Thursday, 23 July 2009

President of Thai Parliament Chai Chidchob leading a delegation from the Thai National Assembly on an official friendship visit to Cambodia for 2 days

President of Thai Parliament, Chai Chidchob (L), and his Cambodian counterpart, Heng Samrin, listen to their national anthems upon arrival at the national assembly building in Phnom Penh July 23, 2009. Chai is leading a delegation from the Thai National Assembly on an official friendship visit to Cambodia for two day.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea

President of Thai Parliament, Chai Chidchob (L), and his Cambodian counterpart, Heng Samrin, listen to their national anthems upon arrival at the national assembly building in Phnom Penh July 23, 2009. Chai is leading a delegation from the Thai National Assembly on an official friendship visit to Cambodia for two day.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea

President of Thai Parliament, Chai Chidchob (L), greets Cambodian parliamentarians next to his Cambodian counterpart, Heng Samrin (R), upon his arrival at the national assembly building in Phnom Penh July 23, 2009. Chai is leading a delegation from the Thai National Assembly on an official friendship visit to Cambodia for two day.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea
President of Thai Parliament, Chai Chidchob, reviews an honour guard along with his Cambodian counterpart, Heng Samrin (R), upon his arrival at the national assembly building in Phnom Penh July 23, 2009. Chai is leading a delegation from the Thai National Assembly on an official friendship visit to Cambodia for two day.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea
Cambodian National Assembly President Heng Samrin, right, walks with his Thailand counterpart Chai Chidchob, center right, at the Cambodia National Assembly in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Thursday, July 23, 2009. Chai Chidchob pays a two-day official visit to Cambodia.(AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

President of Thai Parliament, Chai Chidchob, greets Cambodian parliamentarians next to his Cambodian counterpart, Heng Samrin (R), upon his arrival at the national assembly building in Phnom Penh July 23, 2009. Chai is leading a delegation from the Thai National Assembly on an official friendship visit to Cambodia for two day.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea

Cambodian National Assembly President Heng Samrin, right, introduces his Thai counterpart Chai Chidchob, center, to Cambodian officials at the Cambodia National Assembly in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Thursday, July 23, 2009. Chai Chidchob pays a two-day official visit to Cambodia.(AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

President of Thai Parliament, Chai Chidchob, greets Cambodian parliamentarians next to his Cambodian counterpart, Heng Samrin (R), upon his arrival at the national assembly building in Phnom Penh July 23 , 2009. Chai is leading a delegation from the Thai National Assembly on an official friendship visit to Cambodia for two day.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea

ASEAN Regional Forum in Phuket July 23, 2009

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (C) arrives for a group photo with foreign ministers and representatives from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) during the ASEAN Regional Forum in Phuket July 23, 2009. Front row from left: China's Yang Jiechi, Cambodia's Hor Namhong, Brunei's Prince Mohamed Bolkiah and Bangladesh's Dipu Moni. Back row from left: European Union's foreign policy chief Javier Solana, India's Somanahalli Mallaiah Krishna, Indonesia's Hassan Wirajuda, Japan's Hirofumi Nakasone, and Laos' Thongloun Sisoulith.REUTERS/Sukree Sukplang

Foreign ministers and representatives from Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) talk before they pose during the ASEAN Regional Forum in Phuket July 23, 2009. Front row from left: Canada's Deepak Obhrai, China's Yang Jiechi, Cambodia's Hor Namhong and Brunei's Prince Mohamed Bolkiah. Back row from left: Mongolia's Sukhbaatar and European Union High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solano.REUTERS/Sukree Sukplang

Foreign ministers and representatives from Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) pose during ASEAN Regional Forum in Phuket July 23, 2009. Front row from left: North Korea's chief delegate Pak Kun-gwang, Canada's Deepak Obhrai, China's Yang Jiechi, Cambodia's Hor Namhong, Brunei's Prince Mohamed Bolkiah, Bangladesh's Dipu Moni, Australia's Stephen Smith, Thailand's Kasit Piromya, Vietnam's Pham Gia Khiem, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, East Timor's Deputy Prime Minister Jose Luis Guterres, Sri Lanka's Rohitha Bogollagama, Singapore's George Yeo, Russia's Sergei Lavrov and ASEAN Secretary-General Surin Pitsuwan. Back row from left: Mongolia's Sukhbaatar, European Union High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solano, India's Somanahalli Mallaiah Krishna, Indonesia's Hassan Wirajuda, Japan's Hirofumi Nakasone, Laos' Thongloun Sisoulith, Malaysia's Anifah Aman, Myanmar's Nyan Win, New Zealand's Murray McCully, Pakistan's Makhdoom Ahah Mahmood Qureshi, Philippines' Roberto Romulo, South Korea's Yu Myung-hwan and Papua New Guinea's Samuel Abal.REUTERS/Sukree Sukplang

In this photo taken Wednesday, July 22, 2009 released by Thai Foreign Ministry, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton shares a toast with ASEAN Foreign Ministers, Prince Mohamed Bolkiah of Brunei, left, Hor Namhong of Cambodia, second right, and Hassan Wirajuda of Indonesia, right, during a dinner reception at the ASEAN Regional Forum at a hotel in Phuket, southern Thailand.
(AP Photo/Thai Foreign Ministry)

North Korea says no more six-party talks - Summary

Earth Times

Thu, 23 Jul 2009
Author : DPA

Phuket, Thailand - North Korea on Thursday rejected any comprehensive solution to the threat posed by its nuclear programme and refused to return to international negotiations until the United States abandons its hostile attitude. North Korea's roving ambassador Ri Hong Sik made the comments about the six-party talks to end North Korea's nuclear weapons programme at an impromptu press conference at Asia's main security meeting, the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) Regional Forum, on the Thai island of Phuket.

"The US should abandon its hostile policy first," Ri said.

US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said it was unfortunate that North Korea had shown no willingness to pursue denuclearization at the forum.

"There is no place for North Korea to go," Clinton said. "They have no friends left to protect them from the international effort to move forward with denuclearization," she added.

North Korea's nuclear weapons programme and Myanmar's ongoing political instability were the centre of the talks on Phuket although the Myanmar issue was clearly sidelined by Pyongyang's remarks.

Clinton even offered some rare words of praise to the military regime in Myanmar, also known as Burma, for its professed willingness to enforce a UN Security Council resolution that calls for an arms embargo on North Korea and the right to inspect any suspicious cargo from the country.

"We were gratified by Burma's statement announcing its intention to adhere to the UN resolution," Clinton said.

Earlier this week, the secretary of state expressed fears of North Korean-Myanmar military cooperation, perhaps in nuclear weapons development.

"We know there has been cooperation between North Korea and Myanmar in the past and we are going to be vigilant that it does not occur in the future," Clinton added.

The ASEAN Regional Forum has drawn 26 foreign ministers to Phuket, 600 kilometres south of Bangkok.

Clinton met Wednesday with the foreign ministers from the other countries involved in the six-nation talks aimed at ending North Korea's nuclear weapons programme. The only country not to participate was North Korea itself, which is a member of the forum but refused to send its foreign minister to the annual meeting.

The forum issued a strong statement of support for the recent UN Security Council resolution on North Korea, whose nuclear programme is deemed one of the main threats to security in Asia.

The United States and its allies have offered economic incentives to Pyongyang in return for ending its nuclear ambitions.

The forum consists of ASEAN's 10 members as well as Australia, Bangladesh, Canada, China, the European Union, India, Japan, North and South Korea, Mongolia, New Zealand, Pakistan, Papua Guinea, Russia, Sri Lanka, East Timor and the United States.

ASEAN consists of Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

Free expression deteriorating in Cambodia

23 July 09

IFEX Press Release:

The Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA) and its members and allies working for the promotion and protection of free expression in Southeast Asia have issued an open letter to Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, denouncing a "rapidly and palpably deteriorating environment for free expression in Cambodia."

The groups and advocates have noted a rash of attacks against journalists, lawyers, advocates, and parliamentarians over the past year that has severely restricted the space for press freedom and political speech in Cambodia. SEAPA says Cambodia’s leaders must be taken to task for the situation, stressing that violations of people’s rights to free expression are ultimately a regional problem and concern.

The open letter calls attention to Cambodia in the context not only of its constitutional guarantees for free expression, but also in light of the current 42nd Ministerial Meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) which is taking place in Phuket, Thailand. The ASEAN’s task this week to adopt Terms of Reference for the formation of an ASEAN Human Rights Body, SEAPA said, takes on significance and urgency precisely because of situations such as those unfolding for the free expression environment in Cambodia.

Smile, we're here to help

Thu, Jul 23, 2009

By Liew Hanqing

THE pint-sized woman had been ridiculed for years by fellow villagers - because both her children were born deformed.

The villagers taunted her, insisting that her children's deformities had something to do with her small stature.

She was one of many parents who took their children to a small Cambodian village to have their facial deformities repaired by a medical team from Singapore in May.

The team of 18 doctors, nurses and other medical personnel was on the first mission organised by Operation Smile Singapore.

It is the local arm of an international children's medical charity that provides free surgery for children with facial deformities like cleft lips, cleft palates and facial tumours.

Surgery to correct a cleft lip normally costs about $360.

The mission to Kampong Cham in Cambodia was funded partly by Operation Smile Singapore and partly by Mr Bean, a soya bean food and beverage retailer in Singapore.

Big tent

Ms Jessica Gwee, 28, a trained nurse who went on the mission, told The New Paper that the team had to make do with a very basic set-up at the village hospital.

She said: 'The area where we screened patients was nothing more than a big tent, like the sort that you see at a fun fair.'

During the first part of the mission, Ms Gwee manned a station in the screening area, taking each prospective patient's vital signs - temperature, pulse, respiratory rate and blood pressure - to ascertain if they were fit for surgery.

Over the next few days, she assisted doctors in the operating theatre and recovery room.

She said: 'The patients are usually dehydrated after surgery, so we had to feed them (orange-flavoured powdered drink) Tang and make sure they were doing fine.'

Ms Rachel Woon, 31, a project coordinator for the mission, said people travelled to Kampong Cham from as far as the Cambodia-Vietnam border to get their facial deformities corrected.

They had learnt about the mission through radio, TV and newspapers.

She said: 'So many people came that the doctors had to take on a heavier load than they had originally planned.'

She said an 11-year-old boy with a cleft lip waited all day with his father for his turn, but his surgery slot had to be pushed to the next day.

'His father was angry that the surgery was delayed after they had waited the whole day, so he wanted to just leave with his son,' Ms Woon said.

'But the boy was sad - he told his father that he really wanted the surgery. We had to try really hard to convince the father to wait just one more day.'

Over four days, 92 patients had their deformities surgically corrected.

Ms Woon said her organisation hopes to attract medical workers to volunteer their expertise for upcoming Operation Smile missions.

She said: 'The people there were so grateful for the chance to have free surgery.

'Everyone who went on the mission said it was a great experience, and that they would want to do it again.'

Said Dr Vincent Yeow, 45: 'It was a good opportunity to help people, to work in a different environment, and to meet people from different countries.

'On such missions, you meet many new, like-minded people, learn a new language - such experiences are good for the soul.'

Added Ms Gwee: 'There was a lot of camaraderie, and everybody - doctors and nurses - all got along very well.

'There, we were all just regular human beings, helping fellow human beings.'

Women In Cambodia Turning To Sex Trade

Scoop New Zealand

Thursday, 23 July 2009
Press Release: United Nations

More Women In Cambodia Turning To Sex Trade Amid Financial Crisis – UNReport

New York, Jul 21 2009 5:11PM The global financial crisis has led to signs of an increase in Cambodian women entering the sex trade, says a new United Nations report, which recommends strengthening social safety nets and improving job training and placement to help women avoid such dangerous and exploitative work.

The report, prepared by the UN Inter-Agency Project on Human Trafficking (UNIAP), is based on research conducted in April and May involving 357 women and girls aged between 15 and 49 currently working in the entertainment sector of the capital, Phnom Penh, including in brothels, karaoke bars and massage parlours.

“The objective of this research was to measure increases in human trafficking and exploitation in Cambodia as a result of the financial crisis, specifically, the trafficking of women and girls into the entertainment sector,” UNIAP says in a news release issued yesterday.

The report shows that during the crisis, women have entered the sex trade coming from situations where there have been declining working conditions, such as in the garment sector, where they experienced long working hours and low pay.

The most common reason given by the women and girls for entering the sex trade was “difficult family circumstances,” followed by “easily earn a lot of money, in good working conditions.”

Most massage parlour workers, 57 per cent, found their jobs independently, while 46 per cent of karaoke workers found theirs through friends. Nearly 80 per cent of direct sex workers also found their jobs on their own.

The report also found that 58 per cent of women who entered the entertainment sector before the crisis were in debt, while the same was true of 42 per cent who entered after the crisis.

“It could be assumed that the shift in women turning from money lenders to sex establishment bosses for loans may lead to more women being vulnerable to the control tactics and violence that are often thought to be associated with debt bondage,” states UNIAP.

However, it was debts to money lenders, and not debt bondage, that was found to be significantly associated with the worst violence and worst restrictions on freedoms among those surveyed.

The report recommends strengthening social safety nets, designed to meet the needs of families with women who are vulnerable to exploitation and degrading working conditions, as well as linking women who want jobs featuring better working conditions with alternative livelihood training and job placement assistance.

Also recommended is the use of targeted awareness raising and outreach to provide specific, clear information to people who may be vulnerable, for example on how to access social services and training that will lead to jobs, the risks of using moneylenders, and how to qualify for and access safer sources of loans and credit.

ASIA Cambodian Church shares Laotian Catholics’ sorrow over bishop's death

Published : July 23 2009

PHNOM PENH : Thousands of Catholics attended the funeral of Bishop Jean Sommeng Vorachak in Thakhet, Laos, on July 18, according to Cambodian Church leaders who were at the service.

The funeral Mass for the late apostolic vicar of Savannakhet was held at the Thakhet cathedral. His body was later buried at Ban Sian Vangtha, his hometown, about 30 kilometers away.

During the service, Archbishop Salvatore Pennacchio, the Bangkok-based apostolic nuncio to Cambodia, read a letter of condolence from Pope Benedict XVI.

The nuncio also prayed with the people and asked them to continue their mission of bringing God’s love to all.

Bishop Sommeng died on July 14 at St. Louis Hospital in Bangkok, where he was being treated for bone marrow cancer. He was 76.

“The Catholics were extremely sad” at the loss their bishop, said Father Jean Un Son, a Cambodian priest who was at the funeral. Many had praised the late bishop for continuing to serve the poor despite his illness, he said.

Bishop Emile Destombes, president of the Episcopal Conference of Laos and Cambodia president and apostolic vicar of Phnom Penh told UCAN News Bishop Sommeng was well-loved by many because of his kindness.

He set a good example for the people, noted the prelate.

Bishop Sommeng was ordained a priest in 1963, appointed pro-vicar of the Savannakhet apostolic vicariate in 1975 and ordained bishop in 1997. He was also a vice president of the Episcopal Conference of Laos and Cambodia. No successor to the vicariate has yet been named.

There are about 43,000 Catholics in Laos, out of a total population of about 6 million, most of whom are Buddhists, according to a Church source in Laos. The Catholics are served by 13 priests and 89 nuns in the four Church jurisdictions -- Luang Prabang, Pakse, Savannakhet and Vientiane apostolic vicariates.

Vietnam, Cambodia to sign energy agreement


Vietnam and Cambodia hope to sign an 10 - year cooperation agreement on energy by the end of this year.

Officials from Vietnam’s Ministry of Industry and Trade and Cambodia’s Ministry of Industry, Mining and Energy reached an accord on the content of a draft agreement during their working sessions between July 21-22.

The 8-article agreement is designed to boost investment cooperation on hydro-electric power plants and the building of power grids connecting the two countries.

It is also aimed at increasing cross-border power sales, promoting mineral exploration and exploitation and encouraging businesses in the two countries to cooperate and implement sustainable development projects to protect the environment and the ecosystem.

Cambodia’s child prostitutes need help

The Lake Oswego Review

By Cliff Newell
Jul 23, 2009

When Shari Newman of Lake Oswego made her first trip to Cambodia three years ago to investigate child sex trafficking, she was stunned by what she found.

“It was really emotional. It was so unbelievable,” Newman said. “I actually saw brothels and poverty. At the trauma recovery center there were little girls 3-feet tall and 5 years old holding my hand. They had been prostitutes. It was very taxing, emotional and heart wrenching.

“I’ve done a lot of mission trips, and that was the hardest one I’ve ever done. Other places you came away with a plan of action. There, you ask, ‘How can you do it?’”

What seemed hopeless in 2006, however, has a spark of hope in 2009. While the statistics on child sex trafficking in Cambodia are still overwhelming, young girls are being helped to recover from criminal abuse and awareness is spreading.

You could see how much at the “Children: Not for Sale” conference on July 7 at Lake Grove Presbyterian Church. A capacity audience of 120 people was on hand to hear Haiday Ear-Dupuy, advocacy and communications manager for World Vision Cambodia, talk about a problem that is so shocking when people hear about it for the first time: Cambodian girls being turned into sex slaves.

The statistics faced by Ear-Dupuy and her World Vision colleagues are these: 5 million Cambodians are trafficked in sex and labor.

A native of Cambodia who had barely managed to escape the genocidal reign of the Khmer Rouge in the 1970s, Ear-Dupuy’s decision to return to Cambodia to work for World Vision seemed unbelievable to many people. Especially her parents.

“They said, ‘We took you out of the lions’ den. Now you’re going back in,’” Ear-Dupuy said. “I explained to them why it’s important that I am in Cambodia. Once I started, it became very personal.

“It was like I was looking at my own face in the face of every child I met.”

True, Cambodia is no longer racked by war. But it is plagued by extreme poverty, an ever-widening gap between the rich and poor, a huge HIV/AIDS rate, severe social justice issues and an economy that is sinking.

Selling sex is one way to make dollars in Cambodia. “Sex tourists” from all over the world, especially the U.S. and Asia, come looking for young girls.

Ear-Dupuy has the huge task of removing these girls from prostitution, transforming their lives and seeking political action to protect them. Fortunately, she is reaching people like conference organizers Shari Newman and LuAnn Yocky, both of Lake Oswego and both long active with World Vision.

Yocky, who is senior area director for World Vision in Portland, well remembers her first encounter with child sex trafficking in Cambodia and finding out about the exploiters seeking their “lost assets.”

“One such owner suspected that his lost asset was living at the WV center and tried to poison the food supply as his revenge,” Yocky said. “Gratefully, he was not successful.”

More encouraging to Yocky and Newman were young women like former sex slave Srey Mom, who transformed her life at the World Vision center.

“Her life holds great promise now,” Yocky said. “But it was a nightmare starting at age 13.”

Like a candle in the night, Ear-Dupuy is offering her own statistics on the World Vision center’s success in helping girl prostitutes. Her center has accepted 1,000 girls aged 9 to 18 and has a rehabilitation rate of over 90 percent.

Making this success more vivid to the audience were the things Ear-Dupuy showed them: Scarves and jewelry made by girls learning new skills; and photos of a former prostitute and her husband holding their baby, and little girls dancing in native Cambodian costumes.

Ugliness has been transformed into beauty.

Yet in a world where it is estimated that 27 million human beings are enslaved, it is easy to become pessimistic. Even for Haidy Ear-Dupuy.

“A couple months ago I became quite discouraged,” Ear-Dupuy said. “Then I read a book called Good News About Injustice.

“I realized ‘I am the good news. You are the good news.’ The work of Jesus is up to us.”

For more information about World Vision and its ministry to end child sex trafficking, go to the Web site under the topic “Speaking Out & Advocacy.”

Persons seeking to assist the ministry are urged to support the Child Protection Compact Act, now being considered in the U.S. Congress.

Hun Sen 'undermining' court

Hun Sen's calls to limit prosecutions at the UN-backed Khmer Rouge tribunal bring into question the independence of the war crimes court. -- PHOTO: AFP

The Straits Times

July 23, 2009

PHNOM PENH - CAMBODIAN premier Hun Sen's calls to limit prosecutions at the UN-backed Khmer Rouge tribunal bring into question the independence of the war crimes court, a leading rights group said on Thursday.

New York-based Human Rights Watch alleged Mr Hun Sen has attempted to control the court by asserting war could return to Cambodia if cases are brought against additional members of the late 1970s regime.

'Hun Sen has no role in this court, yet he keeps trying to use his hold over its Cambodian personnel to interfere,' Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement.

The lobby group demanded the court's judges, who are expected to soon rule whether to pursue additional former Khmer Rouge cadres, show independence in their decision. 'The UN and international donors need to put their foot down so that the court can get on with its work in an independent and impartial manner,' Mr Adams said.

The prime minister said in a March speech that he would prefer the tribunal fail than have war return to Cambodia as a result of additional trials. Last week Mr Hun Sen reportedly also told French President Nicolas Sarkozy that the court should limit trials to five former leaders.

The court is currently hearing its first trial. Former Khmer Rouge prison chief Kaing Guek Eav, better known by the alias Duch, has accepted responsibility for overseeing the torture and execution of over 15,000 people.

Four more former leaders from the 1975-79 regime are currently in detention awaiting trial, but the tribunal's Cambodian prosecutor has resisted efforts to pursue six additional suspects.

The Cambodian government has been accused of trying to scupper further trials out of fear that prosecutors might target former Khmer Rouge members currently in top posts in Mr Hun Sen's administration.

The Cambodian side of the international court has also been hit by a scandal in which local staff were allegedly forced to pay kickbacks for their jobs.

Up to two million people died of starvation and overwork, or were executed, as the hardline Khmer Rouge emptied Cambodia's cities in its drive to create a communist utopia. -- AFP

Cambodia: Political Pressure Undermining Tribunal

22 Jul 2009

Source: Human Rights Watch

Reuters and AlertNet are not responsible for the content of this article or for any external internet sites. The views expressed are the author's alone.

(New York) - Pronouncements by Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen that the UN-backed tribunal on Khmer Rouge atrocities should not prosecute additional suspects call into question the court's independence, Human Rights Watch said today.

In the latest in a series of similar statements, Hun Sen told President Nicolas Sarkozy of France last week that the tribunal should not threaten the peace in Cambodia, which "means only prosecuting these five people," according to a senior Cambodian aide present at their meeting.

"Hun Sen has no role in this court, yet he keeps trying to use his hold over its Cambodian personnel to interfere," said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. "The UN and international donors need to put their foot down so that the court can get on with its work in an independent and impartial manner."

In a public speech in March, Hun Sen said he would rather see the tribunal fail than have war return to Cambodia as a result of additional trials. "I would pray for this court to run out of money and for the foreign judges and prosecutors to walk out," Hun Sen said.

After the speech, Judge Silvia Cartwright, the most senior international judge at the tribunal, said, "Countries where the rule of law is respected and where their citizens can be sure of a fair trial are those in which the independence of the courts and judges is guaranteed. ... Comments, politically motivated or otherwise, which appear to be an attempt to interfere with that independence are therefore to be deplored."

Based in Phnom Penh, the UN-backed tribunal, known as the Extraordinary Chambers in the Court of Cambodia (ECCC), is prosecuting Khmer Rouge leaders for crimes against humanity in the deaths of up to 2 million people in the late 1970s. Five senior Khmer Rouge officials are in custody: Kaing Khek Iev (Duch), the former chief of Tuol Sleng prison; Nuon Chea, who was the deputy to the Khmer Rouge leader, Pol Pot; the Khmer Rouge foreign minister, Ieng Sary; social affairs minister, Ieng Thirith; and head of state, Khieu Samphan.

Human Rights Watch called for the tribunal's pre-trial chamber, scheduled to meet next week in Phnom Penh, to make a prompt, transparent, and independent decision about the scope of the prosecutions to thwart growing perceptions that court decisions are directed by the government. The issue has been referred to the pre-trial chamber following a dispute between the Cambodian and international co-prosecutors on the referral of additional cases.

In January 2009, the Cambodian co-prosecutor, Chea Leang, rejected the submission of an additional six suspects (one of whom has since died) by the international co-prosecutor, Robert Petit, who asserted that the additional prosecutions fall within the court's mandate and "would lead to a more comprehensive accounting of the crimes that were committed."

While not contesting the strength of the evidence in the individual cases, Chea Leang defended her decision by citing considerations about "Cambodia's past instability and the continued need for national reconciliation." She asserted that the tribunal's mandate - to try senior Khmer Rouge leaders and those most responsible for crimes committed during their four-year rule - can be fulfilled by prosecuting the five men already detained.

The pre-trial chamber, consisting of three Cambodian and two international judges, was designed to resolve disagreements between co-prosecutors and between co-investigating judges. Its decisions are made by a "super majority" of four judges, so at least one international judge would have to agree that there are legitimate legal justifications in order to bar additional prosecutions.

"It is specious for the Cambodian prosecutor to assert that prosecuting five people for the deaths of as many as 2 million people is sufficient," said Adams. "The court has the capacity to take on additional cases. Each decision to prosecute an individual should be based on evidence, not politics."

The Cambodian Judiciary is notoriously corrupt and subject to political interference. Rather than a fully international tribunal as initially proposed by UN experts, at Hun Sen's insistence the ECCC was established as a Cambodian tribunal with UN involvement. A majority of Cambodian judges sit alongside a minority of international judges, with international and Cambodian co-prosecutors.

Human Rights Watch said that attempts to politically influence the tribunal's proceedings violate Cambodia's agreement with the UN in 2004 establishing the tribunal, in which Cambodia agreed to abide by "international standards of justice, fairness, and due process of law."

Ten years in the making and more than three years in operation, the US$100 million tribunal has been plagued by credible reports of corruption and political interference, as well as difficulty raising funds.

"Declarations by Hun Sen and other Cambodian officials that peace would be threatened by more prosecutions are a red herring," said Adams. "The Khmer Rouge no longer exists and, particularly with Hun Sen's authoritarian grip on the country, no group has the capacity to cause unrest over this."

Pinoy missionary preaches condom use in Cambodia

By David Dizon

CAPE TOWN, South Africa - Filipino lay worker Arturo Ang has a mission in Cambodia - to help impoverished HIV sufferers in the country rebuild their lives as they suffer the ravages of the deadly disease.

To do that, Ang has resorted to both conventional and unconventional means. His program, Bridges of Hope, teaches HIV sufferers all about the usual modes of transmission of HIV and how to prevent it such as abstinence and being faithful to one partner.

He also teaches Cambodians to use condoms, a practice which may seem taboo to Catholic lay missionaries.

"The stand of our organization, of Maryknoll, which is a Catholic organization, is that we don't distribute condoms but our NGO gives education to people so we teach people about condoms for safe sex. Our program does have an element of family planning but it's more about positive prevention. We teach the ABCs of safe sex, which are abstinence, be faithful and condoms," he told

"We don't deny the people information about artificial family planning. We tell them where to get it and we teach them why it is important," he added.

The Philippine Catholic Lay Mission (PCLM) is a lay mission recognized by the Catholic Bishop Conference of the Philippines'. It was founded by the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers in 1977, an American missionary group in the United States.

PCLM traces its beginnings to the Maryknoll’s missionary charism and the growth of small Christian communities in the then Prelature of Tagum in Davao in the 1960s. The Maryknoll evolved a program for small Christian communities in the Tagum prelature, and as the communities matured, it became a natural consequence for them to become missionary by helping neighboring villages, parishes and dioceses form small Christian communities.

Ang, a native of Davao City, said the primary goal of the PCLM is to recruit, train and send missionaries to establish small Christian communities. After serving in the PCLM for several years in Davao, the Maryknoll order invited him and two others to go to Cambodia where the need for mission work was great.

Ang and two other lay missionaries arrived in Cambodia in late 2003 and immediately started work on helping HIV sufferers in the country. At the time, Cambodia had the highest HIV prevalence in Southeast Asia. The mode of transmission was usually through heterosexual transmission mostly through sex workers and husbands passing it on to their wives.

He said many of the HIV sufferers they helped during the early days of the Bridges of Hope project in Phnom Penh were sex workers and widows.

"Because of ignorance, a lot of these AIDS sufferers go to Phnom Penh to seek treatment. They sell their property to seek treatment. Maryknoll gives them care, we visit them in their homes and we also have a halfway house where they could stay and get food," he said.

He said the Cambodian government started giving anti-retroviral drugs to HIV patients in 2002. This led to a lot of formerly sick HIV patients finally getting well enough to work but not having jobs.

Ang said more than 500 HIV sufferers have "graduated" from the Bridges of Hope program since it launched more than five years ago. All of the graduates are Buddhists.

"Cambodia is a Buddhist country. The way of doing mission work in Cambodia is by helping the poorest of the poor and uplifting the dignity of the human being. We don't preach or proselytize. We only want to help them and uplift their status. Once they start earning an income, they are no longer in the program because they have the ability to take care of themselves and we can accept more people. All of them are Buddhists and we do not convert them," he said.

Ang said he finds satisfaction in the knowledge that they are finally changing the HIV situation in Cambodia.

"When I first arrived, people with HIV were just dying in the hospitals, mostly due to infections and other AIDS-related illnesses. There were no medicines. Now they still die because of illnesses but in a sense, it is getting better. They live longer because the Cambodian government did a good job rolling out ART for HIV patients. Unfortunately these people are still poor so the socioeconomic aspect of the illness still needs work," he said.

He also denies that teaching contraceptive use is a betrayal of Catholic teaching.

"Personally for me it is not a betrayal of my religion. People are dying so how do you protect them? Of course we teach them to abstain or be faithful but if you have a husband who is already infected and the wife is not infected, how can they have sex if they don't have protection? You cannot risk infecting your spouse with HIV just because the Church doesn't allow condoms," he said.

Instead of dictating what people should or should not do, Ang said people should be given all the information they need and let them decide their conscience.

He also said the Philippines should be more pro-active in curbing HIV despite the low HIV prevalence in the country.

"Remember, Filipinos are going out of the country and we also have a problem with prostitution. It's possible that there are still many people in the country who are HIV positive who don't know it yet because they haven't been tested. We need to be more proactive and do more on HIV testing and prevention," he said.


Bernama - Thursday, July 23

KUALA LUMPUR, July 23 (Bernama) -- Integrated financial services group, Hwang-DBS (Malaysia) Bhd (HDBS) launched today its flagship commercial entity and 100 percent owned subsidiary, the HwangDBS Commercial Bank Plc (Hwang DBS CB) in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

The bank was set up with a paid-up capital of US$20 million.

"HDBS is pleased and privileged to have been awarded the banking licence by the National Bank of Cambodia to enable us to set up our first commercial entity in Phnom Penh.

"We believe the Cambodian financial industry offers great growth opportunities for foreign entities like HDBS," said Alex Hwang, a HDBS and Hwang DBS CB director.

"HDBS has invested significantly in HwangDBS CB and we are committed to building up local talent while expanding the overall marketability of our people," he added.

HwangDBS CB will commence its banking activities on July 27 against the competitive local backdrop of more than 27 local and foreign commercial banks in Cambodia.

Cambodia Pushes to Curb Khmer Rouge Court, Group Says (Update1)
By Michael Heath

July 23 (Bloomberg) -- Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen is trying to prevent the United Nations-backed Khmer Rouge genocide tribunal from expanding prosecutions of former regime officials and undermining its independence, Human Rights Watch said.

Hun Sen told French President Nicolas Sarkozy last week the court’s efforts to prosecute more Khmer Rouge officials than the five in custody threaten stability, the New York-based group said, citing a senior Cambodian aide who attended the meeting.

“The UN and international donors need to put their foot down,” Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement e-mailed today. “Hun Sen has no role in this court” yet keeps trying to interfere. Calls to Cambodian government spokesman Khieu Kanharith weren’t answered.

The trials are central to reconciliation in Cambodia, where one in five people died at the hands of the Khmer Rouge between 1975 and 1979. The movement, which drove the population out of cities to work on collective farms as it tried to establish an agrarian state, is blamed for the deaths of at least 1.7 million people through starvation, disease or execution.

Based in the capital, Phnom Penh, the tribunal, known as the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, is prosecuting Khmer Rouge leaders for crimes against humanity.

The five senior officials in custody are Kang Kek Ieu, known as Duch, the former chief of Tuol Sleng prison; Nuon Chea, the deputy to the Khmer Rouge leader, Pol Pot; Khmer Rouge foreign minister, Ieng Sary; social affairs minister, Ieng Thirith; and head of state, Khieu Samphan.

Threat of Conflict

In January, the Cambodian co-prosecutor, Chea Leang, rejected a call to prosecute six more suspects by international co-prosecutor, Robert Petit, according to Human Rights Watch. Petit said the additional cases fell within the court’s mandate and “would lead to a more comprehensive accounting of the crimes that were committed.”

Chea Leang cited considerations about “Cambodia’s past instability and the continued need for national reconciliation” for her decision. She said the tribunal’s mandate -- to try senior Khmer Rouge leaders and those most responsible for crimes committed during their rule -- could be fulfilled by prosecuting the five officials, according to Human Rights Watch.

Vietnamese forces ended the rule of the Khmer Rouge when they captured Phnom Penh in January 1979. Khmer Rouge fighters resisted in the west of the country until the final units surrendered to the Cambodian army 20 years later. Pol Pot died in his jungle hideout in 1998.

‘Evidence, Not Politics’

“It is specious for the Cambodian prosecutor to assert that prosecuting five people for the deaths of as many as 2 million people is sufficient,” said Adams. “The court has the capacity to take on additional cases. Each decision to prosecute an individual should be based on evidence, not politics.”

Human Rights Watch called for the tribunal’s pre-trial chamber, scheduled to meet next week, to make a prompt and independent decision on the scope of the prosecutions to end perceptions that court decisions are directed by the government.

Ten years in the making and more than three years in operation, the $100 million tribunal has been plagued by reports of corruption and political interference, according to the group.

Thailand, Cambodia to shun violence at Preah Vihear, border areas

BANGKOK, July 23 (TNA) – Thailand and Cambodia have agreed to try to avoid border clashes, foster close relations and cooperation, and would meet more often.

Representatives from the Thai and Cambodian militaries made the agreement Wednesday at the preparation meeting for the Thai-Cambodian General Border Committee (GBC).

A joint secretariat meeting co-chaired by Thai Border Affairs Department Director Lt-Gen. Nipat Thonglek and Cambodian Deputy Defence Minister Gen. Neang Phat was held in Bangkok to prepare for the forthcoming border meeting, set for September in Thailand.

At a press conference after the meeting, Gen. Nipat expressed satisfaction with the willingness of both parties to cooperate in solving outstanding problems between the two neighbours, which could lead to the development and prosperity.

Gen. Neang Phat said both parties would try to avoid further border clashes by boosting good relations between local Thai and Khmer authorities.

"Local authorities are set to meet twice a week, having a meal together," he said, adding that the military have good relations as well as local residents on both sides of the border.

Regarding troop re-deployment in the border areas, the Cambodian Deputy Defence Minister said discussions have continued, with both governmental and military officials, and that Cambodia was ready to act in accordance with agreements with Thailand.

Gen Nipat, meanwhile, said the meeting would eventually help reduce conflicts and build mutual understanding between the two countries.

Thai Defence Minister Gen. Prawit Wongsuwan and his Cambodian counterpart, Gen. Tea Banh, will head the delegates to the seventh border meeting which will cover three topics comprising 17 issues including survey and demarcation of land boundary; prevention and suppression of drug trafficking, and cooperation on border trade.

The International Court of Justice ruled in 1962 that Preah Vihear temple belongs to Cambodia. Clashes have occurred frequently near the 11th-century temple after it was listed as a United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)'s World Heritage Site as both countries maintain their claims on the area adjoining the temple. (TNA)

Hun Sen decries reliance on foreign styles in the arts

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
Prime Minister Hun Sen and renowned chapei singer Prach Chhoun at a workshop on Cambodian performing arts Wednesday. In his remarks, the premier called on artists to refrain from allowing “other countries’ styles” to influence their compositions.

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
Khmer actors and writers applaud during the launch of a two-day workshop on the performing arts in Cambodia.

The Phnom Penh Post
Thursday, 23 July 2009
Sam Rith

Premier says Cambodian artists should reflect Khmer tradition rather than incorporating 'other countries' styles' in their work.

PRIME MINISTER Hun Sen on Wednesday called on the Kingdom's artists to refrain from allowing "other countries' styles" to influence their compositions, be they books, films or songs.

Speaking during the closing ceremony of a workshop centred on what some officials have described as a decline in Cambodian performing arts, Hun Sen decried the proliferation of movies and television shows that he said were not in keeping with national cultural traditions.

"I would like to call on writers, [film] producers, actors and actresses to make efforts to improve their creations," he said.

Hun Sen also ordered the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts to apply to have several traditional Khmer art forms registered under UNESCO's Intangible Heritage of Humanity Programme.

Minister of Culture and Fine Arts Him Chhem said the ministry was already preparing applications for chapei, a form of sung storytelling; khol and yike, two types of theatrical performances; and lakhon bassac, or Cambodian folk opera.

Meas Sarun, general director of the ministry's "technique of culture" department, told the Post in February that the chapei and khol applications were being prepared.

UNESCO Country Director Teruo Jinnai said at the time that his office would likely assist in revising and polishing both applications before they were sent to UNESCO headquarters, where experts will evaluate them and then submit them to a vote by member states.

Jinnai said the process of getting the applications approved once they are submitted will likely take about one year.

Rong Chhun, president of the Cambodian Independent Teachers Association, said he agreed with the prime minister's remarks regarding the state of Cambodian performing arts, though he said the government could facilitate a greater emphasis on high-quality compositions by strengthening intellectual property rights and increasing support for arts education.

Evictees criticise new site

The Phnom Penh Post
Thursday, 23 July 2009
Chhay Channyda

Former Group 78 families report lacking amenities, employment.

FORMER residents of Phnom Penh's Group 78 community who were sent to Trapaing Anchanh on the capital's outskirts said Wednesday that the relocation site was lacking both in amenities and opportunities for them to earn a living.

They said the conditions were so bad that the majority of the new arrivals had decided it made more sense to rent property in the city than to live on the plots of land that were given to them by authorities.

The remaining 70 families from the Bassac riverfront community finally lost their battle with City Hall last Thursday, with many opting to take municipal compensation packages ahead of a forced eviction Friday morning.

Say Ouk, 60, who moved to the new Trapaing Anchanh relocation site in Dangkor district on July 15, said she did so in response to threats from authorities that she would lose everything if she tried to stay.

"I was forced to move out because I was afraid that I would have nothing, not even one riel," she said.

As she and other residents try to find their feet at the new site, which is more than 20 kilometres outside the city, they are hampered by a lack of job opportunities, she said.

"I used to work for a coffee shop in the morning and sell balloons on the riverside in the afternoon to make money for my family," she said. "It costs around US$4 to travel to Phnom Penh by moto-taxi, so I just stay at home because I don't have that much money to spend every day."

Say Ouk also complained of shoddy amenities at Trapaing Anchanh, which also houses evictees from the Dey Krahorm community evicted by city authorities in January.

"There is no electricity. We use candles at night to light the house," she said.

Sin Sambath, 47, said her son would have difficulty finding a school in which to enrol at the new site.

"He will probably just stop studying," she said.

"My son complained to me that he could not live here because it is difficult, but I explained to him that there is no choice for poor people like us."

Both Say Ouk and Sin Sambath said the majority of the new arrivals at Trapaing Anchanh had decided they would be better off renting property in the city rather than staying there.

"Some residents just left their land there and came back to rent houses in Phnom Penh, where it is convenient for doing business," Say Ouk said.

"I will leave here to rent a house in the city after my house is completely built."

Ny Sorphonneary, a lawyer at the Community Legal Education Centre (CLEC), which represented Group 78 in court, said Wednesday that most of the residents would be forced to travel to Phnom Penh and back if they wanted to earn anything.

"Living here is like living in a rice field - residents cannot run businesses," she said.

She added: "The city authorities should provide basic services for them such as electricity and water."

But Kith Sopha, deputy governor of Dangkor district, said the descriptions provided by the residents were fabricated.

"We have electricity, water and other infrastructure over there," he said. "All displaced people are our concern. We will find a solution for them."

But Phnom Penh Deputy Governor Mann Chhoeun acknowledged that the site lacked electricity and water, which he said would arrive soon.

"I know that the government electricity supply has not reached that area ... but residents can manage themselves to get power to their houses," he said.

He added that Association International des Maires Francophone (AIMF), a global NGO, would provide funding to upgrade the water supply at the Trapaing Anchanh and Andong relocation sites.

Study slams trafficking law

The Phnom Penh Post
Thursday, 23 July 2009
Christopher Shay and Mom Kunthear

THE 2008 Law on the Suppression of Human Trafficking and Sexual Exploitation violates international guidelines, encourages gender discrimination and increases the danger of sex work, according to a study released last week by the Cambodian Alliance for Combating HIV/AIDS (CACHA) along with 11 local, international and governmental organisations.

UN guidelines call for officials to ensure that traffickers, and not sex workers, are at "the focus of anti-trafficking strategies", the report states.

But by regarding all sex workers as victims, the 2008 anti-trafficking law conflates women who have been trafficked with women who consent to sex work, thereby diverting attention away from traffickers, according to the report.

To produce the report, titled "Policies Environment Regarding Universal Access and the Right to Work of Entertainment Workers in Cambodia", researchers collected data from 1,116 female sex workers.

Less than 1 percent of those polled said they were sold into prostitution, and more than 90 percent said sex work was their best available job option.

After the anti-trafficking law was passed in January 2008, police cracked down on brothels, prompting many sex workers to move to karaoke bars, massage parlours and beer gardens.

Tia Phalla, deputy director of the National Aids Authority, which helped produce the report, said Wednesday that he was worried that HIV/AIDS awareness had declined as a result of the shift away from brothels.

"We are having difficulties educating them," he said. "When we go into a restaurant or beer garden and tell them why we have come, they say they are not sex workers."

The report also highlights a recent decline in brothel-based education.

Out of fear of police raids, "brothel owners have become less willing to allow HIV services in their establishments", the report states.

"Closure of brothels leads more entertainment workers to work in more dangerous conditions."

The report outlines a number of ways to improve the 2008 law. These include providing further clarification on the definition of "soliciting" so that people are not arrested for carrying condoms.

Above all, the report recommends that judges and prosecutors recognise the "right to enter freely into commercial relationships connected to [sex] work".

"Some articles in the law should be amended so that sex workers have the right to do their business and can receive healthcare services," Ly Cheng Huy, chairman of the CACHA steering community, said.

Engaging sex workers in a meaningful way - something the report argues did not happen before the 2008 law was adopted - would yield a more effective approach to ending trafficking, the report states.

"[An] entertainment worker led and controlled programme can play a much more effective role in combating trafficking ... than law enforcement approaches," the report says, citing as an example a regulatory body in Kolkata, India, set up by sex workers that saw significant declines in the number of underage sex workers.

This approach would "help to promote the dignity, welfare and health of those human beings who are also entertainment workers", the report says.


Eclipse a mixed blessing

The solar eclipse sweeps over Phnom Penh on Wednesday morning.

The Phnom Penh Post
Thursday, 23 July 2009
Tracey Shelton and Tha Piseth

Astrologers are divided on the meaning of Wednesday's solar eclipse, but the one-day event paid rich dividends for the city's fortune-tellers.

ON Wednesday morning at 8am, the longest total solar eclipse of the 21st century was fully visible in parts of India and southern Asia.

But Phnom Penh residents only got to witness 31-percent coverage, leaving astrological authorities in the capital divided over what the event meant for the Kingdom.

"Normally, it is a disaster when a solar eclipse happens to a country," said Im Borin, astrology expert and researcher for the National Committee of Khmer Customs and Horoscopes.

Because it occurred in the middle of the rainy season, Im Borin said he believed the eclipse foretold of problems with water transportation, storms and flooding.

In countries that saw the full eclipse, misfortune may await high-ranking officers who were born in July, he said, but Cambodian officers will not have serious problems.

Early Wednesday morning, locals filled a usually quiet hall at Wat Saravan to receive blessings from resident monk and astrologer Ho Komharn.

"It will be a lucky day for everyone who visits the pagoda," said Nime, a 67-year-old priest and assistant to Ho Komharn, as a crowd of believers knelt behind him to receive sprinkles of holy water from the monk.

On a typical day, only 10 or 20 people visit the pagoda to receive a blessing or have their fortune told, Nime said. On Wednesday, more than 150 packed the blessing hall between 6:30am and 8am.

Good omens
By noon, the eclipse had already brought good fortune to 65-year-old Cheang, who sells birds at Wat Saravan that buyers then release for luck.

Sitting next to two empty birdcages, he said that on a normal day he sells around 30 birds. Today, all 100 of his birds had been sold by mid-morning.

This is not the first time a celestial event has brought luck to the Kingdom, Nime noted.

He recalled a story from 19 years ago in which an eclipse darkened all of Siem Reap except the towers of Angkor Wat, on which the sun still shone. This, according to Nime, foretold of Cambodia's continued independence and peace.

Srey Pow, 29, who had visited the pagoda earlier that morning, recalled the same event, which took place when she was 10 and living in Siem Reap with her family.

Im Borin said the next eclipse visible in Cambodia would occur on January 15, 2010, from 2pm to 4pm, with 45 percent visibility.

Only time will tell whether this higher-percentage view will spell disaster or good fortune for the Kingdom.

S-21 inmates treated like 'animals': witness

The Phnom Penh Post
Thursday, 23 July 2009
Cheang Sokha

A former interrogator testifies that Duch was responsible for indoctrinating workers at S-21.

A FORMER S-21 interrogator told Cambodia's war crimes tribunal Wednesday that he received instructions to treat so-called "enemies" like animals.

Speaking on the last day of his testimony, Prak Khan, 58, told the court that his former boss, Tuol Sleng prison chief Kaing Guek Eav, alias Duch, had delivered the instructions personally.

"At S-21, it was only Duch who indoctrinated our stance.

... We had to consider the enemies as animals," he said.

Duch challenged this assertion directly, saying, "I did not have time to provide instruction to every single interrogator, including Prak Khan."

He added: "Even with my subordinate, Comrade Pon, I did not have sufficient time to give him instruction on every single aspect."

Duch said Prak Khan's statements had been influenced by the fact that he feared being prosecuted himself, adding that he didn't recognise the witness because he was "minor staff".

"At that time you were afraid, you were fearful of being arrested by me, but now you are afraid that you might face the court as I am now," said Duch, who is on trial for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

"I do not demand or need any of my subordinates to stand with me before the chamber."

Local visitors reach 12,000
Court spokesman Reach Sambath told reporters at a press conference Wednesday that more than 12,000 Cambodians had attended the trial since March 30.

"We are pleased that the people of Cambodia have paid much attention to this process," he said.

Another witness, Kok Sros, a former security guard at S-21, was called by the court Wednesday and is expected to give the bulk of his testimony today.

Villagers seek release of suspects in murder

The Phnom Penh Post
Thursday, 23 July 2009
Chrann Chamroeun

MORE than 120 people gathered at Banteay Meanchey provincial court Tuesday and Wednesday to press for the release of two men detained by local police on allegations of robbery and murder.

Police arrested Rasmey Samakki village representative Van Saroeun, 56, and Van Da, age unknown, Saturday in connection with the robbery and killing of a Buddhist layman at O'Chrov district's Rasmey Samakki pagoda in April.

"It is unjust for my husband, who is innocent and docile," said Van Saroeun's wife, Horn Saron, 48.

"We are all ... hoping that they will release my husband and the other villager from prison; otherwise we won't return home."

Villager Prom Hong, 30, said the group had gathered to "call for justice", adding that the villagers had not been given "clear reasons" for the court's action.

Provincial police Chief Hun Hean said Wednesday the accused men were wanted in connection with a robbery in Prey Veng province as well, and that both provincial courts had issued warrants for their arrest.

"Our men have two court warrants ... to arrest Van Saroeun and another man for allegedly robbing and killing a clergyman and attempting to kill another two monks on [April 19]," he said.

"Saroeun's acts were very brutal. People should not have protected him by calling for his release at court."

Few resources for the mentally ill

Photo by: Eleanor Ainge Roy
Chea Dy, 20, lies on her hospital bed in the Cambodian-Russian Friendship Hospital. Doctors have been unable to diagnose her mental disorder.

The Phnom Penh Post
Thursday, 23 July 2009
Mom Kunthear and Christopher Shay

Mental health professionals say little funding has been directed towards programmes for the Kingdom's mentally ill, meaning shortages of doctors and medicine will likely persist.

TIED down with red-and-white kramas to a bed in the Cambodian-Russian Friendship Hospital, Chea Dy, 20, writhes and moans all day, unable to communicate with her doctors or even her own mother.

"I have to tie my daughter's hands to the bed because she is dangerous," Chea Dy's mother, En Seng, said. "My daughter became a crazy person."

The 55-year-old mother has tried everything to cure her daughter, who suffers from a mental condition that doctors have yet to identify. Even after spending two months with a traditional healer, Chea Dy's condition only worsened.

"I don't know what I will do if my daughter cannot get better. I don't have any more money to help her," she said.

But the nation's mental health infrastructure has yet to recover from decades of conflict.

Ka Sunbaunat, a psychiatrist on the faculty at the University of Health Sciences, said Cambodia is rebuilding its mental health infrastructure from nothing. In 1994, when the first psychiatric outpatient clinic since 1975 opened at the Cambodian-Russian Friendship Hospital, there were no Cambodian psychiatrists.

Yet mental health professionals said in recent interviews that mental health services were grossly underfunded, with several suggesting that patients such as Chea Dy are lucky to receive any form of treatment in a modern hospital.

Sotheara Chhim, a psychiatrist and executive director of the mental health NGO Trans-cultural Psychosocial Organisation (TPO), said many families were unable to afford treatment for mentally ill patients, and that many resorted to forcibly restraining them instead.

"There are still many patients who are locked up in their houses alone," he said. He added that he has even heard of people being caged in remote areas.

If those same patients were taken to a well-stocked hospital, they could be sedated and stabilised with medicine. But Cambodia has only 32 psychiatrists and eight psychiatric specialists, according to Kim Savuon, head of the mental health department at the Ministry of Health and president of the Mental Health Association in Cambodia.

Ka Sunbaunat said Cambodia needs "hundreds of psychiatrists" to deal with its mentally ill patients, but he noted that students do not want to enter the psychiatric field.

"Psychiatrists are not well-considered in society," he said. "Colleagues will call you 'mad doctor'."

Other shortages
Along with the doctor shortage, Cambodia must also cope with an inconsistent supply of medicine, Sotheara Chhim said.

Orders placed by Cambodia's public mental health clinics are not always filled, he said, and even when they are, the clinics might only receive enough medicine to last for three to six months of each year.

"Chronically mentally ill patients need to continue treatment, even if they are symptom-free," he said. "When they don't get the medication, their symptoms come back."

Kim Savuon said the ministry's lack of funds prevented it from purchasing enough medication and following up with patients to make sure the medicine was being taken properly.

People still call patients crazy, but many know that it is a treatable disease.

"The Ministry of Health lacked money in 2008, and I want to send a message to NGOs to help us buy tablets," he said.

As Cambodians learn more about mental illness, they are increasingly seeking medical help, taxing a system that is already overwhelmed, experts said.

"The number of cases of mental illness increases every year," said Kim Savuon, noting that the number of total cases had increased by 20 percent from 2007 to 2008.

Sotheara Chhim said the quality of care drops dramatically as doctors see more patients. Unlike their colleagues in other medical fields, mental health physicians need to make diagnoses based solely on conversations, a process that can be time-consuming.

"Mentally ill patients need to talk to doctors so doctors can understand their problem.... There is no machine that tests whether this is schizophrenia or not," he said.

Though mental health education in Cambodia still has a long way to go, experts said the public had become more aware that mental health problems could be treated.

"People still call patients crazy, but many know that it is a treatable disease and bring people to the hospital," Sotheara Chhim said.

The biggest obstacle to improving mental health services in Cambodia is money, said Ka Sunbaunat.

Despite government promises, he said, he does not expect to see a sufficient funding increase.

"Financing mental health is not a priority ... even though the policy says that mental health is one of the top health priorities," he said.

Sotheara Chhim said mental health issues are being ignored even by foreign donors.

"There are fewer donors interested, and there are smaller amounts of money available," he said. "But if we can start early prevention and early treatment, we'll reduce a lot of harm and the high costs of caring for those people."


Employees give NagaWorld 1-week ultimatum in letter

Photo by: Sam Rith
Union members gather last month at a rally in support of laid-off NagaWorld workers.

The Phnom Penh Post
Thursday, 23 July 2009
Sam Rith

Union representing hotel and casino workers calls on City Hall to intervene in negotiation with company over 14 redundancies.

AUNION representing staff at NagaWorld Hotel and Casino has said it will wait one more week before it launches a strike to have 14 laid-off workers reinstated.

Sok Narith, the head of the union that represents 1,000 NagaWorld employees, sent a letter to the Phnom Penh Municipality on Monday warning officials of the workers' intent to strike and requesting that they intervene in negotiations with the company.

"We would like to inform [Phnom Penh Deputy Governor Pa Socheatvong] that hundreds of employees working in this company are looking forward to the results of a negotiation [with NagaWorld] to solve the problem and allow their leaders to go back to work," the letter reads.

Sok Narith, who was among the 14 workers laid off by NagaWorld in February, said it had been nearly one month since Phnom Penh Governor Kep Chuktema pledged to facilitate negotiations with the company.

"But so far we have not received any result," he said. "We demand that the company reinstate the 14 workers."

NagaWorld blamed the economic crisis for the layoffs in February, but employees contend that the company is pushing an anti-union agenda.

Waiting on an explanation
Pa Socheatvong said he was too busy to comment on the issue Wednesday, but municipal official Sam Bun said the city had asked NagaWorld to write a report explaining why the company had laid off the workers. Sam Bun said City Hall had yet to receive any report.

Hay Voleap, deputy manager for human resources at NagaWorld, said Wednesday that his company had already sent the report to the municipality. He declined to comment on whether his company would reinstate the workers.

Sok Narith said his union, the Cambodia Tourism and Service Workers Federation, would begin to take action next week should there be no resolution.

"We can wait another week, [but] if there is still no resolution, we will hold a press conference in front of NagaWorld and then we will strike," he said.

Sok Narith said Pa Socheatvong had requested that the union postpone the press conference to allow municipal officials "to negotiate with the company in order to solve the problem for the union".

Mondulkiri villagers report no word concerning land compensation

The Phnom Penh Post
Thursday, 23 July 2009
Sam Rith

PHNONG minority families displaced by a rubber plantation in Mondulkiri's Bou Sraa commune remain in the dark about compensation packages despite promises from local authorities, according to community representatives.

Earlier this month, 138 families in Bou Sraa commune's Pouteut village agreed to let authorities measure land granted to Socfin KCD, a French-Cambodian rubber joint venture, in order to establish compensation claims.

"So far it is very quiet. We have heard nothing from the authorities about the result, [even though] they already measured our land as well as the land they planned to displace," said a village representative who asked not to be named.

She added that she had seen workers for the company digging holes for rubber trees during visits to affected areas in the last two days.

"Villagers say that if the company starts clearing land where [the dispute] is not yet resolved, they will seize the tractor," she said.

The conflict between Socfin KCD and seven Phnong villages previously came to a head in December, when angry villagers smashed and burned machinery belonging to the company.

Mondulkiri Deputy Governor Yim Lux said Tuesday that a government committee was working to resolve the dispute.

He said earlier this month that the company would offer affected villagers the same amount of land as they are likely to give up to the 10,000-hectare rubber concession. The planned replacement land is just a few kilometres from the affected area, he added.

Kul Midy, a community trainer with local rights group Adhoc, said the company and local officials should speed up the processing of claims from affected families in order to avoid further conflict.

Official says IPU is interfering in SRP trial

The Phnom Penh Post
Thursday, 23 July 2009
Meas Sokchea

THE Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) is interfering in Cambodia's internal affairs by sending an observer to the upcoming trial of Sam Rainsy Party (SRP) lawmaker Mu Sochua, a senior official said Tuesday.

"Although the IPU is an international parliamentary body, it should not interfere in Cambodia's legislature, executive or judiciary. If they interfere in this issue, it will be a violation of Cambodian sovereignty," Nguon Nhel, first deputy president of the National Assembly, told the Post Tuesday.

The Geneva-based IPU announced this week that it would send former Philippines Senate president Franklin Drilon to sit in on Mu Sochua's case at Municipal Court on Friday, during which she will face defamation charges filed by Prime Minister Hun Sen.

"[The] IPU is coming to observe my case because it is a big story," Mu Sochua said Tuesday. "They are coming to investigate my story because they have written several letters to National Assembly President [Heng Samrin], but [he] has not responded."

Ingeborg Schwartz, programme manager for human tights at the IPU, said Wednesday that "an observer" would come to Cambodia to "examine" the case. She declined to comment on whether the IPU would conduct an investigation, saying the case was confidential.

'Oil baron' has heart for children

Photo by: Peter Olszewski
Dr Eugene Tragus at the biodiesel conversion factory.

The Phnom Penh Post
Thursday, 23 July 2009
Peter Olszewski

Texan heart surgery pioneer Dr Eugene Tragus has found himself at the wheel of a project turning cooking oil into biofuel to provide electricity for the Angkor Hospital for Children.

You can take the Texan out of Texas, but you can't take the oil out of a Texan, as Dr Eugene Tragus attests.

The 75-year-young former Dallas open-heart surgery pioneer and long-term volunteer at the Angkor Hospital for Children declares, "Yeah, I am now the oil baron of Siem Reap".

Tragus gave the Post a guided tour of a high-tech laboratory that's been set up on the edge of town, which is officially called the Green Imitative Project.

The project kicked off in January, and Tragus has this month taken charge, which simply involves collecting used cooking oil donated by hotels and restaurants and converting it to biodegradable diesel fuel. A further byproduct of the process is the manufacture of glycerine, which can be marketed as a heavy-duty degreaser for automobile repair shops and other businesses involving heavy, metal moving parts.

"This is a very amazing project," Tragus said. "What we are doing is we are taking used vegetable oil that's been used in cooking, collecting it, taking it to our plant and converting it into diesel fuel.

"The advantages of this are that it is a biodegradable process, it's environmentally friendly, and we expect it to have a heavy influence in the market in the future with the recurrence of rising oil prices.

"And one of the main advantages of our fuel is that when people who use it are driving, they won't smell diesel fuel, but they may smell french fries."

Out of India
The oil conversion plant is modelled on similar initiatives in India, Tragus said. "We didn't cook this little project up. It started in India, where they were using jatropha, and jatropha is something we will also consider in the future.

"Oil from different vegetables is being used throughout the world to be converted into diesel fuel, but here in Siem Reap we are converting used cooking oil. Plus, we are very fortunate here because we don't have to buy the used oil because all the hotels and restaurants are donating it to us because it's for the hospital and for the children.

"But we are dependent on the tourists, and our used oil collection is quite limited at this time. Last month we collected 1,500 litres, and this month it may only be 700 litres."

The project has set up a holding tank at the hospital for fuel to power a generator when electricity is down. The fuel will also be used for the hospital's trucks and vehicles. Soon it will power a generator at a new satellite hospital that's being constructed, and it will be distributed to power vehicles for orphanages.

A marketing programme is also being devised to sell the glycerine.

The expensive conversion laboratory was privately funded by a member of the hospital's board, and Tragus declined to reveal the start-up cost.

"It's not really appropriate to reveal the cost or the name of the donor," he said.

Celebrated past
Tragus has a long, dynamic volunteer history with the Angkor Hospital for Children, signing on in 2001 as director of the emergency medicine department. Since 2004 he has been surgical consultant at the hospital. He initially came to Cambodia after the death of his wife from cancer and remarried five years ago to a local nurse, Sokunthea Lem, who has just completed her training as a doctor.

Tragus is a celebrated Siem Reap personage, a charming character with a mischievous Beatnik bent who is an ardent fan of singer and crime novelist Kinky Friedman, and he campaigned actively for the Kinkster's Texan gubernatorial push.

Tragus is noted for his energetic fundraising activities, but his biggest contribution is his expertise in heart surgery. He is a pioneer of open-heart surgery in America and hopes to see a cardiac unit established in Siem Reap to potentially save the lives of over 400 children who need hole-in-the-heart surgery.

In the 1960s he was a resident at the prestigious Ivy League University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, where he was charged with developing heart surgery.

In 1953, US surgeon Dr John Gibbon used a heart-lung machine he had developed to successfully complete the world's first open-heart operation.

"Gibbons developed the heart lung machine down the street from us in Philadelphia, and in the 1960s we started doing hole-in-the-heart operations," Tragus said.

"It was new at that time, and I was doing this in my mid-20s. I was very fortunate to be there at the beginning of heart surgery and being part of it.

"It was the greatest thrill in the world, and during my senior year in the residency" at the university, he said, "my chief, as a reward, gave me a month to spend as much time at any top hospital I wanted to in the US.

"So I scrubbed with the biggies, I operated with the leading heart surgeons of the time, and it was fantastic."

A team of visiting surgeons recently conducted Siem Reap's first open heart surgery, opening the door to the creation of a fully functional heart facility at the hospital, and Tragus has certainly urged this project along, ruffling some feathers in his determination to get the job done.

It's an enormous life-saving step forward for the hospital, and perhaps Tragus's role is best summed up by the good doctor himself when he says, "I think I have made a contribution here".

Additional reporting by Marika Hill

Online forums increasingly used to out dubious volunteer schemes lets tourists vent about various cons.

The Phnom Penh Post
Thursday, 23 July 2009
Marika Hill

Scammed tourists are increasingly using Internet forums and blogs to voice their concerns over dodgy volunteer schemes in Siem Reap province and other Cambodian areas.

Some bloggers go as far as saying they write anonymously out of fear of intimidation or murder by the volunteer organisations concerned. is one site that allows tourists to vent their concerns over alleged volunteer scams.

In an entry in March, a business owner in Siem Reap accused a local orphanage of using their family's children as "orphans", siphoning volunteer fees to managers and the mistreatment of children. This was based on three separate complaints the business owner received from volunteers.

"I want to name names, but I am afraid of being murdered," the blogger wrote.

"It's not a joke. You can hire a hit man for US$100, or so I was told. When you are in the way of thousands of dollars, you can bet that it makes financial sense for a crook to pay a hundred bucks to get you out of the way."

The blogger writes of how one volunteer was made to move to more expensive guesthouses run by the manager's family, while another woman was kicked out of the volunteer programme for asking too many questions.

The blogger goes on to caution travellers: "There are too many entrepreneurs who set up NGOs, orphanages and the like in Cambodia, preying on the kindness and generosity of travellers who feel for this country and want to contribute."

Although many of the posts on forums like Travelfish, Thorn Tree and Khmer440 praise the work of NGOs, some entries raise concerns over absent NGO managers, lack of transparency in accounting and the use of orphanages as tourist attractions.

In a Thorn Tree forum, run by popular travel guide Lonely Planet, a blogger lists four orphanages run for "financial gain" and claims one orphanage director was imprisoned for child sexual abuse.

"One [director] brings in the local village kids each time the bus load of tourists arrive, they pretend they live there, then when the bus leaves they go back home," the blogger wrote.

"He saw his venture into running an orphanage as a way of generating an income, he was a former tour guide and saw a niche in the market."

The forums also serve as an avenue for debate on volunteering and for tourists to recommend genuine NGOs in need of assistance.

Ou Panha, director of Cambodian Child's Dream Organisation, works with schools and orphanages around Siem Reap, including the Little Angel City orphanage.

Ou Panha said the orphanage desperately needs tourist donations to cover 80 percent of its operating budget, and welcomes any volunteers who can help with teaching and caring for the children.

Little Angel City does not charge volunteers a fee, but travellers are asked to pay for their own food and a guesthouse of their choice.

Ou Panha said he relied on word-of-mouth advertising to attract tourists and volunteers.

In a posting on, a Web site that allows users to submit travel reviews and information, a blogger recommends the Little Angel City. "There are 70 children there at the moment, and they always need food and clothing. Purchasing some of their art is of great help as well," the blogger wrote in May.

Ou Panha said he had not come across orphanage scams in Siem Reap.

Hotel gives back through bicycles

Pola Chhem, 14, tries out her new wheels.

The Phnom Penh Post
Thursday, 23 July 2009
Marika Hill

Bike Aid has come to Siem Reap, and almost 400 young locals will soon be pedalling their way to a better education thanks to a scheme devised by Hotel de la Paix and Mastercard.

The credit card company donated a bicycle for every room paid for by Mastercard at the hotel between September 1 and December 31 last year.

General Manager Nick Downing said the project was to give children greater freedom to get around town and cycle to school. On behalf of their guests, the hotel donated 397 bicycles, he said.

The 12 organisations receiving the bicycles, mainly orphanages and schools, were chosen based on the benefit the bicycles would have on the work they did with children or teenagers.

Many of the schools were in rural areas where children had to walk for up to an hour simply to get to school for their lessons.

Downing said the response had been rewarding, with the children testing out the bicycles as soon as they received them.

The idea was originally conceived when an employee of MasterCard Singapore stayed at the hotel and saw how it allowed guests to make donations towards community projects, such as buying rice for orphanages or assisting in their Sewing Training Centre Programme, which gives women the skills to set up their own business.

Downing said Mastercard perceived a synergy between the hotel's community work and its international social responsibility programme, Purchase with a Purpose.

"Mastercard asked, how can they make an impact?" he said. "It was not about driving business but about the Purchase with a Purpose programme. This was a very easy way for guests to participate in the community."

Guest Relationship Manager Andrea Everhardt said guests responded positively, often opting to use their Mastercard after reading about the project in the welcome brochure.

Negotiations were under way with MasterCard to revisit the project this year, and it has agreed to sponsor 10 of the 20 students on the hotel's 10-month sewing programme.

The hotel's philanthropic pursuits also helped earn it a glowing two-page review in the July issue of American Express's Travel + Leisure magazine.