Tuesday, 14 July 2009

(TIME) The Rise and Fall of the Khmer Rouge

Royal Seal of Approval
In 1965, Prince Norodom Sihanouk, Cambodia's head of state, asserted the nation's opposition to the U.S.-backed government in South Vietnam by allowing North Vietnamese guerrillas to set up bases within Cambodia's borders. The North Vietnamese had an alliance with a Cambodian Marxist insurgency group, the Khmer Rouge, whose top brass Sihanouk is pictured here with in 1973.

Bettmann / Corbis
Losing Control
A Cambodian soldier holds a .45 to the head of a Khmer Rouge suspect in 1973. When Sihanouk was forced out of power in a coup, the new Prime Minister, General Lon Nol, sent the army to fight the North Vietnamese and the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia. Fighting two enemies proved to be too much for Cambodia's army. As Civil War raged from 1970 to 1975, the army gradually lost territory as Khmer Rouge increased its control in the countryside.

Christine Spengler / Sygma / Corbis
Coming Apocalypse
Survivors sift through rubble after the Khmer Rouge bombed Phnom Penh, the capital city, on January 1, 1975. Four months later, the party took the city, on April 17, 1975, and began their mission of returning Cambodia to an agrarian society, emptying the cities and forcing their countrymen into agricultural labor.

Claude Juvenal / AFP / Getty Images
Day One, Year Zero
Khmer Rouge fighters celebrate as they enter Phnom Penh on April 17, 1975. Prince Sihanouk, the party's early ally, resigned in 1976, paving the way for the now notorious Khmer Rouge founder and leader, Pol Pot, to become prime minister. The country was renamed Kampuchea, and it was the start Year Zero — the beginning of a new history for Cambodia written by Pol Pot.

Roland Neveu / OnAsia
Left Behind
Days before the occupation of the capital, thousands of Cambodians gather behind a school perimeter fence near the American embassy to watch the final evacuation of U.S. and foreign nationals.

GAMMA / Eyedea Presse
Death Sentence
A prisoner gets her mug shot taken. At prisons like Phnom Penh's infamous Tuol Sleng, prisoners were painstakingly documented before being sent to their deaths in mass graves later to be come known as the "killing fields." Hundreds of thousands of intellectuals were tortured and executed under the Khmer Rouge; others starved or died from disease or exhaustion. In total, an estimated 1.7 million Cambodians died between 1975 and 1979.

AFP / Getty Images
Pol Pot's Utopia
An undated photograph shows forced laborers digging canals in Kampong Cham province, part of the massive agrarian infrastructure the Khmer Rouge planned for the country.

Bettmann / Corbis
A New Occupier
Fed up with cross-border raids by Khmer Rouge, Vietnam invaded Cambodia on Dec. 25, 1978. By Jan. 7, shown here, Vietnamese troops had occupied Phnom Penh. The Vietnamese occupation of Cambodia lasted for 10 years.

Kyodo News / AP
Fearless Leader
The Vietnamese overthrew Pol Pot, too, driving the leader to the Thai border where he continued to head the Khmer Rouge in the jungles.

John Bryson / Time Life Pictures / Getty Images
Purging the Western Curse
The Khmer Rouge sought to rid Cambodia of all Western influences that distracted its people from their agrarian calling. Cars, abandoned and forbidden, were stacked up alongside the road.

David A. Harvey / National Geographic / Getty Images
A Bloody Landscape
An exhumed mass grave, pictured in 1981, in the Cambodian countryside reveals the skeletons of those executed and buried together under Pol Pot's regime.

Alex Bowie / Getty Images
The Resistance
Khmer Rouge guerrillas in the jungle of western Cambodia as they attempt to halt advancing Vietnamese forces on Feb. 15, 1981.

Alain Nogues / Corbis Sygma
Running for Cover
Cambodian refugees, pictured in January 1985, at a refugee camp, near the Thai-Cambodian Border. Some 60,000 people fled to the south as fighting increased between Khmer-Vietnamese troops and the FNLPK (Khmer People's National Liberation Front), one of the three groups making up the anti-communist resistance.

Jacques Langevin / Corbis Sygma
Out from Under the Iron Curtain
Without backing from the Soviet Union, Vietnam could no longer afford to keep its troops in a state of indefinite occupation in Cambodia. In September 1989, Vietnamese troops withdrew from Phnom Penh.

Michael Freeman / Corbis
A Tearful Reunion
A family greets each other in August 1989 after being separated during years of war and occupation.

Jacques Langevin / Corbis Sygma
Return the Old Guard
The 1991 Paris Peace Accord that followed Vietnam's withdrawal mandated democratic elections and a ceasefire, but was not fully respected by Khmer Rouge guerrillas. U.N. transitional authority shared power with representatives of various factions, and Prince Sihanouk, shown here at center making his way back the Royal Palace in November 1991, was reinstated as Head of State.

Romeo Cacad / AFP / Getty Images
U.N.-run elections in May 1993 resulted in a shaky coalition between Sihanouk's son, Prince Norodom Ranariddh, and Hun Sen, a former Khmer Rouge guerrilla pictured here at a political rally before the elections. The country was once again named the Kingdom of Cambodia. Hun Sen remains Prime Minister today.

Jason Bleibtreu / Corbis Sygma
The Banality of Evil
Pol Pot continued to lead the Khmer Rouge party from rural Cambodia until July 1997 when he was arrested. In a show trial, Pol Pot, known as Brother No. 1, was denounced by his own followers and sentenced to house arrest in his jungle home. The press gathered there when he died less than a year later at age 73 on April 15, 1998, never having faced charges.

Ou Neakiry / AP
A New Chapter
Finally agreeing to abandon their fight, the remaining Khmer Rouge soldiers fighters surrendered on Feb. 9, 1999, and donned new uniforms of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces during an integration ceremony in Anlong Veng near the Thai-Cambodian border.

David Hogsholt / Getty Images
Documenting the Aftermath
Contact sheets showing pictures of what is believed to be former prisoners of the S-21 prison, also known as Tuol Sleng, where over 15,000 people lost their lives. Kaing Guek Eav, better known as Duch, was detained for his role as chief of the torture center in 1999.

John Vink / Magnum Photos
The World Watches, and Waits, for Justice
A long delayed U.N.-backed tribunal to bring the leaders of the genocide to justice began in 2009. On Feb. 17, Duch's trial began. He is the first of five defendants scheduled for trial.

Toothless laws encourage rising demand for pangolin

Illegal trade in Asian pangolin meat and scales has caused the scaly anteaters to disappear from large swathes of Cambodia, Viet Nam and Lao PDR.

14 July 2009

Singapore - Rising demand for pangolins, mostly from mainland China, compounded by lax laws is wiping out the unique toothless anteaters from their native habitats in Southeast Asia, according to a group of leading pangolin experts.

Illegal trade in Asian pangolin meat and scales has caused the scaly anteaters to disappear from large swathes of Cambodia, Viet Nam and Lao PDR, concluded a panel of experts whose findings were announced today by the wildlife trade monitoring network, TRAFFIC.

China has a long history of consuming pangolin as meat and in traditional medicine, the report states. Due to continual demand and the decreasing Chinese wild population, in the past few years pangolin smuggling from Southeast Asia has resulted in great declines in these producing countries wild populations, as well.

Although the animals are protected under national legislation in all Asian range states, and have been prohibited from international trade through the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) since 2002, this legislation is having little impact on the illicit trade.

Pangolins are the most frequently encountered mammals seized from illegal traders in Asia, and are highly unusual in not possessing teeth.

Pangolins, like the laws designed to protect them, lack bite, commented Chris R. Shepherd, Acting Director for TRAFFIC Southeast Asia.

Pangolin populations clearly cannot stand the incessant poaching pressure, which can only be stopped by decisive government-backed enforcement action in the region.

According to pangolin hunters and traders, there are so few pangolins left in forests throughout Cambodia, Viet Nam and Lao PDR, they are now sourcing animals from their last remaining strongholds in Southeast Asia and beyond.

Recent large seizures back up these reports. They include 24 tonnes of frozen pangolins from Sumatra, Indonesia, seized in Viet Nam this March and 14 tonnes of frozen animals seized in Sumatra this April. There have also been recent instances of African pangolins seized in Asia.

Pangolins save us millions of dollars a year in pest destruction, says Dr Simon Stuart, Chair of the IUCN Species Survival Commission. These shy creatures provide a vital service and we cannot afford to overlook their ecological role as natural controllers of termites and ants.

The key to tackling the pangolin crisis is better enforcement of existing national and international laws designed to protect pangolins, better monitoring of the illegal trade, and basic research to find where viable pangolin populations still exist and whether ravaged populations can recover given adequate protection, according to the report.

The experts on pangolins included scientific researchers, government law enforcement officers from most Asian pangolin range States, CITES Management and Scientific Authorities and animal rescue centres, who convened at a workshop hosted by Wildlife Reserves Singapore at the Singapore National Zoo.

TRAFFIC's work on pangolins was supported by National Geographic and Sea World Bucsh Gardens.

MRC calls for public submissions on proposed Mekong hydropower schemes


PHNOM PENH, July 14 (Xinhua) -- The Mekong River Commission (MRC) has established a web page to allow the public to make submissions regarding the 11 hydropower schemes proposed for construction along the mainstream Mekong.

The submissions, which can be made at http://www.mrcmekong.org/ish/hydro-submit.asp or by post or fax, will provide input to the MRC's Strategic Environmental Assessment that is looking at the wider economic, social and environmental implications of the proposed dams in Cambodia, Laos and Thailand, according to MRC's statement released on Tuesday. MRC member countries will use information presented by the study to guide their decisions on these projects, it said.

Jeremy Bird, Chief Executive Officer of the MRC Secretariat, said that Mekong governments (include Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam) have expressed "a strong desire" to understand the full range of opportunities and risks of any proposed mainstream hydropower project, particularly those of a regional nature, before a decision is taken to proceed.

"In order to do this effectively, it is important to have a broad consultation process that allows us to hear the views of communities, NGOs, researchers and businesses. These web page submissions provide one of the tools to help achieve this."" he added.

As set out in the 1995 Mekong Agreement, MRC Member Countries must undergo a formal inter-governmental consultation process prior to building any dams on the river. Projects proposed for development on the mainstream in the lower Mekong Basin will come to the Commission for consultation, with a view to assisting member countries to reach consensus.

Past studies have shown that the development of hydropower can be both positive and negative. For example, the electricity generated and foreign exchange earnings can support a country's development programs, MRC's statement said. "However, a major concern is the effect that proposed dams could have on fish migration and numbers, and ultimately on the people that live in the river system and who rely on fish for their livelihoods and protein intake," says Xaypladeth Choulamany, a Fisheries Program Co-ordinator at the MRC. "What we need to do is to fully understand the basin wide implications of this and other impacts."

Editor: Zhang Xiang

Two-month campaign aims to stem human trafficking


VietNamNet Bridge – A two-month campaign to tackle the trafficking of women and children starts next week.

The General Department of Police has asked the force nationwide to form plans to combat rings involved in trafficking in border regions, especially those adjoining China and Cambodia.

It would work closely with border guards and other agencies to rescue and repatriate victims of trafficking who faced being sold in foreign countries. So far this year, 191 trafficking cases involving 417 women and children have been detected.

A recent ministry report indicated about 360 people were being investigated for likely involvement in related illegal activities. Since 2005, there have been 1,600 cases of human trafficking with 4,300 victims - and about 3,000 people were investigated for involvement.

Traffickers often sell women and children they kidnap in northern provinces, including Ha Giang, Lai Chau, Lao Cai and Dien Bien, to contacts in China.

"Reasons for trafficking were the economic crisis, unemployment and residents' low awareness of the law," said the deputy director of the Social Order Crime Investigation Police Department, Nguyen Tri Phuong.

There was a lack of co-ordinated administration and also difficulties when working with neighbouring countries, he said. "To prevent human trafficking, we need help from our neighbours."

The ministry would co-ordinate with provincial police and border guards and bodies in China, Cambodia and Laos to establish better ways to try to eliminate trafficking rings.

Traffickers often take advantage of dark nights and a lack of vigilance among families to kidnap children. In isolated cases, they have murdered parents to kidnap new-born babies.

Nearly 80 per cent of the women had lived in Mekong Delta provinces and HCM City, where police discovered five cases of illegal marriage brokerage and attested 26 people for acting as middlemen.

VietNamNet/Viet Nam News

Khmer Rouge prison chief killed detainees: survivor

A foreign journalist watches Nam Mon (right), a survivor of Khmer Rouge’s prison S-21, on a livefeed TV at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC), in Phnom Penh yesterday
Tuesday 14/7/2009

A Khmer Rouge survivor yesterday told Cambodia’s war crimes trial she saw the regime’s prison chief kill her two uncles—the first testimony that Duch executed detainees at the main jail.

Nam Mon told the UN-backed court she witnessed Duch, known to her during the Khmer Rouge’s 1975-79 rule as Brother East, killing her uncles while she worked as a medic at Tuol Sleng, the central torture centre and prison.

While Duch, real name Kaing Guek Eav, has admitted responsibility for overseeing the torture and extermination of around 15,000 people who passed through the prison, he denies personally killing anyone.

But 48-year-old Nam Mon said: “Outside the gate, near the coconut tree, both my uncles were ordered to kneel down and they were beaten and killed. I was shocked but I did not do anything”.

“I saw this Brother East use a metal bar about half a metre long to beat those people underneath a coconut tree,” she added.

“After they were killed... I was terrified, I could no longer speak and I could not concentrate on my work any longer”.

Asked by Judge Nil Nonn whether she had any questions for Duch, Nam Mon said: “Are you going to deny the truth of the facts that I have said in front of the chamber?”
Duch, 66, responded that Nam Mon could not have worked at Tuol Sleng because no female medics were employed there.

“Yes, I acknowledge they suffered, she suffered, but not at (Tuol Sleng),” he said. “All the names that she provided, when I checked the list (of detainees), it’s non-existent. There’s no evidence at all.”

Recognised as a civil claimant in the case against Duch, Nam Mon was revealing her story in public for the first time, her lawyer said last week.

However, judges have cast doubt on the authenticity of several civil claimants who have testified that they were at Tuol Sleng.

Earlier yesterday, Nam Mon was comforted by a court-appointed psychiatrist while she identified chilling black and white photos of her parents, three brothers and a sister-in-law whom she said were imprisoned and executed at Tuol Sleng.

“This is the photo of my father the moment he was dying,” Nam Mon said after being shown an image of an emaciated man lying down, staring into the air. She told the court on Thursday that one of her brothers had been ordered to kill her father. Her testimony was adjourned last week when she began to weep uncontrollably.

Nam Mon said that her two elder brothers were guards at Tuol Sleng before her family was killed at the notorious jail, while she initially lived and worked there before being interrogated herself.

“I treated the sick. I saw prisoners who were beaten and interrogated... I only saw the wounds and the bleeding on bodies of prisoners while I treated them,” Nam Mon said yesterday. Duch begged for forgiveness near the start of his trial for war crimes and crimes against humanity after accepting responsibility for his role overseeing the jail.

But he has consistently rejected claims by prosecutors that he held a central leadership role in the Khmer Rouge.

Led by Pol Pot, who died in 1998, the Khmer Rouge emptied Cambodia’s cities in a bid to forge a communist utopia. Up to two mn people were executed or died of starvation, overwork or torture. Four other former Khmer Rouge leaders are currently in detention and expected to face trial next year. AFP

Former KRouge prison deputy denies torture

The skulls of victims are piled up on display at the Choeung Ek memorial stupa south of Cambodia's capital, Phnom Penh. Mam Nai, the 76-year-old former deputy head of the brutal regimes's main prison, Tuol Sleng, has denied he tortured prisoners as he sought to play down his position during the country's 1970s hardline state.
(AFP/File/Nicolas Asfouri)

Tue Jul 14

PHNOM PENH (AFP) – The former deputy head of the Khmer Rouge's main prison has denied he had tortured prisoners as he sought to play down his position in Cambodia's late 1970s hardline regime.

Mam Nai, 76, told the UN-backed war crimes trial of former jail chief Duch that his role had been only to question inmates at the notorious Tuol Sleng prison.

"I was just a plain and simple interrogating cadre," Mam Nai said, addressing the court as a witness, not a defendant.

"I only interrogated prisoners without applying torture. It is my understanding that applying torture brings untrue confessions."

His former boss Duch is accused of overseeing the torture and execution of around 15,000 people who passed through Tuol Sleng.

Although documents from the regime say Mam Nai was Duch's deputy and tortured prisoners into confessing espionage, he said he only interrogated "not important" inmates and used psychological tricks rather than abuse.

"When I asked the person about their biography and activities, it was not difficult at all (to get a confession)," Mam Nai said.

"If a prisoner refused to respond... I instructed guards to take prisoners back to their cell to think for a while, to reflect on their positive and negative activities," he added.

Mam Nai, whose Khmer Rouge nom de guerre was Chan, went on to tell the court that he was "unclear" on the organising structure of the notorious detention centre and knew nothing of mass killings there.

The 66-year-old Duch, real name Kaing Guek Eav, has accepted responsibility for his role in governing the jail and begged forgiveness from victims near the start of his trial for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

But he has consistently rejected claims by prosecutors that he held a central leadership role in the Khmer Rouge, and maintains he never personally killed anyone.

Led by Pol Pot, who died in 1998, the Khmer Rouge emptied Cambodia's cities in a bid to forge a communist utopia. Up to two million people died of starvation, overwork, torture and execution during the 1975-79 regime.

Four other former Khmer Rouge leaders are currently in detention and are expected to face trial next year.

Interrogator at Khmer Rouge prison denies torture

A Cambodian man watches Mam Nai, a former Khmer Rouge Chief of Interrogation Unit at the notorious S-21 prison, on a local television in the outskirts of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Tuesday, July 14, 2009 as sessions of the U.N.-backed tribunal continue. Heng Sinith / AP Photo

Associated Press Writer

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) - A senior interrogator at the most notorious Khmer Rouge prison denied Tuesday that he tortured victims, despite grisly earlier testimony from his former boss that torture was common there.

Mam Nai, 76, told the U.N.-backed genocide tribunal that his main duty was to interrogate low-ranking Khmer Rouge soldiers who allegedly opposed the regime, as well as Vietnamese prisoners of war.

"I never used any torture. It was my understanding that applying torture would lead to an inappropriate confession, that there would be little true in forced confessions," Mam Nai said.

His testimony comes at the trial of Kaing Guek Eav - better known as Duch - who headed the S-21 prison in Phnom Penh. Up to 16,000 people were tortured under his command and later taken away to be killed during the Khmer Rouge's 1975-1979 rule. Only a handful survived.

During hours of earlier testimony, Duch graphically described torture methods used at the prison, though he did not testify about Mam Nai's activities there. He has asked forgiveness from victims' relatives.

Duch (pronounced DOIK), 66, is the first senior Khmer Rouge figure to face trial and the only one to acknowledge responsibility for his actions. He is charged with crimes against humanity and is the first of five defendants scheduled for long-delayed trials by the tribunal.

Senior leaders Khieu Samphan, Nuon Chea, Ieng Sary and Ieng Sary's wife, Ieng Thirith, are detained and are likely to face trial in the next year or two.

Mam Nai allegedly was responsible for the interrogation and torture of high-ranking members of the Communist Party of Kampuchea accused of plotting against the regime.

He said he met Duch after fleeing into the jungle to fight with the Khmer Rouge in 1973, and Duch trained him in interrogation. He said he was once assigned to question 20 Vietnamese soldiers.

"First, I had to play politics with them, to make them understand and then they agreed to make a confession. After that, I asked for their biographies and their personal activities," he said.

"If the prisoners refused to confess, I asked the guards to take them back to their cells to think and reflect on their positive and negative activities," he said.


Cambodia Installs Over 500 Solar Energy Electricity

PHNOM PENH, July 14 (Bernama) -- More than 500 solar energy electricity generations have been installed in Cambodia's rural areas to help improve the living standard of poor people, China's Xinhua news aagency said quoting local media reports Tuesday.

The UNDP (United Nations Development Program) and local organisations, so far, have cooperated each other to install more than 500 solar energy electricity generations at the rural areas of Cambodia, where the electricity is not able to access for everyday life in households, schools and referral hospitals, according to Khmer language newspaper Rasmei Kampuchea.

"The producing of the solar energy electricity does not affect the environment and global warming, and the solar energy electricity will be used for healthcare and education fields," Kong Pharith, president of Capacity Building Organization was quoted as saying. Capacity Building Organization is an expert for installing the solar energy system at the rural areas in the country.

"When we have electricity, our local students can access to use computers in their schools," he added.

Now, the local and international organisations are focusing on the installation of battery charging stations for people in the rural areas, he said, adding that price for charging battery will be reduced to 30 percent with support from the UNDP.

Cambodia has 30 percent of its population living in poverty. Most of them live in the rural areas, while 80 percent are farmers.


Smiles from nowhere

SHARE THE LOVE: 'Thank you for your smile,' a monk told us. 'If you give your smile, it makes the world better and spreads peace.'

By GREER McDONALD - The Dominion Post

Cambodia is the place where, for the first time, I really cursed the world of technology.

It began on a surprisingly smooth minibus ride from the capital, Phnom Penh, towards Battambang - the second-largest city in the country, and I wished my eyes were able to take a photo every time I blinked.

Was that too much to ask?

Instead, my camera groaned under my attempts to capture every second of the dynamic country as we zoomed through traffic at what felt like an average speed of 140 kilometres an hour.

The postwar history of the "Land of a Thousand Smiles" tends to prompt a grimace rather than a grin - but that's changing.

The nation was at least 30 years behind the rest of the world, I'd been warned, thanks to the Khmer Rouge role in a civil war that crippled it. Like the beautiful lotus flower, which grows like a weed across the countryside, the country is reopening itself to the outside world.

The 300km journey between Phnom Penh and Battambang is not the most popular of journeys for tourists: they tend to fly 45 minutes to Siem Reap, home of the famous ruins of Angkor Wat.

We stopped at a silversmith village, filled with the most intricate silver creations; where adorable children ran from their huts clutching trays of jewellery and ornaments. Other family members busily hammered away, barely looking up as they knocked out another elaborate design.

There is a certain level of satisfaction in handing over a couple of US dollars to a small child in a village off the beaten tourist trail. In a country known for corruption which filters down from the government to street level, parting with a few greenbacks to the person you just witnessed creating the item leaves one with a great sense of economic satisfaction.

Pottery manufacturers in Kompong Chhnang, tucked away in lush country like the set of Platoon, are also worth a deviation.

Rural Cambodians have the most novel common sense about them, as if, after being knocked down through their civil war, they've jumped back to their feet, dusted themselves off and kept going. Immensely resourceful and impossibly polite, even the most sheltered Cambodian has a basic grip on English and will bend over backwards to have you witness their lives.

Once in the country's northwest, it becomes obvious Battambang city is less than used to visitors. Centred around a busy food market and a nondescript river, the city boasts one major hotel, a handful of backpacker accommodation - and one rather luscious French boutique hotel called La Villa.

The smattering of French colonial architecture is a pleasant surprise, and suspends visitors in a sort of time warp.

On a rusty bike, the town really comes alive: riding along the Sangker River to Wat Slaket pagoda, the residence of the provincial Buddhist patriarch, was a highlight of the trip. There we met a 12-year-old monk and his mother, who gave him to the monastery to ensure he had a better life. His haunting gaze was a window into a wise soul.

We also met an older monk who beamed the famous Cambodian smile. "Thank you for your smile. I give you my smile too. It is important to give your smile to people. If you give your smile, it makes the world better and spreads peace," he told our group.

My eyes prickled with tears, which mixed with sweat from the bike ride in the searing heat to make a salty tang on my lips.

Cycling enabled us to inhale the smells of the countryside and wave at the children who would run to the roadside to practise their English. "Hello, hello," they yelled, with the odd "bonjour" thrown in.

We heard the noises of wedding celebrations and soccer wins, funeral dirges and loudspeaker entreaties for donations to the local monastery.

A couple of days later we walked through the village of Kompong Khleang, about an hour from Siem Reap. This community, again off the beaten trail, is home to more than 20,000 people who live in enormously high stilt houses and make a living from fishing.

Children screamed welcome from high up in their homes which, when the monsoon arrives, will have water lapping at their doorstep and fishing lines cast from their windows.

Despite the remoteness of the village, cellphone towers loomed overhead. Landlines are like hen's teeth and the country has adopted mobile technology to the extreme - nine mobile phone companies compete to provide services to a population of 15 million.

Near Siem Reap we visited the Khmer silk village of Phnom Srok or "the little hill" and watched over the shoulders of women who weave intricate silk scarves. We witnessed the silk production line - from silkworms on a mulberry tree leaf to the finished product - by visiting each family responsible for one of the five steps in the process.

Stepping outside the comforts of the minivans was, in short, experiencing the country - rather than just passing through and ticking the boxes of the major tourist spots.

And it made for a moving and unforgettable adventure.

* The writer travelled courtesy of Adventure World, Cathay Pacific, Dragonair and Bangkok Airways.


* Cathay Pacific and sister airline Dragonair offer special fares from New Zealand to Phnom Penh, via Hong Kong. Bangkok Airways offers domestic connections between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap.

Southern Gold 'strikes gold' in Cambodia

14 Jul 2009


Southern Gold Ltd says it has found significant gold mineralisation at one of its projects in Cambodia.

The gold junior found "a number of prominent gold intersections" during its first reverse circulation drilling program, the company said.

Shares in the company leapt on news of the discovery, which identified gold intersections as rich as 8.8 grams per tonne.

Other metals including silver, copper and zinc also were located at the site.

Southern Gold managing director Stephen Biggins said the maiden drilling program validated the company's confidence in the area.

"I am delighted with the results of this first-pass drill program and look forward to aggressively following-up these results," Mr Biggins said in a statement.

At 1107 AEST, shares in Southern Gold were up 1.5 cents, 15 per cent, to 11.5 cents.

Prisoners Given ‘Aspirin’: Tuol Sleng Nurse

By Heng Reaksmey, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
13 July 2009

Prisoners in the notorious Khmer Rouge prison of Tuol Sleng received little or no medical attention, except for receiving occasional mild painkillers, a former nurse at the sight to a UN-backed court Monday.

Nam Mon, now 48, told the Khmer Rouge tribunal that she had no real training in medicine before she was sent to the prison, which was administered by Duch, currently facing an atrocity crimes trial.

“I learned and cured patience at the same time,” she said. “I didn’t know how to write the names of medicines, so I had to recognize and remember them by heart.”

Nam Mon was one of three nurses at the prison, where prosecutors say 12,380 people were brutally tortured and later to their deaths.

“There were some treatments for prisoners in S-21,” Nam Mon said, referring to the prison by its Khmer Rouge code. But the treatment only included “paracetamol and aspirin.”

Thai Web Site Spreads False History: Cambodia

By Kong Sothanarith, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
13 July 2009

The Cambodian Embassy in Bangkok formally requested that the Thai government withdraw a video clip from a Web site Monday, claiming the site spread false historical information.

The Web site, www.ilovethailand.org, features a video claiming the Siamese Empire, which predated modern-day Thailand, lost the provinces of Battambang, Siem Reap and Preah Vihear to Cambodia.

In fact, both the Siamese and Khmer empires battled back and forth for control of territory over the centuries.

In its note Monday, the embassy said, “it is the Kingdom of Cambodia which had lost much of its territory from the Khmer empire.”

Thailand and Cambodia are currently engaged in a military standoff over contested border patches, and nationalism on both sides has led to violence in the past.

Tourism Facing Multiple Strains: Official

By Men Kimseng, VOA Khmer
Original report from Washington
13 July 2009

Cambodia’s second-largest earner of foreign income, tourism, is starting to feel the effects of a prolonged economic downturn and the unstable political situation in Thailand, tourism experts said Thursday.

The number of foreign visitors was down slightly for the first quarter of 2009, dropping 2.23 percent compared to the same period in 2008, but, officials said, those visitors who do come are spending less money.

“This decline has nothing to do with Cambodia’s performance,” said Ang Kim Eang, president of Cambodian Association of Travel Agents, as a guest on “Hello VOA.”

The industry is facing a swath of problems, from the global downturn, a wobbly government in Bangkok, the spread of the H1N1 virus, and even oil price hikes, he said.

Some have blamed Cambodia’s lack of a national airline for the decline, he said, and are hoping for a new tourism law and an open-sky policy, as well visas on arrival and an expansion of attractions.

Even with the slight decline, the number of tourists from the region has risen. Visitors from the Philippines, Laos Malaysia and Vietnam have boosted business for small hotels, he said.

“Therefore, big and luxurious hotels have faced some difficulties in losing their customers...as tourists now spend less money,” Ang Kim Eang said.

To stay competitive in the downturn and to keep numbers up, tourism professionals should target specific countries, said Ho Vandy, co-chairman of the Tourism Working Group, who was also a guest on Thursday’s show.

“What we have advised for the government is related to the promotion of targeting specific tourist groups, Japan or Korea, for instance”

Court upholds eviction date

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
Group 78 residents pray to Buddha as they await a ruling Monday from the Court of Appeal.

The Phnom Penh Post
Tuesday, 14 July 2009
May Titthara

Court of Appeal rejects Group 78’s request to prevent the forced relocation of residents slated for Friday, setting the stage for potential confrontation

THE Phnom Penh Court of Appeal on Monday upheld a Friday eviction deadline for the embattled Group 78 community.

After the hearing, Group 78 representatives attacked the eviction letter issued by Phnom Penh Governor Kep Chuktema, describing it as a gross violation of Cambodian law.

"It is an injustice," said community representative Lim Sambo. "We have evidence that shows why we want to stop the court warrant."

Representatives claim that Group 78 community members have lived on the plot since the 1980s and should be recognised as owners under the Land Law. As owners, they would be entitled to "fair and just compensation".

The lawyer for Group 78, Sourng Sophea, who works at the Community Legal Education Centre (CLEC), said the residents still had legal options to prevent the demolition of their homes.

"Residents can still file another suit with the Municipal Court. This is not the final result yet," he said.
Lim Sambo vowed to file suit against City Hall again.

"I don't care if they upheld our case. I will sue again," he said. "I am not afraid of eviction day ... because I respect the law."

According to municipal officials, there are 86 families in Group 78, only 20 of which have agreed to the government's compensation terms, setting the stage for potential conflict on Friday.

Residents of Group 78 said they believed the government was even resorting to trickery to convince families to leave their homes.

Kim Houn, a Group 78 resident, said a man pretending to be a local newspaper reporter tried to force her to accept one of the compensation plans presented by City Hall.

"A man called me and said that he was from the local newspaper," she said. "He claimed to have news from City Hall that the government would not give anything to residents if they had to use administrative measures."

She added: "They should not claim to be journalists. I know they are not journalists. They just threatened us. Journalists never threaten people."

'A duty to develop'
Mann Chhoeun, deputy governor of Phnom Penh, said the "situation is similar to people in Dey Krahorm", referring to another Phnom Penh community that was relocated in a violent eviction that left 18 injured.

"They have been over deadline since April. I am not Pol Pot, but this country has laws," Mann Chhoeun said. "When we evict people it does not mean that we do not care about them ... but the government has a duty to develop the country."

Resident Lim Liken said he hoped police would allow him to at least take his family's belongings with him if he is forced out of his home.

"If they come and apply their 'administrative measures' on us, I just ask them to allow me to take my property, because we have no guns or gunpowder like the authorities. We have only our hands," he said.

According to a document obtained by the Post, the government is offering Group 78 a choice of four compensation packages: US$5,000 with a 5-by-12-metre plot of land in Trapaing Anhchanh village in Dangkor district; $1,000, the plot in Dangkor district and a flat; an apartment in Borey Sensok with running water; or $8,000 with no land or shelter.

Court punishes 40 for their roles in illegal Internet gambling den

The Phnom Penh Post
Tuesday, 14 July 2009
Chrann Chamroeun

But staff members say they had no idea the Internet gaming for which they were hired was part of an international gambling operation.

THE Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Monday sentenced the Taiwanese manager of an online gambling company to four years in prison and fined him 18 million riels (US$4,333), while 39 of his staff members were given five years' probation and fines of 5 million riels, according to Judge Chan Sinath.

Keo Chhay, the lawyer for one of the convicted staff members of the Sky Internet Co, told the Post that the court's decision was a "very serious injustice", and that the 39 staff members were the real losers in the online gambling racket allegedly run by Ly Hyfan, Sky Internet's local manager.

"I am desperately dissatisfied with the court's conviction of the 39 staff members, who were not aware at all of the illegal gambling and thought they were employed properly by the Sky Internet Company," he said.

According to police, Sky Internet paid Cambodians a regular salary to play online card games against paying Taiwanese customers. The Cambodian staff were not gambling themselves, they say, but were complicit in an illegal gambling operation.

Keo Chhay said the staff should have been convicted under Article 4 of the gambling law, under which gamblers are fined between 10,000 and 50,000 riels and can be imprisoned for no longer than one month.

The staff, however, was convicted under Article 5, which bans people from opening, owning or managing gambling dens, and comes with a much stiffer penalty, which is how each staff member ended up with fines of 5 million riels.

We were just told ... that the games were for comforting players in Taiwan.

Police officials said they raided Sky Internet, located in Tuol Kork district, on Thursday, arresting 51 people and confiscating 48 computers.

Pen Naridth, 21, a student at Asia Euro University who was convicted for participating in the scheme, told the Post that nine of the 51 people had paid bribes of between $500 and $1,000 to avoid prosecution.

He said none of the staff knew they were working for an illegal gambling operation, adding that he received a regular monthly salary of between $70 and $100 and did not gamble himself.

"We [the staff] were not aware that our game-playing on the Internet was actually betting," he said. "We were just told by our Taiwanese boss that the games were for comforting players in Taiwan."

Ly Hyfan, the alleged Taiwanese mastermind, said that he had no idea his operation was illegal under Cambodian law and that he had only been hired on a temporary basis.

"I am not actually the manager. I was just hired by a boss in Taiwan to train staff for 10 days during my stay in Cambodia," he said.

But a municipal police officer speaking on condition of anonymity dismissed Ly Hyfan's claims as part of a ploy to avoid criminal penalties.

"They pretend to be unaware that the game involves betting," he said. "[But] if Taiwanese players had no paid accounts, then they couldn't play with staffers. There is a transferring of money into the winner's account."

Tiger farms could cause extinction: World Bank

The Phnom Penh Post
Tuesday, 14 July 2009
Sam Rith and Marika Hill

Experts say the survival of the species 'hinges on China', which enforces a domestic trade ban.

THE World Bank and conservation groups on Thursday urged China to maintain its domestic trade ban on tigers to ensure the survival of the species in countries including Cambodia.

Nicholas Cox, head of the dry forests eco-region section of the Greater Mekong Programme at WWF, an environmental NGO, told the Post that he did not know of any tiger farms in Cambodia, though he said Cambodia was affected by the trade of tigers fuelled by farms in other countries.

"Tiger farming is not such a major concern inside Cambodia so much as the poaching of Cambodian tigers to supply farming facilities in neighbouring Vietnam, Thailand, China and other countries," he said.

The WWF estimates that hundreds of tiger farms hold more than 5,000 tigers in China, more than the 3,500 to 4,000 tigers remaining in the wild across Asia.

Cox said the tiger-farming issue "hinges on China", and that the country's domestic ban on the trade in tiger parts, in place since 1993, should remain in place.

"If it is lifted ... then it will almost certainly spell the end of tigers in the wild," he said.

Although tiger parts were openly displayed in Phnom Penh's markets in the 1990s, the trade has since moved underground, and there are no accurate statistics on tiger poaching in Cambodia, Cox said.

"Unlike elephants, when a tiger is poached there is nothing left behind, making it difficult to know how many tigers are being lost," he said.

Keshav Varma, head of the World Bank's Global Tiger Initiative, said in a statement last week that a ban on the domestic trade of wild tigers was vital to ensuring the survival of the species.

"Extinction is irreversible, so prudence and precaution suggest that the risks of legalised farming are too great a gamble for the world to take," he said.

Ty Sokhun, director of the Forestry Administration at the Ministry of Agriculture, said the government had taken steps to reduce the trade in endangered animals in Cambodia and that numbers of animals in the wild, including tigers, were on the rise. "Our educational programmes have made people more aware of [the dangers of poaching wild animals]," he said.

Commission seeks comment on 11 planned Mekong dams

The Mekong River in Stung Treng province.

The Phnom Penh Post
Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Web site to gather input on 'risks and opportunities' of project.

THE Mekong River Commission (MRC) has launched a new Web site calling for public comment on the 11 large-scale hydropower dams planned for the lower Mekong, amid fears that the projects could lead to environmental degradation and displacement.

In a statement Monday, the regional body, which counts Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam and Thailand as members, argued that input from the public would ensure that Mekong countries understand the "full range of risks and opportunities" offered by hydroelectricity development.

"[I]t is important to have a broad consultation process that allows us to hear the views of communities, NGOs, researchers and businesses. These Web page submissions provide one of the tools to help achieve this," Jeremy Bird, CEO of the Vientiane-based MRC Secretariat, said in the statement.

It added that, under the 1995 Mekong Agreement that established the MRC, member countries must undergo a formal intergovernmental consultation process prior to the construction of dams on the river.

Damian Kean, a spokesman for the Secretariat, said by phone that although consultations have been ongoing, the Web site would help strengthen the body's Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA), a preliminary assessment that will help guide the MRC's approach to dams proposed for the Mekong mainstream.

"The idea is to get public submissions so that there is a broader scope to the SEA," he told the Post, adding that this is the first time such a direct line to the public has been opened. Submissions will be accepted until December 1.

Much-needed transparency
Environmental groups said the call for direct public input was a positive step.

"The MRC's SEA could potentially contribute a deeper scientific understanding on the likely costs and benefits of the mainstream dams," said Carl Middleton, Mekong programme coordinator at International Rivers.

He added that the process could also lead to the release of information that is of vital interest to the public, which would be a welcome change from previous dam plans that have been prepared "behind closed doors".

Chhith Sam Ath, executive director of the NGO Forum on Cambodia, said that the public was unlikely to support the dam projects wholeheartedly due to their likely environmental and social impacts, though he urged the MRC to take public input seriously.

"I think it depends on the representatives of the governments in the region to be clear about how they can use the comments gathered from stakeholder consultations," he said.

"I would strongly suggest that the governments and the MRC take this seriously, and that decisions are made based on the comments that are collected."

Save the Mekong, a regional NGO coalition, claims that the lower Mekong dam projects - in addition to eight more planned or in operation on the upper reaches of the Mekong in China - will threaten regional food security and the livelihoods of millions of people, including thousands inside Cambodia.

Rights group criticises spate of CPP lawsuits

The Phnom Penh Post
Tuesday, 14 July 2009
Christopher Shay And Meas SokChea

Use of criminal lawsuits is part of an attempt to eliminate the opposition, rights group says.

THE Cambodian People's Party has enlisted the judiciary in an effort to eliminate the Sam Rainsy Party, effectively ending multiparty democracy in Cambodia, the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights (CCHR) claimed in a press release issued Monday.

The CPP-controlled government "is directly and systematically trying to dissolve the main opposition party by filing unfounded criminal lawsuits against its leaders", the press release said.

Ou Virak, president of the CCHR, told the Post on Monday that the government was targeting the pillars of a healthy democracy: lawyers, lawmakers and the media.

"If this trend continues, Cambodia will be controlled by a one-party state modelled after Vietnam and China," he said.

In recent months, government officials have filed criminal suits against opposition party president Sam Rainsy; SRP lawmakers Mu Sochua and Ho Vann; Kong Sam Onn, the two lawmakers' former lawyer; Hang Chakra, publisher of the SRP-aligned Khmer Machas Srok newspaper; Dam Sith, the publisher of opposition newspaper Moneaksekar Khmer; and Neou Vannarin, a reporter at the Cambodia Daily who interviewed Ho Vann.

"They've consolidated power, and now they're trying to consolidate more power," Ou Virak said.

Puy Kea, a board member of the Club of Cambodian Journalists, said Monday that he was attempting to lead a delegation to visit Hang Chakra, an opposition publisher who was recently sentenced to one year in prison. Puy Kea criticised the government for prosecuting Hang Chakra under the UNTAC-era criminal code as opposed to the more liberal Press Law.

"We do not want to see journalists imprisoned, so we would like to insist that the court and the government use the Press Law to resolve problems with journalists," he said.

Cambodian Confederation of Unions President Rong Chhun, who is also planning to visit Hang Chakra, said the jailing of journalists restricts basic freedoms necessary for a functioning democracy.

"Imprisoning journalists is eliminating the freedom of the press. They should use the Press Law, which was created with journalists," he said.

Government responds
Phay Siphan, spokesman for the Council of Ministers, said the CCHR's claims of an organised campaign to dissolve the SRP were "baseless", and that the government "does not want to see any journalists jailed".

He added: "We don't create obstacles to the free flow of ideas.."

Hang Chhaya, director of the Khmer Institute of Democracy, said the recent spike in lawsuits had "caught everyone by surprise".

Though he argued that Cambodian democracy was not in grave danger, he said: "It is not good to have newspapers close down. Cambodia is a democratic society, so we need to make sure there is freedom of expression."

Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker Eng Chhay Eang said that the CPP was using lawsuits as a way to threaten the SRP, but that efforts to shut down the Sam Rainsy Party would inevitably fail.

"They sue us. They want to silence our voices. They want to make us weak, but they cannot dissolve the party, and they will not have the only party," he said.

Former S-21 photographer revisits old plan to build a Khmer Rouge heritage museum

Photo by: SAM RITH
Nhem En holds up plans for his proposed Khmer Rouge museum Monday.

The Phnom Penh Post
Tuesday, 14 July 2009
Sam Rith

Having failed to sell what he insists are Pol Pot's sandals and other items, Nhem En says he is seeking funding for a museum to be built in Anlong Veng, already the site of Pol Pot's grave.

AFTER failing to sell them, former Tuol Sleng photographer Nhem En has returned to his original plan to exhibit his many Khmer Rouge-era possessions - including what he says are Pol Pot's sandals and toilet - in a new museum he hopes to construct in Oddar Meanchey's Anlong Veng district.

The 50-year-old said in an interview Monday that he would request financial support for the museum from the World Monuments Fund, a US-based organisation involved in the preservation of architectural and cultural heritage sites.

In a letter he said he would send to the organisation "soon", he wrote, "It was recently heard that your organisation has a policy to help bring about regional development in any areas affected by a war crime and anti-humanity.... I am thankfully requesting for your kind consideration of providing charitable funding to support our construction project of the Khmer Rouge historic museum."

Nhem En has been publicly discussing plans for a Khmer Rouge museum for years, and in January he told the Post that he had invested US$110,000 of his own money buying and clearing land for the project. He said then that it would cost $320,000, and that he would be willing to fund it piecemeal if outside funding could not be secured.

Less than four months later, having failed to line up any financial support, he offered to sell the sandals as well as cameras he used to photograph Tuol Sleng prisoners for $500,000.

When that went nowhere, he said in May that he had decided to sell all of his Khmer Rouge memorabilia for $1 million. The additional items included 2,000 photographs of Khmer Rouge leaders; what he claimed were Pol Pot's clothes and hat; videos of military commander Ta Mok and other top regime cadre; and 1,000 Khmer Rouge songs on original tapes and pirated CDs.

Nhem En, who is also deputy governor of Anlong Veng district, said Monday that the total cost of the museum would be $500,000. The letter addressed to the World Monuments Fund notes that he has still been unable to secure outside funding.

"Now I've run out of money," he said in an interview, adding that he also planned to call on the Ministry of Tourism and the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts to provide funding for the project.

Minister of Culture and Fine Arts Him Chhem said Monday that he would need to meet with Nhem En before he agreed to support the project, adding that he would want to see detailed construction plans.

Kong Sophearak, director of the statistics department at the Ministry of Tourism, said there had been no discussions within the ministry about whether to approve a new museum in Anlong Veng, which he noted already has two tourist attractions: Ta Mok's house and Pol Pot's grave.

Key witness delayed at KRT

Witness Mam Nai sits in the dock at the Khmer Rouge tribunal Monday.

The co-prosecutor should properly reflect and retire the [request for] joint criminal enterprise.

The Phnom Penh Post
Tuesday, 14 July 2009
Georgia Wilkins

A CONTROVERSIAL legal doctrine threatens to disrupt proceedings at the Khmer Rouge tribunal after lawyers on Monday moved for a key witness's testimony to be halted until he consults a lawyer.

Francois Roux, co-lawyer for former Tuol Sleng prison chief Kaing Guek Eav, alias Duch, waited until former S-21 prison deputy Mam Nai had been sworn in to question whether his testimony could be used against him under a conspiracy charge being pushed by the prosecution and pending a decision by the chamber.

"Can you state here and now that this witness will not be prosecuted before national courts? Can you guarantee this?" he asked co-prosecutor William Smith.

"If you are unable to do so, I request he be allowed to consult his lawyer immediately," he added.

Joint criminal enterprise, or JCE, is used in trials to charge individuals with crimes they didn't commit directly, but were responsible for as part of a "common criminal plan".

Prosecutors have asked several times that it be applied in the Duch trial, saying it is necessary to "accurately describe the extent of Duch's criminal conduct". But defence lawyers argue it unfairly widens the range of crimes for which Duch could be held accountable.

Mam Nai, former deputy at Tuol Sleng, said from the dock that he hadn't talked to a lawyer about self-incrimination because he "could not afford" one, prompting Presiding Judge Nil Nonn to adjourn the session prematurely.

Mam Nai is the first of a dozen key witnesses scheduled to give testimony over the coming weeks, leaving observers to speculate on the effect the challenge would have on proceedings.

"It's too soon to tell," Heather Ryan, a court monitor for the Open Society Justice Initiative said. "[But] I think the same issue would arise even without the issue of JCE. If these guys admit to things that are crimes under Cambodian or ECCC law, they could potentially be tried."

Lars Olsen, the court's legal communications officer, said there would be "no significant delay" in the trial because of the issue, and that a lawyer would be available for witnesses to consult in the future.

"We can expect the trial to continue as normal tomorrow," he said.

Roux told the Post Monday that his aim was not to delay proceedings, but rather for the prosecution to "reflect" on whether the conspiracy charge was necessary.

"The co-prosecutor should properly reflect and retire the [request for] joint criminal enterprise," he said.

Further testimony rejected
Earlier Monday, Duch rejected testimony from another alleged survivor of the prison, who claimed Monday that she saw Duch execute her two uncles.

Nam Mon, 48, also claimed to have seen "one or two children" bayoneted by soldiers while imprisoned at Prey Sar prison.

"A child was thrown in the air, and they fell on the bayonet," she said.

She told judges last week that she had been installed as a medic at Tuol Sleng prison, and on Monday she added that she had watched Duch beat her uncles to death from the building in which she worked.

"I saw this Brother East use a metal bar about half a metre long to beat [the uncles and other prisoners] under a coconut tree," she said, using a name that has been attributed to Duch by other survivors.

"After they were killed ... I was terrified, I could no longer speak, and I could not concentrate on my work any longer."

When questioned by Nil Nonn as to why she had not included these details in her complaint form or testimony last week, she said she was afraid for her life.

"I was afraid if I mentioned too many names in my complaint I would be killed," she said.

She later begged Duch to tell her who mistreated her siblings and uncles: "I want to ask you, brother, are you going to deny the truth of the facts I have just presented to the court?"

But Duch told judges that even basic aspects of her testimony were flawed.

"The medics at S-21 ... were only male medics, not female," he said. "Yes, I acknowledge that she suffered, but not at S-21."


Border clashes blamed for Poipet downturn

Photo by: HOLLY PHAM
Traders prepare to bring goods from Thailand into the Cambodia border town of Poipet.

The Phnom Penh Post
Tuesday, 14 July 2009
Cheang Sokha and Holly Pham

Businesspeople say ongoing tensions at Preah Vihear temple have caused a sharp drop in commerce in the casino town


Business owners in Poipet, on the border with Thailand, have complained that business is down sharply since soldiers from the two countries exchanged fire at Preah Vihear temple in April.

Sa Nasy, a household products vendor at the town's Ra Market, said the clashes meant Cambodian shoppers had left the area adjacent to the Thai border for their home provinces, fearing bloodshed.

He was earning $15 a day as a result, down from up to $100 a day before fighting broke out, he said. "Before we had this problem with Thailand the market was very crowded, but now it's very quiet. The remaining people don't want to go out to buy goods because they're afraid it will be hard to escape once fighting starts."

Tensions have fluctuated along the border since Preah Vihear temple was listed in July 2008 as a World Heritage site by UNESCO, the UN's cultural body. At least seven soldiers have died in three exchanges of fire.

Chao Veasna, a Poipet wholesaler who buys canned products from Thailand to supply to local retailers, said business had dropped by half after many clients left the area to sit out the tensions. "I reckon that if the Cambodia-Thailand clash on the border persists, business will continue to be severely affected," he said.

Another vendor, Chheang Lay, a businessman from Kompong Thom, said he had sold clothes for several years at Thailand's Rong Kleu market near the border town of Aranyaprathet. "I can't do business like I could before because there are fewer people who are coming to buy," he said. "I do believe this is because they are afraid of fighting."

Despite the safety concerns at the border, Thai citizens were still coming to gamble at Poipet's casinos, local people told the Post. Some 400 Thais were seen gambling at the Grand Diamond City Casino last Thursday, they said, adding that the number was higher on weekends.

Sao Bunrith, the chief of the immigration police at the Poipet border gate, said the situation at his post was normal with between 800 and 1,000 people crossing daily for business and tourism. He said the transport of goods between the nations had dropped 10 percent, but attributed that to the global economic crisis rather than border tensions.

A report on Cambodia's provincial business environment released in April by the International Finance Corporation and The Asia Foundation ranked Banteay Meanchey province as the fourth-worst for business in the country. The ranking takes into account elements such as crime prevention, transparency and dispute resolution.

Ministers set to OK arbitration centre

The Phnom Penh Post
Tuesday, 14 July 2009
Hor Hab

THE Council of Ministers is expected to approve the country's first commercial arbitration centre later this month.

The arbitration body will rule on disputes between companies, a role that is currently performed by the courts or Singapore's arbitration centre.

Mao Thora, a secretary of state at the Ministry of Commerce, said approval would pave the way for the centre's launch later this year. "We are ready to help run this centre in conjunction with the Asian Development Bank (ADB) in terms of assisting with human resources and financial support," he said. The ministry had allocated nine people to run the centre, he added.

Nguon Meng Tech, the director general of the Cambodia Chamber of Commerce, welcomed the news but said the launch date remained unclear.

"We look forward to seeing this centre established, as that will provide us with a suitable place to resolve commercial disputes," he said, adding that the CCC has cooperated with the European Union to train a number of lawyers that would represent its members.

Lim Chhiv Ho, the president of Attwood Import and Export Co, a spirits and beer distributor, said the sooner the body was set up, the better. She said it ought to have some foreign experts in its first year, before later employing only local staff.

"Sometimes the judgements delivered by the courts are not acceptable to businesspeople," she said. "But at least now we are moving from solutions using weapons to business mediation."

Chinese mobiles finding favour

Sales of relatively cheap Chinese-made mobile phones are increasing every month in Cambodia, distributors say. BLOOMBERG

The Phnom Penh Post
Tuesday, 14 July 2009
Ros Dina

Relatively cheap mobile phones sourced from China are making giant strides in Cambodia, but leading brands say they are not feeling the pinch when it comes to market share

Distributors have said the number of Chinese-sourced mobile phones being sold in Cambodia each month is climbing rapidly.

Not only are they cheaper than leading brands, but some have features including the ability to use two SIM cards, built-in radio and TV receivers and MP3 and MP4 players.

The Ky Hout company said it imports between 6,000 and 8,000 phones monthly for distribution in Phnom Penh, Siem Reap and Battambang.

The sales manager, who would not allow her name to be used, said customers liked the fact that the phones were substantially cheaper than the competition.

She said sales were up tenfold since the start of the year. "Previously we imported only 300 to 600 of these phones each month that sell for between US$35 and $100 each," she said. "Our sales of Nokia phones have dropped 80 percent."

Srey Touch, the owner of another importer, the 03 Company, agreed that sales of Chinese-made phones were up sharply.

"We import new model phones two or three times a month, with up to 500 phones each time," Srey Touch said.

"The phones sell especially well during the big national holidays such as Khmer New Year, Pchum Ben and the Water Festival."

But the increasing number of imports is not good news for everyone. Sok Pov, who sells phones at Pochentong and Choam Chao markets, said some companies avoid paying import duties on cellphones, which is not only illegal but makes competing with them on price impossible.

Only 10 of the 15 companies that import cellphones pay import tax, he said, and the untaxed phones often lacked warranties.

"But our company imports phones legally," he said. "The cellphones we offer are standardised, and we offer six-month to one-year warranties depending on the model."

Major players hold firm
Representatives of Nokia and Sony Ericsson told the Post their market share was not being hit by the cheaper competition.

Yoeun Makara, the retail sales manager at the K Tong Huot Telecom Co, which is not related to the Ky Hout company and imports Nokia phones, said sales at the company's eight branches have held up despite the global economic crisis, although he refused to provide figures.

"Sales are stable," he said. "Moreover, 80 percent of our customers choose to buy Nokia because it is strong and robust, and they like the new touchscreen models."

Chea Mony, the head of marketing at Sony Ericsson in Cambodia, is also bullish. He said sales were up at least 10 percent this year.

"The influx of Chinese cellphones creates opportunities for many users, but it is not an obstacle for Sony Ericsson because competition goes beyond price, and Sony Ericsson offers many different prices including low, medium and high," he said.

So Khun, minister of posts and telecommunications, said in May that 4.23 million of the country's 13.4 million citizens have mobile phones, and that the nation has just 42,000 landlines.

Nine mobile phones companies operate in Cambodia: Beeline, Excell, Hello, MFone, Metfone, Mobitel, qb, Smart and Star-Cell.

Cisco unveils major step on path towards cloud computing

The Phnom Penh Post
Tuesday, 14 July 2009
Hor Hab

Company’s newest network solution will allow clients to store, manipulate and retrieve data using remote servers hosted offsite

CISCO, the world's biggest maker of network equipment, released its latest network server at a workshop in Phnom Penh last Friday.

Called Data Center 3.0, the server is designed to offer cloud computing to its clients, Cisco Indochina Director Palasilp Vichivanives said.

Cloud computing is a service that stores, retrieves and manipulates data over the Internet on remote servers run by firms such as Google, Cisco, IBM and others, utilising excess or unused resources of several computers without requiring capital expenditure.

We think the Cambodian market has the potential to grow.

Budding rivalry
Market research firm IDC estimates that companies will this year spend US$100 billion on fixed data centres. Suppliers of these already have to compete with companies offering data centres in the "cloud" , and that competition is only expected to grow.

Palasilp Vichivanives said the design, which had been several years in the making, was a part of the company's five-phase road map to cloud computing.

"We are now in phase three of that road map.... Cisco took a major step towards the goal with the announcement of the Unified Computing System, which integrates computer servers with the network," he said.

He admitted that many organisations in Cambodia might not be ready for the advance, but said the firm was keen to assist.

"We think the Cambodian market has the potential to grow," he said, adding that Cisco would combat product piracy by issuing certificates of origin to resellers that work directly with the company.

Therdtoon Theerasasana, Cisco Thailand's consulting systems engineer, demonstrated the new data centre to attendees.

He also showed off Cisco's new security technologies and switching platforms.

He said the new data centre would deliver a streamlined IT operation for the company's clients at a lower cost. Adopting Data Center 3.0 would also give companies the IT system flexibility needed to maximise the business potential of the new generation of Internet products and social media technologies.

A refugee turned role model

Activist and trade unionist Sambeau Sam-Koskitanner says that though she considers Finland her home, she would like to see young women in Cambodia enjoying the same rights she is fighting for.


The Phnom Penh Post
Tuesday, 14 July 2009

With Finland turning more to the political right, a Cambodian-born refugee is an unlikely advocate for workers rights and the virtues of multiculturalism

For Sambeau Sam-Koskitanner, helping and serving others is simply second nature.

So it came as no surprise when the Cambodian-born refugee and activist was awarded Refugee Woman of the Year by the Finnish Refugee Council last year, she said.

"I never considered being rewarded, but of course it felt amazing all the same," Sam-Koskitanner said.

"It was funny though - I kept thinking that I've been Finnish for a good 20 years, and now suddenly I'm Refugee Woman of the Year."

Acknowledging her long-term work in trade unions and other grassroots activism in Finland, Sam-Koskitanner, now 30, was described by the panel as a role model and cultural ambassador.

Together with her surviving family, Sam-Koskitanner settled in Finland in 1988, when she was 9 years old. The family's journey through the jungles of northwest Cambodia and refugee camps in Thailand began as the Vietnamese invaded Cambodia in 1979.

Despite having spent most of her life in Finland, the refugee label has been hard one to shake off.

"I've become so Finnish that I can only visit Cambodia as a tourist," she said. "Even though I wouldn't want to be, I think I'll always be a refugee."

Two cultures in one
Sam-Koskitanner may be a refugee, but she is also fiercely and lovingly Finnish.

"You don't necessarily feel like the country you were born in is your homeland," she said. "Finland is my homeland. I get tears in my eyes when I hear the Finnish national anthem," she said in her near-perfect Finnish.

Yet she will never forget her Cambodian roots. In addition to her trade union activism, Sam-Koskitanner has worked with an educational volunteering project to bolster education in Cambodia.

Her job as an interpreter for the 200 or so Cambodians living in Finland means she is in constant touch with Khmer life and culture.

Describing herself as Finnish-Cambodian, she is the embodiment of multiculturalism, something many of her Finnish compatriots see as a threat.

"It is my life's work to convince people that we need to cooperate; we don't have a choice. If we row in different directions, the boat will tip over," she said.

Not everyone understands her message in what for a long time was a culturally homogenous country. Sam-Koskitanner said people found it difficult to understand why she as a "foreigner" would want to work for the benefit of Finland.

"They say I don't have roots here. But my children and grandchildren will live in Finland, and that to me is already quite a good reason to work for the best of the country. Sometimes I've been able to make people understand this, other times not," she said.
Ice blocks in the sky

Though Sam-Koskitanner may have integrated into Finnish life better than other foreigners, her journey was not without anxiety and tragedy.

Describing the hardships she and her family endured, including the loss of eight of her siblings, she is visibly moved.

"That my past as a refugee was very difficult, that didn't stop me. In contrast, it's made me more determined," she said.

"I'm alive, and thus I have the right as well as duty to help others."

She said that when she stepped onto the aeroplane from the refugee camp, she didn't even realise it was a plane. "All I thought was 'What a nice metallic door opened'.... When the door was finally opened again, we were in a country where the trees had no leaves and some kind of flakes came from the sky," she said.

She realised the tok kok falling from the sky were not like the ice blocks she was used to seeing back home, but snowflakes.

Following her award last year, Sam-Koskitanner was invited to the prestigious President's Independence Day Ball.

"Walking in there, it struck me in what a complete opposition that situation was to my life as a refugee, as well as before reaching the refugee camp," she reflects.

Though her work is centred on Finland, thoughts of Cambodia are not far behind.

"I live in Finland as young, modern woman, and I would like to see women in Cambodia to have that opportunity, too," she said.

CTN reality series closes in on Kun Khmer Champion

With relentless low kicks, Phan Sothy (right, blue gloves) stopped Sok Ratha in the second round of their third place playoff bout of CTN’s Kun Khmer Championship at CTN arena Sunday

Sok Ratha (left) leans against the ropes in the second round as referee Chhit Sarim counts to eight.

The Phnom Penh Post
Tuesday, 14 July 2009
Robert Starkweather

Battambang's Phan Sothy blasts past Kampot's Sok Ratha Sunday to take third place in CTN's televised boxing reality series with a second-round win

THE penultimate match of CTN's Kun Khmer Champion reality series came to an early, brutal end Sunday when Phan Sothy stopped Sok Ratha in the second round with a series of vicious low kicks.

Midway through the second round, the taller Phan Sothy chased Sok Ratha into the neutral corner with jabs and low kicks, the packed house punctuating every blow with a roar. With Sok Ratha leaning against the turnbuckle and clinging to the top rope, Phan Sothy smashed away at his legs with half a dozen more low kicks.

Sok Ratha fell to the seat of his pants and stayed there.

The victory earns Battambang's Phan Sothy third place in the show, billed as "Cambodia's toughest reality series". Kampot's Sok Ratha takes fourth.

The second season of Kun Khmer Champion began in March. Produced by CTN, the series puts 12 rookie fighters together under one roof to live and train.

"Hopefully it can reach out to people who are only casual fans of kickboxing, or even those who don't find the sport particularly appealing, to show them another side of the sport," said Aaron Leverton, a consultant to the show.

Meas Sokry from the Ministry of Interior boxing club and Sok Vichay from Kleang Meurng boxing club trained the fighters. Vorn Viva, the ISKA world middleweight champion, served as assistant trainer.

Through tests of physical strength, contestants were selected for weekly fights. Winners stayed on the show; losers went home.

Phan Sothy's route to third
Phan Sothy, a 24-year-old from Thma Kuol district in Battambang, entered Sunday's third place playoff bout with a professional record of 5-2, of which two wins and one loss came in Kun Khmer Champion bouts. The victory Sunday improved his record to 6-2.

To reach the show's semifinals, Phan Sothy beat Chorn Vichen. In that fight, Phan Sothy scored an eight count early in the second round with a flying knee. A minute later, following a series of low kicks and then an elbow, Chhorn Vichen's corner threw in the towel with 1:10 left in the round.

In a brief but thrilling semifinal match, Prey Veng's Sam Ounlorng knocked out Phan Sothy in the second round with a straight right hand.

Sok Ratha, a 23-year-old from Kampot, entered the bout Sunday with a record identical to his opponent's, both inside and outside the TV series.

To earn his place in the semifinals, Sok Ratha came back from a first-round knockdown to stop Heam Samnang in the third.

In his semifinals match, Sok Ratha scored two second-round knockdowns against Siem Reap's Puy Neurn and was microseconds away from scoring a third and winning by referee stoppage when the bell rang. Puy Neurn came back in the third to score a TKO over Sok Ratha with an elbow.

Sam Ournlourng and Puy Neurn will step into the ring Sunday to fight for the championship. The winner will pocket US$1,750, a huge figure by local boxing standards. The loser will get $800.

"I can beat Puy Neurn, I am 80 percent sure," said Sam Ournlourng after knocking out Phan Sothy.