Sunday, 23 March 2008

Cambodian king to visit Brunei Shell Petroleum refinery

The Earth Times
Sun, 23 Mar 2008
Author : DPA

Phnom Penh - Cambodia's King Norodom Sihamoni is scheduled to receive a guided tour of the Brunei Shell Petroleum complex during his official visit next week, according to an itinerary received from a palace source Sunday. Sihamoni is scheduled to arrive in the oil-rich sultanate at the personal invitation of Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Monday for a three-day visit.

Brunei, a fellow member of the 10-member Association of South-East Asian Nations, has said it is advising Cambodia on management of potentially rich offshore oil reserves which the currently impoverished nation expects to tap by the end of the decade.

The royal visit is reciprocal after the sultan's visit to Cambodia last April.

Brunei Shell Petroleum Sdn Bhd in the oil fields of Seria is a company jointly owned by the sultan's government and Royal Dutch Shell, according to the Brunei Petroleum Unit website.

The government site says the Petroleum Unit acts on behalf of the Brunei government "as a regulatory body prudently monitors and oversees all activities that are carried out by concessionaires holding concession areas in Brunei Darussalam."

Sihamoni is scheduled to end his visit Wednesday after a series of engagements featuring meetings with Brunei Crown Prince Haji Al-Muhtader, a banquet hosted by the sultan in his honour and meetings with various officials expected to further focus on oil and gas.

Donors have voiced concern that endemic corruption may turn Cambodia's potential oil wealth into a curse.

Brunei, however, has been very supportive of Cambodia in its bid to use oil to assist it in shrugging off its donor dependency after 30 years of civil war.

Operation Smiles sees 230 children

Photo SuppliedMission accomplished: Two boys smile after receiving surgery from international aid group Operation Smiles to correct thier cleft palates.

The Phnom Penh post
Written by Sebastian Strangio
Friday, 21 March 2008

Cambodian children suffering from cleft palates and other facial deformities were offered free medical examinations and surgery in mid-March by Operation Smiles, an international team of doctors, at the Khmer-Soviet Friendship hospital in Phnom Penh.

The medical mission conducted some 230 free medical evaluations from March 13-21 and aimed to provide surgery to about 100 young patients suffering from facial deformities, said Operation Smiles spokesperson Fleur Childs.

Volunteers from Australia, Cambodia, Canada, Italy, the Netherlands, Peru, the Philippines, Singapore and the United States took part in the charity’s eighth mission in Phnom Penh.

Operation Smiles, founded in 1982, was last in Phnom Penh in November as part of its 25th anniversary year program.

The group began its work in Cambodia in 2002 at the invitation of Minister of Health Dr Hong Sun Huot. Since then it has provided over 2,200 free facial examinations and helped more than 1,000 Cambodian children and young adults with surgery to correct cleft lips and palates.

Childs said Operations Smiles has plans to build a permanent care center in Phnom Penh, which would provide children with year-round access to post-operative care, dental treatment and speech therapy. The charity already operates similar clinics in Vietnam and China.

Marriage tourism

Details are Sketchy
March 23, 2008

Cat Barton and Vong Sokheng investigate the growing Korean marriage tourism business.

Like many Cambodian girls, Monika had always dreamt of marrying her very own Prince Charming. So after hearing an advert on the radio, she registered with the Chanthin Group, a Korean marriage brokering company. Almost immediately, Monika found herself in Phnom Penh, being introduced to a selection of South Korean men, one of whom picked her to be his future bride.

After three months of studying Korean culture and language every Saturday, Monika went to Korea in June 2007 and lived with her husband and his family.

No prizes for guessing how that turned out.

“I went to Korea to earn money, not for marriage,” she said, hinting at why the marriage lasted only a matter of months. She is now divorced and back in Cambodia.

At the national level, relations between Cambodia and South Korea are moving nearly as fast. South Korea is Cambodia’s number one source of tourists. South Korean money is largely responsible for Cambodia’s current real estate boom. Many of Phnom Penh’s largest construction projects — Camko City, Golden Tower 42 — are products of Korean-Cambodian partnerships.

Although there is no evidence yet to suggest that these partnerships are as unstable as their mail-order-bride counterparts, it seems at least a little likely that they too could be marred by overly optimistic expectations. After all, what kind of Korean man shops for a mail-order bride?
Brides often believe the Korean men they will be marrying are rich, successful businessmen.

But according to the IOM in Seoul, the men looking for Cambodian brides are often poor, badly educated or even mentally handicapped and have usually had difficulty finding a wife among the ranks of South Korea’s ambitious younger female generation.

Making ICT work

The greater use of ICT will enable more countries to provide quality education to their citizens.

Sunday March 23, 2008

Officials from Southeast Asian countries share best practices and progress made through the use of ICT in education.

MANY believe that Information and Communications Technology (ICT) offers poorer countries a chance to catch up with their richer counterparts and level the education playing field.

Unesco views ICT as a delivery medium that enables inclusion to those who have yet to access education.

“Due to the prohibitive costs in building and maintaining new schools, it is impossible for developing countries to meet increasing demands for quality education using the traditional pattern,” said the head of the ICT unit at Unesco, Bangkok, Dr Miao Fengchun. “New media and new models are needed if education for all is to be achieved.”

ICT offers an affordable and sustainable solution for children in remote regions. As examples, Dr Miao cited the use of multi- media learning packages in schools that lack sufficiently-trained human resources, and community learning centres in China and India.

Dr Miao was speaking in Kuala Lumpur recently at an ICT conference and exhibition held in conjunction with the 43rd Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organisation’s (Seameo) council conference and the third Asean Education Ministers Meeting.

The conference featured 37 speakers.

Seameo member countries such as Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Brunei, Laos, Cambodia, the Philippines and Indonesia took part.

In his opening address, Education Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Tun Hussein said governments alone could not cope with imparting ICT knowledge and that smart partnerships should be formed.

“Teaching methods and educational goals have to be geared towards producing individuals who will work at developing their capabilities throughout their lives.

“It should equip students with the skills to seek information on their own, the ability to use technology to gain knowledge and to advance their skills,” he said.

Why ICT matters

In his plenary session paper, Dr Miao gave an overview of efforts to integrate ICT in teaching and learning at a macro level by countries in Asia Pacific.

He said the overall goal of the ICT in Education Programme at Unesco was to help member states harness the potential of ICT to achieve quality education for all in the region. Without education for all and quality learning as the goal, the adoption of ICT in education would just be “an aimless and endless digitalisation gimmick”.

He noted that mobile phone technology and US$100 (RM320) computers were lowering the barriers to digital inclusion. But, he asked: “Were these vendor-driven or education-oriented?
“Due to the prohibitive costs of building and maintaining new schools, it is impossible for developing countries to meet increasing demands for quality education using the traditional pattern.

“New media and new models are needed if education for all is to be achieved,” Dr Miao said.
Dr Tinsiri Siribodhi, deputy director with the Seameo secretariat, also spoke about the implementation of ICT in member countries.

She said that although resources were scarce in many countries, this should not be a barrier to ICT use.

“Success is not about the number or ratio of computers to students.

“Rather it is measured by what a teacher can do with limited resources to achieve maximum results.”

Making progress

Wide variations exist in the use of ICT among the Southeast Asian countries. While Thailand and the Philippines have achieved remarkable progress, poorer nations like Cambodia and Laos still lag far behind.

About 80% of all schools in Thailand have Internet access, which is delivered through dial-up, leased lines and satellite. And 55.3% of schools have a ratio of 20 students to one computer.

“Since 2005, only leased lines and satellites have been installed at institutions,” said Keartisak Sensai from the Education Ministry in Thailand.

“Besides allocating budgets to set up the network systems and computers, the ministry also provides funds for resources to support the teaching and learning environment.”

Elmer M. Guizano from the Department of Education in the Philippines spoke about initiatives taken by the department to use ICT to broaden access and improve the quality and efficiency of basic education services.

“Technology plays a major role in creating a new and improved model of teaching and learning, where education happens anytime and anywhere,” he said.

Over 100,000 ICT teachers had been trained through strategic partnerships and resource mobilisation between the public and private sectors in the Philippines.

Many obstacles

Recently, through a collaborative project with Waseda University, Japan, three public schools, local government units and a marine sanctuary in Bantayan Island, Cebu, were provided with a wireless transmission network.

“The recipient schools can now be a model of inter-island E-learning in the Philippines,” Guizano said.

In Laos, computers are used mainly for short-term courses and for the subject itself at technical and vocational institutions.

“Only computer teachers use power point to prepare overhead projector transparencies. In most cases, there is no Internet or e-mail access in these institutions,” said Soulikhamkone Sisoulath from the Education Ministry in Laos.

He acknowledged that there was a lack of ICT infrastructure, knowledge base, financial resources and awareness of ICT use in the country. However, there are plans to build a Wide Area Network between selected technical and vocational institutions.

In Cambodia, a lot of catching up is needed to bring youths into the digital age and produce a technologically literate, productive and critical-thinking workforce for the country.

“A national ICT policy, which is about to be approved by the National Assembly, espouses the need to use free and open source software,” said Sombath Eath from the Cambodian Education, Youth and Sports Ministry.

The ministry was sourcing for educational content from other countries, which could be translated into the Khmer language, she added.

Electricity is another problem – a few high schools have to use generators or solar power to run their computers.

“The country needs about 20,000 computers to reach a ratio of one computer for every 20 students in high schools. They have to be low power consumption computers, otherwise the ministry will not be able to afford the electricity cost,” Sombath said.

Defections rattle opposition parties

TRACEY SHELTONSRP president Sam Rainsy has brushed off concerns over recent defections from his party by saying the exodus toward the ruling CPP allows his party to strengthen its ideological base, although others are asking why those who supposedly once shared the SRP's principles are now deciding to leave.

The Phnom Penh Post
Written by The Phnom Penh Post
Friday, 21 March 2008
The NRP was quick to take advantage of defections from the SRP, arguing that it is only through the formation of a "united democratic front" that opposition parties can survive.

A reconciliatory tone has disappeared from February media coverage as political parties attempt to score points for this year’s general elections. The dominant story concerns defections of senior Sam Rainsy Party members to the CPP and Prince Ranariddh’s continuing search for a role in the elections. In this month’s media analysis, Kheang Un examines the politics surrounding these defections and looks at how different political parties reacted to these developments.

Defections from the SRP of its senior officers have raised many issues concerning the viability of the party as a sustainable opposition and its potential in this year’s national elections. Defectors claimed that their defections derived from structural problems within the SRP.

Despite the SRP’s rhetoric of following democratic principles, the party, defectors claimed, is characterized by autocracy, nepotism, corruption and incompetent leadership.

They alleged some SRP leaders, particularly Eng Chhay Eang, were incompetent. Eng Chhay Eang’s gambling addiction – which he claimed was no longer an issue – was raised by defectors as an impediment to his leadership.

Due to these problems within the SRP, defectors said they had not been able to contribute to the development of the country.

The ruling Cambodian People’s Party accepted the defectors with open arms. In gratitude and as a way to capitalize on the defectors “expertise and conscience,” Prime Minister Hun Sen offered the defectors high government portfolios as advisors to the Prime Minister or to the government with a rank equal to that of secretary of state or minister.

Opposition lawmaker Son Chhay charged that the Prime Minister’s decision not only wasted government revenue but was also illegal.

The Prime Minister brushed Son Chhay’s criticism aside, arguing that the government would benefit from these defectors for they had been outside of the government and thus were able to see the government’s shortcomings and offer constructive advice.

As expected, the SRP downplayed the impact of recent defections, stating that they would not affect the party. The party charged that these defectors “sold their conscience” and that their decisions were based on personal ambition and interests.

Their decision to defect at this critical time was to maximize their bargaining power, the party says.

The CPP was quick to capitalize on these opportunities to weaken the SRP.
Impact of defections
The SRP stated that it will be able to replace these defectors with idealist cadres who will put “national interests” above “personal interests.” This could be true. SRP members receive little benefit from their political activism and would not be able to stay with the Sam Rainsy Party if they were not idealistic or determined to change the status quo.

The SRP’s denial of the impact of these defections notwithstanding, a puzzling question arises in that these members have been idealistic and have been the vanguards of the SRP for almost a decade; so what has prompted them to become non-idealistic at this moment?

Pro-CPP newspapers opined that because of recent defections the SRP might face the fate suffered by Funcinpec and the Norodom Ranariddh Party (NRP) – party disintegration.

Rasmey Kampuchea Daily on March 12, 2008 ran the headline “SRP’s Blood Drips Prior to the Elections.” However, the recent defections can be seen as a cut but not a deep wound for the SRP for a few fundamental reasons.
Firstly, due to a lack of effort for grassroots mobilization, Funcinpec since the 1993 elections has been a top heavy party. Thus, defections of its senior members gravely affect the party.

On the contrary, the SRP, despite its reliance on Sam Rainsy’s popularity, has worked hard to build grassroots support. Taking advantage of decentralization, the SRP has extended its reach from urban to rural areas. As such, the defections of some of its senior members might not be as likely to destabilize the party.
Secondly, the gravity of the impact of the defections on SRP will depend on the scope of these defectors as “movers” and “shakers” within the SRP.
If these defectors have strong connections to and popularity among SRP grassroots supporters, then their defections will negatively affect the party.

Their accusations of “corruption, autocracy, and nepotism” within the SRP will affect the reputation of the SRP, which has built a niche within the Cambodian political arena based on the rhetoric of democracy and transparency. Under these conditions, defectors’ claims might prompt some voters to reconsider their trust in the SRP.

But if, to the contrary, these defectors were not very popular among grassroots SRP supporters, then the defections will have some but not significant psychological impact on the SRP.

A more grave concern for the SRP is a reported claim by recent defectors that there will be about 30 commune councilors leaving the party for the CPP. If this were to occur, it would be a severe blow for the SRP.

Unlike the defected senior party officers, these councilors are close to grassroots SRP supporters and serve as the party’s foot soldiers, devoting their energy and time to widen political local space and to mobilize villagers. However, the truth of this claim remains to be seen.

NRP on shaky ground
The NRP remains in a state of uncertainty due to the inability of its leader, Prince Norodom Ranariddh, to return to Cambodia.

Various venues have been employed by the NRP to secure the return of its leader. As its judicial appeal remains in limbo, the NRP with support from some NGOs appealed to the King for clemency, though no result has yet emerged.

As previous analyses have shown, the NRP has not been able to find a niche within the current political terrain.

Its core supporters are unidentifiable while its policy platforms are fluid. While they protested certain principles in abstract, such as land grabbing, workers’ wages and working conditions, they did not follow up these protests with any action.

SRP lawmakers, in contrast, made political statements followed by political activism such as boycotting the National Assembly session to protests against the eviction of residents of Dey Krahom commune and participating in protest organized by factory workers.

The NRP is persistent in its efforts to form a coalition with the SRP and Human Rights Party (HRP).

It was quick to take advantage of defections from the SRP, arguing that it is only through the formation of a “united democratic front” that opposition parties can survive.

Given its weak political capital, pro-SRP and pro-HRP newspapers label the NRP’s appeal for “unification of democrats” as an effort “to bake a cake without ingredients.”

Kheang Un, PhD, is assistant director of the Center for Southeast Asian Studies and an adjunct professor in the Department of Political Science, Northern Illinois University, US.

The Cambodia Development Resource Institute’s Conflict Prevention in Cambodian Election (COPCEL) project notes: This is an independent analysis on media monitoring extracted from 15 Cambodian newspapers. This is the seventh analysis of an ongoing series. The 15 newspapers chosen by COPCEL for monitoring are owned or sponsored by political parties, with the exception of the Cambodia Daily and the Phnom Penh Post which are foreign owned. Consequently, their reports and commentaries are biased toward a particular party. Although such biases are normal in any society, in the Cambodian context these are not based on clear policy agendas or ideologies but, more often than not, on poorly documented personal attacks. Bias notwithstanding, reports and commentaries by these newspapers do reflect the trends of Cambodia’s political developments.

Police Blotter

The Phnom Penh Post
Written by The Phnom Penh Post
Friday, 21 March 2008

March 7: A gold seller in Leu Market, Sihanoukville, was robbed outside his home in Sangkat 2, Khan Mitapheap, Sihanoukville by four men with two pistols. The robbers followed the trader to his home on two motorbikes at about 4:20pm and approached him brandishing weapons as the trader opened his car door. The thieves made off with an unspecified amount of gold in two bags.

March 7: 125 people died on Cambodian roads in December 2007, according to a monthly report issued by “Victim information system and traffic accident in Cambodia.” The report, which cites figures provided by traffic police and private hospitals, said a further 1,923 people were injured in accidents in December, including 576 seriously. In Phnom Penh, 580 people were reported to have been involved in traffic accidents during the month, a 32 percent increase from December 2006.

March 7: Two men were arrested in Sampov Meas district, Pursat province on suspicion of illegal logging. Un Reth, 45, was arrested by military police in Damnak Ampil village, Lolok Sar commune at 11:30am, while Khom Sothea, 28, was arrested in Steung Touch village, Roleap commune at 4:30pm the same day.

March 7: A man and his wife were robbed of four million riels and one chi (3.85 grams) of gold during a home-invasion in Takeo village, Prey Veng province. Seven robbers carrying two “long guns” entered the home of Ky Chun, 51, and Ith Lay, 45, at 7:30pm. Chun was beaten during the robbery.

March 10: A 19-year-old woman was taken by thieves from Kampong Trach market, Kep City, at 9am and robbed of all her jewelry despite her loud screams. The thieves returned the woman to the market after taking 3.5 chi (13.5 grams) of gold from her.

March 11: Four people were arrested for smoking drugs in a karaoke room at Sre Kropleak restaurant, Kampong Thom province. The raid was conducted by the province’s army, police and military police, in cooperation with the military police of Steong Sen district, who then checked on a location in Srayov Cheuong village, Srayov commune, after receiving a tip-off that unspecified drugs were being distributed from there.

March 13: Teachers thwarted a mass brawl between two groups of youths at a Phnom Penh high school by detaining four young men until police arrived. The two groups assembled at 6pm at Bun Rany Hun Sen Wat Phnom School, Khan Daun Penh, and began fighting, prompting the teachers to intervene. Police identified the arrested as San Vanra, 17, Mao Yon, 19, En Donan, 21, and Preap Vatha, 18.

March 13: Two motorcyclists died suddenly after colliding on National Street 4, Khan Prey Nop, Sihanoukville, at 7:30pm.

Reports on the Threats to Political Parties Activists

21st March 2008
By Serey Rath
Radio Free Asia
Translated from Khmer by Khmerization

The Committee for Free and Fair Election in Cambodia (COMFREL) has said that political threats to political parties activists from the non-ruling parties and the concerns over personal security has increased twofold more than the year 2006.

The COMFREL’s report dated 20th March which has recorded the activities of the 2008 election preparations has released the statistics which shows that the Sam Rainsy Party has received 29 cases of threats, Funcinpec Party has received 2, Norodom Ranariddh Party has received 12 and the Human Rights Party has received 6 cases of threats and other political parties have received 2 threats.

COMFREL’s report stated that most cases of threats happened in Banteay Meanchey province, Kampong Cham province, Kampong Chhnang, Kampong Speu, Kampong Thom, Kandal and in many other provinces also.

Other than threats there were 12 cases of destruction of party signs, especially party signs of the newly-formed parties.

The report, which was released yesterday, reported that many high government officials and military personnel have used government-paid time to lobby and to distribute gifts to voters to vote for the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP).

COMFREL has also said that the National Election Committee and other election-related authorities have never resolved those issues.

Other than political threats there are also 12 cases of party sign destructions, especially for those newly-formed political parties. COMFREL has also noted that in the 135 broadcasts on the state-owned TV, Funcinpec party has received 21 coverage while the Sam Rainsy Party has only received 5 coverage.

The exercise of political freedom of expression by political parties and by civil society through rallies/marches and the dissemination of information in public places were met with hindrances and crackdowns from armed groups and powerful authorities who used their influences and power to hinder and to forbid the owners of the places not to rent out the places to other political parties or non-governmental organisations, except the ruling party.

How did this governmental organisation (COMFREL) gather this sorts of information to arrive at the above results? Mr. Chan Darith, senior COMFREL information officer, explained:

“COMFREL has posted 300 long-term observers throughout the country. And those observers will monitor the political situations relating to the election in their respective areas and prepare weekly or quarterly reports. And we have frequent contacts with each other. When emergency situations arose they will prepare emergency reports to the central office (in Phnom Penh). On the other hand, we also have our staff working at our central office. Their tasks were to observe and monitor the media broadcasts - that is we are monitoring the broadcasts of the state TV’s in particular. At this stage we haven’t monitored the broadcasts of the other media outlets much as yet. We are focusing on the state TV’s broadcasts in particular. And we have our working group to monitor the newspapers, political (environment) and the election (process) also.”

Sacravatoons : " Youth Movement "

Courtesy of Sacravatoon :

The Phnom Penh Post in the new face

Online trading site Anakut to launch in July

First skyscraper underwayA boy walks past a model of the Gold Tower 42 high-rise being built on the corner of Monivong and Sihanouk boulevards in Phnom Penh. Cambodian officials broke ground on the country's first skyscraper on March 14, a 42-story tower that when completed will dwarf all other buildings in the low-rise capital. The $240-million 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.

The Phnom Penh Post
Friday, 21 March 2008

Inspired by eBay, a Cambodian entrepreneur is planning to work with internet cafes in the capital to launch a trading portal on line in July.

Creator Ok Sothyvorn, 36, said to get around the limited number of wired computers in Cambodian households, he plans to train staff at internet caf├ęs to assist customers using the new online auction website.

The new site will be called Anakut, which means “the future.”
Like eBay, the site will require sellers to include information about the item or service being sold, and will charge the seller but not the buyer a service fee. Sellers who give false information will be penalized.

Unlike eBay, Anakut will offer more personalized service with a 24-hour call center for customer assistance that will also vet sale information to ensure its legitimacy. Agents will be sent to inspect big ticket sale offers.

Sothyvorn said he envisioned real estate transactions flourishing on the site.

He said that because credit cards are not common in Cambodia, the service will introduce scratch cards for sellers to pay their fee to the website. The cards will be sold at internet cafes and the Anakut office, Sothyvorn said.

Whereas on eBay prices are negotiated through an online auction, Anakut will connect buyers and sellers, leaving it to them to negotiate a price and then inform the website once a sale has been finalized.

Sothyvorn said he first had the idea to launch an online trading site seven years ago when he came back from working in the IT sector in Canada.

Since then he has been slowly mobilizing technical and financial support from a small group of Cambodian and Canadian friends to make the venture possible.

Sothyvorn said he recently left his job as an IT manager at ANZ bank to commit himself fulltime to the project.

“The idea is not something new. But it will make trading in Cambodia easier by giving any seller the same venue as a big company and helping buyers find the best price,” he said, adding that he hopes the site will change the face of commercial transactions in a country where “most business is still done by small, family-owned shops.”

Sothyvorn said Cambodia’s slow and expensive internet is bound to undergo a major improvement within a couple years.

Once his office in Phnom Penh is up and running, he said he plans to open branches in Siem Reap and Sihanoukville.

He added that Anakut might go public with the scheduled launch of the Cambodian Stock Exchange in 2009. When eBay went public in 1998, three years after its debut, both its owners became instant billionaires, a status Sothyvorn doesn’t anticipate having quite as quickly.

Troubled garment maker draws ire of international labor union

The Phnom Penh Post
Friday, 21 March 2008
As workers at the Kings-land Garment Factory in Phnom Penh continued a two-month-long strike, a European trade union asked the Ministry of Commerce to revoke the export license of the Hong Kong company.

Kingsland’s behavior “is undermining confidence in the rest of the industry which is doing its best to ensure compliance with Cambodian labor law and international labor standard,” said Neil Kearney, secretary general of the Brussels-based International Textile, Garment and Leather Workers’ Federation.

ITGLWF sent a letter on March 11 to Commerce Minister Cham Prasidh urging him to halt exports by the garment company which employed 600 workers in Phnom Penh.

The Minister of Commerce and officials of Kingsland declined requests for an interview. The factory is closed as protests continue.

The trade union said Kingsland management ignored a request by the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers Democratic Union (CCAWDU) to “engage in dialogue regarding labor issues at the workplace and instead dismissed 19 union leaders and supporters.”

The strike began in January when management refused to negotiate with the CCAWDU regarding the dismissals and instead hired replacement workers, the ITGLWF said in a statement.

Several workers were injured in early February during protests outside the factory gates and six other workers were injured when they were attacked by police officers called in by the management.

CCAWDU president Ath Thorn said that since the dispute began many complaints had been filed with the Ministry of Labor, the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia (GMAC), the Arbitration Council, the International Labor Organization and the Ministry of Commerce.

Thorn said the request to lift the export license was “very strong pressure” and that he hoped it would force Kingsland management to negotiate. “Otherwise we will continue to strike until the end,” he said.

Thorn said he had urged the Ministry of Labor to push the case forward so that the Ministry of Commerce would be forced to take measures against the factory owners.

He said 19 workers were unjustly sacked and more than ten other workers were injured during violence between workers and policemen called in by the factory.

At the Ministry of Labor, Sok Bora, deputy director of labor dispute office, told the Post on March 18 that the ministry had proposed an agreement and that both parties had accepted a deal in which dismissed union representatives would be allowed back to work.

However, he said management of the Kingsland factory in Phnom Penh was waiting for approval from Hong Kong.

“We are waiting to see the result from Hong Kong because the manager here dares not to approve [the deal],” Bora said.

“If they agree to allow the dismissed workers to return to work the problem will end,” he added.

Bora said that the strike is being continued by about 50 workers. He said many problems occurred at the factory due to misunderstandings between management and workers who, he said, consider only their personal interests.

The GMAC did not intervene in the dispute.

Long Heang, an official at the association, confirmed the case had been sent to the Arbitration Council and the Ministry of Labor.

“We are not in-depth with the issue,” he said, adding that, “It’s a factory matter.”

The problems at the Kingsland factory come as the Kingdom grapples with external market pressures.

Garment exports dropped 46 percent year-on-year in the fourth quarter of 2007 amid increasing regional competition from China and Vietnam and an economic slump in the US, which imports some 70 percent of Cambodia’s exported garments.

According to Othsman Hassan, secretary of state at Ministry of Labor and Vocational Training, strikes in Cambodia’s garment industry fell from 86 in 2006 to 80 in 2007.

Youth vote can't stop Hun Sen, says CPP

The Phnom Penh Post
Written by Vong Sokheng and Gemma Deavin
Friday, 21 March 2008

With more than 55 percent of the Cambodian population aged 18-30, a mobilized youth vote could sway the upcoming national elections in July, democracy watchers like to point out.

But although one of the major parties is actively wooing youth voters into its party, the ruling CPP dismissed the idea that young voters want to oust Prime Minister Hun Sen.

Hun Sen this month accused the Sam Rainsy Party of bringing youths into the political fray in order to fight him. “They are dragging in a youth movement to topple Hun Sen from the position,” he said in a March 5 speech following the SRP’s national youth congress.

Hun Sen added he would leave it to the voters to “fight back in the upcoming elections.”

But Cheam Yeap, a member of the CPP’s Central Standing Committee, went further, telling the Post on March 19 that he thought it would be impossible for a youth vote to oust Hun Sen this year.

The voter registration process is already closed. National Elections Committee Secretary General Tep Nytha estimated 300,000 new young voters registered in 2007. He said the number increases every year.

“I don’t really know how many youth members there are within the CPP, but the CPP has five million members and many youths within the university and graduates are supporters of Hun Sen,” Nytha said.

He added that Hun Sen often gives speeches to graduating classes.

“I think that even if the SRP has more than 100,000 youths as members it is still not enough of a voice to topple Prime Minister Hun Sen,” he said.

In launching its national youth congress, the SRP said it had about 52,000 youth members from 17 provinces.

The party also elected a youth representative March 2 to sit at its executive committee.

The representative, 28-year-old San Seak Kin of Phnom Penh, will be able to contribute directly to the party’s political platform, said SRP parliamentarian Tioulong Saumura, Sam Rainsy’s wife.

Saumura admitted that until recently many older Cambodians had no idea that the youth contribution could be so important.

“Young people are surprisingly determined, committed, active and politically minded.

“People who have never received political training show such a high level of maturity,” she said.
“There is a freshness and spontaneity in people who have not suffered from intimidation.

“Young are more daring and audacious because they have not had the bad experience of suffering.”

Although many elections observers said youths in Cambodia want change, none could point to any strong evidence that young people were likely to affect the upcoming elections.

“Most young people understand the importance of politics but they just stay under the control of older politicians,” said Khmer Students Association program coordinator Saro Sovudhi.

“Maybe in ten years young people will have some real power,” he said.

Figures derived from official results of the 2007 commune council elections show there are of the 11,353 elected commune councilors nationwide. However, only 163, or 1.6 percent, are youths.

There are no parliamentarians under the age of 30 despite the minimum permissible age being 25.

Nevertheless, some education campaigns are gearing up to encourage participation in politics.

A 2007 survey conducted by the Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia (COMFREL) found young peoples’ grasp of the voting registration process was patchy.

Since then COMFREL has signed a contract with United Nations Development Program to help run a forum before the elections to train youth from major political parties and youth associations on the importance of networking and cooperation in politics.

“This election is just the beginning for youth to increase their voices,” said COMFREL executive director Koul Panha.

But Panha said the parties don’t let young people do much. “They have used youth movements to support them but they don’t give them any influence or power in decision making,” he said.

The idea of the UNDP program is to promote the idea that “if they all have a common agenda, they should come together,” he added.

“After the election we will bring them together again and talk about the political platforms of different parties and how they can respond.”

The forum covers ten of Cambodia’s 185 districts but plans to expand.

The Neutral and Impartial Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia (NICFEC) is training youth in monitoring and advocacy.

The Youth Council of Cambodia is also running some education programs in 12 target provinces for 13- to 17-year-olds and for 18- to 23-year-olds. The older group looks at democracy, the election process and good governance.

The Government Approves Sub-Decree Draft That Regulates Civilians’ Use of Guns

Posted on 23 March 2008.
The Mirror, Vol. 12, No. 552

“Phnom Penh: The meeting of the Council of Ministers on 21 March 2008, presided over by Samdech Akak Moha Senapadei Dekchor Hun Sen, approved the sub-decree draft on the conditions and procedures for allowing civilians to use and manage guns, bullets, and explosive devices. The sub-decree, drafted by the Ministry of Interior, covers the owning, using, purchasing, selling, trading, distributing, lending, renting, producing, modifying, assembling, transporting, importing, exporting, transiting, and storing guns, bullets, and explosive devices.

“Guns, bullets and explosive devices, which civilians are allowed to use, are laser guns, sporting pistols, artistic guns, fireworks, staple guns, ammunitions, explosives, and all kinds of explosive substances, no matter what their origin. These are only to serve public services and civil engineering, or in the construction of buildings.

“The meeting of the Council of Ministers also agreed on and approved a request that seeks the ratification by legislative institutions on the ‘agreement between the Cambodian and North Korean governments on the promotion and protection of investment.’

“During the meeting, Samdech Akak Moha Senapadei Dekchor Hun Sen also gave recommendations to the Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, to conduct a joint feasibility study on a 40-kilometer road construction from Koh Kong to a hydropower site located in Stung Russey Chrum Krom as soon as possible. Samdech Dekchor also told the Phnom Penh governor as well as other authorities to pay close attention to keeping good security and social order. All efforts should be made to ensure security for the Cambodian people throughout the country during this coming Khmer New Year. All people should be educated to avoid using guns, not to ignite firecrackers, and not to splash water on travelers.”

Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.16, #4547, 22.3.2008

A Remedy in Aisle 9: Romance

VITAMINS, ASPIRIN, LOVE: Newlyweds Chantah Bou and Jerry Pinsky share their wedding cake in aisle 9 of Walgreens on Plain Street in Lowell yesterday. They met there, by the vitamin shelves, in January 2007. Behind Pinsky, second from right, is WCAP radio announcer Sam Poulten. SUN / BILL BRIDGEFORD

PHARMACY FANTASY: Chantah Bou hands out cake to customers and employees after she and Jerry Pinsky exchanged vows in Walgreens in Lowell. Their relationship began in aisle 9. SUN PHOTOS / BILL BRIDGEFORD

By Rita Savard

LOWELL -- Number 9.

For Jerry Pinsky and Chantah Bou, it's magic. A beginning, a middle and forever.
It's where fate led them.

It was January 2007 when Chantah entered Walgreens on Plain Street. She was looking for vitamins in aisle 9.

Jerry doesn't remember what he was looking for. All he knows is what he found.

"One A Day, One A Day," Chantah said. "Why do you Americans have all these One A Days?"

Jerry looked at the dizzying array of plastic bottles stretching left to right, ceiling to floor.
Everything from A to Zinc. Chantah had a good point. He laughed and asked her what she needed.

Turns out she didn't need vitamins at all. Jerry recommended a pain reliever to cure Chantah's back pain.

"Not wanting to miss an opportunity, I gave her my card," he said. "She was charming and beautiful. All I wanted was to see her again."

A week later, Chantah called. The pain reliever worked and she wanted to thank Jerry for his help. He asked if he could take her out.

She agreed, but only if her friend could come. So they went to the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, and then dinner. Chantah, Jerry and the "chaperone."

After the first date, the chaperone was dropped. It was just Chantah and Jerry from there on.
They talked about the paths in life that brought them to aisle 9.

When Chantah was 5, the Khmer Rough stormed her home city of Phnom Penh in Cambodia. Her aunts and uncles disappeared, massacred in the Killing Fields.

She spent two weeks on the move. Away from gunfire and screams.

"Hold onto my shirt tail or I'll lose you," her father warned. "If I lose you, I might never find you again."

So Chantah held on tight to her father and ran. For two weeks, her parents and grandfather moved south until they reached the Vietnam border. Her grandfather convinced the soldiers that they were Vietnamese. They were allowed into a refugee camp and survived the genocide.

"She came away with serious ideas about what life should be," Jerry said.

Jerry, of Lowell, is a psychotherapist and clinical social worker. He works with veterans at the VA Hospital in Bedford. Family and friends say Jerry has a gift. He knows how to listen. How to be a genuine friend. How to heal broken hearts.

"His life has been about helping people find meaning and identity in their lives," said cousin Marc Konicov. "Now he's found romance. It makes sense. It's his turn."

But Jerry said there was a lot of distance to cover before he could ask Chantah to be his wife.
They come from two different sides of the planet. They had a language barrier. And they're 30 years apart in age. She's 41, he's 71.

"How does a miracle come from that?" Jerry asked.

Yesterday, going back to where it all began, Jerry got the answer to his question.

"I never see a man like this," said Chantah, also of Lowell, as they celebrated their marriage in aisle 9. Earlier in the day, they exchanged vows in a ceremony at City Hall.

Sometimes words aren't necessary. As Walgreens customers and employees looked on, she extended her hand and placed it over his heart.

"Sralange" she said, which means "love" in Khmer, is the only thing that matters.

In front of the dizzying array of One A Days, a three-tier cake topped with fresh white roses waited.

Jerry wore a black top hat and a permanent smile. Chantah walked to him as well-wishers sang an off-key version of Here Comes the Bride. Shoppers paused with their purchases to watch "something different" taking place.

Chris Krebs, Jerry's colleague and friend, said age shouldn't matter.

"Opportunities for love don't always happen for some people, and for others, they don't come up often," Krebs said. "He's courageous for seizing his opportunity."

The couple cut the cake. Chantah fed Jerry a bite.

"It means a lot to us to celebrate this special day here, in the very place we met," Jerry said. "I guess it's proof you can get anything you want at Walgreens."