Saturday, 12 January 2008

Mr. Son Chhay: The Khmer Government’s Politics Preventing the Establishment of a Taiwanese Trade Office Are Stupid

12 January 2008.
The Mirror, Vol. 12, No. 542

“Mr. Son Chhay, a Sam Rainsy Party parliamentarian and the chairperson of the Fifth Commission of the National Assembly [in charge of Foreign Affairs, International Cooperation, Information and Media], reacted to the blocking attitude by Khmer government leaders, preventing the establishment of a Taiwanese trade office in Cambodia.

“Mr. Son Chhay said, ‘The Khmer government’s politics preventing the establishment of a Taiwanese trade office in Cambodia is stupid, and it is even more extremist than the People’s Republic of China, because they allow such a representative office in their country.’

“The parliamentarian, who is good in criticizing the government without fear of anybody, stated clearly, “Our Cambodia has also Taiwanese investors. And if we need investments in order to increase the number of jobs for Khmer citizens and to help the economy of the country, we should not be so tough toward Taiwan when it is only to set up such a trade office.’

“Mr. Son Chhay, the chairperson of the Fifth Commission of the National Assembly of Cambodia, continued, ‘Such an office does not cause any opposition by China. Therefore, to be afraid of China, and pleasing China too much, are political positions which bring a loss to our national interests.’

“It should be remembered that Cambodia adheres to the One-China Policy since previously. Even the leader of the biggest opposition party of Cambodia - Mr. Sam Rainsy - also used to speak about his supports for the One-China Policy.

“However, Mr. Sam Rainsy also used to provide good recommendations to the Hun Sen Government for the One-China Policy: that it must consider also the relations of Cambodian international trade with other countries worldwide, so that our national economy survives and our citizens have a good livelihood.

“Nonetheless, Hun Sen Government officials stated on 9 January that three has not been any official request for opening a Taiwanese trade representative office in Cambodia.

“In the meantime, Mr. Khieu Kanharith, Minister of Information and spokesperson of the Hun Sen Government, said, ‘In general, Taiwanese trade representative offices always play a role as unofficial embassies of Taiwan. But so far, we have not received any request and we have also not made any comment. Nevertheless, we think that, because trade offices play a role as unofficial Taiwanese offices, it would be difficult to consider such a request. To work well, Taiwanese businesspeople who come to invest in Cambodia should create associations or anything which can also facilitate the work of those who want to do business in Cambodia.

“Mr. Khieu Kanharith said so after national and international newspapers had published an announcement by an official of the Taiwan External Trade Development Council, stating their plan to reopen a trade office in Cambodia.

“Different newspapers quoted the speech of the official of the Taiwan External Trade Development Council, which plans to open its branch offices in Cambodia and in some other countries in Asia, such as Burma and Pakistan etc.

“But a speech of Mr. Om Yentieng, a senior advisor to Prime Minister Hun Sen, was quoted by a local newspaper saying that the plan of Taiwan [in the original Khmer: ‘of the Island of Taiwan’] may not work.

“It should be stated that a Taiwanese trade representative office had once been created in Cambodia after 1993, but it was closed after the events of fighting between the forces loyal to the Cambodian People’s Party and the forces loyal to Prince Ranariddh, the former president of Funcinpec, in July 1997 in Phnom Penh .

“Later on, the Cambodian government had continued to prohibit very firmly and definitely to open a Taiwanese trade representative office in Cambodia, by just stating that Cambodia has to maintain a One-China policy.

“Even so, Mr. Son Chhay, the Sam Rainsy Party parliamentarian and chairperson of the Fifth Commission of the National Assembly, reminded Hun Sen Government officials, ‘The attitude of being afraid of China, and of pleasing China too much, is a political position contributing to the loss of our national interests.’

“Furthermore, Mr. Son Chhay stressed, ‘The Khmer government’s politics preventing the establishment of a Taiwanese trade office in Cambodia is stupid, and it is even more extremist than the People’s Republic of China, because they allow such a representative office in their country.’”

Khmer Machas Srok, Vol.2, #90, 11-12.1.2008

CPP holds meeting for Cambodian election in July

PHNOM PENH, Jan. 12 (Xinhua) -- The major ruling Cambodian People's Party (CPP) here on Saturday convened an extraordinary general assembly to review its achievements and prepare itself for the general election on July 27.

"We will monitor a number of matters in preparation for the July general election and the general assembly also has to approve the party's policies for the 2008-2013 period in the development and protection of the country," said CPP President Chea Sim in his speech.

If we compare the voters in the 2003 general election with those of the 2002 communal councils election, we could find that the number of supporters for our party decreased, while that of the total voters of the country increased," said Chea Sim, who is also the Senate President.

"We have learned something from these experiences and debated it a lot in order to set up policies to fill the gap. I hope that we will achieve good results as we plan and approve for the upcoming general election," he said.

Our party members have joined together to solve problems in the country, including the political deadlock in 2003, the border demarcation, the strengthening of peace, political stability and social security, the economic growth, as well as successes of communal councils and general elections, he added.

Deputy party president and Prime Minister Hun Sen and honorary party president and National Assembly President Heng Samrin also attended the general assembly.

CPP has over five million members across the country, or almost one third of the country's total population. It won landslide victory in the last commune councils election in April 2007 and has chosen Hun Sen as premier candidate for the July general election.

CPP has been governing the kingdom in conjunction with the royalist Funcinpec Party for over a decade.

Editor: An Lu

Sacravatoons: Sacrava's Bizaar Magazine

Courtesy of Sacravatoon:

Groups: Sentence Too Light in Drug Conviction

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

Listen Chun Sakada reports in Khmer

A Phnom Penh Municipal Court sentence for a man accused of running an extensive drug ring was too light, groups said. Chea Chong was sentenced to 25 years and was fined $25,000.

“I would request that the sentence be at the maximum level because the crime of circulating and producing illegal drugs is an international crime,” said Keo Remy, vice president of the Human Rights Party. “This kind of crime deserves the death penalty in some neighboring countries. So, the court should thus sentence the criminals to at least life imprisonment as our constitution does not have capital punishment.”

Chea Chong was the suspected leader of a drug production ring busted in Kampong Speu in April, when police found nearly 5 tons of drug-making materials.

“If we compare [the sentence] to neighboring countries, our court did not do the right job,” said Thun Saray, director of the human rights group Adhoc, “because in those countries for even 20 grams of drugs the criminal receives capital punishment.”

Rights groups do not want capital punishment, he said, but punishment to fit the crime.

Three accomplices were given similar prison sentences, and a fourth, who was to have received life in prison, escaped, officials said.

A prime suspect in the case reportedly jumped out a window to his death in August 2007.

“The court’s sentencing of the largest ring of drug-producing and circulating criminals in Kompong Speu seems unclear and suspicious, because the case is so big, yet the criminals are not high-ranking officials, but ordinary people, and received light punishment,” said Eng Chhay Eang, secretary-general of the Sam Rainsy Party. “The case must be investigated further, and the criminals must be punished more heavily.”

Taiwan Flight Makes Emergency Landing

By Mean Veasna,
VOA Khmer Original report from Phnom Penh
11 January 2008

Listen Mean Veasna reports in Khmer

A Taiwanese flight returned to Phnom Penh International Airport shortly after takeoff Friday, following pressurization problems and a shortage of oxygen, officials said.

Eva Air Flight BR266, bound for Taipei with 136 passengers on board, circled the airport for nearly two hours to reduce the fuel in its tanks before gaining clearance for an emergency landing.

“The pressurization system stopped working, so the plane did not have enough oxygen,” said Kim San, flight chief for Cambodia Air Traffic Services.

“The cargo door was not closed tightly, and then the pressure was not maintained,” said Say Chhunpenhsakun, director of planning and training for Cambodia Air Traffic Services.
After a quick adjustment, the plane took off again.

City Stalling on Forum Request, Party Claims

By Heng Reaksmey,
VOA Khmer Original report from Phnom Penh
11 January 2008

Listen Heng Reaksmey reports in Khmer

Phnom Penh authorities have been indecisive on a request by the Human Rights Party to hold a large public gathering next month over the rising cost of fuel, party officials said.

City officials said the request for a forum of 5,000 people was not detailed enough.

“We just want to help the government with some recommendations on how to stop the gas price from rising,” said Chan Ven, deputy secretary-general of the Human Rights Party. “So it is a sensitive point for the government. Then it’s a bit difficult to allow.”

Party officials said city government, which is largely dominated by the Cambodian People’s Party, is stalling, as the rising cost of fuel and goods have begun to stir discontent in the capital and countryside.

“I requested the party to prepare a clear list of the participants to submit to City Hall, so that we can check whether the [forum] will be dealt with by the city or the Ministry of Interior,” said Om Sam El, director of Phnom Penh’s office for decision-making.

Cambodia's Largest Airport Planned For Seaside Resort

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AFP)--Cambodia's seaside airport near Sihanoukville is slated to become the country's largest as a new focus is placed on bringing tourists into the area, Tourism Minister Thong Khon said Friday.

"We project that Sihanoukville will be a well-developed city with potential in three areas: trade, industrial and tourism," Thong Khon told AFP in an interview.

"The plan of the government is for this airport to be bigger" than Phnom Penh International Airport.

A year after its reopening, service at the Sihanoukville airport remains limited to chartered domestic flights.

But plans are underway to make it a regional travel hub, with the first phase of a $200 million expansion expected to be completed by March.

The airport, some 230 kilometers southwest of Phnom Penh, had been closed since the early 1980s due to financial difficulties.

Direct flights between Siem Reap, the gateway to Cambodia's famed Angkor temples, and foreign cities have prompted a rise in tourist arrivals.

Officials hope Cambodia's south - which boasts long stretches of undisturbed coast and several islands currently under development - can also benefit from this boom by providing air links either to Siem Reap or directly to other countries.

Some 100,000 people visited Sihanoukville last year, Thong Khon said, adding that the government aimed to attract one million people by 2015.

Cambodia is one of the world's poorest countries, with tourism being one of the few rapidly growing industries bringing in much-needed revenue.

Tourist arrivals to Cambodia topped two million in 2007, marking a 20% increase over the previous year, Thong Khon said.

Officials hope to attract 2.4 million people to the country this year.

Cambodia revisited

Cambodian dancer Thavro Phim
performs a classical monkey dance.

By Mike Gordon
Advertiser Staff Writer

he temples of Angkor rise defiantly from Cambodia's dense forests, which have tried for centuries to cloak the sandstone structures in their lush, green folds.

With towers shaped like giant lotus buds and rooms covered with intricate stone reliefs, they have become monuments to an ancient culture.

For Michael Schuster, East-West Center Gallery curator, these monuments are a living symbol of resiliency, a tactile expression of an undaunted spirit thriving in a nation that survived genocide.

Cambodia is widely reported to be on an economic rebound, but Schuster — whose exhibit "Living Angkor" continues through Jan. 24 at the center — makes an impassioned case for the country's cultural revival. Schuster used extraordinary images from National Geographic photographer Paul Chesley as well as 13th- and 14th- century sculptures to share his vision of the temples in Angkor.

"We didn't want to do just an exhibit about the monuments," Schuster said. "We wanted to talk about them reconstituting an identity in Cambodia. I really wanted to give this idea of what's going on there — good things, bad things, difficult things, wonderful things — given the profound history of Cambodia."

This is a nation known for the late-1970s genocide of 2 million of its people — the aptly named era of the Killing Fields. It was equally infamous for a sea of land mines that maimed many others. Under brutal ruler Pol Pot, artists and intellectuals were either murdered or forced to work in agriculture.

And even though the regime fell in 1979, it was not until the past decade that Cambodia opened up to visitors, Schuster said. The Angkor region, with more than 1,000 temples or monuments, went from 100,000 visitors a year to 2 million, he said. Their desire to see the real Cambodia, and especially the Buddhist and Hindu temples built from the ninth to 15th centuries, inspired the Cambodian people.

"Now there is this great influx of interest, dynamism and growth," Schuster said. "There has been a great revival of the performing arts. There has been a great revival of the visual arts.

Sculpture traditions are being revived. We see all kinds of care from the international
community putting in funds for revitalization and care of the monuments."

The exhibit photographs were drawn from thousands of images that Chesley took in 1998 and 2007. The goal was to showcase the vitality of the region. There was a wealth of images, but Schuster said he reviewed so many, his eyes burned.

A child worshiping a towering statue of Shiva. A gardener on a smoke break. Three mine victims, all musicians, performing beside an artificial limb.

"They really do capture the living aspects," Schuster said. "It's not per se about the monuments, it's about the people in the monuments. The many people using the monuments, living there and coming there, and what that all means."

Chesley, who has shot for National Geographic for 25 years, had not been to the temples between his visits and said his 10 days there last July were a crowded, startling contrast to the serenity he found in 1998.

"In certain areas of the ruins, it is definitely shoulder-to-shoulder," he said.

Chesley noticed the change most at a temple called Ta Prohm. In 1998, Chesley photographed two monks amid the monstrous roots of a banyan tree growing out of the temple. They were the only people he encountered that morning.

"When I went this time, that particular area where the roots are was crowded," he said. "There were 25 people at 6 in the morning in that room where the roots are, and they were all taking pictures."

Quite poor, Cambodians have taken to tourism with a fever: Major markets between the temples sell souvenir T-shirts and paintings, children around their periphery hawk sodas, and cafes dot the landscape.

But Chesley said the people have not changed. "The people are the same — gentle," he said. "Cambodians are wonderful."

Because dance is sacred in Cambodia, and because many of the images on the temples are of dancers, "Living Angkor" will celebrate that reverence with a demonstration on Sunday by center alumnus and dancer Thavro Phim.

Phim, who now works with Southeast Asian immigrants in Philadelphia, was part of a 1996 workshop that helped revive the art, said William Feltz, the center's arts program coordinator.
Nine performers from the U.S. and Cambodia gathered at the center to share their knowledge, videotape dances and breathe life into an art left dying on the Killing Fields, he said.

"That East-West Center gathering helped serve as a catalyst for subsequent connections between the Cambodian-Americans and the Cambodian dancers, and now the tradition is flourishing and there are many tourist shows," Feltz said.

It is culture refusing to die, the present holding on to the past against tremendous odds.
"Tourism is clearly going to continue to be an important aspect of the Cambodian economy," said Feltz. "In the case of Cambodia, these great works of beauty represent the future."

Cambodian banking sector improving but not there yet: S&P

Fri, 11 Jan 2008
Author : DPA

Phnom Penh - Standard & Poor's has awarded its first credit rating to a Cambodian bank but says despite strong growth and a complete overhaul of the banking sector the country remains a risk. The rating agency praised the country's central bank, saying it had "taken steps to restore confidence and implement improvements," but still awarded Cambodia a group 10 Banking Industry Country Risk Assessment in its report, received Friday.

Lack of a track record on the effectiveness of the new legal frameworks, a lack of transparency and a relatively small banking sector at a nascent stage of development all offset the country's rapid economic growths as weaknesses, the report said.

It assigned Acleda Bank Plc, Cambodia's third-largest bank, a B+/B credit rating, making it the first Cambodian bank to achieve a rating. However B+ is still four levels below investment grade.

Cambodia's group 10 rating overall puts it on a par with countries such as Bolivia.

Celebration dance

COURTESY THAVRO PHIMThavro Phim will perform Cambodian dances at the East-West Center Gallery on Jan. 13, as part of the "Living Angkor" display at the gallery.

COURTESY THAVRO PHIMA toy bird, on loan from the Institute of Khmer Traditional Textiles, is part of the ongoing exhibit.

An artistic demonstration symbolizes cultural pride

By Nancy Arcayna

During the period known as the "Killing Fields" in Cambodia (1975-1979), Thavro Phim lost his father, brother and grandfather. The communist revolution took the lives of more than a quarter of the country's population, including many cultural leaders.

Part of the recovery has been to restore the nation's cultural heritage. Phim is part of the first post-Khmer Rouge generation to study traditional dance, participating in programs to maintain a sense of continuity and history through folk dances and classical drama.

"Cambodian dance served as an aspect of cultural pride, as they recovered," said William Feltz, coordinator of the East-West Center Arts Program.

In free Cambodian dance demonstrations this weekend at the East-West Center, Phim will present his humorous classical monkey dance, which originates from the Hindu epic Ramayana.

"His specialty is the monkey dance," Feltz said. "He has mastered the traditional Cambodian dance styles."

Phim last performed in the islands about 11 years ago when he was a research intern at the East-West Center. During his stay, he also performed with the Tau Dance Theatre and Dances We Dance Company.

He now works with Southeast Asian immigrants in Philadelphia.

The dance demonstrations are among events connected to the "Living Angkor" cultural display on view through Jan. 17 at the East-West Center Gallery. The exhibit includes artifacts, photographs from National Geographic photographer Paul Chelsey, costumes, masks, sculpture, stone carvings, traditional textiles and musical instruments.

Lawmakers consider letting foreigners buy real estate

Phnom Penh Post, Issue 17 / 01, January 11 - 23, 2008

By Cat Barton

Foreign investors may not need to wait for the stock market in 2009 if they want a piece of Cambodia's economy.

The government is on the verge of changing the property ownership laws so that foreigners will be able to buy real estate in the country and own it outright.

Although current law prohibits foreigners from actually holding title to land in Cambodia, the National Assembly is considering an amendment to the law that could be approved soon, said Nuth Narang, Secretary of State at the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction.

"Local developers have a massive interest in seeing the law change. Cambodia is open for business now. There is huge demand, foreigners would buy property," said Matthew Rendall, a lawyer with the investment advisors Sciaroni and Associates.

Although it was not clear what restrictions Cambodia might put on foreign property investment, Rendall said there is no downside to changing the law. Cambodia has "nothing to lose," he said.

Developers contacted by the Post said a change in the law would change the marketing environment for developers in Cambodia.

Marketing director Nhem Sothea at Grand Phnom Penh International City said changing the law would make it "much easier to sell property here."

"There is a large Korean market -they want to come here and retire and we could access that market better with a change to the law."

Backed by Indonesia's Cinputra, through a local partner RCAF Gen. Ke Kim Yan, the International City is developing 260 hectares 20 minutes northwest of the city center into a gated community.

Nick Chandler, sales and marketing director for Brocon, which buys colonial buildings in Cambodia and rehabilitates the apartments for sale to foreign investors, said a change in the law would create huge demand.

"There is a real buzz regarding Cambodia," he said. "They have had three years of double digit growth-9 percent this year. A lot of people see that and those people see property as the best and most stable way to get into this market."

Narang said the ministry is discussing whether changing the law "will be beneficial to the economy." "We need to assess how best to go about this," said Narang.

He added that the ministry is seen as favoring the amendment because in August it passed a sub decree allowing foreigners to use property they own via a leasehold as collateral with the banks.

Some of Cambodia's neighbors already permit some type of foreign property ownership. Thailand, Singapore and Malaysia all allow foreign investment in "immovable property" with various restrictions.

Immovable property includes not only land but buildings and leases.In Thailand, the rules are that at least 51 percent of high end apartment block developments must be Thai-owned. In Singapore, foreign nationals can own property above the seventh floor.

"It would be a natural progression for Cambodia to introduce something similar," said Rendall.

"It will bring a massive injection of investment into the economy. There will be a huge reaction."

Other options could be prohibiting foreign ownership of ground floor units, but allowing sale of above ground apartments. Or the government might change the title deeds so that anything defined as a "building" but not as "land" could be bought.

A change in the law would clearly benefit developers such as the South Korean developers of the Camko City project, which includes many high end apartments.

Camko City officials could not be reached for comment. According to the company's marketing information, the first planned development includes 18 houses and 100 townhouses, but many more large blocks of apartments.

At the moment, property developers get around the land buying restriction by selling leaseholds to foreign investors, said Chandler at Brocon,He said foreign buyers obtain a 99-year lease with an option to renew.

The leases all include a clause saying if the land law changes, the leaseholds will be converted to "free hold." Owners would have to pay certain taxes and transfer fees to convert.

He said Brocon has sold more than 20 properties under the lease agreement. "A change of law allowing foreigners to buy would mean all leases revert to freehold and that would give us an even easier product to sell," said Chandler.

Brocon's target market is sophisticated foreign investors who already have property portfolios in the region.

"The current legal framework is not an impediment to us. We are not selling to mum and dad investors."

"Capital growth on land over the last two years has been ridiculous-something that sold for $500 two years ago is now $2,000 plus," said Chandler.

Poipet street kids: far worse off than expected

Phnom Penh Post, Issue 17 / 01, January 11 - 23, 2008

By Tracey Shelton

Poipet-A new survey on street kids living in this bustling, border town shocked social workers who say they didn't expect to see so many children living in deplorable conditions and so few attending school.

Yann Grandin, an advisor with the NGO Goutte d'Eau (GE) which conducted the survey of 210 children living on both the Thai and Cambodian side of the border, said the information gathered was in line with information they had about children he had worked with, but previously the results were considered to be the worst case scenario. It was the high percentages of child victims that came as a surprise, said Grandin, who has worked in Poipet for three years.

"I had not expected that almost the entire target group would have to face such hazardous living conditions," he said.

Thirty percent of the children interviewed said they regularly slept on the streets. The most common reasons they gave were fear of returning home, lack of earnings to turn over to their parents, domestic violence or simply that they preferred to stay on the street with siblings or friends.

The dusty town of Poipet, home to an estimated 70,000 people, has seen incredible growth since the opening of its first casino in 1999. Back then the population was just 5,000.

Thousands of Thais cross the border daily to gamble and the industry is thriving with nine casinos. Imports, both legal and illegal, are carted across the border by hundreds of cart pullers in an unending stream. Popular markets on both sides of the border attract shoppers from around the region.

The border crossing is also becoming more popular for tourists as roads to Siem Reap slowly improve. All this activity gives poor provincial families the impression that Poipet's bustling streets may offer them jobs.

But most of the population lives in poverty, and people often are caught up in the cycle of illegal immigration and deportation as they try for work in Thailand.

"This extremely unstable scenario makes the families concentrate all their efforts on daily survival, with no expectations or plans for the future," Grandin said. "Therefore, the children are part of the daily survival plan, having to work or beg to support the family and making it impossible to go to school."

Of those street kids who had homes, 89 percent lived in one-room plastic shacks. The sanitary conditions in the homes were inadequate, particularly in the rainy season.

The survey revealed that 75 percent of those interviewed had either dropped out or never attended school. Of those who had attended, fewer than 20 percent had progressed beyond grade 3.

Most of the children were under age 15. Half reported they worked all day everyday, most commonly scavenging and begging. Many worked as street sellers or cart pullers, transporting the flow of Thai imports across the border. Only a few children described theft or smuggling as their main form of income.

Daily wages ranged from 20 to 200 baht, or about 50 cents to $6.

Most of the girls earned a living by carrying umbrellas to shelter tourists from sun or rain while waiting at immigration. That job was of particular concern to social workers who say that kind of close contact with wealthy adults can lead to prostitution.

"Umbrella girls have admitted to our social workers that they sometimes have sexual relations for money," Grandin said.

"Two months ago we had two girls who disappeared for a few days from one of our two daycare centers. Parents believed that they were staying on the Thai side."

"Both of them came back after a few days, saying that they managed to escape from a brothel where they were forced to work as waitresses."

Grandin said he also received information that some umbrella girls were forced to work as prostitutes in the Thai market.

Only 20 percent of those interviewed were natives of Poipet. The rest were from a variety of poverty stricken families who moved there to find work. Bangkok survey

Well beyond the border the story is similar for the estimated 1,000 Khmer children begging and selling in the streets of Bangkok.

A survey of these street workers conducted in Bangkok last year by Friends International challenged previous assumptions of child trafficking rings when 80 percent of those interviewed said they were bought to Thailand by a parent or relative.In an interview at the GE center in Phnom Penh, 15- year- old Panha (not his real name) described his life as a beggar in Poipet before he was scooped up by GE, and brought to Phnom Penh to attend a special school for the handicapped.

He said he was very young when his parents took him to Thailand. Crippled by polio, he worked everyday begging and selling flowers in Bangkok until he was arrested by police and deported alone to Poipet about a year ago.

Social workers believe his mother was a child trafficker.

He described many other Khmer children being brought to Thailand by his mother to sell and beg along with him. Each night they would turn over all their earnings to his mother.

Workers from the Poipet Transit Center, a government run assistance center for women and children deported across the Thai border, said that five to ten trucks arrive at Poipet border crossing every day carrying Khmer deportees, many of them children arrested for begging alone on the street.

Glue sniffingThe Poipet survey completed last month found 26 of the 210 children interviewed admitted to taking drugs. But those who conducted the survey said that may not be an accurate portrayal of the drug use problem.

Panha said he picked up glue sniffing while he existed on money from begging around the border casinos. He joined a drug rehabilitation program at GE which later brought him to Phnom Penh.

"Many children denied consuming drugs although they have been seen by GE social workers taking drugs many times before," said Beatrice Muller, a Swiss volunteer who coordinated the survey.

However when asked if they knew of any drugs used on the streets of Poipet, most of the children admitted they were familiar particularly with glue sniffing and the meth- amphetamine known locally as yama.

More than half admitted their friends or relatives use drugs regularly.

Grandin said as a result of the survey GE will extend its drug awareness program in Poipet.He said the biggest challenge in Poipet is dealing with such a significant number of poor and extremely unstable families in one place, which makes stabilizing the children's situation very difficult. GE plans to repeat the survey each year to assist itself and other NGOs working in the area.

Notice to readers from the Publisher & Editor-in-Chief

Phnom Penh Post, Issue 17 / 01, January 11 - 23, 2008

For a number of years now-too many in fact-I have been looking for investors who could inject some capital in the Phnom Penh Post to help the newspaper become more competitive, expand staffing, upgrade equipment and keep me from having any more sleepless nights worrying about making monthly payroll or finding a computer repairman on a frantic Thursday deadline.

The larger goal has always been to increase the Post's ability to provide news and analysis on events in Cambodia.

In this regard, readers will be interested to learn that I have come to an agreement with a group of investors to do just that.

The three individuals who have agreed to jointly take a majority stake in the Post are: Ross Dunkley, currently chief executive officer of Myanmar Consolidated Media (MCM); Bill Clough, an Australian miner and oil and gas entrepreneur; and, Michel Dauguet, a French businessman with more than a decade's worth of experience involved in media and technology companies in Vietnam and Thailand.

For the immediate future I will remain as editor-in-chief of the Post and have been assured that editorial control of the paper will remain in my hands. In this regard, let me state for the record that I am fully committed to make every effort to retain the standards of journalism excellence that the Post has tried to maintain since its inception back in July, 1992.

For anybody with even the remotest understanding of the near manic process that surrounds the collection of information and subsequent production of a newspaper on a shoe-string budget (which includes managing the attendant cast of unique characters who participate directly in this process), it is all too painfully clear that there are regular hiccups along the road. But the overall intent has been, is and will remain clear: to produce one of the best, most readable and most reliable newspapers in the world. This is the goal and will remain so for as long as I continue to be responsible for the newspaper's content.

When we hit the mark, readers have been generous in their praise; when we miss it, the barbs usually fly rather quickly from numerous quarters. Either way, this is to be encouraged and I hope that those who rely on the Post will continue to share their thoughts with us on the quality of what we publish. Your input is welcomed and most readers know exactly how to find us.

Otherwise, let me extend my sincerest best wishes to all Post readers, advertisers, overseas subscribers, contributors and friends for the coming year. Your on-going support and constructive criticism over the past 16 years has made the continued existence of this paper a reality. And please rest assured that all of us here at the Post are extremely grateful for that.Michael HayesPublisher & Editor-in-Chief

Sacravatoons: Xmer-town, Long Bitch

Courtesy of Sacravatoon:

Cambodia's Largest Airport Planned For Seaside Resort:Min-AFP

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AFP)--Cambodia's seaside airport near Sihanoukville is slated to become the country's largest as a new focus is placed on bringing tourists into the area, Tourism Minister Thong Khon said Friday.

"We project that Sihanoukville will be a well-developed city with potential in three areas: trade, industrial and tourism," Thong Khon told AFP in an interview.

"The plan of the government is for this airport to be bigger" than Phnom Penh International Airport.

A year after its reopening, service at the Sihanoukville airport remains limited to chartered domestic flights.

But plans are underway to make it a regional travel hub, with the first phase of a $200 million expansion expected to be completed by March.

The airport, some 230 kilometers southwest of Phnom Penh, had been closed since the early 1980s due to financial difficulties.

Direct flights between Siem Reap, the gateway to Cambodia's famed Angkor temples, and foreign cities have prompted a rise in tourist arrivals.

Officials hope Cambodia's south - which boasts long stretches of undisturbed coast and several islands currently under development - can also benefit from this boom by providing air links either to Siem Reap or directly to other countries.

Some 100,000 people visited Sihanoukville last year, Thong Khon said, adding that the government aimed to attract one million people by 2015.

Cambodia is one of the world's poorest countries, with tourism being one of the few rapidly growing industries bringing in much-needed revenue.

Tourist arrivals to Cambodia topped two million in 2007, marking a 20% increase over the previous year, Thong Khon said.

Officials hope to attract 2.4 million people to the country this year.

Khmer Rouge Tribunal Officials Plan to Meet People and Officials in Pailin in Order to Help Them Overcome Their Trauma

Posted on 11 January 2008.

The Mirror, Vol. 12, No. 542

“Phnom Penh: Co-investigating judges of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia [ECCC] will talk with citizens and former Khmer Rouge leadership officials in Pailin, in order to alleviate their trauma which was caused by the regime of Democratic Kampuchea [that is the Khmer Rouge], and to explain to them the process of the tribunal.

“Mr. Reach Sambath, the ECCC spokesperson, told Kampuchea Thmey on the afternoon of 9 January that the ECCC will hold a meeting with citizens and former Khmer Rouge officials in Pailin next week.

“He continued that the program will be held on 15 January 2008 with the participation of the co-investigating judges of the tribunal Mr. You Bunleng and Mr. Marcel Lemonde.

“Mr. Reach Sambath went on the say that the purpose of the talk is to provide information to the authorities and the people in general who are former Khmer Rouge forces as well as citizens in Pailin, so that they can clarify their feelings and understand the purpose of the tribunal. ‘We hold a talk there in order to eliminate misunderstandings relating to different cases at the Khmer Rouge tribunal. The tribunal has power to try only the top leaders having had most responsibility for the regime of Democratic Kampuchea. Thus, folks who are former low-level Khmer Rouge officials and all citizens do not have to be worried about or afraid of anything.” They must have good feelings and must not worry. The selection of Pailin to hold such a big talk is the first case for the tribunal.

“Mr. Reach Sambath also stated that the big talk in Pailin is to be held for two days – the first day is to meet with representatives of the authorities and former Khmer Rouge officials, and the second day is to meet with citizens. The program has the purpose to motivate the former Khmer Rouge officials and all citizens to cooperate with the tribunal, because all this work is for all humanity, not only for former Khmer Rouge members or former Khmer Rouge officials in Pailin; the tribunal process cannot be successful unless it is supported by the people in Pailin.
“A source from Pailin said, concerning the holding of a big talk for two days, it is supported by the authorities in Pailin, but it is not known how many former Khmer Rouge officials or citizens will participate.

“It should be stated that recently, the tribunal process has been interesting, because five former Khmer Rouge leaders were arrested and brought to be detained in the detention center of the tribunal. Those former officials are Khang Khek Ieu known as Duch, Nuon Chea, Khiev Samphan, Ieng Sary, and Ieng Sary’s wife Ieng Thirith.

“On 7 January [a National Holiday, remembering 7 January 1979, being liberated from the Khmer Rouge regime], the Cambodian People’s Party announced its support for the tribunal for the trial of former Khmer Rouge leaders, and it also declared to go against all activities trying to prevent or disturb the process of the tribunal, because the tribunal has been awaited for so long by the citizens who are victims of the regime of Democratic Kampuchea.”

Kampuchea Thmey, Vol.7, #1541, 10.1.2008

"Swirly-face" pedophile suspect pleads innocent

Canadian Christopher Paul Neil sits in the Bangkok Criminal Court on January 11, 2008.
REUTERS/Sukree Sukplang

BANGKOK (Reuters) - "Swirly-face" Canadian pedophile suspect Christopher Neil pleaded not guilty on Friday in a pre-trial court hearing to charges of molesting under-age children in Thailand, a court official said on Friday.

The Bangkok criminal court set March 10 as the start of Neil's trial, more than four months after he was arrested in an international man-hunt triggered by the unraveling of his digitally scrambled face from images of abuse found on the Internet.

The pictures are thought to have been taken in Vietnam and Cambodia, so fall outside Thai jurisdiction.

However, after he fled to Thailand from South Korea, where he had been teaching, two Thai teenagers came forward and accused him of paying for oral sex when they were nine and 14, grounds for prosecution under Thai law.

"He denied all the charges at a pre-trial interview by an assistant judge," the court official, who declined to be identified, told Reuters.

The 32-year-old, unmasked by clever police computer work and a unique Interpol Internet appeal, faced charges of molesting under-age children, depriving children of parental care and restraint of freedom, said the official.

If found guilty, he could spend up to 20 years in jail.

Neil was caught in October in the northeastern province of Nakhon Ratchasima, 250 km (160 miles) from Bangkok, thanks to a trace on the mobile phone of his 25-year-old transvestite boyfriend.

Thai police said he could be extradited once he had served his sentence. Cambodia said it also wanted to question Neil and would charge him if police there could put a case together. Vietnam might also want to question him.

(Reporting by Saovapark Pradubsang, writing by Nopporn Wong-Anan; editing by Ed Cropley and Roger Crabb)

Tourists see Mekong Delta in a day, by water and land

Jungle safari: Visitors take boat ride along a coconut tree-lined canal. — VNS Photo Hong Van

by Hong Van

HCM CITY — Children swam in the river. People bathed in the river. Men sat drinking on the terrace of their stilt houses near the riverbank. Women washed clothes in the river. A big stuffed bear was hanging to dry with some clothes on a fence.

When our boat passed by, children and teenagers on the riverbank jumped and waved their arms at us.

As we travelled along the Mekong River in Thailand, Cambodia and Viet Nam, the scenes of people’s lives at different spots were all quite similar.

The sinuous 4,184km Mekong River runs from Tibet, China, through Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Laos and Cambodia before it merges with the East Sea on the southeastern shores of Viet Nam.

The boat ride from Phnom Penh, Cambodia, to Viet Nam’s Vinh Xuyen border gate took around three hours.

The wind blew strong. We were so overwhelmed by what we saw along the river – the scenes of people’s everyday activities – that some of us flocked to the back of the boat to take photos.

Immigration procedures at the border went smoothly, except for one group member who was asked to return to Phnom Penh because his visa would not be valid until one day after our arrival. It cost US$10 for the boat ride back to Phnom Penh, but the Vietnamese boatman was kind enough to give the man a free ride.

We spent another 30 minutes on the boat travelling to Chau Doc Town in the Cuu Long (Mekong Delta) province of An Giang. On the wide river near the banks were fishing farms, petrol stations and floating water hyacinths.

Although we could have saved an hour going by boat, we decided to take a bus to Can Tho, the economic and cultural centre of Viet Nam’s Mekong Delta, 116km away from Chau Doc town.

The three-hour bus ride was a nice change from our previous perspective on the muddy river.
We passed by green rice fields, noticing the low straw-roofed houses with piles of straw nearby, the groves of bamboo, and the cows grazing in rice paddies. As the sun set, the scene became more nostalgic with smoke coming out of the houses.

Children in their school uniforms with backpacks walked hand in hand as they returned from school. Our bus driver honked as some children rode bicycles in the middle of the narrow road.
The bus quickly passed several newly painted churches and temples and village gates covered with weathered paint.

Cai Rang floating market

We arrived in Can Tho in the early evening. A boat had been arranged for us to visit the local Cai Rang floating market early the next morning.

At 6:30am, we set out the next day to see people who were already busy buying and selling at the floating market. Boats docked at the harbour were full of cabbages, sweet potatoes, watermelons, pineapples, grapefruits, mangoes, coconuts, coal, rice, and other essential goods, including detergent, cooking oil, salt and fish sauce.

The noise of people calling and yelling, of dogs barking and pigs oinking, as well as the roar of boat engines, brought the river to life. A boat with a barge containing a petrol station was pumping fuel to other boats through a pipe.

The local tour guide told us that people in small motorboats often go to the market early in the morning to buy vegetables or fruits or rice for resale. The big boats will stay until late afternoon.
We cruised around the market. People on the small boats approached to offer us fruit and locally embroidered clothes and tablecloths.

On the way back, a woman who had accompanied us from the beginning opened the big bag she had been carrying. She showed us sets of white embroidered tablecloths. She even put on the sleeping gown modeling it for us. One of us bought a gown for US$8 after bargaining down from $20.

The same morning, we left Can Tho for My Tho Town in Tien Giang Province, which is 110km away. Pham Thu Kim, a tour guide with the Tien Giang Tourism Department, greeted us in fluent English at the harbour. We later learned that she also spoke Russian, French, Chinese, English and Japanese.

About 70 km southwest of HCM City, for the past few years My Tho has become a popular tourism spot for foreigners. Families have signed contracts with the provincial tourism department to sell fruit, coconut toffees, handicrafts, and souvenirs such as small bottles of cobra wine, lacquerware, and embroidered clothes to tourists.

Making use of natural resources is how the people in the Mekong basin live. In Thailand, we visited a family about one hour from Bangkok who make palm sugar from palm flower juice. In My Tho, making coconut toffee is one of the most popular businesses.

After a short rest to sample grapefruit, pineapple, mango, watermelon, and tea for free, our tour guide, Kim, led us through a stand of water coconut trees as we arrived at a small harbour. We then boarded boats that could accommodate only six people each.

The boat owners gave each of us a conical hat to protect us from the hot sun. Weaving through the narrow canal with the tall coconut trees around us, we listened to a description of how the Vietnamese guerrillas used the criss-crossing canal system to hide from American surveillance above.

After about 15 minutes the canal led us to the Tien River, an estuary of the Mekong River. Our first boat had been waiting for us. We came back to the harbour and travelled to HCM City, ending our two-day tour in the Mekong Delta.

While we visited the delta from Phnom Penh, it is possible to travel from HCM City. Most of these tours are usually booked on De Tham, Pham Ngu Lao and Bui Vien streets in District 1.
The best time to visit the Mekong Delta is the dry season from November to January, the coolest time of the year. — VNS