Friday, 23 May 2008

1st Japanese commercial bank opens in Cambodia

Kyodo - Japan Today
Friday 23rd May

PHNOM PENH — A Japanese commercial bank, MARUHAN Japan Bank, was launched Thursday in Cambodia, a move its chairman said will help attract investment from Japanese companies to Cambodia.

At the launch, Han Chang-woo said, “It is the first Japanese commercial bank to come to the Kingdom of Cambodia, a country that has captured the world’s imagination.”

He said the establishment of the bank was a result from last year’s visit of Prime Minister Hun Sen to Japan during which he had signed an agreement on the protection and promotion of investment between the two countries.

Knight Frank opens in Phnom Penh…

CMPi Property

Knight Frank has entered the Cambodian property market after opening an office in the capital, Phnom Penh, this week.

The office will be run by Knight Frank’s Malaysian office head, Eric Ooi, who will combine the job with his current role.

He will run a team of five staff and report to partner and head of the firm’s Asia-Pacific operation, Clive Betts.

Nick Thomlinson, senior partner at Knight Frank, told Property Week the office – the firm’s 39th in the region across 11 countries – opened in response to client demand.

Knight Frank is one of the first international property advisers to enter Cambodia, a country of just over 13 million people, although rival CB Richard Ellis is also represented there.

The country, to the south of Thailand and west of Vietnam, is fast becoming popular among manufacturers, and Thomlinson believes tourism and residential markets will also grow.
Cambodia’s main economic driver is agriculture and its GDP was around $8.25bn (£4.23bn) in 2007.

Thomlinson said he hoped the office would achieve a turnover of about £3m within three years, representing around 1% of Knight Frank’s overall turnover.

He said: ‘The turnover won’t be huge but as with all of our offices it will be the sum of the parts.’

Chief astrologer says Cambodia will have 'normal' rice crop in 2008+

Kyodo News International
Friday, May 23, 2008

PHNOM PENH, May 23-(Kyodo), In a ceremony to mark the beginning of the rainy season, Cambodia's chief astrologer assured the populace Friday the country's rice crop this year will be acceptable.

"Our prediction is that we will have a normal rice crop for the upcoming harvest," Royal Astrologer Korng Ken told a crowd of thousands at Veal Menru field in the heart of the capital Phnom Penh.

He said seven golden trays with food and drink were laid out for a pair of royal oxen and the oxen consumed part of the rice, corn and beans, indicating Cambodian farmers will have normal crops of these agricultural products in 2008.

The Royal Plowing Ceremony is held every year near the palace in Phnom Penh at the start of the planting season.

In the ceremony, seven golden trays with rice, corn, beans, sesame, grass, water, and rice wine are laid out for a pair of royal oxen and predictions are made for the coming harvest based on their choices.

According to the royal astrologer, if the oxen eat grass it means bad luck for farmers because insects may disrupt crops. If they drink rice wine it means turmoil and fighting may occur in the country.

This year, the oxen did not touch the grass, water, rice wine or sesame. Water means enough water for farmers, while sesame means a big harvest.

The rainy season in Cambodia starts in May and ends in October.

Cambodia produced 6.4 million tons of rice last year and 6.2 million tons in 2006. The 2008 harvest is expected to be similar.

Ethnic Khmers not Thai temple vandals, says Cambodian official

The Earth Times
Fri, 23 May 2008
Author : DPA

Phnom Penh - Ethnic Khmers were unlikely suspects in the desecration of an ancient Hindu temple in Thailand earlier this week and the very insinuation showed a deep ignorance of Khmer culture, a senior Cambodian official said Friday. Son Soubert, a member of the Cambodian Constitutional Council, said he was disappointed some Thais apparently suspected that ethnic Khmers would damage a temple for black magic rites.

He said Khmers were the original architects of the 10th century Phanom Rung temple.

He was responding to a report in the Thai English-language daily Bangkok Post published Thursday, in which police were quoted as saying the vandalization of Thailand's Phanom Rung temple may have been an occult ritual, also noting many ethnic Khmers lived there.

"The Khmers of Buri Ram and Surin provinces respect the Linga of Brahmanism because they believe if they desecrate it they cannot live in peace," Soubert, a US and French-trained archeologist, said.

The provinces lie on the Thai-Cambodian border within Thailand and have a strong ethnic Khmer community.

Relations are already strained between some Cambodians and Thais over disputed lands around the sacred Preah Vihear border temple.

Cambodia has rejected Thai offers to co-manage the site and hired 22 Thai-Khmer speaking guards, who also act as guides, to protect it.

Phanom Rung's ancient Shiva Linga stone, which was in the centre of the temple, was found to have been moved off its plinth Tuesday and several statues badly vandalized.

Accusations have flown wildly over who may have damaged the temple and why, with allegations of guilt ranging from Khmer sorcerers to former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra being made.

Soubert begged Thailand to protect such sites more carefully.

"Thailand is a peaceful, developed country so it should be able to protect monuments - but I am not Thai," he said.

Royal cows signal 'quite good' rice harvest in Cambodia

The royal plowing ceremony in Phnom Penh. Cambodia's royal cows performed an ancient ceremony on Friday, predicting the country will have a "quite good" rice harvest this year(AFP/Tang Chhin Sothy)

Cambodia's royal oxen eat corn during the annual ploughing ceremony in Phnom Penh May 23, 2008. The oxen have to choose between seven bowls including rice, corn, green beans, grass, sesame, water and wine to predict the future of the farming season. The tradition, which is hundreds of years old, is followed closely by the nation's estimated 14 million people, the majority of whom are farmers.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA)

PHNOM PENH (AFP) — Cambodia's royal cows performed an ancient ceremony on Friday, predicting the country will have a "quite good" rice harvest this year, despite global concerns over supplies of the grain.

King Norodom Sihamoni presided over the country's Royal Ploughing ceremony in a park outside the royal palace. Thousands of people watched on as royal astrologers observed what the cows ate to signal the coming year's harvests.

After a symbolic ploughing of a portion of the park's field, a pair of royal cows were led to seven dishes -- rice, corn, beans, sesame, grass, water and alcohol -- laid out on trays.

"Based on what the royal cows ate, the rice harvest will be quite good," chief astrologer Kang Ken declared before the crowd of onlookers.

He also said the corn harvest would be good, but the bean crop would be average.
The traditional ceremony marks the start of the planting season in the kingdom.
Farmers who joined the ceremony hailed the prediction.

"This means that we will not face rice shortages in the coming year," said 58-year-old Kao Tob, a rice farmer in Kampong Chhnang, some 90 kilometres (55 miles) northwest of Phnom Penh.

Even if the harvest is strong, Cambodians face soaring food prices. Inflation reached double digits late last year and now hovers around 11 percent.

Good-grade rice -- Cambodia's staple food -- has nearly doubled in price this year.

It now costs nearly 0.90 dollars per kilogramme (41 cents per pound), deepening the poverty of the one-third of the population who live on less than 50 cents a day.

World rice prices have soared this year, a trend blamed on higher energy and fertiliser costs, greater global demand, droughts, the loss of rice farmland to biofuel plantations, and price speculation.

38 in U.S., Romania charged in cyber-crime ring

By Shaun Waterman
May 23, 2008


U.S. indictments unsealed this week charge 38 people with being part of a multinational cyber-crime ring that fooled thousands of Americans into giving up credit card and bank information through "phishing" e-mails, and used it to steal millions of dollars.

The charges, filed in courts in California and Connecticut, were first announced Monday in Romania, where most of those charged live. Others accused in the two indictments live in the United States, Mexico, Vietnam and Cambodia.

Some are identified only by their Internet "screen names."

The indictments charge an international conspiracy, in which Romanian spammers sent millions of so-called phishing e-mails purporting to come from banks or other financial services companies.

The e-mails asked the recipients to visit a bogus Web site to "confirm" their card details, ATM personal identification numbers and other information.

In one attack, a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack was used to disable the real Web site of the bank from which the fake e-mails claimed to come, so customers would not be able check there.

The bogus Web sites were generally hosted on a server that, without its owner"s knowledge, had been hacked. It collected the card details and sent them to e-mail addresses the spammers had established.

The spammers then sent the details to accomplices in the United States, using Internet "instant chat" services.

The accomplices, or cashiers, used the data and special encoding equipment to make clones of the cards by altering hotel room key cards or other cards with a magnetic strip.

The cloned cards were tested by making small withdrawals from automated teller machines (ATMs), and those that worked were then used to withdraw cash from the victims" accounts.
Finally, the cashiers wired a portion of the proceeds back to the spammers.

"We believe these criminals defrauded literally thousands of individual victims out of several million dollars," said Deputy U.S. Attorney General Mark R. Filip on Monday in Bucharest, as nine people were arrested in California and the Romanian General Inspectorate of Police served a number of search warrants.

Mr. Filip said the case is the result of a joint investigation by U.S. and Romanian authorities and demonstrates the close cooperation between the two countries to fight global organized crime.

"International organized criminals who exploit the power and convenience of the Internet do not recognize national borders. Our efforts to stop them cannot end at our borders either," he said.

In the California case, one cashier in the scheme, Seuong Wook Lee, has pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles to racketeering conspiracy, bank fraud, access device fraud and unauthorized access of a protected computer.

A fine line

Preah Vihear, the temple of universal faith, on the Peuy Ta Di cliff of Phra Viharn Mountain, between Si Sa Ket and Cambodia.

A map of the Thai-Cambodian border near Preah Vihear. o _ _ _ means the borderline according to the 1962 cabinet resolutiono _ .. _ .. _ means the watershed line

The pink line is the border according to the US Army map of 1954. The yellow line is the border according to Google Maps (2008). The purple zone is the disputed land. The black spot is Preah Vihear.

Thursday May 22, 2008

The sovereignty dispute over sacred site Preah Vihear continues


Forty-six years ago, the World Court ruled that Preah Vihear, or Prasat Phra Viharn, is under Cambodian sovereignty.

But the significance of Preah Vihear lies beyond the tug-of-war match that Thailand and Cambodia have engaged in over it. The ancient temple is an historical symbol of interrelationships among different peoples and beliefs. It also represents a social and cultural history of mankind.

"Preah Vihear belongs to neither Cambodia nor Thailand - it belongs to sacred powers. It has been a holy place for pilgrimage," said anthropologist and archaeologist Srisakra Vallibhotama.
According to him, Preah Vihear, or Sri Sikharesvara, has been an area for people from both sides to perform rituals.

Watershed lines were traditionally considered by ancient people as no man's land, belonging to no one. Crossing the areas required the performing of rituals.

Established in the reign of Cambodian King Yasovarman (889-900) under the Devaraja (divine kingship) Cult, Preah Vihear stands on the Peuy Ta Di cliff of the Phra Viharn Mountain. The mountain is part of the Phanom Dong Rek Range that lies between the Lower Khmer Plain and the Korat Plateau.

Those who wanted to cross the Lower Khmer Plain and the Korat Plateau needed to perform or attend rituals. Sanctuaries were built as homes to spirits called Phi Ton Nam (watershed spirits) and also served as unofficial border posts.

In ancient times, kings and peoples paid homage to the spirits there. Phra Viharn Mountain was believed to be home to Phi Ton Nam and then to a god who safeguarded local people.

Historian Dhida Saraya writes in the book Preah Vihear (Sri Sikharesvara) that the Khmer kings built the sanctuary, but the sanctuary embraces different peoples and different beliefs. Hence, the true meaning and significance of Phra Viharn mountain is universal.

Prasat Phra Viharn, as a pilgrimage site, has been a universally and internationally sacred place. Several great Khmer kings established there the power of Shiva, the Universal God, over the local deities and ancestors of the peoples.

According to her book, during the reign of King Suryavarman I (1010-1050), ancestral worship and animism were central beliefs of the Devaraja Cult. The king established a link between himself, as the God King, and Sri Sikharesvara of Phra Viharn Mountain.

King Suryavarman II (1113-1150) extended and centralised the Sri Sikharesvara Sanctuary, making the temple the core of the state cult, the Devaraja, and the ritual centre of ancestral worship.

It became customary to pay homage ceremonially to the Kamaratengjagata Sri Sikharesvara at the same time the farmers celebrated their annual festival.

According to Srisakra, people from both sides came to Preah Vihear to perform rituals, as they do to this very day. Therefore, he wonders why France believed the sanctuary belonged to Cambodia.

"The troublemaker was France, as they introduced the concept of borders. Ancient people just looked for a symbol before crossing from one zone to another but France drew the line for us to accept," the archaeologist said.

To survive colonisation, Siam opted for Western knowledge and, hence, fell into the trappings of thoughts and theories set by the superpowers.

As long as Thailand sanctions France's interpretation that any site with Khmer inscriptions belongs to the ancient Khmer empire, there will be no solution, he noted.

"It was France who started circulating the story that Angkor was the centre of civilisation and any land with Khmer inscriptions was under the Khmer empire. This model was created by France and accepted by us," the academic added.

According to him, English professor O. W. Wolters at Cornell University, New York, analysed inscriptions and found that Southeast Asian empires were not centralised states but were instead regulated under the Mandala system that observed Indian traditions. They were a network of big and small regions which revered the king of kings, known as Jakrapatdiraj or Rajathiraj.

Siamese kings loved Laotian and Khmer royals like their own relatives and some Cambodian kings were educated in the Siamese court.

"In fact, the Thai-Khmer relations were not heirarchical but were instead based on intermarriage," he noted.

However, imperialist countries ignored the Mandala system in this region and introduced European-style political and administrative structures to manipulate the Asian royals and the elite class.

They also exercised another tool - border demarcation - during conflict with other Southeast Asian countries. Maps became major evidence for making agreements or claims under laws, Srisakra said.

He pointed out that Thailand lost Preah Vihear to Cambodia because Siam had recognised the French map, which drew the sanctuary within Cambodian.

In 1904, Siam failed to send representatives to border demarcation surveys conducted by France. This allowed France to include Phra Viharn in the map, made by France and Cambodia, which was shown to Siam in 1907, even though it went against the principle of watershed lines.

Based on the watershed line theory, Phra Viharn Mountain lies on Thai territory. According to the French map, the mountain is located within the Cambodian border.

To prove that the Phra Viharn sanctuary compound, from the foot of the mountain to the top, is in Thai territory, just pour water from the top of the mountain and see on which side it drains. The fact is that the water flows towards Korat Plateau and to the Lam Trao reservoir in Si Sa Ket, Srisakra noted.

In 1959, Cambodia took the dispute to the World Court. It presented the map charted by France under the Treaties of 1904 and 1907 as major evidence.

Another substantial piece of evidence was a group photo of the French Governor of Kampongthom, some French officials in uniform and Siam's Prince Damrong, standing near a French flag being flown at full mast in the Phra Viharn compound. In 1929, Prince Damrong, then the president of the Royal Academy and a former interior minister, visited a number of historical sites in Si Sa Ket, including Prasat Phra Viharn.

On June 15, 1962, the World Court ruled that the ruins of Prasat Phra Viharn are under Cambodian sovereignty on the grounds that Thailand never lodged a protest against the said map. Nevertheless, the court ruling left some room for argument on the surrounding land where the border was not settled.

In his interview with Matichon Daily on January 9, 1992, MR Seni Pramoj, the lawyer who handled the case for Thailand, said, "There is still some misunderstanding that the whole Phra Viharn Mountain belongs to Cambodia. This is not so. The World Court did not pass such a judgement. The World Court only passed a decision to return the right of possession over the sanctuary and the surrounding area, not the whole mountain."

The controversy erupted again after Cambodia, during last year's Unesco conference in New Zealand, lodged a motion to nominate Preah Vihear as a new World Heritage site. Until now, the nomination has been deadlocked. However, a decision is expected from the World Heritage Committee within the next month.

Tharapong Srisuchat, director of the Fine Arts Department's Office of Archaeology, said the Thai side is trying, through diplomatic procedures, to push for mutual collaboration in nominating Preah Vihear as a World Heritage site because the World Court's ruling covers only the sanctuary, not the mountain.

According to him, each World Heritage site must consist of its nucleus, core zone and buffer zone, which should be circular, but Preah Vihear in Cambodia's proposal is in the shape of a fan with the core zone at its lowest end.

The temple's surroundings located in Thai territory, including the site of ancient communities at the foot of the Phnom Dong Rek mountain range, stone carvings on the Pha Mor I-Daeng cliff, stone-cutting sources and the Sa Trao reservoir, are also important and should go together with the sanctuary in the nomination.

He pointed out that Cambodia's attempts to register only the sanctuary could damage the historical value of Preah Vihear and spoil management plans.

However, Thai authorities and scholars are still hoping for a happy ending.

Srisakra suggested Thailand to negotiate with Cambodia for the declaring of the disputed area as a no man's land and the sharing of benefits if it becomes a World Heritage site.

"Thailand must be ready to discuss the matter, and have enough evidence to show that Preah Vihear cannot be an outstanding World Heritage site without its surroundings," he said.

1833 to 1846Siam and Vietnam were engaged in a 14-year war known as the Annam-Siam War, resulting in Siam reasserting sovereignty over Cambodia. In the early Bangkok Period, Cambodia had been under Thai control. During the reigns of King Rama III and IV, Siamese kings crowned Cambodian kings.

1861France ruled over Saigon and South Vietnam, and became interested in Laos and Cambodia.
December 7, 1863A treaty was signed between Siam and Cambodia, verifying Cambodia's status as a dependent state of Siam.

France invited Siam to attend the coronation of Prince Narodom.

1867Siam and France signed an agreement that all of Cambodia, except for Seam Reap, Battambong and Srisophon, was under French protection.

1893France seized the east bank of the Mekong River and forced Siam to sign a pact granting possession.

1907Siam and France signed another treaty under which Siam had to yield the right of possession over Seam Reap, Battambong and Srisophon to France in exchange for the re-acquisition of Dan Sai, Trat and all islands ranging from Laem Ling to Kood Island.

1929Prince Damrong visited a number of historical sites in Si Sa Ket. At Prasat Phra Viharn, he was welcomed by the French Governor of Kampongthom and some French officials in uniform. A French flag was raised in the compound. This incident was later claimed as evidence in World Court.

1939Luang Vichitr Vadakarn, the director-general of the Fine Arts Department, inspected the map of the area and discovered that a stream, instead of the watershed line, was used as the boundary. The government, headed by Field Marshall Plaek Pibulsonggram, tried to reach agreement with the French government in Indochina. The Thai government made an announcement and openly put the area under its protection on October 11, 1940.

1940The Fine Arts Department registered Prasat Phra Viharn as a national historical monument. The announcement was made once again in the Royal Gazette on December 22, 1959.

1941Thailand was allied with Japan in World War Two under the Tokyo Pact, and regained all lands lost to France during the reign of King Rama V. After the defeat of Japan, Thailand had to return these to France.

1949France raised the issue of the Phra Viharn Mountain, protesting Thailand's occupation of the site. After this, Thai-Cambodian relations deteriorated steadily.

1958Cambodia made several claims that the Phra Viharn Mountain belonged to it. In August, Bangkok declared a state of emergency in six provinces along the Cambodian border.

December 1, 1958Cambodia terminated diplomatic ties with Thailand.

October 6, 1959The Cambodian government took the case to the World Court.

June 15, 1962The World Court handed down a ruling that Preah Vihear was under Cambodian sovereignty.

July 15, 1962Thailand evacuated everything from Phra Viharn Mountain, including a Thai flag placed on the cliff.

1970-1975Cambodia re-established diplomatic ties with Thailand and opened Preah Vihear as tourist attraction.

1975-1991The civil war in Cambodia became a barrier to visits to Preah Vihear.

1992Cambodia reopened Preah Vihear as a tourist spot after civil war.

2007Cambodia, during the Unesco conference in Christchurch, New Zealand, filed a motion to nominate Preah Vihear as a World Heritage site.

Expanding the "war" in order to end it: What Cambodia & Iran have in common

by Jane Stillwater
May 22, 2008

Did you know that Richard M. Nixon was elected to the US presidency in 1968 on a platform that claimed he would end the war on Vietnam? It's true. And what did Nixon do once he was safely elected? He broke his promise, escalated the war on Vietnam and then went on to bomb Cambodia! "Why did you bomb Cambodia?" the press asked Mr. Nixon.

"I bombed Cambodia in order to end the war in Vietnam," Nixon replied. And did bombing Cambodia end the war on Vietnam? Absolutely! The total outrage engendered throughout Southeast Asia by Nixon's merciless killing of approximately 150,000 Cambodians inspired the Viet Cong and the Khmer Rouge to fight even harder and the local civilian population to support them and to eventually hand America its greatest military defeat ever. Yep, Nixon's Cambodia bombing campaign DID end the Vietnam war.

According to Taylor Owen and Ben Kiernan of the Yale Genocide Project, "The Cambodian bombing campaign had two unintended side effects that ultimately combined to produce the very domino effect that the Vietnam War was supposed to prevent. First, the bombing forced the Vietnamese Communists deeper and deeper into Cambodia, bringing them into greater contact with Khmer Rouge insurgents. Second, the bombs drove ordinary Cambodians into the arms of the Khmer Rouge, a group that seemed initially to have slim prospects of revolutionary success."

Did you know that George W. Bush is now planning to do the exact same thing to Iran that Nixon did to Cambodia? Apparently Bush is now vowing to attack Iran in order to expand the war on Iraq in order to end it. "Because Iran is aiding and abetting our enemies in Iraq, we are justified in attacking Iran as a matter of self-defense."

Also, according to Fox News, former UN Ambassador and Bush administration insider John Bolton recently stated that, "the situation that our forces face in Iraq now is that they are being attacked, they are in danger from Iranian-lead, financed, trained and equipped terrorists." When asked if Bush would invade Iran before the end of his term, Bolton responded, "I think so, definitely."

We've definitely got some de-ja Voo happening here. And will the results of Bush's plans to bomb Iran be the same as the results of Nixon's plans to bomb Cambodia? Do we really want to risk finding out?

Stillwater is a freelance writer who hates injustice and corruption in any form but especially injustice and corruption paid for by American taxpayers. She has recently published a book entitled, "Bring Your Own Flak Jacket: Helpful Tips For Touring Today's Middle East". According to Ms. Stillwater, "It's a fabulous and entertaining book. I loved writing it. And I hope that you will love reading it too." It's available at or you can special order it at any independent bookstore.

Author, family help remote Cambodian village

Jewish-American Alan Lightman and wife, daughter build mosque

By Ker Munthit Associated Press

TRAMOUNG CHRUM, Cambodia — When residents of this poor, Cambodian village need something built, they call on the Lightmans.

The Jewish-American family's latest gift: a mosque.

"We never had such a beautiful mosque in our village," said 81-year-old Leb Sen, a toothless village elder with a wrinkled face. "The young people said to me that I am very lucky to live long enough to see one now."

Flashing a broad grin, Leb Sen brought his palms together and bowed repeatedly in gratitude toward his American donors — Alan Lightman; his wife, Jean Greenblatt Lightman, and their daughter, Elyse.

Alan Lightman, a 59-year-old humanities professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said building the mosque was not part of his family's original plan to improve education in the village, about 44 miles northwest of the capital, Phnom Penh.

"It's too much to comprehend. We never imagined that we would build a mosque in a remote village in Cambodia," said Lightman, author of the best-selling novel "Einstein's Dreams."

"It was so strange for us to be there," he added, " ... halfway across the planet, and it's a religion that's far from our religion."

The Lightmans first learned about the village in 2003, when a friend introduced them to various rural education projects. Two years later, the Harpswell Foundation, an organization founded by Lightman to help children and young women in developing countries, built a four-room concrete school, the village's first.

Some of the 600 villagers came to Lightman in 2006 asking him to fund a new health center, a popular choice among the women, and a mosque, which the men favored. He told the villagers they would have to choose one. In the male-dominated community, the mosque won.

"The men have won again, but the mosque is also very important for preserving our culture and tradition," said 50-year-old Sit Khong, one of the five women who were part of the village committee to pick the project. "We will never find enough money to build it ourselves anyway."

The mosque, with the gold-colored inscription "Funded by Loving Gift of Lightman Family" above the front door, opened on May 9. It can accommodate about 200 people and replaces a tiny building on wood stilts that held only 30 worshippers.

The villagers follow Imam-San, a small Islamic sect that incorporates Buddhism, Hinduism and animism. The Imam-San makes up about 3 percent of Cambodia's 700,000 Muslims, who themselves represent only 5 percent of Cambodia's 14 million people, according the U.S. State Department annual report on religious freedom.

Besides mixing elements of other religions, Imam-San followers pray only once a week, not the traditional five times a day. "In the view of the real teaching of Islam, they are not pure," said Tin Faizine, a 24-year-old Muslim student who interpreted for the Lightmans.

Elyse Lightman, who is writing a book about Imam-San culture and traditions, said she was happy to help a community that is not fully embraced by either mainstream Muslims or Buddhists, Cambodia's majority religious group.

"You can see why Muslims don't consider them to be their own," she said. "And then Buddhists say, 'Well, you pray to Allah.' So, they're caught in the middle."

She noted that the Imam-San, like the Jews, have faced persecution over the centuries, most recently when the Khmer Rouge seized power in Cambodia from 1975 to 1979 and abolished all religion.

"I think there is part of me that felt some sort of kinship in this," she said.

About 500 followers of Imam-San from around the country came to this village of wooden houses and mango trees to celebrate the opening of the new mosque.

Sem Ahmad, 57, said he wanted the Lightman family to help build a mosque in his village in Battambang province in northwestern Cambodia. "It is beautiful. I'd love to have the same mosque because we do not have one like this in our village," he said.

But Lightman said this would be his "first and last" mosque, because "I don't think I have the resources or the time to build more mosques."

The mosque was built with $20,000 from his family's savings, not the foundation's funds, he said.

In the future, he plans to focus on education for underprivileged Cambodians, which is his foundation's main goal.

Cambodia: Lift Ban on ‘Burma Daily’

Suspension Undercuts Credibility of ASEAN Initiative on Burma Cyclone
Cambodia’s press censorship on behalf of Burma’s abusive military government is shameless. When ASEAN members like Cambodia go to bat for Burma’s generals, it makes it hard to believe that the association will genuinely lean on Burma to allow international aid for desperate cyclone survivors.
Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch.


(New York, May 23, 2008) – The Cambodian government should stop protecting Burma’s junta from foreign press scrutiny by lifting the ban on copies of the Burma Daily, a new English-language insert in the Cambodia Daily newspaper, Human Rights Watch said today.

The Burma Daily was launched on May 16 as a four-page insert in the Cambodia Daily and carried primarily English-language wire service reports about Burma and Cyclone Nargis, which struck on May 2-3, killing tens of thousands. With the publication of its second edition on May 19, the Cambodian Ministry of Information illegally ordered police to remove copies of the Burma Daily from newsstands.

The newspaper’s suspension comes ahead of a May 25 “pledging” conference in Rangoon organized by the United Nations and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), a 10-country bloc that includes Cambodia, to address Burma’s reconstruction and how to deliver aid to cyclone victims. ASEAN operates by consensus, so any country, including Burma or Cambodia, can stop coordinated action by the grouping that insists Burma open up to aid and humanitarian workers.

“Cambodia’s press censorship on behalf of Burma’s abusive military government is shameless,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “When ASEAN members like Cambodia go to bat for Burma’s generals, it makes it hard to believe that the association will genuinely lean on Burma to allow international aid for desperate cyclone survivors.”

Cambodia Daily publisher Bernard Krisher, who said he launched the Burma Daily only temporarily as an insert in the Cambodia Daily before launching it as an online publication at, announced on May 21 that the Burma Daily would no longer appear in the Cambodia Daily. At present, the online version has articles only until May 21.

In a speech on Cambodian national television last December after Burma’s crackdown on widespread protests, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen criticized the United Nations for “opposing and putting pressure” on Burma, rather than letting Burma solve its own problems. “Now, Burma has proceeded smoothly, but they go and disturb it again,” Hun Sen said.

On May 21, Information Minister Khieu Kanharith threatened to file a legal complaint against the Cambodia Daily for launching the Burma Daily without obtaining government permission. Kanharith stated that the Burma Daily could negatively affect relations with Burma, according to the Cambodia Daily. Despite the prohibition on the English-language insert, Kanharith has publicly stated that the government will allow the Cambodia Daily – which has been registered with the government since 1993 – to cover news about Burma in its regular international section.

Cambodia’s 1995 Press Law requires new publications to submit names and addresses of their editor and printing house to the Ministry of Information and authorizes the government to ban, suspend, or confiscate publications deemed to violate “national security and political stability.” While publications that do not file applications with the Information Ministry are subject to fines, the Press Law does not specify that such publications are illegal or subject to confiscation.

Outspoken editors and journalists in Cambodia are regularly threatened, subject to physical attacks, or even assassinated. The government also periodically confiscates, bans, or suspends controversial publications. In 2007, the Khmer Amatak newspaper was suspended for refusing to retract a story alleging that political rivals of Funcinpec party leader Norodom Ranariddh had removed his name from a school. Publications that were confiscated by authorities in 2007 included a report by Global Witness, an international environmental advocacy group that alleged government complicity in illegal logging, and Free Press Magazine, a Cambodian-language publication that carried articles critical of Prime Minister Hun Sen.

Cambodian authorities have recently threatened Buddhist monks with eviction from their pagodas or deportation to Vietnam for circulating bulletins published by the Khmer Kampuchea Krom Federation (KKKF), an organization that advocates for the rights of Khmer Krom people (ethnic Khmer originally from southern Vietnam). One of the allegations against Khmer Krom monk Tim Sakhorn, who was arrested and deported from Cambodia in June 2007 and subsequently jailed in Vietnam, was that he had circulated copies of the KKKF bulletin.

“The Cambodian government has a sad tradition of using its press law and other tactics to silence criticism not only of Hun Sen and other top leaders, but of neighbouring countries with which Cambodia has strong economic and political ties,” said Adams.

While foreign-language publications in Cambodia have generally been more immune to threats of confiscation or closure, in 2007 the owners of the French-language daily Cambodge Soir buckled to government pressure by firing the paper’s Cambodian news editor for publishing an article about the Global Witness logging report. The paper’s management decided to close the paper after staff went on strike to protest the editor’s dismissal, reopening several months later with a much less critical editorial tone.

Informal marriage brokers active in Cambodia despite official ban

May 23, 2008

There are more than 100 informal marriage brokerage agencies still at operation in Cambodia despite the official ban and closure of three South Korean ones, state media said Friday.

"The government doesn't allow operation of marriage brokerage services at all" because they are exploitative, English-Khmer language newspaper the Cambodian Daily quoted You Ay, secretary of state at the Ministry of Women's Affairs, as saying.

She said foreign men who frequent or live in Cambodia desire to marry local women out of "true love," but insisted that foreign marriage ban will remain valid until relevant legislation is drafted.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation is expected to meet with the Interior Ministry over finalizing such a sub-decree in the coming month, she added.

Foreign marriage brokerage agencies came into spotlight in Cambodia after the International Organization for Migration issued a report stressing the vulnerability of Cambodian brides flocking to South Korea in increasing numbers.

The government in response banned all marriages between Cambodians and foreigners on March 29, pending new legislation to regulate the process.


Election Committee Allows 11 Parties Total

By Chun Sakada, VOA Khmer
Phnom Penh
22 May 2008

Khmer audio aired May 22 (884KB) - Download (MP3)
Khmer audio aired May 22 (884KB) - Listen (MP3)

The National Election Committee has officially declared 11 political parties eligible for July’s polls.

Twelve parties had applied, but the Khmer United People’s Party was rejected, the national election body said in a statement.

Eligible parties will include the ruling Cambodian People’s Party, coalition partner Funcinpec, opposition Sarm Rainsy Party, as well as the Norodom Ranariddh and Human Rights parties.

The official list of parties comes amid complaints by most of them that national TVK is broadcasting programming heavily favoring the CPP, a claim the station denies.

As the campaign period begins, all competing parties will be required equal air time to present their platforms to voters, but rights groups and election monitors say this is nothing compared to the favorable coverage the ruling party and Prime Minister Hun Sen are given.

World Bank Grants $41 Million for Poverty Plans

By Heng Reaksmey, VOA Khmer
Phnom Penh
22 May 2008

Khmer audio aired May 22 (987KB) - Download (MP3)
Khmer audio aired May 22 (987KB) - Listen (MP3)

The World Bank announced Thursday it would provide Cambodia $41.5 million in renewed funding to help it fight poverty for strategies planned from 2007 to 2011.

The funding was approved after a review found a relevance for the strategies in improving governance and development, the World Bank said.

Cambodian People’s Party lawmaker Chiem Yeap, chairman of the National Assembly’s finance and banking committee, welcomed the World Bank money, saying Cambodia needs a larger budget to fight poverty.

Cambodia’s poor number almost 4.8 million, and 90 percent of them live in rural areas, where they depend on agriculture using traditional, unproductive methods.

In June 2006 the World Bank suspended the government’s rights to funds for three project.

Kampot Police Arrest Three, Including Activist

By Chiep Mony, VOA Khmer
Phnom Penh
22 May 2008

Khmer audio aired May 22 (991KB) - Download (MP3)
Khmer audio aired May 22 (991KB) - Listen (MP3)

Kampot authorities detained three residents and one political activist Thursday over a land dispute with a local company, officials said.

Human Rights Party activist Chuon Choch was arrested with Sam Henag, Eb Chhe and Bin Sopheap, following what police described as destruction of property and assault.

All four live in Banthey Meas district, where residents say they have had land taken by a local company.

A HRP official called the arrests an abuse of political rights, and one villager said the men were handcuffed and taken by police without any questions asked.

The rights group Licadho said Thursday that two men were released late Thursday.

Cambodian mayor threatens to dump rubbish in contractor's office

The Earth Times
Thu, 22 May 2008
Author : DPA

Phnom Penh - An errant waste disposal contractor which was failing to keep rubbish off the streets could soon find the uncollected garbage dumped in its office, the capital's governor said Thursday. Kep Chuktema said he realized that the French-Khmer company Cintri had faced logistical problems and felt sorry for it, but his first duty was to the public so the company had until the end of the week to up its performance.

"Otherwise I will send municipal staff to collect the rubbish and order them to dump it in the Cintri headquarters," he said.

Cintri won a 49-year exclusive waste collection contract for the capital in 2002, but has failed to stop piles of rubbish accumulating across the city.

It has blamed flooded roads to the city's only dump, but Chuktema, known for his outspokenness and sometimes left-of-centre solutions to problems, says that isn't good enough, and says he is not joking.

In 2003, he called on the population to eat more dogs to solve a problem with strays on the streets.

Chea Sim Makes Pressure to Remove Sok An and Cham Prasidh from Their Positions after the Fourth Term Election

Posted on 23 May 2008.
The Mirror, Vol. 12, No. 561

“According to some Cambodian People’s Party [CPP] officials, there have been strong arguments between the president and the vice-president of the CPP over the intention to remove Sok An and Cham Prasidh from their fixed positions of ministers after the fourth term election.

“This source said that Chea Sim, the President of the CPP, had told the CPP Vice-President Hun Sen to take actions to remove the Senior Minister in Charge of the Council of Ministers Sok An, from his position, which he has held for many years and for many terms, and which is full of corruption, and also the Minister of Commerce Cham Prasidh, whose name in Chinese is Yu Tek Hua [phonetic]. This would bring some new blood, and some change among members of the CPP for the coming fourth term government.

“These requests had first been strongly opposed by Hun Sen in order to protect his in-law [there is a family link by marriage between children of the Prime Minister and of the Senior Minister in Charge of the Council of Ministers] so that he continues to hold the controls of the main state machinery of the government. The Council of Ministers has the right to make initial decisions to accept money from foreigners, and to give the right to foreign companies to do businesses in Cambodia, and this institution has also a big power in land management. As for the Ministry of Commerce, it is seen that it functions in the second important role – after the Council of Ministers – as it can earn income form everything that comes in, and it is called a lucrative ministry.

“Previously, some people remarked that the Ministry of Commerce of Cambodia was shrunk to be the ministry of Cham Prasidh’s family. It was seen that some important departments in the Ministry of Commerce were controlled by Cham Prasidh’s family and his relatives alone, including his sons and daughters, his nephews and nieces and cousins. Because of these reasons, the current Minister of Commerce Cham Prasidh became miraculously a millionaire who has expensive villas in the city, in the suburbs, and at the coast, while some Khmer citizens can hardly buy rice to fill their rice cooking pots.

“As for Sok An, he is one level more special than Cham Prasidh. According to some ministers in the Council of Ministers, they said that in this ministry, many important positions belong to Sok An’s children and nephews or nieces who have just graduated. As for other staff, they were changed to any place where they cannot earn much. Moreover, Sok An has gained much benefits, called commissions, from foreign investors who want to invest in Cambodia.

“There was a report that last year Sok An collected tens of thousands of dollars monthly from some areas for which foreign companies had entered into some contracts with the government, but then left those areas unused, like the Koh Puas [Snake Island] island which had been contracted to the Malaysian Ariston Investment Company; but when Ariston was late and failed to make the planned investments, much money had already been collected and stuffed into Sok An’s drawer. In this case, one wonders if this happened just with the Ariston Company alone; Sok An eared tens of thousands of dollars per month - so how many other companies in Cambodia have a similar situation to that of the Ariston Company, and how many millions of dollars did Sok An earn from these cases?

“However, based on the information source from some CPP officials, in fact, the money earned by the Minister in Charge of the Council of Ministers, as well as that of the Minister of Commerce Cham Prasidh, is not just for them alone: one third of the money is delivered to Hun Sen, to be spent as he decides.

“By now, because of the unbalance of sharing of benefits using the power of the ministries, Hun Sen also started to attack this situation indirectly in a speech, saying that now the houses of some ministers are no longer houses; they all became villas.

“To sum up, it is noted that both Cham Prasidh and Sok An are the pipe to pump in and to collect money for Hun Sen. Now, Chea Sim claims therefore a reassignment of Sok An and of Cham Prasidh from their positions, which they have held for many years, and this shows that the party president is presenting his real intention: to cut the economic blood vessel of Hun Sen, who is his strong opponent within the CPP. To be fair towards Chea Sim and his group, Hun Sen should now make some contribution, to respond to Chea Sim’s intentions.

“It should be mentioned that although Hun Sen and Chea Sim are the two main sides - one side is Chea Sim and the other is Hun Sen - inside the CPP, we cannot overlook Heng Samrin, the former President of the People’s Republic of Cambodia, and now the Honorary President of the CPP. Because in the party, Heng Samrin, who is known as the ‘Old Respected Leader Achar Vech,’ has also many honest people which are not much lower in rank than those of Chea Sim and Hun Sen. Heng Samrin’s and Chea Sim’s group have many points in common – both groups are victims of the injustice of Hun Sen’s group, that means high and important positions are held by Hun Sen’s people, but for lower positions, Hun Sen leaves them for Chea Sim’s and Heng Samrin’s groups.

“This is the reason why Chea Sim, who has been patient for many years, dares to protest against Hun Sen by requesting the removal of Sok An and of Cham Prasidh from their lucrative positions, to let other people from Chea Sim’s line to hold these positions in the coming fourth term government.”

Moneaksekar Khmer, Vol.15, #3466, 22.5.2008

The Space Archaeologists

On High: The temple of Angkor Wat from above—the surrounding ruins hold untouched archaeological treasure. Photo by NASA; Stephen Studd/Getty

What does the past look like from 200 miles up? A new generation of archaeologists has found that the history of civilization may look far clearer from the top of the atmosphere than it does from the bottom of a dig

By Mara Hvistendahl

If it weren’t for the landmines, Lingapura would be a great place to dig. For part of the 10th century, this pocket of northwestern Cambodia was the capital of the famed Angkorian empire, a sprawling city studded with homes, irrigation channels, and more than 1,000 temples crowned with stone lingam, or phalluses. But ever since Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge dotted Cambodia with millions of landmines in the 1970s, Lingapura’s ruins have sat mostly untouched.

For Damian Evans and Bill Saturno, now surveying Lingapura from atop a crumbling 1,000-year-old tower, the mines don’t really matter. Evans and Saturno are among a growing group of archaeologists who use radar, satellite imagery and other advanced technologies to uncover the mysteries surrounding ancient civilizations. This young vanguard of scholars explores not only regions where violence rules out groundwork, but also sites previously invisible from the ground: the ocean floor, dense jungle, even buried cities. They are transforming archaeology from a gritty, hands-on profession into an office job—what NASA terms, in program-funding documents, “space archaeology.” In doing so, they’re unearthing whole civilizations and rewriting history books: reshaping, in a few short years, the study of our preindustrial past.

Here in Cambodia, the new archaeology has changed the history of a civilization. The low-key Evans, a director of the University of Sydney’s Greater Angkor Project at just 32 years old, has already mapped northern Angkor, another heavily landmined area, from a computer screen in Australia. He has used radar and satellite images to chart its vast network of canals and reservoirs, proving that Angkor was once the largest city in the world, a metropolis consuming an area about the size of present-day Los Angeles. His work also underpins a radical new explanation of why, in the 15th century, the Angkor civilization died out, a finding that holds grave undertones for the megacities of the 21st century.

Now Evans has set out to map nearby Lingapura. The first stop in his mission is this tower, the closest approximation he can get to the vantage point of a satellite. When humans construct a house, field or temple, they alter the surrounding plants and trees—either deliberately, through farming or grooming the forest, or unintentionally, by enriching the soil with meal scraps and organic waste. This process creates vegetative trails that can linger for centuries. The team’s goal today is to discover what kinds of vegetation grow at Lingapura’s settlements and nowhere else—the space archaeologist’s equivalent of the X that marks the spot.

Hidden Gods: Damian Evans at one of the thousands of local temples that dot Angkor. Photo by Ariana Lindquist

Saturno notices that the foliage surrounding the handful of temples not covered by trees is thriving, a promising sign. Returning to the ground, they tread a careful path to the temples; only a 30-foot-wide area around each building has been de-mined. Their first stop is a temple holding a one-ton, seven-foot-tall linga—“proof that size matters,” Evans cracks. But Saturno doesn’t respond. He’s busy examining the vegetation from a new angle. He gets excited when he spots a tall, bright-white tree growing near several temples. Sovann, their guide, tells him it’s a sralao tree. It’s almost too good to be true: a tree so distinctive that it will be easy to pick out in satellite photos. “There it is again,” Saturno says at a later temple, grinning.

Returning to the tower, where they’ve set up camp near a ramshackle concession stand, he couldn’t be more pleased. At around 11 the next morning, an Ikonos imaging satellite will pass over Lingapura, snapping images of the forest—including the sralao trees—below. Soon, Saturno and Evans will be back in their labs. And then the real archaeology will begin.

Satellite Power

Every few months, it seems, a discovery from the skies shakes up the world of archaeology. In Iraq, Harvard University archaeologist Jason Ur has revealed ancient irrigation canals that suggest that the 3,000-year-old Assyrian kingdom contained a network of previously undiscovered suburbs. At Easter Island, University of Hawaii and California State University scholars have exposed the paths—long a mystery—along which early Polynesians dragged statues. And in Guatemala, Saturno has uncovered sprawling Mayan sites dotted with hundreds of buildings.

This impulse skyward is not altogether new. Flying over Europe in World War I, conscripted archaeologists noticed enormous patterns in the crops below. Later excavations would show that these were remnants of buried settlements. Archaeology was transformed by the work of people like British Lieutenant-Colonel G.A. Beazeley, who once dryly noted that he was shot down before he could survey an irrigation system in Mesopotamia. Charles Lindbergh, an amateur enthusiast, discovered Pueblo cliff houses in the American Southwest and Mayan ruins in Central America. But only in the past few decades, with the introduction of remote sensing—digital sensors that illuminate the Earth’s surface from air or space—have archaeologists been able to expose sites invisible to the naked eye.

As the new methods spur increasingly spectacular discoveries, they are changing historians’ understanding of the ancient world. “People are looking at this data,” says Sarah Parcak, an archaeologist at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, “and going, ‘Oh my goodness, we’re going to have to reconceptualize our vision of ancient landscapes.’

” For archaeologists, the rise of remote sensing places a sudden premium on technical knowledge. In doing so, it rewards a certain comfort with computing not typically found among the old guard. Parcak was 23 when she started her dissertation on satellite imaging at the University of Cambridge. She searched papers in geology and other fields for information on how to analyze satellite images; there was no textbook for remote archaeology. (Now an old hand six years later, she’s writing it.) But the utility of her approach soon became clear.

While still in graduate school, Parcak loaded an image of the Egyptian Nile River Delta taken by NASA’s Landsat Earth-observing satellite into a program called Erdas Imagine, a cross between Google Earth and Photoshop that geologists and climate scientists use to analyze satellite images. All natural features—trees, water, sand—reflect and absorb light differently, and the program can tease out any unique signature the researcher is looking for. Using data from known archaeological sites, Parcak had already figured out how to sort for the high organic matter and phosphorus content that marked Egyptian “tells,” or ancient house mounds. She processed the new images so that any tells would show up pink.

When she analyzed the images, her computer screen filled with pink splotches. “I thought, ‘Wait a minute, those can’t all be archaeological sites,’ ” Parcak recalls. But then she went into the field with a GPS receiver. At the pink points on the Landsat image, the delta’s flat green fields gave way to silty brown mounds: remnants of tells. Parcak has since used satellite data to uncover hundreds of sites in Egypt, none of them exposed to the naked eye.

NASA’s ArchaeologistsYet Parcak’s technique is not universally applicable; what works in the Egyptian delta won’t necessarily work in the Brazilian rainforest. Archaeologists have to tailor remote sensing to their sites. Satellite imagery is valuable for wet agricultural regions like the delta or heavily forested areas, while treeless plains or deserts call for radar.

Local CHarm: Christophe Pottier has been mapping Angkor’s landmine-studded landscape for 16 years. Photo by Ariana Lindquist

In northern Angkor, which isn’t as heavily forested as Lingapura, Damian Evans uses synthetic aperture radar (SAR), a type of all-weather radar beamed from the belly of an aircraft that can gather far more information than ordinary radar alone. The time it takes for the radar waves to reach the ground and bounce back up to the aircraft records changes in elevation, and variations in soil humidity and other factors produce signals of differing “brightness,” thus allowing archaeologists to pick out ancient canals and man-made mounds.

The excitement around remote sensing means that archaeologists now work closely with NASA. Saturno and his partner at Marshall Space Flight Center, archaeologist Tom Sever, fly around the world to examine projects that might benefit from the space agency’s technology. In Pasadena, California, radar scientists at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) are turning out increasingly sophisticated versions of SAR and working with archaeologists to apply them to their sites. And last year, NASA went official, creating a space-archaeology division under its Research Opportunities in Space and Earth Science program [see “The Past from 200 Miles Up,”]. The initial batch of grants allots $2 million to seven projects around the globe. Although that’s not a lot for the space agency, archaeologists, who are used to working with low budgets, consider it a vital infusion of resources and expertise. “This is just the beginning,” Sever says.

The Ground War

Archaeologists, like skilled workers in other professions, have not uniformly embraced the introduction of new technologies. The dynamic is in many ways embodied at Angkor. Once home to an illustrious civilization spanning 600 years and now containing the world’s largest temple, Angkor Wat (wat is the word for temple in Khmer), along with hundreds of subsidiary temples, the ancient city has long attracted aspiring Indiana Joneses. But in the past decade, those adventurers have had to bunk with unlikely company: indoor archaeologists more at home in a computer lab than a field camp.

Angkor’s early archaeologists were foot soldiers in a European battle to showcase colonial finds. At the turn of the 20th century, the British had fixed up India’s Taj Mahal, and the French, who controlled much of Southeast Asia, hurried to show off Angkor Wat. In 1907, the École Française d’Extrême-Orient (EFEO), a French research organization with 17 centers throughout Asia, opened an outpost in Siem Reap, near the temple, on the banks of an Angkorian canal. In their focus on temples, however, the French archaeologists overlooked the surrounding land—and the people who had lived on that land. Historians have long puzzled over why Angkor, after flourishing for centuries, fell apart. Some EFEO scholars surmised that Angkor died out because its rulers ordered progressively more complicated temples, ultimately sapping the empire of resources.

In 1992, when United Nations peacekeepers arrived in Cambodia to oversee elections after decades of war, the EFEO transferred Christophe Pottier from Thailand to the old complex in Siem Reap. A roguish Frenchman, Pottier typified the classical colonial adventurer: a khaki-clad daredevil with an eternal five o’clock shadow and the tan born of decades spent in the tropics. The EFEO was still preoccupied with spectacular remodeling jobs, and Pottier, trained as an architect, was put to work restoring temples.

Later that year, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) named Angkor a World Heritage Site and soon after hired Pottier to map it. Flying over Cambodia in a helicopter, he quickly noticed traces of rice paddies, roads and canals—hundreds of unrecorded sites in all. Angkor, he realized, wasn’t a cluster of temples but a full-fledged city.
In his spare time, Pottier set out on motorcycle to record the sites he’d seen from the air.

Equipped with an early GPS receiver, a camera, a notebook and an antique stereoscope—a viewfinder that functions like 3-D glasses, adding depth to a composite of bird’s-eye images—he searched for evidence of occupation. When he found decaying laterite or brick walls, slight hills suggesting the mounds houses were built on, or pot fragments, he marked off sites on stereoscopic photos. Returning to his office, he laid tracing paper over the photos and meticulously copied out the points, later transferring them to a map.

At the time, the Khmer Rouge still hadn’t fully relinquished power. During Pottier’s first year in the field, the guerrillas kidnapped and murdered a British mine remover a few miles from his site. But Pottier canvassed Angkor with a stubborn fearlessness, surviving on a mixture of luck and armed escorts. In the end, he mapped 232 square miles of southern and central Angkor—the density of landmines in the north defied even his valor—and rounded out his architecture degree with an archaeology dissertation. The project took him six years.

Culture Clash

In 1996, as Pottier was riding through the Cambodian hinterland, Roland Fletcher was spending his days in the libraries of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. A Cambridge-trained archaeologist, Fletcher was on leave from the University of Sydney to research a book on preindustrial cities. Looking at rough maps of Angkor one day, he noted a lopsided settlement plan that barely extended outside the city’s collection of temples, leaving little room for fields and house mounds. “It was obvious that there was something wrong with the plan,” he says.

A bookish theoretician, Fletcher has a penchant for crisp polo shirts and loafers and speaks in dense, looping sentences. A colleague jokes that his landmark work on urbanism, The Limits of Settlement Growth, should be titled The Limits of Reader Tolerance. But he has a big-picture perspective rare in archaeology. The existing portrait of Angkor didn’t fit with what he knew of other early low-density cities, and he pledged to solve the puzzle. Following a talk he gave at the National Air and Space Museum, an audience member asked if he had seen the radar images of Angkor captured by the space shuttle Endeavour in 1994. He had not, and so he picked up the phone and called NASA.

The images revealed objects 100 feet across or more, crude by today’s standards. But one image, which took up the length of Fletcher’s office, offered a view of much of Angkor. He had no experience with satellite images. “It looked like crazy art,” he recalls. “Amazingly beautiful, with these incredible colors.” But he made out a long vertical groove stretching north-south—a canal—crisscrossed by a series of east-west lines that he guessed were channels. The lines extended far beyond central Angkor, suggesting that the temples were at the center of something much larger than historians had assumed. He rushed to Cambodia, where Pottier showed him the map of southern Angkor he’d traced by hand. It was exactly as Fletcher had imagined it.

The next year, Fletcher and Pottier founded the Greater Angkor Project. They made an unlikely partnership—a grizzled French expat and a highbrow British professor—but they shared each other’s determination to uncover the mysteries of the Angkorian landscape. They just didn’t agree on how.

Space Travel : Bill Saturno checks Angkor’s ruins against the satellite images Photo by Mara Hvistendahl

Fletcher believed that satellite imagery and radar could help them illuminate the inaccessible north. But Pottier felt that any continuation of his work had to be done using the same painstaking (not to mention dangerous) methods he had used in the south. Although radar and satellites could detect variations in moisture and vegetation not visible to the naked eye, their resolution was inadequate, he thought, next to simple aerial photographs. “Radar—I would not say it’s worthless,” he tells me, “but it has a very limited interest.” The Endeavour image Fletcher had seen “had very, very poor resolution, so it didn’t show anything.” NASA was hyping its technology, he adds, claiming credit for discoveries that actually preceded the shuttle flight. But proof of the technology’s power was hard to deny: Using the Endeavour image, Fletcher had intuited in a few minutes what Pottier had spent half a decade uncovering.

Cracking the Data NASA has used synthetic aperture radar to peer through the clouds of Venus and to study the folds of Saturn’s largest moon, Titan. It has also mounted a unit onto a DC-8 jet and used it to map the world closer to home. Yet an Airsar run, as it’s called, requires staffing the airplane with up to 10 people, and thus was outside an archaeological budget. Then, in 2000, NASA collaborated with the Australian government to map parts of Southeast Asia. Fletcher saw his chance. He called NASA and eventually convinced the University of Sydney and the Mekong River Commission, a water-management organization, to bankroll a detour over Angkor. Taking off from Bangkok that September, the jet veered south at the Thai-Cambodian border and traced a cross over Angkor. Fletcher received data spanning more than 10,000 square miles.

There was only one problem: No one in the University of Sydney archaeology department knew how to use it. The department was one of a handful in the world with an archaeological computing lab, but its researchers were primarily concerned with developing mapping software.

Then Damian Evans, at the time a college sophomore searching for career direction, stepped forward. On Fletcher’s second trip to Siem Reap, he had taken Evans along because the student had been there as a backpacker. With Fletcher’s encouragement, Evans decided to use the Airsar data to expand Pottier’s map to northern Angkor. He hung around the archaeological computing lab in his spare time, fiddling with software. Through an e-mail correspondence with JPL radar scientist Scott Hensley, he learned how to turn the data from television-screen fuzz into the grainy black-and-white pictures that suggested a landscape. In just a year, Evans had mapped out a rough sketch of the canals and roads of inaccessible northern Angkor.

Kettle Detector: Ground-penetrating radar helps archaeologists find buried fragments before anyone lifts a shovel. Photo by Ariana Lindquist

He enrolled in the University of Sydney’s doctoral program with the goal of producing a more detailed map. He collated the Airsar data with aerial and satellite photographs into a geographic information system and pored over it, devoting about an hour to each of 1,500 square kilometers. This time, he could pick out traces of mounds and moats left by small neighborhood temples.

Evans restricted his analysis to only those formations that appeared in two separate data sets. Even so, he pinpointed thousands of new sites, including 94 temples and several dozen roads and canals. Ultimately, the student mapped 580 square miles of northern Angkor. He more than doubled Pottier’s map in a fraction of the time—and he’d done it sitting at his desk.

The Australian described his findings in a dissertation, submitting it to Pottier for review. Even now, the paper seems to be a source of tension. Evans says Pottier scribbled furiously in the margins, at one point mocking his analysis with a cartoon figure of an Angkorian man shooting himself in the head. “I had never seen so much red ink,” he says. When asked his opinion about the work, Pottier simply says the map is “wide enough now to do more analysis of what was going on in the north”—implying that groundwork is still the project’s primary goal. But his tan deepens into a dark crimson.

Elsewhere in the world, the new map of Angkor was widely praised. Evans became the principal author on a paper published last fall in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences describing the document (Greater Angkor Project researchers won’t publish the full-resolution map for fear that looters will beat them to new sites). The paper also offered the first evidence supporting a provocative theory of Angkor’s demise.

Breaking with temple-centric theories of the civilization’s decline, Evans suggests that the true answer lies in the landscape. In this analysis, Angkor’s people exploited the land, cutting it with canals and a complex irrigation system, until it became unsustainable. When Pottier, a co-author on last fall’s paper, sat down with Fletcher in 1999 and agreed to explore Angkor’s demise, he already suspected as much. But it was only with the radar and satellite findings that the Greater Angkor Project could offer the world definitive proof, upsetting a century of Angkorian archaeology.

The Launch Forward

Every January, during Cambodia’s dry season, Australian archaeologists fly in to excavate sites identified on Evans and Pottier’s map or verify their own remote-sensing findings. The Greater Angkor Project now includes a paleobotanist, a radiocarbon-dating specialist and an American Vietnam-vet pilot, who flies the archaeologists over their sites in an ultralight plane for quick aerial views. These days, the scientists are also trailed by documentary crews filming segments on the discovery of Angkor’s canal-based culture.

With Fletcher jetting around the world, Pottier has become the weary supervisor of a dozen young Anglo-Saxon scholars. At drinks after days spent in the field, the running joke is a well-delivered “Eet eez obviez!” Down the road from the EFEO, the Australians are renovating a house that will serve as the project’s headquarters. They say they’ll decorate it with animal skins and tacky paintings—a direct affront to refined French taste.

Bill Saturno returned to Marshall Space Flight Center a few weeks after our visit to Lingapura. Now equipped with firsthand knowledge of what to search for, he and Tom Sever decided to order Ikonos images of Angkor. They will process them this summer and then travel next winter to Angkor to verify their findings with Evans.

Meanwhile, JPL researchers are busy refining synthetic aperture radar. The latest operational version, Geosar, is the most elegant yet. Whereas eight to 10 people are needed to operate an Airsar flight, Geosar fits into the hull of a small Gulfstream jet. Most important, it has four times the resolution of Airsar, along with a longer band of radar that can penetrate through the forest canopy, allowing archaeologists to see beneath the trees rather than just read the tops of them. Evans is hopeful. “If it lives up to its promise,” he says, “Geosar may revolutionize the way our work is done here.”

Fletcher envisions a Geosar run over much of northern Angkor. As with Airsar, he’s waiting for a government agency or private company to pay for a flight. After that, he would like to try out the technology over early settlements in Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Vietnam, comparing the results against Angkor. Evidence is building, he says, to suggest that Angkor is not an isolated case—that there were other sprawling, low-density cities in southeast Asia. The question is whether they, too, ensured their downfall by overengineering their landscape.

That next phase of work could have far-reaching implications. As urbanization spurs an explosion of slums in Asia, Africa and Latin America, development experts are debating how to accommodate megacities. Fletcher simply sees a resurgence of Angkorian-style settlements. He thinks remote-sensing work on the sprawl of the past could illuminate strategies for sustainability, or at least show what doesn’t work. The demise of cities like Angkor won’t necessarily mean that today’s megacities “will fail catastrophically,” he says. “But we had sure better find out.

”For a look at the archaeology in action, launch the gallery here.

Mara Hvistendahl has written about science and the environment for Harper’s, the Financial Times and Archaeology.

Wells-Ogunquit Adult Education student wins award

May 22, 2008

WELLS — The 22nd annual Literary Achievement Awards were presented recently to learners in the Wells-Ogunquit Community School District. Students at each grade level submitted entries of their writing. This year, Kim Heang Kinsey, a current adult education student, won first place in the adult education level with her essay titled "Charity in Cambodia."

Kinsey was born and raised in Cambodia. After spending years in a refugee camp during the brutal rule of the Khmer Rouge, she returned with her family to her home in Cambodia. Soon after, Kinsey's parents enrolled her in school and she started her journey as a life-long learner. During her time in high school, she received some English instruction. In 2006, she passed the Cambodian national test to become a teacher.

Meanwhile, Kinsey met and married an American man. They returned to America to live. This was very exciting for her. She wanted to learn more English and know more about a culture so different from her own. Now, her aunt and her aunt's family are also here in the U.S.

Kinsey came to Wells-Ogunquit Adult Community Education to take English classes. These classes are offered at no charge to anyone who speaks other languages. In the eight months that she has been taking classes with the adult education program, she has studied English for more than 125 hours. Her writing and speaking have improved greatly. All the staff and instructors of the adult education program are very proud of her accomplishments.

Congratulations are also extended to the second place winner in adult education, Laurette Poulin, a native of Canada.

The essay Kinsey wrote for the Literacy Achievement Awards is about a small slice of life and the people in Cambodia. It is on the Web site and is heartwarming to read.

You can access and read all the entries submitted for consideration. The Wells-Ogunquit Community School District has many talented students in every grade level, from kindergarten through high school to adult education. Congratulations to all who participated.

Do you know anyone who would benefit from the English classes we offer? Please encourage them to call us at 646-4565; there is always room in our program for more learners.

WORLD BANK GROUP: World Bank Extends Cambodia Country Program, Approves Two New Projects to Help Govt. Fight Poverty

Macro World Investor

The decision to extend the current CAS three more years resulted from extensive consultations with the Government and other stakeholders, including the donor community, the private sector, and the civil society. These consultations confirmed the continued relevance of the CAS strategy of improving governance through a wide range of development initiatives, said Ian Porter, Country Director for Cambodia. 'The Bank's assistance strategy recognizes the positive changes in Cambodia over the past three years, and the solid progress the Government has made in implementing the ambitious reform agenda,' Porter said. 'This progress has enabled the World Bank and other donors to continue working with the Government to deepen their reform efforts.' First approved in 2005, the Cambodia CAS provides support for tackling some of the critical governance issues threatening the country's ability to reduce poverty and achieve Millennium Development Goals. It aims to improve governance through private sector development for growth; public financial management for better service delivery; land administration, management and allocation for agricultural investments and growth; and decentralization and social accountability for better governance and empowerment of communities.

The Cambodia CAS was the first Bank Group CAS produced jointly with the Asian Development Bank, the UK Department of International Development, or DFID, and the UN system, which have all endorsed the extension.

Together with the CAS extension, the World Bank's Board of Executive Directors also approved two lending projects for Cambodia, aimed at helping the government fight poverty by improving access to roads, as well as providing poor people with land for agricultural development.

Under the Road Asset Management Project (RAMP), the Bank will provide $30 million worth of financial and technical support to help the government perform periodic maintenance on selected sections of the country's road network, as well as establish related systems. Studies have shown that road access helps reduce poverty as it allows poor people easier access to the markets. An improved road system also enables the government to bring social services to remote, rural areas.

This five-year project also receives financial support from the Asian Development Bank, and the Australian Agency for International Development. The Royal Government of Cambodia also contributed toward the project cost, which stands at $56.1 million.

The second project, the Land Allocation for Economic and Social Development Project (LASED) will receive a total of $11.5 million in funding from the World Bank, which complements technical cooperation support from the Government of Germany. LASED will support the Government's social land concession program.

Under the project, local communities will identify appropriate state land, and select poor, landless families to receive land as well as livelihoods assistance within their own communities. The five-year project will be implemented by the local communities, with assistance from the Government's land and decentralization support agencies.

The dark side of Phnom Penh: Cambodia’s capital city is still haunted by the ghosts of the Khmer Rouge

Pique News Magazine
By Jack Souther

Somewhere over the Mekong Delta we crossed from Vietnamese into Cambodian airspace. It’s only a 40-minute flight from Ho Chi Minh City to Phnom Penh but it spans one of the most historically volatile regions in all of Southeast Asia. Back in the 18th century, before the Vietnamese annexed it, the rich agricultural land of the Delta was part of the Khmer Kingdom. Since then Cambodia’s border has been buffeted by war, violated by its Thai and Vietnamese neighbours, and ignored by foreign powers.

As we begin our descent into Phnom Penh I get a fleeting glimpse of the mighty Mekong River that runs through the centre of the city. Moments later a friendly immigration officer welcomes us to Cambodia and takes only a few minutes to process our visas. Kosal, a stocky, dark skinned fellow in his early 40s greets us with a big smile. He will be our guide in Phnom Penh. The trip to our hotel takes us past stately French Colonial houses, some restored, others crumbling into ruin. Built 100 years ago when Cambodia was part of French Indochina, they now stand side by side with Art Deco mansions that once belonged to officials of Prince Norodom Sihanouk’s pre revolutionary government.

The traffic, a mix of tuk tuks, motorbikes, and pickups, is less frantic than that in Ho Chi Minh and, perhaps because it is smaller, the pace of life seems more relaxed. After a sumptuous dinner at the Amoc Cafe we return to the Juliana Hotel, order a drink from the bar, and settle down at a table in the lush poolside garden. It’s hard to imagine that 33 years ago foreigners like us were banned from the country and the people of Phnom Penh were fleeing their city in terror, abandoning their homes, shops, and most of their possessions to a handful of Khmer Rouge soldiers.

In her book First They Killed My Father (Harper Collins), Loung Ung describes the day the soldiers arrived and ordered everyone to leave on the pretense that the U.S. was about to bomb the city. “You can return in three days,” they were told. It was the first of many lies designed to control the terrified people. At checkpoints outside the city the Khmer soldiers offered good jobs to anyone who had worked for the Lon Noi government. Those who identified themselves were killed. The others became virtual slaves in work camps and rural communes where many died of starvation and disease.

I asked Kosal if he remembered that terrible time. “Yes,” he replied, “my experience was very similar to that of Loung Ung. Almost every family in Cambodia was affected one way or another by Khmer Rouge violence. They killed three members of my family and I have lost track of the others.”

The convoluted history that paved the way for the Khmer Rouge takeover and the subsequent tragedy of Pol Pot’s social experiment is a tale of political intrigue, deceit and social collapse. Cambodia gained independence from France in 1953 and for 20 years, under the autocratic rule of Norodom Sihanouk, it enjoyed a period of relative prosperity.

But discontent with Sihanouk’s repressive policies came to a head in 1970 when a military coup led by general Lon Noi overthrew him. After fleeing to Beijing Sihanouk set up a government in exile allied with a revolutionary movement lead by Pol Pot, whose peasant army had been waging a limited guerilla war against the government since 1963. Sihanouk nicknamed them the Khmer Rouge and his support drew thousands of new recruits into the revolution.

In the meantime the Vietnamese war was spilling over the border, and in 1969 U.S. president Nixon authorized the secret bombing of suspected communist bases in Cambodia. Over the next four years an estimated 250,000 Cambodian civilians, mostly peasants, were killed by B52 carpet-bombing. The survivors, bitter and displaced from their land, flocked to join the Khmer Rouge and, with aid from China, Pol Pot’s guerrilla skirmishes escalated into full-scale civil war. On the 17th of August 1975 truckloads of Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge soldiers stormed triumphantly into Phnom Penh and replaced the Lon Noi government with a regime even more brutal and horrific than the war that brought them to power.

Our brief stay in Phnom Penh was an emotional roller coaster that took us through the depravity of the Pol Pot years to the measured optimism of modern Cambodia — from the unspeakable horror of the killing fields to the tranquility of the Royal Palace.

“We will go first to Tuol Sleng Museum,” Kosal tells us as we pile into a tuk tuk and head off in a cloud of exhaust from the aging motorcycle towing us. The sprawling low buildings of the museum were once occupied by a high school but, with the addition of razor wire, barred cells and long rows of leg shackles chained to the floor, the Khmer Rouge converted it to a prison.

Security Prison 21 (S21) became the largest centre of detention and torture in the country — the place where those suspected of being a threat to Pol Pot’s regime were brought for interrogation. Few of them left alive. Between 1975 and 1978 more than 17,000 people were trucked from S21 to the killing fields of Choeung Ek.

It’s 15km from S21 to Choeung Ek, a deceptively tranquil place where tree shaded paths wind past 129 mass graves now muted by greenery. The skulls of more than 8,000 victims are displayed in a memorial stupa, but no one knows how many thousands of hapless people were executed and dumped here by the Khmer Rouge.

This, I thought, is Pol Pot’s legacy — the grisly remnants of a mad man’s dream. Brother number one, as he referred to himself, had the vision of a self-contained agrarian society, a pure Khmer society without foreign influence where hard working peasants would replace the decadent upper and middle classes of the cities. As soon his troops entered Phnom Penh he set the country’s clocks to year zero and the all-powerful Angkar (organization) of Pol Pot’s Democratic Kampuchea set out to change society through relocation, forced labour and purges.

Driven by paranoia and absolute power the Angkar executed anyone perceived to be a present or future threat to the regime. Employees of the former government were the first to go, followed by the intelligentsia. According to Kosal even wearing glasses, a sign of wealth and intelligence, could be a death sentence.

The purges soon escalated into full-scale genocide and many of those not killed outright by the Angkar died of starvation or disease, in a country that had killed most of its doctors and had no medicines. Before it was over at least two million Cambodians, almost a fifth of the population, had died at the hands of the Khmer Rouge. And those remaining were barely able to feed themselves.

The nightmare of Pol Pot’s dream came to an end in 1979 when the Vietnamese, fed up with border incursions and Khmer Rouge attempts to retake the Mekong Delta, launched a full-scale invasion of Democratic Kampuchea. They drove the Khmer Rouge out of Phnom Penh, replaced the Angkar with a new government, and maintained a military presence in the country for the next 10 years. But Pol Pot and the remnants of the Khmer Rouge retreated into the jungle and continued sporadic attacks on the government until they were finally defeated in 1998, the same year that Pol Pot died of a heart attack at age 70. Like most of his Khmer Rouge henchmen he was never brought to justice.

As we left Choeung Ek my mind still carried the image of thousands of skulls staring at me through empty eye sockets. It’s a tribute to the human spirit that Kosal and those of his generation who survived the genocide are able to put the horror behind them and live normal lives.

Although Cambodia is still plagued by factional infighting and corruption it has come a long way in the last 20 years. We stop for lunch at “Friends,” a restaurant that not only serves great tapas, but also provides former street kids with training in the hospitality industry. Outside, a group of school children is painting murals and as I watch them I think of their parents. When they were the ages of these kids they were being trained as child soldiers. They witnessed the deaths of their families and had neither schools nor enough to eat.

Later on the grounds of the Royal Palace I found a quiet place to sit and unwind. Watching the saffron-robed monks strolling serenely through their manicured gardens I try to put the genocide out of my mind. If I had not actually seen the torture chambers of S21 and the killing fields of Choeng Ek the whole thing could have been just a chilling dream.

Thousands of poll agents to guarantee fair election in Cambodia

PHNOM PENH, May 22 (Xinhua) -- Two hundred and forty trainers from Cambodia's four major political parties are preparing to train tens of thousands of poll agents who will watch the National Assembly Election Day process to ensure that votes are counted fairly and that their opponents play by the rules, a press release said Thursday.

Members of the Cambodian People's Party (CPP), the Funcinpec Party, the Norodom Ranariddh Party (NRP) and the Sam Rainsy Party (SRP) will attend a party poll agent training conducted by the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs (NDI) in Phnom Penh from May 26 to 31, an NDI press release said.

The party trainers will in turn train tens of thousands of their own party's polling agents, it added.

NDI's training will equip the political party trainers with the knowledge and skills to conduct systematic observation of the polls and report based on a standard polling agent manual and observation checklist based on the National Assembly election laws, regulations, procedures and code of conduct, the release said.

The NDI will invite all political parties that have officially registered for the National Assembly election to receive the party poll agent training, it said, adding that other political parties will be trained in a second batch.

The NDI provided a similar training prior to last year's Commune Council elections, in which more than 100,000 party poll agents watched the polling process.

Editor: Song Shutao