Saturday, 9 August 2008

Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia join in promoting tourism

Gia Lai, Aug 9 (VNA) - Vietnamese, Lao and Cambodian tourism experts met in Central Highlands Gia Lai province on August 8, to find ways to promote tourism between the three countries.

Delegates called for governments to increase infrastructure investment for the tourism sector and encourage both local and foreign companies to invest in the three countries' economic development triangle.

The triangle area includes Vietnam 's provinces of Gia Lai, Kon Tum, Dak Lak and Dak Nong, Lao provinces of Atopu, Sekong, and Salavan, and Cambodian provinces of Stung Treng, Ratanakiri, and Mondunkiri.

At present, Gia Lai and Kon Tum provinces of Vietnam arrange tours to Cambodian and Lao localities through the Bo Y border gate.(VNA)

Thailand welcomes call for unity by Cambodia's PM

The Bangkok Post
Saturday August 09, 2008


Thailand yesterday welcomed Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen's statement that the border disputes between the two countries need to be resolved through bilateral mechanisms. Foreign Ministry spokesman Tharit Charungvat said the Cambodian leader's stance was in line with Thailand's as Bangkok also wished to find a solution to the Preah Vihear temple issue in a peaceful and amicable manner through bilateral mechanisms.

The existing mechanisms include meetings between the foreign ministers, the Thai-Cambodian Joint Boundary Commission (JBC) and the General Border Committee (GBC).

''Differences of views on boundary issues between two neighbouring countries are not unusual. Thailand and Cambodia have in common a 798-kilometre land border. Thailand shares the Cambodian prime minister's view that both countries will be able to find a solution by working together,'' said Mr Tharit.

Hun Sen on Wednesday said the two countries needed to stay together as good neighbours for tens of thousands of years to come.

Thailand and Cambodia needed to narrow their disputes and maximise bilateral cooperation including trade, he said.

Mr Tharit said the Preah Vihear temple issue was only one small part of their overall relations as the two countries have many common interests and cooperation in the economic, political, social and other dimensions.

Also, the people of both countries living along the Thai-Cambodian border have enjoyed close relations, sharing and celebrating the same traditions and cultures, he said.

''Thailand also agreed with Prime Minister Hun Sen that the second meeting between the two foreign ministers should be able to make good progress and pave the way for both sides to find a solution,'' he said.

The second ministerial meeting between Foreign Minister Tej Bunnag and his Cambodian counterpart Hor Nam Hong is tentatively scheduled for August 18-19 at Hua Hin in Prachuap Khiri Khan.

Temple tantrum

The Bangkok Post
Saturday August 09, 2008

Thais hope rhetoric will cool before business climate sours, writes Umesh Pandey

With border tensions with Cambodia rising, Thai companies that have operations in the neighbouring country are wondering whether nationalistic rhetoric could threaten the closer economic relations the two countries are trying to create.

Cambodia, which only 13 months ago was pitching incentives and opportunities to Thai investors, is now a place where investors may be fearful of participating.

The Preah Vihear temple dispute, initially perceived as an election campaign rallying cry by the ruling Cambodian People's Party (CPP), has not died down. Now the dispute has spread to involve the Ta Moan Thom temple, located in Si Sa Ket near the border.

Tensions in Cambodia are not new. Everyone recalls the hostilities that resulted in major damage to Thai businesses and the Royal Thai Embassy in Phnom Penh in 2003 after Cambodian media erroneously quoted a Thai actress as saying Angkor Wat belonged to Thailand.

Last year, the government of Cambodia assembled an audience of more than 200 investors and declared that nationalistic issues would not be a factor in the future.

"Let's put the past behind us and build the future. That was a political issue and we took responsibility (by paying compensation for the burning of the embassy)," was the response at the time of Kong Vibol, first secretary of state for the government of Cambodia.

"Now we provide a guarantee to Thai investors in order to make them more confident."
Cambodia, he said at the time, was among the freest countries in the region and had set itself firmly on the development path, offering a free hand to foreign investors to set up businesses.
They cannot own land but can lease it for 99 years. As well, he said, Cambodia had no foreign-exchange controls on current-account transactions.

However, the temple issue has opened old wounds, and with calls already for boycotts of Thai products, Thai businessmen are feeling the heat, although publicly they do not want to admit it.

"Yes, investing in Cambodia is risky and we knew that before we even decided to put our money in the country the first time around," said one major investor who asked that neither he nor his company be named.

"All I want to say is if the country wants to see funds flow into the country, it will have to avoid look at ways to avoid creating a situation where investors start to fear," he said.

Thai investors present in Cambodia include leading conglomerates Siam Cement Plc, Charoen Pokphand Group, Thai Beverage, PTT, Mitr Phol, Khon Kaen Sugar Mills Plc and more than 100 small and medium-sized companies.

Siam Cement, which only recently opened its cement plant in Cambodia, and CP Group, have both come out to openly state that their operations there are in good shape and are not being affected from the calls for boycott. But Saha Pathanapibul Plc, the maker of Mama instant noodles, is perceived as a possible boycott target.

ICC International Plc, a member of the Chokwatana family empire that includes Saha Pathanapibul, said it was seeing minimal impact in Cambodia so far.

"The impact we have had is very minimal as the business size that we have there is very small and it is our firm's policy to not invest too much in any single country that is new to us," said ICC chairman Boonkiat Chokwatana.

ICC sells a number of its cosmetic and apparel products in Cambodia.

"I must say that we are used to these kinds of downturns as we have experienced them in Burma too. What we do is we wait and see how things shape up and then make a decision," he said.

"They usually last for a short period and things go back to normal."

Despite the problems facing investors in the country, there are those who are brave at heart and are looking to participate in a market dominated by imported products.

With a population of 14.3 million Cambodia is "an interesting market to be present in", says one investor.

"Yes there are risks and we knew it after the 2003 incident, but Cambodia is a market where everything is basically imported and how many markets in this part of the world can you find where there is such a huge potential," he said.

"What we have to look at long-term potential and overlook the short-term issues."

The key, he says, is to look for a business that has potential and one that is less volatile in such situations. In all cases it is critical to keep Cambodian workers happy.

"Today despite all the perceived problems, we are not experiencing anything there, but then our project is not for mass consumption either and it would take years before we start to realise our returns," the executive said.

The key element of doing business in countries that are developing is not just your basic business model but also includes the key element of who you know and who is your local partner. As most SMEs are unlikely to have a risk management in place, seeking a partner who can be helpful in times like this.

Many large companies have good connections to Prime Minister Hun Sen and his allies, but those that don't need reliable local partners. The larger multinationals recommend that those looking to enter the market consult with the Thai Embassy in Phnom Penh.

Despite all the problems, there has been an influx of investment into Cambodia, especially in labour-intensive industries. According to the Ministry of Commerce, exports to Cambodia grew by 71.8% in the first half of this year, the highest growth rate in five years, amid a surge in demand for Thai goods and growing trade relations.

Exports to Cambodia are expected to reach the target of $1.69 billion this year, an increase of 25%.

CPP wins 58% votes in 4th general election of Cambodia

PHNOM PENH, Aug. 9 (Xinhua) -- The major ruling Cambodian People's Party (CPP) won around 58.11 percent of the votes in the fourth general election on July 27, according to the preliminary official balloting results declared by the National Election Committee (NEC) here Saturday.

Altogether 3,492,374 out of the 6,010,277 actual voters cast their ballots for CPP, who had already translated the victory into 90 out of the 123 seats at the National Assembly (NA) and claimed to be the landslide winner of the nationwide political showdown.

CPP's winning rate during the past three general elections respectively stood at 39.63 percent in 1993, 41.67 percent in 1998 and 47.30 percent in 2003, said NEC.

Trailing CPP in this year's election was the major opposition Sam Rainsy Party (SRP) with 1,316,714 votes, or 21.90 percent of all.

Minor opposition Human Rights Party (HRP) and Norodom Ranariddh Party (NRP) respectively won 397,816 and 337,943 votes, or 6.61 percent and 5.62 percent of all.

The co-ruling Funcinpec Party scored 303,764 votes, or 5.05 percent of all.

Altogether 11 political parties had run for the election this year. A total of 8,125,529 voters were registered to vote at 15,255 polling stations nationwide and 17, 000 local and international observers watched the polling process, according to NEC figures.

The voter turnout rate this year was only 75 percent, lower than 83 percent in 2003, 94 percent in 1998 and 90 percent in 1993, said NEC.

Final official results and allocation of the NA seats can be known at the end of this month and the new government will be established in September.

Editor: Pliny Han

Peace vigil, black magic and sabre-rattling over a temple

The Star Online
Thai Takes

No matter how good one’s intentions, there will always be others who feel bad vibes from the same action. It’s not surprising then to see the kind of responses and reactions so far in the Thai-Cambodian border dispute.

EIGHT days ago, Bun Rany, the wife of Cambodian prime minister Hun Sen, and about 1,000 compatriots – who included Buddhist monks and government officials – held a peace vigil at the Preah Vihear temple, which is at the heart of a border dispute between Thailand and Cambodia.
With mists swirling around the mountaintop 900-year-old temple, Cambodians prayed for an end to the military standoff between the two countries that started on July 15.

“We are gathering here to pray to the souls of our ancestors, asking for peace,” said Cambodia’s tourism minister Thong Khon, referring to Khmer kings who built the temple between the ninth and 11th centuries.

“We also pray for success in our defence of our territory.”

That was how the Associated Press, an American news agency, reported the ceremony at the temple, which Unesco recently designated as a World Heritage Site.

How did the Thai newspapers view the Cambodian ritual?

According to The Nation, an English-language newspaper, many Thais living in provinces close to the disputed temple wore yellow to shield Thailand from black magic spells cast by Khmer “wizards” at the ceremony chosen to coincide with a solar eclipse.

“Thai media reports said the mysterious black magic spells cast by Khmer wizards would not only protect the temple but also weaken Thailand. Some astrologers urged locals to wear yellow yesterday to deflect the spells,” The Nation reported on Aug 2.

A news story in The Bangkok Post said the ritual heightened fears among many Thais who thought that it would bring bad luck to their country.

“The anti-government People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) leaders last night led thousands of their supporters in a rival ritual to protect the country and block any ill-effects from the Cambodian one. Many Thais believe some Cambodians have expertise in black magic,” The Bangkok Post said in its report last Saturday.

The Deutsche Presse-Agentur German wire service reporting from Phnom Penh said claims published in the Thai media accusing Bun Rany of leading a black magic ritual would not help to diffuse anti-Thai sentiment in Cambodia.

“To be accused of sorcery is regarded as a terrible insult by Cambodians, who regularly kill those accused of it,” the news agency commented in an Aug 3 filing.

If the Thai newspaper reports had insulted Cambodians, wait till they hear Sondhi Limthongkul’s solution to the Preah Vihear dispute.

Sondhi is a core leader of PAD, which is using the Preah Vihear dispute, among other issues, to incite Thais to overthrow the Samak Sundaravej government.

The International Court of Justice awarded the Preah Vihear temple to Cambodia in 1962, and the ruling still rankles among Thais.

Prachatai (, a bilingual Thai news portal, reported that on July 28 Sondhi told anti-government street protestors camped near Bangkok’s Government House, the seat of the Thai government, how he would solve the dispute.

“The only way is to oust (the Samak) government and form a new government through ‘whatever means’, or else the dispute over the Preah Vihear temple and Thai-Cambodian border will never be solved,” Prachatai quoted Sondhi as saying.

Among other provocative statements he made then:

> Push Cambodians back from Thai territory if the dispute cannot be settled through bilateral negotiations; and

> Close all 40 Thai-Cambodian border checkpoints and ban all flights to Phnom Penh and Siam Reap from Bangkok (70% of flights to the two destinations originate from Bangkok).

Sondhi also told the crowd: “Remember my words. Thai foreign minister Tej Bunnag will never be able to solve the dispute, because the policy of this government is to betray the country.”

And as if allegations of Khmer black magic and the provocative statements were not enough to intensify Thai-Cambodian tension, another temple about 130km west of Preah Vihear has emerged as a second border flashpoint.

It started when Cambodia complained that some 70 Thai troops had occupied the 13th-century Ta Muen Thom temple and had barred Cambodian soldiers from entering it.

Those who engage in dangerous talk on Preah Vihear should pay heed to Hun Sen, who said on Wednesday: “We cannot just carve out Thailand to put in the sky or move our land away. We will coexist for tens of thousands of years to come.”

Cambodia's ruling party win confirmed

Agence France-Presse
Phnom Penh, August 09, 2008

Cambodia's ruling party took nearly 60 percent of the popular vote in last month's election, according to figures released by the election committee on Saturday.

The Cambodian People's Party (CPP) won 58.1 percent of the vote, compared with 21.9 percent for its nearest rival, the main opposition Sam Rainsy party, authorities said.

National Election Committee official Sin Chum Bo said turnout was 75.21 percent -- or six million of the 8.1 million eligible voters.

But she declined to say how many parliamentary seats each party had won ahead of a further announcement next month in which full official results will be revealed.

"This is just a temporary election result... while we allow for political parties to make complaints before we can divide the number of seats," she told reporters.

The CPP earlier claimed it had captured at least 90 of the 123 seats in parliament, with opposition leader Sam Rainsy and three other small parties dividing the rest.

The Sam Rainsy party on Saturday rejected the outcome, saying the election had not been conducted freely and fairly, and demanding a re-run.

International monitors agreed the election was flawed, despite improvements in the electoral process compared to past polls in Phnom Penh.

Cambodia plants 600 trees to welcome Olympic Games in Beijing
2008-08-09 12:22:05

PHNOM PENH, Aug. 9 (Xinhua) -- The Banteay Meanchey provincial authority Friday planted 600 trees in its capital town to welcome the opening of the 29th Olympic Games in Beijing, China, Khmer-language newspaper the Kampuchea Thmey said Saturday.

"Eight o'clock in the evening, Aug. 8, 2008, is a luck time for us and means good fortune in Feng-shui theory. Therefore, we are planting 600 trees and also organize football tournament to welcome the Olympic Games to open in China and memorize the friendship between Cambodian and China, too," provincial governor Ong Eoeurn was quoted as saying.

This sports gala was very important for the diplomatic relationships between the two countries, which would make the bilateral ties closer, as Cambodian King Norodom Sihamoni attended the opening ceremony of the games, he said.

"It is a great day for our best friend China to organize the event," he added.

The trees planted Friday are usually called "royal plant" or "king tree" in Cambodia. They are expected to blossom during the Khmer New Year in mid-April.

Led by Tourism Minister and National Olympic Committee of Cambodia (NOCC) president Thong Khon, the Cambodian Olympic delegation will join swimming and tracking matches at the games in Beijing.

Editor: Xinhuanet

Cambodia's garbage to be turned into compost

Radio Australia

Cintri, the firm charged with the mammoth task of collecting garbage in the Cambodian capital has unveiled plans to recycle Phnom Penh's mountains of trash into organic fertilizer.

But the firm says city dwellers themselves will need to pitch in by sorting out the garbage into specific categories for the plan to be a success.

With fertilizer prices peaking at three times the cost in 2007, Cintri hopes to use the garbage to produce compost for the farmers.

The firm's deputy director, Seng Chamroeun, says Cintri will soon begin combing the refuse piles at Stung Meanchey landfill site for appropriateorganic waste.

Mr Seng says turning organic waste into compost is not complicated, the people just need to know the type of garbage which can be used to produce compost.

Cambodia's ruling party win confirmed

Radio Australia

Cambodia's National Election Commission says the ruling Cambodian People's Party has won 58 percent of the popular vote in last month's election.

It nearest rival is the Sam Rainsy party with 22 percent.

The NEC however declined to say how many parliamentary seats each party had won saying this would be decided later to allow political parties a chance to voice complaints, if any.

The CPP earlier claimed it had captured at least 90 of the 123 seats in parliament, with the other small dividing the rest.

The Sam Rainsy party which rejected the outcome, saying the election had not been conducted freely and fairly is demanding a re-run.

Custom and Excise Department Alarms Vehicle’s Smugglers

Phnom Penh, August 8, 2008

Cambodian Customs and Excise Department has alarmed vehicle’s smugglers to pay tax to the state otherwise they will face serous consequences and fine, said customs officer.

The warning was made known in its monthly summarize meeting on August 7 under the presidency of H.E. Pen Simon, delegate of the Royal Government of Cambodia in charge of director of Customs and Excise Department and attended by customs and excise officers throughout the country.

The meeting also reviewed the works in the past month and put forth new goals for the next month, particularly strict and concrete measures aimed at combating all forms of smuggles.

According to a report presented by the department, in July 2008 alone, the customs and excise officers have collected some 250,000 million Riel (Cambodian currency) equivalent to roughly US$ 62.5 million or 30 percent increased if compared to the same period of 2007. --AKP

(By Mr. KEO Chandara)

Storm Kammuri might cause floods in Cambodia

Storm Kammuri. ©DR
Cambodge Soir

Kampong Cham, Kratié and Stoeung Trèng provinces might get hit by floods this week, said Lim Kean Hor, Minister of Water Resources and Meteorology, in a press release on Friday 8th of August.

Kammuri, the 9th tropical storm since the beginning of the year might hit the Mekong basin, and particularly Laos and Thailand. According to the minister, heavier rains might cause important floods in Cambodia during the next five or six days. On Friday 8th of August at the Council of Ministers, the Prime Minister requested the National Center for Disaster Preparedness to cooperate with local institutions and authorities concerned. The army has also been asked to prepare emergency equipment like mobile-homes and speedboats, as well as medication and rice seeds to help residents living in areas which might get affected. Hun Sen has also asked the TVK television channel to regularly broadcast updated weather bulletins. On the 7th of August, the water started reaching critical levels: 9.49 m in Stoeung Trèng (1.21 m from the critical level), 19.61 m in Kratié (2.39 m from the critical level), 13.27 m in Kampong Cham (1.93 m from the critical level), 7.92 m in Phnom Penh on the Bassac and the Chaktomuk (2.58 m from the critical level), 5.54 m in Neak Loeung (1.96 m from the critical level), 6.70 m in Koh Khel (0.70 m from the critical level) and 6.66 m in Kratié (2.84 m from the critical level).

The ethnic minorities highly criticise the government

Cambodge Soir

On the World Indigenous Day, their representatives are considering appealing to the UN authorities in order to focus on their situation.

The ethnic minority representatives will appoint a spokesperson with the responsibility of alerting the UN authorities about their situation, said Um Mech, representative of the Kuoy who are living in Kampong Thom province, during a press conference of the 8th of August organised by the NGO Forum in Cambodia.

“The investments from companies obtaining concessions in the rural areas aren’t really benefiting the ethnic minorities who live there”, did he say, bringing up the example of the Prasat Balin district (Kampong Thom province), where “companies don’t hire local labour, forcing villagers to work for Thai companies.”

“It’s important for the donor countries to put pressure on the government, all the more so as an increasing number of foreign companies are asking for concessions in Cambodia”, continued Um Mech, deploring that the government had chosen to organise a day in honour of the ethnic minorities on the 29th of August in Pursat, while the world indigenous day takes place on the 9th of August.

Ros Hean, representative of the Kuoy in Kratié, has praised the government for its efforts towards the ethnic minorities on the field of investment and education, while regretting the pauperisation of these people. “In 2004, 50% of the people coming from the ethnic minorities were living under the poverty threshold, compared to 75% today”, did he say.

According to Ros Hean, the 15 provinces and towns in which 21 ethnic minorities are concentrated lack an adequate infrastructure and staff on the field of education and health.

Tep Tim, representative of the Kuoy in Preah Vihear province wants to focus the attention on the conditions according to which land has been granted to concessionary companies. “The sale often takes place when the owner has drunk, did she reveal. Moreover, the government never consults the community chiefs when granting a concession and rather confers with village chiefs.”

According to Tep Tim, people coming from ethnic minorities enjoy limited access to education. “During the final exams, most of them score C’s and D’s”, she said.

Civil society pleads for a quick resolution of Preah Vihear conflict

Cambodge Soir

The situation creates a financial loss for the country. The UN has been called in to protect the site.

While the Khmer-Thai conflict seems to be long lasting, civil society reacts. On Friday morning, several representative of Adhoc, of the Cambodian Defender Project (CDP), of the Cambodian Woman Crisis Center (CWCC) and of the CCAWDU, involving several textile industry unions, have organised a joint press conference which evolved around two subjects.

First, the different representatives have expressed their concern about the Preah Vihear temple situation and are asking the government to find a quick solution. “This conflict has already resulted in financial losses and in a decreased number of tourists in the country”, said Sok Samoeun, director of the CDP, fearing an even more important loss if the standoff lasts.

Secondly, Sok Samoeun has strongly declared that, on behalf of all: “Cambodia shouldn’t discuss the border situation with Thailand, as the decision of the tribunal of The Hague in 1962, as well as the agreements of 1904 and 1907 state that this territory belongs to us. Now rests us to mark the border delimitated by these conventions”.

In a mail sent a few days ago to the General Secretary of the UN, the representatives of the Cambodian civil society suggest that the international organisation should designate an area around the world heritage temple, inside which military personnel wouldn’t be allowed. This is because the presence of weapons nearby the temple contributes to an explosive situation, likely to degenerate any time.

Reminding that “in case the conflict goes on, it won’t be the government, but the Cambodian population which will have to suffer. Chan Saveth, Adhoc investigator asks now for UN intervention”.

Tomorrow, Saturday 9th of September, several members of the civil society will travel to the site in order to bring along 19 million riels (4750 dollars) to support the military and the monks.

Dissatisfaction increases at the Central Market

Cambodge Soir

The shopkeepers fear that the size of their stalls will be decreased after the renovation works.

On Tuesday, about one hundred shopkeepers from the Central Market demonstrated in front of the municipality building in order to express their dissatisfaction concerning the renovation project.

The source of their anger comes from the fact that, according to the plans that they received, the size of their stalls will get smaller at the end of the works.

A clothes shop with currently a surface of 2.5 square metres will only measure 1.4 square metres. Another example: the shop of a kitchenware seller, currently measuring 5 x 4 metres, will decrease to 2 x 1.5 metres, according to the demonstrators.

Unacceptable for the shopkeepers who demand that their stalls “remain the same size, at the same place and within the same business category at the end of the renovation”. On Monday they handed over a petition to the municipality, asking the Phnom Penh governor to help them with their demands.

The petition brings up the promises of the market chief from February 2006, who then committed not to change the situation of the stalls after renovation.

After meeting with one of the deputy governors of the municipality, he committed to “discussing the matter on Tuesday 10th of August”, in order to solve the situation.

During the afternoon, the market authorities increased pressure on the shopkeepers, which didn’t help to calm the atmosphere before the Tuesday meeting.

Cambodia's King Norodom Sihamoni attends the opening ceremony of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games

Cambodia's King Norodom Sihamoni attends the opening ceremony of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games at the National Stadium, August 8, 2008. The stadium is also known as the Bird's Nest.REUTERS/Eric Gaillard (CHINA)

Cambodia's King Norodom Sihamoni attends the opening ceremony of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games at the National Stadium, August 8, 2008. The stadium is also known as the Bird's Nest.REUTERS/Eric Gaillard (CHINA)

Sacravatoons : " Siem-Soldier "

Courtesy of Sacravatoon at

According to a report by General Sor Thavy, the deputy provincial governor of Preah Vihear province, at 6PM on 06 August 2008, there were some protests made inside the Wat Keo Sekha Kiri Svarak pagoda by Thai black-clad soldiers when Cambodians were installing light bulbs. Thai soldiers prevented the installation of these light bulbs, claiming that when the light bulbs are on, they have a hard time sleeping. Nevertheless, Cambodians insisted in installing these light bulbs until they succeeded.

Light fantastic: China's opening ceremony thrills the watching world

One Olympic ideal, the separation of sport and politics, died in the Chinese night

Sky light: The Olympic Games opened in truly spectacular style in Beijing Photo: Getty Images
By Kevin Garside
08 Aug 2008

A global TV audience of four billion witnessed the burial alongside 91,000 in the Olympic Stadium. It was some send off.

Fireworks numbering 20,000 at goodness knows what cost, torched the sky, fairies floated in a constellation of incandescent beauty and 56 children representing China's ethnic mix paraded the flag of the People's Republic.

Soft power academics call it; the flexing of muscle via cultural means.

This was the eighth day of the eighth month, 2008, ground zero for the new China. President Hu Jintao sat alongside Jacques Rogge, the president of the International Olympic Committee.

Before them 4,000 years of Chinese history was condensed into the mother of all floor shows ostensibly to mark the opening of the Games of the XXIX Olympiad. Hardly.

This was the choreographed demonstration of might the like of which the Olympic Games has never seen; a rebuke to George Bush and Nicolas Sarkozy, vocal critics of Chinese foreign and domestic policy sitting in the audience, and the Beverly Hills radicals lounging by pools in Bel Air. Keep your noses out of Chinese affairs.

Vladimir Putin, his focus shifted by the military offensive in Georgia, was a study of quiet admiration for the global confidence his neighbour radiated. Tibet, Burma, Sudan and the colonisation of Africa are the issues routinely raised to keep the dragon in check; human rights the moral stick to beat the beast into submission.

Don't waste your time. This was history set to music and dance, every step reminding Bush and assembled world leaders that Beijing stands at the centre of a universe every bit as legitimate as those born of Greece and Rome.

Gunpowder, or the burning of medicines in these parts, we were reminded in a series of heady detonations was invented this end of the Silk Road half a millennia before the Mayflower set sail from Southampton carrying its cargo of English separatists to Massachusetts.

Paper, another creation of ancient China, and writing utensils made of bamboo slips dating back to the fifth century BC, featured heavily in a display of artistic hegemony worthy of the great nation China believes herself to be.

China has been down the reform road before. Change it must. Human rights abuses persist. But it does not have a monopoly on state oppression or international coercion.

Stand on any street corner in any major metropolis in America or Europe, and the great dispossessed of liberal regimes will nod their hooded disdain. In Baghdad and the Middle East, defiance is measured in blood.

The political messages arrowed inward, too. The China of Mao and the minimalist certainties of the old communist regime are gone.

China, and the 1.3 billion who sail in her, are on the move. For better or worse the embrace of wealth creation is irreversible.

For all our sakes, let's hope the next steps taken are the right ones. One world, one dream, as the slogan goes.

Day simmered mercilessly into night. The one aspect beyond the control of the ruling politburo, the weather, withered those from cooler climes. A toxic haze clung to the city all day, the roof of the Olympic Stadium bleeding into a grey canopy that passes for sky.

Everywhere young men in military green and white gloves marched dutifully, tapping out obedience in shiny black shoes. At 9am a city of 16 million was already unfeasibly traffic free, lending an unreal air to proceedings.

One conjured a vision of a thousand micromanagers, all volunteers, staring at surveillance screens, monitoring with pride every prescribed footfall, every staged greeting at the airport, the empty passage to the Olympic stadium.

The welcome is unnerving rather than reassuring despite the obvious willingness of the uncritical masses to please. A block or two removed from the pageant, riders bolt across junctions on expiring scooters with infants hanging to their belt loops; authentic China going about her business in parallel with the packaged version. Authentic China was not invited last night.

It is not enough to set the sky ablaze. The 21st Century opening ceremony requires a pre-show, a formidable confection of 28 elements introduced to keep China's uber-elite entertained before the medicine burning began.

Oh for the early days of the modern Olympiad when the games kicked off with a short oration from the president of the organising committee and a declaration from some royal or other.

As is nearly always the case in China, the numbers overwhelm; all 2,008 members of the Fou Band wheeled their ancient instruments into the centre of the arena to light the fuse with their percussive brilliance.

An hour after the first Roman Candle fizzed Greece led the 204 competing countries into the arena.

We have London to thank 100 years ago for the parade of athletes, a predictably garish caricature badly in need of a working over by Trinny and Susannah.

Chinese Taipei followed Japan out of the tunnel. Guess who got the bigger cheer?

And who decided dressing Britain's finest as Avon reps was a good idea? Diver Tom Daley, at 14 the youngest competitor in the British team, rose above the bad taste with a smile that reminded all why we are here; to marvel at the very best of human endeavour on a sporting stage.

Enough of deconstructing dress codes. The party is about to start. While the great armies of medal prospects waved their way around the perimeter, the structure housing the Olympic flame was discreetly slotted on to the roof of the cat's cradle.

The flame, which made its first appearance in Amsterdam in 1938, commemorates the mythical theft of fire from Zeus by Prometheus. Here it might have represented the rather more real transfer of geo political dominance eastwards from the United States to the Orient.

The cheer for Chinese standard bearer Yao Ming, a fiscal pile driver all his own in the field of basketball, must have woke departing US president Bush from his vacant reverie.

Every inch of Ming's 7ft 6 ins frame radiated menace, a behemoth symbolic of his country's new global standing.

In Los Angeles in 1984, the space traveller was a central theme, illustrating America's universal hold on the levers of global power. In Beijing China rolled out its past to under line her credentials as a player on the evolving world stage.

Who knows what the next fortnight of competition might bring? What feats of athletic genius might reshape the sporting landscape? The host nation will bag its share of plunder, no doubt.

Michael Phelps might take a record eight golds back to America. On wheels and water Britain will have a say in the drama, too.

But the point that really matters was made in a four-hour ad of inescapable force, topped by the circumnavigation of the stadium roof, aided by chain and pulley, of the final torch bearer, gymnast Li Ning.

The protests that blighted the start of the torch's journey in London and Paris, heroic though they were in the eyes of Tibetan freedom fighters, were obliterated by the audacity of the coming power. China; no longer the sick man of Asia.

Warwick man avoids prison time in pyramid scheme

Aug 9, 2008

BOSTON (AP) - A Warwick man has been sentenced to a year of home confinement for his role in a pyramid scheme that stole $27 million from about 500 mostly Cambodian immigrants.

Authorities say 54-year-old Christian Rochon also received five years of probation at sentencing on Thursday in federal court in Boston.

Prosecutors asked for a 10-year prison sentence.

Prosecutors say the defendants told victims they would receive $300 a month for life, and the lives of their children, for every $26,000 they invested. Some victims were financially ruined after mortgaging their homes to get money to invest.

Rochon's coconspirators, 57-year-old James Bunchan and 61-year-old Seng Tan, a couple originally from Cambodia with multiple addresses, received long prison sentences in June 2007

A convivial oasis in the shadow of fabled temples

La Residence d¿Angkor

Susan Kurosawa
August 09, 2008

WE want you to be happy, announces one of the airport gift shop signs when we arrive at Siem Reap in Cambodia. And we are, especially with our choice of hotel, La Residence d'Angkor, on the river in this gateway town to the fabled temples of Angkor Wat. The 55-room property is on the eastern side of the Siem Reap River and has a cosy character that lives up to its residential name.

There's abundant use of laterite stone and dark wood in the open-sided lobby, corridors and stairways, and guestroom floors, shutters and partitions. A generously proportioned day bed nudges against the tall windows in each guestroom and the granite bathtub is of hippo-wallowing proportions. Frogs hop about our wooden balcony and bowls of sweet fruit are replenished daily.

This is not luxury at its most opulent but much care has been taken to ensure guest comfort. The hotel was a Pansea property until the early 1990s and is now managed by Orient-Express Hotels, which knows a thing or 2000 about how to run things.

In tune with a more competitive approach, Orient-Express closed the hotel for refurbishment a few months ago and phase one opens this month with a new teppanyaki restaurant, fitness centre, martini lounge, computer nook and, on a rear-adjoining parcel of land, a spa with six ground-floor treatment rooms. On the first floor of the spa annexe, eight hotel suites have been added to complement existing accommodation.

Our room, this startlingly humid February, is on the first floor, looking down to the long saltwater pool through old trees, travellers palms and luscious vines; stay on the ground floor and it's just a few steps to the shiny peppermint water, which appears deeply cool thanks to thousands of shiny hand-made green tiles.

It feels like an oasis, well removed from night-time touts and the boisterousness of so-called Pub Street with its bars, clubs and Tomb Raider cocktails named in honour of Siem Reap's celebrity of choice, Angelina Jolie. The air-conditioning is pleasingly polar and we sleep under layers of bedding, our reading glasses steaming up when we emerge for a wake-up coffee on the balcony.
As we look down, a pool attendant is placing an orchid atop each folded towel on the lounging beds.

When not hunkered away at La Residence d'Angkor, we either stroll around compact Siem Reap or hop aboard a moto. Specifically, we hop aboard Mr Chan's Best Moto. The affable Chan lies in wait for us and, each time we emerge from the hotel, he zips across with his sunbeam smile and rattling exhaust, and how can we refuse?

The days assume an agreeable rhythm: up at dawn to take a hotel vehicle out to marvel at the wonders of Angkor Wat, a swim mid-morning, a lie-down and then off in the cool of late-afternoon for shopping, sightseeing, dinner and foot massages at one of the streetfront salons near the central market (our pick: the fascinatingly named Dr Feet).

We are assisted in our slow passage around Siem Reap by the Luxe Guide, which also covers Laos; it's a small concertina affair with a gold and magenta cover and it gives snapshots of where to go and what to avoid. But we make our own fabulous discoveries, too (the Luxe Guides lot just love that word fabulous).

We buy pleated silk purses and clutch bags at Jasmine Boutique next to the Foreign Correspondents Club on Pokambor Avenue; the Jasmine label is the work of Australian designers Kellianne Karatau and Cassandra McMillan and the clothing and accessories are fashioned from hand-woven Cambodian silk. The boutique looks expensive but its scarves and bags, in particular, are well priced.

Artisans d'Angkor is a must-visit complex; its craftspeople paint, carve wood and sandstone, lacquer and gild decorative pieces and weave silk, and visitors can wander around a series of workshops. The project started in 1992 to create work for young rural Cambodians and their wares are sold in a gorgeous gem-coloured shop, with silk ties for $US24 ($25), cushion covers $US12 and silk purses $US12; there's a big branch at the airport, too.

In the courtyard adjoining Meric at the art deco-inspired Hotel de la Paix, we sit on cushioned swings and drink Sicilian wine and chamomile and honey martinis. Back at the hotel we breaststroke through fallen frangipani petals and soggy coral bougainvillea on the surface of the ink-dark pool and sleep soundly in a room glowing with the same sunset colours as the silk shops of Siem Reap.


La Residence d'Angkor, River Road, Siem Reap, Cambodia. Phone (+855) 63 963 390. Bookings via Orient-Express, (02) 8248 5200; or Tariff: Hotel Club has doubles from $US208 ($223), including American breakfast; Check with Orient-Express for packages and seasonal deals.

Getting there: About 20 minutes from Siem Reap airport (one hour from Bangkok by air).
Checking in: Lots of Europeans; very casual vibe.
Wheelchair access: Possible in ground-floor rooms.
Bedtime reading: Luxe Guide to Cambodia and Laos;
Stepping out: To Angkor Wat, naturally, but it is very crowded; the concierge may suggest going in the middle of the day, when tourist groups disappear for lunch. Even if it's blazing hot, this is a good option.
Brickbats: Service can be slow and hesitant. Housekeeping seems random; our room is not serviced until late afternoon each day.
Bouquets: Wi-fi in guestrooms has been upgraded during the refurb to the fastest broadband available in Cambodia. A homely hotel that feels planets removed from the Las Vegas-style edifices along Airport Road with their fountains and fakery. La Residence d'Angkor supports a local orphanage; look for the donation box at reception.

South Korea: Vice foreign minister to visit Cambodia, Pakistan


The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade said Thursday (Aug. 7) that Korean Vice Foreign Minister Kwon Jong-rak will visit Cambodia and Pakistan next week to seek ways of promoting ties with those countries.

Kwon will preside over a meeting of the heads of Korean diplomatic missions in a dozen Southeast Asian countries on Monday in Phnom Penh, the first leg of his eight-day tour starting this weekend, the ministry said.

He also plans to attend the inaugural joint committee meeting between Korea and Cambodia on Tuesday, in which the two sides will review their relations on the occasion of the 11th year of their diplomatic ties.

Kwon will then head to Pakistan for the seventh policy consultation meeting between the two nations, in which he will discuss with his counterpart Salman Bashir ways of cementing bilateral cooperation in diplomacy, economics, trade, and other fields, as well as exchange views on regional security conditions, according to the ministry.

Cambodian newspaper goes daily

(08-08 22:46)

The Phnom Penh Post, one of Cambodia's leading papers, launched its first daily edition on Friday, stepping up competition in the country's burgeoning media market.

"From today this paper will never be the same again,'' Post Media Ltd, the company behind the paper, said in a message published in the English-language publication.

The paper, founded by American journalist Michael Hayes 17 years ago, had published every two weeks.

The daily launch came after two Australian businessmen with stakes in Rangoon's The Myanmar Times weekly earlier this year took a controlling interest in the paper.

Cambodia now has four English-language papers and a number of glossy news magazines, as well as a large and lively Cambodian-language press.


Ratch suspends three overseas projects

By Nalin Viboonchart
The Nation
August 9, 2008

Ratchaburi Electricity Generating Holding, Thailand's largest private power producer, has suspended work on three projects outside the country, notably the Koh Kong power plant in Cambodia, which has been put on hold mainly because of the political dispute between the two nations.

Projects in Laos have also been suspended. Ratch has to negotiate with the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (Egat) to adjust power prices after construction costs increased from last year.

Referring to the Koh Kong plant, Ratch managing director Narong Sitasuwan said yesterday: "As everyone knows, if the relationship between the two countries is not good, we can't do anything. But we can wait for the right time and we still intend to invest in this project."

The project in Cambodia is the biggest power plant in which Ratch has ever invested. The company has co-invested with Electricity Generating (Egco) - with a combined share of 70 per cent - to generate power from coal, with a production capacity of 3,660 megawatts. The US$7.3-billion (Bt246 billion) project was scheduled to begin commercial operations in 2016.

According to the previous plan, Ratch was to start construction of the Koh Kong power plant this year. The company did start some of the basic construction but now the process is suspended.

Narong added that the other overseas projects suspended are the Hong Sa lignite power plant and the Nam Ngum 3 hydropower plant in Laos. Ratch is proposing that Egat revise its power price now that construction costs have soared by 25 to 30 per cent from last year.

The investment value of the Hong Sa power plant and the Nam Ngum hydropower plant are $2.61 billion and $708 million, respectively. The Nam Ngum 2 power plant is Ratch's only overseas project that is still on schedule.

Narong said that in order to diversify risk from the existing projects, Ratch had recently restructured its internal administration by naming two deputy managing directors. The company also set up three business units in order to closely monitor its overseas investments, particularly in Laos, which needs new power plants.

"As far as I'm concerned, there are roughly 100 locations in Laos that can set up power plants, of which 30 to 40 locations [have commercial potential]. Our staff is now exploring those locations to seek out new opportunities," he said.

The company is conductng a feasibility study for the 140MW Nam Bak hydropower plant - an extension project of Nam Ngum 2 - which will enhance production efficiency of the Nam Ngum 2 plant.

Narong added that Ratch would revise down its investment budget for the five-year business plan ending in 2011 in order to reflect the fact that several projects have been suspended. The current plan calls for spending Bt30 billion on the projects.

Narong said he could not estimate the revised, lower amount.

Ratch expects its revenue this year to grow by 5 per cent from Bt46 billion last year, while earnings are forecast to increase by 10 per cent from Bt5.8 billion.

Cambodia Asks the US Embassy to Create an Office for the Enforcement of the Anti-Drug Law in Cambodia

Posted on 9 August 2008
The Mirror, Vol. 12, No. 572

“Phnom Penh: The National Authority for Combating Drugs has asked the US Embassy to create an office for the enforcement of the anti-drug law in Cambodia, in order to train the Cambodian anti-drugs authorities in different skills, and in order to help them to combat drugs worldwide.

“Mr. Lour Ramin, the secretary-general of the National Authority for Combating Drugs, said, ‘Previously, we had asked the US embassy to create an office for the enforcement of the anti-drug law and to combat drugs in Cambodia. However, this request has not received a response from the US Embassy in Cambodia.’ Although there is no response from the US embassy, Mr. Lour Ramin said, ‘Before, the National Authority for Combating Drugs has cooperated well with the US anti-drug office in Bangkok, Thailand, to implement the laws, as well as in other sections related to combat drugs.’

“Mr. Lour Ramin explained, ‘The creation of an US anti-drug office in Cambodia would not only benefits Cambodia, but also the United States would gain advantages; both sides would benefit, because drugs relate to international border crossing crimes, and drugs target the United States as one big drug market in the word. Therefore, the United States has also an obligation to combat drugs.’ Mr. Lour Ramin added, ‘Because Cambodia does not have much experience and human resources in this work, we need help from the United States in the field of techniques, human resources, and other fields, and we need international cooperation.’

“The interest for an US administrative office to combat drugs in Cambodia by anti-drug officials of Cambodia was acknowledged by the US Embassy, but there is no official letter from the government of Cambodia. Mr. John Johnson, the new spokesperson of the US Embassy in Cambodia, explained to Khmer Sthapana clearly in Khmer on Thursday, ‘We have not received an official request from the government of Cambodia for the creation of an US anti-drug office in Cambodia. However, we have cooperated well with the anti-drug office in Bangkok. Therefore, if there are drug related activities in Cambodia, the office in Bangkok will intervene.’

“Mr. Lour Ramin reported about the drug situation in Cambodia nowadays, ‘We see that drug problems in Cambodia decline after the election. However, it does not mean that criminals stop their actions, because there are still places related to drugs; the Golden Triangle and Golden Crescent still continue to grow drug plants and produce drugs, so drugs continue to appear. As long as there is drug production, the authorities still continue to combat drugs and will never disregard them.’”

Khmer Sthapana, Vol.1, #68, 8.8.2008

The Golden Triangle is one of Asia’s two main illicit opium-producing areas. It is an area of around 350,000 square kilometers that overlaps the mountains of four countries of Southeast Asia: Myanmar, Laos, Vietnam, and Thailand.

The Golden Crescent is the name given to Asia’s principal area of illicit opium production, located at the crossroads of Central, South, and Western Asia. This space overlaps three nations, Afghanistan, Iran, and Pakistan, whose mountainous peripheries define the crescent.

Source: Wikipedia
Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:Friday, 8 August 2008

Three Parties Maintain Government Boycott

Leaders of three parties opposing the ruling coalition, including Sam Rainsy, continue to boycott the formation of a government.

By Reporters, VOA Khmer
Original reports from Phnom Penh
08 August 2008

Khmer audio aired 08 August 2008, by Heng Reaksmey (849 KB) - Download (MP3)
Khmer audio aired 08 August 2008, by Heng Reaksmey (849 KB) - Listen (MP3)
Khmer audio aired 08 August 2008, by Chun Sakada (885 KB) - Download (MP3)
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The newly elected members of three parties in opposition to the ruling coalition will not swear in later this month, preventing the formation of the National Assembly and retaining a deadlock in the new government, leaders said Friday.

Opposition leader Sam Rainsy, who held a press conference with the leaders of the Human Rights and Norodom Ranariddh parties at his Phnom Penh headquarters Friday, continued to contest the results of last month's national election.

Lawmakers of the three parties will not swear in on Aug. 24, he told reporters.

The three parties together represent an estimated 31 parliamentary seats, with the CPP holding 90 and its partner, Funcinpec, holding two.

"The first meeting on the 24th cannot happen, because we refuse the election results," Sam Rainsy said.

"My party's stance is the same as the Sam Rainsy and Norodom Ranariddh parties," Keat Sokhun, vice president of the Human Rights Party, said. "We will not go to the meeting if there is no solution to complaints from people who could not vote."

NRP spokesman Muth Chantha said the "boycott" of the meeting did not mean the parties had abandoned their seats.

"What we want is for the National Election Committee to respect the will of the people who could not vote, about 1 million [of them]," he said.

The vow to deadlock the government came as the ruling Cambodian People's Party swore to push toward establishing the government by Aug. 26.

"The government will be set up on Aug. 26, after the National Assembly opens its first full session on Aug. 24," CPP spokesman Khieu Kanharith told reporters Friday. "The new cabinet will be bigger than the last cabinet."

CPP officials maintain they can establish a government without swearing in all newly elected members, a claim disputed by constitutional and election law experts.

Minorities Warn Against Land Concessions

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

Khmer audio aired 08 August 2008 (947 KB) - Download (MP3)
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A group of ethnic minorities from Cambodia's far-flung provinces gathered in Phnom Penh Friday, urging the government to reconsider its concession policies on land where they make a living on natural resources.

Cambodia's once-remote northeast has opened up to mining and other concessions in recent years, leading to a large number of displaced minorities and conflict over land.

"Don't take the land of ethnic minorities for concession," said Tep Toem, a Kuoy ethnic minority from Preah Vihear province. "Before giving land concessions to companies, the government should talk with the people in advance, whether the land concession will affect people's livelihoods or not."

Members of Cambodia's minorities spoke following a meeting in Phnom Penh sponsored by the NGO Forum. Cambodia has an estimated 190,000 minorities, comprising 17 indigenous groups.

Members of the different groups are responsible for the management of around 4 million hectares, NGO Forum said in a statement.

UN special rights envoy Yash Ghai warned on a visit last year that land disputes in rural provinces could lead to political instability.

Officials for the Ministry of Land Management could not be reached for comment Friday.

Groups Push for Temple Solution, Protection

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

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Local agencies called for international intervention in the ongoing Preah Vihear crisis Friday, while requesting the government take emergency measures to secure other Cambodian temples all along the Thai border.

"We call on the international community, especially Asean and the United Nations, to continue to pay attention [to the issue] and take action to secure the area, in case the future meeting will not have a smooth result," said Sok Samoeun, director of the Cambodian Defenders Project.

Foreign Minister Hor Namhong is expected to fly to Thailand to meet his counterpart Aug. 18 in an effort to resolve the crisis, which includes the build-up of thousands of armed troops, artillery and armor.

The Coalition of Cambodia Apparel Workers of Democratic Union, or CCAWDU, and two other local groups, including the Cambodian Women's Crisis Center and the rights group Adhoc, joined in the appeal.

"We think that if Thailand prolongs the issue, we propose to the Cambodian government to submit the file to the UN in order to end it very quickly," said Ath Thun, director of CCAWDU.
"Legally we have the support of the law."

Chan Saveth, an Adhoc investigator, emphasized that if the UN agrees to resolve the problem, it will support Cambodia, "because we don't have many resources to work with."

Around 30 NGOs sent a letter to the UN in July, calling for the creation of a zone around Preah Vihear temple that would prohibit armed soldiers; they also requested the deployment of peacekeepers.

Cambodian military officials said Friday the border situation remained stable, with no withdrawal of troops from either side near Preah Vihear temple.

Cambodian media have reported that some troops have backed out of Ta Moan temple, in Oddar Meanchey province, though some remain. Cambodian patrols along the border have been followed by Thai forces, according to media reports.

Government spokesman Khieu Kanharith said the situation had improved and the government was now waiting for continued negotiations.

"We think that the bilateral [talks] are important now, and to go forward to the UN would be the last choice," Khieu Kanharith said.

Cambodia halted a request for intervention from the UN Security Council last month, pending bilateral talks.