Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Net sales


Photo by: Sovan Philong

via CAAI

Wednesday, 13 October 2010 15:00 Sovan Philong

A Shopper examines fishing nets for sale in Takhmao town’s Prek Tapav village yesterday. Vendors noted that customers came from surrounding provinces to buy nets – which range in price from US$4 to $8 for 50 metres – because recent rains and floods had created better fishing conditions.

School in deep trouble


via CAAI
Wednesday, 13 October 2010 15:00 Sovan Philong

There was definitely no class action yesterday at Mittepheap High School, on the southwest edge of Phnom Penh towards Takhmao. Lessons have been cancelled as heavy rainfall took its toll and turned the grounds into a lake. Nearby residents said that based on past experience, the school would likely be closed for more than a week.

Police violently break up protest of lakeside floods


Photo by: Heng Chivoan
Police block protesting Boeung Kak lake residents from access to City Hall yesterday.

via CAAI

Wednesday, 13 October 2010 15:02 Khouth Sophak Chakrya and Will Baxter

PHNOM Penh police wielding riot shields and electric batons yesterday dispersed a protest involving about 50 Boeung Kak lake residents trying to draw attention to flooding they said had been exacerbated by recent heavy rains.

“We cannot stand living in flooded homes with polluted water,” said Kong Chantha, a representative of Village 24 in Daun Penh district’s Srah Chak commune, who addressed reporters yesterday while standing in knee-deep water shortly before leading the march to City Hall.

Sok Kimsan, 49, from Village 22, said that although flooding had been common ever since the private firm Shukaku Inc began filling the lake in with sand in 2008, the heavy rains over the past three days had brought the situation to new lows.

“Even though there have been hard rains for many days in the past, our village has never flooded like this,” he said.

Ly Seanton, 60, a resident of Village 23, said that she was worried about her family’s well-being as a result of the flooding, which she said had led to washed-out roads, submerged houses and blocked sewers.

“We are afraid of electrocution from shorted-circuited wires and of other accidents,” she said. “We are also concerned about contagious diseases because of pollution and mosquitoes.”

After the group of protesters reached City Hall yesterday morning, police used riot shields to move them back from the building before ordering them to return home.

Police officials could not be reached for comment yesterday.

In February 2007, Shukaku, which is owned by Cambodian People’s Party Senator Lao Meng Khin, acquired rights from the municipality to develop the lakeside into a project that rights groups say could ultimately displace more than 4,000 families.

Ee Sarom, an advocacy programme manager for the NGO Sahmakum Teang Tnaut, noted that it was not the first time police had broken up protests by Boeung Kak lake residents.

“Bringing police in to break up peaceful demonstrations by Boeung Kak residents has become the authorities’ standard reaction,” he said. “This is an appalling response to Boeung Kak residents’ demand for basic human rights, including the right to adequate housing and the right to health.”

He said that this week’s flooding “appears to be about the same level as it reached in late August”, when lakeside communities were “inundated with filthy water”.

Asked to comment about the protest yesterday, In Sophon, the deputy chief of Srah Chak commune, said that flooding “is not only at Boeung Kak lake, but also in other areas of Phnom Penh and in other provinces of Cambodia”.

Lessons for would-be Korean husbands


via CAAI

Wednesday, 13 October 2010 15:02 Brooke Lewis

NEW regulations require Korean men wishing to marry Cambodian women to complete a course aimed at preventing illegal or dangerous partnerships, an official said yesterday.

Huh Jungae, a counsellor at the South Korean embassy in Phnom Penh, said Korean men who want to marry women from one of seven countries, including Cambodia, are now required to complete three-hour “induction programmes”, the first of which were conducted last week.

“Now when we process visa applications, we will check whether the spouse in Korea has completed that programme,” she said, and added that applicants would be required to attach copies of their certificates of completion.

According to a statement posted yesterday to the website of Korea’s justice ministry, the new regulations were introduced “in response to the public awareness that tragic incidents like a recent series of murder cases of marriage migrants have to be stopped”. The statement did not elaborate.

Huh Jungae said: “The programme aims to facilitate and support the success of international marriage by providing information and enhancing understanding on the laws and regulation for international marriage, as well as the culture and traditions of the spouses’ home countries.”

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... Tragic incidents like a recent series of murder cases of marriage migrants have to be stopped.

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The Justice Ministry statement said the “international marriage guidance” courses are set to take place every Wednesday in 14 immigration offices nationwide.

The courses are designed to “enhance understanding of international marriage and minimise negative impact of international marriage”, according to the statement.

The ministry also said it would “raise a bar for inspection of visa application, and restrict visa issuance for spouses of Korean men who are found to have a problematic record”, and “boost information-gathering on the trend of illegal marriage brokerage firms”.

In March, the Cambodian government temporarily banned marriages between Cambodians and South Koreans after a broker was sentenced to 10 years in prison for recruiting 25 girls from rural areas and arranging for them to be paired with South Korean men.

The ban was lifted in April after the government introduced new screening mechanisms requiring that foreigners looking to marry Cambodians appear in person to submit applications to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Interior Ministry and the offices of local authorities.

Koy Kuong, spokesman for the Foreign Affairs Ministry, said yesterday that he was not aware of any recent problems involving Cambodian women who had migrated to Korea on a marriage visa.

He declined to comment on the new Korean regulations, saying he had not been informed of them.

Huh Jungae said the regulations would also apply to Korean men looking to marry women from China, Vietnam, the Philippines, Mongolia, Uzbekistan and Thailand.

She said the seven affected countries were chosen because they were the main sources of international marriages.

According to the Korean government’s website, “about 10 percent of all marriages in Korea are international, and most of them are between Korean men and women from other Asian countries”.

Lessons for would-be Korean husbands


via CAAI

Wednesday, 13 October 2010 15:02 Brooke Lewis

NEW regulations require Korean men wishing to marry Cambodian women to complete a course aimed at preventing illegal or dangerous partnerships, an official said yesterday.

Huh Jungae, a counsellor at the South Korean embassy in Phnom Penh, said Korean men who want to marry women from one of seven countries, including Cambodia, are now required to complete three-hour “induction programmes”, the first of which were conducted last week.

“Now when we process visa applications, we will check whether the spouse in Korea has completed that programme,” she said, and added that applicants would be required to attach copies of their certificates of completion.

According to a statement posted yesterday to the website of Korea’s justice ministry, the new regulations were introduced “in response to the public awareness that tragic incidents like a recent series of murder cases of marriage migrants have to be stopped”. The statement did not elaborate.

Huh Jungae said: “The programme aims to facilitate and support the success of international marriage by providing information and enhancing understanding on the laws and regulation for international marriage, as well as the culture and traditions of the spouses’ home countries.”


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

... Tragic incidents like a recent series of murder cases of marriage migrants have to be stopped.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The Justice Ministry statement said the “international marriage guidance” courses are set to take place every Wednesday in 14 immigration offices nationwide.

The courses are designed to “enhance understanding of international marriage and minimise negative impact of international marriage”, according to the statement.

The ministry also said it would “raise a bar for inspection of visa application, and restrict visa issuance for spouses of Korean men who are found to have a problematic record”, and “boost information-gathering on the trend of illegal marriage brokerage firms”.

In March, the Cambodian government temporarily banned marriages between Cambodians and South Koreans after a broker was sentenced to 10 years in prison for recruiting 25 girls from rural areas and arranging for them to be paired with South Korean men.

The ban was lifted in April after the government introduced new screening mechanisms requiring that foreigners looking to marry Cambodians appear in person to submit applications to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Interior Ministry and the offices of local authorities.

Koy Kuong, spokesman for the Foreign Affairs Ministry, said yesterday that he was not aware of any recent problems involving Cambodian women who had migrated to Korea on a marriage visa.

He declined to comment on the new Korean regulations, saying he had not been informed of them.

Huh Jungae said the regulations would also apply to Korean men looking to marry women from China, Vietnam, the Philippines, Mongolia, Uzbekistan and Thailand.

She said the seven affected countries were chosen because they were the main sources of international marriages.

According to the Korean government’s website, “about 10 percent of all marriages in Korea are international, and most of them are between Korean men and women from other Asian countries”.

Peacekeepers set for Lebanon


Photo by: Sovan Philong
RCAF soldiers destined to work with the UN assemble ahead of a training course in Kampong Speu province yesterday.

via CAAI

Wednesday, 13 October 2010 15:02 Uong Ratana

Kampong Speu province

THE Royal Cambodian Armed Forces yesterday kicked off a peacekeeping training course in Kampong Speu province for 30 soldiers, most of whom are set to participate in the Kingdom’s first Middle East peacekeeping operation later this year, officials said.

Prak Sokhon, a secretary of state at the Council of Ministers who is also vice president of the Cambodian Mine Action and Victim Assistance Authority, said 20 of the soldiers would be sent with an engineering company as part of a 216-member delegation to the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon.

He said the Cambodian peacekeepers would largely participate in demining and construction projects. Later this week, he said, some members of the Cambodian delegation as well as some of their equipment are set to depart.

“During this week, equipment and tools of this company will be shipped out of Sihanoukville port to Lebanon,” Prak Sokhon said. “In the next couple of days, our lead forces of 20 personnel will also depart for Lebanon in order to receive the shipment and set up the facilities.”

The UN’s Interim Force in Lebanon was established in 1978 and tasked in part with confirming Israel’s withdrawal from southern Lebanon. The operation’s mandate was expanded following the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah War.

Sem Sovanny, director general of the Institute for Peacekeeping Forces, Mines and Explosive Remnants of War Clearance in Oudong district, where the three-week training is being held, said the soldiers would answer to instructors from Cambodia, Senegal, Canada, Togo and Mali.

Outgoing French ambassador Jean-Francois Desmazières also attended yesterday’s ceremony, a gesture that an embassy official later said was “part of the French embassy’s longstanding support of Cambodian participation in UN peacekeeping missions”.

22 union reps back at work


via CAAI

Wednesday, 13 October 2010 15:02 Mom Kunthear

TWENTY-TWO union representatives at a garment factory in Kampong Speu province have returned to their jobs after having been suspended in connection with last month’s large-scale strike.

Bo Sreypich, an accountant at the Sangwoo garment factory, said factory management had allowed the representatives to return to their jobs on Monday.

“Before allowing them to go back to work, my employer just met and talked with all 22 workers and told them to respect our internal regulations and said when there is a problem, we will solve it together,” Bo Sreypich said.

Ath Thun, president of the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers Democratic Union, said yesterday that following the return of the workers at Sangwoo, there were still 106 suspended union representatives at 14 factories. 677 workers from 16 factories who protested the suspensions of their representatives have seen their contracts terminated because they ignored court orders requiring them to return to work within 48 hours, he said.

“I think if those companies still prevent those workers from coming to work, it means those companies are looking down on Cambodian law, the courts and also the prime minister’s appeals,” Ath Thun said.

In a speech last month, Prime Minister Hun Sen called on garment factories to drop pending complaints against workers and union representatives.

Ken Loo, secretary general of the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia, said yesterday that he was aware of only four factories that had dismissed workers in connection with the strikes. The companies that had “the most problems” had appealed court orders directing them to allow workers to return to their jobs, he added.

“The workers came to them holding this court order, but they are appealing, and because of the fact that they are appealing, there is no change in the situation,” Loo said.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY SAM RITH AND JAMES O’TOOLE

Monk convicted for porn to face fresh charges


via CAAI

Wednesday, 13 October 2010 15:02 Chrann Chamroeun

PHNOM Penh Municipal Court has scheduled a new hearing for a monk convicted last month of producing and distributing pornography after secretly filming hundreds of naked women at a pagoda.

Neth Kai, 35, a former monk at Srah Chak pagoda, was arrested on June 26 after being accused of using a mobile phone to secretly record the videos, which were then distributed. Four women have filed complaints against the monk since then.

In a case that involved only one complainant, the court in September sentenced Neth Kai to one year in prison and ordered him to pay US$9,456 in compensation, as well as a $472 fine.

Yesterday, Neth Kai’s defence lawyer, Chea Kay, said the court had sent him a letter requesting his attendance at a hearing on October 21 related to the remaining three complainants, two of whom were underage at the time of the filming.

“He is facing the same charges against the three victims, but two were aged between 16 and 17,” he said.

Because of the two underage victims, Chea Hay said the monk faces a much stiffer penalty if found guilty in the second case.

He said Article 41 of the Law on the Suppression of Human Trafficking and Sexual Exploitation stipulates that he faces a sentence of between five to 10 years in prison.

“I will attend the hearings to defend my client and find ways to free him of the charges,” he said.

Monks, laymen and nuns were forced to vacate the pagoda when the scandal broke. Meas Kung, the former chief abbot, was forced to resign from his post.

Chhoeung Bunchea, who was appointed chief abbot of the pagoda following Meas Kung’s dismissal, said yesterday that the situation at the pagoda “has been improving gradually” since his appointment.

“Lots of people still came to the pagoda during the Pchum Ben festival and worshipped, because they understand that this is an individual incident committed by Neth Kai, and does not involve the religion,” he said.

He said that the decision to charge the disgraced monk again was “right and just”.

“Justice is pending for the victims who were secretly filmed,” he added.

Police Blotter: 13 Oct 2010


via CAAI

Wednesday, 13 October 2010 15:00 Phak Seangly

Motorbike-taxi driver found dead in lake
The body of a motorbike-taxi driver who had been reported missing for three days was found dead with wounds on his face in Banteay Meanchey province’s Poipet town. Police said the man left home late on Thursday night and never returned. His body was discovered in a lake, and a pair of broken side mirrors and a bamboo stick were found not far away. Police said the victim appeared to have scuffled with an unknown assailant before his corpse was tossed in the lake.
KOH SANTEPHEAP

Cop shoots himself over non-return to position
A police officer in Kandal province’s Kien Svay district reportedly committed suicide last week by turning an AK-47 rifle on himself. The district police chief said the 40-year-old cop shot himself three times in the stomach and twice in the leg. The victim reportedly suffered from a disease that had prevented him from working for many months. Upon his return, officials demanded money from him so he could take up his old post. He did not have the money, and police believe this is the reason he killed himself.
RASMEY KAMPUCHEA

Drunken man assaults wife for not listening
Police arrested a 44-year-old man accused of breaking his wife’s leg in a drunken domestic quarrel in Battambang province on Friday. The man was said to have been extremely drunk when he returned to his house, were he picked a fight with his wife, accusing her of never listening to him. The wife locked herself in the kitchen, but the husband managed to break down the door and snap one of her legs.
KOH SANTEPHEAP

Three stick-wielding bike thieves arrested
Three men have been arrested in connection with the armed robbery of a teenager in Kampong Speu province’s Oudong district. Police said the three suspects ambushed the 18-year-old and beat him unconscious with a wooden stick before making off with his motorbike. Two of the suspects were arrested in Phnom Penh while attempting to sell the bike.
KOH SANTEPHEAP

Scavengers caught after robbing coffee shop
Three thieves were caught red-handed by police as they tried to make off with stolen goods from a coffee shop in Phnom Penh’s Tuol Kork district early on Sunday morning. Police say the suspects confessed to the break-in.
RASMEY KAMPUCHEA

Verdict awaits in Sam Rainsy appeal


Photo by: Uy Nousereimony
Svay Rieng resident Meas Srey is led out of the Appeal Court after a hearing earlier this month. The court is expected to hand down a verdict in her case today.

via CAAI

Wednesday, 13 October 2010 15:01 Meas Sokchea

AN official at the Appeal Court said yesterday that a verdict in the case against opposition leader Sam Rainsy and two residents of Svay Rieng province would be handed down as scheduled this afternoon, as lawyers from both sides expressed optimism that they would prevail.

Court prosecutor Nget Sarath confirmed that the verdict would be read out, but declined to speculate on what it might be, saying the outcome was “up to the court’s decision”.

Sam Sokong, a lawyer for the two villagers from Chantrea district, said he expected them to be released, claiming the evidence presented by the government lawyer was weak.

The case against all three accused stems from an October 2009 stunt in Svay Rieng in which Sam Rainsy, currently in self-imposed exile, joined villagers in uprooting border posts he said had been planted in Cambodian territory. Svay Rieng provincial court in January sentenced Sam Rainsy to two years in prison, and the two villagers – Meas Srey and Prum Chea – received one-year sentences.

“I expect that the Appeal Court will decide to release my clients because the evidence is very suspicious,” Sam Sokong said yesterday. “Also, their health is bad, especially Prum Chea.”

Government lawyer Chan Sok Yeang said, however, that he expected the original conviction and sentence to be upheld. Sam Rainsy’s lawyer, Choung Choungy, declined to comment on a possible outcome.

Maternal death surveillance praised


Photo by: Heng Chivoan
A nurse prepares a syringe for a pregnant woman at a referral hospital in Pursat province.

via CAAI

Wednesday, 13 October 2010 15:01 Brooke Lewis and Chhay Channyda

A WORLD Health Organisation official told a regional conference this week that reducing maternal mortality rates remained one of the greatest health challenges in the Western Pacific region, but praised Cambodia for improving its surveillance of maternal deaths, according to a statement issued by the WHO yesterday.

Speaking on Monday at the meeting of the regional committee for the Western Pacific, held in Putrajaya, Malaysia, Dr Shin Young-soo, WHO regional Director for the Western Pacific, reportedly said the region as a whole was on track to meet all health-related Millennium Development Goals, with the exception of the maternal mortality goal.

“I find it shameful that women are still dying in childbirth,” he is quoted as saying. “As we all know, most of these deaths are preventable.”

In February, Health Minister Mam Bunheng announced plans to set up a central office in Phnom Penh to track the number of women who die during pregnancy nationwide.

Dr Susan Jack, a medical officer specialising in maternal and child health at the WHO in Cambodia, said via email yesterday that the Health Ministry had opened a new Maternal Death Surveillance and Response Room in February “in order to enable improved reporting of maternal deaths”.

“This has been functioning since then and is already seeing an increase in the number of recorded deaths compared to previous years,” she said.

“In the coming months a mass media campaign will be launched with a new free hotline number to enable anyone to be able to report a maternal death. Those will then be followed up and information gathered in order to improve efforts to reduce maternal deaths.”

Not all relevant government bodies, however, appear to have been informed of efforts to improve maternal health surveillance.

Paou Linar, the head of Child and Maternal Health Care for the municipal Health Department, said yesterday that he did not know if the government had established a national centre to collate information about maternal deaths.

He also said he could not provide figures for the number of maternal mortalities in Phnom Penh. “The Ministry off Health never did separate statistics for the municipality or the provinces,” he said.

The most recent maternal mortality rate estimate he was aware of, he said, came from the 2008 census, which recorded 461 deaths per 100,000 live births.

Health Minister Mam Bun Heng could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Sharon Wilkinson, country director for Care International in Cambodia, said national statistics were useful in enabling officials to identify and target problem areas, but noted that it was also important for information to be collected and disseminated at the district level.

There, she said, it would be more likely to inspire action.

“A woman dying in labour after many days is the equivalent of being tortured to death,” she said. “Statistics don’t ever put that human face on the reality.”

ACU efforts will fail, Global Witness warns


via CAAI

Wednesday, 13 October 2010 15:01 Vong Sokheng

GLOBAL Witness released a statement yesterday warning donors that Cambodia’s new anticorruption strategies “will fail to tackle corruption at the top of the political elite”, and criticising the appointment of Om Yentieng as the head of the Anticorruption Unit.

“The government has established a body which risks being undermined by undue executive influence,” the statement says.

“The head of the new Anti-Corruption Unit is a close associate of Prime Minister Hun Sen and has links to mining interests. The concentration of the unit’s decision making powers in this man’s hands seriously undermines the chances of there being any real challenge to the behaviour of the prime minister’s corrupt cabal of family members, senior business people and government officials and politicians.”

ACU head Om Yentieng, who is also a senior adviser to Prime Minister Hun Sen and chairman of the government-run Cambodian Human Rights Committee, yesterday declined to comment on the statement in detail.

“I think that for me there is no need to react and there is nothing strange about the statement from Global Witness, which is always anti-Cambodia,” he said.

He said he and other people in positions of power had been democratically elected.

“Global Witness has to understand that people close to Hun Sen or people around Hun Sen were selected by the Cambodian people via vote,” he said.

Construction wave to hit Battambang


via CAAI

Wednesday, 13 October 2010 15:00 Soeun Say

BATTAMBANG’S first large housing development is set open its doors next year and is already half built, its project manager said.

The US$7 million Mahatep City, set on 16,000 square metres of land in Battambang’s Sangkat Svay Por commune, is to contain 125 homes and is backed by BTS Co.

“Our project started a few months ago and will be complete next year. We have already sold 40 percent [of units],” said Sok Bun Dara, project manager at the site.

He added that the three-and-a-half storey complex would be the first of its kind in Battambang.

“This is a new type of project in the area, and it is in a prime location in the business area along Stung Sangke,” he said.

Prices per unit range from $60,000 to $100,000. ANZ Royal bank and ABA have established payment schedules lasting between five and 20 years.

Micro finance institution Hathakasekor, according to Sok Bun Dara, has also purchased apartments in the complex to be used as offices.

The development will not be the last for BTS in Battambang, a city that has seen a wave of recent development including the construction of its first shopping mall, set to open soon.

Sok Bun Dara said that the company plans to build a second residential development one kilometre from the first.

Lao Tip Seiha, director of the construction department at the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction, said yesterday: “We are proud to have a new residential development in Battambang. It can create more jobs for construction workers.”

He said that despite the economic crisis, local investors were developing housing and hotels in the city.

Wrestlers to fire up water festival


via CAAI

Wednesday, 13 October 2010 15:00 H S Manjunath

The National Olympic Committee of Cambodia has invited four reputed Japanese professional women wrestlers for a series of exhibition bouts in Phnom Penh during the Water Festival next month as part of its cultural education programme.

Releasing the names and the three-day itinerary of the visiting wrestlers, NOCC Secretary General Vath Chamroeun said it would be a rare opportunity for hundreds of thousands of people who flock to the capital for the festival to watch such world class sports personalities in action. The Japanese foursome of Kyoto Inone, Sato Ayako, Aono Keiko and Ito Kaolu, accompanied by their personal coaches and a team leader, will be performing at different venues during their November 19-22 visit.

The NOCC failed in their frantic attempt to bring in World Wrestling Entertainment superstar John Cena for the national holiday. However, Vath Chamroeun expressed his confidence that the wrestling icon and now Hollywood actor could still be one of the major attractions at a WWE event planned in Phnom Penh next year.

In his capacity as a member of the sports and rules committee of the 2011 SEA Games, which will be held in Indonesia, Vath Chamroeun was an invitee at a preview meeting in Jakarta earlier this month to consider proposals from member countries on new additions to the biennial event.

Japanese traditional martial arts Kempo has found its way as a medal sport after being approved by the committee, while Indonesia apparently had a change of heart on golf and will now enlist the sport as one of the disciplines after initially being reluctant to include it.

An interesting proposal from Malaysia on the inclusion of cricket as a demonstration sport has now been taken up by the committee for consideration.

“Kempo is totally new to us but we can definitely field a golf team,” said the NOCC official. “It is good that Indonesia decided to include golf, which was a medal sport in the last edition in Laos.”

Radio links villagers to language


Photo by: UNESCO
A young Kreung man interviews a villager for a community radio station supported by UNESCO and Japanese agencies.

via CAAI

Wednesday, 13 October 2010 15:00 Isabel González Rojo

ETHNIC minority people living in four remote Cambodian villages are to benefit from solar battery-powered radio receivers.

More than 100 radio receivers, purchased by the Basic Human Needs Association, a UNESCO Japanese partner, with funding from two Japanese telecommunications agencies, were recently donated to the Kreung, Brao, Tampoun and Jarai indigenous community villages in Cambodia.

Tompoun, a woman from Ou Chum district, said: “I thank you very much for this present. In this village, we like listening to the radio and this receiver is very good because we do not need to buy batteries.

“Sometimes, we don't have 3,000 riel (US$0.75) to buy two batteries, so we cannot listen to the radio.”

In Cambodia, indigenous communities face serious challenges in diverse areas such as education, access to information, natural resources, land, and health service.

Concentrated in Mondulkiri, Ratanakiri and Preah Vihear provinces, the indigenous farming communities make up around two percent of Cambodia’s total population of 13.5 million.

In 2007, in the remote northern province of Ratanakiri, the Cambodian Ministry of Information, in association with UNESCO Phnom Penh, developed a radio system.

The station was initially launched as government radio, but gradually progressed into a community radio station. Community radio means “radio in the community, for the community, about the community and from the community”.

The community radio concept was further developed to help reduce HIV/AIDS vulnerability among ethnic minorities in Ratanakiri province, through the use of a radio drama in the Kreung language to spread awareness about the disease.

The young Kreung boys and girls who broadcast their own radio drama were reaching for the first time in their own indigenous community, in their own language.

The Cambodian government then began to acknowledge the importance of addressing a lack of information among indigenous communities and
of promoting the use of Cambodian indigenous languages, some of them at risk of disappearing forever.

Only Kreung – one of 16 indigenous languages in the country – has a written script. Therefore talking, through radio in this case, is the greatest way to promote and preserve this language.

Last year, the UNESCO Office in Phnom Penh organised and provided training sessions on how to run community radio to three additional ethnic groups: the Tompoun, Jarai, and Brao.

With young indigenous people equipped to develop radio programmes, aided by UNESCO’s donation of essential equipment, community radio continues broadcasting for one hour every day in the Kreung, Tompon, Jarai and Brao indigenous languages.

A male resident of a Kreung village said: “Before we could only listen to radio programmes in the Khmer language. Yes, I can understand the Khmer language, but I feel happier if I can listen to my own language.

“Now I receive news about our communities and our culture, apart from the national news. If good or bad things happen in our villages and in other parts of the country, I like to know.”

The radio receivers, which cost nothing to run, are helping indigenous communities improve their daily lives, through providing useful information related to health, culture, weather, education, environment, agriculture and forestry.

Indigenous communities are also being provided with means of communication and information. Through the radio, the community can promote its identity, its character and local culture, and create a diversity of voices.

Soun, a Brao indigenous girl, who is very active with community radio, said: “I and my friends at the community radio go to the villages at least twice a week. There, we interview the villagers. Depending on the radio programme, we ask them their ideas related to health, education, environment and climate change.

“Also, we ask them to let us know about the traditional ways to deal with troubles as well as about traditional folk tales, way of making traditional tools, handicrafts and cooking. When we finish, we come back to the radio station and we develop the news to be broadcast.

“By doing this, we make the stories available to everyone. We like it, and people in the villages enjoy it too. That is what they told me every time I go back to my own village. My community likes listening to me. They say they learn many things,” she added.

Floods continue to cause chaos


via CAAI

Tuesday, 12 October 2010 21:08 Buth Reaksmey Kongkea

Continuing rough weather has been blamed for the deaths of two people in Kampong Speu province, and more than 20 fishermen were said to have gone missing off the coast of Koh Kong province as a result of storms that have caused flooding nationwide.
Van Sokha, secretary to the Kampong Speu provincial governor, said two men were killed by electric shocks generated by a power line that was downed by strong winds.

The weather “had caused many factories and markets to shut” in the province and affected an untold number of hectares of rice crops, he said.

In Koh Kong, Thuon Chem, a fishing community representative in Kiri Sakor district, said at least 20 fishermen had been reported missing since the storms began on Sunday, but that she was hopeful they would be found.

“We are still searching for the boats and fishermen who were lost during the storm and heavy rains,” she said. “We think they are all OK, and we wish them all good luck.”

Phnom Penh police chief Touch Naruth said Dangkor appeared to be the worst-affected district, with the homes of 1,475 families from 16 villages sustaining “severe” damage.

At the Khmer Rouge tribunal, which is located in Dangkor district, flooding forced officials to relocate the five Khmer Rouge leaders currently in custody, said an official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to talk to the press.

Keo Vy, director of the National Committee for Disaster Management, said yesterday that the floods had hit most districts in seven provinces outside Phnom Penh: Kampot, Kampong Speu, Kandal, Siem Reap, Oddar Meanchey, Koh Kong and Preah Sihanouk

According to a statement issued Monday by the Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology, low atmospheric pressure is expected to see flooding continue through today in all lowland areas – including Phnom Penh – as well as in Kampong Speu, Prey Veng and Svay Rieng provinces.

Phnom Penh police chief Touch Naruth said on Monday that floods had hit every district in the capital. Dangkor appeared to be the worst-affected district, with the homes of 1,475 families from 16 villages sustaining “severe” damage, he added.

At the Khmer Rouge tribunal, which is located in Dangkor district, flooding forced officials to relocate the five Khmer Rouge leaders currently in custody, said an official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to talk to the press.

The official said all five – Kaing Guek Eav, Ieng Sary, Ieng Thirith, Khieu Samphan and Nuon Chea – had been temporarily moved from the detention facilities to another building.

Nov Saroeun, chief of the drainage and pumping unit at the Municipal Public Works and Transport Department, said the flooding had only affected those districts – Dangkor, Sen Sok, Meanchey and Russey Keo – that were not covered by a drainage system that is in the process of being installed citywide.

“Although we lack proper drainage systems in all parts of the city, we are working hard to pump the water from dams and other flooded areas,” he said.

Keo Vy, director of the National Committee for Disaster Management, said yesterday that the floods had hit most districts in seven provinces outside Phnom Penh: Kampot, Kampong Speu, Kandal, Siem Reap, Oddar Meanchey, Koh Kong and Preah Sihanouk.

In Kandal, Judge Leang Sour said that roughly 95 percent of documents at the provincial court were destroyed because of flooding on Monday. He said most of the documents were complaint letters lodged to the court. “However, we will be able to get copies from lawyers, plaintiffs and other people,” he said.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY THET SAMBATH

Monk convicted for porn to face fresh charges


via CAAI

Tuesday, 12 October 2010 22:56 Chrann Chamroeun

Phnom Penh Municipal Court has scheduled a new hearing for a monk convicted last month of producing and distributing pornography after secretly filming hundreds of naked women at a pagoda.

Neth Kai, 35, a former monk at Srah Chak pagoda, was arrested on June 26 after being accused of using a mobile phone to secretly record the videos, which were then distributed.

Four women have filed complaints against the monk since then.

In a case that involved only one complainant, the court in September sentenced Neth Kai to one year in prison and ordered him to pay US$9,456 in compensation, as well as a $472 fine.

Neth Kai’s defence lawyer, Chea Kay, said the court had sent him a letter requesting his attendance at a hearing on October 21 related to the remaining three complainants, two of whom were underage at the time of the filming.

“He is facing the same charges against the three victims, but two were aged between 16 and 17,” he said.

Because of the two underage victims, Chea Hay said the monk faces a much stiffer penalty if found guilty in the second case.

He said Article 41 of the Law on the Suppression of Human Trafficking and Sexual Exploitation stipulates that he faces a sentence of between five to 10 years in prison.

“I will attend the hearings to defend my client and find ways to free him of the charges,” he said.

Monks, laymen and nuns were forced to vacate the pagoda when the scandal broke. Meas Kung, the former chief abbot, was forced to resign from his post.

Chhoeung Bunchea, who was appointed chief abbot of the pagoda following Meas Kung’s dismissal, said yesterday that the situation at the pagoda “has been improving gradually” since his appointment.

“Lots of people still came to the pagoda during the Pchum Ben festival and worshipped, because they understand that this is an individual incident committed by Neth Kai, and does not involve the religion,” he said.

He said that the decision to charge the disgraced monk again was “right and just”.

“Justice is pending for the victims who were secretly filmed,” he added.

Security guard pleads self-defence in murder case


via CAAI

Tuesday, 12 October 2010 22:54 Chrann Chamroeun

Phnom Penh Municipal Court has heard the case against a security guard charged with the premeditated murder of a Malaysian businessman and his Cambodian chef in February.

Nop Thearo, 20, was arrested on February 24 after being accused of stabbing Lim Theang An – the 71-year-old director of the Karasans company, a Malaysia-based engineering firm – to death the previous night at his house in Chamkarmon district’s Boeung Keng Kang I commune.

He is also accused of murdering Cambodian Hem Mali, 51, who was working that night as a chef for Lim Theang An.

According to a police report the accused allegedly stabbed the pair while working the evening shift at the Chamkarmon house. He later allegedly moved the bodies to the trunk of the victim’s car with the intention of abandoning the vehicle.

However, the report said he then changed his mind and dragged the bodies back to the entrance of the house, then brought a safe from downstairs in an attempt to fool police into thinking their deaths were the result of a robbery. The accused then waited for police to arrive.

Nop Thearo denied the charges against him during the court hearing, insisting he had been acting in self-defence.

“I heard loud sounds during the night, and I went to investigate and accidentally touched the front door,” he said. “The old woman then began to shout ‘thief’, but I tried to tell her, ‘It is me, Thearo’.”

He told the court the pair kept screaming, prompting him to try to cover Lim Theang An’s mouth.

He said he was then struck by Lim Theang An in the head with a petrol can.

“He grabbed a knife and stabbed me in the stomach, but I fought him and stabbed him with his own knife in the stomach just once,” he said.

“The old woman then came at me with a knife, but I dodged it and she stabbed the man in the stomach a second time.”

He said the woman then grabbed his penis and refused to let go, leading him to stab her. “It really hurt, and I told her to take her hands away but she ignored me,” he said. “I then attacked her with the knife twice.”

If found guilty of premeditated murder, Nop Thearo faces between 15 and 20 years in prison.

Defence lawyer Hun Sam Ath requested that court officials change the charge from premeditated murder to intentional murder, which carries a sentence of between 10 and 15 years.

“It was a dangerous situation, and he was forced to defend himself,” he said

Lawyer Chhe Vibol, acting on behalf of the victims’ families, said there was “enough evidence” and testimony to convict Nop Thearo of premeditated murder, and added that Lim Theang An’s former colleague Ka Sinath had requested US$70,000 in compensation due to lost consumer confidence and productivity since the murders.

Presiding judge Ker Sakhorn said a verdict is scheduled for October 21.

Indochine Mining to raise millions


via CAAI

Tuesday, 12 October 2010 22:50 Catherine James

Gold and copper miner Indochine Mining Ltd, which is exploring concessions in two Cambodian provinces, said it expects to raise as much as A$25 million (US$24.5 million) in an initial public offering after receiving commitments from investors around the world.

Indochine’s Phnom Penh-based operations manager and board member Ross Hill said that many institutional investors were seeking exposure to Cambodia’s gold and copper resources, with investors confirmed from the United Kingdom, Switzerland, the United States, Papua New Guinea, China, Malaysia and Australia.
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“Already attracted at an early stage and continuing to support the company are some of the world’s most prestigious and professional investment houses,” he told the Post via email.

“For example, the company’s largest single investor Jabre Capital Partners is one of Europe’s biggest and the best performing fund in 2009.”

Geneva-based Jabre has $4 billion in funds under management, according to its website.

Sydney-headquartered Indochine will list on the Australian Stock Exchange (ASX) by early November with its IPO due to close to institutional investors “in coming days” and to retail investors shortly thereafter, Hill wrote.

Priced at A$0.20 per share, Indochine aimed to raise $12 million with provision to float another $13 million worth of shares, depending on market demand.

“Current indications are that the company will have received applications at the higher end of the [$12 - $25 million] range by the time the offer closes,” the company said in a statement posted on its website.

Indochine also announced the hire of a new chief executive, Stephen Promnitz, who is currently the corporate development manager of ASX-listed Kingsgate Consolidated, which owns and operates the Chatree gold mine in neighbouring Thailand.

Hill said Indochine’s former chief and company founder, David Evans, supported the change of leadership.

“[He] recognises that the injection of a contemporary career professional executive, with worldwide development experience including Thailand, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea and Argentina, would be of enormous assistance to further advance, develop and enhance the prospects of the company,” he said.

Evans remains with the company as an executive director.

Indochine began exploring in Cambodia in 2007. With tenements of 2,900 square kilometres in Ratanakkiri province and 1,400 square kilometres in Kratie province, it claims to have the largest landholding of all miners in the Kingdom.

Hill said the new funds would be used to start drilling multiple key targets that the company has identified.

Meanwhile, Cambodia-focused gold explorer Brighton Mining Group has officially listed on the ASX with shares set to start trading within the next ten days, after reaching its A$2.2 million target in a recent IPO.

The Perth-headquartered company, with tenements in Mondulkiri, declined to comment on its investor base or company plans, saying it would wait until shares began trading.

Cambodia link to Abhisit assassination plot dismissed


via CAAI

Tuesday, 12 October 2010 22:46 Cheang Sokha and James O’Toole

Cambodian officials say Prime Minister Hun Sen will “absolutely not” discuss allegations that anti-government activists from Thailand received weapons training in Cambodia during a meeting later this month with Thai premier Abhisit Vejjajiva.

On Monday, an official from Thailand’s Department of Special Investigation reportedly alleged that a group of 11 antigovernment Red Shirt activists arrested in Thailand this month had received instruction from Cambodian troops during a three-week training session in the Kingdom earlier this year.

The activists, DSI investigator Payao Thongsen reportedly said, were part of a group of 39 people preparing to assassinate Abhisit and other Thai public figures.

Cambodian officials have strongly denied the allegations.

“The report from the Thai department of special investigation is rubbish and could provoke tension between the two countries, whose relations have been steadily improving,” Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Koy Kuong said.

"Samdech [Hun Sen] will absolutely not discuss the case of the Red Shirts with Abhisit because it never happened, and Cambodia has rejected these allegations many times already."

Thailand’s MCOT state news agency and the Bangkok Post quoted Thai government spokesman Panitan Wattanayagorn as saying that Abhisit would “seek clarification” on the matter from Hun Sen when the two attend a meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in Hanoi later this month.

Reached by phone, Panitan said only that Abhisit was looking forward to a “fruitful” discussion with Hun Sen in Hanoi.

“The Thai government does not accuse our neighbours of wrongdoing,” Panitan said

The Bangkok Post has also reported that Thawil Pliensri, the secretary general of Thailand’s national security council, said it was true that the Red Shirts had undergone weapons training in Cambodia, but stressed the Thai government was “not making any accusation” against Cambodia.

The allegations come amid a period of otherwise-warming relations between the two countries.

After nearly a year of acrimony related to their border dispute and Cambodia’s appointment of ousted former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra as an economics adviser, Abhisit and Hun Sen have held face-to-face meetings twice in recent weeks, first in New York and then in Brussels.

In August, the countries restored their respective ambassadors, who had been withdrawn for the past nine months after Thailand protested Thaksin’s appointment. A bitter rival of Abhisit, Thaksin is wanted in his home country on graft charges and lives in exile.

Minister of Information Khieu Kanharith said that the allegations were a “trick” by Thailand.

“The officials who are in charge of this matter should walk away from their posts,” Khieu Kanharith said.

Pavin Chachavalpongpun, a fellow at Singapore’s Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, said in an email that the matter should have been handled through diplomatic channels rather than through the media.

“The fact that the DSI has revealed these allegations makes me wonder if this is another political tool of the elite to gain political points,” Pavin said.

“Do not forget that part of the military has supported the [anti-Thaksin] Yellow Shirts, who have continued to politicise the temple issue, and the DSI was supposedly founded as an anti-Thaksin machinery,” he added.

“There are valid reasons to believe that the allegations are publicised to affect relations with Cambodia.”

Wireless “Wimax” derailed in the Kingdom


Photo by: Rick Valenzuela
Suong Senghuot, a leased line supervisor for Wicam, checks a line for a customer on the corner of Monireth and Sihanouk boulevards. Wicam spent $30,000 preparing WiMAX stations but says the technology may never launch.

via CAAI

Tuesday, 12 October 2010 22:38 Jeremy Mullins

Companies planning to offer wireless ‘WiMAX’ internet in the Kingdom are exploring alternate business models and writing off investments, after a long-running dispute over frequency allocation put their licences in doubt.

In January, seven leading Internet Service Providers (ISPs) wrote to Prime Minister Hun Sen to lodge a complaint regarding the allocation of a specific frequency range – which had already been granted to the ISPs for WiMAX use.

The Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications had also issued the 2.5GHz to 2.7 GHz frequency range to a firm called Star Digital TV – putting ISPs’ existing permits in doubt.

Despite talks, ISPs have told the Post that the issue has yet to be resolved and firms are now counting the cost of the furore.

Sok Channda, CEO of Cambodia Data Communications, parent company to both Mekong Net and Angkor Net ISP, said it was still not cleared to operate WiMAX technology, despite meeting with the Ministry on several occasions.

“It really affected our business,” she said. “We had already invested.”

She estimated the inability to launch WiMAX could cost them in excess of US$1 million, and added the firm had already signed a 10-year partnership to bring the technology to the Kingdom.

The firm had also considered a separate partnership to introduce Voice over Internet Protocol calls using WiMAX, she said, but it was now looking at different ways to provide internet connections to households.

Hy Borin, system administrator at Wicam ISP, said the dispute had lasted for over a year, and that a solution had not been found.

Wicam – which also signed the letter to the prime minister – claims to have spent some $30,000 preparing WiMAX stations, but now plans to reinvest in fibre cables to deliver internet the “last mile” to homes.

As negotiations with the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications proved fruitless at resolving the dispute, he said there may never be WiMAX in Cambodia.

Hyam Bolande, vice president at Chuan Wei – another affected firm – declined to comment directly on the issue, but said Cambodia’s economic and social development needs more affordable broadband in the hands of more people.

“The only way that’s going to happen in this country on a mass level is wireless [internet],” he said.

The other companies that saw their WiMAX licences affected included Wireless IP, Angkor Data Communication Group, CityLink, Craig Wireless Systems, Global Telecom, and Sotelco.

The letter sent to the prime minister said that reissuing the licences sent “the investment community, both current and potential, the wrong message about investment protection and rule of law in Cambodia”.

Minister of Posts and Telecommunications Sok Khun declined to comment on the issue, as did representatives of Star Digital TV.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING SEN DAVID

ក្រុង​តាខ្មៅ​លិចលង់​ដោយ​ទឹក​ភ្លៀង Rain Water Floods Ta Khmao Province

The first Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Defence Ministers Meeting Plus in Hanoi

(R-L) Australia's Defence Minister Stephen Smith, Brunei's Deputy Defence Minister Mustappa Sirat, Cambodia's Defence Minister Tea Banh, China's Defence Minister Liang Guanglie, Indian's Defence Minister Arackaparambil Kurian Antony, Indonesia's Defence Minister Purnomo Yugiantoro and Japan's Deputy Defence Minister Jun Azumi pose for a group photo prior to the opening of the first Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Defence Ministers Meeting Plus in Hanoi October 12, 2010. REUTERS/Hoang Dinh Nam/Pool

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates (front) walks past (L-R) India's Defence Minister Shri AK Antony, China's Defence Minister Liang Guanglie, Cambodia's Defence Minister Tea Banh and Brunei's Deputy Defence Minister Mustappa Sirat before the first Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Defence Ministers Meeting Plus at the National Convention Center in Hanoi October 12, 2010. REUTERS/Kham

Defense ministers pose for a photo before their meeting at the first South East Asian Defense Ministers Meeting Plus in Hanoi on Tuesday October 12, 2010. Eighteen defense ministers from Australia, Brunei, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, New Zealand, the Philippines, Russia, South Korea, Singapore, Thailand, the U.S. and Vietnam are in Hanoi for their first meeting of only one-day meeting on Tuesday. (AP Photo/Kham, Pool)

(L-R) ASEAN's Secretary General Surin Pitsuwan, US Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Thailand's Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwan, Singapore's Defence Minister Teo Chee Hean, Russia's Deputy Chief of Staff Valery Gerasimov and Philippines' Defence Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, New Zealand's Defence Minister Wayne Mapp, Lao's Defense Minister Doungchay Phichit, Malaysia's Defence Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamid, Vietnam's Defence Minister Phung Quang Thanh, Myanmar's ambassador to Vietnam Khin Maung Soe, South Korean Defence Minister Kim Tae-young, Japanese Deputy Defence Minister Jun Azumi, Indonesian Defence Minister Purnomo Yusgiantoro, India's Defence Minister Arackaparambil Kurian Antony, China's Defence Minister Liang Guanglie, Cambodia's Defence Minister Tea Banh, Bruney's Deputy Defence Minister Mustappa Sirat and Australian Defence Minister Stephen Smith pose for a group photo prior to the opening of the first Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Defence Ministers Meeting Plus in Hanoi October 12, 2010. REUTERS/Hoang Dinh Nam/Pool

Cambodia corruption plan flawed, say campaigners

via CAAI

New Cambodian anti-corruption plan will not stop high-level offenders

Cambodia’s new anti-corruption strategy is a welcome step forward but there are some serious flaws in its design that mean it will fail to tackle corruption at the top of the political elite, warned Global Witness today. The lack of separation between the new Anti-Corruption Unit and the executive is a major weakness that makes prosecution of senior political figures extremely unlikely.

“The need for a credible anti-corruption initiative is clear but as it stands this strategy will not succeed in catching the real villains”, said Global Witness campaigner George Boden. “Cambodia’s donors should not be fooled: this does not represent a break from the well-documented and entrenched patterns of corruption at the highest levels of Cambodia’s government, and it should not be welcomed as such.”

Global Witness has repeatedly documented how senior Cambodian government officials have sold off the rights to the country’s natural resources in dubious deals, against the interests of ordinary Cambodians and the environment. Senior figures close to the Prime Minister have personally benefitted from this wholesale stripping of the country’s assets, and yet very little action has been taken to address this situation.

The new anti-corruption strategy offered an opportunity to form a genuinely independent oversight mechanism. Instead the government has established a body which risks being undermined by undue executive influence. The threat of defamation against whistleblowers is also likely to deter many from coming forward.

The head of the new Anti-Corruption Unit is a close associate of Prime Minister Hun Sen and has links to mining interests. The concentration of the unit’s decision making powers in this man’s hands seriously undermines the chances of there being any real challenge to the behaviour of the prime minister’s corrupt cabal of family members, senior businesspeople and government officials and politicians.

In spite of the obvious flaws, Cambodia’s international aid donors have said the strategy will ‘play a major role in improving public sector governance’ and ‘improve Cambodia's international competitiveness’.

“The Cambodia government has a track record of pacifying its international aid donors with reformist rhetoric and commitments to transparency, while in fact doing little to change their actual behaviour. This anti-corruption strategy looks like the latest example of this tactic,” said Boden. “Donors need to get serious about promoting transparency as a central plank of their engagement with the country.”

Dance illuminates bullying at Bryn Mawr College


via CAAI

Published: Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Khmer Arts Ensemble's "The Lives of Giants" at McPherson Auditorium, Goodhart Hall, Bryn Mawr College 101 N. Merion Ave., Bryn Mawr, Friday, Oct 22 at 8 p.m. Tickets: $20, general admission; $18, seniors; $10 for students; $5, children 12 and under; Free for Bryn Mawr, Haverford, and Swarthmore students. Info: 610-526-5210 or www.brynmawr.edu/arts

By Tara Lynn Johnson

Dance is universal and so are some topics the art form can bring to life. In a time when bullying is in the news in the U.S., a Cambodian dance troupe explores violence and the effects it can have on culture in a world premiere titled “The Lives of Giants.” The Khmer Arts Ensemble, an internationally-acclaimed classical dance and music troupe, takes the stage at Bryn Mawr College for one night only, Oct. 22.

“The Lives of Giants,” created by co-founder and artistic director Sophiline Cheam Shapiro, tells the story of Akheang Khamaso, a much-mistreated giant in Shiva’s heavenly temple who seeks a weapon to protect himself from the taunts of mischievous angels. But when Shiva grants him a magic finger that can make anyone disappear, he can’t help dishing out abuse in return.

Once Vishnu finds out about the chaos raging through heaven, he transforms himself into a beautiful dancer and seduces Akheang Khamaso, tricking the giant into turning his magic finger on himself. Then Akheang Khamaso vows to be reborn with even more power in order to continue the cycle of abuse and violence that is his fate in this life and the next.

As Akheang Khamaso’s demonic nature surges, Cheam Shapiro’s depiction of heaven devolves. Layers of elaborate traditional costuming and the formal vocabulary of the classical Cambodian dance form are stripped away to reveal the sadness and frustration of a bully and a resonant message about the tragic effects of violence on a culture.

Thirty dancers and musicians tell the tale created by Cheam Shapiro, a choreographer, dancer, vocalist and educator of classical Cambodian dance. Raised in Phnom Penh, she studied dance at the University of Fine Arts there and became a teacher in 1981. She moved to California in 1991 and studied dance ethnology at UCLA from 1997 to 1999.

According to a press release, Cheam Shapiro maintains the core of traditional Cambodian dance while adding contemporary content, such as the role of women in traditional cultures and working with contemporary composers.

Cheam Shapiro feels that Cambodians have not yet come to terms with the extraordinary cruelty and suffering of their recent history and would rather avert their eyes. In her works exploring morality and identity, giants (an archetypal figure in Cambodian dance) are a vital and complex resource for addressing the issues that resonate within her life and culture.

Like many of her fellow Cambodians, Cheam Shapiro loves folklore and mythology.

“Myths and stories have the capacity to draw us into another world that allows us to reflect on our own,” she said.

To her, dance is a way to transcend poverty, hopelessness and loss. She learned to dance in the aftermath of genocide and amid civil war. As an adult, she’s used dance as a way to understand the root causes of failed societies and to explore alternative paths.

In the grander scheme of things, dance (and art in general) is important to the world because it helps people transcend the mundane and reflect on their world from different points of view, she said.

In Cambodia, there are many forms of dance — it can be for celebration, courtship, ritual or stage performance, she said. Cheam Shapiro works in classical dance, which has been associated with spirituality and authority. In recent times, it has served as a symbol of cultural rebirth.

“I hope through my work, dance is becoming a way for the culture to explore the future while keeping a close eye on its past,” she said.

Cheam Shapiro hopes that audiences will be “seduced by the fantastic story, movements, sets and costumes, which inhabit a highly stylized and unfamiliar depiction of heaven, and, at the same time, become more acutely aware of the very real issues the story explores — specifically self-perpetuating cycles of bullying, violence and abuse that exacerbate human suffering and destroy the sublime.”

She hopes dance will bring people together and make them think. She knows the power it can have, even in the most unlikely circumstances.

When Cheam Shapiro was a teenager, she performed with a troupe of students in a remote Cambodian province during a civil war. The morning after one performance, a noodle seller in the market told them that Khmer Rouge guerillas had come to the performance armed with rocket launchers intending to kill them. The noodle seller told them that the guerillas liked the dancing so much they stayed until the end, clapped and went back to their jungle base.

“It’s not every day that art will save your life,” she said, “but if dance can bring out the humanity in the most hardened warriors, it can do almost anything.”