Saturday, 27 November 2010

DAP News. Breaking News by Soy Sopheap

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Cambodian singers, dancers leave for friendship concert in Bangkok

Saturday, 27 November 2010 08:08 Xinhua

PHNOM PENH, Nov. 27 (Xinhua) -- Five most popular singers and a group of blessing dancers left for Thailand on Saturday morning for a joint concert in order to strengthen relationship and culture exchange between Cambodia and Thailand, said an information official.

"This is the first time that Cambodia sent singers to join concert in Thailand since the border conflict at the complex of Preah Vihear temple happened (in July 2008)," Nouv Sovathero, secretary of state for the Ministry of Information, said Saturday.

A free concert aimed at strengthening Cambodia-Thai relations will be held on Sunday, Nov. 28 at the Indoor Stadium at Hua Mark in Bangkok, he said.

"The concert will be live televised through the state-owned National Television of Cambodia (TVK) and other TVs in Cambodia," he added.

At the musical and cultural shows, the Cambodian artists will perform together with Thai artists, he said.

"Through the concert, we hope that the relationship and mutual understanding on cultures between the two countries will be better, " he said.

He said in the future, Cambodia will organize such concert and will also invite Thai artists for the event.

Cambodia and Thailand had border conflict just one week after Cambodia's Preah Vihear Temple was registered as World Heritage Site in July 2008. And several military clashes have already been happened with recorded small causalities from both sides.

The border issue, however, has been eased as the top leaders of Cambodia and Thailand have held several meetings since September. .

Cambodia National Assembly Approves 2.4 billion Budgets for 2011Development

Saturday, 27 November 2010 02:16 DAP NEWS / VIBOL

CAMBODIA, PHNOM PENH, Nov 26, 2010-Cambodia National assembly on Friday approved 2.4 billion budgets for 2011 development to a move to boost social and economic development.

The budget will contribute to health ministry with $173 million, national defense and security ministry with 312 million US dollars, education with 230 million US dollar, and the national budget in 2011 increased about, 1970 million if comparing with last year.

The government also will release 50 million US dollar to buy rice product from local farmers and turn the country to be rice basket to supply global market and last year, it harvested about 7 million ton with surplus of 3 million tons of rice product.

At the same time, the government will export one million of milled rice product by 2015. The government needs the budget to reduce poverty of 27 per cent and conclude one per cent annually.

Paying a high price for cheap sex


Prostitutes outside a brothel in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Photograph: Rob Elliott/AFP/Getty Images

via CAAI

The Irish Times
Saturday, November 27, 2010

MAGAN' WORLD: Manch├ín Magan’s tales of a travel addict
HOW MUCH for a really good hooker in Cambodia these days? For a young one, just down from her remote mountain village.

As a travel supplement aimed at helping travellers get the best from their holidays it would be remiss of us not to cover this important tourism growth area. After all, 22 per cent of foreign visitors to Cambodia in 2000 were there for sex; no doubt some may have been Irish Times readers. So, in the interests of catering to readers of all tastes, let’s seek out the best value for yam-yam and bam-bam.

It might help first to take a quick glance at international sex trafficking statistics, as a large proportion of Cambodian sex workers are trafficked in from Vietnam and northern Thailand. The pretty little girl you buy is likely to have been either kidnapped by neighbours or sold by desperate relatives for a few hundred euro.

She will probably have been held in the brothel you found her in, or in some squat belonging to the pimp from whom you bought her, but one needn’t think of it as imprisonment.

She is, in theory, free to leave at any time, once she has paid back the expenses incurred in bringing her there. These debts aren’t as terribly crippling as you might imagine – a large proportion will have been cleared in the first few months, when she was first sold as a virgin for top dollar to a few lucky foreigners, after that her value quickly plummets, so that within a few months you could pick her up for less than €50 if you know how to bargain. Or even as low as €10 if you wait until she is strung out on heroin, and possibly infected with HIV.

By then the brothel has little use for her, and would be glad to sell her freedom to you for a nominal fee to cover any remaining charges for room and board, or any abortions she may have had to undergo due to “carelessness”.

It’s odd that although one may go to Cambodia seeking sex, one finds instead a last vestige of slavery, not the brutish, bewhiskered 19th century type involving scurrilous men in knee-length breeches and boots, but something more subtle and innocuous. The United Nations estimates that between 700,000 and 4 million people are cajoled from their homes and sold into slavery worldwide each year. Some 80 per cent are women, girls and young boys trafficked into commercial sexual exploitation. They are lured with false promises of low-skilled jobs in waitressing, modelling or domestic help, at ever younger ages: the average age of trafficked prostitutes in some Asian brothels is 14.

There’s unlikely to be a famous Harriet Tubman or Frederick Douglass-type figure leading an heroic revolution of enslaved sex workers to liberty, because such is the debased status of women in many Asian societies that some will have voluntarily agreed to their enslavement to help feed a hungry family or provide medicine for a sick relative. Once the money has been earned, in theory they are free to return home, but in practise a village community is unlikely to allow them forget their act of generosity. They will be stigmatised, unable to marry. Their sacrifice is for life – although that might not in fact be very long: many die of Aids by their 20s, or are so severely afflicted with post-traumatic stress disorder that they drink or drug themselves to an early grave.

The leading causes of death among trafficked women are homicide, suicide, drug/alcohol related problems and HIV. In fact, the homicide rate among trafficked women is 17 per cent higher then the average.

But, I’ve drifted off-topic. To get back to finding a really good prostitute in Cambodia. First off, I am told it’s best to say you are going on a golfing holiday . . .

Cambodian victims remembered

http://www.montrealgazette.com/

via CAAI
Crowds visit site of stampede during day of mourning

By MICHELLE FITZPATRICK, AFP November 26, 2010


Crowds of mourners offered flowers and incense yesterday at the site of a stampede that killed almost 350 people after panic spread over rumours an overcrowded bridge was about to collapse.

Prime Minister Hun Sen, dressed in black, wiped away a tear and burnt incense at the foot of the narrow bridge, as he led the country in a national day of mourning at a short service.

Flowers and food offerings for the souls of the deceased replaced the shoes, clothing and plastic bottles that were discarded by victims and had remained as grim reminders of Monday's disaster.

Officials said throngs of revellers celebrating the nation's annual water festival apparently panicked as rumours rippled through the crowds that the crossing to an island in Phnom Penh was about to give way.

The death toll was revised down to 347 from 456 because some victims had been mistakenly included twice, the social affairs ministry said.

Of those who perished, 221 were women. Hospitals reported 395 people were injured.

At the memorial ceremony, Hun Sen's wife, Bun Rany, stood at her husband's side and cried as a military band played a sombre tune.

Flags flew at half-staff at government buildings across the capital, and many women wore white shirts, a colour of mourning in Cambodia.

Streams of people, including foreigners, lined up to lay out fruit, rice and water for the spirits of the dead.

The offerings are part of Khmer tradition, said 28-year-old mourner Bou Rany, to appease the souls of the deceased.

"We do not know where their spirits will go," she said.

Also laying flowers was Soth Chay Heang, who said she was angry about the incident.

"I don't want the bridge to reopen now. That has to wait until the people have released all their sorrow," the 23-year-old graduate said.

Om Yentieng, the premier's top adviser, said the bridge would open to foot traffic again soon.

"The use of the bridge will continue," he told reporters at the memorial service.

Initial findings from a probe into the stampede released Wednesday suggested a combination of factors was to blame. A panel is investigating the tragedy.

Cambodia calls for resumption of six-party talks on Korean Peninsula tension

via CAAI

November 27, 2010

The Cambodian government issued a statement on Saturday calling for a resumption of six-party talks on problems in Korean Peninsula.

The statement sent out to the media on Saturday morning said the Royal Government of Cambodia has "learned with great concern the exchange of artillery shelling on the Yeonpyeong Island of the Republic of Korea, on 23 November, resulting in damages and casualties."

"The Royal Government of Cambodia calls for the resumption of the six-party talks at the earliest possible in order to prevent further escalation of the tension which will endanger peace, security in the Korean Peninsula as well as in the whole region," according to the statement of the spokesman of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation.

The statement also appealed to "all parties concerned to stop any act of provocation and exercise maximum self restraint in order to prevent the situation from escalating and to seek for a peaceful settlement of problems in the Korean Peninsula."

South Korea and the Democratic People 's Republic of Korea ( DPRK) exchanged artillery fire on Tuesday in waters off the west coast of the Korean Peninsula, leaving four people dead.

Source: Xinhua

First Vietnamese supermarket to open in Cambodia

via CAAI

11/27/2010

The first Vietnamese supermarket in Phnom Penh Cambodia will open at 717-719 Monivong Street on December 29.

This was announced by the Chairman of the Vietnamese Supermarket brand and Deputy Chairman of the Vietnamese Business Association in Cambodia, Seng Meng (Le Minh).

The supermarket was build with a total investment capital of US$3 million by the Z38 Company to introduce and sell Vietnamese products to Cambodians and overseas Vietnamese living in Cambodia.

Vietnamese Supermarket hopes to become an effective promoter and distributor of Vietnamese goods for the country’s businesses and create credibility among the Cambodian consumers.

Cambodian anger over stampede management

http://www.abc.net.au/

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Zoe Daniel reported this story on Sunday, November 28, 2010

ELIZABETH JACKSON: Cambodia is still coming to terms with the deaths of hundreds of people killed in a stampede on Monday at Phnom Penh's annual Water Festival. Most of the bodies have been identified and some funerals have been held, but anger over the management of the event and the lack of control over the huge crowd has grown.

Here's our South-East Asia correspondent Zoe Daniel.

ZOE DANIEL: Cambodian people are extraordinarily resilient, possibly as a result of the country's horrific past. But Monday's stampede shocked the nation, the mass death a grim reminder of the dark days of the Khmer Rouge and an image that Cambodia is trying desperately to shake.

Outside hospitals across the city the confusion and devastation was raw as people searched for the missing and found the dead.

(Sounds of anguished people)

Hundreds lay in makeshift morgues and hundreds more laid inside hospital rooms, battered and bruised but alive. Fifteen-year-old Moeum told me through a translator that he was pinned under a pile of bodies for two hours before he was pulled out by rescuers.

(Moeum speaking)

TRANSLATOR: He says it was too crowded, there was no space to move at all. People just getting closer and closer until they, none of them could move.

ZOE DANIEL: Paul Hurford is an Australian fireman who runs an NGO in Phnom Penh to help train and advise Cambodian authorities on the management of disasters. He and his team from Australian Firefighters International Relief and Education were on the scene with local rescue workers after the stampede.

PAUL HURFORD: The scene was fairly well organised at the time that we arrived, the police had established a secure area for the casualties and were holding the general public out. As it was concerns of so many people within the area.

The ambulance system was working quite well, transporting people to and from, to the hospitals and keeping the people flowing from the site where there wasn't many resources. But there was still a lot of casualties and it wasn't a very pretty sight.

ZOE DANIEL: The scene was horrific - hundreds dead from suffocation and crush injuries and others drowned in the river.

PAUL HURFORD: Personally I found it quite challenging, it's, it was a very large incident and as we see now we've got over 345 fatalities from the event and another 300-plus people seriously injured.

So, I mean, in any scale, whether we're here in Cambodia or in a developed country in a big city, it's still a major incident and still quite challenging for anyone to deal with.

ZOE DANIEL: Dr Tim Keenan is an orthopaedic surgeon from Perth who frequently travels to Cambodia to assist with the Australian Orthopaedic Association's outreach program. He was working in the Kossamak Hospital - one of the places where the dead were brought for identification and the injured were brought for treatment.

DR TIM KEENAN: The people were intertwined and jammed into each other for a number of hours on the bridge and there was really no broken bones but there was what we call these crush injuries where your limbs get sort of under pressure for some period of time and they you get what's called a compartment syndrome where the muscle builds up a lot of pressure and stops the circulation and the sensation to that limb.

ZOE DANIEL: Television footage showed desperate rescuers pulling those who were still alive out of the crush of bodies.

Dr Keenan says the way they were extracted was understandable but not ideal.

DR TIM KEENAN: They're not really skilled or rehearsed at disaster management so a lot of these people were being extracted under quite difficult circumstances and probably the way they were extracted wasn't the correct way to do it.

But still, that's in the circumstances, people extract people the best way they can and then they're brought by an ambulance which isn't really what we would consider an ambulance, without any oxygen or facilities.

One of the big problems in Phnom Penh and the hospital is that the intensive care facilities are very primitive and the staff are not trained in the management of these involved cases so sadly a lot of patients who perhaps in the western situation may have been managed better cannot be managed at that high level here in Phnom Penh.

ZOE DANIEL: The first funerals have been held for the dead, but they haven't given closure to relatives who want to know why crowd control wasn't better. Three million people came to Phnom Penh for the Water Festival, yet the government admits it overlooked the potential for this kind of incident.

Early police investigations indicate that the overloaded bridge was shaking and that probably triggered the stampede.

This is Zoe Daniel reporting for Correspondents Report.

Victims of Cambodian tragedy remembered

http://www.contracostatimes.com/

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Donations will be accepted for those who died at Water Festival

By Greg Mellen, Staff Writer
Posted: 11/26/2010
LONG BEACH -- Members of the Cambodian American Business Association and other civic organizations will be holding a memorial Saturday at MacArthur Park, 1321 E. Anaheim St. from noon to 4 p.m. for the victims in this week's tragedy at the Water Festival in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
A candlelight vigil will follow from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Members of the groups will be collecting donations for families of the 347 victims who died when crowds panicked and stampeded at a riverside celebration.

Information is avaiable by calling Thary Ung, 626-383-7559, Anthony Kim, 626-261-0765, or Ratha Chan, 562-206-9004, or online at http://www.cambaonline.org/ .

Cambodian water festival will continue despite tragedy


People place offerings and incense sticks for the victims of the stampede near the Diamond Gate bridge, site of a stampede late on November 22 which left nearly 350 people dead, in Phnom Penh on November 25, 2010 as Cambodia holds a national day of mourning.
HOANG DINH NAM/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

via CAAI
Published On Fri Nov 26 2010

Lauren Crothers
Special to The Star

PHNOM PENH—The bodies lay on mats, some cocooned in clear plastic body bags. Others were shrouded with thin, white sheets, some blotted with specks of blood. The bodies seemed innumerable, filling the porch area of a makeshift morgue on a sandy plot in Khmer Soviet Hospital.

An anxious crowd overwhelmed hospital officials, sitting at a little table nearby laden with papers and photographs of corpses bearing ID numbers. Relatives wanted to know where their loved ones were.

This was an end no one saw coming when the annual water festival, which ushers in the end to the monsoon season and marks the reversal of the flow of the Tonle Sap river, on the banks of which this mostly sleepy Cambodian capital lies.

The festival, in many ways, is the event of the year, marked by boat races, concerts, fairground rides and an influx of up to 3 million people this year — mostly from the provinces — to the city.

The long stretch of open park area from Independence Monument to the riverbank is crammed with stalls selling everything from face whitening cream to laundry powder to prawn crackers in bulk — and the constant, high-pitched drone of promotional specials make sure the crowds here can’t ignore it.

What usually takes a 10-minute walk from the monument, built to mirror one of Angkor Wat’s iconic pagodas, can take almost an hour during the festival. While many of roads are closed to traffic, that doesn’t mean the driver of a moto, the preferred method of transport here, will obey.

So the crowds negotiate each other, the blaring speakers and rogue motos. The throng is headed in the direction of Koh Pich, or Diamond Island, a short walk over one of two bridges connecting it to the mainland. The people are here for food, the fair, perhaps a concert or some Japanese wrestling. The entire experience is a sensory overload, punctuated by the fact that no one can really get anywhere quickly. It’s an awkward, shuffling, dodging, waiting game when there are millions of people headed in the same direction.

And on Monday, the final night of festivities, the sheer number of people coupled with a comparatively small bridge resulted in a stampede that left at least 347 people dead, and nearly 400 more injured.

A government investigation found that thousands of revellers cramming the bridge panicked as it began to sway under their weight. Some shouted that the structure was going to collapse; the crowd pushed and heaved, setting off the stampede.

It was the kind of tragedy people here are saying they have not seen here since the fall of the Khmer Rouge in 1979.

Behind the cordoned-off scene on Friday night, in the shadow of the Nagaworld Hotel and Casino, crowds gathered to light incense, say prayers and just stare at what some are now calling the “Bridge of Ghosts.”

Sem Sophea, 36, a businessman in Phnom Penh, came to see the site for himself, having spent the first day of the festival in the beach resort town of Sihanoukville, about three hours away, and the second at home with his family.

“The way it generally works is that the city people keep their distance, while the people from the provinces flock here,” Sophea said. “They want to experience city life, see the development, go to the carnivals. City people have seen it all before — they just want some peace and quiet.”

The water festival, which will continue next year, is steeped in tradition, typified by boat races and a carnival atmosphere. Now it will be irrevocably connected with the tragedy.

Relatives of Stampede Victims Continue Search for Bodies in Phnom Penh, Cambodia

US Official Say Cambodia's debt to US is "An Irritant" for better relation

Ghosts descend on bridge of death

http://www.smh.com.au/

via CAAI

Ben Doherty

November 27, 2010

Haunted ... Sopheap Meng at the end of Rainbow Bridge, where his brother Sovaan died on Monday night. Photo: Ben Doherty

PHNOM PENH: The short, narrow suspension bridge that links Phnom Penh with Diamond Island has not re-opened, but it hardly matters. Few are likely to walk on it again.

The Khmers of Cambodia are Buddhists, but they hold strongly to ancient animist beliefs. The bridge is a bad place now. The spirits of those killed - the 347 who died when a crowd celebrating the water festival stampeded here on Monday night - will keep people away.

Sopheap Meng has come back one last time to farewell his brother. They were together when the panic hit.

Advertisement: Story continues below He gripped Sovaan's hand as tightly as he could, fighting the crush that pushed him to the ground. "But there was no air; I could not breathe. I got pushed to the side of the bridge. People were falling all around, onto my arm, so I had to let go."

Dragged out by police, it was hours before he found his brother. Sovaan's corpse, bruised and bloodied, was among the crush of lifeless bodies on Rainbow Bridge.

Sopheap lives with his family north of the capital in Kandal province. He will not return to this bridge again. "Never," he says.

All week, this city has sought a way to cope. Monks have held vigils, family members have burned incense, flowers and fruit have been left by the water's edge.

It is a city still in shock.

The Prime Minister, Hun Sen, said it was Cambodia's "greatest tragedy in more than 31 years after the Pol Pot regime".

Under the Khmer Rouge leader a quarter of the population, an estimated 1.7 million people, was killed from 1975 to 1979.

"I ask you all to understand me and forgive me for this very bad situation," Mr Sen said.

The Khmer Rouge wiped out a generation of Cambodia's best and brightest. It targeted the educated.

This week, again, it is the country's future that has born the brunt of tragedy.

This disaster took the young. Most of those killed - 221 of the 347 - were girls, physically unable to resist the crush of human bodies pushing them to the ground.

The government has pre-empted its own inquiry, due to report next week, by saying it was a rumour that the bridge was about to collapse that began the stampede.

As the panic grew, the mass of people on the bridge pressed closer together as everyone fought to find a way out.

People began to lose consciousness. Those who fell were trampled under the hundreds of feet of helpless people being pushed backwards and forwards by the force of the crowd.

Afterwards, most of the dead were found here, on the bridge. Bodies were four and five deep in places.

Some had sought refuge by jumping from the bridge into the water. Some drowned - it is believed they fell unconscious into the river - but most of those who jumped survived. The water was barely waist deep.

The finger pointing over who is to blame has begun in earnest.

The government has admitted overcrowding on the narrow bridge was not a contingency it had planned for.

"We were concerned about the possibilities of boats capsizing and pick-pocketing. We did well, but we did not think about this kind of incident," a spokesman, Khieu Kanharith, conceded.

But he said security on the three bridges that span Phnom Penh and Diamond Island, also known as Koh Pich, was the responsibility of the company that built them, the island's developer, the Overseas Cambodian Investment Corporation (OCIC).

The OCIC in turn laid blame with the government's police force. "It happened mainly near Diamond Island, but … not really on the island," a project manager, Susi Tani, said.

"For the policing [responsibility], it is the government. We built the bridge; we are not responsible for the public. What we try doing is assist the public. We don't have the right to control the public."

One hundred and six private security guards and 12 police officers were on Diamond Island on Monday night, jointly responsible, it seems, for crowd control.

But as the night of celebrations reached a climax, and the crowd grew larger and larger, it appeared no one was in control.

Sopheap Meng wants answers, and he wants someone to blame. He knows he will probably have neither.

"Our family is very sad. We cannot believe this has happened … it should never have happened. My brother shouldn't have died."

Cambodia to boost rice spending, eyes 7 pct 2011 growth

http://news.alibaba.com/

via CAAI

Published: 26 Nov 2010

PHNOM PENH, Nov 26 - Cambodia's parliament approved a $2.4 billion national budget bill on Friday, which aims for economic growth of 7 percent next year by investing more in agriculture to boost rice exports.

The bill, backed by four-fifths of the lawmakers present, would see an 18.7 percent increase in the national budget from this year, with increased spending on agriculture and defence.

Prime Minister Hun Sen told parliament the bill would help achieve the government's target for gross domestic product (GDP) growth of 7 percent and reduce poverty by more than 1 percent each year in one of Asia's poorest nations.

He also said the budgetary increase would help keep inflation at around 4.5 percent and maintain the riel currency at around 4,100 riel to the dollar.

The 2011 bill sets aside around $23 million for the Ministry of Agriculture, up from $3 million last year, to meet plans to reform the rice sector and export one million tonnes of the grain within the next five years [ID:nSGE67G0A9].

That goal is still small compared with neighbours Thailand and Vietnam, which are aiming to ship 8.5 million tonnes and 6.1 million tonnes, respectively, this year.

Cambodia is looking for foreign investors to boost its fledgling rice milling sector so that it can reap higher dividends from its grain crop. Much is currently sent to Vietnam to be milled and re-exported [ID:nSGE6730AT].

The budget also sets aside about $297 million for defence and security spending, up from $274 million last year, which Hun Sen said was necessary for "protecting territorial integrity".

The International Monetary Fund has criticised the high level of military spending in the past and it could again be a bone of contention with international aid donors, who contribute a large proportion of Cambodia's state budget.

The Ministry of Health will get $165 million and the Education Ministry will get $218 million next year.

Cambodia to hold festival next year despite stampede

This year's festival in Phnom Penh ended in tragedy after crowds panicked on an overcrowded bridge

via CAAI

PHNOM PENH — The Cambodian capital will continue to host an annual water festival despite the deaths of nearly 350 people at this year's event in a stampede on a bridge, an official said Friday.

"The ceremony will still be held as usual," said Chea Kean, deputy secretary general of a government festival committee, adding that it was an "age-old tradition" in the country.

He said it was too soon to say whether Cambodia's most popular festival would attract as many visitors next year in the wake of Monday's disaster, in which 347 people lost their lives, 221 of them women.

"Let's wait and see when we get nearer to the event," said Chea Kean.

The three-day event, which marks the reversal of the flow between the Tonle Sap and Mekong rivers, usually draws millions of visitors to the capital to enjoy dragon boat races, fireworks and concerts.

The festival ended in tragedy after crowds panicked on an overcrowded bridge leading to an island that was one of the main event sites.

Authorities said a full report on the incident would be released next week.

Initial findings from an investigating committee suggest the stampede occurred after rumours rippled through the crowd that the suspension bridge to Phnom Penh's Diamond Island was about to collapse.

The crossing, where people have been gathering to mourn and lay out candles, flowers and food offerings for the souls of the deceased, remained closed to the public on Friday although an official has said it will reopen soon.

Prime Minister Hun Sen has described the disaster as Cambodia's worst tragedy since the Khmer Rouge's 1975-1979 reign of terror, which killed up to a quarter of the population.

National Mourning for Cambodia’s dead


November 26th, 2010
Jessie.Wright

via CAAI

Thursday was declared a day for national mourning in the honor of the 456 people that were killed in the stampede on Monday night, on the last day of the water festival.

The ceremony was held in front of the suspension bridge and hundreds of Cambodians came with flowers and candles to mourn for those who lost their lives in the stampede. The government declared this Thursday a day for national mourning, following a very dark Wednesday when most of those who had died in the incident were buried by their families.

Memorial services and funerals were held all over the country as family members took their loves ones to be buried in their home provinces. The government promised to help transport the bodies of their loved ones and to pay 5 million riel to every family that lost someone in the incident. The situation is more drastic for other families who still haven’t heard about the fate of their loved ones and do not know whether they are dead or only injured.

On Wednesday government officials issued a statement confirming the fact that the stampede was a result of people’s panicky reaction when crossing the bridge. It seems that the bridge swayed and many of the people on it reacted in panic thinking it would collapse. They started pushing each other and the result was the terrible stampede that killed 456 people and injured more than 800.

The water festival is held every November and it lasts for three whole days. It honors the victory of the Cambodian naval forces during the 12th century and it includes boat races and prayers for a good harvest and rich rain.

Cambodian NA passes extradition agreement with S Korea

via CAAI

November 26, 2010

Cambodia's National Assembly on Friday unanimously adopted the extradition agreement between Cambodia and South Korea.

The agreement states the each party has obligation to extradite to another party for whoever found in the country of any party, and is wanted for accusation or trial.

"The extradition agreement is very important for two sides to push effective cooperation to eliminate cross-border crimes, terrorism, money laundry, weapon trafficking and human trafficking, " Pen Panha, chairman of the national assembly's legislation and justice commission, said during the debate.

The extradition agreement was signed by the two countries' foreign ministers on October 22, 2009 in Phnom Penh during the official visit of the President of South Korea Lee Myung-bak in Cambodia.

Cambodia has signed extradition agreement with China, Australia, Laos, and Thailand.

Ang Vong Vathana, the justice minister said that the ministry also plans to sign extradition agreements with countries such as Russia, India and other countries.

After the debate, all the 97 lawmakers during the session unanimously passed the extradition agreement.

Source: Xinhua

TV Raises More Than $1 Million for Victims of Tragedy

Heng Reaksmey, VOA Khmer
Phnom Penh Friday, 26 November 2010

via CAAI
Photo: Courtesy of CNN
CTN and Bayon have continuously taken donations, at time broadcasting pleas for aid and running donation totals during regular programming.

"...but what I’m worried about is that the expenditure of funds will not be transparent for the victims.”

Following Monday’s Diamond Bridge tragedy, nearly $1.5 million has come in from concerned Cambodians via fund drives by two TV stations, for both the families of the dead and for those injured.

By Friday evening, Bayon TV had raised more than $1.08 million and CTN had brought in more than $500,000.

A total 347 people died on the bridge and another 395 were injured, when a mass of Water Festival revelers stampeded on the crowded bridge Monday night.

The country’s worst tragedy in decades was felt across Cambodia and in expatriate Cambodian communities abroad, culminating in a national day of mourning Thursday.

CTN and Bayon have continuously taken donations, at time broadcasting pleas for aid and running donation totals during regular programming.

Officials from both stations said they would end their fund drives Friday and aim to distribute the money to families of the dead next week.

Hout Kheang Heng, deputy director general of TV and Radio Bayon, which is operated by the prime minister’s daughter, said 100 percent of the fundraising would go directly to victims as cash. Teams will travel to the villages where the families or survivors live or to hospitals to deliver the money, he said.

Chhun Kosal, deputy director of CTN’s fundraising committee, said so far with about 85 percent of the donations counted, the station has raised $420,000 and 373 million riel, or $93,000. They will also deliver 100 percent of the cash to survivors and relatives next week, he said.

Both said the relatives of the dead would receive more than survivors.

However, members of the opposition Sam Rainsy Party and a workers union representative said they are skeptical the money will reach the hands of those it was meant for.

That’s because during similar fundraising for soldiers stationed near a border dispute with Thailand since 2008, there was little transparency and it remains unclear where the money went, said Rong Chhun, president of the Cambodian Teacher’s Association.

A similar problem could plague the donation efforts for the bridge victims, he said.

“I really admire both stations for opening fundraising,” he said. “It shows that Khmer love Khmer. But what I’m worried about is that the expenditure of funds will not be transparent for the victims.”

Survivors Recall Horrifying Hours on Bridge

Men Kimseng, VOA Khmer
Washington, DC Friday, 26 November 2010

via CAAI

Photo: by Heng Reaksmey
From left to right: Ros Kong, Bun Sophal, and Math Seila. The Diamond Bridge survivors were guests on Hello VOA, on Thursday.

"The whole crowd became like trees bent in a gust of wind, to the left or right, as the wave of pushing surged.”

On Monday night, there were sounds of joy, as revelers spent the last few hours of the three-day Water Festival on Diamond Island. But as they crossed the bridge, those sounds were replaced by groans, as more and more people packed onto the structure.

People were pressed from all sides, three survivors of the tragedy, which claimed 347 lives, told “Hello VOA” on Thursday.

“When the crowd became more and more narrow, with people pushing in, it was hard to breathe,” said Ros Kong, who was stuck among the mass of people that would eventually panic and stampede. “People then tried to push upwards to breathe. The whole crowd became like trees bent in a gust of wind, to the left or right, as the wave of pushing surged.”

Authorities have not found a definitive moment when the overcrowding devolved into something more dangerous, but an investigative committee official said Wednesday he suspected people thought the swaying suspension bridge was close to collapse.

As panic ensued, people began to climb over each other. Those who could not stand fell beneath the feet of the others. Health officials say most of the casualties were crushed or suffocated.

For survivor Bun Sophal, the stampede led to an arduous wait on the bridge, as police and medical responders fought a heavy crowd to reach the bridge.

“I almost made it to the end of the bridge,” Bun Sophal said. “But because it was too narrow, I got stuck right there. I had to wait until I almost died for police to come.”

The survivors spoke live following a national day of mourning that brought some comfort to relatives of the victims. But serious questions remain as to who was responsible for allowing thousands of people to crowd onto the bridge.

Callers to “Hello VOA” said they wanted to know what caused the panic and who was to blame for the deaths. So far there have been few answers. The government’s inquiry is expected to issue results next week.

“I don’t know if there were police at both ends, because I was trapped in the middle of the bridge,” Math Seila, a third survivor said. “Had there been, they would have been able to save us on time.”

She eventually jumped from the bridge, escaping the crush of people but injuring herself in the process.

Ros Kong said it took almost two hours for police to reach the bridge.

“I could only see the authorities coming to help us after people started fainting and died,” Math Seila said. “Had there been security forces close by, they would have helped us long before. I just wonder why.”

US-Cambodians Join Mourning for Bridge Tragedy

Men Kimseng, VOA Khmer
Washington, DC Friday, 26 November 2010

via CAAI

Photo: by Men Kimseng
Yap Kimtung, president of Cambodian American for Human Rights and Democracy, signed in, while at the embassy.

“I am so sorry, and it is not me alone, but many other Cambodian-Americans are also sad for such a tragedy.”

Cambodian-Americans gathered at their embassy in Washington on Wednesday to pay their respects to those who died in Monday’s bridge tragedy.

Though none had relatives among the 347 dead from the Diamond Bridge stampede that has shocked the country, many wept openly at the incident.

“I feel deeply sad,” said Keo Tom, the main organizer of the gathering. “I am really sorry that there was such a horrible tragedy, and it has never happened before. We are so touched that we have to be here today to pay our respect to their souls.”

“I am so sorry, and it is not me alone, but many other Cambodian-Americans are also sad for such a tragedy,” said Yap Kimtung, president of the Cambodian Americans for Human Rights and Democracy.

Organizers will also hold a religious ceremony at a local temple to pray for the dead, who were trammeled Monday night on a crowded bridge following Water Festival celebrations.

The Cambodian Education Excellence Foundation will create scholarships for children whose parents died at the bridge, the foundation’s president, Kchao Sarang, said.

The Cambodian Embassy made an appeal for aid.

“There is still time for people to donate funds to support the victims,” Cambodian Ambassador Hem Heng told VOA Khmer. “If they don’t have the means to send it to Cambodia, the embassy will help facilitate that.”

National Assembly Passes $2.4 Billion Budget

Chun Sakada, VOA Khmer
Washington, DC Friday, 26 November 2010

via CAAI

Photo: by VOA Khmer
The 2011 budget, totaling $2.4 billion, allocates military and security spending of $304 million, including $190 million for the Ministry of Defense.

“The sectors of the government considered a priority, like the Ministry of Agriculture, received 1.8 percent of the total expenditure.”

With a day of mourning for the Diamond Bridge tragedy behind it, the National Assembly took up debate and passed next year’s budget, approving an increase of nearly half a billion dollars.

The 2011 budget, totaling $2.4 billion, allocates military and security spending of $304 million, including $190 million for the Ministry of Defense. The Interior Ministry received $114 million, health $169 million, and education $223 million.

Ouk Rabun, secretary of state for the Ministry of Finance, told lawmakers his ministry would accept recommendations from the National Assembly on “better public finance management.”

The main opposition, the Sam Rainsy Party, said it did not support the budget, claiming it had misplaced funding priorities.

“The sectors of the government considered a priority, like the Ministry of Agriculture, received 1.8 percent of the total expenditure,” Yim Sovann, a spokesman for the party, said. The ministries of rural development, land management and water resources each only receive 1 percent of the total, he said.