Wednesday, 26 March 2008

War Stories and Cameras

by Austin Bay
March 26, 2008

John Kerry's "Christmas in Cambodia" yarn ignited the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. Whatever your memory of the 2004 presidential campaign, Kerry's sudden silence about a wartime Christmas "seared" in his memory was a rare example of a citizens group (the Swifties) publicly backing down a powerful U.S. senator and a major-party presidential candidate.

Kerry's full quote, delivered in the midst of a 1986 Senate debate about aid to the Nicaraguan Contras, is rhetorically powerful:

"I remember Christmas of 1968 sitting on a gunboat in Cambodia. I remember what it was like to be shot at by Vietnamese and Khmer Rouge and Cambodians, and have the president of the United States telling the American people that I was not there; the troops were not in Cambodia. I have that memory which is seared -- seared -- in me."

Glorious oratory indeed, based, unfortunately, on a touch of truth (his naval service) magnified by chest-pounding falsehood.

There were, however, no cameras recording Christmas in the Mekong estuaries, which left Kerry with wiggle room. That's all a politician ever needs, of course, a silly centimeter of wiggle room. He accused the Swift vets of being motivated by partisan malevolence and personal animosity rather than historical veracity.

Kerry was dead right on the personal animosity angle. I still run into Vietnam veterans who rile at a memory "seared" in their minds -- that of Kerry pulling his made-for-television "Winter Soldier" routine, where he accused American soldiers of hideous war crimes. He rode those anti-American allegations into a political career.

Hillary Clinton is having her "Cambodian" moment -- her claim that she ducked sniper fire when she landed in Bosnia in 1996. Cameras, however, were rolling. The CBS News clip juxtaposing Clinton's stump speech rendition of her "snipers tale" to the tender hugs reality of her Bosnian excursion exposes the candidate's story as blarney.

This is blarney with damaging blowback, since Clinton's claim to superiority over her Democratic primary opponent, Barack Obama, is she possesses hard-core foreign policy expertise.

CBS earns qualified kudos. An Obama supporter, the comedian Sinbad, pulled the magic carpet from beneath Clinton's Bosnian crock. Sinbad was with Clinton in Bosnia, and he told a Washington Post political blog that "I think the only 'red-phone' (i.e., scary) moment was, 'Do we eat here or at the next place?'"

It appears that crack journalistic fact-checking by a major network did not catch Clinton -- breaking the duplicitous news took a celebrity anecdote relayed to a political gossip column in the midst of a nasty internecine Democratic Party political war. CBS had a reporter with Clinton in 1996 and a tape. Clinton has told "the sniper's tale" on several previous occasions. Next time, maybe ...

Obama has his own problems with truth in packaging. We have learned the electrifying candidate of "hope" has a political debt to "hate" -- and Chicago's sleazy political machine.
Excusing the videotaped anti-American hate speech of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright as hot rhetoric reflecting deep historical suffering may pass muster in the Democratic primaries, but should Obama obtain the nomination, come November he will be running for president of the nation Wright insistently damned. If he really wants to become leader of the Free World, he will dump Wright sometime in September and acknowledge embedded bitterness stalls change?

As for John McCain? If he faces Clinton in November, expect to see her sniper's tale video followed by Vietnam War footage of McCain climbing into his Navy jet. If McCain faces Obama and "suffering" becomes an issue, a nuanced mind must ask if Harvard is a greater hell than Hanoi.

McCain is encountering the Alzheimer's innuendo for his claim (now retracted) that Iran supports al-Qaida in Iraq. He will have to take that heat. The al-Qaida-Iran relationship is very murky. Al-Qaida has numerous "affiliates," and Iranian intelligence has contacts with radical Sunni Muslim organizations (the Ayatollah Khomeini originally claimed his was an Islamic revolution, not a Shia revolution). But as for definitively aiding al-Qaida in Iraq, he was wise to retract. As for his age, nope, you can't retract a birth certificate.

While Clinton and Obama tread the political gutter, McCain ought to continue his global trek. McCain ought to visit U.S. troops in Afghanistan, Green Berets training counter-terror cops in West Africa, destroyer sailors in the Strait of Hormuz, Marines on an assault ship in the Mediterranean, a carrier off South Korea.

Cambodia's dysfunctional democracy

Column: Rule by Fear
March 26, 2008

HONG KONG, China, Cambodia is bound to a set of obligations under the international agreements that were concluded in 1991 to end the war in the country. Cambodia has undertaken, among other things, to adopt democracy, to observe and respect human rights and to be governed by the rule of law.

The country's Constitution, which emanates from a U.N.-organized constituent election in 1993, incorporates all of its international obligations and provides for all basic institutions for a parliamentary democracy and the rule of law. It is a constitutional monarchy with a separation of powers. It has an independent and impartial judiciary whose duty is to protect the rights and freedoms of its citizens.

Cambodia has since then abandoned communism, embraced a market economy and become a more open society. However, communist legacies have stalled the creation of institutions for parliamentary democracy and the rule of law worthy of their names and their functioning. The government is not accountable to the National Assembly, for example, when the prime minister and other government ministers flout their constitutional duties and spurn the assembly's summons to answer its questions.

The government and, through it, the prime minister, currently Hun Sen, have effective control over all state institutions, including the king, the Constitutional Council, the National Assembly and the judiciary. Hun Sen's power is all the stronger when he has effective control of his ruling party, the Cambodian People's Party, a former communist party whose discipline has remained as strict as ever.

Party members are appointed to all positions of responsibility in all state institutions -- the army, the security forces, the civil service, the National Election Committee, and even the legal profession. Hun Sen and the CPP have the support of rich businessmen through cronyism, and he and other leading CPP members have built up strong personal relationships among themselves and rich businessmen through the marriages of their children or through business connections.

The dysfunctional institutions for parliamentary democracy and the rule of law, and the concomitant concentration of power, that have been created by this phenomenon have led to an abuse of power and position, corruption, inequality before the law and impunity for the rich and powerful.

Many crimes throughout the years, especially the notorious ones in which top officials are widely known to have been involved, have remained uninvestigated. Almost all such perpetrators have escaped punishment for their crimes. These notorious crimes include, for example, the killing and injuring of peaceful demonstrators in 1997, the killing of some 40 senior rival party members in a coup a few months later, the killing of a famous actress in 1999, labor union leaders in 2004 and 2007 and evictees in 2007 and the attempted murder of female singers in 2003 and 2007.

Many powerful and rich people have abused their power and position and are known to have been involved in land-grabbing, which is a major issue that has put at least 150,000 people at risk of being evicted, according to a survey. Hun Sen has publicly acknowledged that land-grabbers are officials of his ruling party and people in power. In recent years, land-grabbers have used members of the security forces to forcibly evict people from their homes and lands, beating them, destroying their properties and arresting them if they resist. According to one NGO, at least 5,585 families in 2007 were evicted, and nearly 150 people were arrested, one-third of whom are still in prison in 2008.

In February 2008, the Cambodia national police commissioner allegedly ordered the punishment of a police officer who refused to follow an order to cede his land to a senior government minister in a land dispute. This police officer was allegedly illegally arrested, tortured and denied medical treatment.

In the same month, the son of an advisor to a top leader of the country shot at a metal frame builder whose nephew had a brawl with that advisor's other son, but the bullet missed the builder. The builder's nephew was arrested, yet both of the advisor's sons were not. The advisor used his position to arrange with the police and the court for an out-of-court settlement and for the dropping of all charges against his sons, which is illegal under Cambodian law.

Earlier in January the bodyguards of a powerful person were caught on camera grabbing and assaulting the driver of a truck who failed to stop in time to make way for the car of their boss to drive through a busy section of a national highway on the outskirts of Phnom Penh. Yet no investigation has been reported, although the story with the photo of the assault has been published in a leading national newspaper.

Louis Antoine Léon de Saint-Just, a French revolutionary leader in the 18th century, said that France had too many laws but too few institutions and that despotism would not decline until there were more institutions. Cambodia seems to have sufficient laws and institutions to counter despotism, but law enforcement is defective due to defective institutions.

It is time for the Cambodian government to correct defects in law enforcement and the country's institutions. The Cambodian National Assembly, as the representative of the nation responsible for the formation of the government, should exercise its power to make this government accountable to it. The judiciary should uphold its independence and impartiality and protect the rights and freedoms of all Cambodian citizens. Its members should not be affiliated to any political party, as almost all of them are at the moment.

All other institutions, including the army, the security forces, the civil service, the National Election Committee and the legal profession, should uphold their political neutrality and their impartiality. Above all, the government and the ruling party should respect the independence, political neutrality and impartiality applicable to the country's institutions.

Minister: forest cover in Cambodia still at 59%

March 26, 2008

Forest still covers some 59 percent of Cambodia's total area, English-Khmer language newspaper the Mekong Times on Wednesday quoted Environment Minister Mok Mareth as saying.

"Though there is criticism that a lot of forest has been lost, currently forest still covers the area of about 59 percent or 106,810 square km of Cambodia's land," he told a seminar here on Tuesday.

The government no longer issues logging concessions and bans the export of timber to protect what remains of Cambodia's forests, he said.

"To ensure a stable and balanced environment in Cambodia, we must have 60 percent forest cover," he said.

"We encourage the public to replant tree seedlings feverishly and hope to reach a 60 percent target," he said.

Ty Sokun, Director of the Forestry Administration at the ministry, said that the target of 60 percent by 2015 is possible.

Tree planting is increasing with about 10,000 hectares replanted last year and 5 million tress distributed, he said.

Cambodia has some 200 varieties of trees. Forest cover stood at 73 percent in 1970s, but over-logging has decreased it to around 50 percent, according to official figures issued on other occasions. NGOs even put the current ratio at 20 percent.


Sultan receives King of Cambodia in audience

His Majesty the Sultan and His Majesty the King of Cambodia at the Royal Dais. - AZROL AZMI

His Majesty the Sultan and His Majesty the King of Cambodia inspecting the Guard of Honour. - AZROL AZMI

His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam, His Majesty the King of Cambodia Preah Bat Samdech Preah Boromneath Norodom Sihamoni, His Royal Highness Prince Haji Al-Muhtadee Billah the Crown Prince and Senior Minister at the Prime Minister's Office, HRH Prince Mohamed Bolkiah, HRH Prince Abdul Malik, Her Royal Highness Samdech Reach Botrei Preah Anoch Norodom Arunrasmy, Ambassador of the Kingdom of Cambodia to Malaysia, and other delegates of Cambodia. - AZROL AZMI

His Majesty the Sultan introduced by His Majesty the King of Cambodia to the visiting delegation. - JASON LEONG

His Majesty the Sultan and His Majesty the King of Cambodia during the audience at the Istana Nurul Iman. - JASON LEONG

His Majesty the King of Cambodia with His Royal Highness Prince Haji Al-Muhtadee Billah at the Brunei International Airport. - YUSRIN JUNAIDI

His Majesty the King of Cambodia shakes hands with the Minister of Education. - YUSRIN JUNAIDI

Cambodian King Visits BSP

March 26, 2008

By Azaraimy HH
Bandar Seri Begawan - His Majesty Preah Bat Samdech Preah Boromneath Norodom Sihamoni, King of Cambodia visited Brunei Shell Petroleum (BSP) Company Sdn Bhd yesterday morning.

Also in attendance was Her Royal Highness Princess Norodom Arunrasmy, His Majesty the King's sister.

His Majesty the King of Cambodia, who is in the Sultanate for a state visit, was accompanied by Pehin Orang Kaya Seri Lela Dato Seri Setia Awang Haji Abd Rahman bin Dato Setia Haji Mohamed Taib, Brunei's Minister of Education.

Upon arrival at the Anduki Airfield, His Majesty the King of Cambodia was greeted by Pehin Orang Kaya Hamzah Pahlawan Dato Seri Setia Awang Hj Abdullah bin Begawan Mudim Dato Paduka Hj Bakar, Minister of Development; Awg Hj Mohammad bin Abdul Rahman, Belait District Officer; and Awng Hj Zainai Abidin bin Hj Mohd Ali, the Acting Managing Director of Brunei Shell Petroleum.

From the airfield, the Cambodian entourage proceeded to the company's science and technology educational community outreach project, the Oil and Gas Discovery Centre in Seria.

The Cambodian royal entourage arrived at the Oil and Gas Discovery Centre and was greeted by David Purvis, Technical Director and Hj Kamaludin Hj Bungsu, the Darat Asset Manager of Brunei Shell Petroleum.

The Cambodian King's programme at the Oil and Gas Discovery Centre commenced with a presentation comprising an overview of Brunei Shell Petroleum. It was followed by a question and answer session.

The royal visit continued with a tour of the exhibition hall at the centre, which showcases over 300 science interactive exhibits detailing the development of the oil and gas industry. The exhibits also provide an out-of-the-classroom experience for visitors and especially youngsters to understand and enjoy learning science and technology related to the oil and gas industry.

While in the exhibition hall, His Majesty the King of Cambodia also viewed a couple of science demonstrations.

Prior to leaving the Oil and Gas Discovery Centre, the Cambodian royal entourage proceeded to the viewing gallery to experience a panoramic sweep of the oil and gas installations overlooking the South China Sea.

The visit then culminated with the presentation of a souvenir to His Majesty King Norodom Sihamoni by Awg Haji Zainal Abidin. To commemorate His Majesty the King of Cambodia's visit, a photo session between His Majesty's entourage and his Bruneian hosts was also arranged.

-- Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin

Cambodian PM appeals for calm over inflation

March 26, 2008

As accelerating inflation puts more and more people at serious risk, Prime Minister Hun Sen has appealed to Cambodians to be calm over increasing goods prices, especially that of rice, local media reported Wednesday.

Soaring rice prices are due to dishonest merchants inflating their profits, Hun Sen was quoted by the Mekong Times newspaper assaying.

Hun Sen ordered an investigation of rice merchants in Kandal, Kompong Thom and Kompong Cham provinces and asked authorities at all levels and rice stall owners to report any irregularities, the newspaper said.

The premier rejected rumors of a black market for rice in Cambodia, claiming that inflation is due to rising oil prices.

To help Cambodian rice reach local markets, Hun Sen ordered the Ministry of Commerce to put all rice mills across the country into operation.

Meanwhile, Prom Tola, an independent economic advisor, said rising rice prices were partly due to over-exporting. In 2007, Cambodia produced 6.4 million tons of rice nationwide, a surplus of around two million tons, according to official statistics.

Source: Xinhua

Software Microsoft entered Cambodian Market

Posted by vutha
March 26, 2008

Yesterday, the Global Software giant Microsoft Corp launched the operation of its new Brand in Cambodia in order to fight against the intellectual property rights, and to sell its products and service in Cambodian market. Microsoft Development Program (MDP) will be responsible for coordinating local marketing program, finding new partners, and the supporting the development of Microsoft’s overall business base in Cambodia. In addition, MDP will distribute its information about how to teach the benefit of using non-pirated software and instruct users and local distributors how to use its systems.

At the present time, Cambodian people have been using pirated software which it s cost is only $2 on sales across the market. Less computer users bought licensed software, except international companies and some international non-governmental organizations operating in Cambodia. For the common Cambodian users do not afford to purchase un-pirated software.

Sok An, deputy prime minister and also deputy chairman of the government’s National Information Communication Technology Development Authority (NiDA) presided this launch by suggesting the Microsoft to reduce licensed prices because Cambodians cannot afford to buy it, even though they would like to buy the real Microsoft software.

Sok An was quoted by The Mekong Time as saying that “the government has long prioritized the nascent Information Communication and Technology (ICT) sector in Cambodia as it believe it speeds up development, improve lifestyles and boosts poverty reduction, adding that through NiDa the government has successfully computerized many of its activities.

Though, Cambodia has become the member of World Trade Organization (WTO) in 2005 but Cambodian’s GDP is still low. By the way, WTO extended the deadline for Cambodia and other least developed countries to enforce copyright and accept patent till 2013.

President reaffirms strong friendship with Cambodia

President Nguyen Minh Triet greets Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Tea Banh. — VNA/VNS Photo Nguyen Khang


Ha Noi — State President Nguyen Minh Triet pledged to maintain all-round relations with neighbour Cambodia while receiving Deputy Prime Minister Gen. Tea Banh of Cambodia in Ha Noi yesterday.

The State leader told Tea Banh, who doubles as Minister of Defence, that the Party, State and people of Viet Nam have always prioritised the task of working together with Laos and Cambodia for a developed Indochinese peninsular.

Gen. Tea Banh thanked Viet Nam for its great assistance in the past struggle to overthrow the Pol Pot genocidal regime and the current national development.

"The mature of the Cambodian Defence Ministry today is partially thanks to experiences drawn from Vietnamese experts on voluntary missions," the Cambodian Defence Minister said.

He also called on the Vietnamese Defence Ministry to assist and share experiences in maintaining security and public order in an effort to ensure Cambodia’s legislative elections, scheduled for July, are a success.

Tea Banh began a four-day official visit to Viet Nam on March 24 at the invitation of Defence Minister Gen Phung Quang Thanh.

The Cambodian high-level military delegation embarked on talks with a host delegation led by Gen Thanh immediately after a welcoming ceremony.

The two sides agreed to continue joint patrols at sea and exchange information on search and rescue operations. Talks also focused on the work of locating and repatriating the remains of Vietnamese volunteers who died on Cambodian soil.

The two sides agreed on further exchanges of visits and stronger cooperation in personnel training between military hospitals and institutes from the two countries in order to fulfil high-level commitments to "good neighbourliness, traditional friendship, comprehensive and long-term co-operation." — VNS the past struggle to overthrow the Pol Pot genocidal regime and the current national development.

"The mature of the Cambodian Defence Ministry today is partially thanks to experiences drawn from Vietnamese experts on voluntary missions," the Cambodian Defence Minister said.

He also called on the Vietnamese Defence Ministry to assist and share experiences in
maintaining security and public order in an effort to ensure Cambodia ’s legislative elections, scheduled for July, are a success.

Tea Banh began a four-day official visit to Viet Nam on March 24 at the invitation of Defence Minister Gen. Phung Quang Thanh.

The Cambodian high-level military delegation embarked on talks with a host delegation led by Defence Minister Gen. Phung Quang Thanh immediately after a welcoming ceremony.

The two sides agreed to continue joint patrols at sea and exchange information on search and rescue operations. Talks also focused on the work of locating and repatriating remains of Vietnamese volunteers who died on Cambodian soil.

The two sides agreed on further exchanges of visits and stronger cooperation in personnel training between military hospitals and institutes from the two countries in order to fulfil high-level commitments to "good neighbourliness, traditional friendship, comprehensive and long-term cooperation." — VNS

Cambodian PM bans rice exports to halt spiraling costs

Agence France-Presse

PHNOM PENH - Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen on Wednesday banned rice exports in a bid to halt the staple food's spiraling prices, which have reached highs of nearly one dollar a kilogram.

The move comes amid the steady climb in the price of most staple goods, including the doubling of the cost of cooking gas, which has put increasing strain on large numbers of Cambodians.

"Cambodia will halt the export of rice for two months," Hun Sen said.

"It is a temporary measure ... but it is to ensure food security," he added.

Rice prices have risen sharply from about 40 cents a kilogram as speculation of shortages grip local markets, sparking demands that the government put a cap on costs.

But Hun Sen said Tuesday that Cambodia is experiencing a rice surplus, and blamed the price hike on "economic sabotage" -- people spreading rumors of dwindling rice supplies in a bid to undermine the government.

Despite GDP growth averaging 11 percent over the past three years, more than a third of the country's 14 million people live on less than 50 cents a day, making even the slightest rise of food costs devastating to Cambodia's poorest.

Petrol remains at record highs on the back of global oil prices while inflation cracked the double digits late last year, hovering around 11 percent and further driving up food costs.

2 Cambodian men arrested for killing elephant with poison


PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) - Two Cambodian men could face up to three years behind bars for allegedly poisoning an elephant and sawing off its tusks to sell on the black market, officials said Wednesday.

The male elephant, which was chained to a tree by its owner in Rattanakiri province, about 325 kilometers (200 miles) northeast of the capital Phnom Penh, was found dead in March 2007.

Police at the time said the killers had doused jack fruit, a tropical fruit eaten by elephants, with rat poison.

The tusks of the 62-year-old elephant, measuring almost 1 meter (3 feet) each, had been removed.

The two suspects, Men Rattana, 42, and Klem Sam Ouen, 27, were arrested this week, almost a year after the animal's killing, said Hor Ang, the provincial deputy police chief.

They were charged with intentional destruction of private property because the elephant belonged to a Cambodian family and was not living in the wild.

Police raided the suspects' homes after being tipped off by villagers who had overheard the two men discussing prices for elephant tusks, Hor Ang said.

He said the tusks could fetch up to US$3,000 (1,900) each in the illegal ivory trade.

Elephants are the main means of transport for hilltribe people in northeastern Cambodia.

Conservationists have said that the end of years of armed conflict in Cambodia has allowed the elephant population and other wildlife to repopulate Cambodian jungles.

Cambodian oil production to start in 2011: energy official

Vendors fill a car with gasoline along a street in Phnom Penh, in April 2007. Cambodia expects to begin oil production in 2011, a senior energy official said Wednesday amid warnings that new-found petroleum reserves did not guarantee instant prosperity for the impoverished country.(AFP/File/Tang Chhin Sothy)

Wed Mar 26

PHNOM PENH (AFP) - Cambodia expects to begin oil production in 2011, a senior energy official said Wednesday amid warnings that new-found petroleum reserves did not guarantee instant prosperity for the impoverished country.

If there is no delay, we are planning the first oil production for around 2011," said Te Duong Dara, director-general of the Cambodian National Petroleum Authority (CNPA), speaking at a conference of global industry experts and energy company officials in Phnom Penh.

He declined to say how many companies were currently exploring for oil in six vast blocks off Cambodia's shores.

Following the discovery of oil in 2005 by the US energy giant Chevron, Cambodia was quickly feted as the region's next potential petro-state, sitting on an estimated hundreds of millions of barrels of crude, and three times as much natural gas in six blocks located off of the coast.

Chevron, the most active of several firms exploring the fields, remains mum, saying only that its test wells have found that the oil and gas is "dispersed rather than located in one core field," according an earlier statement.

Government optimism has also been blunted, with Prime Minister Hun Sen warning late last year that it was "highly premature" to estimate how much oil Cambodia might hold in undersea reserves after other officials projected that the country could begin production in 2009.

Concerns have also been raised over how Cambodia -- one of the world's most corrupt countries -- would use its new-found oil and gas wealth.

"Many assume the discovery of oil and gas reserves automatically translates into greater prosperity. Unfortunately, this is not the case," Jo Scheuer, Cambodian country director of the UN Development Agency, said Wednesday.

"Economic growth in resource-rich developing countries has been on average two to three times lower than resource-poor countries," he added.

"Cambodia's non-renewable resources are important assets that must be used wisely."

While GDP growth estimates remain some of the highest in the region, averaging 11 percent over the past three years, nearly a third of Cambodia's 14 million people survive on only 50 US cents a day or less.

Despite their uncertainty over how much oil can be pumped from Cambodia's reserves, government officials are adamant that petroleum profits would not be squandered, saying the sector is essential to the country's continued growth.

"The discovery of oil and gas ... is a vital step in contributing to the country's sustained economic development," said Deputy Prime Minister Sok An, who also chairs the CNPA.

Vietnamese doctors offer free eye surgery on poor Cambodians

A group of 40 Vietnamese doctors conducted free eye surgery on 200 underprivileged patients in Phnom Penh and nearby provinces from March 21-22.

The Vietnamese doctors, who are from the Military Hospital 175 and the HCMC Eye Hospital, also gave free eye examinations and medicine to more than 100 other patients.

In June, 2007, doctors from the two hospitals also conducted free eye examinations and performed surgery on more than 300 poor patients in Cambodia.

Source: VNA

South Koreans Turn to Buy Cambodian Wives

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The brides-to-be are brought down from poor Cambodian villages and herded into city hotels, where they are lined up and put on display for prospective grooms flown in from South Korea.

Over the past four years, some 2,500 women have wedded South Korean men, passing through an underground matchmaking business that few in Cambodia knew existed until recently.

A report to be released next month by the Geneva-based International Organization for Migration sheds light on the growing phenomenon. A crackdown on marriage brokers in neighboring Vietnam is pushing the activity into Cambodia, according to the report, an advance copy of which was obtained by The Associated Press.

"It's become a big business," said John McGeoghan, an IOM project coordinator in Cambodia. "We now see that these marriage brokers are popping up in Cambodia. This is a new market for them, and there's a lot of money to be made."

Potential grooms reportedly pay brokers up to US $20,000, the IOM report says. The bride's family receives at most $1,000, with the rest pocketed by brokers. It is unclear how many are now operating in Cambodia.

The grooms, mostly factory workers and farmers, have trouble finding wives in South Korea because they are low-income earners, IOM says. Although some of the marriages prove successful, others herald loneliness, broken promises, divorce and sometimes violence, the report says.

Kim In-Kook, a South Korean embassy official, confirmed that the number of marriage visas issued to Cambodian brides soared from 72 in 2004 to 1,759 last year. He declined further comment.

Growing South Korean investment and tourism in Cambodia is also playing "a significant role in the expansion of transnational marriages" between the two countries, the IOM report says.

Cambodia's government publicly acknowledged the issue for the first time this month, apparently alarmed that it could slide into human trafficking, in which women are tricked or forced into marriage.

Earlier this month, the Interior Ministry announced it was canceling licenses of two South Korean companies for engaging in the matchmaking business. The firms had registered as export-import firms to secure legal entry into the country, a ministry official said on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to release information.

Interior Minister Sar Kheng denounced the firms' activities as "human trafficking."

Prime Minister Hun Sen spoke out on the problem shortly after, telling law enforcement agencies to be stricter in issuing marriage certificates "to prevent deceptive activities." He also urged parents "not to be so easygoing" about sending their daughters into brokered marriages with foreigners.

Traditionally, marriages in Cambodia are arranged by parents. Now, brokers are approaching Cambodian families. If interested, the families provide photos of their daughters, which are sent to South Korea or posted on Web sites, the IOM report says.

Brokers arrange 4-to-6 day marriage tours to Cambodia for prospective grooms, most of whom have expressed interest in more than one woman, the report says. The men are ushered through something akin to underground speed-dating, followed by a marriage ceremony.

"Most of the matchmaking occurs in restaurants or small hotels located in or near Phnom Penh," the report says, referring to Cambodia's capital city. "There the men typically select a bride from as many as 100 who are made available."

The women are mostly in their late teens and early 20s, attracted by promises of high living standards and money, the report says.

It cites one marriage in which a South Korean man promised to make monthly remittances to his bride's family, but was too poor to keep the promise. "This caused tension and arguments that resulted in domestic violence," the report says.

The woman is seeking divorce, but has received threats from the Cambodian marriage brokers, who have told her she would be charged $1,000 if she returns and her parents would be harmed, the report says.

"It's not as romantic and wonderful as (the women) thought it would be," McGeoghan said.

Cambodian war crimes trial begs for more cash

By Andrew Buncombe,
Asia Correspondent
Wednesday, 26 March 2008

Officials from the Cambodian war crimes tribunal are involved in a desperate fight to ensure the court retains its credibility and the funding it requires to bring justice to the "killing fields" crimes of a generation ago.

Three members from the UN-backed court will answer questions tomorrow from donor nations, amid allegations of corruption and political interference.

Convincing the donors of the transparency of the proceedings is vital if the tribunal is to obtain more than $100m (£50m) in extra funds to try the surviving leaders of the Khmer Rouge.

"They are going there to answer questions and make the situation clear... to tell the truth," said Reach Sambath, a spokesman for the tribunal. "They are going as delegation to say what is going on at the court." The tribunal, formally known as the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, was established with UN support to try those remaining members of the Khmer Rouge regime whose four-year rule resulted in the deaths of up to1.7 million people.

Between 1975, when the Maoist-inspired force seized power and 1979 when it was ousted by invading troops from Vietnam, almost a third of the population was either murdered or died from disease or starvation.

One of the most pressing problems facing the tribunal has been that of funding. While the tribunal was set up with an initial budget of about $56m, continued delays and problems have forced officials to ask for an additional $114m. "The original budget was just for three years until mid-2009 and we need to envisage going a bit longer than that," its chief spokesperson, Helen Jarvis, said last year.

Directly linked to the battle for funds are accusations of corruption. Last year, the New York-based Open Society Justice Initiative claimed that Cambodian judges and other staff at the court had paid off government officials for their positions at the tribunal. The claims were dismissed by the Cambodian authorities.

What does not appear in doubt, however, is that the Cambodian government has placed many obstacles in the way of the tribunal, apparently concerned about members of the Khmer Rouge who have served as cabinet ministers.

So far, five former members of the regime have been detained by the court and the first of the trials is expected to begin later this year. The five prisoners are Kaing Guek Eav, better known as Comrade Duch and the former head of interrogations at the notorious Tuol Sleng jail, former president Khieu Samphan, foreign minister Ieng Sary and his wife, Ieng Thirith, and Nuon Chea, the deputy to "Brother Number One" Pol Pot.

Most of the prisoners are elderly and frail and there is concern the process be completed as soon as possible in order to try to offer a degree of resolution to a country scarred by the horrors of its recent past.

Duch, now 66, took charge of the torture and interrogation of about 20,000 people who were sent to Tuol Sleng. All but a handful were taken to the killing fields and killed, often by being beaten with a shovel.

Ms Jarvis said the money currently allotted for the tribunal was expected to run out by the end of the year. The tribunal's revised budget proposal calls for the additional money to expand its staff and allow it operate until March 2011.

Chinese dams threaten Cambodia's forests, farmers

In the last two years, Cambodia's Prime Minister has agreed to at least four Chinese-funded hydropower projects (Reuters: Chor Sokunthea )

Tue Mar 25, 2008
By Ek Madra

CHAY ARENG RIVER, Cambodia (Reuters) - Along the Chay Areng valley in Cambodia's remote Cardamom mountains, children still scamper barefoot through one of mainland southeast Asia's last remaining tracts of virgin jungle.

If they take the same paths in a few years, they will probably have to be swimming.

Faced with a rapidly growing but power-starved economy, Prime Minister Hun Sen has decided the rivers flowing from one of the few elevated spots in a relentlessly flat country should become its battery pack.

With this in mind, in the last two years he has agreed to at least four Chinese-funded hydropower projects as part of a $3 billion scheme to boost output from a measly 300 MW today to 1,000 MW in a decade, enough to power a small city.

The indigenous communities who have lived off the forests in the Cardamoms since the dawn of time appear to be the ones who will be paying the biggest price.

"We have been living here without a dam for many generations. We don't want to see our ancestral lands stolen," said 78-year-old Sok Nuon, lighting a fire inside her wooden hut nestled in among the trees near the Chay Areng river.

"I do not want to move as it takes years for fruit trees to produce crops. By then, I'll be dead," she said.


Few people argue that Cambodia's 14 million people need more power.

After decades of war and upheaval, including the Khmer Rouge "Killing Fields" of the 1970s, the economy has finally taken off, growing at nearly 10 percent a year.

But its antiquated, mainly diesel-fuelled power plants can meet only 75 percent of demand, meaning frequent blackouts and unit prices around twice those of neighboring Thailand and Vietnam -- both factors inhibiting faster expansion.

With the closer ties Hun Sen has cultivated with Beijing in the last five years, Chinese cash and dam-building expertise has become a logical solution to what is one of the inevitable pains of breakneck growth.

"Chinese investment in hydropower is so important for Cambodia's development," Foreign Minister Hor Namhong said in January after meeting with his Chinese counterpart Yang Jiechi.

But critics maintain that much of the planning is taking place with scant regard for the long-term impact on the environment in a country where (80) percent of people still rely on agriculture for their livelihoods.

"Poorly conceived and developed hydro-power projects could needlessly and irreparably damage Cambodia's river system with serious consequences," said Carl Middleton of the U.S.-based International Rivers Network.


The Chinese embassy in Phnom Penh denied Beijing was taking any short-cuts in dam construction in Cambodia -- part of a massive aid package designed to ensure a compliant friend in the region.

"They comply with environmental standards and are approved by the Cambodian government," said a Chinese diplomat who did not wish to be named. "We just want to help Cambodia as much as we can."

But the Chay Areng project hardly appears to be a model of transparency.

The deal was signed in late 2006 with China Southern Power Grid Co (CSG), one of China's two grid operators, to build a 260 MW plant at an estimated cost of $200 million and with a completion date of 2015.

With no prior consultation, the first villagers knew of the project was when Chinese engineers turned up this year to start working on feasibility studies -- details of which CSG and the government are reluctant to discuss.

Environmentalists who have conducted their own studies say the dam's lake will cover 110 sq km (42 sq miles) and displace thousands of indigenous people in nine villages.

More than 200 animal species, including elephants, sun bears, leopards and the endangered Siamese crocodile, would be affected upstream, said Sam Chanthy, head of the NGO Forum, a foreign-funded non-governmental organization in Phnom Penh.

Downstream, the delicate ecosystem of the flooded forest, home to some of the world's rarest turtle species as well as hundreds of types of migratory fish, would also be hit by disruptions to water flow, he said.

"It won't take long for these invaluable assets to disappear when the dam is built," said Eng Polo, of wildlife group Conservation International.

(Editing by Ed Cropley)

Japanese JV plan with Southern Gold in Cambodia

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Sydney, Mar 26, 2008 (RWE Aust Business News) The Japanese government organisation, JOGMEC, plans to fund accelerated exploration on three Cambodian gold and base metal projects under a Letter of Intent with Southern Gold (ASX:SAU).

National Corp) and Southern Gold will JV over three of Southern Gold's Cambodian tenements.
JOGMEC will invest $US4.5 million ($4.94m) within three years to earn a 51 per cent interest in Phnum Khtong (Kratie North project) and two adjoining blocks, Preak Khlong and O'Kthung (Kratie South project).

The agreement includes an up-front payment to Southern Gold of approximately $US400,000 on signing of the LOI for current exploration costs, followed by a decision to proceed with a full joint venture on the Kratie North and/or the Kratie South Projects by June 2008.

The three tenements are among eight gold projects, wholly or majority owned, by Southern Gold under its strategy to establish a cornerstone gold business in Cambodia to compliment the Australian gold projects.

Closer Brunei, Cambodia ties

Their Majesties during the Royal Banquet last night at the Istana Nurul Iman.

His Majesty the Sultan and His Majesty the King of Cambodia shake hands after His Majesty the Sultan delivers his titah.

His Majesty the Sultan and His Majesty the King of Cambodia arriving for the banquet.

Their Majesties exchanging souvenirs.

Their Majesties and other members of the royal family during the national anthem.

His Majesty the King of Cambodia delivers his speech.

His Majesty the Sultan delivers his titah.

His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam last night hosted a Royal Banquet in honour of the King of Cambodia, His Majesty Preah Bat Samdech Preah Boromneath Norodom Sihamoni at the Istana Nurul Iman.

The Cambodian King arrived yesterday for a three-day State visit.

Soon after Their Majesties arrived at the hall, the national anthems of Cambodia and Brunei Darussalam were played.

This was followed by a doa selamat read by Pehin Datu Seri Maharaja Dato Paduka Seri Setia Ustaz Hj Awg Abdul Aziz bin Juned, the State Mufti.

His Majesty then delivered a titah and expressed his hope that they can share the experiences that links Brunei and Cambodia as friends and partners in the modern Southeast Asia.

His Majesty said that in the heart of all the programmes of cooperation lies providing the opportunities for the people in member countries of Asean to meet the challenges of today's world with a confidence and hope that is based on their own knowledge, practical skills and talent.

"Those are practical tasks, Your Majesty, and we are delighted to be sharing them with our friends and colleagues in the Kingdom of Cambodia. Many of them involve the future, however. But there are many other things that we already share and we are equally delighted to have the opportunity that Your Majesty's visit offers to express and reaffirm them.

"They are less tangible than formal programmes of cooperation. But in some ways they are even more important.

"They reflect the spirit of our modern region; the friendship we share; the desire we have to work together and help one another; the wish to learn more about each other and to understand each other well; and perhaps above all else the quality that underpins all others in a modern region, respect of each other," said His Majesty.

This respect (which includes the rich diversity of background, faiths, cultures and historical experience, as well as the respect for both countries' people's individual strengths, talents and abilities) exists in abundance between Brunei and the Kingdom of Cambodia, added His Majesty.

In reply, His Majesty Preah Bat Samdech Preah Boromneath Norodom Sihamoni, the King of Cambodia expressed his gratitude for the warm welcome extended by His Majesty the Sultan of Brunei, the Brunei government and the Brunei people, as well as for the support in the national reconstruction and development of Cambodia in the fields of economy and social development.

He also brought greetings from his august parents, His Majesty the Heroic King Norodom Sihanouk, Father of the Cambodian Nation and Her Majesty Queen Norodom Monineath Sihanouk, Mother of the Cambodian Nation.

The King of Cambodia said, "The continuous exchanges of visits between the leaders of Cambodia and Brunei has strengthened the bonds of friendship and solidarity existing between our two countries in order to speed up the bilateral cooperation in all fields for the join benefit of our two peoples.

His Majesty the King of Cambodia then raised a toast to the good health, long life and happiness of His Majesty the Sultan and the royal family, invited guests and the people of Brunei, as well as to the enduring friendship between Brunei and the Kingdom of Cambodia.

Also present at the banquet were His Royal Highness Prince Hj Al-Muhtadee Billah, the Crown Prince and Senior Minister at the Prime Minister's Office, HRH Prince Mohamed Bolkiah, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, HRH Prince Hj Sufri Bolkiah and other members of the royal family.

Also present were senior government officials, ambassadors and special guests. Prior to the royal banquet, His Majesty the Sultan consented to a pre-dinner audience followed by an exchange of gifts between Their Majesties.

A toon & a text from Cambodia :" Rubbish Bag "

It will take millions of tourists to clean up trashes and garage dumps in Cambodia, and this will never end unless Cambodian government (national and local authorities) is serious about the health and environmental issues.

People throw away trashes everywhere. It is out of control... billions of flies ...mosquitoes... and all kind of insects roam the whole country. You can find garbage dumps everywhere..On the streets, sidewalks, riverbanks, in the rivers, in the cities and well as near, underneath and/or behind hundreds of restaurants...

When it rains, these things would look like a nasty leftover spoiled bowl of soup and smell worse than raw sewage at "Lou Teuk S'aouy," the most stinky open sewer canal in Phnom Penh. When it dried out under the hot sun, you can see these things evaporate into the air that can choke you with its stench.

Then there is special garbage that need to be cleaned first and fast... the dumps which are in many Cambodian government officials' head, heart and mind...

Here they are (some of them) sitting next to my table in this Internet cafe... They are talking so loud, eating like pigs, wiping their nose, picking their teeth and throwing towel underneath their table. One of them is spitting just outside of the door.

How do you clean things up? From top to bottom or from the bottom to the top?

Have a good evening folks.

sacravatoons : " Lose-Lose Strategy "

Courtesy of Sacravatoon :

Politiktoons : " Tibet Autonomy "

Courtesy of Sacravatoon :

Sacravatoons : " CPP's Culture "

In one of the many meetings in Takeo the local CPP members staged their own meetings a few hundreds feet to the left and a few hundred feet to the right of our meeting. They aimed both of their loud speakers at our function. Other times, they sent their village chief and their representatives to sit in with hundreds of our activists. The CPP hoped that they would intimidate the whole audience not to express their concerns against Cambodian government headed by the CPP. They were wrong. The cheering from our enthusiastic crowd were much louder and more cheerful than those few bunches of sour faced oppressors.

Non-CPP activists have to face all kinds of intimidation by the ruling party members both locally and nationally. However, I have seen the trend of courage among all people who have been victimized by such government's cruelties. They have no more fear... They demand nothing more than a fair chance to live with dignity, free from all kinds of oppression (internal and external) with an equal opportunity to earn a decent living.

Stop the intimidation, it will be backfired always.
By Virak
Observator from Camdisc
Courtesy of Sacravatoon :

NEC Braces for Upcoming Elections

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

Khmer audio aired March 25 (1.89MB) - Listen (MP3)

[Editor's note: In the weeks leading into national polls, VOA Khmer will explore a wide number of election issues. The "Election Issues 2008" series will air stories on Tuesday and Wednesday, followed by a related "Hello VOA" guest on Thursday. This is the first in a two-part series examining the National Election Committee's role.]

There are four months to go until until the next general election, when more than 8.1 million Cambodians are expected to choose their parliamentarian representatives.

Im Sousdey, president of the National Election Committee, said that the NEC is preparing mechanisms for education on information necessary for these voters.

"We must educate the public on an information card. We will broadcast an informational spot explaining to them the necessity of voting," he said recently, adding that people must know they can still vote without the card.

The promotional spot is just one way the national committee says it is preparing for the elections, Cambodia's fourth. The first one, sponsored by the UN, was held in May 1993, following 30 years of civil war.

"We will make a spot to inform the people of the place where they must go to vote, and to find their name. We must make this broadcast a priority," Im Sousedey said.

The NEC expects a $17 million general price tag for the election, which will be held on July 27. Donors will provide $6.7 million, with Japan and Canada providing nearly $4 million.

The NEC will be overseeing an expanding field of parties, as well. There were 23 parties participating in the previous general election in 2003. The Ministry of Interior has now registered more than 50 parties for this election, and more than 10 others are expected to register.

Im Sousdey said the registration for new political parties will start April 28.

"From June 26, for a month, NEC will cover the electoral campaign, and we will broadcast the political platforms of the parties, make a spot for them," he said.

The NEC has prepared procedures for the election that will enable NGOs and parties to provide their own points of view.

But some parties say that this is not enough for the independence and transparency of the NEC.

Muth Chantha, spokesman for the Norodom Ranariddh Party, said the NEC has not accepted the opinions of the political party. The NEC is not transparent, he said.

Im Francois, an election official for the Center for Social Development, noted that some processes of the NEC are complicated for voters, so the NEC should modify them.

Meanwhile, ahead of the election, some political parties have bolstered their activities to gain the confidence of voters.

But Keo Remy, vice president of the Human Rights Party, said that the space of expression on-air is not equal for all parties.

"This is difficult for our party to rent the radio" air-time, he said. "But the government uses many ways for the interest of their party. This is not equality for all parties."

The NEC confessed that they don't have a right to control all the mass media ahead of the one-month campaign period.

Government spokesman Khieu Kanharith, from the ruling Cambodian People's Party, said the government has equality programs sponsored by UNDP.

These provide opportunities for other parties to have a voice on the government air waves, he said, adding, though, that parties have the ability to rent private air-time to broadcast their activities and platforms.

After each general election, there have been protests over the results. So the independent Committee for Free and Fair Elections plans to deploy 1,319 observers throughout the country in the election, in an affiliation with the Neutral and Impartial Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia.

For its part, the European Commission, whose delegation just finished a technical visit on election issues on March 17, plans to send about 150 to 200 observers.

Im Sousdey said that more international and national observers are helping the NEC raise up the equality and fairness of elections, and the number of observers must not be limited.

However, opposition leader Sam Rainsy said recently that these conditions are not enough to ensure free and fair elections.

"To have free and fair elections, they have to respect the proposal of the SRP," he said.

The SRP has requested that the NEC take action to avoid voting fraud, and ensure the transparency of vote-counting and stop the use of form 1018, a form authorities provide to people who do not yet have voter identification card. Critics say the use of form 1018 opens the possibility of voting by non-registered political supporters.

Concerns over the transparency of the NEC and voting fraud has been a problem following every election. Now the opposition, as well as other parties not yet holding National Assembly seats, is asking for NEC reform.

Cambodia Aims to Help Global Environment

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

Khmer audio aired March 25 (1.03MB) - Listen (MP3)

Environmental experts met with government officials Tuesday to review the national strategy to improve the global environment and promote sustainable livelihoods.

The officials met to answer problems of land degredation, including the loss of productive agricultural land and the loss of productive ecosystems, under the aegis of the Global Environment Facility, which funds projects through UNDP and is seeking to support such strategies in developing countries.

"Evidence clearly shows that drought, land degredation, degraded water supplies and biodiversity loss, increasingly related to climate change, are undermining and reversing development efforts," said Jo Scheuer, country director for UNDP, which sponsored the talks.

"This is an important event to provide the opportunity…to address the serious environmental challenges in Cambodia," he said.

"Obviously, political stability and environmental security are interlocked," said Minister of Environment Mok Mareth. "Without political stability, we cannot implement our environmental activities. On the other hand, environmental insecurity can lead to the weakening of the national economy and social stability."

The government was continuing to strengthen its cooperation with the international community, he said.

SRP Lawmaker Files Suit for Assault

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

Khmer audio aired March 25 (1.32MB) - Listen (MP3)

Sam Rainsy Party parliamentarian Ho Vann filed suit in Phnom Penh Municipal Court Monday after he was allegedly beaten by quasi-government security forces for erecting a party sign.

The lawmaker said Tuesday he had been prevented from erecting a sign in the Russei Keo district of Phnom Penh's Chroy Changva peninsula, and when he refused to relinquish his attempt, he was beaten with a wooden stick by security forces led by Russei Keo Deputy Governor Kob Sles.

Ho Vann also filed a complaint with National Assembly President Heng Samrin.

Kob Sles said Tuesday he "did not commit such a crime."

"In this case, I believe he may be using a trick. He could go outside and tell his people to beat him until he is injured, and then accuse me," Kob Sles said, adding he welcomed the lawsuit but would not compromise outside the court system.

Election Monitor Prepares Observers, Chiefs

By Mean Veasna, VOA Khmer
Phnom Penh
25 March 2008

Khmer audio aired March 24 (5.75MB) - Listen (MP3)

Hang Puthea is the executive director of the Neutral and Impartial Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia.

His group has monitored Cambodian elections since 1998, and this year plans to deploy 700 observers throughout the country, Hang Puthea said Monday, as a guest on "Hello VOA."

He has also scheduled, with UNDP funds, to train village chiefs in election procedures.

Meanwhile, the NEC was preparing to do its work for the election, he said.

Legally, the NEC must be independent, but the national committee's political tendencies should be judged by the people, he said.

What's interesting, he added, is that so many people choose to exercise their right to vote.

Celebrities love By The Stones

Easier Life Style
25 March 2008

'By The Stones’ is a jewellery collection hot in the states, as worn by Beyonce, Rihanna, ‘Young Samantha’ in the Sex & the City movie and many more celebrities. These gold plated bangles with coloured leather inlay are inscribed on the inside with "Peace for Cambodia".

By the Stones supports local artisans in both Lima (Peru) and Miami (USA) through direct employment and through fair trade with packaging producers in Bangladesh. Furthermore, By the Stones is currently donating to the ‘bridges across borders’ Cambodia project. This project keeps Cambodian kids off the streets by feeding, housing, and schooling them.

Peace Bangles (Set of 3) £95, available at

Border trade has more potential

Bangkok Post
Tuesday March 25, 2008


The Commerce Ministry hopes to increase the value of border trade between Thailand and neighbouring countries by 12-15% this year from 356 billion baht last year.

Deputy Commerce Minister Viroon Tejapaibul said that achieving the target would require more distribution outlets in the provinces along Thailand's borders.

Of the total border trade value, Thailand exported 193.92 billion baht and imported 162.08 billion baht worth of goods. Bilateral trade with Malaysia was 197.57 billion baht last year, Burma was 95.96 billion, Laos 46.80 billion, and Cambodia 33.66 billion.

Thailand showed a trade deficit with only Burma, due to high natural gas imports. In January this year, the value of the border trade with the four countries was about 29.96 billion baht, up 3.51%.

''We still have a lot of potential to increase trade between Thailand and our neighbours,'' he said. Mr Viroon also urged the construction of more outlets in provinces such as Sa Kaew, Udon Thani, which have road or bridge links to neighbouring countries.

In the South, the government promises to push for the development of a deep-sea port at Pak Bara, Satun province to facilitate trade between Thailand and Malaysia and Indonesia.

According to Mr Viroon, the government also plans to provide financial services to traders along the border and promote partnerships with Thai commercial banks and counterparts in the neighbouring countries, as well as address the complicated tax structure.

Contract farming in neighbouring nations would also be promoted particularly for 10 target plants and energy crops including eucalyptus, sweet corn, maize, soybeans, cotton, groundnuts, castor beans, and millet, sugarcane and oil palm.

The contract farming issue would go before the cabinet soon, he said.

Mr Viroon also urged Thai investors to capitalise on special economic zones in neighbouring countries to gain tariff benefits under the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP), particularly for textile industry.

Man, 23, died on Asian travels

The Comet
25 March 2008

A CORONER has recorded a verdict of accidental death on a 23-year-old man who died while travelling in Cambodia.

An inquest last Thursday heard that Lewis Newbury, 23, a pupil at John Henry Newman School in Stevenage for seven years, died at the Okay Guest House in Daun Penh, Cambodia, on October 12 last year.

A post-mortem examination showed that he died of acute cardio-pulmonary failure.

Coroner Edward Thomas told Lewis's family: "This death was unintended. I can't begin to imagine how awful this has been for you and nothing I can say will take away what has happened."

Lewis was very happy and enjoying himself. His friends said he was an easy person to travel with, who often spoke of his family."

The coroner read a statement from Conrad Franks, a friend who Lewis met while travelling in south-east Asia.

He said that on the day of Lewis's death they had spent much of the afternoon and evening drinking beer and vodka with another friend, Richard Sergeant.

They had planned to visit a night club after dinner, but Lewis decided to stay behind at the hotel, as he was already "extremely drunk, laughing, and swaying on his feet".

Conrad and Richard took Lewis to his room, and put him to bed at about 11.30pm. They returned at 5am, and said that when they checked on Lewis his skin was warm and he appeared to be asleep.

When Lewis did not show up for a coach trip the group had planned the next day, the alarm was raised.

The coroner also read a report from the chief of police in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, who said that officers found no sign of a break-in and that there were no injuries to the body.

He added that it was the conclusion of local police that Lewis "probably died of alcohol overdose or heart failure".

A post-mortem examination carried out at the Lister Hospital found that Lewis, of Stamford Avenue, Royston, had suffered a cardio-pulmonary failure.

Mr Thomas said that this was common in someone whose cardio-respiratory system had consumed a high level of alcohol.

Hun Sen to visit Laos, attend GMS Summit

PHNOM PENH, March 25 (Xinhua) -- Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen will leave here on Friday for Laos to conduct an official visit there and attend the Third Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) Summit, said a press release from the government on Tuesday.

His delegation will include Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Hor Namhong, Minister of Commerce Cham Prasidh and other senior officials, said the release.

During his visit, both sides will sign an agreement on border issues, it added.

Meanwhile, for the summit from March 30 to 31, Hun Sen will meet with the prime ministers from five other GMS countries, including China, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam, to enhance development and economic cooperation among them through greater infrastructure connectivity, trade and transport facilitation, private investment, environmental management, and other measures, said a press release from the Asia Development Bank (ADB) issued here last week.

The leaders will discuss coordinated actions to reduce poverty and promote sustainable development for all the countries and people of the GMS by enhancing connectivity and competitiveness, and promoting an increased sense of community, it added.

ADB defined an area of 811,000 square km along the Mekong Riveras GMS. The bank is also responsible for coordinating the development issues of the six countries related to the river through various GMS meetings.

Editor: Lin Li

Energy experts set sights on fueling poverty reduction in Cambodia

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

PHNOM PENH, Mar 25, 2008 (Xinhua via COMTEX) More than 300 delegates from five continents are gathering here this week for a pioneering conference that aims to pinpoint ways developing countries like Cambodia can maximize their resource wealth to reduce poverty, an UNDP press release said Tuesday.

"This conference is well-timed as Cambodia and other developing countries seek ways to develop and manage newly found resource wealth to bring the greatest benefits to their people," said Te Doung Tara, Director General of the Cambodian National Petroleum Authority, which is co-hosting the conference along with UNDP, the Government of Norway and Cambodia's Supreme National Economic Council.

"Many assume that the discovery of oil and gas reserves automatically translates into greater prosperity," said Jo Scheuer, UNDP Cambodia Country Director.

"Unfortunately, this is not the case. Economic growth in resource-rich developing countries is on average two to three times lower than in resource-poor countries."

"We will be pinpointing methods that developing countries can and have used to channel resource wealth in ways that maximize benefits for their citizens, and create a legacy of opportunities for future generations," Scheuer explained.

The March 26-28 conference, "Fueling Poverty Reduction with Oil and Gas Revenues - Comparative Country Experiences," will provide a forum for developed and developing countries to share international best practices for development and management of their petroleum sectors, the press release said.

The two and a half day conference will comprise a series of technical workshops with a focus on pre-production and production phases, as well as the socio-economic consequences for developing countries, it said.

The event, the first of its kind in Cambodia, also aims to broaden public discussion on the development of the petroleum sector and management of revenues for sustainable socio-economic development, following more than two years of discussions between the Cambodian government and its development partners, it added.

Taiwan protests remarks by Cambodia about prostitution

Radio Taiwan International

Taiwan's foreign ministry protested Monday against Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen's remarks that Taiwan was luring Cambodian women to become prostitutes in Taiwan.

According to a report in a Cambodian newspaper, Hun Sen acknowledged that many Cambodian women are married to Taiwanese, but half of them were forced into prostitution.

The ministry said that Hun Sen's allegations were groundless, adding that the Cambodian government has been unwilling to work with Taiwan on resolving the issue of document verification. The ministry said that it is an indication that Cambodia was slighting the basic rights of its nationals overseas.

In addition, the report quoted Hun Sen as saying that Cambodia was opposed to Taiwan's referendum on entering the U.N.

Largest school built for Vietnamese-Cambodians

Ground was broken on March 24 to start building a primary school for overseas Vietnamese children in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

Vietnamese-Cambodian Association President Chau Van Chi said the 200,000 USD funding came from the Ho Chi Minh City Fatherland Front, local Cambodian administrations and donors from the Vietnamese community in Cambodia.

The potential school will cover over 1,000 sq. m. of land and have 10 classrooms, making it the largest school for overseas Vietnamese children in Cambodia so far.

The project is scheduled to become commissioned in September for the new school year.

(Source: VNA)

Cambodian ISP rolls out Wimax network
Mar 26, 2008
Wireless Asia

Cambodia’s CityLink is deploying a Wimax network extending into multiple cities to address growing demand for broadband services.

CityLink is the largest Internet service provider in Cambodia, according to Redline Communications, which is supplying Wimax gear for the rollout.

CityLink has already initiated its first phase of deployment in the capital city of Phnom Penh, offering varied broadband packages for business and residential subscribers.

The company plans to extend its Wimax network to the tourist city of Siem Reap and into ten more cities in the country by next year.

Wimax will expand CityLink’s coverage and integrated with the ISP’s existing wired infrastructure, according to Redline.

CAMBODIA: Locus Standi For Victims at Khmer Rouge Trials?

By Andrew Nette

PHNOM PENH, Mar 25 (IPS) - Since the start of this year, a team of local researchers has been travelling the Cambodian countryside trying to revive two-decade old petitions in the hope they will form crucial evidence at the international tribunal into the crimes committed by the Khmer Rouge.

In the process they are also seeking to give a voice to those Cambodians whose lives were shattered when the Maoist guerrilla group took control of the country in 1975, and encouraging their participation in the Khmer Rouge tribunal currently underway in Phnom Penh.

In an international first, unlike similar tribunals, the internal rules of the tribunal allows victims to be parties to legal proceedings giving them in-principle rights that extend well beyond those afforded to victims in the International Criminal Court.

While many legal commentators and civil society groups in Cambodia are supportive of the inclusion of civil parties in the court’s proceedings, there are concerns it could bog down or even derail the tribunal, still in its pre-trail phase and already running significantly behind schedule.

One of many civil society groups working to publicise the tribunal and the rights of victims to participate is the Documentation Centre of Cambodia (DCCM), an organisation dedicated to studying and documenting the Khmer Rouge’s three and a half year rule.

It is focusing its efforts on the so-called "Renakse Petitions", a collection of stories signed or bearing the fingerprints of over a million victims of the Khmer Rouge, collected by officials from the Vietnamese-backed People’s Republic of Kampuchea government in the early eighties.

Part of a massive effort to discredit the Khmer Rouge and persuade the United Nations to deny the group recognition as the government of Cambodia, they were never sent and are now held in the DCCM archives.

Terith Chy, leader of the DCCM Victim Participation Project, calls the petitions "the closest thing to a truth commission on the Khmer Rouge that Cambodia has had".

The project aims to track down as many of the signatories of these petitions as possible, confirm their stories, and encourage them to participate in the tribunal.

"We were in Kampot (southern Cambodia0 in January this year to find people who had signed the original petition. Some had moved, some had died, but we found many."

"We quizzed these people about their stories and asked them are they true. People stuck to their stories a hundred percent. They say if you want me to write it down again I can do it. The memories are still there, they have not faded."

Numerous civil society groups are involved in outreach activities relating to the tribunal, including running information workshops on how it functions, informing victims of their rights and helping those interested to draft complaints.

In doing so, they are tapping into what observers agree is a huge desire on the part of many Cambodians to be involved in the trial.

These activities received a boost last week when the tribunal reaffirmed the value of civil party participation in all phases of its activities.

A small number of civil parties, represented by lawyers, participated in the pre-trial hearing of one of five defendants currently being held for trial, Noun Chea, or ‘Brother No 2’ as he was known in the Khmer Rouge hierarchy.

Dismissing Noun Chea’s appeal last Thursday, Pre-Trial Chamber President Prak Kimsan was quoted in the English language Cambodia Daily as saying "Civil Parties have active rights to participate, starting from the investigation phase."

"The Pre-Trial Chamber notes that the inclusion of civil parties in procedures is in recognition of the stated pursuit of national reconciliation."

The involvement of civil parties in the tribunal has been the subject of hot debate over the last few months.

Among the issues discussed by the prosecution, defence and civil society groups have been how to balance the rights of defendants and victims and to what degree the court should confine itself to questions of the guilt and innocence of the defendants, as opposed to pursuing the broader goal of national reconciliation.

Defence lawyers for the five accused Khmer Rouge leaders maintain that the participation of civil parties biases the court against their clients.

Civil society groups and prosecutors state that the victims are likely to know the most about the crimes being judged and their human toll, and that their participation will be a crucial step towards national healing.

But even those supporting last week’s decision are cautious.

"I am in favour of victims participating but it must be controlled or it will do more harm than good," said Youk Chhang, DCCM Director and himself a Khmer Rouge survivor. "It must be clear for example what proportion of the court’s time will be taken up by victims otherwise you could have a thousand people in there all wanting to participate and express an opinion."

The current process is that those interested have the right to file a complaint to the tribunal in which they can volunteer to be a witness, contribute information to the court or, most significantly, apply to be recognised as a civil party to the proceedings.

"To be a civil party to the proceedings you must prove that harm happened to you is a direct result of the commissioned crime that is the jurisdiction of the court," said Gabriela Gonzales Rivas, deputy head of the tiny ‘Victims Unit’, administering the process.

"If so proven, this will give you the same rights as any one taking part in the proceedings. Victims have the right to choose legal representation, to participate actively in all stages of the proceedings, including asking questions through their lawyers, and access to all documentation."

Five civil parties have so far been recognised. But the KRT Victims Unit which has only been open since January is currently processing upwards of 700 complaints, "the majority of them expressing an interest in being a witness or civil party," said Rivas.

"These have come from people who have been made aware of their right to be involved in the process through outreach activities of NGOs. It is our aim to ensure that every complaint is analysed and responded to."

The exact rules regulating civil party participation were not touched on in last week’s decision.

Rivas admits the current definitions are "pretty open" and the Victims Unit is currently preparing documentation that will clarify and tighten the definition of civil party, as well as issues such as their confidentiality and security.

Both prosecution and defence have offered suggestions on how to regulate victim participation to prevent the tribunal from being flooded with complaints.

In addition to being short staffed, the Victims Unit is operating within a tight budget, part of a larger financial shortfall facing the tribunal.

Tribunal officials are heading to New York this week for discussions with the United Nations and donors and a request for 114 million US dollars as additional funding.

This is to cover significant increases in judicial staff, including a team of lawyers to represent victims.

Terith Chy, who was born after Khmer Rouge rule, said that regardless of whether or not the Tribunal uses the material, the DCCM Victim Participation Project has already fulfilled one important need.

"These stories are important to building a comprehensive national history of what happened. We tell everyone that we interview this, and tell them that just by talking to us they are playing a vital role in national reconciliation."

State President reiterates good ties with Cambodia

March 26, 2008

State President Nguyen Minh Triet pledged to maintain all-round relations with neighbour Cambodia while receiving Deputy Prime Minister General Tea Banh of Cambodia in Hanoi on March 25.

The State leader told Tea Banh, who doubles as Minister of Defence, that the Party, State and people of Vietnam have always prioritised the task of working together with Laos and Cambodia for a developed Indochinese peninsular.

General Tea Banh thanked Vietnam for its great assistance in the past struggle to overthrow the Pol Pot genocidal regime and the current national development.

“The mature of the Cambodian Defence Ministry today is partially thanks to experiences drawn from Vietnamese experts on voluntary missions,” the Cambodian Defence Minister said.

He also called on the Vietnamese Defence Ministry to assist and share experiences in maintaining security and public order in an effort to ensure Cambodia’s legislative elections, scheduled for July, are a success.

General Tea Banh began a four-day official visit to Vietnam on March 24 at the invitation of Defence Minister General Phung Quang Thanh.

The Cambodian high-level military delegation embarked on talks with a host delegation led by Defence Minister Gen. Phung Quang Thanh immediately after a welcoming ceremony.

The two sides agreed to continue joint patrols at sea and exchange information on search and rescue operations. Talks also focused on the work of locating and repatriating remains of Vietnamese volunteers who died on Cambodian soil.

The two sides agreed on further exchanges of visits and stronger co-operation in personnel training between military hospitals and institutes from the two countries in order to fulfil high-level commitments to “good neighbourliness, traditional friendship, comprehensive and long-term co-operation.”


Cambodian dam plans suffer information drought

Asia Times
Mar 26, 2008

By Andrew Nette PHNOM PENH - Cambodia has rejuvenated old plans to develop the country’s huge hydropower potential, big-ticket schemes to be led by Chinese investors which will simultaneously fill government coffers and have severe social and environmental impacts on local communities.

Like neighboring Laos in the 1990s, foreign donors, electricity-hungry neighboring nations such as Thailand and Vietnam and big business interests in China are all keen to transform Cambodia into a major hydropower generator. Previous plans for developing Cambodia's hydropower potential were put on hold due to political instability and the economic chaos that followed the 1997-98 Asian financial crisis.

But with recent rapid economic growth rates in the region - including Cambodia, which notched gross domestic product growth of around 10% in 2006 and 2007 - hydropower schemes are apparently back on the national agenda. Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong told a donor’s meeting last year that his government plans to make Cambodia into the "battery of Southeast Asia".

A 2003 plan developed by the Ministry of Mines, Minerals and Energy, with the support of the Mekong River Commission, estimated that Cambodia has the potential to generate 10,000 megawatts of energy for internal use and export. Almost 50% of that power would be generated from projects along the mainstream Mekong River, which runs through Cambodia.

Foreign donors continue to play an important supporting role, particularly the Manila-based Asian Development Bank (ADB) through its so-called Mekong Power Grid Plan, a plan it has been pushing since the early 1990s which envisages an interconnected power grid across the entire region.

The ADB predicts that Cambodia will initially be a net electricity importer but will become a net exporter once the country's full hydropower potential is realized. However, local and international environmental and other groups are warning that large-scale hydropower development could create serious problems, impacting on some of the country's most pristine ecosystems and reducing water flow and fisheries with major consequences for the livelihoods of thousands of people.

"We are not against development or hydropower," said Ngy San, deputy executive director of the NGO Forum, an umbrella body of nongovernmental organizations. "What we want to do is to ensure poverty reduction and sustainable development, which is also the government's plan.

"We are also working to ensure that Cambodian decision-makers will learn the lesson of other countries in relation to hydropower, and not repeat those mistakes," said San. What is potentially different for Cambodia is the role China is expected to play in developing the resources.

China’s and Cambodia’s political and economic ties have grown enormously over the past decade. China is the nation's single largest investor, and Chinese state companies, often financed by state-owned financial institutions such as the Chinese Export-Import Bank, are the main players in hydropower dam development.

Phnom Penh has identified about 14 priority projects, of which six are under development - all by Chinese companies. For instance, China's Sinohydro is building a 145-meter dam on the Kamchay River in Kampot province, representing Beijing’s biggest investment in the country.

There is no disagreement among officials and activists that Cambodia needs to generate more power. Currently, only 20% of the population has access to cheap, reliable sources of electricity, mainly in urban areas. Meanwhile domestic demand for electricity is estimated to be growing at around 20% per year.

"It is simple - development needs electricity," said Touch Seang Tana, an advisor to Cambodia's Council of Ministers and a fisheries expert. "Power is currently very expensive in Cambodia, particularly in regional areas that are the most disadvantaged."

The government wants to provide services to the rural communities, but this is difficult to do without electricity," he said. "The actual number of people impacted negatively [by dams] is small and overall the entire benefit to the nation is significant. The government has to balance all these factors.

" Activists strike a more cautionary note. "The rush to develop our hydropower potential needs very careful study," said NGO Forum’s San. "However, it must include consultation with impacted communities, and comply with all relevant national and international laws. There are some in the government that share our concerns, but they find it difficult to act because they are not the real decision makers."

NGOs complain that the decision-making process in relation to hydropower development lacks transparency. While a plethora of departments and regulatory bodies participate in the process, observers say the agenda appears largely to be set by the Ministry of Industry, Mines and Energy, with the direct intervention of Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen.

The lack of transparency is accentuated by China’s involvement, critics say. "There is almost no information in the public domain on the financing arrangements for Cambodia's hydropower projects," stated a report released jointly in January by the US-based International Rivers Network (IRN) and the NGO Forum.

"The lack of information from the Chinese dam builders is very disturbing - they do not consult or share information," said Seng Bunra, country director for Conservation International in Cambodia (CIC). His organization works in the Cardamom Mountains Protected Forest Area, one of the largest continuous swathes of rainforest left in Southeast Asia and home to a number of globally endangered species.

According to the CIC, there are plans to build a number of dams in the protected area, all by Chinese companies. According to the plan’s critics, the number of hydropower projects scheduled for construction in protected forest areas illustrates the fact that existing laws are insufficient to protect the environment and affected communities.

The situation is particularly serious, notes the report by the NGO Forum and IRN, given that "compared against the already less than admirable environmental and social standards of Western bilateral donors and export credit agencies ... Chinese institutions are noticeably weaker".

One of the projects under scrutiny is the proposed Sambor dam on the mainstream Mekong in central Kratie province. A number of construction options are being studied, including one that would only block between one-quarter to one-fifth of the river and have, according to Council of Ministers adviser Tana, only "minimal" impact.

NGO Forum’s San concedes that there are mixed views about dam-building and the economic impact involved for the potential affected communities. "Is there a real need for electricity in Thailand? Yes. But have the economics been thought through, have any preliminary contracts for power export from Cambodia to Thailand actually been signed? No. We want to see a good economic analysis, including a full cost-benefit analysis before projects go ahead," San said.

(Inter Press Service with editing by Asia Times Online)