Wednesday, 19 March 2008

Choeung Ek "Killing Fields" memorial

The Choeung Ek "Killing Fields" memorial is seen on the outskirts of Phnom Penh March 19, 2008. The "Killing Fields" court is scheduled to announce its verdict on the bail hearing of Khmer Rouge's "Brother Number Two" Nuon Chea on March 20.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA)

A guide talks to foreigners during a tour of the Choeung Ek "Killing Fields" memorial on the outskirts of Phnom Penh March 19, 2008. The "Killing Fields" court is scheduled to announce its verdict on the bail hearing of Khmer Rouge's "Brother Number Two" Nuon Chea on March 20.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA)

Twei Hermes (R), a visitor from the Netherlands, visits the Choeung Ek "Killing Fields" memorial on the outskirts of Phnom Penh March 19, 2008. The "Killing Fields" court is scheduled to announce its verdict on the bail hearing of Khmer Rouge's "Brother Number Two" Nuon Chea on March 20.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA)

A visitor walks past some 8,000 human skulls of Khmer Rouge victims on display at the Choeung Ek "Killing Fields" memorial on the outskirts of Phnom Penh March 19, 2008. The "Killing Fields" court is scheduled to announce its verdict on the bail hearing of Khmer Rouge's "Brother Number Two" Nuon Chea on March 20.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA)

Hun Sen Reaffirms Support for Monarchy; Attacks Opposition, Ranariddh Indirectly

Phnom Penh Television Kampuchea in Cambodian

18 Mar 08

Cambodian Government-run Phnom Penh Television Kampuchea in Cambodian at 0558 GMT on 18 March carried a 82-minute recorded video report, following its midday newscast, on Prime Minister Hun Sen inaugurating the 105-meter bridge of Prek Chrey and a road as well as opening a work site for building Stoeng Meanchey Bridge in Cheung Ek suburb, Dangkao ward, Phnom Penh on the morning of 18 March.
Click here to view the 59-second video clip on Hun Sen attacking the royalist radio program of Prince Ranariddh.

In his address, Hun Sen recounted the government's efforts to build bridges and roads for the people. After, he recalled the military coup staged on 18 March 1970 by Marshall Lon Nol of the Khmer Republic regime to topple the then head of state Norodom Sihanouk and to abolish the Cambodian monarchy.

While reaffirming his resolve to uphold the monarchy and adhere to the policies of Sihanouk's Sangkum Reas Niyum [People's Socialist Community] regime, Hun Sen also attacked Prince Norodom Ranariddh indirectly, saying, "I am not royalist more than the royals, but can I ask to protect the monarchy? However, now, concretely the one who declares that he is royalist is not able even to defend himself. This is the fact. Therefore, all are asked to try to protect this constitutional monarchy," and never ever say--this remark was aimed at the Sam Rainsy Party [SRP]--the "future of the monarchy should be left for the people to decide." He added, "I wish to point out again that the clauses in the Kingdom of Cambodia's Constitution on the constitutional monarchy and liberal multiparty democratic regime cannot be amended. These points are forbidden from being touched." "Therefore," he added, "our Kingdom of Cambodia will last forever."

Continuing his indirect attack on Prince Ranariddh, Hun Sen warned that even though the Cambodian king was appointed, but this or that prince should "never dream about ascending the throne." It was because the Constitution stipulated that "the king is the head of state for life." He said that to his information, there was somebody wanted to be "king."

Hun Sen also attacked the Royalist Voice program of Prince Ranariddh. He said, "A radio calls itself royalist voice, but it curses other people. I do not know whether the king has listened or not. It calls itself royalist voice but it curses the other people. As such, does it deserve being royalist? This point is difficult. Saying like this, they may say that they are feared. Please go ahead continuing it. You are free. You can give yourself whatever name you want. I do not know. However, acting like that will besmirch the honor of the king, of the royal family, of the monarchic institution, and of the constitutional monarchy."

Also, before ending his address, Hun Sen also said that he would continue to be prime minister so as he could continue to "support the king." Moreover, he announced that the "King Father and Queen Mother will return to Cambodia to celebrate the Cambodian New Year with their children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren [on 13 April 2008]. This is happy news."

London may help with garbage

Wed, March 19, 2008

The city's chief planning officer urges a partnership that would aid Cambodia.


The country is beautiful and the people friendly, but she couldn't help but notice the garbage.

On the roads and in the sewage canals, it seemed to be everywhere Jennifer Kirkham looked when she visited Cambodia last month.

Today, Kirkham, the city's chief strategic planning officer, will recommend to board of control that London get involved with a federal-municipal partnership program in which local solid waste management experts would help municipalities in Cambodia.

The partnership would be part of a Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) initiative that matches Canadian experts with municipal counterparts in developing countries.

"This is a great opportunity for London staff to share some of the expertise and knowledge that we have," Kirkham said yesterday. "It is an opportunity to do some peer coaching and for us to have a global impact in the work we do."

Last month, Kirkham went to the Battambang district of Cambodia and visited 10 municipalities, called communes, with populations of up to 25,000 people.

Meeting with officials from all 10 communes as part of a delegation with FCM's Municipal Partnership Program, Kirkham said she felt a sense of optimism and hope.

But there are many new issues for local governments to tackle, particularly around solid waste.

"They only have one garbage truck for all 10 communes and you have to pay to have your garbage picked up, so if you can't afford it, they don't come," Kirkham said. "There is garbage in the roads and in the sewage canals."

Solid waste management is a common issue for newly formed municipalities in Cambodia, said Noelle Grosse, outreach officer for the FCM.

"First is solid waste management, and also working at a national level with associations of local governance and the environment is a key theme," she said.

Controller Gord Hume said he would be shocked if there was any opposition to the recommendation at today's board of control meeting.

"I think part of our responsibility as a leading municipality is to help others in the world," said Hume, adding the partnership is funded by FCM, through the Canadian International Development Agency.

The FCM has operated its Municipal Partnership Program for about 20 years. The projects vary depending on the needs of the overseas municipality.

Many Ontario cities have participated in partnerships that often end up involving community organizations -- to their benefit, Grosse said.

Bear fund opens discovery center in Cambodia

Sun bears are considered vulnerable throughout Asia

TAKEO, Cambodia, March 19 (Xinhua) -- The Australia-based Free the Bears Fund Inc (FTB) and the Cambodian Forestry Administration (FA) here on Wednesday opened a Bear Discovery Center at the Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Center for education purpose.

This is the first center of its kind to be specifically designed to promote the issues related to bear conservation anywhere in Southeast Asia, said a press release from FTB.

"With the illegal trade in Sun Bears and Asiatic Black Bears still prevalent throughout Cambodia, Free the Bears hope to promote local awareness in bear conservation issues amongst the 300,000 visitors who come to the Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Center each year," it said.

The Bear Discovery Center will operate as an environmental education facility primarily to illustrate to its visitors the efforts that Free the Bears and FA are doing to protect and preserve the bears of Cambodia, it said.

"As people walk through the center they will learn of the plight that bears have endured in recent times, experience the different achievements that have been made since FTB started operating in Cambodia, and gain knowledge about what they can do to help protect one of Cambodia's great faunal treasures," it added.

FTB was founded in Australia by Mary Hutton of Perth, and has been working in Cambodia since 1997. So far, FTB have rescued more than 100 bears from the illegal wildlife trade in Cambodia.

The aim of Free the Bears is to protect, preserve and enrich the lives of bears throughout the world. Over 500 bears have been confiscated from the illegal pet, wildlife and medicine trades throughout Asia.

Currently, there are 88 bears at the Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Center, 65 of them adult and others cubs.

There are eight species of bear in the world, six of which are found in Asia. Two species of bear can be found in Cambodia, the Malayan sun bear (Helarctos malayanus) and the Asiatic black bear (Ursus thibetanus).

Editor: Gao Ying

The Platform: Dith Pran, One of Journalism's Heroes

Peter Osnos
The Century Foundation

Dith Pran, who worked with New York Times correspondent Sidney Schanberg in Cambodia in the 1970s and became famous when their story won a Pulitzer Prize and was made into the movie The Killing Fields, is very ill with cancer. He was most recently in the Roosevelt Care Center in Edison, New Jersey. We can hope for a miraculous recovery. After all, Pran survived years of brutality under the Khmer Rouge and walked across the border into Thailand in 1979 where he was reunited with Schanberg. In 1980, Pran joined the New York Times as a photographer and later founded the Dith Pran Holocaust Awareness Project to educate young Americans about the horrors that followed the Indochina wars in Cambodia.

For his valor, talent, intelligence, and loyalty, Pran is a remarkable man and is honored as such. But Pran also symbolizes something broader for journalism, among our greatest and least recognized assets: the local reporters and assistants in zones of conflict and turmoil who translate the complexities on the ground for foreign correspondents.

When I was a regularly in Cambodia from 1970 to 1972 for the Washington Post and worked with Pran, we called these reporters “stringers” or interpreters. More recently, they have also been called “fixers” because of their role in managing the range of hassles and dangers in places such as Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, much of Africa, and wherever trouble attracts correspondents. I don’t much like the term “fixers” because of its vaguely negative connotation. But since reporters also tend to refer to themselves as “hacks”—a nod to Evelyn Waugh’s great satire, Scoop, about war correspondents a century ago in Africa—the term essentially reflects the casual irony of mordant self-deprecation that is a bond for journalists everywhere.

But war reporting is a very serious business. In Iraq, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, more than 125 journalists have been killed. Most of these were locals, and many were working with foreign correspondents for, among others, the New York Times and the Washington Post. Their role in collecting news, evaluating events, and managing the logistics of life in the midst of war has been indispensable—as it was in Cambodia when Pran was at our side. What he and his brethren provide to outsiders is a pipeline to stories without official filters. Their skills as fixers are valuable. Their dedication as journalists is what makes them heroic.

Pran was born in Siem Reap in 1942. He studied English, among other things, and was working in a hotel near the great ruins of Angkor Wat when the Vietnam War spilled over to Cambodia in 1970. The tourist trade disappeared and Pran made his way to the capital, Phnom Penh, where he teamed up with a driver named Mouv and began offering services to visiting correspondents at the Hotel Royale, the ramshackle colonial-era hotel where most of us lived. By the time I arrived in Cambodia in late 1970, my colleague, Peter A. Jay, had arranged for Pran and Mouv to be on hand whenever we were in the country, beginning at Phnom Penh’s Pochentong International Airport, where they expertly navigated the often capriciously managed arrival formalities.

In that period of the war, coverage consisted largely of driving in Mouv’s weathered white Mercedes (another refugee from the tourist trade) to battlefronts down the various highways splayed around Phnom Penh. Pran saw us through the countless roadblocks and other military obstacles and carried out the interviews that were the basis for our stories. In the early days of the war, dozens of reporters, including a number of foreigners were killed, because they underestimated how dangerous the countryside was as they careened around in their cars. Knowing where to go—and when to turn back—was an essential piece of the reporter’s job, and without Pran and Mouv to handle those judgments, we were largely immobilized.

William Shawcross wrote a classic account of the Cambodia conflict called Sideshow, which defined the way the United States approached the war there, in contrast to the one in Vietnam, where the vast American military apparatus was based. As the U.S. military gradually withdrew from Indochina and interest in the war faded, Schanberg moved to Phnom Penh because he recognized that what was happening there was an unfolding catastrophe, whether or not Americans cared. He hired Pran full time, and together they brilliantly covered the deterioration of Lon Nol’s corrupt government and the gathering power of the Khmer Rouge, culminating in 1975 in the communist victory, and the mayhem that followed.

Pran’s choice to stay in Phnom Penh and at Schanberg’s side when the Khmer Rouge took over is now a piece of history. Schanberg was soon expelled and Pran was sent to labor camps where he somehow endured the tortures that took the lives of as many as two million Cambodians, including many in his family, and his partner, Mouv. Pran’s was an act of great personal courage and friendship. But Pran’s life and work were also a symbol of reporting at its best. Once settled in this country, Pran became a photographer of considerable skill for the New York Times, and his advocacy on behalf of Cambodia in many ways was important also.

In the Indochina war years and since, Dith Pran, and the legion of stringers, assistants, interpreters, and fixers everywhere he represents, have served journalism’s highest calling.

They make getting the stories possible, and for that our gratitude should be boundless.

Maybank opens 2nd branch in Cambodia

The Edge Daily

KUALA LUMPUR: Malayan Banking Bhd plans to set up another four branches in Cambodia in the next two years after opening the second branch to grow its international network and make inroads into the markets where it is already present.

In a statement yesterday, Maybank said the branch, located in Teukthla, Phnom Penh, was in addition to the main branch in Phnom Penh.

“Our second branch in Cambodia will give us better reach and enable us to tap further into the consumer market. This is in line with the bank’s objective to expand our consumer franchise beyond Singapore and the Philippines, where we have a strong presence.

“Also in line with this, we would soon be rolling out automobile financing products in Vietnam through our branches in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City,” said Maybank senior executive vice president and head of international business Lim Hong Tat.

Politiktoons : " Dalai Lama of Tibet "

Courtesy of Sacravatoon :

Rice prices on the rise; NFA mulls imports from Cambodia

The Philippine Star

MABALACAT, Pampanga — President Arroyo said here Tuesday that the price of rice is expected to increase due to the lightening of the commodity’s supply worldwide even as the National Food Authority (NFA) is looking at the possibility of importing rice from Cambodia.

The President, however, assured Filipinos that there will be no shortage of the staple food in the country.

NFA Administrator Jessup Navarro said the Philippines may import rice from Cambodia as an alternative source to Vietnam which is now controlling its export of the grains. He said the NFA is set to conduct a pesk risk analysis of Cambodian rice.

The NFA had accepted all tenders for 335,000 metric tons (MT) of rice at prices ranging from $618.50 to $745 per metric ton, with arrivals expected from March through May.

In her talk during the soft opening of the Clark to Subic segment of the P21-billion Subic-Clark-Tarlac expressway here, the President said that she arrived with a rice hauler truck of the NFA to form part of her convoy for the ceremonial drive through at the new tollway "because we want to signal that the supply chain for rice can meet the demand."

Citing reports of impending worldwide shortage of rice, the President said consumers should not fear shortage because the country’s rice supply remains stable.

NFA spokesman Rex Estoperez told The STAR that regardless of the final decision on the increase, the current P18.25 per kilo price of NFA rice would be maintained in the 20 poorest provinces in the country and for government programs for indigents.

He noted that the price of imported rice has gone up abruptly from $404 per metric ton last December to $700 per metric ton last March 11.

"There is yet no plan to raise the cost of NFA rice, despite the losses in subsidizing rice being sold in NFA outlets. But considering the increase of prices worldwide, I suppose that’s where we’re headed for," he said.

He cited proposals to increase the price of NFA rice in outlets outside markets of poor communities, but could not immediately say by how much it would be.

Estoperez said "there is the government-to-government protocol we can resort to so as to ensure our importation. So far, we have not resorted to this as we still import rice by auctioning."

The Philippines, one of the world’s biggest rice importers, is having trouble sourcing enough of the staple to meet this year’s import requirement of up to 1.8 million tons due to soaring prices and tight world supply.

It has so far bought about 1.2 million tons for 2008 supplies.

It plans to re-tender for 100,000 tons of U.S. rice after a failed auction last week.

The government has asked fast-food restaurants to serve half-portions of rice and President Arroyo has ordered a crackdown on hoarding.

But a farmers’ group blasted the proposed reduction on rice serving in fast food stores.

Last month, Mrs. Arroyo went outside normal commercial channels to ask Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung to guarantee a supply of up to 1.5 million tons of rice.

But Hanoi said it could only ensure a shipment of 1 million tons, including a volume of around 700,000 tonnes which Vietnamese traders have already agreed to supply after auctions in January and December.

There is a global shortage of rice due to increasing demand and competition from African countries.

Senate President Manuel Villar Jr and Manuel Roxas II both called on the government to implement drastic measures and be transparent on the real situation of the country’s rice supply to avert a full-blown crisis.

Villar called on the Department of Budget and Management and the Department of Agriculture to release the funds intended for the Agriculture and Fishing Modernization Act (AMFA).

He said the government should make sure that the P20-billion fund will indeed go to the farmers.

Roxas, chairman of the Committee on Trade and Commerce, urged the government to release calamity funds to avert a possible crisis.

Two Cases of Intimidation Are Ordered to Be Investigated

Posted on 19 March 2008.
The Mirror, Vol. 12, No. 552

Samdech Hun Sen: You haven’t got power yet, but you have already violated the rights of citizens“Prey Veng: Samdech Akak Moha Senapadei Dekchor Hun Sen, the Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Cambodia, ordered to have two cases of intimidation investigated. The first case is in Kompong Thom and the another case is in Takeo. Samdech Dekchor Hun Sen ordered to have these two cases of intimidation investigated on the morning of 17 March 2008, during his speech at a school inauguration at Wat Prohea Tbong, located in Chres, Me Sang, Prey Veng.

“Samdech Dekchor asked to see who else would fight against this kind of violation of the right of people. He said ‘These people do not yet have power, but they have already violated the right of citizens. What else would they do if they had the power? This is a problem we need to solve.’ Samdech Dekchor insisted that there must be an investigation in Kompong Thom. He asked Mr. Sok Pheng [former Sam Rainsy Party [[SRP]] member of the National Assembly, now member of the Cambodian People’s Party [[CPP]] ] to take the lead in the investigation and to send reports to human rights groups, foreign embassies, and so on… and see what they think about this issue.

“Regarding the other case of intimidation in Takeo, Mr. Ngor Sovann [former SRP member of the National Assembly for 11 years, now member of the CPP] said that one blind person and one amputee, who are living in Hanuman, Trapeang Thnong, Bati, Takeo, were intimidated on telephone that they might be killed. Samdech Dekchor ordered to have these phone numbers checked so that the intimidators will be identified and be questioned about their motivations, so that all people will know who is violating human rights and the rights of citizens.

“Samdech Prime Minister said that he has been in power for a long time. He said if he decided to fight, he would go to war; but since there is no war, he ordered to destroy many weapons. He said ‘Up to now, more than 230,000 weapons have been destroyed. Not only weapons use is banned, but also the use of rubber slingshots. Therefore these cases must be investigated. These people do not yet have power, but they want to restrict other people. I have never threatened anyone; all people can go wherever they want; if you want to return to Cambodia, it is up to you… I have made it clear to Samdech Chea Sim, to Samdech Heng Samrin, and to other leaders of the CPP that the CPP has been and will remain the center for national unity and solidarity.’

“Samdech Dekchor emphasized that ‘we have to protect all people regardless which party they belong to.’ He strongly criticized those who have not yet power, but are already so cruel… Regarding the security of those who defected from other parties into the CPP, Samdech Dekchor said, ‘Please don’t worry about anything.’

“Samdech Dekchor continued that ‘being patient is another issue, but as prime minister, I have to take action and to solve all kinds of problems. Whatever I do, I do on a legal basis. We have been struggling for many things during the time of difficulties till now. So far, 57 political parties have registered with the Ministry of Interior. There are more than 2,000 NGOs. There are so many journalists. But some party leaders are dictators and do not allow other people to speak up.’

“Samdech Dekchor said, ‘May the next election be safe for our citizens. If compared to 2003, however, it is different, as it is almost April and nothing bad is being heard… In the past it was said that the ruling party threatened other parties. But now the opposition party threatens the ruling party.’ Samdech Dekchor said, ‘If an official or a member of the CPP threatens other people who do not belong to their party, it would be a serious mistake. I hope that such cases will not happen. This is really a mistake.’

“Samdech added, ‘Intimidation is not only useless, but it also brings negative results for a party. Because intimidation is not a party policy, and as the election is secret, people can vote for another party. It is their choice. As a result, those who use intimidation are very uneducated; and the CPP will never do such thing.’

“In his speech, the Prey Veng governor Mr. Ung Samy said ‘Wat Prohea Tbong is already 307 years old. In the past it was a hill with many plants growing on it, surrounded by bamboo fences. The pagoda is located in the northern part of Me Sang, about 12 kilometers [from the provincial town], covering an area of 14 hectares. Wat Prohea Tbong is one of 492 pagodas in Prey Veng. Just as other pagodas in the whole country, this pagoda badly suffered from destruction caused by the Pol Pot genocidal regime, but it was reconstructed after 7 January 1979.’

“Mr. Ung Samy added, ‘Since 2000, faithful Buddhists of the pagoda, with a major contributions from Mr. Nhim Vanda, Mr. Nuth Sa An, and Her Excellency (no name given) as well as other faithful Buddhists from other places, this pagoda has been under reconstruction for eight years. It cost over Riel 355 million [more that US$90.000]. This is the result of solidarity.”

Koh Santepheap, Vol. 41, #6299, 18.3.2008

Forget celebrating, there's work to do

Waikato Times
Wednesday, 19 March 2008


Hamilton woman Shirley Caspari isn't expecting any special treatment on her birthday late in July.

Instead, the 74-year-old plans to spend the day helping build brick houses in the Cambodian province of Siem Reap.

Mrs Caspari is co-leading one of two Habitat for Humanity teams which will travel to Cambodia in July to build concrete block houses for families living in squatter huts.

"I'll probably wait until I'm home with family before I celebrate my 75th," she said.

"I'm going there to work, not party."

The two "global village teams" will include up to 18 volunteers each with members having to raise $4000 to cover the cost of airfares and other expenses.

As part of the trip, team members will also visit the site of the infamous Killing Fields in Phnom Penh, as well as the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum.

Having been on two previous overseas trips with Habitat for Humanity, Mrs Caspari said the experiences had been life-changing.

"Working and living alongside locals is the best way to see a country. You get to meet people that the average tourist would never meet.

"In New Zealand we have so much. Every time I come back home after visiting a Third World country I'm blown away by how wealthy we all are compared with people in Asia and Africa.
Because I have so much I feel it's my responsibility to give back. "

People have until the end of the month to register for the trip. For more information on the project visit

Thailand Urged Seoul to Accept More N.Korean Refugees

The title screen of ‘On The Border’, Korea's first global cross-media program on North Korean refugees produced by the Chosun Ilbo in cooperation with leading international broadcasters.

The Thai government told the South Korean government in January to take the large numbers of North Korean refugees currently in Thailand off its hands. But the South Korean government found it difficult to transport more than 70 refugees at a time for reasons of security and the size of the North Korean refugee camp in South Korea, it emerged Tuesday.

According to the foreign and unification ministries, the Thai government told South Korea in January it decided to allow the South Korean government to transport North Korean refugees as it wishes, but they should be transported in large numbers, so that the overcrowding of the immigration center can be relieved.

As of January, some 400 North Korean refugees, more than three times the optimum level of 120, were staying at the Thai immigration center. But South Korea government has been transporting only about 40 to 50 of them at a time on grounds that the North Korean refugee camp here has already reached saturation point and they have to be transported in secrecy.

A South Korean government official said, "We've brought North Korean refugees from Southeast Asia almost every week since December last year. As a result, the number of North Korean refugees in the Thai center has dwindled to about 300." A total of 400 North Korean refugees have reportedly arrived in South Korea from Southeast Asia since early this year.

An estimated 800 North Korean refugees are staying at police stations or private homes in Thailand in addition to the immigration center, waiting to be taken to South Korea. Many more than the number the South Korean government is currently taking to Seoul are flocking to Southeast Asia, chiefly because China is forcibly repatriating North Korean refugees it captures and the food shortage in North Korea is serious.

There are also hundreds of North Korean refugees staying in Cambodia and Laos. Hanawon, the South Korean government resettlement center for North Korean refugees, now accommodates some 660 North Koreans. They undergo resettlement training for three months before leaving the center. Ongoing extension work at Hanawon is expected to be completed around December.

Do Hee-yoon, the head of the Citizen's Coalition for Human Rights of Abductees and North Korean Refugees (CHNK), said "Nobody knows when and how a massive escape will occur in North Korea. The existing resettlement center is too small to accommodate a massive refugee exodus." From March to May is the hottest season in Thailand, when the temperature hovers around 30 degrees Celsius even at night, making life harsh in an overcrowded facility.

In a telephone interview with the Chosun Ilbo, a female North Korean refugee staying in the immigration camp in Bangkok said, "Skin disease is spreading, and medicine is in short supply.

Some women are suffocating and faint." A male North Korean refugee in the same camp said, "There are seven children under 10. They have difficulty eating. We hope the South Korean government will take these children out ahead of others."

Asian Gang Life in LA
Mar 18, 2008

Frankie was born in Phnom Penh Cambodia, 1 of 3 brothers in 1963. He grew up in Cambodia in the rural areas which was prominent at the time since the country was not well developed or urbanized at the time. His family lived a simple life until the Khmer Rouge under the leadership of Pol Pot came in during the latter part of the 1970's and initiated a mass genocide that killed millions of Cambodians.

They forced his family to work in hard labor camps under Khmer rouge guards that carried ak-47's and killed anyone including women and children at will. Many died from starvation, exposure, and from being overworked. They killed his older brother when he was caught hunting a duck to provide food for his starving family. Eventually the Khmer Rouge abandoned the civilians when they started to lose the ground to Vietnamese forces. The Bunla family then escaped through the mine ridden mountains to the Thailand border where the Red Cross provided care. Eventually some kind church folks sponsored his family to the United States.

His family had heard of the United States by many people all over Cambodia as the land of opportunity. They were overjoyed to be able to start a new life in America. Yet, it was tough because they had no education, no money, no skills, and could not speak English. So his parents started working in sweatshops in downtown Los Angeles. They lived in a tumbledown apartment and Frankie and his brother started going to school. The neighborhood that they lived in was poverty stricken urban downtown area of LA. There were homeless people all over the place and gangs roving around the streets. Right after they enrolled in Los Angeles High School they ran into problems.

First of all they were alienated because they couldn't speak English for crap. There was a communication problem right off the bat and being the new kids on the block with crappy clothes, they were subject to scrutiny by the other kids at the school. The school bullies jacked their sack lunches and attempted to eat it but seeing that it was some foreign food with rice they just threw it away. This went on for awhile but the waste of food pissed of him and his brother so they tried to fight off the bullies but got their asses kicked. They told their parents but neither their mother nor father could do anything because they were both working more than forty hours a week and had no time to sort out any of the school problems the kids had. They kept reporting the bullying to the principal and teachers but they never really solved the problem.

Eventually, they started to learn more English and attempted to assimilate into the culture as fast as they could to try and "fit in." Frankie and his brother started to hang around other Asian students at school and they started to bond. The bullies did not pick on them as often since they started hanging out with the other Asian students. The other Asian students were comprised of Vietnamese, Filipino, Laotian, and Chinese nationalities.

Despite being in a clique of about 10 guys, it did not deter other rival Mexican and Black students from trying to start trouble. Frankie could not understand why the other students always wanted to bother them. There was one incident where Frankie was playing ball and beat the other team really bad. They exchanged a few words and then a fight broke out. At first it was only a few of them, but then everyone left and brought back their crews and a rumble broke out. There were more than 30 people brawling on the court and it was over before the police could respond. Frankie and his brother had bruises all over their bodies. After the fight, Frankie and his brother were approached by some guys that were friends of his friends in his group. They offered them to join their gang called "Oriental Boys" After reminiscing over what had happened when they were alone and when they were part of a larger group, they decided to join the gang. The guys in Oriental Boys hung around some other gangs that were affiliated with Bloods.

The gang committed several robberies of convenience stores. They used the money for alcohol and drugs. They hung out together a lot during the weekends. Then Frankie and his brother started to skip school because they were having a hard time learning because of the language barrier.

It was tough living in the urban area of Los Angeles. Park and Burgess' Concentric Zone Model fit in the case of Frankie's family, and all of the other immigrant families that move to the United States in search of opportunity. They start out in the Transitional Zone where tumbledown houses and ghettos are the only housing that poor families can afford. One night Frankie's dad was walking to a liquor store when he got stabbed with a screwdriver by a gang member. I would dare say that this would have not happened if he lived in an upscale neighborhood like Beverly Hills. When Frankie and his brother found out they immediately went hunting for skinheads and gangsters. Armed with a pistol and shotgun (which they acquired when other members drove a car into a gun shop) they went hunting for Mara Salvatrucha and anyone who looked like they belonged in a gang.

One night Frankie was working in a restaurant when some gangsters from MS stood outside trying to start shit. One of them came inside and started to disturb the customers. He eventually saw Frankie and attacked him with a machete. Frankie grabbed a hammer and cleaver and started running away. He eventually ran into a restroom and waited for his attacker to come through the door. When he did, he attacked and killed him.

Another night Frankie's cousin was just walking to his friend's house when a group of Mexicans started to yell racial slurs at him. He returned later with his friends and performed a drive by with an Uzi wounding three and killing another three. The next day his cousin was caught in crossfire in a gang fight. They shot him twice and he was severely wounded. He survived but lost an eye because shrapnel obliterated his cornea.

LAOB is different from other Asian gangs. Unlike Vietnamese gangs who are into making money, oriental boys is just into hanging out, having fun, and protecting each other and their turf. A few members are drug dealers but most are not. A lot of members in OB did in fact steal cars and stereos. Their favorites were the 1989 Toyota Camry because it was easy to steal and go joyriding. After joyriding they would ditch the car someplace and run away. Sometimes they would sell the cars that they stole to certain body shops that would pay in cash no questions asked. They are all over Southern California and like most gangs, will group together when shit hits the fan with another gang.

The multiple marginality theory presented by Professor Vigil states that, "Macro historical and macro structural forces-those that occur at the broader levels of society-lead to economic insecurity and lack of opportunity, fragmented institutions of social control, poverty, and psychological and emotional barriers among large segments of the ethnic minority communities." It seems that the stories are almost all the same. Everyone starts of an immigrant from another country. They attempt start a new life and have a hard time making ends meet. Cliques start to form mostly based on race and ethnicity. It is only natural that people of the same culture will stay together both physically in neighborhoods and socially through friends.

Social control provides a large insight as to why someone would join a gang. The family is the core. When there is cohesion within the family, then everything is okay. But in most cases, the parents of immigrant families have to work long hours and can never talk or watch over their children. Because of the poor funding of schools that cater to the lower echelon of society, teachers are incapable of effectively teaching immigrant students English. The police look down on poor people and do not attempt to understand the cause of the problem or the kids a chance.

When Family, School, and Police fail to positively direct the kids growing up; gangs come in and become their support through street socialization. Gangs provide a sense of self worth and belonging. They teach their members how to function and survive on the street. And they replace the duties of the police by "backing up" each other in confrontations and protecting one another.

What I do not understand is why they kill each other. Everything seems to start when one member of a group disrespects another gang and things start to escalate until someone is either dead or severely wounded. Then a cycle of retribution and vengeance starts and people start to get hurt or die.

Frankie and his brother somehow miraculously finished high school and got their degrees and now own a mechanic shop in southern California. They were lucky to have left the gang life unscathed and with their lives. Both of them have families of their own and seem to live a normal life. My uncle's cousin is still a member of LAOB even at age 29. I do not know why he has not matured out. My guess is that because he is very well respected around the LA area, he fears he will lose it if he were to "mature out" of the gang lifestyle. He can travel anywhere in LA county and he will have friends. I also figure that since he did not graduate high school, he has no real vocational skills and cannot do much as a normal citizen. His body is full of tattoos which are not really aesthetically pleasing to a lot of employers which is probably why he only does odd and end jobs. He rarely hangs out with any of the immediate family for fear of rival gangs targeting them. Some members get locked up in prison. Others still roam the street with no goals, hope or future. Some pay the ultimate price just to belong and stand up for what they believe is true to them. Thus is the life of a gangster in the barrio.

Social worker had faced child abuse charges in 2002
19 Mar 2008

CHENNAI: Thomas Rapanos Wayne, alias Tattva Darshan Das who runs a NGO in Karnataka was arrested Phnom Penh for sexually abusing two girls aged 12 and 14.

The age of sexual consent in Cambodia is 15 years. "We arrested Wayne and rescued the girls. The 12-year-old girl is a Vietnamese and the other is Cambodian," Keo They, deputy police chief of the anti-trafficking and juvenile unit said.

The Cambodian police said one of the girls was naked when they stormed the guesthouse. The girls were being forced to perform oral sex on Wayne, who was trying to put on a condom when police broke open the door.Action Pour Les Enfants , a French NGO working for child welfare, said it had been tracking Wayne’s activities in Cambodia for the months and had tipped off the Cambodian police.

Wayne had travelled to Cambodia in April 2006 to set up a BEV unit. His website says he approached the Royal Government of Cambodia to register BEV as an NGO to provide humanitarian aid to street children and poor farmers.

Wayne had adopted Tattva Darshan Das as his name in the 1970s after joining the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (Iskcon) in the US. He came to India in the 80s and founded the Bhaktivedanta Eco Village in 1992; he has since renewed his visa to extend his stay in India.

His wife, a refugee from Myanmar, is named Judni Lakshmi and manages the village along with Wayne and their children Chaithanya (23) and Anuradha (21).

Confirming the arrest, Chaithanya, who now manages the NGO, told TOI that his father was framed by his enemies and that he would be going to Cambodia to hire a lawyer to bail him out.

Wayne has been in trouble with the Indian authorities in the past. By Chaithanya's own admission, Wayne was detained for questioning by the police seven years ago after a complaint of child sex abuse from an Iskcon devotee.

"It was a baseless allegation for which my father was questioned and nothing came of it," Chaithanya said. However, Hari Sauri Das, head of Iskcon's Child Protection Team, said, "Wayne had been removed from all official positions at Iskcon following similar child abuse charges in 2002."

According to his website, Wayne has been travelling extensively. The president of the French NGO tracking him said, "We found Wayne's movements suspicious and our interactions with children whom Wayne had been in touch with, added to our doubt."

NGO chief held for 'sexual abuse' of kids
19 Mar 2008

CHENNAI: The Cambodian police have arrested a 55-year-old US citizen, who runs an NGO in Kollur, Karnataka, on charges of sexually abusing two children.

Thomas Rapanos Wayne, alias Tattva Darshan Das, is the president of the Bhaktivedanta Eco Village (BEV), a registered society which claims to be a charitable institution running a self-sufficient community village and a school with more than 60 children.

The Cambodian police arrested Wayne from a guest house in Phnom Penh on March 7 when he was in the company of two girls aged 12 and 14.

Poem:Tibetan Buddhist Monk by Yim Guechse

Click on the poem to zoom in
Courtesy of Sacravatoon :

Attack Against Sam Rainsy Party today

18th March 2008
Primarily reported By Leng
Posted by khmerization

Mr. Suon Sarorn, president of Samrainsy party in Baray district is arrested in the morning of March 18, 2008 and Mr. Chhorn Vuthy, president of SRP in Kampong Thom province are being surrounded by police forces a day after Hun Sen, Prime Minister said during an inauguration of pagoda in Prey Veng that his new party member (CPP) Mrs. Tim Norn is threat and detained illegally by SRP leader. Hun Sen ordered Mr. Sok Pheng to fact finding and looking for any people who had threatened Mrs.Tim Norn, former SRP commune councilor who defected to CPP on March 14, 2008 CPP. Mr. Sok Pheng, ex-SRP Member of Parliament who defected to CPP issued public statement that Tim Norn was arrested by SRP leader and detained in one house located at Phnom Penh Thmey, Phnom Penh. Human Rights group concluded that two arrested are innocent and Mrs. Tim Norn has mental problem ,and is also pressurized by CPP to attack against SRP leader. Mrs. Tim Norn is sent back to Kampong Thom to cooperate with police to investigate the threat case. Some leader of SRP is going to face of arrest by the government after investigation, human rights group concerned.

Redline Communications to provide products for Cambodia's CityLink WiMAX network
18 Mar 2008

LONDON (Thomson Financial) - Redline Communications Group Inc said CityLink, the largest internet service provider in Cambodia, has chosen Redline products for its multi-city WiMAX network.

No financial details were provided.

CityLink will begin deployment in the capital Phnom Penh, will move on to the tourist city of Siem Reap, and extend its network to an additional ten cities in 2009, AIM-listed Redline added.

The Iranian Therapist and Her Cambodian Clients

photo courtesy of Hamid Shafie
Book by by Lonny Shavelson and Fred Setterberg
excerpt from UNDER THE DRAGON - California's New Culture by Lonny Shavelson and Fred Setterberg
Source: Center for Empowering Refugees & Immigrants (CERI)

Dr. Mona Afari studied Lay's impassive expression as the translator rendered his words from Cambodian into English. "My mother and father," she heard the translator repeat, "…the Khmer Rouge take them. I never see again."

Mona watched Lay's eyes spark with pain as he recounted the story of his parents' murder, and she asked herself the question that had haunted her since founding the weekly therapy group: Could she— an Iranian-born, female therapist—breach the chasm separating her from these six middle-aged male survivors of the Cambodian holocaust and provide the help they desperately needed?

The Cambodian men had spilled into Oakland's largely Latino Fruitvale District like victims thrown from a terrible traffic accident—uneducated villagers battered physically and psychologically, utterly unprepared for life in America. In stark contrast, Mona was the upper class daughter of an Iranian industrialist, an educated urban cosmopolite, a Jew from a Muslim nation, and a willing immigrant to the United States.

Mona concentrated on the tone of Lay's voice. She did not understand the Cambodian language, but neither was she completely comfortable in English. She had grown up speaking Farsi—the only language that conveyed to her ears the deeper, wilder sea of feeling that churned beneath words. Lay spoke in a somber monotone about his long months shackled to fourteen other prisoners in an underground punishment cell, the terrible stench of the slop bucket, the weekly beatings that shattered his ribs—and how the soldiers pursued him in his nightmares, even now, two decades after leaving Cambodia.

Mona sat across from Lay, trying to imagine the full measure of his suffering, and she reminded herself that his story replicated, in similar horrific detail, that of each of the six men gathered around the small wooden table.

"I think, this morning," Mona announced, "we will all paint."

The translator repeated Mona's instructions and passed out sheets of cream-colored construction paper, brushes, and several sets of watercolors. The men busily daubed their canvasses with bright globs and streaks in a painterly routine that had grown familiar over the past nine months.

Mona had begun working with the Cambodians as a staff psychologist with the refugee program of Jewish Children's and Family Services—an effort founded originally to resettle Russian Jews.

With the collapse of the Soviet Union, the stream of new arrivals slowed to a trickle and the Jewish refugee program faced a choice: close up shop, or offer its expertise to people from other backgrounds and faiths. The agency reached out to Muslims from Bosnia, Afghans fleeing their nation's civil war, and finally, the most traumatized people that Mona had encountered in twenty years as a psychotherapist, the Cambodians.

In the corner of the room, Mona's boom box thrummed a Chopin nocturne. She slowly circled around the table, stopping at last to inspect Lay's painting.

Lay had drawn a series of thatched brown huts nestled amid profuse greenery—his village back in Cambodia. At the far left border, he had inserted a volley of furious red slashes. Mona understood that the violent strokes indicated the approach of the Khmer Rouge and the end of everything in Lay's life that had promised peace, contentment, love, and hope.

Mona let escape a small, wistful sigh. This sense of foreboding and loss—it was her story, too. For twenty-five hundred years, her own family had lived in Iran. Yet as a Jew, she had always felt a stranger in her native country. In 1977, she moved to California to attend college. Two years later, from the safety of her new home, she received heartbreaking letters about the Islamic Revolution rapidly transforming Iran. Her friends were languishing in prison, enduring barbaric tortures, slated for the firing squads. Mona longed now to tell Lay and the other Cambodians about the tragedy of her own birthplace. Most of all, she wanted to convey that she, like them, still did not feel at home in America.

On a warm Saturday afternoon in April, soon after the first break of spring, Mona drove to Wat Dharmararam Buddhist temple in Stockton to celebrate the Cambodian New Year.

She arrived alone at the front gate of the temple grounds—a sprawling, nine-acre, plain-mowed field squeezed between several acres of strawberry patch and the area's recent swell of housing tracts. Once inside, Mona hesitated, feeling suddenly conspicuous and out of place among the crowd of one thousand Cambodians or more. Monks wearing sun-orange robes zigzagged along the pathway, their floor-length hems dragging in the dirt as they recited endless verses of Buddhist prayer. In the far corner, the fairgrounds loudspeaker boomed out shrill and unintelligible blessings.

Mona wandered across the temple grounds, not certain what direction to take. It felt strange to stand in the midst of such a large gathering of Cambodians—and yet most days, there was seldom a time when she did not find herself thinking about her Cambodian clients. Her agency's funding for the men's group had recently ended, but Mona continued to work with them, compelled by an urgency she found difficult to explain. She had even borrowed fifteen hundred dollars from her parents to subsidize her office rent. Mona told herself that people took out loans all the time to purchase a house or attend the university. For her, working with the Cambodians had become a similar necessity.

Within a few minutes, Mona spotted a familiar face—Lay, standing alongside some other men from her group and their families. They had all found seats on the picnic benches under a shade tree. Lay waved her toward the tables. Mona forced her face into a smile and ambled slowly in their direction.

She clapped Lay's extended hand between her two palms, squeezed, bowed, and smiled. Then she repeated the gesture with each of the men from her group and several of the women and children who stood alongside them. She wasn't certain which children belonged to whom, but she could see that everybody standing around the picnic tables knew who she was. Lay spoke rapidly in Cambodian, repeating Mona's name several times, causing each face in the crowd to turn toward her and appreciatively grin. One of the Cambodian women—tiny, wiry, perhaps fifty years old—opened a large picnic basket and began to ply Mona with treats. Mona pecked at her heaping plate of shrimp salad and sweet rice in coconut milk. When the woman handed her a steaming cup of lemongrass soup, Mona thought how familiar its sharp scent had become in recent months.

After eating, Mona thanked everybody profusely, backing away into the crowd as she waved goodbye. Lay stepped forward to shake her hand once again.

She knew that Lay trusted her; she was his only "American" friend. It didn't matter that he understood almost nothing about her background: few other Americans did either. In the center of the temple grounds, Mona recalled that when she first arrived in California, people confused Iran with Iraq; they thought Persians were Arabs. This kind of anonymity increased her remoteness, compounded her sadness. Only twenty years old when she left Iran, Mona had plunged into a deep depression. She had stopped eating, spent days in bed, withdrawn from college. Even now, years after fighting her way through her darkest, most immobilizing episodes, she still sometimes perceives the world to be lost in a haze. Mona thought of herself as someone who perpetually mislaid her glasses and could not quite bring life's contours and details into focus. The great benefit, gone unrecognized until now, was that this affliction gave her some idea of how the Cambodians viewed their own existence.

Mona snaked a path along the busy walkway, straining to get her bearings as she peered over the sea of shoulders and heads. Soon she was caught in the irresistible drift of the crowd, and it delivered her to a story-high statue of a reclining Buddha. The sandstone figure sprawled across half the length of a basketball court, his eyes closed as though sleeping or dead. Mona had learned from the previous week's men's group that Cambodian New Year presents an opportunity to discard the year's sorrows and start over again. Alongside the reclining Buddha, a half-dozen children and adults doused one another with bowls of water tinted red, pink, and yellow—a playful ritual of washing away the past with a bright rinse of the future. A small round man about Lay's age laughed uproariously as his children soaked his starched white shirt and sharply creased black slacks.

Mona slipped out of the crowd and wound her way to the bandstand. A Cambodian pop band twanged electric guitars, while trap drums pounded out a rock-and-roll dance beat. Scores of Cambodian couples gyrated across the dance floor—the young men and women twirling and flailing their arms, amiably colliding with middle-aged couples primly executing a two-step.

Mona saw in the faces of these dancers the sheer pleasure of belonging; they took for granted that whatever they had suffered in the past was understood by everybody in their midst. It was a feeling Mona rarely experienced.

She felt a hand clasp her wrist. It was the Cambodian woman she had met at Lay's picnic table, and she now pulled Mona onto the dance floor. Mona felt shy, frightened, slightly ridiculous. But she smiled graciously, throwing up her hands toward the sky in a facsimile of joyous abandon. Together she and the woman bobbled back and forth, locked together in no particular step as the guitars rang out and the drums pounded on.

In recent months, Mona had felt a change in her life. As a young woman, she had defined herself almost entirely in opposing terms—a Jew out of place in Muslim Iran, an Iranian lost in America. The hours, weeks, and months she had spent helping the Cambodians had put an end to this enduring discord and dissatisfaction. Mona knew that everything she'd given to the Cambodians had been handed back to her. In their company, she was even beginning to feel rooted in what had always been the cold soil of America. Sometimes Mona wondered: who was the healer and who was being healed?

Mona Afary is the Clinical Director for Center for Empowering Refugees & Immigrants (CERI).CERI is a grassroots, non-profit organization founded in 2005 by a small group of bilingual/bicultural mental health professionals. It is dedicated to providing culturally competent mental health and other social services to refugee and immigrant families with multiple layers of complex needs, exposure to violence and trauma both in their current environment and in their native countries, and weakening intergenerational relationships.

The agency's focus is on individuals of Afghan, Bosnian, Burmese, Cambodian, Iranian, Mien, Laotian and Vietnamese descent. Presently the majority of our 200 clients are Cambodian and Afghan refugees living in Oakland and Concord, California.

Sacravatoons : " The Politik of 180 degree turn "

Courtesy of Sacravatoon :

US warns travellers to avoid southern Thailand amid increasing rebel attacks
Tue, March 18, 2008


BANGKOK, Thailand - The U.S. State Department is urging Americans to postpone travel plans to restive southern Thailand following a weekend attack on a hotel that was popular with foreigners.

The warning coincided with a grenade attack Tuesday at a mosque in southern Yala province, which wounded two caretakers.

Police say attackers hurled a hand grenade at the mosque just after several dozen worshippers had cleared out from morning prayers.

On Saturday evening, a powerful car bomb went off at the C.S. Pattani hotel in Pattani province, killing two people and wounding 14.

The hotel has long been used as a base for visiting journalists, foreigners and government officials.

The State Department says the recent spate of violence by separatist rebels in southern Thailand appears to have shifted to public places where tourists are at risk.

Drive-by shootings and bombings occur almost daily in Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat provinces, the only Muslim-majority areas of the Buddhist country.

The region, which borders Malaysia, has been gripped by a Muslim insurgency that has claimed more than 2,900 lives since 2004.

"Although the extremist groups focus primarily on Thai government interests in the southern provinces, some of the recent violence in the area has targeted public places, including areas where tourists may congregate," the U.S. State Department said in a statement.

Police were searching for at least two men wanted in Tuesday's attack. The men parked a pickup truck in front of the mosque and then threw a grenade onto the building's roof, which rolled down and exploded near the entrance, said police Col. Pitsawut Sanguansombatsiri, one of the investigating officers.

Authorities blamed the attack on suspected Muslim insurgents, who are routinely accused of carrying out attacks on Muslims as part of a strategy to intensify anger over the bloodshed and push more Muslims to join the insurgency.

Muslims and Buddhists who work for the government are viewed as collaborators and are regularly targeted by insurgents.

"I don't believe they meant to kill people, since they attacked after prayers. They just wanted to cause a disturbance," Pitsawut said.

In a separate incident, a suspected insurgent was shot and killed in a gunbattle with policemen and soldiers who raided a village in Narathiwat province, said police Col. Tanongsak Wangsupa.

Tanongsak said three suspects ran from a house and opened fire on the security force, leading to a five-minute gunbattle.

One suspect was wounded and the other one fled the scene, he said.

Angkor in quicksand

The fast and huge growth in tourist numbers is putting environmental pressure on one of the world's premier heritage sites of Angkor Wat in Cambodia. Photo / Reuters
Wednesday March 19, 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 complex, on the site of the ancient city of Angkor, may, literally, be on shaky ground.

Heritage experts carrying out restoration work at the temple say 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 may lead to parts of it taking an unheavenly tumble to earth.

Philippe Delanghe, the culture programme specialist at Unesco's Phnom Penh office, said this week: "There is an 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 means more holes are being drilled for water. And this has profound consequences for this 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."

Locally, it is easy to see why such comments go down badly. The temple, which appears 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 was an urban settlement covering some 700 square miles, comparable in size to Greater London, and therefore the world's largest medieval city.

In 1993, when Angkor was first added to Unesco's World Heritage List, the Khmer Rouge (a leftover from the Vietnam War) were still active in certain areas. Some 7600 people visited the temple complex that year. Since then, however, Cambodia has become "safe" 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.

Cambodia at the coalface

DENISE MACNABB/Independent Financial Review/TASTY SNACK: A woman balances a tray of tarantulas - they were a food source to stave off starvation during the Pol Pot era.
DENISE MCNABB/Independent Financial Review/AWE-INSPIRING SIGHT: Sunset on Tonle Sap River, Phnom Penh.
Independent Financial Review
Wednesday, 19 March 2008

Temperatures sizzle in the mid- 30s, baking the bitumen on Highway 7 and causing rivers of sweat on our way to Skuon.

What is a ‘‘highway'' in Cambodia is actually little more than a spatula of grey on a dusty, horizontal landscape. That the Mekong River cuts a swathe through the interior saves it from being just a drab colour palate.

The river's vital water nurtures a landscape of lime rice paddies where nimble workers toil under their wide-brimmed, cream conical hats. Buddhist temples and pagodas (wats) with their cheeky monkey residents and orange-robed monks are another country staple.

Tiered in gold and white, the temples glisten under ultramarine skies behind majestic gates. Rickety roadside villages are a sharp contrast. Large extended families live in one-room, wooden houses built on stilts to weather the monsoons.

We peer into front yards where towering coconut palms provide shade for tidy vegetable plots, tethered cows and near naked sun-baked children who run freely with scrawny hens (in contrast to wellpreened cocks kept in cages or on leashes ready for their next fight). We know who the pig owners are - their sties ooze a malodorous stench.

Poverty and tragedy riddle the lives of rural Cambodians but as we fleetingly pass by they never fail to look up, and smile and wave. The horrific legacy of despotic Pol Pot and his sadistic henchman who committed genocide on two million.

Cambodians only 25 years ago still pervades this country. But the Khmers, with their Buddhist inner calm, show remarkable resilience - to we outsiders anyway. We are a group of 13 cyclists who have gathered from around the world to experience Cambodia at the coalface.

Memorials to the dead, blood-spattered torture scenes and mass graves are left as they were during that five-year reign of terror from 1975-79. Wrenching tales of how family members survived with extraordinary ingenuity and cunning or were tortured and murdered leave us in no doubt about the brutality of this period and the fragile existence of the country today.

Cambodia's friendly people are the country's jewels. The big advantage of cycling, as in neighbouring Vietnam and Laos, is that much of the daily activity takes place on and to the side of the roads. Caramel husks containing rice dry on raffia and plastic sheets on verges and soldier rows of tapped rubber trees are common.

Transporting goods takes on dizzying dimensions. Bikes, bullocks and carts, motor scooters and rattletrap buses shoot by, stacked to the gunnels with everything imaginable, from double beds and scooters to precarious loads of passengers on van rooftops.

Each day ramshackle stalls are set up on the roadside to slaughter animals. Bloodied carcasses hang for sale and slabs of meat sit in the heat. At one stall we stop to check a large, grey sow trussed and straddled over the back of a small scooter that has just pulled up. We call her Doris. She makes a racket, squealing and grunting as if her life depended on it.

There's no chance of a reprieve. A bloodied rib cage of a former pen mate is hanging nearby. Her owner grins with pride as he poses for the camera. Poor Doris. At lunchtime school children returning home for their midday break become our cycling companions.

The older ones have remarkable stamina, pedalling furiously on their basic bikes as they keep up with our geared mountain models.

They are on a mission, shouting their signature repertoire: ‘‘What's your name, where are you from, how old are you'', in a bid to hone their English skills.

It's four days since we crossed the Vietnamese border at Bavet and we've cycled from Kompong Cham, north of the capital Phnom Penh. Our guide, Punloau, an intelligent, highly-educated 25-year-old has an appetite for silly joke telling. He's one of eight children.

His mother had him late after she lost two sons to Pol Pot. One was a general. His family's story is sad. He tells it with compassion but Punloau, born after the fall of Pol Pot, also laughs a lot and plans optimistically for his future.
We wonder what the outcome of his arranged marriage will be, given his predilection for talking about how women boss men around. He calls them tigers which starts him laughing raucously. He laughs again when he tells us we're having spiders for lunch.

Skuon is little more than a layover for lorry and bus drivers. It's smattered with ablution blocks, stalls and a sprawling open-air restaurant with large round tables in concrete booths and plastic chairs. Cooking stations in the middle permeate the air with a deep-fried odour.

The spiders are neither a joke nor a laughing matter. Skuon's creepy fare has earned it the westernised nickname of Spiderville.

It's definitely a place to be avoided if you're anacrophobic. No sooner are we off our bikes than village women start hawking furry, black tarantulas, called ‘‘a-ping''.

Each is the size of a large hand. They've piled these cooked arachnids on flat, wicker trays balanced on their heads. From a short distance they look like a wriggly mass of seaweed or licorice.

Close up their bulbous backsides, big heads and eight long, furry legs are not a pretty sight. We're told they're best eaten deep fried with a dash of garlic and salt. Fat chance.

Our fill of adventurous eating stopped firmly at deep-fried frogs that we'd tried at a roadside stall two days earlier. We pay 300 riel (US8c) to the hawker for a spider when our bike mechanic says he'll devour one so we can take photographs.

This stop is one of his favourites as he's developed quite a taste for this local delicacy. He eats the spiders' legs first.

They have no meat so they're a crunchy appetiser. The head and body apparently tastes somewhere between chicken and crab depending on who you talk to, but the abdomen is another story.

The big, hard shell, full of brown sludgy goo, needs to be cracked first, and then peeled. We never did get a good taste description for this part of the spider's anatomy.

A smarty in our group diverts our attention by flinging a live spider into the middle of our table, assuring us the venom has been drained from its fangs.

I opt quickly for noodles after looking at other food options, roasted ducks and fish that were broiling under the sun at open stalls.

Over lunch we learn the spiders are coaxed out of holes in the surrounding countryside by farmers who gather more than 100 in a day, earning themselves the equivalent of a few US dollars. This is considered a good living when most rural dwellers earn less than $US1 a day.

That these giant spiders are an income earning enterprise is good for Skuon's people but their origin, like so many others in Cambodia, is born out of tragedy.

They were a food source to stave off starvation after Pol Pot forced intellectuals (including the entire population of Phnom Penh) out of the cities and into the countryside as he tried to create a Maoist agrarian society.

If it wasn't murder that took these people's lives it was starvation. They turned to spiders and other insects, such as crickets, as a dietary necessity. Eventually they acquired the taste for spiders.

We hear about residents of Phnom Penh who drive up to the road to Skuon especially to sate their need for a serving of spider.

The capital's restaurants also import them from the village for special billing on menus. After Skuon, Phnom Penh is a momentary assault on the senses.

Sitting at the confluence of the Bassac, Mekong and Tonle Sap Rivers the city is big and thriving and pretty westernised, which is no surprise given it was deserted for many years after Pol Pot forced the residents out into the countryside.

It's as if you've entered another world that is trying desperately to bury the ghosts of its recent violent past

Denise McNabb travelled to Cambodia with help from Singapore Airlines and World Expeditions.

Agency Pushes to Boost Rice Yield

By Ros Sothea, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
18 March 2008

Khmer audio aired March 18 (1.21MB) - Listen (MP3)

The aid group Oxfam will distribute a video to promote a system of rice growing that improves yields, as the growing season approaches.

The System of Rice Intensification, or SRI, can improve rice yields by 150 percent, the group said Tuesday, creating a larger surplus that leads to more income and farm improvements.

At first, farmer Rum Mao did not believe in the new method. But, he said Tuesday, after practicing it, his yields were higher than in the past. He was pleased with the new system, he said, as it allowed him to sell more rice and earn a better living.

The group's information video, "Do You Speak SRI?," which it produced with the Cambodian Center for the Study and Development in Agriculture, will help farmers implement the method.

UN Envoy Reports 'No Incentive' for Rights

By VOA Khmer, Reporters
Original report from Phnom Penh
18 March 2008

Cambodia's government has no reason to reform "widespread violations of human rights," as the rule of law and rights of citizens are neglected, the UN special envoy for human rights has reported.

Yash Ghai, the UN secretary-general's rights envoy for Cambodia, is expected to address the 7th session of the UN Human Rights Council Wednesday, and to include findings of a report now available online.

"The government has no incentives for reform, as the international community continues to make large financial contributions regardless of widespread violations of human rights," Ghai wrote in his report to the Rights Council.

Repeated attempts to reach government spokesmen at the ministries of Information and Foreign Affairs were unsuccessful Tuesday, but officials have steadily denounced Ghai's rights reports. The government refused to meet with Ghai on a December visit, and Prime Minister Hun Sen has called for his ouster.

Ahead of Ghai's expected address, the Cambodian Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a restriction on visas issued to Ghai through foreign embassies. In a letter obtained by VOA Khmer, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs ordered that visas for Ghai must be approved directly through the ministry.

Ghai's report is critical of the erosion of the rule of law and the constitution, and cautions against government involvement in land disputes, among other areas of concern.

"Laws, institutions [and] procedures critical to the rule of law are very little respected in Cambodia - especially by the State," Ghai reported.

The lack of respect for such laws meant many of the provisions in the constitution were negated, he wrote.

"Numerous reports by the Special Representatives and national and international organizations have highlighted serious consequences of this," he wrote. "For the most part, the Government has made no serious attempt to deny, much less refute, these findings or to take serious action to address these issues."

Ghai visited Cambodia in December, meeting with non-government agencies and residents who had been removed from their land. On that visit, he said land disputes were a source of destabilization for Cambodia.

Ghai recommended in his Rights Council report that the government "do all it can to stop forced evictions" and "never be complicit in unlawful evictions."

Residents should never be made homeless as a result of development, he wrote, and evictions should only be made in "exceptional circumstances, and solely for the purpose of promoting the general welfare in a democratic society."

Ghai shunned the use of force and imprisonment in cases related to land disputes, especially for those "protecting their rights to land and housing," and he called for the release of anyone who is currently jailed under such conditions.

"A moratorium on forced evictions should be declared, to allow the determination of the legality of land claims to be made in an objective and fair manner."

Ghai recommended the international community set up or help set up an "independent expert commission" to review the legal and judicial system and report annually to the donor community.

Ghai cited a report by the rights group Licadho, claiming the "justice system has failed."
"Despite the Untac intervention and 15 years of aid to legal and judicial reform, in 2007," the report, "The Charade of Justice," says, "the primary functions of the courts continue to be to prosecute political opponents and other critics of the government; to perpetuate impunity for State actors and their associates; [and] to promote the economic interests of the rich and powerful.”

For Yash Ghai's full Human Rights Council report,

Media Environment Tipping: Groups

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

Khmer audio aired March 18 (1.40MB) - Listen (MP3)

The loss of an opposition newspaper has further titled Cambodia's media environment in favor of the ruling party, damaging the free-and-fair potential of this year's national election, rights groups and opposition officials said Tuesday.

Publisher Thach Keth, who had made Sralanh Khmer, or Love Khmer, an opposition paper, announced Monday he was throwing his support behind the ruling Cambodian People's Party, effectively eliminating the paper from the dwindling opposition voice.

That left two newspapers and one local radio station as tacit supporters of the Sam Rainsy Party, further tipping media bias toward the CPP, officials said.

Boay Roeuy, editor-in-chief of Sralanh Khmer and a member of the Sam Rainsy Party, said Tuesday that currently there remain only two local newspapers and local radio station that support the Sam Rainsy Party: papers Moneaksakar Khmer, or Khmer Conscience, and Khmer Mchas Srok, or Khmer Homeland Owner; and radio FM 93.5.

The Sam Rainsy Party also rents time on Beehive Radio to air its one-hour, daily Voice of Candlelight program, he said.

He was not worried that even though the Sam Rainsy Party will have less newspapers now, he said, citing the 2003 national election, when the Sam Rainsy Party had less newspapers than the competition, CPP and Funcinpec, but still earned enough votes for 24 parliamentary seats.

Hang Chakra, publisher of Khmer Mchas Srok, who is not overtly politically affiliated, said his newspaper has been suspended for two weeks while he was busy abroad, but he expected it to start publishing again on Thursday.

The next issues will support the Sam Rainsy Party more vigorously than before, he said, adding that he was still satisfied with Sam Rainsy's leadership and was confident the party would not collapse due to recent defections.

Sok Sovann, president of the Khmer Journalist Democracy Association, which formed in 2002, said that publishers have a right to politicize newspapers, just as voters have a right to cast ballots.

All of TV, and most of radio and newspapers are biased toward the CPP, putting the system out of balance, Ouk Virak, president of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, said Tuesday.

Local radio is barely independent, including Beehive Radio and FM 95.5, a radio station based in Siem Reap, he said.

"When we don't have independent media, we see the result of democracy is not good, because the people cannot receive all kinds of information," he said.

A biased media system is unfair for national elections, as political parties are not granted access to the media, he said.

Eng Chhay Eang, secretary-general of the Sam Rainsy Party, said Tuesday that if the media system is biased to one party, elections cannot be free and fair, because the media is an important part of the election process.

"We appeal to the donor countries to put pressure on the government because we don't want the government to do as it will," he said. "Unless the media is balanced, the election can't be free and fair."

King Father to Return for New Year

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

Khmer audio aired March 18 (563KB) - Listen (MP3)

Former king Norodom Sihanouk will return from medical treatment in Beijing ahead of the new year, officials said Tuesday.

Prime Minister Hun Sen announced Tuesday morning during a Phnom Penh bridge inauguration the former king and queen would "enjoy Khmer New Year with their children and grandchildren in Cambodia."

Sihanouk will arrive April 7 and stay throughout the elections, according to a royal family member who asked not to be named.

Sihanouk, 85, often travels to Beijing for medical treatment and has been there since the end of November 2007.

Two Rights Groups Back US Report

By Sok Khemara, VOA Khmer
18 March 2008

Khmer audio aired March 17 (4.03MB) - Download

Members of Cambodia's two prominent rights groups said Monday they support a US State Department report that said Cambodia's rights record in 2007 remained poor.

The US cited extrajudicial killings, impunity, forced evictions and the lack of freedom of speech and assembly as reasons for its annual findings.

Ny Chakrya, chief of the monitoring unit for the rights group Adhoc, said Monday the government's denial of the report was not unexpected, but it was important that the public see the results.

Ny Chakrya joined Licadho technical supervisor Am Sam Ath for "Hello VOA" Monday to discuss Cambodia's reaction to the report.

Both guests denied the timing of the report's release had to do with Cambodia's upcoming national elections.

Maybank Opens Second Branch In Cambodia
March 18, 2008

KUALA LUMPUR, March 18 (Bernama) -- Malayan Banking Bhd (Maybank) has opened a second branch in Cambodia as part of its strategy to grow its international network as well as to make inroads into the domestic markets where Maybank is present, a statement from the bank said here today.

Located in Teukthla, Phnom Penh, the branch will add to the bank's main branch in Phnom Penh, opened in December 1993.

Maybank senior executive vice president and head of International Business, Lim Hong Tat said, "The new branch will enable the bank to play a bigger role in the Cambodian financial services sector which offers exciting potential as well as to better support its international customers.

"Our second branch in Cambodia will give us better reach and enable us to tap further into the consumer market."

"This is the line with the banks objective to expand our consumer franchise beyond Singapore and the Philippines, where we have a strong presence and we would soon be rolling-out automobile financing products in Vietnam through our branches in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.

"The second branch also will enable us to support our customers from Malaysia, Singapore and other regional locations who have trade and investment links with Cambodia."

"We are very positive about the Cambodian economy and are planning to open another four branches in the next two years," said Tat.

The bank has seen strong growth in its Cambodian operations, chalking up significant growth in loans and deposits.

It started offering housing loans in January this year.


Cambodia wants more border gates

Gia Lai Province’s Le Thanh border gate, which was inaugurated in December last year, faces Cambodia’s Ratanakiri Province. Cambodia’s Ministry of the Interior wants to open two more border gates with Viet Nam. — VNA/VNS Photo Sy Huynh

PHNOM PENH – Cambodia’s Ministry of the Interior wants to open two more border gates to Viet Nam, the ministry’s spokesman Khieu Sopheak recently announced.

Opening more border gates should help attract investment, generate jobs, reduce the migration of job seekers into the cities, help eradicate hunger and alleviate poverty for border residents, according to Sopheak.

Sopheak said the ministry would propose that the Government open the border gates of Labakhe and Nam Lieu, both in Mondukkiri Province, which shares a border with Viet Nam’s southern province of Binh Phuoc.

The ministry said the new border gates should help turn the border area into major industrial zones, helping to raise incomes for local residents via investment and commodities export between the two countries, he said.

Cambodian localities sharing the land border with Viet Nam made remarkable efforts in managing border gates, contributing to security and facilitating travel for local residents, according to the spokesman.

The ministry also asked the Cambodian Government to upgrade the Prechak national border gate in Kampot Province and the Ozadao national border gate in Ratanakiri Province into international border gates and to also construct the Ton Lon national border gate in Kampot Province and look at opening other border gates.

Cambodia now has 64 border gates, with 60 border gates managed by cities and provinces, and four international gates. — VNS