Monday, 6 October 2008

Teachers demand salary increase

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by CHUN SOPHAL and HOR HAB
Monday, 06 October 2008

THE government should reduce the pay gap between members of parliament and teachers if it wishes to improve the quality of education in the Kingdom, said Rong Chhun, president of the Cambodian Independent Teachers Association (CITA), on Sunday.

"The salary gap is a serious abuse of human rights," Rong Chhun said at a news conference after the World Teachers Day celebration in Phnom Penh. "It would be reasonable [for the government] to increase teacher salaries to 1 million riels (US$245) per month if MPs earn a salary of nine million riels per month."

Cambodia currently employs about 100,000 teachers nationwide, earning approximately $45 per month, according to a report compiled by CITA.

But Cheam Yeap, chairman of the National Assembly's Commission on Economy, Finance, Banking and Audits, said it is not reasonable for the union to expect that teacher salaries be comparable to that of MPs.

"I wish Rong Chhun was an elected MP so he could understand our duties and why there is a salary gap," Cheam Yeap said, adding that MPs only receive around $242 per month.

But Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker Yim Sovann welcomed the teachers' demand for higher wages, saying the government promised to increase their salaries by 20 percent both in 2008 and 2009.

Manager of the historic Renakse Hotel says she fears for her safety

TRACEY SHELTON; The landmark Renakse Hotel in Phnom Penh on Sunday. The owner said she fears for her safety following a hotel inspection by unidentified visitors on Saturday.
The Phnom Penh Post

Written by May Titthara
Monday, 06 October 2008

Kem Chantha claims unexpected visitors inspected the hotel grounds, while officials say no action has been taken yet to deal with her refusal to leave the property, which has been sold

KEM Chantha, manager of the landmark Renakse Hotel, told the Post Sunday she fears for her safety in the wake of a controversy that has seen the government break its lease with her and sell the hotel to a private company.

"I am really scared because yesterday three cars pulled up and four individuals attempted to book rooms," she said. "My staff told them no rooms were available, but they inspected the grounds before they finally left."

Kem Chantha has managed the hotel for more than two decades, but a government letter delivered October 24 announced that her 49-year lease would be broken and a new owner, Alexan Inc, would develop the 7,000-square-metre property for new government housing.

The Ministry of Religions and Cults, which has been put in charge of the project, said the property needed to be vacated by the end of September, according to Kem Chantha, who continues to occupy the hotel.

She said she has appealed to the Cambodian People's Party, the former leaseholder."I wrote a letter to the Cambodian People's Party seeking permission to buy the hotel," she said. "I can give the same price as Alexan Inc, or higher. I hope the government will sell to me, since I hold the current lease. Otherwise, they would be acting illegally."


Alexan offered US$200,000 in compensation for breaking the lease on the hotel, she said. A photocopy of a check in that amount was posted on the hotel's gate last Wednesday, she said.

"Khiev Sepphan [the lawyer representing the CPP] posted a photocopied Cambodia Public Bank cheque on my hotel gate and I don't know why."

Khiev Sepphan told the Post his office had contacted Kem Chantha three times about vacating the premises and that so far no action has been taken against her for refusing to leave.

"The reason we posted a photocopy of the check was because Kem Chantha said we were only saying we would pay the $200,000 and that she had not seen the money," he said.

"Now, she can receive the real check from me or Min Khin, secretary of state for the Ministry of Religions and Cults, at any time and can't say that we don't intend to pay her," he said.

He added the lease was broken because Kem Chantha failed to honour Article Three of her contract, which states that she had three years to repair the hotel and bring it up to international standards, but that nearly eight years have passed with nothing done.

"Now the negotiations are between the Renakse owner and Alexan Inc. If she doesn't want the $200,000, she can ask for more," he said.

Monks, authorities in budget clash

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Cheang Sokha
Monday, 06 October 2008

NEARLY 200 monks from Sihanoukville's Entagnean pagoda have filed a complaint against the chief of the pagoda commission, claiming she stole pagoda money and used her office for personal gain.

Monk representative Bun Neng wrote to the Sihanoukville Municipal Department of Cults & Religions September 24, alleging that commission chief Pok Sophal had taken pagoda donations, raised by monks during Buddhist ceremonies, and then accused the monks of stealing the money.

"She was appointed [as chief of the pagoda commission] without agreement from the monks," he said, adding that Pok Sophal never attended meetings to discuss the development of the pagoda. "She respected only the chief of the monks, but the others never."

Pok Sophal denied the accusations, saying that the letters were sent on behalf of a few monks in the pagoda who envied the work of the commission. "I did nothing wrong and I'm not angry with the monks," she told the Post. "How can I commit corruption or nepotism like they say? The [commission's] decisions are made by the chief of the monks and the whole commission, as well as the finance officer.

"Pich Sem, chief clergyman in the pagoda, said that the dispute between the monks and the commission was caused by envy and in fact there was no clear separation between collective costs and private costs in the pagoda's budget.

"There should be specific management and a clear separation," Pich Sem said. "They should not just think about personal interest. They have to be devoted to Buddhism, as they live in the pagoda."

NRP appoints new president

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Meas Sokchea and Sebastian Strangio
Monday, 06 October 2008

THE Norodom Ranariddh Party has announced it will appoint party Vice President Chhim Siek Leng as its next leader following Prince Norodom Ranariddh's retirement from politics Friday.

According to a statement issued Saturday, a party congress will be convened shortly to formalise the appointment, although Prince Ranariddh's name and image will both be retained by the NRP.

"I will be appointed as official president of the NRP at a suitable time," Chhim Siek Leng said Sunday, adding that he was yet to define his stance in relation to the new government, concentrating instead on shoring up local party membership.

"I think that the NRP still has support because there are many supporters at the grassroots," he said. Prime Minister Hun Sen announced Thursday that the NRP will not be offered positions in the new government.

Koul Panha, executive director of election monitor Comfrel, said the appointment was unlikely to change the NRP's fortunes.

"While Prince Ranariddh was away, Chhim Siek Leng was the acting president, so it's not a big change," he said, suggesting the Prince could still have a hand in NRP policy, despite his formal resignation.

"He still puts his name on the party, so he will make sure his name keeps strong in [Cambodian] politics," Koul Panha said.

Restraint urged in border dispute

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Thet Sambath and Brendan Brady
Monday, 06 October 2008

CAMBODIAN officials are urging restraint after a round of angry finger-pointing over Friday's shootout between Cambodian and Thai troops on the border near Preah Vihear temple.

"Cambodia has shown clearly that Thai soldiers are provoking confrontation, but our side is trying to continue negotiations and avoid any more fights," said Foreign Ministry Undersecretary of State Koy Kuong on Sunday, after one Cambodian and two Thai soldiers were injured in the first military clash over disputed border territory since a standoff began in July.

Cambodia on Saturday accused Thai troops of trespassing and firing first. "Such armed provocation" could lead to "full-scale armed hostilities", a Foreign Ministry staement said.

Thai authorities responded later that day that Cambodian soldiers crossed the border and fired on unarmed Thai rangers in "a brutal and aggressive act".

Srey Doek, commander of Cambodian forces in the area, said after he met with his Thai counterpart Saturday that the situation had normalised.

Top military officials from both sides have insisted reinforcements would not be sent to the border. Ke Kim Yan, commander-in-chief of RCAF, is scheduled to visit soldiers stationed along the border today.

Girl power


The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Sovan Seng
Monday, 06 October 2008

Young women take part in a demonstration judo match that was part of the "Women in Sport" day celebrated Saturday morning outside the NagaWorld casino in Phnom Penh. Women from across the Kingdom gathered to take part in a fun run and a variety of other athletic exhibitions, including a session of aerobics. Prizes were awarded to many of those who participated in the event.

Pictures from Preah Vihear: A Cambodian soldier keeps watch after hearing two explosions from anti-personnel landmines at Engel field on Phnom Trop

Cambodian soldiers patrol after hearing two explosions from anti-personnel landmines at Engel field on Phnom Trop mountain, near the Thai border and the disputed 900-year-old Preah Vihear temple, October 6, 2008. Two Thai soldiers stepped on landmines near the Cambodian border on Monday, the army said, three days after a brief exchange of fire near the Preah Vihear temple.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA)

A Cambodian soldier stands guard after hearing two explosions from anti-personnel landmines at Engel field on Phnom Trop mountain near the Thai border and the disputed 900-year-old Preah Vihear temple October 6, 2008. Two Thai soldiers stepped on landmines near the Cambodian border on Monday, the army said, three days after a brief exchange of fire near the Preah Vihear temple.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA)

A Cambodian soldier stands guard after hearing two explosions from anti-personnel landmines at Engel field on Phnom Trop mountain near the Thai border and the disputed 900-year-old Preah Vihear temple October 6, 2008. Two Thai soldiers stepped on landmines near the Cambodian border on Monday, the army said, three days after a brief exchange of fire near the Preah Vihear temple.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA)

A Cambodian soldier keeps watch after hearing two explosions from anti-personnel landmines at Engel field on Phnom Trop mountain, near the Thai border and the disputed 900-year-old Preah Vihear temple, October 6, 2008. Two Thai soldiers stepped on landmines near the Cambodian border on Monday, the army said, three days after a brief exchange of fire near the Preah Vihear temple.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA)

A Cambodian soldier digs a trench at the disputed 900-year-old Preah Vihear temple, 543 km (337 miles) north of Phnom Penh, October 6, 2008. Two Thai soldiers stepped on landmines near the Cambodian border on Monday, the army said, three days after a brief exchange of fire near the Preah Vihear temple.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA)

A Cambodian soldier walks past the scene of last Friday's clash between Cambodian and Thai troops at Engel field on Phnom Trop mountain, near the Thai border in Preah Vihear province, 543 km (337 miles) north of Phnom Penh, near the disputed 900-year-old Preah Vihear temple, October 6, 2008. Two Thai soldiers stepped on landmines near the Cambodian border on Monday, the army said, three days after a brief exchange of fire near the Preah Vihear temple.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA)

Sacravatoons : " The Father "

Courtesy Sacravatoon

Sacravatoons :" From Longvaek to Nom Benh "

Courtesy Sacravatoon

Landmines wound Thai soldiers

TV ONE New Zealand
Oct 6, 2008

Two Thai soldiers stepped on landmines near the Cambodian border on Monday, the army said, three days after a brief exchange of fire near the disputed 900-year-old Preah Vihear temple.

The army rangers, each of whom lost a leg, were patrolling on Thai territory and stepped on the mines only 400 metres from where soldiers from both sides clashed on Friday, Colonel Sirichan Ngathong said.

"We don't know whose mines they were, but we have dispatched a mine expert to check out the area," she said.

Bangkok and Phnom Penh have accused each other of unprovoked aggression in Friday's contact between two border patrol units in which two Thais and one Cambodian were wounded.

It was the first clash since the two sides agreed in August to withdraw most of the 1,000 troops facing off for a month near the historic Hindu ruins that sit on the jungle-clad escarpment dividing the countries.

Their foreign ministers agreed in July to find a peaceful end to the spat, which centres on 4.6 square kilometres of scrub near the temple.

The argument started when protest groups seeking to overthrow the Thai government criticised Bangkok's backing of Cambodia's bid to list Preah Vihear as a UN World Heritage site.

Tensions have eased considerably since Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen's victory in late July in a general election in which the temple, and nationalism, featured heavily.

Both sides have claimed Preah Vihear for decades. The International Court of Justice awarded it to Cambodia in 1962, and the ruling has rankled in Thailand ever since.

House divided in Cambodia


October 06, 2008

A CAMBODIAN couple have circumvented the country's corrupt and expensive court system in a divorce case by literally dividing their house in half.

The Koh Santepheap newspaper last week featured a front-page photograph of a precariously perched half of the stilted former home of Meuon Rima and his ex-wife Nhang, both 40, which Mr Rima sawed down the middle.

Mr Rima, who sought a divorce because his wife refused to nurse him during an illness, was last seen driving away from the village with his half of the home.

Having a ball

BELGRADE: A Serbian chef is publishing recipes for a tender meat in The Testicle Cookbook: Cooking With Balls.

The book includes Ljubomir Erovic's favourite dishes: testicle pizza, battered testicles and barbecued testicles and giblets.

The e-book, available for download from the internet, comes with video guides to cooking the testicles of stallions, ostriches, bulls, pigs and turkeys.

"Wash testicles thoroughly for 30-45 minutes," begins the recipe for testicles pie. "Once softened, mince them in a mincer." A "very sharp knife" is needed for traditional style testicles, which get boiled, cut up and deep fried in hot oil. Testicles are rich in testosterone and are believed to be a powerful aphrodisiac in countries such as Serbia and China. "The best for aphrodisiac properties are sheep and stallion testicles", said Erovic, 45.

On a milkshake

ALMATY, Kazakhstan: A court in Kazakhstan has dropped drunken-driving charges against a man who admits he had 1.5litres of fermented mare's milk.

Fermented mare's milk, or kumys, is not listed as an alcoholic beverage in Kazakhstan, although it can contain up to 4 per cent alcohol.

The popular drink is believed to have health-boosting properties The man, identified only as R. Iskendirov, told a court he had drunk kumys for medicinal purposes before getting behind the wheel in June.

A busy political agenda for the King Father in November

Cambodge Soir


Norodom Sihanouk will successively receive the visits of the Cambodian Prime Minister and the President of the main opposition party at his royal residence in Beijing.

In a letter dated 19 September, Sam Rainsy requested a courtesy audience with the King Father. The latter specified however that he wouldn’t receive him before the third week of November because he is currently undergoing medical examinations. According to Mu Sochua, Deputy General Secretary of the SRP, it would only be a courtesy visit without political agenda.

During a speech on the occasion of the new school year, Hun Sen also declared that he would soon be visiting the King. While the government leader indicated that he should be welcomed before Sam Rainsy, he didn’t specify the subjects he’d like to breach during this royal meeting.

However, it is not a coincidence if both men asked to meet the King Father. Before this announcement, the former monarch had congratulated Hun Sen through a letter sent from Beijing, after the latter had reassumed his position as Prime Minister on 24 September. “On behalf of my wife and on my own behalf, we wish to congratulate you for this appointment to a position worthy of your name”, wrote Norodom Sihanouk, adding that the prime Minister is a “great and prestigious leader” who has done a lot for Cambodia.

For what concerns Hun Sen, who considers Norodom Sihanouk as his “own father”, he stated in his letter that the words of the former King are “encouraging him in his work”.

These amiabilities contrast sharply with the speech of Sam Rainsy who, slightly after the elections, called for the former monarch to lead a royal crusade in order to “save the country”. According to him, the country is currently facing danger, particularly because of poverty, election frauds and foreign invasion.

Cambodia protests against the aggression of Thai military at Preah Vihear

Cambodge Soir


In an official letter, the authorities of the Kingdom warn the neighbour country against the consequences of this action.

Following the skirmishes in the area of Preah Vihear which resulted in an exchange of fire, the Cambodian Minister of Foreign Affairs sent an official letter to the Thai Ambassador to Phnom Penh on Saturday 4 October.

“The Royal Kingdom of Cambodia considers the actions of the Thai soldiers as being serious armed provocations”, going against the previous commitments of both countries made during meetings between the Foreign Ministers on 28 July and on 18 and 19 August.

As a matter of fact, the Cambodian authorities “protest vigorously” against this attack and request the Thai government not to renew such actions in the future, at risk of facing “serious consequences” which might result in an armed confrontation and which would harm the joint efforts of both countries in order to find a peaceful solution to the conflict of Preah Vihear.

Since Friday night, the tensions haven’t eased between the soldiers of both countries, who remain on high alert at both sides of the border.

Friday 3 October at 3.30pm, a small group of Thai soldiers encroached upon Cambodian territory, in the area of Phnom Trap, before firing shots at the Cambodian troops stationed in the area of Veal Intry. The latter immediately returned fire. One Cambodian soldier of the 43rd brigade was injured.

Shots fired at the border between Thailand and Cambodia

Cambodge Soir


On Friday 3 October, around 3.30pm, shots have been fired between Thai and Cambodian soldiers near the temple of Preah Vihear, in the north-east of Cambodia.

According to the version of Yuy Wanthan, Cambodian military official in charge of this region, “16 Thai border surveillance soldiers allegedly encroached upon Cambodian territory, in the area called Phnom Trorp, close to the temple. The Cambodian soldiers drove them away. The Thais resisted and finally withdrew. Once back on their side, they opened fire, injuring one Cambodian soldier. The latter returned fire and injured one or two Thai soldiers”. The exchange of fire between the two groups lasted about ten minutes.

This version was immediately confirmed over the phone by Phay Siphan, spokesperson for the Council of Ministers. According to him, Phnom Penh called Bangkok in order to request explanations. It looks like the situation became peaceful again.

Monday 29 September, the General Secretary of the United Nations, Ban Ki-Moon, suggested on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly that Cambodia and Thailand had to find a joint solution concerning the border conflict around the temples.

After having occupied the area around the temples during numerous weeks, the departure of the soldiers had been negotiated between the military authorities of both countries and was announced on Thursday 14 August by General Neang Phat, Defence Secretary of State and Director of the Committee for the border dispute resolution of Preah Vihear.

This incident might add fuel on the fire between both countries, while Thailand still remains politically unstable.

Chhim Seakleng takes over the flag at the NRP

Chhim Seakleng on the right.

Cambodge Soir


The day after the announcement of the political withdrawal of Norodom Ranariddh, his Vice-President was entrusted with the leading position of the party.

The seat didn’t remain vacant for long. Following Norodom Ranariddh’s decision, on Thursday 2 October, to withdraw from Cambodian politics, the leading officials have nominated Chhim Seakleng as head of the party.

Until then Vice-President of the NRP, he replaces Prince Ranariddh, resigning President, who revealed his intention to take on a position at the Royal Palace.

The NRP, which isn’t represented in the government, has two elected representatives in the National Assembly.

Important traffic jams after Pchum Ben

Cambodge Soir


The lack of discipline reached a level never ever seen before in the history of Cambodia. Wednesday 30 September, the end of the holidays proved to be a nightmare for thousands of automobile drivers on the roads of the Kingdom.

Each year the end of the Festival of the Death goes parallel with a spectacular increase of road traffic. Traffic jams are omnipresent along the main roads of the Kingdom and accidents are numerous. The return from holidays has never been as difficult as this year. As an example: the trip between Siem Reap and Phnom Penh, which usually takes 4 and a half hours, was done in 9 or 10 hours on Wednesday.

While the number of vehicles forced the drivers to slow down, it’s at the Japanese bridge that the traffic jam started. Some cunning drivers, wanting to arrive faster and considering themselves above the law, tried to overtake the slow moving queue. As this happened in both directions, the cars stood facing each other over three lanes. Under these conditions it was impossible to do anything about it. The traffic jam extended over approximately thirty kilometers, creating good sales opportunities for the hawkers along the road. At times, there was a festive atmosphere. Many travelers remained patient, car doors open, music blaring and with improvised picnics. Some decided to leave the bus or taxi in order to find a moto-taxi, often in vain. Navy, 19 years old, missed her appointment with friends. “I took the first bus in order to arrive early and we got stuck from 12pm onwards. We were only able to pass at 6pm, even then very slowly”, she explained.

The situation got under control around 10pm, thanks to the intervention of the police and the help of the national gendarmerie.

The situation wasn’t better on the other side of town, at the Vietnamese bridge. People coming back from Bavet or Neak Lung were stuck in similar traffic jams, caused by the same selfish attitudes.

A policeman didn’t hide his anger: “If everybody was respecting the rules and stayed in line, traffic would slow down but wouldn’t come to a total halt. Everybody wants to be first with the result that everybody gets stuck. These are bad habits which will never change”.

The curtain opens on the theatre festival of the French Cultural Centre (FCC)

The theatre company of Catherine Marnas is rehearsing.

Cambodge Soir


Until the 9th of October, the French Cultural Centre offers its second edition of the Lakhaon theatre festival in Phnom Penh. First event on Friday 3 October: the street parade of actors.

Every evening the Chenla theatre will host two shows from 6.30pm onwards. The FCC wishes to put the emphasis on the different types of theatre performances in Cambodia. The audience will discover, amongst others, the wedding theatre, the one with the coloured leather puppets or the one with the masks.

Twelve theatre companies have been invited for this new edition. Five countries are being represented: France, Cambodia, Laos, Burma and Thailand.

This year, the French Cultural Centre will put creations under the spotlight, in other words eight shows. The Burmese theatre company presents a puppet show and the Laotian a cabaret show. The Thai company will bring a performance with a blend of modern theatre and traditional dance. The Frenchwoman, Catherine Marnas, has created an original show based on a Khmer legend, with the help of her team and Khmer actors.

The shows will be subtitled in French or English in order to make it easy to understand for everybody.

In parallel, the FCC will screen different filmed theatre performances, from Shakespeare to Feydeau, from Racine to Cixous.

Practical information

Start of the parade, Friday 3 October at 3pm, on the corner of Mao Tse Tung and Kampuchea Krom Boulevards in Phnom Penh.

Shows every night from 6.30pm onwards at the Chenla theatre.Screening of filmed theatre performances, on 4, 6, 7, 8 and 9 October at the cinema of the FCC.

Free entry

The need for a temple deal

The Bangkok Post
Monday October 06, 2008

The political crisis in Bangkok has caused several unfortunate consequences that were not foreshadowed. At the top of the list is the danger that the simmering Preah Vihear temple dispute might get out of hand. Last Friday, Cambodian and Thai troops exchanged gunfire which caused casualties on both sides before cooler heads stepped in. There are differing versions as to what caused this extraordinary exchange of hostile fire, and a full investigation should be held quickly. But it is far more important that the government focus more diligently on this and other matters of national interest which it has lately ignored.

That matter of national interest turned into a nasty matter of national security on Friday. According to the Foreign Ministry, Cambodian troops "were definitely inside Thai territory" and opened fire. The initial story from Cambodian Information Minister Khieu Kanharith agreed that Thai troops were in Thailand, but said they fired the first shot - a grenade which wounded two Khmer soldiers. Reports also agree the exchange of fire lasted less than two minutes, and a Thai soldier also was hit by Cambodian gunfire.

This is the danger of troops facing each other across a disputed, semi-jungle border. Any tiny misunderstanding or accident can cause a serious incident that can easily escalate. As history tells us, minor events have caused major wars.

A number of happy circumstances make war unlikely here. Both governments understand that an escalation of violence is in no one's interest. Similarly, senior military officers in charge of border security are in regular contact. Troops try to communicate any unusual movements to their counterparts across the frontier to avoid misunderstanding.

There is a vacuum, however, in top-level contact and negotiations. For a while, Khmer elections and post-poll formation of a new government left Cambodian without a foreign minister. Then, for the past three months or so, Thailand has lurched through four foreign ministers and a startling court case which has changed the shape of foreign policy. Since the resignation of Noppadon Pattama over the Preah Vihear temple issue, top-level relations with Cambodia have fallen into limbo.

None of the three ministers who followed Mr Noppadon has been able to focus on the important question of relations with Cambodia. Professional diplomat Tej Bunnag held a meeting with his Cambodian counterpart in Siem Reap which was little more than a formality. Saroj Chavanavirat, another professional, barely had time to move into, and then out of, his office when his prime minister, Samak Sundaravej, was disqualified by the Constitution Court. Current Foreign Minister Sompong Amornvivat has spent most of his working time at the United Nations.

The Preah Vihear temple issue is a top priority for several reasons. Peace and national security, territorial integrity, historical pride and international tourism are a few of them. The dispute over the land around the temple is well-known, but represents a festering sore. The neighbours have agreed that their foreign ministers should discuss and try to heal this wound. It is vital that they get down to it, before another military incident or ultra-nationalists further inflame the problem.

Mr Sompong and his ministry have a full plate of issues. But Cambodian relations, particularly discussions of the overlapping 4.6 square kilometres around Preah Vihear, should be at the top of the agenda. If the foreign ministers can get to work, they can make it clear that Friday's brief firefight is the last.

CULTURE-CAMBODIA: 'We Don't Have a Film Industry'

By Andrew Nette - Newsmekong*

PHNOM PENH, Oct 6 (IPS) - Internationally acclaimed director Rithy Panh remembers how, as young boy in pre-war Phnom Penh, cinema played a central role in his family life.

"When I was young we had so many cinemas not like the situation now, and we used to go to the films all the time. Western, Indian and Khmer pictures, I loved them all."

The director, whose most recent film is an adaptation of Marguerite Duras’s novel, ‘The Sea Wall’, responds bluntly to a question about the health of Cambodia’s film industry: "I think the situation today is that we do not have a film industry."

"We have an entertainment industry. Most of the production is karaoke, soap opera and TV drama. Either that or there are institutional films made by NGOs and the like. There is no film industry in the way there is in the West."

After being devastated by the Khmer Rouge, Cambodia’s film industry enjoyed a resurgence of sorts in the eighties and early nineties, only to be demolished again by rising production costs, the availability of cheap DVD copies and widespread cinema closures.

"The situation now is parlous," says Matthew Robinson, executive producer of Khmer Mekong Films, a local film production house. "Most people have turned to making cheap karaoke spots for TV-- either that or poor quality horror films, because they are cheaper and more popular."

Documentary films were shot in Cambodia by foreign filmmakers as early as the 1920s. Silent films, locally produced by Cambodian directors trained in France, first appeared in the fifties.

As part of the post-independence renaissance in the arts and culture encouraged by the country’s monarch King Norodom Sihanouk, hundreds of Cambodian films were made in the sixties and early seventies.

Movie production companies opened their doors and cinemas were built across the country. Encouraged by the relative cheap cost of tickets, people flocked to see European and locally-made films.

The Khmer Rouge victory in April 1975 brought an abrupt end to this. Most of the country’s actors and directors were killed. Negatives and prints of films were destroyed or went missing.

With the exception of a few crude propaganda pieces, the Khmer Rouge produced no cinema.

After the Vietnamese overthrew the Khmer Rouge in early 1979, cinemas began to re-open and production companies re-emerged and were soon importing films.

"After the fall of the Pol Pot regime, many people flocked to the cinema," recalls Kong Kantara, director of the Cinema and Cultural Diffusion Department at the Ministry of Culture and Fine Art. "There were no Khmer films so we brought them from the Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, Vietnam."

"It was not unusual to see up to 800 people a day in one cinema alone, no matter what they showed," recalls Tom Som, a young director with Khmer Mekong Films ".

At the time there was no TV, no cable and no competition," says Kantara.

The introduction of VCRs, video cameras and taped foreign TV shows in the early nineties led to a major decline in ticket sales, resulting in the closure of many cinemas. In the mid-sixties, Phnom Penh had more than 30 cinemas.

According to Robinson there are now three. Admission prices are high by local standards, at one US dollar per ticket. A few more cinemas are located in large provincial capitals such as Battambang and Siem Reap.

"There is simply nowhere for the limited product that is produced to be shown," says Robinson. "The property boom has meant cinema owners can make more selling or renting out their venues as casinos or restaurants."

"If cinema owners responded by making their cinemas better, they could fight back. But they do not have that type of investment and to be honest, they don’t have the films."

Although the exact number is hard to pin down, most industry observers agree that only a fraction of the movie production houses existing in the mid-nineties still operate today.

Most of these churn out a steady stream of poorly made and scripted horror films and slapstick comedies, which are shot on a low budget, including dubbing the sound after the film has been shot because it is cheaper and faster.

Lack of trained crews and equipment is another problem.

"A lot of people think making a film is buying a camera and putting people in front of it," says Robinson. "They do not think about the story, the script or the production values."

The almost non-existent enforcement of copyright and intellectual property laws further discourages investment in films."Now you make a film, release it and two days later, it is in the markets, copied and being sold," says Panh. "Copyright is a vital issue and if we do not deal with this it will destroy the industry."

Panh is Cambodian born but was trained in France, where he escaped after his family members were murdered by the Khmer Rouge.

His most famous film, ‘Rice People (1994)’, depicts the aftermath of the Khmer Rouge in rural Cambodia. It was entered in the 1994 Cannes Film Festival and was the first Cambodian film to be submitted for an Oscar.

His other films include ‘One Evening After the War ‘(1998) and ‘The Burnt Theatre’ (2005). All were co-produced with European companies that provided the vast bulk of financing. ‘The Sea Wall’, which Panh finished shooting late last year in the southern port city of Sihanoukville, is set in Cambodia during the French colonial era in the 1930s, just as the first signs of revolution were starting to appear in the countryside.

‘’ has compared Catherine Deneuve’s portrait of a French landowner in French-occupied Vietnam with Regis Garnier’s ‘Indochine’, but much grittier.

"We use film like you go and buy a hamburger," says Panh. "We have to educate young people to love cinema but for this to work, we also need to produce better films."

Although it has the same aim, Khmer Mekong Films sees itself as filling a different niche to that occupied by Panh’s complex, European-style art house pieces.

Its first film, ‘Staying Single When’ (2007) is a romantic comedy about a man trying to find a wife in Cambodia. It enjoyed a four-week cinema run and is shown regularly on state TV.

Robinson describes the company’s current project, ‘Heart Talk’, as a ‘Hitchcock-like thriller’ involving three young women working in a Phnom Penh radio station. It is slated for local release in November.

A former executive producer for the top-rated British drama ‘East Enders,’ Robinson came to Cambodia earlier this decade on a three-year contract with BBC World Service Trust, the charitable arm of the BBC.

He hopes Khmer Mekong Films will play a key role in increasing the skills base of the local industry, both to make better films and lure international crews to shoot in Cambodia. "I think this place is ripe to be discovered," Robinson says of Cambodia.

"There are beautiful locations and beautiful people. The trouble is that until the skills base increases, they (international directors) will bring their own crew and use Khmers only for the lower end jobs like extras and drivers."

Improving the quality of the kingdom’s film and television industry is also a priority of the Ministry of Culture and Fine Art, which is seeking investors to establish Cambodia’s first movie studio.

(*This story was written for the Imaging Our Mekong Programme coordinated by IPS Asia-Pacific)

Cambodia's NRP disputes reports of Prince leaving politics
October 6, 2008
by pna

PHNOM PENH, Oct. 6 — The Norodom Ranariddh Party (NRP) made moves to clarify a Thursday announcement by Prince Norodom Ranariddh, saying that the prince had resigned as president of the NRP, but has not yet decided to leave politics entirely, national media reported Monday.

On Thursday evening, Ranariddh hosted a dinner for local journalists and announced that he had already informed King Norodom Sihamoni that he would be leaving politics, the Phnom Penh Post said.

"I promised the King that I had stopped doing politics. As a person, I want to serve the country," the prince told reporters.

"The King would like me to work closely with him to assist him. I am ready if the King would like me to serve him and the country, " he added.

But on Sunday, NRP spokesman Suth Dina insisted that all the prince meant by his announcement was that he had stepped down as the head of the party that bears his name.

"The prince only resigns as the party's president. The prince has not mentioned that he has retired from politics," Suth Dina was quoted as saying.

"The prince wants to rest for a while .. It is unclear whether the prince is retiring from politics," he said.

According to a Saturday statement from the NRP, Prince Ranariddh submitted his formal resignation to the party Friday, and control of the party has been handed to the deputy president, Chhim Seak Leng, until a congress can be held to vote for a new leader.

The prince has permitted the party to continue using the NRP name and the party logo, which bears the face of Prince Ranariddh, the statement said.

After 18 months in self-imposed exile, Ranariddh returned to Cambodia on Sept. 28, just days after a royal amnesty from King Sihamoni overturned the Prince's fraud conviction.


Critics slam Thailand's activist judges

Temporary digs: Thai Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat (c.) met recently with his cabinet at the new government offices in Bangkok's airport.
Sukree Sukplang/Reuters

Judges increasingly are calling the shots in a tumultuous political situation. Are they playing fair?

By Simon Montlake
Correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor
October 6, 2008 edition

Bangkok, Thailand - Sworn in last month as Thailand's fourth prime minister in two years of turmoil, Somchai Wongsawat hasn't enjoyed much of a honeymoon on the job.

For one thing, he can't even enter his office, as a royalist protest group stormed the compound in August and refuses to leave. Instead, his cabinet meets at an unused VIP airport terminal that has been converted into offices.

Then there's the niggling matter of a lawsuit filed by a senator last week that alleges a conflict of interest in Mr. Somchai's stock portfolio. A similar complaint led to the removal last month of his predecessor Samak Sundaravej over his TV cooking show. Somchai's political party is expected to face the same court in the next few months in a campaign fraud case that could lead to its breakup, a fate handed down to a forerunner party.

As Thailand girds for the next round in its political war of attrition, many eyes are turned to the judiciary whose rulings are increasingly setting the parameters for a fragile democracy. That represents a significant break from the past in a country that is more accustomed to military coups than judicial activism in settling political disputes.

But the partiality of the bench has been called into question by politicians caught in its purview. Others gripe that excessive legal safeguards are undermining the effectiveness of government, gumming up policymaking at a time when global financial turmoil demands a steely response.

Judges' increased clout raises concerns

In a deeply polarized nation, a more muscular role for judges also raises delicate questions over their political loyalties, particularly to the influential crown.

In a widely noted speech in 2006, King Bhumibol called on senior judges to sort out a disputed parliamentary election. It was later annulled by the courts.

The following year, a military-backed constitution – Thailand's 18th since 1932 – gave the judiciary and other state agencies an enhanced role in curbing the power of elected officials.

These measures were a reaction to the overbearing style of Thaksin Shinawatra, a businessman-turned-prime minister who was ousted two years ago by a coup and accused of corruption and abuses of power. He fled to London in August to avoid trial.

But the pendulum has swung too far in the opposite direction, says Rungrawee Chalermsripinyorat, an analyst in Bangkok for the International Crisis Group, a think tank.

"The 2007 Constitution now restricts the executive to the point that governing is almost impossible," she says. "There is a need to strike a balance between giving the executive sufficient power to govern and ensuring effective checks and balances."

Calls for a bipartisan review

Somchai, a former judge who is married to Mr. Thaksin's politician sister, has called for a bipartisan review of the Constitution to defuse the political crisis.

His opponents in parliament and on the streets are wary of any changes that benefit his pro-Thaksin People's Power Party, which heads a six-party coalition.

Two other coalition parties are also facing campaign fraud charges that may lead to their dissolution, pitching Thailand into another election less than a year after the last ballot. Somchai is being investigated for owning shares in an Internet company that tenders for government contracts.

In addition to rulings on political conduct, Thai courts have also weighed in on governance issues. A foreign minister resigned in July after being rebuked by judges over his diplomatic support for Cambodia over a disputed border temple. Members of Thaksin's cabinet were also recently in the dock over a lottery scheme introduced in 2003.

This flurry of judgments is a necessary corrective to past abuses, says Kaewsan Atibodhi, a former senator and law professor who served on an official panel that investigated Thaksin's wealth. "It's not a question of judicial activism but of law enforcement. They must be active so that the law works. In the time of Thaksin, this didn't happen," he says.

Public criticism of court rulings, such as the removal of Mr. Samak for the seemingly trivial offense of working on a cooking show, is mostly muted, as contempt of court laws are strictly applied. A similar reticence applies to the monarchy, which is shielded by lèse-majesté laws that carry long jail sentences and are increasingly being used to silence domestic dissent.

In a statement from London, Thaksin criticized the courts in August for hounding him and his family, and claimed they were a tool of his enemies. That charge, while self-serving and seemingly crafted to support a political asylum plea in Britain, resonates with Thaksin supporters. They believe that Bangkok's royalist establishment holds sway over senior judges and that the rule of law is a fig leaf for continued elite rule.

"From an American point of view, this [judicial activism] is natural, that crucial decisions are made by judges," says Michael Montesano, a visiting research fellow at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies in Singapore. "But from Thai point of view, the question is who are these people and who gives them their orders?"
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An angel in Cambodia

David Shoemaker in the crowded waiting room at Angkor Children's Hospital in Siem Reap, Cambodia

Winnipeg nurse helps restore a shattered nation

Winnipeg Free Press, Canada
By Rick Friedlander
October 5

SIEM REAP, Cambodia -- David Shoemaker, a nurse from Winnipeg, stumbled upon Siem Reap during a volunteer trip to Southeast Asia in January 2000 and decided to return to continue his efforts.

He's still there.

Siem Reap, site of the architectural wonder of the world, Angkor Wat, shows Cambodia's tentative steps toward economic growth. When I first saw it in 2004, Siem Reap seemed to be another dusty town with a great attraction, slowly emerging in the global tourism market. When I revisited it a year ago, billboards were promoting new shopping malls and cellphones, and hotels were competing with aid groups for real estate.

It has helped that a decade has passed since Pol Pot died quietly in the jungles of northern Cambodia. Brother No. 1 and his radical form of agrarian communism, enforced by the dreaded Khmer Rouge, brought the country to its knees. No one is doing more than Shoemaker to get it back on its feet.

"What has kept me here for so long? Quite simply, it is the people, the doctors, nurses, housekeepers and the rest of the staff at AHC (Angkor Hospital for Children)," Shoemaker said. "I have never experienced a country where the people want so desperately to learn and improve."

Sheila Anzarut, the wife of a neurologist from Vancouver who has volunteered here since 2007, says of Shoemaker: "David is, without a doubt, the face of Angkor Hospital for Children, for both the staff, the volunteers and for the many visitors and donors who come into contact with him. He is the person who instills us with so much passion for helping."

And help is so badly needed. For every 1,000 babies born in Cambodia, 22 or more die in their first month and 66 before their first birthday. Another 17 die before their fifth birthday. Poverty is a large part of the problem: More than a third of 14 million Cambodians earn less than 60 cents a day.

Walking with Shoemaker through Angkor Children's Hospital is a stirring experience. Everyone we pass along the way has a smile or a respectful nod for him. Every morning, he tells me, the emergency room is filled with crowds of children and tired parents. We encounter a Canadian volunteer play therapist, Liz Harrop-Archibald, surrounded by smiling children, cutting out paper crowns and making fish mobiles for them. Their smiles are the reward, I suspect, that keeps humanitarians like Shoemaker Harrop-Archibald able to carry on.

Shoemaker tells me that his first year here there were about 10,000 visits by families to the hospital -- about 25 or 30 a day. By 2007, that number had increased to over 100,000 visits -- an average of 350-400 children each day.

The increase in the number of tourists since I was first here, reported on various websites, is staggering. From approximately 500 in 1985, 600,000 in 2005, and with a predicted 3 million tourists coming by the year 2010, more than half of them visit Siem Reap.

It is hard to believe that the tourism boom -- it's estimated to bring $600 million to Cambodia in 2010 -- is actually hurting the survival odds of its children.

Beyond the five-star hotels and fancy restaurants, however, tourist dollars have not filtered down to the people who need it most.

At first, I was happy to note that there were not as many street children evident this time, as opposed to the vast number of them I saw in 2004. Soon, however, I learn that the absence of street children is due to a local initiative to run them out of town exactly because of the rapid rise in tourism. It is possible that local bureaucrats fear street kids will somehow threaten their ever-growing windfall of tourist currency.

No one in this country is untouched by the horrors of the past. Mention of the Khmer Rouge creates instant discomfort and a change of subject. Many Cambodians endure poor eyesight and still don't wear glasses because the Pol Pot regime saw them as a sign of education. Wearing them could be fatal. Fear still affects behavior and signs of that are everywhere.

The next day, I accompanyShoemaker on rounds to outpatient houses benefited by the HIV/Homecare Project. He and Cambodian nurse Dim Sophearin load up the AHC truck and we head to the first house, where a couple of HIV-positive children are tending to their baby sibling in a blistering hot bamboo shack.

They get a sack with a week's worth of nutritious food and snacks. The AHC says "under-nutrition represents the single most important risk factor for the health of Cambodian children."

Shoemaker questions them on the state of their health and the condition of the baby, then takes vital signs and records blood pressure, heart rate and weight.

The HIV/Homecare Project consists of health assessments, education and counselling. With it comes the calm, natural interaction of Shoemaker, smiling and joking to lighten the atmosphere. He hands the children his stethoscope and shows them how to listen to their heartbeat.

We head back into the truck and drive another kilometre to visit with a young, stable, HIV-positive girl, whose parents died from the virus and who now lives with her grandmother. Shoemaker patiently explains, this time to a grandmother, how to take the medicines and questions the family on any changes in their health.

The little girl reacts happily as pictures are taken, with a beautiful, poignant smile. This image contrasts sharply with the sobering fact that every child we visit today is HIV-positive.

"The hospital has done a lot in the last several years but there is still so much more to do," Shoemaker said. "The biggest health challenge for Cambodia's poor children is simply better access to the appropriate health-care facilities. With 80 percent of Cambodia's population living in rural areas, it is often difficult or impossible for them to find good, effective inexpensive health care.

"What AHC is trying to do over the next several years is work together with the Cambodian Ministry of Health to build up the skills and knowledge of doctors and nurses working in these rural areas, so that these children will not have to travel so far... they will get health care faster and this will save lives."

I ask Shoemaker how he feels the training of the staff is going. He says how proud he is of them and how their skills and knowledge have progressed so thoroughly that they have gained the complete trust of the community. Moreover, he adds, 98 per cent of the staff in his hospital are Cambodian and each year there is less and less need for foreigners. "I am working myself out of a job," he adds with a grin.

Cambodia Protests Border Clash with Thailand

Thai soldiers sit near Preah Vihear temple in Preah Vihear province, some 543 kilometers north of Phnom Penh, 04 Oct 2008

By VOA News
04 October 2008

Cambodia's Foreign Ministry has formally protested Thailand's action in a border skirmish that wounded at least one Cambodian and two Thai soldiers.

A letter sent Saturday to the Thai ambassador in Phnom Penh blames Thai soldiers for the incident, and says such provocation could lead to full-scale armed hostility.

The clash broke out Friday near the centuries-old Preah Vihear temple, which is at the center of recent skirmishes. Officials from both sides say the exchange lasted a few minutes. It is not clear who fired first.

The border dispute erupted in July after Cambodia won World Heritage status for the Preah Vihear temple. Both countries claim ownership of the surrounding land.

Cambodia and Thailand had up to 1,000 troops stationed along the border. By August, tensions eased as both sides agreed to pull back troops.

The new Thai prime minister Somchai Wongsawat says he will seek to make progress on resolving the conflict when he visits Cambodia October 13.

The International Court of Justice granted sovereignty of the Preah Vihear temple to Cambodia in 1962. But many Thai nationalists rejected the court's ruling, which also left ownership of land surrounding the temple in dispute.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.

The Company’s Armed Persons Harassed the Residents of the Boeng Kak Lake Strongly

Posted on 5 October 2008
The Mirror, Vol. 12, No. 580

“The smell of Num Ansam [cooked sticky rice with sweet or salty fillings in banana leaves] made for the Khmer traditional festival of the Pchum Ben days, has not gone yet, but the residents at the Boeng Kak Lake started to worry again, as the forces of the company, that received the right to develop the Boeng Kak Lake, began to cause disturbance by driving a boat to destroy the water convolvulus [trakuon in Khmer ត្រកូន, widely known in southeast Asia also as water spinach, swamp cabbage, water morning-glory, kangkung (Indonesian, Malay), kangkong (Tagalog), eng chai (Hokkien), tangkong (Cebuano), kang kung (Sinhalese), pak boong (in Thai ผักบุ้ง) (Thai), rau muống (Vietnamese), kongxincai (Chinese: 空心菜; pinyin: kōngxīncài - literally 'hollow heart vegetable'), home sum choy (Hakka), and ong choy or tung choi (Cantonese for 蕹菜, ngônkcôi; pinyin: wéngcài)] planted by the citizens for sale. They used a gun to threaten to shoot anyone who dares to stop their activities.

“A resident told reporters in the morning of 3 October 2008 that in the evening of 2 October 2008, a boat was driven around the Boeng Kak Lake. Moreover, they drove it to destroy the water convolvulus patches [planted on the water of the Boeng Kak Lake] by the people, planted for sale. This resident added that when they got out from their houses and shouted, ‘Why are you driving a boat to destroy our water morning-glory plants like this?’ the persons who drove that boat pulled out a gun and threatened to shoot.

A picture of the Boeng Kak Vegetable Plantations can be seen by clicking here.

“Many residents said that the persons who drove that boat might be armed persons of the company that is dredging sand to fill the Boeng Kak Lake, because previously, there was nobody driving a boat to destroy the residents’ water morning-glories like that, and the boat was found moored near the company’s site disposing the dredged sand. Such activity is considered by the residents to be harassment aiming to force the residents to leave the Boeng Kak region, since the residents protested against being forced by the authorities to leave the area in exchange to a little money, which they regard as an unacceptable solution.

“Because the solutions suggested by the Phnom Penh authorities and by the company are improper and unacceptable, many residents started to protest and to lodge complaints to the court by asking for an injunction to stop dredging sand temporarily and to wait to find solutions. However, the complaint of the residents meant nothing to the Phnom Penh court of first instance, and finally, the court rejected the complaint of the residents and allowed the company to continue dredging sand. Even during the Pchum Ben days, the company continued dredging sand, making the sewage water to rise and almost flood the residents’ housing; therefore, they could not go to celebrate the Pchum Ben days at far places, because they worried that their housing would be flooded.

“So far, the activity of driving a boat to destroy the residents’ water convolvulus plantations is a sign showing that they began harassing the people to make them leave the area, and they assumed that if the residents do not agree to accept the small solutions offered, other activities might happen towards the residents, because the people in Phnom Penh know the iron fist of our municipal governor who never helped the people in the past, but he is good at ordering armed persons to carry out destructions; they always hear the words, ‘Take it or not - and if not, get nothing.’ Like the eviction of people at the Monivong site, at Sambok Chab, and the Dey Krahom communities, because of the struggle for profit, some residents were arrested, and now, they are still in detention because of different accusations.

“As for the residents at the Boeng Kak Lake, many in the general public said that their fate might not be much different from that of the residents at the Dey Krahom or the Monivong communities. The company and the Phnom Penh authorities have never shown to the people the contract for leasing the Boeng Kak Lake. On the contrary, they tried to hide it from the people and tried to calm the situation, so that it should not become too bad before the fourth term parliamentary elections.

Note 1:

Some sections from the Mirror of 21.2.2007, according to Koh Santepheap, Vol.40, #5971, 20 February 2007:

“Phnom Penh: Samdech Prime Minister Hun Sen presented some key points and recommendations relating to possible challenges in the future for natural resources and some environmental activities, during a conference on the environment looking back at the year 2006. The meeting also set some goals for 2007. His recommendations are as follows:

2. “Conservation and protection of protected natural resources: Samdech Prime Minister emphasized that offenders must be held fully responsible. Actions have already been taken against those who committed offenses in Vireakchey Park and in Koh Kong Province.

3. “Strengthening the management of protected national resources and related communities: To successfully and effectively achieve these goals, local people should participate in the implementation of related programs. Samdech Prime Minister recommended that the Ministry of Environment should work with officials at all levels to create community statutes for their management and to ensure equity in receiving benefits from protected natural resources.

7. “Assess Sources of Impacts: Samdech Hun Sen encouraged the Ministry of Environment to transparently assess impacts of any investment projects.

10. “Duties of local authorities: It is hard to believe that local authorities do not know about offenses committed in their communities. Some authorities do not cooperate well with the Ministry of Environment but have to improve.”

“What was seen was that, as soon as the elections were over and the results were released, the company started dredging sand to fill the Boeng Kak region immediately, without caring to find solutions, making many residents protest in front of the Phnom Penh Municipality. The Phnom Penh authorities appeared to solve the problems instead of the company, and still urge the residents to take US$8,000 or a small flat in a Phnom Penh suburb in exchange for leaving the Boeng Kak area, in order to let the company develop it.

“Some information sources said that some residents agreed with the solutions suggested by the Phnom Penh authorities, because they have no hope that the protests according to the law will help, and they know many similar experiences [of other evicted residents in some communities mentioned above]. Another point is that the residents, who had agreed with the solutions offered, lived in small housing on stilts over the surface of the water, for them the money given is appropriate. As for residents who own big houses or land, they do not agree with such solutions, and they ask the Phnom Penh authorities for solutions according to the market price of US$2,000 per square meter.

“Probably because of that protest, armed persons from the company began harassing the citizens, so that they give up and agree to accept the improper solutions.”

Samleng Yuvachun Khmer, Vol.15, #3418, 4.10.2008
Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Saturday, 4 October 2008

Cambodia - News : border dispute - 05.10.2008

Nachtwey's Wish: Awareness of XDR-TB

A boy experiencing severe pain from TB meningitis is comforted by his mother at Svay Rieng Provincial Hospital, Svay Rieng, Cambodia. Family members provide much of the personal care at hospitals in the developing world. (© James Nachtwey/VII)

A prisoner who was convicted of murder was moved from prison to the TB ward of Battambang Provincial Hospital, Battambang, Cambodia when he was diagnosed with TB. He is coinfected with AIDS. (© James Nachtwey/VII)

A woman with TB meningitis is cared for by her husband in Svay Rieng Provincial Hospital, Svay Rieng, Cambodia. (© James Nachtwey/VII)

A rice farmer with pulmonary TB is examined during a home visit by the NGO, Cambodian Health Committee, Kompong Cham, Cambodia. (© James Nachtwey/VII)


News Stories in photographS

By Alan Taylor
October 3, 2008

Well-known and influential photojournalist James Nachtwey won the TED Prize last year, and as part of his award, he made a wish for help - help in bringing a story to light that he felt was important and underreported. The subject of this story is a new, dangerous type of tuberculosis called Extreme Drug-Resistant Tuberculosis, or XDR-TB. Tuberculosis is both preventable and curable, but inadequate treatment has been driving the emergence of XDR-TB, especially in developing nations. Tuberculosis is not a disease of the past - in 2007 alone, 1.7 million people died from TB - it is the leading killer of people infected with HIV. Nachtwey's wish was that he could break this story, and demonstrate proof of the power of news photography in the digital age. Below are only 14 of many photographs Nachtwey took around the world. For all of the photos, and much more information about XDR-TB, please visit (14 photos total)

Cambodia protests "armed provocation" by Thai soldiers

Macau Daily Times
Sunday, 05 October 2008

Cambodia's foreign ministry yesterday formally protested Thai action in a border skirmish which left at least three soldiers injured, warning its troops risked "full scale armed hostility.

"One Cambodian soldier and two Thai troops were wounded when units briefly clashed Friday near an ancient temple along their disputed border. They have swapped accusations of trespass and firing first."

The Royal Government of Cambodia strongly protests against this deplorable and intentional armed provocation by Thai soldiers," said Cambodia's foreign ministry in a letter to the Thai embassy.

The letter said Cambodian troops had only returned fire in self defence and went on to warn that "armed provocation by Thai soldiers could lead to very grave consequences, including full scale armed hostility".

Thailand's foreign ministry earlier blamed its neighbour and said the three-minute exchange of gunfire came after Cambodian troops had crossed into Thai territory.

Cambodian officials said the area was calm Saturday and that an investigative committee was inspecting the area to determine how the incident occurred since troops on both sides have been ordered not to fire.

The skirmish comes as the countries attempt progress in talks to resolve the decades-long border dispute.

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

Those tensions turned into a military standoff, in which up to 1,000 Cambodian and Thai troops faced off for six weeks.Both sides agreed to pull back in mid-August, leaving just a few dozen soldiers stationed near the temple.

Murdered Mark Lemetti's legacy helps children's hospital

Glasgow Sunday Mail

Oct 5 2008
By Grace Macaskill

PARENTS of a murdered backpacker have set up a fund to help poor children in his memory.
Mark Lemetti was just 24 when he was battered to death with a pool cue for his mobile phone and £100 in cash on the Thai-Malaysian border.

Just weeks before he had attended a fundraising concert for the children's hospital at Siem Reap in Cambodia.

Mark, who was from Inverness and went to Dollar Academy, Clackmannanshire, had become captivated by the homeless children he met in Cambodia.

His mother Barbara, 57, said yesterday: "Mark's Fund is the one positive thing to happen from such a tragedy and helping other people, especially children, in his name feels right."

The couple sold his car and, along with his savings, set up the fund, which has so far given the hospital more than £15,000.

A Pakistani tour guide was jailed for life for Mark's murder.

Toxic milk products go off shelves in more countries

The DAWN Media Group
October 05, 2008 Sunday

BEIJING, Oct 4: As tainted milk scandal deepens, many countries have decided to suspend import of Chinese milk products or to withdraw them from their market.

In the Philippines, two products brought into the country illegally have been taken off shop shelves after the discovery of traces of melamine in Chinese milk.

Other Asian countries — among them Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam and Taiwan — have banned imports of Chinese milk products, some of them extending the ban to all products containing milk, including chocolate.

In Japan, the food processing company Marudai Food has withdrawn from the market thousands of bread rolls made with milk provided by Yili.

A Japanese importer, meanwhile, has begun recalling Chinese chocolates suspected of being contaminated with melamine.

In Australia, the food watchdog has recalled White Rabbit sweets, Cadbury chocolate eclairs, and Kirin milk tea, while importers of Lotte Koala Biscuits have undertaken a precautionary withdrawal of the product.

New Zealand has withdrawn White Rabbit sweets from sale.

Myanmar, a close ally of China, plans to confiscate and destroy imports of Chinese powdered milk as a precaution.

Bangladesh has banned the sale of three kinds of powdered milk from China.

The governments of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the Ivory Coast, Burundi, Gabon and Tanzania, Burkina Faso, Benin and Togo have suspended the import and the sale of all dairy products from China.

The European Union has banned all imports on Chinese milk-related products for children such as biscuits and chocolate.

Russia has confiscated 1.7 tons of powdered milk made in China after imposing an import ban.Canada has extended its surveillance of products imported from China, but so far no cases of illness due to contaminated products have been reported.

Costa Rica’s health authorities have advised people not to eat food made with Chinese dairy products, including biscuits, chocolates and White Rabbit sweets.—AFP

Thailand says Cambodia fired first in border clash

Sun Oct 5, 2008

BANGKOK (Reuters) - Thailand accused Cambodia on Sunday of firing the first shots in a border incident in which three soldiers were wounded, saying it was "a brutal and aggressive act" that had violated friendly relations.

In a letter to the Cambodian government, Thailand's foreign ministry demanded Phnom Penh ensure there is no repeat of the incident near the disputed 900-year-old Preah Vihear temple.

"The shooting by the Cambodian troops against the unarmed Thai paramilitary rangers is regarded as a brutal and aggressive act and is contrary to the spirit of friendly relations between Cambodia and Thailand," the letter said.

Cambodia issued a similar protest on Saturday, accusing Thailand of "intentional armed provocation" and warning it could lead to conflict.

However, Cambodian Information Minister Khieu Kanharith told Reuters that Phnom Penh had agreed to an investigation into Friday's exchange of fire and Thailand's foreign ministry said the situation at the border was calm.

Two Thai soldiers and one Cambodian soldier were injured in what was the first clash in the disputed territory since the two countries agreed to pull back troops in August after a tense month-long stand-off.

Each country has accused the other of encroaching on its territory.

Foreign ministers of the often fractious southeast Asian neighbors agreed in July to find a peaceful end to the diplomatic and military spat, which centers on 1.8 square miles (4.6 sq km) of scrub near the temple.

Both sides have claimed Preah Vihear for decades. The International Court of Justice awarded it to Cambodia in 1962 and the ruling has rankled in Thailand ever since.

The row earlier this year was sparked by protesters seeking to overthrow the Thai government, who attacked Bangkok's backing of Cambodia's bid to list Preah Vihear as a United Nations World Heritage site.

Political elements on both sides fueled the conflict for their own ends, but tensions eased considerably after Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen's victory in a general election in late July in which the temple, and nationalism, featured heavily.

(Reporting by Orathai Sriring; Editing by Ed Cropley and Alex Richardson)

Cambodia's higher education dreams confront reality

Cambodian students are seen at the windows of a university in Phnom Penh

A Cambodian school student passes a young scavenger in central Phnom Penh

Cambodian students at a Phnom Penh university

PHNOM PENH (AFP) — She has two years to go until graduation, but already Cambodian student Chhum Savorn is filled with a sense of dread.

The 21-year-old decided to major in finance, hoping she would acquire skills to help develop her country, which is one of the poorest in the world.

Instead, she thinks her education is nearly worthless -- classes are mostly packed with indifferent, cheating students and led by under-qualified professors.

"The low quality of my studies means that I can't help the country, and I'll even have a hard time getting a job that pays enough to help my family," she says.

A growing number of eager young Cambodians are finding themselves duped into a higher education system that suffers from weak management and teaching because it is geared more toward profit than learning.

As a result only one in ten recent graduates are finding work, a worrying figure in a country trying to rebuild after decades of civil war.

Cambodia's schools were obliterated under Khmer Rouge rule in the 1970s when the regime killed nearly two million people -- including most of the country's intellectuals -- as it emptied cities in its bid to forge a Communist utopia.

But as the country rebuilds and the economy grows, it is inundated with institutions peddling low-quality education.

In 2000, there were ten post-secondary institutions in Cambodia. Now there are 70 private and state-run universities.

Most programs offered by those institutions are dismal, says Mak Ngoy, deputy director general of higher education at the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports.

"We are not yet satisfied with the current quality of our education," Mak Ngoy says.

"I think increasing the number of higher education institutions is a positive sign, but we are struggling with the hard task of strengthening quality," he adds.

Qualified university professors complain that many students rarely do their work and cheating is rampant.

A number of students are content to pay for a degree and do not realise the benefit of a good education, says Lav Chhiv Eav, rector of Royal University of Phnom Penh, the oldest and largest state-owned college.

"Some students are scared of studying hard and think what they need is any degree, not quality. The final result will be joblessness," he says.

Most of Cambodia's universities are small-scale institutions with limited of capital, poor facilities and little discipline.

So far, the education ministry has ordered the closing of four institutions that called themselves universities, but gave little education to students.

Five years ago there was an attempt to fix Cambodia's higher education institutions, with the formation of a national university accreditation committee.

The committee was formed to force institutions to adhere to strict education requirements, but the World Bank pulled its funding for the scheme when it became clear the body would not be independent from government control.

With little official oversight, the quality of many Cambodian universities has worsened, while the number of Cambodians seeking a diploma has shot up.

More than 135,000 Cambodians are currently enrolled in some form of higher education, says the education ministry, compared to just 25,000 eight years ago.

But only one in 10 recent university graduates have found work, according to the Economic Institute of Cambodia, as the country remains mired in poverty despite the double-digit economic growth.

Ma Sopheap, officer at the Asian Development Bank, says Cambodia will have trouble luring foreign investment if it does not start producing more qualified graduates.

"If the low quality of higher education continues, it will affect Cambodia's economic development," he says. "Then there is no way to reduce poverty."