Thursday, 18 September 2008

All the young monks....

PETER OLSZEWSKI; Buddhist cleric Khuthey has gathered a circle of disciples around his readings of English-language newspapers.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Peter Olszewski
Thursday, 18 September 2008

Young cleric carries the English-language news to devotees

The path to modern-day enlightenment in Siem Reap is through reading English-language newspapers - at least that's the gospel according to Buddhist monk Khuthey who preaches what he practices every day at the colourful riverside Wat Phras Prom Rath.

Khuthey is a devotee of English-language newspapers, and he passes his knowledge on to students in his daily lunchtime hourlong classes at the pagoda.

A tattered handwritten Khmer-language sign hung on a lamp post on Siem Reap's Pokambor Avenue draws the students to a very popular class, with up to 40 students in attendance daily, Monday to Friday.

The class is held away from the public area of the pagoda, in what is essentially the inner-sanctum next to the monks' sleeping quarters, and the students are almost exclusively male, including several monks.

But when the Post went to newspaper class, there was one brave young woman in attendance. She admitted she was nervous in such an all-male environment, but was determined to tough it out because she wanted to learn about newspapers.

Khuthey said he uses English-language newspapers as teaching aides because "basically I want them to get the news and I also want them to improve their English, and a newspaper is a good way to get their interest."

He said that gaining an understanding and appreciation of newspapers helps his students become aware.

"My students are young Cambodian people, and they should know what is happening in their country and around the world," he said.

"I think newspapers are very important because newspapers give people ideas, not just news, and they also teach people the lessons of life. I think there are many things students can get from learning to read a newspaper.

"I find that my students very much appreciate learning from newspapers. In fact they love it."Khuthey became a monk in 2003 in Pouk province, about half an hour from Siem Reap, but he left Pouk after two weeks to come to town.

He also started teaching English in 2003, and, when he came to Wat Phras Prom Rath in February, he began teaching his popular newspaper class.

He feels more Cambodians are starting to read English-language newspapers because they consider them more credible than their Khmer-language counterparts.

"What I am finding is that more and more people in Cambodia are reading newspapers in English because they don't trust Khmer language newspapers. My opinion is that most Cambodian people think Khmer language newspapers all seem to be associated with some political party."

Without the crassness of prompting, monk-teacher Khuthey gave The Phnom Penh Post high marks for excellence.

He said, "I think it is one of the best newspapers because it has a good perspective, gives correct news, and it's fair. I think it is very important to have this type of newspaper in Cambodia."

In Brief: Women's business group reconvenes

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Unn Sophary
Thursday, 18 September 2008

The Siem Reap chapter of the International Federation of Business and Professional Women has held its first meeting of 2008 last Friday. The federation is one of the world's most influential networks of business and professional women. It operates in 80 countries, with headquarters in the UK and its regional headquarters in Bangkok. Its new president is Sinketh Arun, director of public relations for Friends Without a Border. During last Friday's meeting, new officers were elected and it was decided that regular meetings would be held from now on every fourth Friday of the month. The group is now on a recruitment drive and will distribute flyers throughout Siem Reap. It is currently comprised of Khmer business women only, but barang counterparts are welcome. Women wishing to join can contact Blue Pumpkin sales representative Kong Sotheavy at 012890539.

In Brief: No location for planned march

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Peter Olszewski
Thursday, 18 September 2008

Planning has been held up for a big public march through the streets of Siem Reap, slated for this Sunday and originally scheduled to be the highlight of this year's International Peace Conference from September 18-24. The organisers, Youth for Peace, are still unable to give location details for the march, set for 2pm on Sunday, because they say they are waiting for necessary approvals and permissions to come through. About 300 participants are now arriving in town from Cambodia and the region, and from Rwanda, Morocco, Guatemala and Peru. The conference opens tomorrow with a ceremony, followed by a plenary session on war and peace in Cambodia.

Garden party for Friends of Cambodia appeal

The Euro Weekly News Media

18 Sep 2008

A GARDEN party and fashion show, to be held on September 26 in Carvoeiro, will raise money for the ‘Friends of Cambodia’ appeal. Guests are invited to make donations – a minimum of 10 euros is suggested – to support this worthwhile charity.

The event will commence with a welcome drink and Jean Pierre Braga will provide a selection of music throughout the evening, from six until 9.30pm. Jean Pierre, who has performed in the USA, Japan and throughout Europe, will be playing a repertoire of classical, jazz and pop music.

The truly charming outdoor setting and an opportunity to view a stunning collection of this season’s fashions, selected by Dutch fashion guru, Jouk, will make for an enjoyable evening.

The location, Quinta Salicos, is the home of Geraldine Willcox MBE, who worked in Japan for 19 years and, during this time, rose to become the Executive Director for International Refugees, visiting Cambodia on many occasions and developing a deep respect for a population who remain cheerful despite all adversity.

After retiring to the Algarve in 2004, Geraldine and Gita Nasta, a teacher at the International School, Porches, co-founded their charity, ‘Friends of Cambodia’.Despite 30 years of war and destruction heaped upon them by the Khmer Rouge, the people of Cambodia continue to show enthusiasm and positive hope for the future.

Disease, landmines and poverty still claim many lives and large numbers of children are unable to attend school.

Funds collected by ‘Friends of Cambodia’ are aimed primarily at helping young people from the hill villages in the north of the country. The money is used to provide boarding accommodation near their school. The school is run by the state but, without sleeping accommodation and free meals, children from distant villages could not attend.

The charity is also helping with the education of eight University students who will go on to become teachers in villages where there are currently none. A further donation has been given to a health project that targets mothers and babies. Focusing on reducing mortality by providing clean water and sanitation, the project also gives the mothers nutritional advice and health education.Gita and Geraldine believe that education is a key issue and that it is the right of every child to receive it. Without basic skills of counting and reading, the children have no way of improving their lives.

A single euro in Cambodia can buy a great deal, making it possible for the charity to improve many children’s lives. For this reason it is hoped the garden party will raise sufficient money so that more children are able to attend the boarding school and that funding for the University students, as well as the health project, can continue. All donations go directly to the project leaders in Cambodia and no money is wasted on administrative cost.

Tickets for the garden party are available on the day at the door or from Bar Bacchus at Porches Pottery or Terra, the organic farm in Lagoa.The charity links people who are fortunate enough to live in the Algarve with some of the most needy children in the world.

Contact (in English): - 282 343 446 / (in Portuguese): - 964 877 033
Website: -

Betting on fighting fish big business in Phnom Penh

HENG CHIVOAN; Fish-fighting enthusiasts watch a match outside of a cafe in Phnom Penh.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Khouth Sophakchakrya
Thursday, 18 September 2008

From students to high-ranking officials, a good clash is a way to relieve stress and make a little cash on the side, fans say

As about 20 buyers and punters gathered at an underground fish-fighting arena and aquarium store, owner Kong Sotheary remarked how lucrative the business is, saying betting on fish fights is now as popular as cockfighting.

"I sell about 30 fighting fish a day, and make about US$90 a day," Kong Sotheary said Monday at her shop."

The fighting fish I breed I sell for between $1.50 and $5 a piece depending on its size and length," Kong Sotheary said, adding that she has recently ordered some fighting-fish species from Thailand and Vietnam to breed with the smaller, cheaper local fighting fish.

Fittingly called the Betta, or more scientifically the Betta splendens, the carnivorous fighting fish are released into a bowl, unleashing the aggression.

The piscine pugilists square off in their watery ring, pecking at each other until one establishes dominance and the loser beats a circular retreat along the bowl's edge.

Vat Channa, a 23-year-old student at Sisowath High School in Daun Penh district, said he and his classmates regularly buy fish from Kong Sotheary.

"Fish-fighting is good for me, because it helps me alleviate stress," Vat Channa said.

But in addition to helping unwind, the betting game often leads him to parties. "We bet on fish fights for our weekend parties - winners and losers all party together, but the loser pays."

But the gambling isn't limited to students with just a little spending money. Theav Buny, who drives to the fights in a Land Cruiser, took a bit of a hit at the underwater smoker. "I lost $200, but I'm not angry," he said, adding that some days he loses $500 and on others wins $400-$500.

Theav Buny said he has switched over to betting on fish from cockfights, which he attended until fears of bird flu threatening his provincial chicken farms encouraged him to move on.

Miech Ponn, adviser to the Cambodian Culture Council at the Buddhist Institute, said fish-fighting first appeared 500 years ago as the national betting game during the rainy season. "In the past only regular people used to fight fish for fun after the harvest, but now the fights are very popular with high-ranking officers and oknhas."

Man charged with rape of teen

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Chrann Chamroeun
Thursday, 18 September 2008

A MAN arrested on Saturday on charges of raping a 14-year-old girl is currently being detained at Prey Sar prison awaiting trial.

Bith Kimhong, head of the anti-human trafficking and juvenile protection police, said that Ka Puthearidth, 26, a former bank employee from Banteay Meanchey province, has been arrested and charged with the rape of the girl in a Phnom Penh guesthouse.

"Puthearidth told me that he didn't rape the girl but that she agreed to come and have sex with him seven times in the guesthouse," Bith Kimhong said, adding that the police investigation does indeed indicate that the girl had had consensual sexual relations with the accused.However, under Cambodian law a minor, anyone under the age of 15, cannot consent to sexual intercourse. "Puthearidth will be facing five to 10 years' imprisonment for having sex with the girl," he said.

A warning to others

Nob Sarin Sreyroth, general secretary for Cambodian Women's Crisis Center (CWCC), said the arrest should serve as a warning to those who are thinking of sexually exploiting young people. "Even if the young person consents to sex, the perpetrators should know that they will be sent to court to be punished by the law," she said.

No Return Without Royal Pardon: Ranariddh

Prince Norodom Ranariddh, left, talks with Prime Minister Hun Sen during a blessing ceremony at the Royal Palace for King Norodom Sihamoni in 2004.

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

Khmer audio aired 18 September 2008 (970 KB) - Download (MP3)
Khmer audio aired 18 September 2008 (970 KB) - Listen (MP3)

Exiled Prince Norodom Ranariddh said Thursday he will not return to Cambodia without a royal pardon from King Norodom Sihamoni, despite a public invitation for him to return by Prime Minister Hun Sen earlier this week.

"I'm sincerely grateful to Samdech PM for his speech and for allowing me to return to Cambodia," the prince said in a text message sent to VOA Khmer from Kuala Lumpur. "I'll be back only AFTER the royal pardon [is] granted to me by HM the King."

Prince Ranariddh faces an 18-month prison sentence and a fine of $150,000 on a breach of trust conviction that was upheld by the Supreme Court in July. The suit was brought by Funcinpec Secretary-General Nhiek Bunchhay following the sale of the party's headquarters when Prince Ranariddh was the president.

The Norodom Ranariddh Party has requested a royal pardon from the king, but royal cabinet officials have said the king has sought agreement from Hun Sen.

Hen Sen said Wednesday the prince was free to return, but a spokesman said no request for the suspension of his guilty verdict had been made.

Norodom Ranariddh Party spokesman Suth Dina said Thursday the party was preparing another request to the prime minister to accept a royal pardon, but they were waiting to send the letter until after the new government swears in later this month.

The reluctance of the prince to return without a pardon follows correspondence with Hun Sen on Thursday.

The invitation to return was a show of "reconciliation," the prince wrote to Hun Sen on Thursday, but he did not say whether he would accept it.

Lao Monghay, a researcher at the Asian Human Rights Commission, said the invitation of Hun Sen to suspend the prince's guilty sentence was an extrajudicial, political step outside the mandate of the executive branch of the government.

Without a royal pardon, the prince must serve at least two-thirds of his sentence before it can be suspended by law, Lao Monghay said.

Boeung Kak residents ask PM to halt filling of lake

Heng Chivoan; A young protester outside the PM’s Takhmao house on Wednesday.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Chhay Channyda
Thursday, 18 September 2008

In a last-ditch attempt to save their homes, Boeung Kak residents protest outside the PM's Takhmao compound

MORE than 200 Boeung Kak residents rallied outside Prime Minister Hun Sen's residence in Takhmau Wednesday, demanding a halt to the filling of the lake and fair compensation for those facing eviction.

Military police and local officials looked on as three Boeung Kak representatives entered Hun Sen's Cabinet office to hand their complaints to officials, while hundreds of residents waited outside holding banners and placards bearing pictures of Hun Sen and his wife Bun Rany.

"Wherever there is plight, there is Hun Sen," one banner read. "Please Hun Sen, help halt the sand pumping and ask the company to compensate residents' land at market prices."

Community representative Be Pharom said that she met six officials, but expected the villagers' complaints would be ignored. "I feel disappointed with the meeting today because there is no solution for us," she said. "The officials still want us to accept City Hall's offer of $8,500 cash, or a house plus $500."

Since the filling of the lake began August 26, protesters claim houses located near the sand pipeline had been engulfed by rising waters. "The water went into my house three days ago," said resident Noun Thon.

A municipal drainage technician, who declined to be named, said that he had sent a request Monday to City Hall to investigate the flooding of lakeside houses. "So far I have seen the level rise 20 cm," he said.

"We have to keep a balance between the sand pumping in and the water pumping out, but I cannot reject the government directive allowing the company to fill the lake."

Deputy Governor Pa Socheatvong dismissed the protesters' concerns, saying recent rains had expanded the area of the lake by around 20 hectares. He also said the demand for market-price compensation was "impossible", and that City Hall's offer was "better" than that given to other communities living on state land.

The protest came amidst allegations of intimidation against NGOs fighting to save the lake. David Pred, country director of the international human rights organisation Bridges Across Borders, said a member of the NGO Sahmakum Teang Tnaut had been warned by officials to cease his involvement with the campaign.

"On Wednesday morning, a staff member ... was called by the district governor of Daun Penh [Sok Sambath] and told to stop his involvement with BK residents or ‘action would be taken'," Pred said by email. "This is a direct threat. What is needed now is dialogue ... not threats and intimidation." Sok Sambath could not be reached for comment.


Threats to Immunity 'Baseless': Sam Rainsy

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

Khmer audio aired 18 September 2008 (1.00 MB) - Download (MP3)
Khmer audio aired 18 September 2008 (1.00 MB) - Listen (MP3)

Opposition leader Sam Rainsy said Thursday his lawmakers-elect would continue to boycott the formation of a new government, in the face of a verbal attack by Prime Minister Hun Sen that hinted at attacking the opposition's parliamentary immunity.

National Assembly lawmakers-elect are less than a week away from swearing in a new government, but elected lawmakers of the Sam Rainsy and Human Rights parties have said they will not attend the Sept. 24 event.

"I'm maintaining my position to boycott the swearing-in ceremony, even if Prime Minister Hun Sen threatens to take legal action against me," Sam Rainsy said Thursday. "I maintain my position against the unfair election and the lack of solution to my election complaints."

Hun Sen said in a public speech Wednesday the National Assembly had been "insulted," by being called "yuon," a racial slur for the Vietnamese, an Assembly of "ghosts," and an institution of "thieves." He was referring to a Radio France International interview with Sam Rainsy.

"If we take legal action against Sam Rainsy, we can easily strip his National Assembly immunity," Hun Sen said, during a graduation ceremony at Pannasastra University.

Sam Rainsy said in the RFI interview that the National Assembly lawmakers for the Cambodian People's Party had been elected by illegitimate or non-existent "ghost" voters.

Sam Rainsy told VOA Khmer Thursday the remarks by Hun Sen were intended to "shut up" and censure the freedom of expression and criticism of the opposition.

"I am not afraid of Hun Sen's threats," he said. "I have been getting such threats from the country's leaders for 15 years. I'm not afraid, and I'm not stopping the activities of the opposition, and the remarks of Prime Minister Hun Sen are baseless."

Human Rights Party spokesman Yem Ponhearith on Thursday said the remarks by Hun Sen were detrimental to free speech.

"The criticism during the election campaign did not constitute an insult," he said. "If Hun Sen takes action against Sam Rainsy, I believe our democracy is not enough and this will affect democrats in their expression."

Lao Monghay, a researcher for the Asian Human Rights Commission, said Thursday the remarks were not a good sign for Cambodia.

"The two sides should make a good compromise with each other," he said. "If Hun Sen complains to the court, the court has been criticized as being under the power of the government and Hun Sen."

US Man Arrested for Alleged Sex With Minor

By Chiep Mony, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
18 September 2008

An American man arrested on suspicion of sexually abusing a 13-year-old girl he had unofficially adopted from her parents will appear before prosecutors Friday for questioning, a court official and police said.

Jason Baumbach, 40, was arrested by anti-trafficking police at a rented house in Phnom Penh's Tuol Kork district on Tuesday. He was taken to Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Thursday, but he was not questioned due to time constraints.

"I have not yet questioned him, because he was sent in the evening," said Deputy Prosecutor Sok Kalyan. "I will question him tomorrow."

Brig. Gen. Bith Kimhong, director of the Ministry of Interior's anti-trafficking and juvenile protection department, said Thursday Baumbach had confessed to "touching the body" of the girl and "kissing her" but had denied sexual relations with her.

Teng Manet, lawyer for the girl from the anti-trafficking group Action Pour Les Enfants, said the suspect had had sexual relations with the girls "many times" since 2007.

He had known the girl since last year, through her older sister, and had asked the girl's parents to be an adoptive father, Teng Manet said. He had paid the girl $100 per month to study English.

"Because her parents trusted that man, they allowed her to visit his house," Teng Manet said. "She frequently visited his house."

US Embassy spokesman John Johnson declined to comment specifically on the case but said the US "helps to aggressively enforce…a US law that makes it illegal for Americans to travel abroad to engage in illicit sexual contact with minors."

The first three successful prosecutions under the US law, called the PROTECT Act, have involved cases from Cambodia, Johnson said.

Tribunal 'Capable' of Tackling Corruption: US

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

Khmer audio aired 17 September 2008 (1.07 MB) - Download (MP3)
Khmer audio aired 17 September 2008 (1.07 MB) - Listen (MP3)

In handing over an initial contribution of $1.8 million to the Khmer Rouge tribunal, the US expects the courts to handle corruption issues, a State Department spokesman said Tuesday.

"We believe that the court is now capable of meeting international standards of justice, and our decision at this time to identify funds reflects our belief that the court has the capacity to respond effectively and appropriately to these allegations," the spokesman, Sean McCormack, said.

The tribunal, which has five former Khmer Rouge leaders in custody and is on the verge of its first trial, for Tuol Sleng prison chief Duch, has been undermined by allegations of corruption. In June, Cambodian staff complained they were asked to make kickbacks to their superiors, an allegation that was followed by a freeze in funds from some donors.

However, McCormick said the US funding, announced earlier this week in Phnom Penh by visiting US Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte, was a nod toward tribunal efforts to tackle corruption and mismanagement.

The tribunal has added an international deputy administrator and established an investigation team to handle the allegations.

Tribunal spokesman Reach Sambath said the US pledge was a significant political signal, even if the amount was small.

Tribunal officials have said they need around $50 million added to their budget in order to continue operations through 2009, with $40 million of that going to the UN's side of the hybrid courts.

"Even though the monetary support through the Deputy Secretary of State is not much, we can say that less is better than nothing and slow is better than not giving, or coming, at all," he said.
The tribunal remains committed to preventing corruption, he said, including the appointment of a monitoring official and the transfer of some officials from the personnel office.

Negroponte said Tuesday the $1.8 million only signaled an initial contribution, and more could follow.

Exiled Prince can come home: PM

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Meas Sokchea and Chun Sophal
Thursday, 18 September 2008

PRIME Minister Hun Sen on Wednesday said he hoped exiled Prince Norodom Ranariddh would return to Cambodia for the P'chum Ben festival.

He made the remark during a graduation ceremony for students from Pannasastra University at the National Institute of Education in Phnom Penh.

"I would like Samdech Krompreah [Ranariddh] to come home for P'chum Ben," he told the students.

Hun Sen gave no specific details about the possible return of Prince Ranariddh, who has been living in self-imposed exile in Malaysia since he fled the country to avoid an 18-month jail term for a fraud conviction in 2007.

He also encouraged the Norodom Ranariddh Party to submit names for possible parliamentary commission posts.

"We will open parliamentary sessions on September 24 and hold votes only for commission chairs and vice chairs," he said.

He said that each commission will require between seven and nine members, of which he envisaged seven being CPP and two coming from the various opposition parties or long-term coalition partner Funcinpec.

Hun Sen used his speech to the students to encourage Funcinpec to make commission requests.

NRP spokesman Suth Dina told the Post Wednesday the party welcomed Hun Sen's remarks, and the prime minister was showing good manners in paving the way for Prince Ranariddh's return.

Suth Dina could not confirm when his party's president might return but that it could be as early as September 29. "This is a situation we have been waiting for for a long time," he said.

Mission creates new smiles

Vandy Rattana; Two children with cleft palates wait among other patients at the Children’s Surgical Center in Phnom Penh on Wednesday.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Mom Kunthear and Camilla Bjerrekaer
Thursday, 18 September 2008

A team of American medics has spent a week in the Kingdom performing life-changing surgery on those who otherwise could not access treatment

THE operating room is crowded. Three separate teams of surgeons are hard at work: One patient is having his tonsils extracted, another man has just had a thyroid tumor the size of a fist removed from his throat. Outside, a line of patients stretches away into the distance - hundreds of people hoping for surgery that may change their lives forever.

For more than a week, a medical team from the American Tripler Army Medical Center and the US Air Force have been carrying out a Sight, Sound and Smile medical mission in Cambodia.

Funded by the Peace through Health Care initiative, the mission aims to provide free surgical care for patients that otherwise could not afford such treatment.

Dr Mitchell Ramsey, an ear, nose and throat surgeon and the leader of the medical team that consists of a dozen surgeons, an anaesthesiologist, nurses and a medical engineer, said the team is focusing on disorders that can be life-threatening or affect a person's ability to work, to eat, to hear or to see, adding that about 200 patients have already been screened for surgery.

"We won't be able to do surgery on all of them this year, but we hope to come back next year. There are just a lot of needs ... and it is hard to tell them that we can't operate this time." said Dr Phalyka Oum, a Cambodian physician who helped to coordinate the mission along with the US Embassy, the Children's Surgical Center (CSC) and various NGOs.

" I had thyroid disease for 12 years and it made me dizzy and exhausted. "

Changing lives

The Sight, Sound and Smile mission is set to change the lives of approximately 70 patients who will receive surgery to correct loss of vision or hearing, head or neck tumours and cranial or facial problems such as a cleft lip or palate.

Chou Yun, 28, from Prey Veng is one of these lucky patients. She had surgery to cure her thyroid disease two days ago and is already noticing the difference. Though she is sore from the operation, she can now breathe better and her voice problems have subsided. "I had thyroid disease for 12 years and it made me dizzy and exhausted. I didn't have it cured because I didn't have the $300 for the operation."

According to Ramsey, the team has been overwhelmed with thyroids, goiters and tumours as well as many incidents of chronic ear infections. "We have seen a huge spectrum of very far advanced disorders that generally are not seen in the US," said Ramsey.

‘‘Part of the mission objective has been to exchange ideas and share information. Coming from the US, of course, we bring some information that is useful here, but we also get just as much information, techniques and new experiences that benefit us and help us learn," he said.

‘‘This without doubt has been the most gratifying experience in my career. To be able to come and meet such gracious people who have such need," Ramsey said. ‘‘I walk home every night and I am on cloud nine because of the experiences I'm having."

SRP risks lawsuit for insults

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Vong Sokheng and Sheang Sokha
Thursday, 18 September 2008

PM claims opposition slandered Kingdom's highest institutions

PRIME Minister Hun Sen suggested Wednesday that legal action could be taken against opposition lawmakers for insulting the country's top legislative body and members of the ruling Cambodian People's Party.

The threat was made during a speech to about 700 graduating students held at the National Institute of Education.

"I think individual members of the National Assembly will be interested in this," Hun Sen said.

"Will the National Assembly, on behalf of our highest institution, take legal action or not? Removing parliamentary immunity is not difficult."

Hun Sen said the opposition Sam Rainsy Party insulted Chea Sim, chairman of the CPP and the Senate, Heng Samrin, president of the National Assembly, and himself during July's national polls.

He referred to the opposition's characterisation of the ruling party as thieves and their implication that the CPP won the election by relying on voters from Vietnam and ‘‘ghost'' voters.

"The CPP still has jurisdiction to file a criminal lawsuit, and it is up to the SRP what they do in the future," Hun Sen said.

He added that a power-sharing arrangement with the opposition would not be possible but that party members would be allowed to serve in the National Assembly if they attended the swearing-in ceremony scheduled for September 24.

Yim Sovann, an opposition parliamentarian, said Hun Sen's threat of legal action did not concern him.

"It is not unusual for Hun Sen to threaten SRP officials," he told the Post Wednesday. "I think this intimidation is designed to make the SRP renounce their plan to boycott. But we will not change our stance.

"Yim Sovann said Hun Sen has used intimidation against the SRP for more than 10 years."We have done nothing wrong," he said. "We are not afraid of losing parliamentary immunity."

Open wide

Vandy Rattana

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Vandy Rattana
Thursday, 18 September 2008

A patient has his tonsils removed Wednesday by a team of US Army surgeons working with Cambodian surgeons at the Children's Surgical Center in Phnom Penh. The American medical team is in Cambodia for nine days for the Sight, Sound and Smile Medical Mission, which provides free operations for poor Cambodians suffering from sight and hearing loss, head and neck tumours or facial disabilities such as cleft palates.

Rare protest made at the UNHRC session

UPI Asia Online
By Basil Fernando
Column: Burning Points
Published: September 18, 2008

Hong Kong, China — The protest made by Professor Yash Ghai in his written statement to the 9th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council is an eye-opener. He spoke of the rude insults meted to him by the Cambodian government and their failure to cooperate with his mandate.

His comments demonstrate the serious decline in the cooperation of a number of states with authoritarian regimes that are actively undermining the work of the United Nations. These states resist issues related to the development of the rule of law, independence of the judiciary and the protection of human rights. Professor Ghai also complained about the inadequate backing he received from the relevant U.N. agencies and the international community for his work.

The mandate for a special representative for human rights in Cambodia was created in 1993 and in the subsequent 15 years several special representatives held this post. They all maintained contact with the government, civil society organisations, international human rights organisations and the Cambodian Office for Human Rights, established after the U.N. sponsored elections in 1993.

Commenting on the recommendations of his predecessors, Ghai stated that he had reviewed the recommendations made previously and had repeatedly endorsed them. These repeated endorsements included the recommendations of the very first representative appointed in 1993. In simple terms this implies that none of the recommendations have ever been implemented. Perhaps the professor would have realized the wisdom of Einstein who once said that madness means repeatedly doing the same thing, expecting a different result. Perhaps the 15 years that the U.N spent making recommendation to the Cambodian government has proved that the only reaction of the Cambodian government is to ignore them.

Professor Ghai also mentioned that he was repeatedly insulted by Prime Minister Hun Sen and the government spokesman and information minister, Khieu Kanharith. He said that the prime minister referred to him as a deranged person, a tourist and a lazy person, while Khieu Kanharith referred to him and human rights organisations as animals. The spokesman also attacked the professor on racial grounds by referring to his nationality and said that Kenyans are savages who did not know the ways of the Aryans.

Such personal attacks and slurs on the basis of race are increasingly used as a method adopted by authoritarian regimes to attack U.N. officers dealing with human rights issues. Some countries also attack such officers on the basis that they are white westerners who suffer from the Anglo Saxon complex of wanting to dominate the world. The essence of such attacks is a loud cry which states clearly that “we do not want any exposure and criticisms of our human rights record. It is our business.” This means that the absence of the rule of law, exploitation of the weak by the powerful because the weak do not have the means to protect them, the stealing of their land and its distribution to the rich patrons of powerful politicians and the use of the police to harass and to intimidate the people are all local matters and should not be commented upon by the United Nations.

The debate on Cambodia shows that some countries call upon the United Nations to support only those issues, which their government wants to address. For example, if U.N. agencies observe that law institutions are weak in the country and request the government to act on the matter, the government may say that they do not need the assistance of the U.N. on that matter but rather on some other issues like medical infrastructure or training the police etc. They attempt to demand that the U.N. accept the country’s denial of rights by repression as a matter that should be left to the government and the international discourse on these matters should be of no concern to the United Nations. Often this approach is aimed at requesting the United Nations for technical assistance while denying the U.N. a role in monitoring the actual human rights situation faced by the people.

Thus, there is a strong attempt to change the very discourse on human rights. Ever since the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, there has been a global discourse to improve human rights standards for the benefit of all people in all countries. The adoption of the Covenants on Civil and Political Rights and Economic, Social and Cultural Rights was a further step taken to improve the global concern for human rights. This was followed by a large number of other covenants relating to various specific aspects of human rights such as the elimination of torture, extrajudicial killings, discrimination against women, equality before law, children’s rights and a vast number of other concerns. Now, a considerable number of countries with authoritarian regimes have formed themselves into a strong lobby to resist the influence of the human rights discourse.

Professor Ghai also mentioned that he did not receive adequate backing when he was being undermined and insulted by the Cambodian regime. He said that when the Cambodian prime minister mentioned that he was carrying out his mandate only to make money, the relevant U.N. agencies did not make a public statement to say that the mandate was carried out voluntarily and that no payment of money was involved in his work. Therefore, he had to make such a statement himself to counteract the false allegations.

This aspect of understanding and supporting the work of U.N. officers dealing with difficult situations has become a matter of serious concern in recent times. Such governments are increasingly alienating themselves from the relevant U.N. agencies and the various mandate holders tasked with handling the grave situation of human rights. Perhaps the international anti-terrorism drive has undermined the international will to protect and promote human rights.

Professor Ghai’s protests are courageous, frank and rare in present day international diplomacy and have to be appreciated. There are lessons need to be learned from such protests, which are eye-openers to the severe problems affecting the movements for human rights and democracy globally.

New Thai PM affirms willingness to continue border talks with Cambodia

BANGKOK, Sept. 18 (Xinhua) -- Thailand's newly-elected Prime Minister Somchai Wongsaw at said Thursday that he is ready to hold talks with his Cambodian counterpart Hun Sen to settle their border dispute.

"I'm ready to talk with Prime Minister Hun Sen to achieve better understanding and mutual benefit," Somchai was quoted by a The Nation website report as telling journalists.

Thailand's House of Representatives on Wednesday elected Somchai, deputy leader of People Power Party (PPP) for the premiership.

Somchai added he expected Thai and Cambodian delegates to meet on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly meeting in New York next week.

Somchai's remarks came after Cambodia Prime Minister Hun Sen on Wednesday accused Thai soldiers of intruding into the disputed border areas, while the Thai Foreign Ministry responded that armed Cambodian units had invaded into its territory in August and September.

The Thai Foreign Ministry summoned this week Cambodia Ambassador Ung Sean to protest the invasion.

Relationship between the neighboring countries became sour since July as they have been engaged in a quarrel on a refreshed long-time border dispute, which led to a military standoff around some ancient temples along their borders.

Hun Sen has renewed a warning that he might file Cambodia's complaints to the UN Security Council or international courts if the border conflicts could not be settled on bilateral level.

Two round of talks on the border issue, concerning land around the Preah Vihear and other ancient temples between the two countries foreign ministers took place in July and August, but without much substantial progress.

Editor: Yao

Sacravatoons :" A Beheaded Ghost "

Courtesy Sacravatoon

Sacravatoons :" Thai-Circus show no 26 "

Courtesy Sacravatoon

Exhibition tallies lost architectural heritage

Vandy Rattana; Photographs document the destruction of Cambodian architectural heritage and the construction of an uglier future at the In Transit exhibition, currently showing at the Meta House.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Anita Surewicz
Thursday, 18 September 2008

Photography documenting the New Khmer Architecture of the 1960s opens window on current artless construction projects

IN Transit, an exhibition that presents an insight into how Khmer and ex-pat architects and designers view, and identify with, the urban heritage of 1960s "New Khmer Architecture", opened at Meta House on Tuesday.

Looking at contemporary architecture in Cambodia in light of the fast-paced development boom, the exhibition showcases how the changing landscape of Phnom Penh can affect people and even alter national identity.

The exhibition features works by Helen Grant Ross, John Vink, PHARE and architecture students. With traditional buildings being bulldozed to make way for "modern" skyscrapers, there has never been a more timely moment to ask what artists think about the changes taking place around them.

Information panels based on the work of Helen Grant Ross, the co-author of Building Cambodia: New Khmer Architecture, educate viewers of the exhibition about architectural icons of Phnom Penh, outlining their history as well as past and present function.

"Whether private houses or official prestigious buildings, architecture can be seen as an art form deeply connected to human life," one reads."

The panels introduce style and function of New Khmer Architecture and show its sustainable character. The buildings and the master plan are examples of this architectural movement in the '60s and embody the unique synthesis of post-war European modernism and Angkorian vernacular," reads a description of the exhibit on the Architecture Cambodia website.One of the more interesting panels is on Phnom Penh's Bassac area, designed by Lu Ban Hap and Vann Molyvann in the 1960s.

"Architecture can be seen as an art form deeply connected to human life. "

An "ambitious scheme for ‘New Phnom Penh' aimed to develop the reclaimed land from the banks of the Bassac River with low-cost apartment buildings, the 468 apartment buildings built by the municipality in 1963 are presently occupied by squatters, who are facing an uncertain future."

Vandy Rattana; Architectural students prepare an installation at the In Transit exhibition, which opened Tuesday night in Phnom Penh. The show looks to the future while taking stock of what has been lost.

John Vink, a Belgian photojournalist based in Phnom Penh, uses the exhibition as a platform to showcase his photographs on the absence of architecture in urban and sub-urban spaces in transition. His photography depicts huge vacant lots in and around Phnom Penh waiting to be developed.

"[The photos] are documenting unsophisticated expressions of power, shallow dreams, where the only trace of creativity is the creation of material wealth. It is the expression of a market-based economy at its best/worst where individual well-being supersedes common interest," Vink said.

Vink is sceptical about the real estate boom in Phnom Penh as well as the architectural future of the city."The blatant lack of consideration for even basic urbanistic concepts regarding mobility, social diversity [and the] environment are quite appalling," he said.

The architectural future of Phnom Penh will be boring if "the investors don't stop mirroring their ego in the number of floors they are building," he added.

Striking photo strips of three Phnom Penh buildings from the 1950s and 1960s demolished in 2007 taken by Stephanie Irmer showcase the life and tragic death of the buildings.

Photos taken before and during the demolition of National Bassac Theatre, the Council of Ministers and Ecole Polytechnique illustrate the danger of a silent destruction without opposition that Phnom Penh's urban heritage is facing.

The In Transit exhibition is also a platform for young architects and their ecological projects, including renovation of the Hotel Frangipani and a 1960s villa by Chea Chantheborras.

US national accused of sexual assault of underage girl

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Cheang Sokha and Chrann Chamroeun
Thursday, 18 September 2008

The 50-year-old man, who carried on a one-year relationship with the 13-year-old victim, could face up to 10 years in prison

AN American man accused of sexually assaulting an underage Cambodian girl is due to go to Phnom Penh Municipal Court today, according to an official at the Interior Ministry.

Bith Kimhong, director of the ministry's Anti-human Trafficking and Juvenile Protection Department, said police arrested the 50-year-old man, who was not named by police, on Tuesday at his rented house in Boeung Salang commune.

"An American man is accused of sexually assaulting a 13-year-old girl, but he has not confessed to the crime and has not yet requested a lawyer," Bith Kimhong told the Post Wednesday.

"He entered Cambodia in 2007 and met the victim through her sister a year ago," he said.Samleang Seila, a director for the French NGO Action Pour Les Enfants (APLE), said his organisation was aware of the American's relationship with the girl prior to his arrest."

The man had several sexual encounters with the girl," Samleang Seila said, citing conversations he had with the victim, who he said was a junior high school student in Phnom Penh."

Bith Kimhong said the government would not tolerate sexual harassment by foreign nationals. Cambodian law states that anyone convicted of having sex with a child under the age of 15, even if it is consensual, faces five to 10 years in prison.

Bith Kimhong said seven foreign nationals have been arrested for paedophilia in Cambodia so far this year.

Comment: The changing face of Aids

AFP; An HIV-positive sex worker displays her anti retroviral medication.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Vicente Salas
Thursday, 18 September 2008

New ways of thinking about at-risk populations are needed

Cambodia's third national Aids conference, the first one since 2003, ended September 12, with Deputy Premier Sok An giving the closing remarks and outlining some of the challenges that lie ahead - the need to find out more about populations most at risk for acquiring HIV, mobilising more resources for the national response, and minimising the negative impact of new anti-trafficking policies on HIV prevention and outreach work.

Cambodia deserves a pat on the back for its achievements in HIV/Aids over the past decade: an adult zero-prevalence rate that has decreased from 2.6 percent in 1999, to 0.9 percent in 2006; the massive scale-up of anti-retroviral therapy (ART), with almost 28,000 people on treatment, which covers an estimated 80 percent of those who need it, a rate that many countries with stronger health systems can only hope for. The current figures indicate that one in 100 adults has HIV, and zero-prevalence studies among brothel-based female sex workers are still unacceptably high, at 12.7 percent, though this has decreased almost threefold over the past seven years. These gains, however are threatened by recent efforts to implement anti-trafficking initiatives; closure of brothels and arrests of sex workers have made it increasingly more difficult and dangerous to provide information and services.

"This is a blatant, moralistic crusade against sex work, masquerading as an anti-trafficking initiative," remarked a key UN official. Sok An was pragmatic: "Given that prostitution has been around in many forms over the centuries, what can be done to reduce its more despicable effects and at the same time allow protection from HIV and STIs to those who are most vulnerable?" Beyond arresting the sex workers and "rescue operations", nobody has talked openly about the clients and arrested the traffickers. But that's another story.

Where are the next 1,000 new infections coming from? That's a major question, and the health authorities, NGOs and the UN will need to look at that more closely. Take the expanded ‘Voluntary Confidential Counselling and Testing' (VCCT) facilities, for example. The 2007 Cambodia country profile reports that 274,025 persons had been tested for HIV in 156 VCCT centres, as of March 2007, with 20,678 testing positive. We need to find out more about the demographics and risk behaviour patterns of those who test positive for the first time, to give a better idea of where the epidemic is heading. Are these people members of the "high-risk populations"? Are they sexual and/or drug-injecting contacts of those already known to have tested positive? What are the age and sex categories, what proportion are coming from antenatal clinics?

Information from hospital-based treatment centres indicates that a big proportion of people present for ART are in the late stages of infection, where ART is likely to be less effective. We also need to study more about the profile of recent entrants to ART. If a big proportion of people continue to show up at health facilities in an advanced stage of the illness, perhaps then we need to rethink the prevention and counselling strategies to get people on treatment earlier. One can also look more closely at treatment access - who gets treatment, and who doesn't. A significant proportion of women working in the brothels are said to be Vietnamese. If non-Khmers test positive and need ART, what sort of access do they have?

With the decreasing rates of HIV among the brothel-based female sex workers and the "general population" there has also been a shift towards working with "men at risk". However this population is quite loosely characterised, and the main emphasis here is on prevention of sexual transmission with females working in various entertainment establishments. While these measures are necessary these are not sufficient as they do not address other risky practices such as concurrent sex with multiple partners, the phenomenon of ‘bauk' or gang rape, and the antecedent behaviours of drug and alcohol use, or sex between men.

Likewise in Cambodia, there have been no studies about HIV in prisons and other closed settings. Risky behaviour also occurs within closed settings. Opportunities for HIV prevention work are being missed.

Finally, it is well-known that the success of Cambodia's responses has been heavily funded by external donors. A significant proportion of this goes to local and international NGOs, and some of it eventually trickles down to community-based groups of men who have sex with men and people living with HIV/Aids. The government contribution is a mere three percent of annual HIV expenditures. An analysis of the resource gap shows that it will continue to enlarge over the years to come, as the resources for treatment take precedence, and as Cambodia's success becomes a reason for donors to reduce their involvement over the longer term. Sok An announced that negotiations would begin in a month's time for much of bilateral donor money to be coursed through the government in the future. This of course will have implications on how NGOs and civil society groups will be responding.

Cambodia may have "turned the tide", but it may not be prepared for the second wave - with the epidemic now apparently safely ensconced in men who have sex with men/transgenders, particularly those selling sex, in women in the sex industry, and the attendant waves of TB, of Hepatitis C, and the devastating impact on families and communities. These demand new and different ways of thinking and dealing with most at risk populations, less NGO ‘turfing', and more inclusive and accountable partnerships with government, civil society, donors and the private sector.

Vicente Salas is a medical doctor and health-care consultant based in Phnom Penh.

UN rights envoy quits in anger

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Georgia Wilkins and Cheang Sokha
Thursday, 18 September 2008

Departure puts into question future of UN rights office in Cambodia

IN a bitterly critical speech UN envoy Yash Ghai resigned as the UN secretary general's special representative for human rights in Cambodia, calling into question the fate of human rights reforms in the Kingdom.

"The government is now considering whether to close the UN office [of human rights] or keep it operating after the formation of the new government," Minister of Information Khieu Kanharith told the Post Wednesday.

Prime Minster Hun Sen publicly rejoiced at the departure of his archfoe of the last three years, telling students at a graduation ceremony that he was "prepared to work with any person assigned by the UN but not Yash Ghai," for whom he had a personal dislike.

"Reviewing the impact of my reports... it is hard to see any change for the better," Ghai said of his tenure, during which the Kenyan legal scholar endured multiple personal attacks from Hun Sen over his unusually blunt critiques of the government's human rights record.

He added he had received little support from the international community or the UN.

UN 'more incapable'

The statement, made at the Human Rights Council in Geneva on Monday, also raises questions about the UN post's mandate, which is currently under review by the council.

"The UN is proving more and more incapable of dealing with countries like Cambodia, where the rule of law has collapsed," said Basil Fernando of the Asian Human Rights Commission by phone from Hong Kong.

"The UN needs to back representatives like Yash Ghai who are struggling for change," he added.

"The UN does not understand human rights in countries where there is no rule of law," Fernando said.

"Most diplomats come from developed countries and don't know what it is like to not have a working judiciary or constitutional law. Yash Ghai tried to bridge this gap between local and international understandings of human rights."

Naly Pilorge of the Cambodian rights group Licadho said that while it was disappointing that Ghai had not received more support, this was due to the fact that "the international community here and elsewhere have political and economic interests [to protect]".

According to Ou Virak of the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights (CCHR), it is likely Ghai bowed to pressure in resigning, saying many diplomats stationed in the Kingdom had not approved of the lawyer's confrontational style.

"They wanted him to be more diplomatic and play politics," he said.

He added he was concerned at the growing complacency of the international community. "Diplomats and experts in Cambodia have a comfortable salary and a comfortable lifestyle. They undermine how Cambodian people live and what they want."

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in Cambodia declined to comment Wednesday.

PM urges US to boost textile imports to shore up sector

AFP; Garment workers eat their lunch outside of a factory in Phnom Penh.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Kay Kimsong and Cheang Sokha
Thursday, 18 September 2008

Flagging garment industry faces threat from larger competitors, but could shift to European Union markets as US economic downturn hits sales

CAMBODIA is pushing the United States to import more of the Kingdom's textiles amid fears for the garment sector, a key economic driver that has been rapidly slowing since 2007 and is likely to face its most serious hit yet as the worsening financial crisis in America further dampens trade.

Prime Minister Hun Sen, in a meeting Monday with US Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte, urged the US - the largest buyer of Cambodian garments - to increase imports to more than US$2 billion.

"This is an opportunity for the Cambodian people to have more jobs," Hun Sen told reporters after the meeting.

Cambodia's garment sector has traded on its reputation as a labour-friendly industry, allowing the International Labour Organisation to monitor workplace conditions and carving out a niche market that allowed it to compete with larger producers. But buyers appear increasingly likely to turn towards cheaper manufacturers in countries like China and Vietnam, Cambodia's most serious competitors, and the effects are beginning to show.

Cambodia exported $967.9 million worth of garments to the US in the first five months of 2008, while Vietnam tallied up $1.9 billion and China $12 billion, according to US Commerce Department figures.

The Asian Development Bank, in a revision of its 2008 development outlook, said Cambodia's garment sector had an "uncertain future".

"The scheduled removal at end-2008 of the US safeguards [on Chinese textiles], coupled with Vietnam's accession to WTO, will expose it to much stiffer competition," the ADB said.

Even more alarming is data from the Cambodia Development Research Institute (CDRI), which says that the volume of textile and clothing exports to the US dropped by more than 15 percent in 2007.


"With the US economic slowdown, purchasing power is much lower," said independent economist Sok Sina.

Industry officials say the result has been the closure of 25 factories so far this year. While new factories continue to open, there has been a net loss of 2,000 jobs.

"The sector is likely heading for a nosedive," said Cheath Khemara, a senior labour officer with the Garment Manufacturers Association of Cambodia (GMAC), adding that industry players, from factory owners to union leaders, lacked a comprehensive strategy to deal with the downturn.

Sok Sina said, however, that with the US market shrinking, Cambodia could look more towards the European Union to bolster its flagging textile sector. The EU currently takes only 24 percent of Cambodia's garments, but exports values rose $47 million in the first five months of the year to $222 million, according to the CDRI.

"Cambodia's exports to the EU are strong," Sok Sina said.

Government officials have also downplayed the ADB's gloomy outlook, saying overall exports remain strong. "Of course factories close ... but the sector keeps growing," said Thon Virak, deputy director general for the Foreign Trade Department at the Commerce Ministry.

Thailand accuses Cambodia of encroaching upon its territory

Cambodge Soir


Yet one more! The neighbouring Kingdom is claiming sovereignty over the temple of Ta Krabey after its soldiers moved to that area, resulting in a standoff with their Cambodian counterparts.

The Cambodian Ambassador in Bangkok still can’t believe it. On the 16th of September, he received a “reminder” from the Permanent Secretary at the Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs, to demonstrate against a “violation of sovereignty from Thailand over the temple of Ta Kwai in the Thai province of Surin”.

This information follows a brief incursion, according to the Cambodian authorities, of Thai soldiers in the temple of Ta Krabey, Khmer name for Ta Kwai.

Both Kingdoms currently fight over the border question in this area, near the temple of Preah Vihear. For what concerns Khieu Kanharith, government spokesperson, the Thais are using a map which they drew up themselves, while Cambodia uses a map recognised by the Franco-Thai Convention.

As if questioning himself, Khieu Kanharith asks: “Do we discuss the border layout through the press or around a negotiation table? “ While the internal crisis affecting Thailand is dragging on, the minister adds, while taking a hardly veiled menacing stance, that “Cambodia’s patience has limits, at the end of the day only the international institution remains”.

Supreme Commander not concerned over negotiations on Ta Khwai Temple

September 18th, 2008
by Amrit Rashmisrisethi

Supreme Commander Gen.Boonsrang Niempradit says he does not believe that the Thai-Cambodia dispute over border demarcation at Ta Khwai (ตาควาย) Temple will escalate like that of Preah Vihear.

The supreme commander says it is possible that the country’s political instability has prompted the neighboring country to claim rights over Ta Khwai Temple. He suggests that negotiations between the two countries will help ease the Thai-Cambodian row over the border line at the temple area.

Gen.Boonsrang says further that the best way to resolve the conflict is to strengthen the country and prevent social divisions. He also expresses his confidence that the Tha-Cambodian joint border committee and relevant officials can successfully negotiate on the matter.

Source : National News Bureau, Public Relations Department of Thailand

Komatsu Starts Full-Scale Reconstruction, Project Jointly with JMAS in Cambodia

Written by mincho2008
Wednesday, 17 September 2008

Komatsu Ltd. (President & CEO: Kunio Noji), jointly with Japan Mine Action Service (JMAS), a non-profit organization, has embarked on the first, full-scale community reconstruction project which spans from landmine removal to community redevelopment in Battambang District, Cambodia.

Since arrival in Battambang in July this year, Komatsu staff members have transported the D85MS-15 demining machine and other equipment, and have completed the training of local staff for maintenance and operations of the demining machine. Prior to starting the project, on August 18 Komatsu and JMAS held the opening ceremony in the village of Reak Smey Sangha, Battambang District by inviting about 300 villagers in addition to the Governor of Battambang District and guests from local official bodies and the Cambodia Mine Action Centre. Together with all guests, we wished for the safety of all involved in the project and for successful reconstruction of the village.

Scheduled for completion by the end of March 2009, this project calls for demining areas for a total of 37 hecters, repair of roads, construction of reservoirs and channels, and repair of a school building.

Thailand to hold bilateral talks with Cambodia

BANGKOK, Sep 18 (TNA) – Thailand's new Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat has sought to hold bilateral talks with Cambodia to resolve the border dispute.

Mr. Somchai convened a meeting with agencies concerned to discuss the issue at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Thursday. The prime minister said the negotiations between the two countries had been interrupted by political turmoil and Thailand's change of foreign ministers.

Earlier talks went well and smooth, he said, and the two countries had good relations.

He said after Thursday's meeting that he would send a letter to the Cambodian prime minister seeking further talks for better understanding.

Mr. Somchai added he expected the two sides to talk during the upcoming United Nations General Assembly and on the sidelines of the Asean foreign ministers in New York on September 29.

He said he would not attend the General Assembly but that the foreign ministry would be his representative, he said, adding that the new foreign minister will be formally appointed before the UN meeting. (TNA)

New Thai PM ready to hold border talks with Cambodia

ABC Radio Australia
September 18, 2008

Thailand's newly elected Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat says he's ready to hold talks with his Cambodian counterpart Hun Sen to resolve a border dispute.

The two countries made fresh accusations of violating each other's territory yesterday in the dispute over land near ancient temples along their border.

Mr Somchai says he expects officials to hold talks on the matter next week during the UN General Assembly in New York.

Hun Sen has hinted in recent weeks that he might take his boundary complaints to the UN Security Council or international courts if the neighbours cannot resolve their border disagreement.

Tensions flared in July after Preah Vihear was awarded world heritage status by the UN cultural body UNESCO, angering nationalists in Thailand who still claim ownership of the ancient Khmer temple.

Those tensions turned into a military standoff in which up to 1,000 Cambodian and Thai troops faced off for six weeks, until both sides agreed to pull back in mid-August.

Boeung Kak: the residents deliver their petition to a representative of Hun Sen

Cambodge Soir


This morning, the Boeung Kak lakeside residents held a demonstration in Takmao. Since they weren’t able to meet Hun Sen, the villagers delivered their petition to the authorities. However, the latter didn’t appreciate the T-shirts they were wearing.

On Wednesday 17 September, about 200 demonstrators gathered in front of the Prime Minister’s residence in Takmao. They brandished signboards requesting his intervention concerning the Boeung Kak events, but also portraits of Hun Sen and his wife. In the absence of the latter, a representative took note of their complaints and received their petition. The petition is requesting renewed negotiations with the municipality concerning the amount of compensation money and the suspension of the filling operations, which provoked floods. The lakeside residents are hoping that the municipality will find a solution to this problem by pumping out the water excess for example. The residents hope to receive an answer to their demands in one week.

However, the authorities expressed their anger about the T-shirts worn by the demonstrators. According to a member of the Human Right Task Force, the organisation which distributed these T-shirts, the authorities allegedly accused them to have added fuel to the fire. These t-shirts indeed showed texts saying “Our lake, our house” and “Save the Boeung Kak Lake, join us”.

According to Neb Ly, a Human Right Task Force member, the authorities were actively trying to find the author of the slogans on the T-shirts. Yet, still according to him, these texts had nothing illegal. Chan Savet, investigator for the Adhoc Human Rights Association, was surprised about the alleged reaction of the authorities concerning this matter. We couldn’t however confirm this information. The visits of foreign delegations and Amnesty International to the Boeung Kak area had already provoked anger amongst the municipality.

Wanting to see some evolution, the representatives of the Human Right Task Force wrote to the Phnom Penh Municipality in order to set up a meeting, tomorrow Thursday 18 September. They wish to talk about the fate of the Boeung Kak residents and of the author of the T-shirts.

Hun Sen enjoys the departure of Yash Ghai

Cambodge Soir


The resignation of the Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary General for Human Rights in Cambodia was welcomed by the Cambodian Prime Minister who declares being ready to meet his successor.

During a graduation ceremony at the National Institute for Education, the Prime Minister expressed his satisfaction regarding the resignation of Yash Ghai from his position of Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary General for Human Rights in Cambodia.

“He knows that my mandate extends over five more years and that I’ll always refuse to meet him”, explained Hun Sen, whose dispute with Yash Ghai, dating back to the end of last year, reached a rare intensity. On the other hand, Hun Sen declares being ready to meet with his successor.

Originally, the UN Representative for Human Rights had expressed his doubts concerning Cambodia being a legally constituted State, mentioning the forced evictions, and provoking the anger of the Prime Minister who responded violently, calling the professor of Constitutional Rights in Kenya a “human rights tourist”.

Contacted by phone, Sonn Chhay, SRP spokesperson, deplores this departure. “He has done many things for Cambodia, but just like other representatives for human rights in the Kingdom, he has been highly despised by the government”, explained the deputy.

Hun Sen confirms the imminent return of Prince Ranariddh to Cambodia

Cambodge Soir


The Prime Minister justifies this decision through the conciliatory attitude of the NRP leader after the elections.

“Prince Norodom Ranariddh is allowed to return to the country during the Pchum Ben celebrations”, explained Hun Sen on Wednesday 17 September, to students of a private university in Phnom Penh during a graduation ceremony.

The Government Leader explained his decision through the fact that Prince Norodom Ranariddh had “accepted the election results and is encouraging the deputies to swiftly establish a new government”.

After having disputed the ballot results, granting him only two deputies, the NRP leader suddenly changed his mind and decided to acknowledge the legitimacy of the new Assembly.

Commentators second-guessed that the prince had bargained his support for the CPP against a promise to be allowed back in the country.

Prince Norodom Ranariddh lives in Malaysia and was forbidden to return to Cambodia after being sentenced in absentia to 18 months in prison for the controversial sale of the land of the Funcinpec headquarters.

Hun Sen apologised for not having consulted the Funcinpec Secretary General, Nhek Bunchhay, before giving the green light.

The fate of the prince lies now in the hands of his stepbrother, King Norodom Sihamoni who is the only person able to grant pardon.

Cambodia: UN Oversight Needed to Address Ongoing Rights Violations

A Joint Statement by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch

Review, Rationalisation and Improvement of the mandate of the Special Representative of the Secretary General for Human Rights in Cambodia.

9th session of the Human Rights Council

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch call on the Human Rights Council members to extend the mandate of the Secretary General’s Special Representative for Human Rights in Cambodia.

The systemic lack of protection for human rights in Cambodia is a consequence of impunity, the absence of the rule of law and the seriously stunted legal and judicial reform. The government - through inaction - continues to demonstrate its unwillingness to seriously address human rights.

Although marked improvements have taken place since the first resolution on Cambodia by the Commission on Human Rights was adopted in 1993, the unfulfilled need to institutionalize human rights protection – through the legal system, the government administrative structures, and independent institutions – testifies to the need for continued UN engagement. Key to such an engagement is the SRSG’s independent and authoritative assessments of the human rights situation for the international community through the Human Rights Council, as well as the SRSG’s recommendations to bring about improvements, support for Cambodian human rights defenders, and cooperation with and technical assistance to the Cambodian government.

While Cambodia has experienced significant economic growth during the past 15 years, the government has rejected a rights-based approach to development. As stipulated in the Paris Peace Accords, economic development must go hand-in-hand with respect for human rights.

Lack of integrity and independence within the court system sits at the centre of Cambodia’s current human rights problems – its most notable impact is an escalating land crisis. Forced evictions further impoverish the marginalized, who are routinely deprived of redress. Violence against women goes unpunished. Freedoms of expression and association are compromised and human rights defenders, opposition journalists, and community activists defending land and natural resources are increasingly imprisoned on baseless charges, physically attacked, or murdered; the perpetrators are rarely brought to justice. The Supreme Council of Magistracy, established to ensure independence and effectiveness of the judiciary remains ineffectual, while the Constitutional Council has continuously failed to demonstrate its role to safeguard the constitutionality of legislation.

The 1991 Paris Peace Accords, signed by the United Nations and 19 member states, recommended the establishment of the Special Representative, whose mandate includes protecting and promoting human rights. Until the Cambodian government implements concrete reforms needed to establish an independent judiciary and other independent institutions to provide checks and balances on the government it is crucial that the Special Representative’s mandate be continued. To end or reduce the mandate’s reporting function will deprive Cambodians of the international oversight essential to achieving the effective promotion and fulfilment of the human rights to which they aspire and deserve.

Jeweller offers customers craftsmanship, and a chair

Vandy Rattana; Hoeu Sareth has been giving customers a good deal for over 20 years.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Mom Kunthear and Camilla Bjerrekear
Thursday, 18 September 2008

Famous all around the world, Hoeu Sareth - better known as Mr Sit-Down - is still just a jewel in the rough

PROVIDING wooden stools for the customers of the small jewellery shop he opened in 1987 at Phnom Penh's Russian Market was the beginning of business success for Hoeu Sareth, who is now better-known as Mr Sit-Down.

"I usually said ‘sit down' to all my foreign customers who came to my shop, and then they called me Mr Sit-Down, because it was easy for them and their friends to look for and remember," he says.

The name has stuck and now, more than 20 years later, Mr Sit-Down, otherwise known as Hoeu Sareth, has put his name to three Mr Sit-Down shops.

One is run by his daughter, whom he taught all about jewellery, just as Mr Sit-Down learned from his parents. Soon his son will have a shop of his own, too.

"I learned to design jewellery from my parents during the 1950s. I have never gone to study anywhere - I believe in my work," he said.

" I usually said 'sit down' to all my foreign customers who came to my shop. "

"When I was selling at Russian Market I had only few apprentices and now I have more than 10," he says, adding that creating jewellery is not difficult as long as you have the passion for it.

Far away from the small stall at the Russian Market, his shops are now situated at Sihanouk Boulevard and Sisowath Quay but still feature stools for customers to sit on as well as an abundance of gold and silver jewellery with different types of stones.

Most of the stones come from Cambodia, while the satisfied customers come from all over the world.

"My customers are more than 97 percent foreigners and very few are Cambodian. I think it is because Cambodian people do not know my shop, and the foreigners know my shop as their friends or relatives tell them about it," he says.

He has never needed to advertise his businesses because the expat community and tourists have spread the word among themselves, he adds.

"When our products are good we do not need to advertise, the users will promote for us," Mr Sit-Down says with a smile.

Sit-Down also designs and manufactures made-to-order, custom jewellery with various designs - Western, traditional Cambodian and any other - and Hoeu Sareth is very proud of his businesses.

"I have struggled to do my business and now I have success with it. Sometimes I tried to care for my customers until midnight or a whole day without taking rest in order to satisfy the customers," he says.

"It is not only famous because of my name, but it is also the quality and the work of art that I do for the customers according to their wants," he says. "We do not cheat the customers."

Economic growth to slow: ADB

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Seth Meixner and Kay Kimsong
Thursday, 18 September 2008

Flagging garment sector largely behind four-point drop

SLOWING demand for Cambodian garments is expected to see overall economic growth drop to 6.0 percent by 2009, according to the Asian Development Bank, which said that despite negative impacts on manufacturing, the service sector - namely tourism and finance - will remain strong.

"The near-term economic outlook has deteriorated as a result of weaker growth in the US, higher fuel and non-fuel commodity prices and continued US dollar weakness," the ADB wrote in a revision of its Asian Development Outlook 2008 report, released Tuesday.

"The major challenges are to diversify sources of growth, by such means as greater rural development, and to reduce poverty faster," the ADB added.

Growth for 2007 is estimated at 9.6 percent, the ADB said, adding, however, that 2008 growth was revised down to 6.5 percent.

Apart from a flagging garment industry, a pullback in Cambodia's agricultural sector - meant to be a major economic driver - also accounted for the drop in growth, it added. The services sector, however, remains strong, with tourism arrivals continuing to rise and construction activity, much of it funded by foreign investment, maintaining a brisk pace.

Globally high food and fuel prices, coupled with surge in private sector credit, has had the greatest impact on one of the region's most robust economies, resulting in 25 percent inflation.


"Inflation is widely believed to have accelerated this year," the ADB said. Consumer Price Index figures released by the government Monday showed the price of goods up more than 22 percent in the year to August.

While inflation is expected to ease to 15 percent next year, "there are indications that higher inflation, especially of food prices, has set back efforts to reduce poverty", the ADB said. "Preliminary evidence suggests that as many as two million people may have slipped below the poverty line.

"Cambodian People's Party lawmaker Cheam Yeap dismissed the figures as only estimates. "The government tries very hard to spur growth and reduce poverty," he said.

PM orders govt to work towards lower fuel prices

AFP; A streetside petrol vendor makes a sale in Phnom Penh in this file photo. Many Cambodians use streetside sellers to buy cheaper fuel.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Cheang Sokha and Kay Kimsong
Thursday, 18 September 2008

Domestic petrol costs should reflect drop in global oil prices

PRIME Minister Hun Sen has urged the Finance Ministry to work towards lowering the price of petrol to better reflect recent drops in global oil costs, he told reporters late Monday.

"I have ordered the minister of economy and finance to work on this issue. If we look at the last figures, the price of world oil has dropped around 25 percent, but in Cambodia, petrol prices have only fallen 10 percent.

Petrol costs rose 32.5 percent in the year to August, according to the most recent Consumer Price Index figures released this week. The local price hikes, which went as high as 6,000 riels a litre, saw a massive spike in the price of other consumer goods and services.

Cambodian fuel giant Sokimex Co was selling its petrol for 5,000 riels a litre Tuesday, down from 5,700 riels a month ago, said Sokimex Deputy Director Heu Heng.

Rong Chhun, president of the Cambodian Independent Teachers Association and one of the staunchest critics of high fuel prices because of their impact on the Kingdom's poor, lauded Hun Sen's order but said that the results at the pump would be too slow in coming. "The price of petrol in Cambodia should be 3,500 riels per litre," he told the Post Tuesday. Fuel industry analyst Bin May Mialia said Hun Sen's order was fair following the drop in world oil costs. But he added that Asian fuel distributors might be slower than those in Europe to lower their prices.

Cambodian PM hopes Prince Ranariddh to return home from Malaysia

September 17, 2008

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said Wednesday that he wanted self-exiled Prince Norodom Ranariddh to return home from Malaysia in the traditional Pchum Ben festival falling on Sept. 29.

"My intention needs the Prince to come back to have reconciliation for our nation and myself also want to do a good charity in the festival," Hun Sen said at a graduation ceremony at the National Institute of Education.

"The Prince and I used to have verbal attack but now it is over," he said, adding that Ranariddh needs pardon from the King.

Ranariddh, who left Cambodia last year under a cloud of legal problems, is living in Malaysia.

In October 2006, he was ousted from the Funcinpec Party and he created a new party under his own name, the Norodom Ranariddh Party (NRP), which won two seats in the National Assembly in the July 27 national election.

Meanwhile, Hun Sen also revealed that if the newly elected members of the National Assembly from NRP want to join the committees in the parliament, they have to send their names to the National Assembly and prepare a name list for approving in package voting.

The new mandate of National Assembly will have the swearing-in ceremony on Sept. 24.


Well-fed dead

Heng Chivoan

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Heng Chivoan
Thursday, 18 September 2008

Monks pray on behalf of the dead and bless the food relatives will later offer their deceased ancestors, at a predawn ceremony at Kandal province's Wat Srey Ompil on Tuesday to mark P'Chum Ben, or festival of the dead, celebrations.

HIV+ community demands equal rights

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Khoun Leakhana
Thursday, 18 September 2008

PEOPLE living with HIV/Aids have urged the government to help provide them with proper jobs and take action to eliminate discrimination against them.

Sou Sinath, a representative of HIV/Aids sufferers, said discrimination is rampant in schools and workplaces.

"The discrimination against [HIV-positive people] makes it difficult for such people to make money," Sinath said. "We require job opportunities and training in new skills so that we can show the society that we are able to work and make money."

She said that some workplaces provided very low-paying jobs to HIV/Aids sufferers. "People can't survive on US$15 to $30 per month, and NGOs and the government should pay more attention.

"Oum Mean, undersecretary of state at the Ministry of Labour, said people who discriminate against people with HIV/Aids have no knowledge of the disease and that the ministry has educated employers and encouraged them to provide job opportunities to both HIV-positive and disabled persons.

Mean Chhivun, director of National Center for HIV/Aids, Dermatology and STD, said discrimination against HIV-positive people has decreased in the last decade and more people are getting tested for the virus.

According to Mean Chhivun, there are currently 67,000 people with HIV/Aids in Cambodia and 87 percent are receiving anti-retroviral treatment from 50 centres.

Five to stand trial in killing of British deminer, interpreter

Inspired by Howes's act of bravery in defending his Cambodian colleagues, King Norodom Sihanouk decided to rename the street in front of Hotel Le Royal "Christopher Howes Boulevard".

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Vong Sokheng
Thursday, 18 September 2008

Court officials say the former Khmer Rouge cadres will face a judge as early as this month on charges of murder and kidnapping

FIVE former Khmer Rouge cadres will stand trial in Phnom Penh's Municipal Court as early as this month for the 1996 killing of British deminer Christopher Howes and his Cambodian interpreter Houn Hoerth, a court official confirmed Tuesday.

"We have been working for many years on a complicated investigation to ensure that a judge would have enough evidence to convict and that we could bring justice to the victims," court chief Chev Keng told the Post.He added that the trial could be delayed until early October.

Military police arrested three of the suspects in November, including RCAF Brigadier-General Khem Ngun, who was the Khmer Rouge's military chief of staff and Ta Mok's designated heir apparent, prior to his defection from the dying movement in 1998.

Also seized were Loch Mao, a former Cambodian People's Party-affiliated district official in Anlong Veng who is believed to have shot the pair, and Cheath Cheth, who allegedly drove the car that transported Howes and Houn Hoerth to Anlong Veng.Two additional suspects, Sin Dorn and Puth Lim, were arrested shortly after.

Sao Sokha, chief of the National Military Police, told the Post Tuesday that all five suspects have been held at Prey Sar prison since their arrests.

Fatal bravery

Howes and Houn Hoerth were kidnapped by the Khmer Rouge on March 26, 1996, in a rural area north of Siem Reap town.

Howes was leading a 26-man Mines Advisory Group (MAG) demining team at the time.


The Khmer Rouge told Howes he could leave his team and bring back an unknown ransom in exchange for 10 Cambodian deminers the kidnappers would have kept.

He was ordered not to involve local police and militia.But Howes declined the offer and said he would stay with his team. By the end of his first day of captivity the rest of the deminers had been freed.

The two hostages were subsequently driven to Anlong Veng and executed, despite persistent reports that they were still alive.

Britain's Scotland Yard stationed officers in Siem Reap for the next several years and tasked them to follow up all leads on the deminers.

It wasn't until the final demise of the Khmer Rouge in 1998 that sources confirmed the basic details of the executions of Howes and Hoerth.