Thursday, 8 October 2009

Price rises slow again, according to CPI data


(Post by CAAI News Media)

Thursday, 08 October 2009 15:01 May Kunmakara

CAMBODIA’S inflation showed further signs of slowing in September, official figures showed Wednesday, as Consumer Price Index (CPI) inflation grew just 0.5 percent month-on-month, the lowest rate since February.

The figures from the National Institute of Statistics (NIS) showed a 2.3 percent overall reduction in CPI last month compared to September last year, which represented less-severe deflation year-on-year than in August due to the high level of inflation recorded in July and August 2008.

The September rise in prices on the previous months was mainly due to increases in the cost of seafood and vegetables, the NIS said in its CPI report. Restaurants increased in price by 0.7 percent last month, it added. San Sy Than, director general of the statistics office, was unavailable for comment Wednesday.

The trend follows that shown on a basket of 36 common household food items which increased in price by 1.1 percent during the third quarter, according to a report by the Post on September 30 based on Ministry of Commerce figures.

The International Monetary Fund and Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) have said recently that inflationary pressure has eased in the Kingdom this year due to the global economic crisis and lower fuel prices than last year, when the government expressed concerns over food security as inflation ran at more than 20 percent in July and August 2008.

The EIU said it expected inflationary pressure to return to the Kingdom next year in its October country outlook.

Car sales bottom out in Q3



Photo by: Heng Chivoan
A security guard walks across the forecourt Wednesday at TTHK, the official reseller of Toyotas in Cambodia. The company said sales have fallen 50 percent in the first nine months of 2009 year-on-year.

(Post by CAAI News Media)
Thursday, 08 October 2009 15:01 Nguon Sovan

Dealers in the capital say new-vehicle sales stabilised from June to September compared to the second quarter, but that overall 2009 has been a tough year

DEALERS of new cars in Phnom Penh, including Toyota and Ford, said Wednesday that there were signs the market had bottomed out in the third quarter after what has been a hard year for the industry – with sales decline of about 50 percent compared to the first three quarters of last year.

Kong Nuon, president of TTHK Co Ltd, which imports vehicles built by Toyota, the largest manufacturer in the world by sales, said he sold about 150 new vehicles during the third quarter, about the same as the previous three months.

“We did not yet see a recovery in auto sales in the third quarter … over the second quarter, but it’s stable: It did not drop further,” he said, adding that sales had dropped by about half compared to the first ninth months of 2008.

He added that TTHK expected to sell between 550 and 600 new Toyotas in 2009, blaming the economic crisis for what is shaping up to be a huge decline in sales on last year.

“We hope to see a recovery from the end of next year,” Kong Nuon predicted, adding that he had kept prices stable.

Other international car manufacturers have fared little better in Cambodia this year, a trend that has been mirrored on a global scale.

Ford Division RM Asia Manager Seng Voeung said sales in the June-to-September quarter stayed at a similar level to the previous three months: around 100 vehicles, representing a decline of between 40 percent and 50 percent over the first nine months compared to the same period last year.

Like TTHK, he forecast that sales would not rebound until around 2011 due to the impact on the real estate market.

Lower economies of scale at production plants meant that wholesale prices remained inflated, and “thus we have not offered discounts”, he said.

Ssyangyong sales fell 45 percent in the first nine months year-on-year, said Horn Seam, representative of local distributor Huotraco Automotive. SsangYong, which entered Cambodia in 2007, saw the decline tail off in the past quarter, he said, but a recovery was not yet under way.

“We expect in the fourth quarter sales will recover at least 10 percent because new auto models for 2010 will go on sale,” said Horn Seam, adding that he had sold just 15 vehicles in the third quarter.

Nissan sales mirrored those of fellow Japanese brand Toyota in the first nine months, said Long Narith, managing director of domestic dealer Narita Motorcare Cambodia, following a decline of about 50 percent. Like other new car dealers, he said the situation stabilised in the third quarter.

He predicted that the sales situation would improve before the end of the year.

“We expect more sales in the last quarter because there are many [would-be] customers visiting and interested in buying,” said Long Narith, declining to give sales figures for the previous quarter.

Local Mitsubishi dealer Mitsui (Cambodia) Co Ltd Service Manager Lao Sak said that all new-car dealers were experiencing the same problems and therefore the same trend in sales on the back of the recent economic slump.

“If it drops, we drop together, and if it grows, we grow together,” he said, adding he had also seen a 50 percent decline up to the end of September compared to the first nine months of 2008.

Lao Sak declined to reveal the number of Mitsubishis sold during the period, but said the end of the rainy season and forthcoming harvest should spur a fourth-quarter revival.

LA real estate agency heads to Cambodia


(Post by CAAI News Media)

Thursday, 08 October 2009 15:00 JACOB GOLD

THE untapped potential of Cambodia’s property sector has encouraged CB Richard Ellis (CBRE) to push ahead and create a permanent presence in the country, CBRE Cambodia Director Daniel Parkes said Wednesday ahead of the official opening of its new office.

The Los Angeles-based real estate services company had previously handled work in the Cambodian market out of its Vietnam office.

Marc Townsend, CBRE’s managing director for Vietnam, acknowledged that the sector had been hit by a slump that has seen new transactions all but disappear in the past couple of years, but said ongoing development of property assets by local players was an encouraging sign.

“We’re seeing a movement away from dependency on foreign companies,” he said. “If you look at the tallest and the second-tallest buildings in Phnom Penh, they belong to Cambodian companies,” he said, referring to the new headquarters of Canadia Bank and Cambodia Public Bank.

Parkes said there was still a range of profitable opportunities across the country, singling out the infrastructure sector as one that was particularly underexploited.

“Pricing [for infrastructure] is very interesting. Relatively cheaply, a group of investors could buy a strategic infrastructure site in Cambodia that would still be active in 50 years,” he said.

Townsend said CBRE was also taking a strong interest in Cambodia’s seaside resorts. He said similar development on Vietnam’s central coast could provide builders here with models for success.

“At Nam Hai, they built one resort, an exceptional resort, and suddenly everyone was talking about China Beach. Now there are 40 or 50 hotels coming up there,” he said. “Someone’s going to have to do something very special in Kep or Sihanoukville and make that the benchmark.”

CBRE is also banking on the pace of Cambodia’s development and its young demographic translating into a new, fast-growing market for retail properties.

“Kids want the same thing in Cambodia as anywhere else,” said Townsend. “Malling is still in its infancy.”

He added that retail outlets targeting young customers tend to pursue aggressive strategies in Asian countries. “When I got to Vietnam, there were six KFCs. Now there are 65,” Townsend said. “Shoppers here don’t just want one store, they want many outlets around the city. If it doesn’t have 20 stores, it’s not successful.”

Police Blotter: 08 Oct 2009


(Post by CAAI News Media)

Thursday, 08 October 2009 15:00 Thet Sambath

Pregnant woman accused of adultery
Pursat provincial police have arrested a woman, who is eight months pregnant, and accused her of adultery. The woman’s husband demanded that police arrest his allegedly wayward wife after he caught her in bed with another man, who is also reportedly married. Police said the woman confessed to having sex outside of marriage three times since September, saying that her fellow accused adulterer gave her food. The woman blamed her husband for drinking wine and not giving her enough money to feed her children.
RASMEY KAMPUCHEA

Karaoke owners sing the blues
Two women who own a karaoke parlour in Svay Rieng province are accused of forcing their employees to have sex with customers. Their accuser says she came to the bar in Tachor village looking for her husband but took a job after she ran out of rent money. The accuser claims she tried to leave after she was harassed by clients. But the owners allegedly refused and demanded she pay US$10 in order to leave. She claims the owners locked her in a room before she escaped. A subsequent police raid on the parlour turned up another six girls in a similar predicament.
RASMEY KAMPUCHEA

Arrests make for bitter pills
Three men allegedly found with 1,953 amphetamine tablets in Battambang province say they were hired only to transport the drugs. The men were arrested in the middle of traffic in Battambang’s Phnom Proek district. Police also seized the car and motorbike in which the men were travelling. Officers are also looking for a fourth man identified by the suspects.
RASMEY KAMPUCHEA

Budget bickering leads to beating
Police say a Kompong Thom man beat his wife unconscious after an argument over 500,000 riels (US$120). The pair had been disputing what to do with the money earned from selling a pig. Police say the wife demanded to keep the money, worried that her husband would blow it on booze. The husband refused and allegedly beat her with a wooden bat, rendering her unconscious. Police say the man is on the run from the law.
KOH SANTWPHEAP

Trekking awe-inspiring Annapurna



The Khumbu Glacier in the Everest region forms one of the giant links in the gargantuan Himalaya chain; trekkers can enjoy be dwarfed by eight of the world’s 10 highest peaks in Nepal. AFP

----------------------------------------------------------------------------
I feared my head was about to implode but mercifully the moving colours turned out not to be the hallucinations of advanced AMS but prayer flags marking the summit
----------------------------------------------------------------------------

TRAVELLING AND TREKKING TIPS


When to go Nepal has a monsoonal, two-season year. March to May and September to November are the best times to visit. Early dry season (October to May) features good conditions as well as colourful festivals, such as February’s paint-smearing, water-squirting Holi Festival, and good conditions. Mid-June to September, when the monsoon arrives, is best avoided. Costs Trekking registration certificates and Annapurna conservation fees: $35 per person. Accommodation is around $10 per room and meals $10 to $15. Local English-speaking guide: $15 per day. Porters: $10 per day. Ethical considerations Rubbish is either packed out on foot or dumped on village outskirts. Trekkers are advised to eat local food to help slow deforestation. See Leave No Trace (www.lnt.org) for more information. Also, try not to give gifts to pestering children.


Photo by: WILL GILROY

Quenby on the approach to Thorung La.


(Post by CAAI News Media)

Thursday, 08 October 2009 15:00 Joel Quenby

The panoramic Himalayan landscape offers tourists a diverse range of spectacular trekking expeditions, so it’s little wonder most visitors to Nepal end up taking an unforgettable hike

We were filing along a skinny trail that cut through an expansive Himalayan gorge when a sudden commotion hooked my peripheral vision. I looked up to see a wild yak hurtling recklessly down the mountainside, hoofing up an angry cloud of dust in its wake.

We halted as the horned beast came skidding onto the path, blocking our way. The huffing yak faced us down for a beat, eyes boggling, looking as unhinged as a revolving door.

It then stamped, bowed its head – and charged.
Time froze – as did we.

While we cowered, our Nepali guide, DB, mercifully sprang to action, somehow finding a brick-sized rock to hurl while issuing a hearty war cry for good measure. His aim was wayward, but, at the last second, the snorting bovine veered off and went skittering down a slope into the valley below.

So much for the joys of Mother Nature and her glorious offspring – one of the bitch’s prime specimens had almost rammed me into an abyss, leaving me as a tragic footnote on an episode of When Animals Attack.

Despite the hazards foisted by demented quadrupeds, half a million people flocked to Nepal last year – when tourist numbers jumped 64 percent on the previous year. And up to 90 percent of these went hiking among eight of the world’s 10 highest peaks.

“After travelling on and off for 10 years, Nepal is still the standout trip,” says Australian Chiquita Mitchell.

This is no piddling walk in the national park. Granted, most treks don’t call for technical climbing skills, but trails are often rough, steep and precarious, and conditions can swing dramatically.

You don’t need to be Indiana Jones, but, as Jo Pretsell says: “If you did some training beforehand I think it would make the trek more enjoyable.”

One could spend months planning an expedition, but it’s also possible to sort everything on the fly. Those who book organised treks with reputable companies get everything cosily pre-arranged, from airport transfers to “four seasons” sleeping bags.

An inexpensive option is to join a trek as a last-minute “walk-in”. A yet cheaper way is to negotiate, often over glasses of steaming chiya (spiced tea), in the shops around Thamel, Kathmandu’s backpacker ghetto. Trekking independently is popular with budget travellers, who lug their own bags in their own sweet time.

The Nepal Mountaineering Association has designated 18 summits as trekking peaks. Everest lords over them all like a mythical white tidal wave, challenging the brave and foolhardy with the prospect of its death-or-glory slog. But more than half of all trekkers head to the Annapurna Himal, despite snobs who deride its supposed commercialism compared to less-trodden paths.

The Annapurna region offers the nation’s richest variety of scenery, straddling four climatic zones hosting everything from two-day trots to month-long, Tolkien-esque odysseys.

“I loved the contrast going from lush micro-systems into the mountains then through barren, arid landscapes close to the Tibetan plateau,” says James Levene.

Of the three major treks, we chose the odyssey: the Annapurna Circuit – a challenging three-week affair with the greatest available vertical net gain.

The circuit begins in a subtropical valley fringed with coniferous forests. We passed orchards, bisected fields of trembling wild marijuana, and crossed churning white rapids on swaying suspension bridges.

The landscape gradually opened up, revealing a natural canvas almost too gigantic, too panoramic to comprehend.

We walked five to seven scenic hours per day, stopping off at teahouses en route. Trekkers don’t need to bring food or camping gear. Similarly, guides aren’t necessary, but, as Alan Pretsell acknowledges, “we felt safer knowing we had a local guide with us, who cost next to nothing and was great entertainment as well”.

Teahouses are simple wooden constructions. “Don’t expect a hot shower at the end of the day,” warns Pretsell. Facilities get increasingly spartan at higher elevations.

Stopovers present opportunities to mix with foreigners and locals – often over a restorative fix of daal baat, the national dish: rice with lentil soup and vegetable curry, dished up on a metal tray. For a nightcap, raksi, the local firewater, is most memorably sipped round a log-fired stove in a lamp-lit kitchen.

Our teahouse encounters engendered a growing trepidation about the climactic 5,416 metre Thorung La summit pass. Those who had done it before luxuriated within their tales of endurance. DB told us that the vertiginous 1,600m descent would be even tougher than the 1,000m dawn ascent. Neither sounded much fun.

Onwards and ominously upwards we went. Most locals we encountered along the way seemed pleased to see us. Will Gilroy recalls receiving enthusiastic greetings of “Namaste” (I salute you!) from passing porters “who were half my height, wearing old flip-flops and carrying massive cages of live chickens on their heads”.

Children and old women also hauled the kind of backbreaking loads that would make bodybuilders cringe. As they overtook us.

To trek Nepal is to step back in time. The trappings of modernity evaporate. Farmers in medieval villages drive ox-drawn ploughs. Women lay out trays of chillies to dry on the doorsteps of boxy stone houses, firewood stacked higgledy-piggledy on their flat roofs.

The scenery is so cinematic, it’s like taking a walking tour of the highlights of National Geographic exotica. Easy to forget that, far from being some fabled Shangri-La, Nepal is one of the poorest countries per capita in the world.

None of us managed a wink of sleep the one groaning night we spent above 4,000 metres, as the three of us struggled to catch breath. The seconds ticked down to 4:30am, when we emerged, trembling and bleary, to start the trudging ascent.

The first hour hurt. The climb to Thorung La is wholly unforgiving. Initial exchanges of snatched, monosyllabic quips soon gave way to staring at our feet, gasping in the thin air.

I paused risibly often, whispering self-pitying curses, a dull ache growing in my lungs. My heart rate accelerated. I saw a Nepali porter slip into a waste-deep snowdrift but could hardly summon the energy to acknowledge him, let alone offer help.

“I ended up vomiting most of the way up,” admits Chiquita Mitchell.

Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) can strike anyone, regardless of age, experience, or health. If symptoms persist the only option is to descend – which usually brings immediate relief.

I started to see a blur of moving colours peeking over the brow of the cliff above – and feared my head was about to implode – but, mercifully, these turned out not to be psychedelic hallucinations signalling the onset of advanced AMS but fluttering prayer flags marking the Thorung La summit!

We posed triumphantly for photos in a spot where the surrounding mountains appeared to be at eye level or below.

Our glory was fleeting. The sunrise ascent had been tough, but the weary descent presented an altogether different level of hell; one boasting a new line in slow torture.

As we edged tentatively down the steep, slushy, rock-strewn slope, the cartilage in my knees concertinaed, the tendons in my shins went into spasms, and my digits were brutally crushed against the toes of my walking boots. It was sheer agony.

By the time we got down, we were hobbling like geriatrics with hip replacements attempting to boogie to the theme tune of Steptoe & Son – but as Nepalis say: “Ke garne? (What to do?)”. We had to laugh.

Yaks, aches and pains be damned, it was worth every minute.

Regional tourism alliance holds inaugural awards



A poolside view of The Pavilion, awarded Cambodia’s Resort Hotel of the Year at TAA 2009. PHOTO SUPPLIED

(Post by CAAI News Media)

Thursday, 08 October 2009 15:00 POST STAFF

Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam decide to cooperate in effort to stimulate the local hospitality industry

AIMING to highlight the commitment of Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam to strive for service excellence in their tourism and hospitality industries, the first Tourism Alliance Awards (TAA 2009) took place on October 1 at the Phu Tho Exhibition Centre in Vietnam.

The event was co-organised by the Vietnam Tourism Association, the Cambodian Association of Travel Agents, the Cambodia Hotel Association, the Lao Association of Travel Agents and IIR Exhibitions Pte Ltd, and supported by each country’s respective tourist board.

Dignitaries from all three countries attended the inaugural event, including Pak Sokhom, undersecretary of state at the Cambodian Ministry of Tourism. Tran Chien Thang of Vietnam’s Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism spoke of his hopes that the awards would serve as encouragement for regional tourism industry professionals.

In total, more than 100 nominations were received for the 10 awards categories presided over by an international panel of judges, including high-flying industry players like Michel Van Der Hoeven, senior vice president of development at Minor International PCL, and Michael Loh, president of the International Medical Spa Association.

Among the local winners were Nest Angkor Bar, which won Cambodian Restaurant of the Year. Inspired by venues in New York, Sydney and Miami and the brainchild of owner Cheng Socheat and hotelier and restaurateur Joseph Polito, Nest was planned as a design-driven al fresco space on dusty Sivutha Boulevard in Siem Reap.

Winner of Cambodia’s Resort Hotel of the Year was The Pavilion, which offers colonial architecture, free Wi-Fi and a poolside tree-filled garden oasis for US$50-$80 a night on Phnom Penh’s Street 19.

The hotel’s owner, Alexis de Suremain, also offers an additional brace of quality boutique options: Kabiki, dedicated to families, on Street 264; and The Blue Lime, with its solar-powered water heating, on Street 19z, just across from the Royal Institute of Fine Arts.

Meanwhile, Asia Explorer Travel was awarded local Outbound Travel Operator of the Year, and Intrepid Cambodia Ltd, the Inbound Travel Operator of the Year.

Cambodian hoop dreams



1.90-metre Cambodian national basketball team player Phal Sophors (centre, orange shirt) has relocated to Phnom Penh from his home province of Prey Veng to play as a professional basketball player.

(Post by CAAI News Media)

Thursday, 08 October 2009 15:00 Colin Meyn

With a fresh input of funds and resources, Cambodia’s national basketball team still search for international competitions to see how they stand in the region

For the first time in years, the Cambodian Basketball Federation (CBF) is making a concerted push for the men’s national basketball team to be competitive. Now they just need to find a competition to play in.

In the past year, the federation has scoured Cambodia for young talent and funded a recruiting trip across the world to the US. However, with the cancellation of the basketball tournament in December’s SEA Games in Laos, future international matches have yet to be arranged.

When Laos was named the host nation for the 2009 SEA Games last year, organisers quickly noted the lack of gymnasiums capable of hosting an international basketball tournament. Participating countries, along with sponsor country China, were unable to find a way to make the tournament happen.

“At our second council meeting, we decided that we couldn’t have basketball. We don’t have the facilities,” said Somphou Phongsa, the head of the administration and service committee for the SEA Games in Laos.

Austin Koledoye, head coach of the Cambodian national team for over two years, expressed his frustration over the situation. “We don’t have the money to travel to other countries, and we don’t really have the facilities to host the wealthier countries,” he said. “What are we supposed to do?”

In December 2008, Mak Chanphirun, captain of the 1998 Sisowath High School basketball squad and a current staff member at the National Assembly, was named the new secretary general of the CBF. Since then, the funding and resources that Koledoye has been longing for in his last four years as coach are finally beginning to emerge.

In February, the government paid for Koledoye’s trip to the US, where he met with a dozen Cambodian-Americans, some playing at Division II universities. “I was looking for players with height,” he stated. “We needed an enforcer, someone to go against teams like the Philippines.”


National basketball coach Austin Koledoye is looking for international competitions.

But all the coach found were guards, three of which tentatively agreed to make the monthlong excursion to Southeast Asia in order to train for and participate in the December SEA Games on the government’s tab.

Scouting homegrown talent
The CBA also searched for young talent at home, and found a 17-year-old wide-shouldered Khmer teenager from Prey Veng named Phal Sophors, who moved to Phnom Penh to train in May.

It wasn’t his basketball skills that drew the attention of Mak Chanphirun and Koledoye, who spotted him playing at the annual National High School Basketball tournament in Battambang. It was his 1.9-metre stature.

“He could hardly dribble on the first day, but he’s getting a lot better. Playing basketball is the only thing he is here for,” said Koledoye.

A year ago, Phal Sophors was living with his parents and eight siblings, spending his days studying and working in his family’s rice fields. “I played basketball at school and with my friends, but not every day,” he admitted. Now, only two years after first picking up a basketball, he is living in Cambodia’s most populous city, sleeping in a small room in Olympic Stadium and practising for three hours a day with the country’s best ballers.


National team starting point guard Meas Rith Ravuth (right) dribbles the ball during a practice session inside Olympic Stadium Saturday.

Still a teenager, Phal Sophors’ physical supremacy is obvious as soon as practice begins. No one on the team steps in front of his moves to the basket, and if they did, it’s unlikely that they would stop him from getting there.

His skills are underdeveloped compared with most of the players on the team, some of whom have been playing for 10 years, but he is the tallest player on the team – with centimeters to spare – and his aggression and hustle are relentless.

Like other athletes on Cambodia’s national sports teams, Phal Sophors receives a monthly salary of 250,000 riels (US$60) from the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport, of which he sends half home to his parents. The ministry also provides athletes with three meals a day at the Borei Khmer Hotel. A larger monthly stipend was previously disbursed, but athletes were complaining of a lack of energy, so the officials decided to cut down on cash and guarantee a hearty diet of meat, rice and soup.

The long road to success
Despite improved resources and future promise, the national basketball team, made up mostly of university students, still has a way to go towards being a legitimate international competitor. Koledoye admits that they are years, perhaps decades, away from competing with the Philippines, who are the dominant basketball team in the region. “We have to start from the ground up, but on the ground there is nothing,” the coach remarked. “The players have no one to challenge them to get better.”

To fill the void, some of the city’s better players who have not made national team selection will come to Olympic Stadium to join the scrimmage during the second half of the daily 5:30pm-7:30pm practice.

The practice venue, which is made available at no cost by the ministry, is hardly ideal in itself. The chequered hardwood floor is falling apart; many of the wooden squares are rotting or filled in with cement. There are scores of lighting fixtures on the ceiling, but only a dozen are turned on for practice, casting a dim yellow light on the floor.

The team has permission to use the court anytime it is available, but being one of the few indoor sports venues in the city, it is often in use by volleyball leagues, the Futsal federation or martial arts tournaments, leaving the national team with nowhere to go. A recent practice was cancelled after thunderstorms caused half of the players, who mostly travel by motorbike, to miss the session.

The national coach admits that there is no shortage of obstacles, but he is thrilled with the government’s recent interest in basketball and the effort of his players. “These guys are busting their butts out there. They just need competition,” he said.

With a series of coaching clinics from October 14-16, Koledoye and Mak Chanphirun hope to bring basketball fundamentals to Cambodia’s youth through knowledgeable coaches. “We are trying to make a difference in basketball in Cambodia,” asserted the CBA official. Perhaps by the next time they have a competitive game, all this hard work will pay off.

Photos by Nick Sells (http://www.nicksellsphotography.com/)

U16s travel to Thailand for AFC qualifiers


(Post by CAAI News Media)

Thursday, 08 October 2009 15:00 Ung Chamrouen

THE Cambodian U16 national football team departed for Bangkok, Thailand, on Wednesday morning to compete in qualifiers for the AFC U16 Championship 2010.

Under the leadership of Japanese coach Teshima Atsushi, the Cambodian youngsters will face Thailand, North Korea, South Korea, Vietnam and Myanmar in their intimidating Group G. On the opening day Friday, Cambodia play hosts Thailand before coming up against South Korea two days later. Then, on October 14, 16 and 19, they face Vietnam, Myanmar and North Korea respectively.

The top three teams in the group will qualify for the 2010 finals.

Timor Leste made history Monday, booking their first-ever AFC U16 Championship finals berth with a 3-0 win over Guam October 1 to finish second in group F behind China. Hong Kong grabbed the third qualifying spot ahead of Singapore, Macau and Guam.

With Timor Leste’s success story, Cambodian Football Federation spokesman May Tola showed optimism for the tournament, even with formidable opponents in their group. “They [Cambodian U16 team] trained regularly during the last three weeks,” he said. “They are performing well. I hope they will bring us the best result.”

CAMBODIA U16s SQUAD LIST

Goalkeepers:
Prak Mony Phirun, Hoam Vichsambath

Defenders:
Our Sophaon, Suon Rotha, Thai Phalla, Kouk Sokchea, Mean Phally, Sem Panha, Mean Phalla, Soch Makara

Midfielders:
Hoy Phallin, Chan Vathanaka, Van Rina

Forwards:
Kong Ponleur, Ly Sarort, Chan Vansimona

The Phnom Penh Post News in Brief


(Post by CAAI News Media)

In Brief: IFC investment fund

Thursday, 08 October 2009 15:00 Steve Finch

THE International Finance Corporation has signed a deal in Washington that will see it contribute US$4 million to a Cambodia-Laos investment fund, Cambodia Resident Representative Julia Brickell said Wednesday. The deal, which was signed on September 30, will see Emerging Market Investments (EMI) Pte Ltd manage the overall fund, she added. The Post understands that development partners from Finland and Norway would also contribute; however, EMI’s Cambodia representative Joshua Morris was unavailable for further comment on Wednesday.

In Brief: Mobile tax warning

Thursday, 08 October 2009 15:00 Chun Sophal

FOLLOWING a government circular co-signed by the Ministry of Economy and Finance last week warning mobile-phone firms they would have to pay tax even if profits fall on the back of low tariffs, Minister Keat Chhon has backed up the call, saying there will be a clampdown on the sector. “We will not allow any company to be free from paying tax,” he said Tuesday after a conference on the 2010 budget in Phnom Penh. The matter had been discussed with Minister of Telecoms So Khun, he added, who also signed the letter, dated September 29. It was sent to all mobile firms, the Council of Ministers and Prime Minister Hun Sen.

In Brief: Vimpelcom upgraded

Thursday, 08 October 2009 15:00 POST STAFF

DEUTSCHE Bank has upgraded to “buy” Moscow-based Vimpelcom, parent company of Beeline, following what appears to be the resolution of a dispute between its two main investors, it said Tuesday. Despite having downgraded it to “hold” on September 24, the bank upgraded the telecoms firm after it announced that main shareholders Altimo and Telenor had effectively settled a previous dispute over operations in Russia by agreeing to establish Vimpelcom Ltd, a new firm. Despite Deutsche Bank’s upgrading its price target to US$23.10, the stock fell 2.54 percent Tuesday on the New York Stock Exchange to $19.20.

HIV/AIDS Programs Changing Male Behavior in Cambodia




Outreach workers provide HIV/AIDS education to men in an entertainment establishment in Phnom Penh.

(Post by CAAI News Media)
Phnom Penh, Cambodia—The crowded, raucous beer gardens of Phnom Penh don’t always make the best classrooms, admits Ky Sok Ly. A university student by day, Ky transforms into a roving teacher by night to educate groups of men about the dangers of HIV/AIDS.

“Sometimes it’s difficult to get their attention when they’ve been drinking,” Ky said. “But most men are eager to hear our message so they can protect themselves from disease.”

Ky, 21, is one of 48 outreach specialists in Cambodia working in entertainment establishments. Operating in pairs, the specialists engage men in five-minute discussions about HIV/AIDS and sexual health.

For example, a team might approach a group of men and show them photos of five women. The team would ask the men which women look infected with HIV and which do not, in order to prompt a discussion about the dangers of assessing a person’s HIV status based on appearance.

Launched in June 2008 by USAID and funded by the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, the program has already reached 161,000 men. It is one of a series of USAID programs that target male clients of sex workers in an attempt to correct what has been an unbalanced focus on women to promote condom use and other behaviors to prevent the spread of HIV.

Over the last 10 years, Cambodia has been a rare success story in the global fight against HIV/AIDS. By promoting condom use in brothels, the country cut its HIV prevalence rate in half from 2 percent in 1998 to less than 1 percent in 2006. The prevalence rate among sex workers fell by 66 percent in that same period.

USAID has been the largest HIV donor in Cambodia since 1994.

However, in recent years men have increasingly sought sexual partners in karaoke bars and other entertainment venues, where they perceive the women to be less risky than in brothels. A recent police crackdown on brothels has accelerated this shift. In entertainment venues, it is common for male patrons to meet “sweethearts,” or semi-regular mistresses with whom they exchange money and gifts for sex.

USAID data show that while condom use is high among brothel-based sex workers, it is considerably lower among other entertainment workers. According to many entertainment workers, a major barrier to condom use is the attitudes of their male sexual partners.

A reality television show called “You’re the Man,” which challenges male norms and promotes male responsibility, started up in July. M.Style, a health campaign launched in late 2008, uses social clubs and internet chat rooms to encourage men who have sex with men to protect themselves from disease.

Ky is pleased to be part of these efforts to reach high-risk men. “I’m learning skills that will help me later in life. Most important, I’m helping Cambodia develop by keeping my people healthy,” she said. ★

Japan in storm shutdown





The typhoon ripped roofs off buildings, caused bridges to collapse and shut highways [Reuters]

Thursday, October 08, 2009
(Post by CAAI News Media)

Japanese were bracing last night for a direct hit from one of the strongest typhoons in years as heavy rain and strong winds cut power to thousands of homes and tore roofs from buildings on the country's southern islands.

Melor, which was on course to batter the main island of Honshu today, looks like being the first typhoon to make landfall in Japan since 2007.

"We are issuing storm and high-wave warnings as the typhoon is seen as one of the strongest for the past decade," said Shinichi Nakatsukasa, a weather forecaster at the Meteorological Agency.

The storm was packing gusts of up to 216 kilometers an hour, moving south of Shikoku, one of Japan's four main islands.

It was predicted to make landfall from the west and then roar over densely populated Honshu, the industrial heartland of the world's No2 economy.

Toyota Motor ordered production to be suspended at all 12 of its domestic plants, while operators of railways in western Japan said they would cancel some express trains.

More than 200 flights, four of them international, were grounded due to strong winds in the west, affecting some 15,000 people, while most ferry services were suspended.

"Rain will be very heavy and winds will also be fairly strong on land," another weather agency official said. "It is likely to make landfall with a violent force."

Close to 11,000 households were without electricity on islands in Japan's far south, according to local power companies. Roofs were blown off homes and other buildings while trees and power poles were toppled.

Authorities feared that Melor would rip through the archipelago on a course similar to a 1959 typhoon that left thousands of dead in its wake.

Last month typhoon Ketsana killed more than 400 people in the Philippines, Vietnam and Cambodia. Tropical storm Parma is still sitting over northern Luzon, where 22 people have been killed in the heavy rains.

Cambodian refugee among 10 Americans chosen to receive national award


Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to present Sonith Peou with the 2009 Community Health Leaders Award for providing health services to the Southeast Asian immigrants

(Post by CAAI News Media)

PRINCETON, N.J. (October 8, 2009) — The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) today announced its selection of Sonith Peou, program director of the Metta Health Center in Lowell, Mass., to receive a Community Health Leaders Award. He is one of 10 extraordinary Americans who will receive the RWJF honor for 2009 at a ceremony this evening at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, D.C.

Peou is being honored for his work to provide culturally competent services for Southeast Asian immigrants in Lowell, Mass., helping them to become healthy, economically independent citizens. "Sonith Peou has triumphed over tragedy in order to provide health care services to disadvantaged immigrants in the United States, many of whom were persecuted in their home countries," said Janice Ford Griffin, national program director for the award.

Peou helped to establish the Metta Health Center, an initiative of the Lowell Community Health Center, and he designed the facility to look like a clinic in Cambodia. He staffed it with native speakers and incorporated elements of Eastern medicine that are more traditional in Asian countries. Today, the Metta Health Center provides culturally competent health care services to thousands of Cambodians, Laotians and Vietnamese. Like other community clinics, the center focuses on preventive care and tries to keep members of the community out of the emergency room.

"I am very grateful for this award, but it would not have been possible without the strong and supportive leadership of the Lowell Community Health Center, whose leaders believed in this project," said Peou, who emigrated from Cambodia in 1981. "I hope this award will bring attention to the importance of providing quality health care to immigrants, as good health is the cornerstone to healing and making a better life."

The chief executive officer of the Lowell Community Health Center, Dorcas Grigg-Saito, said of Peou that he is a "born leader" who has risen to become one of the most respected Cambodian-American leaders in the Greater Lowell area, as well as nationally. "Throughout his work, Sonith displays a level of loving kindness and compassion (the definition of 'metta' in Khmer) that has created a welcoming atmosphere that engages a truly underserved population in ongoing primary and preventive care and ultimately better health outcomes," Grigg-Saito said.

The Community Health Leaders Award honors exceptional men and women from all over the country who overcome significant obstacles to tackle some of the most challenging health and health care problems facing their communities and the nation. The award elevates the work of the leaders by raising awareness of their extraordinary contributions through national visibility, a $125,000 award and networking opportunities. This year the Foundation received 532 nominations from across the United States and selected 10 outstanding individuals who have worked to improve health conditions in their communities with exceptional creativity, courage and commitment.

There are nine other 2009 Community Health Leaders in addition to Peou. Their work includes oral health services for remote communities; self-directed care for persons with physical disabilities; a marriage between health care and legal aid; a mentoring program to help disadvantaged youth pursue health careers; care for victims of torture; an innovative approach to combat obesity; quality health services for Native American elders; family planning and health services for women, men and teens; and mental health services for the underserved.

Since 1993 the program has honored more than 160 Community Health Leaders in nearly every state, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. Nominations can be submitted for the 2010 Community Health Leaders Award through October 15, 2009. For details on how to submit a nomination, including eligibility requirements and selection criteria, visit www.communityhealthleaders.org.

Another new party, another rally in Thailand


(Post by CAAI News Media)

BANGKOK, Oct 8 — The right-wing pressure group People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) yesterday flexed its muscles with a rally in the capital — a day after one of its principal ideologues was installed as the head of its new political party.

Some 5,000 PAD supporters dressed mostly in black, observed religious rituals and marched to mark the first anniversary of a police crackdown on the group’s protesters, in which one person was killed and several others injured. ?

“We regard those who died during our fight, and the many hundreds who lost their limbs and became blind, as our heroes,” said PAD ideologue Sondhi Limthongkul, who now heads the New Politics Party (NPP). He told the crowd: “We will not allow your fight to be wasted. We will keep on fighting to uphold our nation, the legality of the state and the constitutional monarchy.”

The PAD — claiming to be fighting to save the monarchy — has been a key player in the intra-elite power struggle that has pit the traditional urban elites against the rural masses, sowing deep divisions in Thai society since early 2006.

The Democrat Party, now in power at the head of an often fractious coalition, rode into government on the coat-tails of the PAD’s street protests which late last year all but paralysed the governments of former prime ministers Samak Sundaravej and Somchai Wongsawat.

The PAD initially lent conditional support to the Democrat Party. But recently the relationship has somewhat soured. Among other things, the right-wing group has renewed its activism over disputed land near the Preah Vihear temple on the Thai-Cambodian border, which has embarrassed the Democrat government and provoked Cambodia.

In May, Sondhi narrowly survived an assassination attempt. Analysts speculated that Sondhi, who earlier clearly had powerful unseen backers from among the old elites, was increasingly being considered a liability.

Sondhi, who turned against his one-time friend, former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, in late 2005 and successfully campaigned to oust him, brings to the NPP a powerful propaganda machine in the shape of his Manager Media group, which includes the cable network ASTV.

Sondhi was elected head of the NPP in an uncontested internal poll two days ago. While the party may not win more than a handful of seats, analysts say it is capable of luring away part of the Democrat Party’s vote base in Bangkok.

An election remains at least nine months away, according to recent signals.

The intervening period will remain fractious. The ruling coalition is unlikely to split or be brought down by the opposition, but key amendments to the Constitution, deemed necessary before another election, have been tabled.

Among provisions to be amended is one that makes entire political parties liable for violations of the law by any single member of the executive committee of the party. This has weakened the political party system and led to the kind of chronic political instability that predated the 1997 Constitution abolished by the military when it ousted Thaksin in September 2006.

But the PAD, which prefers to see power in the hands of the old ruling elites, opposes amending the charter and has threatened to take to the streets to pressure the government.

The opposition Puea Thai party wants the 1997 Constitution — widely considered Thailand’s most democratic — to be reinstated with some amendments.

The ruling coalition plans to hold a national referendum on the amendments to the current Constitution which was drawn up in 2007 under the military regime. — The Straits Times

Cambodian Embassy Officials Help Korean Farmers

KOREA NEWS SERVICE

(Post by CAAI News Media)

Pyongyang, October 7 (KCNA) -- Cambodian Ambassador to the DPRK Chhorn Hay and his embassy officials did a friendship work at the DPRK-Cambodia Friendship Paeksok Cooperative Farm in Sinchon County, South Hwanghae Province on Wednesday.

The guests helped farmers in rice harvesting after being briefed on the monument to the on-site guidance given by President Kim Il Sung to the farm.

The ambassador expressed hope that the agricultural workers there would register greater success in the agricultural production true to the leadership of General Secretary Kim Jong Il.

Staff members of the embassy handed aid materials to the farm.

Small tsunami causes Pacific islanders to flee


David Walsh, left, and Stuart Weinstein, center, look over a computer monitor which lets them know the height of a tsunami if it's generated by a earthquake at the Richard H. Hagemeyer Pacific Tsunami Warning Center located in Ewa Beach, Hawaii on the island of Oahu Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2009. Three powerful earthquakes struck the South Pacific near the Vanuatu archipelago Thursday, generating a small tsunami just over a week after another, massive wave killed 178 people in the Samoas and Tonga. There were no immediate reports of damage, and all tsunami warnings and watches for the Pacific were canceled two hours after they were first issued. (AP Photo/Eugene Tanner)


By RAY LILLEY, Associated Press Writer
(Post by CAAI News Media)

WELLINGTON, New Zealand – Thousands of panicked South Pacific islanders raced away from the coastline after three strong earthquakes rocked the region and generated a small tsunami Thursday, just over a week after a massive wave killed 178 people in the Samoas and Tonga.

There were no immediate reports of damage, and all tsunami warnings and watches were soon canceled. But people across the South Pacific took no chances, scrambling up hillsides and maneuvering through traffic-clogged streets to reach higher ground.

"There is panic here, too," Chris McKee, assistant director of the Geophysical Observatory in the Papua New Guinea capital, Port Moresby, told The Associated Press. "Offices have closed. People have rushed out onto the streets and are climbing hills. A lot of places have shut down. ... We tried to put the dampeners on it, but it was already out of hand."

The Hawaii-based Pacific Tsunami Warning Center issued a regional tsunami warning for 11 nations and territories after a quake with a magnitude of 7.8 struck 183 miles (294 kilometers) northwest of the Vanuatu island of Santo at a depth of 21 miles (35 kilometers). Two other quakes of magnitude 7.7 and 7.3 followed in the same area.

The center canceled the tsunami warnings after sea-level readings indicated that the wave generated by the quakes was too small to cause much damage.

There were no immediate reports of injury or damage from officials in Vanuatu, a chain of 83 islands. It lies about 1,400 miles (2,200 kilometers) northeast of Sydney, Australia.

"We felt the quake — it shook the ground, but not very strongly," said a police officer in the town of Luganville on the island of Santo, the Vanuatu island nearest to the quakes' epicenter. The officer declined to give his name as he was not authorized to speak to the media.

"We haven't received any reports of damage or injuries from the quakes or tsunami," he said, adding they were still waiting for reports from other small islands nearby.

In Tuvalu, a low-lying nation of eight coral atolls with about 10,000 people, thousands fled inland, some clustering around the government building in the capital, Funafuti — the only multistory building in the country.

"Even though nothing happened, it was a good exercise for us. We now can react and get to safety," weather office head Hilia Vavae told The AP.

In Samoa, where at least 137 were killed in the Sept. 29 tsunami, an AP reporter saw thousands of people run for the hills from the capital, Apia, after Thursday's alerts. Cars clogged the roads leading inland.

Thursday's warnings also created worry in American Samoa, where at least 32 people were killed in last week's tsunami. Residents of the coastal village of Utulei fled to the hills after hearing there was a tsunami watch for the U.S. territory.

Schools, government buildings and other residents were also evacuated to higher ground. Traffic was snarled in downtown villages of Pago Pago and Fagatogo.

Thursday's small tsunami came just over a week after a quake of magnitude 8.3 rocked the South Pacific near Samoa, sparking waves that killed at least 178 people and devastated coastal villages in Samoa, American Samoa and northern Tonga.

But seismologist Rafael Abreu with the U.S. Geological Survey in Golden, Colorado, said the timing of Thursday's quakes was coincidental and the Vanuatu event appeared to be unrelated to the Sept. 29 quake. The quakes occurred on different fault lines and the way the earth's plates moved in both events also differed, he said.

The second quake Thursday, just 15 minutes after the first, hit at the same depth but 21 miles (35 kilometers) farther north of Santo and Port Vila. The third was recorded nearly an hour later, 175 miles (280 kilometers) northwest of Santo at a depth of nine miles (15 kilometers).

Abreu said the second quake was originally measured at 7.3 but later upgraded to 7.7. The third was originally put at 7.1 but upgraded to 7.3.

Also Thursday morning, the U.S. Geological Survey reported a strong earthquake struck south of the Philippines.

The quake had a preliminary magnitude of 6.7 and was located in the Celebes Sea, 175 miles (282 kilometers) southeast of Jolo, Sulu Archipelago, and 730 miles (1,175 kilometers) south of Manila. The quake hit at 5:41 a.m. Thursday local time.

USGS did not report any damage or injuries.

___

Associated Press writers Kristen Gelineau in Sydney, Keni Lesa in Apia, Samoa, and Jaymes Song in Honolulu, Hawaii, contributed to this report.

Melting Arctic poses new challenges, naval powers say


Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Gary Roughead


CORRECTION-US-DEFENSE-NAVY



A map of the Arctic showing the shrinking of the summer sea ice since 1979


By Paola Messana (AFP)
(Post by CAAI News Media)

NEWPORT, Rhode Island — International piracy and the challenges of new Arctic Ocean corridors opening up as a result of global warming topped the agenda Wednesday at a gathering of world maritime powers.

"The menaces from climate change cause growing concern," warned Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus. "There is a global security implication of the climate change."

"The North West passage will be open most part of the year, the new generation of naval students will live in a different world," he said.

A total of 101 countries are attending the 19th International Seapower Symposium, a three-day meeting occurring every two years, which aims to increase trust and confidence among naval leaders from around the world.

"At a time of great challenge, our task is to see how our mutual efforts can safeguard peace and security in the 21st century," US Navy Commander Admiral Gary Roughead said in his opening remarks.

Mabus agreed, adding: "Our navies increasingly think in terms of joint operations, and meet their counterparts in South America, Europe or Africa to combat the world maritime challenges."

He cited piracy as just one example, as well as joint drug-trafficking operations and medical missions.

The conference, which had its start in 1969 during the Cold War, is being held at the Naval War College a school of higher learning for naval officers based in this seaport town.

Mabus also praised an increasing spirit of maritime cooperation that led even countries that have been combatants in the recent past -- like Russia and Georgia -- to attend the international summit.

In a video message to the gathering, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also stressed the importance of international cooperation in confronting current maritime challenges and in forging greater maritime security, declaring that "no one nation has the capacity to meet these challenges alone."

Roughead said cross-border cooperation was more in evidence in the international fight against piracy -- particularly off the coast of Somalia, which over the past few years has become a hotbed of international hijacking and high sea robbery.

"In the Gulf of Aden, 20 nations are participating -- not only the navies but the aircrafts, and the prosecutors," he said.

He was speaking as the French military said Somali pirates had attempted to storm the French navy's 18,000 tons flagship in the Indian Ocean after mistaking it for a cargo vessel.

The crew of La Somme, a 160-meter (525-foot) command vessel and fuel tanker, easily saw off the brazen night-time assault by lightly armed fighters on two lightweight skiffs and captured five pirates, a spokesman said.

Other issues highlighted at the gathering included the fight against international arms smuggling and the global effort to protect fisheries.

Mabus also praised international efforts "to locate and destroy illegal narcotics in South America and Europe" as well as efforts in many southeast Asian countries to fight natural disasters.

China and Libya which were both invited to attend the conference had declined to come, while Roughead confirmed that Iran had not been asked to participate.

But Russia, Cambodia, Vietnam, the Maldives and Guyana were all taking part for the first time.

Climate change has jumped to the top of this year's agenda now that global warming has opened up to exploration water channels that had been frozen solid.

The conference takes place as Russia prepare to open up waters north of Siberia for exploration with major oil companies.

Weather scientists have predicted the Arctic Ocean could be ice-free in the summer as early as 2015 providing new access to wealth of as yet untapped natural resources and coveted marine shipping routes through the Arctic.

Ministry Urges H1N1 Patients Moved to Hospitals

By Heng Reaksmey, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
07 October 2009
(Post by CAAI News Media)

The Ministry of Health on Wednesday ordered all clinics nationwide to send patients suspected of carrying the H1N1 flu virus to state hospitals, following the third documented death from the disease Tuesday.

Officials estimate around 120 people have been infected with the virus, sometimes called swine flu.

Sok Touch, director of the Ministry of Health’s communicable disease control department, urged clinics to comply with requests that have already been sent.

“In Cambodia, we are trying our best to prevent an AH1N1 virus epidemic for people’s safety,” he said. “We’re trying to cut short [the life] of the swine flu.”

The disease emerged in Cambodia in June, with a group of US travelers from Thailand, but the disease caused no reported deaths until September. Two deaths were reported this week, including a 25-year-old woman on Tuesday.

French Court Postpones Minister’s Suit

By Men Kimseng, VOA Khmer
Original report from Washington
07 October 2009
(Post by CAAI News Media)

A French appeals court has postponed a hearing for a defamation suit brought by Foreign Minister Hor Namhong against opposition leader Sam Rainsy.

A hearing was set for Oct. 8, but was delayed due to technicalities and health issues of Sam Rainsy.

Hor Namhong brought the suit against Sam Rainsy for remarks in the latter’s autobiography alleging Hor Namhong’s collusion with the Khmer Rouge in a correction camp where several inmates died.

“My lawyer has told me that there is an issue that needs to be looked into,” Sam Rainsy said. “There might be a delay so there won’t be a hearing on the 8 [of October]. I am still waiting for more information from my lawyer. Nothing is 100 percent sure yet.”

A spokesperson for Hor Namhong also confirmed the delay.

The court ruled in favor of Hor Namhong Jan. 27, ordering Sam Rainsy to pay 1 euro in damages and delete a page from his book including the allegation.

Yim Sovann, spokesman for the Sam Rainsy Party, said politicians should get used to criticism and that Sam Rainsy should not be punished.

“What he said was merely to let the national and international community know about freedom of expression,” he said.

Both Yim Sovann and Sam Rainsy said they had collected more evidence to show the appeals court.

No date has been set for another hearing.

More Than 60,000 Out of Factory Work

By Chun Sakada, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
07 October 2009
(Post by CAAi News Media)

Factory woes in the wake of the global downturn have put 62,000 Cambodians out of work, World Bank President Robert Zoellick said Thursday.

Zoellick was addressing an annual meeting between World Bank and International Monetary Fund officials in Turkey. Nearly 50 factories have closed since the downturn began more than a year ago, in Cambodia’s chief export earner, he said.

An estimated 400,000 people are employed by the garment sector, which brings in nearly $2 billion in revenue annually.

“Ninety percent of the 62,000 workers losing their jobs are women,” Zoellick said, offering the example of a worker named Aoy Puon.

“Since the crisis hit, her monthly salary has been cut in half,” he said. “Today she can’t make enough to send money home to her family, who depend on her income. Aoy Puon is now worried that she will lose her job.”

The World Bank figures differed from estimates of the Ministry of Labor, which said 33,000 workers had lost their jobs.

Chea Mony, president of the Free Trade Union, said 87 factories had closed and 65,000 workers had lost their job from 2007.

“We’re worried about closing the garment factories, workers losing jobs and the fall of the garment exports,” said Kaing Monika, business development manager for the Garment Manufacturer Association of Cambodia. “According to figures, we’ve seen a fall of garment exports of 30 percent. It is quite a lot, and we think that the concerned people must unite to promote the garment sector.”

Um Mean, secretary of state for the Ministry of Labor, said the government had policies “to promote the garment sector through the strength of good working conditions, production and work quality.”

One ex-slave fights for a brighter day for victims of human trafficking




By JOHN C. BERSIA
McClatchy-Tribune News Service
Published: Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2009

(Post by CAAI News Media)

Of all the voiceless people on Earth, I can think of few more unfortunate than the multitudes - mostly women and children - who toil as modern-day slaves. They typically suffer cruelty, deprivation of their rights and unspeakable living conditions. And they face only two certainties, both unpleasant: that they will wake up tomorrow to more of the same or die.

Along the way, some - such as Somaly Mam (http://www.somaly.org/), a Cambodian human-rights activist who was sold into brothel slavery as a child - essentially die inside. Mam is one of the lucky ones, however, for she managed to escape her tormentors and move to another continent. Others like her who are orphaned as children and shunned easily slip into slavery's shadowy grip and accept their fate. In a perverse sort of way, they have a place, are welcome and find companionship. But their place is grim, their welcome good only so long as they obey and their companionship for sale to customers from around the world.

For a while, Mam reveled in her new, safe life. But she could not ignore a nagging impulse deep inside her being. It quickly crescendoed, pulling her back to the land where she had experienced no peace, privacy or personal dignity. She knew how many thousands of Cambodians - and millions of others around the world - lived in misery, whether in brothels or in similar conditions of forced servitude. Her hapless compatriots needed a voice. They needed an inspiration. They needed a champion.

It was no easy task. Mam found herself confronting both tradition and the indifference of too many, thereby guaranteeing opposition and danger. Still, she proceeded with her work, rescuing women and girls, offering shelter, and providing training and other assistance. Her former abusers, angered and indignant that someone - especially a former victim - would dare stand against them, struck back with all the nastiness that craven minds can muster. They issued insults and death threats, burned Mam's home and, worst of all, kidnapped and brutalized her teenage daughter.

Yet Mam was unfazed. When you have already died inside, she says, there is nothing left to kill. Thus, she and her supporters have persisted, rescuing hundreds of Cambodians from slavery each year - for a total of more than 6,000 to date.

Some critics question such tactics, pointing out that recovery is difficult for many freed slaves. Besides, they argue, the results are at best mixed because of the absence of reliable systems of law enforcement and criminal justice, which is part of the problem. Further, there is a large and easily accessible supply of replacements; for every woman or girl who breaks free, another can be taken.

Mam acknowledges that not all of the rescued slaves recover and reenter the mainstream. Some cannot cope and take their own lives. Others return to the brothels. But most revel in and take full advantage of their freedom, as Mam herself did.

Of course, activists such as Mam and her kindred spirits in other countries operate at a severe disadvantage. They are still building their anti-slavery campaigns and have modest resources, whereas the traffickers are well-organized and amply financed. The global recession, which has helped drive the average price of a slave well below $100, also rises against them.

Thankfully, the abolitionists are not discouraged. They need and deserve armies of supporters and sympathizers, as well as the help of governments and international organizations. If the effort were global, persistent and decisive - with the goal of eradicating human trafficking within a generation - then the slaves of Cambodia and other countries would finally wake up to a less-desperate reality.

ABOUT THE WRITER

John C. Bersia, who won a Pulitzer Prize in editorial writing for the Orlando Sentinel in 2000, is the special assistant to the president for global perspectives at the University of Central Florida. Readers may send him e-mail at johncbersia@msn.com.