Saturday, 3 April 2010

A Conversation with Leang Seckon

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Presented by Rossi & Rossi in association with Tara

Shaw-Jackson and ArtAsiaPacific Magazine
April 1, 2010

LEANG SECKON, Rama Rescues Victims (Preah Riem Jouey Songkruas), 2010, mixed media on canvas, 42 x 52 cm. Courtesy Rossi & Rossi, London.

Cambodian-born artist Leang Seckon will talk with Sara Raza, London-based independent curator and London desk editor of ArtAsiaPacific on the occasion of his first European solo show: "Heavy Skirt."

Arguably one of Cambodia's foremost contemporary artists, Leang Seckon has created a highly autobiographical body of work for this exhibition including paintings, collages and an installation based around the theme of his mother's skirt: the wrap-around dress she wore during her pregnancy and the artist's early years. The works are an elegiac reflection on the history of his troubled country and the tribulations it has encountered. Yet from this damaged past and a present beset by uncertainty and change, comes an affirmation of the human spirit and the continuing beauty of life.

Sara Raza, a former curator of public programs at Tate Modern, has arranged and chaired events on photography, performance and architecture. She has published extensively and lectured, curated exhibitions and organized public programs internationally. She will be exploring themes of autobiography, memory and cultural preservation against the backdrop of the artist's memories of the American bombing of Vietnam and Cambodia and the brutalities of the Khmer Rouge that ensued.

This event is free to the public but reservations are required. Please RSVP to assistant@rossirossi.com  with "artist talk" in the subject box.

TRAVEL NOTES

The figure of a young Khmer girl carved in stone at the Cambodian temple of Angkor Wat.
AP / DAVID LONGSTREATH

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Sunday, April 4, 2010

Floods, then drought, did in Angkor

The Warwick Mall will rise again; Angkor Wat wasn’t so lucky.

It turns out that flooding rain, intersperced with decades-long drought, conspired to topple the historic city of Angkor, researchers from the U.S., Australia, Japan, Thailand and Vietnam have reported. They studied the ring patterns of millennia-old trees found the Khmer empire’s former capital and found they were subjected to water and food supply-depleting weather events, leaving the city vulnerable to interrelated infrastructural, economic and geopolitical pressures in the 14th and 15th centuries.

The finding, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, sheds new light on the mystery surrounding Angkor’s demise in 1431. Spanning about 400 square kilometers (98,842 acres) in southwestern Cambodia, Angkor is South-East Asia’s most important archaeological site, according to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, which listed it as a World Heritage site in 1992.

The analysis showed several abrupt reversals from drought to very intense monsoons during the late 14th and early 15th centuries.

Vatican artifacts stopping in St. Louis

The Missouri History Museum in St. Louis will be the only Midwestern stop in a traveling exhibition of rarely seen art and artifacts from the Vatican.

“Vatican Splendors: A Journey through Faith and Art” opens May 15. The exhibition is one of the largest collections of Vatican art, documents and historically significant objects ever to tour North America. Some of the items have never left the Vatican.

Highlights include artwork, personal objects and tools of Michelangelo; frescoes and mosaics; artwork dating to the third century; and bone fragments and other relics of saints.

Tickets go on sale April 19. Details: mohistory.org/home/.

Tracking college friends online

Want to keep track of your friends on spring break or any other time of year? A new Web site started by college students aims to make it easier.

With Gtrot — gtrot.com/ — you can use Facebook to check out where your friends are headed and broadcast your own travel plans. Gtrot also links with travel booking sites like Kayak.com to help you hop onto your friend’s flight. And through Gtrot, you can see a map of where your friends have been, to pick up tips on a city you might be planning to tour.

Of course, your friends have to be registered on Gtrot and Facebook for all this to happen. But if you’re a college student heading to Cancun or Panama City, Fla., chances are they’re on Facebook already. Gtrot just takes things one step further, said Zachary Smith, one of the site’s young co-founders.

“Being college students ourselves, we saw the need for a more integrative kind of travel experience,” said Smith. “We’re the target audience.”

He noted that any highly mobile person on Facebook will find Gtrot handy, even if it’s just to share a cab to the airport.

“Especially during major academic holidays, when thousands of students leave the same campus for similar destinations, our cab- and ride-sharing tools will help travelers save money and reduce the environmental impact of their trips,” said Robert Corty, another Gtrot co-founder, in a press release.

Moving artwork on Disney cruise ship

The walls and floors will come alive on Disney’s latest cruise ship.

More than 20 pieces of moving artwork will line the decks of the Dream, which launches early next year, while two interactive floors will keep kids on their feet in the ship’s youth areas.

The new interactive experiences were unveiled during a recent press demonstration at the headquarters of Walt Disney Imagineering, the company’s creative design team.

The 22 pieces of “enchanted art” will be showcased on LCD screens encased in glass and surrounded by a frame housing speakers and a camera that can detect when a cruiser is in front of it. For example, if a passenger is looking at a photo of Walt Disney on the beach in Rio de Janeiro, the characters from “The Three Caballeros” may zip through the landscape.

In the ship’s youth areas, children will be encouraged to step, jump and pound on two interactive floors featuring games with characters from such Disney films as “Bolt,” “Tron” and “Princess and the Frog.” Glowing pads around the floor’s perimeter are used to detect weight and control what happens on 16 screens planted within the interactive floor surface.

Backpacker killing: new evidence

http://www.theage.com.au/

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LINDSAY MURDOCH
April 3, 2010

Two men who arranged the executions of Melbourne backpacker David Wilson and his two European travelling companions were themselves murdered by a Khmer Rouge commander who is serving a life sentence, new evidence reveals.

Former Khmer Rouge commander Prak Sothy says the men he identified as Vith Vorn and Bon presided over the killing of the hostages in Cambodia's mountains in September 1994 after an argument with Nuon Paet, their commander who was convicted over the kidnapping and triple murders in 1999.

Sothy says Paet argued against the executions, insisting the hostages be exchanged for $150,000 ransom payment already agreed on by the Cambodian government.

But he says Vorn and Bon, two mid-level Khmer Rouge cadres, were angry that Cambodian soldiers were attacking the mountain stronghold where the hostages were being held and took it upon themselves to execute them.

Paet, furious the men disobeyed him, ordered them killed a year later, says Sothy, whose revolutionary name was Chum Nuong.

Sothy revealed the evidence during a recent interview with Australian freelance journalist Sebastian Strangio in a village near Vine Mountain, where Mr Wilson, Britain Mark Slater and Frenchman Jean-Michel Braquet were held hostage for six weeks after being kidnapped from a train in southern Cambodia on July 26, 1994.

Victorian coroner Jennifer Coate announced in January she would reopen an inquest into Mr Wilson's death that was adjourned in 1998 after the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade refused to hand over hundreds of documents and diplomatic cables detailing the Australian government's response to the kidnappings.

Sothy, 63, is the highest-ranking former Khmer Rouge cadre still living in the area where the hostages were held.

Speaking at his home in Chamkar Bei village, Sothy said Vorn and Bon insisted ''the three foreigners were not their parents, so they didn't care if they shot and killed them''.

Sothy said he returned to the base where the hostages were being held the morning they were killed after fighting advancing Cambodian troops.

He said his wife told him that Angkar, as the secretive Khmer Rouge was known at the time, had taken the hostages to ''a higher level'' before she heard three shots to the west of the village.

Sothy's claims appear to be backed by evidence given at the 1998 inquest in Melbourne, police reports and diplomatic cables.

The inquest heard the hostages were marched from their base where they were being held at 6am on September 8 by Vorn, Bon and five Khmer Rouge soldiers.

Chris Eaton, a senior Australian Federal Police agent who investigated the murders, testified he had interviewed witnesses who saw the hostages marched into the jungle and then heard three shots.

Dam debate looms large over Mekong summit

The brown waters of the Mekong River seperate China (L) from Myanmar (R)

China's national flag flies from the back of a ship sailing down the Mekong River


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By Rachel O'Brien (AFP)

BANGKOK — Leaders of Southeast Asian nations straddling the shrinking lower Mekong River are set to lean on China at landmark talks as controversy builds over the cause of the waterway's lowest levels in decades.

Beijing's Vice Foreign Minister Song Tao will join the premiers of Cambodia, Thailand, Laos and Vietnam in the Thai resort town of Hua Hin to discuss management of the vast river, on which more than 60 million people depend.

Myanmar will also participate as a dialogue partner at the top-level talks, which will kick off late Sunday and run through Monday.

A crippling drought in the region and the much-debated role of hydropower dams are due to dominate the summit of the inter-governmental Mekong River Commission (MRC) -- the first in its 15-year history.

The body warned Friday that the health of the Mekong Basin and the river's eco-systems could be threatened by proposed dams and expanding populations.

"There is a strong link between water quality and the impact of human activity on eco-systems," MRC advisor Hanne Bach said in a statement.

"Over the past five years, significant changes have taken place in water related resources and this is likely to continue, which may put livelihoods under threat," she added.

China is expected to staunchly defend its own dams, which activists downstream blame for water shortages, after the Mekong shrivelled to its lowest level in 50 years in Laos and Thailand's north.

Nations in the lower Mekong basin are likely to press China for information on the river as well as financial help, said Anond Snidvongs, director of the Southeast Asia START Regional Centre, which researches environmental change.

And "behind closed doors there will be strong debate," he told AFP.

China -- itself suffering the worst drought in a century in its southwest, with more than 24 million people short of drinking water -- says the reason for water shortages is unusually low rainfall rather than man-made infrastructure.

It says the dams, built to meet soaring demand for water and hydro-generated electricity, have been effective in releasing water during dry seasons and preventing flooding in rainy months.

"China will never do things that harm the interests of (lower Mekong) countries," said Yao Wen, a spokesman at the Chinese Embassy in Bangkok.

The crisis has grounded cargo and tour boats on the so-called "mighty Mekong" and alarmed communities along what is the world's largest inland fishery.

The situation "could be a taste of things to come in the basin if climate change predictions become a reality," said MRC spokesman Damian Kean.

The chief of the MRC's secretariat, Jeremy Bird, last week hailed Beijing's agreement to share water level data from two dams during this dry season, saying it "shows that China is willing to engage with lower basin countries".

Yet questions remain over the impact of the eight planned or existing dams on the mainstream river in China.

Vice Minister of Water Resources Liu Ning said Wednesday more were needed to guarantee water and food security, while 12 dams in lower Mekong countries have also been proposed.

Campaigners also fear that the settling of political scores could block co-operation over the Mekong -- especially the current animosity between Cambodian premier Hun Sen and his Thai counterpart Abhisit Vejjajiva.

The summit marks Hun Sen's first visit to Thailand since the two countries became embroiled in a row late last year over Cambodia's appointment of ousted Thai premier Thaksin Shinawatra as an economics adviser.

"That's what worries me quite a lot, that the debate will be more political, and not even related to water," said Anond.

Thailand has invoked a tough security law and will deploy more than 8,000 troops in Hua Hin to ensure protesters do not disrupt the summit, in light of mass anti-government "Red Shirt" rallies in Bangkok since mid-March.

A year ago, regional leaders were forced to abandon a summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) due to protests.

The Government Provides 950,000 Hectares of Concession Land to Companies – Friday, 2.4.2010


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Posted on 3 April 2010
The Mirror, Vol. 14, No. 658

“Phnom Penh: The Minister of Land Management, Urban Planning, and Construction, Senior Minister Im Chhun Lim, announced that economic concession land of about 950,000 hectares countrywide has been provided to 85 companies.

“He said so during a parliament session in the morning of 1 April 2010 to respond to the questions and claims of an opposition party parliamentarian, Mr. Son Chhay, regarding the economic concession land that the government has provided to companies for investment.

“Senior Minister Im Chhun Lim said that the size of economic concession land that the government has provided to companies is not more than 2 million hectares, as had been claimed by Mr. Son Chhay. Recently, because some companies did not operate appropriately according to contracts, the government had decided to cancel the contracts of 41 companies, and the land involved was more than 300,000 hectares.

“This clarification was made after a parliamentarian from the Sam Rainsy Party, Mr. Son Chhay, had encouraged the government to immediately review the provision of concession land of more than 2 million hectares to check if they violate the land law.

“Mr. Son Chhay said in front of Senior Minister Im Chhun Lim during the parliament session that the powerful and the rich fence their concession land and keep it unused, but they cut the trees at those regions. Therefore, the government should force those companies to do farming soon, to create jobs for farmers who had lost their land, and to grow agro-industrial crops.

“Mr. Son Chhay added that if those companies do not grow anything, land taxes must be imposed on them in order to force these people who just keep their land to sell it later to foreigners [for profit] to do farming, or the land should be taken back from them to be distributed to our farmers among whom not less than 25% lost their land and have no land to do cultivation.

“The annual report from the Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association [ADHOC] indicates that in 2009 there was no official report from the government showing the figures of land that the government had provided as economic concession land to private companies.

“But according to figures from partner organizations gathered by ADHOC, the government provided economic concession land of 1,208,185 hectares to private companies in 2009.

“The government can get income from the provision of economic concession land to private companies for national economic development through investment in agro-industry, and this helps to improve the living conditions of people who are employed for their labor.

“Nevertheless, ADHOC found that by 2009, no private companies that had received economic concession land operated justly, and they were involved in violent activities against citizens.

“Many negative impacts result from the licensing of economic concession land to private companies which heavily affect property, houses, cultivation land, and living conditions of the citizens at most of these economic concession areas countrywide.”

Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.18, #5166, 2.4.2010
Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Friday, 2 April 2010

A History Tour of Phnom Penh's Buildings

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Ron Gluckman, 04.02.10

Forbes Asia Magazine dated April 12, 2010

Phnom Penh is one of Asia's most architecturally intact cities.

Tourism and investment are booming in Phnom Penh, and the Cambodian capital's rich architectural heritage is a big draw. It seems like a city from 50 years ago, the result of the Khmer Rouge taking Cambodia back to Year Zero. The eerie sense of a bygone Asia is a perfect backdrop for the boutiques, galleries and restaurants springing up by the score in the historic mansions. But development inevitably brings demolition. "Every day something seems lost," says Alexis de Suremain, who runs hotels in several historic estates and Chinese House, in the city's oldest Chinese shophouse.

Help could come from Asian Heritage Properties, a fund open to large investors that aims to buy key heritage buildings, restore and rent them out. "Call it social capitalism," says Patrick Davenport, who plans to launch the fund with Douglas Clayton, who runs Leopard Capital, Cambodia's largest investment fund. "It's sad to see Phnom Penh repeat all the same mistakes of the rest of Asia," he says. "But there is still time to try a different approach."

RIGHT:This tower-topped structure often stops traffic along the busy intersection of Street 108 and Norodom Boulevard. One of Phnom Penh's oldest buildings, it claims numerous features that are not found anywhere else in the city. Historic preservation groups such as Heritage Watch put it high on the list of municipal architectural treasures that runs to hundreds of buildings.

LEFT: Largely the residence of squatters and ghosts in recent years, this ornate, early 1900s estate has been a favorite of filmmakers chronicling the war era; bullet and mortar holes are still visible. Often threatened with demolition, it was recently acquired by the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Cambodia, which runs a restaurant and bar in a renovated colonial structure nearby. The fcc plans a boutique hotel; guests will have views of the National Museum and the fairy-tale Royal Palace.

Cambodia bristles at US aid cut over deportations

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AP
PHNOM PENH, Cambodia

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) — Cambodia bristled Friday at a U.S. decision to cut a small military aid program to protest the December deportation of Muslim asylum seekers to China, saying if they ...

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) — Cambodia bristled Friday at a U.S. decision to cut a small military aid program to protest the December deportation of Muslim asylum seekers to China, saying if they deserved protection the United States could have offered it.

The United States announced Thursday it had suspended the program that supplied surplus trucks and trailers. It was a response to Cambodia's deportation of the 20 Uighurs who had fled ethnic violence last year in China's far west. China accused the Uighurs of involvement in the violence.

The suspension involves about 200 vehicles supplied directly to the Cambodian military and does not affect the roughly $60 million civilian aid program to Cambodia, said U.S. Embassy spokesman John Johnson.

In statements to the U.N. refugee agency, the Uighurs said they witnessed and documented the July rioting in the Xinjiang region between their minority group and majority Han Chinese and that they feared lengthy imprisonment or even the death penalty if they were returned to China. It was China's worst ethnic violence in decades.

"These Uighurs were not real political asylum seekers," said Cambodian government spokesman Khieu Kanharith. "If they were real political asylum seekers, the United States could have granted them asylum in the U.S."

"We're happy if the United States provides us with aid, but it's their right to suspend it," he said.

China had called the group criminals and presented Cambodia with arrest warrants, the spokesman said. Cambodia said it deported the group because they had entered the country illegally.

"Cambodia couldn't refuse the request from China to deport them, because China sent us arrest warrants," Khieu Kanharith said.

China is key ally and donor to impoverished Cambodia.

Days after the deportations, China announced a $1.2 billion aid package to Cambodia. China has denied the aid was linked to politics saying it came with "no strings attached."

The group of Uighurs had made the journey from China's far west through to Vietnam and then Cambodia with the help of a network of missionary groups.

The U.S., the U.N. and several rights groups had urged Cambodia not to deport the group. Following the deportations, the U.S. said it was "deeply disturbed" and that the incident would affect Cambodia's relationship with the United States.

China has not revealed the fate of the deportees.

Overseas activist groups say Uighurs in China have been rounded up in mass detentions since the summer's violence that killed about 200 people in Xinjiang. Almost 200 people have been tried and several dozen death sentences have been handed down, although authorities haven't said how many people have been executed.

Environmentalist Warns Against Mekong Dams

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By Men Kimseng, VOA Khmer
Washington
02 April 2010

With the Mekong River experiencing its lowest water levels in decades, a Cambodian environmentalist says the country should not jump into constructing hydroelectric dams but should instead consider alternative energy.

The construction of Mekong dams in countries above Cambodia has already had an impact on Cambodians who rely on the river, Tep Bunnarith, executive director of the Cultural and Environmental Preservation Association, told “Hello VOA” Thursday.

“People are facing a lot of difficulties due to the development of the Mekong basin, mainly related to hydropower construction and diversion of water for irrigation,” he said.

Southern China is undergoing a prolonged drought that has dried up rice fields and left tens of thousands of people short of water. Meanwhile, farmers and fishermen in other Mekong countries have lashed out at China for its construction of four hydro-dams on the river.

Leaders from the Mekong basin are due to meet in Thailand the weekend to discuss the drought and other issues.

“Climate change and the construction of these dams are the main factors causing the low water levels,” Tep Bunnarith said.

A senior government official told “Hello VOA” the levels of the Mekong were part of a cycle, one that played out in 1992 and 1998, when water was at similar levels—with no dams constructed.

But the official, Sin Niny, vice chairman of the Cambodia National Mekong Committee, did say that reservoirs in Laos and China had insufficient water under the drought.

“That’s why they have to use water reserved during the rainy season for hydropower generation,” Sin Niny said. “This is the reason why water flowing to the lower Mekong has decreased.”

Tep Bunnarith said that if the trend continues, it will hurt this year’s fish catch, a main source of protein for many Cambodians, especially the rural poor.

Instead, the government should consider renewable energy like solar, wind and bio-fuels to help power the many areas still off the national power grid, he said.

“We have to think: if the need for energy consumption in a local area is so big that we have to build a big dam across the river, this will affect people’s livelihood,” he said.

300,000 H1N1 Vaccinations Underway

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By Win Thida, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
02 April 2010

Health officials are wrapping up an initial round of vaccinations against the H1N1 virus, administering hundreds of thousands of shots in Phnom Penh and three provinces since March 24.

Officials said they expect to give out 300,000 shots in the capital and the provinces of Kandal, Kampong Cham and Kampng Chhnang.

H1N1, sometimes called swine flu, has killed six Cambodians since its onset.

The vaccinations, which began March 24, are the first portion of an estimated 1.5 million doses, provided by the French government and aimed mainly at children and pregnant women.

“The vaccinations will begin again from May to July to vaccinate people in 20 [remaining] provinces,” Sun Chan Soeun, director of the national vaccination program, said.

Traffic Deaths Doubled in Five Years: Officials

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By Chun Sakada, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
02 April 2010

Cambodia’s economy lost nearly $250 million to traffic accidents in 2009, officials said Friday, calling traffic fatalities a second “disaster” behind HIV and AIDs.

More than 1,700 people died in road accidents in 2009, a number twice as high as five years ago, Toch Chan Kosal, secretary of state for the Ministry of Public Works and Transport, told reporters Friday.

The number of total reported accidents last year was 21,519, killing 1,717 people and seriously injuring another 7,022, he said, releasing study figures.

Handicap International said the accidents cost Cambodia $248 million.

“The lost money is a greater amount than we had guessed, as the Cambodian government is working hard to reduce poverty,” Toch Chan Kosal said. “We have not reduced the effects of traffic accidents.”

“The number of deaths in traffic accidents continues to increase, year to year, without stopping,” he said.

Accidents were caused by vehicles traveling at high speeds and limited knowledge among drivers, Jeroen Stol, president of Handicap International, said.

Statistics suggest that accidents are getting deadlier. A joint study by Handicap International and the government found that in 2008, the number of wounded fell 17 percent, but the number of fatal accidents rose 4 percent.

However, the study also showed that the number of accidents measured per 10,000 vehicles was decreasing, from 15.1 in 2008 to 12.3 in 2009. The government has established a national policy to reduce the numbers of accidents, victims and deaths and is aiming for a target of 7 deaths per 10,000 vehicles this year.

Nearly 80 percent of head injuries belonged to motorcycle drivers, and about 90 percent of all accidents were caused by drivers violating speed limits, drunk driving or illegally passing.

Please crash my wedding day, Cambodians say


In Cambodia, strict social norms about marriage and a high percentage of youths adds up to a lot of wedding day celebrations. They're often seen as a way to raise cash, so everyone is invited.

A Cambodian couple poses for their wedding day photo. Huge marriage celebrations with hundreds of people are normal here, and even newly arrived foreigners can find themselves attending numerous weddings.
Julie Masis

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By Julie Masis, Correspondent / April 2, 2010
Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Westerners who move to Cambodia are likely to find themselves invited to more weddings than they would be back home. While traveling by motorcycle on a rural road for a half-hour on a recent Saturday afternoon, I passed at least five wedding tents. They are easy to spot – decorated with pink curtains, ribbons tied around chairs, and the names of the bride and groom engraved above the gate.

Hart Feuer, a researcher who has lived in the country for a year, says he has attended at least 15 weddings – including some with more than 1,000 guests and meals served in shifts.

Why so many weddings? It might have something to do with the fact that 64 percent of Cambodians are under the age of 30. And it is culturally unacceptable for Cambodian men and women to live together before marriage, says Rabbi Bentche Butman, who runs the Jewish Center of Cambodia. Another reason is financial. When attending a wedding, it is customary to give money – approximately $20. Because of that, hosts invite many people, and sometimes even people whom they have never met.

Un Chanta, a cook, recently invited all of the employees at her company to her daughter’s wedding – including some foreigners who had arrived in Cambodia just days before.

“It’s prestigious to have a Westerner at your wedding,” says Naomi Robinson, the managing editor of Cambodia-based magazine AsiaLIFE Guide. “And also you’re expected to give money – and if you’re a Westerner, you’re expected to give more.”

Whatever the reason, the enormous number of weddings can be a financial burden.

Phnom Penh college student Dorn Phok, whose monthly salary is $100, was invited to five weddings in February, of which he attended three, but sent money to all.

“When I get married," he says, "I want to make a big wedding to follow Khmer traditions and because everyone owes me money."

US suspends some aid to Cambodia over Uighur case


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2 April 2010
By International Justice Desk (rnw.nl)


The US stopped a shipment of 200 military trucks and trailers on Thursday in response to Phnom Penh's controversial December deportation of the ethnic Uighur asylum seekers to China, where they said they would face torture.

The Cambodian government on Friday said it was untroubled by a US refusal to send military aid to the Southeast Asian nation as punishment for its deportation of 20 Chinese Uighurs.

Nations and rights groups deplored Cambodia's move to expel the Uighurs, who had been labelled "criminals" by Beijing after fleeing China's far western Xinjiang region following violent clashes with the majority Han.

Cambodian government spokesman Khieu Kanharith said his country was not concerned by the cancelled donation of surplus US military supplies, part of an American aid programme.

"If the US gives us the equipment, we are happy. And if they won't give it to us, it is also good," he said.

"There will be no effect to our military work," the spokesman added, saying that the UN refugee agency had been too slow in assessing the Uighurs' claim to refugee status.

The decision to deport the Uighurs came a day ahead of a visit by Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping, during which he agreed 1.2 billion dollars in aid and loans to Cambodia with Prime Minister Hun Sen.

Clashes between Xinjiang's Uighurs and China's majority Han ethnic group in July left nearly 200 dead and 1,600 injured, according to official tolls.

The US State Department in its last annual human rights report said that China was stepping up cultural and political repression against Uighurs in Xinjiang.

Source: AFP

Peabody's to host auction benefiting landmine victims in Cambodia


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Marcel Honore • The Desert Sun • April 1, 2010

Peabody's Cafe in downtown Palm Springs will host its third annual benefit for Cambodian Landmine Removal 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday.

Attendees will be able to bid on exotic items made in Cambodia as well as items donated by local Palm Springs merchants, according to an email publicizing the event. The items typically value $30-$50, the email stated.

Cambodian Landmine Removal has "a huge impact on those in especially rural and more remote areas ... who suffer from the fear of living amongst old landmines and far-to-often (sic) the devastating injuries sustained when encountering them directly," the email stated. "This organization also takes care of about thirty youngsters who've lost limbs due to landmines."

RSVPs, with an email to peabodyscafe@gmail.com and a head-count in the subject line, are encouraged, the email stated.

Peabody's is at 134 South Palm Canyon Drive.

China rejects Mekong drying blame



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AlJazeeraEnglish — April 02, 2010 — While nations around the Mekong meet in Thailand to discuss the drying up of the river, China insists the current problems emanate from an act of nature.

Millions of dollars worth of Chinese cargo are stranded in barges along the Mekong, due to the low water levels.

Chinese dams along the Mekong have been blamed for disrupting the water supply, but the Chinese foreign ministry blames drought for water scarcity in the Mekong region.

China has built, or is planning to build, eight dams along the river. The Southeast Asian countries that blame Chinese construction have eleven dams of their own.

Al Jazeera's Melissa Chan reports from Yunnan province in China.

Cambodia bristles at US aid cut over deportations

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PHNOM PENH, Cambodia – Cambodia bristled Friday at a U.S. decision to cut a small military aid program to protest the December deportation of Muslim asylum seekers to China, saying if they deserved protection the United States could have offered it.

The United States announced Thursday it had suspended the program that supplied surplus trucks and trailers. It was a response to Cambodia's deportation of the 20 Uighurs who had fled ethnic violence last year in China's far west. China accused the Uighurs of involvement in the violence.

The suspension involves about 200 vehicles supplied directly to the Cambodian military and does not affect the roughly $60 million civilian aid program to Cambodia, said U.S. Embassy spokesman John Johnson.

In statements to the U.N. refugee agency, the Uighurs said they witnessed and documented the July rioting in the Xinjiang region between their minority group and majority Han Chinese and that they feared lengthy imprisonment or even the death penalty if they were returned to China. It was China's worst ethnic violence in decades.

"These Uighurs were not real political asylum seekers," said Cambodian government spokesman Khieu Kanharith. "If they were real political asylum seekers, the United States could have granted them asylum in the U.S."

"We're happy if the United States provides us with aid, but it's their right to suspend it," he said.

China had called the group criminals and presented Cambodia with arrest warrants, the spokesman said. Cambodia said it deported the group because they had entered the country illegally.

"Cambodia couldn't refuse the request from China to deport them, because China sent us arrest warrants," Khieu Kanharith said.

China is key ally and donor to impoverished Cambodia.

Days after the deportations, China announced a $1.2 billion aid package to Cambodia. China has denied the aid was linked to politics saying it came with "no strings attached."

The group of Uighurs had made the journey from China's far west through to Vietnam and then Cambodia with the help of a network of missionary groups.

The U.S., the U.N. and several rights groups had urged Cambodia not to deport the group. Following the deportations, the U.S. said it was "deeply disturbed" and that the incident would affect Cambodia's relationship with the United States.

China has not revealed the fate of the deportees.

Overseas activist groups say Uighurs in China have been rounded up in mass detentions since the summer's violence that killed about 200 people in Xinjiang. Almost 200 people have been tried and several dozen death sentences have been handed down, although authorities haven't said how many people have been executed.

U.S. suspends some aid to Cambodia over Uighur case


via CAAI News Media

Reuters
Thursday, April 1, 2010

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States said on Thursday it had halted shipments of some surplus military vehicles to Cambodia to retaliate for the Southeast Asian nation's decision to deport a group of Uighurs back to China over U.S. protests.

State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said the United States informed Cambodia last month that it was suspending the shipment of 200 military trucks and trailers as a consequence of Cambodia's December decision on the Uighurs.

"We said there would be consequences and this is a step in that direction," Crowley said.

Cambodia in December defied international pressure and expelled 20 Uighur asylum seekers, a move that underlined its growing economic and diplomatic links with China.

Two days later it signed 14 deals worth an estimated $850 million with China. Beijing denied any link.

Uighurs are a Turkic Muslim group native to China's far western region of Xinjiang, where ethnic rioting in July killed 197 people. Many there chafe under Chinese restrictions on their culture and religion.

The deported Uighurs were smuggled into Cambodia late last year and applied for asylum at the U.N. refugee office.

But Cambodia brushed off concerns they would be mistreated if returned and deported them for immigration offenses, a move sharply criticized by the U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the United States.

Crowley said Cambodian authorities had ignored appeals from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her deputy on the Uighurs, and that Washington had decided that suspending the truck and trailer shipments was an appropriate response.

"This is something that is important to Cambodia, and obviously as we said there would be consequences for their failure to live up to their international obligations," he said.

(Reporting by Andrew Quinn; Editing by Xavier Briand)

Cambodia shrugs at US punishment over Uighurs


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Agence France-Presse
04/02/2010

PHNOM PENH--The Cambodian government on Friday said it was untroubled by a US refusal to send military aid to the Southeast Asian nation as punishment for its deportation of 20 Chinese Uighurs.

The US stopped a shipment of 200 military trucks and trailers on Thursday in response to Phnom Penh's controversial December deportation of the ethnic Uighur asylum seekers to China, where they said they would face torture.

Nations and rights groups deplored Cambodia's move to expel the Uighurs, who had been labelled "criminals" by Beijing after fleeing China's far western Xinjiang region following violent clashes with the majority Han.

Cambodian government spokesman Khieu Kanharith said his country was not concerned by the cancelled donation of surplus US military supplies, part of an American aid programme.

"If the US gives us the equipment, we are happy. And if they won't give it to us, it is also good," he told AFP.

"There will be no effect to our military work," the spokesman added, saying that the UN refugee agency had been too slow in assessing the Uighurs' claim to refugee status.

The decision to deport the Uighurs came a day ahead of a visit by Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping, during which he agreed 1.2 billion dollars in aid and loans to Cambodia with Prime Minister Hun Sen.

Clashes between Xinjiang's Uighurs and China's majority Han ethnic group in July left nearly 200 dead and 1,600 injured, according to official tolls.

The US State Department in its last annual human rights report said that China was stepping up cultural and political repression against Uighurs in Xinjiang.

Children of Cambodian land mine victims to play football in South Africa

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By Sopheng Cheang (CP) – 3 hours ago

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — Children of Cambodian land mine victims will compete in a football tournament in South Africa during the World Cup to highlight the need to eradicate such weapons worldwide, an organizer said Friday.

The competition is being organized by Spirit of Soccer, a private group that uses football to teach children in countries affected by land mines about their danger. It currently operates football coaching projects in Cambodia and Iraq.

Stephen Sonderman, who heads the group in Cambodia, said eight teenagers will take part in the Football of Hope Festival in South Africa from late June to the middle of July.

The eight were selected from farming families affected by land mines in the northwestern province of Battambang, one of the most heavily mined regions of the country.

Organizers said the competition will bring together 32 teams from around the world, each representing organizations that use football for social development.

"This opportunity will open doors for these mine-affected Cambodian children who have few opportunities to just be kids and play," Sonderman said.

He said two coaches have been training the eight players, aged 15 to 18, for several years.

Cambodians continue to be killed each year from an estimated 4 million to 6 million land mines and unexploded ordnance that remain in rural areas following three decades of conflict.

Spirit of Soccer said it is also joining other groups to mark International Mine Action Day on April 4 with a football festival in Jordan for players from that country, Iraq, Palestine and Lebanon.

Meeting on Mekong water resources kicks off in Thailand amid tight security

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English.news.cn
2010-04-02

HUA HIN, Thailand, April 2 (Xinhua) -- The Mekong River Commission (MRC) International Conference started here on Friday under the theme of "Transboundary Water Resources Management in a Changing World."

The first Mekong River Commission Summit opens in Hua Hin, Thailand, April 2, 2010, featuring "Transboundary Water Resources Management in a Changing World". (Xinhua/Shi Xianzhen)

The conference, attended by senior officials from member countries in the Lower Mekong basin, will discuss water resources development and management on the Mekong River.

Solutions from the meeting will be forwarded to leaders of the member countries including Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam in the MRC Summit, the Thai News Agency reported.

The meetings have been hosted in Thailand's central resort town of Cha Am and Hua Hin amid tight security as Major General Dithaporn Sasasamit, the spokesman of Thailand's Internal Security Operations Command (ISOC) said earlier that some 8,660 security men would be deployed to ensure security.

The security operations have been managed under the enforcement of the Internal Security Act (ISA), which is enforced in four sub- districts of Hua Hin district in Prachuab Khiri Khan province and two other sub-districts of Cha Am district in Petchburi province.

Thai Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwon is scheduled to arrive at the meetings' venue on Friday afternoon to inspect and supervise security operations.

The MRC international conference will be held till Saturday, and after that the first MRC summit will kick off on April 4, lasting two days.

The summit is going to discuss a wide range of challenges facing the Mekong basin, including the long-term climate change.

The meetings are held as the water level in the Mekong River has recently dropped dramatically, the worst in 50 years, affecting local people.

The MRC Summit will be attended by leaders from Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam, including an representative from China as observer.

Editor: Fang Yang

DAP News ; Breaking News by Soy Sopheap

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Climate change maybe blamed for declining of dolphin’s reproduction

Friday, 02 April 2010 08:09 DAP-NEWS

PHNOM PENH, April 2 (DAP) - Touch Seang Tana, chairman of Commission for Mekong Dolphins Conservation, said on Friday that the warmer temperature this year could be blamed for the slow reproduction of dolphin calves.

The shorter fishes and the gill nets in the Mekong River also contributed to the decrease in the reproduction of the rare species lived the country’s North-eastern provinces of Steung Treng and Kratie, where more than 20,000 foreign tourists turned up per year to see the species can swim faster than speedboat.

“We have two dolphins died this year as result of change of biological pattern because of the climate change. This concerns us greatly,” said Seang Tana.

“The climate change it may have affected the reproduction of dolphin,” he said.

“This year we have noticed that there are few calves born not as many as before—two or three years ago.

“This year the delivery has declined. Usually we have 12 to 16 new babies born per year before but for last year we have only 9,” Seang Tana said.

“We suspect the climate is to be blamed for the declining of the dolphin’s reproduction,”

“The water is drying up. The level of water is lower than last year about one meter.”

Although the government launch campaign since 2006 to stop using gill nets in the Mekong, still an estimated 20 percent of the local fishermen have continued to use gill nets to catch fish, such the fishing also netted dolphins by accident.

“When there are less gill nets the dolphins can move everywhere freely. They do not fell scare or disturbance in the river.”

By using the gill net to catch fishes in the River can be translated as death for dolphin.

“They can use other fishing gears, but not gill nets.”

“Still they keep continue to use gill nets in the area of the dolphin’s habitats because of poverty, people need fishes for eating.”

“So it is very difficult to stop 100 percent the use of gill nets.”

An estimated 35 percent of the country’s total population 14 million live below the poverty line making less than U.S. dollar per day.

Seang Tana said gill nets killed about 16 dolphins a year before the country’s Commission for Mekong Dolphins Conservation began work in 2006 when the species remained about 90 dolphins.

He said the number of dolphins get killed by gill net declined from about 16 per year average goes down to about 2 or 3 dolphins only.

The freshwater dolphin reaches a length of up to 2.8 meters on maturity, weighs 150 to 200 kilo and can live longer than 50 years.

Its gestation period is eleven months. The species—which only reproduces once every two years, not reaching sexual maturity until it is at least seven years old—can swim up to 42 kilometres per hour.

The whole population of dolphins are believed to have remained from between 150 to 160, he said.

But researchers who study the rare dolphin have expressed deep skepticism that such a dramatic turnaround could have occurred.

He also said the deforestation on the Mekong bank also contributed to lower level of the River.

“The level of tributaries are shallow or drying up because there are less roots of forest to keep water.”

“Almost all the tributaries of the Mekong River are drying up. Some tributaries have no water flows at all into Mekong this year because of the too much deforestation. That concerns us greatly.”

The government took a tougher action to crack down the illegal loggings, a move aimed to protect its remained forest from being periled after years of deforestations during the country’s conflict as well as the uncontrolled logging businesses in the early 1990s.

“We are now appreciated with the government’s effort to stop the illegal logging operation.”
Still another worry in the past might return.

“Once the illegal logging is stopped, villagers have no other way to make living but they return to catch more fishes in the River. That would contribute to hurt dolphin’s reproduction.”

“That will put more burdens to our commission’s works,” he said.

Also, dolphin could be suffered by the likely more dams to be built on the upper Mekong in Lao, Thailand and China, he warned.

“We need cooperation from among the whole Mekong sub-region countries... we need to get data from China and from other Mekong countries and sit down and talk together to see how much impacts would be on the Mekong dolphin.”

“For long term we worry about the hydro-power dams, too,” he warned.
There are about 300 Mekong dolphins including in Cambodia, Indonesia, Myanmar and India.

Last June, the Conservation group the World Wildlife for Nature (WWF) said that toxic waste in the Mekong River was a factor pushing an endangered dolphin species to extinction.

The WWF then estimated there were less than 80 left in a stretch of water between Cambodia and Laos.

The group also said that the high levels of mercury and other pollutants had caused the deaths of 88 Mekong River Irrawaddy dolphins since 2003, over 60 percent of them calves under two weeks old.

Bacterial disease killed many of the calves, said WWF.

"This disease would not be fatal unless the dolphin's immune systems were suppressed, as they were in these cases, by environmental contaminants," said Verne Dove, a veterinarian with WWF Cambodia, in a statement.

"Pollution in the Mekong River has pushed the local population of Irrawaddy dolphins to the brink of extinction," the conservation group said, estimating the number left in the 190 km (118 mile) stretch of the Mekong at between 64 and 76.

The WWF said limited genetic diversity due to inbreeding was another factor in the deaths of the Mekong dolphins, which were isolated from other members of the species.

Seang Tana said more cooperation from international experts and assistance are needed to improve the conservation of Mekong dolphin.

Cambodian Commission for Mekong Dolphins Conservation is now working closely with WWF on the project for conservation of dolphin.

“We have a lot of discussion of dolphin population, now we agreed in principle that we give this job to WWF to do counting the dolphin.”

“They (WWF) are very good in taking photograph,” he said.

Seang Tana also called Japanese scientists along with contribution to assist his project which began since 2006.

“They (Japan) can come and work and collaborate with WWF too. We work together as researchers, we are not discriminated one another.”

“We should sit down and discuss what we should do and who is doing what, so that to set a new regulations on how to improve and sustainable dolphin conservation”.

Seang Tana said he received Japanese delegation that showed their interests in helping Cambodia to sustainable development of the Mekong dolphin.

“We have a fruitful discussion, the Japanese delegation understand what we are doing of conserving the dolphin... and the real effort of the government who pays much attention of conserving the dolphin for eco-tourism.”

He said an estimated 1,000 lived in Asia, including in India, Myanmar and Thailand.

The Mekong River Irrawaddy dolphin is listed as a critically endangered species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

The WWF researchers warned that pollutants found in the Mekong water could affect the health of millions of humans who rely on resources from the river.

The Mekong produces an estimated 2.5 million tons of fish per year, with a value of at least US$2 billion, making it the world's largest inland fishery, the WWF has said.

Cambodia Shrugs Off U.S. Halts Shipments of Military Trucks

Friday, 02 April 2010 07:13 DAP-NEWS/ Ek Madra

PHNOM PENH, April 2 – Cambodia shrugged off the U.S. suspended shipments of 200 military trucks in retaliation to the Cambodia’s deportation of the 20 Chinese asylum seekers last year.

Koy Kong, spokesman for Cambodian ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, said that Cambodia has her full sovereignty to implement its policy in deporting the illegal 20 Chinese Uighur asylum seekers back to China in December last year.

“It is the rights of U.S. government to either donate or suspend such assistance. Cambodia is implementing its own policy and laws within the frameworks of full sovereignty,” said Koy Kong.

“That means U.S. can implement their policy, we can implement ours,” he said.

Foreign media quoted State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said the United States informed Cambodia last month that it was suspending the shipment of 200 military trucks and trailers as a consequence of Cambodia's December decision on the Uighurs.

The Chinese Uighurs, a Turkic Muslim group native, lived in the country's far western region of Xinjiang, where ethnic rioting and clashed with the local authorities there in last July in which more than 90 people were killed.

Chinese Vice-President Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping, who visited Cambodia in December last year, was pleased with Cambodia-China cooperation in all fields thanks the Cambodian “One China Policy” cemented the two Asian nations’ relations as result of diplomatic legacy of the former King Norodom Sihanouk who inked the diplomatic relations with Beijing since 1958.

China, who is the Cambodian biggest donor, has been leading in the foreign direct investment in this impoverished Southeast Asian nation as well.

Last December China approved US $1.2 billion in grant aid and loans for Cambodia to develop infrastructures.

The total value of Chinese investment was $US 930 million in 2009 from $US 4.4 billion in 2008, according to the state-run investment agency of Council for the Development of Cambodia (CDC).

First Mekong Prime Ministers Meeting To Address Regional Water Issues

Friday, 02 April 2010 04:38 DAP-NEWS/ Soy Sophea

Phnom Penh- Prime Ministers of Lower Mekong countries are set to meet in Hua Hin this weekend to discuss a range of issues relating to cross border water management, according a regional MRC.

This is the first time in the 15 year history of the Mekong River Commission (MRC), that the Prime Ministers of its Member Countries; Cambodia; Lao PDR; Thailand and Viet Nam; have met to discuss the trans-boundary management of the Mekong Basin. The summit will take place on the anniversary of the signing of the 1995 Mekong Agreement, which established the MRC in its current form.

“This is politically an important event for the region,” said Jeremy Bird, CEO of the MRC. “The countries of the Mekong are meeting to re-affirm political commitment to the sustainable use of water resources in the basin . There is a strong consensus that the river supports a range of livelihoods and some of the challenges, such as climate change; the planned construction of mainstream dams; may have a negative impact that require action.”

The conference and summit come at a time of renewed interest in Mekong River management throughout the region. A series of proposed hydropower dams on the mainstream Mekong; drought leading to water shortages and record low water levels on the Mekong in northern Lao PDR and Thailand; as well as the threat posed by climate change are expected to dominate proceedings.

Dialogue Partner China has sent a large delegation that will be conducting meetings with both the MRC and individual Member Countries throughout the week says the MRC. China has requested a special session with the Thai delegation to discuss the current low water levels, which some in the media have said are the result of Chinese dams upstream, as well as the problem of regional smoke haze.

The MRC has said in earlier statements that there is no evidence to back up the claim that Chinese dams are to blame for the low water levels, reiterating that current water shortages, caused by unusually low rainfall and an early end to last year’s wet season could be a taste of things to come in the basin if climate change predictions become a reality.

Engagement between China and MRC Member Countries has been stepped up recently with China agreeing to increase the amount of hydro-meteorological data it shares on the upstream Mekong, which the MRC says will allow for more accurate flood and drought forecasting.

As well as strengthening climate change commitments, the summit is expected to result in a declaration as it wraps up on 5 April that commits the four Member Countries to intensify efforts to protect people at risk from flooding; encourage river navigation and trade; improve basin water quality; and evaluate the opportunities and challenges of proposed hydropower schemes says the MRC.

“Sharing the many benefits of the Mekong is an opportunity for countries of the basin to cooperate, strengthen ties, and speak with a unified voice on conserving and protecting trans-boundary resources. That is one thing that all countries of the region agree on,” he said.

Cambodia dismisses US retaliation over Uighur deportations

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Posted : Fri, 02 Apr 2010
By : dpa

Washington/Phnom Penh - The Cambodian government on Friday brushed off reports that the United States has suspended shipments of military vehicles.

The announcement by the US State Department on Thursday was in response to Phnom Penh's deportation in December of 20 Uighur asylum seekers to China. The Chinese Muslims had fled to Cambodia last year.

"It's no problem for Cambodia - no problem at all," Cambodian foreign affairs spokesman Koy Kuong said. "It is the right of the US government to donate or suspend its military aid."

Koy Kuong said Phnom Penh stood by earlier assertions that in deporting the Uighurs it was merely following its own immigration laws, adding he had not heard whether the US would take further punitive steps.

But he again denied the deportation was in any way connected to China's announcement, subsequent to the deportations, that it would provide Phnom Penh with 1.2 billion US dollars in grant aid.

Washington strongly objected to the deportations, saying Phnom Penh had failed to follow international asylum norms.

US State Department spokesman PJ Crowley said Thursday that Washington informed Cambodia on March 19 of its decision to suspend the delivery of trucks and trailers.

"As we said, there would be consequences for their failure to live up to their international obligations," Crowley said.

The US fears that the Uighurs would be subjected to abuse if returned to China, and has refused to repatriate Uighurs held at the Guantanamo Bay prison facility who were captured in Afghanistan.

Later this year Cambodia is to host thousands of soldiers from the United States and countries in the Association of South-East Asian Nations regional bloc as they take part in the US-led Global Peace Operations Initiative. The initiative is designed to improve the capability of peacekeeping operations.

Cambodian toddler faces another hurdle before risky surgery


Socheat Nha and her father, Phin Ken. (Photo provided)

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By Greg Mellen, Staff Writer
Posted: 04/01/2010

LONG BEACH - By now Peter Chhun thought he'd be preparing for a ride in the Cambodian New Year parade with another success story for the community to celebrate.

Instead, the life of an impoverished daughter of a Cambodian rice farmer remains in the balance.

The rocky road in the attempt by Chhun and his nonprofit to save the life of Socheat Nha with life-altering heart surgery that is unavailable in her home country continues to be strewn with obstacles.

From grim diagnoses to the heart-rending decision to attempt a risky procedure to confusion about visa status, it seems nothing has come easy.

Now, with travel status cleared and the hard decisions made, one more giant boulder stands between the destitute girl and a medical team that is ready to perform surgery in the Dominican Republic.

Hearts Without Boundaries and Nha's family lack about $5,000 needed to pay for the trip for the operation scheduled for April 18.

The path to this point has been difficult enough and every solution has seemed to raise new challenges.

When Hearts Without Boundaries first chose Socheat to be the next client for life-altering heart surgery, they expected to follow a route that had led to successful heart surgeries for Davik Teng and Soksamnang Vy.

With a U.S. hospital ready to donate its staff and services and family in Long Beach to provide shelter, Chhun thought he needed only to arrange the visas and travel for the ailing child and her father.
The plan was so well oiled that within a week after arrival, Socheat was supposed to be in recovery from surgery to repair a sizable hole in her heart.

However, since Socheat arrived in the U.S. it has all gone sideways. Doctors at Sunrise Children's Hospital in Las Vegas determined surgery was too risky to undertake for a number of reasons.

After further testing, it was determined that Socheat could undergo a somewhat risky procedure that would be performed by renowned thoracic surgeon William Novick. The surgeon said he would perform the procedure in the Dominican Republic.

Although Novick is willing to donate his services, Hearts Without Boundaries needed to raise about $5,000 for the hospital and its costs, plus arrange transportation and lodging in the Dominican Republic during recuperation for Socheat, her father and Chhun.

For awhile it looked as if Socheat and her father wouldn't even be allowed to travel to the Caribbean, but that confusion was straightened out.

However, Chhun, the founder of Hearts Without Boundaries, says his fledgling all-volunteer nonprofit organization has simply run out of funds since it learned that Socheat could not be treated in the U.S.

He is further frustrated by what he sees as a lack of progress by Socheat's family in Long Beach, who he said agreed to help raise funds for Socheat.

Chhun says he has already spent about $4,000 of his own money to arrange the visas and bring Socheat and her father, Phin Ken, to the U.S. and he hasn't been reimbursed.

"I've asked the family to step forward and help out but so far I haven't seen any funds yet," Chhun said. "We took the lead on this, and we've seen the kindness of a lot of donors, but we're still short. Here's Socheat's life and it depends on our organization and funds."

Kenha Heang, Socheat's cousin, feels Chhun is being somewhat unfair to his family, though he does acknowledge it may have been a bit naive about fundraising.

"It's very difficult. I've been contacting everyone I know. It's hard for us," Heang said.

Heang says he just left school, his sister is in school and his parents are immigrants and don't understand the expectations.

Heang says he hopes to raise some money from his church, and his family has managed to raise about $2,000, mostly from out-of-state relatives. He says he will take out personal loans if he must and try to raise funds after Socheat's surgery.

However, until the money is in the bank, the girl's life is in the balance and the clock is ticking.


Want to help?

Tax deductible donations to Hearts Without Boundaries can be made online at http://www.heartswithoutboundaries.com/  or by calling Peter Chhun at 818-640-6191.