Monday, 13 July 2009

Church workers reflect on emulating Saint Paul in Cambodia

July 13 2009

PHNOM PENH : Missioners and lay Catholics said the recently concluded Year of Saint Paul has helped them to see how their work of evangelization in the country parallels that of the Apostle to the Gentiles.

Father Bob Piche, from the Paris Foreign Missions Society, said that just as Saint Paul proclaimed the Good News to communities of different cultures, "so during my 11 years in Cambodia as a missioner, I have spent a lot of time learning the culture, traditions and way of life of the local people."

Father Piche, who is a parish priest in Phnom Penh, added that "the Good News will be easy to proclaim if we appreciate the culture and traditions of local people."

The priest was among more than 1,000 Catholics from across the country who attended a Mass on June 27 to close the Pauline Year. The special year ran from June 28, 2008, to June 29, 2009.

Father Paul Roeung Chatchai from the Thai Missionary Society, speaking to UCA News, said Saint Paul is his role model in his missionary work among Cambodians.

"He went to many places where the people did not know Jesus. I came to Cambodia where most people do not know Jesus," said the priest who is the coordinator for the Catholic Social Communications office in Phnom Penh.

Duong Savong, a catechist, noted that "Saint Paul was a clever missioner who used the cultures of nations to proclaim the Good News of Jesus."

"In Cambodia we are using his style (of evangelization) to catechize people," he added.

He noted that among Cambodians attending catechism classes, some belong to marginalized communities that Church organizations support, while others want to learn more about Christ. Whatever their reasons, "we always give them love and show them how Jesus calls people to love one another," he said.

During the June 27 Mass, Bishop Emile Destombes, apostolic vicar of Phnom Penh, praised all missioners, community leaders and Church workers in Cambodia for their work in making the Gospel flourish in the country over the last 20 years. "We have come a long way since 1989," he said.

Since that year, when Bishop Destombes became the first missioner to return to Cambodia after two decades of civil war and religious persecution, the Catholic Church has revived, as has religion in general in the predominantly Buddhist country.

In Phnom Penh apostolic vicariate, one of three Church jurisdictions in the country, there are now 38 Catholic communities, including those that speak English, French and Korean, and 40 Religious congregations and societies.

All these communities are a good resource for proclaiming the Good News, Bishop Destombes noted.

Archbishop Salvatore Pennacchio, the Bangkok-based apostolic nuncio to Cambodia, also attended the Mass. He encouraged the whole Catholic community in Phnom Penh to continue proclaiming the Good News.

About 95 percent of the more than 14 million Cambodians are Buddhists. Christians form approximately 2 percent of the population.

Courtesy : UCAN

KRouge victim identifies photos of dead family

A foreign tourist looks at portraits of victims of the Khmer Rouge regime at the Tuol Sleng genocide museum in Phnom Penh. A woman who said she survived the Khmer Rouge's main torture centre has identified at Cambodia's UN-backed war crimes court chilling photos of family members killed at the infamous jail.
(AFP/File/Tang Chhin Sothy)

Mon Jul 13,

PHNOM PENH (AFP) – A woman who said she survived the Khmer Rouge's main torture centre has identified at Cambodia's UN-backed war crimes court chilling photos of family members killed at the jail.

Nam Mon, 48, was testifying at the trial of prison chief Duch, who is accused of overseeing the torture and extermination of around 15,000 people who passed through Tuol Sleng prison during the regime's brutal 1975-1979 rule.

"This is the photo of my father the moment he was dying," Nam Mon said after being shown an image of an emaciated man lying down, staring into the air.

As a court-appointed psychiatrist comforted her, Nam Mon identified black and white prison photos of her parents, three brothers and a sister-in-law executed at the prison.

Recognised as a civil claimant in the case against Duch, Nam Mon told the court Thursday that one of her brothers had been ordered to kill her father. Her testimony was adjourned last week when she began to weep uncontrollably.

Nam Mon said that her two elder brothers were guards at Tuol Sleng before her family was killed at the notorious jail, while she initially lived and worked there as a medic before being interrogated herself.

"I treated the sick. I saw prisoners who were beaten and interrogated... I only saw the wounds and the bleeding on bodies of prisoners while I treated them," Nam Mon said Monday.

The 66-year-old Duch, real name Kaing Guek Eav, begged for forgiveness from victims near the start of his trial for war crimes and crimes against humanity, after accepting responsibility for his role overseeing the jail.

But he has consistently rejected claims by prosecutors that he held a central leadership role in the Khmer Rouge, and says he never personally executed anyone.

Led by Pol Pot, who died in 1998, the Khmer Rouge emptied Cambodia's cities in a bid to forge a communist utopia. Up to two million people were executed or died of starvation, overwork or torture.

Four other former Khmer Rouge leaders are currently in detention and are expected to face trial next year.

Leader to build Cambodia power plant


MALAYSIA'S Leader Universal Holdings Bhd will invest US$160 million in a new coal-fired power plant in Sihanoukville, Cambodia, to meet the local increasing demand for electricity, Vietnam News Agency (VNA) reported.

Presently, the capacity of all power plants in the Southeast Asian nation is only around 410MW while the demand is estimated at 808MW, according to the local state-owned power company, “Electricite du Cambodge”.

The power plant with a designed capacity of 100 MW is scheduled to commence its operations in 2012 after two years of construction, said Leader’s Managing Director Sean H’ng Chun Hsiang.

The company is leading wire and cable producer located in Penang. The Group's principal activities are manufacturing and selling telecommunication, power and optical fibre cables, and various electronic wires.

Other activities include providing power generation services, property development, letting of properties, insurance agent and investment holding.

Besides Malaysia and Cambodia, the Group also carried ot projects in Singapore, Saudi Arabia, Hong Kong, Belgium and Saudi Arabia.

Sean also revealed a plan to develop a 700MW power plant in Sihanoukville and the project will start after the completion of the 100MW plant in 2012.

Cambodia currently relies on importing electricity, with 220 MW from Vietnam and 30 MW from Thailand. - Bernama

Malaysian-driven energy for Cambodia coastal town

HANOI, July 13 — Malaysia’s Leader Universal Holdings Bhd will invest US$160 million (RM560 million) in a new coal-fired power plant in Sihanoukville, Cambodia, to meet the local increasing demand for electricity, Vietnam News Agency (VNA) reported.

Presently, the capacity of all power plants in the Southeast Asian nation is only around 410MW while the demand is estimated at 808MW, according to the local state-owned power company, “Electricite du Cambodge”.

The power plant with a designed capacity of 100MW is scheduled to commence its operations in 2012 after two years of construction, said Leader’s Managing Director Sean H’ng Chun Hsiang.

The company is a leading wire and cable producer located in Penang. The Group’s principal activities are manufacturing and selling telecommunication, power and optical fibre cables, and various electronic wires. Other activities include providing power generation services, property development, letting of properties, insurance agent and investment holding.

Besides Malaysia and Cambodia, the Group also carried out projects in Singapore, Saudi Arabia, Hong Kong, Belgium and Saudi Arabia.

Sean also revealed a plan to develop a 700MW power plant in Sihanoukville and the project will start after the completion of the 100MW plant in 2012. Sihanoukville is a popular coastal town located about 200km south-west of Phnom Penh.

It is one of the fastest-growing regions in Cambodia due to its beaches and island hops as well as a few casinos currently in operation.

Cambodia currently relies on importing electricity, with 220MW from Vietnam and 30 MW from Thailand. – Bernama

Officials meet in Siem Reap for golf and informal talks

Photo by: TRACEY SHELTON
Cambodian soldiers walk down the mountain near the Preah Vihear temple complex last week. Cambodian military officers said Sunday that Thailand had brought in reinforcements to the border area.


The Phnom Penh Post
Monday, 13 July 2009
Vong Sokheng

Meeting between Thai, Cambodian military brass seeks to further dialogue between front-line commanders, defence official says.

HIGH-ranking Cambodian and Thai authorities held an informal meeting Thursday in Siem Reap to encourage their regional commanders to set up additional meetings in an effort to reduce tension along the border near Preah Vihear temple, a defence official said.

Chhum Sucheat, the spokesman and undersecretary of state at the Ministry of Defence, told the Post Sunday that ministry officials hoped the meeting would push the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF) commander of region 4 and the Thai commander of region 2 to meet more regularly.

"We are optimistic from the meeting that the result will be more dialogue between Cambodian and Thai commanders, which will help reduce tensions in order to avoid armed confrontation," he said.

Neang Phat, a secretary of state at the Defence Ministry, and advisers to General Anupong Paochinda, commander-in-chief of the Thai army, participated in the meeting, said Chhum Sucheat, who added that after the meeting the Cambodian and Thai delegation played golf together.

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It is normal for both Cambodia and Thailand to reinforce troops at the border.
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Chhum Sucheat said the next meeting between the Thai and Cambodian defence ministries would be an annual meeting to discuss border issues, which will be held in Bangkok between July 21 and July 23.

Photo by: TRACEY SHELTON
Thai Captain Manus Sripitak (second from left) meets with Cambodian officials at Sambok Khmum last week. Officials from the two countries also met informally in Siem Reap last Thursday.


Along the border, Cambodian military officers said Sunday that the Thai army had brought in reinforcements to the border area.

Yim Phim, commander of Brigade 8, said Sunday that Thailand brought tanks, artillery and infantry to the border.

"So far, nothing has occurred, and the armies at the front lines remain on alert," Yim Phim said.

Chhum Socheat would neither confirm nor deny reports of troop reinforcements but downplayed their significance.

"It is normal for both Cambodia and Thailand to reinforce troops at the border ... therefore both sides now want to try to hold more meetings between regional commanders," Sucheat said. "We will try to set up more meetings in line with the recommendation of Prime Minister Hun Sen."

Cambodia and Thailand have long disagreed about the ownership of the area near Preah Vihear temple, and the dispute turned violent after UNESCO granted the 11th-century temple World Heritage site status last July.

Periodic gunbattles, the last one in April, have killed seven soldiers since then.

Although in 1962 the World Court ruled that the temple was in Cambodian territory, recently Thailand said it would seek joint listing of the temple, further raising tensions on the border.

The area near the temple has never been officially demarcated, in part because the border is still littered with land mines.

Deportees at border cite fears

Photo by: HOLLY PHAM
A group of travellers passes through the Poipet border crossing Friday.


The Phnom Penh Post
Monday, 13 July 2009
CHEANG SOKHA and HOLLY PHAM

Khmer Krom sent from Thailand to Poipet face hunger, deportation.

Banteay Meanchey Province

NEARLY a fortnight after their deportation by Thai immigration authorities, Khmer Krom asylum seekers staying in Banteay Meanchey province say they are suffering from hunger and fear as they encounter the uncertainty of life in a strange country.

Since their July 2 deportation, 33 of the 56 deported have left the border, counting on friends and relatives across the country for food and shelter.

But the remaining 23 deportees, born and raised in southern Vietnam, have no family in the Kingdom and are now living in limbo at a small pagoda outside Poipet town. The deportees did not want their exact location to be published.

Several deportees told the Post Friday that the group had endured harsh living conditions since arriving in Poipet. Despite aid from a Christian charity, they said they have been forced to survive on a single meal a day, drink pond water and sleep on the floor in cramped living quarters with no mosquito nets.

"We can't leave the house and can't go to the market, let alone go to work to try and sustain ourselves. It's dangerous out there. We can't trust anyone," said deportee Nguyen Van Hai (names have been changed).

Worst of all, said Pham Van Thanh, another deportee, was the constant fear of repatriation to Vietnam, where Khmer Krom claim they face restrictions of freedom of expression and religion.

"What we are most concerned about is that Cambodian authorities do not allow us to stay here and will send us back to Vietnam," he told the Post.

"If we are sent back, we will be jailed."

The 56 Khmer Krom fled southern Vietnam for Thailand between six months and six years ago and were awaiting the results of their asylum applications when arrested as illegal immigrants by Thai police and detained at Bangkok's Immigration Detention Centre on June 12.

The Khmer Krom said they had been living in isolation from the rest of Thai society and had received no news from home prior to their arrest.

"We have absolutely no contact with our families in Vietnam. We have no idea what's happening to them now. It's likely that they're being spied on," said Vu Van Ba, another of the deportees.

Nguyen Van Hai said it had been hard to live a normal life in Thailand.

"We could not do anything there. No work, no business, and we were under surveillance at all times," he said

At the time of their deportation, the Bangkok office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) was in the middle of processing their asylum applications. The deportees said they were angry the UNHCR had been unable to intervene after their arrest.

"UNHCR did not provide any assistance when we were in Bangkok," Pham Van Thanh told the Post. "When arrested by the Thai police, we called UNHCR officials in Bangkok asking for intervention, but their hands were tied."

Sara Colm, a Human Rights Watch researcher, said Sunday that the deportation might put an end to the group's attempt to seek asylum abroad.

"It's difficult for the refugee process to be completed now that they have been deported to Cambodia," she said, noting that UNHCR Cambodia will not consider the asylum claims of Khmer Krom.

She said that UNHCR operates according to Cambodian government assurances that all ethnic Khmers - including those from southern Vietnam - have the automatic right to Cambodian citizenship, making it technically impossible for them to claim refugee status while staying in the country.

Article 4 of the 1996 Nationality Law also states that any person with one Khmer parent can become a citizen.

But the difficulty facing the deportees is that the government does not seem willing to grant them the rights of citizenship enshrined in law, with one official saying they face deportation to Vietnam.

"We do not have any principle of providing these people with shelter or accommodation," said Try Narin, the governor of Poipet town. "I have asked local authorities to find them, and if we [do] we will send them back to their homeland."

UNHCR's office in Phnom Penh could not be reached for comment Sunday.

Govt 'rejects' Thai Web site

The Phnom Penh Post
Monday, 13 July 2009
Sam Rith

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs voices its anger over Web video.

THE Ministry of Foreign Affairs plans to send a diplomatic note to Thai officials this week voicing its disapproval of a Web site launched by Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva that claims parts of Cambodia as "lost" Thai territory.

Ministry spokesman Koy Kuong said Sunday that officials had decided to "reject" the Web site, which launched July 4, and would send the note "early this week".

The site, www.ilovethailand.org, features a video that includes a green map of the Siamese Empire at its most expansive. As images of Thai kings appear on the screen, sections of the empire turn dark red before they are removed from the map.

Sections lost to Cambodia include parts of Siem Reap and Battambang provinces as well as the land on which Preah Vihear temple sits.

Towards the end of the five-and-a-half minute clip, a narrator addresses "the talented people of the young Thai generation" and emphasises the importance of understanding their country's history.

But Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said Thursday that the video was actually "twisting the facts of history".

And government officials are not the only ones to have criticised the video.

Michel Tranet, a Cambodia historian and lecturer, said Sunday that the video was "absolutely wrong".

He argued that Thailand had violated Cambodia's sovereignty far more often than the reverse, saying: "The Thai historians themselves and the internationals know that Thailand has regularly ventured into Cambodian ancestral territory."

Rong Chhun, president of the Cambodian Independent Teachers Association, said the Thai government was being dishonest in its presentation of Thailand's past actions towards Cambodia.

"If we actually look at history, today's Thailand was the Khmer Kingdom's territory before," he said.

Thai Embassy officials could not be reached for comment Sunday.

Input sought on domestic worker law

The Phnom Penh Post
Monday, 13 July 2009
Khuon Leakhana

ILO seeking feedback from officials, NGOs.

THE International Labour Organisation (ILO) is seeking advice from the Cambodian government and civil society groups in drafting an international convention on domestic workers' rights, the ILO told the Post.

"We would like all countries to share with us their advice on a draft convention that aims to protect domestic workers," Tun Sophorn, the national project coordinator for the ILO, said last week.

The ILO, she said, needs a convention that is accepted and understood by all countries so it can be successfully implemented.

Oum Mean, a secretary of state at the Ministry of Labour, said the ministry had yet to receive the ILO's questionnaires, but that officials intended to help the ILO with the project.

Though the drafting of the convention would be a significant achievement, Oum Mean said the real test would come during the implementation phase.

An Bunhak, chairman of the Association of Cambodian Recruitment Agencies, said it was "important" for Cambodian domestic workers to know that laws are in place to protect them.

Tun Sophorn said she could not accurately estimate when the convention would be drafted and implemented, adding that she would have a better idea after an ILO summit scheduled to be held in Switzerland in June 2011.

According to the Association of Cambodian Recruitment Agencies, 2,378 domestic workers travelled to Malaysia for domestic work in the first six months of 2009.

China actions 'appropriate'

Photo by: Christopher Shay
A Uighur man in Kashgar, Xinjiang, watches Chinese soldiers march past in July 2008. Tensions between Uighur Muslims and Han Chinese in Xinjiang have been simmering for years.


The Phnom Penh Post
Monday, 13 July 2009
Sam Rith and Christopher Shay

Ministry of Foreign Affairs expresses support for China's broad crackdown in Xinjiang province, calling it an 'internal' decision that will 'restore social order'.

THE Cambodian Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement Saturday supporting China's actions in the restive Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, where, according to the Chinese government, unrest between Uighur Muslims and Han Chinese has left 184 dead.

"The government of China is taking appropriate measures to address the problem and restore social order," the statement said in reference to China's crackdown in Xinjiang.

In the wake of the riots in Xinjiang's capital, Urumqi, Chinese state media have reported that many mosques in Urumqi were closed Friday, and that public assembly without police approval has been banned.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs called these government actions China's "exclusive internal affair".

Rebiya Kadeer, the president of the World Uighur Congress, wrote in The Wall Street Journal Wednesday that deaths in Xinjiang are likely much higher than reported by Chinese state media, saying her sources claim 400 Uighurs have been killed in Urumqi.

Uighurs, a Turkish-speaking Muslim minority in Xinjiang, have long complained about discrimination and the suppression of their language and culture.

Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesman Koy Kuong told the Post that the ministry issued the statement "to show Cambodia's stance that China is a friendly country".

Relations between China and Cambodia, however, have not always been so friendly. In a 1988 essay, Prime Minister Hun Sen called China "the root of everything that was evil in Cambodia", referring to China's support of the Khmer Rouge.

But after Hun Sen ousted Prince Norodom Ranariddh in a 1997 coup, China was the first country to recognise Hun Sen's rule, delivering to Cambodia military cargo valued at up to US$2.8 million, according to Julio Jeldres, Norodom Sihanouk's official biographer.

Since 2006, China has pledged $880 million in loans and grants to Cambodia. China also built and financed the more than $30 million Council of Ministers building.

The Chinese Embassy in Phnom Penh said Sunday that it welcomed Cambodia's statement of support but declined to comment further.

A(H1N1): American contracts swine flu

The Phnom Penh Post
Monday, 13 July 2009
Cheang Sokha

A(H1N1)

An American man has become the most recent person to be stricken with the AH1N1 virus, taking the number of confirmed cases in Cambodia to nine, said Ly Sovann, deputy director of the Ministry of Health's Communicable Diseases Control Department. Ly Sovann said the 34-year-old, who works and lives in Cambodia, tested positive for the virus on Thursday. Health officials said they suspected he contracted the virus after he returned from Bangkok last week. "He is fine now and is staying at his home in Phnom Penh," Ly Sovann told the Post Sunday. He said the 15-year-old Australian girl who tested positive for the virus last week had been released from Calmette Hospital on Saturday.

Timber export ban to save forests, promote carbon-credit trading

The Phnom Penh Post
Monday, 13 July 2009
Khouth Sophak Chakrya

Agriculture Ministry says programme will offer sustainable development options that improve people's lives and safeguard the environment.

CARBON MARKET

Cambodia's "avoided deforestation project", part of an agreement signed last month with nine community forestry groups in Oddar Meanchey, is expected to generate 8.5 million tonnes of carbon-offset credits over 30 years, according to the NGO Terra Global.

MINISTER of Agriculture Chan Sarun on Thursday announced a Kingdom-wide ban on timber exports in a move aimed at protecting forests and promoting a future carbon-credit trading programme.

"We must stop illegal timber exports and make a greater effort to protect our forests," Chan Sarun said. "With carbon credits, we can develop the country and improve the lives of our people without damaging our environment."

In years past, illegal logging for domestic use and cross-border trade has stripped Cambodia of much of its natural forest cover, he said, adding that the government has confiscated nearly 300,000 hectares of land cleared of its forests by developers and land speculators.

"We have [also] confiscated more than 52,000 cubic metres of illegal timber, some 319 trucks used by illegal loggers and prosecuted more than 600 individuals involved in the illegal timber trade," Chan Sarun said.

Ma Soktha, head of the reforestation office at the Ministry of Agriculture's Forestry Department, said the government spends between US$850,000 and $1 million each year on conservation efforts, tree plantings and security efforts to prevent logging in protected areas.

"We will not have to worry about illegal logging if we enforce existing laws and halt all timber exports as well," he said.

Ma Soktha said the government has also planted nearly 50,000 hectares of trees and laid the groundwork for a carbon-credit programme.

"We have created two carbon-credit sample areas on 24 hectares of forest land in Oddar Meanchey and Koh Kong provinces," he said.

Amanda Bradley, country director for Community Forest International, said last week that the export ban and increased conservation efforts were important steps towards combating global warming and developing a new sustainable market for carbon credits for Cambodia.

"The government stands to profit substantially from developed countries with a carbon-credit programme, which in turn would help people improve their economic situation," she said.

Nop Polin, national coordinator of climate change awareness at Geres, said trading in fresh air, as he described the carbon-credit programme, instead of illegal timber could reduce greenhouse gasses and help prevent global climate change.

"We need forests to protect against global warming and other natural disasters," he said. "And we can sell the world our carbon credits, which is to say we can sell them fresh air."

Under the gaze of the Divine Eye

Photo by: SEBASTIAN STRANGIO
Caodai adherents pray at Phnom Penh’s Caodai temple during its fortnightly service in April this year.


The Phnom Penh Post
Monday, 13 July 2009
SEBASTIAN STRANGIO and Sam Rith

Phnom Penh's small Caodai temple, the Cambodian outpost of a curious southern Vietnamese religious sect, continues to attract local converts, attracted by its all-inclusive religious doctrine.

AGONG rings out over the city, swallowed by the noise of the morning traffic, as the devotees arrive in their Sunday best - flowing white robes and small black caps for the men - and gather in the main prayer hall.

Incense chokes the air as three priests, clad in gold and red, lead the congregation in chants under the unblinking gaze of the Divine Eye, suspended in a sky-blue frame above the altar.

For adherents of Caodaism, a religious sect native to southern Vietnam, the ceremony is a fortnightly ritual that emphasises universal peace and the oneness of man, God and the universe.

"Since I started participating in Caodaism, my family is happier because I stopped using violence against my wife, stopped drinking wine and stopped having a mistress," says Phan Van Quang, 64, who started going to the temple when he was 25 to "understand the dharma" and gain good fortune.

Phnom Penh's Caodai temple, a shaded citadel down an alley off Mao Tse-Tung Boulevard, has been the Cambodian home of Caodaism since 1934; and temple elders say that before the Khmer Rouge, it boasted a congregation of over 10,000.

Though that number has dwindled to around 2,000 today, the temple continues to find eager converts among the city's Vietnamese community.

"Day after day, more and more people are respecting Caodai," said Tran Van Ngoan, the head of temple security.

"We do not force people to participate in this religion. People respect it by themselves voluntarily."

Today, he said, there are over 1,300 Caodai temples in southern Vietnam, and over 5 million adherents, spread as widely as Japan, North America, Europe and Australia.

East meets West
Caodaism - more properly known as Cao Dai Dam Ky Pho Do, or the "Third Great Universal Religious Amnesty" - was born in southern Vietnam in the early 1920s, when Vietnamese civil servant Ngo Van Chieu claimed to have made contact with spirits who communicated to him a symbol - the "all-seeing eye" - and a new creed reconciling the great religious philosophies of East and West.

In an attempt to create the ultimate religious synthesis, Chieu poured everything but the kitchen sink into Caodaism, which counts Sun Yat-sen and French author Victor Hugo among its saints.

Although the doctrine itself is a melange of Confucianism, Buddhism and Taoism, it also incorporates arcane aspects of 19th-century French spiritism, including seances, Ouija-boards, and the bizarre practice of pneumotographie, in which pieces of paper are placed in envelopes and suspended above the altar, where they are supposedly inscribed with messages from God.

Caodai architecture is the same synthetic brew as its doctrine, combining Buddhist sculpture and European baroque into what British author Graham Greene once described as a "Walt Disney fantasia of the East".

Though a more modest affair than its elder brother, the Caodai Holy See in Vietnam's Tay Ninh province, Phnom Penh's temple is the same technicolour feast, with menageries of dragons, lotus flowers and coloured flags covering every available surface.

Tran Van Ngoan said that in order to participate in the religion, adherents have to adopt a vegetarian diet, starting with six days a month during the first six months, and then 10 days a month thereafter.

But attendance at the temple is only required for the main fortnightly services, and the religion - unlike Christianity or Islam - does not demand strict loyalty from its adherents.

"I follow both the Caodai and Buddhist religions - they are not so different from each other," says Yin Chhay, a 56-year-old Khmer from the city's Meanchey district who attends four Caodai services a month but goes to the pagoda for Buddhist festivals.

Photo by: SEBASTIAN STRANGIO
A painting at Phnom Penh’s Caodai temple depicts Victor Hugo and Sun Yat-sen, two of the religion’s saints.


A holy exile
Phnom Penh's Caodai temple also has a peculiar claim to fame as the resting place, from 1959 to 2006, of Pham Cong Tac, one of the religion's founders and first known "mediums".

Known to adherents as the Ho Phap, or "Defender of the Faith", Tac also brought Caodaism to Cambodia in 1927, when he was posted to Phnom Penh as a junior official in the French colonial administration.

Hum Dac Bui, a spokesman for Caodai.org, a California-based nonprofit organisation, said Tac was sent to Cambodia to prevent him spreading the religion further in Vietnam, but that he quickly went about establishing it in Phnom Penh.

Upon his return to Vietnam, the religion continued to grow at a remarkable pace under Tac's leadership. By the 1950s, an estimated one in eight South Vietnamese was a Caodai, and the religion ran most of Tay Ninh province as a feudal theocracy, collecting its own taxes and maintaining a standing militia of tens of thousands of men.

Tac had achieved such stature within Vietnam that in May 1954 he attended the Geneva Conference, where he tried in vain to prevent the partition of the country.

But when South Vietnamese President Ngo Dinh Diem, a staunch Catholic, came to power in 1955, the domestic political calculus began to turn against the Caodai.

In 1956, Diem forcibly disbanded the Caodai militias and other nationalist rivals. Tac and a close circle of followers sought political asylum in Cambodia, where he died in 1959.

"Pham Cong Tac moved to Cambodia because he did not want to see our Vietnamese people fighting with each other. He asked for his body to be taken back only when Vietnam was again at peace," said temple manager Vo Quang Minh, referring to Tac's deathbed request to Prince Norodom Sihanouk.

In November 2006, his remains were finally sent to be interred at Tay Ninh, bringing to an end nearly a half century of exile in Phnom Penh.

Vietnamese restrictions
But whether Vietnam remains a truly "peaceful" place for Caodaists remains unclear. Although the Caodai militias initially fought alongside the communist Viet Minh against the French authorities during the 1940s and 1950s, they turned against them once the colonists were expelled in 1954.

Following the fall of Saigon in 1975, the communists took their revenge, confiscating Caodai property and arresting or exiling many of its leaders.

Vo Quang Minh said that relations between the Cambodian Caodai and the Vietnamese government were difficult during the occupation of the 1980s, but have since improved.

But despite some positive changes, rights groups and exiles say the Vietnamese government continues to ban participation in independent Caodai factions and oversees all internal Caodai affairs.

"Undercover government agents have infiltrated the administration of Caodai, and the religion has to function according to the government's [rules] without respecting the current religious constitution," said Hum Dac Bui.

"The Tay Ninh Holy See has become more or less a place of tourist interest for the profit of the government and is totally paralysed from a religious point of view."

Brad Adams, Asia director of Human Rights Watch, said that only the government-approved Caodai sect is legally recognised, and that those who belong to splinter groups are subject to "harassment, arbitrary detention, and imprisonment".

In September 2004, he said, 12 Caodaists from Vietnam were arrested in Phnom Penh when they attempted to deliver a petition to delegates attending an ASEAN meeting.

After being deported to Vietnam, nine members of the group were sentenced to prison terms of up to 13 years on charges of undermining Vietnam's national security.

Adams added: "Cambodia is generally much more free with regard to freedom of religion than Vietnam, whose government sees unregistered church groups ... as a threat to the authority of the Communist Party."

But Tong Dinh Duong, 30, a member of the Saigon Caodai temple on Tran Hung Dao Boulevard in Ho Chi Minh City, told the Post last year that whatever the political situation, Caodaism's unique blend of Western mysticism and Eastern philosophy would prevail.

"When religion combines these together, people living together in the future won't fight together," he said. "In the future, we will have peace."

'Spoiled youngsters' become govt target

The Phnom Penh Post
Monday, 13 July 2009
Khuon Leakhana

Officials say new disciplinary measures will help address the problem of juvenile delinquency.

FOLLOWING a directive issued last month by Prime Minister Hun Sen, the government has launched a crackdown on juvenile delinquency that will target "spoiled youngsters" in a bid to maintain social order, an Interior Ministry official said Sunday.

According to a list of disciplinary measures to be posted in towns across the country, young people will be more closely monitored and could face more serious charges if caught engaging in crimes.

"We have just begun to gradually implement the disciplinary measures after the prime minister called for action against spoiled youngsters,"

Ministry of Interior spokesman Khieu Sopheak told the Post Sunday, referring to a directive on June 24 ordering ministries and law enforcement officials to crack down on "gangster activity".

'Big brothers' disciplined
"We see that nowadays young people's acts are sometimes entangled with crime and the destruction of culture and tradition," Khieu Sopheak said.

"If we do not have any measures to cope with [young people], our society will definitely become chaotic, and children of the next generation will imitate such a lack of discipline."

Khieu Sopheak said most of the young people that the ministry has picked up so far were "big brothers" associated with criminal gangs.

"In the past, we have gathered thousands of young people who were acting immorally and causing trouble to society. Having gone through rehabilitation, some young people are sent back to their parents.... However, in some serious cases, they are sent to the court," he said.

The new disciplinary measures are being tested in pilot programmes in the country's more densely populated areas, though Khieu Sopheak said it would likely be taken to small villages.

"We thought delinquency only happened in the cities, but now this culture of immorality has become widespread."

Him Yun, vice president of the Khmer Youth Association, told the Post Sunday that he welcomed measures to control delinquency, but he warned authorities not to use the directive as a front for their own bullying.

"While we approve measures to cope with problematic youngsters, local authorities should implement measures effectively," Him Yun said.

Bars warned against allowing striptease dances, loud music

The Phnom Penh Post
Monday, 13 July 2009
Chrann Chamroeun

Distribution of Interior Ministry rules in Daun Penh district comes less than a week after authorities shut down a bar and arrested 15 people.

BAR owners in Daun Penh district were told by the Ministry of Interior over the weekend that they were required to close at midnight and to ban striptease dancing and the showing of pornographic films, several bar owners and the district governor said Sunday.

District and police officials on Saturday distributed a list of rules drafted by the ministry to bar owners and instructed them to sign contracts stating that they had read the rules and understood that they would have to close if they did not comply with them.

Daun Penh District Governor Sok Sambath said Sunday that the officials were simply reminding the bar owners of rules that were already in place.

"We just re-informed all bars to follow the contract - to close their bars after midnight, not to play loud music, not to show pornographic videos, not to allow drug use and not to allow strip dancing," Sok Sambath said.

Yim Nuch, a manager at the Velkommen Inn on Street 104, said she had been visited by the officials Saturday.

"They came to my bar and showed me the [Interior Ministry's] information, which mainly mentioned conditions about strip dancing, drug smuggling and pornographic films," she said.

"They asked us to sign five identical contracts, and I agreed to sign them."

She added that she had been told she could face criminal charges if she failed to follow the rules, though she said officials did not elaborate on what those might be.

Chhan Sro Em, 26, a manager at the UpDown Bar on Street 136, said Sunday that she had not received any information about the rules.

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Our bar hasn't had any illegal activities such as sexy or strip dancing.
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"Police just come around for drinking and then go," she said. "They never talk to us about that."

She said the UpDown Bar had been open for "over a year" and routinely closed at 1am or 2am without incident and without any objection from the police.

She added: "Our bar hasn't had any illegal activities such as sexy or strip dancing."

Citywide enforcement?
Sok Sambath said the rules applied to all bars in the capital and had been on the books for years, despite the fact that many regularly stay open past midnight. Ministry of Interior spokesman Khieu Sopheak could not be reached Sunday to confirm whether the rules would be implemented citywide.

Both Yim Nuch and Chhan Sro Em said they welcomed the rules.

"We will follow the ministry's order to close our bar after midnight if we are told by police to do that," Chhan Sro Em said. "We welcome these prohibitions, which are very good for encouraging our Cambodian girls to be gentle women, not too sexy."

The distribution of the letters in Daun Penh district came less than a week after police and local authorities arrested 15 people at the Blue Lagoon Bar, which is also located in the district on Street 108.

The officials made the arrests on suspicion that patrons were given the option of watching women strip naked.

Commune Chief Hov Shinith said last week that the bar had been closed temporarily and that municipal officials were debating whether to allow it to continue operating.

Air travel dipped 16pc in early '09, official says

Photo by: SOVANN PHILONG
People wait at the departures terminal at Phnom Penh International Airport.

The Phnom Penh Post
Monday, 13 July 2009
Kay Kimsong

Number of passenger flights down 10 percent compared with first 5 months of 2008, while cargo sees sharper decline

THE number of passengers entering Cambodia in the first five months of this year dropped 16 percent on the same period last year, with the number of flights down almost 10 percent. Cargo brought in and out by air was also sharply down.

Khek Norinda, communications and marketing manager for Societe Concessionaire de l'Aeroport (SCA), which runs the Kingdom's airports, told the Post that flights were down as a result of reduced demand.

"We have witnessed a significant slowdown in traffic at the two international airports in Phnom Penh and in Siem Reap, both for passengers and cargo," Khek Norinda wrote in an email.

Figures from the government's State Secretariat for Civil Aviation (SSCA) showed during that period 1.15 million passengers arrived or left on domestic and international flights through Phnom Penh and Siem Reap airports. That was down from 1.37 million in the first five months of 2008, a drop of 16 percent.

Siem Reap was worse affected than the capital, with passenger numbers down almost 19 percent to 555,000 in the first five months. The total number of flights into and out of the country dropped by 1,500 to 13,914.

Cargo figures through Phnom Penh International Airport - the Kingdom's sole air-cargo hub - were hit hard. The airport received 3,353 tonnes of cargo between January and May 2009, down 41 percent on the same period in 2008. Cargo leaving the country dropped 31 percent to 3,093 tonnes.

Representatives of Korean Airlines and Bangkok Airways - two of the key carriers - could not be reached for comment on Sunday.

But Khek Norinda said airlines would be affected.

"Less traffic means contraction of revenues. Financial results will be obviously affected like all other stakeholders in [the] aviation industry compared to 2008," said Khek Norinda.

Despite the release of passenger, flight and cargo numbers, SCA again failed to publish figures on its revenues. The latest figures available - in the Cambodian Civil Aviation Data Book published by the Civil Aviation Authority in February - showed that SCA made revenues of US$10.77 million in 2006.

Mao Havannal, secretary of state at the SSCA, told the Post earlier this month that swine flu and lower disposable income were the main reasons behind the drop in air passengers.

Khek Norinda said that, despite the current problems, the mid- and long-term prospects for Cambodia's airports remain strong.

SCA said it had taken measures aimed at boosting air traffic to Cambodia in order to overcome the current effects of economic crisis.

"We have implemented an ambitious incentive package policy: We offer significant discounts to encourage airlines to open additional routes and to increase their flight frequencies in our international airports," he wrote. "Obviously, specific conditions are offered in Sihanoukville airport in order to facilitate opening of new routes to the airport."

SCA said it is also undertaking marketing at trade fairs in conjunction with the Ministry of Tourism to promote the Kingdom.

Govt rejects union data on jobless workers

The Phnom Penh Post
Monday, 13 July 2009
CHUN SOPHAL

AN argument has blown up between the government and a leading trade union over the number of garment workers thought to have lost their jobs due to the economic crisis.

Chea Mony, president of the Free Trade Union of the Workers of the Kingdom of Cambodia, told the Post Sunday that he estimated 63,000 workers had lost their jobs since the economy was hit last year, a figure he based on the closure of 78 garment factories represented a monthly loss of US$3.5 million in wages.

"The garment sector is very fragile in the face of the global economic crisis," Chea Mony said. "Many more workers face unemployment if the government fails to remove corrupt officials and ... strengthen effective implementation of the law."

The union's estimate was rejected by Um Mean, secretary of state at the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training, who said most workers had been re-employed and that fewer than 20,000 workers were jobless.

"We cannot depend on the union's figures because the ministry has collected its own statistics, which are more accurate," he said on Sunday.

However, Um Mean was unable to provide the government figures, saying the officials responsible were not at work.

The union's figures were endorsed by the Garment Manufacturers Association of Cambodia, whose labour issues official Cheath Khemara said the situation would improve if workers and factory owners worked together to weather the global economic crisis.

Parliament OKs deal to send migrant labourers to Kuwait

Photo by: SOVANN PHILONG
A student checks a job advertisement board in Phnom Penh. Following an agreement between Cambodia and Kuwait, job seekers will soon be able to secure work in the Middle Eastern country.

The Phnom Penh Post
Monday, 13 July 2009
May Kunmakara

Agreement to supply workers to the emirate, awaiting Senate approval, would pave way for Cambodians to learn more about the oil and gas sector, official says

PARLIAMENT last month approved an agreement with Kuwait allowing Cambodians to work in the Gulf state, an official said Sunday.

Um Mean, a secretary of state at the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training, said the final step was for the Senate to approve the deal.

"After that both parties will set up a joint task force to study the job requirements in more detail," Um Mean said, adding that Kuwait has already approved the deal.

The two states signed a memorandum of understanding late last year on the issue of migrant workers.

An Bun Hak, the president of the Cambodian Recruitment Agency, which has permission from the ministry to provide workers for the scheme, said most jobs would be in oil and gas as well as hospitality.

"We will lead a delegation to gauge the job market in Kuwait early next month and investigate it in-depth," he said, adding that monthly wages would be around US$350.

The agreement follows a deal between the two states allowing Kuwait to lease tracts of Cambodian land to grow food.

An Bun Hak said that for cultural reasons Cambodia's Cham Muslim minority would likely benefit most from the scheme, although he stressed that his firm would not discriminate.

"We will recruit both Cambodian Muslim workers and non-Muslim workers," he said. "But Cambodia's Cham Muslim people will have more ability because they will be able to adapt to Kuwait's culture more quickly than other Cambodians."

He said the first workers - a trial group of up to 200 people - would be sent to Kuwait before the end of the year.

"Kuwait has not set a quota, so we hope to send between 6,000 and 7,000 workers each year," An Bun Hak said, adding that workers in the oil and gas sector would gain valuable skills for Cambodia's upcoming resources industry.

Thun Saray, the president of local human rights group Adhoc, welcomed the deal, saying it is important that the government does what it can to help Cambodians find work.

"What worries me is the laws protecting workers," he said. "Before the government allows people to work overseas, it should provide them with information about working conditions so they can avoid disputes. They must be properly informed about where they will be working."

Cambodia's 20 private recruitment agencies have to date sent 21,000 migrant workers to South Korea, Thailand and Malaysia. Wages vary widely, with a worker in South Korea able to earn up to $700 per month. In Malaysia they can earn between $120 and $150 per month, while wages in Thailand are $80 to $120.

Swatch to expand in Cambodia

The Phnom Penh Post
Monday, 13 July 2009
Hor Hab

SWISS watchmaker Swatch Group said its franchisee will open two more branded stores in Cambodia. Its first store opened in April.

The company said the Kingdom's demographics mean it should prove a good market.

Thai Philippe from Swatch franchisee K Thong Huot Telecom said one store will open in Phnom Penh and the other in Siem Reap, both likely next year in shopping malls.

Although Swatch sales are currently low, he said the arrival of a new collection should help to raise the brand's profile locally.

"A lot of people are attracted to the design of Swatch, but they are hesitating to buy it because the brand is not yet well-known here," he said.

At the launch of Swatch's new collection in Italy last month, Nicolas Hayek, chairman of Swatch Group, said global sales had held during the downturn.

"[Worldwide] sales of Swiss watches went down 27.6 percent last year, but Swatch has performed much better and we haven't seen much of a decrease," he said. "Even in the US market Swatch is doing very well - dropping just 9 or 10 percent when compared to some other brands which are down 50 percent or more."

MFIs see lending growth dip

Photo by: HENG CHIVOAN
ACLEDA Bank, which offers microfinance loans, opens a branch in Kampot last month.


The Phnom Penh Post
Monday, 13 July 2009
NGUON SOVAN

Economic crisis halts lending expansion and causes NPL rates to escalate, say MFIs, with little progress expected by year's end

MICROFINANCE institutions (MFIs) said loans are down sharply in the first half of the year, while bad debts have risen due to the economic crisis.

Hout Ieng Tong, president of the Cambodian Microfinance Association, predicted the situation would not improve before the end of the year. He forecast the average level of nonperforming loans (NPLs) for the industry would rise tenfold to 3 percent this year.

Chea Phalarin, manager of market leader Amret, said the company was being cautious in its lending, while clients were afraid they would be unable to make repayments.

"We planned to disburse US$50 million of loans in the first six months of this year, but only $33.5 million was lent to 230,000 customers," he said, adding that Amret lent $30 million in the first half last year.

The NPL rate increased from 0.08 percent at the end of last year to 2.8 percent at the end of June, he said.

Sim Senacheat, general manager of Prasac, the nation's second-largest MFI, said last week that loan disbursements were down 13 percent to $33 million from $38 million in the first half of 2008. Prasac also has fewer clients now: 87,700 as opposed to 100,000 at the end of June last year.

"The economic and real estate downturn mean we have restricted our loans - especially large-scale loans.... That's because we are concerned about repayment capacity," said Sim Senacheat, adding that bad loans were up from 0.23 percent at the end of 2008 to 1.35 percent at the end of June.

MFI Sathapana echoed the problems of its competitors. Chairman Bun Mony said loans were one-third below target at $22 million, and bad loans stood at 1.7 percent, up from 0.2 percent at the end of 2008.

Helping to reinstall art into Cambodian consciousness

Photo by: HOLLY PHAM
Venn Savat [left] and Khun Sovanrith


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WE WANT TO USE PAINTINGS AS COMMUNICATION TOOLS TO EXPRESS LIFE VALUES.
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The Phnom Penh Post
, 13 July 2009
Holly Pham and Chan Soratha

A new exhibition at the Reyum Institute showcases the inspiring work of one of its resident teachers

KHUN Sovanrith and Venn Savat, two Cambodian contemporary painters, are presenting their latest works at Reyum Institute, open today from 5 to 8pm.

According to the two artists, the status of painting as a relatively new art form in Cambodia, especially when it comes to contemporary art, motivated them to contribute to the emerging national scene through this exhibition.

As a member of the first generation of painters trained at the School of Fine Arts following the fall of the Khmer Rouge regime, Venn Savat remarked that painting has been growing more prominent in Cambodian arts since the 1980s.

However, most Cambodians are still far more familiar with sculptural works, and thus his and Khun Sovanrith's commitment to art education will remain strong and proactive for the foreseeable future.

The exhibition at large consists of varying styles and themes, including sceneries, still lifes and abstract paintings. Buddhism is explicitly expressed throughout the exhibition, as shown by the series of lotus, Buddha and Nirvana paintings. The artists hope to send messages of peace to their audience through such works.

"When people are reminded of Nirvana, they will try to limit their demand and share what they have with others," Khun Sovanrith said.

The artists said the variety on offer in their exhibition aims to depict the big picture of Cambodian daily life.

"We want to use paintings as communication tools to express [Cambodian] life values," said Khun Sovanrith.

Increased opportunities
Currently working at Reyum as a teacher, Khun Sovanrith said he also wanted to provide more art-related opportunities as well as increased exposure to the public free of charge, particularly to Cambodian youth.

"Paintings do not draw much interest in Cambodia because the country is still impoverished.
"Most of my students [at Reyum Institute] are poor and not educated enough about arts," he said.

Before working at Reyum, Khun Sovanrith worked at the Department of Pegagogical Research within the Ministry of Education as a book illustrator from 1996 to 1999.

Though this experience drew him into art education, he was limited to producing black-and-white sketches that could be literally understood. Now with painting, he is free to be creative and use artistic abstractions to imply different messages and target different audience groups, a practice he feels is more fitting for an art teacher.

Khun Sovanrith has nine paintings, and Venn Savat fourteen, on display at Reyum. This exhibition marks Venn Savat's 20th exhibition and the sixth for Khun Sovanrith.

Crown, Naga stroll to CPL wins

Photo by: NICK SELLS
Naga Corp’s Sun Somprathana (right) pulls on the shirt of Spark FC’s Plong Chanthou during their Cambodian Premier League game at Olympic Stadium Saturday.

The Phnom Penh Post
Monday, 13 July 2009
DENE MULLEN

Phnom Penh Crown draw within a point of the league leaders with a 3-1 win over National Defence Ministry on Saturday, while Naga Corp smash Spark FC 3-0

A second-half display of power from Phnom Penh Crown was enough to overwhelm a plucky National Defence Ministry (MND) side Saturday and ensure that they kept up the pressure on Preah Khan Reach at the top of the Cambodian Premier League table.

After a slow opening to the first half, the game received the desired shot in the arm on 22 minutes when MND took a shock lead against the run of play. Nov Sokseila provided the moment of divine inspiration when he picked up the ball on the right and burst into the box.

After beating two players, the angle was against him, but the tiny winger managed to toe-poke the ball past the keeper to cap a glorious solo effort.

The goal certainly caused alarm in the Crown defence, and just minutes later the defending champions' back line were pushing the panic buttons again when Um Kompheak connected well with an acrobatic volley, only to see it whistle past the post.

With 16 minutes left in the half, Crown had their best chance so far when a Chan Rithy corner cleared everybody, including a shaky-looking Samrith Seiha in goal, but when the ball fell to Tunji Ayoyinka at the far stick, his cross-cum-shot evaded everybody when all it needed was the slightest touch.

After the break, Crown set the tone from the off with Oscar Mpoko hitting a vicious shot with the outside of his boot from the edge of the box. The ball was flying into the top corner, but Samrith Seiha leapt like a praying mantis and acrobatically clawed it away.

It didn't take long for the goal to come however, and just five minutes into the half Crown were level. Ayoyinka was sent rocketing down the left and, although he could have gone it alone, the Nigerian forward unselfishly squared to Srey Veasna, who arrived at the far post to tap in.

Photo by: NICK SELLS
Phnom Penh Crown's Chan Rithy takes a touch during the CPL match against National Defence Ministry Saturday.


Crown then laid siege to the MND goal, with a shot from Mpoko dubiously disallowed. However, they had to wait until the 85th minute before the breakthrough finally came. Chan Rithy played a delicious reverse pass with his weaker right foot for Mpoko to control. Without breaking his stride, the midfield dynamo volleyed a sumptuous lob over the keeper and into the net.

Somewhat harshly on MND, it was soon three when, in injury time, Ayoyinka collected a long ball, held off two defenders and finished calmly to wrap up the points for Crown.

Naga Corp 3 Spark FC 0
In Saturday's second game, Spark FC were unable to deal with a Naga Corp side that coasted to victory without ever moving out of second gear.

After almost opening the scoring in comedic circumstances when the Spark goalkeeper's attempted clearance bounced off Teab Vathanak and just wide on seven minutes, Naga eventually found the back of the net, although once again there was more than a whiff of good fortune about it.

Naga's Yemi Oyewole was fed on the edge of the box, and the cultured midfielder's attempted cross looped over the goalkeeper and dipped just in time to sneak into the far corner for the opener.

Twenty-two minutes in, though, Spark almost nicked an equaliser against the run of play through a superb Plong Chanthou header, but Chaom Veasna was able to flick the ball away from just underneath the bar.

Nine minutes later, Oyewole almost grabbed his second of the afternoon, but his header flashed just wide, with the keeper scrambling. Then, with eleven minutes left in the half, Naga made it two. Teab Vathanak twisted up his marker on the left, fired in a great low ball across, and with numerous players sliding in, Olawaseun Olatide made a hash of his clearance and turned it past his own goalkeeper.

It was more of the same in the second half. Sunday Okonkwo almost added a third for Naga in the 51st minute when he picked the ball up 30 yards from goal, drove at the defence and unleashed a thunderbolt with his left foot which Pouv Raksa did well to turn over the bar.

Just a minute later, Okonkwo went even closer when he met Teab Vathanak's low cross from the left with the outside of his right boot. The shot beat the keeper but thudded off the base of the post and rebounded to safety.

Naga were rampant by this point, and after Oyewole saw his strike well saved by Pouv Raksa, they got the third goal their dominance deserved. Teab Vathanak outfoxed a defender on the edge of the box and slipped a sly pass through to Friday Nwakuna, who kept his composure and placed the ball into the corner to put the seal on an impressive Naga performance.

Phouchung Neak shock leaders

Photo by: NICK SELLS
Build Bright United’s newest purchase Augustine Ogemi (front) brushes past his Post Tel Club defender Sunday at Olympic Stadium.


The Phnom Penh Post
Monday, 13 July 2009
ANDY BROUWER

CAMBODIAN Premier League leaders Preah Khan Reach (PKR) had the wind knocked out of their sails by Navy side Phouchung Neak in their top-versus-bottom clash at the Olympic stadium Sunday that ended a 2-2 draw. It was all one-way traffic as PKR struck the woodwork twice in a frantic opening, but they were left reeling from a double sucker punch in as many minutes.

Tith Dina leapt around in jubilation after his screamer from twenty-five yards sailed into the top corner after PKR failed to clear the danger from a corner kick on 19 minutes.

Just as fans were getting their breath back, Phouchung, with just one point from their previous nine games, doubled their lead when debutant Wilson Mene sent his teammates into more raptures with a well-executed volley at the back stick from Heng Sokly's sweet cross. The navy side didn't deserve their scoreline, but they weren't complaining.

In response, PKR stepped on the gas and reduced the deficit on the half-hour. Olisa Onyemerea rose above everyone to powerfully head home Tum Saray's corner. Phouchung held out for fifteen minutes of the second period, until was Onyemerea on hand again to turn in a low cross from Khounla Boravy, though the expected onslaught from PKR never really materialised. Honours were shared, although it was a massive moral victory for the Navy side over their illustrious opponents.

Post Tel Club 0 Build Bright 2
In a much quieter affair, Build Bright United (BBU)took the points in the second game of the afternoon, with a straightforward 2-0 success over Post Tel. The result was never in doubt as BBU always held the upper hand. Indeed, in new signing Augustine Ogemi, they had the game's best player by a country mile.

After arriving from PKR during the mid-season break, the Nigerian took just nine minutes to register his first goal for his new club. Rising above despairing Post Tel goalkeeper Thong Chanraksmey, he planted his header into the net from a gorgeous inswinging cross by Ek Vannak.

BBU settled the game fifteen minutes into the second half when Oriola Adeseye applied a deft touch to lift his shot over Thong Chanraksmey when a corner fell to him in the box.

Crown fail to sign hotshot Prince Justine

The Phnom Penh Post
Monday, 13 July 2009
KEN GADAFFI

THE much speculated transfer of the Cambodian Premier league's top scorer Prince Uche Justine finally never happened with his club Spark FC unable to reach an agreement with Phnom Penh Crown. Crown manager Makara Be claimed he did everything possible to lure the prolific scorer to the reigning champions, but to no avail, resigning to the signing of former Naga striker, Cameroon born Ousmannou Mohamadou as his foreign player transfer allowance during the July window. Prince Justine was suspended for Spark's game against Naga Corp Saturday after receiving two yellow cards.

Meanwhile, Crown striker Tunji Ayoyinka played possibly his last game for the club Saturday ahead of his trip to join an undisclosed side in the Turkish second division. According to the player, two teams are interested in his signature.

Expats celebrate Ashes series

Photo by: NICK SELLS
Australian expat team member Adam McNeil swings at a delivery during a friendly game against an England team at Boeung Keng Kang school Sunday.

The Phnom Penh Post
Monday, 13 July 2009
DOM FIELD

English, Australians play a 15-over friendly at Boeung Keng Kang

REPRESENTATIVES from Australia and England's expat communities met at Boeung Keng Kang High School on Sunday to celebrate the start of the 2009 Ashes tour with a friendly 15 overs match. It may not have been Cardiff, and it certainly wasn't Lords, but the cricket was of a fairly high standard, fought with plenty of spirit. In the end, the English team emerged victorious, having set the Australians a score 175 for 6 from their innings, with the antipodeans managing 143 for 8.

The Australians took the field first, cutting a dash in their green-and-gold team shirts. A shocking start left the English floundering on six runs for two wickets, before captain Chris Dring approached the crease with a swagger of confidence. He pulled the first delivery over square leg for six, and drove the second along the ground for four past mid on. This steadied the boat, and partnerships followed with Adam Mallard and Christian Field. Rana Asif dominated over the bowlers in the mid-order, top scoring with a wonderful 45.

The Australians remained cheerful and confident during the lunch break, despite English suggestions that the innings prophesised success at home. Free-flowing refreshments were provided by Majid Wazir and his restaurant, Saffron, with barbecued pork replacing the smell of cut grass and linseed oil, as the sun reached its highest point in time for the English bowlers to warm up.

The English seemed to be on a nostalgia trip early in the Australian innings with smoking on the boundary reminiscent of the days of Phil "The Cat" Tufnell.

The Australians made a strong start, with Lachlan Pontifex opening with 30 and Adam McNeil retiring on 44. Skipper Matt Duckworth was bowled for one, and his dismissal marked the beginning of an Australian collapse. Tenacious in the field and accurate with the ball, the English never allowed Australia's mid-order to settle. The run rate fell well below what was necessary, and as the final overs approached, an Australian recovery became beyond them.

The Australian team, an amalgamation of embassy staff, lawyers and teachers, were gracious in defeat and assured their opposition that a different story would emerge as the official Ashes series progresses over the coming weeks. The English contigent went home feeling rather surprised by the result.

Thanks go out to captains Dring and Duckworth for organising the event, and to Saffron restaurant for the catering.

Cambodia's Aussie Boss Scott O'Donnell Assembles Coaching Staff

Cambodia are putting things in place...

13 Jul 2009

Cambodia national coach Scott O'Donell has appointed former internationals Van Piseth and Bouy Dary as his assistants in shaping the future of the national team.

And the three have certainly not wasted time as they have been consistently on the lookout for players in the on-going Cambodian Premier League 2009.

“Both Piseth and Dary were with me before (in 2007),“ said O’Donell.

“I trust and respect them. Both were national team players and have a good knowledge of the game, and we already have a mutual understanding of what we want to achieve.”

Van Piseth, 47, was a former Cambodian international in the mid-1980s and played his football for the most part with the Army team before beginning his coaching career at Khemara FC.

He is due to take his AFC C-Licence coaching certificate next month.

The 23-year-old Bouy Dary on the other hand was the assistant to former national coach Prak Sovannara, and is one of the younger generation of coaches in Cambodia.

He played under O'Donell at the SEA Games in 2005 whilst with the Royal Navy team, and already has his C-Licence.

“The next stage is to get a squad together, with the SEA Games in Laos in December as the next major challenge,” added O'Donell.

“I want to put on a series of trials for around 40 players in the last three weeks of July at the National Olympic Stadium, with a view to sizing it down to a squad of 25 players.

“Then I'd like to get the squad with me a couple of times a week during August and September, which is why I met with the CPL coaches a couple of weeks ago, as I need their cooperation.

“I'd be concentrating on their technical and tactical awareness rather than their stamina until the end of the current season.”

The 42-year-old Australian is also looking to further strengthen his squad's preparation for the SEA Games in Laos with a couple of friendly international matches and two training camps away in South Korea and Vietnam.

Burmese 'Passports' Mark New Phuket Deal

A Burmese worker shows off his permit to work on Phuket
Photo by phuketwan.com/file
http://phuketwan.com
By Phuketwan Reporters
Sunday, July 12, 2009

SENIOR officials from Burma and Thailand met on Phuket yesterday to discuss the future of legal and illegal workers from Burma.

A new system is being introduced that involves large-scale changes designed to legitimise by registration as many Burmese workers as possible.

If the worker has a job, then his or her position can be legitimised.

The change represents a comprehensive attempt to reduce people-smuggling along the Andaman coast and throughout Thailand.

According to the official figure for possible registration, Phuket's population contains 91,453 illegal and legal Burmese workers. Sixteen Cambodian and 120 Lao workers are also listed.

At yesterday's top-level meeting, the Permanent Secretary of Burma's Foreign Ministry, Maung Myaint, met with Thai Labor Minister Pitoon Keawtong at the Thavorn Grand Plaza in Phuket City.

Efforts are being made to register as many illegal workers as possible this month throughout Thailand. The Burmese involved will have the opportunity after registration to retunr to Burma to be issued with a worker's ''passport.''

Maung Myaint said he had been trying for five years to resolve the problems associated with Burmese in Thailand.

''From July 15, all Burmese working in Thailand will be able to return to Victoria Point [the Burmese twin port of Ranong] and two other border towns, to register as Burmese citizens,'' he said.

However, he said the system could only process 200 applications a day at each crossing point.

Just how the Burmese officials propose to deal with the thousands of people who will be seeking to register remains unclear.

The Burmese part of the process would be at no cost, Muang Myaint said. Those who were being told there would be a fee are being given misinformation, he added.

The Thai authorities would ask each Burmese to pay 2000 baht for a two-year visa, Khun Khun Pitoon said.

The issue of people-trafficking and illegal workers is likely to be a focus at next week's Asean and associated summit meetings.

News outlets report today that two men have been charged with the trafficking of two Burmese refugees in Malaysia, that country's first such cases of people smuggling for the purposes of ''forced labor''.

Second-hand goods trader Azhar Yusof, 32, and self-employed Mohamad Nazeri Mat Hussein, 50, appeared separately in court on Friday, according to the New Straits Times.

The two Malaysians, who allegedly made 1500 ringgit ($419) in each deal, face up to 20 years in jail and a fine of 500,000 ringgit if convicted. Both denied the charges.

Prosecutor Mohamad Dusuki Mokhtar said they were believed to be part of a human trafficking syndicate.

Last month, the US put Malaysia back on a people smuggling blacklist, saying the country had failed to comply with minimum standards to eliminate trafficking.

Revival efforts start paying off, NTC Mills on hiring mode in Coimbatore


12 Jul 2009

COIMBATORE: Not long ago, a bleak future starred at a group of National textile corporation operated spinning mills in the texcity Coimbatore. The sick mills encountered problems like surplus workforce, vintage machinery and lower output. Now, they are on a come back trail thanks to the modernisation programme.

What is more, the four NTC run mills are on a hiring mode. The mills revived by the textiles ministry through a modernisation scheme at a cost of Rs 64.35 crore in the last twelve months, are looking to hire an additonal 1000 workers to increase production.

The mills- Cambodia Mills, Coimbatore Murugan Mills, Pankaja Mills and Rangavilas Ginning, Spinning & Weaving Mills are seeing the benefits of the modernisation scheme.

While the Cambodia Mills weaving unit was upgraded with imported machinery, the other three mills had also equipped themselves with latest technology. Apart from importing machines from China, NTC also procured latest machines from LMW, the Indian textile machinery major.

While the formal inauguration of the mills ( after modernisation) is scheduled to take place later this month, they have already kick started production. "After the modernisation, the four mills are working at 80% capacity and they have also reached breakeven in the last two months," NTC southern region chief GM (technical) M M Chockalingam told ET.

"We need additional 1000 workers to reach 95% utilisation level ," he added. Currently there are 2337 permanent workers and around 2000 causal workers employed in the four mills.

"We have already received more than 1000 applications for the vacant spots and it is in the process of scrutiny. We will soon call them for interview and hire them on our rolls as casual workers. Later, we will shift them to fill the permanent vacancies and pay occupational salary," said a senior executive in NTC.

Currently, NTC pays around Rs 125 to Rs 135 per day for casual workers and up to Rs 6000 per month for permanent employees.

Apart from aiming to make profits, the four mills are also ready to compete with private mills by producing value added products. Following upgradation of machines, the spindles speed has gone up to 21000 RPM from the earlier 13000 RPM. "We are expecting a increase in production from earlier 60 to 65 gram per spindle to up to 100 grams per spindle," said Mr Chockalingam.

He said, among the four, Coimbatore Murugan Mills and Rangavilas Mills are the top performers and they are specialised in producing round form hand yarn, which would be useful for handlooms. "These two mills would mainly produce cotton yarn and new value-added products like slub yarn, high twist yarn and cotton 2/1 gassed mercerized yarn," he added.

The other two mills would concentrate on 100% polyester yarn and also polyester mixed with cotton and viscose yarns respectively. The mills are also planning to produce hosiery yarn as a value-added product. Mr Chockalingam said the yarn from the four mills would go to all the important markets in India apart from supplying to local markets in Tirupur, Somanur and Erode.

In the last 30 to 35 years, ten mills had come under the purview of NTC in the texcity. When four mills were shutdown (two sold and two under litigation), surplus workers were relieved through VRS scheme or accommodated in other running mills. Two more mills namely, Sharadha Mills and Coimbatore Spinning & Weaving Mills are to be operated under JV and the remaining four revived through modernization scheme.

Figures available from NTC show that nearly 2352 people opted for VRS scheme following closure of mills or on medical grounds. Also more than 2000 people had retired from these mills and NTC hasn’t filled up the vacancy following ban on recruitment.

Recently as one of the highlights in the Textile Ministry Agenda for 100 days, Union Textile Minister Dayanidhi Maran said, the seven modernised mills under NTC in the country would be made operational. Among the seven mills, four are in Coimbatore.

Singapore largest investor in India among ASEAN nations

http://www.sindhtoday.net

New Delhi, July 12 (IANS) Singapore is the largest investor in India among the 10 ASEAN countries with its investments rising from Rs.1,416.9 crore in 2005 to Rs.15,775.9 crore in 2008, says an industry lobby report released Sunday.

Malaysia ranks second, with its investments in India going up from Rs.21.3 crore in 2005 to Rs.453.8 crore in 2008, according to the report by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI).

ASEAN is a geo-political and economic organisation of 10 Southeast Asian countries – Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Brunei, Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam – that was formed to accelerate economic growth, social progress, cultural development and foster peace among members.

According to FICCI, cooperation with the ASEAN block is expected to get a shot in the arm when India signs the Foreign Trade Agreement with it next month.

The FICCI analysis shows that while foreign investment inflow from Thailand actually came down from Rs.23.3 crore in 2005 to Rs.12.9 crore in 2008, inflow from Indonesia rose from Rs.4.2 crore to Rs.24.5 crore.

Inflows from Myanmar, which invested a measly Rs.23 lakh between August 1991 and December 2005, raised its stakes sharply in India with inflows shooting up to a whopping Rs.34.7 crore in 2008.

Inflows from the Philippines actually dropped from Rs.4.2 crore in 2005 to Rs.70 lakh in 2008. There was no investment from Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and Brunei in these two years.

During this period, the services sector accounted for about 30 percent of inflows from ASEAN – the highest.

Mekong River sand dredging to be regulated

River sand exploited and transported in the Mekong Delta (Photo: SGGP)

SAIGON
http://www.saigon-gpdaily.com.vn/

Sunday ,Jul 12,2009

The Mekong Delta City of Can Tho is to regulate sand dredging and selling, in a bid to stop exploitation where riverbanks may collapse, as well making licensed owners clearly display traffic signs and their specific areas of dredging, the city's administration has announced.

Following the Cambodian government’s ban on sand exports, hundreds of local barges have been working at full-blast on the Can Tho stretch of the Hau River (a main branch of the Mekong) to dredge sand, causing irregular water flows and inflict major environmental damage.

In addition, at least another 300 boats have been used to carry sand to foreign boats from Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia or domestic construction firms.

Since early 2009, the Vietnamese government has allowed boats carrying sand from Cambodia to anchor at the Hau, which flows through Can Tho City in the Mekong Delta.

The river stretch has become a major trading post for sand with boats collecting the Cambodian sand after docking at the Can Tho and Cai Cui ports in the city.

Authorities have already given 25 licenses to 16 businesses to exploit more than 25.2 million cubic meters of sand. However, everyday hundreds of unlicensed sand dredgers and transporters, both domestic and foreign, work on this section.

In June 2009, when inspecting the Hau, Thot Not District Police and authorities made 54 reports, such as operators not having a captain’s license, overloaded ships, illegal sand dredging in nautical jets and 14 reports of exploiting sand in inappropriate areas.

Dang Huu Phuoc, head of the Office of Mineral Resource, Water and Hydrometeorology, admitted that the office cannot know the real output of sand exploitation in each area, as dredgers do not inform authorities of how much sand they take.

Estimates of dredged sand exported to foreign countries vary from 25,000 to 50,000 tons.

According to Phan Van Ho, deputy head of the Can Tho City People's Committee Secretariat, another “sensitive” issue to draw much public interest is evidence of illegal dredging disappears after unannounced inspections.

Such uncontrolled actions cause riverbanks to collapse, pollution, and sand shortage, but provide large profits to individuals without benefit to the State.

In 2008, Can Tho’s tax department collected just VND500 million (US$28,100) from sand dredging operators.

Consequently, Mr. Ho suggested that Can Tho authorities should regulate the situation as soon as possible by checking and projecting sand mines in the area, holding an auction of dredging licenses to earn more money for the city’s budget, and rejecting inexperienced and incapable dredgers.

By Nhat Chanh - Translated by Uyen Phuong

Road show to explore new land link

By PETCHANET PRATRUANGKRAI
THE NATION
Published on July 13, 2009

The Foreign Trade Department will lead local businesses on a roadshow to Cambodia and Vietnam next week in a bid to explore trade and investment opportunities along the new land link between the three countries.

Representatives of the Board of Trade of Thailand, the Federation of Thai Industries, the Thai Machinery Association and the Thai Chamber of Commerce in Trat province, as well as cross-border traders, will participate in the roadshow along Route No 48, or R48.

The 151.5-kilometre road to Cambodia, which extends another 300km into Vietnam, begins as an east-west corridor in Thailand, including four river-spanning bridges. Construction of the stretch linking Thailand with Cambodia was completed in June last year, at a total cost of Bt1.8 billion.

Unchana Withayathamthat, deputy director-general of the Foreign Trade Department, said the road would facilitate trade and investment growth between the countries.

"This roadshow, conducted from July 15 to 18, will pave the way for Thai enterprises to find new opportunities to increase trade and investment, in particular by securing farming and machinery-production contracts in the neighbouring countries," said Unchana.

Four Cambodian provinces with strong growth potential lie along R48: Koh Kong, Kampot, Sihanoukville (recently renamed Preah Sihanouk) and Takaew. These include six special economic zones, making them attractive for Thai investors. Unchana pointed out that potential businesses for Thai investors include contract farming for soybeans and sugarcane with local farmers; and establishing plants to produce processed seafood, garments and hydroelectric power.

Thai investors are allowed 100-per-cent ownership rights in Cambodian special economic zones. However, transportation of goods along the new route is subjected to a 5-per-cent customs tariff.

City Championship golfer fights through case of the shanks

Yuthea Hem follows his drive Saturday on the second hole at Sunset Golf Course during the second round of the Mile High Banks Men’s City Championship. Jill P. Mott/Times-Call

Publish Date: 7/12/2009
By Ray Sobczyk
© 2009 Longmont Times-Call

LONGMONT — Whether it’s on the golf course or in the world of war, good fortunes always seem to follow Yuthea Hem. It’s been that way his entire life.

With all that prosperity comes adversity and new challenges.

Entering Saturday’s second round of the Mile High Banks Men’s City Championship, Hem was tied for first place in the 1st flight. He carded a 67 at Twin Peaks Golf Course on Friday.

Things couldn’t have started off any better for Hem, who is competing in his first organized golf tournament.

Then came the narrow fairways and fast greens at Sunset Golf Course on Saturday, and Hem’s chances of claiming the top prize took a big hit.

He carded four double-bogeys and eight bogeys, and finished the second round with a 15-over 87. Hem is now 16 strokes behind leader Tyrell Elcock, who shot a 71 on Saturday.

Today’s final round — for all flights — is at Ute Creek Golf Course.

“I came out and played aggressive,” said the 35-year-old Hem. “I didn’t gameplan being this bad. I resorted back to hacking.”

Brad Adams, who played in Hem’s foursome, was there to support his opponent.

“Every time he stepped into the box, it was going right,” said Adams, who shot an 81. “I said, ‘Dude, forget about that. You have to focus on positive thoughts.’”

Adams is proof of that philosophy, too.

After a double-bogey on the third hole and triple-bogey on the fourth hole on the back nine of his round, Adams did the unthinkable. With his four iron, he sank a hole-in-one from 193 yards out on the par 3 No. 5.

“I don’t know how many times I’ve played that hole — maybe 100,” Adams said. “After coming off a triple (bogey) the hole before, I forgot about that, buckled down and focused.

“It was going right at the pin. ... I yelled, ‘Go in the hole!’”

In fact, Adams said his dad, Fred, aced the same hole in 1994.

“That’s what’s fun about this,” said Adams, who is in a tie for fifth place.

Meanwhile, don’t think Hem isn’t capable of rebounding. He’s been through too much turmoil in his life to give up in any situation — even in a golf tournament.

When Hem was 5, his family fled the war zone of Cambodia for the Philippines — where his parents, two brothers and sister would stay for the next nine to 12 months.

A longtime civil war, stemming from the Vietnam War, was in full effect in Cambodia. In order to survive, Hem and his family had to escape.

“I knew where and who we were running from. I didn’t know the extent of it — obviously, not to get killed — but you don’t grasp everything at 5,” Hem said. “You just know you’re in trouble. I was just tagging along.”

From the Philippines, Hem said, his family traveled to the Bronx in New York, where they stayed for a year. And they definitely experienced culture shock.

Hem said that for the first time in his life, he watched television, ate an ice cube, walked on concrete and saw tall buildings. Plus, he finally felt safe.

“We were never exposed to anything like that,” Hem said. “If it makes the Bronx seem safe, it must have been pretty bad.”

With relatives living in Longmont, Hem and his family made the journey to Colorado. He graduated from Niwot High School and now owns Daylight Donuts on Hover Street.

At the age of 18, Hem began taking up golf because of his friends’ interest. However, he didn’t start taking the sport seriously until 2004.

Hem said he couldn’t handle losing to his friends in a casual round of 18 holes, so it was time to bring out his competitive edge.

“I started reading books and learning the little nuances of golf,” said Hem, who has taken only one golf lesson in his life. “Once you play long enough, you hit a wall and say: ‘Why don’t I just do it? Competition is fun.’”

Make no mistake, though: Hem plays to win, and his competition plans on him bringing that attitude into today’s final round.

“If you’re not feeling the adrenaline and you’re not feeling some sort of nerves, than you’re not out here to win,” Adams said. “It’s the spirit of competition.”

NOTES: Jon Chavez leads the championship flight after two rounds. He stands at 141 for the tournament. ... Clint Dudley has a four-stroke lead for first place in the senior flight. ... Brian Adams shot a 63 at Sunset, and has a 10-stroke lead in the 2nd flight. ... Glenn Miyasaki and John Zielinski are tied for first in the 3rd flight. ... Don Arnold and Johathan Nichols are even for the lead in the 4th flight.

Ray Sobczyk can be reached at rsobczyk@times-call.com.