Sunday, 17 May 2009

Australia-China team to build a railway

Saturday 16th May, 2009

Engineers from Australia and China will build the final stretch of track in the Trans-Asian Railway, which will eventually link Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand with Vietnam and China through Cambodia.

This 255-kilometre stretch will complete the Singapore-to-Kunming line, a railway connecting southeast Asia to the heart of China.

Cambodia will become the hub of transportation between China and Singapore.

Australia's Toll Holdings will build over territory in Cambodia which was once serviced by old French-built lines.

It will run through Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh to the Thai border and south to Sihanoukville in the Gulf of Siam.

The China Railway Group will carry out the linkage from Phnom Penh to the country's western border with Vietnam. is Out to Make a Difference Khmer Social Network is a fast growing, vibrant online community designed and built for online savvy Cambodians.

Stanton, CA, May 17, 2009 --( The Khmer Socializers website ( has announced that it is up and running. People from across the globe are invited to come join this dynamic and ever growing online community which is predominantly made up of Khmers -- the children of mighty Angkorian Empire. was conceived because the administrator, Mr. Sojean Peou, desires to help those children in Cambodia who are currently collecting cans, bottles and plastic at dump sites as a means of survival. He was one of those kids.

"Some of the funds generated from will go to organizations that are dedicated to help those children, and we are proud of our members for helping us to achieve this goal," says Peou.

There are many great reasons to join this dynamic online community. This website provides all the latest news from Cambodia, Asia, and the planet. There are lovely, interesting, and friendly people to meet and talk to through the site's e-mail and Instant Messenger features. There is a forum that already has over 80 different topics, ranging from Khmer culture to people's tastes in music to how to raise self-esteem to "yummy food". Photo albums and videos can be posted and shared. A member can start a blog, publish an article, join a group, and Digg the great stuff found at Khmer Socializers.

But, maybe one of the very best reasons to visit the website is the virtual koi fish pond. Yes, this fish pond is always in motion. A member can use a mouse to feed the fish virtual food. They're insatiable, so they'll always swim right to it! Koi ponds are symbols of good fortune and believed to bring good luck.

The Khmer Socializers website ( is a fun way of connecting, and a fun way to help those needy Cambodian children.

Cambodia Asks Public to Be on Full Alert on Dengue Fever



Web Editor: Xu Leiying

The Cambodian government again asked the public to keep alert to prevent the upcoming peak of dengue fever, which has killed two people nationwide so far this year, national media said on Sunday.

"We are concerned about the outbreak of the dengue fever nationwide due to the rainy season started earlier this year, which fueled the spread of the epidemic," Chinese-language newspaper Cambodia Sin Chew Daily quoted the health officials as saying.

The number of infected cases has increased to 900 during the first four months, almost two times the number in the same period of 2008, according to earlier figure of the Health Ministry.

Moreover, it was spreading and more children have infected at the provinces of Kampong Spuen, Sihanukeville, Preah Vereng, kandal and Kampong Cham since March, the newspaper reported.

Usually, children under the 15 years old were the most fragile group to be attacked by the illness, and some 71 percent of the contaminated cases are to be children, it said.

The government has called on the people to clean their water- saving tanks frequently, kill mosquito eggs in their tanks with pesticide, and sleep in anti-mosquito nets.

According to official figures, 407 children out of a total of 39,851 infected cases of minors died of the disease in 2007, a rampant year for the disease in the kingdom.

Cambodia: a patient waiting

Australia.TO News

Written by Michel Thieren

The response in Cambodia to the emergence of the H1N1 virus is a singular example of how a predominantly rural country is preparting for the threat of an epidemic without borders, says Michel Thieren.

May the tevoda grant us good health and prosperity, freeing us from suffering and fear. [...]
I am finishing my call, o nineteen pralung, come back all together now.

There is no more suffering, no more fear, no more misfortune.

O my dears, your relatives are gathered together in great number."

Hau Pralung (Treatise for Calling the Souls of the Sick)

"Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity"

- the World Health Organisation, constitution

The emergence of a new threat to people's health is always refracted through the immediate and local circumstances of their lives. The worldwide reaction to the Influenza A (H1N1) virus is an example. Cambodia, where I work and live, offers a singular portrait of how a society - predominantly rural and poor, with its own unique cultural and ethnographic character -

esponds to and copes with an epidemic without borders.
The cost of ignorance

The World Health Organisation (WHO) reported that as of 06:00 GMT on 15 May 2009, there were had officially 7,520 cases of Influenza A (H1N1) infection in thirty-four countries; there had to that point been sixty-five deaths. The world has since 4 May been on level five (on a scale of six) of "pandemic alert".

This category, to health professionals, indicates a sustained community transmission of the virus in at least two countries within the same region (continent); a situation that in turn augurs the imminence of a global pandemic (active transmission in two continents). When it occurs, the emergency committee of the International Health Regulations (IHR) - an international legal instrument binding 194 countries to help the international community prevent and respond to acute public-health risks - can activate plans and preventive measures, publish daily updates, and make available knowledge about the evolving situation.

This mechanical precision is indispensable, but it also comes up against the limits of current understanding: for as yet, science knows very little about A/H1N1, and this opens the door to all sorts of allegations and interpretations of what is actually happening.

On 12 May 2009, for example, a leading online political magazine in the United States had as its main headline: "The List: Five Disease Outbreaks that are Worse than Swine Flu". There, A/H1N1 was retrospectively minimised by comparing it (already!) to five serial-killers: cholera, meningitis, HIV/Aids, Ebola, and dengue fever. By thus comparing numbers which should not be compared - because they denote different events, risks, patterns - the result is to remove readers and citizens from the core realities, instead of bringing them closer.

In any event, it will be a long time before the data on A/H1N1 will allow general inference for a long time, and therefore cannot now be subjected to (abusive) "analysis". The issue around A/H1N1 is not whether it spreads less or spares more lives than many other ongoing threats: it is that 7 billion humans are at equal risk of being infected by an entirely new virus against which no one is immune and whose epidemic and killing path cannot be predicted. This is what makes A/H1N1 different from any other disease - regardless of their respective morbidity and mortality totals.

The gaps in scientific knowledge are too easily filled by rumour, myth, hyperbole and attention-seeking media dramas. Many public-health practitioners have come to realise that fighting these requires much more work than solving a real problem.

In science's name

The WHO director-general Margaret Chan made her first official communication on A/H1N1 on 29 April 2009. She warned the world that "new diseases are, by definition, poorly understood and influenza viruses are notorious for their rapid mutation and unpredictable behaviour". The implicit message was that science - both virology and epidemiology - would restrict itself to support evidence-based communication on the new phenomenon. The tone was set that the WHO's messages with regard to A/H1N1 would for the foreseeable future operate with a degree of approximation and conditionality, all in the name of scientific exactitude.

However, when scientific evidence remains largely unsettled, the communication interface can be problematic. A messenger is scientifically accountable and needs to stand on the true ground of current knowledge; yet the recipient of the message requires a simplified and unambiguous formulation in order to take appropriate action. When an international health agency speaks within the strict limits of health and biomedical science, it may compromise its duty to preserve the collateral consequences on its auditors of the possible ambiguities these limits contain.

Yet if the same organisation presented user-friendly categorical statements without proper acknowledgment of doubt, it would to some degree sacrifice its commitment to scientific excellence. How to reconcile theory with practice? Only by stratifying messages through different audiences, from lay individuals to scientific experts, progressively loading them with technically complex and interpretable content.

In the end, however, there must be a consistent thread that links the two ends of the discourse, and in a way that the recipient at each point along the way can make sense of it for their own purposes: the virologist researcher who typified the A/H1N1 virus or decoded its ADN sequence; the epizootic expert who implements the food-standard guidelines, the Codex Alimentarius; the epidemiologist who estimates the lethal risk and the contagion of the virus (and who establishes the principles of the IHR); the economist who estimates the macro- or micro-economic consequences of a pandemic on a household's purchasing-power; all the way to the pig-farmer in the Argentinean pampa or among the Cambodian ricefields, whose only income depends on the readiness of people to eat pork.

The fact that there is very little in common in the knowledge, beliefs and daily lives of the people who exist along the communication "thread" makes it vulnerable to conflicting or overlapping messages. Often, experts speak from their respective scientific locus with no concern that different locuses may conflict with each other. Even as individual statements are pronounced in the name of scientific excellence, the "excellence" of an influenza epidemiologist may collide with the one of a public-health eterinarian or an economist. When science leaves interpretation on pork-safety open with regard to A/H1N1, the consumer may start to see the threat coming from the food rather than from the person coughing and spluttering in the vicinity.

Cambodia in the world

Cambodia, like its immediate neighbours in southeast Asia - Vietnam, Laos, Thailand - has at the time of writing experienced no case of A/H1N1, and the situation has remained in preparedness mode. In the three weeks since (on 24 April 2009) the World Health Organisation released its first report of an "Influenza-like illness in the United States and Mexico", Cambodians have been waiting for their "public enemy". Many predicted that it would kill in massive numbers - something not so hard to conceive in a country which in 1975-78 experienced genocide at the hands of the Khmer Rouge.

It is indeed often the case that contingency planning is - rightly - planning for the worst scenario, even if it is rarely the worst scenario that ultimately prevails. So, in Cambodia, "pandemic contingency plans" were discussed, updated and activated at all levels. The international organisations operating in Cambodia reviewed their procedures on how to protect their personnel and maintain business continuity. Cambodian health authorities refreshed their plans too with the support of international-aid agencies; they received up-to-the-minute messages from Mexico, Atlanta, Ottawa, Geneva; and they took the necessary actions to broadcast basic prevention measures to the Cambodian population.

For example (albeit a weak example, as the measure generates a very low transmission-limiting dividend), a thermal scanner was installed at Phnom Penh and Siem Reap international airports to monitor returning travellers over possible contamination with the virus. This was complemented with quarantine and medical evacuation of screened suspected cases at Calmette general public hospital - perhaps not necessarily the one that people who can afford international travel would select, but the one where effective mass patient management could be organised.

A stoic response

The Cambodian media has done a good job in relaying what the country's 13.4 million people needed to know about the new disease without either distortion or panic. In most parts of the country, it quickly became clear that this was an enemy to be watched but from afar rather than an immediate danger; and that this new disease was a human-to-human problem and not about animals - a piece of information Cambodians can't but be very receptive to.

The common sense of the rural population has been strikingly evident. There is no sign that the pork-based economy in provinces like Kompong Thom is in any way affected. Cambodian farmers continue to raise and sell pork to smoking factories, and people continued to consume pork without further questioning.

But discreet signals of fear have been visible in the cities - mostly among the higher economic end of the Cambodian population and the expatriate community. Pork-meat and pork-based products were left in piles on the shelves of main supermarkets. In Phnom Penh, there was a roaming undercurrent of worry - of a new flu virus that would spread fast and kill in numbers (the memory of "severe acute respiratory syndrome" [Sars] in 2003 was ever-present here). The louder fears expressed by leading global voices and media outlets were softly replicated. The fact that Vietnam and Hong Kong had been epicentres of recent flu outbreaks added to the concern.

In short, Cambodians' relatively stoic attitude has not reflected a lack of public concern. The signs are that the country's government - doubtless aware of the political gains and losses associated with good and bad pandemic management - is truly committed to protect the health of its people. The response to A/H1N1 in Cambodia has been free of what have been regarded as democratic malpractices.

A fragile balance

This balance of communication and precaution was somewhat jeopardised by a report in the leading newspaper the Cambodian Daily on 7 May 2009 on the sensitive subject of meat-consumption. The approach was precisely to pick some dissonances from among leading voices on the pandemic, each one speaking from its own specialised interpretation of partial evidence. An expert warned that "meat from sick pigs or pigs found dead should not be consumed under any circumstances"; another attested that "all pork products are safe for consumption"; a further said that "this new strain of influenza virus does not contaminate humans easily and has a very low pathogenicity for both humans and pigs, unlike the avian flu which killed millions of poultry".

The appearance of scientific cacophony makes the consensual and reassuring message of the WHO director-general even more essential, in reaffirming that "influenza viruses are not known to be transmissible to people through eating processed pork or other food products derived from pigs". The relatively low intensity of the new disease abroad and its absence in Cambodia have played a role in holding rumours at bay. The consumption of pork is safe because there is no case of A/H1N1 in Cambodia, not because the virus is primarily associated with human-to-human transmission. But if any proof of A/H1N1 transmission appears in the country, the mixed messages in the 7 May report could revive and eclipse the WHO's efforts to achieve coherence in communication.

The result could then be stories about the power of A/H1N1 to attack humans and animals, followed by people ceasing to eat pork and the sudden imperiling of an entire vernacular economy of subsistence. In an instant, tens of thousands of people in Cambodia would move from daily subsistence to daily survival; and in a country where five mothers still die every day in childbirth, and where 127 children in every 1,000 born to the poorest families already die before reaching the age of 5, the fragile health gains that have been made may be wiped out. In short, to overestimate the food-borne risk of A/H1N1 in the name of (incomplete) science and consequent difficulty to estimate and aggregate risks could lead to underestimating the one of sudden poverty-induced illness. The media too has a crucial role in matters of life and death.

Thinking in Cambodia

Even those international public-health doctors who now mostly sit in research laboratories or other institutions once sat at the bedside of a patient. It is important for all of us to maintain the doctor's ethos at the heart of our work, and preserve direct contact with the realities and lives of the population we serve. In Cambodia and for Cambodians, good public-health practice must begin by integrating two basic features of Khmer culture: how illness is represented, and how the language accommodates semantic nuances.

Cambodia is predominantly a rural country; the Cambodian farmer is the socio-cultural nexus, at the core of the country's identity and heritage. The Cambodian farmer - and by extension every Cambodian - carries some sense of a direct line of descent from the ancestors of the ricefield; it is routine to be at the same time loaded with animist convictions while riveted to an unequivocal pragmatism.

All Cambodians - including public-health officials - can accept and understand that the "early signs of Influenza A (H1N1) are flu-like, including fever, cough, headache, muscle and joint pain, sore throat and runny nose, and sometimes vomiting or diarrhoea". They also know that "when a person is gravely ill, on the verge of losing consciousness, it is understood that the person's pralung (independent soul-entities) are no longer in his or her body"; thus, traditionally, to call the pralung to return to their residence within the patient's body requires a ritual to be performed. Moreover, the pralung are "also found in certain objects, plants and animals, whose integrity at particular moments is likewise essential to the integrity of the community". The way illness is conceived in this profound and affectively rich context presents singular challenges to the communication of scientific argument that disaggregates animal-to-human and human-to-human transmission of new viruses.

The Khmer language does not formally mark the distinction between different conditionals, nor easily accommodate assumptions, understatements, or subordinate and multifaceted assertions. The semantic nuances of "could be", "should be", "can be" and "will be" are easily lost in translation; in most cases they would end up by converging on the last one. The development of WHO-style consensual messaging using multivariate conditionality to incorporate initially dissenting opinions is not easy in this context.

The outcome of a situation where being scientifically right can generate conceptual or semantic ambiguities is, where A/H1N1 is concerned, yet to be fully tested in Cambodia. So far, its people are continuing to handle everything the world can throw at them with characteristic yet extraordinary grace and fortitude. The global is everywhere local. In the end people will, within their own cultural and social reality, find ways to manage a threat and protect themselves against it.

This article is published by Michel Thieren

Hennessy: An amazing story of an odyssey from the Killing Fields to the White House

Sichan Siv will tell his story in Long Beach this week. (Courtesy Sichan Siv)


Life dangled from a precipice. Your best chance of survival was to pass yourself off as an illiterate peasant.

If you were educated, you might die. If you wore glasses, suggesting you were educated, you might die. If you were seen foraging for food, even grass or insects, you might die.

It was Cambodia, 1976. A year earlier, the Khmer Rouge had taken power. Now they were determined to establish a primitive society, one easily ruled. When the decade ended, they were gone. But up to

2 million people were dead.

Or so it is thought. No one can make an accurate count.

But Sichan Siv, 27 years old, resourceful and brave, had survived. He was especially vulnerable, having once worked for the humanitarian group CARE and having helped refugees from the Vietnam War, which, if revealed, would have meant certain death.

Siv escaped Cambodia by walking 500 harrowing miles past land mines, Khmer Rouge patrols, decomposed bodies, wild jungle animals and booby traps. It took him almost a year to reach neighboring Thailand.

Separated from his family by the Khmer Rouge, he never saw his loved ones again, but he survived in part by recalling his mother's words: "No matter what happens, never give up hope."

It was a message that would carry him to the United States, the White House and the United Nations.

Coming to Long Beach

Sichan Siv will tell his remarkable story Tuesday in Long Beach as a guest of the Long Beach Library Foundation.

Meanwhile, I have interviewed him from his home in San Antonio, Texas, where he now lives and has written his story in a book called "Golden Bones."

Q: What is meant by "Golden Bones?"

A: Cambodians call somebody who is extremely blessed and lucky a person of golden bones.

Q: And you were extremely lucky to have escaped Cambodia. Why did you leave?

A: The Khmer Rouge turned Cambodia into a land of blood and tears. It was an enormous slave labor camp where people toiled for 18 hours a day with only one meal. It was deepest hell. I was sentenced to death twice, for trying to escape and for damaging a truck.

Q: Your life under the Khmer Rouge and while trying to flee Cambodia was nightmarish. Do you still dream about those days?

A: Not anymore. I used to have nightmares for a long while. As I woke up, I felt very relieved when I realized that I was in America.

Q: How did you escape Cambodia?

A: On Feb. 13, 1976, I jumped off a logging truck in northwest Cambodia and ran across the jungle for three days having nothing to eat or drink. I fell into a booby trap and was severely wounded. In Thailand, I was jailed for illegal entry before being transferred to a refugee camp. I spent a few months teaching English to fellow refugees and being ordained a Buddhist monk. I arrived in Connecticut on June 4, one month before the Bicentennial.

To the White House

Q: After being sponsored by a Connecticut family, you assimilated very quickly. How did you manage that?

A: I felt I had to adapt to be adopted. So I did everything that came my way to the best of my ability, from picking apples to driving a taxi. I got a scholarship to graduate school at Columbia. I worked on Wall Street and other places until 1988 when I volunteered in the (George H. W.) Bush campaign. I was one of the lucky few to be asked to serve at the White House in 1989.

Q: That's a remarkable career.

A: I was at the right place at the right time. The Bush transition was looking for someone to handle the communications aspects of our national security. I was born in a poor country, spoke several languages, and was familiar with international relations. When President Bush left the White House in 1993, I returned to the private sector and continued to work on global issues. This experience also helped me when George W. Bush nominated me to be a U.S. ambassador to the U.N. in 2001. I was unanimously confirmed by the Senate.

Q: What do you consider the achievements of the Bush presidents?

A: It's hard to describe them in a few sentences. At the White House, first among equals was President George (H.W.) Bush's decision to extend Most Favored Nation trading status to China and to receive the Dalai Lama. Then you have to give high marks on his management of the post-Cold War world. At the U.N., George W. Bush was the first president to increase foreign assistance by 50 percent since JFK, and the first head of state to bring human trafficking to the world's attention. I feel very privileged to have served two presidents, and through them the American people.

Q: In 1992, you returned to Cambodia as a member of the highest-level mission to that country since 1975. Describe what it was like to go back.

A: It was an emotional return. I had left 16 years before, on foot through the jungle. I returned as a presidential assistant in a U.S. government aircraft. I did not recognize anything. For a few hours, I was numb.

Q: Soldiers returning to their old battlefields sometimes say it is therapeutic to see them at peace. Has that been the case for you in returning to Cambodia?

A: It is therapeutic. I try to take my wife there once a year to reconnect and to show her new places. (Siv's wife, Martha, is Texan.) In November 2008, we went to Ratanakiri (a province) in the Northeast, a remote wild and mountainous region. I was there with my older sister 40 years ago. It brought back fond memories, as well as sad ones.

Q: What does Cambodia need to do at this point in its history?

A: Cambodia needs to address domestic issues such as injustice, crime and corruption. When these are resolved, it can be a politically mature nation.

Q: You travel often to American cities with large Cambodian populations. Why?

A: It's part of carrying my mother's wisdom of never giving up hope, as I describe in "Golden Bones," and encouraging others to continue to work hard, do great things, and lead a good life. I also try to connect all these communities so that they can compare and build upon their experiences.

Cambodia to Texas

Q: You now live in Texas, a far cry from life in Cambodia. How is that working for you?

A: I love Texas. While growing up in Cambodia, I enjoyed watching Western movies in French and was amazed at the "can-do" attitude of Texans. As we usually say, "I was not born in Texas, but I got here as soon as I could." I also love California. Each time I am here, I say to myself, "I'll be back."

Last month, Siv was honored for his service by being given the George H.W. Bush Asian/Pacific American Heritage Association's Award. The award came with a letter from the former president, who wrote, in part: "When we think of you, we think about an outstanding leader and public servant; we think about honor, decency, and integrity....Well done, my friend and well deserved."

Tom Hennessy's column appears on the first and third Sundays of the month. He can be reached at 562-499-1270 or by e-mail at


Former Ambassador Sichan Siv will speak from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at Long Beach's Main Library, 101 Pacific Ave.

Admission: $30 benefiting the Long Beach Library Foundation. For reservations, call 562-628-2441.

The book: Barnes & Noble will sell copies of "Golden Bones."

Travel Diaries: ‘Enchanting Angkor’

Caroline J. Howard,



"Stop dreaming, let's go travel," our English-speaking Cambodian guide warmly prodded as we rode-off to the Angkor Wat temple--our first stop in Siem Reap, Cambodia one early April morning.

Siem Reap is the gateway to the ruins of the famous Angkor Wat and some hundred other ancient temples in Cambodia, a country that straddles the charm of ages past and that of an ever-evolving present.

On my visit, a makeshift stage was still standing in front of one of its libraries, for a concert to mark the “Songkran” or the local New Year festival. Whether for the “Songkran” itself or Cambodia's temples alone, tourists flooded into Siem Reap.

Every day the surge of bodies begins just before sunrise when tourists drag themselves out of bed early in the morning for a breathtaking view of the Angkor Wat, the dramatic silhouette of lotus-shaped towers slowly being defined by dawn breaking, its reverse image taking clearer shape on a reflecting pool.

The legendary Angkor Wat is proudly depicted as an emblem in Cambodia's national flag. It is also the centerpiece of any visit to Angkor's temples.

Designed to be the state temple, Angkor Wat is shaped like a massive temple-mountain dedicated to the Hindu god Vishnu, with its three-tiered pyramid crowned by five lotus-like towers rising 65-meters from the ground.

Its walls are extensively decorated with bas reliefs and carvings of “Apsaras” (celestial dancers with elaborate hairstyles), scenes from Hindu literature and mythology, as well as the historical wars of Suryavarman II, former king of the Khmer empire. Some carvings even document the transition from Hinduism to Buddhism.

Built in the early to mid-12th century, the Angkor Wat can rival structures raised in ancient Greece or Rome. My tour guide says, it required over 20,000 artisans, hundreds of elephants (who dragged massive blocks of sandstone from a stone quarry in Mt. Kulen some 40 kilometers away), and 30 years of work to complete it. It is a feat that has been called impossible even by modern standards.

Heritage site

Not too far outside the Angkor Wat, new establishments are being built, slightly lower than the revered historical monument. My guide said, three-level apartments were selling for $50-60,000 each over a 90-year period.

Asked what he thought of all this, my guide looked back cautiously as if careful not to offend a foreign visitor or risk turning away potential clientele: "I wish they weren't built too close to the temples," he said.

It is easy to understand why: for as thousands of visitors descend upon Siem Reap each year, walking through its halls and rubbing against its intricately-carved sandstone walls, it is not difficult to imagine the pressures of use and age on its physical state increasing a hundredfold.

Angkor, literally means "Capital City" or "Holy City." For its artistic and archeological significance, the Angkor Archeological Park just outside Siem Reap (housing more than 100 temple ruins) was designated a World Heritage Site by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in 1997.

Today, convinced by its value, the Japanese, German and Indian governments continue conservation efforts on Angkor's temples. Then and now, temples like the Angkor Wat, the Bayon and Ta Prohm, and other surviving remnants of the ancient Khmer Empire between the 9th and 12th centuries give the city reason to be one of the most important architectural sites in Southeast Asia.

Temple tour

It is impossible to visit all the temples in one afternoon. It would be realistic to choose stops in the course of a few hours, preferably in the early morning and mid-afternoon, safe from the oppressive heat of the noontime sun.

After lunch, we proceeded to our next temple in Angkor Thom (Big Angkor), a 3-square kilometer walled royal city, complete with moats, built in the late 12th to early 13th century. This was the last capital of the Khmer empire.

Entrances to Angkor Thom are guarded by three-headed elephants. At the South Gate, often the first stop on a tour, a serpent carved in stone meets visitors on the causeway, its body held by gods and demons.

At the heart of Angkor Thom lies the “Bayontemple”: a complex of sandstone towers, five of which are crowned with four heads, one facing each cardinal direction. Among them, young women dressed in local costume offer to strike a pose with tourists for a dollar or two.

Bas-reliefs of scenes from the historical sea battle between the warring Khmer and the Cham, and scenes from everyday life, adorn its walls. Today, young Buddhist monks still roam the temple in their yellow and orange robes.

Just to the east of Angkor Thom lies Ta Prohm, a sprawling monastic complex whose ruins are caught in the stranglehold of fig, banyan and kapok (cotton) trees. Built between the mid-12th to the early 13th century, its own carvings speak of Hindu influence after Hinduism made a comeback in the late 13th century.

Man-made marvel

Before that, most of Angkor's Buddhist monuments were stripped of its Buddhist carvings and converted into “Bodhisattvas” or enlightened beings that put off Nirvana to lead others to heaven.

The pock-marked walls of its central chamber, which once held the statue of Buddha, is said to have been studded with platinum and encrusted with jewels and gold. Originally constructed as a Buddhist monastery by King Jayavarman VII in the mid 12th to early 13th century like the Bayon, the Ta Prohm is a quiet witness to Angkor's most prolific period of monument building.

Left untouched by archeologists over the centuries, one steps into its chambers and courts as early discoverers probably had, watching in awe at how nature has overtaken its walls and terraces as if its gigantic roots were an organic part of the whole architecture.

In modern time, it comes as no surprise that this temple has earned a place in modern cinema after being popularized by Hollywood via the movie "Tomb Raider" starring Angelina Jolie. But that romantic scene is quickly washed away outside Ta Prohm as one passes a group of landmine victims playing local music on the wayside. This provided a stark contrast-- if not disturbing touch-- to the sense of calm and willing surrender one experiences within the temple grounds.

So as not to suffer from what is popularly known as "temple burnout," the local website recommends a handful of temple stops at a time. Tour guides also recommend side-stops to temple hopping, and 'Apsara' dance performances, craft shops and silk farms, as well as road tours through rice-paddy countrysides as other ways to experience traditional Cambodia.

But beyond the options, the temples themselves persist, just as they have enchanted and bewitched many over the centuries and despite the passing of time.

Christian commitment

The Telegraph/FRED POLLARD
Luke Smith, originally from Greenfield, is preparing for a missionary trip to Cambodia. After completing graduate school, Smith attended Dallas Theological Seminary and plans to make missionary work a long-term commitment.

The Telegraph

Former area resident Luke Smith is preparing to leave for missionary work in Cambodia.

"People often ask me 'Why Cambodia?'" Smith, 27, said. "First, I wanted to go somewhere that is unreached. Second, I wanted to go somewhere that is a developing country. Third, I wanted to be able to work under someone with experience. I saw these three things coming together best with the team in Cambodia."

The Asian country is struggling to overcome the effects of years of famine and civil war. Today, most Cambodians are Buddhist and an estimated 90 percent of Christians were martyred or fled the country during the Pol Pot regime of the late 1970s. A recent surge in the number of Christians has made the need for missionaries and pastors in the area more urgent.

"In a country that has long been strongly Buddhist, there is much openness to the gospel," Smith said. "The church has expanded from just a few hundred believers in the '90s to over 100,000 believers today."

Smith grew up in the Greenfield area and graduated from Greenfield High School in 2000. His parents, Paul and Teresa Smith, and older brother, Jason, still reside on the family farm just outside of Greenfield.

"Living in Dallas the past few years has made me miss the seasons of the Midwest some," Smith said.

Smith attended Western Illinois University and began planning out a career in agriculture. While in college, he read Elisabeth Elliot's "Through Gates of Splendor," which proved to be a life-changing event.

The book chronicles the hardships of missionaries and their wives while reaching out to the Aucas, a jungle tribe in Ecuador, in the 1950s. Elliot's husband was killed by the tribe, many of whom later became Christians.

"Reading of their desire to proclaim the gospel to a people without Christ deeply burdened my heart for those in other parts of the world that have no chance of hearing the gospel," Smith said.

While finishing graduate school at Mizzou, he decided to go to Dallas Theological Seminary to prepare for a life in mission work.

"My first mission trip in January of 2003 to Juarez, Mexico, really had a profound effect on me," he said. "I had not been exposed to such poverty and need before."

Smith is studying for ordination, working as an intern, and attending classes in preparation for his mission work. For the ambitious young student, traveling to Cambodia is just the beginning of what he hopes will be a life of service.

"As a long-term missionary, I will be serving four years on the field and then on home missionary assignment for one year," he said.

Smith's stretch as a long-term missionary costs $5,664 in ongoing monthly support. One hundred percent of his monthly support must be reached before he leaves for the field. Anyone interested in making a pledge through Mission to the World in Atlanta can contact Smith at

More Children Forced into Labor amid Economic Crisis

Christian Post
By Lillian Kwon
Christian Post Reporter
Sat, May. 16 2009

The global economic crisis is forcing more children around the world into the worse forms of child labor, international relief and development organization World Vision warns.

"Poverty drives people to desperate measures. And in dire situations, children become one of two things: a source of income or a drain on the income," Jesse Eaves, World Vision's policy advisor for children in crisis and a son of missionaries, explained to The Christian Post.

As demand from the West falls and the number of export-driven jobs decreases amid the economic downturn, businesses in countries like Cambodia, India and Thailand are likely to lay off workers without advanced warning, thus forcing families to find other income sources through their children.

In Cambodia, Eaves noted, 72 percent of children in brick factories say they're there because their parents cannot afford to buy food and 22 percent say their parents forced them to work to pay off debt.

In Phuket, Thailand, World Vision reported seeing a dramatic increase in local and migrant children searching for work in tourist bars and clubs.

And on the east coast of India, children are making gravel, smashing rocks in 100 degree heat up to 16 hours a day, noted Eaves, who visited Southeast Asia earlier this year to examine the problems on the ground.

Already, 126 million children in the world are working in hazardous conditions and 1.2 million are trafficked and exploited every year as child laborers, Eaves pointed out. Sexual exploitation is the most common form of human trafficking followed by forced labor and child soldiers.

"Many families are naive when recruiters come to their home and promise their 14-year-old daughter a wonderful job in the city," Eaves said. "Often, they fall into slavery and are forced to pay off an imaginary debt to keep them in bondage. But [the recruiters] often send money back to the parents so the parents think she's making money."

Families are also digging a deeper hole when they send children to work. Children earn 20 percent less than the average laborer, Eaves pointed out.

"So child labor causes poverty and poverty causes child labor. It's a dangerous spiral downward."

One way to break the cycle is to educate the community.

World Vision is running programs to educate children about their basic rights and on national laws regarding child labor. The children then inform their peers as well as their parents, turning their communities into almost an "intelligence network," Eaves said.

Through the word-of-mouth network, attitudes toward child labor begin to change and women and children come out saying "we will not tolerate this anymore," Eaves explained.

They soon gain the support of local and national government officials and employers.

Families are further directed to obtain microcredit loans and start their own businesses.

"It's all about working with communities, changing their attitudes and the way they look at how they can earn a sustainable living," Eaves said.

People in the West also can play a major role in tackling child labor and exploitation.

"The key thing to understand with child labor is it begins and ends with you and me," Eaves said. "It's all about demand. We're part of the problem and part of the solution."

World Vision is urging all government agencies and non-governmental organizations to include child-specific interventions in all economic development and stimulus plans.

"Right now it's appropriations time. A lot of money is being allocated. We're calling for U.S. policy and foreign assistance to continue to take a child-focused approach," Eaves said.

The World Vision policy advisor also urges the American people to take action by calling their senators to fund programs combating child labor and exploitation.

"In Cambodia, in the same way they'll stand up and say they won't tolerate this, we can do the same thing," he emphasized.

Survivors Shed Light on Dark Days of Khmer Rouge

Seth Mydans/International Herald Tribune
Meng was singled out during the Khmer Rouge reign of terror in Cambodia to produce portraits of the group’s leader.

The New York Times

Published: May 16, 2009

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — Looking across the courtroom where he is on trial for crimes against humanity, the chief Khmer Rouge torturer cannot avoid seeing an artist and a mechanic who sit watching him but mostly avoid his gaze.

One short and forceful, his feet dangling just above the floor, the other melancholy and drooping a bit, they are rare survivors of Tuol Sleng prison, where at least 14,000 people were sent to their deaths three decades ago.

In the weeks ahead, the two survivors will take the stand to testify against their torturer, Kaing Guek Eav, known as Duch, who commanded the prison, and both have stories to tell about a place of horror from which almost no one emerged alive.

Bou Meng, 68, the short one, survived because he was a painter and was singled out from a row of shackled prisoners to produce portraits of the Khmer Rouge chief, Pol Pot.

The other, Chum Mey, 78, was a mechanic and was spared because the torturers needed him to repair machines, including the typewriters used to record the confessions — very often false — that they extracted from prisoners like himself.

Duch (pronounced DOIK), 66, is the first of five arrested Khmer Rouge figures to go on trial in the United Nations-backed tribunal here. His case began in February and is expected to last several more months.

Mr. Bou Meng and Mr. Chum Mey are living exhibits — like a third survivor, Vann Nath — from the darkest core of the Khmer Rouge atrocities. They are tangible evidence, like the skulls that have been preserved at some killing fields, or like hundreds of portraits of their fellow prisoners that are displayed on the walls of Tuol Sleng.

The photographs were taken as detainees were delivered to the prison, before they were stripped and fettered and tortured and sent to a killing field.

Those ordered killed at Tuol Sleng are among 1.7 million people who died during the Communist Khmer Rouge regime from 1975 to 1979 from starvation, disease and overwork, as well as from torture and execution.

Duch is accused of ordering the kinds of beatings, whippings, electric shocks and removal of toenails that Mr. Bou Meng and Mr. Chum Mey describe; indeed, he admitted in the courtroom to ordering the beating of Mr. Chum Mey.

Both men endured torture that continued for days, and Mr. Chum Mey said, “At that time I wished I could die rather than survive.”

But both men did survive, and in interviews they now describe scenes that almost none of their fellow prisoners lived to recount. “Every night I looked out at the moon,” Mr. Bou Meng recalled. “I heard people crying and sighing around the building. I heard people calling out, ‘Mother, help me! Mother, help me!’ ”

It was at night that prisoners were trucked out to a killing field, and every night, he said, he feared that his moment had come. “But by midnight or 1 a.m. I realized that I would live another day.”

Though many Cambodians have tried to bury their traumatic memories, Mr. Bou Meng and Mr. Chum Mey have continued to return to the scene of their imprisonment and torture as if their souls remained trapped there together with the souls of the dead.

During the first few years after the fall of the Khmer Rouge, Mr. Bou Meng returned to work in an office at Tuol Sleng, which was converted into a museum of genocide. Now he uses it as a rest stop, spending the night there on a cot when he visits the capital, Phnom Penh, from the countryside, where he paints Buddhist murals in temples.

Mr. Chum Mey, retired now from his work as a mechanic, spends much of his time wandering among the portraits, telling and retelling his story to tourists, as if one of the victims on the walls had come to life.

An eager and passionate storyteller, he will show a visitor how he was shoved, blindfolded, into his cell during 12 days of torture, and he will drop to the floor inside a small brick cubicle where he was held in chains.

“As you can see, this was my condition,” he said recently as he sat on the hard concrete floor, holding up a metal ammunition box that was used as a toilet. “It upsets me to see Duch sitting in the courtroom talking with his lawyers as if he were a guest of the court.”

Like many other Khmer Rouge victims, both men say they have no idea why they were selected for arrest or why they were tortured to admit to unknown crimes. Both men lost their wives and children in the Khmer Rouge years, and although both have rebuilt their families, the past still holds them in its grip.

Mr. Bou Meng does not wander like his friend among the Tuol Sleng pictures, but he does keep one in his wallet: a snapshot-size reproduction of the prison portrait of his wife, Ma Yoeun, who was arrested with him but did not survive.

“Sometimes when I sit at home I look at the picture and everything seems fresh,” he said. “I think of the suffering she endured, and I wonder how long she stayed alive.”

Mr. Bou Meng has since remarried twice, but he remains shackled to his memories. “I know I should forget her,” he said, “but I can’t.”

She visits him, he said, in visions that are something more than dreams, looking just as she did when he last saw her — still 28 years old, leaving Mr. Bou Meng to live on and grow old without her.

Sometimes she appears with the spirits of others who were killed, he said. They stand together, a crowd of ghosts in black, and she tells him, “Only you, Bou Meng, can find justice for us.”

Mr. Bou Meng said he hoped that testifying against Duch and seeing him convicted would free him from the restless ghosts and let him live what is left of his life in peace.

“I don’t want to be a victim,” he said. “I want to be like everybody else, a normal person.”

But he said he knew that this might be asking too much of life.

“Maybe not completely normal,” Mr. Bou Meng said. “But at least 50 percent.”

ASEAN police chiefs agree to boost cooperation

VOV News


The 29th ASEAN Police Chiefs Conference (ASEANAPOL) concluded in Hanoi on May 15 after a three-day sitting.

Nearly 300 representatives from the police forces of 10 ASEAN member countries and representatives of their dialogue partners from Japan, China, the Republic of Korea, Australia and New Zealand, held two plenary sessions and a number of other sub-committee meetings.

They agreed to set up a permanent secretariat for ASEANAPOL, which is scheduled to operate on January 1, 2010 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. They also agreed to carry out a number of cooperation projects between ASEAN countries and their dialogue partners to combat crime.

The participants pledged to intensify efforts to prevent drug-related crime, terrorism, arms smuggling, human trafficking as well as financial, hi-tech and drug-related transnational crime. ASEAN police forces will pool personnel training, provide each other with judicial assistance in penal matters and establish a criminal database.

Singapore’s police will begin a pilot course in foreign language training for ASEAN police officers in June. A seminar on the establishment of a criminal database system will take place in Vietnam later this year.

The 30th ASEANAPOL conference will be held in Cambodia in 2010.

Seattle students raise money to free the enslaved

Richmond Times Dispatch

Published: May 16, 2009

SEATTLE -- When Eric Ensey traveled to India this year, he shook the hand of a man who was freed from bonded labor by the money his teenage students had raised in Sammamish, Wash.

"If you hadn't helped us," the Indian millworker told the American middle-school teacher, "we would have died in the rice mill."

Fundraisers for charity are a staple of school life, but Ensey and his students have taken that work in an unusual direction by raising tens of thousands of dollars to help free enslaved people, many living half a world away.

The teens in this well-to-do suburban area have learned about families working in brick kilns in India and brothels in Cambodia where children their own age and even younger are sold into slavery.

"I count my blessings, because they're in such a bad place," said eighth-grader Nellie Hoehl, one of Ensey's students at Pine Lake Middle School.

Last year, three Issaquah district schools -- Pine Lake, Issaquah High and Pacific Cascade Freshman Campus -- together raised $50,000 for the International Justice Mission (IJM), a Washington, D.C., charity that seeks justice for the poor in developing countries. It's the largest donation the IJM has received from a public school district, and was used to free about 120 enslaved people.

"Pine Lake really is kind of our shining star," said Brian Cress, the Bellevue, Wash.-based West Coast director of development for IJM. "It's pretty amazing what they're doing."

The idea of raising money to free slaves was hatched several years ago, when Ensey, 40, got to thinking about the community-service work required of students taking his humanities-plus class, and those in the school's honor society. He wondered what might happen if that energy was channeled into a single cause.

Ensey, Pine Lake math teacher Kristen Little and student-government adviser Roy Cress (whose brother is Brian Cress of IJM) worked with Jon Whitney, a world history teacher at Pacific Cascade Freshman Campus, to help students launch the fundraiser.

The cause blossomed beyond their wildest expectations. In 2007, the schools raised $16,000. In 2008, they raised $50,000, the money coming from donations made in change, checks and through ticket sales of a concert by Seattle indie rock band Barcelona.

IJM is a faith-based organization, and its founder, Gary Haugen, is an evangelical Christian. When Ensey brought the cause to Pine Lake, he said, he was upfront about the organization. He received approval from the Issaquah School District to raise money.

"The word 'mission' doesn't stand for missionary," he said. "It stands for rescue, and the religious aspect doesn't play a role."

Raising thousands of dollars for charity is hard work.

For 10 weeks this spring, about 50 students arrived at school early each Wednesday to paint signs, write letters, sell concert tickets and plan collection dates to raise money for the IJM. That work was scheduled to end this past Thursday.

"Everybody talks about it, even when it's not fundraising time," said eighth-grader Angela Moran.

This year, the money raised will be split equally between the IJM and Seattle Children's, to make a difference both locally and globally, Ensey said.

In February, Ensey traveled with IJM members to India, "one of the most powerful things I've ever done in my life."

Ensey brought back stories of grinding poverty, human-rights abuses and slavery.

The fundraising campaign has prompted his students to ask questions about fair labor practices. They wonder about the factories where their clothes were made, or if their soccer balls are the product of sweat shops.

Eighth-grader Jamie Moseley, who wants to become a lawyer, has thought about the legal profession in a new way after learning prosecutors in Third World countries imprison the culprits of the slave trade. Moran can see herself working for a nonprofit one day.

It's even changed the way they think about money when they go shopping.

"Every time I go to buy something," said eighth-grader Casey Kovarik, "I think there's something better I could do with the money."

Cambodia: Doubts over the Khmer Rouge Tribunal

Global Voices Online

Saturday, April 25th, 2009
by Chhunny Chhean

The Khmer Rouge Tribunal is now weeks into its first trial with the prosecution of Kaing Guek Eav, known as Duch, for crimes against humanity and war crimes. But as the trial continues, many wonder how effective the Tribunal will be in achieving national reconciliation, one of the goals of the project. Two major problems are allegations of corruption related to Tribunal funds and the limited number of indictments.

The corruption charges against the Cambodian government concern misuse of Tribunal funds, which were mostly donated by other countries. News reports are available here and here as well as an interview with the lawyer defending Nuon Chea, one of the defendants awaiting trial, posted at CAAI News Media.

Another issue for the Tribunal is that so few of the Khmer Rouge members will be put on trial. The scope of indictments is limited to the senior leaders of the Khmer Rouge.

KI Media posted a piece by retired professor A. Gaffar Peang-Meth from the University of Guam, in which he writes:

" The trouble is, the trial of a mere five Khmer Rouge leaders for the death of about two million people in 1975-1979 is far from adequate to bring justice and national reconciliation to Cambodians, to begin healing and promote peacebuilding in the country. "

Sopheap Chak does not believe the Khmer Rouge Tribunal will bring justice, in part, because:

" The foreign countries that supported the Khmer Rouge, or acted as the main catalyst for the emergence of this cruel regime, will not be brought to court. The tribunal’s regulations indicate clearly that only individuals who committed crimes will be tried. "

Chak also does not believe the Tribunal will be able to reconcile the country:

" For Cambodian society, real reconciliation will be found only when trust returns between individuals; when they can smile at and trust each other again. Thus, a national dialogue or truth commission should be set up so that people, especially the victims, can fully participate to address their suffering and their needs."

Cambodia's first Cannes buyer leaves town

Hollywood Reporter
Kmy Films founder picks up two Korean films at market

By Patrick Frater

May 16, 2009

CANNES -- Sales companies seeking to make their first deals in Cambodia might have missed their chance this week as the country's first-ever buyer at the Cannes market left town Saturday, having snapped up a handful of titles.

"The market is very narrow and focused almost entirely on four genres -- action, horror, comedy and Korean romances," said Kmy Films founder Mariam Arthur, a U.S. film exec now residing in Cambodia.

Arthur picked up two Korean titles this week, including Prime Entertainment's 2006 romance "The Elephant on the Bike." The deals add to the seven movies she bought at Filmart, headed by "Parasomnia" from American World Pictures, "Last of the Living" from Quantum Releasing and others from Lonely Seal and Fries Films.

Cambodia, like neighboring Vietnam, is one of Asia's last undeveloped cinema markets.

"There are almost no 35mm projectors, there are no multiplexes at all, and the Hollywood majors do not distribute there, though this week I had meetings with Universal," Arthur said. "Piracy, with masters coming from Malaysia, is also a problem."

Most films are screened from 2K digital projectors. But distribution technology could skip a generation and further open up the market even if long-awaited multiplexes remain unbuilt. Phone companies are now streaming movies to hand-held devices as well.

Kedah Veteran MAYC Continues Mission In Cambodia

KUALA LUMPUR, May 16 (Bernama) -- The Kedah Veterans of the Malaysian Association of Youth Clubs (MAYC) will hold a humanitarian mission in the village of Praksandai Kratie Province, Cambodia, following a similar success last year.

Kedah Veterans MAYC president, Fazilah Ismail said the six-day mission starting June 19 would involve 25 members.

"The mission is a follow-up to our previous effort, and it is our promise to the villagers there to return from time to time, especially to give them more knowledge on religion," he told Bernama here Saturday.

Previously, the association with the cooperation of Yayasan Salam Malaysia (Salam) held a similar mission towards the end of last year, to help the Muslim community there.

"We will also bring donations from the public such as prayer veils (telekong), sarongs and financial aid," he said.