Monday, 6 July 2009

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen ordered Cambodians, including Buddhists, on Tuesday to honour the one year anniversary of the Preah Vihear

Cambodia soldiers work at the ancient Hindu temple in Preah Vihear province, 543 km (337 miles) north of Phnom Penh July 6, 2009. Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen ordered Cambodians, including Buddhists, on Tuesday to honour the one year anniversary of the Preah Vihear Hindu temple's listing as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, a long-running source of Thai-Cambodian tension.
REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea

Cambodia soldiers work at the ancient Hindu temple in Preah Vihear province, 543 km (337 miles) north of Phnom Penh July 6, 2009. Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen ordered Cambodians, including Buddhists, on Tuesday to honour the one year anniversary of the Preah Vihear Hindu temple's listing as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, a long-running source of Thai-Cambodian tension.
REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea

Cambodian soldiers (L) toast traditional wine during a joint lunch with Thai soldiers near the ancient Hindu temple in Preah Vihear province, 543 km (337 miles) north of Phnom Penh July 6, 2009. Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen ordered Cambodians, including Buddhists, on Tuesday to honour the one year anniversary of the Preah Vihear Hindu temple's listing as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, a long-running source of Thai-Cambodian tension.
REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea

Cambodian soldiers (L) toast traditional wine during a joint lunch with Thai soldiers near the ancient Hindu temple in Preah Vihear province, 543 km (337 miles) north of Phnom Penh July 6, 2009. Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen ordered Cambodians, including Buddhists, on Tuesday to honour the one year anniversary of the Preah Vihear Hindu temple's listing as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, a long-running source of Thai-Cambodian tension.
REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea

Cambodian soldiers (L) enjoy a joint lunch with Thai soldiers near the ancient Hindu temple in Preah Vihear province, 543 km (337 miles) north of Phnom Penh July 6, 2009. Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen ordered Cambodians, including Buddhists, on Tuesday to honour the one year anniversary of the Preah Vihear Hindu temple's listing as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, a long-running source of Thai-Cambodian tension.
REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea

Cambodian soldiers (L) enjoy a joint lunch with Thai soldiers near the ancient Hindu temple in Preah Vihear province, 543 km (337 miles) north of Phnom Penh July 6, 2009. Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen ordered Cambodians, including Buddhists, on Tuesday to honour the one year anniversary of the Preah Vihear Hindu temple's listing as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, a long-running source of Thai-Cambodian tension.
REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea

Foreign tourists look at the ancient Hindu temple in Preah Vihear province, 543 km (337 miles) north of Phnom Penh July 6, 2009. Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen ordered Cambodians, including Buddhists, on Tuesday to honour the one year anniversary of the Preah Vihear Hindu temple's listing as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, a long-running source of Thai-Cambodian tension.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea

Cambodians work at the ancient Hindu temple in Preah Vihear province, 543 km (337 miles) north of Phnom Penh July 6, 2009. Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen ordered Cambodians, including Buddhists, on Tuesday to honour the one year anniversary of the Preah Vihear Hindu temple's listing as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, a long-running source of Thai-Cambodian tension.
REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea

Cambodians work at the ancient Hindu temple in Preah Vihear province, 543 km (337 miles) north of Phnom Penh July 6, 2009. Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen ordered Cambodians, including Buddhists, on Tuesday to honour the one year anniversary of the Preah Vihear Hindu temple's listing as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, a long-running source of Thai-Cambodian tension.
REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea

Govt should not restrict foreign land ownership

The Phnom Penh Post

Monday, 06 July 2009

Dear Editor,

Prime Minister Hun Sen said the draft legislation allowing foreigners to own apartments will - once completed - give momentum to other sectors of the economy ("PM pushes for property law to boost foreign investment", June 22, 2009).

Yes, of course it will. Many countries in this world allow foreigners to buy
properties, include landed properties in their countries. Cambodia's existing laws prohibit foreigners from owning property, which supporters say will prevent speculation and price volatility.

Under existing laws, the property market in Cambodia has been filled with speculators for the last two years prior to the world financial crisis!

There are many other ways to curb excessive speculative activities. Capital gains tax on property is one of the most effective ways. If people buy and sell off property within a short period of time, there must be a reason for it. In most cases, there is a good profit to be made. The government can tax on the price differential. The tax rate could depend on the number of years that the owner possessed the property. The tax rate would be higher for properties held for a shorter period of time.

The government can also impose a property transaction tax to discourage property transaction activities when the market heats up.

Property is an asset that foreigners cannot bring away with them. There is no reason for the government to put restrictions on foreigners, especially those with investments that plan to stay here for the long term to buy property in the country. There are investors who have been here for more than 10 years. They would like to have a house of their own which they can modify after their own taste. They do not want to shift their home every 3 or 5 years because landlords want to take back their properties.

It should be noted that many countries offer permanent resident status to foreigners to encourage them to buy properties. Under the Second Home Scheme, the Malaysian government offers foreigners who buy properties the permanent resident status. This will not only attract capital into the property market, but the brains and long-term investments.

Do remember that the government has to spend huge amounts of money to attract tourists to stay just four to five days. But if you attract a foreigner to set up a second home, they could stay substantial portions of each year!

Of course, to protect the interest of the local people the government can impose certain restrictions on the purchase of property by foreigners. For example, they could restrict foreigners from buying property that costs less than, say, US$50,000. However, the government should not prohibit foreigners from buying landed properties. Those who plan to stay here long-term and are financially capable of doing so would like to own a landed property for a more comfortable stay.

Phnom Penh

U.S. to provide assistance to reform Cambodia public financial system

PHNOM PENH, July 6 (Xinhua) -- The United States government announced Monday its intention to provide technical assistance to the Royal Government of Cambodia to support the country's public management reform program and efforts to improve fiscal controls and promote greater transparency in financial transactions.

The announcement was made after a meeting between Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Economy and Finance Keat Chhon and U.S. Ambassador Carol A. Rodley, and Michael Ruffner from the Treasury Department's Office of Technical Assistance (OTA).

"The assistance is designed to help Cambodia strengthen the enforcement of laws and controls as they relate to budgeting and financial accountability, banking and financial services, the insurance and financial industries, and tax administration and collection," it said in the statement.

It added that the financial management and accountability assistance programs were expected to begin within the next few months.

Editor: Xiong Tong

Masterton (New Zealand) woman flowers in Cambodian parade

Former Wairarapa College pupil Lucy King during a two-hour Buddhist ordination parade she was invited to lead.

Wairarapa Times-Age

6th July 2009

A former florist and Wairarapa College pupil has won the rare honour of leading a Buddhist procession in Cambodia, dressed in traditional Khmer clothing as flower of the parade.

Lucy King, 27, daughter of Masterton couple Janet and Miles King, said from Cambodia she took part in the parade at the end of June.

She said the experience came through her work at The Happy Ranch, where she takes tourists on horseback treks to neighbouring pagodas and ancient stone temples.

Monks at Wat Chouk pagoda, which is on her tourist trail, invited Ms King to take part in the parade after hiring horses to carry two of their novices.

The pagoda is an almost 17km processional walk "in the sun" from the township of Siem Reap, located in the Cambodian northwestern province of the same name.

"It was pretty amazing to be part of this and I received a lot of attention as I was the only foreigner and it's not often they would see one dressed in full traditional clothing," she said.

Ms King said the monk ordination ceremony is held once a year at all Cambodian pagodas and usually involves three days of ceremony and celebration.

"There were 10 new monks ordained in the ceremony I attended. All the female guests wear traditional white tops and long skirts while the men, it seems, just rock up in any old clothes.

"The parade is like a grand finale to their previous life before they settle into the monastery for some serious meditation. We walked for two hours from the pagoda towards town and then back in a huge loop, leading the horses on which the new monks sat praying the whole way and holding incense.

"They believe the gods rode horses so this is symbolic," she said.

"I was the only foreigner there so there was a lot of pointing and staring, obviously not often they would see a barang (foreigner) dressed up in their fancy gear."

Janet King, who with her husband runs Kingsmeade Cheese producing sheep milk cheeses, said her youngest of three daughters has worked at the Cambodian ranch for almost 18 months.

She said Lucy had chanced upon the opportunity for a career change during a trip through Asia from her then home of Sydney, where she had trained as a florist and was working contracts for mainly state occasions.

"She had a pony when she was 11 and she just loves her job even though they only earn a pittance.

"She has met people from all over the world and has totally immersed herself in the culture - learning the language and teaching English to the stable hands."

Opinion: Pol Pot's younger brother finds peace

Saloth Nhep bears a striking resemblance to his older brother, Pol Pot, but has lived a very different life. (Jay Mather/GlobalPost)

Cambodians appreciate, even savor, the calm in their country, rather than worrying over the deprivation of their present-day lives.

By Joel Brinkley - GlobalPost
Published: July 6, 2009

PREK SBOV, Cambodia — Saloth Nhep enjoys watching the Khmer Rouge trial, underway in Phnom Penh. Like most Cambodians, his home does not have electricity, but he has a small black-and-white TV powered by a car battery.

What strikes him, he says, is that “the court is not Cambodian, it’s partly international. That’s unusual here.”

Both the United Nations and Cambodian government are administering the trial. Still Saloth Nhep says he hopes the defendants, aged Khmer Rouge leaders, are convicted, even though they were close friends and war-time compatriots of his older brother, Saloth Sar — Pol Pot.

The Khmer Rouge leader, Brother Number One, died 11 years ago, and at that time Saloth Nhep grieved. "When I heard the news I was very sad, and I felt my heart slow down," he said then.

Now he is 84 years old. Even with a creased face and white hair, Saloth Nhep holds a striking resemblance to his brother. Whatever anger he still holds toward his brother relates primarily to Pol Pot’s neglect of his family — not his role in the deaths of two million Cambodians.

Before joining the Cambodian communist party, Saloth Sar studied in France, and “after he came back from France, he came to see us only twice,” Soloth Nhep complained. "He did not care about family. He has never even seen the face of my oldest child.”

While the Khmer Rouge held power, from 1975 to January 1979, “I did not know the name Pol Pot, did not know he was my brother,” Saloth Nhep said. Even as the president’s brother, he was swept into the vortex of the Khmer Rouge horror. Unlike his older brother, he was an illiterate rice farmer — just the kind of Cambodian the Khmer Rouge respected.

“They treated me like everyone else; they didn’t know he was my brother. I didn’t know Pol Pot. The work was very hard, and their was no freedom.” But then in 1977 he saw a poster with his brother’s picture. He stared. He was shocked.

“What I was thinking was that he should not be leading the country this way and letting people starve to death.”

After that, he says he did not tell anyone that Pol Pot was his brother. Asked why, he just shrugged. He continued working with little if anything to eat until the Vietnamese invasion in 1979. Neither during the war nor after did he ever see his brother again.

Today, Saloth Nhep illustrates the paradox of Cambodian life, 30 years after the fall of the Khmer Rouge regime — 10 years after the last Khmer Rouge guerrilla surrendered. He lives with his extended family in a small house. The walls of his home, and the roof, are of bamboo and palm fronds. He has no toilet, no telephone, no clean water, no furniture other than straw mats and a hammock he sits in without a shirt as he dries off from his bath from a bucket. As he talks, three young children, Pol Pot’s great nieces, watch him from behind another hammock, giggling and chewing on rice cakes.

Saloth Nhep is content now. His expression at rest is serene. “The present government is better than the previous regime,” he avers. “There is freedom of travel, and we have security.” That’s all he seems to want.

For most Cambodians, life is an unending struggle to survive.

Just down the road, Tuy Khorn, 42, is trying to plow her rice paddy with a single-blade plow pulled by two oxen. The Khmer Rouge killed her husband, so she is alone. She tries her best to tie a heavy rock to the plow blade so it will dig a deeper furrow. But as soon as she ticks the oxen with a stick, and the animals begin lumbering forward, the rock falls off. Again and again.

“Some years I can grow enough rice” to last through the year, she says. “But if there’s no rain, I can’t grow enough. I don’t know what I will do if there’s no rain, maybe just go by nature” — meaning eat fruits and insects and whatever she can find in the wild.

But Tuy Khorn does not complain. The country is at peace. She needn’t worry about Khmer Rouge raiders popping out from behind the line of trees just ahead. Even now, she and most Cambodians appreciate, even savor, the calm and worry less about the deprivation of their present-day lives.

“We worked hard to achieve peace,” said Prach Chann, governor of Battambang Province. “Now we don’t want to fight among ourselves anymore. Now we can move on.”

After a long life of hard labor, Saloth Nhep does not complain, either. He is calm, clear-eyed, comfortable with himself. He now has enough to eat, and he has gained respect in his village, even with his uncanny resemblance to his notorious brother. Once, they actually elected him to a school committee.

“They can see that I behave in a good way, so they accept me,” he said. “I just live like everyone else. I never had to prove myself because I was not involved with my brother. That is hard to explain to people from far away.” He, too, is at peace.

The New York Times; Shooting Cambodia

Cambodia is one of the world’s most photogenic places but for years it was captured almost exclusively by foreign photographers. However, a handful of new galleries, festivals and training programs have arisen recently to promote and celebrate works by the country's residents.
The picture at left depicts a man cycling in the Battambamg province. More photographs from Melon Rouge, a new agency based in Phnom Penh, follow.
Photo: Tom/

A girl with a tire in the Kandal province.
Photo: Tom/

This image was part of a series titled "Chicken Family," organized by the French Cultural Center and Melon Rouge.
Photo: Pha Lina/Melon Rouge

A girl and her sister begging on the street in Phnom Penh.
Photo: Sovan Philong/Melon Rouge

Some photographers working with the new galleries and projects have come to the medium through other visual arts. Vitharin Chan, who snapped this image, is a professor of painting at the Royal School of fine art in Phnom Penh.
Photo: Vitharin Chan/Melon Rouge

This photo is titled, "Em Phon." Nicolas Havette and Thierry Marre, founders of the Melon Rouge agency, say they want Cambodians to realize their own projects without pressure.
Photo: Tom/Melon Rouge

“Lost in Translation?” – or Why Is there Not More Timely and Clear Information? – Sunday, 5.7.2009

Posted on 6 July 2009.
The Mirror, Vol. 13, No. 619

The past week had again a lot of events in the field of interpreting and applying the law, and not enforcing it in other cases. During the week, it was time and again difficult to understand or to explain what happened, in a country living under the guidance of a Constitution which declares that Cambodia is

based on a multi-party liberal democratic regime guaranteeing human rights and the respect of law.

Without elaborating again, only a brief reference:

That now a member of the National Assembly may face a defamation suit by the vice-president of the National Assembly, because he criticized the opinion of his fellow parliamentarians and their decision sounds almost as if the very principle of the constitutionally guaranteed multi-party reality – where members if different parties have different opinions – is being challenged.

There are more instances where it is difficult to follow the publicly presented arguments. When a Deputy Prime Minister defended his actions to initiate prosecution against a newspaper editor who had reported that electric lighting is being installed in Angkor Wat by drilling holes into ancient stones (while it was later denied that any such drilling happened) the Minister presented the argument that such action against wrong information was to avoid chaotic confusion in the public. Did this imply a criticism of the Prime Minister, who had, at that time, as is well remembered, also shared the (wrong) information of a newspaper about a (non-existent) statement by a Thai actress? Reminding the public that wrong information relating to Angkor Wat had led to the anti-Thai riots in 2003, the Deputy Prime Minister explained – weeks later – that the installation of some electric equipment at Angkor Wat was only a test for later plans. Had this explanation been made public at the time of the first controversial news reporting, chaos and confusion – and a lawsuit now receiving wide international attention – could probably have been avoided.

It is reported almost daily that the military tensions between Cambodian and Thai troops around the Preah Vihear temple are still at a dangerous level – in spite of the meetings between both Prime Ministers and others. But the wording of the arguments reported in different media are often not very clear in detail.

The Prime Minister is quoted to have said that the ammunition that exploded at Takhmao was to be sent to the border with Thailand to protect the territorial integrity. Public emotion often assumes that Thailand now claims the Preah Vihear temple. There are no statements publicly known that the Thai government is trying to reverse the 1962 ruling of the International Court of Justice which says that the temple of Preah Vihear is on Cambodian territory.

As far as the temple of Preah Vihear is concerned and the ground on which it stands, the territorial integrity is not contested.

But there is a piece of land around of a few square kilometers which are contested. This is known since 1962. This led to the initial military confrontations in 2008, when Thai troops entered the contested zones, considered in Cambodian statements as “invading Cambodia.” Similar arguments on the other side consider the contested zones as (contested) Thai territory. This situation will continue as long as both governments have not yet agreed on the final borderline.

In the last round of new tensions, three different problems are often mixed up in public reporting:

- Territorial integrity – The Cambodian Prime Minister is quoted to have said: “We cannot have joint ownership over our separate land.” Thailand is not claiming ownership of the land of the temple of Preah Vihear.

- Registration of Preah Vihear as a UNESCO World Heritage site – Thailand had intended this, Cambodia rejected this, and to find a solution both governments negotiated from 2007 to 2008 and achieved an agreement. The World Heritage Site was registered not in the name of the two countries, but in the name of Cambodia only. But the decision of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee in 2008 states specifically that this listing does not imply anything about conflicting territorial claims.

- Joint management planning – In view of the geographic and political situation, the representatives of both governments agreed, in 2008, to jointly develop a management plan for Preah Vihear, and present it in 2010 to the UNESCO committee for review. Reviewing the Khmer language press, we have not seen that this difficult, but crucial joint task has been reported to the Khmer public – nor any details, what kind of plans exist to elaborate such a joint management plan. Quite to the contrary, several statements in the Cambodian public seem to insist that there is nothing to negotiate with Thailand. That is not what the Cambodian delegation in 2008 agreed to.
The Thai Prime Minister was recently quoted to have described the result of this process, blaming UNESCO for agreeing to designate Preah Vihear as a World Heritage site at a time when the border demarcation of the contested areas was not yet done by the two governments. Since then, “we have tensions, and tourists cannot go there any more. That defeats the whole purpose of World Heritage listing, for local people and for tourists.”

A Cambodian newspaper report from yesterday confirmed this situation: The number of tourists to Preah Vihear declined by more than 50,000 in six months of 2009 compared to the same period in 2008, when there had been more that 85,000. The number of people who lost their lives – on both sides – has not been officially confirmed and added up.

While there was concern that incorrect newspaper reports about the installation of some lighting at Angkor Wat, only for testing, might have led to chaos and confusion, a publication of the texts of the actual agreements related to the Preah Vihear, in the Khmer language, might help to dispel any rumors that the jointly to be developed management plan is a new Thai ploy. It is what the Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister, who led the negotiations from 2007 to 2008, agreed to.

And, as was also reported during the week: “Wood Is Transported from Preah Vihear Day and Night, and Forestry Officials Said They Do Not Dare to Curb Down on It” – as it is backed by powerful people.

Please recommend us also to your colleagues and friends.

Duty-free stores closed

The Winmart superstore is completely deserted after the government changed its duty-free policies. TUOI TRE

Viet News

Monday, July 06, 2009

Tuoi Tre

A change in the duty-free shopping laws has resulted in the closure of several supermarkets and shops at the Moc Bai Border Economic Zone at the Vietnam-Cambodia border.

Much to the surprise of shoppers, 46 of the 48 businesses in the zone in southern Tay Ninh Province have shut their doors this month. The remaining two are struggling to survive on their remaining customers, mainly Cambodians.

Winmart, the third and largest duty-free market in Moc Bai which opened on May 17, was open for business last week but with a complete lack of customers.

Moc Bai Economic Zone Authority Deputy Chief Le Van Tuong told Tuoi Tre the retailers had stopped trading in the wake of a government decision to only allow foreign visitors to buy duty-free goods. The ban on Vietnamese passport-holders buying duty-free goods in border economic zones took effect on July 1.

Before the ban took effect, Vietnamese shoppers were the main customers at the zone’s duty-free stores, Tuong said.

When duty is imposed on the goods sold in the zone, they actually cost more in Moc Bai than in other places because of transportation costs, on top of the import tax, special consumption tax and value-added tax (VAT).

“How can we attract customers with that policy?” a company director asked.

A Vietnamese-Canadian businessman said he invested some US$12 million in his store at the Hiep Thanh Trade Center in the Moc Bai Border Economic Zone but business had been getting worse over the past three years.

“At first, each buyer was allowed to buy VND500,000 ($28) of duty-free items per day, then the limit was reduced to VND500,000 each week and now there’s a ban,” he said. “If the situation continues, I will be forced to shut down my store.”

At the request of Moc Bai economic zone authority, Tay Ninh Province People’s Committee has asked the government to reconsider the policies that apply to the zone.

The government’s decision has also affected businesses in the duty-free economic zone at the Tinh Bien Border in southern An Giang Province, which are now on the verge of bankruptcy.

“The previous duty-free policies boosted investment in infrastructure and trade at border gates,” said An Giang Border Economic Department Deputy Chief Le Huu Trang.

“The decision (to change the duty-free rules) will surely put a halt to all licensed projects,” Trang said.

Cambodia sets up first state carrier


PHNOM PENH — Cambodia’s first State-owned airline, established in partnership with Vietnam Airlines, will come into existence on July 27.

Cambodia Angkor Airline (CAA) would initially fly only on domestic routes, according to Phnom Penh Post.

Cambodian Government officials said Preah Sihanouk International Airport, formerly known as Kang Keng Airport, will be inaugurated on the same day.

Mao Havannal, civil aviation secretary, said on the first day two ATR-72 aircraft would fly between Siem Reap and Preah Sihanouk Province.

He added that representatives of carriers based in Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Viet Nam, and Laos would also be present at the July 27 inauguration to learn about Cambodia’s air travel potential.

According to an agreement signed by the Cambodian Government and Vietnam Airlines, CAA will buy Airbus 320 and 321 aircraft in late 2009 and early 2010 to expand its services to countries like South Korea.

Ho Vandy, managing director of World Express Tour and Travel, was quoted by the Post as saying that CAA has been formed not only to make profits but also to benefit the Cambodian economy, especially the tourism industry.

The creation of the new national airline would help attract tourists travelling by sea to Preah Sihanouk Port to Angkor Wat. —VNS

Procurator delegation visits Cambodia

July 6, 2009

A procurator delegation led by Deputy Director of the People’s Supreme Procuracy of Vietnam Nguyen Thi Thuy Khiem began a working visit to Cambodia on July 1.

The delegation held talks the same day with a delegation from the Cambodia Supreme Court headed by General Prosecutor Chea Leang, who described the visit as an important step to bolster ties between judicial and prosecuting agencies of the two countries.

The Vietnamese official asked for enhanced cooperation among criminal and judicial agencies as well as in personnel training between the two neighbours. She also stressed the importance of boosting cooperation between border localities in the fight against criminal and transnational crimes.

She also took the occasion to invite the Cambodia Supreme Court to attend the ASEAN-China chief procurators meeting slated for November in Vietnam .

Chea Leng expressed her hope that Vietnam and Cambodia will organise more workshops on judicial and criminal matters and increase exchange of visits by the two sides.

During the five-day visit, the Vietnamese delegation will pay a courtesy visit to Prime Minister Hun Sen and visit the Cambodian Justice Ministry. (VNA)

Cambodia: Defining Peace in Order to Build Peace

Culture clash at Tuol Sleng. Photograph by Adam Kogeman

July 6, 2009

by Pushpa Iyer
- USA -

At the entrance to the eerily preserved torture rooms in Tuol Sleng (the genocide museum in Phnom Penh, Cambodia), there is a sign bearing the face of a distinctly Cambodian man who is laughing. Marked in red on his face is a cross, informing visitors that laughter is prohibited.

Our local host, from the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies, tells us that some Cambodians laugh when they are confronted with something uncomfortable, as a way to deflect their uneasiness in not wanting to display their innermost feelings. ‘Deeply-offended’ foreigners made an official complaint when they encountered laughing Cambodians in this starkly preserved museum. As a result, Cambodians, or at least some of them, are now deprived of dealing with pain and trauma in their own way.

Why is it that outsiders always think they know best? Doesn’t a traumatized society have its own mechanisms to cope with its violent past and strategies to rebuild itself?

These questions are grim in the context of any society that is emerging from violence, but they become even more severe for a post-genocide society. Not only are these societies, such as Cambodia, more traumatized and fragmented because of their past, but they are also dealing with the challenge of a lost generation.

The lost generation of Cambodia is comprised mainly of educated professionals, who were the primary targets of the genocide. Today, 70% of the country’s population is under 30, which makes rebuilding society increasingly difficult because they lack the experience, memory and skill of its older “lost generation.”

This is what drew me to study Cambodia. In my field of study, Conflict and Peace, Cambodia is a fascinating country. The trauma of the genocide is still very fresh and raw for those who survived it and yet, there is an entire generation growing up that doesn’t study genocide as its past. This is a generation that denies and reacts with discomfort when confronted with its violent history. One reason for this discomfort, which also helps understand the laughing at the museum, lies in a fact that makes Cambodia pretty unique in the world of violent conflicts.

In Cambodian society, the divisions between its people – the ‘us’ vs. ‘them’ is unclear. The genocide did not happen because of ethnic, racial, linguistic or religious differences – Khmers heaped atrocity after atrocity on their own. The horrific rule by the Khmer Rouge, (The Red Khmers), a Marxist party led by Pol Pot, which lasted three years, eight months and 20 days from 1975 to 1979 and left over 2 million dead (or roughly 1/5 of the population), has left deep-seated scars on those who survived as victims of the rule and those who were its perpetrators. Today, the distinction between them is often blurred.

How does a society heal from these scars? How can its people acknowledge their history while at the same time establishing truth and providing justice? How does a post-genocide society make and build peace? And, for those involved in rebuilding a country, or engaged in building peace - what are the challenges they face?

In the field of Conflict and Peace, peace is not understood in the narrow terms of ‘absence of war’, which we label as ‘negative’ peace. Peacebuilding is working towards building ‘positive’ peace, which involves removing the root causes of conflicts in order to ensure that conflicts do not re-emerge in the future.

Peacebuilding begins when violence halts or ends. It involves ensuring that all basic needs of the population are met, structural imbalances are corrected and a society that is more just and humane is built. A long-term process, peacebuilding is therefore much more than creating a ‘peaceful’ society – it is strategic and political.

An important aspect of effective peacebuilding is sustainability. Peacebuilding requires that local grassroots efforts be supported, that peace be built from the bottom-up just as much as it must come from top-level actors. It also means that Cambodians must take control of the past and their future. Rebuilding Cambodia is a very complex task as its past, present and future are so enmeshed that is not possible to tackle any one era without assessing the cause or the impact on another.

Cambodia youth face the challenge of moving the country forward. Photograph by Adam Kogeman.

There is a popular phrase in Cambodia that describes its historic tensions with its geographical neighbors, both pre- and post-genocide: ‘Caught between the Tiger (Thailand) and the Crocodile (Vietnam)’. Today, however, the saying has come to signify the many dilemmas and tensions the country faces, not just in dealing with its own violent history, but also the border disputes (with Thailand), growing human trafficking, increasing HIV/AIDS, economic disparity, and the deep-rooted structural imbalances in society that make changes hard and slow to come by. Then of course there is the genocide, which involves understanding history, dealing with trauma, establishing truth and questioning what justice means for the victims and how it should be delivered.

These were some of the many issues considered when I organized a course involving field research in Cambodia. Thirteen students from the Monterey Institute of International Studies traveled with me to spend two weeks in Cambodia with a brief stop in Bangkok, Thailand.

Through our course, Challenges to Peacebuilding in Cambodia, my students worked to identify and understand the many problems that Cambodia faces but more importantly, we tried to understand what Cambodians thought were some of the real impediments to peace and how they thought they could build a more peaceful society.

We heard the deeply moving stories of the genocide’s survivors. We were awed by the resilience and spirit of Cambodia’s youth in trying to overcome barriers. We witnessed Cambodia’s structural violence when a slum next to our hotel was forcibly evacuated. We were fascinated by the role of Buddhism in bringing peace, especially since religion was banned during the rule of the Khmer Rouge. We were struck by the confusion of Cambodians about what justice really means and what they saw was the purpose of the ongoing International Tribunals. We were humbled by the warmth and generosity of ordinary Cambodians, who in spite of the mammoth task before them, displayed incredible patience when we bombarded them with questions. Most of all, we were moved by the strength, ideas and actions of Cambodian peacebuilders and the active role they play in being watchdogs for their government while rebuilding a shattered society.

Ultimately we strove to understand what ‘peace’ really means for Cambodians. The answers varied but the simple words uttered by a survivor of the Khmer Rouge struck us deeply: “Peace”, he said,“ is having the freedom to make choices”.

We came away clear about one choice that Cambodians seem to have made: to not dwell on their past. They are not trying to forget, in fact they are making every effort to acknowledge history. But they are working equally hard to ensure that history does not consume them or damage their future.

Let’s give Cambodians and all populations affected by conflict the freedom to make the choices they want in dealing with their past and developing strategies to build their own future. Let’s not impose our solutions - tribunals, elections, democracy - on other societies. Most importantly, Cambodians should have the freedom to define what they mean by peace and we should assist them in building this peace. And, if they need to laugh while they undertake the task of rebuilding society, then they should have that freedom too.

A two-part series consisting of eight Talk blog entries from Pushpa's students will link to this article in the coming weeks. Part I, "Legacy, Responsibility, Justice and Spirituality" will contemplate how Cambodia is coping with its painful past. Part II, "Identity, Sex Trafficking, HIV/AIDS and Property Rights" will explore some of the challenges modern-day Cambodia faces. – Ed.

Cambodia’s Legacy of Silence

The killing fields in Cambodia. Photograph by Adam Kogeman.


July 5, 2009

by MelissaBooth

On a late afternoon near the end of our trip, the thirteen of us students sat in a dimly lit room drinking coffee and listening to another heart-wrenching story. A man was kindly recounting his personal experience during the Khmer Rouge period - one more ghastly, moving, and extraordinary tale. In the midst of his quiet chronicling, his wife said, “Tell them about the birds.” As he pondered her request, his face smoothed over and he took a long look at the ceiling. He then told us something remarkable. He remembers distinctly that in the years under the Pol Pot regime, there was a physical change in the landscape.

All around him he saw trees beginning to die. The vibrant greens of the fields muted to a dingy brown as vegetation withered. Coconut trees stopped providing fruit. Fighting his hunger, he searched for a certain edible plant that commonly grew in the region, but it had vanished. It was as though nature itself was affected by the suffering and, like the people, was disappearing. The birds, he said, stopped singing. He noticed their silence and that, after awhile, they appeared to have left entirely. Animals known to populate the countryside left too. For him, there was simply no other explanation but that the very earth was recoiling in horror. The silence that fell upon Cambodia between 1975 and 1979 was dreadful, blanketing the people and the land in a frightful stillness. Today, this legacy of silence is a crucial element of Khmer culture. We went to Cambodia to study the “challenges to peacebuilding,” and this unique obstacle to peace particularly moved me. Silence plays a varied role in Khmer history and society, being a manifestation of fear, a tool for survival, and a traditional part of Cambodian psychology. I saw the theme emerge numerous times and in unexpected places, and became fascinated with the meaning of silence for Cambodians and their future.

Silence and the Khmer Rouge

In interviews taken later, former Khmer Rouge guards reported that their elevation to positions of authority gave them, for the first time in their lives, the experience of having power over someone. Humble farmers and peasants were transformed into influential men and women with commanding voices. However, their feelings of power were starkly contrasted to the utter hopelessness suffered by a vast swath of the Cambodian population. For these people, the ability to speak was stolen from their mouths by the regime’s methods of terror and dehumanization. Silence became a central strategy for survival under the communist Khmer Rouge.

In 1975, Pol Pot instituted an agrarian revolution in which all members of society except peasants and poor farmers were marked for eradication. Almost anyone could be designated as an enemy of the party and executed, but professionals, academics, artists, and students were especially targeted. Urban residents, French-speaking Cambodians, Cham Muslims, ethnic Chinese, and Vietnamese nationals living in the country were also deemed disposable. Because of this constant threat of violence, silence became the key to staying alive. If identities could be satisfactorily hidden, if education, bilingualism, urban upbringing, or ethnicity could be masked, there was a chance to escape slaughter and face the odds of survival laboring in the rice fields. Remaining quiet, with head down and hands working, was one of the only ways to survive.

Cultural Silence

Though the Cambodian people we met were endlessly kind, flashing us big beautiful smiles, there is still a distrust that lingers in their minds. This fear, a reaction to the violence wreaked upon the country throughout the Vietnam war and later by the Khmer Rouge, shaded many of our discussions with NGOs, Buddhist monks, Khmer youth, and even regular people we met each day. It was not uncommon to ask a Khmer man for his thoughts on the government and have him look over his shoulder and lower his voice when responding. He may even decline to respond at all. Women too had stories locked tightly away, and only those who had become accustomed over time to sharing their experiences would let the memories bubble up.

Apart from the fierce effect the Khmer Rouge had on Cambodians, there is a more organic and cultural dimension to silence. In a country where 95 percent of the population is Buddhist, there is a traditional and religious significance to preserving quiet.

The Buddhist saying, “Do not speak unless it improves upon the silence,” reflects the importance of silent wisdom and careful discourse. Silence paves the path to inner peace and is enshrined in the teachings and lives of the orange-robed monks that dot the Cambodian landscape. Correspondingly, Cambodian culture does not emphasize or honor verbal communication as do other, often Western, cultures. Instead, symbolism is a fundamental attribute of Cambodian interaction; “talking” does not serve the people as well as gestures, symbols, and deeds.

Yet the cultural tradition of silence does not always outweigh the merit of confronting trauma and processing grief. One Cambodian NGO we visited empowers local people through community reconciliation, and it was noted that the organization’s first task when it began was to “open mouths.” Once people were taught that they need not be silent anymore, they began to overcome their aversion to dialogue and embrace the catharsis of open reflection.

Each year in Cambodia, the TonlĂ© Sap River performs a remarkable feat. When the rainy season starts, the country’s other major waterway, the Mekong, swells and pushes the TonlĂ© Sap back, reversing its flow. It is a river that runs two ways. Silence in Cambodia is as difficult to comprehend as this annual phenomenon of the river. Cambodians’ willingness to speak was forced to retreat in the face of terrifying brutality. This cycle of fear and powerlessness still persists in the country today. Silence is the tool of the damaged soul, it is fear and oppression, it is wisdom and acceptance. Cambodians can live with the uncertainty of a river that flows both ways, and so do they gracefully confront the ambiguity of silence in their lives and culture.

Melissa's blog entry is the first in a two-part series written by WIP Contributor Pushpa Iyer's students. In the coming weeks, more entries will follow. Part I, "Legacy, Responsibility, Justice and Spirituality" will contemplate how Cambodia is coping with its painful past. Part II, "Identity, Sex Trafficking, HIV/AIDS and Property Rights" will explore some of the challenges modern-day Cambodia faces. – Ed.

Melissa Booth is currently working as a summer fellow for Polaris Project in Washington, D.C. With a background in Latin American politics and culture, she has studied at the University of Chile in Santiago and interned with the State Department in Honduras. Since the inception of her advanced degree program in Conflict Resolution last year, Melissa has become fascinated with peace and conflict studies in South East Asian and East African societies. She is pursuing a master’s degree at the Monterey Institute of International

Family to sue judge over bribe

The Phnom Penh Post

Monday, 06 July 2009
Chrann Chamroeun .

Father says the judge did not deliver on promises.

THE family of a jailed man in Ratanakkiri province is preparing to sue a judge for accepting a bribe to release the man from prison and then failing to follow through.

Pa Chhoeun, 59, told the Post Sunday that he gave Thoang Saron, the deputy director of Ratanakkiri provincial court, US$150 to release his son from prison last month. But his son was never released.

"We have asked [rights group] Adhoc to help us release my son from detention and to retrieve my $150 from investigating judge Thoang Saron, who cheated me out of the money," he said.

Pa Chhoen said his son, Yun Chhoy, 33, was jailed in connection with a dispute over damaged property.

Pen Bonnar, a provincial coordinator for Adhoc, said he would send a formal complaint to the Ministry of Justice and the Supreme Council of Magistracy later this week.

Thoang Saron could not be reached for comment. Tuy Sim, the provincial military police chief, said he was "not sure about the case".

Border troops break bread

Photo by: Tracey Shelton
A monk blesses a Cambodian soldier stationed near Preah Vihear temple on Friday

The Phnom Penh Post

Monday, 06 July 2009


CAMBODIAN soldiers stationed near Preah Vihear temple invited 10 of their Thai counterparts to lunch Sunday in a bid to ease tensions ahead of the one-year anniversary of the temple's inscription as a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF) officers stationed at the border told the Post that 10 Cambodians also attended the meal at Keo Sekha Kirisvara pagoda, 300 metres from Preah Vihear.

"We had lunch together with 10 Thai officers because we want to show that we remain friendly," said Brigadier General Thol Sovann, deputy commander of RCAF Division 3.

"The party was intended to reduce the tension between the Cambodian and Thai soldiers."

Major Apidshat Poopauk, who headed the Thai military delegation at the lunch meeting, told reporters that the lunch was a bid to normalise the situation around the 11th-century temple, which has been the centre of a standoff between the two countries since its listing as a World Heritage site last July.

"My team has been here for one year, and now we have had lunch together to ease the [border] situation," he said.

Although Thai and Cambodian commanders have held high-level lunch meetings in the past, Sunday marked the first time that rank-and-file soldiers were invited to break bread with their counterparts.

Ean Phov, a Brigade 7 soldier who cooked the lunch for the meeting, said the shared Khmer meal would facilitate reconciliation in the buildup to the anniversary of the UNESCO listing Tuesday.

"I don't know if [my food] is good or not, but it is intended as a symbol of peace," he said.

"Even if my food is not tasty, it shows that we are communicating with each other and are friendly."

But other troops said the meal was intended to send a "farewell" to the Thai troops stationed at the border.

A senior officer in Prime Minister Hun Sen's bodyguard unit, who declined to be named, said RCAF commanders were frustrated because Thailand had not withdrawn its troops from the area.

Thai commanders had said they would discuss a troop withdrawal with leaders in Bangkok by Wednesday of last week, he added, but then said they would need until Sunday.

"They always say that they will withdraw on this day and then when we check again, they say they need another day. They always reply to us like this. If the soldiers will not withdraw from [the area], we will take measures against them," the officer said.

Close scrape
Meanwhile, one Cambodian soldier escaped with only minor injuries when he triggered a land mine while patrolling at Chak Chreng, close to the disputed temple, on Sunday morning.

Lieutenant Colonel Bun Vanna, deputy chief of staff at RCAF Brigade 8, told the Post that the soldier triggered the land mine when he tripped on a piece of wood. He said the soldier suffered minor injuries.

Brigade 8 commander Yim Phim said the mine had been planted during the civil war between Khmer Rouge insurgents and the government.

"[The soldier] is very lucky. The temple spirits must have blessed him," Yim Phim said.

Although several Thai soldiers have been injured by land mines during the year-long standoff, he said, Sunday's incident was the first in which a Cambodian soldier fell victim to a mine.

He also said it disproved past Thai allegations that Cambodia has been laying fresh mines along the border in order to ensnare Thai patrols.

"The fact that one of our soldiers stepped on the mine means that we did not plant it [recently]. It means they are all old mines from a long time ago," he said Sunday.

Yim Phim added that he and other brigade commanders would travel to Phnom Penh today to attend a concert marking the one-year anniversary of Preah Vihear's World Heritage inscription.

Activists critique new effort to cut fondling of beer girls

Photo by: Tracey Shelton
A staff member serves drinks at a beer garden on Street 240 in Phnom Penh in this file photo.

The Phnom Penh Post

Monday, 06 July 2009
Khuon Leakhana

Although most commend a pilot programme to curtail sexual harassment, some say it fails to address the girls, who may see it as a way to make money.

A PILOT program designed to curtail attacks against beer girls has drawn criticism from several women's rights activists, who argue that it does not engage beer girls directly.

The Non-Violent Workplace Initiative, sponsored by the Ministry of Women's Affairs along with the NGO Care in Cambodia, launched in May and is being piloted in six entertainment establishments in the capital. It was designed to alter the behavior of customers who frequent beer gardens and restaurants and also to encourage beer girls to report incidents of violence and sexual harassment.

In addition to financing a television ad campaign, officials are distributing posters bearing the slogan "No violence in the workplace" as well as meeting with the owners of beer-selling establishments. During the meetings, the owners are advised on how to cut down on the number of inappropriate sexual advances made against their employees.

But Am Sam Ath, a technical supervisor for the rights group Licadho, said the program should also involve meetings with individual beer girls, many of whom, he said, see sexual attention from customers as something that can help them make more money.

"As I am aware, many beer girls in restaurants voluntarily allow men to touch them," he said. "It is a way to persuade men to drink their beer, and they will earn more income if they sell more beer. They are told to compete with each other in selling their beer."

He said he believed "the need to survive" led women to accept - and even encourage - inappropriate advances from male customers, though he acknowledged that some were explicitly instructed by their employers to do so.

"They do not want to have problems at their work," he said. "They have to be patient and stay still when they are touched by men."

Like Am Sam Ath, the Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker Mu Sochua, who formerly served as minister of women's affairs, said any government-led effort to cut down on the sexual harassment of beer girls should directly engage beer girls and encourage them to resist inappropriate advances.

"The campaign will not be successful if there is no participation ... from beer girls themselves," Mu Sochua said, though she added that beer companies and restaurant owners were largely to blame for sexual harassment.

I myself also have touched some beer girls, but only when they allowed me. I never force them.

"Beer companies should not use beer girls as a tool to attract men to buy beer," she said.

In response to critiques of the program, Sath Salim, a legal affairs official at the Ministry of Women's Affairs, said: "I welcome criticism of this newly introduced campaign. But please be aware that it is just a trial that has been done at only six restaurants for only two months so far."

She said the ministry had not yet assessed the effectiveness of the pilot program.

Care reported in 2005 that there were 4,000 beer girls in Cambodia.

The country director for Care could not be reached for comment last week.

Inside the beer garden
A Care press release marking the launch of the program said, "We still hear through all forms of media about incidences of sexual harassment and violence against beer promoters in working hours and on the way home."

Customers and beer girls also said in recent interviews that such incidents were common.

Heng Sothearith, a 37-year-old bachelor, said he eats outwith friends at beer gardens and restaurants nearly every night.

"At the restaurant, we like to have beer girls sit around us while we are eating," he said. "My friends said they like touching those beer girls, playing with them or persuading them to become drunk. Then it is easy for them to take those beer girls to do something somewhere else."

He added: "I myself also have touched some beer girls, but only when they allowed me. I never force them."

Puy Hang, the owner of Sabbay Reatrey Restaurant, one of the six establishments participating in the pilot program, said he believed sexual harassment against his employees was on the decline, a trend he attributed to posters featuring the "No violence in the workplace" slogan. But he said harassment had never been much of a problem at the restaurant, which opened in 2003 and employs 10 beer girls.

Srey Mean, 35, who has worked as a beer girl since 2001, said she repeatedly turned down requests to drink with her customers.

"I explain to them that I would have a problem if the company saw me sitting with customers. The company might fire me," she said. "Some customers understand this, but some do not. They try to give me money and keep insisting that I sit down and drink with them."

Law in the works
Both Sath Salim and Ing Kantha Phavi, the minister of women's affairs, noted that the ministry was working to draft a law that would protect beer girls specifically.

Ing Kantha Phavi also said the new draft Penal Code, approved by the Council of Ministers last month, includes a section "focusing on the rights of beer girls to prevent them from being touched by customers during working hours".

She said the law would call for fines to be levied against "those who touch beer girls", though she said it would not call for jail time.

"I cannot give more details about the law while we are still working on it," she said.

Chinese station set to expand coverage

The Phnom Penh Post

Monday, 06 July 2009

THE six-month-old Cambodia-China Alliance radio station is to change its frequency from FM 96.5 to FM 105.75 next month in a move that will extend its reach, the head of National Radio of Cambodia told the Post last week.

"The reason for the change in radio frequency is that we wanted the Cambodia-China Alliance radio station to be able to expand their coverage ... so that many more provinces will be reached," said Tong Yan, director general of National Radio.

The Chinese-run station, which launched in July 2008 on the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries, plays music and reports on news, education and art in English, Mandarin, Khmer and Teochew, a Chinese dialect spoken by many Chinese in Cambodia.

"We have broadcasted our programmes for six months now, and we have gained popularity among both Chinese and Cambodians," said An Xiaoyu, the director of China Radio International in Cambodia.

Chinese perspectives
Pen Samitthy, president of the Cambodian Club of Journalists, said the radio station is not a mouthpiece for Chinese propaganda and instead provides listeners with a chance to learn about Chinese culture. He did, however, say the station shies away from contentious issues.

"The radio station usually broadcasts news that is not sensitive.... [But] the radio station does not broadcast news that is in favour of the [Chinese] government or any propaganda," he said.

The new frequency will allow the radio station to expand in to Kampong Chhnang, Kandal, Takeo and Siem Reap provinces, Tong Yan said.

The popularity of FM radio, especially among young people, makes it an effective way to reach out to a wide audience and to reinforce links between Cambodia and China, he said.

"Listening to FM radio is still in fashion among youth, so we need to respond to their demand," he said.

"The station can be an additional bond that strengthens the relationship between Cambodia and China."

Hun Sen urges Thais to speed Road 68 funds

The Phnom Penh Post

Monday, 06 July 2009

PRIME Minister Hun Sen has urged Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva to speed up an agreement to fund the reconstruction of National Road 68 connecting Siem Reap with the town of O'Smach near the Thai border.

During the inauguration of National Road 67 in Siem Reap Saturday, Hun Sen said Thai Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban should remind Abhisit to speed up Thai financial assistance for the project.

"Ministers from both countries have already discussed it with each other. Suthep should explain to Abhisit that the project is moving forward and should urge him to sign an agreement as soon as possible," Hun Sen said. Suthep attended Saturday's inauguration ceremony.

Hun Sen said he spoke with Abhisit about the project to rebuild the national highway, which runs from O'Smach in Oddar Meanchey province to Kralanh in Siem Reap province, during the 14th ASEAN summit in Pattaya in April and again on June 12 during Abhisit's state visit to Cambodia. He said the rebuilt road, expected to cost an estimated US$41 million, would benefit both countries.

"In order to see the importance of the cooperation... bilateral trade between the two countries in 2008 was worth $1.7 billion," he said.

"This point shows the importance of the road ... [which will] make trade between the two countries easier."

He said all outstanding disagreements between the countries had to be resolved through peaceful negotiations, adding that he hoped the border situation would remain stable.

Thai roads
Tram Iv Tek, minister of Public Works and Transport, said National Road 67, spanning 131 kilometres between Anlong Veng and Siem Reap, had a price tag of $38 million, a sum loaned by the Thai government.

Another Thai-funded highway, the 150-kilometre-long National Road 48 from Koh Kong to Sre Ambel in Koh Kong province, was officially inaugurated for public use last year.

Swine-flu count rises to seven

Photo by: Tracey Shelton
A thermal camera used to screen passengers at Phnom Penh International Airport in this file photo

The Phnom Penh Post

Monday, 06 July 2009

58-year-old woman is second Cambodian to contract A(H1N1) virus

THE Ministry of Health on Friday confirmed Cambodia's seventh case of the A(H1N1) virus, commonly known as swine flu.

A 58-year-old woman who landed at Phnom Penh International Airport on Tuesday after receiving dental treatment in Bangkok is the second Cambodian to come down with the virus.

Ly Sovann, deputy director of the Communicable Diseases Control Department at the Ministry of Health, said the woman did not exhibit any symptoms when she landed.

She went to be tested after she developed a cough and fever on Wednesday. The results came back positive the following day, and she was placed in isolation at Calmette Hospital, where she is recovering, Ly Sovann said Sunday.

The six other people who have tested positive for swine flu have all been released from Calmette, Ly Sovann said.

Tactics for prevention
In order to combat the threat of pandemic flu, Cambodia has in recent weeks established three 24-hour hotlines to inform the public about AH1N1 and other similar illnesses.

"Since the outbreak, we have provided three hotline numbers around the clock. The public can call to gain general knowledge about the flu or other diseases, learn about prevention of swine flu or report a suspected case," he said.

"Since we provided these hotlines, many people have called and asked lots of questions."

The WHO has recorded 89,921 confirmed cases of A(H1N1) worldwide since the virus was discovered in April in Mexico. There have been 382 deaths.

Local chicken farmers pushed to bankruptcy

Photo by: Robert Carmichael
Chickens sold at Siem Reap night market in this file photo

The Phnom Penh Post

Monday, 06 July 2009

Farmers cite rising costs, bird flu and knock-on effects from the global economic crisis as provincial chicken farms close.

DOZENS of the Kingdom's chicken farmers say they have lost hundreds of thousands of dollars as they are forced to shut down. They blame the global economic crisis for their woes and now fear the possible impact of bird flu, they said.

Chuon Hout, owner of the Poung Peay chicken farm on the outskirts of the capital, is one of those affected. He told the Post that his business was felled by a combination of the global economic crisis and disease.

"My business failed, and I lost my investment of more than US$9,000," he said. "My chickens all died from bird flu, and then the economic crisis hurt me further. I'm scared to continue in this business."

Chuon Huot said at least five chicken farms in his village have closed - all for the same reasons.

It is a similar story in Damnak Ampil village in Kandal. Farmers there said the high cost of buying and rearing birds had made the business unprofitable since selling prices are too low.

Man Veasna, 57, lost $4,000 on his chicken farm, and said 25 other farms in the village had gone bust.

"Do you know why so many chicken farms have gone bankrupt? I can tell you that the main reason is the increasing cost of raising chickens - this has exceeded the income that can be earned from them," he said. "If we continue raising chickens, we will lose more money, and eventually our homes and our land."

The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF) said it did not have statistics on the number of farms that have gone bust.

"We just don't know," said Sar Sochetra, the office manager in MAFF's department of animal health and production. "We only know that there are 237 chicken farms breeding the birds for meat, and 45 farming them for eggs. We don't know how many people they employ."

Sar Sochetra said meat-raising farms have about two million chickens, while egg-raising farms have about one-tenth of that number.

One of the largest buyers of chicken in Cambodia is fast-food retailer KFC. Benjamin Jerome, general manager of KFC Cambodia, said the firm buys 20 tonnes of chicken a month for its four outlets.

"We buy all of our chicken locally - we don't import any of it," he said, although he declined to name suppliers.

Chan Sophal, president of the Cambodian Economic Association, said he is concerned that some bankrupt farmers have borrowed money from banks, while others have sold land to raise the capital.

The result is that some have been thrown into poverty, he said. Chan Sophal blamed a combination of low demand, low retail prices and high input costs.

Sim Phanny, 45, a bankrupt chicken farmer in Damnak Ampil, sold her rice field for $12,000 and bought a chicken farm with 4,000 birds to try to improve her family's living conditions.

"But I failed with that business, and lost all the money from the sale of my rice field," she said.

Damnak Ampil Commune Chief Sy Nuon said 50 chicken farms with 4,000 birds each had closed in his commune since October when the effects of the global economic crisis started to drive down selling prices.

He said prices being paid to farmers are now as low as $2 per kilogram, about half the price the meat sells for in a major Phnom Penh market, where prices have recently picked up again - chicken retail prices have risen nearly 16 percent in the capital in the past six months.

"I am very concerned for those people in my commune who have lost their chicken farms and sold off their land," said Sy Nuon.

Govt nixes report of rent hike at dump site

The Phnom Penh Post

Monday, 06 July 2009

THE company that runs Phnom Penh's rubbish-collection service said it is negotiating a planned hike in the city's dump site rental cost of up to 800 percent.

However, the city's deputy governor denied any such increase was in the cards.

Seng Chamrouen, the deputy director of refuse-removal firm Cintri, told the Post at the end of last week that the municipality wants to raise the monthly rental from US$10,000 to between $40,000 and $80,000.

"We don't yet know what the final price will be since it is under discussion," Seng Chamrouen said.

Cintri's 50-year contract to operate Phnom Penh's refuse-collection has been running for seven years.

Seng Chamrouen said deputy governor Trac Thai Sieng had told Cintri at a meeting last Monday that the city wants to renegotiate up to 90 percent of its contract, the company said.

Authorities refuse to reply
However, Trac Thai Sieng told the Post on Thursday there were no plans to raise charges for the dump sites and said he was unable to answer further questions.

"I can't answer because I don't know anything about this story," he said, directing further questions to City Hall spokesman Nuon Sameth.

Nuon Sameth refused to comment, saying that he was busy with preparations for the July 7 event marking the listing of Preah Vihear as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Bank deposits climb in first half

An ANZ Royal employee counts US dollars at a branch in Phnom Penh

The Phnom Penh Post

Monday, 06 July 2009

Private banks report flight to quality lenders as rate of non-performing loans increases.

ANUMBER of leading banks have reported a rise in deposits in the first six months of the year compared with the same period last year.

They said the reasons were two-fold. Firstly, clients are turning to quality institutions to manage their deposits, and secondly, the economic crisis means people are saving rather than investing.

The banks reporting higher deposits are ANZ Royal Bank, ACLEDA Bank and the Cambodian Public Bank.

Stephen Higgins, CEO of ANZ Royal, wrote in an email last week that deposits were up 34 percent in the first half.

"We are actually too liquid at the moment... We now have around US$240 million in cash and bank deposits, mainly with the NBC (National Bank of Cambodia)," Higgins said, adding that clients were reassured by the strength of parent bank ANZ.

Higgins said loans offered were up 15 percent to $291 million in the first six months, and he expects to see continued growth in loans and deposits in the second half of this year.

"Lending continues to grow, but not at the same pace as the first half of last year when growth was in fact too fast," he said. "Naturally, our credit provisions are higher as well, which is to be expected for this part of the cycle."

Phan Ying Tong, head of the Cambodian Public Bank, said deposits were up one-fifth to more than $500 million.

"People have sufficient confidence in the bank, and at the same time the lack of business activities and the current investment environment are not good, so they prefer to put their money in a safe bank," he said.

Phan Ying Tong said loans were down 2 percent to $600 million, with non-performing loans (NPLs) slightly above last year's figure of less than 1 percent, although he did not provide a precise figure.

In Channy, president and CEO of ACLEDA bank, said Sunday that deposits were up 25 percent to $610 million by the end of June, with gross loans down 3.5 percent to $446 million. He expects deposit growth of 50 percent by the year-end, he said.

"My forecast is that the banking sector will see loan growth in the second half of the year because that is the crop-growing season - so people will borrow to invest in their businesses," he said.

The bank's NPL percentage had more than doubled in the past six months from 0.44 percent to 1 percent, he added, blaming exposure to construction-material suppliers.

Tal Nay Im, director general of the National Bank of Cambodia, said on Sunday that overall bank deposits are up and loans down, although she was unable to provide figures. She predicted a recovery before the end of the year as other economies pick up.

"Cambodia's banking industry has been stable in the first half of the year. Deposits at commercial banks have increased, but we have seen lower growth compared to the first half of last year before the economic downturn," she said. "Loans are down because of the impact of this crisis, and we have seen that banks are being cautious in offering loans to customers."

She said the downturn in the real estate sector and lower agricultural prices meant NPLs were up from 3 percent at the end of the first semester in 2008 to around 5 percent now.

Bugtastic dining in the Penh

Down by the riverside: Intrepid Post reporter Marika Hill considers snacking on a bit of snake-on-a-stick

The Phnom Penh Post

Monday, 06 July 2009

If it wriggles or it crawls, it can be spiced up and fried in oil - be it a black tarantula or a fried frog, an adventurous epicurean spirit can always find something to tickle her taste buds

We've all seen them. I'm guilty of screaming at them, running from them, and even stomping on them. The bugs and spiders that scamper about Cambodia are part of the city's fabric.

But they are also part of the city's edible delights.

The riverside is a burrow of ex-pat and backpacker restaurants and bars - however, it's also home to the vendors of Cambodia's crittery bites. The Central Market is also a great spot for sourcing Khmer snacks.

Pulling up to the riverside in the early evening I am overwhelmed by choice: grilled snake, deep-fried spiders and salty frogs. Women crouch beside their baskets of flavours, while more established sellers have moto-stalls with up to 15 choices of snacks. For 2000 riel I opt for a creepy-crawly pick-and-mix.

I begin with the black beetles, about the size of a fingernail. They are seasoned with spices such as sugar, salt, garlic and cow's bone, before being barbecued for the ultimate summer snack.

You should first remove the wings of this tiny delicatessen. Biting in, they have a slight crunch with a distinctively soy-sauce taste. Chewing through, you're left with a nice surprise in your teeth. Legs. Mmm, nothing like a chewy treat to start me off.

Next on the list: thumb-sized cricket. I'm told the larger crickets are stuffed with peanuts, but mine are simply seasoned and salted. They remind me of crisps - just a tad more crunch to the bite.

Initially quite gritty and crunchy, it becomes salty and softer halfway through its abdomen.

It's time to switch to what I gather is beetle larvae. It's like fruit - soft, juicy, with a similar texture and size of a sultana.

Mmm. Beetle larvae

Clenching it between my teeth, the larvae "pops" in my mouth. It's almost refreshing. Almost.

I'm just finishing off my third larvae when the vendors fling their food baskets on their heads and begin running. Have I just been poisoned? Ripped off?

But no, it's not all about me. The police are doing their regular swoop of the area, temporarily dislodging the tuk-tuks and mobile vendors from the road. A few minutes later everybody returns to set up shop. It is an exhausting job, requiring great vigilance.

I'm very dubious about the hairy, black tarantulas. If they were alive, I would scream like a lunatic and leap into the nearest person's arms. Dead, they're slightly easier to stomach. About the size of a human palm, they are put in a bucket and mixed with spices, then deep fried.

Its hairy legs tickle as my lips meet the black monstrosity. I'm not feeling good about this. Crunch. Chew.

Not bad, but not good. Initially quite gritty and crunchy, it becomes salty and softer halfway through its abdomen. I munch through half the body and legs before discarding the rest.

Tarantulas and crickets became part of the national cuisine during Khmer Rouge rule. As other food sources depleted, people had little choice but sample the less attractive of food sources. But it turned out crickets and spiders aren't that bad-tasting after all.

The spiders also make good wine, which is a good source of protein. The live spiders are placed in a potent wine, where, after a few minutes they become totally inebriated and die. The wine can then be drunk anywhere between a few days and a few months later.

I feel ready to take the next step: reptiles.

Snake on a stick looks appetising. It reminds me a bit of a chicken kebab. To prepare, the skin is removed and the naked snake is splashed with sauce before being barbecued or grilled.

I feel let down by the snake. I fail to bite through its leathery skin and it tastes nothing like a kebab. I take another angle and am again met with tough resistance. Eventually, I crack some off the end. It tastes a little like jerky.

I'm grateful the frog's slime has been grilled away. Roughly the size of your palm, you can easily bite apart the amphibian in one go. It's a cliche, but it really did taste like fried chicken.

Every food critic has her limits, and mine were tightly drawn across the scalded baby chickens. The tiny chicks looked as if they'd been caught mid-scream in a lava flow - scorched to the bone. Chick eggs was another I just couldn't crack. The irrational side of me imagines these poor mother hens having their half-cooked babes cut from their hutch.

Post-meal and I'm waiting for the vomiting and diarrhoea to begin. But it's not to be. I'm actually full for hours and feel energised. Frogs and black beetles were definitely my favourite due to their salty taste, whereas I found the spiders and snake most difficult to swallow, because of their tough exteriors.

For any critter-sampling bring a toothpick. Bug legs are notoriously bad for wedging in your teeth. And remember water. It alleviates the salty seasoning and washes down those dislodged legs, antennae and hairs.

Police Blotter: 6 Jul 2009

The Phnom Penh Post

Monday, 06 July 2009

Police from Prambi Makarak commune in Phnom Penh on Wednesday thwarted the distribution of illicit drugs in Tonle Bassac commune by Horm Sokhon, 63, they said. Police said they confiscated 17 packets of ice methamphetamine, 19 yama tablets and materials to package and distribute the illegal substances, and that the detained is to be tried in Phnom Penh Municipal Court.

A 17-year-old was detained for questioning by police in Banteay Meanchey province Tuesday regarding the sexual assault of a 9-year-old girl at her home in Malay district. Police said the teen is suspected of having assaulted the girl the previous week, and that he had confessed to committing the assault while the girl's parents were busy watching television at a neighbour's house.

Ghet Yat, 36, a resident of Komgpong Trach district in Kampot province, was arrested on Monday on suspicion of stealing property from villagers in 2002. Police said their investigation had proved that the man must be a criminal, but they did not disclose what kinds of property the man stole.

Police in the S'ang district of Kandal province arrested Song Hout, a 28-year-old farmer from Teuk Vel commune, for punching an elderly man unconscious on Monday. The farmer was enraged by his 63-year-old neighbour, identified by police as Try Seng Hong, who repeatedly berated the younger man for not changing his profession.

Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Friday sentenced two men to 18 years in prison for strangling a third man with the handle of a purse and stealing his Honda CRV in 2008. Keo Vattanak, 25, and Chap Samoneth, 32, who were arrested in October 2008, were also ordered to pay US$50,000 in compensation to the victim's wife.

Police in Daun Penh district on Thursday arrested two men on suspicion of robbing a coupe of their 2006 Suzuki Viva and a handbag. The two men, whom police identified as Pen Chetra, 25, and Sun Vannak, 26, were arrested a few hours after the robbery was committed. Police said they are still in pursuit of two other potential accomplices who fled the scene.

Beyond Angkor Wat

Overgrown with vegetation, a stone dharmasala, or rest house, lies outside one of the entrances to the Banteay Chhmar temple, one of the largest temples outside Angkor Wat

The Phnom Penh Post

Monday, 06 July 2009
John Burgess .

Some of Khmer culture’s most exquisite sites lie outside the famed Angkor temple complex.

Banteay Chhmar

IT'S early on a Sunday morning in Cambodia, and I'm standing at a 12th-century moat. Across a causeway, through a tumbled-down gate, lies Banteay Chhmar, one of the largest temples ever built by the ancient Khmer Empire.

Cambodia's great temples of Angkor, 105 kilometres 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.

But go beyond Angkor and you can find places that serve up the old solitude and sense of discovery.

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, bathwater drawn from that same moat.

Off the tourist trail
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 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. 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.


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 a kilometre and a half on each side. At its centre, within another square moat system almost a kilometre 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. 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.

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. When rain is needed, locals 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. 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.

The carving style is similar to that of the Bayon temple reliefs in Angkor. The difference is that there's no need to fight for a view.

Late in the afternoon, we went for a look at what the ancient Khmer could do with water. Just east of the temple, they created a reservoir that measures more than a square kilometre.

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.

Generous hospitality
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.

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.

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.