Monday, 10 November 2008

Helicopter crash in Svay Rieng

General Sok Sa’emDeputy Army Infantry Commander, who has killed on helecopter crash with Hok Lundy
Hok Lundy's funeral (Photo: Pring Samrang, Cambodge Soir Hebdo)

Click on picture to zoom in
Helicopter Crash that killed Hok Lundy (Picture from Koh Santepheap Newspaper)

Cambodian govt. mourns police chief's death

The Hindu News
Monday, November 10, 2008

PHNOM PENH (AP): Cambodia's government began preparations on Monday for the funeral of the country's controversial national police chief, a close ally of Prime Minister Hun Sen who was killed in a helicopter crash.

Police Commissioner-General Hok Lundy, 51, died Sunday night when the helicopter he was traveling in crashed in Svay Rieng province in southeastern Cambodia, apparently because of bad weather.

Hok Lundy had a reputation for ruthlessness as well as loyalty to Hun Sen, whose son is married to the late police chief's daughter.

``His death is bound to be a significant loss to Prime Minister Hun Sen'' with whom he had both good working and personal relationships, said Lao Monghay, a senior researcher of Hong Kong-based Asian Human Rights Commission.

Police Lt. Gen. Khieu Sopheak, spokesman for the Interior Ministry, which oversees the police force, described Hok Lundy's death as ``a great national loss and a profound sorrow for the police force.''

Last year, the New York-based group Human Rights Watch urged the U.S. government to cancel a visa issued to Hok Lundy to attend an FBI-sponsored conference on human trafficking, accusing him of having ordered an extrajudicial killing and involvement in drug smuggling and human trafficking.

Cambodian government officials dismissed the Human Rights Watch allegations as nonsense.
Hok Lundy attended the conference, though the U.S. had denied him a visa in early 2006 for reasons never made public.

Hok Lundy's helicopter lost contact with air controllers about 15 minutes after it took off from the capital, Phnom Penh, on Sunday, Khieu Sopheak said. He said bad weather was likely responsible, but an investigation is under way.

Cambodians rely on magic against modern Thai weapons

Cambodian soldiers

A Cambodian soldier sports a "magic" scarf

A Cambodian soldier shows his "magic" scarf

PREAH VIHEAR, Cambodia (AFP) — A couple of weeks after their deadly border shootout, a Cambodian infantryman admits Thai troops have better weapons, but he's confident his pink "magic scarf" will ward off bullets.

"Thai soldiers have modern weapons, but I am not scared," says Chum Khla. "I have magic charms to protect myself."

As well as the scarf which he ties around his head, the 28-year-old soldier wears a protective talisman belt and carries two small Buddhist figurines.

"I have had countless gunfights in the past with former Khmer Rouge fighters, but I have never been in any danger," he says, owing his safety to the amulets.

Outgunned in their border standoff which began in July, Chum Khla and his comrades carry on traditions of using mystical Buddhist objects and tattooing spells on their bodies to protect themselves.

The contrast between the Thai and Cambodian sides facing off in disputed territory near the ancient Preah Vihear temple is startling.

The Thai military is backed by state-of-the-art jets and heavy weapons, while many Cambodians wear flip-flops as they carry Cold War-era arms.

Days after October 15 clashes on disputed land left three Cambodians and one Thai dead, many Thai soldiers were fitted with body armour.

Cambodian commanders, meanwhile, gave their troops colourful scarves with mystical symbols said to have been imbued with protective powers by a Buddhist monk.

Charms, talismans and superstitions are universal among soldiers around the world. But the tattooed Cambodians, battle-hardened by decades of civil war which ended in 1998, put more stock than most in magic symbols.

Cambodian and Thai leaders have agreed to prevent further clashes, but the troops at the border are not taking any chances -- they continue to deck themselves out in all the charms they can get their hands on.

"I believe 100 percent that these magic things can help spare my life in battle," says Cambodian soldier Koy San as Thai troops camp on a slope above him.

"I have both a magic scarf and a string of talismans around my hip. I wear them all the time," says the 35-year-old.

Tensions between Cambodia and Thailand began in July when Preah Vihear was awarded UN cultural heritage status, angering nationalists in Thailand who still claim ownership of the ruined monument.

A World Court ruling in 1962 declared the temple belonged to Cambodia, but much of the surrounding area remains in dispute.

The Cambodians admit magic items are not the only source of their protection -- military strategy and speed also help.

"We have magic things, but we have to be fast and our hands must be quick to grab our weapons and jump into the trenches. Then our lives are saved," says a grizzled 38-year-old soldier who declined to give his name.

The Cambodian government is seemingly not counting on magic to defend its territory. In the midst of the border dispute, the impoverished country decided to double its military budget to 500 million dollars next year.

But the 38-year-old soldier says he is even more of a believer in magic after the October fighting, during which his commander was killed.

"He also had a talisman, but he took it off as he took a nap. And he did not have a chance to put it back on when the shootout suddenly happened... so his life was ended," says the soldier.

Khan Yorn, abbot of a pagoda in the disputed area, says he has made countless protective belts for soldiers stationed there.

"A lot of soldiers have asked me for belts which are inscribed with Buddhist dharma so that they can have happiness, but I cannot say the amulets can prevent bullets," Khan Yorn says.

But he quickly notes something miraculous might have happened during last month's firefight.

"When the gunfire broke out, I was staying in the monk house, and the bullets were spraying around the pagoda like we spread rice husks," he says. "But they did not hit my monk house."

Cambodian Conservation

Contract Magazine
Nov 10, 2008

New York—Humanscale, a long-time supporter of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) through its annual Faces in the Wild art auction, has announced a new initiative aimed at protecting a rich and diverse ecosystem. Through a three-year, $750,000 sponsorship of a new WWF program, Humanscale will help prevent the destruction of habitats and varieties of indigenous wildlife that occupy nearly 1.5 million acres of wilderness in Eastern Cambodia. This region currently faces a questionable future as illegal poachers, loggers, and squatters are systematically destroying the area and its wildlife.

In partnership with WWF and the Cambodian government, Humanscale will help fund patrols in the Phnom Prich Wildlife Sanctuary and in the corridor that links the sanctuary to the adjacent Mondulkiri Protection Forest—a contiguous area of 1,472,000 acres where WWF already leads conservation efforts that benefit tigers, leopards, Asian elephants, wild water buffalo and other cattle, birds, deer, and other species indigenous only to Eastern Cambodia. A new multi-agency mobile enforcement unit will also be established to reduce the illegal trade in tiger and tiger prey in Mondulkiri province.

"It's terrific that so many companies are now making headway in efforts to reduce, reuse, and recycle, but these changes alone are not going to protect endangered species and preserve habitats that are in the process of being destroyed," says Robert King, Humanscale's founder and CEO and a WWF board member. "The truth is, having zero environmental impact isn't good enough anymore. Unless others take action soon, we may very well lose important eco-regions like those in Eastern Cambodia forever. We will pass on to our children a very different planet than our parents passed on to us."

"This project represents the next step of the green evolution—protecting the remaining regions of wilderness on our planet," says Humanscale's vice president of marketing Tom Revelle. "It's about companies doing more than just cleaning their own houses. It's about proactively protecting the remaining regions of the wilderness on our planet."

Cambodia seals rice export deal in Senegal

The Phnom Penh Post

Monday, 10 November 2008

CAMBODIA plans to sell 120,000 tonnes of rice to Senegal in 2009 - the first time it will export rice to Africa since the 1960s, officials said on Sunday.

"Africa is a potential market for Cambodian rice because it demands a lower quality than Western countries," said Tes Ethda, president of the National Rice Millers Association of Cambodia (NRMAC), representing nine rice-producing provinces.

"We made an agreement with Senegal to supply 10,000 tonnes a month for one year, but we are currently sending rice samples to be inspected, hoping that the export process will begin next year," said Tes Ethda.

The UN Development Program, Francophone countries, the international trade centre and the Ministry of Commerce are encouraging NRMAC to export rice, in part to cut illegal rice exports, believed to amount to hundreds of thousand of tonnes a year.

According to the Ministry of Commerce, Cambodia has illegally exported about 100,000 tonnes of so-called "hush" rice to Vietnam.

Mao Thora, a secretary of state at the Commerce Ministry, said Friday that Senegal needs about 900,000 tonnes of rice a year because local production meets less than a third of demand.

"We will unilaterally push for greater rice exports with the support of international organisations, as we want to diversify our exports rather than depend on neighbouring markets," said Mao Thora.

Cambodia expects to have a surplus of 2.6 million tonnes of rice this year, up from about two million tonnes in 2007, according to the Ministry of Agriculture.

In 2006, Prime Minister Hun Sen recommended establishing an association of rice-exporting countries based on the oil cartel model of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries, but his idea was delayed because of the military coup in Thailand that ousted then-prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

Yaing Sang Koma, president of the Cambodian Centre for Study and Development in Agriculture, applauded the announcement, but added that he is worried that the exports could lead to a local deficit.

"We have to understand local production capacity and the real amount of local consumption, and the amount of rice being traded along the border before exporting if we want to avoid a shortfall," he said.

Song Hong, vice president of the Cambodian Rice Millers Association in Battambang, said exports must be a government priority.

"We will be able to use husks [from exported rice] as a source of energy in place of wood. We can also use it as animal food, and provide about 3,000 jobs to local people with these rice exports," Song Hong said.

Cambodian gov't rejects IMF s gloomy economic report

pecial Report: Global Financial Crisis

PHNOM PENH, Nov. 10 (Xinhua) -- Cambodian government officials have rebuffed a gloomy economic forecast by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), saying the Kingdom's predicted growth slowdown would not be as dire as the world body suggests, national media reported Monday.

At the culmination of a two-week mission Friday, the IMF announced that lower foreign investment, as well as runoff effects from the global financial crisis, would push Cambodia's economic growth down to 4.8 percent in 2009, from a previously predicted rate of nine percent.

But in a prepared speech Sunday for the 55th anniversary of Independence Day, Prime Minister Hun Sen said he was confident the government's strong economic record protected it against such a depreciative outlook, according to the Phnom Penh Post.

"During the last four years, Cambodia has maintained an economic growth of two digits," he was quoted as saying.

"In the fourth mandate, the government will ensure the achievement of economic growth of around seven percent a year and pull down the inflation rate to one digit," he added.

Cambodian Finance Minister Keat Chhon told the Post last week that economic growth would be no lower than 6.5 percent for 2009.

Editor: Zheng E

Cambodia's biggest Water Festival coming this week

PHNOM PENH, Nov. 10 (Xinhua) -- A record 4 million people are expected to join the celebrations of the Water Festival from Tuesday to Thursday, marking this year's event the biggest ever, national media reported Monday.

"We are celebrating the festival... according to traditional ceremonies of the past, which considered this time as the end of the harvest season and the end of the seasonal work," Chea Kean, deputy director of the National and International Festival Committee, was quoted by the Phnom Penh Post as saying.

Traditionally, the King organized the festivals to be celebrated over three days to let all the people in the whole country enjoy the celebrations, Chea Kean said.

The Water Festival marks the end of the rainy season and the reversal of the Tonle Sap, the newspaper said.

The most famous of the ceremonies during the Water Festival is the Ragatta festival, where hundreds of dragon boats compete for the King's praise as large crowds cheer on the riverfront, it said.

However, the history behind the Regatta festival is more serious.

The Regatta festival celebrates King Jayavarman VII's 1178 victory over the Champa Kingdom after a naval war that took place on the Tonle Sap River.

Editor: Zheng E

Cambodia and Thailand restart border talks

Cambodian soldiers walk at the Preah Vihear temple in Preah Vihear

SIEM REAP, Cambodia (AFP) — Cambodian and Thai negotiators on Monday resumed talks aimed at resolving a long-running border dispute which last month spilled over into fighting that claimed four lives.

The officials met at a hotel in Cambodia's tourist hub of Siem Reap for three days of negotiations in an attempt to end a four-month military stand-off and to begin to hammer out their competing territorial claims.

"We hope we finally find an agreement to reach the end of tensions," Cambodian foreign affairs ministry spokesman Koy Kuong told AFP.

The foreign ministers of both countries are scheduled to meet on Wednesday, officials said.

Shortly after a round of talks failed last month, troops from the two countries clashed on October 15 on disputed land near Cambodia's ancient Preah Vihear temple, killing one Thai and three Cambodians.

The Cambodian-Thai border has never been fully demarcated, in part because it is littered with landmines left over from decades of war in Cambodia.

The most recent tensions began in July when the 11th century Khmer temple was awarded United Nations World Heritage status, rekindling a long-running disagreement over ownership of the surrounding land.

Independence Day gala opens week of holidays

Photo by: AFP
King Norodom Sihamoni (left) greets Supreme Patriarch Tep Vong (right), the country's religious leader, during Independence Day celebrations in Phnom Penh.

The Phnom Penh Post

Monday, 10 November 2008

King Norodom Sihamoni, Prime Minister Hun Sen lead celebration of the country's freedom from French control 55 years ago

Border calm ahead of talks

A soldier holds a map of the Preah Vihear temple area, which is the focus of a long-standing territorial dispute.

In 1962, the International Court of Justice issued a ruling granting Preah Vihear temple to Cambodia, but the Thai government has long opposed the ruling, which was made on the basis of maps drawn up during the period of French colonial rule.

The Phnom Penh Post

Monday, 10 November 2008

All is quiet on the northern front as Cambodian and Thai officials gear up for bilateral talks this week, but RCAF officers are not hopeful of a resolution

TENSIONS have calmed along the Thai-Cambodian border ahead of bilateral talks to resolve the ongoing dispute over contested territory around Preah Vihear temple and elsewhere along the frontier, according to military officials stationed in the region.

Military sources say troops from both sides have pulled back from a pagoda near the 11th-century monument, following meetings between Thai and Cambodian military officials on the border last week.

Sao Socheat, deputy commander of Military Region 4, said both sides had agreed to withdraw their forces from the pagoda by Monday, following outbreaks of violence last month.

"[The Thais] started to withdraw their troops from the pagoda on Friday evening," he said.

"The Thai soldiers have no guns, grenades or knives. They have just worn civilian clothing since Saturday."

According to another RCAF officer posted at the border, who declined to be named, troops from both sides have gathered in two cantonment areas behind the front line, having withdrawn from the border positions where they have faced off since last month's clash.

"There are no more Thai paratroops at the front line near Preah Vihear temple. There remain only black uniformed Thai military," he said.

"We see that the situation is getting better. The number of soldiers at the front line is falling, and the soldiers at the pagoda are wearing civilian clothes."

Tensions between Cambodia and Thailand flared up in July, when Unesco granted Preah Vihear World Heritage status, triggering protests in Thailand and reigniting the long-simmering dispute over the temple site.

The cross-border brinkmanship erupted in a shootout last month, killing three Cambodian troops and one Thai, and damaging parts of the temple.

Cambodian Unesco representatives visited Preah Vihear this week, erecting signs urging soldiers to protect the temple from further damage. Cambodian officials accused Thai troops of intentionally damaging the ruins during last month's firefight, when a staircase and sculpture were partially destroyed.

In a ceremony at the temple Friday, officials raised the Unesco and World Heritage flags, designating the temple international cultural property under the protection of the world body.

But civilian and military officials expressed only mixed hopes that negotiations, set to reopen in Siem Reap today and ending Wednesday with talks between the Thai and Cambodian foreign ministers, will resolve the standoff over the disputed land.

Not optimistic

Pov Heng, deputy commander of Military Region 4, said the experience of past talks did not make him optimistic that the Siem Reap summit would yield results. "We want negotiations to solve the problem but we aren't expecting this to happen, since the Thai military commanders always break their promises."

Sao Socheat said Cambodian troops were still stationed at the pagoda and remained on alert despite the apparent de-escalation of the Thai military. "We are still watching them closely even though they are in civilian uniforms because we are worried they will walk further inside Cambodian land and do something else.

"We will see Monday whether [the Thais] respect the agreement or not," he said.

However, Phay Siphan, spokesman for the Council of Ministers, said that the withdrawal of Thai troops from the pagoda augured well for the success of the talks.

"Their withdrawal from the pagoda and of a number from the front line are good signs, and give an opportunity for an agreement," he said Sunday. "When we meet, we always have good results. The timing is good to solve remaining issues."


Cambodia marks 55 yrs of autonomy

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
Two students hold balloons while celebrating Independence Day in front of the Royal Palace.
The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Cheang Sokha and Vong Sokheng
Monday, 10 November 2008

Scale of festivities mirrors country's progress: officials

KING Norodom Sihamoni on Sunday presided over Cambodia's 55th National Independence Day, commemorating the Kingdom's liberation in 1953 from 90 years of French colonial rule.

The King and Prime Minister Hun Sen headed a procession that began at Phnom Penh's Independence Monument. There, he lit the traditional victory candle, accompanied by Hun Sen, Senate President Chea Sim and National Assembly President Heng Samrin.

The procession then made its way to the Royal Palace along streets lined by hundreds of thousands of spectators, parliamentarians, government officials, members of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF), civil servants and students.

"Since November 9, 1953, our country has enjoyed freedom from France and has become a fully independent state," King Sihamoni told onlookers at the Royal Palace.

National sovereignty

Hun Sen later addressed the crowd with admonishments to improve professionalism among the armed services and provide the technology necessary to defend the nation's sovereignty.

"Today we are also celebrating the 55th anniversary of the creation of the RCAF, which now continues to protect our ancient temples and territorial sovereignty from invaders," Hun Sen said as ranks of soldiers stood in formation at the Royal Palace."

The government will continue to improve the RCAF and provide it with the best training and technology to ensure that it will serve the nation appropriately," he said.

Yos Serey Vathanak, 17, a student at Chea Sim Boeung Keng Kang High School, said Sunday's ceremony was larger than any he remembered from previous years.

"I was very excited to see so many people," he said. "I've attended many times, but this year's was the most exciting so far."

Last month, organisers of Sunday's events said this year's commemoration would outshine those held in previous years.

"Cambodia has become more prosperous, so we want to make this event bigger and better than ever before," Kong Sam Ol, minister of the Royal Palace, told the Post in late October, following rehearsals that included more than 8,000 officials from 30 government institutions.

Sunday's procession also featured performances of traditional Cambodian dance along the parade route, organised by the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts.

Growth rate to plunge, IMF says

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Georgia Wilkins and Nguon Sovan
Monday, 10 November 2008

THE International Monetary Fund forecast a plunge in Cambodia's annual economic growth to 6.5 percent this year and 4.75 percent in 2009, half of last year's rate, citing plummeting foreign investment and adverse runoff effects from the global financial crisis.

Officials meeting at the conclusion of the two-week IMF assessment said that, despite earlier predictions of immunity from downward global trends, declines in tourism and garment exports - a result of slowing partner economies - were behind the predicted downturn.

"Following several years of very strong performance, Cambodia's economy ... has begun to experience adverse effects from global financial stress," the IMF said.

" Construction and ... foreign investment are slowing from high levels. "

According to David Cowen, IMF's deputy division chief for Asia and Pacific, foreign direct investment is expected to drop by up to 30 percent in 2009.

"Construction activity and foreign investment are slowing from high levels, also partly as a result of tighter global liquidity conditions," the IMF said.

Cambodia received US$750 million in foreign investment this year and relies heavily on exports to crisis-hit countries, such as the United States, which is the Kingdom's largest importer of Cambodian textiles.

Reclaiming the joy of motherhood

Thorn Limly, 25, sits with her third child, delivered after a day and two nights in labour. Her mother and two-year-old daughter are behind her.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Eleanor Ainge Roy and May Titthara
Monday, 10 November 2008

Pursat Province

A new study on maternal mental health suggests poverty, other economic factors contribute to rising rates of depression among Cambodia's new or expecting mothers

MATERNITY wards can conjure images of joyful mothers clutching snugly wrapped newborns and basking in the warmth of the life they've delivered after a painful struggle.

However, at Pursat General Hospital the struggle has just begun for many new mothers, whose emotional suffering lingers long after the physical pain of childbirth has ebbed.

A recent study on mental illness among expecting and new mothers discovered that 20 percent of women - almost exclusively poor women - suffer some form of depression or anxiety during pregnancy and in the first six months after giving birth.

Mental health experts say by 2020 depression could be the second-most widespread global disease, and the situation in Cambodia will be no exception, where health indicators are among the worst in Southeast Asia.

The study, funded by the NGOs Reproductive and Child Health Alliance, Voluntary Services Overseas and Transcultural Psychosocial Organisation, identified links between mental health problems in mothers and low birth weights and poor infant growth in their children.

Researchers in Pursat province interviewed 297 women for the study, many of whom provided candid details about the depth of their depression.

Social factors

Seap Srey Neang, 24, recently gave birth to her first child. She lives in the isolated commune of Phteah Prey in Pursat province and has been married for one year. Her husband spends most of each day looking for work."

Throughout this pregnancy, I have been mostly unhappy. I had heard that it was very difficult to deliver a baby and I was scared. Now that I have the baby in my arms, I think I am even more scared," she said.

Seap Srey Neang said economic matters weigh most heavily on her mind.


"I don't know how I am going to support this child because my husband and I cannot even properly feed ourselves. I am worried that if the child gets sick we won't have the money for treatment. For the last three months I have had trouble sleeping and I don't feel like eating very much. I have this child now, and I just don't know what to do."

The troubles facing Seap Srey Neang are among the most common cause for maternal depression and anxiety, the report found. The leading cause is poverty, followed by unplanned pregnancy and a stressful life event, typically the loss of a job.

Respondents to the study who suffered the job loss of a family member were nine times more likely to suffer depression than those who did not.


Krouch Chanthy, 41, has delivered babies for 20 years in the stark, disinfectant-tinged atmosphere of Cambodia's maternity wards.

She has had no mental health training and said the emotional well-being of her patients is not her concern.

"Depression? What is depression?" she asked. "Many of the women who come in here are scared, but that is normal. Having a baby is a very difficult thing. I don't really like to talk to my patients about their feelings and worries, though if they asked me, I would listen."

Pursat hospital's maternity ward is at capacity as Krouch Chanthy wends her way through the crowd of soon-to-be mothers who will be whisked to a sterile recuperation room after delivery for a few hours' rest, and then on to a packed general ward equipped with beds made of wooden slats.

Thorn Limly, 25, recently delivered her third child. Her husband is a fisherman, and the pregnancy was unplanned. To pay for the hospital fees, Limly was forced to borrow US$75 from a neighbour.

Now she is anxious about how she will repay the debt, particularly because of the high interest rate the neighbour is charging for the loan.

"Whenever I'm pregnant, I am not happy because I worry we haven't got enough money. I had to borrow money ... to give birth, and how will I repay him? The only way I can see is to give him some of our rice crop at harvest time. But then, what will we eat ourselves?"

The maternal mental health study in Pursat was undertaken, the researchers say, to gauge a potential risk to society, not to establish a current trend.

It identified low birth weights and slow infant growth were highest in babies from the depressed group of mothers, as mental distress interfered with mothers' ability to follow pre- and postnatal care instructions and saw them shy away from seeking help or advice.

Mental health services in Cambodia have only been available in the last 16 years. The Kingdom has only 26 psychiatrists and 45 psychiatric nurses nationwide - approximately one psychiatrist for every 625,000 people.

Mental health services are also only available in 10 of the country's 24 provinces and municipalities.

Cambodia has no specific maternal mental health programs in operation and little collaboration between reproductive health and mental health services.

Without such services, experts predict an increasingly bleak outlook for a growing number of Cambodia's young mothers.

NGO urges rehab centre closures

"This is to mark that I lived in terror under oppression," reads this message scrawled by a detainee at Prey Speu.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Chhay Channyda
Monday, 10 November 2008

Human rights monitors call for two government social affairs centres to be shuttered, saying that they are covert detention and punishment facilities where abuse and violence are rampant

LOCAL human rights group Licadho has for the second time demanded the closure of two "rehabilitation centres" on the city's outskirts, which the organisation says are being used as detention centers for street people removed as part of a government attempt to "beautify" the city.

In June, Licadho called for the immediate closure of the two centres - Prey Speu and Koh Kor - at which rights monitors observed the unlawful detention and abuse of detainees.

These included the alleged beating to death of at least three detainees and the gang rape of women detainees by guards at Prey Speu.

"Licadho deplores the government's continued failure to take proper action to investigate and punish systematic abuses committed at the Prey Speu and Koh Kor Social Affairs Centres, and to ensure that such abuses cannot occur again," the organisation said in a statement issued on Sunday.

Am Sam Ath, a monitoring supervisor at Licadho, said that the organisation was forced to again call for the closure of the centres after last week's statements from Ministry of Social Affairs officials, who said detainees at Prey Speu and Koh Kor - former street people - were living in them under a "volunteer policy".

"We still urge their closure and ask the government to create an independent body to investigate the accusations that these [centres are] likely used for detention, punishment and killing," he said.

Am Sam Ath added that Licadho staff were allowed to enter the Prey Speu facility in Phnom Penh's Dangkor district on Thursday after months of being denied access.

"We observed around 100 families staying voluntarily in Prey Speu on that day," he said.

He added, however, that rights investigators were allowed entry only after previous accusations of abuse were made public, and the government likely made improvements.

"They are not detained. They receive good care, but no vocational training class," he said. "We want the government to ensure that it is a real rehabilitation centre."

According to the statement, Licadho's visit to Prey Speu uncovered evidence that it was being used to keep people in detention.

"Rear windows were nailed shut, in which numerous former detainees have told Licadho they were confined," the statement said, adding that only the closure of Prey Speu and Koh Kor and the punishment of those responsible for committing crimes would ensure justice is done.

Say Siphonn, secretary of state in the Ministry of Social Affairs, said Sunday that he has not yet received the Licadho statement calling for the closure of the centres and declined to comment on what action the government has taken so far.

Say Siphonn told the Post Thursday that the facilities were "not detention centres".

Concert to highlight exploitation of child domestic workers

World Vision and Licadho say that Cambodian children routinely leave their homes to work as servants in Phnom Penh, Battambang, Kampong Cham and Siem Reap, where there are an estimated 21,000 minors employed as domestic helpers.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by ChRann Chamroeun
Monday, 10 November 2008

NGOs say a free concert at Wat Phnom will help raise awareness about the plight of the 21,000 children working as domestic helpers

WAT Phnom is to play host to a public concert this afternoon as part of a campaign to raise public awareness of the dangers faced by the Kingdom's underage domestic workforce.

The concert, organised by World Vision Cambodia (WVC) and Cambodian rights group Licadho, is the fourth such event to highlight the plight of child workers under the core theme, "I Protect Children, Do You?"

"The concert is intended to highlight the rights of child domestic workers to education, health care, and protection from abuse and exploitation," said Lor Monirith, manager of the Combating Worst Forms of Child Labour project at WVC.

"The concert will include pop music, drama and comedy shows that reinforce messages about the rights of domestic workers."

" The problem of child domestic workers cannot be ignored. "

An invisible problem

Vann Sophath, deputy director of communications and advocacy at Licadho, said the issue of child employment would have far-reaching effects on the country's future.

"Child domestic workers are a problem that cannot be ignored," he said. "The government and society - especially homeowners who employ children - should make a conscious effort to stop domestic child labour.

"Vann Sophath added that children in such jobs were more vulnerable than adults. "Child domestic workers may work in exploitive conditions, working far longer and earning much less than other labourers," he said.

Lor Monirith added that employment often stunted a child's ability to gain a good education and forge a better future for himself.

"Child domestic labour can have major consequences for children's health, safety and development, especially if they are deprived of an education," he said.

The lack of an education will affect on a child's life forever, and it also weakens the Cambodian society and economy, since uneducated children will grow up to be uneducated adults.

"Yim Po, executive director of the Cambodian Center for the Protection of Children's Rights, said that he was happy the two organisations were working together to raise awareness of the issue, expressing his hope that the "occasion of the Water Festival will attract children and parents, helping them understand the impact of domestic work [on children]".

Sleepy heads

Photo by:Tracey Shelton

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Tracey Shelton
Monday, 10 November 2008

Street children take an afternoon nap as workers construct a Water Festival viewing platform around them last week. The platform in front of the palace will provide seating for dignitaries, including King Norodom Sihamoni, for the boat racing finals on Thursday afternoon, the final day of the annual celebration that starts Tuesday.

Better management needed for food aid

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Mu Sochua
Monday, 10 November 2008

Dear Editor,

The Phnom Penh Post article "ADB ‘disappointed' by use of aid" published [November 6] and other related articles in the past few days, reporting anger and protests of aid recipients in several provinces should ring as an alarm bell for a very serious re-evaluation of the project as well as the bank's policies on emergency food aid projects for Cambodia.

Food distribution when left in the hands of local authorities with no participation from the people or any form of monitoring to ensure transparency runs a high risk of unfair distribution and even corruption at the expense of the recipients who are mainly women and children.

Furthermore, political discrimination cannot be avoided when villagers are under the strict control of their village and commune chiefs, the majority of whom are affiliated with the party in power.

Food aid in this case leads to political empowerment and a means to sustain the status quo at the local level.

The ADB should not just be disappointed, but should be serious about investigating the past mismanagement and actions should be taken to ensure a better system of distribution.

Let us stop the game of punishing the poor.

The target areas chosen for the project are not disputed but the objectives of providing subsidised seeds and fertilisers and food-for-work programs for poor farmers should be questioned.

Are we not going back to square one where Cambodian farmers are back to begging for food and being dependent on unsustainable projects that will end when the dollars end?

Finally, it is hoped that the ADB and the government will take into consideration recommendations made during the launch of the project in Battambang by provincial authorities as well as farmers who called for broader measures to be taken that should include access to markets and loans to get access to production materials to process their own products.

The agricultural sector has great potentials to lift farmers out of poverty but bad policies, mismanagement and unqualified leadership in the sector keep our farmers helpless, having to cope with emergencies that could be easily avoided.

Mu Sochua, MP
Sam Rainsy Party

In Brief: Agreement to fight rice-eating pests

The Phnom Penh Post

Monday, 10 November 2008

Cambodia and Vietnam have signed an agreement to fight brown plant hoppers, after rice crops were damaged in both countries in August and September. Foreign Minister Hor Namhong said the pests will only be stopped if both countries work together to defeat them. "Brown plant hoppers completely destroyed our rice paddies, so we will both fight them," he said on Saturday.

Top cop, 3 others killed in air crash

In this Oct. 15, 2006, file photo, Cambodian police chief Hok Lundy, center, is seen at Phnom Penh International Airport in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Relatives and friends are mourning the death of Lundy, a close ally of Prime Minister Hun Sen, who was killed Sunday, Nov. 9, 2008 in a helicopter crash apparently caused by bad weather.(AP Photo/Heng Sinith, File)

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Kay Kimsong
Sunday, 09 November 2008

National Police Chief Hok Lundy was killed Sunday when the helicopter he was riding in crashed in Svay Rieng province’s Romdoul district, government spokesman Khieu Kanharith told the Post.“Hok Lundy is dead.… I can’t tell exactly what happened yet. We are investigating,” he said.

Three other people also died in the accident, including high-ranking RCAF General Sok Saem and two pilots, Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak said. He added that bad weather was thought to be the cause of the crash.

The helicopter took off around 7:20pm from Phnom Penh but lost radio contact about 15 minutes later, Khieu Sopheak said.

A close ally to Prime Minister Hun Sen, Hok Lundy, 58, rose to power in the chaotic mid-1990s to become one of Cambodia’s most imposing authority figures, taking over as head of National Police in 1994.

He had repeatedly been accused by various rights groups of brutal tactics, including murder, and was denied a visa to visit the United States in 2006 because of his alleged ties to human trafficking.

Hok Lundy was later awarded a medal by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation for his efforts in fighting terrorism, and he travelled to Washington last year for anti-terror talks with the FBI.

Sacravatoons : " Black Hok Down "

Courtesy of Sacravatoon

Cambodian police chief dies in helicopter crash

PHNOM PENH, Nov. 9 (Xinhua) -- Cambodian chief of police Hok Lundy died in a helicopter crash Sunday night along with one general and two pilots, the country's government spokesman Khieu Kanharith told reporters.

The accident occurred around 0800 p.m. local time (1300 GMT) in Svay Rieng province, according to police source.

Hok Lundy was on his way from the capital to his native province of Svay Rieng accompanied by the general and two pilots.

The private helicopter fell down about 80 km southeast of PhnomPenh, the source said.

Hok Lundy's body was almost blown into pieces and is now being carried to Phnom Penh, it added.

Meanwhile, Khieu Sopheak, spokesman of the Interior Ministry, told reporters that radio contact was lost with the helicopter 15 minutes after it took off from the Phnom Penh International Airport around 0720 p.m. local time (1220 GMT).

The cause of the crash remained unclear, but the spokesman cited heavy rain as a possible factor.

Editor: Sun Yunlong

Vasin the key player in border talks

Vasin: Took up challenge

Bangkok Post
Monday November 10, 2008


When Thai and Cambodian officials sit down for talks to end their border dispute today and tomorrow in Siem Reap, the spotlight will be on Vasin Teeravechyan.

The low-profile Mr Vasin has been picked to lead the Thai delegation on the Joint Boundary Commission (JBC) to face his Cambodian counterpart Var Kim Hong, Prime Minister Hun Sen's adviser and senior minister.

Mr Vasin came out of retirement for this role, having been the Thai ambassador to South Korea in his last position.

He was approached late last month by permanent secretary for foreign affairs Virasakdi Futrakul and his former boss Saroj Chavanaviraj to take up what is a sensitive post, given the rocky relations between Thailand and Cambodia now.

He accepted because he wanted to help his country end the conflict.

The head of the JBC delegation is normally a deputy foreign minister. But since Thailand does not currently have one, Mr Vasin's position is the closest equivalent.

He has made it clear that he is not involved in politics and has no personal relationship with Foreign Minister Sompong Amornvivat.

The appointment of Mr Vasin, 60, has raised hopes among ministry officials. Many see him as the right choice because of his past experience in handling border demarcation issues with neighbouring countries.

"We are very glad to have someone who is knowledgeable about the border problems with Cambodia to lead the negotiations, rather than a politician with no background in such issues," one ministry official said.

Mr Vasin has strong credentials both in education and work experience.

A law graduate from Chulalongkorn University, he spent 37 years working at the ministry, most of the time handling legal matters at the Treaties and Legal Affairs Department.

He started as a junior officer working in different divisions, and gradually gathered his diplomatic skills and experience until becoming director-general of the department in 1997.

As director-general, Mr Vasin helped the department pave the way for border negotiations with neighbouring countries.

He also helped prepare the signing of the memorandum of understanding (MoU) on land border demarcation between Thailand and Cambodia in 2000.

But he left to become ambassador to the Netherlands before the signing and then moved to the South Korean post.

The MoU will be used as a framework for the JBC at the two-day meeting in Cambodia.

Under the MoU, the two sides have agreed to separate the work of demarcation into seven sections along the 798km border and will discuss the field survey and demarcation of non-disputed areas first. Troubled areas, such as the 4.6 sq km near Preah Vihear temple, are expected to be discussed later. Thailand uses the same negotiation framework with Laos and Malaysia.

Temple talks

Bangkok Post
Monday November 10, 2008

By Saritdet Marukatat and Thanida Tansubhapol

After deadly violence on the border and an ongoing diplomatic spat over the area near the Preah Vihear temple, Thailand and Cambodia move to the negotiating table for two days - a meeting of the Joint Boundary Commission (JBC) in Siem Reap.

The talks beginning on Monday aim to end the dispute over land near the temple, but Foreign Ministry Officials say early agreement is unlikely.

At the centre of the dispute is sovereignty over a 4.6-square-kilometre area between Kantharalak district in Si Sa Ket province and Preah Vihear province in Cambodia, adjacent to the ancient Khmer temple.

Foreign Ministry officials agree the issue will not be settled at a single round of talks because the two sides cannot even agree on which map to use. They both use different maps as the basis for their negotiations.

Thailand's position is that the watershed should define the border in the area near the temple, but Cambodia rejects this.

"I have lots of documents ready to counter Cambodia's point of view," Treaties and Legal Affairs Department director-general Virachai Plasai told a public forum organised by Chulalongkorn University's Institute of Asian Studies on Thursday.

He is one of the Thai negotiators led by retired career diplomat Vasin Teeravechyan. The Cambodian delegation is led by Senior Minister Var Kim Hong, an adviser to Prime Minister Hun Sen.

The two countries gave priority to the JBC talks after the Preah Vihear temple received World Heritage listing in July. Thailand lost a World Court battle for ownership of the temple in 1962.

Thai officials are prepared for heated negotiations today and tomorrow, but say at least they are at the same table, and that should ease tensions at the border and in the two capitals.

"The aim of the meeting is to bring the conflict to the negotiating table," said a ministry official.
Hard-fought negotiations were better than fighting, another official added.

The crucial talks will be followed by a meeting between the two foreign ministers, Sompong Amornvivat and Hor Namhong, on Wednesday.

The row over Preah Vihear has spilled over into other spots along the 798-kilometre-long land border, including the Ta Muen and Ta Kwai temples. Thailand insists the temples are in Surin province's Phanom Dong Rak district.

The tension heightened after fighting between Thai and Cambodia soldiers on Oct 15 in the overlapping area as well as in Pha Mor E Daeng in Si Sa Ket.

Cambodia has complained to other countries that Thailand invaded its territory.

Bangkok's counter-moves include calling international attention to new landmines allegedly planted near Preah Vihear by Cambodia.

Hun Sen vowed to strengthen Cambodia's armed forces yesterday as he joined the country's king in celebrating the 55th anniversary of independence from France.

Speaking at an Independence Day parade, he made no mention of the border conflict but vowed to "push ahead with reform of the armed forces to ensure highly effective defence" of Cambodian territory.

(With reports by AP)

Royal Congratulatory Messages To Cambodia

Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin

Bandar Seri Begawan - His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam yesterday consented to send a congratulatory message to Norodom Sihamoni, King of Cambodia, and Prime Minister Hun Sen in conjunction with Cambodia's 55th Independence Day.

In his message, His Majesty expressed his appreciation on the visit made by King Norodom Sihamoni earlier his year, RTB reported.

The visit showed the friendship and cooperative ties that exist between the two countries. In his message to the Prime Minister, His Majesty expressed his hopes of continuing the cooperation between the new administration and His Majesty's government.

Meanwhile, His Royal Highness Prince Mohamed Bolkiah, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, sent a similar congratulatory message to Hor Namhong, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of the Kingdom of Cambodia on the occasion of its 55th independence day.

His Royal Highness presented his deepest respects to His Majesty King Norodom Sihamoni and the royal family, together with his warmest congratulations to Hor Namhong, the government and the people of Cambodia on their 55th Independence Day.

HRH said it has once again been a great pleasure working with Hor Namhong over the past year and HRH is happy that the bilateral relations continue to be strengthened through high level visits and exchanges.

HRH also looked forward to continuing their work together to establish an Asean Community and hoped to see Hor NamHong during the forthcoming Asean meeting.

Kim Yong Nam Greets Cambodian King

Pyongyang, November 8 (KCNA) -- Kim Yong Nam, president of the Presidium of the DPRK Supreme People's Assembly, sent a message of greetings to Norodom Sihamoni, King of Cambodia, on Nov. 8 on the occasion of the 55th anniversary of its independence.

Kim in the message said that after independence the Cambodian people have registered great success in the work to protect the independence and sovereignty of their country and develop their national economy by waging the protracted struggle for building a new society, adding that the Korean people are rejoiced over this. He sincerely hoped that everything would go well in Cambodia.

In the belief that the traditional bilateral ties of friendship and cooperation provided by President Kim Il Sung and Great King Norodom Sihanouk would grow stronger in the interests of the two peoples in the future, the message wholeheartedly wished the king success in his work for the political stability and prosperity of the country.

Cambodia’s media hails cooperation with Vietnam


VietNamNet Bridge – Major newspapers in Cambodia on November 9 run articles affirming that the cooperation between Cambodia and Vietnam will further develop, particularly after the Vietnam visit by Prime Minister Hun Sen from November 4-8.

Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Hor Namhong said that the signing of five cooperation agreements between the two countries created a new opportunity for economic development as well as brought a practical interest for the Cambodian people.

The agreement on visa exemption for common passport holders would contribute to Cambodia ’s tourism development, while the agreement on transit of goods between the two countries would increase bilateral trade turnover from estimated 1.7 billion USD in 2008 to more than 2 billion USD by 2010.

Vietnam also pledged to sell electricity at low prices to Cambodia and to conduct survey works of a 50MW hydro-power station on Cambodia’s Se San River in order to supply electricity to Mondolkiri, Ratanakiri and Stung Treng provinces as well as to export electricity to Vietnam.

(Source: VNA)
A flotilla of legendary swan is followed by Cambodian civil servant officers during a march in front of Royal Palace in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Sunday, Nov. 9, 2008 to celebrate the 55th anniversary of the country's independence from France. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

The China Post
Sunday, November 9, 2008

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia -- Prime Minister Hun Sen vowed to strengthen Cambodia's armed forces Sunday as he joined the country's king in celebrating the 55th anniversary of independence from France.

The prime minister's statement came amid a tense standoff between Cambodian and Thai troops near the 11th-century Preah Vihear temple, which last month erupted into a clash that raised concerns of a border war.

Speaking at an independence day parade, Hun Sen made no mention of the border conflict but vowed to push "ahead with reform of the armed forces to ensure highly effective defense" of Cambodian territory.

Among those marching in Sunday's celebration parade were Cambodian mine clearers with their mine-sniffing dogs, reflecting continued efforts to clear rural areas of land mines after three decades of civil war, which ended 10 years ago.

Lawmakers are expected to approve a $2 billion budget for 2009 later this month, of which about $500 million will be allocated to the military. Cheam Yeap, a lawmaker, said the new military expenditure will be almost double that of 2008.

Cambodian and Thai troops fought a brief gunbattle last month, killing two Cambodian soldiers. A Thai soldier died later from wounds sustained during the clash.

The two countries both claim 1.8 square miles (4.6 square kilometers) of land near the temple, which the World Court awarded to Cambodia in 1962.

Thai and Cambodian foreign ministers are scheduled to hold new talks Nov. 12 in the Cambodian city of Siem Reap.

King Norodom Sihamoni said he was confident that the "great national solidarity" of Cambodians would ward off "aggression on our priceless territorial integrity."

Sihamoni, who is a constitutional monarch, made no direct reference to the border conflict with Thailand.

Cambodia and Thailand share a 500-mile (800-kilometer) land border, much of which has never been clearly demarcated because the countries refer to different maps.

Cambodia marks 55th anniversary of independence

The Star
Sunday November 9, 2008

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP): Prime Minister Hun Sen vowed to strengthen Cambodia's armed forces Sunday as he joined the country's king in celebrating the 55th anniversary of independence from France.

The prime minister's statement came amid a tense standoff between Cambodian and Thai troops near the 11th-century Preah Vihear temple, which last month erupted into a clash that raised concerns of a border war.

Speaking at an independence day parade, Hun Sen made no mention of the border conflict but vowed to push "ahead with reform of the armed forces to ensure highly effective defense'' of Cambodian territory.

Among those marching in Sunday's celebration parade were Cambodian mine clearers with their mine-sniffing dogs, reflecting continued efforts to clear rural areas of land mines after three decades of civil war, which ended 10 years ago.

Lawmakers are expected to approve a $2 billion budget for 2009 later this month, of which about $500 million will be allocated to the military. Cheam Yeap, a lawmaker, said the new military expenditure will be almost double that of 2008.

Cambodian and Thai troops fought a brief gunbattle last month, killing two Cambodian soldiers. A Thai soldier died later from wounds sustained during the clash.

The two countries both claim 1.8 square miles (4.6 square kilometers) of land near the temple, which the World Court awarded to Cambodia in 1962.

Thai and Cambodian foreign ministers are scheduled to hold new talks Nov. 12 in the Cambodian city of Siem Reap.

King Norodom Sihamoni said he was confident that the "great national solidarity'' of Cambodians would ward off "aggression on our priceless territorial integrity.''

Sihamoni, who is a constitutional monarch, made no direct reference to the border conflict with Thailand.

Cambodia and Thailand share a 500-mile (800-kilometer) land border, much of which has never been clearly demarcated because the countries refer to different maps.

What goes around comes around: Hok Lundy, police chief dies in helicopter crash

PHNOM PENH, Nov. 9 (Xinhua) -- Cambodian chief of police Hok Lundy died in a helicopter crash Sunday night along with one general and two pilots, the country's government spokesman Khieu Kanharith told reporters.

The accident occurred around 0800 p.m. local time (1300 GMT) in Svay Rieng province, according to police source.

Hok Lundy was on his way from the capital to his native province of Svay Rieng accompanied by the general and two pilots.

The private helicopter fell down about 80 km southeast of PhnomPenh, the source said.

Hok Lundy's body was almost blown into pieces and is now being carried to Phnom Penh, it added.

Meanwhile, Khieu Sopheak, spokesman of the Interior Ministry, told reporters that radio contact was lost with the helicopter 15 minutes after it took off from the Phnom Penh International Airport around 0720 p.m. local time (1220 GMT).

The cause of the crash remained unclear, but the spokesman cited heavy rain as a possible factor.

Editor: Sun Yunlong

Cambodian police chief dies in helicopter crash: govt

Hok Lundy

PHNOM PENH (AFP) — Cambodia's top policeman died in a helicopter crash in bad weather that also claimed the life of a top-ranking army general, a government spokesman told AFP Sunday.

Chief of police Hok Lundy and General Sok Sa Em were passengers in a helicopter that came down shortly after it took off Sunday from Phnom Penh airport, ministry of interior spokesman Khieu Sopheak said.

"In the helicopter there was a pilot, a co-pilot, the national police chief and the deputy commander of the military. All four died," Khieu Sopheak said.

Khieu Sopheak said the helicopter came down in southeastern Svay Rieng province.

"The reason for the crash was bad weather. There was a heavy rain," he added.

He said radio contact had been lost 15 minutes after it took off from Phnom Penh airport at around 7:20 pm (1220 GMT).

Hok Lundy, head of the country's police for over a decade, had been routinely criticised by international organisations for alleged human rights abuses and corruption within his force.

Hok Lundy was also accused of involvement in politically motivated killings and drug trafficking.

Human rights groups protested a decision to allow him a visa to the United States last year after the State Department refused him a visa in 2006 due to allegations he was involved in trafficking prostitutes.

Arrangements were being made for a traditional Cambodian funeral for the police chief, Khieu Sopheak said.

Scholar urges Taiwan to provide medical expertise to nations in need

Taiwan News

Central News Agency

The renowned historian and editor John Watt, who is in Taiwan to promote his new book on the country's healthcare system, suggested Saturday that Taiwan should help provide medical services to less developed countries.

According to Watt, Taiwan's rapid economic and social development over the past decades resulted from "very good management of its healthcare system."

"Without a healthy population, we can't even begin to have national development, " he said in an interview with the Central News Agency.

Taiwan's earlier local political and medical leaders had the vision to build a structure in which medicine and healthcare could develop, he said.

However, although Taiwan took the lead among many developed countries in the area of healthcare, it did not receive the attention it deserved, he noted.

Watt said that as a developing country that has one of the world's best healthcare systems, Taiwan certainly has valuable experiences to share with the rest of the world. This is one of the reasons why he chose to edit the book titled "Health Care and National Development in Taiwan, 1950-2000," he explained.

Taiwan can provide assistance to other countries that have only basic health systems, said Watt, whose book highlights Taiwan's achievements in health care.

"I encourage the leadership here to take a more long-range view, not just providing emergency relief and reconstruction, but also bringing their expertise to enable the creation of a healthcare system that promotes rapid social development, " he urged, naming the neighboring countries of Cambodia and Laos which he said do not have such expertise.

Watt said that in Cambodia, non-governmental organizations do all the things the government should but cannot do because of a lack of expertise.

He suggested that Taiwan can help these countries by providing education and training programs and helping teenagers "at risk" of becoming victims in the sex trade.

"As long as the goodwill exists, (you don't) have to go through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs," Watt said.

Non-governmental organizations, such as the Tzu Chi Foundation and the Taipei-based Red Cross Society of Republic of China, should be encouraged to help these countries build long-term healthcare systems, he stressed.

On the question of other areas of health in which Taiwan can provide assistance to less developed countries, Watt mentioned decent sanitation and the prevention of infectious diseases such as malaria and dengue fever.

He also said that the high maternal mortality rate in such countries "can be easily reduced with better management of childbirth."

The book edited by Watt is a collection of 44 essays on Taiwan's healthcare development by more than twenty local and American experts in the field of health.

Watt, who visited Taiwan for the first time in 1977, has been observing teh country's healthcare system for about 30 years.

Born in the United Kingdom, he formerly served as the executive director of the American Bureau for Medical Advancement in China and is now the vice president of the organization.

Cambodia vows economic growth at 7%

Taiwan News

Agence France-Presse
Page 15

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said yesterday he was committed to maintaining annual economic growth of seven percent, after warnings that the country's red-hot economy would soon slow.

Hun Sen, addressing crowds at Independence Day celebrations, vowed to maintain high GDP growth despite the global financial slowdown, and said the government was committed to reducing poverty by more than one percent per year.

"The government are well aware that the strategic plans are highly ambitious amid the global economic crisis," Hun Sen said at Phnom Penh's Royal Palace.

"But we depend on our experience, our achievements and determination, and we are very positive that the country will accomplish its visions."

The International Monetary Fund recently said that Cambodia's economy is expected to flounder next year as the world crisis deepens.

The country has enjoyed double-digit growth over the past few years, but that will likely ease to 6.5 percent this year and 4.8 percent in 2009 as the crisis deepens, IMF official David Cowen said on Friday. After being written off as a failed state after the devastating 1975-79 Khmer Rouge regime and several decades of civil war, Cambodia has struggled back in recent years to become an improving economic success story.

But despite recent growth, under-employment - where someone's work earns only a meagre return - remains high in Cambodia, while about 35 percent of the country's 14 million people live on less than US$0.50 a day.

Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs held a seminar about Preah Vihear

Radio Free Asia
By Chivita
7th November, 2008
Translated from Khmer by Khmerization
Related article on Preah Vihear Court Case.

The debates about the 1962 verdict of the International Court of Justice on the Preah Vihear issue and trades between the neighbouring countries among participants of a seminar organised by the Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs have produced two opposing views.

Some Thai academics have told the seminar that the International Court of Justice has judged to give ownership of Preah Vihear temple to Cambodia, so Thailand must respect the court’s verdict. But some old participants of the seminar expressed their dissatisfaction with the 1962 court’s verdict.

One old man, Mr. Tepmontri Nithapayom, said that there were five complaints against Thailand to the International Court of Justice but two of the complaints, which related to ownership of the lands surrounding Preah Vihear temple, have not been judged by the court as belonging to Cambodia. So the demarcations that were done after the court case by using the old maps were illegal.

Mr. Tepmontri Nithapayom said: “But in the first and second complaints lodged with the court, the court has not judged in favour of Cambodia. These two complaints were in relation to the legality of the maps and the ownership of the lands surrounding the Preah Vihear temple. So if the court agreed with the Franco-Siamese Border Demarcation Commission who produced the 1908 maps, then the court would have agreed with the Preah Vihear maps and maps of the areas surrounding the Preah Vihear temple.”

However, other participants of the seminar, which was organised by Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok, who believe that neighbouring countries can peacefully co-exist with one another and can conduct trades smoothly with each other have reminded the seminar that the Thai people should not use Thai nationalism to overshadow peace-building and peace-maintaining with their neighbours.

Deputy Chairwoman of Chamber of Commerce of Trat province, Mrs. Duangchai Chanthorn, said that the people of the neighbouring countries want to conduct trades rather than make wars with each other.

According to Mrs. Duangchai, Thailand’s annual exports to Cambodia is worth 50 billion baht ($US1.25 billion), including border trades because the Cambodian people like the taste of the Thai products.

Both Cambodia and Thailand planned to hold talks about border disputes in Siem Reap next week.


The 1962 Preah Vihear Case:

Cambodia’s complaints against Thailand: Cambodia asked the court:

1. "To adjudge and declare that the map of the Dangrek sector (Annex I to the Memorial of Cambodia) was drawn up and published in the name and on behalf of the Mixed Delimitation Commission set up by the Treaty of 13 February 1904, that it sets forth the decisions taken by the said Commission and that, by reason of that fact and also of the subsequent agreements and conduct of the Parties, it presents a treaty character;"

2. "To adjudge and declare that the frontier line between Cambodia and Thailand, in the disputed region in the neighborhood of the Temple of Preah Vihear, is that which is marked on the map of the Commission of Delimitation between Indo-China and Siam (Annex I to the Memorial of Cambodia);"

3. "To adjudge and declare that the Temple of Preah Vihear is situated in territory under the sovereignty of the Kingdom of Cambodia";

4. "To adjudge and declare that the Kingdom of Thailand is under an obligation to withdraw the detachments of armed forces it has stationed, since 1954, in Cambodian territory, in the ruins of the Temple of Preah Vihear";

5. "To adjudge and declare that the sculptures, stelae, fragments of monuments, sandstone model and ancient pottery which have been removed from the Temple by the Thai authorities since 1954 are to be returned to the Government of the Kingdom of Cambodia by the Government of Thailand.": ICJ Reports 1962,

The 1962 court judgement:

On 15th June, 1962 the court judged that:

1. "the Temple of Preah Vihear is situated in territory under the sovereignty of Cambodia;"[Cambodia's Submission 3]

2. "Thailand is under an obligation to withdraw any military or police forces, or other guards or keepers, stationed by her at the Temple, or in its vicinity on Cambodian territory"; [Cambodia's Submission 4]

3. "Thailand is under an obligation to restore to Cambodia any objects of the kind specified in Cambodia's fifth Submission which may, since the date of the occupation of the Temple by Thailand in 1954, have been removed from the Temple or the Temple area by the Thai authorities.": ICJ Reports 1962, p. 36, 37. [Cambodia's Submission 5].

Congratulations on Cambodia’s National Day


Hanoi (VNA) – Party General Secretary Nong Duc Manh, State President Nguyen Minh Triet, Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung and National Assembly Chairman Nguyen Phu Trong have extended congratulations to their Cambodian counterparts on Cambodia’s 55th National Day (Nov. 9).

In their messages sent to King of Cambodia Norodom Sihamoni, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, President of Cambodian Senate Chea Sim and President of Cambodian National Assembly Heng Samrin, the Vietnamese top leaders praised the achievements recorded by the Cambodian people over the past years.

They hoped that the Cambodian people will make further achievements for development, peace and prosperity in the country.

Deputy PM cum Foreign Minister Pham Gia Khiem also sent greetings to Cambodian Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Hor Namhong, on the occasion.-Enditem

Cambodia celebrates its 55th anniversary of independence from France on November 9

A parade passes in front of the royal palace during the Independence Day celebration in Phnom Penh November 9, 2008. Cambodia celebrates its 55th anniversary of independence from France on November 9.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA)

Cambodians march alongside a car decorated as a dove in front of the royal palace during the Independence Day celebration in Phnom Penh November 9, 2008. Cambodia celebrates its 55th anniversary of independence from France on November 9. REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea

Cambodian flag-bearers march in front of the royal palace during the Independence Day celebrations in Phnom Penh November 9, 2008. Cambodia celebrates its 55th anniversary of independence from France on November 9. REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea

Cambodia's King Norodom Sihamoni (L) watches the procession during the Independence Day celebrations in Phnom Penh November 9, 2008. Cambodia celebrates its 55th anniversary of independence from France on November 9. REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea

Cambodia's King Norodom Sihamoni greets well-wishers as he presides over the country's 55th independence anniversary from France in front of Royal Palace in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Sunday, Nov. 9, 2008.(AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

Cambodia's King Norodom Sihamoni greets officials during the Independence Day celebrations in Phnom Penh November 9, 2008. Cambodia celebrates its 55th anniversary of independence from France on November 9.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA)

Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen is seen during the Independence Day celebrations in Phnom Penh November 9, 2008. Cambodia celebrates its 55th anniversary of independence from France on November 9.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA)

Cambodians march alongside a car decorated as a dove in front of the royal palace during the Independence Day celebration in Phnom Penh November 9, 2008. Cambodia celebrates its 55th anniversary of independence from France on November 9.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA)

Forum wants more border gates


HA NOI — ACMECS member countries should open more border gates, set up special trade areas and invest more in infrastructure development in order to create more favourable conditions for businesses.

This was agreed at a meeting of about 350 representatives from international organisations and investors from ACMECS nations (Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Viet Nam) who attended a business forum held on the sidelines of the main ACMECS meeting here yesterday.

The forum provided a good opportunity for Vietnamese enterprises to establish partnerships inside and outside of ACMECS.

Deputy chairman of the Viet Nam Chamber of Commerce and Industry Hoang Van Dung said that businesses had an important role to play within ACMECS because they helped build co-operative strategies in the region.

However, he said business people were faced with difficulties caused by different levels of development among ACMECS member countries.

For instance, he said Vietnamese enterprises lacked information, human resources still did not meet demands and administrative and customs procedures were complicated.

Dung said it was a good sign that Vietnamese enterprises had started to invest in regional countries. He proposed ACMECS cards be issued between regional countries to create favourable conditions for business people in travel and exchange.

A representative of Vietnamese businesses, Ho Huy, the chairman of the Management Council and general director of Mai Linh Taxi Company, said he hoped more Vietnamese enterprises would follow Mai Linh and invest in other ACMECS countries.

At present, the taxi company transports 100-300 clients from Viet Nam to Cambodia each year - and vice versa. Mai Linh expects to expand its operations to Laos, Myanmar and Thailand.

He said a problem was that customs clearance between countries still took a long time. Huy hoped that, via the forum, the problems would be soon solved.

Oknha Kith Meng, chairman of Cambodia’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said that ACMECS member countries should increase tourism co-operation to make full use of regional advantages.

He said it was necessary to have an action plan to build trans-national tours through border gates.

Meng’s view was shared by Oudet Souvannavong, the deputy chairman of Laos’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry, who said a key issue of the ACMECS framework was to boost economic co-operation and facilitate the transport of goods via border gates.

The ACMECS Business Forum, the first of its kind, provided a venue for businesses from five ACMECS members to meet, discuss and make proposals and initiatives.

All business initiatives were later reported to the leaders of ACMECS member countries at a dialogue between ACMECS senior leaders and enterprises at the National Convention Centre in Ha Noi. — VNS

Gateway to Buddha

Monks accepting alms of rice and money in front of the Buddhist temple.Credit:David Tenenbaum

Cambodian religious center in Oregon is a concrete achievement, in more ways than one

David Tenenbaum
on Friday 11/07/2008

It's early summer, 2008. I am perched on a scaffold 25 feet above a driveway just outside the village of Oregon, south of Madison, looking down at a white house that was built — I'm guessing — in the 1920s. The windows were busted out long ago, and I notice that the house has progressed from ramshackle through dilapidated to true hoveldom. Then I return to the task at hand: struggling to place a handmade casting on an enormous ornamental gateway.

I am helping two Cambodian Buddhist monks — Soy Seng and Sakoeurn Korn, as they are known on their American citizenship papers — and I am frustrated. We are working overhead, the blood is draining from our arms, and to me falls the sorry job of eyeballing the level that will establish the correct position.

That means I must announce, over and over, that the current try is good, but not perfect.
Calmly, persistently and cheerfully, Soy, the chief monk, has us relocate the casting, striving for an accuracy far beyond what I think the situation demands. His assistant, Sakoeurn, unflinchingly repositions the casting.

I join in, and eventually we get it right.

Accuracy within a 16th of an inch would be close enough for the average person building a giant gateway that reaches a peak of 35 feet tall, but not here. After all, this gateway will announce the presence of a Cambodian Buddhist temple on County Highway MM, just north of U.S. Highway 14. (The temple is now several years old; the gateway and fence will be done in a year, then further building will occur.)

Mention "Buddhist temple" in Madison, and most people assume you mean Deer Park, the well-known temple for Tibetan Buddhists, which the Dalai Lama visited this summer. Few people know about the Cambodians. Although only about a mile separates the two temples, the forms of Buddhism they practice are worlds apart in theology and culture, and the groups have little contact.

As we wait for the blood to return to our arms, I remind Soy what happened 12 years ago in the ruins beneath us. It was the place where we began our friendship.

In 1996 I was asked by a friend, Roger Garms, if I'd like to teach English to a monk for whom the local Cambodians had, amazingly, managed to garner immigration papers. Roger, a psychologist, said the temple and its new monk were supposed to help hundreds of impoverished Cambodians integrate into Dane County by sustaining their native culture.

I gave the matter a full 10 seconds of consideration, and soon found myself walking into a cold, cheerless living room decorated with a cheap rug celebrating a north woods elk. I turned for instruction to the only other person in the room who spoke English, Sarith Ou, a leader of the local Cambodian community. With his trademark half-smile, Sarith provided me with detailed instructions: "Okay, start."

Trying to conceal my growing bewilderment, I exchanged nervous smiles with a shaven-headed monk clad only in an orange robe. I immediately realized that my new student didn't know a word of English: not "you" and "me," not "yes" or "no." We had not been introduced. I knew his name was Seng Soy, but I had no idea whether I should I call him "Soy," or "Seng," or "your holiness." Sarith had already ducked out.

The moment obviously demanded improvisation, so I emptied my pockets and started working on pronunciation: "key," "penny," "one," "two," "all."

I had done absolutely no research on the Cambodian language, properly called Khmer, but I soon realized that it lacks many English sounds, including "r," "th" and "y." This monk could not pronounce or even hear, these sounds. "Yes," for example, came out as Russian-sounding "Zhess."

I also figured out that this guy in the orange robe, whatever his exact name was, was unlike anybody I'd ever met. He never frowned, always maintained eye contact, did whatever I asked, and would not quit trying to pronounce a word until I signaled it was time to move on. Unlike certain American students (like, say, all of them), he did not pretend to master something he hadn't.

And so we struggled with "Zhess" for a good 20 minutes. After he uttered a rudimentary "y" sound, we moved on to "you," and we struggled to shape "zhou" into "you" for another 15 minutes. I noticed he was extremely intelligent, and a perfectionist — a trait I would again see, years later, up on that scaffold.

We lived in the present tense for a few years, dealing only with the issues of the moment. But as Soy (that's his given name) progressed, I gradually learned scraps about his background. Like other Cambodians of his age (he's now 49) and older, Soy came from a shattered people.

Hundreds of Cambodians live in Madison, Stoughton and Janesville, and almost all of the older ones left Cambodia after the Khmer Rouge turned the country into a killing field between 1975 and 1979.

Twenty years ago, I'd reported on the despair, trauma and poverty faced by many Southeast Asian refugees in Dane County. I had visited their poverty-stricken homes and seen the traditional reverence for age gone topsy-turvy: As children learned English, they gained power over their parents that they never would have had in Cambodia.

As months stretched into years, I began to view my weekly visits with Soy as a quick trip to Cambodia. The Cambodian community built him a much warmer house, then a temple, and imported two more monks. For a couple of years, I was tutoring three men, at very different levels, more or less at once. We worked on words, sentences, even body language — the meaning of a shrug or the two-hand, open-palmed gesture that means "I don't know." We worked on idioms: I cannot forget Soy's laughter when I explained "Can you give me a hand?"

After one of the monks returned home, I became better friends with Sakoeurn (pronounced, more or less, sa-KOON) Korn, a cheerful monk who had grown up near Soy. Stubborn Sakoeurn, who is now 48, knew exactly how he wanted to study English — even if his approach made no sense to me or to Ed Janus, a friend I recruited as co-tutor.

As Soy's English improved, I learned that he had grown up one of nine children in a farming family. I have long tried to avoid asking about "Pol Pot time" (the Khmer Rouge reign of terror is usually referenced by the name of its leader), but I did learn that he had slaved in the rice paddies, digging canals and building dikes. As soon as the Vietnamese Army expelled the Khmer Rouge in 1979, Soy and Sakoeurn were ordained as monks in the same ceremony.

This year, on Oct. 9, Ed Janus and I watched Sakoeurn become an American citizen at the Robert Kastenmeier courthouse on Henry Street, a milestone that Soy had passed more than a year earlier. As we left, I mentioned in passing that Kastenmeier had been a steadfast opponent of the American war on Vietnam.

Although I have never gotten the definitive word on why they chose to become monks, following the compassionate example of the Buddha was — and is — the core of being Cambodian, both in Cambodia and, at least among the elders, here in Dane County. The monk is the center of that existence, performing ceremonies, guarding the temple and, as I was about to learn, building it.

I was introduced to the big building project in typical Cambodian fashion — obliquely. In the temple during English classes, I noticed a drawing of a gateway that echoed Angkor Wat, the massive complex of temples built during the apex of the Angkor Empire, almost 1,000 years ago.

Cambodians don't shower you with information, and I paid little attention to the drawing until Soy mentioned that gateway had been designed in Cambodia, would be built of reinforced concrete, and would be linked to a concrete fence several hundred yards in length.

The more I learned, the more improbable this project seemed. The gateway would be 35 feet tall and, like the fence, ornamented with thousands of handmade castings formed in 15 or 20 different molds. Soy would be the architect, and would, together with his fellow Cambodians, build the whole thing. I knew Soy had done some building with concrete in Cambodia, but I stressed that in Wisconsin, the ground freezes every winter, and there are these building codes.

Immediately, our English lessons shifted from discussions of past imperfect and the confusion over synonyms to more concrete subjects, like rebar, cement, gravel and the many meanings of "square." We talked about welding, frost heaving, and why a column has a "head" and a "foot." These discussions recalled my days as a mason in Waterloo, east of Madison, and my worst-selling book, the Masonry Toolbox Manual, published in 1990.

I began to realize that Soy and I both were interested in ideas and words — and in the art of building.

When a backhoe dug footings for the project in spring 2007, I began photographing Dane County's most improbable construction project. I watched as Soy and Sakoeurn bent and welded a stack of re-rod into sturdy reinforcements, with help from several other local Cambodians. I watched the crew build elaborate forms and photographed a dozen Cambodian men casting two giant columns for the gateway– all under the calm direction of a sandal-wearing monk in an orange robe.

I discussed with Soy the proper mix of cement and sand, and even pitched in to help build those castings, one by one. When I invited an architect friend to check out the construction techniques, he remarked, "I don't have anything to teach them."

Still determined to know why the project was so important, I asked Sarith, who simply said, "This is a traditional temple, and they usually build a gate and a fence."

And why was the temple so important?

"When Cambodians serve the temple and the monks, we build merits that are helpful during reincarnation," Sarith explained. "If someone died and went to hell, we try to bring food, money to the monks, to help get them released from hell."

Sarith Ou has been one of the driving forces at the temple since it was born in an apartment at Allied Drive in 1991, but he's had help. In 1992, the Madison Community Foundation contributed $10,000 for a down payment to buy five acres of land for the temple. The Mental Health Center of Dane County had long supported treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which is rampant among survivors of the Cambodian holocaust.

Roger Garms, who served in Vietnam, and then became a psychologist specializing in the psychic wounds of war, had begun to wonder "if PTSD crossed over cultural boundaries" after he moved to Madison in 1990, so he volunteered at United Refugee Service. "We started a group of Cambodian army veterans," he says, "and these guys had exactly the same symptoms as the Americans GIs," even though their exposure was more severe.

"They were slaves for four years, and many of them also saw four years of bloody combat. The kind of things they witnessed — the murder of children, deliberate attempts to undercut people's sense of goodness, turning people against one another — was so cruel, so vicious, it was difficult to treat."

PTSD can be seen as a failure to relax from the hyper-vigilant state that is necessary during battle, Roger says. "Their whole personality was so tied up with these arousal symptoms that they had become different people. I remember one guy telling me, 'You see me sitting here, but this is not really me. The person sitting here is the ghost of me. I died in Cambodia.' These the same exact words I used to hear from GIs."

Although psychotherapy helped Americans with PTSD, Roger and his partner and fellow therapist Ann Garden found it less successful with Cambodians, and they stumbled on a different approach. "What proved to be most helpful was social work, to get citizenship, help the disabled get benefits, housing, attorneys, medications," Roger says. "We have a really good psychiatrist, Fred Coleman, who has been with us since the beginning."

The problem is not just PTSD, Roger emphasizes. "They have lost their culture, the ability to make a living.... They are in danger of anomie, rootlessness, a loss of place and purpose in life." And it is here that the temple may be most important.

"It gives meaning and purpose to people's lives," he says. "The temple in a village in Cambodia is really the only social institution. It helps the poor, the mentally ill. People trying to recover from drugs or alcohol can shave their heads, stay in the temple, and help the monks while they try to get their lives together."

Roger was gratified to watch "these soldiers get a temple started. It was really great to see them be able to do what they did, and see how much better they felt. It's an odd way to do psychotherapy, but you do what you can."

As time passed, I realized somebody was going to write about this massive building project and that I was in the ideal position to do it. This September, I drew Soy away from a group that was mixing and pouring concrete on the fence. We sat down on the ground and I asked how he had responded when the chief monk of Cambodia asked him to fly halfway around the world to lead a temple in a state he'd never heard of.

"I told him that would be okay, but I would have to ask my parents," Soy responded. With parental consent, he boarded an airplane for the first time and flew to Wisconsin and moved into the ramshackle house near the road — which was demolished this summer.

His arrival, I learned, quelled the internal tensions that the project had stirred. "It says something about Soy's character," says Roger. "He is a real monk, and everybody knows it, and that transcended those disputes, because you could not stay away when Soy was there."

Wisconsin was a cold place for a tropical man who had not yet begun to wear socks, but Soy maintained his monastic habits — never being alone with a woman, eating two meals a day, and refraining from such diversions as singing, dancing or attending baseball games (much to the dismay of Ed Janus, founder of the Madison Muskies).

Once situated in Oregon, Soy took up the religious duties he'd been trained for: chanting, meditating, consoling grieving families, and leading rituals. He directed the New Year's and ancestors' ceremonies, which attract hundreds of Cambodians from all over the Midwest for chanting, dancing, prayer, traditional reenactments and, of course, plenty of schmoozing and eating.

At the ancestor ceremony in late September, Vanna Pol, who has lived in Wisconsin since 1983, and is secretary of the Cambodian Buddhist Society, told me that the temple helps preserve the Cambodian Buddhist traditions: "Respect for old people, nonviolence, not having anger."

The monks at the ceremony were the center of attention. The food was plentiful, the English was scarce, and, as the monks chanted in the temple, I was reminded of the snap decision I'd made 12 years ago.

In a culture that reveres teachers and reveres monks, I was the monk's teacher.

But, in our own odd ways, Soy and I are also construction workers. When he came outside after the chanting was done, I teased him about his gate: "I thought you'd be done by now." We both laughed.

Madison group helps build Cambodian schools

As the political situation in Cambodia has stabilized, Cambodian Americans have begun visiting their homeland, and this transcontinental travel has spawned the Khmer School Project (, a Madison-based nonprofit. In 1999, the group began buying school uniforms for poor village kids in rural Cambodia as a way to encourage school attendance, and in 2003, construction of the first school began. Now, the fourth school is nearing completion, and ancillary projects, such as teacher training, vegetable gardens and fish ponds, are under way.

Education is critical now that large farmers and speculators are buying up Cambodian farmland. "The kids won't be able to farm; they may end up as a poor class, or farming on shares," says Madison psychologist Roger Garms, who works with local Cambodians on the school project. "But they won't be able to raise a family, so literacy is the only possibility for economic independence."