Monday, 24 August 2009

Siam Cement may revive Vietnam petrochemical plans

BANGKOK, Aug 24 (Reuters) - Siam Cement PCL SCC.BK, Thailand's largest industrial conglomerate, said on Monday it could move ahead with a plan to build a petrochemical complex in Vietnam that has been delayed by the global economic crisis.

The project required an investment of about $3-4 billion and sentiment in financial markets hads now improved, which could make it easier for the company to get financing, President Kan Trakulhoon told reporters.

"The situation has improved and we decided to hire an adviser. In the past, we had to postpone it because the financial market was closed. If we get some financing, we will move ahead," Kan said.

In March, Siam Cement said the project would be delayed for at least two years because the global financial crisis had made it difficult for the company and its partner, Petrovietnam, to finance the project.

Apart from the petrochemical complex in Vietnam, Siam Cement also delayed two cement projects in Indonesia and Cambodia.

Vietnamese state oil group Petrovietnam and Siam Cement began construction of the joint-venture complex last year in the southern province of Ba Rai Vung Tao.

The first part of the project had been expected to be completed in 2011 and the second in 2013.

At 0457 GMT, Siam Cement shares were up 1.82 percent at 195.50 baht, in line with the overall Thai stock market. ($1=34.00 Baht) (Reporting by Pisit Changplayngam; Writing by Khettiya Jittapong; Editing by Alan Raybould)

Cambodia to cut troop numbers at temple site disputed by Thailand

Asia-Pacific News
Aug 24, 2009

Phnom Penh - Prime Minister Hun Sen has announced he will cut troop levels at the disputed area around Preah Vihear temple in northern Cambodia in response to a similar move by Thailand, local media reported.

Hun Sen said that Thailand has recently cut the number of its soldiers to just 30, the Phnom Penh Post newspaper reported Monday. He did not specify how many Cambodian soldiers would be withdrawn.

'We have a plan to change the deployment a little,' Hun Sen said. 'If anything happened, it wouldn't take long to send our troops up again, but I hope there won't be any fighting there.'

Both nations have had soldiers killed and wounded in clashes in the area since mid-2008, when the temple was declared a world heritage site by UNESCO, the UN's cultural body.

The violence drove relations between the two ASEAN members to a low point and caused concern among other members of the regional bloc.

The Cambodian commander of the military division stationed at the temple site told the Phnom Penh Post that the reduction in numbers was 'a good signal,' and that the situation at the site 'is returning to normal.'

In an effort to show the situation is less fractious, Thai and Cambodian soldiers based at the 11th-century temple will take part Tuesday in a joint religious ceremony.

In a further sign of progress, the Cambodia Daily newspaper reported that Songkitti Jaggabatara, supreme commander of the Royal Thai Armed Forces, will meet Monday in Phnom Penh with the chief of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces.

Reviving Khmer classical dance

The Dance of Loyalty to the King, May 1923. Bettmann Archive.

How Cambodian culture re-emerged after the devastating Pol Pot years

Bangkok Post

Published: 24/08/2009

Newspaper section: OutlookThe awesome grace and meticulous movements of the performers have entranced audiences since ancient times, an experience now shared with plane-loads of tourists descending on Siem Reap in western Cambodia, the jumping off point for the world's largest temple complex - legendary Angkor Wat.

Dating back to the days of the great Angkor empire that flourished from the 9th to 15th centuries, Cambodian dance is a celebration of the gods, mythology and the world of the royal palace.

This 144-page lavishly illustrated coffee-table book authored by Denise Heywood, a lecturer on Asian art, brings the reader a fine appreciation of Cambodian dance intertwined with the turbulent history and how it has always been at the core of Khmer culture and identity. The book details and explains the origins and development of the dances, music and shadow puppetry, all in the context of their spiritual importance as a medium for communicating with the gods.

But Cambodia's recent tragedy brought its great tradition of dance near oblivion. The "Killing Fields" regime of the Khmer Rouge not only killed through slave labour, starvation and slaughter nearly 2 million people, including 90 per cent of artists, dancers and writers, but it also came close to extinguishing Khmer culture and tradition. Pol Pot's brand new agrarian dystopia had no place for the arts, culture or any other kind of entertainment except xenophobic songs and Pol Pot propaganda.

Heywood first arrived in Cambodia as a freelance writer in 1994, and her interest in dance was heightened by the extraordinary tale of how a few dancers and choreographers survived the genocidal years from 1975 to 79.

CAMBODIAN DANCE: Celebration of the Gods Denise Heywood River Books Bangkok, 144 pp, $45 ISBN 987-9749863404

In January 1979 a new Heng Samrin government backed by Vietnam proclaimed the restoration of normal society after four years of the Pol Pot regime had trashed most aspects of family life and the previous society.

A handful of survivors emerged from the darkest era in Cambodian history dedicated to resuscitating their cherished traditions of dance. Actor, poet and director Pich Tum Kravel and former director of the National Conservatory Chheng Phon were among the cultural stars who miraculously survived.

They became the key people enlisted by the new Ministry of Information and Culture under Keo Chenda, charged with the critical mission of bringing all the surviving dancers together.

The expertise was handed down through the generations from master to pupil and never documented in written form, so everything depended on human memory. The late Chea Samy became the leading teacher at the re-established School of Fine Arts in 1981 (ironically Pol Pot was her brother-in-law).

Piecing together the collective memories of survivors and much of the vast repertory, the performing arts were revived.

When this reviewer saw the post-Pol Pot Cambodian National Dance Company perform in Phnom Penh in 1981, it was a highly emotional experience. Members of the audience wept. This outpouring of raw emotion encompassed both tears of sadness for those loved ones they would never see again - and tears of joy that Khmer dance was alive again and had risen from the ashes of nihilistic destruction.

Pamina Devi choreographed by Sophiline Cheam Shapiro.

Nothing had greater significance for the Khmer people in this process of rebuilding than this revival of the nation's soul and psyche in which dance plays a central role.

While Heywood is to be commended for her documentation of the revival of dance in the 1980s, it is a pity she has wrongly contextualised this cultural renaissance by claiming that "Heng Samrin's Vietnamese government" organised a national arts festival in 1980.

In fact President Heng Samrin and everyone else in the new government were all Cambodians and not Vietnamese. Somehow the author has been infected with the cold war propaganda emanating from Asean governments and US embassies in the region that stressed Phnom Penh was being run by a "Vietnamese puppet-regime" and the Cambodians blindly followed Hanoi's orders.

The reality was more complicated. The cultural revival depicted in this book makes it clear that Vietnamese control over security and foreign policy, despite tensions and differences with their Cambodian allies, did not block the re-emergence of Khmer culture that at the same time planted the seeds for future independence.

In 2003 Unesco bestowed formal recognition proclaiming the Royal Ballet of Cambodia to be a masterpiece of oral and intangible heritage. And one year later Prince Norodom Sihamoni, a former ballet choreographer and dancer, was crowned king.

Thai classical dance borrows much from the dance traditions of Angkorian times. After Siam's invasion of Siem Reap in 1431, hundreds of Cambodian dancers were abducted and brought to dance in Ayutthaya, at that time the capital hosting the royal court of the Thai king.

This timely book also mentions that Cambodian choreographer Sophiline Shapiro has, among many other projects, adapted Mozart's Magic Flute to Khmer classical dance as part of a 2006 festival to commemorate the 250th anniversary of the great composer's birth.

This production with many innovations caused a stir among the purists. Shapiro passionately defends her new productions against the critics, telling the author "increasing the repertory of dance will help to preserve it and prevent it from atrophying or becoming a museum piece."

Border troops to stand down as Preah Vihear conflict cools

Photo by: Tracey Shelton
A Cambodian soldier sits metres away from Thai counterparts (background) at Sambok Khmum, near the Preah Vihear temple complex in July.

Photo by: AFP
Thai troops were out in force days after the standoff began at Preah Vihear temple on July 19, 2008.

Preah vihear: Timeline of Tensions

11th century: Construction begins on the Preah Vihear temple complex.
1904, 1907: Franco-Siamese treaties create an ambiguous border area, leaving the ownership of Preah Vihear in doubt.
1954: Thai troops occupy Preah Vihear.
June 15, 1962: The International Court of Justice rules, by a 9-3 vote, that the Preah Vihear temple complex belongs to Cambodia and not to Thailand, though the surrounding territory remains in doubt.
July 7, 2009: UNESCO lists the Preah Vihear temple complex as a World Heritage site.
July 17, 2008: Around 400 Thai troops and 800 Cambodian troops are massed at the border near the temple.
October 2008: A series of skirmishes at the border leaves two Cambodian soldiers dead and several others from both sides wounded.
April 2009: Three Thai soldiers are killed in renewed hostilities.
June 24, 2009: UNESCO ignores a complaint filed by Thailand in protest of Preah Vihear's World Heritage status.
August 22, 2009: Prime Minister Hun Sen announces a partial withdrawal of troops stationed around the temple.

The Phnom Penh Post
Monday, 24 August 2009
Thet Sambath

A 13-MONTH military standoff that has claimed more than seven lives and left hundreds homeless at an ancient border temple is at last giving way to peace, Prime Minister Hun Sen declared.

In a sign of thawing relations with Thailand, he announced plans to reduce the number of troops stationed around the 11th-century Preah Vihear temple in a gesture of political good will. The disputed frontier has been the scene of violent clashes with Thai soldiers since 2008.

Hun Sen said Thailand had reduced the number of its soldiers stationed on the border to just 30, effectively ushering in a cease-fire. At the height of the fighting, Thai troops massed in their hundreds. Cambodia now intends to send a number of troops away from the area and back to their bases in nearby provinces, Hun Sen said, although he declined to give precise figures.

"Having too many troops up there is not really good," said Hun Sen during a trip to an outlying province on Saturday. "We have a plan to change the deployment a little. If anything happened, it wouldn't take long to send our troops up again, but I hope there won't be any fighting there."

Cambodia and Thailand have been at loggerheads over the land around the Preah Vihear temple for decades.

Although the World Court ruled in 1962 that it belonged to Cambodia, the most accessible entrance to the ancient Khmer temple, with its crumbling stone staircases and elegant carvings, is in northeastern Thailand. The ruins were granted UN World Heritage status in July 2008, throwing Cambodian-Thai relations into a downward spiral.

Srey Doek, commander of Military Division 3 stationed at Preah Vihear temple, described the move as "a good signal of peace". He confirmed Sunday that several Cambodian units were poised to return home as relations between the nations stabilised, but stressed the withdrawal would not jeopardise efforts to safeguard the site.

"We are working to reduce some of our armed forces at Preah Vihear temple in line with the prime minister's orders," he told the Post. "Some are turning back today to their bases in other provinces. The reduction won't affect our ability to defend the temple because the situation there is returning to normal. If the situation changes and we need them to come back, it will only take them 20 minutes to get here."

Senior military officials from both sides are scheduled to meet this week to discuss further cooperation. Songkitti Jaggabatra, supreme commander of the Royal Thai Armed Forces, will visit Royal Cambodian Armed Force's Commander in Chief Pol Saroeun and other senior officials, according to Nem Sowath, Cabinet chief for the Ministry of Defence.

In a further gesture of solidarity, Thai and Cambodian soldiers are due to take part in a joint religious festival at Ta Thav tomorrow. Ten Navun, an RCAF first lieutenant stationed at the border, said: "Our ceremony's purpose is to develop understanding and ease tensions."

The border has never been fully demarcated, in part because it is littered with land mines left over from decades of war in Cambodia.

Civil society and opposition groups could not be reached for comment on Sunday.

Govt confirms intent to sue Chea Mony

The Phnom Penh Post
Monday, 24 August 2009
Chrann Chamroeun

The government reiterated on Sunday its intention to sue the brother of murdered trade union leader Chea Vichea for claiming the authorities were behind the killing, but admitted it has yet to notify him officially.

Chea Mony, president of the Free Trade Union of Workers of the Kingdom of Cambodia, made the remarks at the Appeal Court on August 17. The court had ordered further investigations into the case following requests from the defence lawyers of Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun, the two men convicted of Chea Vichea's shooting in 2004.

"I maintain my stance from the beginning and acknowledge that [Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun] were fake killers, and I urge the court to find the real killers," he said at the time. "I am ready to take responsibility and dare to be imprisoned for my conclusion about my brother's case, which is that the government prepared a plan to kill my brother."

Khiev Sophak, spokesman for the Ministry of Interior, said Sunday that the government intends to use the full force of the law against Chea Mony, although it has yet to notify him of its intentions.

"We haven't sued Chea Mony yet, but our ministry reserves our rights to lodge a complaint against him, without scheduling a specific time, because his criticism of our government was very serious," he said.

Speaking to the Post, Chea Mony said Sunday that he had yet to receive any formal notification of the threatened lawsuit.

"I haven't received any official information from the government about preparing to sue me," he said, stating his continued belief that the authorities were responsible for his brother's killing. "I only know about the threat of a lawsuit because I read about it in several newspapers."

The Cambodian Supreme Court released the two men convicted of murdering the outspoken union leader in December last year, sending their case to the Appeal Court for further investigation pending a retrial and citing contradictory evidence in the prior trials.

I only know about the threatened lawsuit because I read it in the papers

The two men had been in prison for nearly five years of their 20-year sentences, but were freed on provisional release pending their retrial.

Cambodian and international human rights groups that said the pair were used as scapegoats.

In a statement dated August 21, the Free Trade Union renewed its appeal for the judiciary to find and prosecute the real killers. It said the case should be reinvestigated in order to secure justice not just for the victim, but also his family and the two accused, Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun.
The statement condemned the culture of impunity that, it said, was gaining increasing hold in a state where the law is used to silence political dissent.

National exam scores improve

Photo by: Sovan Philong
Students celebrate Friday after receiving their exam results at Chba Om Pav High School.

The Phnom Penh Post
Monday, 24 August 2009
Chhay Channyda

NEARLY 80 percent of the 86,610 high school students who took the national exam last month earned passing scores, according to data from the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport, marking a 6 percent increase over last year.

Chroeng Lim Sry, the director of the ministry's high schools department, said on Friday that 67,377 students - roughly 78 percent of those who sat for the exam - had passed.

Results were made public in Phnom Penh and Kandal province on Friday, and results for all other provinces were posted Saturday.

Chroeng Lim Sry said the results indicated that the quality of instruction in the Kingdom's schools might have improved over last year, when only 70.7 percent of the 77,178 students who took the national exam passed.

Cheating concerns
But Cambodian Independent Teachers Association President Rong Chhun cautioned against reading too much into the scores.

"The high percentage of students passing the exam has not shown their real capacity," he said. "There have been irregularities, like bribing officials for answers and leaking the contents of the math section before the exam."

But Chroeng Lim Sry said the heightened security presence while the exam was being administered had cut down on cheating.

Chan Kham Kheour, director of the education department in Ratanakkiri province, said Friday that she believed fewer students had resorted to cheating this year on account of the security.

"We wanted to see the real capacity of the students," she said.

Kingdom's bats could be at risk, report says

The Phnom Penh Post
Monday, 24 August 2009
Chhay Channyda

THE effects of agricultural encroachment and infrastructure development on the domestic bat population remain understudied, and even basic knowledge about the various species of the flying mammal in Cambodia is lacking, according to a study presented at a seminar Friday.

The study featured the research of recent graduates of the Royal University of Phnom Penh's master's in biodiversity conservation programme.

Va Vuthy's report on bats identified three new species, bringing the national total up to 53.

He was among seven recent graduates to present research findings, which touched on topics from gibbons to crocodiles. One objective of the seminar, according to an RUPP press release, was to "promote collaboration among NGOs and public and private sectors for research in biodiversity conservation".

Infant girl killed in P Vihear bombing

The Phnom Penh Post
Monday, 24 August 2009
Cheang Sokha

A YEAR-OLD girl was killed and her parents severely injured in an explosion over the weekend in Preah Vihear province that police have described as a premeditated attack.

Hun Saravuth, deputy commander of the provincial military police, said the bomb, which exploded at about midnight on Friday, had been placed under the Cham Muslim family's elevated house in Preah Vihear's Kulen district and detonated by remote control.

The parents, whom he identified as Him Les, 42, and Lesro Pihas, 38, had returned home at about 11pm after watching television at a neighbour's house.

The year-old girl, identified only as Liza, died in the explosion, Hun Saravuth said.

The two parents are receiving medical treatment in Phnom Penh, though Hun Saravuth declined to name the hospital in which they were staying.

Motive unknown
"We are investigating the case right now, and we cannot speculate whether this attack was the result of a business deal or of personal revenge," Hun Saravuth said.

Keo Chamroeun, deputy police chief of Preah Vihear province, said Sunday that the victims were not originally from Preah Vihear and were sometimes viewed as "outsiders", but declined to elaborate.

Frenchmen accused in paedophilia cases

Photo by: Photo Supplied
Claude Demeret (left) and Michel Charlot (second from right) Friday at the municipal Anti-Trafficking Police department.

The Phnom Penh Post
Monday, 24 August 2009
Chrann Chamroeun

One of the two stayed in Cambodia three years, recording his deviant sexual exploits, police say.

TWO French nationals were charged in paedophilia cases on Sunday in Phnom Penh Municipal Court with soliciting child prostitution and possessing child pornography.

Sixty-three-year-old Michel Jean Raymond Charlot was charged under Article 34 of the Law on Suppression of Human Trafficking and Sexual Exploitation with soliciting child prostitution, and another Frenchman, 60-year-old Claude Jean-Pierre Demeret, was charged under Article 34 and Article 39 with soliciting child prostitution and possession of child pornography, Phnom Penh Municipal court deputy prosecutor Kry Sok Y said Sunday. The two were to begin serving pretrial detention today.

Charlot was arrested on Thursday at a guesthouse in the Boeung Kak area after he solicited a 16-year-old girl near Wat Phnom and brought her back to his room, according to Municipal Anti-Human Trafficking and Juvenile Protection Bureau police chief Keo Thea. The girl then implicated Demeret, who was arrested at a guesthouse in Chamkarmon distict.

Samleang Seila, Cambodian director for Action Pour Les Enfants (APLE), a child rights group, said Sunday that his organisation tipped off police to suspicion surrounding Charlot, who had been in Cambodia just one week.

"We warmly welcome the fast intervention by police in this case," Samleang Seila said.

After Charlot's arrest, police said, they raided Demeret's guesthouse and confiscated a cache of sex toys and child pornography. Demeret had created dozens of pornographic videos and photos of his deeds, police said, all of which were seized as evidence. Samleang Seila said that Demeret had been living in Cambodia for three years, during which he filmed himself committing a variety of immoral acts.

"Both men claimed at the police station that they filmed and photographed themselves for their own entertainment and not to sell for a profit, but that doesn't make them any less guilty," Samleang Seila said. "We would like to let sex tourists know that Cambodia is not a place where they can commit acts of paedophilia without facing the consequences."

New homes for dump families

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
Former scavenger families from the Stung Meanchey dump site draw numbers Saturday for new plots of land near Oudong Mountain in Kandal province.

The Phnom Penh Post
Monday, 24 August 2009
May Titthara

Ex-scavengers hope to start tourism businesses at Oudong Mountain.

ONE month after City Hall closed Stung Meanchey dump, members of the more than 500 families who formerly earned their living as scavengers there on Saturday received plot numbers for new land located near Oudong Mountain in Kandal province.

The families contributed 277,000,000 riels (US$67,282) towards the purchase of the land, whereas the municipality's Urban Poor Development Fund (UPFD) contributed 625,000,000 riels, said Pen Van Doeun, the chief of Damnak Thom Samakei commune.

The families will be required to pay back the UPDF loan at a rate of 1,200 riels per day.

Each plot of land measures 4.5 metres by 12 metres, Pen Van Doeun said, adding that the families can move there whenever they want.

Several of the Stung Meanchey scavengers, most of whom had been renting property near the dump site, said they were eager to start new businesses that they said would cater to tourists.

"Even though we lost our jobs at the old dump, we are excited to move to a tourism site," said Toch At, a former scavenger.

Phnom Penh Deputy Governor Mann Chhoeun said he was "really proud" of the 535 families.

"They are garbage collectors, but they had a good idea to save money together and to buy their own land," he said. "Who believed they could do that?"

Pursat's 'holy cow' laid to rest

Photo by: Reuters/Chor Sokunthear
People gather Friday to give money, offer incense and collect "holy water" from a dead calf that is rumoured to hold powers of healing after it was born with snakelike skin in Pursat.

The Phnom Penh Post
Monday, 24 August 2009
Suy Se

Damnak Sangke commune residents believe the body of the calf, born with crocodile-like skin despite having died last week, holds magical properties.

Hundreds of Cambodians staged a ceremony after the death of a "holy cow" whose spit could supposedly cure several illnesses, local officials said.

The mystical calf, which reportedly had unusual skin that looked like crocodile hide, was born last week but died just two days later in northern Pursat province's Damnak Sangke, village chief Sok Mim said.

He said about 100 villagers gathered at the house of the cow's owner, Outh Kdep, for a three-day memorial ceremony. Despite living on the poverty line, many of them dug into their pockets to help finance the elaborate funeral.

"A lot of people have flocked to the ceremony. They offered money and lit incense sticks before the cow to pray for it to be reborn and live a longer life," Sok Mim told reporters.


"The cow looked strange. Its legs have signs like carved arts and its skin is like a crocodile's skin. Old people believe that the cow is holy. Some people used the spit from the cow's mouth to cure their toothache and other illness. They said they recovered from aches afterwards," Sok Mim said.

The female calf was born last Tuesday but died Thursday in Damnak Sangke.

A local police official said villagers believed the cow had mystical powers because there had been a lot of rain in the drought-hit village the day after the calf was born.

Yim Rith, 60, a community leader, said Cambodians have for centuries worshipped a cow god believed to bring peace and prosperity, the Associated Press reported. The deity disappeared from their land long ago, but the calf may have been a sign it was returning to help them, the AP quoted him as saying.

The calf's birth drew hundreds of villagers to the remote outpost. There, they lit incense to pray for its well-being and collected its saliva for cures.

The sudden influx of visitors is believed to have panicked the cow's mother. Unable to produce enough milk to feed it, her calf died. Its corpse was placed on a plastic sheet, and people washed water over it in the hope of making the liquid holy.

Srey Nak, 72, said that when some was applied to her joints and teeth, old pains and aches went away, according to the AP.

"But I am very upset that the cow god came to live with us for just three days and has now died," the AP quoted her as saying. "If she stayed longer, then many sick people could have been treated."

Un Dary, general director of religious affairs for Cambodia's Ministry of Cults and Religions, told reporters he did not know about the case, but that many Cambodians subscribe to animism - a belief that spirits can inhabit all sorts of living and inanimate objects.

Whenever an odd animal makes an appearance, he said, it is cause for the superstitious to celebrate.

He speculated that the freak appearance of the calf may have been due to a vitamin deficiency or virus.

Outh Kdeb, 40, told reporters that, had the cow lived, "my family and the people in this area as well as the whole entire Cambodian nation would have achieved more peace and prosperity".

The calf was buried in a rice field near Outh Kdeb's house. Villagers contributed 150,000 riels (US$36.27) and she contributed 200,000 riel for a ceremony with six Buddhist monks to give thanks and wishes for its soul, praying for it to be reborn as soon as possible. AFP

King Father compares CPP to his own rule

Photo by: AFP
King Father Norodom Sihanouk arrives at Phnom Penh International Airport in this file photo.

The Phnom Penh Post
Monday, 24 August 2009
Sam Rith

Former monarch says the ruling party is the "younger sibling" to his own Sangkum Reastr Niyum party of the 1950s

KING Father Norodom Sihanouk on Thursday compared the modern-day Cambodian People's Party to his own Sangkum Reastr Niyum party, founded in 1955, framing both groups as capable stewards of national sovereignty and national progress.

"Now, under the smart leadership of Samdech Hun Sen, Chea Sim, Samdech Heng Samrin ... [the] Cambodian People's Party is following from the legacy of Sangkum Reastr Niyum, during the time that I was president," the King Father said during a meeting with nuns and laymen at his royal residence in Siem Reap province. The event was televised on TVK on Friday and Saturday.

"I have announced publicly to the people that the Cambodian People's Party is the younger sibling of Sangkum Reastr Niyum, especially in its guidance of the people and the nation to happiness and progress in all fields, and in its successful preservation of our sovereignty and independence for generations to come," he said.

In addition to praising the CPP, the monarch also recounted his own political achievements, noting the central role he played in securing independence from France.

"In history, from 1951 to 1953, I was honoured to work towards demanding independence [from France] and completed the pursuit of independence in November 1953," he said.

Cheam Yeap, a CPP lawmaker, said Sunday that he wanted to express gratitude to the King Father for his remarks on behalf of all CPP members. He said that the King Father considered the CPP as the "younger sibling" of Sangkum Reastr Niyum because he recognised the successful polices implemented by the CPP.

King Father Norodom Sihanouk, 87, returned to Cambodia on July 9 after receiving medical treatment in China. He is scheduled to go back to China on September 3 for further medical attention.

Afghan Diary

Photo by: Michael Hayes
Secret ballot: Afghan women display their ink-stained fingers after voting at the Sultan Raiza High School for Girls in Mazar-i-Sharif on Thursday.

The Phnom Penh Post
Monday, 24 August 2009
Michael Hayes

For several reasons, I decided to go to the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif on Thursday to watch Afghans vote.

It seemed like a good idea to get out of the capital and avoid the almost 300-strong international press pack that would be racing around the dusty city following President Karzai and his main opponent, Abdullah Abdullah.

Since domestic air travel is all too often a hit-or-miss endeavor, with flights delayed, cancelled or just never showing up, we took the road to Mazar - one of the few relatively safe highways in the whole country. Only complete fools or those with a death wish take the road to Kandahar. The road to Jalalabad in the east is an equally risky proposition.

As well, all reports indicated that the polling in Mazar would go off relatively smoothly. I had no desire to get attacked with rockets or, even worse, have my throat slit by the Taliban.

I hooked up with two American photographers, and we left Kabul at 6am on election eve, taking the 428-kilometre paved road north. Just outside the city our fixer handed me an Afghan shawl. "Here, put this on," he said. Apparently, I looked too American. What a surprise.

The road up to and through the 3-kilometre-long Salang tunnel, sitting at 3,360 metres, is one of the most majestic in the world. If peace ever breaks out, tourists will no doubt flock here for the views. After a nine-hour haul we arrived in Mazar without incident.

On voting day - the first time in the country's ancient history the government has organised national elections on their own - we showed up at Wazir Akhbar Khan High School promptly at 7am when the polls opened.

Election officials, smartly dressed with finely wrapped turbans and well-groomed beards, sat out front of the school's mud walls exuding a seriousness fit for the occasion. They checked our Election Commission passes and welcomed us into the yard. Male and burqa-clad female voters started to enter the compound in a trickle that soon turned into a steady stream.

Inside the school building, voters - men through one end of the building and women through the other - followed a simple set of procedures: IDs checked, fingers dipped in purple ink, ballots issued, candidates ticked behind basic cardboard stands, and then ballots deposited in boxes. All smooth as Mazari silk.

Leaving the polling station, voters seemed proud to hold up their ink-stained fingers and pose for us photographers. Surprisingly, we were even allowed to go to the women's side to do the same. The men really didn't like it, but the women did not hesitate to display from behind their sparkling white burqas the purple digit.

Those of us from the West have the luxury of being cynical about democracy, but there is something rather moving about seeing a war-weary people participate in a process that they hope may lead to a better, less violent, more equitable future. Needless to say, they deserve it.

We moved on to Balkh University, where voter turnout was larger. Mr Hafiz, one of the school's administrators, was happy to exclaim: "See, no problem. Anyone can vote for anybody they want. No problem. I didn't even tell my children who to vote for."

A young student clung by my side as I strolled through the halls, happy to practise his English. "The election is very peaceful here," he said. "Only problems in the south, not in Mazar."

I asked him how old he was, and when he said 17, I asked how he could vote, thinking that the age requirement for voting was 18.

Mr Hafiz explained. "No, no, he says 17 but actually he's 20. He wants to avoid the military." I told him we were quite familiar in Cambodia with flexible birth dates to avoid conscription. He smiled.

At the Sultan Raiza High School for Girls, the women came out in droves. Once inside the main gate, burqas were pulled back, revealing made-up, excited faces rarely seen by foreign men - or locals, for that matter. An almost festive atmosphere reigned, as if this was one of the few times women could crowd together and chat up a storm in a semi-public environment.

At 5pm we went back to Wazir Akhbar Khan High School to watch the vote-counting. Election observers and party officials remained attentive as each ballot was called out.

After an hour the count was 480 for Abdullah, 56 for Karzai, with single votes for two other candidates - a veritable small sweep for the former Northern Alliance foreign minister who railed against corruption in the Karzai administration during the campaign.

So polling went smoothly in Afghanistan's major northern city. The only low point was when an Associated Press reporter asked me if I'd heard of any violence. When I said no, she replied: "Oh, that stinks. Now I don't have a story." Leave it to the Western press to wish more suffering on the Afghan people.

Initial results won't be announced until September 3. The government says there were 267 attacks by the Taliban throughout the country, and 26 people were killed. Two voters in Kandahar had their ink-stained fingers cut off.

Cries of foul play are widespread, registration cards were readily for sale, and allegations of ballot box stuffing are ubiquitous.

What's that old saw? Democracy is a terrible form of government. But everything else is worse.

Annual bank report states bad loans minimal in 2008

A banking customer withdraws money at an ATM in Phnom Penh this month. Most of the Kingdom’s banks recorded an increase in non-performing loans in 2008, the National Bank of Cambodia said in a report.

Bad loans Rising
ANZ Royal saw NPLs increase from 0.4pc in 2007 to 2.6pc last year
FTB also experienced a rise in NPLs over the same period – from 30.7pc to 32pc
Canadia Bank saw NPLs climb from 6.8pc to 11.1pc
Source: National Bank of Cambodia

The Phnom Penh Post
Monday, 24 August 2009 15:01
Nguon Sovan

Central Bank notes, however, that NPLs increased at a number of major lenders, including Canadia Bank, ANZ Royal and FTB

NON-PERFORMING loans (NPLs) were kept to a "considerably low" level in 2008 despite rapid credit growth, but several large banks performed significantly worse than the sector average, according to a central bank report released Friday.

The National Bank of Cambodia's (NBC) 2008 annual banking supervision report, published on its Web site, showed that non-performing loans rose from 3.4 percent of total loans at the end of 2007 to 3.7 percent as of the end of last year. The absolute value of NPLs climbed from US$52.95 million to $87.44 million over the period as the total value of loans soared 54.7 percent from $1.51 billion to $2.35 billion.

In the report, the NBC described the level as "considerably low" given that the banking system "experienced rapid credit growth" in 2008.

NBC Director General Tal Nay Im said the rise in NPLs was concentrated among a few banks - the report shows these are Canadia Bank, the Foreign Trade Bank of Cambodia (FTB) and ANZ Royal - but said the sector performed strongly.

"It's customary for NPLs to rise when the economy slows down," she said. "[But] it is not serious. The repayments were just late, it does not mean they are in default."

Around 32 percent of the FTB's $86.1 million loan book was non-performing at the end of last year, slightly up from 30.7 percent a year earlier when it had $64.1 million in outstanding loans, according to the report.

Canadia Bank, which owns 46 percent of FTB, reported 11.1 percent of its $409.5 million in loans as non-performing, up from 6.8 percent of a $338.1 million loan book at the end of 2007.

Advanced Bank of Asia was the other poor performer in terms of NPLs, but its NPL ratio of 12.8 percent was an improvement on the 26 percent recorded a year earlier as its loan book doubled to $24.45 million.

Bad loans at Singapore Banking Corp dropped from 12.3 percent to 3.9 percent.

ANZ Royal also suffered, with NPLs rising from 0.4 percent to 2.6 percent over the course of 2008.

FTB General Manager Gui Anvanith said the NBC based its report on unaudited figures. The bank's 2008 financial statement, which he said was audited by PricewaterhouseCoopers, put the bank's NPLs at 28 percent, up from 13 percent a year earlier, he said.

Anvanith said the increase in NPLs was mostly attributable to six large companies that were each three months in arrears on loan repayments. He refused to name the customers but said they were in the agricultural, construction, hotel and power sectors.

"We are not concerned that we will lose money because all the loans we offered have been secured by collateral, and the collateral value is always 100 percent higher than the amount of the loan."

He said NPLs had dropped to about 17 percent by July and anticipated the level to fall further to between 7 percent and 10 percent by the end of the year.

ANZ Royal CEO Stephen Higgins said it was natural NPLs would rise as a result of the financial crisis, as they have in almost every country.

"In that context, a 2.6 percent NPL ratio is fairly modest, and as much as anything, reflects ANZ's conservative approach to provisioning," he wrote in an email Friday. "For these NPLs, we don't actually expect to lose any money on them."

He said they involved a small number of loans written several years ago with a high level of security. A common characteristic was that they were property-related clients experiencing cash-flow issues, he said.

Canadia Bank financial controller Ou Sophanarith said Friday that he expected that NPLs would drop to 7 or 8 percent this year.

"We are quite stable and have no concern because all loans have been secured by collateral," he added.

The report said most credit was channelled to the wholesale and retail trading sectors, followed by the services sector - mainly hotels and restaurants - telecoms and media, and other non-financial services.

Manufacturing also obtained significant bank financing, as did the commercial real estate, residential real estate and construction sectors.

However, while growing credit to the real estate sector was seen as a "major concern for supervisors" as the bursting of the real estate bubble presented a "genuine risk" to the banking system, the annual report added that central bank guidelines limiting bank lending to the real estate sector to 15 percent of lending portfolios, and the doubling of reserve requirements last year to 16 percent, had limited the sector's exposure.

Tal Nay Im said the bad loans were due to producers and manufacturers struggling with cash flow as a result of decreased trading activity, and said the real estate sector was not a major problem.

Despite the rise in NPLs, the report showed 2008 was still a profitable year for the sector. Net profits at Canadia were $34.5 million, making it the country's most profitable bank ahead of Cambodian Public Bank.

Tourism arrivals rebounded in July, says govt

The Phnom Penh Post
Monday, 24 August 2009
May Kunmakara

A 10 percent jump in tourism arrivals in July eroded losses over the first six months of the year, according to unofficial numbers released by Tourism Minister Thong Khon.

More than 163,000 people visited the country last month, he said, bringing arrivals for the first seven months of the year to 1,284,085, a 0.3 percent rise on the 1,246,685 million visitors through to the end of July 2008.

Figures for the first six months of the year show a 1.1 percent fall in visitor arrivals, compared with a year earlier, to 1,086,518. The figures include tourists and business travellers.

An increase in visitors from neighbouring Laos and Vietnam offset a huge fall in arrivals from South Korea, which was the single largest source country for foreign visitors in the early part of 2008 until the bottom fell out of the country's economy.

"The opening of tourism hubs, such as new border crossings and the new national air carrier, a lowering on tourism service prices and efforts to facilitate transport routes into Cambodia were key ways to draw tourists from the region, as well as those from European, during the [financial] crisis," Thong Khon said.

However, he warned that the majority of Vietnamese tended to visit Phnom Penh rather than Siem Reap, meaning the downturn in visitors from South Korea was still felt strongly in Cambodia's main tourism hub.

Accurate numbers were unavailable for July, but visitors from South Korea fell 33 percent year-on-year over the first half from 160,446 to 106,345. Arrivals from Vietnam were up 40 percent over the same period from 105,275 to 147,721, while Laotian visitors increased 141 percent to 52,708.

Thong Khon said arrivals from Vietnam were up 46 percent year-on-year in July.

"Vietnamese tourists still lead tourists from all other countries, followed by those from South Korea and America," he said.

Tourism figures show 79,657 Americans visited during the first six months of the year, marginally up on a year earlier, 70,183 Japanese, down 13.5 percent, and 234,439 Europeans, marginally down on the first six months of 2008.

Ho Vandy, co-chairman of the Government-Private Sector Forum's Tourism Working Group, said the slight recovery in July had been noticed. "[It's] a good sign for all of us who earn a living in the tourism sector, and we are not so concerned now about the slow months earlier this year," he said.

Ho Vandy is also the owner of World Express Tours & Travel.

Cambodia's Hotel Association (CHA) President Luu Meng said the number of bookings in hotels was increasing, indicating the recovery was the start of better times ahead. "We have received more reservations and bookings from people coming to stay and visit our country, mostly from Japan, Europe and America," he said.

Thong Khon said he was optimistic arrivals would expand between 2 percent and 3 percent from 2008, when 2.12 million people visited Cambodia.

South Koreans to invest in corn drier

The Phnom Penh Post
Monday, 24 August 2009
Chun Sophal

SOUTH Korean company KOGID Cambodia Co said Sunday it will start building a US$1.2 million corn-drying plant and accommodation for workers in Battambang provinces's Rotanak Mondol district by the end of this year.

KOGID Manager Oung Savuth said the company will begin building as soon as it finishes discussions with the government and receives a licence.

"We hope that when construction is finished, the machine will be able to dry 500 tonnes of corn a day and will help create jobs for 50 workers," he said.

If the Rotanak Mondol plant proves to be a success, the company will build more, Oung Savuth said, identifying three sites in Battambang and one in Kampong Cham province.

The company in July announced plans to invest $150 million to buy between 70,000 and 150,000 tonnes of red corn from farmers in Battambang, Pailin, Kampong Cham and Kandal provinces to process into animal food for export.

Battambang Chamber of Commerce Chairman Phou Puy said farmers currently sell corn at depressed prices, as they can't dry it sufficiently to meet quality standards at market.

Ten corn-drying plants have already been built in Battambang, Pailin and Banteay Meanchey provinces, all on Cambodia's border with Thailand, Phou Puy said.

Cheam Chan Sophorn, director of Battambang province's agriculture department, said the drying facilities could encourage farmers to grow more corn than last year.

Ministry of Agriculture figures show that 92,732 hectares of corn were planted in Battambang province in 2008, yielding 423,966 tonnes of corn, the highest in the country.

Proposed credit bureau to regulate lending

The Phnom Penh Post
Monday, 24 August 2009
Nguon Sovan

National Bank of Cambodia aims to have the bureau – which it says will manage the Kingdom’s microfinance institutions and establish a national financial database – up and running by 2011

Cambodia's central bank will establish a credit bureau to manage microfinance lending and avoid loan duplication by 2011, a senior official said last week.

National Bank of Cambodia Director General Tal Nay Im said the bureau would allow the country's microfinance institutions (MFIs) to submit lending details into a national financial database accessible across the sector.

It would prevent clients' using one piece of collateral, usually soft title on property, to apply for loans at more than one lender, a practice which has been linked to a rising incidence of non-performing loans in the sector.

Many rural borrowers do not have [hard] land titles, so they use papers recognising their possession of land as collateral to borrow money from a financial institution," she said. "Later, they ask the local authority to issue two or three more papers for the same land or house and use them to borrow from other microfinance institutions."

Credit agents do not ask me what i will use the loan for, but … if i have collateral.

The credit bureau would stamp out the practice, she said.

Figures released earlier this month by the Cambodian Microfinance Association show non-performing loans rising from 1.75 percent at the end of the first quarter to 3.39 percent at the end of the second quarter.

Borrowers spoken to by the Post Friday confirmed the practice.

Pen Huch, 35, from Sdech Kong Khang Cheong commune in Kampot province's Banteay Meas district, said she had borrowed a total of $5,000 from three institutions - ACLEDA bank, MFI Amret and CHC Limited - with the intention of lending the money on at a higher rate of interest.

"Credit agents do not ask me what I will use the loan for, but they asked me if I have collateral," Pen Huch said.

A certificate recognising ownership of land could be bought from local authorities for 5,000 riels ($1.21), she said.

However, Pen Huch said she was cheated by the villagers she lent to and was now unable to repay the loan.

"Now I am completely in debt. I have sold my rice field to repay the debts, but it is still not enough."

She said she still owed $1,000 and alleged that the lenders were forcing her to sell her house to repay the debts or face court action.

Uk Chaim, 50, from the same commune, said she received six land ownership papers from the local authorities for her single piece of land and used them to borrow $4,000 from six creditors last year.

"I have sold my rice field to repay the debts, but now I still owe them about $1,000 and they are forcing me to sell my last property - the land where my house is - to repay the debts," she said.

"The future credit bureau will be definitely significant to prevent rates of NPL from going up," said Peter Sheerin, a credit bureau and risk management adviser at the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the private-sector financing arm of the World Bank.

The IFC has been providing technical support for 18 months but hopes the bureau could be established before 2011, he said. "Now, the major challenge is around having to change the law to provide a legislative framework to allow for the establishment of the credit bureau," Sheerin said, adding it would cost between $2 million and $3 million.

A priority on the legislative front is the creation of laws around handling confidential information, which Tal Nay Im said was critical to allow the bureau to keep track of the credit histories of borrowers.

Mixed media blends nature, science and art as activism

The Tornado, an installation by Meas Sokhorn, uses barbed wire and wood to conjure up a "tornado of rage and violence that lays waste to everything in its path".

A detail from Srey Bandol’s mixed-media piece The Camera.

No artist should only follow the minds and tastes of their audience.

The Phnom Penh Post
Monday, 24 August 2009
Ou Mom

Two Cambodian artists hope their works will prompt people to question their priorities by focusing on humankind’s negative impact on the environment

The vastly different worlds of the arts and mechanics do not, at first, seem likely to mix well.

Yet Cambodian artist Srey Bandol, also the programme director of Phare Ponleu Selpak organisation in Battambang province, has recently proved that these two worlds do not have to be mutually exclusive.

Having spent five months creating 20 complex pictures, with the aim of alerting people to humanity's impact on the environment and nature, Srey Bandol said he hoped his creations can do more than blend wildly different media.

Srey Bandol begins with drawings in pencil and paint, often containing a theme of water. Then he sets electric wiring or chunks of circuit board on the drawing itself, to represent science and the development of the world we live in.

The pictures, which are on exhibit at Java Cafe and Gallery through August 30, have such diverse titles as The Storm, Airplane, After Burn, The Car, Shopping and Chocolate.

The works are exhibited alongside a large-scale sculpture and text installation by Royal University of Fine Arts graduate Meas Sokhorn, who in 2008 was selected as a finalist in the Signature Art Prize hosted by the Singapore Art Museum.

Srey Bandol says his ideas stem from his observation of the world around him. A staunch environmentalist, he said he feels there is too much harm being done by problems such as greenhouse gases.

"The overall theme is to create the idea of preserving the environment through scientific development," he said.

"I want to inform people about the advantages of science. It can help a great deal by modernising and developing the world. Yet on the other hand, science can also provide a lot of problems, so I hope to show how we can develop a balance between nature and science," Srey Bandol explained.

It is quite rare for the contemporary Cambodian to take an interest in art, but Bandol says he has "seen many university students who are interested in those kinds of pictures. Maybe their higher education plays a big part in that, but it is very encouraging".

Many foreign visitors are also taking an interest in Srey Bandol's works.

The striking imagery and powerful sentiment have clearly struck a chord with some tourists, and it has not been uncommon for the artist to sell his works for anything from US$90 to $800.

But despite the lucrative nature of creating and selling art, Srey Bandol says he will always stay true to his principles.

"Artists must strive to invent something new for their audiences, but they also have to be able to interpret their purposes of creativity," he said.

"No artist should only follow the minds and tastes of their audience."

Moreover, Srey Bandol encourages other artists to use their talents to develop the Cambodian arts scene, as is happening in many nearby countries.

He also hopes his pictures will help people pay more attention to environmental issues and plans to exhibit his pictures in Siem Reap to alert people there to the dangers of climate change in the future.

FCCT holds contest for Asia phojos

The Phnom Penh Post
Monday, 24 August 2009
Joel Quenby

Fancy yourself a photographer? The Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand (FCCT) has announced its third annual photojournalism contest. Open to all photographers who have shot in the Asia-Pacific region, entries are requested in four categories: Spot News; Feature Photography; Photo Essay; and Migrants and Refugees, a special category, sponsored by the International Organization for Migration (IOM), for the best entries focusing on people on the move in the Asia-Pacific region. Category winners get $250 and a round-trip flight. A photographer of the year will also be selected and win a US$2,000 cash prize. Entries must be in by October 9. See

Police Blotter: 24 Aug 2009

The Phnom Penh Post
Monday, 24 August 2009
Post Staff

Ten-year-old Hing Srey Leak was pierced in the neck with an arrow on Friday morning while she was hunting for frogs with her 15-year-old aunt, Roth Chhaily. Luckily, the victim was saved by an operation at Svay Rieng provincial hospital. The incident occurred near the family home in Rumdul district, Svay Rieng province. Roth Chhaily was aiming her arrow at a frog, but missed and ended up hitting her niece, who was standing nearby.

A drunken man jumped off Chroy Changvar bridge on Tuesday afternoon, but was, fortunately, rescued by police who were patrolling the river. Police identified the man as 26-year-old Hok Moung Rith of Phnom Penh's Meanchey district. After his rescue, the man seemed to be too drunk to answer questions, so his reason for jumping was not clear. He told police only that he had drunk too much and wanted to jump for fun.

Two men were injured in a conflict that happened on Thursday night in Phnom Penh's Tuol Sangke commune, Russey Keo district. A government official was wounded in the left ear by a moto-taxi driver whom he had punched in the face. The driver was then arrested by the police. The dispute was caused when, while cleaning his motorbike, the driver inadvertently sprayed dust on the official's wife.

A man from Phnom Penh's Choam Chao commune, Dangkor district, was sentenced on Friday to nine years in prison after being convicted of human trafficking. The charges stemmed from an incident in June 2007, when the man forced his wife to have sex with another man to settle a US$15 debt. The perpetrator was then arrested after his wife reported the incident to local police.

Rolling with the punches

Photo by: Heng Chivoan

The Phnom Penh Post
Monday, 24 August 2009
Post Staff

English fighter Charlie Gillespie (left) lands a left to the face of Cambodian Vorn Viva during their bout Thursday at CTN. ISAK world middleweight champion Vorn Viva defeated Charlie Gillespie by unanimous point decision in the main event Thursday night. The Englishman proved a tough opponent, withstanding numerous hard shots and getting rocked in the fifth by a right but refusing to go down. Nearly 250 fight fans turned out to support local kickboxers against a trio of foreigners. Earlier, Thun Sophea outpointed The Contender Asia star Dominik Zidov of Switzerland, although the famed TV bad boy was recovering from a serious motorbike crash that resulted in 42 stitches in his head. In the other co-feature, Sen Bunthen fought to a draw against Ervant "The Wolf" Atagyan of Russia. Sen Bunthen had been accidentally sent over the ropes in the fifth, falling on his head and needing lengthy medical attention. With the round over and the Cambodian still dazed, the fight was declared a draw. In other bouts at CTN Thursday, Um Dara scored a TKO victory over May Sopheap due to doctor stoppage in the fourth, having cut his opponent with an elbow in the third. Also Cheam Adam came back from a second-round knockdown to score a fourth-round TKO over Sam Ounloung.

Kirivong move to claim fifth

Phouchung Neak's Wilson Mene (left) and Heng Sokly (centre) battle with Kirivong Sok Sen Chey’s Ngel Gofar during their match Saturday at Olympic Stadium.

The Phnom Penh Post
Monday, 24 August 2009

Kirivong Sok Sen Chey stated their intent on taking fifth in the CPL Saturday with a 2-0 win over Phouchung Neak, while Crown’s Ayoyinka returns at the double

WITH qualification into the Super 4 more or less out of reach, Kirivong Sok Sen Chey confirmed their intention to take the lucrative fifth spot with a 2-0 victory over relegated Phouchung Neak in the early CPL kickoff Saturday.

The Navy team, still looking to record their first victory of the season, were put under pressure from the kickoff, with Kirivong's Hang Chantrea and Pech Sophaseth missing chances in a goalmouth scramble inside four minutes.

Phouchung eventually settled to start pushing forward with more intent and purpose. Kirivong keeper Kem Makara was forced to rush out of his box to clear twice in quick succession, after his defence had been split by long balls.

Navy continued taking potshots from distance, with captain Kao Niso and Pouv Ratha seeing their shots saved by the Kirivong keeper.

Both sides were struggling to take control of the game. A minute before the break, Kirivong's Vietnamese import Vin Nhektoeung did everything right by turning his marker, only to force his shot wide to sum up a drab first half.

The second period began with greater verve, with Phouchung's Wilson Mene spurning a clear-cut chance three minutes after the restart. They were made to pay for their shortcomings 10 minutes later when their defence went to sleep, allowing Vin all the time and space to cut into the area before sending a low drive past keeper Thai Sineth.

The goal did much to boost Kirivong's confidence, who took the game to the Navy side from there on out. Substitute In Vicheka shot off target from a Julius Chukwumeka through ball.

However, Phouchung almost grabbed an equaliser when Tith Dina fought his way past two Kirivong defenders, but shot straight at the goalkeeper.

Again, Navy were made to pay as Kirivong's Ouk Thorn was given passage into the area before unleashing into the bottom corner to seal victory for the Takeo-based side.

Phnom Penh Crown's Phuong Narong (left) celebrates with his teammate after scoring against Build Bright United.

BBU 0-2 Phnom Penh Crown
Having returned to Cambodia from a failed trip to Turkey just 24 hours before kickoff, Phnom Penh Crown's Tunji Ayoyinka played his part in a 3-1 victory over hard-fighting Build Bright University (BBU) Saturday.

Crown were gifted an early goal inside six minutes, after the game had started in a much faster pace than the earlier fixture. BBU's In Puthearith fumbled as he tried to dribble, and the ball fell in the path of Phuong Narong, who struck a thunderbolt from 30 yards out, which goalkeeper Peng Bunchay had no answer to.

Despite a downpour, BBU were determined to fight back. Ayoyinka missed for Crown at one end, and Augustine Ogbemi did the same for BBU at the other.

BBU were then gifted a goal inside the half-hour mark. A long hoof over the defensive line saw Ogbemi push Tieng Tiny into the on rushing Peng Bunchay, and with the Crown teammates colliding, play was waved on to leave Ogbemi to slot into the empty net.

Four minutes before the interval, substitute Chan Rithy was allowed to run the defence, get to the byline, and make a cross into the 6-yard box for Nigerian Ayoyinka to knock home to put Crown back in the lead.

With the rain subsiding during the break, Crown manager Makara Be reshuffled his defence, but saw Ayoyinka squander numerous chances up front.

BBU began to dominate possession, confining Crown to their own half, with Nigerian duo Ogbemi and Cliff Goodluck terrorising the defence and forcing keeper Peng Bunchay to make several daring saves.

However, BBU couldn't find the leveler and with virtually the last kick of the game, Ayonyinka put the game to bed after being granted acres of space to control a cross from Chan Rithy to pick his spot past Chhim Rotha.

Crown boss Makara Be said he was "happy with the result, but not the way we played", adding that he was testing out some new tactics ahead of Wednesday's game against Bangkok Glass in the Singapore Cup.

"We wanted to build understanding amongst the players who have not really featured in the league," Makara Be said. "Now we can work on the mistakes."

Meanwhile, BBU coach Meas Samoeun also blamed his defence in his postmatch reaction and rued the missed opportunities of his strikers. "My defence let me down when it mattered most," he said. "They gave away the ball too easily and allowed Phnom Penh [Crown] attackers free space inside the box."

"If we'd have taken our chances, we would have won this game," Meas Samoeun remarked.

Photo by: NICK SELLS (

Sunday is a doubly good day for Okonkwo

Photo by: NICK SELLS (
Naga Corp striker Sunday Okonkwo (centre) celebrates scoring his second against Preah Khan Reach on Sunday at Olympic Stadium

The Phnom Penh Post
Monday, 24 August 2009
Ken Gadaffi

SUNDAY Okonkwo's brace on the day of his namesake was all Naga Corp needed to consolidate their top-four position, and confine Preah Khan Reach (PKR) to second position in the CPL. The Nigerian grabbed both goals in the second half to seal a 2-0 win for Naga and severely dent PKR's hopes of reclaiming top spot from Phnom Penh Crown, who extended their lead to six points at the top of the table Saturday.

The first 10 minutes was somewhat dreary, with both sides guilty of slack passing. Poor finishing for Naga prevented them from opening the scoring, and PKR captain Samel Nasa tested Naga keeper Oum Chandara from long range.

PKR could have gotten the curtain-raiser in the 28th minute when Olisa Onyemerea's through-ball found Prak Monyoudom, but the U19 national star shot wide. Up the other end, PKR needed an inch-perfect tackle from Sok Vannak to deny Meas Channa a clear scoring opportunity.

The afternoon heat began to tell on the players, who made the most of every stoppage to take on fluids, with the half ending goalless.

Naga came out in the second half with fervent determination, knowing a further slip-up could open the door to the Super 4 for Build Bright United, Spark FC or Kirivong.

Just two minutes into the second period, Okonkwo netted the first of his two goals when he cashed in on a pass across the goalmouth from Chhem Chun.

Okonkwo remained a thorn in PKR defence, as Naga continued to dominate proceedings and the impressive Nigerian duly grabbed his second. PKR's Sok Vannak took a poor first touch to lose possession, and a slick set of interchanges between Yemi Oyewole and Okonkwo allowed the latter to place the ball in the far corner.

With eight minutes left on the clock, Zila Seidu missed a great chance to draw one back for PKR, and as the seconds ran down, Okonwko was substituted to a standing ovation.

Khemara Keila 2-2 Spark FC
The second game Sunday saw Khemara Keila force out a 2-2 draw against Spark FC before an appreciative crowd of nearly 3,000 at Olympic Stadium.

Although eight points had separated both sides, Spark put up a display worthy of praise as Khemara struggled twice to level. The first half ended one goal apiece, after Prince Justine Prince once again proved why he is probably the best striker in the CPL, scoring another spectacular goal. His header off a Oun Sokboroth cross clipped the crossbar as it sailed in.

Spark were obviously the better side in the first half but paid for not putting the game to bed early when Sophal Oudom equalised from a rebound off a stinging Kuoch Sokumpheak shot.

In the second half, Spark broke back again with a goal just inside the hour mark. Prince Justine finished coolly after turning marker Joel Omoraka and using his pace to beat two other Khemara defenders to extend his personal tally for the club this season to 18.

The game then went a bit topsy-turvy, with both sides pressing hard but creating a string of missed chances.

Then Kuoch Sokumpheak showed his value for Khemara when he took the ball on the near side, cut through two Spark defenders and powered home the equaliser with 18 minutes left on the clock. However, the national team star never got up to celebrate, sustaining an injury that forced his substitution.

Nelson Oladiji had a chance to win the game at the death for Khemara but failed to direct his header goalwards, and both coaches seemed happy to share the points.

Siem Reap Globe Eagles lead the flock

Photo by: NICK SELLS (
Teams from the Cellcard National Volleyball League (Disabled) compete during their second-round match at Olympic Stadium’s indoor hall Saturday.

The Phnom Penh Post
Monday, 24 August 2009

THE indoor sports hall of Olympic Stadium was bustling over the weekend as the 2009 Cellcard National Volleyball League (Disabled) played out its second round of games.

Nine matches were staged over Saturday and Sunday, with teams playing matches of five sets - as opposed to the three sets played in the first round - and three scheduled fixtures had to be postponed due to time constraints. General Secretary of the CNVLD Christopher Minko stated that the extra sets were necessary to improve the fitness level of the players ahead of December's 2009 World Volleyball Cup, to be held in Phnom Penh.

In the first match played Saturday, Kampong Speu CTN Koupreys were too much for their opponents, the Takeo ISPP Templestowe Falcons, whom they spiked out in three straight sets.

The Koupreys dominated the opening exchanges, with two straight sets easily deserved. The Falcons fought back in the third set but couldn't hold off the rampant Koupreys, who recorded their first victory of the competition.

The second matchup between joint league leaders Siem Reap Globe Eagles and Kampong Cham Bartu Bulls was stretched to four sets as the Eagles overcame a resilient Bulls team to maintain their perfect record over four matches. Bulls captain San Veasna provided some scintillating displays, but his numerous powerful spikes couldn't save his side from going down 1-3 to the Siem Reap team.

The third game drew even more cheering fans, as Battambang MOSVY Tigers went to battle with Prey Veng Kingmakers. The Tigers carried a 2-0 record going into the match, while the Kingmakers had to notch a win from their two first-round encounters. Despite the statistics, the Prey Veng team gave their Battambang counterparts a real run for their money, coming from two sets down to draw level and take it into a fifth set. However, the Tigers were the younger and fitter of the sides and prevailed at the end to add to their winning streak.

The fourth and final game of the day saw Pailin Stadt Frechen Lions fall 0-3 to the Kratie Nike Changemakers Dolphins. The Dolphins claimed their first victory of the campaign, while the Lions are still looking for their first after their Sunday game was postponed.

The star game Sunday was between six-time champions Phnom Penh ANZ Royal Dragons and the Siem Reap Globe Eagles. The Eagles again showed their dominance, treating the Dragons to a straight-sets defeat. The combination of national team players Prep Tith, Heav Vannak and Chak Than proved too much for Dragons' stalwarts Thea Vanna, Ny Lida, and Em Mary.

Kampong Speu Global Giving Scorpions, led by captain and national team player Phen Sarath, spanked Battambang Tigers 3-0 Sunday, and later went on to dismiss Kampong Cham Bulls with the same score, to improve their win record to 4-0.

Matches of Kratie Dolphins and Phnom Penh Dragons, Frechen Lions and Prey Veng Cobras, and Battambang Tigers and Takeo Falcons were postponed.

12 Countries Send Delegations to Funeral

Former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, right, and other foreign delegates pay homage during former President Kim Dae-jung’s funeral held at the National Assembly, Sunday. Twelve countries sent delegations to the state funeral. / Korea Times Photo by Oh Dae-keun

By Kim Se-jeong
Staff Reporter

Twelve countries sent delegations to the state funeral of former President Kim Dae-jung, the 2000 Nobel Peace Prize laureate.

Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright led a 10-member U.S. delegation that included Stephen Bosworth, special representative for North Korea policy; Harold Koh, legal adviser at the State Department; and Wendy Sherman, former counselor of the State Department and the former chief negotiator for the Korea-U.S. free trade agreement (FTA) negotiations.

Also included in the U.S. group were Evans Revere, president of the Korea Society, and James Leach, chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Incumbent U.S. Ambassador to Seoul Kathleen Stephens and former American ambassadors were also present. Among them were Thomas C. Hubbard (2001-2004), James T. Laney (1993-1996) and Donald Gregg (1989-1993).

The composition of the U.S. delegation was closely watched, as the issues related to North Korea have made dramatic turns in recent weeks, diplomatic sources said.

China sent an 11-member delegation, headed by former State Councilor Tang Jiaxuan. Included in the group was Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs Hu Zhengyue, in charge of Asian affairs and disarmament.

From Japan, a total of nine delegates were led by former House of Representatives Speaker Yohei Kono.

Russia was represented by the solitary figure of Gleb A. Ivashentsov, the country's ambassador here.

Other foreign delegates included Michel Guerry, a member of the French Senate, and Anthony Byrne, Australian parliamentary secretary for trade.

Cambodia sent Minister of Information Khieu Kanharith and East Timor dispatched Fernando Lasama de Araujo, parliamentary chief.

Tinh Bien customs duty free zone opens


The Mekong Delta province of An Giang opened the first customs duty free zone at the Tinh Bien border gate on August 22.

Currently, six businesses have built supermarkets, shops and warehouses and 43 others have registered to do business there and export their products to Cambodia.

Lam Minh Chieu, Chairman of the An Giang Provincial People’s Committee said that the zone is a place for domestic producers to store their products and look for partners to export products to Cambodia.

On the occasion, the Ministry of Industry and Trade and the An Giang Provincial People’s Committee held a Vietnamese high-quality products festival.

Lasers the weapons of choice in battle to preserve world heritage sites

New Zealand Herald

Monday Aug 24, 2009
By Paul Gallagher

Scientists are to record three-dimensional models of world heritage sites so that they can be recreated if they fall victim to climate change, natural disaster, war or terrorism.

The team of six Scottish scientists - from Historic Scotland and the Glasgow School of Art - will team up next month with an American company, CyArk, to shoot laser beams at Mt Rushmore in South Dakota.

They will create a 3D model accurate to within 3mm, digitally preserving the carved faces of former Presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln should they need to be repaired.

Funding for the project was rushed through because of concerns over the deterioration of the granite rockface.

CyArk has identified several other "at-risk" sites, including the Acropolis in Athens, threatened by acid rain, and Machu Picchu in Peru, which suffers from excessive tourism. Pollution, over-expansion and deforestation may have permanently damaged Tikal National Park in Guatemala, one of the largest archaeological remains of the pre-Columbian Maya civilisation.

CyArk's aim is to create 3D models of 500 sites around the world in a five-year project.

Work began this year on scanning the underworld of Rome, 170km of winding catacombs dating back two millennia, and the Zapotec capital of Monte Alban, in Mexico.

Other sites proposed for digital mapping include Angkor Wat in Cambodia, the Khmer temple complex built for King Suryavarman II in the early 12th century, Thebes in Egypt and Pompeii, the Roman town buried by the eruption of Mt Vesuvius.

The Scottish team has already created 3D models of Stirling Castle and Rosslyn Chapel in Midlothian, Scotland.

Scanning is almost complete on New Lanark's world heritage site, a restored 18th-century cotton mill in southern Scotland. Once work is complete at Mount Rushmore in October, the team will move to Skara Brae, "the heart of Neolithic Orkney", on an island north of Scotland, which is under threat from coastal erosion.

Even in death, Kim Dae-jung unites Koreas

A hearse containing a body of former South Korean President Kim Dae-jung, moves past the mourners after the state funeral for Kim, at the Seoul Plaza in Seoul, South Korea, Sunday, Aug. 23, 2009. Tens of thousands of mourners filled the lawn outside parliament for the state funeral Sunday of ex-President Kim Dae-jung, a longtime defender of democracy and advocate of reconciliation who won the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to reach out to communist North Korea.(AP Photo/ Yonhap, Ha Sa-hun)

Lee Hee-ho, right, widow of the late former South Korean President Kim Dae-jung, cries after she offered a flower to Kim before a burial, after the state funeral at the National Cemetery in Seoul, South Korea, Sunday, Aug. 23, 2009. Tens of thousands of mourners filled the lawn outside parliament for the state funeral Sunday of ex-President Kim Dae-jung, a longtime defender of democracy and advocate of reconciliation who won the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to reach out to communist North Korea.(AP Photo/Jo Yong-Hak, Pool)

Lee Hee-ho, center, widow of the late former South Korean President Kim Dae-jung, and other family members cover Kim's coffin with earth for a burial, after the state funeral at the National Cemetery in Seoul Sunday, Aug. 23, 2009. Tens of thousands of mourners filled the lawn outside parliament for the state funeral Sunday of ex-President Kim Dae-jung, a longtime defender of democracy and advocate of reconciliation who won the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to reach out to communist North Korea.(AP Photo/Jo Yong-Hak, Pool)

REFILE - CORRECTING SENTENCE STRUCTURE Honour guards and workers lower the coffin of former South Korean President Kim Dae-jung into the ground during his state funeral at the National Cemetery in Seoul August 23, 2009. Kim, who was awarded the 2000 Nobel Peace Prize for brokering the first summit between the leaders of the two Koreas that led to a dramatic warming of ties, died on Tuesday at the age of 85. REUTERS/Jo Yong-Hak

Honor guard soldiers carry the coffin of the late former South Korean President Kim Dae-jung for a burial, followed by Kim's family members after the state funeral at the National Cemetery in Seoul Sunday, Aug. 23, 2009. Tens of thousands of mourners filled the lawn outside parliament for the state funeral Sunday of ex-President Kim Dae-jung, a longtime defender of democracy and advocate of reconciliation who won the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to reach out to communist North Korea.(AP Photo/Jo Yong-Hak, Pool)

Honour guards carry the coffin of former South Korean President Kim Dae-jung for his burial during a state funeral at the National Cemetery in Seoul August 23, 2009. Kim, who was awarded the 2000 Nobel Peace Prize for brokering the first summit between the leaders of the two Koreas that led to a dramatic warming of ties, died on Tuesday at the age of 85.REUTERS/Jo Yong-Hak

South Korean Buddhist monks pray during the funeral of the late former South Korean President Kim Dae-jung at the National Assembly in Seoul, South Korea, Sunday, Aug. 23, 2009. Tens of thousands of mourners filled the lawn outside parliament for the state funeral Sunday of Kim, a longtime defender of democracy and advocate of reconciliation who won the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to reach out to communist North Korea.(AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

A vehicle putting up a portrait of late former South Korean Presiden Kim Dae-jung leads a hearse during the state funeral for Kim Dae-jung, at the National Assembly in Seoul, South Korea, Sunday, Aug. 23, 2009. Tens of thousands of mourners filled the lawn outside parliament for the funeral Sunday of ex-President, a longtime defender of democracy and advocate of reconciliation who won the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to reach out to communist North Korea. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)

The hearse containing the body of former South Korean president Kim Dae-Jung passes by city residents during his state funeral in downtown Seoul, August 23. Kim Jong-Il had sent the envoys to Seoul to join national mourning for former president Kim, who pioneered the "sunshine" policy and held the first inter-Korean summit in 2000. (AFP/POOL)

By JEAN H. LEE, Associated Press Writer

Sun Aug 23, 2009

SEOUL, South Korea – In death as in life, Kim Dae-jung managed to bring the two rival Koreas together.

Hours before his funeral Sunday, North Korean officials dispatched to Seoul to pay their respects to the Nobel Peace Prize winner held talks with South Korea's president — the first high-level inter-Korean contact after many months of tension.

They relayed a message about bilateral relations from North Korean leader Kim Jong Il during a half hour of "serious and amicable" talks with President Lee Myung-bak, Lee's spokesman said.

It was a fitting breakthrough on a day of mourning for a man who made history by traveling to Pyongyang in 2000 to meet Kim Jong Il for the first summit between leaders of the two countries.

"Farewell, Mr. Sunshine," read yellow placards held up by mourners who packed the plaza outside City Hall on Sunday to watch a broadcast of his funeral at the National Assembly. Kim died Tuesday at the age of 85.

The two Koreas technically remain in a state of war because their three-year conflict ended in 1953 with a truce, not a peace treaty. Tanks and troops still guard the heavily fortified Demilitarized Zone bisecting the peninsula.

Kim Dae-jung, however, was respected on both sides of the border. As president from 1998 to 2003, he advocated a "Sunshine Policy" of engaging the isolated North and sought to ease reconciliation by plying the impoverished nation with aid.

In 2000, he traveled to Pyongyang for the summit with Kim Jong Il. Raising their hands aloft in a sight that would have been unimaginable just years earlier, the two Kims pledged to embark on a new era of peace on the Korean peninsula.

The following years saw a blossoming of reconciliation projects, including the emotional temporary reunions of thousands of family members separated by the Korean War, the restoration of a cross-border cargo train and inter-Korean business ventures.

Some criticized the flow of money to North Korea, which has evaded years of international pressure to dismantle its nuclear program.

Relations have been tense since Lee, a conservative, took office in February 2008, abandoning the Sunshine Policy and insisting that North Korea must prove its commitment to international nuclear disarmament pacts before it can expect aid.

Pyongyang, in response, ditched the reconciliation talks and most of the inter-Korean projects and routinely excoriated Lee in state media as "scum" and a "traitor" to Korean reconciliation.

The North also has been locked in an international standoff with the U.S. and other nations over its atomic ambitions after launching a rocket, test-firing missiles and conducting an underground nuclear test this year.

However, there have been signs the tensions may be easing. After welcoming former President Bill Clinton during his mission to secure the release of two jailed American reporters, the North freed a South Korean citizen held for four months. Pyongyang also said it would allow some joint projects to resume.

Kim Dae-jung's death prompted condolences from Kim Jong Il, who authorized the high-level delegation of six to pay their respects — the first time the North has sent officials to mourn a South Korean president.

Led by senior Workers' Party official Kim Ki Nam and spy chief Kim Yang Gon, the delegation went straight to the National Assembly mourning site Friday to leave a wreath on behalf of Kim Jong Il and bow before Kim's portrait.

Extending their trip by a day, three North Korean officials met Sunday morning with Lee, relaying Kim Jong Il's thoughts on "progress on inter-Korean cooperation," presidential spokesman Lee Dong-kwan said. He declined to quote the exact message, citing the sensitivity of the matter.

The South Korean president then detailed his government's "consistent and firm" policy on North Korea and reiterated the need for "sincere" dialogue between the two Koreas, the spokesman said.

"We're returning in a positive mood," Kim Ki Nam told reporters before departing.

Hours later, a somber funeral took place at the National Assembly, where Kim — who endured torture, death threats and imprisonment during his decades as a dissident — triumphantly took the oath of office as South Korea's president in 1998.

Though best known abroad for his efforts to reach out to North Korea, Kim Dae-jung was admired at home for devoting his life to the fight for democracy during South Korea's early years of authoritarian rule.

A native of South Jeolla Province in the southwest, he went up against Seoul's military and political elite. He narrowly lost to Park Chung-hee in a 1971 presidential election — a near-win that earned him Park's wrath. Weeks later, Kim was injured in a traffic accident he believed was an assassination attempt, and barely survived a Tokyo abduction engineered by South Korean intelligence.

In 1980, tens of thousands took to the streets in Kim's southern stronghold, Gwangju, to protest the junta that seized power when Park was assassinated in office. Kim, accused of fomenting the protests, was sentenced to death.

International calls for leniency resulted in a suspended prison sentence, and he went into exile. Returning in 1985, he helped usher in a new era of democracy in South Korea.

"We love you, Mr. President Kim Dae-jung. We will not forget you," read one banner outside the National Assembly. "Democracy, peace, human rights: We will carry out your will, Mr. President," read another. Yellow ribbons and balloons lined the street leading to parliament.

Memorials nationwide for the man dubbed the "Nelson Mandela of Asia" for his lifelong struggle for democracy attracted some 700,000 people, the government said.

Prime Minister Han Seung-soo praised Kim in a eulogy as a passionate leader who dedicated his life to democracy, human rights, peace and reconciliation. He recalled Kim's resilience during the hard fight for democracy, and his skillful handling of the financial crisis of the late 1990s.

"Today we are overwhelmed with heartbreaking grief and sorrow. The whole of Korea is truly overcome with great sadness," Han said at the multifaith ceremony held under a blistering sun.

Former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright was among the dignitaries who joined more than 20,000 for the funeral at parliament. Another 14,000 mourners gathered outside City Hall to watch a broadcast of the ceremony, police said.

"My heart feels so empty. I'm so sad," said Kim Nam-yeop, 53. "He is someone who sacrificed his entire life for democracy, North-South Korean peace, and our economy."

Kim was buried at the national cemetery in Seoul, a blanket knit by his widow and a Bible tucked into his coffin.

"I hope you'll leave with the spirit of reconciliation and forgiveness," his wife, Lee Hee-ho, told mourners at City Hall. "This is my husband's last wish."


Associated Press writers Hyung-jin Kim, Nicolai Hartvig and Wanjin Park contributed to this report.