Monday, 7 December 2009

No war in Cambodia: PM


Monday, 07 December 2009 03:29 DAP-NEWS

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen on Saturday reassured that Cambodia will not provoke a war with any of its neighboring countries.

The premier’s confirmation came after Cambodian-Thailand diplomatic ties were down, leading to the mutual withdrawal of ambassadors.

The premier said during a ceremony to mark the construction of National Road 68 construction in Oddor Meanchey province, bordering Thailand on Saturday that the road will now be built by the Cambodian Government alone at a cost of more than US$30 Million. The 117 km road will link Odor Meanchey and Siem Reap.

Cambodia has cancel a loan agreement for over US$41 million with Thailand.

“Cambodia is changing the border into peace with the bordering countries, becoming to cooperation and development,” the premier said. “If any action is out of this way, the integration could not be built in the region or the world.”

However, the situation at the border between the two countries is normal and the two militaries have good relations.

Thai Defense Minister General Prawit Wongsuwan said Friday that the relationship of the Thai and Cambodian militaries has remains good, according to Xinhua. The diplomatic tension has not affected the bilateral cooperation between the Thai and Cambodian militaries along the border, he added.

“At the army level, after talking to Cambodian Defense Minister Tea Banh, we have agreed we will always cooperate as Defense Minister Tea understands every matter, no problem,” General Prawit said.

The Thai and Cambodian defense ministers met on Nov. 27 in Thailand during a meeting of the Thai-Cambo- dian Joint Border Committee (JBC).

During the JBC meeting, the two sides have agreed that they will not use force to deal with the border matter.

The diplomatic problem has occurred after Cambodia has appointed ousted former Thai premier Thaksin Shinawatra as an economic advisor to Cambodia’s government and Prime Minister Hun Sen from November 4.

A day after the appointment, the Cambodian government announced the recall of its ambassador to Thailand in a move to respond to the Thai government’s recall of its ambassador to Cambodia.

Angkor Wat Conservationist Professor Lkuo Passes away


Monday, 07 December 2009 03:26 DAP-NEWS

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has voiced its sadness at the death of Ikuo Hirayama, a survivor of the bombing of Hiroshima who became an eminent painter and advocate for the agency’s work, a press release from UNESCO obtained on Saturday said.

Having served as UNESCO Good will Ambassador since 1989, he promoted the preservation of Cambodia’s Angkor Wat temples, China’s Mogao Caves, Afghan- istan’s Bamiyan Buddhist monuments and the Koguryo Mural Tombs in the Democratic People’s Republic of [North] Korea (DPRK), it said.

“UNESCO has lost a friend,” UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova said in a news release, of Hirayama, who passed away on December 2 at the age of 79.

She noted that for more than 20 years, Hirayama had lent his tireless support to the Organization’s projects, especially in the fields of education, emergency relief and reconstruction.

“He was particularly concerned with making people aware of the value of cultural heritage as a basis for mutual unde rstanding. He will be missed and remembered fondly by all at UNESCO,” she added.

Hirayama campaigned for the preser - vation and restoration of the world’s cultural heritage, promoting what he called the “Red Cross Spirit for Cultural Heritage,” a movement which aims to help people in conflict or extreme poverty with financial and technical aid to preserve their cultural heritage.

PM Hun Sen Urges Golf Courses in Three Neighbors


Monday, 07 December 2009 03:26 DAP-NEWS

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen on Saturday suggested that Cambodia, Laos and Thailand should establish a golf courses in adjacent border areas to expand the comprehensive cooperation of emerald triangle development region.

“We have to build a golf course with 27 holes to and 9 holes in each country respectively and all golf players do not need a visa to go into these countries while they are playing the golf course,” he told the opening ceremony of ground breaking of National Road 68 construction at O’Smach next to the Thai border.

“I want to see a golf course to happen in the future.”

The 117 km NR 78 will link the Thai border for trade and transport facilitation in the region, and link to other networks and could connect to the three neighboring countries, the PM said.

The adjacent border areas of three countries are termed the emerald triangle development region under the framework of Greater Mekong Sub-region and the Ayeyawady-Chao Phraya-Mekong Econ- omic Cooperation Strategy (ACMECS), he noted. He assured that border situation between Cambodia is good, urging the military to strengthen cooperation.

Cambodia has been building many golf courses, mostly located in Siem Reap province. In early 2009, Prime Minister Hun Sen opened Cambodia’s third international-standard golf course, the Siem Reap Lake Golf Resort, constructed by South Korean company KTC Leisure Co., Siem Reap Golf Resort. It is the country’s largest and most impressive golfing complex so far. With an estimated investment of $450 million, the resort facility could employ as many as 4,000 people when fully completed.

The 200-hectare resort includes a 27-hole course, restaurant, a planned 300-room hotel, motel, residential buildings and Water Park. At that time he said that “Golf plays an important role in streng-thening international relationships. Regardless of political trends, race or religion, golf bridges friendships and reinforces solidarity between individuals, groups, and nations.

“Cambodia is fortunate to have inherited cultural and archaeological treasures, he said.

Detained Spy to be Freed: Phue Thai Party


Monday, 07 December 2009 03:19 DAP-NEWS

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

An opposition Phue Thai party leader in Thailand has expressed confidence that the alleged Thai spy detained by Cambodian authorities will be freed after his first hearing next week, according to the Thai News Agency on Satur day.

Reiterating that his political party is not playing ‘political games’ as suggested by some critics, Gen. Chavalit, a former prime minister, said Simarak Na Nakhon Panom, mother of jailed Thai national Siwarak Chutipong, believed that a trial would take a long time if a bail request is made.

This confidential confirmation comes following the Phnom Penh Municipal Court announcement on Friday afternoon that Sirawak Chutipong, 31, an employee of Cambodia Air Traffic Services (CATS) arrested by Cambodian police on November 12, has not sought bail.

He asked to withdraw the bail forms from the court, Khieu Sambo, his new lawyer told the court. Siwarak Chutipong, arrested by Cambodian police November 12 on charges of passing information on the flight details of fugitive ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra to Thai diplomats. Siwarak has been detained at Preysar prison since then.

Simarak, the alleged spy’s mother, said she had decided to cancel her bail request plan as her son’s new lawyer advised that the request will delay the case.

The mother also believes that if the Cambodian court finds her son guilty it would be better to seek a royal pardon from the Cambodian king and assistance is given by the Cambodian government, Gen Chavalit said.

Sivarak was arrested by Cambodian police nearly a month ago on charges of passing information on the flight details of fugitive, ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra during his private 4-day visit to Cambodia on November 10, 2009, forward to Thai diplomats in Phnom Penh, then the first secretary at Thai embassy was forced to leave in 48 hours.

PM Urges Expanion of Sugar Cane


Monday, 07 December 2009 03:16 DAP-NEWS

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen on Saturday urged the local people to plant more sugar cane for domestic use and possible export.

“We have to transfer the battlefield areas to become development regions and plant crops,” he said airing the ground breaking of National Road 68 construction in O’Smach.

“I flew over a huge sugar cane plantation (in Banteay Mean Chey province) belongnig to a local company, Ly Yong Phat. Each year, it could produce about 25,000 tons of sugar cane and for Koh Kong Province,” he said, urging more such plantations.

Cambodian people do not eat sugar cane much, preferring palm sugar instead, he noted, so Cambodia now has sugar cane to export to other countries.

Food security is sparking concern among the publics after most countries transferred agricultural land into planting bio-fuel crops.

History comes home



Photo by: HENG CHIVOAN

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Monday, 07 December 2009 15:03 Heng Chivoan

Workers measure an 11th-century Angkorian statue donated to the National Museum on Saturday by Wolfgang Felten. The German said he found the sculpture for sale by a private collector and recognised it from a UNESCO book on looted Cambodian artefacts.

Uighur asylum bid a mystery



(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Monday, 07 December 2009 15:03 Sam Rith and Sebastian Strangio

UNCERTAINTY surrounds the fate of a group of Uighurs who have travelled to Cambodia in a bid to seek political asylum – Cambodian officials say they have received no extradition request from the Chinese government, nor any formal notification from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) that the agency is caring for the group.

Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak said on Friday that despite reports in The Washington Post that 22 Uighurs were in Cambodia, the Cambodian office of UNHCR had not yet shared any details of the case.

“First we learned that there were 16 of them, but we don’t know how many more now,” he said.

“We don’t know when they arrived. Now they are under control of

UNHCR, [but] UNHCR has not yet sent any information to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs,” he said.

Dolkun Isa, secretary general of the World Uighur Congress, said on Thursday that a group of Muslim Uighurs from Xinjiang province in China’s restive northwest arrived in Cambodia at various times last week. He said the refugees feared retaliation from Chinese authorities after taking part in violent anti-China demonstrations in Urumqi, Xinjiang’s capital, on July 5.

Qian Hai, spokesman of the Chinese embassy in Phnom Penh, said his government could not comment on the issue, as he had not received word of the Uighurs’ filing a formal asylum request. But he underlined Beijing’s “fundamental” policy that all of those involved in violating Chinese law should be brought to justice.

“For the July affair in Xinjiang, there were many violent criminal acts. It was planned by a very small amount of people who want to separate from China, who want to split China,” he said.

“Those people who have taken part in violent, criminal activities should be prosecuted according to Chinese law. They offended Chinese law and public security.”

Information Minister Khieu Kanharith and Koy Kuong, spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said on Sunday that they had yet to receive any request from the Chinese government in relation to the Uighurs.

Given the close political relationship between Cambodia and Beijing, the arrival of the Uighurs has sparked concern that the Kingdom could come under pressure to return the Uighurs to Chinese custody.

Sara Colm, a senior researcher for Human Rights Watch, said that political pressure notwithstanding, Cambodia has an obligation to protect the Uighur asylum seekers under the UN’s 1951 Refugee Convention. “As a signatory, the Cambodian government should protect asylum seekers no matter what sort of other pressure the government comes under – this is an international obligation,” she said.

Colm said that although countries with strong economic and political links “complicated” asylum requests, the Cambodian government had in the past shown its willingness to resist the wishes of its close allies in order to protect would-be refugees.

“There have been occasions where the government has done the right thing and have based their actions on international law, not international pressure,” she said, citing the wave of Vietnamese Montagnards who sought asylum in the early 2000s.

At that time, she said, the government set up refugee centres in Mondulkiri and Ratanakkiri provinces in the face of strong protests from Hanoi.

Toshi Kawauchi, head of the Cambodia office of UNHCR, could not comment on the Uighurs’ case, but said his office works closely with the government to ensure the fulfilment of its obligations under the 1951 convention.

When asked what would happen in the event of a dispute between the UNHCR and the government, he said all cases were approached on a “case-by-case basis”.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY JAMES O’TOOLE AND AFP

Ministers OK foreign property purchases



(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Monday, 07 December 2009 15:03 Chun Sophal

The Council of Ministers approved a long-awaited draft law Friday allowing foreign ownership of units in co-owned buildings to boost economic growth, council spokesman Phay Siphan said.

The draft law, approved in a meeting chaired by Prime Minister Hun Sen, was aimed at “attracting investors, facilitating the growth of real estate market, and pushing development”, according to a statement from the Council of Ministers on Friday.

Phay Siphan said the law would let foreigners buy units in buildings from the first floor up, but would not apply within 30 kilometres of international borders because of national security concerns.

Phay Siphan said a controversial clause limiting the percentage of any building that could be owned by foreigners had been dropped. Instead, the government would manage ownership by foreigners through sub-decrees, which could be issued on a case-by-case basis, he said.

The draft law is expected to be approved by Cambodia’s parliament and senate, and then will be promulgated by King Norodom Sihamoni.

Phay Siphan said he expected the law, which consists of 8 chapters and 24 articles, to be sent to the National Assembly for consideration within the week.

The move comes after the private sector in recent years urged the government to allow foreign ownership of properties such as apartments and factories, saying a liberalised real estate market would spur the economy. Under current rules, foreign property investments can be made only through the name of a Cambodian national.

National Valuers Association of Cambodia President Sung Bonna said the law would boost sales but was unlikely to increase prices of apartments, as there is still limited demand in the country.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY AFP

Kraya villagers detained after rally in Phnom Penh halted



Photo by: Heng chivoan
Heang Soeun, 38, and family are forcibly moved by police along with fellow residents of Kampong Thom’s Kraya commune after they attempted to protest their pending eviction at Wat Botum park Sunday.

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Monday, 07 December 2009 15:03 Rann Reuy

DISABLED veterans due to lose their homes in an increasingly tense standoff with authorities Kampong Thom province gathered in Phnom Penh on Sunday in a bid to rally the support of Prime Minister Hun Sen, but were turned back by police.

More than 100 former soldiers and their families were ordered to return to Kampong Thom. Forty-seven did so, but on arrival were barred from re-entering Kraya commune, at the heart of a land dispute since 2007, villagers said.

“They would not allow us to go home, and they tell us they will deploy armed forces tomorrow,” Pann Ta, 42, said Sunday. “We are so sorry to lose our [cassava] plantation in the village because for the past three or four years, we have tried our best to grow it.”

Pich Sophea, Santuk district governor, said the veterans, who are being temporarily detained at a pagoda, will be sent to a new location being offered to the evictees as compensation. He also confirmed that “a coalition” of provincial authorities was poised to forcibly evict the remaining families from Kraya today after several recent delays. Uch Sam On, Kampong Thom deputy governor, said: “We do not know yet whether there will be violence or not, but we have prepared hundreds of police officers.”

Licadho consultant Mathieu Pellerin said the organisation was concerned that the eviction would lead to violence.

“We still fear renewed violence at Kraya,” he said. “The deadline has passed; the offer of compensation has been rejected. We hope the authorities won’t use violence as a final solution. These families have a legitimate claim to the land and we recognise the strong will of the community to remain on that land.”

Govt delays reservoir destruction



(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Monday, 07 December 2009 15:03 Khouth Sophak Chakrya and Kim Yuthana

THE government has delayed plans to destroy 16 manmade reservoirs built by farmers in Kampong Thom, villagers said, giving a year’s reprieve to families still reeling in the aftermath of Typhoon Ketsana.

Kim Sokhen, a representative of the farmers from Kampong Thom’s Baray district, said Sunday that he and the other farmers have been told the government will postpone orders to dismantle the reservoirs until next season.

“We are very happy with the rice crop in this dry season,” Kim Sokhen said.

Farmers in the district were hit particularly hard earlier this year as Ketsana ripped through the region, destroying thousands of hectares of rice paddies in the province and jeopardising food supplies.

The farmers said they have maintained the reservoirs for years to supply their fields with water in the dry season.

Government authorities, on the other hand, warned that the reservoirs, dug into swathes of forested floodplain, could harm fish habitats and spawning grounds.

Ou Boss Phan, director of the Agriculture Department in Kampong Thom, said he supports the government’s overall plan to destroy the reservoirs.

“We know that some of the reservoirs are impacting local fisheries,” he said. “The government needs to destroy any reservoirs that have serious impacts on fisheries and keep those that provide benefits to both the farmers and the fish.”

Ou Boss Phan said he hoped local farmers will destroy the reservoirs themselves after this season’s harvest is complete.

KR court must widen net: group



Photo by: Sovan Philong
The Extraordinary Chambers of the Courts of Cambodia building is reflected in a rain pool during a break in the trial of former Khmer Rouge prison chief Kaing Guek Eav, known as Duch.

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It is... questionable whether the current caseload would fulfill the mandate...
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(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Monday, 07 December 2009 15:02 James O'Toole

THE Khmer Rouge tribunal will fall short of its responsibility to prosecute those “most responsible” for the atrocities committed under Democratic Kampuchea in the absence of investigations of further suspects, Amnesty International said in a statement.

Responding to the appointment of new International Co-Prosecutor Andrew Cayley, announced by the UN-backed court last week, Amnesty said the British national should review the decision announced by acting International Co-Prosecutor William Smith in September that only five more suspects will be investigated by the tribunal beyond the five who are now in detention.

“Unless more cases are investigated and prosecuted, it is highly questionable whether the current caseload would fulfill the mandate of the Tribunal,” Amnesty said.

The statement, released Friday, came just one day after Prime Minister Hun Sen repeated his warning that an expanded dragnet at the tribunal could plunge the Kingdom back into civil war.

Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said Sunday that it was “too early” to comment on the prospect of further investigations in the absence of official communication from the tribunal itself. “The ECCC has their own due process,” he said.

In calling for expanded investigations, Amnesty cited the 2003 agreement between the UN and the Cambodian government defining the purpose of the tribunal as “to bring to trial senior leaders of Democratic Kampuchea and those most responsible for the crimes and serious violations of Cambodian penal law”, claiming that the prosecution of only 10 suspects would be inadequate in the face of the millions who suffered under the regime.

“Should the new International Co-Prosecutor decide not to conduct further investigations into other crimes nor to prosecute other suspects, the people of Cambodia, including survivors and their relatives around the world, deserve an explanation,” Amnesty said.

The group Human Rights Watch also weighed in Sunday with senior researcher Sara Colm saying, “Bowing to political pressure to limit the scope of prosecutions withholds justice from the victims of the Khmer Rouge and undermines the court’s legitimacy, credibility and independence.”

“Instead, the tribunal should vigorously follow its mandate to investigate and prosecute senior Khmer Rouge leaders and those most responsible.”

Smith’s September filings to the tribunal requested investigation of five confidential suspects, and came despite the objections of National Co-Prosecutor Chea Leang. Smith and UN court spokesman Lars Olsen referred questions to Cayley, who could not be reached for comment on Sunday.

Frenchman re-arrested on child sex allegations



(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Monday, 07 December 2009 15:02 Chrann Chamroeun

A FRENCH national has been arrested and charged with abusing underage boys for the second time in three months, court and police officials said Sunday.

Jean-Marie Beranger, 61, was arrested last Friday in Kampot province and charged with purchasing child prostitution. If he is convicted, the charge carries a prison sentence of between five and 15 years.

The new allegations concern eight boys between the ages of 12 and 14 in Phnom Penh and Kampot province, said Keo Thea, a police chief of Phnom Penh’s Anti-human Trafficking and Juvenile Protection Bureau, who led the operation.

Suspect was free on bail
The arrest comes less than four weeks after Beranger – who is now in pretrial detention – was released on bail after being charged with committing indecent acts against a 13-year-old boy in Preah Sihanouk province in September.

Samleang Seila, country director with the group Action Pour Les Enfants (APLE), commended the police for re-arresting Beranger, but said the suspect should never have been freed in the first place while awaiting trial on the original charge.

“I hope this sends a strong message warning the courts not to release the accused on bail,” Samleang Seila said.

PM calls for caution on Thai border



(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Monday, 07 December 2009 15:02 Cheang Sokha

PRIME Minister Hun Sen on Saturday warned Cambodians living along the border with Thailand not to cross unlawfully into the neighbouring country, following a series of arrests and shootings.

“Do whatever you want in our territory, but do not cross onto [Thai] soil,” Hun Sen said during the opening of construction on National Road 68 in Oddar Meanchey province.

Hun Sen’s comments follow numerous reports of clashes between Cambodian illegal loggers and Thai soldiers in recent months. In September, 16 Cambodian loggers received jail terms from a Thai provincial court, and in a separate incident, Oddar Meanchey officials claim 16-year-old Cambodian logger Yon Rith was burned alive by Thai soldiers.

Despite these incidents, the premier stated again that the military clashes along the border will not resume. “The policy of using the armed forces is out of date now, and it is in contrast to the will of the people of the two countries.”

From killing fields to US candidate



Photo by: Photo Supplied
US Congressional candidate Sam Meas, a survivor of the killing fields who is the first Cambodian-American to run for state or federal office.

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Monday, 07 December 2009 15:02 James O'Toole

Sam Meas, the first Cambodian-American to seek congressional office, talks about growing up in war-torn Cambodia, his move to the US and his outlook on the Kingdom’s political situation.

Sam Meas, a 36-year-old investment analyst from Haverhill, Massachusetts, is a Republican candidate for the United States congress in Massachusetts’ 5th District. He is the first Cambodian-American to run for Congress, or any other state or federal office in US history. Sam Meas and a cousin crossed the border from Cambodia into Thailand’s Khao-I-Dang refugee camp in 1983. He came to the US to live with a foster family in 1986, and went on to graduate from Virginia Tech University in 1996. Sam Meas recently took time out from working and campaigning to conduct an email interview with the Post.

What were the most striking things about the United States for you when you arrived in 1986?
Our flight arrived in New York City at night from Europe. The view of the city from the plane was the most incredible sight I have ever laid my eyes on. Bright lights were lighting up the city grids from the ground. I thought it was heaven on earth.

The second striking feature was the highway system. A group of us took the taxi from the airport to the hotel. We were driven through underpasses, overpasses and underground tunnels. I was just mesmerised by the wonder of it all. The tall buildings and modernity of everything in America were just incredible. I had never seen any of these things before in my life.

Last but not least, I was pleasantly surprised by the kind and welcoming people in America. True to their reputation, Americans are kind, compassionate and caring people.

What are your memories of life in Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge?
I was very young when the Khmer Rouge took Kandal province; It has since been relayed to me that I was just 2 years old at the time. My father was arrested and never to be seen again, meaning that he, like so many other thousands of teachers and intellectuals, was executed....

My older brothers and sisters were drafted to be part of the Khmer Rouge’s new Army of Labour and sent to work far away. I never saw much of them after they left.... While my mother was putting in 12-hour days for Angka in the field, my brother and I spent our time between our mud hut and the day care centre at the communal kitchen. One of our jobs, besides fending for ourselves, was collecting cow manure....

I did witness individual murders and mass killing. My family was spared, I was told, solely because the local Khmer Rouge village chief attested that our family was part of the “liberated people” or “old people”.

What are your thoughts on the current state of politics in Cambodia?
Cambodia, like many other countries that are recovering from years of protracted civil war, is lacking much and needs rebuilding on so many fronts – the economy, education, healthcare, social justice, respect for the rule of law, respect for private property, human rights, independence of the judicial system and transparency and accountability at all levels of government – all at the same time.

Has some progress been made? The answer is yes. Can more be done and at a faster pace? Absolutely. Would the economy of Cambodia greatly benefit from an independent judicial system and greater respect for private property? I believe so.

On September 10, the US congress heard testimony from Cambodian witnesses who detailed a litany of human rights abuses allegedly perpetrated by the Cambodian government, with Sam Rainsy Party parliamentarian Mu Sochua claiming that Cambodian democracy is experiencing “an alarming free fall”. Do you find these testimonies credible?

This is all the more reason why there is an urgent need for an independent and transparent judicial system in Cambodia – so that any allegations, as well as lawsuits and countersuits, can be brought forward in the Cambodian courts. Only in an independent Cambodian court can the truth be found by a Khmer judge and the Khmer people. As a US congressman, I will fight to right these injustices.

Many Cambodians who grew up in America find themselves back in Cambodia after being deported for committing felonies as noncitizens. What is your position on this issue?
While I am strongly sympathetic to their plight, everyone must obey the law. So, I first strongly advise all legal immigrants to apply for US citizenship as soon as they are eligible.... Many of these deportees who grew up in the US came with their parents when they were very young and had ample time to apply for US citizenship. In a free society, one must be held responsible for one’s actions. They committed the felonies and aggravated felonies or drug trafficking, and are therefore responsible for their actions.

However, as an elected official, I would also like to examine the different agreements signed between the US and Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos.... It seems that there is variation in the agreements between the US and these countries.…Why is it that noncitizens from these countries are treated differently? The same crime must have the same punishment regardless of the perpetrator’s race or country of origin.

Have you been following the progress of the Khmer Rouge tribunal? If so, what are your thoughts on it and the role it is attempting to play in national reconciliation?
I have been following the Khmer Rouge tribunal. I think what needs to happen in order for the healing to begin is to model the tribunal on the truth commissions in South Africa. Those who committed the heinous crimes need to openly confess on record to the people and ask forgiveness from the victims and their families. No retribution or punishment.

What role does Buddhism play in your outlook on politics?
I am a Buddhist and believe in the teachings of our Lord Buddha. One needs to have compassion for human suffering. But each human being is held accountable and responsible for our actions. Therefore, there is a certain limited role of government in our daily lives. Each of us is responsible in ensuring that our government works for us.

Government should create a limited safety net for its citizens, but government should not be there to provide a handout and to take care of every need of its citizens. Citizens create and get the type of government they choose. Dictatorship and totalitarianism did not happen overnight. Be wary of a government that promises and gives too much, for that beneficence ultimately comes from what it takes from the people.

INTERVIEW BY JAMES O’TOOLE

WHO rips traditional remedy



Photo by: Cat Barton
A woman chews tobacco in Kandal province. A new report by the World Health Organization revealed many pregnant Khmer women chew tobacco to relieve morning sickness.

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Monday, 07 December 2009 15:02 Jacob Gold

THE traditional use of chewing tobacco as a morning sickness remedy may damage the health of thousands of Cambodian newborns every year, a new World Health Organisation (WHO) study warns.

“Tobacco use among adults in Cambodia: Evidence for a tobacco epidemic among women,” published in the December 2009 bulletin of the WHO, examined tobacco use habits among 7,858 Cambodian women, mostly from rural areas, making it the largest survey of its kind undertaken in the country. The report estimated that more than 560,000 Cambodian women chew tobacco, with the percentage of users increasing with age.

“About one out of five rural women who used chewing tobacco started their habit for relief from morning sickness. The highest prevalence of chewing tobacco among women was seen among midwives (67.9 percent) and among traditional healers (47.2 percent),” it read.

Tobacco is mostly chewed with betel nut, a substance used across Asia for its stimulant, analgesic and deworming properties. This age-old combination’s social and medicinal uses, however, do not extend to pregnancy. Among populations with little formal education, the high incidence of tobacco and betel use among midwives and traditional healers can often obscure this fact.

The report states that, “In addition to the wide-ranging effects of fetal tobacco syndrome, emerging data suggests that the use of areca [betel] nut among pregnant mothers results in increased infant mortality.”

Dr Niklas Danielsson, specialist in child and adolescent health at the WHO in Cambodia, said “the babies of smoking mothers are born smaller” than those of nonsmokers, exposing them to further risks. Chewing tobacco poses the same danger to fetal health. When tobacco is chewed as opposed to smoked, Danielsson said, blood nicotine levels are higher.

The report also questions that Cambodia’s current anti-tobacco initiatives are equipped to confront this problem.

Dr Susan Mercado, WHO’s tobacco control adviser for the Western-Pacific region, was quoted by The Associated Press as calling for programmes to target specific kinds of tobacco use, and pointing out that second-hand smoke is not the only tobacco-related threat faced by women.

The report follows an October request by the Ministry of Health to significantly scale back its Millenium Development Goal target for reducing the number of women who die during childbirth, from 140 deaths per 100,000 live births to 250 deaths per 100,000 live births. The Kingdom’s current maternal mortality rate stands at 461.

Anti-Graft: NGOs to urge govt action on corruption



(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Monday, 07 December 2009 15:02 Khuon Leakhana and Sen David

Anti-Graft

Acoalition of local and international NGOs hope to put graft in the spotlight during Wednesday’s celebration of International Anticorruption Day that is expected be held in Phnom Penh and eight provinces, officials said on Sunday. The celebrations, which will start with an event at Phnom Penh’s Chenla Theatre, carries added significance this year, organisers said, with the Council of Ministers set to discuss the country’s long-stalled draft Anticorruption Law on Friday. “The objective of the programme is to urge the government to approve the draft Anticorruption Law and encourage residents to avoid corruption,” said Yong Kim Eng, director of the People’s Centre for Development and Peace. More than 1,000 people are expected to join in the celebrations, said organisers, who also include the Coalition for Integrity and Social Accountability and 43 local and overseas NGOs. In addition to celebrations to be held in the capital, anti-graft events have also been organised in Preah Sihanouk, Siem Reap, Battambang, Pursat, Banteay Meanchey, Oddar Meanchey, Stung Treng and Kampong Thom provinces.

Kingdom’s swine flu infections rise to 480



(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Monday, 07 December 2009 15:02 Cheang Sokha

THE number of people infected with influenza A(H1N1), commonly known as swine flu, has risen to 480, but no new deaths have been recorded, according to the Ministry of Health’s Department of Communicable Disease Control on Sunday.

As of last Thursday, the department’s Web site stated that eight new cases had emerged over a period of one week. The virus has now been detected in 13 provinces.

The previous update, on November 26, noted 472 cases.

To date, five people in Cambodia have died of swine flu since it was detected here in June. The first confirmed death came on September 27 when a 41-year-old woman succumbed to the virus.

To fight the spread of the virus, health officials recommend people wash their hands frequently, refrain from spitting in public, use tissues when coughing or sneezing, and avoid crowds.

If you show any signs of symptoms such as a fever above 38C, coughing, headaches, muscle aches, a sore throat, runny nose or lethargy, call the influenza hotlines on 115 (free call), 012 488 981 or 089 669 567.

A promising, if tenuous, start




Photo by: AFP
Former Tuol Sleng prison chief, Kaing Guek Eav, alias Duch, speaks during a court appearance in Phnom Penh.

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Monday, 07 December 2009 15:02 James Goldston

Duch’s trial is just the first step on the road to national recovery as interference threatens to jeopardise the tribunal’s mission.

LAST month, the first trial of a Khmer Rouge leader ended with a simple, though not surprising, request from the defendant: Set me free.

For almost nine months, Cambodians have watched with fascination the trial of Kaing Guek Eav, known as Duch. As commander of the infamous Tuol Sleng S-21 prison, Duch oversaw the torture and execution of thousands of Cambodians. His testimony brought into stark view a picture of the Khmer Rouge that had been buried in politically self-serving caricature since 1979.

Throughout the trial, Duch appeared to accept responsibility for the crimes committed at Tuol Sleng. His last-minute change in strategy thrust this case – which had been sailing smoothly toward conclusion – into a state of uncertainty. More importantly, it underscored the fact that the trial of one person – however cathartic – will never provide sufficient accountability for the 1.7 million Cambodians who died at the hands of the Khmer Rouge. If justice is to be served, more trials will be needed.

But it is not at all clear that more will follow. A second case involving four of the most senior surviving Khmer Rouge leaders remains under an investigation that has proceeded slowly. Trial is not expected to commence before 2011, if it happens at all. Six Cambodian government witnesses, with the encouragement of their superiors, have refused to honour summons requiring their testimony before the investigating judges.

An international co-prosecutor launched two additional cases over factually unsupported objections of his Cambodian counterpart and Cambodian judges. Since the cases were launched, confidential sources inside the court have warned that Cambodian officers and staff may be barred by their government from cooperating with the prosecution.

It is not news that some in Phnom Penh resist judicial proceedings that might shine a light on Khmer Rouge abuses or establish a model of genuine justice. What is striking is that, after more than 10 years of negotiations with the international community, the expenditure of tens of millions of dollars, and the positive example of Duch’s trial, such intransigence persists at the highest levels.

As recently as September, just as the court’s Pre-Trial Chamber issued a divided opinion allowing investigations in Cases 003 and 004 to go ahead, Prime Minister Hun Sen warned that further prosecutions risked plunging the nation into renewed war, “killing 200,000 to 300,000 more”.

According to press accounts, the prime minister said, “We have allowed the court to decide on the additional former Khmer Rouge cadre following the majority…. If the court wants to charge more former senior Khmer Rouge cadres, the court must show the reasons to Prime Minister Hun Sen.” So much for judicial independence.

If the court is to fulfil even the modest aspirations of its progenitors, judicial proceedings must be allowed to run their course in all four of the cases now under way. Government officials, like others, must be permitted to give evidence wherever it leads. Investigators must be free to investigate, prosecutors to prosecute, and judges to judge without fear of retribution.

For too long, international donors funding the court have sat back and watched as threats of political interference and widely reported corruption have sapped the court’s credibility. It is time for the United States, Japan, France and other donor countries to reaffirm publicly the importance of prosecutorial and judicial independence, and to make clear that Cambodian government transgressions will not be tolerated.

Within the court, senior prosecutorial and judicial investigative officers should be requested to verify on an ongoing basis the full, active and independent cooperation of both international and Cambodian staff and officers. As a measure of its good faith, the Cambodian government should invite the United Nations to appoint a high-level representative to ensure that the agreement establishing the court is complied with and that fundamental fair trial principles are protected.

It is now more than 12 years since Prime Minister Hun Sen joined Prince Norodom Ranariddh in asking “the United Nations and the international community” to “assist the Cambodian people in establishing the truth about [the Khmer Rouge] period and bringing those responsible to justice”.

The court’s first trial has marked a promising, if belated, start down this path. It has defied the sceptics in offering a long-overdue history lesson that penetrated far beyond the courtroom to towns and villages across the country. Against the odds, it has contributed more than many had thought possible to Cambodia’s understanding of its past.

But Duch’s trial is only the beginning. There is still much left to accomplish if Cambodia’s people are to redeem the court’s promise and come to terms with the horrors of their past.

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James Goldston is executive director of the Open Society Justice Initiative, which has monitored the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia since 2003.

Trade deals to tighten VN ties



A motorist in Phnom Penh purchases a bottle of fuel imported from Vietnam. Officials from Cambodia and Vietnam hope an accord signed Friday will strengthen ties between the two countries. Bloomberg

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Monday, 07 December 2009 15:01 May Kunmakara

Cambodia signs accords promising closer cooperation with eastern neighbour

Cambodia and Vietnam vowed Friday to strengthen cooperation on a wide range of issues affecting cross-border ties, particularly those involving bilateral trade and investment, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Secretary of State Ung Sean said.

The two parties signed an accord at the end of a two-day closed-door meeting to push ahead on 26 points of cooperation, he said. The accord cleared the way for concrete deals to be signed “soon” on the four most significant areas of relaxed visa rules, economic cooperation, education and improved border markings, he said.

Other areas for cooperation between the two countries covered by the 11th Meeting of the Cambodia-Vietnam Joint Commission on Economic, Cultural, Scientific and Technology Cooperation were maritime transportation, criminal extradition, heavy industry, trade, migrant workers, extractive industries, transportation and cultural concerns.

Cambodia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Hor Namhong chaired the meeting alongside his Vietnamese counterpart and deputy prime minister, Pham Gia Khiem.

Cambodia’s Ung Sean said one of the more important deals for the Kingdom was a proposed relaxation of visa regulations for visitors between the two countries and migrant workers looking for jobs.

“We will offer a 30-day visa exemption for tourists from Vietnam; it previously was 14 days,” he said. As well, migrant workers with the right supporting documentation will be allowed to pursue employment across the border for up to one year.

In the education sector, Vietnam pledged increased opportunities for Cambodian students to study in Vietnamese schools. “They offered us 100 long-term scholarships and 450 short-term ones,” Ung Sean said.

Cambodia and Vietnam also moved to clear up border demarcation between the two countries, announcing the border would be fully marked by 2012.

Vietnam also pledged to wrap up construction on Road 78 to the O’Yadav border crossing by January 31, according to Ung Sean.

Officials from both countries noted that progress on many of the issues highlighted at the previous meeting had seen advancement, particularly economic ties, and pledged to continue working towards the goal of $2 billion in cross-border trade in 2010.

A Vietnamese proposal to end the process of double-taxing goods crossing the border failed because the implications in Cambodian law were not fully understood, Ung Sean said.

“We have never reached an agreement on this issue with another country before,” he said.

Austrian firm lights up home fittings market



(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Monday, 07 December 2009 15:01 Jeremy Mullins

Austrian manufacturer EGLO Lights International began sales of its high-end lighting products in Cambodia Saturday.

EGLO Asia General Manager Ehsan Sivarajah said it was the first time fixtures of such high quality have been available directly to domestic consumers on a retail basis.

“Our main intention is to be the domestic supplier of quality lighting products to hotels and homes being built here,” Sivarajah told guests at the store opening on Monivong Boulevard.

EGLO will use its Vietnamese distributor TTD Trading and Service Co to run its multi-storey showroom and warehouse in southern Phnom Penh after a search for a qualified Cambodian distributor proved fruitless, Sivarajah said.

He added that he expects TTD will play the same role when outlets are eventually opened in Myanmar and Laos.

With some 3500 individual items available in its catalogues, EGLO’s products range in price from US$25 to over $1,000 each, but generally provide a significant step up from most light fixtures retailed domestically, Sivarajah said.

“We represent European style,” he said. “We hope to change Cambodians’ minds with better lights than the lower-quality Chinese products presently available.”

The Phnom Penh showroom will be able to supply smaller orders from its 3000-item storehouse, but large or unique orders, such as those the firm expects from hotels, must be shipped directly from its factory offshore.

“To have style like this, it’s great,” said Nessim Djemail, general manager at construction firm Exeliance Asia, a potential client. “There is a potential market here, although it will take time to take off.”

Sivarajah declined to comment on the cost of opening in the Kingdom, saying only that it is less than the firm’s average for a new location.

Tax incentives planned for bourse



Photo by: TRACEY SHELTON
The developer behind Camko City is hoping to develop a financial hub for Cambodia on the back of a planned stock exchange.

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Monday, 07 December 2009 15:01 Nguon Sovan

The government is considering a range of tax incentives to encourage companies to list on a stock exchange planned for the country as well as set up in a financial district being developed

The government is mulling tax incentives to encourage companies to list and trade shares on its planned stock exchange, a top official said last week.

Mey Vann, director of the Department of Industry and Finance at the Ministry of Economy and Finance, said tax breaks could also be directed at other companies that set up operations in a new financial district planned for the area surrounding the planned exchange.

“This is one of the ways we can attract investors – to make Cambodia more attractive than other countries so they will come to our country,” he said.

The stock exchange, which is being developed in partnership with the Korea Exchange, Asia’s fourth-largest bourse operator, will be housed in Camko City, a satellite city being developed by South Korea’s World City Co in a suburb north of central Phnom Penh.

The developer hopes part of the development will be set aside for a financial district for the capital, along the lines of the Pudong New Area in Shanghai, which has emerged as China’s financial and commercial hub.

Mey Vann said the possible incentives included reduced taxes on profits, reduced or scrapped excise and customs taxes for imports and exports, and reduced taxes on gains from buying and selling shares.

“The main types of businesses that will be granted incentives are financial service companies such as banks, insurance firms, stock brokerages and fund managers, as well as real estate investment firms and development companies,” he said.

Any tax exemptions offered would not exceed a period of nine years, Mey Vann said, adding that the loss of tax revenues in the long-term would be more than offset by benefits from the development of a financial centre for the country.

“Over the short-term, we will not gain tax revenues from participating companies, but we will encourage macroeconomic stability, create employment and establish transparency in corporate governance,” he said.

Over the long-term, the development of a transparent corporate culture would help the government collect tax revenues, Mey Vann added.

Cambodia’s stock market will be launched one year behind schedule in late 2010, Aun Porn Moniroth, secretary of state for the Ministry of Economy and Finance, said last week.

He blamed the delay on the impact of the global financial crisis and the amount of work required to prepare the exchange.

Stocks Roundup: JSM stable before vote on chairman's removal



(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Monday, 07 December 2009 15:01 Nathan Green

AIM-listed JSM Indochina was to hold an extraordinary general meeting in London today to vote on a leadership challenge by San Francisco-based hedge fund Passport Capital LLC.

The meeting was originally scheduled for November 26 but was delayed to allow “discrepancies” in voting forms submitted by shareholders “to be resolved”.

The Passport challenge, which called for the replacement of Chief Executive Officer Craig Jones, Chief Financial Officer Rowell Tan and Chairman Michael Tanner on the board on the grounds of underperformance, under investment and “serious corporate governance failures” has already resulted in the resignation of Jones and Tan, effective November 26.

Although the two have resigned from the board, they will continue their roles with JSM Capital Indochina Ltd, which has been contracted by the company to manage the fund’s investment portfolio, according to a statement by the board. Jones holds 14.5 percent of JSM Indochina and Passport 13 percent.

Passport wants to replace the company’s directors with its nominees: Scott Verges, Paul Kaju and John Duggan. However, with the resignation of Jones and Tan, shareholders will need to vote only on whether to remove Tanner. JSM closed Friday unchanged at £0.67 (US$1.10).

Australia-listed miner Oz Minerals closed down 2.78 percent Friday at A$1.23, eroding some of the gains made earlier in the week after it announced last Sunday it planned to boost output at its Prominent Hill mine in South Australia next year from 8 million tonnes to 8.8 million tonnes.

The copper and gold producer also announced last Monday it had identified at least 2 million ounces of gold reserves in its Cambodian concessions.

The stock is near its 52-week high of A$1.33 after the global credit crunch brought it as low as A$0.40. The company was the world’s second-largest zinc mining company before it sold $1.6 billion of mines this year to slash debt.

OSK Holdings Bhd, the Malaysia-listed owner of Cambodia’s OSK Indochina Bank, rose the most in almost seven months in Kuala Lumpur trading last Wednesday after saying it plans a bonus share issue.

The 5.6 percent gain to 1.51 ringgit (US$0.45) was its biggest gain since May 8 and dwarfed a 1.4 percent rise on November 26 when it announced a 92 percent jump in third-quarter net income to 34.6 million ringgit (US$10.23 million).

Police Blotter: 7 Dec 2009




(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Monday, 07 December 2009 15:01 Tha Piseth

MOTODOP CONFESSES TO BEING DRUGS TAXI
A 19-year-old man stands accused of delivering drugs after his arrest last Wednesday in a Daun Penh district village. The man, who worked as a motodop driver, confessed that he resorted to dealing drugs because he earned little income from his day job, police said. Investigators said the man was arrested with nine packages of powdered drugs and one tablet. People from the commune in which the man was arrested complained that nocturnal drugs deliveries were becoming commonplace of late, as if the dealers were selling candy.
KOH SANTEPHEAP

GUESTHOUSE SHUT AFTER SERVING SEX
Local and anti-human trafficking police officials freed 16 Vietnamese women from a guesthouse in Preah Sihanouk province this weekend after a crackdown on the libidinous lodge. Police say the guesthouse was owned by a Vietnamese woman who brought the victims, all between the ages of 16 years and 27 years, from Vietnam to work in her business. The women have been sent to Phnom Penh to learn new job skills, and the guesthouse has been temporarily closed, police said.
KOH SANTEPHEAP

THIS JUST IN: NEWS REPORTER BEATEN
A group of drunken gangsters was arrested after they allegedly struck a reporter for the Areiyathor newspaper on the head last Tuesday. The Siem Reap province reporter said the three ruffians lashed him with belts when he was riding his motorbike home. Police have caught two of the accused, but both are protesting innocence, instead blaming the attack on the third suspect, who made a successful escape.
KAMPUCHEA THMEY

TWO MEN ARRESTED IN PAIT OF THEFTS
Police in Preah Sihanouk province arrested two men in separate cases last Thursday. One is accused of threatening two women at knife point for US$80 and a Motorola phone, and another is suspected of stealing a 150-litre ice tank. Police have filed the two cases with the local court.
KAMPUCHEA THMEY

BUILDER HANGS HIMSELF WITH KRAMA
A 20-year-old man in Phnom Penh’s Russey Keo district hanged himself with his krama on Friday, said police, who were unable to offer an explanation of why the man killed himself. Police said the body of the man, who was a construction worker, was found by other builders when they entered the fourth-floor flat in which they were working in Tuol Sangke commune. The man’s body was sent to Tuol Sangke pagoda.
KOH SANTEPHEAP

Addressing the past to change the future – one frame at a time



Film students at Aziza’s Place shoot short films that address social and emotional issues in Cambodia. Photo Supplied

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Even though we are street children, we have to keep ourselves precious.
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(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Monday, 07 December 2009 15:01 Roth Meas

IN recent months, much has been done to celebrate the past of Cambodian cinema through a film festival at Chinese House and a photography exhibition at Sa Sa Gallery. However the present state of the film industry is still very much a work in progress. It may be a while before Cambodian youths take up the camera to shoot feature films, but some of them are getting their start in an unusual place.

Hong Buncheng, Kruy Sengkri, Nheb Channy, South Chiev and Von Rotha, five residents of Aziza’s Place, a grassroots residential and educational NGO serving impoverished Cambodian children, are making movies inspired by their downbeat lives as scrap scavengers in the Stung Meanchey waste dumpsite.

Embarrassment, contempt and arrogance are among the issues that they have been addressing in their creative film class. Von Rotha, a 16-year-old ninth-grader at Tuol Tumpong secondary school, focused his movie on the theme of encouragement, which, he says, is a message that he hopes will reach his classmates.

“At school, some students look down on me,” Von Rotha explained. “They say I stay in NGOs and don’t learn much.” However, in addition to his public school education, he is engaging in more holistic studies at Aziza’s. After leaving his mother in Battambang province to move into the NGO, Von Rotha began studying drawing, dancing and film in addition to his academic schooling.

Von Rotha says he realises that social stratification issues don’t just exist in school between classmate peers, but are a ubiquitous problem thoughout Cambodian society.


Behind the camera at Aziza’s Place. Photo Supplied

Von Rotha knows the feeling of embarrassment well, but says that he has also learned the importance of encouragement while living at Aziza’s Place. He hopes to expose embarrassment and arrogance in society by analysing their impact in his films. Besides helping to encourage the country’s poor and orphaned, Von Rotha also hopes that his movies could help to accelerate the quality and social impact of the film sector in Cambodia.

“Cambodian film stars now don’t even care to read a script before performing,” said Von Rotha. “When they perform, they just listen and speak after the director,” adding that he has heard that Cambodian film- makers produce any story going, regardless of the statement it makes.

Von Rotha always ensures his cast is all on the same page before shooting begins, giving scripts to his actors to practice their lines in advance. His six-minute short, which was screened this weekend at Aziza’s, was about a karate class. He expects his story about the concept of encouragement to take a unique angle on local social issues, encouraging the poor to struggle for better lives, even though they are often embarrassed or looked down upon.

Another young filmmaker on the team, 12-year-old Kruy Sengkri, chose to produce a one-minute reportage film about street children.

“I know there are many street children in our country,” he says, having lived as a scrap scavenger in the Stung Meanchey dump for three years himself before moving into Aziza’s Place. “I want all children to conduct themselves in a respectful way,” he said, explaining that scavenging for scrap still offers more pride than stealing or robbing people.

“Even though we are street children, we have to keep ourselves precious,” Sengkri said.

Ali Robbins, the director of Aziza’s Place, says she admires the five kids, seemingly wise beyond their years, who have found topics, developed their skills and produced a short film after studying for less than a year.

Robbins hopes to help the students find internships at various film companies so that they can begin careers as filmmakers.

If you want to see these future directors’ works, contact Robbins at ali@azizasplace.org

Ratatat shoot some NY glamour into PP



Photo by: JAMES GRANT
Evan Mast, bassist/keyboard player and producer extraordinaire for Ratatat, jams at the FCC last Friday.

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Monday, 07 December 2009 15:00 Dene Mullen

For a band who seem fond of posing with their eyes covered in much of their promotional material, Ratatat certainly aren’t shortsighted when it comes to working a crowd. The New Yorkers’ set on Friday night at the FCC impressed in no small measure, even moving one reveller to invade the stage and attempt to jam with them.

If the fact that a band who have opened for the likes of Bjork, CSS and the mighty Daft Punk opted to rock Phnom Penh came as something of a surprise, their expertise onstage was less of a revelation. This was no glossy, polished performance though; guitarist Mike Stroud prowled the stage like a bedraggled electro tiger, swigging from a bottle of wine and whirling his hair as he went. Indeed, so alpha rock star was his performance that at times it almost crossed the line into parody, yet that didn’t stop the girls swooning and the guys pogoing.

On synth and bass, Evan Mast was slightly more reserved – but only just. The producer-cum-performer attacked his keyboard like a starving man at a banquet, crashing out dirty post-rock, which led the audience down a sonic rabbit hole. The jaunty techno pop of “Shempi” was clearly designed to get feet moving and it had the desired effect here, while the dreamy psychedelia of “Falcon Jab” lulled the crowd into a false sense of security before baring its teeth.

Quality electro music is in relatively short supply in this age of knee-jerk, scene-led A&R men looking for a quick buck. That two of its finest exponents were to be found turning the FCC into a den of Brooklyn cool on Friday night was an even rarer treat.

A spectral photograph takes the Post's top prize



Grand Prize Winner
Photographer: Michael Gillich
Title: The ancient temple ruins of Phnom Bok in Siem Reap Province (antiquated interpretations)
Equipment: Canon 5D, 24-105mm f/4 L, edited on a Mac
Prize: Canon EOS 50D camera body with 17-85mm IS USM lens from iOne

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Monday, 07 December 2009 15:00 Joel Quenby

Presenting the overall winner of The Phnom Penh Post’s inaugural photo competition, freelance graphic designer and photographer Michael Gillich

Michael Gillich, a 31-year-old German expat, has worked in advertising in Cambodia for the past four years – and has been doing freelance commercial photography for “a short time”, although says his, “real passion is in landscape photography and photojournalism”.

Gillich, a gent who seems to know which side his bread’s buttered on, credits his “wonderful Khmer wife who has shown me places I would otherwise have missed” for his prize-winning photograph (above), a spectral black-and-white image of an Angkorian temple.

He also says, “This award will definitely make me travel and photograph more”.

Was it your first visit to the site of your prize-winning shot?
Being really interested in ancient Khmer temples – and having seen most of them, both in and out of Cambodia – I had already visited the often-overlooked Phnom Bok mountain in Siem Reap province.

The second time I decided to bring a camera along with me, as you should always do. I ascended the mountain in the morning, before it got too hot. My first visit was at lunchtime, meaning I made my way up in the midday sun.

How did you get such a deserted image?
In contrast to the other temples around Siem Reap, there are rarely any tourists up there – maybe because of the climb – which gave me time to take some nice pictures.

You get rewarded with a view of some old ruins, which can be seen in my picture, a modern wat and a few old artillery guns that make the place look like it has just been deserted by Khmer soldiers.

The view over the countryside can be really scenic in the rainy season.
I also loved the trees seemingly growing out of the old structures.

To emphasise this, I decided to try and capture an antiquated version that looks like its been shot on film with an old view camera.

Did you retouch your winning photo?
For the shot, I used a 24-105mm f/4 L zoom lens at its widest setting of 24mm and edited it on a Mac Mini using Photoshop CS3.

As I did not have a Tilt-Shift lens, the blurry effect you can see at the bottom of the shot, as well as some vignetting [reducing an images brightness or saturation at the edges], was added later.

I hope that people like my picture – and will also visit the Phnom Bok site themselves.