Sunday, 18 April 2010

Preparing to graduate, Cambodian monk redefines life goals

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By Erika Hafer
Special to the Log
Published: Friday, April 16, 2010

Muny Korn has much more than a degree to be proud about. Underneath his gown on graduation night, Korn will be wearing different clothes than he would have three months ago; underneath his cap, he will be wearing a different hair style than he would have three months ago, and on his feet he will be wearing a different type of shoes as well.

Korn came to Modesto Junior College as a Buddhist Monk from Cambodia in late 2004. The 27-year-old spent his first 21 years in Cambodia, where he joined the monkhood at 15.

“Because my country is under poverty the life of most people isn’t that easy. We lack access to schools; we lack pretty much everything,” Korn explained. Following the Khmer Rouge regime of Pol Pot, which was defeated in 1979, Cambodia’s economy was devastatingly affected by a shortage of jobs and the lack of a properly educated workforce. Though Korn’s family were farmers, his mother, father, sisters and young brother remained poor. Korn says that becoming a monk was a way to escape the grip of poverty. He felt with joining the monk community, he would have more support and, in return, could live to support his family.

“Buddhism is a good way to offer opportunity. Most people want to become monks because they have nothing to do. They are poor. We get more chances now,” he explains.

Similar to the many reasons U.S. citizens join the U.S. military system, many Cambodian citizens find support, guidance and direction in the Cambodian religious system. The schooling and living expenses of monks are paid by the charitable donations of others.

Because Buddhism is an integral part of Cambodian culture (the majority of Cambodians are Buddhist), Buddhist monks represent honor and strength along with respected social status.

“It is important to know about our religion to know how to discipline ourselves, how to behave in society,” he says, acknowledging that these skills served him well when he became an MJC student.

There are ten basic rules to life as a monk, Korn says: 1) no killing, 2) no stealing, 3) no sex, 4) no alcohol or drugs, 5) no lying, 6) no dinner, 7) no perfume, 8) no gambling, 9) no sitting higher than a Senior Monk, and 10) no happiness for belongings. Not even “fibbing” is permitted. Monks are not allowed to eat after 12 p.m., because food may interrupt afternoon contemplation and prayer. Monks wear orange robes draped around them to distinguish their “homelessness” from others; they shave their heads twice a month, so as not to worry about style, and they wear sandals for simplicity even when the weather is cold. The goal in life, Korn says, is simplicity.

“We are different. We are called a homeless person…. How can we train ourselves?... We are supposed to live our lives with lay people,” Korn explains.

Muny was a novice monk for five years before his promotion to a senior monk at the age of 21. The same year, 2004, Korn, along with many monks from his community, moved to the U.S. as a mission to help the U.S. Cambodian temples with religious services. He was brought to Modesto specifically to help the Wat Cambodian Church located on Paradise Avenue, now relocated on Grimes Avenue.

Muny started attending MJC in order to study sociology. He said the change of atmosphere and culture was surprising for him and all the monks, but they knew that they were different and so were other people. He learned tolerance and acceptance of others from Buddhist teachings. On the basis of human existence, all beings are the same, he says.

Korn said that as a student, the Modesto Junior College atmosphere was very warm and non-discriminatory. “People showed curiosity, not discrimination.” But Korn couldn’t say that for non-collegiate Modesto.

In 2008, the Wat Cambodian Church requested rights from the County Planning Commission to build a temple on Grimes Avenue. But the church was denied this request by the commission due to the concerns of “worried neighbors” over possible conflicts. It took the Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors over a month to review the commission- denied case and override the building veto. The church was finally built.

“They [The County Planning Commission] voted against our request… We had nothing wrong with our regulations… They were discriminating against our people. Why did the commissioners not vote for us?”

Three months ago, Muny Korn took off his robe and sandals and replaced them with a cotton, collared shirt, jeans and a pair of Vans. He wore a ring on his right-hand finger. He had left the monkhood. Korn said it was a personal decision. He felt he could not go any farther as a monk; he had earned the merits of discipline.

“There is no expiration,” he says. “I knew how long I had been a monk in my previous life to lead me to this life, but I didn’t have a good feeling to go any farther.”

Muny had felt that what he had done as a monk before in his past life and in this one made up a satisfactory ending to his career as a monk. A religious ceremony based on the retirement of the robes was held for Korn to commemorate this event. He now bears two gold rings as gifts from his grandmother and aunt in blessing of his new life and his lives to come.

With his goals of graduating this spring from Modesto Junior College and transferring to California State University, Stanislaus, he is focusing on his education. He plans to finish his bachelor’s degree, earn a nursing degree, and eventually bring his parents and siblings to the U.S.

Korn looks back at his monk experience now with great pride and appreciation, acknowledging that he grew in confidence and strength under the guidance of the Cambodian church. In the weeks to come, he will receive another merit of accomplishment as he is handed his diploma for an associates of arts degree in behavioral and social science.

Muny’s determination and radiance makes him a shining example of a Modesto Junior College graduate: a scholar with open ears, an open heart and a gallant stride.

“Never give up, whatever happens. Never give up hope, whatever happens. As long as we are still alive, we still have time to pursue our dreams. Do it with confidence, do it with a smile. We have a long way to go,” Korn offers.

The Modesto Junior College Graduation Commencement is April 30 at 6 p.m. at the MJC Stadium on East Campus. It is free and open to the public.

Young sisters help Cambodian toddler on journey for surgery


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By Greg Mellen, Staff Writer
Posted: 04/16/2010

From left, Jill and Joanna Ung, Peter Chhun, Julie Ung, Phin Ken and Socheat Nha meet at Sophy s Restaurant after the three Ung sisters raised $1,291 going door-to-door to help support Socheat, who will undergo open-heart surgery next week. (Photo courtesy Peter Chhun)

LONG BEACH - Saturday a Cambodian toddler and her father embark on a trip for perilous but potentially life-extending surgery in the Dominican Republic.

They take with them the hopes and prayers of a community of supporters. Before Socheat Nha and her father, Phin Ken, took to the skies, they were given yet another emotional lift from well-wishers.

Sisters Julie, 13, Joanna, 11, and Jill, 10, Ung decided they wanted to help Socheat after following story.

The three first decided to break into their piggy banks and make an offering. Then, since they were on spring break with not much to do, the girls created posters, decorated a donation box and decided to go door-to-door to raise funds for Socheat's surgery and travel for open heart surgery.

On Wednesday at Sophy's Restaurant the three girls shyly handed Peter Chhun, the head of the charity sponsoring Socheat, a decorated shoe box with the donations.

When Joanna told Chhun they had raised $1,291, he was struck almost speechless by the gift. Later Chhun said he continues to be amazed at the generosity of spirit that has come from all corners to help Socheat and the mission of his nonprofit "Hearts Without Boundaries," which helps Cambodian children with heart defects receive surgeries unavailable to them in their home country.

Socheat is the third, and thus far most problematic of the children Chhun's group has helped. The first two, Davik Teng and Soksamnang Vy, sailed through their surgeries and have recovered fully.

Socheat's journey has been more difficult. She has a more complicated heart ailment than the others. Doctors in Las Vegas who had agreed to do the procedure canceled after examining Socheat, saying the procedure was too risky.

However, thoracic surgeon William Novick, who specializes in treating heart patients in third-world countries, offered the services of his group, the International Children's Heart Foundation, which is performing surgeries in the Dominican Republic next week.

Socheat's surgery is risky and her father had to make a difficult decision to put his child at risk, but knows without surgery there is no cure for Socheat in Cambodia.

The girl, who just turned 3 on Wednesday, is to undergo tests and surgery early in the week, although a date hasn't been set.

greg.mellen@presstelegram.com, 562-499-1291

Cambodia border clash, no casualties


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Published: 18/04/2010
Online news: Breakingnews

PHNOM PENH : Cambodian and Thai troops exchanged fire briefly on their border on Saturday, officials from both countries said.


The border shoot-out lasted for about 15 minutes, but there were no reports of casualties, Cambodian defence ministry spokesman Chhum Socheat told AFP.

"While our troops were patrolling the border, the Thai soldiers opened fire at them. So our troops fired back."

He said troops from both sides fired rockets and grenades as well as rifles, but calm returned after a meeting between Cambodian and Thai military commanders in the area.

The Thai military confirmed the shoot-out.

"It was a misunderstanding and nobody was injured in the clash," said a Thai army officer who asked not to be named.

The skirmish was away from the Preah Vihear temple area.

Supporting Khmer Rouge Tribunal


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Saturday, 17 April 2010

The United States will provide additional funding to support the work of the Khmer Rouge Tribunal.

Photo: VOA Photo – R. Carmichael
Khmer Rouge Tribunal spokesman Lars Olsen speaking to former members of the ultra-Maoist group in Anlong Veng, Cambodia at the home of Ta Mok, a former senior leader believed to have been responsible for many of the regime's worst atrocities. The poster on the tree shows a Khmer Rouge leader at his arraignment, 09 Apr 2010

The United States will provide additional funding to support the work of the Khmer Rouge Tribunal. Ambassador Stephen Rapp, United States Ambassador at Large for War Crimes, made the announcement March 31st in Phenom Penh. He said that the court made significant progress last year, and in light of that progress, the U.S. Government plans to contribute $5 million to support the court's operations in 2010.

Ambassador Rapp said, "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 on the rule of law." The planned contribution will bring total U.S. financial support for the United Nations sponsored tribunal to $6.8 million.

When the Khmer Rouge took power in 1975, Cambodia had a population of over seven-million people. By the time that regime was overthrown in 1978, an estimated one-million-five-hundred-thousand Cambodians had perished.

The Khmer Rouge regime targeted military and civilian leaders of the former government, ethnic minorities, intellectuals, physicians, teachers, and other professionals. Those who resisted or questioned the regime were often tortured and killed. The Khmer Rouge systematically emptied urban areas, forcing residents into the countryside, where they lacked food, tools, medical care and other necessities. Many died from disease and malnutrition.

The United States has long been a supporter of efforts to bring to justice senior leaders and those most responsible for the atrocities committed under the Khmer Rouge regime. Thirty thousand Cambodians witnessed the proceedings of the Khmer Rouge Tribunal in person and millions more watched on television. "The whole world," said Ambassador Rapp, "is aware that Cambodia is truly moving forward from a dark period in its history."

Year Zero

http://www.americanthinker.com/

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April 17, 2010
By Peter Wilson

The Khmer Rouge declared revolutionary Year Zero thirty-five years ago today, on April 17, 1975, the day Communist guerrillas in black pajamas and truck-tire sandals marched victoriously through the streets of Phnom Penh. An indication of the regime's brutality came within 24 hours, when the Khmer Rouge ordered the two million residents of Phnom Penh, including hospital patients, to evacuate the city.

Their reign of three years and eight months left Cambodia devastated, with the better part of an entire generation -- approximately 1.7 million Cambodians out of a population of 7.9 million -- annihilated by bullet, axe, shovel blow to the back of the head, plastic bag suffocation, unspeakable torture, or by starvation caused by ruinous economic policies.

The Pol Pot clique set out to create history's most pure form of Communism in a single bound, striving to surpass even Mao's disastrous Great Leap Forward. Their success was Cambodia's failure. Despite the legacy of another horror-filled Marxist experiment, the lessons of the Khmer Rouge remain shrouded in equivocation and myth.

Myth #1: Despite the example of the Khmer Rouge, Marxism remains a valid political philosophy.

Marxist sympathizers like columnist James Carroll still argue in polite society that "Marxism has yet to be really tried." It's just that by strange happenstance, Communist governments have always been subverted by corrupt, brutal men.

Corruption and brutality, however, are not incidental to Communism; they are part of its essence.

In order to redistribute wealth, the State must assign power to fallible humans. Our democracy has checks and balances that constrain (we hope) those who hold power. The Khmer Rouge leaders wielded absolute power, which corrupted absolutely, with predictable tragic consequences.

Every time it has been tried, Marxism leads to the charnel house, turning subject countries into giant concentration camps, each a "vast Belsen," as Robert Conquest described Stalin's Soviet Union. Pol Pot, Mao, Stalin, Lenin, Ho Chi Minh, Castro, Che Guevara, Abimael Guzman, Mengistu, and Kim Jong-il are among history's most accomplished butchers. To argue that the Communist ideology that motivated them is incidental to their crimes devalues the deaths of the hundred million murdered by Communism in the 20th century.

Myth #2: The Khmer Rouge were not really Communists.

Like the Viet Cong, they were "rice paddy nationalists." Or freedom-fighters gone wrong battling French and American imperialism. Or Asian Nazis. Or some perverted Buddhist agrarian sect.

Evidence to the contrary is not difficult to find. As students in Paris, Pol Pot and Ieng Sary (Brothers Number One and Number Two) joined the Cercle Marxiste, where they imbibed Marx and Rousseau. To point out the obvious, Pol Pot and Ieng Sary named their army the "Red Khmer," red being the color of Communism. They were funded by Beijing, Moscow, and Hanoi. Theirs was closer to a Maoist interpretation of Marxism than to Stalin's urban Communism with its Five-Year Plans, fetishizing steel mills and cement factories. Khmer Rouge terror techniques were drawn from Stalin and Mao: the brutality, the destruction of the family, the abolition of religion, the terror famines, and the internal purging that George Orwell described so accurately three decades earlier in the terrifying scenes of Napoleon forcing confessions in Animal Farm.

Myth #3: Nixon's secret bombing of Cambodia was responsible for the Khmer Rouge victory.

Blaming America for the Khmer Rouge began early on in William Shawcross's Sideshow: Kissinger, Nixon, and the Destruction of Cambodia (1979). Roland Joffe's 1984 movie The Killing Fields disseminated the narrative of American guilt to an entire generation, one that is repeated in many American history textbooks.

According to data released by the Clinton administration and reported by Ben Kiernan and Taylor Owen, from 1969 to 1973, American B-52s dropped "2,756,941 tons' worth [of explosives] in 230,516 sorties on 113,716 sites," more than was dropped by all parties in World War II. Innocent Cambodian villagers were surely killed, although estimates vary wildly, from 5,000 to 600,000.

Nevertheless, despite the rage of the antiwar movement, the tin soldiers, Nixon's coming, and four dead in Ohio, the bombing was not entirely unjustified.

The bombing proceeded in two distinct phases, each with different objectives. President Nixon's Operation Menu began in March 1969, striking at North Vietnamese sanctuaries where the NVA delivered food and arms to supply depots less than one hundred miles from Saigon, protected by Cambodia's neutrality under the Geneva Convention. Although Prince Sihanouk agreed to the passage of NVA supplies coming down the Ho Chi Minh Trail and through the Port of Sihanoukville, evidence shows that he grew fed up with North Vietnamese intrusions into his country and gave Nixon a green light to bomb NVA military targets.

In the second phase, as the Vietnam War was winding down, American bombing continued at the request of the Lon Nol government to slow the advance of the Khmer Rouge.

History may judge Nixon and Kissinger harshly for the humanitarian costs of the bombing. It appears that the bombing assisted Khmer Rouge recruitment efforts, but overall, it delayed the Khmer Rouge takeover. Keep in mind the simple facts that Communist countries backed the Khmer Rouge with arms, materiel, money, and ideology, while the U.S. supported the pro-western Lon Nol government in an attempt to defeat the Khmer Rouge and stop the spread of Communism. As Peter Rodman writes in a 1981 American Spectator article on Sideshow: "By no stretch of moral logic can the crimes of mass murder be ascribed to those who struggled to prevent their coming into power."

Myth #4: "American ruthlessness turned Communists into totalitarian fanatics." [Via historian Philip Windsor, quoted by Noam Chomsky and Bernard Herman in Manufacturing Consent (1988).]

In addition to bearing responsibility for bringing Pol Pot to power, the American bombing is also guilty of pushing the Khmer Rouge over the edge into insanity. Nixon and Kissinger are therefore guilty of war crimes, with the blood of 1.7 million Cambodians on their hands.

This myth is an international relations version of the "society made me do it" defense for the brutal criminal, akin to blaming mass murder on police brutality. It transforms the Khmer Rouge from aggressors to helpless victims reacting to aggression.

The theory that violence generates violent retaliation may make sense on a psychological level, but it is implausible that the Khmer Rouge's "auto-genocide" -- the systematic campaign of destruction of their own people -- was motivated by desire for revenge against Americans. During the Khmer Rouge reign from 1975-79, Cambodia was isolated from the outside world; the last American bomb fell in August 1973.

Historical examples also contradict this theory: The ruthless Nazi blitzkrieg did not transform Londoners into totalitarian fanatics.

This myth did, however, alleviate the antiwar Left of any responsibility it might have felt for pressuring Congress to withdraw the financial support for South Vietnam promised in the Paris Peace Talks, which certainly played a role in southeast Asian dominoes falling in 1975: Cambodia on April 17, South Vietnam on April 30, and Laos on November 28.

*

Today, the Khmer Rouge has few enthusiastic defenders. In Jean-Fran├žois Revel's wry phrase, "One of the most richly enrolled clubs on the planet is the Enemies of Past Genocides." But it is not enough to condemn the Khmer Rouge; we must condemn the Marxist ideology that motivated them.


Peter Wilson has a large extended family of Khmer Rouge survivors and has worked on children's television in Cambodia. His blog is walkingdogcapitalist.

Cambodia, Thai soldiers exchange gunfire at border

Photo by AP
In this photo taken on Feb. 5, 2010, Cambodian soldiers are seen behind a machine gun along the Cambodia-Thai border near Preah Vihear temple, Preah Vihear province, 152 miles north of Phnom Penh, Cambodia

 
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PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — Cambodian and Thai soldiers engaged in a brief gunbattle in a disputed border area Saturday, with Cambodia accusing its neighbor of instigating their latest clash. No injuries were immediately reported.

Troops fired rifles, machine guns and rockets in the 15-minute gunbattle near the Ou Smach checkpoint in northern Cambodia, said Pech Sokhin, governor of Oddar Meanchey province where the border is located.

The countries accuse each of encroaching on the other's territory.

Pech Sokhin said the Thai soldiers fired shots after Cambodian troops ignored a demand to shift their location deeper into Cambodia.

"Once the Thais got back to their side, Thai forces opened fighting and Cambodia had to respond," Pech Sokhin said, adding that no Cambodian soldiers were wounded.

Thai authorities could not immediately be reached for comment.

Gen. Chea Tara, Cambodia's deputy military commander, said commanders from both sides met and called a truce.

Relations between Cambodia and Thailand have been strained over the status of land at a historic temple at another spot along their border. The International Court of Justice in 1962 recognized the Preah Vihear temple as belonging to Cambodia, a decision only grudgingly accepted by Thailand and still challenged by Thai ultra-nationalists.

Deadly clashes have occurred near the temple.

Thailand also was angered last year when Cambodia named fugitive former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra as an adviser on economic affairs. Tensions worsened after a subsequent visit by Thaksin, and Cambodia's rejection of a formal request from Thailand to extradite him.

Cambodia’s temples of consumerism

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By The Mystery Shopper
Published: April 17 2010

Street vendors at a market in Siem Reap, Cambodia

After a recent spate of work-related visits across south Asia – five days of conversations with bankers, lawyers, union leaders, politicians, activists and salespeople – I decided to reward myself with 48 hours in Bangkok. But then, having landed at Suvarnabhumi airport, our huge commercial jetliner came to a halt on the runway to let pass a tiny turbo prop plane ferrying a handful of people to ... Cambodia. At first I glared out the window but eventually I had to smile at the moxie of the pilot and crew in holding up a much bigger aircraft. They must have been in a pretty big rush.

And I knew why. Hundreds of thousands of khaki-clad visitors flood the city of Siem Reap during the dry season, armed with guidebooks, sunscreen and professional-grade cameras. At the risk of sounding heretical, most soon realise that if it’s the temples at nearby Angkor Wat (6km north of the city) that draw you in, it is the shopping that brings you back.

It was then that I realised that I could just as easily (and much less expensively) spend my two-day holiday in Cambodia as Bangkok and, in the time it took to taxi to the terminal, I said a mental sayonara to the malls in Bangkok’s Sukhumvit area, scooted to the Bangkok Airways ticket counter and reversed course on to a 35-minute flight to Siem Reap.

I’d been to Siem Reap before so this time I wasn’t even going to pretend to be interested in the 12th-century religious monuments. You can use rickshaw transport but Siem Reap is a small city, and most of the shops and markets are within walking distance of each other.

The best place to start is in the Old Market, or Phsar Chas. While hundreds of sellers offer neatly arranged and affordable items such as wood carvings, paintings, jewellery and ready-made clothing, if you can get past the $3 Angkor Beer T-shirts and traditional costumes, the locally produced garments are worth a second look. I found a pair of black lightweight cheongsam-style silk pajamas for $10 and a $5 washable black silk shirt with a mandarin collar and froggings, which reminded me of more casual and machine-washable versions of styles from luxury brand Shanghai Tang, with a Khmer flair. And though bargaining is welcome, it felt a little ridiculous to negotiate beyond the advertised price.

In an alley one block west of the market is Wanderlust, a wee boutique run by Elizabeth Kiester, the founder and former chief creative director of LeSportsac. who came to Cambodia on a visit in 2008 and decided to stay. Her hybrid designs are very wearable. I bought two cotton dresses; the black gingham Kyoto ($68) with a deep V-neck, waist pleats, wide three-quarter length sleeves and patch pockets; and the black Palm Springs ($78), with more of an A-line shape, a square neck and ruffly sleeves. They had sold out of my size in the Tunisia tunic: a lightweight black cotton number with tiny white stars. Still, I felt pleased, if slightly confused about the names, since I’ve never encountered gingham anywhere in Japan or starry-patterned fabrics in Tunisia. (I have, however, seen plenty of ruffles in Palm Springs.)

An $8 pair of espadrilles replaced my dusty flip-flops and transported me to the Foreign Correspondent’s Club, home to Eric Raisina, Siem Reap’s high-fashion flagship store, as well as all-you-can-drink icy pitchers of sangria. Having once had his silks used in an Yves Saint Laurent bustier, the Madagascar-born Eric Raisina can claim the title of Cambodia’s most famous couturier. His “haute texture” designs do not resemble any other fabric I’ve ever seen: a lemon bolero jacket looking as if it was covered in feathers that turned out to be tiny shreds of yellow silk, and an orange-and-fuchsia stole whose furry edges were actually made of thousands of strands of silk.

After a valiant excavation of the tiny store, however, I had found no items in my preferred colour palette. But when I steeled myself to ask for black, the designer himself led to me his dark “silk fur” stoles ($179).

In the same FCC shopping centre is Jasmine Boutique, but you can also find her collection in the gift shops at some of the finer hotels in town. I bought a crisp black silk shantung wrap shirt with a high pointy collar ($85) as well as a sleeveless black and white balloon dress ($130).

I stopped at Angkor Candles to pick up a stash of aromatherapy candles in the shape of some of the temple ruins. And, rather wonderfully, the team at the Amansara provides hotel guests with photo mementos of the more famous wats upon checkout, so no one ever has to know how you really spent your time.

Sixteen-Year Old Cambodian Dancer Sokvannara Sar Wows

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By George Christy
- Beverly Hills Courier

Sar was alive with joy and with perfect proportions while he was entertaining the crowd at Angkor Wat.

Beverly Hills Courier columnist George Christy gives you an insider's peek into Hollywood's A-list parties and personalities.

“Could I live in Southeast Asia? Well, yes, having traveled through many countries there. Ten years ago, after I arrived in Cambodia on a tour with the World Monuments Fund, I fell in love with the sweetness of the people and was astonished by the natural dancing talent of 16-year-old Sokvannara Sar. We witnessed a folk dance performance by Sar, who’s nicknamed Sy (pronounced see). Sy’s dancing was alive with joy and with perfect proportions while he was entertaining the crowd at Angkor Wat,” says philanthropist Anne Bass, the Indianapolis-born ballet enthusiast.

“I’ve since returned to Cambodia any number of times, a trip that’s 24 hours long from New York, visited Laos, Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, Burma, Bali, Java, and found Southeast Asians to be very kind, and that it’s easy to like their generous spirit. They smile from within, also I could live on Thai food with those delicate spices and herbs for the rest of my life.”

A New Yorker for decades with a Fifth Avenue apartment and an estate in Connecticut, Anne’s a Vassar graduate who’s taken ballet lessons since childhood, and continues to practice daily – “I even take classes when I travel. Ballet’s in my genetic makeup, impossible to imagine my life without it.”

The beautiful daughter of a doctor, Anne is ballerina-slim, vastly knowledgeable about dance, and an engaging conversationalist. As they say in New England, Anne’s a gracious plenty. Her two daughters are novelist Hyatt (The Embers) and photographer Samantha, whose mate is Date Night screenwriter Josh Klausner. Anne and her mate, the Sri Lanka-born, abstract artist Julian Lethbridge, have been together for fifteen years. He exhibits at Manhattan’s Paula Cooper Gallery.

Cambodian, Thai troops clash on border

Cambodia and Thailand have been locked in nationalist tensions and a troop standoff since 2008

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PHNOM PENH — Cambodian and Thai troops exchanged fire briefly on their border on Saturday -- the latest in a series of clashes between the neighbours, officials from both countries said.

The shoot-out on Cambodia's northwestern border lasted for about 15 minutes, but there were no reports of casualties, Cambodian defence ministry spokesman Chhum Socheat told AFP.

"While our troops were patrolling the border, the Thai soldiers opened fire at them. So our troops fired back," he said.

He said troops from both sides fired rockets and grenades as well as rifles, but calm returned after a meeting between Cambodian and Thai military commanders in the area.

The Thai military confirmed the shoot-out.

"It was a misunderstanding and nobody was injured in the clash," said a Thai army officer who asked not to be named.

Cambodia and Thailand have been locked in nationalist tensions and a troop standoff at their disputed border since July 2008, when Cambodia's 11th century Preah Vihear temple was granted UNESCO World Heritage status.

The latest skirmish was in a different area to the temple, which has been the focus of deadly clashes between the two armies in the past.

Relations deteriorated further in November after Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen appointed fugitive former Thai premier Thaksin Shinawatra as his economic adviser and refused to extradite him to Thailand.