Saturday, 8 March 2008

Flying deportees home is costly endeavor

Los Angeles Times

Many of the immigrants around deportee Henry Fuentes had never flown before. They looked out the windows anxiously, fumbled to get their seat belts fastened and gasped any time the plane hit turbulence. A few received Dramamine to quell their motion sickness.

Although there are regularly scheduled Immigration and Customs Enforcement deportation flights every weekday to Central America, the U.S. government also has flown immigrants home to Nigeria, Cuba, Thailand, Cambodia and the Philippines.

Tens of thousands of Mexicans are flown to the border and then walk back into their country.

The deportation flights' cost jumped from $96 million in the 2007 fiscal year to $135 million this fiscal year.

That works out to slightly more than $600 per deportee.

Because detaining an immigrant costs nearly $100 a day, Michael Pitts, chief of the flight operations unit for the ICE, said, "it's more effective for us to expeditiously get them out of the country."

Troubled teen? Get him to a monastery

Washington mother thinks she saved her son's life by leaving him with Cambodian monks for two years.

Seattle Times

SEATTLE - Michael Sa-Ngoun is no longer a monk. The 19-year-old from Tukwila, Wash., who spent two years in a Cambodian monastery because his mother was desperate to stop his self-destructive behavior, is not prone to deep philosophical meditation these days.

He doesn't work very hard to resist the desires of most young men his age, nor does he seek humility at every turn.

It took surprisingly little time, family members say, for him to turn back into a regular American young man after his return from Cambodia a little more than a year ago. He was profiled then by the Seattle Times.

He now works at a car dealership because he likes to make money, but he doesn't know what he wants to do for a living.

He stays out too late with his friends, wastes too much time watching movies and spends too much money at restaurants, he says. He also doesn't keep his room as clean as his mother wants, nor does he do his chores without being asked.

But he hasn't been in trouble with the law since his return, and some of the things he learned while living the austere life of a monk have stuck with him.

He said he still believes in karma, and he does his best to do right by others. He'll capture an ant and release it outside rather than kill it.

His mother, Chou Sa-Ngoun, said she was disappointed when most of Michael's enlightened behavior quickly gave way to the material world.

"I wish sometimes that I wouldn't have brought him back from there until he was past a teenager," she said.

But she thinks she may have saved his life. And basically she's OK with how things are.

Left at a monastery

When Michael was about 12, he started skipping school, hanging out with the wrong kids, trying drugs and getting arrested for petty crimes.

His mother tried grounding him and taking away privileges like television and video games. She switched his schools, got him into counseling, let him pay his own fines after juvenile arrests and let him languish in detention centers.

She called the Army, but her son was too young then to enlist. She looked into disciplinary boot camps but found them too pricey.

She begged the state to place him in a temporary foster home, but was told the authorities could do nothing until he committed a more serious crime.

She was afraid he would die violently in a car crash, in a gang altercation or in a drug deal.

Then the couple hit upon an idea while planning a family trip to their ancestors' Cambodian homeland. Sanny Sa-Ngoun thought experiencing hardship would be good for Michael and suggested leaving him behind for a short time. A friend knew of a Buddhist monastery in the Kampong Cham region that would accept Michael as a novitiate if he took the vows of poverty and selflessness.

They flew in November 2004 to Phnom Penh, spent a few days doing tourist things, and made their way to the isolated village of Krolong, where Michael's mother told him he would remain until he had changed. Michael -- who did not speak Cambodian or have any of his own money -- argued, begged, went on a hunger strike and thought about running away. Finally, he gave up and allowed his head to be shaved and prayers said over him.

He spent the first few weeks in shock and despair before slowly settling into the routine.

In silence, he rose at 5:45 each morning, drew water and laid out rugs, place settings and towels for his teacher and the elder monk, whom he called "Grandpa."

He then set a place for himself and called his elders, and together they ate their meal of rice and meat or fish. He rested for 10 minutes and went to work on chores around the temple and school grounds.

He and the other young monks learned to mix mortar, lay stone and build fences. Alongside his comrades, he prayed and studied the teachings of Buddha, trying to learn to free himself from "wanting things," he said.

His mother said he could return when he had earned his high school diploma, which she arranged for him to do online from a nearby village he reached by motorbike once a week.

His return

When he returned to Washington in November 2006, his head was shaved and he was wearing a flowing orange robe. He was nearly silent, and he honored the vows that forbade him from hugging his mother because she's female.

Because Michael chose not to further pursue a life as a monk once he returned, he was released from his vows and his robes in a traditional cleansing ceremony.

Michael got a job working at a restaurant and then at a car dealership, where he details cars, moves them, runs some errands.

His aspirations are not far-reaching.

"Really, I just want to have fun with my friends and get a new car," he says.

'He's just a teenager'

Michael's mother is sometimes disappointed, after all that he's been through, that he didn't retain a higher level of discipline and consciousness.

"He's slipped," she said one day this month when his room wasn't clean and his chores were undone. "I feel like he hasn't changed that much. Sometimes I think there is something missing in his brain, but then I remind myself that I shouldn't overreact. He's just a teenager with a teenage brain."

Because he has stayed out of trouble since his return, Michael will be able to petition the court soon to expunge his juvenile criminal record.

His mother says she's trying to stop worrying and let him make his own mistakes.

"I guess I'm going to have to. He doesn't really know what life is about, but he won't know until he finds out. We can steer him, but we have to let him fall."

World adoption of Cambodian children down by 15% in 2007

March 08, 2008

International adoption of Cambodian children decreased by 15 percent in 2007 compared to 2006 due to more strict censor by the government, English-Khmer language newspaper the Cambodian Daily said on Saturday.

A total of 249 Cambodian children, 104 girls and 145 boys, we readopted by foreign parents in 2007, compared to 294 children, 143 girls and 151 boys, in 2006, said Keo Borentr, director general of technical affairs at the Ministry of Social Affairs.

"We need to find adoptive parents locally first because the living conditions and family economy of the Cambodian people have improved," he was quoted as saying.

Cambodian orphanages' capacity for orphans has also improved over the years, he said.

In 2007, parents in Italy adopted 164 children, those in Austria 31 and those in France 19, he added.

Adoption of Cambodian children has become ever popular since United States movie star Angelina Jolie adopted a Cambodian boy years ago. The boy has lived a happy life with her in New York with frequent global media exposure.

Source: Xinhua

International arms dealer Viktor Bout arrested in Thailand

From Wikinews,
March 8, 2008

Viktor Bout, an international arms dealer, has been arrested in Thailand. Bout was arrested by the Royal Thai Police on Thursday, after checking in at a Sofitel luxury hotel in the Si Lom district of Bangkok.

Viktor Bout is suspected of supplying arms to the Taliban, Al-Qaeda, FARC, as well as combatants on both sides of African civil wars. He has been dubbed the "Merchant of Death" by the press as well as the book Merchant of Death: Money, Guns, Planes and the Man Who Makes War Possible by Douglas Farah and Stephen Braun.

At a press conference held by Thai police they said that Bout is being investigated for "procuring weapons for terrorists and conspiring with terrorists." According to Maj. Gen. Surapol Thuanthong, Bout said "The game is over" when he was arrested.

"This multi-country operation culminating in the arrest of Viktor Bout in Thailand is a model for how suspected dangerous international criminals need to be investigated, charged and brought to justice in the 21st century," said Interpol Secretary General Ronald Noble.

Federal prosecutors in the United States hope to get Bout extradited for prosecution on charges of conspiracy to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization.

The 2005 film, Lord of War has been said to have been inspired by Viktor Bout.

Internet game which feeds poor attracting lakhs of people

8 Mar, 2008
The Economic Times

NEW YORK: An Internet game launched by UN World Food Programme (WFP) six months ago has proved so popular that it has generated enough rice to feed 1.1 million people for a day.

The interactive vocabulary game allows a player 20 grains of rice for each correct answer. The money raised through advertising is used to underwrite rice donations.

Thus it allows children simultaneously to bolster their vocabularies and help feed world's hungry children.

With between 3 lakh and 5 lakh people playing it daily, it has generated 21 billion grains of rice for WFP.

The first recipients of the website's aid were refugees from Myanmar taking shelter in Bangladesh. Ugandan school children and pregnant and nursing mothers in Cambodia were among other beneficiaries.

Next batch of rice will be distributed among Bhutanese refugees in Nepal.

"I never imagined that things would move this fast or that it would be such a success," said the game's creator John Breen, an online fundraising pioneer from the United States.

"Quite apart from the actual amount of rice generated, FreeRice is a fantastic way of spreading the message about world hunger."

A new audio function lets players hear how words are pronounced, and Breen said a team of lexographers is working to expand the database of 10,000 words. To scale up the game's appeal to younger and non-native English speakers, visitors can now select the level of difficulty.

Volunteer in Cambodia
Ethical and Affordable Volunteer Opportunities in Cambodia

Heavy lifting for new homes

Rotaractors from the University of New South Wales, Australia traveled to Cambodia in 2007 to help needy residents build new homes. Photo courtesy of the Rotaract Club of the University of New South Wales.

By Maureen Vaught
Rotary International News - 7 March 2008

Rotaractors from the University of New South Wales in Australia will travel to India and Mongolia in July as part of Habitat for Humanity’s Global Village Youth Program, which sends volunteers ages 14-25 to other countries to help needy people build new homes.

Since 2004, the Rotaractors have traveled on the program to Cambodia, Fiji, the Philippines, and Thailand. They’ve paid their own travel and lodging expenses with help from corporate donations and eight Rotary clubs in New South Wales.

Rotaractor Yiling Cheah went on the Philippines trip in 2005 and led another trip in 2007 to Cambodia. There, she and 10 others built two houses in six days and donated money to build a home for a blind elderly woman and her grandson.

Covered with mud and sweat, the volunteers in Cambodia mixed cement, laid bricks, and hauled soil in wicker baskets. The work was exhausting, but the bigger problem was the ankle-deep water caused by flooding. “The soil we carried was wet, meaning that it was a lot heavier to carry. It also meant that we had to work with things hidden in the water, whether it was our tools or parasites,” Cheah recalls.

The hard work seemed worthwhile when the homes were presented to their new owners in a special ceremony. “The homeowners were in tears of joy. They were also in tears of sadness because we were about to leave, and they never really got to know us due to language barriers,” Cheah says. “The homeowners didn’t know how to thank us for what we had given them, and we didn’t know what to say. It was only then that our team members realized what a huge contribution we had made to two families’ lives in a matter of six days.”

Sign Here
Sunday, March 9, 2008; Page P04

Bonus week! We've chosen two funny signs to spotlight, thanks to our eagle-eyed readers. Both receive Washington Post Travel section tote bags for sharing their finds with us.

Gail Boesel of Severna Park sent us the beaut at left, taken at the St. Lucia crocodile sanctuary in South Africa. "It wasn't a joke," Boesel assured us. Wheelchair users might want to add this place to their do-not-visit lists -- or at least check their brakes.

The sign at right arrived in our mailbox courtesy of Sherri Powar of the District. She stumbled across it during a January 2007 visit to Siem Reap, Cambodia, noting that it meant "No squatters." We think it's a plea by authorities to keep visitors from doing a cannonball into the toilet.

Seen an amusing sign in your travels? Read on.

Write you r name, contact information and caption on the back of your photo. Photos may be in color or black-and-white. Send prints or photo-quality printouts to Travel Section Sign Contest, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071. Winners receive a Travel tote bag. Photos become property of The Post, which may edit, publish, distribute or republish them in any form. No purchase necessary.

Thailand stakes claim to Ta Moan temples

Details are Sketchy
March 8, 2008

No sooner had Thailand and Cambodia papered over the issues surrounding Preah Vihear, and now the Thais are crying over Ta Moan.

The Foreign Ministry summoned on Friday French and Cambodian ambassadors to complain maps of Cambodia publish in France and Cambodia wrongly claimed Thai territory.

The envoys were told that maps of Utdor Mean Chay and Preah Vihear provinces published in France and Cambodia claim that parts of the Ta Mean Prom temple in Surin province are in Cambodia.

Director of Treaty and Legal Affairs, Virachai Plasai, told the ambassadors the area in question is “overlapping” and requires demarcation under a treaty signed by Thailand and Cambodia in 2000.

For starters, the Ta Moan temples — there’s actually three of them — lie in a declared “white zone,” as agreed to by both countries under the treaty that Virachai is talking about. That’s supposed to mean that neither side can use or occupy the temples until both sides resolve the demarcation issue.

That’s not what is happening. Today the Ta Moan temples are occupied by a heavily armed unit of the Thai military, in violation of the treaty. The Thais have undertaken road construction in the disputed area, in violation of the treaty. And the Thais have benefited financially by allowing tourists to visit the temples, in violation of the treaty. As if that were not enough, Thailand refuses Cambodians entry.

If anybody has a grievance here, it’s Cambodia.

Los Angeles Master Chorale announces 2008-09 season

Cambodian-born Chinary Ung will create a new work for the chorale's third installment of the 'LA Is the World' project.

By Chris Pasles,
Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
March 8, 2008

Three world premieres, two West Coast premieres and the close of the multiyear "Homage to Haydn" programs will highlight the Los Angeles Master Chorale's 2008-09 season, to be led in Walt Disney Concert Hall by music director Grant Gershon.

Cambodian-born, San Diego-based composer Chinary Ung will create a work as the chorale's third installment of the "LA Is the World" project. Ung came to the United States with his family in 1964 after graduating from Cambodia's national music conservatory.

His piece, to premiere Nov. 9, will be created in collaboration with dancer-choreographer Sophiline Cheam Shapiro, a Khmer Rouge killing fields survivor who immigrated in the early 1990s to Long Beach, where she established one wing of the Khmer Arts Ensemble, dedicated to preserving the classical arts of her homeland. (The other base is in the Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh.)

The Ung-Shapiro collaboration will be paired with Lou Harrison's "La Koro Sutro" (Esperanto for "The Heart Sutro"), composed for gamelan ensemble and choir.

The other world premieres are Andrea Clearfield's "Dream Variations" and a piece by Steven Sametz written to honor Gershon and the chorale. Both works will be sung Feb. 22.

The West Coast premieres will be Nico Muhly's "Expecting the Main Things From You" (also Feb. 22) and Roberto Sierra's "Missa Latina"(May 31, 2009). Washington Times critic T.L. Ponick called Sierra's Mass "shockingly brilliant" when it premiered at the Kennedy Center in 2006. Soprano Heidi Grant Murphy and baritone Nathaniel Webster will reprise their Kennedy Center solo roles.

Bass-baritone Eric Owens, who sang the title role of Elliot Goldenthal's "Grendel" for Los Angeles Opera in 2006, will sing the lead role in Mendelssohn's "Elijah" on Jan. 25.

The season will open Oct. 12 with selections from Rachmaninoff's "The Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom" and Haydn's "Harmonie Mass.

"Gershon will share podium duties with the chorale's assistant conductor, Ariel Quintana, for two concerts, a holiday program Dec. 14 and a folk music program March 29, 2009.

The final installment of the Haydn project will take place May 3, 2009, when the composer's "Heilig Mass" will be paired with Messiaen's "Trois petites liturgies.

"There will be two "Messiah Sing-Along" concerts (Dec. 7 and 15).

As a supplement to the season, which runs through May 31, 2009 opera composer Ricky Ian Gordon ("Grapes of Wrath," "Orpheus & Euridice") will write a work for the 20th anniversary of the chorale's High School Choir Festival, in which more than 1,000 students from two dozen Southland high schools will participate April 24, 2009.

Heng Pov Appeals for Televised Hearing

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

Khmer audio aired March 7 (921KB) - Listen (MP3)

Jailed former police chief Heng Pov has requested the courts give him a public appeals hearing and a hearing chamber large enough to contain an interested audience when next he appears before the court.

The former police chief of Phnom Penh was arrested in 2006 and is serving an 18-year prison sentence for colluding in the murder of a municipal judge.

He has accused Prime Minister Hun Sen and National Police Chief Hok Lundy of conspiring in the 1997 grenade attack on opposition supporters, as well as the murder of popular actress Piseth Pilika.

Heng Pov lawyer Kao Soupha said previous trials for his client were held in rooms too small to contain the hundreds of people interested in attending. His client was requesting a larger room, and that the hearing be televised.

Sassafras Oil Export Worries Drug Officials

By Mean Veasna, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
07 March 2008

The use of sassafras tree oil in the production of the drug Extacy is a rising concern for authorities.

Cambodia has become an exporter of the oil of the sassafras tree, which is used in the manufacture of the drug Extacy.

Sassafras oil mainly comes from the three provinces of Koh Kong, Pursat and Battambang, said Luar Ramin, secretary-general of the National Authority for Combating Drugs, at a recent conference.

The sassafras tree, especially Cambodia's mountain variety, produces an oil high in the chemical safrole, which is in turn used to produce the head-shaking, euphoric drug.

"According to the report of Vietnam, submitted through [the UN drug control office], between 2003 and 2005, the tree oil has been shipped in the hundreds of tons, through Vietnam for the international market," Luar Ramin said. "When Vietnam stopped buying it, the tree oil was exported through Thailand, and they seized 50 tons of it. This is a critical sign of worry."

Cambodia's forestry law prohibits the harvest or transport of sassafras oil, which is classified as a top-tier controlled substance.

Eng Chhunthan, a rights worker for Licadho based in Pursat, said he has received verbal reports that the cultivation of the oil continues in forests far from provincial centers.

Gov't, UNDP Fight Harmful Car Air-Con

By Seng Ratana, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
07 March 2008

Khmer audio aired March 07 (951KB) - Listen (MP3)

The Ministry and Environment and UNDP said Friday they would help car owners pay to have polluting air-conditioners in old cars updated.

Cars built before 1996 have air-conditioners that cool through the use of chlorofluorocarbons, or CFC, a chemical compound harmful to the atmosphere's ozone layer.

UNDP officials said Friday they would help car owners change to healthier systems, subsidizing half the cost of the upgrade.

Cambodia has 23 garages that can change the system, including 13 in Phnom Penh, for a cost of about $52.

Khieu Muth, secretary of state for the Ministry of Environment, said that the ministry has been working on the problem with UNDP.

Cambodia, which leads the region in such efforts, expects to emit no harmful CFC by 2010, he said.

Redistribution of Land Angers Villagers

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

Khmer audio aired March 7 (923KB) - Listen (MP3)

Villagers from 736 families are protesting the authorities of Kampong Thom province for allegedly shorting them on the redistribution of land in favor of a concession to a rubber company.

The villagers complained to a local rights group earlier this week, saying Kampong Thom provincial governor Num Tum proposed to Prime Minister Hun Sen that 5,415 hectares of state forest be distributed to 459 families, at three hectares per family, according to official documents obtained by VOA Khmer. The remaining 4,000 hectares of land were provided by authorities to a private company to plant rubber trees, villagers say.

Num Tum said Friday the government sought to give legal land rights to all the families in the area, to provide them with a livelihood, and that those who were protesting had vested interest in other property.

Tribunal Expediting Bail Hearings

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

Khmer audio aired March 6 (1.26MB) - Listen (MP3)

The Khmer Rouge tribunal is working to speed up pre-trial release hearings for three remaining jailed leaders of the regime, a spokesman said.

"Then things will be moving very fast, and it won't be like earlier," said tribunal spokesman Reach Sambath.

Hisham Mousar, a legal expert for the rights group Adhoc who is monitoring the tribunal, said the speed of the processes depended on the complexities of each Khmer Rouge leader's case.

Cases facing "high politics" could become more complicated and take more time, he said.

US Economy Woes Concern Cambodia: Expert

By Sok Khemara, VOA Khmer
07 March 2008

Khmer audio aired March 6 (5.98MB) - Listen (MP3)

With the US economy in decline and Vietnam a member of the World Trade Organization, a leading economist warned Thursday the government must diversify its economic activity.

Chab Sotharith, executive director of the Cambodian Institute for Cooperation and Peace, said Cambodia must pay attention to the US economy and other potential hazards.

The US, Cambodia's top buyer of garment exports, could be facing a recession, having spent much money on a costly war in Iraq and facing a housing market plunge, Chab Sotharith said Thursday, as a guest on "Hello VOA."

Cambodia's economy, meanwhile, which is held up by tourism, garments, construction and agriculture, has seen much growth in recent years, he said.

International Workshop On Military Simulation and Disaster Preparedness Planning

Posted on 8 March 2008.
The Mirror, Vol. 12, No. 550

“An international workshop on military simulation and disaster preparedness planning was held on 6 March 2008 at Le Royal Hotel, presided over by H.E. Nhim Vanda, the First Deputy President of the National Committee for Disaster Management, representing the Royal Government of Cambodia, with the participation of ambassadors from other countries, representatives of the Ministry of National Defense, and 200 participants from 24 countries.

“The international workshop on military simulation and disaster preparedness planning was held for one day on 6 March 2008 in order to share experiences and find ways to reduce difficulties caused by disasters in a spirit of cooperation, good relations, and mutual respect, especially whenever disasters strike anywhere in the countries represented.

“In his address at the workshop, H.E. Nhim Vanda, a Senior Minister and representative of the Cambodian government, expressed his warm welcome to the multi-national planning team that strengthened the organization of the workshop today. On behalf of the National Committee for Disaster Management and the Royal Government of Cambodia led by Samdech Dekchor Hun Sen, the senior minister expressed his deep appreciation and thanks to the presence of the [US] Pacific Regional Military Commander, who is fulfilling his mission in close cooperation with the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces, increasing the capacity of the work of disaster management and emergency aid. Cambodia is one of the ASEAN countries that suffer from natural disasters, especially floods and drought.

“H.E. Nhim Vanda stated that Cambodia has many experiences in response to flood disasters which happen every year along the Mekong River. The disasters cause damage to many people’s lives and to public infrastructure, and obstruct socio-economic development and poverty reduction in Cambodia. With its effort to reduce disasters, Cambodia is focusing on disaster preparedness planning to ensure people’s livelihood, mostly in areas which rely on agriculture.

“H.E Nhim Vanda, the Senior Minister, said that to respond to the impact of disasters, the Royal Government of Cambodia set up the National Committee for Disaster Management in 1995. The roles and duties of the National Committee for Disaster Management are to take preventive measures to reduce disasters, such as providing emergency aid to disaster victims in a timely and effective manner.

“The National Committee for Disaster Management not only plays a coordinating role to respond to disasters in the country, but it also assumes the responsibility for coordinating efforts for response at regional and international levels. Therefore, the National Committee for Disaster Management not only builds a disaster response plan in the country, but also assists the ASEAN Secretariat in building mechanisms and procedures of ASEAN for regional cooperation for the work of disaster management. The ASEAN Agreement on Disaster Management and Emergency Response was signed in Vientiane in Laos on 26 July 2005. After receiving approval and ratification from the supreme legislative organization [the National Assembly], the King of the Kingdom of Cambodia signed the Royal Decree promulgating the agreement on 15 February 2008.

“During the workshop, H.E Nhim Vanda confirmed that the workshop is not only important for the Kingdom of Cambodia, but also for the participating relevant organizations. The workshop will provide opportunities for government officials from 24 countries in order to build relations in a spirit of cooperation and respect, in particular in times when disasters are occurring anywhere in those countries.

“With the participation from important humanitarian organizations, non-governmental organizations, and the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, H.E the Senior Minister said, ‘We will further increase the awareness about our respective systems and we will expand significant relations with each other.’

“The roles of ASEAN were prepared before and after signing the ASEAN agreement on Disaster Management and Emergency Response through the mechanism of National Committees for Disaster Management, and by discussing to organize an ASEAN Coordinating Center for Humanitarian Assistance on Disaster Management (AHA Center) and by building a Standby Arrangement and Standard Operating Procedures (SASOP) for regional preparedness and coordination to respond to emergency aid. These efforts will help to improve the possibility of ASEAN to support each other in times of disasters.

“Therefore, the efforts for international cooperation in times of big disasters will be increased. As the population across the globe has been on the increase, many people have been victimized by disasters, in particular when they are forced to live in regions where they did not reside before. When a nation is progressing, the impact of disasters on the infrastructure is on the increase. The disasters which before had little impacts on some regions are now having a broader impact. The globalization affects the whole world, particularly the economy.

“H.E Nhim Vanda, the Senior Minister, confirmed that international large-scale response to the Tsunami and the earthquake in the Indian Ocean in 2004, and to other earthquakes in 2004, are indicators of international future cooperation to respond to disasters.

“’This workshop provides opportunities to all participants to improve the understanding about and the development of mechanism to respond and to work together in times of disasters in future.’

“’Again, on behalf of the Royal Government of Cambodia, I would like to thank the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces and the [US] Pacific Regional Military Commander for having recognized the key roles of the National Committee for Disaster Management in controlling and responding to emergencies in the Kingdom of Cambodia. Likewise, I would like to thank the participants from humanitarian organizations, from the ASEAN Secretariat, and other participants from 24 countries for their efforts to improve the multi-national cooperation in times of disasters.’ H.E. Nhim Vanda, the Senior Minister, confirmed, ‘I believe that the work and the results which have been achieved at the meeting will contribute to saving many people’s lives in times of disasters in future. Most important is the cooperation and the trust with each other. The workshop will bring fruitful results.’”

Raksmei Angkor, Vol.15, #1287, 7.3.2008

21 billion grains of rice generated by popular UN-backed Internet game

7 March 2008 – With between 300,000 and 500,000 people playing it daily, an Internet game that to date has generated 21 billion grains of rice for the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) is proving to be an online sensation.

Launched six months ago, is an interactive vocabulary game in which players donate 20 grains of rice to WFP every time they answer a question correctly, allowing children to simultaneous bolster their vocabularies and help feed the world’s hungry.

The money raised from advertising is used to underwrite FreeRice’s donation to WFP, and so far, enough rice has been generated to feed 1.1 million hungry people for one day.

The first recipients of the website’s aid went to refugees from Myanmar taking shelter in Bangladesh.

“This rice I receive from WFP allows me to feed my family adequately,” said Gool Bahar, 39, a widow supporting her family in the Nayapara refugee camp by growing vegetables.

Additional rice has also gone to Ugandan schoolchildren and pregnant and nursing women in Cambodia. The next batch will be distributed to Bhutanese refugees in Nepal.

“I never imagined that things would move this fast or that it would be such a success,” said the game’s creator John Breen, an online fundraising pioneer from the United States. “Quite apart from the actual amount of rice generated, FreeRice is a fantastic way of spreading the message about world hunger.”

A new audio function lets players hear how words are pronounced, and Mr. Breen said a team of lexographers is working to expand the database of 10,000 words. To scale up the game’s appeal to younger and non-native English speakers, visitors can now select the level of difficulty to start out at.

Teachers have voiced their appreciation for a vocabulary game that has the power to draw their students in.

“You cannot imagine the joy in my heart when I look out and see 25 kids doing vocabulary homework and enjoying it,” one teacher from California told the School Library Journal.

The appeal of the online game to children is such that ‘communities’ have blossomed on social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace.

“Wow this is so great! You prepare for English tests AND help out others. My total count so far is 6,100 grains,” a New York high school student said in a comment on Facebook.



International Medical Mission Team to Provide Free Surgery to Children Born with Cleft Lips and Cleft Palates

An Operation Smile Medical Mission team will arrive in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, for an international medical mission taking place March 13-21, 2008 to assist children born with facial deformities. The team consists of more than 50 medical and non-medical volunteers from Australia, Cambodia, Canada, Italy, the Netherlands, Peru, the Philippines, Singapore and the United States. Founded in 1982, Operation Smile is a worldwide children’s medical charity dedicated to helping improve the health and lives of children and young adults.

Who: An Operation Smile International Mission Team comprised of credentialed medical professionals from 9 countries to include:Norrie Oelkers, R.N., Clinical Coordinator from New Jersey Dr. Alice Smith, Speech Pathology Adjunct Assistant Professor at University of IowaDr. Mok Theavy, Plastic Surgery and Program Director for Operation Smile Cambodia

When: March 13-21, 2008
Where: Khmer-Soviet Friendship Hospital Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Cambodian street kids spearhead Khmer food revival

The Vancouver Sun
Saturday, March 8, 2008

Gillian Murdoch, Reuters

Phnom Penh - First kill your tarantulas by pressing hard on their bodies then remove the fangs and wash the spiders thoroughly, advises the glossy in-house recipe book from Phnom Penh's Romdeng restaurant.

Served with a lime and pepper sauce, the crispy arachnids, fried to remove their venom, became a delicacy during Khmer Rouge reign over Cambodia when Pol Pot's plan to create an agrarian utopia forced millions from cities to the country.

The spiders are part of the restaurant's mission to champion Khmer food from the present and dating back to the Khmer Kingdom of over 1,000 years ago while also helping provide work and a new life for street kids.

Virtually annihilated during the Khmer Rouge's reign that ended in 1979, Cambodia's traditional specialties are less well-known than Western-friendly pad thais and rice-paper rolls from bigger neighbors Thailand and Vietnam although many regional dishes have their roots in Khmer cooking.

But with Cambodia rapidly developing, restaurants such as Romdeng are helping spearhead a comeback, said founder Sebastien Marot and top chef Sok Chhong who put together the cookbook "From Spiders to Water Lillies."

While the spiders may seem like a gimmick, the restaurant also has a serious social mission -- getting young people off the streets and into employment and education.

Run by Cambodian non-profit Mit Samlanh or Friends, Romdeng and its sister restaurant Friends are staffed by former street kids who design the menus, cook the dishes, wait tables, and even sew the silk cushions for the chairs.

So what will Cambodia's breakthrough dish be if tarantulas are not to everyone's taste?
The country is considering submitting its "prahok" fish paste and peppercorns from the southeastern town of Kampot for trademarking as distinctive national products but it is "amok" curry that probably has the widest crossover appeal.

Milder than other curries, as Cambodia's traditional dishes were first cooked up in the days before traders introduced chili to the region, it is named after the dark green amok leaf that's shredded into the dish as a seasoning.

Not surprisingly in a country crisscrossed by the Mekong and two other mighty rivers, the Tonle Sap and the Bassac, fish and shrimps feature heavily on Cambodian menus.

A range of local vegetable dishes also get a creative spin, in dishes like morning glory and water spinach salad, and sautéed rice and chive flower cakes on green papaya salad.

As there are no starters or mains in Khmer culture, all the food comes at once, and there are also no knives so don't wait for anything more than your fork and spoon.

Washed down the meal with a bottle of local Anchor beer, a shot of honey-flavored Khmer rice wine, or fancy combination juices such as sweet tamarind, guava and honey.

True converts to Khmer cooking can end the meal with a commitment by buying the cookbook that feeds its profits back into the endeavor.

Romdeng:#21, Street 278 Phnom Penh (Tel:+ 855 92 219 565)

(Editing by Belinda Goldsmith)

Cambodian Disabled Arts Festival Promotes Equal Rights

Cambodian landmine victims Keo Vuthy, 43, left, and Sim Sameth, 27, head to prepare a water well in Veal Thom village, southwest of Phnom Penh (2005 File)

By Rory Byrne
Phnom Penh

07 March 2008

Byrne report - Listen (MP3)

A festival aimed at promoting disabled artists in Cambodia has just ended in the nation's capital, Phnom Penh. Despite having one of the world's highest rates of disabled people, social, political and economic discrimination against the disabled is widespread in Cambodia. Organizers say that the aim of the festival was to try to help change popular perceptions of disability in Cambodia by promoting disabled people's abilities rather than their disabilities. Rory Byrne reports for VOA from Phnom Penh.

Hundreds of mainly disabled children took part in the opening parade of the Spotlight Festival - the first of its kind in Cambodia aimed at promoting the rights of the disabled.

The children came from towns and cities all over Cambodia bringing a big splash of color on an otherwise dull afternoon in Phnom Penh.

Hannah Stevens, the Director of the Spotlight, says that the festival is trying to show how the disabled can play a fuller role in Cambodian society,

"I believe that Spotlight gives people the opportunity to prove their abilities. In Cambodia, we still have quite a problem where people with disabilities aren't integrated into society, there isn't full access to education, people aren't necessarily able to get jobs," said Stevens. "I think this project - the whole point of it is to promote the abilities of these people so that actually they're very, very capable to go to school, and to receive education, to participate in the arts and to participate in society generally."

Decades of war and poverty have left Cambodia with one of the highest rates of disabled people in the world. A 2005 report by the Asian Development Bank estimates that about 15 percent of the population is afflicted with some form of disability

That includes an estimated 40,000 land-mine survivors and 50,000 victims of preventable diseases like polio.

Like in other developing countries, disabled people in Cambodia are typically among the poorest of the poor. Many suffer discrimination in their daily lives.

Polio victim Ngin Saorath is the Executive Director of the Cambodian Disabled People's Organization.

"In Cambodia, there are a lot of discrimination towards people with disability because the people in Cambodia believe in Karma - they say that you did something wrong - because you did something very bad - in the past life, that's why you live and you're born with disability," explained Saroth.

Saroth says that disabled people in Cambodia are often denied access to education and employment opportunities.

"In the family most people they got the children with disability - they not allow the children to go to school or they just let the children to stay home and look after or cooking for the relative," added Saroth. "They feel that [a] disabled person cannot do anything - just look after the cow or take care of the sister or the nephew - so they cannot get education, they don't send their children to get education because they feel that in society there is no available job for [a] disabled person."

The Spotlight festival featured performances and workshops from a number of acclaimed disabled artists from Cambodia and the wider region

Performers included blind Cambodian musician Kong Nay, master of the so-called "Mekong Delta Blues," who some call the "Ray Charles of Cambodia" because of his trademark sunglasses.
Also performing at the festival was acclaimed drumming team Koshu Roa Taiko from Japan. All of the drummers are deaf and play by feeling the drum's vibrations

Mary Scott is the Country Director of the Cambodian Trust, a British NGO working to promote disabled rights in Cambodia:

"The Spotlight Festival was groundbreaking in Cambodia," she said. "There has never been a festival like that where people with disabilities and people without disabilities have pulled together to bring together a cultural programme."

As well as showing how the disabled can play a full role in the arts, the festival succeeded in bringing some joy into the lives of some of Cambodia's most vulnerable disabled children.
Organizers hope that festivals like Spotlight can help to bring about a general shift in attitudes towards the disabled in Cambodia and the wider region.

Cambodia to expand international airport
07 March 2008

Access to Cambodia is set to be improved in the future, with plans to expand Sihanoukville airport, according to reports.

The government is set to invest around $35m (£17.3m) as it attempts to develop the Cambodian tourism industry.

Finance minister Keat Chhon said that the developments will turn Sihanoukville airport into a thriving international hub, according to the Cambodia Daily newspaper.

Larger aircraft will be able to land at the airport, with runways set to be extended to 2,500 metres this year and eventually to 4,000 metres.

The expansion plans have been enabled by a loan that was given to Societe Concessionaire des Airports, the company that operates Sihanoukville, along with Siem Reap and Phnom Penh airports.

Cambodia is situated in south-east Asia, where it is sometimes overshadowed by the more popular locations of Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia.

DFNN to close deals across Asia

The Manila Times
Friday, March 07, 2008

DIVERSIFIED Financial Network Inc. (DFNN) is set to fold in a Cambodian slot machine operator and is eyeing similar deals in Japan and Singapore through its wholly-owned gaming subsidiary.

In a disclosure to the Philippine Stock Exchange, DFNN said Singapore-based unit Pacific Gaming Investments Pte Ltd. (PGI) has concluded due diligence on Poseidon Co. Ltd., a Cambodian slot machine operator, which would be acquired this month.

Results of the due diligence showed that Poseidon posted revenues of $21.23 million for the seven-month period that ended in December last year with a net profit of $1.086 million.
DFNN disclosed that PGI would be acquiring 90 percent of Poseidon for $4.2 million through a locally incorporated company in Cambodia called PGI Cambodia.

Miguel Manzano, DFNN director told The Manila Times on Thursday that the company is also eyeing similar deals around the region and is negotiating with several slot machine and online gaming operators in Singapore and Japan as part of PGI’s aggressive expansion program.

He however was mum on how much the company is willing to spend for these firms as the possible deals in the two countries are still at the preliminary stage.

Earlier, DFNN announced that Hatchasia Inc., its business process outsourcing (BPO) leasing unit, would be selling up to 33 percent of the company for the first time by the second half this year. Hatchasia aims to raise P100 million to P200 million in fresh capital to fund its expansion to the provinces and possible acquisitions.

The firm is looking at expanding its operations—mainly the provision of BPO facilities to start up and established firms that need shared facilities and resources in the IT, logistics and education sectors—in new growth areas like Clark, Subic and Tarlac. Besides being on the look out for opportunities in online gaming and education, Hatchasia may also consider acquiring BPO operations and assets.

At present, Hatchasia has about 9,000 square meters of office space in Fort Bonifacio leased out to companies like Marubeni Power Corp. and a Filipino animation studio.

Another DFNN unit, Intelligent Wave Inc., would still push through with its planned maiden share offering to the public also by the second half this year to raise about $5 million to $6 million to boost its manpower and infrastructure.

The software development subsidiary initially planned to expand operations and increase personnel from 100 to 500 while developing software for business applications with some Japanese companies.

--Likha C. Cuevas-Miel

Buaya Club of Cambodia to hold 3rd golf tournament

PHNOM PENH, March 7 (Xinhua) -- The Buaya Club of Cambodia will hold its third golf tournament in Siem Reap from March 22 to 23, Chinese-language newspaper the Sin Chew Daily said on Friday.

Over 70 players will join the match to share the 20,000 US dollars strong cash prize contributed by 26 sponsors, it said.

The Buaya Club of Cambodia was established by sports-loving entrepreneurs. It now has 108 members and has held two golf tournaments already.

Editor: An Lu

UN Cambodia initiates campaign to promote woman's status

March 07, 2008

The UN representative office in Cambodia, jointly with several youth organizations, here on Friday urged the young people to send a short message by mobile phone to promote the awareness of woman's importance in the society.

The message with the theme of "Strong Women, Strong Country" is also sent for the celebration of the International Women's Day.

"Young people in provinces across the country are already spreading the text message to their friends, family members, and classmates, requesting that the message be forwarded on to as many men and women as possible," said a press release from UN.

The aim of the campaign is to raise awareness of the role that women play in development and to spread a positive message of respect towards all women in Cambodia, it added.

The text message reads as "Happy Women's Day! Women are important partners in making the country strong. We support women with love, respect and encouragement. Strong Women, Strong Country. Let's send this SMS to everyone."

A message coming from a friend has added meaning and importance, said the press release, adding that the campaign provides a simple yet powerful way for young people to actively demonstrate their support for women on International Women's Day.

According to the statistics from the International Labor Organization, women make up 75 percent of the kingdom's labor force, the highest among the Southeast Asia countries.

In addition, women account for 45 percent of Cambodia's middle school students, 33 percent of its college students and 30 percent of its government staff members.

Source: Xinhua

Foreign Ministry summons French, Cambodian ambassador to protest French ancient maps

March 7, 2008

The Foreign Ministry Friday summoned the Cambodian and French ambassadors to Thailand to register Thailand's opposition to Cambodia's use of ancient maps published by France to determine its borderline.

Weerachai Palasai, director-general of the Department of Treaties and Legal Affairs, said he was assigned by Foreign Minister Noppadon Pattama to summon the two ambassadors to register the opposition.

He said French Ambassador Laurent Bili and Cambodian Ambassador Ung Sean were told that Thailand saw that the ancient maps of Utdor Mean Chey province and Preah Vihear provinces were inaccurate.

The Nation

Cambodia is wrongly claiming part of its territory : FM

Fri, March 7, 2008
The nation

The Foreign Ministry summoned on Friday French and Cambodian ambassadors to complain maps of Cambodia publish in France and Cambodia wrongly claimed Thai territory.

The envoys were told that maps of Utdor Mean Chay and Preah Vihear provinces published in France and Cambodia claim that parts of the Ta Mean Prom temple in Surin province are in Cambodia.

Director of Treaty and Legal Affairs, Virachai Plasai, told the ambassadors the area in question is "overlapping" and requires demarcation under a treaty signed by Thailand and Cambodia in 2000.

"We raised objections in line with international practices because we believe the map is incorrect," he says.

Thailand says the issue will not affect bilateral relations. The two countries have clashed previously over ownership of the Preah Vihear Hindu temple. Bangkok opposes Phnom Penh's plans to list it as a United Nation's World Heritage site before ownership is settled.