Thursday, 10 April 2008

Sacravatoons : "Our National Line"

Courtesy of Sacravatoon at

Sacravatoons : "The Safety of All Political Parties"

Courtesy of Sacravatoon at

Life of Cambodian farmers in Cambodia

A Cambodian farmer works on her land near Mekong river bank in Kandal province, outskirts of Phnom Penh April 8, 2008. After decades of isolation, Communist-led Laos is enjoying an economic boom fuelled by surging demand for its most plentiful commodity -- land. One of the poorest countries in Asia, with many of its citizens living on around $1 per day, Laos has gradually opened its tiny economy to foreign investment since the Pathet Lao Communists adopted market reforms in the mid-1980s. Picture taken April 8, 2008.To match feature AGFLATION-LAOS/ REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA)

A Cambodian farmer sprays insecticide on vegetables in a field near Mekong river bank in Kandal province, outskirts of Phnom Penh April 8, 2008. After decades of isolation, Communist-led Laos is enjoying an economic boom fuelled by surging demand for its most plentiful commodity -- land. One of the poorest countries in Asia, with many of its citizens living on around $1 per day, Laos has gradually opened its tiny economy to foreign investment since the Pathet Lao Communists adopted market reforms in the mid-1980s. Picture taken April 8, 2008.To match feature AGFLATION-LAOS/ REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA)

A Cambodian farmer sprays insecticide on vegetables in a field near Mekong river bank in Kandal province, outskirts of Phnom Penh April 8, 2008. After decades of isolation, Communist-led Laos is enjoying an economic boom fuelled by surging demand for its most plentiful commodity -- land. One of the poorest countries in Asia, with many of its citizens living on around $1 per day, Laos has gradually opened its tiny economy to foreign investment since the Pathet Lao Communists adopted market reforms in the mid-1980s. Picture taken April 8, 2008.To match feature AGFLATION-LAOS/ REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA)

A Cambodian farmer works on his land near Mekong river bank in Kandal province, outskirts of Phnom Penh April 8, 2008. After decades of isolation, Communist-led Laos is enjoying an economic boom fuelled by surging demand for its most plentiful commodity -- land. One of the poorest countries in Asia, with many of its citizens living on around $1 per day, Laos has gradually opened its tiny economy to foreign investment since the Pathet Lao Communists adopted market reforms in the mid-1980s. Picture taken April 8, 2008. To match feature AGFLATION-LAOS/ REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA)

Cambodian farmers plant corn at their plantation field near Mekong river bank in Kandal province, outskirts of Phnom Penh April 8, 2008. After decades of isolation, Communist-led Laos is enjoying an economic boom fuelled by surging demand for its most plentiful commodity -- land. One of the poorest countries in Asia, with many of its citizens living on around $1 per day, Laos has gradually opened its tiny economy to foreign investment since the Pathet Lao Communists adopted market reforms in the mid-1980s. Picture taken April 8, 2008.To match feature AGFLATION-LAOS/ REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA)

Samdech Dekchor Hun Sen Calls on the Authorities to Retain Neutrality towards All Political Parties

Posted on 10 April 2008.
The Mirror, Vol. 12, No. 555

“Samdech Akkak Moha Senapadei Dekchor Hun Sen, the Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Cambodia, has called again authorities of all levels to maintain security for the process of free and fair elections without violence, threats, and intimidation, so that the elections will proceed smoothly in an atmosphere where everyone is safe, and he asked the local authorities to provide neutrality to all political parties in the upcoming election campaign.

“Samdech Dekchor Hun Sen said this during the inauguration ceremony of buildings of the Hun Sen-Kompong Ampil High School in Pear Reang district, Prey Veng, on the morning of 8 April.

Samdech Dekchor said that the best choice for a country, which has just got up from war and fragility towards national unity, is to maintain what we have already had in our hands not to be lost – peace. He continued that in the world nowadays, if we watch television, there are many battles every day which cause deaths and separation. However, Cambodia has been peaceful and we should preserve this firmly. Samdech Dekchor went on that he hopes all citizens are able to think and understand this issue as the main and an important one.

“Samdech Hun Sen also welcomed the newly created parties set up to participate in the upcoming national elections, considering that this is the freedom of the Cambodian people, although they know that they will not win even one seat. Samdech asked for all local authorities to be neutral to all political parties during the forthcoming election campaign.

“Samdech also appealed to all political parties to be patient and not to insult each other during the approaching New Year’s Day, to promote the happiness which is usual every year during the Khmer New Year..

“He continued that voting for anyone is up to the citizens; for Samdech, if people vote for him, he will still be the prime minister, and if people no longer vote for him, Samdech will have much free time to play chess and golf.

“The achievements inaugurated in the Hun Sen-Kompong Ampil High School consist of six school buildings equal to 32 rooms, and a bureau equal to 3 rooms, 30 sewing machines, 15 computers, 3 printers, 1 photocopier, and 1 generator.

“It should be remrmbered that Prey Veng is a province which obtained schools as presents of Samdech Akkak Moha Senapadei Dekchor Hun Sen and his wife, in total 235 buildings equal to 139 rooms; separately, Pear Raeng received 21 school buildings which consist of 111 rooms.
“During that occasion, Samdech Dekchor Hun Sen also provided 14 other new school buildings which have 88 rooms, to schools in Pear Raeng district, Prey Veng.”

Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol. 16, #4563, 10.4.2008

Yuong speaks on his survival in Cambodian Killing Fields

10 Apr 2008
By Elsbeth Otto

“When there is life, there is hope,” said Robert Yuong as he opened his presentation on his childhood spent clinging to both life and hope in Cambodia’s Killing Fields.

Yuong’s talk, “Surviving the Killing Fields through the eyes of a 10-year-old boy,” recounted his personal story of enduring the brutal and deadly regime of the Khmer Rouge from 1975-79.

During the control of the Khmer Rouge, some two million Cambodians, about 30 percent of Cambodia’s population, were killed or starved to death. According to Yuong, another 200,000 children were orphaned and 140,000 people lost legs or arms during the regime.

“The Killing Fields,” the 1984 Academy Award-winning film about the Khmer Rouge regime, coined the now generally accepted name for the tragedy.

Yuong came to the United States in 1980 as a teenager where he completed school and now teaches high school math and computer science in Tacoma, Wash.

Geoffrey Liu, who had Yuong as a teacher, was inspired by Yuong’s story and the grace, humility and honesty with which Yuong recounts his tale for others.

“I think nowadays we don’t hear enough first-hand accounts of atrocities,” said Liu. “His presentation is as personal as it gets. How he lectures is how he is when you talk to him one on one. Nothing is scripted and everything is from his heart,” added Liu by e-mail.

As a 10-year-old, Yuong’s family was broken up and he was forced into intensive farm labor.

Over the next three years, eight months and nine days Yuong endured near-starvation, overworking, beatings, land mines and seeing thousands of others die around him.

“A lot of times [the Khmer Rouge] didn’t want to waste the bullet on you. They’d strangle you with a plastic bag or bury you alive,” said Yuong.

The tireless monotony and seemingly endless depravation were perhaps what stuck with Yuong the most.“You know they say ‘time flies when you’re having fun.’ Well, what happens when you’re in hell?” said Yuong. “Time just stood still. When you’re starving, when you’re hungry, when you’re in pain, it’s like it’s eternal.”

“We throw out all these statistics and numbers and we become desensitized and forget the stories of real people,” said first-year Liz Sieng, whose parents are also survivors of the Killing Fields. “I think it’s really important to seek out stories, especially eyewitness accounts…you really can’t completely understand it from the textbook point of view.”

“There are so many sides and innocent people got stepped on,” said Yuong, who repeatedly expressed his desire to let his story speak for itself and avoid all politics.

“We tend to try and fix things when they’re already broken; we don’t do preventative things. Until you’ve gone through one of those things you can’t know the true cost,” said Yuong.

“When you hear the first-person story and you multiply it by the millions of other people who had different but similar experiences, it made me think of [the more recent] ‘Hotel Rwanda,’” said first-year Gabby Brandt. “We don’t really know about these things and we don’t really learn from history.”

Happy pizza off the menu
Thursday, 10 April 2008

The infamous "happy pizza" is being taken off Cambodia's collective menu, after decades as a backpacker rite of passage.

The pizza sauce is heavily laced with marijuana, which has been officially illegal in the country for several years."The government goal is that this drug does not exist any more in Cambodia," says Interior Ministry anti-drug chief, Police General Lou Ramin. "We will only be satisfied when it is not available at all."

Cambodians protest over corruption

The Australian
April 10, 2008

ALMOST one million Cambodians have signed a petition demanding the government step up anti-graft efforts, in a rare display of public anger over corruption.

“The people want Cambodia to be rid of corruption, they want a law to fight corrupt people,” said Yong Kim Eng, president of the People's Centre For Development and Peace, which organised the petition.

“Corruption affects the livelihood of the people, investors and the development of the country,” he said today.

He added that the petition, which has been circulating since 2006, will be handed to the government once it gets its one-millionth signature.

The government has repeatedly come under fire from donors over its apparent unwillingness to tackle rampant corruption.

But Om Yentieng, a top adviser to Prime Minister Hun Sen and head of the government's anti-corruption department, said the government was working hard to push through anti-graft legislation.

“We have been driving at the highest speed,” he said. Cambodia was ranked 151 out of 163 countries in Transparency International's 2006 corruption index, which compares graft levels in governments around the world.

It remains one of the world's poorest countries after decades of civil war and government mismanagement, with more than 30 per cent of its 14 million people living on less than 50 US cents a day.


Cambodia, Indonesia's Rajawali to set up airline

Thu Apr 10, 2008

JAKARTA, April 10 (Reuters) - The Cambodian government and Indonesia's Rajawali Corporation agreed on Thursday to set up a new national flag airline to serve Cambodia's growing tourism industry, the company said in a statement.

The joint-venture company's capital is estimated to reach $50 million and the Cambodian government will own 51 percent while Rajawali Group will own the rest.

"With a national flag carrier, we envisage our economy and tourism industry will grow rapidly," Cambodia's Deputy Prime Minister, Sok An, said in the statement released by Rajawali.

Cambodia launched its own national flag carrier, Royal Air Cambodge (RAC), in the mid-1990s but it went bankrupt, resulting in heavy losses for the government.

The new carrier, however, might have a better chance due to the rising number of tourists to Cambodia. In 2007, the country attracted more than 2 million tourists and more than 60 percent of them used air travel.

The number of tourist arrivals in 2007 rose almost 19 percent from the previous year and air travel increased more than 25 percent, according to the tourism minister on the official Web site

Rajawali was founded by Indonesian entrepreneur Peter Sondakh, ranked by Globe Asia magazine as 19th wealthiest Indonesian with a net worth of $510 million. The group controls diversified businesses from a cement firm to department stores and a taxi company.

It holds an around 25 percent stake in Semen Gresik SMGR.JK, Indonesia's largest cement maker. Rajawali also founded the country's third-largest mobile phone firm before selling its stake to Telekom Malaysia and Emirates Telecommunications ETEL.AD.

(Additional reporting by Tyagita Silka) (Reporting by Nury Sybli, writing by Tyagita Silka, editing by Sugita Katyal)

Dance, photography coalesce in exhibit

Photographer Paul Mongillo spent time in Cambodia to capture images of work done by Dancing Across Borders, which teaches Gabrielle Roth’s 5Rhythms — a meditative dance practice — to children there, and relief work being conducted by the Cambodia-based Children and Love Association. (Courtesy Paul Mongillo)

April 10, 2008
Molly Gilmore For The Olympian

Photographer Paul Mongillo of Olympia loves to travel in developing countries. He loves to take photographs. And he loves to dance.

Though his trip to Cambodia last year combined all three of those things, he knew up front that this trip would not be like most of his travels.

"I love meeting people and I'm always on the prowl for photographs," Mongillo said. "But this trip had nothing to do with me. It was about helping other people, so it was completely different.

That's why I fell in love with so many people, and that's why it was such a positive experience. These people have come into my heart and they are never going to go away."

Mongillo spent a month in the Mesang District, the poorest part of Cambodia. He photographed work being done by Dancing Across Borders, which teaches Gabrielle Roth's 5Rhythms — a meditative dance practice — to children there, and relief work being conducted by the Cambodia-based Children and Love Association, a relief agency that helps families in the province with skills and microloans to help them create better lives.

While there, he took about 800 pictures and collected "1,000 stories," he said.

An avid 5Rhythms dancer at Waves Studio in Olympia, Mongillo read about Dancing Across Borders on the Web site When he sought more information, he discovered that the organization was one woman, Lucie Nerot of Paris. She invited him to come along on her next trip to document her work.

He spent the mornings photographing and videotaping her work and participating in the dance classes. He said his presence helped the boys get more involved.

In the afternoons, he photographed the work of Children and Love, which aims to address the poverty in the Mesang District and help keep the district's children with their parents. (Many end up living in the streets of Phnom Penh after their parents send them there to earn a living.)
He and Nerot stayed with a family in the tiny town of Chi Pooch.

"I'd visited developing countries, but I'd never had the opportunity to stay in a rural area for any length of time," he said. "I lived with a family in a village that had no restaurants, no hotels, no running water, no electricity. The meals were cooked over an open fire.

"It was an amazing experience to stay put and get to know and fall in love with so many people. It was hard to leave."

If falling in love with a village sounds unlikely, you haven't met Mongillo.

"It was a quarter-mile walk from one side of the village where we were staying to the CLA office," he said. "There was one man I connected with. I'd sit with him every day coming or going. He couldn't speak any English, and I knew about three words of Khmer, but somehow we became friends."

The men communicated with hand gestures and drawings. "He would bring things out of his hut to show me," Mongillo said. "I don't know his name, and he doesn't know my name, but I will never forget him."

Mongillo has an array of photographs from the trip. The most striking contrast is between the stark black-and-white images of street children and the colorful, joy-filled pictures of children dancing the 5Rhythms. Yet those children are for the most part all in the same situation — one of grim poverty in a country where much cultural and practical knowledge was lost in the Killing Fields.

"The street children broke my heart," Mongillo said. "In Phnom Penh, there were lots of street kids around the Mekong River. I tried to wake one up one morning so I could give her money so she could eat. I couldn't wake her, and I thought she was dead. I rolled up her sleeve and put my hand on her arm, and she had a pulse, but I couldn't wake her up. I think it's because the kids probably were afraid to sleep in the dark and they wouldn't fall asleep till the sun started to come up."

But Mongillo also saw hope: children from the street returning to their villages, families learning to live better lives. "I have a photograph of a proud couple in front of two houses," he said. "One is a bamboo shack. They got training and a microloan of $30 from the CLA. Three years later, they have plenty of pigs and a hard-sided house right next to the other one."

Cambodia Calling ; Humble explorations

Cambodia Calling, by Richard Heinzl (John Wiley & Sons), 272 pp.

April 10th, 2008 MJ Stone

Founder of Médecins Sans Frontières Richard Heinzl chronicles his time in CambodiaCambodia Calling: A Memoir From the Frontlines of Humanitarian Aid, written by Canadian founder of Médecins Sans Frontières Richard Heinzl, chronicles the physician's adventures in rural Cambodia. Although readers interested in an in-depth study of the workings of Doctors Without Borders may be left wanting by Heinzl's memoir, travel enthusiasts will appreciate the author's insights into Cambodian life, post Khmer Rouge.

Both in the book and during my interview with the modest doctor, Heinzl played down his humanitarian role in Cambodia. "The job provided me with a wonderful adventure," he said.

He told me he needed to write about his encounters with Cambodia and its haunted people. "I was so blown away by my experiences overseas, I just had to write about it. I needed to make sense of the experience. I wanted to write it right away, but I was too close to the experience and required some time to allow it to percolate through me."

Amongst the first wave of Westerners to arrive in Cambodia following the Viet Cong occupation in the early '90s, Heinzl has written a memoir that attempts to make sense of the genocide committed by the Khmer Rouge against its own people a decade earlier. The author said that Cambodians are a genuinely happy people who are living the local Buddhist way, and that he was surprised at how well adjusted they were when he arrived. "I remember seeing a lot of people living in dissociated states, people who were freaked out and living in denial. But the vast majority were able to pick up the pieces of their lives so quickly speaks volumes about their resiliency."

When asked to elaborate on the haunted sensation he felt while in Cambodia, Heinzl said that it was peculiar. "Cambodians are ancestor worshippers and the vast majority believe in ghosts.

The Khmer Rouge left Cambodia feeling very haunted. Almost everyone I'd met had lost a brother, sister, or father or mother. They all spoke of the ghosts."

Cambodia Calling is intrepid travel writing. Heinzl writes with panache. The good doctor confessed that he hopes his next book will be a novel, but then laughed about the idea of venturing into fiction: "My enthusiasm may be tempered when I get into the thick of it," he said.

"The late nights, the endless cups of coffee... but I really feel like I have a writer's temperament."

St. Bernard shares disaster preparedness program in Cambodia

By Rebecca Cadavos

Provincial Capitol, Southern Leyte (10 April) -- St. Bernard town shared its disaster preparedness program in the Asia Pacific Regional Disaster Risk Management Practitioners' Conference held in Cambodia, April 2-4, 2008, Gladys A. Montales, CARE-ACCORD Project Manager reported to PIA.

Mayor Rico Rentuza of Saint Beranrd in Southern Leyte and Mayet Alcid, ACCORD Project Co-Manager were among the presentors during the conference of disaster risk management practitioners in Asia and the Pacific in Phnom Pehn, Cambodia.

Montales disclosed in her report that over a hundred representatives from some 10 countries in Asia and the Pacific gathered in Cambodia to share the best practices and lessons learned in the process of doing risk reduction projects in their respective areas.

"Among countries, preparing communities through capability building and contingency planning proved not only helpful but necessary," Montales said. Adding that "there are victories and successes but the challenges are sustainability and scale or coverage of operations.

CARE ACCORD Project, a pilot project on disaster preparedness and mitigation, covers only 5 out of the 30 barangays, to address concerns at disaster hazard areas in St. Bernard, Montales revealed.

Moreover, the Municipal Disaster Coordinating Council (MDCC) in St. Bernard will replicate the CARE ACCORD Project in three other high risk areas starting this year. The project will render mentoring support to the MDCC.

Montales said that sustainability is the other main concern in the Cambodia conference. "This was raised repeatedly because successes will go to waste if these are not maintained." To ensure sustainability of the municipal's disaster preparedness and mitigation program, Mayor Rentuza led its integration of the municipal's Executive and Legislative Agenda or ELA, she pointed out.
The European Commission Humanitarian Aid (ECHO) is supporting the CARE ACCORD Project and the practitioner's conference in Cambodia. (PIA-Southern Leyte)

Cambodian visitors full of hope

Students from Stuartholme School, Toowong, enjoy supper with the Cambodian dancers prior to a performance at the school

The Catholic Leader
10 April 2008

FROM the tiny Ta Hen village of north-east Cambodia – a war-torn country recovering from years of domination and genocide, where more than a third of its population live below the poverty line – has come a group of young, inspiring dancers.

The hope-filled troupe recently performed at Catholic schools in Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide and Melbourne on a national tour, Dance together for peace, co-sponsored by Jesuit Mission and Ignatian World Youth Day program organiser MAGiS08.

Accompanying them was Cambodia’s Battambang diocese Bishop Enrique (Kike) Figaredo, a Spanish Jesuit who formed the group in 2000 and has been working with them in the region since the late 1980s.

Initially comprised of 14 students, the class now has more than 150 dancers and musicians aged between four and 20, who practise each day in an effort to rebuild their ravaged culture.

“One of the worst consequences of so many years of conflict was the erosion of Cambodian self-understanding,” Bishop Kike said.

“Music and dance groups are helping reassert this national identity by recovering myths and stories of the life of the people.”

Proceeds from Dance together for peace will go to Jesuit Mission projects in Battambang, some of which provide scholarships for children to attend secondary school, buy land for those who have none and supply costumes for the dancers.

While in Brisbane, the dancers also performed at St Rita’s College and Marist College Ashgrove, and were guests at a reception hosted by Brisbane archdiocese’s World Youth Day Secretariat in the grounds of St Stephen’s Cathedral.

Dengue epidemic looms as Cambodian authorities scramble to prepare

PHNOM PENH, April 10 (Xinhua) -- Expert has warned that a dengue fever epidemic would soon sweep through Cambodia at a time when infections of the disease are usually at their lowest, the Mekong Times newspaper said Thursday.

Generally, dengue fever is most prevalent from early January till May in Cambodia, but this year the worst period will be from the end of April till July, claimed Ngan Chantha, vice director of National Center For Dengue and Malaria Control.

Ngan Chantha said the change has resulted from many factors such as the impact of the dengue epidemic in late 2007 and environmental changes that have altered the existing virus and irregular rainfall.

Other subordinate factors such as unsanitary conditions and migration exacerbate the problem, he said.

However, a combined Health Ministry and National Center Against Dengue Fever campaign dubbed "Abate", an insecticide used to kill mosquito larvae, should go some way towards reducing the risk, Ngan Chantha said.

Officials are distributing Abate to people in high risk areas for them to add to their water storage to kill the anopheles mosquito larvae that spread dengue fever when they reach adulthood.

Editor: Sun Yunlong

China and Cambodia Signed 21 Projects Worth US$370 Million

Posted on 9 April 2008.
The Mirror, Vol. 12, No. 555

“Investors from Guangxi Province of the People’s Republic of China and Cambodian investors signed 21 projects worth US$370.

“The signing ceremony was held on the night of 7 April 2008 at the Inter-Continental Hotel with the attendance of Senior Minister and Minister of Commerce Dr. Cham Prasidh, the Chinese Ambassador in Cambodia, and many other delegates from Guangxi.

“The delegation leader Mr. Guo Shengkun [郭声琨] said that the signing between Guangxi and Cambodia shows now an even closer relationship and cooperation between Cambodia and Guangxi.

“Senior Minister and Minister of Commerce Dr. Cham Prasidh expressed his great satisfaction during the signing ceremony between the investors of Guangxi and of Cambodia.

“Officials of the Ministry of Commerce said that the signing ceremony between the investors of Cambodia and of Guangxi province was for 21 projects worth US$370 million. He continued that the cooperation in these 21 projects focuses on agriculture, tourism, handicrafts, hydroelectricity, and industry.

“Dr. Cham Prasidh went on to say that Guangxi was selected for the exhibition of ASEAN this year, because the city of Nanning is located close to the ASEAN region, therefore it is easy to facilitate the transportation of goods between the ASEAN region and Nanning.

“Dr. Cham Prasidh said that besides the relations of commerce and culture, Guangxi has also given presents to the Royal Government of Cambodia, like when a delegation from Guangxi came to Cambodia, they brought 30 computers and 10 escalators for our country.

“Dr. Cham Prasidh expressed his gratitude to the Chinese government, particularly to the province of Guangxi, which handles also economic and cultural cooperation with Prey Veng.”

Kampuchea Thmey, Vol.7, #1614, 9.4.2008

Cambodia hosts first interfaith conference

CN Cath News
April 10, 2008

Australian delegates including Federal Parliamentary Secretary for International Development Assistance, Bob McMullan, joined 200 participants at an intergovernment conference on interfaith cooperation for peace and harmony in Phnom Penh last week.

The Fourth International Dialogue on Interfaith Cooperation for Peace and Harmony which involved 15 countries from Asia and the Pacific adopted an Action Plan to promote regional grassroots initiatives in education, conflict resolution and promotion of interfaith understanding, a media release from Australian delegate Sr Trish Madigan OP reports.

According to Sr Madigan, "Cambodia’s role in hosting the conference was significant since it was the first time the conference had taken place in a Buddhist country.

Opening the conference Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen emphasised the need for religious tolerance and criticised the practice of stereotyping entire religious groups because of the actions of a few.

"Crime is crime," he said, "It should not be labelled as religious."

Although Cambodia is more than 95 percent Buddhist, local Catholics were well represented, Sr Madigan says.

"Thirty Catholics attended the opening ceremony. They included 22 laypeople, four priests, two bishops and two nuns from the various provinces of Cambodia."

Kompong Thom Catholic Sem Kit said he expected the meeting would "help all religious understand each other better."

Mr Bob McMullan, representing the Australian government, noted that "all great religions of the world share common perspective on respecting human dignity, on what is right and wrong, and what is fair and just".

Therefore they have an important role in speaking up for shared values and common objectives and working to create a harmonious society, Mr McMullan said
"Governments can and should only do so much. Success or failure rests with community leaders," he said.

Australian delegates at the Dialogue were:
Dr Ameer Ali (Muslim), Dr Appupillay Balasubramaniam (Hindu Council), Rev John Baldock (Anglican), Rev Glenda Blakefield (Uniting), Ven Bhikku Brahmavamso (Buddhist), Sr Giovanni Farquer rsj (Catholic), Rev John Henderson (NCCA), Ms Zuleyha Keskin (Muslim), Rabbi Aviva Kipen (Jewish), Sr Trish Madigan op (Catholic), Mr Ikebal Patel (AFIC), and Prof Swee-Hin Toh (Griffith Multifaith Centre).

In Land Grabs, Political Opportunity

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

Khmer audio aired April 9 (1.83 MB) - Download (MP3) Khmer audio aired April 9 (1.83 MB) - Listen (MP3)

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

Anyone who has lost land knows what kind of sorrow high land prices can bring. With land thefts continuing, political parties are hoping they can convince people that they understand.

The issue is complex, though, and not every party has a solution, even if they do plan to make land thefts a top issue in this year's general election.

"We must raise [measures to solve the land dispute] because many people are also of the Cambodian People's Party," said Chiem Yeap, a CPP lawmaker. "We want them to know about the activities and measures of the government, especially Samdech Prime Minister and the National Land Dispute Authority."

The issue was complicated and aroused a lot of emotion, he said, claiming that the CPP would continue to seek measures to help at the local level as a way to earn votes in July.

The land issue is in main principle for Funcinpec, said lawmaker Monh Saphan.

"First we should let [people] know that [land disputes] is an important issue," he said. "We will check: how much land concession remains, and how much land is kept for investment, and if no activity remains. We will review all."

Monh Saphan said he himself would work the issue because it affected voters in his area of Kampong Cham province.

Opposition lawmaker Ho Vann said he had visited some provinces, such as Kampong Chhnang and Batteay Meanchey and Phnom Penh, and the cases of land grabbing were serious.

"Regarding our policy for the electoral campaign, we will resolve land disputes for the people fairly," he said. "If the land of the people is given to the people, and the land of company is given to the company, and if a company wants to buy land from the people, it must offer the people the fair and acceptable price."

Muth Chantha, spokesman for the Norodom Ranariddh Party, which took the third-highest number of seats in the 2007 commune elections, said land disputes were the top priority for the party.

The party hoped to initiate a system of ownership certificates it would distribute in hopes of preventing land grabs, he said.

"We would also take measures to confiscate state lands that have been illegally occupied by businessmen, 'Okhnas' or high-ranking officers," he added.

Chum Bun Rong, spokesman for the Land Dispute Authority and advisor to the Council of Ministers, said wealthy people and high-ranking officers dare not grab anyone's land for fear of losing their reputation and government jobs.

Many people have grabbed the land of the investors, he added.

"We must help [the investors] because they possess the lands legally and develop our country," he said.

The government is working to take care of the landless, he said, and is prepared to give up state land to some, though he did not elaborate.

Land thefts are not the only issue to gain votes, said Kim Chhorn, Comfrel's senior program coordinator.

Comfrel reported recently that SRP lawmakers stepped in to resolve constituent issues 38 times between October 2006 and September 2007. CPP lawmakers stepped in 15 times, and Funcinpec parliamentarians twice.

Ieng Sary Lawyers Raise Amnesty Issue

By Mean Veasna, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
09 April 2008

Khmer audio aired April 9 (1.43 MB) - Download (MP3)
Khmer audio aired April 9 (1.43 MB) - Listen (MP3)

Lawyers for jailed Khmer Rouge leader Ieng Sary filed a petition to the tribunal courts Monday protesting the legality of a trial due to an earlier royal amnesty.

Lawyer Ang Udom said Wednesday a trial of his client would be illegitimate.

"He cannot be tried for the second time," Ang Udom said. "This is contrary to local and international law, because he has been tried and pardoned by the king."

Ieng Sary was found guilty in absentia of genocide in a trial following the ousting of the Khmer Rouge in 1979. The trial is widely viewed as a show trial.

Ieng Sary defected to the government in 1996, following a royal pardon and amnesty by then king Norodom Sihanouk for the guilty verdict of the Vietnamese trial.

Lawyers argued the amnesty should take precedence over the hybrid courts. However, experts say he can still be charged with war crimes, even if the courts allow the amnesty argument.

Tribunal co-prosecutor Robert Petit confirmed Wednesday receipt of the petition, which said the court had no authority in the Ieng Sary case, due to the royal pardon and amnesty agreement with the government.

"Indeed, we will look at that closely and reply to the lawyers in writing," he said.

Hun Sen Urges Safety for All Parties

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

Khmer audio (805 KB) - Download (MP3)
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Prime Minister Hun Sen said Tuesday he wanted to ensure the safety of all political parties in the run-up to July's national elections.

Speaking at a school inauguration in Prey Veng province, Hun Sen called on the authorities and security forces to take strong measures to protect the safety of "all political parties competing in the national election in July."

The appeal comes on the heels of accusations that ruling Cambodian People's Party officials were discriminating against competing parties.

"I would like to take this opportunity to call for all authorities and armed forces to take care of protecting the security for all political parties to work the election process with democracy, freedom and non-violence, in an atmosphere that all can accept.... All are very good choices for Cambodia."

Human Rights Party President Kem Sokha called the appeal a "political maneuver."

"I'm very disappointed," he said. "I don't believe Hun Sen. Because today my Human Rights Party sign in Kratie was knocked down. Hun Sen's appeal is meaningless. I ask Hun Sen to condemn the perpetrators, and if he cannot condemn the perpetrators, then what Hun Sen just said seems to push the perpetrtors to do more."

Eng Chhay Ieng, secretary-general of the Sam Rainsy Party, said Wednesday that a good security atmosphere ahead of the elections was ultimately up to Hun Sen.

"What Hun Sen called for is just a good picture for the public," he said. "In fact, the CPP has ordered its men to threaten and intimidate the Sam Rainsy Party."

Tep Nytha, secretary-general of the National Election Committee, said Wednesday there are 45,000 security personnel from the military, military police and interior police to be deployed at 15,000 polling stations nationwide during elections.

There are 20 security personnel in each district, and 10 in each commune, he said.

"This strong security measure can ensure security and safety for the election," he said.

Two Navies in Sihanoukville Ports of Call

By Reporters, VOA Khmer
Original reports from Washington and Phnom Penh
09 April 2008

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Two ships from the Indian navy docked in Sihanoukville Monday, for a five-day port of call, a defense official said.

The visit will coincide with the arrival of a battleship from the French navy, the Depuy de Lome, which is scheduled to arrive Thursday.

The docking of India's 180-meter INS Jyoti and the 92-meter INS Kora will be to strengthen ties between the navies of both countries, Defense Minister Tea Banh said.

The official naval visits follow ports of call by the US navy, as well as the donation of ships by China.

"They are coming just to exchange experiences and for cooperation," he said. "It's a normal visit and nothing else."

The Indian navy will work with the Cambodian navy, he said, without giving details.

An Indian embassy official told VOA Khmer that the ships were visiting Cambodia as they do in other countries, but he referred detailed questions to the commanders of the ships.

In 2006, officials said the Indian navy discussed specific areas of cooperation with Cambodia, including training, maintenance and repairs of artillery, tanks, trucks and demining equipment.

US Agency Opens Bird Flu Center

By Sok Khemara, VOA Khmer
Original report from Washington
09 April 2008

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USAID has opened a regional center to stock protective gear in Thailand to help protect Southeast Asia from bird flu, the US embassy said in a statement.

"Larger than a soccer field, the Bangkok warehouse contains enough personal protective equipment, decontamination kits and laboratory equipment to serve tens of thousands of people throughout Southeast Asia," the statement said.

"With the establishment of this regional distribution center in Thailand, USAID is in a position to rapidly re-supply the [Cambodian Ministry of Agriculture] in the advent of an [avian influence] outbreak," Erin Soto, Cambodia mission director for USAID, said in the statement.

"The first of three regional centers being planned worldwide, the depots will ensure a rapid response to any outbreaks of the deadly H5N1 virus, commonly called 'bird flu,' because it strikes animals, particularly poultry," the embassy statement said. "Millions of chickens and ducks have been wiped out despite billions of poultry vaccinations and culling of hundreds of millions of more birds."

The US aid agency spent nearly $550,000 stocking the Bangkok depot, the statement said.
Donors such as the World Bank, Japan and the EU have given around $11 million to help fight bird flu through the end of March.

Monk Brings Practices, Compassion to US

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

Venerable Somnieng Hoeurn, a Cambodian Buddhist monk, offers meditation practice for those who have some meditation experience.

The techniques focus on providing new awareness of the mind and body as one consciousness focused in the present moment.

Somnieng Hoeurn is the president of the "Life and Hope Association" in Siem Reap province, which partially pays for student transportation and meals and supplements the salaries of government teachers.

Somnieng Hoeurn's association is funded by foreign aid programs in the United States, Australia and Germany.

He is now in the US for a two-year program to study management and to teach meditation.

Last year Somnieng Hoeurn had a four-month tour, including a number of conferences. He visited schools and had teaching assignments in China and the US.

While in the US, he visited the states of Hawaii, Vermont, Connecticut, New York, and Iowa.
Somnieng Hoeurn, now 28, entered pagoda life at age 15. He was born into a very poor family in Cambodia. His stepfather drank, gambled and beat him.

"Life as a Buddhist monk is not easy," Somnieng Hoeurn said. "There are 227 rules monks must follow. Buddhist monks must rely on the generosity of others for everything, even food. I was determined to learn and to speak Pali and Khmer. By age 20, I had become the second deputy head of monks."

Somnieng Hoeurn took some courses at a university in Cambodia while he waited for a visa into the US.

As a monk he found himself in demand, preaching and helping people celebrate ceremonies.
He helped children hampered by poverty go to school.

One day in 2005, an American dentist, Dr. Jon Ryder, who came to Damnak Temple in Siem Reap to learn more about Buddhism met Somnieng Hoeurn, an English-speaking monk.

They became friends after Ryder underwent a three-day meditation under Somnieng Hoeurn.
"Dr. Ryder started a plan to bring me to America for an exchange of ideas and culture," Somnieng Hoeurn said.

Somnieng Hoeurn now teaches an introductory course in meditative techniques at St. Ambrose University in Iowa, and he also teaches meditation classes in his home in Davenport, every Monday and Wednesday evening.

Having been offered a scholarship by the university president Ed Rogalski, Somnieng Hoeurn came to learn English and Management at St. Ambrose University, to become a better leader for the nearly 400 children that he and his fellow monks feed, teach and love like parents in his "Life and Hope Association."

Most of the types of meditation start with practicing awareness of respiration and mind concentration.

Concentration is a help to a step leading to a higher goal: the purification of mind, eradication of all mental defilements and negativities within. Practitioners seek liberation from misery.

"Meditation is a way of self-transformation through self-observation," Somnieng Hoeurn said.

"The mind and body are always connected and can be experienced directly by physical sensations. It was discovered by Buddha more than 2500 years ago and taught by him as a universal remedy for universal ills."

Kaohsiung orientation for foreign spouses launched

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

CNAKAOHSIUNG, Taiwan -- A Kaohsiung County service center opened a program yesterday for foreign spouses of Taiwanese nationals to help them adapt to life in Taiwan, an official said Tuesday.

The two-hour course is the first of its kind in the southern county, according to the official.

In light of the fact that scores of foreign wives do not know their rights and legal obligations, as specified in the residence law enacted by the Ministry of the Interior, the service center under the National Immigration Agency has decided to offer the orientation program so that these women can have a better understanding of the terms of the residence law, the official said.

The course also offers social welfare information and tips on how to lead a better life in Taiwan, the official stated.

Similar programs will be offered in the county three times a month, according to a service center plan.

Currently, there are more than 6,000 foreign spouses in Kaohsiung County, with Vietnamese women accounting for the highest percentage. Foreign spouses from Indonesia, Cambodia, Thailand and the Philippines are also among that number, according the official.

Bar Refaeli Wants to End Human Trafficking

Wed, 09 April 2008

Supermodel Bar Rafaeli, aka Leo DiCapro’s girlfriend, joins Somaly Mam and model Petra Nemcova at the Somaly Mam Benefit at NYC’s Tribeca Rooftop Grill on Tuesday.

At the event, The Somaly Mam Foundation featured the premiere of the movie Holly. The film tells the story about a young girl caught in the web of the sex slave trade in Cambodia and the man who tries to save her. Holly was shot on location in Cambodia, including many scenes in actual brothels in the notorious red light district of Phnom Penh.

Proceeds from the evening benefited the Somaly Mam Foundation, which aims to raising global awareness about sex slave trade.

UN distance-learning programme helps statisticians get better numbers

UN News Centre
9 April 2008 – Statisticians from India and Cambodia today completed the first video conferencing course provided by a new United Nations programme that aims to boost the quality of information received from Governments of developing countries.

“It has been found that there is a substantial need to improve the ability of government statisticians in data analysis and manipulation by taking advantage of statistical software,” said Chultemjamts Davaasuren, Director of the UN Statistical Institute for Asia and the Pacific (SIAP).

“This training course addresses that need and we hope it will serve as a model for other courses throughout the region,” he added, noting that the programme has already trained about 11,000 people from more than 120 countries and territories through more conventional methods.

In the trial distance-learning course, 30 statisticians from India and Cambodia completed a nine-day training course taught by lecturers based in Japan, in collaboration with the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), Cambodia’s National Institute of Statistics and India’s Central Statistical Organisation.

The students attended their classes in videoconferencing facilities located in local JICA offices, using an integrated statistical software package known as STATA.

SIAP, a subsidiary body of the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), was created to strengthen the capability of the developing countries to collect, analyze and disseminate timely and high-quality statistics by providing fellowships, training courses and workshops, and course design and materials.

The Institute is planning to hold two similar training programmes later this year.

12 countries join US military-led peacekeeping drills in Bangladesh

The Hindu
Monday, April 7, 2008

RAJENDRAPUR CANTONMENT (AP): Multinational peacekeeping exercises kicked off in Bangladesh with troops from 12 countries participating in the U.S.-led drills, officials said.

Some 400 soldiers from nations such as India, Indonesia, South Korea, and Sri Lanka were taking part in the three-week exercises dubbed ``Ambassador of Peace.''

American Lt. Col. Edward Tanguy, commander of the 249th Regional Training Institute in the United States, said Sunday the drills will involve checkpoint and convoy operations, patrols, and search-and-disarmament skills.

``This exercise provides us the opportunity to exchange tactics, techniques and procedures at the tactical level with all the multinational forces,'' Tanguy told The Associated Press at the training site at Rajendrapur Cantonment near the capital Dhaka.

``Our goal is to enhance the readiness and interoperability of the Bangladesh Armed Forces, the U.S. Army and other multination participant forces,'' he said.

Many of the nations' soldiers participating have worked in relief operations after natural disasters struck their countries, and these experiences were valuable for U.N. peacekeepers, Tanguy said.

Bangladeshi soldiers were called in after a devastating cyclone last year killed about 3,400 people. Indonesian, Indian, and Sri Lankan troops helped out after the devastating 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami left more than 200,000 people dead.

S.M. Ziaur Rahman, Bangladesh's Air Force chief, said such exercises would create more confidence among soldiers contributing to U.N. peacekeeping missions.

Bangladesh is the second largest contributor of troops for U.N. operations with 9,856 soldiers.
Pakistan tops the list with 10,610 peacekeepers and India is third with 9,357.

Troops from the U.S., Bangladesh, Malaysia, Nepal, Brunei, Cambodia, Mongolia, and Tonga will also participate in the ``Ambassador of Peace'' maneuvers.

Cambodia's 'happy pizza' banned


Bronwyn Sloan

Phnom Penh - Changing times and politics in South-East Asia may finally spell extinction for one of the most famous (or infamous) fusion cuisines enjoyed by backpackers, Cambodia's "happy pizza".

Legendary amongst travellers for more than a decade, this hippy's little helper version of pizza is simply the traditional Italian favourite with a Cambodian twist - the rich tomato base comes heavily laced with marijuana.

Although officially illegal for several years, locals have traditionally used marijuana in soups or medicinally. Pioneering travellers crossing the Lao-Cambodian border previously even reported a small garden of the stuff being lovingly tended by customs officials.

And then foreign inspiration transformed the drug into arguably the world's most talked-about pizza topping. Dozens of happy pizza parlours sprang up around the country as backpack tourism boomed.

Battle against drugs

But now the Cambodian government's current battle against drugs has given "pizza wars" a whole new meaning.

This week marijuana was claimed as Cambodia's first "total victory" in eliminating a drug from both domestic and export markets by Interior Ministry anti-drug chief, Police General Lou Ramin.

"Marijuana is no longer a problem in Cambodia," he declared. "We are strengthening our monitoring throughout the country and its borders."

Massive plantations which once required helicopter airlifts to clear them have been wiped out, he said, leaving the government free to concentrate on the increasingly prevalent evils of heroin, cocaine and synthetic drugs such as methamphetamines.

Backpacker rite of passage

Somehow, however, the iconic happy pizza survived, until now.

The spiked pizza's status as a backpacker's rite of passage has earned it mentions even on reputable travel websites such as Lonely Planet. YouTube features videos of it being made, eaten, sold - and its extremely potent side effects.

"This is my journey into Happy Pizzaland Phnom Penh. The obvious happened - paranoia, and missing two paid-for flights back to Bangkok. FOOL!!!" one YouTube poster writes of his video clip.

A former Foreigner Police officer says that tourists ingesting marijuana in pizza form often got dangerously out of hand in culturally conservative Cambodia.

"Many times I saw people take their clothes off after eating this - especially women. Some people laugh, but some cry, and some just jump in the lake," he said.

Expatriates familiar with the potent pizza grin when they tell the story of one of the capital's most famous happy pizza chefs admitting himself to hospital and spending the night on a drip after sampling a slice of his own cuisine for the first - and last - time.

For most adventurous tourists, however, "happy pizza" provided no more than a great travel yarn, insists one of the country's dwindling chefs of Cambodia's quasi-clandestine classic, speaking on condition of anonymity. - Sapa-dpa