Friday, 28 March 2008

More than 30 years after the horrors of the killing fields

Leakhena Nou, middle, Ph.D., California State University, Long Beach, Assistant Professor of Sociology, middle, and her Sociology students from left: Mathew Wilhite, Lakhena Nget, top, Estasia Barrientos, top, and Nori Kato, organize for the Shared Suffering, Shared Resilience Forum Thursday, March 27, 2008, in Long Beach, Calif. More than 30 years after the horrors of the killing fields, Cambodian-Americans will gather this weekend to share their memories of the Khmer Rouge and learn about a United Nations war crimes tribunal being set up in Cambodia.(AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

Leakhena Nou, right, Ph.D., California State University, Long Beach, Assistant Professor of Sociology invites her students to attend the Shared Suffering, Shared Resilience Forum Thursday, March 27, 2008, in Long Beach, Calif. More than 30 years after the horrors of the killing fields, Cambodian-Americans will gather this weekend to share their memories of the Khmer Rouge and learn about a United Nations war crimes tribunal being set up in Cambodia.(AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

Leakhena Nou, left, Ph.D., California State University, Long Beach, Assistant Professor of Sociology, left, and her Sociology students, from left: Mathew Wilhite, Lakhena Nget, Estasia Barrientos, and Nori Kato organize the Shared Suffering, Shared Resilience Forum Thursday, March 27, 2008, in Long Beach, Calif. More than 30 years after the horrors of the killing fields, Cambodian-Americans will gather this weekend to share their memories of the Khmer Rouge and learn about a United Nations war crimes tribunal being set up in Cambodia.(AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)
Leakhena Nou, Ph.D., California State University, Long Beach, Assistant Professor of Sociology poses for a photo Thursday, March 27, 2008, in Long Beach, Calif. More than 30 years after the horrors of the killing fields, Cambodian-Americans will gather this weekend to share their memories of the Khmer Rouge and learn about a United Nations war crimes tribunal being set up in Cambodia.(AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

Rice Price Still High After Intervention

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

Khmer audio aired March 27 (1.13MB) - Listen (MP3)

Rice prices in most markets showed no sign of decrease Thursday, following an emergency ban on exports Wednesday and soothing speeches by Prime Minister Hun Sen this week.

Prices were slightly down in Siem Reap province, vendors said.

A vendor at O'Russei Market in Phnom Penh, who only gave her first name, Sophy, said the rice price remained high on Thursday.

"The price of rice is still high, and now we have not yet heard of any falling prices," she said.

Hundreds of tons of state-sold rice across the country have been sold directly to consumers, but this too had little effect on market prices, albeit after only one day.

Minister of Commerce Cham Prasidh said Thursday that the government can't reduce all the prices across Cambodia in a short amount of time, but the ministry had prepared hundreds of thousands of tons of rice to sell in markets where prices were significantly increasing.

Meanwhile, some rice exporters said Thursday they were concerned with the future of their businesses, following a two-month ban on exports issued Wednesday.

But many said they supported the national export ban, which was ordered by Prime Minister Hun Sen and enacted by the Ministry of Commerce.

Kim Savuth, president of the Khmer Food Import Export Company, in Phnom Penh, said Thursday the government should not ban the export of all kinds of rice.

The highest quality rice enjoys a very high price on the international market, he said, and is a type of rice with little demand among common Cambodians.

"That kind of rice should be allowed for export," he said. "If not, it will reduce the income of exporters."

Sacravatoons : " Foods Power ? "

Courtesy of Sacravatoon :

How could the poor survived with the soaring food prices?

The Garbage Dump in Phnom Penh
The Garbage Dump in Phnom Penh

A vendor places cooked rice into plastic bags for customers at a roadside store in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Thursday, March 27, 2008. Cambodia's government appealed for calm Thursday as it rushed out a series of economic measures to address soaring food prices.(AP Photo/Heng Sinith)
A vendor places cooked rice into a plastic bag for a customer at a roadside store in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Thursday, March 27, 2008. Cambodia's government appealed for calm Thursday as it rushed out a series of economic measures to address soaring food prices.(AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

A vendor, right, hands a plastic bag of rice to a customer at a roadside store in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Thursday, March 27, 2008. Cambodia's government appealed for calm Thursday as it rushed out a series of economic measures to address soaring food prices.(AP Photo/Heng Sinith)
A vendor, right, places rice into a plastic bag for a customer at a roadside store in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Thursday, March 27, 2008. Cambodia's government appealed for calm Thursday as it rushed out a series of economic measures to address soaring food prices.(AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

Eng Chhay Eang Resigns from the Position of Deputy Chairperson of the National Authority for the Resolution of Land Disputes

Posted on 28 March 2008.
The Mirror, Vol. 12, No. 553

“Mr. Eng Chhay Eang, the secretary-general of the opposition party, resigned from the position of deputy chairperson of the National Authority for the Resolution of Land Disputes. The official resignation came one day before Prime Minister Hun Sen criticized the chairperson and the secretary-general of this Authority for being inactive and not working well, and he said that this Authority should be dissolved.

“On 24 March 2008, Mr. Eng Chhay Eang had written to Mr. Sok An, the chairperson of the National Authority for the Resolution of Land Disputes, a deputy prime minister, and the minister in charge of the office of the Council of Ministers, stating, ‘Currently land disputes are spreading almost everywhere across Cambodia. Land disputes are caused mostly by the powerful and the rich who use various means to confiscate land from the poor, from the weak, and from the innocent. The authorities do not have the capacity and clear mechanisms to solve land disputes for the citizens. Moreover, a number of municipal and provincial authorities used armed forces to suppress and to evict people from their residences unjustly, and they used violence against the people. This resulted also in some citizens being injured, and some were even killed. Some people were arrested and imprisoned, while others fled from their hometowns, fearing that the authorities would arrest them.’

“The letter continued, ‘Having seen that the National Authority for the Resolution of Land Disputes, which had been set up two years ago, does not fulfill its duties appropriately and does not have the capacity and the willingness to solve land disputes for the citizens, I would like to resign from the position of deputy chairperson of the National Authority for the Resolution of Land Disputes from the date of signing this letter.’

“Delivering a speech at an annual conference of the Ministry of Land Management, Urbanization and Construction in the evening of Tuesday in the Chaktomuk Conference Hall, Mr. Hun Sen warned Mr. Sok An and Mr. Svay Sitha, the secretary-general of the National Authority for the Resolution of Land Disputes, that this Authority should be dissolved, because it is too inactive.

The head of the government blamed Mr. Svay Sitha, who has a bad reputation for an extramarital love affair with Miss Tat Marina, a TV program presenter, for delaying dispute solutions, causing disputes to happen, using disputes for personal gain, and not working.
“Mr. Svay Sitha was not present at the occasion where Mr. Hun Sen blamed him with strong words. The National Authority for the Resolution of Land Disputes was formed in early 2006 and has a membership from all political parties which have seats in the National Assembly. The Sam Rainsy Party has two representatives – Mr. Eng Chhay Eang and Mr. Chhit Sarith, who has now defected to Cambodian People’s Party. Land disputes have doubled. There have been thousands of cases concerning the powerful and the rich, as they grab land from the people.

“Mr. Lu Lay Sreng, the first vice-president of Funcinpec, told Khmer Machas Srok by phone, ‘As for the speech of Prime Minister Hun Sen, it depends on his understanding… He can do whatever he thinks is right. I don’t know much about this issue… If this authority was created… and if there is no transparency, why was it set up?’

“Regarding the blame that Prime Minister Hun Sen put on Mr. Svay Sitha, Lu Lay Sreng said, ‘They are his subordinates and confidants.’”

Khmer Machas Srok, Vol.2, #124, 27.3.2008

Cambodian PM leaves for Laos

March 28, 2008

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen left here on Friday for Laos to pay an official visit there and attend the Third Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) Summit.

His delegation includes Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Hor Namhong, Minister of Commerce Cham Prasidh and other senior officials, a government press release said.

During Hun Sen's 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).

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 to coordinate the development issues of the six countries related to the river through various GMS meetings.


Asian rice crisis starts to bite

Cambodia's government is selling stockpiled rice in a bid to halt soaring prices [AFP]

Source: Al Jazeera
By Hannah Belcher

Cambodia has become the latest Asian country to impose restrictions on exports of rice – the staple food for half the world's population.

The government announced the two-month export ban to ensure "food security" on Thursday, blaming surging overseas demand – particularly in Africa and the Middle East - for the skyrocketing cost of rice.

Worldwide rising demand has seen rice stocks plummet to their lowest in about three decades, with average prices doubling over the last five years.

Earlier this month the UN secretary general warned that global food stocks had fallen to their lowest level in decades, driving prices up and threatening millions with starvation.

That is worrying governments – especially in the poorer Asian nations where a rise of even a few cents can for millions mean a difference between surviving or going hungry.

Earlier this month, the rising cost of rice brought protesters onto the streets of the Indonesian capital, Jakarta.

And recently the Philippines, the world's top importer of rice, asked Vietnam, the world's number two exporter, to guarantee supplies.

It was an unusual plea, and seen as a sign of growing anxiety among nations over how they will feed their people.

Already many rice farmers in the Philippines are being extra vigilant about their planting techniques, saying they cannot afford to loose a single grain come harvest.

The government is trying to play down the problem, but farmers say the country is facing a serious supply crisis.

"The population of the Philippines is growing, now its 87 to 90 million people," Jimmy Tadeo of the National Rice Farmers Council told Al Jazeera.

"But the use of land for rice is shrinking. The government has not prepared for this dilemma."

Like many countries in Asia, rice is the staple food in the Philippines.

Generous amounts are served in restaurants and cafeterias, but much goes to waste.

Now the Philippine agriculture ministry has told the restaurant owners to start dishing up smaller portions.

'Big burden'

Filipinos consume nearly 12 million tones of rice each year but the government's National Food Authority says it is finding it increasingly hard to source supplies.

This week the government signed a deal with Vietnam for a shipment of one and a half million tones.

"The price of rice may go up but we won't have a shortage, the supply will continue," said Gloria Arroyo, the Philippine President.

Certain rice varieties, she has promised, would to be kept affordable for poorer households.

But a growing number of consumers say prices are still too high.

"It's too much, it has added a big burden to our budget," one shopper in the capital, Manila, told Al Jazeera. "Rice is really expensive now"

The Philippine rice industry says the global crisis is just one part of the problem.

It is also blaming a slowdown in domestic production and corruption in the supply chain.

The government has blamed black-market traders for fuelling the rise and says it will clamp down on anyone who artificially jacks up prices.

"There are traders out there who are taking advantage of the situation," Arthur Yap, the Philippine agriculture secretary told Al Jazeera.

"So we have asked the national food authority to me more stringent."

Rice shortages have been politicised in the Philippines and could well be once again.

In an effort to fend off the crisis the Philippine government has unveiled plans to boost production by planting an additional 2.7 million acres during the coming rainy season.

Critics however say it's a damage control measure in a country where rice has always been a politically sensitive crop.

Cambodia releases oil industry regulations

March 27, 2008

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia, March 27 (UPI) -- Cambodia has released its sustainable oil and gas plan.The country, which plans to have its developing oil and gas industry up and running by 2010, now has a detailed plan including a regulatory framework and human resources department, Xinhua reported.

Officials are sure that through sustainable economic development of their oil and gas sector, they can reduce poverty.

The government is focused on long-term benefits instead of short-term gains, said Sok An, deputy prime minister of Cambodia and chairman of the Cambodian National Petroleum Authority.

Arne Walther, the former secretary-general of the International Energy Forum, explained how Norway had become the model for prudent use of resource wealth when huge offshore resources were discovered there in the 1970s.

She urged Cambodia to adhere to transparent rules and regulations, as they were a vital part of the process for Norway.

She also said the country set up a National Oil Account for revenues from its natural resources.

Dith Pran battling pancreatic cancer

Dith Pran is a New York Times photographer whose experiences in his native Cambodia inspired the movie The Killing Fields.
Associated Press file

March 27, 2008

His experiences were inspiration for Killing Fields

WOODBRIDGE, N.J. — The world knows him as a powerful voice for the ghosts of the Cambodian Killing Fields, but Dith Pran speaks barely above a whisper now.

The man who survived starvation, torture and Pol Pot's murderous children's brigade is now fighting a new war from a hospital bed. This time the enemy is even more relentless: pancreatic cancer.

Friends and family say that if anyone can win this battle, it is Pran, 65, once described as a survivor "in the Darwinian sense," whose story was the basis for the Academy Award-winning 1984 movie The Killing Fields.

Pran says he intends to beat the odds, but ultimately, "this is my path, and I must go where it takes me."

The healthy, round-faced man who danced at his son's wedding just last fall is now a gaunt 118 pounds. The only time in his adult life that he weighed less was when he staggered out of the jungle on the Thai border in 1979, malnourished, covered in scars and suffering from malaria.

But with typical Pran grace, he refuses to despair about his medical odds — "I know how to recover from adversity." He plans to use his condition as a platform to campaign for early cancer screening. It is also a time to reflect on an extraordinary life well lived.

"You or I could never have survived what Pran has. And he is still one of the nicest people I ever met," said former New York Times reporter Sydney Schanberg, 74, who insisted on sharing his 1976 Pulitzer Prize for covering the war in Cambodia with his translator, assistant and friend, Dith Pran.

"Pran saved my life, nearly at the cost of his," Schanberg added, as he bustled around Pran's hospital room, talking to staff, taking notes, reading messages from the legion of friends Pran has acquired in his 30-year photojournalism career.

In 1975, Schanberg and other journalists were eventually granted safe passage to Thailand by the Khmer Rouge rebels who had seized power in Cambodia. Pran was forced into the countryside, where he spent more than four years in conditions that destroyed more than 1.5 million people — nearly a third of his country's inhabitants.

They were killed because they were connected to the former government, because they were intellectuals or doctors or lawyers or teachers. People were killed by the Khmer Rouge because they wore glasses, held hands, gave rice to their dying children or just because.

It was in this environment that Pran lived by hiding his intelligence, education and his strength. He withstood beatings and torture, disease and malnutrition. Fifty other members of his family, including his father, three brothers, sister, nieces and nephews, did not survive.

Pran says he is not a religious man but he has a Buddhist sense of destiny. "It was right for me to stay behind for Sydney, even if it means I am on this path now," he says with quiet dignity. "I want to save lives, including my own, but Cambodians believe we just rent this body."

US event links Cambodian refugees to Khmer Rouge prosecutions

The Associated Press
Published: March 28, 2008

LONG BEACH, California: As a child in Cambodia, Sara Pol-Lim lost her father, three brothers and a cousin to the Khmer Rouge and spent four years in a youth concentration camp.

Pol-Lim was finally able to deal with her past when her mother wrote a book, but the community organizer works daily with refugees who repress their own horrific memories.

Now, those exiles will have a chance to reveal those tales — and participate, in their own small way, in an international quest for justice.

A workshop at California State University, Long Beach this weekend is one of the first U.S. events to target Cambodian-Americans and solicit their participation in an international war crimes tribunal for the Khmer Rouge that's underway in their homeland.

The daylong event will feature a panel of experts on the Cambodian genocide who will discuss the Khmer Rouge's physical and psychological effects on survivors as they relate to the tribunal, as well as a second panel of younger Cambodians, many of whom were born in the U.S. or fled with their families as young children. The speakers include doctors, immigration attorneys, economists and artists.

Organizers hope exiles will share their memories and plan to review the stories for possible submission to the joint United Nations and Cambodian court that was established two years ago.

They will also urge attendees to apply for formal victim and civil party status and volunteer as translators or witnesses. A representative from the State Department will attend, as well as international experts on the Cambodian genocide and members of a watchdog group that's been monitoring the tribunal.

Many Cambodian exiles do not understand the tribunal process or see the need to get involved — even though almost everyone lost loved ones to the Khmer Rouge, said Leakhena Nou, a Cambodian-American and sociology professor at Cal State Long Beach. Buddhist beliefs about karma also create a cultural resistance toward confronting the past, she said.

"There's still a lot of fear involved and there's no incentive for the survivors to talk about their past," said Nou.

The Khmer Rouge ruled from 1975-79 under Pol Pot and have been implicated in the deaths of at least 1.7 million Cambodians, nearly a quarter of the population. They died from disease, overwork, starvation and execution in the notorious "killing fields."

If the session goes well, similar events could be held in other states with large Cambodian refugee populations, including Massachusetts, Oregon, Virginia and Washington, D.C., Nou said.

Community leaders acknowledge, however, that the biggest challenge may be getting Cambodian refugees to show up at all, let alone tell their stories. Cambodians make up about 10 percent of the population in Long Beach, a city of about a half-million south of Los Angeles, but they remain isolated within a few gritty city blocks known as Little Phnom Phenh.

There, rumors fly about the true nature of the UN tribunal and suspicions that it has been infiltrated by Khmer Rouge supporters. Many don't trust the court simply because of the current government's involvement.

A series of delays hasn't helped, even though the first trials are now slated as early as this fall, said Chhang Song, an adviser to the Cambodian government who splits his time between Long Beach and Phnom Phenh.

"The court has become abstract to these people. It's very difficult to get information," he said. "I know how difficult it is to get this going, but people in general are not aware of that. They want to know what's taking so long."

Others worry that even those with an interest in the court may not show up because it's too traumatic. Most older Cambodians rarely talk about Pol Pot's killing fields — even with their American-born children or fellow victims.

"They're still afraid to share their stories with their kids, so how do you think they're going to come out and say, 'Yes, I'll sign up for victim status?'" said Pol-Lim, executive director of United Cambodian Community. "You have to get them to trust that what you do is for the benefit of the closure of that wound."

Still, Pol-Lim and others believe the workshop is an important first step toward the ultimate goal: allowing exiled victims to heal.

"They need to get beyond this mindset of suffering, that the world owes them something," said Nou, the professor. "They have to show the world that it owes them something."

CAMBODIA: Planned Lao Dam Raises Concerns on the Mekong

By Andrew Nette - Newsmekong

PHNOM PENH, Mar 28 (IPS) - The Lao government’s decision earlier this year to press ahead with plans to build the Don Sahong dam on the mainstream of the Mekong River in southern Laos is causing major concern in Cambodia and internationally.

The most advanced of eight hydropower projects mooted for the lower Mekong mainstream, the Don Sahong dam is also ramping up pressure on the Mekong River Commission (MRC), the inter-governmental body charged with managing development on the river.

The Cambodian government appears to be taking the issue seriously. The Foreign Ministry said on Thursday that Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen would pay a one-day visit to Laos to meet with regional officials on issues affecting the Mekong River.

Cambodian NGOs this week called upon their government to ask Laos for an immediate construction moratorium on Dong Sahong to allow for an independent trans-boundary assessment of environmental and social impacts.

In March 2006, the Lao government signed an agreement granting the Malaysian engineering firm Mega First Corp Berhad the exclusive mandate to carry out a feasibility study of the Don Sahong project.

On Feb. 13 this year, the company signed a project development agreement with Vientiane to push ahead with the scheme on a build-own-operate basis.

In a statement to the Malaysian stock exchange, the company said the dam, located in Champassak province two kilometres from the Lao border with Cambodia, would be a run-of-river facility with the capacity to generate between 240 and 360 megawatts of electricity to be sold mainly to Laos and neighbouring countries.

Their statement also said "the feasibility and social/ environmental studies of the proposed Don Sahong Project (show it) to be technically and financially viable." Critics are concerned that these studies have not been publicly released.

The dam will be built on the Mekong mainstream at a location known as Khone Falls, where the River forms a complex network of narrow channels, or ‘hoo’ in Lao, at the point at which it flows into Cambodia.

The dam will block Hoo Sahong, the deepest channel on that section of the river, and the movement of migratory fish that now easily pass through at the peak of the dry season, April to May, when the water level of the Mekong is at its lowest.

This will effectively block the dry season migration of fish between the feeding habitats of the Tonle Sap Lake and upstream breeding zones in Laos and Thailand, critics say.

It is also likely to alter water flow patterns in the immediate downstream area, further disrupting migration patterns for fish species sensitive to changes in water levels.

According to a June 2007 briefing paper by the Phnom Penh-based WorldFish Centre, the Khone Falls supports at least 201 fish species, as well as one of the few remaining concentrations of freshwater dolphins in the Mekong.

"In the absence of detailed design information it is not possible to provide a full assessment of the impact of the proposed Don Sahong dam on the Mekong basin fisheries," the brief stated, although "this review of available information shows that the risks are very high."

While no economic valuation of the amount of fish that pass through the channel in the April to May period has been made, fisheries experts believe it is significant. According to the WordFish Centre brief, 87 percent of the fish species in the Mekong whose behaviour is known, including some of the most commercially important species, are migratory.

Experts believe that the loss of even small percentage of Cambodia’s fisheries catch represents tens of thousands of tonnes and millions of dollars worth of fish.

In an open letter on Don Sahong dam in May 2007, over 30 fisheries scientists stated that Don Sahong "will have grave environmental impacts, particularly on fish and fisheries but also on tourism and other significant aspects of the economy and livelihoods, causing damage that will far exceed net returns from the project".

The Lao government has previously considered the channel of critical importance to migratory fish and specifically banned fishing there at various times between 1960 and 1990.

Informed sources say the project had been the subject of significant discussion in Lao government until the signing of the project development agreement in February put a halt to this.

Don Sahong was the subject of intense debate at a meeting of the Vientiane-based MRC in Siem Reap, Cambodia in November 2007.

According to one media report, Cambodian delegates made their frustration clear with what they claimed was a lack of transparency on the part of Laos in relation to the dam.

In response to the February announcement, Lim Kean Hor, Minister for Water Resources and Meteorology and chair of the Cambodian National Mekong Committee (CNMC), said the MRC is studying the impact of the dam and would release a report at the end of 2008.

"The MRC have not ignored the potential problems with the fisheries on the Cambodian side," he said.

"After the study is finished we will talk about the benefits and negatives because it is a multi-purpose project."

CNMC officials were unavailable to be interviewed at this time about Don Sahong. Nao Thuok, director general of Fisheries Administration at the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries in Phnom Penh, confirmed that there have been discussions between the Cambodian and Lao governments about the potential impacts of the dam.

"We have suggested to Lao counterparts that they should study (Don Sahong) carefully before damming and they promised to do so.

We just heard recently that they decided to build the dam soon, so it is not clear what the situation is."

It is understood that the MRC has prepared an analysis of the draft environment impact assessment for Don Sahong and economic valuation of the potential impact on fisheries from the project.

These documents have not been publicly released. The issue will also be discussed at the upcoming Joint Committee meeting of the MRC in Vietnam in early April. In a letter sent this week to CNMC, Cambodian NGOs have requested that their government ask for a moratorium on the dam construction.

"During the moratorium period, a comprehensive and participatory scientific transboundary environmental and social impact assessment must be carried out by an independent party," the letter said.

"As part of this scientific assessment, there should be public consultations and discussion between the countries of the lower Mekong region that examine and assess the future costs and benefits of this project to each country, and the poor and vulnerable communities living in affected areas," it added.

While China has completed two dams on the upper Mekong mainstream and construction on a further much larger project is underway, the lower reaches of the river have remained free from dam development until now.

Of the eight dam projects planned for the lower Mekong mainstream, five are in Laos including Don Sahong, two in Thailand and one in Cambodia.

A Chinese company has been undertaking a feasibility study of the Sambor dam in the central Cambodia, although there are mixed reports as to whether the government intends to move ahead on the project.

The English-language ‘Vientiane’ Times reported this week that Laos and Thailand have signed an agreement to allow a private firm to commence feasibility studies into the 1,800-megawatt Ban Kum Kun hydropower dam located on the Mekong mainstream on their border.

"The need for a credible and effective river basin management organisation in the Mekong Region has never been more apparent, yet for the MRC a crisis of legitimacy and relevancy is looming," said a statement signed by 51 citizens’ groups and individuals from the six Mekong countries, sent on Mar. 27 to newly appointed MRC Chief Executive Officer Jeremy Bird.

The prospect of extensive hydropower development on the Mekong puts the MRC in a catch-22 situation, said Carl Middleton, a research analyst with Rivers International.

"If the MRC provides advice to government agencies that is perceived as critical of proposed hydropower projects, this advice could be unwelcome, ignored, and then no longer sought, undermining the MRC's relevance in the eyes of the government agencies it considers itself primarily answerable to."

"Yet, by not providing this objective analysis and releasing it into the public domain, as it should do, the MRC faces a crisis of legitimacy in the eyes of the wider public that it is also intended to serve," Middleton added.

Community spirit strong in Phnom Penh


VietNamNet Bridge – The Association of Vietnamese People in Phnom Penh in the past year expanded its branches to 55 out of 75 wards in the capital city of Cambodia, reported the association at a conference on March 27.

In the past year, the association says it coordinated with local authorities to solve issues for overseas Vietnamese. It also launched drives to raise funds to help overseas Vietnamese overcome the aftermath of natural disasters and to upgrade schools for overseas Vietnamese children.

The association says it plans this year to further coordinate with local authorities and prepare for a congress to select a new executive board.

Vietnamese Ambassador Nguyen Chien Thang presented certificates of merit granted by Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Pham Gia Khiem and the President of the Committee for Overseas Vietnamese to individuals who have contributed to the association’s development.

(Source: VNA)

Chevron to start producing oil in Cambodia in 2011

March 28, 2008

The Cambodian government estimates that U.S. oil giant Chevron will be able to recover 15 to 20 percent of the estimated 500 million barrels of oil in its offshore exploration block, starting in 2011, national media said on Friday.

Engineering plans for how to extract the oil and get it to shore, as well as details of Chevron's commercial terms, are still being worked out, Te Duong Tara, secretary general of the Cambodian National Petroleum Authority (CNPA), told English-Khmer language newspaper the Cambodian Daily at an industry seminar hereon Thursday.

Chevron, which along with minority partners Mitsubishi and GS Caltex controls off-sea Block A, has remained mum about the size of its find and when and if it will commence commercial exploration.

Chevron signed a revenue-sharing agreement with the Cambodian government in 2003, the terms of which are now under renewed negotiations.

Some dozen foreign drillers are now searching for oil and natural gas in six defined blocks in off-sea Cambodia.

Chevron once claimed it had found the resource in its test wells, while other drillers still remained silent.

Experts used to put the potential reserves of oil in offshore Cambodia at two billion barrels, but the Cambodian government usually appeared unsure of various estimates.

Source: Xinhua

Japanese, Australian firms plan joint mining venture in Cambodia

PHNOM PENH, March 28 (Xinhua) -- A Japanese state run company and the Australian mining company Southern Gold will enter into a multimillion-dollar joint venture in Cambodia, the Mekong Times newspaper said Friday.

In the announcement posted on Southern Gold's website, the company said the joint venture would involve three of Southern Gold's exploration licenses in Cambodia and the Japan Oil, Gas and Metal's National Corporation, which would fund accelerated exploration of gold and base metal projects in the kingdom.

A letter of intent signed by the companies said the Japanese firm would invest 4.5 million U.S. dollars in the exploratory tenements in Cambodia's northeast within three years, earning it 51 percent interest.

An initial payment of 400,000 U.S. dollars would be made to Southern Gold for current exploration costs, followed by a full joint venture by June, Southern Gold said.

"The joint venture will enable Southern Gold to bring forward exploration schedules and, therefore potential discoveries in Cambodia, which we regard as one of the world's great mining frontiers," Southern Gold Managing Director Stephen Biggins said in the announcement.

Editor: Wang Hongjiang

Royal Farewell To Cambodian King


By Yusrin Junaidi

Bandar Seri Begawan - His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam yesterday bid farewell to His Majesty Preah Bat Samdech Preah Boromneath Norodom Sihamoni, King of Cambodia in a royal audience at the istana Nurul Iman.

The Cambodian King was accompanied by His Royal Highness Prince Hj Al-Muhtadee Billah, the Crown Prince and Senior Minister at the Prime Minister's Office from istana Edinburgh.

Also present to bid farewell to the King of Cambodia and his delegation were His Royal Highness Prince Mohamed Bolkiah, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, His Royal Highness Prince Hj Sufri Bolkiah and other members of the royal family.

Also in attendance were cabinet ministers, deputy ministers, permanent secretaries at the Prime Minister's Office and Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, members of the Legislative Council, heads of foreign missions, Commissioner of Police, Commander of Royal Brunei Armed Forces, and members of the Privy Council.

-- Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin

Samson to defend title in Cambodia

Bangkok Post
Thursday March 27, 2008


WBC female light-flyweight champion Samson Sor Siriporn will face a tough assignment against Japan's Kayako Ebata in her third defence on April 26 in Cambodia. Her trainer Neth Galaxy said yesterday Ebata would be Samson's toughest opponent and the Thai had to improve her physical fitness to finish off the Japanese who beat Nongmai Sor Siriporn, another Thai, last November.

''Ebata is stronger than all Samson's previous opponents,'' Neth said.

''Our champion must be in much better shape than her last defence.''

The 24-year-old Thai looked rusty when she defeated Japan's Momo Koseki in her second defence last November.

Neth said Samson had to improve her body shots which could be a lethal weapon to beat Ebata. ''Ebata suffered when Nongmai punched her body,'' he said.

The trainer will have Samson spar for 99 rounds. She will head to Phnom Penh five days before the fight.

Samson (10-2, 2KOs) admitted that it would not be easy against Ebata although she was confident that she would retain the belt.

''I am confident that I will beat her,'' Samson said. ''But I will not underestimate her.''

Neth coached Samson when she defeated Japan's Ayaka Miyano to win the title last year. He then went back to work at his boxing camp before joining her again for her fight against Ebata.

Cambodia unveils plan for sustainable development of oil, gas reserves

March 27, 2008

Cambodia has unveiled a detailed plan for developing the country's oil and gas reserves that would ensure sustainable economic development and reduce poverty at an UNDP conference, officials said Thursday.

The government has set its sights on long term benefits rather than short term gains, said Sok An, Deputy Prime Minister of Cambodia and Chairman of the Cambodian National Petroleum Authority.

The plan, which includes the formation of a regulatory framework and the development of human resources, was "a vital step" towards sustained economic development, the official said in the inaugural speech of a poverty reduction conference.

The March 26-28 conference, Fuelling Poverty Reduction with Oil and Gas Revenues Comparative Country Experiences, was the first of its kind in Cambodia, which drew more than 500 participants from Cambodia and around the globe, a conference press release said.

Arne Walther, the former secretary general of the International Energy Forum, explained how Norway had become the model for prudent use of resource wealth when huge offshore resources were discovered there in the 1970s.

Transparent rules and regulations were a vital part of the process, said the advisor to Sao Tome et Principe's Minister of Natural Resources, Genoveva Jose da Costa.

She said the country had set up a National Oil Account for revenues from its natural resources.

Global energy experts also discussed legal frameworks, fiscal arrangements, contract negotiation and how to reliably assess resource bases, the press release said.


Qatar PM to visit Cambodia for direct flight, investment co-op

March 27, 2008

Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem bin Jabor Al Thani, the Prime minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Qatar, will pay an official visit to Cambodia on April 1-2, a Cambodian official said on Thursday.

The Qatar Prime Minister's visit will focus on investment in Cambodia and direct flight plan between the two countries, said Sin Bun Thoeun, the director of Information Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Cambodia.

The Qatar Premier will be accompanied by businessmen to find investment opportunities in Cambodia, Sin Bun Thoeun said.

He added that the Premier is also the chairman of the Qatar investment group and the chairman of a major Qatar airline which owns a large number of planes.

The visit is expected to bring about more investment from Qatar and the Middle East and the Persian Gulf region in Cambodia, the official said.


New Khmer music social network woos members with gifts

Meri News
Sokhodom Pheng, 27 March 2008, Thursday

The Camnob Khmer music site (, a new Cambodian music and social media site, is welcoming new members by offering the chance to win popular gifts such as iPods through a unique points system.

KHMER MUSIC social network, where members earn points by signing up and participating in the network, and points can be used to earn gifts such as iPods.

Phnom Penh, Cambodia – March 22 2008 – social networks are a common communication tool between friends, family, and even colleagues trying to keep in touch in a web 2.0 world. Now a new Cambodian social network and entertainment portal called Camnob Khmer music ( is taking social networking a step further by offering rewards like iPods and Sony Play Station Portable (PSPs) to members with maximum points. Members of the free social network can earn points to win prizes in the newly launched beta program by simply interacting through signing up, leaving comments, inviting friends, rating media, and submitting media files.

“Where other social networks use their free user-generated content to earn a profit without giving much back to members, Camnob aims to be different,” says Sokhodom Pheng, founder of Camnob Khmer Music. He even said, Camnob believes in rewarding users for being the backbone of the site, and we want them to feel invested in the network. When they help the service grow by becoming members, posting comments, or more, they’re contributing to a community that belongs to them in a way, and they should be able to earn rewards related to the growth they help create. We want Camnob to be a user-centric network, where Cambodian people can meet, share ideas, and be entertained, all while getting recognition for their participation.

In addition to the beta points and rewards program, Camnob Khmer music allows members to upload their favourite Khmer videos, watch (Karaoke Television ) KTV through integrated YouTube videos, personalise their profile pages, and invite their contacts from popular services such as Gmail, Yahoo!, and MSN easily. In an effort to protect media owners’ copyrights, Camnob does not allow downloading of audio or video content from the network. Presently prize options include- iPods and the Sony PSP. Additional prizes may be added in the future, and the site management will consider member suggestions.

About Camnob Khmer music: Camnob Khmer music is a Cambodian social network and music portal created to allow Khmer people to socialise online and share music, videos, and ideas. The site was launched in February 2008 by Sokhodom Pheng, and offers a unique points system, which rewards members with prize redemptions for otherwise typical social networking behaviour, such as inviting friends or posting comments.

For more information about Camnob Khmer music or the new beta points and rewards system for members, please visit or contact Sokhodom Pheng at (61) 413098786.

Cambodia lifts ban on importing pigs, pork to curb soaring food prices

March 27, 2008

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen claimed Thursday that the government allows importing pigs and pork products from neighboring countries as the food prices increasing sharply.

The pig diseases in neighboring countries were over according to a report of the Cambodian veterinarian department, so the government lifted the ban on importing pigs and pork products from neighboring countries, Hun Sen said during a pagoda inauguration ceremony in Kompong Cham province.

Lacking of pork products on local markets also caused the soaring up of beef and fish prices, he said.

Hun Sen also appealed to fish lot owners to release their fish products to markets to drop the fish price.

Meanwhile, Cambodian Finance Minister Keat Chhon, in a statement released on Thursday, appealed to people to remain calm and not to stock up on foods, which could make the situation even harder.

According to the statement, Hun Sen has asked the finance and commerce ministries to address "the abnormal increase of price of goods," saying rising costs are "affecting the daily livelihoods of our citizens, especially workers, farmers and civil servants."

Since Wednesday, the Cambodian government has released surplus rice into the markets, allowing people to buy five kilograms each at reduced prices.

While rising food prices are part of a global trend, they have hit especially hard in Cambodia, where more than a third of the country's 14 million people are mired in poverty.


Public invited to experience Cambodia

Goshen News
March 27, 2008

The international luncheon, which has been an annual part of Goshen College Afternoon Sabbaticals, will focus on Cambodia this year.

April 15 at noon in the College Mennonite Church Fellowship Hall, Professor of Bible, Religion and Philosophy Keith Graber Miller and his spouse, Ann, a self-employed design consultant, will present “Cambodia.” The registration deadline is April 4.

Following a traditional Cambodian meal of rice and chicken, the Graber Millers will describe and show photos from the country where they spent four months leading a Study-Service Term unit in the spring semester of 2007.

As Keith describes it, “Cambodia is still a post-war culture, nearly 30 years after the Khmer Rouge reign ended.” The Khmer Rouge soldiers led a genocide that left nearly two million Cambodians dead in the 1970s.

“We’re hoping to introduce people to this rich Asian culture that was nearly devastated by the traumatic 1970s and 1980s, and that is still regaining its foothold,” Keith said.

But there’s much more to Cambodia than its violent past. “We’ll talk about the ancient wonders of the Angkor temples and the rulers who built them, the French colonial era and the tempestuous 20th century. We’ll also examine the impact of Buddhism on Cambodia and the fledgling Christian church,” Keith said. “In a time when our nation is at war, it’s important to look at the long-term impact of warfare on a culture and its people. No one alive during the Khmer Rouge period was left unscarred, and thousands are still dealing with various forms of post-traumatic stress.”

The meal and program cost $20.To register for the event, call College Relations at 535-7565 or e-mail

The next program in the Afternoon Sabbatical series is May 20 — a spring bus trip to South Bend. The cost is $50.

Rising Rice Prices Spark Concerns

Thursday March 27
By Paul Alexander, Associated Press Writer

Rising Rice Prices Spark Concerns Across Asia

MANILA, Philippines (AP) -- Philippine activists warn about possible riots. Aid agencies across Asia worry how they will feed the hungry. Governments dig deeper every day to fund subsidies.

A sharp rise in the price of rice is hitting consumer pocketbooks and raising fears of public turmoil in the many parts of Asia where rice is a staple.

Part of a surge in global food costs, rice prices on world markets have jumped 50 percent in the past two months and at least doubled since 2004. Experts blame rising fuel and fertilizer expenses as well as crops curtailed by disease, pests and climate change. There are concerns prices could rise a further 40 percent in coming months.

The higher prices have already sparked protests in the Philippines, where a government official has asked the public to save leftover rice. In Cambodia, Prime Minister Hun Sen ordered a ban on rice exports Wednesday to curb rising prices at home. Vietnamese exporters and farmers are stockpiling rice in expectation of further price increases.

Prestoline Suyat of the May One Labor Movement, a left-wing workers group, warned that "hunger and poverty may eventually lead to riots."

The neediest are hit hardest.

Rodolfo de Lima, a 42-year-old parking lot attendant in Manila, said "my family will go hungry" if prices continue to rise.

"If your family misses a meal, you really don't know what you can do, but I won't do anything bad," said de Lima, whose right foot was amputated after he was shot during a 1985 gang war.

Others might not be so restrained, said Domingo Casarte, 41, a street vendor.

"There are people who are hotheaded," he said. "When people get trapped, I can't say what they will do."

The U.S. Department of Agriculture forecasts global rice stocks for 2007-08 at 72 million tons, the lowest since 1983-84 and about half of the peak in 2000-01.

The higher prices are stretching the budgets of aid agencies providing rice to North Korea and other countries, particularly with donations already falling.

Jack Dunford, head of a consortium in Thailand helping more than 140,000 refugees from military-ruled Myanmar, said soaring rice prices and a slumping U.S. dollar are forcing cuts in already meager food aid.

"This rice price is just killing us," he said. "This is a very vulnerable group of people under threat."

China is among several countries in the region that subsidize rice prices, an increasingly expensive proposition.

Rice prices have almost doubled in Bangladesh in just a year, sparking resentment but no unrest yet. Repeated floods and a severe cyclone last year have cut production, forcing the government to increase imports.

In Vietnam, a major rice exporter, the crop has been hit by a virus called tungro and infestations of the brown planthopper insect.

Farmers there say they are not benefiting from the higher prices.

"The rice price has gone up 50 percent over the past three months, but I'm not making any more money because I have to pay double for fertilizer, insecticides and labor costs," said Nguyen Thi Thu, 46, a farmer in Ha Tay province, just outside Hanoi.

Another farmer, Cao Thi Thuy, 37, in Nam Dinh province, 75 miles south of Hanoi, said exporters have actually been paying less for rice over the last week.

"If the world prices are going up still, then Vietnamese rice-exporting companies are benefiting, not us," she said. "They tell us that now weather is better, and rice can grow more easily, so we should not expect higher prices."

Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, worried about anything that could spark a "people power" revolt against her, is assuring the public that rice won't run out or skyrocket in price during the traditionally lean months of July to September.

This week, she arranged the purchase of up to 1.5 million tons from Vietnam. She also has ordered a crackdown on price manipulation, hoarding and profiteering on subsidized rice, and will hold a food summit April 4.

Things are so tight that Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap has asked people not to throw away leftover rice and urged fast-food restaurants, which normally give customers a cup of rice with meals, to offer a half-cup option to cut waste.

The Philippines is facing "a perfect storm," said Sen. Mar Roxas, president of the Liberal Party.

Problems coping with rising rice prices are compounded by higher oil prices and a U.S. economic downturn, which could reduce the money sent home to families by Filipinos working in the United States. Such remittances underpin the economy.

Philippine farmers say the country, which has become the world's largest importer of rice after being an exporter in the early 1970s, has shot itself in the foot by developing some former rice paddies for housing and golf courses and planting more lucrative crops on others.

One Asian country, Japan, is encouraging cuts in rice production. Rice prices there have been falling in recent months as people eat less rice and more bread.

Associated Press writers Oliver Teves and Jim Gomez in the Philippines, Tran Van Minh and Vu Tien Hong in Vietnam, and Denis Gray in Thailand contributed to this report.

Witnesses Leave for US 'Freedom Fighter' Trial

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

Khmer audio aired March 27 (678KB) - Listen (MP3)

A delegation of 14 witnesses left Phnom Penh Thursday to attend the US trial of Cambodian Freedom Fighter president Chhun Yasith, an Interior Ministry spokesman said.

The delegation was representing the country of Cambodia as a victim in a terrorist attack, said Lt. Gen. Khieu Sopheak.

"We sent 14 people, including eye-witnesses and police officials," he said.

Chhun Yasith, 50, was indicted in June 2005 on charges related to November 2000 violence involving government forces in Phnom Penh. He was also charged with his wife, Pech Sras, 41, with tax fraud.

The violence, which authorities later called a coup attempt and terrorist attack, involved a squad of 50 men armed with rockets, grenades and assault rifles.

The fighting left at least four dead and 14 wounded and led to a round-up of 64 suspected CFF members in Cambodia.

Chhun Yasith was officially charged with "conspiracy to kill in a foreign country, conspiracy to damage or destroy property in a foreign country and engaging in a military expedition against a nation with whom the United States is at peace," the US Department of Justice said in a statement at the time of his arrest.

He faces life in prison for the 2000 attack and up to 29 years for tax fraud.

Fallen Police Chief Faces More Charges

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

Khmer audio aired March 27 (1.01MB) - Listen (MP3)

Jailed former Phnom Penh police chief Heng Pov is set to face Phnom Penh Muncipal Court Friday on charges of conspiracy to murder a state electric company official in 2005.

Elecricite du Cambodge branch officer Kim Daravuth was shot in the neck and paralyzed by gunmen following a dispute over an electricity bill with Heng Pov in mid-2005.

Heng Pov's lawyer, Kao Sopha, said Thursday there was no evidence linking the fallen police chief to the attempted killing.

"If we look over the legal documents by the police and the court, there is no evidence to punish Heng Pov," Kao Sopha said. "The court charges Heng Pov of conspiracy in connection with the murder, but no one confessed that Heng Pov is the one who ordered the killing. And the victim and witness haven't shown clearly who the [attempted] killers were."

"In this case, if we focus on the evidence, the court cannot punish Heng Pov," he said. "Although Heng Pov and Daravuth had a conflict, the court must find the evidence to charge Heng Pov."

Heng Pov was a powerful police official until he fled the country in 2006, when national police authorities issued a warrant for his arrest.

Heng Pov fled to Singapore and Malaysia, where he was seized by authorities and pled for asylum in a third country.

Malaysian authorities extradited Heng Pov to Cambodia in late 2006, but not before he wrote a letter accusing Prime Minister Hun Sen and National Police Chief Gen. Hok Lundy of ordering a 1997 grenade attack on Sam Rainsy Party supporters and the murder of popular singer Piseth Pilika.

He also accused both leaders of ordering the murder of Free Trade Union president Chea Vichea in 2004.
Hun Sen and Hok Lundy have denied the allegations as an asylum bid.

If convicted of ordering Kim Daravuth's shooting, Heng Pov faces an additional sentence of 10 years to life, to be added onto the 40 years and six months he is already serving for a battery of other crimes.

He has been found guilty of ordering the murder of Municipal Court judge Sok Sothamony in 2003, as well as possessing $400,000 in counterfeit bills and illegally detaining a suspect without trial.

He faces numerous additional criminal charges, including kidnapping, illegal detention, murder, and others.