Thursday, 6 November 2008

Cambodian health ministry bans private ambulances

PHNOM PENH, Nov. 6 (Xinhua) -- The Cambodian Ministry of Health has slapped a ban on private ambulances retrieving accident victims in a bid to promote the public ambulance service, national media reported Thursday.

Private ambulances, although speedy, deliver inferior care compared with government ambulances, Heng Taykry, secretary of state for the Ministry of Health, was quoted by the Phnom Penh Post as saying.

"We have now banned private ambulances from collecting patients from accident scenes, as they do not have proper equipment," he said.

"We have noticed that at present, private ambulances arrive at the scene much faster but they do not have the skills to save lives," he added.

According to the ministry, the Phnom Penh Municipality was cooperating with the Department of Health to enforce the new ban in Phnom Penh starting Wednesday.

"We have asked police to cooperate with us by arresting private ambulance services when they see them arrive at the scene of a traffic accident because it is now illegal," Heng Taykry added.

Heng Taykry said that better technology makes public ambulances as capable of treating patients.

"Before it was hard for us to get information about traffic accidents from police, but now we have the technology to access to all locations in Phnom Penh," he said.

Editor: Zheng E

Temple Watch: Jayavarman's first wives

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Dave Perkes
Thursday, 06 November 2008

Situated north of the great city of Angkor Thom, Preah Khan, or Temple of the Sacred Sword, is among the largest and most complex of all the Angkor temples. Dedicated to the father of Jayavarman VII, it was a very important monastic complex, and it has been estimated that more than 70,000 people lived and worked within its walls.

Most visitors traverse the temple east to west or vice versa, and with many narrow passages and secret chambers, Preah Kahn is a delight to explore. Many parts of the temple are in ruins with spectacular trees to rival those at Ta Prohm.

The Halls of the Dancers to the east, and the north temple have the best reliefs and door lintels. A two-storey building to the northeast is unique in that it has round columns looking more Greek or Roman than Khmer.

An exciting find is the figure of Jayavarman's first wife with a diamond in her navel (now replaced by a glass replica). A relief of Jayavarman's second wife can be found in an adjoining chamber. Both these escaped the attention of the Khmer Rouge by being hidden in the collapsed chamber, only being discovered during restorations. These figures are unmarked and hard to find, so an experienced tour guide is needed.

The temple is undergoing some restoration work on the West Gopura entrance and the old wooden visitors centre was still under reconstruction as of Friday.

Vehicle tax revenues 12.5pc higher than projected: govt

A police officer demands a $1 payoff from a motorist in Phnom Penh Wednesday.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Chun Sophal and Hor Hab
Thursday, 06 November 2008

Better collection methods have allowed the municipal govt to fill city coffers, but opposition says corruption rampant

VEHICLE tax revenues in the capital for the first nine months of the year are 12.5 percent higher than annual projections, tax office officials said Wednesday, citing more efficient collection methods.

Opposition members, however, said the increase should be balanced against continued skimming and bribe-taking by police and tax officials.

Om Cham, head of the Phnom Penh Tax Branch, said his office collected 18 billion riels (US$4.5 million) so far this year, while the office had expected only about 16 billion riels for all of 2008.

"This increase in vehicle tax revenue is the result of a better understanding of the law and more efficient tax payment options," Om Cham said.

"We expect to get two billion riels more in revenue from fines when the payment deadline expires on November 15," he added.

The Branch collected 15 billion riels in taxes and three billion riels in fines in 2007, Om Cham said. Phnom Penh has an estimated 80,000 automobiles and 220,000 motorbikes, according to tax office figures.

" We expect to get two billion riels more in revenue from fines. "

Tax rates vary depending on vehicle and engine size, Om Cham said, from 80,000 riels to one million riels for automobiles, and from 3,500 riels to 12,500 riels for motorbikes.

Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker Son Chhay, however, told the Post that only about half of the due taxes had been collected due to corruption.

"Officials have not revealed the total amount collected. The country could double its tax revenue if the tax office was better managed," he said.

"In order to collect the required amount of tax, the office should not follow a plan they created and that corresponds to no system in use in any other country," he added.

Son Chhay said that tax officials often demand illegal fees when people pay their tax and that police collect bribes for violations, which also deprives the government of revenue.

But Om Cham said the law does not force drivers to pay extra fees and that motorists paying bribes were breaking the law.

"We have never received any evidence regarding officials taking extra fees from people," Om Cham said.

"It is a problem of certain individuals who pay extra fees, not the tax officials." He encouraged vehicle owners to report cases of illegal fees to the tax office.

"We haven't brought any legal cases because there have only been minor instances of illegal fees," he said.

Sek Borisoth, head of the anti-corruption group PACT Cambodia, said bribes have become commonplace.

"No one wants to pay extra money ... but it is a problem people face when they pay their taxes in order to get their paperwork processed more quickly," he said.

In support of the Cham

Muslims gather at Udong mountain last month.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Nguyen N Hue
Thursday, 06 November 2008

The Cham must learn about their history by themselves

After reading David Lempert's "A Homeland for the Chams" on October 10 and the subsequent commentary response "Identity Beyond Origin: the Cham" by Bjorn Blengsli and his colleagues on October 17, as a Vietnamese, I must express my concern over the indifferent comments regarding the deliberation of the Chams in "choosing" their history made by Blengsli et al, if there is such a deliberation, and my concern over a lack of promotion of Cham culture and history for the Cham and the locals in its full sense in the region.

In my opinion, peoples must know their full history in order to move forward and develop. And before "choosing" a history, the Cham peoples need to SEE, STUDY and KNOW THEIR history in full, as must the Khmer, the Viets, and other peoples of the region in Cambodia and other countries.

As I understand from Blengsli et al's response, people "choose" what to remember or not to remember in their past under the light of the present and within interactions with other cultures. It is easy for those like Blengsli, who has the resources to come to Cambodia and to go to Vietnam to see and study Cham history and to read it in full in European languages (note that most of it is not even yet translated into Cham or Khmer or Vietnamese). It is also easy for those like Blengsli, Carter and Perez-Pereiro to pretend that a minority group like the Cham, who has long been driven out of its own lands and remains vulnerable today, have made a free and full choice about their history already.

The reality is that in Southeast Asia, in order for US SOUTHEAST ASIAN PEOPLES to be able to find out about OUR history, we must be empowered and feel unthreatened. Right now, we can only find our history in a very selective manner, through what our governments and our leaders and foreigners who pay for education and translations want to tell us about OUR history. Given that the majority peoples of the region - the Khmer in Cambodia, the Vietnamese in Vietnam, etc do not yet have the power or resources to find our own history - how can the Cham possibly have the power unless people like Professor Lempert and others speak out to help? And how can they help if articles like those of Blengsli criticise them for trying to help US rather than for trying to help THEM (foreign archaeologists seeking more money for their research)? How many Cham and even Hanoians know that there were villages of Cham people in Hanoi on the bank of Red River and deep inside the city centre where those Chams were kept as slave labour for the Vietnamese kings from the 13th century or even earlier, and where physical evidence of such existence is prominent and where there are probably still some descendents of the Cham kings? How many Cham and Vietnamese are aware of the imprints of Cham civilisation much further north of Thua Thien Hue province and Da Nang, where the My Son sanctuary of the Champa kingdom is located in the central Vietnam, ie in Nghe An and Ha Tinh, and still talk about it? How many Cham know that one of their kings, Devanika, may have founded Wat Phu, the famous "Khmer" site in Laos, in the 5th century? Do the Chams "choose" not to know about this or do the people of the majority ethnic group and archaeologists and anthropologists like Blengsli choose it and decide it for them and whether they are worthy of the rights and resources to see and learn about this, themselves?

In order for the Chams to "pick and choose" what they deliberately want to remember, they ultimately need to have full information that is available and not selected by Muslim donor schools or Khmer national schools or Vietnamese national schools, but by their own schools as guaranteed in UN Treaties like the Rights of the Child, the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and many others that Blengsli et al deliberately ignore in their letter. Presenting full information is not only nor simply an act of excavation and preservation of sites that are of significance in terms of art and architecture and worthy for tourism purposes by foreigners or even by a few elite "Cham archaeologists" (who will likely never be motivated if they aren't given the full access to their own history when they are young). What inspired me in Professor Lempert's article is his humanistic goal of bringing alive ALL of the historical sites and the discussions about their historical significance for the identity of a people (not just the "Cham Muslim" or "Khmer Buddhist" or "Lao Peoples' Revolution" sites that Blengsli et al think represent "their choice".) It is important to make available the whole culture to EACH GROUP in an interactive and responsive way that makes sense to them and other peoples and that promotes the full aspects of their joint history in any period of time of any length for mutual respect and human development.

What I hear here from Professor Lempert's commentary is not a cry for "nationalist ends" for the stateless Chams, given that Professor Lempert has also published work that is very supportive of Khmer nationalism, and has spoken out for the Khmer in the area of Khmer Krom (Southern Vietnam) about how they also should have the right and resources to connect to their history and to the Khmer in Cambodia. I read his article as an urge for real efforts in revitalising the lost history and the broken connection between the present Chams and their past for making a full sense of a culture in connection with others in the region, and for a recognition of the potential for a shared exploration and promotion of identity of all minority peoples in the region.

It would be a terrible shame if The Phnom Penh Post would end the discussion on these issues with Blengsli and his colleagues' efforts to shut down debate, and not continue with more articles on how to promote the identities, connections, knowledge and protections of all of the cultures in the region, across borders, through museums, exchanges, interactive tours, and new, rich, multicultural, historical curricula.

In Brief: Public hearing set for khieu samphan

The Phnom Penh Post

Thursday, 06 November 2008

The Khmer Rouge tribunal has agreed to hold a public hearing on December 8 for the decision on the appeal by defence lawyers of former head of state, Khieu Samphan, for his release. Lawyers Jacques Verges and Sa Sovan had argued that a public hearing was necessary because the decision to deny the translation of their client's case had resulted in serious violations of the defendant's rights.The 77-year-old is being held in detention for charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity. A date has not been set for his trial.

Itinerant field workers appeal to opposition for food aid in Kandal

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Meas Sokchea
Thursday, 06 November 2008

Farm workers say flooding in the province has left them jobless and starving, but government officials say further investigation is needed

NEARLY 120 families from Kandal province's Sa Ang district who work as itinerant field hands pleaded with the Sam Rainsy Party on Wednesday for food, saying flooding has left them with few jobs and no way to feed themselves.

Nuon Sokhon, a widow from Krang Yov commune, said she has few resources to support her six children.

"I used to plant rice and earned about 10,000 riels (US$2.50) per day. But now I earn nothing and don't know what to do," she said."There is no one to provide food for us," she said.

"Others get supplies, but they don't give them to anyone outside their own groups."

That Samuon, deputy chief of Sa Ang Phnom commune, said Wednesday the families are struggling because they have no rice fields and that food aid to the area is administered largely by partisan political groups.

"Most of [the families] are temporary rice field workers, and when they are not needed they face hardships. This is their custom. When they run out of food, they ask for assistance," he said. "They are right in saying that food aid does not reach them because it is given to the commune, not to individuals. But this is not the government's problem. It should be dealt with by local officials."

Sa Ang district Governor Khim Chankiri could not be reached for comment.

But Sam Rainsy Party acting secretary general Ke Sovannaroth said the party would appeal to the King and the National Committee for Disaster Management (NCDM) for relief but could only provide temporary food supplies.

However, Cambodian People's Party lawmaker and first deputy chief of the NCDM, Nhim Vanda, said the situation needed further investigation.

"We can't decide yet how to assist the families because we do not know the reason for their poverty," he said.

"Some of the families have lost their money to gambling, while others were cheated by politicians," he said.

He added that flooding in the province has not been severe this season and was not the cause of food shortages.

MTV concerts to spread anti-trafficking message

Angkor Wat will play host to a concert focusing on the tragedy of human trafficking.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Vong Sokheng
Thursday, 06 November 2008

Cambodian and international artists to headline a series of concerts highlighting the reality of human trafficking in Asia

AN MTV-sponsored concert against human trafficking is set to take place in Cambodia in the second half of November, the first of seven to be launched in Asia this year.

The Cambodia campaign will include four concerts headlined by local and international artists, with anti-trafficking organisations and government agencies distributing information in the famed Angkor Wat complex.

Ten Borany, deputy director of the Anti-Trafficking and Juvenile Protection Department at the Ministry of Interior said that Cambodia's National Task Force on Human Trafficking is working in collaboration with MTV to host the concerts.

"It is good that we can shake hands with MTV and speak together about the dangers of human trafficking," he said.

"We see that the problem of human trafficking in this country has lessened since we have begun co-operating more with civil society, and we now we can take action swiftly.

"The concerts will take place in Kampong Cham, Siem Riep, and Sihanoukville with the involvement of MTV Asia/Pacific, the MTV Europe Foundation and the US Agency for International Development.

Human trafficking is the second largest illegal trade after drugs, with traffickers earning more than $10 billion each year through the buying and selling of human beings.

The UN estimates that at any one time there are 2.5 million people being trafficked in the world, mostly in Asia.

Ten Borany said that the government is establishing a five-year plan for the implementation of its new Law on Anti-Human Trafficking and will set up offices in all of the country's provinces.

"I would say we have the situation under control," he said. "It is certainly nowhere near as bad as it has been."

ADB 'disappointed' by use of aid

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Thet Sambath and Georgia Wilkins
Thursday, 06 November 2008

Rice distribution ends, tainted by rising complaints of mismanagement

OFFICIALS at the Asian Development Bank have expressed disappointment at the conclusion of the distribution phase of its US$38 million emergency food aid project, saying widespread complaints about village officials indicate that the rice was not distributed fairly.

Piseth Long, ADB's project implementation officer, told the Post Wednesday that the first phase of the project, which ended Wednesday in Siem Reap, did not fulfil its aims because of mismanagement on the ground.

"At first [the project] seemed to be well managed, but now it seems that we have a serious situation [with complaints], especially in Kampong Chhnang," he said.

"The project has not gone well so far, so we will have to take the complaints seriously," Piseth Long added.

He said he was aware of 40 complaints in total, but that many represented larger groups of villagers.

"We will do full investigations into the complaints after the holiday next week. If people genuinely missed out, we may be able to focus on them for the next round of the project [a food-for-work program]," he said. He added, though, that this would depend on funding.

According to NGO groups, more than 1,000 poor families in Banteay Meanchey, Oddar Meanchey, Kampong Chhnang and Pursat provinces have complained to monitoring organisations, accusing village chiefs of registering only their relatives and political supporters.

"There has been a problem with village chiefs registering most of their relatives and villagers who have supported CPP," said Poung Sothea, an investigator in Pursat province for the rights group Adhoc.

"This is why people are complaining."

4th Cambodia-Laos-Myanmar-Vietnam Summit opens in Hanoi

People's Daily Online
November 06, 2008

The 4th Summit of Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam (CLMV) opened in Hanoi on Thursday, with the theme of "Acting Together For Further Integration And Development."

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, Lao Prime Minister Bouasone Bouphavanh, Myanmar Prime Minister General Thein Sein, Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung and representative from the ASEAN Secretariat attended the summit and delivered speeches.

Leaders reviewed progress that has been made since the first CLMV summit, which was held in 2004 and adopted the Vientiane Declaration.

They discussed ways to further deepen regional cooperation and integration, as well as concrete measures to further implement the Vientiane Declaration. According to the Declaration, key cooperation areas among CLMV include trade and investment, agriculture, industry and energy, transport, information technology, tourism and human resource development.


Human trafficking on the rise in Mekong countries

HANOI, Nov. 6 (Xinhua) -- Human trafficking in the six Mekong countries is expected to increase due to growing migration within the sub-region, the Laos newspaper Vientiane Times reported on Thursday, citing the Anti-human Trafficking Committee Secretariat Head Kiengkham Inphengthavong as saying.

"Trafficking in persons nowadays is increasingly acute and dangerous. It operates in a very intricate manner, and comes in many forms, and is therefore very hard to monitor and control," said Kiengkham Inphengthavong at the sixth Senior Officials Meeting held in Vientiane on Wednesday as part of the Coordinated Mekong Ministerial Initiative against Trafficking (COMMIT).

Annually, the number of people trafficked from and within the region is estimated at between 200,000 and 450,000, according to the International Organisation for Migration.

The meeting brought together government officials from the six Mekong countries - Laos, Vietnam, Thailand, China, Myanmar and Cambodia - to share their experiences and decide on appropriate responses to the increase in human trafficking.

"The purpose of human trafficking is not only for sexual exploitation but also labor exploitation in factories, sweatshops, domestic work, begging and in the fishing industry. The problem is far more widespread than many would think," he added.

According to the Laos' Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare, from 2001 to 2008, 1,229 trafficked people, mostly women and girls, have been repatriated to Laos from Thailand under the Lao-Thai memorandum of understanding on human trafficking.

Laos is developing victim protection guidelines to ensure a more holistic and rights-based approach to the provision of care and assistance to victims of human trafficking, Khiengkham said.

Editor: Zheng E

Dispute over 25-centimetre land plot leads to murder-suicide

Monsters and

Asia-Pacific News
Nov 6, 2008

Phnom Penh - A dispute over a 25-centimetre strip of land in Cambodia ended with a man murdering his brother and sister-in-law and then committing suicide, media reports said Thursday.

Police in Prey Kanlaong province said 42-year-old Chev Thuy fatally stabbed his brother and sister-in-law and then hanged himself on Tuesday after a drawn-out argument over the inherited parcel of land.

The Phnom Penh Post reported the family had previously asked the local land authority to help resolve the dispute but were unhappy with its resolution.

Rights organization Adhoc said it would investigate the case to see if further action by the authority could have prevented the deaths.

Local artist finds photographic inspiration in abandoned shoes

Photo by: Leah Newman
A single flip-flop takes centre stage in a new exhibition opening at Cafe Living Room this Friday.

The Phnom Penh Post

Thursday, 06 November 2008

A PHOTOGRAPHY exhibition dedicated to shoes by Leah Newman opens at Cafe Living Room at 6pm this Friday.

"On the first day after we moved to Phnom Penh, my son and I took a walk and noticed an abandoned shoe," Newman said.

"We puzzled over it - we had lived and visited so many different countries, but this was the first time we had seen such a sight," she said referring to what inspired her to take photographs of abandoned shoes in Cambodia.

"I began to document shoes as I found them and wherever I found them," the artist said.

She added that she has been shooting single shoes she has found abandoned all over Cambodia for the last two years.

"At first, I wanted to embellish each shoe but I realised they are poignant enough subjects of photography as they are," she said.

"Each piece is a self-contained landscape - the shoe in situ.

"The shoe represented the Cambodian experience," she added. "All the pieces are immediately understandable to anyone living in Cambodia."

The exhibition, which is comprised of 10 untouched photographs printed on stretched canvas, runs until November 29.

Online gaming provider set to expand presence in Siem Reap

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Peter Olszewski
Thursday, 06 November 2008

CIDC Information Technology, the Phnom Penh-based company that launched Cambodia's first online multiplayer game, JX2, in May, is about to widen its presence in Siem Reap.

"Later this year, if we can generate enough demand we are thinking of extending our domestic network to Siem Reap to connect interested internet cafes and game centres directly to our content network," CIDC's chief operating officer, Mike Gaertner, told the Post in Siem Reap.

He said Siem Reap cafes currently connected to the game are using Camnet ISP, part of Telecom Cambodia.

"This has access to fast fibre optical connections from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh, so playing our game is smooth and fast," he said, "But unfortunately Camnet is not connected to our network here in Phnom Penh, so traffic has to travel from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh, into Vietnam and back to Phnom Penh to our servers.

"For the internet cafes this means they have to buy full unlimited internet access from Camnet between 256 to 512 kbps to offer our game.

This is making it very costly for the cafes to offer our game, which I believe is preventing many shops from trying."

Gaertner became caught up in a game of his own last week when he tried to find cafes in Siem Reap, a city with lots of streets with no name.

"I have found four cafes where our game is almost exclusively played, but it's hard to get any street names because the owners themselves did not know.

"Players said there are perhaps 10 more places in Siem Reap, but I did not have time to find them. We are planning to send our sales staff up there after the Water Festival to do a more detailed search."

JX2 has created a buzz amongst Cambodians gamers, and CIDC Information Technology hopes to use it to further drive Cambodia's emerging online market.

"In China and Vietnam, 70 percent of internet usage is for online entertainment," Gaertner said.

"So that is where they make money. Cambodia is not different. If the choice was there, I think more people will use online entertainment."

Exhibition explores dualities

Photo by: Tracey Shelton
Photographs by Gay Wind Campbell stand ready for hanging in the Once/Twice: Focus on Southeast Asia exhibit at Java Cafe.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Melanie Brew
Thursday, 06 November 2008

The focus of a new exhibit in Phnom Penh, photographer Gay Wind Campbell takes an oblique approach to Cambodian life and culture

Fine arts photographer Gay Wind Campbell, mother of US interim ambassador to Cambodia Piper Campbell, will host an opening party for her exhibit Once/Twice: Focus on Southeast Asia today at Java Cafe.

The main feature of the show is a collection of photomontages that focus on the idea of layers in society, as well as the duality and dichotomies in Cambodian history, religion and culture. The montage images take on nuances from each other to tell a deeper story.

One of Campbell's montages combines an image of a land mine victim playing a traditional instrument with an image of serene rice fields backed by palm trees and mountains.

Countryside life

In addition to the photomontages, the exhibit will present a collection of portraits of Cambodian life. These photographs are simply composed and highlight traditional elements of nature.

When asked what stands out about Campbell's show, Java Cafe owner Dana Langlois said, "The clarity of the images, they're quite clear, nice colours.... [They] have a nice atmosphere. They're really a nice representation of what you'd expect to see".

"A lot of it is really much more countryside than city, so it's nice and a bit fresh - different from what you'd normally see in the city," she said.

International photography

Campbell has traveled the world capturing images on 35mm film. Recently, she shot in Tuscany, Namibia, Cambodia and the Smoky Mountains of North Carolina. Her works also include prints from Patagonia, Tanzania, China, Australia and Laos.

She is captivated by all subjects that involve people, places and nature - anything that highlights her keen eye for design and balance, while searching for the essence and spirit of the subject.

When not travelling, the former native of western New York is at home northwest of Boston.

She particularly relishes time spent with family and friends as she continues to create incredible images.

For a good cause

All proceeds from the sale of Campbell's work will go to the Mith Samlanh, or Friends International, land campaign.

The campaign aims to raise funds to pay a US$2.5 million bank debt incurred for the purchase of the Friends Centre. Located in downtown Phnom Penh, the centre serves more than 1,800 street children each day by providing food, hygiene, health care and vocational training.

Langlois said she hopes to raise between $2,000 and $3,000 during the show's nearly two-week run.

First floating clinic sets sail

Photo by: Photo Supplied
A Ministry of Health nurse, part of the TLC-1 crew, immunises children at Stung Chrov (Deep River).

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Peter Olszewski
Thursday, 06 November 2008

Captain Jon Morgan, a life-long social worker, hopes to bring basic medical care to far-flung villages dotting the Great Lake, where few people have seen a doctor

THE inaugural passage across the Tonle Sap lake of the good ship TLC-1 - or The Lake Clinic, Cambodia's first floating medical facility - started off a pleasant jaunt but ended up a rum voyage, a nautical nightmare that left Captain Jon Morgan shivering in his timbers.

The squall "happened in an instant", he said.

A withering wind whistled across the waters, whipping up waves that became fists of froth and fury buffeting the fragile craft.

"We had to cope with waves that were so large my knees were shaking," Morgan said.

"We first attempted to cross the lake just after the elections. This is a nine-metre boat, and the waves were washing up on deck. The waves were so big that the engine was ... popping up out of the water, and when your engine is out of the water, well, then you have no control of your boat," he added.

Morgan turned around and found shelter in a small village.

"We waited a couple of mornings until the water was like glass and off we went again.

"That incident was one of several near-disasters, from monsoon deluges to faulty boat controls, that bedeviled the The Lake Clinic Cambodia NGO after its July 30 launch.

But the indefatigable Captain Morgan, discovering there is many a slip twixt boat yard and smooth sailing, got it right, and began delivering medical services and volunteer doctors to seven lake villages 30-60km from the nearest health facility.

Dream in the making

Morgan's craft is a dreamboat project that he's envisaged for years.

"This is a very simple boat. When I first started raising funds, I had grand plans of a totally self-sufficient floating polyclinic that would house 15 staff and could cruise for an indefinite period time," said Morgan, a lifelong social worker.

"But the price tag was over US$100,000 and my fundraising topped off around $50,000. I knew that any more money-raising efforts were dependant on me having a working operation."

Morgan reassessed his budget and took pictures of houseboats in Louisiana to boat builders in Phnom Penh.

Unimpressed by what he saw, he decided to build the boat himself in Siem Reap.

"I was looking for material, namely plywood and fiberglass, when through one of those six degrees of separation I found the name of a Swedish boat company in Phnom Penh, Sweline Boat Industries Ltd Cambodia," he said.


"I was raised ... around boat builders. As soon as I walked into the boat yard I knew it had the right smell."

What Morgan eventually ended up with was "basically a houseboat" that has enough room for the ample medical supplies Morgan has to carry.

But the old saying that you make your luck is true for Morgan. Having charted a course of getting a start - any start - to pave the way for more funding, he landed the big one.

Just as he was ready to launch TLC-1, representatives of Impact Forum Norway, which supports a hospital ship in Bangladesh, arrived in Siem Reap to check out his operation.

"They came to Cambodia wanting to replicate that sort of project," he said.

"We met here in Siem Reap for about 20 minutes one morning and they had researched me quite thoroughly."

The group, Morgan said, picked up the tab for the rest of 2008, and will likely fund as much as 90 percent of next year's operational budget.

"Last month they brought designers to Siem Reap to go out on the lake with me and look at what kind of boat design can come close to that long-time dream of mine."

Making an impact

Impact Forum Norway will return next week for more talks about the project, but in the meantime TLC-1 works the lake, dispensing, diagnosing and advising.

Morgan said the work on the lake isn't dramatic, as the boat is not designed for surgery or laboratory work. But even mundane medical ministrations are vital to the isolated villages.

"Emergencies are rare. We go to a lot of isolated villages where people in their 30s and 40s have never seen a doctor, and we tend to the children who are lucky enough to make it through the first five years," he said.

But in the short time TLC-1 has plied the waters of Tonle Sap, lives have been saved.

"At one village we came across a boy who was bitten by a snake. The nature of that snake's venom was that it clots the blood, so gangrene had set in on his finger and was progressing," he said.

"We brought [the child and mother] back to the hospital in Siem Reap and the finger was immediately amputated. About 10 days later we were back in that village and able to change that boy's dressing."

Farmers get lift from loans

Vendors sell rice in Phnom Penh. The government hopes to contain the impact of the global market crisis through agricultural loans.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Nguon Sovan and Chun Sophal
Thursday, 06 November 2008

Local lenders agree to increase loans to the agriculture industry in a bid to expand the sector and shield farmers from the global finance crisis

THE Kingdom's agricultural sector will get a much needed boost from local banks, which on Wednesday announced plans to greatly increase agriculture loans in a bid to cushion the country from the global economic crisis.

"We hope the loans will provide extra money to expand the agricultural sector and help with the development of the economy," In Channy, president of Acleda Bank, told the Post.

In Channy said he will increase agricultural lending to US$114 million next year, more than double the $56.4 million Acleda has loaned so far in 2008.

He added that interest rates on the loans varied between 18 to 24 percent for small loans and 15 to 18 percent for larger loans.

The agricultural sector is Cambodia's largest industry, contributing 28.5 percent to GDP last year.

Son Koun Thor, president of the government-owned Rural Development Bank, said Wednesday the bank has issued $22 million in loans to support the agricultural sector, principally short-term loans at eight percent interest to farmers.

"We hope that next year, loans for the agricultural sector will increase, but we haven't provided detailed figures yet because we are waiting for government approval," he said.

The increase in agricultural lending follows a recommendation from Prime Minister Hun Sen to the Finance Ministry last year to encourage commercial banks to use the loans to boost national economic growth.

However, Khaou Phallaboth, president of the Khaou Chuly Group, which deals principally in the rubber and rice sectors, said Wednesday that 15 to 24 percent interest rates on agricultural loans were too high.

He said the loans were "a long-term investment" and that the "maximum interest rate for agricultural sector loans must be 15 percent or less".

Tal Nay Im, director general of the National Bank of Cambodia, said Wednesday the bank is encouraging more agricultural lending but could not provide details. She defended the high interest rates, saying they are a result of the risks associated with the sector.

"Interest rates for agricultural loans may drop when infrastructure improves and banks have greater trust in the sector," Tal Nay Im said.

Acceptable terms

Som Yen, director of the Malai Trading Co and a member of the Banteay Meanchey Chamber of Commerce, said his farmers association has borrowed from the RDB to provide loans to provincial farmers at acceptable terms.

"In 2008, we loaned about $800,000 to nearly 600 farmers throughout the province, at an interest rate of about 10 percent per annum," Som Yen said.

"The interest rate is acceptable to farmers, and there is low risk - only about three percent have failed to pay or defaulted due to natural disasters related to their crops this year," he said.

Cambodia has vast swaths of under-used agricultural land, the development of which is expected to raise living conditions for farmers and reduce rural-urban migration.

"In 2009, we project an increase of 20 percent in loans to farmers in our province to further expand their productivity," Som Yen said.

Yang Saing Koma, president of the Cambodian Centre for Study and Development in Agriculture (CEDAC), said banks should target their agricultural loans at individual farmers and farm associations, rather than large companies.

"I think that for Cambodia, loans to the agricultural sector should be granted at an interest rate of one percent per month. This rate is affordable for farmers and would provide long-term expansion to the sector," he said.

John Brinsden, Acleda bank's vice chairman, said he was confident the global economic crisis would not prevent the bank from increasing agriculture loans.

"Credit has become more difficult to raise, but agricultural loans are not a large sum," he said.


New $20m fund will help entrepreneurs, businesses to innovate

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by May Kunmakara
Thursday, 06 November 2008

Under an Australian government-funded program, businesses in Cambodia can now apply for grants to creatively fight poverty

YOUNG Cambodian entrepreneurs will have more chances to raise capital and improve their businesses after a new Australian government-backed Enterprise Challenge Fund, or ECF, gets under way in the Kingdom.

Last week, Finance Minister Keat Chhon and Australian Ambassador Margaret Adamson signed a Memorandum of Understanding in Phnom Penh to implement the fund, a six-year, US$20 million grant program designed to raise private-sector contributions to poverty-reduction schemes.

"The project will provide more capital to develop private-sector businesses as well as improve people's lives," said Kang Chandararot, head of the economics unit at the Cambodian Institute of Development Study.

The ECF was launched in 2007 to target funding opportunities in Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Indonesia and the Philippines, said Sin Sovith, senior program manager with AusAID.

ECF's second phase - to include Cambodia, East Timor, Laos, the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu - launched in April this year.

The national elections in July and the formation of a new government in September delayed implementation of the grant program, the details of which were finalised in last week's MoU, Sin Sovith said.

"The ECF in Cambodia is part of a new approach being piloted in the Pacific and Southeast Asia," he said.

"We all know that sectors such as agriculture, garments, construction and tourism are vital to the Cambodian economy.

"ECF seeks to support these and other areas by providing incentives for the private sector to invest in commercially viable projects which provide opportunities for a broader cross-section of Cambodians."

The program will provide grants of between $100,000 and $1.5 million, but at least 50 percent of all project costs must by met by a private sector partner, Sin Sovith said. All projects must also have positive development outcomes, no commercial funding and be self-sustaining within three years.

Private-public partnerships

Sin Sovith said NGOs could participate in the grant program by partnering with private firms to bid for grants.

The ECF will be implemented in collaboration with the Council for Development in Cambodia, and fund representatives have met with chambers of commerce in Siem Reap, Battambang, Kampong Cham and Kampot to promote the program, Sin Sovith said.

Bidders were invited to submit a concept note in June 2008 - ECF received 25 - with an assessment panel to determine successful candidates later this month, Sin Sovith said, adding that the first round of grants is expected to be released early next year.

Ngoun Meng Tech, director general of the Cambodian Chamber of Commerce, said the ECF program would offer more opportunities for local entrepreneurs to raise capital and improve their businesses.

PMs from SE Asia's Mekong countries to meet in Vietnam

Leaders from Southeast Asia's five Mekong river countries are set to meet in Vietnam's capital, Hanoi

HANOI (AFP) — Leaders from Southeast Asia's five Mekong river countries were due to meet in Vietnam's capital from Thursday for two days of talks that aim to boost economic ties and trade across the developing region.

The prime ministers of the communist host nation Vietnam as well as Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar were set to meet on Thursday, then be joined by Thailand's new premier Somchai Wongsawat on Friday for a wider summit.

Except for middle-income country Thailand, the other four nations remain among the region's poorest and hope to build prosperity through closer regional transport and commercial links, both with each other and with China.

Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos were cold war battlegrounds until 1975, and conflict raged on in Cambodia until the 1990s. Military-ruled Myanmar, also known as Burma, remains diplomatically isolated and poor.

Thailand said Friday's meeting aimed to enhance ties in seven areas -- telecommunication links, tourism, trade and investment, agriculture, industry and energy, human resource development and public health development.

In the lead-up to the event, Cambodia's Hun Sen arrived Tuesday in Hanoi for talks with Vietnam's Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung and other leaders.

Both countries signed a number of agreements, including on visa exemptions, the transit of goods, and on a future railway connection.

Thailand's Somchai, who took office last month, on Monday visited his Lao counterpart Bouasone Bouphavanh in Vientiane.

When the Thai and Cambodian premiers come face to face at a dinner Thursday evening, the recent armed border dispute between the two countries over land around an ancient Khmer temple is likely to loom over the meeting.

Somchai said this week: "I may have a chance to see Prime Minister Hun Sen, but the talks will not be official because we have already agreed on how to work together. Everything is following the process and going fine."

Thursday's premiers' meeting is known as the fourth summit of the CLMV group, named after member-states Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam.

On Friday, the Thai premier will join his four counterparts for the third summit of another grouping, named after the region's major rivers, the Ayeyawady-Chao Phraya-Mekong Economic Cooperation Strategy, or ACMECS.

Senior officials of that group this week discussed developing the regional transport network, streamlining border and customs rules and promoting tourism through a "Five Nations, One Destination" initiative, said state media reports.

Cambodia circus school train street kids



11-06-2008 09:58

A charitable organization in Cambodia's second city of Battambang has adopted an unusual approach to rescuing street-children at risk. Phare Ponleu Selpak, or "The Brightness of Art", trains kids in how to become circus performers. The organization promises a living wage graduates of the programme.
A charitable organization in Cambodia's second city of Battambang has adopted an unusual approach to rescuing street-child-ren at risk.

Phare Ponleu Selpak is an unique school. It's helped to rescue hundreds of vulnerable children since it opened in 1998.

Today, about 130 enthusiastic street-children and orphans attend the circus school. Here, they are trained in all aspects of the circus arts.

"This circus school provides training to vulnerable children whose parents have died from AIDS, who are victims of domestic violence or who have been abandoned. This is an opportunity for them to help educate society through the circus arts while at the same time learning how to work together in a group."

Sok Dina lost her parents to AIDS and has been training at the circus school for two years.
Today, about 130 enthusiastic street children and orphansattend the circus school. Here, they are trained in all aspects of the circus arts.

Sok Dina, Circus Performer, said, "I'm very happy to be here. I want to learn more so when I grow up I can support myself. Maybe one day I will be famous."

Graduates from the programme travel all over Cambodia holding street-theatre shows that raise awareness of the dangers of AIDS, human-trafficking and domestic violence.

The very best graduates tour with the circus internationally in places as far away as Europe, Japan and the United States.

Public performances are held every weekend. Up to 500 local people and tourists regularly cram into the tent to watch the show. With the money earned from ticket sales, Cambodia's circus school is able to pay its performers a salary every month. That encourages the kids to come back to practice.

The circus school offers these children the means to help themselves and allow them to dream of a brighter future.
Phare Ponleu Selpak is an unique school. It's helped to rescuehundreds of vulnerable children since it opened in 1998.

Editor:Yang Jie

Obamania grips Cambodia

Photo by: Eleanor Ainge Roy
An organiser of the Democrats Abroad Group celebrates after Barack Obama won the US presidential election.

Voter turnout reached a level unseen for a century in the historic election that swept Barack Obama to power as US president, according to data published by analysts on Wednesday. Two-thirds of voters turned out nationwide, a record not beaten since 1908. AFP

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Eleanor Ainge Roy and Christopher Shay
Thursday, 06 November 2008

Events at the FCC and the US embassy allow people to celebrate and learn about Senator Barack Obama's meteoric rise to the American presidency

WHEN CNN called the presidential election for Senator Barack Obama Wednesday morning, Cambodia time, the more than 100 Obama supporters gathered at the FCC bar and restaurant danced, screamed and sprayed foam on each other as confetti fell from the ceiling. After eight years of a Republican administration, the celebration seemed a long time coming for these die-hard Democrats.

"I am so happy, just so relieved. I feel like we are finally free," Talia Mota, 25, said with tears in her eyes, moments after the win was announced.

Not too far from the FCC event, hosted by the Democrats Abroad Group, the American embassy held their own party.

Though more low key than the party at the FCC - here, CNN's announcement was met with handshakes rather than hugs - the embassy party's organisers viewed the event as no less successful.

"Nobody in the embassy would have gotten any work done anyways, so we decided to hold a party.... I'm delighted with the turnout, energy and interest in this election," embassy interim ambassador Piper Campbell said.

In contrast to the FCC bash, the US embassy used their more subdued event as a learning opportunity for Cambodians, exposing them to American participatory democracy by holding a mock election and projecting American news on two giant screens.

"It lets us highlight participatory democracy," John Johnson, the embassy spokesman, said.

Like the FCC party, however, the embassy event was heavily Democratic with the mock election putting Obama on top 72 votes to 25.

One Senator John McCain supporter, Chan Sambath, a student at Pannasastra University, was disappointed by the end result but was impressed by the American electoral system.

"I voted for John McCain [in the embassy's mock election], and I feel sorry [he lost]. But I still think the US democracy has been around for a long time, and Cambodia should follow its example," he said.

In her speech to the crowd, Campbell admitted, "With its maps and electoral college, the US electoral process is certainly complex to understand".

But the US embassy did what it could to educate people about American elections, even going as far as including a 60-page booklet explaining the ins and outs of the US electoral system.

Sopha Ratana, 23, an English teacher at the Royal University of Phnom Penh, called the complicated electoral college system a "headache", but said the event made him realise the American system can still be an example for Cambodia.

"The dissemination of information in the States is really good. Everybody can know about the candidates, and every American can vote," he said.

The crowd at both the FCC and the embassy were impressed by McCain's concession speech. At the FCC, people commented that the speech was delivered with dignity, and Campbell at the US embassy said that McCain's speech was a fine example of a graceful concession that will surely lead to a smooth transfer of power. "This a lesson that many countries around the world can learn from," she said.

Son Chhay, a Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker who voted for Obama in the embassy's mock election, hopes the world can learn a different lesson from the election of Obama.

He told the Post, "I like McCain. He understands Cambodia.... but looking beyond Cambodia, I hope Obama will bring a more peaceful world.

Living in Australia, I encountered racism, and I hope his election will send a message to the world that skin colour doesn't reflect the value of a human being."

Lulu Chevna, 25, who recently arrived from Zambia, holds a similar hope for the future and sees Obama as an example that her nephew could one day follow.

"See my little nephew over there? He could be Obama one day. He has an American mother and a Zambian father - this is simply a joyous occasion."

ACMECS Ministerial Meeting in Hanoi November 6, 2008

The third summit of the Ayayewady-Chao Phraya-Mekong Economic Cooperation Strategy (ACMECS) and the forth summit of the Cambodia - Laos - Myanmar and Vietnam (CLMV)
ACMECS Foreign Ministers (L to R) U Nyan Win of Myanmar, Sompong Amornwiwat of Thailand, Pham Gia Khiem of Vietnam, Hor Namhong of Cambodia and Thongloun Sisoulith of Laos pose for a photo before a meeting in Hanoi November 6, 2008. The third summit of the Ayayewady-Chao Phraya-Mekong Economic Cooperation Strategy (ACMECS) and the forth summit of the Cambodia - Laos - Myanmar and Vietnam (CLMV) are being be held in Hanoi from November 4 to 7, 2008.REUTERS/Kham (VIETNAM)

Cambodia's Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Hor Namhong (L) and Thailand's Foreign Minister Sompong Amornwiwat (C) leaves the ACMECS Ministerial Meeting in Hanoi November 6, 2008. The third summit of Ayeyawadi - Chao Phraya - Mekong economic strategy (ACMECS) and the forth summit of the Cambodia - Laos - Myanmar and Vietnam (CLMV) are being be held in Hanoi from November 4 to 7, 2008.REUTERS/Kham (VIETNAM)

Sacravatoons : " Free pass without a Visa "

Courtesy Sacravatoon

Chinese navy ship Zhenghe visists Cambodia

An officer of Chinese navy ship (CNS) Zhenghe introduces the ship to guests on board at the Sihanoukville Port of Cambodia, Nov. 5, 2008. (Xinhua Photo)

The crew members of Chinese navy ship ( CNS) Zhenghe line up on board at the Sihanoukville Port of Cambodia, Nov. 5, 2008, as Zhenghe entered the Sihanoukville Port on Wednesday morning, thus starting its 9-day official goodwill visit and the first ever entry of Chinese military boat into the Kingdom of Cambodia.(Xinhua Photo)

Chinese navy ship (CNS) Zhenghe entered the Sihanoukville Port of Cambodia, Nov. 5, 2008, thus starting its 9-day official goodwill visit and the first ever entry of Chinese military boat into the Kingdom of Cambodia.(Xinhua Photo)

Gauging the greed of gasoline businesses

Thanh Nien
Thursday, November 6, 2008

The rigidity of petrol prices in Vietnam has raised deep concern among the public, who feel they are being exploited by key players in the industry.

Domestic fuel prices on Tuesday stood at VND15,000 per liter, compared to US$2.53/gallon, or VND12,600/liter after dollar/gallon conversion, in the US.

At its recent peak price, domestic petrol stood at VND19,000/liter, while US prices only hiked up to VND18,300/liter, which had ignited a public outcry across America.

Now, petrol is being smuggled from Cambodia into Vietnam, instead of the other way around.
The public have sounded off on measures the government is using to control petrol prices and they are not happy.

In a market economy, it’s usual to give businesses the right to set prices. But important goods like petrol should be within the domain of governmental pricing policies.

Several times when global fuel prices dropped, Vietnamese consumers waited for similar decreases in domestic prices but saw none. Local authorities could only wring their hands and say businesses have yet to make a move.

And when gasoline businesses did reduce prices, they were mum on why the price slash was much less than the global price reduction.

It appears gasoline businesses are shortchanging consumers in a one-sided game whereby they receive government subsidies when faced with losses, but refuse to share gains with consumers when profiting from global price fluctuations.

By Dao Ngoc Lam

5 Asian leaders meet to boost trade

Agence France-Presse

HANOI--Leaders from Southeast Asia's five Mekong river countries were due to meet in Vietnam's capital from Thursday for two days of talks that aim to boost economic ties and trade across the developing region.

The prime ministers of the communist host nation Vietnam as well as Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar were set to meet on Thursday, then be joined by Thailand's new premier Somchai Wongsawat on Friday for a wider summit.

Except for middle-income country Thailand, the other four nations remain among the region's poorest and hope to build prosperity through closer regional transport and commercial links, both with each other and with China.

Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos were cold war battlegrounds until 1975, and conflict raged on in Cambodia until the 1990s. Military-ruled Myanmar, also known as Burma, remains diplomatically isolated and poor.

Thailand said Friday's meeting aimed to enhance ties in seven areas -- telecommunication links, tourism, trade and investment, agriculture, industry and energy, human resource development and public health development.

In the lead-up to the event, Cambodia's Hun Sen arrived Tuesday in Hanoi for talks with Vietnam's Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung and other leaders.

Both countries signed a number of agreements, including on visa exemptions, the transit of goods, and on a future railway connection.

Thailand's Somchai, who took office last month, on Monday visited his Lao counterpart Bouasone Bouphavanh in Vientiane.

When the Thai and Cambodian premiers come face to face at a dinner Thursday evening, the recent armed border dispute between the two countries over land around an ancient Khmer temple is likely to loom over the meeting.

Somchai said this week: "I may have a chance to see Prime Minister Hun Sen, but the talks will not be official because we have already agreed on how to work together. Everything is following the process and going fine."

Thursday's premiers' meeting is known as the fourth summit of the CLMV group, named after member-states Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam.

On Friday, the Thai premier will join his four counterparts for the third summit of another grouping, named after the region's major rivers, the Ayeyawady-Chao Phraya-Mekong Economic Cooperation Strategy, or ACMECS.

Senior officials of that group this week discussed developing the regional transport network, streamlining border and customs rules and promoting tourism through a "Five Nations, One Destination" initiative, said state media reports.

Backgrounder: Cambodia-Laos-Myanmar-Vietnam (CLMV) Summit

HANOI, Nov. 6 (Xinhua) -- The 4th Summit of Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam (CLMV) will open on Thursday in Hanoi, Vietnam.

The CLMV Summit is an annual event. The first CLMV Summit was held in November 2004 in Vientiane, Laos, with the adoption of the Vientiane Declaration on enhancing economic cooperation and integration among CLMV countries.

According to the Vientiane Declaration, the seven areas of cooperation among CLMV countries are as follows: trade and investment, agriculture, industry and energy, transport, information technology, tourism and human resource development.

The Declaration showed strong commitment of CLMV countries to strengthen and enhance cooperation among CLMV countries and promote CLMV integration into cooperation frameworks under the Mekong sub-region, ASEAN and the whole region.

The Declaration also called for international assistance for CLMV countries to narrow the development gap between them and other regional countries.

Each year, the CLMV Senior Officials' Meeting and Ministerial Meeting are held prior to the CLMV Summit.

Editor: Sun Yunlong

NA Chairman, Cambodian PM boost neighbourliness


VietNamNet Bridge – Neighbourliness and comprehensive cooperation were two of the topics in the spotlight during discussions between National Assembly Chairman Nguyen Phu Trong and Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen in Hanoi on November 5.

Trong praised Hun Sen’s outstanding contributions to strengthening and developing the friendship and cooperation between the two countries, after congratulating him on his re-election as Prime Minister of Cambodia for the fourth consecutive term.

“May the cooperation between the two legislative bodies be further promoted along with stronger ties between Vietnam and Cambodia,” emphasised Chairman Trong.

The Cambodian PM Hun Sen affirmed that the main aim of his visit was to strengthen his country’s friendship and comprehensive cooperation with Vietnam.

“Vietnam and Cambodia should make greater efforts to strengthen their traditional friendship and all-round cooperation in the years to come,” said the Cambodian government leader.

He concluded by expressing his thanks to Vietnam for its sincere assistance to the Cambodian people in their past struggles and during their current goal of national construction and development.

Cambodian Red Cross works with Vietnamese counterparts

A delegation from the Cambodian Red Cross Society (CRC) led by its president Lok Chumteav Bunrany Hun Sen paid a working visit to their Vietnamese counterparts in Hanoi on November 5.

The president of the Vietnamese Red Cross Society (VRC), Tran Ngoc Tang expressed his wish to strengthen exchange of experiences across several fields, such as epidemic disease prevention, community health care, disaster prevention and their experiences in raising funds and organising international events.

Tang suggested that both sides work to establish an information sharing mechanism in order to quickly update information regarding humanitarian activities.

The two sides should also formulate proposals for projects on epidemic disease prevention, community health care and disaster prevention for people in border areas in order to drum up support from both domestic and international organisations, he said.

The Red Cross Societies of Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam signed an agreement on trilateral humanitarian cooperation on January 26, 2007.

Both the CRC and the VRC have coordinated in a programme for bird-flu prevention in border areas and shared experiences in disaster prevention.

To date, the VRC has examined and given free treatment to more than 6,800 Cambodian residents around the border area. It has also performed over 1,400 free eye operations, and presented gifts to 3,800 poverty-stricken Cambodians.

(Source: VNA)

Thai army vows to maintain troops in disputed area

Wed, November 5, 2008
The Nation

The Thai army on Tuesday vowed to maintain its troops in the disputed area near Preah Vihear Temple despite Cambodia's ultimatum for Thailand to withdraw the troops.

Thai army said in a statement that it was prepared for a confrontation with Cambodia if the spat escalated.

"The armed forces reaffirmed that all three armed forces -- army, navy and air force -- are ready for confrontation in the area and are confident in our potential to defend Thailand's sovereignty," it said.

"We will neither start fighting or invade into Cambodia first, but we will surely act in self-defence if Cambodia invades into our territory," the army said.

Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen issued an ultimatum on Monday to open wars if Thailand failed to withdraw its troops from an area near Preah Vihear Temple.

Meanwhile Thai Foreign Minister Sompong Amornwiwat said, "All 80 troops will remain in the disputed area because Thailand has overseen that area for 20 to 30 years."

Sompong said of those 80 troops deployed to the area, 20 of them are mine clearance workers and the rest offer protection for the mine clearance troops. Thailand insists it has not encroached in any territory, he said.

Partying for Obama in Phnom Penh

Elena Lesley
November 5, 2008

The Huffington Post

PHNOM PENH -- As John McCain prepared to concede the 2008 Election, expats at the Foreign Correspondents' Club momentarily disappeared in a cloud of silly string and fake snow. But their shrieks and shouts didn't.

Chants of "Obama! Obama!" and "Yes we can!" echoed through the popular Phnom Penh restaurant, while a supporter sporting an Obama mask worked the crowd.

Expats in Phnom Penh celebrate Obama's victory.
"The hopes of the whole world are on Obama," Roberta McLaughlin, a Democrats Abroad volunteer, told me as Americans and non-Americans alike celebrated the historic electoral win. And while, like McLaughlin, I worry that managing those global expectations may be one of Obama's great challenges, I tried to put aside those anxieties today.

I wanted to appreciate the spirit of unity that Obama's election had engendered. Much has been made of the staggeringly diverse and internationally widespread nature of Obama's support. Not only has he turned "red" states "blue;" he has truly captured the hearts and imaginations of people throughout the world. Even in far-flung Cambodia, I have seen this first-hand.

Outside the FCC on Phnom Penh's waterfront.

Outside the FCC on Phnom Penh's waterfront.

Energized by a particularly active chapter of Democrats Abroad, people of all nationalities have gathered at the FCC every weekend to watch replayed debates and speeches. Although it is generally believed McCain has strong support among Cambodians and Cambodian Americans (some think he has a better understanding of the region given his history here) I have certainly encountered numerous Cambodians who do not fit this stereotype. People I talk to every day -- from the girls who work at the newsstand I frequent, to the moto and tuk tuk drivers outside my apartment -- have been counting down the days to the U.S. election, hoping for an Obama win. A local university's mock U.S. election Tuesday resulted in a decisive victory for Obama; he garnered 292 votes next to McCain's 72.
A little girl gets an American flag painted on her face.

"Obama's worldview is what we need for today," McLaughlin told me, as two of her local deaf students congratulated her in sign language on Obama's victory. "We need to change the way the rest of the world sees America, and the way we see the rest of the world."

Indeed, many Americans hope our country can begin to move away from the fear and suspicion of the outside world that has characterized the last eight years. Of course we have enemies. But America has many potential allies as well.

Democrats Abroad volunteers keep track of the vote count.

Democrats Abroad volunteers keep track of the vote count.

An Obama presidency will help mend some of the global relations that were severed in recent times, and begin to restore America's image abroad, Wayne Weightman, Cambodia chair for Democrats Abroad, told me.

"Before, I never advertised" being an American, Weightman said. "Today, I'm proud."

I can understand the sentiment. Having only traveled abroad after 2000, I'm used to revelation of my nationality eliciting groans and anti-Bush tirades from people of all nationalities.

Today, my citizenship inspired warm smiles and cheers of "Go Obama!"

As Obama works to heal the partisan divide in America, uniting the country for the challenges ahead, I hope he will remain engaged with the world at large as well. There are plenty of people in it ready to give America a chance.

Supporters chant for Obama.

Travelling to the dark side

The lessons of history: Visitors to Cambodia’s Killing Fields ponder a memorial filled with the skulls of more than 8,000 victims of the Khmer Rouge. (CHOR SOKUNTHEA/REUTERS)

From New York's ground zero to the Killing Fields of Cambodia, tourists are flocking to sites of suffering - and even into war zones. Laszlo Buhasz explores our desire to pay tribute and look death in the face

From Wednesday's Globe and Mail
November 5, 2008

When I went to Kanchanaburi, Thailand, I was a dark tourist.

I had come to see a bridge on the Kwai River, an important link in a wartime railway built by the Japanese known as the Death Railway. In 1942, 60,000 British, Australian, Dutch and American prisoners of war, along with 270,000 conscripted labourers, were shipped in to work on the line. When it was completed 15 months later, it had earned its nickname: More than 13,000 PoWs, 80,000 Asian labourers and 1,000 Japanese and Korean guards died while working in the most appalling conditions imaginable.

While death and brutality marked every metre of its length, Hollywood and the nearby burial grounds of the Death Railway's victims focused remembrance on Kanchanaburi. Here, one of several bridges built by prisoners has become the Bridge on the River Kwai: a concrete version of the dramatic structure built, and then destroyed, in the immensely popular 1957 movie.

The result is that while the nearby cemeteries are manicured and dignified, the bridge has become uncomfortably entwined with hucksterism and cinematic myth. Surrounded by garish billboards, cheap hotels, tacky souvenirs and touts for elephant rides, the bridge and its meaning have been buried under layers of commercialism. Each November, around Remembrance Day, a "sound-and-lights" show with fireworks celebrates the bridge's destruction in 1945.

There are strange scenes like this around the world today, as tour buses keep rolling in to sites associated with death and suffering: the Killing Fields of Cambodia, New York's ground zero, the genocide memorials in Rwanda and Nazi death camps in Central Europe. This Remembrance Day, many travellers - even those with no family connections to the soldiers who fought there - will also visit memorials to the dead near European battlefields of the First and Second World Wars.

These visitors have mixed motives: to remember and pay tribute, out of patriotism or just to see what they have seen in the movies, says Philip Stone, a senior lecturer with the
University of Central Lancashire in England who is studying the phenomenon of dark tourism.

But experts say it's also a way of confronting the darkest parts of human nature. The experience of death has been abstracted, moved out of everyday discussion, Stone argues. "It has largely been professionalized and institutionalized by hospitals and funeral parlours. And yet people still have a fascination [that is] inherent in human nature. So they go out and find some of the answers about death by visiting ground zero, the Cambodian Killing Fields or a Siberian gulag."

Their numbers are so significant that tourism boards are taking notice. About two million people will visit Cambodia this year, and a third are expected to visit the Killing Fields. Ground zero in New York has become one of the most-visited dark-tourism sites in the world, drawing hundreds of thousands of visitors annually, many on organized tours of 9/11 sites. More than 700,000 people tour Auschwitz every year. And Rwanda has become known for two attractions:
gorillas and genocide.

Increasingly, tourists are also going to places touched by disaster almost as soon as it happens, according to academic John Lennon.

"In Northern Ireland, there were bus tour to the sites of the Troubles in the time of the Troubles," says Lennon, a professor at Glasgow Caledonian University and co-author of Dark Tourism: The Attraction of Death and Disaster.

"In Sarajevo, there was a Massacre Trail for tourists within months of the massacres. Today, you can find tour operators who will take you to Afghanistan and Iraq if you want to get close to a theatre of war."

Going to these places is a socially acceptable way to confront death, says Manfred Becker, a Toronto filmmaker whose documentary Dark Tourism recently aired on History Television and will be shown next month at a festival in Guangzhou, China. His documentary covers places such as Cambodia, where a visit to pyramids of skulls can be followed by the thrill of firing an AK-47 or throwing a live grenade.

In Vietnam, groups of Westerners are shown Vietcong tunnels, man traps and then a collection of deformed fetuses - allegedly the result of American defoliants - preserved in glass jars.

"Many are searching for profound meaning, to understand what happened in these places," Becker says. "But many also go to remind themselves how good they have it."

While the details change, our fascination with death is nothing new, Lennon says. He points out that Romans once flocked to watch gladiators kill each other, and people travelled in carriages to watch the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. In 1861, spectators took picnic baskets to watch the first battle of the American Civil War at Manassas, Va., and the battlefield was sold two days later to speculators who turned it into a tourist attraction.

But the reach of pop culture has intensified the process, Lennon says. "The trigger for me to look at dark tourism was when the movie Schindler's List came out," he says. "When Steven Spielberg wasn't allowed to film at Auschwitz, he had to mock up a replica of the death camp outside Krakow. For about two years after the film, some tourists actually went on tours to the film set because it was handier to Krakow than the real thing."

The very popularity of some sites has affected their impact.

Blake Dinkin, manager of community relations for Barrick Gold Corp., felt rushed when he toured Dachau, the Nazi concentration camp in Germany, this summer.

"In the museum, there was a display of clothes, letters and other mementos of those who died," he says. "We were given just 30 minutes there. It takes a lot more time to absorb a place like that emotionally and to be properly affected by it, not just to intellectualize it."

Not all dark-tourism sites have been overwhelmed by their popularity. In Rwanda, memorials to the 1994 genocide do not receive large numbers of visitors, says Samar Muscati, a Toronto lawyer who is co-editing a book about Rwandan survivors of sexual violence who contracted HIV.

"When you go there now, you can take your time to concentrate on what happened and it really does affect you," he says. "Once these places get commercialized and you go there as a package tourist, you won't get the same meaning from them."

Some sites offer a look at ongoing suffering. Muscati has also visited the infamous Potosi Mines in Bolivia where hundreds of thousands of miners have died since Spanish colonization - indigenous people, African slaves and now locals who have been contracted to mine there and have to provide their own tools and supplies.

"Tours are sold as a chance to be a miner for a day," Muscati says. "They take you into the shafts and the conditions are appalling. Miners still die there. At the same time there are benefits for the miners. You're supposed to bring them coca leaves to chew for energy and also dynamite. But, of course, there are many who go on the tour for goose bumps and machismo."

And really, Lennon says, it's not so hard to understand why people want to do that, or why they want to look death in the face. "Aren't we all curious about the things we fear?"

Thailand will act in self - defence : Cambodia told


By The Nation

If Cambodia resorts to use of force, Thailand will have to exercise its right of self-defence as provided under the Charter of the United Nations : Thai FM

Tensions along Thai and Cambodian border have flared up again on Tuesday after Thailand refused to follow Cambodia's threat to withdraw its troops from an area near Preah Vihear Temple.

Thai Foreign Ministry's statement said, ""If Cambodia does resort to the use of force in accordance with its so-called ultimatum, Thailand will have to exercise its right of self-defence as provided under the Charter of the United Nations."

Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen issued the ultimatum on Monday, saying Bangkok could face large-scale conflict if Thailand failed to abide by his threat.

He issued the threat after Thai Foreign Minister Sompong Wongsawat met with his Cambodian counterpart Hor Nam Hong in a border meeting in Phnom Penh on Monday. "The Veal Intry area is the dead or alive point for us "The situation at the Veal Intry area is too hot. They have to remove tonight or tomorrow. If they don't remove from the Veal Intry area, war will be waged," he said.

Meanwhile Thai Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat on Tuesday chaired an urgent meeting to discuss about the matters Cambodia's threat to start war if Thailand did not evacuate its troops from an area near the Preah Vihear Temple.

Somchai reiterated that it is not possible for the Thai troops to withdraw from the area. "It is like you are asked to retreat from your own house," he said.

Thai premier quoted Sompong as saying that he was surprised that Hun Sen made such a threat after the meeting. "During the meeting, Prime Minister Hun Sen seemed to have no problems on the matters. It was surprising that he came out of the meeting room to say that," Sompong said.

Sompong told the meeting in Phnom Penh that Thailand will not have any problem to withdraw if Cambodia did the same to avoid any confrontation.

Asked whether he will telephone Hun Sen about the issue, Somchai said he will look into details and surrounding circumstances before deciding the next step.

Chinese military vessel makes first ever visit to Cambodia

SIHANOUKVILLE, Cambodia, Nov. 5 (Xinhua) -- Chinese navy ship (CNS) Zhenghe entered the Sihanoukville Port on Wednesday morning, thus starting its 9-day official goodwill visit and the first ever entry of Chinese military boat into the Kingdom of Cambodia.

While docking here, this ocean-going training vessel with 411 crew members will be open for the public on Nov. 7 and its staff is to hold volleyball and football matches with the Cambodian navy troops based at the port city, said a press release from the Chinese Embassy.

On Wednesday evening, Cambodian Minister of Defense Tea Banh and Commander in Chief of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF) Ke Kim Yan attended the reception banquet held to celebrate the arrival of the ship.

Both of them wished the bilateral military cooperation and exchange between the two countries to further develop and flourish.

Another banquet will be held on Thursday for the crew members to meet with the local Chinese Cambodian community, according to the release.

CNS Zhenghe was put into service in 1987 and once visited the United States, Thailand, Bangladesh, Pakistan, India and Russia.
Editor: An

Opposition Cites Election Law as Top Hurdle

By Pin Sisovann, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
05 November 2008

The newly appointed secretary-general of the opposition Sam Rainsy Party says she will face many challenges to expand its influence. The top challenge, though, continues to be the National Election Committee, said Ke Sovannaroth.

An imbalanced election law leads to discrimination against opposition supporters, messy voter lists, biased election officers and media broadcasts, and the ruling Cambodian People’s Party to lure party supporters with government positions, she said.

The Sam Rainsy Party expanded its seats in the National Assembly by only two after July’s election, but Ke Sovannaroth said this was not an accurate representation of the people’s will. The party remains popular, she said, despite a series of high-level “defections” of opposition supporters to the CPP.

“In fact, we have loyal members, activists,” she said. The small gains “came from the electoral law and its implementation, which saw major bias toward the ruling party.”

Despite the relative poverty of many SRP supporters, she said supporter abandonment was a minor obstacle compared to those put up by the election law.

Without enough seats to change the law, Ke Sovannaroth said it would be up to Cambodia’s donors to push the country towards “real democracy.”

“They have to have the electoral law and its regularities amended,” she said. “We will push for donors to review their aid, which was used to mobilize cabinet leadership.”

The government had now become, she said, “bigger and bigger, but not effective.”

NEC Secretary-General Tep Nitha denied bias in the government agency: “No election observer made such a claim with clear evidence.”

CPP lawmaker said Cambodia remained a multi-party democracy. There are no such things as truly impartial people, so any committee would have political supporters, he said.

“Can we get neutral, impartial individuals?” he asked. “We can, by having individuals abide rightfully by law.”

Hang Puthea, president of the Neutral and Impartial Committee for Free and Fair Elections, said an amended election law would likely not happen.

“Because most of the lawmakers are from the ruling party, I think there would not be any effective amendments to the law,” he said.

Koul Panha, director of the Neutral and Impartial Committee for Free and Fair Elections, said opposition parties would have to work together and amend the law eventually.

“The environment has created some obstacles,” he said, “so they should prepare strategies to work in this environment.”