Thursday, 24 January 2008

Sam Rainsy Puts Pressure on the King to Give the Title of Hero of Workers to Chea Vichea Posthumously

Posted on 24 January 2008.

The Mirror, Vol. 12, No. 544

Khieu Kanharith: A title does not come through demands

“Phnom Penh: The title of ‘hero’ should be granted to Mr. Chea Vichea posthumously. If the King does not grant this title, then the titles he has granted so far are meaningless. This is what Mr. Sam Rainsy, the opposition party leader, said while attending a garlands’ procession to Wat Langka where the former president of the Free Trade Union of Workers of the Kingdom of Cambodia was gunned down.

“Mr. Khieu Kanharith, the royal government’s spokesperson, said that such titles do not come in response to requests like Mr. Sam Rainsy said. Titles are given when the King himself wants to grant them.

“Yesterday morning, on 22 January 2008, the Free Trade Union of Workers of the Kingdom of Cambodia organized a ceremony to mark the anniversary of Chea Vichea’s death, who was gunned down on 22 January 2004 near Wat Langka. Mr. Sam Rainsy, the opposition party leader, attended the procession along with members of parliament of his party and more than 100 union members.

“In a public speech at the ceremony, Mr. Sam Rainsy said that Mr. Chea Vichea should be granted the title of ‘hero’ posthumously by the King, because Mr. Chea Vichea was a key activist who had helped thousands of Cambodian workers to demand their rights and freedoms.

“He continued that Mr. Chea Vichea should be granted the title posthumously, otherwise all titles granted by the King are meaningless. Mr. Sam Rainsy did not only ask the King to grant Mr. Chea Vichea a title posthumously, but he also reminded the King about bestowing titles, and then he insisted that it is necessary to find the true killers to be punished, as he considered that the detained suspects arrested by the police are not the real killers.

“Mr. Sam Rainsy added that the granting of titles at present to a number of okhnas and other sly figures only encourage their ambitions to destroy the nation and to commit corruption. Thus, if titles granted so far have been done like this, they have no value for real blameless patriots.

“Mr. Khieu Kanharith said that if the title is granted to Chea Vichea as Sam Rainsy has demanded, then there would be hundreds of titles needed for those who have sacrificed their lives for the nation and the country. We don’t mean to disrespect the dead, but Chea Vichea just helped workers to protest when there were demonstrations or irregularities in some factories only.

“Mr. Khieu Kanharith added that Chea Vichea only became very famous after his death, rather than when he was alive. Mr. Khieu Kanharith pointed to some evidence for this to be compared: if a title was to be granted to Chea Vichea, then it should also be granted to hundreds of thousands of soldiers who have died on the border, who have lived under storm, rain, and bullets, and who sacrificed their lives to the nation and to the country. They struggled to defend the country and the nation from enemy invasions. Moreover, the soldiers who had sacrificed their lives along the borders are to be highly valued for the nation and for the Cambodian people as a whole.

“Mr. Khieu Kanharith added that the granting of titles comes from the heart of the King himself. It is not done in response to demands like what Mr. Sam Rainsy wants. If Mr. Sam Rainsy appealed for the King to bestow the title on Mr. Chea Vichea, why doesn’t he ask for a title for Mr. Thun Bunly, who was a key reporter supporting his party, who was also shot dead [Notes: Murdered in May 1996 – Thun Bunly had been convicted in 1995 for insulting co-prime ministers Hun Sen and Norodom Ranariddh, and was appealing his conviction. The killing was denounced at that time as ‘despicable and cowardly’ by King Sihanouk]. This kind of demand is just exploiting an event for political gain.

“Mr. Hem Kouy, a decorated solider who received the title of hero in 1980, said that a title of hero is not obtained through demands or purchase. He explained that the title is reserved only for those who have a history of liberating the nation from a genocidal regime or from invading enemies. Those who have gone through such miserable life experiences should be given a title by the King. Mr. Hem Kouy added that if the King grants a title to a person, the name of that period will be in golden script recorded in history.

“Responding to the question whether the demand of the opposition leader will affect the King’s honor, Mr. Khieu Kanharith said that Mr. Sam Rainsy used to be a person who has always criticized the monarchy for a long time - not only he but also his father [changing from deputy prime minister to criticizing the government].”

Kampuchea Thmey, Vol.7, #1552, 23.01.2007

Cambodia business news

January 24, 2008
An offshoot of the company in control of Cambodia’s most powerful petroleum group, Sokimex, plans to develop a top-end resort on a beach in the coastal province of Sihanoukville, the area’s deputy governor confirmed Wednesday.
Cambodia and Viet Nam are expected to achieve bilateral trade worth US$2.3 billion annually by 2010, according to reports released at the border-trade meeting held in An Giang Province last week.
The North-South Corridor of the Asian Development Bank-funded (ADB) Great Asian Highway is nearly fully paved. But as the last kilometers are completed, questions are arising about the future social, economic and even geopolitical costs of the new roadway, and with them new hitches are emerging.
The Asian Development Bank (ADB) said it will provide 40.8 mln usd along with its development partners to help Cambodia maintain roads managed by the Ministry of Public Works and Transport and improve the capability of the ministry in managing and maintaining its road network.
South Korea’s stock exchange and the Cambodian government have agreed to set up a stock exchange in Phnom Penh in 2009, the latest signal of the optimism sweeping the fast growing but deeply impoverished country.

Vietnam exhibit a fine tribute

Mesabi Daily News
Wednesday, January 23rd, 2008

The Ironworld Discovery Center will be home to a truly emotionally moving exhibit from this Saturday to April 20.

“Requiem: By the Photographers Who Died in Vietnam and Indochina” will be ready for public viewing beginning Saturday. It is an exhibit that spans 25 years of war in that region, from the French Indochina War of the 1950s to the fall of Phnom Penh in Cambodia and Saigon in Vietnam in 1975.

That was a quarter-century of events that most definitely changed that region and also the United States. While hostilities between North Vietnam and the U.S. are now more than 30 years in the past and the two countries have renewed diplomatic and trade relations, the scars of that conflict still cut deep individually for many who fought there and the family and loved ones of the more than 55,000 Americans who gave the ultimate sacrifice in that prolonged war.
A description of the of the exhibit captures its essence well:

“Photographs are the images of history rescued from the oblivion of mortality. As much as anything else, this is a form of homage on the part of those who made it back from Vietnam to the memory of those who did not.”

We applaud the new Ironworld board and all involved in securing the exhibit for the Iron Range and getting it set up for display. Great job, all.

Cooperation is key to helping Mekong region

By Zhai Kun and Song Qingrun (China Daily)

One key foreign policy brought in by Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda was to step up economic aid for countries in the Mekong River basin, designating 2008 the year of exchanges between Japan and the nations of the Mekong region. Last Wednesday, Japan hosted a ministerial meeting in Tokyo with the foreign ministers of five Mekong region countries (Thailand, Myanmar, Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia).

Japan's Mekong River diplomacy has produced a slew of new initiatives in recent years. In November 2004, then Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi met with the Vietnamese, Laotian and Cambodian heads of state in their first summit, and they agreed to meet regularly every year. Two years later, Tokyo brought up the idea of a "crescent of freedom and prosperity", featuring aid for "emerging democracies" in the region, starting with the three nations mentioned above. In January 2007, Japan held a foreign minister-level meeting with Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia and offered to increase government funding for development aid. And on August 20 of the same year, then Prime Minister Shinzo Abe emphasized in a policy address that Japan would pursue what it called "values diplomacy" with members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and help the Mekong River countries advance the rule of law and build up election mechanisms that reflect the popular will.

At the foreign ministers' meeting with the five Mekong River nations last week, Japan promised more economic aid to the region, including a $20 million logistics network across the Mekong River valley at the Japanese government's expense, in addition to agreeing on the details of a $20 million aid package for the impoverished border regions of Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. Tokyo also called on Japanese enterprises to substantially increase their investments in Mekong River countries.

Japanese media have said the government's accelerated diplomatic and aid campaign in the Mekong River region is aimed at countering China's fast growing influence there, because China pursues a policy of "befriending, benefiting and reassuring its neighbors" and pushes for regional economic cooperation while increasing aid for the development of the region. These policies have allowed China's fast growing economy to benefit its neighbors in the Mekong River basin and helped enhance the region's prosperity and stability. China's relations with these countries have entered their best period in history. The situation has prompted some Japanese media entities to cry: "China's influence in that region has grown so much that it has surpassed Japan's."

As a matter of fact, competition and rivalry are not what the relationship between China and Japan's activities in the region is all about. There is a lot of room for the two countries to cooperate in helping the Mekong River region develop. The region faces a host of problems, including serious poverty, sorely inadequate infrastructure, environmental deterioration and a shortage of talent. It would greatly boost the region's development and stability if China and Japan joined hands to help the nations there solve these problems.

In fact, conditions are quite good today for China and Japan to jointly contribute to the development of the Mekong region. Leaders of both countries have expressed a willingness to deepen and expand bilateral cooperation in various areas and push forward the development of the strategic relationship of mutual benefit between the two East Asian neighbors. They have also agreed the two countries should cooperate in advancing the stability and development of not only Asia, but the whole world as well.

Premier Wen Jiabao has this to say on the issue: "China and Japan are two important countries in Asia and the world, and their relations exert significant impact on the region and even the world. We need to keep this in mind and step up bilateral coordination and cooperation ... and be committed to revitalizing Asia."

Prime Minister Fukuda has said Japan and China should cooperate for the sake of stability and development in Asia and the whole world.

To make this relationship of strategic mutual benefit concrete and advance stability and development in Asia, China and Japan can start by jointly advancing the stability and development of the Mekong River region. To be more specific, the two countries can cooperate in these areas:

First of all, they should join hands in helping uproot poverty in the region. The two nations can beef up their economic aid programs together and help the Mekong River region, where 50 million of the world's poorest people live, truly march toward prosperity and leave poverty forever behind. This will in turn contribute to the stability and development of that region, Asia and the world as a whole.

Second, they can help end the region's lack of modern infrastructure by working together in improving transportation, power supply, telecommunications and energy production. For transportation, China can help build the "north-south corridor" - a 2,000 km highway linking Kunming, capital of Yunnan province, and the Thai capital city of Bangkok via Laos. Japan, meanwhile, can aid the construction of the "east-west corridor" - a 1,500 km highway stretching from the port city of Da Nang on Vietnam's east coast through Laos and Thailand to Myanmar. The crisscrossing corridors will serve as pivotal transportation arteries, powering the development of regional economy; link the maritime members of ASEAN to the east and south; extend westward to India and link the Mekong River with the Ganges River; provide access to China in the north and help speed up the integration of an emerging regional economic sphere. Also, according to a report by Nikkei News on April 29, Japan and China were discussing the possibility of providing joint support for Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia to build power plants.
Third, they should also join efforts to improve the region's environment, which is deteriorating every day. As the economy develops, the region is increasingly hurt by soil deterioration, deforestation, ecological destruction, urban water shortages and growing waste. For instance, all eco-preservation zones in the region are threatened by human activities, which will lead to irreversible damage to the local eco-system if no preventive action is taken. Japan holds an edge over other Asian countries in advanced environmental protection technology and financial power, while the Chinese government has always been proactive in pushing for more efforts to beef up environmental protection.

China and Japan can also help gear up the development of human resources of the Mekong River nations by channeling their rich manpower, advanced know-how and abundant material resources to the region and by improving local communities' health and sanitation standards.

The authors are researchers with China Institute of Contemporary International Relations
(China Daily 01/24/2008 page8)

My Village at Sunset

Rice professors and a former U.S. ambassador try to explain why the king of Cambodia directed a B movie

By Nick Keppler
January 24, 2008

Born into Cambodia’s royal family, Norodom Sihanouk has, in his lifetime, been the figurehead of the country’s independence movement, the author of a constitutional provision that essentially made him king for life, a secret ally of the Chinese and North Vietnamese, a political exile and the reinstated king after the country’s reformation. He actually holds the Guinness World Record for most political offices ever held by one person. But for all his political success, his favorite role is that of movie director (hey, why not?).

The film career of the complex, ethically tarnished monarch includes My Village at Sunset, which Sihanouk directed when he was fresh from exile and about to retake the throne. It’s the sappy story of a young Cambodian physician who returns from Paris to doctor his native village, tending to land-mine victims as he falls in love with a Mary Sue-like nurse. (We bet it’s a step up from Zabibah and the King, Saddam Hussein’s ghostwritten novel-turned-musical.) The film itself is curious, and its intent is totally baffling. Luckily, Sichan Siv, a Cambodian-born former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., along with scholars from Rice University, will be on hand at today’s screening to explain it. 6 p.m. Rice Media Center, Rice University, 6100 Main. For information, call 713-439-0051 or visit Free.

Cambodia seeks halt to sale of sandals bearing image of Angkor Wat

Thursday, January 24, 2008

PHNOM PENH — Cambodia is seeking to bring a halt to the sale in Vietnam of offensive sandals depicting the famed Angkor Wat temple, the country's national symbol, the government's top spokesman said Wednesday.

Information Minister Khieu Kanharith also said Cambodian authorities are trying to find out where the sandals, which have been sold in recent days in the neighboring Vietnamese province of Tai Ninh, are being produced.

Cambodia prodding N. Korea on abductions


Cambodia has been working behind the scenes to encourage North Korea to resolve the thorny abduction issue with Japan.

Foreign Minister Hor Namhong, 72, disclosed this fact during an interview with The Asahi Shimbun in Tokyo on Jan. 16.

Hor Namhong, who is also Cambodia's deputy prime minister, was in Tokyo for the first Japan-Mekong Foreign Ministers' Meeting, which was held the same day.

In the interview, Hor Namhong described a meeting of high-ranking Cambodian government officials and their North Korean counterparts in November.

During the meeting, one Cambodian official suggested that North Korea work to solve the issue of the abduction of Japanese citizens. Doing so would lead to progress toward a reconciliation between Japan and North Korea, he said. Japan would then reconsider its relations with North Korea in the economic field, Hor Namhong quoted the official as saying.

"For Cambodia, North Korea is a friend, while Japan is an important close friend.

"For the sake of world peace, we want Japan and North Korea to become friendly and normalize their diplomatic relations," Hor Namhong said in the interview.

"Cambodia is in a position where it can hold high-level meetings with North Korea, and it has the ability to persuade North Korea," he added.

This seemed to suggest that Cambodia will continue to urge Pyongyang to solve the abduction issue to help smooth relations between Japan and North Korea.

At the United Nations General Assembly last month, Cambodia voted in favor of a resolution that criticized the North's human rights record.

"At the vote, Cambodia received a little pressure (from North Korea not to vote for the resolution)," he told The Asahi Shimbun.

Hor Namhong also urged Japanese industry to increase its investment in Cambodia.

"Our country is abundant in natural resources, such as rare metals and natural gas. We also have a young workforce," he said.

Japan is the largest contributor of aid to Cambodia.

At the Japan-Mekong Foreign Ministers' Meeting, Tokyo pledged a total of $40 million (about 4.3 billion yen) in aid to reduce poverty and for other measures in the five countries along Indochina's Mekong river--Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, Thailand and Myanmar (Burma).

Of the $40 million, $20 million will be in the form of grants for the development of poor areas that span Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos.(IHT/Asahi: January 24,2008)

US to deny visas for Cambodian looters

ABC Radio Australia

The United States has passed a law that could see travel bans for Cambodian officials accused of looting the country's natural resources.

The move has been hailed by conservationists as a strike against illegal logging.The law, enacted in December, endorses calls by the US Congress to deny visas to Cambodian officials identified in a 2007 report by the environmental watchdog, Global Witness, as being guilty of plundering Cambodia's forests.

The London-based Global Witness study titled "Cambodia's Family Trees," named several figures close to Prime Minister Hun Sen, including a Forest Administration director and the Agriculture Minister Chan Sarun, as being directly involved.

In response, an outraged government last year banned the Global Witness report from Cambodia and continues to dismiss its allegations.

Cambodian Mass Murderer, Dick Cheney -- Morally Equivalent?

By Tim Graham January 23, 2008

After discussing on the Washington Post website how he’s an atheist who’s enjoyed recreational drugs and who giggles at calling hemorrhoids "asteroids," Washington Post Magazine editor Gene Weingarten truly offers too much of a peek into his soul. He suggests murderous Cambodian tyrant Pol Pot and Vice President Cheney are somehow morally equivalent.

Weingarten also writes a humor column in the weekly magazine, which raises this question about the Cheney-like-Pol Pot thing: Is Weingarten failing at being a humorist? Or is he really lost in a bottomless pit of moral obtuseness?

Believe it or not, the line about Cheney surfaces in a discussion about peevish people who get extremely angry over bumper scratches on their cars:

Money talks: Maybe people don't want their cars scratched because they want to trade them in or sell them someday. A few scratches or dings can take hundreds of dollars off the re-sale value of a car. Someone leaning their seat back will not cost you hundreds of dollars. You are wrong on this one. I don't hit bumpers and I partially recline my seat on airplanes, this does not make me a bad person.

Gene Weingarten: Yep, the reclining does make you a bad person. Not evil like Pol Pot or Dick Cheney, but inconsiderate.

Tens of millions of dollars to be spent on Cambodian roads

Malaysia Sun
Wednesday 23rd January, 2008

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) and its development partners are providing $40.8 million to help Cambodia maintain roads.

ADB will extend a $6 million loan to the Road Asset Management Project. Australia will provide a $4.8 million grant through the Australian Agency for International Development to be managed by ADB. The International Development Association of the World Bank Group will help fund the project through a $30 million credit line.

The government of Cambodia will complete project funding by providing $17.55 million.

The project will finance periodic maintenance for about 950 kilometers of roads managed by the Ministry of Public Works and Transport to help fill the gap between road maintenance requirements and available funds. The project will also enable the ministry to sustain road maintenance and management.

Before the project is implemented, the ministry will establish a road asset management office that will be in charge of systematic maintenance planning of roads managed by the ministry. It will also support and train ministry management and line organizations to become efficient road asset managers.

“The project will promote economic growth by reducing future transport costs and preserving road connections. It will lead to a more sustainable road sector based on an efficient network of roads and effective road management,” said Peter Broch, Transport Economist of ADB’s Southeast Asia Department.

Cambodia primarily depends on its road network, which covers about 39,400 kilometers, to transport goods and people. Road management is shared by the Ministry of Public Works and Transport, which is responsible for about 11,400 kilometers of national and provincial roads, and the Ministry of Rural Development, which manages about 28,000 kilometers of rural roads.

By the early 1990s, years of civil strife had led to widespread deterioration of roads. Rehabilitation of the primary national roads has been undertaken over the last 15 years with substantial support from ADB and other development partners and is now almost completed. Some 2,700 kilometers of national road have so far been rehabilitated, and they connect the major population centers and Cambodia with its neighbors. The asset value of the rehabilitated network is about $800 million, but it is deteriorating rapidly due to lack of adequate maintenance, poor road quality and increasing traffic.

"This means large parts of the investment in rehabilitating the national roads could be lost within the next five to six years unless the Ministry of Public Works and Transport's road asset preservation works program is expanded and accelerated," said Mr. Broch

Regional Perspective

US Could Ban ‘Kleptocrats’ From Entry

By Brian Calvert,
VOA Khmer
Original report from Washington
23 January 2008
Heng Reaksmey reports in Khmer - Listen (MP3)

Top Cambodian officials implicated in illegal logging could face a ban from US entry, according to a new US law.

Under a recently inacted 2008 spending law, the State Department must compile a list of foreign government officials and their immediate family members suspected of involvement in corruption in natural resources depletion.

Any name the on the “anti-kleptocracy” list will not be granted entry into the US, with exceptions for UN meetings or law enforcement requirements, according to the law.

“If it now it becomes hard to, you know, go and stay in your nice house in Manhattan or wherever you happen to have it, then too bad,” said Simon Taylor, director of the resource monitor Global Witness.

A 2007 Global Witness report, “Cambodia’s Family Trees,” names a number of high-level officials and family members as part of countrywide illegal logging rackets.

Congress has urged the State Department to consider the report when making its list of Cambodian officials.

A State Department spokesman said Wednesday the US “takes all allegations of corruption seriously.”

The US “shares many of the concerns” raised by the Global Witness report and is “reviewing all relevant information” to compile its list, the spokesman said.

Government spokesman Khieu Kanharith said Congress was seeking to ban Cambodian officials as a way to attract votes ahead of a presidential election and said the move to ban corrupt officials was not a “presidential decree.”

In fact, Congressional elections are not held this year, and the US does not run on a decree system.

The potential ban was welcomed by some conservationists in Cambodia.

“It is right for the United States to deny entry visas for those violating international law, because logging is an important issue,” said Hieng Rith, director of the Cambodia National Research Organization. “When all the trees are logged, there will be no rain. By definition it’s just like destruction against humanity, as humans will die if there is no rain.”

The Global Witness report, issued in June 2007, angered Cambodian officials and was immediately banned across the country.

It said Cambodia’s forests were being stripped clean by a network of Cambodian elite that generated its wealth from the seizure of public assets, including wide swaths of forests.

Officially ejected from the country in 2006, Global Witness spent years investigating the networks of illegal logging.

The report implicates more than a dozen officials, including Forestry Minister Chan Sarun, Forestry Administration Director Ty Sokhun and military officers of the elite military Brigade 70, which Global Witness called a “private army” of Prime Minister Hun Sen.

The officials have denied wrongdoing in the past, and were unavailable for further comment Wednesday.

All of them are part of a circle of kleptocrats and cronies surrounding Hun Sen, Taylor said.
“Either he’s looking the other way, because they’re too close, which doesn’t say much for his authority, or he’s part of the problem,” Taylor said.

Global Witness was “disappointed” that language in the bill was removed that would have banned US companies from doing business with listed kleptocrats, butTaylor said the group would continue to push for stronger language in the future.

“Here we are in Cambodia ten years down, we’ve had a decade worth of billions of dollars of delivery, and very little delivery, I think, beyond personal wealth expansion in Phnom Penh and a few other centers," he said. "And meanwhile, the average lot of the average Cambodian hasn’t gone up that much, and the assets of the state have been stolen and parked offshore.”

For more information, see the Global Witness report, and the 2008 Consolidated Appropriations Act.

CPP Village Chief Blocks Forum, Party Claims

By Chun Sakada,
VOA Khmer
Original report from Washington
23 January 2008

In Khmer - Listen (MP3)

A ruling party village chief moved to block a scheduled political meeting by the Human Rights Party last week, officials said Wednesday.

The Human Rights Party was meeting to rally political support in Chhouk district, Kampot province, ahead of national elections in July.

Local authorities moved to block party officials from entering the village, said Sen Sov, a Human Rights Party official in Kampot.

“They said if we dare to hold any political meeting, they will dare to arrest us,” Sen Sov said. “My activists are worried and afraid of the arrest, as they would suffer in prison.”

Chey Sena Village Chief Chek Eng declined involvement in threats, but said in order to hold such meetings need permission.

“I didn’t threaten,” he said. “I don’t have a problem; just do it, but I ask that you have permission.”

The Human Rights Party has been blocked from a series of scheduled public meetings in recent weeks, by what it calls political intimidation.

Any prohibition of such activity is against electoral law, said Chhin Savuth, a rights investigator for the Cambodian Human Rights Center.

Voter Information Cards Spark Row

By Seng Ratana,
VOA Khmer
Original report from Washington
23 January 2008

Listen (MP3)

A decision by the National Election Committee to distribute information cards to voters met with resistance from opposition parties and rights groups who said Wednesday the committee will likely only distribute information to ruling party supporters.

The National Election Committee has been criticized for supporting the Prime Minister Hun Sen’s Cambodian People’s Party.

The plan, which would use commune councils to distribute the information, could lend itself to political manipulation, as the CPP controls a vast majority of the councils, the groups said.

Opposition leader Sam Rainsy said that in previous elections, his supporters did not get such cards.

“The village chief will not distribute them to those who do not support the Cambodian People’s Party,” he said.

NEC Chairman Im Suosdey said the committee would call for rights groups and political parties to be observers of the process to ensure the cards are distributed.

Observers worry that the cards, which are only informational, may confuse people; those who don’t get the cards might believe they cannot vote.

“Sometimes there is discrimination, and in some families, some get the cards and some do not,” said Koul Panha, director of the Committee for Free and Fair Elections.

Timeline: Cambodia : A chronology of key events

BBC News
Wednesday, 23 January 2008

Khmer Rouge radio announces his death

1863 - Cambodia becomes a protectorate of France. French colonial rule lasts for 90 years.
1941 - Prince Norodom Sihanouk becomes king. Cambodia is occupied by Japan during World War II.
1945 - The Japanese occupation ends.
1946 - France re-imposes its protectorate. A new constitution permits Cambodians to form political parties. Communist guerrillas begin an armed campaign against the French.
1953 - Cambodia wins its independence from France. Under King Sihanouk, it becomes the Kingdom of Cambodia.
1955 - Sihanouk abdicates to pursue a political career. His father becomes king and Sihanouk becomes prime minister.
1960 - Sihanouk's father dies. Sihanouk becomes head of state.
1965 - Sihanouk breaks off relations with the US and allows North Vietnamese guerrillas to set up bases in Cambodia in pursuance of their campaign against the US-backed government in South Vietnam.
1969 - The US begins a secret bombing campaign against North Vietnamese forces on Cambodian soil.
1970 - Sihanouk is deposed in a coup while abroad. The prime minister, General Lon Nol, assumes power. He proclaims the Khmer Republic and sends the army to fight the North Vietnamese in Cambodia. Sihanouk - in exile in China - forms a guerrilla movement.
Early 1970s - Cambodian army faces two enemies: the North Vietnamese and communist Khmer Rouge guerriillas. Gradually, the army loses territory.
Cambodia Year Zero
1975 - Lon Nol is overthrown as the Khmer Rouge led by Pol Pot occupy Phnom Penh. Sihanouk briefly becomes head of state, the country is re-named Kampuchea.
All urban dwellers are forcibly evacuated to the countryside to become agricultural workers. Money becomes worthless, basic freedoms are curtailed and religion is banned. The Khmer Rouge coin the phrase "Year Zero".
Hundreds of thousands of the educated middle-classes are tortured and executed in special centres. Others starve, or die from disease or exhaustion. The total death toll during the next three years is estimated to be at least 1.7 million.
1976 - The country is re-named Democratic Kampuchea. Sihanouk resigns, Khieu Samphan becomes head of state, Pol Pot is prime minister.
1977 - Fighting breaks out with Vietnam.
1978 - Vietnamese forces invade in a lightning assault.
1979 January - The Vietnamese take Phnom Penh. Pol Pot and Khmer Rouge forces flee to the border region with Thailand. The People's Republic of Kampuchea is established. Many elements of life before the Khmer Rouge take-over are re-established.
1981 - The pro-Vietnamese Kampuchean People's Revolutionary Party wins the elections to the National Assembly. The international community refuses to recognise the new government. The government-in-exile, which includes the Khmer Rouge and Sihanouk, retains its seat at the United Nations.
1985 - Hun Sen becomes prime minister. Cambodia is plagued by guerrilla warfare. Hundreds of thousands become refugees.
1989 - Vietnamese troops withdraw. Hun Sen tries to attract foreign investment by abandoning socialism. The country is re-named the State of Cambodia. Buddhism is re-established as the state religion.
An uneasy peace
1991 - A peace agreement is signed in Paris. A UN transitional authority shares power temporarily with representatives of the various factions in Cambodia. Sihanouk becomes head of state.
1993 - General election sees the royalist Funcinpec party win the most seats followed by Hun Sen's Cambodian People's Party (CPP). A three-party coalition is formed with Funcinpec's Prince Norodom Ranariddh as prime minister and Hun Sen as deputy prime minister. The monarchy is restored, Sihanouk becomes king again. The country is re-named the Kingdom of Cambodia. The government-in-exile loses its seat at the UN.
1994 - Thousands of Khmer Rouge guerrillas surrender in government amnesty.
1996 - Deputy leader of Khmer Rouge Ieng Sary forms a new party and is granted amnesty by Sihanouk.
1997 - Hun Sen stages a coup against the prime minister, Prince Ranariddh, and replaces him with Ung Huot. The coup attracts international condemnation and Cambodia's membership of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) is delayed. The Khmer Rouge put Pol Pot on trial and sentence him to life imprisonment. Pol Pot is filmed and interviewed by a western journalist.
1998 - Ranariddh is tried in his absence and found guilty of arms smuggling, but is then pardoned by the king. Pol Pot dies in his jungle hideout. Elections in July are won by Hun Sen's CPP, amid allegations of harassment. A coalition is formed between the CPP and Funcinpec. Hun Sen becomes prime minister, Ranariddh is president of the National Assembly.
2001 - Senate approves a law to create a tribunal to bring genocide charges against Khmer Rouge leaders.
2001 June - International donors, encouraged by Cambodia's reform efforts, pledge $560 million in aid at a donor conference in Tokyo.
2001 June - Five Cambodians, three of them US citizens, are sentenced to life for involvement in armed attack by US-based Cambodian Freedom Fighters (CFF) on government buildings in Phnom Penh in 2000. CFF says it will continue campaign to overthrow Prime Minister Hun Sen.
2001 December - First bridge across the Mekong River opens, linking the east and west of the country. The 1.36km bridge cost $56 million.
2002 February - First multi-party local elections; ruling Cambodian People's Party wins in all but 23 out of 1,620 communes.
2002 May - Prince Norodom Chakrapong sets up his own Norodom Chakrapong Khmer Soul Party; his half-brother Prince Norodom Ranariddh heads the Funcinpec party, part of the ruling coalition.
2003 January - Serious diplomatic upset with Thailand over comments attributed to a Thai TV star that the Angkor Wat temple complex was stolen from Thailand. Angry crowds attack the Thai embassy in Phnom Penh. More than 500 Thai nationals are evacuated by military aircraft.
2003 July - Prime Minister Hun Sen's Cambodian People's Party wins general elections but fails to secure sufficient majority to govern alone.
Hun Sen re-elected
2004 July - After nearly a year of political deadlock, Prime Minister Hun Sen is re-elected after his ruling Cambodian People's Party (CPP) strikes a deal with the royalist Funcinpec party.
2004 August - Parliament ratifies kingdom's entry into World Trade Organisation (WTO).
2004 October - King Sihanouk abdicates and is succeeded by his son Norodom Sihamoni.
2005 February - Opposition leader Sam Rainsy leaves Cambodia after parliament strips him of his immunity from prosecution, leaving him open to defamation charges brought by the ruling coalition.
2005 April - Tribunal to try surviving Khmer Rouge leaders gets green light from UN after years of debate about funding.
2005 October - Prime minister signs a controversial border agreement with Vietnam. Legal action is taken against some critics of the deal, prompting international concern.
2005 December - Opposition leader Sam Rainsy, in exile in France, is convicted by a Cambodian court of defaming PM Hun Sen and is sentenced to nine months in prison.
2006 February - Sam Rainsy receives a royal pardon and comes home after a year in exile.
2006 May - Parliament votes to abolish prison terms for defamation. The legislation had been used to jail some government critics.
2006 July - Ta Mok, one of the top leaders of the brutal Khmer Rouge regime, dies aged 80.
2006 October - Royalist Funcinpec party, a junior partner in the ruling coalition, drops Prince Norodom Ranariddh as its leader.
2007 March - Prince Norodom Ranariddh, who now lives abroad, is sentenced in absentia to 18 months in prison for selling the headquarters of the Funcinpec party. He was accused of earning $3.6m on the deal but denies the charge.
2007 July - UN-backed court tribunals begin questioning suspects about allegations of genocide by the Khmer Rouge.
2007 September - Most senior surviving member of Khmer Rouge, Nuon Chea - "Brother Number Two" - is arrested and charged with crimes against humanity.
2007 November - Genocide tribunal holds first public hearing - a bail plea from a former prison chief, Khang Khek Ieu, who was better known as Comrade Duch.

Cheapskate abductor gets caught

(Photo: Bunry, Koh Santepheap)

January 23 2008

Phnom Penh - A Cambodian man who allegedly abducted a five-year-old girl from her provincial home and brought her to the capital to sell was caught when he arrived at his destination and argued about the taxi fare, police said on Wednesday.

Pech Sopheak, 23, took the girl from her Kampong Chhnang home around 100 kilometres from the capital on Monday, but when he arrived he would not pay so the driver called the police, Kampong Chhnang chief of anti-trafficking General Prack Soany said.

"The police compared the girl with him to a picture of the kidnapped girl and arrested him," she said. "His problem was caused by 10 000 riel (about R14).

"She said Sopheak had admitted he was going to sell the child to an elderly couple who only had boys of their own and wanted a daughter but that she had now been returned safely to her family.

If convicted he faces up to 20 years in jail.
- Sapa-DPA

Petroleum giant plans to develop prime Cambodian beach resort

Wed, 23 Jan 2008

Phnom Penh - An offshoot of the company in control of Cambodia's most powerful petroleum group, Sokimex, plans to develop a top-end resort on a beach in the coastal province of Sihanoukville, the area's deputy governor confirmed Wednesday. Sokha Hotel Group would construct a 1,000-room hotel and golf course over 54 hectares around O'Chheuteal beach, the largest and most popular of the municipality's pristine white sand beaches.

"This is a great boost for our economy. It will create employment and solve the crisis of hotel rooms we have every holiday season," deputy governor Sboang Sarath said by telephone.
With Sihanoukville expanding its port to attract the lucrative cruise ship tour industry and readying to reap expected oil reserves offshore from the municipality, 240 kilometres south-west of the capital, within two years, the once sleepy coastal town has scrambled to increase its top-end accommodation.

Currently Sihanoukville has just two 5-star hotels, including Sokha Beach Resort, also owned by Sokha Hotel Group, which also has a private beach and claims its bookings double every year.
Last Chinese New Year, an estimated 20,000 people flocked there, and many were forced to sleep on the beach because of room shortages.

The formerly impoverished Angolan capital Luanda has thrived since oil was discovered there and its tourist industry has boomed - a phenomenon Cambodia is hoping also follows its expected oil wealth.

Sokha Hotel Group has also announced plans for a 500-room hotel on a peninsular opposite the capital Phnom Penh and Prime Minister Hun Sen flew to another coastal province, Kampot, this week for the announcement of a 1-billion dollar plan by the group to develop the former French hill station resort of Bokor.

Sihanoukville's beaches have been compared to Thailand's famously beautiful beaches for their clear waters and fine white sand.

For Cambodians, fear is a way of life

January 23, 2008

HONG KONG, China, Last December, in a speech at a rally in Phnom Penh to mark International Human Rights Day, Prof. Yash Ghai, the U.N. secretary-general's special envoy for human rights in Cambodia, said, among other things, that "fear -- fear of the state, fear of political and economic saboteurs, fear of greedy individuals and corporations, fear of the police and the courts -- describes the plight of numerous communities and families in Cambodia as they do in many other parts of the world."

Fear on the part of ordinary people in relation to their rulers at all levels of public administration, from village chiefs to the head of state, is a norm in Cambodia, where these rulers behave as masters, not servants, of their people. The concept of "public administration as service and citizens as clients" is absent in the political and administrative culture of the country, where these rulers still consider public services not the rights of their people, but favors they are doing them.

People invariably need to oil the palms of administrators to get things done, be they the registration of births, marriages or deaths; medical treatment at public hospitals; applications for licenses; adjudication of conflicts; or even the payment of taxes to the government. When they are in trouble with the law and get caught, they have an ingrained fear of being tortured by the police. They or their relatives need to offer bribes to them for better treatment.

Nor can people expect the courts to do their constitutional duty to protect the rights of citizens.

Accused persons or litigants in civil cases cannot expect a fair trial or the enforcement of their rights when they engage in a legal conflict with the powerful or the rich.

The same special envoy also remarked in his speech about the attitude of the Parliament toward the plight of victims of land-grabbing, comments that are typical of the relationship between the rulers and the ruled across the country: "People threatened with eviction … reminded me that the National Assembly sits only a few meters away from them and yet has long turned a blind eye to their suffering."

Although they have exercised their right to vote and regularly elect their rulers, people do not have confidence and trust in the system and institutions of the country. Aggrieved Cambodians invariably have recourse first to nongovernmental organizations, especially human rights and legal aid NGOs, to seek assistance in getting the public authorities to adjudicate and enforce their rights. They also have recourse to the media to help publicize their cases and convey their requests to their rulers to enforce their rights and find justice for them.

In a report published last October, Ath Bonny, field editor of Radio Free Asia, said: "Nowadays the people don't complain to the government or police: they complain to RFA. Many people see us as a direct channel to communicate with their national leaders, and I think that makes the government nervous."

Such assistance and publicity have made the public authorities angry with NGOs and the media.

For instance, in his Jan. 14 report to higher authorities, a commune chief in Siem Reap Province blamed human rights NGOs and RFA for "instigating" a protest by a group of 50 villages to get fair compensation for the damage to their properties due to the construction of a road.

With advice from NGOs or on their own, aggrieved people band together and stage protests against evictions from their homes and lands, the arrests of their fellow villagers or representatives or other violations of their rights, all of which are serious issues affecting many people in the country. They stage such protests locally or in the capital in front of the residence of the prime minister and the Parliament, bracing themselves against the consequences of bans on all public demonstrations and protests.

On Jan. 15, for instance, 40 villagers from two provinces went to stage a protest in front of the Parliament against the grabbing of their lands. Earlier, in November 2007, a group of 30 peasants with sickles in their hands went to the court in Battambang to support their representative who had been summoned to appear and to put pressure on the court not to arrest her in a land dispute case, for they knew that arrest is a common practice used to break the spirit of the weaker party that has a stronger case.

There is an urgent need to allay the fear that is so prevalent in Cambodia and to win public confidence and trust in the government and all public institutions of the country that are now so lacking. This aim could be achieved by the realization of the concept of "public administration as service, citizens as clients" through observance of, and respect for, the rights of the people and the diligent enforcement of these rights.


(Lao Mong Hay is currently a senior researcher at the Asian Human Rights Commission in Hong Kong. He was previously director of the Khmer Institute of Democracy in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, and a visiting professor at the University of Toronto in 2003. In 1997, he received an award from Human Rights Watch and the Nansen Medal in 2000 from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.)

Travel Blog: Siem Reap and Angkor Temples

Wednesday, 23 Jan 2008

Anna Kainberger is taking a year-out from her career to travel in south-east Asia, Australasia and the South Pacific, along with Hawaii and the USA. This month she will be reporting from Laos and Cambodia. Here is her seventh blog entry:

From Phnom Phen I decided to take yet another bus to Siem Reap, a journey that looks like a three hour bus ride on the map but which in the end will take around seven hours. However, the buses are comfortable enough with air conditioning and regular toilet stops.

Mind you, the driver stops at places where he will make a commission from passengers buying food or drinks. That's just the way things go in Asia, everyone is trying to make a living and they want their friends and family to make a living as well.

Siem Reap has become a major tourist hub thanks to the Angkor temples, which were rediscovered by a French Explorer in the late 19th century.

Until then the temples were mostly covered by jungle and long forgotten. I was quite astonished how one could "lose" or "forget" such a large and historically important area. We are not just talking about one big temple, there are thousands of them.

The main temple of Angkor Wat and the thousands of smaller temples cover a huge area in and around Siem Reap and the river Tonle Sap. They have been designated a Unesco cultural world heritage site and also one of the seven man-made wonders of the world.

Historically, the area in and around Angkor Wat was a totally functional city with a long period of very successful monarchs. The most famous is probably Jayavarman VII, who successfully fought of the Cham (from what is now Vietnam) and started constructing Ankgor Thom and its city walls and the Bayon temple.

The Bayon was the religious and geographical heart of the kingdom and bas-reliefs carved on the walls depict not only the king's battles with the Cham but also scenes from the day-to-day life of Khmer villagers and many faces of the god.

In addition, Jayavarman constructed the temple of Ta Prohm, which is now famous for featuring in one of the Lara Croft - Tomb Raider movies.

Jayavarman VII's massive program of construction coincided with a transition in the state religion from Hinduism to Mahayana Buddhism, since he himself had adopted the latter as his personal faith. In the 14th century the country converted to Theravada Buddhism for good.

The end of the Angkorian period is generally set at 1431 AD, the year Angkor was sacked and looted by Thai invaders, although the civilisation had already been in decline over the 13th and 14th centuries.

Over the course of the 15th century nearly all of Angkor was abandoned and the city moved to Phnom Pen. Only Angkor Wat continued to be used as a Buddhist shrine.

Today the area is well looked after and groomed by the Cambodians, as well as the French world heritage programme, and it is definitely worth exploring the temples for at least three days.

Passes can be bought at the official entry point and cost US$20 for one day, US$40 for three days and US$60 for a whole week. I opted for a three day pass and explored Angkor Wat, Bayon and the close by smaller temples by bicycle on the first day - it is a six km ride from Siem Reap and bikes can be rented for as little as US$2 per day.

On my second day I was terribly hungover, as I stayed in Siem Reap over New Year's Eve and a huge street party was organised in the main traveller's centre. Needless to say there were buckets of all sorts of alcoholic drinks, music and dancing until the wee hours. Plus it is the tradition to throw buckets of water onto the celebration - so I got home rather late and soaked.

I decided that instead of riding a bicycle it was probably wiser to hire a tuk-tuk driver for US$6 for a half day and went to see Ta Phrom the Tomb Raider temple.

This features huge and very, very old trees growing on top of the temple, inside it, out of it and around it. No wonder this location was used a movie, the beauty and power of those trees can be physically felt when you walk through the ruins of Ta Phrom.

On my third day I hired a tuk-tuk driver for the whole day to complete what was left of the so-called grand tour. This will cost you about US$13-15, depending on your negotiation skills, and your driver will always wait for you and take you to the next temple. Provided his English is good enough he will also come up with interesting stories about the temples.

Usually your guesthouse can arrange a tuk-tuk driver for you, they often also offer bicycles or motorbikes for rent; the options are endless.

In terms of accommodation, Siem Reap offers anything and everything. Budget accommodation starting from US$2-3 up to five star deluxe spa hotels.

I stayed at a brand new guesthouse close to the Grand Palace and a good 15 minute walk away from the main traveller's area, which is located around the old market.

Our guesthouse was literally brand new and the owners were keen to bring in new guests. It goes by the wonderful name of Good Kind Guesthouse. The people there were not only good and kind but they also invited us to their oldest daughter's birthday party and gave us traditional Khmer scarves as a leaving present when we said our good byes.

I saw a lot of elephants in and around Angkor Thom. It is a popular tourist activity to visit the temples on the back of an elephant. I have to be the party pooper here and say: Wherever possible in Asia, please avoid riding elephants.

These are highly intelligent and majestic animals and sitting on their backs in a saddle like structure is not enjoyable for them. If anything they should only be ridden on their necks, where it is easy to carry a mahouts weight, but not on their backs.

Plus elephants need to spend about 18 hours a day eating and finding food and most of the Elephants used for these tourist rides are way too thin. My travel companion and I decided that instead of riding them we would buy ten kgs of bananas and feed them to these absolutely beautiful creatures as a tiny treat.

You will also come across a lot of children trying to sell you cold drinks, post cards, handmade flutes, handmade animal ornaments, bracelets or all of the above. It is hard to say no too many times and I ended up taking those kids to food stalls and buying them coconut pancakes or fruit.

Also, if you do promise to a kid to come back they will remember you, so don't even dream about bailing out. At any of the temples you will find a large number of food stalls run by families who have looked after these areas for generations. They sell traditional Khmer scarfs and silks as well as T-shirts and any old tourist souvenir that your loved ones back home might desire.

The temples of Angkor are absolutely incomprehensible at times. I kept wondering how many people had lost their lives to help build these massive constructions. They are highly spiritual sights and I was often left in awe when first setting sight on these beautiful buildings.

For me three days was more than enough and the constant begging, the many, many children selling their goods and the always apparent poverty of the Cambodians got to me.

I decided to board yet another bus and leave Siem Reap for Thailand via the Poipet/Aranyaprathet border.

When travelling in Cambodia there are only two main roads covered with tarmac: the north-south connection and the road to Sieam Reap. All other roads are red dust paths. Prepare yourself for a bumpy ride and bring a scarf to wrap around nose and mouth to avoid major sneezing attacks. (You will see a lot of Cambodians do this as well - and a Khmer Scarf will cost you only US$1.

When crossing back into Thailand I immediately felt a small sense of relief. Real roads, real infrastructure and no more begging. Although I have to say I definitely recommend that you include Cambodia if you are planning on visiting south-east Asia, as no matter how much time you spend there the experience is very grounding.

What happened in Cambodia in recent history is still visible to this day, yet the people will greet you with a lot of warmth and make you feel very welcome.

As I had been travelling for nearly ten weeks non stop I was keen to reach a beach for the first time since starting my travels in early November. So I headed down to the island of Ko Chang before going back to Bangkok.