Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Cambodia tightens inspection after new flu reaches Thailand

PHNOM PENH, May 13, 2009 (Xinhua via COMTEX) -- Cambodia is watching closely for unusual outbreak of influenza-like illness and severe pneumonia in the country and have further tightened inspection at international gates after A/H1N1 flu virus reaches Thailand, officials said here on Wednesday.

We have tightened the inspection on passengers who came from affected countries and the passengers have to pass through thermal scanners for body temperature and fill health declaration procedures," Ly Sovan, deputy director of anti-communicable department at Health Ministry, told Xinhua on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Cambodian Health Minister Mam Bun Heng on Wednesday inspected the working group of anti-communicable disease influenza A/H1N1 at the Phnom Penh International Airport and other places.

Ly Sovan said Cambodia was concerned about influenza A/H1N1 after it has spread worldwide, and also tightened inspection on passengers at the international border gates with the neighboring countries after it reached to neighboring Thailand.

"We have already prepared to prevent and fight against the outbreak of influenza A /H1N1 here," he said, "up to now, our country still has no confirmed or suspected cases of swine flu." Meanwhile, Nima Asgari, public health specialist for the World Health Organization (WHO), said that given the spread of the disease, the appearance of swine flu in Cambodia would be unsurprising. "The question is how fast the government can react," he stressed.

Thirty countries and regions have reported 5,251 cases of influenza A/H1N1 as of May 12 and 61 deaths have been confirmed worldwide, according to WHO's website.

Last week health ministers from ASEAN and their counterparts from China, Japan, and South Korea met in Bangkok pledging to cooperation in the face of threat from the virus and to boost stockpiles of antiviral.

Oxen pick beans, corn over rice

Photo by: Heng chivoan
Supreme Court President Dith Munty is carried past the Royal Palace on Tuesday on his way to perform the Royal Ploughing Ceremony, an annual event that is meant to predict the coming year’s harvests, which palace astrologers say will be good for beans and corn this year.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Sam Rith
Wednesday, 13 May 2009

But Royal astrologer predicts good rice harvest as farmers worry

FARMERS expressed concern about the rice harvest after the royal oxen refused to eat the grain at the annual Royal Ploughing Ceremony held Tuesday. Instead, the animals preferred beans and corn laid out in identical golden bowls at the ceremony in front of the National Museum.

"Beans and corn will enjoy better yields this year," Royal Astrologer Kang Ken told assembled guests and a crowd of several thousand people.

Speaking to journalists later, he said farmers would benefit from 30 percent higher rice yields, and the rains would fall as usual. Kang Ken said the ploughing ceremony had been held since ancient times to let farmers know that the "planting season is coming".

But farmers said the implication was that this year's rice harvest would decrease.

"I am now very worried about this year's rice crop because the oxen did not eat any rice," said Yim Chhrouk, 66, a farmer from Sangke Chhrum village in Prey Veng province who came to Phnom Penh to watch the ceremony.

Yim Chhrouk said her worries were further increased because it was not possible to grow any crop other than rice near her village, most of whose residents are farmers.

She had learned from previous experience that when the oxen refused rice, her rice harvest would drop between 30 percent and 50 percent on her 2 hectares of land.

Vang Sak, 53, a farmer from Thnaot village in Prey Veng province, agreed that yields would be lower.

But 52-year-old Hun Heun from Ram Karn village in Battambang province said it was too early to tell.

"I don't know what the rice yield will be, but I will still plant my rice crop because the seeds have germinated," she said.
Photo by: Heng chivoan
Royal oxen choosing corn and beans over rice at Tuesday’s ploughing ceremony.

Rice yields will improve
The Ministry of Agriculture declined to comment on the significance of the oxen's rejection, with Secretary of State Chan Tong Yves saying his ministry was instead encouraging people to plant as much rice as possible.

"Our plan is to improve the rice yield year on year," he said, adding that the Kingdom harvested 7 million tonnes of rice last year and that he expected that this would improve due to better irrigation, higher-quality seed and input from farming experts.

This year's ceremony was presided over by King Norodom Sihamoni.
It saw Supreme Court President Dith Munthy appointed as the sdech neak, whose role it is to drive the six royal oxen three times around the park, and his wife as the mae hua, who scatters seeds.

Two oxen were then presented with seven bowls - one containing rice, and the others containing corn, soybeans, sesame seeds, water, wine and grass. Consuming rice, beans, corn and sesame seed indicates a plentiful harvest of those crops; if they drink the water it means farmers can expect rain or flooding; if they drink wine it means war; and if they eat the grass it is the sign of a poor crop.

Chea Chhoeurn, 48, a farmer from Speu village in Kampong Cham, said the predictions were correct three-quarters of the time. As a result of today's events, he said he would plant more beans.

Foreigners at ECCC scrutinised

Written by Georgia Wilkins and Robbie Corey-Boulet
Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Lawyers, observers call govt monitoring 'intimidation'

ASENIOR government official said Tuesday that the government was monitoring "all international staff" at the Khmer Rouge tribunal, prompting charges of interference and intimidation from lawyers and court observers.

Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan told the Post Tuesday that officials were maintaining files in an effort to prevent corruption on the part of foreigners, which he described as a legitimate threat.

"The international side has corruption, too," Phay Siphan said, though he later backtracked and said no proof of corruption on the Cambodian side had surfaced.

In addition to UN officials, international staff would include some civil party lawyers and interns working at the UN-backed court.

Phay Siphan declined to say who was providing officials with the information that was being placed in the files, or what the effort had revealed as of Tuesday.

He said the effort began after government officials "were given a file with complaints [of corruption]", although he declined to say when this occurred.

"We didn't believe them, so we are monitoring the court ourselves," he said.

Andrew Ianuzzi, a legal consultant for the defence team of Nuon Chea, one of five former Khmer Rouge leaders detained by the court, said the reported monitoring was "blatant interference" and intimidation.

"This is the childish, thuggish behaviour we have come to expect from the government," he said. "But it is not something to be taken lightly."

There is obviously a complete breakdown of trust between the two sides.

"It sounds like we're being spied on," he added.

John Hall, an associate professor at California's Chapman University School of Law who has written extensively about the tribunal, said via email that the government has "a reputation for smearing the reputations of its critics. It's good to see it acting true to form".

"I wouldn't be surprised to see [a government-orchestrated] campaign of false tit-for-tat accusations levelled at international staff. The motive is far from subtle: deflect attention away from the still-unresolved corruption allegations implicating senior [government] officials at the tribunal."

Phay Siphan disputed the notion that the government was interfering in an inappropriate manner.

"This is not interference. I am not threatening anyone," he said, adding, "We are keeping watch and looking for information that might discredit the ECCC."

Michelle Staggs Kelsall, a court monitor for the East-West Centre's Asian International Justice Initiative, said, "Without sounding alarmist, this is alarming.... There is obviously a complete breakdown of trust between the two sides of the court."

Staggs Kelsall called on the UN to take active steps to repair the relationship, a point seconded by Ianuzzi.

"One would hope the UN would step in at this point," he said.

A work in progress
Phay Siphan described the most recent corruption allegations - in which workers on the Cambodian side of the court were allegedly forced to hand over a portion of their salaries - as "a foreign concept", saying, "Cambodian people give small payments at temples all the time."

Asked if he was comparing forced salary payments to temple donations, Phay Siphan replied, "I don't know".

Ianuzzi responded: "If they're saying that, then I think it's time for us to ask how much it will cost to get our client off."

Evictions dominate UN review agenda

Written by Sebastian Strangio
Wednesday, 13 May 2009

A UN body has asked the Cambodian government to account for continuing human rights violations, including the recent and pending evictions of poor communities in Phnom Penh.

During a review session Tuesday in Geneva, the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights requested that the government detail what it was doing to ensure the rights of evictees, a civil society representative present at the session said.

According to the representative, the committee asked specifically about the situation at Boeung Kak lake, Dey Krahorm, Borei Keila and other poor urban communities where thousands of people have been recently uprooted by development projects.

The 18-member committee is tasked with reviewing countries' adherence to the International Covenant of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), which Cambodia ratified in 1992.

"We all know that the question of land, housing [and] evictions has enormous implications on other economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to education and health," said committee member Zdislaw Kedzia, adding that the compensation offered to evictees had so far been "unfair and unjust".

Virginia Bonoan-Dandan, from the Philippines, said she had visited the municipality's eviction relocation site at Andong village, in Phnom Penh's Dangkor district, describing the "sub-human conditions" at the site.

"I was shocked to see the people [at Andong] drinking from a dirty pond.... The children had boils; their skin was infected," she said.

"It really drives home the point ... Cambodia has lots of legislation, good legislation, but it is not being implemented."

Article 11 of the ICESCR recognises the universal right "to an adequate standard of living ... including adequate food, clothing and housing, and to the continuous improvement of living conditions".

Sun Suon, Cambodia's ambassador to the United Nations and lone delegate at the session, responded by saying the government was trying to address land issues and that he would forward the committee's recommendations to Phnom Penh.

"The prime minister has acknowledged this problem, and he has called for land grabbers to be brought to justice," he told the committee.

But he also said the issue of land evictions had become a "political issue" requiring "further elaboration".

"Every year we have a meeting with donors and we discuss this issue, and we believe that this is the approach to dealing with [it]," he said.

The government's initial report to the committee, submitted in early January, claims Dey Krahorm and Borei Keila had been slated for a "land-sharing project" as part of an attempt to "improve 100 poor communities within five years".

"These projects help the communities to build houses on their legally owned land," the report said of the two communities.

"They can also request some more land which is left from sharing and some financial supports for house building."

A fortnight after the report was submitted, more than 100 families living at Dey Krahorm were violently evicted from their homes by police and officials working for local developer 7NG.

Residents at Borei Keila, including several dozen suffering from HIV/Aids, are also facing eviction.

Sex workers face more risks in global downturn

A customer receives a massage at a cut-rate parlour where sex is one of the services offered.

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Fewer clients with less money are putting in harm’s way many women forced into the sex industry by job cuts, advocates say

HOY Channy has been a sex worker since 1997, and right now, she says, business is as bad as she has ever seen it. Since the global economic crisis struck Cambodia, her monthly income has dropped by US$100, and less money means less food for the 11 family members she supports.

"Even though society does not value me, I earn money by my own strength and spirit. If I don't do it, I don't have anything for my children and family to eat," the 32-year-old said.

According to the United Nations, nearly 60,000 people have lost their jobs in the garment sector. While many of those have found new jobs, many thousands more women have few work options outside of subsistence farming.

As a result, more women are turning to sex work to support themselves and their families, flooding a shrinking market of increasingly poorer clientele, said Am Sam Ath, a technical superviser from the rights group Licadho.

"The global economic crisis has closed many factories, which results in job losses for many people. They have to look for other jobs, and so the number of prostitutes increases, even though the customers are getting scarcer and scarcer," he said.

This situation has led to a decrease in sex-worker income, and that has made them more vulnerable to exploitation, said Ly Pisey, a technical assistant at the Womyn's Agenda for Change.

"When you're starving, you have to reconsider what you'll do. The powerless mostly lose."

Sou Sotheavy, director of the Men's and Women's Network for Development, said, "The economic crisis is a reason for the decrease in income for sex workers.... My women are in miserable conditions now."

When you're starving, you have to reconsider what you’ll do. The powerless mostly lose.

Though having 11 dependents like Hoy Channy is on the high end, it is not unusual for sex workers to give their earnings to their families.

Sara Bradford, a technical adviser for the Asia Pacific Network of Sex Workers in Cambodia, said that sex workers here on average have 3.1 dependents, according to UNAIDS.

Bradford said that with less income, sex workers are more likely to put themselves at risk to attract customers.

"They might be willing to do things they wouldn't do before - like unprotected sex - to increase the amount of money they're making," she said, adding that women new to sex work, such as laid-off garment workers, are also more likely to be abused.

"Someone who is new to sex work might not know what they're doing and what could put them in danger," she said.

Controversial human trafficking legislation that was passed in February 2008 criminalised sex work and led to months of brothel busts.

As a result, most sex workers moved from brothels to less centralised locations, away from outreach programs.

"After they leave the closed brothels, they will become secret prostitutes on streets, at gas stations, night clubs and karaoke parlours," Am Sam Ath said.

Ly Pisey said that sex workers who work independently of brothels are more likely to be affected by the economic downturn, because they are less protected and often more desperate for money.

"Some clients think ‘I have money. I can do anything'," and that can be dangerous for a sex worker, Ly Pisey said.

"When you do not have power to negotiate, you are vulnerable," Ly Pisey added.

Though Am Sam Ath does not support prostitution, he says the anti-trafficking law puts sex workers at a greater financial risk, a problem exacerbated by the current economic crisis.

"The government should reconsider closing brothels, because closing them down can be an extra cause of poverty," he said.

Ing Kantha Phavi, the minister of women's affairs, said her goal was to raise women out of sex work and into reputable jobs, not to improve the incomes of prostitutes.

"The policy of our ministry is to raise the face, value and reputation of Cambodian women. If we support that job [sex work], it means that we are not doing our job. That their income decreases because of the global financial crisis is their own problem," she said.

Sex workers have other options, she said, and the government is doing what it can to help train women in these other sectors.

"Our goal is to get them to have legal jobs, especially in the agricultural sector. To do this, the Ministry of Commerce has budgeted to train them with skills so that they can look for a legal job," she said.

But Hoy Channy says she is not looking for another job because she says there are no other options for her. She just wants to be able to safely feed her family.

"I have been a sex worker for a long time. I depend on this job. I don't have anything else," she said.

Fewer women to contest council seats in upcoming elections


Cambodia has among the lowest ranking for gender equity in Asia, according to the UNDP’s Human Development Report. The political will to implement policies of gender equality is weak, and “social attitudes ... deem women to be of lower status”, the UN website says.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Vong Sokheng
Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Only 13.8 percent of the candidates in Sunday’s council elections are female, a drop of nearly half from commune polls held in 2003

THE number of female candidates in the upcoming provincial, district and municipal council votes has decreased compared with previous polls, even though all four political parties running in Sunday's elections have previously committed to encouraging women's participation in politics.

Only 1,177 of the 8,506 candidates - or about 13.8 percent - are female, according to Tep Nytha, secretary general of the National Election Committee (NEC).

In 2008, 14.8 percent of the political candidates were female, but six years ago female candidates represented 27 percent of the total, Tep Nytha said.

The Cambodian election monitor Comfrel , using this percentage of female candidates, released its predicted results earlier this year, saying that about 10 percent of the 3,235 seats will be held by women.

Ros Sopheap, executive director of the NGO Gender and Development for Cambodia, said that having women representatives is important to making Cambodian culture more equitable.

"If you don't have women on the councils, how can you change the mindset of a patriarchal society?" she asked.

According to Comfrel's report, 94 percent of women voters in Kandal, Takeo and Kampong Thom provinces want more women to stand for election.

Many of the women in the Comfrel survey said that female leaders would be better able to solve problems of discrimination, violence, rape and human trafficking.

Ho Naun, a female parliamentarian for the ruling Cambodian People's Party, said Tuesday that the CPP's female candidates will become leaders and educators when they are elected, making it easier for men and women to communicate with each other in the political realm.

"If women become representatives - from the local level to the highest level - they can help women in their work and solve their difficulties. Women are mothers and can forgive each other," Ho Naun said.

In its report, Comfrel said that 53 percent of voters in 2008 were female, but in Sunday's election, only commune councillors can vote, the majority of which are male.

Ros Sopheap said at the commune council level especially, there needed to be more women, as many councils do not have a single female participant.

"We have 52 percent of the population in Cambodia, but our level of representation is less than men," she said.

"If women have more a voice on the councils, men will see that [what women want] is important."


PMT crash relatives to wait year for settlement

Written by Kay Kimsong
Wednesday, 13 May 2009

COMPENSATION claims by families of the 22 victims of the PMT Air crash in Kampot could be delayed another year, as airline management and legal officials discuss how to settle the claim, Mao Havannal, secretary of state at the State Secretariat of Civil Aviation (SSCA), said Tuesday.

The Russian-made Antonov-aircraft crashed into the side of a mountain in June 2007 while carrying mostly South Korean tourists from Siem Reap to Sihanoukville.

It was thought the wrangle would be resolved two weeks ago at meetings chaired by the SSCA between lawyers for the victims, airline officials and the undisclosed insurance company.

But the SSCA said it had failed to invite the relevant parties to the talks, meeting only with government lawyers to determine the legal jurisdiction of the settlement.

"First we had to meet with our internal experts and legal team to study the case properly," Mao Havannal said.

He confirmed that payouts would be made in accordance with Cambodian law, not international law, but suggested legal avenues would be pursued as a last resort if roundtable negotiations failed.

Victims' families expressed hopelessness after being excluded from negotiations.

"There is no sign that I will get any money, but we will never forget what happened," said An Sim, cousin of air hostess Top Chanthu. PMT President Sar Sareth could not be reached for comment.

Hanging out

Photo by: Tracey Shelton

Written by Tracey Shelton
Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Cambodian soldiers use their mobile phones while relaxing near the front lines at Preah Vihear temple earlier this week. As a political wrangle over disputed territory near the 11th-century monument deepens, the mood at Preah Vihear appears to have returned to one familiar with troops worldwide: boredom.

World oil price increase felt at Cambodia's petrol pumps

Photo by: Tracey Shelton
Pump attendants work at a garage in Phnom Penh in this file photo.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Kay Kimsong
Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Increase in world oil price well above $50 a barrel impacts on Cambodian fuel – all of which has to be imported – with further price rises expected

PETROL prices in Phnom Penh have jumped by up to 200 riels (4.8 US cents) per litre in the past week, with petrol companies and analysts saying motorists should expect further increases as global petrol prices continue to have a knock-on effect at the petrol pump.

Since February, international prices for crude oil jumped from a year low of US$45 to $58 per barrel - a rise of nearly 30 percent.

With Cambodia still importing 100 percent of its oil products, the country remains susceptible to global market fluctuations, according to oil analyst Bin May Mialia. But although stockpiled, low-cost oil derivatives had so far helped offset the sharp rise in global crude oil, petrol prices were expected to increase as these reserves were depleted.

"We have seen an increase of only about 100 or 200 riels because we can mix newly imported gasoline with what we have in storage, but prices could increase higher if they keep importing the newly priced oil," he said. "Even if the price remains stable at $58 next week, you might see price of gasoline and diesel increase by 200 or 300 riels more."

Heu Heng, deputy director general for Cambodian petrol giant Sokimex, said his company had increased prices by 50 riels per litre at the pump, to around 3,400 riels for "gold" grade gasoline.

"It is normal that when the price of international crude oil increases, we increase our prices, too, because we import everything from outside," he said. "We cannot predict the international oil price, but when it is down we will drop down as well."

According to government statistics, retail prices for gasoline increased from 2,950 to 3,350 riels per litre last week - an increase of over 13 percent - while diesel rose from 2,850 to 2,950 riels over the same period.

We can mix newly-imported gasoline with what we have in storage.

But Rong Chhun, president of the Cambodian Independent Teachers Association, which has lobbied the government to introduce fuel subsidies, told the Post that high petrol costs were a result of price gouging by distributors, and called on the government to monitor pump prices to ensure they remain fair for Cambodians.

"Prime Minister Hun Sen appealed often to private companies to lower the price of gasoline, but it only works for a short time," he said. "As prime minister of the country, [he] has to issue a strong order to private companies. Even if there is a free-market policy, it still needs to be managed by the government."

Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker Yim Sovann said the price increase was a result of of the retail petrol sector operating as a cartel, and that the biggest petrol retailers have "formed a team" to set artificial prices. He said Cambodia also taxed gasoline at the rate of 1,000 riels per litre, and called on the government to abolish the tax - a measure that would benefit economic development as well as the poor.

"The high price of gasoline and diesel will drive out investors from Cambodia, and we will face challenges from competitors," he said. "I think investors and people are both facing the same problem once goods prices increase and lead people into poverty."

Building gamble puts casino on shaky ground, experts say

Experts claim that Cambodia’s inadequate building regulations have left the NagaWorld complex on shallow foundations.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Tom Hunter
Wednesday, 13 May 2009

NagaWorld denies cracks in building’s interior are structural, but experts say foundations not deep enough to support 14-storey hotel and casino

Experts fear a culture of cost-cutting is undermining the quality of some of the city's newest structures as developers build in a vacuum of regulations and construction industry standards.

Sam Maity, the construction team manager at Runs and Walks Co, a consultancy firm that works with several South Korean developers, singled out the NagaWorld casino complex, saying the recent addition of new floors had taken the development beyond the load-bearing capacity of its foundations.

"NagaWorld originally did not plan to build 14 storeys," Sam Maity said. "They've overloaded the foundation, causing some areas to crack."

He said Nagaworld's foundations were just 14 metres deep, but a soil analysis recently completed by Runs and Walks in the adjacent block showed bedrock there did not start until 40 metres.

"The NagaWorld foundations should have been between 35 and 40 metres deep, not 14 meters," Maity said.

The casino and hotel complex is located along the riverfront in Phnom Penh's Tonle Bassac area. The area was reclaimed from the river, meaning the surface soil is soft.

But Steve Cheng, general manager at NagaWorld, refused to reveal the technical details of the building's structure, adding he "was not sure how deep the foundations were".

An extension of the complex was almost complete, he said, but acknowledged the opening had been delayed as the company was fixing refurbishing defects such as "cracks in the paintwork".

Most clients don’t want to spend money on the proper soil investigations.

He denied the cracks were structural. "We meet the structural requirements of Cambodia," Cheng said.

A new Australian embassy being built in an adjacent plot has piles 60 metres deep, according to one of the building's designers. "Structurally it is entirely sound," said Thomas Zazworka, who now works at ATTA Structural Engineering & Consulting, adding that the embassy was similar in its load to a large three-storey villa.

Money worries
"The issue is - and it's not only here in Cambodia - that most clients don't want to spend money on the proper soil investigations," Zazworka said, adding that even if the soil report showed deeper foundations were needed, many were reluctant to spend the money.

"In Europe we have rules, but here we don't," he added. "Whether or not a client goes about things the right way depends on how much money they want to spend. Clients here generally want a structure put up as quickly and cheaply as possible."

Because Cambodia has no set building code, builders and architects have the discretion to follow any other recognised international standard, or ignore standards altogether.

Andre Van Bijsterveld of Royal Haskoning Group Cambodia, an engineering consultancy, said Cambodia needed to develop a proper building code referencing recognised international standards.

"The quality of the building depends on how much the owner wants to spend; it depends if they want to stick to international standards or if they just want to build a building," he said. "Nobody is going to check if you save money by lowering safety standards. You can do whatever you like, no one cares."

The 32-storey Canadia Tower may also be suffering from structural problems, with inadequate preparation causing basements to flood.

"There is no doubt the Canadia Bank building has some problems," Thomas Zatzworka said. "I was in there recently, and the whole basement is a swimming pool."

Charles Vann, the executive vice president of Canadia Bank, said there were "no problems that he knew of" and that the new building was on schedule to open at some time after July. He said that no date had been set for the opening, though the bank's website indicates it is targeting September 9 this year.

Zatzworka said that problems arose depending on who was in charge.

"Take two structures: The [Gold Tower 42], independently built by South Koreans, adhering to South Korean standards; it's safe. And then you have the Canadia Bank, designed by Thai company PBL but built by local Cambodian contractors. Two buildings built to two different standards," he said.

Im Cham Rong, the general director of the Department of Construction within the Ministry of Land Management, said the private sector needed to be responsible for its own developments until such time as the ministry could develop a building code.

"We are trying to implement standards, but we don't have enough human resources," he said. "I think the private sector, the buildings' owners and the construction companies have their own responsibilities about any problems that occur with a buildings construction.

Im Cham Rong said he was not familiar with any specific buildings with structural problems in Phnom Penh.

Training to sustain life

Cori Parks (right) during a first-aid training course last year in Phnom Penh.

Written by Nora Lindstrom
Wednesday, 13 May 2009

An increasing number of people are attending CPR courses that organisers say aim to make people confident enough to take action during a crisis

Learning first aid in Cambodia or anywhere in the world, for that matter, is not a priority for most people. However, in a country where health professionals can be few and far between, learning basic first-aid skills can save lives and reduce lasting injuries.

Many people express an interest in first aid, but most are reluctant to put the time into learning the skills, says Cori Parks, who runs first-aid courses in Phnom Penh.

That is, until something happens and they realise it could have been them or their loved ones, she says.

"You make a choice to come to Cambodia, to raise your children outside of a 911 emergency response system. Consequently, you should prepare, not just wait until something happens," Parks said.

A personal trainer by profession, Parks is required to know first aid and decided that the best way to stay up-to-date with new developments in the field was to become a certified instructor herself.

"My desire to be an instructor really hit home when a neighbour's child died from choking while under the care of a nanny. It was really shocking to me that nannies didn't know what to do," she said. "I hate to say it, but in my experience, when there's a big catastrophe, my business shoots through the roof."

Sustaining life
The eight-hour course offered by Parks costs US$60 per person and covers topics such as rescuer safety, medical emergencies, injury emergencies and environmental emergencies. In addition, there is a hands-on practical component to the course and CPR training.

For the most part, with first aid you’re not giving medical care. you’re sustaining life.

Upon completion, participants receive an internationally recognised two-year certification from the American Heart Association.

Parks said it is important to make people confident enough to take action in emergency situations and seek qualified help.

"For the most part, with first aid you're not giving medical care. You're sustaining life until medical care can happen," she said.

Dr Nick Walsh from International SOS Medical Clinic, which also runs first-aid courses, agrees.
The majority of accidents, such as burns and bleeding, happen in the home, he said.

"The aim of first aid is to minimise damage to the victim. The patient is going to benefit from your presence and your training. It's not about saving lives, as the patient may be untreatable. It's about helping someone until they get to an appropriate medical facility," he wrote in an email.

Courses at SOS start from $100 per person for a two-day course and are offered for both groups and individuals. They are taught in either Khmer or English by clinic staff, who use first-aid skills regularly in their work.

To maintain standards, participants do not automatically qualify for a two-year certificate following completion of the course.

"Not all will pass if they do not meet certain criteria," Walsh wrote.

General knowledge
The Cambodian Red Cross also offers courses in Khmer aimed mainly at schools, companies and organisations that want their staff to have basic first aid skills. More than 6,500 individuals have completed the course since its inception in 2000.

The three-day course costs US$30 per person and covers all standard subjects from theory to interactive skills practice. Upon completion, participants receive certification valid for one year. Later, they can gain a permanent certificate valid throughout Southeast Asia.

Kor Heng, who runs the courses, says most people in Cambodia have very limited knowledge of first-aid measures.

"Sometimes, people try to do CPR by compressing on the chest, but really they have no idea what to do or how [to do it]. Every so often, people also put soy sauce or toothpaste on burns, but this does not benefit the victim," he said.

A large part of the work of the Red Cross is to promote correct ways of responding to both small and large emergencies.

Chenda Ban, a third-grade assistant teacher, recently took part in a course held by the Red Cross at her school.

"In the classroom, if someone has an accident, I need to know how to help them. It makes me feel proud to know what to do now," she said.
For information, contact
Cori Parks at
Kor Heng at
or contact the International SOS medical clinic.

Defamation suits affect freedom of expression

Written by Sreang Chheat
Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Dear Editor,

It is becoming very obvious now that these defamation lawsuits will have a great impact on freedom of expression in Cambodia.

Lok Chumteav Mu Sochua, a member of Parliament from Sam Rainsy Party, lodged a defamation lawsuit against Prime Minister Hun Sen on April 23, 2009.

Then Hun Sen's lawyer, Mr Ky Tech, former president of the Cambodian Bar Association, responded by countersuing her and then her lawyer for defamation.

On the positive side, it is great that Chumteav Mu Sochua dares to sue Hun Sen, who is considered by many as a powerful leader.

Such courage hopefully serves as a precedent for the general public in Cambodia that, legally, they can lodge a complaint against their leader if they find that their rights have been violated.

However, the longer-term effect of this case is very deleterious to the current situation of freedom of expression in Cambodia.

Mr Hun Sen does not bow down to anyone; nor does he bow to Mu Sochua's legal threat.

In response, he even sues her lawyer, who might be soon disbarred if the legal confrontation between the two parties continues.

As a matter of fact, freedom of expression in Cambodia, including that of the lawyer, is very much marred by the restrictive legal framework.

The case of Mu Sochua versus Hun Sen is another test of the court's competence and independence.

It has been observed that defamation charges provided for in the 1992 UNTAC law are mainly used by politicians to silence their critics and journalists, and the court's decision is very often made in favour of the powerful ones.

There is a consensus that criticising the government or high politicians in the government might risk defamation charges.

In December 2005, eight well-respected human rights advocates were arrested and detained for defamation, disinformation and/or incitement.

A few more are seeking asylum in the West, while journalists have also been charged of defamation.

Even though there is hope that defamation will be decriminalised in the newly drafted criminal code, the case of Mu Sochua versus Hun Sen poses a great threat to free expression in Cambodia.

Sreang Chheat
Cambodian Centre for Human Rights

Police Blotter: 13 May 2009

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

A woman carrying her 7-month-old daughter attempted suicide by jumping off the Chroy Changvar bridge in Prey Veng province on Monday. The 20-year-old woman told police that she was a victim of domestic violence and that her husband did not give her enough money for her daily needs.

Police have arrested and charged a man involved in a dispute between two rival gangs. He is suspected of fatally stabbing Morn Kea, 24, on Saturday. Two groups from different villages were dancing in the same pagoda when the fight erupted in Boribo district, Kampong Chhnang province.

10-man gang held on theft charges
On Saturday the Phnom Penh police arrested 10 men on suspicion of multiple robberies and drugs charges. Police said that three of the suspects have confessed to stealing eight motorbikes, three televisions, rice and US$700 in Tuol Kork district. No official charges have been filed.

Ret Run, 22, has confessed to raping a 13-year-old girl in Mong Russei district, Battambang province, on Friday. The man admitted to raping the girl three times while she went into the field to look after cows. He told police that the father knew of the incidents and said that he had paid the girl 5,000 riels (US$1.25). Police have charged the man under Article 42 of the Anti-human Trafficking Law.

A blind man wanted on murder charges was arrested on Friday in Somrong Torng district, Kampong Speu province. Hun Nop, 21, was one of a group of eight suspects wanted by Kampong Speu police for a December 2008 killing.

Chok Soeung, a Khmer expatriate who lived in Australia, was killed in a road accident on Friday while visiting Cambodia. The man’s motorbike was struck from behind by a Hyundai while travelling on National Road 5 in Pursat province.

Beauty Talk: False eyelashes

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Nora Lindstrom
Wednesday, 13 May 2009

NEWCOMERS to Phnom Penh often marvel in disbelief at the widespread use of false eyelashes in the capital, but really, our Cambodian sisters have for some time been well ahead in their fashion sense in this department.

Word has it false lashes are currently all the rage from London to New York, to the extent that "lash labs", salons focusing solely on getting those extensions on, are springing up in the middle of a recession.

Mascaras have long promised us fuller, thicker, wider, longer and more beautiful lashes. Though they, of course, serve a purpose, they don't live up to the durability of false lashes - particularly not in a hot country like Cambodia, where anything applied to your eyes is likely to end up on your cheeks after a few minutes anyway.

Falsies are essentially available in two formats - fakes and extensions.

The former is what you generally see at weddings, the thick strips of fake eyelashes glued onto the eyelids. Most local beauty parlours offer these for a buck or two.

Attaching them involves the beautician cutting a strip of lashes (hopefully) to size, applying glue on it and attaching it to your eyelid. It's a fairly straightforward and easy procedure, though the result can sometimes be a bit wonky.

A more proactive hands-on approach is to buy your own set of fake lashes at the market and try DIY application, which may or may not achieve better results.

Whichever way you go, the lashes rarely last the night and are often also rather heavy on your eyelids.


The second option is eyelash extensions. The difference between fake lashes and extensions is that the latter are glued not onto your eyelids but onto the lashes themselves.

This procedure takes significantly longer and involves a whole lot more poking in the eye.

To start with, the beautician needs to separate your lower lashes from your upper ones, to ensure she doesn't glue your eyes shut.

Given that your eyes are shut during the procedure, the cling film that is applied over your lower lashes to keep them from touching your upper ones invariably goes into your eye.

With cling film scratching your eye, the actual application of the lashes is hardly noticeable. Fast forward an uncomfortable hour-and-a-half, and you are lash-tastic.

Think spider eyes, Twiggy and Liza Minelli. You may have some trouble wearing shades with the extra lengths on, but otherwise you can barely feel them.

Surprisingly, not many places in Phnom Penh do eyelash extensions. In fact, many top-end salons consider it bad for the lashes - nice for a few weeks, but really not fun once your lashes start falling out.

Some of the small hair and beauty salons in Sorya Mall, as well as Christina's Beauty Salon on Sihanouk Boulevard, couldn't care less. Here the customer is king - well, queen - and lash-tasticity is on the menu, though it doesn't come cheap. Set aside US$25-$30 for the treatment.

People say eyes are the windows to the soul. Surely every window deserves good curtains?

The Phnom Penh Post News In Briefs

In Brief: PM to go Seoul

Written by Sam Rith
Wednesday, 13 May 2009

PRIME Minister Hun Sen will head to Seoul on May 31 the Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed Tuesday, on a five-day visit that will focus on South Korean investment in the Kingdom. The trip is scheduled to include a meeting with potential investors, Koy Kuong added: "Samdech will take that time to attract investors." Hun Sen is also scheduled to sign a memorandum of understanding on mineral exploration with South Korean President Lee Myung-bak. South Korean investment in Cambodia fell to US$472.89 million in 2008 from $629.49 million in 2007.

In Brief: RDB wins award

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

THE Rural Development Bank (RDB) has won an award from the Association of Development Financing Institutions in Asia and the Pacific (ADFIAP), the bank's chairman and CEO said Sunday. The local economic development project award, presented to the bank at the ADFIAP's annual awards ceremony in Muscat, Oman, on April 28, was awarded for a US$5 million strategic commodity rice project in Battambang and Banteay Meanchey provinces.

April border clash site is on Thai territory : Thai FM spokesman

Wed, May 13, 2009

By The Nation

Cambodia could not ask for compensation from Thailand for border clash in April because the clash site is on the Thai territory, Thai Foreign Ministry's spokesman Tharit Jarungwat said.

The clash site is on Thai territory which was illegally occupied by Cambodian civilians, he said, adding the Thai authorities are lenient enough to allow them to do business there for the sake of good relations between the two countries and for humanitarian reasons.

Tharit was referring to Cambodia's demand for the Thai side to pay Bt69 million in compensation for damage allegedly caused by heavy weapons from the Thai army used during the border clash on April 3 near Preah Vihear Temple.

Cambodian Foreign Ministry Monday sent a diplomatic note to Thailand, asking for the compensation. It said the gunfire destroyed 264 stands at a market in front of the temple, affecting 319 Cambodian households.

The Thai foreign ministry will send a letter to Cambodia to reaffirm its stance on the issue, the spokesman said, noting that Thailand had earlier clearly asserted that the area in question belongs to Thailand.

Asked if Thailand would seek compensation from Cambodia for damage on the Thai side, the spokesman said the ministry's Department of Treaties and Legal Affairs is looking into the matters.

Thai deputy PM: Thailand fully ready to host ASEAN Summit and Related Summits in mid-June

May 12, 2009

BANGKOK (Xinhua) - Thailand is fully ready to host the ASEAN Summit and Related Summits in mid-June, however, the timing for the Summits has not been finalized yet, said Suthep Thaugsuban, Thai Deputy Prime Minister in charge of security affairs said today.

Suthep also said that the ASEAN and dialogue partner countries can have their own armed men to protect their leaders during the ASEAN Summit and Related Summits in Thailand, but the matter must be managed under an agreement,

Meanwhile, Suthep said that the Thai government would enforce the Internal Security Law to ensure security during the ASEAN Summit and Related Summits.

The Internal Security Law, issued by the military-backed National Legislative Assembly in 2007, empowers the prime minister to turn to the military to maintain order. Moreover, the government does not need to make an announcement prior to enforcing it.

The Law would ensure that chaos occurred during the ASEAN Summit and Related Summits in Pattaya earlier in April would not be repeated, said the Thai Deputy Prime Minister.

The 14th ASEAN Summit and Related Summits were initially scheduled to be held on April 10-12 in a hotel in Thai resort town of Pattaya, however the summit was canceled on April 11 due to Thai anti-government "red-shirt" protestors stormed into the venue.

This year Thailand is the rotating chairman of the ASEAN, which consists of Brunei, Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos, Indonesia, Philippines,Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.

ASEAN's dialogue partners are China, Japan, South Korea, India, Australia, and New Zealand.

Thailand's government has proposed to the other ASEAN leaders and dialogue partner leaders to host the ASEAN Summits during June 13-14 in Thailand's southern province of Phuket.

Uncertainty over Summit

Red-shirted protesters storming a summit venue in Pattaya last month. Many country delegations were privately appalled at the security breakdown. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

The Straits Times

May 12, 2009

Bangkok bent on holding it but foreign leaders yet to confirm attendance

By Nirmal Ghosh, Thailand Correspondent

BANGKOK: Thailand, still smarting from the humiliation of the aborted Pattaya summit, is bent on holding the Asean+6 summit in Phuket over June 13 and 14, and will invoke an internal security law to reassure Asian leaders that the government has full control.

Speaking to reporters in Phuket yesterday afternoon, Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva remarked on the 'importance of these meetings for Thailand to regain the trust of the international community' and added that the security Act would enable the government to mobilise multiple state agencies 'to ensure the meetings go smoothly'.

But not everyone is happy, and uncertainty still hangs over the participation of many foreign leaders.

Officials and diplomats have been making trips to Phuket to sort out logistics and other issues, but as of yesterday apart from the host, none of the 15 countries had confirmed that its leaders would attend.

'A lot of countries are quietly wondering why there should be a summit in June when there is another scheduled for October. It seems Thailand is more intent on restoring its own image,' one diplomat said, requesting anonymity.

Another diplomat who also did not want to be named, echoed the view, saying: 'Nobody seems very comfortable. Everyone would be much happier if the two summits were rolled together in October.'

At Pattaya last month, red-shirted protesters of the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD) stormed the venue of the summit, forcing its cancellation and the hurried evacuation of regional leaders.

Many country delegations, while expressing sympathy for the Thai government, were privately appalled at the security breakdown and the potential risk their leaders had faced.

Last week, Thailand's army chief General Anupong Paochinda was quoted in local media as saying some leaders, if not comfortable with security arrangements, 'might ask to send their own armed security guards'. That, he said, would further damage Thailand's credibility.

Asean Secretary-General Surin Pitsuwan - a former Thai foreign minister and senior member of the ruling Democrat Party - said in Bangkok during last week's health ministers' meeting that more than half of the 16 countries slated to take part in the summit had agreed to Thailand's proposal to host it in Phuket. But he did not specify which ones.

Songkitti: Army can safeguard summit

Published: 13/05/2009

The army is ready and able to safeguard the foreign leaders who attend the Asean+6 summit in Phuket next month, Supreme Commander Songkitti Chakkrabat said on Wednesday.

Gen Songkitti said the army has a security plan that would ensure their safety and would strictly follow it. He refused to go into detail, saying it was confidential.

The army would stay within the law if forced to use weapons to enforce security and the public need not be concerned about that aspect, he said.

The supreme commander said he felt confident no Thais would try to disrupt the summit because it was a cooperative gathering organised by the 10 Asean nations to solve problems not related to local politics.

He was also sure that Bangkok and Cambodia could peacefully settle Phnom Penh's demand for about 75 million baht in compensation for damage caused to a market during the border clashes last month.

Gen Songkitti said Thailand could set Cambodia right on the matter. Committees were working on it.

Cambodia demand Bt69 million compensation over border clashes

By Supalak Ganjanakhundee
The Nation
Published on May 13, 2009

Cambodia has officially made its demand for more than US$2 million (Bt69 million) compensation from Thailand over damage following the clash between troops of both sides at Preah Vihear temple in April.

Phnom Penh presented its complaint to the Thai Foreign Ministry on Monday, saying the attack with heavy weapons by Thai troops against Cambodian territory near the Hindu temple on April 3 damaged a Cambodian market.

"A total of 246 stands within this market were completely destroyed, causing great hardship and misery to 319 Cambodian families who have lost their entire livelihood," said a diplomatic note from Phnom Penh to Thailand.

"The material loss incurred on these families amounts to $ 2,150,500," it said.

Cambodia demanded the Thai government take full responsibility for damage caused by the Thai soldiers and to appropriately compensate for the losses, it noted.

The border skirmish in April at the disputed area near the Preah Vihear temple killed three Thai and two Cambodian soldiers and injured many others. Phnom Penh has not demanded compensation for the loss of its troops.

Thai Foreign Ministry spokesman Tharit Charungvat said Thailand did not need to compensate Cambodia for the damage since the clash took place in Thai territory.

Thai troops fired to defend national sovereignty and maintain order in the area, he said.

The ministry would send a letter to Cambodia to reiterate Thailand's position and insist the area belongs to Thailand, Tharit said.

The ministry's legal affairs and treaties experts would consider whether Thailand will send a counter demand for compensation, he said.

The border dispute with Cambodia erupted last year as Thailand opposed Phnom Penh's proposal to list the Hindu temple as a world heritage site.

The International Court of Justice ruled in 1962 the Preah Vihear belongs to Cambodia, but its surroundings have been claimed by both sides and have not yet been demarcated. The conflict sparked military clashes in October last year and again in April this year.

Cambodia's royal oxen predict poor rice harvest in annual ritual

Wed, May 13, 2009
By Deutsche Presse Agentur

Phnom Penh - Cambodia's royal oxen alarmed farmers on Tuesday by snubbing an offering of rice during a traditional plowing ceremony, as part of the king's birthday celebration that astrologers use to predict the year's rice harvest.

Royal astrologer Kang Ken said after the annual ritual, which was held in a park near the Royal Palace in Phnom Penh, that the oxen ate offerings of beans and corn but snubbed offerings of rice, sesame seeds, grass, water and wine.

"This means that annual rice production will fall by 30 per cent, but there will be plenty of rainwater this year for agriculture around the whole country," he announced to a crowd of more than 1,000 people at the ceremony presided over by King Norodom Sihamoni.

The event is said to be taken very seriously by Cambodia's rural poor, who make up roughly 85 per cent of the population and are regarded as highly superstitious by city dwellers.

Sim An, a farmer from Kandal Province in central Cambodia, said he was saddened to see the oxen reject the rice offering.

"This is not good for me because I plant rice every year and unlike other farmers, I grow only one kind of crop," he said.

But Nub Sophal, a farmer from the southern province of Kampot, said he was not worried about the prediction.

"Even after listening to the astrologer's prediction I am still happy because we always have a good crop in my province," he said. "But I still wonder why the oxen did not eat the rice or grass because we all know that it makes our harvest much better."

Prime Minister Hun Sen did not attend the ceremony, but the king was joined by an audience of ministers, ruling party leaders and foreign diplomats.

Hun Sen is pushing for Cambodia to become a major rice exporter after a lifting a ban on exports in May last year.

In January, the premier predicted that rice exports would increase from about 1 million tonnes in 2008 to more than 2 million tonnes in 2009.

Vietnam, Cambodia & the riches of the Mekong

May 12, 2009 in Cruise Industry

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Cambodia Deja Vu: the Invasion of Pakistan

5 News

Pfaff, William
May 12, 2009

PARIS -- Last September, during the American presidential campaign, I wrote a column declaring that the United States had again invaded Cambodia, only this time "Cambodia" was Pakistan. President George W. Bush had ordered U.S. ground attacks on the Taliban inside Pakistan's Tribal Territories, without Pakistan's authorization.

That was also when Barack Obama's foreign policy campaign platform was promising withdrawal from Iraq and military emphasis on Afghanistan and Pakistan, location of the "real" problem in the great war on terror.

A younger generation than mine, including senior military officers (not to speak of Barack Obama), may not know exactly why the United States and the South Vietnamese army invaded Cambodia in 1970, and what the result was. The invasion was a failure, and the result a humanitarian catastrophe.

Washington, frustrated in its war against the Communist Viet Cong in South Vietnam, which eventually included bombing on a scale greater than the bombing of Germany in the Second World War, decided it could solve its problem by an invasion to cut the Communist supply routes inside neutral Cambodia (which it nonetheless was also bombing: dropping 540,000 tons of explosive on Cambodia over four years).

The invasion accomplished nothing except further destruction in Cambodia. It destroyed the U.S.-supported military government in Cambodia and empowered the native Cambodian Communist resistance, known as the Khmer Rouge, which eventually, in order to create a utopian society, killed some 2 million of its fellow Cambodians.

The later head of the Genocide Studies Program at Yale wrote of the bombing: "The emergent Communist party . . . profited greatly . . . (using) the widespread devastation and massacre of civilians (to justify) its brutal, radical policies."

Three years after the invasion, the Viet Cong, with its North Vietnamese allies, forced American forces to retreat from Vietnam, and by 1975 ruled the country. In Cambodia, the genocide had begun.

The invasion was occasion for Richard Nixon to declare that the U.S. was not "a second-rate power" nor "a pitiful helpless giant" standing by while "the forces of totalitarianism and anarchy . . . threaten free nations and free institutions throughout the world."

How long ago it seems -- 39 years! And here we are again.

The United States, despite its plan to deploy nearly 70,000 troops this year in Afghanistan, finds itself and its NATO allies in danger of defeat by the Taliban guerillas.

U.S. bombing, with remote-controlled "drones," of the Pakistani Tribal Territories, where the Taliban take refuge among their Pathan tribal kinsmen, has killed many people but has had no decisive effect on the fighting in Afghanistan.

American bombing inside Afghanistan is protested by Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who says the air-strikes are fast turning the Afghans against the U.S., which risks "losing the moral battle" against the Taliban. Gen. James L. Jones, U.S. national security adviser, says, "We can't fight with one hand tied behind our back."

Karzai says, "How can you expect a people who keep losing their children to remain friendly?" Jones says of Karzai, "I think he understands that we have to have a full compliment of our offensive military power when we need it."

The former Pakistani military government of Gen. Pervez Musharraf was unwilling to send the Pakistan army into the Tribal Territories to attack the Taliban and al-Qaida.

He is now ousted, and the civilian government led by President Asif Ali Zardari, put under immense pressure by Washington, and frightened by the success of the Taliban in operations outside the Tribal Region, has agreed to the ground offensive now going on, in which Pakistani commanders are accompanied by U.S liaison officers and air controllers.

U.S. Command in "Af-Pak" now has been transferred, in obvious urgency, to former Joint Special Operations commander Lt. Gen. Stanley McChrystal.

Will a special forces officer think that guerrillas -- with refuge in an inaccessible and unconquered region, amid a tri-national ethnic population of some 40 million fellow Pathans -- can be beaten by guided bombs or special forces raids? Or that an unenthusiastic Pakistani army will do the job? Or 70,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, when the Taliban can always refuse battle and pull back into the mountains?

Moreover, what is supposed to be accomplished by this war against the Taliban, which threatens to leave Afghanistan in ruins, and to tear Pakistan apart? Do the Taliban threaten the United States? Most of them could not find the United States on a map.

What have they ever done to the United States? What if the United States would just go away and leave the Pakistanis, Afghans and Pathans to settle this among themselves?

President Barack Obama says the war will not be won by military means but by a "surge" of civilian development experts, reconstruction leaders and democracy teachers, just as Secretary of Defense Robert Gates recently told Congress that the U.S. is training. Will this "surge" get there in time? My own feeling is that President Obama is in over his head; and that American military command, not knowing what else to do, is reverting to Vietnam, which most of its members were too young to experience.
Visit William Pfaff's Web site at

To Cambodia, with love

“ .... a place where flies rise up in black clouds and children are run over by garbage trucks.” Read about the reality of children’s lives on Phnom Penh’s rubbish heap and learn how CCF makes a difference today and gives hope for tomorrow.

Give the gift to CCF

Picture of the day

Cambodia's royal oxen eat corn and beans during the annual ploughing ceremony in Phnom Penh May 12, 2009. Cambodia hosted the annual ploughing festival on Tuesday during which the royal oxen had to choose between seven bowls including rice, corn, green beans, grass, sesame, water and wine to predict the future of the farming season. The oxen ate less rice, Cambodia's biggest crop, than expected. The chief astrologer said this signalled a possible low harvest of rice for this season.RUETERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA AGRICULTURE ANIMALS SOCIETY)
Royal oxen are practicing their walks in plough ceremony which is to be held on 12 May 2009. The ceremony is held every year with farming forecast through the royal oxen . Picture (

The portraits of Samdech Preah Boromneat Norodom Sihamoni, the king of Cambodia are put at the main spots in Phnom Penh capital to congratulate his 57 birthday.

Acid attack victims fight for justice

Survivors of acid attacks attend a rally in Dhaka yesterday


Khodeza Begum still shivers in fear when she remembers the winter night eight years ago when an unidentified attacker sprayed acid on her and her baby girl as they slept in their Bangladesh shantytown home.

“The corrosive liquid badly burned my face and part of my child’s head,” said 30-year-old Khodeza, her face partly covered to hide the scars.

“But I received no justice from police or court as I could not identify the offender,” she told a conference marking the 10th anniversary of the foundation of the Bangladesh Acid Survivors Foundation (ASF) in Dhaka yesterday.

ASF officials, police and victims said acid attacks mostly result from refusal of a sexual advance, demand for dowry or family disputes over land. Most of the victims were young women, they said.

As well as horrific scarring and the inevitable psychological trauma, organisers of the conference said that many victims are denied justice like Khodeza. Others face social isolation and ostracism by families.

“Lucky I am that my husband did not abandon us, unlike the fate that befall on many acid victims,” said Khodeza, from Bangladesh’s southern Satkhira district.

Police sometimes take the side of the offenders for a bribe and protect them from law, Nur Jahan, another acid victim, told the conference, which was attended by about 600 acid victims from Bangladesh, Pakistan, India, Cambodia, Uganda and Nepal.

Samina Afzal Naz, an official of the Acid Survivors Foundation Pakistan, said acid attacks over spurned sexual advances or land disputes were also a problem in her country.

“We started working in Pakistan only two years ago and have already identified 149 acid victims in the Punjab region,” said Samina.

ASF officials said the number of acid attacks in Bangladesh had decreased since the government enacted tough laws that set death as the maximum penalty for acid throwers.

“When we founded ASF in Bangladesh in 1999, the number of acid victims annually recorded was around 500 in the country. The number has now gone down well below 100,” said John Morrison, the founder of the organisation.

Access to good medical care for victims remains a problem, however, ASF officials said.

Bangladesh, home to nearly 150mn people, has only one 50-bed burns unit in a public sector hospital, they said.

“It is only a drop in the ocean,” said Monira Rahman, the executive director of ASF Bangladesh, adding that the foundation is running a 20-bed hospital to supplement government facilities. Reuters

Planning for action

Dublin People

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Through the auspices of Plan Ireland I sponsor a child in Burkina Faso. Four years ago a friend and I were travelling in West Africa.

When we were in that region I took the opportunity to visit the child and the community I sponsor there.

In January this year I was in Cambodia. While checking into a hotel in Siem Reap, on my way to Angkor Wat, I saw a notice in the lobby about a Plan International meeting being held in the hotel. This seemed such a coincidence that I decided to investigate.

The result was that I was invited to visit the local Plan office where, two days later, I met the unit manager, Pich Sophary, who gave me an overview of Plan’s work in the country.

One of their most important programmes in Cambodia at the moment is a Civil Registration Campaign to enable citizens to register with the authorities. As a result of the atrocities of the Khmer Rouge regime in the 1970s - when it is estimated that over two million people, roughly a third of the population, lost their lives - very few births were registered. Now, thanks to the Plan campaign, 92 per cent of the population is registered.

Other work carried out by Plan in Cambodia includes the provision of basic education, child health, and water and sanitation projects.

Child trafficking is a big problem. Poverty and the rapid development of the tourist industry are the main causes. Children are trafficked for sex exploitation and for forced labour. There is also the problem that some parents see little value in education. They feel that no matter how well educated their children are they will still end up as subsistence rice farmers. Older children are needed to look after younger siblings and farm animals. Girls are often raped while minding animals in the forest.

I visited a Plan-funded school some 20 kilometres from Siem Reap. Here was a much happier picture. Over 1,000 children from surrounding villages attend this school, in two daily sessions.

They are delighted with their new computer room which was paid for by Plan. At the moment they have only four computers, so there is fierce competition, as can be imagined, to get on these. Plan also sponsors three English and one computer teacher in the school.

I spoke with students in a senior class. The memory will stay with me of how these teenage boys and girls valued the opportunity to get an education, how earnest they were and how they struggled to express themselves in English.

Most of them were the children of rice farmers who owned two or three acres of paddy fields. One boy from a family of seven children wanted to be a tourist guide, which seemed to be an ambition shared by quite a few. He was the only member of his family lucky enough to get an education. His 19-year-old sister, herself a mother of two, worked cleaning streets to finance his education.

On our way back to Siem Riep we visited a village where Plan has installed a borehole to supply clean water. We were surrounded by a crowd of children and adults, all welcoming and happy to demonstrate their new water supply which was making such a difference to the lives of the women, especially, and to the health of the community. One child in particular, a girl of about ten, very bright and bubbly, seemed to take a leader’s role in caring for the younger children and in chatting to visitors. I learned later that she was a child sponsored through Plan.

So, a serendipitous meeting in a hotel in Siem Reap led to a memorable day and one that brought home to me in a very concrete and personal way the value of the work that Plan is doing.

To find out more about Plan and its work in 49 countries in the developing world, or to sponsor a child, log on to or phone 1800829829.

Quick disposal of acid attack cases planned

Survivors of acid attacks attend a rally in Dhaka May 12, 2009. The Acid Survivors Foundation (ASF) of Bangladesh, which provides help and support to victims of acid violence, hosted an international conference on Tuesday to mark its 10th anniversary. About 600 acid victims from Bangladesh, Pakistan, India, Cambodia, Uganda and Nepal participated in the conference.REUTERS/Andrew Biraj (BANGLADESH SOCIETY)

A survivor of an acid attack attends a rally with her child in Dhaka May 12, 2009. The Acid Survivors Foundation (ASF) of Bangladesh, which provides help and support to victims of acid violence, hosted an international conference on Tuesday to mark its 10th anniversary. About 600 acid victims from Bangladesh, Pakistan, India, Cambodia, Uganda and Nepal participated in the conference.REUTERS/Andrew Biraj (BANGLADESH SOCIETY IMAGES OF THE DAY)

A young survivor of an acid attack attends a rally in Dhaka May 12, 2009. The Acid Survivors Foundation (ASF) of Bangladesh, which provides help and support to victims of acid violence, hosted an international conference on Tuesday to mark its 10th anniversary. About 600 acid victims from Bangladesh, Pakistan, India, Cambodia, Uganda and Nepal participated in the conference.REUTERS/Andrew Biraj (BANGLADESH SOCIETY IMAGES OF THE DAY)

Khodeza Begum (L) and her daughter Sonali (R) attend an international conference of acid survivors in Dhaka May 12, 2009. Begum and Sonali were attacked with acid by a neighbour because of a land dispute in 2001. Acid Survivors Foundation Bangladesh (ASF), an international NGO, hosted an international conference to mark its 10th anniversary. About 600 acid victims from Bangladesh, Pakistan, India, Cambodia, Uganda and Nepal participated in the conference on Tuesday.REUTERS/Andrew Biraj (BANGLADESH SOCIETY IMAGES OF THE DAY)

Acid-crime victims, social activists and other participants of the first-ever international conference on Acid Survivors Foundation light candles at Institution of Engineers, Bangladesh yesterday evening as a gesture of solidarity.Photo: Syed Zakir Hossain
Monitoring cell to be formed at every district, says home minister

Wednesday, May 13, 2009
Staff Correspondent

Monitoring cells would be formed at district levels for quick disposal of acid-violence cases, said Home Minister Sahara Khatun yesterday.

"Normally the acid-violence cases take time delaying acid-victims justice. A national monitoring cell has already been formed in this regard headed by a joint secretary of the home ministry and such cells would be formed at district levels as well," she said at the first international conference of Acid Survivors Foundation (ASF) yesterday afternoon.

Talking about the work of ASF for acid-victims, the minister said the government would offer them all kinds of possible support to help acid-crime survivors.

She said Bangladesh could be an example for the world by reducing acid violence. She urged all to be united against the brutal crime.

The daylong first international conference was organised to celebrate the 10th anniversary of ASF. Around 500 acid victims and their representatives from India, Pakistan, England, Uganda and Cambodia participated in the conference.

The day's proceedings started with a colourful procession from the Fine Arts faculty of Dhaka University. The procession ended at the Institution of Engineers Bangladesh.

Social Welfare Minister Enamul Huq Mostafa Shaheed was present during the inaugural session of the conference.

The concluding session of the conference was chaired by ASF acting Chairperson Parveen Mahmud. British High Commissioner Stephan Evans, Canadian High Commissioner Robert McDougall, plastic and reconstructive surgeon Ronald Williams Hiles, Chief Child Protection (section Unicef) Bangladesh Rose Anne Papavero and Editor of The Daily Prothom Alo Matiur Rahman spoke on the occasion.

Later, acid victims lit candles and a cultural programme was also held.

Campaign Success: Global Witness Welcomes Cambodia Sand Export Ban


Global Witness today welcomed a decision by Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen to ban environmentally damaging exports of sand from Cambodia. This move follows a Global Witness investigation that revealed a huge sand dredging business in its early stages in Koh Kong province, Cambodia.

However, Sand dredging is just one example of widespread environmental malpractice, which is depriving people of their rightful benefits and undermining poverty reduction.

UPDATE: Cambodia Tells Thailand To Pay Border Damages


(Updates with Thailand rejection)

PHNOM PENH (AFP)--Cambodia has demanded that Thailand pay more than $2 million in compensation for damage caused by deadly border clashes last month, according to a diplomatic note seen Tuesday.

Seven Thai and Cambodian soldiers have been killed in recent months during sporadic outbursts of violence between the neighboring countries on disputed land around the 11th-century Preah Vihear temple.

In the latest clashes on April 3, three Thai soldiers were killed and a Cambodian market next to the temple ruins was burned down when Thai forces fired rockets over the border.

"The attack with heavy weapons by Thai troops on Cambodian territory...caused much damage and set a Cambodian market ablaze," said a diplomatic note sent to Thailand on Monday.

The material losses to 319 families who lost their livelihoods when the fire destroyed their market stalls amounted to more than $2.1 million, it said.

"The Royal Government of Cambodia demands that the Royal Thai government take full responsibility for these damages caused by Thai soldiers and to appropriately compensate the above losses," it said.

Thailand rejected the claim for damages, saying the incident happened on Thai soil and Cambodia would have to lodge a petition in a Thai court if it wanted to pursue the matter.

"We have always clearly stated that area belongs to Thailand and that Cambodian soldiers illegally trespassed into our territory," foreign ministry spokesman Tharit Charungvat said.

"We are working on the amount of compensation that we are seeking from Cambodia too, as our soldiers died," he said.

Soldiers from the two countries have been locked in a border standoff since last July, when Thailand was angered by the cliff-top temple being given U.N. World Heritage status.

Ownership of the temple was awarded to Cambodia in 1962 but the two countries are in dispute over five square kilometers of land around it that has yet to be officially demarcated.