Friday, 9 May 2008

Sam Rainsy's Boarding signs were a target of graffiti

May 8, 2008 : Sam Rainsy's Boarding signs were a target of graffiti in Boeung Salang commune, Toul Kok districtPhnom Penh

Khmer kickboxer's attackers plead

Kickboxing instructor Oumry Ban is pictured at left in black shirt. He was the trainer for Ramya Hang, right front; Morong May, left back; and Pros You, right back. (File Photo)

By Greg Mellen, Staff Writer

LONG BEACH - Three Cambodian residents of Long Beach pleaded no contest this week in the 2006 beating of a popular local kickboxing instructor.

Than Kim and Chan Um had been charged with felony assault with intent to cause great bodily injury for a Nov. 6 beating outside the Bamboo Island Restaurant on Anaheim Street that hospitalized Oumry Ban with a fractured jaw and multiple lacerations and contusions.

Rantha Sok was charged with assault without the bodily injury allegation.

Ban, a survivor of the Cambodian genocide and former kickboxing champion in his homeland, has operated a Khmer kickboxing studio on Anaheim Street near Pacific Avenue for more than 20 years and is a respected elder in the Long Beach Cambodian community.

Kim, who initially was to be tried on a third-strike offense, faced a sentence of 25-years to life. However, Judge James Pierce granted a Romero Motion by the defense, which allowed one of Kim's previous strikes to be dropped.

All three defendants pleaded no contest. Kim, 34, was sentenced to 13 years in state prison. He will be required to serve at least 85 percent of the sentence, or 11 years.

The office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement also has a hold on Kim, meaning he could face deportation to Cambodia once his prison term is completed.

Um was sentenced to five years and Sok was given two years in state prison.

The pleas were accepted over prosecution objections.

Deputy District Attorney Julian Rencana said he was ready to go to trial on all three and proceed with the third-strike case against Kim.

The case was filed in November 2006 and has faced numerous delays, the addition of Sok as a defendant and a replacement of attorneys by Kim before the sentences were announced on Tuesday.

According to pretrial testimony, Ban and a friend, Nan Meas, were having dinner at Bamboo Island when the melee occurred.

Ban says the altercation began when Kim approached and punched him in the face without provocation and Sok threw an object at him.

Gary Ung, then-owner of the restaurant, testified Ban said, "I have no idea why you hitting me."

Ban testified he only barely knew Kim and when he asked why he had been struck, Kim replied "go ask your bitchy wife."

Ban insists he doesn't know what that meant and is unaware of any relationship between his wife and the assailants.

According to Ban's testimony, Ung urged the group to take its dispute outside. Ban says when he went outside he was struck behind by a heavy object, possibly a tire iron. He remembers seeing a shoe coming toward his face and blacked out.

Ban was hospitalized for several days before returning to the gym where he still works.
Asked about the verdicts, Ban said "I agree with the court."

Changing Lives One Toilet at a Time

Friday 09th of May 2008
Chris Woodard

ROCHESTER, MN -- Before she was even old enough to drive one local teenager began changing lives half a world away with something as simple as a toilet.

Friday she'll be recognized by the Governor of Minnesota, but those who really appreciate Naomi Wente's dedication are those whose lives she's improving forever.

They are the faces, the stories and the struggles that push Naomi Wente to dedicate her life to something many twice her age have never considered.

Wente says, "Like the smallest thing really can make a difference.Like seeing what can happen if you just try."

This 17 year old high school junior has been doing nothing but try since a trip to Cambodia at the tender age of 14.

Wente says, "It's both ways. They help me and I help them."

While visiting the country with a group of college students led by her parents, Wente was shocked to learn that most schools don't have toilets.

It forces children to use open fields as bathrooms, something so dangerous and embarrassing many Cambodian girls drop out of school as soon as they hit puberty.

It's something Wente immediately decided she wanted to change.Wente says, "When I first started no one really thought it was going to be possible to go and do this."

3 years and more than 4-thousand dollars later, this teenager is changing the lives of children all over these villages with her One Toilet at a Time program. She's responsible for getting 4 toilets and 4 wells to 5 different communities.

Former RCTC Employee Kim Sin says, "It means a lot.

"Cambodian native Kim Sin has been there every step of the way.Sin says, "It's a lot of work. I really admire her for her hard work and getting up and running."

A program that will continue running, helping hundreds with every trip.

Wente says, "The smiles of the children and the young women and the adults, to the kind of looks on their faces and the handshakes and occasional hug, you don't need words for the smiles and the gestures.

"It's appreciation from kids just like her, for helping one toilet at a time.Naomi, her parents and Kim plan to take another group of students to Cambodia over RCTC's winter break.

If you would like to donate money towards a toilet or a well you can go to our links section to get to Naomi's One Toilet at a Time page.

The Mekong Times : In Khmer and English Language

The Mekong Times #64.pdf
To read please click on Download

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•Cambodia seeks US$500 million for Vietnam rail link•Britain welcomes arrest of ex-KR man accused of mine-clearer’s...

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World Food Program (WFP) warehouse in Phnom Penh

The flag of World Food Program (WFP) is seen at the Asia Emergency Response Facility of its warehouse in Phnom Penh May 9, 2008. The Asia Emergency Response Facility of WFP Cambodia offers mobile houses, engine power and other various emergency equipment totalling $741,905 to WFP in Yangon, Myanmar.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA)

Workers load building materials for mobile houses at the Asia Emergency Response Facility of World Food Program (WFP) warehouse in Phnom Penh May 9, 2008. The Asia Emergency Response Facility of WFP Cambodia offers mobile houses, engine power and other various emergency equipment totalling $741,905 to WFP in Yangon, Myanmar.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA)

Workers load building materials for mobile houses at the Asia Emergency Response Facility of World Food Programme (WFP) warehouse in Phnom Penh May 9, 2008. The Asia Emergency Response Facility of WFP Cambodia offers mobile houses, engine power and other various emergency equipment totalling $741,905 to WFP in Yangon, Myanmar.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA)

Workers load building materials for mobile houses at the Asia Emergency Response Facility of World Food Program (WFP) warehouse in Phnom Penh May 9, 2008. The Asia Emergency Response Facility of WFP Cambodia offers mobile houses, engine power and other various emergency equipment totalling $741,905 to WFP in Yangon, Myanmar.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA)

Cambodia needs over 2.5 bln USD for national road construction

Friday, May 09, 2008

PHNOM PENH, May 9, 2008 (Xinhua via COMTEX News Network) -- Cambodia needs at least 2.5 billion U.S. dollars to implement the master plan of national road construction in 2006-2020, Minister of Public Works and Transportation Sun Chan Thol said on Friday.

The budget for national road construction will be increased if the oil price increases, Sun Chan Thol said.

"When we receive the benefit from oil and gas resources, the government will use the money to build national roads across the kingdom," he told Xinhua.

"We already have a master plan of national road construction across the country but we are waiting for the money," he said.

From 2003 to 2008, Cambodia has been building 1,700 km of national roads in all, with some road construction sites just opened and some under construction, he said.

The government is trying to link the national roads with those in neighboring countries, especially Great Mekong Subregion (GMS) countries, in order to improve the transpiration for economic development, he said.


Cambodia's Garment Industry Has Evolved to Become the Country's Most Important Manufacturing Sector

Friday, May. 09, 2008
DUBLIN, Ireland — Research and Markets ( has announced the addition of Prospects for the Textile and Garment Industry in Cambodia to their offering.

Cambodia's garment industry has evolved from nowhere in the mid- 1990s to become the country's most important manufacturing sector. This meteoric rise has been aided by more settled political and social conditions following the horrors of the Khmer Rouge regime and by the adoption of an open market economy.

In particular, the government has provided strong encouragement for foreign investors through a series of generous incentives, while exports have benefited from preferential access to the all-important markets of the USA and the EU.

As a result, garment manufacturing now accounts for around 14% of the country's GDP and for 82% of exports, as well as employing 45% of its manufacturing workforce.

This momentum appears set to continue, although there are a number of serious impediments to overcome. The sector is uncomfortably dependent on imported raw materials for its production.

Also, the country's infrastructure requires huge investment in power generation and transport.

There is a need also for the sector to utilise more high-tech manufacturing equipment rather than depending on low cost labour as a means of retaining international competitiveness. The industry would benefit too if more value adding processes such as design and marketing came under domestic control.

On balance, though, the dynamism and vibrancy which have characterised the garment industry's recent development look set to continue.

Hun Sen Has Sold 45% of Khmer Islands, Sea, and Land

HUN SEN and BUN RANY, The King and Queen of the most corruption on earth

Posted on 9 May 2008.
The Mirror, Vol. 12, No. 559

The Guardian : Country for sale

“In its publication on 26 April 2008, The Guardian, in the article, ‘Cambodia, a Country for Sale,’ says that Hun Sen and the Cambodian People’s Party [CPP] government have sold approximately 45% of land in Cambodia; and, calls this sales ‘The Sale of the Millennium.’

“Two journalists of The Guardian – Adrian Levy and Cathy Scott-Clark – reported about the sale of Cambodian land by Hun Sen and the CPP government. The names of millionaires and local officials of the CPP, who are Mr. Hun Sen’s friends, or people close to him, and international millionaire investors are also mentioned in detail, related to the buying and selling of land in Cambodia, including the sale of islands and the sea.

“People who were the owners of the land and the houses have been evicted from their land, and the armed forces of the government, whose obligation it is to serve the nation and the people, are used by opportunistic businesspeople as tools of suppression, acting in a way which the newspaper describes, according to the words of a human rights activist, as cruel methods of the past. A human rights activist, the director of the Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights, Ms. Naly Pilorge commented to the newspaper, describing the situation, ‘Extreme violence, greed and disregard for the most basic human rights .’

“Ms. Naly Pilorge said, ‘The methods of the past are being used to dictate our future .’

“In 2006, a French national, Arnaud Darc, heard about plans of the Hun Sen and CPP government [to extend the airport runway in Sihanoukville], and brought a French millionaire, Jean-Louis Charon, a very rich person from Paris, to buy two big plots of coastal land of more than 220 hectares.

“A spokesperson of the Sihanoukville governor Say Hak’s cabinet told the newspaper that the price of this land, which the City Star Company had bought, had increased four times, when the Cambodian government confirmed the rumor about the extension of he Sihanoukville airport.

“Real estate agents from Europe came to buy land at the seaside, islands, and the sea, preparing to sell it after making a big profit after seven or ten years.

“The company of the French national Arnaud Darc continued to buy 333 hectares of land - the Koh Russey and Koh Ta Kiev islands off the Ream beach. A real estate company from Hong Kong, Lime Tree Capital, bought coastal land near the Ream beach, and plans to keep it unused for many years, to sell it with profit when the prices of land go up.

“An Australian couple, the businesspeople Rory and Mel Hunter, had signed a contract to buy Koh Bong and Koh Ouen islands with a dream to develop these two islands. But the British national Marty Kaye, who operates the Millennium Property Fund, snapped it away from them as he wanted to buy the land next to the island of Koh Rong, which is near to those two islands.

“Marty Kaye said that Cambodia is very favorable place for doing business ‘Nowhere else in the world could you create your own kingdom from scratch - here it is quite different from the island of Ko Samui in Thailand.

“This foreign businessman said that when Hun Sen and the CPP government signed the contract, the Cambodian government did not mention anything about how many Khmer people were living there, where they will have to live, and what kind of compensation would have to be paid to the people.

“Marty Kaye has close relations with Oknha Kit Meng, a big businessman in Cambodia, also with interests in real estate, and a very close friend of Hun Sen.

“Another French real estate businessman, Alain Dupuis, bought Koh Sramaoch this spring. A Chinese businessman bought Koh Tonsay, located opposite Kep.

“Fearing that foreign businesspeople will buy all land, the governor of Sihanoukville, Say Hak, also bought a small island and built a luxury villa on it.

“Moreover, not to be left behind Say Hak, the Sihanoukville deputy governor Sbaung Sarath, also a person of Hun Sen’s CPP, bought half of the public Independence Beach in Sihanoukville in February 2008, evicting hundreds of families who were the owners of the land and the houses.

“A few days later, Sbanung Sarath bought also a part of the Ou Tres beach. Another part of the Ou Tresb Beach of 56 hectares is owned by [the casino company] Queenco, registered in London.

“The Ukrainian businessman Nickolai Doroshenko, who is also close to Hun Sen and the CPP government, bought the Victory beach in Sihanoukville.

“Oknha Sok Kong, who always shares benefits with the CPP leaders, bought Ou Chheu Teal beach at the end of January, which used to be the biggest and the most popular public recreation site in the area.

“The director of Global Witness, Mr. Simon Taylor, who had collected information and published it in a book accusing Hun Sen’s CPP of destroying the forests of Cambodia, was quoted by The Guardian.

“He compared Cambodia today, under Hun Sen and CPP, to a ’shadow state, a government that misappropriates public assets, extorts from businesses and manages an extensive illicit economy. It is administered by senior ministers who are fluent in the jargon of good governance and sustainable development.’”

Samleng Yuvachun Khmer, Vol.15, #3304, 8.5.2008

Toronto experts aid in global pedophile manhunt

Wayne Nelson Corliss is arrested by agents from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Union City, N.J. early Thursday. Handout/Reuters

Becky Rynor and Amy Husser
Canwest News Service

Image specialists with the sex crimes and child exploitation unit of the Toronto police force helped Interpol in its worldwide hunt for the alleged pedophile eventually picked up in New Jersey Thursday.

"Originally there was a group of photos that Norway provided, then additional photographs have been identified as matching to this offender," said Det. Sgt. Kim Scanlan, head of the unit. "We assisted in linking photos to the offender."

Wayne Nelson Corliss, 59, of Union City, N.J., was arrested early Thursday, just 48 hours after Interpol appealed to the international community for help in a case dubbed "Operation Ident."

Corliss is suspected of sexually abusing young boys from Southeast Asia, all believed to be between six and 10 years of age.

Interpol said the unusual global appeal drew almost 250,000 visits to its website, more than 10 times the usual daily average. The tips that led to Corliss's arrest came from three individuals living in the United States.

In building a case against Corliss, however, police and prosecutors need airtight evidence, and that's where expertise such as Toronto's comes into play.

According to Scanlan, the specialized Toronto police unit provided Interpol with the services of an image analysis specialist.

"He would have examined photographic evidence - sometimes it's videos - for clues that will help determine either the offender or the location of the offence," Scanlan said, carefully sticking to generalities so as not to jeopardize the Corliss investigation.

"Sometimes it's the children" in the photo that can point to an offender, she explained.

"Sometimes it's a voice you may hear. Maybe it's an accent or a dialect or something in a picture; a certain product or an item. It will belong to an area or a country that helps you determine where the offences are taking place."

"Any photograph can provide so many clues."

Scanlan said there is an online network of image analyst specialists from around the world who work for law enforcement agencies.

"They work together to help further investigations by extracting information - anything - from crime scene photos. When one country isn't successful, they bring other countries on board. That's how Toronto came on board."

"The bottom line is we all want to identify and rescue kids," she said. "That's the No. 1 goal, so working together only makes sense."

The search for Corliss began in 2006 when Norwegian police seized about 100 photos that allegedly depicted him engaging in sex acts with young boys. The images were part of a larger series of 800 photos that were connected to Corliss because they included similar locations and victims.

On Tuesday, Interpol posted online six photos depicting a white-haired man in his 40s or 50s.

The move followed two years of fruitless investigation that brought the international law enforcement organization no closer to identifying the man's identity, location or nationality.

This is only the second time Interpol has issued a call for public assistance to track down a suspected pedophile. Canadian Christopher Neil, 32, was arrested last October in Thailand after police reversed a swirled Internet photo of a man's face. The photos depicted a man allegedly sexually abusing boys from Cambodia and Vietnam.

The Maple Ridge, B.C., man has pleaded not guilty to four charges of molesting and distributing pornographic images of two Thai boys. His next court appearance is scheduled for June. 2.
Unlike the previous case, the photos that led to Corliss's arrest were not altered to hide the suspect's face.

Asian arts festival starts

By Barbara Grady
Oakland Tribune

Filmmaker Socheata Poeuv was born in a refugee camp in Thailand for Cambodians escaping the Khmer Rouge regime and its genocide. But she never knew that — until she was an adult. Nor did she know that her sisters were actually cousins of her parents saved as they made their escape from the dictatorship.

Poeuv's film "New Year Baby," about her journey to Cambodia in search of her family's history, is one event in a rich display of Asian cultural heritage that will be offered at Oakland's Asian Pacific American Heritage Festival starting this Saturday, May 10.

Saturday's kick-off events include Asian Arts Together, an arts-and-crafts workshop for families to make such traditional crafts as Japanese paper dolls, Cambodian theater masks, Korean kites, Lunar New Year Rats, and Vietnamese dragon mobiles.

It begins at 1:30 p.m. at the Oakland Asian Cultural Center at 388 9th St., Oakland.

Earlier that day at the Cultural Center, the festival's National Dishes Workshops get under way with a 10:30 a.m. workshop on how to make Korean Kimchee. Three other workshops will follow in May and early June.

The film "New Year Baby" will be shown Tuesday at 6 p.m.

And on May 31 at 8 p.m., the "Asian Rhythms, Asian Beats" will perform the Stick Dance and other traditional Asian dances followed by "Word and Violin" musicians and the "Karmacy" dancers at an evening of performances at the Asian Cultural Center.

Okinawa sailors, Marines provide medical treatment to thousands of Cambodians

A makeshift pharmacy set up by U.S. personnel in Thmar Pouk, Cambodia supported the treatment of thousands of Cambodians over the nine-day medical and dental civil action program. (Photo by Lance Cpl. Corey Blodgett).

Seaman Michael R. Thompson, a hospital corpsman with 3rd Medical Battalion, takes the pulse of a Cambodian baby April 26 in Thmar Pouk, Cambodia during the Cambodia Interoperability Program 2008. (Photo by Lance Cpl. Corey Blodgett).

Navy Lt. Robert Goad, officer in charge of Cambodia Interoperability Program 2008, works with Cambodian personnel to organize the processing of Cambodians seeking medical attention at the provisional medical clinic in Thmar Pouk April 26. (Photo by Lance Cpl. Corey Blodgett).

Petty Officer 3rd Class Anthony J. Barlow, a hospital corpsman with 3rd Medical Battalion, Combat Logistics Regiment 35, 3rd Marine Logistics Group, takes vital signs of a monk at a provisional medical clinic in Thmar Pouk, Cambodia, during the Cambodia Interoperability Program 2008. Sailors and Marines from the battalion conducted a nine-day medical and dental civil action program April 26 to May 5. (Photo by Lance Cpl. Corey Blodgett).

US Marines in Japan
Building Trust
Okinawa sailors, Marines provide medical treatment to thousands of Cambodians
Lance Cpl. Corey A. Blodgett

THMAR POUK, Cambodia (May 9, 2008) -- A team of 24 Navy medical personnel and Marines attached to 3rd Medical Battalion, Combat Logistics Regiment 35, 3rd Marine Logistics Group, set up a medical and dental civil action program in Thmar Pouk, Cambodia near the Thai border April 26.

The team worked with two civilian doctors, a Cambodian eye surgeon and a U.S. Public Health Service dentist. RCAF doctors also worked alongside the Americans while RCAF medical assistants helped with patient flow.

The team concluded its operation May 5 after treating 8,348 total patients. The team provided medical care to 6,479, dental care to 844 and optometry services to 924 Cambodians. The eye surgeon also performed 101 surgeries.

Cambodians suffered terribly in the 1970s under the communist rule of the Khmer Rouge government, which seized power in 1975 with the promise of helping the people. The party instead devastated the cultural, economic and social life of the country by relocating mass populations to rural labor camps and performing mass executions of ethnic minorities and educated citizens not loyal to the ruling party.

The regime was removed from power in 1979, but not before it left an estimated 1.5 million people dead.

The Khmer Rouge's devastating impact still reverberates in the country today, according to Navy Lt. Robert Goad, officer in charge of the Cambodia Interoperability Program 2008, a U.S.-led humanitarian assistance effort that seeks to build upon the U.S. military's relationship with the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces and reach out to the Cambodian people.

"A lot of the doctors, educators and professional classes were tortured and killed off, so the country was very much stunted," Goad said. "They're still rebuilding, but they don't have that older generation of professional class that would have developed good doctors and the like."

Goad said working closely with the Cambodians gave the Americans a unique chance to learn from each other.

"The RCAF were very easy to work with and very receptive," he said. "We had our two Navy doctors partnered up with them and the two (civilian doctors), so there was an opportunity to share knowledge and discuss different patient care options."

Capt. Charles Craft, a dental officer with the U.S. Public Health Service who has lived and worked in Cambodia for the last eight years, said that the heavy flow of people coming in for medical treatment is a good sign.

"The high number of patients shows they're happy with the services we've provided," he said. "This was a very successful mission with very high numbers and great engagement with the locals."

Virachai transfer peculiar

The Bangkok Post
Friday May 09, 2008

The recent removal of a senior officer from the Foreign Ministry might not be so glaring if the person removed was not widely-respected Virachai Plasai, chief of the Treaties and Legal Affairs Department and a chief negotiator in the dispute involving Preah Vihear temple, which Cambodia wants to register as a World Heritage site. Foreign Minister Noppadon Pattama said the ministry was handling many issues, and he wanted to put the right the man in the right job to ensure good ''coordination with the minister''.

That explanation has raised questions because Mr Virachai is highly respected in the ministry for his academic background and French language proficiency. In the government's talks with Cambodia over the temple, those skills have proven essential, as most of the documents are in French.

He also earned his degrees, from bachelor's to a doctorate in law from France.

Ministry officials were shocked to learn about the transfer. Many said they were baffled by the minister's remark that he wanted to put the right man in the right job, because they already had him _ Mr Virachai.

''Although Mr Virachai is strict with staff in preparing documents for any negotiations, he has taught his staff a good deal,'' said one official who asked not to be named.

In an unprecedented personal letter, permanent secretary Virasakdi Futrakul wrote to staff at the Treaties and Legal Affairs Department on Wednesday, one day after Mr Virachai's lightning transfer.

The letter was copied and distributed around the ministry.

The permanent secretary said he was proud to have worked with Mr Virachai, especially in the negotiations over borderlines with Laos and Cambodia.

Mr Virachai had performed well in the talks.

The Thai delegation comprising staff from the ministry and other agencies were proud that Thailand had such a good ambassador, who worked hard to protect Thai sovereignty and the national interest.

''I believe in his discretion and integrity. I'm confident that Mr Virachai will also succeed in his new job [as a legal adviser to the permanent secretary and over the ministry's human resources],'' said Mr Virasakdi.

With all that praise, the formal reason for transferring Mr Virachai to become ambassador attached to the ministry looks odd.

Ministry sources say Mr Virachai's lightning transfer was probably due to his refusal to share a classified document from the CTX bomb-detector case with certain politicians, who wanted to see the document to help former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra in the alleged corruption scandal.

A source from the army believed the transfer was related instead to Mr Virachai's resistance to political pressure applied in the Preah Vihear negotiations.

According to the source, Mr Virachai was pressured to compromise Thailand's interests in the Preah Vihear temple dispute in exchange for a deal where Thailand would take a larger area in the Thai-Cambodian Joint Development Area _ a deal which would benefit certain politicians.
But he refused to yield.

If these rumours are true, these politicians have betrayed the people, the nation, and gone against the oath they took in front of the King. The explanation for Mr Virachai's sudden transfer looks highly suspect _ so what is going on?

Cambodian government pins hope on rice as price doublesThursday, May 08, 2008

Thursday, May 08, 2008

PHNOM PENH, May 9, 2008 (Xinhua via COMTEX) -- -- The Cambodian government needs to further support farmers to grow more rice, as its price has doubled recently and the country may find it another pivotal revenue generator, national media said on Friday.

"We should support farmers to grow more rice by improving rural infrastructure, especially irrigation, expanding rural credit and finding better access to world market", English-language newspaper the Cambodian Daily quoted Commerce Minister Cham Prasidh as saying.

"For Cambodia now, we see rice as gold," he said, adding that this is making the government rethink its strategy for economic growth.

Rather than focus on building niche markets, such as labor- friendly garment manufacturing, and negotiating favorable trade deals with the developed world, rising food prices mean Cambodia has a chance to transform itself into a profitable rice bowl for the world, he said.

"Since we start to see the effect and implications of the food crisis in the world, we may now to reconsider what we should do," he said.

There are a lot of people that need food, he said, adding that it is a safe bet that the bottom won't fall out of the rice market anytime soon .

Price of high-quality rice has doubled recently in world market, as high as 1,000 U.S. dollars a ton.

Cambodia has been seeking to organize a rice exporting countries' alliance to exert more influence in world market, just as OPEC, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, manipulates the global oil price.

The rice exports of Cambodia, Vietnam and Thailand are believed to account for over 50 percent of the world's total annual rice exports.

SCG eyes concessions in Laos, Cambodia

The Bangkok Post
Friday May 09, 2008

Siam Cement Group (SCG), the country's largest industrial conglomerate, will seek concessions for eucalyptus forestation in Laos and Cambodia to secure raw material supplies for its paper business. Poramate Larnroogroj, managing director of Siam Forestry Co, an affiliate of SCG Paper, said the company had started growing eucalyptus in pilot areas in the two countries.

Siam Forestry decided to look abroad after developing about one million rai of eucalyptus in Thailand, mainly in Kamphaeng Phet, Kanchanaburi and Khon Kaen.

''We have started discussing the possibility of getting the concessions there. It would take two to three years to implement the project,'' he said.

New eucalyptus plantations should be in areas where the wood can be conveniently shipped to SCG Paper's pulp factories in Thailand's northern and northeastern regions, said Mr Poramate.

''We are looking to secure raw-material supplies in the long term after there is no more area for eucalyptus in Thailand,'' he said. ''It is critical to make sure we have enough material for paper production in the future.''

Material security is a major concern as prices of pulp and other raw materials for paper production have surged.

Currently, short-fibre pulp is traded at $725 per tonne, up $40 from the same period last year, while long-fibre pulp prices have risen 15% to $760, pushed by strong demand and tight supply.

Siam Forestry's short-fibre eucalyptus serves SCG Paper's plants while long-fibre pulp is imported from Europe and the United States. SCG Paper has to import scrap paper from the US, Japan, and Singapore because of inadequate supply locally. Imported scrap prices have risen to $250 per tonne from $140 a year ago, while domestic prices are up from four baht a kilogramme to six baht.

SCG Paper, one of the four flagships of Siam Cement, generated total sales of 12.25 billion baht in the first quarter of this year, up 12% year-on-year, thanks to higher product prices. However, net profit fell 20% to 740 million baht due to surging fuel and raw-material costs.

Cambodian PM: rice cartel will be discussed in October

PHNOM PENH, May 8 (Xinhua) -- The plan of creating an Organization of Rice Exporting Countries (OREC) will be discussed at the minister level meeting or top leader's meeting in October 2008 in Hanoi of Vietnam, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said here on Thursday.

"We still have time to make the rice cartel," he told reporters after leaving annual meeting for Ministry of Public Works and Transportation.

"The plan of creating OREC connects from one phase to one phase," he said.

The rice cartel will benefit people in the region and world, headed.

In October, Vietnam will host the meeting of the Ayeyawady-ChaoPhraya-Mekong Economic Cooperation Strategy (ACMECS), which is a cooperation framework among Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam.

Editor: Yan Liang

National Assembly Passes Power Measure

By Chun Sakada, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
08 May 2008

Khmer audio aired May 08 (1.06MB) - Download (MP3)
Khmer audio aired May 08 (1.06MB) - Listen (MP3)

The National Assembly on Thursday approved a measure to guarantee compensation to Power Synergy Corporation for the operation of a power plant.

Power Synergy, a joint Cambodia-Malaysia venture, plans to invest $400 million to establish a coal plant in Sihanoukville, which some officials say will help power Cambodia and reduce electricity costs.

The new measure protects compensation for the plant in the event of political upheaval.

Cambodian People’s Party lawmaker Chiem Yeap said the plant will produce electricity for Cambodians and tax revenue for the government.

But opposition Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker Yim Sovan said the agreement was unlikely to reduce the present price of electricity.

Kong Vibol, secretary of state for the Ministry of Economy and Finance, told the National Assembly the agreement met international standards.

From Afar, Rights Experts Frets for Election, Courts

By Heng Reaksmey, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
08 May 2008

Khmer audio aired May 08 (2.15MB) - Download (MP3)
Khmer audio aired May 08 (2.15MB) - Listen (MP3)

Lao Mong Hay is a senior researcher at the Asian Human Rights Commission in Hong Kong. He is a close observer of Cambodian politics and policy. He spoke to VOA Khmer in a face-to-face interview in Hong Kong in April. The following are excerpts from the interview.

Q. What is your view on Cambodia’s July election?

A. I am observing from overseas that both the Cambodian people and some political parties are working closely together, but I slightly regret that until now there are not yet electoral campaigns. Some major political parties seem to have already started campaigning. Non-ruling party activists have received threats or intimidation, or have even been killed. These cases affect a smooth, free and fair election in Cambodia.

Q. What is your opinion on whether Cambodia’s election will be free, fair and acceptable?

A. First, we should avoid violence and ensure activists and political parties have freedom for their actions on campaigning, but we should reduce conflict against each other during the campaign and avoid some problems, those that are no involved with political party issues, such as morality and gambling. I think that these issues affect Prime Minister Hun Sen, but if we want to solve moral issues, such as gambling, we should wait until the end of the elections, and we can discuss together to find solutions without involving politics.

Second, involving the land issue, I really admire Prime Minister Hun Sen, now that he has a new idea to resolve the land issues from powerful persons. This is good, but should be followed up every day, not just in the time of the election run-up, resolving a few cases. When the election ends, the cases end too. It is not good, because land-grabbing happens every day.

Q. The Sam Rainsy and Norodom Ranariddh parties have both experienced problems in the courts. Foreign Minister Hor Namhong has sued Sam Rainsy for defamation and disinformation, and Prince Norodom Ranariddh has been sentenced in absentia to 18 months in prison over embezzlement. How do these cases affect the election?

A. What I think is that I’m not concerned with the law suits [of individuals] against each other. But what I’m concerned with is the Cambodian courts, whether they are independent or not. This is a big problem. I heard that some people are concerned about law suits and their effect on the election. But if the courts were independent, not under money or influence of the government, we should resolve these cases. My understanding is that the courts are not yet independent. For example: the case between Sam Rainsy and Hor Namhong. Many prosecutors and judges are [Cambodian People’s Party], so that is why the courts are biased.

Q. How will a biased court affect the two opposition leaders?

A. It depends on whether we keep such cases from affecting independence or not. The court has many means, such as the Appeals Court, Municipal Court and Supreme Court. Ranariddh has fled the country and is now living in exile in Malaysia. In March 2007, the Court of First Instance, in Phnom Penh, tried him in absentia, and, as was widely expected, he was sentenced to 18 months in prison and ordered to pay damages to Funcinpec. He appealed this court ruling, but in October the Court of Appeals ruled against his appeal. He then appealed the ruling to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court has now started its proceedings, and it is expected that this appeal will be heard sometime in July, around the time of the election. Ranariddh cannot return to Cambodia to directly lead his party and its electoral campaign lest he be arrested and put in jail.

And concerning Sam Rainsy’s case, why did the court promptly [address it]. What about the many cases the court ignores?

So that is why Cambodia’s courts are not independent and are biased.

Ieng Sary Detention Hearing Set for June

By Mean Veasna, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
08 May 2008

Jailed former Khmer Rouge leader Ieng Sary will have a June 30 hearing to determine the status of his detention, tribunal officials said Thursday.

Plagued by a number of health problems, Ieng Sary has sought in-house arrest, and his lawyers are asking that his hearing be limited in time.

The June 30 hearing will determine whether Ieng Sary is detained ahead of his trial for war crimes and crimes against humanity. It will also address the question of whether a 1996 amnesty is valid, tribunal spokesman Reach Sambath said.

“Ieng Sary will be the last charged person in hearings among five suspects,” Reach Sambath.

Ieng Sary is currently under tribunal detention, along with his wife, Ieng Thirith, ideologue Nuon Chea, former nominal head Khieu Samphan, and former prison chief Kaing Khek Iev.

Ieng Sary has been hospitalized multiple times since his November 2007 arrest.

“I will propose to the court a limit to the hearing for a duration of only one hour and a half, cannot sit more than one hour and a half,” said lawyer Ang Udom. “He cannot sit for over one hour and a half.”

Ieng Sary had also lost weight while in detention, Ang Udom said.

Families Seek Hun Sen in Land Grab Arrests

By Chiep Mony, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
08 May 2008

Families involved in a Sihanoukville land dispute that led to the arrests of at least three men have officially filed a complaint with Prime Minister Hun Sen.

The 129 families allege that the armed forces and Ministry of Agriculture’s forestry administration illegally detained the three men May 6, following a land dispute in Mittapheab district.

In the complaint to Hun Sen, the families claim that 20 armed officials from the military, military police and forestry administration used tractors to destroy their crops and homes without warning.

Sihanoukville Governor Say Hak defended the officials, saying residents destroyed the forests and land belonging to the state.

“The officials were just protecting the forests and land and carried out their actions in accordance with the law,” he said.

Any Opposition Must Have Vision: Observers

By Heng Reaksmey, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
08 May 2008

Khmer audio aired May 07 (992KB) - Download

[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 the opposition.]

While the next opposition party may be difficult to predict ahead of July’s elections, political observers and analysts say the next opposition should have clear and specific guidelines to resolve problems for the people and the nation.

The Sam Rainsy Party has followed an opposition mandate since 1998. The party grew from 15 National Assembly seats then to 24 in 2003. Party leader Sam Rainsy has said he expects to take enough seats in this election to be the ruling party, a prediction Cambodian People’s Party officials reject.

Lao Mong Hay, a rights activist and political observer for the Hong Kong-based Asian Human Rights Commission, said Wednesday the next opposition should have influence and ideals, as well as ideas for the country.

The opposition will have to monitor the ruling government’s acts, he said.

“They should be prepared,” he said, “and they should be officially recognized by the National Assembly to be a big opposition party after the ruling party.”

Yong Kim Eng, president of the Center for People’s Development and Peace, agreed.

“The opposition party should think about freedom and the interests of the people, especially the problems that have happened but have been ignored by the ruling party, the opposition should push the government [to solve these],” he said.

The opposition field for this election is open to competing parties such as Funcinpec, Norodom Ranariddh, Human Rights and Sam Rainsy.

Funcinpec Secretary-General Nhiek Bun Chhay told VOA Khmer the role of the opposition should be to fill gaps the ruling government can’t and to offer constructive criticism.

“I wish to see the opposition join together to be strong, and the party will have to fulfill [a role] of government to build up the country,” he said.

Keat Sokhun, deputy director of the Human Rights Party’s steering committee, said the opposition should respect democratic principles and follow up on government actions.

“We do not oppose without giving some advice to the government,” he said.

Former King’s Film Plays to DC Crowd

By Nuch Sarita, VOA Khmer
Original report from Washington
08 May 2008

Khmer audio aired May 07 (1.33MB) - Download (MP3)
Khmer audio aired May 07 (1.33MB) - Listen (MP3)

“My Village at Sunset,” the first film produced by former king Norodom Sihanouk following his return from exile in 1991, was screened Tuesday at a Washington, DC, university.

The film, which stars the current king, Nordom Sihamoni, Sihanouk’s son, was screened at George Washington University and introduced by former ambassador to the UN Sichan Siv.

“‘My Village at Sunset’ is a love story about a well-educated young Khmer doctor who gives up a privileged life in France and returns to Cambodia,” the former ambassador told VOA Khmer.

The young surgeon spends his time working in a hospital, helping landmine victims, and slowly becomes entangled in a love triangle with a distant cousin and a nurse. He is eventually driven to join a mine-disposal team and dies in the countryside.

“The movie is terrific, and the scenery is beautiful,” said Joselynn Barber, a resident of nearby Arlington, Va. “I was fascinated to see the Cambodian sky [and] Angkor Wat, and the story itself was startling.”

Some Cambodian-Americans, unable to return to their home country, expressed admiration and adoration for the simple lives of the Cambodians and the beauty of the distant country.

“The movie revealed an inside perspective of Khmer culture, native music and traditional wedding,” said Narin Jameson, who lives in the state of Maryland.

The Cambodian Buddhist Association of Maryland plans to sponsor a showing of the film in Silver Spring, Md., for public viewing.

Donors grant 11 million USD for Cambodia to counter bird flu

PHNOM PENH, May 8 (Xinhua) -- The Cambodian government has signed an agreement with a group of donors for three grants totaling 11 million U.S. dollars for the kingdom to carry out national plan to contain bird flu, said a press release here on Thursday.

The grants will support the Avian and Human Influenza Control and Preparedness Emergency Project (AHICPEP) of Cambodia, said the release from the World Bank's resident office.

The three-year project will complement Cambodia's Comprehensive Avian and Human Influenza (AHI) National Plan, which aimed at minimizing the threats from avian and human influenza and preparing the country's health systems to deal with any possible outbreak, it said.

The government is now focused on the development of an integrated AHI control and human pandemic preparedness and response plan, and is working closely with the international community to build its capacity for disease surveillance, outbreak investigation, and emergency response, Nhim Vanda, vice president of the National Committee for Disaster Management, was quoted in press release as saying.

The project consists of three components: to strengthen animal health systems; to improve human health systems; and to strengthen the inter-ministerial cooperation for pandemic preparedness, it said.

AHICPEP aims to help the government contain the spread of the H5N1 virus, reduce livelihood losses among commercial and backyard poultry growers, limit damage to the poultry industry, diminish the viral load in the environment, and prevent or limit human morbidity as well as mortality.

Editor: Yan Liang

Cambodian NGOs concerned judiciary being used against opposition

Radio Australia

A coalition of some 30 Cambodian nongovernmental organizations have expressed concern over what they say is the ruling party's use of the judiciary against opposition parties ahead of national elections in July.

The ''Action Committee'' coalition says the judiciary is being used to prevent politicians from participating in the poll.

Correspondents say court cases are currently pending against two prominent opposition figures, including a criminal lawsuit filed against main opposition leader Sam Rainsy by Foreign Minister Hor Nam Hong.

Earlier this week, the US Ambassador to Cambodia said he was also concerned the suit filed against Sam Rainsy could have an affect on the general election.

Award-Winning Journalist Praises Congressional Resolution Honoring Dith Pran

By Reasey Poch
08 May 2008

The U.S. Congress recently passed a resolution to honor the late Cambodian photographer Dith Pran, the Khmer Rouge survivor whose life story was made into an award-winning movie 'The Killing Fields'. VOA's Reasey Poch reports the U.S. Senate resolution calls the photo-journalist who died at the end of March, a 'modern-day hero'.

Sydney Schanberg, the long-time friend and colleague of the late New York Times photographer Dith Pran, says he is pleased to hear Congress recognize his friend's works and legacy, but wishes there was more than just a resolution in his honor.

Speaking to VOA by phone from his home in New York, Schanberg said he would like to see action. "Pran would be more impressed if governments, legislators, and presidents and so forth, did more than pass resolutions, by doing something to prevent genocide from happening," he said.

The U.S. Senate passed a resolution, introduced by Rhode Island Senator Sheldon Whitehouse on April 29, to honor the human-rights advocate whose heroism during the genocide perpetrated by the Khmer Rouge regime was documented in the Academy Award-winning 1984 film 'The Killing Fields'.

The House of Representatives also passed a similar resolution this week (May 6th) that says it 'honors the life and legacy of Mr. Dith for his commitment to raising awareness about the atrocities that took place under the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia'.

Dith Pran worked as an interpreter for Sydney Schanberg who covered the war in Cambodia for the New York Times when the Khmer Rouge took over Cambodia on April 17, 1975. Pran was credited with saving Schanberg's life by negotiating with the Khmer Rouge to let Schanberg and the other foreign journalists leave.

Mr. Dith stayed behind in Cambodia. In 1979 when Vietnamese soldiers invaded Cambodia and toppled the Khmer Rouge regime, he escaped to Thailand. In 1980 he migrated to the United States to reunite with his wife and children who left Cambodia just before the Khmer Rouge takeover.

Their ordeal was made into the movie.

Mr. Dith dedicated his life to educate people about the genocide in Cambodia by giving lectures at colleges around the United States, while continuing to work for the New York Times as a photojournalist until earlier this year when he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. He died of the disease March 30th in New Jersey.

Senator Whitehouse's communication director and spokeswoman, Alex Swartsel, this week explained to VOA why Pran was chosen. "Senator Whitehouse felt that Dith Pran is an extraordinary person, someone who has worked tirelessly throughout his life to educate the people of the world and the people of America about what had happened to his people in Cambodia. Someone who had endured extraordinary personal trial and great difficulty, and was worthy of this recognition," he said.

Schanberg said Dith Pran did not just talk about the genocide that took place in Cambodia, but against genocide around the world. "His message was that we always say that 'never again'. It should never happen again and of course it keeps happening again, so Pran's goal was to made 'never again' a realty, not just a phrase," he said.

Dith Pran's widow, Se Moeun Dith, told VOA in a phone interview this week that she was very happy about the resolutions.

She says she is very touched that the U.S. Congress has chose her husband, who tried to bring the message to the world and the United States about the tragedies in Cambodia during that period of time.

An estimated 1.7 million people died of starvation, sickness, and extrajudicial killings in Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge from April 1975 to January 1979.

The five surviving top Khmer Rouge leaders are in their 70s and in custody of a U.N.-assisted tribunal awaiting trial. They are charged with crimes against humanity and war crimes.

Milton to be alive with the sound of music

By Jeff Shaffer
WARMING UP — From left, Milton Area High School juniors Brenton Shaffer and Kayla Wands, senior Chris Rote, junior Amy Buckel and sophomore Alyssa Williams, put in a little practice prior to the high school’s concert, slated for 7 p.m. Monday in the auditorium. Brett Hosterman, the band director, said they will perform as a wind band and play English folk songs specifically written for bands.

By Jeff Shaffer
Thu May 08, 2008

MILTON — May is the musical month in Milton.Concerts are taking center stage over the course of the next several days.

On Friday, Team Cambodia plans to bring its fundraising efforts to fruition with Concert for Cambodia from 7 to 11 p.m. in the Milton Area High School auditorium. It was moved there because of rain in the forecast.

Mike Conn, the high school history teacher who has led students in fundraising since November, said the group is up to $28,900. Proceeds from the concert should put Team Cambodia over its $30,000 goal, he said.

Fundraising will continue, however, to provide future support for the planned school in the southeast Asian country and send a delegation there in December, Conn said.

Tickets, $5 each, are being sold by all members of Team Cambodia and student council, and will be available at the door. They are also available by contacting Conn at Blues, a local favorite, will be the concert’s headliner.

High school principal Bryan Noaker, who plays guitar for the band, said it was easy for him and the other band members to participate in this cause.“It doesn’t feel like work; we’re happy to do this,” he said. “I’ve been behind Team Cambodia since day one.”

Noaker said he’s always optimistic about the students’ efforts and Team Cambodia has been the biggest and most successful in his tenure.He added students put a lot of energy into many community-minded projects, including homes for Habitat for Humanity along South Front Street and a playground that will be constructed for the Pre-K Counts program.

“These are things they’ve attached themselves to,” Noaker said.

Team Cambodia, however, is a little different.

Unlike fundraising for a field trip, there is no direct benefit to the Milton students, the principal said.“Most won’t ever see the school in Cambodia,” he said. “This is a mature response.”

Supporting the country has expanded the students view of what’s important.

There is more to the world than Milton and the U.S., he said.

“Getting involved has made me more aware,” Noaker added. “I’ve traveled, but what you see is a glossy image. Cambodia isn’t a touristy location.

“They don’t even have a school (where Milton plans to build one).”Before Milltown Blues is front and center, students and a teacher will take the stage.

Corey Kyle, high school physics teacher, will be playing his acoustic guitar, and student groups Past Thought, and the duet, Le Violet Chamber will warm up the crowd.

Make way for the big(ger) bands

The school district’s annual spring concerts are right around the corner. It kicks off with the Milton Middle School’s tonight at 7 in the auditorium. The high school will hold its concert at 7 p.m. Monday in the same location, and the little ones from the elementary schools will gather for the band and chorus concert at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Baugher Elementary School.

Brett Hosterman, the high school band director, indicated the concert will be a little different this year.During the scheduled instructional period, the band students have been studying British composers, who wrote music for wind bands in the early 1900s.

A wind band is a more intimate group, Hosterman said. Only one or two students will be playing certain portions of the English folk songs.

“There’s more of a demand on each student (to perform well),” he said.

The band director added he feels all high school students should be exposed to this type of music by composers like Ralph Vaughan Williams, Percy Grainger and Edward Elgar.

The music was written specifically for bands, and not adapted like other popular music, he said.

The band members are and will be handing out free tickets to Monday’s performance to help get the word out.Hosterman is pleased to say the band is continuing to grow. He expects to go from 38 members this year to 45 next year.

How to make the food crisis worse

The International Herald Tribune
By Philip Bowring
Published: May 8, 2008

HONG KONG: The crisis over the rising cost of food has sparked a flurry of contradictory, if not inane, responses in Asia - as elsewhere - that will do nothing to stabilize prices in the short term or lead to higher production in the long term. All they do is underline the argument that government-backed price distortions have much to do with the sudden rise of grain prices.

In the space of a few days, the Philippines declared that it would aim for self-sufficiency in rice production. Indonesia and Malaysia tried to ban exports; Thailand's prime minister, Samak Sundaravej, announced a goal of creating a rice cartel consisting of Thailand and Vietnam, the world's two largest exporters, and Myanmar and Cambodia.

Then, economic ministers of the Association of South East Asian Nations, of which all the above countries are members, met in Indonesia and pledged to help stabilize prices and "continue fair trade practices and to achieve an orderly rice trade."

The Philippines has been self-sufficient in rice for only a few out of the past 100 years. Its current 10 percent shortfall comes despite having had higher farm gate prices - those at the farm - and higher productivity than most of its neighbors.

A fast-growing population, shortage of flat land and lack of major river basins to provide large-scale irrigation suggest that sustained self-sufficiency could only be achieved at high cost. As for the short term, belated panicky buying attempts by the government's importing and distribution agency must take some of the blame for the recent spike in prices.

Blame for the fear of shortages in both the Philippines and Indonesia must also go to a neighbor, Malaysia, whose high farm gate prices and massive subsidies to consumers encourage smuggling. The smugglers are the main beneficiaries of beggar-thy-neighbor grain policies.

Given that the Philippines and Indonesia are among the world's largest rice importers, the export cartel proposed by Samak could be seen as a distinctly unneighborly act, contrary to the principles of the Asean Free Trade Area.

Fortunately, it will never happen. Although the countries in the suggested group currently account for about 40 percent of global rice exports they are a mere 15 percent of world production - at its height, OPEC had 50 percent.

The key for the future is not so much the policies within Asean as those of the two major rice producers, China and India, which are also major producers and consumers of wheat but are relatively small players in the world rice market.

India exports 3 to 4 percent of its rice production, China just 1 to 2 percent. Both countries have long maintained grain self-sufficiency goals and large stockpiles; as a result, their influence on world markets has been very small.

This may not continue if diversifying domestic demand for foodstuffs suggests that they could benefit from allowing global market forces to play a larger role while keeping large stocks to prevent panic buying if harvests are poor.

India is already a huge importer of vegetable oil - mostly palm oil from Southeast Asia - and China of soybeans. But with investment in irrigation, seeds and roads, India at least has the potential to become the leading player in the world rice trade. Productivity per hectare in India is half that of China and two thirds that of Indonesia. Meanwhile, China is becoming an increasingly important supplier of processed foods and higher value-added crops like apples.

It may make more sense to focus on these and import wheat from countries such as Russia and Ukraine, with their huge potential for increased productivity, than continue to drain northern China's fast-declining water table in pursuit of wheat and rice self-sufficiency.

History tends to suggest that food panics set off protectionist policies or wrong-headed attempts at self-sufficiency.

That may well be the result this time too. But the lessons to be learned are the opposite. Years of European and U.S. production and export subsidies undermined more efficient producers elsewhere. Biofuel subsidies for corn are making it worse.

In the developing world, consumption subsidies long helped urbanites at the expense of farmers. In a multitude of countries, from Myanmar to Zimbabwe, tyrannical politics devastated food production. And in others, pro-peasant romanticism and Europe-derived anti-GM food fetishes stood in the way of higher productivity.

The more food that is traded around the world, the less likelihood of price spikes and panics.

Dona wants to make a difference

Crossroads: Dona Howells, who is going work in orphanages in Cambodia.

Thursday 8th May 2008
The Shuttle

A YOUNG woman at a "crossroads" in her life is going to spend a year in Cambodia working with children orphaned by HIV and AIDS.

Dona Howells, 26, an administrator, of Park Lane, Kidderminster, said she wanted to make a difference in the world while she worked out her own long-term future.

She said: "This is something I have always thought about doing but never felt I would be able to. Now I think I can do it and I want to bring what I can offer the world to the people who need it most."

She added: "It's very important to me. I am so dead set on going that if I coudn't I would feel I wasn't realising my potential. It will help me grow as a person and, at the same time, help other people as well."

Miss Howells will be volunteering in three orphanages in Cambodia's capital, Phnom Penh, looking after children aged eight and younger.

She has been researching the plight of many children there, where HIV and Aids are common and people often live in extreme poverty.

She said: "Some of the children there don't have anything. If I can just hold or cuddle them it will make a big difference. Just to make them laugh would be nice."

Miss Howells hopes to bring her childhood passion for drama to the orphanages where she will be teaching each day as well as supervising at playtime.

She said: "I had two weeks of sleepless nights because I was so overwhelmed with emotions about going. I have never been anywhere on my own before and I am at a crossroads point in my life."

Miss Howells will be living with nine other volunteers without any income. She needs to raise an extra £2,000 to £3,000 to be able to support herself. She is due to leave on August 29.

She said: "My friends and family have been very supportive. Everyone has donated money and been there for me when I had any worries about anything."

She is holding a car boot sale at Keen's Farm, Callow Hill, on Sunday. Money charged will go towards her trip. The sale starts at 7am.

Burma (Myanmar) aid logjam riles donors

CyClone-Stricken: A village in the Irrawaddy delta, in southern Burma, shows the effects of cyclone Nargis. The United Nations has estimated that Saturday’s cyclone left more than 1 million victims homeless. The international community is urging the country’s military junta to allow foreign aid workers and supplies to enter the diplomatically isolated country. So far, shipments have arrived from Japan, Bangladesh, India, Laos, China, Thailand, and Singapore, and the United Nations World Food Program, according to AP.
Burma News Agency via Xinhua

UN members rejected a proposal Thursday to forgo junta permission and force aid in.

By David Montero Correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor
May 9, 2008 edition

Phnom Penh, Cambodia - In Burma's spiraling humanitarian crisis, the international community faces a uniquely confounding scenario: how to overcome the military government's foot-dragging response.

Key international players rejected France's proposal that the United Nations should force aid into Burma (Myanmar) by invoking its "responsibility to protect" citizens when their government failed to do so.

The military regime's resistance to outside aid means that, almost a week after cyclone Nargis left as many as 100,000 dead and 1 million homeless, international shipments remain bottlenecked and most foreign aid workers still lack visas.

It also reflects a government mentality that may have left much of its populace unprepared for Saturday's cyclone, far less so than in many neighboring nations.

Critics say the lack of a disaster mechanism highlights the skewed priorities of Burma's Army-led regime. "The Burmese government prioritizes the military, not serving the people. They rule through public fear, not public support," says Win Min, a Burmese analyst in Thailand.

International aid bottlenecked

International figures from UN chief Ban Ki Moon to President Bush have urged the Burmese government to speedily accept badly needed humanitarian aid.

So far, shipments have arrived from Japan, Bangladesh, India, Laos, China, Thailand, and Singapore, according to the Associated Press. The UN World Food Program (WFP) delivered its first planeloads Thursday.

Relief agencies including the WFP, however, reported that many of their staff were still having trouble getting into the notoriously closed country, which has been ruled by a secretive military junta since 1962.

"A few visas are coming through. But there are still a number of key [UN] staff who have not gotten their visas," says Richard Horsey, a spokesman for the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, speaking from Thailand.

"This is clearly a concern, because it's critical that these key staff get in and begin coordinating relief efforts," Mr. Horsey continued.

Several international naval ships, including an American vessel, have also positioned themselves just offshore from the disaster site, with helicopters and supplies to aid in the assistance.

"We can intervene in the hours, or minutes, to come," said Mr. Kouchner, referring to French ships nearby. But they have not yet been given the go ahead, the Associated Press added.

Meanwhile, Kouchner's proposal of forcing aid into the country gained little traction.
Confrontation would not be helpful, UN Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs David Holmes said Thursday, a stance echoed by the European Commission, China, and other nations.

"I can understand the sentiment of France's foreign minister, but I don't think it's the solution," says James Schoff, associate director of Asia-Pacific studies at the Institute for Foreign Policy Analysis in Cambridge, Mass.

"You could get to a point where [the UN] could just do drops from the air. But for the whole assessment process – I don't see how you could do that without working with locals on the ground," he continues.

Analysts are hard pressed to recall a natural disaster where the UN's "responsibility to protect" – a phrase conceived in 2005 largely in response to atrocities in Rwanda and Darfur – has been invoked.

There is probably no other possibility for delivering aid to Burma right now, Mr. Schoff continues, other than slow diplomatic gains and persistence. In a few days, Burma might come around, he says.

Were Burmese citizens warned?

Critics see the Burmese government's foot-dragging as part of a pattern of lack of care for its populace: Another flashpoint of international criticism has been whether the government there failed to adequately warn victims of the coming storm, leading to greater losses of life.

Burma's government insists that it used its storm warning system to save lives. "We sent a warning one week [before the cyclone]. We sent it through fax, through television, and through our state-run media," says a duty officer at Burma's Department of Meteorology and Hydrology in Rangoon (Yangon), who refused to give his name.

Burma has one of the region's least effective disaster response systems, experts say. Unlike neighboring Bangladesh, which has 42,000 cyclone volunteers and almost 3,000 cyclone shelters along its coastline, Burma has neither.

The contrast underscores that the high death toll in the cyclone was not caused by a failure to warn victims alone, but by a wider failure of national priorities, one that puts the government's welfare before that of the public, critics contend.

Questions have also accumulated as to whether officials in Burma knew Saturday's storm was barreling down on the country's central coast.

Meteorological officials in India say they warned the Burmese government well ahead of time.

"We issued a warning 36 hours in advance. Everything was told to the concerned officials in Myanmar: the intensity of the storm, the time of impact, where it will land – and that information was updated every three hours," says B.P. Yadav, a spokesman for the Indian Meteorological Department in New Delhi.

Burma's meteorological office said it received the warning from India and used it to issue a warning.

But critics say the warning was ineffectively disseminated, costing more lives. "They issued a typical storm report that nobody listened to. It was on page 4 or page 5 of the [state-run] newspaper," says Aung Saw, editor of Irrawadday, an opposition newspaper based in Thailand, relying on reports he received from inside Burma. "If it had been on page 1 ... maybe thousands of lives would have been saved."

"The cyclone warning from India to the authorities was ignored or downplayed by the weather forecasts on Burmese TV," wrote a Burmese resident, who asked not to be identified, in an e-mail. "It stated that the cyclone has lost its intensity and will go up north, and Rangoon will be hit only marginally, and the wind velocity hitting Burma will be reduced to 40/50 mph."

But "the cyclone hit the wooden and thatched dwelling[s] across the delta without warning at 150 m.p.h., and it lasted for 6 hours or more," he continued.

The controversy highlights the fact that Burma has one of the most poorly administered disaster response systems in the region. Some experts say it may have none at all.

"According to our records, they don't have any preparedness measures," says Brigitte Leoni, a spokeswoman for the UN disaster reduction agency in Geneva. "But the problem we have is, we can't get in to the country, so we just don't know."

Building cyclone preparedness

Burma's situation contrasts sharply with regional neighbors', experts say, whose example Burma should now follow.

Prior to the 2004 tsunami, Indian Ocean countries, including Indonesia, lacked an early warning system and were heavily criticized for failing to alert their citizens to the arrival of the tsunami.

After the disaster, the United Nations helped set up an Indian Ocean tsunami warning system, which uses underwater seismic sensors to relay information to monitoring centers around the region.

Bangladesh has set up one of the world's most advanced and effective cyclone response systems, observers say. The key to its success is people like M.A. Wahab. He runs Bangladesh's Cyclone Preparedness Program, created in 1972 by the Bangladesh Red Crescent Society. Last year, his army of volunteers were ready five days before cyclone Sidr even hit Bangladesh's coast, and they rushed victims to shelters. About 3,000 people were killed by that cyclone, compared with 500,000 people in a 1970 cyclone.

"Our volunteers have an organizational structure up to the village level. They're from the community and the community knows them so they can issue information quickly," says Mr. Wahab, speaking from Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh.

Good response and preparation systems require strong political commitment from authorities, says Ms. Leoni, of the UN disaster relief agency. "There needs to be political will and the government needs to invest money," she says.

• Danna Harman contributed from Tel Aviv.

Cambodia soccer tours ahead of SE Asian Championships

Radio Australia

Cambodia's national soccer team is playing a series of friendly matches in Vietnam, as part of its preparations for this year's South-east Asian Football Championship.

Earlier this week, the side defeated Ho Chi Minh City FC in a match at Thong Nhat Stadium in the southern capital.

Two other friendlies have been scheduled against a team from Ho Chi Minh City.

Apart from Cambodia, the South-east Asian Football Championship involves Laos, Philippines, Brunei and East Timor.

Ex-Khmer Rouge soldier held in Briton's death

By Associated Press
May 8, 2008

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia - Authorities have arrested a fourth former Khmer Rouge soldier suspected of involvement in the kidnapping and killing of a British mine clearance expert and his Cambodian interpreter 12 years ago.

Sin Dorn was charged with premeditated murder and illegal confinement of a person, Phnom Penh Municipal Court investigating judge Ke Sakhan said. He is accused in the 1996 kidnapping and death of Briton Christopher Howes and his interpreter, Huon Huot.

The British embassy in Phnom Penh on Thursday welcomed Sin Dorn's arrest "and the continued progress made on this long-standing case," spokesman Chantha Kim said in an e-mail.

Howes, of Bristol, England, and a group of Cambodian co-workers were abducted in March 1996 by Khmer Rouge guerrillas while clearing mines in an isolated area about 10 miles north of Angkor Wat, the country's most popular tourist destination.

Howes, who was 37 at the time, persuaded the guerrillas to free his colleagues while he and Huon Huot remained hostages for ransom.

Their fate was unknown until a team of detectives from Scotland Yard said about two years later that they had firm evidence the two had been taken to the Khmer Rouge stronghold of Anlong Veng and killed soon after their abduction.

Three other former Khmer Rouge soldiers were detained in November in connection with Howes' disappearance.

The judge said police arrested Sin Dorn, 52, last Friday in Anlong Veng. He did not elaborate on the suspect's alleged involvement in the crime.

The other arrested suspects include Khem Ngun, a former Khmer Rouge commander who witnesses said gave the order to kill Howes.

Khem Ngun defected to the government in 1998 and was awarded the rank of major general in the Cambodian army.

The Cambodian government had been unwilling to arrest him earlier, apparently for fear of losing the trust of Khmer Rouge guerrillas who were in the process of defecting at the time.

The charges against Sin Dorn carry a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison.

Qatar stakes claim on Cambodian farmland

FOOD CRUNCH: Qatar plans to invest $200 million in Cambodia's agricultural sector. (Getty Images)
by Joel Bowman
Thursday, 08 May 2008

Qatar plans to invest approximately $200 million in Cambodia’s agricultural sector as the Gulf state looks to secure food supplies amid surging world prices.

Hor Namhong, Cambodia’s deputy prime minister and minister of foreign affairs and international cooperation, said on Wednesday the two countries were close to signing an agreement, reported Qatari daily Gulf Times.

The announcement was made during a state visit by Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabor Al Thani, Qatar prime minister and minister of foreign affairs.