Sunday, 24 February 2008

Three days in Dey Krahorm


3 days in the lives of villagers in Dey Krahorm, a Phnom Penh based community facing eviction due to land dispute.

True Face of Dey Krahorm

Tribute to Dey Krahorm community and all communities resisting unlawful eviction in Cambodia today

The Invisible Government

4 videos by John Pilger
Feb 23, 2008, 21:07

Editor's Note:

John Pilger's talk on "The invisible Goverment" is an education in itself about the role of the media from the 1920's onward. Pilger explains in clear, concise terms about the role of the "corporate media", how and why it emerged and it's dominance as an "invisible government" at the start of the 21st century. After hearing this talk you will not be reading the NYT, Washington Post or listening to the BBC with the same naive gullibility when you realize the role of how "professional journalism" has been indirectly responible for millions of deaths since it was established. We include all 4 parts of John Pilger's video below, each with his introduction first and his conclusion at the end.

The Invisible Government, by John Pilger
Part I
I wasn't going to mention The Green Berets when I sat down to write this, until I read the other day that John Wayne was the most influential movie who ever lived. I a saw the Green Berets starring John Wayne on a Saturday night in 1968 in Montgomery Alabama. (I was down there to interview the then-infamous governor George Wallace). I had just come back from Vietnam, and I couldn't believe how absurd this movie was. So I laughed out loud, and I laughed and laughed. And it wasn't long before the atmosphere around me grew very cold. My companion, who had been a Freedom Rider in the South, said, "Let's get the hell out of here and run like hell."

We were chased all the way back to our hotel, but I doubt if any of our pursuers were aware that John Wayne, their hero, had lied so he wouldn't have to fight in World War II. And yet the phony role model of Wayne sent thousands of Americans to their deaths in Vietnam, with the notable exceptions of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney.

Last year, in his acceptance of the Nobel Prize for Literature, the playwright Harold Pinter made an epoch speech. He asked why, and I quote him, "The systematic brutality, the widespread atrocities, the ruthless suppression of independent thought in Stalinist Russia were well know in the West, while American state crimes were merely superficially recorded, left alone, documented." And yet across the world the extinction and suffering of countless human beings could be attributed to rampant American power. "But," said Pinter, "You wouldn't know it. It never happened. Nothing ever happened. Even while it was happening it wasn't happening. It didn't matter. It was of no interest." Pinter's words were more than the surreal. The BBC ignored the speech of Britain's most famous dramatist.

I've made a number of documentaries about Cambodia. The first was Year Zero: the Silent Death of Cambodia. It describes the American bombing that provided the catalyst for the rise of Pol Pot. What Nixon and Kissinger had started, Pol Pot completed—CIA files alone leave no doubt of that. I offered Year Zero to PBS and took it to Washington. The PBS executives who saw it were shocked. They whispered among themselves. They asked me to wait outside. One of them finally emerged and said, "John, we admire your film. But we are disturbed that it says the United States prepared the way for Pol Pot."

I said, "Do you dispute the evidence?" I had quoted a number of CIA documents. "Oh, no," he replied. "But we've decided to call in a journalistic adjudicator."

Many people who regard themselves on the left supported Bush's attack on Afghanistan. That the CIA had supported Osama Bin Laden was ignored, that the Clinton administration had secretly backed the Taliban, even giving them high-level briefings at the CIA, is virtually unknown in the United States. The Taliban were secret partners with the oil giant Unocal in building an oil pipeline across Afghanistan. And when a Clinton official was reminded that the Taliban persecuted women, he said, "We can live with that." There is compelling evidence that Bush decided to attack the Taliban not as a result of 9-11, but two months earlier, in July of 2001. This is virtually unknown in the United States—publicly. Like the scale of civilian casualties in Afghanistan. To my knowledge only one mainstream reporter, Jonathan Steele of the Guardian in London, has investigated civilian casualties in Afghanistan, and his estimate is 20,000 dead civilians, and that was three years ago.

The enduring tragedy of Palestine is due in great part to the silence and compliance of the so-called liberal left. Hamas is described repeatedly as sworn to the destruction of Israel. The New York Times, the Associated Press, the Boston Globe—take your pick. They all use this line as a standard disclaimer, and it is false. That Hamas has called for a ten-year ceasefire is almost never reported. Even more important, that Hamas has undergone an historic ideological shift in the last few years, which amounts to a recognition of what it calls the reality of Israel, is virtually unknown; and that Israel is sworn to the destruction of Palestine is unspeakable.

There is a pioneering study by Glasgow University on the reporting of Palestine. They interviewed young people who watch TV news in Britain. More than 90 percent thought the illegal settlers were Palestinian. The more they watched, the less they knew—Danny Schecter's famous phrase.

The current most dangerous silence is over nuclear weapons and the return of the Cold War. The Russians understand clearly that the so-called American defense shield in Eastern Europe is designed to subjugate and humiliate them. Yet the front pages here talk about Putin starting a new Cold War, and there is silence about the development of an entirely new American nuclear system called Reliable Weapons Replacement (RRW), which is designed to blur the distinction between conventional war and nuclear war—a long-held ambition.

Thai former PM Thaksin 'will be back soon'

Thailand's former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted during a military coup in 2006,is reportedly to be back in Thailand soon as local newspapers said he would announce the exact date on Tuesday.

In a telephone call from overseas to a crowd of supporters in Thailand's northern city of Chiang Rai on Saturday, Thaksin said he was coming home soon.

"On Tuesday, I'll have the answer as to when I'll come back," he told about 1,000 jubilant supporters who gathered at a market in Chiang Rai to celebrate "Thaksin Nostalgic Day" on Saturday, local English newspaper the Bangkok Post Sunday reported.

More than 200 banquet tables were set up with banners stretching across the venue hailing the ousted prime minister's homecoming plan. The event was organized by supporters of Thaksin's, who call themselves the Thaksin Loyalists Club.

The Nation newspaper also reported the event. It said Thaksin was now in Cambodia at the invitation of the country's Prime Minister Hun Sen for a round of golf.

Thaksin was also quoted as saying that he had no plan to stay in Thailand for a long period after returning because he has to travel overseas for business. Some Thaksin supporters said they heard the ousted premier might fly in directly to his home-town province of Chiang Mai, bypassing Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi Airport.


Pol Pot murdered Scot in Cambodia

Report shows dictator ordered shooting of academic
February 24, 2008

MORE THAN 1.5 million people died in the killing fields of Cambodia, but one of the most puzzling footnotes in the slaughter and destruction of that country is the unsolved murder of the only British victim - the first Westerner caught up in the violence.

Gunmen burst into Scottish academic Malcolm Caldwell's Phnom Penh government guesthouse and shot him repeatedly in the chest and leg, killing him instantly. He was found with his apparent assassin slumped by his body and also riddled with bullet holes. At the time, the BBC reported he was killed by Vietnamese agents to discredit Pol Pot, but 30 years after the murder documents newly obtained by the Sunday Herald under the Freedom of Information Act reveal that the genocidal dictator himself ordered the assassination, early in the morning of December 23, 1978.

Just hours earlier, the 47-year-old father of four had met the despot, demanded to see deposed leader Prince Sihanouk and had asked about missing Cambodians and ministers, most of whom, it transpires, were already dead.

According to the classified documents, journalist Wilfred Burchett had seen an official Cambodian report a year later which said: "Caldwell was murdered by members of the National Security Force personnel on the instructions of the Pol Pot government."

An unnamed British civil servant adds: "Caldwell told Burchett he had every intention of asking some pointed questions and that he was absolutely determined to see Sihanouk.

"It is likely, therefore, that he upset his hosts, who were probably concerned that a prominent supporter/apologist of the Pol Pot regime might report in a critical vein on his return home.

"Matters probably came to a head after a private interview which Caldwell had with Pol Pot."

The papers also reveal a chilling account of the murder from eyewitness Richard Dudman, made five days later at the British embassy in Washington. The journalist for the St Louis Dispatch told officials of the moment a young gunman shot at him and Caldwell in the Khmer Rouge VIP guesthouse at 12.55am.

Born in Stirling into a middle-class Tory-voting household, Caldwell went on to get a double first at Edinburgh University by the time he was 21. He became a Marxist academic at London University's School of Oriental and African Studies and a left-wing activist, serving as head of CND in 1968-70.

A supporter of the Khmer Rouge, he was one of the first Westerners allowed into the country after 1975, and travelled to Cambodia with Dudman and fellow American journalist Elizabeth Becker just as the true horror of the genocide was becoming apparent.

Caldwell had spent three weeks touring the country surrounded by Khmer Rouge minders but had seen and surreptitiously photographed the impoverished peasants.

Dudman reported that in Phnom Penh he knocked on Caldwell's door as a young uniformed man appeared in the corridor with a machine gun on his shoulder and a pistol in his hand and fired at the two men. Dudman ran into his room and two shots were fired into the door. Then he heard more shots. 90 minutes later, a Cambodian security officer told Dudman that Caldwell was OK and he had to stay in his room.

But, Dudman then said, "An hour later a high ranking foreign office official told me Malcolm Caldwell was dead and asked me to witness the scene."

Dudman went to look and saw the open door of Caldwell's room and saw his dead body "supine, eyes wide open and body soaked in blood".

He estimated Caldwell had been hit at least three times. The official told Dudman that the dead gunman had shot Caldwell and then shot himself.

Becker's account indicates that the murder scene could have been staged. The Washington Post journalist found herself face to face with the killer and ran back into her room and hid in her bath.

After the shots, she then heard bodies being dragged up and down stairs on three different occasions. Dudman and Becker later noticed that there were bloodstains on the stairs and corridor.

The Foreign Office officials speculate that because of the time lapse and Becker's account, it was very possible that Caldwell's murder scene had been stage-managed.

Fugitive nabbed after 13 years on the lam
Reported by Dam Huy
Sunday, February 24, 2008

A murder suspect was arrested in the Mekong Delta Saturday after evading police for 13 years.
Nguyen Van Son had been wanted by Ho Chi Minh City police since he and 11 others were accused of brutally attacking a family in 1995.

The attack in HCMC’s District 4 left three dead.

Son had been hiding in Cambodia for 13 years, said police.

He had made a living selling roosters to cock fighters, according to investigators.

Police apprehended Son at a relation’s house in Dong Thap Province.

He had come to Vietnam to buy fighting cocks to resell in Cambodia, said police reports.
The case is pending further investigation.

To founder, Cambodian baseball a diamond in the rough

At great sacrifice, a former refugee fosters the American game that gave him hope.

Los Angeles Times
February 23, 2008

DOTHAN, ALA. - Baseball's ground rules are different in Cambodia.

A ball hit off the water buffaloes grazing in the outfield is in play, but a ball lost in the adjoining rice paddy is not. And timeout must be called whenever a motorcycle approaches on the dirt road that cuts through the outfield.

"You can't put it in perspective with words," said Jim Small, managing director for Major League Baseball's operations in Asia. "You just need to see it."

Even then, you can't always believe what you're seeing.

Shirtless children in plastic flip-flops batting cross-handed. Adults pitching with both hands wrapped tightly around the ball. And slides that are more like baserunners falling, then rolling.
"Teaching baseball in Cambodia," Joe Cook said, "it's not easy."

Cook, a Cambodian refugee who survived the Khmer Rouge genocide to escape to the United States, has spent the past five years trying to turn the former killing fields of his homeland into fields of dreams for a generation that has known little more than war, poverty and despair.
Along the way he has lost his life savings, his car and nearly his marriage.

"I want to walk away from this. I do. But these kids," he said, pointing to a photo of three shoeless children in torn clothes toting bats and gloves through a rice paddy, "baseball brings smiles to their faces."

In December, thanks to Cook, Cambodia fielded a national baseball team for the first time in the Southeast Asian Games in Thailand. It was a milestone as inauspicious as it was historic:

Cambodia's first four hitters struck out without touching the ball, and it took four games for the team to get its first hit. By then Cambodia had been outscored 67 to 1.

"The biggest deal is we showed up. We had the guts to be there," Cook said.

Whether they show up again, however, is anybody's guess. Although the other five teams in the Southeast Asian Games are supported by relatively well-financed national organizations, the Cambodian team is supported largely by Cook and whatever donations he can scrape together.

Lately that hasn't been much. Two months before the games, Cook was far short of the $50,000 he needed to get Cambodia to the competition.

He also was half a world away, in southeast Alabama town of Dothan, working as a chef at a Japanese steakhouse.

Mark Dennis, a Dothan businessman, helped Cook obtain more than $41,000 in loans, wiring the final $4,500 himself less than an hour before the registration deadline. Said Dennis, "I just had a hard time seeing him fail that close."

But despite the victory of showing up in Thailand, Cook hardly feels like a winner these days. He's $41,500 in debt, and Cambodia Baseball has just $1,585 in the bank.

"I'm so frustrated. I've had enough of this," Cook said, fighting back tears while sitting in his cramped apartment. His sofa, which sits next to a broken coffee table, is both an office and a bed for Cook, who leaves the bedroom to his wife and daughter. During his last trip to Cambodia in December, his Hyundai was repossessed and the gas and electricity were turned off.

He wasn't thrown out of the apartment because his boss pays the $450 monthly rent.

"I'm the grandfather of baseball in Cambodia," he said. "Yeah, that's great. But I live in a poor way."

Major League Baseball has sent coaches to Cambodia, donated equipment and paid for Cook to fly back and forth from Alabama -- contributions worth more than $50,000 over the past two years alone.

Local companies and schools in south Alabama also have helped collect, store and ship equipment to Cambodia, but few have donated cash. Cook said he had spent about $300,000 on Cambodian baseball since the fall of 2002 -- huge chunks of it coming out of his pockets or those of family members. But he can't go on that way.

"I'm burning out. I can't do this alone," he said. "I don't want to do anything with baseball in Cambodia anymore. Period."

The Rev. Frank Cancro, a Catholic priest in North Carolina who visited the first baseball field in Cambodia, chuckled when he heard that. "He's said that at least three times since I've known him," he said.

As a result, from a misshapen diamond carved out of the jungle near the village of Baribor five years ago, Cambodian baseball has spread to more than 50 teams in four age divisions in three provinces.

Game changed life

Cook's love affair with baseball began shortly after a Christian aid organization rescued him and what was left of his family from a Philippine refugee camp in 1983, relocating them to Chattanooga, Tenn.

Cook, whose legal name is Joeurt Puk (he began using Cook after taking his first restaurant job), said he spent nearly half his childhood in Cambodia living off tree bark, insects and grass in Khmer Rouge labor camps. Along the way he lost his father and two sisters and was nearly killed twice before escaping to Thailand.

"I was starving and I just wanted to end my life," he said.

Arriving in Chattanooga as a 12-year-old, he was introduced to marvelous things he had never seen before -- a flush toilet, television, radio, a mirror. And baseball.

"Seeing kids running around without having to worry about booby traps or gunshots, explosions. America was like heaven," Cook said.

He eventually wed a political refugee from Cambodia seven years his senior, in an arranged marriage that produced two children. And he never forgot the transformative power the game had on his life.

That turned his life around again nearly six years ago, when he returned to the Thailand border to reunite with a sister long believed dead.

There, in the children of the poverty stricken town of Baribor, he said, "I saw the happiness in their faces. And my heart just opened. ... That's what changed my life. So I told the kids, 'When I come back, I'm going to bring baseball. I'm going to bring the American gift.'"

A few months later he returned with enough secondhand bats, balls and gloves to field two teams. It was enough to give the sport the locals called "throwball" a foothold.

Small said the poor, shy children of Baribor seemed different after putting on donated, sparkling white jerseys with their homeland written across their chests.

"How cool for them to have a chance to represent their country," he said.

Which might be why Cook, at least so far, has been unable to quit.

An ancient visit

Buddhism is Cambodia's main religion, and monks are revered in this society.
Sculptors hard at work.
Sunday February 24, 2008


THIS Chinese New Year was the first that I'd ever spent away from home. I have a part time job as a tour leader. The Chinese New Year period is peak season for holidays, so I have to leave my family behind as duty calls.

I was pleasantly surprised that my assignment this time was to Cambodia, a country I have always wanted to go to.

The Gory Past

Our first stop was in Cambodia's capital Phnom Pehn. Most of the tour members look forward to a day of relaxing sight seeing and lots of photo taking. That remains true until we stepped into Tuol Sleng Museum.

It used to be a high school, but was was converted into Security Prison 21 when the Khmer Rouge came into power in 1975.

Better known as S-21, this was hell to thousands of Cambodians who were tortured and killed for being accused of disloyalty to Pol Pot, The Khmer Rouge Leader.

Today, S-21 has been converted into a museum and its horrid past immortalised in the exhibits. As I walked through the door of each torture chamber, I couldn’t help but imagine people screaming and wailing for help as they were tortured.

One of the most interesting exhibits in the prison was the barbed wire holding cells, which were designed to stop the prisoners from committing suicide.

S-21 is not a pleasant place to visit at all as time has still not erased its aura of doom. Some Cambodians avoid visiting this museum because it evokes painful memories of the cruel regime.

Tantalizing Your Taste Buds

Cambodia is known for its rare and exotic food. The sidewalks are filled with stalls selling baskets full of black, odd looking things. Upon closer inspection, I realise that they were crunchy insects, ranging from spiders to cicadas.

Yes, I tried three of these snacks - the fried grasshoppers, skinned baby frogs and the ever-famous hairy tarantulas.

Although they didn’t taste half as bad as I expected them to be, they were nowhere near anything I have ever tasted before. I did tease a girl saying that they do taste like chicken!

Adventure seekers may try the duck foetus which was cooked while the egg is a few days’ old, preventing feathers to start growing on the forming duck. It is believed to improve virility but that is not a good enough reason for me to try it.

Angkor What?

It would be virtually a sin not to pay a visit to Angkor Wat in Siem Reap as it is one of the New Seven Wonders of the world. At Siem Reap, visit the famous Angkor Wat, as well as Angkor Thom, Bayon temple and Ta Prohm.

Each of these temples has its own unique architectural design and history.

It can take days to visit all the temples and shrines in Angkor Wat thoroughly as there is a lot to see and explore. The intricate carving just amazes every visitor, and the thought of thousands of artisans and labourers behind every stone and pebble just take your breath away. A visit there would not be complete if one does not climb up the dusty and windy roads of Phnom Bakheng to see the magnificent sunset.

Today, visitors flood in from every corner of the world and you would see streams of people going in and out of the temple. It's tough to get a picture of the temples in their serene setting. It gets tougher with the hordes charging in and snapping every spot they could get their hands on especially in Ta Prohm where Angelina Jolie shot Tomb raider.

Do keep in mind Angkor has no tarred road to keep it in its most original form. When you travel in Angkor Wat, you might inhale a big load of dust by the end of the day. But it's worth it because you get to experience the splendours of an ancient civilisation.

Roaming In Town

After saying goodbyes to all my tour mates at the Siem Reap International Airport, unfortunately (or fortunately) I had to stay back another day due to the unavailability of air tickets. I hired a motorcyclist taxi driver, Path to bring me around town. I listed a few modern Wats (pagoda in Khmer) to visit, as well as the famous Tonle Sap Lake and the floating village of Chong Kneas.

However, I was not prepared to face the extreme poverty I encountered. Children as young as four-year-old were out begging visitors.

A child actually climbed into my boat selling bananas but what shocked me most was that she managed to climb in and out at ease even though the lake is deep with strong ripples hitting from every direction. Then, a child sitting in a small basin rowed up to me begging for money. A single tilt would set it upside down but such are the lives of the little ones there.

Befriending A Monk

I spent my last afternoon in Siem Reap visiting a few modern pagodas which are not as famous as Angkor Wat. While I was at Wat Dam Nak, I met an English speaking monk, Pheakdei who teaches English in the monastery. He told me tales of how the shrine was once the kings' resting place when they visit Angkor Wat from Phnom Penh. Even though it is now converted into a temple, the beautiful carvings on the window panes tells the famous tale of Ramayana.

Cambodia's rich heritage has not only attracted tourists, but also unscrupulous thiefs. Two window panes at the pagoda were stolen and illegally sold to collectors.

Before leaving, he did tell me how happy he was to be able to speak to a foreign visitor to sharpen his English. But in my heart, I thought the pleasure was all mine.

Thaksin 'on the brink of return'

February 24, 2008

Ex-PM calls up supporters in Chiang Rai from Cambodia

Thaksin Shinawatra appears to be on the verge of returning to Thailand after living in exile since he was deposed as prime minister in the September 19, 2006 coup.

Thaksin reportedly arrived in neighbouring Cambodia on Friday at the invitation of Prime Minister Hun Sen for a round of golf. About 1,000 of his supporters yesterday attended an event in the northern province of Chiang Rai, dubbed "We Miss Thaksin".

During the affair, in a downtown area, Thaksin phoned in and announced before the crowd that he would know by next Tuesday exactly when to stage his comeback.

Thaksin also told his supporters in Chiang Rai that he had no plan to stay in Thailand for a long period after returning because he has to travel overseas for business.

Thaksin also extended his congratulations to Chiang Rai residents during his phone-in, as Yongyuth Tiyapairat - a Chiang Rai politician - was recently elected as the president of Parliament.

According to TNN, a cable-TV station, Yongyuth was reportedly with Thaksin during the phone-in.

Sources from the ruling People Power Party (PPP) said Thaksin would stay in Cambodia until today before heading to Beijing, his next stop. Thaksin's arrival in Phnom Penh came ahead of Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej's planned official visit to the neighbouring country on March 3. Speculation was rife that Thaksin, who chose Samak to head the PPP, which won the most seats in the December general election, could have a meeting with Samak in Phnom Penh. However, Samak said he was not aware of Thaksin's trip and he would have to be informed in advance if there would be such a meeting.

Phromsak Saempoh, chairman of the Northern Grassroots Network, who organised the gathering in Chiang Rai for Thaksin, said no one had been paid to attend.

He said if Thaksin really returned to his home town in the adjacent province of Chiang Mai, some 20,000 members of his group would rally to welcome the former premier.

According to the organiser, Confederation for Democracy leader Weng Tojirakarn and Thaksin's son Panthongthae were among those invited for yesterday's gathering.

Some Thaksin supporters said they heard the ousted premier might fly in directly to his home-town province of Chiang Mai, bypassing Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi Airport.

Surapong Towichakchaikul, a Chiang Mai MP under the PPP banner, said Thaksin's supporters wished they could welcome Thaksin by Songkran, the Thai New Year, in April.

Sources said residents of Chiang Mai had started to prepare for Thaksin's homecoming as rumours abound that he could be back sooner than expected.

Thaksin also reportedly got his red diplomatic passport back after his former legal adviser, Noppadon Pattama, was named foreign minister.

The Nation

Fire sad for elderly Cambodians

Saroeuth Neth, president of the Khmer Buddhist Temple, stands in front of the building, which was severely damaged by fire Thursday. (Derek Ruttan, Sun Media)

Sat, February 23, 2008

Khmer Buddhist Temple was a community centre for many who arrived during the '80s.


A blaze that sent scared worshippers out the back door of a London Buddhist temple has left many elderly Cambodians with no place to gather, say community leaders.

For seven years, the Khmer Buddhist Temple has served as sort of community centre for many Cambodians who arrived during the 1980s, but until 2001 worshipped together in a two-bedroom apartment.

"This is very sad. This is a place for our old people," temple president Saroeuth Neth, standing on a wet floor, said yesterday.

"We need a place for them to pray because for me, I speak English. But many of our old people don't. They need a place to pray . . . and just to come to."

As many as 100 of the city's 250 Cambodian Buddhists were expected at the temple today to celebrate Buddha's birthday, he added.

Instead, Thursday night's fire has left the place charred and empty after several community members removed valuables from it yesterday.

"Cambodian hand drums," said Neth, as a man walked by carrying vibrant-coloured instruments on his back. "We are taking out the valuable items."

Firefighters say the blaze started from "unattended worship materials" in front of the temple, a former house at 2489 Fanshawe Park Rd.

Flames quickly engulfed the shrine and porch roof, then spread to the attic and into the front room where people were worshipping.

Neth said people often leave incense and light candles in a designated spot in front of the temple's two-metre Buddha, but that he didn't know what happened to trigger the fire.

Yesterday, the once-gold and magnificent statue brought from southeast Asia was charred black. Inside, vibrant rugs and cushions scattered on the floor were soaked and covered in burnt pieces of wood from the attic.

A monk who has lived at the temple for eight months spent the last two nights at a motel and will do so again.

"I did not sleep at all," said Thearin Ngoy. "This is very sad."

Ngoy was in the building Thursday along with about seven worshippers who noticed flames outside the front window.

"We ran out and saw the fire and then we ran through and out the back," he said.

Bought for $160,000 with community-raised funds, the building could take more than two months to restore, he said.

London's Cambodian community is estimated at about 1,500. Many of the elders arrived with families after fleeing persecution by the Khmer Rouge in the 1980s.

More than 20 years later, community leaders still express a need for a gathering place, especially for senior citizens.

"It is very important to the elders. It is more than just a temple, it is where they go," said Born Heng.

Killing fields trial
Phnom Penh, Cambodia
February 24, 2008

Former Khmer Rouge jailer Duch will be asked to re-enact his alleged crimes during the coming UN-backed trial over Cambodia's 1970s genocide.

Duch, 65, whose real name is Kaing Guek Eav, oversaw the regime's main torture centre of Tuol Sleng, where some 16,000 men, women and children were brutalised before being executed during the Khmer Rouge's purges.

Duch, who has never denied his crimes but claims to have found God, will walk tribunal judges through the prison before going to the Choeung Ek killing fields outside Phnom Penh, where most of the Tuol Sleng inmates were killed.

Cambodian, Chinese companies lay foundation of special economic zone in Sihanoukville

SIHANOUKVILLE, Cambodia, Feb. 23 (Xinhua) -- Cambodian and Chinese developers Saturday laid the foundation stone of the Sihanoukville Special Economic Zone (SSEZ), which has been the largest one of its kind so far in Cambodia.

Addressing the ceremony on the construction site, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said "This special economic zone is currently the biggest one in the kingdom with the investment from China (and Cambodia), which again testifies the close economic and political ties between Cambodia and China and those between the top leaders of both countries."

This cooperation took place in 2008, the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the diplomatic ties between Cambodia and China and we expected it to help attract more Chinese companies to invest here, he said.

China used to export over 400 items of goods to Cambodia, but up to now Cambodia did not have the capacity to export the same amount of goods, so Cambodia needed investment from China, he added.

The premier said that the goods produced in this special economic zone could be exported to foreign markets duty free, but the companies should pay import tax if their goods were sold in Cambodia.

Delegates from the Chinese side also addressed the ceremony, which attracted more than 100 senior government officials to attend.

Also at the ceremony, six Chinese companies signed contracts with the developers of SSEZ to establish their branches here.

SSEZ will escalate into 11.08 square km in eight years with an estimated investment of 3 billion U.S. dollars, according to a press release from the zone's developers -- the Jiangsu Taihu Cambodia International Economic Cooperation Investment Co. Ltd. and the Cambodia International Investment Group Co. Ltd.

In 2011 when the second phase construction is done, 150 companies can be situated here and 40,000 job opportunities provided, it said.

In 2015 when the whole construction is finished, the zone will embrace some 300 companies, provide around 80,000 job opportunities and generate export volumes of 2 billion U.S. dollars a year, it added.

Editor: Sun Yunlong


Steve Gourley, Child Rights Consultant, LICADHO

♦ Most "child labour" in Cambodia is family and community-based, and contributes positively to family survival (though other reasons exist). At times the children’s work is combined with schooling and/or provides opportunities to learn useful skills.

♦ Therefore, most may not be considered exploitive and abusive "worst forms" needing immediate eradication. This is because immediate and serious threats to health and moral development are often low for most working children; negative effects are more often related to the long-term impact of work such as the children’s lack of access to education and ability to break out of cycle of poverty.

♦ Immediate attention needs to be given to the most hazardous and exploitive forms of child labour, as specified in ILO Convention #182 on the Worst Forms of Child Labour. These include the sale and trafficking of children for forced labour in commercial sex and other industries, drug trafficking, and work which exposes children to serious physiological or physical abuse.

LICADHO actively combats these forms though activities focused on prevention, intervention and, in partnership with NGO/GO’s and community-based organisations, rehabilitation for victims.

♦ However, over the long-term the needs of the majority of children working in the informal sector (including agriculture) should also be addressed. LICADHO is also responding to this through awareness-raising activities on child labour and child rights, both alone and in partnership with the Ministry of Labour.

♦ Because most child labour in Cambodia usually involves working with other family members to provide for basic needs, it is part of the families’ "survival strategy." Efforts to remove children from work or limit their involvement must be done with extreme care as this is interfering with their means of survival.

♦ Interfering with a family or community’s survival strategy may not always be in the best interests of the child. This may therefore be in violation of Article 3 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which states that all interventions must be in the "best interests of the child".

♦ Responses to child labour need to balance Article 3 (Best Interests) and Article 6 (Right to Survival & Development) with Article 32 (Protection from Child Labour). This will help to prevent the type of interventions which are well meaning but which may actually create new and more difficult problems for the children.

♦ There is a lack of understanding of the difference between child labour (which has seriously harmful short and long-term effects) and child work (which offers many practical benefits in the short-term yet may hinder long-term development if education is not combined with work). In addition, there is often a large gap between the way working children and their communities see their situation as compared to the way outsiders view it.

♦ Each situation of working children should always be determined by careful evaluation with input from the children and parents themselves. This should include discussion of positive as well as negative aspects which they see in their work, allowing a more realistic and balanced view of what the children are experiencing. Seeing child labour from their perspective is also crucial in developing responses which are supported by the children and their families.

High labor productivity equals human dignity
Saturday, February 23, 2008

An International Labor Organization (ILO) report released last September placed Philippine labor productivity—the output per person employed—at the low end of the Southeast Asian countries.

The report, “Key Indicators of the Labor Market,” said that in US dollar terms labor productivity in the country stands at US$7,271 per person employed, lower than neighboring market economies such as Singapore, US$47,975; Malaysia, US$22,112; Thailand, US$13,915 and Indonesia, US$9,022.

But the country’s labor productivity is higher than state-led economies, such as Vietnam, US$4,809; Myanmar, US$4,541 and Cambodia, US$2,853.

It’s still the United States that leads the world in labor productivity.

Labor productivity in Southeast Asia and the Pacific, the ILO said, “was stagnant and much slower than other regions” with an average annual increase of only 1.6 percent between 1996 and 2006. “Workers in the region produced only a seventh of their developed economy counterparts,” the ILO said.

East Asia’s workers, by comparison, produce twice as much as they did 10 years ago. Theirs is the world’s highest productivity increase.

A 2006 survey of the Asian Development Bank found the Philippines to be number 11 in labor productivity among 13 selected Asian countries. We were just a few dollars higher than Cambodia and Vietnam.

The Philippines has a lot of catching up to do, and the stark figures bear this out. But we must not assign the blame to others—the statisticians, the IMF-World Bank for its structural adjustment loans, the government for being corrupt and insensitive to the workers or the workers themselves for being powerless or unwilling to improve themselves more rigorously than other peoples of the region.

Low wages—which means underpayment of labor—has always been a characteristic of underdevelopment. Worse than unemployment, underpayment further is a sign of exploitation.
No wonder Filipino college graduates and professionals go abroad if they can to earn higher wages.

Many Filipinos are only able to keep their families fed, clothed and the children schooled by working away from their families. They keep the Republic afloat and suffer from diminished purchasing power with the high peso to dollar rate.

The unabated exodus of Filipino talents and skills and the social costs of the OFW phenomenon are top concerns of the Department of Labor and Employment. It has adopted strategies to raise the productivity of Filipino labor.

Through the National Wages and Productivity Commission, it conducts labor education programs, specifically focused on productivity.

The 2008 Productivity Olympics is one such project. It was launched Thursday, February 21. It is a national competition among micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) to find the best in two categories: people development and business excellence. Enterprises that have been in operation for at least three years by October 1 last year may join.

The project promotes worker awareness of the importance of consciously improving in productivity while promoting employer awareness of how to satisfy their workers with goodies in addition to better wages. It pushes the enterprises—their owners and managers and their workers—to strive to become more competitive.

Labor Secretary Arturo Brion says that the Productivity Olympics has helped in capacity building among the micro, small and medium enterprises in the industrial, services and agricultural sectors.

The companies that participate in the Olympics benefit by becoming more and more profitable. The workers benefit by getting better pay and, with their skills enhanced, finding better work opportunities abroad and get really much higher income.

The administration’s economic managers keep bragging of having sustained GDP growth all these seven years that Mrs. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has been president. 2007 was the best year of the economy in 31 years. They must now, these being days of loud and growing expressions of disgust over the alleged corruption of high officials, pay more attention to the plight of the workers.

A happy population of workers can ensure peace and stability, which in turn will ensure that President Arroyo finishes her term in glory instead of opprobrium.

Helping the Filipino workers raise their labor productivity not only increases their worth in money. They also see themselves rise in dignity.

That makes them more disposed to growing also in civility and culture, making the Filipinos the bright and happy race God wants them to be.

Hope at times comes in the form of cows

Lowell Sheppard of the HOPE International Development Agency

A family which benefitted from microcredit in the form of cows
Saturday, Feb. 23, 2008

Contributing writer

Lowell Sheppard, director Asia-Pacific of the Canada-based NGO HOPE International Development Agency is on his way back to Nagoya from Shinagawa.

He's been busy with a stream of meetings, relating to events planned for March 2-9 at the Tokyo Hilton, but in which the Nagoya Hilton will also participate, passing on 5 percent of selected second-floor restaurant profits to HOPE.

In Tokyo you will be able to get a charity haircut, with stylists donating their scissor skills daily.
Also there'll be a travel and leisure auction — ¥10 million worth of international flight tickets, holidays and equipment, including Trek bikes — that allows supporters to bid online.

HOPE International was founded by three Canadians, including a housewife and a pilot, and now operates in 20 countries worldwide. It's a very professional no-nonsense NGO with low overheads, using local people in offices and aiming globally to get 95 percent of donations to projects overseas.

"Profit and the nonprofit sectors are now interacting in very interesting and synergistic ways. 'Do-gooders' are operating in the for-profit sector as well as the nonprofit sector. There's room for corporate entrepreneurs, and social entrepreneurs like myself," says Canada-born Sheppard.

HOPE, for example, is engaging companies not only through providing an opportunity to donate to sustainable development that helps the poor, but also acting as advisers and coaches to firms and individuals who are seeking to develop effective CSR policies and practice.

Sheppard joined HOPE International in 1978, working for a time in a refugee camp in Thailand. Later he moved to the U.K. with his wife and sons, and spent 13 years in Stourbridge near Birmingham working for another charity, but maintaining a relationship with HOPE as a supporter and volunteer.

In 1997, the family moved to Nagoya, but after a couple of years HOPE's head office wanted Sheppard back in Canada. "We talked it through, decided Japan was home and that we wanted to see our boys through their own schooling," Sheppard says. "This is when I talked with a group of diplomats and business folks in Nagoya about starting HOPE in Japan and began devoting my spare hours to that enterprise."

Sheppard worked part-time for HOPE Japan until mid-2006, when he was asked to shoulder responsibility for the Asia-Pacific region, including Australia and New Zealand. "My job is to raise awareness and funds — money that we spend in Cambodia, Sudan, Ethiopia and other areas of desperate need."

The first fund-raising event drew 350 people. HOPE Japan had asked the Nagoya Hilton to donate half the ballroom for a possible 125 guests. In the end they filled the whole space.

"Successful fundraising is all about contacts. HOPE has always believed in building deep trusting relationships over time, something that Japan very much understands and appreciates."

From the very beginning, the NGO went to the heart of the matter. When the organization first began, HOPE was challenged to not simply raise money for Ethiopia, but take it there and work together with local people to put it to practical use. Microcredit in one form or another seemed the best way, assisting those in need to improve their standards of living.

"Today we help in various ways." Sheppard explains. "The upcoming events in Tokyo and Nagoya will be in aid of HOPE's Cowbank initiative. Eighty thousand yen buys a cow both in Cambodia and in Africa's DR Congo, which is then loaned to a family for 18 months. Believe me, it changes lives."

During that time frame, the family uses the animal for plowing and the soil benefits from the cow's droppings as fertilizer. The cow also produces a calf or calves. When the loan ends, the family passes the cow on, but keeps its offspring.

As Sheppard says: "This cycle is repeated six to seven times leaving behind six to seven happy families and calves."

Today, the average family living at subsistence level in Cambodia makes just $250 a year. After a couple of years support from HOPE, they can be earning $1,000 annually, which enables families to lift themselves out of poverty and children to go to school.

Other projects are designed to similar proactive effect. A well, for half a dozen families, costs ¥100,000. A village water system in Southern Ethiopia costs ¥800,000, in Southern Sudan, ¥1 million. A health clinic in the same part of the world serving 120,000 people recently cost under ¥5 million to get up and running.

"HOPE believes in helping people to help themselves. We build long-term relationships, not dependency. We're their bankers, coaches, friends and cheerleaders. It's about giving them a hand and then cheering them on."

Donations are also used to send children to school — ¥12,000 a year per child.

Even more practical are disaster packs, solar lights and solar home systems.

The dinner and auction next month are by invitation only. Of those asked along, 25 percent will have what Sheppard call "deep pockets," half are expected to put in ¥10,000, and the rest will be young people who will donate what they can afford, hopefully about the same they might spend on a Friday night on the town.

Sheppard is kept busy these days covering such a huge region. But amazingly he still finds time to write books.

"I am not a good writer," he smiles ruefully, "but my publisher tells me he likes my ideas, hence the contracts."

So far he has seven titles in print, including the self-help title "Never Too Late," for those who fear they may have missed the boat in life; also "Chasing the Cherry Blossom," which Sheppard describes as a spiritual journey through Japan. Most interesting to parents, perhaps, is "Boys Becoming Men," about creating rites of passage for sons in societies that have abandoned such rituals.

"I love the process of writing; there's such liberty, and it's so therapeutic. Of all my books, 'Boys Becoming Men' was the hardest book to write. Every month, I had to say in handling my own two boys, Well that didn't work!"

His own mother is a writer. Abused as a child, she came out just seven years ago in a self-published book, "Fallen Sparrow Broken Wing," that has since provide her with a new career as a counselor and lecturer.

"I'm so proud," Sheppard acknowledges. "She's very brave."

What is success?

Phnom Penh Post, Issue 17 / 04, February 22 - March 6, 2008

In this culture where we worship money, brute power, materialism, where form, posturing and external appearance pass for dignity and meaning, it should not be surprising then if society defines "success"—through words or action—as the pursuit and obtainment of these things.

However, permit me to be a social contrarian and posit alternative, less glamorous perspectives.

Success is the ability to see things in their true light. It is to know that one's worth derives not a cent from another's derision and even less from another's praise. To accept the latter is to accept it at the full venom of the former. Clarence Darrow states it another way: one shouldn't take either gratification or disappointment too seriously.

Rather, success is the realization of one's inherent value as drawn solely, completely in being made in the image of God. It is the ability to discern strength in gentleness and kindness and the courage to pursue them.

Success is the integrity to stand up to injustice and say "Enough!" at the expense of one's reputation and well-being. In speaking truth to power, mental poise shields one from the spin doctors and all other machinations of character assassination because one's actions are not guided by the opinions of the fickle and gossip-prone public; rather, a reasoned conscience directs one's path.

Success is longsuffering. It is a virtue that is obtained only through the actual experience of waiting. Amidst the waiting hope dwells. Twinned to long-suffering (or patience) is forbearance, the ability to show mercy and love amidst being wronged.

St. Augustine, in The City of God (Book I, Chapter 9) speaks of suffering. "… the fire which makes gold shine makes chaff smoke; the same flail breaks up the straw, and clears the grain… Thus, the wicked, under pressure of affliction, execrate God and blaspheme; the good, in the same affliction, offer prayers and praises. This shows that what matters is the nature of the sufferer, not the nature of sufferings. Stir a cesspit, and a foul stench arises; stir a perfume, and a delightful fragrance ascends. But the movement is identical."

Success is the refusal to succumb to one's circumstances. But success is more than the refusal to succumb. It is living with passion, with exuberance, with meaning.

Success is to let go of the past, to live in the present, and to build for the future. Certainly, it is important to know and learn from history. However, I see Cambodians' inclination to dwell on the past counter-productive in two ways.

First, we Khmers euphorically and intently focus on the glory of the Angkor period and pay scant attention on working in the present and future. Don't misunderstand me; I am first among Khmer admirers. But let us not be trapped by past illusions; there's much work to be done presently that requires our full mental exertion.

Second, we Khmers are psychologically scarred by the evil unleashed by the Khmer Rouge. Let us face this dark period of history straight-on—by seeing it for what it is, dealing with it privately, and holding the perpetrators to justice publicly. Let us not see ourselves as victims of past evils to justify our present state of malignity; we need not be the products of our environment; the ability to love is always within us. We need to want it, to reach for it. It hurts my ears to hear the oft-repeated justification for corruption, "In Cambodia, one must learn to flow with the meandering river in order to survive and get anything done.”

Success is to be sure-footed and not wince in the face of intimidation. It is to realize that intimidation is nothing other than insecurity disguised as authority. Success is freedom of the soul. It is to chip away at that overwhelming sense of hopelessness imposed by poverty, by tradition, by social expectations, by institutions, by history, by unjust laws, by one's own self.

Life functions on two levels simultaneously, on a social and an individual plane. On the social level, institutions and laws proscribe our activities. Individually, our mind proscribes our limitations.

It is disingenuous to think that our individual choices are not informed by societal laws and institutional constructs, in particular, as beneficiaries of these laws. Alternatively, it is as disingenuous to ignore the uniqueness and ability of each individual to make choices and be held accountable for his choices.

We must be held accountable for the choices we do make, but we must also be mindful that not every choice has the same quality.

Theory must be tempered with reality, justice with mercy.

This should be a sobering reminder to all of us who too easily believe that we have achieved all by our own individual merit.

This said, the external environmental factors do shape the development of one's mind, but they do not necessarily have to be proscriptions absent the individual's permission.

Freedom of the soul finds root in this mental poise.

Success deletes from one's thinking that 'philosophy of the stop sign'. No. Don't. Can't. Yield.
Success moves one from self-pity and envy to gratitude

Success is the training of the mind to meditate on what is praiseworthy, excellent, right, true, pure, lovely, admirable, and noble.

It is to understand that the pursuit of these qualities takes place in the shadow of appearances, posturing, and the aggressiveness of every day commonalities.

Because things are not what they seem, generosity of spirit and love must be present at all times, but they must exist within a definite boundary. Growth of character corresponds with the ability to ever expand this boundary. Let others call it naivete, but naivete functions in ignorance with no boundary. At some point in time, enough is enough and it must be called.

Success is to know and not care whether someone else knows that you know. It has no room for pride.

Theary C. SENG Executive Director, Center for Social Development

Corruption survey finds little hope for change

Phnom Penh Post, Issue 17 / 04, February 22 - March 6, 2008


The chairman of the CPP’s finance and banking commission has challenged a new corruption survey by Transparency International (TI) that found Cambodians perceive their country to be highly corrupt.

The survey conducted last year and released on February 20 placed Cambodia in the highest corruption category based on the number of respondents claiming to have paid bribes.

Seventy-two percent of Cambodians interviewed in September 2007 by TI said they had bribed a public servant in the previous year, the second highest ranking behind Cameroon of 62 countries surveyed last year. Sixty-one percent of respondents said they did not expect to see a decrease in corruption within the next three years, with 42 percent saying they expect corruption to increase.

Cheam Yeap, chairman of the finance and banking commission for the ruling CPP, said Transparency International had every right to conduct the survey but releasing an assessment of corruption that is not accurate “would affect the honor of our country.”

“I think TI should provide evidence of its allegations,” he said. “I agree that there is corruption but it is an individual issue, not the whole country.”

The survey rated the judicial system and police department as the two most corrupt authorities. It said 45 percent of those who had dealings with the legal system and 62 percent of those who had contact with police within the past year admitting paying bribes for services.

The registry and permit department also rated high. TI surveyed 1016 people in four provinces – Battambang, Siem Reap, Kampong Cham and Sihanoukville – and Phnom Penh municipality.

Asean to set hospitality standards
Asia News Network

VIENTIANE, Laos -- Asean countries will set service standards in the tourism and hospitality sector through the development of a tourism curriculum for the region.

Representatives from government and private sectors working in the tourism and hospitality sector met in Vientiane to discuss the final outputs of a Common Asean Tourism Curriculum prepared by regional representatives, supported by the Australian government through AusAID.

Speaking at the national workshop, the Vice Chairman of the Lao National Tourism Administration, Soukaseum Bodhisane, said this move was very important to the tourism industry of Laos and other Asean countries.

“A specific tourism curriculum will enable us to promote Asean tourism as well as the Asean cooperation framework in the hospitality sector.”

Laos is one of four new Asean member countries. To align with regional standards, Soukaseum said, “We need to develop a curriculum in Laos to meet Asean standards in order to compete with other countries.”

He said Laos needed to improve the Association of Travel Agents and the Hotel and Restaurant Association, because these agencies provide direct services to visitors.

In the past, the curriculum used in teaching tourism in Laos was put together from foreign tourist handbooks, and was not suitable for conditions in Laos, the vice chairman said.

He urged the parties concerned to review and improve the existing curriculum. “We have to assimilate the lessons learnt from other countries in developing a curriculum of our own.”

“We are concentrating on human development, especially in the tourism sector,” he added.

The National University of Laos teaches a bachelor degree course in tourism and hotel management, but it is not comprehensive enough, said Soukaseum.

“If we can develop to the standard that Asean has outlined, the quality of our services will match those of other countries in the region. When this happens, looking for a job in the hospitality sector will be easier,” he said

A common Asean tourism curriculum would be an important step in the cooperation of member countries on a range of issues for the benefit of Asean, said project director Wayne Crosbie.

Such a curriculum would enable the recognition of common skills and standards and relate to the Asean Common Competency Standard, he said.

It would contribute to the sharing of resources for tourism education and training and provide skilled workers with employment opportunities throughout the region, and assist in narrowing the development gap between the countries, the director said.

The Common Asean Tourism Curriculum and Regional Qualifications and Skills Recognition project was developed with the participation of 410 stakeholders across the region, who feedback enabled the final draft to be completed.

The final draft was presented to the Asean Task Force on Tourism Manpower Development in April in Siem Reap, Cambodia .

Vientiane Times-ANN