Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Thailand causes upset with ASEAN summit switch

Wed 29 Oct 2008
By Ed Cropley

BANGKOK (Reuters) - Seven weeks before it hosts ASEAN's annual jamboree of regional leaders, Thailand has suddenly decided to switch the venue from Bangkok to Chiang Mai.

Officially, the reason for the 700 km (435 mile) move to the northern city is because of its pleasant climate in December and a desire to "show the delegates some other part of Thailand," according to foreign ministry spokesman Tharit Charungvat.

In private, however, officials admit it has nothing to do with tourism or the weather and everything to do with the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD), the protest movement that has occupied the Prime Minister's official compound in Bangkok since August.

"They are just trying to avoid trouble with the PAD," one government official said, trying to play down suggestions that the last-minute change of venue represents a loss of face and makes the country look unstable.

Thai media have speculated that the PAD, whose street protest has crippled government decision-making since it started in May, will target the summit venue to embarrass the elected administration in what should be one of its proudest moments.

As well as government leaders from the 10 Association of South East Asian Nations countries -- Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam and the Philippines -- the meeting also includes China, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand.

Bangkok-based diplomats are fuming at the abrupt switch for the summit, which coincides with the height of the tourist season.

Coming at such short notice, it is hard to see a city with a population of 200,000 finding enough beds to cope with the influx of thousands of government officials and foreign media.

When neighbouring Laos hosted the meeting in its sleepy capital, Vientiane, four years ago it barred all foreign visitors from entry to the country for the duration of the summit to ensure enough space.

"This is a massive pain in the backside," one Bangkok-based diplomat said. "None of this has been budgeted for and how are we going to get hotel rooms at this time of year? We're going to be sharing rooms and sleeping on the floor."

The reservation department at the Shangri La hotel in Chiang Mai, which is hosting the meeting, said the entire hotel had been block-booked from December 11-19 although tourists with existing reservations would not be booted out.

News of the move appeared to have passed by the original venue for the meeting, Bangkok's swanky new Centara Grand hotel, where sales staff said the summit booking remained in place.

(Editing by Darren Schuettler)

Man on a (medical) mission

Fairfax Digital

by Allira Preece

A TWO week medical mission as a volunteer with the Global Aid Network (GAiN) was an experience of a lifetime for Laurieton man Allan Phelps.

After obtaining information from a friend about GAiN, the dedicated retiree became inspired to be part of the organisation which helped make a difference in improvingthe health of more than 3,000 Cambodian residents.

Mr Phelps was one of 50 Australians, along with 50 Cambodian medical students, who took up the challenge to volunteer for the expedition.

He said during the two week period his group operated ten clinics in Cambodia.

“We commenced clinics outside Phnom Penh for the first three days, then travelled to Kampong Cham to conduct a further four days before travelling to Pailin, which is 14 kilometres from the Thailand border,” he said.

“The doctors attended to 2,276 Cambodians, the optometrists 1,152, with 43 operations being undertaken.

“The surgeon undertook operations ranging from the removal of growths to repairing hernias, all undertaken on a bed in the corner of the clinics with local anaesthesia and a torch for light.”

He said his role as an aid worker ensured the cooperation of patients whilst assisting them from triage, to waiting areas before they saw a doctor.

“We would arrive at a village in the early morning and be faced with between 300 and 500 local residents waiting.

“We had to send a minimum of 200 people away. They would sit in the sun all day waiting in case we could take a few more people.

“We endeavoured to see the young, elderly and the sick first. These people only have the opportunity to obtain medical attention on a yearly basis at best and we saw a lot of Cambodians who had terminal illnesses in which little could be done.”

Allan said working as a volunteer for GAiN had given him a much better understanding of the poor health situation in Cambodia.

“It was a real eye opener to see the almost pitiful needs of third world countries compared to how well-off we are here in Australia.”

“I became a volunteer to help those less fortunate then ourselves and to understand a culture that’s in desperate need of outside assistance,” he continued.

The Global Aid Network assists people worldwide by providing relief for those in need.

To find out more about the organisation or to become a volunteer you can visit

Cambodia doubles military budget after Thai clash

Cambodian troops patrol Engel field at Phnom Trop, near the disputed 900-year-old Preah Vihear temple in Preah Vihear province, 543 km north of Phnom Penh in this October 14, 2008 file photo.REUTERS/Stringer

International Herald Tribune

Published: October 29, 2008

PHNOM PENH: Impoverished Cambodia has doubled its 2009 military budget to $500 million (311 million pounds) following this month's border clash with Thailand, officials said on Wednesday, an increase that is likely to anger its donors.

The National Assembly is expected to approve the new budget next week, with the military accounting for 25 percent of all spending, said Cheam Yeap, head of its finance commission.

"This incident has awoken us to the need for our soldiers to be better equipped. We cannot sit and watch Thai troops encroach on our border," he told Reuters. "Our army needs to be more organised, better trained, with newer bases and well-fed troops."

Three Cambodian soldiers and one Thai died in the October 15 firefight in the shadow of the 900-year-old Preah Vihear temple, a stunning set of Hindu ruins that have been claimed for decades by both countries.

At roughly 100,000 men, Cambodia's armed forces are a third the size of Thailand's, but remain very large for one of Asia's poorest nations.

For years, international donors have been trying to get Phnom Penh to demobilise thousands of ageing soldiers, many of them former Khmer Rouge guerrillas, to free up more cash for investment in health and education.

In the two weeks since the clash, local army units say they have recruited 3,000 men despite Prime Minister Hun Sen saying he wants a negotiated settlement with Bangkok to disputed stretches of border.

(Reporting by Ek Madra; editing by Ed Cropley and Roger Crabb)

Frenchman, Briton arrested in Cambodia on drug charges

A Frenchman and a Briton have been arrested and charged with drug trafficking

PHNOM PENH (AFP) — A Frenchman and a Briton have been arrested and charged with trafficking 1.1 kilograms (2.4 pounds) of marijuana in Cambodia, police said Wednesday.

Frenchman Jocelyn Fanget, 42, was trying to buy the drugs from Briton Craig Bullock, 37, when they were arrested Friday in the seaside resort town of Sihanoukville, said Moek Dara, director of the anti-narcotics department.

A Cambodian man, 35-year-old Chanda Try, was also arrested for providing transport to Bullock, he said.

"They were arrested at the scene while they were exchanging the drugs," Moek Dara told AFP. "The court has already charged them with drug trafficking. They are in jail now."

Marijuana is abundant in Cambodia and the country is also a well-known trafficking point for methamphetamines and heroin, particularly since neighbouring Thailand toughened its stance on illegal drugs in 2002.

Cambodia's first rock opera opens next month

International Herald Tribune

The Associated Press
Published: October 29, 2008

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia: Cambodia's first rock opera will make its world premiere in Phnom Penh next month, a cultural milestone in the Southeast Asian country where performing arts were banned during the brutal Khmer Rouge years.

"Where Elephants Weep" is an East-meets-West blend of traditional Cambodian music with Western rock that is modeled after "Romeo and Juliet" and inspired by the Broadway musical "Rent."

Organizers said Wednesday the show will open a 10-day run Nov. 28 in a converted movie theater in the capital, Phnom Penh, a year later than its planned debut at the end of 2007.

The show was commissioned by Cambodian Living Arts, a project of the Boston-based nonprofit organization World Education, which seeks to revive traditional Cambodian performing arts and inspire contemporary artistic expression among Cambodians.

Charley Todd, a co-president of the CLA's governing board, said the opera had a successful preview last year in Lowell, Massachusetts, which has a sizable community of Cambodian refugees. But producers needed extra time for fine-tuning.

"It's now ready for world premiere here in Phnom Penh," Todd said.

It is expected to later tour in other countries, including the United States, South Korea and Singapore.

Organizers hope the play will send a message that Cambodia has more to offer than its centuries-old Angkor temples and macabre tourist attractions.

"What we want is that the world knows Cambodia not only for Angkor Wat and the (Khmer Rouge) killing fields but for the living arts, the arts of today," he said.

Arts and entertainment were banned when the Khmer Rouge ruled Cambodia between 1975-79 and killed some 1.7 million people through starvation, disease, overwork and execution.

Execution sites from the time now serve as grim attractions for tourists visiting Cambodia.

"Where Elephants Weep" is an operatic take on "Tum Teav," the Cambodian version of "Romeo and Juliet."

It tells the story a Cambodian-American who lost his father during the Khmer Rouge era and returns home after Cambodia's civil war to trace his roots. In Phnom Penh, he meets and falls in love with a Cambodian woman who works as a karaoke singer.

The music was composed by the Russian-trained Cambodian maestro Him Sophy. He was inspired by the musical genre of the rock opera "Rent," which he saw twice during a trip to New York City.

He decided to do a hybrid rock opera using contemporary and traditional instruments and set out to work on it with Americans John Burt, the opera's producer, and Catherine Filloux, the librettist.

Cambodian musicians in the performance use electric guitars, electronic drums, keyboards and traditional instruments like buffalo horns, bamboo flutes, gongs and the chapei, a long-neck lute with two nylon strings.

After seven years of work, Him Sophy said he expected a celebration — both on stage and in the country.

"It is going to be a big national cultural event," Him Sophy said. "And the entire team is committed to making it happen flawlessly and perfectly."

Cambodia, Vietnam to ink agreements on bilateral cooperation

PHNOM PENH, Oct. 29 (Xinhua) -- Cambodia and Vietnam will sign five agreements soon in the fields of visa exemption, goods transportation across the border and information exchange of radio stations, said a press release here on Wednesday.

The signing ceremony will be held while Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen visits Vietnam in early November to participate in regional summits, said the press release from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation.

Hun Sen will lead an official delegation to attend the third summit of the Ayeyawady, Chao Phraya, Mekong Economic Cooperation Strategy (ACMECS) and the fourth regional summit among Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam, it said.

The delegation will includes the premier's wife Bun Rany, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Hor Namhong, Commerce Minister Cham Prasidh and other senior government officials, it added.

Editor: Deng Shasha

Prasat Preah Vihear

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Part 6

Cambodia has lodged a complaint with the U N accusing Thai troops of damaging the ancient temple during a border shoot-out earlier this month

Cambodian villagers walk below a stone naga heads at Preah Vihear temple, on the Cambodian-Thai- border in Cambodia, Preah Vihear province, about 245 kilometers (152 miles) north of Phnom Penh , on July 13, 2008. Cambodian and U.N. officials plan to visit a historic temple near the border with Thailand to highlight the need to safeguard the site after it was damaged in an armed clash with Thai troops, an official said Tuesday, Oct. 28, 2008.(AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

Cambodian famed Preah Vihear temple, is seen on the Cambodian-Thai- border in Cambodia, Preah Vihear province, about 245 kilometers (152 miles) north of Phnom Penh , on July 12, 2008. Cambodian and U.N. officials plan to visit the historic temple near the border with Thailand to highlight the need to safeguard the site after it was damaged in an armed clash with Thai troops, an official said Tuesday, Oct. 28, 2008.(AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

Thai Parliament approves framework for Thai-Cambodian border talks

BANGKOK, Oct 29 (TNA) - A joint meeting of the Thai Parliament' s House of Representatives and Senate late Tuesday gave a green light to the proposed framework and approved the mandate of the Joint Boundary Commission (JBC) to negotiate with Cambodia on talks to settle the disruptive border disputes between the two neighbouring countries.

After eight hours of closed door debate, the joint parliamentary session endorsed the framework of the tentative Thai-Cambodian agreement by a vote of 409 to seven, and approved the proposed framework for the talks on surveying and land demarcation between Thailand and Cambodia to be carried out by the commission by a 406 to eight vote.

The joint session was held behind closed door as requested by Deputy Prime Minister/Foreign Minister Sompong Amornvivat as the issue was considered to be sensitive by the government.

Parliament's endorsement is needed under the present constitution as it requires that all talks affecting sovereignty must be endorsed by both the Senate and the House.

During the debate, Opposition Democrat Party members of the House, as well as some Senators, expressed concern over the map to be used for the talks.

They said the map as presented was preparedunder the convention between Siam and the Indochina demarcation committees since 1904 which differed from the present map of Thailand.
If Thai side used this version for the talks, the kingdom would be at a disadvantage, they said.

To gain parliamentary approval, the foreign minister agreed to withdraw the map in question.


Cambodia to use signboards to keep Preah Vihear Temple out of conflict Options

(AP) - PHNOM PENH, Oct. 28 (Kyodo)—Cambodia said Tuesday it will put up huge signboards identifying Preah Vihear Temple as a World Heritage site after armed conflicts broke out between Cambodia and Thailand in the disputed border area.

Phay Siphan, spokesman of Cambodia's Council of Ministers, told Kyodo News that the signboards, which are visible from the sky, will be installed on Nov. 7 at Preah Vihear Temple in the presence of representatives from the U.N. Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization and the Cambodian government.

He said posting the signboards has become "necessarily urgent" after Thai troops allegedly damaged the temple during a recent border clash.

Last week, Cambodia filed a complaint with UNESCO claiming Thai soldiers damaged statues and a staircase at Preah Vihear with shoulder- launched M-79 rockets.

The Thai Foreign Ministry has denied its troops damaged the temple.

Cambodia succeeded in June in getting Preah Vihear inscribed by UNESCO as a World Heritage site, over Thailand's objections.

Preah Vihear has been the scene of tense confrontation between the two sides since mid-July after it was registered as a World Heritage site.

On Oct. 15, armed troops of Cambodia and Thailand clashed at three locations in the disputed area near the temple, leaving several dead and tens of others wounded on both sides.

Phay Siphan said the posting of the signboards is made in response to the 1954 convention for the protection of cultural property in the event of a conflict.

Clean up in Cambodia

Some men have fun learning about environmental awareness (photo courtesy of CRWRC)

29 October, 2008

Cambodia (MNN) ― The Ministry Partner Program, a branch of Christian Reformed World Relief Committee, is working to make citizens environmentally aware in Cambodia.

Environmental concern is uncommon in Cambodia for the most part. One CRWRC worker admitted that Cambodia has become so dirty, "we often lose the ability to see the filth around us." Even churches there are littered with garbage and stale water. CRWRC is working to raise awareness in Cambodia, especially in Christian circles. If churches became a clean and safe place to be, they would stand out and be much more inviting to curious seekers.

Recently, a training course was facilitated with 32 participants led by three CRWRC teachers. The course covered definitions of environment, the negative effects chemicals, deforestation, human excrement and garbage can have on it, and the ways everyday citizens can improve it.

At first, many participants were not even certain they knew what "environment" meant. When it had been explained thoroughly to them, several questions were asked about how to respect the environment. Many good answers were offered regarding ways to clean up, such as planting trees, picking up garbage and staying clear of chemicals. When asked why they were not already doing these things, the participants said it was because they were uneducated on the issue.

By the end of the classes, the participants were prepared and excited to make some changes. They now recognize and agree that protecting the environment is an international responsibility, especially for Christians. Believers are told to be good stewards of God's gifts, including the earth. These 32 believers in Cambodia are now leading the way to bringing God glory by caring for His creation.

An Evening with the Cambodians or Khmers in Hawaii - November 1st

The Honolulu Advertiser

Hongly Grahim Khuy
Reader Submitted


WHERE: 2305 University Avenue, Honolulu, Hawaii 96822

TIME: From 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. / Contact: Hongly G. Khuy at 542-9353

Every year on Christmas time, a group of the Cambodians in Hawaii together with some locals collect supplies such as tooth-brushes and pastes, medications, reading and sun glasses, clothing and other necessities for the unfortunate ones in Cambodia. Of course, the group would accept monetary donation, not for any overhead cost. Any donation ( 100% ) will be used for purchasing items that can be bought cheaper in that country.

The Cambodian community in Hawaii came to existence approximately two decades ago.
There are very few Cambodians ( or Khmers ) in Hawaii. Counting young and old, not even three hundreds in total live in the islands, most on Oahu. They came here as refugees in the early 80s as the Khmer Rouge communist regime fell ( in late 1978 ), and the country was in chaos afterwards.

Two decades or so later, these former refugees more or less settled down in this great and beautiful state of Hawaii. They feel grateful / thankful for what they have and enjoyed. In the meantime, Cambodia has started to recover and open up to investment and the outside world, tourists in particular [ Angkor Wat, one of the Seven Wonders of the world, is the main tourist attraction ]. The economy is booming, and the country is stable politically, at least for now.

Because of wars in the recent past, the mass population continues to suffer. Only a handful can live in the luxury of the recent prosperity.

The advance of new technology reaches far and beyond oceans. Cellular phones, IPods, TVs, CNN News, Fox News, Lexus SUVs, Toyota SUVs, Ford & Chevrolet SUVs, KIA SUVs....etc. are all over the place in that small country. The American currency ( US Dollars ) is being used in every corner. Actually, the American Dollars are preferred by all.

Off the roads, a stark contrast can be observed. Children work in the rice field to support their family. Some look for small fish and land crabs, snails in the ponds close by. These children live pretty much in the primitive way: no slippers, no shirts, just rag shorts.

You can probably imagine what could happen socially when the poor are tempted with dollars! With dollars, the rich can buy almost anything in that poor country.

Anyway, what the group from Hawaii is doing is just a tiny drop in a big bucket. The "Christmas in Cambodia" effort won't be able to affect a lot of change for the country. However, those unfortunate ones who receive Christmas presents from Hawaii will experience the joy of Christmas, a new hope in life. Some students will receive bicycles as means of transportation to commute to school.
Some others could continue their higher education in the universities in the capital city of Phnom Penh because they received assistance from this "Christmas in Cambodia" group. Some villagers could drink clean water because the group provided monetary assistance to dig water wells.

Some villagers will have a place to study, a place to worshipÖetc. Some others could see well because the Lions Club of Honolulu collected reading glasses for them. Some others were treated by doctors from the Lions Club who went on the trip.

For about two weeks this "group from Hawaii" will travel through cities and remote villages providing foods and distributing goodies / necessities to those needy ones in various provinces of that nation in south-east Asia.

The group expects to do better from year to year in their mission.

The purpose of the trip is to bring a smile, a new hope and joy to those who are less fortunate than most of us in Hawaii - love in actions, indeed. It's Christmas time, after all.

Those who had been on this "Christmas in Cambodia" trip said that the trip opened their eyes to the real world. In return they get a sense of satisfaction and joy while getting to know the country itself. Several local team members enjoyed the trip so much that they continue to go again every year.

" An Evening with the Cambodians in Hawaii " is being organized with the needy ones in Cambodia in mind. The event is a two-edged effort: 1) Promote compassion for the poor and the unfortunate ones, 2) Strengthening the relationship among community members, Cambodian and local alike.

The general public is invited! You won't be disappointed by coming to the event.

The event runs Saturday, November 1st, 2008 from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the University Avenue Baptist Church [ 2305 University Avenue, Honolulu, Hawaii 96822 ] - right in front of Mid Pacific Institute. That's just off the campus of the University of Hawaii at Manoa. For direction, please call Hongly at 542-9353.

Show your support by showing up at the event - Lots of foods and fun, indeed!

The group won't be able to continue without the community support from Hawaii

Police rescue women from torture, forced sex in B'bang brothel

Since new anti-trafficking legislation was passed in June, police have ramped up brothel dragnets, closing karaoke bars and booking people on the street. But the law has been met with contention by sex workers, who claim police abuse women during raids.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Chrann Chamroeun
Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Rights group lauds bust but says police must do more to combat rampant sex trade that often sees little interference from authorities

A POLICE operation involving human trafficking and juvenile protection officers has rescued 16 women, including three under the age of 15 years, who were locked in a brothel in Battambang's Sampov Loun district and sold for sex, officials said Monday.

"We have freed 16 girls including three who were underage, and detained the brothel owner," Police Chief Commissioner Kong Sokhorn told the Post Monday, describing the madam as a widow in her 40s.

Kong Sokhorn said that the women were repeatedly tortured and drugged by the owner's three sons, who escaped during the bust, if they did not provide men with sexual services.

"We have arrested the woman and are now hunting for her three sons who escaped during the crackdown," he said.

Kuy Heang, director of anti-trafficking operations at the juvenile protection bureau, said Monday that the owner was a woman named Vanny, whose sons acted as guards over the women.

"The three sons would torture the girls if they declined to serve men for sex or argued with the men who didn't use condoms," he told the Post.

Victims of trade

One of the victims, 31-year-old So Nuch, told the Post Monday that she had been lured to the district by a woman in Poipet, who promised to find her a job as a karaoke singer.

"When I got there, I was locked in a room with the other girls and forced to sleep with men," she said. "When we declined, we were tortured by the brothel owner's sons."

Kong Sokhorn said the owner has been charged with prostitution and torture and that the victims had been sent to the Social Affairs Department to receive counselling.

" When I got there I was locked in a room... and forced to sleep with men. "

Heng Say Hong from the legal NGO Licadho said Monday that he welcomed the intervention by police, but that lax attitudes towards wrongdoers in the past set bad precedents.

"During my investigation in Battambang province, I have found more than 10 brothels that continue to run despite the police cracking down on them many times since 1999," he said. "Some wrongdoers were sent to the court but were released after a short time in detention." Kong Sokhorn said he agreed the situation needed tighter monitoring.

"I agree that there are still several brothels, but many of them operate behind houses or restaurants, making it harder for us to crack down."

China pledges $280 million in loans

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Cheang Sokha
Tuesday, 28 October 2008

CHINA pledged roughly US$280 million in loans to Cambodia for infrastructure projects during Prime Minister Hun Sen's recent trip to Beijing for the Asia-Europe (ASEM) summit, an official said.

Minister of Foreign Affairs Hor Namhong said that during the meeting between Hun Sen and Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, China agreed to provide $200 million in loans for the construction of irrigation systems in Battambang province, power transmission lines to Phnom Penh and the repair of a road linking Kampong Thom and Preah Vihear provinces.

He added that China had also agreed to provide another $80 million loan for building a 118km road from Stung Treng province to Banlung, the provincial capital of Ratanakkiri.

"All the overseas missions of Samdech Hun Sen bring back benefits to the country," Hor Namhong told reporters at Phnom Penh International Airport after the prime minister's return. "Currently, China is in the process of studying the projects, and the construction will start as soon as this is finished."

Nam Tum, governor of Kampong Thom province, said that National Road 62 had not been repaired since 1979 and that travellers spent at least six hours traversing its 164 km length. The Ministry of Public Works and Transport had already studied the project but was waiting for money, he said.

"We have to build this road because it links to the border and to Preah Vihear temple," Nam Tum said Monday.

"After it is built, there will be an easy way to tour to the temple."

China has eclipsed the rest of the international community as Cambodia's biggest foreign donor.

New dogs needed to sniff out landmines in Cambodia

asiaone news
Wed, Oct 29, 2008my paper

PHNOM PENH - IN A land where there are still between four million and six million unexploded landmines, one of its greatest groups of heroes are its mine-sniffing dogs.

Cambodia's 102 landmine-detection dogs were rigorously chosen and trained.

Now the dogs need replacing. However, the programme, which began in 1996, is desperately short of funds, reported Deutsche Presse-Agentur (DPA).

The director of the Cambodian Mine Action Centre, Mr Khem Sophoan, said the mine-detecting dogs were ageing, while the landmine problem was far from solved.

'Dogs are just like people: When they get old, they have to retire,' he was quoted as saying.
'We love our dogs, and they never fail us...but now we need new dogs to train and financial assistance to maintain them.'

Cambodia is one of the world's most heavily-mined countries, after many years of bitter war. About 400 people are killed or maimed annually when they set off mines. Sweden set up the canine mine-detection programme using mostly German and Swedish shepherd crosses.

The programme was transferred to Cambodia in 2002. Training the dogs to sniff out explosives concealed underground or in rocky terrain littered with shrapnel is a tricky business.

Of every 100 canine candidates, "maybe only four or five make it", Mr Sophoan told DPA.

He said the programme cost around US$1.2 million (S$1.8 million) a year. Even an untrained dog may cost US$4,000, whereas a fully-trained animal could be worth US$30,000.

Cambodia bred its first litter of 10 puppies earlier this year from a pair of demining Belgian Shepherds from Bosnia.

But an intestinal disease killed half the puppies. Veterinary supplies are also in short supply.

Taiwanese smuggler jailed for 22 years in Cambodia

The China Post
Wednesday, October 29, 2008

PHNOM PENH -- A Cambodian court has sentenced a Taiwanese man to 22 years in jail for trying to smuggle heroin out of the country, a judge said Tuesday.

Judge Chhay Kong at Phnom Penh Municipal Court said he sentenced Liao Ichun, 34, on Monday after finding him guilty of trying to smuggle 240 grams (8.46 ounces) of the drug to Taiwan.

Liao, who was arrested last December while taping the drugs to his legs in a toilet at Phnom Penh International Airport, was also ordered to pay a fine of 12,500 dollars, the judge said.
A number of Taiwanese nationals, including a 90-year-old man, have been detained and jailed for trying to smuggle heroin through the airport in the Cambodian capital over the past year.

Although drug arrests have increased, Cambodia is becoming an increasingly popular trafficking point for methamphetamine and heroin, particularly since neighboring Thailand toughened its stance on illegal drugs in 2002.

Thailand denies damaging Preah Vihear

Cambodge Soir


On Sunday October 26, the Thai authorities denied media allegations regarding Thai soldiers damaging the temple during October 15 skirmishes.

Rockets allegedly landed on the staircase leading to the temple, damaging the Naga statues on both side of the stairs which might spurs Cambodian authorities to complain to UNESCO. The Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs denies alleged reports in the media. In a press release, the Thai Ministry assures that an enquiry was carried out in co-operation with the authorities of the 2nd military region of the Thai armed forces (the Sisaket region located on the border with Preah Vihear Temple). The outcome of this enquiry differs from the media allegations.

According to the statement, Thai soldiers followed orders on October 15 and therefore only used light weapons. But they were under fire from the Cambodian troops using rocket-launchers (RPG type) and other recoilless weapons. Rockets hit two areas close to the aforementioned statues and wounded two Thai soldiers. The Cambodian army shot similar shells landing in Phra Viharn National Park. The Royal Thai army alleged having recovered two of these unexploded munitions in the Park. They are kept as evidence by the Bangkok authorities.

Star journalist back to CTN

Cambodge Soir


Soy Sopheap, a famous Cambodian journalist resigned on Monday October 20. He declared at the time to Cambodge Soir Hebdo that he was not able to perform his duty.

A week later on Monday October 27, the journalist announced his return to CTN to his former position. “I will be back on Wednesday at the latest. I will continue with the programmes I was in charged with. CTN is now like my family, with Okhna Kit Méng who is like my brother and Chhaya my master” said Soy Sopheap. The dispute is now deemed as “a small storm typical of the end of the rainy season and which is now gone”.

Strangely enough, Soy Sopheap come back to CTN happened as Hun Sen is back from China. The presenter often played a mediator role on the political scene. He took part in many reconciliation talks involving Sam Rainsy, Prince Norodom Ranariddh and Hun Sen. The journalist is close friend with the Prime Minister.

Asian Crisis fund includes Cambodia

Cambodge Soir


Asean countries, China, Japan and South-Korea united to fight the economic crisis. It was decided during the ASEM meeting to create a currency exchange fund worth US$80 billion.

The aim of this fund, to start next year, is to remedy against any illiquidity of one of the members country. This could prevent spreading the crisis in the region. Although China, Japan and South-Korea, the three regional powers will finance 80% of the fund, Asean countries such as Cambodia will also benefit from the fund.

This fund is not only created to prevent the crisis but also to present an alternative to IMF loans which in the past were not very popular in Jakarta, Bangkok and Seoul. The IMF loans were only granted against heavy interferences in the economical policy of the above-mentioned countries.

Malaria takes on the top meds

Science News
By Nathan Seppa
Tuesday, October 28th, 2008

Parasite starting to overcome frontline drug regimen

WASHINGTON — Like a basketball team that plays best against its toughest opponents, the parasite that causes malaria is showing signs of thwarting the most potent drugs currently used against it. Scientists report that top-line drugs called artemisinins take nearly twice as long to knock out the parasite in people who contract malaria in western Cambodia as the drugs take in other areas — suggesting the parasite is finding ways to thwart the drugs’ effects.

Physician Arjen Dondorp of Mahidol University in Bangkok presented the findings on October 27 in Washington, D.C. at a joint meeting of the Infectious Diseases Society of America and the American Society of Microbiologists

Hints of artemisinin weakening have emerged bit by bit over the past few years in a handful of reports from Southeast Asia, and most scientists are still loath to call the trend outright drug resistance. But the reports are worrisome, says Philip Rosenthal, an infectious disease physician at the University of California, San Francisco.

“If we lose the artemisinins, that would be a major problem,” he says. “The pipeline for new antimalarial drugs … is very limited now. We’re dependent on artemisinins to be the backbone of therapy for years to come.”

Many scientists share Rosenthal’s uneasiness about the Cambodia findings.

“It could potentially be disastrous,” says Steven Meshnick, a parasitologist at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Ironically, the unsettling news comes at a time when malaria seems to be in retreat in some parts of the world, thanks in part to increased funding for programs, he says.

Artemisinins are playing a substantial role in that favorable trend. Derived from sweet wormwood extracts, the artemisinins have shown dramatic success against even Plasmodium falciparum, the parasite that causes the most lethal bouts of malaria. But because artemisinins are quick-acting, potent drugs, they work best when taken in tandem with one of the other slower-acting antimalaria drugs. The artemisinin wipes out most of the parasites, and the other drug lingers to mop up the stragglers. That keeps any lingering parasites from surviving to cause resistance, says Meshnick.

The World Health Organization now recommends such combination therapy with artemisinins as a first-line therapy against malaria worldwide.

But in Cambodia, up to three-fourths of artemisinins are taken on their own. And many people stop taking them early, making parasite clearance from the body less than a sure thing.

What’s more, since artemisinins have been used in Cambodia for decades, malaria in that region has had a long time to evolve a way around them, Dondorp says.

To assess any budding signs of resistance, Dondorp and his colleagues tested 40 malaria patients in western Cambodia and 40 others being treated in nearby Thailand. Patients in Cambodia took more than 80 hours on average to clear the parasite from their bodies after receiving a standard combination therapy that included an artemisinin. In Thailand, clearance took only 48 to 60 hours after a similar treatment. There were also more cases of outright treatment failure in the Cambodian group.

Cambodia has been a crucible of resistant malaria for decades. As early as the 1950s and 1960s, public health officials in Cambodia started to see resistance to other antimalaria drugs. The trend has continued in recent decades.

Many factors may be conspiring to give Cambodia this dubious distinction. The hot climate is certainly right for malaria. But beyond that, Meshnick says, people from all over Southeast Asia show up in western Cambodia for gem mining, and mosquitoes that spread malaria there might mix many parasitic strains by hopping from person to person. That scenario invites gene recombination and mutations, risking the development of virulent drug-resistant strains, he says.

Also, the people in western Cambodia aren’t particularly poor. Ironically, a decent income makes them less dependent on regulated, government-supervised drug programs for malaria and allows them to buy drugs on the open market — with risks.

Dondorp says roughly half of unregulated artemisinin pills bought in Cambodia are fake. This thriving trade in counterfeit artemisinin began with pills without any drug content whatsoever, but these were foiled by dye tests that exposed them. Now the black-market sellers add 10 percent artemisinin to circumvent simple dye tests that detect a lack of the drug.

“This is actually worse,” Dondorp says, since a weak dose exposes the parasite to the drug and increases the risk of resistance.

The plan for Cambodia starts simply enough: “First we need to get monotherapy out of the market and replace it with combination therapy,” Dondorp says. “If we do that, malaria cases will go down by 60 to 70 percent.”

While that strategy would help in the short run, the surviving parasites would be more resistant than ever, he concedes. “We would have to continue double therapy until eradication, and our models show that that would take 10 years.”

Parliament approves Cambodia border talks

Bangkok Post
Wednesday October 29, 2008

By Manop Thip-Osod

Lawmakers at the joint parliamentary session gave negotiators authority late on Tuesday to hold talks with Cambodia to demarcate the land boundary in the disputed area between the two countries.

The endorsement is needed under the constitution ahead of the proposed talks of the Joint Boundary Commission (JBC) with Cambodia on Nov 10.

Phnom Penh has not responded to the schedule offered to Cambodian Prime Minster Hun Sen by Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat.

The JBC was set up in 2000. In the past it needed no endorsement from parliament. But Article 190 of the present charter requires that all talks affecting sovereignty be endorsed by senators and MPs. Any agreement emerging from the JBC's negotiations also needs parliamentary approval.

The joint meeting at parliament was held in secret due to concerns by Foreign Minister Sompong Amornvivat about the sensitivity of the issue.

But the endorsement was easily passed by the senators and MPs with a 409 to seven vote. One lawmaker abstained.

A source at the meeting said MPs from the opposition Democrat party and some senators criticised the attempt to end the border dispute for fear a trade-off would benefit some individuals.

They said Thailand has always been forced on the defensive in the battle for sovereignty over disputed border areas.

Democrat leader Abhisit Vejjajiva said the negotiations must not put Thailand at a disadvantage, said the source.

But Mr Sompong assured them there will be no specific groups who will benefit from the talks.

The JBC talks will focus on the overlapping area of 4.6 square kilometres near the Preah Vihear temple, which was the root of the recent border spat. Thailand insists it is in Kantharalak district in Si Sa Ket province but Cambodia argues that it is in its territory.

Cambodian and United Nations officials plan to visit the historic temple to highlight the need to safeguard the site after it was damaged in an armed clash with Thai troops, Phai Siphan, a spokesman for Cambodia's Council of Ministers, said on Tuesday.

The visit to the 11th-century temple - which was designated a World Heritage site by Unesco in July - will take place on Nov 7, he said.

He said the trip was originally planned for late November but had been moved up following the Oct 15 clash between Cambodian and Thai soldiers over the disputed border area near the temple.

Cambodian officials have said a stone staircase and a Hindu deity sculpture were damaged by Thai troops. But the Thai Foreign Ministry and army strongly denied the accusation, saying Thai soldiers never used heavy weapons in the border fighting.

Unesco's office in Cambodia did not immediately respond to written questions seeking comment.

But its director-general, Koichiro Matsuura, voiced "grave concern" over the clash and urged Cambodia and Thailand to settle their border dispute peacefully, the agency said on its official website. (with reports from news agencies)

Berry hosts human rights activist tonight

The Daily Citizen
October 28, 2008

Submitted by Berry CollegeROME — Human rights activist Loung Ung will share her perspective on the Cambodian genocide during a special presentation scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 28, in the Berry College science auditorium. Her lecture is being sponsored by Berry’s Conson Wilson Lecture Series and is free and open to the public.

Ung is the author of “Lucky Child” and “First They Killed My Father: a Daughter of Cambodia Remembers,” a national bestseller and recipient of the 2001 Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature.

Ung’s presentation will focus on her experiences growing up in pre-Khmer Rouge Cambodia in the early 1970s, life under the Khmer Rouge, her escape at the age of 10 and subsequent adjustment to life in America. The presentation will also include a discussion on land mines and Ung’s activism as spokeswoman for the Campaign for a Landmine-Free World.

For more information about this event, please contact Kirsten Taylor, Conson Wilson Lecture Series chair, at (706) 368-5681.

Break up the concentration of powers

Pacific Daily News

October 29, 2008

Last week, I wrote about the rise of totalitarianism in Cambodia in the form of Hun Sen Inc. It has silenced opposition, crushed those perceived as threats, and made itself Cambodia's sole source of employment and sole center for resource distribution. It dictates who gets what, when, where and how.

A Western political philosophy brands any such concentration of powers in the hands of a closed group as tyranny -- rule by an oppressive government. In Cambodia, genocidal Pol Pot's successor, Premier Sen, leads the ruling party by firmly holding power in all institutions.

Either he -- the omnipotent chairman -- or his privileged trusted associates represent all powers, legislative, executive, and judicial, defying democratic political philosophy and practice.
Yet, Hun Sen, Inc. is given $600 million annually by an international community that hopes to assist the country's poor and desolate, many of whom rely on rat meat to survive. The world's nations chose recently to appease Hun Sen when he demanded removal of Yash Ghai as Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Human Rights in Cambodia, a role created by the 1991 Paris Peace Accords signed by 19 countries and the U.N., because, in Ghai's words, he stood against Hun Sen's "systematic violations of political, economic, social rights" in Cambodia.

Disconnect, hypocrisy

The disconnect between what the community of nations preaches and its actions is a modern political hypocrisy and appeasement of a dictator at the expense of citizens' rights as contained in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

That declaration, to which Cambodia is a party, reaffirmed the basic civil and human rights deemed most fundamental by the civilized community of nations. Unfortunately, many countries' interests in having a foothold in strategically located and resource-rich (forest resources may have been depleted but the six potential oil fields remain something to envy) Cambodia are served better through accommodating Hun Sen Inc. As such, their interests in the rather elusive concepts of freedom and human rights do not carry weight.

This approach conveys a mirage of political and economic stability. But it's shortsighted. The trouble with dictators is that their desire for power is insatiable. They want more and they want to extend their power anywhere and everywhere.

As it is human nature to want to breathe the air of liberty and to live with dignity, a land governed by oppression cannot expect stability and peace in society. Those who hunger for their basic rights will, over time, foment revolt.

Cambodian opposition leader Sam Rainsy and civil societies in Cambodia fear and oppose Hun Sen's concentration of power. They speak tirelessly of the need for a limited government, separation of powers, checks and balances, though many repeat the terms without understanding them. At the risk of sounding like a classroom lecture, maybe what is written below will help.

Theoretically, a power concentration is broken up by dividing and giving specific power to separate government organs. These organs (national assembly, government, the court) function independently of one another: legislators make laws, they do not interpret laws; the prime minister executes laws and does not make them or interpret them; the court interprets what the law is and does not act as a lawmaker or a policeman carrying out the laws). In Cambodia, Sen is a lawmaker, a policeman and a judge.

Separating these functions avoids an abuse of power.

In Cambodia the omnipotent premier has been accused of widespread use of fear and intimidation to achieve his goals. Human rights and integrity in Cambodia are for parroting.

It's bleak for Cambodians who seek change and want instant gratification. They set themselves up for disappointment: Hun Sen Inc. does not care what others think about its rule; and Cambodians' long-held culture of blind reverence to established rulers (political winners walk on water) and contempt for those out of power (losers can be worse than dirt) does not help. Internationally, many foreign governments do not seem to care about the July national election fraud that gave Sen power to rule the country for another four years. It's business as usual.


Yet, there is hope and Cambodians need to learn to believe in hope.

They would do well to review who and what they are, learn to minimize limitation and maximize potential, and conclude if the only constant in life is change, and Lord Buddha says everything changes, then Hun Sen Inc.'s permanency will end. The Cambodian saying, "bent wood can make a wheel, straight wood can make a spoke, twisted and crooked wood can make fire," can be put into practice.

I wrote about water that boils at 212 degrees, and if the heat is increased to 213 then steam is produced to run a locomotive. That's one way hope is turned into reality -- through action.

As the Chinese say, one generation plants trees, the next generation gets the shade.

A. Gaffar Peang-Meth, Ph.D., is retired from the University of Guam, where he taught political science for 13 years. Write him at

Cambodia's First Modern Musical, Where Elephants Weep, to Premiere in Phnom Penh

By: Dan Bacalzo
Oct 28, 2008
New York

Cambodia's first-ever modern music theater work, Where Elephants Weep, will make its official world premiere in Phnom Penh, Cambodia at the Chenla Theater, November 28-December 7. The production features a libretto by Catherine Filloux, a score by Him Sophy, musical supervision by Scot Stafford, direction by Robert McQueen and choreography by Seán Curran, and is produced in association with Amrita Performing Arts.

The show tells the tale of Sam, a refugee from the Khmer Rouge genocide who leaves America and returns to his homeland of Cambodia. Committed to finding his roots in his native culture, he unexpectedly falls in love with Bopha, a homegrown pop star. The musical weaves 12th century musical styles and traditional Cambodian instruments with a contemporary, Western-style rock band to reinterpret traditional Khmer music for a new era.

The show will be performed by a group of principal U.S. performers, together with a Cambodian company of actors, singers, dancers and musicians. The production is expected to return to the U.S., after playing several Asian cities, in the autumn of 2010.

For more information, visit

The South Korean Embassy Denies that the Shukaku Inc. Company Comes From Korea - Tuesday, 28.10.2008

Posted on 28 October 2008
The Mirror, Vol. 12, No. 584

“Around 200 residents from among the 4,000 families that live at the Boeng Kak region in Srah Chak, Daun Penh, came on the morning or 27 October 2008 to protest in front of the South Korean Embassy in Cambodia, to ask the Korean ambassador to intervene with the Shukaku Inc. company to stop dredging sand to fill the Boeng Kak Lake, and to solve the compensation for houses and land of the residents through market prices.

“A letter of the Boeng Kak residents at Srah Chak, Daun Penh, Phnom Penh, on 24 October 2008, to the Korean ambassador in Cambodia, stated their concerns over their eviction from the Boeng Kak region.

“In the letter asking for an intervention by the South Korean ambassador in Cambodia, all residents at the Boeng Kak region said that they have lived in this area starting between 1979 and 1982, and they are recognized by the local authorities, having family books, residence cards, birth certificates, identification cards, house numbers, defined residential groups, villages, communes, and districts; furthermore, residents at the Boeng Kak region have access to clean water and electricity, and they have jobs such as working at guesthouses, shops, cosmetics, car maintenance, garments shops, hairdressers, washing and ironing shops, hardware shops etc.

“The same letter went on to say that the residents of the Boeng Kak region had formed communities, had created credit unions, and are supported by non-government organizations with general health services, that also help to construct roads and bridges in the communities. On 6 February 2007, the Phnom Penh Municipality announced to lease the Boeng Kak region for a period of 99 years at a cost of US$79,002,000 to the Shukaku Inc. Company of South Korea, to develop the Boeng Kak Lake area which covers 133 hectares, where 90 hectares are lake, and 4,252 families are affected.

“On 26 October 2008, the Shukaku Inc. Company started to dredge sand to fill the lake, causing flood for some houses and on the roads; some houses collapsed and electricity and water was cut. Moreover, the company threatens and intimidates the residents, which concerns them, and some lost their regular jobs or cannot operate their businesses, due to the threats at present.

“The letter continued to report to the South Korean ambassador that previously, the citizens had sent motions to the Phnom Penh municipality, to the company, to the cabinet of the Prime Minister, and to the president of the National Assembly, asking for intervention from those institutions, but there is no solution. Now the residents of the Boeng Kak region are very worried, that is, they live in a state of being afraid both day and night, and even during their work to earn their living.

“At present, the Shukaku Inc. Company and the Phnom Penh authorities are using every trick to persuade and to force them, and to break the unity among the residents, so that they leave their houses, offering inappropriate compensation and money, forcing them to live at far away places from Phnom Penh and from their places of work, trying to move them to where there is no school, no hospital, no clean water, and no electricity; moving there they would loose their jobs.

"The letter of all residents of the Boeng Kak region to the South Korean ambassador asks the ambassador to help to intervene with the Shukaku Inc. Company and with the Phnom Penh Municipality, to solve the requests of the residents of the Boeng Kak region as follows:

- To ask the Shukaku Inc. Company to stop dredging sand using it to fill the Boeng Kak Lake.
- To ask the Shukaku Inc. Company to come to solve the effects on the land and on the houses of the residents living on the land and on stilt houses above the surface of the water, directly with the citizens, according to market prices.

“On the morning of 27 October 2008, officials of the South Korean Embassy in Cambodia came to greet representatives of the residents of the Boeng Kak region for a discussion. A representative of the residents, named Kon, who met with officials of the South Korean Embassy, reported to journalists and to around 200 residents of the Boeng Kak region, who protested in front of the South Korean Embassy, that the Shukaku Inc. is not a company from Korea. Therefore, they asked all residents of the Boeng Kak region to stop believing that this company comes from Korea.

“The rally of the residents then dispersed, but their representatives said that they will continue to search for the owners of the Shukaku Inc. Company, to know where it really comes from. When they know it clearly, they will rally in front of any embassy of the country from which the Shukaku Inc. Company came to invest in the Boeng Kak region, to seek compensation for the residents according to market prices, without forcing residents to leave.

“Different sources said that the Shukaku Inc. Company is an investment partner of Ms. Cheung Sopheap, also known as Yeay Phou – Grandmother Yeay - whose husband is Lao Meng Khin, an economic advisor to Prime Minister Hun Sen, it is likely they originate from China, because Yeay Phou and her husband have close relations with Chinese businesspeople. Some say that the Shukaku Inc. is a Japanese company; however, there is no source to say from which country the Shukaku Inc. Company really comes.”

Moneaksekar Khmer, Vol.15, #3599, 28.10.2008
Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Lake Flooding Forces 'Volunteer' Exodus

Some residents around Boeung Kak lake have opted to stay, despite rising waters caused by fill.

By Pin Sisovann, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
28 October 2008

Khmer audio aired 26 October 2008 (1.60 MB) - Download (MP3)
Khmer audio aired 26 October 2008 (1.60 MB) - Listen (MP3)

One day last week, Pen Bun Noeun watched as her wooden house on Boeung Kak lake in Phnom Penh was dismantled by workers she had hired for its removal.

With the lake’s developer Shukaku, Inc., pumping fill into the lake, its polluted water was rising and her situation had become untenable, she said. She was opting to move outside of the city, to a development in Dangkao district called Borei Santepheap 2.

“It’s far, but what can I do?” she said, as her neighbors sloshed through the muck or sat on chairs and tables to avoid the rising water. “I cannot stay here because it is flooded. Too much flooding and a bad smell. There was no flooding before the dredging. It is now flooded all over.”

Plagued with mosquitoes, putrid mud and rising waters, hundreds of residents of the lake say they are voluntarily moving, taking a buyout or move offers from the city. But critics say developers are filling the lake, forcing the water to rise, and that the moves are not voluntary at all.

Many residents in recent interviews told VOA Khmer they would now prefer to take a controversial buy-out, despite protests in the past that the market value of their homes was much higher than the $8,000 offered by the city. Others said the offer to relocate to an apartment on the outskirts of the capital, though far from services, was better than living in the quagmire their neighborhood has become.

Boeung Kak's rising water has brought swaths of trash with it, convincing hundreds of residents it is time to leave.

The “volunteer” exodus starkly differs from displacements under past city projects. In 2006, the government faced sharp criticism for its ejection of impoverished residents of neighborhoods on the Tonle Bassac, where police forced people from the area at gunpoint in the early morning as bulldozers leveled their homes.

Pen Bun Noeun’s uncle, who declined to be named, said the situation “only looks better” for people at Boeung Kak than those who were forced from developments like the communities of Sambok Chap, or Sparrow’s Nest, and nearby Kak Ampov, or Sugarcane Leavings, on the Tonle Bassac.

The authorities “didn’t force us to leave clumsily, didn’t surround us with fencing,” he said. “It looks better than there. They didn’t force us, but [we move] voluntarily. They haven’t mistreated us yet.”

The uncle had already been forced to remove his house as the flood waters rose, he said, calling this a “strategy” of the developers and the city.

“If we don’t go now, we will go later,” he said. “To go now is better. If we go last, we could be sent 20 or 30 kilometers from where we are to be moved to now. It would be damning.”
“They didn’t force us,” he said with sarcasm, “but we must go.”

The 133-hectare, $79 million development was undertaken by Shikaku under a 99-year lease with the city. Plans include the construction of businesses and homes, centers for trade, culture and tourism, and increased security. Residents have been loath to go, however, and staged a protest in September when Shikaku began filling in the lake.

The halt was only temporary, however, and shortly after Shukaku resumed filling the lake.

Ny Chakrya, chief of the monitoring section for the rights group Adhoc, said the displacement was similar to those along the Tonle Bassac, except residents here were being forced out by floodwater and not gunpoint.

“It is not a principle of volunteering,” he said. “Volunteer removal means a negotiation in which neither side was put under pressure of any kind. Once one side acted to put another side aside; with no choice, it becomes a non-voluntary agreement. If it was to be a voluntary agreement from the people, [authorities] should not have created an impact on the daily living conditions of the people.”

Resident Neth Sophana and her family said they were being forced to leave under a “volunteer principle” espoused by Phnom Penh authorities and Shukaku.

“It is right to say either: we volunteered or were forced, because the company dredged to flood us,” she said. “We must leave. How can we stay? Speaking frankly they’re driving us away.”

Mann Chhoeun, deputy governor of Phnom Penh, maintains that the more than 500 families who have now agreed to leave the area did so willingly and have thumb-printed documents attesting to that.

“It moving ahead now,” he said. “It looks good, and they have printed their thumbs on proper volunteer documents. They were not forced.”

Those who opted for an apartment at Borei Santepheap 2 would find a school and market at the new location, he said, and the government continued to negotiate with families still living around the lake.

“We will solve it step by step and avoid violence with people,” he said. “We will have a good result before long.”

Despite floodwater creeping into her house, forcing her to build small wooden walkways through the living room, resident Houth Srin said she would wait for a better offer. Borei Santepheap 2 was too far from services, she said, and the itchy feet caused by the dirty water was a small price to pay to hold out.

Meanwhile, she said, people who owned smaller houses were being separated from those with large houses by the city’s buyout plans. Those with small houses could take the money, but those with larger houses, like hers, would wait. That meant a unity of voice against the displacement was divided, she said.

“Owners of small houses didn’t go to protest,” she said. “Only residents in big houses.”
Others, like Reoun Sovannara, were ready to leave.

“We volunteered to go because we have no way to live here,” he said. “It’s flooded. They’ve dredged to flood us, so why should we stay?”

Angered Workers Torch Korean Boss’s Car

By Heng Reaksmey, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
28 October 2008

Khmer audio aired 28 October 2008 (883 KB) - Download (MP3)
Khmer audio aired 28 October 2008 (883 KB) - Listen (MP3)

A group of construction workers attacked the offices of the Camko City development on the outskirts of Phnom Penh Monday night, lighting a car on fire and throwing stones through the windows of the offices, officials and workers said.

The angered workers are part of a workforce of more than 1,000 people who went on strike Monday, claiming they were owed wages for the month of October.

"The workers are angry enough to burn cars and throw stones because the person who is in charge of the wages told them a lie," Ham Samnang, a construction worker, said. "They promised to pay them by the 24th. Now it is the 27th."

Workers had no more money and were starving, he said, in addition to owing rent.
The workers earn between $80 and $150 per month, he said.

A group of the striking workers gathered inside the compound of Camko City Co. Monday and attacked the car of the company's South Korean general manager.

Company officials declined to comment Tuesday, but Lim Samnang, an advisor of administration at Camko City, said the company had erred by not paying the workers on time.

The company usually pays its workers before the 25th of the month, he said, but the payment is currently late by two days.

Police said no workers were arrested during the demonstration. Camko City is a South Korean investment of $2 billion developing 119 hectares of commercial and residential areas in Phnom Penh's Russey Keo district.

Sok Sovanareth, president of the Cambodian National Federation of Building and Wood Workers, said Tuesday the company should pay its workers on time to avoid violence.

Poorer Asian Countries Meet Amid Crisis

By Kong Sothanarith, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
28 October 2008

Khmer audio aired 28 October 2008 (944 KB) - Download (MP3)
Khmer audio aired 28 October 2008 (944 KB) - Listen (MP3)

Cambodian officials began three days of meetings with economic representatives from eight impoverished Asian countries in Phnom Penh Tuesday in an effort to improve commerce and trade amid a widening global financial crisis.

“We will exchange experiences learned form each other and set up the mechanisms that can get those countries out of poverty,” Commerce Minister Cham Prasidh said. “We will prepare a policy for trade and for the prevention of financial crisis.”

The minister said such exchanges were even more important now, “as the world is geared towards a painful and unprecedented global financial crisis.”

The regional economic workshop, sponsored by the UN Conference on Trade and Development, runs through Oct. 30.

Representatives from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Burma, Laos, the Maldives, Nepal, and Pakistan joined Cambodian officials from the ministries of Commerce, Finance, Industry, Telecommunications, Planning and Foreign Affairs, as well as the National Bank.

Among the eight countries, Bangladesh and Cambodia export the most garments and textiles to the world market. The garment industry provided $2.7 billion in exports for Cambodia last year, around 80 percent of its exports.

Rolf Traeger, an economic affairs officer for the UNCTAD, said Tuesday the two countries had been able to continue to raise the export of textiles, while the Maldives and Nepal faced more difficulties.

Joint cooperation between countries “should not rely solely on purely trade measures, but it should be accompanied by other support measures to [developing countries] in terms of foreign direct investment, in terms of transfer of technology, in terms of finance,” he said.

Island Separated by Undeveloped Seaway

Passengers leave Sihanoukville en route to Koh Rong, an isolated island 40 kilometers off the coast.

By Vohar Cheat, VOA Khmer
Original report from Sihanoukville
28 October 2008

[Editor’s note: The island of Koh Rong, just 40 kilometers off the coast of Sihanoukville in the Gulf of Thailand, remains underdeveloped. However, locals hope that improvements under a proposed project will lead to better transportation, education, health and economic opportunities. This is the first of a five-part series.]

One day late in September, a small wooden boat left the beach in Sihanoukville and, engines rumbling, made its way off the coast to the island of Koh Rong. The boat had aboard 10 foreign tourists, an uncommonly high number for the island, which remains separated from the mainland and has gone undeveloped for years.

Residents hope that this will change, but any improvements to the island will first require an improvement in transportation. Currently, trips to the island are expensive, and, during the rainy season, travel can be unsafe.

“Traveling down there depends on water transportation,” said Som Chenda, director of Sihanoukville’s tourism department. “Technically, our transportation is not standard. We do not have ferries or cruising vessels. What we have at the moment is small wooden boats, and it is dangerous for a long-distance trip in the big waves of the open sea like that.”

The lack of transportation has meant Koh Rong has so far missed out on the booming tourism experienced by Sihanoukville.

Even now, the lack of accommodation on the island means that foreign tourists prefer to take daytrips. Those who wish to stay will have to camp on the beach or stay in a fishing village.

The only site for foreign accommodation is a set of bungalows being built on neighboring Koh Bang Koh Aun, referred to locally as “Sweetheart Island.” Villagers on Koh Rong say they have been prevented from looking closely at the bungalows, which are roped off by a floating red line 100 meters offshore.

A trip to Koh Rong remains off the public itinerary of most hotels or restaurants in Sihanoukville, adding to its isolation. A visitor must arrange the trip, and bargain for the boat, which can cost between $50 and $170, depending on its size and speed. The trip can take between one and three hours. The island can also be accessed from Koh Sdech.

The 1,400 people who occupy Koh Rong’s four villages seem far from outsiders, and the area was hardly accessed after people settled their as the Khmer Rouge collapsed. The people here are poor, earning a living by farming or fishing with long-tailed boats inconvenient for travel.

Still, the older generation is at ease, and even if the island seems under-developed, they have seen modernization. It used to take three days to travel to the mainland, after all.

"In the past if people go to [Sihanoukville] or Sre Ambil they had to sail, or if there wsa no wind,” said Ma Ti, 56, who lives on the southern tip of the island. “Now it is much better.”

Residents of the island say they hope developments by the Royal Group, which intends to invest on the island, will bring them more prosperity.

“I believe my people will have better lives if the island is developed by the company,” said Ung Nit, deputy chief of Koh Rong commune, adding that the construction of recent cell phone towers for three companies had already helped.

Jacov Montross, business and finance manager of Royal Group, said investment will have to start with a port, which will lead to a ferry, which “will cater more toward local populations.”

McCain Supporters Undeterred by New Polls

By Taing Sarada, VOA Khmer
Original report from Washington
28 October 2008

Khmer audio aired 28 October 2008 (1.09 MB) - Download (MP3)
Khmer audio aired 28 October 2008 (1.09 MB) - Listen (MP3)

With some polls leaning toward the Democratic presidential candidate, Barack Obama, Cambodian-Americans who support Republican John McCain say they remain hopeful as the race enters its final week.

"We see that Obama is leading now, but we still have hope,"said Kim Meas Koy, who lives in Minnesota. "We want the Republican Party to win the election, because their foreign policies would focus more on the Cambodian issue."

McCain, who was a pilot during the Vietnam War and is viewed as familiar with Southeast Asian politics, has found wide support among Cambodian-Americans. But with Obama leading in polls from the battleground of Virginia, McCain has to make up ground before US voters go to the polls Nov. 4.

Chourng Sophal, who lives in Virginia, told VOA Khmer that even with the numbers favoring Obama his support for McCain had not wavered.

"For me, I'll still voting for McCain, because I don't really know Obama's party," he said.

Democratic supporter Pak Channa, who heads the Angkor Association in the US, said he was voting against the Republicans, who "love war."

"Nixon had the Vietnam War, George Bush had the Gulf War, and now George W. Bush is having war gain," Pak Channa said.

For many Cambodians, though, it is McCain's war record that reassures them.

"John McCain was a pilot during the Vietnam War, and he was locked up in a Vietnamese jail during the 1970s," said Rany Lushinski, who also lives in Virginia and is a member of Cambodian-Americans for Human Rights and Democracy. "I think he can strongly understand the cruelty of the Vietnamese communist government, so it could be possible that when he wins the election he can help Cambodia."

Lushinski's views echoes those of others who feel the Republicans pay more attention to Cambodian issues, while Democratic supporters among Cambodian-Americans have said they like the Democrats' view on interior policy and dealing with an economic crisis that has swept the globe in recent weeks.

Cambodia, UN seek to protect border temple

International Herald tribune
The Associated Press
Published: October 28, 2008

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia: Cambodian and U.N. officials plan to visit a historic temple near the border with Thailand to highlight the need to safeguard the site after it was damaged in an armed clash with Thai troops, an official said Tuesday.

The visit to the 11th-century Preah Vihear temple — which was designated a World Heritage site by the United Nations cultural agency, UNESCO, in July — will take place on Nov. 7, said Phai Siphan, a spokesman for Cambodia's Council of Ministers.

He said the trip was originally planned for late November but has been moved up following an Oct. 15 clash between Cambodian and Thai soldiers over disputed border territory near the temple.

The fighting, which killed two Cambodians and one Thai paramilitary soldier who died later, has triggered fears of a broader conflict.

Cambodian officials have said a stone staircase and a Hindu deity sculpture were damaged by shrapnel from a grenade fired from the Thai side.

Phai Siphan described the damage as "scratches" but should be taken seriously because the temple is a monument of "universal value and unique achievement." He said his government submitted a report about it to UNESCO last week.

In Bangkok, a spokesman for Thailand's foreign ministry denied Monday that the country's soldiers were responsible for any damage to the temple.

Spokesman Tharit Charungvat said the Thai army has said it only used small weapons during the clash, and that Cambodian troops shot rocket propelled grenades from the grounds of the temple.

The recent gunfight was the latest flare-up in a long-running dispute over a stretch of jungle near the temple. The World Court awarded the temple to Cambodia in 1962, but sovereignty over surrounding land has never been resolved.

UNESCO's office in Cambodia did not immediately respond to written questions seeking comment.

But its director-general, Koichiro Matsuura, expressed "grave concern" about the recent clash and called on Cambodia and Thailand to settle their border dispute peacefully, the agency said on its official Web site.

Protest over Boeung Kak project met with confusion

Boeung Kak residents protest outside the South Korean embassy on Monday.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Chhay Channyda
Tuesday, 28 October 2008

A protest over the Boeung Kak lake development has raised quesions over the nationality of developer Shukaku Inc

AROUND 70 Boeung Kak residents protested Monday outside the South Korean Embassy over what they believed was a Korean company's involvement in the development of the residential lake.

Protesters told the Post they were wanting to deliver a letter to the Korean Ambassador, Shin Hyun-suk, stating that they have sent many complaints to offices of government expressing their anger over their forced eviction, but "no action has been taken".

The residents said they had decided to protest when they learned from local media reports that Shukaku Inc, the company filling in the lake for redevelopment, was a South Korean company.

But embassy officials told protesters that the company was not South Korean, and presented a one-page document describing Shukaku as a company from Japan.

However, an official from the Japanese embassy, who declined to be named, told the Post by phone that she did not know if the company was Japanese.

"We are now searching for the company's name [to see] if Shukaku Inc is a company from Japan," she said, adding that Shukaku is not likely a Japanese word.

Pa Socheatvong, deputy governor of Phnom Penh, told the Post Monday that the 99-year-lease agreement between the government and Shukaku Inc signed in February 2007 proved the company was in fact Cambodian.

"In the agreement, the signatory is Cambodian, so we now know that it is a local company," he said.

The project, which will develop the 133-hectare lake into a business and cultural center, will see an estimated 4,250 families evicted from the area.

Dozens of police officers were at the protest, as well as officials from Shukaku who declined to talk to the press.

Funcinpec officials consider defecting, merging with NRP

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Meas Sokchea
Tuesday, 28 October 2008

In the wake of the July 27 polls, many Funcinpec officials are displeased with their party's performance and are planning to jump ship

THE stream of disgruntled Funcinpec members leaving their party shows no sign of abating, with some 60 officials exploring a possible merger with - or defection to - the rival Norodom Ranariddh Party last week alone.

"Around 50 or 60 officials from Funcinpec came to the NRP ... to lobby the Prince to lead Funcinpec, or alternatively come and join his party," NRP spokesman Suth Dina said, adding that the Prince would not lead Funcinpec.

Having spent large sums of money contesting the July 27 election, many Funcinpec officials are angry that they have no role in the coalition government, and their thoughts have turned to their former leader, Prince Ranariddh, said Suth Dina, adding that the disgruntled royalists came from all across the country and all levels of the party apparatus.

The NRP has an "open door" policy and officials have appealed to all NRP members not to be "narrow minded" about Funcinpec officials who want to join, Suth Dina said.

Ok Socheat, a Funcinpec adviser, acknowledged that there were some officials from Funcinpec who had been to see the NRP but said it was because they were trying to encourage the two parties to merge.

Officials who currently have no positions are eager for the parties to merge, but those with positions are more reluctant as they worry their positions could be lost, said Ok Sokcheat, who declined to name any of the officials involved.

Possible merger?

Funcinpec's Secretary General and Deputy Prime Minister Nhek Bun Chhay told the Post he did not know of any Funcinpec officials who had defected or joined the NRP. Standard procedure is that officials hand in a letter of resignation, but he said he has not received any such letters.

"It is true that some officials are angry. But what can we do? Our election results give us what we have," he said.

Funcinpec's leaders are also considering a possible merger with the NRP at the urging of some party members, he added.

A disaster resilient city?

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Bunnarith Meng
Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Dear Editor,

Flooding in Phnom Penh city and the surrounding areas has been featured in the news almost every day. This is alarming for the city and its uncertain future.

That some officials in the Phnom Penh authority have laid the blame for such flooding on rainy season is ridiculous. However, this is, to an extent, true because there is a great loss of natural reservoirs that were used to retain rain and storm water. Before they used this excuse, they should have asked how often such occurrence had happened in the past.

Based on its history of development, Phnom Penh was built on flood-prone areas. Expansion of the city was achieved by filling lakes, building dams and ring roads to make ways for development as well as to protect from flooding. Why did previous regimes implement such a city expansion strategy? This is of course associated with population growth and economic growth in the city.

However, can this strategy be a framework for future city development? To put it simply, the current solution to city expansion is totally a mistake due to different magnitudes of scale and scope of development as well as population and economic growth pressures.

Any solution to urban problems must be more innovative and responsive. Experts, planning professionals and the like have long been warning that filling lakes shrinks the volume of water reservoirs, thereby making the city regions susceptible to flooding.

However, little attention has been paid to such advice; developments have taken place through filling lakes, arguing for the "landfill-based development" history but against advice from experts and planning professionals.

The current flooding in the Phnom Penh city regions, such as in villages in the Russei Keo district, has been a good answer to the current trend of urban development. The current solution to flooding by constructing costly pumping stations to pump the water out is unsustainable as it involves costs to operate and cover maintenance, not to mention the pollution resulted from their operation. Would it not be more favorable to preserve the lakes as natural water catchments than to fill them and pump the water out every year when flooding?

Natural disasters such as flooding and storms have increasingly become a worrying concern in Cambodia. Flooding in Phnom Penh city regions should be seen as a lesson to be incorporated into the city development framework that seeks to make our city more resilient to such natural disasters.

Urban sustainability cannot be achieved unless our city is planned and developed with its associated problems in mind.

Bunnarith Meng
PhD candidate in urban and regional planning, University of Hawaii at Manoa, USA


Photo by: Rick Valenzuela

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Rick Valenzuela
Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Ducklings waddle and pace before their sunset feeding time last Tuesday at Chea Em's farm and family home in Svay At commune in Sampov Meas district, Pursat province.

Thai tensions underline regional woes

Asia Time online

By Marwaan Macan-Markar

BANGKOK - The Thai government's decision to shift the venue of an Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit from Bangkok to the northern city of Chiang Mai illustrates the administration's lack of control even in the capital. The political upheaval there is symbolic of the challenges ASEAN faces as it heads towards its 14th summit.

Prime Minster Somchai Wongsawat announced the venue switch during a weekend visit to the country's second-largest city, which sits at the base of a hilly region close to the Myanmar border. The ASEAN leaders' meeting will now be held there from December 15-18.

The continuing protests led by the People's Alliance for Democracy [PAD] could cause trouble for the event,'' the Bangkok Post reported on Monday, quoting an unnamed Foreign Ministry source.

Diplomatic sources on the sidelines of the recent two-day Asia-Europe Meeting in Beijing told the newspaper that Chiang Mai now is the official site for annual summits involving ASEAN and its major trading partners.

But the decision has won little praise from former diplomats, given what the change of venue implies. ''This is the government's admission of its weaknesses, and that it is not in control,'' Kasit Piromya, a former Thai ambassador to the United States, told Inter Press Service. ''It is the government that runs the country, yet we see that they are not in charge."

It also reflects the government's refusal to ''solve the problem by having dialogue with the PAD", he added. ''The government has not shown any sign that it wants to speak with the PAD and defuse the situation to hold the ASEAN summit in Bangkok."

''The main reason for the change was the government's worry that The PAD, which champions a conservative, nationalist agenda, has crippled the ruling six-party coalition by using mass street protests which have been ongoing in Bangkok, and up and down the country, since May. PAD supporters are currently occupying the prime minister's office and hundreds of its protesters laid siege to Government House in early October.

Somchai, who took over on September 17 from his precessed Samak Sundarevej - who was removed for conflict of interest charges for hosting and receiving payment for a television cooking show - has been forced since to run the country from a makeshift office at Bangkok's Don Muang Airport.

However, political tension is not plaguing Thailand alone. Malaysia, to its south, has also been gripped by political turmoil. The government that has ruled for decades, led by the United Malays National Organization (UMNO), is in a spin due to an internal tussle for power and pressure from the opposition led by the charismatic Anwar Ibrahim.

The power of the ruling Barisan Nasional (National Alliance) coalition was shattered during general elections in March, emboldening the opposition and the country's minorities to mount challenges after the watershed poll. The opposition won five states and 82 seats in the 222-seat parliament, while the Barisan retained 140 seats.

Since the poll, Anwar, who leads the National Justice Party, has held regular political rallies in Kuala Lumpur and elsewhere, attracting thousands of people at times. He has already threatened to form a new government by attracting defectors from the Barisan's parliamentarians.

What is happening in Thailand and Malaysia reflects a ''shift in how people perceive democracy in this region", said Roshan Jason, executive director of the ASEAN inter-parliamentary caucus on Myanmar. ''The public is demanding greater engagement in the process of government and decision-making.''

''The old order of letting Southeast Asian governments rule without any accountability to the people is unraveling," he added during a telephone interview from Kuala Lumpur. ''Unfortunately, ASEAN still trails behind other regions in this area,'' Jason said.

Yet not all of ASEAN's founding nations - Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand - are eager to create a political culture that keeps an elected government in check through opposition pressure and campaigns by anti-government activists. The affluent city-state of Singapore is still determined to remain a nominal democracy. The other members are Cambodia, Vietnam, Brunei, Myanmar and Laos.

Recently, Chee Soon Juan, leader of the opposition Singapore Democratic Party, was slapped with another crippling fine in the latest of legal cases brought against him by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his father, Lee Kuan Yew. The cases affirmed the authoritarian climate that still prevails in the region's most economically developed nation.

Indonesia and the Philippines, by contrast, have made strides towards becoming more democratic and have moved beyond the stage where Thailand and Malaysia find themselves. Brunei is an absolute monarchy, Myanmar is under the grip of a military dictatorship, Cambodia has a young, flawed democracy and Laos and Vietnam both are ruled by communist parties.

Bringing this patchwork of struggling democracies, semi-democracies and non-democracies into a cohesive regional entity is the challenge that looms before the 14th ASEAN summit. After all, the period under Thailand's stewardship was to mark a major transition for this bloc, which was created in 1967 as a bulwark against the spread of communism at the height of the Cold War.

The focus of this year's summit is the endorsement of the ASEAN charter, which aims to transform the body into a rules-based entity. A key pillar in this makeover is a plan to establish a new regional human-rights mechanism. ASEAN has also set its sights on creating a unified, integrated economic community by 2015.

''We now look forward to an early entry into force of the ASEAN charter before the ASEAN leaders meet in Bangkok for their summit," Surin Pitsuwan, ASEAN secretary general and former Thai foreign minister, said in a statement last week before the change of venue was announced.

In fact, one regional diplomat, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the political tension in Thailand leading up to the summit in Chiang Mai served as ''a reality check for the ASEAN governments about the new political attitudes in our region. The charter will be meaningless if this trend is ignored there."

(Inter Press Service)