Friday, 5 September 2008

The newly appointed judges of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC),

The newly appointed judge of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC), Mr. Siegfried Blunk (R) from Germany, attends the official sworn-in ceremony at a hotel in Phnom Penh September 5, 2008.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA)

The newly appointed judge of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC), Ms. Catherine Marchi-Uhel (R) from France, listens during the official sworn-in at a hotel in Phnom Penh September 5, 2008.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA)

The newly appointed judges of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC), Catherine Marchi-Uhel (R) from France and Siegfried Blunk from Germany, talk during the official sworn-in at a hotel in Phnom Penh September 5, 2008.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA)

The newly appointed judges of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC), Ms. Catherine Marchi-Uhel (R) from France and Mr. Siegfried Blunk (L) from Germany, stand during the official sworn-in at a hotel in Phnom Penh September 5, 2008.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA)

Cambodian American Heritage Museum exhibit mirrors archivist's life story

Retired teacher's items chronicle life under the Khmer Rouge

By Noreen S. Ahmed-Ullah Chicago Tribune reporter
September 4, 2008

When Ty Tim, his wife and daughter survived the Khmer Rouge's brutal regime and came to the United States as refugees in 1982, they brought with them two things from Cambodia: a small ivory Buddha he found while searching for food in the jungle and a copper coin his mom gave him before she died in a forced labor camp. Both were hidden from Khmer soldiers in the pockets of his daughter's pants.

Since 2004, Tim, who lost four of his five children during the Khmer Rouge's murderous rule from 1975 to 1979, has been returning to his homeland, bringing back what he couldn't before.

Tim, 65, has acquired wooden carvings, ancient Cambodian instruments, sacred texts on palm leaves, etchings from the Angkor Wat temple, children's toys and fishing traps. Some of the treasures—novelties and replicas of ancient works because Cambodian law bans removal of historical artifacts—grace the walls of his Skokie home.

But many of them made up the core of the Cambodian American Heritage Museum's exhibit last year on the arts and culture of Cambodia and are part of the exhibit opening Sunday on every day life in Cambodia.

The exhibits at the museum, 2831 W. Lawrence Ave., are in partnership with Northern Illinois University.

Tim, a retired teacher and the museum's archivist, says the exhibits help Cambodian-Americans remember aspects of their culture they may have forgotten. Many refugees came to the U.S. from Cambodia ready to put tragedy behind them and quickly faced the challenges of learning a new language and making a living, he said. The exhibits also can teach non-Cambodians and a new generation of U.S.-born Cambodian-Americans who may know little about Cambodian traditions.

"They need to know something about their culture," Tim said.

Although the ivory Buddha and copper coin, used by Cambodians as a massaging tool, are not on display, Tim's own story appears to echo through the exhibit.

His father was a farmer. Tim grew up harvesting rice and catching fish using the basketlike traps his father made. A fish trap like the one he used is in the exhibit, as are some of the different types of rice he helped harvest.

Knowing a bit about farming came in handy under the Khmer Rouge, which took power in 1975. The regime, which sent the population to work in rural farms and killed more than 1.5 million people, was anti-intellectual.

So teachers such as Tim often hid their profession, claiming instead to be illiterate farmers.

But the Khmer soldiers would still test them, ordering his family to grow vegetables on infertile land and forcing him to plow rice fields.

He has brought back Khmer-language textbooks and toys used by children in schools. A wooden toy that mimics the toad mating call comes from Tim's own collection. Nearby, a ceremonial silver tea set and wedding conch used to pour holy water on the couple's hands are also on loan from him.

Today, his life in America is quite different than that life in Cambodia. The Khmer Rouge forced millions like him and his family to march from Phnom Penh into the jungle. On the march through the jungle, his father died. At the farming camp, his mother and four youngest children died of starvation.

"They kept 1,200 people in that one village," Tim recalls. "When we got out from that village, there were only 400 of us left."

When Vietnam invaded Cambodia and overthrew the Khmer Rouge, the family returned to Phnom Penh. Tim started work again as a teacher.

But when friends told him officials were upset over his refusal to learn Communist ideology, he and his family fled again.

This time, they walked for two months back through the jungles, without a map, desperate for water, evading land mines and soldiers of all kinds.

They eventually reached a refugee camp in Thailand.

It's a history he feels younger Cambodians such as his three youngest children—one born in post-Khmer Rouge Cambodia and two in Chicago—at times fail to grasp.

So he fills his home with reminders of his native land.

And he hopes the museum exhibits will help educate them.

Preah Vihear: the Thai negotiator resigns

Cambodge Soir


On Thursday 4th of September, the Thai Prime Minister, Samak Sundarajev has formalised and accepted the resignation of his Head of Diplomacy, Tej Bunnag.

The Minister of Foreign Affairs took office at the end of July, in the middle of the Preah Vihear crisis. Since then, the negotiations he held with his Cambodian counterpart, Hor Nam Hong, had ended the deadlock. According to remarks of Samak, reported by the Xinhua press agency, his withdrawal is caused by “pressures” he endured from every angle, in particular from his wife, in order to leave the government. No Cambodian official could be contacted for comment.

Japan offers financial aid to Cambodia

Cambodge Soir


On Thursday 4th of September, Japan has renewed its financial support to Cambodia, with an amount of 3.47 million dollars.

Long Visalo, Secretary of State at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the Japanese Ambassador, Kutsuhiro Shinohara, have signed an agreement this afternoon, allocating an amount of 3.47 million dollars to Cambodia. These funds are mainly destined to improve the agricultural productivity. However, almost 370,000 dollars will go to the financing of the public television network.

The SRP elected representatives want to take oath separately

Cambodge Soir


Sam Rainsy informed the King of his choice. In case of refusal he claims to be ready to go to the Royal Palace.

On the 2nd of September, the day before travelling to Europe, Sam Rainsy sent a letter to Norodom Sihamoni. In this correspondence the opposition leader informs the monarch that, on the 24th of September, his 26 delegates will refuse to take oath at the same time as the CPP elected representatives.

A decision which aims at disputing “the violation of the people’s rights to vote”, as well as the numerous “election frauds”.

The SRP elected representatives thus want to take oath on the day after the parliamentary opening session. In case the King refuses, “we’ll go to a sacred place in front of the Royal Palace”, said the SRP leader.

Khmer Rouge Tribunal: first complaint concerning sexual crimes

Cambodge Soir


A civil action suit concerning rape and sexual abuse has been filed, Wednesday 3 September, before the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia.

Sou Sotheavy took civil action before the Khmer Rouge Tribunal for crimes and sexual abuse, she said on Wednesday 3 September during a press conference.

The plaintiff, a woman born as a man, spoke about the rapes she endured during the Khmer Rouge period, and also about the various cases of sexual abuse she suffered due to her transgender identity.

Sou Sotheavy, now 68 years old, was forced to cut her hair, to wear male clothes and to marry a woman during the Democratic Kampuchea Regime.

“I explained that I was a woman and couldn’t marry another woman, remembers Sou Sotheavy. But I was forced to do so, at risk of being executed. Ten days after my marriage, the Khmer Rouge forced me to have sexual intercourse with the woman I had to marry.”

Afterwards, Sou Sotheavy was detained at Kraing Chhes, in a cell 5 metres underground where she was raped by the prison chief.

She was then transferred to the Samlong detention centre, where guards accused her of having committed “moral offences”.

“I was tortured by seven guards who hit me several times on the head with a stone. I’m still bearing a scar on my forehead.”

Then sent to the Tapek prison, she was successively raped by the guards. “In order to discourage them I asked why they raped somebody with the same gender. Their answer was that they risked fewer problems by raping a man.”

Silke Studzinsky, Sou Sotheavy’s lawyer, was pleased about this first civil action suit concerning sexual crimes: “The investigations held by the KRT hadn’t yet focused on cases of rape and sexual abuse, due to a lack of proofs. The acts of violence against sexual minorities will finally enter into consideration.”

In the past, DC-Cam had showed a document which proved that a woman had been executed at S-21 with the motive that she engaged in prostitution activities, said Andrew Hunter, representative for the NGO Asia Pacific Network of Sex Workers.

Constanze Oehirich, legal advisor for the victim’s unit of the KRT, stated that her claim had indeed been registered and expressed the wish for other sexual victims to come forward.

Today, Sou Sotheavy is director of a Cambodian NGO for the protection of prostitutes and transvestites.

Cambodia: decrease of the GDP, inflation and deficit

Cambodge Soir


The growth predictions for 2008 amount to 7.2%, compared to 10.1% in 2007, according to the National Bank of Cambodia.

These difficulties lie in the textile and construction sectors and are the cause of the decrease in 2008, bringing it back to 7.2%, two points below the rate of 2007, specifies the National Bank of Cambodia in a 50 page report.

The report also mentions the inflation which continues to affect the Cambodian economy, despite the government measures to control it. In one year, the prices allegedly increased with 37.2%, according to the calculations done at the end of the first semester of 2008 by the National Bank of Cambodia.

The inflation affects mainly the food, fuel and textile products.

According to the National Bank, the commercial deficit increased during the first semester. While the volume of exports has increased with 448.5 million dollars, reaching 2.4 billion dollars, the imports have increased with 584 million dollars and reach approximately 3.1 billion dollars for the six first months of the year.

The commercial deficit reaches thus 700 million dollars. Cambodia mainly exports agricultural and farm products (rice, rubber trees, fish) and imports general consumers goods and oil.

The family of the slain journalist has left the country

Cambodge Soir


A decision based on security reasons. An FBI agent will try to draw an identikit sketch of the killers of Khim Sambo and his son.

Together with her two children, the wife of Khim Sambo, opposition journalist killed together with his son during last July’s election campaign, has left the country two weeks ago. This news was revealed by Chan Soveth, Adhoc investigator. This departure was orchestrated by three human rights organisations; Adhoc, Licado and the UN Office of the High Commissioner, responsible for human rights in Cambodia.

The investigator specifies furthermore that other witnesses are hiding for security reasons. According to him, the main reason behind this departure is because “the family doesn’t trust the police as the persons behind this double murder haven’t been arrested yet”. Their destination still remains secret.

This situation won’t facilitate things for Phnom Penh’s Commissioner, Touch Naroth. The policeman admits that this departure is “an obstacle concerning the investigation although it won’t stop the FBI and Cambodian police to continue their hunt”.

He brushes aside the declarations made by the human rights associations about the question of trust concerning the police. “These associations are saying anything, if the family doesn’t trust the police, who can she ever trust then?, asks the cop.

After having focused on the case of Khim Sambo since the beginning, the investigators are now concentrating on the son.. “Together with the FBI, we agree on this point”, says Touch Naroth. Why the son? Because according to a hospital report, one of the doctors who treated him during his arrival at the emergencies heard him whisper that he had been killed out of “resentment”.

In the next days, two new FBI agents are being expected in Phnom Penh; one investigator and one drawer who will have to sketch an identikit of the killers based on the descriptions given by witnesses.

Thai police intercept monkeys bound to Cambodian restaurants

SA KAEO, Sept 4 (TNA) - Thai Highway Police in Sa Kaeo province have rescued 24 baby crab-eating monkeys, arresting a Thai driver and five undocumented Cambodians attempting to smuggle the endangered species to Cambodia, where they were destined for cooking pots in Chinese restaurants.

Sa Kaeo Highway Police Thursday were suspicious of a pick-up truck at a check point along the Sa Kaeo-Bangkok road, as it was being driven at high-speed. Stopping the truck for a search, police found the 24 baby monkeys, each separated in a net bag, and seized equipment used for catching monkeys, including nets, traps and nylon bags.

After questioning, the police said the suspects were all monkey traders in Prachinburi, who had been illegally delivering the animals to Chinese specialty restaurants in Cambodia.

They received Bt100 per monkey, the police said, adding that the gang carried out the illegal trade for many years.

All six men were charged with smuggling endangered wildlife, while the five Cambodians were also charged with illegal entry.

The crab-eating monkey is found in a wide variety of habitats, including rainforests and coastal mangrove forests.

The little creatures have short arms and legs, dark noses,and black fur which turns yellow green, grey-green or reddish-brown shades as they mature. They are distinguished by blue abdominal skin.

The crab-eating monkey or long-tailed macaques are among the most commonly used laboratory animal, second only to the rhesus monkey. They were used extensively in studies leading to the development of the polio vaccine. (TNA)

Openness to trade is transforming Cambodia's capital

A street scene in the city center of Phnom Penh in Cambodia. (Gavin Hellier and Robert Harding/

International Herald Tribune

By Sonia Kolesnikov-Jessop
Published: September 4, 2008

PHNOM PENH: The three-story showroom for Gold Tower 42 is as imposing as the gold-tinted residential structure that, once it is completed, will dominate Phnom Penh's skyline.

A security guard greets a visitor's car and ushers the guest into a large reception area, worthy of a nice hotel. Before going up the carpeted grand staircase, the guest is politely asked to take off his shoes and don a pair of comfortable slippers.

Once upstairs, a saleswoman stands in front of a large scale model and talks with animation about the features of Cambodia's first residential tower, including the golf practice range, the karaoke lounge and the library, before leading the visitor through the three model apartments on the third floor.

It looks as if no expense has been spared on the showroom - but then the developer, Yon Woo of South Korea, is selling a luxury dream to the few members of the local elite and foreign community eager to test the waters of a property market that appears to be doing surprisingly well, despite the ever-present reminders of Cambodia's Third World poverty.

Commercial spots, available on YouTube, have been stressing the luxury of the project. Agents say buyers have been attracted by features like the high-tech security system, home automation technology, walk-in closets and fully fitted kitchen. And while the apartments would not quite match up to high-end places in Singapore or Hong Kong, they are luxurious by Cambodian standards.

But then they are not as expensive as apartments in those Asian cities either. Unit size varies from 153 square meters, or 1,647 square feet, for a three-bedroom apartment to 336 square meters for a five-bedroom, with prices ranging from $460,000 to $1.6 million. (Cambodia's official currency is the riel but the U.S. dollar is widely accepted and real estate is routinely valued in dollars.)

Nov Ratana, a sales manager for Yon Woo Cambodia, says 60 percent of the Gold Tower 42's 360 residential units have been sold, many of them to foreigners, mainly Koreans and Chinese.

When the $240 million, 42-story development is completed in 2011, it will offer sweeping views of Phnom Penh toward the capital's bustling riverfront. But it will not stand out as the city's only skyscraper; several other high-rise developments also are planned or already are being built.

In mid-June, ground-breaking began on an even taller building, the 52-story International Finance Complex. This $1 billion, 737,000-square-meter project will include a main office tower surrounded by several smaller glass-and-steel structures housing 275 serviced apartments, 1,064 apartments and even a small international school.

Other projects being developed include the 33-story De Castle Royal Condominium, the 31-story River Palace 31 and the Phnom Penh Sun Wah International Financial Center, a mixed-use development of offices, a five-star hotel, shopping mall and three residential blocks.

While the towers have provoked some controversy - they will radically change the profile of this low-rise city and add some flashes of modern architecture to its faded colonial elegance - they also are being touted as a symbol of the country's speedy growth. Cambodia's economy has increased at an annual average of 11 percent over the past three years as the country has climbed back from decades of political instability.

Foreign investment, especially from South Korea and other countries in North Asia, has been key to this recovery, surging to 8 percent of GDP in 2007 from less than 1 percent in 2004.

Most of the new construction projects are headed by Korean construction and investment companies. The biggest foreign direct investment to date - $2 billion - is being made by World City of South Korea, for Camko City, being built on a 119-hectare, or 294-acre, site on the northwestern outskirts of Phnom Penh.

The project, started in 2005 and scheduled to be completed in 2018, will include residential, commercial and public structures.

Opening the country to foreign trade and attracting tourists, especially to the temples of Angkor Wat, has supported the expansion and even produced the beginnings of a middle class.

As a result, property prices have experienced their own boom in recent years. Charles Villar, general manager at Bonna Realty Group, the largest real estate agency in Cambodia, estimates that property prices in Phnom Penh rose between 50 percent and 80 percent in 2007 and between 80 and 100 percent so far this year, depending on location. Land prices in the city center have skyrocketed this year to more than $3,000 per square meter from about $500 a square meter in 2003.

Meanwhile, rental prices have increased 20 percent to 40 percent over the past year, Villar said. A large villa with five to seven bedrooms in a good location will rent for about $5,000 a month, while a two-bedroom place will average $1,300 to $1,500, depending on location.

Despite the sharp increases, prices still compare favorably with those in Bangkok, where a four-bedroom villa would cost more than 200,000 bhat, or about $6,000, a month. And the Cambodian sites are attracting plenty of speculative interest from foreign buyers, mostly from within the region.

Bretton Sciaroni, a senior partner at the law firm of Sciaroni & Associates in Phnom Penh, says foreigners still cannot buy land, but they can buy leasehold properties - typically a 99-year lease or a 70-year lease with an option to renew for another 70 years. The latter formula "was found in the 1994 investment law and, although it dropped out of the law when it was amended, the formula is still used," he said.

There are rumors that the laws will be changed to allow foreigners to buy land outright but that is unlikely, Sciaroni added. "If anything, earlier this year, the prime minister made it clear in various statements that foreigners will not be allowed to hold property freehold. For this to change, not only would laws have to be amended, but the Constitution as well," he said. "So we do not expect the law to change anytime in the near future."

Woman missing from facility with history of trouble

Thursday, September 4, 2008
By BETH SHAYNE / NewsChannel 36
E-mail Beth:

FALLSTON, N.C.-- Crews in Cleveland County are searching for a patient of an assisted living facility, missing since Wednesday morning.

The State Bureau of Investigation joined the search Wednesday. Mouy Tang was last seen at Unique Living in Fallston before 7:30 a.m. Wednesday. She was spotted walking near the Philadelphia Road home later in the morning, and hasn’t been seen since.

A helicopter search turned up nothing Wednesday. Crews on ATVs and on foot searched Thursday. Cadaver dogs also joined in late in the day.

Tang is 45 and a native of Cambodia. She is diabetic and hasn’t had medicine since Wednesday morning. It’s feared she hasn’t eaten. She is also schizophrenic. Her English is poor at best.

She’s lived at Unique Living for at least 15 years, and we’re told she has help even navigating the dining room there.

For search crews from Cleveland County, the task of finding Tang must feel like déjà vu. Unique Living has a history of missing patients. One incident turned tragic. In 2006, Kelly “Buck” Whitesides was found dead six days after he went missing from the assisted living facility.

The county’s social services director John Wasson blames the way the home is licensed.

Mentally ill patients like Tang make up most of the residents but Unique Living is technically an assisted living facility.

“Basically, you have an unlicensed mental hospital in the middle of Fallston, North Carolina,” Wasson said.

After years of incidents, including two other accidental deaths, Wasson wrote the state in a letter dated June 20, 2008. He asked that the state regulatory board suspend admissions for Unique Living while they put a Temporary Manager in charge.

The letter cites a long list of complaints against Unique Living, including charges of verbal abuse from staff, a lack of locks, and a water shut-off that left the facility without water for hours on several occasions.

New management, the letter says, is not solving the problem.

It says, “Given past history, it is only a matter of time before a resident or residents are injured or harmed in some way as a direct result of the apparent mismanagement of this troubled facility.”

Wasson says, “Basically, they’ve ignored our letter…and I feel the [state agency] has defaulted on its responsibility.”

Officials from the state visited in July. Their report notes dirty mattresses and pillows, and broken or non-existence alarms on exit doors. Their acting director of Health Service Regulation tells NewsChannel 36 that the problems did not rise to the level that would warrant a state takeover.

Cambodia clamps down on cross border cattle smuggling

Farmer Guadian
5 September, 2008

There has always been a cross border trade in cattle and buffalo between Vietnam and Cambodia. This is now being halted as a precaution against BSE and foot-and-mouth but the rising economy in Vietnam, has made the trade in cattle from Cambodia a profitable business.

The police have made several arrests of cattle truck drivers smuggling stock but the trade is far too lucrative for people to be deterred.

SCT still bullish on Cambodia

The Bangkok Post
Friday September 05, 2008


SCT Co Ltd, an international trading arm of Thailand's Siam Cement Group, expects to increase its turnover in Cambodia by 25% from last year to $50 million this year despite border tensions between the two countries. SCT managing director Kalin Sarasin said the potential for the trading business with Cambodia was tremendous as few products were manufactured locally.

Thailand is Cambodia's third biggest trading partner with value of $550 million in 2007, behind China ($750 million) and Vietnam ($650 million), he said.

''Cambodia is a net-importer country with most of products shipped from Thailand, Vietnam and China. The trading business is shown to have the highest growth, expanding relative to stable gross domestic products (GDP) growth which is expected at 7.5% in 2008.''

Major products imported to Cambodia are construction materials such as cement, roofing materials, ceramic tiles, sanitaryware and steel.

Its subsidiary, Cementhai SCT (Cambodia) Co. also exports waste paper and aluminium scrap from Cambodia to supply many factories in Thailand, he added.

The construction business, according to Mr Kalin, is among sectors that have shown strong prospects in the neighbouring country along with oil and gas, plantations and agro-industries and labour-intensive ventures such as garments and logistics.

In every sector, many foreign and local companies have stepped up investments in Cambodia. Infrastructure is being built to lure more investors, he said.

Office buildings and serviced apartments are in high demand for expatriates. Several South Korean developers are investing in condominiums in Phnom Penh while the construction market is growing dramatically in Siem Reap and Kampong Som, added Mr Kalin.

''There are many oil and gas exploration activities in Cambodia, boosting the demand for related materials such as piping and structural steel for rigs,'' he said.

In the agricultural sector, Chinese and Thai investors are investing in plantation projects in Cambodia. Major crops are rice with tapioca, palm oil, and rubber becoming more attractive for investors.

Mr Kalin played down the impact of the border dispute over the Preah Vihear temple, saying it would not last long.

''The dispute has not affected our operations much,'' he said. ''With our strong distribution network and many local staff, we are ready to move on with our business plan there and adapt to all situations.''

Siam Cement (SCC) shares closed yesterday on the SET at 158 baht, unchanged, in trade worth 83.9 million baht.

Cambodia's S-21 jail up for UNESCO list

Press Tv
Thu, 04 Sep 2008

Thousands of photos and documents from Khmer Rouge's S-21 torture center in Cambodia have been submitted to UNESCO for global recognition.

The UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization said it is working on the Cambodian government's application to get the notorious S-21 prison - now known as Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum - and its torture archives listed in the agency's Memory of the World program.

The detailed S-21 archives document the fate of the 16,000 men, women and children who passed through the S-21 prison gates, only 14 of whom are thought to have survived.

An estimated 1.7 million people died as a result of the Khmer Rouge's radical policies from 1975 to 1979.

The victims died from torture, disease, starvation, overwork and executions across the country, but S-21 remains unique for its harrowing and painstaking documentation of Khmer Rouge atrocities.

S-21 documents include 4,186 confessions, 6,226 prisoner biographies, 6,147 photos, demolished buildings, research activities, mass graves and remains of victims.

The Memory of the World program guarantees regional recognition and promotes preservation, digitalization, and public access to member sites and documents, according to UNESCO.

Cambodia’s killing fields revisited

The Jewish Journal

By Phillip Nazarian, Tribe Contributor

I can vividly remember the first time I visited the Museum of Tolerance, in seventh grade. Not personally knowing anyone who had survived the Holocaust, I had been shielded from the grisly details of World War II. Simon Wiesenthal's museum showed how horrible the Holocaust actually was and left me appalled for days.

I had a very similar experience this summer when I visited Cambodia with Rustic Pathways, a company that takes students to the underdeveloped regions of the world to participate in various community-service outreach programs. After hearing the chairman of Rustic Pathways, David Venning, speak about the genocide sites of Cambodia, I knew that some way or another I would get myself on his trip. I had originally planned to go to the northern region of Thailand, but the day before I left I changed my plans and set out for Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia.

In 1975, during the Vietnam War, an extremist communist party, the Khmer Rouge, took over Cambodia. Pol Pot, its leader, planned to turn Cambodia into an example of Maoist Communism. His vision was to get rid of all intellectuals and to have everyone work as farmers and live equally. During this takeover, the Khmer government trafficked many people out of the cities and into the farmlands. Those who were deemed dangerous to the government (the educated, the ruling class and just about anyone with a different point of view), were systematically tortured in the notorious S-21 building and killed in mass graves, which became known as the killing fields.

While in Cambodia, we visited the killing fields and S-21 (Toul Sleng), a high school that was turned into a security prison. S-21 is located in an average neighborhood, and from a distance looks like a normal school building.

But as soon as I approached, I noticed the barbed wire along the walls. Once inside it was evident what a horrible place it really was. Each room still had the torturing tools lying on the floor, while in the hallway I could still see dried blood on the floor. Every time I entered a new room, feelings of uneasiness, sadness and detestation overcame me.

And the final rooms of the prison were filled with the pictures of the prisoners. Every single person had a look of misery and emptiness. Pictures of the prisoners that hung on the walls not only honored the victims, but put a face to the genocide; those in S-21 were tortured and interrogated and sent to the killing fields after a few days. In the end, no one escaped or survived Toul Sleng.

The killing fields are located a short distance away from S-21. It was hard for me to imagine how tens of thousands of innocent people could be systematically killed and buried in mass graves in a field that is only a couple of acres. The field is so small that I had to maneuver my way through the small paths that surrounded the mass graves.

These mass graves are very similar to those of World War II. The people were ordered to dig their own graves and as soon as they finished, they were summarily killed and buried. But instead of shooting the prisoners, in Cambodia they would execute them with everything from hammers to sharpened tree branches. There are still bones half-buried in the ground and piles of clothes next to the graves.

In the center of the field there is a stupa, a memorial for all who were killed during Pol Pot's rule, towering over the undeveloped region. This tower, however, is filled with thousands and thousands of human skulls. I understood that I was standing in the exact place where so many were killed senselessly.

These fields have been compared to Auschwitz, and even though I have never visited that sight, I could imagine that one would get a very similar feeling. An estimated 1.7 million people died under Pol Pot's rule alone. This number might not seem comparable to the 6 million Jews lost in the Holocaust, but in reality 21 percent of the population was wiped out in just four years. The systematic killings have left their mark on the Cambodian people -- it is almost impossible to find more than a few people over the age of 60 in a single day in Phnom Penh.

It may appear that Southeast Asia is finally recovering, but if you take a closer look, you notice that many things have not changed. For the past 20 years, the Burmese government has been burning hill tribe villages and carrying out an "ethnic cleansing." Burma's Karen, Shan and Karenni people have been targeted because they refuse to concede power to the government. This genocide is not well known because the Burmese government conducts all of its attacks in secret and does not let any information leave the country.

So, in response, the best thing that you can do is spread the word.

Elie Wiesel put it best: "None of us is in a position to eliminate war, but it is our obligation to denounce it and expose it in all its hideousness.... Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented."

Phillip Nazarian in the 11th grade at Brentwood School.

Awards spotlight businesses in VN, Laos and Cambodia


HA NOI — An awards programme for outstanding enterprises and businesses in Laos, Cambodia and Viet Nam will be held in Ha Noi early next year.

The event is jointly organised by the Viet Nam Association for Small and Medium-sized Enterprise, the Ministry of Defence’s Economic Department and the Association for Economic Development of Viet Nam-Laos-Cambodia.

Prizes will be given to outstanding enterprises and business people who run their business effectively and have been active in social charity work.

"Prizes will also be given to enterprises and business people earning outstanding achievements and investing in economic development in the three countries," said organisers.

Eligibility for the competition requires enterprises and business people to have actively contributed to the friendship between the three countries; earned high growth rates from high-quality products; have strong and attractive trade-marks as well as a good business culture while obeying laws and protecting the environment.

Judges for the competition will include representatives from relevant ministries, the embassies of Laos and Cambodia in Viet Nam and Vietnamese embassies in Laos and Cambodia.

Representative from friendship associations between the three countries will also be on the judging panel.

Applications can be submitted from now until November 30, 2008. — VNS

Sam Rainsy appeals to the King Father

Cambodge Soir


The President of the SRP has just written a mail to Norodom Sihanouk. In the light of the internal and external problems of the country, the intervention of the “Father of the Nation” should make it possible to get out of this debacle.

“We’re requesting the intervention of the King Father in order to solve the current problems of the country”, declared Sam Rainsy to Cambodge Soir Hebdo. External difficulties through the border dispute between Cambodia and Thailand. But also internal problems, “with the looming political crisis which might lead to a period of uncertainties and instability”, did the SRP President specify.

According to him, Norodom Sihanouk is the last resort in order to defend “the superior interests of the nation, as father of the nation, of the independence, of national unity and reconciliation and of the integrity of Cambodia”.

The opposition leader explains that in his mail he brings up the question: ‘Thanks to the Paris Agreements of 1991, guaranteeing the territorial integrity of the country, and which Thailand has signed, we have a unique tool to ensure the respect of our borders. Why isn’t the government using it?” Sam Rainsy offers an explanation; according to him these agreements represent “a double edged sword” for the government, because in return of these historical agreements, Cambodia committed to organising free elections and improving the human rights situation.

Moreover, Sam Rainsy summarises the internal situation of Cambodia in one sentence: “One doesn’t steal the land of the farmers and one doesn’t gag the opposition”. His party has used all the recourses regarding the July elections, validated since by the National Election Committee.

Concerning the nature of Norodom Sihanouk’s action, the politician simply retorts: ‘I’m asking him to intervene in one way or another in order to save the endangered motherland. The King Father has experience, prestige, and receives respect from the people, which is necessary to solve those problems”.

Rong Chhun requests the Government to reduce oil prices

Cambodge Soir


The President of the Independent Teacher’s Association of Cambodia has asked the government why the prices at the service stations remained unchanged despite the price decrease of the oil barrel.

Rong Chhun contacted the Prime Minister Hun Sen by mail on Wednesday 3 September. The trade union member justifies his request to lower the oil prices by mentioning the context of global changes. “The oil price has decreased on the global market. Today one barrel (200 litres) costs 109 dollars, in other words 40 dollars lower than the last months. Within this context, logically the oil prices in Cambodia shouldn’t exceed 4000 riel per litre”, explained Ron Chhun.

To this day however, one litre of regular fuel costs 5300 riel at the pump, while super costs 5400 riel, in other words a decrease of a few hundreds of riel compared to the previous days. This is positive already but still not enough, according to the union member. “Each time the price of goods increases, the government blames the international market. But now that the fuel price decreased on the global market, why don’t the prices in Cambodia follow this trend?”, asked Ron Chhun.

The Khmer Rouge Tribunal once again lacking funds

Cambodge Soir


Umpteenth new development at the KRT: the court lacks the means to pay its United Nations staff from October onwards.

This was announced to the Cambodge Soir Hebdo by Reach Sambath, one of the tribunal’s spokespersons, and is a supplementary illustration of the budgetary problems of the court. Despite this problem, the ECCC have until now always found a solution and the donors always ended up freeing up more funds. Will history repeats itself once again?

The fact remains that the 4th plenary session of the magistrates started with a strange feeling, on Monday 1st of September in Phnom Penh. Until the 5th of September, about thirty participants will concentrate on several amendments to interior regulations. In his opening speech, the President of the Supreme Court, Kong Srim, didn’t hide his worries concerning the tribunal’s lack of funds. The new estimation established by David Tolbert, expert at the United Nations (Editor’s note: 104 million dollars in order to function until 2009) “points to reducing the number of staff, particularly within the administration”, did he explain. However, he did confirm that the ECCC have sufficient funds to pay the Cambodian staff until March 2009. David should have taken the floor during the first session but this wouldn’t have been appreciated by the Cambodian magistrates. The drastic budgetary cuts recommended by the expert seem a bitter pill to swallow for some. ,

And as if this wasn’t enough, the corruption problems came back to the surface, voiced by the New Zealand judge, Silvia Cartwright, in session in the Pre-trial Chambers. “We have to gather all our efforts in order for these allegations to disappear before the start of the trials. We all agree on the fact that they shouldn’t be tainted by corruption”. The magistrate also paid homage to the work of David Tolbert. ”Without his intervention, the Extraordinary Chambers would be very badly off”.

Census Results Show that the Population of Cambodia Is 13,388,910

Posted on 5 September 2008
The Mirror, Vol. 12, No. 576

“Phnom Penh: On 3 September 2008, the Ministry of Planning announced, under the presidency by Mr. Sar Kheng, a Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Interior, the results of the general census of Cambodian citizens in 2008.

“According to the temporary results of a countrywide census published on 3 March 2008, the number of Cambodian citizens is 13,388,910 persons, out of which 6,495,512 are male and 6,893,398 are female. Based on these results, the numbers of citizens increases slower than before, because the birth rate declined, which is in line with the predictions and the expectations.

“Mr. Chhay Than, Senior Minister and Minister of Planning, said that after the 1962 census which concluded that the number of citizens of Cambodia was 5.7 million, there was no other census conducted during a period of more than three decades because of a continuing internal crisis. The fist census was conducted in 1998, and the second in 2008 - exactly ten years ago.

“Mr. Chhay Than continued that the census in 2008 coverd 2.8 million families living in different regions of the twenty four provinces and cities countrywide. Almost all families were interviewed and counted during a time period of eleven days. Families living at home, but also at institutions such as hotels, guesthouses, pagodas, hospitals, and prisons were interviewed and counted also.

“Senior Minister Chhay Than added that special arrangements were made to count the number of citizens who are homeless, citizens who move from place to place, and citizens living on boats.

“There were 28,000 interviewing officials and 7,000 supervising officials to meet all families to count and to interview the members of families, and to complete questionnaire tables. There were 72 provincial and city census officials, 500 instructors, 370 district census officials, 1,621 commune census officials, 500 translators, and more interviewing and supervising officials for special regions, such as camps and military bases.

“Mr. Chhay Than went on to say that according to the temporary results of the general census in 2008, compiling all figures [from the previous eleven days of interviews] by 0:00 a.m. on 3 March 2008, the population of Cambodia was 13,388,910, among which there are 6,495,512 males and 6,893,398 females. Compared to the population in the Southeast Asian region, the number of Cambodian citizens is 2.3% of the numbers of citizens in the [completely undefined] region.

“Mr. Sar Kheng, a Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior, said that a census is a task that aims at getting all statistical data needed for the creation of policies, activity programs, administrative management, as well as various decisions that follow the reality of the country.

“Mr. Sar Kheng added that so far, the tasks of the census, its operation at the basis, and the data collection went smoothly according to plans. The Deputy Prime Minister said that a census is the only source of information about the number, and the characteristics of the citizens.

“Deputy Prime Minister Sar Kheng said also that the census provides also the basis for selective patterns of society, as well as the starting point using population numbers for predictions of future population developments, and it is an important factor when planning for various sectors.

“Mr. Sar Kheng thanked the United Nations Population Fund [UNFPA], the Japan International Cooperation Agency [JICA], and the government of Germany that had provided technical assistance and funds to support the census in 2008, which is important in the history of Cambodia to develop the country.”

Kampuchea Thmey, Vol.7, #1737, 4.9.2008
Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Thursday, 4 September 2008

Ranariddh Party Continues Push for Pardon

Prince Norodom Ranariddh

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

The Norodom Ranariddh Party is pushing Prime Minister Hun Sen to pardon its exiled leader, offering to bring its two National Assembly seats in line with the ruling party in exchange, officials said Thursday.

The Norodom Ranariddh Party won two seats in the election, and if it sides with the opposition, it will create a block of 31 National Assembly votes capable of drafting motions critical of the government.

Without the Norodom Ranariddh Party, the opposition Sam Rainsy and Human Rights parties can only muster 29 votes, one vote short under the constitution of drafting critical legislation or forwarding motions to call government officials to answer policy questions before the Assembly.

Prince Norodom Ranariddh faces an 18-month prison sentence and a fine of $150,000 if he returns to Cambodia, on breach of trust charges stemming from the sale of Funcinpec party headquarters in 2006, when he was president of the party.

The Norodom Ranariddh Party has requested a pardon from King Norodom Sihamoni, but royal officials say the king has sought agreement for a pardon from Hun Sen.

NRP spokesman Suth Dina said Thursday the party's two seats have political value for the ruling Cambodian People's Party to help it avoid problems from the opposition.

"If Prince Ranariddh joins in the opposition alliance, it will make trouble for the CPP, because we have more than 30 elements to criticize the government," he said. "We believe that the CPP, especially Prime Minister Hun Sen, will not let the prince stay with the opposition and will pardon the prince, for returning home."

Suth Dina did not say Thursday whether the Norodom Ranariddh Party was ready to join the opposition coalition. The party broke with the opposition by accepting the legitimacy of the election shortly after the polls.

Government spokesman Khieu Kanharith said Thursday the prince cannot be pardoned.
"The court sentenced him already," he said. "But the king and the prime minister can ask the court to suspend the prince's guilty sentence, and then the prince can go back home."

'No Panic' in Dwindling UN Funds for Tribunal

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

The UN side of the Khmer Rouge tribunal could run out of funding as early as the end of October and definitely by the end of the year, a spokesmen said Thursday, but he expressed confidence donors would continue to support the courts.

"We know the funds we have will only last through the fourth quarter of 2008," said Peter Foster, a spokesman for the UN side of the tribunal. "That means it could run out of money in October or September, or it could last all the way through December, depending on how much we spend each month. With the money we have, it's almost impossible for us to continue beyond the end of the year, no matter what adjustments we make. Then we are truly out of money."

However, tribunal administrators were "very confident" of getting the funding necessary to continue proceedings against five jailed leaders of the regime, Foster said.

"There is no panic about us not receiving the money," he said. "The donors have expressed their approval over the revised budget, and it's just a matter of finding out when and who will be providing funds."

The UN has enlisted the aid of special expert David Tolbert, who spent the last two weeks in Cambodia and left Thursday. Tolbert, who met with Deputy Prime Minister Sok An on his visit, is traveling from country to country to seek additional funding from donors.

Tribunal spokesman Reach Sambath said Thursday the UN side of the courts did not have more funding from the international community to meet new budget requirements for continued operation through the end of 2009.

The new requirements seek $40 million for the UN side and $10 million for the Cambodian side.
There has been little contribution from the international community since fresh allegations of kickbacks arose .

France has so far donated $1 million to the courts, including $250,000 to the Cambodian side earlier this year.

The Cambodian side is still looking for more than $6 million to complete its requirement, following donations from Japan, Australia and France and $1 million from the Cambodian government.

FBI Team En Route To Aid Murder Case

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

A team of FBI investigators will arrive in Cambodia later this month to help police investigate the murder of opposition journalist Khim Sambor.

The team will include at least two sketch artists, said Phnom Penh Police Chief Brig. Gen. Touch Naroth.

Cambodian police and the FBI will meet one or two times a week to exchange information on the investigation, he said. Police met with an FBI official from the US Embassy last week, he said.

Khim Sambor was shot dead in Phnom Penh on July 11, along with his 21-year-old son, Khat Sarin Pheatha, two weeks ahead of national elections, and his killers are still at large.

Touch Naroth said Thursday the motive was not considered political, but police believe the killers were targeting Khim Sambor's son.

Khim Sambor's wife and two daughters were quietly granted asylum and fled to a Western country in late August, Chan Saveth, an investigator for the rights group Adhoc, said Thursday.

A Lot of Energy at Convention: Observer

Former ambassador Sichan Siv

By Poch Reasey, VOA Khmer
Original report from Washington
04 September 2008

The Republican National Convention, underway in St. Paul, Minn., was back on track Wednesday, following the distraction of Hurrican Gustav, and participants were showing a lot of energy, a Cambodian former ambassador said.

Sichan Siv, a former US ambassador to the United Nations, is attending the convention, which officially named Sen. John McCain as the party's presidential candidate.

Sichan Siv told VOA Khmer by phone from the convention McCain made a good candidate because of his lifelong achievements in public office and the military.

McCain is a veteran pilot of the Vietnam War, and was held for years as a prisoner of war.

McCain's foreign policy experience in dealing with Asia also made him a good choice, Sichan Siv said, dismissing concerns of the candidate's age, 72.

With advancements in medicine, Sichan Siv said, people will soon live beyond 100 years of age.

No Need for Package Administration: Analyst

By Sok Khemara, VOA Khmer
Original report from Washington
04 September 2008

Khmer audio aired 04 September 2008 (1.13 MB) - Download (MP3)
Khmer audio aired 04 September 2008 (1.13 MB) - Listen (MP3)

A plan by the Cambodian People's Party to seek package approval of the executive branch following the formation of the National Assembly later this month is not necessary, a political analyst said Wednesday.

In 2004, the CPP broke a deadlock that had lasted nearly a year after the national election by implementing a controversial constitutional amendment allowing package voting. The package vote led to the mass appointment of government ministers, circumventing one-by-one approval for each.

"This time the circumstances are normal and there is no need to use the [amendment]," said Lao Monghay, a researcher for the Asian Human Rights Commission.

The package approval should be sought when "severe obstacles" exist in the formation of the administration, he said. If not, there can be internal problems within the winning party.

The CPP's win of 90 parliamentary seats, officially announced earlier this week, means the party can form a government on its own. However, party officials say they plan to share some lower ministerial positions with their old coalition partner, Funcinpec.

CPP lawmaker Cheam Yiep confirmed Wednesday the party would move for package approval of the administration.

The package vote will "speed up the process" in creating the new government, he said, denying internal problems within the party was the cause.

Two acclaimed short films to get free screening in Phnom Penh

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Anita Surewicz
Thursday, 04 September 2008

Jason Rosette's award-winning BookWars examines the lives of street vendors, while a young rocker discovers AC/DC in Vuth Learns to Rock

TWO films, BookWars (2000) and Vuth Learns to Rock (2008), produced by Camerado, a Phnom Penh media company, will be screened in the capital this weekend.

The critically acclaimed documentary, BookWars, directed by Jason Rosette, the mastermind behind Camerado, and co-produced by Academy Award nominated producer-filmmaker Michel Negroponte, depicts the "gritty world of New York City street booksellers … told in a remarkable story that chronicles their lives, their loves, and their unique perspectives on life … see the NYPD, the University, and the Mayor try to shut them down!" states a Camerado newsletter.

Winner of the New York Underground Film Festival and IFP Gotham Award nominee, BookWars' action unfolds in New York's two bookselling hotspots, the Washington Square Park area and on Sixth Avenue, where Rosette himself began selling books in the mid-1990s.

Turning fierce

The film depicts the trials and tribulations of a diverse cast of characters including Pete, an artist who started buying used books to gather collage material and ended up selling them; Thomas, who becomes a fierce community organizer when the bookselling scene begins to disintegrate; and Rick, a young street magician and friend of Rosette.

The event will also feature a sneak preview of the new film Vuth Learns to Rock, starring Phnom Penh's own Jun "Rocker" from Zepplin Rock Cafe. This will be the first public screening of this "short rock-doc about a young Cambodian named Vuth who learns the ways of rock and roll from a Master Rocker – watch as Vuth hears the Ramones, the Kinks, AC/DC and others for the first time," says the Camerado newsletter.

The screenings will be held on the top floor of Pannasastra University, 184 Norodom Boulevard, at 3pm on Saturday. Rosette will attend to facilitate discussion and answer questions following the screenings.

Lovestruck high schoolers neglect studies, skip classes

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Mom Kunthear and Chrann Chamroeun
Thursday, 04 September 2008

Official blames increasing truancies on students wanting to spend more time with boyfriends, girlfriends rather than at schoolMORE and more

Cambodian high school students are playing hooky, as they pay more attention to their love lives than their studies.

Even though he knows it impacts his schoolwork, 19-year-old Chan Virak, who is in the 12th grade at Preah Sisovat High School, said he usually spends more time thinking about his girlfriend than studying.

"I have had a girlfriend since I was in the 10th grade, but I don't let my parents know as I don't want them to stop me or blame me. Sometimes I don't feel like taking an exam or studying when my girlfriend calls me to go for a walk. I have to miss school to go with her, and if I don't go she will be angry with me," Chan Virak said.

Doing what they want to do

Hoy Sochivanny, coordinator of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), said parents didn't realise the extent of truancy for love.

"Now there are a lot of young students who are crazy about love and are going out without thinking about their studying," she said.

"Before, all high school students paid attention to their studies, but now they don't care about their schoolwork. I think now they think they know more about their rights, and some students say it is their right to do what they want. It will only become more difficult if we do not educate or pay attention to them," Hoy Sochivanny said.

Twenty-two-year-old Srey Moa said she had boyfriends when she was at high school and found this interfered with her schoolwork.

"I came to school every day but I rarely entered the class and preferred to go for a walk with my boyfriend. I loved my boyfriend more than study because love made me happier," she said.

" There are a lot of young students who are crazy about love without thinking.... "

Keo Lay, 19, who studies in 11th grade at Preah Sisovat also spends a lot of time with his girlfriend, but Keo Lay thinks that being in love as a student is not bad and doesn't necessarily have a negative impact.

"I think it is not bad to be in love when you are a student because it can change you for the better. Before I always missed class, but since I have had a girlfriend for a year, I have changed. Having a sweetheart helps us to solve our problems together.

"It does not affect my studies because I concentrate on my studies and schedule the time to make a date with her on the weekends," he said.

Hoy Sochivanny said CEDAW has plans to educate parents through television and radio as well as work with schools to pay greater attention to students' attendance.

"I think it is very difficult to try and make them change their habits or feelings towards study, but we will try our best to change them to be better students."

Rise of machines could spur economic boom

PHOTO SUPPLIED; Farmers demonstrate a machine used to shred tree branches to use as fertiliser in Kampong Thom province. A shortage of farmhands is preventing Cambodia’s agriculture sector from realising its full potential.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Kay Kimsong
Thursday, 04 September 2008

As Cambodia's agricultural sector moves to compete in a robust global market, farmers are embracing new technology over traditional methods

Proposed improvements to Cambodia's agricultural infrastructure and a growing reliance on agribusiness as a principal engine of economic growth are changing the way farmers produce and market their goods.

Srey Bun Doeun, who earned a master's degree in agricultural engineering after studying in Russia and Thailand, spent more than a decade waiting to find a market for his skills in the production of machines that simplify labour-intensive tasks and generally make life easier for farmers.

"I noted that Cambodian farmers have begun changing their habits," Srey Bun Doeun said. "They are moving from subsistence farming to large-scale production to compete in Cambodia's growing agro-industry."

Those changes could mean big profits for Srey Bun Doeun, a father of two whose line of homemade agricultural machines includes a waste shredder, grass cutter, cassava peeler and peanut sheller.

Shortage of farmhands

Srey Bun Doeun said his products could soon be in high demand because many farmers face a shortage of manpower to cultivate and harvest their land.

"Some farmers have hundreds of hectares of land but can't find enough workers to harvest crops," he said. "My aim is to replace people with machinery in order to increase the capacity and efficiency of the process."

" A strong and growing agricultural sector will lead to growth in other sectors as well. "

The budding industrialist works with a partner in a Meanchey district workshop that can produce as many as 30 machines each month. His prices range from US$2,500 to $3,000 per machine.

Ngov Sroy, a farmer in Kampong Thom province, purchased one of Srey Bun Doeun's waste shredders to make effective micro-organism (EM) organic fertiliser for his 30-hectare cashew plantation.

He said the production of EM materials is time-consuming but much safer for the environment than chemical-based fertilisers.

"My waste shredder is a locally made machine that can replace 20 to 30 workers," he said.

The growing popularity of agricultural machines follows a push by government officials to modernise the Kingdom's agricultural sector in the wake of booming exports.

Last month saw the beginning of negotiations with Kuwait for nearly $600 million in development loans to upgrade irrigation systems throughout the country. As agriculture plays a larger role in the national economy, farmers must increase efficiency and output to compete.

Yang Saing Koma, director of Cambodia Center for Study and Development in Agriculture, said agriculture has become the foundation of economic growth in the Kingdom, and new agricultural technologies will play a vital role in sustaining that growth and strengthening the economy as a whole

."A strong and growing agricultural sector will lead to growth in other sectors as well," he said.

New techniques needed

Kasie Noeu, former secretary of state for the Ministry of Justice and current president of the Peace and Development Institute, said traditional agricultural techniques can no longer sustain the necessary market growth.

"It is the right time for farmers with large-scale operations to take advantage of new machinery. Otherwise, they will miss an incredible opportunity," he said.

He said many Cambodian workers have turned to other labour markets in South Korea, Thailand and Malaysia for jobs in agriculture or construction, leaving a shortage of available manpower at home. "At my own farm, I can't find enough people to harvest bananas for my cattle, so I'm currently negotiating for a banana tree cutter."

Kasie Noeu said he strongly advocates innovations in agricultural engineering and hopes that new products for planting, harvesting and processing will soon be available.

"If we can employ all these machines on farms across Cambodia, our agricultural output would increase more than 100 times what we have been able to produce by traditional methods," he said.

28.5% of GDP comes from the agriculture sector
As the Kingdom moves to develop its agro-industry sector, the government is trying to push farmers to abandon traditional methods.

Srun Darith, deputy secretary general of the Council for Agricultural and Rural Development, said agriculture comprised 28.5 percent of Cambodia's GDP in 2007, but that a shift toward a new "era of machines" could see that number rise in coming years.

He said Cambodia produces more than 6 million tonnes of rice each year, only 4 million of which is consumed by the domestic market.

"If we could use machines for agriculture and use all available land, Cambodia could produce as much as 15 million tonnes of rice in a year," Srun Darith said.

ANGKOR photo fest nurtures talent

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Peter Olszewski
Thursday, 04 September 2008

FINAL preparations for The Fourth Angkor Photography Festival, to be held in Siem Reap from November 23 to 28, are now in place.

While new innovations are planned for this year, as well as a more global outlook, essential components will be retained, including a series of free workshops for aspiring photographers, who will this year be taught clicks of the craft by renowned photographers Roland Neveu, Patrick de Noirmont, Antoine d'Agata and Suthep Kritsanavarin.

They have volunteered to tutor 30 young photographers selected from throughout Asia who work in photojournalism and documentar photography.

One of the free workshops, led by Laurent Zylberman and Vincent Soyez, will also select six to eight young photographers to specialise in commercial photography.Last year, the Paris Match Award for the best reportage produced during the workshop at the festival was given to Indian photojournalist Selva Prakash for a powerful photo essay about Aids patients and their families in Siem Reap.

Photography workshops for the children from the Anjali centre will also be held, and festival-end will see a fundraising auction for the Anjali children, with prints donated by world-famous photographers.

Temple watch: Off the beaten track

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Dave Perkes
Thursday, 04 September 2008

ONE of the most mysterious and atmospheric venues in Angkor is the West Gate of Angkor Thom, at the end of a recently-improved gravel track. It is used by locals as a route from villages to the ancient reservoir of Western Baray, and tourists are a rarity.

The old laterite road has been subject to wear, so new wooden ramps were constructed this month as further protection.

A pleasant diversion on this route is the small temple tower of Prasat Top West. The temple, which can be accessed via a narrow track, is a very peaceful spot and a great place to get away from the crowds. To help find it, watch for some Apsara Authority bollards on the left of the main route about 800 metres from the Bayon.

For those who want a peaceful walk, the walls of Angkor Thom have a wide path at the top, with a sloping earth bank forming the inner wall. You can easily take the route from any of the five main gates, and see any of the four Prasat Chrung Corner temples. The route from the North Gate to the West Gate is best for the afternoons. The walk from the East, or Victory Gates, to North Gate is best in the mornings.

Much ado about mall opening

PETER OLSZEWSKI; Crowds throng the streets outside of the newly-opened Lucky Mall in Siem Reap.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Peter Olszewski
Thursday, 04 September 2008

Thronging shoppers snarl traffic for elaborate grand-opening ceremony

THOUSANDS of people flocked to worship at the opening of that glittering new temple of mammon, the Lucky Mall shopping centre in Siem Reap last Thursday night, and the crowd continued to mill and throb through the weekend.

On Thursday evening there were near-hysterical scenes as shoppers trying to access the centre blocked one of the city's main thoroughfares, Sivatha Boulevard, creating a traffic jam. Police frantically worked to divert traffic, as consumers hell-bent on spending spilled out of the arcade, over the forecourt, and onto the roadway itself.

Festivities began at 8am with an opening ceremony that had the pomp and circumstance of an affair of state. Seated on a dais were uniformed military officials and several dignitaries, including His Excellency Sou Phirin, governor of Siem Reap, and the CEO of the Lucky Market Group, Heng Hang Meng, and his wife.

A blessing dance preceeded the speeches, which were followed by a ribbon-cutting ceremony and pyrotechnics.

Festivities kicked off again at 6pm with entertainment that included a fashion show, prize draws, a game segment and DJ party music.

On the same day big crowds also gathered at an outdoor music event heralding the opening of a new super electronics goods centre, Sunsimexco Co Ltd, on the Phnom Penh side of National Road 6.

Again, it was almost impossible to push through the mainly Khmer roadside crowd to gain access to the centre, to see the displays of supersize TVs, white goods, and the latest in digital music players, computers and cameras.

Meanwhile, on Wednesday evening, the Angkor Trade Centre, which had been the city's only modern shopping centre, tried to crash the action by having its own roadside celebrations. But it rained on that parade and constant drizzle killed the party.

In Brief: School soon to have new buildings

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Peter Olszewski
Thursday, 04 September 2008

Construction is proceeding on schedule for new classrooms at Wat Mon Thyean Primary School in Kok Russey Kang Cherng village, Dan Run commune, Sautr Nikom district, 35 kilometres from Siem Reap. The "incomplete" primary school only offers grades 1-4 in two run-down wooden classrooms. Students travel three or four kilometres further along high-traffic roads for grades 5-6, so many kids do not complete primary school. The new classrooms will enable the addition of grades 5 and 6 as well as a kindergarten and should help improve primary school completion rates. The project is an initiative of Schools for Children of Cambodia (SCC), a British-registered charity established in 2003. Work commenced on June 30 and is slated for completion on October 13. The contractor is PHV Construction Co Ltd. The US$61,000 cost was provided by the village community and SCC's private, international donors. A Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport contribution will pay salaries for teachers for the additional grades.

Putting a lid on rubbish dumping

Siem Reap's provincial Department of Environment is urging residents to stop randomly dumping rubbish. Department vehicles have been spreading the gospel via loudspeakers, focusing initially on the more scenic riverside districts, and deputy director Khoeurn Sokunvisith told the Post that the campaign has been effective. "There has been a lot of improvement, but there's still work to be done," he said. The campaign has pointed out the health benefits of ridding the streets of rubbish and informed people where rubbish can be placed to be collected. Unn Sophary

New show to take audiences through history of Angkor Wat's 'discovery'

Photo Supplied; Organisers are ready to top last year’s lavish Angkor Wat multimedia spectacular with a new production at the end of this year.

PETER OLSZEWSKI; Bayon CM Organizer general manager Ladda Patthanun Chaiprasert gets ready to put on a show.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Peter Olszewski
Thursday, 04 September 2008

Extravaganza to follow French explorer A.H. Mouhot on dreamlike journey through Khmer legends

IT'S been described as a cross between television historical-romance razzmatazz, mysticism and a traditional music-and-dance stage spectacular, and the promoters call it a "sensory odyssey through magnificent multimedia performances".

But whatever you call it, it was, in showbiz parlance, a smash hit when it debuted last year at Angkor Wat.

A new version of the show will run again during the coming peak tourism season. The lavish outdoor performance is called The Legend of Angkor Wat and subtitled "When History Comes to Life". It will run for six weeks, from December 5, 2008, to January 31, 2009, at an under-the-stars venue set up inside Angkor Wat itself. Performances will be held nightly except Sundays, Christmas Eve (December 24) and New Year's Eve (December 31).

While tickets are not cheap - $60 for standard and $80 for premium seats - sales through international agencies have already been brisk. In August more than 3,000 tickets were sold in Japan alone.

The outdoor venue has 100 VIP seats, 400 premium seats and 400 standards seats, and, if the season is sold out, the collective audience will total almost 50,000.

The show is organised by Siem Reap's Bayon CM Organizer Co Ltd, a joint venture with Bayon TV General manager Ladda Patthanun Chaiprasert said the venture is put together with the cooperation of the Ministry of Tourism and the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts.

All historic and cultural details of the show, the script and choreography were developed and supervised by Proeung Chhieng, vice rector and dean of the Faculty of Choreographic Arts, at Phnom Penh's Royal University of Fine Arts. A crew of over 120 helps stage the show which has a cast of 160.

The show has a storyline that criss-crosses in time, centering on the adventures of 19th-century French philologist and explorer Alexandre Henri Mouhot who is mistakenly credited for "discovering" the Angkor complex. While other foreigners had been aware of its existence, Mouhot's visit and his evocative writings popularised the temples in the West, and the rest is, as they say, history.

The Legends show plays with that history, beginning with Mouhot's arrival at Angkor in 1860. He lapses into unconsciousness and, in his dream state, a beautiful Apsara woman guides him back in time to the legendary beginning of Khmer civilisation, with the marriage of the daughter of the king of the nagas.

Subsequent scenes take Mouhot through the King Suryavarman II era, and then it gets even more weird: an exploration of the creation of Apsaras.

As Muslim community grows, so do Kingdom's ties to Arab states

HENG CHIVOAN; Kuwaiti Prime Minister Sheikh Nasser Mohammed Al-Ahmed Al-Sabah during a state visit this year.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Brendan Brady and Thet Sambath
Thursday, 04 September 2008

Over $700 million has been pledged to the nation over the last six months by land-hungry Arab nations, raising concern that their rising influence will radicalise Cambodian Muslims

IN the last six months, more than US$700 million has been pledged to the Kingdom by oil-rich Gulf states, sparking concerns among Western diplomats that the vast investments could be used not just to kick start the agricultural sector, but also to radicalise Cambodia's small but increasingly significant Muslim population.

"There are some organisations here from the Middle East that are very radical and that are very intolerant, and they are trying very hard to change the attitude and the atmosphere of the Muslim population here in Cambodia," said outgoing American Ambassador Joseph Mussomeli in his farewell speech to reporters on August 25.

At a time when rising international commodity prices have given a new imperative to food security and made food export more lucrative, Cambodia, with its vast swaths of under-utilised farmland, is in a strong position to form relationships with cash-loaded but nonarable Arab nations.

In April, the emirate of Qatar said it would invest some $200 million in Cambodian farmland.

Last month, the Gulf state of Kuwait announced it would give Cambodia more than $500 million in soft loans and revealed plans to establish an embassy in Cambodia - which, were it to happen, would mark the first embassy from an Arab nation to open in Phnom Penh.

"Kuwait, of course, is a very wealthy country, so in ways it could be very helpful to Cambodia economically.... The one thing we all need to be careful about is what the money is going to," Mussomeli said.

Cambodian Muslims are "very open and tolerant of other countries", Mussomeli said, but he cautioned that as a very poor community they are vulnerable to being manipulated by groups offering money who "are much more rigid fundamentalists in their perspective and who certainly don't like foreigners or other religions".

Islamic ties

The recent series of high-level state visits from Kuwait and Qatar represent the newest round of contact from Arab countries.


Beginning in the early 1990s, money from Malaysia and the Middle East flowed into Cambodia's Muslim community, ostensibly to rejuvenate a minority community that had been devastated by the Khmer Rouge and needed to solidify its rightful place in Cambodian society, Cambodian Muslim leaders say.

The primary focus of the most recent state visits have been trade. Yet cultural ties are also at stake: Kuwait pledged some $5 million for Cambodian Islamic institutions, including renovating the dilapidated International Dubai Mosque near Boeung Kak lake.

Ahmad Yahya, a government adviser and president of the Cambodian Islamic Development Association, told the Post on Monday that the new facilities at the Boeung Kak mosque were necessary to accommodate the steadily growing Muslim community.

He described the prospect the having Arab embassies in Cambodia as being "symbolically very significant for our community here".

He added that the Muslim community in Cambodia "has just begun to grown up" and pointed to a series of recent gestures by Prime Minister Hun Sen as a sign that it is receiving the respect it deserves.

Within the last year, Hun Sen has called for a Muslim prayer room at the international airport, instructed educators to allow Muslim girls to wear a hijab in the classroom and granted Cham leaders an hour of free airtime for Cham language broadcasts on public radio - all of which Ahmad Yahya called a "big achievement for us".

In response to concerns by Western countries - particularly the US - over how the money will be used, he responded: "If the money goes to individuals and NGOs and no one monitors it, then maybe you have reason to be afraid; but the money is going to the Cambodian government, so why worry about it?"

Domestic recognition

Sith Ybrahim, a secretary of state at the Ministry of Religion, said in an August 28 interview with the Post that the good relationship Hun Sen has maintained with the Cham community has encouraged Islamic countries to give loans to Cambodia and that while "some countries like the USA are unhappy that Cambodia is receiving money from Kuwait, it doesn't affect the feelings of the Muslim people here".

"Some say the money can help make Cambodian Muslims radical, but it won't," he said.

Yet past cases have put an uncomfortable spotlight on Cambodia's Muslim community. In May 2003, police raided the al-Mukara Islamic school. Three foreign-born men as well as one Cambodian man and the Saudi charity that ran the institution were charged with international terrorism and accused of having links to Jemaah Islamiyah, or JI, the Southeast Asian affiliate of al-Qaeda most famous for the 2002 bombings in Bali, Indonesia, that killed more than 200. I

t was later discovered that the head of JI, Riduan Isamuddin, had spent almost a year laying low in Cambodia. Another serious scare came in December 2003, when Thai Muslims living in Cambodia were arrested for allegedly plotting terrorist attacks on the US, British and Australian embassies in Phnom Penh.

In the post-September 11 world, Western authorities have continually raised concerns that Cambodia, with its record of poor law enforcement and easy cross-border access, is a vulnerable site for money laundering and purchasing arms, as well as other illicit activities that support terrorism.

Cambodian Chams

Most of Cambodia's 320,000 Muslims, as estimated in 2006 by Cham specialist, Norwegian Bjorn Blengsli, are ethnically Cham, whose practices have traditionally been moderate. But Blengsli has noted a rise of fundamentalism in the Cham community, in particular of Wahhabism, an austere form of Islam originating from Saudi Arabia that he said is now taught in more than half of the Cham community's religious schools.

"Economic ties between Cambodia and Arab countries will lead to more funding for Islamic organisations in Cambodia and, since they are often unhappy with the purity of Islam as it's practiced here, there will be increasing Arab influence on local Muslim practices," Blengsli said.

The penetration of Islamic missionaries, as well as development and educational organisations into Cambodia, is problematic because of the isolation some of these groups encourage, said Alberto Perez, a Cham researcher who is based in Phnom Penh.

"It's extremely difficult for new understanding of Islam brought from the Middle East to find expression in politics and mainstream public life [in Cambodia]," he said.

"The result is that greater Islamisation tends to result in greater separation from Khmer society - a bubble within which they can put Islam into social practice far away from Khmer influence."

While Hun Sen has publicly stated that Muslims must be accepted as an integral part of the country, Perez said many Khmers continue to imagine Muslims as a foreign group and are "suspicious of their intentions because of perceived connections between them and unwanted foreign influences".

But Sith Ybrahim feels that newly formed ties between Cambodia and Islamic countries, as well as the growing presence of Cambodian Muslims in high-ranking government positions, point to a clear trend: Islam has found firm ground in Cambodia.

He added that Cham leaders want to eliminate the stigma in Cambodia associated with their religion and rid them of the "shyness" they have about their identity.

"I'm proud to be Muslim and so should be all Muslims here," he said.

Union boss pushes PM to lower fuel prices

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Kay Kimsong
Thursday, 04 September 2008

UNION activist Rong Chhun in a letter dated Wednesday lobbied Prime Minister Hun Sen to pressure petroleum companies to lower fuel prices to 4,000 riels per litre.

After a period of hikes, local fuel prices have stabilised at around 5,400 riel a litre, but have not decreased even as international crude prices dropped US$36 to around $110 per barrel from a record highs in mid-July.

"The petroleum companies can[not] reject an order from the prime minister," said Rong Chhun, the Cambodian Independent Teachers Association president. He said skyrocketing fuel prices have dealt a major blow to already cash-strapped civil servants.

Boeung Kak lawyer fails to file appeal due to court tax

HENG CHIVOAN; A Boeung Kak resident thumbprints a complaint on Tuesday.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Chhay Channyda
Thursday, 04 September 2008

The legal battle against lake developers is dashed by the court’s demanding $39.5 million in taxes to accept residents' complaints

THE lawyer representing Boeung Kak lake residents who are demanding market-price compensation for their land said Wednesday that he failed to lodge a case on their behalf with the Phnom Penh Municipal Court due to the court's demands that he pay a tax of millions of dollars.

"The tax payment is 50 percent of the money at stake in the lease agreement," said attorney Choung Choungy.

"The 99-year lease agreement between Shukaku Inc and Phnom Penh Municipality is worth over US$79 million. So the payment would have been about $39.5 million," he added.

"The demand is too high and is likely to close the way for us to bring the complaint to court," Choung Choungy said, adding that he will study the civil code to look for a loophole that will allow him to refile the documents.

A clerk at the court who met the lawyer in the morning said that, according to the law, the more money one demands, the less tax one needs to pay to lodge a complaint. "The tax is only one percent normally," the clerk said.

Lack of resolution

Also on Wednesday, representatives of Boeung Kak villagers, who marched on City Hall demanding a halt to the reclamation of the lake and fair compensation for their land met with Sok Sambath, district governor from the Daun Penh district office.

Protest leader Bun Navy told the Post that the three-hour-long meeting ended without a resolution to the residents' complaints.

"District officials in the meeting still want us to choose options offered by City Hall ," he added.

"Until now 700 families have volunteered to leave the area and decided to choose one of the two options - relocation or a cash sum," Mann Chhoeun, deputy governor of Phnom Penh, said. "The third option is for them to get houses in Boeung Kak after the area is developed."

Mann Chhoeun said that the development company has a set compensation policy requiring homeowners to give their thumbprint before being re-located or receiving money. "Homeowners must give their thumbprint to agree to the deal."

More than 30 families have torn down their homes without seeing any compensation. Protestors are also worried by rising water levels that have caused their houses to flood before they've agreed to receive compensation.