Friday, 1 February 2008

Meeting between FBI director Robert Mueller and Hun Sen

FBI Director Robert Mueller speaking at meeting with Hun Sen on 30 January, where he thanked thanked Hun Xen and the Royal Government of Cambodia for authorizing the creation of the legal attache office in Cambodia.

Fiber Optic Cable Cuts Isolate Millions From Internet, Future Cuts Likely

Wired Blog Network January 31, 2008

Large swaths of the Middle East and Southeast Asia fell into internet darkness after two major underseas fiber optic links were damaged off Egypt's coast on Wednesday.

Early reports blamed an errant anchor for severing the cables, but THREAT LEVEL has not yet been able to confirm that's the cause.

Telecoms in Egypt, India, Pakistan and Kuwait (among others) are scrambling to find other arrangements to carry their internet and long distance phone traffic.

Some telecoms had complete outages since their contingency plans if one cable broke was to use the other. Seventy percent of the networks in Pakistan experienced an out, with Egypt, Malidives, Kuwait, Lebanon and Algeria also suffering severe outages, according to traffic analysis by Renesys.

The cuts hit two fiber optic links: FLAG Europe Asia and SEA-ME-WE-4. The two cables are competitors that carry traffic from Europe through the Middle East along to Japan (and vice versa).

FLAG runs about 17,000 miles, stretching from London, through the Suez canal, around India, along China's coast to Japan.

When it was built, the network so impressed sci-fi writer Neal Stephenson that he wrote a 56-page article for Wired magazine's December 1996 issue.

SEA-ME-WE-4 follows roughly the same geographic path.

Given the desire by telecoms and broadband customers to keep costs low, situations like the current cuts will continue to happen, according to Todd Underwood, a Vice President at Renesys, which provides internet information analysis to the majority of the world's largest telecoms.

"Part of the lesson here is that there will always be outages," Underwood said. "This is all about money -- how much money do we want to pay to make sure the network doesn't go down? We are used to thinking of the internet as being a thing that goes down."

The cost of having fully redundant back-ups connections that aren't physically near each other in chokepoints like Egypt's Suez canal is just too high for commercial operations, according to Underwood.

"We have chosen to deal with these outages to get a much much better cost," Underwood says.
That's not to say the outages don't have consequences.

In December 2006, 4 major fiber optic lines were severely damaged following a major earthquake in Taiwan. Subsequent underwater mudslides damaged 9 cables laid in the Luzon Strait south of Taiwan. The cuts basically erased all eastward data routes from Southeast Asia.
It took 49 days for crews on 11 giant cable-laying ships to fix all of the 21 damage points, according to the International Cable Protection Committee.

In response, telecoms shifted business away from North America-based backbone providers like AT&T, Level 3 and Savis and towards European carriers, according to Underwood.

But this go round, the North American carriers might gain from this outage, Underwood suggests.

Network patterns can also physically change after a giant outage. For instance, after seeing the damage in the Taiwan earthquake, a longer, slower and more expensive route around the Philippines suddenly started to appear more attractive, according to Underwood.

2/1's yearlong rotation with 31st MEU ends

Members of 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment sit atop medical records prepared for shipment back to Camp Pendleton, Calif. The battalion returned home after a yearlong deployment as the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit's Battalion Landing Team. 2/1, was replaced by 2/4 Jan. 19. (Photo by Lance Cpl. Tyler J. Hlavac).

2/4 picks up duty as new battalion landing team

Lance Cpl. Jason Spinella

CAMP HANSEN, Okinawa (February 1, 2008) -- After a year of duty as the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit's battalion landing team, the Marines and sailors of 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, or 2/1, are heading home.

The Camp Pendleton, Calif.-based battalion, which served as the MEU's BLT since January 2007, was replaced Jan. 19 by 2nd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, or 2/4, also from Pendleton.

The 2/1 Marines and sailors conducted many exercises in 2007 that helped them grow and prepared them for future missions.

"After training on the MEU and working with other militaries, 2/1 will be more successful whenever they do deploy to Iraq and work with the Iraqi Army," said BLT 2/1 Sgt. Maj. Sylvester Daniels.

2/1 was initially scheduled for a six-month rotation, but their tour was extended an extra six months. Daniels said the extension made them closer as a unit.

With the MEU, the battalion trained alongside militaries from the Republic of Korea, Australia, the Kingdom of Cambodia, and the Republic of the Philippines.

"Korea was really cold, and Australia was miserably wet," Daniels said. "After experiencing something like that together, Marines just tend to bond more."

Pfc. Carlos Morales, a grenadier with BLT 2/1, also said deploying together for such a long period helped build unit camaraderie.

"(All) we had was each other, " he said. "Everything was new, and we had to learn together."

Morales also said the exercises 2/1 conducted were very beneficial because they offered diverse training in different environments.

"Training with the foreign militaries was good because we were able to teach them our urban combat tactics, and it gave us a chance to practice jungle warfare," Morales said.

The new BLT is scheduled to conduct training comparable to that of 2/1. Master Gunnery Sgt. Harry Bush, operations chief, BLT 2/4, said he looks forward to the training his Marines will conduct with the 31st MEU this spring.

"Most of the training the Marines of 2/4 have received has been for Iraq, so this will be totally different," explained Bush.

As the MEU's new ground combat element, BLT 2/4 is scheduled to conduct a variety of training exercises including MEU-specific exercises that will prepare the Marines and sailors for possible non-combatant evacuation operations or recovery operations such as a tactical recovery of aircraft and personnel mission. The MEU is scheduled to deploy with the USS Essex Amphibious Ready Group this spring.

FBI praises Cambodia on war against terror

ABC, Radio Australia

The head of the America's national crime fighting agency, the FBI, has hailed Cambodia's role in the US war on terror.

Robert Mueller says the relationship between the countries in addressing the threat from extremists is exemplary.

He made the statement as the agency opened its first office in Phnom Penh amid rising concern over regional extremism.

Mr Mueller is in Cambodia as part of a three-country Asian tour.

His visit follows a series of law enforcement exchanges, including Cambodian National Police Chief Hok Lundy's trip to Washington last April for anti-terror talks with the FBI.

FBI director: mortgage fraud is a 'substantial problem'
January 31, 2008


HONOLULU -- FBI Director Robert Mueller on Thursday said the agency was committed to investigating and prosecuting companies involved in mortgage fraud and other violations in connection with home loans made to risky borrowers.

Mueller said probes were being conducted across the country, including in Hawaii, where he stopped on his way back from a trip through Asia.

"There is not a state that does not have some investigation," he told reporters at the FBI office in Honolulu. "It is a substantial problem but we've been through problems like this in the past."

The bureau on Tuesday disclosed it was working with the Securities and Exchange Commission to investigate 14 unidentified companies, from mortgage lenders to investment banks, for possible accounting fraud, insider trading or other issues connected to subprime mortgage lending.

Mueller declined to identify the companies.

The FBI allocated substantial manpower and resources to address the Saving and Loan crisis in the early 1990s and corporate fraud earlier this decade and Mueller said he was prepared to do the same to address fraudulent lenders.

"I anticipate that we will see the same extensive investigations that we saw then with successful prosecutions following those investigations," Mueller said.

As the nation's housing crisis worsens, there has been a dramatic spike in the number of mortgage fraud cases under investigation. An agency spokesman said 1,210 such cases are open, up from roughly 800 a year ago.

The FBI is looking into the practices of so-called subprime lenders, as well as potential accounting fraud committed by financial firms that hold these loans on their books or securitize them and sell them to other investors.

Mueller visited China and Cambodia during his trip.

In Cambodia, he inaugurated an FBI office at the U.S. Embassy in Phnom Penh and said the country's recent fast-paced economic boom makes it crucial for the U.S. to work with the country in fighting terrorism and global crime. He said the Asian nation was important because of "the potential for persons transiting Cambodia or utilizing Cambodia as a spot for terrorism."

The main purpose of Mueller's trip was his three-day visit to Beijing where he met with police paramilitary and counterintelligence agencies in charge of security for this summer's Olympic Games.

"I think they have done a good job in making preparations for assuring a safe and secure games," he said. "I've been somewhat impressed by the professionalism and the extensive security they're preparing for the games."

Mueller said he has offered to assist the Chinese in a variety of areas in which the FBI has some expertise, as the bureau has done in the past with other host cities.

China's generally secretive police agencies have sought advice on Olympic security from the U.S., Germany, Israel and other foreign governments.

Guarding memories of Pol Pot era for future generations

Location where Pol Pot was cremated is now turned into a worshiping shrine (Photo:


ANLONG VENG, Cambodia--The enormity of Pol Pot's crimes almost defies description. His genocidal policies in the latter 1970s are thought to have claimed up to 1.7 million lives, resulting in the so-called killing fields that took Cambodia back to the year zero.

And yet efforts are now under way to preserve sites associated with the brutal regime to teach future generations about the country's unspeakable horrors of not so many years ago.

A three-hour car trip northward from Siem Reap, where the World Heritage Angkor Wat ruins are located, brings a visitor to Anlong Veng, a county that borders Thailand.

It was in this area that the Khmer Rouge, which used terror to control Cambodia from 1975 to 1979, held out until it collapsed in 1998. I came here, hoping to learn more about the reign of dread that gripped Cambodia in those days.

I came across a boy who offered me what he said were cremated remains of Pol Pot. There was no way to tell whether the sooty white fragments in his bag were genuine, or even human. The boy said he kept the remains to "show off to my customers."

The site where Pol Pot was cremated after his death in 1998 is not even fenced. Burned incense sticks lie scattered about. Amid the shrubbery, a light-blue signboard proclaims, "The cremation place of Pol Pot."

Pol Pot and his henchmen established the government of Democratic Kampuchea in 1975 after toppling the pro-U.S. government headed by a former Prime Minister Lon Nol.

Starvation, overwork and executions were central to the regime's efforts to create an agrarian utopia. Pol Pot's extreme policies denied the existence of a class structure and resulted in the mass confiscation of personal property. Urban residents were forcibly relocated to rural areas to work as laborers.

On Dec. 25, 1978, Vietnam launched a full-scale invasion of Cambodia seeking to end Khmer Rouge border attacks. On Jan. 7, 1979, Phnom Penh fell and Pol Pot was deposed. His faction fled to the northwest and continued to battle the government's forces.

The county government of Anlong Veng in the northwest is now working to preserve Khmer Rouge sites and promote them as tourist spots. It has listed 15 sites, including the place where Pol Pot was cremated and the homes of former military chief Ta Mok and other executives of the genocidal regime.

The project, which started around 2000, has made little progress beyond the erection of a few signboards.

For Cambodians, the 15 venues conjure up horrific memories. For this reason, no one has sought to refer to them as "historical sites."

Ceang Sokheng, 42, who works for the preservation project as chief of the Anlong Veng office of the Ministry of Tourism, lost his parents in 1975. He was 10 years old when his father, a member of the national parliament, was rounded up by the Khmer Rouge. His mother, who tried to intervene, was also carted off.

He never saw them again and later realized they had been executed.

"When I was ordered (by the ministry) to transfer to this (Anlong Veng) office seven years ago, I felt tormented," Ceang said, recalling the hardship of the Pol Pot era that made him and his older brother orphans.

When Ceang was instructed to relocate, the Khmer Rouge had already collapsed. However, many former soldiers still lived in the area. It was very unsafe to travel about and he lived in constant fear of being killed.

"Though they were Cambodians just as I was, I was not able to trust them," he said.

In Anlong Veng, Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge are still revered by some people. They speak with pride about Ta Mok, the faction's military chief, saying he built schools and hospitals for them.

"Ta Mok made it possible for us to make a living. He was a very good man. I cannot describe in words how good he was," said Kong Mean, 50, a former Khmer Rouge soldier.

Ceang's fears for his safety while in Anlong Veng gradually eased. But even now, he says he does not think the local people have any idea what he endured.

It was this realization that made him think that Cambodians must not allow the Pol Pot era to fade into history. Thus, he supports the move to preserve the various sites.

"I must convey the era to future generations so as to prevent a recurrence (of similar tragedies)," Ceang said. "Though memories of the era still torment me, I don't find myself thinking any more that I want to forget it."

Many of the 15 listed sites are located in mountains covered by jungle. They include an underground bunker where Pol Pot went into hiding, and an artificial pond to secure water.

Ta Mok's former home is located on a steep cliff, offering panoramic views from an elevation of several hundred meters. Rong Saroeung, 58, has been operating a restaurant on the site since 2000.

"Thailand is planning to help develop this place as a tourist spot that leads to Angkor Wat. It's a business chance for us," he said.

A wide paved road from Thailand was completed in 2006, and the number of Thai tourists has since increased.

As a Cambodian government soldier, he fought gunbattles with the Khmer Rouge. He also experienced the terrors of land mines.

"Crimes are not what individuals judge. The judgments must not be given based on hatred either. They must be given based on laws," Rong said.

The county government of Anlong Veng also has plans on the drawing board for a museum dedicated to the Khmer Rouge era. As yet, not a single brick has been laid due to construction costs of some $500,000 (about 54 million yen).

"We need a place that teaches us accurately what happened," said Anlong Veng's deputy governor, Nhem Ein, 47.

When he was 16 years old, Nhem Ein was forced to take photographs of detainees awaiting torture and death at the infamous Tuol Sleng prison in Phnom Penh. Had he refused, he would have been executed.

"I was not able to think about anything except how to survive," he said. "From now on, we can only study what took place during that period and reflect on those days. Really, we have just reached the starting point."

The Documentation Center of Cambodia is busy gathering records of the genocide. According to the center, a total of 391 execution sites, 194 prison sites and nearly 20,000 mass graves have been found across the country.

"We leave residents living in the area of each site to decide how to preserve it and convey its history to future generations," said Youk Chhang, the center's director. "That is because each site is part of the residents' own history."

A 60-year-old woman who had come from Phnom Penh stood quietly at the site where Pol Pot was cremated. Her six brothers and sisters perished in the killing fields.

She stared at the cremation site for a while and then silently joined her hands together.

"We are all equal after we die. I do not hold a grudge (against Pol Pot)," she said.

The woman pondered what kind of people the Khmer Rouge were and what had gone wrong with their lives to allow them to inflict such brutality.

"I came to this town because I wanted to get close to the answers as much as possible," she said.
More than 400 Cambodians visit the Khmer Rouge sites each month. For many, it's a chance to experience the remnants of a dark chapter of Cambodia's modern history, even at the expense of opening up emotional scars again.

(IHT/Asahi: February 1,2008)

Cambodia enjoying real estate boom

Japan Today News
Friday, February 1, 2008

PHNOM PENH — After decades of war and upheaval, Cambodia is experiencing a real estate boom fueled by South Korean investment. Sung Bonna, president of Bonna Realty Group, the country's leading real estate agency, said land prices in the capital Phnom Penh rose 50 percent to 80 percent in 2007.

Residential land prices in Phnom Penh rose about $700 to $1,600 per square meter in 2007 from the previous year, while commercial land prices rose $1,200 to $2,500 per sq. meter, Sung Bonna said. He predicted that trend will continue, at least in the short term, due to key factors including political stability and a tourism boom.

Thailand plans to build powerplant in Cambodia

ABC, Radio Australia

A group of three leading Thai companies are studying plans to build a 3,660-megawatt coal-fired power plant in Cambodia to supply electricity to Thailand.

The companies have signed a memorandum of understanding to study joint investment in the plant in the Cambodian coastal province of Koh Kong, near the Thai border.

The companies include Italian-Thai Development, Electricity Generating EGCO and Ratchaburi Electricity Generating Holding.

They are talking to the state-run Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand about supplying electricity generated by the plant to Thailand.

Significant reduction in Cambodian garment exports

ABC, Radio Australia

Cambodian garment exports plummeted 46 percent in the fourth quarter of 2007. Officials are warning of future factory closures and job cuts.

Chairman of the Garment Manufacturers' Association of Cambodia, Van Sou Ieng, says the economic downturn in the United States, which buys 70 percent of all Cambodian textiles, and continuing domestic labour disputes contributed to the plunge.

He says deteriorating labour relations are also weakening the sector.Union leaders say factory owners are greatly exaggerating the number of strikes and that workers are simply lobbying for fair wages.

Until last year, the sector had enjoyed annual growth of up to 20 percent.The industry is Cambodia's largest source of income, providing 80 percent of its foreign exchange earnings and employing an estimated 350,000 people.

Former Cambodian King donates to China for snow disasters relief

February 01, 2008

Former Cambodian King Norodom Sihanouk on Thursday donated 50,000 U.S. dollars to China for disasters relief in snow stricken areas, according to Chinese Foreign Ministry in Beijing Friday.

Sihanouk expressed his condolence for Chinese people in a letter to Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi, and made the donation to China's humanitarian institution under his name.

China has been threatened by heavy snow that has fallen since mid-January, the worst in five decades.

The severe weather had killed 38 people and resulted in the direct economic loss of 32.67 billion yuan (4.5 billion U.S. dollars) in 17 provinces, regions, and municipalities by Wednesday afternoon, according to the Ministry of Civil Affairs.


Filipino missionaries help rebuild Cambodia

Meeting with KYDP Staff

Students staying at KYDC

February 1, 2008,
Iloilo City, Philippines

After decades of civil war and resulting socio-cultural unrest, the nation once nicknamed "The Killing Fields" is slowly but steadily moving on toward recovery. As one of the later additions to the ASEAN, Cambodia shows promising progress in this region of the world. But unbeknownst to many Filipinos, some areas of this country have received significant impact from the sacrificial service of our Filipino missionaries coming from various denominations.

Last October-November, 2007, Ptr. Jose Estrebilla of Full Gospel Center Church, Fajardo St., Jaro, Iloilo City visited Cambodia along with his family. The Estrebillas served as missionaries in the southern province of Takeo from 1994 to 2005. They have seen how the Christian churches they helped start with Ptr. Warren Aragona (also an Ilonggo missionary) in Takeo keep on growing in the Lord and transforming communities to the glory of His Name. Twenty-three village churches now have their multi-purpose buildings that serve as a worship venue for the local body of believers and at the same time cater to the development needs of the community (e.g., livelihood and agriculture training venue, tutorial lessons, preschools, etc.) Thirty-six other villages have been started with groups of believers meeting in homes.

The Khmer Youth Development Center (KYDC) that was launched shortly after the Estrebillas left Cambodia in 2005 is continuing to touch and transform the lives of the more than 40 students staying in it, under the faithful leadership of Zoe and Ghen Guasa (Filipino missionary couple from Bukidnon). Not only is the project resulting into the salvation of the students actually staying in the Center, but even their respective families and their classrooms are beginning to see the goodness of God through the lives and testimonies of these young people. The demonstration farm they have developed in the area has also been a blessing to the farmers in the surrounding communities, as well as generating significant income that has helped cater to their schooling needs and even assist some of the graduates that have gone to college.

The KYDP (Khmer Youth Development Program) English School at the capital of Takeo is desperately crying out to God for a good problem they have: over-crowded classrooms due to the increasing number of students coming in. Lenly Gula, another Filipina missionary from Iloilo who committed to stay and develop this school is currently looking out for partners to build school buildings on the over half-a-hectare lot that KYDP has acquired in 2005. The KYDP Preschool is presently catering to the educational needs of the upper and middle classes in Takeo, and it is hoped to grow as an agent that will help transform this country from the top levels through their children being exposed to biblical principles at an early age.
May God continue to raise up more Filipino missionaries to scatter the message of His love near and far – to the glory of His holy Name!

Hun Sen meeting with Chevron exec

Hun Sen receiving Joe GeaGea, manager of Chevron's Asia South business unit, in Phnom Penh on 29 January

FBI nod to Cambodia security role

By Guy De Launey
BBC News, Phnom Penh

The top US law enforcement official has described Cambodia as an important country in anti-terrorism efforts.

The director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Robert Mueller, was opening an FBI office at the US embassy in Phnom Penh.

He will also be visiting neighbouring Vietnam on his trip.

Mr Mueller is the first director of the FBI ever to visit Cambodia, but he is the latest in a succession of senior US officials to spend time in Phnom Penh.

With Vietnam also on his itinerary, it would seem that new relationships are finally emerging from past hostilities.

The opening of an FBI office in Cambodia is the latest indication of increasing US engagement in the region.

After cutting the ribbon at the inauguration, Mr Mueller said he saw Cambodia as a key part of a global security network.

"It's an important country to us because of the potential for persons transiting Cambodia or utilising Cambodia as a spot for terrorism," he said.

"It's important for us to be available to provide assistance but also to coordinate on the trans-national investigations that one often finds in this age of globalisation."

Mr Mueller was less forthcoming about why relations with Cambodia had improved so quickly.
Just two years ago the country's top police officer was refused a visa to enter the US.

Now all the talk is of expanding co-operation.

Diplomats are keen to use the increasing American presence to promote democracy in the region, but the FBI visit coincided with the arrival of China's foreign minister, an indication that other powers also have growing interests here.

Bokor Mountain to be developed

Travel Blackboard
Friday, February 01, 2008

The historical Cambodian site of Bokor Mountain is to be expanded.

Cambodian petroleum giant Sokimex Group has signed a 99 year lease agreement with the Royal Government of Cambodia to develop the historic Bokor National Park.

The development of Road 32 will link National Road 3 to the peak of Bokor Mountain; also on the cards is the construction of schools, shopping centres and hotels, as well as road rehabilitation.

The process is expected to be finished within 15 years and the initial investment will be US $1 billion.

The official ceremony was held on January 19, attracting over 15 000 guests including government officials and residents.

CA Librarian and Aide Head to Cambodia for Kids’ Books

Lyda Thanh of Long Beach (CA) Public Library Buys Khmer Books in Phnom Penh

Joan Oleck -- School Library Journal, 1/31/2008

When California librarian Susan Taylor needed new books in Khmer, the language of the local and rapidly growing Cambodian community in surrounding Long Beach, she scoured Brodart for foreign language titles. The library supplier had just four.

She phoned libraries in Los Angeles and San Francisco. They had either no Khmer books or just a few. She checked out a promising tip about an "Asian" bookstore in La Jolla but discovered that it stocked only English titles for adoptive parents of Cambodian and Chinese infants.

So Taylor, supervisor of the Long Beach Public Library's Mark Twain branch—located in the heart of the newly designated "Cambodian Town"—did what any level-headed librarian with $20,000 to spend on Khmer-language books would do. She went to Phnom Penh.

There, Taylor and Khmer-speaking library aid Lyda Thanh spent just $6,000 of that amount on books—with half going toward shipping—because, Taylor says, books were surprisingly cheap.
The Friends of the Library group donated funds for the duo's $5,000 travel fees.

Eight boxes and 1,105 new Khmer books later—half of them for children—Taylor and Thanh now are back in Long Beach and looking forward to the weekend of February 1, when the local Cambodian community will preview the new titles. The books will then be catalogued and ready for check-out the first week of April—just in time for Cambodian New Year.

"We started the project two to three years ago," the librarian says. "It was getting harder and harder to purchase Khmer material.” Khmer books were available only in Cambodian grocery stores whose owners would travel back to their homeland and return with suitcases of books to sell, she says.

Taylor estimates that 50,000 to 60,000 Cambodians dwell among the half million residents of Long Beach, located 25 miles south of Los Angeles. "The adults still read Khmer, and there is a big resurgence among families to have the teenagers learn to read it," she explains.

After raising their travel money, Taylor and Thanh set out on their two-week journey on January 2. While there, they nearly cleaned out the bookstores in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, including Monument Bookstore, which Taylor and Thanh dubbed the "Barnes and Noble of Cambodia."

Bringing Commerce to Cambodia

Ron Gluckman

Brash, ambitious, some say ruthless, Kith Meng is building an empire in the newest tiger economy.

A towel around his neck, the slight Cambodian in a sweaty Nike (nyse: NKE - news - people ) sports shirt shouts instructions into a cell phone. He's stomping across the spacious lawn of the Cambodiana Hotel with an arrogant swagger, like he owns the place. Which, in fact, he does.

He's Kith Meng, and that same swagger is on display practically everywhere you look these days in Cambodia. From hotels to telecoms and television, banking, insurance, even education, Kith's Royal Group has a finger in nearly every pot simmering in Asia's newest tiger economy.

Long derided as a backwater that utterly missed the Asian economic boom, Cambodia has been racing to make up for lost time. News that the economy surged by more than 13% in 2005 caught everyone's attention. But growth has averaged 9% annually since 1998, says Stephane Guimbert, senior country economist at the World Bank. That's the second fastest in Asia, after China. Last year growth may have hit 10%.

Granted, it's from a very low base, and exports are mainly textiles. But investment has picked up in the expectation that oilfields off the southern coast will be developed. Real estate is skyrocketing, faster than anywhere in Asia outside of China. And the country drew more than 2 million visitors last year for the first time. Plans call for a stock exchange to open in 2009.

Susan Schwab, who in November became the first U.S. Trade Representative to visit Cambodia, praises its liberal investment laws and a commitment to cleaning up rampant corruption. "This is a wonderful story, for any country, more so one so scarred by its past," she says. "If the buzz factor hasn't already hit, it's definitely developing." Her visit coincided with a landmark Phnom Penh investment conference. "We expected 300 people, but there were over 500," says Christopher Bruton in Bangkok, one of the organizers and a researcher and consultant in Cambodia for decades. "We have never seen such interest in Cambodia."

Kith happily notes: "Before, people used to think of this as a place of war and instability. But now we are part of the global economy, and everyone is coming."

When they arrive, many have no choice but to court Kith, who, more than any of the country's other tycoons, stands as the rugged role model for wheelers and dealers in this anything-goes, frontier economy. "He's a real rags to riches story," says Dean Cleland, chief executive of ANZ Royal, which is planting ATMs and the bank's vivid blue logo everywhere around Phnom Penh. Australian banking powerhouse ANZ holds 55% in the joint venture, with Kith holding the rest, but nobody would consider him a meek minority shareholder. "We have strong and rigorous board meetings," Cleland says.

The word around town is that the two sides battle constantly, with ANZ struggling to distance itself from a meddlesome Kith. "Who said that?" Kith snorts, temper flaring at any inkling of criticism. Yet he quickly calms down, chuckling as he concedes: "My role in the partnership is to push. And push. I'm like the driver."

It's clearly a role he relishes. And, whatever confrontations ensue behind closed doors, the combustive mix has propelled the venture into a lead role in a banking market that may be growing at 30% a year, fueled by the bubbling real estate market. Of course, Kith also claims plenty of prime Phnom Penh plots.

New high-rises are rapidly reshaping a city skyline still dominated by a 15-story Intercontinental Hotel. But 40-story office, commercial and residential towers are on the rise.

Just to trump them, Kith vows to build one 45 floors high. Then came the announcement last month that the 52-story International Finance Tower had gotten approval. Kith will surely adjust his sights higher.

Many of Phnom Penh's streets are still unpaved, and there isn't a single Golden Arches or Starbucks (nasdaq: SBUX - news - people ) yet. Hence, at the opening late last year of a Swensen's, a U.S. chain of ice cream parlors, none other than the U.S. ambassador and the commerce minister cut the ribbon. The hunger for fast food will be satisfied this year by the first Kentucky Fried Chicken outlets opened by--who else? Kith, who also has the Pizza Hut concession.

"He's not an entrepreneur in the traditional sense of creating new businesses," notes one close friend. "What he does is go out and get the business that Cambodia needs. He brought in mobile phones, television, banking, insurance. He's the right guy at the right time."

Take ATMs. When ANZ opened in late 2005, there were hardly any in Cambodia. "We wanted to bring in 25," Cleland recalls. Kith wanted 100. "We ended the year with 52, which seemed a fair compromise," Cleland says. The number quickly topped 90 and will surpass Kith's goal any day.

Not that Kith is satisfied. Now he's barking about credit cards. No Cambodian bank issues plastic, not surprising considering the country's rather recent financial turmoil. Money finally returned to circulation after the Khmer Rouge outlawed currency, blew up the banks and turned clocks--and this war-torn nation--back to Year Zero.

Cleland says there may be 6,000 credit cards issued by overseas banks in the country. He reckons that cards rarely make financial sense until the number reaches 100,000. But Kith is guided by intuition, not market studies. "In his words, you cannot be the number one bank without credit cards," Cleland says. And guess what? "We're rolling them out in April," he notes.

The bank boss may not be very excited about the $1.5 million likely to be spent on the rollout, but he's quite satisfied with a profit of $541,000 for 2007--years before any profit was projected. All the more impressive, it comes as the bank plows cash into expansion. "This has been a good partnership, for both sides," Cleland says. "[ANZ] tends to be more cautious, but that definitely isn't his style. He's very aggressive, very bullish."

ANZ almost took a pass on Cambodia. "If not for Kith Meng, I don't think we'd be here," says Cleland. "A lot of people ask why ANZ is in Cambodia. The answer is that he went to Australia looking for a bank for the country. He made the rounds and came back and told us that of all the banks, we were the one that had said 'No' the most politely." Cleland says ANZ had previously assessed Cambodia: "It came up as a market that was too small, and it was too soon." Kith pressured ANZ to reconsider, suggesting that it fly people in for a new look. If they didn't like what they saw, he would pay for the trip. What ANZ saw was a huge cash economy bigger than what bank deposits indicated. "We caught the wave at exactly the right time," Cleland says.

ANZ may know banking, but Kith has the Midas touch in Cambodia. And he clearly stands apart from both the old money--made mainly in mining, logging and smuggling in the 1980s and 1990s--and the new entrepreneurs starting restaurants and tourism businesses. The older tycoons tend to be reclusive and tied by blood or marriage to the political leaders. In contrast the brash Kith is only 39, unmarried and linked to nothing but the pursuit of profit. Many call him the new face of Cambodian capitalism.

Fortythree Khmer Reporters Threatened

1 February 2008.

The Mirror, Vol. 12, No. 545

“A report about the Cambodian reporters’ situation in 2007 released yesterday morning at Phnom Penh Hotel by the Cambodian Association for the Protection of Journalists found that there were at least 43 Khmer journalists who were threatened in 2007, and besides that, others were facing the courts with powerful people accusing them.

“The Cambodian Association for the Protection of Journalists considered the situation of reporters in 2007 as cruel and savage.

“Mr. Um Sarin, the president of the Cambodian Association for the Protection of Journalists, reported that a journalist in Pursat province was threatened with arson, a journalist in Battambang had a gun put to his head, and a journalist’s house in Svay Rieng was attacked with a grenade. These are the worst events for journalists in the past year 2007.

“At the same time, the Cambodian Association for the Protection of Journalists reminded the public also that the perpetrators of these attacks have not been brought to justice, resulting in impunity, which encourages criminals to make further attacks.

“Mr. Khieu Kanharith, the spokesperson of the Hun Sen government, who attended the conference yesterday, admitted that the situation and safety of journalists in Cambodia was still not good.

“However, the Minister, who is from the Cambodian People’s Party, also spoke covering up scandals of the government by blaming some reports as lacking in proper professionalism and ethics.

“It is noted that in late December 2007, the Minister used to issue a ban against [offending] cartoons and using rude words toward government officials, which is an effort to protect the government’s image, while it is publicly known that the government, ruled by Hun Sen, has also plenty of bad aspects.

“Thus it shows that the Ministry of Information is the main shield to protect the government, and it is also a threat for journalists. It is to note that this Ministry has never served the interests of the press, even when a court took the opportunity to use the UNTAC Transitional Criminal Law to ill-treat reporters, while the Law on the Press Regime had already been in effect for ten years, the Ministry still closed its eyes and ears. And just recently, reporters struggled themselves to insist that law enforcement should use the Law on the Press Regime toward reporters, when they are facing others relating to their work.

“It is reported that on 28-29 December 2007, editors-in-chief from various media institutions met in Sihanoukville [see also ‘KAF-Partner Club of Cambodian Journalists Hosts the 4th Cambodian Editors’ Forum‘] and released a joint statement, including 12 points, which mainly focused on the request to the government, to relevant institutions, especially to the courts and all law enforcement officials, to use the Law on the Press Regime to solve cases which may come up between the media and concerned bodies, and to stop the use of the UNTAC Transitional Criminal Law that led to reporters being arrested and detained.

“At that time, the forum noted that in the past, there was now a trend of suing journalists with the charge of having provided false information, after no longer treating cases of defamation as criminal cases. The forum considered this change as an intent to continue to arrest reporters, as this affect the press freedom in the Kingdom of Cambodia, by using gaps of the law to persecute journalist who perform their duties.”

Khmer Machas Srok, Vol.02, #102, 31.01.2008

Report Says Democracies Enable Despots

William C. Mann
AP Writer
Thu Jan 31, 2008

Authoritarian rulers are violating human rights around the world and getting away with it largely because the U.S., European and other established democracies accept their claims that holding elections makes them democratic, Human Rights Watch said in its annual report Thursday.

By failing to demand that offenders honor their citizens' civil and political rights and other requirements of true democracy, Western democracies risk undermining human rights everywhere, the international rights watchdog said.

Still, Kenneth Roth, Human Rights Watch's executive director, wrote in a segment of the report called "Despots Masquerading as Democrats": "It is a sign of hope that even dictators have come to believe that the route to legitimacy runs by way of democratic credentials."

Among countries named as major violators of their democratic credentials in 2007 were Kenya, Pakistan, Bahrain, Jordan, Nigeria, Russia and Thailand. The report covered the year through November. In December, Thailand's military government allowed elections and was voted out of power by a large majority to end 16 months of rule by the junta.

The annual report is the 18th compiled by Human Rights Watch. It summarizes human rights shortcomings in more than 75 countries.

Among other countries listed as abusers were Chad, Colombia, Congo, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Libya, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia and Vietnam. It spoke of abuses by the United States, France and Britain, along with Pakistan, in the name of a "war on terror."

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and other European leaders were criticized for their reluctance to allow Turkey to join the European Union, despite its improved human rights record.

The report said the EU "lost leverage itself and diminished the clout of those in Turkey who have cited the prospect of EU membership as a reason for reform."

The report's emphasis, however, was the false democracies and the countries that enable them.

"It's now too easy for autocrats to get away with mounting a sham democracy," Roth said in a statement. "That's because too many Western governments insist on elections and leave it at that."
Ignored are "the key human rights issues that make democracy function: a free press, peaceful assembly and a functioning civil society that can really challenge power," he said.

The report said elections were manipulated in a number of ways, including:

_Fraud: Chad, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Nigeria, Uzbekistan.

_Control of electoral machinery: Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Malaysia, Thailand, Zimbabwe.

_Interfering with opposition candidates: Belarus, Cuba, Egypt, Iran, Israel in the occupied Palestinian territories, Libya, Turkmenistan, Uganda.

_Political violence: Cambodia, Congo, Ethiopia, Lebanon.

_Stifling the media and civil society: Russia, Tunisia.

_Undermining the law: China, Pakistan.

Both domestic and international law forbid most of these tactics, Human Rights Watch said.

In the face of this, Human Rights Watch said, "The United States and the European Union should ... demand they uphold rights guaranteed by international law, including a free media, freedom of assembly and a secret ballot."

"It seems Washington and European governments will accept even the most dubious election so long as the 'victor' is a strategic or commercial ally," Roth said.

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said Wednesday he had not seen the report and could not comment on it. He said, however, "In terms of the United States and this administration speaking up in defense of, and advocating for, and putting its effort behind its rhetoric, I don't think there's any question about where we stand in terms of promotion of democracy."

The report said some of the Western countries, including the United States, have made it difficult to demand that offending governments honor human rights by committing abuses themselves in campaigning against terror.

Also, "they will devalue the currency of democracy" if they allow the need for resources, trade and security to make despotism acceptable, and the despots will have "a powerful tool for deflecting pressure to uphold human rights."

"It is time to stop selling democracy on the cheap."

FBI 'Happy to Receive' Grenade Attack Evidence

By Heng Reaksmey,
VOA Khmer

Original report Phnom Penh
31 January 2008

Audio in Khmer - Listen (MP3)

The FBI conducted an investigation of a 1997 grenade attack in Phnom Penh and will not investigate further unless more evidence is brought forward, the Bureau's director said in Phnom Penh Thursday.

Director Robert Mueller, who officially opened the Bureau's Phnom Penh legal attache office Thursday, declined to talk about particular aspects of the investigation, into the grenade attack on a Sam Rainsy Party rally that left at least 16 dead and more than 140 injured, including one American.

"I would tell you that we did an investigation, and if there is any additional evidence or information that will be assisting that investigation, we'll be happy to receive it," said Mueller, who stopped in Cambodia for two days as part of a regional tour. The official opening of the office brought the number of FBI overseas legal attaches to more than 60, Mueller said.

The office, which effectively has been open a year, helps Cambodian authorities with counterterrorism and cross-border crimes. The FBI has been criticized by rights groups for its close cooperation with Cambodian police, who often perpetrate crimes and rights abuses.

National Police Chief Gen. Hok Lundy, who has had close talks with the FBI since the attache office opened, has been accused of a number of crimes, including suspected murder and human and drug trafficking.

Mueller said at the ceremony he was on a trip of "friendship building" and information exchange.
Government spokesman Khieu Kanharith said there was nothing unusual about the visit, which followed Cambodia's request for greater US cooperation in law enforcement.

That cooperation has included training with the FBI as well as US agents at the seaport in Sihanoukville "to help us do most of the jobs," he said.

Chinese Foreign Minister on 3-Day Visit

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

Audio in Khmer - Listen (MP3)

Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi arrived in Phnom Penh Thursday for an official three-day visit, in response to an invitation from Foreign Minister Hor Namhong.

Cambodian officials called the visit a celebration of a 50-year diplomatic relationship between the two.

Opposition leaders said the Chinese government should help fund the Khmer Rouge tribunal.

"Because China once helped the Khmer Rouge, who made us suffer, if China wanted to help the Cambodians, it would donate so that those who have passed away and those who are still alive get justice," said Eng Chhai Eang, secretary-general of the Sam Rainsy Party.

"If China was interested in donating money for the Khmer Rouge trial, it would be great," said Keo Remy, vice president of the Human Rights Party.

US Still Reviewing Tribunal for Fairness

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

Mean Veasna reports in Khmer - Listen (MP3)
Sok Khemara reports in Khmer - Listen (MP3)

The US is carefully observing the Khmer Rouge tribunal but has not yet decided to fund it, an official said Thursday, following calls from a leading genocide expert for reform in the special courts.

Meanwhile, low funds and poor administration have caused less victim participation than observers had hoped.

Youk Chhang, director of the Documentation Center of Cambodia, said in a statement Thursday the tribunal needed "robust anti-corruption commitments, … a clear operating timeline" and greater participation from civil society before it should be considered eligible for funding.

"I think the US, who initiated the trial, should definitely consider to help directly, with some conditions attached, so as to strengthen and reform the current tribunal to make it run perfectly and effectively for the victims," Youk Chhang said Thursday. "I think the reservation in approving funding occurred because the tribunal has not shown an international standard and transparency."

US Embassy spokesman Jeff Daigle said Thursday the State Department was currently conducting a review of the tribunal's capabilities.

"There won't be any consideration on funding until that review is finished," he said. "And a big concern is that the UN and the Cambodian government will need to agree on some mechanism to address the administration problems that have come to light."

Human rights officials said Thursday poor administration and a lack of funds were contributing to low victim participation, one of the key mandates of the tribunal.

The courts have received more than 1,000 complaints, tribunal spokesman Reach Sambath said Thursday.

Observers say this number could be much higher.

"If there had been wide outreach and people understand their rights, they would have participated. Then the problem is the administration," said Hisham Mousar, who monitors the tribunal for the rights group Adhoc. "And also the donors have not donated money for the tribunal. That's why there are likely precautions and hesitation to move forward."

Doctors Consider Home Treatment for Pneumonia

By Nuch Sarita,
VOA Khmer Washington
31 January 2008

Audio in Khmer - Listen (MP3)

Pneumonia remains a danger to many Cambodia children, but doctors are now considering whether cases should be treated at home or in the hospital.

A new study sponsored by the World Health Organization has demonstrated home treatments with oral antibiotics can be as effective as hospitalization.

The main causes of the disease in Cambodia are viruses, bacteria or parasites, which enter the lungs in a variety of ways, said Dr. Kaing Sor, a pneumonia expert at the Mithapheap Khmer Hospital in Phnom Penh,

The inhalation of pesticides or other chemical toxins can cause pneumonia as well, he said, as a guest on "Hello VOA" Thursday.

Coughing in the morning or the appearance of green phlegm are not a sign of pneumonia, but could be signs of smoking or asthma, he said.

Fairport family assisting victims of Asian sex trade

Democrat & Chronicle

(January 31, 2008) — Fairport teenager Natascha Yogachandra took a winter break last month in Cambodia where she heard horrific details of the sex trade visited upon so many young women in Southeast Asia.

This was not your typical teenager vacation, but it was what I'd expect from Natascha and her parents, Debbie and Nat Yogachandra. Almost three years ago, they visited Nat's native Sri Lanka to help with tsunami relief. Soon, they rented their Fairport home, moved to India and set up the small Hope is Life Foundation with contributions from friends and friends of friends.

Their aim was to find a good school for Natascha, and to use the foundation's modest finances to help the poorest of the poor. They helped create small libraries and day care centers, purchased school desks, hurricane lamps, even sewing machines to help young girls learn a trade.

Last year, they worked to raise money to send 10 girls to school for five years. By last summer, Natascha had decided that she'd put most of her energy into making sure young girls get an education, because without skills to support themselves, they are incredibly vulnerable. Then they moved to Thailand to start again.

In an e-mail to me, Natascha wrote of meeting Vansyna, 23, who was whisked from Vietnam to Cambodia when she was 13. She and a friend were lured to a bus that was to take them to a Christmas party. The friends were separated and "Vansyna was taken to a brothel, with a coffee shop fa├žade, where she was sold to the owner. ... She still had no idea what was going on, since she didn't know the language.

"As the tears start forming in her eyes, she is determined to finish her dreadful story. She takes a deep breath and recalls the brothel. Four floors full of girls, classified by ages, younger on the top and older on the lower floors, with around fourteen girls on each floor. She estimates that there were one hundred girls in this brothel alone. One thing that still haunts her to this day is that after the first day of crying, she could cry no more."

After a year, Vansyna was rescued by an organization founded by a woman who had endured the same fate as a child."Vansyna continues to live with a dark cloud hanging over her head, along with the many girls who have been forced into this trade," Natascha wrote. "We need to do something. Anything. Making people aware of the trafficking is the first step."

It is a cruel fate that awaits children of such despair. "Cambodia is a source, transit and destination country for women and children trafficked for the purposes of commercial sexual exploitation and forced labor," wrote Nat Yogachandra. "About 35 percent of Cambodia's 14 million people live below the national poverty line of less than 25 cents a day," he wrote. "It is one of the poorest nations in the world. ... The country now has become a magnet for people who prey on the young and innocent."

The Hope is Life Foundation, he says, will work with volunteer groups to raise the living standards for the girls of Cambodia and will start raising money to build "learning centers" (which both house children and offer supplemental education) to give them the tools they will need. As they say, hope is life.

Cambodian Fever

A Los Angeles band will blend foreign flair with psychedelic rock to electrify audiences tonight at the echoplex.

Whitney Burke
Issue date: 1/31/08

The concept of a Cambodian rock band never crossed the mind of Farfisa organ player Ethan Holtzman until an excursion to Cambodia in 1997 connected him with the country's psychedelic pop music of the '60s.

Holtzman was immediately captivated by the streaming sounds from the tape player on his taxi's dashboard.

When he returned to the United States, Holtzman began a quest to replicate the genre that most people believed had been lost after the Khmer Rouge massacres of the '70s.

His dream of creating a Cambodian group was not far from reach, thanks to a large population of Cambodians who lived in Long Beach.

And that's where Holtzman went to look for his ideal Cambodian princess to headline his band.

At the time, singer Ch'hom Nimol was making a name for herself in the Cambodian wedding circuit, performing in as many events as she could before being sought out by Holtzman as a vocalist.

"It wasn't hard to find a singer to front the band because the Cambodian population in Long Beach is about 50,000.

We found Nimol singing in Khmer at the Dragon House, and from there on out, everything formed naturally," bassist Senon Williams said.

Holtzman then recruited Zac Holtzman, a guitarist and his brother; drummer Paul Smith; Williams and David Ralicke on bass to round off the band, Dengue Fever, in 2001.

Unsure of how American audiences would respond to such an unusual genre of music, the six-person group tentatively released its self-titled debut album, "Dengue Fever," in 2003. Much to the band's surprise, the CD was well received by American fans, and Williams said the band's connection to the music was almost instantaneous.

"We have really grown since the debut of our first album," Williams said. "We really understand one another, and I think the point of our music is that we are heavily influenced by '60s psychedelic rock, but as we grow as a band, we kind of morph this whole sound with other influences to make contemporary music.

"While "Dengue Fever" paid homage to the master musicians of Cambodian rock who faded away decades ago, the band used these covers as a building block for its junior effort, "Venus on Earth," which features original material written by Zac Holtzman.

The bond between bandmates was strengthened during a trip to Cambodia in 2005 when the band immersed itself in lead singer Nimol's native culture.

"It was great to be in Cambodia and having Nimol expose the rest of us to her culture; it really let us more into her experiences growing up," Williams said.

Dengue Fever ventured back to its roots for its Cambodian tour, which is captured in John Pirozzi's documentary, "Sleepwalking Through the Mekong."

It explores the homecoming of Dengue Fever's vocalist and the adventure for her American bandmates.

The Cambodian audience immediately fell in love with the band, with help from the Cambodia Television Network, which broadcasted its interviews and live performances 24/7.

"The network rebroadcasted our shows continuously, so word spread fast of our arrival in Cambodia, and in little time we were playing for packed audiences," Williams said.

With a third album saturated with fresh songs, Dengue Fever continues to expand musically in order to reach a diverse group of listeners.

"At first our fan base was just hipsters and indie rockers, but now we are getting a lot more Cambodian-American listeners," Williams said.

"The whole Cambodian community is getting into it, which just means that our fan base is expanding and becoming more diverse."

Whether it's a small club or an international festival, Dengue Fever approaches all shows with open arms, seeing them as chances to expose their eclectic sound to new audiences.

The band's goal is to put a contemporary flair on the popular psychedelic music of the '60s.Unlike many bands, Dengue Fever is faced with the obstacle of translating songs into Khmer, the official language of Cambodia, which often makes the writing process more complicated.

Nimol is beginning to sing more frequently in English, but the band still prefers to have the option of performing songs in either English or Khmer.

"Seeing Hands," the debut single off "Venus on Earth," couples majestic sounds with Nimol's crunching lyrics and sweet melodies.

Williams calls the track "a true love story that will have a big, immediate impact on fans."-

Dengue Fever will perform and show excerpts from John Pirozzi's documentary, "Sleepwalking Through the Mekong," at its record release party at 8 p.m. at the echoplex, 1154 Glendale Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90026. Tickets are $13.

Cambodian salt fills market while local producers struggle

A salt purchase takes place in the southern province of Bac Lieu. Viet Nam still imports salt for industrial production from neighbouring countries, despite producing 1.2 million tonnes of unprocessed salt per year. — VNA/VNS Photo Thanh Su

Vietnam News

Domestic salt falls short of demand
HA NOI — Despite producing 1.2 million tonnes of unprocessed salt, Viet Nam still needs to import 200,000 tonnes for industrial production, the Association of Salt Production in Viet Nam said.The main reason for this is unprocessed salt in the domestic market does not meet quality requirements needed for industry and imported salt is cheaper, the association said. — VNS

AN GIANG — A shortage of salt on the local market has resulted in a large volume of salt being imported into the country from Cambodia, experts say.

In the past month, traders bought salt at VND900 a kg from Cambodia’ s Kampot province and imported it across the southern border province of An Giang.

Imported salt is then transported along the Vinh Te Canal in An Phu Commune and Tinh Bien town for local sale.

The price has risen to VND4,000 a kg in Bac Lieu Province, the country’s largest salt granary.
Market experts said local salt prices had increased tenfold over last year and reached a record high in the past five years.

The scarcity of salt was expected to continue because of the traditional methods of salt production that result in low yields, experts said.

Compounding the problem are the increasingly dwindling acreage for salt production due to rapid urbanisation, inclement weather and high demand for salt exports, industry insiders say.
Huynh Thi Ngoc Anh, a resident and salt dealer in Tinh Bien town, said that a large amount of salt was being imported from Cambodia.

Ngoc Anh earns a 5 per cent profit on each 50 kg bag of salt, priced at VND48,000 each.
She said she often bought 400 to 500 bags of salt from Cambodia at a time, and usually earned about several million dong a month.

Residents in other businesses are also turning to importing salt from Cambodia.

Nguyen Van Tuc, a longstanding cross-border rice trader who now imports salt for a living, said he could sell an average of 2,000-4,000 bags of salt a day to traders from HCM City and Can Tho and Dong Thap provinces. — VNS

ADB provides loan for Cambodia to build power lines from Thailand

Philippine Star
Thursday, January 31, 2008

PHNOM PENH (AP) - The Asian Development Bank signed an agreement Thursday to provide a $7 million loan to build transmission lines to bring electricity from Thailand into power-short northwestern Cambodia, including the popular tourist destination of Angkor Wat.

The bank said in a news release that the 115-kilovolt power lines will be the first to be privately owned in the Greater Mekong Subregion, comprising Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam, and China's Yunnan province.

It is also the bank's first private sector infrastructure project in Cambodia, it said.The loan, which does not carry a government guarantee, is being made to the (Cambodia) Power Transmission Lines Co. Ltd., a private Cambodian company, said the Manila-based bank.

US FBI chief says Cambodia's fast-growing economy makes it important in anti-terror fight


PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) - Cambodia's recent fast-paced economic boom makes it crucial to cooperate with the country in fighting terrorism and global crime, the chief of the U.S. FBI said Thursday.

«It's an important country to us because of the potential for persons transiting Cambodia or utilizing Cambodia as a spot for terrorism,» Robert Mueller said at a news conference in the capital, Phnom Penh.

He spoke after inaugurating an FBI office at the U.S. Embassy in Phnom Penh. The office is headed by Laro Tan, a Cambodian-American.

As the Southeast Asian nation expands financially and is drawn deeper into the growing global mesh of the Internet, Mueller said it was important to see how it was affected by the growth of international financial fraud.

Mueller was also visiting the country for talks with Prime Minister Hun Sen and other officials to strengthen cooperation in fighting terrorism and transnational crime, to which Cambodia is seen as vulnerable because of weak and allegedly corrupt law enforcement.

Hambali, an Indonesian said to be a key leader of the regional Jemaah Islamiyah terror network, reportedly spent several months in Cambodia in 2002 and allegedly tried to use it as a base from which to launch attacks.

Hambali, whose real name is Riduan Isamuddin, was captured in neighboring Thailand in 2003 and later transferred to the prison at the U.S. Navy base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.Mueller praised the cooperation Washington has received from the Cambodian police.

«I might say in particular that our relationship as it addresses terrorism and the threat of terrorism has been exemplary and the exchange of information between our services has been the second to none,» he said.

The Cambodian national police force is headed by Gen. Hok Lundy, whom New York-based Human Rights Watch has accused of ordering an extrajudicial killing, as well as involvement in drug smuggling and human trafficking. The government has dismissed the allegations as nonsense.

Hok Lundy was denied a U.S. visa in 2006 for reasons never made public. Last year, however, the U.S. State Department granted him a visa to attend counterterrorism meetings hosted by the FBI.

Every day is 'busy' in Cambodia

Guest Columnist

I have been very negligent in writing my article to the newspaper, and I repent and promise to be more punctual. I have been so busy with all of our assignments the article has dropped down the priority scale. I use the word "busy" because that is the most common word in Cambodia. When we speak with people about attending church or other activities, the most common answer is "I am busy." We have been serving more than one-third of our time in the mission field, and it seems like every day is more challenging but every day is very "busy."

We have spent our first Christmas out of the United States and away from our family. It was a very difficult time for my wife. Luckily, there are very few men in Cambodia who are built like Santa Clause. We were asked to play Santa a number of times - 12 to be exact. I ordered a Santa suit from the states, but it still hasn't arrived. We managed to adapt an old Santa suit and life went on. Cambodia is 95 percent Buddhist, but there are many Christens from Europe, Australia and the United States on assignments in Cambodia, as well as many native Cambodians who want to celebrate Christmas and the holidays. Many of the stores sell decorations, trees and other Christmas items. We played Santa for probably 500 kids in church units, orphanages and schools. We were so "busy" worrying about helping others, we scarcely had any time to worry about home, family and the holidays.

Recently my wife and I traveled with a puppet show from the church, a company of about 10 young people, out into the provinces. The area we were in was very rural and had many very, very poor people. Most homes had no electricity and probably would not even be called shacks in the U.S. There were a few water wells, but most collected the rain water for a water supply. The weather does not get below about 65 degrees all year, so keeping warm is not a factor. The puppet show group would pull up into a village and begin playing music and setting up their portable set. The skit was very simple and cute, teaching people about breast feeding, hygiene, clean water, simple disease and mosquito control. After the music was playing for about 30 minutes, about 50 to 75 people - mostly mothers and young babies - would gather and sit on the ground and enjoy the performance. The people were so kind and appreciative of the presentation.

I read the e-mail from the T.R. almost every day, and I enjoy reading the articles and news about the community. I, of course read the sports columns and the obituaries, but I also follow the election results and some of the local politics as well. I compare the editorials about the taxes and school levies to life in Phnom Penh, where there are no taxes. The schools receive almost no money from the government officials. Teachers make about $30 per month and almost all teachers work several jobs. If a student wants homework or anything more than babysitting, the student pays the teacher directly. There are many, many private schools throughout the city, but they are very expensive. Additionally, there is one fire station and five fire trucks to handle the fires for a city of more than 2 million people. There is also one post office for the entire community; no home or business mail delivery system. There is no sewage treatment plant, as the sewage dumps into an open canal that courses through the city and empties into the Mekong River. There are two or three police officers on many of the street corners and pull over motos and some cars for various violations. The violator pays a fine directly to the officer, who keeps the money as a supplement to his salary of $30 per month. As I evaluate the community services in this third world country to the services we receive in the states, it makes the taxes that we pay a bargain. I love the USA.

Mike and Mary Lee Morgan are on an 18-month assignment in the Cambodia Phnom Penh Mission of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. They have been assigned to do both proselyting and humanitarian services for the Cambodian people. Dr. Morgan retired from his dental practice in Zanesville, after 41 years of practice. He will periodically write about their adventures.

Chinese FM in Cambodia for official visit

Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi (R) receives a bouquet of flowers upon his arrival at Phnom Penh international airport January 31, 2008. Yang is scheduled to meet King Norodom Sihamoni and Prime Minister Hun Sen during his two-day official visit from January 31-February 02.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA)

January 31, 2008

Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi arrived in Phnom Penh on Thursday afternoon for a three-day official visit at the invitation of Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Hor Namhong.

Yang is scheduled to respectively meet King Norodom Sihamoni, Prime Minister Hun Sen and Hor Namhong on Friday.

This has been Yang's first visit to Cambodia since he became foreign minister in 2007. Cambodia is the first stop of Yang's regional tour which also includes Brunei and Australia.

Source: Xinhua

FBI chief lauds Cambodia for its role in 'war on terror'

The raw Story
Thursday January 31, 2008

The head of the FBI on Thursday hailed Cambodia's role in the US "war on terror", as the agency opened its first office in Phnom Penh amid rising concern over regional extremism.

Robert Mueller said the relationship between the countries in addressing the threat from extremists was "exemplary".

As he came to the end of a two-day visit, during which he held talks with his Cambodian counterparts, Mueller added: "The exchange of information between our services has been second to none."

His trip, part of a three-country Asian tour, came amid Washington's increasing efforts to further ties with the formerly communist nation, particularly in security.

Law enforcement officials have in the past expressed concern that Cambodia's porous borders and weak policing could make it a haven for extremists.

"Cambodia is an important country to us for the potential of persons transiting Cambodia, using Cambodia as a spot for utilising terrorism," the FBI director said.

Hambali -- real name Riduan Isamuddin -- who was allegedly a key member of the Al-Qaeda-linked Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) network, reportedly spent several months in Cambodia before being captured in Thailand in 2003.

Mueller's visit follows a series of law enforcement exchanges, including Cambodian National Police Chief Hok Lundy's trip to Washington last April for anti-terror talks with the FBI.

The invitation was made to Hok Lundy -- who was previously refused a visa to the US over alleged involvement in human trafficking -- despite criticism from rights groups over reported abuses by his forces.

Mueller said Thursday that the issues of weak policing and corruption were part of his talks with Cambodian officials, but that graft was a problem worldwide.