Tuesday, 18 November 2008

EC air ban won't affect Siem Reap Airways


PHNOM PENH, Nov. 18 (Xinhua) -- Siem Reap Airways has responded to an European Commission ban on its planes flying to European countries by saying the order did not apply to its aircraft, national media reported Tuesday.

The EC last week added the local carrier, which only flies regional routes, to its list of blacklisted airlines, citing its failure to comply with international and Cambodian civil aviation standards, the Phnom Penh Post said.

But Lao Santi, general manager of Siem Reap Airways, said the ban applied only to Siem Reap Airways aircraft registered in Cambodia, according to the Post.

"As a matter of fact, none of the aircraft operating (Siem Reap Airways) services have been registered in the Kingdom, as they are entirely operated on a wet-lease basis." he said in a statement.

A wet-lease is an arrangement between two airlines whereby the lesser provides the aircraft, crew, maintenance and insurance (ACMI) to the lessee.

The statement said that the EC exempted airlines listed in "Annex A" of the ban that operate on a wet-lease basis.

"Air carriers listed in the Annex A could be permitted to exercise traffic rights by using wet-leased aircraft of an air carrier which is not subject to an operating ban, provided that the relevant safety standards are complied with," the EC document states.

Siem Reap Airways is a subsidiary of Thailand-based Bangkok Airways and currently offers no air service to European countries.

Editor: Bi Mingxin

Canadian aid worker guilty of assaulting Haitian boys

Marianne White, Canwest News Service
Published: Monday, November 17, 2008

QUEBEC - A Quebec aid worker pleaded guilty Monday to multiple counts of sexually assaulting young orphans in Haiti, becoming only the third Canadian convicted under laws against child-sex crimes committed overseas.

Armand Huard, 65, admitted his guilt on 10 counts of sexually touching minors or inciting minors to touch him and was sentenced to three years in jail.

His guilty plea came on the day the eight victims - Haitian boys aged between 13 and 16 years old at the time of the incidents - were set to testify at his preliminary hearing by video conference from the Canadian embassy in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Their testimony proved unnecessary because of the plea.

Another aid worker Denis Rochefort, 59, who was arrested with Huard in February, also pleaded guilty last Friday to sexual assaults on six Haitian boys. He was sentenced to two years in jail, followed by three years' probation.

Justice Pierre Verdon, who sentenced both men, called their acts "shameful" for abusing the "poorest and the most vulnerable."

Rochefort was the second Canadian successfully convicted under a rarely used provision of the Criminal Code that allows police to charge Canadians for child-sex crimes committed in other countries.

The foreign child sex crimes law was enacted in 1997, but it had only been used twice before Huard and Rochefort.

Donald Bakker, the first Canadian ever charged, pleaded guilty in 2005, and was sentenced to 10 years in jail for sexually abusing children in Cambodia.

A second B.C. man, Kenneth Robert Klassen, was charged in 2007 in connection with sex crimes in Cambodia, Colombia and the Philippines. That case has not yet gone to trial.

Huard and Rochefort worked at an orphanage in Les Cayes, a port city on the southwestern coast of Haiti, between December 2006 and March 2007. They left the country when allegations of sexual abuse surfaced.

A dozen Haitian boys complained to the local police about Huard and Rochefort but that didn't lead to any accusations. Haitian police officers who were not satisfied with the investigation shared their frustration with their Canadian counterparts on a mission in Haiti.

Crown prosecutor Carmen Rioux said that thanks to the tips from those Haitian officers the Quebec provincial police launched its own investigation in Haiti. Both aid workers were arrested and charged in February 2008.

"It's a triumph for justice," Rioux said. "Haiti is a country that lacks resources at many levels and their legal system is not as well equipped as we are here to conduct investigations like this one. Now justice has been served."

Rioux spoke to the victims by video conference and said they are "at peace" with the turn of events. She added that they played O Canada on their flute to thank the Canadian authorities.

Thousands of garment factory jobs under threat: owners, unions

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Sam Rith
Tuesday, 18 November 2008

With the global economic crisis taking its toll on Cambodian garment exports, the sector may face factory closures and mass layoffs

THOUSANDS of garment workers in Cambodia could be laid off in coming months if global markets, particularly the United States, continue to fall into deepening economic crisis, labour leaders and garment industry officials said Monday.

Chuon Momthol, president of the Cambodian Union Federation (CUF), a government-aligned union, said as many as 35 garment factories could be shuttered in November or December if dire international market conditions to not improve.

"So far, at least 20,000 workers have been laid off," he said, adding that the 35 factories facing closure employ between 1,000 and 5,000 workers each.

Van Sou Ieng, chairman of the Garment Manufacturers Association of Cambodia, said 30 factories have been closed this year.

"They closed because there were no purchase orders," he said.

"Our factories this year have only been operating at about 70 percent capacity."

He added that there was no indication that the situation for garment makers would improve in the near-term.

"Next year, the garment sector will face greater shortfalls in orders, particularly from buyers in the United States," he said.

Cambodia's nearly 500 garment factories employ about 350,000 workers nationwide, with most coming from the country's rural provinces, the CUF's Chuon Momthol said, adding that September saw the start of a critical downturn in the garment sector.

But Chea Mony, president of the Free Trade Union of Workers, said the garment sector would be unaffected by the economic slump.

"Factory closures were caused by the pullout of some investors who had been in Cambodia for 10 or 20 years but who have moved on to avoid legal conflicts over labour issues with the workers," he said.

Transplant survivor sick over lending law

Photo by Angela Rowlings
TOUGH BREAK: Boran Yi Armstrong fell behind on credit-card payments due to kidney transplant surgery. That could cost her a mortgage broker’s license due to a new state law requiring brokers to pass credit checks.

May not get broker license
Boston Herald.com

By Jerry Kronenberg
Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Boran Yi Armstrong survived Cambodia’s “killing fields” and two kidney transplants, but isn’t sure how she’ll pull through a run-in with state mortgage regulators.

“All I want to do is work and support my family,” said Armstrong, who’s facing banishment from the Massachusetts mortgage industry over an $8,000 unpaid credit-card debt.

New state laws passed in the subprime-mortgage meltdown’s wake require loan brokers to undergo credit checks proving financial responsibility - even with household bills.

Unless Armstrong can pay off her debt by next week, regulators plan to deny the Methuen woman a license required under the new laws. That will block the 34-year-old from selling loans to Bay State customers, decimating her income.

But Armstrong, who’s just getting back to work following her latest kidney transplant, says she doesn’t have $8,000. After all, she’s raising a 12-year-old son, going through a divorce and paying some $525 a month for prescriptions and doctor’s visits.

“It’s very frustrating,” the woman said. “I think about people on welfare who abuse the system, but the only time I’ve ever had off of work since I was 13 was when I got sick.”

Armstrong’s boss, Dennis Wright of Hanover firm Direct Finance, said he has no reason to question her fitness to sell loans. “She’s been a very good employee for us (and) we’re obviously 100 percent supportive of her,” he said.

In fact, Armstrong has already overcome big obstacles in life.

Born in Cambodia, the woman lost her soldier-father during a civil war that brought communist Khmer Rouge rebels to power in 1975. The rebels later went on to kill millions of Cambodians in purges later dramatized in the 1984 film “The Killing Fields.”

Armstrong remembers seeing stacks of bodies, as well as bullets grazing her grandfather as the family fled the country.

As an adult, the woman needed a kidney transplant in 2000, then a second operation this past August after the first one failed.

Armstrong said she’s twice written state banking officials to explain her situation, but gotten no real response.

Kofi Jones, spokeswoman for state Housing Secretary Dan O’Connell, said she didn’t have specifics as to why officials rejected Armstrong’s requests for help.

Direct Finance owner Alain Valles said he understands the state “has to draw a line at some point. Hopefully, no one gets hurt.”

Still, some mortgage executives are critical of the new credit checks, which have held up about 1,000 brokers’ license applications.

“Loan officers who were expecting a clear pathway (to licenses) are expressing frustration over being held to a very strict standard,” said Kevin Cuff of the Massachusetts Mortgage Bankers Association.

Council wants tougher stance

Bangkok Post
Tuesday November 18, 2008

The National Economic and Social Advisory Council has urged the government to take a stronger approach with Cambodia for encroaching on Thai soil and to take action against some international bodies they say unfairly favoured Cambodia's registration of the Preah Vihear temple as a world heritage site. Suwanchai Saengsuk-iem, the secretary to the council's working group on the Preah Vihear issue, said the government had to urge its Cambodian counterpart to withdraw Cambodian people quickly and unconditionally from Thai soil. This was a reference to the Cambodians who have shops along the road to the ancient temple and the Cambodians who live in the nearby disputed area.

The council is encouraging the Thai government to put more pressure on Cambodia to evict their citizens from the disputed area.

The council also wants the government to maintain its military forces in the vicinity of Preah Vihear and not reduce their numbers.

Mr Suwanchai said the government should also expose the lack of transparency by the International Council for Monuments and Sites (Icomos).

This is the body which advises the World Heritage Committee (WHC) on cultural properties and which backed Cambodia in its bid to have the ancient temple registered as a world heritage site without Thailand's participation, in what should otherwise have been recognised as a trans-border heritage site.

The Icomos reached its decision despite the fact that the area surrounding the temple was claimed by Thailand and Cambodia, and Thailand had protested against the Cambodian bid to register the site, Mr Suwanchai said.

The council also urged the government to inform the world community about the lack of transparency in the WHC when it endorsed the registration of Preah Vihear.

The WHC endorsed the registration in favour of Cambodia, although a buffer zone had not been determined there and Thailand and Cambodia had not settled the border demarcation issue. These circumstances violated the Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage sites, Mr Suwanchai said.

Meanwhile, Maj-Gen Kanok Netrakawesana, the commander of the Suranaree Task Force, confirmed that Private Veerayuth Kaensarn, 22, was killed on Sunday afternoon by a landmine near the Don Ao border pass of Si Sa Ket province. The blast happened about three kilometres from Preah Vihear

Cambodia inaugurates first ethanol factory

November 18, 2008

by pna

HANOI, Nov. 18 — Cambodia opened its first ethanol factory, designed to produce bio-fuel from cassava flour on Monday, NAM news network reported.

The project, backed by investment totaling 40 million USD, has opened two branches in Kampong Cham and Battambang provinces to facilitate the purchase of cassava from local farmers, Prime Minister Hun Sen was quoted as saying at the opening ceremony of the pioneering venture, funded by the MH Bio-energy Group of the Republic of Korea.

It will directly create 192 job opportunities for local workers and encourage farmers in the region to plant more cassava, he said, adding that the factory has also invested in growing cassava on 8,000 hectares of land in Kampong Speu province.

Speaking at the ceremony, Industry, Mines and Energy Minister Suy Sem was quoted as stating that the factory has an output capacity of 36,000 tonnes of ethanol fuel per year, which will be exported primarily to the European market.

Cassava is one of the most important economic crops in rural Cambodia. Approximately 30,000 hectares of land were planted with cassava in 2005 in the kingdom, with a total yield of around 536,000 tons of flour, according to the news network. (PNA/VNA)

Rachel Hurley Learns Khmer

Rachel Hurley

The Angle

Visiting Alumna works in Cambodian literacy effort

Emily Kantner

Rachel Hurley has a heart for people, a heart that is bigger than most.

Hurley was born to American teachers in Brazil, but grew up in the United States. Having lived in Auburndale, FL most of her life, she attended Clearwater Christian College. Hurley graduated from Clearwater in 2003 with a B.A. in Bible. She then moved on to the Graduate Institute of Applied Linguistics in Dallas, Texas. Hurley graduated with an M.A. in applied linguistics in December of 2004.

Hurley partnered with Wycliffe Bible Translators, and in September 2006, traveled to Thailand for a month of training. In October of that same year, she moved to Cambodia, where she continues to be ministering.

During her first year in Cambodia, Rachel began to learn one of the native languages, Khmer. She also worked several different jobs, including one as a librarian.

Hurley then began work with International Cooperation Cambodia, located in Phnom Penh, the nation's capital. She is currently ministering in Ratanakiri Province among the Krung people. She will be learning their language in order to help increase literacy and address women's issues.

Hurley works as an ICC consultant with the Bible Society, where they translate Bibles and are working on standardizing the language.

She is also working with orphans, helping them seek anger management and complete job applications.

Hurley explains that it can be difficult to minister to the people of Cambodia. They have a relational culture, and thus find it difficult to trust people. The country also has a Communist influence, and many of the people are practically destitute.

Rachel described one of the most difficult aspects of her transition to Cambodia, "being different and sticking out." She is shy, but is learning to speak the language very well.

Rachel plans to continue her ministry in Cambodia and her dedicated work to the Krung people.

Cambodia's inflation rate declines in October

People's Daily Online
November 18, 2008

Cambodia's consumer price index grew by 18.12 percent from October 2007 to October 2008, marking a decrease of inflation rate this year, national media said on Tuesday.

The inflation rate stood at 22 percent in August and 20 percent in September, according to official figures.

While prices remain high compared with last year, some price changes that occurred month to month recently have slowed or reversed compared with previous trends, English-Khmer language newspaper the Cambodia Daily quoted official report as saying.

The financial crisis and the falling value of U.S. dollars have take a toll on the Cambodian economy, it quoted experts saying.

The high inflation seems to be decreasing in Cambodia, it quoted a bank source as saying.

From 2005 to 2007, Cambodia experienced double-digit economic growth and inflation became apparent at the beginning of this year.


UN legal chief to travel to Cambodia for talks

M&C Asia-Pacific News
Nov 18, 2008

Phnom Penh - UN Assistant Secretary-General Peter Taksoe-Jensen will travel to Cambodia this week to discuss the country's troubled Khmer Rogue tribunal with Deputy Prime Minister Sok An, national media reported on Tuesday.

Taksoe-Jensen requested the meeting amid ongoing allegations of corruption on the Cambodian side of the UN-backed court, the Phnom Penh Post reported.

The tribunal was established in 2006 after a decade of negotiations between the UN and the Cambodian government and will put on trial five former leaders of the genocidal Khmer Rogue regime.

The first trial is due to begin in early 2009.

Bearing witness

Photo by: Heng Chivoan

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Georgia Wilkins
Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Swede Gunnar Bergstrom, in town for the first time since he went on a propaganda tour of Democratic Kampuchea in 1978, visits Tuol Sleng, the high school-turned-torture-centre by the regime. The former communist, who wanted to believe Cambodia was becoming the ideal state, quickly learned he was misguided. He will travel around Cambodia this week with an exhibition of photos from the tour.

Opposition complaints irk premier

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Cheang Sokha and Vong Sokheng
Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Hun Sen warns Sam Rainsy lawmakers their seats at risk

PRIME Minister Hun Sen has threatened to expel Sam Rainsy Party lawmakers from the National Assembly if they continue accusing him of backing out of an agreement to formally recognise the role of the political opposition.

Hun Sen had earlier said parliamentary rules would be modified to accommodate the Sam Rainsy Party, in exchange for their last-minute promise to attend the swearing-in of the new National Assembly.

The opposition was threatening to boycott the ceremony - a move that could have delayed the formation of the new government following July's general elections - over alleged vote irregularities.

"Hun Sen did not cheat you to come to the [inauguration]. Whether you want to come or not is your right," he said during the opening of a Korean ethanol factory in Kandal province Monday, warning the SRP lawmakers that they "do not yet have parliamentary immunity" and could lose their seats.

Hun Sen also blasted the opposition over its request to share power in the National Assembly and its nine special commissions.

"Do not expect to get seats as deputy president or chairman on the commissions," Hun Sen said.

"The more you act rude, the less chance [positions] will be offered."

CPP lawmaker Cheam Yeap said the Assembly's commissions had already been determined.

"It is too late now for the SRP," he told the Post Monday. "We have invited them to join us, but they refused."

SRP lawmaker Yim Sovann said he was not surprised about the prime minister's warning. "I think that the threat against opposition representatives indicates that the ruling CPP is moving backward towards dictatorship," Yim Sovann said.

"It is the responsibility of the CPP to improve good governance."

The CPP overwhelmingly won the July vote.

UN legal expert to meet govt over tribunal

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Sam Rith and Georgia Wilkins
Tuesday, 18 November 2008

UN Assistant Secretary-General for Legal Affairs Peter Taksoe-Jensen is expected to meet with Deputy Prime Minister Sok An this week to discuss the beleaguered Khmer Rouge tribunal, according to media reports and government officials.

Koy Kuong, undersecretary of state at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, confirmed Monday that his ministry had received a letter dated November 6 from the diplomat, requesting time with Sok An.

“Peter Taksoe-Jensen sent the letter to Deputy Prime Minister Sok An through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs,” he told the Post Monday. “In the letter, he requested to meet with Sok An on November 20-21 to discuss the work of the Khmer Rouge tribunal.”

UN court spokesman Peter Foster confirmed that a meeting with a visiting UN official would take place but would not confirm it was Taksoe-Jensen.

The meeting would come at a time when the UN-backed court is still grappling with allegations of corruption on the Cambodian side of its operations.

Corruption still unconfirmed

The tribunal was rocked by graft allegations earlier this year. A UN oversight body completed a review in September into the complaints, which involve reported salary kickbacks.

But the results of this review have yet to be made public.

Sok An recently received a letter from defendant Nuon Chea’s defence team, who urged him to release information about the allegations as soon as possible.

The lawyers maintained that corruption at the court would obstruct their client’s right to a fair trial.

KR guest returns, repenting

Photo Courtesy of Gunnar Bergstrom
Gunnar Bergstrom at a former bus station in Kampong Cham province during his visit to Cambodia in 1978.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Georgia Wilkins
Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Thirty years after visiting Cambodia as a guest of the KR regime, Gunnar Bergstrom returns with an exhibition he hopes will say sorry to those who died

GUNNAR Bergstrom, a Swedish intellectual who once held Democratic Kampuchea in high esteem, does not remember much about his dinner with Pol Pot and Ieng Sary towards the end of 1978. But a comment he made in French to the former foreign minister while in the bathroom of the Royal Palace still lingers.

"He asked me about people who had applied to come to Cambodia... should we let them in, he asked, and I said, of course ... you have nothing to hide," he recalled Sunday.

Bergstrom was welcomed back to Phnom Penh on the weekend by the Documentation Centre of Cambodia (DC-Cam) to showcase photos from what he would later consider a propaganda tour arranged by the former regime leaders.

But the 57-year-old former communist, who will begin his travelling exhibition Tuesday, says he is here not only to make public his photo archive, but to reckon with past ideals, ones he believed led him and his colleagues to be a part of a "propaganda machine for murder".

"We saw things we wanted to believe - a cultural revolution, everyone the same, no corruption, no personality cult - this was the perfect communist revolution, we thought," he said. "But we were wearing Maoist glasses."

" We saw what they wanted us to see, but we also saw what we wanted to believe. "

Bergstrom was 27 when the regime invited him and four other members of the Sweden-Kampuchea Friendship Association, an unofficial delegation, to see firsthand the country post-revolution. They had politically allied themselves, like thousands of European intellectuals, against America and its own propaganda war against communism.

"We saw what they wanted us to see, but we also saw what we wanted to believe," he said.

But the 14-day tour, which guided them through seemingly industrious towns, working hospitals and happy villages, left a sour taste in his mouth.

"I found when I wrote the book that there were forbidden thoughts that I had at the time, thoughts that I never expressed to anyone because they were self-censored," he said. "Even things that we acknowledged did happen, we put down to a young revolution.... We always found an excuse."

The next year, his ideals were finally reconciled with what was slowly becoming known to the rest of the world. But for Bergstrom, this was too late.

"We should have understood," he said.

The exhibition, titled "Gunnar in the Living Hell", will open Tuesday afternoon at the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum.

Bergstrom will also speak at an opening at the Reyum Arts Gallery later in the evening. The exhibition will travel to Cambodia's UN-backed Khmer Rouge tribunal, as well as galleries in Kampong Cham, Takeo and Battambang. It will then be put on permanent display at the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, where he hopes it will mark his remorse.

"[I am sorry] to Cambodian people for what happened, or in a sense, my part in it. I supported and became part of a propaganda machine for murder. So, I say sorry to the victims," he said.

Police say no investigation into DJ Ano 'disappearance'

Photo by: HIM VICHET
DJ Ano poses for the camera in a photograph timestamped on November 10.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Meas Sokchea
Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Local magazine claims the popular TV presenter returned to Cambodia last week unharmed despite reported razor attack

POLICE have no plans to investigate the alleged attack on popular television presenter DJ Ano and her subsequent disappearance from public view since no complaint has been filed in the case, senior police officials told the Post.

"How can we investigate it?" said Interior Ministry Penal Police Chief Mok Chito, adding that neither Ano, whose real name is Suon Pheakdei, nor her family have lodged a formal complaint.

Rumours have been swirling that Ano was attacked with razor blades by the wife of a high-ranking official and that, fearing for her life and in desperate need of medical treatment, she fled to Vietnam.

But the Khmer-language newspaper Rasmey Kampuchea reported Monday that the starlet has denied ever being attacked and would file a lawsuit against anyone claiming that she was the victim of an assault.

Seng Sitheang, the publisher of Angkor Thom magazine, said that his colleague met with Ano last week and that he took 85 photos of her that showed no evidence of an attack.

Him Vichet, a reporter at Angkor Thom magazine, said Ano returned to Cambodia on November 9 without any visible injuries and that he interviewed her the following day.

"I looked at her, and her face and body are still the same. There were no scars on her. Her face is still nice," Him Vichet said.

Ano told Him Vichet that she did not go to Vietnam, but instead went on a three-country tour, he said.

Ano's employer, TV3 Director General Kham Poun Keomony, called her case "her own personal story" and did not know details of her disappearance.

He said, however, that he had heard that Ano was healthy.

"I do not know her whereabouts, but I have heard that she is well. If she is well, we will welcome her back at TV3," Kham Poun Keomony said.

Ratanakkiri Airport renovation draws slowly closer: officials

The renovated Ratanakkiri Airport is to include a runway that has been extended 200 metres to 1,500 metres, improved safety equipment and a new terminal, transforming the facility from a dilapidated provincial airstrip to something more appealing.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by SAM RITH
Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Officials claim the airport is key to the province's future as a tourism hotspot, but soon-to-be evicted households need to be compensated

RATANAKKIRI provincial officials expect more tourists to take domestic flights to the isolated province once renovations to the provincial airport are completed, but determining compensation for those evicted as a result of the airport's expansion poses one last hurdle before construction can begin.

With Cambodia's recent promotion of Ratanakkiri as an ecotourism hotspot, the airport's reopening can't come soon enough.

"Ratanakkiri is different from other provinces because it is the ecotourism province. But right now, it takes a long time to travel to Ratanakkiri province by roads," said Sinn Chan Sereyvutha, who is managing the Ratanakkiri Airport upgrade on behalf of the State Secretariat of Civil Aviation.

" We have met with two issues: A LACK OF MONEY AND THE ... AFFECTED FAMILIES. "

Ratanakkiri provincial Deputy Governor Sim You Song emphasised the importance of a working airport to increase the number of tourists visiting the province.

"[Ratanakkiri] has a lot of potential to attract tourists," he said. "But even when in the future we have good, paved roads, the tourists will still take flights because it will always take a long time to reach Ratanakkiri by road."

Ratanakkiri province is about 588 kilometres from Phnom Penh.

The airport first opened in 1965 but has been closed for renovations for two years after a plane operated by local carrier PMT Air skidded off the runway.

Sinn Chan Sereyvutha said, "We are a bit behind schedule because we have met with two issues: a lack of money and the problem of affected families."

The money problems are the result of an increase in the cost of construction materials, Sinn Chan Sereyvutha said. Originally, the project was supposed to cost about US$5 million, with the Asian Development Bank providing a loan to cover 70 percent of costs. Now that the project will cost an additional $2 million, the government only reluctantly decided to pony up the extra funds.

"Now, we just have the small issue of solving the problem of the 42 affected families," he said.

Sokha Ouk, a social safeguard officer at the ADB, said that the construction will start only after the government has paid compensation to the families who will be evicted by the airport expansion.

Previously, the families facing eviction threatened to protest the airport upgrade and to keep the airport closed for even longer.

PM cancels Kampot trip, citing storm fears

The Phnom Penh Post

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

PRIME Minister Hun Sen has cancelled a trip to the coastal province of Kampot, citing fears of a tropical storm that is set to sweep through southern Cambodia this week.

Hun Sen was scheduled to attend the groundbreaking ceremony of the Kamchay hydropower dam in Kampot today but expressed concerns about safety in the wake of the helicopter crash that killed National Police Commissioner Hok Lundy and three others on November 9.

It is believed the helicopter crashed due to heavy rain.

"I will not take any risk because of the accident that happened to our four patriots flying at night and in heavy rain, " Hun Sen said at the opening of an ethanol factory in Kandal province Monday. "We regret their loss."

Meanwhile, Lim Kean Hor, minister of Water Management and Meteorology, has issued a public notice warning that heavy rain and electrical storms are expected to pound the southern coast in the next few days and that locals should exercise caution.

"All travellers by land, sea and air have to increase their attention in order to avoid any accidents that might occur," the statement said.

The Vietnamese government has issued similar alerts over tropical storm Noul, which is expected to make landfall off the Vietnamese coast late Monday.

The warnings come after a fortnight of unusually heavy downpours in Vietnam, which has seen record floods across the country.


Lao dams muddying the waters

Construction of the Kamchay hydropower dam in Kampot province continues in this file photo. NGOs say dam projects in southern Laos will impact on Cambodians while delivering few of benefits.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Sebastian strangio and Sam Rith
Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Environmentalists say regional forums have proven themselves inadequate to address the cross-border impacts of a slew of hydropower dam projects planned for southern Laos

ASPATE of new hydropower projects slated for construction in southern Laos could wreak havoc downstream in Cambodia, according to environmental groups, but international agreements governing the sustainable development of the Mekong River basin lack the capacity to address the trans-boundary impacts of the dams.

Six large dams are already under construction in Laos, with a further 12 at an advanced stage of planning, part of a long-term Lao government strategy to turn the country into the "battery of Asia" by exporting hydroelectricity to power-starved Thailand and Vietnam.

But some NGOs are concerned that Cambodia may be shouldering the social and environmental burdens of the projects while sharing few - if any - of the economic benefits.

Power Surge: The Impacts of Rapid Dam Development in Laos, a report released by International Rivers in September, argues that projects earmarked for the deep valleys of southern Laos are unsustainable and will have far-reaching effects across the border in Cambodia.

According to the report, the projects planned "will cause irreparable social, environmental and economic losses" that will "likely far outweigh any revenue or electricity benefits they would provide".

The report argues that the 600mw Sekong 4 dam, planned for the Sekong River, a key Mekong tributary (see map), could lead to "declines in aquatic resources in Laos and downstream areas of Cambodia, and even as far away as the mainstream Mekong River in Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam".

It also highlights problems with the planned Don Sahong (240-360mw) project, which will be situated on the Mekong mainstream near Khone Falls on the Lao border.

"The Don Sahong project would block the main channel that is passable by migratory fish year round in the Khone Falls area ... with devastating consequences for fisheries and fishery-based livelihoods ... throughout the wider Mekong region," the report states. "

Approval of the Don Sahong dam would set a dangerous precedent for the seven other risky projects under consideration for the lower Mekong mainstream."

Lack of notification

Despite the likely effects of the Lao dams, some claim that there has been little coordination between the two governments over the issue of trans-boundary impacts.

"[Don Sahong] will have a very negative impact on fisheries in Cambodia and Laos. But the Cambodian government said that they have not heard anything from the Lao government," said Ngy San, deputy executive director of the NGO Forum on Cambodia.

"In my opinion, the decision on the hydropower dams has not been consultative. It rests on a small group of people."

The Power Surge report found that even where environmental impact studies have been commissioned by the Lao government, they have ignored trans-boundary impacts.

"There have been insufficient cross-border investigations and dialogue about the dams, and no fieldwork or investigations have taken place in Cambodia," it said.

Kim Sangha, coordinator of the Sesan-Srepok-Sekong (3S) Protection Network in Ratanakkiri province, said Vietnam's Yali Falls dam on the Sesan river, which has affected local communities since its construction in 1993, illustrated the importance of transparency in the planning of dam developments.

"All the dams in Vietnam have lacked good designs, and there was a lack consultation with all the stakeholders in the region [and] between the governments of Vietnam and Cambodia," he said.

"If [the Laotians] don't learn from the Sesan cases, there will be serious impacts."

Sustainable development?

The coordination of regional hydropower development and the resolution of trans-boundary disputes is ostensibly handled by the Mekong River Commission (MRC), of which Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam are members.

The Mekong Agreement, which established the commission in 1995, pledges the four governments to "promote in a constructive and mutually beneficial manner the sustainable development, utilisation, conservation and management of the Mekong River Basin".

However, scientists and environmental activists contacted by the Post said the commission lacked the political will to foster international dialogue about the social and environmental effects of dam developments.

"The MRC doesn't have enough capacity to force governments to apply best practices or international standards," said Kim Sangha.

"In reality, the MRC is ineffective in terms of cultivating development partners in the region, including NGOs, governments and donors."

Carl Middleton, Mekong program coordinator for International Rivers, said that national interests often short-circuited the commission's ability to pursue sustainability goals.

"The MRC's ability to enforce the 1995 agreement is based on the willingness of the four member governments to respect the provisions of the agreement," he said.

"There appears to be no reasoned river basin planning process taking place at either the national or regional level," he added.

Ngy San agreed that the divergence between the commission's goals and those of its member states created unavoidable contradictions.

"The reality is that the forming of the MRC was just a way for separate countries to look out for their own interests, rather than that of the Greater Mekong region," he said.

" The MRC doesn't have enough capacity to force governments to apply international standards."

"There should be a strong mechanism to implement the agreement since each of the countries have different perceptions of what [it] means."

Another issue is that the Mekong Agreement's stipulations do not apply as forcefully to the river's tributaries, where many of the Lao dam projects are planned.

"On major tributaries ... where trans-boundary impacts have already occurred from hydropower projects built in Vietnam, the MRC system has proved itself inadequate to negotiate redress for downstream affected communities in Cambodia," Middleton said.

He added that the Don Sahong dam, as the first dam project planned for the lower reaches of the Mekong mainstream, will be a key test of the commission's commitment to sustainable development.

However, Pich Dun, secretary general of the Cambodian National Mekong Committee (CNMC), said the 1995 agreement had been strengthened by efforts to encourage regional cooperation - including dialogue with non-MRC members Myanmar and China - and improved implementation of its aims.

"We have many programs in place to solve problems and share the benefits of the development of these potential resources," he said.

He cited the commission's data and information sharing procedures, which aim to "promote understanding and cooperation among the MRC member countries", and the consultative meeting held in Vientiane in September, as indications that the commission welcomes input on the impacts of dam developments.

Pich Dun said the Cambodians had entered into dialogue with the Lao government over its plans, but added that information on some projects could not be provided until feasibility studies had been completed.

"Our government - based on consultations with the Lao government and with various stakeholders and NGOs - is very worried about the development of hydropower on the [Mekong] mainstream and in other parts of Laos," he said.

"So far, they have provided information on these development projects, [and] they have sent a list of their projects to the CNMC," he said, adding that no formal talks over the projects have been started yet.

He added that the Don Sahong dam was a particular concern, but that negotiations would begin once the feasibility study and environmental impact assessment of the project had been completed.

While recognising the commission's efforts, environmentalists said the four member states should go further to ensure development is balanced against its social and ecological costs.

"There is an urgent need to prioritise projects through a process that is accountable to the public," Middleton said.

"This process would differentiate between projects where benefits outweigh the costs ... and projects where the costs are too great and should be left aside."

But Richard Cronin, head of the Southeast Asia program at the Henry L Stimson Centre in Washington, DC, said the regional forum of the MRC would likely take a back seat to face-to-face negotiations.

"My own guess is that they ultimately will address these issues bilaterally," he said, adding that he expected China to act as a broker between Cambodia and Laos - a better solution, ultimately, than none at all.

"The Mekong Delta will likely suffer the greatest impact if these projects go ahead. I'm pretty sure that not all of them will, but it only takes a couple to kill the fisheries," he said.

End of the party


The Phnom Penh Post

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Workers on Sunday morning dismantle one of the barges that lit up the Tonle Sap nightly during the Water Festival. Each year these floating light displays are set up to represent different ministries of the government.

Travel photographers learn to seek 'poetry' in the chaotic

Photo by: Christopher Shay
A man hangs laundry out to dry in a floating village in Kompong Chhnang during a day-long photo tour led by Nathan Horton.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Christopher Shay
Monday, 17 November 2008

Daylong photography tours of Cambodian countryside led by professional shooter Nathan Horton offer shutterbugs opportunity to put theory into practice

ATOP the hills of Udong, Cambodia's former capital from the 17th to the 19th century, photographer Nathan Horton leads a small group of aspiring shutterbugs through stupas set against the sunset.

As the group photographs the panoramic scenery, Horton encourages them to experiment with their cameras."When you're shooting silhouettes, look for strong shapes," he said. "Try shooting this on the ‘cloudy' setting of your white balance. It makes the picture warmer.

"Horton, a professional photographer for 22 years, has run daylong workshops every Saturday and multiday photography tours of Cambodia since 2006, during which he shares his considerable store of photographic tips.

The theory

Horton began this day's tour with a three-hour session during which he explained the technical aspects of photography, compositional techniques and the ethics of travel photography.

Horton's tours are aimed at novice and experienced photographers alike, and he balances his talks with basic information about how a camera works - f-stops and shutter speeds - and more advanced, technical information, such as dynamic auto focus versus single-area focus.

Where his workshop really shined, however, was with the nontechnical advice he offered. "Travel photography is about going into the chaotic world and looking for a bit of poetry," he said.

" It is up to the photographer to step out and find something different. "

"A photographer needs to be sharp, predict what's going to happen and be able to observe light.... There are lots of good pictures out there, but you have to go look for them," he added.

Students do not need a fancy camera to join Horton's classes or to take good photos. He admits that expensive cameras give photographers more control but emphasises that "cameras don't take photos, people do".

One key to being a good travel photographer, he said, is to really engage with the environment and the people you are photographing.

His first tip to being a successful photographer was a simple one. "You need to go for a walk. You can't get to know a culture or properly photograph it through an air-conditioned cab," he said.

His emphasis on the importance of responsible engagement is related to his belief that a camera can be "a key to get into places and discover new things". In his experience, travel photography allows greater access to local culture, so long as "you don't shove your camera into the locals's faces without asking".

Shooting 'poetry'
The first stop on the photography tour was Kampong Chhnang, at a floating village about an hour and half outside of Phnom Penh. While Horton imparted a lot of information at his studio, it was not until everyone was out shooting that the ideas became clearer.

Armed with digital cameras, the group traveled by boat through a small, floating fishing village and learned how to photograph reflective surfaces and make clouds look more dramatic.

"Look how the light coming from this direction brings out the colours," he said as he compared backlit houses on one side of the river with houses illuminated by warm, evening light on the other.

From Kampong Chhnang, Horton led the group to Udong, Cambodia's capital from 1618 to 1866. Located on a series of hills, Udong is an ideal place to view sunsets, as it affords a photographer 360-degree views of the countryside.

Horton assisted students in the class with technical aspects of their camera and demonstrated how these technical decisions were also aesthetic ones.

Soraya Verjee, one of the students in the group, praised Horton's class. "I thought it was a good introduction. It was really useful. At the very least, it was quite nice to get out of the city and see another part of Cambodia," she said.

Horton concluded the day's tour with a final word of encouragement.

"It is up to you as a photographer to step out and find something a bit different," he said.

Obama, McCain To Meet

As the Obama transition team vets potential cabinet members, the Barack Obama will meet with Sen. John McCain, reports Cynthia Bowers. Obama has already spoken with Sen. Hillary Clinton.

Declining Number of Tourists Affects the Livelihood of Those Providing Tourism Services - Monday, 17.11.2008

Posted on 18 November 2008
The Mirror, Vol. 12, No. 587

“Phnom Penh: The global financial crisis and the internal political crisis in Thailand, which led to the Cambodian-Thai border disputes, are the major reasons, seen by expert officials, that makes the number of tourists to Cambodia decline. The decline in the number of tourists during the starting tourism season in Siem Reap, an important economic center, is directly affecting the everyday livelihood of those providing tourism services in this former capital of Angkor.

“The Minister of Tourism recognized that the global financial crisis and the confrontation with Thailand in the Preah Vihear region slows the number of tourists to Cambodia down, but Cambodia will make all efforts to guarantee the safety of tourists, and to promote the further growth of tourism.

“Mr. Tan Bunchhay, a taxi driver of a three-wheeler moto – which is mostly known as a Tuk-Tuk – said, ‘Every year, during November, there were many tourists to carry…, but this year it is not so, and it is somewhat difficult to cover the needs of the everyday economy.’ This driver and many other people, whose jobs are to directly provide tourism services, are facing difficulties in their daily livelihood, because the number of tourists visiting the region of this former capital declines, making it difficult for them to find income to support their families.

“As for Mr. Theng Lay, who is also a three-wheeler moto taxi driver, posted in front of a hotel in Siem Reap, complained similarly that it is difficult to earn one’s everyday living, because the number of drivers increased, while the number of tourists does not increase much. It is reported that there are at least more than 2,000 drivers in Siem Reap. Moreover, also, hotel services and restaurants face the lack of tourists. There were many tourists during this month last year, and the provision of services was hectic.

“The owner of the Mlub Tnot Angkor Restaurant ['Shade of Angkor Palm Trees'], Mr. Bun Try, noticed that the number of tourists during this season declined by approximately 20% compared to the same period last year. He said that this drop impacts badly on those earning their daily living depending on tourism.

“The loss of everyday jobs and income for the families is a consequence resulting from the decline in the number of tourists to Cambodia since July 2008.

“The president of the Cambodian Association of Travel Agents, Mr. Ho Vandy, said that it is true that the confrontation between Khmer and Thai troops at the Preah Vihear Temple tourism site, the political turmoil in Thailand, and the global financial crisis - the biggest problem - are recognized as reasons contributing to the decrease in the number of tourists visiting Cambodia in 2008. Cambodia expects that there might be approximately 2.5 million tourists in 2008, while in 2007, Cambodia received more than 2.1 million tourists, earning more than US$1.7 billion for the national budget. However, the expectation to receive more than 2.5 million tourists might change.

“The Minister of Tourism, Mr. Thong Khon, said that the global financial crisis and the confrontation in the Preah Vihear region with Thailand slow down the growth of tourism in Cambodia. Mr. Thong Khon explained that for those earning their everyday living depending on tourism, they say that the global financial crisis is a problem for the whole world, and it needs to be handled globally, but the Cambodian government must take action to attract tourists, like by solving different depressing problems in the sector of tourism services, by building good infrastructure to different touristic sites around Cambodia, by dealing with the military confrontation along the border regions as soon as possible, as well as by organizing various events attracting more tourists to visit Cambodia. The Minister of Tourism, Mr. Thong Khon, added that at present, the Cambodian government is implementing new policies to attract the attention of tourists to visit Cambodia, specifically by publicizing the potential of tourism to Cambodia in different countries, such as in Russia and in Arab countries, to add to the number of European tourists that is already big. Mr. Thong Khon pointed to the need to create new policies by the government to develop tourism to grow continually in the future.

“Nevertheless, the Cambodian government and those earning their daily living depending on tourism, especially in Siem Reap in the Angkor region, are optimistic that the number of tourists might increase again after the black cloud of the global financial crisis will have gone, and their livelihood might become richer again, while some three-wheeler moto drivers had already announced to sell their vehicles, because there are no tourists to be carried, which makes it impossible for them to find income to support their families, and some restaurants have to be closed temporarily, because there are no guests.

“According to the numbers mentioned by the Ministry of Tourism for the nine months of 2008, there were more than 1.5 million tourists to Cambodia; there was only a 10% increase compared to last year. The Cambodian government expects that foreign tourists might increase to not more than 2.2 million in 2008.”

Khmer Sthapana, Vol.1, #140, 16-17.11.2008
Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Monday, 17 November 2008

CPC delegation wraps up visit to Cambodia

People's Daily Online
November 17, 2008

A delegation of the Communist Party of China (CPC) wrapped up its goodwill visit to Cambodia here on Monday after meetings senior government and ruling party leaders, and will depart on Tuesday morning.

During the visit, the delegation led by Zhang Gaoli, member of the CPC Central Committee's Political Bureau and CPC Secretary of Tianjin Municipality, met with Cambodian King Norodom Sihamoni and Vice Chairman of the Cambodian People's Party (CPP) and Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen respectively, and visited the headquarters of CPP and the Funcinpec Party of Cambodia.

During the meeting with the king on Monday morning, Zhang highly appreciated the important contribution made by former King Norodom Sihanouk to develop the traditional Chinese-Cambodian relations, and expressed thanks for the positive efforts made by King Sihamoni to push forward the bilateral ties between the two countries.

China will continue to support Cambodia in the fields of independence, peace, reconstruction and development, he added.

King Sihamoni said that Cambodia and China, as the best friends, have shared long and traditional friendship and overall cooperative ties.

Cambodia will consistently support the One-China Policy and the peaceful reunification of China, he added.

During the meeting with Hun Sen on Monday afternoon, Zhang made positive evaluation of the reconstruction and development of Cambodia, and appreciated the kingdom's consistent and determined stand to carry on the One-China Policy.

The Chinese side is willing to join hands with the Cambodian side to push the good relations between the two countries to higher levels, he said.

Hun Sen thanked CPC and the Chinese government for its everlasting support and help for the stability and development of Cambodia and showed his satisfaction of the consistent and positive development of the overall cooperative partnership between Cambodia and China.

Cambodia will adhere to the One-China Policy, further develop the traditional friendship, and enhance the exchange and cooperation in various fields between the two countries, he said.

The 17-member CPC delegation arrived in Cambodia on Nov. 15 under the invitation of CPP and Funcinpec, and will leave Phnom Penh on Nov. 18 to continue its regional tour, which also includes Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam.

Source: Xinhua

Europe bans Siem Reap Airways


Siem Reap Airways International has been banned from operating at European airports by the European Commission (EC), which has called the carrier's safety standards into question, national media reported Monday.

The EC has released an update to its air carrier "blacklist", banning Siem Reap Airways and other carriers determined not to be in compliance with international standards from operating in Europe, the Phnom Penh Post said.

Siem Reap Airways, a subsidiary of Bangkok Airways International, is licensed by the Cambodian government to offer domestic service between Siem Reap and Phnom Penh.

"I can't comment at this time," a manager for Siem Reap Airways attending a meeting in Bangkok told the Post Sunday by phone, but added that the carrier would provide a response later this week.

The carrier currently offers no direct service to European Union countries, and Cambodian aviation officials say the ban was most likely meant as a precautionary measure.

"Siem Reap (Airways) does not fly to Europe. Probably the (EC) was giving a warning beforehand, in case Siem Reap Airways planned to open service to Europe," Him Sarun, chief of Cabinet for the Civil Aviation State Secretariat, was quoted as saying.

Him Sarun said top civil aviation officials, led by Tea Sutha, secretary of state for civil aviation, Keo Sivorn, director of flight operations, and Chea Aun, director general for civil aviation, went to Brussels last week to discuss Cambodia's compliance with standards set by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).

The ban would not affect current service within Asian countries, Him Sarun said, adding that details from the meeting in Brussels would be released this week.


CAMBODIA: Arsenic in Mekong putting 1.7 million at risk

A child dives into the Mekong River in Cambodia, where millions of nearby residents are at risk of dangerous ailments due to arsenic poisoning

" In the 1990s, a lot of poorly planned NGOs built wells for villages and did not fully understand the long-term situation after they left. "

PHNOM PENH, 17 November 2008 (IRIN) - Arsenic contamination of the Mekong River and groundwater is putting millions of residents at risk of severe illness due to arsenic poisoning, the UN and NGOs warned.

After surveying wells along the Mekong, which flows through Lao PDR, Cambodia and Vietnam, the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) and governments concluded that as many as 1.7 million people were at risk of arsenic poisoning, whose long-term symptoms include skin lesions and cancer.

Twenty-one percent of the Vietnamese population is exposed to arsenic above the World Health Organization's acceptable level of 10ppb (parts per billion). It is found not just in groundwater but in bottled water, tap water, even fish, according to the Vietnam Ministry of Health.

In Cambodia and Laos, the precise numbers of people exposed to arsenic contamination is not yet known, though UNICEF and government agencies are compiling a report to be released later this year.

In some provinces along the Mekong River in Vietnam and Cambodia, residents are exposed to 30 times the acceptable level of arsenic, according to data from the Vietnam Ministry of Health.

Water containing arsenic above 300ppb could cause cancer within three to four years, the Health Ministry said.

Arsenic has no taste or smell, and can take years of slow build-up before symptoms are revealed, making it especially hazardous and hard to detect.

Contamination caused by sedimentation

"Arsenic contamination in the Mekong is understood to have been caused by recent sedimentation," Thowai Sha Zai, chief of UNICEF's water, environment, and sanitation (WES) division in Vietnam, told IRIN.

Sedimentation refers to the process whereby sediment accumulates, often with the side-effect of accumulating naturally occurring arsenic through chemical interactions.

"It is not known if this has been caused by other reasons as well, such as industrial pollution, since there has been no scientific study or evidence on that," he added.

Clearing arsenic from water supplies is costly, so authorities in Cambodia instead paint contaminated wells red and instruct residents to use them only for washing clothes and dishes.

In Vietnam, UNICEF and the government have provided rural residents with special filters to strain the water to reduce their exposure.

Yet some villagers remain scared of poisoning, even if only using the water for washing clothes. "We have abandoned many wells," Le Giau, a Vietnamese Mekong resident at the Vietnam-Cambodia border, told IRIN, adding that they were afraid of what could happen to them if they wore clothes with arsenic residue.

Since clean drinking water is hard to come by, some residents collect rainwater.

"In the 1990s, a lot of poorly planned NGOs built wells for villages and did not fully understand the long-term situation after they left," said one Cambodian NGO employee in Phnom Penh, who asked not to be named. "Many were short-term volunteer programmes that didn't teach people about the dangers of arsenic from their wells."

Arsenic poisoning became a public health crisis in India and Bangladesh at the time, and later gained more attention in Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, and China, which all depend on the Mekong.

Premier Lost Ally, Not Power, in Chief's Crash

The late Hok Lundy is pictured directly behind Prime Minister Hun Sen as the premier returns from a trip to Beijing in October.

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

Khmer audio aired 16 November 2008 - Download (MP3) Khmer audio aired 16 November 2008 - Listen (MP3)

Prime Minister Hun Sen lost a strong ally within the Interior Ministry when the plane carrying late police chief Hok Lundy crashed Nov. 9, but officials say the prime minister's power will not be affected by a replacement.

Officials said last week that the loss of Hok Lundy, who led the national police since 1994, would be great to the government, but they were convinced national stability would not be affected.

"Nothing will change, stability will remain," said Em Sam An, secretary of state for the Interior Ministry, as he greeted a delegation of Vietnamese officials during funeral ceremonies for Hok Lundy last week. "We are sorry to lose the man. But our forces are in place and in good order. No problems will arrive. The situation in our country is getting better."

Hok Lundy was a powerful member of the Cambodian People's Party, appointed by Hun Sen "as part of an internal power play in the CPP" to take control of the police from CPP stalwarts Chea Sim, who is president of the Senate, and Sar Kheng, who is Minister of the Interior, said Brad Adams, Asia director for Human Rights Watch.

Hok Lundy's appointment came at a time of instability, following a failed coup attempt against Hun Sen and then co-prime minister Norodom Ranariddh, in 1994. His death, in a helicopter crash in Svay Rieng province, was a loss of a powerful right hand, but was not destabilizing, Adams said.

"After Hun Sen, he was probably the most feared man in Cambodia," Adams said.

Gen. Neth Savoeun, Hok Lundy's deputy and Hun Sen's nephew-in-law, has been named to replace the late police chief. Hok Lundy faced accusations of murder, extrajudicial killings and human trafficking, as well as collaboration in the 1997 grenade attack on opposition supporters that killed 16 people.

Neth Savoeun, who was the head of the criminal police section in the Phnom Penh Municipal Police, comes from the same security system, Adams said.

"Even in the 1980s, [Neth Savoeun] had a reputation for being among the most violent members of a very repressive security system," Adams said. "He too has been implicated in many serious human rights abuses and other crimes over the past two decades."

That appointment will likely not be challenged by Sar Kheng, Adams said.

Gen. Neth Savoeun declined comment.

Lt. Gen. Khieu Sopheak, a spokesman for the Interior Ministry and adviser to Sar Kheng, dismissed the allegations, saying the police were on a five-year plan to maintain stability.
Even the US had shown Hok Lundy was "clean," he said, and had offered him a visa in 2007 to visit Washington for talks with the FBI.

"We know that Brad Adams has never talked good about our country, Cambodia," Khieu Sopheak said. "The facts differ from what he says."

He denied a factional split within the CPP, citing the party's win of 90 of 123 National Assembly seats in July's elections as proof of unity.

"Brad Adams' comments bear no merit," he said. "I mean, the dog barks, and the CPP cart moves ahead to 90 seats."

Kek Galabru, founder of the rights group Licadho, declined to comment on Hok Lundy's reputation, following Cambodian tradition, but said she hoped the new police chief would better honor human rights.

"I am speaking carefully because he has died, and we should not curse the dead," she said.

"Cambodians know His Excellency Hok Lundy, so I don't need to comment more. The US government denied him a visa, so we all know there were a lot of allegations."

Her sentiments were echoed by Lt. Gen. Sok Phal, another Hok Lundy deputy, who warned reporters off strong criticism last week, asking they not "write something irrelevant which would impact the Khmers or our leaders" and should "write proper articles in his name, as the leader of the national police."

Leaders Face Another Year in Tribunal Jail

Former Khmer Rouge leaders Ieng Thirith, left, and Ieng Sary.

By Kong Sothanarith, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
17 November 2008

Arrested Nov. 12, 2007, former Khmer Rouge minister of foreign affairs, Ieng Sary, and his wife, Ieng Thirith, will see at least another year in detention, according to investigating judges at the Khmer Rouge tribunal.

Meanwhile, Khieu Samphan, the former figurehead of the regime, could face the same extension.
In a decision dated Nov. 10 and announced Monday, tribunal judges You Bunleng and Marcel Lemond explained the necessity of the detention of the leaders, who are facing atrocity crimes charges.

Releasing them could lead to the destruction of evidence, intimidation of witnesses, or the disturbance of public order, the judges said in the decision. The broad dimensions and complications of the cases and seriousness of the crimes against them led to the decision, the judges said.

Phat Touv Siang, defense for Ieng Thirith, said he planned to discuss with his international counterpart the decision.

“We will appeal, because if she remains detained, it will make trouble, physically and psychologically,” he said.

Ang Udom, defense of Ieng Sary, said he was taking an appeal “under consideration.”
“We have one month from now” to file the appeal, he said.

The extension of detention must be decided year by year, over a three-year period.

Ieng Sary, 83, and Ieng Thirith, who is around 67, were arrested together at their Phnom Penh villa and are both charged with crimes against humanity and war crimes.

Khieu Samphan’s one-year detention anniversary is Wednesday.

“Now the court is taking his case under consideration, whether the court will extend his detention or not,” You Bunleng said.

UN Official To Arrive for Tribunal Talks

The courts are moving toward their first trial of a Khmer Rouge leader, Duch, above.
By Sok Khemara, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
17 November 2008

Khmer audio aired 14 November 2008 - Download (MP3) Khmer audio aired 14 November 2008 - Listen (MP3)

UN Assistant Secretary-General for Legal Affairs Peter Taksoe-Jensen will meet with Council Minister Sok An in coming days over the Khmer Rouge tribunal, a UN spokeswoman said.

The meeting would "address a number of issues of common concern to the United Nations and the Cambodian authority," the spokeswoman, Choi Sung-ah, said, declining to elaborate.

The visit comes amid standing allegations of corruption and mismanagement on the Cambodian side of the courts, which led to the delay of hundreds of thousands of dollars in donor funding earlier this year.

The courts are preparing for the first trial of five jailed Khmer Rouge leaders, of prison chief Duch, which is expected to get underway early next year.

Tribunal observers said Taksoe-Jensen's visit was to review budgets and future plans, as well as management and cooperation and a meeting with donors in Phnom Penh.

Chinese Arrive for Talks on Trade, Relations

By Heng Reaksmey, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
17 November 2008

An official Chinese delegation arrived in Phnom Penh Monday for talks on bilateral relations and trade, an official said.

The delegation, led by Communist party member Zhang Gaoli, met with Prime Minister Hun Sen late Monday.

Ieng Sophalet, an adviser to Hun Sen, called the talks and exchange between “China and Cambodia, between party and party.”

Relations “should be strengthened between people and people, civil servants and civil servants, and could come closer and make friends with each other, especially in investment. We should push investment between the two countries deeply.

Hun Sen promised to continue cooperation between the two countries.

China’s president, prime minister, foreign affairs minister, wrote individual letters to the King Norodom Sihamoni, former king Norodom Sihanouk, Hun Sen and Foreign Affairs Minister Hor Namhong congratulating each on Cambodia’s Independence Day earlier this month.

China has emerged as a willing donor to Cambodia in recent years, providing much aid with little of the attachments found with western donors. Earlier this month, a Chinese warship docked in Sihanoukville for an exchange between military officials.

Malaria Developing Worrisome Resistance

By Chiep Mony, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
17 November 2008

Khmer audio aired 17 November 2008 (682 KB) - Download (MP3)
Khmer audio aired 17 November 2008 (682 KB) - Listen (MP3)

Cambodia’s western provinces have been developing a resistance to the only anti-malaria medication the government uses, a worried health official said Monday.

“I’m worried so much about malaria,” said Duong Socheat, director of the National Malaria Center. “Artemisinin is the No. 1 drug. Its ability is decreasing.”

The National Malaria Center had taken measures to cure malaria outbreaks, including the examination of malaria resistant to the drug. The center also provides education to villagers to use the drug properly and urges people to sleep under mosquito nets.

Cambodia began using the drug in 2000. Now it is used “100 percent” in state hospitals. Resistance to the drug began showing up around 2005, Duong Socheat said.

This year, the government used 3.6 million tablets of the drug, he said. Some of the medication was provided by the Chinese government, he said. About 70 people nationwide have died from malaria so far this year, he said.

“If malaria becomes resistant to artemisinin,” he said, “gradually, more patients of malaria will die.”

Purchase of pyrotechnics ignites debate

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by May Kunmakara
Monday, 17 November 2008

ARECENT spate of national celebrations had the government spending upwards of US$50,000 on pyrotechnics last month. But the Kingdom's fireworks makers are crying foul, saying preference was given to Chinese firms at the expense of local manufacturers.

"In previous years, I could earn a lot of money. This year I've only sold about $4,500 worth of fireworks for the Water Festival," said Cheang Kim, a fireworks maker from Kampong Speu province.

He said that the government had opted to purchase the bulk of fireworks used this year from Chinese companies.

Last week's three-day Water Festival included pyrotechnic displays on each night of the celebration.

According to Chea Kean, deputy director of the National and International Festival Committee, for this year's Water Festival, Independence Day and Coronation Day celebrations, the government spent about US$50,000 on pyrotechnics consisting of both foreign-made fireworks and local brands manufactured in Kampong Speu province.

He defended the decision to purchase foreign-made products, saying "we bought thousands of fireworks from China because they are higher quality and made to international standards".

A matter of safety

According to one government official, the decision to purchase foreign-made fireworks was guided by the need to ensure the safety of spectators at what was expected to be the largest-ever Water Festival.

Officials predicted that as many as four million people would converge on the capital. No attendance figures have been given yet.

"We don't want to buy large amounts of locally-made fireworks because they are made by hand, and we're concerned about the safety of people attending the celebration," said Ith Sarath, a major general at the Ministry of Defence.

Spending figures from last year's festival were not available.

Gunnar Bergstrom, a former Swedish leftist who sympathized with the Khmer Rouge regime, points down during his tour to S21 Toul Sleng

Gunnar Bergstrom, a former Swedish leftist who sympathized with the Khmer Rouge regime, points down during his tour to the former Khmer Rouge's notorious S-21 prison, now known as Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Monday, Nov. 17, 2008. The former Swedish sympathizer of late Cambodian dictator Pol Pot has visited the country's genocide museum during a trip to seek forgiveness for his past support of the Khmer Rouge regime.(AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

Gunnar Bergstrom, right, a former Swedish leftist who sympathized with the Khmer Rouge regime, walks as he tours to the former Khmer Rouge's notorious S-21 prison, now known as Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Monday, Nov. 17, 2008. The former Swedish sympathizer of the late Cambodian dictator Pol Pot has visited the country's genocide museum during a trip to seek forgiveness for his past support of the Khmer Rouge regime.(AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

Gunnar Bergstrom, a former Swedish leftist who sympathized with the Khmer Rouge regime, points to a Cambodian country map during his tour to the former Khmer Rouge's notorious S-21 prison, now known as Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Monday, Nov. 17, 2008. The former Swedish sympathizer of the late Cambodian dictator Pol Pot has visited the country's genocide museum during a trip to seek forgiveness for his past support of the Khmer Rouge regime.(AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

Gunnar Bergstrom, right, a former Swedish leftist who sympathized with the Khmer Rouge regime, stands next to a photo of former Khmer Rouge prisoners during his tour to the former Khmer Rouge's notorious S-21 prison, now known as Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Monday, Nov. 17, 2008. The former Swedish sympathizer of late Cambodian dictator Pol Pot has visited the country's genocide museum during a trip to seek forgiveness for his past support of the Khmer Rouge regime.(AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

Sweden signs up to cluster bomb treaty

16 Nov 08
The Local Sweden's News
Sweden has decided to sign up to the international treaty, framed in Dublin in May, to ban current designs of cluster bombs.

Activists break into Bofors weapons plants (16 Oct 08)
Pension funds divest from cluster bomb firms (15 Sep 08)
Major weapons seizure in Stockholm (15 Aug 08)

Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt confirmed Sweden's intention to join the over 100 countries signing up to the treaty to Sveriges Radio's Ekot news program.

The decision signals the end of the manufacture of Bomb capsule 90, a munition included in the weapons equipping the Jas Gripen fighter aircraft.

"We need to phase it out of our weapons stock," Reinfeldt said.

111 countries negotiated the treaty in Ireland's capital Dublin in May. The British prime minister Gordon Brown described the treaty at the time as "a big step forward to make the world a safer place."

However leading arms manufacturers and stockpilers - the USA, Russia, China and Israel - declined to take part in the treaty talks and have declared their opposition to the move.

A cluster bomb consists of a bigger container which opens in mid-air spreading hundreds of smaller "bomblets" or sub-munitions over a wide area. Many of the bomblets do not explode immediately and therefore pose a danger to civilians long after a conflict has ended.

The bombs have been used in countries including Cambodia, Kosovo and Afghanistan. Israel are known to have used the weapons in their assault on Lebanon in 2006.

Sweden's delay in signing up to the treaty has come in for criticism from peace campaigners.

"They have taken a long time and should have been able to take a stand much sooner. But of course we are very happy. This is a significant step forward for international work to ban cluster bombs," said Anna Ek of the peace group Svenska Freds.

Reinfeldt explained Sweden's delay in signing the treaty in that time was required to have the issued considered by the defence forces. They were also charged with the task of developing a cost analysis for an alternative weapon.

The defence forces have stated that an alternative will probably cost more that the cluster bomb.

The prime minister compared the cluster bomb treaty to Sweden's signing of the landmine treaty in 1999. The two decisions are part of Swedish disarmament ambitions, he explained.

The landmine treaty has neither been signed by Russia, the United States, Israel nor China however none of the countries have used the weapons since the treaty was negotiated in 1997. Campaigners are hoping that the resounding message sent by the signatories to the cluster bomb treaty will have the same effect.

IT forum boosts ties with Korean firms

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Hor Hab and May Kunmakara
Monday, 17 November 2008

Mobile technology centre agreed on during visit of 13 South Korean companies to Phnom Penh

SOUTH Korean investors are keen to expand information and technology ties with Cambodia, sector officials said last week following a forum that brought Korean companies together with Cambodian businesses.

"Korea is a high-tech economy, and [Korean companies] see huge opportunities in Cambodia," said Ken Chanthan, president of the Cambodian Information and Technology Association.

Thirteen Korean IT companies visited Cambodia last Friday for the Cambodia-Korea Information Communication Technology Business Forum and announced a set of memorandums of uderstanding.

The agreements include a proposed mobile technology centre to facilitate technology transfer between Korea and Cambodia.

Luos Seyha, second vice chairman of the Small and Medium Industries Association of Cambodia, said that Cambodia stands to benefit from Korea's high-tech sector.

"Cambodia is one of the most suitable markets for [technology] investors to maximize business potential at a time when Cambodia needs to integrate its markets in an era of globalisation and e-commerce," he said.

In the short term, the deals would focus on Customer Information Systems and mobile phone technology.

Luos Seyha said that the forum would lead to more integrated business, education, government, security and database operations in Cambodia.

He added that greater competition among ICT investors will drive down costs, boost production, increase innovation and boost Cambodia's low labour productivity, Luos Seyha said.

Ken Chanthan, president of the Information Communication Technology Association of Cambodia, said the economic crisis had not affected IT relations.

"The crisis is a small problem for this sector," he said.

But he added that piracy remains a major challenge in Cambodia.

"[Piracy] is a major concern for investors.... Cambodia needs stronger IT laws," he said.


Second Cambodian heart patient arrives

Ratha Pang, left, is overcome with emotion as her aunt, Lim La, holds her son, Vy Soksamnang, after they arrived Sunday at LAX so the boy can undergo heart surgery that is unavailable in Cambodia. (Jeff Gritchen/Staff Photographer)

Press-Telegram Long Beach

CHARITY: LB-based group Hearts Without Boundaries has arranged life-altering surgery for Vy Soksamnang, 11 months.

By Greg Mellen, Staff Writer

LOS ANGELES - Lim La leaned against the railing waiting for the first glance of her grandnephew. Nearby her son, David Kem, husband Richard and other family members also waited eagerly.

Shortly after 4 p.m. Sunday, Vy Soksamnang - accompanied by his mother, Ratha Pang, and Peter Chhun of Hearts Without Boundaries - turned the corner at the arrivals area of the Tom Bradley International Terminal at LAX, and the tearful family reunion was under way. Only Vy, sleeping soundly in his mother's arms, seemed unaffected by the meeting.

Vy is an 11-month-old boy from an impoverished village near Phnom Penh, Cambodia, who came to the United States for life-altering heart surgery that was not readily available in his home country.

Earlier this year, the Kem family had learned of Vy's heart ailment and was devastated. By coincidence, David Kem had earlier volunteered to help Chhun, the founder of Long Beach nonprofit Hearts Without Boundaries, which had helped a girl with the same ailment.

Vy is the second child Chhun has brought out of Cambodia for the open-heart procedure. The first, 9-year-old Davik Teng, returned to her village outside of Battambang in northwest Cambodia. Teng was also given a follow-up exam during Chhun's latest trip. Although she still has what doctors call "depressed" heart function, she is recovering well from the surgery and is living an energetic, happy life.
Vy Soksamnang sits at Sophy's Restaurant in Long Beach after arriving Sunday from Cambodia. He suffers from a hole in his heart. (Jeff Gritchen/Staff Photographer)

Like Teng, Vy was diagnosed with a ventricular septal defect, or hole in the heart. It is a condition that left untreated leads to fatigue, breathing problems and eventually causes irreversible lung damage.

The Children's Heart Center, a Las Vegas hospital, has offered its staff and facilities for the operation. Although a date has not been set, it should be sometime after Thanksgiving.

The heart procedure is routine by Western standards, but requires a heart-lung machine and expertise often not readily available in Cambodia.

Chhun and Hearts Without Boundaries is arranging transportation and lodging for the boy and his mother.

Initially, Hearts Without Boundaries, with the help of Susan Grossfeld and her San Diego cardiologist husband, Paul Grossfeld, tried to broker a deal with Rady Children's Hospital, where Paul Grossfeld works.

When the California hospital backed out, Susan Grossfeld contacted Dr. William Evans in Las Vegas, who helped persuade his hospital to help.

Earlier this month, Chhun accompanied Variety Lifeline, which offered simple heart procedures to children in Siem Reap. It was here Vy was examined and pronounced fit for the trip to the U.S.

Vy lives in poverty in a bamboo hut with no electricity or running water. His mother is unemployed. His father is a border guard stationed far from home.

At a post-trip meeting at Sophy's Restaurant, an exhausted Chhun said the trip went smoothly and he was excited to be home.

Pang, although she suffered from motion sickness both on the plane and in the car ride to Long Beach, was happy and admittedly overwhelmed by her first encounter with the United States.
"It's so clean and so advanced," she said.

But mostly she was happy her child would get a chance at a full life.

"I am so happy, I have no words to describe," she said through translation. "Thank you so much for helping give my son life."

Vy and Pang will rest and prepare for the surgery at the home of the Kem family in North Long Beach.

Hearts Without Boundaries is raising funds for Vy's journey, food and medicine in the United States. Information is available by calling Chhun at 818-640-6191 or going to

greg.mellen@presstelegram.com, 562-499-1291