Sunday, 28 June 2009

Red Shirt protesters are back, How long it will last?

Supporters of ousted Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra hold portraits of Thaksin during a rally in Bangkok June 27, 2009. Thousands of "red shirt" supporters of ousted Thai prime minister Thaksin rallied in Bangkok on Saturday in their biggest protest since violent street clashes two months ago.REUTERS/Chaiwat Subprasom

Supporters of ousted Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra shout slogans during a rally in Bangkok June 27, 2009. Thousands of "red shirt" supporters of ousted Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra rallied in Bangkok on Saturday in their biggest protest since violent street clashes two months ago.REUTERS/Chaiwat Subprasom

Red Shirt Protesters gather at Sanam Luang in Bangkok. Ousted former Thailand premier Thaksin Shinawatra urged his supporters not to leave him "dying in the desert" of Dubai on Saturday as he made an impassioned address to a rally in Bangkok.(AFP/Nicolas Asfouri)

Thousand of protesters, so-called 'Red Shirts', march towards the Governement House in Bangkok, in January. Thailand's government has vowed to get tough with the protesters loyal to fugitive former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, as the capital is bracing for yet another really.(AFP/File/Nicolas Asfouri)

Killeen couple cares for Cambodian children

Courtesy Photo
Kathy Tucker holds a 7-year-old girl at the New Hope for Cambodian Children village for abandoned HIV-positive children.

Sunday, Jun. 28 2009

By Jade Ortego
Killeen Daily Herald

The Tuckers say they feel happy. They're lucky. They're blessed. They have more than 1,000 Cambodian children infected with the human immunodeficiency virus who rely on them for medication, food and sometimes shelter, schooling and companionship.

John and Kathy Tucker of Killeen went to Cambodia in the January 2000 as Catholic lay missionaries. They became involved with a hospice program for Cambodians infected with HIV, Seedlings of Hope. Cambodia has one of highest rates of HIV in Asia.

It soon became clear that there were no programs to help children in Cambodia infected with HIV. Because of widespread ignorance about the nature of the virus, those children were frequently cast off, left to die in the street. None of the 200 orphanages in Cambodia at the time would accept any HIV-positive child.

"Assume your sister died of AIDS and you take her children, and find out one of the kids has AIDS. You're afraid that child may infect your biological children … even though it's almost impossible to transmit from child to child," John said. "People don't know that and they want to protect their own children so out of ignorance they abandon these other children," he said.

Their own clinic

In 2006, the Tuckers began New Hope for Cambodian Children (NHCC), a nonprofit, nongovernmental organization, which includes an outreach program, a transitional home for intensive care for infants and the very ill, a day care, and most recently, a village for abandoned children infected with the virus.

Neither John nor Kathy has any medical background.

"There was no (antiretroviral) medicine. The choice was to learn about the medicine or let the kids die," John said.

The Tuckers got a manual about HIV and learned about the medicine and found out it was available in Thailand. They bought it, imported it and hired local doctors to help them start their own clinic.

The NHCC outreach program now covers five provinces and attends to the medical needs of 850 children still living with family members. NHCC provides antiretroviral medication, medical transportation expenses and food for these children.

Antiretroviral medication suppresses the virus enough so that the immune system can reconstitute itself. After taking the medication, some children can be tested and come back with a negative result. The children will become sick again if they miss dosages, however, and can develop resistance to the drugs.

The Clinton Foundation donates money for the medicine for all of these children involved with NHCC, and has gotten the cost down to $12 a month for one child. The same medicine is about $1,000 a month in the United States.

NHCC now includes a village, an almost-sustainable commune of abandoned children on 20 acres about 45 minutes from capital city Phnom Penh.

Building a community

New children arrive every week, kicked out of orphanages or abandoned at hospitals, but the current number is 180.

The kids, age 2 to 19, live in a family and community. NHCC pays a married man and woman $50 a month each to live with and raise eight children in the village. These households are in groups of three, and they eat together; these groups of homes are part of a close-knit larger community.

The Tuckers are working to make the village sustainable. They use only three and half hours of electricity a day, and make their own bio-diesel out of waste vegetable oil from local restaurants. They make methane gas from pig waste, and use solar panels to power water pumps. The village has 250 pigs and 2,200 chickens.

Many orphanages in Cambodia have children make postcards or other crafts to pay for the cost of running it. The NHCC village is funded entirely by private donations, many from the Killeen area, especially St. Paul Chong Hasang Catholic Church in Harker Heights.

"These are children and they're going to be children and they're going to go to school, they're not going to work in the afternoon," John said.

No splitting families

The orphans all attend the local provincial school. Their studies are supplemented by tutoring in every class, largely to make up for a lack of education before their entrance into the program. The village also has art, music and dance classes, and a computer class and basketball court that non-infected children from the provincial schools are allowed to sometimes use.

This year, a 19-year-old is graduating out of the village and will move to Phnom Penh to go attend a university there. The boy isn't infected with the virus; he is one of the 27 non-infected siblings of a child with HIV who lives on the village. "We don't split up families," Kathy said.

Next year, the first HIV-positive child will graduate, and the year after, 12 will. The Tuckers want to rent a house in Phnom Penh for graduates to live in while they attend college or vocational school, where they can still receive care and medication, and remain a part of their family.

NHCC is a secular organization, and doesn't proselytize to the children. "Our kids are Buddhist and they stay Buddhist," John said. "But they do all wear rosaries because they glow in the dark," Kathy said.

Kathy also started a daycare program for HIV positive children that provides their widowed mothers with local, living-wage jobs making quilts, which got media coverage by the BBC and the New York Times. Those quilts, which look like baby blankets decorated with elephants and other animals, can be purchased at St. Paul's.

People can volunteer to work at the village or donate to NHCC online at

"We get to take care of sick kids and get them healthy. We found something at the end of our lives that gives us real meaning. We love what we're doing," John said. "We sleep very well," Kathy said.

Swapping city comfort for village experience

T^he Star Online


SWAPPING the comfort of city homes for the simple life of village folk can be quite a challenge and different — especially if you come from an affluent family.

However, this is precisely what 60 Fairview International School students will do when they go to Siem Reap, Cambodia in July.

Some of the jubilant students after receiving their scrolls at the graduation ceremony

“This trip will equip them (the students) with first-hand experience of how Cambodian life is like,” said Fairview chairman Daniel Chian (pic) at Fairview’s graduation ceremony at the KL Hilton.

“Being middle schoolers aged nine to 12 in our International Baccalaureate (IB) programme, they should be able to reflect upon their experience that this is the human ingenuity component of the IB syllabus in action.

“Cambodia is not limited to tourist haunts like Angkor Wat and they will come to terms with the true situation when they observe the poverty in many areas of the country.”

Adding that there was no room for elitism in the IB programme, Chian revealed that the students would also compile a 12-chapter book based on their experience.

The book would then be circulated to more than 3,000 IB students around the world.

According to Chian, such an effort has never been done before in the IB circles and the students would have the unique opportunity to be co-authors. The school is also set to spend up to RM14mil in its teacher training scholarship programme.

Launched to spearhead different styles of teacher training, the programme will see up to 18 lucky SPM and STPM school leavers being trained at Roehampton University — a renowned teacher training institution.

“The successful candidates will receive full scholarships for their foundation degrees,” continues Chian.

“They will equip themselves with practical teaching skills in their second year and the experience will be invaluable. They will also receive stipends.”

On the ceremony, Chian said he was proud to witness the first of many graduations as far as the class of 2009 was concerned.

By being the first batch to complete the IGCSE ‘O’ level examination at the school, the 67 graduands were also offered the chance to study ‘A’ levels at Fairview.

In the First Six Months of 2009 the Transport of Cargo through the Ports Declined by 20 to 30 Percent – Saturday, 20.6.2009

Posted on 28 June 2009
The Mirror, Vol. 13, No. 618

“According to a report of Friday, 26 June 2009, the Cambodian Freight Forwarders Association announced that during the first six months of 2009, the transport of goods through the major ports in Cambodia declined by 20 to 30 percent, and this was said to be the result of the global economic crisis.

“The secretary-general of the Cambodian Freight Forwarders Association, Mr. Sin Chanthy, told Deum Ampil on Friday at the Sunway Hotel, ‘After the events of the global economic crisis, the transport of goods at different ports in Cambodia has been affected, after buying orders from abroad had diminished recently.

“Mr. Sin Chanthy added, ‘According to a survey conducted recently, at the Kompong Som port, the export of goods has declined by 40% and at other companies, the transport by sea has dropped by about 20%.’

“Even though the commercial atmosphere in Cambodia is not yet dangerous, the director of the Sihanoukville port, Mr. Lou Kim Chhon, said during a workshop on Friday about the transport of goods from Cambodia, ‘In 2009, due to the global economic crisis, the transport of goods has declined by up to 18%, compared to 2008. Most transport of goods by sea is related to export and import to and from China and America.’

“According to Mr. Lou Kim Chhon, the payments for transport amounted to US$28 million in 2008, but in 2009, this amount does not increase, as the transport of goods declines gradually.

“A secretary of state of the Ministry of Commerce of Cambodia, Ms. Tekreth Kamrong, said on Friday, during a workshop, organized by the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO), the Cambodian Freight Forwarders Association, the Ministry of Commerce, and the Ministry of Public Works and Transport, that the government is still able to maintain a two digit national economic growth, which attracts some countries to invest more in Cambodia, such as in agriculture, in the garment industry, in transport services, and in other investment projects.

“Ms. Tekreth Kamrong added, ‘The Ministry of Commerce has international relations with various countries to attract investment to maintain the investment environment in Cambodia, in order to speed up the economy and to expand commerce to be comparable to other countries in the region.

“The deputy director of the Phnom Penh autonomous port, Mr. Ieng Veng Sun, told Deum Ampil on Friday, ‘Recently, the volume of transported goods has been rising during the last two weeks.’

“He added that at present, there is not much transport of textiles for export through the Phnom Penh port, but mostly textiles go through the Kompong Som port.

“Mr. Ieng Veng Sun went on to say that goods exported through the Phnom Penh port to the United States of America and to other countries are generally agricultural goods, but now they include also textiles.

“According to Mr. Ieng Veng Sun, in the first quarter of 2009, the transport by ship at the Phnom Penh port increased only by 10%, compared to 2008. Anyway, according to officials of the Ministry of Commerce, the cooperation between Japan and the ASEAN countries proceeded and commerce and investment has begun to be encouraging again. There will be an exchange of technical knowhow for the benefit of Cambodia for many sectors.

“Moreover, the speed-up of the economy is comparable to other countries, the Ministry of Commerce will encourage to draft many laws which can help to support the existing commerce and investment sectors, in order to attract more new investment into Cambodia.”

Deum Ampil, Vol.3, #221, 27.6.2009
Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Saturday, 27 June 2009

PM Abhisit optimistic tensions at Thai-Cambodian border will ease

MCOT English News

NONTHABURI, June 28 (TNA) - Tension along the Thai-Cambodian border should ease following Saturday’s talks between Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban and Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, according to Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, who spoke on Sunday.

Mr. Abhisit said Mr. Suthep had already briefed him on discussions made with Mr. Hun Sen in the Cambodian capital.

The discussions had helped both sides gain better understanding of the problem, Mr. Abhisit said, noting that it is expected that tensions at the Thai-Cambodian border should ease.

“We will wait to see whether troops deployed at the border should be reduced,” the prime minister noted. “Now, it is hoped that both countries will resolve the border problem through peaceful means as agreed earlier.”

Mr. Suthep told journalists upon his return from a one-day visit and talks with Mr. Hun Sen that Cambodia pledged to try to ease tensions along the border to create a good atmosphere to foster the bilateral economic cooperation and good relations.

It was agreed that the previous border incidents, particularly near Preah Vihear temple, would be considered as “past and like a nightmare, and that now the two nations should look ahead without looking back.” (TNA)

Prawit: Border situation normal

By: BangkokPost

Published: 28/06/2009

The situation around the Thai-Cambodian border near Preah Vihear temple was still normal, Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwon said on Sunday.

He said Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban and Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen met on Saturday and both of them agreed to ease the tension around the disputed border.

The Thai and Cambodian army officials would have to negotiate on the withdrawal of troops along the border, Gen Prawit said.

Meanwhile, trading activities at Rong Kluea Market in Sa Kaeo province had returned to normal after the meeting between officials from both sides went well.

Tension rises near border; CAMBODIA DEPLOYS COMMANDOS

ON GUARD: Cambodian soldiers standing guard near the Preah Vihear temple.

Bangkok Post
Published: 28/06/2009

Cambodia has reportedly deployed 500 commandos to guard the Preah Vihear temple and disputed border area even though Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban claimed success over the issue in his visit to Phnom Penh.

The deployment of the corps from the 911 Para-Commando Battalion comes after Mr Suthep made a one-day visit to Phnom Penh yesterday in a bid to ease tension on the border.

The renewed tension follows Thailand's decision to ask for a review of Cambodia's unilateral listing of the Preah Vihear temple with Unesco.

The commandos have been put under the direct supervision of Lt Gen Him Bunhieng, a close aide of Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, who gave a warm welcome to Mr Suthep at his residence yesterday. Former Khmer Rouge soldiers have also been reportedly deployed at military bases along the border, said a source.

It is estimated that about 2,000 Cambodian soldiers are deployed in the disputed territories.

The source said there has been no reinforcement of troops or artillery on the Thai side, only routine troop rotations.

However, the source added that Thai troops have been put on 24-hour alert and are ready to carry out operations.

After returning to Thailand yesterday, Mr Suthep said both countries agreed to reduce the military stand-off near the temple.

"Prime Minister Hun Sen asked me to convey the message to Prime Minister Abhisit [Vejjajiva] and the Thai people that Cambodia will try to reduce tensions to facilitate economic cooperation between the two countries.

"We should let bygones be bygones, forget the nightmare of the past and look forward to a positive future for both countries," he said.

Originally, Mr Suthep was to clarify Thailand's opposition to the listing, but he had a change of plan after Mr Hun Sen refused to discuss the issue.

Meanwhile, para rubber farmers are still allowed to enter Khao Phra Viharn National Park to look after their plantations, even though the park remains closed to tourists.

However, they have been asked to register and leave their identification cards with security forces and are allowed inside between 7am and 4pm.

Former foreign minister Noppadon Pattama said he doubted Mr Suthep would get any results from the visit.

Citing Mr Hun Sen's strong refusal to discuss the temple listing, he said Thailand's decision to seek a review of the listing would be the last straw for Cambodia and steer the country to war.

He also noted that army commander Gen Anupong Paojinda must have felt uncomfortable with the government's move, saying the general agreed with the controversial Thai-Cambodian joint statement on the listing endorsed by the Samak administration.

Lightning kills five Cambodians in a day: newspaper


Jun 28, 2009

Lightning strikes killed five people in Cambodia in a single day, a local newspaper reported Sunday.

Two people were killed in Kampot province, in Cambodia's south, while three were killed in the central provinces of Kampong Chhnang and Kampong Speu, according to the newspaper Rasmei Kampuchea Daily.

It said four of the victims, all killed on Friday, were farmers working in the fields -- a group especially at risk when they continue to work during rainstorms.

Around 50 Cambodians were killed by lightning in the first four months of 2009, while the official toll for last year was 95 deaths.

Experts say the tropical Southeast Asian country, with its many rivers and lakes, is particularly prone to cloud formations which generate intense lightning storms.

These formations can lie just 50 metres (164 feet) above the earth, and anyone underneath is vulnerable to lightning strikes.

Cambodia's government is trying to raise awareness in the provinces of measures to protect against such natural disasters, according to Long Saravuth, weather expert at the Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology.

"We hope there will be fewer deaths as more and more people become well-informed about safety during lightning storms," he said on Sunday.

Cambodian ruling party CPP marks 58th anniversary

PHNOM PENH, June 28 (Xinhua) -- Thousands of members of Cambodian People's Party (CPP) on Sunday gathered to celebrate the58th anniversary of the founding of the party (1951-2009) in the central headquarters in Phnom Penh.

"We celebrate this event in order to express profound gratitude to our beloved compatriots, soldiers, and people in all generations for their resolute struggles and sacrifices for the cause of nation and fatherland," Chea Sim, president of the CPP told the ceremony.

"In its name as the political force that is leading the country, the party must double efforts to achieve its supreme objective that is guaranteeing sustainable peace, stability and national security, maintaining independence, sovereignty and territory integrity, accelerating socio-economic development to catch up with other countries in the region," he said.

"At the same time, people's poverty, good governance, fight against corruption, extension of public services with quality and confidence, are some of the priority areas that require more efforts," he said.

"We have a firm belief that Cambodia will continue to achieve positive growth this year despite currently being affected by the global financial crisis and economic downturn," Chea Sim said.

"I would like to express my respect for army and police and soldiers of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces and national police who have been heroically fulfilling their duties defending our fatherland and along the border," he said.

Cambodian People's Party was initially called the Khmer People's Revolutionary Party (KPRP), which originated in the longstanding people's struggle movement for national independence. CPP won 90 of 123 seats in general election in July 27, 2008.

Representatives from CPP's coalition partner FUNCINPEC and other small political parties as well as some foreign diplomats, including Chinese Ambassador to Cambodia Zhang Jinfeng, also attended the celebration.

Editor: Wang Guanqun

'I saw a great need'

Actlor Helena de Crespo hold one of the pieces, a shadow puppet depicting Kenorra, a demon from Cambodian mythology, that she will offer at fundraiser in Ashland. Mail Tribune / Jim Craven
Jim Craven

'Cambodian Treasures' brings attention, support for itinerant actors

June 27, 2009

By Bill Varble

Actress Helena de Crespo was traveling near the famous temples of Angkor Wat in Cambodia in 2006 when she came across an impoverished group of itinerant actors. The Reasmey Angkor Bassac Theatre Troupe had been touring rural Cambodia on foot, setting up a crude stage where they could, presenting classic Cambodian drama and contemporary "teaching works" designed to educate people in the countryside.

"There was a stage in a grassy area, and they were having lunch," says de Crespo, a native Englishwoman who is starring in "Shirley Valentine" at Oregon Stage Works in Ashland through July 13. "I was fascinated."

Through an interpreter, she found that a leading actress in the troupe had escaped a massacre of actors by Pol Pot's forces in the late 1970s and survived by hiding in the jungle for four years. Others had their stories, too, and when they learned that de Crespo was a professional actor in the United States, it opened the floodgates. She listened and was touched.

"As I was leaving, the man who led them asked if I could help," de Crespo says. "I saw a great need. I felt I had to do something."

The actor has since been raising money to help the company. Her latest effort is a program called "Cambodian Treasures," which will be presented at 6 p.m. Sunday at Peace House, 543 S. Mountain Ave., Ashland. Admission is free. De Crespo says she hopes to raise money through an auction of various items, including filigree leather work, imported silks, traditional Cambodian shadow puppets. Some of the items can be seen at

"The puppets are extraordinary," de Crespo says. "They've been made by the puppet master to the king of Cambodia."

Five Cambodian immigrants now living in Portland and not connected with the theater company will perform traditional Cambodian dance.

"It's a very tiny community in Portland," says de Crespo, who lives there. "I didn't even know it existed when I started this work. They're very aware of the lost cultural heritage of their country. It was almost wiped out."

Under the Communist dictator Pol Pot, who took control in the wake of the Vietnam War determined to turn the country into an agrarian collective, Cambodia became a vast killing field. Artists and intellectuals, in particular, were targeted. By some estimates, 90 percent of the nation's artists and writers perished.

Other items up for sale or bids include a Cambodian cookbook, photos of the Cambodian temples and memorial bricks with a $10 price tag.

De Crespo has lived and acted and taught in England, Los Angeles, Virginia, Colombia, Costa Rica and Portland.

"She's really a world citizen," says Ashland playwright Molly Tinsley, who met de Crespo three years ago when de Crespo directed one of her short plays in Portland. "She's always talking about going someplace. The last time she was in Cambodia she bought them a truck. It's traditional there to have the theater travel."

De Crespo has worked with actors' groups to win grants for the troupe. Any money she raises goes directly to the troupe, since she doesn't trust the authorities. She says she's raised about $16,000 through various efforts, enabling the company to buy a piece of land on which to set up the scaffolding that makes their stage.

"They're in the north of Cambodia," she says. "If you went now you could see them perform."

Reach reporter Bill Varble at 776-4478 or e-mail

Four Cases of Swine Flu in Cambodia

New Tang Dynasty Television

Cambodia has confirmed an additional three cases of swine flu after reporting its first case this week. All four flu patients are U.S. nationals.

Cambodia’s first confirmed case of the H1N1 virus was reported on Wednesday.

A 16-year-old American girl developed symptoms after arriving in Phnom Penh last Friday. She sought medical care at a private clinic on Monday and was immediately placed in isolation.

The girl was visiting Cambodia as part of a student group. Other members of the American group were put under voluntary observation.

Three more cases of the virus were confirmed yesterday among the student group but all four are said to be in a stable condition and recovering well.

The World Health Organization has declared the H1N1 virus spread a global pandemic and has been advising governments to prepare for a long-term battle.

There have been more than 50,000 confirmed cases of the H1N1 virus and at least 237 people have died since it emerged.

America Provides US$8.5 Million for Forest Conservation in Cambodia – Friday, 26.6.2009

Posted on 26 June 2009
The Mirror, Vol. 13, No. 618

“A statement of the US-based Terra Global Capital said yesterday that this organization and Cambodia had signed an agreement about a project which intends to conserve 60,000 hectares of forest and solve problems for the local people who are cutting down trees to create charcoal to earn their living.

“The statement added that this project will be implemented in Oddar Meanchey and it is expected to continue over a period of 30 years. It is the first Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation project in Cambodia.

“The statement continued that Terra Global Capital had signed an agreement with the Cambodian Forestry Administration to deal with the [international] marketing of carbon credits for the forest which is being maintained by people. This organization will develop a method to measure and monitor the carbon dioxide locked away from the air by the conserved forest in that area, where the rate of deforestation was 3% between 2002 and 2006. This organization creates nine groups of forest communities comprising more than 50 villagers who join to conserve the forest to avoid the cutting down of trees to produce and sell carbon offset credits that will assist all people of that area.

“The director of Community Forestry International, Mr. Mark Poffenberger, who initiated this project said, ‘The success of the Oddar Meanchey project opens the door to long-term financing for Cambodia’s national community forestry program, which could eventually encompass and protect over 2 million hectares of forest.’ The plan in Cambodia is under a project supported by the United Nations called Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation, which aims to help developing countries to conserve their forests.”

Deum Ampil, Vol.3, #220, 26.6.2009
Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Friday, 26 June 2009

Cambodian PM agrees to ease border tension, promote economic cooperation

MCOT English News

BANGKOK, July 27 (TNA) - Thai Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban ended his one-day visit to Cambodia on a mission to clarify Thailand's objection to the listing of the Preah Vihear temple ruins as a World Heritage Site to Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen.

Mr. Suthep told reporters on his arrival in Bangkok that he had met with the Cambodian prime minister and Mr. Hun Sen asked him to convey the message to Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and the Thai people that Cambodia will try to ease tensions along the border to create the good atmosphere to foster the bilateral economic cooperation and good relations.

The deputy prime minister said both sides agreed that the previous incidents at the border, particularly near Preah Vihear temple, would be considered the past and like a nightmare ,and now the two nations should look ahead without looking back.

"I do not want to go in to the details but both sides affirm to jointly ease the border tension," the deputy prime minister said.

In 1962 the International Court of Justice ruled that Preah Vihear belongs to Cambodia, but the most accessible entrance begins at the foot of a mountain in Thailand, and both sides claim overlapping portions of the surrounding territory.

Armed clashes between the two countries’ military forces have occurred periodically since then, near the temple, especially in a 4.6-square-kilometre disputed area.

Thai prime minister Abhisit said earlier that the government would ask UNESCO's World Heritage Committee to review their last year's decision to register Preah Vihear as a World Heritage Site when the meet in Spain, during the week just ended.

During the one day visit, Mr. Hun Sen welcomed Mr. Suthep and Thai Defence Minister Gen. Prawit Wongsuwan at his home and the prime minister’s wife cooked lunch for the Thai guests.

Mr. Suthep said the talks were condicted in a friendly atmosphere as the two nations shared the same target -- to build a constructive bilateral relationship and strengthen economic cooperation.

Thailand and Cambodia agreed to move ahead with plans to build Stung Nam dam in Cambodia's Koh Kong province to supply electricity to Thailand's Trat and Chantaburi provinces, particularly to the Map Ta Put Industrial Estate, he said, adding that the project had been discussed by many governments but had not materialised.

The government, therefore, will re-launch the project, Mr. Suthep said.

Both sides will jointly develop the overlapping area in the Gulf of Thailand in order to share benefits from the undersea natural gas field, he said. (TNA)

Cambodia PM meets Thai minister on border dispute

PHNOM PENH (AFP) — Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen hosted one of Thailand's deputy premiers at his home on Saturday in an attempt to diffuse a long-standing border row with friendly chat.

Hun Sen's wife cooked lunch for Suthep Thaugsuban and Thai Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwon at his residence in southern Kandal province, Suthep said, after tensions recently escalated over the UNESCO listing of an ancient temple.

Troops from both sides have built up on the Thai-Cambodia frontier in recent days near the 11th-century Preah Vihear temple, where seven soldiers have died in clashes since tensions flared last year.

Thailand's decision to ask world heritage body UNESCO to reconsider listing the temple has angered Hun Sen, but despite claiming the issue would not be discussed Saturday, Suthep said they had agreed to reduce tensions at the site.

"Prime Minister Hun Sen asked me to convey the message to our Prime Minister Abhisit (Vejjajiva) and the Thai people that Cambodia will try to reduce tensions (along the border) to assist economic cooperation between the two countries," Suthep told reporters after returning to Thailand.

"We should let bygones be bygones, forget the nightmare of the past and look forward to a positive future for both countries," he said.

Suthep also announced that a dam would be constructed in Cambodia to channel water to Thailand's eastern seaboard.

Foreign ministry spokesman Kuoy Kong said the pair had simply had a "friendly talk".

Hun Sen vowed on Thursday to take a hard stance on the dispute over the temple, the ownership of which was awarded to Cambodia by the World Court in 1962, sparking decades of tensions.

Unrest flared in July 2008 after UNESCO granted world heritage status to the ancient Khmer temple with its crumbling stone staircases and elegant carvings.

Q+A-Preah Vihar temple and Thai-Cambodian tensions

BANGKOK, June 27 (Reuters) - Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen met behind closed doors on Saturday with Thailand's deputy premier, Suthep Thaugsuban, as tensions simmered over the disputed Preah Vihear temple.

Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva sent his right-hand man, Suthep Thaugsuban, to meet Hun Sen to explain why Thailand was challenging a U.N. decision to make the 900-year-old temple a world heritage site under the sole jurisdiction of Cambodia. [ID:nBKK469181]


Preah Vihear, or Khao Phra Viharn as the Thais call it, was completed in the 11th century and pre-dates Cambodia's more famous Angkor Wat temple complex by 100 years.

Many say its stunning setting atop a jungle-clad escarpment overlooking northern Cambodia also eclipses its celebrated cousin as the finest of all the ruins left by the mighty Khmer civilisation.

The temple has in recent years been accessible mainly from Thailand. Landmines and Khmer Rouge guerrillas kept it off-limits from the Cambodian side for decades.


Both sides have historically laid claim to the temple but a 1962 World Court ruling awarded it to Cambodia, by a vote of 9-3.

Thailand and Cambodia have since squabbled over the demarcation of the border and jurisdiction over the 1.8 square miles (4.6 sq km) of land around Preah Vihear has never been settled.

For generations, the temple stirred nationalist passions on both sides. Before the court in the Hague made its ruling, Thailand's government organised a fundraiser in which every citizen donated 1 baht to pay for the legal team.


Cambodia's bid last October to list the ruins as a World Heritage Site sparked a flare-up in which one Thai and three Cambodian soldiers died in a gunfight.

In the most recent flare-up in April, two Thai soldiers died in an exchange of rocket and rifle fire with Cambodian troops.

Both countries have sent more troops to the border and security analysts say minor skirmishes are always a possibility.

A military standoff would further strain ties between the two historic foes and only exacerbate a long-running dispute that is unlikely to be resolved any time soon.


The two countries routinely pledge cooperation over the temple issue, give guarantees their border troops will not engage in hostilities and agree to delineate the border once and for all, but the quarrelling never seems to stop. Thailand wants joint development and supervision of the Hindu temple which could one day be a lucrative tourist site. However, the temple debate is often used as a tool to gain popular support or to distract the public from other issues at home.

"This challenge by Thailand has more to do with the political situation in Bangkok," said Chanthana Banprasirichote, a political science professor at Thailand's Chulalongkorn University.

"They know this is a good way to boost their credibility and get support from the public." (Compiled by Martin Petty; Editing by Sugita Katyal)

Cambodia and Thailand meet as temple tensions simmer

June 27, 2009

PHNOM PENH (Reuters) - Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen met behind closed doors with Thailand's deputy premier on Saturday as diplomatic tensions mounted over a 900-year-old temple that sits on the border between the two countries.

Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva sent his right-hand man, Suthep Thaugsuban, to meet Hun Sen to explain why Thailand was challenging a U.N. decision to make the Preah Vihear temple a world heritage site under the sole jurisdiction of Cambodia.

Thailand wants joint development and supervision of the Hindu temple perched on an escarpment that forms a natural border between the Southeast Asian neighbours and could one day be a lucrative tourist site.

Thailand's latest questioning of the temple's status has angered Phnom Penh, and both sides have sent more troops to the disputed area around Preah Vihear.

Reporters were kept away from Saturday's two-hour meeting on the outskirts of Phnom Penh and officials from both governments would not comment on the subject of the talks.

Hun Sen had earlier said Preah Vihear was not up for discussion and on Friday told local television that Suthep was welcome "to raise the issue of withdrawing Thai troops from the border."

In an interview with Reuters on Monday, Abhisit blamed the border tensions on UNESCO for "trying to register and manage the area when the process of demarcation hasn't been completed."

The International Court of Justice awarded the temple to Cambodia in 1962, but the ruling did not determine the ownership of 1.8 square miles (4.6 sq km) of land next to the ruins, leaving considerable scope for disagreement.

(Reporting by Ek Madra; Editing by Martin Petty and Sugita Katyal)

Deputy PM confident Cambodia visit could reduce border tension

MCOT English News

BANGKOK, June 27 (TNA) -- Thai Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban said early Saturday that his visit to Cambodia and talks with Prime Minister Hun Sen could lead to a strengthening of relations between the two neighbouring countries and lead to a reduction in the military stand-off at the border, particularly at the historic Preah Vihear temple.

Speaking to journalists only hours before he left for a one-day visit to Cambodia, Mr. Suthep said he was optimistic that his visit and talks with Mr. Hun Sen could help strengthen cooperation and as the two countries are neighbours, there is no reason for a tense atmosphere.

Asked if he believed he could lead Mr. Hun Sen to better understand the Thai perspective on the Preah Vihear temple issue, Mr. Suthep said he would explain to the Cambodian prime minister that the “Thai government is sincere in promoting (improved) bilateral relations.”

There is no need to argue about Preah Vihear temple because the World Court had ruled that it belongs to Cambodia while the Thai government’s objection to the World Heritage Committee on listing the temple as a World Heritage Site is another issue, Mr. Suthep said.

The International Court of Justice ruled in 1962 that the temple belongs to Cambodia while the United Nations for Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)’s World Heritage Committee granted Cambodia’s application for Preah Vihear temple to be designated a World Heritage Site in July 2008.

Clashes between soldiers of the two countries have occurred periodically as both sides claim some of the territory surrounding the temple. (TNA)

Cambodia’s remote ruins worth the trek

By John Burgess

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 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 10pm, 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.

Former Norman resident attends trial in Cambodia

June 27, 2009

Last month an Enid attorney attended two days of a U.N.-assisted genocide tribunal while on vacation in the capital city of Cambodia.
"You felt like you were seeing history when you were sitting there," John M.

By Cass Rains

Last month an Enid attorney attended two days of a U.N.-assisted genocide tribunal while on vacation in the capital city of Cambodia.

"You felt like you were seeing history when you were sitting there," John M. Jameson said.

Jameson was visiting his fiancee in Phnom Phen and attended two days of the trial of Kaing Guek Eav, alias Duch, who commanded Phnom Penh's notorious S-21 prison May 18-19.

"It was very interesting to go because it's such a big production," he said.

Jameson said there were about 40 people involved in the court, which could be seen through floor-to-ceiling glass windows in an auditorium from one of about 400 seats. The proceedings are translated into three languages: English, French and Khmer, and could be heard through headphones via a wireless device that broadcast the hearing.

"The auditorium was about one-fourth filled when I was in attendance," Jameson said.

He said the mixture of people there was about half westerners, who he said he believed were mostly European journalists and the other half Cambodians.

"The people in Cambodia really aren't that interested in going out and attending," he said, noting he had trouble finding the tribunal when in Phenom Phen due to a lack of interest or indifference.

"As a tourist in Phenom Phen nobody talks about it," Jameson said. "It's hard to find someone who knows about it, or to know where to drive to. I was all on my own getting there."

Duch (pronounced Doik) is the first senior Khmer Rouge figure to face trial and the only one to acknowledge responsibility for his actions. Senior leaders Khieu Samphan, Nuon Chea, Ieng Sary and Ieng Sary's wife, Ieng Thirith, are all detained and likely to face trial in the next year or two.

The S-21 interrogation and torture center, also known as Tuol Sleng, was a converted high school in the middle of Cambodia's capital city. More than 12,000 men, women and children passed through it, with only a handful surviving. The S-21 is only one of at least 167 documented Khmer Rouge torture and death centers across the country.

Jameson said there are others who were involved with torture camps across the country who live openly among those they once oppressed.

"There's lots of Khmer Rouge officers living openly throughout the country that haven't been charged," Jameson said. "They're not going to be arrested and they're not going to go to trial."

He said Duch does not face the death penalty, only incarceration, although he had admitted to being head of the torture center. Duch has said he was only following orders when he undertook to torturing and killing Cambodians.

The Khmer Rouge came to power April 17, 1975, wanting to remake society into an agrarian utopia free of the West and capitalism. Money was abolished, the calendar was remade starting with Year One and the group's leader Pol Pot was named "Brother Number One." Then, the purges began.

1st domestic case in Cambodia

Mam Bun Heng (left) said One Cambodian national and one Filipino traveller had tested positive for the A(H1N1) virus. --PHOTO: AP

The Straits Times

June 27, 2009

PHNOM PENH - CAMBODIA'S health minister on Saturday announced the country's first domestic case of swine flu, days after its first infections were reported among visiting American students.

One Cambodian national and one Filipino traveller had tested positive for the A(H1N1) virus, Mam Bun Heng told AFP, bringing the country's toll to six.

'(They) are now being taken good care of at hospital and are getting better,' he told AFP on Saturday.

'We are working hard to... prevent more domestic infections within our country,' he added.

Four US students on a school trip in Cambodia were confirmed this week as the country's first cases of the virus.

Globally, the World Health Organization says nearly 60,000 cases of the disease have now been recorded, with 263 deaths. -- AFP

Discover your inner Indiana Jones with adventures in Angkor

The Naga causeway leading to the temple of Angkor Wat crosses a vast moat that looks more like a mighty river than a man-made defence. The temple was begun in 1112 by King Suryavarman II to honour the god Vishnu and serve as his crypt.Photograph by: Elaine O'Connor , for Canwest News Service

The Vancouver Sun

After playing amateur archeologist, relax amid the restaurants, street stalls and night markets of Siem Reap

By Elaine O'Connor, Times Colonist

I'm two hours into a backroads motorcycle ride through the Cambodian countryside -- wind cutting the baking 34-degree heat, dust flying up from the road -- and as I ride I'm treated to a parade of rural Khmer life.

Two women bicycle by in peaked straw hats, a farmer passes with a load of hay strapped to his scooter, another hauls a slaughtered hog, kids ride three to a bike, parents with toddlers sit four to a scooter.

We weave around each other, trying to avoid the worst of the road's ruts. With every teeth-rattling, spine-shattering swerve, I remember my airport taxi driver's ominous warning after I landed in Siem Reap. Three tourists die every month trying to see the wats (temples) from the back of a scooter, he'd said. I thought he was just trying to land a gig as my chauffeur.

Now, I'm not so sure.

It clearly takes a sense of adventure to get here, perhaps not on the Indiana Jones scale, but real enough. As I clutch my driver Reurm for dear life, we buzz past school girls in white blouses and blue pinafores bobbing through rice paddies spiked with lone palms and roadside shacks where naked babies play with slingshots and women dressed in traditional sampot skirts or krama scarf-turbans sell palm liquor in old Johnnie Walker bottles.

But the effort to uncover Angkor's Beng Malea -- a remote 12th-century forest shrine more than 60 kilometres from the heart of the ancient city of Angkor, which is a UNESCO world heritage site -- proves well worth my bruised tailbone.

Angkor, Cambodia's star attraction, is considered the seventh wonder of the world, and its archeological mysteries lure four million visitors a year.

The temples of Angkor ("holy city" in Khmer) were built between the 9th and 13th centuries when the kingdom was at its height, with a million people.

It was the seat of the Khmer empire, whose influence extended into Thailand, Laos and Vietnam, and it was the region's most sophisticated city for over 500 years. Archeologists believe it was the largest pre-industrial city in the world.

In the 13th century, faced with incursions from the Thais, the kingdom fell under attack and by 1432 the king moved the capital to Phnom Penh. Over time, the region's stunning wats or temples (the best known being Angkor Wat) with their gorgeous lotus-shaped towers, vine-twisted monuments, moats and stone-carved murals, were abandoned to the jungle.

But they were not forgotten. They were rediscovered by French naturalist Henri Mouhot in the 1860s after he wrote breathlessly of his visit to the ancient temples.

It's that sense of new discovery that comes over me as I lurch off the scooter and stumble through the as-of-yet barely touristed jungle temple early one morning and step into another world.

Beng Malea is a massive, kilometre-square crumbling monument strewn with tumbled rocks the size of small cars, set quietly in the jungle. It was built by King Suryavarman II, who also built Angkor Wat, But in contrast to Angkor Wat's tourist throngs and iconic status, Beng Malea seems forsaken, lost and abandoned. Here, the trees have taken over, their roots digging between the crevices of the stones, cracking and distorting carvings in their journey to find water -- nature returning civilization to the earth.

I spend a meditative hour wandering around its colossal walls and along the ramps in the interior of the temple that lead up to its remaining stone ramparts. It's breathtaking, all the more because it's struggling not to fall apart.

Cambodia itself has profoundly struggled, and tourism to its ruins is just beginning to help it rebuild.

The nation of 14 million was bombed during the U.S. war in Vietnam to flush out Viet Cong, creating two million refugees. A famine followed in 1975 and that same year the rebel Khmer Rouge took power. Pol Pot's Communist Party renamed the country Kampuchea and tried to return it to its agrarian roots, forcing educated Cambodians to work on farms, killing doctors and teachers and outlawing anything Western.

One to three million people were tortured, slaughtered or died from lack of food or medicine. A Vietnamese invasion in the late 1970s ousted the regime, but the Khmer Rouge rebels continued to fight in pockets throughout the countryside: 1999 was the first full year of peace in 30 years.

There are reminders of war everywhere. On the streets, it's rare to see a man over 40. At one wat-side stall, a young girl with a stack of plastic-wrapped books offered a slim volume, reading off its title: Children of Cambodian Killing Fields. That a child would have to know about her country's brutal history, let alone sell the tragic story to make a living, was a sobering thought.

But the development and dollars that accompany tourists to Angkor Wat -- arguably the country's top renewable resource -- seem to be having a positive impact.

Angkor Wat itself, the world's largest religious building, makes a profound impact.

The temple is surrounded by a huge moat that has more in common with a river than a man-made defence. Visitors approach from a causeway that spans the water and is guarded with statues of mythical serpents -- seven headed nagas -- warding off invaders.

The temple was begun in 1112 by King Suryavarman II to honour the god Vishnu and serve as his crypt. Today most tourists see it by sunrise or sunset, watching the light pick out details in the 65-metre high stone prasats (towers) and staying to examine the intricate bas-reliefs of devas and asuras (gods and demons) and 2,000 apsaras (divine nymphs) that decorate the palace.

Nearby, lie more remarkable ruins. The gates of Angkor Thom, a three square-kilometre city built by King Jayavarman VII starting in 1181, are flanked with giant, Buddha-like statues -- passing through can feel like entering another world. The otherworldly Bayon temple lies on the other side.

The Bayon, with its 37 towers chiselled with dozens of enigmatic, all-seeing Buddha faces (some say they resemble the king himself) offers an eerie introduction to Angkor's wonders. Eyes seem to follow you as you explore the temple, climbing over ruins, ducking under lintels, running fingers over the ancient bas-reliefs, and clambering up stone steps. The mysterious Bayon is one of Angkor's most affecting temples.

For those put off by the two-hour trek to Beng Malea, the temple of Ta Prohm is a fine substitute.

Ta Prohm is perhaps one of the most atmospheric of the inner temples, overgrown with thick vines with slabs of rock smothered in snaking tree roots. No wonder it was used in scenes from Tomb Raider with Angelina Jolie. The 12th-century temple has been left as it was found -- and has become beautifully meshed with the jungle.

It can be exhausting playing amateur archeologist all day in the 30- degree heat but, thankfully, Siem Reap has lots to offer in the way of rejuvenation. The city comes to life after sunset and though Siem Reap is a small town, restaurants, night markets and street stalls in the tourist-centric core remain lively well after midnight.

Start the evening with a leisurely dinner in the air-conditioned Angkor Palm restaurant near the Psar Chaa (Old Market) and admire the delicate silk wall hangings before tucking in to a Khmer feast featuring the Cambodian national dish, fish amoc. The creamy coconut-milk fish curry is served with jasmine rice, and the restaurant offers a host of other Asian bites, from pumpkin soup to a spicy papaya salad called bok l'hong and a peppery beef dish called lok lak.

For a communal dining experience share a Khmer-style hot pot (yao hon) with a friend, dipping beef, shrimp, cabbage, rice noodles and mushrooms to cook in bubbling broth. Or try a meal at Cambodian BBQ, where guests sizzle exotic meats -- crocodile, snake and ostrich are available -- on their personal phnom pleung or grill.

French colonial roots run deep in Cambodia, so good bread here is almost as common as rice, and vendors balance baguettes on their heads on their morning rounds.

For a taste of colonial cuisine try Le Malraux (named for French adventurer Andre Malraux, arrested for stealing temple bas-reliefs in the 1920s), for salade Parisienne, salmon rillettes and cream puffs amid Art Nouveau interior.

Stop for dessert at the Blue Pumpkin café, which offers exotic ice cream flavours like banana galangal, green lemon and kaffir lime, and ginger and black sesame.

After dinner, take care of wat-wandering tensions with streetside foot massages. They're a dime a dozen (actually, about $3 US for half an hour). Or enjoy an affordable body massage ($10) or pedicure ($7). Several shops also offer massages by the blind; at Seeing Hands Massage on Sivatha Road, part of the proceeds go back into training Cambodia's vision-impaired citizens in the trade.

But for a more refined experience step into Bodia Spa, a cool, inviting retreat across from the Old Market. A chilled ginger tea and cold herb-infused facecloth greet clients as they enter the white, high-design minimalist space en route to their oil body massages and herbal compresses.

Once refreshed, practise your bargaining skills at the Night Market off Sivatha Road -- where endless rows of silk scarves beckon -- or shop for social good at several local stores that support non-profit ventures. Rehab Craft near the Old Market sells handmade carvings, wallets and silks made by disabled employees and Artisan's D'Angkor trains poor youth in carving.

Top off the evening with a drink or two on the terrasse of the Red Piano, a restored French Colonial home with a sweeping corner balcony. Raise a glass of Angkor or Chang brand beers or sip a "Tomb Raider" cocktail (the restaurant was known as the place Jolie and crew hung out during filming) and toast to the spirit of Cambodia, to the beauty of Angkor, and to the adventurer in you.

If you go

- Passes to Angkor are sold at the gate of the archeological park for $20 US for one day, $40 for three days and $60 for a week. Two-day passes aren't offered. A three-day pass will give you time to see the central temples and to explore the countryside to see more remote treasures. There are as many ways to get to the ruins as there are ruins. You can hire a motorcycle, motorcycle-pulled trailer, car, mini-bus or bicycle. Feeling adventurous? Try an elephant, hot-air balloon or helicopter.

- Prepare for extreme heat -- high SPF sunblock, wide-brimmed hats, long sleeves, sun glasses and litres of bottled water are crucial. It's easy to get sunburned and dehydrated staring with awe at yet another astonishing apsara. After 10 a.m. the heat is unbearable. Hydrate early and often. Huge young coconuts, cracked open and strawed, offer refreshingly cold, sweet coconut water.

- Don't bother stocking up on Cambodian currency (the Riel; about 3,300 Riels to $1 CAD) before your trip. Most prices are stated in U.S. dollars and ATMs dispense cash in U.S. dollars. Locals prefer hard currency, though they will accept riels.

- Like Cambodian cuisine? Learn to cook it at local restaurant-led cooking schools. Le Tigre de Papier offers a morning or afternoon two-hour, two dish course for about $12. You can eat your mistakes and they'll offer dessert. The Angkor Palm restaurant also offers lessons.

- Luxury hotels have moved into Siem Reap with a vengeance. Tourists can stay at five-star resorts for three-star prices. Raffles Grand Hotel D'Angkor, Hotel de la Paix, and the Amansara are popular choices. There are plenty of reasonable guest-house options for the budget traveller that still offer air-conditioned rooms. Shadow of Angkor, Popular Guesthouse and Sala Bai Hotel are reliable options.

If you do splash out, make sure your hotel has a pool -- it can help ease the effects of the 44-degree summer heat.
- Learn more at Tourism Cambodia:

Cambodia PM meets Thai minister on border dispute

Agence France-Presse - 6/27/2009

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen hosted one of Thailand's deputy premiers at his home on Saturday in an attempt to diffuse a long-standing border row with friendly chat.

Hun Sen's wife cooked lunch for Suthep Thaugsuban and Thai Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwon at his residence in southern Kandal province, Suthep said, after tensions recently escalated over the UNESCO listing of an ancient temple.

Troops from both sides have built up on the Thai-Cambodia frontier in recent days near the 11th-century Preah Vihear temple, where seven soldiers have died in clashes since tensions flared last year.

Thailand's decision to ask world heritage body UNESCO to reconsider listing the temple has angered Hun Sen, but despite claiming the issue would not be discussed Saturday, Suthep said they had agreed to reduce tensions at the site.

"Prime Minister Hun Sen asked me to convey the message to our Prime Minister Abhisit (Vejjajiva) and the Thai people that Cambodia will try to reduce tensions (along the border) to assist economic cooperation between the two countries," Suthep told reporters after returning to Thailand.

"We should let bygones be bygones, forget the nightmare of the past and look forward to a positive future for both countries," he said.

Suthep also announced that a dam would be constructed in Cambodia to channel water to Thailand's eastern seaboard.

Foreign ministry spokesman Kuoy Kong said the pair had simply had a "friendly talk".

Hun Sen vowed on Thursday to take a hard stance on the dispute over the temple, the ownership of which was awarded to Cambodia by the World Court in 1962, sparking decades of tensions.

Unrest flared in July 2008 after UNESCO granted world heritage status to the ancient Khmer temple with its crumbling stone staircases and elegant carvings.

Troop pullout 'not on agenda'

Published: 27/06/2009

The Defence Ministry will not discuss the withdrawal of Thai troops from the disputed area near the Preah Vihear temple ruins during the Thai delegation's visit to Phnom Penh today.

Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwon made clear the stance yesterday in response to Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen's condition that he would discuss the temple issue only if it concerned the withdrawal of Thai soldiers.

The Thai delegation of about 15 officials, including Gen Prawit and Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban, is set to arrive in Phnom Penh today for talks after Thailand protested against the Unesco's World Heritage Committee's decision to register the Hindu temple ruins unilaterally on behalf of Cambodia last year.

Mr Suthep said yesterday he would go to Cambodia as planned on a mission to clarify with Hun Sen Thailand's objections to the listing of the Preah Vihear temple ruins.

He said his trip was aimed at strengthening bilateral ties.

Gen Prawit told reporters that Thai troops had to remain in the 4.6-square-kilometre area around Preah Vihear because it belonged to Thailand and both nations had reached an agreement that the land dispute would be handled by the Joint Boundary Committee (JBC).

About 3,000 Thai soldiers entered the disputed area on July 15 last year after Unesco listed the Preah Vihear temple on behalf of Cambodia.

"The Thai cabinet considers Unesco as a peace-oriented organisation. The rules and regulations that govern the World Heritage listing must be recognised by both countries.

"We believe that Unesco failed to observe the rules and regulations, so we must protest against Unesco and demand it respond," Gen Prawit said.

In response to reports of Cambodia's military reinforcements in the area, army chief Gen Anupong Paojinda said yesterday that Thailand would not start any violent actions and would not be reckless.

Lt Gen Wibulsak Neepal, commander of the 2nd Army, said Cambodia had deployed a number of soldiers and heavy weaponry and its forces in the area were nearly double those of Thailand's.

However, he confirmed that Thai soldiers there were prepared for any eventuality.

Cambodia faces problems enforcing new sex trafficking law

Expatica Communications


As the government tries to crack down on prostitution, many are asking how much the new efforts are further worsening conditions for sex workers.

Chantha said there was nothing else she could do in Cambodia but become a sex worker.

"If you don't even have a dollar in your pocket to buy rice, how can you bear looking at your starving relatives?" she said. "You do whatever to survive, until you start to realize the consequence of your deeds."

Chanta, in her early twenties, was working in a small red-light district west of the capital Phnom Penh several months ago when she was arrested under Cambodia's new sex-trafficking law.

Police nabbed her in a raid and charged her with publicly soliciting sex, fining her nearly two dollars. Then, Chanta claims, the arresting officers gang-raped and beat her for six days in detention.

Bruises covered her body, but none of her assailants were brought to court, she said.

Cambodia, Phnom Penh: Two prostitutes wait for business outside a bottom-end brothel in the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh

Worsened exploitation

The Cambodian government began prosecuting a new "Law on Suppression of Human Trafficking and Sexual Exploitation" in February 2008, after years of pressure from the United States to clamp down on sex trafficking.

Since then, authorities have conducted brothel raids and street sweeps but rights groups complain the new law has in many ways worsened the exploitation of women.

"The law allows police of all levels to arrest and punish sex workers," said Naly Pilorge, director of local human rights group Licadho. "The sex workers are arrested, taken to police stations and rehabilitation centres and then they are abused."

More than 500 women were arrested for soliciting sex in the first nine months of 2008, according to anti-trafficking organisation Afesip, with many of them forced into rehabilitation centres.

Rights groups say the new law makes women easier prey for traffickers and could increase rates of sexually-transmitted infections, as sex workers stop carrying condoms out of fear they will be used as evidence against them.

They also allege that detainees are regularly abused at the two rehabilitation centres, Prey Speu and Koh Kor, which are controlled by Cambodia's ministry of social affairs.

Koh Kor has the added grim reputation of being on an island that was the site of a prison and execution camp under Cambodia's murderous 1975 to 1979 Khmer Rouge regime.

Differing stats

Despite Chanta and others testifying to instances of rape, beatings and extortion at the hands of police in the rehabilitation centres, authorities have repeatedly denied the abuses.

Major General Bith Kimhong, director of the interior ministry's anti-trafficking department, said he does not believe anyone has been abused under the new law because he has received no complaints from victims.

More than 100 people were arrested this year, as human trafficking prosecutions increased by 50 percent, Bith Kimhong said.

The raids on brothels and streetwalkers proved a commitment by the government to end sex trafficking, he said, vowing they would continue.

"We'll continue to cooperate with local authorities to enforce the law," Bith Kimhong said.

Fighting sexual exploitation

The new law is one of several moves taken by the Cambodian government recently to show that it is cracking down on sexual exploitation.

In March 2008, it imposed ban on foreign marriages amid concerns of an explosion in the number of brokered unions involving South Korean men and poor Cambodian women, many of whom were allegedly being set up for sex slavery.

There have also been a string of arrests of alleged foreign paedophiles, as Cambodia seeks to demonstrate sex tourists are not welcome.

Pich Socheata, deputy governor of one Phnom Penh district, leads "clean-ups" of prostitution on the streets but said she empathizes with sex workers.

"They are female and I am too, so I do understand no girls want to do that job,” she said. “But we are only practising law.”

But Keo Tha, a staff member at the sex workers' rights group the Women's Network for Unity, says many more Cambodian women are still being forced into prostitution as jobs dry up amid the global financial crisis.

A more sensible law, she said, would legalise sex work.

Said Tha: "We are sandwiched right now -- we are oppressed by the police, the law and rising living costs.”

Kounila Keo/AFP/Expatica