Tuesday, 8 January 2008

07 Jan 2008 - The CPP celebrates a Vietnamese victory

Australians buy Cambodian newspaper

January 08, 2008

TWO Australian businessmen with media interests in Burma have purchased a controlling interest in Cambodia's Phnom Penh Post.

The Post's new owners are Ross Dunkley, whose company Myanmar Consolidated Media publishes the Burmese government mouthpiece Myanmar Times, Burma's first private newspaper, and mining entrepreneur Bill Clough.

They have promised The Post will remain independent and will soon publish weekly.

The current proprietor and editor-in-chief, American Michael Hayes, launched the newspaper on a whim in 1992 in a Phnom Penh bar. He will stay on as editor-in-chief for another 18 months.

The newspaper's launch was timed to coincide with the arrival of the UN Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC), heralding a new era for Cambodia as it emerged from more than three decades of war, including the Khmer Rouge “killing fields” reign of terror in which more than 2 million perished.

The Phnom Penh Post - well-known and highly regarded throughout Southeast Asia, although not always well-liked by the Cambodian Government - enjoys a reputation for being fiercely independent.

It was among the world's first media outlets to proclaim the death and cremation of notorious Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot with the headline “Burnt like Old Rubbish”.

The newspaper has helped serve as a career springboard for a generation of journalists interested in reporting from Southeast Asia, in particular Cambodia, including Nate Thayer - who achieved fame with an exclusive 1997 interview with Pol Pot after he was arrested as a result of an internal Khmer Rouge purge.

Breast Cancer Survivor Helping Women In Cambodia

Web Editor: Vivien Leigh, reporter
Updated: 1/7/2008 7:07:34 PM

AUGUSTA (NEWS CENTER) -- As a two-time breast cancer survivor, Jackie Tanner has spent years reaching out to women undergoing treatment. But she never thought her efforts to educate people about the deadly disease would take her half-way around the world.

On any given day, you'll find Tanner at Augusta's Harold Alfond Center For Cancer Care, where she comforts women who are fighting breast cancer.

She knows the struggles they face all to well. She beat the deadly disease twice. But educating others about breast cancer took on a new meaning last year when she was invited to share her story with women in Cambodia.

"Many of them feel that cancer is a death sentence, and the first thing to do to help them understand is that we have treatments today that can cure cancer or put cancer in remission so they can go on with their lives," said Tanner.

Tanner visited several women's crisis centers that provide shelter, programs and services to victims of domestic violence.

She says in Cambodia, treatment for breast cancer is scarce and costly.

Women receive little education and there are no support groups. There are also other cultural challenges."Many women felt they were shunned, that people believed they would be contaminated from them," Tanner explained.

Tanner is headed back to Cambodia in the next few days. She's bringing pamphlets and other information on how to perform a breast exam.

She hopes empowering women there will keep them from becoming victims of Cambodian society, as well as the disease. If you would like information about volunteer programs with the American Cancer Society click on related link.


ITD part of $5bn Cambodia venture

Koh Kong plant will produce 1,830


SET-listed Italian-Thai Development Plc (ITD), Thailand's biggest construction company, is joining with five investment partners to develop a $5-billion coal-fired power plant in Cambodia.
President Premchai Karnasuta said ITD had signed a memorandum of understanding to invest in the power plant with Egco Plc, Ratchaburi Electricity Holding Plc, Datang International (Hong Kong) Ltd and Sino Thai Resources Development Plc.

Italian-Thai Power and Energy controls the largest stake of 30% in the joint venture, Koh Kong Power Light Ltd.

The SET-listed power companies Egco Group and Ratchaburi Electricity Generating Holding Plc hold 20% each. China's Datang owns 15%, while Egat International, a newly established and wholly owned overseas investment unit of the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand, holds 8% and Sino Thai holds 7%.

Located in Laem Yai Saen in western Cambodia, Koh Kong Power Light is expected to come onstream by 2014 with an initial capacity of 1,830 megawatts. The utility is targeted to reach its maximum capacity of 3,660 MW several years later, Premchai said.

ABN Amro has conducted a financial feasibility study of the project, while Team Consulting Co provided environmental management studies. Datang International (Hong Kong) Ltd will be an equipment and engineering service provider. The company has discussed a long-term purchasing contract with a coal mine operator in Indonesia, he added.

Mr Premchai said that Koh Kong Power Light had been in discussions with the Thai government to supply power to Egat. It offered a cheaper price for electricity to Thailand than local coal-fired power plants and Laos's Hongsa Lignite in order to secure a power purchase contract with Egat.

''We want the new power plant to supply electricity to Egat, but it has yet to be included in the current Power Development Plan,'' Mr Premchai said.

''The project has not started construction. But once we secure the power contract with Egat, we could speed up the development to finish one year ahead of schedule.''

The Cambodian power plant is part of ITD's strategy to diversify into energy and mining to offset falling revenue from core construction activities over the past two years. It established wholly owned subsidiaries Italian-Thai Power and Energy Co and Sin Rae Muang Thai Co to support this strategy.

The two companies have sought business opportunities in Southeast Asian countries, India and Madagascar, he added.

ITD posted a consolidated net profit of 893 million baht in the nine months to September 2007, compared to a loss of 1.4 billion baht during the same period a year earlier, reflecting in part a change in accounting methods.

ITD shares closed yesterday on the Stock Exchange of Thailand at 7.25 baht, down 60 satang, in trade worth 196 million baht.

Cambodian National Bank issues 2,000-riel note

China View

PHNOM PENH, Jan. 8 (Xinhua) -- The Cambodian National Bank has issued a new 2,000-riel bank note to refresh currency supplies and simplify cash payments, the Cambodia Daily newspaper said Tuesday.

Roughly equivalent to half a U.S. dollar, the new note depicts an image of the Preah Vihear temple on one side and a woman harvesting rice on the other, the newspaper said.

The notes replace an equal value of tattered 1,000-riel notes that have been taken out of circulation and destroyed, National Bank of Cambodia Deputy Governor Neav Chanthana said.

"The new note is to replace the older ones," Neav Chanthana was quoted as saying.

The 2,000-riel denomination also requires that only half as many bills be printed as are removed from circulation, thereby saving the usage of paper, she added.

Editor: Du Guodong

Group of Cambodian Funcinpec leaders defects to CPP

January 08, 2008

With little more than six months to Cambodia's next national election, several senior party leaders of the already ailing Funcinpec Party has defected to the ruling Cambodian People's Party (CPP), including two ministers, local media reported Tuesday.

Rural Development Minister and Funcinpec First Deputy President Lu Laysreng said Monday that Minister of Women's Affairs Ing Kantha Phavi defected to the CPP last week, the Cambodia Daily newspaper said.

She joins Funcinpec's Minister of Cults and Religion Khun Haing, who had defected earlier and has since appeared on television to campaign for the CPP, the daily said.

Finance Ministry Secretary of State Chea Peng Chheang had also left for the CPP, along with his wife, Funcinpec Senator Khloth Tongphka, Lu Laysreng was quoted as saying.

Chea Peng Chheang confirmed by telephone Monday that he had joined the CPP because of his lack of confidence in Funcinpec's leadership, the newspaper said.

Secretary of State Mao Havanall, the top official at the State Secretariat of Civil Aviation, also confirmed Monday that he had abandoned Funcinpec for the CPP, it said.

In last April's Commune elections, the Funcinpec was hit hard at the ballot box, losing more than 85 percent of the commune councils seats it held nationwide.

Source: Xinhua

Anti-Trafficking Task Force, New Law Prove Efforts, Chief Says

By Sok Khemara,
VOA Khmer Original report from Washington
07 January 2008

Listen Sok Khemara reports in Khmer

For the full Q&A with Hok Lundy in Khmer, click here.

For the past two years, Cambodia has remained on a US watch list of countries not doing enough to combat trafficking for prostitution and labor. Cambodia's top police official defended the government's achievements over the past year in a rare interview Friday, despite lingering doubts from the US State Department.

National Police Chief Gen. Hok Lundy told VOA Khmer in an exclusive interview the police force has very clear orders to prevent human trafficking and has established a task force with branches in every province to combat the crime.

Members of the task force seek to curb trafficking through various methods, he said, including the education of local school children, teaching them to be on guard for human smugglers who might lure them out of their communities.

"I am also on the task force and have deeply assessed this issue," Hok Lundy said. "This is being highly received as a result in preventing human trafficking."

Hok Lundy has been at the center of accusations of involvement in trafficking himself, and rights groups warn that the trade would not be so rampant without the collusion of his own forces.
But the four-star general said Friday police have a renewed dedication to punish officials involved in trafficking, including anyone committing bribery and criminal or official "masterminds."

Hok Lundy said the task force was seeking the return of 1,000 trafficked victims in Taiwan, as well.

Ambassador Mark Lagon, director of the US State Department's Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, said recently he has not changed his stance on concerns over corruption in the Cambodian police and courts.

Lagon warned in an interview serious punishments need to take place for Cambodia to prove it is serious about trafficking. "I think US dialogue with the government of Cambodia has been somewhat fruitful," Lagon said.

"I think that there is an understanding that dealing with corruption is very important for fighting human trafficking, but there still remain broad problems of outright complicity of police, judges and immigration officials, from police running brothels, to the judges allowing exploiters...off the hook."

Lt. Gen. Khieu Sopheak, a spokesman for the Ministry of Interior, said the government has not provided favor to perpetrators.

The government initiates serious punishment against traffickers, he said, firing officials when necessary and sending suspects to the courts. Rights officials warn that these same courts are politicized and corrupt. Khieu Sopheak also said police have maintained good cooperation with the US government and non-governmental agencies, receiving praise for recent efforts.

Asked whether Cambodia might be taken off the State Department's watch list, in the annual "Trafficking in Persons" report, scheduled to be released in June, Khieu Sopheak said the government had not undertaken efforts for a ranking on a list, but "for the children" and the decrease of sex crimes.

If Cambodia is taken off the watch list, he said, "it also is better."

Lagon noted the recent efforts, along with the lack of punishment of top officials.

"On prosecution, we've seen less success. There have been some significant arrests since June of 2007 and some conviction of traffickers by Phnom Penh Municipal Court," he said. "And yet more prosecution and serious sentences are needed."

Um Samath, a rights investigator for Licadho, said Cambodia has recently taken efforts to prevent human trafficking. The police task force and an anti-trafficking law, passed in December, are promising signs, he said.

But human trafficking will not be reduced as long as police who do the work are corrupt and compromise the issue outside the judiciary, he said.

Lagon said the passage of laws is important to deal with all suspects in sex trafficking and forced labor, but passage was less important than implementation.

The government had been promising such a law since 2004, he said, "but it's still not in place."
"When a fully comprehensive law is in place and being implemented, it will be a very good thing for the dignity of victims of human trafficking," he said.

Hok Lundy: Gov't Seeing 'Results' in Anti-Trafficking

By Sok Khemara,
VOA Khmer Original report from Washington
07 January 2008

Listen Sok Khemara reports in Khmer

Cambodia has remained for two years on a US State Department watch list of countries that have not done enough to curb human trafficking. The State Department's "Trafficking in Persons" report is issued every year, and with six months to go before Cambodia is evaluated again, VOA Khmer spoke to Cambodia's controversial national police commissioner, Gen. Hok Lundy, who has found himself accused in the past of involvement in human trafficking. He spoke by phone from Phnom Penh.

Q. Gen. Hok Lundy, the US is concerned over corruption, with police associated with brothels or taking bribes from human traffickers. Has the Ministry of Interior or the national police taken any action against these crimes?

A. On this issue, I wish to state that, to strengthen the prevention of human trafficking of women and children, the head of government and the Ministry of Interior has taken action. We have broadened our public work, and the government has created a task force, led by Deputy Prime Minister Sar Kheng as the chief. So now in every province there is an administration. And in the provinces, we also set up the governor to be in the task force, as the [provincial] chief, in order that it will go smoothly. So I believe that in this work not only the police or military police will act as officers of justice, if they are supervised clearly. And if police and military police, or any individual who is associated with or commits bribery, with a mastermind of human trafficking, that person will not only be fired from his position, but we will additionally step in to punish him. I am also in the task force and have deeply assessed, we have not seen anything impressive yet, but this work is being received for its high results in the prevention of human trafficking.

Q. So are, there are some foreigners who come to Cambodia for sexual entertainment. Apparently, other countries should join in the prevention of trafficking. Has there already been much assistance?

A. Yes. This is also a problem in Cambodia. Based on the progress of the economy, the country has developed. Now more tourists are coming to Cambodia, and more of them are involved in cases of debauchery. With such cases, we also take legal action. We must arrest them for prosecution. And regarding some of these countries, so far the US, there was an American who was involved in this kind of debauchery. We arrested him and prosecuted him, and the US government asked the head of government—and Samdech Prime Minister Hun Sen agreed—to deport him to be tried in the US. And in support in the prevention of human trafficking, there is also assistance from some countries. The US also helps, through [non-governmental organizations]. So we've seen that cooperation throughout the world, especially the US, to help through both funding and charity. For example, victims who suffer from trafficking: they are rescued after they have been cheated into being trafficked, and they are educated about living in society and Cambodian culture. We know we can send them back home in order to let them have a proper job.

Q. What precautions can Cambodians take against trafficking?

A. The main thing is that in trafficking, some of our people in some places, because the level of understanding is still low, are cheated. Children are brought to find a job, [promised] good income, and sometimes the mastermind gives [parents] money in advance, depositing $1,000 or $2,000, to take their children. This is something that, needing money, [parents] just follow, and they don't deeply analyze how the mastermind is cheating them. So I wish to appeal to people in every local community, both in towns and in remote areas, that before they decide to let their children or daughter go to work in various factories in towns or provinces far away from their homes, they must strictly consider this, and watch for this. Is it someone selecting [workers] in the proper way, such as a company, or just the master trafficker? Because nowadays, in fact, as our country develops in industry, with enterprises like garment factories, people's children will have jobs to do. So among those who offer jobs, there are good, right, but in this case there is some small part of that which is an opportunist, who will cheat them and bring them into forced labor and the sex trade. So please do not be cheated.

Q. Cambodia is now on the US State Department's watch list of countries that have failed to do enough to curb trafficking. Because of government efforts, do you think Cambodia will be better rated by the State Department's "Trafficking in Persons" report this year?

A. I think that government leader Samdech Hun Sen has the direction to strengthen our work in preventing human trafficking, in trafficking of women and children, by setting up the task force for the government, led by Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister Sar Kheng. I believe with this leadership, the work will move effectively, and I believe that it will reduce human trafficking in 2008. Even if this preventative measure does not have a big image, it has results, by paying attention to the end of 2007, we have seen that the measures and crackdown have done a lot. This has led to the arrest of some foreigners and masterminds who have committed these crimes. We've arrested them. So I believe this issue [of trafficking] will be in decline.

Pursat Demonstrators Angered at Temple Destruction

By Chiep Mony,
VOA Khmer Original report from Phnom Penh
07 January 2008

Listen Chiep Mony reports in Khmer

More than 100 demonstrators gathered in Pursat province Monday to protest the destruction of a local temple for the alleged development plan of a private company, opposite officials and rights workers said.

Heng Chanthuon, head of the Sam Rainsy Party in Pursat, said about 30 families were going to have a temple torn down they'd built in 2002.

Authorities told them the land had environmental problems, he said.

A local rights worker, Nhoung Samoeun, of Adhoc, said the ouster of the families from their land was done with "no talk or legal solution."

Local government officials could not be reached for comment.

The protest comes on the heels of an outcry last week by Pursat teachers that local school land had been handed to the Cambodian People's Party for a political headquarters. Land theft is a political destabilizer in Cambodia, as economic improvement drives land prices upward.

UN human rights envoy Yash Ghai warned in December that land theft could cause Cambodians to "rise up" against the government.

Ruling Party Warns Against Subversion of Tribunal

By Chun Sakada,
VOA Khmer Original report from Phnom Penh
07 January 2008

Listen Chun Sakada reports in Khmer

The president of the Cambodian People's Party said Monday the ruling party would continue to support the Khmer Rouge tribunal "in spirit and materials," as trials for jailed former leaders approach.

Speaking on the 29th anniversary of the ouster of the Khmer Rogue by Vietnamese forces, CPP President Chea Sim warned other groups not to politicize the tribunal.

"We dismiss all actions that use the [tribunal] to create instability and division in societies in Cambodia," he said.

On Jan. 7, 1979, Vietnamese forces pushed the Khmer Rouge out of Phnom Penh, establishing an occupation government and beginning a new round of civil strife.

Five top leaders of the Khmer Rouge regime were arrested in 2007 and charged with war crimes or crimes against humanity.

Youth Leader Urges More Involvement in Politics

Ken Sara, president of the Student Movement for Democracy.

By Sok Khemara,
VOA Khmer Washington
07 January 2008
The Cambodian government "has not done enough as a parent," leaving the young and educated without work while government officials linger in their positions or pass them on to their children, a leading political activist said Monday.

Meanwhile, issues like immigration, the border, injustice and corruption go ignored, said Ken Sara, president of the Student Movement for Democracy.

All of this should lead Cambodian youth toward considering politics, he said.

But before joining a political party, he warned, think twice.

"If your decision is wrong, it will affect the future of you and the country," he said, as a guest on "Hello VOA."

Cambodia's national elections are six months away, he said, and many issues face the government.

Students leave school and find no jobs, or they only find jobs as motorcycle taxi drivers or are forced to return home to their farms, he said, while the price of food, goods and fuel continue to rise.

There are many ways to become involved in politics, he said. And when you do, you help restore your own country.

7 January 1979 Weight and Lies

Cambodia Border's Committee in France and Worldwide

Dy Kareth
Sunday, 6 January 2008

On December 6, 2007, AKP, Phnom Penh’s official press agency, wrote that, while receiving Nguyen Van De, an high-ranking official from the Vietnamese communist party, “Sok An, Prime Minister and Minister of the Council of Ministers … declared that he was proud to see a government by the Cambodian People Party (CPP) can remain in power for 29 years. ‘It is rare to see a political party holding up to power as long as this,’ he said. He also expressed his pride to see peace, social order and political stability established in the entire country, according to him, this favors the economic development. ‘These successes cannot be separated from the tight cooperation between Cambodia and Vietnam,’ he added…” The rest, such as the more than $25 billion of Western aids and the “unconditional” Chinese donations that Sok An and his people received since 1991, seems to be unimportant.

Evidently, Sok An, as well as his comrades, had to continuously renew his required allegiance to the Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV) which tightly dominates the CPP since 1979. The CPP, formerly known as the People’s Revolutionary Party of Kampuchea (PRPK), which celebrates, each year, the anniversary of its formation on “June 28, 1951,” never dares denying its communist origins nor its Vietnamese roots, whereas, its ‘historical’ leaders – Heng Samrin, Chea Sim and Hun Sen – belonged up until 1978 to Pol Pot’s Communist Party of Kampuchea (CPK) founded in 1960. According to Stephen J. Morris, at its foundation in 1951, the PRPK included mainly Vietnamese. “In 1952, the cell of its Phnom Penh secretariat office consisted of 34 members, 27 of whom were Vietnamese, 3 Chinese, and only 4 Cambodians. The PRPK by-laws had to be translated from Vietnamese to Khmer (for the attention of the Cambodians members).” (1).

In 1979, the PRPK central committee had less than a dozen members and had a hard time finding “good Khmer communists” to fill in the government positions of its republic. Thousands of Vietnamese “experts” thus led the party, the government, the army, the police, the justice, and the newly created mass organizations, as well as the provinces, all the way down to the smallest village were controlled by their troops. Cambodians were forced to learn Vietnamese to be able to understand the orders and the teaching of the new masters. Since 1979, in order to favor the Vietnamese control on the management of the country and the Cambodian personnel, a political administration system was set up in Cambodia, based on the principle of a “complete decentralization” between the central administration and the national collectivities, with a large “autonomy” granted to each government ministry and to each province. Thus, the central administration practically had no provincial services under its responsibility; the Prime Minister no longer gave orders to the army and the police; the provinces were able to decide their fate with the local Vietnamese “experts” without having to confer to the directives issued by the Ministry of Interior, etc… Thus was the spirit of “fraternal Vietnam-Cambodia cooperation at all levels.”

A sham “total withdrawal” of Vietnamese troops was organized by Hanoi in September 1989 in order to show that the Cambodian conflict was being simply a Cambodian “civil war.” In fact, at least two million Vietnamese settlers and their militias were already settled in the country, and at least half of the early “experts” also remained behind, under adopted Cambodian names, as party leaders, generals, high-ranking officials, governors or deputy governors of large cities and provinces, to keep on “cooperating” for a smooth functioning of the CPP and the Cambodian State. The Vietnamese decentralization system was thus reinforced up until now, to a point where Hun Sen and Sok An had to form their own “micro government” – with the Council of Ministers – completed with their own army, their own police and their own “authorities” within the royal government itself. On the other hand, the provincial governors still represent the party more so than the government itself. It was thus that, following his inability to force Hok Lundy’s police to intervene against the rioters who were torching the Thai embassy and sacking Thai companies in Phnom Penh (on January 29, 2003), “Strongman” Hun Sen showed his powerlessness to put into application his sanction threats against the generals, whom he denounced, for their unrelenting abuses in the anarchic deforestation and their scandalous land-grabbing in rural areas. On their end, the provincial governors can still negotiate directly with the Vietnamese on social and economic establishment of the Vietnamese settlers in their respective provinces, or to decided on security measures and “technical” questions for the installation of border posts along the Eastern borders, including those located in the “Indochinese development Triangle,” where Vietnamese soldiers proceed with mining exploration, deforestation, and the establishment of rubber tree plantations, as well as the installation of border posts, etc…

Obviously, the continuity of the system is assured by the Vietnamese “fraternal cooperation” (i.e. “the control”) of security and defense of Cambodia. This reason justified, in 1979 and in the 80s, the signing of Hanoi protectorate Treaty, and the cession Agreements to Vietnam of Cambodia’s maritime and land territories. In March 2006, Hanoi’s official press agency wrote, without concerns for the various political circumstances, that: “… On the cooperation relationships in security and defense, both parties (Vietnam and Cambodia) signed the Agreement on the zone of common historical waters, the Agreement on the border statute and the Treaty on the delineation of national borders between the two countries. They signed in October 2005, the supplementary treaty to the 1985 Treaty for the borders delineation” (2).

The illegal cession to Vietnam by Hun Sen – through their July 07, 1982 Agreement – of the Cambodian islands Koh Tral and Koh Krachal Ses, as well as 30,000 sq. km. of Cambodia’s maritime territories, and 10,000 sq. km. of “common historical waters” was accepted (under what guise?) by the Kingdom of Cambodia which was created by the 1991 Paris Peace Agreements, on the altar of the “security and defense cooperation” with Hanoi! Will this be the same for the annexation by Thailand of 30,000 sq. km. of Cambodian waters, following the treaty which Vietnam signed with Thailand on August 11, 1997, based on the 7 July, 1982 Agreement that Vietnam signed with Hun Sen? (3)

Since 1979, one can see that the behavior adopted by Hanoi towards Cambodia since its inception – as Hun Sen usually recalled, albeit indirectly – led to the irrevocable condemnation by the International community of Hanoi’s military invasion and occupation of Cambodia. Hanoi, in its relationships with the latter, deliberately rejects all frameworks of International laws, UN conventions and historical International Agreements concerning Cambodia, just as it did towards the 1991 Paris Peace Agreements which Hanoi itself was one of the signatories. All had to happen, and must happen as if Cambodia was only and still remains a Vietnamese province or colony, just like under the French colonial period. Decisions taken on the border issues – a “domain reserved” by Hun Sen – as well as in other 3 domains of Vietnamese “cooperation” were and are still shrouded in deep secrecy. In the end, all decisions made by the State and its administrations, yesterday as well as currently, are sealed in secrecy. Now, the secret of the illegal and unfair connections between Vietnam and Cambodia, or the secret of the actions taken by the Cambodian authorities could and can only be protected by agreed upon lies, and necessarily, by the continuing and increasingly violent repressions of opponents and protesters. On the other hand, those who accept these lies are benefiting from favoritism, from the “right” to practice corruption, and from the regime impunity.

The weight and the obstacles erected by the system set in place by Vietnam are so restricting that, even if Hun Sen or someone else sincerely wanted to, they could never realize the political, judicial, or administrative unity required for the country, and, a fortiori, for a rule of law in Cambodia and for the transparency of its government. Meanwhile, the country is further sunk in lies, corruption, all kinds of repression, and it can no longer finds a solid popular support. The so-called “spectacular” economic development, obtained through foreign help and foreign capitals – mainly under the guise of speculative investments – is only artificial, and could – as Hun Sen said and kept on repeating it – “crumble under the slightest change in political direction.” Hun Sen is conscious that, even after 29 years of existence, his regime remains fragile.

At this pace, taking into account the historical evolution, faced with a revolt which was bottled up too long, and faced with the patriotic conscience of the Cambodian people who no longer support the celebration of the 7 January 1979, the myth of the liberation of Cambodia by the “Vietnamese brothers,” the myth of the “fighting solidarity between two fraternal nations” constitute nothing more than a shame for a free Cambodian people. It is the “vox populi, vox dei” (“The voice of the people is the voice of God”) which will also end this illusory long reign of the spirit of Evil.

A former Cambodian boy soldier defuses his past

Exhibiting his past: Aki Ra, above, in the courtyard of his Cambodia Landmine Museum shows a Russian-made antipersonnel mine that he found in the jungle and defused by hand. His childhood was spent laying such devices.
Annie Linskey

Aki Ra laid mines with his bare hands for the Khmer Rouge and now takes them away to villagers' delight and official frustration.

By Annie Linskey Contributor to The Christian Science Monitor
from the January 8, 2008 edition

Siem Reap, Cambodia - Walking through his new land-mine museum, Aki Ra picks up a Russian-made antipersonnel mine. He avoids touching the trigger pad even though he defused the device a long time ago.

"You hold like this, no problem," he says, pinching the sides of the coffee-cup-size mine. It's green, to match the Cambodian jungle where it once lay buried, threatening the life and limb of all who came near. Aki Ra is comfortable handling explosives. He grew up laying minefields for the Khmer Rouge. "I put mines around Siem Reap buildings, Otdar Meanchey, near the Thai border," he says. "I cannot forget that stuff."

He now works to undo that damage. Ten years ago he opened an ad hoc land-mine museum in his home. Back then, it was just a collection of mines that he'd defused, but it drew thousands of tourists who were in town to visit Angkor Wat and other famous temples. Last summer he moved the Cambodia Landmine Museum – to a building that architecture students at Texas A&M University designed to display his collection.

His willingness to show the mines to tourists has made him the unofficial face of the problem in Cambodia. Photo displays at the new museum present him as the little guy trying to make his country safe.

But in the world of official demining and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), Aki Ra is unorthodox. He has had no formal education. He has an e-mail address but rarely checks it. He dislikes planning – if a village chief asks for help clearing mines, he's apt to stop off, impromptu, to help. His removal process involves creeping up to a mine, prodding the side of it with a stick, and plucking it out of the ground with his hands. Then he moves on. He doesn't keep records.

Big demining groups, on the other hand, prioritize location and follow international safety standards. They grid minefields and painstakingly check every inch of land using metal detectors. They rarely touch land mines, preferring to blow them up with explosives. They keep careful records of the number of mines they find and the exact perimeter of the land cleared.
Aki Ra's methods irritate these big groups. The government here has temporarily banned him from clearing mines, so he has resigned himself to getting certified. This fall, an American sponsor helped him attend demining courses in England; now he is applying for a license. He has lots of support: At least five foreign groups raise money for his projects, the former Canadian ambassador to Cambodia has lobbied on his behalf, and the Cambodian minister in charge of land-mine clearance is carefully complimentary.

"I admire him," says Sam Sotha, of the Cambodian Mine Action and Victim Assistance Authority. "When he first started, he was very small. He started something from empty hands. From scratch. Alone. Now he has his name. His reputation is all over."
• • •
As Aki Ra's reputation has grown, he's become more reticent. He agreed to a interview only after prodding from a donor. "People ask the same questions about my life and my background," he says.

But bits and pieces of his life do emerge in a conversation that, though foggy and inconsistent in places, reveals a story of survival and success against the odds. As an orphan who became a boy soldier in the Khmer Rouge, he hunted deer and wild boar using an AK-47. He laid land mines around homes and farms, sometimes to kill animals for food, sometimes to kill villagers. "My friends, many of them are dead," he says. "Some are still alive but no legs. No arms."

In 1979, as the Vietnamese Army swept through Cambodia, Aki Ra was forced to join them, fighting against the Khmer Rouge and laying more land mines. Later, he joined the Cambodian Army. Then, in 1994, the United Nations taught Aki Ra how to clear land mines.

Walking through the museum, he shows mines he retrieved, including a stack of antitank mines, each as wide as a dinner plate. In one corner are stacks of Bouncing Betties, fearsome bombs that look like soda cans but shoot up from the ground, exploding at waist level.

The mine problem is very real in Cambodia. Between January 2006 and August 2007, 300 people were killed or injured by land mines, according to the Cambodia Mine/UXO Victim Information System. In the same time, there were 415 casualties from UXO or unexploded ordnance, like the thousands dropped by US forces on the Vietnam-Cambodia border before Pol Pot rose to power.
• • •
Professional mine clearers view Aki Ra's museum and methods as an affront to their own careful work. Where are the fields he's cleared? Are they really safe? Or is he giving villagers a false sense of security?

"I've received many complaints," says Mr. Sotha.

Tim Porter, program manager for HALO Trust, a Western NGO that employs 1,100 deminers in Cambodia, rolls his eyes when Aki Ra is mentioned: "[He] is promoting himself off the back of a problem that exists. Those people who get involved [with his cause] when they're on holiday in Cambodia don't get the full picture and that is wrong."

While demining NGOs focus on areas considered high priority, Aki Ra has won friends by going to low-priority villages. A few years ago, he cleared unexploded bombs for a neighbor – a Japanese expatriate named Morimoto Kikuo, who hasn't forgotten.

After walking though the museum, Aki Ra takes his family – including a 3-year-old son named Mine, as in land mine – to a party at Mr. Kikuo's farm. Kikuo describes Aki Ra this way: "He's like a soldier still. Someone has ordered him to demine. If he cannot demine, he cannot live."
Toward the end of a meal of rice, meat, fish, eggs, and soup, Aki Ra's cellphone rings. He gestures frantically for a pen. It's "Mr. Bomb," an old friend and demining partner from Australia. Aki Ra writes his hotel room number down on his palm and motions that it's time to go.

Mr. Bomb, aka Tony Bower-Miles, and another Australian are visiting for three months. "We're here to help this country and help Aki Ra," says Mr. Bomb, pointing to four nylon cases in the corner of his hotel room, each containing a metal detector. Mr. Bomb, who fought in Vietnam and has no license to remove land mines here, has arranged for an Australian TV crew to tape them. "You need to tell them your story," Mr. Bomb tells Aki Ra. "It could raise a million dollars."

Aki Ra just looks sad. He's tired of telling his story.

Later, he goes to a simple Siem Reap bathhouse because the running water at his house isn't working properly. He stretches out in a whirlpool and reiterates that it is hard for him to talk about the past. Even though life is better now, he says he has nightmares when he talks about the Khmer Rouge. Unexpected loud noises scare him. He says he's breathed too much TNT, drunk too much bad water in the jungles.

"When I'm finished with land mines in Cambodia, I think I'll forget about all the bad things, the war, the land mines," he says. "I will farm."

Domestic firms invest $391mil overseas

The Svayrieng Industrial Zone in Cambodia, which has thus far attracted many Vietnamese investors.


VietNamNet Bridge – Vietnamese businesses invested US$391.2mil overseas in 64 projects in 2007, bringing total investment overseas during 1988-2007 to $1.39bil, according to the Ministry of Planning and Investment.

Of the total, 17 projects, capitalised at $156.8mil, were in the agricultural sector and 23 projects, valued at over $147mil, were in industry, with the remainder in services.

The average scale of investment was around $6mil per project.

Of 35 countries and territories receiving Vietnamese investment, Laos attracted the greatest amount, with 86 projects worth a total of $583.8mil. It was followed by Cambodia, with 27 projects worth $88.4mil and Russia with 12 projects valued at $48.1mil.

Businesses were targeting Africa, China, Singapore, Japan, the US and the EU for further projects specialising in oil and gas, mineral exploitation, transportation and trade services, the ministry said.

Among the most high-profile overseas projects are PetroVietnam gas exploration and exploitation projects in Algeria with an initial investment of about $30mil. The project has already discovered new crude oil resources and PetroVietnam plans to increase the level of investment.

Rubber plantations valued at over $60mil are being implemented in Laos by the Viet Nam Rubber Corporation and Dak Lak Rubber Co.

Overseas investment could bring multiple benefits for the country's economic development, said Nguyen Minh Phong of the Ha Noi Institute of Social and Economic Development.

If Vietnamese businesses had more representative offices, branches or facilities abroad, he said, they could take the initiative in establishing their own distribution systems as well as grasping demand and tastes in overseas markets.

Investing abroad would also create opportunities for Vietnamese firms to seek new trading partners and diversify raw material sources, he added.

In order to encourage businesses to invest aboard, local experts suggested continuous improvements in the legal system and simplifications in administrative procedures.

Comprehensive information about foreign markets, trade partners and investment climates as well as consultancy in law, accounting and import-export procedures would also help boost investment abroad.

(Source: Viet Nam News)

Illegal use of German-made chainsaws threatens Cambodia's forests


Illegal use of high-performance German-made chainsaws in Cambodia is destroying its forests, conservationists warned in a statement Monday.

PeunPa, ''Friends of the Wild'' that is a Thai organization dedicated to ending illegal wildlife trade and protecting natural habitats, said 150 German-made chainsaws were confiscated in Preah Monivong (Bokor) National Park in 2007, up from 97 in 2006.

He dreams of peace at last

JANET JENSEN/The News Tribune
Daran Kravanh gets emotional Sunday in Tacoma while talking about his flight from Cambodia during the horrific regime of of the Khmer Rouge.

JANET JENSEN/The News Tribune
Kravanh thanks members of the group Cambodian Classical and Folk Dance of Tacoma. From left are Kravanh, Daravey Oum, Melinda Oum, Sary Seng and their teacher, Rady Oum.

Janet Jensen/The News Tribune
Sisters Daravey, 20, left, and Melinda Oum, 14, perform traditional folk dances for Kravanh.

Tacoma, WA -
January 8, 2008

STEVE MAYNARD; steve.maynard@thenewstribune.com

A Tacoma social worker wants to be elected prime minister of Cambodia. Impossible? Don’t mention that word to Daran Kravanh. Kravanh survived and escaped the Khmer Rouge slaughter in Cambodia that killed his mother, his father, six brothers and a sister.

After living in Tacoma since 1991, he wants to lead his homeland, challenging the regime of Prime Minister Hun Sen.

“I want to change the Cambodian society from bad to good,” Kravanh said.

His campaign had its first fundraiser Sunday in Tacoma at the Landmark Convention Center.
Three young Cambodian women in colorful costumes honored him with traditional folk dances once reserved only for the Cambodian royal court.

About three dozen friends and supporters listened to his wife, Bree Kravanh, read from “Music Through the Dark,” her book about Kravanh’s account of surviving the Communist Killing Fields.

In between readings, Kravanh played the accordion, the instrument whose forbidden music he played to charm soldiers and somehow avoid death. And pausing often to rub his eyes, he talked of those terrible years when music was the only sanity amid the horror.

He recalled the words of a friend who was killed by the Khmer Rouge: “Play music. Music is powerful. Play until you die.”

Jarret McGill, who works with Kravanh at the state Department of Social and Health Services, was there to support his friend and contribute to his cause.

“He’s probably the most giving person I’ve ever met,” he said. “He would be good for Cambodia.”

Chanday Nourn, a former Cambodian general and police officer who fled to America six years ago and now lives in Tacoma, said Kravanh has support locally, in Cambodia and elsewhere in the world.

Added Ted Savun, a former leader of the Cambodian association in Florida and now a community college instructor in Olympia: “Daran is the guy who likes human rights. He likes justice and freedom. He would go to Cambodia to free the country.”

Bringing change to his homeland means fighting poverty, adding jobs and promoting social justice, Kravahn said.

And it means defeating Sen in the July 27 election.

Kravanh, 50, said he’s already an official candidate for prime minister, the country’s top elected position.

He registered his own political party in Cambodia, the Khmer Anti-Poverty Party, with himself as its candidate.

On a visit to Cambodia last year, Kravanh said he gained the 6,000 registered supporters required to form the party.

He spoke at a conference last April on the Khmer Rouge era. Leading Buddhist monks told him then, “‘I want you to be a leader of this country,’” Kravanh said.

He’s opened a campaign office in a house in Phnom Penh.

Kravanh said there are at least two other serious candidates competing against Sen.

Kravanh is trying to raise money to go back to Cambodia in February to have a convention for organizing his supporters and his campaign.

He plans to return in March for a debate. And then he plans to go back in June and stay through the election.

If he wins, he’ll stay in Cambodia and leave his job as a social worker for the state.

Kravanh has been a leader in Tacoma’s Cambodian community and has helped organized Bon Om Tuk, a water festival that honors Cambodia’s boat-racing tradition.

Speaking forcefully during an interview, Kravanh explained why he’s running for prime minister.

He witnessed people suffer during the Khmer Rouge regime before it fell in 1979.

More than 2 million Cambodians were killed or died of starvation or illness during the reign of Pol Pot, the Khmer Rouge tyrant.

But still, Cambodia suffers from poverty. The United Nations says Cambodia is the eighth-least-developed country in the world.

“I saw the people suffer,” Kravanh said. “I cannot stay still.”

Bree Kravanh wrote “Music Through the Dark” before she and Daran married a year ago – when her name was Bree Lafreniere.

She overcame her own doubts about her husband’s dream of becoming prime minister of his homeland.

“At first, I thought this was impossible,” said Bree Kravanh, 48.

Now, she said, “There’s no other good candidate that’s speaking to what people want and need desperately.”

After Sunday’s event, Kravanh said his supporters will have fundraisers in Oregon and California.

Kravanh concedes his candidacy appears to be a longshot.

“I’m not a politician,” Kravanh said. “I’m a peacemaker.”

“A lot of people laugh at me because I don’t have enough money,” he said.

“I have the capacity, I have the ability and I have the energy,” Kravanh said. “I will win.”

A new church is consecrated in Phnom Penh: the first after the destruction of the Khmer Rossi


It has been defined “defined a sign of hope”. Present, card. Raffaele Martino and more than a thousand Catholics from across the country as well as priests and missionaries.

Phnom Penh (AsiaNews) – Today the feast of the Epiphany, card. Renato Raffaele Martino consecrated the church of “Infant Jesus” in Boeung Tum Pun, Phnom Penh. It is the first church to be consecrated in the capital in the aftermath of the Khmer Rouge regime, its extermination and deportation of millions of people. Priests who took charge of its building, among them Fr. Mario Ghezzi from PIME, have described it as a “sign of hope” and rebirth.

Present at yesterdays ceremony apart from card. Martino – former nuncio in Cambodia and now president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace – the current nuncio to Thailand and Cambodia, msgr. Salvatore Pennacchio; msgr. Emile Destombes, bishop of Phnom Penh; and apostolic prefect of Battambang and Kompong-Cham; bishop emeritus msgr.

Yves Ramousse, who was bishop of Phnom Penh before the arrival of Pol Pot.

Circa one thousand faithful from diverse areas across the nation took part in the ceremony, thirty priests, diocesan and religious who work in the Cambodian church. One of the priests present commented: “It was a moment of great enthusiasm and joy, above all for the French missionaries from Mep ( Missions etrangères de Paris), who have been present in this church for some time now and who have witnessed the devastation and persecution of the communist period. There was a youthful climate and an atmosphere of hope, in a community that has chosen to serve charity”.

In fact, the parish area promotes charitable initiatives supported by Cambodian nuns, including a hotel for young female students from across the country; a "sick shelter" , for the poor and sick who come from afar to receive hospital treatment; a home for sick children and HIV/AIDS sufferers, all run by Maryknoll missionary sisters.

Many foreigners who work on the ground with NGO’s were also present. The new parish priest is fr. Mario Ghezzi, from PIME, who was chiefly responsible for bringing Msgr. Destombes dream of the Church to fruition.

Two Australian businessmen take over Phnom Penh Post

AFX News Limited

BANGKOK (Thomson Financial) - Two Australian businessmen with stakes in The Myanmar Times weekly announced Monday they have taken a controlling interest in The Phnom Penh Post, a respected Cambodian newspaper.

Ross Dunkley, chief executive officer of Myanmar Consolidated Media, which publishes the Myanmar Times, said he and Bill Clough, an Australian miner and oil and gas entrepreneur, have taken a controlling stake in the paper.

He said the Cambodian paper would be run completely separately from the Myanmar publications, which include English and Myanmar-language weeklies.

The Phnom Penh Post, which publishes every two weeks, was founded by American journalist Michael Hayes 17 years ago.

Hayes will remain as editor in chief, while the project will be managed by Michel Dauguet, a French national with extensive experience working in Vietnam in media and software development, the statement said.

The Myanmar Times began publishing in 2000 as that country's first private newspaper in over three decades. Dunkley also had experience working in tightly-controlled societies as editor of the Vietnam Investment Review.

Ieu Pannakar's explanation on the filming of King-Father's Monatio

Translated from Khmer by Socheata

Communiqué from H.E. Ieu Pannakar03 January 2008

The Cambodia Daily reported an article, dated 03 January 2008, about the filming of a movie authored by His Majesty (King-Father). This article could make the spectators believe that the producers of the royal achievement did not understand well about the Khmer Rouge.

Therefore, we, the producers (of the movie), would like to inform our respected compatriots who spent life and death under the 3-year-8-month-20-day blood and tears regime, that we truly know the Khmer Rouge, but this royal writing only brings up a truthful event which took place and died down during the fall of the Khmer Republic regime, a group that names itself Monatio, was a movement formed by the sons of the rich people who set it up as a game, while acting as Khmer Rouge, based on their own volition, at the end of the movie, they were all killed by the real Khmer Rouge without mercy.

Director of National Khemara Production(Signed) Ieu Pannakar

7 January is a remembering day or the day to celebrate the communist party after the fall of communist Khmer Rouge?

Thank you 7 January, the day that all Khmer peoples get off the tiger's mouth then fall into crocodile's mouth. (Picture: Sacravatoons)

Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen (L) and his wife Bunrany clap as they meet their supporters at their Cambodian People's Party headquarters in Phnom Penh January 7, 2008, to mark the 29th anniversary of the toppling of Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge regime. Some 1.7 million people are believed to have died in the "Killing Fields" of the ultra-Maoist guerrillas, whose four year reign of terror was brought to an end in 1979 by invading troops from neighbouring Vietnam.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA)

Cambodian Muslim supporters of Cambodian People's Party (CPP) attend a ceremony at the CCP headquarters in Phnom Penh, 07 January 2008. The CPP marked the 29th anniversary of the fall of the 1975-1979 Khmer Rouge regime with Cambodia's powerful ruling party voicing its support for prosecuting leaders of the Khmer Rouge regime, but warning against politicising the country's genocide trials.(AFP/Tang Chhin Sothy)

Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen (2nd R), his wife Bunrany (R), President of the Senate Chea Sim (C), Heng Samrin (2nd L) and his wife release doves at their Cambodian People's Party headquarters in Phnom Penh January 7, 2008, to mark the 29th anniversary of the toppling of Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge regime. Some 1.7 million people are believed to have died in the "Killing Fields" of the ultra-Maoist guerrillas, whose four year reign of terror was brought to an end in 1979 by invading troops from neighbouring Vietnam.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA)

Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen (R) and his wife Bunrany (4th R) greet his supporters at their Cambodian People's Party headquarters in Phnom Penh January 7, 2008, to mark the 29th anniversary of the toppling of Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge regime. Some 1.7 million people are believed to have died in the "Killing Fields" of the ultra-Maoist guerrillas, whose four year reign of terror was brought to an end in 1979 by invading troops from neighbouring Vietnam. REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea

Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen (front R), President of the Senate Chea Sim (front C) and President of the National Assembly Heng Samrin pray at their Cambodian People's Party headquarters in Phnom Penh January 7, 2008, to mark the 29th anniversary of the toppling of Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge regime. Some 1.7 million people are believed to have died in the "Killing Fields" of the ultra-Maoist guerrillas, whose four year reign of terror was brought to an end in 1979 by invading troops from neighbouring Vietnam.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA)

Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen (R), President of the Senate Chea Sim (C) and President of the National Assembly Heng Samrin pray to Buddhists monks at the Cambodian People's Party headquarters in Phnom Penh January 7, 2008, to mark the 29th anniversary of the toppling of Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge regime. Some 1.7 million people are believed to have died in the "Killing Fields" of the ultra-Maoist guerrillas, whose four year reign of terror was brought to an end in 1979 by invading troops from neighbouring Vietnam. REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea

Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen (R) greets his supporters at the Cambodian People's Party headquarters in Phnom Penh January 7, 2008, to mark the 29th anniversary of the toppling of Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge regime. Some 1.7 million people are believed to have died in the "Killing Fields" of the ultra-Maoist guerrillas, whose four year reign of terror was brought to an end in 1979 by invading troops from neighbouring Vietnam. REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea