Friday, 14 March 2008

'Killing Fields' Photographer Squares Off Against Cancer

Legendary photojournalist Dith Pran and actor Patrick Swayze both face tough odds against pancreatic cancer. (The New York Times/AP Photo)

Dith Pran, Like Patrick Swayze, Faces Stiff Odds Against Pancreatic Cancer

ABC News Medical Unit

Legendary New York Times photojournalist Dith Pran, on whose story the award-winning movie The Killing Fields was based, survived the horrors of war and starvation in a labor camp in the time of the Khmer Rouge.

Now, the Cambodian national faces a different battle -- a fight against pancreatic cancer. And in most cases, it is an unwinnable fight.

Dith is the second celebrity with Hollywood connections in as many weeks who has been identified as a sufferer of the disease. And as the world watches Dith and actor Patrick Swayze fight the ravages of an illness that kills 95 percent of patients within five years, many may fear that they, too, could be at risk of this silent killer.

A short video posted Sunday evening on the site shows Dith discussing his illness with visitors to his hospital room.

"Some people say it is a killer disease," Dith says in the video. "I call it a sneaky disease, because it infiltrates into the bottom of your body so that nobody knows ahead of time."

In the video, Dith appears comfortable and alert. Diane McNulty, spokesperson for the New York Times, said Dith's colleagues have visited him at the hospital and "found him full of determination to beat the cancer, grateful for visits, cards, letters, e-mails and prayers, though not equally able at all times to receive them.

"Everyone who knows Pran at The Times knows that this is an extraordinary person, a survivor," McNulty said. "He survived the killing fields, and we hope he will survive this illness."

Dith was transferred to the Roosevelt Care Center in Edison, N.J. on Friday, and he is also having radiation treatments at Robert Wood Johnson Hospital. Dith has reportedly been battling the disease since his diagnosis in January.

McNulty said his disease is now in stage 4 -- the most severe form of the cancer for which there is no reliable curative treatment.

Actor Swayze's pancreatic cancer was revealed last Wednesday, when publicists released a statement following reports in the National Enquirer and other publications which said doctors had told the "Dirty Dancing" star he had only five weeks left to live.

"Patrick has a very limited amount of disease and he appears to be responding well to treatment thus far," George Fisher, Swayze's physician, said in the statement. "All of the reports stating the time frame of his prognosis and his physical side effects are absolutely untrue. We are considerably more optimistic."

But even though the five-week time frame trumpeted by tabloids may be false, cancer specialists say that pancreatic cancer more often than not comes with a daunting prognosis.

Challenging Odds

According to statistics from the National Cancer Institute, patients diagnosed with the disease have only a one-in-20 shot of being alive five years after the cancer is found. And the patient advocacy group Pancreatic Cancer Action Network pegs the average life expectancy for a patient diagnosed with pancreatic cancer that has spread at three to six months.

Part of the reason that this cancer is so deadly is that there is no reliable screening test for the disease. Adding to the problem is the fact that the symptoms that indicate the presence of the illness are easy to miss or misclassify -- abdominal pains, loss of appetite, weight loss and possible jaundice.

And once symptoms appear, it is often too late.

"Sixty [percent] to 70 percent of pancreatic cancers are diagnosed in the most advanced stage -- when it has spread to other organs -- and we have, at best, minimally effective therapies for advanced pancreatic cancer," said William Blackstock, professor of radiation oncology at the Wake Forest University Comprehensive Cancer Center in Winston-Salem, N.C.

"In most cases we don't even get a chance to cure it; at the time of presentation and the clinical manifestation of the symptoms, the cat's already out of the bag," said Andrew Warshaw, surgeon-in-chief at the Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center in Boston.

"For 80-plus percent, maybe even 90 percent of people at the time the diagnosis is first made, there is nothing beyond palliative care to help them," he says.

The numbers only get worse from there. Of the 20 percent of patients who are eligible for treatment, only about 20 percent are still alive after five years, Warshaw says, adding, "we're getting down to some small numbers."

Fighting an Impervious Foe

Oncologists say the usual treatment plan for the disease combines both chemotherapy and surgery.

"If the patient's medical status is good -- no liver or kidney abnormalities and a functional patient -- treatment would likely consist of chemotherapy," said Harold Frucht of the Pancreatic Cancer Prevention & Genetics Program at Columbia University in New York. "If there is a response, this would indicate a good short-term prognosis."

If the cancer has not already spread to other organs, Frucht says the best approach would be to try to use chemotherapy to shrink the tumor, allowing for a less dangerous surgery to remove the cancerous tissue. However, if the cancer has already spread, chemotherapy is the best bet for keeping it in check.

The best bet, however, is not always a great bet. Neither chemotherapy nor radiation has been reliably shown effective in dealing with pancreatic cancer, even in the best of circumstances.

And new experimental approaches to treat the disease are "unfortunately, not very promising," said David Patrick Ryan, clinical director of the Tucker Gosnell Center for Gastrointestinal Cancers at Massachusetts General Hospital. "The latest trials of [cancer drugs] Avastin and Cetuximab -- for which we had a lot of hope -- were negative."

Aditionally, surgery for pancreatic cancer is a risky proposal. Frucht says few surgeons in the country even possess the expertise needed to perform the operation.

Hope for the Future

Facing such odds, patients -- and even their doctors -- often view palliative care as the best course of action.

"There is a sense of nihilism among many treating physicians that says, 'why even subject these patients to surgery?'" Warshaw said. "Fifty percent of these patients don't get full treatment, which furthers this self-fulfilling prophecy."

This is bad news for the estimated 37,680 people the National Cancer Institute says will be diagnosed with the disease this year. And the institute projects that in 2008, 34,290 will die from the disease.

But trials on experimental treatments continue. And Mark Talamonti, division chief of surgical oncology at the Northwestern Medical Faculty Foundation in Chicago, says that with this research comes hope for many whose lives will be touched by this dreadful disease.

"[This is] promising in two senses," Talamonti said. "One, that clinically relevant research is being conducted in this disease, and two, that some differences in treatments is actually being demonstrated, considering the historically pessimistic outlook regarding treatment effectiveness for pancreatic cancer."

Dith and Swayze may even benefit from some of the strides that have been made in the treatment of the disease in the last two decades. And their continuing battle could bring more attention to a cancer that affects the lives of tens of thousands of Americans.

"It's a frightening disease ... but we are better right now at tailoring appropriate treatment to individuals," he said. "We're better able to provide the right treatment for the right patient.
"We've made a lot of progress in the past 20 years."

Russian man gets 13 years in Cambodian jail on child sex charges

14/ 03/ 2008

Moscow, March 14 (RIA Novosti) - The Russian Embassy in Cambodia confirmed on Friday that a Russian businessman accused of the sexual abuse of underage girls had been sentenced to 13 years in jail, but said his lawyer planned to appeal.

Alexander Trofimov, 41, was arrested on October 17, 2007, in his house in the popular Cambodian resort of Sihanoukville, after the parents of seven alleged victims, some as young as 12, had filed complaints against him.

On Friday, a Phnom Penh municipal court sentenced Trofimov to 13 years in prison and ordered him to pay $100,000 in moral compensation to the victims.

"Trofimov's lawyer does not agree with the verdict. He believes that the court failed to take into account a number of important details in the case," said Timur Zevakin, head of the consular department at the embassy.

According to Cambodian prosecutors, Trofimov, who was the head of the Cambodia-based Koh Pos Investment Group, had sex with at least 10 underage girls. The oldest of them is said to be 14-years old.

No extradition agreement is in place between Russia and Cambodia.

"We are in contact with Trofimov and his lawyer. The embassy will continue to closely monitor the situation regarding the case," the Russian diplomat said on the phone.

Cambodia has long been notorious for foreign child molesters, but in recent years police and courts in the country have taken a more stringent stance toward the sexual abuse of children.

Angkor Wat Entrance Fees: Son Chhay ‘Versus’ Hun Sen: Who Is Lying?

Article is courtesy of Khmerization :

"If the numbers of visitors published in the Ministry Of Tourism is correct then Mr. Hun Sen and Sok An must return the missing $US30 million to the State Treasury. If not, a case of breach of trust or, worst, a case official corruption, should be brought upon Mr. Hun Sen and Sok An by the court of the land."

Editorial by Khmerization:- First, I would like to congratulate the government for doing a reasonable good job in attracting tourists to visit Cambodia. Secondly, I would like to condemn in the strongest term of the missing and the embezzlement of million of tourist dollars money collected from Angkor Wat. The missing money highlights yet another case of mismanagement and corruption at the highest level.

The controversy surrounding the missing millions from the ticket sales to Angkor Wat is seen as another case of an official back-door corruption (read the links below).

While Prime Minister Hun Sen has gone into damage control mode, his attempt has not shed any light into the missing millions and the answers that the inquisitors are searching for- that is where have the missing millions gone to?

The staff at ticket sales office in Siem Reap have told MP Son Chhay that Sok Kong company had transferred $US6 million per month to a bank account in Phnom Penh. Any arithmetic calculations, whatever way we compute, the results will be $US72 million per year. But, whether it is bad mathematics or simply a case of a deliberate attempt to whitewash and to mislead, the Prime Minister comes up with $US30 million in his calculations.

There was clear evidence in the media report that the Prime Minister is trying to whitewash the inconsistencies of the Angkor Wat incomes balance sheet. In an answer to accusations of $US30 millions of ticket sales to Angkor Wat being mysteriously flushed down the drain, the Prime Minister wrote a letter quoting the numbers of tourists to Cambodia at 1 million visitors per year in order to justify his calculations of $US30 million of tourist dollars generated per year. But at a meeting at the Ministry of Tourism, the Prime Minister quoted the numbers of tourists as being 2 million tourists- a figure that would generate $US60 million of tourist dollars. This 2 million figure of visitors is consistent with the figure from the Ministry of Tourism‘s website ( The Prime Minister’s back flip has been designed to justify his clumsy accountings. The question here is: who do we trust, Son Chhay or Hun Sen?

In my rightful mind my conscience seems to tell me that I should trust Son Chhay’s words more than Mr. Hun Sen’s because they are consistent with the numbers of visitors published by the Ministry of Tourism. If the numbers of visitors published in the Ministry Of Tourism is correct then Mr. Hun Sen and Sok An must return the missing $US30 million to the State Treasury. If not, a case of breach of trust or, worst, a case official corruption, should be brought upon Mr. Hun Sen and Sok An by the court of the land. That would be a wishful thinking, but one must try.

And the question also remain that: what did Hun Sen, Sok Kong and Sok An do with the $US60 million collected from Angkor Wat? Under a responsible government this money would have been re-invested in repairs and in the improvements of infrastructure around the Angkor Wat sites. Is it the case of this $US60 million being flushed down the drain into Hun Sen’s and Sok An’s pockets? I am waiting for an answer.
Read the link:

Cambodia breaks ground on first skyscraper

Web Radio
March 14, 2008

PHNOM PENH - CAMBODIAN officials on Friday broke ground on the country's first skyscraper, a 42-storey tower that when completed will dwarf all other buildings in the low-rise capital Phnom Penh.

The 192-metre-tall Gold Tower 42 project is being touted by Cambodia's leaders as a symbol of the country's galloping economy, which has averaged 11 per cent growth over the past three years.

'The tower is the highest building in the history of Cambodia's capital,' said Deputy Prime Minister Sok An, adding: 'It's a symbol of economic growth.'

The 240-million-dollar high-rise, which will include a library and medical facilities along with luxury apartments, is backed by South Korea's Yon Woo company and is expected to be completed by 2011.

Company officials say at least half the available units have already sold.

'When completed, the building will bring all of us good life and success,' Yon Woo chairman Kim Tae Yeon told a crowd of about 600 high-ranking Cambodian and South Korean officials.

Cambodia has climbed back from decades of civil unrest to emerge as one of the region's most vibrant economies, marked by an unprecedented building boom that is radically changing the face of this once-sleepy capital.

At least two other high-rise buildings are planned, along with another South Korean-backed project, the sprawling Camko City planned community located on the outskirts of Phnom Penh.

-- AFP

Thailand opposes sanctions on Myanmar: FM

Foreign Minister Noppadon Pattama said Thailand opposes Western sanctions on neighbouring Myanmar

BANGKOK (AFP) — Thailand opposes Western sanctions on neighbouring Myanmar and is ready to help the military-run country hold a referendum on a new constitution in May, the foreign minister said Friday.

"Thailand disagrees with sanctions," Foreign Minister Noppadon Pattama told reporters before leaving for Myanmar with Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej, who was making a one-day official visit to the country.

Myanmar is under US and European sanctions, which have been tightened after the junta's bloody crackdown on peaceful pro-democracy protests in September 2007.

At least 31 people were killed and 74 reported missing during the violence, according to the United Nations. Human Rights Watch has put the number of dead at about 100 people, far higher than the 15 dead reported by the junta.

But Noppadon said Thailand favoured negotiations over sanctions, adding that talks with iron-fisted generals could lead to positive developments in the country, which has been ruled by the military since 1962.

The foreign minister also said the kingdom was ready to help Myanmar hold its constitutional referendum planned for May.

"If Myanmar wants assistance from Thailand, we are ready to offer help as a friendly country," Noppadon said.

Myanmar's junta has already refused UN technical assistance and foreign observers at the May referendum, which the regime says will pave the way for elections in 2010.

If held, the polls would be the first since detained democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi led the National League for Democracy to a landslide victory in 1990 elections, a result never recognised by the regime.

But the new constitution would bar Aung San Suu Kyi from future elections because of her marriage to a foreigner, the late Briton Michael Aris. The junta already refused to amend the charter in talks with UN envoy Ibrahim Gambari.

Thailand is one of the biggest investors and trading partners in Myanmar, spending billions of dollars a year to tap into the country's natural gas and hydropower resources to power its own growing economy.

Samak is expected to discuss two major energy projects between Myanmar and Thailand during the visit, government spokesman Wichianchot Sukchotrat said Thursday.

Not as GRAND

Mazda has applied some updates to the BT-50 to keep its looks fresh in the pick-up market, but only with marginal success


Bangkok Post
Friday March 14, 2008

A good way to beat the high cost of flying to regional destinations like Angkor Wat is to travel on wheels. But as many of you already know, navigating the bumpy road linking Thailand to Cambodia's renown World Heritage Site can be a nightmare.

This means that the vehicle best suited for the 150-km trip from the border town of Poipet to Siem Reap is the ever-popular pick-up, even though a large number of early generation Toyota Camrys continue to shuttle travellers between the two towns.

The last time Motoring drove to Southeast Asia's greatest tourist attraction was in 1999 in a caravan of Isuzu Rodeos; this time, the vehicle of invitation but not of choice was the facelifted BT-50 from Mazda.

Of course, any passenger car like those Cambodian-registered Camrys could do the job of getting you there. But do you seriously want to brave the unsealed tarmac in your favourite saloon?

However, road conditions are much better than a decade ago when I can still vividly recall it took us full nine hours to reach Angkor Wat after crossing the border from Aranyaprathet on the Thai side.

Today, the journey requires far less time - just three hours. And when the road is completely sealed next year - courtesy of Japanese funding - expect the distance to be covered in roughly the same time it takes a football match to finish without going into extra time.

The 25-strong caravan of BT-50s was lucky this time in that it didn't encounter a single drop of rain meaning that the drive was relatively easy.

Which is why most of the BTs chosen for the media were Hi-Racers - 4x2 in raised body form, plus 2.5-litre turbo-diesel and manual gearbox. The one we drove was a double-cab body.

Two immediate weak points sprung to mind before we rolled out after lunch in one of those casinos at the border: rear passengers won't be liking that cramped seating position and stiff ride.

The fact that the BT-50 double-cab has one of the most uncomfortable and tight rear seats and space can't be avoided. This is only a facelift, meaning that the package is the same as before with only minor tweaks to the appearance, like a more accentuated grille up front.

Mazda engineers, who also had the chance to relish Cambodia's only true historical attraction, acknowledged this shortcoming and said they had already taken this aspect into "serious consideration" for the next generation model rumoured to come out at the turn of the decade.

However, there has been a noticeable improvement in the ride quality. We expected to see jumping jacks in the rear-view mirror from the driver's seats when traversing broken road surfaces.

The more nimble ride is due, according to Mazda, to revised suspension bushings to additionally filter out vibration and harshness. That's the only change made to the suspension, apart from the new OEM tyres from Dunlop.

The best part of the entire trip was a 20-km stretch of asphalt road some 30km from Poipet. It has been layered and graded so well that even a completely new road in Thailand can't match it in terms of solidity and evenness. Unfortunately, this excellent bit of tarmac was a tad too short, else we'd have enjoyed the ride even more.

Despite the slightly more cosseting ride, the BT-50 still can't rid itself of having one of the least comfy ride of all pick-ups sold in the Thai market.

And that doesn't necessarily mean that the set-up has gained on best in-class handling. It's sporty alright, although the chassis still can't plant the tyres to the road that effectively when driving over loose surfaces that were abundant on this trip.

The best thing perhaps about the BT-50 remains the engine and gearbox combination. Despite the arrival of some new models from rival brands, the 143hp 2.5 four-pot diesel impressively combines a good mix of performance, refinement and economy.

The rich amount of torque, rated at 330Nm, makes the BT-50 truly effortless on the move and when overtaking slower vehicles inching along the completely straight road to Seam Reap.

The five-speed manual gearbox, as well, has a short-throw action making it slick when comparing with those in other pick-ups.

Covering nearly 500km on the Cambodian side soaking up Cambodia's historical sites required 40 litres of diesel (Mazda says it can used B5 biodiesel).

That translates into 12.5kpl which is not fancy by diesel standards, but reasonably attractive for a double-cab pick-up that doesn't compromise on performance.

And this is just the 2.5. The 156hp/380Nm 3.0-litre would be even better, particularly for users who do lots of upcountry and recreational driving.

Which is all the great pity then. The BT-50's drivetrain desperately needs a new home to give itself more polished road manners and better cabin space.

That said, the BT-50 is at its best in Freestyle Cab form - and also better in this form over many competitors without such practical rear access panels.

Along with its Ford Ranger sibling, the BT-50 is the only pick-up to offer side airbags in the range-topping Freestyle and double-cab models priced between B657,900-884,900.

Apart from the exterior tweaks, the only improvement that could be said is the comfier ride which this road trip to Cambodia proved without a shadow of doubt.

But the BT-50 still isn't the grandest of all pick-ups, unlike Angkor Wat which is the best in this part of the world.

Missionary radio hosts family conference in Cambodia

FEBC marriage and parenting conference in Cambodia. (FEBC photo)
Mission Network News
14 March, 2008

Cambodia (MNN) ― A missionary radio outreach is celebrating a milestone. On March 22, 2008, Far East Broadcasting Company Cambodia will be hosting its third marriage and parenting seminar to celebrate six years of Family FM, FEBCambodia's local Christian station.

Previous marriage seminars were offered in Phnom Penh, but this year's celebration unfolds in Takeo Province, a two-hour drive from the capital, to help couples who rarely have access to such teaching. About 200 Khmer people are expected.

Both Christians and non-Christians are invited to attend. In addition to marriage and family counseling, an inspirational message will be offered to point people to the Christian faith. Following the seminar, radios will be distributed, to encourage those in attendance to tune into Family FM's 14 hours of programming a day.

Major strides have been made in recent years to rebuild Cambodia, a nation decimated by Pol Pot's 1975-1979 bloody regime that destroyed more than 25-percent of the population. Those who fled before his takeover were fortunate, including Samoeun Intal, who escaped to the Philippines. Later, she joined FEBC in Manila, where she helped produce culturally-relevant, evangelistic shortwave programs for the Cambodian people.

In 1993, the Cambodian government allowed national programmers to establish an FEBC office and studio in the capital of Phnom Penh, and Samoeun and her family returned to her native country.

"The family unit was so badly damaged [by Pol Pot's regime]," Samoeun explains, "that we're still working to rebuild lives 30 years later. The emotional and physical needs of Cambodians are still very great. We minister to people through our broadcasts, seminars, prayer crusades, medical outreach, and radio distribution."In March 2002, FEBCambodia introduced its first local station, Family-FM. Daytime programming on Family-FM is pre-evangelistic with light Christian content. The radio programs serve the community by providing news updates and educational programs for various audiences. Evening broadcasts aid the growth of believers through Bible studies and other programs.

Radio has recently been cited as Cambodia's most effective means of communication, and the staff of FEBCambodia labor to offer many hours of programming to share the love and hope found in Christ.

As one listener recently wrote, "Before I accepted Christ as my Savior, my life was terrible. As a soldier I wasn't afraid of anyone. I treated others badly. But when I believed in God, I became a new person...gentle, humble, and obedient, especially to my parents. In turn, they treated me with respect and compassion. Listening to FEBC's Family FM broadcasts is so good for me, as well as others in my village. My family has become more peaceful and grateful to be servants of God. Thank you, FEBC, for helping change my heart."

Please pray that many hearts will be open to the marriage and family counseling, as well as the Good News of Christ shared during this outreach.

Cambodia rejects U.S. human rights assessment

The Cambodia Foreign Affair state that "we have found that many of the accusations contained in this report do not even exist or are simply over exaggerated." what is in the picture? or the Cambodian Foreign Affair believe that beating up people, killing people it's just a normal way of life in Cambodia? or killing human is simillar to killing animal then there is no human rights to be consider?

PHNOM PENH, March 14 (Xinhua) -- Cambodia has dismissed a U.S. report on the country's human rights record, saying that the annual report to the U.S. congress entirely contradicts the true reality in the country, the Cambodia Daily newspaper reported Friday.

The Cambodian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has issued a statement in response of the U.S. report, saying "we have found that many of the accusations contained in this report do not even exist or are simply over exaggerated."

"We certainly recognize that human rights in Cambodia are not perfect. But is there any perfect human rights situation anywhere in the world?" the statement said, adding that the report relied too heavily on the views of anti-government NGOs (Non-Government Organizations) and appeared timed to coincide with the national election.

Cambodia fully does not believe that the country will ever receive a good mark unless the Cambodian government has "affectionate" relations with the United States, the statement said.

The annual report, release by the U.S. State Department on Wednesday, said an array of human rights guarantees were lacking in Cambodia and that the country's human rights record "remained poor."

Editor: Du Guodong

Cambodia's genocide trials threatened by funding crisis

Choeung Ek killing fields memorial, 15 kms southwest of Phnom Penh. Staff at the Khmer Rouge tribunal will not be paid after April(AFP/Tang Chhin Sothy)
The convoy of Duch, former Khmer Rouge chief prison S-21, leaves Tuol Sleng genocide museum in Phnom Penh. Staff at the Khmer Rouge tribunal will not be paid after April(AFP/File/Tang Chhin Sothy)
The Tuol Sleng genocide museum in Phnom Penh. Staff at the Khmer Rouge tribunal will not be paid after April(AFP/File/Saeed Khan)

PHNOM PENH (AFP) — Cambodia's top administrator to the country's Khmer Rouge tribunal this week gathered together his more than 200 staff to break the news that after April they would not be paid.

The stunning announcement by Sean Visoth is the most tangible sign yet that the UN-backed genocide court, established to prosecute leaders of the regime that was toppled nearly 30 years ago, is going bankrupt months before the first trials are expected to open.

The court's top officials hold out hope that the international community or the Cambodian government will come up with the millions needed to keep the tribunal running.

But the funding crisis has become the most serious threat yet to the proceedings, already beleaguered by allegations of corruption and mismanagement amid fears of political interference.

"It is hard to imagine that the court can continue to function without funds," said tribunal spokeswoman Helen Jarvis, explaining that the Cambodian side of the joint court would go broke in April.

The UN-supported half of the tribunal is funded for several months more, but would also need a significant influx of cash after that.

"As the time for expiration of existing funds draws nearer, the situation obviously becomes more acute," Jarvis told AFP.

Originally budgeted at 56.3 million dollars over three years, the tribunal's operating costs have ballooned as the enormity of the job of prosecuting those behind Cambodia's darkest chapter becomes more apparent.

Up to two million people died of starvation and overwork, or were executed as the communist Khmer Rouge dismantled modern Cambodian society in a bid to forge an agrarian utopia during their 1975-79 rule.

After nearly a decade of wrangling, the UN and Cambodia opened the tribunal in 2006. The regime's top five surviving leaders were arrested last year in what many saw as a sign of the sluggish court's gathering momentum.

But those close to the proceedings say staff are overwhelmed, in part by paperwork, particularly the task of translating tens of thousands of documents into either Cambodian, French or English, the three languages used by the court.

"The original assumptions about the resources needed and the tasks to be accomplished were inaccurate as is often the case in these tribunals," said co-prosecutor Robert Petit, who like other court officials has been critical of the tribunal's funding structure and projected timeframe.

"The original budget was inadequate and contained many gaps in essential areas," said the UN's tribunal spokesman Peter Foster.

The UN and Cambodian government have requested an additional 114 million dollars that would allow the court to add hundreds of new staff and remain in operation until 2011.

But so far none of the tribunal's principle donors -- Japan, France, Britain, Germany and Australia -- has stepped forward to commit more money.

"A lack of funds could certainly delay the proceedings," Foster said.

Another obstacle in the oft-stalled proceedings would be a further blow to the tribunal's credibility at a time when support is crucial.

Observers say that despite the arrests, donors do not want the tribunal to be a show-trial that risks being commandeered by Cambodia's government, which includes many former Khmer Rouge.

Two critical audits detailing hiring irregularities, with lucrative jobs allegedly going to under-qualified candidates, have also made donors hesitant to throw their full support behind the tribunal, the funding for which remains a fraction of that received by other international courts.

"The donors received the revised budget estimate at the end of January.... They have asked for further clarification in a number of areas and that is now being provided by the court," the UN's Foster said.

He added that donors are expected to meet before the end of the month to discuss the tribunal's money crunch, and that a sliver of optimism remains.

"Neither the international community nor the United Nations want to see the court fail, especially since we have successfully come so far along in the process," he said.

Russian investor gets 13 yrs for Cambodia abuse

Alexander Trofimov a Russian national sits outside a courtroom in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Friday, March 14, 2008. A Cambodian court sentenced Trofimov to 13 years in jail Friday for sexually abusing an under-aged girl, making him the second foreigner convicted of such a crime this week.(AP Photo)

Thu Mar 13, 2008

PHNOM PENH (Reuters) - A Cambodian court sentenced a prominent Russian investor to 13 years in jail on Friday for the sexual abuse of a 14-year-old girl, the latest foreigner to be caught in the country's drive to stop child sex tourism.

The lawyer for 41-year-old Alexander Trofimov, who signed a $300 million deal in 2006 to develop a luxury tourist resort, said the ruling would damage Cambodia's investment reputation.
"My client is a high-profile man. He should not be sentenced by just one girl who pointed a finger at him," lawyer Ouch Sophal told Reuters.

"The court decision will send a bad message to foreign investors," he said, adding his client would appeal.

Chief Judge Ke Sakhan said the court had sufficient evidence to convict Trofimov, who did not speak to reporters in court.

A Cambodian man was also sentenced to 11 years in jail for providing the girl to the Russian businessman.

Poverty-stricken Cambodia has long had a reputation as a haven for pedophiles, due in large part to its corrupt police force and courts. Child rights groups are campaigning hard for Phnom Penh to take the problem seriously.

(Reporting by Ek Madra; Editing by Darren Schuettler and Alex Richardson)

Cambodia rejects U.S. report on human rights+


PHNOM PENH, March 13 (Kyodo) - Cambodia on Thursday rejected claims by the United States made in a report that the Southeast Asian country's human rights record remains poor.

"The Royal Government of Cambodia totally rejects the U.S. Department of State's 'Country Report on Human Rights Practices' on Cambodia, which entirely contradicts the true reality in the country," the government said in a statement.

"We have found that many of the accusations contained in this report do not even exist or are simply overly exaggerated," it added.

The U.S. Embassy in Phnom Penh released a report Wednesday saying Cambodia's human rights record last year generally "remained poor.

"But the report "noted as a positive turn an unprecedented march and rally permitted in Phnom Penh on December 10 in observance of Human Rights Day and the arrest and detention of five former senior leaders of the Khmer Rouge regime charged by the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia with crimes against humanity."

Among the reasons cited for Cambodia's poor rating were security forces that act with impunity, arbitrary arrests, forced evictions, endemic corruption, and trafficking in women and children.

But the Cambodian government said the human rights situation in the country "is definitely and objectively much better than many countries in ASEAN, even in the region.

"In a report released last week, the Asian Human Rights Commission said criminal lawsuits and arrests in the context of political repression in Cambodia remained an issue of concern last year.

"Land grabbing was rife and remains one of the serious economic and human rights issues in the country today," it said.

Heritage site in peril: Angkor Wat is falling down

One of the world's most celebrated temples is threatened with oblivion, as its ancient stones crumble from the sheer weight of tourism. Rob Sharp reports from Cambodia on a cultural jewel that has become too popular for its own good
Friday, 14 March 2008

At first glance, it is business as usual at the great sandstone temple of Angkor Wat. Through a drape of evening haze, the ancient Cambodian superstructure sees another batch of tourists process across its moat and marvel at its grandeur. Local teenagers waggle cool drinks in the faces of passers-by and auto-rickshaw or "tuk-tuk" drivers loudly vie for business. It looks like what it is – a boom town.

But the modern commercial success of the high-profile complex, on the site of the ancient city of Angkor, may be – literally – on shaky ground.

According to heritage experts carrying out restoration work at the temple, which is one of the biggest sets of religious ruins in the world, a plethora of new hotels, cashing in on the country's near-exponential rise in tourist numbers, is sapping gallons of water from beneath nearby urban areas. They say this could upset the delicate foundations on which Angkor Wat sits and could lead to parts of it – including its famous celestial apsara, or carved nymphs – taking an unheavenly tumble to earth.

Philippe Delanghe, the culture programme specialist at Unesco's Phnom Penh office, said this week: "There is a very important balance between the sand and water on which the temple is built. And if that balance is taken away then we might have trouble with collapse.

"The growth in the number of hotels around Angkor Wat has meant that more and more holes are being drilled into the earth to extract water from the water table. And this has profound consequences for this important mix.

"We saw something similar with the weakening of the stability of ruins in Indonesia two years ago, and there is the possibility that we will see something like this here." Mr Delanghe added that the long-term consequences of unstable ground beneath the monument could include cracked ceilings and falling pillars. "If it becomes so damaged then we will have no tourists," he added.

Locally, it is easy to see why comments such as these go down as badly as, say, a tumbling nymph. The temple, which is venerated enough to appear on the national flag, is the jewel in Cambodia's heritage crown. Not only is it in the best condition of any such structure at the Angkor site: it has been tightly linked with Cambodia's history for nearly a millennium. It is thought to have been built as a funerary temple for King Suryavarman II (who died in 1152) to honour Vishnu, the Hindu deity with whom he identified. The sandstone blocks from which it was constructed were quarried more than 30 miles away and floated down the Siem Reap river.

Recent research suggests that Angkor – of which this temple was surely the centrepiece – was an urban settlement that covered some 700 square miles, comparable in size to Greater London, and therefore the world's largest medieval city.

With cultural attractions like this, it is little wonder that tourism is such an important source of revenue for the impoverished and (until 10 years ago) war-blighted nation. In many parts of Cambodia, a £100 annual income is still enough to live on.

In 1993, when Angkor was first added to Unesco's World Heritage List, the militant Khmer Rouge were still active in certain areas. Just 7,600 souls ventured to the temple complex that year. Since then, however, Cambodia has become "safe" in the eyes of the international community, and package tours have landed in fleets. In 2007, about two million tourists visited Cambodia, with half stopping at Angkor Wat. With tourist traffic continuing to increase by about 20 per cent year on year, some three million people are expected to visit the country in 2010.
The temple has become a must-see stop on any tour of south-east Asia.

Such popularity is, clearly, a mixed blessing. At the nearby town of Siem Reap, there are now hundreds of garish hotels and guest-houses, with many more in the pipeline. Wealthy travellers can stay in the centrally located Le Meridien, replete with its Romanesque swimming pool, for about $300 (£150) a night, before heading out for a swift nine holes at the Nick Faldo-designed Angkor Golf Resort. Most of the restaurants serve Western food, and the Associated Press has reported that several notable old buildings have been razed to the ground to make room for fresh accommodation. "The identity Siem Reap had for centuries is gradually disappearing, or maybe almost disappeared," Teruo Jinnai, the director of Unesco's office in Cambodia, said recently. "You have restaurants, massage parlours, hotels, and it's very sad to see that." The crowds also take their toll on the local built heritage. "Pollution from buses, which often leave their engines running to supply air conditioning, will cause darkening of the stone," said Mr Delanghe. Further to this, the five-tiered Phnom Bakheng hilltop temple, an important relic of the ancient Khmer civilisation like Angkor Wat, sees some 3,000 tourists climb up its narrow stone staircases every evening. At its summit people can view a picturesque sunset over Angkor Wat. But on the way there, the punters are wearing through its precious sandstone carvings, which they use as handholds during the climb. John Stubbs, of the World Monuments Fund, said last year: "It simply cannot survive this daily assault. Unless it is completely closed off for essential repairs, Phnom Bakheng will suffer critical damage."

The growth of Siem Reap is causing other problems, too. "This tremendous growth added to population increase has been exacerbating pressure on infrastructure," a 2005 World Bank report said. "Energy, water, sewage and waste are all significant problems... Most guesthouses reportedly dump used water directly into the river, causing noticeable river pollution." E. coli, the bacteria found in human faeces, has begun seeping into local wells.

Sadly, the most high-profile victim of Cambodia's success in tourism could well be Angkor Wat itself. The World Bank report added that "one of Angkor's temples is reportedly falling into a sinkhole, suggesting that the underground aquifers may be rapidly disappearing". The monument in question was the Bayon temple, famous for the delicate faces carved on to its 54 towers. It is reportedly still collapsing into the sandy ground and visitors can observe its sinking foundations and widening cracks. The cultural specialists now claim that if it is happening there, it could happen anywhere.

Mr Jinnai said this week: "Test wells have conclusively proven that the ground water level is definitely lowering in Siem Reap town. While it is not yet considered at a dangerous level, if the water intake doubles or triples then it is going to get really dangerous around the city and this could well affect historic monuments such as Angkor Wat in the long term."

And even the former Japanese ambassador Fumiaki Takahashi, who during his recently ended tenure, bemoaned the lack of control surrounding water extraction in Siem Reap. It was the Cambodian government's "urgent task" to control such things, he explained, because "if you take too much water, it might affect the Angkor site. In the long run, the underground water will go down and the site would sink."

Soeung Kong, deputy director general of the Aspara Authority, which oversees Angkor's upkeep, has urged people to keep a level head about this potential damage. He told Agence France Press: "The harm to the temples is unavoidable. We are trying to keep that harm to a minimal level."

The Japan International Cooperation Agency (Jica) is collaborating with Unesco over recommendations for water management. One Jica report has suggested the removal of underground water from near Phnom Kraom, a hill near the edge of the Tonle Sap lake about 7.4 miles to the south, as an alternative to the town's own groundwater. The plan has won the backing of Cambodia's deputy tourism minister, Thong Khon.

Another solution put forward is the promotion of temples away from Angkor Wat, to relieve the pressure on it. This will be helped as infrastructure networks are built, such as a new road to Koh Ker, which boasts a collection of temples and towers to the north of Siem Reap. Another idea being considered by officials would be to limit access to the temple compound using a reservation system; such solutions would at least minimise the risks of direct damage by tourists.

Any of these systems could combine well with Heritage Watch, which promotes sustainable tourism in Siem Reap. The organisation certifies local companies as "heritage-friendly" or not. Such a label indicates the adherence to such things as clean environmental policies, support for the local economy, or contributions toward preservation. But overall, Mr Delanghe stressed that much more research was necessary before any particular path could be backed.

Unesco is due to come up with its final suggestions for the future in May. In all likelihood these recommendations, Mr Delanghe said, would include the suggested assembly of a central database to monitor the amount of water being extracted in Siem Reap. "As long as we don't have the data we don't know what is going on," he warned.

But back at Angkor Wat, we do. Dusk has fully descended. Tourists are being expelled from the site, and are being told, helpfully enough, to stop sitting on the ruins, lest they damage them with their rucksacks. One by one they file out from its inner sanctum: past the Statue of Vishnu, through the suitably gargantuan Elephant Gate, to make their careful way back across the sandstone causeway to the parked cars beyond. For now, the temple's future remains secure.

The fleet of vehicles start their engines, fire up their air conditioning, and slowly make their way back to the growing sea of neon that is Siem Reap.

Russian accused of abusing Cambodian girls awaits court’s verdict

Russia Today
March 14, 2008

A court in Cambodia is to pronounce its verdict in the case of a Russian businessman accused of sexually abusing a 14-year-old.

Aleksandr Trofimov was arrested last year on suspicion that he had abused as many as nineteen underage girls. The 41-year-old man denies the charges.
If convicted, he could face between ten and twenty years in prison.

Trofimov has been living in Cambodia for three years. His company received government permission to develop an island into a tourist resort.

MTV Networks Asia in Cambodian Mobile Content Deal

SINGAPORE/HONG KONG, March 13: MTV Networks Asia has struck a mobile licensing deal with the telco Cambodia Advance Communications (CADCOMMS) to provide MTV and Nickelodeon content on a 3G platform to mobile subscribers in Cambodia.

This partnership represents MTV Networks Asia’s first foray into the provision of mobile content in Cambodia. Introduced under the brand ‘qb,’ video content will be provided to mobile subscribers in mobile television and VOD formats. Subscribers will be able to choose from an extensive menu of short video clips or, alternatively, watch MTV and Nickelodeon offerings on a continuous loop on their mobile phones. Viewers will be able to watch programs such as MTV’s Pimp my Ride and Room 401 and Nickelodeon’s SpongeBob SquarePants and Dora the Explorer.

To celebrate the collaboration, the concert “qb goes LIVE,” featuring Stacie Orrico and local artists, will be held at the Olympic Stadium in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, on March 15. MTV Asia will be the official partner, with 50,000 people expected to attend the concert. The collaboration between MTV Asia and CADCOMMS will also be announced at this concert.

“We are very excited to partner with CADCOMMS on this mobile licensing deal because they are the first telco that provides 3G networks in Cambodia and this allows subscribers to watch MTV and Nickelodeon content in very high quality on their mobile phones,” said Robert Kim, the senior director of digital media for VBS/MTV Networks Asia. “It is the perfect marriage of our content with quality 3G platforms.”

—By Irene Lew

Singapore, Cambodia sign MOU to combat transnational crime

DPM Wong Kan Seng with DPM and Minister for Interior, H.E. Sar Kheng at signing of MOU.

Friday, March 14

SINGAPORE : Singapore’s Home Affairs Ministry has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with their Cambodian counterpart to combat transnational crime.

The MOU was signed by Deputy Prime Minister Wong Kan Seng with his counterpart Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister Sar Kheng in Phnom Penh.

The agreement provides a framework to better understand the challenges of combating transnational crime. It also signals closer bilateral cooperation in the exchange of expertise and information.

Other areas covered — terrorism, cyber crime, drug trafficking (narcotics and psychotropic substances) and forgery of travel documents.

DPM Wong leaves Cambodia for Singapore on Thursday. — CNA /ls

3 Strategic Plans to Maintain Vietnamese Status Quo: Indochina Federation Part IV

Courtesy of Cambodian Brighter Future :
Thursday, March 13, 2008
Posted by Khmer Young

3 Strategic Plans to Maintain Vietnamese Status
Quo: Indochina Federation Part IV

We are grasped very well that Vietnam's attempt to swallow Cambodia has not yet retreated. Vietnam is using the politics of incorporation and economic capitalism to maintain its "status quo" in order to gain their original objective to achieve Indochina Federation, and to benefit their economic growth.

Those Vietnam strategies are possibly through economic, armforce, and political structuring.

1. Sok Kong is Vietnamese by birth and he has never discarded his Vietnamese citizenship. His former name is Sau Cot. He was born in Dong Thap province. He just turned back to Cambodia in early 1990s. What we are wondering about his business in Cambodia, the capital resource is not from Sok Kong himself, but his business capital possibly from Vietnamese government. Petroleum is the lucrative business of Sok Kong. Beside this there are various investments such as import, export, resort, hotels, and the concession of Angkor Wat etc. We do suspect that the profits that this company earned have not deposited in Cambodian bank, the budget possibly transfer to inject the economic growth of Vietnamese government. This just one example among other Vietnamese business tycoons who have not only invested to gain their profit but also to maintain "status quo" of Vietnamese aggression.

2. Hok Lundi who has been noticed by many observers and Cambodian peoples as the Vietnamese in origin. He is playing the role of maintaining "status quo" through armforce in Cambodia. Beside this he facilitates the easiness for all illegal immigrants of Vietnam who are wishing to resettle in Cambodia. Many of those Vietnamese illegal immigrants possibly owned Cambodian citizen through Hok Lundi's supervising and network. We may not be aware that in Cambodia Hok Lundi is a very powerful and influential man to all ministers and governmental officers.

3. Om Yintieng and other group of advisers are the living political machine to maintain "status quo" to achieve their aggression intention. Critically, many good critics and concerns of foreign experts including Peter Libritch, Yash Gai etc are good for government to move in the right trajectory. But often those advisers reversely, adversely attacked those critics and turn Cambodia into their original purpose. Looking at the Hun Sen's activities, speech and national institution interferences etc are possibly the effort of distorting Cambodia to moving into democratic trajectory especially to have their own strong state structure.

Those advisers are greatly achieving their mission to maintain Hun Sen in power for long lasting as he wishes. Election each time is just the soap opera to hide their original agenda, and to lie Cambodian people as well as international arena.

However, the trend is moving forward, and it is not all bad. Those 3 Vietnamese fields in work have hardship as well to turn Cambodia into Vietnam. But their subtle mechanism and lacking of political will of Cambodian leaders can allow Cambodia to shrink and disappear eventually.

Essentially, Vietnam is using their incorporative strategy to maintain their influence and to hide their original agenda from the world like that they are doing in Lao. Vietnam's "status quo" in Cambodia is very challenging to Cambodia in lay down our international relationship strategy.

Sacravatoons :" A real Xmer "

Courtesy of Sacravatoon :

Sacravatoons : " A Pagoda Boy "

Courtesy of Sacravatoon :

Prime Minister: Use of Electricity to Be Tightened; US$24 Million Is Planned to Stabilize the Price

Posted on 13 March 2008.
The Mirror, Vol. 12, No. 551

“Phnom Penh: Samdech Prime Minister Hun Sen issued a statement to tighten the use of electricity while the petrol price is still mounting. The government plans to allocate US$24 million to help stabilize the cost of petrol.

“In a circular letter on electricity saving dated 12 March 2008, the Prime Minister said that the price of petrol has been constantly increasing on the international market since 2004. As a result, the cost of producing electricity [by Electricité du Cambodge] is also on the increase. In order to stabilize the electricity price in Phnom Penh, the Royal Government is supporting it with US$24 million in 2008. The circular also stated that although the petrol price is increasing, the use of electricity is also increasing gradually. Therefore, the government needs to allocate some resources to stabilize electricity use. The circular added that ‘the royal government has a policy that all cities and provinces should save electricity as well, in order to save national expenses.’

“The circular said that all institutions should also help to save electricity when using electrical equipment. Air conditioners should be set at 25 degrees centigrade. Air conditioners should be turned off 30 minutes before an office is closed. Except on national holidays, electricity should be on only on one side of the road, or only half of the lights should be turned on. Electricity must be used in an economical manner.

“Apart from that, the circular asked the Ministry of Interior and local authorities to collaborate with the Ministry of Industry, Mines and Energy and with Electricité du Cambodge in order to eliminate illegal connections to the state network, which is happening at present. As for Electricité du Cambodge, it must take very strict measures against its officers who are accomplices to stealing electricity illegally, or who collude with users to reduce the measured quantity of use, different from its real value. Moreover, Electricité du Cambodge has to inform the users of electricity about the time when there are difficulties to supply power, and ask them to stop or to pause using some of their electrical equipment during the time electricity is heavily used.

“The Prime Minister of Cambodia issued this circular to limit the use of electricity while the petrol price is soaring. This affects the daily life of the people. The prices of almost all goods on the market are increasing, because the price of gasoline is more than US$1.00 per liter. Hence, the price of almost all goods increases accordingly.

“An Electricité du Cambodge officers said that electricity use increased by 30% compared to the previous year. One of the reasons is that some factories stopped using their own generators, and they turn to use state electricity which costs less. In order to keep the costs from increasing, there are efforts to find cheaper electrical sources.”

Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.16, #4539, 13.3.2008

PM blasts Taiwan for attempt to reopen representative office in Cambodia
2008-03-13 2

PHNOM PENH, March 13 (Xinhua) -- Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen here on Thursday reiterated his government's rejection to the Taiwan authority's attempt to reopen its representative office in the kingdom.

"Don't dream to reopen Taiwan's representative office in Cambodia while I am in power," he told a conference of the Interior Ministry.

Middle men said that the Cambodian women currently living in Taiwan can get their stay legalized, if the Cambodian government allows the Taiwan authority to reopen its representative office in the kingdom, said Hun Sen.

"If I sign (the documents) to reopen Taiwan's representative office, I will get millions of dollars into my pocket from the middle men," he said, adding "we can't sign to reopen this, (because) we have to respect the territorial sovereignty of the People's Republic of China and it is part of the foreign policy of our government."

"We can't allow any province to separate and become independent from Cambodia," he said.
"We can do business with Taiwan but we don't allow it to reopen its representative office here. Even their planes landing here can't use their (so-called national) flag," he said.

Currently, he said, over half of the 2,500 Cambodian women living in Taiwan don't possess legal identity or official approval, after they were cheated to go there to find work and marry Taiwanese.

And some of them were even sold to brothels to work as prostitutes, he said.

"We will work with NGOs and civil societies to help them," he added.

The Taiwan authority's representative office in Cambodia was closed in 1975, but business exchange has kept on going ever since.

Businesspeople established the Taiwan Commercial Association in Cambodia in 1996 as a civilian organization, which now has more than a hundred members. 

Editor: Pliny Han

Cambodia, a 'haven' for sex offenders
March 13 2008

Phnom Penh - A German man has been jailed in Cambodia for 15 years after being convicted of sexually abusing a girl while visiting the capital Phnom Penh, court officials said on Thursday.

Walter Munz, of Stuttgart, was arrested last year when police raided the guesthouse he was staying at and found him in his room with the 13-year-old victim, judge Sao Meach said.

Munz, 61, repeatedly assaulted the girl and was charged with debauchery, a criminal charge covering a wide range of sex offences, Sao Meach said.

"I sentenced him to 15 years in jail for committing debauchery against the girl," Sao Meach said, adding that Munz was also ordered to pay a $7 000 fine to the victim.

Munz denied the charges during his trial, but the judge said doctors had confirmed that the girl was sexually abused.

Samleang Seila, director of the French child welfare group Action Pour Les Enfants, welcomed the court's decision.

"The punishment is a good message for those foreigners who wish to abuse children in Cambodia," he said.

Dozens of foreigners have been jailed for child sex crimes or deported to face trial in their home countries since Cambodia launched an anti-paedophilia push in 2003 in a bid to shake off its reputation as a haven for sex predators.

A Russian businessman accused of sexually abusing at least 19 Cambodian girls went on trial earlier this week in the country's largest-ever paedophilia prosecution.

While lauding the government's efforts to fight child sex crimes, officials, including foreign diplomats, have urged authorities to also target Cambodian paedophiles, who are thought to make up more than half of all sex offenders.

Crime Reported Down, as Police Eye Elections

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

Khmer audio aired March 13 (1.02MB) - Listen (MP3)

Prime Minister Hun Sen warned police to ensure peaceful elections in June, while cautioning against political parties who have called for "people power" change in the government.

The prime minister issued his warning in a closing address at the Ministry of Interior's annual meeting, where police reported a nationwide fall in major crime.

"Don't play people power," he told the gathered officials, saying Cambodia was not the the Ukraine, Indonesia or the Philippines.

It would take more than 2,000 people to topple the governemnt, he said, when there are 8 million voters. If the ruling Cambodian People's Party loses the election, he will turn over the government, and he appealed to the would-be winner to form a government quickly.

Opposition leader Sam Rainsy said Thursday he would accept free-and-fair results in July's national polls, but if the election was not free and fair, he would urge "people power."

"Only dictators are afraid of people power," he said.

Hun Sen meanwhile appealed to police to be cautious about crime during the election, even as the ministry reported a fall in major crime in 2007.

The Ministry of Interior reported this week that major crimes like murder, rape and armed robbery decreased last year, compared to 2006.

Murders dropped from 458 in 2006 to 408 in 2007; reported rapes dropped from 262 to 250; and armed robberies fell from 713 to 641.

"This is a source of pride for Cambodia," said Lt. Gen. Sok Phal, deputy chief of national police, after the close of the meeting.

Group Hopes to Rate Pharmacies Like Hotels

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

Khmer audio aired March 13 (826KB) - Listen (MP3)

The Ministry of Health, the Cambodian Pharmacy Association and the World Health Organization are working to form a pharmacy accreditation body by the end of the year. The agency will seek to control pharmacies by independently evaluating them and rating them. Just like hotels.

"In order to strengthen the health of the Khmer people, we have to strengthen both the quality of drugs and the medical service system," said Yim Yann, director of the Pharmacy Association.

The agency as planned will evaluate the location of the pharmacy, the character of its staff and the quality of its drugs, he said, adding that the committee will strengthen the service of the pharmacy, but will not control counterfeit drugs. Such a committee already exists, he said.

The Ministry of Health supports the formation of the committee, which could encourage pharmacies not to sell counterfeit, defective or expired drugs, said Sok Pheng, undersecretary of state for the ministry.

Beng Thai, director of Phnom Penh's Department of Health and deputy director of the committee to eliminate counterfeit drugs, said that in Phnom Penh there are 480 legal and 10 illegal pharmacies in the capital. He recognized that there are many establishments that sell medicine alongside other goods.

About 30 kinds of counterfeit drugs are sold on the Cambodian market, he said.

Yim Yann said 1,000 legal pharmacies operate nationwide, but twice as many do so illegally. The illegal pharmacies are slowly clsoing, he said, but in Cambodia, about 10 percent of the drugs are counterfeit, many are contraband, and many more are unregistered with the Ministry of Health.

Koh Kong Fishermen Worried About the Future

By Suon Kanika, VOA Khmer
Original report from Koh Kong province
13 March 2008

Khmer audio aired March 13 (1.01MB) - Listen (MP3)

With catches of crab, shrimp and fish dwindling, fishermen of the seas off Koh Kong province say they worry their living conditions will worsen.

The traditional fishermen told VOA Khmer recently they were facing pressure from illegal, large-scale fishing.

They said they cannot compete with large vessels from Cambodia's neighbors, who sometimes use illegal methods, such as electroshock.

Nation's Rights Record 'Remains Poor': US

By Sok Khemara, VOA Khmer
13 March 2008

Khmer audio aired March 12 (1.12MB) - Listen (MP3)

Cambodia's human rights record "remained poor" in 2007, the US State Department says in its annual human rights report.

"Although there were no reports that the government or its agents committed politically motivated killings, security forces committed extrajudicial killings and acted with impunity," according to the report, which was issued March 11.

"Detainees were abused, often to extract confessions, and prison conditions were harsh," the report said. "Human rights monitors reported arbitrary arrests and prolonged pretrial detention, underscoring a weak judiciary and denial of the right to a fair trial. Land disputes and forced evictions, often accompanied by violence, were a continuing problem."

The report praised as a "positive turn" the government allowing a human rights march in the capital in December, as well as the arrests of five former Khmer Rouge leaders, who are awaiting trial in the tribunal dock.

Cambodian People's Party lawmaker Cheam Yeap told VOA Khmer Wednesday that the government had never been careless in protecting human rights and worked under a UN charter that allowed many personal freedoms.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs released a statement Thursday rejecting the report.

"After having carefully reviewed this country report, we have found that many of the accusations contained in this report do not even exist or are simply overly exaggerated," the statement said.

Cambodia to host meeting on ASEAN integration in 2015

PHNOM PENH, March 13 (Xinhua) -- Sixty officials from Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, the Philippines and Vietnam will meet on March 17-20 in Siem Reap province to boost their progress on commercial law and trade reform, said a press release from the U.S. Embassy on Thursday.

They will also discuss approaches to working together on reforms that will support the ASEAN (the Association of Southeast Asia Nations) integration in 2015, it added.

"They will review the findings and best practices identified in the SEA CLIR report named A Regional Agenda for Shared Growth," it said, adding that SEA CLIR stands for the South East Asia Commercial Legal and Institutional Reform and Trade Diagnostics Report.

The meeting will bring together public and private-sector officials to meet in small groups to discuss the best regional legal and institutional models to meet the challenges in Southeast Asian trade and business, it said.

Topics will include building a stronger environment for doing business, enhancing cross-border trade, and deepening regional and global integration, it added.

Corruption rampant in Cambodia
Guest Commentary
March 13, 2008

CRANSTON CITY, R.I., United States, When we talk about human rights violations in Cambodia we cannot avoid the corruption issue, because corruption is the foundation of human rights violations. A corrupt government cannot eliminate corruption.

The corrupt government in Cambodia must behave as a terrorist government in order to protect its autocratic power, based on a network of officials and their relatives. Currently, when we talk about Prime Minister Hun Sen, his family and his government, we cannot avoid talking about the corruption and human rights violations his government has committed.

From 1979 to 1984, all officials of the Communist Party of Cambodia were supported by Vietnam. They did not have actual salaries; their daily needs were provided by the party, which was controlled by Vietnam. From 1984 to 1991, the party changed its policy, encouraging its officials to get honorariums from the government. They received full salaries from 1991 to 1993 and after 1993 to the present.

If we calculate the salary of party officials from 1991 to the present, plus their benefits and pensions, it is impossible that they could have acquired the assets they currently own.

The anti-corruption non-governmental group Global Witness has reported that Hun Sen's government destroyed Cambodia's forests through logging activities for the benefit of his family and the political, military and business elite. This report did not mention other natural resources exploited by the government for its own interests, including the gemstone mines in Pailin and Ratanakiri and the gold and silver mines in Kampongthom.

Aid from the international community through the Consultative Group set up in 1996, which aimed to renew Cambodia, has not been accounted for through regular auditing procedures; most of that assistance has gone to private pockets.

At present it is easily seen that officials of the Hun Sen government and their families own a lot of property, have money in bank accounts, and utilize funds and material out of balance with their annual incomes. This is corruption. It is not something that involves the farmers or the poor. It is an area that belongs to the government and its officials.

Hun Sen's government is a corrupt government. He and his family are a symbol of corruption in Cambodia because he is the leader of the country's corrupt officials and businessmen.

Hun Sen strengthens his power by using the money exploited from the nation's resources and its people to support his own private soldiers, who violate human rights and threaten the people.

Externally it appears that Hun Sen's government was created through elections, but the actual inside story is that it is held together by military power, power fueled by corruption and corruption headed by Hun Sen's family, which leads the government.

The people of Cambodia should be clear about the corruption in their country. The international community should also understand this point. The 2004 World Bank report "Cambodia at the Crossroads," the World Food Program's case study on Cambodia, the research by Global Witness, and other evidence gathered by international groups documents the leadership's poor governance.

A government that is mired in corruption cannot eliminate corruption. To protect itself it will continue to violate human rights. A government that violates human rights is always afraid of the people, afraid they will organize into a people power movement. Such a movement, which is a form of democracy, could pull down the current corrupt government.


(Sourn Serey Ratha is chief of mission of the Action Committee for Justice and Equity for Cambodians Overseas, based in Rhode Island, United States. He was born to a farmer's family in Cambodia, earned B.A degrees in law and sociology in Phnom Penh and an M.A. in international policy from Mara University of Technology in Malaysia. He has been a social activist for his country on the national and international levels since 1997. ©Copyright Sourn Serey Ratha.)