Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Siem Reap Visitors Can Experience Royal Ploughing Ceremony

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The Royal Ploughing Ceremony represents the beginning of the rice-growing season in Phnom Penh.

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SIEM REAP, CAMBODIA, March 17, 2010 /24-7PressRelease/ -- People booking hotels in Siem Reap later this year might like to visit Phnom Penh for the annual Royal Ploughing Ceremony.

Usually held in May, this ancient royal rite allows Cambodian people to mark the beginning of the rice-growing season and is also observed in Thailand.

The ceremony traditionally takes place in the grounds of the Royal Palace in Phnom Penh, where two sacred oxen are used for a symbolic ploughing procession.

After ploughing a furrow in the Cambodian capital's Veal Preahmein Square, the animals are led to seven golden trays containing different foods - rice, corn, sesame seeds, beans, grass, water and wine.

Predictions are then made by royal soothsayers for the coming year's harvest, depending on what the oxen decide to eat.

According to the Tourism Cambodia website, last year the sacred animals ate mainly rice, corn and beans, while largely ignoring the contents of the other trays.

This was taken to mean that farmers would see a moderate yield in the rice harvest but enjoy a strong output in their secondary crops, especially corn and beans.

The ceremony is usually presided over by the monarch - currently King Norodom Sihamoni - although prime minister Hun Sen has also overseen proceedings.

DAP News ; Breaking News by Soy Sopheap

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Cambodia’s Growth is Expected 5 Percent this Year- PM

Wednesday, 17 March 2010 10:39 By Ek Madra

PHNOM PENH– Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said Wednesday that this Southeast Asian nation’s growth is recovered at 5 percent for 2010 thanks to an increase in agricultural production and service sectors.

Hun Sen said that Cambodian inflation has declined and the country’s currency Riel exchange rate has kept stable with US dollar. While gross official reserves rose to $2.3 billion covering four months of imports from $2.1 billion.

He said Cambodia is to maintain the budget deficit quite significantly thought cautiously at “5 percent of GDP in order to sustain the recovery from the global economic crisis and to strengthen the foundation for growth as well as to fast track our economic diversification efforts”.

“Based on these latest indicators, we can say with confidence that the government, like others in Asia, has already led the Cambodian economy out of the difficult period of the crisis during which we can strictly maintain financial and macroeconomic stability as well as in society and the livelihoods of our Cambodian people,” he said.

The economy has been impacted by the global financial crisis which affected the country’s key real economic sectors, Hun Sen told an economic forum on the country’s economic outlook for 2010.

“However, the overall economic performance is not too bad as recent preliminary estimated GDP growth in 2009 would remain positive,” he said.

The Prime Minister did not say what was an estimated GDP growth for last year, but international financial institutions estimated contracted 2.2 percent and projected 4.2 percent for this year.

The kingdom’s s growth has been remarkably high in recent years was almost double digits, thanks to an increase of exports and flows in of foreign direct investment (FDI), before the global downturn hit in mid-2008.

Agriculture and service sectors continued to play a key role in contributing of the country’s economy, he said, at 5.4 percent and 2.3 percent respectively—offsetting the decline in other sectors such as industry at contracted 9.4 percent especially in the garment dropped by 9 percent.

“Strong performance in agriculture and rural economies has helped us to survive the crisis with significant damage and it will remain a potential engine of growth and poverty reduction over the medium and to long term,” he said.

The country produced more than 7 million tonnes of rice for 2009/2010.

Real estate business decline contract 2.5 percent. Tourism slowed down to 1.8 percent.

Cambodia received more than 2 million visitors in recent years and that figure is expected to increase 15 percent a year.

There also decrease in value of foreign direct investment to $500 million for last year, he said.
Cambodia’s Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) hit record $4 billion last year in 2006, according to the Council for the Development of Cambodia (CDC).

According to the National Bank of Cambodia (NBC) the FDI value for 2007 was US$866 million. It was US$795 million for 2008.

“But it is still significant to support the Cambodian economy,” he said.

“Thus the economy has been not much impacted through the financial sector,” said the Prime Minister.

He also said that Cambodian economy is highly depend on a sustained international trade expansion and foreign capital inflow and more than 90 percent of the banking transactions are dollarized.

He also said that Cambodia has to be wisely use the foreign aid, which has injected the country nearly $1 billion last year, for the social development in order to reduce poverty which is now 30 percent of the country’s total 14 population live below the poverty line of making less than a dollar per day.

“No body give us money to become rich, we have no ideas on how to live on our own,” he said.

Much of Cambodia's economy is dependent on agriculture, although it has some proven off-shore oil and gas reserves, a vibrant garment industry and booming domestic construction and telecommunications sectors.

Cambodia’s agricultural sector, both current and potential, is one of the great strengths of our economy, he said.

The sector continues to grow at around 5 percent per annum over the most difficult of times, he said.

“The government will make further efforts to strengthen agriculture as an important engine of growth and that will make a significant contribution to rural economies, poverty reduction and well-being of rural communities,” Hun Sen said.

Cambodian garment exports drops to $2.6 billion US in 2009.

The total value of garment, textiles and shoes exported last year dropped to $2.6 billion compared with $3.1 billion in 2008 as a result of global financial downturn, according to the figures of commerce ministry.

The total exports to the U.S., which is the Cambodian biggest garment market, was recorded $1.5 billion for last year compared to $1.9 billion in 2008, said the report.

The country’s Garment Manufacturers Association of Cambodia (GMAC) official shared statistics and did not see the industry to pick up for this year.

Kaing Monika, GMAC's spokesman, said “the international financial crisis has greatly impacted us, especially for our garment exports to the U.S. market.”

“It is too early to say if exports of the products to increase for this year given the purchasing orders from overseas reserve for exports till June, not through out this year,” he said.

The products exported to the E.U also dropped to $718 million last year from $786 million in 2008, said the report.

The total value of exports to Canada also lowered to $190 million in 2009 from $202 million in 2008. Exporting of the products to Japan and others Asian countries was recorded $233 million for last year from $178 million in 2008, it said.

Marching in support of sex workers

Photo by: Heng Chivoan

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Wednesday, 17 March 2010 15:04 Heng Chivoan

Participants marched from the Women’s Network for Unity office in Tuol Kork district to Wat Damdek, close to the Cambodian-Japanese Friendship Bridge. SOVAN PHILONG

Boat-booking brouhaha

Photo by: Pha Lina

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Wednesday, 17 March 2010 15:05 Chhay Channyda

Mao Vannarith (right), deputy chief of the municipal water traffic police, discusses a new booking system with tourism boat operators during a meeting Tuesday. Since January, the Association of Water Tourist Transport has required all members to use a centralised booking system rather than recruiting customers independently. Those at the meeting said the new system is unacceptable, though other members of the association say the protesters do not speak for the majority of tourism boat operators.

Red Shirts bleed for Thaksin

Photo by: AFP
Riot police officers stand guard beside emptied containers lying in a pool of blood spilled by red-shirted supporters of deposed Thai premier Thaksin Shinawatra at the gates of Thailand’s government headquarters on Tuesday in a colourful act of political theatre designed to propel their fugitive hero back into power.

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Wednesday, 17 March 2010 15:06 Thanaporn Promyamyai

Bangkok

PROTESTERS spilled their own blood at the gates of Thailand’s government headquarters Tuesday in a colourful act of political theatre designed to propel their fugitive hero back to power.

Thousands of Red Shirts loyal to deposed premier Thaksin Shinawatra queued up during the day to donate blood in makeshift tents, where it was poured from syringes into five-litre water bottles for the bizarre spectacle.

Red-shirt leaders said they had collected 300 litres of blood, far short of their aim of 1,000 litres, most of which they poured at the Government House gates in the late afternoon to press their demand for snap elections.

A Hindu priest invoked a curse against the government, as Red leaders moved on with some of the blood to Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva’s Democrat party offices for another liquid protest.

It was the latest part of a pro-Thaksin demonstration that has drawn up to 100,000 protesters to the streets of Bangkok since the weekend, according to police, watched over by a 50,000-strong contingent of security forces.

“This blood is to show our commitment in calling for democracy. This is an important curse ritual,” said Red Shirt leader Nattawut Saikur.

The Red Shirts, whose numbers appeared to be dwindling on Wednesday, held the blood bottles in the air triumphantly as they rode on trucks followed by thousands of supporters and monitored by riot police.

The Red Shirts are protesting against the perceived elitism and illegitimacy of the Abhisit government, which came to power via a December 2008 parliamentary vote after a controversial court ruling ousted Thaksin’s allies.

Last month another court decision confiscated US$1.4 billion from Thaksin, whose followers are largely from the poor rural north and fervently support the populist policies he introduced before being ousted in a 2006 coup.

Photo by: AFP
A red-shirted supporter of Thaksin Shinawatra holds a placard showing the deposed premier during protests in Bangkok on Tuesday.

They began their blood drive on Tuesday morning despite hygiene concerns raised by health officials. Organisers insisted only qualified medics were collecting donations, using one needle per person.

“It doesn’t hurt. I’ll do any activity the leaders say, I’m willing to participate because I want a democracy,” said Somsak Janprasert, 63, a retired railway official from Bangkok.

“This is a very symbolic way to express that our blood, the people’s blood, is power,” he said.

On Monday the Red Shirts spent several hours massed outside a military barracks on the northern outskirts of Bangkok where Abhisit and his government were holed up amid fears of violence by saboteurs.

The premier rejected the crowd’s demands to dissolve parliament and call elections, and on Tuesday he again stood firm against their calls.

“A decision cannot be made between protesters and the government, because it is related to the whole country,” he said on television from the army barracks.

A joint session of both houses of parliament was postponed on Tuesday due to the lack of a quorum, with some lawmakers fearing for their safety in the ongoing demonstrations, parliamentary officials said.

At a separate army barracks across the city, four grenades exploded on Monday, wounding two soldiers and raising tensions. It was not clear whether the attacks were linked to the Red Shirts, whose leaders denied involvement.

Since the coup that ousted Thaksin, Thailand has been rocked by protests from both supporters and opponents of the former premier, who lives abroad to avoid a jail term for corruption.

Thaksin, who was spotted over the weekend in Montenegro, made an impassioned plea to supporters by a video link to Bangkok on Monday evening for the third consecutive night, urging them to fight on. AFP

Poor hygiene costs Kingdom


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Wednesday, 17 March 2010 15:06 Irwin Loy and Meas Sokchea

Cambodia trails neighbours in sanitation coverage, but experts see progress.

CAMBODIA is struggling to meet global goals to boost sanitation levels, according to a UN report released this week, highlighting the Kingdom’s battle to curb deadly and preventable illnesses that stem from poor hygiene.

Cambodia remains one of the only countries in the region not on track to meet a Millennium Development Goal to halve the percentage of the population that lacks access to toilets by 2015, according to the report from the World Health Organisation and UNICEF,
which tracks global progress on introducing basic sanitation and drinking water.

Roughly 29 percent of the population in Cambodia had access to “improved sanitation facilities”, which the report defines as a toilet that hygienically prevents human contact with excrement. The figure, based on data from 2008, represents a 20-percentage-point rise over the 1990 benchmark.

Of particular concern is the number of people who defecate outdoors because they do not have any kind of toilet whatsoever. The report found that 1.1 billion people around the world defecate in the open – a largely rural phenomenon that health experts want to end because it can lead to the spread of dangerous diseases such as cholera.

“It is a known fact that poor sanitation and poor drinking water is the biggest factor leading to diarrhoea and other diseases,” said Nasir Hassan, environmental health adviser for the WHO’s office in Cambodia and Laos.

“Diarrhoea is a disease of poor sanitation.”

Studies have shown poor sanitation and hygiene have a severe impact on both health and the economy. Nearly 10,000 people a year in Cambodia die from diarrhoea and other diseases related to poor sanitation, according to a 2008 study from the World Bank’s Water and Sanitation Programme. The study pegged economic losses at just under US$450 million a year, or the equivalent of 7.2 percent of the country’s GDP.

Chea Samnang, director of the department of rural health at the Ministry of Rural Development, said it has been difficult to convince many villagers of the need for proper toilets.

“In rural areas, people live near bushes and fields. They defecate there because they are not interested in defecating in toilets,” Chea Samnang said. “It is a struggle that has contributed to a low level of toilet use in rural areas because people do not want to change their habits.”

Health experts say many villagers have not viewed the installation of toilets as a priority compared with basic necessities such as clean water.

“Many people do not see the need to build toilets,” said Hilda Winarta, water and environment sanitation specialist with UNICEF.

However, attitudes are changing. Authorities have been active in pushing for rural sanitation improvements, Winarta said, spurred by the realisation in 2005 that Cambodia was the only country outside Africa in which less than 20 percent of the population had access to improved sanitation facilities.

Community education programmes have been implemented and yielded successes, she said.

“Statistics from the WHO show one gram of [human excrement] contains millions of viruses. You can imagine that almost 80 percent of village communities practice open defecation,” Winarta said. “That’s why diarrhoea has continued to be among the three major killers of children under 5 in Cambodia.”

The programmes, she said, prompt villagers to analyse their own situation.

“How many families do not have toilets? How much human waste is produced in a village on a daily basis? Usually, it tends to open the eyes of a community as to how bad the situation is,” she said.

Though the global Millennium Development Goal demands that countries halve the percentage of their population that cannot access toilets, the country has set a target of 30 percent coverage in rural areas by 2015. The government’s current figure, based on 2008 census data, stands at 23 percent, meaning that its own target could be within reach.

Experts point out that strides have been made. Since the benchmark year of 1990, more than 3.3 million Cambodians have gained access to improved sanitation, according to the WHO/UNICEF report.

“First of all, we are impressed with the progress in Cambodia,” said the WHO’s Hassan. “If you compare with the region, yes, we are behind. But I am happy with the intensity of the programme. The national government and, I think, the prime minister himself are very concerned about this issue.”

Inmate work training begins


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PRISON reform

The following are UN recommendations that the government has accepted and is in the process of implementing:

- Increase the daily food ration per prisoner from 1,500 riels’ (US$0.36) to 2,800 riels’ worth.
- Review prisoner committees – bodies set up to manage inmates – following their implication in abuse of prisoners.
- Combat corruption within the prison system, including allegations of prison workers charging money for family visits and other services.
- Establish minimum standards for the design and construction of prisons.

Source: UNOHCHR

Wednesday, 17 March 2010 15:06 May Titthara

PRISONERS in Pursat province’s Correctional Centre 4 on Tuesday began a vocational training programme aimed at teaching them agricultural skills, prison officials said, as part of a new approach to the Kingdom’s ever-growing inmate population.

Rights groups have long voiced concern that prisoners in Cambodia are subject to abuse bordering on torture, chronic overcrowding and other hardships. Government officials say the agricultural programme at CC4 is part of a broader effort to implement needed reforms and give prisoners marketable skills that might reduce their risk of recidivism upon release.

Hin Sophal, the chief of CC4, said the centre would eventually house about 2,500 prisoners on 846 hectares of land. The facility’s first 66 prisoners began arriving in November of last year, and on Tuesday they began ploughing about 12 hectares of land around their housing blocks.
“We are teaching all the prisoners who stay in this prison how to plant vegetables, fruit and rubber trees, so that when they are released from prison, they have their own skills,” Hin Sophal said.

Heng Hak, director of the prison department at the Ministry of Interior, said that officials hadn’t yet chosen crops to cultivate, but were considering corn, beans, cassava and sesame.

The agricultural training, he said, is designed to give prisoners an outlet for pent-up energy while they are behind bars, thereby reducing their chance of being exposed to violence.

“We have had some cases in which prisoners torture each other, but after we allow them to leave their cells and do some exercise while growing vegetables and taking part in short training courses, these incidents will not happen,” Heng Hak said.

The national prison system is currently stretched beyond its capacity. Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak said last month that Cambodia’s 25 detention facilities were capable of housing just 8,000 prisoners, far below the 13,325 they held during 2009. The country’s inmate population, Khieu Sopheak added, is currently increasing at a rate of 7.6 percent per year.

With 70 prisoners expected to arrive at CC4 today from Kampong Chhnang and Battambang provinces, Hin Sophal said, the government hopes the facility will help to ameliorate overcrowding. “This prison can be a help to those prisons that are currently overburdened,” he said.

The development of CC4 follows Kampong Cham province’s CC3, which provides agricultural and carpentry training for long-term prisoners, as well as CCs 1 and 2 at Phnom Penh’s Prey Sar prison. CC1, for male prisoners, provides agricultural and industrial training, whereas CC2, for female and juvenile prisoners, focuses on fabricating garments.

Marie-Dominique Parent, officer in charge of the Prison Reform Support Programme of the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, said the Cambodian prison system is in the process of shifting “from a security-based effort to a rehabilitation-based effort”.

According to the Ministry of Interior’s Policy Framework for Prison Reform, adopted in May 2008, correctional centres are to be “the place where convicted prisoners are administered and will undertake the rehabilitation programme through participating in prison industry and farming”.

Ham Sunrith, deputy director of monitoring and protection for the local rights group Licadho, said he welcomed the progressive approach to detention evinced in vocational training programmes, though he emphasised the need for oversight as such programmes evolve.

“We welcome the establishment of vocational training for prisoners, because this will allow prisoners to develop their skills and support themselves when they are released from prison,” Ham Sunrith said, though he added: “Prisoners’ labour must not be exploited – the programme must be in the prisoners’ individual interest.”

Parent agreed, saying that government officials and development partners “don’t want to end up condoning forced labour”.

Currently, Parent said, vocational training programmes are being developed primarily for the correctional centres, though in the long term, she added, an expansion of such programmes to smaller prisons “is definitely part of the plan”.

“It’s developing, and it’s developing in the right direction compared to the situation a few years back, where prisoners were locked up with no vocational training at all,” she said.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY JAMES O’TOOLE

PM opposes ICC’s Bashir indictment


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Wednesday, 17 March 2010 15:05 Sebastian Strangio

PRIME Minister Hun Sen has condemned the International Criminal Court (ICC) for issuing a warrant for the arrest of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, telling a Sudanese official the indictment could “adversely affect” peace negotiations in the war-torn African nation.

Koy Kuong, spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said that during a meeting last week, Hun Sen told Sudanese Special Envoy and Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Ali Ahmet Karti Mohamed that he shared Khartoum’s opposition to the indictment of its head of state.

“During the meeting, Samdech Hun Sen said that the warrant issued by the ICC for the purpose of arresting Omar al-Bashir, an incumbent president, undermines the peace negotiation process,” Koy Kuong said Tuesday.

In March 2009, the ICC, which sits in The Hague, issued an arrest warrant for Bashir on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity for atrocities allegedly committed in the Darfur region. He is the first sitting head of state ever to be indicted by the ICC.

Hun Sen’s comments, which were reported Tuesday by the Non-Aligned Movement News Network, are similar to his earlier criticisms of internationally-backed legal proceedings underway in Cambodia – in particular, the proposed increase in the number of former Khmer Rouge figures who could be tried by the Khmer Rouge tribunal. Last September, the premier warned that pursuing further indictments risked sparking civil unrest.

Anne Heindel, a legal adviser for the Documentation Centre of Cambodia, described Hun Sen’s comments on the ICC as “notable”, but said they gave no clear indication of his views on the Khmer Rouge tribunal given the many differences between the two institutions.

As a signatory of the Rome Statute of the ICC, she said, Cambodia should support its work, but she added that the efficacy of the Bashir indictment – and indictments of sitting heads of state more generally – was a subject of hot debate.

“The jury’s out on whether [such indictments] contribute to peace or whether they hinder peace,” she said.

General gets 10 days’ jail for school assault


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Wednesday, 17 March 2010 15:05 Chrann Chamroeun

PREAH Sihanouk provincial court on Tuesday found a naval officer guilty of assaulting two teachers and a student who frightened his daughter with a turtle at school, handing him a one-year suspended sentence and ordering him to spend 10 days behind bars.

General Keo Monysoka, deputy commander at Ream Naval Base, was found guilty of intentionally causing injury to the student and the two teachers in an attack on March 6.

He was also ordered to pay 8 million riels (about US$2,000) in compensation to each of the two teachers at the International Home of English School, and a further 10 million riels ($2,500) to the mother of the boy. Hang Sitha, the presiding judge, said the 10-day prison term included time already served since his arrest on March 11, meaning he will be free on Saturday.

The general was not present for the sentencing, having been admitted to a local hospital on Sunday to seek treatment for high blood pressure.

Chiep Sotheary, provincial coordinator for local rights group Adhoc, said the punishment was acceptable despite the short prison sentence.

“Ten days is the smallest sentence to imprison the general, but it is acceptable, and I would like to applaud the court’s fast decision,” she said.

She added: “Ten days is a good sentence, because it has damaged his reputation. He is a general and is a wealthy man in the province, which delivers a message to other powerful men to not use violence to express anger.”

Kheav Try, a representative of the International Home of English School, said he was also satisfied with the sentence.

“We both welcome and applaud the decision to sentence him to 10 days’ jail,” he said, adding that the school had heard he had been fired from his post at the naval base on Saturday by the provincial naval commander.

Keo Monysoka was arrested on March 11 following a complaint letter filed with provincial military police the previous day by the boy’s mother, Huon Maly.

The letter called for the general’s resignation because the boy had suffered head injuries and was afraid to attend school.

Keo Monysoka’s lawyer could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

Police target vendors peddling pornographic phone content

Photo by: Sovan Philong
A man uploads erotic images onto the mobile phone of a customer at a shop in Chamkarmon district. Four vendors were arrested on Monday for providing the same service.

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Wednesday, 17 March 2010 15:05 Khoun Leakhana

POLICE in Phnom Penh’s Tuol Kork district on Monday raided four businesses accused of selling pornographic mobile-phone content and transferring pornographic film clips and photographs to customers’ phones.

Saing Sopheakvicheth, deputy governor of Tuol Kork district, said Tuesday that the crackdown was necessary because selling pornographic content is illegal, adding that “this kind of business practice strongly affects Cambodian society”.

He added that an investigation of more than 30 vendors selling mobile-phone content in Tuol Kork district uncovered at least seven offering pornographic content to customers, including the four vendors targeted in Monday’s crackdown, who were arrested and sent to court.

Phnom Penh Municipal Court deputy prosecutor Sok Roeun said the vendors, if charged and convicted, face jail terms of between one and five years. He also said that people caught purchasing pornographic content could be fined between 30,000 to 50,000 riels (about US$12).

Monday’s arrests continue a recent government emphasis on curbing vice, which has led to a series of raids on karaoke bars, massage parlours, brothels and cafes.

Am Sam Ath, senior monitor for the rights group Licadho, said Tuesday that he welcomed the arrests, and that the proliferation of pornography could lead to an increase in cases of human trafficking and rape.

Seminar warns firms of US anticorruption law


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Wednesday, 17 March 2010 15:05 David Boyle

THE development NGO Pact Cambodia and the American Chamber of Commerce held a seminar Tuesday to raise awareness in Cambodia of the increased risk of prosecution faced by foreign businesses that engage in corrupt practices.

The seminar focused on the US justice department’s Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), which applies outside US borders.

Jim Swander, a representative of the American Chamber of Commerce, said the justice department had been enforcing the act vigorously in the past few years.

He said the purpose of the conference, which was attended by more than 100 local business leaders, was not to alarm people, but to increase awareness of the risks businesses face when operating in countries such as Cambodia that are known for corruption.

“I think what we’re trying to do is say, ‘Be aware of the risks you’re taking’. Because you look at doing business in Asia, and if you look at the map of Transparency International, where there’s corruption, Asia and Africa are the major areas,” Swander said, referring to the group that ranked Cambodia 158th on its annual Corruption Perceptions Index in 2009.

He added that the recent increase in FCPA investigations and prosecutions had netted numerous high-profile companies – including Siemens and BAE Systems, which were each fined hundreds of millions of dollars.

In 2008, an FCPA investigation concluded that Siemens had paid US$1.36 billion in bribes to government officials around the world. The company ended up paying $800 million in the case – $450 million of which went to the US justice department, while $350 million went to the securities and exchange commission.

Kenny Mok, the regional compliance officer for Siemens Singapore, told the conference his company had completely revised its internal culture with respect to corruption since the settlement, according to a press release issued by the organisers.

“Siemens now understands that ‘the tone from the top’ has to be lived and communicated especially by the middle management,” he said, according to the release.

Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said Tuesday that the government was not involved in any FCPA-related corruption investigations, but that officials are open to the idea of cooperating with the US government on such cases in the future.

Govt confirms Thais behind border killing


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Wednesday, 17 March 2010 15:05 Tep Nimol

OFFICIALS have confirmed the killing of a Cambodian national by Thai soldiers along the border in Banteay Meanchey province’s Thma Puok district on Saturday.

Villagers told the Post on Monday that Tauch Chek, 31, from Kork Romeat commune, was reportedly shot dead on Saturday night while he was foraging in the Dangrek Mountains for ingredients to make herbal medicine.

Banteay Meanchey provincial police Chief Hun Hean confirmed that six Cambodian villagers in civilian dress strayed up to 9 kilometres into Thailand’s Buriram province to cut wood on Saturday. One of the villagers, who was reportedly carrying an AK-47 rifle, was shot and killed by police, he said.

“We are searching for the origin of the gun. The villagers are not supposed to own a gun,” he said, adding that the weapon may have been placed near the victim’s body in order to put the fault on the villagers.

Rorn Chanla, the victim’s aunt, said that the Thai authorities had requested that she pay 10,000 baht (around US$308) for the return of her nephew’s body.

“The victim’s wife has already gathered 10,000 baht that we have borrowed from other villagers to pay the Thai authorities in order to take the body back ... and arrange a funeral for him,” she said.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Koy Kuong said he had not issued any diplomatic notes to Thailand about the recent shootings on the border, but that the incident was “a cruel and inhumane” act.

“Although these villagers crossed the border illegally to cut wood in Thailand, the problem shouldn’t be solved with a gun barrel like this,” he said. “Only the law of the jungle supports such a cruel act.” He said the government is insisting Bangkok bring the perpetrators to justice.

Contest challenges students to design new houses for evictees

Photo by: Meas Kim Seng
Volunteers construct the frame of the winning design in a competition held this month by the housing rights NGO Sahmakum Teang Tnaut

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Wednesday, 17 March 2010 15:04 Jet Odrerir

ARCHITECTURE students went head-to-head this month in a competition that called on them to create housing designs for a site in Dangkor district that is currently home to more than 1,200 families following a large-scale forced eviction in 2006.

More than 1,000 police officers, many of whom were armed and wearing riot gear, descended on the Sambok Chap slum in central Phnom Penh in June 2006 to evict the families, who were sent to Andong village in Dangkor’s Trapang Krasang commune, located some 25 kilometres from the city centre.

In the competition, which entered the judging phase on March 4 and concluded on Friday, eight designs were submitted by students from the Royal University of Fine Arts, the Limkokwing University of Creative Technology, Pannasatra University and Cambodia Mekong University.

The designs for the competition, hosted by the housing rights NGO Sahmakum Teang Tnaut, were required to fit a 5-metre-by-12-metre plot of land, and the cost of the materials, which were provided by Habitat for Humanity, could not exceed US$1,000.

“The principal point that we’re trying to make with this is that you can design and build [a house] … for an affordable price,” said Nora Lindstrom, an adviser for STT.

The winning design was created by Chao Kankanika and Nen Limhout, both of whom are in their third year at Pannasatra University. Their design, the materials for which cost $872.40, will be be used to build a home for a family living in Trapang Krasang.

Lindstrom said that before the contest, the architecture students “had never been to a relocation site”, adding that one of the goals of the competition was to encourage them to think about designing “not just for the rich but for the poor in their society”.

Hennu Kjisik, a professor at the University of Helsinki in Finland who served as a judge in the competition, echoed this view, saying: “It is important to have studies such as these, because the people that need housing such as this can’t afford to pay a team of architects, yet they make up the majority of the world’s population.”

Kampong Speu villagers protest at Phnom Penh Sugar


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Wednesday, 17 March 2010 15:04 May Titthara

AROUND 100 villagers in Kampong Speu province on Tuesday staged a protest in front of the local offices of the Phnom Penh Sugar Company, saying company employees operating 11 excavators had encroached on 2 hectares of land in Omlaing commune.

The company, owned by CPP senator Ly Yong Phat, has been awarded a 9,000-hectare concession in the commune, located in Thpong district, and farmers there have expressed concerns since February that they might be forced off their land as a result.

Chhuon Ly, 42, who attended Tuesday’s protest, said the company had failed to honour an agreement to stay 25 metres away from the farmers’ land.

“They promised that they would not grab our farmland, but today they did, so now we want to ask the company to find a resolution for us,” Chhuon Ly said.

Nov Chhon, another farmer who attended the protest, said residents of the commune were growing frustrated that the concession land had not been clearly demarcated.

“We just want them to explain to us clearly where the company land is and where our land is, because until today nobody has responded to this request,” he said.

Chhean Kimsuon, a representative of the company, denied that company employees had encroached on the land.

“We have kept free space 25 metres away from the villagers’ rice,” she said.

She added: “We have already told them that the concession will not affect their land, but they did not listen to us, and they have come to make a problem with us and the local authorities.”

Omlaing commune Chief Harb Dam said Tuesday that she had met with the protesters to reassure them that their land would not be affected by the concession.

Council chief suicide


via CAAI News Media

Wednesday, 17 March 2010 15:04 Chrann Chamroeun

THE chief of the Sen Sok district council killed himself with a nylon rope on Monday, a local official said.

District governor Khuong Sreng said the body of Chhun Hak, 46, had been found hanging in his Phnom Penh Thmey commune home.

“We are terribly sorry for the loss of the council chief Chhun Hak, who was my very good friend from childhood,” Khuong Sreng said. “He contributed all of his work for the development of the district.”

Khuong Sreng added that Chhun Hak’s diabetes had recently worsened.

Kingdom set to host int’l military exercises


via CAAI News Media

Wednesday, 17 March 2010 15:04 Vong Sokheng

AROUND 1,000 soldiers from 23 countries will partake in military exercises in Cambodia in July as part of the US-funded Global Peace Operations Initiative (GPOI), officials said Tuesday.

Defence Ministry spokesman Chhum Socheat said the details of the exercises had been confirmed during talks with US Admiral William Crowe, who visited the Kingdom earlier this month.

He said the exercises would be held at military training facilities in Kampong Speu province and in Phnom Penh.

“It is the first time the country has hosted the GPOI exercise,” he said. “I think that the visit of William Crowe was highly valued by the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces.”

US embassy spokesman John Johnson said the July exercises would be “designed to enable Cambodia to sustain and improve its peacekeeping missions in the future”.

Cambodia has previously sent peacekeepers to Sudan, and more than 200 Royal Cambodian Armed Forces soldiers are set to depart for Chad and the Central African Republic next month to supplement a contingent of peacekeepers who deployed to the two countries last November.

The GPOI is expected to train and equip 75,000 peacekeepers this year, according to the US state department.

Local artists featured in UN landmine exhibit


via CAAI News Media

Wednesday, 17 March 2010 15:04 Irwin Loy

TEN local artists will show their work at the UN headquarters in New York next month as part of an exhibit meant to draw global attention to the issue of landmines.

The exhibit, called Impact, will be held April 5 to celebrate the International Day of Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action, which falls on the previous day. As part of the exhibit,10 Cambodian artists were asked to address the issues of landmines and their lingering effects through their work.

One artist, 23-year-old Ben Thynal, will display a piece he called “Sounds of Peace”.

“When I first heard the sound of a landmine being detonated, it scared me. But after the sound dissipated, it left a feeling of happiness and safety,” Ben Thynal said in promotional materials for the exhibit.

UN Resident Coordinator in Cambodia, Douglas Broderick, said the exhibit would be “a great opportunity to showcase Cambodia’s transition from one of the countries most affected by landmines to becoming a global leader in the mine action sector”, citing the presence of Cambodian deminers in Sudan.

Heavy machinery sales grind down amid crisis

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
Diggers lie dormant Tuesday in the lot of a construction machinery seller just across the western side of the Japanese Friendship Bridge. Some construction equipment companies in the capital reported they could only sell a few machines each month since the slump.

via CAAI News Media

Wednesday, 17 March 2010 15:01 Soeun Say

Lull in sales of diggers, tractors points to long property slump

SALES of construction machinery have plummeted as much as 80 percent following the global economic crisis, company managers said Tuesday, indicating that a lull in property and real estate has yet to abate.

“With the property market boom in 2007 and mid-2008, customers came to buy construction machinery at my shop to clear land for sale,” said Ly Huy, general manager of Chang Fa Co Ltd, which sells Chinese equipment from a large lot in Chroy Changvar commmune in Russey Keo district. “At that time, I could sell around 50 machines. But now, I only sell two to three machines per month.”

Standing in a lot half-full of excavators, road graders and tractors, Ly Huy is not alone: The economic slowdown quelled wide growth in real estate and property markets, resulting in the cancellation of projects across the capital.

“Our business is still not running well,” said Chhun Bunkea, sales manager for Multico MS Cambodia Co Ltd, which imports equipment from Japan. “Last year, I could sell about seven or eight machines a month. But this year, I can sell only one or two machines.”

Chhun Bunkea said he didn’t expect his luck to improve this year, but that he hopes business will improve in 2011.

“It’s not only my company’s sales that have dropped,” he said. “Many sellers of construction machinery next to my shop have also dropped [sales]. They complain that the financial crisis hit the construction sector in the Kingdom.”

Chea Sokha, director of Sokha Pounding Construction Co Ltd, said Tuesday that since the real estate decline his business had fallen 80 percent.

Prior to the downturn, he was hired for several home-construction projects each month. Now he gets about one a month, too little to pay for office rent and staff, he said.

“Most construction companies can get jobs from road-construction projects only,” he said. “Construction for home-development projects is very quiet.”

Lao Tip Seiha, director of the Department of Construction at the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction, said Tuesday that even amid the slowdown, the number of construction firms licenced by the government had grown from 112 in 2008 to 128 in 2009. Since 2000, Cambodia has licenced 819 construction companies, 166 of them foreign, he added.

Travel dip means no planes at Sihanoukville


via CAAI News Media

Wednesday, 17 March 2010 15:01 Bejan Siavoshy

SIEM REAP

SIHANOUKVILLE airport is still struggling to attract airlines due to the enduring slump in the regional travel industry, according to an official at Societe Concessionaire des Aeroports (SCA), the French firm that manages the Kingdom’s airports.

Still, not a single airline has agreed to flights to the airport despite the offer of zero percent airport tax.

SCA’s Chief Planning Officer Tanguy Bertolus said Tuesday that new national carrier Cambodia Angkor Air (CAA), a joint venture between the government and Vietnam Airlines, was showing reluctance to fly to the recently renovated airport due to the difficult economic climate.

“Cambodia Angkor is a subsidiary of Vietnam Airlines and the Cambodian government, and they are not really keen right now to take risks and open new lines,” he said.

“But it is the case for every airline in the world right now that is trying to recover from the economic crisis.”

CAA was supposed to take off from Sihanoukville for its inaugural flight on July 28, but the venue was switched to Phnom Penh at the last minute.

At the time Mao Havannal, secretary of state at the State Secretariat of Civil Aviation (SSCA), said that SCA was hoping to persuade French President Nicolas Sarkozy to attend the airport opening, which has still not occurred.

Prime Minister Hun Sen said in December that CAA had – after less than five months of operations – already started to turn a profit during a year in which air arrivals to the Kingdom fell more than 10 percent, according to Ministry of Tourism data.

CAA has noy yet published a financial report, but Soy Sokhan, the SSCA undersecretary in charge of the airline, said in December that it had increased load factors to between 80 and 90 percent at the time, from as low as 25 percent following its debut.

SCA has reported holding talks with various airlines – including CAA – and remains optimistic that a recent upswing in air traffic would lead to flights to Sihanoukville.

“[Tourism] traffic is coming in again.... we are optimistic, but it is the end of the high season right now, so we have to see how the low season goes,” said Bertolus.

Ministry of Tourism figures showed that air arrivals to the Kingdom rose an annualised 4.75 percent in January, a sign that the industry may be recovering.

Police Blotter: 17 Mar 2010


via CAAI News Media

Wednesday, 17 March 2010 15:04 Phak Seangly

MAN ACCUSED OF SWINDLING TOURISTS
Police in Banteay Meanchey province’s Poipet town say that a 25-year-old Khmer man who works for a Thai tourism company was arrested on Sunday after two English tourists accused him of cheating them out of their money. According to the foreigners, they asked the man to help them prepare visas for entry into Cambodia. The suspect then cheated them out of about 35,000 baht (about US$1,080).
RASMEY KAMPUCHEA

DOGS, CASH LOST IN ARMED ROBBERY
At least three dogs were killed, US$1,500 was stolen and two people were injured in an armed robbery that took place at around 1:45am on Monday in Banteay Meanchey’s Mongkol Borey district. Police said that three men with two AK-47 rifles raided a grocery shop and tied up one of the house owners then searched for money after they poisoned the dogs. A 41-year-old man was beaten with a rifle, and his older sister was slightly wounded. District police said that they are hunting for the robbers.
KAMPUCHEA THMEY

SURSING CAUSES MAN TO ASSAULT CHILD
Police arrested a 30-year-old man on Saturday after the parents of a 7-year-old girl accused him of raping their daughter in Battambang province’s Phnom Prek district. According to police, the suspect raped the girl when her parents were not home. However, the man denied the accusation, saying he held her about 60 metres from her home, took off her clothes and beat her. He said he did not rape her, but that he beat her because her parents used to curse him badly.
DEUM AMPIL

‘GANGSTER’ CHIEFS ARRESTED IN R’KIRI
Police in Ratanakkiri province’s Lumphat district surrounded and arrested at least two “gangster” ringleaders after they assaulted each other at the wedding of a commune chief’s daughter on Wednesday. According to the district police chief, other men were also apprehended a day later. No one was seriously wounded in the assault, but the “gangsters” often have rows when they join any party in the village, police said.
KOH SANTEPHEAP

MOTODOP LEARNS CRIME DOESN’T PAY
A 32-year-old motorbike taxi driver was detained on Saturday in Phnom Penh’s Prampi Makara district after he was accused of theft. According to a 35-year-old woman, the suspect snatched her platinum necklace while she was travelling with her younger sister on their motorbike. Meanwhile, his motorcycle collided with theirs and crashed. He escaped on foot to the third floor of a nearby building, but police surrounded and arrested him.
KAMPUCHEA THMEY

Sabay expands online


via CAAI News Media

Wednesday, 17 March 2010 15:01 Colin Meyn

INTERNET content service provider Sabay, which is owned by the CBM Corporation and is a subsidiary of CIDC Technology, will launch a new line of Web content at the Cambodian ITC fair, to be held on Diamond Island in Phnom Penh from April 1 until April 3, the company CEO said Tuesday. The online products will include online and mobile-phone entertainment, e-commerce, mobile commerce, email, online chat, e-banking, blogging, online music and video-on-demand services, said Mike Gaertner. He added that the range of new content has been in development for longer than a year. Gaertner told the Post Tuesday that 100 percent of the Web content had been created by Cambodian programmers with the intention of expanding access to information and entertainment among domestic Internet audiences.

Brewer brings distinct taste to KBL

Photo by: ELLIE DYER
Kingdom Breweries Ltd’s new brewmaster, Peter Haupenthal, says the company plans to produce a number of different beers to go on sale this year.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
We will make a mango beer, there is no question.... It is the food of this country."
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via CAAI News Media

Wednesday, 17 March 2010 15:01 Ellie Dyer

German brewer Peter Haupenthal arrives in Cambodia as Kingdom prepares to make its mark

CREATING the perfect tipple to capture Cambodia’s consumer beer market is a new test for Peter Haupenthal, a German brewmaster flown in to Cambodia by Kingdom Breweries Ltd (KBL).

Born in small-town Germany, Haupenthal has a long career creating new brews in the most unlikely places around the world, from Canada to the Marshall Islands in the South Pacific, Nigeria and South America.

Following his arrival in Phnom Penh last month, the newcomer is hoping to create the recipe for success for a new pilsner from KBL.

The lager, set to have a clouded leopard as its logo, will be the first product for KBL. Production will begin at its US$4 million factory on the banks of the Tonle Sap river later this year.

Haupenthal said he hopes his lager will differentiate itself from typical tropical brews.

“In most hot climates, you will not normally see flavourful beers,” he said Tuesday in his office before a tour of the brewery, which will house 21 fermentation tanks once construction is completed.

“Instead you see high carbon dioxide content, because that is the drink’s most refreshing part.”

Haupenthal wants a darker beer, one with more hops. However, balancing the mix of malt, hops, and rice is a delicate process.

In Europe, specialist beer institutions are employed to create recipes. At Kingdom, the new brew is in Haupenthal’s hands.

He plans to craft three batches for a seven- to 10-day taste test scheduled for June.

Following the tests, he will tweak the recipe for mass production, balancing malt, which can get expensive at $1,000 per tonne, with other ingredients.

“If people decide they like a beer without rice, then we will make it,” he said.

In the future, Haupenthal, who once developed a hibiscus beer in Canada, wants to diversify for Oktober Fest and beyond.

“We will make a mango beer, there is no question about it,” Haupenthal said. “It is the food of this country.”

The importance of taste in the market place has also been emphasised by Koh Tai Hong, the general manager of Cambodia Brewery Ltd (CBL), which makes Anchor, Gold Crown, Tiger and ABC stout.

In an interview with the Post earlier this year, he predicted sales growth for Cambodia in 2010, following a 10 percent decline for CBL in 2009, adding: “I don’t want to talk about fighting or competition. The point is to produce the best quality beer and then let the customer decide.”

In five years time, Haupenthal said, Kingdom hopes to be producing 40,000 hectolitres of beer a year.

The company, in which Leopard Capital has a 55.5 percent stake and a $2 million investment, is not aiming to challenge the likes of Angkor and Tiger.

Instead, KBL said it plans to create its niche with boutique beers.

Space to expand
If neighbouring countries’ booms in drinks sales are indicators, the country has room for more drinkers – Cambodia is expected to consumer more beer as the economy develops.

In 2007 Cambodia consumed just 11.8 litres of beer per head, less than Vietnam’s average 18.8 litres, Laos’ 19.6 litres and Thailand’s 31.9 litres, according to the International Centre for Alcohol Policies.

Kingdom CEO Peter Brongers said the company’s market identity will help make the most of any potential growth, celebrating “what makes this country beautiful and different”.

Heart of a teacher


via CAAI News Media

Wednesday, 17 March 2010 15:01 Mom Kunthear

Kung Nary

It’s difficult to gauge how successful a teacher is. In some countries teachers are judged on their ability to prepare students for standardised tests, but even that does not show the impact a teacher has on their students’ character and personality. Everyone agrees that teachers are an integral part of society, but being a teacher is hard, and being a good teacher is even harder. Perhaps the best test of a teacher is to wait and see what his or her students do after they graduate, and if this is the best way to judge a teacher, Kung Nary is one of the finest in Cambodia.

Kung Nary, 60, has been a music, performance arts and literature teacher at Wat Koh High School in Phnom Penh since 1984, and she has helped educate a long list of well-known figures in arts and entertainment. “I loved the arts when I was young,” said Kung Nary, “but my parents didn’t let me pursue it.” Now she is enabling hundreds of students to gain confidence and pursue a life in the arts for themselves.

Yuk Chenda, her former student, is one of Cambodia’s most popular TV presenters at CTN. The multi-talented TV personality hosts a variety of showswith fans across the country, as well as among Cambodians living overseas. Other former students include Mr Tuy from CTN, Pech Sophorn, Sapun Midada, Om Khamarath and many more singers, songwriters and artists.

“I started learning with her when I was a high school student,” said Buth Kaniya, who is a performance artist at the Royal Palace. “She’s very determined and precise, but she is also tough,” explained the former student.

After all this time, she is still the same devoted and driven teacher that she has always been, using her own talents to inspire the people around her. When Kung Nary was in her 20s, she was asked to be a movie star. But due to her parent’s vehement refusal to grant her permission to pursue this career path, she became a teacher, and has been recognised by the King Mother, King Father and Prime Minister Hun Sen for her excellence in that profession.

Kung Nary is not hesitant to say that she is talented. “People like to listen to me sing. I have a beautiful voice,” she said, before singing a few lines from a traditional song to prove it. “And I can write a poem about anything. Give me 15 minutes and I can finish a song or a poem,” she told Lift.

Although Kung Nary does not have kids of her own, it is obvious that she cares deeply about the thousands of students who have gone through her classes. When we ask her about her most memorable students, she pulls out her phone book, which seems to have thousands of numbers, and begins to list dozens of her favourite students. In class she is still firm, but also very engaged and animated with her lessons.

“When you are performing you need to understand the atmosphere around you and act accordingly,” she advised. “And, of course, you need to have confidence.”

Sao Sopheap

Sao Sopheap, who is a 28-year-old teacher at the Cambodia University of Specialities (CUS), spent nearly a decade riding his old bicycle from his house to his school in Prey Veng province – a daily 40-kilometre ride that he says made it possible for him to be a teacher today.

After he graduated from high school, Sao Sopheap decided to leave his homeland and continue his studies in Phnom Penh, where he received his bachelors degree and passed his teaching exam in 2007 after a year of studying methodology.

“To be a teacher has been my wish since I was young, and now my dream is coming true,” he said.

He added that it was not easy to reach this goal because he was born in a poor family and he had to work hard since he was 13 years old. “I attended class every day but I had to get up at 3am to plow my rice fields, go to villagers’ houses to gather batteries to charge, and sometimes I had to bring desserts to sell to earn money to support my study and family,” he said.

Although he has faced a difficult life, Sao Sopheap has never abandoned his dream of being a teacher, and since arriving in Phnom Penh, he has lived at Wat Morha Muntrey.

“I have never spent my time doing something useless, because I always remember the difficult life when I lived at my parents’ home. I have to spend my time doing research and studying hard in order to find a job,” Sao Sopheap said.

Sao Sopheap, now an accounting lecturer at CUS in Kampong Cham province, said he thinks that the next generation is waiting to receive his knowledge, and that the people from this generation will transfer his knowledge to the next generation.

“Sometimes I wanted to abandon my wish and stop going to school, and help my parents earn money,” he said, adding, however, that he knew he needed to keep going if he was going to raise his family’s standard of living. Sao Sopheap said that young people need to be determined to reach their goals, even if they have to struggle along the way.

Photographs of Kung Nary by Uy Nou Sereimony
Photograph of Sao Sopheap by Sovann Philong

Education on the internet


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Wednesday, 17 March 2010 15:01 Kong Sidaroth

You don’t have to stop learning when you leave the classroom; there are many other places out there where you can acquire knowledge, especially if you have access to the Internet. In fact, for anyone who wants to keep their mind sharp, learning must never stop.

This process, called lifelong learning, is born from a concept that suggests that your knowledge about a certain subject will become obsolete within two years if you do not update it. And once you begin to investigate the world, you will want to know more. A famous Khmer proverb says “the more you learn, the more you don’t know”, meaning that it is only when you begin to study something that you realise the enormity of information that there is to learn.

Whether you are a teacher, a student, or an employee, you should adopt a habit of lifelong learning for the continuous acquisition of knowledge, professional development and career advancement. One easy step to engage in lifelong learning is to explore and learn from the following online learning sites:

http://nobelprize.org/educational_games/
A very useful learning site from the Nobel Foundation. On this Web site you can learn by directly interacting with the provided graphic and animated simulation on the subjects of peace, economics, medicine, physics, chemistry and literature.

www.wikipedia.org
A free encyclopedia featuring numerous articles about the arts, biography, geography, science, society, technology and much more. It is available in many languages, including Khmer. In English, the site contains 3,213,262 articles and continues to increase. In Khmer, the site contains 2,251 articles. Wikipedia can be the first place to visit when you want to learn quickly about something and, from that, you can find additional resources. At Wikipedia you can also update existing information and add new topics if you can’t find them on the site.

http://alison.com/AllCourses
Free online interactive courses and skills training for the workplace. Alison offers a wide range of learning topics; some suggested useful ones are How to use Gmail, Financial Literacy, Managing Safety and Health in Schools, Workstation Ergonomics and Basic Study Skills on mind mapping, time management, keeping a study diary, reading and writing techniques, as well as listening, speaking and telephone techniques.

http://www.moeys.gov.kh/Includes/Contents/Icha/
An e-training course in Khmer about HIV-AIDS lets you be more aware about the disease, its transmission, support for people who are infected in your community and how to better protect yourself.

So, wait no longer to start your lifelong learning journey and help our nation avoid this problem: “A nation that doesn’t adopt lifelong learning is a nation with eroding knowledge capital.”