Sunday, 6 July 2008


Pattaya Daily News
July 6, 2008

BANGKOK, July 6 - Attempts by Cambodia to list the Preah Vihear temple, built during the 11th century, as a World Heritage site during the current annual session of the World Heritage Committee held in Canada‘s Quebec City, are expected to bear fruit, according to Pongpol Adireksarn, chairman of Thailand‘s World Heritage Committee.

Mr. Pongpol, currently attending the session, said on a Thai radio broadcast that more than half of the 21 World Heritage Committee members had told him informally that they favoured the Cambodian government's registration of the ancient temple as a World Heritage site as it had "untiringly pursued the issue on a constant basis".

He quoted committee members as telling him that concerned Phnom Penh government had also invited them to visit the temple, unlike Thailand whose "policy was uncertain" and whose government changed frequently.

The temple issue is expected to be conferred by the World Heritage Committee on Sunday night Thailand time.

The International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), a non-governmental organisation had distributed reports to the committee, saying that listing of the temple alone as a World Heritage site would pose no problem for the consideration, said Mr. Pongpol.

But ICOMOS recommended that both Cambodia and Thailand should jointly propose that surrounding area to the temple should also be included as the World Heritage site.

Thai Foreign Minister Noppadon Pattama, attending the session as an observer, is expected to oppose and delay the listing of the temple following the Thai Administrative Court's temporary injunction against the June 17 cabinet approval of the joint communique he signed with Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister Sok An.

Mr. Noppadon said in Quebec that he would prepare a letter and lobby the Committee to delay the listing of the temple. (TNA)

Fuel smuggling in government’s sights

Sunday, July 6, 2008

The Minister of Industry and Trade has ordered local authorities to close down border gas stations involved in gasoline smuggling.

As world oil prices continue to rise, Vietnam’s government-subsidized gasoline can be sold in Cambodia for a tidy profit.

Fuel smuggling is a growing problem in some southern provinces that border Cambodia, such as Kien Giang, An Giang, Long An, Tay Ninh and Dong Thap.

Deputy Minister Nguyen Cam Tu on Friday called for a thorough investigation of the activities of gas stations near the border.

Provincial authorities in border areas must set up special task forces to inspect fuel trading.

From August 1, only gas export and import companies will be allowed to supply fuel to gas stations in border areas.

Previously, many gas stations bought their fuel through agents.

Under the ministry’s decision, border gas station customers will not be able to fill containers with fuel.

Customers will only be able to fill up their vehicles at these gas stations.

Customers with foreign-registered vehicles will not be charged the domestic price for fuel.

Border gas stations will not be able to sell fuel before 6 a.m. and after 6 p.m.

People planning to open a new gas station in a border area will have to get approval from both the Minister of Industry and Trade and the Ministry of Defense before opening.

Source: TPO

Banking on the future

Numbers man: James Tanios is among staff from Gateway Credit Union, Sydney, who are gearing up for a volunteer mission in Cambodia.

AN Alfords Point resident is heading to Cambodia in September to teach children about community banking.

Gateway credit Union Data analyst, James Tanios, 25, said the volunteer mission was aimed at giving younger people the skills to manage money within their own community.

He said younger Cambodians had an important role to play in strengthening the country's economy, given there was distrust among the country's older residents towards banks after many lost their savings during the Cambodian civil war (1967-75).

The Cambodian Leadership Challenge is being held by Credit Union Foundation Australia, a charity that works in developing countries to establish financial literacy programs and community-based banks.

It includes a 250-kilometre bike ride through Cambodian villages.

As part of the trip, Mr Tanios must raise $3000 for the foundation.

A former student of Sydney Technical High School, Bexley, Mr Tanios is a parishioner at St Mark's Coptic Orthodox Church in Arncliffe and once did missionary work in Thailand.

Donations: www.gatewaycu.

Jennie spotlights plight of street children

Jennie Burnett

Ruthland Times
Sunday, 6th July 2008

VOLUNTEER will share her adventures of a working holiday in Cambodia and raise awareness of the plight faced by the country's street children in a talk next month.

Jennie Burnett shunned a skiing holiday with her family for a life-changing experience in replacing a poor family's shack with a strong new home.

The 54-year-old also learned more about the horrific life endured by some Cambodian children who are living on rubbish dumps or being forced to work on the streets as a result of 30 years of civil war.

Up to 20,000 have fallen prey to the sex industry and many are trafficked to Thailand.

Jennie spent time working with street children during her trip and will be raising awareness of the Bridge of Hope charity, which can keep a child off the streets with just $50 a month.

Mother-of-two Jennie will be talking about her trip to Cambodia at Bourne Corn Exchange on Wednesday, July 16, but promises that it will be an entertaining evening.

Jennie, of Templeman Drive, Carlby, said: "It was a real adventure. I really loved being on the ferry each morning. I would think: 'Is this me sitting on this ferry with all these different people'.

"It is a life-changing trip. It really made me thankful for what we have got here. They have nothing and are so happy. The children are wonderful."

Jennie decided to go to Cambodia with Mission Direct while her husband Stephen and sons Matthew, 18, and Peter, 15 went skiing.

Based in Phnom Penh, Jennie and her colleagues would travel by ferry with Cambodians and animals every morning to build a home for a family of eight.

Over the two-week holiday she and the others helped builders create a lasting home for a family.

Jennie, who helped by putting up roof tiles and "navvying" said: "The house was really fun. We pulled down this house in half-hour and built a new one in two weeks that will last 200 years."

The group also visited a school and orphanage, where they made 200 meals for people living on a nearby rubbish dump.

She also visited the Bridge of Hope charity, which targets mothers by helping them gain employment along with educating and saving the children, and did craft activities with street children.

Jennie said: "We would wash their feet and put plasters on them and clothe them, some didn't have a stitch of clothing."

The trip also allowed Jennie, a chef with Stamford's The Evergreen Care Trust, a chance to try some Cambodian cuisine such as frogs legs and eels.

The talk, including Pimms and strawberries, will be held in the Corn Exchange in Bourne at 7.30pm on July 16. Tickets costing £5 are available from 01778 424600.

Thai PM resents court injunction on Hindu heritage temple

Kyrgyzstan News.Net
Sunday 6th July, 2008 (IANS)

Bangkok, July 6 (Xinhua) Thailand's Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej said Sunday the administrative court's order prohibiting his government from supporting the listing of ancient Preah Vihear temple as a world heritage site had undermined his government's position.

The temple built in 1037 by King Suriyavaraman of what is now known as Cambodia along Thai-Cambodia border is one of the most brilliant examples of Hindu architecture and precedes by 100 years another Hindu landmark structure, the Angkor Wat.

Sundaravej said future governments would not be able to cut deals with foreign governments because their agreements could be annulled by courts, and this would prompt foreign governments to lack confidence in Thai governments.

Since 2007, Cambodia has been trying to have the Preah Vihear temple, located on a mountain top on the Thai-Cambodia border, listed as a World Heritage Site.

Thailand and Cambodia have historically laid claim to the site, which sits on the Cambodian soil but can only be easily accessed from Thailand.

Cambodia's former King Norodom Sihanouk took Thailand to the World Court in 1962 over the two countries' claim to Preah Vihear. The court ruled that the temple belonged to Cambodia.

Thailand's Administrative Court issued an injunction June 28 nullifying the Thai cabinet's resolution to endorse Cambodia's bid to list the Preah Vihear temple as a World Heritage Site.

The controversy over the temple has become a hot issue in Thailand and a focus of the opposition Democrat Party and the PAD in their campaign to bring down the Samak government.

Thai Museum at Angkor Draws Tourists, and Criticism

John McDermott: The Angkor National Museum, left, and adjoining retail mall, built by a Thai company at Cambodia’s archaeological gem.

The New York Times
Published: July 6, 2008

SIEM REAP, Cambodia — There is no question that Angkor and its famed temples are among the world’s archaeological treasures, providing a window into the Cambodian dynasty that flourished there from the ninth century to the 15th century. But tourists who flock to the site in northwestern Cambodia say something is missing; few artifacts remain to help them imagine the customs and rituals of the ancient empire.

Antiquities were looted over the centuries or appropriated by museums in France, the country’s former colonial ruler. Of those that remained, many were relocated to Cambodia’s National Museum, more than 185 miles from Angkor.

Now, a Thai company says it is trying to address the problem, opening a museum that borrows artifacts, including nearly 1,000 Buddhas, from the National Museum and elsewhere. It is just a few miles from Angkor Park, the sprawling area near here that is considered one of Southeast Asia’s most important archaeological sites and includes Angkor Wat, its celebrated temple.

But the new museum, Angkor National Museum, which opened in October, has already drawn criticism from powerful detractors. The critics include international restoration specialists who are fiercely concerned about anything that affects Angkor, which was restored by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, or Unesco, and others after the wars of the 1970s.

Some quibble with the museum’s aesthetics — the complex includes a sprawling retail area — and with its sense of history. There are hundreds of Buddhas, for instance, that date back no further than the 20th century.

Other critics object to the Thai involvement; Angkor was once under Thai control, and some Cambodians remain suspicious that Thailand retains designs on their patrimony.

Those suspicions were stoked in 1999 when large sections of walls with bas-relief images of the revered multiarmed figure, Lokeshvara, were looted from the 12th-century Banteay Chhmar temple near the Thai border. The stolen art was intercepted by the Thai police and returned to Cambodia.

Then in 2003, anti-Thai riots broke out in Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s capital, after a Thai actress was reported to have said that Angkor Wat still belonged to her country.

One of the critics, Darryl Collins, a historian based in Siem Reap, said the displeasure of some Cambodians was understandable. An enterprise that is foreign led and “primarily interested in turning a profit,” he said, can hardly be called national, especially when Cambodia already has a National Museum.

Angkor National Museum was created by Vilailuck International Holdings, which is based in Bangkok. For 16 years Vilailuck’s parent company, the Samart Corporation, has been a major investor in Cambodia’s telecommunications sector.

Under the terms of its contract with the Cambodian government, the company agreed to transfer control of the museum to the government after 30 years in exchange for the right to display treasures from the National Museum and from the Conservation d’Angkor, a national trove of some 6,000 artifacts. That collection includes important statues of Buddha from several historical periods.

The Thais involved in the museum have been stung by the criticism of the project, which Vilailuck spent $15 million to build.

“We want to educate Cambodian people about their own history,” said the museum’s managing director, Sunaree Wongpiyabovorn. There are those “who know little about its monuments, and even less of the progress of Buddhism and what led up to it,” she added.

Ms. Wongpiyabovorn is especially sensitive to allegations that the company is motivated by economics. She said that Vilailuck had tripled its original investment of $5 million because of cost overruns and did not expect to see a profit for at least 10 years.

Moreover, complications seem to have left the Thais frustrated, especially with regard to the terms and conditions of the loans. Under the original plan, the former director of the National Museum, Khun Samen, agreed to hand over as many as 1,000 artifacts during the 30-year contract, as well as 31 major pieces for a six-month loan.

His successor, Hab Touch, reduced the number of major pieces to be shared to 23. “I am not going to surrender important pieces that should be permanently displayed here for the integrity of the collection,” he said.

Unesco, which has declared Angkor a World Heritage site, is generally supportive of the museum and is trying to help by providing advice on display and other aspects of museum practice.

Still, Azedine Beschaouch, an adviser to the organization, agrees with some of the criticism.

Mr. Beschaouch, an expert on Angkor and a special adviser to Unesco’s assistant director general for culture, is no fan of the retail area, which Vilailuck calls a “cultural mall.”

“This seems to have been foremost in the mind of the designers, while the collection came second,” Mr. Beschaouch said.

He is also impatient about what he called “presentation that cannot claim to reflect international standards in museology.”

It has not helped matters that although the museum opened months behind schedule, some of the artifacts still had not been labeled.

In the museum’s defense, Ms. Wongpiyabovorn said that the Conservation d’Angkor’s documentation of many of its works was lost during Pol Pot’s reign, leaving many artifacts with few historical records.

The museum insists that it needs more time to develop its identity. Its curator, Chann Charouen, who is Cambodian, plans to rotate artifacts and bring in new pieces from Cambodian provincial museums.

It remains to be seen whether the museum will embrace the growing scholarship and broad debates that currently characterize Angkorian studies, or be content to lure tourists to the knickknacks of the cultural mall.

‘Nothing Lost’ In Preah Vihear Temple Deal

THE TEMPLE OF CONTROVERSY: Thai Buddhist monks walk up to the Preah Vihear temple near Thai border in Preah Vihear province, some 543km north of Phnom Penh. (Photo courtesy: TANG CHHIN SOTHY/ AFP)


Thai Foreign Minister Noppadon Pattama insists he maintained Thai sovereignty in dealing with Cambodia over the Hindu temple of Preah Vihear.

The joint communiqué signed with Cambodia’s deputy prime minister Sok An on June 18 did not terminate reservations about the international court’s ruling made by former foreign minister Thanat Khoman 46 years ago, he said.

“The inherent right, if it really exists, as reserved by former minister Thanat, has not changed. No single word in the joint statement mentioned that right and the reservations held,” he told parliament.

Sovereignty over the Preah Vihear temple, ruled in favour of Cambodia by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in 1962, was a hot topic of debate in the Thai parliament after the opposition Democrat Party accused the government of causing a loss of sovereignty when it supported Cambodia in a unilateral application for World Heritage status.

Actively supporting Cambodia’s application to Unesco meant recognition of Cambodia’s sovereignty over the temple area, said Democrat MP Sirichok Sopha. “The ICJ ruled only that the temple was under Cambodia’s sovereignty and Thailand was obligated to hand the temple ruins to Cambodia, not the base on which the ruins sit,” he said.

Opposition leader Abhisit Vejjajiva said previous governments had not conceded Cambodian sovereignty over the base since the ruling.

Noppadon rejected the comment, saying the Cabinet in July 1962, shortly after the ruling, agreed to hand the temple, together with 250 square metres of territory for the base, to Cambodia.

Abhisit and Noppadon exchanged words during the Parliament session over interpretation of the Cabinet’s resolution on July 11, 2006.

Noppadon said all concerned Thai agencies interpreted that the then government agreed to hand the temple together with the base area to Cambodia while Abhisit said the base remained under Thai sovereignty.

As long as Cambodia did not claim anything beyond the then-handed-over area, Thailand lost nothing beyond what it lost 46 years ago, Noppadon said.

Cambodia’s new map which was used in the application was cross-checked against the L 7017 map used by the Thai military to determine the Thai boundary, he said.

The joint communiqué made clear the inclusion of Preah Vihear on the World Heritage list shall be “without” prejudice to the right of the two kingdoms on the demarcation work of the Joint Commission for Land Boundary, Noppadon said.

Moreover, Unesco’s Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage’s article 11 stated that: The inclusion of a property situated in a territory, sovereignty or jurisdiction over which is claimed by more than one State, shall in no way prejudice the rights of the parties to the dispute, he said. “We have three layers of legal protection over our sovereignty.”

(By SUPALAK GANJANAKHUNDEE In Bangkok/ The Nation/ AsiaNews

Thai official: Controversial temple likely to be approved as World Heritage site

BANGKOK, July 6 (Xinhua) -- Attempts by Cambodia to list the controversial Preah Vihear temple, which stands across the area of both Cambodia and Thailand, as a World Heritage site during the current United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) annual session held in Canada's Quebec City, are expected to bear fruit, according to Thailand's World Heritage Committee.

Pongpol Adireksarn, chairman of the committee and currently attending the UNESCO session, said that more than half of the 21 World Heritage Committee members had told him informally that they favored the Cambodian government's registration of the ancient temple as a World Heritage site as it had "untiringly pursued the issue on a constant basis", the official Thai News Agency reported on Sunday.

He quoted committee members as telling him that the concerned Phnom Penh government had also invited them to visit the temple, unlike Thailand whose "policy was uncertain" and whose government changed frequently, the report said.

The temple issue is expected to be conferred by the World Heritage Committee on Sunday night, Thailand time.

The International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), a non-governmental organization, had distributed reports to the committee, saying that the listing of the temple alone as a World Heritage site would pose no problem for the consideration, said Pongpol.

But the ICOMOS recommended that both Cambodia and Thailand should jointly propose that the surrounding area to the temple should also be included as the World Heritage site.

Thai Foreign Minister Noppadon Pattama, attending the session as an observer, is expected to oppose and delay the listing of the temple following the Thai Administrative Court's temporary injunction against the June 17 cabinet approval of the joint communique he signed with Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister Sok An.

Noppadon said in Quebec that he would prepare a letter and lobby the Committee to delay the listing of the temple.

Editor: Amber Yao

Uniquely Khmer

A Khmer pagoda in the Mekong Delta, similar to many pagodas found in Cambodia.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

The Mekong Delta is home to an array of distinctive Khmer pagodas off the beaten track.

trip through the region reveals a different side of Vietnam, one in which farmers wear traditional Khmer Kroma scarves and Khmer script can be seen on roadsides.

Touring the delta’s Khmer pagodas is not only a serene getaway, but also a fascinating way to glimpse Khmer Buddhist culture and architecture not usually associated with Vietnam.

The Mekong region’s 500 Khmer pagodas vary in size and age but all host typical Khmer architectural traits.

At many of the pagodas, it’s not hard to see the architectural relationship to the legendary Temples of Angkor.


The main hall of a Khmer Pagoda is always at the center of the complex and spans from east to west as it is believed that the Great Buddha sits in the west and blesses his disciples in the east.

The length of the pagoda must be twice its width and equal to its height and the overreach of its roof must match the size of its outdoor floors.

In addition, the embellishments of the pagodas often take the shape of the isosceles triangle as the form is thought to symbolize perfection.

According to Khmer teachings, enlightenment is symbolized by fire, which often takes the representative form of the isosceles triangle.

The main hall of a Khmer Pagoda is always a long corridor with four main doors facing east and west and seven or nine other doors looking north and south.

Another common feature shared by Khmer pagodas is a multi-layered roof with a vibrantly-colored pointed top.


Although the pagodas bear much architectural resemblance, they each have distinctive decorative aspects.

One example is Chen Kieu (Bowls) Pagoda, also known as the Salon Pagoda, in Soc Trang Province’s My Xuyen Commune.

A Khmer pagoda in Vietnam’s southernmost province of Ca Mau.

The pagoda boasts ornate porcelain designs and glazed terra cotta bowls and plates on its roofs, pillars and walls.

Its inner sanctum has 16 pillars carved with images taken from Khmer legends while two walls are carved with pictures depicting the Buddha’s path to enlightenment.

Chen Kieu Pagoda also has beautiful carvings of Hanuman, a monkey-god associated with Hinduism and Khmer Buddhism who saved Vishnu’s wife from demons.

The pagoda also features representations of the goddess of hawks, one of Cambodia’s most important deities.

The curvy design of the top roof layer symbolizes freedom while the lower layers resemble a vast colorful carpet.

Built in 1533, Kh’leang Pagoda is the oldest pagoda in Soc Trang and bears much architectural similarity to its Cambodian counterparts.

Two oval-shaped stupas housing honored monks’ ashes sit near the pagoda gate.

Inside its sanctum are 16 huge gold-inlaid wooden pillars featuring pictures of the Buddha and Buddhist activities.

Its roof’s elaborate carvings symbolize the harmony between the Buddha, humans and the Jade emperor in Khmer teachings.

The pagoda also boasts an assemblage of artifacts from ancient Khmer settlements.

Another famed Buddhist destination in the province is Doi (Bat) Pagoda, which is also known as Ma Toc or Mahatuc Pagoda.

The 400-year-old pagoda located at in Soc Trang Town is not only famous for being a sanctuary for thousands of bats but also for its striking architecture.

There are also clay statues of the tu linh (four sacred animals):, namely Long (dragon) which stands for power, Ly (Kirin) for peace, Quy (tortoise) for longevity and Phung (phoenix) for happiness.

Its pillars feature a beautiful nymph named Kemnar while its walls are covered in pictures gifted by Buddhists from around the country.

The roof tips are sculpted with images of Naga or Niek, the snake god of Khmer legends.

The Hang (Cavern) Pagoda, also known as Kam Pong Chray in the Khmer language, is another example of Khmer Buddhist architecture, this time in Tra Vinh Province’s Chau Thanh Commune.

The 400-year-old pagoda is one of the more gorgeous structures less frequently mentioned in travel guides.

Its main hall is covered in elaborate carvings and the pagoda also boasts a lavishly decorated pointed top with bird-bodied, human-faced deity idols and intricately embossed sculpture.

Tra Vinh’s Ong Met Pagoda, or Wat Kompong in the Khmer language, is a true architectural standout with elegant reliefs featuring the god Vishnu on the dome of its main hall.

Vishnu is one of three supreme gods in Hinduism, namely Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva which signify creation, protection and destruction respectively.

The province is also home to Xiem Can, a century-old pagoda where uniquely Khmer Buddhist festivals are held.

It has a stupa housing the ashes of revered monks and several small temples dot the grounds.
Xiem Can’s architecture somewhat resembles Angkor Wat.

Inside the sanctum, statues of the Buddha in various poses and sizes represent the Buddha’s reincarnation in several eras.

The walls of the pagoda’s main hall are covered in pictures showing the Buddha’s life from birth – as Prince Gautama, life in the palace, renunciation of his royal life, and becoming the Buddha.

Can Tho City, the largest municipality in the region, is home to the Munir Ansay Pagoda on Hoa Binh Street.

The pagoda was built in 1948 and modeled on the Tam Bao (Three Treasures) tower, which is part of Cambodia’s famed Angkor Wat complex.

Munir Ansay is very popular due to its elaborate sculptures.

The province’s largest pagoda, it hosts ethnic Khmer festivals each year like Ok Om Bok (The Moon Prayer Festival on April 13), Chol Chnam Thmay (Khmer Lunar New Year, April 12-15), and Don Ta (“Amnesty” Festival for the Dead, October 12-14).

Cultural hub

There are nearly one million Khmers in Vietnam, concentrated mostly in the Mekong Delta provinces of Soc Trang, Vinh Long, Tra Vinh, Kien Giang, An Giang and Can Tho City.

Khmer pagodas are both imposing and sacred, an indispensable part of preserving the traditional arts and culture of the Khmer people.

Between the ages of 11 – 15, most Khmer males set aside a few months or years to live in the pagodas as monks before adulthood.

Khmer Rouge court to give bail decision for Pol Pot's sister-in-law

M&G Asia-Pacific News
Jul 6, 2008

Phnom Penh - The joint UN-Cambodian court set up to try former Khmer Rouge leaders will announce its decision on whether to grant bail to the sister-in-law of the movement's late leader Pol Pot this week, it said in a press release Sunday.

The Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia said it would hold a morning session on Wednesday to announce its decision on Ieng Thirith's appeal against pretrial detention heard on May 21.

She is charged with crimes against humanity.

Prosecutors allege her position in the movement and her marriage to Khmer Rouge foreign minister Ieng Sary made it impossible for her not to be aware of the murder, torture, starvation and disease that claimed up to 2 million lives during their 1975-79 reign.

Thirith has denied the charges and appealed for pretrial release for health reasons.

Thirith, her husband, former head of state Khieu Samphan, chief ideologue Nuon Chea and director of the Toul Sleng torture centre Kaing Guek Eav, aka Duch, are currently in detention awaiting trial.

The first hearings are expected later this year. The movement's top leader, Pol Pot, died in 1998.

Cambodia’s One-Sided Polls

MOBILE CAMPAIGNING: Trucks decorated with national and party flags of the Cambodian People’s Party travel along a street during a campaign ahead of the commune elections in Phnom Penh in March 2007. (Photo courtesy: TANG CHHIN SOTHY/ AFP)

"I think the CPP knows that we are doing well, this is why they are working so hard on their psychological and political game."

The ruling Cambodian People’s Party appears certain to return as the dominant party in the country’s impending national election.

While Cambodia’s national election is more than a month away the results are in little doubt. The ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) appears certain to return as the dominant party and, for the first time, win enough seats in the National Assembly to rule on its own.

According to the National Election Committee (NEC), approximately 8.6 million Cambodians are registered to vote in the polls, the fourth since the United Nations-sponsored peace plan in the early 1990s heralded the end of one-party rule.

And with Cambodian non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and a number of countries gearing up for a major monitoring effort, charges of dirty tricks and voter intimidation are already being levelled against the powerful CPP.

“The election process can be considered free in the sense that violence is down, people are obviously not intimidated to cast their vote and the administration (of the poll) is better,” said Jerome Cheung, country director for the National Democratic Institute (NDI). “It is what happens before the election that does not make it fair, including CPP’s total domination of broadcast media and intimidation of journalists and opposition.”

“So far we have found some technical problems, but the capacity of the NEC has been improving and the number of irregularities has been declining,” said Mar Sophal, monitoring coordinator with the Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia (Comfrel).

In one particularly positive change, votes will be counted at the polling station at which they are cast on the night of the election.

In 2003, they were transported to collective counting stations which, observers agree, gave increased scope for manipulation.

The most contentious part of the process, voter registration, took place last year with the NEC deciding to remove nearly 600,000 voter names from the list.

A recent audit of the voter list by a number of organisations, among them Comfrel and NDI, found most eligible voters registered and the vast majority of invalid voters delisted.

“Some (problems) are administrative, some are the result of overzealous party officials acting for their party,” said Cheung. “There’s no national conspiracy by any political party manipulating the registration process.”

It is commune chiefs, the vast majority of whom are CPP affiliated, who administer the process undertaken manually in handwritten form. Only when the registrations lists are passed on to the NEC in Phnom Penh are they computerised. This opens up the possibility of significant transfer error.

While observers give NEC credit for improving its performance, there are serious misgivings about its capacity and lack of independence. Concerns include the appointment of NEC council members by political parties and the body’s location within the interior ministry.

With the exception of the two months leading up to an election, NEC has no permanent sub-national structure and must rely on commune councils that take directions from the ministry.

However, the most serious barriers to free and fair elections stem from the country’s broader political culture. The country’s electronic media, most of which is controlled by CPP, gives little time to opposition party voices.

Independent media outlets are often harassed or—as recently happened in the case of one radio station selling airtime to opposition parties in the central province of Kratie—shut down.

There is also a lingering culture of intimidation that prevents people from speaking out more freely in the pre-election period.

In early June, a coalition of 40 Cambodian civil society organisations expressed deep concern over the increase in political violence in the first half of 2008. There were five assassinations of political party members and 21 cases of political persecution in the first half of the year.

Most of the perpetrators are yet to be arrested, let alone tried, by a court system that is heavily biased in favour of the CPP.

“Cases of murder, threat, intimidation and political prosecution are occurring, especially in far flung areas,” Thun Saray, president of local rights group ADHOC, told a press conference.

Rights lobbies such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have also accused the CPP of political intimidation and manipulation of the judicial system in the lead-up to the July poll.

While lamenting the lack of a more level playing field, commentators concede the opposition’s continued focus on point scoring rather than presenting a unified front also contributes to the situation. Eleven parties will contest the July 27 poll, down from 23 in the 2003 election.The most serious challenger, the Sam Rainsy Party (SRP), named after its leader, has been weakened by a series of high-level defections to the CPP in return for well-paid advisorships, courtesy state funds.

“I think the CPP knows that we are doing well, this is why they are working so hard on their psychological and political game,” said Mu Soc Hua, SRP deputy secretary-general. “Our people are under pressure, heavy pressure every day. Some people with less integrity have been bought off.”

The other major political player and CPP’s coalition partner, Funcinpec, has virtually disintegrated after in-fighting following the ouster of its leader Prince Norodom Ranariddh two years ago. Ranariddh—who has formed his own party and is contesting the election from exile in Malaysia—would gain some seats.

A nationwide grassroots political machine, a formidable war chest, and the backing of most of the country’s wealthiest business tycoons augment the CPP’s dominance.

A recent opinion poll by the International Republican Institute (IRI) in Phnom Penh found that 70 per cent of Cambodians believe that the country is headed in the right direction. While the poll did not posit any direct correlation to voter intentions, there is little doubt CPP has positioned itself well to take credit for Cambodia’s rapid economic growth while shunting responsibility for problems such as skyrocketing fuel and food prices onto international factors beyond its control.

And while there is speculation that the so-called ‘youth factor’ will be potentially running against the CPP— over 50 per cent of registered voters are between 18 and 30 years of age—John Willis, IRI country director, disagrees. “There is no demographic group that is more pro-CPP than youth.

The majority of youth is in the rural areas and they are concerned with livelihoods. They want jobs and CPP is able to deliver them.”Prime Minister Hun Sen has already vowed that CPP would govern alone, if victorious, ending an unstable coalition deal in place since Cambodia’s first multi-party election in 1993.

His decision has been facilitated by a constitutional amendment that allows government to be formed on the basis of a simple majority rather than a two-thirds majority, as was the case in previous elections.

It will be a historic victory for CPP, installed by the Vietnamese when they invaded the country in 1979 and overthrew the Khmer Rouge government, responsible for the deaths of nearly two million Cambodians.

It would also be a personal triumph for Hun Sen, a peasant’s son and former Khmer Rouge cadre, who has destroyed, coopted or outsmarted all his rivals since being installed as president by the Vietnamese in 1985.

The United States, Japan and the European Commission have announced they will be sending monitors for the election.

Comfrel and the other major Cambodian poll monitoring organisation, Neutral and Impartial Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia, each plan to field some 7,000 short and long term monitors.

Opposition parties are dismissive of this effort. “All the bad things have already happened,” said Hua of SRP. “I say to all these international monitors—you may as well come to Cambodia and have a vacation on election-day.

“The true test for this democracy will be when there is a peaceful transition of power...this has not happened yet,” said Cheung. It does not appear to be a test Cambodia will face this soon.

(ANDREW NETTE In Phnom Penh/ IPS Asia-Pacific/ AsiaNews)

ICOMOS opposed to listing of Preah Vihear

By The Nation

The International Councils on Monuments and Sites is opposed to Cambodia's application to register Preah Vihear ruins as a world heritage site, the chief of Thailand's World Heritage Committee has said.Pongpol Adireksarn, who was attending the 32nd Session of the World Heritage Committee in Quebec from July 2 to 10, said the ICOMOS disagreed with the listing of Preah Vihear because the application did not meet basic requirements for the listing.

He said the fact that Cambodia sought to register the temple without its surrounding landscape became a main reason that prompted ICOMOS to be opposed to the listing.

Pongpol said ICOMOS expressed opposition to the registration of Preah Vihear as a world heritage site on the first meeting day.

According to Pongpol, normally an application for a world heritage site needed to meet 6 basic requirements but Cambodia asked ICOMOS to consider only 3 requirements.

Still, Cambodia met only one of the three requirements, Pongpol said.

He said ICOMOS endorsed the evidence of creativity thinking for the listing but ICOMOS saw that Cambodia failed to meet two other requirements because it failed to include parts of the ruins on Thai soils in the application.

"I see that ICOMOS' decision reduced bargaining power of Cambodia. And this supports Thailand's stand that the site must be jointly registered," Pongpol said.

"ICOMOS is a professional organisation and expressed its opinions based on reasons."

He said ICOMOS saw that without landscape registering, Preah Vihear Temple would lack its outstanding identity.

Pongpol said Preah Vihear application would be the last one to be considered by the World Heritage Committee on the second meeting day.

Noppadon faces uphill task over Preah Vihear

The Bangkok Post
Sunday July 06, 2008

Minister flies to Canada to try to delay the listing of old templeBy Manop Thip-osod & Sanoh Worarak

Foreign Minister Noppadon Pattama yesterday admitted he faced an uphill task in trying to delay Cambodia's bid to get the Preah Vihear temple listed as a new World Heritage site. The minister yesterday left for Quebec, where the World Heritage Committee is holding a meeting with the listing of the temple on the agenda.

Mr Noppadon said before his departure that the Cambodian government had already lobbied many of the 21 committee members, seeking their backing to get the ancient temple listed.
But he promised to do everything he could to oppose and delay the listing by explaining to the committee about the Administrative Court's injunction against the June 17 cabinet approval of the joint communique he signed with Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister Sok An one day later.

The two put their initials on the joint communique in a meeting with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) on May 22.

But it took effect only after cabinet approval and an official signing.

The communique gives Thai support to the Cambodian bid for the listing after the government approved the Cambodian map of the temple boundary, which leaves the disputed area between the two countries untouched.

Mr Noppadon told the court on Thursday that the government only followed the previous administration of former prime minister Surayud Chulanont, which he claimed had already supported the Cambodian bid.

He referred to the committee meeting in Christchurch last year.

But Nitya Pibulsonggram, the foreign minister in Gen Surayud's government, argued yesterday that at the time Thailand made it clear that it opposed a unilateral effort by Cambodia on the issue.

Pongpol Adireksarn, chairman of the Thai World Heritage Committee, confirmed the committee members were well aware of the Thai court ruling.

Speaking on the sidelines of the meeting in Quebec, he said many members were concerned about the impact of the issue on Thai-Cambodian relations.

The issue is expected to be discussed by the committee late tonight Thailand time.

But with problems on the Thai side, Mr Pongpol said he was hoping the panel would make Preah Vihear the last issue to be thoroughly studied and discussed.

To ensure a better understanding, he had talked with delegates from many countries, including South Korea, Morocco and the United States, who were invited by Cambodia to tour the temple, he said.

Democrat party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva said the court's ruling might be too late as Mr Noppadon had gone so far in binding the country with the joint communique to show Thailand's ''active support'' on the issue.

In Si Sa Ket's Kantharalak district opposite the temple, about 250 protesters yesterday gathered at the stairway leading to the ancient ruins to demand the quick eviction of Cambodian souvenir sellers.

They also called for the government to put the temple issue on the national agenda, hold a public hearing on listing the temple as a World Heritage site and for the two countries to work on boundary delineation.

They vowed to hold a big rally should the government make no progress in 30 days.

From the archive: Pol Pot victory; Fall of Phnom Penh, April 17, 1975

From The Sunday Times
July 6, 2008

Jon Swain

Jon Swain was on the last civilian flight into the city before it was captured by communist Khmer Rouge forces under Pol Pot. An estimated 1.7m people would die in Cambodia’s “killing fields” over the next three years.

Swain sent The Sunday Times a diary recounting the last hours before the city fell.

Monivong Bridge

Already Takhmau, the industrial suburb three miles south of the Monivong Bridge, has been lost and now the fighting centres on the bridge itself. Once it has fallen, the city will be open to attack by insurgents from the east as well as from the south.

Nearby is the scene of last night’s terrible fire. The conglomeration of wooden houses standing on stilts just upstream from the bridge was caught in Khmer Rouge shelling. Hundreds of inhabitants were trapped and burnt to death. Many more tried to escape by leaping into the river. Naval gunboats, searchlights blazing, manoeuvred among the bobbing bodies, attempting to fish out survivors.

University Building

From the roof of the university I have a grandstand view of the war. The rattle of machineguns is now very close and a string of ambulances suddenly scream past, carrying wounded from the front.

In the university grounds, half-tracks churn up the grass, positioning themselves for clearer fields of fire. Students have barricaded the stairs with desks and watch the battle from classroom balconies.

In the sunshine outside, two young lovers sit on the grass holding hands, wrapped up in their own private world.

Preah Ket Mealea hospital

This is one of the city’s 11 hospitals. The inflow of casualties has grown too great for the doctors to be able to cope with them all.

A Scottish medical team has been operating from dawn to dusk with total unconcern for their own safety. The anaesthetist, Murray Carmichael, 33, has been going out to buy blood in return for a bowl of rice and a bit of fish. He says the monks are the most reliable donors.

Hotel Phnom grounds

A bungalow attached to the Phnom hotel has been taken over by the Scottish medical team and converted into an operating theatre. Surgeon Mike Daly, 33, throws open a cupboard and says he has enough instruments to operate on 12 patients without having to pause to wash up.

He and his nurses, Helen Fraser and Pat Ash, say their day at the Preah Ket Mealea hospital has been the blackest of the war. In two hours Daly did 10 operations: “I didn’t have time to put on gloves or a gown. I simply splashed alcohol over my hands and didn’t even have time to change the instruments between operations.”

Early evening, city centre

Suddenly the war declares itself in the centre of the city. The attempts to keep the refugees to the outskirts have ceased and refugees converge from all sides, pushing, shoving, jostling, desperate to escape the fighting breathing down their necks.

The trim walkways and flower-scented parks are submerged under the heaving mass of homeless families, weeping lost children, pigs, ducks, chickens, all hungry and increasingly afraid.
Casualty Receiving Centre

Over the years in Indochina I have become a reluctant expert on human misery, but the carnage here shakes me to the core. A converted volleyball court serves as the main receiving centre for the wounded and with today’s fighting it has become overwhelmed.

A dozen doctors and nurses have today had to deal with more than 700 soldiers and civilians. The chief medic is in despair. Wounded people lie two or three to a bed. The floor is streaked with blood. The bins overflow with gory bandages and field dressings.

A recently amputated leg pokes out of a cardboard box where the surgeon has tossed it in a hurry. Its owner lies staring blankly on a stretcher.

Evening, Hotel Phnom

The prospect of the hotel – this exclusive hangout of foreigners and rich Cambodians – being converted into a high class refugee camp has brought out the worst in some of the journalists and French businessmen. They are rudely assailing the Red Cross officials for letting some of the refugees into our sanctuary.

Refugees are being admitted, family by family, after the officials have thoroughly searched their bodies and belongings to confiscate weapons. The disarmed refugees tramp through the lobby, into the garden, spread down little rush mats and fall into exhausted sleep.

A green plastic cord separates them from the handful of westerners dining in elegance on the other side of the pool. “That’s what we call apartheid,” says a French journalist formerly in Johannesburg.

Hours later the city centre was in Khmer Rouge hands.

A life in the world’s war zones

Jon Swain was captured by the Khmer Rouge and was about to be executed when his life was saved by the New York Times interpreter Dith Pran, a story told in the film The Killing Fields.

His 10,000-word report on a country in the grip of terror earned him his job on The Sunday Times. He has reported on nearly every major conflict since, winning numerous awards.
In 1976 Swain was kidnapped in Ethiopia and held prisoner for three months.

In 1999 he trekked across the mountains into Kosovo to witness its ethnic cleansing.

Now 60, he undertakes arduous assignments with undiminished passion.

He once wrote that “powerful writing and powerful pictures will not curtail wars, but they are valuable because they make it more difficult for the world to close its eyes to human suffering”.

Samak says govt opponents jeopardised Thai-Cambodian relations by playing up Preah Vihear issue

July 6, 2008

Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej said Sunday that opponents of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra played up the Preah Vihear issue with ulterior motive to annihilate him.

Samak said the opponents did not care that their campaigns would jeopardise bilateral relations between Cambodia and Thailand and incite hatred between people of the two countries.

Speaking during his Talk Samak Style, Samak reaffirmed his government's stand that the listing of Preah Vihear temple by Cambodia as a world heritage site would not cause Thailand to lose its territory.

He said Thaksin's opponents played up the issue out of proportion and wanted to use the current government as a tool annihilate Thaksin as well.

Reading from his personal statement, Samak said his government obeyed the Administrative Court 's injunction on the Preah Vihear issue as much as what the opposition accepted it.

But, he said, the issue would be decided by a third party and his government would also have to take into account of interest of the two countries and their citizens.

The Nation

The Slowest Train in The World

by Tynan
Jul 5th 2008

Cambodia has only one passenger train that still runs, and I'm on it right now.

Calling it a passenger train is a bit of a misnomer, though. Most of the few seats still attached to the floor are piled high with exotic fruits: durians, pineapples, and several others that I've eaten before but can't name. I think one's a jackfruit, and another might be a soursop.

Half of the back car is full of lumber which I helped load a few stops ago. I almost crushed my foot.

The train is slow, probably the slowest train in the world. The fastest I clocked it with my GPS was 17kph. That's fast enough that if you want to take a jog you can just hop out the back and run along.

The journey from Battambang, a city reasonably close to the Thai border, to Phnom Penh takes four hours by air conditioned bus. I've been on the train for 17 hours now and there's been no word on when we'll finally arrive. The official timetable claimed it would be 5 hours ago.

As I write I'm sitting in one of the wood benches, which puts me in the minority. Most people string up cloth hammocks in front of the open windows or ride on the roof.

rode on the roof for a good part of the day. The local kids showed me how to jump from car to car as if I was part of an Indiana Jones movie.

When I arrived at the train station this morning there were a dozen other foreigners. Most of them stayed as long as Purset, the big stop 5 hours in which allows the rest of the journey to be completed by bus.

Four of us are left. My friend Todd, a lonely planet writer named Andrew, and Laila who has been traveling for 4 months and is expecting to travel for another 12. Her seat is a huge bag of charcoal that she claims is more comfortable than my bench. She's probably right.

The train probably won't run for much longer. Giant holes in the roof douse everyone and their cargo when it rains. No attempt is made at repairing the gaping holes in the rotting floor that expose the wheels and the track below us.

We once stopped unexpectedly because one of the four car's bumpers had jumped onto another one's.

You might be wondering why anyone would ever ride this train, and you might be surprised that I couldn't possible recommend it any more. Why?

Because THIS is how to see Cambodia. Not all of it, of course, but it's a whopping serving of authentic Cambodian life.

From the rusted roof of the train you get an unrestricted view of the beautiful rice paddies that cover the countryside. You watch as families work together to harvest the rice and direct their Oxen.

Children run up to the train and wave and yell out the few English phrases they know.

The train makes a few short stops, mainly to load or unload lumber and fruits, and vendors run up with trays of food, illuminated by kerosene lanterns.

I've been to a lot of countries, and I'm not sure I've met friendlier people.

When the monks saw that Laina had only bought one bag of steamed rice, they bought her another bag and some eggs. The woman sitting near us insisted on holding my flashlight while we ate.

When a pineapple vendor started cutting up one of her pineapples on the train, I hurried over to buy it. She gave it to me and then absolutely refused to take money.

Everyone smiles and tries to talk to us. They show us how to tie our hammocks and warn us when the train is about to leave after a stop.

Traveling can be more about the journey than the destination. I haven't been to Phnom Penh yet, but I don't know how it will be more memorable and enjoyable than the ride over.

If you're in the area and you want a train ride of a lifetime, check out this page on, which is an amazing resource for traveling by train, bus, or boat.

UPDATE: It took 24 hours total. A parting word of advice - buy a hammock in Battambang before you go. The locals will show you how to hang it.

Civil Society Organizations Are Concerned That There Might Be a New Boom of the Spreads of AIDS

Posted on 5 July 2008
The Mirror, Vol. 12, No. 567

“Phnom Penh: Many Officials are concerned that there might be another boom of the spread of AIDS in Cambodia.

“Mr. Chuop Sok Chamroeun, a program officer of the Khmer HIV/AIDS NGO Alliance [KHANA], said on 3 July 2008 that the spread of HIV might explode again in Cambodia, because of the change in the attitude towards sex. He added that since the government has strengthened the law enforcement on sexual and human trafficking, most sex workers had left brothels to find clients by themselves. ‘Some still work in places of entertainment, and some work during the night at public places, making it very difficult for us to educate them.’

“Dr. Teng Kunthy, secretary general of the National AIDS Authority, said on 3 July 2008 that the number of men seeking sexual services at brothels declined to half of what it was before, but men find the services at places of entertainment by asking for it. If they are careless, they will risk to get HIV.

“According to the study, 96% of people having sex at brothels use condoms, but the percentage of men using condoms when they have sex with their girlfriends or with occasional contacts is not known.

“Mr. Chuop Sok Chamroeun said if they are careless even only once, they might be infected by HIV. He added, ‘We are so worried that if there is no preventive action in time, there will be another boom of a second wave of HIV infections, because men getting infected with HIV in this way might spread HIV to their wives and children, which will become a tragedy. He asserted that previously, it was easy to educate sex workers at brothels so that they understand AIDS, but now they work outside, making it hard to educate them, because we don’t know where they are and where they work; some work at massage houses, karaoke parlors, or other places of entertainment. Because of the above problems, we are worried about a second wave of an HIV infection like in 1997, which was the first wave of a strong spread of HIV. Since then, AIDS was fairly well prevented, but if we are careless, the infection might boom again.’

“In order to prevent these problems, Dr. Teng Kunthy and Mr. Chuop Sok Chamroeun said that education is very important, and in addition also special measures, and they requested that all places of entertainment should participate to give their staff the opportunity to understand AIDS. Nowadays, staff at places of entertainment have formed groups of friends, to educate their own friends team to help each another at their workplaces, and by educating their friends to use condoms with their clients or partners.”

Kampuchea Thmey, Vol.7, #1684, 4.7.2008

Concern in Quebec over temple row

The Bangkok Post

All 21 World Heritage Committee members are concerned over the Preah Vihear temple situation after learning that Thailand's Administrative Court issued an injunction against the cabinet resolution a week ago, calling into question the government's endorsement of a joint communique signed by the Thailand and Cambodian governments, according to Pongpol Adireksarn, chairman of Thailand's World Heritage Committee, on Saturday.

The Cambodian government is proposing the ancient Hindu temple to be accorded World Heritage site status during the current UNESCO meeting, held in Quebec City, Canada.

Mr. Pongpol said the 21 committee members had received documents from the Thai foreign ministry signed by Minister Noppadon Pattama, informing them of the injunction granted by the Administrative Court, an action which forbids the use of the joint communiqué signed by the minister and Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister Sok An on June 18.

Several committee members had expressed concern and tried to find a solution which would not affect the otherwise warm relations between Thailand and Cambodia, said Mr. Pongpol.

"An informal meeting between senior officials of Asia and the Pacific countries will be held and they're expected to discuss about Preah Vihear temple too," said Mr. Pongpol, adding that the World Heritage Committee may consider the temple issue as the last agenda on the proposed sites on the list.

The UNESCO World Heritage Committee meeting will also consider, according to Mr. Pongpol, over 30 historical and ecological sites around the world that are currently at risk.

None of the at risk sites are in Thailand, he said, specifically naming the kingdom's best-known site, a historical park in Bangkok's neighboring province of Ayutthaya, a exemplary model of how a historical site can benefits surrounding areas. (TNA)

Former FM: Thailand never supported Cambodia on temple claim

BANGKOK, July 5 (TNA) - Former Thai foreign minister Nitya Pibulsonggram said Saturday that Thailand never supported Cambodia's unilateral application to register Preah Vihear temple as a UNESCO World Heritage site.

His denial was made after current Foreign Minister Noppadon Pattama on Friday told the Constitution Court it was the previous government of Gen. Surayud Chulanont, installed by the September 2006 coup-makers, which had pushed and supported attempts by the Cambodian government to register the temple as a World Heritage site, and not himself.

Mr. Noppadon said the previous government made the commitment during the 31st meeting of the World Heritage Committee meeting, held in Christchurch, New Zealand, in June last year.

But Mr. Nitya said the Thai government, while represented at last year's meeting, did not agree that Cambodia should apply for the listing of the temple alone without cooperation from Thailand, forcing the World Heritage Committee to postpone the decision as Cambodia did not receive sufficient votes to support it.

Thailand at last year's meeting reiterated that close cooperation between the two countries was needed and that both should also discuss plans to jointly manage the area, Mr. Nitya said, adding that Thailand's support depended upon conditions being met.

Mr. Nitya said Thai representatives attending a meeting in the Cambodian town of Siem Reap in January this year again opposed the Cambodian government's idea to apply to register the temple after it proposed an earlier map which included disputed area claimed by both countries.

The UNESCO World Heritage Committee will again consider the matter at the current annual meeting in Canada. The issue is expected to be taken up Sunday.