Saturday, 6 June 2009

Korea, Cambodia to Strengthen Ties

June 6, 2009

President Lee Myung-bak sat down with visiting Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen for a bilateral summit Thursday. The two leaders discussed the prospect of building an industrial complex for Korean companies in Cambodia.

The Cambodian leader requested Korea's help in establishing a stock exchange in his country, with President Lee promising his support along with a pledge to send additional development aid to improve medical services and education in the Southeast Asian country.

The summit with the Cambodian leader marked the completion of President Lee's bilateral talks with all ten ASEAN member countries on the sidelines of the ASEAN-Korea Commemorative Summit held earlier this week on Jeju Island.

Local man attends trial of Khmer Rouge commander in Cambodia

By Cass Rains, Staff Writer

Last month an Enid attorney attended two days of a U.N.-assisted genocide tribunal while on vacation in the capital city of Cambodia.

“You felt like you were seeing history when you were sitting there,” John M. Jameson said.

Jameson was visiting his fianceŽ in Phnom Phen and attended two days of the trial of Kaing Guek Eav, alias Duch, who commanded Phnom Penh’s notorious S-21 prison, on May 18-19.

“It was very interesting to go because it’s such a big production,” he said.

Jameson said there were about 40 people involved in the court, which could be seen through floor-to-ceiling glass windows in an auditorium from one of about 400 seats. The proceedings are translated into three languages: English, French and Khmer, and could be heard through headphones via a wireless device that broadcast the hearing.

“The auditorium was about one-fourth filled when I was in attendance,” Jameson said. He said the mixture of people there was about half westerners, who he said he believed were mostly European journalists, and the other half Cambodians.

“The people in Cambodia really aren’t that interested in going out and attending,” he said, noting he had trouble finding the tribunal when in Phenom Phen due to a lack of interest or indifference.

“As a tourist in Phenom Phen nobody talks about it,” Jameson said. “It’s hard to find someone who knows about it, or to know where to drive to. I was all on my own getting there.”

Duch (pronounced Doik) is the first senior Khmer Rouge figure to face trial, and the only one to acknowledge responsibility for his actions. Senior leaders Khieu Samphan, Nuon Chea, Ieng Sary and Ieng Sary’s wife, Ieng Thirith, are all detained and likely to face trial in the next year or two.

The S-21 interrogation and torture center, also known as Tuol Sleng, was a converted high school in the middle of Cambodia’s capital city. More than 12,000 men, wo-men and children passed through it, with only a handful surviving. The S-21 is only one of at least 167 documented Khmer Rouge torture and death centers across the country.

Jameson said there are others who were involved with torture camps across the country who live openly among those they once oppressed.

“There’s lots of Khmer Rouge officers living openly throughout the country that haven’t been charged,” Jameson said. “They’re not going to be arrested and they’re not going to go to trial.”

He said Duch does not face the death penalty, only incarceration, although he had admitted to being head of the torture center. Duch has said he was only following orders when he undertook to torturing and killing Cambodians.

The Khmer Rouge came to power April 17, 1975, wanting to remake society into an agrarian utopia free of the West and capitalism. Money was abolished, the calendar was remade starting with Year One and the group’s leader Pol Pot was named “Brother Number One.” Then, the purges began.

“Anyone educated was to be rounded up and executed,” Jameson said. “This meant all teachers, lawyers, journalists and eventually anyone who wore glasses. Glasses meant they could read and were a threat.”

Jameson said almost 2 million people died as a result of the purges out of a population of 8 million. He said the total number of victims still is being debated.

Jameson said he has visited the killing fields, where Cambodians were beaten to death because the price of a bullet was too high. He’s also seen the torture center, which is being documented in the trial.

“It’s open to the public. It’s obvious they’re encouraging the public to see what’s happening,” he said. “It’s good because as part of these trials they documented what happened and documented these torture centers and killing fields.”

Jameson’s fianceŽ is the daughter of two Cambodians who were married during the rule of the Khmer Rouge.

“My fianceŽ’s parents married in a mass ‘wedding’ when a cadre leader simply paired off couples by finger pointing and declaring they were now married,” he said. “They stayed together and had five kids, and that was not uncommon.”

He said his fianceŽ’s parents were lucky to survive the brief but brutal rule of the Khmer Rouge. Vietnam invaded Cambodia in late 1978 and deposed the Khmer Rouge Jan. 7, 1979.

“Any Cambodian of a certain age can recite the exact number of horrible days, months and years the KR was in power,” Jameson said.

Duch, 66, is being tried by a U.N.-assisted genocide tribunal for crimes against humanity, war crimes, murder and torture.

Jameson said most Cambodians would rather look forward than back toward such a violent past.

“They’re looking toward the future,” he said. “They weren’t that interested in it. The country is mostly young people that weren’t alive when it happened.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

New lighting to be installed at Angkor Wat by advise of UNESCO

PHNOM PENH, June 6 (Xinhua) -- UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization) offered positive recommendation to ease the public concern over the installing of lighting at Angkor Wat, local media reported on Saturday.

Cambodian authorities installed new spotlights on the world famous tourism attraction - Angkor Wat to allow the temple to open more longer after sunset. The scheme includes the installation of lights near the ceiling of the northern gallery of the temple.

However, local press and opposition officials questioned the scheme and expressed their concern for the lights, claiming the light fixtures would cause damage to the centuries-old heritage in the long term.

After several days of increasing public arguing and attention, UNESCO gave a positive recommendation to the project recently on the condition that it (the project) is conducted in close cooperation with its International Coordinating Committee (ICC) for Angkor, the Chinese language newspaper Jian Hua Daily said.

The ICC, which advises government body the Apsara Authority on management of the World Heritage Site, advised the authority to limit illumination to the entrance way to the temple and its bas-relief gallery on the north side.

"We have to abide by the recommendation, but the decision is still from the Apsara Authority, as sovereignty from Cambodia," Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said, adding that the lighting project was still in a study phase.

This installation was monitored by the Apsara authority and UNESCO, according to the company who installed the lights, adding that the UN organization provided technical assistance.

UNESCO Country representative Teruo Jinnai denied that a test setup of the lights had damaged the temple. "There was no direct damage and all the holes were made a long time ago," he said. And the Apsara Authority said that only existing holes that once held wooden support beams were being used.

Editor: Wang Hongjiang

Cambodian and Vietnamese border communities strengthen ties

VietNamNet Bridge - Officials of the Vietnamese and Cambodian governments and their 22 border provinces met in Ho Chi Minh City on June 3-5 to discuss ways and means of further promoting their co-operation and development.

Under the co-chair of Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Pham Gia Khiem and Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Home Affairs Sar Kheng, the meeting, the fifth of its kind, which also saw the attendance of senior officials from Ho Chi Minh City, Can Tho City and Phnom Penh, reviewed the results of co-operation agreements reached at their last meeting.

The officials highly valued the existing comprehensive co-operation and mutual assistance between the ministries, sectors and border provinces that have constantly grown and become more effective.

They especially noted the growth in cross-border trade, which has surpassed US$1.1 billion, or 70% of all bilateral trade value, and the co-operation in investment, security, defence, infrastructure construction, healthcare, culture and education.

The Vietnamese and Cambodian officials stressed that the results over the past few years had contributed significantly to boosting socio-economic growth, and considerably improving the living standards and cultural lives of local people who live along the border.

They underlined that these firm co-operative ties have also contributed to ensuring security and maintaining stability along the mutual border and will serve as an important foundation for border provinces to strengthen ties, thus helping to deepen the two countries’ friendship and all-round and long-term sustainable co-operation.

The officials also discussed and reached consensus on the ways forward and how to co-operate in the future and expressed their determination to broaden and raise effective co-operation between border localities in all areas.

Those orientations aim to fully tap potentials of border areas and accelerate their socio-economic growth, to meet the aspirations of the local people and contribute to building a peaceful, stable and prosperous border.

The Cambodian and Vietnamese officials agreed to focus on boosting bilateral co-operation in several areas key to border localities’ growth, including upgrading the infrastructure, especially the transport infrastructure and strengthening transport links. They considered this as essential to boosting socio-economic ties and trade between both countries.

They also agreed to step up joint initiatives in trade, services and tourism in the border areas, develop border gate economic zones and border markets, and expand co-operation in agriculture, fisheries and forestry.

The high points of the co-operation agreement will be working together in education and training, developing human resources, healthcare, sporting activities and cultural exchanges.

The officials also acknowledged the need to speed up border marker planting and co-operation in security matters to maintain stability and order in border areas.


Foss High School shooter gets 23-year sentence

Douglas S. Chanthabouly, left, and defense attorney John Chin listen as Chanthabouly’s 280-month sentence is explained.

The News Tribune

Published: 06/06/09

Foss shooter gets 23-year sentence Saying the crime affected “the entire community,” Pierce County Superior Court Judge Ronald Culpepper on Friday sentenced a young man convicted of gunning down a fellow student in a hallway of Foss High School two years ago to more than 23 years in prison.

Culpepper also ordered Douglas S. Chanthabouly to be monitored by the state Department of Corrections for the rest of his life once he’s released from prison.

Chanthabouly, 20, showed little emotion when the sentence was announced, his blank stare interrupted only by the occasional blink as members of victim Samnang Kok’s family sat red-eyed in the courtroom gallery.

Culpepper’s sentence of 23 years, four months struck a compromise of sorts between prosecutors and defense attorneys, both of whom had asked for a sentence outside the standard range, which was 15 years to just more than 24 years in prison.

Deputy prosecutor Fred Wist told Culpepper that Chanthabouly deserved to be locked up for 30 years for killing Kok on Jan. 3, 2007, shortly before first bell in a hall crowded with students, teachers and staff.

The jury that convicted him of second-degree murder April 1 also found that his conduct had a “foreseeable and destructive impact” on people other than Kok, which qualified Chanthabouly for a sentence higher than the standard range.

Wist cited trial testimony from students, faculty and staff who recalled the smell of gunpowder in the air that day and the panic that erupted among students who fled the school, fearful for their lives.

“The first responding law enforcement heard them yelling and screaming that someone was in there killing other people,” Wist said.

Defense attorneys John McNeish and John Chin asked for a sentence of 10 years, three months, saying Chanthabouly’s mental illness played a large part in the crime.

They unsuccessfully argued during trial that their client should be acquitted by reason of insanity.

Two mental health experts testified during trial that Chanthabouly suffers from paranoid schizophrenia and was delusional the day he shot Kok, believing the victim was the member of a street gang out to hurt him.

“But for Douglas’ mental health problems, this offense would never have occurred,” McNeish said Friday in arguing for a sentence below the normal range.

Both prosecutors and defense attorneys asked that Chanthabouly be placed in community custody for life when he’s released from prison.

Kok’s relatives, including his mother and older brother, attended the sentencing hearing but declined a chance to address Culpepper.

The family’s attorney, Ben Barcus, said Kok’s killing had a “profound impact on the family,” especially his mother, Ry Sou.

“On behalf of Mrs. Kok, she believed her son was safe in the sanctity of the school,” Barcus said. “She escaped the killing fields of Cambodia and thought America was safe, and this happened in a school.”

Kok’s older brother, Rith, submitted a letter to Culpepper in which he described the pain at the loss of Samnang.

“I try not to show my feelings to my family, but it is eating me up inside,” he wrote.

“Sometimes when it hurts so much, I just cry to myself.”

None of Chanthabouly’s relatives attended the hearing.

His uncle, Kannha Bounchanh, also wrote a letter to Culpepper.

Bounchanh offered apologies and condolences to Kok’s family and asked for mercy.

“I would like to see my nephew to be able to get help, have a second chance in life,” he wrote.

Culpepper decided a prison sentence within the standard range was appropriate, given Chanthabouly’s mental health.

But he imposed the lifelong monitoring by the Department of Corrections in addition to the prison sentence, saying Chanthabouly needed to be monitored to keep the public safe when he gets out of prison.

Adam Lynn: 253-597-8644

College grad heads to Cambodia

Battle, 21, left, will be director of the Women’s Holistic Health Initiative at the Romero Center, a Jesuit-run community center in Battambang.

By Patrick Ball/Staff Writer
Fri Jun 05, 2009

Concord - So, you’re a 21-year-old college grad and your first job, which starts in August, is going to send you across the world to design, launch and lead a women’s center in Cambodia, a country still overcoming the effects of social engineering and genocide in the late 1970s by Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge.

Scary, you may say.

Well, Meghan Battle calls it “The best job ever.”
A Concord resident who graduated from Boston College last month, Battle will leave home in August to return to Battambang, a small city in northwestern Cambodia, where she spent a semester and the summer last year. She has committed to spending the next two-and-a-half years as director of the Women’s Holistic Health Initiative at the Romero Center, a Jesuit-run community center in Battambang serving the city and surrounding villages.

“Of course there are fears there, but I have had incredible support,” Battle said, adding that the lack of friends and young women with similar backgrounds is “a little disconcerting.”

Why Cambodia
Cambodia was only supposed to be the “random” stop, a humanitarian jumping-off point for a semester-off spent visiting friends studying abroad in Europe.

Studying for exams her sophomore year, Battle realized she was only working for the grades, which runs counter to the Jesuit college on Chestnut Hill’s philosophy of fashioning men and women for the world. She took a semester off and traveled to Cambodia, planning to stay a few weeks before touring Europe to see her friends studying overseas.

After bonding with a young villager whose mother asked Battle, then 19, to adopt her, she cancelled her ticket to Europe and stayed on with the Jesuits working at the Romero Center, where she introduced a health component to the English class she was teaching.

“I had thought, ‘I need to take some time to figure out why I’m here,’” Battle said of her decision to take a semester off. “Coming back, I could put faces to the issues they were talking about.”

She returned the next summer and, before she left, the Jesuits invited her to return after graduating to help start, and then run, their new Women’s Holistic Health Initiative.

When she returns to Cambodia in August, Battle will spend a few months in Phnom Penh, the capital city, studying Khmer at the University, networking with organizations working on women’s issues and developing a plan for the Women’s Holistic Health Initiative.

From Phnom Penh, she will head to the Romero Center in Battambang to establish the program, which will promote education about women’s health in the villages surrounding the city, and train the Khmer staff to whom she will ideally hand it over.

Battle said public health issues like domestic violence and distrust in hospitals and existing healthcare are among the lingering effects from Khmer Rouge, which ruled from 1975 to 1979 and broke down the Khmer culture with agrarian communism and genocide.

The plan, she said, is to work from a public health perspective to “create new norms about what’s acceptable and what’s not acceptable,” beginning with groups of young women and unmarried men.

“A lot of these are values they hold but don’t have the space to discuss yet,” Battle said, adding that she’ll be “using a preventative model rather than a reactive model.”

Her work will be supported by funding from the Jesuits, which will cover her daily living costs and expenses, but Battle has been working to procure additional funding for her “dream budget” of $40,000. A few events at BC have helped her raise more than $15,000 thus far, and she plans to continue fundraising this summer and to seek grants once the Women’s Holistic Health Initiative is an established program.

‘I can see a path’
Although she’ll be apart from friends and family, Battle says she’s loves what she’s doing in Battambang and that she hopes to continue doing this kind work.

“I’m happier there than I’ve ever been,” she said. “I’m learning all the time. Every day I’m there I think of a new degree to get.”

During her time at Boston College, Battle said she was blessed to spend (grant funded) time in Honduras and through Central and South America. Her experiences have lead to some wide-ranging interests rooted in public health issues and “bound together by the Jesuits’ constant challenge to transform my faith and deepen my active commitment to justice,” as she writes in her fundraising letter.

“I can see a path,” Battle said. “My faith has always been important to me, and working with the church has always been on the table.”

To help
To support the Women’s Holistic Health Initiative, make out checks to the Apostolic Prefecture of Battambang and mail to Meghan Battle, 52 Bedford St., Concord, MA 01742. For more information call Battle at 978-394-3256.

The dark side of Angkor's night visits

Thousands more tourists could pour into Angkor, damaging the 12th-century site

The Independent

Plans to boost tourism by opening temple at night alarm conservationists

By Andrew Buncombe, Asia correspondent

Saturday, 6 June 2009

The magical temples of Angkor – already visited by around half a million tourists a year – could lure even more people if the Cambodian authorities go ahead with a controversial plan to open the 12th-century complex into the night.

In an effort to boost tourism at the site, officials at Angkor say visiting hours could be extended and lighting provided to give visitors a different experience. "We want tourists to see all views of the temple, even in the dark places where they may have not have seen some of the sculptures and statues," said an official, Bun Narith.

The plan is just one proposal being considered by officials who are trying to counter the first slump in visitors to Angkor, which for a decade has experienced a boom. Recent figures show a 14 per cent drop in visitors to the town of Siem Reap, where Angkor is located, compared with last year. The authorities have also called on hotel owners to reduce their prices.

Foreign tourism is hugely important to Cambodia, reportedly providing up to 75 per cent of its foreign currency earnings. Around 50 per cent of all tourists to the country end up visiting the temple complex, six hours' drive north of the capital Phnom Penh.

But the issue of tourist numbers is complex. Conservationists warn that boosting the number of people visiting Angkor, without doing more to control them when they are at the site, could have a detrimental effect.

"Angkor is colossal but the problem is that there is very little control over the movement of tourists," said John Sanday, country officer with the Global Heritage Fund. "It can handle the number of people that are there if they are co-ordinated – perhaps with tickets."

Already, there has been controversy about the installation of lights at Angkor. This week officials were forced to deny reports from tourists that the building's structure had been damaged by the lights. "This accusation that new holes were created simply is not true," said Phay Siphan, spokesman for the Cambodian Council of Ministers. "The installation will not involve any new holes being drilled."

Ahmed Bennis, a French lighting expert who was commissioned to install the new lights, said there would be no structural alterations made. "These new lights will use solar power and they will not be built into the structure of the temple," he said. "Because the lights are powered by the sun there will be no electricity cables at the site."

Angkor was removed from Unesco's World Heritage in Danger list in 2004, but conservationists remain concerned for its welfare. Last year, Unesco raised concerns about the impact that the growth of Siem Reap was having on Angkor's foundations.

The UN organisation said that a surge in demand for water had led to a massive increase in the amount of groundwater being pumped. Philippe Delanghe, the culture programme specialist at Unesco's Phnom Penh office, said: "There is a very important balance between the sand and water on which the temple is built. And if that balance is taken away then we might have trouble with collapse."

Angkor is believed to have been built as a funerary temple for King Suryavarman II to honour the Hindu god Vishnu. The sandstone blocks from which it was constructed were quarried more than 30 miles away and floated down the Siem Reap river.

Cambodian PM returns home from S Korea after visiting

People's Daily Online

June 06, 2009

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen returned home Friday after attending the Commemorative Summit for the 20th Anniversary of ASEAN-Republic of Korea Dialogue Relation at the invitation of South Korean President Lee Myung-bak.

The summit was held from June 1 to 2, after the meeting, Hun Sen also paid an official visit to South Korea. During the visit, Hun Sen held talks with President Lee Myung-bak. Lee told Hun Sen that South Korea would help Cambodia in areas including infrastructure, agriculture, medical service and education.

At the same time, Hun Sen asked Lee for South Korea assistance in setting up a stock exchange to develop Cambodia's financial market.

Cambodia and South Korea signed a series of cooperation agreements including 60 million U.S. dollars in loans to help Cambodia building roads and sewers, Foreign Minister Hor Namhong said at the airport.

Cambodia and South Korea re-established their diplomatic relations in 1997. South Korea became the largest foreign investing country in Cambodia in 2007, according to official statistics.

Source: Xinhua

LB students persevered

Press-Telegram Long Beach

AWARDS: Many of the 2009 scholarship winners overcame struggles to succeed.

By Greg Mellen
Staff Writer

Posted: 06/05/2009

LONG BEACH - When Rada Hong steps to the lectern today he'll tell his story. Hong came to the United States in 2000 with his family as a 14-year-old immigrant from Cambodia.

He went to the Khmer Parents Association for help in English, which he couldn't read, write, nor understand. In 2009, Hong graduated from UC Berkeley with dual degrees in nuclear and mechanical engineering.

Today, he tells his story to about 100 Southeast Asian seniors and their families, who are expected to attend the 2009 Southeast Asian Scholarship Awards at Cal State Long Beach.

The event, annually sponsored by the KPA, is co-hosted this year by the Nisei Student Relocation and Commemorative Fund.

A group of nisei ("second-generation" U.S.-born descendants of Japanese immigrants) created the fund to pay tribute to the National Japanese American Student Relocation Council, an organization of religious groups and educators that had helped nisei students leave the internment camps during World War II to pursue college educations.

Each year, the group picks a community in which to give out college scholarships to children of refugee and immigrant families and in 2009 Long Beach is the choice.

Because of the Nisei fund, 30 students from the community will receive $35,000 in scholarships ranging from $2,000 to $500.

They will be kids like Hong, who overcame his obstacles to graduate from Long Beach Poly in 2004 with honors, earn a bachelor's in business management economics from UC Santa Cruz and went on to Berkeley, where he now does research in nuclear thermal hydraulics. To continue the legacy of KPA, Hong also teaches SAT preparation to students in San Francisco.
Dean Toji, who teaches at Cal State Long Beach and helped organize the event, says he was impressed by the applicants.

"I really admire them," Toji said. "Most are low-income and quite a few have a parent missing or disabled, and they've worked really hard. "

Today's event is free and open to Long Beach Southeast Asian graduates from the class of 2009. In addition to the scholarships, there will be door prizes, including a flat-screen computer monitor, digital camera, scientific calculator and gift cards and vouchers.

The event is from 2 to 4 p.m. at the Student Union at Cal State Long Beach. A reception catered by Sophy's Restaurant follows.

Marine meets extended family while deployed in Cambodia

Vouch Nap grips the arm of her great nephew, Petty Officer 3rd Class Bunthoeun Ham, the Khmer translator for 3rd Medical Battalion, Combat Logistics Regiment 35, 3rd Marine Logistics Group, during his deployment to Cambodia for a medical and dental civil action project. (Photo by Lance Cpl. Stefanie C. Pupkiewicz).
Lance Cpl. Stefanie C. Pupkiewicz

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (June 5, 2009) -- An hour and a half outside of Phnom Penh, the capital city of Cambodia, a man in a cowboy hat wearing a blue surgical mask waits anxiously as a van pulls up.

One of the passengers is his nephew, Bunthoeun Ham, whose parents fled Cambodia in the 1970's to escape the bloody and violent hand of the Khmer Rouge and the civil wars that followed its fall from power.

The van arrives and the man in the cowboy hat, Moun Ey, approaches his nephew and sweeps him into an embrace that leaves no doubt they are family, even though this is their first time meeting.

Ham is a petty officer 3rd class in the U.S. Navy who served as the Khmer translator for the 3rd Medical Battalion, Combat Logistics Regiment 35, 3rd Marine Logistics Group, during the Cambodia Interoperability Program 2009.

It was the combination of good timing and eavesdropping that got Ham, a personnel specialist with the personnel support detachment, CLR 37, 3rd MLG, his place on the 3rd Medical Battalion deployment to Cambodia as their translator and ultimately his opportunity to meet the family that his parents had forlornly left behind.

In November, Ham arrived on Okinawa for his second tour and while checking in he overheard Petty Officer 1st Class Mark Craig, who was one of the coordinators for the Cambodia Interoperability Program 2009, speaking about 3rd Medical Battalion's deployment to Cambodia. Ham inserted himself into the conversation and vouched for his credentials as a native speaker.

Ham did not hear anything for a few months but followed the recommendations of Craig to get his passport and medical records in order then he was contacted by Craig, followed by a phone call in Khmer. On the other end was Maj. John Cherry, the Cambodian foreign affairs officer for the III Marine Expeditionary Force. Cherry asked Ham a few questions and the stuttering petty officer replied in Khmer, receiving a stamp of approval from Cherry.

Within weeks he was touching down in Phnom Penh with a plane full of Marines and sailors who had no ability to speak the language. A language that he had spoken his entire life, but when he stepped off the plane he was anxious about how good his Khmer was.

He didn't have the opportunity to avoid his role as translator. The officials from the airport who were processing the passports of the service members recognized his name as Khmer and sought him out.

Ham felt shy and stuttered a bit during his first Khmer exchange, he said.

But, he got used to it quickly. Over the next two weeks, he was immersed in the culture and language that he had always known was his but had never truly experienced, Ham said.

The Cambodia that Ham found was not the Cambodia that his parents left behind. Their Cambodia was victim to constant gun battles, the sounds of which echoed almost constantly across the rice paddies.

The refugees would move about in large groups and Ham's parents told him, "You just stayed in the middle and tried not to get shot."

Ham's visit to the Killing Fields, where thousands of Cambodians were killed during the brutal reign of the Khmer Rouge made Ham realize the sheer scale of the horrors his parents endured, he said. But, the people of Cambodia have recovered from those horrors.

Phnom Penh is a budding metropolis filled with new construction and motorbikes that seem to drive with little caution. The provinces, where the medical and dental civil action project occurred and his family live are developing.

"You see growth everywhere, and I know there is plenty of room for more," Ham said.

The medical and dental civil action project was deeply rewarding for him, Ham said.

In Khmer, people are referred to as older brother or older sister instead of sir or ma'am, so, for Ham, that meant he was helping the members of his very large extended family, he said.

It was his meeting with his actual family though that moved him to tears because of all of the sacrifices that his parents made to ensure that he and his siblings had a better life. He took special liberty to be able to visit them and see all the sights. The visit allowed him to see the life that he would have had if his parents hadn't left, Ham said.

The visit to his parents' villages took careful navigation on narrow roads and then further navigation on foot through the rice paddies to meet everyone.

An afternoon at the sea with his father's family wrapped up the day for Ham and his family. They parted ways thinking it was his last opportunity to see them.

But the next day, after a morning of sightseeing in Phnom Penh, Ham returned to the hotel only to have a Cambodian woman approach him with a strangely familiar face.

Alin, Ham's cousin, waited almost five hours in the lobby of the hotel for him to come back. She had never met or seen him before but her family had said that he looked identical to her father, she said.

She was incredibly anxious and a little scared waiting for Ham to come back from his sight seeing, she said. The hotel staff informed her when he walked in and he was all the way across the lobby and almost into the elevator before she mustered up the courage to speak to her American cousin.

The two spent the next two days getting to know more about each other and exploring Phnom Penh.

It felt good to let Alin experience the city as a tourist with the leisure to eat from food vendors and experience her culture, Ham said. She normally works seven days a week with no days off so that she and her husband can afford to eat and live in their modest apartment.

Ham says that he misses his family now that he has returned to Okinawa, and hopes to be able to return to Cambodia in his role as translator again. His ability to help the Cambodian people and reconnect with his family made his job with 3rd Medical Battalion rewarding.

The Telecommunication System in Cambodia Is Having Problems Because of Overlapping Frequency Ranges – Friday, 5.6.2009

Posted on 6 June 2009
The Mirror, Vol. 13, No. 615

“The telecom system in Cambodia is seen as progressing strongly at present, but in the background, it is facing some technical problems. If there is no correction, there might be more problems for the users.

“A telecom expert said recently that the telecom system in Cambodia is having many problems, and the major one is the overlapping of frequency ranges, while the various telecom systems are progressing in Cambodia.

“At present, telecommunications in Cambodia have improved a lot – a few years ago, there were only 3 big mobile phone companies, but now there are 9; even if one counts only the system access numbers [011, 012, 016, 017, etc.], one can see there are many. The number of Internet Service Providers, which was previously 4 or 5 only, now has increased to about 30.

“This expert said, ‘The frequencies allocated are too close, and sometimes, when we deviate just a bit, there are problems for the users.’

“Regarding this problem, an official of the Ministry of Post and Telecommunications, who asked not to be named, said by telephone on 4 June 2009 that it is true that there is an overlapping of frequency ranges, but this is not because the ministry had provided too many licenses to different companies. The problem relates to installation techniques.

“He said, ‘The frequencies overlap because of incorrect installations, and when we check to correct this, the problem can be solved.’

“Besides the problems of overlapping frequencies, the overlapping of licenses provided is also another complicated problem.

“The same expert added that sometimes, the problem is not only that frequency installations result in their spread and overlap, but also the provision of overlapping licenses makes it for him, a technical expert, difficult to solve.

“He said, ‘As I know, just with the WiMax technology alone (a new technology used to provide Internet services to mobile phones), about 20 systems are provided with overlapping licenses.’

‘He continued to say that generally, WiMax technology is used with mobile phones only, but here, companies providing television over the Internet also have licenses to use it.

“Relating to this issue, the president of the Information and Communication Technology Association of Cambodia, Mr. Nang Rada, said that the problems of the telecom system in the country exists because Cambodia has no systematic law and no policy to regulate the telecom systems. [The World Information Technology and Services Alliance (WITSA) lists the Information and Communication Technology Association of Cambodia as a member].

“He added, ‘We do not have a telecom law and a related policy, and therefore, our telecom system has problems.

“According to Mr. Rada, the problems in communicating between different systems [for example from a 011 phone to a 012 phone, etc.] result from the non-existence of a telecom law as a basis [to regulate interconnections].

“He added, ‘The difficulties in calling from one system to another exist because we do not have a regulating law.’

“The same official of the Ministry of Post and Telecommunication stated that a draft law is at the Council of Ministers and is awaiting discussion.

Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.17, #4912, 5.6.2009
Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Friday, 5 June 2009

Muslims on Tonle Sap See Fishing Threat

By Pich Samnang, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
05 June 2009

Wrapped only in a sarong, under a cool breeze on the Tonle Sap river, Les Sofi slowly rowed his boat, extending his fish net beneath the surface of the water.

Les Sofi started fishing when he was a boy. “Fishing has been my daily task,” said the 25-year-old Cham fisherman, in Prek Raing village on the outskirts of Phnom Penh. “I once could return home with 10 or 20 kilograms of fish each day.”

The number of fish Les Sofi could catch would earn his family 10 between $10 and $12.50 per day.

In two villages of Phnom Penh’s Russei Keo district, some 500 Cambodian Muslim families earn their livings by fishing. Several years ago, they come home with at least 10 kilograms of fish per day, found on the Tonle Sap river.

But that number is falling, and now some of them are turning to jobs on plantations or as motorcycle taxi drivers. Fishing communities all along the Tonle Sap, one of the richest lake systems in the world, have begun to see dwindling catches.

Like other fishermen in these river villages, Les Sofi said he had thought of abandoning his traditional job thanks to a dramatic decline in catches over the last several years.

“Before, there were riches in fish, but now I can hardly catch even a kilo of fish a day,” he said with a sad look.

Another fisherman, Sou Matt, 57, gave up his fishing three years ago because of a decline in his catches.

“The reason why the number of fish is falling is that there has been the widespread use of illegal fishing equipment,” explained the former fisherman, who has turned to work on a plantation.

Along the bank, on the other side of the Tonle Sap, Matt Man said he has also abandoned his family tradition career.

“I have now changed my job to work as a moto taxi driver,” said the 49-year-old. “I could no longer stand searching for more fish when there were none in the water.”

The village chief Re Mouse said at his house that most of the Cham fishermen in his village have sold their boats to buy motorcycles and turned to on-land jobs.

About 90 percent of the 430 families in Village Two are Muslim fishermen, according to the village chief.

Some fishermen claim that the falling number of fish in the river is due to the use of large-scale fishing equipment, especially during fishing bans between June and October.

Minister of Agriculture Chan Sarun and the head of its fishery administration, Nao Thuok, could not be reached for comment for this story.

The director of Phnom Penh’s fishery administration, Pen Phannarith, nonetheless, said he has constantly sent out his officials to monitor and deal with illegal acts of fishery.

“There have been no fishery offenses so far along the Tonle Sap river, from the outskirt of the city inwards,” he said, adding that he would start to monitor more closely next week.

Still, Les Sofi said he would not continue his tradition of fishing should his current catches remain so low.

“I don’t know how long I can keep fishing,” he said. “There are hardly any fish now.”

Critic of Temple Lighting Writes Hun Sen

By Heng Reaksmey, VOA Khmer
Original report from Cambodia
05 June 2009

Moeung Sonn, who is facing a criminal suit for criticizing the agency in charge of the Angkor Wat temples, has written to prime minister to explain.

The Apsara Authority has issued a complaint for incitement and defamation against Moeung Sonn, president of the Khmer Civilization Foundation, for publicly criticizing a decision to shine lights on the Angkor Wat temples at night.

“The lighting could damage the temples when there is rain,” Meoung Sonn wrote to Prime Minister Hun Sen. Some of the lights are old and could electrocute tourists, he wrote.

Moeung Sonn told VOA Khmer Friday he hoped the prime minister would consider his letter, and think about the lighting at the famed temples.

Groups Want Tribunal Shielded From Corruption

By Kong Sothanarith, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
05 June 2009

Six of the country’s most prominent civic groups called on the UN-backed Khmer Rouge tribunal to ensure its integrity is safe from corruption.

In a joint statement to the courts, the groups called for a credible, independent method for dealing with alleged corrupt practices, following allegations made since 2007 that staff on the Cambodian side of the hybrid court pay kickbacks to senior government officials.

“We wish for them to have a solid mechanism for independence and to reinforce credibility,” said Thun Saray, president of the rights group Adhoc, which was among the six organizations to issue the statement.

The UN and Cambodian sides have not agreed on a unified mechanism for handling the allegations. The government argues that complainants should be identified; the UN insists on anonymity.

“We are concerned that the mechanism does not have enough efficiency to combat corruption in the court,” Thun Saray said.

Meanwhile, the Pre-Trial Chamber of the court postponed a decision on whether more indictments should be investigated. Judges met Friday to settle a dispute between the UN and Cambodian prosecutors.

International prosecutor Robert Petit has said six more suspects could be charged with atrocity crimes, but his Cambodian counterpart, Chea Leang has echoed concerns of Prime Minister Hun Sen, saying more indictments could destabilize the country.

“We are working,” said chamber judge Prak Kim San. “No result.”

Second Opposition Lawmaker Called to Court

By Chun Sakada, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
05 June 2009

An opposition parliamentarian has been summoned to Phnom Penh Municipal Court, following a suit filed by a group of senior military leaders.

Sam Rainsy Party member Ho Vann told local media in April that certificates awarded to 22 senior military officials by the Vietnamese Infantry Institute were “worthless.”

Ho Vann told reporters after his questioning he had not incited or defamed, and denied calling the certificates worthless. He said he had made numerous attempts to correct both the Cambodia Daily and the Phnom Penh Post for corrections.

Pol Saroeun and his deputy, Lt. Gen. Kun Kim, received doctorates in military science from the Vietnamese Infantry Institute in 2007, while 20 other senior military officials earned the master’s degrees.

Pol Saroeun declined to comment on the case. Tann Mengsroy, lawyer for the plaintiffs, also declined comment.

First Khmer Studies Forum Held in the US

From left: Im Sothearith, Chalisa Magpanthong, and So Farina, speakers at the Khmer Study Forum, at Ohio University.

By Im Sothearith, VOA Khmer
Original report from Ohio
05 June 2009

The first annual Khmer Studies Forum, on Saturday May 30, 2009, was organized by the Southeast Asian Studies Program of Ohio University. This forum was held as the result of a discussion between Deth Sok Udom, a Cambodian graduate student of the program, and Anthony Medrano, its assistant director.

The aim was to give an opportunity to students and scholars to present and discuss research findings. Eleven speakers presented papers on 11 topics, such as “Problems and Prospects for Cambodia's Endangered Cultural Heritage” and “Exploring Trade and Exchange Networks in Iron Age Cambodia.”

Attendants were exposed to international perspectives on Cambodia. They discussed the neglect of Indochina by the US following the Vietnam War, including Cambodia, for example.

Jared Cahners, a doctoral student at the anthropology department of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, one of the speakers at the forum, said the meeting was a “wonderful” opportunity for people who study Cambodia to get together.

“People are studying so many different aspects of Cambodian, Khmer culture, people came from many disciplines to do it,” he said.

Alison Carter, a doctoral student in Cahner’s department, said she was excited to participate.

“I learned a lot,” she said. “There are a lot of things I didn’t really know very much about, because Cambodia is so rich and diverse. There’re so many things, so many opportunities to study. So, I am really excited to learn about those things. For me, I’m really excited to talk about my research with people who are interested in Cambodia, because usually I talk about my research with people who are just interested in archeology. So, they might not know much about the history of Cambodia, or even where Cambodia is.”

Deth Sok Udom, graduate student of Ohio University’s Southeast Asian Studies Program and one of the forum organizers, said there are many Cambodian graduate students and scholars in the United States, but they do not have a chance to get together officially.

This forum created an opportunity for Cambodian and foreign scholars on Cambodia to meet.

“This first year, we had 11 topics,” he said. “Some people talked about history, some talked about archeology, some talked about women’s rights, some talked about anthropology, politics and media studies. Therefore, it gave us more understanding besides what we studied.”

Anthony Medrano, assistant director of Southeast Asian Studies, Ohio University and one of the forum organizers, said the university’s role as a “national resource center” made it the perfect place to have the forum.

“The target audience is going to be students and other scholars, regardless of the level that they are at, scholars who work on Cambodia, or Cambodians, or Cambodian society, so that could mean people who look at Cambodians in America, people who look at colonial history in Cambodia, people who look at Angkor history, people who look at contemporary politics, who look at administrative reform,” he said. “So the target audience is anybody who has an interest in Cambodia that we want to sort of bring together. So, it can be kind of venue that is open and free and available for them to share their research and findings.”

Lay Putheara, a graduate student at the Institute of International Training, in Vermont, and one of the participants in this forum, said this type of forum should be held every year.

“It is useful because Cambodians have an opportunity to tell international scholars about what they know, what they studied, or know through experience in Cambodia,” he said. “At the same time, international scholars who have studied Cambodia have an opportunity to present to us their perspectives, their knowledge, their experiences about Cambodia.”

In the United States, only nine universities are considered national resource centers on Southeast Asia: Cornell, Ohio, Wisconsin-Madison, Berkley, UCLA, Washington, Michigan, Northern Illinois, and Hawaii.

The second-annual Cambodian Studies Forum will be held on Saturday, April 24, 2010, at Ohio University. Information about the Cambodian Studies Forum is available at

Cambodia to open 3 more border crossings with Vietnam

People's Daily Online

June 05, 2009

Cambodia will open three more border crossings with Vietnam next month to promote the tourism and trade between the two countries, local media reported on Friday.

The news was announced by Thong Khon, minister of tourism, at the tourism workshop in Siem Reap on Thursday. "With the opening of the three new, we will have seven in total of border crossings with Vietnam and expect bringing more Vietnamese tourists", Chinese language newspaper the Commercial News quoted Thong Khon as saying. The seven border crossings were located in Cambodia's Svay Ring, Kampot, Kampong Cham, Rotanak Kiri, Mondol Kiri, Kracheh and Takaev provinces.

Thong khon said the new border crossings will allow 500 vehicles to pass through per day and currently, there are 150 tourism vehicles permitted crossing the old four land gateways every day.

According to the minister, this year has already seen 100, 041 visitors from Vietnam, a 34 percent year-on-year increase in the first four months of this year, and account to 12.55 percent of the total foreign tourists visiting Cambodia.

Cambodia and Vietnam signed an agreement to open seven border crossings in total in 1998.


Khmer Krom hero rises from the delta

Asia Times Online
Jun 6, 2009
By Craig Guthrie

BANGKOK - As he secretly slipped away from his mother's funeral, donned his familiar saffron robes and fled by motorbike along a potholed road from southeast Cambodia into neighboring Thailand, Tim Sakhorn's status as a Khmer Krom hero was assured. On Thursday, as his ethnic group marked the 60th anniversary of the loss of its lands, the little-known movement for self-determination and improved human rights was desperately in need of one.

The ongoing saga of Sakhorn, a 41-year-old Buddhist monk who in 2007 was defrocked, deported and detained by Vietnamese authorities for alleged separatist activities, has brought the cause of the Khmer Krom - a million-strong community of ethnic Khmer who live in parts of Vietnam's Mekong Delta that was once part of an ancient Cambodian empire - some much-needed global attention.

Khmer Krom leaders say the Vietnamese government has suppressed their religious and cultural identity for decades. They say the government of Cambodia, their motherland, has disowned them for political reasons. Sakhorn's story, they believe, is indicative of both.

Soft spoken and diminutive, Sakhorn is an unlikely successor to Son Kuy, the swashbuckling Khmer Krom soldier who led guerilla warfare against imperial Vietnam in the early 19th century before being beheaded at the royal court at Hue. Sakhorn says he is no hero. He told Asia Times Online at a hidden location in Bangkok on May 25 that he is merely happy his story can show the world that "the oppression is real".

The pictures of both men adorned banners as Khmer Krom marched in the streets of Phnom Penh on Thursday to commemorate colonial France's June 4, 1949, ceding of what was then known as western Cochinchina to Vietnam. The demonstration was kept low key - an earlier incarnation of the ruling Cambodian People's Party (CPP) was put in place by Hanoi in 1979, and its party leaders remain sensitive to any events critical of its important ally.

"Venerable Tim Sakhorn, is, by definition and through the examples of other great heroes in history, a true Cambodian hero," Washington-based economist and historian Naranhkiri Tith said by e-mail. He said Sakhorn deserves appreciation for "trying to defend Cambodia and her people against an unrelenting 'Vietnamization' of Cambodia".

Alien in your homeland
Khmer Krom leaders say the Vietnamese government targets their ethnic group in three ways: education, culture and economy. "Specifically, the Vietnamese government limits the teaching of the Khmer language, restricts the practice of Theravada Buddhism, and deprives the Khmer Krom of their lands," said Thach N Thach, the president of the Khmer Krom Federation.

The majority of Vietnam's Buddhists practice Mahayana Buddhism as opposed to the Khmer Krom's Theravada Buddhism. Hanoi's Minister of Culture and Information said in 2007 that Theravada enforces "backward" customs and habits that limit the group's development. The communist nation has restrictions on religious practices and all Theravada wats (temples) are overseen by the government-controlled Vietnamese Buddhist Sangha.

Perpetuating their life on the margins of Vietnamese society, large number of ethnic-Khmer students drop out of school at an early age. Many Khmer families are too poor to take their children out of wage labor. If they can, their children are only taught in Vietnamese. Khmer classes remain only available in small wats that girls, by custom, cannot attend.

"When I started first grade in public school I had to learn everything in Vietnamese, but I couldn't speak Vietnamese at all. The Vietnamese students, even teachers, made fun of us [Khmer Krom] and made us feel that we were not welcome," said Serey Chau, president of the Khmer Krom Federation's Youth Council.

In March 2008, the state-run VietnamNet news site reported that Khmer students were "dropping like flies" out of school. "Most of the students with bad learning capacity are of Khmer minority; they cannot speak Vietnamese well and cannot follow the study curriculum," a local teacher told them. The report said 56% of drop-outs are from the Khmer minority, with 30% of this figure leaving due to their "inability to learn".

Vietnam insists it has introduced wide-reaching housing, poverty reduction and education programs in an attempt to bring the Khmer Krom into mainstream society and join in the nation's economic progress. It claims some 358,000 new jobs were created for Khmer Krom in 2007, and that the average gross domestic product per capita in the region is 14.8 million dong (US$890).

'Eliminate without bleeding'
Khmer Krom leaders insist that poverty is rife in the area despite the delta being Vietnam's most fertile rice-growing region - Vietnam is the world's second-largest rice exporter. They claim the farmlands of ethnic-Khmer families have been confiscated by the authorities.

The World Bank found in a 2006-2010 socio-economic study that less than half of the Khmer households it surveyed (46%) had enough food to eat all year round, while poverty rates in Khmer Krom villages in 2005 reached between 50-70%. Of the main causes of poverty, 100% of village households surveyed said it was partly due to landlessness.

Thach says that after 1975, when the Khmer Rouge came into power in Phnom Penh, all Khmer Krom lands in the Delta were placed under state ownership. The government implemented collective land reform policies "with their eyes on the farmlands of Khmer Krom people", said Thach. "So far, this land-grabbing has succeeded and the majority of Khmer Krom are landless." He calls the aim of the program "to eliminate without bleeding".

An Oxfam Australia study in late 2008 found that the loss of culture is a primary cause of the poverty of the Khmer Krom in the Mekong Delta, "as cultural upheaval creates a sense of deep hopelessness and despondency".

This despondency has led to Khmer Krom activism. The case of Sakhorn suggests that the Vietnamese and Cambodian authorities are willing to collude to silence it.

A report by New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) in February listed memos from Vietnamese government officials outlining their strategies to monitor and infiltrate ethnic-Khmer activist groups. In one, dated July 2007, General Luu Phuoc Luong, deputy commander of Vietnam's southwest region, accused "reactionary groups of the [Khmer] Krom" of "destabilizing us [Vietnam] politically ... Close cooperation with the Cambodian government is needed in order to nip these anti-government activities in the bud."

Hanoi dismissed the HRW report and Foreign Ministry spokesman Le Dzung described it as a "total fabrication" in the state-controlled Viet Nam News Agency. "There is completely no repression or restrictions of freedom to religion and speech for Khmer ethnic people in the Mekong Delta region," Dung said.

Spirited away
When reports of Sakhorn's defrocking first made headlines in July 2007, the first statement from local authorities said he had been found guilty of "improper behavior" with a woman. Later, a witness from local human-rights group Adhoc said he had been bundled into a Toyota by unidentified men from Prime Minister Hun Sen's elite Brigade 70 bodyguard unit. Local newspapers then reported that he had been charged with "entering Vietnam illegally".

His whereabouts were unknown for weeks. Only in August 2007 was it confirmed he had been quietly shuttled to Vietnam by car to face charges of "undermining relations" between Vietnam and Cambodia by organizing Khmer Krom demonstrations and distributing propaganda leaflets while abbot of Phnom Den pagoda in Cambodia's southwestern Takeo province.

The defrocking order was signed by Great Supreme Patriach Tep Vong, Cambodia's highest religious figure. Vong has strong links to the ruling government and once served as deputy president of Cambodia's National Assembly when it was controlled by an earlier version of the CPP.

Human-rights groups said this was proof the structure of Buddhism in Cambodia was aligned so that religion was "politically entwined" with the government. "It is clear that the Ministry of Cults and Religions has an unhealthy degree of control over the Great Supreme Patriarch, and the structure of the Buddhism in Cambodia in general," said the Cambodian Center for Human Rights.

The outcry over his disappearance led Hun Sen to write to King Norodom Sihamoni justifying his defrocking - Cambodia's royal family has traditionally displayed more sympathy for the Khmer Krom than the government. Princess Norodom Arunrasmy presided over Thursday's ceremony. "Monk Tim Sakhorn was stubborn," he wrote in the leaked letter, adding that while the government knew Vietnam had detained him, "the exact cause of the imprisonment, we do not know yet".

Underweight and shackled, Tim Sakhorn finally surfaced at a People's Tribunal in Vietnam's southeastern An Giang province in November, 2007. He was initially sentenced to 15 years, but after a signing a confession - which he says was already written and translated into Khmer - this was reduced to just one.

After his detention ended, he says he was still kept under surveillance by Vietnamese agents, but he was allowed a brief visit to Takeo in April to visit 100-day funeral rights for his mother. Grasping the opportunity, he fled to Thailand on a motodop (motorbike taxi). He donned his saffron robes and was secretly re-ordained en route - enabling him to escape the attention of border police.

Sakhorn is staying in a safe house in Bangkok where he met with Asia Times Online. He said he is currently awaiting a United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees decision on his status and hopes to go to the United States. "But even in a third country I will be afraid, Vietnamese agents have shadowed me and threatened me since I was released. It doesn't matter where I go, they can find you," said Sakhorn.

The Cambodian government has said it is safe for him to return and live there, but he does not believe them. "I had lived in Cambodia for years, from 1978 [until 2007], and Vietnamese authorities were still able to come and take me to their prison where I was mistreated, forced to confess and earth and grass mixed in with my daily rice. [Prime Minister] Hun Sen says he wants to help the Khmer Krom, but I have not seen anything happen."

For historian Tith, the Cambodian premier has no option but to support any demands from the Vietnam. "If the Vietnamese tell Hun Sen to turn right, he will turn right. If the Vietnamese tell him to turn left, he will turn left. Hun Sen is very scared of Vietnam because he was propped up by Vietnam."

Written out of history
Sakhorn's arrest and deportation sparked a wave of Khmer Krom demonstrations in Cambodia, with clashes in Phnom Penh between Khmer Krom monks and monks loyal to Tep Vong. Hun Sen warned after the street fights in a speech broadcast on national television in February 2008 that he would provide "free coffins" to anyone who attempted to reclaim Khmer Krom lands and "help bury their corpses".

The Khmer Krom maintain their cause is about human rights, not independence or the return of their lands to Cambodia. They claim to only want some say in their future, and for Vietnam to stop falsifying their history. In 2007, the Vietnamese Communist Party disseminated a freshly written history of southern Vietnam that asserted that the Khmer were not its indigenous inhabitants.

Shawn McHale, an Asia studies professor at George Washington University, says the fundamental problem in the historical dispute over the Khmer Krom's lands is using modern notions of sovereignty for pre-colonial situations that were ambiguous. He said a Khmer prince ceded Khmer Krom to Vietnam in 1757, but that not all branches of the royal families agreed.

In 1864, France made Cochinchina a colony, but Cambodia was merely a protectorate. When Hanoi and Phnom Penh both claimed the area in 1945, the French ultimately sided with the Vietnamese in 1949.

"So the Khmer Krom today are an ethnic minority greatly outnumbered in their land, they insist that their territory was seized by an enemy, and that this enemy does not have a legitimate claim to the area, but most of the world simply can't believe that such an account is true," McHale told Asia Times Online by e-mail. "Over time, the world has come to recognize the claims of the party that came later and used brute force to establish its claim."

Craig Guthrie is a correspondent for Asia Times Online based in Thailand. He has covered Cambodian affairs since 2004.

Allegations of corruption and political interferences: a thorn in the side of the KRT

Phnom Penh (Cambodia). 04/06/2009: Michiel Pestman, co-lawyer for Nuon Chea, during a press conference at the FCC, reveals security problems and governmental interferences at the ECCC
©John Vink/Magnum


By Stéphanie Gée

While Duch's trial is set to enter its seventh week on Monday June 8th, pressure on the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) to address allegations of corruption and political interferences has kept growing. In the latest stir, a press conference was given by Michiel Pestman, the international co-lawyer for Nuon Chea, former Brother Nº2, on Thursday June 4th in Phnom Penh. He denounced a “security incident”, which occurred on the previous day, concerning a confidential letter originating from his office, which was allegedly taken out unbeknownst to him. He also expressed concern over the recent appointment of Helen Jarvis at the head of the Victims Unit as well as interferences of the Cambodian government in the judicial process, whilst also raising the issue of corruption that allegedly affects the national side of the internationalised tribunal...

Political manipulation and corruption, an explosive mix
“Ominous signs of political manipulation by the Cambodian government and a repeated failure to tackle corruption continue to plague the Khmer Rouge Tribunal,” noted from the outset the Open Society Justice in its last press release dated May 27th. It is a “toxic mix for the court,” its director, James A. Goldston, commented. Indeed, some senior officials recently expressed public warnings against additional indictments, further to the five existing defendants. Following Prime Minister Hun Sen, they argued that this could favour a return of the war in Cambodia. Moreover, the press release indicated, “[I]t appears that the government of Cambodia is attempting to block the investigating judges from interviewing certain insider witnesses who hold current positions of power.” Also, it was added, since the publication in August 2008 of a confidential report by the United Nations (UN) Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS), which detailed complaints of the court's staff paying kickbacks to political overseers, the Phnom Penh government has “refused to cooperate with the United Nations to create a process for court staff to report corruption.” With no safeguards in place, this policy “encourages a culture of silence.”

Co-Prosecutors and co-Investigating Judges asked to explain themselves
In their turn, on June 3rd, the international co-lawyers for the former ideologist of the Khmer Rouge regime, Michiel Pestman and Victor Koppe, sent separate letters to the tribunal's co-Investigating Judges and co-Prosecutors on a “Possible Breach of ECCC Agreement and Law.” They asked the two Cambodian magistrates – Chea Leang and You Bunleng – whether they have received any instructions from any member or official of their government with respect to their work at the court, while they must be independent in the performance of their functions according to established standards. They also recalled the international magistrates – Robert Petit and Marcel Lemonde – that “any UN official at the ECCC are ethically obligated to inform the parties of any violations by their Cambodian colleagues of the Agreement and/or Law, in particular those provisions which seek to ensure a fair trial.” According to them, there is evidence suggesting that the government opposed the hearing by the co-Investigating Judges of King-Father Norodom Sihanouk or Prime Minister Hun Sen.

“Co-Investigating Judge Lemonde keeps repeating that he will leave the day he can no longer fulfil his functions properly. If he knows there were government interferences in the work of his Cambodian colleague, he must inform the parties about it,” Michiel Pestman insisted. Asked for a reaction, Marcel Lemonde said he would respond to the letter from the lawyers, but not through the media.

Demands for the disclosure of a UN-OIOS investigation on corruption
Also, the Dutch lawyer welcomed the fact that his request for the disclosure of the UN-OIOS report on corruption within the court was joined by the lawyers for civil parties group 1 in the trial of Duch. As a reminder, Michiel Pestman and his two international colleagues – believing that such a situation could jeopardise the right of their client to a fair trial –, had filed, in their names, a complaint with the Municipal Court of Phnom Penh on January 9th to request that it examines the allegations of corruption. The complaint had finally been dismissed by the prosecution a month later. The three lawyers had then referred it to the Cambodian Court of Appeal and they are now waiting for the General Prosecutor to request a copy of the report from the UN. Late February, they had written to the UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-Moon, to request a “confidential” access to the report of the investigation carried out by a UN-OIOS team. On March 27th, they had filed a request with the co-Investigating Judges to ask them to investigate on the allegations of corruption, to which the magistrates had replied on April 3rd that this did not fall within their competencies.

In their joint response , dated May 29th, to defence appeals against the co-Investigating Judges' order denying the request for investigative action regarding allegations of administrative corruption, the co-Prosecutors agreed with the defence team for Nuon Chea, observing that “the credibility of this Court's process would be enhanced by a release of the OIOS Report and a timely and credible resolution of this issue.”

This was also relayed by the lawyers for the civil parties. On May 11th, they filed a “Public Request that the Trial Chamber facilitate the disclosure of an (sic) UN-OIOS report to the parties”, which existence they considered to be “directly relevant to the proceedings” in trial of the former director of detention centre S-21. They argued that the publication of this report after the closure of the proceedings may “expose the trial judgment to claims on the part of the Accused and others that corruption within the ECCC rendered the trial unfair, or that corruption constitutes an abuse of process warranting a permanent stay of the proceedings against Duch.” The lawyers called for the parties to be able to make written submissions on the content of the UN-OIOS report. Whilst also “expressing full confidence in the independence and impartiality of all the judges constituting the Trial Chamber,” the lawyers for civil parties group 1 “fear the slowly corrosive effect such allegations may have to undermine the work of the ECCC and prejudice the integrity of proceedings unless matters are properly resolved in court now.” Ten days later, the Trial Chamber ordered the parties to present submissions on the impact of the publication of the UN-OIOS report on the conduct of a fair trial in Duch's case.

All hopes are now turned towards the Trial Chamber, especially as everyone has kept in mind the words of Neo-Zealand judge Cartwright, who had publicly stated that “these historic trials, which are so important for the people of Cambodia, must not be tainted by corruption.”

Donors' softened stance
Dampened by the corruption scandal, the tribunal's donors had dug in their heels and UNDP, the UN agency which manages all funds affected to the ECCC, had decided, in mid-2008, to freeze payments to the Cambodian side of the court – which functions on two budgets, national and international, managed separately). Very recently, although no progress was registered regarding the issue of alleged corruption, donor countries have started to backtrack. For instance, Australia recently asked UNDP to release the funds it destined for the Cambodian side, while Japan, once again, rescued the Cambodian government by granting them 4 million dollars in order to enable the tribunal to function until the end of the year.

The Cambodian government annoyed by the scandal
On the day following the request of the lawyers for civil parties group 1, that is on May 12th, in a boomerang game, the spokesperson for the Cambodian Council of Ministers, Phay Siphan, announced that his government was investigating allegations of ill practices involving the court's international staff as well as civil party lawyers, which could discredit the tribunal... The following Monday, on May 18th, the appointment of Helen Jarvis at the head of the Victims Unit, in replacement of Keat Bophal, former member of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, after her resignation, was made public. Until then, Helen Jarvis had been in charge of the Public Affairs for the tribunal, and had also been appointed ethics monitor for the court. Previously, she had been an adviser to the Cambodian deputy Prime Minster Sok An.

Helen Jarvis targeted by criticism
On Wednesday June 3rd, as he was leaving after visiting his client, walking in the ground separating the cells of the detainees from the court building, Michiel Pestman's eyes were caught by a document that had ended up in a ditch. Looking closer, he recounted, he discovered that it was no other than a confidential document originating from his office. “I cannot explain myself how the document ended up there […] but we referred it to the security office. An investigation was opened. […] From now on, we have to be very careful about what we write on paper. […] The document left our office without our authorisation.” It is a draft letter to the attention of Helen Jarvis, in which Nuon Chea's lawyers raise their concerns regarding her recent appointment at the head of the Victims Unit and her possible lack of impartiality.

Indeed, some ten days before, they discovered a letter posted on the Internet in the name of the Australian Leninist Party Faction, dated from 2006 and containing “worrying” statements and signed, among others, by the new head of the Victims Unit. The lawyer quoted an excerpt: “We too are Marxists and believe that 'the ends justifies the means'. […] In time of revolution and civil war, the most extreme measures will sometimes become necessary and justified. Against the bourgeoisie and their state agencies we don’t respect their laws and their fake moral principles.” The lawyer said that he did not challenge the right of Helen Jarvis to have personal political opinions, but he was concerned that she signed a document saying she does not have to follow the rule of law. “In our letter,” the Dutch lawyer detailed, “we therefore ask her if she considers that the ECCC are a public State agency that is bourgeois...” Yet, he reminded “all the parties must follow the rules established by the tribunal,” and concluded that the Australian was not the “appropriate” person for such a position. Contacted by Ka-set, Helen Jarvis did not wish to make any comment.

Cambodian civil society's call for a resolution of the corruption issue
Echoing the concerns of Michiel Pestman, who considered the future to be very uncertain and specified that it was not the steps taken by his team, but corruption, that risked jeopardising the judicial process, CHRAC, a coalition of 21 local NGOs defending human rights and the rule of law, urged, in a joint statement published on Thursday June 4th, for further action to protect the ECCC from any corrupt practices. However, the civil society representatives welcomed the “recent steps by the government of Cambodia to address the corruption allegations and to reopen dialogue regarding the creation of a credible Ombudsman Office tasked with monitoring and resolving allegations of corrupt practices,” which they argued “must be fully independent and credible.”

Drug makers eye Cambodia

A worker sorts pills at Hau Giang Pharmaceutical Co. — VNA/VNS Photo Hoang Hai



HCM CITY—Vietnamese pharmaceutical products are yet to gain a reputation in Cambodia and domestic companies have to employ specific strategies to tap the significant potential that the neighbouring nation’s market presents, several exporters say.

A firm presence in the Cambodian market would open the door for Vietnamese drugs to other markets in the region, they said at a trade investment and promotion conference held in the Mekong Delta province of An Giang last month.

Several domestic drug companies have exported their products to Cambodia, including the Hau Giang Pharmaceutical Joint-Stock Company, the Domesco Medical Import Export Joint - Stock Corp, the Pharbaco Central Pharmaceutical Joint- Stock Company and the FD Pharma Import and Export Company.

According to Nguyen Van Dinh, director of Cambodia-based FD Pharma Import and Export Company, Cambodia is a huge and potential pharmaceutical market for Vietnamese exporters because it largely depends on imports from France, United States, South Korea, India, Thailand and Viet Nam.

However, Cambodian consumers do not pay much attention to Vietnamese pharmaceutical products because they do not match local habits and tastes.

Besides, the pharmaceutical industry in Viet Nam is not very well developed. Domestic producers have to import over 90 per cent of raw materials and this affects production costs and reduces the competitiveness of Vietnamese products in the market.

Quality is the most important concern on the minds of consumers and Cambodian importers feel Vietnamese medicine making factories need to invest in technology and modern equipment to improve product quality.

Many medicine makers were yet to obtain the ASEAN standard certificates for Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP), the conference heard.

Many drug exporters said that the Government needed to lower export duties on pharmaceutical products to raise their competitiveness.

Marketing experts said pharmaceutical exports would need high quality packaging with eye-catching designs in order to attract consumers.

Vietnamese pharmaceutical products exported to the Cambodian market are mainly antibiotics, tonics and other specific remedies.

The FD Pharma Company said its distribution system operated throughout Cambodia and had an import turnover of Viet Nam-sourced medicine that exceeds US$1 million per year.

This could go up to $1.5 million this year and $2-3 million in the next few years, it said.

Cambodia is a country attracting increasing numbers of foreign visitors from all over the world for holiday or business, and can become a bridge for popularising the image of Vietnamese pharmaceutical products in other foreign markets, especially in ASEAN nations, according to experts attending the conference. — VNS

PEPY Introduces New Bike & Boat Tour in Cambodia

Posted by associate6

(NewDesignWorld Press Release Center) -- Littleton, CO, June 05, 2009 -- PEPY Tours is thrilled to announce a brand new itinerary for Cambodia that will combine PEPY’s usual cycling adventure with a boat expedition across the largest lake in South East Asia, the Tonle Sap, including an overnight stay at a floating village.

Two versions of the Cambodia tour will be offered: a compact 7-day highlights tour (Bike & Boat Highlights) and an extended 12-day adventure traversing all the way to the capital of Phnom Penh by a mixture of bike and boat (Bike & Boat Odyssey).

“We are always looking to support community based development programs here in Cambodia, and this option in the Tonle Sap is one we are really excited to introduce! The biking and boating combination is new to Cambodia and we are looking to attract those people who are seeking both an exciting adventure as well as a chance to learn more about Cambodia and its people,” says Daniela Papi, PEPY Tours Founder.

Both tours will commence with a bike and hike visit to the world-famous temples of Angkor, widely referred to as the 8th wonder of the world. While in Siem Reap, tour participants will have an opportunity to visit and learn about PEPY’s educational programs as well as the programs of partner non-profit organizations.

From there participants will embark on a voyage across the Tonle Sap to the Prek Toal Bird Sanctuary where they will have a chance to see rare bird species and floating villages with an overnight stop at community-based homestay.

The next morning the tours will split with the Highlights tour returning to Siem Reap while the Odyssey participants continue by boat to colonial Battambang to explore the city, its surrounding countryside, and mysterious caves.

After two days of exploring the area by bicycle participants will begin to cycle south to the capital of Cambodia - Phnom Penh - passing intimate villages, rural street markets, and scenic countryside of lime-green rice paddies, wandering water buffalo, and Cambodian signature red dust.

The Odyssey trip will conclude with a tour of Phnom Penh, visiting the Tuol Sleng Museum and the Killing Fields where participants will learn about the darker side of Cambodia’s history.

“We believe that learning should be experiential, so if we want to know what the realities of life in Cambodia are like, why not go out and experience it ourselves?” says Daniela Papi. PEPY’s trip leaders and local staff will offer additional insight into Cambodia’s current culture, history, and issues facing the country today through articles, discussions with local authorities, and visits to non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

PEPY will begin offering these tours in the Fall of 2009. Feel free to learn more at

PEPY is an educational development organization with a mission to aid rural communities in improving their own standards of living, with a focus on increased access to quality education. To learn more about PEPY’s educational programs, visit

PEPY Tours offers volunteer and adventure tours in rural Cambodia from multi-week bike tours to service learning projects. To learn more about upcoming tours, or to customize a trip of your own, visit

PressRelease Distribution By PressReleasePoint
Contact: Daniela Papi
The PEPY Ride Littleton,
CO T: 914-458-4262

Honouring Kampuchea Krom


Friday, 05 June 2009

Monks, Khmer Krom activists gather to urge the government not to halt future demonstrations

AROUND 600 monks, opposition politicians and rights activists gathered in Phnom Penh on Thursday to mark the loss of Cambodia's southern territories - Kampuchea Krom - to Vietnam.

The rally at Wat Botum park celebrating the 60th anniversary of the handover of Kampuchea Krom also aimed to draw attention to the human rights abuses still reportedly suffered by southern Vietnam's ethnic Khmer residents, known locally as Khmer Krom.

"We are in sorrow. This date represents all our suffering since 1949, when we lost our land to Vietnam. Our rally today sends a message to the young generation of Khmer Krom to remember our sufferings and sacrifices," said Young Sin, chief of the Khmer Krom monks from Phnom Penh's Sammaki Raingsei pagoda.

Historical watershed
The annual gathering marks June 4, 1949, when an ailing French colonial administration transferred Cambodia's old Mekong Delta territories to its colony of Cochinchina, a precursor to today's Socialist Republic of Vietnam.

It is a loss that is still keenly felt by many Cambodians, compounded by reports of human rights violations against Khmer Krom monks.

A Human Rights Watch report released in January decried the "severe and often shrouded methods" used by the Vietnamese government to stifle demands for religious and cultural freedom.

We are in sorrow. This date represents all our suffering since 1949.

In a statement released Thursday, Son Soubert, president of the Permanent Committee of the Son Sann Foundation, said the anniversary was an important opportunity "to assert the Cambodian rights on this territory and to defend the rights of Khmer Krom living there".

Pich Seiha, 28, a Khmer Krom monk present at the rally, said he joined the protest to call attention to the situation in Vietnam.

"I joined the rally because I want the national government, as well as the international community, to bring us freedom to live our lives, to do the same work as Vietnamese citizens and the rights to make our own decisions," he said.

But participants claim a last-minute change of venue led to a lower turnout than expected.

On May 28, Phnom Penh Governor Kep Chuktema approved the rally to be held at Chaktomuk Theatre, but it was relocated overnight to Wat Botum park.

Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker Son Chhay expressed hopes that in the future the government would be more supportive of the rally.

"We hope that the government will give up its policy against commemorations of Khmer history [and that it] will not restrict or prohibit us from forming a rally," he said.

Koy Kuong, spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told the Post on Wednesday that the gathering of Cambodia's Khmer Krom community would not affect the relationship between Cambodia and its former political patron Vietnam.

"I think that the assembly... is an expression of their freedom of expression, which is guaranteed by the government," he said.

'Waterlilygate' hits troubled tribunal

Photo by: Tracey Shelton
Nuon Chea defence lawyer Michiel Pestman appears at a press conference Thursday at the Foreign Correspondents Club.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Robbie Corey Boulet
Friday, 05 June 2009

THE DEFENCE team for former Khmer Rouge leader Nuon Chea on Thursday added an alleged security breach to its growing list of concerns about Cambodia's war crimes court, which also includes allegations of government interference and doubts about whether the head of the Victims' Unit is fit for her job.

International co-lawyer Michiel Pestman said at a press conference that he had found one of his team's confidential documents floating in a "moat" on the grounds of the Khmer Rouge tribunal Wednesday afternoon, which he and other members of the defence team said had been taken from their office.

Pestman said he did not know why someone might have taken the document - a draft of a letter dated May 27 and addressed to Victims' Unit head Helen Jarvis - or why it surfaced in the "moat". But he and legal consultant Andrew Ianuzzi, who described the "moat" as a half-metre-wide "ditch filled with water lilies", said they believed the letter had been stolen.

"We have no explanation," Pestman said. "What we do know is that the documents should have been shredded. They were not, and they were most probably stolen from our office."

He added, "We have serious concerns about security and the confidentiality of our investigation. From now on we'll have to be very careful about what we put on paper."

Chief of Public Affairs Reach Sambath declined to comment in detail about the incident, saying Thursday afternoon that Pestman had "submitted the relevant information to the security section of the ECCC", which he said would conduct an investigation.

"At this time it is premature to conclude that anything has been stolen," he said.
He added, "Generally, in the court each office is responsible for safely disposing of its own documents."

Victims' Unit concerns
Pestman said the draft letter details concerns about a 2006 open letter - signed by members of the Democratic Socialist Perspective's (DSP) Leninist Party Faction, including Jarvis - that was circulated during a May 2006 meeting of the DSP, an Australian political organisation.

He described the letter as one "in which [Jarvis] takes the position that as a member of that particular faction she does not have to obey the rule of law".

The letter states: "Against the bourgeoisie and their state agencies we don't respect their laws and their fake moral principles."

Pestman suggested at the press conference that the letter indicated a willingness to flout rules that could compromise her work at the court.

"We think that all parties should follow the rules set up by the court," he said. "We think the Victims' Unit should follow the rules."

Ianuzzi said Jarvis informed the defence team on May 30 that she had brought its concerns to her superiors.

Jarvis declined to comment Thursday on the letter or the defence team's objections to her political activities.

Charges of meddling
Also Thursday, Pestman reiterated concerns about possible political interference at the court. The team said Wednesday that it had been "reliably informed" that national co-prosecutor Chea Leang had been instructed by the government not to prosecute additional suspects.

Pestman said Thursday that the charge stemmed from information given "by a reliable source within the court", though he declined to elaborate.

He described as "worrying" a May report from the Open Society Justice Initiative that accused the government of "attempting to block the investigating judges from interviewing certain insider witnesses who hold current positions of power".

Government officials have rejected those allegations.

Pestman said he did not know when a criminal complaint before the Court of Appeal accusing tribunal officials of involvement in a kickback payment scheme would be resolved.

He also expressed concern that the case had been delegated to Deputy Prosecutor Ouk Savuth, who was at the Municipal Court when it abruptly terminated an investigation of the defence team's initial complaint in February.

Looking ahead, Pestman said he had no prediction as to when the trial of his client, commonly referred to as Brother No 2, would begin. "The future's very uncertain," he said.