Thursday, 5 June 2008

PM distances himself from CPP electoral campaign

Hun Sen promises to keep his mouth shut for one month.

The Mekong Times

Prime Minister Hun Sen, the deputy president of the Cambodian People’s Party (CCP), announced yesterday that he will not join the Jun 26-Jul 25 electoral campaign as he wants to avoid “confrontation.”

“From Jun 26, my voice will be no longer heard,” he said at a speech in Takeo province, “[I want] to avoid confrontation with other [leaders].” He added that he was unafraid of criticism from other politicians.

“To win or lose is one thing, and we want to gain victory. But what’s more important is that the election must be held freely, justly, and non-violently.” Hun Sen appealed to CPP members to avoid causing any problems with other parties.

“Please, CPP members, adhere to a [Buddhist] Dharma of patience. People have the right to have their own beliefs and support their own party’s leadership.” “Don’t beat other people’s head until their heads are fractured,” advised the premier. “File a legal complaint instead.”

Sample of the official ballot which contains 11 political parties

Below is a sample of the official ballot which contains 11 political parties
Vote Sam Rainsy Party, #09 on the ballot

Sacravatoons :" US AID "

Courtesy of Sacravatoon at

In Cambodia, microfinance program takes root

By contributing just a few dollars, villagers grow a community fund -- and keep the interest

(Inazio photo for Oxfam America)
During a meeting of her local savings group, Seng Sreila checks the books. Seng took out loans to buy a rice mill, thresher, and plough. Now, she operates a small but expanding business in her village.

Andrea Perera, a resident of Roslindale, is a writer for Oxfam America, an international relief and development agency. Together with a small team from the organization’s communications and programs departments, she is traveling throughout Cambodia and Vietnam to collect stories about Oxfam’s work in the region.

Posted by Kenneth Kaplan
June 4, 2008

By Andrea Perera
June 3, 2008

PREY VENG, Cambodia -- Seng Sreila sits cross-legged on her concrete floor calculating the closing balance for her village savings group.

Leaning into the bamboo table, punching transactions into her calculator, she writes the numbers on a simple chart, detailing how much remains in the community fund after the loans to members to buy equipment, supplies, and food have all been paid out. Surrounded by bowls of lemongrass, dried catfish, and ginger, she fits her bookkeeping responsibilities in between working her rice fields and preparing meals, juggling all the tasks like your typical working mother.

But Seng is far from typical. I knew she was special when I met her more than a year ago. Back then, she had been introduced to me as “the rice mill lady.” She was famous at Oxfam America for taking maximum advantage of our savings-oriented microfinance program called Saving for Change. Not only had she contributed money to her local savings group. She had taken out a $50 loan, bought a rice mill, and used it to start a small business in her village.

When we came back to visit her again this week, she had just returned from working in her fields. Her face was flushed and wet with sweat. She looked busy, but in a good way. She told us she was still contributing money to her savings group and she was still taking out loans. In fact, those loans had helped expand her business. Now in addition to her rice mill, she operates a mechanical thresher and a plough.

In just a few years, she grew from a rice farmer, who depended on an outside lender, to a full service rice cultivation entrepreneur, who had taken out more than $670 in loans from the community fund.

Seng and her neighbors formed their “Happy Life Savings Group” -- “We called it that because even though we’re poor, we’re still happy,” Seng said -- under the tutelage of a local organization called the Cambodian Center for Study and Development in Agriculture, or CEDAC. Funded by Oxfam, CEDAC has taught more than 42,000 Cambodians to take part in the community finance program. Together, they contribute a few dollars per month into savings, pooling that money so that they can hand out loans. They set their own interest rates, with the understanding that all the interest earned goes back into the community fund.

“Before, when we borrowed from money lenders, the interest belonged to them. Now it belongs to us,” said Happy Life Savings Group member, Choun Srey Mit.

In a country where 75 percent of families lack access to financial services, particularly the more than 10.5 million people who live on less than $2 a day, Saving for Change represents a good and practical option for investment.

Sitting in a half circle, under their community center’s thatched roof, the other members of the Happy Life Savings Group explained how participating in the community finance program had given them better opportunities. They are starting their own businesses, saving for their children’s educations, and paying for medicine and extra labor for their farms.

And having worked together to manage each other’s finances, they now feel a greater sense of solidarity and closeness with their neighbors. This is an important accomplishment since trust has been difficult to reestablish since the bloody reign of the Khmer Rouge.

Now they turn to teaching their children the same skills. Seng’s own 14-year-old son, Mean Phoun Lok, is part of a Young Persons Savings Group. Mean contributes the money he makes selling fish and watering the fields. One day he wants to borrow enough to open up his own restaurant.

While his mother, Seng, can be shy when quantifying the practical changes since they began saving, Mean responds with the honesty only an adolescent could offer.

“Now we’re not lazy about what we do with our money,” he said. And because of that, “we eat better meals and can buy nicer clothes.”

Education offers solution to child labor, ill-health in Cambodia

PHNOM PENH, June 4 (Xinhua) -- Education is the right solution to child labor and ill-health problems in Cambodia, local media reported Wednesday, citing senior officials and international experts.

Thousands of children plus their grown-up hanger-ons celebrated an event combining two international days celebrating children and their rights Tuesday at Samdech Hun Sen Park and the riverbank in Phnom Penh, the Mekong Times newspaper reported.

The days celebrated were the International Children's Day of June 1 and International Child Labor Day of June 12. The themes featured were "Health care for infants and children for the development of the country" and "Education is the right solution to child labor."

"Every Cambodian citizen has a great obligation to ensure infants and children can live peacefully, grow to be healthy and intelligent adults, and live in peace and dignity," said Ith Sam Heng, chairman of the Cambodian National Council for Children and minister of social affairs, in front of thousands of children.

"Child and infant health care is a key to poverty reduction and sustainable development. All parents have the obligation to keep their children healthy and disease free he said.

The minister added that investment in child and infant health care is the only way to ensure that Cambodian children receive full rights so they can do their best to rebuild the country and have a decent standard of living.

"Children are the bamboo shoots which will grow into our bamboo plants and are the firm pillar of the country, but the poverty of the people is an obstacle to the achievement of children's educational potential," said Deputy Prime Minister Sok An at the event.

He also urged all national and international organizations to pay close attention to children's issues and to seek means to free children from all forms of exploitation.

Speaking at the event, Menachery Paul Joseph, technical advisory leader at the International Labor Organization's International Program on the Elimination of Child Labor, encouraged the government to work for the elimination of child labor in all sectors.

He said "if children are laboring, they are doing it outside of school, which means they are unable to go to school to receive an education".

Meas Samnang, representative for the NGO Committee on the Rights of the Child, said during the event that children are the most vulnerable to exploitation in the community because their parents' poverty often means they are unable to attend school.

According to a 2003 survey, nearly 30,000 domestic child laborers in Phnom Penh alone were not going to school, he said.

He urged the government, NGOs and members of the public to encourage the implementation of laws to prevent the use of child labor.

"Education is the most suitable solution for children," said the official.

Editor: Jiang Yuxia

The high times are a-changing in Cambodia's cannabis crackdown

M&G ; Asia-Pacific News
Jun 5, 2008

Phnom Penh - Cambodian police arrested and jailed six men allegedly caught smoking marijuana, local media said Thursday.

The six Cambodians all worked as motorbike taxi drivers and were detained in custody pending a court hearing in the seaside resort town of Sihanoukville, 240 kilometres south-west of the capital, according to Khmer-language Rasmei Kampuchea daily.

Their arrests follow a statement by the country's anti-drugs chief, General Lou Ramin, earlier this year that marijuana, known locally as ganja, was no longer available in Cambodia and people caught with the drug would be harshly punished.

However police said Thursday the six would probably be let off with a fine and a stern warning for a first offense.

Cambodia was once viewed as a safe haven for ganja users, compared to neighbouring countries such as Thailand, which jails smokers, and has been described in pro-marijuana publications such as US-based High Times as a 'pot smoker's paradise'.

But times appear to have changed, according to Rasmei Kampuchea, which warned that not only backpacking tourists who once came to Cambodia for its legendary crop but locals as well are no longer guaranteed of being exempt from the law if caught with the drug.

US upgrades Cambodia's anti-human trafficking rating

Once a teeming red light district, Street 70 in Phnom Penh is mostly quiet today. Authorities in recent weeks have pushed to rid the city of visible signs of the sex trade.

The Phnom Penh Post
Written by Seth Meixner
Thursday, 05 June 2008

The US government has upgraded Cambodia's anti-human trafficking rating for the first time since 2006, saying that the Kingdom has made a significant effort to combat people smuggling.

The country has been placed this year in Tier 2, the middle category in the US State Department's annual Trafficking in Persons report, putting it alongside countries like Chile, Angola and El Salvador, which are among the 170 countries assessed.

Since 2006 Cambodia has languished on the Tier 2 Watch List after being relegated to the lowest category, Tier 3, in 2005.

"The Royal Government of Cambodia does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so," said the State Department in its report released on June 5.

"Cambodia is placed on Tier 2 for the first time since 2004 due to the government’s increased engagement in combating trafficking in persons over the previous year," it added.

The assessment follows Cambodia's passage of new anti-trafficking legislation which criminalized all forms of human trafficking, as well as the formation in April 2007 of a national anti-trafficking taskforce.

"This legislation provides law enforcement authorities the power to investigate all forms of trafficking and is a powerful tool in efforts to prosecute and convict traffickers and have them face stringent punishments," the State Department said.

"High-level government officials have spoken publicly about a 'zero-tolerance' policy for officials profiting from or colluding in trafficking in persons," it added.

But the new legislation has been sharply criticized by advocates for commercial sex workers who say the law has also led to an increase in abuses by authorities cracking down on prostitution.

Many sex workers, advocates claim, have been beaten, raped or robbed while in police detention, and the mass closure of brothels has hindered efforts curb the spread of HIV/Aids and other sexually transmitted diseases.

"This law ... increases violence, discrimination and human rights abuses against sex workers. It allows for corruption to spread among law enforcers," said Pich Sokchea of the Women's Network for Unity, who was speaking June 4 at a rally by sex workers against the legislation.

"Many times, when the brothels are raided police rape the women before arresting them," added Sokchea, who is also a sex worker.

Despite its progress, Cambodia remains a source and destination country for persons trafficked both for sex or labor, the State Department points out.

"Women and girls are trafficked for commercial sexual exploitation to Thailand and Malaysia.... Some Cambodian male migrant workers returning from India, South Korea, and Malaysia reported being subjected to conditions of forced labor and debt bondage," it said.

"Children are trafficked to Thailand and Vietnam to beg or work on the streets selling candy or flowers or shining shoes," it added, recommending that the government increase anti-trafficking training for authorities and step up court prosecutions of people smugglers.

Mondulkiri families in land dispute plead for PM's help

The Phnom Penh Post
Written by Khouth Sophakchakrya
Wednesday, 04 June 2008

Representatives of more than 800 ethnic Phnong families in Mondulkiri province arrived in Phnom Penh on June 3 to deliver a personal plea to Prime Minister Hun Sen asking that he order the return of traditional farmland allegedly confiscated and bulldozed by a private company.

Srev Kloek, 58, said he was representing 813 households in seven villages of Bousra commune, in Mondulkiri’s Pichenda district, whose plots of land – used sporadically by the Phnong for generations – were taken on April 9 by the Khov Chea Ly Company.

The company had illegally bulldozed more than 1,000 hectares of the ethnic minority’s traditional farmland and threatened villagers who complained with jail, Kloek said.

“We’re not scared by their threats; we just need our traditional rotating farmland. We can’t live without land for our rotating farms,” he said, referring to the Phnong’s agricultural cycle in which they use plots for three years before moving on, sometimes not returning to the same farmland for 12 or 15 years.

Kloek said the land the families were currently tending had not been cleared but those areas the group intended to return to in the future had been leveled.

Most Phnong in the region earned their living by collecting resin, vines and rattan in the forest or by growing cashews, bananas and rice.

However, Kloek said the Khov Chea Ly Company had destroyed almost all their land to make way for a rubber plantation.

“After they did that, it seems like we can’t even breathe,” he told reporters on June 3 during an outdoors press conference near the National Assembly in Phnom Penh.

representative of the Khov Chea Ly Company, Chey Rithy, attended the briefing and called on the Phnong villagers to return to Mondulkiri.

“The company will give the land back if it really did illegally bulldoze the villagers’ traditional rotating farmland,” Rithy said.

“We only bulldozed those areas without farms or forests,” he added.

Rithy told reporters the government had provided Khov Chea Ly with a 2,700-hectare land concession and the company had so far only cleared land for a road and three bridges.

Mondulkiri deputy governor Nha Runchan said he did not know how legitimate the Phnong villagers’ complaints were, but noted that the tribe had built a reputation for being trustworthy.

“The Phnong ethnic minority always tells the truth, they never lie to anyone. So they would not complain if the company did not illegally bulldoze their farms,” Runchan said.

The Phnong representatives vowed to remain in Phnom Penh until someone working for the prime minister gave them a written statement saying they could continue to use the disputed land.

Vietnamese Co To Plant More Rubber Trees In Cambodia

Thursday June 5

PHNOM PENH, June 5 Asia Pulse - The Vietnam Rubber Group (VRG) held a meeting in Cambodia's capital Phnom Penh on June 3 to discuss measures to speed up its rubber cultivation in the neighbouring country.

Addressing the event, VRG Deputy General Director Tran Ngoc Thuan said the project, which targets 100,000ha of rubber in Cambodia, will generate more jobs and help reduce poverty for local people.

He affirmed VRGs determination to ensure its rubber cultivation project is conducted as scheduled.

Representatives from a number of Cambodian ministries and provinces said they will create favourable conditions for VRG to successfully carry out its project.

The conference was attended by representatives from Cambodian ministries and localities where VRG is conducting its project including Kampong Thom, Kratie and Mondulkiri.


Cambodia - Untapped potential revealed as tourism grows

Easier Property
4 June 2008

The Cambodian government has announced plans to re-launch the national airline, which was scrapped with massive losses on 2000. This time however the airline is being launched with the backing of massive Indonesian conglomerate Rajawali, and will be able to tap into the massively growing number of tourists to Cambodia.

Visitor numbers to Cambodia grew to 2 million in 2006, 60% of whom flew into the country. And with Cambodia being hailed as the new Thailand, because of its virgin white sandy beaches, and undiscovered tropical locations prompting a further 20% rise in tourism for 2007, it is hoped the new airline will be an added boost to the clearly flourishing Cambodia tourism market.

Liam Bailey head of international research for David Stanley Redfern Ltd gave his view on the possible effect the airline will have on the Cambodia property market:

"New air routes are always good news for property markets, but the new Cambodia airline, and the likely increase in flights it will generate will be of special significance in Cambodia. The massively successful property markets of Malaysia, Thailand, and Thai islands like Koh Samui, have largely been fuelled by tourism, well in Thailand almost completely fuelled by tourism.

"But in Cambodia, property market growth has been largely limited to Phnom Penh, and fuelled by growth in commercial, business, financial and services sectors. The recent massive increases in visitor numbers, which will be helped by the new airline, will spread property market growth to other areas, and new Cambodian property hotspots will be emerging very soon – perfect timing given that the Phnom Penh property market is showing signs of levelling out."

Even though Cambodia property has been among the hottest for the past two years, it seems the surface has barely been scratched on the country's property investment profitability.

Recycling boom adds to hazardous life of Cambodian children

A child scarvenger searches for recycling materials along a street in Phnom Penh. Cambodia's growing demand for recyclables -- from bottles and cans to cardboard -- has seen a sharp rise in the number of child scavengers trawling through the capital's waste heaps, many of them press-ganged into what advocates say is one of the world's most hazardous forms of labour.(AFP/Tang Chhin Sothy)

A child scavenger carries a bag at a rubbish dump in Phnom Penh. Cambodia's growing demand for recyclables -- from bottles and cans to cardboard -- has seen a sharp rise in the number of child scavengers trawling through the capital's waste heaps, many of them press-ganged into what advocates say is one of the world's most hazardous forms of labour.(AFP/Tang Chhin Sothy)

A Cambodian scavenger rides on the back on a rubbish truck at a landfill in Phnom Penh. Cambodia's growing demand for recyclables -- from bottles and cans to cardboard -- has seen a sharp rise in the number of child scavengers trawling through the capital's waste heaps, many of them press-ganged into what advocates say is one of the world's most hazardous forms of labour(AFP/Tang Chhin Sothy)

A Cambodian scarvenger sit at a rubbish damp in Phnom Penh. Cambodia's growing demand for recyclables -- from bottles and cans to cardboard -- has seen a sharp rise in the number of child scavengers trawling through the capital's waste heaps, many of them press-ganged into what advocates say is one of the world's most hazardous forms of labour.(AFP/Tang Chhin Sothy)

Thursday, June 5, 2008
AFP News Briefs List

by Lucie Lautredou

Cambodia's growing demand for recyclables -- from bottles and cans to cardboard -- has seen a sharp rise in the number of child scavengers trawling through the capital's waste heaps, many of them press-ganged into what advocates say is one of the world's most hazardous forms of labour.

In 2006, around 4,000 children were working on Phnom Penh's streets, according to Chan Haranvadey, an official with the Social Affairs Ministry.

That number is estimated to have spiraled to between 10,000 and 20,000, though the number dips during the planting season in May and June, when many children return to family farms, non-governmental organisations say.

In March Doctor Tuy Puthea was finishing his rounds behind Phnom Penh's Olympic Stadium, inspecting a wound on the neck of a young boy, one of a dozen children .

His 10-year-old patient, wearing only ragged shorts and a t-shirt, was just one among thousands of youngsters scraping out an existence scavenging waste on the streets of the Cambodian capital.

"These child scavengers are the most vulnerable," said Tuy Puthea, who works with the NGO Mith Samlanh, which helps homeless children.

"They use neither gloves nor shoes, they inhale toxic fumes, eat out of garbage bins," he said, listing ailments he sees every day, from headaches and infected wounds to diarrhoea and hacking coughs.

Across Cambodia an estimated 1.5 million children under 14 are forced to work, child advocacy groups say. They says that while most labour on family farms, up to 250,000 work in hazardous conditions at such pursuits as begging, waste scavenging, factory work or mining.

In Phnom Penh, where an economic boom has also fueled the trash trade, some 70 percent of scavengers are children, according to Mith Samlanh and another child advocacy group, For the Smile of a Child (PSE).

They can be seen day and night, sometimes alone or with their families, picking through piles of trash or begging for bottles and cans from customers at streetside restaurants.

-- Scavengers' lives defined by violence, degradation --

By foraging for plastic, glass, metal or cardboard, a child can make a dollar or two a day -- no small sum in a country where 35 percent of the population is mired in poverty.

But scavenging also places them in a rigid system of patronage, extortion and intimidation at the hands of local thugs acting as middlemen for large recycling outfits operating in Thailand or Vietnam.

These handlers, sometimes children only a few years older than the scavengers themselves, often pay lower than market value in exchange for protection or small tips.

It's a necessary arrangement in a world defined by violence and degradation.

"They are exposed to others problems -- violence, drug use, sexual harassment or trafficking," says Tuy Puthea, whose clinic treats about 30 children a day.

That number could drastically increase as plans to close Cambodia's largest dump get underway. Phnom Penh needs to find somewhere else for its garbage because the current dump is almost full, say city officials.

Only a few short kilometres (miles) from Phnom Penh's burgeoning downtown, at the end of a dirt lane crowded with garbage trucks, is the Stung Meanchey tip, a vast horizon of trash.

Here hundreds of scavengers, many of them children, wander through the smoldering squalor, their clothing stiff with grime and faces tightly wrapped with scarves against the stinging, ever-present smoke.

But without the dump, they will be forced into the streets, swelling the ranks of those already prowling Phnom Penh's litter piles but also taking them further from the reach of the groups most actively trying to help them.

"Closing the dump is a good thing -- this should not be so close to the city," said Pin Sarapitch, director of the programmes at PSE, which for 12 years has operated on the fringes of Stung Meanchey, providing education or vocational training for more than 5,000 children.

"The closure should be followed by more social intervention from the state. The government cannot close the dump and leave these families without a place to live or work," Pin Sarapitch said.

"Where will they go, and how will we be able to our work with them if they cannot be found," he added.

Nearly million Cambodians go abroad annually

June 05, 2008

Nearly one million Cambodians visited foreign countries last year, the Mekong Times newspaper said Thursday, citing the first ever Tourism Ministry report on Cambodian tourists.

Vietnam and Thailand were the most popular destinations, according to the report revealed Wednesday.

Kong Sopheareak, director of the Department of Statistics and Tourism Information at the ministry, said similar figures were expected this year.

"This indicates that Cambodia's economy and living standards have increased significantly," he added.
Cambodia, with a population of about 14 million, has never before compiled statistics about how many Cambodians make trips abroad.

However, Ho Vandy, president of the Cambodian Association of Travel Agents (CATA), opined "the outflow of Cambodian tourists visiting abroad does not provide benefits to Cambodia."

"We do not want Cambodian tourists to visit abroad as it can cause a loss of much revenue," he said.

"The government should develop tourism sites and resorts well like neighboring countries to curb the outflow of tourists and take in tourism revenue to further develop tourism," he added.

A CATA survey found that Cambodian tourists spend an average of500 to 800 U.S. dollars per trip.

Source: Xinhua

Jetstar Asia to launch Daily Flights between Singapore and Phnom Penh

Asia Travel Tips
Thursday, 5 June 2008

Jetstar Asia is to launch daily flights between Singapore and Phnom Penh in Cambodia from 28 July 2008.

With the new flight schedule, Jetstar Asia passengers will be able to fly to Phnom Penh daily, either with four non-stop flights weekly or via Siem Reap thrice weekly on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays. The stopover flights to Siem Reap will also provide travellers departing from Singapore the option of flying between Siem Reap and Phnom Pehn.

Flight reservations for the stopover flights to Siem Reap are only available for Jetstar Asia passengers travelling to Cambodia from Singapore, and must be made through the Jetstar Call Centre at +65 6822 2288. A stopover fee of Sin$ 20 will be waived for the promotional sale period between 9 and 15 June 2008 while prevailing airport taxes/surcharges will be charged to each passenger. A departure tax of US$ 6 is payable at Angkor International Airport in Siem Reap.

Jetstar Asia’s CEO Ms Chong Phit Lian said, “With this new triangular route and flight schedule, passengers can now travel to both Siem Reap and Phnom Penh on our flights, and enjoy more flexibility and convenience when planning their itinerary. This is in line with our brand proposition to provide our customers with more value and comfort, which include benefits such as check-in and out at Changi Airport Terminal One, free online seat selection, pre-assigned seating and generous 20-kg baggage allowance.”

Photo exhibit captures teen's Cambodian adventure

Photo by Doug Koontz; Natalie Duggan, a 10th-grade student at Frederick High School, is preparing a photography exhibit from a recent trip to Cambodia.

The Frederick News-Post
By Lauren LaRocca
News-Post Staff

Natalie Duggan left America with a camera and returned with more than 1,000 photos of Cambodia, and a photography exhibit.

She went on the trip in March with a good friend, Elizabeth, whose father travels overseas regularly as a physician, giving aid to third-world countries. Each time one of his seven kids turns 16, he/she is invited to come along and bring a friend. Natalie and Elizabeth have been planning this since kindergarten.

Natalie, who has played acoustic guitar in coffee shops around Frederick and at her church, Brook Hill United Methodist, was asked to provide the music during the trip.

The first thing she saw when she got off the third airplane and landed in Cambodia was a guy holding a guitar -- her guitar. The American doctor living in Cambodia, who would act as the group guide, taking them to each village for clinics, had purchased a guitar for Natalie's trip.

"He and our translators -- young college students, and they beat us, as far as English goes -- they were all there to meet us," she said.

The group traveled, usually by bus, to another village nearly every day for 13 days.

During her free time, usually evenings, Natalie would sing and play guitar and people would gather around her to listen or join in.

"The language barriers -- when I had my music, it didn't even matter," Natalie said. "It's a really unifying thing."

Sometimes, under palm trees, with monkeys and dogs running nearby, they'd sing the same song together in two languages.

"I had no idea it would happen," she said.

Natalie discovered she could express herself through not just the guitar but the camera.
"This was my big test," she said, noting that she comes from a house that is never short on cameras because of her father, who loves photography. "Thankfully I had a subject.

"I tried to capture what was there," she continued. "What you see is pretty much what I saw."

Her shots range from the ancient temple ruins at Ankor Watt to the countryside, faces and places of modern day Cambodia.

Barb Campbell, owner of Studio 11 in downtown Frederick, said Natalie has an eye for photography. Natalie's photography has received recognition and awards through her work with Dave Barber, digital photography instructor at Frederick High School. One of her photographs was selected to be shown in an upcoming exhibition at the State House in Annapolis.

Campbell saw the Cambodia images because Natalie was interested in taking a photography class at the studio.

"I said, 'Well, what can I teach you?'" Campbell said.

So instead of classes, Campbell gave her a solo show, which will run throughout June.

Natalie will be at the opening reception to answer questions and guide viewers through the beauty of Cambodia on Saturday, June 7, from 6 to 9 p.m. Natalie loved her Cambodian experience so much that she wants to help provide ongoing financial support for the medical team living in Penom Penh. All of the profit from the sale of her photographs will be designated for the work in Cambodia.

Natalie plans to show about 15 photos in the exhibit of the 1,060 taken.

"I have so many portraits," she said. "It's a matter of picking."

Many of them are children. At points, Natalie couldn't see her camera because so many kids had gathered around her. A lot of them asked if they could touch her arm because "I'm so white," she said, laughing. "Even for an American."

One photo shows soda bottles, full of gasoline, that fill a rack alongside a dirt road, where people would grab one to fuel their mopeds.

"It was very bizarre," Natalie said. "I just finished driver's ed. I came back here and everything looked so orderly. You never really notice these things until you come back."

Other photos, in vivid colors, show Buddha statues, trees escaping cement pathways, doors and gates and interesting buildings, as well as landscapes and shots of villages.

Her first thought was to order the photos to follow her journey, but then she began focusing on a more creative question: "What do I want to start with, and what note do I want to end on?"
Once home, she put her photos onto a Flickr account and sent the link to family and friends, some of which live in Cambodia.

She left her guitar there.

Turning a corner

The Royal Palace in Phnom Penh is the spiritual heart of Cambodian people.

The main structure at the sprawling Angkor Wat complex.

The once notorious Tuol Sleng prison in Phnom Penh now serves as a museum.

The Bangkok Post
Thursday June 05, 2008

Angkor and Phnom Penh pull in two million visitors as Cambodia's tourism industry looks for its place in the sun


The Angkor Wat and temples at its periphery constitute Cambodia's premier major tourist attractions and together with Phnom Penh, its capital, pulled in more than two million foreign visitors last year, a record for the country that is still smarting from decades of internal strife and a war-torn past.

Visitors from Japan, China, the US, South Korea, France and Thailand travelled to Cambodia in ever greater numbers bringing in US$140 million in foreign currency to the impoverished country, accounting for 10 percent of its gross national product (GNP) last year.

Angkor, the world's biggest temple complex sits within a 64-km radius straddling several villages in Siem Reap, was built from the eighth to the 13th century, with the most famous Angkor Wat constructed during 1113-50 by King Surayavarman II.

In recent years it has become easier for tourists to travel to Siem Reap, the biggest city in Cambodia after Phnom Penh, and especially so for Thais as there are better roads and more choice of transportation.

Terms of entry have been eased. Thais travelling by land can apply for visa on arrival at the border, a facility that also extends to foreign tourists travelling to Cambodia from Thailand, which has led to a remarkable surge in the number of Europeans visiting Siem Reap.

Visitors these days will find life in Cambodia is easier and more convenient. A number of souvenir shops have sprung up in Siem Reap. Vendors can be seen hawking post cards and ancient replicas to tourists, while restaurants, taxi or tuk-tuk service as well as medical facilities are more reliable.

Phnom Penh, the capital city has been refurbished with more monuments to national heroes such as Monk Chuon Nath and linguist Phirom Ou or Kram Ngouy, while the dykes and the riverfront avenue overlooking the Chaktomuk, the confluence of lake Tonle Sap, Mekong and Bassac rivers has been beautified.

The riverfront area which boasts landmarks such as the Royal Palace and National Museum is dotted with trendy pubs and restaurants, boutiques and galleries.

Places like the dome-shaped Phsar Thmey central market and Phsar Toul Tom Poung, the Russian market, are full of local and foreign shoppers, including Thais who can be seen buying anything from fake DVDs to handicrafts, silverware and silk souvenirs.

The grim reminders of Khmer Rouge's genocidal rule - Choeung Ek Memorial (The Killing Field) and the Toul Sleng torture camp (S-21 Museum) - are also popular tourist draws, so is Wat Phnom that houses a small pagoda marking the founding place of the current capital in 1372.

naturalist Henri Mouhot. The city of Angkor was founded by King Yasovarman I who ruled from 889-990, but the monument associated with Khmer greatness - the Angkor Wat - was not built until 200 years later.

King Suryavarman II built a temple dedicated to Hindu god Vishnu at Angkor Wat, marking the high point of Khmer civilisation which stretched from Cambodia to parts of Thailand and northern Vietnam until the mid-14th century.

The end of Angkor civilisation was partly brought about by a change of faith that swept the region, from Hinduism and animism Buddhism to more democratic and principled Buddhist practices and by the marauding armies of neighbouring states.

Recent excavation with help of advanced remote sensing radar to map the ancient civilisation and its environs reveals a complex measuring about 200-400 square kilometres surrounded by farmlands, villages, temples and ponds, all connected by a web of earthen-walled canals crisscrossing the Khmer empire covering an area of 3,000 square kilometres. The canals were used for irrigation as transport arteries.

In the past, restoration and excavation was restricted by political instability in the country, but with funding now pouring in from Japan, India, France and Unesco the work has picked up and more tourists can now be seen visiting the historical ruins.

Apart from the ruins reachable within less than an hour's drive from downtown, Siem Reap also boasts other attractions, such as the Royal Independence Garden near Grand Hotel d'Angkor, several ancient pagodas and the newly-opened Angkor National Museum.

Shoppers will enjoy night markets selling handicrafts, beers and snacks, clothes, silk and stuff similar to what you will find at the night bazzar in Chiang Mai or Chatuchak in Bangkok. All tricycle and taxi service operators can guide tourists there and they will find out that bargaining the prices down is as much fun as a challenge.

If you come with friends, you will feel less insecure and don't feel disheartened if the stuff you come across there is similar to what you find in Thailand or Vietnam. This is globalisation!

Official's condition deteriorating

June 04 2008

Phnom Penh, Cambodia - A lawyer for the Khmer Rouge's former head of state says the 76-year-old is in serious condition at a hospital.

Khieu Samphan was under detention by Cambodia's genocide tribunal when he was rushed to the hospital with high blood pressure on May 21.

Attorney Say Bory says Khieu Samphan's has worsened and that he is now partly paralysed on the left side of his body.

He says his client "can speak but his words are unclear." - Sapa-AP

Cambodia to Get Korea's Help in Reforestation


Korea will help Cambodia replant the forests stripped bare around its ancient temple complex of Angkor Wat.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen requested Korea's help in restoring denuded woodlands on Tuesday during Korea Forest Service Minister Hah Young-je's visit to the Southeast Asian country.

The Cambodian leader also urged Korea's investment in his country's rubber-tree plantations and wood pulp production. The two officials signed an MOU to this end and agreed to co-host a forestry cooperation meeting every two years.

Arirang News

Siemreap : The orphanage needs you

Here is a little bit info about the orphanage, the kids and the conditions they live in. I have posted a couple more pictures about the kitchen the living area, the "house" in general so that you can fully understand how important it is that every one of you contribute by making a donation.

The kids are simply amazing. I really wanted to state how wonderful this experience is and how heartbreaking it can be as well. The kids are always smiling, ready to play and learn as much as possible. They have so much energy.

After the english lesson the other day, they wanted to learn French, so to work out both languages at the same time, they had to tell me in english what they wanted to know in French and I was to translate and help them with their pronounciation. The first sentence they wanted to know was, of course, "Hello, how are you ?".

The second one, yes, you have guessed, was " what is your name?" and the third one was, no, this one, noone can guess..." I want to eat rice" ! After that, we had to reverse the teaching and I have learnt all those sentences in Kmer. Well. I can tell you the kids are far much better at French than I am at Kmer.

God, that language is difficult to pronounce, never mind the writing and reading.We also organised games in the lake and the kids really wanted me to come along for a swim, so, yes, I did.

Fully clothed, as this is the way you do it here (especially for women who should not show any part of their body) and I do not really want to describe the colour of the water, nor the things floating on it, nor the animals swimming in it, nor the soft, sweet, warmth of the bottom, but I am sure you got the idea.

It was a lot of fun no matter what I was swimming with or in. I also had to share their eating habits, or at least try to. You simply can not refuse when they are want to share their food with you.

So far, I have eaten snake, crocodile, grasshopers, ant soup, cockroaches and a lot of other things but I still have no idea what they are nor was they are made of. In general, everything is very tasty, apart from the cockroaches, I have to say, as you can feel all the different parts of their bodies under your tongue, especially the legs and that was quite a sensation.

I had to refuse the neighbour's dog that died in a car accident the other day but they did not force me into that one.Last but not least, the orphanage I am at is one out of thousands of orphanages within Cambodia, left aside all the other countries. The one I really did not have the strenght to stay at is the landmine victims orphanage.

Cambodia has been and unfortunately is still filled with landmines from the 20 years civil war that devastated the country not that long ago. Thousands of kids are left with missing members. They have lost their parents, are too poor to eat and have only one arm, or one leg, or for some of them no arms and no legs at all.

This is really hard to imagine when you are comfortably sitting in front of your computer at home, in good health and with way more than those kids could ever dream of, but this is true. I have been there, I have seen all this and that is why I am asking you to help those kids as much as you can.

Even if some orphanages are well corrupted and not properly run, you can trust the coso orphanage, you have seen the pictures of the kids and after all that, I hope you will realise how important it is for you to make donations and I really count on all of you to help.

Cambodia’s New Era

Digital Freedom Network
Thursday, June 05, 2008
By Alicia Burns, Aug 11, 2004

Notorious for its “Killing Fields” and the Khmer Rouge, Cambodia is now attempting to reform itself as an emerging democracy in Asia. Last year, it was approved for membership into the World Trade Organization, and recently a new government took control of the still troubled nation. HIV/AIDS, human trafficking, and drugs are the main obstacles to stability in Cambodia, but the country is trying to overcome these problems with the help of foreign investment and NGOs. Unfortunately, partisan politics have replaced war as the main theater of conflict, with the King and the Prime Minister at odds, and development slow and inconsistent as a result. As it prepares to enter the WTO, Cambodia is working to erase its historical image as a war torn, impoverished country and re-emerge on the world stage as a new democracy, attractive to investors, tourists, and the world community. Unfortunately, the ages-old problems of legislative deadlock and party bickering are preventing real progress from being made.In 1975, when the Khmer Rouge took control, uneducated citizens were forced into work camps; their “educated” counterparts were executed. In the camps, workers labored for 12-15 hours per day in horrible conditions.” For those who survived, starvation, poverty, and the constant possibility of execution were all aspects of daily life. The infamous “Killing Fields” were the sites of execution, and to this day, tourists who visit the sites occasionally come across a skull or teeth of one of Pol Pot’s victims. The nightmare came to an end in 1979 when the regime was overthrown by revolutionaries with the help of the Vietnamese, according to Clive S. Mencken in the article “Waking Cambodia.”In recent years, Cambodia has sought to re-invent itself with a series of reforms aimed at stabilizing its economy, ending corruption, and privatizing state-owned businesses. In 1994, the country applied for entry into the WTO, an ambitious move for a state only 15 years removed from the massacre of nearly 2.5 million of its people. A Working Party to oversee its application process was established in December 1994, but it was not until 2003, after 9 years of persistence, negotiations on membership were completed. According to the Working Party Report, Cambodia “promised” to work toward “maintaining a convertible currency with an exchange rate based on the market,” create commercial courts, ensure transparency in its ongoing second wave of privatizing state owned industries, and “comply with WTO provisions” concerning tariffs. Final completion of the working party negotiations took place in July of 2003, but Cambodia still has not officially entered the WTO due to political deadlock. Even though it has come a long way in attaining its economic goals, politics has become the main detriment to development.Shortly after the WTO approved it for entry, Cambodia held elections. Deemed inconclusive, the country was left without a working government. It was not until July 15, 2004 that parliament approved a new coalition government with a “rectangular strategy” for development. According to Dow Jones Newswires, the plan focuses on “radically” reforming the legal, administrative, agriculture, and military systems while also elevating Cambodia’s status in the international community. These are all noble objectives, but the plan ignores the bureaucracy and inefficiencies that the new government has helped to create. In order to get the government started again, the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) was forced to align with its rival, the Funcinpec Party, and concessions had to be made. Dozens of new senior positions were created to please members of both sides, and the constitution was amended to allow the CPP leader, Hun Sen, to be sworn in as Prime Minister at the same time as Funcinpec leader Prince Norodom Ranariddh is sworn in as president of the lower house of parliament. According to the constitution, Prince Norodom should have been sworn in first, then appointed Hun Sen. In addition to the bad blood between parties, King Norodom Sihanouk, currently in North Korea under self-imposed exile, refused to ratify the amendment, threatening to abdicate. Acting head of state Chea Sim refused to approve the amendment as well, and was “whisked out of the country under armed guard until his deputy acquiesced,” according to Dow Jones Newswires.Now, with the Prime Minister is in a weakened position, the constitution has been abused, and the King is unable to negotiate with the Prime Minister, the legislature is about to approve entry into the WTO. In doing so, Cambodia will become one of the first Least Developed Countries (LDCs) to join the organization. In 2003, the Economist predicted “Cambodia’s entry into the WTO is unlikely to make much impact on its economy at all” because of the corruption and deadlock that plague the government. Ultimately, the Economist concluded, “Cambodia’s accession is not more significant than its membership of the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency or its hosting of the ASEAN-India summit.” This may seem pessimistic, but given the past year’s tribulations, it is not a surprising viewpoint. Until Cambodia’s politicians can clean up their system, the economic aspirations of the country will remain as hopes rather than reality.

Patriarchy Leads to Gender Inequality in Society

Posted on 4 June 2008.
The Mirror, Vol. 12, No. 563

“Phnom Penh: The word ‘gender’ is still new for most people and most countries of the world. Different definitions of this word have been given, and they always change according to the times.

“Responding to this problem, Action Aid invited Ms. Kamla Bhasin, who is a well-known gender trainer from India, to talk to more than ten Khmer journalists from different newspapers and radio and television stations in Phnom Penh last weekend.

“Ms. Kamla Bhasin said ‘gender’ does not simply mean ‘equality between men and women.’

Society is the determinator, not nature, and sex is a biological factor. She added that ‘gender’ is not only a new word for Cambodia, but also in other countries of the world.

“Ms. Kamla Bhasin explained, ‘What determines the inequality of gender in society comes from adhering to patriarchy’ [What Is Patriarchy? by Kamla Bhasin]. She continued that patriarchy as a social system is not a recent phenomenon; it has been strengthened gradually since around 3,000 to 5,000 years ago.

“She went on to say that patriarchy [literally: 'father-rule'] in the world has lasted more than 2,500 years, and it can hardly be changed, because of capitalism and the creation of institutions such as the World Trade Organization, the International Monetary Fund, and other strong institutions. These institutions do not allow any changes in patterns of social administration..

“There are many evidences showing that patriarchy leads to gender inequality. Fifteen years ago the International Labor Organization conducted studies on work inside and outside of the house and on agricultural work, and it found that two thirds of the work was done by women, but they got only one tenth of the income; and among all of the world’s property, only one percent was owned by women.

“Ms. Kamla Bhasin stressed, ‘Violation of girls and women happens also because the world upholds patriarchy, creating inequality in society. However, gender relations can always change according to the times.’ She continued. ‘Violation of women because of the inequality in society happen on different levels: in the heart, in feelings, and in the economy.’

“She added, ‘Gender talks about society, sex, and biology, which are defined by human society; humans can determine their biology, animals can not.

“Ms. Kamla Bhasin said, ‘Although societies based on patriarchy cause gender inequality affecting women, patriarchy also affects men, because not all men are strong.’

“In the field of the media, what is the situation of gender inequality, when a society upholds patriarchy? Does the press show patriarchal tendencies or not? The answer is that there probably must be such a tendency. According to research by the Women’s Media Center of Cambodia from 1996 to 1999 on 37 newspapers and 2 magazines, focusing on 3,083 articles, there were only 5% of all articles talking about women and focusing on poor and victimized women.

“The research found also that there were only 18 articles correctly talking about gender inequality, and only 4 articles showed noticeable positive actions of women in society. However, what is interesting is that 53% of news producers and presenters were women.

“It also showed that influential people in the field of the media, especially in Cambodia – most of the owners of the press, of newspapers, and also of radio and television stations – were men, also the major administrators. Most of the journalists were also men.

“Violations of women are part of the gender inequality in a society; but they are more serious in India than in Cambodia; it was found that in Indian society, 40% of married women are victimized by violations from their husbands, because of a variety of reasons.”

Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.16, #4606, 4.6.2008

US Military Aid 'Important': Ambassador

By Taing Sarada, VOA Khmer
Original report from Washington
04 June 2008

Khmer audio aired June 4, 2008 (1.09 MB) - Download (MP3)
Khmer audio aired June 4, 2008 (1.09 MB) - Listen (MP3)

The resumption of military aid to Cambodia is part of an important relationship, and can help with counterterrorism, human trafficking and drug interdiction, the US ambassador to Cambodia said in Washington Monday.

The US donated 31 trucks, part of a larger contingent, to Cambodia's armed forces Tuesday, signaling another step in military cooperation that has steadily grown since 2006.

The aid was not meant to protect US oil interests and was not meant to compete with Chinese or Vietnamese interests, Ambassador Joseph Mussomeli said.

The aid, from the most professional military in the world, was meant to improve relations between the two countries, he said.

Failure on Land Could Hamper Voters

By Sok Khemara, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
04 June 2008

Khmer audio aired on June 4, 2008 (2.32 MB) - Download (MP3)
Khmer audio aired on June 4, 2008 (2.32 MB) - Listen (MP3)

The failure of Prime Minister Hun Sen and other government officials to solve a rash of recent land disputes could deter voters from heading to the polls in July, observers said.

About 200 villagers marched from Battambang last week and were promised resolution to a long-standing land dispute.

As with many such disputes, no solution has come, including recent outcries from villagers in Pailin, Bantey Meanchey, Kampot and the capital itself.

With no resolution, voting becomes hard, a rights worker said.

"How can they vote if their land has not been resolved?" said Chan Saveth, an investigator for the rights group Adhoc.

Despite the difficulties, election observers say the election is an important time for people to make their land woes known.

Meanwhile, national land authority officials say the election period could lead to the "politicization" of land disputes.

Samlot Families Complain of Land Theft

By Heng Reaksmey, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
04 June 2008

Khmer audio aired June 4, 2008 (992 KB) - Download (MP3)
Khmer audio aired June 4, 2008 (992 KB) - Listen (MP3)

Four representatives from 73 families of the former Khmer Rouge stronghold of Samlot district, Battambang province, arrived in Phnom Penh Wednesday to complain of land-grabbing to National Assembly Chairman Heng Samrin.

In a letter delivered Wednesday afternoon, the families, from Chamlong Romeang Luer village, O'Samrol commune, claim military police and police took 12 square kilometers of land and sold it to a private company from Australia.

One of the villagers who came to Phnom Penh Wednesday said he lost 5 hectares of land to police and military police. Samlot authorities threatened to kill him and anyone who complained about the land, the villager said.

Samlot District Governor Hem Sophal said no one had complained to him of a land grab. He questioned why villagers would complain to the National Assembly and the media and not him.

Fishermen Held for Property Destruction

By Mean Veasna, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
04 June 2008

Khmer audio aired June 4, 2008 (714 KB) - Download (MP3)
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Four fishermen in Kampong Thom province have been held for three days, following accusations they destroyed the river nets of two fishing concessionaires.

The four men had been a part of a group of 12 who on Sunday removed fishing nets from a river in Kampong Kor commune to allow fish to move to a pond, officials said.

The nets belonged to two businessmen who had paid for the rights to fish the river in that area, officials said.

Provincial prosecutor Ty Sovathal said the men cut the nets of the concessionaires and robbed some of the netting.

Sien Hong Da, 40, Ny Nang, 40, Suong Son, 30, and Yeur Yon, 28, were all arrested Monday and are still being held in the provincial jail, officials said. Fellow villagers say the men do not deserve to be held.

"We think that is unfair," said Kampong Kor resident Prum Than. "We are hurt that they are detained on such a falsity."

In Kongchit, an investigator for the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, said the fishermen had agreed to pay 3 million riel in compensation to the concessionaires.

Voters Notice Development, and Its Absence

By Chun Sakada, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
04 June 2008

Khmer audio aired June 4, 2008 (1.97 MB) - Download (MP3)
Khmer audio aired June 4, 2008 (1.97 MB) - Listen (MP3)

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

Although voters are satisfied with foreign investment development in Cambodia, they are disappointed that the income does not benefit the poor. And as the election approaches, investment that has led to infrastructure could pay off for the ruling party, observers say.
Not all, however, are convinced they benefit.

Under a mango tree, in a poor neighborhood in the middle of Phnom Penh, Phan Na, 32, prepared a prahok dish for her family's lunch. She said she was happy for the overall development of projects like skyscrapers in Phnom Penh, but she was concerned about her own living conditions, as these developments had not reached her.

"The development is not for the poor, but for the powerful government officials and the millionaire businessmen," she said. "The poor Cambodian people have no one to help them. If someone gives the benefit to me, I will vote for them, especially any government who can help the poor Cambodian people."

Investment in the first quarter of this year has fallen compared to last year, but an overall development boom has benefited Cambodia's economic development over the past few years. But many Cambodians do not see the direct benefits.

"I have no hope," Ou Soeun, 55, who lives in a slum area of Phnom Penh, told VOA Khmer. " "Poverty controls my daily life."

"I feel very happy for this development, but the result of the development has not benefited me," she said. "I am very disappointed for that. We are poor, and still poor, and have only disappointment, and nothing to do."

Human Rights Party Vice President Keo Remy said Cambodia's economic boom had served powerful officials and millionaires only.

"The Cambodian people right now are focused on the election more and more, to change their living conditions, so the development of the big buildings, or modern, new buildings, is not connected with the people's vote for the ruling party," he said. "The people now think only of living and eating, for enough food, enough clothes, and sending their children to school."

Some officials of the ruling Cambodian People's Party say their party will win support from eligible voters through development and investment.

Puthea Hang, director of the Neutral and Impartial Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia, agreed with this.

"The voters will focus on the construction of roads, bridges and all kinds of buildings, as well as modernized markets," he said. "All of these can attract voters, but this is a focus on the rich people."

Sim Vibol, a teacher of law at a private Phnom Penh university, disagreed.

"The development of modern buildings and economic development are not very important factors for attracting people to vote for the CPP, but it is the style of how to rule, how to control the country to make progress," he said. "The CPP can have the support from the people in the rural areas where the ruling party constructs roads, schools and bridges, or sometimes gives gifts."

US government gives grant for conservation of Angkor temple

AP - Thursday, June 5

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia - The United States will donate nearly US$1 million (�641,310) for conservation of the centuries-old Bakheng temple, a famous cultural icon in Cambodia's Angkor temple complex, the embassy said in a statement Wednesday.

It said the US$978,705 (�630,000) will be given to the nonprofit World Monuments Fund, a New York-based archaeological group that has been doing work at the temple since 2004.

Piper Campbell, the embassy's charg� d'Affaires, announced the grant at a meeting of government officials and representatives of donor countries in Siem Reap province Wednesday.

The officials gathered there for a two-day meeting to review restoration and development works for the Angkor archaeological park.

"Conserving its monuments, which are a crucial part of Cambodian history, is one way to promote peace and prosperity in the country," Campbell said in the statement.

The Angkor temples are Cambodia's main tourist attraction, earning hundreds of millions of dollars (euros) for the cash-strapped Southeast Asian country.

Angkor, the capital of several Hindu kings who ruled over large swaths of Southeast Asia, flourished from the 9th to the 14th centuries, leaving a legacy of architectural splendor in its myriad of temples, including the country's cultural icon, Angkor Wat.

Damaged by warfare and looting in the past, Angkor's temples now face the threats posed by deforestation, heavy rains and tourist influx.

Sitting on top of a hill, the 10th century Bakheng temple is a popular site for tourists climbing to catch a glimpse of the sunset.

About 3,000 tourists climb the hill in the space of just a few hours to see the sunset everyday.

Cambodia to investigate alleged police abuse of sex workers

The Earth Times
Wed, 04 Jun 2008
Author : DPA

Phnom Penh - Cambodia's top anti-trafficking official Wednesday pledged an immediate investigation after sex workers tearfully alleged a new zero tolerance policy on brothels had led to rapes, robberies and abuses of human rights by police. More than 100 sex workers and representatives gathered to urge the government to ease new legislation that makes brothels illegal and has resulted in scores of sex workers being rounded up by police.

"Among the sex workers who were detained ... some were living with HIV/AIDS and needed treatment every day, but were unable to obtain it," Chan Dina from the Cambodia Prostitute Union said.

"Some were beaten and gang raped by guards, and most of the time they did not wear condoms," Dina said. "How can we reduce the AIDS epidemic if the guards keep raping women?"

Cambodia has one of the highest rates of HIV/AIDS in the region, and rights groups said the new legislation was forcing sex workers away from education and health services and onto the streets.

Interior Ministry Anti-Trafficking Chief Bith Kimhong said the allegations were new to him and he doubted their veracity, but pledged a full and immediate investigation.

He said the government was only detaining brothel owners and managers for significant periods, and police were only "re-educating" prostitutes and some male patrons.

Cambodia, once known as a haven for pedophiles and a hotspot in the region's flesh trade, implemented new legislation earlier this year which sex workers say equates consensual sex work with human trafficking and is too broad.

Kimhong said he remained determined to close down brothels.

Arnold Palmer joins Cambodian golf boom

The Earth Times
Wed, 04 Jun 2008
Author : DPA

Phnom Penh - Golfing great Arnold Palmer confirmed his company will build a 36-hole golf course in Cambodia, an official from Cambodia's Sokha Hotels said Wednesday. Arnold Palmer Design Company had been retained to build the course at the new 1-billion-dollar resort development by the Sokha group at the former French colonial Bokor Hill Station Resort, project manager Svay Vuthy said.

"This was the company's plan so we signed him. He is the best in the US and we want the best golf course in Cambodia," Vuthy said.

"The plan is for the course to cover 200 hectares with 36 holes, but we will start by opening an 18-hole course so we can assess and observe the conditions. Construction is due to begin next year."

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen is perhaps the only world leader to list his golf scores on his personal website, and the Cambodian elite, as in most of Asia, is golf crazy.

There is even a Korean-managed public putting range in the centre of the Cambodian Senate's grounds.

Cambodia is also aggressively chasing the high-end tourist dollar, and golf courses have mushroomed across the country in the past five years as the country enjoys peace and economic stability.

Palmer, 78, is among the great golfers of all time, winning seven major championships during his career, which began in the 1950s, and being inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1974.

His successful design company has designed 300 golf courses to date, according to his website, and prides itself on being in tune with the environment - an attractive trait for Bokor, which lies in a national park, around 200 kilometres from the capital.

Vuthy did not disclose the total cost of the course.

Ex-Khmer Rouge boss suffers stroke

Cambodia's former head of state is charged with crimes against humanity and war crimes [Reuters]

Khieu Samphan

Khieu Samphan was the public head of the Khmer Rogue

He was head of state from 1976 until the Khmer Rouge's downfall in 1979

The son of a judge, he studied for a doctorate in economics at the prestigious Sorbonne in Paris

After surrendering to the government in 1988, he was arrested on November 19, 2007, at a Phnom Penh hospital where he was being treated for a stroke

Has authored two books in which he denies claims of mass killings and says Pol Pot was responsible for all policies

By Agencies

A former top official of Cambodia's Khmer Rogue regime facing trial for war crimes, is in a serious condition after suffering a stroke, his lawyer has said.

Khieu Samphan, 76, was Khmer Rouge head of state during the group's brutal rule over Cambodia from 1975-79.

His lawyer, Say Bory, said his client can now barely speak and is paralysed down his left side.

Khieu Samphan was taken to hospital last month suffering from high blood pressure, but his condition has since worsened, Say Bory said. Khieu Samphan is one of five senior regime members facing trial on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity before a United Nations-backed tribunal.

The tribunal process has been criticised for the long delays in getting started, with critics saying many of the accused and essential witnesses may die before the trials finally begin.

The former Khmer Rouge boss is thought to have suffered another stroke last November.

An estimated one-point-seven million people died of starvation, overwork and execution under the Khmer Rouge.

Pol Pot, the group's former top leader and so-called Brother Number One died in his jungle hideout in 1998.

Cambodian prostitutes protest police crackdown, allege physical and sexual abuse

Cambodian sex workers sit in a meeting room for protest in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Wednesday, June 4, 2008. About 200 Cambodian sex workers protested Wednesday against a police crackdown on prostitution and alleged that some of them had been physically and sexually abused in custody.(AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

The Associated Press
Published: June 4, 2008

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia: About 200 Cambodian prostitutes protested peacefully Wednesday against a police crackdown and claimed to have been physically and sexually abused in custody.

The prostitutes staged a protest in the capital, Phnom Penh, to complain that they had been unlawfully detained and to highlight the behavior of guards at the rehabilitation center where they were held.

"Some of them (the sex workers) were beaten and gang raped by the center guards, and most of the time they did not use condoms," said Chan Dina, a 31-year-old prostitute and member of the Cambodian Prostitute Union, a sex workers' advocacy group.

Police began rounding up male and female sex workers from brothels, bars and parks in March, detaining them for a week to 10 days at the Prey Speu rehabilitation center on the outskirts of Phnom Penh.

Cambodian law does not explicitly define prostitution as illegal, but commercial sex is frowned upon by authorities who routinely launch sweeps to clean up the streets.

"Sex workers are human beings and we have equal rights" and deserve protection from abuse, Chan Dina said.

"We do not think that sex work is wrong. It is just a means to an end," said Pich Sokchea, a 42-year-old transvestite sex worker with the Women's Network for Unity, another prostitutes' advocacy group.

Pich Sokchea urged the government to end the crackdown because it was affecting the livelihood of sex workers, many of whom were forced into the profession by poverty and debts. "We are people who sacrifice everything for the sake of our families and for our livelihood."

It was unclear what prompted the latest crackdown but some activists said an anti-trafficking law approved in March may have caused authorities to take a tougher stand against prostitution.

Police Lt. Gen. Khieu Sopheak, the Interior Ministry's spokesman, dismissed claims that police committed violence against sex workers and said none was mistreated in the crackdown.

He defended the crackdown, calling sex work unacceptable in Cambodia.