Thursday, 29 May 2008

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Cambodian police officer examines a piece of metal from an unidentified flying object found by fishermen in the southwest of Kamport province

A Cambodian police officer examines a piece of metal from an unidentified flying object found by fishermen in the southwest of Kamport province, near the Cambodia-Vietnam border 146 km (90 miles) west of Phnom Penh, May 29, 2008. An unidentified flying object exploded in mid-air over a southern Vietnamese island, state media said on Wednesday, a day after Cambodia's air force retracted a report of a mysterious plane crash.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA)

A Cambodian police officer examines a piece of metal from an unidentified flying object found by fishermen in the southwest of Kamport province, near the Cambodia-Vietnam border 146 km (90 miles) west of Phnom Penh, May 29, 2008. An unidentified flying object exploded in mid-air over a southern Vietnamese island, state media said on Wednesday, a day after Cambodia's air force retracted a report of a mysterious plane crash.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA)

A Cambodian police officer examines a piece of metal from an unidentified flying object found by fishermen in the southwest of Kamport province, near the Cambodia-Vietnam border 146 km (90 miles) west of Phnom Penh, May 29, 2008. An unidentified flying object exploded in mid-air over a southern Vietnamese island, state media said on Wednesday, a day after Cambodia's air force retracted a report of a mysterious plane crash.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA)

A view of a piece of metal from an unidentified flying object found by fishermen southwest of Kampot province near the Cambodia-Vietnam border, 146 km (91 miles) west of Phnom Penh, May 29, 2008. The unidentified flying object exploded in mid-air over a southern Vietnamese island, state media said on Wednesday, a day after Cambodia's air force retracted a report of a mysterious plane crash.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA)

A Cambodian man examines a piece of metal from an unidentified flying object found by fishermen in the southwest of Kamport province, near the Cambodia-Vietnam border 146 km (90 miles) west of Phnom Penh, May 29, 2008. An unidentified flying object exploded in mid-air over a southern Vietnamese island, state media said on Wednesday, a day after Cambodia's air force retracted a report of a mysterious plane crash.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA)

A Cambodian policeman examines a piece of metal from an unidentified flying object found by fishermen southwest of Kampot province near the Cambodia-Vietnam border, 91 miles west of Phnom Penh, May 29, 2008.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea

POINT OF VIEW/ Sara Colm: Japan can help Cambodia's quest for justice


The long-delayed court process to bring Khmer Rouge leaders to justice is under way in Cambodia.

Five former Khmer Rouge officials are now in detention, and the first trial--of the former chief of the regime's notorious Tuol Sleng prison, where 14,000 people were tortured and executed--is expected to take place later this year.

The Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) is a hybrid tribunal presided over by both Cambodian and international judges.

Based in Phnom Penh, it was established to try those deemed most responsible for the deaths of as many as 2 million Cambodians during the Khmer Rouge's four-year rule, which ended in 1979.

Though the tribunal has started to move forward, for the ECCC to successfully find justice for the victims of Khmer Rouge atrocities, it must overcome several major hurdles.

Cambodia's judiciary is widely known for its lack of independence and corruption, and for most Cambodians, a courthouse is not a place to seek justice.

Often the accused do not have access to a lawyer. Judges have been known to arbitrarily refuse to admit defense evidence and issue verdicts written in advance of trials. In politically sensitive cases, judges receive instructions from senior government figures.

In contrast, the ECCC is expected to meet international standards of justice.

However, the ECCC was established as a special chamber within the Cambodian court system, with the majority of its 19 judges Cambodian. The United Nations initially opposed the arrangement, fearing that the Cambodian government would try to manipulate the ECCC.

The tribunal's office of administration is split into a Cambodian-administered side and a U.N. side, with serious allegations of corruption already plaguing the Cambodian side, such as wage kickbacks to the Cambodian government.

In this context, what needs to be done to ensure fair trials?

Chief among the issues yet to be resolved is how far the ECCC will be willing to go in following the evidence and identifying additional individuals to investigate and prosecute.

ECCC budget projections presented to the donors in January indicate that at most three more individuals may be prosecuted.

However, can the ECCC be credible if it only tries a handful of the most notorious individuals? Many former Khmer Rouge government officials and senior military officials continue to live freely.

Donors should insist that the ECCC strengthen its witness and victim protection programs, without which prosecutions will be hard to conduct.

They should also support the ECCC so that their international investigators can carry out thorough investigations to bring more people to justice and enable victims to participate in the process.

As Japan and other international donor countries now consider a request for an additional $114 million (around 11.8 billion yen), they should insist upon significant reforms, including conditioning pledges on the ECCC improving its transparency and addressing the alleged corruption charges.

Japan, which has already made significant contributions to the ECCC's budget and has one judge sitting in its supreme court chamber, is ideally placed to lead the call for reform.

Only if key donors insist on all possible safeguards will it be possible for the Khmer Rouge tribunal to deliver to Cambodians the justice for which they have long been waiting.


The writer is a senior researcher on Cambodia at Human Rights Watch, a New York-based nongovernmental organization. (IHT/Asahi: May 29,2008)

The Japan International Cooperation Agency Helps to Develop a Core Project on Khmer Minerals

Posted on 29 May 2008.
The Mirror, Vol. 12, No. 562

“Phnom Penh: The Ministry of Industry, Mines, and Energy of Cambodia and the Japan International Cooperation Agency [JICA] signed an agreement on the implementation of a core project to improve mineral exploitation and the mineral industries in the Kingdom of Cambodia.

“The signatures were made by the Minister of Industry, Mines, and Energy Mr. Suy Sem and by the Resident Representative of JICA, Mr. Yoneda Kazuhiro, on the evening of 26 May at this ministry.

“The Director General of a department of the Ministry of Industry, Mines, and Energy, Mr. Sok Leng mentioned that the study focuses on a clear joint overview to improve the exploitation and the development of mineral resources, which includes the creation of strategies for the exploitation and for the development of minerals, mineral exploitation taxes, the transfers of techniques, and the development of human resources. The study will start in late 2008 and will finish in early 2011 – it will take thirty months.

“Mr. Sok Leng said that work to be implemented is first, to check the current situation of the mineral sector; second, to improve the information data on mineral geology which exist on 1:200,000 and 1:100,000 maps; third, to increase investment in the mineral sector; fourth, to create a storage for GIS data [Geographic Information System”] of the information on the geology and on the areas where minerals exist; fifth, to create a website for making the information available publicly; sixth, to send officials to be trained inside and outside of the country, and seventh, to transfer this knowledge to Cambodian officials through the implementation of this project.

“Mr. Yoneda Kazuhiro said that the JICA sees the the development of the private sector as a priority to develop, in order to improve investment. Recently, the international need for minerals is growing; and Cambodia is known as a country with a potential of minerals which attracts other countries. He added that the study does not only focus on action plans to improve investment, institutional reforms, the development of human resources, and the preservation of the environment in mineral exploitation, but it also focuses on the creation of a GIS system and the development of basic guide and introductory books on minerals. JICA hopes that after the project has been implemented, the Ministry will develop its capability and then can strengthen its own work in developing mineral exploitation.

“The Minister of Industry, Mines, and Energy Mr. Suy Sem said that now, through signing this agreement, Japan starts to provide Cambodia with grant aid and a new cooperation in the field of mineral management and mineral development in Cambodian. It is the first time for Cambodia that the mineral field receives technical assistance from Japan through JICA..

“The Japanese Ambassador to Cambodia, Mr. Shinohara Katsuhiro also attended the signing ceremony.”

Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.16, #4600, 28.5.2008

Dinner to benefit Cambodian hospital

On Sunday, June 1, the Middletown Rotary Club will hold a dinner for the "Health, Pure Water and Literacy for Cambodia Project," in conjunction with the Angkor Hospital for Children in Siem Reap, Cambodia.

The event will provide an update of the work at the hospital and the Cambodia Project. The dinner will also honor the memory of the late Middletown Rotarian, Gunther Hausen, whose leadership and dedication was instrumental in achieving the high level of support for the hospital and the "Health, Pure Water and Literacy for Cambodia Project."

The dinner will be held from 4 to 7 p.m. at the Naval Base Officer's Club in Newport. Tickets are $50 per person. For more information, call Pat Burke of the Middletown Rotary at 864-4028.

China's Growing Presence in Cambodia

Young Cambodian women shout outside parliament in Phnom Penh in February 2000, protesting the appalling conditions and low pay in the country's booming garment sector.
Radio Free Asia

Ethnic Chinese families close to Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen are playing a key role in putting Chinese companies in touch with top Cambodian officials, resulting in billions of dollars' worth of deals.

PHNOM PENH—China, hungry for strategic influence and natural resources, is fast asserting itself as a major investor in Cambodia, sparking concerns that a huge inflow of Chinese cash will fuel existing corruption and exploitation in one of the world's poorest countries.

The relationship between the two countries is long and mixed, given Maoist China’s unflagging support for the late supreme Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot, whose Marxist faction is blamed for the deaths of more than a million Cambodians from 1975-79.

But in recent years, ethnic Chinese families close to Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen have played a key role in putting Chinese companies—often with the backing of the Chinese state—in touch with top Cambodian officials, economists and activists said.“China needs Cambodia,” U.S.-based Cambodian economist Tith Naranhkiri said.
“If a security problem occurs, for example, a war with Taiwan, China may need Cambodia…Secondly, for economic reasons, it needs gas and oil.
”According to the official China News Agency, China has become one of the biggest investors in Cambodia, with 3,016 Chinese companies making cumulative investments of U.S. $1.58 billion to the end of 2007. Bilateral trade last year rose by 30 percent from 2006, to U.S. $730 million.
Since the signing of an investment protection agreement in July 1996, a further U.S. $350 million has been pledged, mostly in the forestry sector, power, textiles, construction materials, and agricultural development.

Major role for China

“China now plays a crucial role in our economy. It is both an important donor and an investor, and it’s also a big market for Cambodian products,” Khmer Economists’ Association president Chan Sophal said.
“Our agricultural products are exported to China but through Thailand and Vietnam. We are also a market for Chinese products. China’s role in the Cambodian economy is growing,” he said.
Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi visited Cambodia in February, pledging a further U.S. $55 million in aid and investments of U.S. $1 billion in the country’s power industry. He also waived import tariffs on 400 Cambodian products.
Besides investment and assistance, China has also granted military assistance to Cambodia, providing the country’s dilapidated navy with nine patrol boats in November 2007 and five warships in 2005.
But rights activists and anti-corruption campaigners point to a huge increase in illegal logging, land-grabbing, and worker exploitation as a secondary consequence of Chinese money.
“The effect of lots of money coming in with few strings attached, going to a lot of people in the government, is generally exacerbating corruption,” Simon Taylor, director of the international anti-corruption group Global Witness, said.

Land grabs, illegal logging

“This manifests itself as land-grabbing, massive plantations and illegal logging, unregulated mining, the building of dams, and so on,” Taylor said.
Meanwhile, workers’ rights are often sidestepped in Chinese-invested factories, especially in the textile industry, activists said.
“The Chinese companies, especially garment factories, today have a lot of problems with Cambodian workers,” Chan Saveth, of the rights advocacy group Adhoc, said. “Today, we see that China dominates garment factories in Cambodia.”
“Workers suffer a lot, and the Chinese garment factories have mostly restricted workers’ freedom,” he said.
Hundreds of thousands of workers—the majority of whom are women—are employed in Cambodia’s textile industry, which generates annual revenue of more than U.S. $1 billion.

They have described an atmosphere in which they are constantly pressed into unpaid overtime, with too many financial worries and too little spare time to cause trouble for management.
Unauthorized deductions from pay-packets are common, and paid sick leave is rare.

Protests in the forest

Chinese money has been tied up with massive agricultural and forestry exploitation projects, which are destroying traditional ways of life such as bamboo-harvesting and resin-tapping, activists said.
The Cambodian government granted a Mondulkiri forest concession of 200,000 hectares—20 times the legal limit—acquired secretly by Pheapimex, an ethnic-Chinese owned Cambodian conglomerate with close ties to Prime Minister Hun Sen.
Pheapimex formed a joint venture with China’s Wuzhishan plantation firm to exploit the region, displacing indigenous minority people who rely on the forests for their traditional livelihoods.
Global Witness said bigger deals involving Chinese state-backed companies were likely the least transparent and the most strongly defended by government security forces, who responded with military force to anti-logging protests by villagers in Mondulkiri.
“From the perspective of people in Cambodia who might want to ask questions about the process... it’s even more difficult with some of these recent deals that have totally been brokered behind closed doors,” Taylor said.
He said the outcome of such deals for people living in rural areas was disastrous. “They know nothing until the moment that the bulldozers turn up and start pushing down their houses.”

Loans, grants from Beijing

“If they protest, they get the full force of the state mechanism… suppressing their efforts to get their voices heard,” he added.
Hun Sen has banned illegal logging and called anarchic logging “the biggest mistake” of his political career, and his views have been backed up by anti-logging speeches by ministers, but with little apparent effect.
Chan Sophal said China’s interests in Cambodia were clear. “They help us, but they also look into the resources we have, such as mines, oil, gold, iron, and land.”
“They need land to grow agricultural and agro-industrial crops to meet the demands of the [China’s] population,” he added.
Difficult history

Sino-Khmer relations began in 1958. During the 1970s, Maoist China for Pol Pot gave steadfast support to Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot, whose faction is blamed for deaths of more than a million people.
Closer ties developed after the fall of the Khmer Rouge in 1979 through former Cambodian King Norodom Sihanouk, who maintained a second home in China and close ties with Beijing.
China wrote off significant loans to the Cambodian government six years ago, making new loans and grants worth U.S. $600 million during the visit to Cambodia of Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao in April 2006.
While no conditions were attached, analysts say Beijing is keen to secure access to the southern port of Sihanoukville for strategic reasons, particularly as a delivery point for imported oil.
Original reporting in Khmer by Mayarith. Translated by Chea Makara. Khmer service director: Kem Sos. Additional research by RFA's Cantonese service. Cantonese service director: Shiny Li. Written and produced for the Web in English by Luisetta Mudie. Edited by Sarah Jackson-Han.

Conservationists Urge Locals to Save Cambodia's Rarest Bird

By VOA Khmer, Washington
Video Editor: Manilene Ek
28 May 2008

It's in the cool of the very early morning, when the people of Kampong Thom province have only just begun to stir, that the bird-watcher has the best chance of spotting the Bengal Florican. This mysterious member of the bustard family was only discovered in Cambodia in 1999. Until then it was believed to exist only in tiny populations in Vietnam and Nepal.

Most of the year the Bengal Florican is a shy creature, but in the breeding season it casts caution, and itself, to the wind in one of Cambodia's great natural sights: the male Bengal Florican's courtship dance.

Biologists are trying to learn more about this enigmatic bird. For Lotty Packman, from the University of East Anglia, in the UK, it's a labour of love. Packman says the birds are an interesting species to study because they are very striking and charismatic.

Lotty Packman: "They're very striking, very charismatic, very interesting display they way they jump up and they call and fly down. They're just very unique, very interesting species to be studying."

But now the flamboyant Florican is facing a grave and unprecedented threat as a result of Cambodia's economic progress. Tom Evans from the Wildlife Conservation Society explains that the biggest threats come from companies who build industrial-scale farming operations which remove the birds' natural habitat.

Tom Evans: "The biggest threats come from companies who come to invest in the land, and build industrial scale farming operations which remove the grasslands, which remove habitat for the threatened species, and also limit the access of local communities to the areas they used to use."

Since 2005, more than 100 strip dams have been carved into the grasslands, creating thousands of hectares of paddy fields. Almost a third of the Bengal Florican's habitat has vanished.

Conservationists believe this economic progress could kill off the species in its heartland within five years.

An innovative approach to land protection. This police unit is patrolling parts of the grassland that have been designated as Integrated Farming and Biodiversity Areas, or IFBAs. Within these zones new development is forbidden. There are currently 5 IFBAs in Kampong Thom and Siem Reap provinces, ring-fencing around 350 square kilometres.

Conservationists believe they have put the brakes on the land grab with several schemes already abandoned or scrapped since the protection began 2 years ago. Sin Sienglay from the Forestry Department says he is proud to work on the project.

Sin Sienglay: "I'm proud to work on this. If we can protect this area and save the habitat, we can save the bird."

And it's not just the birds who are affected. Overnight, livestock farmers have lost pasture they've used for decades. Others have lost small-scale crop plantations to the mega-paddy fields.
The New York-based Wildlife Conservation Society, Birdlife International and the Cambodian government, who jointly developed the IFBAs, have reached out to these threatened groups to get them on side. Meeting with village elders they've explained how the needs of the Bengal Florican and the needs of the community go hand in hand. The scheme has been given the nod by the Village Chief, Meas Than.

Meas Than: "This biodiversity project is importan for everyone here in this district so we can have a better life for generations to come."

So much is still unknown about the Bengal Florican. The pictures seen here of the female are believed to be the first ever on moving images caught on tape. It's to fill the yawning gaps in our knowledge that Lotty Packman is attaching satellite transmitters to the Bengal Floricans. These solar-powered devices will send back vital data every two days.

So far the females have eluded Packman's nets, but even so, any information about the species can play a part in saving it from extinction. Packman says it's a race against time. She and her colleagues have to gather as much information on the birds as possible before they disappear.

But she's confident that once the information is to hand the habitat of the Bengal Florican can be managed.

Information for this report was provided by APTN.

ECONOMY-CAMBODIA: Resource Curse or Blessing?

By Andrew Nette

PHNOM PENH, May 28 (IPS) - Cambodia is facing a natural resource boom, prompting donors and non-government organisations (NGOs) to warn that without measures to improve financial transparency, promote better governance and curb corruption, the potential windfall could be squandered.

In addition to significant oil reserves off Cambodia’s coast, there are major deposits of natural gas, as well as minerals such as gold, copper and bauxite, mainly in the northeast of the country.

"The risk of a resource curse is there," said Jo Scheuer, country director for the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in an IPS interview. "Included in this is the issue of corruption and funds disappearing."

At the same time Scheuer is keen to stress that Cambodia "has a great opportunity to avoid mistakes that have been made in other countries,’’ and translate the benefits to all Cambodians to ‘’create a resource blessing’’.

"The government says it is a little early to start to talk about revenue because the resources are still underground," said Chhith Sam Ath, executive director of NGO Forum in Phnom Penh. "We think it is important for us to be prepared for the new situation and challenges."

NGO Forum is one of a number of local organisations behind a new coalition, yet to be formally launched, that wants to ensure the potential financial benefits from the country’s resource windfall are managed in a socially responsible manner.

The Berlin-based Transparency International’s 2007 Corruption Perception Index ranked Cambodia 162 out of 179 countries, making it the most corrupt country in Asia after Burma and among the worst globally.

"I think the concern is the past experience," continued Sam Ath. "A lot of natural resources have been extracted often under concessions, but the revenue that has gone into the budget has been less than expected."

"It is generally accepted that poor governance, lack of transparency and corruption are serious problems for Cambodia," said Sek Barisoth, director of the Mainstreaming Anti-Corruption for Equity Programme with PACT Cambodia, another supporter of the emerging coalition.

While observers say the Cambodian Government is verbally committed to the fight against corruption, there has been little action. A proposed anti-corruption law, developed in early 2005 with technical assistance from PACT, remains in draft form. It would establish an independent anti-corruption commission and provide a better legal definition of corruption.

Oil is the current focus of the resource boom, with exploration well underway in the waters off Cambodia’s cost to determine the extent of the country’s reserves.

How much oil is there? "We do not know," said UNDP’s Scheuer. "The standard answer is that no one has done any work on exactly how much oil and gas there is."

Two years ago, U.S. oil giant Chevron, the lead partner in Block A, where exploration has gone the furthest, announced "significant" oil and gas reserves. Scheuer said the company is expected to announce the results of its exploration sometime after Cambodia’s July national election.

With the price of a barrel of crude currently hovering around 130 US dollars and some analysts expecting it to reach 200 dollars by the end of the year, the financial gains for Cambodia are significant.

"It is a potentially huge windfall for a country if invested wisely in the long-term development objectives such as health, education and expanding the labour market," said Scheuer. His organisation has been one of the key donors working to help the Cambodian government deal with the threats and opportunities presented by the oil boom.

It is collaborating with the Cambodian National Petroleum Authority to build its capacity, and earlier this year cooperated with the government to organise a major international conference on oil and gas.

"It is not necessarily a blessing for a country to be endowed with petroleum resources," Arne Walther, a Norwegian diplomat said at the conference. Norway, one of the poorest countries in Europe until the discovery of oil and gas off their coast in the mid-sixties, is cited by many as a success story in terms of how to handle the issues raised by an influx of petro dollars.

"It is how governments arrange for their resources to be extracted and how revenues earned are used that determine the success or failure of being a petroleum endowed state," Walther said. "I believe Cambodia faces a challenging task in planning and developing its petroleum sector and developing policy and instruments for channelling the future oil and gas revenues in a best possible way for the benefit of Cambodians. It is actually a momentous task."

"We realise the opportunities that petroleum revenues may afford us to improve the livelihoods of the Cambodian people," Deputy Prime Minister Sok An told the gathering. "The translation of the capital value of oil reserves into the stored capital value of our people through improved health and social conditions and education is very important for the long term prosperity of Cambodia."

"While some technical people in the government are concerned that the Nigerian experience is not copied in Cambodia it is unclear how high up this goes," said Barisoth.

"The concerns are valid," agreed Scheuer. "It is still too early to make a judgement and we are cautiously optimistic that they will get it right," he says of the government’s efforts.

The threat of corruption is not the only factor bearing on Cambodia’s efforts. "It is extremely difficult for a country like Cambodia, with its capacity, to develop a petro industry because everything is so complicated," said Scheuer.

The appropriate contractual arrangements and tax regimes are just two of the complex issues the country faces. Other countries, including developed countries, have encountered unexpected economic difficulties in developing their resource wealth, often dubbed ‘Dutch Disease’.

This refers to the problems associated with dumping large amounts of resource revenue into an economy and the distorting impact this has on other sectors such as agriculture. It originated in the Netherlands after the rapid flow of funds from the discovery of North Sea gas led to significant structural changes, including price increases and the de-industrialisation of many sectors of the economy.

The key message from the conference earlier this year was that Cambodia should take time to develop the industry and get the policy fundamentals right.

"In Norway it was ten years from the first drilling to first revenue coming on stream. Their advice is not to rush it," said Scheuer. "The main point now is to get the governance and policy frameworks right. If they get it right with Block A it will flow onto the other blocks."

The other idea being suggested by donors and experts with experience in the sector is for Cambodia to set up a fund to store revenue from oil and invested appropriately. Similar funds already exist in Norway and East Timor.

"We need to learn more about this fund but in general we would support a transparent process for the resource revenue," said Sam Ath from NGO Forum. He is one of two Cambodian NGO people who are closely studying East Timor to look at how the fledgling state is handling its revenue from natural gas.

Timor was selected from among several countries because of its similarities to Cambodia. "It is very important to build capacity and learn from them how civil society can engage with the government over the distribution of natural resources," said Sam Ath. "NGOs are open and happy to work with the government. We are not working to oppose them but to help them make the most effective use of the revenue from oil and gas."

NGOs and donors are also keen that Phnom Penh sign up to the Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative supported by a coalition of governments, companies and civil society organisations aimed at ensuring companies disclose what they pay and governments what they receive.

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Dallas-reared filmmaker explores family's tangled past

Socheata Poeuv with father Nin Poeuv in New Year Baby.

Star-Telegram Staff Writer

On Christmas Day 2002, Socheata Poeuv's Cambodian-born mother dropped a bombshell on the young woman: Poeuv's two older sisters weren't really her sisters, and her brother was born to a different father.

Poeuv's mother, Houng Poeuv, had a husband and a daughter who died in Cambodia during the rule of the Khmer Rouge, the repressive regime that controlled the country from 1975 to 1979. Houng Poeuv had a son who survived, and she got married again to Nin Poeuv, Socheata's father.

When Houng Poeuv's sister died, leaving two daughters, Houng Poeuv adopted her nieces and raised them as her daughters.

Poeuv's parents had kept this secret for 25 years.

"I was shocked that the family I grew up knowing wasn't what it appeared to be," says Poeuv, 28. "I felt a little bit of betrayal, a sense that my parents could not trust me with this information. At the same time, it was extremely, extremely emotional to see my parents, for the first time, look so vulnerable."

Poeuv, who grew up in Dallas but was born in a Thai refugee camp on April 13, the Cambodian New Year, found herself having to sort things out. She picked up a camera and started interviewing her parents, which was a challenge given their reserved nature.

"There was some resistance in the beginning," says Poeuv, whose film of the story, New Year Baby, airs as an Independent Lens entry tonight on KERA/Channel 13. "I certainly had to struggle between whether I had to be a good daughter in that moment and try and protect them, or if I really wanted to get the story and ... document it."

Poeuv had to build up the courage to ask her parents to participate in the film, in which she and her family journey back to Cambodia. In one of the most eye-opening scenes, Poeuv and her father confront a former Khmer Rouge official, whose excuse for letting 1.7 million Cambodians die of starvation (if they weren't executed) is a variation on "I was only following orders."

One of Poeuv's goals with the film -- which is her first -- was to educate viewers about the Khmer Rouge. With the end of the Vietnam War in 1975, Southeast Asia was less in America's consciousness as the Khmer Rouge controlled Cambodia for the next four years.

"I think the vast majority of Americans have never heard of the Khmer Rouge and don't know anything about it," Poeuv says. "If you were alive during the '70s, you may have heard something. But it's really not at the forefront of people's common knowledge at all."

After leaving Cambodia and spending a couple of years in refugee camps in Thailand and the Philippines, Nin and his wife moved to Dallas in 1982 and have stayed there ever since. The movie includes several interview segments in which the parents, sitting on a love seat, seem reluctant to look at the camera or each other as they answer questions.

"This was the first time that, publicly, anyone has asked them about their relationship," Poeuv says. "And so for them to just sit there and talk about it was a little uncomfortable with them. They seemed to have a hard time just kind of being in each other's face and talking about the relationship at the first time."

Although the film is making its TV debut tonight, it has won awards at several film festivals, including best documentary at last year's inaugural AFI Dallas International Film Festival. As the film has been shown, Poeuv's parents have gotten more used to the attention.

"The experience of watching the film with an audience, and having the audience affirm their experience, [has] transformed their relationship to the past," Poeuv says. "The first time they saw the film was in the living room at home, and the second time they saw the film, they were in a theater in Dallas with a sold-out audience. The audience ... gave them a standing ovation when I brought them up to the stage.

"My mother took over the Q&A," she adds with a laugh. "And afterward, there was like a receiving line of audience members who wanted to come up to them ... and express their gratitude. I know my parents have never been honored like this before, because they're broken-English immigrants who in our day-to-day life are invisible. That experience was so big for them."

Crickets for dinner

Crunchy, protein-rich, cheap, these bugs are a dinner delight in Cambodia


They're considered a plague in most parts of the world, but for a province in Cambodia, the millions of crickets that swarm the plains every year are a cause for celebration.

In rural Kompong Thom, crickets are a delicacy, served up deep-fried, crunchy and seasoned.

Some Cambodians believe eating crickets regularly improves health and longevity and the region is the country's leading cricket producer as its watery soil helps the insects flourish.

"They taste very good and I like to eat them every day," said Gnoun Vanny who regularly buys the bugs for family dinner.

Crickets are rich in protein and some research suggests they help lower cholesterol. Hunting crickets also helps provide extra income for many poor farmers. "I catch anything between one and 10 kilograms a day and this business helps me to support myself and improve my living conditions," 50-year-old cricket hunter Meo Teun said.

During the cricket season the market fills with the smell of frying crickets and queues of customers who pick through the piles for the fattest bugs.

"To make the crickets taste good, I mix them with a lot of seasoning and fry them in good quality oil," says cricket seller Ren Sreymeo.

Eating crickets is an Asian affair. In Vietnam, the crunchy insects are popular finger food while in Bangkok, water bugs, grasshoppers, larvae and mealworms are sold off carts in the street to both rich and poor.

Cambodia rice exports push prices down

CFA Institute Financial NewsBrief 05/27/2008

Cambodia will sell some of its 1 million-plus tons of rice in warehouses now that it knows it has enough for domestic demand, Prime Minister Hun Sen said.

The news adds downward pressure on rice futures, which for two days have fallen by the daily limit set by exchanges.

"With major producers in Southeast Asia braced for harvesting bumper crops in the next couple of months, the global market sees more supplies," said Takaki Shigemoto, an analyst with commodity broker Okachi & Co.

Bloomberg (05/27)

Vietnam Reports `UFO` Explosion off Cambodia Coast

Anonymous said...

Vietnam gov said that they have no plane crash. The witness in Phu Quoc said that the crashed plane flied in direction from the south to the north. This is intl flight route M753 connect Phnom Penh to others southern intl flight routes so the next destination must be Phnompenh. Because it flied northbound so the plane must flight at flight level 280000 feet (8Km6) or 310000 feet (FL280/FL310). We can eliminate it is a uncontrolable missile. There are many evidents from wreckages showed that they are remains of a cargo airplane (civil or army). Why Mr.Kung Mony before said that there is a crash then deny? Certainly Phnompenh know about this plane but they decided to hide the truth because what we did not know. There is a rumour that Cambodia high rank officers are involving with a weapon smuggling with ground to air missiles (like Stinger) and next destination of shipment after Phnompenh is Myanmar. There are a lot of mid air explotions during the accident may be caused by explotions of weapon on board.

A piece from an unidentified flying object, found by fishermen, is seen in southwest of Kamport province, near the Cambodia-Vietnam border May 28, 2008. The unidentified flying object exploded in mid-air over a southern Vietnamese island, state media said on Wednesday, a day after Cambodia's air force retracted a report of a mysterious plane crash.REUTERS/Stringer (CAMBODIA)

A Cambodian policeman carries a piece from an unidentified flying object, found by fishermen, in southwest of Kamport province near the Cambodia-Vietnam border May 28, 2008. The unidentified flying object exploded in mid-air over a southern Vietnamese island, state media said on Wednesday, a day after Cambodia's air force retracted a report of a mysterious plane crash.REUTERS/Stringer (CAMBODIA)

A Cambodian policeman carries a piece from an unidentified flying object, found by fishermen, in southwest of Kamport province near the Cambodia-Vietnam border May 28, 2008. The unidentified flying object exploded in mid-air over a southern Vietnamese island, state media said on Wednesday, a day after Cambodia's air force retracted a report of a mysterious plane crash.REUTERS/Stringer (CAMBODIA)
illustrative photo

Villagers in Kampot said on Tuesday that they had heard a loud explosion. The next day small chunks of metal were found near the coastline.

An unidentified flying object exploded in mid-air over a southern Vietnamese island, state media said on Wednesday, a day after Cambodia's air force retracted a report of a mysterious plane crash.

The Vietnam News Agency said residents of Phu Quoc island, 10 km (6 miles) off the coast of the Cambodian province of Kampot, found shards of grey metal, including one 1.5 metres (1.5 yards) long.

"The explosion happened at about 8 km (5 miles) above the ground, and perhaps it was a plane, but authorities could not identify whether it was a civil or military aircraft," VNA said in a report headlined "UFO explodes over Phu Quoc Island."

Soldiers were sent out to look for wreckage and survivors, and local authorities contacted airlines in Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand, but received no reports of missing aircraft, the official state news agency added.

Villagers in Kampot said on Tuesday that they had heard a loud explosion. On Wednesday they told Reuters they had found small chunks of metal near the coastline.

Kung Mony, deputy commander of Cambodia's Air Force, said on Tuesday he had been told of a foreign plane crashing in Kampot province, but later backed off his claims of an aircraft accident.

Published: May 28, 2008

Students to build homes in Cambodia

North Shore Times
Thursday, 29 May 2008

The thought of working six hours a day with hammer and nails has Rangitoto College students excited.

Sixteen year 12 and 13 students are saving hard to build wooden houses for poverty-stricken Cambodians in September with the Tabitha Cambodia Foundation.

Students Tayla Davies and Jessica Giljam-Brown say they are looking forward to helping people.
The foundation was formed by Canadian Janne Ritskes who helped families in slums get better homes.

One of the foundation’s aims is to provide quality housing above ground level to avoid flooding.
The students must raise $20,000 towards building costs and donations to orphanages, as well as $3500 each for travel costs and expenses.

The trip was instigated by social sciences teacher Sarah Wakeford who took 12 teachers and students last year, some of whom have gone on to do social work after leaving school.

"Our kids come from such a relatively well-off environment, it’s lovely to give them the opportunity to do something for others.

"You get to interact with people in a much more real way rather than buying their souvenirs and eating at their restaurants."

Teacher Michelle Parkinson, who went on last year’s trip, knows all about building houses in Cambodia’s humidity.

"It’s no holiday."

Seven teachers from Rangitoto College and other schools are going on a study tour of Cambodia in July.

Having spent up to six weeks studying Cambodia, the Khmer Rouge and landmines in year 10 social studies, the country will be familiar to students, Miss Wakeford says.

Cambodia has a skills shortage following the Khmer Rouge communist regime in the 1970s, when an estimated two million people died by execution, starvation or torture.

King And Queen Arrive In Phnom Penh For Four-day Visit

Malaysian King Sultan Mizan Zainal Abidin walks as Queen Nur Zahirah greets Cambodian officials upon their arrival at Phnom Penh international airport May 28, 2008. The Malaysian king is on a six-day state visit to Laos and Cambodia.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA)

May 28, 2008

From Noor Shamsiah Mohamad

PHNOM PENH, May 28 (Bernama) -- Yang di- Pertuan Agong Tuanku Mizan Zainal Abidin and Raja Permaisuri Agong Tuanku Nur Zahirah arrived here today for a four-day state visit to Cambodia after ending a similar visit to neighbouring Laos.

They were greeted on arrival at the Phnom Penh International Airport aboard a government executive jet by Deputy Prime Minister Veang Kong Som.

Malaysian Information Minister Datuk Ahmad Shabery Cheek, who is also the minister-in-attendance, Malaysian ambassador to Cambodia Datuk Adnan Othman and senior government officials were also at the airport to receive the royal couple.

The King and Queen were taken to the Raffles Hotel Le Royal, where they will be staying during the visit, for a short rest before proceeding to the Royal Palace for the official welcoming ceremony.

Thousands of waving school children and the public lined up both sides of the road to welcome the royal couple and their entourage.

The royal couple will attend a state banquet tonight.

Before departing to Phnom Penh, Tuanku Mizan and Tuanku Nur Zahirah attended a farewell ceremony hosted by Laotian President Choummaly Sayasone and his wife Keosaychay Sayasone at the presidential palace in Vientiane.

Malaysian ambassador to Laos Zainal Abidin Ahmad and Laotian Minister of Energy and Minerals Dr Bosaykham Vongdara bade farewell to the King and Queen at the Vientiane Wattay International Airport.

Their Majesties will return to Kuala Terengganu on Saturday.

Where is Cambodia’s anti-corruption law?

UPI Asia On Line
Column: Rule by Fear
Published: May 28, 2008

Hong Kong, China — On May 16, 2006, a petition with over 1 million signatures and thumbprints was presented to the National Assembly in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, calling on the assembly to urgently enact an anti-corruption law. The sheer number of people –one out of every 14 Cambodians – who supported the petition campaign with their signature or thumbprint in a period of just over five months, revealed the gravity of corruption in the country and the urgent need for government leaders and lawmakers to take action.

Corruption in Cambodia was already rife, affecting every walk of life, toward the end of the communist regime in the late 1980s. It was and still is prevalent in every public institution everywhere and at every level: in schools, hospitals, fire services, the police, the army, the civil service, the judiciary, the government and the Parliament. It has also ravaged foreign aid given to the country.

In the early 1990s when the communist regime ended, the public called on the government to tackle the problem. In the mid-1990s, civil society began to organize seminars to highlight the issue and urge the government to enact an anti-corruption law. Many national seminars were held, at times presided over by prime ministers or their colleagues, not to mention many smaller meetings.

There were study tours for concerned senior government officials and lawmakers to countries in the region, including Singapore and Hong Kong, both of which are renowned for their effective anti-corruption laws and agencies. In 1998, the newly elected government promised to fight corruption and enact a law against it.

For their part, international donors began to feel the gravity of corruption and its negative impact on the aid they had given to Cambodia, to the tune of some US$500 million a year since the early 1990s. In 2002, together with the Cambodian government, they made the fight against corruption and the enactment of an anti-corruption law one of the benchmarks for the flow of aid.

Under such pressure the government finally submitted to the National Assembly an anti-corruption bill – which had been drafted and redrafted many times, well before the adoption of the U.N. Convention against Corruption in 2003.

Shortly after, this bill was withdrawn, to be redrafted again to bring it up to the convention’s standards. Meanwhile, deadlines set for the enactment of that law have repeatedly passed and the final draft has not yet seen the light of day.

In parallel with the pressure on the government to enact an anti-corruption law, successive studies were undertaken to look into corruption in Cambodia. A 2004 study conducted by the U.S. Agency for International Development in Cambodia showed that corruption cost the government between US$300 million and $500 million in revenue every year, an enormous sum for a poor country.

Another survey conducted two years later by the Economic Institute of Cambodia in Phnom Penh showed that in 2005 the private sector paid “unofficial fees”—that is, bribes – to public officials amounting to US$330 million, an amount it said was “2.5 times higher than that of official payment” and “represented also about 50 percent of the total government budget revenue in 2005.”

A more recent survey conducted by Transparency International showed that 72 percent of Cambodians reported paying a bribe to receive a public service in 2007, a percentage which was then the highest in the Asia-Pacific region and second only to Cameroon (79 percent) internationally. The same survey also showed that the judiciary and the police were viewed as the most corrupt institutions in the country. It should be added that in 2007 Cambodia ranked 162 out 179 countries in the TI Corruption Perceptions Index.

Corruption has affected not only the Cambodian people but also foreign donors on whom Cambodia very much depends. In 1999 there was a corruption scandal at the Cambodian Mine Action Center, an internationally funded government landmine clearance organization. That scandal led to the suspension of foreign aid to CMAC for some time.

In 2003, the World Bank discovered the misuse of funds in a project to demobilize 30,000 soldiers, and forced the Cambodian government to repay the missing money. In 2004, the World Food Program found that US$1.2 million of its aid had gone missing, and forced the Cambodian government to make up for it. In 2006, the World Bank discovered fraud and corruption in three of the projects it was funding. It suspended its funding for these three projects and requested the Cambodian government to make prompt repayment of the missing funds.

In early 2007, within six months after its creation, the internationally funded Khmer Rouge Tribunal encountered allegations of corruption in its human resource management. These allegations led to the introduction of corrective measures for better management.

These are a few of the cases known to the public and acknowledged by the government. Yet in all corruption cases very few, if any, suspected government officials have been brought to justice and made accountable for their corruption. Generally, they have simply been disciplined and removed from office and then, when their cases are no longer in the public mind, they have been reappointed to other, sometimes higher, positions.

Enacting an anti-corruption law and setting up an anti-corruption body may not end what is a common practice in Cambodia. It is nevertheless a significant step toward that end. The Cambodian government must not let its officials indulge in corruption with impunity. It must not continue to break its promises to its people and its foreign donors. It must heed the petition presented to the National Assembly and submit the long promised anti-corruption bill for adoption without further delay.


(Lao Mong Hay is a senior researcher at the Asian Human Rights Commission in Hong Kong. He was previously director of the Khmer Institute of Democracy in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, and a visiting professor at the University of Toronto in 2003. In 1997, he received an award from Human Rights Watch and the Nansen Medal in 2000 from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.)

The House Price Boom Heads East

In recent years, Cambodia's capital has undergone a building-boom that has changed the face of the city. New developments are springing up everywhere, ranging from multi-story apartment blocks to brand new satellite cities.