Friday, 12 September 2008

The aircraft carrier, on its way from a mission in the Persian Gulf, gave a rare tour to a group of senior Cambodian government and military officials

U.S. sailors stand on USS Abraham Lincoln on Wednesday, Sept. 10, 2008. The aircraft carrier, on its way from a mission in the Persian Gulf, gave a rare tour to a group of senior Cambodian government and military officials for the first time. It was sailing in international water about 220 miles off the Cambodian coast when it received the Cambodian visitors.(AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

Commander of Cambodian Army General Meas Sophea, third from right, accompanied by other Cambodian military officials, tours a workshop on the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln on Wednesday, September 10, 2008. The aircraft carrier, on its way from a mission in the Persian Gulf, gave a rare tour to a group of senior Cambodian government and military officials for the first time. It was sailing in international water about 220 miles off the Cambodian coast when it received the Cambodian visitors.(AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

A U.S. expert, far right, explains to Cambodian military officials during a tours on the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln on Wednesday, September 10, 2008. The aircraft carrier, on its way from a mission in the Persian Gulf, gave a rare tour to a group of senior Cambodian government and military officials for the first time. It was sailing in international water about 220 miles off the Cambodian coast when it received the Cambodian visitors.(AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

A USS Abraham Lincoln's flight operator orders an air craft to take off on Wednesday, Sept. 10, 2008. The aircraft carrier, on its way from a mission in the Persian Gulf, gave a rare tour to a group of senior Cambodian government and military officials for the first time. It was sailing in international water about 220 miles off the Cambodian coast when it received the Cambodian visitors.(AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

A USS Abraham Lincoln's flight operator orders an air craft to take off on Wednesday, Sept. 10, 2008. The aircraft carrier, on its way from a mission in the Persian Gulf, gave a rare tour to a group of senior Cambodian government and military officials for the first time. It was sailing in international water about 220 miles off the Cambodian coast when it received the Cambodian visitors.(AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

An U.S. aircraft flies from the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln on Wednesday, Sept. 10, 2008. The aircraft carrier, on its way from a mission in the Persian Gulf, gave a rare tour to a group of senior Cambodian government and military officials for the first time. It was sailing in international water about 220 miles off the Cambodian coast when it received the Cambodian visitors.(AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

U.S. jet planes take off from the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln on Wednesday, September 10, 2008, at an international water about 354 kilometers (220 miles) off the Cambodian coast. Cambodian government and military officials took a rare tour of the USS Abraham Lincoln when it sailed through the region on its way home from Iraq, embassy officials said Thursday.(AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

U.S. jet planes fly above the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln on Wednesday, September 10, 2008, at an international water about 354 kilometers (220 miles) off the Cambodian coast. Cambodian government and military officials took a rare tour of the USS Abraham Lincoln when it sailed through the region on its way home from Iraq, embassy officials said Thursday.(AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

Commander of Cambodian Army General Meas Sophea, left, shakes hands with Scott Van Buskirk, right, the Strike Commander of the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln as Cambodia's Prime Minister Advisor Om Yintieng, center, looks on Wednesday, Sept. 10, 2008, at an international water about 354 kilometers (220 miles) off the Cambodian coast. Cambodian government and military officials took a rare tour of the USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier when it sailed through the region on its way home from Iraq, embassy officials said Thursday.(AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

German philanthropist funds modern hospital in Kampot

HENG CHIVOAN; The Sonja Kill Memorial Children’s Hospital in Kampot is scheduled to open next June.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Hor Hab and Brendan Brady
Saturday, 13 September 2008

Kampot ProvinceFacility to bring competent health care to Cambodia's southern coastal region, where there is little hope in medical emergencies

CONSTRUCTION is nearly complete on a full-scale pediatric hospital in Kampot funded privately by a German doctor in the name of his deceased daughter.

The Sonja Kill Memorial Children's Hospital is 80 percent constructed and should be open by next June, according to the governor of Kampot, Thach Korn, who said the modern facility would be a major boost to the entire southern coastal region's health care services.

The bill - around US$8 million for the facilities and $6 million for medical equipment - has been footed by Winfried Kill, a retired doctor , according to Yos Phanita, the vice director of Phnom Penh's Cambodian-Russian Friendship Hospital who is also a representative of the Sonja Kill Foundation Cambodia.

The hospital, situated near the base of Bokor Mountain, is being constructed on seven hectares of land provided by the government.

Its 38 buildings - 26 for patients and the rest for house staff - will include 124 patient beds plus surgery facilities and a maternity ward. Construction started in March 2007, he said.

The facility will require a staff of around 140, including doctors, nurses and custodians, he said, adding that as many as 20 foreign doctors would be brought in.

"The purpose is to meet the high demand of healthcare for children and women," he said. Cambodia's maternal mortality rate has for the past five years hovered at around 472 deaths per 100,000 live births - the highest in the region, according to the Ministry of Health.

Free service

Yos Phanita said the hospital's services would be free of charge and of the highest quality possible."[We] built the hospital in the south of Kampot because there isn't a major hospital there yet. It will be very good for people living around the southern coast because they will not have to go to Phnom Penh anymore."

But he added that the new facility would not be enough to fill the gap in health care provision to all children and mothers in the region. "They need three times more than this."

Some 85 percent of Cambodia's people live in rural areas, but most hospitals and health personnel are in urban areas. Pen Por, who lives near the Sonja Kill Hospital, said that when his children had serious health problems in the past he and his wife were forced to make the three-hour trip to Phnom Penh and even travelled to Vietnam in a couple of cases. "But now I don't think these trips will be necessary any more," he said.

Sin Somuny, executive director of the healthcare NGO MEDICAM, said, "a hospital with those kinds of resources really makes a difference" and is "especially important in the countryside".

Overseas agencies aid migrant workers

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by khoun leakhana
Saturday, 13 September 2008

CAMBODIA has sent roughly 20,000 labourers to work in South Korea, Malaysia and Thailand through a network of international employment agencies that protect them from exploitation, say officials at the Ministry of Labour.

Oum Mean, undersecretary of state at the ministry, said the government encourages Cambodian labourers to apply through such agencies, which would guarantee fair treatment while overseas.

"Our legal workers are protected," Oum Mean said Thursday, during a consultation meeting on the protection and promotion of the rights of migrant workers. "[But] those workers ... cheated into working illegally are faced with many problems." He added that about 90 percent of Cambodia's overseas labourers went through the proper channels.

But Sinapan Samydorai, convener of the Task Force on Asean migrant workers, said there were many challenges facing itinerant workers. "We have agencies at the grassroots level that educate people about the difficulties of the work," he said. "And then we let them make their own decisions."

Ministry official Nhem Kimhoy said that the Kingdom's 17 registered employment agencies have sent legal labourers to Malaysia since 1998, to South Korea since 2003 and to Thailand since 2006. "In 2009, Cambodia will also send labourers to work in Qatar," he added.

Koh Kong cane plant packs it in

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Chun Sophal
Saturday, 13 September 2008

Flooding at factory site blamed for joint venture's failure

AUS$100 million sugarcane factory that was to begin production in December in Koh Kong province has failed nearly two years after the joint Thai-Cambodian venture was agreed upon, one of its key backers said this week.

Rainy season flooding at the site for the proposed industrial complex is the main reason that the project was abandoned, said Mong Reththy, head of the agro-industry company Mong Reththy Group, which partnered with Thai billionaire Charoen Sirivadhakdi in 2006 to build the factory on 5,000 hectares of land.

"My plan for the factory is now impossible to complete," Mong Reththy, who is also a Cambodian People's Party senator, told reporters on Wednesday.

The project also would have required an additional 5,000 hectares of land from local farmers, Mong Reththy added.

The Mong Reththy Group now plans to turn the land into a palm oil plantation, he said, adding the palm oil project could go forward with future cooperation from Charoen.

The agreement between the two gave the Mong Reththy Group a 51-percent stake in the joint venture, with the balance going to Charoen, who also owns ThaiBev, the maker of Beer Chang.

Mong Reththy told reporters earlier that the factory planned to produce 60,000 tonnes of white sugar, 24,000 tonnes of molasses and 6 million litres of alcohol each year.

" MY PLAN FOR THE FACTORY IS NOW IMPOSSIBLE TO COMPLETE. "

Most of the production was expected to reduce Cambodia's reliance on imported sugar and related products.

The Kingdom spends $70 million each year importing white sugar from Thailand and Vietnam, according to customs figures.

The company has made no announcements about whether it will look for other potential locations.

Thon Sophea, a sugarcane farmer in Kandal province's Korki Thom commune, said he hoped Cambodia would eventually have a large-scale sugar factory.

"I would increase my profits each year if we had a factory," he said, adding that he currently makes about 5 million riels ($1,250) a year from one-half hectare of land.

PM to visit Middle East as ties to the Gulf grow

VANDY RATTANA; A young Cham Muslim girl skips through a mosque in Takeo province on Monday. Prime Minister Hun Sen is set to visit the Middle East in January.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Sebastian Strangio and Vong Sokheng
Saturday, 13 September 2008

Cambodia's diplomatic embrace of Gulf states is in full swing, with the PM set to visit the Middle East in January, but just why is the Kingdom so keen to befriend Arab nations?

PRIME Minister Hun Sen will make a state visit to the Middle East next January, in what foreign ministry officials and local Muslim leaders are describing as a consummation of Cambodia's growing economic relationship with the Muslim world, following visits from two Gulf state delegations earlier this year.

"Hun Sen is scheduled to visit the Middle East in January next year," said Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Sin Bunthoeun.

"The aim of the visit is to strengthen our political and economic links with Kuwait, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates."

Friends with benefits

Such links have grown apace with oil-rich Gulf states pledging Cambodia over US$700 million in soft loans and investment already this year.

"We need a relationship with the Middle East because the Gulf states have oil and money, and Cambodia needs soft loans and grants in order to develop its infrastructure," said Ahmad Yahya a government adviser and the president of the Cambodian Islamic Development Association.

For Ahmad Yahya, there is an economic logic to Middle East relations that is hard for the government to ignore.

" We need a relationship with the middle east because the gulf states have oil and money. "

"All the countries in the Middle East are desert countries, and they need to make sure if something happens they don't starve. So they are keen to plant rice [in Cambodia] and export it back to their countries," he said, referring to an emerging new global trend of wealthy non-arable nations investing directly in crops in developing nations.

While critics have warned that such practices risk jeopardising food security in the developing world, the government is busy doing deals, spurred on by the knowledge that its vast swaths of under-utilised farmland make it an extremely attractive trade incentive for largely desert Gulf states.

In April, the Qatari prime minister announced a $200 million investment in Cambodia's agriculture sector, while Kuwait last month pledged $546 million in soft loans to upgrade irrigation systems and roads throughout the Kingdom.

Sith Ibrahim, secretary of state in the Ministry of Cults and Religions, said Cambodia's commitment to religious freedom had further increased its attractiveness to Muslim nations. "We are open to all Muslim countries," he said, adding Cham leaders have played an vital role in breaking the ice with Muslim governments.

"There are 19 Cham associations across the Kingdom, and they are playing an important role in helping improve our relationship with the Middle East," he said, adding that the Chams were benefiting in turn.

"Cham Muslims have received direct benefit from the government's political and economic links with countries such as Malaysia, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Kuwait," he said.

In addition to its development loans, the Kuwaiti government has also pledged $5 million for the renovation of the International Dubai Mosque at Boeung Kak lake, and the construction of a Islamic studies centre nearby.

Who really wins?


But some are less optimistic about the flow of cash from the Middle East. Son Chhay, chairman of the National Assembly's Commission on Foreign Affairs, International Cooperation, Information and the Media, said the recent growth in the relationship with the Gulf states was a result of two things - Cambodia's valuable land concessions, and its offshore oil deposits.

"At the moment, I cannot say how the country will benefit from the growing relationship. I agree that the government should pursue relations with Muslim countries, but at the same time, [it] has to thoroughly examine the economic and religious effects," he said.

One such possible effect - growing Islamic radicalism amongst the Cham community - also has some Western governments preaching caution on the growing links with the Islamic world.

"The United States has excellent relations with many Middle Eastern countries and we would expect that Cambodia will have the opportunity to develop positive relations in that region as well," said US Embassy spokesman John Johnson by email.

"However, we do need to look out for groups that teach intolerance and violence, and who provide funds in an effort to change the atmosphere and attitude of Cambodia's Cham Muslim minority."

But Mohammad Younis Khan, Pakistan's ambassador in Phnom Penh, said that while Cambodia's Chams were a natural point of linkage with other Muslim countries, long-term commitments were based more on economic considerations than religious ones.

"People like to help their Muslim brothers, particularly with aid for mosques and so forth," he said. "But it's not the Cham Muslim minority here that attracts countries like Kuwait or Qatar, it's Cambodia itself."

Islamabad and Asean

TRACEY SHELTON; Ambassador of Pakistan, Mohammad Younis Khan, in his office at the Pakistani embassy in Phnom Penh last week.

Pakistan's Ambassador
Mohammad Younis Khan, Ambassador of Pakistan, previously served as ambassador to Vietnam from 2000 to 2003. When Islamabad decided to establish an embassy in the Kingdom, he was a natural choice. "Probably they thought I had some knowledge about Southeast Asia and thought I could come to Cambodia also."

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Sebastian Strangio
Saturday, 13 September 2008

Pakistan's Ambassador Mohammad Younis Khan on growing trade between the two nations and joint efforts to fight terrorism

When did Pakistan establish its embassy in Phnom Penh, and what made Cambodia an attractive location for a new mission?

This is our third year now [in Cambodia]. We established a mission by sending a charge d'affairs here in 2005, who was then upgraded to ambassador. In Pakistan, we feel we must start to look towards the east, and we see Asean as a very important body that is integrating and that is economically picking up its pace. We believe that Pakistan must have a share in this trade and development, so we have moved ahead in this region. We set up our embassy in Vietnam in 2000, and now we have embassies in [most of] the Asean countries.

What level of annual trade does Pakistan have with Cambodia and with Asean as a whole?

With Asean I think the total figure is around US$2 billion. With Cambodia, our annual trade is about $14 million: $13 million of exports from Pakistan and around $1 million from Cambodia. It's small, but you must understand that it is increasing very quickly. Only a few years back our annual trade was only $5 million, so the growth has been very fast and within a few years, inshallah, we think we will reach a very respectable figure.

What products does Pakistan export to the region?

Most of the products are textiles, and textile make-ups. We provide the garment industry here with raw materials, and there are also pharmaceutical goods coming in from Pakistan. We are hopeful that very soon we will be able to bring in sporting goods and surgical instruments, for which we are known around the world.

" WE ARE TRYING TO WORK OUT SOME AGREEMENT WITH THE cAMBODIAN GOVERNMENT TO ... SET UP AN HONOuRARY CONSULATE IN KARACHI. "

I understand Pakistan has been working to establish a free-trade agreement with Asean. What is the current progress on this front?

This is still in progress and it could take some time before we are part of something like that. But we are working on it.

How much Pakistani foreign direct investment is there in Cambodia?

There are a few Pakistanis running restaurants here. But the problem we face at the moment is that it is difficult for Pakistani businessmen to come here because of the visa restrictions, in the sense that there is no Cambodian embassy in Pakistan, so there is no easy way to get a visa. So we are trying to work out some agreement with the Cambodian government to see if they can set up an honourary consulate in Karachi, which would be a great help. If businessmen had less difficulty coming here, things would be much more successful. And if people are coming from Karachi to Vietnam, then they will also come here. Once the businessmen start coming, things will start to work much more favourably for us.

Has Pakistan provided any loans or other aid to the Cambodian government?

There was a plan in Pakistan to give Cambodia $10 million to build a reservoir for irrigation and drinking water. But it's still being looked at in Islamabad and it could take some time. At the moment Pakistan's own economy is not in good shape, as you know, but I am trying very hard to carry this forward and hope in future to have cooperation with the government in the field of irrigation.

In April 2004, Cambodia and Pakistan signed an agreement of cooperation, which included a joint effort to fight terrorism. What have the two countries done so far in this regard?

Well, we keep in touch with each other and inform each other of what can be done [to fight terrorism]. But we are working with the [Cambodian] chief of police, who will be visiting Pakistan for talks with our government, and that visit will help things get started. There have been so many changes of government and elections recently in Pakistan, but these are the areas on which we plan to focus.

In Islamabad on August 9, Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi highlighted the shared values, history and culture that Pakistan has with the countries of Asean. Does the Pakistani mission in Cambodia have a cultural component?

Well, Pakistan was at one time a Buddhist country, and we had a great university of Buddhism at a place called Taxila, very near to Islamabad, which was the heart of Buddhist learning all around the world: The Buddhists who first came to Southeast Asia and other Asian countries had been taught in Taxila. One of the best-known statues of Buddhism - the "fasting Buddha" - is in Pakistan, and in Thailand and other countries you can find copies of it. Islam came about 1,000 years back, but the cultural heritage of Buddhism is very strong.

Does Pakistan have any cultural or economic links with Cambodia's Cham Muslim community?

Not as yet. Because we have just set up the embassy and are still learning who [in government] we can talk to. We have a system in Pakistan whereby we can give some charitable support to mosques, but not as yet in Cambodia.

What do you think has prompted the Cambodian government's growing relationship with the wider Muslim world, and do you think the presence of a significant Muslim minority here has helped that?

Muslim countries are looking towards Cambodia not because of the Muslims here, but because of Cambodia as a country. It is a country that is developing rapidly, and there are many chances for investment here. Because [Pakistan is] in a difficult economic situation at the moment, we don't have surplus funds and so are not in a position to offer investment abroad at this point in time.

What do you think has prevented a strong relationship developing between Cambodia and Muslim countries in the past?


Probably because there was no stability here. I am talking about the Khmer Rouge time: The whole country was in turmoil. Now there is stability, and the country has become very attractive for foreign investment. As a country stabilises, the rest of the world starts to take an interest in it.

How can the two countries gain from closer cooperation in future?

We are both developing countries and we can learn from each other's experience. We can share knowledge: Cambodians can come to study in Pakistan, we have good institutions there and there are scholarships for students to come and study. That should help Cambodians to learn about Pakistan so when they come back that should help trade and commerce between the countries. As time passes, we can probably do more, and if we can get this agreement going on building a reservoir here, that could build open up new ideas and establish us and our credibility in the region.

Cambodia's Condom Campaign Faces Legal, Financial Issues, Health Official Says

kaisernetwork.org
Sep 11, 2008

Cambodia's so-called 100% Condom Use campaign is being threatened by legal and financial issues, and the country could experience a resurgence of the disease, a health official said on Wednesday, AFP/Google.com reports. According to Tia Phalla of Cambodia's National AIDS Authority, the condom campaign -- which provides sex education and condoms to commercial sex workers -- is "facing difficulties" because of a new law against sex trafficking and inadequate financial support. Following the passage of the law in February, police began targeting brothels, which reportedly has forced sex workers to leave condoms as they move from location to location, AFP/Google.com reports. "Enforcement of the anti-trafficking law harms the 100% condom use in brothels," Phalla said during an HIV/AIDS conference in the capital of Phnom Penh. According to a statement from the AIDS authority, the "main risk of a second wave of HIV infections occurring in Cambodia is from female sex workers, their clients and sweethearts."

According to AIDS authority data, the percentage of sex workers who consistently use condoms with clients decreased to 94% in 2007 from 96% in 2003. In addition, Phalla said that six of Cambodia's 24 provinces have the financial resources to conduct the campaign. Prior to the condom campaign, Cambodia's HIV/AIDS prevalence was recorded at 3.7% in 1997, while prevalence among sex workers was estimated at 40%. The condom campaign and other initiatives are believed to have contributed to the decrease in Cambodia's HIV/AIDS prevalence to 0.9%, according to AFP/Google.om (AFP/Google.com, 9/10).

Teen dies after night out in Cambodia

Richmond & Twickenham Times

Thursday 11th September 2008
By Ian Mason

Uncertainty still surrounds the death of a Twickenham teenager who collapsed and died during a night out in Cambodia after a coroner recorded an open verdict this week.

David Northmore, 19, had been drinking and smoking what could have been opium when he collapsed in a nightclub in Phnom Penh on May 15, 2007. He died shortly after.

Traces of alcohol, morphine, codeine and diazepam were found in his blood and urine by pathologist Dr Robert Chapman, but a lack of “clear evidence” prompted deputy coroner, Elizabeth Pygott, to return an open verdict at Fulham Coroner’s Court yesterday.

David went to Thailand at the end of March last year with close friend Nicholas Stapleton – son of GMTV presenter John Stapleton – and later met up with Sam Rickett.

Sam told the court when they arrived in Phnom Penh on May 14 the group met John, an American bodyguard.

Between midnight and 1am, having drunk around five bottles of beer each in a bar, Nicholas went back to the guest house while David and Sam went elsewhere with John. The court heard the events of that night became hazy after they entered a club.

“Apparently we collapsed within the club and were put in a tuk-tuk and taken to hospital,” said Sam.

He admitted they were smoking what they thought to be cannabis but said, on reflection, “it might have been opium, or it’s possible we had our drinks spiked”.

Nicholas’ statement mentioned David had smoked cannabis in the past but treated any other drug taking as “a mug’s game”.

Cambodian Police report David died on his way to the medical facility while Sam and John woke up in hospital the following morning.

Dr Chapman produced a pathology report on May 29 after David’s body was flown back, along with blood and urine samples that David’s father had arranged to be taken before the body was embalmed.

After hearing the reports, Ms Pygott said: “I am left somewhat unsatisfactorily with recording an open verdict.”

Cambodia's 'rice bowl' out as London's twin

The London Free Press

Fri, September 12, 2008
By KATE DUBINSKI

If London wants to help a city abroad, it won't be in Cambodia.

Well, not in Battambang District, anyway.

Instead, the district in eastern Cambodia with about one million people is twinning with the municipality of the County of Kings in Nova Scotia -- population 47,000.

"It would have been a partnership to assist other cities (abroad) with special needs . . . We could provide our expertise," Mayor Anne Marie DeCicco-Best said.

County of Kings, on the Bay of Fundy about an hour west of Halifax, was deemed "the best fit . . . with respect to solid waste management and local government capacity building," according to a letter from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, which makes the matches.

"It's OK," said DeCicco-Best, adding London had put its name into a pool of municipalities willing to partner with cities in need abroad.

The Battambang District is the country's second-largest city and bills itself as "the rice bowl of Cambodia."

Gina is heading to Cambodia to teach children

Giving something back: Gina Williamson is travelling to Cambodia next week to teach English

By Julie Armstrong
Friday, 12 September 2008

The Cumberland News

A FORMER pupil of William Howard School in Brampton is to give up three months to teach deprived children in south-east Asia.

Gina Williamson, 18, was inspired by a school trip to Tanzania where she admired the communal and eco-friendly lifestyle.

Next week she will set off for Cambodia where she will be teaching under-10s with volunteer company Bunac.

Many children there come from such poor families they have to stay at home to work during the day.

Bunac gives them the opportunity of a free education, providing classes in the evenings to make them more accessible.

Gina, who has just gained three Bs and a C at A-level, said: “I went to Tanzania with William Howard in July. That was my first experience of a Third World country – a real eye-opener.

“I loved everything about it. The people were really friendly and so generous even though they have so little.

“They’re really proud of their country and there’s a real sense of community. All their food is local and organic, grown in their gardens. Everything is in tune with the environment. I’d like to live in a commune over there.

“It made me feel I should be doing something worthwhile, giving something back to people who are less fortunate. I’ve done a 60-hour TEFL course online and I leave on Tuesday. I’ve never been to Asia and wanted to go somewhere different.”

Gina, of Cherry Lane, Parkland Village, Carlisle, will live in Siem Reap, a large town about eight hours north of the capital Phnom Penh, and will visit the famous Ankor Wat – a 12th-century Buddhist temple which appears on Cambodia’s national flag.

She has paid £30 towards a sustainable forest project to offset the carbon emissions from her flight. She will share a house with other volunteers, whom she has not yet met.

“I am most scared about going on my own,” she said. “I think my phone bill will be huge because I could be homesick and lonely. I don’t know any of the other volunteers, but we’ll all have one thing in common – we all wanted to go to Cambodia.”

She will come back for Christmas but in January will be off on her travels again – this time to Canada to train to be a ski instructor.

Should I (we) stay or should I (we) go?

Cambodge Soir

12-09-2008

While in Paris, on tour, the Presidents of the Sam Rainsy Party (SRP) and the Human rights Party (HRP) gave an interview to the Cambodian department of RFI (radio France International) , on their mission to alert the world to the several “rigging cases” alleged to have occurred during the last election.

It might be the distance, but certain discrepancies emerged between HRP officials. On September 9 in Phnom Penh--the day the King sent the official convocations for the swearing- in ceremony of the New National Assembly on September 24--Yem Ponhearith, the General Secretary of the HRP declared to Cambodge Soir Hebdo that “we are in line with the King”.

But on Wednesday September 10 on RFI, Kem Sokha, the HRP president disagreed. He does not want to swear in at the same time as the lawmakers of the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP): “the three HRP elected MPs will not go to the National Assembly on September 24” he insisted.

As for Sam Rainsy, his new fellow traveller, he is sticking to his guns. “We do not recognise the election outcome, we will not take part in the first session” vowed the SRP president.

Asked if this would not display a lack of respect to the King, Sam Rainsy cleverly replied: “This is not the matter as the King does not have any power. The King agrees to what the CPP decides. And if the CPP forbids something, the King does not dare challenge it. Thus, Ranariddh’s pardon can only be granted once the CPP agrees to it. Therefore it has nothing to do with respect for the King but is rather an ethical issue, and the latter forbids us to attend the National Assembly of thieves, ghosts and Yuons [editor’s note: Vietnamese]”.

Both leaders argued that they are still waiting for an answer from the King to a letter where they expressed their "will to swear in separately from the CPP's MPs". Building the suspense, Kem Sokha indicated that “without any reply from the King, we have not yet decided to attend the first session”.

Siem Reap in dirty water

Cambodge Soir

12-09-2008

Back from a seminar in the tourist city, some teachers complained about the quality of the water in their guesthouse, which “reeked of sewer”.

The quality of the water in Siem Reap is so bad that some teachers attending a seminar in the city refused even to wash themselves with it.

Sok Maly, a teacher from Banteay Meanchey province was reluctant to use the guest house water as it “stank like sewers, I could not wash the entire week”, she said.

The water system of the former royal capital is deficient; therefore many locals use ground water from wells. “It is most likely that the water in this guest house came from a shallow well”, said Hy Sambath, a teacher in Siem Reap.

Water from the stung Siem Reap which was drinkable during the Sangkum Reastr Niyum era of the 1950-1960s is now undrinkable. “The pollution started in the early 90s, at that time many people were bathing in it. Nowadays those brave enough to swim in the river can easily be infected with scabies”, added Hy Sambath. Illegal dwellings of squatters by the river also added to the water quality worsening despite work carried out by environmental NGOs. The relocation of these makeshift dwellings is still at the planning stage.

As for Toa Kimesan, the director of the Provincial education Unit, he claimed not to be responsible. “The body in charge of choosing the guest house is the Teacher’s Association. I guess that the Guesthouse manager did not inform the Association of the quality of the water when the booking was made”, he declared.

Rong Chhun, the President of the Cambodian Independent Teachers’ Association, a union close to the opposition, often criticised the lack of resources for teachers.

Cambodia leapfrogs 15 places in the “Doing Business 2009” list

Cambodge Soir

12-09-2008

The International Finance Corporation (IFC), a subsidiary of the World Bank, ranks Cambodia 135 out of 181 in its listing. Last year the country’s rank was 150.

According to one of the people in charge of the “Doing Business” project, the economic reforms taken last year were fruitful, as the country has made significant progress up the list: “These are very encouraging signs as other countries have also undertaken reforms” highlighted St├ęphane Guimbert, an economist working for the World Bank.

This listing is based on the analysis of ten legislative criteria: opening a business, building permit authorisation, staff hiring, ownership transfer, obtaining loans, investor protection, tax payment, cross border trade, performance of contract and closure of a business. Cambodia scores highly in the steps taken to obtain a loan and close a business. According to the IFC, two components facilitated this progress: the Law on transactions security in 2007, which provides for the use of goods to guarantee a loan and the setting up of an online application office which eases the procedure. Cambodia is now among the best reformers in this field.

The cross border trade index also plays a major role. The new computerised equipment of Sihanoukville Port, set up in May 2008 should accelerate this progression.

Although these results are a good sign for the country, it must be stressed that they are only reflecting analyses of laws and interviews with legal officers and accountants. These results do not take into account major components such as macroeconomic policy, currency stability, infrastructure quality, crime rate or investor confidence.

Response to the Opinion Piece Published in The Nation, which Undermines Friendship by Saying ‘When Cambodia Cries Wolf’

Posted on 12 September 2008
The Mirror, Vol. 12, No. 577

“Mr. Julio A. Jeldres, Samdech Euv’s [the King-Father's] biographer, wrote a letter-to-the-editor of an English language newspaper in Thailand, The Nation, on 5 August 2008, in response to an opinion piece of a Thai citizen [published on 1 August 2008, who used the name Bangkokian] under the title ‘When Cambodia Cries Wolf.’

“Koh Santepheap would like to unofficially translate this respons, written in English, translating it into Khmer and publish it.

Note:

The response, Ambassador Jeldres’s letter-to-the-editor, was re-published in the Daily Documents section of website of Their Majetis Norodom Sihanouk and Norodom Monineath Sihanouk, the King-Father and the Queen Mother of Cambodia – by the Royal Cabinet of His Majesty King Norodom Sihanouk, Royal Palace, Phnom Penh, on 9 September 2008.
For the English Mirror, we link therefore the the royal website – by a mouse click
here, the original text becomes available.

Koh Santepheap, Vol.41, #6447, 11.9.2008
Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Thursday, 11 September 2008

Court decides Preah Vihear ruling stands

The Bangkok Post
Friday September 12, 2008

The Supreme Administrative Court yesterday upheld a lower court ruling in late June to suspend cabinet backing for Cambodia's listing of the Preah Vihear temple as a World Heritage site. The court gave its ruling after the cabinet appealed to it to reserve the Central Administrative Court's injunction against the Samak Sundaravej cabinet's earlier resolution supporting Cambodia's proposal.

A joint declaration was signed by then foreign minister Noppadon Pattama and Cambodia's Deputy Prime Minister Sok An on June 18, a day after the cabinet gave it the green light.

The court decision came after the anti-government People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) asked it to rule on the matter, alleging Thailand's support for Cambodia's bid was in return for business concessions in Cambodia for former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in a 2006 coup. Mr Thaksin and both the Thai and Cambodian governments deny the claims.

The Foreign Ministry considered the document not to be an international treaty and because of this it did not need the approval of parliament.

The court injunction forced Mr Noppadon to get the Thai delegation, which was an observer at the 21-member World Heritage Committee meeting in Quebec, to protest against the listing.

Mr Noppadon quit after the Constitution Court ruled the joint communique he signed supporting Cambodia's application to list Preah Vihear as a World Heritage site was unconstitutional.

The seven-member Supreme Administrative Court, chaired by court president Ackaratorn Chularat, said the joint communique, which did not mention demarcating the border in the disputed zone, may cause Thailand to lose part of its territory and this may lead to a conflict between Thailand and its neighbour in the future.

The court also said the the joint declaration may cause trouble among Thai people and may affect relations between Thailand and Cambodia. The court decided to uphold the lower court's ruling.

Johnnie Walker Cambodian Open to return in December

September 12, 2008
Electric Sports

THE Johnnie Walker Cambodian Open will mark its return to the Phokeethra Country Club from 11 to 14 Dec with a promise of continuing the growth of golf in Cambodia.

Organisers are confident that the US$300,000 ($430,400) Asian Tour event will once again provide the platform for aspiring amateurs to make an impact at the highly-rated Phokheetra Country Club and continue to place Cambodia firmly on the international golfing map.

Asian Tour's Senior Vice President Gerry Norquist believes that the staging of Cambodia's national championship bodes well for the future of golf in such developing countries and will act as a launch pad for exciting talents to emerge.

Inspiration

Norquist said: 'We are truly excited about the return of the Johnnie Walker Cambodian Open as this event will not only provide the inspiration for Cambodians to learn more about the game but also allow them follow in the footsteps of our Asian Tour professionals.'

As the second from last ranking event on the 2008 Asian Tour season, the Johnnie Walker Cambodian Open will also shape the race for the prestigious Asian Tour Order of Merit title which is currently led by Mark Brown of New Zealand.

Defending champion Bryan Saltus of the United States, who secured his maiden triumph at last year's inaugural event, will undoubtedly be among the contenders again.

The colourful American celebrated his victory by jumping into the lake next to the 18th green after his final putt last year.

Cambodia patient over Thailand's turmoil and temple talk delays

M&C Asia-Pacific News
Sep 11, 2008

Phnom Penh - Cambodia is content to wait for as long as it takes Thailand to settle its political upheavals and resume talks over disputed border territory, its government said Thursday.

Government spokesman Khieu Kanharith said by telephone that it was the least Cambodia could do to give Thailand breathing room to get its internal affairs in order.

'The dispute over the border has been around 100 years,' Kanharith said. 'A few more weeks can't hurt.'

Cambodia closed the border at the 11th-century Preah Vihear temple on its northern border in June. On July 7 UNESCO declared the temple a World Heritage Site over Thai objections, and a week later, Thai troops moved into nearby areas that it said are disputed but that Cambodia said is its territory.

Cambodia claimed Thai troops also moved into the Moan temple complex 150 kilometres to the west soon after - claims Thailand denied, saying it has had a troop presence near there for years.

Several rounds of talks have failed to resolve the deadlock with both sides vowing not to back down. Further talks are now on hold.

Thailand's Constitution Court on Tuesday found embattled Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej guilty of violating the national charter for hosting a television cooking show after he assumed office on February 6, forcing him out of his job.

Although the court's ruling immediately deprived Samak of the premiership, the constitution allows him to return to the post if members of parliament vote him back into power
.

CAMBODIA: Landmine challenge to development

Cambodia continues to face a serious landmine challenge


PHNOM PENH, 11 September 2008 (IRIN) - Landmine and explosive remnants of war (ERW) casualties in Cambodia fell to an all-time low of 351 in 2007, further evidence of the downward trend since the 1990s.

The post-conflict peak was 1996, when Cambodia suffered 4,320 landmine or ERW-related deaths and injuries, according to a government report.

But challenges remain.

An unknown number of villages - perhaps more than 40 percent nationwide - are vulnerable to landmines, the government said.

It tried to estimate the extent of contaminated land in 2002 but later judged its measurements poorly defined.

These problems, coupled with scarce land resources – partly due to widespread evictions and spiralling property prices – place additional importance on developing the newly available land after clearance, according to the UN Development Programme (UNDP).

“Cambodia remains one of the most mine/ERW contaminated countries in the world and will require sustained external funding into the medium term to overcome it,” Steve Munroe, UNDP mine action programme manager, told IRIN.

Cambodia remains one of the most mine/ERW contaminated countries in the world and will require sustained external funding into the medium term to overcome it. “By strengthening the mine-clearance process and making productive land available to the rural poor, UNDP's mine-clearance activities directly contribute to poverty reduction in Cambodia,” he said.

According to the Cambodia Millennium Development Goals, eliminating the negative development impact of landmines, including limited arable land, is just as important as cutting the numbers of victims.
Even some ancient temples became minefields as the 1980s civil war raged on
“In terms of the prioritisation of landmine clearance … they [mine action groups] must integrate their development and mine action programmes to address poverty,” Heng Ratana, deputy director-general of the Cambodian Mine Action Centre (CMAC), told IRIN.

Following up on mine-clearance projects with community-based education projects and checking on the efficient use of land after clearance remain priorities for mine-action NGOs.

Farming risks

Villagers often take extreme risks farming but have no choice given their impoverished circumstances, says UNDP.

However, Leang Sopheap, a farmer in the heavily mined northwest Battambang Province, is willing to take the risk. “I have to feed my family, and that's the most important thing,” he told IRIN. “We can guess about landmines when we build farms, but we won't always be certain.”

Despite a significant drop in casualties over the past six years, landmines and ERW continue to affect countless communities by limiting access to land that could be put to productive use, according to UNDP.

Focusing solely on the number of mines unearthed loses sight of the bigger development picture, says Herbert Feddon, senior project manager at BACTEC, in Cambodia, a commercial de-mining company.

”Problem is, the donors want to see more and more landmines cleared per hectare, but that's quite difficult with the fatigue the de-miners experience in Cambodia,” he said.

Most objects found are random bits of metal debris, which, coupled with scorching heat, makes clearance particularly onerous, he explained. About 16 landmines were discovered per hectare of land in 2007, the government estimates.

“There's also the difficulty in measuring the number of landmines in Cambodia,” he added. Estimates range from two to 10 million but he says around five million could be in the ballpark.

Bloody history

Bombings against Cambodia during the second world war and the subsequent French-Indochina war in the 1950s scattered the countryside - particularly at the Vietnam border - with ERWs.

From 1969 to 1973, the US dropped more than 500,000 MT of explosives during its carpet-bombing campaigns against the communists. The unexploded remnants of these bombs kill or injure more Cambodians annually than landmines, at 198 victims in 2007.

In 1967, the North Vietnamese army began laying landmines in Cambodia to protect its supply routes; mining intensified in 1970, when General Lon Nol mined the countryside against the Khmer Rouge communists.

Throughout the 1980s, the Thai military mined its border to defend against a possible spillover from the retreating Khmer Rouge, who had lost their hold on the capital. The Cambodian government and rebel forces also mined the country against each other throughout the 1980s and 1990s.

The arrival of the UN Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC) in 1992, a peacekeeping mission, signalled the beginning of mine-action initiatives. Since then, Cambodia has signed the 1997 Ottawa Treaty to ban landmines and has destroyed its stockpiles of ordnance.

Inflation and Stagnant Wages Force Cambodian Garment Workers to Quit

The Irrawaddy

By KER MUNTHIT / AP WRITER
Thursday, September 11, 2008

PHNOM PENH — Soaring inflation and stagnant wages have led thousands of Cambodian garment factory workers to quit and look for better-paying jobs or return to the countryside, union leaders said Wednesday.

The development raises concerns about the future of the country's main dollar-earning industry.

"Their factory wages could no longer cope with rising food prices," said Chea Mony, president of the Free Trade Union of Workers of the Kingdom of Cambodia, which had 80,000 members at the start of the year.

Since then, 27,000 have quit, he said. Many are now working in entertainment clubs such as karaoke parlors, where they can earn more than at their previous jobs, he said.

"Sometimes they collect US $5 to $10 in tips per night from guests, and they work even fewer hours than when they were in the factories," Chea Mony said.

Others have returned to homes in the countryside, where living costs are lower.

In April, garment manufacturers raised wages by about $6 to an average of $50 a month.
But union leaders said the raise has done little to help the workers cope with the high costs of living in and around Phnom Penh, where most factories are located.

Consumer inflation in July rose to 22 percent, up from 18.7 percent in January, the last time the figure was released.

High food prices are adversely affecting Cambodia's poor, who spend approximately 70 percent of their total household consumption on food, according to a recent World Bank analysis.

Chhay Than, Cambodian Minister of Planning, said the July inflation rate was the highest recorded in 15 years and has been driven mainly by high price of oil.

The consumer rate remained at 22 percent for August, though that figure will be officially released only next week, said Khin Song, deputy director of the ministry's price index department.

Factories have been having difficulties trying to hire new labor to fill the empty slots in their assembly lines, said Chuon Mom Thol, president of the Cambodian Union Federation, another labor group.

The garment industry is the country's major export earner and employs about 350,000 workers, mostly women.

Kaing Monika, the external affairs manager of Garment Manufacturers Association of Cambodia, said the country's clothing exports in the first six months of this year were worth about $1.35 billion, a 4 percent increase over the same period in 2007.

But the profit margin, calculated to have been around 2 percent, is becoming thinner or nearly nonexistent for most factories due to high production costs caused by skyrocketing oil prices and inflation, he said.

"The buyers did not pay higher prices, and the workers are demanding more wages because of the inflation that makes them really hard to cope with the current cost of living," he said.

He said the future of the industry "is getting very tough," adding that the competitive situation looks to tighten even more when US measures, which have served as de facto limits on imports from trade rivals China and Vietnam, are lifted at the end of the year.

Hearing Held for Ambassador-Designate

By Sok Khemara, VOA Khmer
Original report from Washington
11 September 2008

Khmer audio aired 11 September 2008 (1.03 MB) - Download (MP3)
Khmer audio aired 11 September 2008 (1.03 MB) - Listen (MP3)

The US Senate's International Relations Committee held a confirmation hearing on Wednesday for Carol Rodley, a former deputy chief of mission in Phnom Penh who has been nominated as the next ambassador to Cambodia.

Rodley, who has also served in the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research, will not begin her assignment until she is approved by the full Senate.

The former ambassador, Joseph Mussomeli, ended his three-year tour in Cambodia Aug. 25.

Monk in Vietnam Under Strict Control: Group

By Taing Sarada, VOA Khmer
Original report from Washington
11 September 2008

Khmer audio aired 10 September 2008 (999 KB) - Download (MP3)
Khmer audio aired 10 September 2008 (999 KB) - Listen (MP3)

A US-based advocacy group for Khmer Kampuchea Krom people has called on the Cambodian government to bring back from Vietnam a defrocked monk who was released from prison in June but remains under close control of the Vietnamese government.

Tim Sakhorn, who had been the chief monk of a Takeo province pagoda, was defrocked last year after he was accused of fomenting unrest between Cambodia and Vietnam. He was later detained in Vietnam.

However, the vice president of the Khmer Kampuchea Krom Federation, Prak Sereyvuth, said recently Tim Sakhorn remains under virtual house arrest and is constantly watched by Vietnamese security.

"He cannot freely connect with villagers, his relatives or his friends, because spies of Vietnam's interior ministry and secret agents are watching him every day," Prak Sereyvuth said. "If he wants to speak through a phone call, he has to ask the permission from them first. They monitor him at all times. He can't travel or move to another place."

Such repression of rights was no different from a prison sentence, he said, and he appealed to the Cambodian government and Prime Minister Hun Sen to help bring him back to his pagoda.

A spokesman for the Vietnamese Embassy in Phnom Penh, Trinh Ba Cam, denied the claims.
"This is made-up information," he said. "It is not like what they say. This is old information, and I don't want to review it any more."

Tim Sakhorn, 40, was defrocked in June 2007, on orders from Cambodia's supreme Buddhist patriarch, Tep Vong. Witnesses maintain he was then ushered to Vietnam by unknown men. In November 2007, he was sentenced to a year in prison by a Vietnamese court.

Tim Sakhorn was born in southern Vietnam, an area referred to by some Cambodians as Kampuchea Krom, or "lower Kampuchea;" for some, governance of the region by Vietnam remains politically volatile.

Tim Sakhorn served 17 years at the Phnom Din pagoda in Takeo province before his defrocking, and family members have said he is a legal citizen of Cambodia. Vietnamese officials maintain he is a national there.

Brad Adams, Asia director for Human Rights Watch, called on Vietnam to "fully restore [Tim Sakhorn's] freedom."

"He should be able to travel freely and to meet his friends and family members in private," Adams said. "And the Cambodian government should publicly confirm that he is free to return to Cambodia, where he is a citizen."

The Khmer Kampuchea Krom Federation said in a recent report that at least five Kampuchea Krom monks still being held in Vietnamese prisons: Danh Tol, 27, Kim Muol, 23, Ly Hoang, 22, Ly Suong, 33, and Thach Thuong, 26.

Thai Troops Enter, Exit Ta Moan Temple

By Chun Sakada, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
11 September 2008

About 100 Thai soldiers entered a small temple in the Ta Moan complex Wednesday, withdrawing quickly after negotiating with local military commanders.

The Thai soldiers occupied the temple after spotting a group of Cambodian soldiers in an area claimed by Thailand, said Maj. Sim Sokha, deputy commander of Border Protection Unit 402.

The Thai soldiers crossed 200 meters of Cambodian land to occupy Ta Krobai temple, before leaving, he said.

"The Thai and Cambodian sides agreed to withdraw their troops on each side," he said, calling the negotiations "very successful."

The Ta Moan complex, which has three temples on the Oddar Meanchey border, is a second site of contention in a military standoff that erupted over Preah Vihear temple in July.

Khieu Samphan Halts Translation Request

By Mean Veasna, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
11 September 2008

Lawyers for jailed Khmer Rouge leader Khieu Samphan on Wednesday suspended their request for a translation of thousands of documents into French, paving the way for the final pre-trial detention of five of the regime's leaders.

Lawyers asked the tribunal to schedule Khieu Samphan's hearing Oct. 23, three days after a date recommended by the Pre-Trial Chamber of the tribunal. Lawyers had asked that 16,000 pages of court documents be translated into French before a hearing was held.

"If they do not accept, I will make all efforts to have at least one lawyer assist in the hearing," said Sar Sovan, Khieu Samphan's Cambodian lawyer.

Khieu Samphan, 76, the nominal head of the regime, is facing charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Tribunal officials have been translating the documents since April, when Khieu Samphan appeared before pre-trial judges. At the time, French lawyer Jacques Verges said he would be unable to defend his client without translations.

Sar Sovan said Thursday he and Verges would not be in the country Oct. 20.

Tuol Sleng, From Prison to House of Memory

A monk pauses in a detention room at Tuol Sleng, a prison turned museum now under consideration for Unesco protection as a Memory of the World.

By Mean Veasna, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
11 September 2008

Khmer audio aired 11 September 2008 (1.90MB) - Download (MP3)
Khmer audio aired 11 September 2008 (1.90MB) - Listen (MP3)

A small group of tourists on a recent Tuesday shuffled through the halls of Tuol Sleng, a dreaded prison under the Khmer Rouge that has become the most famous museum in Cambodia.

Through one old building to the next, the group moved, and in the eyes of some, tears built, as they scanned the mug shots of scores of Cambodians who had been photographed just before their executions. As the tourists passed the photographs of the dead, the beds where they had lain, and the shackles that had held them, a few had to flee the building, sobbing.

"Terribly shocked," one foreign woman said. "We all followed the events at that time, through media and television. And when you see the real place and you are a witness though the photographs and paintings and the torture instruments of the torture cell, it's difficult to imagine the horror and tragedy." Still, she said, "I think it is important that this museum was made."

As many as 100 visitors pass through here a day, most of them foreigners."When you come here you feel like you just want to be silent and try to imagine," said Valerie de Robillard, a French visitor who come in Cambodia for the first time. "It is a dimension that is even more terrifying in this genocide."

A high school called Tuol Svay Prey until August 1976, Tuol Sleng became the Khmer Rouge's largest prison facility. In less than two and a half years, the prison held at least 12,000 Cambodians, and as many as 16,000, who were tortured and interrogated under suspicion of spying or disloyalty to the regime. Nearly all of them were later executed and dumped into mass graves on the outskirts of town, at a place called Choeung Ek, touted now by tour guides and taxi drivers as "the killing fields."

Kaing Kek Iev, the 65-year-old former chief of the prison better known by his revolutionary alias, Duch, is now set for trial under the Khmer Rouge tribunal. The prison he once ran stands now as an icon of his regime's cruelty. It has also serves as a storehouse of evidence in his impending trial, holding thousands of documents and photographs that testify to atrocities committed under the ultra-Maoist regime, under which as many as 2 million Cambodians died.

Only seven survivors of the prison have been positively identified, and only three of those survive. Records indicate as many as 177 were released, but these survivors have not been found.

Tuol Sleng is now under consideration as a Memory of the World site, its documents and photographs, the walls themselves, and even the Choeung Ek "killing fields" to be protected by Unesco.

"We need to serve justice for all victims, whether they died or survived," the director of the museum, Chhey Sopheara said.

Prisoners were routinely tortured here, their confessions against the regime extracted under the worst of circumstances: waterboarding, electric shock, burns, prolonged hanging.

The Vietnamese forces that ousted the Khmer Rouge, on Jan. 7, 1979, found the prison and recognized a need to preserve it. Tuol Sleng ceased being a prison and began its life as a museum on Aug. 19, 1979, following a trial in absentia of the regime's leaders, Khieu Samphan, Ieng Sary and Pol Pot. Pol Pot has died. Khieu Samphan and Ieng Sary have joined Duch in tribunal detention.

The Vietnamese left many of the rooms and cells as they found them. The museum is still inscribed by rusty coils of barbed wire, and visitors can walk past rows of cells just 1.2 meters wide. In a closet sit the old instruments of the Khmer Rogue: shovels, sticks, axes. Photographs of tortured children, handcuffed or chained, are on display on large wooden tables.

A requisite stop for most tourists in Phnom Penh, Tuol Sleng, known to the Khmer Rouge by its code name, S-21, is also visited by Cambodians who suffered from the regime.

"The prisoners were tied by their feet and hanged," said a man named Kreusnar, 26, whose father, older sister and uncle died under the Khmer Rouge and who came from Prey Veng province to visit the museum alone. "The Khmer Rouge prisoners were soaked in water jars or in basins. They had their nipples cut off. This torture to me seems fresh."

Fake DVDs and CDs targeted

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by May Kunmakara
Friday, 12 September 2008

Govt planning nationwide ban on counterfeit goods

THE Ministry of Culture is set to enforce a nationwide ban of pirated music and films amid mounting international pressure to strengthen copyright and intellectual property protection in the Kingdom, officials said Wednesday.

"We have taken a gradual approach to this issue in the past, but now we must conform to international standards as a member of the World Trade Organisation, which has insisted that we enforce intellectual property rights laws," Lim Yoosou, director of the ministry's Department of Copyright and Equal Rights, told the Post Wednesday.

"The government is taking a stricter approach in order to create a better business climate for potentially large-scale investors such as Microsoft and others who rely on copyright protection," he said.

Kong Khantara, chief of the ministry's Cinema Department and a member of the Inter-ministerial Committee on Illegal Music and Movies, said the government has had decrees prohibiting piracy in place since 2003. "We just have to strengthen enforcement of existing laws by cracking down on the sale of illegal music and movies throughout the country," he said.

He said anyone caught selling pirated materials would face a 7,000 riel fine per illegal disc, adding that with so many shops selling illegal goods it is difficult for authorities to know where all of them are. "In 2007 we seized more than 10,000 counterfeit discs nationwide," Kong Khantara said.

Businesses trading in pirated goods have been warned by the government that the ban will be strictly enforced, he said. "We hope for greater success this time because we have committees throughout the country that will enforce this crackdown," he said.

Previous efforts by the government have shown little progress in halting the near ubiquitous trade in pirated goods.

Music and film producer Kvay Sam Ang said he doesn't expect much to change despite the crackdown. "I have lost a lot of money in my business because whenever my songs or films come out, people buy the original and produce thousands of illegal copies to sell in the markets," he said.

Festival Notice Board: Foundation knows what matters

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Peter Olszewski
Friday, 12 September 2008

FOUNDATION KNOWS WHAT MATTERSTHE
Temple Garden Foundation has the right idea for the Siem Reap half-marathon race to be held at Angkor on December 7 - the NGO understands that the real needs for this race are drinks and the right t-shirt.Temple Garden's rallying call is: "After a relaxing afternoon recovering from running a sub-90-minute race, please join us for drinks on Sunday evening at the funky bar. But it's not compulsory to do the run in order to attend the party.And we are designing some cool, retro TGF commemorative t-shirts which will be available for purchase.

"CERAMICS FESTIVAL LINE-UP TAKES SHAPE
The International Khmer Ceramics Festival from December 14-29 will feature international ceramicists including Janet Mansfield, a member of the Order of Australia for her services to the arts in Australia. She is also the publisher of two international ceramics magazines.Canadian Alan Lacovesky, president of the Manitoba Crafts Council, and a teacher in the ceramics department at the University of Manitoba, will also be present, as will resident Laotian ceramicist, Laurence Chabard.

PETER OLSZEWSKI

Temple Watch: Banteay Srei in fine fettle

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Dave Perkes
Friday, 12 September 2008

THE Hindu temple of Banteay Srei is 37 kilometres from the main Angkor Wat temple group, but this has not deterred busloads of tourists from making pilgrimages.

Banteay Srei has been subject to major restoration work during the early to mid 2000s. This involved repair of the foundations and propping up of the laterite walls, because some were leaning alarmingly.

The temple is now in fine condition since its restoration was completed in 2005.Recent additions in mid-2008 have seen the replacement of a number of statues representing the monkey god Hanuman and several new lion figures grouped to the east within the sanctuary.

Banteay Srei continues to be busy, with hundreds of visitors coming in by bus, and the central area of the sanctuary has been roped off to protect the delicate stonework. This enables a better view of the magnificent carved walls, without tourists getting in the way of each other's photos.

The temple is best seen before 8:30am, when the fleets of tour buses start arriving. DAVE PERKES

In Brief: Concert against child-sex tourism

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Unn Sophary
Friday, 12 September 2008

World Vision Cambodia is putting on a concert against child-sex tourism Friday evening at Siem Reap's open-air venue, Angkor Kyungju. The concert, a fundraiser to promote awareness of the issue, will run from 4:30-7:30pm. World Vision project officer So Phina said entertainment would be provided by the popular "joker band", Neay Kuy. The rock'n'humour band will be supported by singers Chhorn Sovannareach and Sokun Nisa. In attendance will be Siem Reap deputy governor Pov Pisith and provinicial Minister of Tourism Kuy Song.

Tonle Sap cleared of child beggars

Elena Lesley; Children like this stand accused of jumping into tourist boats to beg for money.
The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Vann Yun
Friday, 12 September 2008

Officials vow to eliminate child-begging problem from Chong Khneas area

THE presence of mostly-Vietnamese child beggars at the Chong Khneas area on the Tonle Sap has been nearly eliminated, and there should be none left on the lake by year's end, according to Siem Reap authorities.

Provincial Governor Sou Phirin told the Post, "Our plan is to completely stop children begging, and we will take them to educational training centres or orphanages."

Parents who put their children to work as beggars will be asked to make a contract with the authorities to not allow their children to beg, he added.

Siem Reap district police chief Phoeng Chendarith said that police have been deployed to patrol the district daily.

Phoeng Chendarith said, "Our activity has affected the begging business, and the climate now is good for the tourists who want to see Tonle Sap without being bothered by these children. Only few child beggars remain."

Child beggars, mostly Vietnamese, had proliferated in the Chong Khneas area, and the issue blew up earlier this year following complaints from tourism operators.

There were even reports that some beggars were menacing tourists who would not pay.

Authorities declared that appropriate action would be taken following a meeting held in Siem Reap in May, headed by Minister of Tourism Thong Khon.

Roeun Thoeun, chairman of the Boat Association Council in Chong Khneas, applauded the actions of provincial authorities.

"Earlier this year I used to worry about the safety of my guests when travelling on the lake. Many child beggars surrounded tourist boats asking for money.

"Some children even jumped into the tourist boats," Roeun Thoeun said. "But the authorities have done well. There are only a few child beggars left on the lake."

In Brief: PM decorates Vietnamese troops

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Vong Sokheng
Friday, 12 September 2008

Prime Minister Hun Sen awarded medals to 22 Vietnamese soldiers, ranging in rank from captain to colonel, in recognition of their role in providing technical and military hardware support to Unit 70 of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF), according to a document signed by the prime minister and dated July 2008. The document, obtained by the Post, said the medal is known as the sahametrei.

In Brief: Storm downs army tents at Preah vihear

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Thet Sambath
Friday, 12 September 2008

Heavy rain and gusting winds Monday destroyed several army tents on the front lines of the disputed Preah Vihear temple complex along the Thai-Cambodia border, according to Brigade Commander Srey Doek. "Some of the soldiers' plastic tents were destroyed and they spent about two hours in the rain," Srey Doek said. He would not say how many of the tents were damaged by the storm. After the rain stopped, the soldiers were able to repair the tents and return them to their original location, Srey Doek said.

In Brief: Thai, Cambodian military to meet

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Thet Sambath
Friday, 12 September 2008

Officers from Cambodia's Military Region 5 and Thailand's Military Region 1 are to meet next week to discuss border security and procedures for dealing with Cambodians who try to enter Thailand illegally. "We will discuss border security, drug trafficking and cooperation between our two armed forces," General Bun Seng said. "We will also raise the issue of the death of a Cambodian man shot by Thai solders at the border and a second man who was injured," he said. The meeting is to take place in Thailand.
VANDY RATTANA

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Vandy Rattana
Friday, 12 September 2008

Surrounded by strips of dried beef and dried squid, a food vendor adjusts her deep-fried quails at her wagon on Phnom Penh's riverside early evening last week.

To boycott or not... that is the question

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Meas Sokchea
Friday, 12 September 2008

A FORMERLY united opposition now appears split on whether to boycott this month's swearing in of the new National Assembly, with some politicians saying they will abandon their plans for a walkout if the King does not agree to a separate inauguration.

King Norodom Sihamoni has sent letters to the 123 parliamentarians-elect inviting them to the September 24 swearing in. But the Sam Rainsy Party, which is disputing the poll results, is standing by its request that the King hold a special ceremony for its lawmakers the following day.

"We cannot attend the swearing-in ceremony with CPP parliamentarians because they won many seats due to electoral irregularities. I believe the Human Rights Party (HRP) will also not join in the meeting," said SRP Deputy Secretary General Mu Sochua.

But HRP Secretary General Yem Ponhearith said that if the King denied their request for a change of day, the party would follow his decision.

Koul Panha, executive director of the election monitor Comfrel, said the opposition request was unsuitable.

Diarrhoea epidemic hits KChhnang

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by May Titthara
Friday, 12 September 2008

Over 100 people struck down after drinking stagnant water

MORE than 100 people have been struck down with diarrhoea and vomiting as a result of drinking water that became polluted during the rainy season in a district of Kampong Chhnang.

Meas Sothem, police chief in Kampong Leaeng district, said that even though no deaths have been reported, 113 people in the Samraong Saen commune were sick, five of whom had to be hospitalised.

"People here use water from the river and stagnant water sources, into which tree leaves fall and rot," he said. "They then drink the water without boiling it and get sick."

Meas Sothem said the illness started appearing on Saturday, with an initial 46 people affected, adding that the number of the sick had increased to 113 by Tuesday.

"Our doctor could not reach the commune in time. This place is far from town, and you need to travel there by boat," he said.

Morm Maly, an emergency officer in the Kampong Chhnang health department, said people became sick because instead of collecting water from the middle of the river, they collected the polluted water close to the riverbank.

"We try to educate people about using clean water, but they do not listen," Morm Maly said. "I think it is only once they have had a problem that they change their behaviour."

Samraong Saen commune currently lacks a well, however, the provincial governor has recently signed a release order allowing a decantation barrel to be taken there, Morn Maly said.

So Rin Tiravuthy, chief of the health department, said the situation has improved after medical aid arrived. "We have sent a doctor to the commune and we are allowing him to stay until the emergency is over."

Govt land seizures continue with 250,000 hectares confiscated

GEORGE MCLEOD; Deforested land in Stung Treng province. The government is seizing illegally cleared land.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Thet Sambath and Chun Sophal
Friday, 12 September 2008

Trees will be replanted on land that has been illegally deforested

Over the last two years, the government has reclaimed 250,000 hectares of forest land that had been illegally occupied and frequently logged by private citizens and companies, Ty Sokhon, director general of the Forestry Administration of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, told the Post last week.

The bulk of the seizures took place in Siem Reap and Banteay Meanchey provinces, with 90 percent of the crackdowns being carried out by provincial authorities, and the remainder by the courts, he said. The seizures, which have exceeded the government's target confiscation goal of 240,000 hectares by the end of 2008, have led to 20,000 appeals concerning 90,000 hectares, he added.

Svay Sitha, secretary general of the National Authority for Resolving Land Disputes, said confiscated land would be redistributed as economic and social land concessions and that trees would be replanted in some of the logged areas.

"Illegal land occupation is still a problem," he said, adding that incentives for land grabs have been diminished by a government crackdown and a general downward pressure on land values.

Chan Soveth, conservation investigator for the rights group Adhoc, said "companies have destroyed forests without replanting as stipulated in their contracts ... there needs to be serious punishment for destroying important national resources".

Koh Kong villagers demand that Wildaid withdraw from area

TOO MANY COOKS
Villagers say that WildAID should withdraw from the province as they already have a provincial governor, a district governor and commune chief to tell them what they can and cannot do. "We don't need WildAID as well," said villager Svay Top.


The Phnom Penh Post

Written by May Titthara
Friday, 12 September 2008

Villagers say that the NGO should specify exactly where the province's protected forest zone is or allow farmers to use the land

MORE than 300 Koh Kong villagers have demanded that the wildlife NGO WildAID withdraw from their communities after the organisation prohibited them from planting crops on their farms, some of which fall within a protected forest area.

"We want WildAID to withdraw from Smach Mean Chey and Bak Khlang communes because ... they don't allow us to plant crops as they say that our farms are in the protected forest," said Tan Sokhuom, Smach Mean Chey's village representative. "If they can't withdraw, they should show us exactly where the protected forest is and allow farmers to use at lease some of the land to plant crops."

For many villagers who have been living in the area for years, their livelihood is at stake. "They came to pull out my seeds and tear down my house where I have lived since 1999," said villager Svay Top, adding that all the villagers depend on farming to live.

Veann Sophanna, a WildAID officer in Koh Kong, advised the villagers to seek high level government intervention over the case, saying the NGO could not help them.

"We will ask Prime Minister Samdach Hun Sen for help," said Tan Sokhuom. "If we don't get a resolution after three months we will hold a big demonstration."

" Villagers say that the NGO should specify exactly where the province’s protected forest zone is or allow farmers to use the land "

Many of the villagers claim to have lived on the land since 1980 but lack land titles. "This is a weak point for us," Svay Top said.

Who owns the land?

"We have been told by a businessman that our land was sold to him in 1992 by the commune chief ... but when we went to speak to the commune chief he said that the businessman didn't have a land title and he issued me a land title for my 25 hectares of land," Tan Sokhuom said.

Veann Sophanna, director of the Forestry Administration, said that the land is under control of WildAID because the NGO is trying to protect the forest.

If the villagers persist in using the land for farming, the government will have to intervene, he said.

"If people in the area are really farming on the land, we will find other land for them," Veann Sophanna said, adding that some of the land in the protected zone belongs to wealthy absentee landlords and will be put under the control of WildAID.

New judges for beleaguered courts

HENG CHIVOAN; King Norodom Sihamoni, shown here in a file photo, has signed off on the appointment of 55 new judges.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Cheang Sokha
Friday, 12 September 2008

As the Kingdom's judiciary sags under the weight of thousands of unheard cases, recent graduates from the Royal School of Judges have been brought in to help carry the load

A MASSIVE backlog in the court system has forced the Supreme Council of the Magistracy to appoint 55 judicial graduates as judges and deputy prosecutors at 21 municipal and provincial courts across the Kingdom.

The appointees, recent graduates from the Royal School of Judges, were appointed in a July 12 royal decree signed by King Norodom Sihamoni, chairman of the council, following a request from Minister of Justice Ang Vong Vathana.

A further decree also allowed six judges and prosecutors to continue their work beyond the age of retirement to help handle the growing backlog of court cases. Both decisions were approved by the council on July 30.

Hanrot Raken, a member of the council and general prosecutor of the Appeals Court, said that the courts did not have enough judges and prosecutors to handle the huge number of cases being filed.

"We still need more judges and prosecutors to help the courts function," he told the Post Wednesday. "Currently, judges and prosecutors can't cope with the courts' demands.

"Hanrot Raken said the Appeals Court received around 2,000 criminal and civil cases annually and said the number will only rise.

"I see the judges and prosecutors working hard," he said, although "their implementation is not yet 100 percent accurate".

Phnom Penh Municipal Court President Chev Keng said the court currently has 16 judges and eight prosecutors on staff, with each judge handling between 600 to 700 cases annually.

"Previously each judge handled more than 1,000 cases per year. Now this has dropped to about 700, but we still need more judges," Chev Keng told the Post, adding that the ideal workload was around 200 cases per year.

"I think every province faces the same shortfall of judges."

Iv Horng, director of the council's administration department, said overall about 110 graduates from the Royal School of Judges have been offered jobs and that around 300 judges and prosecutors are currently employed in courts across the country.

"Judges and prosecutors who have served for more than four years get rotated to another location," Iv Horng said. "Some complained to the council that they were serving for a long time in each place, which can introduce bias."

During Prime Minister Hun Sen's "iron fist" campaign a few years ago, some judges and prosecutors were sacked and suspended from their positions for taking bribes and lacking the necessary qualifications.

Peung Yok Hiep, executive director of Legal Aid of Cambodia, said the lack of judges will keep more suspects in pretrial detention, a violation of suspects' rights.

"Previously some provincial courts have borrowed judges from neighboring provinces to help try cases," she said.

"The law requires three judges for fair trials in criminal cases, so it is clearly necessary to employ more."

Drought claims Takeo's rice crop

HENG CHIVOAN; Takeo farmer Ouk Heng, 66, examines her paddy last week. Drought is threatening to destroy harvests in Takeo province, where few farmers have access to proper irrigation systems.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Kouth Sophak Chakrya and Brendan Brady
Friday, 12 September 2008

A DROUGHT during the critical lead up to the annual harvest is devastating Takeo farmers without irrigation systems to use in dry times.

"Last year the brown grasshopper ate 30 percent of our seeds, this year the drought could do much worse," said Chhoeung Sareth, 54, a farmer in Trapaing Sab commune, Barty district in Takeo province, which has been hit especially hard by the drought.

The farmers in her community are bracing for a complete loss of their crop this year. "The rice seedlings will die if there is no rainfall, and we will die if there is no rice," she said.

Voeung Chanthan, head of Barty district's agriculture bureau, said "our district has no water supply other than rain so the drought has destroyed 70 percent of the rice".

Ith Sarun, director of Takeo province's agriculture department, estimated the rice harvest would shrink by 20 percent but insisted there would be no food shortages.

The drought's timing couldn't be worse, as it comes during the critical early stages of the paddy harvesting process, said Grahame Hunter, an agronomist for the agricultural technical team ABK. "The only way to get around drought is irrigation, which most farmers ... don't have access to."