Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Asean to quicken integration

Surin Pitsuwan (left), Secretary-General of Asean, said ministers agreed on further engagement between the 'private sector and Asean economic community' which could include direct financing by the regional body. --PHOTO: REUTERS


SIEM REAP (Cambodia) - A MEETING of South-east Asian nations agreed here on Tuesday to speed up economic integration in a bid to weather the global financial crisis, but delivered no firm measures.

The economic ministers of the 10-member Association of South-east Asian Nations (Asean) discussed strategies to boost trade, according to Cambodian Commerce Minister Cham Prasidh, without making any policy announcements.

'In the face of this kind of situation we have to try our best to integrate the economies of Asean faster than before,' he told reporters in the country's northwest tourist hub of Siem Reap.

Surin Pitsuwan, Secretary-General of Asean, said ministers agreed on further engagement between the 'private sector and Asean economic community' which could include direct financing by the regional body.

On Sunday Asean countries with key dialogue partners China, Japan and South Korea formally agreed in Indonesia a 120-billion-dollar emergency currency-swap fund to ease the region through the economic crisis. -- AFP

UN-backed Cambodia Court Rejects Bail For Khmer Rouge Leader

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AFP)--Cambodia's U.N.-backed war crimes tribunal Tuesday rejected a bid for bail by former Khmer Rouge leader Nuon Chea, saying his detention was necessary to prevent trial tampering and to ensure he appears.

The former "Brother Number Two" is the most senior of five Khmer Rouge leaders detained on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity by the court.

Nuon Chea, 82, was arrested in 2007 at his home in the northwestern province of Pailin, a former Khmer Rouge stronghold.

He denies the charges against him and claims his arrest was illegal, lodging an appeal soon after his pretrial detention was extended for a year last September.

But the tribunal's pretrial chamber said in a statement Nuon Chea should remain behind bars as "a necessary measure to prevent the charged person from exerting pressure on witnesses or destroying evidence."

The statement said Nuon Chea's incarceration would ensure he was present for his future court hearings.

Nuon Chea was the closest deputy of Khmer Rouge supreme leader Pol Pot, and was allegedly the architect of the regime's devastating execution policies during its 1975-79 rule.

Up to two million people died of starvation or overwork or were executed under the Khmer Rouge, which dismantled modern Cambodian society in its effort to forge a radical agrarian utopia.

The ongoing first Khmer Rouge trial began in February, when the regime's notorious prison chief, Kaing Guek Eav, better known by the alias Duch, went before the court.

The genocide tribunal was convened in 2006 after nearly a decade of fractious talks between the government and United Nations over how to prosecute the former Khmer Rouge leaders.

On the trail of Thaksin in Cambodia

Asia Times Online

Southeast Asia
May 6, 2009

By Stephen Kurczy

KOH KONG, Cambodia - Speculation runs hot and heavy that exiled former Thai premier Thaksin Shinawatra has secretly and repeatedly visited the remote Cambodian border province of Koh Kong to meet with his political allies and plan the next phase of his campaign to oust Thailand's government and restore himself to power.

People in sleepy Koh Kong, from celebrity lookalikes to airport officials watching over an unused gravel runway, have plenty of time to talk - and to keep a watchful lookout. They say property developers' once ambitious plans to transform this primitive coastal area into a world-class tourist destination stopped before they started. And many find it laughable and unlikely that Thailand's fugitive former premier would bother, or dare, to visit.

Thai intelligence surfaced in late April that the former telecom tycoon's private jet flew into the Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh and then into Koh Kong, located on the nation's southwestern corner along its border with Thailand. Senior Cambodian officials have strongly denied that Thaksin visited, but many in Bangkok believe Thaksin leveraged his known personal ties and business links with Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen to secure special landing rights.

Thai authorities revoked Thaksin's passport last month after he urged his supporters through video call-ins from abroad to launch a "people's revolution" against Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva's coalition government, leading to riot scenes on the streets of Bangkok. Thaksin is believed to have made his controversial addresses from Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, where Thai authorities are still brokering an extradition treaty. Thaksin has obtained travel documents from Nicaragua and Montenegro to avoid extradition, and was most recently sighted in Liberia.

A handful of Thaksin's key supporters went underground after Abhisit's government declared a state of emergency and arrested several protest leaders from the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD), which is aligned with Thaksin. Those who eluded arrest, including protest co-leader Jakrapob Penkair, fled to Koh Kong, according to some Thai media accounts.

Jakrapob has since threatened from an unknown location to launch an underground armed insurgency against the Thai government. Quoting a top UDD source, Asia Times Online reported in April that Thaksin operatives have claimed to funnel guns through Cambodia to his supporters in Thailand's northeastern regions. The Thai government has taken those reports seriously, further straining relations with Cambodia. (See A battle won in Thailand's 'war', Asia Times Online, Apr 15, 2009)

Yet if Thaksin has recently traveled to Koh Kong, those who manage the island's rudimentary airport claim not to have seen him. A source at Societe Concessionnaire d'Aeroport, the French company that manages Cambodia's airports, said that no private jets flew into Phnom Penh during the period when Thaksin allegedly visited. Meanwhile Bou Phou, the deputy director of Koh Kong's Airport, said the last time a plane landed on Koh Kong's gravel airstrip was eight years ago.

He said the dilapidated airstrip could land a small aircraft like a Cessna or Antonov 24, but not Thaksin's private jet. Wildlife groups land helicopters there several times a month, he said, but that's the only aviation activity his facility sees. The airport terminal closed in 2000 and no plane has landed since, he said. "I have a lot of time to read books and newspapers," Bou Phou said.
Commercial interests
Thaksin-aligned business interests aimed to buy and renovate the Koh Kong Airport in 2003, but the Cambodian government had already given the rights to Societe Concession l'Aeroport, Bou Phou claims. Those business interests in Koh Kong apparently extended beyond the airport, if press reports are accurate. The Bangkok Post reported a year ago that he planned to turn Koh Kong into a "second Hong Kong".

According to the same media report, Hun Sen supposedly agreed with Thaksin's plan to build Koh Kong's second casino and entertainment complex during a round of golf in April 2008. (Thaksin's former communications conglomerate had major interests in Cambodia's mobile telecom market.) "Prime Minister Hun Sen trusted and wanted Thaksin to advise on developing Koh Kong as a special economic zone," Cambodian Defense Minister Tea Banh said on May 15, 2008.

Later that same month, Hun Sen's spokesman confirmed to Agence France-Presse that Thaksin planned to build a modern satellite city in Koh Kong, complete with a financial district and shipping port. However local officials dismiss those reports as hearsay and speculation. They note that the town's existing special economic zone, despite its imposing entrance gate, remains after several years an empty undeveloped field.

"It's confusing," said Koh Kong province deputy governor Eng Kimleang. "Thaksin isn't developing Koh Kong - it's just a Chinese company ... It's just rumors and nothing formal," she said. Like others, she dismisses reports that Thaksin may have recently visited the area as inaccurate.

Sam, the owner of Fat Sam's bar and restaurant, said his well-informed Lexus-driving neighbor is positive Thaksin was not in Koh Kong. Otto, owner of the nearby Otto's Restaurant and Guest House, said the rumors are simply "bullshit".

Helicopters occasionally thunder overhead when Hun Sen or a provincial governor retreats to Koh Kong Resort, Otto said, but otherwise the most notable news in Koh Kong has been the increase in cars from two in 1999 to several hundred today. "It used to be like a town in the old west - shootouts, blood," he said, as a cloud of marijuana smoke wafts over his restaurant's porch. Now, "it's boring here. That's why I like it."

Koh Kong was until very recently known as Cambodia's Wild West. With the Cardamom mountains to the north, the Gulf of Thailand stretching south, and the Thai border 12 kilometers away, the town was until last May only accessible via a series of four ferries. That allowed illegal logging, hunting and smuggling operations to thrive in the lawless area.

Thai loans and engineers paved the way for a road and series of bridges that finally connected the 30,000-person town directly to Phnom Penh, creating a mild surge in law enforcement, investment and jobs. Local human-rights groups say sex trafficking is still a problem, but unlike a decade ago authorities now make attempts to crackdown on the trade.

A Chinese company is now constructing an 18-megawatt, US$326 million hydroelectric dam on one of the province's many rivers. The provincial tourism department registered a 25% increase in national visitors in 2008, rising to around 50,000. From April 14 to April 16 during the Khmer New Year, 14,000 nationals visited Koh Kong, up from 12,000 the previous year.

Many of those visitors stopped at the town's sole casino, the 521-room Koh Kong Resort, located about 50 meters from the Cham Yeam international border checkpoint with Thailand. That's where unconfirmed reports allege Thaksin has met with his political associates and other Thai fugitives from justice have lodged.

During a recent tour of the complex, manager Thiwason Thonsing showed Asia Times Online Hun Sen's $1,400-a-night presidential suite, which has two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a full kitchen, living room, dining room and expansive views of the Gulf of Thailand. "I've never seen Thaksin here before," Thiwason said. "I asked my staff and none of them say they saw him."

Koh Kong provincial tourism department chief-of-office Ly Vithavann insists that no recent visitors to the Koh Kong Resort were former prime ministers. "Thaksin never comes here," he said, offering an alternative explanation for the Thai intelligence reports: Another local resident, the provincial commander-in-chief of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces, looks exactly like the Sino-Thai Thaksin. "Yun Mean has the same face as Thaksin Shinawatra," he claimed.

When asked, Yun Mean agreed to some extent. "My subordinates tell me I look like Thaksin," he said with a chuckle. Inside his home near the town's central market, framed photos of him receiving medals from the Cambodian prime minister and defense minister decorate the walls. His fair skin and square jaw cut a profile similar to the former Thai prime minister. Could he have been the face apparently seen by Thai intelligence? Yun Mean doubts it.

"I never heard that media said Thaksin was in Koh Kong," he said, adding: "And Thaksin never did visit."

Stephen Kurczy is an Asia Times Online contributor based in Cambodia. He may be reached at kurczy@gmail.com. With additional reporting from Shawn W Crispin in Bangkok.

Cambodia to relocate two villages near Preah Vihear temple


PHNOM PENH, May 5 (Xinhua) -- Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen has decided to relocate Kor Muy and Prasat villages near the 900-year-old Preah Vihear temple, national television station Bayon reported on Tuesday.

The government will provide over 4,500 hectares of land around 10 km away from the previous sites for the 792 village families to build houses and farm, it said.

The Prasat village was totally damaged by rocket fire on April 3, when Thai and Cambodian troops had fire exchange there.

Kor Muy has to be moved, because it is situated within the conservation area of the temple.

The Preah Vihear temple will be the second largest tourism destination of the kingdom in the future, right after the Angkor Wat temple in Siem Reap province, Bayon quoted villager Ken Kan assaying.

"As we know, the government will develop the land near the temple into a tourism complex," he added.

The Preah Vihear temple became a World Heritage Site of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in July 2008.

Editor: Sun

Lawyer refused access to Briton in Laos jail

ITN (Independent Television News )

Tue May 5 2009

A pregnant British woman who could face death by firing squad in Laos has been visited by a UK official, but the lawyer who flew out to advise her was refused access.

Samantha Orobator, 20, from south London is due to go on trial accused of smuggling 1.5lb of heroin. She has been in jail since her arrest in August 2008 and is now five months pregnant.

The Foreign Office said the British vice-consul from Thailand had been allowed into Phonthong prison to speak to her.

But Anna Morris, a lawyer from the legal rights charity Reprieve, said her meeting with Orobator was cancelled without explanation, preventing her from seeing how she is being treated in prison.

Officials in the south-east Asian country said her trial will be held this week, and insisted it would be fair.

Her mother, Jane Orobator, who lives in Dublin, has appealed for her release. She said: "I just want them to bring her back to me. I'm really terrified. I have been crying my eyes out."

Biofuel: the thrice winning formula of a Cambodian high school student

Phnom Penh (Cambodia). 28/01/2009: Sam Ang Manin, winner of an international science fair contest.©Vandy Rattana

By Ros Dina

“I beat an American!” Sam Ang Manin, a 16-year-old Phnom Penh young girl, still cannot believe it: her project to produce biofuel based on jatropha oil won her a gold medal at the I-Sweeep 2009 international contest between budding scientists, when a similar project of a United States high school student was awarded “only” a silver medal. The young Cambodian has even more reasons to be proud since she has also received a scholarship and a special prize of a U.S. firm. She thereby did even better than a previous Cambodian prize winner, who had obtained a silver medal in the same category “Senior Energy” in this contest in 2008 for her coconut diesel.

Three wins
Thrice, Sam Ang Manin heard her name be called in the great room of the Conventional Hall of Houston, Texas, where the I-Sweeep contest, an international Olympiad on energy, engineering and environment which aim is to spot and reward budding scientific geniuses from all over the world. The young Cambodian first walked onto the podium when called by the jury of the University of Fatih, which granted her a full tuition scholarship for four years to study a science subject in the Turkish college. She was then called again to receive a gold medal in the category of new energies in the I-Sweeep contest – a medal coming with a cheque of 1,000 dollars. Finally, Manin won over a private company, Ege Construction, which was one of the event's sponsors and awarded her its special prize for “Innovative energy solutions.”

“When I received the first award, there was little clapping, because very few Cambodians were present,” the good student in a private high school of Phnom Penh says mischievously. “But when I was called again to receive my second and then my third prizes, everyone, including the participants from various countries, showed a lot of enthusiasm.” Indeed, a plethora of medals were given out in this contest (in Manin's “Senior Energy” category, eight other students received gold medals), but no other participant was honoured with three awards.

A hard worker
Back in Phnom Penh, Manin savours her victory even more as she nearly gave up less than two weeks before her departure for the capital of Texas. As much as she would spend entire nights working on her project, skip meals or go without any leisure time, it was pointless: her formula for a biofuel based on jatropha seeds did not work... Her mother, Heng Chanlida, a doctor in Phnom Penh, remembers that ten days before the contest, the young woman was on the verge of asking the cancellation of her registration. But Eureka! Her efforts eventually paid off, much to the relief of her parents... “I was working on this project for nearly three months and during all that time, I have been through both failures and victories,” says Manin, her eyes laughing behind discreet glasses. “The formulas I had found on the Internet were incomplete. I had to look for various elements here and there... To make my biofuel successful, I mixed together different formulas, I worked patiently and seriously, and I asked some advice to my chemistry professor at school.” The young scientist also made her own laboratory tools and devices, with help from her father and uncle.

If Manin could count on unfailing family support in Phnom Penh, the student defended on her own her project during the Texan Olympiad, next to 1,200 participants from 60 countries and no less than 216 jury members, representatives of universities and U.S. and foreign companies. For six hours, she remained at her stand, ready to give immediate answers to judges who wanted to interrogate her. “They would come and ask questions individually or in groups of two to four people,” she recalls with emotion, as if she was still there. “Each time, I had seven to ten minutes to present my project. Then, they would ask questions freely, for 20 to 30 minutes.”

A process smooth like oil
But for Manin, the hardest part was already over. “I was really confident because my project was very clear and precise. During the three months I spent doing research, I understood what failed as well as what worked,” she stresses. So, the student has no problem explaining in detail her biofuel recipe, which allows for the production of one litre for three kilograms of jatropha seeds. The whole process, which involves the transformation of seeds into oil, takes between three and five days, after which she obtains a solution that is still relatively viscous. She must dilute it with an equal amount of traditional diesel, as is often the case for oilseed biofuels (made from vegetable oils) in order to be used on a regular diesel engine. “If I have the opportunity to keep doing research on this, I hope to succeed in reducing the necessary amount of diesel [Editor's note: this amount usually represents 10 to 30% in this type of fuel].”

The young woman, who used to ask for stories of robots and strange worlds as a child, is now the pride and joy of her mother, thrilled that her daughter is celebrated for her intellect rather than “her jewellery and clothes.” She now says that she is ready to explore the world: she will pursue her studies abroad, either in Turkey or in the United States, but without forgetting Cambodia, which she wants to represent proudly outside of the Khmer Kindgom. She would also like her young compatriots to emulate her triple victory. “If we make no effort, we will never reach our goal,” she concludes sententiously.

City's eviction deadline for Group 78 arrives

Group 78 resident Hnueng, a coconut seller, and her daughter outside their house on Monday. Residents are facing forced eviction at the hands of the Phnom Penh Municipality, which says they are living on a public road.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by May Titthara and Sebastian Stragio
Tuesday, 05 May 2009

But May 5 deadline brings determination to remain at the site.

AHEAD of their May 5 eviction deadline, residents at the city's besieged Group 78 community say they are worried about an impending forced eviction but remain confident of their legal rights to the strip of land in Tonle Bassac commune.

"I am a little bit worried about the situation in the area after tomorrow's deadline because I heard City Hall will kick me out to the outskirts of the city," said resident Lim Likean, 64.

An eviction letter signed by Phnom Penh Governor Kep Chuktema on April 20 said the 70 families were living on a public road and on land owned by Sour Srun Enterprises, a local developer, giving residents 15 days to accept compensation and vacate their properties.

After this time, it said authorities would take unspecified "administrative measures", and that City Hall would bear no responsibility for any property lost.

Community representative Lim Sambo said he was also worried but was "depending on the law" to solve the dispute peacefully.

"Tomorrow if the authorities come to enforce their eviction letter ... I will not fight back. I will go out from my house with empty hands because I don't want to have an argument," he said.

He added that commune officials had set up a table at the site Monday, encouraging people to sign forms accepting the municipality's compensation package. City Hall has offered residents US$5,000 cash and a 5-metre-by-12-metre plot of land in the city's Dangkor district in exchange for moving out ahead of Tuesday's deadline.

Scared of expulsion
Lim Sambo said nine out of the community's 70 families had taken the cash and land package out of fear they will meet a similar fate to the nearby Dey Krahorm community, forcibly evicted in January. But other residents said they would ignore compensation offers and hold out to the end.


"I will not move out or accept City Hall's compensation because the eviction letter said all residents living on Sour Srun's land and the public road must move out in 15 days, but they did not mention the residents in Group 78. So it doesn't concern us," said Lim Likean.

The Group 78 community in Tonle Bassac commune could face eviction beginning Tuesday.

On Wednesday, the community's lawyers filed a complaint at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court requesting a delay of the eviction deadline.

But Sourng Sophea, a lawyer at the Community Legal Education Centre, said all involved parties had been summoned to court May 18, leaving Group 78 families open to eviction in the meantime.

"We asked the court to postpone the eviction, but [they] said they had no time to look at the case. We are very worried about [an eviction] because the court's procedures are very slow," he said.

Fiona Cochaud, first secretary of the Australian embassy, said she was aware of the plight of the community, which sits next door to the country's new embassy compound, but said it was "not appropriate" for the Australian government to comment on specific land dispute cases.

But she said the embassy had "encouraged local authorities and citizens to work together to find mutually acceptable, equitable ways to resolve issues relating to land disputes".

Tonle Bassac commune Chief Khat Narith said he would "comply with City Hall's orders" but that he did not know what would happen after Tuesday's deadline.

Mann Chhoeun, the deputy governor, could not be reached for comment Monday, but according to municipal timetables, he is to chair a meeting of the Urban Poor Development Fund at 8am today.

At the meeting, the fund is scheduled to procure 50 million riels (US$12,124) from Sour Srun Enterprises to help shift residents from Group 78 to the relocation site at Dangkor district's Trapaing Anhchanh village.

Donor forums fail on reforms

Written by Tom Hunter
Tuesday, 05 May 2009

Twice-yearly ‘ritual' fails to hold govt accountable, say rights groups.

LOCAL and international rights groups continue to question the effectiveness of the country's periodic government-donor meetings following last week's Government Donor Coordination Committee (GDCC) forum, labelling them "discussions of ritual, stripped bare of meaningful content".

In a consensus statement presented at the meeting, foreign donors urged "prompt passage of the remaining four fundamental laws and the Anti-corruption Law" and requested that the government "share the draft [law] before it moves forward".

The statement also included a request to "speed up" processes guaranteeing land rights and "inquired" about the status of the government's pledged access to information policy.

On Thursday, an anti-corruption coalition comprising 40 NGOs urged the government to implement anti-corruption legislation, which has been on the reform agenda since 2001.

"Civil society and millions of Cambodians eagerly await the approval of the law," the Coalition of Civil Society Organisations Against Corruption said in a statement Thursday.

But rights activists say donors have consistently failed to hold the government accountable in achieving reform targets.

"The donor-government aid meetings have become an annual pilgrimage at which the donors admonish the government for not making progress on basic governance and corruption measures, yet continue to pledge more and more of taxpayers' money," Eleanor Nichol, a campaigner for international anti-corruption group Global Witness, said by email Thursday.

Nichol said Global Witness has consistently called on donors to link the disbursal of non-humanitarian aid to basic improvements in the governance of the country's natural resources and other state assets.

Brad Adams, Asia director of Human Rights Watch, said that donors and NGOs who are prepared to push hard for reform are undercut by others who lack principles, just want to have good relations with the government or simply don't care enough to make an effort.

Gradual reform
But donors and government officials cited progress on key reforms, with Minister of Information Khieu Kanharith saying the passage of the Anti-corruption Law required extensive preparation and research, and that it would be held back until the passage of a new penal code.

US embassy spokesman John Johnson described last week's meeting as "productive", adding that it served to highlight some of the progress that Cambodia has made, particularly in relation to the policy reforms that have been put forward in response to the global economic crisis.

"We urge the government to act on reforming corruption and governance with the same urgency which was applied to the economy," Johnson said by email.

Chhith Sam Ath, executive director of NGO Forum, told the Post that progress towards good governance and land reforms had been clearly lagging despite the huge amount of attention these topics had received during past meetings.

"The meetings are not essential in achieving reform targets," he said.

"The recent meeting focused for a large part on issues that are outside the government's reform agenda. As a result, the government's reform efforts, especially on land, legal and judicial reform, were not part of the discussion."


Trees, monkeys lost in Preah Vihear forest zone: official

Written by Meas Sokchea
Tuesday, 05 May 2009

Community leaders say monkeys taken from forests around Peuk village are being sold in Vietnam and authorities are doing nothing.

ILLEGAL logging and poaching in Preah Vihear province's Chey Sen district has left a once-heavily forested, animal-filled area almost completely depleted of wildlife, local officials told the Post Sunday.

The head of the Peuk village community in Putrea commune, Chea Nan, said the forest and its formerly large monkey population had been nearly exhausted due to large- and small-scale illegal trafficking gangs.

"They have logged it so much that it is almost an empty piece of land," said Chea Nan. "There are not many monkeys left either, as most of them have been caught and sold."

They have logged it so much that it is almost an empty piece of land.

Chea Nan said illegal activity had been going on since December last year, although the situation had improved in April and May. He said the forests being targeted were Romkum, Srang, Tbal, Chrey and Long forests.

"I would estimate that around 30 monkeys are caught each month and sold. They have almost all disappeared, and the authorities have not intervened," he said.

Vietnam monkey market
The deputy chief of Peuk village, So Po, says the monkeys are being sold in Vietnam as they fetch a high price there - 100,000 to 400,000 riels (US$24.26 to $97.06) each.

"The forest has almost become an empty field. [People] have cut down the trees and then caught the monkeys to sell to the Vietnamese," So Po said.

Preah Vihear's provincial governor, Preap Tann, could not be reached for comment on Monday.

Both Putrea's commune Chief Chum Keang and the police Chief Chan Dy told the Post on Sunday that they did not know the details of the issue. However, they acknowledged that heavy illegal logging and poaching had taken place in January and February, but declined to specify why it has been so bad this year.

Chan Dy blamed local villagers for logging the trees and catching the monkeys.

The chief of the Forestry Administration unit in Chey Sen district, Hak Sothy, said Sunday his officials were unable to enforce the forestry laws in the area as the forest is 30 kilometres from his office, which was too far away.

"It would not be safe to crack down there. I only have two personnel and we would need many to crack down," Hak Sothy said. "Also, there is dense forest along the road, and we would have to sleep and eat there."

The director general of the Forestry Administration unit, Ty Sokhun, said he knew nothing of the issue when contacted on Monday.

British Princess 'rescued' after capital bag-snatching

Photo by: AFP
Princess Eugenie arrives at a Christmas church service in 2006.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Christopher Shay
Tuesday, 05 May 2009

Would-be robbers escape after pelting Princess Eugenie's highly trained Royal guards with stones, claims tabloid.

PRINCESS Eugenie, the Queen of England's 19-year-old granddaughter, was "rescued by two bodyguards" in Phnom Penh, the British tabloid The Sun reported on Monday.

One night in the capital - the exact day the event occurred was not reported - a friend of Princess Eugenie took out her purse and a thief snatched it.

The SO14 Special Branch officers charged with protecting the princess tackled the robber, at which point an accomplice of the bag snatcher started throwing rocks at the Royal bodyguard.

The SO14 officer let the thief go and took Princess Eugenie and her two friends to safety. The Royal guard was able to recover the purse, but the thieves escaped.

It was the first time in 10 years that the SO14 stopped a threat to a member of the British royal family, the tabloid reported. The threat, however, was minor; Princess Eugenie was not attacked, mugged or even the target of the bag snatching - despite claims made by some tabloid headlines.

The British embassy in Cambodia declined to comment on the basis of consulate confidentiality.

Cambodian police were not aware of the incident, saying it was not reported. but said that Princess Eugenie had left the country.

Etcheson, Chanda to be called on by ECCC

Written by Georgia Wilkins
Tuesday, 05 May 2009

CAMBODIA'S war crimes court is to hear from Khmer Rouge specialists Craig Etcheson and Nayan Chanda, along with other experts and key witnesses, when the trial of Tuol Sleng prison commandant Kaing Guek Eav continues on May 18, a new court schedule released Monday stated.

Etcheson, one of the founders of the Documentation Centre of Cambodia (DC-Cam) and author of The Rise and Demise of Democratic Kampuchea, is to answer questions relating to the implementation of the regime's policy at S-21.

Chanda, a correspondent for the Hong Kong-based Far Eastern Economic Review during the war in Vietnam, is to be called on after June 8 regarding the issue of armed conflict.

The trial is to then continue on to hear from other witnesses in relation to the functioning of S-21, including Cheoung Ek.

Though the court has been criticised for proceeding at a slow pace, a weekly monitoring summary by the Asian International Justice Initiative claimed on Monday that the chamber had made "efforts to expedite proceedings".

However, legal observers remained sceptical last week, saying that time was still being mismanaged, often to the disadvantage of civil parties.

"There are four teams each pursuing their own strategies, and they often don't agree with each other's approach," said Anne Heindel, a legal adviser for DC-Cam.

"This - unfairly - may be creating a bad impression of the civil parties themselves, and if not addressed, could lead people to question the appropriate scope of victim participation in mass crimes trials at the ECCC and elsewhere."

The trial will be taking another recess on the first week of June.

Lightning strikes cause 50 deaths so far this year: NCDM

Lightning strikes at night in Phnom Penh in this file photo.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Sam Rith
Tuesday, 05 May 2009

Disaster management committee says rate of deaths has climbed and instructs provinces to boost education efforts countrywide.

DEATHS from lightning have climbed this year with an estimated 50 people killed in the first four months, said an official at the National Committee for Disaster Management.

Ly Thuch, the committee's second deputy president, said 95 people were killed by lightning last year.

"The number of lightning strikes has risen compared to last year," he said, adding that it is important to advise people on how best to protect themselves during thunderstorms.

He said the provinces of Takeo, Kampong Speu, Kampong Thom, Banteay Meanchey and Pursat have reported the most deaths this year.

Sao Sereymony, a secretary of state at the Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology, said his ministry had recently asked provincial officials countrywide to keep educating people on prevention by handing out brochures that advise how to avoid being struck by lightning.

"For example, we advise people not to shelter under trees in empty fields when it is raining or thundering," he said.

Seth Vannareth, director at the Department of Meteorology, said lightning strikes were up 10 percent this month.

She added that as there is no way to prevent lightning strikes people need to be told how to stay safe in storms.

Among other instructions, the ministry's brochure advises that people either leave a flooded zone or head for dry ground when they see thunderclouds above them, stay more than 4 metres distant from trees during thunderstorms, and refrain from carrying metal objects during a thunderstorm.

Tiger counts to promote survival of M'kiri's big cats

A tiger confiscated from traders by the Wildlife Rapid Rescue Team in 2001 in its enclosure earlier this year at Phnom Tamao zoo.


According to the WWF, between 700 and 1,225 Indochinese Tigers remain in the wild, dispersed over Cambodia, China, Laos, Myanmar Thailand and Vietnam. They are mostly found in lowland and highland tropical deciduous and evergreen forests.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Michael Fox
Tuesday, 05 May 2009

Conservationists undertaking yearlong count of the province's remaining tigers are cautiously optimistic on future of species.

TWO censuses begun last month in Mondulkiri will attempt to determine the number and needs of tigers remaining in the province, information that wildlife conservationists say is essential to preserving the existing population and fostering its expansion.

The groups conducting the censuses - the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and the global conservation group WWF - are enlisting dogs trained to detect animal droppings, a process that can reveal whether tigers are present, as well as their age, sex and diet.

Like tiger populations worldwide, Cambodia's big cats have been devastated by a variety of factors, notably poaching and habitat destruction, according to wildlife conservationists.

"Essentially, the next five or 10 years are their last chance," said Thomas Gray, monitoring technical adviser for WWF, who emphasised that the current surveying efforts are crucial to ensuring that the Kingdom's tigers survive.

The last photo of a wild tiger in Cambodia dates back to November 2007. Gray said there were probably fewer than 20 tigers left in Mondulkiri.

But he said this population base was large enough to repopulate the province, provided that the tigers had access to sufficient food and shelter, and had opportunities to breed. He said the province could be full of tigers in 40 years.

Emma Stokes, conservation monitoring coordinator for WCS, was also cautiously optimistic about efforts to increase the province's tiger population.

"Sure, we recognise that the numbers are very low, but we have brought the dogs over and we always believe there is the possibility of locating tigers," she said. "We would not be doing it if we didn't believe there was some room for optimism."

The censuses are expected to be completed within a year.

As tiger surveying efforts progress, conservationists at the Seima Biodiversity Conservation Area, a site managed jointly by the Forestry Administration and WCS, are coordinating anti-poaching and anti-snare operations to reduce threats to the species.

Stokes said the prevalence of poaching was one of the factors that made tigers difficult to survey, as it had made them wary of people.

Men Soriyun, Seima's biodiversity conservation project manager, said the use of tiger snares had diminished considerably, with only 15 being found last year.

Staff members at both WWF and WCS stressed the importance of reducing wildlife habitat encroachment, as well as getting local communities involved in conservation efforts.

They also noted tigers' status as a flagship species, meaning that their ability to survive would be indicative of how other species might fare down the road, conservationists said.

Mark Gately, WCS country director, said, "Tigers are part of a functioning ecosystem, so we would like them to still be there, though we are not just here to protect tigers".

Preah Vihear museum to bring development, tourists, officials say

Cambodian soldier stands in front of the Preah Vihear temple.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Thet Sambath
Tuesday, 05 May 2009

Construction on a new museum housing artefacts from the Preah Vihear temple compex will begin next week in Chom Ksan.

CONSTRUCTION on the Samdech Techo Preah Vihear Museum, near the famed temple that bears the same name, will begin in one week in the province's Chom Ksan district, where local officials anticipate that it will bring more tourists to the disputed border area.

"The museum is for national and foreign researchers to study and learn about the history of Preah Vihear temple and Cambodian history," Suos Yara, an undersecretary of state at the Council of Ministers, said on Sunday.

The Preah Vihear museum will house artefacts from the temple complex, as well as from other nearby temples, he added.

Japanese and Cambodian donors provided 600 million riels (US$145,000) to build the museum, but more cash will be needed to finish the project, Suos Yara said.

"The money is not enough, but we'll do it step-by-step. When we get more money, we'll keep working on it," he said.

Chom Ksan district Deputy Governor Ros Heng said that the museum will increase the number of tourists, improving the community's quality of life.

"It is a very good attraction for tourists and Cambodians. It will promote knowledge about the temples and Cambodian history as well as develop the area, improving people's lives," he said.

Heng Ratana, the director of the Cambodian Mine Action Centre, said his organisation is still surveying the proposed 9.5-hectare museum site, but that it will be safe for the ground breaking event Sunday.

Some 473 families from Ko Muoy village, located inside the temple grounds where the museum will be built, will be among nearly 800 moved to near Sa Em, a village some 20 kilometres from the temple.

SR officials view Chi Kraeng shooting footage

Written by Kyle Sherer
Tuesday, 05 May 2009


Video footage taken as Siem Reap land dispute turned violent met with mixed reaction, NGOs say.

A COALITION of NGOs confronted Siem Reap government and military officials with video footage last week purporting to show military police firing on villagers during a land dispute in March, prompting the provincial governor to admit that the row could have been handled better, NGO members said last week.

Military officers present at the Thursday viewing, however, insisted that the footage - taken on a camera phone on March 22 as the dispute turned violent - was doctored, said Chhaya Hang, the executive director of the Khmer Institute of Democracy.

Three villagers were wounded and nine others were arrested in the incident in Chi Kraeng district.

Chhaya Hang said that the officials present had mixed reactions to the footage.

"[Siem Reap Governor Sou Phirin] understands that the situation got out of hand and could have been better handled," he said.

"This film ... proves there was no instigation from this group of civilians," he added.

"The governor was pretty frank [and] we pursued answers about what they are going to do about the nine who are ... now in jail."

But Sou Phirin told the Post Monday his immediate priority was to solve the ongoing land dispute problem and prevent further problems.

"Our position is to resolve the ownership with the people, and this will improve the security among the villagers," he said, adding that he would hold talks on the issue on Thursday.

The violence erupted between farmers from two communes over 92 hectares of land contested by 175 families.

In January, farmers from Anlung Samnor commune tried to plant rice on the contested land and were confronted by Chi Kraeng villagers, three of whom were arrested.

In response, protesters from Chi Kraeng burned tyres outside the Siem Reap courthouse and sent pig heads to courtroom staff. The Anlung Samnor farmers went back to the contested land to harvest rice in March, but were again met by Chi Kraeng villagers, and the military police were brought in.

A coalition of NGOs is pressuring the government to investigate the shooting and resolve the land dispute.

Worker solidarity


The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Sovann Philong
Tuesday, 05 May 2009

Workers celebrate May Day with a march to raise awareness of conditions for factory workers. France's largest union, the CGT, sent a message of solidarity to Cambodian workers Monday, saying, "In too many countries like yours, trade union action on a daily basis suffers harassment and repression."

Garment factories complain of theft

Photo by: Sovann Philong
Clothing vendors in Russian Market. Garment makers say thousands of stolen goods are sold in markets.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by May Kunmakara
Tuesday, 05 May 2009

Industry says thieving workers are threatening factories

CAMBODIA'S largest garment industry association has filed a complaint with the Phnom Penh Municipality over what it says is rampant theft from local factories.

Van Sou Ieng, president of the Garment Manufacturers Association of Cambodia, said the April 27 complaint was filed in response to reported thefts in many of the country's more than 200 garment factories.

Though such complaints have been reported for years, he said they had become so widespread as to threaten the industry. "We've always received complaints from factory owners about this problem - it's a serious issue because buyers are afraid to order from factories," he said. "Many of the stolen orders have been partially sold in local markets or in neighbouring countries."

Phnom Penh Deputy Police Chief Hy Prou said he had received the complaint, though he said he did not know what measures could be implemented to address it.

The manager of a major garment factory in Phnom Penh who requested anonymity said he agreed with Van Sou Ieng that theft had recently become more common.

"Most of the factories will say that this is getting worse," he said. "We are losing a few thousand pieces of clothing per month."

He said employees use a variety of tactics to smuggle garments, including hiding items under their clothes and placing them in rubbish bins.

"An even more alarming trend is that we are seeing garments stolen from transport containers. We complained to the police, and they are setting up a task force," he said.

Van Sou Ieng said garment theft had cut already-thin profit margins and caused some companies to go bankrupt.

"We should stop such actions in order to build buyer confidence," he said.

But Chea Mony, president of the Free Trade Union of Cambodia, took issue with claims that theft was the main problem facing the industry.

"I don't agree that our workers are stealing large amounts of clothing.... They steal, but only a few items," he said. "The amount of theft wouldn't cause a factory to go bankrupt."

He added that recent factory closures were due to management problems and the ailing economy.


PM to sign energy deal with South Korea

Written by Nguon Sovan
Tuesday, 05 May 2009

SOUTH Korea is to assist Cambodia in identifying and exploring energy and minerals, Kim Junggwan, deputy minister for South Korea's Ministry of Knowledge, Economy Energy and Resources Police, told the Post on Monday after the Korea Cambodia Energy Forum.

Kim Junggwan said that the South Korean government will help Cambodia after Prime Minister Hun Sen signs a memorandum of understanding with the President Lee Myung-bak next month in Seoul.

"After Prime Minister Hun Sen signs the MOU on energy with our president in early June when he visits Soeul, we will send experts to do research on Cambodia's natural resources," he added.

"Cambodia is rich in natural resources ... under the sea there is oil and gas, but there is no specific data available ... resources have not been discovered and developed," he said.

He did not specify which minerals South Korea was interested in extracting.
"There are also few foreign investors in this field, so Korea is interested."

He said that Korea needs energy and minerals and has the expertise to assist Cambodia.

Ith Praing, secretary of state for the Ministry of Industry, Mines and Energy, welcomed the plan.

"It is very important to develop energy and explore undeveloped resources which are important for the future of the country," he said on Monday.

Fibre-optic cable project delayed

Customers use an internet cafe in Phnom Penh in this file photo.

Written by Hor Hab
Tuesday, 05 May 2009

$18 million infrastructure project to link Cambodia to Laos through fibre-optic cable has hit problems due to unseasonal rains and lack of electrical generators, say officials

AN $18 million project to install a fibre-optic cable from Laos to Cambodia has been delayed due to rains and technical difficulties, the minister of posts and telecommunications said Monday.

Minister So Khun told the Post heavy rains and a lack of electrical generators had delayed construction of the cable, which was originally set to be completed in April.

"We will try to connect the cable to Laos before the ASEAN ministerial meeting in July so that we can present it during the meeting," he said.

"I think it will contribute a lot to Cambodia's economic growth and national budget because we won't need to hire satellites from other countries."

Cambodia's rural internet capacity is limited by a lack of such high-speed cables.
Most areas outside Phnom Penh are dependent on satellite links.

"We already spend between US$200,000 and $300,000 per year on satellite links," he said.

"Having fibre-optic links would be much cheaper."

Cambodia and Laos signed a memorandum of understanding in January to lay the cable, financed by a soft loan from China, as a part of a larger network that would link to China's southwestern Yunnan province.

Phu Leewood, secretary general of the National ICT Development Authority, said on Monday that the cable would, once completed, expedite the linking of government offices nationwide, thereby increasing efficiency and reducing costs.

"The government can save a large amount of money by using internet and email instead of making expensive phone calls," Phu Leewood said.

High-speed growth
Two private companies are investing in fibre-optic links throughout Cambodia, and Vietnam's Viettel has laid more than 10,000 kilometres of fibre-optic cable so far.

"The ICT sector has big potential for the country's economy compared to other sectors because we have plenty of human resources to meet the demand, but its contribution to the national economy is invisible at the moment," Phu Leewood said.

He said he expected all government offices to be linked via fibre-optic cable by the end of 2011.

So Khun said Japan has recently offered to extend additional support to Cambodia's information and communication technology sector.

"We will hold additional discussions about assistance, and Japan will also send its experts to conduct a feasibility study and develop a broadband master plan," he said.

Less than 20 percent of Cambodians are hooked up to the internet, according to 2008 figures.

Most rural Cambodians only have access to high-speed internet through satellite connections, which are more expensive.

Benefit aids dance icon

Photo Supplied
Em Theay instructs members of the National Department of Performing Arts Dance Ensemble in The Tenth Dancer.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by David Gainsboro
Tuesday, 05 May 2009

One of the nation’s most renowned classical dancers, Em Theay, performs at fundraiser to help her family recover from fire

A screening of the award-winning film The Tenth Dancer and an impromptu dance performance were held at a benefit for one of Cambodia's most renowned classical dancers and singers, Em Theay, at the Bophana Audiovisual Resource Centre on Sunday.

At 76 years of age, Em Theay has lived through more than her fair share of adversity.

In March this year, her house, which provided a roof over the heads of her children and grandchildren, burned down in a tragic fire. During the fire, Em Theay and her family lost all their possessions, including a precious handwritten 60-year-old songbook.

To aid Em Theay and her family, the Bophana Centre held a benefit to help raise money for the construction of a new house with a showing of the biographical documentary The Tenth Dancer and a surprise classical dance performance.

An estimated 80 to 90 percent of Cambodia's professional artists perished during the Khmer Rouge regime, including most of the members of the royal dance troupe.

The Tenth Dancer is the story of a performer who survived these turbulent times and who works tirelessly to pass on her unique knowledge to a devoted pupil, set against the backdrop of a devastated country.

Organised by Toni Shapiro-Phim, director of research and archiving at Khmer Arts in Takhmao, the screening was followed by a question-and-answer session with Em Theay and a performance by three generations of classical dancers: Em Theay, her 56-year-old daughter and 27-year-old granddaughter.

Shapiro-Phim has studied Khmer dance and worked with Em Theay for more than 20 years. When she heard about the fire, she contacted people from around the world to spread the word and garner support.

"We need to help and honour Em Theay during this time of need," she said.

During the question-and-answer session, the topic meandered towards Em Theay's experience during the Khmer Rouge regime. In response to a question from an audience member, Em Theay performed the same solo song and dance that she previously used to entertain the Khmer Rouge cadres.

While undoubtedly a celebration of Khmer culture, the importance of helping Em Theay and her family recover from the fire was reinforced repeatedly during the fundraiser.

"Some of the things that had even survived the Khmer Rouge years were destroyed in this fire," said Shapiro-Phim, adding that she is also planning a benefit concert and a DVD, the profits from which will go to Em Theay.

For more information about future benefits, or to donate, email Shapiro-Phim at toni@khmerarts.org.This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it

Police Blotter: 5 May 2009

Written by Lim Phalla
Tuesday, 05 May 2009

Armed robbers stormed a property in Phsa Snoul village, Snuol district, Kratie province, firing several shots on Thursday. El Nob, 57, was killed during the incident while a domestic worker at the property, Math Nory, was severely wounded. The robbers escaped with three cellphones and a bag containing US$2,000, but the cash was found metres away from the incident the following morning, presumably having been dropped during the robbers' escape.

A man attempting to rape a 23-year-old garment worker while she was in her family bathroom has been captured by the woman's family in Prateah Lang village, Dangkor district, Phnom Penh, on Saturday. The man, known only as Solidy, 17, is now in the custody of Phnom Penh police.

Khut Phearun, 19, was caught by Steung Meanchey commune police in the middle of a brutal robbery that left Eang Seng, 35,with fatal injuries. Police arrived as the accused was beating the victim with stones in an attempt to steal his motorbike. The victim died in hospital on Saturday night. Police are still searching for one man in connection with the incident.

Lightning killed two men and injured five others in Trapaing Run village, Odongk district, Kampong Speu province, on Thursday. Nhek Veng, 28, and Chum Vin, 41, were both killed in the lightning storm, while Sim Roth, 21; Rim, 36; Pech Pon, 26; Suong Bunley, 33; and Suong Bunroth, 14, were left with severe injures.

Chamkarmon police arrested Chan Tharo, 28, in connection with the theft of Ear Sophorl's motorbike on Street 140, Dangkor district, Phnom Penh, on Wednesday. The suspect had recently served five years in jail for a previous offence.

Two men were arrested by Poipet police on April 27 in connection with the robbing of a villager in Prey Khang Cheung village, Mesang district, Prey Veng province. The suspects, Nom Theith, 35, and Sean Chhab, 29, are now in the custody of the Mesang district police.

Exhibition showcases changing urban landscape

One of Kong Vollak’s drawings.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Stephanie Mee
Tuesday, 05 May 2009

Kong Vollak's exhibition "Buildings" addresses how recent developments will affect Phnom Penh's landscape, environment and culture

HOW will the continual development and construction of immense, modern buildings in Phnom Penh affect the landscape, environment and culture of the people living in this country?

This is the question artist Kong Vollak poses to the viewers of his most recent exhibition "Buildings", which will showcase 20 pencil and charcoal drawings as well as four wire installation pieces depicting the urban jungle.

Kong Vollak has been concentrating on the urban architecture of his birthplace, Phnom Penh, ever since he graduated from the Royal University of Fine Arts, and he began exhibiting his work in 2005.

Furthermore, over the last few years, Kong Vollak has taken part in several workshops with foreign artists. He has also studied photography at Popil Gallery and dreams of becoming an art teacher.

"I want to show the changes that are happening in the architecture of Phnom Penh," he said. "Nowadays, there are so many huge, tall, modern buildings being erected, and the old traditional-style buildings are being overtaken."

Each of Kong Vollak's pieces portrays contemporary urban architecture in Cambodia's capital, and in particular the onslaught of the new mega-structures and the connections that these buildings have to the surrounding environment.

"I'm not so sure all of these new buildings are good for this city," he said. "Too many tall, modern buildings can negatively affect the landscape in terms of traffic jams, pollution and a loss of the old, traditional style of architecture that is part of our culture," he said.

Kong Vollak describes the Phnom Penh of his dreams - a subtle mix of ancient and contemporary architecture.

Although Kong Vollak may be sceptical about the changing urban landscape of Phnom Penh, he leaves the question of whether these changes are a positive for Cambodia up to those who view his work.

"Buildings" will open at the French Cultural Centre at 7pm Wednesday and will run through June 6.

The Phnom Penh Post News In Briefs

In Brief: Nuon Chea lawyer graft appeal

Written by Georgia Wilkins
Tuesday, 05 May 2009

Lawyers for "Brother No 2" Nuon Chea have filed an appeal to the pretrial chamber at the Khmer Rouge tribunal over corruption at the UN-backed court. According to the defence team's legal consultant Andrew Ianuzzi, laywers have requested the appeal be made public. Lawyers requested the chamber help make public a review of kickback allegations made by the UN's internal oversight body. However, it was rejected last month on the basis that such a task was not the responsibility of judges.

In Brief: Japan donates 20 firetrucks

Written by Cheang Sokha
Tuesday, 05 May 2009

The government of Japan has donated 20 firetrucks to Cambodia and will also help to train the country's firefighters, officials said. Eang Sophalleth, a spokesman for Prime Minister Hun Sen, said the offer came during a meeting between Hun Sen and Japan's Minister of Interior Kunio Hatoyama on Saturday. "The firetrucks will arrive before the end of the year," Eang Sophalleth told the Post Monday. "Our officers need to be trained how to use them."

In Brief: Media oulets meet for workshop

Written by Vong Sokheng
Tuesday, 05 May 2009

In a bid to improve the media landscape in Cambodia, EU media representatives met with local media and members of the National Election Committee on Monday for a workshop on how to strengthen journalistic standards. "We all have to help improve the media situation in Cambodia," said media adviser to the NEC Alexandre Castanias. A report released at the workshop said there were only "a few basic steps" that the government needed to take to ensure press freedom in Cambodia, including repealing laws regulating the media.

$20M in Tiger weapons seized

Sri Lanka War; RCMP claims money raised for aid spent on arms

Stewart Bell, National Post
Published: Tuesday, May 05, 2009

For a decade, Kilinochchi was a rebel capital, the hub of a vast swath of northern Sri Lanka that was controlled by the Tamil Tigers guerrillas.

In January, the town fell to government troops and now a small Sri Lankan flag flies in the town centre amid idle transit buses, flattened buildings and shuttered shops.

"They never expected us to reach Kilinochchi and capture it," said Lieutenant-General Jagath Dais, commander of the Sri Lankan Army's 57 Division.

"Still they don't believe it."

But the Sri Lankan army got a shock of its own when it began collecting weapons from the fallen rebels: troops seized an astounding array of arms, from assault rifles to artillery guns, even a battle tank.

Almost 100,000 small arms have been seized, the army said, as well as almost one million rounds of ammunition and nearly 30,000 rebel land mines.

"The amount of weaponry has caught us totally, totally by surprise, because we didn't think smuggling in so many weapons was possible," said Palitha Kohona, Sri Lanka's Foreign Secretary.

At two military bases in Kilinochchi, the National Post was shown weapons the army said it had found in the country's northern jungles.

There were 2,700 improvised explosive devices, 6,300 hand grenades and 4,000 bombs, in addition to antiaircraft guns, artillery guns, mortars, 33 GPS devices and a half-dozen satellite phones.

But small arms were the most common find, particularly T-56 assault rifles, a Chinesemade copy of the notorious Russian Kalashnikov AK-47.

The Sri Lankan government estimates it has captured rebel armaments worth almost $20-million so far. Almost every day the military announces more weapons seizures.

Some of the weapons are homemade, as in the case of a human torpedo that looks like a two-person metal kayak. Others are more sophisticated and could have only come from the global arms market: multi-barrelled rocket launchers and surface-to-air missiles.

According to Jane's Intelligence Review, Cambodia has been a significant source of the Tamil Tigers' weapons. The rest have come from places such as North Korea, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Turkey and Ukraine.

The arms broker behind the purchases is alleged to be Kumaran Pathmanadan, better known as KP. "Where money is there, weapons are there," Lt.-Gen. Dais said.

Where did the money come from? The answer is at the heart of police investigations in several countries, including Canada. The RCMP has been looking into the Canadian fundraising operations of the Tamil Tigers since 2002.

A senior member of the Tigers who surrendered two weeks ago said the rebels had misappropriated money sent from abroad for humanitarian aid and reconstruction after the 2004 tsunami.

"These funds have been utilized for military purposes rather than the welfare of the Tamil people," Daya Master said.

Mr. Kohona said foreign aid money has been pumped into northern Sir Lanka, but there is little to show for it on the ground, while the rebels seem to have had no difficulty buying arms.

"They have raised huge amounts of money overseas, whether through voluntary contributions, intimidation or illegal trade activities," the Foreign Secretary said.

The RCMP filed documents in federal court last month alleging the Tamil Tigers had raised money in Canada through an Ontario non-profit organization called the World Tamil Movement.

A police search of the World Tamil Movement offices in Toronto and Montreal turned up letters instructing the group to help raise money in Canada to finance weapons purchases, police said.

The most recent letter was dated 2006, during a faltering ceasefire. It asked for $7-million to finance purchase of anti-aircraft missiles and artillery, according to the RCMP.

RCMP forensic accounting reports allege that, between 2002 and 2006, the World Tamil Movement in Toronto wired almost $3-million to overseas accounts. Most of it went to a bank account in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, that is allegedly linked to the Tamil Tigers.

The World Tamil Movement denies the police allegations.

Intercepted telephone calls have placed KP in Malaysia, Mr. Kohona said. His weapons purchases were delivered to rebel-held northern Sri Lanka aboard smuggling ships.

But some of the shipments also passed through the port of Colombo disguised as ordinary cargo, he said.

"Not many sovereign states in the world, including Sri Lanka, have the sophistication to do that sort of thing," he said.

In addition to weapons, the stockpile of seized items includes Tamil Tigers' uniforms and several personal photo albums with pictures of the guerrilla boss Velupillai Prabhakaran and other Tiger leaders, such as the late S. P. Thamilselvan, whose family lives in Toronto.

One photo album contains photos of a young Tamil woman. The pictures show her posing in a red sari at what looks like her wedding, riding a motorbike and standing with another woman, both of them wearing the striped camouflage uniforms of the Tamil Tigers.

There was no indication of her fate.

The whereabouts of four others was more certain. The army seized red boxes bearing their names and photographs. Inside each box was a neatly folded Tamil Tigers flag. According to the army, such honours are reserved only for dead Black Tigers, members of the rebel suicide squad.

hello Introduces BlackBerry Solution in Cambodia in Partnership with Alcatel-Lucent and RIM

Technology Marketing Corporation,
By Raju Shanbhag
TMCnet Contributing Editor

Alcatel-Lucent has teamed with hello and Research In Motion (RIM) for the commercial launch of the BlackBerry (News - Alert) solution in Cambodia. With this agreement, it will become easier for the customers of hello to access e-mail, browse the web, make phone calls and access a host of other advanced features from their smartphones, according to the company.

The agreement brings the BlackBerry solution for the first time to Cambodia and it requires a robust network, end-to-end implementation capacity, and on-going support services for the successful implementation of the technology. Alcatel-Lucent (News - Alert) will provide these facilities using its strong local presence in the region. The company has a distribution agreement with RIM that helps hello even more in offering this new service.

In the initial stages, the customers of hello will get BlackBerry Pearl 8120 and BlackBerry Curve 8320 smartphones, as well as BlackBerry Enterprise Server and BlackBerry Internet Service. The company believes that its customers are at an advantage as they will be using a unique mobile solution. The BlackBerry smartphones are now available to both corporate customers and consumers in Cambodia.

The BlackBerry solution provides features such as SureType technology, which combines an innovative keyboard layout with dynamic software to help you type quickly and accurately on a narrow, compact smartphone. It also makes it easier to find the location of businesses, restaurants, concert venues and more by allowing the customers to check maps and get driving directions quickly and conveniently.

“This agreement strengthens Alcatel-Lucent’s leading position worldwide and in the region,” said Wei Luo, head of Alcatel-Lucent’s business in Cambodia. “hello will expand their business opportunity and enable their customers to benefit from the high flexibility offered by BlackBerry smartphones for staying connected any time and everywhere.”

Recently, Alcatel-Lucent formed a joint venture Bharti Airtel, Asia’s integrated telecom service provider, to manage the former’s pan-India broadband and telephone services and help its transition to next-generation networks. Alcatel-Lucent would design, plan, deploy, optimize and manage Bharti Airtel’s (News - Alert) broadband and telephone network across India. A new legal entity is being formed which will be operated by Alcatel-Lucent, according to the companies.

Raju Shanbhag is a contributing editor for TMCnet. To read more of Raju’s articles, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Tim Gray

Princess Eugenie to continue travels despite robbery in Cambodia

From The Times Online
May 5, 2009

Princess Eugenie is to continue her gap-year travels despite falling victim to a gang of muggers in Cambodia. Sources said yesterday that there was no suggestion that her plans would change after a friend of the 19-year-old Princess had her purse snatched.

Royal protection officers looking after the Princess, the younger daughter of the Duke of York, tackled the thief and pinned him to the ground.

When an accomplice pelted them with rocks, though, the two officers let the robber go to ensure the Princess’s safety. Eugenie and her two friends were escorted to safety.

A source was quoted in The Sun newspaper saying: “They feared the incident was escalating out of control and took the decision to focus on the safety of their principal.”

The incident happened two weeks ago in Phnom Penh, and since then the Princess’s gap-year trip has proceeded without interruption. “I have to stress it was Eugenie’s friend, not her, who was mugged,” a royal source said.

The Princess — who is sixth in line to the throne — has already visited Thailand and South Africa during her year out.

The attack highlights the controversy over the cost of protecting the Queen’s granddaughter during the trip, which is said to be in the region of £100,000. Critics point out that the Princess Royal’s children have no Scotland Yard protection. When the question of protection for younger members of the Royal Family was raised a few years ago, the Duke of York is said to have insisted on round-the-clock security for his daughters.

Buckingham Palace would not comment on the incident, nor on its security arrangements. Scotland Yard also refused to comment.

Marching on First May 2009: Government Officials and Opposition Party Have Different Opinions - Monday, 4.5.2009

Posted on 5 May 2009

The Mirror, Vol. 13, No. 611

“Phnom Penh: Teachers, workers, employees, and other people with different jobs, around 6,000, gathered in front of the former National Assembly on First May, the International Labor Day, to send a motion to the National Assembly requesting the government to pay attention to the difficult situation faced by weak citizens while the world is encountering an economic crisis. But the government considers this march as negatively affecting many economic sectors.

“The president of the Sam Rainsy Party, Mr. Sam Rainsy, stated, speaking to participants, ‘Some (referring to government leaders) said that the economic crisis is not a problem for jobless people in Cambodia, saying that jobless people can return home to do farming. What they said is wrong, and these words show irresponsibility, because workers know what the impact of the crisis is.’ He added, ‘The global economic crisis is affecting Cambodia and is making tens of thousands of workers unemployed, which means they lose their income completely, many factories close. The work of additional tens of thousands of workers is suspended, because their factories has suspended them and reduced their operations, which makes workers unemployed, losing large amounts of income, compared to the salaries in 2008.’ He asked the Royal Government to take proper measures, based on scientific economics, against the consequences from the global economic crisis. Those measures should include the preparation of a special budget of US$500 million in addiction to what had been prepared previously to support the Cambodian economy, in order to protect the work, income, and livelihood of workers and of citizens in general.

“Regarding this issue, the second vice-president of the National Assembly, a parliamentarian from the Cambodian People’s Party, Mr. Cheam Yeap, said that the Royal Government has already taken measures against the global economic crisis.

“A secretary of state of the Ministry of Labor and Vocational Training, Mr. Oum Mean, said that demonstrations by workers can make employers feel disappointed and at last, the ones who suffer from the difficulties are workers only. He added that instead of causing troubles for their employers and for the government, workers should celebrate the 123rd International Labor Day quietly and discuss the existing financial crisis.

“As for the president of the Cambodian Independent Teachers’ Association, Mr. Rong Chhun, he said that First May is the day that workers stand up to demand freedom and ask the government to pay attention to working conditions, and they want the government as well to know the conditions of workers during this time of an economic crisis. He added that now only weak Cambodian workers and weak citizens are victims of this economic crisis.

“Meanwhile, about 6,000 participants in the march, consisting of garments workers, food manufacturing workers, workers employed in the service and construction sectors, from the area of the informal economy, and from tourism, civil servants, and teachers, asked the government to create a [labor?] court soon, stop amending Articles 67 and 73 [of the Labor Law?], stop all types of discrimination against the exercise of freedom of trade unions and associations, take action by ordering all investers to deposit money at banks to be released to workers if factories close, provide an honorary name to Mr. Chea Vichea [the president of the Cambodian Free Trade Union of Workers who was shot dead in 2004] as ‘Worker Hero’ and provide a place to establish his statue, put pressure on employers to stop dismissing workers’ representatives or suspending their work illegally. Also, they asked the government to maintain an open job market and ensure good working conditions in all sectors. They suggested that the Ministry of Labor and Vocation Training issue announcements about accident payments [money for workers in case they have a work related accident] and set rules for wages for the service sector and for construction workers, and they asked the government to increase the quantity and quality of irrigation systems and seek markets for farmers.

“In should be noted that First May 2009 is the 123rd celebration of the International Labor Day and it is an important event which was begun in the United States of America and it was the historic beginning for workers’ movements around the world.

“On First May 1886, tens of thousands of workers struck and demonstrated in Chicago in the United States of America to demand a reduction of working hours for workers to only eight hours per day. Workers clashed severely with their employers and with government forces, but at last, workers achieved a bright success.”


A brief history of the origin of the celebration of First May is here:

International Workers’ Day is the commemoration of the Haymarket Massacre in Chicago in 1886, when Chicago police fired on workers during a general strike for the eight hour day, killing a dozen demonstrators. In 1889, the first congress of the Second International, meeting in Paris for the centennial of the French Revolution and the Exposition Universelle, following a proposal by Raymond Lavigne, called for international demonstrations on the 1890 anniversary of the Chicago protests. These were so successful that May Day was formally recognized as an annual event at the International’s second congress in 1891. The May Day Riots of 1894 and May Day Riots of 1919 occurred subsequently. In 1904, the International Socialist Conference meeting in Amsterdam called on “all Social Democratic Party organizations and trade unions of all countries to demonstrate energetically on May First for the legal establishment of the 8-hour day, for the class demands of the proletariat, and for universal peace.”

Deum Ampil, Vol.3, #173-174, 1-2.5.2009
Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Monday, 4 May 2009

ASEAN economy experts meet in Cambodia on crisis

The China Post

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

SIEM REAP, Cambodia -- Regional economics experts met in Cambodia Monday to discuss strategies for coping with the global financial crisis, officials said.

Representatives from the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) began talks a day ahead of a meeting of their economics ministers in the country's northwest tourist hub of Siem Reap.

ASEAN deputy secretary-general S. Pushpanathan said the ministers would address “specific issues affecting the ASEAN economic community to see how we can resolve those issues and move forward with economic integration.”

ASEAN countries plus key dialogue partners China, Japan and South Korea formally agreed Sunday in Indonesia to a US$120 billion emergency currency-swap fund to ease the region through the economic crisis.

During a three-day retreat in Cambodia, the economics ministers will discuss trade and investment within Southeast Asia, S. Pushpanathan said.

“We are looking at how we further enhance economic integration. It is very important for the region to work together,” he said.

Cambodian dance troupe's US tour comes to an emotional close

Ray Chum, right, is overcome with emotion as she talks with her son, KK, on back screen, during a Skype video call in Inglewood, Calif. on May 3, 2009. Tiny Toones is a hip hop group founded by KK, a former Long Beach gang member who was deported to Cambodia. (Jeff Gritchen/Staff Photographer)

By Greg Mellen, Staff Writer

INGLEWOOD - As Ray Chum looked at the face of the son she hadn't seen since 2003 displayed on the wall via a computer screen projection, her voice broke and the tears flowed.

The son, Tuy "KK" Sobil, whose image was being broadcast from an Internet cafe in Cambodia, was also speechless in tears.

The exchange brought an emotional climax to what has been an amazing tour of the United States by a dance troupe KK founded and comprised of street kids from Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

Dabson Tuy, KK's brother, took the microphone from his mother and talked to his brother.

"Mom just wants you to be a better person," Dabson said. "To see what you're doing today, we're just so proud of you. Just keep it positive. I'm sorry you had to see all that pain."

However, the heart rending pain underscored a success story that has been nothing short of miraculous. It is a story that would never happened but for KK's fall.

About 150 people had gathered at Chuco's Justice Center in Inglewood to see the final U.S. performance of Tiny Toones, a hip-hop dance crew, and Cambodian rapper Chan Samnang, also known as K-Dep.

The story of KK and Tiny Toones has received national and international recognition in recent years.

KK was born in a Thai refugee camp and later became a gang member in Long Beach after emigrating to the U.S. with his family. In 2003, after serving a conviction for armed robbery, he was deported to Cambodia, a

country he had never visited.
After KK's arrival, kids began asking him to show them dance moves. Eventually, he relented, put his personal despair aside and formed Tiny Toones.

The lure of hip-hop has since been used not only to teach kids break dancing, but provide English language education, HIV/AIDs awareness, gang prevention and other arts and life skills. Through the help of donors and other charities, Tiny Toones now has a drop-in center for impoverished teens and children in Phnom Penh.

The U.S. trip was just the latest remarkable event in the rise of Tiny Toones. Supporters here in the United States were able to secure an invitation and funding to bring six dancers and K-Dep to the U.S. for an international hip-hop dance competition in Madison, Wis., followed by trips to perform in New York, Philadelphia, Seattle and the Southland.

Although the fund-raiser in Inglewood was the group's last performance, plans are already afoot to bring them back next year.

For the dancers, the trip has been magical. Dyrithy Sovann, who goes by the stage name Fresh, said he never dreamed he'd ever see the United States.

Sovann, 17, is particularly adept at one-hand stands and head spins. On Sunday, he was learning the excitement of skateboarding, which the group was first introduced to several days ago.

Sovann met KK four years ago after going with some friends to watch him dance.

At Saturday's performance, Sovann played a lead role in the Monkey Dance, which has become the group's signature piece.

In the dance, the troupe begins with Keo Srey Leak, aka Diamond, the lone girl in the troupe dancing in classical Cambodian style. Gradually, traditional music gives way to hip-hop and the entire troupe launches into a full-fledged tumbling, spinning, hip-hop routine.

In addition to the performances, Tiny Toones dancers have engaged in impromptu cultural exchanges.

In Seattle, they met with a group of first-generation Cambodians from a group called Khmer In Action.

Grace Kong of KIA said the two groups learned much from each other.

Kong said the dancers feared they would be looked down upon and shunned when they came to the U.S.

Instead they have been overcome by the welcome they have received.

"We wanted them to see that no matter what, they have our support, they have Khmer Americans who love them," Kong said.

Information on Tiny Toones can be found online at www.tinytoonescambodia.com.

greg.mellen@presstelegram.com, 562-499-1291