Saturday, 26 September 2009

Cambodia to end Bangkok Airways domestic flights


By THE NATION
Published on September 26, 2009
(CAAI News Media)

Bangkok Airways will discontinue its Phnom Penh-Siem Reap route when its aviation agreement expires on October 25, a company official said.

The official said it had been known for some time that the agreement would not be extended after it expired. Cambodia in July established its own airline, Cambodia Angkor Air, which has been servicing that route since its maiden flight on July 28.

Bangkok Airways had earlier set high hopes on establishing a presence in Cambodia.

Mao Havannal, secretary of state at the State Secretariat of Civil Aviation (SSCA), was quoted by The Phnom Penh Post as saying a decision was made to give a boost to the new national carrier.

"Now that we have our own domestic airline, Bangkok Airways will not be allowed to continue flights when the agreement finishes on October 25," he said.

Bangkok Airways has been |flying four flights daily between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, home of Angkor Wat, since taking over the route last November, when its Siem Reap Airways subsidiary was grounded by the SSCA.

China's Xinhua News Agency quoted SSCA Cabinet Chief Long Chheng as saying on Thursday that a letter had been sent to Bangkok Airways last week informing it of the decision.

Tourism is one of the only sources of foreign exchange for impoverished Cambodia, which is recovering from nearly three decades of conflict, which ended in 1998.

The kingdom wants to receive 3 million tourists annually by next year.

Bangkok Airways public-relations director ML Nantika Worawan, insists the move will not affect the airline's revenue, because only a half-hour flight is involved. The company will remain focused on the Cambodian market, with four daily round-trip flights from Bangkok to Phnom Penh and five to six a day from Bangkok to Siem Reap.

Japan Airlines and Qatar Airways are among several other foreign airlines also operating direct flights to Cambodia.

Star's Edge, Florida Seminar Company, Mixes Old and New in Cambodia


Ilu Kim, trainer for Star's Edge International, and her team of Korean Avatar Masters, mixed the ancient wonders of the temples at Angkor Wat with the technology of the Avatar Course to explore consciousness in Cambodia.
(CAAI News Media)

Altamonte Springs, FL (PRWEB) September 26, 2009 -- The temples at Angkor Wat in Cambodia have seen many awe-inspiring events in the centuries of their existence. Now these amazing creations have been involved in a powerful seminar for increasing awareness.

Led by Ilu Kim, trainer for Star's Edge International, sixty-three people deplaned at Angkor near midnight and were quickly wrapped by the hot and humid air of a Cambodian summer.

The reviewing students were eager to test their mental Avatar tools on the temple grounds. The new students, awed and excited with the history-rich atmosphere, were ready for adventure.

The temples at Angkor, mostly built in the 12th century by king Suryavarman, are arguably one of seven-wonders of the world. The best-preserved temple at Angkor Wat has, over time, served as a king's palace, a state capitol building, a Hindu temple, and today is a Buddhist temple.

For anyone who hasn't done the Avatar Course, it should be noted that many of the Avatar exercises are done outside and open new channels of perception with the environment that result in experiences of amazing clarity. Not only do the details of a thing become clear, the subtle imprints left by time unfold as well.

The course proceeded very smoothly. Checkouts and debriefs at the hotel, lunches in the shade (when the monsoon rains permitted), and the temple grounds for exercises and private sessions. The summer was very hot, discouragingly hot for most visitors, so the students had the space to themselves.

According to Kim, "The beauty of Avatar is that everybody is going through the same inner process of exploration and a reality is shared that leads to mutual care. What might seem like hardships to some people become bonding challenges to the Avatar students."

As Harry Palmer, author of the Avatar Materials, said, "There is no power in complaining. The unexpected is the spice of life."

By the fourth day of the course, the locals, who passed every morning on bicycles or scooters, were waving and smiling at the Avatar group. Some even stopped to ask questions and take brochures.

Before the group left Cambodia, they paid a visit to some local Avatar Masters who work there caring for poor children. These kind people were so happy to meet the group and shared how much their Avatar experience had helped them.

On the last day all the students finished and everyone went sightseeing. Cambodia is a metaphor for the Avatar experience: it is a mixture of the old and the new, of the awesome and amazing.

"We flapped our Avatar wings in consciousness in Angkor," said Kim, "and the effect will be a smiling drop of compassion added to the ocean of consciousness."

Developed in 1986, the Avatar Course is delivered in 20 languages and is taught by licensed Avatar Masters in 71 countries. Graduates report reduced stress, increases in personal happiness, and greater success in reaching their goals. Newsletter at http://www.theavatartimes.com/

For additional information on the Avatar course, contact Harry Palmer or visit http://www.theavatarcourse.com/.

About Star's Edge International:
Star's Edge International publishes books, videos, online materials, and a series of experiential courses that guide people into and through transformative experiences. The company was founded in 1986 and operates worldwide. Avatar® is a registered trademark of Star's Edge, Inc.

Contact:
Harry Palmer
Star's Edge International
(407) 788-3090

Vietnam 'making a mockery' of rights obligations, says Human Rights Watch

http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/

From correspondents in Hanoi | September 26, 2009

Article from: Agence France-Presse
(CAAI News Media)

VIETNAM is making a mockery of its obligations under the UN Human Rights Council, an international rights group said.

The communist country has rejected a raft of recommendations to improve its rights record raised during a periodic review by the UN Human Rights Council that ended this week, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a statement.

"Vietnam - a member of the UN Security Council - has made a mockery of its engagement at the UN Human Rights Council," said Elaine Pearson, deputy Asia director of the New York-based organisation.

"Vietnam rejected even the most benign recommendations based on the international covenants it has signed, such as allowing people to promote human rights or express their opinions."

Hanoi rejected 45 recommendations from UN member states, HRW said, including lifting internet and blogging controls on privately owned media, allowing groups and individuals to promote human rights, abolishing the death penalty and releasing peaceful prisoners of conscience.

Of the 93 recommendations accepted by the Vietnamese Government, many consisted only of broad statements of intent to "consider" proposals by member states, HRW said.

"Shockingly, Vietnam denied to the Human Rights Council that it has arrested and imprisoned hundreds of peaceful dissidents and independent religious activists," said Ms Pearson.

"Yet in just the four months since Vietnam's last appearance at the council, it has arrested scores more."

Vietnam said during the Human Rights Council review process that it had no "so-called 'prisoners of conscience'", that no one was arrested for criticising the Government and denied torturing offenders.

"Like China, Vietnam has rebuffed the Human Rights Council in an effort to sanitise its abysmal rights record," said Ms Pearson.

"The UN's rights review offers proof to the world that despite international concern, Vietnam has no real intention of improving its record."

The UN Human Rights Council made its recommendations after one of its regular examinations of a state's human rights records.

More than 10 people have been arrested recently in Vietnam for spreading "propaganda against the state". HRW highlighted the case of Huynh Ba, a land rights activist and member of the Khmer Krom ethnic minority who led protests by farmers in the Mekong Delta over confiscation of their land who was arrested on May 30.

More than 1000 members of the largely Christian Montagnards community fled to Cambodia after security forces put down demonstrations in the Central Highlands in 2001 against land confiscation and religious persecution.

Vietnam has strongly denied a 2006 accusation by Human Rights Watch that it detained and tortured Montagnards who returned home under a tripartite agreement after fleeing to Cambodia.

Cambodians testify for war crimes tribunal


In this photo taken Friday, Sept. 18, 2009, Cambodian-Americans Rany Ork, left, and Chanthan Pich, foreground, who survived the wrath of the Khmer Rouge, wipe tears from their eyes during a workshop in Long Beach, Calif. The two survivors are some of the many Cambodian refugees across the U.S. who are sharing their memories of Khmer Rouge atrocities with a legal team so they can be used as evidence in an international war crimes tribunal underway in Phnom Penh. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)


In this photo taken Friday, Sept. 18, 2009, Cambodian-American Chorn Van wipes away tears as she listens to Khmer Rouge survivors document their stories of war crimes to others during a workshop in Long Beach, Calif. Van is one of the many Cambodian refugees across the U.S. who are sharing their memories of Khmer Rouge atrocities with a legal team so they can be used as evidence in an international war crimes tribunal underway in Phnom Penh. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)


In this photo taken Friday, Sept. 18, 2009, Cambodian-American Nhen Chheng, 70, who survived the rath of the Khmer Rouge, wipes tears away as she recalls her experiences to other survivors during a workshop in Long Beach, Calif. Prom is one of dozens of Cambodian refugees across the U.S. who are sharing their memories of Khmer Rouge atrocities with a legal team so they can be used as evidence in an international war crimes tribunal underway in Phnom Penh. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)


In this photo taken Friday, Sept. 18, 2009, Cambodian-American Sam Oeun York ,71, whose husband was killed by the Khmer Rouge, tells participants at a Long Beach, Calif., workshop how she survived the atrocities in Cambodia. York is one of dozens of Cambodian refugees speaking publicly _ many for the first time _ about Khmer Rouge atrocities so a legal team can use their testimony in an international war crimes tribunal underway in Phnom Penh, the Cambodian capital. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)


In this photo taken Friday, Sept. 18, 2009, Leakhena Nou, left, a Cambodian-American sociology professor at Cal State Long Beach, comforts Roth Prom, 63, during a workshop at the United Cambodian Community Center in Long Beach, Calif. Prom, is one of dozens of Cambodian refugees across the U.S. who are sharing their memories of Khmer Rouge atrocities with a legal team so they can be used as evidence in an international war crimes tribunal underway in Phnom Penh. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)


By GILLIAN FLACCUS (AP)
(CAAI News Media)

LONG BEACH, Calif. — The tiny Cambodian woman trembled slightly and stared blankly ahead as she told the story that has haunted her for half a lifetime: her parents and brother died in Khmer Rouge labor camps. Her baby perished in a refugee camp.

Roth Prom has wanted to die every day since and had never spoken those words so publicly until last week, when five minutes became the chance for justice she has longed for silently for so many years.

"I'm depressed in my head, I'm depressed in my stomach and in my heart. I have no hope in my body, I have nothing to live for," she said quietly. "All I have is just my bare hands."

As the tiny woman in the polka dot blouse slipped back to her seat, many of the nearly two dozen other Cambodian refugees in the room began to weep. They know Prom's pain. They were all there to tell stories just like hers.

Prom, 63, is one of dozens of Cambodian refugees speaking publicly — many for the first time — about Khmer Rouge atrocities so a legal team can use their testimony in an international war crimes tribunal underway in Phnom Penh, the Cambodian capital.

From Virginia to California, refugees have spent the past few months pouring out long-suppressed memories to volunteers who fill notebooks with reports of gang rapes, execution, starvation, forced labor and brutal beatings. They attach names of dead relatives, sometimes a half-dozen per person, and scrawl out names of labor camps and far-flung villages where they lived for years on the edge of starvation.

The Khmer Rouge is implicated in wiping out an estimated 1.7 million Cambodians, nearly a quarter of the population, during their rule from 1975-79 under Pol Pot. People died from disease, overwork, starvation and execution in the notorious "killing fields."

Cambodians who fled their homeland decades ago relish the chance to participate in the war crimes trials unfolding thousands of miles away. The tribunal, a joint court created by the Cambodian government and the United Nations, allows Khmer Rouge victims to participate as witnesses, complainants and civil parties.

Depending on the stories, the accuracy of their memories and their own willingness to participate, survivors could be called to testify for the prosecution or defense and those filing as civil parties could be entitled to reparations. At a minimum, all filings will be archived and reviewed by those collecting testimony from survivors.

Leakhena Nou, the Cambodian-American sociology professor at Cal State Long Beach organizing the U.S. workshops, said submitting evidence forms is cathartic for victims who have often kept their trauma secret from spouses and American-born children. Many suffer from post-traumatic stress and have symptoms of severe depression, including memory loss, flashbacks and suicidal thoughts.

"They have a sense of powerlessness, but they have a lot more power than they realize," said Nou, founder of the Applied Social Research Institute of Cambodia. "Most of them have not even talked about it for 30 years. They've been silent for so long."

Last week, testimony in Phnom Penh concluded in the trial of Kaing Guek Eav, who commanded the S-21 prison where up to 16,000 people were tortured and killed. Eav, also known as Duch, was the first to go before the tribunal and is charged with crimes against humanity, war crimes, murder and torture. More than 23,000 visitors attended his trial, which continues in November with closing arguments.

Four other senior Khmer Rouge leaders are in custody awaiting trial set for January. Any testimony submitted by the end of the year can be used by prosecutors to bolster those cases.

The U.N. and Cambodian branches of the tribunal did not respond to e-mailed requests for comment.

Grassroots organizers with backing from the Asian Pacific American Institute at New York University have been building trust within the Cambodian-American communities for nearly two years but still expected many to shun the process out of fear and suspicion. Some victims believe the tribunal is run by the Khmer Rouge, while others fear if they speak out they could endanger relatives still living in Cambodia.

But Nou said turnout has been high, with some people even traveling from Arizona to share stories at the Southern California workshops held at a Cambodian community center.

"Before, they assumed that no one wanted to listen to them," she said. "They'll say, 'We thought that no one cared, that no one wanted to listen. But now that I know people want to listen, I have nothing else to lose. I've lost everything else already.'"

So far, the team has collected more than 100 statements from Cambodian expatriates at workshops in Virginia, Maryland, Orange County and Long Beach — home to the largest Cambodian ex-pat population. Future sessions are planned this fall in Oregon, Northern California, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania.

They've uncovered chilling stories along the way.

One woman in Long Beach told of being gang-raped from dawn to dusk by Khmer Rouge cadres while 6 1/2 months pregnant. She never told her husband and only came forward last week because he had passed away.

Another recalled being held at gunpoint with her brother and being forced to watch as her father was executed and then disemboweled, his heart, liver and stomach ripped out by soldiers. The woman, now in her 50s, told the story to a volunteer in three distinct "spirit voices," as if to detach herself from the painful memories.

For Prom, the recent workshop in Little Cambodia was a chance to honor the memory of her loved ones — and to get justice for the brutal crimes that ruined her life and so many others. The Khmer Rouge split up her family, she was forced to pull a plow through rice paddies like an ox and her child died later in a refugee camp.

Prom harbors thoughts of killing herself and suffers from memory loss. She's terrified of the night — the time when Khmer Rouge soldiers would take neighbors away without explanation, never to be seen again.

"I try to forget, but it's hard to forget," Prom told a translator who dictated it to a volunteer law student. Prom had already penciled her story on paper in the rolling script of her native Khmer.

"I want to find justice for myself and for the Cambodian people," she said. "I'm here to teach history to the next generation, so this horrific crime will never happen again."

1,590 Gangsters Arrested for ‘education and Imprisonment’


Picture by DPA

Written by DAP NEWS -- Saturday, 26 September 2009
(CAAI News Media)

The Interior Ministry on Friday announced that so far this year authorities have arrested 1,590 gangsters across the country for morality education, with some sent to court for criminal behaviour.

Of those arrested, 454 gangsters, including 76 women, have been sent to the court for trial because they destroyed private and public property, or hurt innocents and competent authorities, or used drugs, Khieu Sopheak, Interior Ministry spokesman, told reporters at a press conference at the ministry.

“The rest we have educated in morality for them to be good youths in society and understand their responsibility to contribute to build a good society and good families. We require the guarantee from a family guardian before we release them,” he added.

“Some gangsters collect in groups to stay at guest houses, hotels, and entertainments clubs to use drugs. They finally become robbers and have created disorder, insecurity and crime,” he said. “In future, we will have a law for entertainment club management to combat these gangsters. So far we have cooperated with owners of the clubs to educate about the gangsters.”

“We have made efforts to prevent the youth from becoming gangsters through the media and education in schools but those youth chose to become gangsters themselves. Some subordinates in the groups are involved with disrupting neighboring people at night and committing crimes.”

Gangsters range from ten-year-olds to pensioners over 60, he stressed. “A large number of gangsters are located in wealthy areas like Kampo ng Cham, Battambang, Siem Reap and Preah Sihanouk provinces, and in Phnom Penh,” he added.

“We have been trying to take action regularly to crackdown on gangsters according to the guidelines from the Government. Gangsters come from different backgrounds, including wealthy, powerful families and the poor.”

Gangsters have spread to rural areas and have used swords to chop and kill each other in dancing ceremonies at local communities, he added. “We have arrested a lot of gangsters for education and imprisonment but we did not satisfy the people,” he said. “We need good youth for our society.”

“In total we have had 8,500 gangsters since 2006. From now on, the village chiefs, commune councilors have to provide the signs of the gangster in their communities to the competent police authorities in their areas to prevent them to be crimes, he said, adding that currently we have over 22,000 prisoners and inmates in 22 jails in total across the country, he said, adding that crimes have still increased in each year”

Cambodian gangsters lack a formal system of leadership, like crime syndicates in foreign countries, Keat Chantharith, spokesman for Cambodian National Police Commission, told reporters at the press conference. “They have just collected together as a group to drink alcohol and destroy private and public property, fighting each other for revenge in some cases.”

“In the near future we will have law enforcement experts and legal advisors from the US to help us to organize the law on those gangsters,” he said. “We have to join together to prevent gangsters.”

Cambodia Spend US$6 Million Annually on Prisoners’ Food: Official

Written by DAP NEWS -- Saturday, 26 September 2009
(CAAI News Media)

The Cambodian Government last year spent about US$6 million for to feed over 22,000 prison inmates across the country, Interior Ministry spok-esman Khieu Sopheak told DAP News Cambodia on Friday.

The figure is equal to CR2,800 (about US$0.70) per prisoner per day for food, he said a press conference at the ministry.

He called the sum “a heavy matter for the Government.”

“We also are improving the living conditions of those prisoners and inmates,” he said, adding that authorities had also increased the food allowances.

“We do not want to see anyone to be arrested and sentenced by the court and but they committed the crimes by their own choice, so finally they were sent to jail,” Khieu Sopheak said. Cambodia currently has a total of over 22,000 prisoners in 22 jails across the kingdom, he said. “Now we are facing gangsters and so far this year our police authorities arrested 1,590 gangsters across the country to educate about morality and imprison them,” he added.

Of those, 454, including 76 women, have been sent to the court, he said. The suspects were changed with drugs offenses, robbery, destroying private and state properties, disturbing other neighboring people, and “their acts created the disorder security in the society,” the Interior Ministry spokesman said.

Cambodian gangsters have not so far been led by a centralized system of leadership, like the mafia in foreign countries, Keat Chantharith, spokesman for Cambodian National Police Commission, told reporters at the press conference.

Local people, village chiefs, and commune councilors in communities must report crimes to police to prevent gangsters gaining control of areas, he said.

Mu Sochua Dodges Journalists at Airport

Written by DAP NEWS -- Saturday, 26 September 2009
(CAAI News Media)

Mu Sochua, opposition Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker, rebuffed a small crowd of around 10 waiting journalists upon her arrival at Phnom Penh International Airport as she was escorted through the VIP gate.

Mu Sochua’s actions were puzzling to some of the Cambodian reporters given her recent scathing criticisms of democracy and human rights in Cambodia during her trip to the US.

Mu Sochua, who testified before US Congress on September 10, said her trip to the US had hopefully led to more attention being paid to Cambodia’s rights issues and more monitoring of the situation by the US.

“First, they will send a team of high-level delegates to clearly assess the situation in Cambodia,” said Mu Sochua, who represents the SRP in Kampot province. “Second, they said aid must be attached to the respect of human rights. Third, they will pay close attention and they will monitor and take action to end the injustice of the courts to crack down on opposition members of parliament,” she said, according to a story published on the KI-Media.

Mu Sochua referred to herself and SRP lawmaker Ho Vann, both of whom had their immunity stripped earlier this year and faced lawsuits from high-level officials.

She testified before the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission of the US House of Representatives, along with Kek Galabru, founder of the rights group Lichado, and Moeun Tola, of the Community Legal Education Center. More especially, Mu Sochua called on the US government to stop aid to the Cambodian military.

Her remarks were dismissed by Cambodian Government officials. Recently, two of 9 National Assembly Commissions issued a statement rejecting all Mu Sochua’s comments.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation (MFAIC) held an official press conference to dismiss Mu Sochua’s allegations. Uch Borith, MFAIC secretary of state said he had informed US Ambassador to Cambodia Carol A. Rodley of the real facts.

Mu Sochua’s claim to have had a talk with Hillary Clinton, US Secretary of State was true, but, according to Uch Borith, the meeting just took place “in the street and out of the work office, it was not a formal talk.”

Cambodian Minister of Defense Tea Banh on September 23 told reporters at Phnom Penh International Airport, after his return from the US, that Robert Gates, US Defense Minister, ignored the request made from US senators, asking him to comment on democratic system implementation and human right in Cambodia made by some opposition party lawmakers and other NGOs.

Mu Sochua’s call for the US Government to stop aid to the Cambodian military was received with disappointment from soldiers at Preah Vihear.

Even Keo Sovanaroth, SRP secretary-general, said that she supported the US Government’s continuing military support to Cambodia in order to strengthen and build better cooperation with Cambodia in all fields, especially the military.

Mu Sochua could not reached for comment on Friday over her trip to the US.

Before leaving for the US, Mu Sochua rejected the Phnom Penh Municipal Court ruling after she lost a defamation case against Prime Minister Hun Sen.

Gov’t, Int’l Economists Tussle over 2009 Projections

Written by DAP NEWS -- Saturday, 26 September 2009
(CAAI News Media)

The gulf between the rosy prognostications of the Cambodian Government and the increasingly somber predictions of international experts has grown in recent days, with the IMF predicting a 2.75 percent contraction in annual real GDP for 2009, while Cambodian Govern- ment officials predicted from a 0.5 percent contraction to a brisk 6 percent increase.

Despite the ongoing global economic crisis (GEC), the Cambodian economy is healthy, Government sources said.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen has publicly stated that the Government will strive to reach over 6 percent growth for 2009, though he noted that inflation and the exchange rate presented risks. The National Bank of Cambodia (NBC) has said it believes GDP will increase 2.1 percent in 2009, significantly higher than the IMF estimate.

Chan Sophal, a well-respected Cambodian economist, said the Cambodian economy is likely to contract 2-3 percent in 2009, similar to the IMF’s prediction.

“If the Cambodian Government wants an increase of 6 percent, they must spend a lot of cash” in subsidies and stimulus, he added.

Cheam Yeap, a Cambodian MP, president of the Economic Council and Auditor of the National Assembly, claimed that Cambodia could see 6 percent growth. He said he was less optimistic about other international economies, “but certainly Cambodia has increased since 2007,” he said.

Other institutions or experts were free to predict whatever they wished for Cambodia, Cheam Yeap continued, claiming that “Cambodia was OK during the serious problems that spread out to the whole world.” He conceded there had been effects on the Cambodian financial sector.

“It can be said that all sectors, including tourism and infrastructure, as well as construction, met some issues too. But the Cambodian Government tried to manage this storm.”

US Peace Corps Volunteers Sworn in

Written by DAP NEWS -- Saturday, 26 September 2009
(CAAI News Media)

Fourty-two US Peace Corps volunteers on Friday solemnly swore to live up o their responsibilities as volunteers in 11 Cambodian provinces.

Carol A. Rodley, US ambassador to Phnom Penh, said that the Peace Corps combines a number of basic traits from American society—willingness to volunteer, willingness to learn, willingness to share, belief in change, and enthusiasm to focus on the tasks at hand.

“In nearly 49 years, nearly 200,000 Americans of all ages and walks of life have served in the Peace Corps in 139 countries around the world,” said Ambassador Rodley.

“Cambodia has asked the Peace Corps to provide English teachers at the high school level and in teachers training centers through the country,” she said. “We all know that English is the language of tourism and the internet, and that students who learn English are able to explore a whole new world through their mastery of this tool.”

The ambassador stated that Peace Corps is proud of be able to assist Cambodians in their quest to learn English, but their involvement is not limited to language instruction. “In the past our volunteers have also helped build and supply school libraries, internets centers, school gardens, sports clubs, and environmental study groups, and I believe that these are the reasons why the Prime Minister and others have been so supportive of the Peace Corps recently and we expect this new group to carry on the tradition.”

Minister of Education, Youth and Sports Im Sothy said that the event showed the increasing cooperation between Cambodia and the US.

“The cooperation between Cambodia and US is still developing and we admire all volunteers who participate in the development of Cambodian society,” he added.

Jon Darrah, Peace Corps Cambodia Country Director, said that worldwide, the Peace Corps promotes peace through three goals: to help people of other countries in meeting their needs of trained manpower; to promote a better understanding of the American people on the part of the people served; and to promote a better understanding of other people on the part of the American people.

Peace Corps was established by US President John F. Kennedy in 1961 in order to promote international peace and friendship through the service of American Volunteers overseas. It is a non-political, non-religious, non-profit agency of the US Government that provides qualified technical expertise to countries that request Peace Corps’ assistance.

Peace Corps Volunteers have worked closely with local partners in more than 137 countries worldwide over the past four decades to address development needs, improve basic conditions, and create new opportunities. Today Peace Corps support more than 7,533 Peace Corps Volunteers in over 71 countries all over the world.

RFA Journalists Burn Tires Against Dismissal

Written by DAP NEWS -- Saturday, 26 September 2009
(CAAI News Media)

Three famous and important of Radio Free Asia (RFA) Khmer Service in Phnom Penh on Friday evening held a protest by burning tires in front of its main office as its top leaders is continuing to fire them unreasonably.

Those workers are Huy Vannak, Seng Sorphaorn and Thai Sothea held the burning demonstration. The demonstration was made following their top leaders, Kim Sos, who decided to fire Huy Vannak and Thai Sothea.

Huy Vannak is known as he often reports related to human right abuse, anti-corruption, land disputes, human trafficking, especially he hosts call shows for RFA Khmer Service program.

Thai Sothea is FRA website monitoring chief. Totally, the top leaders of RFA in Phnom Penh so far has fired three workers including Seang Sorphorn, who was fired on Thursday. firing Huy Vannak and Thai Sothea following, both of them opposed to sack Seang Sorphaorn showing that this demission due to revenge and abuse of internal regulation.

Chea Mony, Cambodia Free Trade Union President, on Friday told DAP News Cambodia that it is not legal.

“According to the law, if any worker is working more than two years, to fire them has to be done as they have mistakes, but if any firing without reason, it is to be said illegally,” he confirmed.

Among those workers at RFA,only one person has been working for RFA more than two years as it follows the law.

Huy Vannak and Thai Sothea called this firing as illegal as saying that “This is not legal that I have to protest.”

Kim Sos refused to comments to DAP News Cambodia with this matters as he asked to return questions to the main office in Washington DC, USA.

The protesters reiterated that they will send a statement to US Embassy in Phnom Penh continuing to protest if not having any resolutions in these matters.

Three sacked Radio Free Asia staff burned tyres in front of Radio Free Asia's office in Phnom Penh

Source: Deum Ampil Newpspaper
Reported in English by Khmerization

Two more Radio Free Asia's staff had been sacked after they protested against the sacking of one of their colleague a day earlier, reported Deum Ampil News.

On Thursday (24th Sept.) Ms. Sieng Sophorn has been told that RFA does not have the fund to continue to employ her any longer. However, she disputed the RFA's reason for her sacking and accused RFA management of cronyism. "If Radio Free Asia said that it does not have the money, then why did it continue to recruit more staff?", she said.

Deum Ampil reported that two more staff, Mr. Huy Vannak and Mr. Thai Sothea, were sacked on Friday (25th) after they protested against the sacking of Ms. Sieng Sophorn. However, they said that Mr. Kem Sos, RFA's director of Khmer Services, told them that their sackings were due to RFA's restructure, which they don't believe.

At 6:50pm on Friday night, they burned car tyres in front of RFA's office which located behind the Royal Palace in protest against their sackings.

Scenes of tyre burnings by the three sacked RFA reporters.






First Person: Aids Vaccine Breakthrough Reaction



Mark Cloutier, President of Pangaea Global AIDS Foundation, reacts to a breakthrough in the search for an AIDS vaccine. An experimental vaccine cut the risk of HIV infection by more than 31 percent. (Sept. 24)

Heng Samrin Agrees with Son Chhay to Ask So Khun to Explain Telecommunications Conflict – Friday, 25.9.2009

Posted on 26 September 2009
The Mirror, Vol. 13, No. 631
(CAAI News Media)

“Uncertain management rules of the Minister of Post and Telecommunications, Mr. So Khun, for mobile phone companies motivated a Sam Rainsy Party parliamentarian to ask for explanations, a move which later on was also supported by the president of the National Assembly, Mr. Heng Samrin. Requested from the minister is only an explanation in writing, but not a direct verbal clarification at the National Assembly.

“A Sam Rainsy Party parliamentarian from Phnom Penh, Mr. Son Chhay, wrote on 14 September 2009 to request the Minister of Post and Telecommunications, Mr. So Khun, to clarify some conflicts in the telecommunications sector. Mr. Heng Samrin agreed to Mr. Son Chhay’s request on 23 September 2009, as two mobile phone companies are having a dispute with each other, while they now seek for a solution through the courts. Mr. Son Chhay’s request was made in accordance with Article 96 of the Constitutions [see The Mirror of yesterday], and also to take care of some difficulties that the people who are mobile phone users encounter.

“Mr. Son Chhay wrote, ‘Seeing severe confusion in telecommunications, while it is the obligation of the government to improve telecommunications, so that operations function with good and cheap services to earn much resources for the state – which is not implemented now, and in contrast, the accessibility of mobile phone systems in Cambodia became worse, when making a call to another system, communication is much more expensive than in neighboring countries, and the state cannot control the income from this sector.’

“Mr. Son Chhay added in his letter, ‘To provide more time for Your Excellency to present your clarifications to the National Assembly at a later time, I would like now to ask for a written clarification of the following questions:’

“’1. So far, how many companies has the Ministry licensed to invest in the mobile phone sector? How much has to be paid for each license? And how many companies are actually operating after having received a license?

“’2. How many VoIP [voice over Internet protocol] licenses has the Ministry provided or sold to individuals or to private companies? How much income can a license earn for the state? Does the ministry take any action against those who have received licenses, but do not operate the related services, and keep the licenses to sell them for gain?

“’3. Does the Ministry have the tools to properly manage the income earned from the telecommunications sector, while the Ministry does not have the technical possibility to clearly monitor the volume of service activities in this sector, because the Ministry has always to wait until the companies come with their own information about how much they have to pay to the state? This procedure is leading to a great loss of national income.’

“At the end of the letter, Mr. Son Chhay asked the Minister of Post and Telecommunications, Mr. So Khun, to respond to all the above questions, as well as to provide other relevant documents to the National Assembly soon, according to Article 96 of the Constitution.

“Mr. Son Chhay’s letter was written while the Mobitel company of Oknha Kit Meng is having a sharp dispute with the Beeline company, which provides the services to its clients cheaply. The Mobitel company of Oknha Kit Meng, that has served its clients for many years, wants the Beeline company to charge – from its clients – its services also more expensively.

“The dispute leads to calls for intervention by Mr. So Khun, but some observers have the impression that Mr. So Khun has the intention to protect the benefits of the Mobitel company, which charges high fees for its services from its clients. It is the biggest mobile phone service provider, but it is also the company with the reputation to provide poorer inter-systems calls, compared to other mobile phone companies in Cambodia.

“However, it is not expected that Mr. So Khun will really explain some of the claimed irregularities, which Mr. Son Chhay called ‘anarchic.’

“It should be remembered that, at present, there are many mobile phone companies in Cambodia, including Mobitel, also known as ‘the 012 company,’ which has the most clients in the country, as it was the first company to operate mobile phones in Cambodia. It is reported that Mobitel provides services for some government officials without charging them.

“Analysts said that because this company allows some Khmer senior officials to call free of charge, Mobitel tries to earn income from many clients by charging them high fees, in order to continue the free use by high ranking officials.”

Khmer Machas Srok, Vol.3, #494-495, 24-25.9.2009
Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Friday, 25 September 2009

Follow the Mekong


Traffic island ... bustling trade at Cai Rang floating market. Photo: Kraig Lieb/Lonely Planet

(CAAI News Media)

September 26, 2009

With time to watch the ebb and flow of a river's life, Graham Reilly floats from Vietnam to Cambodia.
 I stare from the riverbank at this astonishingly vast and lively world of water. Here, in the charming provincial city of Can Tho in the heart of southern Vietnam's Mekong Delta, it is as if the land is merely an afterthought. Everything is about the river and the way of life it sustains.

It is a world of colour and movement, of a comforting spray of cool water on your face as you are rowed back to your hotel at night in a slim stick of a boat, of the sleepy glint of dusk as you trail your finger across the river's surface, of the cough and splutter of a small passenger ferry as it crosses the river to Vinh Long, of the throaty gurgle of a rice boat as it slowly motors to Ho Chi Minh City or Cambodia.

The Mekong begins its 4500-kilometre journey to the sea in Tibet and winds its way through China, Burma, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and finally into the Mekong Delta. The Vietnamese call the river Cuu Long, or nine dragons, and it is easy to see why, for here the Mekong spreads in great tentacles into nine exits to the sea.

Can Tho sits on the banks of one of these tributaries, the Hang Giang river, also known as the Bassac, an impossibly broad, bustling expanse of brown water. It is a pleasant capital of 300,000 people, with tree-lined boulevards, cool grassy squares and 19th-century buildings that are remnants of French colonial days.

One of the great pleasures of Vietnamese provincial towns such as Hoi An or Nha Trang is the local markets and Can Tho is no exception.

Selling vegetables, fruit and seafood, its large market spreads over an entire city block on one side and follows the curve of the river on the other. There is much to do here and it is a good place to organise a home stay with a farming family. It is also a good place to do nothing much at all. Gazing out from the pleasant promenade, I see boats of all shapes and sizes, one of which takes my friends and I early next morning to the famous Cai Rang floating market. Boats from all over the region – from Bac Lieu, Vinh Long and Camau – come here to sell what seems like every fruit and vegetable ever imagined: jackfruit, oranges, rambutan, bananas, longans, pineapples and sweet potatoes.

An, 30, is our guide. It is her father's boat and her husband navigates it safely through the shifting mass of craft on the river. "He is a good husband," she says, smiling. "He is happy to cooking and washing with me at night." We nod in agreement. A good husband can be hard to find.

I explain to her that we want to travel to Cambodia by boat, from Can Tho to Chau Doc, across the border and up to the Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh, and then on to Siem Reap, home of one of the great wonders of the world, the temple complex of Angkor Wat. We've got six days for the journey of more than 400 kilometres. An offers to arrange the journey and a few phone calls later we agree to meet at the Can Tho dock at 2pm the next day.

I tell her I have visited these places before but always by road or air. This time I want a gentler, more romantic mode of transport along the mighty Mekong and its tributaries. I want to hear the gentle slap of the water against the boat, feel the tropical breeze on my skin and watch people go about their lives on the riverbanks. I want to be part of the landscape. I want to make the journey as important as the arrival.

Can Tho has several restaurants along the waterfront and that night we decide on the Thien Hoa. We settle happily at a pavement table in the evening balm, show no restraint and order a feast – fried snake with onions, sea bass soup with tamarind, prawns steamed in beer, catfish hotpot and coconut ice-cream. It is a meal to remember and a harbinger of culinary experiences to come.

Loaded up with fruit and sandwiches we've borrowed from the sumptuous breakfast buffet at the Victoria Hotel, we board the "fast boat" to Chau Doc, a journey An tells us will take about three hours. She says the slow boat, which leaves at 6.30am, takes about eight hours.

The fast boat is a long, relatively sleek, metal-hulled craft that does not go particularly fast, which turns out to be a blessing, given the pleasure of being on the water and lounging on the deck and watching the world go by. Most of the passengers are part of a package run by Delta Adventure Tours that includes a night at the company's floating hotel in Chau Doc. As we are travelling independently, we each pay $US20 ($23) for the trip.

The boat seats about 30 people in something more or less resembling comfort. Sitting on the deck munching on a bag of rambutan, it becomes immediately clear to me that this is a working river. Large boats, washing fluttering in the breeze and overloaded with bananas, take their produce to market. Other boats dredge silt from the riverbed to be used in the construction industry. The weight of their cargo lays them so low in the water it is as if just one more grain could tip them into the muddy depths.

The riverbanks jump with activity. A line of brick kilns several kilometres long puffs smoke as families stack freshly baked bricks or load them on to waiting boats, the children straining under the burden. The smell of fermenting fish sauce wafts from factories onshore. Much of the riverbank is lined with sandbags to protect stilted houses from the river, which swells dramatically during the wet season.

There is so much of interest to observe on the water and the riverbanks that the journey passes quickly and before I know it we are approaching Chau Doc, a journey of 5 hours. The river seems to settle in the dusk and takes on a kind of dreamy indolence, as if it has done enough work for the day. Meanwhile, I have been lulled into a sense of well-being I've never experienced when travelling by road or air.

Impressed with our stay at the Victoria Hotel in Can Tho, we decide to spend a few nights at the Victoria in Chau Doc. It is another elegant, splendidly positioned, colonial-style building perched on the banks of the Bassac. The view from our room across the spreading river takes my breath away.

Chau Doc shuts down early and we are lucky to get to the Bay Bong restaurant while it is still serving dinner. The restaurant forgoes interesting decor for delicious Mekong cuisine. It's another feast. We start with canh chua, the local sweet-and-sour fish soup, and follow this with steamed fish and prawns, including ca kho, stewed fish in a clay pot. It's so good we return the next night.

Chau Doc is another attractive and welcoming provincial town of about 100,000 people with an enormous market that snakes along the riverfront. The fish section alone – which has not just fresh fish but dried, spiced, marinated and salted – is wondrous.

We're close to the Cambodian border here and the people are more obviously Khmer, with their fuller features, darker skin and a preference for a chequered scarf over the ubiquitous Vietnamese conical hat. It is also home to a sizeable community of Chams, a Muslim minority of Malaysian appearance who live on the other side of the Bassac river.

We hire a boat and motor across to the Cham village. On the main street, dotted with stalls selling fruit and vegetables and snacks, women chat in the shade of the verandas of their wooden houses. Little girls sell waffles and simple cakes to visitors. I meet the caretaker of one of the two mosques. He shows us a short film about the history of the Cham but it is in Vietnamese so we leave none the wiser.

This part of the Bassac river, where it meets the Mekong, is home to an extraordinary concentration of floating houses, each of which is a self-contained fish farm. In the centre of each house is a large cage submerged in the river, in which families raise local bassa catfish, thousands of tonnes of which are exported to Australia every year. The fish are fed a kind of meal made from cereal, fish and vegetable scraps in cauldrons that rumble and roil. The smell is challenging.

At eight the next morning, we board another fast boat for the journey to the Cambodian capital. On another steamy, insanely hot day, we are looking forward to spending the trip on the deck, savouring the breeze. But a gaggle of young American backpackers with newsreader voices storm the boat and secure the outdoor area as their headquarters. It is their world. We just live in it.

As we travel towards Cambodia, the river begins to change. Gone is the frenetic boat activity and on the riverbank life takes on a less industrial, more bucolic demeanour. As we rejoin the Mekong, the river widens and soon the factories on the shore are replaced by cornfields, banana trees that shift and flap in the breeze and ragged, palm-thatched huts. Families bathe in the shallows and children scrub and splash their wallowing buffaloes. One-and-a-half hours later, when we reach the border at Vinh Xuong, Vietnam, and Kaam Samnor, Cambodia, we're in a different, more lush, more languid world.

We disembark at the border post and after an hour or so filling in various forms and questionnaires, we say goodbye to the Vietnamese boat and board the altogether less salubrious Cambodian craft for the rest of the journey. But in the end the boat's state of rugged disrepair matters little and most people spend the afternoon sitting on the rear deck or lounging on the bow and impairing the vision of the driver.

It is all too idyllic and, as it turn out, too good to last. Low water levels in the Tonle Sap river mean we have to complete the final leg of the journey by bus. But even this is fascinating, if cramped, as we hurl through the countryside and the sedate outskirts of Phnom Penh. As we arrive in the busy heart of the capital, I check my watch. It was just over seven hours ago that we boarded the boat in Chau Doc.

At our hotel, the owner tells us the water levels in the Tonle Sap are too low for us to go by boat to Siem Reap and that we'll have to take the bus or fly. He dismisses our disappointment, saying the boat has a karaoke machine on board. "Very noisy."

But we won't decide what to do until after dinner – perhaps some steamed fish in coconut milk or fried squid with green peppers. As we hop into a tuk-tuk to take us to the waterfront, a young girl, brown as a nut and cute as a button, implores us to buy some bottled water.

"What's your name?" I ask.

"Cosmic," she replies, beaming. "Where are you from?"

"Australia."

"Do you know Kevin Rudd?" she asks.

"Of course."

"Well, he is my father."

I look puzzled and she giggles. We are smitten and it's bottled water all round. As we putter away, she yells to us: "Tell Kevin his daughter says hello."

I wave and promise I will.

FAST FACTS

Getting there

Vietnam Airlines flies non-stop to Ho Chi Minh City for about $1462. Singapore Airlines has a fare for about $1003 via Singapore. (Fares are low-season return from Melbourne and Sydney, including tax.) Malaysia Airlines flies via Kuala Lumpur while Cathay Pacific flies via Hong Kong. Most fares allow you to stop over in any intermediate city. Australians require a visa for Vietnam for a stay of up to 30 days.

Getting around

Boats from Ho Chi Minh City to Cambodia can be arranged through Delta Adventure Tours, phone (84-8) 9202 112, see deltaadventuretours.com. You can hire a car and driver to take you from HCM City to Can Tho at any travel agency for about $US80 ($92).

Staying there

In Ho Chi Minh City we stayed at the Grand Hotel for $US120 a night, see grandhotel.vn. In Can Tho and Chau Doc we stayed at the Victoria for $US137 and $US143 a night respectively for a double deluxe room, see victoriahotels-asia.com. In Phnom Penh we stayed at the Pavilion for $60 a night. Ask for a room in the old section of the hotel. See thepavilion.asia.

Rights Leader Urges Reconciliation With Government


By Sok Khemara, VOA Khmer
Original report from Washington
25 September 2009
(CAAI News Media)

Kek Galabru, founder and president of the rights group Licadho, testified before a US congressional hearing on human rights earlier this month. Following the Sept. 10 hearing, which was held amid concerns the government was cracking down on dissenters, Kek Galabru spoke to VOA Khmer in Washington.

She urged reconciliation between the government and civic groups, and outlined the necessary components of a working democracy, including freedoms and the rule of law.

“I regret that the government still doesn’t understand our intention and classifies NGOs as the enemy of the government,” she said.

Cambodia is like an ill patient, she said, but the symptoms need diagnosed, she said. “It’s just like the doctor. If we want the right medication, we need to tell this kind of sickness or that kind of sickness.”

She said she wanted to work as a partner of the government, not an antagonist.

“Let’s sit down together as Khmer and work with the same intention,” she said. “The government and NGOs are not different at all. It’s just that the government has more financial and human resources. For my group, we need to ask for assistance from outside.

“So we’ll sit together, Khmer and Khmer, and we can find the same formula and cooperate together, and when our country has prosperity, when the people are happy, have enough money, when everyone has land, who will receive the credit? Not the NGOs. They will say, ‘Oh! This government is working good to serve the people; behold.’”

In the meantime, a democracy requires freedom of access to information; freedom of assembly, for peaceful demonstrations and other association; and freedom of expression.

It requires not just a high quantity of newspapers, but quality as well, “good quality writing, without fear, complaint, criminal charges, imprisonment,” she said.

Modern Cambodia is a product of the Paris Peace Accords, signed by 18 countries, including the US, she said. Donors came together to help restore Cambodia, including its court system, to be independent.

“Why so?” she said. “Because any real democratic country, where the people have a good standard of living and the people are in good shape, with good development of their society and economy—they need an independent court system, and if it’s not independent, it’s impossible.”

“So I asked the US, do they have any means to please help reform our court system,” she said.

Kek Galabru also said she did not support the concept of cutting aid money from the US over alleged rights abuses.

“I’m concerned that the people and the poor would be impacted,” she said. “I do not want a cut in aid money. But I want a superpower country that has more abilities, like the US, to seek all means to cooperate with the Cambodian government, to reform them well.”

Groups File Suit Against Provincial Court

By Chun Sakada, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
25 September 2009
(CAAI News Media)

A coalition of rights groups on Friday filed suit with the Supreme Council of Magistracy, alleging the Ratanakkiri provincial court had worked in concert with a private company to seize hundreds of hectares of land from minorities in one district.

The suit alleges judicial misconduct from court officials who have strong relations with a company identified as DM, and alleges land grabs in Tumpuon and Batang villages in Lum Phat district in 2005.

“Enough is enough,” Ou Virak, president of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, said in a statement. “Human rights NGOs will stand by the affected indigenous communities, stand by the human rights activists [who have been] harassed, and demand an end to judicial misconduct in Ratanakkiri province.”

“We will not be silenced,” he said.

Villagers have lost between 250 and 300 hectares of farmland, the groups said.

The groups, including the CCHR, the Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights, and Licadho, demanded an end to land grabs and the harassment of rights defenders, such as Adhoc’s Pen Bonnar, who was recently relocated from the province at the urging of the court, which threatened legal action if he remained.

Pao Ham Phan, Ratanakiri provincial governor denied the allegations.

“I have not seen harassment of rights defenders or indigenous land grabs,” he said. “Local human rights groups have the right to speak. They can continue to speak. But we do the right thing. We continue to do so.”

US Energy Act Could Help Cambodia

By Im Sothearith, VOA Khmer
Original report from Washington
25 September 2009
(CAAI News Media)

Cambodia could benefit from a new energy security act, introduced to the Senate this week.

The “Energy Security Through Transparency Act” proposes changes to the Securities and Exchange Commission to stabilize energy sources and require energy extractive companies registered in the US to disclose the amount of money they pay to foreign countries and the US government for oil, gas and minerals.

Cambodia is on the cusp of offshore oil exploration, but critics warn an “oil curse” could put the money from the resource into the pockets of corrupt officials.

The transparency bill was introduced by Sen. Richard Lugar, a Republican from Indiana, among others.

Nilmini Rubin, a staff member for international economics and development for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told VOA Khmer that Lugar was passionate on energy security and fighting corruption. The bill was prepared after examination of more than 15 countries, including Cambodia, and a report, “The Petroleum and Poverty Paradox.”

Lugar sent staff to countries “to look at the impact of the resource curse and to think of how the US government, with the international partners, whether either bilateral countries, or the IMF or the World Bank, or multilateral agencies, what could we do to fight the resource curse,” Rubin said at a conference on the extractive industries in Washington. “The report outlines a number of suggestions. I think the key ideas percolated up into this legislation.”

Ian Gary, a senior policy adviser on extractive industries for Oxfam America, told VOA Khmer at the conference the legislation could benefit countries around the world.

“This legislation would require any company that registers in the US to publish their payment to the governments around the world where they operate,” Gary said. “And this would be mandatory. It does not depend on the political will of a country to agree to disclosing information.”

Lim Solin, East Asia program manager for Oxfam America, said she was optimistic the bill, if passed, would benefit Cambodia.

“The trickledown effect of the adoption of this bill will be enormous, actually, for a country like Cambodia, because once the bill is adopted, simply all the companies that are listed in the US stock exchange will have to disclose all the information related to contracts and payment,” Lim said. “And that will be a great turning point in the history for the area of transparency. And I believe that the more Cambodia becomes transparent, the more competitive she will be.”

Cambodia Should Seek Other Markets: Expert

By Men Kimseng, VOA Khmer
Original report from Washington
25 September 2009
(CAAI News Media)

Cambodia should find additional markets for its export products and not heavily depend on the US and Europe, a senior economist from the Asian Development Bank said.

“For a country like Cambodia, exports are always going to be important, but maybe what one should think of is not just export to the US or to Europe,” Rajat Nag, the ADB managing director-general, told VOA Khmer in an inclusive interview last week while on a trip to the US.

While the US and European markets remain important, Nag said, Cambodia should also take advantage of the Asean Free Trade Agreement, by trying to export products to Vietnam, India or China.

“These are also important and large markets,” he said.

Cambodia’s main exports, garment products, are typically destined for the US and Europe. The industry is a main economic driver, giving jobs to some 300,000 workers, mainly women.

“Also, perhaps Cambodia needs to think of diversifying its exports based not just on garments but electronic products,” for example, Nag said.

Indeed, the Cambodian government has said it is pursuing such an expanded trade strategy.

Hang Chuon Naron, secretary-general of the Ministry of Economy and Finance, acknowledged that growth had slowed in the garment sector, from 150 percent to 200 percent in 1995 to 8 percent in 2007 and 2008, prompting the government to seek markets in Asean and Japan.

Cambodia is also diversifying its products, from traditional agriculture, like rice, rubber, beans and cassava, exported to neighboring countries, toward electronics.

“In the medium and long terms, there will be high-value-added export products,” Hang Chuon Naron said in a phone interview. “We’ll look at electronic products. This requires higher skills. It needs between five and 10 years.”

Some economists say electronics should first be attempted for domestic demand, rather that for export, as high potential lies at home.

“We have a market here thanks to a growing tourism industry and construction,” said Kang Chandararoth, head of the Cambodia Institute of Development Study. “Once we strengthen our capacity to compete domestically, we can see if we can compete overseas.”

Local capacity isn’t a problem, he said, but rather the main issue is to find investors or a partner.

Return of Immunity a Matter for Assembly: Lawmaker

By Sok Khemara, VOA Khmer
Washington
25 September 2009
(CAAI News Media)

A lawmaker for the ruling Cambodian People’s Party said Thursday the National Assembly could easily return parliamentary immunity to two opposition members if the courts drop their cases and make a request.

Opposition lawmakers Mu Sochua and Ho Vann, from the Sam Rainsy Party, had their immunity suspended by the Assembly in April, at the request of the court, as both faced defamation charges.

CPP lawmaker Cheam Yiep told “Hello VOA” Thursday the Assembly could vote to restore the immunity after the cases are dropped.

“We just took away the raincoat to make [them] wet equally to others, and we’ll just give them back the raincoat, that’s all,” he said.

Mu Sochua has so far been fined $4,500 in a suit brought by Prime Minister Hun Sen, and Ho Vann was acquitted this week of defamation charges brought by 22 military officials.

The National Assembly returns to session Oct. 1, but it has so far received no request to restore immunity.

Okada to visit Cambodia next week to meet Mekong foreign ministers+


(CAAI News Media)

TOKYO, Sept. 25 (AP) - (Kyodo)—Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada will make a two-day visit to Cambodia from Oct. 2 to attend a foreign ministerial meeting between Japan and five Mekong region countries, the Japanese Foreign Ministry said Friday in a press release.

While attending the Oct. 3 Japan-Mekong Foreign Ministers' Meeting in Siem Reap in northwestern Cambodia, Okada is also expected to hold bilateral talks on the sidelines with his counterparts from the other countries attending the meeting, possibly including Myanmar.

Aside from Japan, the meeting will be attended by Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam, Myanmar and Laos. The first such foreign ministerial meeting was held in January 2008.

Okada will leave Cambodia Oct. 3 and return to Japan the following day, the press release said.

Cambodians testify for war crimes tribunal


By GILLIAN FLACCUS (AP)
(CAAI News Media)

LONG BEACH, Calif. — The tiny Cambodian woman trembled slightly and stared blankly ahead as she told the story that has haunted her for half a lifetime: her parents and brother died in Khmer Rouge labor camps. Her baby perished in a refugee camp.

Roth Prom has wanted to die every day since and had never spoken those words so publicly until last week, when five minutes became the chance for justice she has longed for silently for so many years.

"I'm depressed in my head, I'm depressed in my stomach and in my heart. I have no hope in my body, I have nothing to live for," she said quietly. "All I have is just my bare hands."

As the tiny woman in the polka dot blouse slipped back to her seat, many of the nearly two dozen other Cambodian refugees in the room began to weep. They know Prom's pain. They were all there to tell stories just like hers.

Prom, 63, is one of dozens of Cambodian refugees speaking publicly — many for the first time — about Khmer Rouge atrocities so a legal team can use their testimony in an international war crimes tribunal underway in Phnom Penh, the Cambodian capital.

From Virginia to California, refugees have spent the past few months pouring out long-suppressed memories to volunteers who fill notebooks with reports of gang rapes, execution, starvation, forced labor and brutal beatings. They attach names of dead relatives, sometimes a half-dozen per person, and scrawl out names of labor camps and far-flung villages where they lived for years on the edge of starvation.

The Khmer Rouge is implicated in wiping out an estimated 1.7 million Cambodians, nearly a quarter of the population, during their rule from 1975-79 under Pol Pot. People died from disease, overwork, starvation and execution in the notorious "killing fields."

Cambodians who fled their homeland decades ago relish the chance to participate in the war crimes trials unfolding thousands of miles away. The tribunal, a joint court created by the Cambodian government and the United Nations, allows Khmer Rouge victims to participate as witnesses, complainants and civil parties.

Depending on the stories, the accuracy of their memories and their own willingness to participate, survivors could be called to testify for the prosecution or defense and those filing as civil parties could be entitled to reparations. At a minimum, all filings will be archived and reviewed by those collecting testimony from survivors.

Leakhena Nou, the Cambodian-American sociology professor at Cal State Long Beach organizing the U.S. workshops, said submitting evidence forms is cathartic for victims who have often kept their trauma secret from spouses and American-born children. Many suffer from post-traumatic stress and have symptoms of severe depression, including memory loss, flashbacks and suicidal thoughts.

"They have a sense of powerlessness, but they have a lot more power than they realize," said Nou, founder of the Applied Social Research Institute of Cambodia. "Most of them have not even talked about it for 30 years. They've been silent for so long."

Last week, testimony in Phnom Penh concluded in the trial of Kaing Guek Eav, who commanded the S-21 prison where up to 16,000 people were tortured and killed. Eav, also known as Duch, was the first to go before the tribunal and is charged with crimes against humanity, war crimes, murder and torture. More than 23,000 visitors attended his trial, which continues in November with closing arguments.

Four other senior Khmer Rouge leaders are in custody awaiting trial set for January. Any testimony submitted by the end of the year can be used by prosecutors to bolster those cases.

The U.N. and Cambodian branches of the tribunal did not respond to e-mailed requests for comment.

Grassroots organizers with backing from the Asian Pacific American Institute at New York University have been building trust within the Cambodian-American communities for nearly two years but still expected many to shun the process out of fear and suspicion. Some victims believe the tribunal is run by the Khmer Rouge, while others fear if they speak out they could endanger relatives still living in Cambodia.

But Nou said turnout has been high, with some people even traveling from Arizona to share stories at the Southern California workshops held at a Cambodian community center.

"Before, they assumed that no one wanted to listen to them," she said. "They'll say, 'We thought that no one cared, that no one wanted to listen. But now that I know people want to listen, I have nothing else to lose. I've lost everything else already.'"

So far, the team has collected more than 50 statements from Cambodian expatriates at workshops in Virginia, Maryland, Orange County and Long Beach — home to the largest Cambodian ex-pat population. Future sessions are planned this fall in Oregon, Northern California, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania.

They've uncovered chilling stories along the way.

One woman in Long Beach told of being gang-raped from dawn to dusk by Khmer Rouge cadres while 6 1/2 months pregnant. She never told her husband and only came forward last week because he had passed away.

Another recalled being held at gunpoint with her brother and being forced to watch as her father was executed and then disemboweled, his heart, liver and stomach ripped out by soldiers. The woman, now in her 50s, told the story to a volunteer in three distinct "spirit voices," as if to detach herself from the painful memories.

For Prom, the recent workshop in Little Cambodia was a chance to honor the memory of her loved ones — and to get justice for the brutal crimes that ruined her life and so many others. The Khmer Rouge split up her family, she was forced to pull a plow through rice paddies like an ox and her child died later in a refugee camp.

Prom harbors thoughts of killing herself and suffers from memory loss. She's terrified of the night — the time when Khmer Rouge soldiers would take neighbors away without explanation, never to be seen again.

"I try to forget, but it's hard to forget," Prom told a translator who dictated it to a volunteer law student. Prom had already penciled her story on paper in the rolling script of her native Khmer.

"I want to find justice for myself and for the Cambodian people," she said. "I'm here to teach history to the next generation, so this horrific crime will never happen again."