Thursday, 25 December 2008

Pope Celebrates Christmas Midnight Mass

Associated Press

In the splendor of St. Peter's Basilica, Pope Benedict XVI marked the birth of Jesus with a call to the faithful to help children who are denied the love of their parents and those who are exploited across the world. (Dec. 24)

Garbage in Phnom Penh (Radio Free Asia)

CNN’s 2008 heroes

The Punch, Nigeria
By Ben Nanaghan
Thursday, 25 Dec 2008

The traditional time tested, time inured and much touted Nigerian generosity took a bashing when the Cable News Network announced its heroes for the year 2008 recently. For so long, Nigerians have won the enviable and time-tested accolade of being their brothers’ keepers. But at the much publicised CNN Heroes 2008 event, the bottom was knocked out of this claim and our emotional attachment to it challenged.

The CNN yearly celebration of heroic deeds by people from all over the world is highly commendable and should be encouraged. This year, CNN received over 4,000 nominations from all over the world and screened this number to the final 10, whose wares were displayed on the global television. Of the final 10, six are Americans, three Africans and one Cambodian. I was not disturbed or shocked that out of the commendable three African representatives, there was no Nigerian.

Let us take them in their order as presented by Ted Turners’ Global Network television.

Viola Vaughn is a Senegalese (Africa). She has immersed her entire life and resources in the training of young girls who would have otherwise ended up as prostitutes and Aids victims, turning them into successful young ladies with good education. Viola understands the chain or dominion effect of an untrained female.

Liz McCartney, an American from Louisiana, started a housing project for Hurricane Katrina victims in 2006. She succeeded in rebuilding 154 new homes for Katrina victims. She was able to mobilise 9,000 volunteers world-wide to put smiles on the faces of homeless folks who had been sleeping in public places without protection against nature or predators. These houses were not paid for by the recipients. They were freely given.

Maria Ruiz is an American of Mexican origin. She was moved to pity by poor and hungry immigrant Mexicans trying to enter America illegally. In 1996, she started “Manna from Heaven Programme” where she fed hungry, malnourished children and adults across the other side of the American border. She prepares her food in her base in the USA and drives 9½ hours to the Mexican border to meet her hungry crowd, where she feeds them and drives back another 9½ hours into the USA everyday. She has done this everyday for the past 12 years, sometimes feeding as many as 1,200 a day.

Marie Da Silva is an African from Malawi and a nanny for the past 10 years in Los Angeles, California, USA. She lost 14 family members to AIDS in her homeland of Malawi. With over a million children suffering from AIDS in Malawi, she saved nearly every cent she earned as a nanny to set up a centre for some of Malawi’s children with AIDS. She also has a school with 230 poor and underprivileged children, where the children are educated free, with books, clothes and shoes free.

Ted Agoglia, an American who specialises in risking his life to care for natural disaster victims, sold his home to buy sophisticated gears and equipment to effectively assist disaster victims. He says he is happy to make a difference in people’s lives and put a smile on their faces.

Mrs. Phymean Noun is a Cambodian who lost her mother to cancer at age 15. She was moved to pity at the sight of Cambodia’s “thrash children” who toil sometimes two shifts in thrash dumps, barely making a dollar per both shifts. She started a school just by the refuse dump and has assisted 600 children in her five years of operations. She feeds them, clothes them and supplies all their school materials.

Carolyn Lecry, an American ex-convict who revives the family links even in prison. Her “Message Project” links prisoners to their children and homes through intra-family video sessions.

Yohannes Gebregores was a children’s Librarian in USA and was caught by the idea of changing Ethiopia’s reading culture. He has a 1,500-book library especially for children, and has established libraries for 16 schools all over Ethiopia to encourage increase in the reading culture of Ethiopian children.

David Pucket, from Atlanta, Georgia, USA, has, for the past 10 years, helped hundreds of South East Mexicans to acquire mobility by constructing artificial limbs and arms to put smiles on the faces of his lucky beneficiaries. Most of the hapless victims only wish him God’s assistance. Mr. Pucket confirms that God has been really helpful.

Anne Mahlum is an American from Philadelphia. She has raised a team of joggers from a cross section of drug addicts, criminals and healthy and wealthy city dwellers. Many Blacks and Whites who had previously lost hope of living normal life have jogged into new homes, new jobs and into the good old ways they had abandoned.

One fact emerges so clearly from the above scenario: no Nigerian made the list of the final 10 and all attempts made by this writer to know how many Nigerians were among the initial nomination of 4,000 did not yield any positive results. The immediate fathomable fact we can gather from the above is that Nigerians are getting poorer as our leaders are getting wealthier by a frightening proportion. The failed and disastrous eight years of President Olusegun Obasanjo did not help matters; it rather made Nigerians hopelessly helpless as they were not able to determine who their leaders should be as a result of mass frustration of the general will of the people.

The Obasanjo regime razed and obliterated the Nigerian middle class in an unquenchable fiery furnace that left Nigerians pitched squarely in two camps – the haves and the have-nots.

The average Nigerian is not a merciless, pitiless, hard hearted man aloof to his neighbours’ suffering. He is a warm-hearted and kind, human specie who is unfortunate to be the beneficiary of all the good things God has given to mankind with the only exception of leadership – which is Nigeria’s only Tsunami. Nigerians have tried and striven to be their neighbours’ keepers but to be able to remove the peck in your brother’s eyes, you too have to remove the beam in your own eyes.

Nigerians have formed thousands of Non-Governmental Organisations, but the various governments throughout the country have not been encouraging and forthcoming as government these days spend money only when it will be beneficial to government officials.

In a new world of global change and harmony, a conducive and productive economic atmosphere must be established to enable Nigerians benefit from the advantages of global commerce and prosperity. Nigerians should have values we hold dear to our hearts. We must have basic and intrinsic values which will serve as the engine room for a moral rearmament and revolution. When morality becomes the order of the day and corruption is checkmated, then Nigerians will, like the rest of the world, have enough to eat and to spare.

Apart from poverty arising from government corruption, Nigerians must be ready to make Herculean sacrifices. All the CNN heroes for 2008 made various degrees of sacrifice, some incredibly awesome and self immolating. I believe that heroism is a divine call which, like the poet’s or writer’s Muse, is divinely directed to visit only men and women with chaste and beautiful innards. It is a virtue of an uncommon and almost Christ-like character.

Nanaghan wrote via

Sayreville dentist's efforts helps desperately poor kids in Cambodia

• Staff Writer
• December 25, 2008

SAYREVILLE —The original game plan for Dr. Bernhard Kabitze was to head to Chicago, attend a dental association meeting, then head home.

Instead, he capitalized on an opportunity to help hundreds of needy children on the other side of the globe.

The 40-year-old dentist, whose office is at 314 Ernston Road in Parlin, unexpectedly started a charity craze at that Chicago meeting two months ago, raising $67,387 in a matter of hours for A New Day Cambodia, a nonprofit organization that donates funds to Cambodia's "garbage-dump-scavenger" children.

Kabitze said he was hesitant to donate at first, but a presentation given at the meeting by Bill Smith, the creator of the aid organization, helped changed his mind.

"(Smith) did a presentation about his organization, and he used slides on a projector screen," Kabitze said. "(Smith) said that he and his wife have been going to Cambodia since 2002. They always took pictures of what they saw."

The photos that rotated on the screen moved Kabitze.

"(Smith) showed pictures of children living in horrible conditions, barely clothed, actually picking through a garbage dump to find materials that they could sell to make a little bit of money," said Kabitze, a dentist for 17 years. "This was how they were helping support their families."

After Smith told the audience that the children only made a few cents a day, Kabitze, a Piscataway resident, turned to the dentists to his left and his right and said something along the lines of, "I really feel bad for these kids. I feel compelled to give. This is for a very good cause. Even if I give a little, it's something."

Kabitze didn't know either of the dentists' names, but both seemed to listen.

"Then I guess one dentist turned to the dentist next to them and said something along the same lines," said Kabitze. "And then I guess that dentist turned to another dentist and so on."

Within four hours, the conference room inside the Hyatt Regency at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport had raised $67,387, Kabitze said.

"I don't want to take complete credit for the event, because it wasn't all me," Kabitze said. "But I guess I may have started the buzz around the room.

It's kind of like a dance. If one person gets up and dances, then another one gets up and dances, and so on and so on."

Kabitze said he will continue to attend the dental meeting each October. He said he was glad he made a difference at the last event.

"I think in the end, everyone (in the room) wanted to help those children get a better life; help clothe them and feed them," he said. "The kids here have opportunities that kids over there don't. Without (A New Day Cambodia), many of those kids may get no education at all."

Kabitze said that his office also is a contributor to the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation and that during Dental Awareness Month in August, he visits local schools and speaks to children about the benefits of proper dental hygiene.

Leo D. Rommel: 732-565-7296;

Royal Parties To Oppose CPP in Local Elections

By Chun Sakada, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
24 December 2008

Funcinpec and the Norodom Ranariddh Party announced Wednesday the formation of an alliance to compete with the ruling Cambodian People's Party in provincial and district elections scheduled to be held in the coming year.

Funcinpec Secretary-General Nhiek Bunchhay said party officials had met to establish a commission "to discuss the strategic formula for helping each other in the 2009 nationwide election."

Funcinpec remains a partner with the CPP, with some of its members holding seats in government, but the CPP dominated all other parties in this year's national election, winning 90 of 123 National Assembly seats. Funcinpec and the NRP won four seats each, compared to 26 for the Sam Rainsy Party and three for the Human Rights Party.

Party officials said Wednesday they were confident an alliance would bolster their political support in the provinces. Both Funcinpec and the NRP traditionally draw support from royalist bases.

"If we add the members of the commune councils from the two parties,we will win more than 10 provinces and municipalities, and more districts," said NRP spokesman Suth Dina. The two parties would cooperate with each other by seeking to transfer voters where one party might be weaker than the other, he said.

CPP lawmaker Cheam Yiep said the alliance would not affect the CPP,"but we must all do our best to win the election."

Hang Puthea, director of the Neutral and Impartial Committee for Free and Fair Elections, called the alliance "a good sign" for the parties"for attracting the support of voters."

Party officials on both sides declined to speculate on futurecooperation, with the next parliamentary election scheduled for 2013.

'Shared Suffering' Fora Highlight Trauma, History

By VOA Khmer, Im Sothearith
Original report from Washington
24 December 2008

A "Shared Suffering, Shared Resilience" forum was held in Lowell,Mass., earlier this month, the second of ten such fora to be held targeting Cambodian-Americans, many of whom suffer from post-traumatic stress following experiences under the Khmer Rouge.

Post-traumatic stress disorder is caused by war, terrorism or natural disasters, and affects all nations, communities and individuals,directly or indirectly. In 2005, 162 million people worldwide were subjected to experiences that could lead to PTSD, according to the Center for the Study of Traumatic Stress. Nearly 30 percent of Cambodians suffer from the disorder, according to research by the World Health Organization.

The "Shared Suffering" forum in Lowell, held by the Applied Social Research Institute of Cambodia, sought to address the issue, and,despite poor weather that caused a change in venue, around 100 people participated.

Dr. Nou Leakhena, founding director of the institute, said her research showed that 33 years after the Khmer Rouge, Cambodian communities still struggle with feelings of hopelessness and helplessness, which lead to damaging behavior such as gambling,alcoholism and domestic violence.

The "Shared Suffering" fora are meant to help Khmer Rouge victims share their experiences and to help prevent future genocides.

"They are a talking testimony of history, and their stories are valuable not only to history, but to policy-makers and lawmakers to ensure this kind of atrocity never happens again," she said. "Not only in the context of Cambodia, but worldwide.

"Teddy Yoshikami, director of program development at the institute,said the forum helped communication and a process of healing.

Victims needed "to communicate more of this story, and all the suffering that happened...and then the healing process begins," she said.

The forum also helps educate Americans about world events and immigrant communities.
"For us, that's important work," said Dr. John Kuo Wei Tchen, founding director of the Asia/Pacific/American studies program at New York University, which supports the forum. "It can educate the American public about ongoing issues, Asian Americans in this country and[reduce] stereotypes of people that we often have.

"The forum can also help as testimony for the Khmer Rouge tribunal, now underway in Cambodia and set for its first trial, of prison chief Duch, next year.

"This is a rare opportunity, in which those who have left Cambodia will have a chance to talk about what happened to them and to give testimony," Tchen said. "So this forum is a way of preparing for the actual testimony that people will be giving at the tribunal.

"Chhan Touch, a Khmer Rouge victim and forum participant, said he was honored to testify so that a younger generation would be aware of Cambodia's history.

"Khmers, both those in the United States and those in Cambodia, need to share," he said. "Khmers in the United States have also been through difficulties under the Khmer Rouge. Although we are now in America, our voices can be heard in Cambodia, so this can be evidence for the Khmer Rouge tribunal.

"Most of the organizers of the forum did not experience the Khmer Rouge, but they remain committed to holding the forum not only for the victims, but to confront a universal problem.

"Well, it's a cultural and moral obligation for me, as a Cambodian woman, as a Cambodian, as a Cambodian academic," Nou Leakhena said."It is my responsibility to use my academic status as a medical sociologist, as a faculty member of a university, to help promote greater understanding about the Khmer Rouge's history as it has impacted our communities.

"Yoshikami, who is Japanese and was born in concentration camp during World War II, said she is well aware of the suffering and denial of rights faced by victims. Her parents, like many Cambodian parents, do not talk about their traumatic experiences, she said.

"When you know the reality of what has been happening, it is so muchmore important now than ever to really begin to support each other globally and to maintain human rights and justice around the world,"she said. "Otherwise, we are going to destroy ourselves.

"The next "Shared Suffering" forum will be held in Portland, Oregon, in June 2009.

Supreme Court To Hear Chea Vichea Murder Case

By Kong Sothanarith, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
24 December 2008

The office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on Wednesday insisted on a "fair trial" in the Supreme Court case of two men convicted of the murder of labor leader Chea Vichea, which will be reviewed later this month.

The defendants, Born Samnang and Sok Samoeun, both serving 20-year prison sentences for the alleged killing of Chea Vichea in 2004, are widely believed innocent.

Chea Vichea was gunned down in broad daylight at a busy market, and Born Samnang and Sok Samoeun were quickly arrested, charged and convicted, despite the lack of key evidence and unreliable testimony of witnesses. Former Phnom Penh police chief, Heng Pov, who initially ordered their arrest, and former king Norodom Sihanouk have both maintained the men are innocent, echoing the sentiments of family members and investigating rights groups.

"There are reasons to doubt the validity of the convictions of Born Samnang and Sok Samoeun for the killing," the UN rights office said in a statement Wednesday. "The Supreme Court, like all Cambodian Courts,is therefore bound to ensure that the fair trial provisions in the treaties are followed and breaches committed by lower courts are remedied.

"Supreme Court officials could not be reached for comment, but Om Yentieng, head of the government's National Human Rights Committee,called the UN statement interference in the role of the courts, which are scheduled to hear the case Dec. 31.

"I think a statement like this is a kind of pressure regarding the court," he said. "If the court decides contrarily to what they want,they will accuse it of injustice.

"The UN rights office remarks follow a similar statement from Amnesty International on Tuesday calling for the release of the two men and claiming "the true perpetrators remain at large."

Kingdom Of Cambodia

A Cambodian farmer pulls an ox-cart loaded with rice as he drives past the paddy rice fields at Takeo province, about 85 kilometers (50 miles) south of Phnom Penh, Cambodia on Tuesday, Dec. 23, 2008.(AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

John McDermott
The eerie calm near the moment of a total solar eclipse at Angkor in 1995.

Palani Mohan for The New York Times
Scene along the Tonle Sap, where life has not changed much for 60 or 70 years.

Basil Childers for The New York Times

A duplex suite at the Hôtel de la Paix. Many stay in Siem Reap when visiting Angkor Wat.

Mark Leong
Grass-roof huts on Serendipity Beach, one of several around the town of Sihanoukville on the country’s southern coast.

Basil Childers for The New York Times
A krama, a traditional scarf with many uses, at Psar Tuol Tom Pong, a k a the Russian Market.

36 Hours in Siem Reap, Cambodia

Stuart Isett for The New York Times
The ruins of the ninth-century Phnom Bakheng temple in the Angkor Archaeological Park.

The New York Times
Published: December 28, 2008
AS captivating as the temples of Angkor may be, Cambodia’s scorching sun, gritty air and pot-holed roads inevitably take their toll on even the hardiest travelers. Perhaps it’s by necessity, then, that Siem Reap, the town that lodges and feeds Angkor’s million annual visitors, has evolved into a chic haven of rest and relaxation. An international group of chefs has set up the country’s finest tables there, and bartenders in the vibrant night life are versed in sophisticated cocktails. Contemporary art has also found itself a home, with a gallery scene intent on nurturing local artists. It’s as though Siem Reap is finally picking up where the Angkorian kings left off some 600 years ago, resurrecting itself as the center of Khmer taste and culture.

5 p.m.

With Angkor Wat’s inspiring beauty just five miles away, it’s not hard to see why Siem Reap is at the heart of Cambodia’s flourishing art scene. Galleries are popping up in renovated shop houses, and hotels now exhibit the work of young Khmers and regional expats. Art Venues, a free brochure available in upmarket hotels, maps out walking tours to the town’s best spots. McDermott Gallery (FCC Complex, Pokambor Avenue; 855-12-274-274;, known for its emotive, dreamlike photographs of Angkor, takes Asia’s cultural heritage as its curatorial focus. At the Arts Lounge inside the fashionable Hôtel de la Paix (Sivatha Boulevard; 855-63-966-000;, contemporary works fill the minimalist space, where well-heeled guests sip designer cocktails like the Oolong Kiwi Sling, made with tea and vodka.

7 p.m.

Cambodian cooking doesn’t get the attention it deserves, especially compared with the fare of its food-trendy neighbors, Thailand and Vietnam. Though the basic ingredients are similar — lemongrass, garlic, ginger, fish sauce — Khmer cooking is subtler and lighter, employing less chili, pungent herbs and coconut milk. For an innovative lesson on local flavors, sample the seven-course Khmer tasting menu ($31) at Méric, a dimly lighted Art Deco-themed restaurant, also at the Hótel de la Paix (note: dollars are widely accepted in Siem Reap). Dishes, which change daily, might include chicken and pumpkin saraman (a type of Khmer curry) and stir-fried frog’s legs with holy basil served in hollowed-out bamboo reeds and miniature woks. To heighten the experience, dine on one of Méric’s hanging cushioned daybeds, which swing alongside a flame-lighted pool.

9 p.m.

Prolong the post-dinner buzz with a pre-slumber rubdown at Frangipani
Spa (617/615 Hup Guan Street; 855-12-982-062; With modern art on the walls and fresh orchids in vases, the spa feels like the plush digs of a fashionable friend’s home. Sink into the low sofa as you sip tamarind juice while your feet are bathed in a frangipani-filled tub, the prep to a glorious 60-minute massage (from $22).

5 a.m.

It might be brutal, but it’s worth getting up this early to experience the famous Buddhist temples of Angkor Archaeological Park (admission, $20), the 155-square-mile area that counts Angkor Wat among its more than 100 temples. Less crowded at this hour is the ninth-century Phnom Bakheng, a five-tiered, rectangular temple built on a hill. The few lotus-shaped towers that remain are testament to the 108 that once stood. You’ll have to work for the view: it’s a 15-minute
hike up to the sandstone terrace, which overlooks an endless expanse of jungle and mist-shrouded hills. It’s a mesmerizing spot from which to watch the sun paint the sky in blues and oranges.

11 a.m.

It’s on an idyllic country road lined with stilt houses and lush, neon-green rice fields, but the Cambodia Landmine Museum (20 miles northeast of Siem Reap on the road to Banteay Srei; 855-12-598-951; is a jarring reminder of the country’s three decades of war. Established by a former Khmer Rouge child soldier named Aki Ra, the museum provides a detailed account of Cambodia’s political and social upheaval, including the Khmer Rouge insurgency, which ended only 10 years ago. Efforts to clear unexploded ordnance and millions of land mines have been made since the 1990s, yet it’s estimated that fewer than half have been cleared. Mr. Aki Ra has deactivated about 50,000 of them; many are on view.

12:30 p.m.

Cambodia’s heat and intensity demand long, replenishing lunches. Only a Frenchman could dream up Chez Sophéa (across from Angkor Wat; 855-12-858-003), an open-air restaurant with wooden tables and white linens that serves rillettes de canard, charcoal-grilled steaks and crème de chocolat — all next door to the temples. The owner, Matthieu Ravaux, lives on the premises, so you’re technically eating in his dining room. Set menu for $18.

4 p.m.

After a lunch-induced nap, it’s time to put your dollars to good use at some of Siem Reap’s community-friendly shops. In the center of town, Senteurs d’Angkor (Pithnou Street; 855-63-964-801; sells spices, coffee and bath products, wrapped in palm-leaf packages. For flirty frocks and custom-made quilts, try Samatoa (Pithnou Street; 855-63-96-53-10;, a fair-trade label that specializes in silk. The hand-painted cards and cute canvas bags at Rajana (Pub Street; 855-12-481-894; are produced by Cambodians down on their luck.

7 p.m.

There’s no need to reserve a table at Restaurant Pyongyang (4 Airport Road; 855-63-760-260) — it seats over 400. Besides, it would be anti-Communist. Every evening, between servings of fantastic bulgogi ($8.70) and bibimbap ($6), pretty North Korean waitresses in short red dresses put on elaborate song and dance routines. Though the tile floors and faux-wood paneling aren’t exactly impressive, the cultural pageantry is. With a karaoke screen displaying waterfalls and snow-capped mountains, the girls perform peppy propaganda tunes to a compliant and clapping audience.

10 p.m.

With a name like Pub Street, you won’t have any trouble finding Siem Reap’s prime night-life drag. But if beer girls, big-screen TVs and $3 pitchers aren’t your style, head a block north to Miss Wong (the Lane; 855-92-428-332) for a taste of vintage
Shanghai. The cherry-red lantern that dangles from the doorway beckons passers-by. Inside, slip into one of the intimate leather booths for an Indochine Martini, a mixture of vodka, ginger cognac and fresh pineapple juice ($4.50). For dance beats and late-night snacks, take the party two blocks to trendy Linga Bar (the Passage; 855-12-246-912;, a mixed, gay-friendly lounge with killer mojitos.


7:30 a.m.

Early morning is social hour for Khmers, with men filling outdoor cafes to sip iced coffee and women gathering at local markets to shop and eat breakfast. At Psar Chaa, or Old Market, the butchers and produce sellers will be in full force, peddling dried fish, fruit stacked in neat pyramids, and freshly pounded kroeung (an herbal paste used in many dishes). Pull up a plastic stool at one of the food counters and order a bowl of baay sac chruuk — superthin pieces of grilled pork served with white rice and a tangy cucumber and ginger salad (about 5,000 riel, $1.27, at 4,029 riel to the dollar).

11 a.m.

Until a few years ago, tough road conditions meant that only the bravest travelers ventured to Beng Mealea (45 miles from Siem Reap on the road to Koh Ker), a sprawling sandstone temple that has been nearly consumed by the jungle. But a new route replaced the single-plank bridges and motorbike-only track, cutting the travel time from a half-day to just under an hour by car. Built in the 12th century, this forgotten sanctuary is nearly as big as Angkor Wat but gets a fraction of the visitors. The destruction is breathtaking: towers reduced to tall mounds of rubble, thick webs of tree roots snaking through the walls, and faceless carvings, their heads cut out and sold. Still, the place has seen worse: until 2003, the surrounding grounds were littered with land mines. Now it’s ripe for a fresh start.


Flights to Siem Reap from the United States require a plane change. A recent online search found an Asiana Airlines flight from Kennedy Airport to Siem Reap, via Seoul, starting at $1,200 for travel in January. From Siem Reap Airport, it’s a $5 taxi ride into town.

The Khmer-chic rooms at La Résidence d’Angkor (River Road; 855-63-963-390; have hardwood floors, silk and bamboo accents and giant whirlpool tubs. Rooms start at $175.

With its minimalist aesthetic, neutral palette and saltwater pool, the seven-room Viroth’s Hotel (0658 Wat Bo Village; 855-63-761-720; provides a welcome respite from temple overload. Rooms from $80.

Thailand Sets February 13 To 15 For Asean Summit - Minister

Morning Star

BANGKOK (AFP)--Thailand has set Feb. 13 to 15 as the new dates for a delayed summit of Southeast Asian nations in Bangkok, a minister said Wednesday.

The foreign ministry had earlier mentioned the dates of Feb. 24 to 26 for the 14th summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

But this plan had to be dropped because it wasn't convenient for some member nations and Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva wanted to make it earlier.

"The new summit dates are Feb. 13 to 15," Boonchong Wongtrairat, deputy interior minister told reporters, adding that the exact location in Bangkok hasn't yet been finalized.

"The government wants (the summit to take place at) Queen Sirikit National Convention Center, but it is already booked, so we will have to negotiate," he said.

The meeting was delayed from mid-December amid political turmoil in Thailand, including the occupation of the capital's airports, which led to the toppling of the ruling party loyal to ousted former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

Abhisit hopes to project the summit as a sign that normality is returning to Thailand after months of instability.

Asean comprises of Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

Representatives of Japan, South Korea, China, India, as well as the U.N. secretary-general are expected to attend the 14th Asean summit.

Ex-doctor to be released

Associated Press - December 24, 2008

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - A former Altus doctor who allegedly brought his child bride to Oklahoma in 2004 is scheduled to be released from custody tomorrow after more than three years in jail.

A federal judge has ordered 51-year-old Alexander Miles to be released to a halfway house in Oklahoma City.

Miles was indicted after traveling to Cambodia in 2001 to meet a 14-year-old girl who he later married and brought to the U.S. using false papers and later moved to Altus.

The original charges against him were dismissed after a judge found the indictment did not charge him with a crime under Oklahoma law.

Prosecutors refiled the charge and Miles appealed. He claims double jeopardy prohibits the filing of new charges.

Judges on the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments in March 2007 but have not issued a ruling and the case is still pending.

Merry Christmas !!

Season Greeting !
The CAAI would like to wish you all a Merry Christmas and safe holiday.
Best Wishes,

Khmer Krom: MEP Refused Entry Into Vietnam

Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Khmer Kampuchea Krom Community is outraged at the recent refusal of Vietnam to let MEP Pannella and his delegation visit the country.

Statement of the Khmer Kampuchea Krom Community

The Khmer Kampuchea Krom Community strongly condemns the Government of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam for obstructing Hon. Marco Giacinto Pannella, Member of the European Parliament and President of the Transnational Radical Party, and Hon. Marco Perduca, Member of the Italian Senate from boarding the airplane from the Kingdom of Cambodia to the Socialist Republic of Vietnam in the morning of December 23, 2008. Both lawmakers have been officially issued entry visas by the Embassy of Vietnam to Rome granting them to visit Vietnam .

However, the Vuntau Intourco Hanoi tourist agency notified [the lawmakers] at the time of their boarding the airplane that the Vietnam ʼs entry visas have been refused. Thus they would not be able to visit Vietnam due to their staunch supports for the ideal struggle of the citizens of the Khmer Kampuchea Krom.

This event occurred following an extraordinary meeting between the Khmer Kampuchea Krom Community and their honorables at the Samakkirangsey Buddhist Temple in Phnom Penh [ Cambodia ] on Sunday December 21, 2008 because the lawmakers vehemently expressed their supports for the peaceful struggle of the Khmer Kampuchea Krom people for human rights and freedom.

The action of the communist Vietnamese authorities clearly shows the public and the international community that the Government of Vietnam is seriously suppressing her own citizens, especially Khmer Kampuchea Krom [indigens] and systematically sweeps their violation underneath the carpet to cover up from the international community. Furthermore, it is a vindictive act toward the European Parliament for adopting an October 22, 2008 resolution to pressure the Government of Vietnam to fully respect the [human] rights of her own citizens in accordance to the international human rights standard.

The Khmer Kampuchea Krom Community appeals to the international community, especially the European Community, to push the Government of Vietnam to allow Hon. Marco Giacinto Pannella and Hon. Marco Perduca to visit Vietnam in order to conduct field investigation of the situation of human rights.

Phnom Penh , December 23, 2008

The Secretariat
The Khmer Kampuchea Krom Community

Human rights not only relevant to Khmers

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Michael Hansen
Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Dear Editor,

I was concerned to read in the Centre for Social Justice advertisement of December 19 that, once again, the organisation's executive director apparently holds the view that human rights in Cambodia are a matter relevant only to the Khmer.

There are many people living in Cambodia who are not considered to be Khmer - those of mixed Vietnamese-Cambodian or full Vietnamese parentage, for example - but whose rights deserve as much respect as those of the ethnic majority.

Surely it would have been appropriate to repeatedly use the term Cambodian rather than Khmer in the speech at the Wat Ounalum. Any individual can take Cambodian nationality, but it is virtually impossible for someone who is ethnically Vietnamese to ever be regarded as ethnically Khmer.

One would expect more sensitivity about this matter from both the executive director and the board of this particular NGO and, whatever their personal opinions are, to ensure inclusive rather than exclusive terms are used.

I wonder if any of the 500 diplomats, human rights workers and others involved in the field picked up on the irony that the theme of the meeting was the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Michael Hansen
Phnom Penh

Send letters to: or P.O. Box 146, Phnom Penh, Cambodia. The Post reserves the right to edit letters to a shorter length.

You are your own best gift

The RDIC water-purification system in Cambodia involves filtering water through a clay pot into a plastic receptacle.
December 24, 2008

I can't tell this Christmas story in the space that's available for a column.

What I can tell you is that Mickey Sampson came into my office yesterday, handing out Cambodian currency worth a little more than a penny, U.S.

The tale that he had to tell was worth much more -- about how he and his wife, Wendi, both from Louisville, decamped some 11 years ago with four young children and the intention of putting Mickey's University of Louisville inorganic chemistry doctorate to use as a teacher at the Royal University of Phnom Penh.

In the intervening years, the Sampsons have made the country we associate with the Khmer Rouge killing fields their home and have created Resource Development International Cambodia, which describes itself as serving people in dynamic ways that "combine technology, education and heart."

For example, by modernizing an ancient Asian technique, RDIC has developed a clay pot water filtration system -- producing 35,000 of them this year and reaching more than 200,000 people with safe water, which is vitally important given the fact that one out of five Cambodian children dies before the age of 5, most often with diarrhea-related illness.

Here's how the non-profit's approach works:

"RDI visits a community and meets with village leaders. We propose a rain water harvesting tank and drinking water station project at the village school. Generally speaking, this is proposal is warmly received. … As the water projects in the area begin, relationships with the community leaders are formed. RDI begins water and health education in the classrooms of the school. The education continues to the families of the community when we introduce educational karaoke, films and other live performances and storying."

Karaoke? Yes. Cambodians are wild about karaoke. Most every village has at least a battery-operated TV and karaoke setup.

"As new health concepts are taught, individuals with particular needs become apparent, and our medical staff can attend to those who need our help. By this time, bathrooms, water tanks, water filtration and drinking stations are implemented at the school, and RDI has established relationships that allow us to begin agriculture and larger scale community farming projects."

They came up with odorless pigs. More on that later.

"By teaching farming to those with financial needs, further needs are met. … All of these different techniques are approached with the idea that we are implementing sustainable change to the health and economy of the village, and as a result the process is slow and methodical and only successful after building trusting relationships with the people of the community."

The whole enterprise -- at once simple and complex -- began when the Sampsons first arrived in Phnom Penh and Wendi Sampson tried to fill up the bathtub but only got a few inches of water so dirty that she couldn't see the bottom.

It was a long way from the Auburndale neighborhood where Mickey grew up and his parents still live, from Beth Haven where he was schooled and Shively Baptist where he was churched, to the Cambodian hamlet where he finds time for everything from doing hands-on rural development to writing scholarly research tomes like "Arsenicosis in Cambodia: Case Studies and Policy Response." (Arsenic levels in Cambodian groundwater are a serious problem.)
It's the Sampsons' first time back in the U.S. in four years. The family will return to Cambodia just after the first of the year, during the annual visit from a team of Louisville folks who want to help and learn.

"What is life about?" Mickey asks. "It's about impacting people. We've found peace and contentment by helping others."

Besides, it must be fun to rescue and reapply ancient technology, or figure out how to fumigate the sty. (Their deodorized porkers occupy a pen with a bed of rice husks three feet thick, which absorbs urea.)

"We don't want to be donor driven," Mickey insists. "We want to be people driven." An example: They sell the filtration pots, and find that those who pay for them use them longer, use them properly and are more likely to replace them as needed.

Give yourself a Christmas gift. Visit, or go see the real thing. But note the Web site's warning: "Ninety percent of the current RDI team originally planned to just 'visit.' RDI cannot guarantee that visitors will not fall in love with the country and the people and commit to giving large portions of their lives to work here. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause family and friends."

David Hawpe's columns appear Wednesdays and Sundays in the Community Forum. E-mail him at

Saving Cambodia's musical heritage

Marin Independent Journal

Staff Report


IN 1994, young Scott Stafford, was awarded special honors from the University of Chicago Music and Composition Theory Department. His honors thesis developed group theory to analyze traditional Balinese polyrhythm, drawing new parallels with Western Harmony.

Stafford, a San Rafael resident, most recently composed music and produced additional recordings for Pixar's critically acclaimed 2008 "Presto." At the time of his graduation, he had no idea his thesis would lead him down the path to helping rescue and preserve the Cambodian musical legacy.

The story of the brutal Khmer Rouge regime, graphically depicted in the poignant portrayal in the book and 1984 film, "The Killing Fields," not only left an estimated 1.7 million dead, but nearly decimated the Cambodian musical legacy of thousands of years by systematically eliminating the music teachers who could pass on the country's musical heritage.

Stafford, on a family trip to the area, traveled to Siem Rep City. There, he heard a performance of the moribund music played from an ancient instrument he had seen carved in bas relief on the walls of Bayon, one of the main temples of Angkor Wat. The instrument is called the Kse Diev, meaning one string.

You pluck harmonics on it, moving it on and off one's chest.

Some of the last generation of surviving players were nearly all wiped out by the Khmer Rouge. Stafford's fascination with the music, along with his training, impelled him to quench his curiosity as to the music's current status, leading him to the discovery of the fragile nature of its existence.

He quickly found that precious little of it had ever been recorded.

Stafford raised funds to found Studio CLA (Cambodia Living Arts), a nonprofit ethnographic audio visual production studio with the goal of archiving Cambodia's endangered musical traditions, training local engineers in audio and visual production arts, and providing a laboratory for new creative and collaborative works.

CLA has now has four self-produced CD's for sale in Cambodia. The recent underground documentary, "Sleepwalking through the Mekong," is based on a Los Angeles and Long Beach band's pilgrimage to Cambodia to record in Stafford's studio and to collaborate with traditional CLA artists.

Stafford has plenty of in-country support for the collaborative project.

Most noteworthy are Arn Chorn-Pond and Sophy Him, whom he met in February 2002, during his first trip to Cambodia.

Arn Chorn, by playing revolutionary songs on the flute, survived the horrors of the Khmer Rouge regime that turned him into a child soldier.

Today, he is an internationally recognized human rights leader, a recipient among other honors, of the Anne Frank Memorial Award and is the subject of the award winning documentary: "The Flute Player."

Sophy Him, a composer, is a professor of music and fine arts at the Royal Academy of Cambodia in Phnom Penh.

Stafford, in support of Him's work, has been part of the creative team supplying additional music and direction for "Where Elephants Weep," the first-known contemporary Cambodian rock opera with a mission to stir young Cambodians to honor their heritage within the context of the changing global society and to inspire them to learn more about Cambodia's performing living arts.

The opera had its world premiere in Cambodia this year. To learn more about the music and CLA's mission, visit

Noah Griffin of Tiburon is a public affairs consultant and a former citizen member of the IJ's editorial board.

Overseas aid benefits whom?

Hopes sunk: As houses on the Boeung Kak shore collapse (above) due to flooding caused by filling in of the lake in Phnom Penh, displaced residents are being resettled in squalor far from the city in places such as Andoeung. CENTRE ON HOUSING RIGHTS AND EVICTIONS


Wednesday, Dec. 24, 2008

PHNOM PENH CAMBODIA — Despite widespread awareness and censure of human rights violations, Japan, the United States and member nations of the European Union continue to give aid to governments that use the money to enrich themselves while ravaging ecosystems and brutalizing their own citizens. China is now a major donor, too, but China doesn't claim to care about human rights.

It is particularly troubling that Japan, which has its own environmental and human-rights tragedies — such as the Minamata Disease mercury-poisonings and the ongoing World War II "comfort women" atrocity — effectively encourages similar abuses in other nations by giving loans and grants to governments that blithely commit crimes against nature and humanity.

In 2007, Japan distributed Overseas Development Aid (ODA) totaling more than $7.7 billion ($13.6 billion if loan repayments are not deducted), according to the OECD.

Compounding the problem, environmental and human-rights abuses no longer occur in isolation. With the world's human population climbing toward 7 billion, environmental destruction and human-rights abuses come in tandem. Resource extraction, industrial agriculture and energy infrastructure are particularly destructive, but local development projects can have sweeping impacts on the lives of thousands as well.

A good example is Boeung Kak, one of seven natural lakes in central Phnom Penh, Cambodia's capital. The lake plays an important role in urban life, providing recreation and serving as an essential natural reservoir for excess rainwater during the six-month monsoon season. It is also home to thousands of marginalized poor families who live along its shores.

Boeung Kak was long ignored by Phnom Penh's powerful elite — until recently, when they found a way to profit. In February 2007, the city entered into a 99-year lease agreement with Shukaku, Inc., a private domestic firm with close links to local politicians and Chinese developers. For a mere $79 million, Shukaku now controls 133 hectares, including Boeung Kak and surrounding land.

The plan is to fill in 90 percent of the lake and turn the area into "pleasant, trade, and service places for domestic and international tourists." The problem is what to do with annual floodwaters and the 70,000 lakeside residents.

"This contract, which threatens to displace at least 4,252 families, was negotiated in a shroud of secrecy without even the pretense of participation from the tens of thousands of people who will be directly affected," says David Pred, Cambodia Country Director of Bridges Across Borders (BAB), a member of the Cambodian Housing Rights Task Force. "If these families are forcibly removed from their homes, this would mark the largest single displacement of people in Cambodia since the privatization of land in 1989."

A drainage and flooding assessment released earlier this month by an Australian team warns against the project.

"It should be recognized that not only will flood levels increase, but the frequency of flooding will also increase (in the Boeung Kak Area). The combined effluent and stormwater drainage system in Phnom Penh means that any flooding will have serious water-quality and public-health implications," the report states.

Other groups, too, are outraged that lakeside residents have not been informed about the development scheme, and are simply being told that they will be compensated and moved.

"The development will lead to evictions, despite many of the affected families having strong legal claims to the land under the Land Law. . . . (A)ffected communities are currently being made nonnegotiable offers of compensation or houses in a relocation site on the outskirts of Phnom Penh. The compensation offered is insufficient for families to obtain comparable alternative housing, and housing at the relocation site is inadequate: infrastructure is poor, basic amenities, including clean water, are lacking, and access to work opportunities is very limited given the distance from the city. Moreover, offers include no formal security of tenure for those agreeing to move," says a statement released this month by organizations working on human-rights and housing issues in Cambodia.

The authors include Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE).

Life has not been easy in Cambodia for decades, even at the best of times. In recent years, the government has struggled to staff offices and provide public services. "In many cases, this was achieved through delegation of de facto power to existing local authorities, creating layers of bureaucracy that the government could not afford to pay," explains COHRE in a November 2008 report titled, " Title Through Possession or Title Through Position?"

"This led to a revival of traditional Cambodian practices in which public servants buy their offices from more powerful patrons. In order to pay their debts — and make ends meet — officials are then tacitly expected to skim public proceeds and impose unofficial fees for services," notes the COHRE paper.

"The prevalence of corruption in contemporary Cambodia dictates that many essential public services . . . tend to be contingent on the payment of bribes often unaffordable to the poor," adds the report.

Pred, of Bridges Across Borders, points out that lawlessness is another problem.

"The lease agreement that Shukaku Inc. signed with the Municipality of Phnom Penh violates numerous provisions of Cambodian Land Law that protect natural resources, such as lakes, from commercial development and destruction. The lease calls for the filling of Boueng Kak Lake — a crucial natural reservoir for excess rainwater, but it also deprives the city of one of its last remaining open spaces and landscape amenities. An environmental impact assessment — required by law before the commencement of any major development project — has not been made public or approved by the Ministry of Environment, yet the filling of the lake has already begun," he explains.

Filling began in August, and local residents' houses are already collapsing, one by one, into the sodden shoreline. Meanwhile, as aid money continues to pour in, the Cambodian government is not the least bit sheepish about such flagrant violations of law and human rights.

This month, Cambodia announced that aid pledges for 2009 already total $951.5 million, up almost 30 percent from 2008's $690 million. China has promised the most ($256.7 million), followed by the EU ($214 million) and Japan ($112.3 million). U.S. aid will be announced after the new president takes office.

While government officials are smug, civil society groups have voiced concern about growing Chinese influence and "urge Western governments to be less complacent about corruption," according to an article by Kay Kimsong in the Phnom Penh Post (Dec. 8).

"Despite worries about the kingdom's endemic corruption, government officials have interpreted the unsolicited donations as a unanimous vote of confidence for the (Cambodian) government," she writes.

"We (are) a train running on the right tracks," Minister of Finance Keat Chhon told the media.

"We have put on a good performance. If we had not, (donors) would have canceled their aid," Kimsong writes.

Civil-society groups and some politicians are more honest.

"Opposition leaders have lashed out at the pledges, questioning both the philanthropic intentions behind the aid and how far the kingdom is set to benefit from such a vast injection of cash," explains Kimsong.

Japanese Ambassador Katsuhiro Shinohara is reported to have said that Japan is delighted to see the achievements of the Cambodian government and continues to support development of the economy and poverty alleviation. But if Japan truly wishes to see poverty reduction, will it look the other way as urban ecosystems are compromised and tens of thousands of Cambodians are made homeless?

On paper, at least, Japan professes concern for promoting "human security" in aid-recipient countries. "It is important to protect people who face various threats in developing countries, and to help them to acquire the capacity to deal with those threats themselves," says Japan's Official Development Assistance White Paper for 2007.

Without economic power or political influence, the rule of law is the only hope for displaced families to defend their "human security" from greedy speculators. Yet the White Paper admits that "rule of law remains an issue" in Cambodia.

That the phrase "remains an issue" is an understatement. As one local resident said, the privileged and powerful of Cambodia are conspiring together to "eat the kingdom."

Transparency International is a Germany-based nonprofit organization that "measures the degree to which corruption is perceived to exist among a country's public officials and politicians." It defines corruption as "the abuse of public office for private gain."

The situation in Cambodia is so bad that, in 2006, TI rated it 162nd out of 180 countries for perceived government corruption. Since then, aid has increased, while in 2008, Cambodia's TI rating dropped further to 166 out of 180. Cambodia shares its lowly rank with two other prominent recipients of Japanese aid — Zimbabwe and Uzbekistan.

At the other end of the TI rankings, Denmark sits on top, with Germany at 14, and Japan and the U.S. at 18. China is 72nd.

Japan, the U.S., and the EU have a choice: They can follow China to the bottom, giving millions in aid to corrupt, crony politicians; or, they can raise the bar and establish more ethical approaches to helping the world's neediest achieve human security.

This Christmas 2008, I'd like to believe the latter is within our reach.

Stephen Hesse can be reached at:

Ready for a tropical Christmas?

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Tracey Shelton
Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Twenty-year-old Channet, better known this month as the Korean BBQ Restaurant Santa, takes a stroll through Hun Sen Park greeting a mix of delighted, puzzled and frightened local children on Tuesday night. Channet, who has been playing the role of Santa since the restaurant opened last month, told the Post that wearing the suit makes him happy because it makes other people smile.

Festive season hits Riverhouse Lounge

Photo by: Lim Sokchan Lina

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Lim Sokchan Lina
Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Riverhouse Lounge celebrates the holiday season Saturday night with punters dancing the night away to the tunes of one of Phnom Penh's favourites, DJ Illest.

VN blocks entry of Euro MPs

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Brendan Brady
Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Khmer Krom advocates barred from flight to Ho Chi Minh City

EUROPEAN government officials visiting the region to advocate for greater cultural and religious freedoms for Khmer Krom were stopped from boarding a flight Tuesday to Ho Chi Minh City from Phnom Penh's International Airport.

Marco Perduca, an Italian parliamentarian, and Marco Pannella, a parliamentarian with the European Union, were both on an unofficial visit as members of a global human rights and democracy advocacy group, the Non-Violent Radical Party, which has consultative status with the United Nations.

The last-minute rebuff was especially surprising, they said, because the foreign minister and parliamentarians from Vietnam had agreed to meet them in Hanoi today.

"I think there are some disagreements in the government," Pannella, who is the advocacy group's president, said, suggesting that some Vietnamese officials may have been behind the denial.

"There are parts of the government that fear demonstrations" from ethnic Khmers in Vietnam would be provoked by their visit, he said.

He said the Italian government was trying to contact Vietnamese officials to resolve the problem.

As they were about to board their flight, airport authorities presented them with a vaguely composed fax from a Vietnamese state tour agency claiming they had not followed a rule requiring that "when you are issued (an) entry visa for traveling, you must supply your tour program and details schedule".

They noted that the travel agency that sent the fax, Vungtau Intourco Hanoi, had not previously been involved with their travel plans, and their visas were valid until the middle of next month.

They had planned to meet Tuesday with Khmer Krom leaders in Ho Chi Minh City to discuss rights violations against their community including the arrest of activists.

Officials with the Vietnamese embassy in Phnom Penh could not be contacted on Tuesday.

6 new tribunal suspects likely: sources

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Cat barton
Wednesday, 24 December 2008

SIX more potential candidates for prosecution have been identified by Cambodia's war crimes tribunal, sources close to the UN-backed court say.

The court's international co-prosecutor Robert Petit, who proposed the investigations, would not confirm the number or names of the potential suspects citing legal reasons, but said the possibility of more cases should come as no surprise.

"There's always been a higher number than five accused discussed during and after the negotiations," he said in an interview Monday. "Those new cases represent, as far as I'm concerned, the extent of which the prosecution will be," Petit added.

Sources close to the court say three more cases are expected - two new and one supplementary - involving six additional suspects.

Petit's Cambodian counterpart, Chea Leang, has refused to sign off on the second submission, prompting Petit to lodge a "statement of disagreement". The court's pretrial chamber must now resolve the impasse, which threatens to further delay the trials.

Chea Leang repeatedly declined comment Tuesday, saying she was "too busy".

The court's internal rules say she must respond to Petit's submission this week.

Observers have urged the Cambodian side of the court to demonstrate its independence by allowing further investigations to begin.

"If ever there was a moment to show that the Court is not a tool of the Cambodian government, this is it," Open Society Justice Initiative's executive director, James Goldston, wrote in an email.