Tuesday, 8 April 2008

RFA interview with Bradly Cox

Bradly Cox, The Producer of The Plastic Killers

Radio Free Asia interview Bradly Cox








China Confirms Human H5N1 Transmission

Monday, April 7, 2008

LONDON - Chinese health officials have confirmed that a father caught bird flu from his son last December, according to a report released Tuesday.

Human-to-human transmission of bird flu has happened about a dozen times in the past, in countries including Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam, and Turkey. In nearly every case, transmission has occurred among blood relatives who have been in close contact, and the virus has not spread into the wider community.

In the case in China, a 52-year-old man and his 24-year-old son in Jiangsu province were diagnosed with H5N1 bird flu within a week of each other last December. At the time, officials from the World Health Organization said they could not rule out the possibility of human-to-human transmission.

After the son died, his father was treated with antivirals and participated in an H5N1 vaccine trial. He survived.

The son's only exposure to bird flu was at a poultry market, while the father apparently had no direct exposure to sick birds. His only known exposure to bird flu was close contact with his ill son.

"Limited, non-sustained person to person transmission of H5N1 virus probably occurred in this family cluster," wrote researchers at Beijing's Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention in the medical journal, The Lancet.

"There is no indication from this data that we are any nearer to a pandemic," said Ian Jones, a professor of virology at the University of Reading. Bird flu remains difficult for humans to catch, and experts think most cases are linked to close contact with infected birds.

Health officials monitor every potential case of human to human transmission with particular concern to see if the virus might have mutated into a form that is more easily spread. So far, that has not happened.

Many flu experts worry that H5N1 will spark a pandemic, potentially killing millions worldwide. But despite circulating widely in Asia and beyond since late 2003, the virus only rarely infects humans. As of April 3, WHO reported 378 cases and 238 deaths worldwide.

Need to boost rice production

Tuesday April 8, 2008

THE global food crisis was precipitated largely by a significant drop in food production in grain-producing countries due to severe weather and an increased demand for food in developing countries.

This coupled with rising fuel prices has produced a frighteningly bleak future for the poorer people of Asia who spend about 60% of their income on food.

Worries over rising prices and adequacy of domestic supplies have recently forced major rice exporting countries in the region including Vietnam, Cambodia and India to introduce curbs on overseas sales.

Most of Malaysia’s rice supplies are sourced from countries such as Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam.

While it is true that locally produced rice is heavily subsidised, it will still be prudent – as an insurance to ensure our food security (to avoid the possibility of any food emergencies), to raise the local rice production to meet reasonably adequate levels of self-sufficiency.

The knee-jerk reaction of rice producing countries to curb rice exports in the face of lower production (to ensure adequate supplies for themselves) will restrict farmers (who would otherwise produce extra for the export market) to producing only sufficient to meet local demand.

Thus only a smaller percentage of rice from the world’s rice production will be available in the international market for rice importing countries causing food prices to soar.

Kuala Lumpur.

Sacravatoons : "Nom Benh's Baboon in Long Bitch"

Courtesy of Sacravatoon at http://sacrava.blogspot.com/

Sacravatoons : "A blind Man & a Guide Dog"

Courtesy of Sacravatoon at http://sacrava.blogspot.com/

Sacravatoons : "Khmer-Chen's Relationship"

Courtesy of Sacravatoon at http://sacrava.blogspot.com/

Cambodia Weeds out Marijuana Plantation


The National Authority for Combating Drugs (NACD) of Cambodia has announced it has completely stubbed out marijuana plantations in the kingdom, local media reported Tuesday.

"We have gained victory in rooting out marijuana, but what we are worrying about is the trafficking of synthesized drugs secretly produced in the country," NACD Secretary General Lou Ramin was quoted by the Mekong Times newspaper as saying.

"This is the first successful step in reducing drug trafficking in Cambodia, but we are not satisfied with the results as drug trafficking persists," he said.

In addition, Lou Ramin said that Cambodia's former reputation as a narcotics Mecca is beginning to change.

"We formerly suffered from accusations that our country is both a marijuana producer and a big marijuana exporter," he said, claiming that "marijuana is no longer available in Cambodia".

In 2000, Asean nations made a joint pledge with China to eliminate or drastically reduce narcotics production by 2015, he noted.

Political Will of Samdech Euv: Royal Government Declares to Continue Tradition of Cambodian-Chinese Friendship

Posted on 8 April 2008.
The Mirror, Vol. 12, No. 555

“Samdech Akak Moha Senapadei Dekchor Hun Sen mentioned, on the morning of 5 April in Preah Vihear, during the inauguration ceremony of a site for the reconstruction of National Road 62 from Tbaeng Meanchey to Preah Vihear of 116.36 km, and National Road 210 from Road 62 to Srayang Koh Ker of 34.15 km,, that this year China is the organizer of the Olympic Games. Our King is going to participate in the official opening ceremony of the Olympic Games.

“Moreover, Samdech Dekchor stated, ‘I will have to go to China for two occasions this year; in October for the Asia-Europe meeting, where France and Germany participate, in Beijing [7th ASEM Summit in Beijing, China, 24-25 October 2008]. As for Cambodia, it is one among about 30 countries in the meeting. The second occasion is to be an honorary guest at the Nanning China-ASEAN Exhibition [Nanning, Guangxi, China, 20-23 October 2008], because this year Cambodia will deliver a speech. Therefore, we have many other activities to strengthen the relations between Cambodia and China at the occasion of the 50th anniversary of establishing diplomatic relations.’

“During this important and meaningful ceremony, Samdech Dekchor Hun Sen expressed his gratitude to the former King Preah Norodom Sihanouk who has organized the policy of relations with China since 50 yeas, and left it for the children of next generations; and Cambodia keeps to adhere to the One-China-Policy which cannot be changed. ‘Some people said that Mr. Hun Sen does this to please China, but that is not what I do,’ said Hun Sen.

“Samdech Dekchor asserted that if it is reasonable for South Korea and North Korea to have become members of the UN, this one thing. However, Taiwan is just a province of China. Thus, in this case, there is an obligation to respect independence and sovereignty. For us, we would not agree if someone wants to take one of our provinces to be independent. Samdech Dekchor raised as an example Preah Vihear, which is the most distant province; if the provincial governor would declare independence, and would be supported by foreign countries, who would agree? Another point is that Cambodia also does not agree to the use the Olympic activities to take them hostage over the issues of Tibet and Sudan.

“Samdech Dekchor said that was an attempt in Phnom Penh, they prepared to hold an activity in Phnom Penh in order to urge Chinese government to put pressure on the government of Sudan, and to hinder Olympic activities. ‘That is why I told the Minister of Interior and the municipal authorities, “Cambodia will not let someone come to quarrel with others. I am sorry; if you want to quarrel with others, please get out the Khmer land, because Cambodia is not a base for one country to oppose another.” If other countries want to oppose China or China wants to oppose other countries on Khmer land, I will also not agree.’

“Samdech Dekchor said that regarding the Olympic case, they raised the Darfur dispute for an activity in Cambodia. Recently the issue of Tibet has been used to hinder Olympic activities. The Olympics are just a sports event, but some people use them for other purposes; that creates endless issues.

“Samdech Dekchor emphasized that Cambodia will not join activities that are contrary to its policy.”

Koh Santepheap, Vol.41, #6316, 7.4.2008

China, New Zealand sign FTA pact

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao meets New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark in Beijing on April 7, 2008. The two attended the signing ceremony of the free trade agreement and respectively delivered speeches.(Xinhua Photo)


BEIJING, April 7 (Xinhua) -- China and New Zealand signed a free trade agreement, the first such pact between China and a developed country, on Monday.

The deal was inked by Chinese Commerce Minister Chen Deming and New Zealand Trade Minister Phil Goff. Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark attended the signing ceremony after bilateral talks that took over an hour.

The signing and implementation of the agreement will "further the friendly and cooperative relations between the two countries, promote each other's economic growth, and bring practical benefits to the two peoples," Wen said at the beginning of the talks.

He described the signing as "a day of historical significance" and said the move "met the goal" the two countries set during negotiations.

The two nations formally launched free trade negotiations in December 2004 and concluded the talks in December 2007 following 15 rounds.

According to the agreement, all goods exported from China to New Zealand will be tariff free from 2016, while tariffs on most New Zealand exports to China will be eliminated from 2019.

Beyond trade in goods, the agreement covers the services sector, ranging from banking, environment, education and entertainment, to construction and transport.

The FTA called for up to 1,800 Chinese people to enter New Zealand each year to work in areas such as traditional Chinese medicine, language teaching, Chinese martial arts training, tourism, auditing and food service.

The agreement would also sets up mechanisms for investment promotion and corporations in customs, quality inspection and quarantine, and intellectual property rights (IPR) protection.

"The agreement will push forward bilateral comprehensive ties of cooperation to a higher level, open up new opportunities in trade and investment, and help both countries develop a more open, stable and competitive business environment," said Wang Xinpei, the Ministry of Commerce spokesman.

The pact not only facilitated the access of enterprises looking to the markets of China and New Zealand but also provided consumers with cheaper and better products and services, he added.

The deal came after three years of negotiation as the bilateral trade expanded year on year by 26 percent to 3.7 billion U.S. dollars in 2007.

The agreement with China is the largest for New Zealand since the Closer Economic Agreement with Australia was signed in 1983.

New Zealand is also the first developed country to recognize China's full market economy status.

Clark called the pact "a very significant achievement for New Zealand".

"The signing of this agreement is a very significant achievement for New Zealand. It opens up new opportunities for businesses looking to engage with, or grow their existing links with, China," she said in a statement.

Experts explained the significance of this agreement from the perspective of bilateral relations, specifically economic and trade areas.

"From a point of view of lasting political and economic relations, New Zealand has recognized the importance of China, a large developing country. Both sides have recognized the mutual economic and trade complementarity and common interest," said Zhang Hanlin, president of the WTO Research Institute under the University of International Business and Economics.

Mei Xinyu, an analyst with a research institute under the Ministry of Commerce, added China would get more fair access to the New Zealand market and more guaranteed supply of raw materials.

"New Zealand consumers will get Chinese goods at a further lower price and such products as the agricultural and livestock products of New Zealand will get a larger share in the fast-growing and broad Chinese market."

Free trade with China would also help New Zealand to merge with the development of East Asia, a process in which China would play a crucial role, said Han Feng, deputy director of Institute of Asia-Pacific Studies under Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

To date, China had signed six free trade agreements with trading partners that included Chile and Pakistan. Negotiations were continuing with Peru, Australia, Iceland and other nations.

Clark arrived here on Sunday for an official visit to China as a guest of Wen. She was accompanied by a 150 member trade delegation.

Marriage vs. Trafficking

Courtesy of The Korea Times

Cambodian Move Indicates Exploitation of Foreign BridesSouth Korea has increasingly come under attack for the abuse and exploitation of foreign wives, especially those from Southeast Asian countries. The plight of Vietnamese wives married to Koreans has already invited international criticism over rights abuses and human trafficking. It is heart-wrenching to read frequent stories that Vietnamese spouses were beaten to death or committed suicide ― far from realizing their ``Korean dream.

''What's more worrisome is that such a story does not stop with the ill-fated Vietnamese. The problem is now spreading to Cambodia. The Cambodian government has recently suspended processing all documents for marriages of its citizens with foreigners as a measure to minimize the possibility of human trafficking. You Ay, Cambodia's deputy minister of women's affairs, said April 3 that the suspension was prompted by concerns about exploitation and trafficking amid a surge in the number of Cambodian women marrying South Koreans.

She said the suspension affects all foreigners, not just South Koreans. But it is apparent that the measure was closely related to soaring cases of abuse of foreign wives in South Korea. She was quoted as saying that seven Cambodian women recently returned to their country because they could not endure pain from their married life with their Korean husbands. However, the official said the country has yet to uncover systematic exploitation.

The Cambodian move came after the Geneva-based International Organization for Migration (IOM) disclosed a report that thousands of South Korean men went to the Southeast Asian country to marry Cambodian women through brokers. The report featured the plight of a rising number of Cambodian brides migrating to South Korea in marriages hastily arranged by brokers who make huge profits.

The report noted that each man would pay up to $20,000 to marry a woman but that a bride's family would collect only about $1,000. The rest of the money would go to the brokers. There are growing concerns that brokered marriages could become a cover for human trafficking. Critics pointed out that marriage brokers have made inroads into Cambodia following a series of deaths, including suicides, of Vietnamese wives.

According to official statistics, about 1,800 Cambodia women married South Korean men in 2007, recording a fourfold increase from a year before. The figure was the third largest after Korean-Chinese women and Vietnamese brides. No doubt underground matchmaking businesses and marriage brokers have women trafficked and forced into marriage, tarnishing the image of South Korea.

A revised interracial marriage brokerage law is to go into effect in June in a bid to crack down on brokers for human trafficking-style methods. And a multicultural family support law is scheduled to take effect in September. It is urgent for the country to establish a firmer system to embrace foreign wives as well as migrant workers as indispensable members of our society. Interracial marriages now account for 10 percent of total marriages. Therefore, we have to roll up our sleeves to ensure human rights and equal opportunity for brides and workers from other countries.

UN: Cambodian economic growth expected to go down to 7% in 2008


PHNOM PENH, April 8 (Xinhua) -- The growth rate of Cambodian economy will go down to 7 percent this year due to its over reliance on export of garments, said a report issued by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) here on Tuesday.

"Cambodia's export growth is fragile due to its concentration in the garment industry, which accounts for more than 70 percent of the country's exports," said ESCAP in a relevant press release.

In the report, ESCAP said that "a key concern lay in the country's narrow export base which was considered vulnerable because of its dependence on garment exports."

Meanwhile, low cost competitors from Vietnam and India are also gaining market shares, it said.

The sector is the country's largest generator of foreign exchange but only grew by 8 percent in 2007 over 2006, it added.

Earlier this month, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) predicted that Cambodia's Gross Domestic Products (GDP) growth is expected to slow to 7.5 percent this year due to the nation's narrow industry base and a slump of its garment sector

"The prolonged economic expansion is forecast to slow, both this year and next, in large part reflecting reduced external demand for domestically-made clothes," said the bank in its annual report, which predicts GDP will further drop to 7.0 percent in 2009 for Cambodia.

The garment industry will suffer in the next two years due to less demand from the United States and Japan, it said.

Cambodia's GDP growth soared to 13.4 percent in 2005,. It has hovered around double-digits since and reached a respectable 9.6 percent last year, according to ADB statistics.

Editor: Sun Yunlong

Cambodian economic growth to slow in 2008: UN

PHNOM PENH (AFP) — Cambodia's economic growth is expected to slow to 7.0 percent this year, the United Nations said Tuesday, warning that the country's exports remained too narrowly based on garments.

Growth is expected to be slower than last year, when the economy expanded by 8.5 percent, according to a report from the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP).

While Cambodia's economy remains one of the region's most vibrant, "a key concern lay in the country's narrow export base which was considered vulnerable because of its dependence on garment exports," the report said.

The garment industry grew only 8.0 percent last year after suffering a dismal fourth quarter that saw orders plummet by nearly half, according to the World Bank.

The sector -- the country's largest source of foreign exchange -- faces increased competition from China and Vietnam, with further risks looming due to an economic downturn in the US, Cambodia's biggest market for textiles.

"For Cambodia, a significant slowdown of the US economy could have an economic fallout," said Suomi Sakai, acting UN resident coordinator.

Hang Chuon Naron, a secretary-general at Cambodia's finance ministry, said the government would try to prop up the garment sector by seeking higher wages for factory workers.

But he also said Cambodia needed to diversify its economy, and placed special emphasis on the country's tourism sector, which brought in 1.4 billion dollars last year.

Tourism revenues are expected to grow by at least 20 percent in 2008, according to the government.

The government "needs to look at how to ensure the development of tourism by developing the coastal areas," he said, adding that other tourism sites also needed to be created.

Qatar sets up ties with Cambodia

Qatar's Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabr al-Thani (L) shakes hands with Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen upon his arrival at Phnom Penh international airport April 1, 2008. Sheikh Hamad is on a two-day official visit to Cambodia.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA)

Courtesy of www.gulf-times.com
Tuesday, 8 April, 2008,

NEW YORK: Qatar and Cambodia established diplomatic relations at ambassadorial level as of April 1, 2008.

A joint communique to this effect was signed by HE Nassir Abdulaziz al-Nasser, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary Permanent Representative of Qatar to the United Nations for the Qatar side, while Dr Kosal Sea, Permanent Representative of Cambodia to the United Nations signed for Cambodia.

“Desirous of strengthening the bonds of existing friendly relations and developing bilateral co-operation between their two countries and peoples in the political, economic and cultural fields, and based on the principle of mutual respect for territorial integrity and non-intervention in internal affairs of each other, as well as norms of international law and the objectives and principles of the United Nations Charter, the Government of the State of Qatar and the Royal Government of Cambodia, have agreed to establish diplomatic relations at the ambassadorial level, in accordance with the provisions of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of 18 April 1961, as of 1 April 2008,” the joint communique said.

“The Government of the State of Qatar and the Royal Government of Cambodia express their assurances that the establishment of Diplomatic Relations responds to the national interests of both states and will consolidate the strengthening of international peace and co-operation,” the joint communique added.

Angkor Wat: Hope for a better future

Syed Nazakat
08 April 2008, Tuesday
Courtesy of http://www.merinews.com

Khmer rouge regime has left Cambodia scared. As the country settles down in peace slowly, Angkor Wat is being replaced to its original glory and is attracting tourists. This has given new hope to the people and the country.

IT WAS once dangerous to visit Angkor Wat and the other temples surrounding it. The area was within the reach of Khmer rouge guerrillas who had decamped to the wilds of northwest Cambodia after being driven from power in 1979. But today, the country is at peace, and its glorious temples are crowded with tourists.

A couple of miles to the south of Angkor, the once dusty streets of deserted Siem Reap are full of tour buses and the tuk tuks of motorcycles. The city is abuzz with energy. The shopkeepers call prospective customers to come inside their shops. Along the road near the city’s international airport, hotels are opening up quickly and they are doing good business. "We are having one of the best tourism seasons. All our rooms are already booked," Chea Sokhon, sales executive of La Residence d’ Angkor hotel, told Asia News Network. The city of Angkor comprises of over 70 temples, lying in various states of repair, spread across more than 30 sq km. The city was built between 9th and 14th century at the height of Cambodia’s Khmer empire, which once governed much of modern day Thailand, Vietnam, and Laos as well as parts of southern China and Burma.

Today it is only the temples that survive the remnants of a metropolis that was the envy of the ancient Southeast Asian world. But it is Angkor Wat, which is the most popular tourist attraction. Certainly the temple itself is an architectural marvel of the ancient world, built in a perfect square more than a kilometre on each side and listed by the United Nations as a world heritage monument.

"Angkor Wat is a treasure of Cambodia and of the world," says Sermkhun Kunawong, vice president of Bayon CM Organiser, which is organising the mega theatre performance of US$1.5-million The Legend of Angkor Wat. Bayon CM Organiser is a joint venture between Cambodia’s Bayon Radio & TV, and the Bangkok-based CM Organiser, an event and production company.

Sermkhun Kunawong is a modest, quiet-spoken man — part of the generation that survived the Khmer rouge and the ensuing years of civil war. He says whenever he looks at Angkor Wat, he is inspired to do something to spread the rich culture and history of Angkor Wat. Shifting projected light, sound and special effects, colour, and silhouette embracing the architecture of the temple, brings out unexpected aspects of its beauty. Apsara dances and contemporary Khmer performances have been used to tell the historical story of Angkor Wat. The show, which will end on Jan 20, 2008, is believed to boost tourism in Cambodia.

"The show will transport you back in history during a time when this ancient wonder of the world was once the centre of a powerful empire. I hope people will come to have an understanding of pre-Angkor times through this show," says Kunawong.

The temples of Angkor still bear the scars of the brutal regime of Khmer rouge during which an estimated two million people died. The regime destroyed anything they regarded as decadent or culturally impure, including many buildings and temples. But the temples are being reclaimed and efforts are being made to promote the Cambodian culture by individuals like Kunawong.

"Angkor is our identity. It is our strength and hope for better future," says Kunawong. "We hope that more and more people visit the great temple and our rich culture and heritage spreads all across the world," he adds.

In some ways things are changing. Foreign visitors are flooding in.1.7 million tourists visited Cambodia in 2006 and during the first seven months of last year the temple saw around 975,349 visitors. Siem Reap arrivals have increased with 615,445 visitors while Phnom Penh and other destinations had brought in a total of 359,903 visitors. And while there are no official figures on how much each tourist spends in Cambodia, the dizzying array of luxury hotels in Siem Reap—ranging from the Raffles Grand Hotel d’ Angkor to quirky boutiques like Hotel de la Paix—testifies to the emergence of a new generation of high-end travellers.

With the tourists, comes money, desperately needed in a country where people are still mired in grinding poverty. In Siem Reap’s old market, where tourists gather, so too, do maimed land mine victims who have been reduced to beggary.

On a visit to the old market in Pokambor, I met Chang, a roadside bookseller. Her husband, Chan Vanna, a former member of the Cambodia army, had lost both legs in a landmine explosion in 1993. "After he lost his legs, we turned to begging as we had no other way to support our family. It was terrible, humiliating," remembers Chang. "But now we have decided to work and never to beg. We just hope that more tourists come here so that we get more customers," says Chang.

Perhaps if Cambodia has to come out from the decades of despair, it needs the kind of resilience Chang has. "Sometimes we need to be tough and strong. We need to fight back", says Chang.
Behind her the light creeps across Angkor Wat. The great temple stands in the bright sunlight as it has for hundreds of years as a symbol of hope and faith for the Cambodian people, who are still trying to come to terms with the turmoil and bloodshed inflicted by the Khmer rouge regime.

Stung Treng Province

Me in Stung Treng

All hand made

Clay pot Vendor

Along the river in Stung Treng

Snacks for the bus, Sticky rice and coconut juice!

Courtesy of Travel Pod at http://www.travelpod.com/
Sunday, Apr 06, 2008
Any Comment please click here
Stung Treng was our least favorite place so far. Very hot and no trees. Trying to find some relief here was impossible. Strung Treng is kinda of stuck between Laos and our next destination of Ratanakira. There is nothing to see here and nothing to stop for. The only reason I got off here was because I was told they had a ATM. So one night in Stung Treng... so I thought. Yes they have a ATM but it does not accept my card! Great stuck out in the middle of nowhere with enough money for one night at the guest house. The bank does have a Western Union but it's Sunday and won't open until Monday. Thanks to my great friend Josh in California. He made sure there was a money transfer waiting for me on Monday morning. Thanks again Josh! I was at the bank at 7am and made the only bus headed for Ban Lung that day! If you ever come to Cambodia skip Stung Treng!

Kratie Province

Low water level on the Mekong

Endangered Dolphine

One more dolphine

Wildlife on the Mekong River, The banks of the Mekong are filled with all kinds of animals and plant life. As the rains come and fill up the river the fish have plenty of food and multiply rapidly.

Living on the River, This family has a front yard!

Beautiful Grand Buildings

Cool water, Most of the time people go swimming fully clothed.

Picnic area on the Mekong , Locals come here to picnic and to escape from the heat.

Courtesy of Travel Pod at http://www.travelpod.com/

Sunday, Apr 06, 2008
Any Comment please Click Here

After one night in Kompong Chom we are back on the bus for another 4hr trip north to Kratie. Here we wanted to see the Irrawaddy dolphines. This is another town that lies on the banks of the Mekong. It is very hot here during the day but as the sun sets the coolness from the river is a relief. The Irrawaddy dolphines are a endangered species that can live in both salt and fresh water. It is estimated to be only 100 left. These grey to dark blue dolphines grow to be about 6ft long. They have bulging foreheads and small dorsel fins. I took about 30 photo's and could not get a good shot! They stay under water for about 10min and then pop up for air and then they are gone. But we did see them!

I also went to Phnom Sombok about 15min outside of town. This tranquil meditation center is an active wat complex. Divided into three levels, it houses meditative huts and lodgings for the monks. I had a beautiful view of the valley below and could hear the monks chant echo through the trees.

Doctor, pro golfer and humanitarian

Operation Kids is a charity arm of the American Medical Center, which Reid Sheftall, a Jacksonville native and surgeon, founded in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Photos courtesy Reid Sheftall

Operation Kids is a charity arm of the American Medical Center, which Reid Sheftall, a Jacksonville native and surgeon, founded in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Photos courtesy Reid Sheftall


Jacksonville native now in Cambodia finds time for fun, good works.

Special to the Times-Union

Reid Sheftall took a swing three years ago and hit a hole in one, and things have been falling his way ever since.

Sheftall, 52, earned his players card for the Malaysian PGA tour in 2005, after a 28-year hiatus from the game. Born and raised in Jacksonville, Sheftall, a doctor, moved to Phnom Penh, Cambodia, in 2003 to form the American Medical Center. During the next two years, Sheftall founded Operation Kids, a charity facet to the clinic. He also headed back to the golf course.

"I played golf as a child, but when I got involved in medicine I gave it up," Sheftall said during a recent visit to Jacksonville. "Still, I always noticed I could shoot in the 70s even if I hadn't played in years."

In fact, Sheftall played well enough to make the Malaysian tour, where he has a stroke average of 76.27 and has played in nearly 20 tournaments.

"I work full time as a doctor, so I don't get to go to every tournament on tour," he said. "If I did . . . I'd have to quit being a doctor, and that is not something I want to give up."

In his capacity as a doctor, Sheftall has also helped more than 100 children who suffered disfiguring scars as a result of burns caused by fire, hot water, hot oil and even acid.

"People get angry and throw acid on children," Sheftall said. "It is a terrible thing, but it constantly happens to these innocent children."

Through Operation Kids, Sheftall is able to conduct free reconstructive surgery for the children, a dream he had in 2000 after visiting Cambodian orphanages.

"Visiting the orphanages was a life-changing experience," Sheftall said. "I got invited to go to Vietnam to show laparoscopic surgery to a group of doctors. On the way, I stopped in Cambodia. I wasn't really sure why I was there then, but I know now."

Sheftall enlisted the help of three other surgeons. The four run and operate the American Medical Center.

The center supports Operation Kids, which receives no outside funding. To offset the cost, Sheftall self-published Striking It Rich, in which he describes his journey to the Malaysian PGA tour.

"The only way to change the quality and direction of your life is to change the way you think," Sheftall wrote in his book, which is available at Amazon.com. "If you believe something, truly believe it, your mind will figure out a way to make it a reality."

Indian navy ships arrive in Cambodia for friendship visit

INS Jyoti Replenishment Tanker

The Earth Times
Tue, 08 Apr 2008
Author : DPA

Phnom Penh - Indian naval staff began a five-day goodwill visit to Cambodia, the governor of the south-western port city of Sihanoukville said Tuesday. He said the 180-metre long INS Jyoti, a replenishment vessel, and 92-metre long INS Kora arrived Monday and would embark on a series of exercises with Cambodia's navy during the visit.

Officers and crew would also spearhead a blood donation drive, visit orphanages and compete in a friendly volleyball tournament.

It is not the first visit of INS Jyoti, which first docked at the country's only deepwater port, 240 kilometres from the capital, on a similar mission in June 2006.

In November of that year, an Indian delegation visited to discuss specific areas of cooperation with the Cambodian navy including training, maintenance and repairs of artillery, tanks, trucks and demining equipment.

The Cambodian navy recently received several ships from China to bulk up its sea border patrol capacity, but remains under-equipped and under-trained compared to other regional navies after years of civil war and poverty. It has also received assistance and training from the US.

The Indian ships are due to depart Friday, Say Hak said.

Sweatshop laborers back unions



Phal Savin of Cambodia spent many years sewing clothing for Wal-Mart. A mother of five, she was recently fired for trying to form a union.

She is now vice president of the Coalition of Cambodia Apparel Workers Democratic Union (CCAWDU).

Didier Leiton of Costa Rica worked for 17 years on pineapple and banana plantations and is now an organizer with the Union of Agricultural and Plantation Workers. He has been “blacklisted” by the plantations for his activities with the union.

Both spoke at Goshen College Sunday evening against sweatshops, with their target being large department stores.

Leiton explained to the audience of approximately 60 people that he worked in the plantations for 15 hours a day, without even making minimum wage.

“Pineapples are being produced under cruel conditions, not even acceptable for animals,” Leiton said through a translator.

Savin spent years working in garment factories in Cambodia as a seamstress, and when her working conditions became too unbearable, she decided to form a union, one that is not under control by political parties or government.

“We would work eight hour days, with another two to four hours of overtime that we wouldn’t get paid for,” she said through a translator.

Both took recent visits to the Goshen Wal-Mart to see how the products they made are priced compared to their wages, and their initial thoughts were that while the store was clean with a huge market, the cost of products far exceeds their income. Savin even recognized specific items of clothing she had made herself.

“The price of a shirt is $8, but I earn only $1,” Savin said.

While both said that auditors — people who are hired to make sure no sweatshops are taking place — help the situation, those people do not meet directly with the workers so they do not know how dire the working conditions are.

“Unions are the only way to represent workers so they can have a better quality of life,” Leiton said.

Trina Tocco, program coordinator for the International Labor Rights Forum, said there are several things that people in the United States can do to show support of people facing harsh working conditions.

She suggested communicating directly with factories and writing letters and post cards to the major department stores in question.

“We aren’t saying never go to places like Wal-Mart, just shop with a conscience,” Tocco said.


'SURELY EXTRAORDINARY': Sydney Schanberg, former Times colleague of Dith Pran, pays tribute to his friend yesterday at theSouth Plainfield, NJ, funeral of the man who endured unspeakablehorrors in Cambodia.

New York Post


April 7, 2008 -- Dith Pran, the diminutive photojournalist whose barbaric enslavement in Cambodia was made into the award-winning film "The Killing Fields," was remembered yesterday as a man who embodied "extreme bravery."

"There are special human beings - Pran was one of them - who are not perfect, not saintly, but are surely extraordinary," Sydney Schanberg, his friend and former colleague at The New York Times, said at Dith's funeral in South Plainfield, NJ.

More than 400 people - some colleagues wearing photographers' vests like Dith's trademark one - filled the South Plainfield Funeral Home to take part in a Buddhist service for the journalist, who died March 30 of pancreatic cancer at the age of 65.

Dith was diagnosed with the illness three months ago, and Schanberg said that when he visited his friend in the hospital, the two discussed the possibility of life after death.

"Pran thought for a couple of seconds and said, 'I'll send you my dreams,' " Schanberg recalled.
"I'll send you mine," Schanberg said he replied.

'"Pran is still with us," the former correspondent said. "I believe Pran is still with us."

Dith was working as an interpreter and assistant to Schanberg, who was covering Cambodia for the Times in the 1970s, when the country was taken over by Khmer Rouge revolutionaries who installed a murderous regime.

Schanberg managed to escape - and won a Pulitzer Prize for his reporting - but was forced to leave his friend behind.

Dith - Cambodian first and last names are often reversed - remained in the war-ravaged country for 41/2 years, working in the countryside as a virtual slave and surviving on a diet of rats, snails and insects. He coined the phrase "killing fields" to describe the clusters of corpses and skeletal remains he saw.

After leaving Cambodia, Dith moved to the United States and became a photographer for the Times.

His harrowing story became the subject of the famed 1984 film "The Killing Fields."

At the service, Schanberg recalled how Dith argued for two hours to stop Khmer Rouge soldiers from killing Schanberg and two other journalists.

"He risked his own life to save ours," Schanberg said, adding that his friend's life was the definition of "extreme bravery."

Rights Party Decries Opposition Rally

By Chun Sakada, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
07 April 2008

Khmer audio aired April 7 (1.01 MB) - Download (MP3)
Khmer audio aired April 7 (1.01 MB) - Listen (MP3)

The Human Rights Party rebuked authorities for allowing an opposition inflation demonstration Sunday, claiming the government had been unfair in denying permission to hold a gathering on fuel prices in February.

The Sam Rainsy Party, the only opposition party with seats in parliament, gathered several hundred demonstrators in Phnom Penh Sunday to protest high inflation rates.

The Human Rights Party said it had been denied a similar demonstration in February. The statement was a further separation of the two parties ahead of elections.

The Human Rights Party was formed by former rights advocate and politician Kem Sokha, following commune elections last year.
"HRP cannot accept the discrimination, bias and inequality of rights and freedoms made by the government for political parties," Keo Remy, vice president of the Human Rights Party, said Monday. "Because this opposes the principals of the law and democracy."

The party members "condemn the government for violating the law," he said. "The Human Rights Party asked the authorities for a public forum to find a way to reduce the price of fuel, but the government and authorities denied this. But why, if Sam Rainsy asks for a demonstration, does the government allow the Sam Rainsy Party to do it? We question what's behind the permission."

Cambodian law provides for the freedom of assembly, but the government is often criticized for preventing marches and demonstrations.

The city "had no secrecy behind the Sam Rainsy permission to hold a demonstration," Phnom Penh Deputy Governor Pa Socheatvong said Monday.

"The Sam Rainsy Party proposal for public expression was clear, but the HRP proposal for a public forum we didn't understand clearly their purpose," he said.

Ny Chakriya, an investigator for the rights group Adhoc, said the government had violated the law by not allowing the HRP gathering in February.

Sam Rainsy said Monday his demonstration Sunday had been allowed thanks to pressure from US Ambassador Joseph Mussomeli.

Armed forces prevented some from joining the rally, he added.

"The Sam Rainsy Party will hold the next demonstration without asking permission from the authorities, by walking into the public street," he said.

US Embassy spokesman Jeff Daigle said Monday the ambassador had called on "all interested parties" to work together for the right of "peaceful assembly," but had not "pressured" the government.

'Freedom Fighter' Faces US Court

By Mark Pierce, VOA Khmer
Original report from Long Beach, Calif.
07 April 2008

The trial of Cambodian-American Chhun Yasith on charges related to an alleged attack on government forces finally began this week in Los Angeles, California.

Chhun Yasith was arraigned in June 2005 on charges stemming from clashes between the Cambodian Freedom Fighters and government forces in November 2000.

Chhun Yasith is also accused, along with wife Sras Pech, of filing falsified tax claims for recently arrived Cambodian immigrants. Both are in federal custody in Los Angeles.

US federal prosecutors charge that Chhun Yasith helped lead an armed attack against a country "that is at peace with the United States."

A jury was selected last Wednesday, and by Thursday opening arguments were presented by both the prosecuting and defense attorneys.

"This accountant from the city of Long Beach decided he was going to take over a country," the New York Sun quoted prosecutor Lamar Baker saying. "And he was willing to take lives in order to do so."

Richard Callahan Jr., Chhun Yasith's attorney, said the Cambodian Freedom Fighters had tried to overthrow the "tyrannical regime" of Prime Minister Hun Sen, the Sun reported.

"They attempted what they believed was a gallant effort to save Cambodia from the regime of Prime Minister Hun Sen," Callahan was quoted as saying. "These men put their lives on the line for the cause....The effort was misguided and naïve in its execution to be sure, but it was not misguided in its intent."

Both sides will review Chhun Yasith’s role in forming the CFF, which allegedly included fundraising activities in the Long Beach area in the 1990s and fomenting a rebellion from the Thai-Cambodian border area.

The trial is expected to last twelve days, according to the US Department of Justice.

The attack left four of the CFF members dead and several policemen wounded.

The Cambodian government has sent 14 police officers to testify at the trial, some of them as eye-witnesses, Cambodian authorities said.

The Cambodian government requested that the US arrest Chhun Yasith for several years before the US took him into custody in 2005.

Group Calls on PM to Investigate Governor

By Chiep Mony, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
07 April 2008

The Cambodian Center for Human Rights has asked Prime Minister Hun Sen to examine "irregularities" in the proposal of a governor to move several hundred families off land in Kampong Thom province.

Villagers told the CCHR in a public forum in March they had been leaked documents that showed plans by Governor Nam Tum to move families off land they legally occupy.

The rights group said in a letter to Hun Sen the villagers feared the governor would kick them off more than 3,000 hectares of land in order to sell it to a rubber company.

Governor Nam Tum said the people were living on state land.

Court Calls Kep Policeman in Land Case

By Heng Reaksmey, VOA Khmer
07 April 2008

Khmer audio aired April 7 (885 KB) - Download (MP3)
Khmer audio aired April 7 (885 KB) - Listen (MP3)

A police official from the coastal town of Kep will answer questions in court Wednesday over his alleged role in a land dispute.

Pring Pov, whom rights groups say was tortured and confined in poor conditions after refusing to give land to a senior minister, said Monday he had been called in to court Wednesday.

The Asian Human Rights Commission has said Pring Pov had been forced to give land to then princess Marie Ranariddh, who is now divorced from Prince Norodom Ranariddh.

The Rights Commission has called for an investigation into the treatment of Pring Pov in police custody.

Cambodia Tackles High Maternal Mortality

By Nuch Sarita, VOA Khmer
Original report from Washington
07 April 2008

Women in developing countries risk death and disability every time they become pregnant.

Complications before, during and after often can be be fatal in the developing world, according to Unicef.

"In Cambodia there were 472 deaths per 100,000 live births from 2000 to 2005, making maternity-related complications one of the leading causes of death of Cambodian women from ages 15 to 49," said Dr. Tung Rathavy, deputy director of the National Maternal and Child Center, who attended the 29th annual national health conference in Phnom Penh last week.

"Most births took place at home, outside of the health facilities. Cambodia needs 960 health facilities to serve the population," she told VOA Khmer. "We have today 830 health facilities.
Among 830 facilities, 112 health facilities do not have nurses."

"Births at home provided by a woman's family and attendants can be safe," she added. "If complications occur, the attendants are able to move the woman to a facility where trained professionals can provide care."

In 2008, the National Assembly approved a budget of $101 million for the health care sector in order to improve its standards comparable to the other countries in the region.

Survivor recalls horrors of Cambodia genocide

This painting depicts one of the Pol Pot regime's most heinous crimes: the slaughter of infants.

Cambodia's notorious Tuol Sleng Prison, where some 14,000 were held, is now a museum.

By Christiane Amanpour
CNN Chief International Correspondent

Editor's note: Christiane Amanpour is currently in production on a major CNN documentary that focuses on those people who stood up and said, "Listen! We must stop the killing. Stop the genocide."

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (CNN) -- A recently disclosed memo gave U.S. interrogators the ability to use harsh methods -- what many call "torture" -- to extract information from terrorist suspects after 9/11. Around the world, critics saw it as another blow to American prestige and moral authority.

The 2003 document also invokes wartime powers to protect interrogators who violate the Geneva Conventions, for example, by the use of waterboarding -- when a prisoner is made to think he is drowning.

Half a world away, the divisive debate over whether waterboarding constitutes torture comes into sharp relief at the infamous S-21, Tuol Sleng Prison in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

This is where the genocidal regime of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge imprisoned and brutalized its enemies from 1975 to 1979. I visited the once secret S-21, now a museum, with Van Nath, a former inmate. He remembers being brought here blindfolded and terrified:

"I thought that was the end of my life," he told me. "In my room people kept dying, one or two every day."

Van Nath was kept in a room packed with 50 other inmates, shackled together and forced to lie down.

"We could not sit. If we wanted to sit, we had to ask permission first. No talking, whispering or making noise," he told me.

Van Nath described how male prisoners were whipped raw, their fingernails were yanked out, they were hogtied to wooden bars. Prison guards mutilated women's genitals, ripped off their nipples with pliers. And worst of all, babies were ripped from their mothers' arms and slaughtered. Watch the former prisoner recount the brutality »

Van Nath was accused of being a CIA agent and given electric shock torture, but he survived when his jailers found out he was one of Cambodia's most prominent painters. And what did they make him paint?

"Pol Pot's picture. Big pictures," he told me. "I had to paint the same one again and again. If they didn't like my painting, that would have been the end of my life."

So when Pol Pot finally fell in 1979, Van Nath returned to paint what he had really seen and heard at S-21. He did it as a memorial to the 14,000 who had been tortured and executed in the prison. It's one of the few public reminders of the regime's crimes.

Take water torture, for instance. Van Nath remembers it as if it were yesterday. I gasped as I entered a room filled with his vivid depictions.

One of his paintings shows a prisoner blindfolded and hoisted onto a makeshift scaffold by two guards. He is then lowered head first into a massive barrel of water. Another shows a prisoner with cloth over his face, writhing as an interrogator pours water over his head.

Van Nath still remembers the accompanying screams: "It sounded like when we are really in pain, choking in water," he told me. "The sound was screaming, from the throat. I suppose they could not bear the torture.

"Whenever we heard the noises we were really shocked and scared. We thought one day they will do the same thing to us."

As he talked and showed me around, my mind raced to the debate in the United States over this same tactic used on its prisoners nearly 40 years later. I stared blankly at another of Van Nath's paintings. This time a prisoner is submerged in a life-size box full of water, handcuffed to the side so he cannot escape or raise his head to breathe. His interrogators, arrayed around him, are demanding information.

I asked Van Nath whether he had heard this was once used on America's terrorist suspects. He nodded his head. "It's not right," he said.

But I pressed him: Is it torture? "Yes," he said quietly, "it is severe torture. We could try it and see how we would react if we are choking under water for just two minutes. It is very serious."

Back then, Pol Pot and his Khmer Rouge cadres recognized this for what it was and used it with brutal efficiency. The Cambodian genocide ultimately killed 2 million people.

Fourteen thousand of them had passed through the gates of hell at Tuol Sleng Prison.

Cambodia declares it did not seek security assistance


Phnom Penh — The Cambodian Defence Ministry has strongly rejected information that distorts Cambodian Defence Minister Tea Banh’s recent visit to Viet Nam.

The Cambodian Action Committee for Justice and Equity (CACJE) and opposition newspapers recently reported that during his four-day visit to Viet Nam from March 24, Minister Tea Banh had asked the Vietnamese Defence Ministry to help maintain security and public order during Cambodia’s legislative election, slated for July 2008.

The reports made by the CACJE and opposition newspapers were completely untrue and groundless, the Cambodian ministry said in a press release, adding that they also sabotaged the honour of the minister in particular and of the Cambodian people in general.

Minister Tea Banh had only asked the Vietnamese Defence Ministry to share its experiences in maintaining security and public order, including for the upcoming legislative elections, the Cambodian Defence Ministry stressed.