Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Suu Kyi trial prompts concern but no sanctions

Tuesday 19 May 2009

The Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) has expressed "grave concern" at the trial of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, but ruled out sanctions against Burma, a fellow member state, saying they were not an appropriate solution.

Reuters - Myanmar's Southeast Asian neighbours expressed "grave concern" on Tuesday at the trial of democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi, but the chair of their regional group, Thailand, ruled out sanctions.

As a "responsible" member of the 10-member Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), Myanmar "has the responsibility to protect and promote human rights", Thailand's government said in a statement.

"It is therefore called upon to provide timely and adequate medical care to Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, as well as to accord her humane treatment with dignity," it said, noting the generals had ignored ASEAN's previous calls to free her.

Suu Kyi, whose latest detention began in May 2003, is charged with violating the terms of her house arrest after an American intruder spent two days in her home this month. The trial started on Monday and was due to resume on Tuesday.

Critics say the charges, which could see her jailed for five years, are aimed at keeping the Nobel Peace laureate in detention until after elections in 2010. She has denied the charges.

Since joining ASEAN in 1997, the generals have been a thorn in the group's relations with the West, which has repeatedly urged ASEAN to exert more pressure on the regime.

Critics fear a proposed human rights body under a new ASEAN charter signed in 2007 will have no teeth, given the charter's commitment to the group's mantra of non-interference.

Thailand, which holds the rotating chair of ASEAN, said the group was ready to "contribute constructively" to national reconciliation and a peaceful transition to democracy in Myanmar.

But it also warned that with the eyes of the world on Myanmar, "the honour and credibility of the Government of the Union of Myanmar are at stake".

The military has ignored the international outrage over Suu Kyi's trial as it pushes ahead with a "roadmap to democracy" expected to culminate in elections next year. The West calls it a sham aimed at entrenching the military's grip on the country.


The European Union threatened tougher sanctions against the regime on Monday, four days after the United States renewed its measures against the military government.

But some EU ministers said Asian countries could exert a stronger influence on Myanmar. They planned to discuss the situation with their Asian counterparts at a meeting of foreign ministers in Hanoi next week.

The Europeans are unlikely to secure tough measures from ASEAN, which has shunned sanctions in favour of engaging the generals, although neither policy has worked over the years.

China and India -- which have strong commercial ties to the impoverished but resource-rich former Burma -- have been silent on Suu Kyi's trial.

Thailand, which shares a 1,800 km (1,100 mile) border with Myanmar and is a major trading partner, has made clear sanctions are not an option.

"Thailand will not use strong measures or economic sanctions against Myanmar because it is not an appropriate resolution for the current problem," Foreign Ministry official Chavanond Intarakomalyasut told reporters on Monday.

Aside from Thailand and Myanmar, ASEAN's membership includes Singapore, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei and the Philippines.

CAMBODIA Poor farmers find strength, hope in Spanish saint

Monsignor Enrique Figaredo blesses the farmers’committee, Krom Sre, on the feast day of Saint Isidore

Union of Catholic Asian News

May 18, 2009

BATTAMBANG, Cambodia (UCAN) -- Poor farmers in this northwestern Cambodian province are drawing inspiration from Saint Isidore, their patron saint.

About 100 parishioners of the Catholic church in Tahen village, about 15 kilometers from Battambang town, came together for a special Mass on the feast day of Saint Isidore, patron of laborers and farmers.

The May 15 celebration started with a procession of featuring a traditional dance.

"Saint Isidore's life is a good example for me as a farmer," Sie Kimsor told UCA News.

He said sometime his plight, battling for existence in his fields, led to a feeling of hopelessness when crops were not doing well.

"Some years we work hard but our production is down. Sometimes our crops are destroyed by droughts or by floods. When we face these situations, it is easy to fail and doubt our Lord," he said.

But the 23-year-old man said he is able to overcome these negative feelings by emulating Saint Isidore, a Spaniard, who inspires him to persevere in his faith life and pray even when he is tired.

"We have to take time to stay with God," he said.

There are about 130 Catholics in Tahen parish, who are mostly rice farmers.

The procession for Mass starts with a Khmer traditional dance

Theirs is a hard life. They plant crops at the start of the rainy season in April or May, and even with hard work, sometimes the crops fail and they cannot feed their families. Many are forced to leave home to work in Thailand or move to the border during the dry season from December to April, Cham Mich, 50, a parish leader, said.

"Saint Isidore always prayed to God, even in the fields and gained strength," she said. "We like him because his plight was similar to ours."

Mich said that this is the first time that the parish celebrated the feast of Saint Isidore, who is not well-known in Cambodia.

Saint Isidore was born in 1082 in Madrid, Spain. A day laborer, Saint Isidore was known for his kindness to the poor and animals, his deep love for the Eucharist, devotion to the Virgin Mary and a total commitment to Church life.

It is said his master once found Isidore at prayer while an angel plowed for him while on another occasion his master saw an angel plowing on either side of him, so that Isidore's work was equal to that of three men.

King Philip III of Spain is said to have been cured of a deadly disease by touching the relics of the saint who was beatified on May 2, 1619 by Pope Paul V and canonized nearly three years later by Pope Gregory XV.
A painting of Saint Isidro done inKhmer style is displayed during Mass

Spanish Monsignor Enrique Figaredo, apostolic prefect of Battambang prefecture, introduced the feast of Saint Isidore to the parish this year.

Speaking to the congregation at the start of Mass, the monsignor told the parish that Saint Isidore was a simple man, living quietly with his wife and family and following the teachings of the Gospel.

Monsignor Figaredo said the congregation should ask God to help them to be a good farmer like Saint Isidore, to give them strength and bless their crops.

Cambodian police find German man's body in river

May 19, 2009

Phnom Penh - Cambodian police on Monday found the body of a 26-year-old German man floating in river, local media reported Tuesday.

Police said Jens Joester had been missing since Saturday and was found under a bridge in the southern resort town of Kampot, the Phnom Penh Post reported.

Police suspected the Joester died as a result of a fall and said they found no signs of foul play.

New Exotissimo Tours Explore Hidden Charms of Southern Cambodia and Vietnam's Mekong Delta

Sihanoukville Beach Cambodia - Cambodia Tours

PR Web (press release)

All Press Releases for May 19, 2009

" Maintaining a balance of classic attractions with ventures into undiscovered destinations, these new tours are designed for intrepid travelers who wish to discover the true essence of the countries visited. Along the way, the programs offer opportunities to meet locals and engage in traditional customs, creating more than just a holiday but rather a rewarding travel experience "

Exotissimo unveils diverse local cultures and undiscovered gems of Vietnam and Cambodia in two spectacular programs.

Bangkok, Thailand (PRWEB) May 19, 2009 -- Exotissimo Travel, a leading tailor-made travel company in Southeast Asia, presents two exciting programs that traverse Southern Cambodia and Vietnam's Mekong Delta.

In these brand new tours, Exotissimo combines well-known attractions with off-the-beaten-path sites in the itineraries. A particular focus is placed on Cambodia's emerging south, which is home to unspoiled beaches and islands that were frequented by Cambodian royalty in the 1960s. The small towns in Vietnam's Mekong Delta, an alluring region marked by countless waterways, lush paddies and floating markets, are another featured highlight.

"Maintaining a balance of classic attractions with ventures into undiscovered destinations, these new tours are designed for intrepid travelers who wish to discover the true essence of the countries visited. Along the way, the programs offer opportunities to meet locals and engage in traditional customs, creating more than just a holiday but rather a rewarding travel experience," said Anne Cruickshanks, Group Product Manager of Exotissimo Travel.

The 15-day Journey Across Cambodia - Bangkok to the Mekong Delta is an overland program that connects the bustling cities of Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam with unique excursions to unexplored sites. Besides Siem Reap's Angkor Archaeological Park and Phnom Penh's pagodas, other highlights include visits to Sihanoukville's Ream National Park, idyllic beaches of Rabbit Island and the colonial riverside town of Kampot. A cross-border cruise along the Mekong River, combined with boat trips through the waterways and excursions to local workshops in the Mekong Delta, afford in-depth glimpses into the traditional ways of life in the region.

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The 13-day South Vietnam and Cambodia Unveiled starts in dynamic Ho Chi Minh City before heading southwards to Phu Quoc Island, one of Asia's least developed beach destinations. Crossing borders via an overland journey, travelers are shown Cambodia's tranquil coast at Kep and Rabbit Island and natural landscapes and indigenous wildlife at Kirirom National Park. Venturing deeper into Cambodia, the program leads travelers to ancient Khmer temples at Sambor Prey Kuk and Angkor Wat as well as a unique trip to a floating village in Tonle Sap Lake. This tour program can also be conducted in the reverse direction.

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Abhisit To Visit Malaysia June 8

By D. Arul Rajoo

BANGKOK, May 19 (Bernama) -- Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva will visit Malaysia on June 8 and Cambodia two days later to strengthen ties with its two neighbours.

Abhisit, who became premier in December 2008 after months of political turmoil, is expected to hold bilateral talks with his Malaysian counterpart Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, who took office in April.

"Both leaders are expected to discuss various issues, especially those related to trade, investment and the southern conflict," Panitan said here Tuesday.

The two leaders had met last month during the aborted Asean 6 Summit in Pattaya.

Panitan said the visit to Cambodia and meeting with the country's Prime Minister Hun Sen would touch on the border issues. Tension rose between the neighbours after soldiers from both sides exchanged fire at a disputed ancient temple site on several occasions.

Despite taking office six months ago, Abhisit only visited Laos so far as part of familiarisation to Asean countries due to the domestic political crisis where several big scale street demonstrations had taken place in the past few months, including the April 13 rioting in the capital by anti-government protesters.

In Malaysia, Abhisit is expected to ask Malaysia to extend its development programmes as part of the ongoing measures to end the armed conflict and restore peace in the Muslim-majority provinces bordering Malaysia.

More than 3,500 people have been killed since insurgents resumed their armed campaign in January 2004 to seek independence for Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat.

In June, 2007, Thailand and Malaysia signed an agreement on cooperation in 3E programmes -- education, employment and entrepreneurship, which among others, will help train about 4,000 Thai Muslims in technical programmes and offer scholarships to southern students.

According to officials, Abhisit is expected to brief Najib on Thailand's decision to cancel its plan to hold the aborted Asean 6 Summit in Phuket on June 13 and 14.

The Summit was cancelled as several of the 16 participating countries have other prior commitments. The Pattaya Summit had to be aborted when anti-government protesters stormed the meeting venue, forcing authorities to evacuate some of the leaders using helicopters.


Group 78 injunction rejected

Community representative Lim Sambo (second from right) collects documents ahead of Monday's hearing.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Chrann Chamroeun
Tuesday, 19 May 2009

PHNOM Penh Municipal Court Monday rejected an injunction request filed by residents of Group 78 against their eviction in another blow to the tiny community situated on a strip of land along the Tonle Bassac river that is slated for development.

"Our injunction was rejected on the grounds that the court has no jurisdiction to intervene to prohibit City Hall's order, as well as deny the public benefits served by the construction of a road on land where [Group 78 members] are living illegally," said a lawyer for the residents, Yin Savath.

He added that community members intended to appeal the decision, as they had sufficient evidence to prove that the land belongs to them.

"We will file an appeal to halt construction activity until a final resolution is reached, as it has yet to be [ruled upon] whether either City Hall or the 70 households have legal ownership of the land," he said.

Yin Savath and two other lawyers appeared in court with four community representatives, none of whom were called upon by Judge Duch Kimsean to testify, Yin Savath said, adding that he was disappointed the community was not able to give its side of the story in court.

In an eviction letter dated April 20, Phnom Penh Governor Kep Chuktema told residents they were living on land that belonged to the city and a local developer.

The community was given 15 days to vacate the land and accept a government compensation package.

But the National Assembly's Committee on Human Rights issued an order to Kep Chuktema on May 5 to conduct an official investigation into the dispute, following a request by Group 78 members to overturn the eviction notice.

A report from the inquiry has yet to be drafted, Yin Savath said.

Govt decries Suu Kyi charges

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Vong Sokheng
Tuesday, 19 May 2009

CAMBODIAN government officials expressed hope Monday that Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi would escape conviction as the democracy icon went on trial for violating the terms of her house arrest.

"The stand of our government is that it hopes Mrs Suu Kyi will be found innocent of these accusations and that she will not receive any additional punishment, because she has been punished already," said Foreign Ministry spokesman Koy Kuong.

Aung San Suu Kyi, who has spent most of the last 19 years in detention, is facing a further five years without freedom for harbouring a US man who swam to her home.

Koy Kuong noted that other ASEAN countries had expressed outrage at Aung San Suu Kyi's arrest, while government spokesman Khieu Kanharith said a summit between bloc leaders and the European Union, to be held in Phnom Penh at the end of the month, would provide an opportunity for Myanmar's representatives to explain the junta's actions.

"We are close to finalising the schedule for the ASEAN-EU ministerial meeting. I think that we will be able to request that the Myanmar foreign minister explain the situation over there and explain about how [the junta] wants to take society towards democracy," Khieu Kanharith told the Post.

"The junta and Aung San Suu Kyi have both made mistakes, but the junta has promised democracy and so far it has done nothing to show any concrete progress," he added.

"We are continuing to keep careful watch over the situation there and how Aung San Suu Kyi's plight develops."

Aung San Suu Kyi's first day of trial ended amid heavy security, said one Myanmar official, without giving any details of the proceedings.

Dozens of supporters of the ailing Nobel Peace Prize laureate gathered near Insein prison for the hearing, despite the presence of riot police who set up barbed wire blockades and sealed off roads to the compound near Yangon.

Security forces also barred the ambassadors of Britain, France, Germany and Italy from the jail as they attempted to gain entry to the court, which is meeting behind closed doors, a Western diplomat said.

Myanmar's junta has ignored a storm of international protest to push ahead with charges that the 63-year-old violated the terms of her house arrest, under which she could also be barred from standing in elections due next year.

The European Union said Monday it would consider boosting its sanctions against the Myanmar regime after it put Aung San Suu Kyi on trial.

"We are ready to go forward," said Czech Foreign Minister Jan Kohout, whose country holds the rotating EU presidency, as he arrived for talks with his counterparts in Brussels.

US President Barack Obama formally extended sanctions against Myanmar on Friday. But there has been silence from those of Myanmar's Asian neighbours who value its rich natural resources.

US national John Yettaw also went on trial over the incident in which he used a pair of home-made flippers to swim across a lake earlier this month to the residence where Aung San Suu Kyi is kept in virtual isolation.

A US embassy car entered the prison compound, but a spokesman for the embassy in Yangon was not immediately able to confirm whether Yettaw was receiving consular assistance.

The trial of Aung San Suu Kyi comes just days after she was imprisoned at a "guesthouse" inside the Insein prison compound on charges of breaching security laws.

Her lawyer said she would protest her innocence. "Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has studied the section of the law under which she was charged and says that she didn't commit any crime," lawyer Kyi Win said.


"She just felt sorry for this man (Yettaw) as he had leg cramps after he swam across the lake. That's why she allowed him to stay."

The junta, headed by reclusive Senior General Than Shwe, has kept Aung San Suu Kyi in detention for 13 of the last 19 years. In 1990, the regime refused to recognise her party's landslide victory in Myanmar's last elections.

Her latest six-year period of detention was due to expire on May 27, but Yettaw's visit has apparently provided the ruling generals with the ammunition they need to extend her detention past the 2010 polls.

Critics say the elections are a sham that the junta hopes to use to gain legitimacy and consolidate its grip on power, with a constitution forced through last year enshrining a role for the military in any government.

The military has ruled Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, since 1962.


Royalist parties to merge with hopes of future political gains

Photo by: Tracey Shelton
Funcinpec leader Nhek Bun Chhay discusses his party's merger with the Norodom Ranariddh Party.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Meas Sokchea and Sebastian Strangio
Tuesday, 19 May 2009

THE Kingdom's two royalist parties, Funcinpec and the Norodom Ranariddh Party, are set to reunite, three years after unceremoniously parting ways following the conviction and exile of former Funcinpec president Prince Norodom Ranariddh.

Nhek Bun Chhay, secretary general of Funcinpec, said Monday that the new party, which will retain the name Funcinpec, would officially be born closer to the 2013 national elections.

But he said a de facto merger had already taken place at the grassroots level, and that local activists had worked in close cooperation for Sunday's provincial, district and municipal council elections.

He added that the impetus for the merger came from a sharp drop in support for the two parties at last year's national election.

"We hope that merging helps our votes increase. At the municipal, provincial and district elections, our votes increased, but if we didn't merge we couldn't have made such gains," he said, estimating that the two parties had won a combined 91 seats on district and province councils, and 11 seats in the capital.


He noted that in the 2008 national election - when the royalist presence in the National Assembly dropped from 26 seats to just four - Funcinpec and the NRP received 29,000 and 21,000 votes in Siem Reap province respectively, but that the two tallies were worthless alone.

"If we put our votes together, we would have gained one seat," Nhek Bun Chhay said.

"If we are split, our votes will also be split."

Royalist rebirth?
Hang Puthea, executive director of Cambodian election monitoring group Nicfec, agreed the merger of both parties had strengthened the flagging royalist movement's showing at Sunday's election, but raised questions about the long-term future of the union.

"If the merger goes ahead and lasts forever, it could help [Funcinpec] fare better in the next mandate, but I'm worried that the parties will split again," he said.

Meanwhile, opposing politicians from other parties said they remained unfazed by the formation of what will become the country's third-largest political party.

Senior CPP lawmaker Cheam Yeap said Monday that the royalists had every right to reunite, but that the ruling party was not concerned about what would result. "It will not affect the CPP. We are not scared of this merger because we know their stance and the strength of their forces," he said.

Yim Sovann, spokesman for the Sam Rainsy Party, described the parties' past relationship, which hit a low point in 2006 when Prince Ranariddh was expelled from Funcinpec for embezzling funds from the sale of party property, as "a game", and said a reinvigorated royalist party would pose few problems.

"I am not concerned at all because I think the people fully understand the mistakes Funcinpec and the NRP have made so far," he said.

He added that Funcinpec and the NRP had compromised their credentials by getting close to the ruling party. "They are not familiar with the role of the opposition," he said.

"Who will trust this party now? Again and again they broke their promises and betrayed the people by allying with the ruling party."

CPP win 75pc of council vote: NEC

Keo Phalla (left), director of the NEC ‘s legal services department, speaks during the release of provisional poll results Monday.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Post Staff
Tuesday, 19 May 2009

National Election Committee figures confirm the ruling party's sweep of Sunday's council polls, amid continuing accusations of vote buying from the Sam Rainsy Party.

THE National Election Committee (NEC) released provisional results Monday of the weekend's provincial, district and municipal elections, confirming early tallies that showed the expected win of the Cambodian People's Party.

However, Sam Rainsy Party officials say they lost about 5 percent of their 2,660 voters to bribery, continuing their allegations that the ruling
party had bought off its supporters in a bid to weaken the opposition at the grassroots level.

SRP spokesman Yim Sovann said his party had filed 10 bribery complaints with the NEC, but said he had little hope of a favourable outcome.

"The NEC is not independent, it is controlled by the ruling party. We just want to show the people and the international community," he said, adding, howver, that despite the interference, the opposition had made gains.

"Regardless of the result, we are very happy and proud because this is a big victory for the SRP. Very soon we will have about 600 people who can work in the local administration," he said.

According to the Kingdom's election body, the CPP received 8,545 (75.6 percent) of the 11,307 votes cast at the provincial and municipal level, compared with 2,317 (20.5 percent) for the SRP and 467 for the NRP-Funcinpec alliance.

Numbers were similar at the district level, where the CPP led the pack with 8,470 of 11,334 votes (74.7 percent).The SRP won 2,332 (20.6 percent) and the royalists 526 votes for the district councils.

NEC Chairman Im Suosdey said final results and seat-by-seat breakdowns would be released as soon as the NEC had a chance to review complaints filed by political parties.

He said seven complaints were received as the country's 11,353 commune councilors went to the polls Sunday - six procedural complaints from the SRP and NRP, and one from the CPP accusing Funcinpec activists of using a government vehicle to transport voters to the polling station.

Provincial Election Committees also received 16 complaints during the two-week election campaign, three of which are awaiting appeal at the national level.

As polls closed Sunday, SRP lawmaker Ho Vann repeated additional allegations of CPP vote-buying, claiming 32 of the SRP's 266 councilors in Phnom Penh were bought for between US$1,000 and $5,000 each.

"Some of the SRP's councilors are poor and they need money for their living. It is difficult for us to control them because of poverty," he said.

But senior CPP lawmaker Cheam Yeap rejected opposition accusations, saying that the party's success was a result of its overall efforts to develop the country. "I would like to clarify that our party does not have a culture of buying people," he said.

"Maybe some of [the SRP's] supporters voted for the CPP because they think the political principles of the CPP are good."

KR trial resumes with Duch admitting to forged confessions

Written by Cheang Sokha and Georgia Wilkins
Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Says power struggle between Ta Mok, Pol Pot required him to ‘amend' statements to reflect changes in focus on shifting political enemies.

FORMER Khmer Rouge prison chief Kaing Guek Eav told Cambodia's war crimes court Monday that he was forced to forge "enemy" confessions because of a power struggle between two of the regime's top leaders, as the trial of the ex-jailer resumed following a two-week recess.

"The extraction of confessions related to the power struggle in the regime between Ta Mok and Pol Pot," the accused, better known by his revolutionary name Duch, told the court, referring to confessions made at Tuol Sleng prison, or S-21, over which he presided.

"The way they chose people to be arrested was organised and planned by the standing committee," he added, describing the situation with one of the regime's idioms: "When cutting bamboo, one must trim the thorns."

Duch's comments were in response to questions by judges who wished to clarify testimony he had already given about confessions at the regime's most notorious torture centre.

He said he would often be required to amend prisoners' confessions at the request of his superiors, depending on their political enemies at the time.

"[Deceased KR senior leader and Central Committee member] Son Sen asked me, ‘Why did this person not implicate [cadre] Pon?' I told him he did confess and implicate [Pon]," Duch said, citing an example in which he was forced to frame a fellow cadre.

"As Pol Pot said in the minutes of a meeting on October 9, 1975, ‘The police are one thing, but here, whether we arrest anyone, it's up to us'," he added.

Following Duch's remarks, genocide expert Craig Etcheson took the stand, becoming the first foreign specialist to be heard at the court.

Etcheson, who cited his occupation as an investigator with co-prosecutors at the tribunal, is the author of The Rise and Demise of Democratic Kampuchea and has studied the structures of the regime for three decades.

"The CPK [party's] statutes required each echelon to report regularly to its superior echelon," he said, describing the way in which the standing committee monitored the regime.

He also claimed that cadres who were viewed as "not pure" by the party were weeded out through "disciplinary measures", including execution.
Etcheson's testimony is to continue this week.

Court reshuffle
In a press statement issued late Monday, the ECCC announced several personnel changes at the hybrid court.

Helen Jarvis, former chief of public affairs, will now head the Victims Unit, while the court's press officer, Reach Sambath, has been tapped to serve as head of public affairs.

Other personnel changes include the appointment of Dim Sovannarom as press officer and Neou Kassie as outreach coordinator.

Govt begins HIV training for teachers

Written by Mom Kunthear
Tuesday, 19 May 2009

THE Ministry of Education has begun training primary school teachers in 12 provinces to provide HIV/AIDS prevention education to their students, ministry and health officials said Monday, adding that this age group, while not immediately vulnerable to the disease, needed to be aware of its dangers.

Primary school students "are a group of people we have to pay attention to because they ... will be the backbone of the nation", said Dr Mean Chhi Vun, the director of the National Centre for HIV/AIDS, Dermatology and STDs.

Cambodia has made huge strides in tackling an HIV/AIDS epidemic that had infected some 3 percent of adults by the late 1990s. Partially through prevention programs, the Kingdom has reduced its HIV prevalence rate to roughly 0.8 percent of adults, according to the UNAIDS website.

But some health officials warn that young people are becoming increasingly at risk, as outreach activities target mainly commercial sex workers and their clients, rather than pass the safe-sex message onto youth.

HIV/AIDS education programs are already in place for secondary school students, and these are being used as a model for this newest effort, said Pen Saroeun, director of the Education Ministry's School Health Department.

"We used to do HIV/AIDS education at secondary schools and it succeeded; that's why we have turned to primary school education," he said, adding that many students drop out before reaching secondary school.

"We will teach them basic knowledge about HIV/AIDS, and life skills such as negotiation skills, how to say ‘no', goal setting, and how to provide care and support to people living with HIV/AIDS," he said.

Pen Saroeun said that in 2008 the ministry spent more than US$100,000 on HIV/AIDS education. They plan to double that this year with additional funding from UN Population Fund.

"If we are successful in those 12 provinces, then we will do it in the other provinces."

Lake residents protest over money

Boeung Kak resident Soy Kolab, 53, talks with reporters Monday outside the Court of Appeal.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Ros Dina
Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Boeung Kak evictees ask government to halt filling of lake until compensation is agreed upon.

MORE than 30 residents from Boeung Kak lake protested Monday, handing official letters of complaint to the National Assembly and the ministries of interior and land management, pleading with them to intervene in the filling of the lake until a fair compensation package could be worked out with those who would lose their homes.

In August, Shukaku Inc, a development company, began pumping sand into the lake, slowly filling the popular tourist site. Since then, hundreds of families have been forced from their homes.

Soy Kolab, a representative of the lake community, said that Cambodia's ministries and lawmakers were their last chance for help, but that Cambodian law was on their side.

"Cambodia has laws to protect its people," she said. "I want them to delay pumping sand into the lake and to negotiate suitable compensation for us. I am not against the government's development plan, but any development in which the poor have to be evicted without proper compensation will only benefit powerful people,"

A lawyer representing the community, Choung Choungy, said only a small number of the 4,252 families living at Boeung Kak have agreed to the municipality's compensation offer of US$8,000 cash, or replacement housing on the outskirts of Phnom Penh with $500 cash. He said the residents did not want to be relocated far from their children's schools and their livelihoods.

Residents have already appealed to courts, protested in front of Prime Minister Hun Sen's house and sent complaints to City Hall.

CPP lawmakers Cheap Yeap said the National Assembly would push the government to solve this problem in accordance with the Land Law.

Government to submit a revised human rights report by year's end

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Sam Rith
Tuesday, 19 May 2009

CAMBODIA'S senior human rights officer said Monday the government plans to resubmit its Universal Periodic Review (UPR) to the UN Human Rights Council by December.

Om Yentieng, who chairs the Cambodian Human Rights Committee, said the updated report - initially submitted in September last year - would be more specific than the original.

The UPR is submitted every four years, and September's report was the Kingdom's first submission.

"We will still encounter the same difficulties of needing to work with the various ministries and departments to collate statistics relating to demography, development, new laws and regulations," Om Yentieng said.

The UPR is not the same as the much-maligned report the government submitted earlier this month - 15 years behind schedule - to the UN office in Geneva that examines the measures taken to comply with the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

UK funds workshop
Om Yentieng said the revised UPR would benefit from lessons learned by other countries with experience in writing such reports, adding that the United Kingdom is funding a three-day workshop in Phnom Penh that started on Monday.

Andrew Mace, the British ambassador to Cambodia, said a key aim of the workshop was to share the UK's experience gained when drafting its submission and to "lighten that workload" for Cambodia.

"My second aim [is] to highlight how the UPR can be a positive process. It is an examination by a country's peers," he said, which helped member states meet the obligations they had signed up to.

Christophe Peschoux, representative of the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Phnom Penh, said the review provided an opportunity to assess human rights compliance.

"I would like to encourage the government to ensure that the process of drawing up the state report will be genuine, self-critical where necessary, and thorough," he said.

Home robbery claims third life

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Chrann Chamroeun
Tuesday, 19 May 2009

POLICE continue to hunt for two killers after a savage robbery in Phnom Penh's Tuol Kork district on Sunday morning. Two teenage girls were beaten to death with a steel pipe in the attack. Police confirmed a 4-year old boy, who was severely injured, died later in hospital.

Police said the motive was likely revenge, as the victims were killed after being robbed.

Deputy police chief for serious crimes, Pol Pithey, said the victims were the daughters of Tep Darong, president of the Royal Academy for Judicial Professions, and his nephew.

Toeuk Loak 3 commune police Chief Khim Vanna said the men stole the equivalent of US$24,000 in cash, jewellery and a Toyota Rav4.

Neighbour Kim Dara told the Post a crowd of people flocked to the house in the morning after hearing the news. They told him the mother had gone to the market to run her noodle shop, but that one of her daughters had phoned asking her to come home as her nephew was ill.

Kim Dara said that, on returning to the house, the mother was beaten senseless. She was the only survivor of the attack.



Written by Sam Rith
Tuesday, 19 May 2009

A traffic police officer checks for speeders on a road in Tuol Kork district Monday, as the city began implementing new rules of the road that also include a ban on drunken driving, said Phnom Penh traffic police Chief Tin Prasoeur. "We are reconsidering working at nighttime.... It is a bit hard to work at night for the police when they try to stop drunken drivers, especially in dark places," he said.

Garment exports plummet 35 percent in first quarter

Workers make clothes last week at the Injae Garment Co Ltd factory in Phnom Penh.

GMAC to host forum to address decline

THE garment industry is planning a joint forum with the government and leading manufacturers on May 27 at Phnom Penh's Raffles Hotel Le Royal. "Eighteen out of 274 owners and senior management from garment factories in Cambodia will attend," said Kaing Monika, external affairs manager of the Garment Manufacturers' Association of Cambodia (GMAC), the country's largest garment industry association and organiser of the forum. Kaing Monika said that Minister of Commerce Cham Prasidh would preside over the event. "It will be a platform for investors to voice their concerns and discuss the challenges they are facing as the sector faces a decline [in production orders]," he said. "It is also a chance for buyers to express their concerns and to try and strategise on ways of working with the industry." NGUON SOVAN

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by George Mcleod and Nguon Sovan
Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Latest official figures show month-on-month declines worsening from January to March, but garment sector sources point to signs of recovery.

FIGURES obtained Monday from the Ministry of Commerce show garment exports plummeted 35 percent in the first quarter of 2009.

Exports to the United States were worst hit, down 47 percent compared with the first quarter of 2008, while those to the European Union fell 22 percent, and to Canada 21 percent.

Cambodia exported garments worth US$279 million to the US in the first quarter, with the EU and Canada purchasing US$124 million and US$39 million respectively. Exports fell every month in the quarter compared with 2008: down 19 percent in January, 23 percent in February, and a shocking 60 percent in March, suggesting that the industry had yet to reach a turning point by the end of March.

There was some good news. Exports to Japan were up 14 percent and those to other markets - a category which includes the Middle East and Russia - increased 61 percent, a sign that the Kingdom had managed to seek out new markets in the face of plummetting world demand.

Local garment producers have been working to diversify beyond the US and European markets, but those rises have come off low volumes.

Despite the drop in exports to key markets, industry insiders say the country's garment sector may have already hit bottom although figures for April are not yet available.

Signs of life are emerging, with US retail sales (excluding automobiles) expected to show a slight increase in April. A Bloomberg survey predicts a 0.2 percent increase, following a 1 percent decrease in March.

Domestic garment-makers said that the Kingdom continues to benefit from lower costs, luring factories away from Vietnam and China.

The Garment Manufacturers Association of Cambodia (GMAC) told the Post that the number of factories registered with the industry trade body increased from 260 at the beginning of the year up to 274 currently, and said more factories could open this year.

GMAC's External Affairs Manager Kaing Monika said that some factories may have started operations before the beginning of the year.

"Three months ago the situation was very bad.... Things are a bit better right now," Kaing Monika said. "We expect to see more orders by June, but the situation is not entirely clear."

Signs of economic life
The owner of the Injae garment factory in Phnom Penh said last week that lower costs and an improving business climate were encouraging more factories to set up shop here.

"Factories are moving from China to Cambodia and Laos," said Nam-Shik Kang, Injae's managing director. "In China, the garment sector is competing for labour with industries like shipbuilding and automobiles, which is making it more expensive. In Cambodia, garments are the only industry."

Nam-Shik Kang expects an industry turnaround will materialise by September provided US demand picks up.

Vanessa Rossi, an emerging markets expert at the UK research body Chatham House, said the garment sector might see a slight recovery this year.

"Investors may start to build up their inventories in the near future, but we should be extremely careful because this is not necessarily a sign of underlying growth," she said.

Garments were expected to make up just over 70 percent of Cambodia's total export revenue for 2009, the London-based Economist Intelligence Unit said last month.

Beeline becomes 9th mobile operator

A shop owner sells Beeline mobile-phone credit using the 090 prefix Monday in Tonle Bassac, Phnom Penh.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Hor Hab
Tuesday, 19 May 2009

New 90 percent Russian-owned mobile network holds official launch in capital.

THE Kingdom's newest entrant to the increasingly crowded mobile operator market officially launched Monday, two weeks after it started offering its services.

Beeline said it registered 100,000 users in its first fortnight of operations, 60,000 of whom are active.

Vladimir Riabokon, executive vice president of Vimpelcom Group, which owns the Beeline brand under its local Sotelco subsidiary, said the company is aiming for 500,000 customers by December.

"Seventy percent of Cambodian people are under 30 years of age, and the market penetration rate is around 25 percent," he said. "This presents incredible potential for our services."

we want to be one of the market leaders in the country.

He claimed the firm's competitors are cutting spending, which he said gives Beeline - the ninth operator in the Cambodian market - a chance to take market share. The company is also looking at buying a 3G licence.

"We want 6 percent market share by the end of this year and 20 percent within three years, because we want to be one of the market leaders in the country," he said.

Riabokon said the company had budgeted US$200 million over the next three years and would spend $70 million this year on Beeline alone.

"The commercial start of the Beeline brand in Cambodia is the first launch by a Russian telecommunications operator under its own brand in Southeast Asia," he said.

Gael Campan, general director at Sotelco, said at the launch that Beeline had coverage in 11 provinces, covering more than one-third of the population and aims to reach two-thirds of the country's 14 million people by December.

Campan said Beeline has 180 branded retail stands and five sales offices in Phnom Penh, Preah Sihanouk, Siem Reap, Battambang and Kampong Cham.

By the end of the year, he predicted the company would have 5,000 point-of-sale zones and 1,700 specialised stores selling SIM cards.

Touch Heng, an undersecretary of state at the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications, said he hopes Beeline can achieve plans to provide a cheap, high-quality service.

"The rate [5 US cents for a local call and 15 cents for an international call] offered by Beeline is a very good price for users because Cambodians want low prices and a high-quality service," he said.

The VimpelCom Group also operates the Beeline brand in Russia, Kazakhstan, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Georgia and Armenia, and will launch in Vietnam later this year.

VimpelCom Group holds a 90 percent stake in Sotelco, with the remaining 10 percent owned by an unidentified Cambodian entrepreneur who local company that holds a GSM licence.

Govt establishes new ICT working group

Written by Hor Hab
Tuesday, 19 May 2009

THE government said it has set up a committee focused on information and communications technology (ICT) solutions.

Legislation setting up the new ICT sub-working group states that government members would be joined by private-sector representatives to exchange ideas and rapidly address ICT issues, as well as inform relevant institutions of outcomes. It is headed by Lar Narath, secretary of
state at the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications.

Phu Leewood, secretary general of the government's National ICT Development Authority, said the body - known as the sub-working group on telecommunications and information technology - should help to develop the ICT private sector.

"We are moving on the right track with the government's strategy to develop the ICT sector and its human resources," Phu Leewood said Monday.

But he added that ICT and human-resources development lags behind neighbouring countries because the Kingdom is still recovering from years of social unrest.

Ken Chanthan, president of the private sector ICT Association of Cambodia, said the committee would help the private sector raise its concerns about ICT development and related government policy.

"Now we can send our messages directly to political and technical government officials using the issues raised at monthly meetings within the sub-working group," he said.

Ken Chanthan said that the committee met on May 7.

"The [committee] will provide a greater opportunity for the ICT sector to develop even faster and in the right way since it will allow the government and development partners to better understand the real situation of ICT in Cambodia," he said.

Ken Chanthan added that the private sector faces a number of challenges: ICT policy, infrastructure development, human resources, content and programming, and enterprise quality.

Police Blotter: 19 May 2009

Written by Nguon Sovan
Tuesday, 19 May 2009

One of three armed men was severely injured when he and his companions tried to rob Tuol Kork police officer Van Sophal, 39, of his motorbike on Saturday in Meanchey district, Phnom Penh. The officer fired on his assailants and wounded one, while the other two men escaped without injury and remain at large. The wounded man was taken to the Cambodian-Russian Friendship Hospital by police, who have yet to identify the suspect.

A 35-year-old man from Chroy Changvar commune, Phnom Penh, was arrested Saturday on suspicion of participating in the gang rape of two women. Police said the suspect and four other men paid the women US$10 each to accompany them to a guesthouse for sex. Instead, the men took them to an outdoor lot and forced them to have sex there. Police later arrived in response to shouts for help from the women and arrested the suspect. The four additional suspects fled the scene.

The body of a German national was found in the water under a bridge in Ta Eng village, Kampot province, on Monday. Police identified the deceased as Jens Joester, 26, and suspect that he had died as a result of a fall from the bridge, as they found no sign of foul play. The deceased had been missing since Saturday, police said.

A man identified only as Khom, 29, from Village 30 in Kampong Cham province, was severely injured after being attacked with an ax by a man known only as Rin on Thursday. The victim was taken to an area hospital with six deep ax wounds. Police said the victim was attacked because he was drunk and repeatedly insulted the man who attacked him.

The body of Khun Chheab, 47, was found Saturday in a ditch about 50 metres behind his house in Chhouk village, Banteay Meanchey province. Family members said the man was prone to seizures. Police suspect his death was caused by a seizure that led the man to fall in the ditch and drown.

Nation's 1st Mr Gay crowned

Photo by: JOEL ROZEN
Free style at Mr Gay Cambodia Competition 2009.(Top) Mr Gay Cambodia Competition 2009 contestants.(below)
The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Joel Rozen
Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Mr Gay Cambodia contestants swath Phnom Penh in rainbows and glitter.

Excited spectators flocked to Salt Lounge for Phnom Penh's Gay Pride Festival's first Mr Gay Cambodia contest Sunday night. Ranging in age and from assorted backgrounds, 18 handsome entrants came to represent Cambodian gay solidarity. While not all contestants were gay - many called themselves bisexual - all were proudly Cambodian.

On a catwalk stretching from inside the bar into the street, the contestants vied for cash prizes ranging from US$20 to $50 and the rare opportunity to compete in this year's Mr Gay International contest in Manila.

However, prizes were not the point for most of the contestants; many were after a long-awaited public exposure.

"I want to be popular," said Metrey Chhorn, a 19-year-old student at Sisowath High School. "This way, I can show my abilities, and everyone knows me."

The contest was a simple affair. The entrants walked twice down a runway between two short drag shows, once in outfits of their choosing, the second time in their skivvies.

Three judges - two Cambodians and one American - umpired each round, each looking for a different set of winning criteria.

"[I am looking for] personal charisma, aura and magnetism," said Alan Flux, a local NGO worker, describing his judging standards.

I want to be popular ... [so] I can show my abilities and everyone knows me.

The lone expatriate judge added that his pick would evince some degree of social awareness on stage as well - though given the contest's lack of speeches or Q&As, he had to rely on what he referred to as his "designer intuition".

On the other side of the catwalk, Phnom Penh-based architect Teang Borin showed off a scoring sheet with his own list of qualifiers: hairstyle, clothes and body.

"I want them to be attractive," he said of the contestants. "And brave."

And brave they were. Whether sporting a doo-rag or smouldering in D&G underwear, most struck confident poses even without all their clothes on.

Ultimately, not everyone was bold enough to lose the pants for Round 2, but the audience cheered appreciatively for each contestant.

Devotees of contestant M6, Mao Sopheak, for instance, whooped like sports fans beneath their "I love M6" signs.

When Mr M6 emerged, blushing beneath his sweater, his sister screamed.

Scoring proved a bit tricky for the judges.

Teang Borin appreciated Mr M4's nice body and smooth skin.

Flux was undecided. "All the boys are interested in social work," he said excitedly. "I can just tell."

But in the end, it was 19-year-old former student of Korean descent, Savet, who won everybody's hearts and was declared the victor.

Savet took his place on stage with first runners-up Rasak, 20, and Seyha, 21. He couldn't stop grinning.

Organisers said they hoped a Miss Gay Cambodia counterpart would one day join them up on the Salt Lounge stage.

"Oh, darling," said Pride co-organiser Collette O'Regan. "Soon."

Cambodian, National Heritage Fellow 2009

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Eleanor Ainge Roy
Tuesday, 19 May 2009

SOPHILINE Cheam Shapiro, an accomplished Cambodian choreographer, dancer, educator and vocalist, has been named a 2009 National Heritage Fellow by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), a US-funded award.

According to a press release distributed Friday by Khmer Arts, the award is aimed to recognise "artistic excellence and support the continuing contributions to traditional arts heritage in the USA".

Sophiline Cheam Shapiro joins the prestigious ranks of blues musicians BB King, cowboy poet Wally McRae and soul singer Mavis Staples.

The NEA website states that a common theme among its fellows is their commitment to youth training and education.

As part of the lifetime achievement award, Sophiline Cheam Shapiro will receive a one-off payment of US$25,000. She plans to invest the money into her current projects.

A Phnom Penh native, Sophiline Cheam Shapiro is a graduate of the Royal University of Phnom Penh and was among the first generation educated at the school after the fall of the Khmer Rouge.

Khmer Arts
She is the co-founder and the artistic director of Khmer Arts, an organisation split between Long Beach, California, and Takhmao province. The
organisation is devoted to developing arts and culture in the Kingdom.

Sophiline Cheam Shapiro emigrated to the United States in 1991, where she worked extensively with Cambodian refugees in Long Beach, offering training in classical music and dance.

It was for this work that she received special attention in the United States, but also became widely known as the only US-based Cambodian to tour her productions internationally.

Sophiline Cheam Shapiro is now in the process of putting together a new production called Life of Giants, a contemporary take on an episode from the Ramayana, which she hopes to take on tour next year.

Moving forward
Speaking to the Post on Sunday, Sophiline said she felt "honoured" to receive the award and that she feels optimistic about the future of arts and culture in Cambodia.

"The productions that have come of the collaboration between Belle [Chumvan Sodhachivy, an up-and-coming contemporary Cambodian dancer] and the French Cultural Centre, the dedication of teachers at the Fine Arts University of Phnom Penh - these are really encouraging signs," she said.

"Now, we just have to work out how to move forward and depict contemporary life in a meaningful way, while also recognising the past contribution and thinking of what is ahead of us."

Sophiline Cheam Shapiro is to travel to Washington, DC, in September with fellow attendees to participate in an award ceremony on Capitol Hill, as well as a concert at the music hall in Bethesda, Maryland, where Khmer Arts will perform selections from Sophiline Cheam Shapiro's Seasons of Migration.

Corruption Still Haunts the Khmer Rouge Tribunal – Monday, 18.5.2009

Posted on 19 May 2009
The Mirror, Vol. 13, No. 613

“Phnom Penh: Defense lawyers of former Khmer leaders join their voices to raise the cases of corruption allegations and seem to take the corruption problems as a leverage to encourage this mixed court to clearly solve the corruption problem.

“On 4 May 2009, the defense lawyers of Mr. Khiev Samphan, Mr. Ieng Sary, and Ms. Ieng Thirith, lodged complaints to the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia against the judgment of the co-investigating judges’ office.

“The co-investigating judges of the Khmer Rouge Tribunal, Judge You Bunleng and Judge Marcel Lemonde, issued a judgment on 4 April 2009, rejecting to open an investigations on corruption at the Khmer Rouge Tribunal, responding to the 11th request of the co-defense lawyer of Nuon Chea.

“The co-investigating judges explained that corruption cases are not under their authority. Also, the authority of the Khmer Rouge Tribunal is limited by law, as the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia were created to hear and try former high ranking leaders of Democratic Kampuchea [the Khmer Rouge Regime] and other people who are highly responsible for crimes against humanity and war crimes during the Khmer Rouge Regime from 17 April 1975 to 6 January 1979.

“However, both national and foreign co-defense lawyers of Mr. Khiev Samphan, Mr. Ieng Sary, and Ms. Ieng Thirith, support the complaint to clarify corruption allegations that have been mentioned by the co-defense lawyer of Mr. Nuon Chea.

“In four separate complaints filed at the Extraordinary Chambers, the defense lawyers of the four former Khmer Rouge leaders ask the Extraordinary Chambers to dismiss the judgment of the co-investigating judges, and to show the results of the investigation conducted by the internal control service in order to find the truth about corruption at the Khmer Rouge Tribunal. This demand is to secure the rights of the accused, such as Mr. Khiev Samphan, Mr. Nuon Chea, Mr. Ieng Sary, and Ms. Ieng Thirith, so that they receive fair hearings. The defense lawyers call on the Extraordinary Chambers to hold public hearings over those appeals early in the first week of June.

“By Saturday, 16 May 2009, there was still no response from the Extraordinary Chambers of the Khmer Rouge court.

“Corruption allegations at the Khmer Rouge Tribunal were raised since the beginning when this court started to deal with crimes, after it was jointly created by the Cambodian government and the United Nations in 2007. But so far, there is no solution yet, creating doubts over the capacity, independence, and future of this mixed court.

“The appeals of the defense lawyers resulted in follow-up reports by the TV channel CNN and The Economist magazine, which reported about corruption allegations at the Khmer Rouge Tribunal. The defense lawyers claim that especially the interviews with some former staff – from the Cambodian side of the Khmer Rouge Tribunal – clearly describe the procedure for collecting money from staff, and also the persons to whom the money wasto be delivered.

“The complaints directly accused the president of the Administration Office of the Khmer Rouge Tribunal, Mr. Sean Visoth, to have collected money from Cambodian staff, but Mr. Sean Visoth, who has been present at the Khmer Rouge Tribunal since November 2008, immediately denied that he took kickbacks from, or gave kickbacks to anyone.

“As for officials of the Cambodian government, they always dismiss the allegations about corruption at the Khmer Rouge Tribunal, and consider it to be something that was raised without a true basis.”

Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.17, #4896, 17-18.5.2009
Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Monday, 18 May 2009

Party leader affirms close ties with Cambodia, Laos

Photo: VOV


VietNamNet Bridge – Party General Secretary Nong Duc Manh has affirmed Vietnam’s consistent policy of developing relations with Cambodia and Laos and its determination to lift those relations to new heights.

Mr Manh made the affirmation while receiving a high-ranking delegation from Laos headed by Saman Vinhaket, a politburo member of the Lao People’s Revolutionary Party Central Committee, and another delegation from Cambodia led by Permanent Deputy Prime Minister Men Sam An, in Hanoi on May 18.

The two delegations are in Vietnam to attend celebrations of late President Ho Chi Minh’s 119th birthday and the 50th anniversary of the legendary Ho Chi Minh Trail.

Mr Manh thanked the Parties, States and people of Cambodia and Laos for their valuable assistance to Vietnam during the latter’s past struggle for national construction and defence. He said Vietnam is determined to build the Ho Chi Minh Trail into the road of friendship, solidarity and comprehensive cooperation between the three countries.

He applauded the achievements made by the Cambodian and Lao people in various fields, which he said will help encourage the Party, State and people of Vietnam during their Doi Moi (Renewal) process.

Mr Manh said he hopes that relevant ministries, agencies and localities of Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia will work closely to effectively implement bilateral agreements and treaties signed by their top leaders.

Both Saman Vinhakhet and Men Sam An affirmed that the Parties, States and people of Cambodia and Laos will do their best to strengthen their traditional friendship, solidarity and comprehensive cooperation with Vietnam.


Teachers get wet so poor can stay dry

FUNDRAISING SPLASH: Kamo High School teacher Luke Vanderlubbe, left, is raising money to build a house in Cambodia. Year 9 students, from back left, Manning Reynolds, Jessica Taing, Sherilee Smith, Sam Moscrip, Aidan Hawker and Ryan Johnson have organised a teacher water bombing event to help raise funds.

Auckland Stuff (New Zealand)

By DEANNA HARRIS - Whangarei Leader

Water bombs, sausages and a time capsule are being thrown, sizzled and constructed at Kamo High School to raise funds toward building a house in a poverty stricken South East Asian country.

Teacher Luke Vanderlubbe is flying to Cambodia in July to help build the house with non-profit organisation Tabitha Cambodia, which works to improve the lives of the world’s poorest people.

One of the ways Tabitha helps Cambodia’s poor is by bringing volunteer building teams to the country to supply the additional money and work needed to build a simple $2000 house under the direction of local builders.

"It’s obviously not going to be a New Zealand style house," says Mr Vanderlubbe. "Just four walls and a roof."

Mr Vanderlubbe is now fundraising for the project with several events under way at the school, including students making a donation for the chance to throw water bombs at teachers. Mr Vanderlubbe says about five teachers have put themselves in the line of fire for the cause so far.

He is also creating a time capsule to be put in the house. People can donate $20 and have a small item included, which a family will open in the future.

Mr Vanderlubbe is also looking for support from local businesses.

Kamo Hammer Hardware has donated a hammer plus items to give to children in Cambodia.

With a population of about 14 million, one third of Cambodia’s income is in foreign aid, according to Tabitha.

The average life expectancy is between 47 and 57 years and more than 670,000 children are orphans.

• For more information phone 435-1688 or make a deposit to the ASB Bank Project Cambodia account: 12-3093-0270651-50.

Israel announced the nomination of its first economic attaché to Cambodia

May 18, 2009

The economic mission in Phnom Penh will function under the charge of the Israeli economic attaché in Thailand

Israel's Ministry of Industry, Trade and Labor announced last week the opening of Israel's first economic mission in Cambodia's capital of Phnom Penh.

The Government announcement noted that the economic mission in Phnom Penh will function under the charge of the Israeli economic attaché in Thailand, Tzahi Selzer. During March a first Israeli delegation of telecommunications companies visited the Southeastern Asian country. Some 15 companies took part in the delegation, including such high profile names as ECI, Gilat and Comverse, whose representatives met with top local Government officials.

The visit was part of an Israeli effort announced last year to expand economic and political ties with Cambodia. According to Selzer, Cambodia is mainly interested in Israeli companies involved in irrigation technologies, agriculture, infrastructure and medical devices.

Israel was ranked the fourth-largest foreign investor in Cambodia last year in terms of value of projects approved, with 2.75 percent of total investment, or 300 million U.S. dollars, according to Cambodian Investment Board figures.

Long Beach's Sophiline Cheam Shapiro a National Endowment for the Arts honoree

Sophiline Cheam Shapiro, right, helps dancer Pum Molyta with her hand movements during practice at the Khmer Arts Academy on February 14, 2008 in Takmao, Cambodia.. (Jeff Gritchen/Press-Telegram)

Contra Costa Times

National Endowment for the Arts
Posted: 05/18/2009

Sophiline Cheam Shapiro, founder of the Khmer Arts Academy who taught traditional Cambodian Arts to inner-city youth in Long Beach, is one of 11 honorees selected by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) to receive the nation's highest honor in the folk and traditional arts, the NEA National Heritage Fellowships.

Shapiro, a survivor of the Cambodian genocide of the mid-1970s, founded the Khmer Arts Academy in 2002 with her husband, John.

Eleven fellowships, which include a one-time award of $25,000 each, are presented to honorees from eight states and Puerto Rico. The NEA National Heritage Fellowships public programs are made possible through the support of the Darden Restaurants Foundation and its family of Red Lobster, Olive Garden, LongHorn Steakhouse, The Capital Grille, Bahama Breeze, and Seasons 52 restaurants.

The 2009 awardees were chosen for their artistic excellence and contributions to their respective artistic traditions. They represent a cross-section of ethnic cultures including Cambodian, North Indian, and West African, and promote such diverse traditional art forms as accordion-driven zydeco, willow basketry, and Yoruba sacred song and drumming.

National Endowment for the Arts Acting Chair Patrice Walker Powell said, "The NEA is proud to celebrate these artists whose lifetime of service and dedication preserve our nation's diverse cultural heritage."

The 2009 NEA National Heritage Fellowship recipients are:

Birmingham Sunlights, A cappella Gospel Group, Birmingham, Ala.; Edwin Colón Zayas, Cuatre player, Orocovis, P.R.; Chitresh Das, Kathak Dancer and Choreographer, San Francisco; Leroy Graber, German-Russian willow basketmaker; Freeman, S.D.; "Queen" Ida Guillory, Zydeco Musician, Daly City, Ca.; Dudley Laufman, dance caller and musician, Canterbury, N.H.; Amma D. McKen, Yoruba Orisha singer, Brooklyn, N.Y.; Joel Nelson, cowboy poet, Alpine, Texas; Teri Rofkar, Tlingit weaver and basketmaker, Sitka, Alaska; and Sophiline Cheam Shapiro, Cambodian classical dancer and choreographer, Long Beach.

The 2009 Bess Lomax Hawes Award is awarded to Mike Seeger, a musician, cultural scholar, and advocate from Lexington, Virginia. The Bess Lomax Hawes Award recognizes an individual who has made a significant contribution to the preservation and awareness of cultural heritage.

Profiles of the artists are available in the Lifetime Honors section of the NEA's Web site.

Among the diverse arts represented this year is a broad range of dance traditions, from Cambodian classical dance to improvisatory Kathak (North Indian) solo dance to the old-time social dance deeply rooted in pre-Revolutionary New England rural heritage. Two other musical forms honored, Yoruba sacred song and drumming, as well as accordion-driven zydeco music, are closely associated with dance.

Another common theme among the fellows is their commitment to education and training in their art; for example, Chitresh Das has been teaching and mentoring students for the past 38 years and LeRoy Graber demonstrates his craft at local schools and teaches basketmaking in the apprenticeship programs of South and North Dakota.

These honorees join the ranks of previous Heritage Fellows, including bluesman B.B. King, Cajun fiddler and composer Michael Doucet, cowboy poet Wally McRae, gospel and soul singer Mavis Staples, and bluegrass musician Bill Monroe. Since 1982, the Endowment has awarded 349 NEA National Heritage Fellowships.

Fellowship recipients are nominated by the public, often by members of their own communities, and then judged by a panel of experts in folk and traditional arts on the basis of their continuing artistic accomplishments and contributions as practitioners and teachers. This year a 10-member panel reviewed 240 nominations for the 11 fellowships. The ratio of winners to nominees indicates the select nature of this national honor.

The 2009 awardees will come to Washington, D.C. in September for a series of events including a banquet at the Library of Congress and an awards presentation on Capitol Hill as well as a concert scheduled for Thursday, September 24, 2009 at the Music Center at Strathmore in Bethesda, Maryland.

Rats become 'Dish of the Day' in Asia

ITN News


Mon May 18 2009 Soaring meat prices in Asia mean many households are serving up rat as a tasty alternative to pork.

Heavy rainfall in the Mekong Delta has sent the rodents scurrying from their holes into the traps of Cambodian villagers, who are exporting them by the tonne to Vietnam.

More than 35 tonnes of rat meat is now said to be crossing the border every day.

"Just my family alone exports one tonne or around 700 to 800 kilogrammes to Vietnam," said rat meat trader Te Lah.

Rat meat was eaten regularly in Cambodia during the Khmer Rouge regime of the 1970s and, when the price of other meat soared last year, poorer households reverted back to it.

Live rats, some as large as piglets, are selling for around $1 (66p) per kilo and dead ones - used for feeding crocodiles in Vietnam - for $0.37 (24p) per kilo.

Cambodians eat them sir-fried, grilled or in soups and rat is increasingly becoming a common dish at home for many in the rural areas.

"Rats can be cooked as Tom Yam, various types of soup, fried with lemon grass or just fried like this," said Cambodian farmer Chan Pheakdey Ratha.

"It is delicious and I eat them almost everyday," said Tuy Kimchheng.

Top level meeting marks Uncle Ho’s birthday


Cambodia and Laos have sent delegations to Vietnam to attend a major celebration of late President Ho Chi Minh’s 119th birthday and the 50th anniversary of the building of the Ho Chi Minh Trail, both on May 19.

The Communist Party of Vietnam’s General Secretary Nong Duc Manh, National Assembly Chairman Nguyen Phu Trong, Standing Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Sinh Hung and Vietnam Fatherland Front President Huynh Dam honoured the event with their presence along with representatives from the Embassies of Cuba, Russia and China.

NA Chairman Trong addressed the meeting with fond memories and gratitude for the beloved president, calling him the greatest ever Party leader and the hero of the Vietnamese nation, a global celebrity and the beloved father of the armed forces.

Regarding the Ho Chi Minh Trail, he said, “We pay our tribute and thanks to our patriots, comrades and the young people who had laid down their lives along the war’s main logistical artery, the Ho Chi Minh trail, which helped us to achieve national independence.”

“We are sincerely grateful for the enormous and sincere contributions from the Laos and Cambodian peoples to the Vietnamese revolution in general and the Ho Chi Minh-Truong Son trail in particular. We are also grateful to the former Soviet Union, China, Cuba and other international friends, for their great and practical assistance during our patriotic war,” he concluded.

Russia's VimpelCom to invest $200mln in Cambodia mobile network

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PHNOM PENH, May 18 (RIA Novosti) - VimpelCom, Russia's second largest mobile phone operator, intends to invest $200 million over the next three years in developing its mobile network in Cambodia, a VimpelCom senior official said on Monday.

Vladimir Ryabokon, VimpelCom executive vice-president, said the mobile operator intended to invest $70 million in 2009 alone.

VimpelCom, which acquired a 90% stake in the Cambodian cell phone company Sotelco in July 2008, announced on Monday that sales had officially been launched in the country, with the campaign beginning in the Cambodian capital earlier on May 4.

As of today, VimpelCom said the company has 100,000 subscribers registered with its services being provided to Cambodia's eleven most developed industrial provinces.

Ryabokon said VimpelCom intended to increase its basic stations in Cambodia to 460 from the current 160 by the end of the year, and expand its network cover to all of Cambodia's 22 provinces.

Under Khmer Rouge, No Rights, No Law: Duch


By Chiep Mony, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
18 May 2009

With his atrocity crimes trial picking up again, former Khmer Rouge jailer Duch said the regime operated without the ideas of individual rights and without law.

The former director of Tuol Sleng, a prison known to the Khmer Rouge as S-21, is accused of overseeing the torture and murder of 12,380 people. There were no individual or personal rights under the regime, Duch told judges Monday.

“There was no law,” he said. “There was only party’s way.”

Duch, 66, whose real name is Kaing Kek Iev, is facing charges of war crimes, crimes against humanity, torture and murder, for administration of Tuol Sleng, the regime’s main torture center, and other prisoner facilities.

He faced questioning on Monday from French judge Jean Marc Lavergne, who wanted to know how the Khmer Rouge protected individual rights.

Under the regime, Duch said, all power was in the hands of the Standing Committee of the communist regime.

“The committee gathered three bodies: legislative, executive and judicial powers were under the control of the Standing Committee,” he said.

Duch’s trial, the first to be undertaken by the tribunal, is uncovering some of the architecture of the regime, on the record. Duch has claimed responsibility for deaths and torture under his command, but has denied direct acts.

He has also apologized to victims and is seeking to show the court that he was a dedicated revolutionary caught up in a murderous regime.

Minister Lambastes ‘Professional Squatters’

By Taing Sarada, VOA Khmer
Original report from Washington
18 May 2009

While rights groups seek to find fair deals for families displaced in Phnom Penh developments, the foreign minister says many of the capital’s squatters are “professionals,” moving from place to place to demand money when they are expelled.

In remarks at the opening ceremony of a consulate in Lowell, Mass., last month, Foreign Minister Hor Namhong said residents of the Dey Krahorm community, who were evicted earlier this year, were squatters living on state land that had been granted to a private company for development.

“Nowadays, there are many squatters in Phnom Penh, and these squatters always grab people’s land,” he said. “When they push them out, the squatters always demand money. When they get the money, they go build another hut to live in, then demand money again. They are professional squatters.”

In fact, the situation is more complicated, and, critics say, indicative of the abuses suffered by many of the displaced.

Rights and opposition officials objected to the minister’s portrayal of the displaced.

The Dey Krahorm community was a cluster of shacks on 4 hectares of land in Phnom Penh’s Tonle Basaac commune, Chamkarmon district. Around 6,000 people had lived in the neighborhood before they were gradually pushed out, starting from 2003 and ending in January 2009.

Residents, many of whom were resettled on 3 hectares of land outside the city, claimed they had lived in the area since the 1980s.

Land was granted to development company 7NG as a social land concession, a move opposed by Dey Krahorm residents.

In July 2003, ahead of national elections, Prime Minister Hun Sen granted rights to some families in the neighborhood to live on the land. 7NG, however, continued with evictions, and many families were forced to settle in Choam Chao commune, in remote Dangkor district.

Residents complained they were being compensated below market price for their land. Protesters were evicted by Phnom Penh security forces, military police and soldiers, armed with electric batons, rifles and bulldozers, tractors and water trucks. Several were injured.

Meanchey District Governor Kouch Chamroeun told VOA Khmer he has never experienced forcible evictions and prefers peaceful negotiations.

Rights groups claim the evictions were a contradiction of a 2001 land law and blamed the government for a lack of responsibility.

Lao Monghay, a senior researcher at the Asian Human Rights Commission, in Hong Kong, questioned Hor Nahmong’s accusations.

The authorities had been careless, and the ownership of the land was questionable, he said.

“Whose land is this?” he said. “How did they grant the land to the company? Was there any transparency? Any bid? How much did the company pay to the government? So the top government officials who have big houses and land in Phnom Penh, did they really build them by themselves? Don’t you think they also took someone’s house and someone’s land after the Khmer Rouge regime?”

If the people of Dey Krahorm were illegal, under which law was it, he asked. When people began to return to the city following the Khmer Rouge, no one in the country possessed a thing, he said.

“The Khmer Rouge revoked all land and house possession,” he said. The people of Dey Krahorm lived freely after into the 1990s under the State of Cambodia.

“If they first moved to live in that area, why didn’t the government immediately prohibit this?” he said. “So this is the authority’s mistake, not the people’s mistake. The people did nothing wrong.”

Opposition leader Sam Rainsy said Hor Namhong’s remarks “are to protect the big, evil companies and businessmen who depend on the dictator leader in order to steal and rob the Khmer people of their property.”

“The people can’t accept such language, because the people are the owners of the country,” he said.

Thun Saray, president of the rights group Adhoc, told VOA Khmer the people in Dey Krahorm were not to blame, but the company had taken their land away.

“People lived there for a long time before the company existed,” he said. “When the people oppose the company’s policy, it is their right to do so because they have their own plot of land in the Dey Krahorm community. They should respect their land rights.”

Resources watchdog Global Witness has reported that 45 percent of Cambodian land belongs to private companies or powerful individuals, while millions of dollars from land concessions disappear from national coffers.

The UN, meanwhile, has urged Cambodia to cease forced evictions across the country, warning that such policies do not meet international rights standards and are against UN conventions.

CPP Takes Large Margin in Council Election

By Chun Sakada, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
18 May 2009

The ruling Cambodian People’s Party won a wide majority of municipal, district and provincial council seats after polls Sunday.

The opposition Sam Rainy Party took around 20 percent of the 3,261 seats, followed by Funcinpec and the Norodom Ranariddh Party, which took about 2 percent each.

The voting, undertaken by 11,353 members of commune councils nationwide, was a step toward decentralization. Councils will help determine development priorities in their areas.

The National Election Committee said Monday preliminary results showed the CPP had won 8,545 votes, or about 75 percent, in Phnom Penh and provincial districts, and 8,470, also nearly 75 percent, in other towns and districts.

The Sam Rainsy party followed with 2,317 votes, or 20.5 percent, in Phnom Penh and provincial councils, and 2,332 votes in towns and districts.

Funcinpec won 236 votes and 268, respectively, and the NRP won 209 and 262 votes.

CPP spokesman Khieu Kanharith told VOA Khmer the CPP won more votes than it had sitting council members, indicating support from members of the other parties.

“The majority win is because the other parties do not have enough human resources and capacity for leading members of the councils…in compromises of development projects,” he said.

Opposition leader Sam Rainsy said the results were acceptable, as it meant the party now had nearly 600 council members.

“We can win more members in the near future,” he said.

Funcinpec Secretary-General Nhiek Bunchhay said the party had given up some votes but won six capital and provincial council seats.

NRP spokesman Pen Sangha said his party has lost out due to vote-buying.

During campaigning, the Sam Rainsy Party accused CPP members of offering money to council members in exchange for votes.

The NEC will announce official results May 29.