Saturday, 29 March 2008

Davik leaves the hospital after surgery

Press Telegram
By Greg Mellen, Staff writer

LOS ANGELES - Davik Teng had a big grin as she was wheeled out of Childrens Hospital Los Angeles just four days after receiving open heart surgery.

The 9-year-old Cambodian girl was brought to the United States for life-altering surgery she was unable to get in her home country. Today, she looked healthy and was happy to be on her way back to the Long Beach home where she is staying.

Davik has suffered since birth from a large hole in her heart known as a ventricular septal defect. Although a somewhat common ailment that is usually fixed in the U.S. in the first year or two of a child's life, Davik's ailment went untreated until she was discovered by workers at a Long Beach nonprofit.

On Monday, Davik when through the open heart procedure performed by a world class cardiology team headed by Dr. Vaughn Starnes.

By Friday, she was eating heartily, looking healthy and cleared to return to Long Beach to recuperate. But for the long scar running most of the length of her torso, Davik showed no ill-effects.

At 2 p.m., she was trundled with her mother into the car of Peter Chhun, founder of Hearts Without Boundaries, the nonprofit that sponsored Davik's journey.

Childrens Hospital donated the cardiac team and its facilities for the surgery.

Davik will remain in Long Beach until she is healthy enough to return to Cambodia. No date for that has been set.

Thailand wants revived Emerald Triangle Cooperation

UBON RATCHATHANI, March 29 (TNA) - After delaying implementation of the Emerald Triangle Cooperation for nearly five years, the Thai government now plans to promote the plan, which emphasises tourism in the three countries involved – Thailand, Laos and Cambodia.

Thai Tourism and Sports Minister Weerasak Kohsurat told journalists after attending a workshop on development projects for the Emerald Triangle Cooperation Saturday that the project could be implemented but studies on the three governments' policies and politics must be first carried out.

Political changes occurred in Thailand frequently in the past, causing obstacles to the implementation of the project, but there were no problems regarding relations between the three neighbouring countries, said Mr. Weerasak.

However, sensitive issues including the economy, society, history, environment and security, all of which must be taken into consideration, he said.

A seminar at the national level will be held to push for implementation of the project, Mr. Weerasak said, adding that the private sector in the northeastern province of Ubon Ratchathani has already developed the province to cater for the project.

The first meeting of the Emerald Triangle Cooperation was held Aug 2, 2003 in the southern Lao town of Pakse by the foreign ministers of the three countries.

It was believed that not only tourism cooperation in the area where the three countries join would be promoted, but that the scheme would also generate economic growth, reducing income disparity in the three countries and enhancing the well-being of people at the grassroots level.

Vietnam to Cut Rice Exports

By Associated Press
March 28, 2008

HANOI, Vietnam - Vietnam will cut rice exports by 1 million tons this year as part of the government's efforts to rein in soaring inflation and ensure food security, the government said Friday.

"To stabilize food prices, rice exports this year must not exceed 3.5 million tons," Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung was quoted as telling a government meeting Thursday.

But Vietnam's moves are reflected elsewhere as the cost of rice increases worldwide as part of a surge in global food costs.Rice prices on world markets have jumped 50 percent in the past two months. Experts blame rising fuel and fertilizer expenses as well as crops curtailed by disease, pests and climate change.

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.

The higher prices have already sparked protests in the Philippines, while Cambodia banned exports this week to curb rising prices at home.

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.

The Vietnamese prime minister also instructed local rice exporters not to sign new export contracts, the government said on its Web site.

Huynh Minh Hue, vice general secretary of Vietnam Food Association said the measure was needed to fight soaring inflation and ensure food security.

The sharp price increase in rice exports is partly driven by strong demands from countries to boost their own stocks for food security, Hue said.

In the first quarter of this year, Vietnam exported more than 800,000 tons of rice. Last year, Vietnam, the world's second largest rice exporter, exported 4.5 million tons of rice.

Cambodian Student Association Brings New Year to the Twin Cities

“Okay, guys, let’s do it just one more time. The ending was a bit messy,” Sarim Pin urged the other dancers. As the lively, instrumental music began to play, 10 dancers took their places to start again. Since December, these dancers have been practicing almost every weekend to perform for their New Year celebration. They are members of a small student organization at the University of Minnesota called the Cambodian Student Association of Minnesota (CSAM).

While New Year’s Day is celebrated for a single evening, this holiday is given much more importance in Cambodia. Every April, children and adults look forward to the most anticipated holiday of the year, in which 3 days are devoted to festivities.

Not surprisingly, Cambodian New Year 2008 is CSAM’s showcase event of the year. “It’s the biggest celebration in Cambodia and we want to bring it here and share it with other cultures,” says Alexander Sok, a public relations officer for CSAM.

One member, Boramy Kim, feels the holiday is an important occasion for Cambodian-American families and individuals to take pride in their heritage. “It’s a meaningful time to come together as a family to celebrate both the blessing of a New Year and traditional culture.”

Through this celebration, CSAM hopes to unite the Cambodian-American community in the Twin Cities, especially in terms of bridging the gap between the older and younger generations. Sarim Pin, the president of the organization, feels strongly about this. “I hope people will see that we, as Cambodian students, are still holding on to our culture and traditions even though most of us here are second-generation Cambodians in the United States.”

Furthermore, CSAM wants to reach out and include the University community and the general public in the celebration. “Through sharing our food, our music, our dancing, our traditional fashion, and our stories, we want to inform and entertain members of the larger community who may not be familiar with Cambodian culture. After all, Asians and Asian-Americans represent a whole spectrum of unique, distinct cultures,” says Mary-Ann Em, vice president of CSAM.

The celebration will take place on Saturday, April 5th, 2008, at the North Star Ballroom on the University of Minnesota’s St. Paul campus. Free to the public, the event features authentic Cambodian food, a program of cultural performances, and a Cambodian live band for dancing. Doors open at 6 pm and will last until midnight.

For more information, please contact the Cambodian Student Association of Minnesota at

Diet doctor and £85bn heiress in custody war

Lionel Bissoon and Elizabeth Johnson with baby William

By Tom Leonard in New York

The flamboyant and privileged lifestyle of one of America's richest heiresses has been laid bare in a custody battle she is fighting over a Cambodian orphan.

Elizabeth "Libet" Johnson, 57, an heir to the £85 billion Johnson & Johnson pharmaceuticals empire, has been portrayed by a former boyfriend as ruthless, deceitful and predatory, using her enormous wealth to get her way.

The less than flattering portrait of a Manhattan socialite who once owned a 20,000sq ft apartment on Central Park has been provided by Lionel Bissoon, a Trinidadian-born celebrity weight-loss doctor with whom she was romantically involved.

The pair have been fighting for nearly three years over a five-year-old Cambodian boy whom both claim to have legally adopted, with the case leading to accusations of "legal kidnapping" and extortion.

This week, in Manhattan's state appeals court, Miss Johnson appealed against a judge's decision to revoke her previous judgment in the multi-millionaire socialite's favour.

Miss Johnson, whose grandfather, Robert Wood Johnson built his company into a pharmaceutical giant, has remained silent outside court, but Dr Bissoon, 47, has been happy to highlight her alleged faults.

He has pointed out how she had five husbands before she was 40 and claimed she has been romantically linked with many other men, including the singer Michael Bolton and the hairdresser Frederic Fekkai.

Dr Bissoon, who wrote The Cellulite Cure, became romantically involved with Miss Johnson in 2003. At the time, she was one of his patients. He says she began inviting him to her apartment in the Trump International Hotel and Tower.

Valued at one point at £31 million, the property was so big that she had considered installing a basketball court and a pool.

Dr Bissoon admitted that life with her had its attractions - jetting in her private plane between her various homes, including one in the ski resort of Vail and her farm in Millbrook, upstate New York.

Within months they were talking about adoption and, later that year, Miss Johnson found an orphan called Rath Chan in Cambodia, where she was involved in setting up an orphanage.

Temporarily getting round a US ban on adopting Cambodians, they brought the boy to New York on a medical visa in August 2003. He was given a £50,000 trust fund and two nannies, and installed at the Johnson apartment. However, by the following summer, the Bissoon-Johnson relationship was virtually over.

Miss Johnson, who has four grown-up children, told him that she intended to adopt the child on her own. Mr Bissoon initially agreed but changed his mind after the heiress banned him from seeing William following a row at her apartment.

Two years ago, a judge named Miss Johnson as the child's mother but revoked her order last year, citing the heiress's "substantial, material misrepresentations".

The judge was unimpressed to learn belatedly that Miss Johnson had failed to disclose that she had originally tried to adopt the boy with Dr Bissoon, and that he had actually adopted William first, in Cambodia in 2004.

Miss Johnson had also not disclosed that she had recently been treated for a drinking problem.
The four-judge panel has reserved its judgment.




Ron Abney, Cochran, Georgia,USA


What a sham and a farce the investigation of this tragic event has become. Every year we call on the Cambodian Government to investigate. We’re asking the Hun Sen government to re-open a case which he never really opened.

The FBI found out within weeks of the attack that it was planned and carried out by Hun Sen’s own private guards and covered up by Hun Sen’s top police enforcers. What a crime was committed that day. We shouldn’t be vague about culpability when we ask for a new investigation. So let’s be real.

Did those slaughtered on 3/30/97 die in vain? Even today Hun Sen is the supreme and ultimate puppeteer of all that happens in Cambodia. He decides who will be exiled and who will be allowed back in the country. He decides how far each opposition party can go in criticizing has government. He makes sure the NEC is loaded with yes men who will validate the results of the election. He decides who will be jailed and who will be released. He decides the fate of pro-democracy party commune leaders who speak out and try to organize. His forces bribe opposition part officials to join CPP. And as we saw on 3/30/97 he decides when opposition goes too far.

He is a master of intrigue. He has told the world for years that his government will bring the Khmer Rouge leaders before his court for trail. How is that trial going by the way? These KR leaders are dying right and left of old age while the corrupt judicial system in Phnom Penh makes a farce out of a situation so tragic it still rips the heart out of those who suffered at the hands of Pol Pot.

Cambodia hasn’t really changed. Everything looks shinier and tourists who fly from their own country to Bangkok or Hong Kong to Siem Reap and its five-star hotels and then back to their homes talk of how wonderful to see all the changes. They should travel about an hour from Siem Reap in any direction and see what has happened to the homeless who used to pack the streets of that great city.

Those gathered on 3/30/97 only asked for justice and political freedom. If they were alive today they would still be begging for basic human rights and the same freedom and opportunities that CPP officials enjoy.In Cambodia everybody votes but nobody counts.

Turkish entrepreneurs open second school in Cambodia

The second Turkish school in Cambodia opened in a ceremony attended by Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister Sok An.

Today's Zaman

The second Turkish school in Cambodia, an additional campus of the Zaman International School, which began its educational activities in 1997, was opened on Thursday in a ceremony attended by Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister Sok An and Justice and Development Party (AK Party) Deputy Chairman Dengir Mir Mehmet Fırat.

The new campus will initially host 300 nursery and primary school students. The old campus is used to educate 700 high school students. Principal Ali Kökten told Today's Zaman on Thursday that the Turkish school is among the leading schools in the country and that its team won the bronze medal at the Computer Olympics held last year in Romania.

Having lost hundreds of thousands of its citizens in the American bombardments during the Vietnam War and millions more in the "fields of death" during the Khmer Rouge and Pol Pot period, Cambodia wants to forget its past and open a new page. For this reason, foreign investments are being fostered and opportunities for cooperation exist in all fields, from education to agriculture. Within this scope, Turkish schools have started to operate in the country.

An, speaking at the opening ceremony, congratulated the school executives for the institution's achievements and said the country expected the opening of a university from the Turkish investors. An toured the school and watched student activities and performances. He also attended some classes and met with Turkish investors who attended the ceremony, telling them that they should start investing in Cambodia.

"Today the world needs love and peace more than ever. This school plants saplings of peace in a field of love. For this reason, I congratulate the teachers, who are the gardeners of peace and tolerance," Fırat said. Professor Şerif Ali Tekalan, head of the Union of International Universities, said he believed "that the students of this school, which has established a bridge of love between two countries, will work for the welfare and peace of their countries and that of all humanity in the future."

Civil Servants' Trade Union (Memur-Sen) Ahmet Aksu expressed his appreciation for the Turkish entrepeneurs' work. "The Anatolian people went outside and invested in these schools at a time when the state could not do it. Those who plan, undertake and support these services are heroes in the view of history," he said.

Economic and cultural relations between Turkey and Cambodia were not noteworthy in the past due to a mutual lack of knowledge about each other; however, this changed when the first school was opened, boosting Turkey's popularity among Cambodians.


The victims of the 30 March 1997 grenade attack want JUSTICE

Who killed these peoples? More than 10 years now the government of Cambodia did not do anything to bring justice for these victims. We urge the world to help these people to find justice.

On March 30, 1997 grenades were thrown into the peaceful demonstrations killing and injured many in the process. The attacker are likely came from the current Cambodian People's Party government. This is the 11th years anniversary of that event.

Mekong countries striving for shared prosperity

Special report: Premier Wen visits Laos, attends GMS Summit

VIENTIANE, March 29 (Xinhua) -- Leaders of the six countries in the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) are gathering here on Saturday for their third summit meeting scheduled for March 30-31 to discuss ways to deepen economic cooperation for their countries' shared prosperity.

The theme of the Third GMS Summit is "Enhancing Competitiveness through Greater Connectivity".

The leaders of the six countries sharing the Mekong River -- Cambodia, China, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam -- will talk about how connectivity improvements could help expand markets, improve access to social services, and protect the environment at the triennial meeting.

The meeting aims to sustain and deepen economic cooperation and integration efforts among the GMS countries in order to better meet development challenges and realize the common vision of an integrated, harmonious and prosperous subregion.

President of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) Haruhiko Kuroda will join the summit meeting. ADB has been financing subregional projects in the GMS, in the form of loans and technical assistance grants since 1992.

Ceremonies marking progress under the GMS Program will be held during the Third GMS Summit. These events include the opening of the section in northern Lao PDR of a road corridor running from Chinese city Kunming to Thai capital of Bangkok; signing of an agreement on power trade, and inauguration of a six-country broadband information platform.

Meetings between the leaders the youth and business representatives from the six countries will also be held.

The Greater Mekong Subregion Economic Cooperation Program (the GMS Program) was started in 1992 by the six Mekong countries. It involves planning and carrying out sub-regional projects in nine areas: transport, energy, telecommunications, tourism, environment, human resource development, agriculture, trade facilitation, and private investment.

With the support of the (ADB) and other development partners, the GMS Program is helping the six Mekong countries foster economic growth and reduce poverty through increased connectivity, improved competitiveness and a greater sense of community.

Connectivity is being established through transport corridors, power interconnection systems, and telecommunication networks. Economic competitiveness is being improved through better infrastructure links, and measures to ease the movement of goods and services across borders. A sense of community is being fostered through joint actions that address shared social and environmental concerns, such as preventing the spread of communicable diseases, and protecting biodiversity and ecosystems.

The Summit is the highest forum in the GMS Program, serving as the venue where the GMS Leaders can review the progress of, and agree on future directions, for the GMS Program.

The First GMS Summit was held in Phnom Penh, Cambodia in November 2002, while the Second GMS Summit was held in Kunming, China in July 2005.

6 Malaysians nabbed in Cambodia for disrupting flight

Agence France-Presse

PHNOM PENH -- Six drunken Malaysian men were arrested and set to be deported from Cambodia on Friday, after they shouted at flight attendants and scared passengers on a flight from Kuala Lumpur, officials said.

The six men were arrested as soon as the AirAsia Airbus A320 landed in Phnom Penh, airport police chief Chhour Kimny told Agence France-Presse.

"They are drunk and demanded services that air hostesses don't provide. They made trouble on board the flight," he said.

"They used a loud voice and had a verbal conflict with the air hostesses. They acted improperly and caused chaos among the passengers," he said.

A top immigration official told AFP the six would be deported from Cambodia soon. It was not immediately known how many passengers were on board.

New probe urged for senior Khmer Rouge leaders

Prosecutors at Cambodia's genocide tribunal called for a new investigation into claims of torture and killings committed under the 1970s Khmer Rouge regime, according to a statement released by Cambodian co-prosecutor Chea Leang, seen here in June 2007.(AFP/File/Tang Chhin Sothy)
PHNOM PENH (AFP) — Prosecutors at Cambodia's genocide tribunal called for a new investigation into claims of torture and killings committed under the 1970s Khmer Rouge regime, in a statement Saturday.

Prosecutors asked investigating judges at the UN-backed tribunal to examine allegations of crimes committed at a Khmer Rouge security centre, said the statement dated Friday.

Many Cambodians were unlawfully detained, subjected to inhumane conditions and forced labour, tortured and executed at the centre, it said.

"These factual allegations, if founded, could constitute crimes against humanity," Robert Petit, one of the prosecutors, said in the statement.

Prosecutors asked that senior regime leaders Nuon Chea, Ieng Sary, Khieu Samphan, Ieng Thirith and Kaing Guek Eav -- all currently in the court's custody -- be investigated for their involvement in these crimes.

The request was accompanied by more than 30 supporting documents totalling around 1,500 pages of analytical reports, witness statements and documents from the period.

"As a result of the detailed nature and concise form in which the information was provided, we were able to assess and act on this information quickly," Cambodian prosecutor Chea Leang said in the statement, encouraging victims to come forward.

"Without participation of victims and witnesses, the court's ability to ascertain the truth regarding the extent of the crimes and those who are responsible for them will be significantly reduced," she said.

Up to two million people died of starvation and overwork, or were executed as the communist Khmer Rouge dismantled modern Cambodian society in a bid to forge an agrarian utopia during their 1975-1979 rule.

Public trials are expected to begin this year, but delays in the process have raised fears that the elderly defendants could die before going to court.

Cambodia willing to resume oil talks with Thailand

ABC Radio Australia

Cambodia says it is willing to resume stalled talks with Thailand on how to divide up offshore energy resources along their disputed sea border.

Overlapping claims to undersea oil and natural gas fields in the Gulf of Thailand has kept both countries from tapping into potentially rich reserves.

Negotiations opened in 1995 but all attempts to reach a formal agreement failed, with the last round of talks held in 2006.

Now the director-general,of Cambodia's National Petroleum Authority says talks could resume as early as next month.

Te Duong Tara says Cambodia is seeking a 50-50 split of the disputed area, while Thailand wants a larger share of the fields.

Cambodia expects to begin oil production in its own offshore fields in 2011.

Oil was discovered in Cambodia in 2005 by the US energy giant Chevron.

Pop star Ricky Martin in Cambodia to raise awareness about human trafficking

Mar 27, 2008
The Canadian Press

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — Pop star Ricky Martin has taken his fight against child trafficking to Cambodia.

Martin, who arrived in the country Wednesday, met with Interior Minister Sar Kheng and visited various projects run by non-governmental organizations fighting child trafficking and sexual exploitation.

Martin learned of Cambodia's child trafficking problems in February during a three-day United Nations conference in Vienna. He joined Oscar-winning actress Emma Thompson, Egyptian first lady Suzanne Mubarak and other dignitaries in calling for action.

Some 2.5 million people are involved in forced labour as a result of trafficking, and 161 countries - on every continent and in every type of economy - are affected by the crime, the UN said.

Most victims are between the ages of 18 and 24, and an estimated 1.2 million children are trafficked each year, UN figures show.

The Ricky Martin Foundation does most of its work in Latin America.

Small Retail: Donut maker wholly committed

Long hours, hard work no problem for refugee turned pastry king


Nearly every day for more than 14 years, Tony Oeung has opened his Family Donut Shop in North Seattle during the morning's wee hours and greeted customers with a smile.

Starting at 5 a.m., or earlier, he typically works 10 or more hours a day, and his only days off are major holidays. In 2006, he took his first vacation.

Yet, there's no complaining from Oeung, who fled Cambodia at the tail end of the Khmer Rouge regime, an era of mass Cambodian genocide during the late 1970s.

"It's not too bad," Oeung said of the long hours. "Where I am from, it was a pretty tough life. So to be here and talk with customers and drink coffee and eat my doughnuts is pretty good."

Oeung's journey from northern Cambodia began in 1979, when he and his wife, Vanna, left for Thailand.

"We wanted to get away from the Communists," Oeung said. "We felt that country wouldn't do us any good."

They lived in a refugee camp for more than a year and then went to the Philippines to learn English. In December 1981, the couple immigrated to San Diego, where Oeung continued to study English and was hired to do assembly line work on personal computers for the minimum wage.

Seeing no future in his job, Oeung started working at a doughnut shop owned by a family member.

After learning the trade, he opened his own store in La Mesa, Calif., and then he moved to Seattle in late 1993 to open his store here.

Regulars of Family Donut, at the end of a small strip development at 2100 N. Northgate Way, say Oeung's shop is a home away from home.

"It's like an old barbershop. People can come in and joke around," said Mark Kessler, one of the regulars who stops by with his adult son, Jonathan. "I don't know what he does with them, but they are really good."

Family Donut has more than 20 pastry choices, and the cost is pretty reasonable.

A doughnut goes for 65 cents to $1.25, depending on the confection, and it costs $6.95 for a dozen doughnuts. The shop also sells coffee, milk, juice and soda pop.

Customers say they travel from all over the Seattle area to buy his doughnuts, and Oeung said some customers have taken his treats on plane trips to Chicago.

Bruce Belew, who works at the nearby Nexus Hotel, said he's been going to the Family Donut shop almost daily for 10 years because the doughnuts are handmade and taste better than those of a chain.

Oeung, 49, said he used to make the doughnuts, a process that begins around 1 a.m., but the responsibility of creating up to 100 dozen doughnuts a day has been handed over to his brother-in-law so Oeung can focus on managing the store.

The doughnuts are made with one mixer and a single fryer and frosted on a 7-foot-by-3-foot table in the back of the 850-square-foot shop.

The only other employee is Oeung's wife, who met him in Cambodia a year before they left the country. The couple will celebrate their 30th wedding anniversary on Oct. 17.

Vanna Oeung said she works in the afternoon and early evening so the store can stay open until 7 p.m., and so her husband can break away for his daily workout.

Only on Sundays does the store close early -- at 5 p.m.

Oeung, who became a U.S. citizen in 2001, said he likes to keep the operation small, and there's no point to complain about the daily grind.

"It's a little too late to do something else," he says with a laugh. "Sometimes I am tired and I get up and moan and groan a bit, but someone has to do it."

Vanna Oeung said family members have encouraged Tony to slow down, but he dismisses such talk.

"We will not make a million in this business, but he just enjoys it," she said.

"He doesn't want to do anything else."

China reinforces commitment to boost Mekong co-op


China reaffirmed its commitment on Friday to continue to boost the economic cooperation in the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS), saying cooperation will benefit all nations in the region.

"China will further its cooperation with the other GMS members in fields such as transportation, energy, telecommunication, agriculture, environment, human resource development and tourism", said a country report issued by China prior to the third GMS summit.

China along with fellow member states Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand and Myanmar will attend the conference in Vientiane, Laos, on March 30 and 31.

"The other GMS countries are all friendly neighbors of China, and they and China have maintained a long tradition of friendship," said the report, which added China had always attached importance to enhancing and developing its friendly relations with other countries in the region.

GMS cooperation is project-oriented and provides financial and technological support according to the actual needs of member countries.

According to the report, a total of $9.87 billion, a shared contribution by China and the other five countries as well as the Asian Development Bank, has been poured into 34 projects, and another 146 technological aid projects also cost a total of $166 million.

Several model projects facilitated by China under the GMS economic cooperation framework were listed in the report, which included:

-- The Laos one-third section of the western line of the south-north economic corridor (Kunming-Laos-Bangkok Road)
-- Cooperation on the Pan-Asia Railway, and research into both the China and other sections.
-- The 110 KW power line connecting Hekou, Yunnan Province, and Lao Cai in Vietnam
-- The GMS Information Highway (GMS IS) phase I project
-- The first GMS Agriculture Ministers Meeting and the GMS Agriculture Information Network Service
-- The implementation of the Action Framework for the GMS Strategy of Facilitation of Trade and Investment, and its own country action plan

"China is planning to promote cooperation on agriculture, railways, and human resource training within the subregion at the third GMS summit," said He Yafei, Chinese assistant foreign minister, at a news briefing on Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao's attendance at the summit.

According to He, the triennial meeting will have as its theme "Enhancing Competitiveness Through Greater Connectivity" and Premier Wen will deliver a keynote speech on China's views and proposals to further boost the GMS cooperation and its future development.

The GMS, established in 1992, promotes economic and social development, irrigation and cooperation within the six Mekong countries.

About 320 million people live within the GMS region, and their common link, the Mekong River, winds its way for 4,200 kilometers. The great majority of these people live in rural areas where they lead subsistence or semi-subsistence agricultural lifestyles.

The area boasts abundant natural resources and huge development potential. With a long history of cultural and economic exchanges among the nations, the area has formed peculiar cultural and economic characteristics based on different folk customs and natural landscapes of the six nations sharing the river.

The first GMS Summit was held in Cambodia's Phnom Penh in 2002, and the second in southwest China's Kunming in 2005.

Japan provides 36 million USD to Cambodia

Trading Markets
Friday, March 28, 2008

Phnom Penh, Mar 28, 2008 (Asia Pulse Data Source via COMTEX) -- -- ? Japan has pledged to provide a loan worth 3,651 million JPY (36 million USD) to build a special economic zone in Sihanoukville, Cambodia.

Under an agreement signed in Phnom Penh on March 27, aid will be part of a preferential loan to develop infrastructure, workshops and ports in a special economic zone covering 70ha in Sihanoukville.

The agreement was signed by Japanese Ambassador to Cambodia Shohiro Shinohara and Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Hor Namhong.

Additionally, Japan agreed to continue technical assistance to Cambodia in other future projects.

Topeka airmen are on a mission of mercy to Cambodia

by Ben Bauman
Friday, March 28, 2008

Some Kansas airmen are on a mission of mercy. Members of the 190th Air Refueling Wing are making final preparations for a "final flight"

"They called me up and said 'can you help out?' And, I was like, 'I'm there,'" Tech Sgt. James Norris, Wichita said.

The crew of a KC-135 tanker is busily going through all the checks for a flight that would take them from southeast Topeka to southeast Asia.

"We've got a seven hour trip to Hawaii, then a 14 hour trip to Thailand, and then a quick trip over there. So we'll probably get a good 50 hours of flying just to get there and back," Norris said.

Their mission is to retrieve some remains of Vietnam-era U.S. servicemen recently found in Cambodia and bring them back to U.S. soil.

"I'm glad they're found and I'm glad we're bringing them home," Norris said. "And, I'm glad that I'm a part of the process of bringing 'em home and to reunite them with their families," Norris said.

This is the second such mission for the 190th. Another crew recently flew to Pulau to bring back remains of World War Two airmen. Like them, this crew feels privileged to be involved.

"It's an honor for me. I've spent 10 deployments overseas already. And I'm just glad to be with my guys here doing the mission," Norris said.

The remains will be delivered to the military forensic facility in Hawaii, for positive identification

Ahead of Campaigns, Parties Rely on Radio

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

Khmer audio aired March 28 (1.16MB) - Listen (MP3)

To listen regularly to local radio is to hear at least five potential political parties broadcasting their aims and platforms, in a bid to gain the confidence of voters ahead of July's general elections.

These broadcasts have been even more robust than in previous elections, and, political observers note, show that Cambodia's parties are trying to win voters over in a pre-campaign campaign.

In the airshows of rented space of Beehive Radio and FM93.5, the Human Rights Party, led by former activist Kem Sokha, presents to listeners key platforms: the party's aim to build a true democracy, eradicate totalitarianism, establish a society of justice, and fight corruption and injustice.

Also over the airwaves comes the Voice of Royalism, a special program by the Norodom Ranariddh Party, which splintered from the traditional royalists, Funcinpec, in 2006, and is led by the son of former king Norodom Sihanouk.

The Voice of Royalism attacks the ruling party and raises sensitive issues such as inflation. The program accuses the ruling Cambodian People's Party of instigating inflation and purposely provoking problems for the country, such as border issues and illegal immigration.

As the program calls attention to royalist leanings, Prime Minister Hun Sen, who is the vice president of the CPP, has said his party remains a supporter and protector of Cambodia's royal tradition.

"We make an effort to protect royalism, and the CPP supports totally the royal institutions and the king," Hun Sen said in a radio address earlier this month.

Funcinpec, meanwhile, promotes itself for helping the reconstruction of the country, as a coalition party to CPP.

The opposition Sam Rainsy Party, broadcasting on FM105 and FM93.5, allows listeners to call in and discuss their woes.

Such broadcasting activity is not banned by election law, said Tep Nytha, secretary-general of the National Election Committee.

"There are no laws to prevent this liberty, except during the campaign period, when the election law limits some political activity," he said.

Koul Panha, executive director of the Committee for Free and Fair Elections, agreed.

However, he said, the broadcast space rented by competing parties is little when compared with the media supporting the ruling party.

Tribunal Official Says Meeting in New York was “Fruitful”

By Poch Reasey, VOA Khmer
28 March 2008

Khmer Audio Aired March 28(.98 MB) - Listen (MP3)

Speaking by telephone with VOA Khmer from New York, tribunal spokeswoman Helen Jarvis said the meeting at the United Nations headquarters in New York Thursday was “fruitful.”

Jarvis said because it was a “closed door meeting”, she could not go into the details. However, she said what she could say was that it was attended by 20 different countries, the legal council, the UN comptroller, and the Cambodian permanent representatives to the UN and the Cambodian delegation led by chief of the Office of Administration Sean Visoth.

“Mr. Visoth was able to give a briefing to the meeting on the recent developments at the ECCC, and forward planning and there was a very fruitful discussion,” said ECCC spokeswoman Helen Jarvis.

Jarvis said that she wanted to make it clear that Thursday’s meeting was not a pledging conference.

“It was a discussion of where we are and where we are going and giving them some information, in particular, also providing the summary of the result of the special review of all the human resources management improvements in the ECCC,” Jarvis said, referring to the tribunal by its official name, the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia.

The hybrid, UN-backed tribunal was expected to last 3 years and cost $56.3 million. But now court officials say they need an additional $114 million and expect the trial to last until 2011.

There is a concern that the money to pay the Cambodia staff would run out at the end of April.

However, Jarvis said the latest figures show that the money will last longer than the end of April.

“We are confident because we have been making strong progress. We are not panicking at all,” said Jarvis. “We are confident that the court will continue to attract the support both morally and financial support and we will be able to keep going with this important work.”

Jarvis said she can not say when donor countries will pledge more money for the tribunal except to say that there are a lot of discussions going on about what ECCC is doing right now.

Heng Pov Defies Judge in Conspiracy Trial

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

Khmer audio aired March 28 (1.58MB) - Listen (MP3)

Fallen city police chief Heng Pov refused to answer questions from a municipal judge Friday, as a trial on conspiracy to murder opened against him.

Heng Pov's lawyer also refused to answer questions from Phnom Penh Municipal Court Judge Chhay Kong, who gave Heng Pov 18 months on illegal weapons charges in a case in 2006.

No verdict was issued at the close of Friday's trial, but one is expected soon.

Heng Pov, who rose to power as Phnom Penh's municipal police chief, had sought a change of judge ahead of the trial, claiming Chhay Kong had unjustly sentenced to prison members of his household, including a housekeeper, gardener and dog-keeper, in a previous case.

"This is the first time I have been in a hearing when the accused refused to answer the judge," said Tong Heng, a court monitor for the Center for Social Development.

Heng Pov is charged with ordering a murder attempt on Elecricite du Cambodge branch officer Kim Daravuth, who was shot in the neck and paralyzed by gunmen following a dispute over an electricity bill with the former police chief in mid-2005.

If convicted, Heng Pov faces an additional sentence of 10 years to life, added to the 40 years and six months he is already serving for other crimes, including ordering the murder of Municipal Court judge Sok Sothamony in 2003, possessing $400,000 in counterfeit bills and illegally detaining a suspect without trial.

He faces further criminal charges, including kidnapping, illegal detention and murder.

Tribunal Delegation Meets in New York

By Poch Reasey, VOA Khmer
Original report from Washington
28 March 2008

Khmer audio aired March 27 (1.27MB) - Listen (MP3)

A three-member delegation from the Office of Administration of the Khmer Rouge tribunal met with ambassadors and representatives from over 20 donor countries at the United Nations headquarters in New York Thursday to plan for the future of the cash-strapped courts.

Speaking by telephone with VOA Khmer from New York, tribunal spokeswoman Helen Jarvis said the three members of the delegation include chief of the Office of Administration Sean Visoth and the chief of Budget and Finance.

"The purpose of this meeting is to look at the review of what the ECCC has been doing and the forward planning," Jarvis said, referring to the tribunal by its official name, the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia.

Robert O. Varenik, acting executive director of the Open Society Justice Initiative, told VOA Khmer by telephone that the meeting is an important one.

"The ECCC is at a really critical juncture, with funds for Cambodian salaries expected to run out by the end of April," he said. "So it's critical donors and the Cambodian government and the United Nations to come together to create a realistic budget that can allow the chamber to go forward."

Tribunal spokesman Reach Sambath said although the tribunal has encountered many problems in the past, it is still very efficient compared to other international tribunals.

"Look at Yugoslavia," he said. "They spent $170 million a year. We've spent less than $20 million a year."

But Varenik said the budget is not the only issue.

"The other issues are what would the court look like, and how it would operate," he said. "It's a significant amount of money; it's an enormous responsibility for everyone, given the importance of getting a measure of justice for these crimes."

The hybrid, UN-backed tribunal was expected to last 3 years and cost $56.3 million. But now court officials say they need an additional $114 million and expect the trial to last until 2011.

Official Defends Role of National Election Body

By Mean Veasna, VOA Khmer
Phnom Penh
28 March 2008

Khmer audio aired March 27 (5.62MB) - Listen (MP3)

The National Election Committee is preparing voter information and seeking funding to stage general elections in July, Tep Nytha, secretary-general for the national body said Thursday.

About 8.12 million voters have registered, and the election will cost nearly $17 million, he said, as a guest on "Hello VOA."

The NEC is currently seeking about $2.5 million from donors to stage the election, he said.
He recommended voters keep their documents safe ahead of Election Day and reminded political parties to prepare documents for registration, which begins April 28.

The NEC has already begun preparations for the election, including the creation of voter information cards and the search for suitable ballot sites.

Tep Nytha defended accusations of NEC bias, saying the NEC was not the sole organization to hear complaints.

Parties that do not agree with NEC decisions can file an appeal to the Constitutional Council, he said, adding that it was normal for complainants to be dissatisfied with some resolutions.

Sacravatoons no 946 :" Partitioning the land for People "

Courtesy of Sacravatoon :

Disgraced Cambodian police chief tried for shooting electricity man

The Earth times
Fri, 28 Mar 2008
Author : DPA

Phnom Penh - Disgraced former police chief Heng Pov again faced a Cambodian court Friday, this time charged with the attempted murder of a civil servant who had asked him to pay his power bill. Appearing healthy and relaxed, the former Phnom Penh police chief mocked the court, challenging it to accuse him of every murder during his six-year tenure and claiming his arrest was political and therefore his court case would not be fair.

"Charge me with shooting Piseth Pilika and Touch Srey Nich too," he told Phnom Penh Municipal Court judge Chhay Kong, whom he had unsuccessfully petitioned to have removed from his case citing bias.

Heng Pov was referring to two internationally famous female singers gunned down in separate incidents in the capital within the past decade, both allegedly for political reasons.

He has already been sentenced to decades in jail for a string of convictions, including the 2003 murder of a judge in the same court now trying him, Sok Sethamony.

In Friday's case Pov stood accused of ordering the murder of Kim Daravuth, a senior state electricity commission official, for refusing to give him free power.

He appeared without a lawyer, saying he could not afford it.

The court heard Prum Sor Phearith, the former chief of the Phnom Penh minor crimes bureau, Am Sam Kheng, aka Kong Sophal, formerly of the Interior Ministry, and Pov's confidant Hang Vuthy, aka Yumareach ('Lord of the Dead') had shot Daravuth on Pov's orders in 2005.

Daravuth took a bullet to the neck but survived, although he is now permanently disabled. He has testified that "the dispute started when (Pov) stopped paying his electricity bill."

The court reserved judgment to a date to be set. Pov and his alleged accomplices face up to 20 years in jail if convicted, although Vuthy escaped from jail in murky circumstances soon after his arrest and has not been seen since.

Pov is yet to face a number of other charges, including the 1998 attempted murder of a newspaper editor who printed an article critical of him and the execution of a Singaporean businessman.

Oil and Gas Revenues Must Have Special Accounts

Posted on 29 March 2008.
The Mirror, Vol. 12, No. 553

“According to an announcement by the United Nations Development Program [UNDP] of 26 March 2008, Cambodia presented a detailed plan for the management of oil and gas resources to ensure sustainable economic development and poverty reduction. Mr. Sok An, a deputy prime minister and the chairperson of the Cambodian National Petroleum Authority, said that the government had set its vision to obtain long-term rather than short-term benefits from oil and gas resources. He added that the plan, which includes the establishment of legal frameworks and human resource developments, is a crucial step in working toward sustainable economic development.

“A conference on Fueling Poverty Reduction with Oil and Gas Revenues was conducted in order to exchange information and experiences with various countries. This was the first such event taking place in Cambodia. The conference had approximately 500 participants from inside the country and from across the globe. Representatives from other countries who are successful in tapping natural resources to serve their societies urged Cambodia to pay close attention to the issue of oil and gas resources.

“Mr. Arne Walther, a former secretary-general of the International Energy Forum, explained the methods that Norway had used, to become a model for the careful utilization of natural resources, when the country had discovered substantial natural resources under the sea in the 1970s. He said, ‘There was the political will to carefully take a step forward, without letting the substantial revenue from petroleum affect or obstruct the traditional model of the Norwegian society.’

“Ms. Genoveva José da Costa, an Advisor to the São Tomé and Principe Minister of Natural Resources, said that transparent laws and regulations are crucial for all these processes. She added that her country established special accounts for all revenues from natural resources. She explained, ‘Doing so establishes a single target for all the income from petroleum, and it makes it easy to monitor the flow of expenses and to guarantee that they are used safely.’ Experts also discussed legal frameworks, preparation of fiscal taxes, contract negotiations, and reliable methods to study how to handle the basic resources.

“Mr. Jo Scheuer, the Cambodian country director of the UNDP, said, ‘The conference was an open forum to encourage media coverage and to provide for a creative open discussion. We hope that the conference will pave the way for all participants’ further discussion in coming years.”

Koh Santepheap, Vol.41, #6308, 28.3.2008

ADB pledges budget for development projects in three GMS countries

March 28, 2008

The Asian Development Bank has promised the budget for a variety of development projects in three Greater Mekong Sub-region (GMS) countries for 2008 and 2009, an ADB official said here Friday.

There is no lending project from ADB under the GMS program for Cambodia in 2008, but there are two projects tentatively planned for 2009, namely the Flood and Drought Risk Management and Mitigation project worth 20 million U.S. dollars, and the Cambodia Northwest Road Improvement Project also worth 20 million U.S. dollars, said Chamroen Ouch, senior program officer for governance unit of the ADB Cambodia Resident Mission.

There are three non-lending projects for Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam in 2008, namely the Flood and Drought Risk Management and Mitigation worth two million U.S. dollars, the Project to Support Implementation of the Core Agriculture Program worth 2.5 million U.S. dollars, and the Mekong Water Supply and Sanitation Project worth 0.4 million U.S. dollars, he added.

Country leaders from Cambodia, China, Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar and Thailand are slated to attend the third GMS Summit in Laos on March 30-31.

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.


A lucky family counts its pythons

By Erika Kinetz
March 28, 2008

PHNOM PENH: The pythons, we were told, were to the south: over the Monivong Bridge, past the market, and then a hard right down what turned out to be a deplorable dirt track, with abscessed dogs, gleaners, the usual naked children and a terrible complement of sun-faded plastic trash.

In such a landscape it is easy to imagine how a man might want for luck. Easy, too, to imagine how such a man, barefoot and grizzled, might see fit to grab on to luck with both his fists, even if it came to him in the form of a large snake.

And so it was that Lay Nhel, 65, came to possess his pythons.

In Cambodia, mythical serpents, or naga, are guardian spirits associated with prosperity. They adorn the lintels of the ancient temples of Angkor, and their long bodies flank bridges and banisters old and new. Fearsome five-headed serpents, hooded like cobras, hold up the fountains in the park by my house, which is not far from the Naga Casino. There is even a myth about the snake princess who gave rise to the Cambodian people.

There is not a whiff of Christian sin about any of these serpents. And it led me to wonder: Absent the apple and Eve, could a snake actually be good?

Over the years, Lay Nhel said, he has had five pythons. His favorite, a 3.5-meter, or 11.5-foot, woman-snake, he caught one midnight at a nearby pond. "Someone possessed the snake. They wanted to live with our family," said his son, Lay Pros, 26. "She was so gentle."

Not long after, they caught another python, a male, and brought him home, too. They put the snakes together in a rough wood-and-chicken-wire coop beneath their wooden home, not far from the half-dozen clay pots they use to catch rainwater.

Such ministrations are not uncommon here. In early March, Cambodia's largest Khmer-language newspaper reported that two pythons, a male and a female, invaded the home of a high-ranking official in the Ministry of Defense, Neang Phat. He celebrated their arrival as a sign of good fortune, welcoming them into his family by throwing his new pets a huge wedding banquet.

Lay Nhel says his female python was a gift from a well-known local spirit, Yeay Mao. The family bathed in water the pythons had swum in, believing the spirits had left some trace of magic. And they let them out for 15 minutes of exercise each day, during which time the snakes offered further proof of their beneficence. "They wouldn't eat anything that causes the owner to lose money," Lay Pros said. "They wouldn't eat chickens or dogs; only things the owner can get for free."

Lay Pros maintains that the pythons brought the family good luck, chiefly by attracting business and enhancing his father's magic powers. People come to Lay Nhel and ask him to draw out magic on strips of soft metal, which they roll into scrolls and tie around their waists with string.

They pay him to call the spirits for them and chart out formulas of chance on small squares of red cloth: arrows, mythical lions, ancient crocodiles, unrecognizable script and bare-breasted angels who can bring fortune, health, love and protection from the great darkness of the world.
"This python made us richer," Lay Pros said.

But the blessings of the pythons came with a price. "Every day I had to find live rats for the pythons," Lay Pros said. "It's against Buddhism. When you catch the prey for the pythons, it's a sin."

Then one day, just over a year ago, Lay Nhel came to check on his pets and found 50 snake eggs. Trembling to think what it would take to feed such a bounty of luck, he went to a statue of Yeay Mao, just across the river, and asked her to please release him. Sensing no opposition, he sent the pythons and the eggs to a relative in the countryside.

I have no taste for a snake and no room for an alligator (which some rich men farm). I am too poor to invest in fish that bring fortune (which cost $2,000 and more) and too temporary to commit to a dog. Besides, I have seen clouds of butterflies rise up from the Cambodian jungle marshes and heard the clacking of a thousand unimaginable insects. After witnessing such animal marvels, what would I want with a mere house cat?

Still, I would like some of the power of the kingdom: the fierceness of the alligator, the beneficence of the snake, the fortune of the fish, the protection of the dog, the beauty of the butterflies. So I ask Lay Nhel to draw for me these things, and I will carry that red cloth wherever I go. In exchange, I leave a small donation.

Thus my visit is proof that the old man and his son are right: Even absent, the pythons keep making them richer.

Erika Kinetz is journalist living in Phnom Penh.

Woman fights against discrimination in Cambodia

Rachel Madden spent a ‘life-changing’ six weeks in Cambodia

By Anna Dowdeswell

AN Aylesbury woman who joined a Thame charity to raise awareness of the discrimination faced by disabled people in Cambodia has returned to the UK.

Rachel Madden, 35, spent a 'life-changing' six weeks working with three charities including The Cambodia Trust treating landmine survivors, fitting prosthetic limbs and braces and small business grant and school funding.

She also spent time in the country's capital Phnom Penh, watching people having prosthetic and orthopaedic limbs fitted and adjusted.

Another charity Rachel worked with was the Working for Children orphanage and centre for poor children in the Pouk district of Siem Pang in the north of Cambodia.

Established in January 2007, it homes 43 orphans/poor children, including schooling, a family unit.

She said: "I spent my time teaching basic English, crafts, sports, music and was able to support the orphanage by providing bicycles, rice and school uniforms."

She also worked in two schools, one in Battambang district in the west and Prey Chrouk in the south.

She taught English, painted classrooms and with the help of the IAM Foundation installed two water pumps.

"My time working with these NGO's has changed my life and settling back into corporate life in the UK has been difficult.

I have made some wonderful, long-lasting friendships, with both Khmers, particularly my 'family' in Battambang, and many ex-pats working in Cambodia.

"Cambodia is no longer just a holiday destination for me. I would love to have the opportunity to work out there for longer.

"Cambodia is quite simply my second home."

What do you think of Rachel Madden's work?
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A Poisoned Paradise: Cambodia's Water Crisis

By Rob Sharp
The Independent UK
March 28, 2008

The effect of pollution and climate change on freshwater resources are posing a deadly threat.

In the middle of South-east Asia's largest freshwater lake -- Cambodia's Tonle Sap -- lives "Hot Sam." The 55-year-old fisherman crouches in his self-built home, a shack, buoyed on a bed of bamboo and anchored to the lake bed two metres beneath him.

As he bobs above the murky water, rickety motorboats full of tourists chug past taking pictures. Gazing across his ramshackle fiefdom, Hot Sam opens his mouth and flashes a brown smile of rotten teeth.

The grinning gaze takes in the remarkable scene of the floating villages of Chong Khneas, one of the highlights of the country's burgeoning tourist industry and a natural, watery spectacle of abundance. On the surface, Tonle Sap and its natural resources ought to be a rich provider for its residents. And unsurprisingly for a fisherman living in a floating village, water is at the centre of everything in life for Hot Sam and his sizeable family. Their drinking water comes straight from the lake and the fisherman describes their little precautionary ritual before they drink it. The family collects the water, they then let it settle and drink it.

This is the same water in which they freely defecate, the same water in which they wash and the same shrinking body of water upon which they depend for livelihood. The population pressure which he has helped to create -- with 11 family members -- is making the pollution problem worse and helping to drive down the fish stocks on which they all rely. The spectre of climate change is starting to make itself felt in the low water levels and the precariousness of life is starkly apparent -- even the houses' anchor lines are shaken as they get snagged in the propellers of passing boats.

"The weather now changes every year and we have no idea what to expect," bemoans Sam. "The rainy season is much more irregular than it was 15 years ago. Our catch of fish is worse than ever. We have less to sell on once we have fed ourselves, and we have to go further to get the same amount. Everything is getting harder and harder."

The floating villages which were originally set up as a place of refuge from the genocidal madness of the Khmer Rouge find that their fate has come to reflect the less gruesome but nonetheless deadly challenges facing Cambodia now.

Hot Sam is living in the wrong half of the developing world. He is one of the 2.6 billion people on the planet who live without access to basic sanitation. Last Saturday was World Water Day, a UN-backed initiative which aims to highlight this. But sometimes the impact of such campaigns can be diluted through their over-use of meaningless jargon. The truth on the ground, or rather on the water, is that in Cambodia -- one of the poorest countries in the world -- its population of 14 million cannot get access to the basics: latrines, clean water for drinking and washing. If this continues, its high mortality rates, which mean some 83 children out of 1,000 perish before they are five, are destined to persist.

Such a bleak situation may surprise the tourists who pay a handful of dollars to take a tour around the floating villages. The 800-odd households, which accommodate some 6,000 people, can look bewitching to a newcomer. The truth is bleaker still. The eight floating villages were set up in the 1970s by farmers seeking refuge from the Khmer Rouge, who had confiscated their land. Added to the mix are a plethora of illegal Vietnamese immigrants (who make up a third of the population); they live separately and are often blamed for the overfishing problem (throwing dynamite into the lake is a common accusation).

Floating past houses, villagers can be seen listless, dozing in hammocks or on straw mats. Their homes, often used to accommodate as many as a dozen people, are no bigger than your average European kitchen. The walls are cobbled together using anything that lies, or floats to hand -- and need to be replaced regularly once the rot sets in. Once spent, they can be stripped off and used for fuel.

When fish stocks dwindle, some opt to sell batteries as a source of income, which their neighbours can use to power their televisions or music equipment. Or they can sell kerosene lamps, still used by the majority of people in the country for night light. Fish are held in place in specially-crafted pens, which are hammered to the shallow bed by men stripped to the waist, seemingly oblivious to the film of murk through which they break every time they dive.

But, despite the villagers' apparent success in adverse conditions, fresh obstacles are never far away. For one, Hot Sam's attitude towards drinking and allowing his children to play in the lake-water seems to be common among many of those living here. The area is woefully under-resourced -- there is apparently only one school and one health centre -- and there is little evidence of the educational work and resource provisions which organisations such as the British Red Cross are carrying out in more remote parts of the country.

Lach Mean, a 72-year-old who lives in a shack in which some of her grandchildren sell batteries to the surrounding villagers, shouts over the roar of a motorboat which has become entangled in the anchoring rope of a nearby house. She says that three generations of her family have lived here, but admits to defecating directly into the water because there is no access to a latrine. That is the way it's always been done, she says. But this takes its toll. She adds: "Our life is very difficult. Often our skin is itchy and this can become infected for days."

Indeed, while hygiene is being taught by the local school through the simple message of "don't swim in the lake," it is doubtful how much is sinking in.

Anchored to the banks of the Tonle Sap, is the Chong Khneas primary school, which teaches 528 students in a country where almost half the population is under 15. Many of the pupils here know they should not play in the water but do so anyway.

One of their teachers, Ean Sophon, 30, says: "Many of the children suffer from fever and sometimes diarrhoea from playing in the water either during school hours or when they are at home. We see kids with scabies and itching, and they are often off school for up to five days at a time with such problems. We try to teach them the difference between dirty and clean bath water, and the basics of personal hygiene. But it is hard."

The repercussions of swimming in or drinking dirty water is the entrance of disease-causing bacteria into the food; one of the most common afflictions caused is diarrhoea, and if this is not properly treated it can lead to dehydration, and even death. Those working in a health centre on nearby dry land say that of the 200 people they treat every month, around a quarter are suffering from diarrhoea or skin disease; the next most common problems are colds and tonsillitis.

The lack of fishing is also becoming a distinct problem; both Hot Sam and Lach Mean complain that catches are poorer than ever. One of the reasons for this is that the system of traditional flooding of the Tonle Sap by the Mekong river has been upset.

In times past, the melting peaks of the Himalayas and wet season monsoons (which normally end in October) forced the level of the river to rise so quickly that the flow of the river reversed at Phnom Penh, filling up the Tonle Sap by five times its original 2,500sq km size every wet season. After this, its level drops gradually until the wet season begins again the following May.

At the end of this wet period in November, the floodwaters have panned out to the forest surrounding the Tonle Sap, carrying fertile sediment and fish larvae with them, and populating a natural nursery ground. As the forests drained, the fish migrated back to the Mekong, via the lake, and this was when the floating villagers got their catch. But a spate of dam building on the Mekong in China is blamed for diminished flows downriver; and the reduced dispersal of fish. The effects are everywhere.

And then there is climate change. Villagers such as Hot Sam normally move their residences up to a dozen times annually to avoid damage from changing water levels. But in a year when he says the water is lower than it has been at any point in the past 20 years, such regular disturbances are beginning to reach crisis point.

The slow-moving process of migrating from one spot on the lake to another is estimated to consume up to a fifth of residents' income. Grim, considering that three million Cambodians live on under a dollar a day.

Elsewhere in the country -- for example in the remote northern province of Oddar Meanchey -- the effects of global warming are more profound. Farmers are complaining of their worst rice harvests in decades.

Hot Sam lights up a cigarette and smiles at the world. Even while the future looks muddy, he greets future vagaries with typical Cambodian diffidence. It is common to see such optimism in a country that has seen great hardship in a variety of forms for many, many years.

An unlikely negotiator

Teng Ly at her home in Kampot

Written by The Phnom Penh Post

Teng Ly doesn't know exactly when she was born but imagines she is "about the same age as King Sihanouk." An illiterate truffle farmer who has lived in Kampot province all her life, Ly appears an unlikely candidate for the position of high-level negotiator between the Khmer Rouge and the government. Yet throughout the 1990s it was Ly who stepped in at crucial moments to mediate between the warring factions because "all soldiers are just boys really and I wanted them to go home to their villages and stop killing each other." When Khmer Rouge troops ambushed a Sihanoukville-bound train in July 1994 and took three Western backpackers hostage it was Ly who trekked through the jungle for days-"I was young and strong then" she says with a cackle of laughter-to ask Khmer Rouge commander Chhouk Rin to let them go. The three-Australian David Wilson, Briton Mark Slater and French man Jean-Michel Braquet -were executed in Phnom Voar in September or October of 1994. Khmer Rouge commanders Nuon Paet and Sam Bit were later convicted for the attack, as was Chhouk Rin."I very much regret what happened," Ly says. "Every time I go to the pagoda I pray for the dead hostages." Ly's face is as gnarled as tree bark and the years have twisted her spine into a perfect right angle, but her memory is still sharp. "I am very happy to talk to you as no one has ever asked me about my experiences," she said as she settled herself into a comfortable nook in the roots of a giant tamarind tree on her farm near Phnom Voar mountain and told the Post's Cat Barton and Vong Sokheng her story.

How did you start negotiating between the government and the Khmer Rouge?
I have lived here for my whole life, my family has always lived here by the mountain, farming. I used to work in the forests where the Khmer Rouge lived. I collect truffles. I used to trade some of them with the Khmer Rouge. When I used to work in the forest the Khmer Rouge used to help me, they would cut down some trees to help me find my truffles and they would help me sell them. At the time, no one could get into the Khmer Rouge controlled areas but as I had lived here all my life, I could. I knew many of the Khmer Rouge soldiers and they trusted me-they don't trust anyone, they think people are all spies, but they trusted me.

What happened when the Khmer Rouge captured three Western hostages?
When they attacked the train and the three backpackers went missing, the government came to see me and asked me to go and check on them and find out if they were still alive. The government soldiers were trying to get the backpackers out of the Khmer Rouge area-they asked me to help and said if I could save them then they would look after me. I tried very hard but the situation moved too fast and in the end I couldn't help them.

What happened?
The first place they were held was in the area controlled by the Khmer Rouge commander Chhouk Rin. I went to meet him-he had the three backpackers there. The backpackers asked me to buy them bananas and sweets. I went home and got the things they wanted and then I went back but they had gone. Chhouk Rin told me that [Khmer Rouge commander] Noun Paet had taken the three backpackers away to the area that he controlled. I followed them to Nuon Paet's area to give them the bananas and sweets they wanted.

What happened when you met them again?
It was night when I got there and I couldn't come home immediately so I stayed there. I looked for the Australian hostage, he explained who he was-but in mime as we don't speak the same language-and I told him that I would come back in three days. The three backpackers were happy to hear this-they asked me to buy them flip flops, blankets and medicine. The Australian gave me a photograph of him. Later, in 2002 Chhouk Rin came and asked me to take the photographs I had from the backpacker to the court. The parents of the Australian hostage had come to Cambodia. I showed them the photograph he had given me. They recognized him and then they really began to cry.

Did you see the backpackers again in Nuon Paet's area?
When I went back again to see them after three days, the three guys had disappeared. I was told that Sam Bit had come to take them away to his area. By then, the situation was very tense, very serious. I couldn't go to Sam Bit's area. I couldn't go back to give the backpackers what they wanted me to get for them, and then the government started to attack the area, they started to bomb Sam Bit's area.

Were the hostages well looked after when they were with Chhouk Rin?
When they lived with Chhouk Rin and Ta Paet they had the freedom to walk around and hide from the bombs. They were very stupid- if they were Cambodian they would have run away then.
Why did you help with the defections?
I want peace. I am an old woman and I don't need anything more. I just want peace for my country and for my grandchildren. I like to go to the pagoda, I want to do some good deeds for my country. I saw how hard it was for my people, the people in my village, because of the Khmer Rouge. They could not farm their rice fields -they could start to farm, but they would always have to abandon the rice when the fighting came.
How did you try to create peace?
When they were fighting each other, killing each other, I used to try and stop it. When I saw the Khmer Rouge, I would say 'Go! The government troops are in the area' and when I saw the government troops I would say 'Go! The Khmer Rouge is in the area' and so I would manage to keep them away from each other. I just wanted to stop them killing each other. And this made all the soldiers think of me like a grandmother.

What was Chhouk Rin like?
When I first met Chhouk Rin I was in the forest trying to farm. His daughter was with him then and she cried as she wanted to leave the jungle and come with me. So I took her with me-I got her into government territory. She was eight years old then, and actually today she is getting married.

Did the Khmer Rouge want to defect?
The Khmer Rouge wanted to defect to the government but they were scared-they thought they would not be safe, but I promised them they would be ok.

What do you think of the Khmer Rouge Trial in Phnom Penh which has arrested five Khmer Rouge leaders - Duch, Nuon Chea, Ieng Sary and his wife Ieng Thirith and Khieu Samphan.?
I have heard of the names but I don't know who they are. Who is Nuon Chea? Do you mean Nuon Paet? I don't know. I am an uneducated person, but maybe this was my good luck. I survived.

Call for judges at UN-backed tribunal to investigate more Khmer Rouge crimes

UN News Centre

28 March 2008 – Co-prosecutors at the United Nations-backed tribunal trying Khmer Rouge leaders accused of mass killings and other crimes in Cambodia in the late 1970s have called for new investigations of possible crimes committed at a security and detention centre in the South-East Asian country during the notorious era.

In a formal submission to co-investigating judges on Wednesday, the co-prosecutors at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) in Phnom Penh, the capital, have requested a probe into allegations raised by civil society groups and victims.

The allegations relate to a security centre where numerous Cambodians were unlawfully detained, subjected to inhumane conditions and forced labour, tortured and executed between 1975 and 1979.

Co-prosecutor Robert Petit said that “these factual allegations, if founded, could constitute crimes against humanity, and violations of the 1956 Penal Code punishable under ECCC law and we have so alleged in our supplementary submission.”

The co-prosecutors have also requested that Nuon Chea, Ieng Sary, Khieu Samphan, Ieng Thirith and Kaing Guek Eav – who are all currently in the custody of the ECCC – be investigated for their involvement in these crimes.

The supplementary submission was accompanied by about 1,500 pages of analytical reports, witness statements and other documents from the era.

Under an agreement signed by the UN and Cambodia, the ECCC was set up as an independent court using a mixture of Cambodian staff and judges and foreign personnel. It is designated to try those deemed most responsible for crimes and serious violations of Cambodian and international law between 17 April 1975 and 6 January 1979.

Cambodia Tribunal Allows Victims of the Khmer Rouge to Participate in Proceedings
Cambodia / ECCC
The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), the REDRESS Trust (REDRESS) and Avocats Sans Frontières (ASF), with headquarters in Belgium, welcome the landmark ruling of the Pre-Trial Chamber of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) to allow victims of the Khmer Rouge atrocities to participate in the Courts proceedings.

Although the decision on the 20th March [1] only applies to this specific case and situation, FIDH, REDRESS and ASF believe that the ruling sets an important precedent in the interpretation of the rules applicable to civil party participation before the ECCC. It is a landmark decision in international criminal justice and a major achievement for victims of gross human rights violations, whose voices have long gone unheard.

According to the Courts decision, victims can be full parties to the criminal proceedings. This allows victims to participate in specific proceedings, such as appeals against provisional detention orders. The Pre-Trial Chamber found that the Tribunals rules make it clear that civil parties have the right to participate in the investigative phase of the procedure. Contrary to the arguments of the Defence, the Pre-Trial Chamber found that civil party involvement did not affect the rights of the Defendant to a fair trial.

The decision follows the participation of victims at a hearing on the appeal against the provisional detention of Mr. Noun Chea, one of the five persons so far indicted by the Tribunal. At the hearing, the Defence had challenged victim involvement at that particular stage of the proceedings. Considering the fundamental character of the issue to be decided upon, the Pre-Trial Chamber invited amicus curiae submissions. REDRESS, ASF and FIDH filed an amicus brief on 21st February 2008, arguing that victim participation at this stage is in accordance with international standards [2].

The Chamber sought guidance in Cambodian law provisions, and found that these were in accordance with international law developments in the area of victim participation.


The ECCC is a hybrid tribunal created as a result of an agreement between the United Nations and the Government of Cambodia. It has jurisdiction to try the top Khmer Rouge leaders who committed serious crimes between 1975 and 1979 [3]. The Tribunal’s rules on victim participation are ground-breaking because victims will be permitted to join in the proceedings as civil parties, going beyond the regime of victims’ participation before the ICC. The 20th March 2008 decision is the first ever decision on civil party involvement in proceedings made by this Tribunal.

[1] The ECCC Pre-Trial Chamber decision of 20 March 2008 on civil party participation in provisional detention appeals is available on the ECCC website.

[2] The FIDH-REDRESS-ASF amicus brief on civil party participation is available on the FIDH website.

3] i.a. genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and other breaches of Cambodian criminal law.

CAMBODIA - Easter 2008: 23 baptisms

Agenzia Fides

ASIA/CAMBODIA - Easter 2008: 23 baptisms of adults in the heart of the small Vietnamese community at Svay Pak, infamous for its prostitution, AIDS victims, drugs, and violence

Svay Pak (Agenzia Fides) - The tiny village of Svay Pak, at about 15 kilometers to the north of Phnom Penh, celebrated Holy Week and Easter in the joy of a community blessed with the presence of 23 newly-baptized, all of them adults of Vietnamese or Cambodian origin. The celebrations for the Easter Triduum were marked by great fervor in this village that is known for its prostitution (both adult and child), its large number of AIDS victims, drugs, and domestic violence. There are 70 Catholic families living in the town.

A 23-year-old young woman named Somnang was especially happy about her Baptism. She discovered the Catholic Church thanks to the testimony of her neighbors. After nearly 3 years of preparations as a catechumen, she was baptized along with her companions in the Easter Vigil that lasted almost 3 hours. Among the newly-baptized was a forty-year-old Cambodian woman named Dara, who lives several kilometers outside the town. She met the Catholic Church in the refugee camps of Thailand. In just a few years, a truly devout atmosphere has arisen in this Vietnamese community.

Father Bruno, who presided the Holy Week celebrations in this community which has no priest in residence, told Agenzia Fides of his surprise at the number of adult baptisms in a Vietnamese community: “After 13 years of working Cambodia, this is the first time I have witnessed such an amazing growth as in the Parish of Saint Mary Magdalene. The Vietnamese Catholics usually request Baptism for their small children, hardly ever for adults. Seven years ago, about a dozen people were baptized, as the situation of the war had prevented them from being able to before. And now, we have this group of newly-baptized who are ready to take an active part in community life.” In his homily during the Easter Mass, Father Bruno reminded the faithful of the importance of the community’s testimony in the entire village, saying that their mission is “to spread the message of the Risen Christ, who has come to transform our lives.” (PB) (Agenzia Fides 28/3/2008; righe 27, parole 340)

Backgrounder: Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS)

VIENTIANE, March 28 (Xinhua) -- Leaders of the six GMS countries will be meeting in Vientiane, Laos on March 30-31 to discuss ways to deepen economic cooperation for their countries' shared prosperity.

The triennial meeting, the third among the Leaders of the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS), will have as its theme "Enhancing Competitiveness Through Greater Connectivity".

It aims to sustain and deepen economic cooperation and integration efforts among the GMS countries in order to better meet development challenges and realize the common vision of an integrated, harmonious and prosperous subregion.

The Greater Mekong Subregion Economic Cooperation Program (the GMS Program) was started in 1992 by the six countries sharing the Mekong River -- Cambodia, China, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam.

About 320 million people live within the GMS region, and their common link, the Mekong River winds its way for 4,200 kilometers. The great majority of these people live in rural areas where they lead subsistence or semi subsistence agricultural lifestyles.

The area boasts abundant natural resources and huge development potential. With a long history of cultural and economic exchanges among the nations, the area has formed peculiar cultural and economic characteristics based on different folk customs and natural landscapes of the six nations sharing the river.

These resources provide both income and sustenance to the great majority of people in the subregion who are leading subsistence or near subsistence agricultural lifestyles. The land yields timber, minerals, coal, and petroleum, while water from the many rivers supports agriculture and fisheries and provides energy in the form of hydropower. The coal reserves of the subregion are abundant, and the oil and gas reserves considerable. Most of these are in Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam. These abundant energy resources are still relatively underused.

The First GMS Summit was held in Phnom Penh, Cambodia in November 2002, while the Second GMS Summit was held in Kunming, China in July 2005.

Editor: Song Shutao

Souren Melikian: Art casualties from Tibet to Cambodia find an eager market

One thing art market actors cannot be accused of is being squeamish. If anyone should harbor any doubts on that score, the auctions of "Indian & South-East Asian Art" held on March 19 at Sotheby's and March 21 at Christie's will have dispelled them. (A late 11th century Khmer torso of female deity, in the Baphuon Style, sold for $361,000 at Sotheby's)

Christie's Images
A Khmer statue of the 11th century in the Baphuon style had surfaced in the market in 1968, two years before the Unesco cut-off line of 1970, after which goods of uncertain provenance are deemed less kosher. Sold at Christie's for $2.11 million, it now holds the world record for Khmer sculpture. How nice! (11th-century Khmer statue in the Baphuon style that fetched $2.11 million.)

Herald Tribune

By Souren Melikian
March 28, 2008

New York: One thing art market actors cannot be accused of is being squeamish. If anyone should harbor any doubts on that score, the auctions of "Indian & South-East Asian Art" held on March 19 at Sotheby's and March 21 at Christie's will have dispelled them.

The title did not really do justice to the contents of the sales. Indeed, the gilt bronze Buddhist figures that each auction house ran on the glossy covers of their catalogues indicated that the thrust was not on India, nor even Southeast Asia, but Tibet. Nepal and Cambodia were also represented by outstanding works that did not qualify as Indian either.

By one of those ironies of fate, the Tibetan uprising broke out that week, stirring up memories of the massive destructions during the Chinese Cultural Revolution that swept away major architectural masterpieces in Tibet such as the 15th-century Densatil monastery and dispersed thousands of religious ritual works of art kept in monasteries. But if professionals had passing qualms at the thought that the untoward turmoil might compromise their commercial endeavors, they need not have worried. On March 19, Tibetan art did splendidly.

Sotheby's star lot, which was also the most problematic because of its ambitious estimate ($1.5 million to $2.5 million plus the sale charge) sold against the reserve for $1,385,000, still a large price for this 15th-century gilt copper figure of the seated Buddha. The head and neck were repeatedly painted until recent times, in keeping with Buddhist ritual tradition. Hence a sweet, mealy-mouthed expression, not exactly popular with most collectors.

The catalogue, however, pointed out "the pristine condition of the statue, with its gilding almost entirely intact" and assured that this "clearly indicates its highly regarded Tibetan status, where [sic] it is likely to have been placed in an exalted temple location out of danger of accidental damage or handling by devotees." Sadly, it was not out of danger of incidental removal. Were bidders encouraged by its provenance, the Berti Aschmann Collection which it had entered, the catalogue said, in 1961? Possibly. The fear of looting committed a long time ago is somehow not as nagging as that of more recent pilfering.

Actually, such fears, which are plausible in the case of magnificent bronzes tumbling onto the market without any reference to provenance or previous publication, did not affect the sale of some of the most important pieces seen at Sotheby's.

A group of 15th-century gilt bronze seated figures purporting to portray four historical lamas thus sprang up out of the blue. Cast at the same period as part of some set, they were in strikingly good condition and the Tibetan inscriptions incised on the pedestals named the lamas.

Two of these, from the Sakya order, lived in the 13th and 14th centuries. Shang Koenchog Pel, born around 1250, was highly regarded by Kubilai Khan (1215-1294), the descendant of Gengis Khan and founder of the Mongol dynasty that ruled China from 1271 to 1368. Pel established the Sakya practice of Tantric Buddhist teaching which he passed on to his disciple Choje Draphupa Sonam Pel (1277-1346). The disciple's portrait is a gilt bronze figure of precisely the same dimension, 32 centimeters, or 12 5/8 inches, high, as the master's likeness, clearly made as a match.

Objects of veneration in the monastery they once belonged to, the two portraits respectively sold for $205,000 and $217,000, far above their estimates.

Yet, through one of those auction quirks that often affect the art of complex cultures understood by few in the Western world because the essential keys provided by their language makes them impenetrable, the next two portraits did not sell. Both immortalized the memory of Gyaltshap Kunga Wangchuk (1424-1478), the fourth abbot of the Sakya order in a famous religious center, the Ngor monastery, and both were signed by the sculptor, Tsugtor. The stiff estimates, $200,000 to $300,000, may have acted as deterrents.

Rarest of all, a large bronze bodhisattva of the 11th century bore a connection to another bodhisattva found in the rubble of the Sakya shrine at Piyang, not far from the border separating Chinese-held Tibet from the Tibetan areas incorporated with India. No provenance was given here either. Was that also rescued from the ruins of the Piyang shrine? The "Asian Private" buyer, as Sotheby's release put it, who paid the $181,000 that the 11th-century bronze cost, will have to work that out.

Earlier in the sale, works of art from another Buddhist land devastated by 20th-century events, likewise offered without a provenance, made one wonder how it is that so few questions are asked about just how works of art of major importance, for which no government would ever issue an export license, come to tumble on to the market.

Do the temples of Cambodia, erected by the Khmers at the height of their culture between the 10th and 13th centuries, ring so few bells? The admirable sandstone figure of a woman carved in the 11th century in the style known from Banteay Srei and described as having been acquired in 1986 was missing its head, very neatly chopped off, and both feet. It looked suspiciously like those sculptures broken off in situ. However, that did not harm its commercial performance. It ascended to $361,000, nearly six times the estimate.

Next came a 12th-century bronze bodhisattva from the Angkor period. No provenance at all here, no date of acquisition. The 34 centimeter four-armed statue did not sell as easily. Whether this was due to the high estimate, $80,000 to $120,000, plus the sale charge, or to angst caused by the fear of possible problems in some distant future, when perhaps proof of precise provenance will have to be produced for transactions to proceed legitimately, is hard to tell.
Even so, it brought $73,000.

The next piece, a 13th-century bronze figure of Ganesha seated on a pedestal cast in the Bayon style of Angkor Wat, happily exceeded its high estimate by half, climbing to $52,000. Here, the catalogue noted "Provenance. Hong Kong Collection, 1980s," implying that it passed through the Hong Kong trade in those years. Some "provenance."

And that is the story of the entire art market handling sculpture or objects dug up in Tibet, Nepal, Cambodia, Indonesia or even India, but less so in the latter case. India, now more powerful, has been able to tighten the screws on illicit digging.

Two days later, at Christie's, things differed only in nuances. A Khmer statue of the 11th century in the Baphuon style had surfaced in the market in 1968, two years before the Unesco cut-off line of 1970, after which goods of uncertain provenance are deemed less kosher. At $2.11 million, it now holds the world record for Khmer sculpture. How nice!

Tibet contributed a fantastic gilt bronze figure of Avalokiteshvara cast in the 14th century and said to have been in Tokyo by the mid-1960s. It went for just over $1 million.

Another Avalokiteshvara, cast in the 9th century, did not have that luck. Despite the proportions reminiscent of the Srivijaya culture in Sri Lanka, the facial features point to a Cham origin. The mysterious Cham people who survive in communities scattered across Vietnam and Cambodia adhered to Hinduism and Buddhism in circumstances that elude us and later turned to Islam, when it reached the Vietnamese coast via the maritime route around the 11-12th century. Their distinctive art points to a strong collective personality. More might be learned about them if excavations were conducted. That is not going to happen. Few are concerned about the vanished culture of a minority on its way out.

With every major work projected onto the market by commercial digging, a portion of its past history is lost forever. The rare Cham bronze which, Christie's assured, came from a "Private English Collection [in the] 1990s" actually failed to sell as the hammer came down at $95,000. Thus was historical waste accompanied by commercial failure. From Tibet to Cambodia, the common treasure of mankind is squandered at a rate that matches that of melting Antarctica. And business goes on.