Saturday, 20 June 2009

Mekong Delta poor lured into smuggling rings as porters

A porter carries a load across the border with Cambodia into Vietnam.


Saturday, June 20, 2009

A large number of products are being illegally brought into Vietnam across the border with Cambodia by hundreds of locals who earn their living as porters for local smugglers.

The Go Market in Cambodia’s Ta Keo Province has for long been famous for its abundant supply of both new and used products from Thailand and China.

Just hundreds meters across the border with An Giang Province’s Chau Doc Town, the market hosts many electronics, cosmetics, liquor, cigarette, motor and bicycle stores.

It has become a common shopping center for many customers in the Mekong Delta who prefer the low prices of untaxed and/or used products, as well as for smugglers who buy the products to resell in the domestic market.

To meet the high demand for the smuggled goods, many “carrier” rings have been set up to carry the purchases across the border, and the buyers hire locals as porters.

Most of the porters are poor locals from Vinh Nguon Commune in An Giang Province’s Chau Doc Town who have small farm plots or possess no skills for other work besides farming, one of them said.

“A porter has to be a Vietnamese who knows the roads in Vietnam thoroughly to avoid being caught by local authorities,” he added.

This Thanh Nien reporter, who posed as a buyer, was offered porter services by a woman at a parking place near the border.

A man, known only as T., appeared shortly after the woman called him to act as a guide and coolie for the shopping expedition.

At the Go Market, a group of porters arrived at a store which remained closed as if it was not operating. However, they came out just minutes later with full loads on their shoulders and began the trip across the border to Vietnam.

T. said the store was owned by a Cambodian man known as a tycoon at the market, adding that the man even owns a gun to protect his business.

“For a porter, earning money is as easy as a sightseeing tour but also as risky and illegal as robbery,” said one of T.’s peers.

A porter is paid between VND15,000 (US$0.84) and VND20,000 ($1.12) per trip to carry goods across the border for a distance of around two kilometers. They make dozens of trips a day.

“We have to run as fast as we can to protect the goods and also avoid being caught after being spotted by anti-smuggling forces,” he said, adding that most of them run back across the border into Cambodia to avoid being caught.

The porters at Go Market often tell a story about a female porter who had to become a concubine of a smuggler after she could not pay back debts piled up after her load was seized by anti-smuggling forces.

A 21-year-old porter from the commune, known only as H., said he had to quit school several years ago to earn money for his sick father’s treatment.

The buyers had to pay 10 percent of the price of the products they helped carry cross the border, H. said. However, this money was collected by the one who hired them to work and he was only paid around VND300,000 ($17) a day.

He said the illegal work would not last for long and he will work there until he can earn enough money to learn skills for another job.

Reported by Tien Trinh

Rochester Cambodian community has stories to tell

Tracy Sam and her parents
Seated in front of a shrine at the Cambodian Buddhist Temple, Tracy Sam presents her parents, Nou San and Ros Sam with a bowl of fruit for what they endured escaping the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia in 1975. The gift of fruit is a traditional sign of gratitude.
Jerry Olson/Post-Bulletin

By Matt Russell

Post-Bulletin, Rochester MN

On Friday last week, a few days after reporting repeated acts of vandalism and harassment at the Cambodian Buddhist temple just southeast of Rochester, the Post-Bulletin wrote an editorial condemning the incidents.

"Temple vandals know not what they do," the headline read. The editorial addressed the vandals directly, talking at length about the suffering many in Rochester's Cambodian community endured during the regime of the Khmer Rouge from 1975 to 1979, a time when mass executions occurred and at least 1.3 million people died from disease, illness and starvation.

Shortly before reading the paper that day, Tracy Sam of Rochester called the Post-Bulletin to express her thanks for the outpouring of support the temple had received from the Rochester community, including churches, after the vandalism was reported.

Sam, who has acted as a spokeswoman recently for the 350-member Cambodian Buddhist community, called the paper again shortly after she read the editorial.

"I have something I would like to add," she said.

Twenty minutes later, the 32-year-old arrived at the Post-Bulletin lobby holding a high school essay she had written about her family's struggles to survive during the Khmer Rouge regime. The pages had been laminated to protect them from damage.

The editorial had opened the door to go deeper in telling the story of the suffering many Cambodians in Rochester have gone through, she said. By sharing the decades-old details of her family's story, she added, she hopes to deepen the community's understanding of the experiences many in her community carry with them.

"People need to not just look at the outside of people," Sam said this week. "They need to learn what's going on inside of them."

Three years on the run in the Cambodian jungle

Sam's essay starts on April 17, 1975, the day her family's village was taken over by the Khmer Rouge. Hearing about the soldiers' advance from screaming neighbors, Sam's mom packed food and supplies and took her children into the jungle.

Sam's father was fighting the Khmer Rouge at the time, so Sam's mother was on her own with the children.

"Although I wasn't born when this happened, I know about this through my mother's stories because she has told me many times; and they have become part of me," Sam wrote in her essay.

For three years Sam's mother and her children lived in the forest, relying on plants, fruits from trees and rain water to survive. Finally, in 1979 they reached Battambang, where they reunited with Sam's father.

Sam was born in Battambang. Shortly after, the family was separated again, this time because the Vietnamese invaded the country.

Again Sam's mother was alone in the jungle with her children as her husband got caught up in the fighting again. They fled the country and eventually made it to a refugee camp in Thailand, where they lived for two and a half years apart from Tracy's father.

Sam's mother and her children next went to the Philippines, where they lived in another refugee camp before departing for the U.S. in 1982.

More to the story

Earlier this week, Tracy Sam and her parents shared more details about the turn their lives took during the Khmer Rouge regime.

When Sam's mother fled to the jungle in 1975, it turns out, she brought with her an almost unbelievable burden: seven kids to take care of and keep safe. Five of the children died in the jungle during those three years on the run due to malaria and dysentery, Sam said.

Sam's mother, Nou San, 69, talked briefly about her years on the run. She and the kids had to move constantly to keep safe, she said, and slept on the ground at night wearing few clothes. There were land mines to avoid, she said, and many dead bodies in the jungle.

Life was also hard when they made it to the refugee camp in Thailand, San said, as she was only given 2 teaspoons of rice a day to feed three children. She said she had to use a lot of water to thin the rice out and make it stretch further.

"It was very hard trying to feed my kids," she said, with her daughter acting as a translator.

Tracy Sam's father, Ros Sam, didn't get out of Cambodia until 1983. He said he went to refugee camp in Thailand to search for his family because he knew many Cambodians had gone there. His wife and children had left the year before, however.

"He thought we were dead, and we thought he was dead," Tracy Sam said.

Ros Sam, who is 67, talked about how hard it was to be apart from his family for so many years. He also talked briefly about the difficulty of making a new life in America.

After a while, however, he grew quiet and got a distant look in his eyes.

Seeking peace and serenity

With the worst of their hardships behind them, Tracy Sam and her parents express gratitude for where they are today.

For Tracy's part, she expresses special gratitude to her mother for protecting her during their years-long journey from Cambodia to the U.S.

"If it wasn't for my mom, I wouldn't be this far," she said.

Sam Ros said that he considered it a miracle when he was reunited with his family, and said his children have helped him learn how to live and get by in America.

Nou San said she's grateful just to be safe and to have the basic necessities needed to survive.

She also expressed thanks for the temple.

"She said that she comes to the temple to seek peace and serenity," Tracy Sam said. "She hopes that in the next life she won't have the bad things happen to her that happened in this life."

Saving The Seahorses


By Ron Gluckman

Cambodia's shoreline rapidly recedes behind waves of white foam as our boat roars out of Sihanoukville port, bound for what have long been uncharted waters. Across the border in Thailand, the coast long ago shifted from Robinson Crusoe retreats to a grand esplanade of beach huts, banana pancakes and Jack Johnson music. Yet Cambodia's palm-fringed beaches still look like a sepia photograph from half a century ago.

Credit, if you call it that, belongs to decades of war and the world's worst genocide. But growth and stability has swept these shores in recent years, bringing adventurous investors to this longtime Asian backwater, like Rory and Mel Hunter, an Australian couple guiding me to a pair of islands where they are building a small, upscale resort.

At least, that was the plan before the meltdown burst Cambodia's bubble; in recent years growth had been among the heartiest in the region, reaching 13% per annum. Now, it's reeling, and investors have fled or melted away, like Hong Kong's Millennium Group, which trumpeted a $10 billion development on Koh Rung, Cambodia's largest island. Millennium wanted to add roads, resorts, residential estates and an airport in a scheme modeled on Thailand's Phuket. The Hunters have modest plans for Koh Ouen and Bong, two tiny isles near Koh Rung, cuddled so close together locals call them Song Saa -- the Sweetheart Islands. But as boom became bust, Millennium closed its Cambodian offices leaving Koh Rung in the raw. Longtime Cambodian residents, the Hunters will stay and scale down from $1,000-per-night villas to a more ecological and affordable resort.

"In some ways, this may be a good thing," Mr. Hunter reflects on the slowdown. Many with a stake in Cambodia's tourism growth feel much the same, that the boom was too sudden, threatening the pristine environment. As we pass a Koh Rung beach, stretching for miles without a single footprint, Mr. Hunter adds: "Now, we all have a chance to rethink things, and maybe plan better."

Better planning would not only help a tourism industry that topped two million visitors for the first time in 2007 -- an astonishing 50-fold increase in 15 years -- it could benefit every sector. Transparency International ranks Cambodia among Asia's most corrupt countries; only Burma gets worse grades. It's also among Asia's poorest nations, and wealth disparity has widened despite the boom. Land evictions have become epidemic -- greedy developers partnered with corrupt officials have swept aside entire villages in real-estate scams. All of Cambodia's islands have been leased to foreign investors in the last few years. "Country for Sale," was the title of a scathing report from watchdog Global Witness, detailing rampant corruption that reached across every sector.

The response was typically Cambodian. The report was banned, and Global Witness barred from returning. "If they come to Cambodia, I will hit them until their heads are broken," said Hun Neng, a provincial governor and brother of Prime Minister Hun Sen.

Originally welcomed to Cambodia to help monitor its resources, London-based Global Witness has become a recurrent thorn in the side of the administration, detailing illegal exploitation of forests, gems and, invariably, people. So the latest news from Cambodia comes as a complete shocker. Global Witness and the government agree on an issue.

In May, Cambodia banned the export of sea sand. Sucked from the seabed by massive dredgers, it has increasingly filled the cement and landfill needs of expanding countries-mainly Singapore. Already banned across Asia, dredging rips up reefs and destroys marine environments, as detailed by Global Witness. "The government hasn't exactly agreed with us, but this certainly draws a lot of attention to the problem," says researcher Eleanor Nichol. "We welcome the ban and hope it is effectively enforced."

Hailed as a rare victory by environmentalists, and welcomed by the fledgling resorts and dive shops that are starting to attract tourists to Cambodia's coast, the ban's biggest boost comes to a small and largely silent local population -- seahorses.

Harvested to the brink of extinction around the world, seahorses have surely benefited from Cambodia's decades of turmoil. As tourists flocked to Thailand and later Vietnam, Cambodia's lost coast was the scene of fierce fighting from the 1970s through the 1990s. Bullet and mortar holes are still visible in seaside villas in Kep, which was a charming coastal resort called La Perle de la C&GBP 244;te d'Agathe in the 1960s. Soon after, the only idyll in these parts was underwater, among the thick grasses filled with seahorses around Koh Rung.

"We have seen groups of 50 together at one time," says Paul Ferber, a British dive instructor who moved from Phuket to the more remote and rich waters around Koh Rung. Such sightings are exceedingly rare, only reported in a handful of sites around the world, according to the international group Project Seahorse.

There are 33 known species of seahorses, which are actually fish, akin to tuna and salmon, all listed as endangered by international treaty or believed threatened. America is the largest market for seahorse tropical pets, but this is a sliver of sales. Some 20 to 24 million seahorses are taken from the seas each year, mainly by exporters from India, Thailand, the Philippines and Vietnam. Practically all are shipped to China, and ground up for medicine. Chinese believe the tiny creatures help male virility. Seahorse activists say consumption in China is still growing by about 10% per year.

Some believe global seahorse stocks have declined by 50% or more in recent decades, despite the almost universal appeal of the unique creatures. They mate for life, and the female impregnates the male, injecting eggs into his pouch, where they are incubated, kangaroo-style. Seahorses are incredibly fragile -- life spans range to four years and few reach adulthood. Death results from practically any disruption to their environment. Mr. Ferber reports that they have been decimated by dredging, dynamite and net fishing. Sightings are down to about 10 per dive, he says.

The sand wars swept into Cambodia in 2007, after Indonesia enacted its own ban on dredging due to disastrous impacts on islands where fisheries were destroyed and sinking reported. Most of that sand was shipped to Singapore, which has expanded almost 15% in size since 1960. To serve its growing population, the island state plans to add another 100 square kilometers to its borders by 2030. "They don't have much coast, so they have been taking ours," a resident of Sihanoukville quips.

Singapore isn't the only recipient of Cambodia's sand, prized for its coarseness and purity. "It's from coral reefs," notes Mr. Ferber, "so it's high grade." China has also mined and traded the sand. "Cambodian coast for sale," read one posting on, China's leading business-to-business e-commerce Web site. Even after the ban, sellers still tout Cambodian sand. Under a listing for "700 millions [sic] cubic meters of Sea Sand from Cambodia" a current vendor notes: "We are looking for a serious buy from Singapore or other countries. We have more than 700 millions [sic] cubic meters of sea sand for exploiting."

Global Witness estimated that the sand exports on the southern coast might total $35 million annually, based on exhaustive undercover investigations and a lot of extrapolation. Even to a poor country, that is shortsighted, as Cambodia is essentially selling its pristine shoreline for low-value landfill.

The hope, from the main beaches of Sihanoukville to the quiet cove of Kep, where a new sailing club recently opened at the stylish Knai Bang Chatt resort, is that the ban can slow growth to the peaceful pace that brought Europeans to this Riviera of Asia.

Cambodia's coastal growth is central to government plans to shift tourism from the temples of Angkor Wat in the north to promote longer stays in the country. The old Chinese-built airstrip at Sihanoukville was expanded two years ago into an international airport, but no regional carrier has added the route. Operators note that there are still too few hotels and tourist services in the area to make flights viable.

Seahorses could help put the area on the map, and perhaps convince Cambodia to make protection permanent. Environmentalists fret that the ban remains temporary and doesn't apply to domestic dredging. Divers report that Chinese and Vietnamese ships continue to operate while Global Witness worries that enforcement will be lax.

Still, Mr. Hunter is optimistic, noting the enthusiastic local support for his resort's privately funded marine preserve. When the resort opens next year, a resident marine biologist will be on hand to suggest ecological trips. "Imagine Thailand from 40 years ago," he says, "and you get an idea of the potential of Cambodia's islands."

For seahorses, the odds seem long the world over. But one bright spot on the horizon glimmers near Bohol, in the Philippines, another nation known for bad governance. A rare luminous variety of seahorses are protected in the Handumon marine sanctuary, which draws divers and tourists from around the globe. It's proof that with planning and the right protection, this needn't be the last roundup for seahorses.


Mr. Gluckman is a free-lance writer. He divides his time between Bangkok and Phnom Penh.

Cambodia Marks Veteran Day

PHNOM PENH, June 20 (Bernama) -- Cambodia on Saturday marked the second Veteran Day and the establishment of the Cambodian Veteran Association to memorize those who have sacrificed their lives to defend the sovereignty of country, reports Xinhua news agency.

"The veterans are our hero. They have devoted their life and their fresh blood to protect the sovereignty of the country in the past and present," Prime Minister Hun Sen said.

He made these remarks at the opening ceremony of the second anniversary of Veteran Day at Chak Tu Mok theater hall in Phnom Penh, according to Xinhua.

The premier who also lost one eye in the civil war in 1970s while he was a soldier is the President of the Cambodian Veteran Association which was set up on 2007.

The government has always encouraged veterans to participate the national obligation, social work, and restoration of peace and stability of the country and thanked them for implementing their duties in the protection of sovereignty, he said, adding that Cambodia also thanked brave soldiers who are standing at the border to protect borderline.

"We all are very proud that our veterans has been joining the de-mining at the foreign countries," he said.

He added that the government has been subsidizing over 87,875 families of veterans including 28,346 families of disabled people and 7,072 families who lost capacity to work.

Highlighting the contribution he himself has done to the veterans, the premier called on the whole society to participate in helping the veterans and their families.

Moreover, the premier said that the Ministry of Social Affairs and Youth Rehabilitation is creating regime of social security and national cashier for veterans.


PM Abhisit: Deputy PM Suthep to meet Cambodian PM Hun Sen next week

MCOT English News

BANGKOK, June 20 (TNA) - Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said Saturday that he will send Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thuagsuban to Cambodia next week, in an attempt to clarify Thailand's objection to the Preah Vihear listing to Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen.

The Thai reaction came as the Khmer prime minister expressed "deep regret" after Thailand announced intentions to ask the World Heritage Committee meeting in Seville, Spain, next week to review its decision last year to register Cambodia’s unilateral listing of the Hindu temple.

Mr. Hun Sen said that the issue was not raised when Mr. Abhisit met him in Phnom Penh last week.

The Thai premier however believed that after Mr. Suthep meets Hun Sen in Cambodia, his Cambodian counterpart will understand Thailand's stance.

“I haven't talked to him (Premier Hun Sen) yet, nor the Cambodian ambassador in Thailand, but I believe that this will not worsen the situation and we will discuss to clarify the matter, the Thai premier said.

Deputy Prime Minister Suthep will also discuss the Thai-Cambodian demarcation of overlapping sea areas during his visit in Phnom Penh. (TNA)

FM: Thai objection to Preah Vihear listing against World Heritage, UNESCO, not Cambodia

MCOT English News

BANGKOK, June 20 (TNA) -- Foreign Affairs Minister Kasit Piromya reasserted Saturday that Thailand’s plan object to Cambodia’s listing of Preah Vihear temple as a World Heritage Site is directed at the World Heritage Committee and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), not the Cambodian government.

He said Suwit Khunkitti, Minister of Natural Resources and Environment, who will attend a World Heritage Committee meeting in Seville, Spain, next week as an observer, will meet the chairman of the Committee beforehand regarding Thailand’s objection to Cambodia’s unilateral listing of the temple which sits on the border between the two countries.

UNESCO granted Cambodia’s application for Preah Vihear to be designated a World Heritage site in July last year.

The International Court of Justice ruled in 1962 that the temple belongs to Cambodia but armed clashes between soldiers of the two countries have occurred periodically near the temple, especially at a 4.6 square kilometre disputed area, since then.

“This issue is between Thailand and the World Heritage Committee and the UNESCO and not between Thailand and Cambodia,” Mr. Kasit, adding that Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva had said that Cambodia is not involved in this matter.

Mr. Kasit declined to say whether the Thai action would change the prior decision because it is up to the committee, and Thailand is attending not as a member but as observer.

He said the meeting also has other matters of its agenda, to discuss and may also act on Thailand’s proposal on naming other historical sites to become World Heritage sites. (TNA)

Cambodia, China, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam forge economic pact

Friday 19th June, 2009

Ministers from the six Greater Mekong Sub-region (GMS) nations have endorsed a comprehensive plan of action to expand and strengthen cooperation in key areas, including energy and human resource development.

In a joint statement delivered at the 15th GMS Ministerial Conference in Petchburi province, Thailand, the ministers, from Cambodia, China, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam, noted that despite current economic turmoil the six countries are making significant progress on a wide range of initiatives to advance economic development in the sub-region.

In the energy sector, the ministers endorsed a road map for the expansion of the existing cross-border energy trade, and for broader integration in the power sector, beyond electricity. The plan seeks to extend modern energy access to all GMS communities, not just through rural electrification schemes and off-grid power systems, but by enhancing cross-border energy integration, allowing countries to tap the sub-region’s diverse energy resource base that includes hydro, oil, gas and coal.

A more integrated energy system will help lower investment costs, reduce external dependence, improve energy security, diversify supply, and lower carbon emissions. The road map calls for supply side actions such as promoting energy efficiency and accelerating the development of renewable, environmentally friendly energy sources.

The ministers also endorsed a new human resources development plan that includes measures to promote safer labor migration; to strengthen communicable disease control; to bolster education and skills development across the subregion, and to combat human trafficking.

"The agreement to accelerate action on cross-border power trade and the development of renewable energy resources will boost energy security, through improved efficiency of energy use, while contributing to reduced greenhouse emissions in a subregion which is especially vulnerable to the effects of climate change," said ADB Vice President C. Lawrence Greenwood.

Mr. Greenwood congratulated the ministers for the progress made to date in controlling the spread of communicable diseases, and for strengthening the capabilities of the subregion to respond to the threat of disease outbreaks. He noted that improvements have been made against a backdrop of increased physical connectivity in the world, and the emergence of new global health threats.

Mr. Greenwood also noted that ADB would continue its support for improving the capacity of mid and senior-level civil service officials, and for strengthening subregional research institutions, both of which are critical to the GMS development agenda.

Over the next three years, GMS ministers said they will aim to implement the GMS cross-border transport agreement and other transport and trade initiatives, turn transport corridors into full-fledged economic zones, and target environmental improvements.

UN, civil society, criticize Cambodian government's string of lawsuits against media, opposition figures

SEAPA (Southeast Asian Press Alliance)

19 June 2009

The Cambodian government's filing of several defamation and disinformation lawsuits not only against journalists but opposition lawmakers as well, pose a "serious threat" to the country's development, the UN's human rights envoy said on 15 June 2009.

"The Phnom Penh Post" said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Surya Subedi issued the statement upon his arrival in in Cambodia's capital, noting that the past two months have seen an increase in the number of high-level government officials filing eight separate defamation and disinformation suits against government critics.

"These actions undermine the constitutional freedom of opinion and expression which everyone in Cambodia is entitled to, and which is the cornerstone of the exercise of civil and political rights," the statement said.

"Pursuing the current complaints may reverse the course of the still fragile democratic development process," it added.

The statement cited the complaints filed by government officials, including separate cases against opposition party president Sam Rainsy; SRP lawmakers Mu Sochua and Ho Vann; Hang Chakra, publisher of the "Khmer Machas Srok" newspaper; Khmer Civilisation Association President Moeun Sonn; and Soung Sophorn, a 22-year-old student.

Local civil society groups claimed the government has enlisted the UNTAC criminal code's Articles 62 [disinformation] and 63 [defamation and libel] as the newest weapons in its fight against dissenting opinion, "The Phnom Penh Post" added.

Ou Virak, president of the Cambodian Centre of Human Rights (CCHR), said the current situation is reminiscent of the government's actions in 2005, when, he said, the government wanted to divert attention from an unpopular border treaty with Vietnam.

"Instead of defending the treaty, the Cambodian government began filing a lot of defamation lawsuits," he said.

The main concern in 2009, Ou Virak said, is land rights.

"Land issues today are the only issues in Cambodia that could ... potentially create social unrest and might even undermine the current government," he said, adding that "Land conflicts are so widespread that the government has to do something drastic and divert attention."

The CCHR issued a statement along with four other local NGOs on 18 June, citing the threat posed to freedom of expression in the country by these recent court actions and crackdowns on public meetings.

Govt stands by renewed temple bid

Tea Banh on the attack, Hun Sen 'regrets move'

Bangkok Post

Published: 20/06/2009

The government has defended its renewed campaign against Cambodia's listing of the Preah Vihear temple, saying it could talk Phnom Penh into understanding Thailand's stance.

Thailand's decision to maintain its objection to the unilateral listing of the Khmer ruins as a World Heritage site has upset Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, who said he deeply regretted Thailand's position.

Cambodian Defence Minister Tea Banh yesterday took the Thai government to task for raising the matter which he said was likely to mar bilateral attempts to resolve border disputes.

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva yesterday said the government has "ways" to communicate with Cambodia to avert border tension and he believed that Hun Sen would understand.

"The cabinet has widely discussed the matter because we do not want any conflict. Still, we have to defend what we believe to be our legitimate rights," Mr Abhisit said.

"If he knows our intention, there is nothing for him to regret," he said of Hun Sen's comment.

Mr Abhisit said Thailand felt the need to renew the objection because the proceedings undertaken by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) to manage the site were deemed to threaten Thailand's approach to mitigate border disputes.

"We understand that the World Heritage Committee mission is to preserve heritage sites so people have a chance to appreciate them, and that involves peace. Its objectives will not be met if its proceedings will lead to conflicts," the prime minister said.

Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban said the matter was now between Thailand and Unesco, not between Thailand and Cambodia. "Unesco isn't doing it right. It is not about Cambodia," he said.

Mr Suthep said he would try to hold talks with Hun Sen. There would be no fresh disputes, he added.

Earlier, the Foreign Ministry sent a letter to Unesco to inform the organisation that it should seek permission from the Thai government if it wished to conduct any activities in the area surrounding the ancient Hindu temple.

After that, reports emerged that Unesco officials had inspected parts of the 4.6 sq km disputed area near the World Heritage site.

Meanwhile, the Cambodian defence minister said Thailand's renewed bid to oppose Phnom Penh's unilateral listing of Preah Vihear temple has left him at a loss.

"I cannot get myself to understand why the Thai government has to do this," he told the Bangkok Post.

Gen Tea Banh said Phnom Penh had not got wind of the Thai government's move, and that Mr Abhisit did not raise the issue during his visit to Cambodia last Friday.

He said the Thai government's move would only compound the border disputes both sides have long tried to resolve.

He declined to comment if the issue was related to Hun Sen's alleged close ties with former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

Gen Tea Banh also refuted the Thai government's claim that Cambodia had brought artillery and soldiers to the World Heritage site.

Army chief Gen Anupong Paojinda said the Thai-Cambodian border situation remained calm and both sides had agreed to adjust troop deployments to avoid violent confrontation.

He refused to comment on Hun Sen's dissatisfaction with the Thai government's stance, saying it was not his business to judge the Cambodian leader's remarks.

Second Army commander Lt Gen Wibulsak Neepal told troops in positions along the Thai-Cambodian border to stay alert.

Natural Resources and Environment Minister Suwit Khunkitti said he would lead the Thai delegation to a World Heritage Committee meeting in Seville, Spain, next week, to reiterate Thailand's objection to Cambodia's unilateral listing of the temple.

Your neighbor in heaven, Kaing Guek Eav

Mitchell Sibley-Jett
Hartford Christian Examiner

June 19

As one who is still a fairly new convert to Christianity (only since 1996), I confess I am still a bit dumbstruck by the things that Jesus says. I guess by this point I should be inured to how radical He was, is, and will be in the future, but I’m not. I just can’t seem to get over the things that He says and does. Do other believers also struggle with this issue? I wonder. I sometimes find myself going back to re-read something He said, just to make sure I understood it correctly. For example, in Luke 23, Jesus says this to a criminal who’s about to put to death “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise” Did Jesus really say that? Did Jesus really grant this man a pardon (and an eternal one at that) to a criminal who in all likelihood had committed murder, rape, or some other egregious crime? The grace that Jesus gave this man was not warranted by any human measure of kindness, but granted by Him anyway.

I’ve been thinking on the very subject of God’s grace for today’s column, and so the question I raise is this; what are the limits of God’s grace? Does it have quantifiable limits? Can it be measured with some sort of heavenly micrometer or laser measuring device? Who are the recipients of this blessing, and who are not? Can the process of grace administration be understood to conform to some sort of pattern? Can we dissect it and understand it as we try to understand everything else? In a phrase, can we figure out grace?

I will say I do not understand grace. At its core, grace is a Godly blessing that successfully resists our feeble attempts to decode it. Grace can’t be understood by conventional human tools of deconstruction, as it was only a smear of protoplasm on a slide for some 8th grader student to gawk at. It is not. We cannot decipher grace. We cannot dissect it, take it apart sinew from tendon, muscle from bone, and come to sort of conclusion about how grace works, the how’s, the whys, and the when’s.

I do know something about grace and it is this; it’s an absolute miracle it shows up at all. I believe I’m using this word “miracle” in what I think is its proper Biblical context. It’s completely unlike the “miracle” shine you get when you apply some cleaner to your toilet bowl. For the man who found himself on a roman cross next to Jesus more than 2,000 ago, Jesus’ gift of grace was a miracle. It was undeserved, completely unexpected, and completely wonderful.

The second thing I know about grace is that it is ridiculously unfair. In fact, I would go even further and say it’s the quintessence of unfair. That’s what makes grace so great. If we review the rudiments of the aforementioned story, I believe you’ll reach the same conclusion. A man is being put to death for some horrific crime, and just because he asks, is given a last minute “pardon” by Jesus. How is that fair? If that man had committed murder, how would his victim’s family feel? I doubt they’d be pleased with this decision by Jesus to get him off the hook. How could Jesus dispense His grace so readily? How can Jesus grant such a blessing to a man who, perhaps only moved by his selfish desire to remain alive, asked Jesus for what only Jesus can give? That’s the ridiculously unfair part. That a wicked man received grace for no other reason than he just asked for it.

Let me introduce you to another man who asked Jesus for grace, and just like that unnamed man all those years ago, received something he most assuredly did not deserve. I want you to know this man, because if Jesus words are to be believed, you’ll be seeing him again soon. In fact, he’s going to be your neighbor in heaven for a very long time. This man’s name is Kaing Guek Eav, though his nickname has been “Duch” since he was a boy growing up in Cambodia. Duch was born in 1942, and as a young boy was a good student and was remembered by his teachers later as being especially gifted in mathematics. His teacher at the time noticed this, and encouraged him to pursue this further. In part because of this encouragement, Duch later became a teacher himself. At this time, Duch’s home country was undergoing great social and political upheaval. In response to these changes, Duch felt called to help the poor and alleviate some of the injustices that were so prevalent during this time. In 1970 Duch joined a political party called the Khmer Rouge.

This decision proved to be a fateful one. Over the next few years, as the situation in Southeast Asia grew ever-more volatile and the Vietnam War raged, Duch was put into positions of increasing responsibility for the Khmer Rouge. Later, he became the head of all the security forces. Duch’s God-endowed qualities of attention to detail, meticulousness, and his desire to please others became increasingly warped by the very group he thought would liberate his country. Instead, the Khmer Rouge brought hell to Cambodia.

As Duch’s responsibilities grew, he found himself the regime’s principal architect in protecting the state against its enemies, both real and imagined. In this capacity, Duch personally oversaw the torture and execution of over 12,000 men, women and children. Many of these people were tortured into confessing some “crime,” then their throats were slit, their skulls bashed open with hammers, or had the blood drained from the bodies. It didn’t matter if the prisoners were women, children, or the elderly; they all were murdered under Duch’s authority. The main prison where much of these killings took place was called Tuol Sleng. One of the people that passed through its gates during this period was Duch’s old school teacher. The very one who had commended him for his math skills. The very one who had recommended that he join the Khmer Rouge all those years ago.

As the war drew to a close, the Khmer Rouge began to loose power, and so Duch joined the communist party. He stayed in high positions within the government until the mid 1980’s when he disappeared. He dropped out of sight, and no one knew if Duch was dead or alive. In 1999, journalists tracked him down, now living in refugee camps, once again teaching mathematics. In 2007, Duch was arrested and charged with “war crimes, crimes against humanity, torture and premeditated murder.” He is currently on trial for these crimes. One of the facts that came out during the investigative phase of this trial was that since the late 1990’s, Duch had become a Christian. Duch’s wife had been murdered in 1996, so perhaps this had some impact on his decision to accept Jesus as his Lord and Savior.

If we accept at face value that Duch’s “conversion” is a genuine one, than we have to also conclude that his “pardon” from Jesus was also genuine. That is, Duch was given a “permanent-for-all-time-never-expires-get-out-of-hell-free” card by Jesus Himself. This “if” is, I’ll grant you, a BIG IF. The truth is that we may never know if Duch’s conversion was authentic, but God does. God knows everything, so if it’s a lie, it would be exposed about 1 billionth of a nano-second after Duch died.
But for the sake of argument, let’s say that Duch’s conversion was genuine. That he really did accept Jesus as his Lord and Savior, what then? If true, then Duch was granted this absolution based not on any deeds (or in Duch’s case, misdeeds) that he committed, but rather full acceptance of the perfect atoning death that Jesus did on our behalf. Jesus died for Duch, and even writing that seems so monstrously unjust. How could someone so perfect so lay down his life for someone so vile?
That is the scandal of grace; that Jesus who never ever made one single mistake, gave up his life in payment for the debt that sin requires us to pay for our misdeeds. Jesus died not for the good among us, but for the worst. Jesus paid the price for our mistakes, how fair is that? How fair is it that wicked people, just like Duch, get off the hook and receive a “forever” pardon?

To be sure, we want grace for ourselves, but in the same breath, we may wish that Jesus would deny it to others who we deem less deserving. But grace doesn’t’ work that way. We don’t get to decide who receives grace, only Jesus does. And thank Him for that! And if scripture is to be believed, Jesus grants His grace to all who ask. This bears repeating.., to all who ask. Returning to where we began, the condemned man asked for grace and absolution. Duch asked for them too. Both received it, though neither deserved it. Jesus welcomed Duch in His home, and because of this, will be our neighbor there for a very long time. Grace is so profoundly and eternally unfair. And amen to that.

Retired American engineer charged with sexual conduct with minors in Asia

LOS ANGELES, June 19 (Xinhua) -- U.S. law enforcement has arrested a retired American engineer with allegations that he engaged in illicit sexual conduct with underage girls in Thailand and Cambodia.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) also announced the arrest of three American men who were charged with crimes to use Internet to find teenage girls to have sex with and have child porn on computer.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) confirmed on Friday that Curtis David Fahberg, a 63-year-old retired engineer from Mississippi, was taken into custody by ICE on June 12 at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) following his deportation from Thailand.

Fahlberg, accompanied by ICE agents, was returned from Thailand to face charges detailed in a criminal complaint filed last month that he engaged in illicit sexual conduct in foreign countries.

The violation carries a maximum sentence of up to 30 years in prison. The case is being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Central District of California in Los Angeles.

Fahlberg was arrested on June 9 at his residence in Pattaya City, Thailand, by Thai immigration authorities and placed in deportation proceedings. At the hearing Wednesday in Los Angeles, U.S. Magistrate Judge Jennifer T. Lum ordered Fahlberg detained pending trial.

ICE's probe into Fahlberg's activities began in June 2006 after officers with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) at LAX questioned him following his return from a trip to Thailand.

A preliminary examination by CBP of two laptop computers and a cell phone Fahlberg had in his possession revealed images of children in various stages of undress. A subsequent forensic analysis by ICE of those media uncovered more sexually explicit images of children as well as numerous e-mails written by Fahlberg detailing his sexual exploitation of children in Thailand and Cambodia.

The affidavit filed in connection with the criminal complaint described the defendant's alleged sexual activities with several underage girls, the youngest of whom told investigators she was in second grade when the defendant began photographing her in the nude.

According to the affidavit, several of the girls Fahlberg had sexual encounters with were child prostitutes who worked in the Cambodian village of Svay Pak outside Phnom Pehn. In an e-mail recovered from Fahlberg's computer, he wrote "I don't worry how old a girl is if I like her."

"The charges against this defendant are a direct result of the extraordinary cooperation we received from Thai and Cambodian law enforcement," said Robert Schoch, special agent in charge of the ICE Office of Investigations in Los Angeles .

"Some pedophiles mistakenly believe they can escape detection and prosecution by committing child sex crimes overseas. We are putting pedophiles on notice that ICE and its law enforcement partners here and abroad stand ready to pursue and prosecute those who sexually exploit children," said Schoch.

"The exploitation of children is among the most heinous of crimes," said Director of Field Operations Kevin Weeks.

He said his team will remain vigilant in the efforts to secure the borders and the communities by working diligently to enforce laws involving crimes against children.

The probe into Fahlberg's activities was conducted by ICE's Office of Investigations in Los Angeles and the agency's attach office in Bangkok.

ICE worked closely on the case with the Department of State's Diplomatic Security Service, the Cambodian National Police and the Royal Thai Police. ICE also received substantial assistance from Hagar International and World Vision, two non-governmental organizations involved in the effort to aid Cambodian child sex tourism victims.

Fahlberg is being prosecuted under the provisions of the Protect Act, which went into effect six years ago, substantially strengthened federal laws against predatory crimes involving children outside the United States by adding new crimes and increasing the penalties for these charges.

Meanwhile, FBI announced that two men from Orange County in Southern California were arrested for allegedly using the Internet to find teenage girls to have sex with, and a third was arrested on suspicion of having child porn on his computer.

David Brown, 34, of Lake Forest, allegedly had a four-month sexual relationship with a 15-year-old girl, while Richard Chaney,23, of Costa Mesa, is accused of having sex with a 14-year-old girl, said Salvador Hernandez, assistant director in charge of the FBI's Los Angeles Field Office.

Brock Jackson, 21, of Rancho Santa Margarita, was arrested Thursday by Fullerton police detectives on suspicion of possessing child pornography. He was arrested during an investigation into a vehicle theft, during which hundreds of videos and 6,000 pictures of alleged child porn were found on his laptop computer, Hernandez said.

Editor: Yan

Cambodia police arrest 23 Nigerians in heroin case

Associated Press

Cambodian police arrested 23 Nigerian men suspected of drug trafficking as authorities continued to hunt for the ringleader and other suspects, an official said Friday.
Police Maj. Born Sam Ath said the 23 suspects were arrested in separate operations Wednesday after authorities received information from a Cambodian woman about their activities.

Three of the suspects were arrested while traveling on the road in the capital, he said, adding that officers found 1.5 pounds (0.7 kilograms) of heroin hidden in a bag of clothes.

Police interrogated the three suspects and later arrested 20 others, Born Sam Ath said.

Investigators continued to search for the group's leader and others involved, he said. He declined to comment on the identity of the leader and the number of those still on the run.

The suspects were held at a police station and have not been charged officially, the police official said.

Earlier this month, the authorities torched nearly three tons of an herb used to produce "herbal ecstasy" as part of a campaign to wipe out designer drugs.

The bonfire destroyed ephedra, used to make "herbal ecstasy" pills that have been blamed for deaths in the United States and elsewhere, as well as another ton of the chemical thionyl chloride, which is used to make methamphetamine. "Herbal ecstasy" typically refers to a combination of stimulants _ often including ephedra.

Southeast Asia has long been a major producer and exporter of heroin, and in recent years it has also become a major source of stimulant-type drugs such as methamphetamine.

Myanmar is a leading exporter of both heroin and methamphetamine, which are smuggled into and through nearby countries. Cambodia has increasingly become a transit route for drug smugglers.

Peacefulness Is Still Intact In Cambodia's Remote Ruins

Bas-relief carvings are preserved among encroaching greenery at the Banteay Chhmar temple complex, above. In the structure at rear, carved human features can still be discerned on one of the site's "face towers." (Dan Thompson-Global Heritage Fund)

Bodies sink into the watery depths during a naval battle depicted in temple bas-reliefs from the 12th century. ( John Burgess)

Cows come to graze on the grounds of the Banteay Chhmar temple. (John Burgess - The Washington Post)

By John Burgess
Special to The Washington Post
Sunday, June 21, 2009

It's early on a Sunday morning in Cambodia, and I'm standing at a 12th-century moat. Traces of mist hover above the lotus leaves that dapple the water. Across a causeway, through a tumbled-down gate, lies Banteay Chhmar, one of the largest temples ever built by the ancient Khmer Empire. My friends and I are going to have the place all to ourselves.

We walk in. It turns out that we do end up sharing it, with a local man who brings his cows onto the grounds to graze. And with an affable mason who leads us across acres of fallen stone to see a message from the past, an inscription chiseled into the doorjamb of a holy tower. This kind of company we welcome.

Cambodia's great temples of Angkor, 65 miles away, have long since been rediscovered after a quarter-century of closure by war. They now draw more than a million foreign visitors a year, not a few of whom regret that so many other people had the same idea. At peak hours, human traffic jams can form at temple steps once reserved for kings and priests.

But go beyond Angkor and you can find places that serve up the old solitude and sense of discovery. You can explore at your own pace, to the sounds of birds and the breeze that stirs the leaves overhead. In postcards and e-mails home, you will search for words worthy of your sentiments of wonder.

Banteay Chhmar is among the most spectacular of these places. Getting to it entails hours on very bumpy and dusty dirt roads. Staying the night means making do with primitive accommodations: candlelit rooms in local homes, bath water drawn from that same moat.

I stayed the night, and it turned out to really make the visit. The next morning I rose early, as everyone here does, and took a walk in clean country air. I passed mother hens foraging with their chicks, boys tending to a mud oven in which charcoal was being made. I was seeing not only a temple but a way of life.

Today several thousand people -- rice farmers, cattle herders, market vendors -- make their homes on all four sides of the temple. They grow vegetables on the banks of a series of moats; they pile straw within the walls of lesser ancient buildings that dot their settlement. The ancient and present day coexist.

Spending time here also means doing a good turn, spreading a bit of wealth in a part of a war-recovering country that has largely missed out on the tourist dollars that Angkor is bringing in. People do have cellphones (charged by generator), and some have small tractors, but there are few other signs of affluence here.

Banteay Chhmar was created in the Khmer Empire's last great burst of construction, under the 12th-century Buddhist king Jayavarman VII. His engineers were thinking big even by Khmer standards: To contain a great settlement, they built earthworks and moats that formed a square measuring roughly one mile on each side. At its center, within another square moat system half a mile on each side, they built the temple.

More than a century ago, French archaeologist Etienne Aymonier found the temple to be in a state of "indescribable ruin." It still is, despite the efforts of that friendly mason, who is part of a small reconstruction team. But that's part of what makes the site so enticing. Exploring it means climbing over huge piles of large fallen stones, something to be tackled by only the sure-footed. We passed ruined towers, courtyards and ceremonial walkways. Sometimes the stones were so high that we were walking at roof level.

The temple is no longer a formal religious site, but Cambodians believe that it, like all those that their forebears left behind, remains a holy site. In one surviving chamber we found a small contemporary shrine, with a Buddha image wearing a cloth robe, where people made incense offerings. When rain is needed, local people are reported to walk in a procession around the temple, imploring heaven to help.

One of the best parts of this temple is the many hundreds of feet of bas-reliefs on its outer walls. We had to scramble up more stones to get a good view. Before us was a full sample of life 900 years ago: processions of elephants, prominent ladies tended by maids, children roughhousing, villagers in a sampan, servants tending a stove.

There were also many scenes of war with Champa, the long-vanished rival state to the east: The temple is in large part a memorial to four generals who lost their lives in that long conflict. On land, the men of arms go at one another fiercely with spears (you can identify the Chams by the curious blossom-shaped headdress they wear). On water, rows of men pull at oars from galleys as others strike at the enemy with spears. There are also images of the divine, notably the god Vishnu, with 32 arms arrayed like rays of light emanating from the sun.

The carving style is similar to that of the Bayon temple reliefs in Angkor. The difference is there's no need to fight for a view. We did cross paths for a few minutes our first day with a party of about 20 French-speaking tourists. We saw no other visitors that day or the next.

Late in the afternoon, we went for a look at what the ancient Khmers could do with water. Just east of the temple, they created a reservoir that measures roughly a mile by a half-mile. Academics disagree over whether this body, and others like it, did only symbolic duty as earthly stand-ins for the mythic Sea of Creation, or were part of a vast irrigation system, or both. Whatever the truth, I was awed by the scale. The tree line way, way off in the distance was the northern bank.

The reservoir was now largely dry, but because its floor is low and collects water before the surrounding land does, it has been divided into rice paddies. We went for a stroll, walking along paddy dikes to keep our feet dry. We said hello to members of a farming family who were tinkering with a small tractor. A woman had caught a bucketful of paddy crabs and insects, which she would sell as food. In the final daylight, we passed a group of young men bringing cattle home.

I passed the night at the house of a Cambodian family, friends of a friend. They couldn't have been more gracious. They gave me a room of my own, bottled water, mosquito coils and a big luxury: a car battery hooked to a fluorescent light. I could have light all night if I wanted it.

Other members of our party slept at a formal homestay, the term given to guesthouses as well as family homes that accept paying guests, a few steps from the temple's gate. It had two rooms with large beds covered by mosquito nets. Downstairs there was a basic bathroom with a squat toilet and scoop bath.

Staying the night brought another cultural experience. A festival was going on nearby, and its amplified music carried into my room as I sat reading. Then around 10 p.m., silence. Private generators don't run all night, even for a celebration.

I got up at dawn, scoop-bathed in slightly murky water and walked to the moat from which it had been drawn. I took in the early morning sights: the mist, dogs prowling around in first light. I played amateur archaeologist for a bit, noting that an ancient feeder or outflow channel, now dry, was connected to the moat at this corner.

Later we went exploring on foot. Mixed in among wooden homes were the stone walls of lesser 12th-century relics that had been monasteries or small temples. The ruins of one temple's gate lay foliage-shrouded just a few steps from a house. Little boys ran about, and a teenage girl ironed clothing.

We had breakfast at a stall in the town's market; there are no proper restaurants. It was noodle soup with chicken, and very good.

I first visited Angkor in 1969. Back then, you could be alone in the big temples even there. I once walked through the largest of them, Angkor Wat, encountering hardly a soul. It's good to know that such an experience can still be had. You just have to work a bit harder for it.

John Burgess is a former foreign correspondent for The Post. He last wrote for Travel about a country walk in Kent, England.

Civil Society Agrees with the Declaration of Their Property in Order to Encourage an Anti-Corruption Law to Be Adopted Soon – Tuesday, 16.6.2009

Posted on 19 June 2009
The Mirror, Vol. 13, No. 617

“Most civil society organizations agree to declare their property so that an anti-corruption law can be adopted soon by the National Assembly. But according to the law, such encouragement of the government is not appropriate, because civil society organizations do not earn their salaries from the government, but donors directly monitor them and if they found any irregularities or corruption among the leaders of civil society organizations operating in Cambodia, they will no longer assist them.

“The executive director of the Cambodian Defenders Project, Mr. Sok Sam Oeun, said that his organization is thoroughly monitored by donors relating to different expenses by careful inspection. However, he welcomes the encouragement by civil society officials to declare their property, if it is an opportunity to accelerte the adoption of an anti-corruption law soon. He added that actually, civil society is not in control of power, so if there are any cases of corruption, it does not affect the political stability and the economy of the society. In contrast, the government is in control of power and the ruler of the nation, both in politics and for the economy. And if there is corruption, it is really a hazard for the citizens living in that society.

“Corruption is a major topic, that is why the government of Hun Sen and of the Cambodian People’s Party was very uneasy when the US ambassador, Mr. Carol Rodley, stated at the end of May that there is widespread corruption in Cambodia. After the statement of the ambassador, high ranking officials of the Cambodian government and a senior advisor to Prime Minister Hun Sen, the chairperson of the government anti-corruption unit, Om Yentieng, released clarifying statements on TV, and there are as well continuing attacks against civil society criticizing ongoing corruption. Even a series of comedies performed on TV is attacking civil society unreasonably, in order to protect the actual corruption of some government officials. This is a example of really protecting corruption.

“The president of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, Mr. Ou Vireak, expressed it position as a civil society organization by agreeing to declare his property, so that an anti-corruption law, which is crucial, can be adopted and put into practice soon to prevent corruption, which is alarmingly widespread in Cambodia at present. Though the intention of civil society organizations to declare their property is not so important, nevertheless, civil society organizations are not afraid to make their property known.

“Cambodia is among the countries with serious corruption in a report published by USAID, where each year Cambodia is alleged to lose US$350 million to US$500 million through corruption. This makes the living standard of citizens more difficult, even though over the years, Cambodia received billions of dollars of foreign aid from the international community. At present, high ranking officials of the Cambodian People’s Party are asking those who provided loans to Cambodia to cancel the debts of Cambodia.

“Regarding the suggestion to see that civil society officials make their property known, some legal experts said that this is not a right method, as civil society officials are not in control of state power, through which corruption can be committed to take advantage of state property, both in real estate and in natural resources. Civil society organizations operate based on aid from the international community. If the heads of any organization commits corruption which leads to the loss of trust from donors, donors will stop granting aid to them. Thus, this problem is related to donors and programs only, between international donors and civil society, while the government does not need to worry about it, and donors do not just spend money to hire people to curse the government [as has been alleged].

“Many civil society organizations want to see an anti-corruption law adopted soon, which can guarantee the continuation of national development as well as to ensure that there is no corruption using the aid provided to Cambodia. Moreover, in the next few years, the revenue from natural oil, which is an important financial source for Cambodia, will need to be focused also, and this needs a clear law to control such income.

“The intention for civil society organizations to declare their property is not their own idea, aiming at development or at eliminating corruption. But it is a kind of idea introduced to silence them, without having at the same time the real intention to see the adoption of an anti-corruption law. Observers said that the Cambodian People’s Party government seems to have no intention to adopt an anti-corruption law to help reduce the spreading corruption in Cambodia.”

Moneaksekar Khmer, Vol.16, #3785, 16.6.2009
Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Lighting Scheme Has ‘No Affect’ on Temples: Council

By Heng Reaksmey, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
19 June 2009

Council Minister Sok An told the National Assembly Friday that a system of outdoor lighting at the Angkor Wat temples will not hurt the ancient structures and could be a boon to tourism.

“The heat from the lamps is 50,000-times weaker than the sun and less than the moon,” Sok An said, citing lengthy studies prior to the beginning of the scheme.

Critics of the plan worry the lighting, undertaken under the Apsara Authority, the government body that oversees the temples, could be damaging.

Moeung Son, chairman of the Khmer Civilization Foundation, is facing a lawsuit for his public criticism of the lighting.

The International Coordinating Committee for Angkor, which advises Apsara, recommended the lighting, on the entryway to Angkor Wat and along the famous temple’s northern bas-relief gallery.

Sok An said broadcasters Radio Free Asia and Voice of America were distorting news about the lighting and were “the cause of the confusion of public opinion.”

The lighting will enable tourists to visit the temple at night and is among several initiatives being developed by the Ministry of Tourism to attract more visitors at time when the economic crisis has stunted arrivals, Sok An said.

Tourism is the second-leading economic driver in Cambodia, behind garment exports. Both sectors have been hard-hit by the global economic crisis.

Lawsuits Eroding Democratic Progress: UN

By Kong Sothanarith, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
19 June 2009

Civil and criminal lawsuits against opposition figures and journalists are undermining Cambodia’s progress on democracy, the UN rights office in Phnom Penh has warned.

The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights said in a statement Friday that a number of court cases against officials like Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker Mu Sochua “seriously affect democracy.”

Hun Sen is pursuing a countersuit against Mu Sochua, whose charges against the premier, for allegedly degrading remarks during last year’s election campaign, have already been dismissed.

In pursuing the suit against Mu Sochua, Phnom Penh Municipal Court has requested that the National Assembly suspend her parliamentary immunity. The full Assembly, comprised of a wide majority of Hun Sen’s Cambodian People’s Party, is expected to vote on the immunity question Monday.

“The taking away of, or threat of taking away of, parliamentarian immunity is a threat regarding the lawmaker and seriously affects democracy,” the rights office said.

The UN office highlighted six cases, five of which are under the aegis of Phnom Penh deputy prosecutor Sok Roeun.

For example, opposition lawmaker Ho Vann is facing a suit from military officials after he criticized certificates they were granted by Vietnamese authorities.

The editor of the opposition-aligned Khmer Machas Srok newspaper is facing a suit for defaming Council Minister Sok An.

Moeung Son, the head of a non-governmental agency, is being sued for publicly complaining that the Apsara Authority, with the permission of the government, is shining lights on the temples of Angkor Wat.

“In the context under which Cambodian court easily receives power from the executive institution, whether civil or penal complaints, those complaints are a serious threat to the development of democracy Cambodia has built over the last 16 years,” the rights office said.

Government spokesman Khieu Kanharith could not be reached for comment. Om Yentieng, head of the government’s human rights office, could not be reached.

“What [the UN office] mentioned is not really related to the truth,” said Cheam Yiep, a CPP National Assemblyman told VOA Khmer. “Democracy has much improved.”

Council Approves Draft Penal Code

By Chun Sakada, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
19 June 2009

The Council of Ministers on Friday green-lighted a draft law to adjust the national penal code, paving the way for passage by the National Assembly and potentially paving the way for anti-corruption legislation.

The 672-article draft code is designed to respond to “various modern crimes” and to ensure “the rights, freedom, dignity, social security and public order for people,” the Council of Ministers said in a statement.

An outdated penal code has obstructed the passage of anti-corruption laws donors have urged for years.

Council spokesman Phay Siphan said the draft code would protect the public interest and set up anti-corruption legislation.

Prime Minister Hun Sen said in public remarks Wednesday an anti-corruption law would follow the passage of the penal code, which must now be passed by the National Assembly.

“This penal code is better than the old penal code,” said Sok Samoeun, executive director of Cambodian Defenders Project, adding that the draft code could be more easily implemented.

However, Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker Yim Sovann said while the penal code looked good on paper, its proper implementation was a concern.

UN Envoy Questioned Over Duch Testimony

By Sok Khemara, VOA Khmer
Original report from Washington
19 June 2009

Prime Minister Hun Sen used the first visit of a new UN human rights envoy to raise allegations from Khmer Rouge torture chief Duch that a UN rights officer offered to help him leave the country.

Duch, who is undergoing an atrocity crimes trial at the UN-backed tribunal, has said in testimony he was once approached by Christopher Peschoux to be helped out of the country. Duch said he refused to leave.

Peschoux, who was once a rights monitor in Cambodia and is now head of the country’s UN rights office, could not be reached for comment, but former colleagues say he is an expert in international law and was unlikely to have made such an offer if he knew who Duch was.

Hun Sen pressed UN special envoy for human rights to Cambodia, Surya Subedi, on the allegations, questioning whether such behavior fit the role of the head of the country’s human rights office, according to a spokesman for the premier, Eang Sophallet.

Hun Sen requested that Subedi work with Cambodia’s chief human rights official, Om Yentieng, to look into the allegations.

A former staff member for Peschoux, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Duch might have the wrong person or may be misremembering, “we do not know.”

Like other alleged war criminals, Duch would be unlikely to find refuge in another country, the former staff member said.

Got Allergies? Doctor Explains Why

By Nuch Sarita, VOA Khmer
19 June 2009

Pollen, dust, and other airborne culprits may be responsible for your “allergic rhinitis,” a doctor said Thursday.

Allergens in the home, including hairs from cats and dogs and even rodents, and outdoors, including pollen from trees, grass and weeds, can be the cause, Dr. Taing Tek Hong, told “Hello VOA” Thursday.

“I always sneeze in the air-conditioned room,” one caller said Thursday. “My doctor said I have an allergy. How do I treat it?”

“This case is thought to occur because of the abnormal regulation of nasal blood flow and may be induced by temperature fluctuations in the environment, such as, cold or dry air, or irritants, such as air pollution, smog, tobacco smoke, car exhaust, or strong odors such as, detergents or fragrances,” Taing Tek Hong said. “The primary treatment is simply avoiding the things that trigger your symptoms. In some cases, decongestants or nasal spray containing an antihistamine may help. Corticosteroid nasal sprays may be useful for some forms of vasomotor rhinitis.”

Another caller asked about nasal polyps and how to cure them.

“Nasal polyps are associated with chronic inflammation of the lining of your nasal passages and sinuses,” Taing Tek Hong said. “If you have nasal polyps, you may experience some of the following signs and symptoms: runny nose, stuffiness, postnasal drip, snoring, itching around your eyes, facial pain or headache.”

“Drug treatments may include nasal Corticosteroids,” he said. “If a nasal corticosteroid isn’t effective, your doctor may prescribe prednisone alone or in combination with a nasal spray.”

“Your doctor may prescribe drugs to treat conditions that contribute to chronic inflammation in your sinuses or nasal passages,” he said. “These may include antihistamines to treat allergies and antibiotics to treat a chronic infection. If the drug treatment doesn’t shrink or eliminate nasal polyps, your doctor may recommend surgery.

“Small or isolated polyps can be completely removed by using a small mechanical suction device or a microdebrider,” he said, “an instrument that cuts and extracts soft tissue. Another type of surgery is endoscopic sinus surgery. The surgeon inserts an endoscope, a small tube with a magnifying lens or tiny camera, into your nostrils.”

A third caller asked how to treat a child’s nosebleed.

“Sit him down and lean slightly forward,” the doctor suggested. “Put an ice pack across the bridge of his nose. Nosebleeds occur because of minor irritation or injury to the small veins in the partition that divides the two sides of the nose. These veins may rupture. The rupture may be caused by a sneeze or a cough that raises the blood pressure inside the veins of the nose.”

Trade Officials Laud Removal From Blacklist

By Men Kimseng, VOA Khmer
Original report from Washington
19 June 2009

The US has removed Cambodia from a list prohibiting financing for US companies, paving the way for more trade, experts say.

Last week the administration of President Barrack Obama deemed that Cambodia had “ceased to be a Maxist-Leninist country,” opening the possibility of loans from the US Export-Import Bank to companies hoping to invest in the country.

This “provides working capital guarantees, export credit insurance, and loan guarantees and direct loans to US businesses,” Debbie Mesloh, a spokeswoman for Obama’s office of the US Trade Representative, told VOA Khmer by e-mail.

Even though it is still early to say what products US companies might export, officials expressed optimism that many companies would be interested in doing business in Cambodia.

“US exporters will be very interested in knowing that in the near future they should be able to receive US Export-Import Bank financing to finance their exports to Laos and Cambodia,” Phil Cogan, spokesman for the US Export-Import Bank, told VOA Khmer by phone. “That’s good for buyers there, and it’s certainly good for US exporters.”

US export to Cambodia last year reached $154 million, mainly in vehicles, electrical machinery, medical equipment and agricultural goods. Imports from Cambodia were $2.4 billion, in clothing and textile products.

Cogan said the US had a good history of providing electrical services, such as hydro-electricity and oil and gas energy, and produces good equipment for the oil industry.

“There are lots of potentials in both of those countries, and the buyers there would certainly be interested in high-quality US goods and service,” Cogan said.

Cambodia is exploring potential offshore oil blocks, with the hopes of producing in coming years.

Cambodian officials suggested that US investors should also focus on agriculture, fisheries and natural resources, in addition to the garment sector.

“There are also mineral resources that Cambodia has for US long-term investment,” Koy Kuong, a spokesman for the Foreign Ministry, told VOA Khmer.

The US move was another signal in strengthening relations between the two countries.

“This is good news in the relationship between Cambodia and the US,” Prime Minister Hun Sen told reporters following the announcement. “I think that what US President Obama did was a good start for the globalization process, which does not distinguish between black and white.”

Kith Meng, president of the Phnom Penh Chamber of Commerce, told VOA Khmer by phone on Tuesday that much economic potential exists for US investment, such as oil and gas, airlines and tourism.

“It is good that the US took Cambodia off of the blacklist,” he said. “This means that Cambodia is now developed, and I hope there will be more US companies investing in Cambodia.”

PM denies undemining temple


By The Nation

Published on June 20, 2009

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva yesterday dismissed suggestions he was trying to sabotage Cambodia's desire to live up to its obligations as agreed with Unesco following the granting of World Heritage status to historic Preah Vihear Temple.

Abhisit on Wednesday told reporters he would ask Unesco, which administers the temple under Cambodian supervision, to launch a review into the administration of the ancient site, because he wanted peace to prevail in the area first.

The disputed area has seen a military stand-off and gunfights between the two sides over the past year.

"My intention is not to upset the people of Cambodia, but rather to see peace in the area," Abhisit said.

He said he had no objection to working with the Cambodians to develop the historic site under Unesco guidance but suggested military tensions must first be alleviated and that a comfort level between the two sides must first be achieved before Thailand could contribute to the effort.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen on Thursday expressed "deep regret" over Abhisit's suggestions.

"I deeply regret that he has raised this issue now, because this was not part of our discussions last week," he told reporters at the Cambodian Foreign Ministry. "I doubt his plan will be successful."

Thai PM aims to 'clear the air' with Cambodia's Hun Sen

MCOT English News

BANGKOK, June 19 (TNA) – Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva stood firm Friday over Thailand’s objection to UNESCO's World Heritage Committee listing of Preah Vihear temple, but said he would clear all doubts over the issue with Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen.

The Thai premier made the remarks after his Cambodian counterpart expressed "deep regret" over Thailand's stance and doubted that the plan would be successful.

The Thai Cabinet early this week assigned Suwit Khunkitti, Minister for Natural Resources and Environment, to ask the World Heritage Committee meeting in Seville, Spain, next week to review its decision to register Cambodia’s unilateral listing of the Hindu temple.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) registered the 11th century temple as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in July 2008, despite protests by Thailand, leading to armed clashes and loss of lives at the Thai-Cambodian border.

"I have no intention to cause any problem with Cambodia nor hurt his (Hun Sen’s) feelings. What Thailand is doing is to let the World Heritage Committee and UNESCO realise that peace is of utmost importance to the region," Mr. Abhisit said. "I believe that if he understands my intention, he would have no regret. We will try to avoid any confrontation."

Mr. Hun Sen said on Thursday he deeply regretted that the Thai prime minister has raised the issue now because it was not part of their discussions last week.

Mr. Abhisit explained the Preah Vihear issue was not raised at last week's discussion with Mr. Hun Sen during his one-day visit to the neighbouring country but both countries did agree to avoid further clashes and resolve the dispute through existing mechanisms. They also pledged not to have the dispute affect other bilateral cooperation.

Meanwhile, Thai army chief Gen. Anupong Paochinda said the situation on the Thai-Cambodian border near Preah Vihear Temple was normal.

Gen. Anupong said he had discussed the situation with Cambodian military leaders, and that as attempts have been made by both countries to avoid any armed conflict and troop redeployments are being considered. (TNA)

Cambodia rejects report of Mekong River dolphins near extinction+

PHNOM PENH, June 19 (AP) - (Kyodo)—The Cambodian government on Friday rejected as "a total lie" a report by an international conversation group that dolphins living in parts of the Mekong River between Cambodia and Laos are on the brink of extinction due to pollution.

Touch Seang Tana, Cambodia's chairman of a commission for conservation and development of the Mekong River Dolphin and eco-tourism, told Kyodo News the report by the World Wide Fund for Nature was aimed at attracting and convincing donors to inject more funds into the group.

Inhabiting a 190-kilometer stretch of the river, the Irrawaddy dolphin population has suffered 88 deaths since 2003, of which 58 were calves under 2 weeks old, bringing the latest population to an estimated 64 to 76 members, the WWF said in its report.

WWF researchers found toxic levels of pesticides such as DDT and environmental contaminants such as PCBs in an analysis of 21 dead dolphins retrieved between 2004 and 2006, as well as high mercury levels in some of them, the group said.

Touch Seang Tana said the number of dolphins has increased from roughly 120 recorded in 2000 to about 160 in 2009.

"There are no such critical pollutants, otherwise, some 50,000 people living along the 200-km stretch of the river and who are using and drinking the water might have died before the dolphins," he said.

He also disputed the number of dolphin deaths recorded by the WWF, suggesting the group should have recorded as many as 118 deaths since 2000 due to illegal fishing and a lack of conservation activities until after 2003.