Thursday, 1 April 2010

ADRA Helps Displaced Residents Following Destructive Fire in Cambodian Capital


via CAAI News Media

31 Mar 2010


Nadia McGill


Reuters and AlertNet are not responsible for the content of this article or for any external internet sites. The views expressed are the author's alone.
When a house fire broke out in a low-income neighborhood in Cambodia's Phnom Penh in early March, ADRA and its partners responded, providing emergency supplies for 2,000 survivors.
(Photo Credit: ADRA Cambodia)

SILVER SPRING, Md.--More than 2,000 people were affected when a house fire broke out on March 8, destroying an entire block of homes in a low-income section of Tuol Kork, in Cambodia's capital city of Phnom Penh, reported the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA).

According to ADRA Cambodia country director, Mark Schwisow, house fires are common in the shanty areas of Phnom Penh due to the construction of small, wooden homes, which are often built in close proximity to each other. In addition, when an emergency occurs, Schwisow explained, the small entryways into these areas hinder critical response vehicles, which are unable to access the affected buildings, leading to widespread destruction of entire blocks of homes.

"Families have been forced to move in with family members and friends, or onto small spaces by the railroad, or the pagoda compound near where they lived," said Schwisow.

To meet the immediate needs of 2,000 survivors, ADRA worked with the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Cambodia to purchase emergency supplies and basic food supplements, including rice, sugar, oil, fish, noodles, and tarpaulins. This aid was distributed on March 10, in collaboration with the Phnom Penh governor's office, and with the support of other local institutions.

ADRA International, the ADRA Asia Regional Office, the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Cambodia, and ADRA Cambodia funded the response.

In April 2008 and 2009, ADRA also provided assistance to local residents following two separate fires that displaced more than 3,500 people in impoverished sections of Phnom Penh.

ADRA has been active in Cambodia since 1988 in the main sectors of Health, Water and Sanitation, and Food Security.

Follow ADRA on Twitter and Facebook to get the latest information as it happens.

To send your contribution to ADRA's Emergency Response Fund, please contact ADRA at 1.800.424.ADRA (2372) or give online at www.adra.org.

ADRA is a non-governmental organization present in 125 countries providing sustainable community development and disaster relief without regard to political or religious association, age, gender, race or ethnicity.

For more information about ADRA, visit www.adra.org.

[ Any views expressed in this article are those of the writer and not of Reuters. ]

Did climate influence Angkor's collapse?

Tree-ring scientist Brendan Buckley of Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory extracts a core of wood from an ancient fokienia hodginsii tree in Bidoup Nuiba National Park, Vietnam.
The religious complex of Angkor Wat was center of a civilization that depended for irrigation on a vast network of canals, embankments and reservoirs.

http://esciencenews.com/
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Monday, March 29, 2010

Decades of drought, interspersed with intense monsoon rains, may have helped bring about the fall of Cambodia's ancient Khmer civilization at Angkor nearly 600 years ago, according to an analysis of tree rings, archeological remains and other evidence. The study, published this week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, may also shed light on what drives—and disrupts—the rainy season across much of Asia, which waters crops for nearly half the world's population. Historians have offered various explanations for the fall of an empire that stretched across much of Southeast Asia between the 9th and 14th centuries, from deforestation to conflict with rival kingdoms. But the new study offers the strongest evidence yet that two severe droughts, punctuated by bouts of heavy monsoon rain, may have weakened the empire by shrinking water supplies for drinking and agriculture, and damaging Angkor's vast irrigation system, which was central to its economy. The kingdom is thought to have collapsed in 1431 after a raid by the Siamese from present-day Thailand. The carved stone temples of its religious center, Angkor Wat, are today a major tourist destination, but much of the rest of the civilization has sunk back into the landscape.

"Angkor at that time faced a number of problems—social, political and cultural. Environmental change pushed the ancient Khmers to the limit and they weren't able to adapt," said the study's lead author, Brendan Buckley, a climate scientist and tree-ring specialist at Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. "I wouldn't say climate caused the collapse, but a 30-year drought had to have had an impact."

Scientists led by Buckley were able to reconstruct 759 years of past climate in the region surrounding Angkor by studying the annual growth rings of a cypress tree, Fokienia hodginsii, growing in the highlands of Vietnam's Bidoup Nui Ba National Park, about 700 kilometers away. By hiking high into the mountain cloud forests, the researchers were able to find rare specimens over 1,000 years old that had not been touched by loggers. After extracting tiny cores of wood showing the trees' annual growth rings, researchers reconstructed year-to-year moisture levels in this part of Southeast Asia from 1250 to 2008. The tree rings revealed evidence of a mega-drought lasting three decades—from the 1330s to 1360s-- followed by a more severe but shorter drought from the 1400s to 1420s. Written records corroborate the latter drought, which may have been felt as far away as Sri Lanka and central China.

The droughts may have been devastating for a civilization dependent on farming and an irrigation system of reservoirs, canals and embankments sprawling across more than a thousand square kilometers. The droughts could have led to crop failure and a rise in infectious disease, and both problems would have been exacerbated by the density of the population, Buckley says.

The study also finds that the droughts were punctuated by several extraordinarily intense rainy seasons that may have damaged Angkor's hydraulic system. During a normal monsoon season, Angkor's hydraulic network could have handled heavy downpours, but after extended droughts, the system may have been vulnerable to massive siltation and clogging, the study suggests. Layers of coarse debris and other sediments found blocking some canals appear to have been laid down suddenly. In other spots, apparently sudden erosion cut canals as much as 8 meters below the surrounding landscape, potentially destabilizing the hydraulic system. Archeologists have found additional evidence that canals were rebuilt and rerouted to cope with water shortages.

In compiling the longest tropical tree ring record to date, researchers found that the third-driest, and the driest, years in the last 760 years occurred back to back in 1402 and 1403, about three decades before Angkor's fall. The second driest was 1888, which coincided with the 1888-1889 El Niño, a cyclical warming of the tropical Pacific Ocean. By correlating known El Niño cycles measured with modern instruments, researchers have documented how the cyclical warming and cooling of the tropical Pacific Ocean brings rain to some places and drought to others. The authors of the current study and other researchers suggest that El Niño, possibly abetted by longer, decades-long cycles across the Pacific basin, may have played an important role in shutting down the monsoon rains in this region, creating withering droughts in the past. Some scientists suspect that warming of the global climate may intensify these cycles in the future, raising the possibility of alternating Angkor-like droughts and destructive floods that could affect billions of people.

Similar studies suggest that abrupt environmental changes may have pushed other ancient civilizations over the edge, including the Anasazi people of the southwestern United States; the Maya people of Central America, and the Akkadian people of Mesopotamia. There is some evidence that other once-powerful kingdoms in what is now Vietnam and Myanmar may have fallen during the late 1700s, following extreme dry and wet periods.

"Both human society and the erth's climate system are complex systems capable of unexpected behavior. Through the long-term perspective offered by climate and archaeological records, we can start to identify and understand the myriad ways they may interact," said study coauthor Kevin Anchukaitis, a tree ring scientist at Lamont. "The evidence from monsoon Asia should remind us that complex civilizations are still quite vulnerable to climate variability and change."

US pledges $5 million to Khmer Rouge court

Judicial officers of the Khmer Rouge tribunal meeting

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PHNOM PENH — The United States has pledged five million dollars to Cambodia's Khmer Rouge tribunal amid the troubled court's attempts to address corruption allegations, an envoy said Wednesday.

Stephen Rapp, the US ambassador-at-large for war crimes issues, told reporters the donation was made "in light of continued progress" with the establishment of an independent official to help monitor graft.

The UN-backed court, which finished arguments in its first trial in November, has faced controversy over allegations of government interference and claims that Cambodian staff were forced to pay kickbacks for their jobs.

"We believe that credible steps have been taken (against corruption)," Rapp said in a US embassy press conference.

"The whole world is aware that Cambodia is moving forward from a dark period of its history," he said, adding the funds would be intended for the court's second trial, of four senior regime leaders, expected to begin early next year.

Up to two million people were executed or died of starvation, disease and overwork as the 1975-79 Khmer Rouge movement emptied cities and enslaved the population on collective farms in its bid to create a communist utopia.

The long-awaited first trial heard Duch, real name Kaing Guek Eav, acknowledge responsibility and beg forgiveness for overseeing the torture and execution of more than 15,000 people at the notorious Tuol Sleng prison.

Rapp told reporters he was not troubled by allegations that Cambodia's administration has attempted to interfere in the tribunal to protect former regime members who are now in government.

"From my observations, the court is able to do its work," Rapp said.

Amid repeated warnings by premier Hun Sen that further cases against the hardline regime could spark civil war, Cambodian and international prosecutors have clashed over whether the court should pursue more suspects.

The tribunal was created in 2006 after several years of haggling between Cambodia and the UN.

Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Japan meet in Hanoi


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Hanoi (VNA) – The fourth senior officials meeting between Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam (CLV) and Japan took place in Hanoi on March 30 with the participation of representatives from the four countries.

The meeting reviewed the implementation of projects within the framework of Japan ’s support package of 20 million USD for the CLV development triangle.

Participants also discussed measures to increase cooperative ties between the three Southeast Asian countries and Japan . They all acknowledged the sound development of the project and anticipated more practical and specific cooperation for the social-economic development of the CLV triangle.

The CLV development triangle initiative was put forth at a meeting between Vietnam , Laos and Cambodia ’s Prime Ministers in 1999 to promote solidarity and cooperation between the three countries. It also aimed to facilitate socio-economic development, hunger alleviation and poverty reduction as well as security for the three countries.

At the third CLV-Japan summit, Japan pledged 20 million USD to support development projects in the region, including those in rural development and social security. Of the projects, Vietnam has seven worth 3.5 million USD. (VNA)

Who will defend the children in Cambodia?


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At the end of January, Human Rights Watch released a report on abuses throughout Cambodia's system of drug detention centres.

Our report detailed terrible abuses and sadistic violence. The adults and children we interviewed told us of being beaten, whipped and punished with electric shocks.

Unicef provides direct funding for one of the centres, where drug-users and children - some reportedly as young as four - are brought in from the streets. When we briefed them four months before we released our report, they told us they were shocked.

They promised to look into the abuses. Children who had been detained at the Unicef-funded centre told us of being tortured. They told us of being forced to do exhausting military exercises, work on construction projects and even dance naked for guards.

We expected Unicef to press for a thorough and independent investigation and to demand that those responsible for the abuses be held accountable. We hoped they would conduct a review of their funding, programming and activities. We expected them to press the Cambodian government more broadly about the detention of children alongside adults.

What actually happened? Not much. Unicef issued a statement when our report was released saying that past reviews conducted by the Ministry of Social Affairs - the ministry running the centre - had found no evidence of "major violations".

Over the next few weeks Unicef officials defended their support for the centre, saying that they monitor conditions in the centre "from time to time". Unicef's director in Cambodia, Richard Bridle, said that they "look for the positive". At the same time, Bridle conceded that he "wouldn't be surprised" if abuses were taking place, and that these kinds of abuses are "typical in centres [such] as this one".

Last week, Unicef officials visited the centre - the Choam Chao Youth Rehabilitation Centre, on the outskirts of Phnom Penh - and then told reporters that Human Rights Watch had made a mistake. Mr Bridle said that on their visit, Unicef staff had joked with children being held there and found them "engaging".

Bridle told the Phnom Penh Post that "there is no culture of violence" at the centre. He pointed to an as-yet-unreleased internal assessment by the Ministry of Social Affairs and to statements made by a non-governmental organisation that provides some services in the centre (and which is also financed by Unicef) to suggest that we had our facts wrong.

It's a tactic we are more accustomed to seeing from repressive governments than from Unicef officials: A quick trip, an internal investigation and an announcement of no wrongdoing.

In contrast to Unicef's cursory review, our investigation was independent and thorough. We conducted detailed, in-depth interviews with 53 people who had been detained in drug detention centres within the last three years, 17 of whom had been detained at the centre Unicef supports. Our interviews were conducted outside of the centres, where children could feel safe from possible retaliation for telling us of their experiences.

While Unicef claims that the Choam Chao centre is "open" and "voluntary", here is what a few children who had been held at the centre told us:

"I tried to escape but my feet got stuck on the barbed wire. I was re-arrested. They beat me with a rattan stick until I lost consciousness and they poured water on me. They said, each time, "Don't run again!" Teap (14 years old);

"As soon as I arrived, the Social Affairs staff kicked and beat me. I don't know why. He said, 'You stay here. Do not run! There are high walls here. If you get re-arrested, I won't be responsible if your leg is broken.'" Chambok (17 years old);

"They shocked the big kids who tried to escape. I saw when they escaped and when they got shocked. They shocked them a lot." Chamnauth (15 years old);

"If anyone tried to escape, he would be punished. Some people managed to escape, some didn't. Most who were punished for escaping would be beaten unconscious. Beatings like this happened every day." M'noh (16 years old).

All of these children were detained during the period when the centre was getting funds from Unicef.

We're not the only ones presenting evidence of abuse. In the same article that quotes Richard Bridle saying that "These were not brutalised kids", the reporter from the Phnom Phen Post quoted a drug-user who had been at the Unicef-funded centre a year ago: "They used sticks.

They unlocked the door, entered and started beating. They punched me in the face. They smashed my head against the wall. They beat me three times with the cable in the same place. You could see the flesh come out. It was like pieces of flesh from a fish." He then showed the journalist his scars.

We have briefed Unicef four times, before our report and afterwards, both in Cambodia and New York. It's been six months since we first presented our findings, methodology and recommendations.

While Unicef officials defend their colleagues at the Ministry of Social Affairs, who is defending the children at the centre they fund, or at the 10 other drug detention centres throughout the country? When will Unicef decide to listen to the voices of the children who have been beaten and tortured? When will they support our call for a thorough, independent and credible investigation?

Joe Amon is director of health and human rights for Human Rights Watch.

By Joe Amon

The Nation/Asia News Network

Cambodian ex-king returns home from China

Cambodian ex-king returns home from China

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By Agence France-Presse
3/31/2010

Cambodia's elderly former king Norodom Sihanouk and his family returned home on Wednesday from China where he spent seven months receiving medical treatment, officials said.

Sihanouk, his wife, and his son King Norodom Sihamoni were greeted at the airport by Prime Minister Hun Sen and other senior government officials.

Oum Daravuth, a member of the royal cabinet, told reporters that Sihanouk was now in "good health" and that his royal presence would bring harmony to the kingdom and its people.

Sihanouk, 87, has suffered from a number of ailments, including cancer, diabetes and hypertension.

In July last year he returned to Cambodia after a stay of almost one year in China, where he was successfully treated for a third bout of cancer.

He and his wife returned last September for a check-up and treatment, while Sihamoni flew to see the pair in Beijing last month.

The ex-monarch said last October that he had lived too long and wished to die as soon as possible, according to a personal handwritten note on his website. "Lengthy longevity bears on me like an unbearable weight," he said.

One of Asia's longest-serving monarchs, he abruptly quit the throne in October 2004 in favour of his son, citing old age and health problems.

Despite abdicating, Sihanouk remains a prominent figure in Cambodia and often uses messages on his website to comment on matters of state.

Nearly 50 Monks Ill in Mass Food Poisoning

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By Chun Sakada, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
31 March 2010

Forty-eight monks fell ill with food poisoning Sunday and were recovering in two separate hospitals Wednesday, possibly after ingesting insecticide, hospital officials said.

The monks, from the Wat Koh Krabay pagoda in Kandal province, suffered upset stomachs and diarrhea following a ceremony hosted by Cambodian-Americans on a visit, Teng Soeurn, head of Preah Kosamak hospital in Phnom Penh, told VOA Khmer.

Twenty-three monks were treated at Preah Kosamak, and another 25 were treated at the Cambodia-Soviet Friendship Hospital, also in Phnom Penh. All 48 were recovering, the doctors said.

The mass poisoning came amid worries of continued outbreaks of cholera. At least six villagers died and 53 were hospitalized in a cholera outbreak in Kratie province last week.

Clinical examinations of the monks’ stool discounted that disease, Teng Soeurn said, adding that the monks could have died without treatment.

“It is a different condition from cholera, which is contagious from one [person] to another,” he said. “Food poisoning is not contagious one to another.”

Food poisoning can occur in unhygienic conditions, but the monks may also have eaten toxic vegetables in their meal.

“All the monks ate Vietnamese noodles with salad and insecticide, and then all the monks got stomach aches and severe diarrhea, but it is not cholera,” said Say Sengly, head of the Cambodia-Soviet hospital.

At least some of the monks had gone home, he said.

Experts Gather to Debate Mineral Extraction

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By Kong Sothanarith, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
31 March 2010

Mineral extraction and development experts opened three days of meetings with government officials Tuesday in an effort to ease Cambodia’s move into a lucrative sector expected to bear fruit in the near future.

“Currently, knowledge about oil, gas and mining in this country is limited,” Douglas Broderick, the UN’s chief Cambodia coordinator, said in opening remarks Tuesday, before extraction experts from across Asia. “Learning from the lessons of others will help Cambodia in the extraction industry in a way that will bring benefits to all.”

Cambodia has the potential to yield silver, gold, oil and other precious minerals in at least a dozen provinces. Exploration is already underway, but there are wide concerns the industry’s abundant profits will not help all Cambodians and could find their way into the pockets of the rich, powerful or corrupt.

“The sharing of information is so critical,” Brian Lund, regional director for Oxfam America, which sponsored the conference, told reporters Tuesday, calling this week’s meetings “a starting point.”

Members of the government, private sector and civil society were all realizing the importance of minerals in the development of Southeast Asia, he said.

“Cambodia is a part of that,” he added, warning that possible downsides of extraction must be countered with clever management.

First up for Cambodia is oil and gas, which some estimates predict will start to flow by 2013, with an estimated revenue stream of $1.7 billion by 2021. Next would be mineral extraction, which could start bringing in money by 2015.

Experts warn that without transparent means to distribute the wealth of these industries, profits will not filter down to everyday Cambodians. They point to Cambodia’s disastrous forestry policies of the 1990s, when most of the country’s timber resources were cut down and sold off—legally and illegally—in trade that benefitted an elite few.

Tuesday’s meetings were a start at mitigating those concerns, participants said.

“Debate is a positive process that will ensure that Cambodia adopts good governance and, in the long term, develops a strong mining sector,” Richard Thompson, an international investment expert from the UK, said.

Meanwhile, Hang Chuon Naron, secretary general of the Ministry of Economy and Finance, said Cambodia now must “balance taxation and build up the capacity of government officials.”

Chea Vichea Film Prompts Questions in US

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By Men Kimseng, VOA Khmer
Original report from Maryland
31 March 2010

Who killed Chea Vichea? The question remains unanswered not just for the man’s family but also American audiences who attended the premiere last weekend of a vivid film about Cambodia’s politics and the slain union leader’s struggle for labor rights.

“Who Killed Chea Vichea?” debuted at Maryland’s second Frederick Film Festival in an effort to attract international support for the cause of justice for workers and Cambodians.

Director Brad Cox said murders of unionists and journalists, a biased court system and incompetent police continue to plague Cambodia and need international attention.

“What I think the first step in these Western countries should be is acknowledging that Cambodia is not a democracy,” Brad Cox told VOA Khmer. “It’s run by the very few at the very top, and to suggest that it’s a democracy is a myth.”

That myth is convenient for Western countries to accept, “because they don’t want to confront or upset the government,” Cox said. “If they can at least acknowledge that these things happen, that would be a first step in trying to make thing better there.”

“Who Killed Chea Vichea?” examines the competition for power among the country’s main political parties, the Cambodian People’s Party, Funcinpec and the Sam Rainsy Party, following general elections in 2003.

At the time, Cambodia’s workers, led by Chea Vichea, were demanding better salaries and working conditions in tumultuous, massive demonstrations.

Chea Vichea was shot dead in broad daylight in January 2004 as he read a newspaper near Phnom Penh’s Wat Langka pagoda. The two assailants escaped, but two other men, widely believed innocent, were promptly arrested, charged and sentenced to 20 years in prison.

The two men, Born Samnang and Sok Sameoun, spent five years in jail before they were provisionally released in a Supreme Court decision in 2008. No further arrests have been made.

“Who Killed Chea Vichea?” does not answer its own question, but Cox said the labor leader’s prominence as an activist meant an order for his assassination “would have to come from very high. And the way the government is set up, there are very few people who are very high.”

People are still afraid to talk about the killing, Cox said, and the courts have moved slowly in bringing their attention to the case.

The film, however, is raising awareness and prompting viewers to ask their own questions.

“When I saw this documentary, I felt emotional and painful, but don’t know what else we can do to help,” said Khalarath Bloesch-Sek, who saw the film in the town of Frederick. “There seems not much we can do to help improve Cambodia. I hope that the younger generation will stand up and lead the country forward to be a better place.”

Jason Judd, one of the film festival’s organizers, was also a colleague of Chea Vichea.

“Leading a union is very difficult; one must be brave,” he told VOA Khmer. “And in Cambodia there are not many union leaders like Chea Vichea.”

Ancient Cambodian bronzes headed to Getty Center


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March 30, 2010

For the first time, the J. Paul Getty Museum will be hosting an exhibition of artwork from Cambodia.

A collection of ancient bronze sculptures from the Southeast Asian country will go on display at the Getty Center in 2011. "Gods of Angkor: Bronzes From the National Museum of Cambodia" is set to run from Feb. 22 to Aug. 14, 2011.

The exhibition features work dating from the Angkor period, roughly from the 9th to the 15th centuries. The Getty said the show will also feature a small group of bronzes from the pre-Angkor period and some recently excavated works.

Much of the exhibition will feature sculptures depicting Buddhist and Hindu deities created by artists who lived during the Khmer Empire. The sculptures are on loan from the National Museum of Cambodia in Phnom Penh, which has founded a bronze conservation studio.

The exhibition will open at the Smithsonian's Arthur M. Sackler Gallery in Washington, D.C., in May.

"Gods of Angkor," which features 36 works, is the result of a partnership between the Smithsonian's Freer and Sackler Galleries and the National Museum of Cambodia. The two institutions have worked together on conservation and other efforts.

-- David Ng

Photo: a 12th century bronze from the Angkor period. Credit: National Museum of Cambodia

US pledges 5 million dollars to Cambodia's Khmer Rouge tribunal

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Posted : Wed, 31 Mar 2010
By : dpa

Phnom Penh - The United States said Wednesday it would contribute 5 million dollars in funding for the ongoing Khmer Rouge war crimes tribunal in Cambodia.

The announcement, which is subject to Congressional approval, was made in Phnom Penh by US war crimes ambassador Stephen Rapp at the end of his visit to Phnom Penh, where he met with court staff and senior government officials to discuss the tribunal's progress.

"This decision to provide further funding for the court reflects our commitment to see this process through to its conclusion and help Cambodia build a society based upon the rule of law," he said.

Rapp confirmed the cash would go to the United Nations side of the joint UN-Cambodian tribunal rather than the Cambodian side.

US approval follows Washington's satisfaction that enough work has been done to combat alleged widespread corruption on the Cambodian side of the court, including staff being compelled to pay substantial chunks of their salaries in kickbacks.

Rapp indicated the US might provide further funding in future fiscal years provided measures to combat corruption remained in place.

He said he would head to Thailand and Japan next to meet representatives of other donor nations to encourage further funding for the tribunal.

Cambodia's war crimes tribunal, a hybrid UN-Cambodian body, is currently investigating additional suspects to the five who are already in custody.

However those additional prosecutions were publicly condemned by Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, whose intervention provoked criticisms that the court was subject to political influence.

Late last year, the tribunal completed its hearings in the trial of Comrade Duch, the former commander of the Khmer Rouge's main torture and execution centre in Phnom Penh known as S-21.

Judgement in the Duch case is likely to be handed down in June. He stands accused of crimes against humanity and war crimes, as well as crimes under Cambodian law.

Four surviving senior leaders of the Khmer Rouge are currently in pre-trial detention for their alleged roles in the deaths of 1.7 million people.

The four are: former Brother Number Two Nuon Chea, the movement's ideologue; former head of state Khieu Samphan; former foreign minister Ieng Sary; and his wife, the former social affairs minister Ieng Thirith.

Around a quarter of Cambodia's population is thought to have died from execution, disease, starvation and overwork during the Khmer Rouge's rule of Cambodia from 1975-79. Its leader, Pol Pot, died in 1998 near the Thai-Cambodian border.

Launch of Cambodia’s first Rattan Field Guide draws attention from national and international press

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31 March 2010

Radio Australia aired the story twice via its large coverage network across Cambodia, first as a hot news and later as a feature story in its weekly programme on agricultural development and sustainable environmental practice.


“From the point of view of newsworthiness, Rattan is a good story to cover because it's about environment, community development and sustainability and it's also about bringing income to poor families whose livelihood rely on rattan products,” said Mr Alex Khun, a Khmer journalist and broadcaster based in Melbourne Office that features programmes in both Khmer and English.

Mr Khun said that in the past, not many people know about rattan products and its value chain. With WWF’s initiative, green and sustainable rattan industry has the potential to help hundreds of people earn extra income while promoting protection of rattan resources and forest ecosystems. These factors create, as Mr Khun believes, a great deal of interest among millions of listeners both locally and overseas.

Arnulf Köhncke
Participants at the exhibit area of the rattan field guide launch.

Arnulf Köhncke
Stakeholders from the Cambodian rattan sector.
Tep Asnarith
Here in this rattan factory 'Kuy Meng' 30 people are employed. An average volume of monthly sales of 210 units is being supplied to markets in Preah Sihanouk, Kampot and Siam Reap provinces, as well as in the Phnom Penh capital.
Arnulf Köhncke
At the launch ceremony, from left to right, Mrs Kim Thida Kallianey, ceremony facilitator, Ms Michelle Owen, Conservation Programme Manager with WWF, Mr Men Phymean, Department Chief of Wildlife and Biodiversity of Forestry Administration, Mr Kith Pheara, Chief of Product Development Office of the Ministry of Commerce.

“From community and social development standpoints, it's a good thing that people begin to understand the values and start to protect rattan resources. Local communities become aware that they are able to earn income from rattan, whereas before, people knew little about the benefits of rattan as they thought only for domestic use.” He continued that in Western countries such as Australia rattan products are quite expensive and popular and that high quality rattan products will find their ways into hotels, restaurants, and homes.

According to Mr Khan Sophirom, journalist with Raksmei Kampuchea - the most read Khmer language newspaper - the story is beneficial for readers who work in the Cambodian rattan sector. "It is a brand new story," he said.

At Radio France International (RFI) all news are interesting for their listeners. This Paris-based Radio aired the rattan story in its news programme in Khmer language via its FM frequencies that cover Phnom Penh capital and provinces of Siam Reap, Battambang, Kampong Cham and Preah Sihanouk.

Mr Leang Delux, RFI’s correspondent, thought that the story was very interesting because it informed the public about the diversity of Cambodian rattan growing across the whole country.

The main focus of the launch event – the first “Field Guide of the Rattans of Cambodia” – is the result of more than two years of research on rattan in Cambodia by Mr Khou Eang Hourt, senior botanist. The guide documents more than 20 rattan species across 13 provinces all over Cambodia and identifies five species with the highest market potential. Besides common and scientific names for all species, the book supplies detailed information on rattan characteristics and ecology. Detailed distribution maps provide information on where to find each species while descriptions and colour photographs support field identification.

For future reference, copies of the book were distributed to all stakeholders present at the launch. The book contributes an important step towards sustainable rattan management as it describes the diversity, ecology and characters of rattan.

For more information, email to Tep Asnarith

Vietnam continues to boost ties with Cambodia


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March 31, 2010

Vietnam will continue to boost its traditional friendship and co-operation with Cambodia .

So said President Nguyen Minh Triet while receiving Prosecutor General Chea Leang, from Cambodia’s Supreme Court, in Hanoi on March 30.

President Triet expressed pleasure at the fine way that co-operation has been developing between the two countries in many fields.

In recent years, the leaders of both states have visited each other’s country, with Vietnamese Party General Secretary Nong Duc Manh visiting Cambodia last December.

Economic, trade and investment co-operation between Vietnam and Cambodia has been constantly enhanced and many large Vietnamese firms have begun operating in Cambodia , investing in telecoms, energy, mining, rubber plantations and water transport.

He praised the signing of a memorandum of understanding on boosting co-operation between the Supreme People’s Procuracy of Vietnam and the Cambodian Supreme Court. He expressed his belief that by implementing the MoU, the two agencies would strengthen links between both countries.

The Cambodian Prosecutor General briefed the Vietnamese leader on the on-going visit to Vietnam by a delegation from the Cambodian Supreme Court and confirmed that her agency wishes to contribute further to building up friendship and co-operation between the two nations. (VNA)

Cambodia opposition asks to halt Vietnam border demarcation

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By Agence France-Presse
3/30/2010

Cambodia's main opposition party on Tuesday asked the government to suspend demarcation of a contentious border with neighbouring Vietnam, according to a letter seen by AFP.

Lawmakers from the Sam Rainsy Party (SRP), whose leader lives in exile in France, urged Prime Minister Hun Sen to allow a review of border markings to "properly and fully respect the territorial integrity of Cambodia".

The Cambodian premier maintains close relations with the Vietnamese regime and Sam Rainsy, whose party shares his name, has repeatedly accused the government of ceding land to Vietnam.

"We, the lawmakers... would like to request the government to suspend the process of planting markers along Cambodian-Vietnamese border," the letter said.

The move follows a government lawsuit filed last month against Sam Rainsy accusing him of publishing a false map on his party's website that disputed delineation of the border between Cambodia and Vietnam.

The opposition leader was in January sentenced in absentia to two years in prison in Cambodia for intentionally uprooting temporary border posts and inciting racial unrest.

Two villagers were also found guilty in the October incident in which Sam Rainsy led protesters to uproot six border markers in southeastern Svay Rieng province, alleging they had been illegally placed by Vietnam.

Vietnam condemned the saboteurs' act as "perverse, undermining common assets, violating laws of Cambodia and Vietnam, treaties, agreements and deals between the two countries".

But the SRP's letter to Hun Sen on Tuesday asked that independent experts, lawmakers, journalists, and civil society representatives be allowed to monitor and verify the demarcation process between the two countries.

Cambodia and Vietnam officially began demarcating their contentious border in September 2006 after decades of territorial disputes.

Anti-Vietnamese sentiment in Cambodia is rife, fuelled by resentment at Vietnam's expansion over the centuries and the feeling that Cambodia is losing some of its territory.

Vietnam and Cambodia share a 1,270-kilometre (790-mile) border, which has remained vague since French colonial times

An icon fades in Cambodia

http://www.atimes.com/
via CAAI News Media

By Sebastian Strangio

PHNOM PENH - By uprooting six wooden border markers last October along the Vietnamese border, Cambodia's opposition leader Sam Rainsy again cast himself in the familiar role of a thorn in the flesh of authority.

Earlier this year, a court sentenced Rainsy to two years in prison in absentia for uprooting the posts. He now faces additional misinformation charges that carry a possible 18 years in prison. He has been stripped of his parliamentary immunity twice in the past year.

Though his Sam Rainsy Party (SRP) remains the kingdom's biggest proponent of Western-style democracy, Rainsy's decision to go into self-imposed exile in France to continue his campaign against alleged Vietnamese incursions into Cambodian territory has raised questions whether the 61-year-old politician has lost his direction and his party its past relevance in a fast-shifting political landscape.

Premier Hun Sen, who in 1997 ousted his long-time rival Prince Norodom Ranariddh in a bloody factional coup, has successfully consolidated his position at the center of the country's politics. Hun Sen's Cambodian People's Party (CPP) has presided over a period of rapid economic growth - between 2004 to 2007 gross domestic product grew at an average of around 10% - and the party's continued success at the ballot box has demonstrated that the majority of Cambodians are willing to overlook its more authoritarian tendencies in exchange for economic progress.

Meanwhile, the past year has been a tumultuous one for the SRP, which controls 26 seats in Cambodia's 123-seat National Assembly. Aside from Rainsy's border imbroglio, SRP lawmakers Mu Sochua and Ho Vann both lost their parliamentary immunity after being accused of defaming senior CPP officials. These political stand-offs earned attention in the chambers of the US Congress and the European parliament in Brussels, but it's unclear whether the SRP's antagonistic strategies have maximized it's chances of leveraging Cambodia's demographic changes (as much as half of the population is under 24 years of age) into medium-term political gains.

By some assessments, the party has declined since its mid-2000s peak, a trend illustrated by its failure to capture the voters who withdrew their support from the royalist Funcinpec party after it split along factional lines in 2006. "All those votes should have gone to the SRP, and they didn't," said Ou Virak, president of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights.

He said the SRP's lack of concrete policies has personalized its frequent spats with the government and the lack of party vision has dragged it into various unwinnable battles with the CPP-controlled parliament. "There's no proper analysis or real policy," said Ou Virak. "If you're going to oppose something or are you in a position to offer anything, that's different?"

The SRP's campaigns against Hun Sen's authoritarianism and his cozy ties to former invader and occupier Vietnam have done little to change the country's political or economic realities. The CPP continues to control all three branches of government, as well as a large swathe of the print and broadcast media.

At the 2008 polls, the CPP captured over 58% of the popular vote and notched 90 National Assembly seats - more than the two-thirds majority needed to pass laws unanimously. The SRP increased its parliamentary representation from 24 to 26 in 2008, but its share of the popular vote remained steady at around 22%.

Over the same five-year period, the vote for the royalist movement - once a powerhouse of Cambodian politics under the Funcinpec party - shrank from 20.8% of the vote to just over 10%. Most of those lost votes were usurped by the ruling CPP, despite its long-time and often heated antagonism towards the royalist party.

Another political observer said that SRP's failure to capitalize on the rift in the royalist movement represented a "huge" missed opportunity for the party and that its recent political theatrics, including the border post stunt, had "steered the party way off message".

"They talk about party leaders being persecuted on the basis of esoteric rights that many Cambodian people have very little ownership of. They've adapted to appeal to outside constituencies rather than Cambodian voters," the observer said.

Sorpong Peou, a professor of political science at Sophia University in Tokyo, concurred that the SRP's appeals to distant international organizations focused on democracy promotion and good governance have achieved little for the party domestically, where it remains "at the mercy" of Hun Sen and his ruling party.

"[The CPP] is willing to allow a degree of opposition in order to legitimize its domination and uses this type of legitimacy to gain international support," she said. "In this sense, the opposition's appeals have little real impact on domestic politics."

To be sure, Rainsy has been down before only to bounce back. Between 2005-06 he lived in self-exile in France for a year after being stripped of his parliamentary immunity and ordered jailed for 18 months on criminal defamation charges. He only returned to Cambodia in February 2006 after recanting comments he made about Hun Sen and receiving a royal pardon from King Norodom Sihamoni.

This time, though, Rainsy faces a less accommodating international landscape given the recent diplomatic overtures to Hun Sen's government made by the United States, which has prioritized a policy of counterbalancing China's rising regional influence. For years, Rainsy benefited from the US's antagonistic approach towards the government, a policy influenced by a bloody 1997 grenade attack on a peaceful opposition rally that many claim was orchestrated by members of Hun Sen's personal bodyguard unit.

Ou Virak said that one new problem for Rainsy is that repeated petitions to international organizations - one of the few cards the leader has left to play - could be falling on increasingly deaf ears. "You can do it once or twice, but governments get fatigued, donors get fatigued ... You're running a risk of people no longer paying attention," he said. "Eventually he'll have to take it to the next level and that means facing possible imprisonment." He added: "He's no Aung San Suu Kyi. He's not going to come back."

Donor darling

When Sam Rainsy returned to Cambodia from France in 1992, he was a rising star in the royalist political firmament. A founding member of then-prince Norodom Sihanouk's Funcinpec party in 1981, Rainsy had risen through the ranks to become an elected parliamentarian during Funcinpec's stunning win in the United Nations-backed 1993 elections and was appointed minister of finance in the Funcinpec-CPP coalition government.

His ascent, however, was short-lived and the fall that followed set the tone for a political career that would be marked by a consistently adversarial relationship with the government. In October 1994 - just over a year after his appointment - Sam Rainsy was dismissed from his post in a major cabinet reshuffle following his criticisms of the corruption and nepotism that plagued the coalition. The following year, his continued criticisms led to his expulsion from the party and the loss of his National Assembly seat.

At the time of its founding in 1995, the Khmer Nation Party (KNP) - the SRP's predecessor - was a breath of fresh air on the Cambodian political landscape. Unlike the CPP - which secured its support through a patronage system established in the 1980s - and Funcinpec, which traded heavily on the prestige of the monarchy, Sam Rainsy's new party put liberal democratic principles front and center. At the time, he said his expulsion from Funcinpec would give him the opportunity "to mobilize millions of people" sharing the same ideals.

Even with its egalitarian bent, the SRP's constituency to this day remains overwhelmingly urban. In 2008, it won six of its 26 seats in Phnom Penh and five in urban Kampong Cham, as well as three each in Kandal and Prey Veng, both densely populated provinces close to the capital. In half of Cambodia's 24 provinces and municipalities - among them the most remote and least populated - the party failed to win a single seat.

Caroline Hughes, an associate professor of governance studies at Murdoch University in Australia, claims that the SRP is not totally to blame for its poor electoral performances in rural areas, where the CPP used intimidation and patronage to secure votes. She said Sam Rainsy - a "donors' darling" in the early 1990s - has gradually become a more "marginal" figure because of waning international support, a rift with the Cambodian union movement and a concerted campaign of violence and intimidation against his supporters that included the bloody 1997 grenade attack.

"I don't think we can blame the SRP for the weakness of the Cambodian political opposition when the government has worked consistently to reduce the political space for any kind of organized activism on any issue," she said.

Others, however, believe the party's growth has been stunted by the erosion of its own internal democratic processes and by the constant threat of defections and government intimidation. The SRP, Ou Virak said, is "like a scared child" frightened by the threat of infiltration by the ruling party and suspicious of newcomers. "There are some good people in the party that I know that cannot move up in the ranks," he said. "There are some very good people who were left out."

For example, Ken Virak was a member of the SRP's Steering Committee who left to form his own party - the People's Power Party (PPP) - in 2007 after becoming disillusioned with the SRP's internal workings. He said the SRP had given up its role as a democratic opposition party "step by step" and that its steering committee - nominally in charge of party decision-making - no longer had real power.

"There is no democracy inside the party. Most of the decisions are made only by a minority of members who are powerful in the party and associated with Sam Rainsy," he said. "I found that before every election, members of the party always broke away because of the political decision-making and partisanship," he said.

Ken Virak said that all opposition groups, including the new Human Rights Party (HRP) and his PPP, must unite if they are to have a chance at cutting into the CPP's majority at the next national election, which must be held by 2013. But a united opposition is still a distant threat to CPP dominance: proposed mergers between the SRP and HRP and two remaining royalist parties have all foundered on personal disagreements between their leaders.

Political family
Born in Phnom Penh in 1949, Rainsy's formative years were influenced by Cambodia's rough and tumble politics. His father, Sam Sary, was a key member of Sihanouk's Sangkum Reastr Niyum government, but fell from grace after he was implicated in the so-called Bangkok Plot of 1959, an attempt to topple the government with the support of Thailand's right-wing Field Marshal Sarit Thanarat.

Sam Sary disappeared in 1962 and was presumed killed, possibly by the government. Shortly afterwards, Rainsy's mother, In Em, took the remaining family members to live in France, where he was educated and remained for the next three decades. In a recent Phnom Penh Post interview, Rainsy described his father's death as a "traumatizing" experience, but said that his political views permeated the family and influenced the trajectory of his own political development.

Certain pivotal events in Europe, including the Soviet invasion of Hungary in 1956, were topics of conversation at the dinner table and went some way to forming the ideals that grew into the SRP's blend of liberal internationalism with appeals to Khmer nationalism.

"When it came to Southeast Asia, my father was in favor of a strict neutrality - that Cambodia should not move closer to the communist world," Rainsy said. "This has marked my background and my conviction that communism is oppressive - that freedom is essential and that we have to fight for [it]."

Rainsy said that despite being founded largely on his own initiative in 1995, the KNP - renamed the SRP in 1998 because of legal disputes over the KNP name - had grown into an "organization of its own" linking Cambodia with Khmer communities abroad. He also downplayed his role as the party's figurehead, referring to it as an "anachronistic" notion.

"If it was a one-man show, the show would have stopped a long time ago given all the problems that we've been facing," he said.

Rainsy said that the SRP was the only party in Cambodia that holds organized elections from the grassroots, a system that was in strict opposition to the CPP's centrally controlled networks. "They appoint their cadres - their apparatchiks - at the grassroots, but we are the only party that has organized elections," he said. Similarly, the "loss" of the former Funcinpec vote was largely "due to intimidation and vote-buying in non-transparent elections", Rainsy said - a claim the opposition has made consistently since the July 2008 election.

Asked how the party might erode the CPP's entrenched network of patronage and make electoral headway in rural areas, Rainsy said that current and future demographic changes were swinging voters towards the SRP - a factor reflected in the party's recent formation of a new youth congress. "It will take less time than one might imagine now because of the progress of technology, information, communication and education," he said. "History is accelerating."

Koul Panha, executive director of the Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia, a local election monitor, said Rainsy retains substantial political capital for taking a principled stance against corruption in the 1990s and maintaining it has a party platform ever since. He believes the party's main challenge is improving its public relations.

"I think he still has that credibility. He resigned from a key position in government and showed he is that kind of politician," he said. "The problem is how to communicate that credibility to the people." It's likely to remain a problem for the party as long as Rainsy campaigns on issues that appear to have more resonance with foreign audiences than with local voters.

Sebastian Strangio is a reporter for the Phnom Penh Post in Cambodia.

Cambodia's opposition leader accused of "betraying Cambodia

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The Nation
By Deutsche Presse Agentur

Phnom Penh - The deputy head of Cambodia's armed forces has accused the country's exiled opposition leader of conspiring with Thailand to destabilise the nation, national media reported Wednesday.

General Chea Dara, who is posted at the flashpoint Preah Vihear temple on the Cambodian-Thai border, made the allegations in a two-hour speech to a crowd of 1,000 students and government officials in Phnom Penh, the Cambodia Daily newspaper reported.

"The betraying opposition party leader Sam Rainsy has colluded with Thailand and sold himself to Thailand to let Thais invade Cambodia," Chea Dara was quoted as saying.

Chea Dara was referring to events in mid-2008 as tensions rose at Preah Vihear after the 11th-century temple was registered by the UN cultural body UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. That move angered some Thai nationalists who claim the temple for Thailand.

The general's comments came two weeks after a court in Phnom Penh formally charged Sam Rainsy with falsifying public documents and spreading disinformation in an ongoing argument with the Cambodian government over the border demarcation process under way between Vietnam and Cambodia.

Those charges could see him jailed for 18 years and would add to the two-year sentence he received late last year in a related border dispute with Vietnam.

Sam Rainsy, who is in France in self-imposed exile, was sentenced in absentia after he removed wooden posts marking the border between Cambodia and Vietnam. The opposition had claimed the posts were intruding into Cambodian territory and costing farmers their land.

Vietnam is a key investor in Cambodia with significant interests in agribusiness, aviation, telecommunications and banking and an important political ally of the ruling Cambodian People's Party.

An opposition party spokesman rejected the general's comments wholesale and said under Cambodian law the military must stay out of politics. Yim Sovann told the newspaper that Sam Rainsy's loyalties were to the Cambodian people and were beyond question.

"Please do not serve any political party," Yim Sovann said, referring to the military. "Otherwise, democracy in Cambodia will be jeopardized."


Chea Dara's comments came on the 13th anniversary of a grenade attack at an opposition gathering in Phnom Penh, which killed 16 people. Sam Rainsy was injured in the attack, which killed his bodyguard.

The attack was widely blamed on forces loyal to current Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, who at the time was in an increasingly unstable coalition with the royalist party.

DAP News ; Breaking News by Soy Sopheap

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US Contributes $ 5 million for ECCC

Wednesday, 31 March 2010 10:57 DAP-NEWS/ Soy Sophea

US official on Wednesday announced that it will contribute $ 5 million USD for UN-back Khmer Rouge Tribunal.

The pledge is made by Stephan Rapp, US ambassador at-large, at his US embassy in Phnom Penh.

Opposition Marks 13th Anniversary of Grenade Attack

Wednesday, 31 March 2010 03:21 DAP-NEWS

The opposition Sam Rainsy Party (SRP), led by acting party leader Kong Korm, marked the 13th anniversary of a deadly grenade attack in a public park in front of the former National Assembly building.

During the ceremony, Kong Korm pointed the finger at the Cambodian Government, a persistent allegation that was again was strongly rejected by Government officials, who said the SRP criticism was just a cynical attempt to gain political advantage.

On March 30, 1997, Sam Rainsy led more than 1,000 protesters to oppose corruption and call for a just court system. Four grenades killed 16 protesters and injured 50. No-one has ever been convicted in connection with the crime.

Following Kong Korm’s statement, Sam Rainsy said from Paris he is confident that justice will be found for the victims of the grenade attack 13 years ago. Rainsy himself narrowly escaped death when one of his bodyguards protected from the blasts.

“Wherever I am, I never forget … the victims of the 30 March 1997 grenade attack” Rainsy said. “I am confident that it will not be long before the perpetrators and the backers of this crime will be sentenced by an independent court and dealt with according to the law.”

Interior Ministry Spokesman Khieu Sopheak noted that Rainsy’s remarks were different from an apology letter to PM Hun Sen in 2006. The Ministry “is now cooperating with the FBI to investigate further,” he added.

Tith Sothea, a Council of Ministers official, said investigations are still ongiong. “The court system is an independent institution which on one dare interferes with,” he said. “Sam Rainsy himself abused justice as he fled the court.”

Subedi Welcomes Cambodia’s Acceptance of UPR Recommendations

Wednesday, 31 March 2010 03:20 DAP-NEWS

UN’s Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Cambodia, Professor Surya P.

Subedi, on Monday welcomed the decision of the Royal Government of Cambodia to accept the 91 recommendations following Cambodia’s submission to the United Nations Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review.

“This demonstrates the public commitment of the Government of Cambodia to pursue its efforts to build a functioning system of the rule of law guided by international human rights norms, which is an important factor in the development of the country”, said the Rapporteur in a Tuesday’s statement of Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Cambodia.

Cambodia is one of the very few Member States to have formally endorsed all recommendations made by the Human Rights Council. Under the Universal Periodic Review mechanism, the human rights record of all 192 Member States is reviewed by the Council on the basis of a four-year cycle. This mechanism enables fellow Member States to review each other’s human rights records, both acknowledging progress and identifying areas for attention.

At the Human Rights Council, Member states acknowledged the remar- kable progress made by Cambodia, taking into account that the country has come a long way after three decades ofconflicts. Among other things, they welcomed the enactment of several important laws, the effort to improve access to health an d education, to promote women’s rights, and other reforms underway, including those in the correctional sector.

They echoed recommendations by other United Nations Treaty Bodies and experts, as well as by civil society organizations, with regard the need to strengthen the legal and institutional framework to protect land and housing rights, and the independence and capacity of the judiciary, said the release.

The importance of promoting and protecting freedom of assembly and expression, as essential factors of democratic debate, was underlined; so was the importance attached to dialogue between the Government and civil society and the need to protect human rights defenders. Members States welcomed the engagement of Cambodia with the other United Nations human rights mechanisms, including the Special Rapporteur and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

The real test of the UPR recommendations starts with their effective implementation. Many of them are being implemented already. The Special Rapp- orteur encourages the Government to “engage major stakeholders, including civil society organizations, in the follow-up to the UPR.” He adds, “I look forward to working with the Government, civil society actors, the OHCHR and United Nations agencies as well as interested development partners, to support Cambodia’s effort to further integrate these recommendations into its policies, laws and practices in the next phase of the UPR process.”

U.N., Member States are Pleased with Cambodia’s Progress

Tuesday, 30 March 2010 10:34 By Ek Madra

PHNOM PENH- Human Rights Council and member states acknowledged the progress made by Cambodia in enactment of several laws, improved access to health, education and women’s rights and other reforms underway, said the UN release in Geneva which is on Tuesday in Cambodia.

The Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Cambodia, Professor Surya P.

Subedi, welcomed the decision of the royal government of Cambodia to accept the 91 recommendations following Cambodia’s submission to the United Nations Human Rights

Council’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR).

At the Human Rights Council, Member states acknowledged the remarkable progress made by Cambodia, taking into account that the country has come a long way after three decades of conflicts, said the release.

“Members States welcomed the engagement of Cambodia with the other United Nations human rights mechanisms, including the Special Rapporteur and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights,” it said.

They echoed recommendations by other United Nations Treaty Bodies and experts, as well as by civil society organizations, with regard the need to strengthen the legal and institutional framework to protect land and housing rights, and the independence and capacity of the judiciary, it said.

“This demonstrates the public commitment of the government of Cambodia to pursue its efforts to build a functioning system of the rule of law guided by international human rights norms, which is an important factor in the development of the country,” said the release.

“The importance of promoting and protecting freedom of assembly and expression, as essential factors of democratic debate, was underlined; so was the importance attached to dialogue between the government and civil society and the need to protect human rights defenders,” it said.

Cambodia is one of the very few Member States to have formally endorsed all recommendations made by the Human Rights Council. Under the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) mechanism, the human rights record of all 192 Member States is reviewed by the Council on the basis of a “four-year cycle”.

This mechanism enables fellow Member States to review each other’s human rights records, both acknowledging progress and identifying areas for attention.

The real test of the UPR recommendations starts with their effective implementation. Many of them are being implemented already.

The Special Rapporteur also encouraged the government to “engage major stakeholders, including civil society organizations, in the follow-up to the UPR,” it said.

Subedi said he looked forward to working with the government, civil society actors, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in Cambodia and United Nations agencies as well as interested development partners, to support Cambodia’s effort to further integrate these recommendations into its policies, laws and practices in the next phase of the UPR process.

The United Nations Special Rapporteur informed Deputy Prime Minister Sok An in January that he has seen real progress in this Kingdom’s rights respects.

Subedi told Sok An that he was “not coming here to criticize Cambodia to do this or that”, but rather to work together with Cambodia as partnership in term of promoting human rights and the rule of laws.

Sok An told Subedi that “the judicial aspect is very important issue”, which has been taken seriously by the government.

Sok An, who is also co-chairman of the legal and judicial reforms, said the government has set up school of magistracy, registrar and notary so as to improve the country’s judicial system.

“Judiciary is a very big task, so we have to start from the foundation,” he explained the UN Special Rapporteur.

Cambodia produces an estimated 55 judges per year, said Sok An.

“The number of new judges is not sufficient, so we need to train more judges to work in the judicial system,” said Sok An.

“You have laid down good foundation for judiciary to work properly in the future,” said Subedi told Deputy Prime Minister Sok An.

Angkor Wat, Cambodia – an emerging tourist destination

A group of nine of us visited Angkor Thom, where towering twisting trees enveloped all the temples, and where Angelina Jolie filmed “Laura Croft, Tomb Raider.”

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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Cambodia, an ancient society with an embattled past, is now emerging into the 21st century with a coalition government that is striving to put the violence behind them. Capitalism is alive and well, with many businesses in Angkor Wat thriving.

We were here to visit one of the Seven Wonders of the World, Angkor Wat. The unrivaled majesty of the complex of Hindu temples, built beginning in the 9th century, brings vacationers from around the world, making tourism one of the country’s major sources of income, as in Vietnam.

Our cruise ship, the Seabourn, offered a shore excursion to Cambodia while the ship was docked in Bangkok. When we embarked, we were met by our guide, Kit, who was hired by the Seabourn to “hold our hands” throughout our visit to Cambodia.

Even though the four-year-old, spectacularly designed Bangkok airport is traveler and shopper friendly (with signs in English) few people speak the language. Well, Kit made it really easy. The benefit of traveling with a guide is that he does all the communication and handles all the passports and forms needed in each country. He even traveled on the hour-long flight with us to Siem Reap, the home of Angkor Wat. All the tension dissolved with his helping hand.

Once we landed, we were met by our Cambodian guide who helped us get through customs. We checked in and our group of nine immediately left to visit the Angkor Wat complex of temples in 120 F heat and 90 percent humidity.

They had been abandoned and overrun by massive trees and jungle for centuries. They disappeared from sight until, in 1864, a French naturalist’s diaries describing the area caught the imagination of the international community and work began to bring back the wondrous temple complexes.

There are hundreds, but we visited the Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom. Ironically, I was more impressed by the latter. Fortunately, we visited on the second day when the oppressive heat lifted, but it was more than that.

There are towering twisting trees that had enveloped all the temples, but here they did not take them all down as they did at Angkor Wat, so we could see what it looked like when the site was rediscovered. It is a perfect site for an Indiana Jones film and has the added glamour of being the place where Angelina Jolie filmed “Laura Croft, Tomb Raider.”

Many massive carvings that tell the story of the ancient culture are still being restored. In the two days we were there, we saw both sites and then spent some time in the village visiting a local market and a school for sculptors.

The town boasts over 100 hotels and restaurants with room prices ranging from $1 to $2,000.

Our hotel was a 5-star, recently-built Sofitel. In the evenings they offered an outdoor cultural dinner show featuring classical dances and music. I do not know who was sweating more, the performers or me, but my heart went out to them in their impressive, heavily-jeweled costumes and masks. I would have retreated to my air-conditioned room, but I could not be disrespectful to these talented young people.

I had been told it gets very hot in the area, but the negative is overcome by the warm, friendly people, and the enchanting visit to Angkor Thom is one I will remember forever.