Thursday, 2 April 2009

Enforcement: Officials to receive share of fine

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Hor Hab
Thursday, 02 April 2009


FIFTY percent of the fine for illegally trafficking animals or animal products is now given back to the person who first issued the ticket in an attempt to fight corruption among government officials, according to a joint declaration of the Ministry of Economy and Finance and the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries from earlier this year. Hak Piseth, the deputy director at the Ministry of Agriculture's animal health and production department, said on Wednesday the decision could help avoid bribery and corruption, adding that the typical fine for trafficking animals varies from one million to five million riels (US$250 - US$1,250) depending the severity of the crime.

Thai 'gangster' insult a matter of definition, say Bangkok officials

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Ngoun Sovan and Thet Sambath
Thursday, 02 April 2009

Thai foreign minister says he intended to praise Hun Sen as ‘sportsmanlike" and "big-hearted".

PRIME Minister Hun Sen lashed out at Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya for allegedly branding him a "gentleman with the mind of a gangster", as Thai diplomats scramble for their dictionaries, claiming the phrase was a routine compliment that was lost in translation.

"I am neither a gangster nor a gentleman, but a real man," the prime minister said Tuesday during the inauguration of Samdech Hun Sen Quay in Preah Sihanouk province's Stung Hav district.

Hun Sen said the comments came to light in late March after lawmakers belonging to Thailand's opposition Puea Thai Party showed parliament video footage of Kasit referring to Hun Sen as a "gangster", during which Kasit amended his phrase to "gentleman with a mind of a gangster".

"If you used such language with other countries ... your country would drop down to a cheap status," said Hun Sen.

"If I insulted your king and queen, what would you say? If I insulted your prime minister or your ancestors, what would you say?"

Hun Sen also said he had an electoral mandate and requested the Thai government to respect the dignity of his office as the legitimate leader of Cambodia. "I am not angry with you, but you must use dignified words ... with other state representatives," he said.

Phay Siphan, spokesman of the Council of Ministers, agreed that the Thai foreign minister, as a professional diplomat, should not use such words to refer to the prime minister of another nation. "[Hun Sen] is an elected prime minister, and when he says things like this, it casts disdain on our nation," he said Tuesday.

A matter of semantics
But Thai officials have defended Kasit, saying the Cambodians mistakenly confused the Thai term nak leng - meaning "gangster" - with the phrase jai nak leng, which translates as "big-hearted", "generous" or "manly".

"Jai nak leng in Thai is a compliment, it is very positive," said Kamrob Palawatwichai, first secretary of the Thai embassy in Phnom Penh.

"A man who is responsible for his work is also called jai nak leng. My foreign minister ... did not have any intention to mean it in a negative way."

In a letter to You Ay, Phnom Penh's ambassador to Bangkok, Thai Foreign Affairs Permanent Secretary Wirasakdi Futrakul claimed the term meant "big heart", and that if the term had been meant in a negative sense it would not have appeared next to the term suparb burut ("gentleman").

"My foreign minister was complimenting Hun Sen as a big-hearted or sportsmanlike gentleman," he wrote.

But Koy Kuong, spokesman for the Cambodian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Wednesday that the Thai statements had not yet absolved Kasit of wrongdoing.

"We have not jumped to conclusions about the letter because we are examining how the meaning of the word changes from Thai language to English language," he said.

"We have not replied to the letter as well because we are waiting for a personal letter from Kasit to respond to what he said."

Peace walk assumes modern tone

Photo by: ZOE HOLMAN
Monks on the 19th Dhammayietra Peace Walk in Prey Veng province's Preah Sdach district on Sunday.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by May Titthara and Zoe Holman
Thursday, 02 April 2009

Preah Sdach district
Prey Veng province

Started in 1992 to unify a factionalised country under the bond of Buddhism, the historic Dhammayietra march has evolved to teach modern social, environmental issues.

MORE than 100 monks, nuns and villagers from around the country walked across Prey Veng province in a 14-day campaign that finished Monday to promote peace and awareness of the environment, domestic violence and health care.

Participants in the 19th Dhammayietra Peace Walk marched 176 kilometres through 10 districts, receiving hospitality from monasteries and village offerings along the way in return for water blessings and education.

"We are here to promote a mindset of peace and non-violence", said Dhammayietra organiser and Nobel Peace Prize nominee Oddom Van Syvorn.

"Our aim is to educate people directly about social and environmental problems through teachings to villagers and primary school students."

The Dhammayietra volunteers' organisation was founded in 1992 when the renowned Cambodian Maha Ghosananda, or "Buddha of the Battlefields", walked defiantly through Khmer Rouge-controlled territory during the historic repatriation of refugees from Thai border camps. When Ghoshanda retired from the Dhammayietra in 2000, Oddom Van Syvorn, a laywoman, was selected by the founder to assume leadership of the pilgrimage.

Through the walk, Oddom says she will continue advancing the Buddhist precepts preached by Ghosananda. "We celebrate the knowledge of monks once a year with their daily teachings in schools along the Dhammayietra [route]," she said.

Organisers see the culturally specific format of Dhammayiatra as key to its effectiveness.

Before the rule of the Khmer Rouge, Volkmar Ensslin, managing director of education NGO KiKam (Kids In Kampuchea), said "the Buddhist community supported monks with food and in return, the monks gave religious teachings."

Dhammayietra propelled monks back into this role, she said, but they also discuss secular issues such as HIV/AIDS, the environment and domestic violence.

"Monks as culturally respected figures are perfect for this education," she added.

Nan Sarith, from Siem Reap province, was among the monks pouring themselves into the strenuous walk. "I've attended to help the Cambodian people develop", he said. "The teachings of the Goshananda can encourage the population to move on from a mentality of victimhood of the past."

This year's Dhammayietra included participants both young and old.

"I never walked more than 1 kilometre from home," said 73-year-old Nhem Pheang, who attended a fortnight ago and continued on the route until the final day. "But every day here I've walked about 10 to 15 kilometres, and I am still happy and strong."

Register your loud party or we'll drop by, says district governor


District police Chief Born Sam Ath said the move would likely decrease the number of violent crimes: "Last year we had 20 violent crimes associated with dance parties, and this year we have had four. So I am confident this measure will help."

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by May Titthara
Thursday, 02 April 2009

Dangkor district's decision is designed to combat violence at dance parties and follows city governor's instruction for a safer city.

THE authorities in Dangkor district in Phnom Penh have announced that prospective party hosts must get permission if they want to play music through loudspeakers. Police will also be posted at approved events to ensure there is no violence.

The move by the district authorities follows a demand by municipal Governor Kep Chuktema that police be more vigilant in protecting the population over Khmer New Year.

District Governor Kroch Phan said the ruling - which will apply to all parties in his district from now on - was necessary because in numerous instances dance parties had led to criminal violence.

"We have taken this action ahead of Khmer New Year because we don't want any serious cases," he said. "From now on when people want to celebrate a wedding party or host a Khmer traditional ceremony or any other party, they must ask permission from the authorities, and we will provide our police to ensure security is maintained."


‘We had to do something'
Soth Sath, the commune chief of Choam Chao, said he was keen on the move because there were a number of factories in his area whose workers were newcomers.

"In the past, we have had crimes such as fighting at dances, and we got so much criticism from people that the area was unsafe that we had to do something," he said. "Only last month at a dance party, three people were killed after a person stepped on someone's foot," he said.

"So now if the host doesn't get permission, we will go in and turn off their speakers and confiscate the equipment," Soth Sath said. "The host of unauthorised events will be responsible before the law for any crimes, and in the event of a crime, we will arrest them to ensure the issue is settled."

District police Chief Born Sam Ath predicted the move would cut crimes and said youths tended to behave when police were present.

Partygoer Bun Sothear, 23, approved of the plan, saying he would feel safer.

"When people have a party, they have to have a loudspeaker - otherwise we don't feel in the party mood," he said. "It's true that some dance parties have problems, but my friends and I feel safer with the police present and don't worry about people fighting."

Blessings for a good harvest


The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Sovann Philong
Thursday, 02 April 2009

A Catholic priest administers a water blessing to villagers in Banteay Meanchey province last month. Scores of villagers from the Cham Nom community attended the blessings, in which priests sought God's favour for an abundant rice crop during next year's harvest.

Monks evict SOID school amid row

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Kyle Sherer
Thursday, 02 April 2009

Kork Chark pagoda director claims SOID founder broke school's deal and antagonised the monks.

MAJOR donors have withdrawn support from Siem Reap-based NGO Supporting Orphans and Indigent people of Cambodia for Development (SOID), after a year of bitter fighting between the NGO director and monks resulted with the closure of a free school.

A verbal agreement between SOID Director Sok Vanna and the previous director of the Prasat Kork Chark pagoda in Veal village allowed the NGO to establish a school on the pagoda grounds rent-free in 2006. But the monastery's new director has terminated the relationship.

When Ta Eark, former director of the pagoda, allowed Sok Vanna to build a school on his grounds, several orphaned children were permitted to live on the premises with monks and nuns. The NGO made a monthly donation of US$25 and a large sack of rice.

But three years later, SOID donors are wondering where their money went after monks protested the school's loose curriculum and ordered it shut.

The pagoda's new director, Ry Sopea, set a deadline of April 20 for the school to shut, ostensibly so that residences for new monks and nuns can be constructed.

But he told the Post that he is also ending the deal partly because SOID has already broken it. "When Sok Vanna made the deal with the monks, he promised to build toilets in the pagoda," said Ry Sopea. "After three years, we're still waiting."

Florida-based SOID sponsor Peggy Mooney said she recently discovered that Sok Vanna, rather than building toilets, had been helping with other construction projects at the pagoda - behind the backs and against the wishes of the donors. "I have learned that Mr Vanna has donated money or built things for the monks with the money donated for the school. He never had the permission of the donors to spend their money on the pagoda. Mr Vanna is not being open and honest with his major donors now."

The relationship between the pagoda and the organisation was further strained when a monk accused the school of teaching Christianity to its 109 students. Sok Vanna denied the claim, saying the school doesn't follow the Cambodian curriculum, but it teaches only English and Khmer languages.

Mooney said that previous attempts to raise the teaching standards of the school had failed. "The school does not have a core curriculum and the teachers do not use any type of study plan. A donor from Canada had arranged for Mr Vanna and the teachers to attend a teacher training centre in Siem Reap. Mr Vanna and teachers never showed up. He said he had gotten lost."

With eviction looming, Sok Vanna and the SOID sponsors are struggling to agree on a strategy to save the school. He said he is trying to raise funds to sign a two-year lease on a piece of land near the pagoda.

Funds sought for heart ward

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Peter Olszewski
Thursday, 02 April 2009

Khmer-American Peter Chhun hopes to treat kids locally.

A CAMPAIGN is under way to raise funds to build a high-tech heart ward in Siem Reap that will enable open-heart surgery to be performed on children.

US-based Cambodian Peter Chhun, an Emmy-award-winning news editor-producer for NBC Network News, announced the plan to raise funds for a world-class heart facility at the Angkor Hospital for Children while in Siem Reap last Friday.

He hopes to raise between US$600,000 and $700,000 to complete the project.

Chhun was in town to oversee the final checkup at the Angkor Children's Hospital of the second Cambodian child he had airlifted to California for a hole-in-the-heart operation.

For the last two years, Chhun has flown a child each year to the US for the lifesaving operation. In June 2007 he took 9-year-old girl Davik Teng from a village outside Battambang to Los Angeles for surgery, after she had found her way to the Angkor Hospital for Children.

He returned the successfully-cured girl to Cambodia in July last year, and then immediately began organising the airlift of another hole-in-the-heart victim, 11-month-old Vy Soksamnang (or Vy Lucky Friday).

The mercy dash to Los Angeles happened last November, and after a successful operation and recuperation, Chhun returned Lucky to Cambodia last week. But before Lucky could return to his village home, he needed at final assessment from Dr Lyda at the Angkor Hospital.

Chhun said, "Dr Lyda checked and everything is looking good. So it is nice to be able to return to his village with a good heart".

But while at the hospital clearing Lucky, Chhun also began the process for his third mercy mission by getting Lyda to re-check another sick boy to see if he was a still suitable candidate for a hole-in-the-heart operation in the US, after an earlier positive assessment.

He was given the thumbs up and flew back to the US on Monday to firm up the operation details with California's largest kids' hospital, the Miller Children's Hospital at Long Beach.

The 18-month-old boy came to Chhun's attention when a friend attended an engagement party in Phnom Penh and noticed the sickly child.

"He discovered the boy had a hole in the heart. He promised the adopted parents he would try to do something, told me, and when I asked to see the boy he was not in good shape."

Chhun said he plans to take him to the US in June. But he is now driven to do more because of the sheer number of babies that need similar operations.

"We have saved two children and now hopefully a third. But unfortunately, so many more children need help.

"So now, we propose the construction of a hybrid cardiac facility in Angkor Children's Hospital. It's going to cost a lot.... But if we build this facility we can bring the children to it."

Tribute to artist Svay Ken marks this year's puppet parade in SR

Photo by: Kyle Sherer
Svay Pisith in front of the Svay Ken puppet at the Giant Puppet Project parade.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Kyle Sherer
Thursday, 02 April 2009

DURING Saturday night's Giant Puppet Project parade, one puppet in particular held a special significance to brothers Svay Pisith and Svay Kabo. Among the colourful renditions of animals, planets and dragon boats that ambled through Siem Reap streets and down the riverside was a large-scale replica of their father, recently deceased artist Svay Ken.

Parade organiser Bina Hanley said that while the choice to make the puppet was difficult, the sons of the artist were overwhelmed by the tribute.

Svay Ken only began painting in 1993, at the age of 60. But despite his late entry into the art scene, he quickly became one of Cambodia's most prolific painters. His folk-style renditions of everyday life in Cambodia captivated the art community, and after his death last December, the Java Cafe and Gallery held an exhibition of his works in his honour.

Hanley and Stuart Cochlin, the Giant Puppet Project director, felt that by making Svay Ken part of their parade, they could show his work to a new generation of Cambodians.

"When we were writing the list of puppets we wanted to make, I thought of Svay Ken," Hanley told the Post.

"Because it's an art project and he's a Cambodian artist. I wanted to show the kids that it's not just Barangs who are creating art here, there are important artists from their own country."

But the project organisers were worried about the reaction of Svay Ken's family. "We wanted the blessing of his sons," Hanley said.

"Initially, Svay Pisith wasn't quite sure how respectful it would be. I mean, it's a giant puppet, how respectful can that be? But we won him over."

On the night of the festival, Hanley said that both sons were overwhelmed with emotion.

The Svay Ken puppet was constructed by children from the NGO This Life Cambodia and was placed on the back of a truck where it sat in front of an equally huge canvas.

"Our giant Svay Ken puppet painted the parade," said puppet-master Jig Cochrane.

The Giant Puppet Project began in 2007, and this year's was the biggest the parade has been. About 550 children were involved.

While the tissue-papered creations have a short life span, the lesser Adjutant and the Hanuman puppets are en route to Battambang, where they will perform a last encore in a smaller procession.

Finance minister rejects ADB's growth forecast

Finance Minister Keat Chhon rejected independent growth projections for 2009, saying that the government’s policies can lead to a better economic performance.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Chun Sophal
Thursday, 02 April 2009

Cambodian government dismisses Asian Development Bank’s latest GDP growth prediction of 2.5 percent for this year as too pessimistic

THE Cambodian government has rejected the Asian Development Bank's latest economic forecast of 2.5 percent GDP growth this year, saying that a strong agricultural and informal sector will lead to growth of more than 6 percent.

"I think it is hard for [the ADB] to be fortune tellers, and we hope that Cambodia will see higher economic growth because the government is walking on the right path to develop the country," Finance Minister Keat Chhon said Wednesday.

The government has rejected major independent forecasts on 2009 growth, including those of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank, the ADB and the Economic Intelligence Unit (EIU).

The EIU forecast a 3 percent contraction, the IMF and World bank separately predicted a 0.5 percent contraction, and the ADB projects 2.5 percent growth. Analysts from all four organisations agree that a slowdown in garment sales, construction and tourism will drag down 2009 growth.

Keat Chhon told reporters outside the National Assembly on Wednesday that ADB and IMF reports were unacceptable and that their estimates failed to account for agricultural growth and the country's informal "non-system" economy.

I am determined to make cambodia’s … growth higher than the forecasts.

"We have big potential for our non-system economy, and we believe that it can help Cambodia see higher growth than the ADB and the IMF forecast," Keat Chhon added.

Agriculture to stay strong
Agriculture is expected to be the one bright spot for the year, and the ADB explained that its more optimistic forecast for productivity growth is because its analysis puts a greater emphasis on the sector.

Agricultural yields are expected to increase in 2009 as irrigation and infrastructure projects are completed. The government and agriculture organisations have also made headway establishing new markets for Cambodian agricultural products and attracting new foreign investment to the sector.


- Government: 6.5 percent
- ADB: 2.5 percent
- World Bank: -0.5 percent
- IMF: -0.5 percent
- EIU: -3 p
- ercent 2008: 6.5 percent

Government forecasts
The Cambodian government's latest prediction was that growth would hit 6.5 percent in 2009, but the finance minister said that figure is under review pending first-quarter results for the country.

"I am determined to make Cambodia's economic growth higher than the forecasts, and I won't let the country decline into chaos because the government has tools ready to move forward," Keat Chhon added.

Eric Sidgwick, the ADB's senior country economist for Cambodia, had no response to the government's latest statement, but said that the ADB and the government had "very good relations".

ADB country director Arjun Goswami said Tuesday that the Cambodian government is coping well with the crisis.

"There is an understanding of the crisis and what needs to be done.... This is a very difficult time for all organisations, including the Cambodian government," Goswami said.

The ADB also predicted that regional growth would slow to 3.4 percent in 2009 on lower exports.


Q1 food prices drop nearly five percent

Commodity Prices Q1, 2009

Biggest price decrease:
- Tomatoes down 53.14 percent
- Cabbages down 44.67 percent
- Cashew nuts down 39 percent
- Cucumbers down 35 percent

Biggest price increase:
- Pineapples up 23.53 percent
- Oranges up 22.5 percent
- Bananas up 21.25 percent
- Granulated salt up 20 percent

Source: Trade Promotion Department

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Michael Fox
Thursday, 02 April 2009

FOOD prices dropped nearly 5 percent in the first quarter of this year, Ministry of Commerce figures show, representing a reversal on the huge price increases Cambodia saw in 2008.

The drops follow soaring inflation from January to October last year that raised fears over food security as prices on some products almost doubled in less than 10 months.

The latest figures, released Wednesday, show an overall downward trend in the price of the 36 foods surveyed, with 20 showing price decreases, 14 showing increases and two - pork and Thai milk - unchanged.

Vegetables appeared to be the hardest-hit food group with tomatoes (53.14 percent), cabbage (44.67 percent) and cucumbers (35 percent) all showing large drops in average prices over three months. Other foods that showed significant price drops were peanuts (34.29 percent), cashew nuts (39 percent) and palm sugar (22.11 percent).

Fruit prices, on the other hand, showed significant increases including bananas, pineapples and oranges, which recorded 21.25, 23.35 and 22.5 percent increases, respectively.

The price of salt increased 196 percent from January to October 18 last year, and grew a further 20 percent this year, with chicken prices up 16.11 percent.

The figures are in stark contrast to the boom in food prices last year where some products saw price increases of almost 200 percent.

The same basket of goods saw an overall increase of 36.9 percent in under 10 months in 2009.

Particularly strong performers included morning glory, which rose 150 percent; oranges, which rose 117.78 percent and black sesame which rose 80 percent.

Agricultural researcher and chairman of the board of directors at the Peace and Development Institute Kasie Noeu said famers were used to fluctuations in food prices and blamed the financial crisis.

"I will not lose hope and will continue to farm these products," he said.

For the cambodian farmer, in order to improve their income, they should not go for rice.

Kasie Noeu said he would look to form relationships with other farmers, in order to strengthen their collective position.

"That way farmers can produce better-quality products by working together, sharing knowledge, and when it comes to purchasing anything they can buy at a better price and sell at a better price."

Certain products such as dried tapioca could be stored and sold when prices were stronger.
Farmers could also target markets where with shortages.

"Organic rice can be sold anywhere at top prices. With the high quality soil of Cambodia, Cambodian farmers can do it at a better price," he said.

The President of CEDAC's steering committee, Yang Saing Koma, said some farmers had more cause to be concerned than others due to the fact that some goods increased in value while others decreased.

It was hard for Cambodian farmers to compete in some areas such as vegetable growing and pig farming as competitors had certain advantages.

"For example, Vietnam because they have [better irrigation] and electricity is cheaper and they have better access to seeds and technology. Here the farmers are producing it under very difficult conditions."

The stability of rice prices, which had shown slight a drop and peaked at $33 for 50kg according to CEDAC figures, made it less attractive for farmers to diversify.

"For the Cambodian farmer, in order to improve their income, they should go not only for rice, but for vegetable and livestock production, but if their competition is so good, it may discourage the farmers to go for more diversification and it might become a big problem for us especially in terms of employment and income opportunities for the farmer."

Diversification would require significant help from the government, he said.

People who were returning to the land from the cities after losing their jobs would make this situation worse because it would increase competition for land.

They would need to look into other forms of farming to avoid making the situation worse, he said.

The Economist Intelligence Unit, which recently caused controversy with a report labelling Cambodia as potentially unstable, has predicted agricultural production will grow by three percent in Cambodia next year, despite the country's real GDP predicted to drop by 3 percent overall.

"Falling agricultural commodity prices will put downward pressure on rural incomes," it said.
The Ministry of Commerce declined to comment.

Govt threatens crackdown on unlicensed TV broadcasts

Photo by: Vandy Rattana
The government has targeted broadcasters in an attempt to keep pirated material off the television. Nonetheless, pirated DVDs and CDs remain readily available from retail outlets across Cambodia.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Chhay Channyda and Mom Kunthear
Thursday, 02 April 2009

Ministry of Commerce sets sights on stations showin illegally obtained programming, says violators face three years’ prison, $2,500 fine

IN an attempt to rescue Cambodia's struggling creative industries from rampant copyright infringement, the Ministry of Commerce has threatened all television stations to respect copyright law and refrain from airing unlicensed music, karaoke or films, or risk up to three months in jail and a fine of 10 million riels (US$2,500).

"Some television and cable television stations broadcast karaoke and films from illegally copied discs without permission," said Minister Cham Prasidh in a directive signed on March 19. "This is a violation of intellectual property law."

Cham Prasidh wrote that the directive from the ministry aimed to encourage writers and producers to create new things - not to plagiarise - and to promote Cambodia's struggling music and film industries.

Mom Soth, the director of the Phnom Penh department at the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts, said Tuesday: "[Piracy] is illegal, and lawbreakers have to be punished, because they are stealing."

"I support the Ministry of Commerce's decision to sign this copyright law, because the owners spend their own money, time and creative capital. We have to respect the producers," he said.

"We are still informing vendors who are copying movies or songs to stop doing that and that they have to respect the owners," he said.

To show the government was serious about the issue, the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts last week destroyed over 80,000 pirated discs and pornography films, which were sold in markets around Phnom Penh.

"The crackdown was an effort to respect the law and warn plagiarisers," he said.

The Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts said it received numerous complaints from artists, which prompted both the commerce minister's warning and the March 26 crackdown.

Glen Felgate, general manager at the Cambodian Television Network (CTN), said Monday that his network has consistently followed Cambodian copyright law and that legally obtained programs were of a superior quality.

The crackdown was an effort to respect the law and warn plagiarisers.

"Since its launch six years ago, CTN's policy has always been to obtain licences, contracts or permission for everything it broadcasts."

"Obtaining programs legally often improves programming quality because TV channels receive the ‘right' materials with which to work," he said.

"It is relatively easy to spot a pirated program because of the poor picture and sound quality. Often those who pirate a program must create their own natural sound track which has to match the action, and this can be difficult to do," he added.

Demining completed for BHP

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Nguon Sovan
Thursday, 02 April 2009

AUSTRALIA'S BHP Billiton's mineral concession in north-eastern Cambodia is land mine free, the country's largest demining agency said Wednesday.

The Cambodian Mine Action Centre (CMAC) said it completed a two-year mine and unexploded ordnance clearance operation on the Mondulkiri property where BHP is exploring for bauxite.

"During the two-year de-mining mission, we assisted the company in its feasibility study of drilling 1,000 holes for bauxite," said Oum Phumro, deputy director general of CMAC.

The mission began in January 2007 and was finished at the end of March.

Govt backs deals with Prague and Kuwait

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Khouth Sophakchakrya
Thursday, 02 April 2009

IN a nearly unanimous vote, parliamentarians at the National Assemby approved bilateral pacts with Kuwait and the Czech Republic, Heng Samrin, president of the National Assembly announced Wednesday.

The Cambodian government, in the deals known as Promotion and Reciprocal Protection of Investments Agreements, pledged to supply business licences to Kuwaiti and Czech nationals, ensure security of their businesses and to avoid government corruption.

In return, Keat Chhon, minister of economy and finance, said he hoped Kuwait would share its expertise in the oil and gas industry to improve Cambodia's energy infrastructure.

Chheang Vun, chief of the National Assembly Commission on Foreign Affairs said at the meeting that he expected the agreements would attract investors from Kuwait and the Czech Republic. "They will provide many jobs," he added.

The Cambodian government has already signed similar agreements with more than 20 other countries including Russia, Korea, China, Vietnam and Thailand.

During the meeting at the National Assembly on Wednesday, Keat Chhon said that once the agreements have been approved by the King, Cambodia will be better able to expand the agricultural sector by exporting more products to the Middle East and Europe.

The leader of the opposition party, Sam Rainsy, criticised the Cambodian government for promising economic land concession licences without investigating foreign companies. "Many ... do not do anything for Cambodia but destroy our natural resources," he said.

Police Blotter: 2 Apr 2009

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Lim Phalla
Thursday, 02 April 2009

A policeman from Tuol Vihear commune in Kampong Speu province was found dead along National Road 2 by villagers in Kandal province on Tuesday morning. The victim, whose wife Kob Mariya was also severely wounded in the attack, was identified as Sim Song, 62. The identity of the attackers remains unknown, but police believe the killing was motivated by revenge, possibly stemming from a lovers' spat.

Vong Chanthol, male, 28, was arrested on Monday in Cyhambork village, Mondulkiri province for allegedly dealing in illegal drugs. During the arrest, police seized 35 small plastic bags of white powder in his rented house. Vong Chanthol told police he sold the drugs for 40,000 riels (US$10) per plastic bag.

Nuon Many Chenda, 39, and her son Lun Nisethnukhun were severely injured when a masked invader attacked them in their home during a power blackout on Monday. The attack took place in Kor village, Chaing Chamreh 2 commune, Russey Keo district, Phnom Penh. Police could not provide any information about the attack, but local residents say they believe the woman, who works as a money-lender, could have been the victim of a revenge attack, as the attacker did not steal anything.

Pov Davy, 55, a resident of O'Russei commune, Prampi Makara district, Phnom Penh, was detained by the municipal court on Tuesday for allegedly cheating a property buyer. She was reported to authorities by a prospective buyer of a property who paid Pov Davy US$110,000 for her house. But Pov Davy, meanwhile, secretly sold the house to another buyer, the victim said.

A teenager was found dead early Monday morning after drinking with friends the night before. Police identified the young man as Dun Ny, 16, from Toteung Thnay village, Boeung Teuk commune, Kampot province, and said he had tried to show he could hold his liquor by drinking a bottle of gin before collapsing. His friends left him where he fell. His body was discovered the next morning.

The Phnom Penh Post News In Briefs

In Brief: More Demolitions on hanoi road

Written by Chhay Channyda
Thursday, 02 April 2009

Police were deployed in Phnom Penh Thmey commune Wednesday as construction workers again started bulldozing houses and fences to make way for the widening of a 4-kilometre stretch of the Cambodia-Vietnam Friendship Highway - also known as Hanoi Road. Among the two affected communes, 22 of 90 homeowners have agreed with City Hall's offer to accept a 32-square-metre plot of land in Dangkor district, but several residents have not yet agreed to the policy and are demanding additional compensation.

In Brief: Heng Samrin off to Addis Ababa talks

Written by Vong Sokheng
Thursday, 02 April 2009

National Assembly President Heng Samrin is to leave for the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa on Friday to take part in the 120th Assembly of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), a world body of parliaments. According to a press release issued by the Assembly April 1, the IPU summit will discuss the role of parliaments on the issues of climate change, energy, freedom of expression, the right of access to information and nuclear nonproliferation. Heng Samrin will be in Ethiopia until April 12.

In Brief: Enforce helment law: Prime Minister

Written by Mom Kunthear
Thursday, 02 April 2009

Prime Minister Hun Sen on Tuesday requested that traffic police continue the enforcement of a new law requiring motorbike drivers to wear protective helmets. "When I take the car, I see many motorbike drivers not wearing helmets, so please continue educating people about wearing helmets in order to protect their lives," he said during the inauguration of the Hun Sen Quay in Preah Sihanouk province. In 2008, 149 motorbike drivers and 79 passengers died on Cambodia's roads while not wearing helmets, according to Handicap International Belgium.

In Brief: Rio Tinto sells blocks

Written by STEVE FINCH
Thursday, 02 April 2009

AUSTRALIAN mining company Rio Tinto told Dow Jones on Wednesday it had completed the sale of oil and gas concessions on the B7, B8 and B9 blocks overlapping Cambodian and Thai areas. An unnamed official of the company added that a royalty interest, Block 9A, had also been sold, without giving further details. A person close to the deal said the concessions were sold to BG Group which, through BG Asia, owns 50 percent in B7, B8 and B9. Chevron owns 33.33 percent.

Temple Watch: Care for Koh Ker

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Dave Perkes
Thursday, 02 April 2009

After 1,000 years of abandonment to the jungle and looters, the temple city of Koh Ker is now getting the attention of restorers. The Angkor Foundation, based in Budapest, has just commenced a three-year program involving a small team of Hungarian archaeologists and environmental experts. A small survey team is working on a mapping project and work had already started stabilising hazardous structures.

Outside the entrance gopura of the pyramid of Prasat Thom lies an unstable laterite building which was in danger of falling down. This has now been temporarily stabilised by wood and brick. The moated area of the central sanctuary was cleared of vegetation in 2007, leaving unattractive piles of brick rubble. The brick sanctuaries have small areas of original stucco, but were in a very poor state. Some of the most unstable structures are now being shored up. The outlying Prasat Damrei, or Elephant Temple, had gaping cracks in the brickwork. Timber supports have enclosed the tower and the stone elephants within it. Nearby, at Ang Khna reservoir, a number of large ancient carvings including lizards, fish, snakes and crocodiles have recently been unearthed.

Move Sought for Admitted Torturer

Francois Roux (L front), French co-defense lawyer for Kaing Guek Eav, better known as Duch (R behind), April 1, 2009.
Radio Free Asia

Cambodia’s international tribunal for top Khmer Rouge officials hears arguments over whether to move the one defendant who has voiced remorse to a site away from the others.

PHNOM PENH— The lawyer for the Khmer Rouge's chief torturer said his client should be held separately from fellow defendants at the international tribunal here after he apologized for atrocities committed by the Marxist faction during its rule in the 1970s.

Kaing Guek Eav—better known as Duch—commanded the 1975-79 regime's main S-21 prison, also known as Tuol Sleng, where as many as 16,000 men, women, and children are believed to have been brutalized before being sent to their deaths.

His French lawyer, Francois Roux, told the court on Wednesday that Duch should be freed from the genocide tribunal's special jail where he is now held with four other Khmer Rouge defendants whom he may implicate in crimes during his testimony, and sent to a "safe house."

Roux said Duch's rights have been violated by his 10-year detention without trial. Cambodian law prohibits "provisional detention" longer than three years, he said.

"Detention for 10 years is no longer provisional detention," Roux said.

Co-prosecutor Chea Leang argued against the request, saying Duch should remain where he is for his own safety.

The tribunal is considering the request.


Duch is charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity as well as murder and torture and could face a maximum penalty of life in prison. Cambodia has no death penalty.

He is the only defendant among five to express remorse, but he has said he was afraid to challenge orders from higher up.

The tribunal marks the first bid to assign legal responsibility for the deaths of an estimated 2 million Cambodians from starvation, medical neglect, overwork, and execution under the 1975-79 rule of the Khmer Rouge, whose top leader, Pol Pot, died in 1998.

On Monday, Duch appeared unflinching as the indictment was read out in court, including allegations that prisoners were beaten, electrocuted, smothered with plastic bags or had water poured into their noses, and that children were taken from parents and dropped to their deaths or that some prisoners were bled to death.

Original reporting by RFA's Khmer service. Additional reporting by the Associated Press. Service director: Sos Kem. Executive producer: Susan Lavery. Edited in English by Sarah Jackson-Han.

Disorder in the Court

Alleged corruption at Cambodia's war-crimes tribunal

From today's Wall Street Journal Asia

PHNOM PENH -- The Khmer Rouge war-crimes tribunal has been dogged by allegations of corruption for years. But only now are the full details of an alleged institutionalized kickback scheme beginning to emerge. Last week, one of the defense teams requested that the tribunal itself investigate lingering allegations of corruption, which will keep this issue in the public eye for many months to come.

At the heart of the corruption charges is a single allegation: Cambodian employees, including some judges, were given lucrative positions at the court on the basis they would then pay a portion of their salaries every month to the government officials who secured them their jobs. Last year, in my capacity as a reporter for the Phnom Penh Post, I met several employees who said they had paid kickbacks to their immediate supervisors and were willing to talk about it. Many refused to be quoted for fear of retribution, as the court has no whistleblower protections in place.

One employee, however, bravely outlined how the kickback system operates: "In front of people you're told to say 'no one is taking away my money' and yes the money transferred into your account is the full amount, but then you have to give over the percentage," the employee said, requesting anonymity. Other employees agreed with this account.

These alleged kickbacks may have alarming implications for the possibility of a fair trial. The tribunal operates under a hybrid structure where the United Nations and the Cambodian government divide responsibility for key areas of the court's operation. The employees told me the kickbacks were demanded only on the Cambodian side of the court, which oversees translation, court management, witness protection, and other areas.

The U.N. has reacted guardedly. Over the last 18 months, the U.N. has conducted a series of investigations into the allegations but refused to disclose the results of the findings. Efforts to create an investigative mechanism and whistleblowers protections for Cambodians working at the court have moved slowly.

In February, an extraordinary leak from a delegation from the Bundestag, or German parliament, provided strong evidence that the U.N. has long been aware of these practices. The report, prepared by the offices of the parliamentarians and published on the Web site of the Bundestag, details an interview with Knut Rosandhaug, the court's deputy director of administration responsible for the U.N. side of the court. It paints a bleak picture of pervasive corruption, using the German term schutzgelder, which literally means "protection money" to describe the payments. The report noted, "The United Nations has conducted an investigation of the head of administration of the [tribunal] Sean Visoth and come to the conclusion that he was guilty of corruption." Neither Mr. Rosandhaug nor the delegation have commented on the report.

Mr. Sean, who heads the Cambodian side of the court, has been on medical leave since November, and could not be reached for comment. He is still an employee of the Court, and the U.N. has not formally accused him of any wrongdoing. The U.N. does not technically have the authority to carry out investigations into nationals employed by member states, and I have not been able to independently confirm whether Mr. Sean was investigated and found "guilty" by the U.N. Court spokeswoman Helen Jarvis said she could not comment on the German report. "Guilt or innocence are normally the outcome of a proper judicial or investigative procedure following due process," she said.

The German report also quotes Mr. Rosandhaug saying the U.N. should pull out of the tribunal or risk "a loss of credibility if they . . . support a tribunal which is characterized by corruption." Both Mr. Rosandhaug and the U.N. declined to comment.

The question now is, where does the U.N. go from here? If Turtle Bay doesn't act fast, donors may have the final say on the court's fate. The Cambodian side of the court may not be able to make payroll this month. Donors have warned in public statements that they may reconsider their pledges if the corruption allegations are not satisfactorily resolved. An emergency donation of $200,000 on March 21 from the Japanese government allowed the Cambodian side of the tribunal to pay salaries for March, but there's no telling what will happen for April's payroll. The United Nations Development Program, which manages millions of dollars for the Cambodian side of the court, has frozen these funds since July pending resolution of the corruption allegations.

To date, five figurehead Khmer Rouge leaders are behind bars. Most will likely die in jail before they face trial given their old age and the slow pace of the judicial process. The tribunal's corruption allegations threaten to rob Cambodians of even this thin slice of justice. For a court that was $120 million and 12 years in the making, Cambodians deserve better.

Ms. Barton is news editor at the Phnom Penh Post.

First part of historic Duch trial ends

Kaing Guek Eav reads a statement during his trial. Photo / AP, APTN

New Zealand Herald

Thursday Apr 02, 2009
Maggie Tait

PHNOM PENH - The historic public trial of the man who ran Pol Pot's torture prison is to take a short break, after a dramatic opening three days in which Kaing Guek Eav apologised to his victims and the Cambodian people.

The trial before a United Nations-backed tribunal is taking place before five judges, one of them New Zealand Justice Silvia Cartwright.

Following Tuesday's dramatic apology by Eav, better known by his revolutionary name Duch, yesterday was anti-climatic. The auditorium, packed for two days, was less than half full.

The trial will resume on Monday when the judges will say whether they agree to a defence request to release Duch into a safe house.

Duch's French lawyer, Francois Roux, asked he be moved from the tribunal's specially built jail to a "safe house," as his rights had been violated by his 10-year detention without trial.

Cambodian law prohibits "provisional detention" longer than three years, Roux said.

After his 1999 arrest, Duch spent seven years in a Cambodian military prison, then nearly three years in the tribunal's jail.

Another argument for moving him was that he shared his quarters with four other Khmer Rouge defendants, and he will be implicating some of them during his trial.

Over the coming months witnesses will testify about what went on at Tuol Sleng or S21 torture centre, where an estimated 17,000 people were detained, tortured and executed.

New Zealand Olympic rower Rob Hamill's brother Kerry was tortured at S21 before he was executed, after the yacht he and two others were sailing strayed into Cambodian waters in 1978.

Mr Hamill has been accepted as a civil party, which means his lawyer can ask questions of witness and Duch on his behalf.

Duch on Tuesday admitted the crimes that happened under his watch but qualified that by saying he was only acting under the orders of his superiors.

Mr Hamill told NZPA on Tuesday that it was good Duch had admitted his guilt, but that had to be tempered by the ambition and willingness to do wrong he had shown by his acts.

"Did he ever consider the people he murdered that they, like him, had mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, or children?"

He wanted to ask Duch what happened to his brother's remains.

The trial is the first of senior leaders in the Khmer Rouge regime under which 1.7 million Cambodians died to be heard before the UN-backed dual international Cambodian Court.

Duch faces charges including crimes against humanity, breaches of the Geneva Convention and violations of the Cambodian penal code including premeditated murder.

Maggie Tait travelled to Cambodia with the assistance of the Asia New Zealand Foundation.


Cambodia's development benefits whom?

UPI Asia

By Chak Sopheap
Guest Commentary
Published: April 01, 2009

Niigata, Japan — Eighteen years after the Paris Peace Agreement that brought relative stability to Cambodia, the country is still suffering from the effects of two decades of the Khmer Rouge dictatorship, civil wars and political conflicts. The Constitution of 1993 allowed the country to strive toward democratic governance, providing a framework for multiparty democracy, a liberal market economy and social development.

Yet, while parts of the economy are making considerable progress, more than 30 percent of the population is still living in extreme poverty. Together with corruption and continued human rights violations – especially the increasing forced evictions and land grabbing under the so-called development claims – there is little hope that Cambodia can move out of poverty. Thus the question arises: For whom is the Cambodian government attempting to achieve its development goals?

The current pursuit of development by the Royal Government of Cambodia has often brought legal abuses and violations of peoples’ rights to housing and development. While the judicial system is corrupt and the state is the main violator of the law, the poor communities are voiceless and powerless.

One example was the eviction of residents of Sambok Chab village on June 6, 2006, which threatened to turn into a serious humanitarian crisis. According to the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, an estimated 6,000 people at a relocation site close to Trapeang Andong village in the Dangkao district were denied the basic rights to food, housing, clean water, public health services and schooling.

More than 1,200 families from Sambok Chab were forcibly relocated to idle rice fields under the supervision of hundreds of armed police and soldiers. Located more than 20 kilometers from their former homes, these people lost their meager means of making a living and many were starving. There was no administration over this site and no security; people dared not leave their small huts for fear that others would take their few belongings.

According to human rights and media observers, on Jan. 24 this year residents of the village of Dey Krahorm were evicted at 2:00 a.m. by over 400 workers from the 7NG Company, a property developer, together with over 300 heavily armed police officers. During this operation, tear gas and heavy machinery including bulldozers were used. Eighteen community members were injured and private property was systematically destroyed.

More than 400 families were reportedly forcibly evicted. Most of them were market stall holders and renters. They were relocated to Damnak Trayeung, 20 kilometers from Phnom Penh, where they set up a makeshift camp on 7NG land beside a road. Some house owners also went to Damnak Trayeung, but others were able to stay temporarily with friends, family or NGOs in Phnom Penh.

The Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights, or LICADHO, reported a lack of facilities at the relocation site including food, water, shelter, mosquito nets and medical facilities. There are no toilets, forcing people to use open fields or unfinished apartment buildings. These unhygienic conditions are obviously harmful to health.

Despite appeals from local and international organizations, as well as pleas from affected residents, evictions have not stopped. Other communities fear it will soon be their turn. In addition to these evictions in urban areas, there have been many cases of land grabbing in the provinces.

The evictions generally follow a pattern with four characteristics: They are violent, using armed forces, tear gas and heavy machinery to drive people out. They follow illegal procedures, without public consultation, prior announcement or justification. They ignore peoples’ right to private property, taking their homes without providing proper compensation or adequate social infrastructure. They are not in the public interest, as most evictions occur on land contracted to private companies in the name of “development projects,” which often turn out to be shopping malls or multistoried apartment buildings.

The relocated people are not benefitting from such development. Hence, the so-called development projects are merely an excuse to hide the government’s violations of peoples’ rights. This must be stopped.

In fact, there are legal guarantees to housing and development. The right to housing is entrenched in a number of international human rights instruments, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 25), the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (Article 11), the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (Article 3), the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (Article 14) and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (Article 27).

Furthermore, the right to development is an inalienable human right. Equal opportunity for development is a privilege of both nations and of individuals who make up nations.

The Cambodian Constitution (Article 31) states that the government shall recognize and respect human rights as stipulated in the United Nations Charter and other declarations, covenants and conventions related to human, women's and children's rights. In addition, the 2001 Cambodian Land Law ensures the right to private ownership of land and prohibits violent, forceful eviction.

The government must abide by its own Constitution and laws.

In principle, people strongly support the government’s development plans and recognize its right to sell land to private companies that can develop it according to the public interest. Yet the government also has the obligation to protect its citizens and their fundamental rights to adequate housing and the means to make a living.

To protect these rights, the government should propose onsite development plans rather than opting to evict poor villagers in the name of city development. If evictions are necessary, the residents should be informed and consulted beforehand. They should be fairly compensated for their property, and relocation sites should include sufficient infrastructure for the people to live in dignity and earn income for themselves and their families.

Most importantly, the government’s master plan must be presented to the public. It is a crucial part of a democratic system for the people to be aware of their country’s development plans.


(Chak Sopheap is a graduate student of peace studies at the International University of Japan. She runs a blog,, on which she shares her impressions of both Japan and her homeland, Cambodia. She was previously advocacy officer of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights. ©Copyright Chak Sopheap.)

Local Vacationers Take Roads Less Traveled In Cambodia, Vietnam

Jim and Toni standing at a temple entryway with massive tree roots exposed. 80% of the jungle growth has been removed revealing evidence of the lost civilization.

The Journal - News

by Steve McLaughlin

Jim and Toni Kull of Hillsboro have logged nearly 100,000 miles traveling to twelve countries across four continents since they retired nine years ago.

The couple recently returned from a fourteen day trip to Cambodia and Vietnam.

“We generally prefer to avoid major tourist areas,” said Jim.

“Instead, we focus on more quaint, pristine places where the pace is a little slower and the people are more approachable, more interactive,” said Toni.

Other trips the couple have enjoyed include New Zealand, Newfoundland, Iceland, Scandinavia, Turkey, Costa Rica and China.

“We would recommend the Cambodia - Vietnam destination to anyone who wants to immerse themselves in a country of open, honest, hardworking people who are exceptionally gracious and engaging,” said Toni.

“Although they have few, if any, luxuries, the residents seem genuinely satisfied with their life dedicated to the basic struggle to provide for daily needs.”

Interacting with people, walking with few restrictions through the ruins of 1,000 year old temples, and an overnight cruise in the Ha Long Bay in the Gulf of Tonkin stand out as the most memorable aspects of their vacation.

In addition, a favorable exchange rate made the trip more affordable when compared to other destinations.

Although Coca-Cola was available at most places they visited, they did not see signs of other American iconic institutions such as McDonalds, WalMart, Starbucks or Walgreens. However, they did spot a rack of Barack O'Bama T-shirts for sale by one street vendor.

Neither Jim nor Toni saw action in the Vietnam War but evidence of that conflict was inescapable as they journeyed through Cambodia and Vietnam.

In Phnom Penh, Cambodia, they toured the Genocide Museum which is a living reminder of the Pol Pot regime responsible for the deaths of over 1 million Cambodians. Hundreds of human skulls are on display at the prison where only seven inmates survived. Over 30,000 other inmates were not so fortunate.

Meanwhile, across town, they saw evidence of a lavish lifestyle at the presidential palace where the floor was composed of pure silver tiles each weighing one kilogram.

They traveled over 1,000 miles from Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) in the south to Hanoi in north Vietnam. They saw frequent reminders of the Vietnam War including bomb craters and tunnels and listened to a number of “official tour guides” who gave visitors a rather slanted view of everyday life in Vietnam.

They toured the Hoa Lo Prison, better known as the Hanoi Hilton, where Senator John McCain was held for much of his 5-1/2 year captivity.

Another impressive sight was viewing the embalmed body of Ho Chi Minh which is on display at a mausoleum named in his honor. “Uncle Ho” is regarded by the Communist government with almost god-like status.

During their 14-day vacation, Jim and Toni were booked on 12 different flights; fortunately, they did not experience any significant delays nor lost luggage.

Hillsboro is Home

“Toni and I came to Hillsboro in 1967 thinking we would be here for a couple of years,” said Jim. He is originally from Strasburg; Toni is from Lawrenceville.

He retired after 33 years with the Hillsboro school system where he taught industrial arts and building trades. Toni worked as a medical transcriptionist at the Hillsboro Hospital.

Their three children, David, Kim and Susan, grew up in Hillsboro. While they no longer live here, Hillsboro remains a favorite destination for them and their seven children collectively.

As their grandchildren get older, Jim and Toni plan to take each of them on vacation.

They've already taken one grandson with them to China in 2006. Later this summer, two more grandchildren will accompany them when they return to China.

“The people at the Pegasus Travel Agency in Hillsboro have been really helpful in arranging our next trip,” said Jim.

“The kids have already had their required shots and passports and visas have been received for them, so much of the preliminary work has already been done.”

Jim and Toni take pride in the collection of photos they have accumulated over the years and eagerly share stories about each one. Together, they provide a wealth of unique experiences and knowledge that can only be obtained by walking down those roads less traveled.

Teamwork helps Cambodian girl walk

Makara Tuan, 14, of Cambodia, does rehab work Tuesday in the Williamsville Diagnostic Center under the guidance of Mike Bauer. At left is Deborah Franco, who led the effort to help Makara.
Sharon Cantilon/Buffalo News

Buffalo News

By Jay Tokasz

Less than a month ago, Makara Tuan used crutches to navigate her Cambodian village and risked losing her right leg to a rare bone disease.

But on Tuesday, thanks to a remarkable set of circumstances that brought the beaming 14-year-old girl to Western New York, Makara walked into an Amherst physical therapy office, without crutches, and performed a series of exercises with an easy smile.

“It is a miracle, the whole thing, from start to end,” said Deborah Franco, a Lockport resident who helped lead the effort to get Makara’s ailing leg healed.

The start was more than a year ago, nearly 12,000 miles away in a small village in Svay Rolom, where Makara limped into a medical mission run by Operation Renewed Hope, a Christian humanitarian group based in Fayetteville, N. C.

Makara complained of a broken leg, and when doctors asked her how she broke it, she simply replied, “I got out of bed.”

X-rays from a hospital two hours away in Phnom Penh ultimately confirmed that Makara had an aneurysmal bone cyst, a disorder that ravaged her femur to the point that merely walking would cause it to snap.

Unless she had complicated surgery by a skilled orthopedist, the leg probably would have to be amputated.

Franco entered the story about a year ago, when she met a doctor affiliated with Operation Renewed Hope at a convention in Louisville, Ky. The doctor later e-mailed Franco regarding Makara’s case and the organization’s efforts to find a U. S. hospital and surgeon.

Franco, in turn, contacted her close friend Dr. Helen Cappuccino, a general surgeon who is married to an orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Andrew Cappuccino, the man credited with helping save the life of former Buffalo Bills tight end Kevin Everett.

Andrew Cappuccino agreed to do the surgery and volunteered to fly to Cambodia.

But hospitals there don’t have the equipment necessary for the kind of delicate surgery necessary in Makara’s case.

When approached by Operation Renewed Hope, a few American hospitals declined to host Makara. So Kenmore Mercy, where the Cappuccinos practice, signed on.

Franco’s employer, Raptim International Travel in Lewiston, which specializes in travel arrangements for humanitarian efforts, paid for the airfare. An immigration attorney provided pro bono legal work for Makara’s visa. And Cappuccino and Kenmore Mercy provided their services free of charge.

In all, the gratis services probably totaled more than $50,000, said Jan Milton, founder of Operation Renewed Hope.

On March 14, Makara flew into Chicago, where Franco met her for a flight into Buffalo. On March 19 Cappuccino placed rods in Makara’s leg to allow the bone to heal.

Makara has been living with Franco, who has temporary legal guardianship while the girl is in the United States. She’s also spent time with the Cappuccinos, who have a daughter around the same age as Makara.

Milton credited Franco with making Makara’s unlikely journey and recovery a reality.

Franco, though, ascribed everything coming together as the work of God.

“There’s absolutely no man who could have done all that,” she said.

Cambodian ‘James Bond’ arrested for duct-taping girl in New Albany

News and Tribune
April 01, 2009

Police: Teen stole gifts he gave girlfriend while they were dating


An 18-year-old Cambodian man wearing a Sean Connery mask allegedly entered an apartment at Charlestown Crossing in New Albany on Monday night and tied up his ex-girlfriend with duct tape.

Meng Theara — who had been staying with relatives in Louisville while on a visa — began dating the 16-year-old New Albany High School student after meeting her at her grandmother’s birthday party, Floyd County Sheriff Darrell Mills said.

“She broke up the relationship,” Mills said. “He told me he wanted to get his stuff back and wanted to scare her.”

Mills said Theara told him that he was wearing the mask of Sean Connery’s “James Bond” character so that she would not recognize him. Police are not sure why the girl let him in. Once inside the apartment, Theara allegedly duct-taped the girl’s hands and mouth. He also took property, including a cell phone, that he admitted to giving to her as gifts when the two were dating.

“She started struggling with him,” Mills said. “Neighbors heard the struggle and called 911.”

Floyd County Police Officer Phil Davis was in the area and located Theara within a minute of the 911 call, according to police.

The girl was “roughed up” and left taped up in the apartment, Mills said. Family members told police that they would get her medical treatment if she needed it.

Theara was found leaving the scene in a vehicle being driven by his cousin. Police have not charged the cousin because he said he had taken Theara to the apartment complex several times and did not know what had happened. The cousin helped translate for Theara, who speaks little English.

Theara was in Floyd County Superior Court No. 3 on Tuesday afternoon. Judge Maria Granger granted the prosecutor’s office a 72-hour continuance to file charges. An initial hearing was set for Thursday, and Theara is being held in the Floyd County Jail on $200,000 cash-only bond.

Mills said that Theara has a federal detainer because he is not an American citizen, so even if he posts bond, he will not be granted release. Police recommended Theara be charged with burglary resulting in bodily injury. He was booked into jail on preliminary charges of residential entry and criminal confinement.

An Old piece On Cambodia As Khmer Rouge Trial Goes On

New America Media

Apr 01, 2009
by Andrew Lam

In the summer of 1992, while staying at a friend’s home outside the town of Siem Reap, Cambodia, I woke in the middle of the night and saw fire outside my window—or rather, to be more accurate, several balls of fire moving in a slow dance at a distance. For half a minute, I stood transfixed, watching those balls of light flutter and flirt with each other before they abruptly disappeared.

To this day I do not know what I saw, though I reasoned that they were torches carried by very fast runners. When I talked about the fire to soldiers, servants, housewives, and even politicians, however, many simply nodded their heads knowingly and said, “ghosts.”

“So many ghosts here, you know,” one woman remarked in a matter-of-fact way, “their souls have not gone to heaven. They are still very angry.”

It is risky for a journalist to talk about ghosts—it has taken me almost five years to tell this story—but I suspect ghosts and spirits and myths provide a crucial window to the Cambodian psyche. After all, modernity has little sway in a country where nine out of ten people live in the countryside, without electricity, where 7 out of ten are essentially illiterate, and where there is only one true urban center—the capital, Phnom Penh.

To explain the cause of their country’s suffering, most Cambodians are more likely to provide a ghost story or a legend than political analysis.

From notebooks I wrote while traveling the Cambodian countryside—An old woman named Srong said this about the Khmer Rouge. “The old monks used to say, ‘One day there will be a war where the demons come and blood will rise to the elephant’s stomach,’ and it came true.” Srong is blind. Her face is strangely serene as she explains she had witnessed the Khmer Rouge murdering her own children and then found she could no longer see. She spoke of the years under the Khmer Rouge as “Cambodia’s Punishment Time.”

A man named Hott Nguong explained the Khmer Rouge. “The Khmer Rouge soldiers are possessed by demons who came from hell. They have no souls. You can tell by looking in their eyes. If you are a human being how can you torture children to death?”
Bonn Srey, a woman who cannot read or write, explains Cambodia’s tragedy by saying the country is cursed. “A long time ago, the Cambodian king was powerful and cruel to neighboring countries and those people curse Cambodia. Now Cambodia is full of demons and ghosts.”

Intellectuals are not immune. Reasay Poch, a Cambodian American with a graduate degree in Asian Studies from Cornell was doing research at Tuol Sleng, the infamous Khmer Rouge prison where some 20,000 people were incarcerated, tortured, then systematically killed. Poch was working on the second floor of the building, reading and photocopying written confessions left behind by Khmer Rouge victims when he heard screaming and the sound of clanking metal. He rushed out to the balcony overlooking the torture chambers on the first floor, but saw nothing. “I had to tell myself even if there were ghosts, they wouldn’t harm me,” he said. “After all, I am here to help tell their stories.”

The past—both the mythic and the immediate—has such a strong grip on Cambodian life, I suspect, because it is also the present. While neighboring countries—Vietnam, Thailand, even backward Laos—are now progressing technologically and economically, Cambodia remains an agrarian society whose people continue to lead a life not so different from that of their ancestors.

One need not look far to see the symbol of the past in contemporary Cambodian politics. All warring factions during the early 1990s had the image of the ancient capital, Angkor Wat, imprinted on their flags. Paintings of these stone ruins hang on the walls of every government office, every restaurant and every classroom. They are a testament to an ancient empire that once stretched westward across Thailand to Burma and eastward to include much of the Mekong Delta and South Vietnam. “Bangkok” and “Saigon” are both Cambodian words.

It was an empire that at one time understood intimately the power of war and destruction. Cambodia was once a Hindu nation that worshipped Shiva, the Destroyer God. When he danced, it is said, he set in motion both the creative and destructive forces in the world.

Those who know the story say Shiva remains a potent and angry God. One Cambodian guide at Angkor Wat explained, “We failed to worship Shiva and he punished us by sending his Monkey Army in the form of the Khmer Rouge. Shiva promised to protect those who worshipped him and destroy all unbelievers. And we were punished because we failed to worship him.”

Shiva’s four faces with their eerie half smiles can be seen all over the stone ruins. Each represents a different aspect: Creation, Preservation, Incarnation, and Destruction. As I write, I can still see in my mind’s eyes those stone faces, smiling their mysterious smiles.

And I think of Kall Kann, the doe-eyed teenager who stared at the stone faces, trying to decipher the past: “The stone faces belong to a King, maybe a God, but it’s too long ago,” he said. ” I don’t remember the name. My father knows the name for sure but, you know, my father is dead.”

Duch Accepts Indictment of 260 Crimes

By Chun Sakada, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
01 April 2009

Entering the third day of his trial, Duch agreed to accept all the charges against him as chief of Tuol Sleng prison, known to the Khmer Rouge as S-21, as prosecutors read through their entire indictment.

Duch’s indictment includes 260 crimes committed when he was head of S-21, the nearby prison of Prey Sar, and the Choeng Ek execution ground, where as many as 16,000 Cambodians were killed and dumped into mass graves.

All of them relate to charges he faces for war crimes, crimes against humanity, torture and murder.

Duch, 66, spent nearly three hours before Trial Chamber judges, reading along as prosecutor Robert Petit announced the charges against him. Step by step, Duch agreed through his lawyers to every charge.

He disagreed with only one phrase. He requested that the words “Tuol Sleng” be removed from the terminology. The prison was called S-21 when he was its director, he said, and was only called Tuol Sleng after the regime fell.

Aside from that, Duch had no disagreements with any of the indictments, and his acceptance of responsibility for each crime was well met by those who had come to see the trial.

“The confession to the crimes and acceptance of the indictment by Duch is the right thing,

Ouy Poch, 39, who watched the proceedings Wednesay, said.

This was the first time he heard Khmer Rouge cadre publicly accept responsibility for individual crimes, he said.

“Duch expressed loyalty for the court, for the witnesses and the souls of the dead in Tuol Sleng, but it is not enough for Duch,” he said. “The court should punish him according to the law.”

Var Reena, 45, said Duch’s case was important for “all the Cambodian people.”

“Especially, he knows his mistakes, and his taking responsibility for his mistakes is not a bad thing,” she said.

On April 6, Duch will face questions from prosecutors and judges.

Central Bank Offers Loans to Boost Liquidity

By Ros Sothea, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
01 April 2009

Cambodia’s national bank has announced short-term loans for local banks and financial institutions that are facing liquidity constraints in the wake of the financial crisis.

A Jan. 20 directive obtained by VOA Khmer last week warns that “unforeseen or unprecedented adverse trends or market conditions” could mean that standard risk management might not suffice for some institutions, the National Bank directive says.

“Considering the risk, the NBC is considering granting overdraft facilities aimed at helping such institutions overcome temporary liquidity shortages,” the directive says.

The International Monetary Fund and World Bank have both warned that a number of Cambodia’s banks are facing liquidity problems, thanks to non-performing loans and a slowdown in deposits.

Any institution asking for the loans must be profitable, solvent and have collateral. The loans would have to be paid back within three months.

Officials from the Ministry of Economy and Finance say the NBC has prepared $100 million for lending, though requests for such loans cannot exceed 50 percent of a bank’s reserve requirements. (All commercial banks keep a reserve of 12 percent of deposits at the central bank.)

“The National Bank has already finalized a policy for banks that want to request [the loans],” Finance Minister Keat Chhon told reporters last week.

So far, none of Cambodia’s 47 institutions has applied for the loans, Keat Chhon said.

“The National Bank is taking measures by providing these loans, meaning that there is an effect on the banking sector, which could face a crisis,” Chheang Meng Heak, an economist at the Royal University of Law and Economics said. “This package will help ease tensions among investors, by demonstrating that we have enough funding to prevent unforeseen crises.”

He cautioned, however, that the loan package was just a short-term solution to help financial institutions. Some of these may still face problems if the real estate sector, a major lending target for Cambodia’s banks, slumps further.

Party Wants Arrest in Activist’s Murder

By Taing Sarada, VOA Khmer
Original report from Washington
01 April 2009

The Human Rights Party on Tuesday called on Kampong Cham provincial police to make an arrest in the killing of one of its activists last week.

Sim Net, 48, was shot dead around midnight, March 27, while returning from a party on a quiet provincial back road with his cousin. His cousin was not killed in the shooting, but his motorbike was taken, leading rights investigators and police to suspect a robbery.

However, with no one arrested, political motives cannot be ruled out, HRP President Kem Sokha told VOA Khmer Tuesday.

“We appeal to the authorities to seek the real perpetrator for justice, so that we are able to conclude whether the case was politically motivated or a robbery,” he said.

Kampong Cham’s police chief, Noun Sanim, told VOA Khmer the likely motive was robbery, but police had so far been unable to find the culprit or the motorcycle.

“Our measures now are to further the investigation and find out more information,” he said. “A day after the shooting, we suspected a man. We went to his house, but he had left 30 minutes earlier. We are working on it.”

Human rights investigators from Adhoc and Licadho said the motive was likely robbery.

“I haven’t found this situation to be a political assassination,” Adhoc’s Sim Heang said.

“For now I think it is more like a robbery,” said Bou Vireak, of Licadho. “We can’t say anything yet, but we will follow this issue further.”

Tribunal Trials Not for Revenge: Official

By Kong Sothanarith, VOA Khmer
Phnom Penh
01 April 2009

As the Khmer Rouge tribunal goes through its first trial, for prison chief Duch, more light will be shed on the regime, educating people about the dark period in their history, a tribunal spokesman said Monday.

“The trial is not for revenge,” said Reach Sambath, as a guest on “Hello VOA.”

Duch, 66, whose real name is Kaing Kek Iev, is facing charges of war crimes, crimes against humanity, torture and murder, for his role as the head of Tuol Sleng and Prey Sar prisons and the Choeung Ek “killing fields,” where up to 16,000 Cambodians were executed and dumped into mass graves.

Duch’s trial “will explain the real history of Cambodia,” Reach Sambath said. “It will allow the younger generation to understand what happened.”

Callers from the audience had many questions about the trial and the history of the Khmer Rouge, including the exact death toll from the regime; researchers put it between 1.7 million and 3 million.

“We expect that by the end of the mandate of the [tribunal] we can find out clearly the exact figure of the victims killed in the Khmer Rouge regime,” Reach Sambath said.

The tribunal will hold trials for four other senior-most leaders, he said: ideologue Nuon Chea, head of state Khieu Samphan, foreign minister Ieng Sary and his wife, foreign minister Ieng Thirith.

That number could widen, however, if the Pre-Trial Chamber of the Khmer Rouge tribunal sides with recommendations from international prosecutor Robert Petit. His recommendation that the indictments be widened has been opposed by Cambodian prosecutor Chea Leang.

“The controversy of more indictments proposed by the international co-prosecutor and rejected by his Cambodian counterpart is under consideration at the Pre-Trial Chamber,” Reach Sambath said.

Senior Khmer Rouge linked to alleged torturer

World AP
Wednesday, 04.01.09

Associated Press Writer

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia -- A top leader of the Khmer Rouge has been linked to mass executions of prisoners carried out during the communist movement's time in power three decades ago, Cambodia's genocide tribunal heard Wednesday.

A prosecutor reading out a legal document named Nuon Chea, the regime's top ideologue, as the man who ordered alleged torture center chief Kaing Guek Eav (pronounced "Gang Geck Ee-uu") to kill four groups of prisoners and authorized medical research on poisons to be carried out on prisoners. Nuon Chea is already in the tribunal's custody, but he has not yet been formally indicted.

He was named - apparently inadvertently - during the trial of Kaing Guek Eav, better known by his nom de guerre Duch (pronounced "Doik"), who commanded Phnom Penh's S-21 prison, where as many as 16,000 men women and children are believed to have been brutalized before being sent to their deaths.

Duch's indictment, which the document quoted from, said the purpose of the executions "was to make room for a large influx of (new) prisoners following mass arrests."

Nuon Chea had been identified only by a pseudonym in publicly released documents for Duch's trial, but co-prosecutor Robert Petit let slip his name Wednesday despite being cautioned earlier by a judge to use only initials for the sources cited.

Duch, now 66, is charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity as well as murder and torture. He could face a maximum penalty of life in prison; Cambodia has no death penalty. His trial began Monday.

The U.N.-assisted tribunal represents the first serious attempt to hold Khmer Rouge leaders accountable for the deaths of an estimated 1.7 million Cambodians from starvation, medical neglect, slave-like working conditions and execution. The group's top leader, Pol Pot, died in 1998.

Duch is the first of five surviving senior figures of the regime to go on trial.

His fellow detainees - besides Nuon Chea - are Khieu Samphan, the Khmer Rouge's former head of state; Ieng Sary, its foreign minister; and his wife Ieng Thirith, who was minister for social affairs. All are expected to be tried sometime over the next year.

Duch is so far the sole defendant to express remorse at the tribunal proceedings, and his French lawyer said earlier Wednesday that his client should be released from the specially built jail holding the Khmer Rouge defendants whom he may implicate in crimes during his testimony.

Francois Roux suggested the court free his client and perhaps send him to a "safe house," because his rights have been violated by his 10-year detention without trial. Cambodian law prohibits "provisional detention" longer than three years, he said.

In response to a question outside the courtroom, Roux declined to says whether he felt Duch might be under threat from his former comrades.

"I said only it would be better for him and the case. I don't want to say more," he told The Associated Press.

Duch's trial opened Monday with court officials reading an indictment that contained wrenching descriptions of the torture and executions that Duch allegedly supervised.

Duch had been the center of attention Tuesday as he delivered a personal statement accepting responsibility for crimes committed at S-21 and expressed his "deep regretfulness and ... heartfelt sorrow."

Duch told the courtroom filled with hundreds of spectators - including relatives of the victims - that he tried to avoid becoming commander of Tuol Sleng. But once in the job, he said, he feared for his family's lives if he did not carry out his duty to extract confessions from supposed enemies of the regime.

He offered apologies to the victim's families, while acknowledging that it may be too much to ask for immediate forgiveness for "serious crimes that cannot be tolerated."

Chum Mey, 78, one of a handful of survivors of Tuol Sleng, came to watch Duch confess his activities.

"Duch surprised me. I thought this man would not admit to it," he said.

"I felt a little feeling of relief but I don't trust him 100 percent," added Chum Mey, who was kept alive because of his skills in maintaining the prison's machinery. "I know Duch well. This man, he has many tricks. He just said these words because he wants the court to reduce his sentence."

Procedural matters occupied all of Wednesday's session. The trial, which is due to end in July, will resume Monday.

Lawyer urges release for confessed Khmer Rouge killer
Wednesday, April 1, 2009
The Associated Press

A court in Phnom Penh heard arguments on Wednesday to release a man who has already confessed and apologized for atrocities at a notorious torture facility during the Khmer Rouge's rule in Cambodia in the 1970s.

The UN-assisted tribunal heard arguments that Kaing Guek Eav — commonly known as Duch — be released from the jail where he is being held. Four other people are also being held there.

Duch's lawyer, Francois Roux, suggested that her client should be sent to a safe house and argued that his rights have been violated by his 10-year detention without trial. Cambodian law prohibits "provisional detention" longer than three years, he said.

Co-prosecutor Chea Leang contested the request saying releasing him would affect the victims' families.

"It would make them angry and take revenge on him," she said.

Procedural questions occupied much of Wednesday's session — after the previous day's dramatic developments.

On Tuesday, Duch spoke of "regretfulness and heartfelt sorrow for all crimes" and said he was taking responsibility for the crimes committed at the prison.

"I recognize that I am responsible for the crimes committed," Duch testified, reading from a prepared statement.

Duch is the first of five officials from Pol Pot's hardcore communist regime that from 1975 to 1979 turned Cambodia into a vast labour camp and killing field that left an estimated 1.7 million people dead.

If found guilty, he could face a maximum sentence of life in prison. There is no death penalty in Cambodia.

The trial, which is due to end in July, will resume Monday.

SBS Cambodia's Home Boys

Part 1

Part 2

David O'Shea reports on the fate of nearly 200 Cambodian refugees whose parents fled the killing fields of the Khmer Rouge.
They were granted safe haven in the United States, and have spent most of their life there.
But under a policy introduced by former US President Bill Clinton and enthusiastically adopted by George W Bush, refugees who have broken the law are being plucked out of their American lives and deported to Cambodia.
As O'Shea reports in his story - despite the unfamiliar surroundings, and often not even being able to speak the language, they're trying to make the most of life in their new country.