Sunday, 31 August 2008

Sacravatoons : " Thai-Circus "

Courtesy Sacravatoon

Politiktoons: "Sondhi, PAD Movement's Leader"

Courtesy Sacravatoon

Vietnam’s National Day celebrated abroad


VietNamNet Bridge - The Overseas Vietnamese Association (OVA) in Cambodia held a ceremony in Phnom Penh on August 30 to mark the country’s 63rd National Day (Sept. 2).

Speaking at the ceremony, Vietnamese Ambassador to Cambodia Nguyen Chien Thang affirmed that the Party and State always consider the overseas Vietnamese community an inseparable part of the Vietnamese nation.

He also reminded overseas Vietnamese in Cambodia to strengthen solidarity, preserve the national identities and respect the host country’s law, thus helping consolidate and develop the traditional friendship between the two nations.

OVA President Chau Van Phi affirmed that the Vietnamese community in Cambodia always stand side by side with their compatriots in the country to promote national construction and defence.

On the occasion, the Vietnamese Consul General in China’s Hong Kong and Macau organised a meeting with overseas Vietnamese on August 29.

At the meeting, Consul General Pham Cao Phong spoke highly of Vietnam’s economic achievements in the first six months with two-way trade between Vietnam and Hong Kong reaching 1.6 billion USD and Hong Kong arrivals to Vietnam increased to 46,000.

The Governor of the US’s California State, Arnold Schawarzeneger, on August 28 sent a message of greetings to the Vietnamese Consul General in San Francisco, expressing his thanks for the Vietnamese community’s contributions to the state’s development.

California is now home to more than 700,000 Vietnamese-Americans.

(Source: VOV)

Of Cloth And Gold

(Photo courtesy: ANDREW NETE/ IPS Asia-Pacific/ AsiaNews)

"When you talk about increasing women’s participation in the labour force, you have to be very specific about what kind of participation you are talking about."


Getting decent jobs for women in Cambodia is a challenge.

“Women are cloth, men are gold.” This traditional Khmer saying is quoted by many studies on gender in Cambodia as emblematic of the different value accorded to men and women in this country of 14 million.

But it takes on a different perspective in Cham Choa district and other areas of Phnom Penh, the heart of the country’s garment industry.Rooming houses, shacks and apartment blocks intermingle with large nondescript factory buildings. Legions of mainly young female workers mill around stalls selling produce, toiletries and clothing.

These women are part of a major shift in the Cambodian economy over the last decade as employment opportunities slowly move from agriculture to new industries such as services, garment export and construction.

Cambodia’s women are at the forefront of this transition.

According to the soon to be released Cambodia Gender Assessment (CGA), produced by the ministry of women affairs, Cambodia’s female labour force participation rate is high by regional standards, at 71 per cent of the working age population over 15 years of age.

This is compared to 64 per cent in Thailand, 56 per cent in Laos and 87 per cent in Viet Nam. “More than 50 per cent of the active female population contribute to the economy of their country,” said Dr Ing Kantha Phavi, minister for women’s Affairs, in an interview with IPS. “The problem is that this (contribution) is still mainly in the informal sector.”

“The challenge Cambodian women face is not just to access employment, but decent, better paying employment.”

While the majority—83 per cent —remain self-employed or unpaid family workers, new employment opportunities for women have opened up, particularly in the garment industry, which accounted for 1.4 percent of total female employment in 1998, rising to 5.5 per cent in 2004.

This is part of what many believe has been a gradual positive shift in the situation of Cambodian women over the last decade. “Positive trends towards greater equality include increasing girls enrolment in primary education (and resulting rises in female literacy) and expanded employment opportunities,” the World Bank’s 2007 Cambodia Report noted.

Observers believe much of this progress is the result of sustained, if highly uneven, economic growth over the last few years. Poverty levels fell, according to the Bank, by 47– 5 per cent between 1994 and 2004.

At the same time, years of war and civil conflict have left Cambodia’s health, social and economic indicators among the worst in Southeast Asia.

As part of this, women continue to face serious economic, legal and social barriers, which the Bank says are part of a broader institutional bias against the poor and marginalised.

“Significant traditional inequalities persist and new ones are emerging,” said the Bank, reinforced by lower standards of education and prevailing attitudes regarding what are ‘appropriate’ occupations for women.

The plight of the garment sector illustrates the broader challenge in creating sufficient employment for Cambodia’s rapidly growing labour force.

According to the CGA, approximately 62 per cent of the total population and 44 per cent of the labour force is under 25 years of age. Of this group 55 per cent are women.

It also demonstrates the difficulties of safeguarding the economic gains made by Cambodian women, which remain fragile.Approximately 90 per cent of employees in the garment industry are women.

Despite maturing since the 1990s, the sector remains plagued by lower levels of productivity than its key competitors. The largely untrained female workforce is overseen by mainly foreign middle managers.

The recession in the US—the market for 70 per cent of Cambodia’s garment exports—is only one of many problems. Others include skyrocketing power prices, poor infrastructure and high compliance costs.

In developing countries like Cambodia, the garment sector often kick-starts industrialisation and is the precursor to the arrival of other manufacturing such as food processing, before itself relocating to other, lower-cost countries. Even a minor downturn would have major economic implications.

“If textiles goes, you’ll have 300,000 people employed today on the road tomorrow, not to mention supporting businesses large and small, including mine, that would also be in trouble,” said Paul Thomas, director of the freight company, Flow Forwarding Cambodia.

Some estimate up to a million people are either directly employed in the industry or depend on the pay packets of those who are.

Despite generating billions in foreign investment, Cambodia’s weak regulatory and legal frameworks and corruption are significant barriers to long-term sustainable growth.

According to Thomas, the government has given little thought to investment in alternative industry in Cambodia beyond garments and agriculture that could provide sustainable employment opportunities.

“The attitude is very much ‘let foreign businesses come and do it’, but no work has been done on paving the way and targeting what investment they want,” he said.

“To raise their participation in formal employment and decision-making institutions, women need skills and information about how markets and the law function,” said Phavi.

“When you talk about increasing women’s participation in the labour force, you have to be very specific about what kind of participation you are talking about,” said Chea Vannath, a regular commentator on social and political affairs.

“Are you talking about the informal sector where women are already heavily represented? Or 8am to 5pm professional jobs?”

“We are not going to increase women’s participation in professional jobs until we have things like adequate child care facilities, care for older people and salaries that keep up with the cost of living.”

Two of the most significant barriers to increasing women’s participation in the workforce are their education and health status.

While Phavi maintained the government had made progress, the Cambodian Gender Assessment said Cambodia continues to have some of the weakest health indicators in the region.

“In order to participate in economic activity and contribute to the economy you have to be healthy,” she said.

“The high rate of maternal mortality, while declining, is a real concern and a real challenge. We need to look at why, with all the aid we have received, this has not decreased more in the past.”

“This is also a cultural problem. The woman is the last to get medical attention after the children and the father. They are in bad shape by the time they come (to the doctor).”

More immediate and obvious implications for the future employment and earning capacity of women is their educational status.
While the CGA noted progress at attaining gender parity at the primary school level, overall levels of education remain low for the nation generally and women in particular.

Although enrolment rates and gender parity “have improved at all levels of education … the female share of enrolment drops at each higher level of education”, it said.

Approximately 40 per cent of women aged 25-44 are illiterate (vs 22 per cent for men). Although improving in younger age groups, 23 percent of young women aged 15-24 are illiterate (vs 16 percent of young men).

“The Cambodian government is committed to increasing education opportunities for women at all levels, from primary school to university, during the next five year mandate,” said Phavi.A particular focus is on increasing access to vocational education.

“We have some vocational training centres now but not enough and they are not responding to demand. This is important in the context of the garment industry, which we not only want to stay (in Cambodia), but to value add and not just use labour.”

In the absence of job opportunities in Cambodia, increasing numbers of Khmer women are choosing to work overseas, mainly in Thailand, Malaysia and South Korea.

“We are not sure about the exact numbers but they are significant,” said Phavi. “Although we are concerned about the conditions some of these women face overseas, we (the government) encourage labour migration due to the level of local unemployment.”

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

Khmer Authorities Cooperate with the US FBI to Investigate Murder of Moneaksekar Khmer Journalist

Posted on 31 August 2008
The Mirror, Vol. 12, No. 575

“Regarding the brutal murder of Mr. Khim Sambo, a journalist of Moneaksekar Khmer and his [21-year-old] son Khat Sarinpheata, on 11 July 2008, so far the Phnom Penh authorities have not arrested the murderer or those who are behind to be convicted according to the law. The weakness of the authorities to find the murderer to be prosecuted makes the general public and some local and foreign civil society organizations strongly criticize the Phnom Penh authorities, because so far, the murderer still lives freely and is staying outside of the net of the law.

“Civil society officials and the general public have requested the Phnom Penh authorities to speed up the investigations to seek the murderer who shot dead the journalist of Moneaksekar Khmer and his son, and also those who are behind the murder to be punished, and also to know the clear reasons why the father and the son were murdered; is it for political reasons or other reasons? - so that the general public and civil society organization officials know the root of the story that led to the brutal murder.

“The reasons for the shooting of Mr. Khim Sambo and his son Khat Sarinpheata to death near the Olympic Stadium on 11 July 2008, while they were returning from their exercises, is not known yet, though it is being investigated by the authorities. Unless the murderer is convicted, the real reasons of the murder cannot be revealed. However, the authorities have not had any clear light that can lead to identify the murderer, as it is not easy.

“Because of complications to look for the murderer, the authorities decided to cooperate with the US Federal Bureau of Investigation – FBI – in Cambodia, to cooperate to seek the murderer and those who are behind them to be convicted according to the law. It is hoped that this cooperation will lead to arrest the real murderer to be sentenced soon, because the FBI has high skills in investigation and can provide ideas to the Cambodian authorities to look for the murderer who shot dead Mr. Khim Sambo and his son.

“A high ranking police official who asked not to mention his name said that yesterday, on 29 August 2008, the FBI in Cambodia met for the first time with the Cambodian authorities to discuss the cooperation to seek the murderer and those who are behind the murder of Mr. Khim Sambo and his son. The first time meeting between the Khmer authorities and the FBI was attended by Mr. Touch Naroth, the head of the Phnom Penh police, and some other officials, and by Mr. Laro Tan (a Cambodian-American), the head of the FBI office in Cambodia. Both sides focused on the murder of Mr. Khim Sambo and his son by anonymous persons.

“A police official said that during the meeting between Mr. Laro Tan, the director of the US FBI office in Cambodia, and the Cambodian authorities yesterday, Mr. Touch Naroth reported in detail about the murder of Mr. Khim Sambo and his son Khat Sarinpheata, how the Cambodian police had investigated before cooperating with the FBI office. Also, Mr. Laro Tan was satisfied with the report about the investigation by the Cambodian authorities, and the FBI agreed also to cooperate with the Cambodian authorities.

“The police official continued to say that Mr. Laro Tan responded that he will also ask the director of the FBI in the United States to offer two experts – one for investigations, and the other for drafting a ‘wanted’ circular with a sketch of the face of the suspect, and he is also an expert in performing autopsies

“The cooperation between the Phnom Penh authorities and the US FBI to investigate the murder of Mr. Khim Sambo and of his son Khat Sarinpheata was welcomed by civil society organization officials and by the general public, and it is hoped it will help to find the murderers and those who are behind them to be convicted soon.”

Moneaksekar Khmer, Vol.15, #3552, 30.8.2008
Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:Saturday, 30 August 2008


The Bangkok Post
Sunday August 31, 2008

The late Maha Ghosananda of Cambodia proved the healing power of wisdom and compassion


There was some inexpressibly cool and unhurried sense of peacefulness that exuded from the man. The year was 1997, November 5 to be exact. I was attending an inter-faith conference at a small town about an hour's drive from Phnom Penh. He was there among the crowds who came to give their blessing to the opening of the auspicious event. I felt something special about this frail but ever-smiling monk although I couldn't tell why. "Oh, that is Venerable Maha Ghosananda; he is very famous in Cambodia," whispered Buddhist scholar Chatsumarn Kabilsingh, urging me to interview him.

So I did. But as obliging as Maha Ghosananda was with a then green-horn journalist like me, I found it extremely difficult to write an article on him. He talked very little about his personal life, which Acharn Chatsumarn (who was later ordained as Bhikkhuni Dhammananda) said was so fascinating. Throughout the brief conversation I had with him, Maha Ghosananda would make extensive references to "dharma" - the importance of keeping oneself aware of the rising and ebbing away of mental phenomena, pleasant or not, how to constantly cultivate loving-kindness toward every sentient being, and last but not least, how not to cling to anything. I accept the truth of the adages, but they were, well, (given my ignorance at the time) hard to put in a newspaper.

His name, and that mysteriously cool aura, has however been an enigma for me. Every now and then I would come across some mention about or by him. He has been called the "Gandhi of Cambodia", the "Buddha of the Battlefields", and in the words of the late Dith Pran (whose life inspired the film The Killing Fields), the "dreamkeeper" of his homeland. In the 1990s, King Sihanouk conferred on him the special title of "Leader of Religion and Peace", and later "International Patriarch". He received numerous awards for his peace activism, including being nominated a few times for the Nobel Prize. His dharmayietra (literally "Pilgrimage of Truth") movement, which he initiated in 1992 with friends from different denominations, has since been carried on in his homeland, and later adopted elsewhere, including in Thailand (albeit totally different from the one recently staged during the dispute over the Preah Vihear world heritage site). In the late '70s, he helped set up hut temples at the refugee camps along the Thai-Cambodian borders, and later to rebuild temples and provide education to hundreds of monks and nuns in Cambodia (it was estimated that of about 65,000 monastics, only 3,000 survived the Khmer Rouge era). He also founded over 30 home-based temples in North America, Europe and Australia for the Cambodian migrant communities there.

The more I learned about Maha Ghosananda's biography and the tortuous history of Cambodia, the more I appreciate and marvel at his ability to remain unperturbed, so refreshingly serene in the midst of raging fires.

I would have the same question once raised by Benedictine monk James Wiseman: "Looking at the Venerable Ghosananda, one has the impression that not only his smile, but his whole body is radiant. It seems as if his skin has been washed so clean that it shines. One can only wonder what this man has seen, what he has experienced of the terrible killing fields in his home country (considering that all the members of Maha Ghosananda's family died under the Khmer Rouge regime of Pol Pot).

"One thing however is obvious: Whatever his experience has been, it has brought forth extraordinary growth in the spiritual life."

Of his early years, there is sketchy, rather scattered information. His date of birth varies - it was some time in the 1920s - depending on the source. It was reckoned, though, that Maha Ghosananda's potential may have been recognised not long after his ordination, for he came under the tutelage of Venerable Chuon Nath, later appointed to be the Supreme Patriarch and a key leader of the reformist movement in Cambodian Buddhism in the early 20th century.

In 1951, he left for a study at Nalanda University in India (where he would be eventually granted a PhD which he jokingly translated as "Person Has Dukkha" - suffering). Importantly, while in India, Maha Ghosananda had an opportunity to learn about the Gandhian philosophy of non-violence with Nichidatsu Fujii, a disciple of Mahatma Gandhi and the founder of Nipponsan Myohoji, a Japanese Buddhist order dedicated to world peace.

After his time in India, Maha Ghosananda reportedly travelled extensively to different temples throughout Asia, returned to Cambodia briefly before a long spell of residence in Thailand (the exact number of years is not known). It was said he studied Vipassana (insight) meditation with Ajahn Dhammadaro in Nakhon Si Thammarat, but an obituary written by his long-time friend Sulak Sivaraksa last year also mentioned reformist monk Buddhadasa as another mentor of Maha Ghosananda.

It was at this very juncture in Thailand where all the years of dharma practice came to fruition. At a forest monastery in the South, Maha Ghosananda heard news about the series of tragedies that beset his homeland: The American bombing raids, which dropped over 2.7 million tonnes of bombs and killed an estimated 600,000 Cambodians, the successive changes of regimes and ensuing bloodshed, the brutal genocide of the Khmer Rouge ...

A biography written by American monk Venerable Santidhammo described the tenacious struggle the Cambodian monk had to go through:

"He learned that his parents and all his brothers and sisters had been murdered. He was told, over time, of the death of many of his fellow monks and nuns. And of course, he said, he wept for so many losses. He wept for his country. He wept, he said, every day and could not stop weeping. But his teacher urged him to stop. Don't weep, he was told, Be mindful.

"Having mindfulness, his teacher said, is like knowing when to open and when to close your windows and doors. Mindfulness tells us when is the appropriate time to do things - you can't stop the fighting. Instead, fight your impulses toward sorrow and anger. Be mindful. Prepare for the day when you can truly be useful to your country. Stop weeping, and be mindful!"

We will never know how and for how long before the inner battle came to an end. By 1978, Maha Ghosananda embarked on a mission to bring peace to his fellow Cambodians. In an introduction to his only book, titled Step by Step - Meditations on Wisdom and Compassion, editors Jane Sharada Mahoney and Philip Edmonds related the monk's visit to a refugee camp in Sakeo. Amid the bleak and dilapidated atmosphere, Maha Ghosananda's presence was like a glowing candle that rekindled the spiritual warmth long suppressed by the protracted wars.

"In that moment," Mahoney and Edmonds write, "great suffering and great love merged.

Centuries of Buddhist devotion rushed into the consciousness of the refugees. Waves of survivors fell to their knees and prostrated, wailing loudly, their cries reverberating throughout the camp. Many say that the Dharma, which had slept gently in their hearts as the Bodhi tree burned, was reawakened that day."

Maha Ghosananda himself would later stress the duty of socially-engaged Buddhists: "We must find the courage to leave our temples and enter the temples of human experience, temples that are filled with suffering. If we listen to the Buddha, Christ, or Gandhi, we can do nothing else.

The refugee camps, the prisons, the ghettoes and the battlefields will then become our temples."
There is no discrimination either between ideologies or on the basis of past conflicts. Maha Ghosananda's temple huts catered to all refugees alike, including former Khmer Rouge soldiers. "We have great compassion for them because they do not know the truth," he later told film producer Alan Channer. "They suffer so much; they burn themselves. They want peace; they want happiness and Buddhism gives them peace and happiness.

"I do not question that loving one's oppressors - Cambodians loving the Khmer Rouge - may be the most difficult attitude to achieve. But it is a law of the universe that retaliation, hatred, and revenge only continue the cycle and never stop it. Reconciliation does not mean that we surrender rights and conditions, but rather that we use love in our negotiations. It means that we see ourselves in the opponent - for what is the opponent but a being in ignorance, and we ourselves are also ignorant of many things. Therefore, only loving-kindness and right mindfulness can free us."

It is a message that he would repeat the rest of his life. During the top-level talks between different Cambodian warring factions in France, Switzerland, and Indonesia, Maha Ghosananda led his contingency of monks, "the fifth army of peace", to open daily sessions with prayer and meditation; they implored the leaders to recall their Buddha nature, and reminded everyone of the power of non-violence. Sulak recalled the monk had personally asked him to seek holy water from the Supreme Patriarch at Wat Bowon Niwet in Bangkok to sprinkle on the Cambodian representatives - an initiative that was unanimously welcomed by all parties.

In her article on the dharmayietra movement in Cambodia, Kathryn Poethig wrote: "For Maha Ghosananda, the essence of Buddhist dharma is the practice of peacemaking. It requires skilful means, the ability to listen with compassion to the perspective of the one who has done you and others harm, and being mindful and selfless in negotiating a peaceful resolution to conflict."

Ingenuity and patience are certainly key. Maha Ghosananda often talked about how "wisdom and compassion must walk together. Having one without the other is like walking on one foot; you will fall. Balancing the two, you will walk very well, step by step."

In 1992, as the refugee camps were preparing to close with the planned repatriation of some 350,000 Cambodians, Maha Ghosananda and his friends from various faith groups launched the first dharmayietra. Over a hundred Cambodian refugees, escorted by international walkers including monks from Thailand, Sri Lanka and Japan, did the arduous 450km trek from the Thai borders back into their homeland. Every day, the returning Cambodians found their long-lost family members. By the time the band reached Phnom Penh, their number had swollen to more than a thousand.

The first few walks have been wrought with great difficulty. For the inaugural walk, most of the senior monks invited declined to join; it took a while to get permission from the Thai, Cambodian, and UN officials for the refugees to cross the borders. The subsequent ones fared no better; landmines and exchanges of gunshots and grenades between the Khmer Rouge and government troops were still the norm. During the third walk, in 1994, a skirmish caused by a misunderstanding ended with a monk and a nun killed, a few participants injured, and some taken hostage (though they were later released).

But the peace walkers did not waiver. For Maha Ghosananda, the dharmayietra was not a political demonstration - they discouraged any effort by public figures to co-opt the event - or a new innovation into Cambodian Buddhism. It was simply following the example of the Buddha, he cited, who long ago had walked right onto the battlefield in an effort to end a war and bring reconciliation to two hostile factions of his own clan.

The suffering of Cambodia has been deep.
From this suffering comes Great Compassion.
Great Compassion makes a Peaceful Heart.
A Peaceful Heart makes a Peaceful Person.
A Peaceful Person makes a Peaceful Family.
A Peaceful Family makes a Peaceful Community.
A Peaceful Community makes a Peaceful Nation.
And a Peaceful Nation makes a Peaceful World.
May all beings live in Happiness and Peace.

In Venerable Santidhammo's biography, moving accounts of those who participated in the walks reveal the beauty of humanity, if given a chance to grow. The dharmayietra heralded the end of the war, reunited families, inspired new vision. A number called the experience Dhamma Teak Tong, or "Dhamma Contact". For at that very moment, all the boundaries melt; any notions of "us" versus "them" are tossed away.

One local woman said: "We Khmer haven't seen peace for so long. We've never known it. Now seeing the monks and all these people walking makes me think they've come to teach us to love one another, to unite. When I see them I feel speechless. Maybe we will have true peace after all."

Due to his fragile health, by 2000, Maha Ghosananda could no longer attend the dharmayietra walks, which have since been done on more localised scales, with the themes ranging from environmental to human rights, Aids, and youth issues. According to Peter Gyallay-Pap, founder and executive director of the Khmer-Buddhist Educational Assistance Project (KEAP), the spirit of the monk has been carried on by his followers who seek "change in terms of actively following the middle path, not in social or political confrontation".

But will true transformation ever come? To Cambodia and the rest of the world? On the last page of his book Step by Step, Maha Ghosananda expressed his faith in the practice of mindfulness as "the only way to peace".

"Slowly, slowly, step by step," he urges. "Each step is a meditation. Each step is a prayer."
On March 12, 2007, Maha Ghosananda passed away at a temple in Lowell, Massachusetts, one of the many sanctuaries he had built for his fellow Cambodians around the world

Cambodia visits cruelty on weakest citizens

Joel Brinkley
Saturday, August 30, 2008

Cambodia - Well past the city limits, beyond the sign that says "Bon Voyage; See You Again," after the paved roads end, down a rutted dirt track, Un Thea sits in the mud outside her shanty, peeling bamboo shoots - and seething.

Two years ago, soldiers and police showed up in the middle of the night to throw her family and more than 1,000 others out of their homes on a plot in central Phnom Penh. The soldiers torched the crude houses before Un and the others had time even to retrieve their meager belongings. All of the residents were herded onto buses and ferried out to Andoung, about 15 miles away, and dumped in a rice paddy without so much as a bottle of water or a tarp for cover.

Then the soldiers left - although a few stayed to turn away the aid groups that came to drop off emergency rations.

Un's case is among several thousand more or less similar land seizures across Cambodia in the last three years.

"Out here, it is hard making business," Un complains with considerable understatement. She is 25 but already looks decades older. "They dumped us here and gave us no money, no land title. Nothing."

Cambodia is a democracy. The modern state grew out of a United Nations peace conference in 1991 intended to create a free nation from the rubble the Khmer Rouge left behind.

Since then, the government has purported to manage the country according to the rule of law. Every democratic country, including the United States, fails at times to live up to its democratic ideals.

But the cruelty the Cambodian government visits upon its weakest citizens can be breathtaking. You expect this in North Korea or Zimbabwe. But Cambodia? In late July, Cambodians voted in national elections that were generally peaceful, but with scattered complaints. Government leaders tolerate human rights groups that regularly castigate them and, within limits, critical stories in the news media.

Still, stories like Un's can overwhelm the positive developments in Cambodia. Chum Bon Rong is secretary of state in the National Land Authority, which is supposed to arbitrate land disputes like the Andoung case. Last week he told me that his agency has received more than 3,000 land-seizure appeals in the last 2 1/2 years.

Of those, he admitted, only about 50 have been judged in favor of plaintiffs, the impoverished people whose land was seized. Even among those 50, he acknowledged with a rueful grin, "sometimes the cases disappear" after referral to another agency that is supposed to implement the National Land Authority's findings.

In 2001, under pressure from the West, Cambodia enacted a Land Law that was supposed to set clear rules for property disputes. Seven years later, the government has yet to write the regulations implementing that law and the seizures continue unabated. Phnom Penh is booming, and when a developer spots a choice piece of land, he simply pays off the proper official to gain a newly minted land title. All that's left is to rid the property of its pesky residents - almost always poor, uneducated people such as Un.

Once the residents have been disposed of, they are forgotten. Licadho, a local human rights group, noted in a new report that Un and the others dumped out in Andoung suffer from "malnutrition, typhoid, dengue fever, hepatitis A or B, hypertension, respiratory tract infections, gastro-intestinal illnesses including stress-related ulcers, depression," and last in this litany, "anger management problems."

Un and her husband built a one-room shelter on stilts from scrap wood, bamboo matting and plastic tarps.

Ten people now live in and under the house. She has no electricity or running water. No one in this community has a phone; there's not a single toilet. "We have to buy water from the water seller," she says, nodding toward an earthen cistern beside the house.

Mosquito larvae seem to roil the water surface. Tacked to her shelter's front wall, a poster warns of dengue fever, a mosquito-borne illness. Un says she can make about 5,000 riel selling her peeled bamboo shoots at market. That's $1.22. She sends her young sons into Phnom Penh "to shine shoes for the people. They go and stay for a month."

A few months ago, the United Nations issued a report saying the government here always "tilts in favor of businesses" that want to develop land, "pitting poor farmers against developers."
Even though his own agency's numbers show the very same thing, Chum says complaints like that from abroad are "a case of propaganda."
Joel Brinkley is a professor of journalism at Stanford University and a former foreign policy correspondent for the New York Times. E-mail Insight at E-mail Brinkley at

Thai protesters defy orders to end siege


Agence France-Presse

BANGKOK - Thousands of Thai protesters trying to bring down the prime minister again defied orders Thursday to end their siege of government offices, forming human shields to protect their leaders from arrest.

The courts have ordered them to clear out of Government House immediately and issued arrest warrants for nine of the protest leaders, but the alliance against Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej remained defiant.

"If nine of us are arrested, you must continue to rally here," said 73-year-old Chamlong Srimuang, one of the key figures in the months-long campaign by the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) to force Samak to resign.

Rumours spread overnight that the thousands of police massed outside the compound in downtown Bangkok were preparing to enter and force the demonstrators out.

"It's our victory that police did not storm and arrest us last night," Chamlong told cheering protesters, who have spent two nights and a day camped out sheltering from the rain and sun under umbrellas.

The PAD movement, which has been protesting since May, says Samak is a mere figurehead running the country on behalf of former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in a 2006 coup and is barred from holding office.

PAD protests helped lead to the putsch that unseated the populist Thaksin, and the entry to government of his ally Samak has infuriated the country's old power elites in the military and palace.

Samak, who was elected last December, has said he will use a "soft and gentle" approach with the group, and despite tense moments overnight police standing guard around Government House kept a low-key presence.

"At this moment there are more than 10,000 protesters inside," deputy government spokesman Nuttawut Saikua told AFP.

An AFP correspondent at the scene said many police appeared to have left the enclosure overnight, while the PAD has installed their own checkpoints with volunteer guards searching everybody trying to enter the rally site.

The government's patience with the group appears to be wearing thin, and a poll Wednesday showed that the majority of Bangkok residents were also fed up with the antics of the group claiming loyalty to the revered monarchy.

The crisis began early Tuesday when up to 35,000 anti-government demonstrators stormed a state-run TV station and surrounded at least three ministries before finally invading the grounds of Government House.

A senior police officer, who did not want to be named as he was not authorised to talk to the media, said the Metropolitan Police top brass were planning their next steps.

"They will prepare documents and hopefully by early afternoon police will enter Government House with a court injunction and arrest warrants to meet with protest leaders," the officer told AFP.

The Criminal Court on Wednesday issued arrest warrants for nine people, including the five PAD leaders, on charges including treason -- which carries the death penalty -- and illegal assembly.

Guide on traveling like a local in Cambodia

by Jamie Rhein
Aug 30th 2008
No, I haven't traveled like a local in Cambodia, but from how Tim Patterson describes it at Jaunted, my local travel in The Gambia sounds close. His line about both butt checks falling asleep at the same time brought back memories.

As one of his entries for the Embedded Travel Guide to Cambodia, a series where he blogs about his experiences staying in a guest house in Sihanoukville, Patterson describes the various ways one can get from point A to point B in that country. The emotions he highlights are shock, misery and exhilaration--perfect word choices for capturing the flavor of many of the experiences I've had while shouldering my way into a bush taxi, or bobbing along in ramshackle boat without a life jacket and the shore almost too far away to see.

For anyone heading to a place where transportation is an assortment of tuk-tuks, fishing boats, buses, bamboo rafts, regular boats, motorcycles, cyclos, regular taxis, pick-up trucks, or heaven knows what else--ox carts, for example, Patterson's guide is a great way to familiarize yourself with what's out there and how to play it safe as best you can.

Patterson's idea is you jump on, have fun, but know the risk. I second his emotions. Besides, you'll end up with some great tales to tell and you won't even have to embellish the details to make the stories more fantastic.

Cambodia introduces new regulations for developers and real estate agents

Property Wire
New regulations are being introduced in Cambodia to protect property investors from fraud as the country's real estate industry booms.
Developers will be required to deposit a sum with the National Bank of Cambodia before being allowed to begin construction on a project under new regulations aimed at curbing fraud.
Payments from buyers will be held in this account with the aim of making the whole payment system more transparent and avoid developers using money illegally. It will also allow the government to intervene if developers fail to honour their contracts.
Real estate agents and developers will have to obtain a licence from the Ministry of Economy and Finance to sell projects and face legal action and even closure if they fail to do so.

The new rules mean developers and agents must comply by the end of September, a spokesman for the Economy and Finance ministry said.

There will be costs to the developers and agents involved but officials believe this will deter cowboys. 'Real estate developers will be required to deposit 2% of the projects' total value at the National Bank of Cambodia,' said Mao Pao deputy chief of the ministry's real estate division.'We will require a developer to open a housing development account at any commercial bank to enable buyers to make payments through the bank,' he added.

The price for the new licences for selling or renting will depend on the scale of the project. Until now developers only needed a letter of permission from the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction and an investment licence from the Council for the Development of Cambodia.

There are estimated to be around 100 developers currently operating in Cambodia, many of them quite small. Some said the new regulations will be too costly and put them out of business.

Capital Phnom Penh has undergone an unprecedented construction boom over the last several years, including a number of residential and commercial mega-projects that are set to transform the capital from a sleepy backwater.

Sri Lanka envoy for Cambodia genocide tribunal

The Sunday Times

From Neville de Silva in London

Sri Lanka’s new High Commissioner to London Nihal Jayasinghe left for Cambodia to sit on the UN-sponsored tribunal trying former leaders of the dreaded Khmer Rouge regime for crimes against humanity.

Nihal Jayasinghe, a former Justice of Sri Lanka’s Supreme Court is one of three international judges sitting in the Supreme Court chamber, the highest tier of the three- layered tribunal.

Nihal Jayasinghe was sworn in as a member of the tribunal when he was a Justice of the Supreme Court and this is the first time he will be attending a meeting of the tribunal since his retirement from the Sri Lankan judiciary and his appointment as High Commissioner to Great Britain.

The other two international judges are Motoo Naguchi of Japan and Agnieszka Klonowiecka-Milart of Poland while four Cambodian judges make up the seven-member Bench that will hear appeals against convictions by the Trial Chamber.

High Commissioner Jayasinghe, who is due to return to London at the end of this week said that he is not due to present his credentials to the Queen until the first half of October. However he said that he has called on officials of the British Foreign Office and met with British parliamentarians and journalists besides members of several Sri Lankan organisations and associations here.

“My message to them has been that there is no quarrel or conflict between the Sinhala and Tamils communities. The conflict is with the LTTE, with a terrorist group,” Jayasinghe told The Sunday Times. He said that there is a misconception here that the Government and the Sinhala people are against the Tamil community and this had to be corrected.

Cambodia, UN-FAO launch emergency project for farmers

PHNOM PENH, Aug. 30 (Xinhua) -- The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF) of Cambodia and UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) are launching an emergency project through its Technical Cooperation Program (TCP) in Cambodia to help impoverished farmers boost agricultural production, said a joint press release received here Saturday.

The project is part of the FAO Initiative on Soaring Food Prices (ISFP) started in December 2007 and aims to boost the local food supply to soften the blow of soaring food prices, it said.

The FAO is focusing on immediate activities during this rainy season from July 2008 to Sept. 2008 and within the dry season from Nov. 2008 until Jan. 2009, so that by the next harvests there will be more food available locally at lower prices, it said.

In addition, the project is providing fertilizers, which are petroleum-based and thus out of reach of poor farmers as oil prices break new records every day, it said.

As the latest step of the project, a rice seed distribution ceremony to vulnerable farmers was held on Aug. 28 at Bati district, Takeo province, with the attendance of Chan Sarun, Cambodian Minister for Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, as well as Omar Salah Ahmed, FAO Representative in Cambodia, said the press release.

For the medium and long term plan, the FAO aims at a more comprehensive assistance program towards agricultural development by focusing on increased productivities, irrigation and improving the storage, it added.

Editor: Bi Mingxin