Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Education without borders


HOW TO HELP
Community members willing to help Oakwood Elementary teacher Tom Linn raise funds to build a library at the Chang-ra School in the Battambong province of Cambodia can contact him at
tom30on32@yahoo.com.
By Keith Reid
Record Staff Writer
October 28, 2008

STOCKTON - When Tom Linn first traveled to Cambodia in 2003, the Oakwood Elementary School teacher and self-proclaimed "National Geographic junkie" did so to tour the country's ancient ruins and historical architecture.

Five years later, the 63-year-old's connection to the province of Battambong has been life-changing for him, but potentially culture-changing for an impoverished riverside village composed of small homes, dirt roads, rice fields and one tiny schoolhouse.

Linn, with the help of Oakwood bilingual aide and Battambong native Vannak Hout, donated $10,000 and countless hours of volunteer work to build a two-classroom addition to the Chang-ra Elementary School.

Not much more than eight walls and two white boards, the addition doubled the size of the school and opened access to an education 200 village children there never would have otherwise received.

"It was a small chunk of my salary to do this but such a value to this small community," said Linn, who also hopes to build a library at the school. "I never in my wildest dreams thought I'd be part of something like this. But, I started seeing a larger Cambodian population in my classrooms, met Mr. Hout, and I felt like there was no question that I had to help."

Expanding the schoolhouse was a monumental achievement for the village, said Hout, who lived there the first 17 years of his life and still has family there. The village leaders appealed to the Cambodian government for education grants to build a school, but officials declined. There is no electricity in the village, no other amenities that would accommodate a school in the government's view, Hout said. If villagers wanted their children to attend school, they could send them to the provincial capital of Battambong, which happens to be Stockton's sister city, a 30-minute car ride away.

"They don't have cars, they would have to walk, so they just wouldn't go to school," Hout said, noting that teachers in Cambodia make a meager $30-a-month salary. "Having a school in the village is life-changing. The families that had their children working the rice fields now send them to school."

Linn said the welcome he has received in the village has been priceless and has renewed the spirit that drove him to be an educator more than 25 years ago.

"They are so appreciative of the opportunity to have an education," Linn said. "I love teaching here, but this schoolhouse ... this is why I'm a teacher."

In the Cambodian village, where Linn travels now as often as he can with suitcases full of school supplies, books are treasured items, he said. Children dream of the day they can have a career - not working for a pittance, or doing the dangerous work of extinguishing explosives in the live mine fields left over from the Khmer Rouge regime, a violent spread of communism from the bordering Vietnam in an attempt to trample free trade.

"Here, you see books here and there, thrown all over the room. There, when they hand you a book, they use both hands in fear they would drop it," Linn said. "It's the path to success. They want to get good jobs and return to give back."

With the school expansion complete, Linn is now turning his attention to raising enough money to build a library. He's unsure of the total cost to build a library because the value of the American dollar continues to weaken.

However, he has commissioned his Oakwood students to collect and donate their recyclable cans and bottles from home and is building a personal donation as well.

"It's something I can do. I can, from time to time, be a courier of money and medicine for this small portion of this country," he said. "They need a library."

Contact reporter Keith Reid at (209) 367-7428 or kreid@recordnet.com.

Auditing firms need urgent regulation, legislation: official

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by NGUON SOVAN AND HOR HAB
Tuesday, 28 October 2008

About 2,000 local companies are in need of proper auditing, but with little oversight the quality of services on offer is questionable

CAMBODIA lacks the proper legal framework and government oversight to ensure the integrity of the Kingdom's auditing and certified accounting firms, a senior finance ministry official told the Post.

"The Finance Ministry's National Accounting Council (NAC) has not had any laws by which they can inspect or control auditing firms' quality controls, or the effectiveness of those controls," Ngy Tayi, undersecretary of state for the Ministry of Economy and Finance and chairman of the NAC, told the Post following a workshop on financial reporting in Phnom Penh last week.

He said Cambodia has 19 auditing firms, but that only individual certified public accountants are licensed.

"Even though auditors may be guilty of misconduct, no one inspects them. They say they comply with ethical codes of conduct, but who can say for certain? We will amend the law to include provisions for auditing," Ngy Tayi said.

He added that the NAC has tried to amend laws on corporate accounting since 2005 and it hopes to finalise new legal provisions by the end of 2009.

"So far, we have not been able to control private audit firms or individual auditors to make sure they are honest and free of corruption," he said.

He acknowledged that the public has doubts about the honesty and accuracy of Cambodia's auditors.

"All professions have some level of misconduct," he said.

Ngy Tayi said that some officials may currently be able to sign off on company reports they know to be inaccurate or intentionally falsified.

"This is unacceptable. It is a matter of credibility. If auditors do this, we will not be able to proceed with the forthcoming stock market because the public will not trust us if financial statements are inaccurate," he said.

Key Kak, chairman of the firm Morison Kak & Associates, said that he agreed with the regulation of accounting firms "to ensure transparency and accuracy".

" Even though auditors may be guilty of misconduct, no one inspects them. "

"Auditors should work to a professional code and protect the public's interest," he said.

A shortage of qualified auditors in Cambodia has left about 2,000 businesses without proper oversight, Ngy Tayi said.

"It is necessary ... to increase our number of qualified accountants and auditors," he said, adding that by about 2010, Cambodia could have 150 auditors.

Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker Yim Sovann said last Wednesday amendments to accounting laws will improve NAC oversight, but the organisation would still suffer a credibility gap if inspectors were linked to political parties.

"Most companies ...are owned by businesspeople with close ties to the ruling party's politicians. Even if the NAC inspects auditing firms, their oversight would not be independent or accurate because of the influence of powerful politicians," he said.

Chinese Aid Wins Hearts, Twists Arms in Southeast Asia

Geoffrey Cain 28 Oct 2008

World Politics Review

PHON Penh, Cambodia -- In search of raw materials, China has increasingly used development assistance to court Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam, three countries "forgotten" since the Vietnam War. The U.S., too, has stepped up its activities in the region since the Sept. 11 attacks, although its efforts have focused more on counterterrorism cooperation than on directly addressing the growing Chinese influence. But as Southeast Asia increasingly becomes the object of the two powers' attention, some in the region are expressing discomfort with their growing rivalry.

A January 2008 report *[http://fas.org/sgp/crs/row/RL34310.pdf] * by the Congressional Research Service (CRS) noted that China outpaced the U.S. in assistance to lesser developed Southeast Asian countries last year. Cambodia, for example, received $689 million from China in 2007, along with pledges of $1 billion in loans in 2008 for two dam projects to power the electricity-starved countryside. That's far above the U.S.'s total assistance of $55 million in 2007, mostly disbursed through non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

The effect of China's no-strings-attached approach to development aid is noticeable. Throughout the 1990s, when aid was more clearly dominated by Western donors and Japan, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen worked through multilateral aid agencies and the United Nations. Now, he publicly blasts such organizations, threatening to close the offices of the UN human rights agency after taking offense at comments made by its recently resigned representative, Yash Ghai, and banning the NGO Global Witness in 2007 for publishing a report critical of his family's involvement in illegal logging. Currently facing a $1 billion shortfall in development funds from a lagging economy, Sen met with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao on Oct. 24 at the Asia-Europe summit and was promised $280 million in loans for infrastructure.

Laos has seen similar assistance from China in the form of transportation infrastructure and hydropower projects valued at $178 million and economic cooperation at $45 million in 2006, a stark contrast to the U.S.'s $4.5 million in aid between 2005 and 2007. China has also engaged the country with youth scholarship programs to study in Beijing and has been modernizing the Laotian military, despite Laos Prime Minister Choummaly Sayasone's policy of maintaining closer ties with Vietnam. The effort could pay dividends by increasing Chinese influence among the country's next generation of leaders, once those brought up under Vietnam's revolutionary fervor pass on.

More controversially, Burma has also received pledges of around $5 billion in loans, equipment, and investment from China since the ruling military junta took power in 1988, the CRS report added. The U.S.'s 2007 aid to Burma at $12 million was intended only for refugee programs along the Thai-Burma border, a paltry sum, perhaps, but a more justifiable cause. The Chinese aid to Burma keeps the military junta afloat, commentators note, and many are pessimistic about Beijing's future willingness to confront the junta on its repressive policies, given China's competition with India for a major natural gas pipeline in Burma.

Perhaps more problematic than China's "no-strings-attached" approach to domestic affairs, however, is that it does attach strings to recipients' positions on foreign policy issues, sometimes at the expense of U.S. interests. Cambodia, Laos, and Burma have all toed the line on Beijing's "one China" policy to appease the country's aid regimen, while Beijing reportedly halted $200 million in aid to Vietnam in 2006 after Vietnam invited Taiwan to attend that year's APEC summit in Hanoi, according to the Singapore-based Straits Times. Some Chinese aid resumed after the July and August floods.

Nevertheless, U.S. and Chinese interests in Southeast Asia are not locked in a "zero sum" competition. The region's proximity to Japan, India, and Australia makes it a historically contested sphere of influence among powers. What's more, leaders from Cambodia, Vietnam, and Laos have repeatedly expressed that they do not wish to choose between the U.S. and China. And a June report* [http://pewglobal.org/reports/display.php?ReportID=260] *by the Pew Global Attitudes Project showed that public opinion views unilateral regional policies -- of both China and the U.S. -- with increasing concern.

Both Beijing and Washington have previously worked alongside Japan and Australia, two of Southeast Asia's largest donors, in multilateral aid projects. More multilateral cooperation between donors might help harmonize Chinese and American regional agendas. China's first pledge of $91.5 million in 2007 through the multilateral Consultative Group, a consortium of countries and institutions that meets annually to pledge aid to Cambodia , was a start. But other ASEAN countries have not yet seen such coordination.

The U.S. also needs to reaffirm and reposture its relations with ASEAN countries, moving beyond what many Southeast Asians fear is marginal and fleeting interest in the region's security issues. A recent report by the Stanley Foundation *[http://www.stanleyfoundation.org/resources.cfm?id=286]* advises the next administration to regularly send diplomats to annual ASEAN meetings (Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice missed several), and to strengthen multilateral coordination on human rights and security problems.

U.S. policymakers can't expect to win hearts and minds in Southeast Asia if U.S. diplomats are consistently outdone by their Chinese counterparts. And in response to what author Joseph Kurlantzick* *calls China's "charm offensive" in Southeast Asia, the U.S. must not only make aid to the region a priority, but must do so in a cooperative and dependable manner.

Geoffrey Cain is a Phnom Penh-based contributor to the Far Eastern Economic Review and Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN), a U.N.-run news wire service.

Photo: President Bush with leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, September 2007. White House photo by Chris Greenberg.

Cambodian finance sector safe: bank

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Nguon Sovan
Tuesday, 28 October 2008

The head of Cambodia's new Korean-owned Best Specialized Bank says the sector is insulated from global market turmoil and insists that fears of a drop in Korean investment are unjustified

DESPITE the economic crisis gripping South Korea, the head of a newly-opened Korean bank says that Cambodia offers a safe haven from the international turmoil.

"The bank specialises in providing loans, and 20 percent of the bank's profits will be go towards developing education, health and culture in Cambodia," said Shin Hyun-kyu, chairman of the Best Specialized Bank.

Korean Ambassador Shin Hyun-suk also said the Kingdom has been largely spared from the global financial crisis. But he warned that falling global demand and asset shortages have begun to hit Cambodia's garment and tourism sectors, which have driven the country's double-digit expansion for the past five years.

He added that Korean investment in Cambodia grew to US$830 million last year, making Cambodia the sixth-largest investment destination for Korean companies.

In the first half of 2008, Korean investment in Cambodia increased to $860 million.

He added that Korean investment has refocused from the garment sector to real estate and construction, but has now also turned attention to the banking sector.

"To date, Korea has opened four commercial banks and one specialised bank in Cambodia," Shin said.

Tal Nay Im, director general of the National Bank of Cambodia, said Best Specialized is the sixth specialised bank to open in Cambodia, and NBC hopes the bank will be an active loan provider for small and medium business and agriculture enterprises.

"Even though Korea faces financial crisis, it is still investing in the banking sector in Cambodia. This reflects their trust in Cambodia's banking future," said Tal Nay Im.

She said local banks have not been affected by the global financial crisis because they remain relatively isolated from international finance.

"So far, the banking sector in Cambodia has not been affected by the global financial crisis because our banking system hasn't been integrated into global banking.... The fact that we don't have a stock market also shelters us from the shocks," she said.

She added that the National Bank of Cambodia has set out measures to counter the crisis by raising commercial banks' cash reserve requirements from eight percent to 16 percent in order to increase liquidity. Commercial bank reserves were raised from US$13 million to $37.5 million, and specialised bank reserves from $2.5 million to $7.5 million.

The bank also restricted lending on real estate to not more than 15 percent of the total loan portfolio.

South Korea has been hit hard by the financial crisis and the Korean won is Asia's worst-performing currency this year.

Tal Nay Im said that to date, there are 22 commercial banks and six specialised banks in Cambodia.

One million Thai workers risk losing jobs in 2009

One million Thai workers are at risk of losing their jobs next year because of a sharp fall in export orders
BANGKOK (AFP) — One million Thai workers are at risk of losing their jobs next year because of a sharp fall in export orders, the Federation of Thai Industries said Tuesday.

The federation's deputy chairman, Thaveekij Jaturajarernkul, blamed the slowdown in global economic growth for the bleak forecast, which he said could bring troubles worse than the 1997 Asian financial crisis.

"Exports orders from our main markets -- the US, Europe and Japan -- have dropped significantly in all industries.

"That will affect our labour employment and we estimate that next year around one million workers may lose their jobs," Thaveekij told AFP.

"If another economic crisis hits Thailand this time it's going to be far worse than in 1997 because it will affect every sector," he added.

Between mid-September and earlier this month, Thai export orders from the top three markets dropped by an average of 30-40 percent across all industries. The figure was higher still for the luxury goods sector, Thaveekij said.

He said Thailand currently has about six million workers in the manufacturing sector, two million workers in small and medium-sized enterprises and 1.2 million workers in the service and logistics sector.

"Besides, around 700,000 students from colleges and vocational schools are expected to graduate and seek employment next year. They will be affected, too," Thaveekij said.

He said some businesses had recently cut down their employee workdays from six to five days per week, while others had put a freeze on overtime.

"This quarter we should have received orders for the first two months of next year. But so far we have fewer orders than usual and some orders cancelled," Thaveekij said.

THAI RATH EDITORIAL

Bangkok Post
Tuesday October 28, 2008

Thai-Cambodian relations took a step forward last week when the two prime ministers met during the Asia-Europe Summit in Beijing.

Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat and his Cambodian counterpart Hun Sen agreed that the border conflict must be solved peacefully through the joint Thai-Cambodian border demarcation committee, which is scheduled to meet on Nov 10.

PM Hun Sen softened his stance during his meeting with PM Somchai. Two weeks ago, the Cambodian leader had demanded that Thai troops be withdrawn from a disputed area near the Preah Vihear temple. Clashes subsequently erupted, resulting in casualties on both sides.

The longstanding border dispute has done more harm than good to both countries. Cambodia has lost its income from tourism and border trade since the temple dispute flared up last July. Thailand's border trade has also suffered.

The two leaders' meeting in Beijing has generated optimism and goodwill on both sides of the border. Those who tried to whip up nationalism to create tensions between the two countries must now think twice.

During the Cold War era, the United States and the Soviet Union created wars through their proxies around the world, and Southeast Asia was no exception. Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam were drawn into this proxy war.

With the demise of the Soviet empire, Thailand under the late prime minister Chatichai Choonhavan adopted a new policy to turn the Indochina battlefields into trade zones. Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam subsequently joined the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean).

All countries must strive for peaceful co-existence for the benefit of their peoples.

Cambodian front line soldiers exchange guns for fishing lines

BORDER TALKS
The Thai-Cambodian Joint Border Commission is set to meet for talks in Thailand on November 10 to resolve the ongoing border standoff between the two nations, pending the approval of the Thai parliament, which is set to consider the issue today.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Thet Sambath
Tuesday, 28 October 2008

As tensions relax in the wake of this month's armed clashes, RCAF soldiers at the border are angling for something other than war

BORDER tensions have relaxed to the point where Cambodian soldiers stationed at the Ta Moan Thom and Ta Krabey temples have started fishing in their off time, according to RCAF officers.

"Since the situation has eased, our soldiers have found time to go catch fish in small rivers along the Dangrek mountains," Ho Bunthy, deputy commander of Border Military Unit 402, told the Post Monday.

"They are on alert, but they do not need to carry weapons for the whole day as they have done before. They can put their guns down and go to fish for food," he added.

Neak Vong, deputy commander of Brigade 42, stationed at Ta Moan Thom temple, said that the main challenge for the local troops at the moment was the torrential rain, which has not let up for three days.

"The situation is much better than before, but soldiers at the front line have faced rain almost every day for two weeks. We do not confront [the Thais] like before," Neak Vong said, adding that rains had at least swelled local streams and given soldiers somewhere to fish.

"My soldiers have put their guns down and go to fish for food at some places because there is more rain and there are more fish to catch," he said.

Yim Phim, commander of Brigade 43 stationed at Preah Vihear, said that the situation was normal Monday and that Thai soldiers had not appeared at Veal Antri since this month's brief firefight between troops from both sides.

"The situation is normal, but our soldiers are still on the alert to defend the nation," he said. "We have not seen Thai soldiers at Veal Antri since our two clashes took place."

Politiktonns : " Whie Elephant can't jump "

Courtesy Sacravatoon

Sacravatoons : " Bonn Kathen SRP "

Courtesy Sacravatoon

Sacravatoons : " Mouths talking "

Courtesy Sacravatoon

Thai Tensions Form Apt Backdrop for Asean Meeting

IRRAWADDY

By MARWAAN MACAN-MARKAR / IPS WRITER
Tuesday, October 28, 2008

BANGKOK — The decision by Thai government to shift the venue of a regional summit from Bangkok to the northern city of Chiang Mai points to an administration unsure of its place in the country’s capital.

Prime Minster Somchai Wongsawat announced the move during a weekend visit to the country’s second largest city, which nestles in the hilly region close to the Burmese border. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) leaders’ meeting will run there from December 15-18.
Multi-colored of plastic hand-shaped clappers are seen at a stall near the Government House compound in Bangkok. (Photo: AFP)

"The main reason for the change was the government’s worry that the continuing protests led by the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) could cause trouble for the event," the Bangkok Post reported on Monday, quoting an unnamed foreign ministry source.

It is a decision that is winning little praise from some former diplomats, given what a change of venue implies. "This is the government’s admission of its weaknesses and that it is not in control," Kasit Piromya, a former Thai ambassador to the United States, told IPS. "It is the government that runs the country, yet we see that they are not in charge."

It also reflects the government’s refusal to "solve the problem by having a dialogue with the PAD," he added. "The government has not shown any sign that it wants to speak with the PAD and defuse the situation to hold the Asean summit in Bangkok."

The PAD, which champions a conservative, right-wing and an extreme nationalist agenda, has crippled the ruling six-party coalition from functioning through its street protests that have continued since May. It currently occupies the prime minister’s office and hundreds of its protesters laid siege to parliament in early October.

However, political tension does not plague Thailand alone. Malaysia, to its south, is gripped with its own turmoil. The government that has ruled for decades, led by the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), is in a spin due to an internal tussle for power and pressure from the opposition led by the charismatic Anwar Ibrahim.

The power of the ruling Barisan Nasional (National Alliance) coalition was shattered during general elections in March, emboldening the opposition and the country’s minorities to mount challenges after the watershed poll. The opposition won five states and 82 seats in the 222-seat parliament, while the Barisan retained 140 seats.

Since the poll, Anwar, who leads the National Justice Party, has held regular political rallies in Kuala Lumpur and elsewhere, attracting thousands of people at times. He has already threatened to form a new government by attracting defectors from the Barisan’s parliamentarians.

What is happening in Thailand and Malaysia reflects a "shift in how people perceive democracy in this region," says Roshan Jason, executive director of the Asean Inter-parliamentary Myanmar (Burma) Caucus. "The public is demanding greater engagement in the process of government and decision making."

"The old order of letting Southeast Asian governments rule without any accountability to the people is unravelling," he added during a telephone interview from Kuala Lumpur. "Unfortunately, Asean still trails behind other regions in this area," Jason said.

Yet not all of Asean’s founding nations—Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand—are eager to create a political culture that keeps an elected government in check through opposition pressure and campaigns by anti-government activists. The affluent city-state of Singapore is still determined to remain a nominal democracy.

Recently, Chee Soon Juan, leader of the opposition Singapore Democratic Party, was slapped with another crippling fine in the latest of legal cases brought against him by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his father, Lee Kuan Yew. The cases affirmed the authoritarian climate that still prevails in the region’s most economically developed nation.

Indonesia and the Philippines, by contrast, have made strides towards becoming more democratic and have moved beyond the stage where Thailand and Malaysia find themselves.

Asean’s other members include Brunei, an absolute monarchy, Burma, under the grip of a military dictatorship, Cambodia, which has a young, flawed democracy, and Laos and Vietnam, both of which are ruled by communist parties.


Bringing this patchwork of struggling democracies, semi-democracies and non-democracies into a cohesive regional entity is the challenge that looms before the 14th Asean summit. After all, the period under Thailand’s stewardship was to mark a major transition for this bloc, which was created in 1967 as a bulwark against the spread of communism during the height of the Cold War.

The focus of this year’s summit is the endorsement of the Asean Charter, which aims to transform this 10-member body into a rules-based entity. A key pillar in this makeover is a plan to establish a new regional human rights mechanism. Asean has also set its sights on creating a unified, integrated economic community by 2015.

"We now look forward to an early entry into force of the Asean Charter before the Asean leaders meet in Bangkok for their summit," Surin Pitsuwan, Asean secretary-general and former Thai foreign minister, said in a statement last week before the change of venue was announced.

In fact, one regional diplomat, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that the political tension in Thailand leading up to the summit in Chiang Mai serves as "a reality check for the Asean governments about the new political attitudes in our region. The Charter will be meaningless if this trend is ignored there."

The Amazing Race: "Do It Like a Madman"

IGN TV.com.au

A floating village and two beautiful temples play host to the racers.

by Diana Steenbergen

US, October 27, 2008 - Seven teams remain this week as the racers leave New Zealand for Cambodia. Usually the move to Asia leads to meltdowns from at least a team or two, but for the most part the teams keep it together during the episode, even when dealing with broken boats and constantly shifting positions in the order.

In last place, Ty and Aja hope for the airport to work its magic as the great equalizer, and it does work for the other teams, but sadly not for Ty and Aja. With the other six teams arriving in Cambodia at approximately the same time, the race was on for who would finish first. However, with Ty and Aja essentially out of the picture, there was no real sense of jeopardy for any other team, even when they performed poorly at certain tasks. The editors did their best to persuade us that Ty and Aja could catch up at any moment, but it wasn't convincing.

The teams encounter some delays throughout this leg, some of their own making, such as Terence and Sarah being pulled over for speeding in New Zealand, and some of the bad luck variety, like Terence and Sarah's boat breaking down. My personal favorite mistake this week was when Kelly and Christy see Ken and Tina shooting hoops and decide they should ignore their current instructions to go to the floating restaurant and just skip ahead to a basketball game. They continue to state they are going to utilize their brain power and they continue to fail at it. It is more amusing since they are pretty unlikable.

Dan and Andrew seem to be experiencing the most stress as they are confused a lot of the time. Dan's arms flapping around whenever they are baffled at what to do next is sort of funny to watch, and they continue to squeak by, second to last again this week. As Dan noted, this can only continue for so long before they actually are last.
The detour was on the easy side this week, but with six teams so close to each other it was still interesting to see the shifting around of who was finishing first and who was falling behind. And the floating village they were at was fascinating. If only Ty and Aja had also been there, it might have been really exciting. The roadblock seemed very simple as well, although Tina got lost enough trying to find the clue that she and Ken fell in the standings several places. To their credit, they both handled this well as Tina took responsibility and Ken took it in stride. It is good to see that they can work together well as a team even when they are not comfortably in first place. The previews for next week indicate that this might change; we will just have to wait and see.

Nick finds the clue at the roadblock first and cleverly hides it so that he doesn't give away the fact that he has it. Since he wasn't working with someone this time, it didn't bother me like it did when he ditched people in the second leg of the race.

This quick work at the roadblock lands Nick and Starr in first place and they are happy to have done it a second time, proving the first was not a fluke. Ty and Aja are eliminated, to the surprise of no one, and their farewell speeches are very sweet. Aja is adorable when talking about Ty; her whole face lights up. And Ty has made the decision to take the long distance part out of their relationship. Although they will not be a part of The Amazing Race any more, I wish them the best of luck!

Food crisis: Cambodia is “not in the red”

Cambodge Soir

27-10-2008

According to Douglas Broderick, the UN coordinator in Cambodia, the country is not among the 24 countries at risk by the food crisis.

“The words ‘food crisis’ cannot apply to Cambodia” declared Douglas Broderick, The UN coordinator in Cambodia on Friday October 24. He made this statement during the presentation of a UN- Cambodia co-operation report.

“Cambodia is not among the 24 countries listed in the red zone. The issue lies more within underprivileged families who do not have sufficient resources to buy food in some regions”. Last May the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO), a UN body designated 22 vulnerable States to the food crisis and Cambodia was among them.

During this press conference Douglas Broderick and Rafael Dochao Moreno, the chargé d’affaires, representative of the European Commission in Phnom Penh presented the results of the co-operation policy.

“In recent years, the European Commission contributed 18 million Euros (US$ 22.7 million) to implement development activities through UN agencies in Cambodia. Among them are projects and programmes in supporting sustainable development in basic health, to improve the quality of life and rural areas economic development, to build constructions for commune councils and to finance the Khmer Rouge tribunals”, declared Rafael Dochao Moreno. When asked about the real will of international organisations to fight corruption and to force government leaders to publish their private means, Rafael Dochao Moreno mentioned his native country: “in Spain when I was a student to submit an application file, one had to put a bribe at each administrative level of responsibility. I think this should sounds familiar to a lot of Cambodians...but the Spain took measures by increasing civil servant salaries, by adopting strict regulations and heavy fines while improving the educational system”.

“Spain is now regarded as a kind of model for applying strategies in fighting corruption. It took 40 years, a simple Law won’t change everything”, he added.

As for Douglas Broderick when asked on the real impact of the UN activities on the Cambodian economy, he asserted that UN agencies were doing their best to favour "local resources" and to train their Cambodian staff "skills and techniques".

Phnom Penh and Bangkok promise to be good

Cambodge Soir

27-10-2008

The countries’ Prime Ministers met on Friday October 24 in China, during the Asia-Europe summit, to discuss the border row.

Both government chiefs agreed to restraint in the use of armed force in solving their dispute. This announcement is the only concrete achievement to come out of the meeting. No resolution is in sight for the Preah Vihear issue. But both Ministers of Foreign Affairs showed optimism. The Cambodian Minister Hor Nam Hong and his Thai counterpart Sompong Amornvivat declared that their respective Prime Ministers “agreed [that] the [October 15] skirmishes shall not happen again”. According to official sources, there are three dead on the Cambodian side and one on the Thai side.

These declarations, easing the tension, came after another meeting was held between military commanders on October 23-24, in Siem Reap. There again both countries declared that weapons shall not be used again.

However the diplomatic stance does not convince everyone, as for months both countries’ leaders have made reassuring statements but on site no conflict resolution seems to be underway.

Cambodia in top gear at the Suzuki Cup

Cambodge Soir

27-10-2008

The national team’s success against Brunei qualified Cambodia for the AFF Suzuki Cup final round next December.

“Victory with our feet and glory in the net...” this is the song the Cambodian team could have sung mid-afternoon on Saturday October 25. They beat Brunei 2-1 and qualified for the AFF Suzuki Cup 2008 final round. The tournament will be held in Indonesia and Thailand in December.

Cambodia had to show guts to win the game. The Cambodians trailed but equalised through a goal scored by Sam El Nasa, the Preah Khan Reach player and best scorer of the competition with four goals. Khim Borey kicked the winner in an erupting stadium.

Coach Prak Sovarara showed his joy after the win: “my team played very well. They gave everything; this is a historical success for our country”.

»Cambodia finished second and qualified with Laos. Although sharing the same amount of points as the Philippines, they qualified thanks to a better goal difference.In December the national team will join Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Burma, Laos and Viet Nam in the final round.

Elections: Paris answers Sam Rainsy

Cambodge Soir

27-10-2008

Jean-David Levitte, a diplomatic advisor to the French President, Nicolas Sarkozy, assessed the Cambodian elections as “better organised than the former ones [although] they did not meet international standards”, he stressed. The Sam Rainsy Party (SRP) deemed this answer satisfying.

The last general election “process was better than the previous elections but they are not yet up to international standard” stated a letter drafted by Jean-David Levitte and sent to Sam Rainsy.

On August 28, Sam Rainsy wrote to Nicolas Sarkozy and to the Indonesian president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, both Heads of State of the chairing countries of the Paris Agreements in 1991.

In the letter, Sam Rainsy and Kem Sokha declared that “what is left of the democracy installed at high cost by the international community is a cracking facade”.

“This answer is positive" SRP MP Mu Sochua, declared to Cambodge Soir hebdo on October 24. “This proves that the French government assumes its role towards Cambodia. What Jean-David Levitte wrote about not respecting the international standard is what Comfrel also concluded.

In his letter Jean-David Levitte promised that the French government will closely monitor the forthcoming Cambodian elections. This is a positive and strong message”, added Mu Sochua.

The MP also declared that the SRP maintains a “good relationship” with the French Embassy in Phnom Penh.

UNESCO assesses Preah Vihear damage

Cambodge Soir

27-10-2008

The Wednesday, October 15 shootings near the World Heritage listed monument affected some areas of the sacred temple.

“For the moment we are still carrying out an assessment of the damage but it doesn’t seem major” indicated Teruo Jinnai, representative of UNESCO in Cambodia, to Cambodge Soir Info.

The representative was warned by the relevant authorities that the “temple was damaged during the skirmishes”. But he indicated that “for the moment no complaint has been filed".

The day of the shooting, the General Director of UNESCO, Koïchiro Matsuura, expressed his sympathy with the United Nations General Secretary’s dismay at the loss of human lives after the skirmishes. He also recalled that the protection of a World Heritage Site “is the collective responsibility of the international community”.

Siem Reap: Preah Vihear talks still stalling

Cambodge Soir

27-10-2008

But both military commanders showed “optimism” at the end of the meeting.

Chea Morn, the Cambodian commanding officer and Thai Lieutenant General Wiboonsak Neeparn declared their “optimism” at the end of the bipartite meeting in Siem Reap, although the border row was not mentioned.

“Both parties should be commended for their patience in easing the tension in Preah Vihear, we are looking at avenues we can follow to solve the row and bring the situation back to normal”, stated a joint declaration. During the meeting, the participants mentioned the fight against drugs and weapons trafficking, smuggling and crime in border areas.

Despite the wishes of the Cambodian delegation, the Preah Vihear file was not set on the agenda following the October 23 declaration of the Thai delegation of “having no competence” in dealing with this issue.

According to Chea Morn and Wiboonsak Neeparn, Cambodian and Thail cooperation is efficiently moving towards the resolution of the Ta Moan Thom and Ta Krabei rows.

During the meeting an anonymous leaflet was distributed, depicting a map of Veal Antry, Phnom Troap and the Keo Sekha Kirisvarak pagoda in Preah Vihear and accusing Thailand of violating Cambodian territory.

The Thai side did not wish to comment on the document arguing that it bears no relations to the meeting.

These meetings are held on a regular basis and deal with trans-border cooperation. It was the eleventh meeting of this kind.

FTI official says dispute poses long-term risks for Cambodian trade

Bangkok Post
Tuesday October 28, 2008

VICHAYA PITSUWAN
The Preah Vihear dispute has so far only marginally reduced cross-border trade with Cambodia, but business is likely to deteriorate further in the long run, said Sommart Khunset, deputy secretary-general of the Federation of Thai Industries (FTI).

Until now, the appeal of Thai personal-care products in Cambodia meant bilateral trade worth 20 billion baht had not changed due to the dispute, he said.

"Some products such as electronic appliances may see fewer sales in Cambodia since the conflict erupted. Some operators thought it may cause a boycott of Thai products. But I think the level is very minimal and cannot be officially recognised as a boycott of our products," said Mr Sommart.

However, he added that fears of personal safety and difficulty in distributing products had disrupted Thai investment in Cambodia.

For example, Khon Kaen Sugar Industry Plc (KSL), Thailand's fourth-largest sugar producer, has had to postpone the launch of a sugar mill in Koh Kong. This has now been put back to next year due to safety concerns, said Mr Sommart.

He added that delays to investment projects had also put cost pressure on operators.

The FTI reports that most Thai business ventures in Cambodia are in garment manufacturing, shoe-making, tourism and agriculture. Most investors have been attracted by cheap land and abundant cheap labour suited to labour-intensive industries, said Mr Sommart.

FTI labour chief Thaveekij Japurajarernkul - who has been active in Cambodia for over 20 years - said his hotel in Siem Riep, 150 kilometres from the Aranyaprathet border post, had felt the impact from the conflict.

"My hotel occupancy rate has dropped 20-30% as tourists fear for the security of their lives," he said.

Mr Thaveekij said the impact is not yet at a worrying level. But he expressed a fear that unless the Thai government engages in effective negotiations, Thai ventures in Cambodia will be affected more than by previous conflicts.

"I said this because the current dispute is an international matter that looks to be deeper and to affect citizens of both countries psychologically," he said.

Also taking into account the global economic slowdown and domestic political conflict, both Mr Thaveekij and Mr Sommart said the private sector may have to struggle twice as hard to survive.

Thailand rejects Cambodian claims of damage to Preah Vihear

By Supalak Ganjanakhundee
The Nation
Published on October 28, 2008

Thailand yesterday dismissed Cambodian claims of damage to the World Heritage site of Preah Vihear Temple during the recent shoot-out, saying it was the other side that had dispatched troops with heavy weaponry at the temple and its vicinity.

"We're verifying the presence of Cambodian troops at the temple, because we understand that placing troops at a World Heritage site violates the World Heritage Convention," said Foreign Ministry permanent secretary Virasakdi Futrakul.

A military report indicated Cambodian troops had fired rockets from the temple onto the Thai side, he added.

Cambodian government spokesman Phay Siphan said on Sunday that his government has lodged a complaint with the United Nations accusing Thai troops of damaging the ancient Preah Vihear Temple.

The complaint was filed with Unesco, the UN's cultural body, a few days after the firefight broke out on October 15 near Preah Vihear, he said.

A staircase and a sculpture of the mythical Naga creature were hit by rocket fire at the 11th-century Khmer ruins, he said.

However, Thai ambassador to Paris Thana Duangrat reported to the ministry that there was no record of a Cambodian complaint submitted to Unesco.

"We have evidence proving Cambodia fired the rockets from Preah Vihear Temple at Thai troops," said Foreign Ministry spokesman Tharit Charungvat.

The ministry has checked the facts with the Second Army Area, which confirmed that on October 15, Thai soldiers, fired upon by Cambodian troops in the vicinity of Pha Mor I Daeng, used only rifles in their defence, he said.

In accordance with strict orders, Thai troops have not used heavy firearms or rocket launchers near Wat Phra Viharn, as it is called in Thai, and never fired at the temple.

On the contrary, Cambodian soldiers opened fired on Thai soldiers positioned near the twin stupas in the vicinity of Pha Mor I Daeng with recoilless guns and rocket propelled grenades (RPGs), Tharit said.

The rockets landed near the twin stupas, wounding two Thai soldiers. Some also landed in Preah Vihear National Park in the vicinity of Laan Chom Dao and the park's residences. The Thai side later found two RPGs fired by the Cambodian side that had landed but failed to explode and has kept both of them for evidence, he said.

Cambodia's latest move could make the border problem more complicated and difficult to resolve, he said.

Cambodia proposes 4 measures to resolve Thai-Khmer border issues

Mathaba
Posted: 2008/10/27
From: MNN

Cambodian PM Hun Sen has proposed four measures aimed at solving the Thai-Cambodian border conflict following bloody clashes between the militaries of the two neighbours earlier this month.

Thai Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sompong Amornvivat said on Sunday.

Speaking during the first 'weekly television programme, its first since the present government assumed power on September 25, Mr. Sompong said Premier Hun Sen's proposals were made to his Thai counterpart Premier Somchai Wongsawat on the sidelines of the Seventh Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) in Beijing on Saturday.

Cambodian Prime Minister proposed that peaceful negotiations must be held between the two countries and there must not be future clashes. Problems must be solved through bilateral talks, he emphasised, and the two counties must accelerate their peace negotiations under the framework of the joint border committee, and restore bilateral trade and investment.

Buoyed by Mr. Hun Sen's remarks that peace is at hand on the Thai-Cambodian border as the soldiers of the two countries posted there have exchanged food and otherwise socialised with each other, Mr. Sompong said he is confident that the conflict would be settled after the progress registered in last Friday's initial agreement.

The tentative agreement reached by senior army officers from both countries in Cambodia's historic Siem Reap will be given to the Thai parliament for its consideration on Tuesday.

Latest border skirmishes occurred on October 15 when Thai and Cambodian military units exchanged gunfire near the ancient Preah Vihear temple with one Thai and two Cambodians dying and a number of troops from both sides wounded. (TNA)

Foreign ministry: Military may defend from Cambodian fire at border temple

BANGKOK, Oct 27 (TNA) -- Thai soldiers posted at the disputed Thai-Cambodian border had every right to defend themselves when fired on by Cambodian troops in the vicinity ofthe 11th century Preah Vihear temple earlier this month, said Virasakdi Futrakul, permanent secretary for the Thai Foreign Ministry, on Monday.

Charging that Cambodia had moved several hundreds soldiers fully-equipped for combat and supporting artillery to the vicinity of the temple, Mr. Virasaki said the foreigh ministry investigate a complaint lodged by Cambodia with the UN accusing Thai troops of firing on and damaging the temple during an exchange of gunfire between troops of the two neighbouring countries on October 15. One Thai paramilitary ranger and three Cambodian soldiers died in the clashes on that day.

On Sunday, Phay Siphan, spokesman for Cambodia's Council of Ministers, told French news agency AFP in Phnom Penh that a staircase and a sculpture of the mythical Naga creature were damaged by rocket fired by Thai troops at the temple ruins during the mid-October shoot out.
Cambodia filed its complaint with UNESCO within days of the incident.

But Mr. Virasakdi countered the charges, saying that Cambodian troops fired rocket propelled grenades from the temple at Thai soldiers and if that was the case then the Thai soldiers had full rights to defend themselves.

He said his ministry is checking how many Cambodian soldiers are stationing around Preah Vihear temple and whether it violates the World Heritage convention.

UNESCO has to verify it and it is unnecessary for Thailand to lodge a complaint on this issue to the organisation, Mr. Veerasak said. Touching on an initial agreement reached by senior Thai and Cambodian soldiers last week which will be presented to the Thai Parliament Tuesday for its approval so that border negotiations could resume with Phnom Penh, Mr. Virasakdi said Parliament will only consider issues that both sides would negotiate.

If approved, negotiations could be held around mid-November, he added. (TNA)

World can see through Khmer's hidden agenda : Thai FM

Mon, October 27, 2008
By The Nation

Thai FM spokesman says the international community has no problem seeing through their hidden agenda

The Thai Foreign Ministry has strongly denied Cambodia's allegation that Thai troops had damaged the ancient Preah Vihear Temple during the border shootout middle of this month.

"The Thai army reiterated to us that in accordance with strict orders, Thai troops have not used heavy firearms or rocket launchers near the temple of Pra Viharn (Preah Vihear) and never fired at the temple," the ministry said in the statement.

On the contrary, according to the Thai Foreign Ministry statement, the rocketpropelled grenades, or RPG, were launched by the Cambodian side near the Twin Stupas and landed in the Pra Viharn National Park on the Thai side of the border.

The Thai side has kept for evidence two unexploded Cambodian rocket rounds that two unexploded Cambodian rocket rounds had been kept for evidence.

The Thai Foreign Ministry's statement came one day after Phnom Penh lodged a complaint with the Unesco, accusing Thai troops of damaging the ancient Preah Vihear Temple during the border shootout, which killed one Thai soldier and two Cambodian troops.

Phay Siphan, spokesman for Cambodia's Council of Ministers, said on Sunday that a staircase and a sculpture of the mythical Naga creature were damaged by rocket fire at the 11thcentury Khmer ruins.

Phy Siphan said, "The temple was intentionally damaged by Thai troops, because we found remnants of grenades... near the temple and there were no Cambodian soldiers stationed nearby."

Cambodia made the accusation just days after Prime Minister Hun Sen met his Thai Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat on the side of the Beijing's AsiaEurope Meeting, or Asem. The outcome of the bilateral meeting in Beijing was billed as a positive forward.

Thai FM's spokesman Tharit Jarungwat described the latest accusations, which came just days after the two leaders met, as Cambodia's political ploy. He said the international community has no problem seeing through their hidden agenda.

Every time when Cambodia responded positively, they usually said differently a day later, Tharit said.

However, he said the Thai side has clear evidence about the incident and is ready to clarify all issues relating to the ThaiCambodian border dispute on any stage.

Meanwhile, Thailand's UN Ambassador Don Pramudwinai, meanwhile, said he was not informed about Cambodia's plan to accuse its neighbouring country of damaging Preah Vihear to the United Nations (UN).

Pongpol says Cambodia may asks UN to classify Preah Vihear as risky area

October 28, 2008

Pongpol Adireksarn, chairman of Thailand's World Heritage Committee, Monday expressed concern that Cambodia may ask the United Nations to list Preah Vihear as a risky area.

Pongpol said such classification would allow the UNESCO World Heritage Committee to step in to preserve the ruins and supervise its management.

The Nation

VN man dies after taking Cambodian drug: report

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by CHRISTOPHER SHAY
Monday, 27 October 2008

A HO CHI MINH CITY man has died from a blood infection after taking a banned traditional medicine manufactured in Cambodia, according to Vietnamese state media.

The drug, labeled only as a “traditional medicine to save lives”, contains a potent mix of diazepam, dexamethasone and cyproheptadine, the Thanh Nien newspaper reported.

Veng Thai, Phnom Penh’s Municipal Health Department director, said these chemicals are available in Cambodia only by prescription.

Diazepam is the sedative in the drug Valium, while dexamethasone is a steroid that acts as an immunosuppressant and cyproheptadine is an antihistamine.

But the drug can cause severe side effects, including depression and internal bleeding. But with 10 sachets costing $0.40, the drug is popular in Vietnam, despite last year’s ban following several hospitalizations and deaths, the report said.

The drug is said to be a traditional remedy used in Cambodia to treat an array of illnesses, including headaches, stomachaches, dizziness and insomnia.

But ministry officials said they were unaware of the drug, and it could not be located in any Phnom Penh pharmacies.

FTI projects Thai employment to drop one million in 2009

BANGKOK, Oct 27 (TNA) - The ongoing global financial crisis coupled with Thailand's political turbulence and sluggish Thai-Cambodian border trade are expected to reduce new jobs in Thailand in 2009 by about one million, a senior official of the Federation of Thai Industries (FTI) warned on Monday.

Speaking after an urgent meeting among FTI members nationwide in response to global economic problems, Federation vice chairman Thanit Sorat urged the government to resolve the local political deadlock as soon as possible, as Thailand's tourism industry has already sustained losses of as much as 50 per cent, even though the World Bank has forecast the global financial meltdown affecting the tourism sector only by 4.5 per cent.

Thailand's industrial community believe that the local political impasse is making a more significant impact, entirely negative, on the country's economy, Mr. Thanit said, than the world economic situation. Some industries, garments, electronics, furniture and ceramics, for example, have already reduced production by between 20-30 per cent due to sharp declines in international purchase orders, which will cut the availabilityof new jobs by one million in 2009, including some 700,000 students who will graduate early next year to dim job prospects.

Along with tight liquidity in the provinces -- as banks will be reluctant to extend loans to entrepreneurs without purchase orders -- it is believed that the Thai economy during the first half of 2009 would slow down in line with world economy, he said.

Add Thailand's persisting political problems, and it is projected that the gross domestic product in the country this year and next will decline to 4.5 and 3.8-4 per cent respectively, Mr. Thanit said.

He urged the government to quickly speed laying out economic measures with the FTI to defend the domestic economy against the global financial crisis.

Regarding the Thai-Cambodian border trade which has become sluggish as many Cambodians have started boycotting Thai goods following clashes between Thai and Cambodian soldiers at disputed border areas in the past few months, Mr. Thanit said it also impacted Thai investment in Cambodia.

Production is due to start soon at a Thai sugar refinery built on Cambodia's Koh Kong Island, and its operations may also be affected, he added. (TNA)

Cambodian, Thai Leaders Seek Peaceful Solution to Temple Dispute

Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen greets well-wishers on his arrival at Phnom Penh International Airport, Phnom Penh, Cambodia, 26 Oct. 2008

By Rory Byrne
Phnom Penh, Cambodia
27 October 2008

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

The dispute between Cambodia and Thailand over an ancient temple complex continues to challenge both countries. Cambodia says Thai troops damaged an ancient temple during a recent military clash. The allegation comes after the two governments promised that negotiations to resolve a dispute will resume next month. Rory Byrne has this report from Phnom Penh.

Thailand says its troops are not responsible for damage at the Preah Vihear temple, which sits just inside Cambodia. Soldiers from the two countries clashed there almost two weeks ago.

Cambodia officials say the Thais damaged the temple with rockets.

The dispute over ownership of land leading up to the 900-year-old complex has heated up since July, when Cambodia successfully asked that it be designated a United Nations World Heritage site. On October 15, several soldiers on both sides were injured or killed when fighting erupted.

Late last week, the prime ministers of the two countries met on the sidelines of the Asia-Europe summit in Beijing, and pledged to find a peaceful solution to the crisis.

Cambodian Commerce Minister Cham Prasidh on Sunday described the meeting.

"It was very friendly...it was very friendly and both prime ministers have agreed together that we have to avoid further clashes among the military that are stationed along the border," Cham said. "And we have to again start increasing the cooperation and the negotiations at all levels."

In 1962, the International Court of Justice ruled the Preah Vihear temple lies in Cambodia, but land surrounding it remains the subject of rival territorial claims.

Cham Prasiddh says the two countries will resume talks on the dispute next week, after the Thai parliament approves a framework for the negotiations. The parliament is expected to discuss the matter Tuesday.

Military Recruitments in Oddar Meanchey Concern the Citizens of This Province - Monday, 27.10.2008

Posted on 28 October 2008
The Mirror, Vol. 12, No. 584

“After a bloody clash between Cambodian and Siam [Thai] invading troops at the Veal Intry field, at Phnom Trop, and at the Keo Sekha Kiri Svarak Pagoda on 15 October 2008, the Cambodian government decided to recruit some soldiers in some provinces along the border to fill up the number of soldiers in units that face a shortage of soldiers.

“Military officials in Oddar Meanchey said that there is recruitment of soldiers in some districts in Oddar Meanchey where names of citizens are ticked off a list to serve in the army, without that they had personally volunteered. This problem will affect the feelings of the citizens.

“The deputy military commander in Oddar Meanchey, Mr. Him Sieb, said that among the five district of Oddar Meanchey, soldiers are recruited in four, including in Samraong, Trapeang Prasat, Banteay Ampil, and Anlong Veng.

“The deputy governor of Oddar Meanchey, Mr. Chab Phat, said that the recruitment process is followed by other steps, where first, the recruits from villages are gathered in each district, and then they are sent to be trained. In his district, soldier who are recruited, are between the age of 18 and 30.

“One citizen reported by telephone about the recruitments that it is good, and the reason why it is good is that when the nation needs us, it is our obligation, and it is not appropriate, and not acceptable if when we would not serve in the army. As long as the salaries are appropriate, it is possible to feed the family.

“As for Mr. Sim Piseth, a military official of unit #2 in Oddar Meanchey, he said by telephone that he does not know how many soldiers are being recruited, he just gave an example: if a unit used to consist of 500 soldiers - and when the number is reduced to 400, we have to recruit new soldiers to fill up the numbers; there is no precise number, that is, when one unit lacks soldiers, it has to be filled up.

“Mr. Sim Piseth added that this recruitment is to face Siamese [Thai] activities.

“Ms. Naren, an investigating official of the Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association – ADHOC – in Oddar Meanchey, said that she contacted citizens by telephone from the four districts where soldiers are recruited, and in two districts – Trapeang Prasat and Along Veng – citizens volunteer, but in Banteay Ampil, citizens’ names are just listed up to recruit them as soldiers, which concerns the citizens. If military service is to be carried out, it is a national obligation, but as it is implemented only in Oddar Meanchey, it worries the people.

“Ms. Naren went on to say that if recruitment for military service is generally conducted, it is not a problem, but if it is carried out only in these districts, it is not good, because such an obligation has to be implement in a general way.”

Khmer Sthapana, Vol.1, #127, 26-27.10.2008
Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Monday, 27 October 2008

Debts to society extend to prisoners' families in Pursat

Photo by: RICK VALENZUELA
A prison guard in a guard tower at Pursat province's prison. The families of inmates have complained that the prison is charging too much money to allow them to visit their relatives and are demanding it stop.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by MAY TITHARA AND ELEANOR AINGE ROY
Monday, 27 October 2008

Relatives of prisoners in Pursat's provincial lockup say they are forced to fork out large sums of cash in exchange for visitation rights; prison officials call it normal

For Set Borind, to visit her husband is a question of whether she wants to go hungry. The 23-year-old, whose spouse has been imprisoned in Pursat’s provincial lockup for fraud, says she must sell what small amount of rice she has stockpiled in order to raise the US$25 demanded by prison guards for a few hours’ visit.

“I sell rice to pay for the visits to my husband in prison,” she told the Post last week, standing in front the prison gates.

“On my first visit, they charged me US$25 (100,000 riels). If I do not pay, they do not allow me to see my husband.”

Twenty-five dollars appears to be the going rate for family visits these days at Pursat prison, with prison guards claiming that their jobs would be in jeopardy if they did not collect.

“On my first visit, I was charged $25,” said Thy Day, the daughter of an inmate who said she has grown accustomed to these demands.

“I explained to the guard that I had travelled far to visit my father and I did not have the money. He didn’t listen and said he would get into trouble if he did not charge me,” Thy Day said.

On her second visit, Thy Day was charged 80,000 riels, but she said the visitation fees have now dropped to 20,000 riels.

But if she brings food to her father, she is charged an extra 5,000 riels.

“The guards have told me that this money is being used to develop a project for the prisoners. But they are not clear about what sort of project it is. I don’t know if this is a rule of the prison or not, but I must pay if I want to see my father,” she said.

Policy of corruption

A guard at the prison who refused to give his name told the Post he charges between $25 and $60, depending on the wealth of the visitor.

“This is the rule of the Pursat prison director, and all of the money goes to him. He doesn’t do anything with the money. He just keeps it for himself,” the guard said. He added that the prison has been run this way for a long time and, though he doesn’t want to demand money from poor people, he has no choice if he wishes to keep his job.

Prison Director Ngoun Lay, however, said his facility is run no differently than any other in Cambodia.

“The money we request I do not keep for myself. I use it to buy medicine to treat sick prisoners and also to support prisoners who have no relatives.”

But Phung Sothea, a local director for the rights group Adhoc, said demanding money from prison visitors is illegal and creates difficulties for poor people who fall into debt to pay for visits.

“This type of government corruption is common across all of Cambodia’s prisons,” he said
.

High inflation hits govt decentralisation efforts, services slowed

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Vong Sokheng
Monday, 27 October 2008

While gains have been made since initial socioeconomic survey five years ago, more transparency needed, monitors say

RECORD high inflation is hurting efforts to implement a sweeping decentralisation program aimed at devolving more power to commune-level governments, which are faltering under the increasing costs of administering their localities.

"High inflation was observed in many of the [decentralisation] project's villages. It will badly affect citizens if it continues increasing," said a report released last week by the National Committee for Management of Decentralisation and De-concentration Reform (NCDD), which urged the government to "take action against this problem immediately".

" we want the local villagers to [act] as a watchdog of the commune councils."

The report was the first assessment since the initial decentralisation baseline survey was conducted five years ago.

NCDD Deputy Director Ngan Chamroeun said that the government and about 20 other development partners spend between US$75 million and $80 million each year implementing decentralisation programs in the Kingdom's 1,621 communes.

While some gains have been made, compared with the 2003 baseline study, wage increases have been largely cancelled out by the rising costs of goods and services.

Inflation in Cambodia has spiralled over the past year into the double digits, with some officials estimating it to be as high as 25 percent.

This has pushed hundreds of thousands of Cambodians below the poverty line as the price of food and other commodities climbs out of their reach.

On the commune level, rising inflation has kept local administrators from being able to address the needs of their constituents, from health and education services to the construction of roads and other infrastructure.

More transparency

In other areas, a lack of information made it difficult to measure what gains had been made during the past five years.

"We are not yet able to evaluate the impact of our delivery of projects at the local level, whether they have had a positive or negative impact on the reduction of poverty," Ngan Chamroeun said.

Officials with the Cambodian election monitor Comfrel, which has been heavily involved in commune administration since the first local polls in 2002, urged greater participation from villagers in their commune councils if the decentralisation efforts were to work.

Comfrel Executive Director Koul Panha said that about 70 percent of the commune councils had little village input.

"We want the local villagers to participate as a watchdog for the work of the commune councils," he said.

"While positive progress has been made, there are still fundamental weaknesses in their constituencies," he told the Post.

Disputed R'kiri land being cleared

Photo by: SAM RITH The children of villagers caught up in a land dispute with Keat Kolney sit on the steps of their house.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by SAM RITH AND SEBASTIAN STRANGIO
Monday, 27 October 2008

A rubber company owned by Keat Kolney has started clearing farmland claimed by Jarai ethnic minority villagers in Ratanakkiri, in apparent violation of a 2007 court agreement

RUBBER plantation workers in Ratanakkiri province have started clearing a plot of disputed land around the Jarai minority village of Kong Yu, which the community's lawyers say violates a promise to the provincial court that work would be halted pending a ruling on the controversial land deal.

Residents from the village, in Ratanakkiri's O'Yadao district, said plantation workers started clearing village farmland last Thursday. "The company has so far cleared around five metres inside four villagers' farmland," said village representative Romam Film.

Since August 2004, the village has been embroiled in a dispute with Keat Kolney, sister of Minister of Finance Keat Chhon, who claims she purchased 450 hectares of lands from the Kong Yu villagers. But villagers maintain they only intended to sell 50 hectares, which local officials said were needed for disabled army veterans.

Some 270 hectares of the land have since been planted with rubber trees, but after the community's lawyers lodged a formal complaint in February 2007, Keat Kolney thumbprinted court documents promising work on the remaining 180 hectares would be halted until the court ruled on the case.

But Chhay Thy, a monitor for Cambodian rights group Adhoc, claims he was detained briefly by workers from Keat Kolney's Progressive Farmers Association after photographing the land being cleared. "[A tractor driver] detained me when I took a picture of him clearing a road between the company land and the disputed land," he said.

"[He] freed me after he heard me talking with a lawyer on the phone."

Awaiting a ruling

Despite Keat Kolney's agreement not to undertake any further work on the disputed land, lawyers for the villagers said the provincial court was yet to make a ruling on the injunction filed in 2007.

"We asked the court to make an injunction to stop clearing the land since the villagers still farm there, [but] they did not make a ruling," said Sourng Sophea, a lawyer from the Community Legal Education Centre (CLEC), which represents the Kong Yu villagers.

"According to the law, the court has to take action to hold a hearing and make a decision about [the injunction]. But they just did nothing."

Court Vice President Thor Saron, who was appointed to the case this month, has promised to respond promptly to lawyers' requests, but Sourng Sophea said the new judge was forcing the villagers to resubmit their complaints under the new Civil Procedures Code, which came into use after the original complaints were filed.

"We don't need to file another complaint. We have filed a reminder motion, [just as] we reminded the old judge about the injunction," he said.

Keat Kolney's former representative Som Art, who resigned three months ago, said that the company had stopped clearing the land once the case was sent to court, but could not comment on current events.

Officials mark the passing of ex-police general Sin Pinsen

Photo by: HENG CHIVOAN Mourners hold a photo of Sin Pinsen at his funeral Friday.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Khouth Sophakchakrya
Monday, 27 October 2008

Despite the late politician’s chequered relationship with the CPP, leading officials praise his contributions to the country

ABOUT 500 police and government officials gathered last Thursday at Wat Lanka to mourn the death of Sin Pinsen, a 62-year-old newly elected secretary of state in the Ministry of Interior who died of a stomach illness October 20.

Sar Kheng, deputy prime minister and Minister of the Interior, presided over the funeral and lit Sin Pinsen's cremation fire as a gesture of respect to his former colleague.

"Sin Pinsen was a brilliant general of the Cambodian national police," Kheng said, "Sin Pinsen was a brave soldier involved in toppling Pol Pot's regime and rescuing the Cambodian people from genocide."

Sin Pinsen, also known as Sin Sen, participated in a coup that set up an autonomous zone near the Mekong River just one year after the 1993 elections.

Khieu Kanharith, the Minister of Information, said that though Sin Pinsen was involved in the coup, he should be forgiven for his great mistake.

"I think that Pinsen believed the 1993 election was not free and fair," he said.

Cheam Yeap, a CPP lawmaker who was present at the funeral, told the Post that Sin Pinsen left the Cambodian People's Party after the 1993 election to launch a coup and shortly afterwards defected to Funcinpec, holding positions as a member of the National Assembly and the Senate. Sin Pinsen returned to the CPP in early 2008 following Funcinpec‘s loss of popularity.

"I regret losing Pinsen, because he used to be my student, and he was a CPP loyalist," Cheam Yeap said.

" I regret losing pinsen, because he used to be my student, and a cpp loyalist. "

Sen Sopheap, Sin Pinsen's son, said Sunday that he was honoured to have such high-ranking officials participate in his father's funeral.

"I and my family are very happy with the presentation of the Deputy Prime Minister Sar Kheng ," Sen Sopheap said, adding that he hoped to build a memorial stupa for his father.

But Cheam Yeap said he had no knowledge of any plans to build the stupa.

KR forum elicits a different view in the country's west

Photo by: ELENA LESLEY
The deputy governor of Pailin, Mey Mak, delivers his opening statements at an open forum on the Khmer Rouge tribunal on Friday.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Elena Lesley
Monday, 27 October 2008

In Pailin, the former communist stronghold, calling yourself ‘Khmer Rouge' doesn't automatically come with a stigma

WE are not ashamed" to have been Khmer Rouge, Ken Pon, 51, announced during a public forum Friday. "I am proud of what I have gone through. They were true nationalists."

Ken Pon was just one of around 150 Pailin residents who came together Friday for the Center for Social Development's most recent Khmer Rouge tribunal forum.

Part of an ongoing effort to inform Cambodians about the tribunal's work - and to foster national reconciliation - the forum was patterned on similar events held throughout Cambodia.

The daylong forum offered participants the opportunity to ask court officials about the tribunal's history and mandate, and share their views and experiences.

But in the open dialogue sessions, it became clear that many residents from the former Khmer Rouge stronghold still look fondly on the old regime.

"It was surprising because at every public forum before, many people hated the Khmer Rouge," said Sotheary Yim, who works for CSD's public forum unit.

"At this one, they seemed much more supportive."

CSD Executive Director Theary Seng said ambivalence towards the court was to be expected, considering that many Pailin residents knew Khmer Rouge leaders personally "as good people and as nationalists".

Pailin Governor Y Chhien once served as a bodyguard for Pol Pot. Until their arrests in 2007, tribunal defendants Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan had lived freely in the area. "It's a different composition altogether," Theary Seng said.

In his opening statement Friday, Deputy Governor Mey Mak claimed Pailin residents had more pressing concerns than a court to try former Khmer Rouge.

"People are not interested in the [tribunal]. They are more interested in the war at the border," he said, referring to the conflict with Thailand over Preah Vihear temple.

But as the day wore on, more and more participants came forward with questions and comments - many saying that they thought the Khmer Rouge had been disproportionately blamed for the country's ills.

Compared with a forum CSD held in Pailin in 2006, people seemed much more willing to voice their opinions and concerns, according to Sokunthy Chuon, deputy director of CSD's public forum unit.

"The ECCC had not been established yet and participants were more afraid to ask questions," he said. Now that arrests have been made - and court officials have emphasised that only the most senior leaders will be tried - people are less reticent, she said.

Around a third of the forum participants Friday had recently traveled to Tuol Sleng, the Killing Fields and the ECCC complex. What they saw might have also prompted them to engage more meaningfully at the forum, Theary Seng said.

"They may have started to think, ‘Wow, all these things we thought were conspiracies maybe actually happened,'" she said.

And that process led to more questions. "Why would the Khmer Rouge kill their own people?" forum participants wanted to know. "Would the American bombings be considered genocide as well?"

After officials gave their answers, Theary Seng asked the audience what they thought when they heard the term Khmer Rouge. In the rest of the world, people are scared of the Khmer Rouge, she explained. "It's not a sweet word, not a good term.

"Ken, who was a soldier for the movement, said he knew some people thought the Khmer Rouge "have red eyes and eat human flesh".

But he said, in his experience, the Khmer Rouge tried to develop the country and were guilty only of a flawed ideology, not genocide.

"I want those who are scared of the Khmer Rouge to try to understand the Khmer Rouge," he said.

Border talk results limited

Photo by: HENG CHIVOAN
Prime Minister Hun Sen greets National Police Chief Hok Lundy upon his return Sunday afternoon from Beijing.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by CHEANG SOKHA AND THET SAMBATH
Monday, 27 October 2008

PRIME Minister Hun Sen emerged from Friday's border talks with his Thai counterpart, Somchai Wongsawat, in good spirits but with little real progress having been made on resolving a three-month-old military standoff over disputed territory, officials said Sunday.

Both sides did agree to try to prevent a repeat of the deadly October 15 shootout near Preah Vihear temple that brought the two sides dangerously close to open conflict.

"The prime ministers' meeting was very friendly and they agreed to avoid further clashes among the military stationed along the border," said Minister of Commerce Cham Prasidh, who also attended the meeting held on the sidelines of the Asia-Europe Meeting in Beijing.

"And again we have increasing cooperation and negotiation in all sectors," he added.

Cambodian and Thai commanders holding talks in Siem Reap last week also helped ease tensions, participants said.

"This meeting couldn't solve the problem of troop withdrawals. We just tried to work to prevent any clashes in future," said Sok Pheap, chief of the Cambodia-Thai relations office.

The brief firefight earlier this month was the worst outbreak of violence since the standoff began in July.

It sparked a further buildup of troops and equipment on both sides of the border, despite international pleas for calm and promises of more diplomacy from the Cambodian and Thai governments.

Foreign Minister Hor Namhong said upon returning from China that the two sides will meet again on November 10 in Thailand for talks on demarcating the poorly defined border between the two countries.

Tensions flared in July shortly after the 11th-century Preah Vihear temple was listed as a Unesco World Heritage site, angering Thai nationalists who claim the ruins belong to Thailand.

The temple sustained damage during the October 15 fighting, and officials said that the government has lodged a complaint with Unesco over the incident.

"The Preah Vihear authority has sent reports and pictures of the damage to Unesco," Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said Sunday.

"Preah Vihear temple was intentionally damaged."

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY AFP

In US, Cambodians Leaning Toward McCain

By Reporters, VOA Khmer
Original reports from Washington
27 October 2008

Khmer audio aired 26 October (1.54MB) - Download (MP3)
Khmer audio aired 26 October (1.54MB) - Listen (MP3)

Sen. John McCain, the US presidential candidate for the Republican Party, has found wide support among Cambodians in the US, thanks to his Vietnam War record and the perception that he understands US-Cambodian policy.

In interviews from California to Virginia, US-Cambodians say they will choose McCain over his Democratic competitor, Barack Obama, when the presidential race comes to a close Nov. 4.

Kim Narin, who lives in Long Beach, Calif., said he believed McCain stood by his word.

“He does not just open a book and copy from a book,” he said. “I also belive that McCain is an honest person and has strong experience in the economy, national defense and foreign affairs.”

Hong Sovan Hang, who lives in Minnesota, said he was impressed with McCain’s time as a pilot in the Vietnam War, as well as his knowledge of Cambodian issues.

“I think Sen. John McCain knows Cambodia more, and I hope that he might have a foreign policy that could pay attention to Cambodian issues,” he said. “So I think I will vote for McCain. I also think that McCain has enough experience and is ready to lead the country based on his long-term experience in the Senate.”

The run-up to the presidential election has been a long one, and many voters have had time to change their minds along the way.

Kuch Chanly, who lives in Maryland, said he had weighed many times whether to vote for McCain or Obama. The eight years under President George W. Bush that had weakened the US economy and been an “embarrassment,” he said.

Nuch Vohar, who lives in Shanghai, China, said that even from so far away, and with the ability to vote by absentee ballot, he trusted the Republican Party to keep its policies and promises.
Pen Pere, who lives in Lowell, Mass., said McCain deserved to be the US commander-in-chief, thanks to his military experience.

“I think it is suitable for me to vote for McCain because he helps mortgages and small busineses,” Pen Pere said. “It there are no small businesses, the country’s economy cannot improve or progress. If we only help normal people who do not have small businesses, such as welfare people, then the country can’t progress.”

In Fresno, Calif., Sereyvuth Var, a liaison of the Community and Family Engagement Network to school districts in the town, said he supported McCain on his stance on the Iraq war.

“I don’t want the US to bring their troops home like they did to Vietnam and Cambodia,” he said.
Fresno restaurateur Piseth Sam said he was voting for McCain on the economy.

“I don’t like Obama’s policy on tax cuts,” he said.

A retiree and former soldier, Yath Yim, said he would vote for McCain because of his war recorder. McCain was “a commander, and he will help Cambodia,” Yath Yim said.
Not every US-Cambodian, however, supported McCain.

Setha Nhim, who works at a county office for education, said he would vote for Obama.
“He was a good policy on education,” he said, “and he cares about the US more than the war in Iraq.”

US-Cambodians Prepare for Election Day

By Sok Khemara, VOA Khmer
Original report from Washington
27 October 2008

Khmer audio aired 25 October (1.75MB) - Download (MP3)
Khmer audio aired 25 October (1.75MB) - Listen (MP3)

Cambodians who have been sworn in as US citizens have the right to vote, but just one week away from the US presidential election, some say they encountered too many difficulties to register.

Although some Cambodian voters will be able to cast their ballots Nov. 4 for the US president, in a race between senators Barack Obama, for the Democrats, and John McCain, a Republican, others said they would be sitting this one out.

Rieng Saroeuy, who lives in Richmond, Va., and has four children, was among those who would not be able to vote. Her job as a house cleaner kept her busy, and a new granddaughter was born as the deadline passed, she said.

“I missed it already, and I feel regret because the last day of registration was on the same day the baby was born,” said Rieng Saroeuy, who herself was born in Battambang province and only a few weeks ago became a US citizen. “All the forms filled up then and later than that was not accepted.”

Her husband would not vote either, she said, because he does not speak “American.”

Rieng Saroeuy said she was committed to voting in the next election. Her son, Keo Bory, said he had voted in the past, but would obstain this time because he didn’t like either candidate.

Many Cambodian-Americans do not participate in voting because they are busy at work, or they have not become naturalized citizens. Cultural pressure and language difficulties can also impede would-be Cambodian voters.

For 34 years, Vuthoeun Ven has been an electronics technician in a factory. The Lowell, Mass., resident received his citizenship two years ago and said he would cast his first US presidential vote for a leader that would spur the country’s weakened economy and secure the future for his children.

Asked whether he had his voter registration, he said he needed to follow up with his local municipal office.

“I think a vote is the future,” he said. “We need to pick someone who has good leadership, for stability and prosperity.”

US citizens over the age of 18 are eligible to vote in elections. The Nov. 4 election will cap one of the longest presidential races ever, where voters have been showered with information on prospective candidates, including McCain, of Arizona, and Obama, from Illinois.

Both candidates have sought to address their economic, social, health and other policies to attract voters from around the US.

Davith Kuch, a graduate student in Maryland, said he was now waiting for a letter informing him where to vote. He encouraged others to exercise their right.

“If you don’t vote, you can’t complain about the government and what’s going on, because you didn’t say your part,” he said. “You didn’t do your part in your duty to help change the government.”

Davith Kuch said he’d voted once before and hoped more people would turn out than in the 2004 election.