previous Surayud Chulanont administration had pushed to support Cambodia’s registration of the temple as a World Heritage site, not himself.

Mr Abhisit said he checked with information from the Foreign Ministry and found that the claim by Mr Noppadon was misleading.

Mr Noppadon claimed that the Surayud government had supported the listing since last year.
Mr Abhisit said Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej and Mr Noppadon must be held responsible if the Unesco approves the listing of the ancient temple.

Courts force Preah Vihear moratorium

Opposition and Democrat leader Abhisit Vejjajiva, right, and Deputy House Speaker Somsak Kiatsuranont hold a petition which was forwarded to the Constitution Court for a ruling on whether the government had violated the constitution by pledging its support listing the Preah Vihear temple as a Cambodian World Heritage Site.

Saturday July 05, 2008
The Bangkok Post

A THAI RATH writer said it would be unfortunate if Thailand and Cambodia see relations sour further over the temple


Tackling existing problems by adding on new ones is rarely a good strategy. Sometimes, however, a new problem may help reduce conflicts inflicted by an existing one, said a Thai Rath writer. Such is the case in the Administrative Court's ruling to temporarily halt government support for the Cambodian government's unitary application to the Unesco World Heritage Committee (WHC) to list Preah Vihear as a World Heritage Site.

The court's ruling has the following immediate effects:

1. The cabinet can no longer proceed with the Foreign Ministry's proposal to support the Cambodian government in listing Preah Vihear as a World Heritage Site.

2. The joint communique between the Thai and Cambodian governments on this issue, signed by Foreign Minister Noppadon Pattama, is not enforceable.

3. The Thai government must inform the Cambodian government that its prior agreement to support Cambodia's unitary effort to list Preah Vihear is no longer applicable due to the court's ruling.

4. The Thai government must inform Unesco's World Heritage Committee, now meeting in Quebec, about the hiccup facing the Thai government.

In short, the Administrative Court's ruling halts any proceedings from the Thai side supporting Preah Vihear's listing as a Cambodian World Heritage Site. If and when the court ultimately rules that the government acted legally, then the government can proceed with its support of the Cambodian government's application to list Preah Vihear as a World Heritage Site.

If, on the other hand, the court finally decides against the government, any prior agreements made by the Thai government with the Cambodian government on the Preah Vihear issue become null and void.

This would mean that the Thai government must reserve its right to ask the WHC to allow the two to jointly list Preah Vihear. The Thai Rath writer had his doubts that the Cambodian government would agree to this, as the World Court at the Hague ruled in 1962 that the temple belonged to Cambodia and the Cambodian government has already submitted a new map that does not encroach on Thai territory to avoid any Thai objections. He then asked if the Thai government would allow the joint listing if it were in Cambodia's shoes.

Thai Rath noted that the issue is very sensitive on both sides, and no one is happy with the present situation.

Thai people believe that allowing Cambodia to unilaterally list Preah Vihear would result in a loss of territory, while the Cambodian people will accuse Prime Minister Hen Sen of giving in to Thailand if the disputed territory is jointly listed.

What is certain is that the Cambodian government would not be pleased if the Thai government no longer supported its listing of Preah Vihear, because the application has been in the preparation stages for several years now, and there have been several rounds of discussions between the two countries, as well as with the WHC. Prime Minister Hun Sen certainly won't be pleased if he cannot use the successful listing of Preah Vihear to court votes in the forthcoming general election.

Thus, the Administrative Court's temporary injunction on Preah Vihear might help lessen the conflicts between the two peoples.

The Thai Rath writer said it would be unfortunate if the two countries which share an 800 km border see relations further souring over the issue.

In any case, he added, it is now too late for the Thai government to agree in time for a listing of Preah Vihear this year, as the issue still has to pass a final hurdle at the Constitution Court.

The Democrat party on Thursday asked the Constitution Court to rule on whether the government violated Article 190 of the constitution in regard to Preah Vihear, and there can be no movement by the Thai government until the court gives its ruling.

Cabinet reshuffle

Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej has said that if he were to reshuffle the cabinet, it would not come from pressure exerted by coalition parties in the government camp, noted a Matichon writer.

This is so because Mr Samak still holds the trump card, as he alone is empowered to dissolve the House. This would prompt a new general election, which the coalition parties, and even the Democrat party, don't want to see happen after only 4-5 months of this administration, because that would mean the major expense of mounting a countrywide election campaign.

After the censure debate, it seems the coalition parties would like to see Commerce Minister Mingkwan Sangsuwan and Foreign Minister Noppadon Pattama reshuffled out of the cabinet, but it is unlikely that Mr Samak will grant their wish.

This is especially so in the case of Mr Mingkwan, who is said to have an understanding with Mr Samak and other big brass in the People Power party. Mr Noppadon's future is more in question, due to his personal involvement with the Preah Vihear issue.

There are other factors that beckon an upcoming cabinet reshuffle, said the writer. Timing is the key.

Mr Samak is still waiting to make clear the status of Public Health Minister Chaiya Sasomsap and Deputy Commerce Minister Wiroon Techapaiboon, both big financiers of the PPP who are facing Constitution Court rulings on their qualifications.

Mr Samak is also waiting for the Supreme Court Political Division to rule on former parliament president Yongyuth Tiyapairat, who was red-carded by the Election Commission. The ruling is due to be given on July 8. If Mr Yongyuth is cleared by the Supreme Court, he is likely to be given a cabinet seat in any upcoming reshuffle.

Another factor that needs to be considered is that there is a vacant PM Office seat when Jakkrapob Penkair resigned last month to fight the charge of lese majesty.

Last but not least, some ministers promised their colleagues that they would vacate their positions after six months so that others can have a chance to become ministers. This is true within the PPP and other coalition parties as well.

Therefore, it seems that any upcoming reshuffle will not be a minor one, done to fill up vacant posts, but rather a major revamp in several ministries, observed Matichon.

The writer concluded by predicting that Varavut Silpa-archa, son of Chart Thai leader Banharn, would be included in a new cabinet, noting that Mr Varavut will be 35 years old on July 11 and thus able to fulfill the minimum age requirement for a cabinet minister.

Constitution Court sets precedent

On Monday the Constitution Court ruled that the appointment of the Assets Scrutiny Committee (ASC) and its term extension until June 30, 2008 is legal, according to the temporary 2006 Constitution and the present 2007 Constitution. All nine judges ruled unanimously, noted a Thai Rath writer.

The case was forwarded from the Supreme Court's Political Division, as had been urged by the political targets of the ASC - members of the old Thai Rak Thai party, including the leader, former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

The Constitution Court set a precedent in ruling that all regulations and announcements made by the orchestrators of the Sept 19, 2006 coup, or those placed in power by the coup leaders, were legal and enforceable, up to the promulgation of the present 2007 Constitution, which vouchsafes the same in its Article 309.

There can no longer be any doubts as to why the People Power party wants to amend the 2007 constitution, especially Article 309, said Thai Rath

If the article is abolished, it would have even more repercussions than an act of parliament pardoning anyone from Mr Thaksin's government found guilty of corruption by the ASC. Abolishing Article 309 would mean abolishing the past. Any act or regulation from the temporary 2006 Constitution would be null and void.Anyone facing lawsuits or in the process of being prosecuted for alleged wrongdoing in the past would be immediately set free.

Therefore, said Thai Rath, the precedent that the Constitution Court sets in this case is very important. Article 309 must be left in tact if the country wants to see alleged corruption during the Thaksin administration be finally resolved by the Supreme Court.

The Thai Rath writer praised the Constitution Court for its first ruling, saying it would give the people confidence in the judicial system. The court is due to give two more rulings concerning the qualification of two politicians holding political office. These rulings are also important, said the writer.

Thai FM leaves for World Heritage meeting to explain stand on Preah Vihear Temple

July 05, 2008

The Thai foreign minister left Bangkok Saturday to attend a World Heritage Committee meeting in Quebec, Canada, to explain Thailand's withdrawal of support to Cambodia's application to list the ancient Preah Vihear temple as a World Heritage site.

Speaking to journalists before his departure, Foreign Minister Noppadon Pattama said he would officially withdraw Thailand's endorsement of Cambodia's bid to list Preah Vihear as a World Heritage Site as stated in an earlier signed Thai-Cambodian Joint Communique, and request the UNESCO World Heritage Committee to postpone its consideration on Phnom Penh's application during this session which began on Wednesday.

The Committee supervised by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), is due to complete its agenda next Thursday.

Noppadon said he would do whatever he could to defer consideration of listing the temple by explaining to the Committee the circumstances of an injunction granted by Thailand's Administrative Court on June 28, ordering the Thai government to suspend all activities to endorse Cambodia's bid over the Preah Vihear temple.

Noppadon had signed a Joint Communique with Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister Sok An on June 18, one day after the cabinet approved to endorse a new map of the temple prepared by Cambodia.

The court injunction was granted in response to the petition by the anti-government group People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD), and thus prevented Cambodia to cite the Thai government's endorsement as earlier expected in its application at the Quebec meeting.

The Khmer-style Phnom Penh temple, with a history of more than 10 centuries, has long been an issue of dispute between the two countries, both having historically claimed ownership.

The International Court of Justice in 1962 ruled that the temple belonged to Cambodia, while the only practical access by land to the temple, which stands atop a cliff, is from the Thai side of the border in Thailand's northeastern province Si Sa Ket.

Groups of Thai academics, senators, the opposition Democrat Party, and the PAD have criticized the government of endorsing Cambodia's bid to list the temple as World Heritage Site, citing threats to Thailand's territorial sovereignty over overlapping areas near the temple yet to be demarcated between the two neighboring countries.

On Saturday, Viwat Akarabutr, a coordinator for the Patriotic E-San (Northeast) Network, said more than 20 activist groups would gather to rally at the entrance of the temple demanding the Thai authorities to evict Cambodians who have homes and shops near the temple but inside Thai territory, according to Thai News Agency.

Viwat said the activists would also ask the Thai police on developments regarding their complaints lodged earlier about the alleged encroachment by Cambodian nationals.

Source: Xinhua

All eyes on Quebec

NewsThink by Thanida Tansubhapol

Thailand and Cambodia now turn to the World Heritage Committee meeting in Quebec on Sunday, when the Preah Vihear issue goes on the table for 21 committee members to decide.

The temple is among 13 natural and 34 cultural sites proposed by 41 countries to go on the World Heritage List.

One issue which needs close scrutiny is which map Cambodia has proposed to the committee, after the Administrative Court in Bangkok last Saturday issued a temporary injunction against the cabinet resolution to endorse the joint communique signed by Foreign Minister Noppadon Pattama and Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister Sok An.

A map redrawn by Phnom Penh is attached to the joint communique. The map was agreed by the Thai side as the temple boundary which it proposes be listed does not touch on the 4.6-square kilometre overlapping area claimed by both countries.

If Cambodia has changed its mind and brings the old map to propose to the committee, the Thai government must protest, because it also includes the disputed area.

Regardless of what happens in Quebec, the issue will not end there.

If the Cambodian government is successful in getting the temple listed, people upset about the Thai government's handling of this issue, may step up their complaints. The People's Alliance for Democracy may raise protests to another level to quickly oust Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej and his government.

Some academics and politicians in the Senate, parliament and even the government coalition parties oppose Cambodia's application to list the temple.

In contrast, if the committee decides to defer consideration for another year due to the lack of Thailand's active support and the many opposing petitions received from the Thai side, it will be interesting to see how Cambodian people will react to the deferral and what would happen in Phnom Penh.

The committee could cite Article 11 which says the inclusion of a property in the World Heritage List requires the consent of the states concerned as a reason not to accept the Cambodian proposal.

The temple is in the Cambodian province of Preah Vihear but access is on the Thai side in Kantharalak district of Si Sa Ket. Some ancient ruins relating to the temple are also on Thai soil and in the area disputed by Thailand and Cambodia.

The Cambodian government will lose face as Prime Minister Hun Sen is using the inscription of the temple as a campaign for election on July 27. Cambodians might get angry.

As it is unknown who will win this battle, Thai diplomats, businessmen and people living in Cambodia must stay vigilant. Thailand learned a lesson in 2003 when its embassy and business properties were burned down in riots launched by Cambodians, in a protest against remarks by a Thai actress Suwanan Kongying.

Cambodian cabinet members say the government does not want to see a repeat of what happened in 2003.

Cambodian Official Asks Thai Politicians and Historians Not to Twist the Facts

Posted on 4 July 2008
The Mirror, Vol. 12, No. 567

“Phnom Penh: A Cambodian official urged Thai politicians and historians not to twist the facts about the history of the Preah Vihear Temple, which is being proposed to be officially listed as a World Heritage Site.

“In an interview with a Thai reporter from the Public Broadcasting Service TV [PBS] on the morning of 2 July 2008, Mr. Ho Vandy, the president of the Cambodian Association of Travel Agents, said that the Thai government must listen to the majority voices, but not to minority voices opposed to the listing of the Preah Vihear Temple as a World Heritage Site; and Thai politicians and historians must accept the truth, but not to twist the history, because it is important to maintain the relations and the cooperation between both countries.

“He added, ‘If Thai politicians and historians do not accept the facts, it will break the relations between both countries. When talking honestly with one another and acknowledging the facts of history, being a good neighbors and having good human relations will be of benefit to everything – both in tourism and in the economy of the two countries.’ He continued, ‘If Thailand has a good, human mind by accepting the facts, both countries and people will be peaceful.’

“He went on to say, ‘If Thailand still tries to hide the real history and to twist it, there will be endless difficulties and disagreements for the next generation.’

“The Preah Vihear Temple was legally declared by the International Court of Justice in The Hague to be under the sovereignty of Cambodia on 15 June 1962, by ordering Thailand to deliver the Preah Vihear Temple to Cambodia, to withdraw its troops and people from the temple, and to give back to Cambodia all ancient artifacts taken from the temple.

“Mr. Ho Vandy asserted that the Preah Vihear Temple was already identified by the International Court of Justice in The Hague as belonging to Cambodia, based on its history. If Thailand helps to promote the temple to be listed as a World Heritage Site, there will be much benefit for both countries in developing tourism, because when the temple is listed, people around the world will be interested in visiting this temple, and they will spend money for Cambodians and for Thais living in the bordering provinces near Preah Vihear.

“Dr. Ros Chantraboth, a historian and vice-president of the Royal Academy of Cambodia, said that in Siem [Thailand], in text books from Grade 1 to Grade 9, there are only two sentences which speak about Cambodia, but those books speak a lot about the history and other things of Laos, of Burma, of Vietnam, and of Malaysia. He continued, ‘Siem seems to pretend that there was no presence of Cambodia in Indochina.’

“He added that this misunderstanding is because of Siem articles writing that the Preah Vihear Temple belongs to its country and it is because of the lack of Siam publication about the reality of the history, and Siamese researchers always think that “this temple belongs to Siem.”

“He went on to say that in Samut Prakan Province, southeast of Bangkok, the Siem government built a park named ‘Thai ancient monuments’ or ‘Muang Boran Thai’ where all temples existing in Thailand are built in copies, including the Preah Vihear Temple, for Siamese and for researchers [and tourists] to visit.

[Actually, doing some Internet research in Thai and in English, only the term 'เมืองโบราณ - Muang Boran' – could be seen an all sites I found (I may have missed some, though); none uses the term 'เมืองโบราณไทย' - 'Thai Ancient City.' This Ancient City is often considered to be the world's biggest outdoor museum, covering about 80 hectares/320 acres of land in a shape similar to the country of Thailand, with more than 100 original size or scaled down models of historical monuments. It was designed and funded my the private funds of a rich Thai businessman, Lek Viriyapan (1914 – 2000). Before the Ancient City could be built, its founder and his research team traveled to all buildings to be included, and for many years these studies were published in the Muang Boran Journal. The park includes also a replica of the Preah Vihear temple, and the journal has photos, several of them showing the Cambodian flag, and the inscription over the entrance in big Khmer letters: 'ប្រាសាទ​ព្រះវិហារ' [Prasat Preah Vihear] and below, in smaller letters in English, ‘Preah Vihear Temple’ – and three Cambodian flags are clearly seen on the picture of the stairs leading up to the temple – there is no doubt that the Ancient City in clear pictures describes Preah Vihear as under Cambodian authority. The temple of Phimai in the province of Nakhon Ratchasima is another example of Khmer culture (and in some of the sites visited also described as such). The ‘Ancient City’ is in no way leaving any doubt that this is Cambodian culture and territory, but, like Phimai, there are many other historical sites in present Thailand, showing the former extension of Khmer culture. - Editor]

“Dr. Ros Chantraboth asserted, ‘The Ancient City was constructed in 1972, ten years after Siem lost the hearing at the International Court of Justice in The Hague that legally established that the Preah Vihear Temple was to be under Khmer sovereignty. He added, ‘In reality, Siem has never used this to explain it to its people.’

“He recalled that the International Court of Justice in The Hague decided to deliver the sovereignty of the Preah Vihear Temple to Cambodia, based on 1904 and 1907 maps that were drawn by France for Cambodia at that time, and those maps were not contested by the Thai government at that period. The 1962 verdict gave ten years to Siem to appeal, in case it found new evidence proving that the Preah Vihear Temple belongs to Thailand, but when the deadline was over on 15 June 1972, Thailand did not appeal against the verdict until today.

“According to Article 10 of the condition of the World Heritage Committee, world heritage listings only include cultural heritage, they do not include borders of countries; and both countries have still to negotiate about the [unsolved] border issues.”

Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.16, #4631, 3.7.2008

Dammed if you do...

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Sovan Nguon
Friday, 04 July 2008

hydropower dam being built in southwestern Cambodia will destroy more than 5,000 hectares of protected forests, say researchers who conducted an environmental assessment for the joint-venture’s Chinese partner.

The revelation was made by Um Serey Vuth, the leader of a team of researchers employed by the China Datang Corporation.

The corporation and its partners, CHD Cambodia Hydropower Development and Cambodia Power Grid, unveiled plans in May to invest $313.36 million to build the 120MW Atay dam, which is due for completion in 2012.

Serey Vuth, who headed a team of 10 researchers, said the assessment showed the dam would destroy 5,193 hectares of protected forests in the Phnom Samkok Wildlife Sanctuary and the Cardamom Mountains.

He said the assessment began in May, when work started on the project, and was completed late last month.

The assessment showed the dam would flood 3,650 hectares of protected forest in the wildlife sanctuary and 1,543 hectares of protected forest in the mountain ranges, he said.

He said trees had to be removed from the affected areas otherwise they would affect the quality of water in the dam.

Serey Vuth said, however, that the dam would have a minimal impact on people living in the project area and would bring much needed electricity to the Kingdom.

“Only 36 families in three villages in O’Som commune, Veal Veng district, Pursat province will be affected, along with about 1,000 fruit trees and 10 hectares of farmland,” said Serey Vuth.

He said the local authority and residents supported the project.

“The authority and the people support the project 100 percent because they will have access to the electricity generated by the dam," Serey Vuth said.

Seng Bunra, the country director of US-based NGO Conservation International, expressed qualified reservations about the project.

"For environmentalists, 5,000 hectares of protected forest is a lot if we are talking about preserving biodiversity, wildlife and habitats, and absorbing carbon dioxide," Bunra told the Post on July 3.

"But sometimes we need to make sacrifices because our country needs electricity and we just express our concerns.

"We can't prevent the government from developing the country but what we insist on with this project is protection for forests around the dam site to avoid further destruction," he said, warning that if this was not done up 10,000 hectares would be at risk of being cleared of trees.

He said that the Cardamom Mountains, which cover about two million hectares, is a unique eco-system in Cambodia containing rare wildlife such as tigers, elephants, wild buffalo, bears, Siamese crocodiles and dragon fish.

"In the Southeast Asian region, there is no protected forest as picturesque as those in the Cardamom Mountains," Bunra said.

Defending the project, Ith Praing, secretary of state for the Ministry of Industry, Mine and Energy, told the Post on July 3 that environmental damage was acceptable in hydropower projects because an adequate electricity supply was crucial for attracting foreign investment.

“Before allowing the development, we had to weigh its environmental impact and its contribution to development," he said.

"We see that development provides more advantages, so we decided to approve the project," Praing said, adding that improvements in electricity supply would also help to raise living standards.

“The more electricity is generated, the cheaper it will be, so there will be more foreign investors interested in doing business in Cambodia," he said.

Praing said the Atay hydropower project was one of three in protected forest areas in the Cardamom Mountains involving Chinese companies.

He said the two others were approved in mid-June. They are the China National Heavy Machinery Corporation's $540 million project to build the 246MW Tatay River dam, due for completion in 2013, and the 338MW Russey Chrum Krom project, involving an investment of $495.7 million by the Michelle Corporation, due to be finished in 2015.

Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker Yim Sovann said that while the country needed to generate more electricity, the government should do more to protect forests in areas adjoining project sites.

Brush with death

VANDY RATTANA; Painter Vann Nath stands beside one of his works in a new exhibition at the artist’s restaurant and gallery in Phnom Penh.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Lyria Eastley
Friday, 04 July 2008

Veteran Cambodian painter Vann Nath opened his art gallery at the Kith Eng Restaurant in Phnom Penh to the public on July 1, unveiling paintings documenting his time at Tuol Sleng, the notorious Khmer Rouge prison.

Nath owns the restaurant that serves as the exhibition space, giving the gallery an intimate feel. Looking at the paintings creates a sense that the artist is personally narrating his life story to you.

Nath was captured by the Khmer Rouge and taken to Tuol Sleng, also known as S-21, in December 1977. He was saved from almost certain execution in February 1978 after being commissioned to paint portraits of Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot.

Nath was one of only seven survivors of Tuol Sleng, where an estimated 14,000 people were detained and brutalized before being executed. Nath went on to produce paintings as a visual memoir of his experiences following the collapse of the Pol Pot regime.

Ten of Nath’s paintings tell the story of his capture, incarceration, and escape from execution. They are arranged around the gallery in chronological order. On the wall opposite the entrance is a photograph taken of Nath upon his entry into Tuol Sleng, emphasising the reality of his experiences.

Nath said that he wanted his gallery to teach the younger generations of Cambodians about the atrocities of the Pol Pot regime.

“Some believe and some do not believe,” Nath said. “But they can come and look at my paintings as evidence, and make up their own minds. They can look at my pictures as testament to the atrocities carried out at Tuol Sleng.”

“If they want to learn about the Pol Pot era, the younger generations of Cambodians can read the books and documents and look at photos from that time. They should also ask their parents to tell them about their experiences. It is up to them to piece together the evidence,” he said.

Sara Colm of the New York-based rights group Human Rights Watch, speaking at the exhibition opening, said “Vann Nath is not only a victim of Khmer Rouge human rights abuses at Tuol Sleng, but he has dedicated his life to keeping the memories alive. He has an intense devotion to accuracy and a photographic memory.”

Colm called Nath the “the voice of conscience for Cambodia. He won’t forget the actions of the Khmer Rouge, even in the face of health problems and other issues.”

“It’s important to keep all the paintings together as a series,” said Colm. “The permanent display of these pictures reflects Vann Nath’s devotion to history and memory.”

The gallery will be a permanent installation at the Kith Eng Restaurant at 33B Street 169. It is open from 6 to 9pm and can be viewed only upon request.

“Anyone who has an interest in knowing about my experiences in the Pol Pot era can come and see,” said Nath.

Escape from the Killing Fields

Phy Sem in the family's Octagon food stall. Photo by Jane Dawber.

Otago Daily Times
By Hamish McNeilly
on Sat, 5 Jul 2008

Taken from her parents and forced to fight for the Khmer Rouge, Phy Sem somehow survived to find safety in Dunedin.

It was so cold when we got here [to Dunedin]. It was like sleeping on the freezer

One of the most appalling atrocities of the 20th century was played out in Phy Sem's country of birth. There, the dictator Pol Pot created his Killing Fields, where his regime murdered many thousands of his countrymen as he sought to force the clock back to a new year zero.

His regime grew out of a region ravaged by war - war that coloured even Phy's early years.

The eldest daughter of a Cambodian peasant family from the Oudong district, outside Phnom Penh, Phy knew nothing of the battles raging in nearby Vietnam, but she knew one thing very well - she was hungry.

One of her earliest memories is crying at how her mother gave some of the family's precious amount of food to Buddha.

"I always remember that. It is why I became a Christian . . . I not like Buddha taking our food."

Life was hard, as work on the family farm was broken only by the occasional school lesson, but this was one of the happiest periods in Phy's life - until the bombs came. Then her father would dig a shelter in the ground and order his family to remain in the hole as he stood watch for the bombs raining down from the American B-52 bombers on the hunt for Viet Cong hiding in Cambodia.

I didn't know where the bombs came from. I just remember being always hungry

Though Phy knew little about the turmoil engulfing the region, she knew something was wrong when the men came for her father.

"They came for rice. Every time they come at night, my mother take me and sisters to hide."

The Khmer Rouge wore all black. My mother did not want me to see them. My father worried they would rape me.

Her mother would wrap Phy in a blanket and hide her and her sisters in different locations so the communist rebels would not find them. During this period, the soldiers took the family's dog for meat, the cows that they used for ploughing their fields, and the majority of their rice and vegetable crops.

As the war between the Khmer Rouge and the pro-United States government of General Lon Nol intensified, the attempts by Phy's parents to hide their daughter proved futile.

They came and took me and other children to a camp.

It would be more than 20 years before Phy would see her parents again.

Together with several hundred terrified children at a Khmer Rouge jungle camp, Phy would sleep all day before venturing out in darkness.

Dressed in black uniforms, the children would practise shooting at targets with their newly issued rifles.

Talking with some of the older women who cooked for the camp, Phy was given advice that would later save her life.

If the Khmer Rouge ever said they would take you somewhere for "learning", it was a euphemism for being shot, and you might as well run because you were as good as dead, they told her.

You think, every morning you may die

While some of the children studied communism at the camp, Phy was considered too young and "I did not want to know about communism".

The diet in the camp consisted of a bowl of rice twice a day. Meat was reserved for soldiers who had been in a fight. So, Phy and the other girls ate leaves in the hope of alleviating their hunger.

And then it came; the order to fight.

Not much taller than her rifle and loaded up with ammunition, Phy was sent to fight an unknown enemy for an army she knew nothing about.

I was very scared, I want to go home

The noise of bullets slicing through the air mixed with the rumble of Gen Lon Nol's tanks as they crushed those of Phy's friends too scared to run from their hiding places dug into the ground.

The tanks killed everyone but I run away. I see a lot of shooting, shooting everywhere . . . and I run.

About 30 of the child soldiers broke through the enemy lines as they fled the battle scene, but they were soon captured by the opposing forces and taken to Phnom Penh.

Under questioning, Phy told what she knew about the Khmer Rouge - which was next to nothing - and was sent to a prisoner of war camp.

Eventually released, Phy fled Phnom Penh and began the perilous task of searching for her parents.

I don't know if they are alive or dead

While dates are difficult to pin down during this period, Phy's flight probably took place between 1973 and 1974, given Phnom Penh fell to the Khmer Rouge in 1975.

The countryside around Phnom Penh was already in the hands of the Khmer Rouge forces and every effort Phy made to find her parents was thwarted.

Faced with death or joining the Khmer Rouge, Phy chose the latter.

I had to join the Khmer Rouge again. I don't, I die

Spared a combat role, Phy was sent to the countryside to farm during the day and sew the black uniforms of the Khmer Rouge at night.

She kept her head down and survived, sleep-deprived and hungry. By now, the Khmer Rouge had taken the capital and the country was renamed Democratic Kampuchea.

It was 1975 and Phy was given the order to return to Phnom Penh - and to marry.

Sixteen unmarried men and women were taken to have dinner, and Phy was paired up with her future husband, Song Sem.

"I went to dinner, and I see all the men but I don't know who my husband is."

Now married, Phy would leave her job in the country once a week and spend time with Song who taught children mechanical engineering in Phnom Penh.

"We got no money, but we just stay alive," she said.

However, Song's involvement as a soldier in the army of former head of state Norodom Sihanouk, who was ousted by Prime Minister Lon Nol in a military coup in 1970, aroused the suspicion of the Khmer Rouge.

When the country fell to the Khmer Rouge in April 1975, Prince Sihanouk became the head of state of the new regime, while Pol Pot remained in power. But the move was largely symbolic, with Sihanouk rendered politically impotent just a year later.

Now with their first child, Sopheak, Phy was asked by the Khmer Rouge to go on a "learning trip with Song".

"They wanted to kill me because my husband was a soldier and they want to keep Sopheak."

Every night, Song and Phy witnessed a large truckload of people leave for "learning" - never to return.

They were taken instead to the Killing Fields, sites around the country where people were executed by the Khmer Rouge. The regime is estimated to have butchered more than 200,000 people during its rule from 1975 to 1979.

Remembering the advice from her time in the jungle, Phy and Song hastily made a plan to escape before they were sent away to die.

Song found a truck and the couple left the city bound for the Thai border only for the truck to run out of petrol, leaving the young family to cover the distance on foot.

During this time, the couple had their second daughter, Sophear, who was born in the jungle.

"I did not know I was pregnant because too much worry, too much stress."

The closer they got to the border, the more dangerous their journey became, and if they were found by Khmer Rouge soldiers they would have met almost certain death.

To avoid detection, the couple would often separate at night, Song with Sopheak, and Phy with Sophear. Hiding at night in many of the large bomb craters in the country, Phy said she spent many nerve-racking nights worried her family would be discovered by the Khmer Rouge.

As their journey continued, they were joined by a large group of children, more than half of whom died from hunger before reaching the border.

Phy and Song were both close to exhaustion.

But soon they would receive news that would give them much-needed strength - a villager telling them that white people were nearby - and that they had food.

Late in 1979, the Sem family crossed the Thai border.

They ask us if we were army. We said 'no', and they let us in. Red Cross gave us food and medicine to Song, who was sick

The Sem family spent four years in three different refugees camps in Thailand, and their only son, Sophath, was born during this period.

Initially, the family set its sights on getting to the United States, but heard New Zealand would be a better destination.

"Students from Wellington were working at camp. When they hear we go to America, they said 'come to New Zealand'."

Eventually, the family received the news it was waiting for - they would be sent to New Zealand.

"It was a happy day," Phy said.

After saying goodbye to their friends at the camp, the Sems were taken by bus to the airport where they boarded a plane for New Zealand.

Phy said none of the refugees could speak any English and when the air hostess handed them refresher towels they tried to eat them thinking it was food.

"And we all sick on the plane," she said.

Arriving in Auckland on October 18, 1983, with little more than what they could fit in their pockets, the Sems were overjoyed and overwhelmed by their new country.

It was very cold, but everything great. People nice, people kind, we very happy

Phy and her family's stay at the Mangere Refugee Centre was cut by several weeks so they could settle into their chosen destination of Dunedin before she gave birth to her daughter Rottana.

"People say Dunedin is too cold for us, but we hear it is good place with jobs," she said.

Arriving in Dunedin on November 20, Phy said the first thing she noticed was the cold.

"It was like sleeping on the freezer.

"We were cold but we were happy."

Tribunal Struggles With Civil Party Role

Chum Mey, one of the few survivors of Tuol Sleng prison, is also one of the civil parties participating in Khmer Rouge tribunal proceedings

By Mean Veasna, VOA Khmer Original report from Phnom Penh04 July 2008

As the pre-trial detention hearing of jailed Khmer Rouge leader Ieng Sary came to a close this week, participants found themselves at odds over how much victim participation through civil parties was too much.

Prior to one session of the hearings, the Pre-Trial Chamber judges ruled that one individual, Seng Theary, a Cambodian-American lawyer whose parents died under the Khmer Rouge, would not be allowed to participate directly. Pre-trial judges ruled that for the Ieng Sary hearings, civil party victims of the regime would only be allowed to express themselves through lawyers.

That ruling has raised questions over how much participation should be allowed in the future.

The UN-Cambodia tribunal was designed with a unique element: the presence of civil parties, who participate alongside prosecutors and the defense, representing their own cases but also speaking as a voice of the victims. But following the hearings Thursday, lawyers told reporters there was a limit.

"In some ways, it was really a bad week from the perspective of the civil parties," said lawyer for the civil parties Silke Studzinsky. "We received this week a ruling by the Pre-Trial Chamber saying that civil parties are not allowed to speak personally if they are not represented."

Under the tribunal's internal rules, civil parties are not obligated to have a lawyer, Studzinsky said.

Seng Theary called the ruling "a prevention of the civil parties' rights."

Michael Karnavas, co-defense for Ieng Sary, disagreed.

"We still have not set up the modality, how far can [civil parties] go, what should they do?" he said Thursday. "Half the time they are just repeating the arguments that the prosecutors made, rather than say, 'I concur,' and then adding one or two points."

However, Studzinsky said Karnavas was used to working with courts in a system of common law, unlike the system used to set-up the tribunal.

William Smith, co-deputy prosecutor, called civil parties very important for the tribunal. They play a watchdog role, he said, and stand up for the interest of all victims.

Tribunal spokesman Reach Sambath said the role of the civil parties was important to the courts, but in some cases, testimony such as Seng Theary's is not crucial.

"Seng Theary's case is not the same," he said. "The expression of the victims in person will be more interesting in the trials."

Thai Answers Sought in Border Shootings

By Heng Reaksmey, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
04 July 2008

A Ministry of Interior provincial border official asked Thai authorities on Friday to begin an investigation into the shooting deaths of two Cambodians, including one child, Thursday afternoon.

Tim Sareth, deputy director of the Ministry of Interior's Cambodia-Thai coordination office, told VOA Khmer by phone he was traveling to Thailand late Friday and had already requested an investigation into an alleged shooting near a border crossing in Bantey Meanchey province's O'Chhouv district.

Cambodians It On, 25, and Chea Phal, 6, were allegedly shot Thursday afternoon on the Thai side of the border, Tim Sereth said, but he would not speculate on who committed the shooting.

Thai Embassy First Secretary Chaturont Chaiyakam said Friday he did not have the details of the case, but he did not believe the Thai authorities would shoot unarmed civilians.

The shooting deaths were confirmed by O'Chhouv District Governor Keo Sen, who said Friday he was taking reports from witnesses to file a complaint with Thai border authorities.

The witnesses identified the shooter as a Thai border patrolman, he said.

Witnesses It En, sister of It On; Meas Thourn; and Muon An said they crossed the border Thursday afternoon, where they encountered an armed official who wore the black uniform of Thailand's border patrol and spoke Khmer Sarin with a Thai accent.

They were part of a group of 12 people who regularly travel across the border to farm, the witnesses told VOA Khmer by phone Friday.

The witnesses said they were ordered to return to Cambodia and had walked 50 meters toward Cambodia, before the armed man opened fire.

It On was hit in the arm and back and died almost immediately, and Chea Phal was hit in the head, but did not die, the witnesses said.

Chea Phal was taken to O'Chhouv referral hospital, where he died, witnesses said.

Suth Kimsan, acting director of the O'Chhouv hospital, confirmed Chea Phal died at the hospital from a gunshot wound to the head. Hospital staff treated him for one hour before he died, Suth Kimsan.

Tim Sareth said Friday he will coordinate with the Cambodian ambassador to Thailand and with Thai border authorities to conduct an investigation.

"Sovannahong" Marks Classic Dance Revival

Princess Norodom Bopha Devi

By Nuch Sarita, VOA Khmer Original report from Washington04 July 2008

"Sovannahong," the premier of a newly revived work of Cambodian classical dance, will be performed by artists of the Secondary School of Fine Arts on Friday at Chaktomuk Conference Hall.

The show was choreographed by Princess Norodom Bopha Devi and an elderly master of arts team, which is coming back to the stage after half a century.

"The Rockefeller/ACC Mentorship Program had provided funds through Amrita to work with Royal University of Fine Arts, a project that focuses on research, documentation and the transfer of knowledge and experience from elder artists to younger teachers," said Suon Bun Rith, Cultural Coordinator of Amrita Performing Arts.

Proeung Chheang, vice rector of Royal University of Fine Arts in Phnom Penh and Dean of Choreographic Arts, said that this was the first time they had performed the whole story of "Sovannahong" in dance dramas.

"Four types of roles exist in the 'Sovannahong's' story: Neay Rong (men), Neang (maidens), Yeak (ogres), and the Sva (monkeys)," Proeung Chheang said.

Soth Somaly, a dance teacher at the University of Fine Arts, is from an artist family; her grandmother and her mother were dancers. Born in 1962, she began to learn dancing at age five. She has managed artists performing in Europe, Asia and the United States and is a playwright of dance drama. She wrote the lyrics of each song in the play.

Princess Bopha Devi was a major member of the Royal Ballet. She was part of a mere handful of teachers who survived after the war to help rebuild the Royal Cambodian Ballet. In the 1960s Princess Bopha Devi was also part of the court dance troupe. She became the prima bellerina. One of her well known roles was performing as Apsara Mera in the Apsara dance.

"My grandmother, former Queen Sisowath Kassamak Neary Rath, made [dance] an important part of the royal Khmer court. Court dance was revived again and was at its peak under the reign of my father, Norodom Sihanouk," Princess Bopha Devi told VOA Khmer.

In the 1970s with the overthrow of the royal monarchy, Khmer court dance began to decline. The worst was to come during the Khmer communist revolution.

"The elder teacher and I tried to find what documents were available to keep the art form alive and revived the great loss with about a third of the dance repertoires, the steps, gestures, movements, narratives, survived intact," she said.

The music used for Khmer classical dance is played by a pinpeat orchestra. While the pinpeat orchestra is not playing, a chorus of several singers will sing out the lyrics, here written by Soth Somaly, which describe the story of the Sovannahong's dance.

Khmer classical dance uses a particular piece of music for a certain event, such as when a dancer enters a scene, performing certain actions, such as flying, or walking, and when leaving the stage.

Khmer Rouge leader makes "double jeopardy" defence

By Ek MadraPHNOM PENH, July 3 (Reuters) - A 1979 genocide conviction given to Khmer Rouge foreign minister Ieng Sary by a Vietnamese show trial does not jeopardise his appearance before Cambodia's U.N.-backed "Killing Fields" court, prosecutors said on Thursday.

Similarly, a 1996 amnesty granted by King Sihanouk to get Ieng Sary and a Khmer Rouge faction to surrender has no bearing on the court, where the 82-year-old is accused of crimes against humanity and war crimes, but not genocide, they said.

"The amnesty and pardon did not relate to the crimes in 1975-79," Australian prosecutor William Smith said after several days of hearings in which Ieng Sary's lawyers appealed his pre-trial detention on the grounds of "double jeopardy" -- the principle that nobody should be tried twice for the same crime.

"It simply related to the death sentence. It did not intend to cover the crimes back in that period," Smith told reporters.

Pol Pot's ultra-Maoist regime is blamed for the deaths of 1.7 million people during a 1975-1979 reign of terror that was brought to an end by a Vietnamese invasion.

The "Brother Number One" and his top cadres fled into the jungle along the Thai border, from where they continued to wage guerrilla war against first the Vietnamese and then the elected Cambodian government for another two decades.

Ieng Sary was sentenced to death in absentia by a Vietnamese court shortly after the 1979 invasion, although historians are virtually unanimous in describing it as a show trial.

Despite this, legal experts always suspected it could cause problems for the joint Cambodian-international court, which is meant, among other things, to establish a benchmark for justice in the southeast Asian nation's shambolic and venal legal system.

Smith said the 1979 court was "not a proper trial at all", although American Micheal Karnavas, who is defending Ieng Sary, disagreed.

"The amnesty and the pardon were to cover everything -- a clean slate," he said. "No prosecutions. That was very clear, and that was the object.

"It is very unlikely that Ieng Sary, who appeared frail and in ill-health during the hearing, will be released on bail.

Ieng Sary was arrested and charged in November, along with his 76-year-old wife, Ieng Thirith, also a member of Pol's Pot's inner circle who served as Khmer Rouge Social Affairs Minister.

Other top cadres now in custody are "Brother Number Two" Nuon Chea, former President Khieu Samphan, and Duch, head of Phnom Penh's Tuol Sleng, or "S-21" interrogation and torture centre.

Pol Pot died in 1998 near the Thai border. (Editing by Ed Cropley and Alex Richardson)

Cambodia: Pardon Dilemma For Cambodian Tribunal Judges Tackling Ex-Khmer Rouge Leader Case


PHNOM PENH, CAMBODIA: A former Khmer Rouge leader's appeal for release from pretrial detention by Cambodia's genocide tribunal has raised the issue of balancing the sometimes conflicting interests of peacemaking and justice, experts said Thursday (3 July).

During the four-day hearing, which ended Thursday, lawyers at the U.N.-assisted tribunal debated the merit and relevance of a pardon granted 12 years ago to former Khmer Rouge Foreign Minister Ieng Sary, who is charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity.

A ruling is expected in several weeks.

The court is seeking to establish accountability for an estimated 1.7 million deaths under the communist group's rule from 1975 to 1979.

The court heard several arguments by Ieng Sary's lawyers seeking to have him freed from the tribunal's jail, where he is held with four former comrades, including his wife, Ieng Thirith, the former social affairs minister.

Defense attorneys argued that their client should be released because of his ill-health and the possibility that prosecution would constitute double jeopardy _ being judged twice for the same crime.

But their strongest argument may have been that Ieng Sary had previously received a pardon for his activities with the Khmer Rouge _ one that was granted in an effort to bring peace after decades of civil war in Cambodia.

That pardon may now come back to haunt those seeking justice for the millions of victims.
"The court is facing a real dilemma," said Lao Mong Hay, a senior researcher with the Hong Kong-based Asian Human Rights Commission.

"If they (the judges) uphold the pardon, Ieng Sary would go free, and ... because one of the key Khmer Rouge leaders goes free, what's the meaning of the tribunal?" he said in a phone interview.

Before the hearing ended Thursday, Ieng Sary, 82, made an emotional plea to be released from detention because of ill health, including heart ailments.

Ieng Sary was condemned to death by a tribunal under a communist government installed by Vietnamese troops after they toppled the Khmer Rouge regime in 1979. That tribunal was a show trial with no real effort to present a defense.

Former Cambodian King Norodom Sihanouk pardoned Ieng Sary in 1996 as a reward for his leading thousands of rebel fighters to join the government, a move that foreshadowed the Khmer Rouge's final collapse in 1999 and brought an end to the country's civil war.

Ieng Sary's American lawyer Michael Karnavas argued Wednesday that Sihanouk granted the pardon to Ieng Sary in recognition of him "as an agent of peace, as someone who would be able to stop the war."

Prosecutor Yet Chakriya asked the court to nullify the pardon because Cambodian law requires a defendant to serve two-thirds of their sentences before a pardon can be granted.

Ieng Sary "has never served his sentence, not even a single day," said Yet Chakriya.

But the prosecutor also acknowledged the political necessity leading to the granting of the pardon. For the sake of achieving peace, "the government had to temporarily put aside the law although it knew the pardon was not in full conformity with legal steps," he said.

The spotlight is now on the judges who must rule on the validity of the pardon, said Sok Sam Oeun, executive director of Cambodian Defenders Project, a nonprofit group providing legal assistance to poor Cambodians.

The pardon issue threatened to derail negotiations between the Cambodia and the United Nations in trying to establish the tribunal.

After years of tense talks, the two sides agreed on a tribunal pact in 2003, which contains a clause preventing the government from seeking "amnesty or pardon for any persons who may be investigated for or convicted of crimes" during the Khmer Rouge rule.

"This (pardon) is a very tricky, delicate issue, and it is very easy to be politicized," said Youk Chhang, director of the Documentation Center of Cambodia, an independent group researching the Khmer Rouge atrocities.

Youk Chhang insisted the public had little sympathy for Ieng Sary despite his being pardoned in the past.

"If Ieng Sary could not be arrested, charged and detained, there was no point having this tribunal," Youk Chhang said.


Cambodia deploys police for security of Thai embassy, companies


PHNOM PENH, July 3 (Xinhua) -- The Cambodian government Thursday deployed police to protect the Thai embassy and Thai companies in Phnom Penh as a local non-government organization planning to demonstrate against Thailand in the case of Preah Vihear temple.

"We deployed police to guarantee the security of the Thai embassy and offices of Thai companies here," said Phnom Penh police chief Touch Naroath.

"We do not want to see an accident like 2003," he added. About 20 policemen and a fire fighter car have been deployed in front of the Thai embassy.

Bo Sam Nang, head of the Center for Morality Education, told reporters that he had requested to the government to demonstrate against Thailand in Preah Vihear temple case but now has postponed it.

"We have stopped our action," he said.

In 2003, Cambodian demonstrators set fire to the Thai embassy and offices of Thai companies in Cambodia after a Thai movie star claiming that Angkor Wat temple belonged to Thailand.

Since 2007, Cambodia has been applying for the Preah Vihear temple, which is located on a mountaintop on the Thai-Cambodia border, to be listed as a World Heritage Site.

Both countries have historically laid claim to the site, which sits on the Cambodian soil but can only be easily accessed from Thailand.

Cambodia's former King Norodom Sihanouk took Thailand to the World Court in 1962 over the two countries' claim to Preah Vihear. The court ruled that the temple belonged to Cambodia.

Villagers protest land concession

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Cheang Sokha
Thursday, 03 July 2008

Villagers representing 72 Ratanakkiri families have been camped outside the Ministry of Agriculture since June 26 to protest the destruction of their ancestral lands by a South Korean-backed rubber plantation.

Roman Taen, a 57-year-old member of the Tumpoun ethnic group, came to the capital with 14 others last week on behalf of families in Talao commune, Andong Meas district. Taen said that South Korea’s Oryung Construction Co., Ltd., which received a land concession from the government to plant a rubber plantation in Andong Meas district, had bulldozed his community’s ancestral forests and nut orchards.

“We are here seeking help from the government,” Taen said.

Taen said that neither the company nor local authorities had informed villagers about the land concession before clearing more than 10 hectares of cashew and other nut orchards.

“If the company continues to clear, then we will lose everything,” he said, noting that wildlife habitat and valuable timber in protected forests had also been cleared.

The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries signed a 70-year contract with Oryung in June 2006 for a rubber plantation on 6,866 hectares in Andong Meas district.

Oryung Deputy General Manager Kim Sang Soo said the company was in the process of lawfully clearing the site and denied encroaching on villagers’ land.

“We have not violated the people’s lawful rights to the land,” Soo told the Post. “The company will negotiate with villagers on the impacted land. We will compensate them if they are affected.”

Soo said that people in the area had reacted at the beginning of the project but stopped voicing concerns after local authorities and the company had explained to them about the project.

The company gave 100 tonnes of rice to the villagers in mid-June, he said.

Community Legal Education Center attorney Sourng Sophea, who represents the villagers, said the government had not studied the impact of the concession on local people.

“If the company does not follow the terms of the contract, it will harm the local people,” he said.

In a similar conflict, villagers from Ratanakkiri’s O’Yadao district also came to Phnom Penh on June 26 to seek redress in a long-running land dispute involving Keat Kolney, sister of Finance Minister Keat Chhon, who villagers say unlawfully acquired 450 hectares belonging to 45 families in Pate commune in 2004.

“Lose land, lose lives,” said Taen, the Tumpoun man protesting outside the Ministry of Agriculture. “We are concerned over the loss of land for the younger generation.”

Temple troubles

Tracey Shelton; Riot police stand watch over the Thai Embassy. During the anti-Thai riots of 2003 an enraged mob stormed the embassy gates, looted office equipment and set the place ablaze.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Thet Sambath and Khouth Sophakchakrya
Thursday, 03 July 2008

Riot police have been deployed to the Thai embassy in Phnom Penh as a dispute over Preah Vihear temple heats up, with several unions threatening to protest against Thai efforts to scuttle the Hindu monument's listing as a World Heritage Site.

“We won’t stop people from demonstrating, but we are here to prevent any violence," said Mary Tes, officer in charge of the 18-man detachment stationed around the clock outside the Thai embassy alongside a fire engine and six firefighters.

“We have to protect them, and the Thai police protect our embassy in Bangkok. We are helping each other," he told the Post on July 3.

The deployment was the latest move in a tit-for-tat escalation of tensions over Preah Vihear. Cambodia closed access to the temple in late June as Thai demonstrators gathered on their side of the nearby border in northern Cambodia, claiming the 11th century ruins belong to Thailand.

The growing row, which has been driven mostly by anger in Bangkok over what many Thais see as their government ceding territory to Cambodia, comes as Cambodian officials are at a UNESCO meeting in Quebec, Canada, to seek World Heritage status for Preah Vihear.

Cambodia has vowed to push ahead with its bid for the World Heritage inscription despite a recent Thai court ruling that Bangkok cannot support the nomination.

Amid the controversy, the Cambodian Watchdog Council, a coalition of five labor unions, and the National Culture and Moral Center filed individual requests with City Hall to stage non-violent demonstrations in Phnom Penh against the Thai ownership claims.

City Hall has denied permission, for now.

“It is not the time for demonstrations. It is time for political parties to have election campaigns. There will be disorder if campaigns and demonstrations occurred simultaneously,” said Pa Socheatvong, deputy municipal governor, referring to the July 27 general election.

“We would not dare to ban or reject their requests, but they must demonstrate with dignity and no violence, and they should do it all in one place after the election,” he added.

Speaking for the Cambodian Watchdog Council, Cambodian Teacher’s Association President Rong Chhun said his group would “lead a big, non-violent demonstration for territorial integrity and Preah Vihear temple, if the Thai side does not respect the international court’s 1962 decision and the Cambodian-Thai treaties of 1904 and 1907.”

The International Court of Justice ruled 46 years ago that the temple belonged to Cambodia.

Chhun also said that “if [the authorities] dare crack down on us, it means they are supporting the Thais and they have no intention to join us in protecting our ancestors' heritage.”

The most recent nationalistic rumblings are reminiscent of the lead-up to the 2003 rioting, during which a mob, enraged over false rumors that a Thai actress claimed that Angkor Wat belonged to Thailand, looted and burned the Thai embassy and destroyed several Thai-owned businesses in the capital.

The violence then threw Cambodian-Thai relations into a downward spiral, and the rising tensions now appear to have rattled Phnom Penh's Thai community.

Several Thai nationals declined to speak to reporters, except to say that their bosses had temporarily returned to Thailand.

“They are worried the Cambodians will demonstrate against Thai businessmen to avenge the Thais protesting,” said one Cambodian employed by a Thai. “They will come back when the situation returns to normal.”

Meanwhile, Cambodia’s political parties are split over whether to exploit the controversy in their election campaigns.

Cheam Yeap, senior parliamentarian of the ruling Cambodian People’s Party, said that the temple dispute is not a matter for domestic politics.

“It is people’s right [to address the matter] but I would implore the public and political parties not to raise Preah Vihear temple as a campaign issue,” Yeap said, adding that the Cambodian government is prepared to protect Thais living in Cambodia.

Representatives of opposition parties who were not in government at the time of the riots appeared more eager to adopt Preah Vihear temple into their platforms.

“We will raise Preah Vihear temple and the Thais’ protests at every stop of our campaign,” said Muth Chantha, spokesman for the Norodom Ranariddh Party.

He promised a counter-demonstration against the Thais after the July 27 voting.

“We are not worried the government will accuse us of incitement. We will speak the truth,” Chantha said.

Kem Sokha, president of the Human Rights Party, said his campaign would make an issue of Preah Vihear, but would target the message only to voters living near the temple site and in Phnom Penh.

“We will raise the issue for our sovereignty and to express national patriotism, for Cambodians to choose the prime minister, not to incite against the Thais,” Sokha said.

Representatives from the Sam Rainsy Party and Funcinpec both said their parties would back away from the issue.

“We already have our political guidelines for campaigning. The Preah Vihear issue is just occurring,” said Eng Chhay Eang, SRP secretary general.

Reports of dengue fever plummet

TRACEY SHELTON; Hospital wards were filled with children suffering from dengue fever in the first half of 2007, but a public education campaign about the mosquito-borne disease has helped cut the number of cases in the same period this year more than 90%.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Meas Sokchea
Friday, 04 July 2008

Public education campaigns have contributed to a massive decline in the number of dengue fever cases in children this year, according to the National Dengue Program.

Dr. Ngan Chanta, deputy director of the National Malaria Center and the National Dengue Program, said that public education campaigns had made people more aware of the precautions needed to avoid being bitten by the mosquitoes that spread dengue.

In the first half of 2007, an epidemic year, the National Dengue Program counted 20,836 cases of pediatric dengue fever, including 256 deaths. In the first six months of 2008 the program saw just 1,811 cases and 23 fatalities.

The National Pediatrics Hospital reports a similar decline. The chief of the hospital's technical office, Dr. Vithyarith Mam, said the hospital admitted just 235 patients suffering from dengue in the first half of this year, and just two fatalities.

During the same period last year, the hospital treated 2,440 children for the disease, of whom 41 died.

Noppadon testifies about Preah Vihear

The Bangkok Post

( - Foreign Minister Noppadon Pattama appeared at the Constitution Court on Friday morning to testify about the joint communique on the proposed listing of the Preah Vihear temple as a World Heritage site.

Mr Noppadon, who signed the joint communique on behalf of the Thai government, said he is confident he can explain to the court about the matter.

Officials from related agencies also appeared at the court to testify.

Mr Noppadon is flying to Quebec on Saturday to withdraw Thailand's support for Cambodia when the World Heritage Committee considers 47 sites proposed for World Heritage status during a nine-day meeting starting Wednesday and ending July 10.