Tuesday, 16 September 2008

The touchstone of torture

(crazydrumguy.com) Water-boarding, also known as water torture, leaves no marks.

Aljazeera Magazine


The mistreatment of prisoners of war and detainees in prisons like Abu Graib and Guantanamo Bay is an indication that the U.S. foreign policy has gone bad.

By Maryam Jahedi

Torture is denial of democracy. If a country like the United States of America is promoting democracy then its actions in achieving that goal must comply with its words.

The mistreatment of prisoners of war and detainees in prisons like Abu Graib and Guantanamo Bay is an indication that the U.S. foreign policy has gone bad.

Some of the techniques used in these interrogation sites are banned under U.S. and International law, such as water-boarding, forced nudity and sexual humiliation, use of military dogs, abuse of cultural and religious beliefs, solitary confinement, sleep deprivation and stress positions held for up to 40 hours.

Rules regarding interrogation are central to fighting the war on terrorism and with no clear guidelines the interrogators are uncertain of what techniques are allowed and to what extent.

The rule of law is to treat each individual as an individual, and that means that the Geneva Convention should apply to even those suspected of terrorism.

When these prisoners of war are imprisoned with no right to a trial or hearing they are deprived of their liberty, which is a torment in itself. To conduct a war in a civilized manner everybody involved has to understand fully what the laws of the war are.

The problem is that legal loopholes allow these practices to continue. By redefining the meaning of torture and by downgrading the implications of such acts, U.S. policy- and law-makers have undermined what constitutes U.S. policy. There are two problems with torture. Firstly, by torturing the present prisoners of war we are putting our future soldiers at risk of being tortured if captured. And secondly, information attained through torture is known to be unreliable. Abiding by the Geneva Convention standards is what protects our future military forces.

When the extremist Ibn Al-Shaykh Al-Libi was tortured in U.S. custody, the information he provided regarding training his fellow extremists on chemical and biological weapons was untrue and misleading. The information gleaned led to the invasion of Iraq for the wrong reasons.

The belief that extreme pain guarantees truth is no longer valid.

In Cambodia’s Security Prison 21, the victims of tortures carried out by the Khmer Rouge regime would interweave true events with imaginary elements in their confessions. For example, torture victim Hu Nim ended his confession with the sentence, “I am not a human being, I’m an animal.”

In psychological torture illusion is everything. The technique of force-feeding water to induce the sensation of drowning has been used throughout the centuries. Water-boarding, also known as water torture, leaves no marks and the victim recovers rapidly for further interrogation.

Suffocating pain, rapid expansion of the stomach, and mental anguish are only few of the effects on the victim of water-boarding. However, the Bush administration does not regard water-boarding as torture and allows its interrogators to use the technique on prisoners of the war on terrorism.

Because torture includes a great deal of physical and psychological pain and affects mental acuity, what these victims say during their suffering could well be inaccurate. This raises the question of whether U.S. forces can legitimately use the information obtained during acts of torture. How reliable is it?

We have developed a pre-emptive philosophy but what we have forgotten is that revenge goes a long way. Torture discourages our enemies to surrender to us on the battlefield. Torture discourages noncombatants from trusting our military forces and cooperating willingly. And torture induces revenge and retaliation and excels at creating future terrorists.

Treatment of prisoners at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay, shocking arrests and disappearances of civilians in Afghanistan and Iraq, extraordinary renditions and extreme interrogation techniques have all resulted in a loss of trust between the U.S. and many of the world’s Muslims and the international community.

Let us avoid becoming a nation haunted by the tragedy of its past. We must not allow the decisions of a few politicians to destroy our beliefs, our cultures, and our identity.

Let us realize that both victim and perpetrator of torture carry the consequences for the rest of their lives, and remember that torture is a great injustice. And after all as Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”.

Let us warn future generations of this horror and write it in history that we had a part in eliminating these inhuman acts.

US urges bilateral solution to Cambodia-Thai border dispute

Trend News Agency

The United States advocated a bilateral solution to the ongoing border dispute between Thailand and Cambodia, US Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte said Tuesday.

Wrapping up a three-day official visit during which he met Foreign Minister Hor Namhong and Prime Minister Hun Sen, Negroponte said the US hoped to see a peaceful end to the dispute between the two neighbours, reported dpa.

"We think this is a dispute the differences of which should be resolved peacefully ... and preferably bilaterally," he said. "It is important the use of force and coercion be avoided at all costs."

Thai troops moved into territory around the 11th-century Preah Vihear temple on the Thai-Cambodian border in July, just one week after UNESCO awarded the temple World Heritage listing over Thai objections. Thailand says the territory is disputed land while Cambodia claims it as sovereign territory.

The Ta Moan temple complex, 150 kilometres to the west, was also occupied by Thai soldiers, Cambodia said, as was Ta Krabey, a third temple, earlier this month.

Thailand called those claims baseless and noted it has always had troops stationed near the two sites.

But Prime Minister Hun Sen let his anger over the spread of the dispute to Ta Krabey be known in statements to local media through his cabinet.

He ordered authorities to get their documents in order and be ready to go to the UN Security Council or other international bodies for third-party mediation, government spokesman Khieu Kanharith said Monday.

Pchum Ben, the authorities are calling for respect for Buddhism

Cambodge Soir


The Cambodians are celebrating the festival of the death from the 15th until the 30th of September. On this occasion, Mob Sarin, Deputy Governor of Phnom Penh, is asking the officials to cooperate in order to avoid tumult.

The National Festival Committee wants peaceful celebrations. On the occasion of the festival of the death, many problems indeed regularly affect the peaceful development of the ceremonies. This year, Mob Sarin hopes to see a better cooperation between the officials from the Ministry of Cults and the local authorities in order to avoid those events which are contrary to the Buddhist wisdom.

These recommendations concern the last day in particular, called Pchum Ben (the gathering of rice grains). After the 14 days of the Kan Ben period, Pchum Ben starts at four in the morning. The Buddhists go to the nearest pagoda in order to sprinkle the stupas with rice grains, with the collaboration of monks. For the beggars, this is the occasion to test the generosity of the people. But others take advantage of this celebration to cause trouble, alas a common practise these last years.

Besides calling for vigilance, Mob Sarin recommends that people take advantage of the event to pay tribute to the victims of the Pol Pot regime.

The Ministry of Planning anticipates decreasing inflation rates

Cambodge Soir


According to its hypothesis, the expected fall of oil prices will lead to an improved situation, while the economists worry about the consequences for the disadvantaged households.

After a constant increase, month after month, until reaching 22% last August, compared to the same period in 2007, Chhay Than, Minister of Planning, expects to see the inflation rates drop throughout the Kingdom.

The Minister is basing his analysis on the decrease of the price of the oil barrel during the coming months. A barrel which reached more than 110 dollars at the end of August, to fall back under 100 dollars last week.

“Oil is a locomotive contributing to the growing inflation, but inflation follows an identical curve once it drops”, he explained to journalists who pointed out that the increase in food prices and the fall of the dollar are also factors linked to the inflation.

Inflation, affecting all Cambodian households, is penalising the poorer households in particular. Approximately 35% of the Kingdom’s population lives under the poverty threshold. According to several economical observers, the price increase could slow down the poverty reduction program and affect the economical growth.

The opposition to boycott the first parliamentary session

Cambodge Soir


On 12 September, in a letter sent to King Norodom Sihamoni, the 26 SRP elected representatives have clearly explained their position in relation to the parliamentary session of the 24th of September: they won’t join it.

By these means, the elected representatives of the opposition are once more disputing the election results. “Our decision was taken on behalf of the millions of voters who voted for us and on behalf of the Cambodian people whose rights were abused by election frauds. Until now, not one institution brought us justice”’ did they write in this letter. They’re also requesting the King for the authorisation to take the oath separately.

The King acknowledged the mail on that same day, although he didn’t give any answer.

How to learn from election mistakes…

Cambodge Soir


On Monday 15 September, the Cambodia Development Resource Institute (CDRI) organised a conference around the last elections with the objective to learn from its mistakes in order not to repeat them.

On Monday 15 September, the Cambodia Development Resource Institute (CDRI) organised a conference around the last elections with the objective to learn from its mistakes in order not to repeat them.

Organised by the CDRI in the framework of its Cambodian electoral conflict prevention program, this conference had the objective to inform the participants about the problems which occurred during the last elections. All the personalities concerned were invited to participate in the debate: the leaders of political parties, the National Election Committee, the Provincial Deputy Governors and the organisations in charge of observing the elections.

Jo Scheuer, UNDP director, stands behind this initiative and has praised Cambodia which had, according to him, made progress in the organisation of the elections since 1998. However, he expressed his concerns regarding the transparency of the polls. Some flaws should be re-examined. “For example: the issue of the 1018 forms (temporary identity cards allowing the voters to cast their vote, editor’s note) should be better evaluated”, did he explain. The challenges of next elections, the voting procedure itself, or the ballot count were also discussed.

Only one absentee during this debate: the Sam Rainsy parti (SRP). According to its representatives this form was used in the wrong way, to such extent that they continue disputing the last results. “Our political party is currently undergoing an internal reorganisation, said Sonn Chhay, SRP spokesperson, over the phone to Cambodge Soir Hebdo. This is why we can’t join any seminar.” For what concerns the CDRI, Larry Strange, executive director, deplores that the opposition party didn’t show up, even if we do respect this decision”, he added.

Former Funcinpec Deputy Governor sentenced to 9 years in prison

Cambodge Soir


The provincial official has been sentenced for illegally occupying land belonging to the State and for illegal logging.

On Friday 12 September, the Phnom Penh Municipal Court has sentenced Meas Savoeun, former Deputy Governor of Preah Vihear province and Funcinpec member, to nine years in prison and two fines. The first fine amounts to 80 million riel (20,000 dollars) for having incited the villagers to cut down trees. The other one of 20 million riel (5000 dollars) will be paid to the Ministry of Agriculture as compensation, stated the VOA Khmer website.

Next to him in the box, 14 more have received prison sentences of seven years for illegally occupying land belonging to the State and for partial destruction of protected forest.

Cambodian orphans visit 'email' foster parents, receive free eye exams

Visiting Cambodian orphans at the office of Tyrie Jenkins, M.D. Eye Care
Courtesy Tyrie Jenkins, M.D. Eye Care

The Honolulu Advertiser
Monday, September 15, 2008

Twenty-eight Cambodian orphans arrived in Honolulu on September 3 to meet and stay with their "email foster parents" for the first time. The children are staying two weeks under the auspices of Email Foster Parents International. Some of them and their Hawaii foster families have been corresponding via the Internet for as long as three years.

On Saturday, September 6, many of them enjoyed another first—the staff at Tyrie Jenkins, M.D. Eye Care gave the Cambodian youngsters, ages 14-18, free eye exams, providing them with prescriptions as needed and identifying any undetected eye ailments. Optometrists Dr. Loretta Ng and Dr. Jon Sakuda donated their time.

The organizer and champion of this unique project is Rob Hail. The children are from the Future Light Orphanage near Phnom Penh. All are trained Khmer classical dancers as well, and performed at the Mamiya Theatre on September 13 in a fundraiser for the orphanage to support and educate more young children.

Cambodia's Siem Reap Airways to fly direct to Ho Chi Minh City

M&C Business News
Sep 16, 2008

Phnom Penh - Siem Reap Airways International is scheduled to launch direct flights between Siem Reap in Cambodia and the Vietnamese city of Ho Chi Minh late next month, the airline said in a press release Tuesday.

Siem Reap is the tourist hub of Cambodia and gateway to the Angkor Wat temple complex, 300 kilometres north of the capital.

Siem Reap Airways International is a wholly owned subsidiary of Thailand's Bangkok Airways, based in Phnom Penh.

US pledges US$1.8 million for Cambodian tribunal

International Herald Tribune
The Associated Press
Published: September 16, 2008

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia: The United States will give US$1.8 million to Cambodia's genocide tribunal to aid its work in trying former Khmer Rouge leaders for their alleged crimes against humanity, a top U.S. official said Tuesday.

Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte said the U.S. government believes "the conditions are both appropriate and opportune to make this contribution."

The U.N.-assisted tribunal has detained five former Khmer Rouge leaders on charges of crimes against humanity and war crimes. The trial of the first suspect is planned for later this year.

"We want to help this tribunal succeed, and we think it definitely has a chance to succeed," Negroponte said at a press conference at the end of a three-day visit to Cambodia.

The money will be given to the tribunal's U.N. side, which is staffed by international personnel. The tribunal, which is seeking justice for atrocities committed in the 1970s under the Khmer Rouge's rule, is jointly run by Cambodian and U.N. officials under a pact both sides signed in 2003.

The radical policies of the ultra-communist Cambodian group, which ruled from 1975 to 1979, caused the death of some 1.9 million people from starvation, diseases, overwork and execution.

Negroponte also toured the S-21 prison, the largest Khmer Rouge torture center in Cambodia's capital, Phnom Penh, to see what he called "a reminder of the holocaust."

It is now known as Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, and holds exhibits of prisoner's mug shots, skulls, and other traces of the crimes committed during the Khmer Rouge's brutal rule.

"It's a very moving experience to see this museum, to see the reminiscence of the holocaust," Negroponte told The Associated Press after touring the museum early Tuesday morning.

He said the site is "a reminder of the holocaust that took place, and I think it's important to document it."

Up to 16,000 men, women and children were held at the prison before being taken out for execution before the Khmer Rouge's regime was ousted from power by a Vietnam-led invasion in 1979.

Top US official to meet Cambodia's PM to boost relationship between the two countries

Cambodia Prime Minister Hun Sen speaks to the media after attending a meeting to sign agreements with the U.S. at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Phnom Penh September 15, 2008. The U.S. Government and the Royal Government of Cambodia signed a four-year bilateral agreement that will see the U.S. provide $26 million in funding to support Cambodian priorities in economic growth, according to a U.S embassy press release.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA)

Cambodia's Deputy Prime Minister Sok An, right, shakes hands with USAID Mission Director Erin Soto during a signing ceremony as Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen, second right, and U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte, second left, witness in the background in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Monday, Sept. 15, 2008. The United States has decided to help fund the Cambodian genocide tribunal's work in putting former Khmer Rouge leaders on trial, a government official said Monday.(AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen, second left, talks to the journalists after witnessing a signing ceremony with U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte in Cambodia, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Monday, Sept. 15, 2008. The United States has decided to help fund the Cambodian genocide tribunal's work in putting former Khmer Rouge leaders on trial, a government official said Monday.(AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen(R) shakes hands with US Deputy Secretary of State John D. Negroponte in Phnom Penh as the US is aiming to improve relations with Cambodia.(AFP/Tang Chhin Sothy)

Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen, right, and U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte watch a signing ceremony in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Monday, Sept. 15, 2008. The United States has decided to help fund the Cambodian genocide tribunal's work in putting former Khmer Rouge leaders on trial, a government official said Monday.(AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

John Negroponte, center, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State, listens to Youk Chhang, left, Director of Documentation Center of Cambodia, during a tour of former Khmer Rouge's notorious S-21 prison, now known as Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum as accompanies by in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Tuesday, Sept. 16, 2008. Negroponte wrapped up his three-day visit to Southeast Asian nation Tuesday.(AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

John Negroponte, left, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State, listens to Youk Chhang, right, Director of Documentation Center of Cambodia, during a tour former Khmer Rouge's notorious S-21 prison, now known as Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum as accompanies by in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Tuesday, Sept. 16, 2008. Negroponte wrapped up his three-day visit to Southeast Asian nation Tuesday.(AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

John Negroponte, left, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State, listens to Youk Chhang, right, Director of Documentation Center of Cambodia, during a tour of former Khmer Rouge's notorious S-21 prison, now known as Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum as accompanies by in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Tuesday, Sept. 16, 2008. Negroponte wrapped up his three-day visit to Southeast Asian nation Tuesday.(AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

John Negroponte, second left, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State, is accompanies by Youk Chhang, left, Director of Documentation Center of Cambodia, during a tour former Khmer Rouge's notorious S-21 prison, now known as Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum as accompanies by in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Tuesday, Sept. 16, 2008. Negroponte wrapped up his three-day visit to Southeast Asian nation Tuesday.(AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

John Negroponte, center, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State, gets into a car after touring a former Khmer Rouge's notorious S-21 prison, now known as Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Tuesday, Sept. 16, 2008. Negroponte wrapped up his three-day visit to Southeast Asian nation Tuesday.(AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen speaks to the media after attending a meeting to sign agreements with the U.S. at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Phnom Penh September 15, 2008. The U.S. Government and the Royal Government of Cambodia signed a four-year bilateral agreement that will see the U.S. provide $26 million in funding to support Cambodian priorities in economic growth, according to a U.S embassy press release.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA)

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen (R) looks on as U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John D. Negroponte (L) makes a speech after attending a meeting to sign agreements with the U.S. at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Phnom Penh September 15, 2008. The U.S. Government and the Royal Government of Cambodia signed a four-year bilateral agreement that will see the U.S. provide $26 million in funding to support Cambodian priorities in economic growth, according to a U.S embassy press release.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA)

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen (R) shakes hand with U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John D. Negroponte (L) after attending a meeting to sign agreements with the U.S. at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Phnom Penh September 15, 2008. The U.S. Government and the Royal Government of Cambodia signed a four-year bilateral agreement that will see the U.S. provide $26 million in funding to support Cambodian priorities in economic growth, according to a U.S embassy press release.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA)

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen (R) toasts with U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John D. Negroponte after attending a meeting to sign agreements with the U.S. at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Phnom Penh September 15, 2008. The U.S. Government and the Royal Government of Cambodia signed a four-year bilateral agreement that will see the U.S. provide $26 million in funding to support Cambodian priorities in economic growth, according to a U.S embassy press release.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA)

The Ministry of Defense Calls for the Recruitment of Soldiers

16 September 2008
The Mirror, Vol. 12, No. 578

“General Phan Nguon, a military official of the Ministry of Defense, provided information to students and youth who have the intention to become soldiers to serve the nation. The recruitment procedures were announced through the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces Television [TV5] yesterday morning, while Siam [Thai] black-clad soldiers [from the Special Border Protectin Forces] continuously invade Khmer territory in the west.

“The announcement said that the Ministry of Defense informs students and youth who have the intention to become officers and soldiers to register – and then future officers are required to undergo a four years training, while the normal soldiers are required to go through a six months training.

“The announcement shows several entry points, but it focuses, for the first intake, on the army. The training of the recruits may be inside or outside of the country, and the Ministry points out that both male and female students are being addressed, who have graduated with a high school diploma or have grades comparable, and have the intention to volunteer to become members of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces - if this applies, interested persons should complete one of the following forms:

Four years training course of the thirteenth intake active soldiersFour years training course of the first intake for army officers

“The announcement provides detailed information to the volunteers how to become soldiers, and explains how to complete the forms at the Office of Personnel of the Armed Forces Headquarters opposite of the Lux Cinema, and at other town and provincial military outposts countrywide. The date to accept forms starts from the day of the announcement until 26 November 2008, daily and any time of the day.

“The announcement for the recruitment of soldiers is made while a neighboring country of Cambodia invades Cambodian territory in western regions, especially the Siamese [Thai] thief that invades to occupy Khmer Temples along the border at many places, like the regions near the Preah Vihear Temple, the Ta Moan Thom Temple, the Ta Krabei Temple, the Chub Kokir region, and some regions in Anlong Veng and Oddar Meanchey. As for the number of Khmer soldiers, claimed to be around 120,000 to 130,000, it appears that this is only a number, but in fact, there are probably less than half of this number. Because when the nation is in danger, like when the Siamese thief invades the country, there are not enough soldier to respond.

In the last Editorial we referred to some of the more delicate, and still not discussed problems between both countries; it can be accessed also here.

“Mr. Yim Sovann, the head of the Fourth Committee of the National Assembly and a high ranking official of the Sam Rainsy Party, informed Khmer Machas Srok about the number of soldiers he had received from the Ministry of Defense, ‘For now, I doubt that the number of soldiers is between 120,000 and 130,000, because now, when there is an invasion by a foreign country, like at the western border, the government appears to hesitate to respond; there are not enough troops sent for patrol. Therefore, our soldiers exist only in numbers, but the real number of soldiers is likely to be insufficient, because of corruption, as it is not known where the real soldiers are.’

“Mr. Yim Sovann added that as for the police, he had been informed also that their number is 50,000.

“An official of the Ministry of Defense, who is a former KPNLF soldier of the [US supported] Khmer People’s National Liberation Front [until 1992] of Louk Ta [Grandfather] Son San, said that many soldiers of the divisions of the six military regions in Cambodia, as well as those in towns and provincial military outposts, exist only as numbers, but their salaries are taken by their commanders.

When one sees the many luxury class extremely expensive Landcruiser car with military license plates on the streets, such an outrageous assumption becomes undertstandable. I had to travel to many different countries in the couse of my life and work – in no other country I have seen luxury cars with military license plates.

When the country needs soldiers, some divisions with nominally nearly 10,000 soldiershave only around 300 to 400 soldiers, including drivers, and those who guard the land and the houses for their division chiefs.

“The same general, who is a former KPLF soldier, continued to say that whatever their affiliatioin – with the State of Cambodia, or with the former ANKI [Armée Nationale du Kampuchea Independent - National Army of Independent Kampuchea - the former military arm of FUNCINPEC] , or with the KPNLF, or the former followers of Gneral Sak Sutsakhan [who had separated himself from the KPNLF] - their high levels leaders have abandoned them, especially those soldiers who fought in the battlefields in Battambang, Pursat, Banteay Meanchey, Kampong Thom, and Siem Reap, they have been forgotten, and some of their land and housing had been grabbed by the powerful and by the rich.

“However, that former KPLF soldier said that as for the military commanders, specifically those who served the State of Cambodia [1989 to 1993], at present almost all still are in their positions, though most of them have fat potbellies. The official went on to say that the Ministry of National Defense lacked everything during this last period,: it lacks fuel allowance, and the salaries for the soldiers are small and often paid with delays, which contrasts with the salaries of the members of the National Assembly, saying that Ministry of Defense expenses are budgeted as US$267 million for one year.

“Although the Ministry of Defense faces a shortage of solders, there are always thousands of soldiers to protect the Prime Minister Hun Sen, and more than forty tanks which are not broken down, are always on alert for the security of the Prime Minister alone.”

Khmer Machas Srok, Vol.2, #244, 14-16.9.2008
Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Monday, 15 September 2008

Sacravatoons :" The Warrior King ? "

Courtesy Sacravatoon

Sacravatoons :" Koh Kong for Sale "

Courtesy Sacravatoon

Cambodian gov't to take border dispute with Thailand to UN

September 16, 2008

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen will again seek international arbitration in Cambodia's ongoing dispute with Thailand over contested border territory adjacent to Preah Vihear temple, national media reported Monday.

Hun Sen told his cabinet Friday that he plans to take the issue back to the UN Security Council and to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in Hague, the Phnom Penh Post said.

Phay Siphan, spokesman for the Council of Ministers, quoted Hun Sen as saying the council should prepare documentation and evidence in the likely event it needed to return to the Security Council, following delays in talks with the Thai government.

On July 22, Cambodia made an appeal to the UN Security Council during its military standoff with Thailand at the World Heritage-listed temple, but withdrew the complaint two days later after Thailand agreed to hold immediate talks on the issue. But discussions over a full troop withdrawal have stagnated, with the Thailand requesting a postponement due to political tensions in Bangkok.

The row erupted after Cambodia's arrest of three Thai nationalist protesters on July 15, whom authorities allege crossed illegally into Cambodia close to the disputed temple site.

Since then, Thailand and Cambodia have been building up their forces near the temple and tensions have escalated, spreading to other temple sites along the border.


'Great Healer' a Mender of Broken Bones

Patients wait for their bones to mend under the thatch roof of "the Great Healer" in Kampeu Speu province.

By Pin Sisovann, VOA Khmer
Original report from Kampong Speu
15 September 2008

Khmer audio aired 14 September 2008 (1.78 MB) - Download (MP3)
Khmer audio aired 14 September 2008 (1.78 MB) - Listen (MP3)

The wails of a child drifted through the makeshift stalls of the bone mender. Fifteen patients sat in the stalls, where hammocks swung and relatives milled around 10 meters away from a cow shed where a fire was burning to keep away the flies.

The bone mender's name was Var Phom, and people had come from many kilometers away to find him in Baset district, Kampong Speu province, a man they call the Great Healer. They had come to him to heal deep wounds that they could not afford or where afraid to treat at a modern hospital.

Khin Tuch, whose thigh was broken when robbers knocked her off her motorbike, sat among the patients. This was her second trip to the Great Healer, and she said she was confident he would mend her leg in the same way he had treated her broken spine.

"When my spine was broken in three, the blood froze in my belly," she said in a recent interview. "The doctor couldn't help. I came to him. He reached in my belly, like removing a fetus, to remove the blood and made a bandage with traditional herbs."

She was healed at a fraction of the cost of a hospital, and, when she was able to walk again, Var Phom asked her for a voluntary fee, one she could afford and gladly paid.

"I am not afraid of surgery," she said, "but I am poor, so I have the traditional healer who charges cheaply."

Khin Tuch is not alone in her trust of traditional healers. In a country where confidence in the health sector is sorely lacking and many people continue to live below the poverty line, they can be the best option.

"I think to have traditional treatment to fix our broken bones is quick and effective," Khin Tuch said. "I've been to the hospital too, but it is good at curing wounds and injuries to internal organs. A Khmer traditional healer is effective fixing broken bones."

Nearby was Chan Lun, who had brought her dislocated wrist to Var Phom.

"He is really an effective traditional healer," she said. "He is extraordinary in curing broken bones. I've heard complaints from people who had problems with surgeries. I'm frightened by
surgery, suffering, not about its cost."

Despite such faith in traditional methods, Dr. Veng Thai, head of Phnom Penh's health department, said there was a limit to their healing capabilities, including bone menders. The break must be simple, without complications to the flesh, veins or nerves, he said. Then, a mender can set the bone, allowing the body to heal itself properly.

A hospital can do the same, he said, and a fear of surgery among people can be unfounded.

"When one comes to the hospital, we would not undertake surgery if the break was simple," he said. "The doctors would only straighten and fix the bone."

He cautioned against avoiding surgeries when they are necessary, when the injury is complicated and blood can coagulate. In such cases, traditional healers can be dangerous. Herbal concoctions that are not sterile can cause a wound to deteriorate, or worse. In the case of a broken spine, the wrong procedure can lead to paralysis for life.

In the case of Khin Tuch, he said, he doubted her spine was actually broken. It may have been a lighter injury, or a dislocation.

"If the break is simple, no wound, no cuts, a patient can go to the Khmer traditional healer," he said. "But we should watch. If a problem occurs, we should go to the hospital quickly. We will not stop traditional healers, because they are well-known for fixing broken bones. They have warming herbs to get rid of swollen flesh and quickly cure broken bones."

Back at the Great Healer's, far from hospitals and their scanners, surgeries and the metal pins and screws doctors sometimes use to treat breaks, Grandma Seur, wife of Var Phom, sat chewing betel nut and mashing herbs in a mortar.

"For warming up bones that have been broken for awhile," she said.

Var Phom had been a healer for more than 50 years, she said. The thatch ward had at least ten patients at all times. Cured patients left, new patients came.

"I don't know how patients know and continue to come, more or less," she said. "One or two every day. Two patients leave, three come, or the other way around."

Behind her, one of those patients was Sam Ath, who sat swatting insects and scratching his thing. He had come nine days ago to have his leg mended, after the hospital told him it needed amputated. He would be home in a week, cured, he said.

"I heard of his well-known reputation from a far distance," he said of Var Phom. "I went to the hospital. They wanted to amputate my leg, at a coast of $300 or $400."

(In Phnom Penh, Veng Thai said a hospital would only decide to amputate if a broken leg when the arteries that supply blood to the limbs were pinched off, causing gangrene.)

As for the Great Healer, he said he inherited the secrets of bone mending from his father, using traditional herbs and magic from spirits that possess him. When patients show him an X-ray from the hospital, he says he needs no film to tell him where the breaks are.

"I learned it myself. I learned two courses from my father. Spirits possess me. As soon as I see a broken thigh, I know what to do," he said.

Pressed on how he really learned his craft, he said: "Healer from heaven, healer for vehicle." And then he said destiny had chosen his daughter, Phon Sitha, to be trained.

Most patients come out of hospitals, Phon Sitha said, and she never left a patient uncured. When patients are ready to leave, they pay a minimal fee, though they are not charged, as per the rules of spells spoken in the Pali language. Some pay as little as 10,000 riel, about $2.50, for treatment.

"It is not the herb alone that cures the bones, but Khmer traditional magic. Spells too," she said. "Now my dad leaves the work to me. I try step by step. He helps me some and I cure patients by myself."

It is not always easy. Traditional herbs are getting harder to find these days, she said. Some of them are sought by grazing cattle.

Returning Leaders Maintain Boycott Stance

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

Khmer audio aired 15 September 2008 (908 KB) - Download (MP3)
Khmer audio aired 15 September 2008 (908 KB) - Listen (MP3)

Opposition leaders Sam Rainsy and Kem Sokha returned from a trip to France and Brussels this week, vowing to uphold their boycott of the new government but finding no support for their calls that a new vote be held.

"We will not join the swearing-in ceremony with the vote fraudsters," said Sam Rainsy, whose self-named party won 26 of 123 National Assembly seats in the election.

However, no country that either leader visited went as far as saying July's national election was not free and fair, and there was little support for their calls for a revote, both men said Monday.

"The French government and the EU will push the Cambodian government to correct the wrongdoings of this election," Sam Rainsy said. "Cambodia cannot walk out of the democratic way, especially the promotion of a power balance in the country's leadership."

Officials of the French government and the European Commission, which is based in Brussels, also promised to discuss with the new government reforms to the National Election Committee, said Kem Sokha, head of the Human Rights Party.

He too said his party would uphold the boycott. "But we aren't giving up our seats."

CPP officials maintain that a boycott of the swearing-in ceremony for new National Assembly leaders, scheduled for Sept. 24, will lead to the redistribution of opposition seats among other parties.

US Could Announce Tribunal Funds: Hun Sen

US Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte, above, could announce funding for the Khmer Rouge tribunal Tuesday, Prime Minister Hun Sen said.

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

Khmer audio aired 15 September 2008, by Heng Reaksmey (714 KB) - Download (MP3)
Khmer audio aired 15 September 2008, by Heng Reaksmey (714 KB) - Listen (MP3) Khmer audio aired 14 September 2008, by Vong Dara (679 KB) - Download (MP3)
Khmer audio aired 14 September 2008, by Vong Dara (679 KB) - Listen (MP3)

The US could declare additional funding for the cash-strapped Khmer Rouge tribunal as early as Tuesday, Prime Minister Hun Sen said Monday, following talks with US State Department Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte.

"Tomorrow, you will know," Hun Sen told reporters Monday night. "Maybe [Negoroponte] will declare the amount of the donation to the Khmer Rouge tribunal."

Hun Sen declined to say what amount the US would pledge, and a US Embassy spokesman would not confirm an aid pledge.

A potential announcement of US funding comes amid mounting financial pressure on the hybrid Cambodian-UN tribunal, where the Cambodian side has had much of its funding frozen by donors in the wake of corruption allegations.

US officials have said they will not fund a tribunal that does not meet international standards, and the tribunal has taken some measures to investigate allegations of corruption.

No allegations have been proven, but a 2007 UNDP audit found mismanagement and questionable hiring practices on the Cambodian side.

Tribunal officials say they will need around $50 million, with $40 million coming from donors and $10 million from Cambodia, before the end of 2009.

Negroponte, who is one of the highest-ranking State Department to visit post-war Cambodia, signed a $24 million agricultural deal with Hun Sen Monday night, following a brief trip to the temples of Angkor Wat Sunday and talks with opposition leaders Sam Rainsy and Kem Sokha Monday.

His visit was the mark of a strengthening relationship between the two countries that has meant the resumption of direct US aid.

The talks were "a positive process from the US government," Hun Sen said. "Now we can say it is time for the pregnant elephant to give birth."

Negroponte is expected to address the media before he leaves Tuesday morning.

Cambodia lake project forces mass evictions

ABC Australia Radio
Mon Sep 15, 2008

Developers have forced more than 4,000 residents around Boeung Kak Lake in the Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh, to leave their homes.

Radio Australia's Connect Asia reports the lake is being filled with sand to make way for development, forcing water into surrounding homes.

A $US79 million contract gave the green light for Shukaku Inc to develop a 133-hectare commercial property on the lake and its surrounds in February 2007.

The international non-government organisation, Bridges Across Borders, says if the development continues without the agreement of Boeung Kak residents, it will cause the largest forced eviction in Cambodia since 1975.

David Pred, Cambodian country director of Bridges Across Borders South-East Asia, told Radio Australia work began two weeks ago and has already had a dramatic impact.

"The waters of the lake are rising as the sand is going in and this is starting to flood people's homes," Mr Pred said.

"So the people who are living in and around the area where the sand is being pumped are basically being forced out, drowned out, of their homes.

"Almost all of them in that vicinity have accepted the compensation that's been offered to them basically under extreme force and intimidation."

Opposition Sam Rainsy Party MP Son Chhay says it is not just the flooding that is causing immediate grief for residents.

He says people are also concerned about a shocking smell coming from the water.

"The families who live nearby have come together and complained to the governor's office for a few days now, but have no solution to the problem," he said.

Mr Son says the government must make public any documents that assess the potential impact of filling the lake.

"We have tried to question the officials from the ministry of environment and according to our regulations any kind of lake filling must have some approval from the ministry of environment but so far we have not seen any document or report," Mr Son said.

Mr Pred maintains the lease agreement between the the Municipality of Phnom Penh and Shukaku Inc is illegal under Cambodian law.

He says there is court case under way, filed by community plaintiffs, requesting the court to issue an injunction to stop the filling of the lake.

Mr Pred says there is widespread anger at the development.

"This is wholesale theft, grand theft what's happening in Phnom Penh today," he said.

"The rich and the powerful seem to think they can get away with this type of massive injustice because there's no rule of law in Cambodia.

"But the people who are living in Boeung Kak and many of us who live in Phnom Penh and support them are standing together in solidarity and saying no, you can't get away with this, we're not going to let this happen."

Mr Son agrees and says the compensation plan has fundamental flaws.

He says some families who agreed to the compensation offer, which involves being resettled to the outskirts of Phnom Penh, have now changed their minds.

"The place that they moved to has no electricity, no water, no school and when it rains there's water all over the place," Mr Son said.

"The families in the area are very unhappy, they didn't get a good deal from the government.
"More and more people are willing to join in and fight this project," he said.

P'chum ben festivities kick off sunday

HENG CHIVOAN Sek Yeam, 67, buys ansom chrouk, a traditional rice cake at O’russei Market on Sunday.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Tracey Shelton
Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Ansom chrouk, a Khmer rice cake, is made throughout the 15 days leading up to P'Chum Ben. On Sunday, many Cambodians took the cakes to their local pagoda as a gift for the monks to mark the first day of P'Chum Ben. Over the next few weeks, devotees will flock to pagodas in the early hours of each morning to offer food to the spirits of their deceased relatives.

Circling the pagoda three times, believers throw handfuls of food as they walk while monks chant prayers for the dead. Devout Buddhists believe that if they do not bring food for their ancestors to seven pagodas during P'Chum Ben, they will be cursed with bad luck. Celebrations will culminate on September 28, 29 and 30. TRACEY SHELTON

Turkey's IHH helps Cambodian Muslims / PHOTO

Muslims form five percent of the Cambodian population and are living at or below the poverty line.

Monday, 15 September 2008

World Bulletin / News Desk

Turkey's IHH Humanitarian Relief Foundation organized fast-breaking dinner for 200 Cambodian families and distributed foodstuff to another 650 families. The foundation also distributed stationery materials to 200 orphan students. The aid sent to Cambodian Muslims by Turkish Muslims aim at strengthening fraternity and solidarity ties between the two communities.
Cambodian Muslims, who are the most impoverished people in the country, were extended a hand in Ramadan.
Muslims form five percent of the Cambodian population and are living at or below the poverty line. The IHH extended its help to Cambodian Muslims to gratify them in the holy month of Ramadan.

In Battambang, a province five hour from the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh with a population of 15,000 Muslims, 350 needy families were distributed foodstuff. Another 100 families were offered a fast-breaking dinner, while 150 orphan students were given stationery materials such as bags, notebooks, pens and erasers. Cambodian Muslims expressed their thanks to Turkish Muslims at the dinner.

In the city of Kandal, one hour from the capital city, 300 families were distributed food package and 50 orphans were given stationery materials. Another 100 families were offered fast-breaking dinner. An orphanage in Phnom Penh was visited and orphan children were given balloons.
Cambodian Muslims gratified
Cambodian Muslims were moved by the hand extended to them from Turkey, a country thousands of kilometers away from Cambodia. Their faith in brotherhood and solidarity bonds among Muslims was strengthened. Aged men and women thanked the charitable people of Turkey at the fast-breaking meal.
Representatives of Cambodian Muslims welcomed the help of Turkish Muslims. Zekeriya Adem stated the significance of the aid to enforce the Islamic fraternity. Cambodian Muslims are in dire need of suppport, Adem said, adding "We hope that Turkish Muslims will continue helping Cambodian Muslims."

U.S. provides $24 mln to Cambodia for economic growth


PHNOM PENH, Sept. 15 (Xinhua) -- The U.S. government here on Monday inked a four-year bilateral agreement with the Cambodian government to provide 24 million U.S. dollars to fund Cambodian economic growth projects.

Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister Sok An and USAID Mission director Erin Soto signed the agreement on behalf of their respective government at a ceremony presided over by visiting U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John D. Negroponte and Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen.

The fund will be used to expand USAID's highly successful Micro, Small and Medium Enterprise program, which seeks to improve the productivity of rural enterprise by connecting an strengthening a tall levels of an industry supply chain, Sok An said.

The fund will also strengthen the voice of private sector and strengthen the public sector's capacity to improve the business-enabling environment, he added.

USAID expects to commit 57.5 million U.S. dollars in assistance to Cambodia in 2008, according to a press release from the U.S. Embassy in Cambodia.

Editor: Bi Mingxin

Cambodian film wins major U.S. award


PHNOM PENH, Sept. 15 (Xinhua) -- Cambodian-made film "Facing the Truth" has won a prestigious U.S. film award at the 2008 FREDDIES, a press release from Khmer Mekong Film (KMF) said Monday.

Known as "The Medical Oscars", the FREDDIES Awards competition, now in its 34th year, encourages and celebrates film excellence by attracting entries in various categories from health organizations around the world, the press release said.

"Facing the Truth", which was made by KMF, is a powerful half-hour drama about the vital importance of HIV tests for pregnant women, it said.

Set in rural Cambodia, the emotional yet positive story centers on the lives of two pregnant sisters and their husbands whose unexpected test results confound all their expectations, it added.

The film, shot in and around Phnom Penh over 10 days, is being shown in Cambodian hospitals and health centers nationwide during the next two years.

The glittering awards ceremony is due to be held in Philadelphia on Nov. 14.

Editor: Bi Mingxin

Drinking water solution project in Cambodia wins IWA award


JAKARTA, Sept. 15 (Xinhua) -- A study that offers ceramic water filters as a sustainable solution for rural drinking water treatment in Cambodia, has won the International Water Association (IWA) 2008 Project Innovation Award Grand Prize for Small Projects in Vienna recently, a release by the World Bank Indonesia said.

According to the release received by Xinhua on Monday, the study is funded by UNICEF and the Water and Sanitation Program and implemented by the University Of North Carolina School of Public Health.

The goals of the study were to characterize the microbiological effectiveness and health impacts of the ceramic water purifier, a household-scale ceramic filtration technology, in target populations and to identify successes and potential challenges facing the scale-up and implementation of the technology.

Results from the study suggested that the filters could significantly improve household water quality, offering up to 99.99 percent less E. coli in treated versus untreated water, said WSP Cambodia Senior Water and Sanitation Specialist Jan-Willem Rosenboom.

Ceramic filters have helped many families in rural Cambodia, especially those living in villages where the ground water has proven to be contaminated with arsenic. Using these affordable filters, families can use surface water for drinking and cooking while continuing to use their contaminated wells for other purposes such as washing and gardening, Dr Mao Saray, Director of Rural Water Supply, Ministry of Rural Development, Cambodia said.

Editor: Bi Mingxin

Cambodia gripes that Thailand is 'testing patience'

The Bangkok Post

Phnom Penh (dpa) - Last week, Cambodia said it was content to be patient with Thailand over disputed border areas, but claims Thai troops had moved into a third border temple area over the weekend have freshly irked Cambodia, the government said Monday.

Government spokesman Khieu Kanharith said by telephone that claims Thai troops had moved into an area close to Ta Krabey temple, close to the Ta Moan temple complex which is also in dispute, had angered the government and Cambodia was preparing to appeal to a "third international party" to intervene.

"We are preparing our documents. We will see if Thailand changes its character or not. If not, we will go to an international agency to mediate," Kanharith said.

Thai troops moved into what Thailand says is disputed territory and Cambodia says is sovereign around the 11th century Preah Vihear temple in July, just a week after UNESCO awarded the temple World Heritage listing over Thai objections.

Ta Moan, 150 kilometres to the west, soon also drew Cambodian complaints, with claims of Thai encroachment, and now Ta Krabey.

Thailand says the claims are baseless and it has always had troops stationed near the latter two temples.

Last week Kanharith said Cambodia was prepared to give Thailand time to sort out its turbulent political affairs before delayed bilateral border talks, several rounds of which have so far failed to reach an agreement, were resumed.

However local media, including Khmer-language Rasmei Kampuchea daily, reported over the weekend that Prime Minister Hun Sen's patience has been tested over the latest developments and he had called for all relevant authorities to prepare a case to take to an international mediator which Cambodia has not yet identified.

Korean investors reach for Cambodian skies

Asia Times Online

By Geoffrey Cain
Sep 16, 2008

PHNOM PENH - Planned to tower 52 stories above this city's low-slung skyline, the US$1 billion International Finance Complex (IFC) embodies the bold new ambitions of Cambodian capitalism. If South Korean investors actually complete all the projects they have announced and launched, the once colonial Phnom Penh will soon come to resemble a mini version of high-rise Seoul.

Led by property developers, South Korean investors accounted for over 70% of the $1.5 billion worth of foreign direct investment (FDI) that entered Cambodia in the first half of this year, nearly three times higher than the $520 million it received all of last year. South Korean investments have since 2006 dwarfed Chinese inflows, which have been more critically scrutinized, but only represented 10% of total FDI in the first half of 2008.

Cambodia has long been one of Southeast Asia's laggard economies, plagued by its war-torn past and a backward period of communist-led central planning. With economic opening and market reforms, Cambodia's economy is zipping along nicely, with gross domestic product surging at 9.5% last year. Nowhere is that fast growth more noticeable than in the city's fast-changing skyline.

With all the building activity, some are beginning to wonder if the economics of the building spree compute and how the broader Cambodian economy might be affected if South Korea goes into financial meltdown, as some analysts have predicted. South Korean investors are overseeing and building at least eight major property projects in Phnom Penh, but that number is constantly changing as new concepts arrive at and leave the drawing boards. There are clear risks to the high-end developments, which are banking heavily on the arrival of high spending foreigners once a purported major oil and gas find on the country's southwestern coast is realized and exploited. The World Bank once estimated the country's total offshore production potential to be at around 2 billion barrels, though Chevron, the US energy company managing the concession, has remained tightlipped about the details and viability of the fuel find.

Consider, for instance, Gold Tower 42, a $240 million condominium project financed by South Korea's DaeHan Real Estate Investment Trust and built by developer Yon Woo. The high rise project is selling units for between $460,000 to $1.5 million and the developer claims 75% of the tower's space has already been sold, mostly to Chinese and South Koreans. Considering 33% of all Cambodians earn less than US 50 cents a day, according to government statistics, the project's pricing is out of reach for nearly all local buyers.

The same is true of the $2 billion Camko City, a satellite city built and owned by South Korean developer World City Company, which entails an international university, condominiums, exercise centers and modern shopping for a community of over 1,000 well-heeled residents. Another South Korean-built mini-neighborhood, Sun Wah International Finance Center, is also on the drawing board and promises similar top-notch amenities.

Camko City, like several other South Korean-led developments, has stirred local controversy and carries big political risks. To make way for the project, the developers completely filled Pong Peay Lake, once a main outlet for the city's dysfunctional drainage system, while evicting long-term residents with compensation at one-tenth of the property's market value, rights groups say. According to Cambodian land laws, lakes are public property and may be developed only in a "rational" manner.

Bypassing donors

South Korea's building spree comes just 11 years after the two countries re-established formal diplomatic ties, which were broken off in 1975 when the communist Khmer Rouge regime took power. Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen has warmly welcomed Seoul's capital inflows and even presided over the launch of certain South Korean-led big ticket property projects. The former communist guerilla-cum-market reform champion was recently reelected to a new five-year term and has successfully leveraged the country's recent fast economic growth to his political advantage.

During an inauguration event in May for a new road project, funded by the South Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA), Hun Sen pointed to the South Korean-built Gold Tower 42 as a sign of coming Cambodian prosperity. He lauded South Korea for being at the forefront of eight Cambodian business sectors and said that "diplomatic relations with the Republic of Korea are remarkably developed".

He attended in person the inauguration earlier this year of South Korean President Lee Myung-bak and surprised many when he told a local television reporter that Lee was his former "economic adviser".

South Korean investment signals a shift from Cambodia's traditional reliance on multilateral development aid funded by the likes of US Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA), towards more private investment-led growth. The South Koreans' no-strings-attached approach to business is also believed to be favored by Hun Sen's government, which often found itself at loggerheads over issues of transparency and corruption with multilateral lenders.

At the same time, there are mounting and apparently unhedged market risks to the breakneck growth. The building spree in Phnom Penh notably coincides with a spike in inflation, which rose a dramatic 25% in the first half of 2008, according to the National Bank of Cambodia. That's driven up substantially the prices of imported building materials such as glass and steel.

Some analysts believe fast rising property prices, fueled by rapid South Korean capital inflows, might even be inflating Cambodia's first-ever property market bubble.

The National Bank of Cambodia recently projected gross domestic product would slow to 7.2% in 2008, down substantially from last year's 9.5% clip. The report noted that the construction sector is now the country's biggest urban employer.

Some economic and financial analysts have drawn worrying comparisons to neighboring Vietnam, where land and property prices skyrocketed in line with rapid FDI from Taiwan, Singapore and South Korea in 2007, but fell back around 25% in the first half of 2008 due to softening economic conditions and dried-up finance for buyers. In response, Vietnamese banks have restricted their lending to property buyers and developers.

South Korean property developers in Phnom Penh have so far defied economic gravity, with representatives from IFC and Gold Tower 42 claiming that the impact of inflation on their ventures will be minimal and that construction would continue on schedule. So far most developers have not increased their asking prices, despite the fact existing housing prices and rents have increased five-fold or more since 2005, when the projects were first drawn up. Scaffolding prices alone have jumped to $1,035 per ton this from $400 in 2007, property analysts say.

Other analysts say South Korea's mounting economic troubles at home, including a ballooning short-term debt profile, could soon impact on Cambodian ventures as credit conditions tighten. It's still unclear how much South Korea's own softening economy has served as a push factor in outward investments into Cambodian property.

The South Korean won has depreciated around 10% against the US dollar this year and foreign capital outflows from Seoul are gathering pace. Some analysts estimate South Korea became a net borrower as of July, witnessed in the country's narrowing foreign reserve stock. If the won-dollar depreciation continues, as some analysts predict, it will create new burdens to South Korean companies through higher external lending rates.

Add to that mix fast rising prices for building materials and it seems possible the more ambitious of the South Korean property projects could become financially unviable before they are completed. To fill all the high end space now scheduled to be built - assuming it's actually completed - Cambodians will eventually need to occupy a substantial percentage of many developments, some property analysts say.

Yet with a national GDP per capita of $1,800, it's not clear yet that locals, apart perhaps from government-linked elites, can afford the prices South Korean developers and their financial backers still expect to fetch. There are also potential cultural barriers: middle class and elite Cambodians' have long favored to live in stand-alone, colonial-style villas rather than cement and glass skyscrapers.

While South Korean developers continue to ramp up their building spree, the sky may yet be the limit to their Cambodian designs.

Easier to do business in Cambodia, says World Bank

Monday, September 15, 2008

According to the World Bank's ‘Doing Business' 2009 report, Cambodia was one of the top reformers in the areas of access to credit and opening new enterprises.

Cambodia has moved up 15 places in Doing Business 2009, a recent report published by The International Finance Corporation and the World Bank that compares the ease of doing business around the world.

Cambodia's significantly higher standing is the result of reforms that make it easier for businesses to get credit and to close a business. While much progress remains to be done in several areas, the report names Cambodia as the world's top reformer in easing access to credit.

Doing Business 2009, which compares 181 economies, uses 10 indicators of business regulation, from starting a business to dealing with construction permits, employing workers, registering property, getting credit, protecting investors, paying taxes, trading across borders, enforcing contracts, and closing a business.

Cambodia was ranked 135 out of 181 countries surveyed in the report.

Stephane Guimbert, Senior Country Economist for World Bank in Cambodia, said, "There is much more work to be done, but these are very encouraging results, especially when you consider that many other countries are also making reforms."Kang Chandarot, Director of the Cambodian Institute for Development Study, told The Phnom Penh Post that the business climate in Cambodia was much changed, and the report shows that Government officials are improving services and gaining more experience from their daily jobs.

Cambodia's strong showing this year is a result of two reforms. The first is passage of the Law on Secured Transactions in 2007 which makes it possible for a business to use its moveable and intangible assets as security for a loan.

Assets include equipment, vehicles, inventory, accounts receivable, and agricultural commodities. Before this law was written, bank lending was secured almost entirely with fixed collateral such as land and buildings.

A second reform which helped Cambodia rise in this year's Doing Business rankings was the passage of the Law on Bankruptcy in 2007.

Mr Chandarot did add that transparency remains a problem in Cambodia, especially in the area of awarding contracts.

Top US official to meet Cambodia's PM to boost relations

John Negroponte(L) and Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen

PHNOM PENH (AFP) — Visiting US deputy secretary of state John Negroponte was set to hold talks Monday with Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, aiming to improve relations between the two countries, embassy officials said.

They will preside over a signing ceremony for an agreement in which the United States will provide 24 million dollars to fund economic growth projects in Cambodia, the US embassy said.

Negroponte is also scheduled to meet with Foreign Minister Hor Namhong.

The visit is seen as the latest indication that Cambodia's star is on the rise with the United States, after years in the diplomatic wilderness.

"His visit is a sign of our strengthening bilateral relationship and will serve to deepen the ties between our two countries," an embassy spokesman said.

The United States recently lifted a decade-old ban on direct funding to Cambodia's government and re-established military ties between the countries two years ago, with the promise of limited military aid.

Since then, at least three senior US military commanders have visited Cambodia and in February last year the USS Gary became the first US warship to visit the former communist country in more than 30 years.

The moves, which come amid rising concern over China's influence in the region, reverse Washington's restrictive funding policies put in place after Hun Sen seized total control of the government in a 1997 coup.

Washington has been one of the government's most vocal critics in a number of areas, including corruption and human rights abuses.

But the United States has praised Cambodia for its anti-terrorism efforts following the September 11 attacks in New York and Washington.

Negroponte arrived Sunday for his three-day visit and began with a tour of the famed Angkor temples in the northwest of the country.

US will help fund Khmer Rouge trial, says Cambodian prime minister

Submitted by William Kaelin
Mon, 09/15/2008

A jubilant Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen told reporters Monday that he had received a firm undertaking from visiting US Deputy Secretary of State John Negraponte that the US had agreed to fund a trial of former Khmer Rouge leaders.

The announcement ended the first full day of high-level meetings between Negraponte and Cambodian government officials.

"This official visit has strengthened bilateral relations ... I have been informed by the US government that it has agreed to provide assistance to the trial of former Khmer Rouge leaders, but the amount it has pledged will be revealed tomorrow," Hun Sen said.

"This agreement to fund is like the pregnancy of an elephant," Hun Sen joked, referring to the two-year gestation period of the pachyderm. "The elephant is pregnant so long, when it finally gives birth, you hope it will be a very good baby elephant."

Ongoing corruption allegations surrounding the joint UN-Cambodian Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, currently holding five former leaders on human rights abuses and war crimes charges, had previously been cited as hurdles to funding by the US.

Negroponte did not speak after the meeting at the Foreign Ministry which also featured the signing over by the US of 24 million dollars in bilateral aid for economic projects in Cambodia, but he is scheduled to give a detailed press conference at the US embassy Tuesday before departing Cambodia.

The Khmer Rouge trial to bring former leaders of the 1975-79 regime to justice announced earlier this year that delays and complications had left it in serious need of funding if it was to complete hearings against an undetermined number of accused.

Up to 2 million Cambodians died during the regime.

Cambodian prime minister doubts Thai ability to chair ASEAN

Submitted by William Kaelin
Mon, 09/15/2008

Cambodia has concerns that Thailand's turbulent internal political problems make it unable to effectively work as the new chair of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN), Prime Minister Hun Sen said Monday.

Hun Sen told reporters after a meeting with US Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte that ongoing political instability in Thailand was a negative and it should consider volunteering giving up the chair temporarily after taking over in July from Singapore.

The chair of the 10-member group, which consists of Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam, goes in alphabetical order.

"Thailand is in political turmoil but is chairing ASEAN. I think it would be difficult for Bangkok to hold an ASEAN summit," Hun Sen told reporters.

"The Thais should hand the chair to either Singapore or Vietnam, but so far these countries are quiet."

Hun Sen's comments are likely to be taken as a symptom of worsening relations between Cambodia and Thailand over disputed border territory, which has become a powerful domestic political issue on both sides of the border.

The comments are unusual because ASEAN members normally refrain from commenting on internal issues of other members, but Cambodia claims Thailand again encroached onto its territory over the weekend and troops are now within metres of a third disputed ancient temple.

Hun Sen's cabinet has told local media he is losing patience with what many Cambodians see as violations of their sovereignty but which Thailand says are normal troop movements in disputed areas which have gone without incident for years previously.

US-Cambodians Volunteer Voices to Radio

Laing Sidney, Founder of Samleng Kolbot Khmer Radio Program, Lowell, Massachusetts.

By Taing Sarada, VOA Khmer
Original report from Massachussetts
15 September 2008

Khmer audio aired 12 September 2008 (1.31 MB) - Download (MP3)
Khmer audio aired 12 September 2008 (1.31 MB) - Listen (MP3)

With time off from factories, companies, non-government agencies and US government offices, a number of US-Cambodians in Lowell, Mass., volunteer for a Khmer-language radio program.

The volunteers at Samleng Kolbot Khmer sacrifice their personal free time to seek positive news about history, culture, tradition and politics, in a program for Cambodian expatriates in the Massachusetts town.

"They spend their own pocket money looking for news," said Laing Sidney, founder of the program and a program director at the Lowell Community Health Center. "Some news we take from VOA, RFA, Koh Santepheap or other news agencies. We do not depend on one news agency."

Established in June 1999, the four-hour program comes on each Sunday at 1 pm. Five members of the team work on separate programs that cover a wide variety of topics. It grew from a 30-minute show, but Laing Sidney said there were no plans to expand further.

'The old Cambodia people here are 100 percent listening to the Samleng Kolbot Khmer," Laing Sidney said. "Some young people who like to listen to pop songs or some other political and social information also listen to this program. But there are not so many young Cambodian-Americans who were born here that listen to this program.”

Sieng Sak, who programs education and history spots for the show, said the team cooperated well to bring information to Cambodians in Lowell.

"We always keep in touch with each other to learn about the negative and positive results from listeners, and then we find the way to solve them," he said.

Kai Pahim, who creates programs important to the elderly, said he was always looking for documents on Buddhism to educate listeners.

In Brief: Khmer citizenship offered to thais

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Cheang Sokha
Tuesday, 16 September 2008

The government has offered Cambodian citizenship to four Thai nationals by royal decree dated July 14 and signed by King Norodom Sihamoni. A 1996 Law on Nationality states that foreigners can apply for nationalisation only if they have good morality, a clean criminal record and have lived in Cambodia for the past seven years at a permanent address and are able to speak and write Khmer. A Thai embassy spokesman in Phnom Penh said that he has not yet received any information on the Thai nationals being offered citizenship.

In Brief: Translation needed at KRT

The Phnom Penh Post

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Defence lawyers for former Khmer Rouge head of state Khieu Samphan have reiterated their demand for thousands of pages of legal documents to be translated into French, adding that they would like the long-delayed pretrial detention hearing for their client to go forward on October 23. French attorney Jacques Verges has previously asserted that he cannot defend his client without a copy of the full case file in French. The UN-backed court is dealing with a backlog of tens of thousands of documents that need to be translated, according to tribunal papers.

New bridge to facilitate Cambodia-vietnam trade

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Post Staff
Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Cambodia has agreed to construct a bridge connecting Kandal province's Chrey Thom district with Vietnam in a bid to boost cross-border commerce, officials said last week. The US$20 million bridge will become an international checkpoint, according to Em Sovannara, head of the regional political department at the Council of Ministers International Relations Department. "I believe business at this checkpoint will increase because transportation will be easier." There are approximately 40 international and local border crossing between Cambodia and Vietnam, said Mao Thora, undersecretary of state for the Ministry of Commerce. "The ministry is looking for ways to expand commerce," he said. Trade between the two countries - mostly in the agricultural sectors - is expected to reach US$1.5 billion this year, Commerce Ministry officials said.

Some 150 Vietnamese vendors will hold an exhibition in Phnom Penh starting Thursday to highlight Vietnamese goods, said Le Bien Cuong, Vietnam's commercial counselor to Cambodia. "Our people used to claim that Vietnamese products are of a poor quality, so they want to show us that their products are good," said Kep Vutha, who is organising the exhibition.

Govt to review future KRT graft complaints in secret

HENG CHIVOAN; Deputy Prime Minister Sok An, who last month sent a memo on anti-corruption measures at the KRT, arrives at the National Aids conference last Wednesday.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Georgia Wilkins and Vong Sokheng
Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Details of the court's new anti-corruption mechanisms have emerged, but whether they will further transparency at the UN-backed court is in doubt

ALL future graft allegations at the Khmer Rouge Trial will be kept secret until reviewed by a government body, according to a memorandum written by Deputy Prime Minister Sok An about anti-corruption measures at the Khmer Rouge tribunal.

The circular, sent by Sok An to senior officials at the ECCC on August 29 and obtained by the Post Friday, outlines new reporting procedures to be used for complaints of graft, including keeping their existence confidential until received by a government-led task force.

"All complaints shall be kept secret, including the existence or receipt of complaints until the complaint(s) has been referred to competence [sic] authority," the memo states.

Court spokeswoman and newly-appointed ethics monitor Helen Jarvis confirmed that this authority was a government body, the Royal Government of Cambodia KRT Task Force, assigned to manage complaints of graft.

She would not comment further on the memo except to say that she believed the mechanisms were working.

Chief Cambodian judge and second ethics officer Kong Srim declined to comment on Sunday. The memo is the first brief on corruption to be handed down directly from a government official that has become public.

Observers are worried that it is a negative sign for transparency at the court.

"We are concerned that not enough has been done by the government to ensure transparency and to gain public trust," said Im Sophea, deputy executive director of the Centre for Social Development.

Ample safeguards in place

But ECCC spokesman Reach Sambath was confident the mechanisms would provide ample safeguards for the legitimacy of the court.

" We are concerned that not enough has been done...to ensure transparency. "

"The [memorandum] is a concrete action that will help to strengthen the work of the staff on the Cambodian side [of the court]," he told the Post Sunday.

According to the document, any complaints received by the ethics officers will be sent directly to the working group appointed by the government, which will assess the complaints for credibility.

The measures were announced in August after more than one formal complaint of graft was taken to a United Nations oversight body in New York for review.

Sok An wrote a formal complaint over the review, claiming that the world body had no jurisdiction over Cambodian operations at the hybrid court.

Few details of the mechanisms have been released until now.

International judges urged action on corruption earlier this month, describing it as a "major issue" for the tribunal.