Monday, 6 April 2009

Corruption charges overshadow Khmer Rouge trial

A Cambodian boy walks past photos of former prisoners on displaying at a former Khmer Rouge prison, known as S-21, of the Tuol Sleng genocide museum, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Sunday, April 5, 2009. Cambodia's U.N.-backed genocide tribunal on Monday resumes trying Kaing Guek Eav, alias, Duch, accused of running a torture center for the Khmer Rouge in the late 1970s.(AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

A Cambodian Buddhist monk watches a painting of a torture scene at a former Khmer Rouge prison, known as S-21, of the Tuol Sleng genocide museum, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Sunday, April 5, 2009. Cambodia's U.N.-backed genocide tribunal on Monday resumes trying Kaing Guek Eav, alias, Duch, accused of running a torture center for the Khmer Rouge in the late 1970s.(AP Photo/Heng Sinith)


Associated Press

Cambodia's genocide tribunal reopens its historic trial of an accused Khmer Rouge torture chief on Monday, but allegations of corruption threaten to overshadow the proceedings.

The U.N. Assistant Secretary-General for Legal Affairs, Peter Taksoe-Jensen, is visiting Cambodia to meet with government and tribunal officials about allegations that Cambodian personnel taking part in the U.N.-backed tribunal were forced to pay kickbacks to obtain their positions.

Defense lawyers and human rights groups suggest that the allegations, if unanswered, could sink the tribunal's credibility. They also pose a financial threat, since foreign aid donors who provide the budget for Cambodian personnel are withholding their funds pending a resolution of the issue.

Last week, the tribunal began trying Kaing Guek Eav, 66, who was commander of Phnom Penh's S-21 prison _ also known as Tuol Sleng _ when the communist group held power from 1975-79.

As many as 16,000 men, women and children are believed to have been tortured there before being sent to their deaths.

Kaing Guek Eav, better known by his nom de guerre Duch, is the first senior Khmer Rouge figure to face trial, accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity, as well as homicide and torture.

Four more senior leaders of the group are also in custody and expected to be tried sometime over the next year. An estimated 1.7 million Cambodians died from forced labor, starvation, medical neglect and executions under the Khmer Rouge.

In a dramatic opening personal statement to the court, Duch took responsibility for his actions and delivered a public apology for horrific activities detailed in the indictment against him read out earlier.

The corruption allegations, which were originally leveled two years ago by the Open Society Justice Initiative, a New York-based watchdog group monitoring the tribunal, have been publicly denied by Cambodian and some U.N. officials.

But they were revived in February when a report surfaced on the German parliament's Web site alleging that a top U.N. tribunal official had acknowledged the kickbacks and accused a senior Cambodian administrator of corruption.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, who has only grudgingly supported the tribunal, last week attacked it for considering expanding the scope of defendants, a move he claims would be divisive for the country.

In what seemed to be an expression of contempt for the corruption allegations, he suggested the U.N. could just leave and let Cambodia run the trial on its own. The tribunal employs joint teams of Cambodian and international court personnel.

U.N. legal expert Taksoe-Jensen is scheduled to talk with Deputy Prime Minister Sok An on Monday in their third meeting on the corruption issue. Previous meetings have not resulted in agreement on how to deal with the allegations.

Lawyers for two defendants yet to be tried attempted to argue last week that the corruption allegations demonstrated that the judicial process was flawed, and the issue should be considered in their appeals for the release of their clients for pre-trail detention.

The arguments by the lawyers for former Khmer Rouge foreign minister Ieng Sary and former head of state Khieu Samphan were not allowed by the judges. Lawyers for Nuon Chea the Khmer Rouge's top ideologue, had earlier raised similar arguments.

London-based Amnesty International has urged the U.N. and the Cambodian government to address the corruption allegations, saying they cast "serious doubts on the chambers' competence, independence and impartiality."

Crisis talks follow border clash

Cambodian soldiers man a heavy machine gun near Preah Vihear temple on Sunday.
The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Cheang Sokha and Sam Rith
Monday, 06 April 2009

Thai delegation meets with Prime Minister Hun Sen ahead of summit, officials say.

A DELEGATION of high-ranking Thai officials met Sunday with Prime Minister Hun Sen to discuss Friday's armed clash near Preah Vihear temple that killed at least three Thai soldiers, Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan told the Post.

Phay Siphan said Thai officials requested the unofficial meeting, which came in advance of two days of border negotiations set to begin today.

Those talks were scheduled before Friday's fighting, which marked the worst outbreak of violence in the nearly nine-month standoff over disputed border territory.

Phay Siphan said he could not provide details about where the meeting occurred, which officials attended or which specific points were discussed.

Kamrob Palawatwichai, first secretary at the Thai embassy in Phnom Penh, said he had received no information about the meeting.

Also Sunday, military officials from both sides met over lunch in disputed territory near the 11th-century Preah Vihear temple. After that meeting, RCAF Division 3 commander Srey Doek said, "I asked the Thai leaders not to let their troops go into the disputed area, and they agreed that they would stay out."

Thai army Major Apichat Poupouk said, "We don't need fighting.... We have no problem. Now the commanders are talking to solve the confusion."

Upcoming talks
Var Kimhong, Cambodia's top border negotiator, told the Post Sunday that he and his Thai counterpart would meet today and Tuesday in Phnom Penh for border talks, noting that there had been no change to the scheduled meeting in light of the recent violence.

Koy Kuong, an undersecretary of state and spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, told the Post Sunday that both countries remained committed to resolving the border dispute peacefully.

Cambodia and Thailand have never fully demarcated their 805-kilometre shared border.

Koy Kuong said the discussion would centre on points raised during previous rounds of border talks in Siem Reap and Bangkok.

"They will resume discussions on two unsigned agreements - one made in Siem Reap and the other in Bangkok," he said. "They will discuss demarcation and demining, and they will especially discuss having Preah Vihear cleared of soldiers."

Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said the border issue would come up when he meets with Hun Sen at a summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and its regional partners in Thailand next week, which was supposed to focus on the global economic slowdown.

"It is sad for those who lost their lives. We will speed up the return of the situation to normal and resume the talking process as soon as possible," Abhisit said in his weekly television broadcast.

In a letter dated Saturday and sent to its Cambodian counterpart, Thailand's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the outbreak of violence "took place within Thai territory" and called the actions of Cambodian troops "a serious violation of the Kingdom of Thailand's sovereignty and territorial integrity".

In a visit Saturday with disabled veterans in Kampot province, Hun Sen said the violence occurred only after Thai soldiers tried to enter disputed territory.


North Korea fires rocket

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by AFP
Monday, 06 April 2009

SEOUL - North Korea launched a long-range rocket on Sunday, defying months of pressure from the United States and its allies over what they said was an illegal missile test and jangling nerves across the region.

US President Barack Obama called for a strong international response, with the UN Security Council to hold an emergency meeting Sunday, while South Korea denounced it as a "reckless" threat to world security.

For several tense minutes, the rocket flew through the airspace of Japan, which had given its military authority to shoot down any threat to its soil - something the North Koreans had warned would be seen as an act of war.

But Japan said the booster rockets fell harmlessly into the water, while the US and Seoul said the launch had failed to get its payload into orbit.

North Korea, which for weeks insisted on its right to the peaceful use of space, said it put a communications satellite into orbit that was broadcasting "immortal revolutionary songs" and anthems praising leader Kim Jong Il.

"The launch vehicle and satellite, developed by our own technology, is a proud fruit of our struggle to bring the nation's space technology to a higher level," the official KCNA news agency said hours after the morning launch.

UN arrives for fresh KRouge court talks

Former Khmer Rouge head of state Khieu Samphan, whose lawyers on Friday became the most recent defense team to raise the issue of corruption at Cambodia's war crimes court.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Georgia Wilkins
Monday, 06 April 2009

The UN's top legal official says the results of a review into corruption allegations will not be raised in meetings this week.

THE UN's top legal officer spoke with key donors to Cambodia's war crimes court ahead of today's scheduled meeting with Deputy Prime Minister Sok An, but said the fallout from a UN probe into graft allegations at the tribunal would not be addressed.

"I'm not going to bring that issue up," Peter Taksoe-Jensen told the Post in an interview Sunday evening, referring to the findings of the review that was conducted last year by the UN's Office of Internal Oversight into claims that some Cambodian court employees were forced to kick back portions of their salaries to their bosses.

"As you know, one of the defence teams has filed a request for the court to look into this issue, and I understand that the court has made a decision," he said, referring to last month's request by Nuon Chea's defence team to release the probe's findings, and Friday's announcement by tribunal judges in response.

"[The] important task of watching over the reputation of the court and providing appropriate follow-up on the allegations of corruption ... is not within the mandate of the co-investigating judges, but rather of the Cambodian and United Nations authorities," the judges wrote, quashing a written request for release of the findings submitted by Nuon Chea's lawyers, which has the support of all defence teams bar one.

Taksoe-Jensen said the UN was currently "processing" a similar request from Nuon Chea's legal team to release the controversial findings.

Two other sets of lawyers, representing former Khmer Rouge foreign minister Ieng Sary and head of state Khieu Samphan, attempted to raise the corruption issue during court hearings last week but were muzzled by the judges.

Defence on the offensive
"I should keep silent because it's not good to be shooting at the wounded in ambulances, just like it's not good to be shooting at dying institutions," famed French attorney Jacques Verges told the court in a seemingly prepared response to being told to be silent on the corruption issue.

Speaking at a bail hearing for Khieu Samphan on Friday, the lawyer, whose clients have included Venezuelan terrorist Carlos the Jackal and Nazi war criminal Klaus Barbie, also made reference to comments made earlier last week by Prime Minister Hun Sen, who said he would rather the UN-backed court fail than pursue more suspects for prosecution.

"In this sense, you are moral squatters," Verges said.

However, he was stopped by Australian judge Rowan Downing, who told him that it was not possible to talk about "a new issue" during proceedings in which he was supposed to be responding to prosecution arguments.

Defence lawyers for Ieng Sary were the first to bring up the issue on Thursday, when American lawyer Michael Karnavas was also told by international judges that the issue would not be discussed in that particular session. Taksoe-Jensen said that he felt "the defence lawyers are doing their job and we expect them to do that".

He said in his opinion, however, that talk of a court collapse was "far-fetched", maintaining that finances on the UN side were "healthy" and there was a strong willingness on the Cambodian side to not allow a lack of cash to impede judicial progress.

However, he conceded the link between the lingering graft allegations and the Cambodian side's funding difficulties was important.

"When these allegations were brought forward, the donors and also UNDP took steps on the basis of the allegations in the press, so there is in my view a link between the two issues," he said.

"Therefore we have the ambition to solve the issue tomorrow so that we can get back to what the court is really about."

Whistleblower protection
Amid the recent focus on the graft allegations, Taksoe-Jensen said the talks with Sok An would focus on establishing "a credible mechanism whereby all employees at the court would be able to report misconduct in a way in which they will not fear any interrogation".

The court's current whistle-blower protections on the Cambodian side have had little success.

"I can only say that it is very important for the UN that cases go forward which meet fair trial standards, and we are very certain that that is going to be the case," Taksoe-Jensen said.

"I've been assured by talking to the international judges today that they will only go forward if there will be a fair trial. And we will, and will only, back the court so long as we are in a position to make sure of this," he added.

Since the corruption allegations first surfaced in October 2007, Taksoe-Jensen has visited the Kingdom several times in a bid to hammer out a deal with the Cambodian government that would allow international donors - many of whom are now reluctant to fund the Cambodian side of the court - to resume payments.

Patricia Georget of the Office of Legal Affairs said the talks would deal with the "same issues as last time", but could not give more detail.

Sok An and Taksoe-Jensen last met in February, when both parties agreed to deal with the issue of corruption through their separate administrative channels. Court public affairs officer Helen Jarvis was unable to confirm Sunday what would be discussed today, saying there was "no official agenda".

Mistrust deepens following clashes

Photo by: AFP
Cambodian Commander Srey Doek (right) jokes with Thai Major General Kanop Netrak Thavesanak (left) during talks in a pagoda near Preah Vihear temple on Sunday.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Thet Sambath and Michael Fox
Monday, 06 April 2009

Preah VihearDespite the joking and camaraderie, Cambodian military officials say latest fighting is another sign that Thailand is not sincere about peacefully resolving the ongoing border dispute.

CLASHES last week between Thai and Cambodian soldiers over the disputed border have only forged a deeper sense of mistrust, army officers at Preah Vihear said Sunday as an uneasy calm returned to the scene of the most vicious fire fights to date since the standoff began nearly nine months ago.

Despite crisis talks involving Prime Minister Hun Sen, as well as meetings on the border, RCAF personnel told the Post that the behaviour of the Thai military following earlier promises to stop incursions in what Cambodia claims is its own territory left them with little hope for an easy resolution.

"We have shown them the boundaries, but the Thai soldiers never listen," said army Colonel Khon Savoun.

"They ask for a meeting and then start shooting afterwards ... the tension has not eased."

RCAF Division 3 Commander Srey Doek said that while he hoped negotiations, and not gunfire, would resolve the ongoing dispute.

Cambodian soldiers would not hesitate to repulse any attempts by the Thai military to cross the border.

"We promise that we will not budge one centimetre, but we will not invade their territory by one centimetre either," he said, also expressing concern over the apparent ineffectiveness of talks.


"When we are meeting we reach an agreement, but after the meeting the Thais do not do what they promised," he said.

"Any future fighting will come down to them" [acting first], he said, adding that both sides had reinforced their special forces units at the border.

‘Barrage was deafening'
Cambodian soldiers said Sunday that their Thai opponents twice opened up with heavy barrages of small-arms and rocket fire in the worst outbreak of violence along the border since October, when clashes also erupted.

"It was very strong fighting. We came under heavy fire all along the front, but we couldn't see the Thai soldiers. They were shooting from everywhere, but we tried to pick our shots," said Khon Savoun.

According to Phorng Eung, an RCAF officer, Cambodian soldiers pushed the Thai troops from Veal Antri, or Eagle Field, the scene of some of the worst fighting.

"The noise from the Thai barrage was deafening," he said, adding that despite the high-level talks and an apparent front line detente - soldiers from both sides were lounging in hammocks or chatting with each other on Sunday - "rank-and-file soldiers still want to fight because they do not understand the situation".

Khon Savoun agreed, saying "our soldiers wanted to shoot more, but the leaders would not let them and they are angry".

"We are confident at the front line because we know that the Thai soldiers are not strong like the Vietnamese troops who we used to fight."

A misunderstanding
Thai soldiers continue to say that the fighting was the result of inexperienced soldiers accidentally crossing into Cambodian land.

"The Thai soldiers were new to the front and did not know the disputed areas," said Thai military surgeon Chalon Guran, who was among a group of soldiers loitering along the front.

Licadho to probe death in custody

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Chrann Chamroeun
Monday, 06 April 2009

HUMAN rights group Licadho is investigating the death of a man in police custody in Battambang on Thursday, the group said.

Kong La, 49, was arrested on suspicion of domestic violence while drunk at home in Battambang's Kear commune.

Commune police took Kong La to Mong Russey district police station, and the following day returned his body to his family. Neither the district police chief nor the commune police chief would comment on Kong La's death, and both hung up when contacted by the Post.

Kear commune Chief Put Kao told the Post Sunday that he was not present during the incident but said the village chief had reported it to him.

"He said there was a fight between two commune police and [Kong La], who refused to accompany them," Put Kao said. "The police put him on their motorbike and were taking him to the district police station when he fell from the bike and hit his head. He was bleeding but not unconscious."

Put Kao said he did not know the cause of death but dismissed suggestions that police had beaten or tortured Kong La.

Licadho's provincial coordinator Sun Tek said the cause of death was not clear. "However, the victim's younger brother lodged a complaint saying his brother had been tortured, and that the police claim that he had committed suicide by hitting his head against the wall was untrue."

Wat Ounalom benefits from students' drive to improve cleanliness

Students sweep the steps of Wat Ounalom in Phnom Penh Thursday.
The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Zoe Holman
Monday, 06 April 2009

Students from the pagoda say they want to rid the country of its pervasive litter problem

ARMED with brooms and the motto "Spotless pagoda, clean environment, wholesome heart, clear conscience", 200 students, teachers, monks and friends from the Buddhism Education for Peace Centre (BEPC) spent Thursday afternoon picking up rubbish and sweeping the grounds of Wat Ounalom in the capital.

Organiser and BEPC teacher Pou Sovachana said the project was initiated by the centre's students ahead of Khmer New Year, but is part of a broader effort to rid Cambodia of litter.

"Everyone can see that pollution is a major problem in Cambodia," he said. "We don't take care of our environment and there's garbage everywhere. The kids wanted to help change this."

BEPC is a volunteer-based centre set up in 2003 on the pagoda's grounds. It teaches Buddhist tradition and morality to 400 vulnerable children for whom the cleanup is a way of giving back to the pagoda.

"By cleaning up, we are doing something for our school and making the pagoda a nice place for monks and visitors," said Chin Deth Sreyroth,
14. Fellow student Lour Meng Huy, 12, agreed: "We are making a healthy environment for everyone here and sending a good message. And it's fun."

Next stop is Kandal province, where BEPC will visit Kampong Ghko and Moaha Reach during Khmer New Year.

"Unalom was a tremendous success. The students learned so much about how garbage in our streets and sacred places affects our health," said Pou Sovachana, adding that more awareness was needed. "We hope that the interest and volition created by our actions will inspire many more students, monks and laypeople."

Health officials commend dental education programs

Children learn the value of oral health care from a Unilever/Cambodian dental association campaign which has gone out into schools across the Kingdom.

IN FOCUS Oral hygiene

- Brush your teeth with fluoride toothpaste 2-3 times per day
- Floss to clean particles from between teeth. Floss is healthier than toothpicks, which have the potential to cause infections
- Gargling with mouthwash is optional for healthy teeth, but can help with dentures and bad breath
- Children's teeth should be examined every six months for damage such as cavities or decay
Foods like sweets, cakes and soft drinks can cause rapid tooth decay.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Khuon Leakhana
Monday, 06 April 2009

Efforts target children in rural areas, where up to 90 percent of residents are said to lack knowledge of basic oral hygiene.

The Ministry of Health last week commended efforts by two dental health programs to raise awareness among school-age children of the importance of proper oral hygiene.

Hem Chhin, an undersecretary of state at the ministry, welcomed the achievements of the programs - the first, a collaboration between international manufacturer Unilever and the Cambodian Dental Association (CDA), and the second, a series of educational workshops conducted by the US-based NGO Resource Development International.

"It is good that people are caring more about oral health care," he said. "The longer we run these campaigns the better".

A rural problem
Health officials estimate that about 70 percent to 80 percent of residents in Phnom Penh are aware of the necessity of regularly cleaning their teeth and mouths. By contrast, only about 10 percent of residents in rural areas have a similar knowledge of dental hygiene.

"Our campaign aims to educate children from second grade through fifth grade so that they know how to clean their teeth properly," Sok Kear, branch executive manager of Unilever Co Ltd, said Wednesday.

He added that the program emphasises basic practices such as brushing after meals, flossing and regular visits to a licensed dentist.

"We are cooperating with the [CDA], so all our programs are arranged by [them]," Sok Kear said.

The Unilever-CDA campaign has reached 20,000 children at 29 different schools, including 14 in Phnom Penh, since it was launched in October, Sok Kear said, adding that when the program concludes in June, the company plans to sponsor a new clean-water campaign to help educate children about the importance of clean water.

It is clear that the mouth and the teeth greatly affect the general health of the whole body.

The RDI program has taken a similar approach to correcting deficiencies in oral hygiene education by bringing dental specialists into primary schools in Kandal province's Lvear Aem and Kien Svay districts to lead workshops on good dental health practices.

The workshops, which target children between the ages of 6 and 12, are run in groups of about 100 students and usually last for one to five hours, the group said.

"We have showed [students] how to clean their teeth and wash their hands," said Chem Sothak, a rural school educator with RDI.

"The campaign aims to teach children the value of cleanliness and show them how important it is to live a healthy lifestyle," he said.

Need for registered clinics
Proper education about the fundamentals of good dental health is not the only problem educators face.

According to Health Ministry figures, as many as 500 unlicensed dental clinics are currently operating throughout the Kingdom, in contrast to only 50 that are properly registered with the government.

Hem Chhin said the government aims to establish at least one dental facility in every state hospital and health care facility in the near future.

He said that many Cambodians have not been concerned with good dental health practices in recent years because they have been focussed more on ensuring they have enough food to feed themselves and their families.

He added that as poverty starts to decline, healthy teeth are becoming more of a priority.

"Last month, I attended an oral health care seminar, and it was clear that the mouth and the teeth greatly affect the general health of the whole body. So we must take care of them," he said.

"I also believe now that people don't simply want to get their teeth fixed, but that they are also paying more attention to the quality and beauty of having fine teeth," Hem Chhin said.

Pre-Khmer New Year road safety campaign

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Mom Kunthear
Monday, 06 April 2009

THE Centre for National Culture and Social Morality, a local NGO, is to distribute 15,000 books in the run-up to the Khmer New Year, offering educational tips on staying safe on the Kingdom's roads during the hectic holiday period.

The Phnom Penh Traffic Police and Handicap International Belgium are also supporting the project.

Some 750 volunteers from universities and high schools will take part in the distribution process, which will target drivers at the Russian Market, Chbar Ampov Market and along Phnom Penh's major roads.

According to Handicap International Belgium, there were 1,287 injuries and 79 fatalities from traffic accidents last Khmer New Year.

"Even though these books will only be distributed in Phnom Penh, I am hopeful that they will also reach the provinces by people travelling from the city to visit their families," said Po Samnang, director of the National Culture and Social Morality Centre.

The NGO plans to widen traffic education from September 2009 to the four provinces with the highest number of traffic accidents: Kampong Cham, Preah Sihanouk, Kandal and Kampong Chhang provinces.

Since 2001, the National Culture and Social Morality Centre has distributed more than 700,000 educational books.

Meas Chandy of Handicap International says the organisation has three simple messages for people this Khmer New Year.

"To avoid traffic accidents, wear a suitable helmet, don't exceed the speed limit and don't drive when you are drunk," he said.

A presentation on traffic safety is to take place on Tuesday at the Olympic Stadium, and two thousand people are expected to attend.

Copyright handbook targets sellers, producers

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Mom Kunthear
Monday, 06 April 2009

THE Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts is set to distribute a new UNESCO-funded copyright handbook in a bid to educate local producers and DVD sellers about the importance of intellectual property rights, according to ministry officials.

Sim Sarak, director general of administration at the ministry's Copyright Office, said Friday that more than 7,000 copies of the Asian Copyright Handbook will be handed out to film and music production companies, as well as CD and DVD vendors.

"This book is very important to teach actors, producers and retailers more about copyright and the fact that they should stop copying other productions from now on," he said.

Sim Sarak said the book, donated by UNESCO's Asia/Pacific Cultural Centre, was a basic source of information about local and regional copyright laws.

"I want Cambodia to become a cultural centre," he said. "But if the writers, actors and production owners don't know anything about copyright laws, it will be difficult to reach that goal."

Som Sokun, a secretary of state at the Ministry of Culture, expressed similar hopes the book would raise awareness about the problems of intellectual theft.

On March 19, Commerce Minister Cham Prasidh signed a directive ordering a crackdown on the airing of films and karaoke videos on commercial television without formal permission from the producers, with offenders facing punishments of up to three months in jail and/or 10 million riels (US$2,440) in fines.

"Some TV and cable TV stations broadcast karaoke films from illegal copied discs without permission from writers," Cham Prasidh said in the directive. "This is a violation of intellectual property law."

Bush-whacked in the Kingdom's newest protected forest

Preparing to leave WPO Base Camp are (from left, front) Puoy Yong, Oyadav Police Department, Son Ngon, policeman, Dam Hap, WPO ranger; (back) Hunter Weiler, WPO technical adviser, Touch Phalla, WPO field biologist. The sign above reads "Wildlife Protection Office, Ya Tung Commune, O'Yadav District, Ratanakkiri Province".


AN official at the Spain-based company NSOK Safaris claims he has secured exclusive rights to establish a hunting program in the new O'Yadav Protected Forest. However, officials at Cambodia's Wildlife Protection Office say the statements by Felix Barrado, NSOK's director, are not true. The NSOK statements were carried in the February 2009 edition of a publication called The Hunting Report: Newsletter Serving the Hunter who Travels. "[Felix] Barrado has exclusive access to an area covering 110,000 hectares in eastern Cambodia near the border with Vietnam. The area is virgin wilderness with a few villages along the outskirts. Barrado intends to put in a handful of roads for access and is building a camp there over the coming spring/summer. The planned camp is said to be a high-end affair. He is also hiring and training indigenous people as camp staff and trackers," said the newsletter.WPO's director Chheang Dany told the Post that while NSOK had submitted an investment proposal for the development of game hunting in O'Yadav almost three years ago, it was still at the Council for the Development of Cambodia and had not been acted on yet.How this will affect NSOK's ability to get approval for the project remains unclear. "NSOK made a huge mistake by announcing all those things in advance of consulting with us and getting final decisions from the Cambodian government," said one WPO source, who requested anonymity.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Michael Hayes
Monday, 06 April 2009

The Royal Government created the country's fourth protected forest in Ratanakkiri province in January this year.
Comprising around 100,000 hectares, the O'Yadav Protected Forest is mostly uninhabited, although dozens of species of wild animals, some endangered, live in the region. Set aside by a Council of Ministers vote in February, it is slated to become the Kingdom's first game hunting reserve. Editor-in-Chief Michael Hayes, accompanied by staff from the Kingdom's Wildlife Protection Office, visited the area recently.

A visit to this remote corner of Cambodia is not for the faint-hearted. For starters, in the dry season there is almost no water, which is why there are so few human settlements.

Simply put, in most of the new protected forest there is no way for humans to survive without a regular stream of supplies - and this is why wild animals have continued to exist in substantial numbers.

By the end of January, most of the small streams have dried up, leaving an area roughly 25 by 40 kilometres that is harsh, almost waterless and easy to get lost in.

Because O'Yadav is outside local phone coverage, if you have an accident it could take several days to get help. With a bit of bad luck, it's not hard to envision a situation developing that could easily prove fatal.

In fact, during the three days and two nights I spent in O'Yadav riding on the back of a motorcycle (see map below) driven by my police escort, I found myself wondering all too often what would happen if the moto flipped and one of us broke a leg.

We could have found ourselves 25 kilometres from what: a poverty-stricken village with no doctor!

We - the six of us, including two policemen and a ranger as moto drivers; Touch Phalla, field biologist with the Wildlife Protection Office (WPO); and Hunter Weiler, WPO technical adviser - covered about 80 kilometres in total after reaching the village of Dar from Ratanakkiri's capital Banlung.

From there we had to leave our 4x4 and switch to 90cc motorcycles for the rest of the trip that eventually brought us to the town of Kao Mayeul on the Srepok River, from where we took a small boat downstream to Lumphat.

The two largest villages - Dar and K'Veng - are located on the O'Tang River, as it has water flowing all year round. The river originates in Vietnam's Central Highlands, where it is called the Ia Drang, the site of the Vietnam War-era battle in November 1965 that was given much visibility in the Hollywood film with Mel Gibson, We Were Soldiers.

The blood from those battles has long since been washed away, and the aqua-green waters of the O'Tang flow serenely southwest towards the Srepok, a much larger river about 500 metres wide, which eventually merges with the mighty Mekong 180 kilometres downstream at Stung Treng.

Poaching and logging
Each village has about 150 to 200 residents who eke out a bare-bones existence with limited rice farming buttressed by wildlife hunting and poaching, the sale of illegal timber and anything else they can scratch out from the jungle.

Houses are simple affairs, only a few made from solid wood, and many draped with the world-famous UN blue-colored tarps for siding with straw roofs.

It's clear that these villages, inhabited by members of the Jarai ethnic minority, are some of the poorest in all of Cambodia.

Once we crossed the O'Tang River at K'Veng, where our drivers had to carry the motos across the stream to keep the engines dry, the terrain all the way to the Vietnam border and south to the O'Leo River is devoid of human habitation.

Wildlife protection office Field Biologist Touch Phalla said poachers were killing gaur and banteng on a regular basis.

This is where most of the wildlife, especially the rare gaur and banteng, are believed to live, roaming 10 to 15 kilometres a day in search of vegetation and isolated pockets of water needed to survive.


For those off-road adventurers who might be considering heading to the O├Ładav Protected Forest on trail bikes, be advised that to do so without a guide would be extremely risky. Trails are not marked, water is scarce, mobile phones are generally out of range and any situation that would result, in the need for immediate medical attention would be impossible to respond to effectively. As well, there is no regular ferry traffic on the Srepok River. Our boat trip from Kao Mayeul to Lumphat was arranged in advance. The fee for two persons was $75 which was consistent with what other people have had to pay.

In 2005 the WPO built a small camp about 10 kilometres from the O'Tang, which we reached in 90 minutes on a jungle track that, if it weren't known from previous experience, would be extremely hard to follow as the grass was often waist-high.

The landscape is generally flat and sparsely covered. At times one can see around 200 to 300 metres through the scattered deciduous trees that lose their leaves in the dry season, but the land is regularly broken up by the dry gullies of stream beds, that are more heavily covered with dense bamboo thickets that are difficult to pass through. In the rainy season, all these gullies would be filled with flowing water, making the WPO camp practically impossible to reach by motorcycle for six months every year.

From Banlung to the WPO Base Camp took us about eight hours and with little sunlight left, we quickly set up our mosquito nets and got a fire going so we could have a meal before it got dark. Fortunately, there was a small standing pool of water nearby, so after a hasty dunk the pleasure of dust-free skin could be savoured for a few minutes before lathering up again with mosquito repellent.

In the morning we headed off south towards the O'Leo River, which has on its banks one of the most isolated police posts in the Kingdom. A half-hour from Base Camp, we found ourselves on what was once literally a road, although it was easy to see that it had not been used by trucks for years.

While this region was no doubt once part of the fluid network of trails that made up the Ho Chi Minh Trail in the '60s and '70s, our escorts explained that the truck tracks were of a more recent origin, stemming from the '80s when Vietnamese and Cambodian loggers were busy taking out most of the 1-metre-in-diameter hardwood trees that used to be prevalent but are now long gone. We stopped at a number of dry or nearly dry water holes, and there was ample evidence of wildlife, including wild boar, deer and wild cattle tracks-but we never saw any animals ourselves, except once when a wild boar raced across our path scurrying for cover.

Rare birds were more easily seen, and WPO's technical adviser Hunter Weiler explained that I should feel extremely lucky, as avid bird-watchers would pay hundreds of dollars to see the two endangered Sarus Cranes or the wild peacock that we encountered along the way.


An illegal logger passes through Dar village on his way to Route 78. We saw seven such motorcycles with wood in one day.


WPO technical adviser Hunter Weiler points to wild cattle tracks at one nearly dry water hole.


Spicing up camp cuisine with some fresh grilled frog.


Villagers in Kok Phnong village were wary but curious of outsiders.

Policing the wilderness
The O'Leo police station was a rather sorry affair. One lone cop was on duty with a few scruffy chickens, two dogs and a pig to keep him company. A tattered Cambodian flag hung limply on a pole bearing witness to this end-of-the-road outpost of government control set up to keep an eye out for refugees who might try to cross the border.

The station's flimsy walls and tin roof gave cover to a bamboo sleeping mat and a dusty VCR. There wasn't a filing cabinet or desk in sight.

This was clearly a posting for someone with a dislike of paperwork.

The cop said there were normally three policemen at the post but that his colleagues had been sent to Preah Vihear to help shore up the defences there. He said some fishermen had come by the previous week and that he saw two banteng back in November. Threat levels in this corner of the Kingdom were for the time being sub-zero.

The trip down and back to the O'Leo took us just over six hours, which included a side trip on foot to a salt lick to see if we could chance upon any unsuspecting feral critters. We startled a wild chicken but that was it. However, a large leg bone gave witness to the elusive gaur.

The following day we headed back towards the O'Tang River early, as we weren't sure how long it would take to reach the town of Kao Mayeul on the Srepok River. We had to be there by 2pm to catch a pre-arranged boat for the three-hour trip downstream to Lumphat. The key was to be off the river before sunset to avoid the problem of navigating the numerous rapids in the dark.

The trip went smoothly except for one human hiccup that underscored the dilemma for the people living in the region.

While the drivers lugged the motos across the O'Tang River, I decided to poke around the village of K'Veng. People were friendly enough.

They said they managed to grow some rice but that life was hard.

While we were chatting a woman came running out of a house with a baby that was screaming and convulsing with spasms.

I was told there was no doctor in the village, not even a traditional healer. A man brought out some Tiger balm and with a spoon started scraping the baby's body while rubbing in the balm. He did this for about 10 minutes and finally the child stopped convulsing. However, with its skin covered in red welts it was unclear if the baby was just numb with pain and in a stupor or whether the remedy actually worked.

But the event underscored how difficult life is for the villagers in the area and the fine line they walk between life and death. In this regard, catching and eating endangered species is a no-brainer. They do it to survive.

Preserving wildlife
WPO estimates that there may be up to 80 gaur and 300 banteng in the protected forest. Other species present include the Eld's deer, sambar, leopards, sun bears, crab-eating mongooses, Asiatic jackals, East Asian porcupines and pig-tailed macaques. Turtle, snake and bird species have been identified in multiple dozens.

The key to their continued survival has obviously been their ability to avoid humans, a skill the animals demonstrated clearly during our visit.

But the wildlife can be tracked down. The only Muntjac deer we saw were two dead ones on the back of a motorcycle headed for Ya Tung.

WPO's field biologist Touch Phalla said poachers were killing gaur and banteng on a regular basis.

Plans to turn Oyadav into a managed game hunting preserve may or may not help preserve the wildlife. Only time will tell. But what is clear is that doing nothing means that over time the animals will be slowly hunted to extinction.

Port authority seeks $30m from SKorea for expansion

Shipping containers at the Phnom Penh Port. Authorities say a $30 million loan is needed for expansion to allow the capital to meet growing freight demand.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Kay Kimsong
Monday, 06 April 2009

Despite economic crisis, Phnom Penh's port authority says it needs a soft loan from South Korea to handle more cargo through the capital

THE Cambodia-South Korean Friendship Association is seeking a US$30-million soft loan from the South Korean government to build a new terminal for the Phnom Penh Port in the lower Mekong, according to Hei Bavy, chairman and CEO of the Phnom Penh Autonomous Port.

The port expansion is planned on 12 hectares of land between Phnom Penh and Neak Leung, but a site has not yet been selected.

"We hope that the loan will be approved; if is it not approved, our project will be delayed," said Hei Bavy.
A delegation to South Korea left on Tuesday and returned on Saturday.

"If the loan is approved, we will build the terminal by 2010," he said.

"If they don't give it to us, we will ask the Ministry of Finance to find a private company to do a BOT [build-operate-transfer]," he said.

He said that the expansion is needed to meet growing demand for goods in Phnom Penh and to help the port to remain competitive with regional counterparts.

Businesses have complained of limited capacity and slow turnaround time at Cambodia's ports.

They say that expanding the port and modernising its equipment are critical to improving the country's investment climate.

"We can't keep our port going without upgrading; we can't wear the same cloth all the time," Hei Bavy said.

"We need a proper container yard. We need new and modern cranes," he said.

We need a proper container yard.... we need new and modern cranes.

He said that Cambodia's garment industry would benefit from an expanded port through lower logistics costs as most garment exports are done by ship. A modernised port would also reduce the need for overland transport, he said.

The expansion plans would also include an equipment upgrade.

The port's existing crane can make 10 moves per hour, compared with regional competitors that are capable of 25 moves per hour.

So Ngoun, president of So Nguon Dry Port and co-chairman of the Government-Private Working Group on Transportation, said that an upgrade will reduce the need for overland trade and cut transport costs.

Mong Reththy, president of Mong Reththy Group who also owns a private port in Preah Sihanouk province, said he welcomes any new port development.

"Good ports are needed, especially deep-water ports," he said.

Rough trade
The proposed expansion comes amidst tough times for the global shipping industry.

The port of Singapore - the region's largest - reported a 19.8 percent drop in February from the previous year, according to the shipping newswire Portworld.

The service also reported that falling shipping demand is forcing India to delay nationwide port expansion plans.

Cambodia's ports have reported steep drops in throughput, with the Phnom Penh Autonomous Port reporting a decline of 30 percent in the first three months of 2009 compared with the same period last year.

The port earned US$5 million in 2009 with throughput of about 50,000 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs), a rough measure of cargo capacity.

But local observers said the project should go ahead, despite the economic slowdown that is seeing Cambodia's exports fall.

"The demand for goods will definitely increase ... we should not let the economic crisis stop this plan - the crisis is just temporary," Hei Bavy said.

"The current Phnom Penh Port is located on a 6-hectare site, capable of storing 60,000 TEUs.

"The new 12-hectare site would have five times more capacity. We plan to build the port to international standards," he said.

Construction would start in 2010 and finish by 2012, and the port would start operation in 2013, he added.

"We cannot delay until 2015, and the global financial crisis will not stop the plans for port development," he said.

Subdecree signed outlining stock exchange regulations

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Nguon Sovan
Monday, 06 April 2009

Signing represents latest step towards establishment of exchange, say officials

THE Council of Ministers approved on Friday the draft of a subdecree detailing stock exchange regulations that officials described as necessary for establishing the exchange by the end of the year.

The subdecree was drafted by the Ministry of Economy and Finance in accordance with the Law on the Issuance and Trading of Non-Government Securities, which was passed by the National Assembly in October 2007.

The objective of that law, according to the website of the Securities and Exchange Commission of Cambodia (SECC), is to outline regulations for the exchange as well as for "operators in the securities markets who trade or provide financial services", including "public limited companies or registered legal entities that issue securities".

The subdecree details procedures related to the management and control of securities in Cambodia in line with the International Organisation of Securities Commissions, an organisation of securities and futures markets regulators, according to a Council of Ministers press release issued Friday. The release states that the procedures are designed to ensure that the exchange operates "fairly, effectively, transparently and orderly".

SECC Director General Ming Bankosal said the approval of the subdecree would allow for the implementation of the October 2007 law.

"Only with this subdecree can we issue regulations to control this sector," he said Sunday. "The subdecree will allow the SECC to authorise the establishment of the stock exchange and the listing of companies on the stock exchange. If there is no subdecree, everything will be bogged down and would not go forward."

A bond market will do a lot to help companies to raise capital.

"Now that the subdecree has been approved, the SECC will prepare regulations such as a relevant prakas to inform companies about requirements to list on the stock market," he said.

The project director for the Korea Exchange (KRX) in Phnom Penh - the organisation working with the Cambodian government to establish Cambodia's exchange - said that the subdecree was an important step towards implementing the initiative, which was scheduled to be launched by the end of the year.

"This is critical for Cambodia's financial markets ... a bond market will do a lot to help companies to raise capital," said Inpyo Lee. He added that state-owned enterprises are hoping to float bonds on the new market.

The SECC, to be chaired by Minister of Finance Keat Chhon, is scheduled to launch officially on April 29.


New audit company launches

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Nguon Sovan
Monday, 06 April 2009

K-KONSULT Aplus, a joint-venture between Cambodian-owned Aplus Consulting and K-Konsult Corporation from Malaysia, became the Kingdom's 22nd assurance and auditing firm following the signing Friday of a joint-venture deal in Phnom Penh.

"We know that Cambodia is set to create its stock market by the year's end, so an auditing firm is a good investment," K-Konsult Aplus General Manager Kong Kosal said Sunday.

Ngy Tayi, undersecretary of state at the Ministry of Finance and chairman of the National Accounting Council, said "the joint venture is a sign of continued confidence and trust from investors in Cambodia".

Tackling the mighty Mekong

Participants 'compete' Sunday in the 14th annual Mekong River Swim. Multiyear winner Xavier Riblet claimed yet another victory.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Zoe Holman
Monday, 06 April 2009

More than 160 join this year’s Mekong River Swim

The Mekong flowing through suburban Phnom Penh is not known for either the limpid beauty or therapeutic properties of its waters.

However, this did not deter the record numbers of residents and tourists who plunged into the murky depths Sunday morning to traverse its breadth as part of the 14th Annual Mekong River Swim.

Some 160 participants, with ages ranging from 10 to 71 and nationalities equally diverse, waded into the silt at Preak Leap Agricultural College 6 kilometres north of the capital, to swim the 870 metres across the river.

Started in 1996 as an informal paddle by members of the global athletic and social organisation Hash House Harriers, the noncompetitive event has now evolved into a fully organised annual ritual that this year received support from prominent local and international sponsors such as, International SOS, CAMSWIM, Tiger Beer and The Shop.

So, too, the swim has a committed team of volunteer organisers and paramedics at the ready with stopwatches, sandwiches, water, beer, first-aid supplies and, if necessary, an inner-tube or a kayak ride to the finishing bank.

Despite its smooth and safe operation, the swim is largely made feasible by Cambodia's more relaxed approach to occupational health and safety.

"The great thing about this country is that you can get away with things that you could never do in America because of liability issues," said volunteer organiser Josh Svensson, "whereas in Cambodia everyone is responsible for their own actions".

Hint of danger attracts
For many of the swim's predominantly expat participants, it appears the element of risk is a welcome novelty.

"It seems like it's a bit reckless and has that tinge of danger, which people like," said Svensson, "and even though it's extremely safe, you'd still have a hard time doing it in most countries".

Fortunately, the hazards have thus far proved minimal. Barring the odd tickle in the throat, there have been no reports of invasive river parasites, Mekong monsters or cardiac arrests from swimmers.

There has, however, been the odd midstream rescue of ailing swimmers, though it seems they are more often casualties of their own irresponsibility than that of organisers.

"Last year, I had to give a bit of CPR to one Japanese tourist", said swimmer and volunteer paramedic Jordyan Edmiston. "He'd been out all night drinking and lost consciousness in the water," she explained, "but he was fine in the end. That's the worst it's ever been."

This year, all but one fatigued participant made it across the width of the river unaided, with the only apparent danger being negotiating the gangplank back aboard charter vessels for those who had liberally partaken of the free Tiger beer at the finishing post.

Participants, above left, prepare to take the plunge on Sunday at this year’s Mekong River Swim. This year’s non-competitive race saw people of every age group, above right, test their mettle against the mighty...and muddy waters of the Mekong.

Swimming for a cause
Contrary to any perceptions of danger, it seems that the swim is doing its utmost to promote the health and well-being of Cambodians, both aquatic and terrestrial. As well as donating any profits to the wildlife group WWF for Mekong conservation activities, this year's event will assist a number of Phnom Penh residents through the fundraising activities of participating teams.

Largest among these groups was the 15-strong team of students, teachers, family and friends from Phnom Penh's iCAN British International School, who were taking on the river to assist NGO Cambodia's Dump Children Committee.

"We have a lot of students who are keen swimmers and wanted to do something to help the kids at the dump," said iCAN's vice principal and swim-team coach, David Hunt. "They decided they would raise money through sponsorship for bikes and helmets to allow the kids to ride to school like they do," he said.

"All the kids came in at between 15 and 18 minutes, and at last count, we'd raised enough for 40 bicycles and helmets for the CDCC."

While all enjoyed complimentary refreshments and souvenir T-shirts, the first across the river received the framed original artwork of the commissioned swim logo.

By now, Frenchman Xavier Riblet has a wall full of these, and he claimed another this year, logging the winning time of 7min, 34sec.

"There was a strong current this year", Riblet said, "so it was a bit slower than usual. My best time was 7minutes, 12 seconds, but that was 12 years ago."

Keeping up the tail end of the swim was compatriot Jacques Roneier, who crossed the river in 45 minutes, and although not the fastest Frenchman in the water this year, Roneier set the record as the oldest, at 71 years.

For the majority of swimmers, who came in at between 20 and 25 minutes, time was secondary to other concerns. As one anonymous source was heard to say before taking the plunge: "Who cares about winning. All I care about is the damn sandwich!"

The 'V' word


The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Post Staff
Monday, 06 April 2009

Lou Hayward performs "The woman who loved to make vaginas happy" on Sunday during a matinee of The Vagina Monologues at the Khmer Surin restaurant in Phnom Penh. The play, written by Eve Ensler, was part of a weekend of performances organised by V-Day, a global movement to end violence against women and girls.

Police Blotter: 6 Apr 2009

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Lim Phalla
Monday, 06 April 2009

Bun Thoeun, 32, and his wife Keo Da were arrested by Anlong Veng police on Thursday for allegedly stealing a motorbike from Ear Sae, 30, in Kaeng village, Oddar Meanchey province. The accused couple claims to have purchased the bike for US$600, however police still sent the case to court.

Chun Sareth, 25, Sareth, 25, Kheang Kheng, 26, and Try Ream, 26, were arrested on Tuesday for stabbing two men - Khaim Samnang, 26, and Keo Sopheap, 25, in Trapaing Krasaing commune, Dangkor district, Phnom Penh. The trouble started after the three suspects, who were drinking, threw a mango at a nearby house, striking the window of one of the stabbing victims and leading to the conflict.

Yim Sarath, 21, from Krang Pongro commune, Phnom Penh, and Heang Ly, 35, from Kandal province, were captured and delivered to police by relatives of a 15-year-old girl the two men were accused of robbing and raping 10 days earlier. Family members said the suspects were to be required to pay compensation of between US$1,000 and $2,000, but they could not say how much would go to the victim's family and how much would go to police.

Siem Reap police on Wednesday busted a robbery ring, arresting six people who authorities say they have been investigating for a long time following complaints from several of the gang's victims. The six suspects are Rum Pheary, male, 17, Rum Phearum, male, 22, Ho Sophy, female, 18, Bun Sopheak, male, 25, Bith Buntha, male, 22, and Lorn Vanlin, male, 21.

The Phnom Penh Post News In Briefs

In Brief: Meas Chanta pulls out

Monday, 06 April 2009

PHNOM PENH - Reigning ISKA world welterweight champion Meas Chanta pulled out of his main event fight against Voy Sothun Sunday at TV5 arena. Meas Chanta was "feeling unwell" in the hours leading up to the bout according to his trainer Chit Sarim. Stand-in fighter Um Dara went on to lose on points to Voy Sothun.

In Brief: Vietnam trade initiative

Written by May Kunmakara
Monday, 06 April 2009

THE Vietnamese government has plans to construct a warehouse to store traded goods in Cambodia, a Vietnamese official said Sunday. Le Bien Cuong, commercial counsellor at the Vietnamese embassy in Phnom Penh, said a Vietnamese delegation led by Ho Chi Minh City Deputy Governor Nguyen Thi Hong met with Cambodian government officials Wednesday to discuss the project, which would be used to store imported goods and to help process trade taxes. The location is yet to be decided, Sok Darith, deputy director of the Trade Promotion Department, said.

In Brief: World Bank report due

Written by STEVE FINCH
Monday, 06 April 2009

THE World Bank is due to publish a new economic review of Cambodia and the rest of the region on Tuesday, it said in a press release late last week. The report will give an update on the impact of the global financial crisis on the region, the organisation said, with particular focus on the repercussions for poor people in Cambodia and the Asia-Pacific. The report is to also assess the impact of China's slowed GDP growth on the rest of the region.

In Brief: Education official heads to Europe

Written by Khouth Sophak Chakrya
Monday, 06 April 2009

Rong Chhun, president of the Cambodia Independent Teachers Association, will attend a series of advocacy meetings in London this week, as part of a lecture series run by the Association of Teachers and Lecturers. CITA spokesman Leng Bunhong said Sunday that Rong Chhun will address education and the desperate working conditions currently facing teachers in Cambodia. Leng Bunhong added that Rong Chhun will continue on to France and Norway for further talks.

In Brief: Land-mine deaths falling: Authority

Written by Sam Rith
Monday, 06 April 2009

The Cambodian Mine Action Authority has recorded that the number of people injured by land mines in Cambodia has dramatically decreased over a 5-year period. From 2001 to 2005, some 838 people were injured by mine explosions on average per year, but the number dropped to 450 in 2006, to 352 in 2007 and tp 266 last year, the group announced in a press release Sunday.

In Brief: Ranariddh loses mansion to FCC

Written by Vong Sokheng
Monday, 06 April 2009

Prince Norodom Ranariddh has lost a court battle over the ownership of a colonial-era mansion to the owners of the FCC, giving them permission to develop the site, which they currently operate under the name Le Mansion. Phnom Penh Municipal Court ruled Saturday that the house, located on Sothearos Boulevard, would be leased to the company on a 99-year contract. But Ranariddh's spokesman Chea Chanboribo disputed the ruling, saying that Prime Minister Hun Sen certified the house as the prince's property in a 2005 letter. "The Prince lost his case the same way as many Cambodian people who have their land grabbed by the powerful," he said.

Tomb raiding, fried tarantula and sunrise over the world's greatest wonders in Cambodia

Mail Online
05th April 2009

When I appeared in the film Lara Croft, Tomb Raider, I played against type. My role was a superrich, scheming, manipulative leader of a gang of miscreants bent on taking control of the world. (Yes, a banker - how did you guess?)

Fortunately, Lara Croft, played by Angelina Jolie, saw through my evil plan and made sure it failed. In fact, she disposed of me before I even had a chance to reach pensionable age.

Recollections of that period of my life flooded back as I stood at one of the vineencrusted doorways that led to the interior of the ancient Temple of Ta Prohm, part of the Angkor Wat complex in northern Cambodia. The movie featured these doorways - and they supposedly led to a vast underground chamber housing a gigantic time machine.

Golden moment: Angkor Wat at Sunrise

Alas, I never went to Cambodia during filming - the doorways were cleverly and expensively constructed at Pinewood Studios in Buckinghamshire. So it was a thrill to be given the chance to experience the real thing, especially as Angkor Wat is widely, and rightly, counted among the wonders of the ancient world. Mind you, we had to get up at 5am and miss the excellent buffet breakfast at our hotel, the Raffles Grand, in favour of a packed one in a knapsack in order to arrive at the Temple in the dark. Then we had to wait patiently for the sun to rise beyond the five dominating sandstone towers, the tallest of which is more than 200ft.

As I peeled the second of my hardboiled eggs, dawn began to arrive. It was astounding, turning the towers into dark sentinels of the secrets they guard. The waters of the lake that lay between us and them shimmered with red, pink, amber and gold.

Angkor Wat was built in the first half of the 12th Century - about the same time as Peterborough Cathedral - by King Suryavarman II to honour the Hindu god Vishnu. Peterborough may be proud of its cathedral but compared with Angkor - reputed to be the largest religious building in the world - it is as a fly to an eagle.
Ancient thrill: Richard Johnson is stunned by an Angkor Wat temple

The complex covers an area of more than 20 acres. There are thousands of exquisite bas-reliefs, some extending for hundreds of yards along covered galleries; others more intimate, depicting the king's handmaidens.

onsidering that it is in a tropical forest area, and has been fought over in several wars, the Wat is in good condition. Time has not dealt so kindly with many of the other temples scattered around the area. Among the buildings that have been effectively consumed by the jungle, with giant fig and silk-cottonwood trees spanning and gripping the delicate stonework with their roots, is the romantic and fascinating temple of Ta Prohm.

You could probably visit ten such places in a day if you had the energy, which is unlikely given the heat you will encounter during the dry season.

Angkor Wat is one of the pinnacles of world tourism - glossy coffee-table books insist that we must see it before we die. The authors of such books are right. The place is unforgettable. It has such beauty, such atmosphere, such mysterious spirituality. I'm glad I've made my pilgrimage.

A taste of luxury: Le Royal Phnom Penh pool at Raffles Hotel

The Raffles Grand is the oldest in Siem Reap, the dormitory for visitors to Angkor. Since the Nineties, the town has expanded massively to cater for the ever-increasing tourist trade. There were more than two million visitors last year.

More hotels are in the planning stage, including one with 1,000 bedrooms. Obviously, all this places a huge strain on the resources of the area.

A few days earlier we had arrived in Cambodia's capital, Phnom Penh, aboard Thai Airways' efficient overnight service from Heathrow, which landed us there spot on time after a stopover at Bangkok.

Phnom Penh has four significant tourist attractions: the Royal Palace, the National Museum, S-21 prison and the Killing Fields of Choeung Ek.

Our first stop was the Killing Fields, a 12-mile drive from the city. We arrived, somewhat pale and jetlagged, and waited while our guide obtained the entry tickets for three American dollars - about £2.

With our fee paid, we passed through the gate into a strangely quiet and peaceful place. Confronting us was a stupa - the most sacred Buddhist monument. Filled with relics and other holy objects, it is believed to emanate blessings and peace.

The stupa - tall, circular and glasssided - also contains the bleached skulls and bones of some 8,000 of the 17,000 men, women and children who, naked, blindfolded and with their hands tied behind their backs, were shot or hacked to death in the killing fields before their bodies were shovelled into mass graves. As we walked the paths between the burial pits, our guide disturbed the whitened arm-bone of a small child.

It was a shocking and terribly moving place - witness, if any were needed, to the monstrous inhumanity of man.

'We will now return to the city to visit S-21,' said our guide as we sat, silent and stunned, in the cool of our minibus.

Mother and son set up links with Cambodia

Craven Herald

Sunday 5th April 2009

A link is being forged between Ingleborough and children in Cambodia.

The assistant district commissioner for Cubs and Beaver Scouts in Ingleborough district, Jane Reas, and her son, Tom, have spent six weeks in the country on voluntary work, including teaching English to poor children.

On the way to Siem Reap, in Cambodia, Mrs Reas’s bulging suitcase contained a supply of donated Ingleborough Scout pens and a Beaver Scout mascot called Brian.

“Tom was at first involved with the renovation and restoration of a derelict traditional Khmer house that would eventually be used as a school and orphanage,” said Mrs Reas.

Meanwhile, she was working for ConCERT (Connecting Communities, Environment and Responsible Tourism), a new non-governmental organisation aiming to reduce poverty by bringing together organisations and visitors.

“Michael Horton, the Ingleton-born founder and director of ConCERT, argues that although tourism is bringing real benefits to the people of Siem Reap – creating jobs and improving the infrastructure – responsible tourism has the capacity to do much more,” said Mrs Reas.

“Tom and I have been so touched by Cambodia, the people and particularly the children, that we plan to return later in the year. I particularly hope to use my Scouting experience to help train and support local adult leaders and encourage young people to become involved in Scouting.”

Back in Ingleborough, she also hopes to establish links with Scouting in Siem Reap.

Settle and Ingleton Beavers, for example, held a Cambodian evening before the pair left on their travels. They tried writing Cambodian script, learned to count to five in Khmer and tasted typical Cambodian dishes prepared by Mrs Reas and Tom.

“Links will provide the opportunity for children to learn about their counterparts in other communities and the chance to be involved in fundraising activities,” she said.

They went on the trip partly because Mrs Reas had won a Frank Stell Scholarship, which supports Yorkshire students studying for a master’s degree in social research at Leeds University.

She had started university at the age of 48 and gained a first-class degree in childhood, education and culture in 2007. She graduated with a distinction for her master’s degree and won the School of Sociology and Social Policy’s award for excellence in December 2008.

“My research interest, the relationship between direct or impact philanthropy and children’s best interests, has very real meaning in a country like Cambodia, that relies heavily on foreign volunteers to teach English to its young students,” she said.

New Years, Cambodian style in White Center

Samantha Sambath samples a traditional treat from Cambodia, pineapple with salt and pepper, at a neighborhood festival in celebration of that country’s New Year. The event, held Saturday, April 4, was sponosored by the Cambodian Cultural Alliance of Washington.

By Steve Shay
April 5, 2009

The Cambodian community celebrated that country's New Year at a White Center street festival, Saturday, April 4.

It was a sunny day and the festival was in full swing at 15th Avenue Southwest at Southwest 98th Street in White Center.

A stage draped in Cambodian decor featured entertainment with traditional dance, music and games. There were booths with authentic traditional arts and crafts, food, and information tables for Cambodian charities, as well as other organizations like the White Center Food Bank.

The New Years tradition is called Chaul Chnam Thmey and falls on April 13 to 15. The community event was organized by the Cambodian Cultural Alliance of Washington.

Cambodia journey opens teenager's eyes and heart
Posted by Barry Carter
Star-Ledger columnist
April 05, 2009

Unless you were there, Lily Bahramipour says, it's hard to put into words what she experienced in slum villages of Southeast Asia.

An elderly Cambodian woman cried softly as she told the New Jersey teenager she was blind from atrocities in the holocaust that swept through her country, killing more than 2 million people. Other women she met opened up to her as well. They had been victims of sex trafficking.

Patti Sapone/The Star-Ledger
Lily Bahramipour, a junior at Newark Academy in Livingston, with Arn Chorn-Pond, a human rights leader she met in Cambodia who came to speak at the school.

In urban areas and rural provinces, Bahramipour remembers the children, many who lived on the street, others from an orphanage where she worked. She can't forget what they said before she left to return to the United States.

"Don't forget me! Don't forget about me!"

And then there was the flute player, Arn Chorn-Pond, a human rights leader who inspired Bahramipour to make a difference in the world after she learned how he survived Cambodia's genocide and how he strives now to preserve the music and art of his homeland.

It was not a typical summer for any teen, but it's how Bahramipour, 16, spent last July.

She wanted to be away from friends, family, the confines of home in Montclair, and have a different experience. In a rare firsthand way, an Iranian-American teenager learned about horrors of genocide and how an ancient culture was nearly obliterated by the Khmer Rouge, a military regime that turned the land into the infamous "killing fields" from 1975-79.

Bahramipour knew she would have a different experience when she signed up for the Global Awareness in Action Program sponsored by Putney Student Travel, a small, family-run organization in Vermont. The group Bahramipour found on the internet has been offering opportunities for high school students to explore the world for 57 years.

For one month, a Cambodian community became Bahramipour's home where she learned about the people and their culture with 13 other U.S. teens.

She worked in an orphanage, sleeping next door on a mattress laid out on the floor of a stone building that sometimes didn't have water for a shower. Eating was just as basic. Noodles for breakfast every day. Rice and some kind of meat and vegetable for lunch and dinner. When it was over, Bahramipour felt she was forever changed.

"I was desperate not to forget," she said. "I haven't forgotten -- and I don't ever want to forget. The intimate moments I shared with these people sincerely touched my life, and I strive not only to keep those memories with me every day but to share them with others."

Bahramipour, a junior at Newark Academy in Livingston, and her teacher have started ARTcreates, a project that sends art supplies to children across the world. The first package has already arrived at an orphanage Bahramipour worked with closely during her stay.

But Bahramipour wanted to do more. She writes often to a child she befriended there, and she explained to school officials that her classmates could benefit from her trip if they heard firsthand the story of Chorn-Pond.

The school, through its Global Speakers Series, helped arrange for Chorn-Pond to spend a day with students last week. For several hours, Chorn-Pond went from class to class and spoke to a large assembly, recounting how he endured the torture of his people, the death of family and friends, the near extinction of his culture when traditional Cambodia music was banned.

Chorn-Pond's past has been chronicled in a documentary -- "The Flute Player" -- but listening to him was much more riveting.

He captivated the high school audience, sometimes with humor, but mostly by recounting painful memories of how his childhood was destroyed. He was 9 years old and one of 700 children the Khmer Rouge imprisoned in a labor camp. They worked from 5 a.m. to midnight in rice fields and were given little food, hardly any water. Many starved to death, including his sister, whom he watched die slowly.

"I had to walk away," he said. "That was hard."

Chorn-Pond managed to stay alive when soldiers picked him to learn music and play propaganda songs for their entertainment. He learned the flute quickly, figuring if he was good enough, they would give him food.

But his captors, however, would later make him a child soldier at age 12, forcing him to fight and kill when the Vietnamese invaded Cambodia in 1979.

When he couldn't take it anymore, Chorn-Pond escaped into Cambodia's jungle. He caught fish with his bare hands, and followed the monkeys, eating fruit they would eat so he wouldn't pick something poisonous. He learned not to move when snakes slithered across his body. He grew weak at times when leeches latched onto him as he slept at night, sucking the life from his 40-pound frame. At times, he found himself hallucinating, not wanting to continue.

"I wanted to kill myself," he said.

Somehow he crossed the border into Thailand, where Peter Pond, an American refugee worker, found him on the ground. He brought Chorn-Pond to rural New Hampshire and became his foster parent.

After attending Brown University, Chorn-Pond returned to Cambodia in the 1990s and started Cambodian Living Arts, an organization that locates former music masters who survived the genocide. They are encouraged to teach, record and perform traditional Cambodian music that was on the verge of extinction.

It has been estimated that 90 percent of Cambodia's master musicians were killed when the Khmer Rouge, led by Pol Pot, came into power after the Vietnam War.

Since then, Chorn-Pond has received numerous international awards as a crusader for children's rights and world peace.

In Bahramipour, Chorn-Pond sees a leader because she wants to learn about the lives of others. He praised her for wanting to know about his people, and for coming there on her own. He remembers her visit, how she hugged the children, how they were drawn to her kindness.

"I feel a lot of caring from her," he said. "She is very powerful. She reminds me of an angel who fly from far away. She feel powerful to save the world, to go across the world to help."