Monday, 3 August 2009

Today in Pictures

In this photo taken Saturday, March 7, 2009, So Yeu, a candidate in the Miss Landmine beauty pageant pauses to be photographed in Siem Reap, Cambodia. The Cambodian government said Monday, Aug. 3, 2009, that it will not allow the competition to take place later this week, calling it an insult to the disabled.
(AP Photo/David Longstreath)

In this photo taken Saturday, March 7, 2009, candidates in the Miss Landmine beauty pageant, Sut Ai, left and Mom Sam Un, pause to be photographed in Siem Reap, Cambodia. The Cambodian government said Monday, Aug. 3, 2009, that it will not allow the competition to take place later this week, calling it an insult to the disabled.
(AP Photo/David Longstreath)

In this March 7, 2006 photo former Khmer Rouge leader Nuon Chea sits at his jungle home near the Thai-Cambodia border. A former medic at the notorious Khmer Rouge prison told a U.N.-backed genocide tribunal Monday, Aug. 3, 2009, he treated people with missing fingernails and toenails, saying hundreds of prisoner died from torture wounds. Chea, who was just below Pol Pot in the Khmer Rouge leadership, is currently jailed in Phnom Penh awaiting trial on crimes against humanity.
(AP Photo/David Longstreath)

Corps values

JaNise Porter, 22, a recent graduate of Howard University, has embarked on her two-year commitment to the Peace Corps in Cambodia. To learn more about the Peace Corps and its mission, meet returned volunteers at the Danville Library this evening from 7-8:30 p.m. who will share pictures and stories from their time abroad.

Danville woman heads to Cambodia to serve in the Peace Corps

by Geoff Gillette

The concept of "Giving Back" isn't really a new one. People who've had good fortune help others as a way of spreading their good karma back out into the world. There's giving back, and then there's Giving Back. And then there's JaNise Porter.

The 22-year-old Danville woman has spent the majority of her young life in one form of community service or another, culminating in spending the next 27 months serving a little further afield than the Bay Area.

Porter will be living and working in Cambodia for the next two years, as a member of the Peace Corps.

"I first heard about it at Howard University," she recalled. "I was just floored. I had never even heard of it."

One of her business instructors had spent time in the Peace Corps during the 1960s and told the students about the experience. That same year, two volunteers who had returned from their two-year commitments came and spoke about it.

"After that I was pretty much sold. At 19 years old I used to tell my family, 'I'm going into the Peace Corps.' No one took me seriously. They all said, 'No, you're going to get a job, you're going to grad school,'" she recalled with a laugh.

Regardless, the thought remained crystal clear within the young woman's mind as she finished at Howard, getting a degree in business. After that it was time to start the application process.

"I had to go through a very, very arduous and tedious application process. It's kind of worse than applying to college," she explained.

Peace Corps Public Affairs Specialist Nathan Hale Sargent said there are a limited number of volunteer positions and the competition is fierce. Presently there are 7,876 Peace Corps volunteers serving in 76 countries.

The process took nearly a year from when she first applied, and required several background checks and letters of recommendation. But in May 2009, Porter received her invitation.

"I wanted to cry, jump, scream. It was just so amazing because it's been in the works for so long. This has been the one clear thing I've had in my mind for so long, to see it come to fruition is just amazing," she said.

Porter credits her parents with getting her involved at an early age. She recalled serving food with her family at Glide Memorial in San Francisco, fundraising for various charities, and even making backpacks for the homeless.

Mom Terri Porter said being a part of the community and taking part in service organizations is something they always did as a family, but she said it was obvious from the start that for JaNise the urge to serve went deeper.

"We raise them with the belief that if much is given, much is expected," she said. "JaNise kind of took it on as her personal mission in life. This was in the seventh grade. Even at Carondelet (High School) there was always the belief that you should give back."

JaNice echoes her mother's philosophy. "I'm extremely blessed. Two parents who support me in anything I do. A tight knit family, a good life here in Danville. So, I just think it's necessary."

While she is very proud of her daughter, Terri said she has misgivings about her being away in Cambodia for two years.

"We were at a family shower and she told me she'd figured out what she was going to do after college. I had a meltdown, saying, 'You've got to be kidding me!' We have always given back, but this was a whole different level."

Porter said what concerns her is that they don't know what the conditions will be where JaNice will be stationed. "There's a lot of unknowns. Her living conditions- she's going to be living with a family but she doesn't know if there's going to be electricity or Internet so we can talk," she said.

JaNice left in late July for assignment. She is spending the first three months living with a host family while she undergoes training for the role she'll play in the village where she is assigned. Part of the training will be in learning the Khmer language and part will be preparing for life in a village and the differences between Cambodian life and American.

"It's going to be very different," she said. "Cambodia is still developing. They don't have western toilets. No electricity or running waters in some places. That's going to be my experience."

After her three months of training she will spend the next two years working as a Youth Development Director, helping teach Cambodian children English as well as working in other areas. One area she expects to be teaching is HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention.

Despite the two-year commitment, Porter is already planning for what happens beyond that point. Graduate school at an East Coast university and then working. She added that being a part of Peace Corps has opened her eyes to more possibilities.

"Like becoming an ambassador to the United Nations," she mused. "Even to intern there you have to be in grad school. I guess we'll see."

No to landmine beauty contest

It was a beauty pageant in which landmine victims will compete to win a prosthetic leg. --ST PHOTO: STEPHANIE YEOW

The Straits Times

PHNOM PENH - THE Cambodian government has urged the cancellation of a beauty pageant in which landmine victims will compete to win a prosthetic leg, organisers said on Sunday.

In the 'Miss Landmine Cambodia' contest, 20 competitors from around the country are due to appear in a photo exhibition opening on Friday in Phnom Penh, followed by an internet voting campaign to select the best candidate.

But in a letter to organisers, seen by AFP, the Ministry of Social Affairs has called on them to cancel the contest - although the Cambodian Mine Action Authority said in 2007 that they fully supported it.

'The ministry asks the people who organise this contest to stop this action... for protecting... the honor and dignity of people with disabilities,' the letter said in English.

But Norwegian pageant director Morten Traavik said the contest, which offers as the top prize a custom-made prosthetic leg, would increase awareness about the victims of landmines.

'I have asked to meet the Cambodian officials to clear up our misunderstanding, and I hope once they know about our project details, they will welcome this,' he said.

He explained that the pageant aimed 'to raise awareness of what landmines have done to the people", adding that it would be a 'big shame' if people could not see the exhibition.

The first 'Miss Landmine' contest was held in Angola last year, drawing protests from rights activists who viewed it as exploitative and racist.

Cambodia remains one of the world's most heavily mined countries, along with Afghanistan and Angola.

Hundreds of people are killed or maimed every year by the millions of landmines and other unexploded ordnance still littering the countryside after decades of conflict. Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen cancelled a Miss Cambodia beauty pageant in 2006, saying he would not allow such a contest until poverty in Cambodia was reduced by more than half. -- AFP

Former sex slave seeks help as 4-year-old found in brothel

By Belinda Goldsmith Belinda Goldsmith
Mon Aug 3

CANBERRA (Reuters Life!) – A former sex slave on Monday launched a global campaign against trafficking, saying the age of girls forced into prostitution keeps getting younger.

Cambodian Somaly Mam, whose eponymous foundation is dedicated to fighting the $12 billion a year sex-trafficking industry, said a four-year-old girl was found last month at a brothel in Cambodia after being reported by a male client.

The youngster had been sold to the brothel by her mother, who is also a prostitute.

She is now being cared for at one of the seven shelters run by the Somaly Mam Foundation in Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam set up to protect and rehabilitate girls rescued from sex slavery. The group also has an office in Thailand dealing with repatriation.

"You just have to hold her and stay with her and show her that you love her. Children can become children again," Mam told Reuters as she launched a joint venture with cosmetics retailer The Body Shop to raise awareness of sex trafficking.

"There is this belief that having sex with a virgin will cure you of HIV so there is an increasing market for younger and younger girls. In my time it was girls aged 15 or 16 but it has got younger and younger."

The United Nations estimates that two million women and children are trafficked every year, with 30 percent of these in Asia. Poor families sometimes sell a daughter to pay off debts.


Mam personally knows the horror of a life of slavery having been sold to a brothel at the age of 16 by an abusive elderly man whom she called "grandfather." She was sold to pay off his debts.

She managed to escape the brothel with the help of a Swiss patron who paid off the owner and has since campaigned tirelessly against forced prostitution, setting up the Somaly Mam Foundation in 2007 to rescue and rehabilitate girls.

She was recently named one of Time Magazine's "100 Most Influential People."

Mam, who wrote about her journey from sex slave to crusader against prostitution in her memoir "The Road of Lost Innocence," has faced threats from pimps and organized crime syndicates over the years while her shelters have come under armed attack.

In 2006, Mam's teenage daughter was kidnapped. She was eventually rescued, but Mam still refuses to leave her work.

"All my family is safe now. We have bodyguards for my children," said Mam who refuses to give details about where her family lives.

She said global awareness about sexual slavery was extremely low and she hoped that joining forces with The Body Shop in a campaign spanning 60 nations would raise the issue's profile.

She also hoped this would lead to an increase in funds available to set up shelters were former sex workers could be trained in other industries such as sewing, weaving and even micro-finance so that they could set up their own businesses.

Over the next three years The Body Shop will campaign for governments to implement strict anti-trafficking policies and legislation, and to dedicate more resources to this cause.

"I need everyone to help our work, to open everyone's eyes to what is going on with trafficking children and what is going on in Cambodia, Asia and around the world," said Mam.

"It is not easy to get funding ... and the more people get involved the more we can stop trafficking."

(Reporting by Belinda Goldsmith; Editing by )

Firms go hi-tech into Cambodian market


VietNamNet Bridge – Vietnamese companies are taking advantage of business opportunities in Cambodia with the transfer of advanced technology, particularly in the agricultural sector.

Nguyen Tran Trung Nam from An Giang Plant Protection JSC's representative office in HCM City said that the company started transferring agricultural technologies to Cambodia in 2002.

"The technical transfer with a focus on opening training courses for Cambodian agricultural experts and farmers will help our company to better introduce our products, establish our networks in order to enhance our presence in the country," Nam said.

"This move also helps us to explore more business opportunities here," he said, adding that the company plans to open a ten-day training course for Cambodian technicians in the southern An Giang province next month.

Chairman of the Institute of Agricultural Science for Southern Viet Nam Bui Chi Buu agreed that untapped business opportunities existed in the Cambodian market and that technical transfer was an effective method for firms to better take advantage of these chances.

Cambodia is the third largest export market to Viet Nam after Thailand and China.

The country plans to raise trade turnover with Cambodia to US$2.45 billion by 2010.

In 2008, Viet Nam earned $1.43 billion from exports to Cambodia, a year-on-year increase of 50 per cent.

Major exports from Viet Nam to Cambodia include fuel, steel, instant noodles, plastic products, fertiliser, materials for the textile and garment sector, cosmetics and detergents.

Many Vietnamese enterprises have set up representative offices and shops in the country.

However, the Vietnamese Trade Mission to Cambodia said that few Vietnamese businesses have long-term plans for developing this market.

VietNamNet/Viet Nam News

Khmer Rouge prisoners had child medic

August 3, 2009

A former child medic at the Khmer Rouge's main prison has told Cambodia's war crimes court that he tried to keep torture victims alive with pills known as "rabbit pellet medicine".

Sek Dorn, now 48, was testifying on Monday at the trial of the prison's governor Duch, who is accused of overseeing the torture and execution of about 15,000 people in the late 1970s at Tuol Sleng prison, also known as S-21.

The witness, who said he was assigned to care for prisoners when he was still a child, told the UN-backed court that he mostly gave the wounded and sick inmates pills they called "rabbit pellet medicine".

The so-called medicine, nicknamed for its grainy resemblance to rabbit faeces, was a homemade mixture of various ingredients used to treat a wide range of illnesses during the Khmer Rouge regime.

"The pellet medicine would be given to them to keep them alive for the period they would be interrogated," Sek Dorn said.

"When I was hungry, I also ate the medicine and some of it had a sweet taste and some had a bitter taste," he said, adding that the pellets had no effect on him.

The witness told the court that he sometimes cleaned prisoners' wounds, but the primary method of care was providing the pills, even though he did not know their properties.

Sek Dorn said that despite receiving the pills, hundreds of prisoners died from their wounds and sores after being tortured.

"Most of the prisoners had diarrhoea or fever or headaches, and the majority of them had wounds on their backs. Some of them had their fingernails or toenails missing," Sek Dorn said, adding that some had their ears torn.

The 66-year-old Duch, whose real name is Kaing Guek Eav, has previously accepted responsibility for his role governing the jail and begged forgiveness 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 says 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 and torture or were executed during the 1975-1979 regime.

Cambodia tourist arrivals by sea rise 46% in first half

August 03, 2009

The number of foreign visitors to Cambodia by sea rose by 46 percent in the first six months of 2009 compared with the first half of last year, local media reported on Monday.

Numbers were up to 14,636, the Phnom Penh Post quoted Kong Sophearak, the director of the Ministry of Tourism's statistics department as saying, a rise he ascribed to the industry's strategy to link coastal and eco-tourism areas with Angkor Wat.

Kong Sophearak said the increase marked the beginning of the country's efforts to improve the number of arrivals by sea, with key infrastructure upgrades planned.

"The government has already decided to build a tourist port in Kep province and other centers in the country in an attempt to woo more tourists by sea," he said. Ministry statistics showed that 15 cruise ships arrived at Preah Sihanouk port via Thailand in the first six months of this year.

Just 23 cruise ships carrying 14,159 tourists docked at the port during the whole year of 2008.

"We hope that in the near future Kep province will have an attractive tourist port like other countries in the region," he said.

Prime Minister Hun Sen told the closing ceremony of the Tourism Conference last week that the ministry and the Council for the Development of Cambodia, which approves projects, ought to work with the private sector to implement approved tourism-related investments as rapidly as possible to bring in tourists.


Ex-Khmer Rouge medic testifies in Cambodia trial

In this photo taken Monday, July 31, 2006, a graphic drawing is shown untouched at the S-21 prison Genocide Museum in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. A former medic at the notorious Khmer Rouge prison told a U.N.-backed genocide tribunal Monday, Aug. 3, 2009, he treated people with missing fingernails and toenails, saying hundreds of prisoner died from torture wounds.
(AP Photo/David Longstreath)

In this photo taken Monday, July 31, 2006, torture devices are left untouched at the S-21 prison Genocide Museum in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. A former medic at the notorious Khmer Rouge prison told a U.N.-backed genocide tribunal Monday, Aug. 3, 2009, he treated people with missing fingernails and toenails, saying hundreds of prisoner died from torture wounds.
(AP Photo/David Longstreath)

In this photo taken on Nov. 18, 2007, tourists make their way through the S-21 prison Genocide Museum in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. A former medic at the notorious Khmer Rouge prison told a U.N.-backed genocide tribunal Monday, Aug. 3, 2009, he treated people with missing fingernails and toenails, saying hundreds of prisoner died from torture wounds.
(AP Photo/David Longstreath)

Monday, 08.03.09

Associated Press Writer

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia -- A former medic at the most notorious Khmer Rouge prison in Cambodia told a genocide tribunal he treated people with missing fingernails and toenails, saying Monday that hundreds of prisoners died from torture wounds.

Sek Dorn, 48, testified 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 Duch's command and later were taken away to be killed during the Khmer Rouge's 1975-1979 rule. Only a handful survived.

"There were many prisoners who were wounded and died. There were probably hundreds," Sek Dorn said.

He told the court he was assigned to distribute medicine and clean wounds of the detainees for a year, along with three other medics who were also in their teens.

"The majority of them had wounds and sores on their bodies, especially on their backs and their heads. Some of their fingernails and toenails were missing," he said. "They were wounded by torture."

Sek Dorn said he did not personally witness the torture, but saw the effects during medical treatment.

"I did not dare ask them in detail," the former medic said. "I was afraid that I would be seen by the guards and I would be killed."

Sek Dorn said he gave the wounded traditional medicine, which was produced by Khmer Rouge medical staff.

Some 1.7 million Cambodians died of torture, execution, disease and starvation during the Khmer Rouge's rule, during which the Maoist ideologues emptied cities and forced virtually the entire population to work on farm collectives.

Duch (pronounced DOIK), 66, is the first senior Khmer Rouge figure to face trial in the U.N.-assisted tribunal 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.

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.

Three Cambodian soldiers die after eating poisonous mushrooms

Posted : Mon, 03 Aug 2009
Author : DPA

Phnom Penh - Three Cambodian soldiers died and one was left seriously ill after the group ate poisonous mushrooms picked near an 11th-century temple at the centre of an ongoing border dispute with neighboring Thailand, national media reported Monday. Military officials said the men were hospitalized July 24, hours after eating the unknown type of mushrooms in a soup while stationed several kilometres from the Preah Vihear temple, The Cambodia Daily newspaper reported.

One man died July 27, another died Tuesday and a third died Thursday, said Mas Yoeun, the army's deputy commander in Preah Vihear.

The fourth man remained hospitalized in the northern city of Siem Reap, he said.

"They did not receive enough treatment or the district clinic was careless with them, and I think that they kept them for three days without giving them the medicine and they became seriously ill," Mas Yoeun said.

He said soldiers were last week instructed not to eat any more mushrooms collected in the area, which has been the site of two skirmishes between Cambodia and Thailand since July 2008, which killed two Cambodian and two Thai soldiers.

The clashes have strained relations between Thailand and Cambodia, both of which claim land surrounding the temple, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that was granted to Cambodia in a 1962 International Court of Justice ruling.

The temple has been at the centre of disputed claims between Thailand and Cambodia since the 1950s.

Cambodia experiences a first half decline in tourist arrivals

Monday, 3 August 2009

Cambodia’s Ministry of Tourism revealed an overall decline in the numbers of foreign visitors to the country in the first half of the year.

The number of South Koreans visiting Cambodia declined more than any other market, down one-third from 160,400 to 106,300.

The numbers of tourists from other key markets such as Japan, China, Thailand and Australia also declined between one-quarter and 10 percent.

Vietnam was the only country among Cambodia’s top six tourism markets to register a growth, with numbers up 40 percent to 147,700.

The ministry warned that the tourism downturn has had a pronounced effect on employees in the industry.

In a survey of 72 hotels the tourism ministry determined that between a third and a half of jobs had been cut at 12 hotels, and that working hours had been reduced by the same proportion at the remaining 60 hotels.

Around 300,000 Cambodians work in the tourism sector, with "between 50 and 60 percent" employed at hotels, guesthouses and other tourist accommodation.

Tourism Ministry Secretary of State So Mara announced Wednesday that the driving factor behind the slowdown was the global economic crisis.

But he is optimistic the clouds over the sector will lift, and said the government and private sector are working on strategies to reverse the decline.

"We expect that the number of tourists from these five countries will leap later this year because we already preparing to hire airtime in those countries to woo tourists," So Mara said.

The tourism ministry spent around US$340,000 on its "Kingdom of Wonder" ad campaign that aired on CNN in July last year.

So Mara said the ministry would replicate the campaign and buy airtime from TV channels in South Korea, China and Japan.

The ministry's campaign was welcomed by Luu Meng, the president of the Cambodian Hotel Association.

He said television advertising and this week's launch of national carrier Cambodia Angkor Air would both represent a welcome help.

"And we hope the number of tourists visiting Cambodia will pick up from the end of September, because that is the start of the tourism season," Luu Meng said.

He added that moves by hotel operators to cut staff numbers and working hours would work as a short-term solution to combat the problem of lower visitor numbers.

"There will be nothing to worry about provided they don't actually close down their hotels," he said.

Miss Landmine Cambodia contest angers government

August 03, 2009

THE Cambodian government has urged the cancellation of a beauty pageant in which landmine victims will compete to win a prosthetic leg, organisers say.

In the Miss Landmine Cambodia contest, 20 competitors from around the country are due to appear in a photo exhibition opening in Phnom Penh, followed by an internet voting campaign to select the best candidate.

But in a letter to organisers, the Ministry of Social Affairs has called on them to cancel the contest.

"The ministry asks the people who organise this contest to stop this action ... for protecting ... the honour and dignity of people with disabilities," the letter said in English.

But Norwegian pageant director Morten Traavik said the contest, which offers as the top prize a custom-made prosthetic leg, would increase awareness about the victims of landmines.

Vendors take their case to the premier

Photo by: Tracey Shelton
Vendors from Tonloab market in Takeo province protest outside the Takhmao home of Prime Minister Hun Sen on Sunday. The vendors said authorities confiscated vans they had hired for the trip, forcing them to walk more than 30 kilometres to the site.

The Phnom Penh Post
Monday, 03 August 2009
May Titthara

Tonloab market sellers protest despite alleged threats

AFTER their vans were confiscated by authorities, market vendors from Takeo province travelled more than 30 kilometres on foot to the Takhmao house of Prime Minister Hun Sen on Saturday to urge him to intervene in a dispute with the market's owner, several vendors told the Post Sunday.

The Tonloab market vendors said Takeo provincial authorities confiscated seven vans that the group of 130 protesters had hired to get to the prime minister's house.

The decision to stage the protest came after a district governor on Thursday allegedly warned a market representative at gunpoint not to travel there.

"Even though the authorities tried to ban us, we came to Phnom Penh, and yesterday we arrived at the PM's house," vendor Nhen Pros said.

"We want him to help us because the market owner broke his promise."

Vendors said the owner of the market told them to leave their stalls while it underwent maintenance work. When the vendors went to reclaim their stalls, they said, the owner had already put them up for sale at a higher price.

Photo by: Tracey Shelton
Tonloab market vendors hold signs and pictures of Prime Minister Hun Sen during a protest at his Takhmao home Sunday.

Nothing to 'worry about'
Lim Leang Se, deputy chief of Hun Sen's Cabinet, said Sunday he had told the vendors they could return home because there was nothing to "worry about".

"The people came to protest because they were afraid that they would lose business when the market owner paved the market. But now I have settled their problem and let them go back home," he said.

"After they finish the construction they can go back to their old place," he added.

But Bun Theng, another vendor, said she would not return home until the vendors met the prime minister.

"We want to see his face. We want him to help protect our right to sell at the location," she said.

In reference to the confiscation of the vans, Prak Sarann, the Adhoc provincial coordinator, said the authorities were using their power to restrict people's right to protest.

Police Blotter: 3 Aug 2009

The Phnom Penh Post
Monday, 03 August 2009
Kong Sokun

Kampong Speu provincial court sentenced a man to 21 months in jail Thursday for possessing an illegal weapon. The suspect, identified as Dorn Tith, 20, was arrested on November 17, 2007, in the province's Oral district for threatening to throw a Chinese-made bomb into a dance party after he had an oral dispute with a man at the event.

Two men were arrested Thursday on suspicion of stealing a Suzuki motorbike from a woman, Phak An, 29, a day earlier in Siem Reap city. Police identified the suspects as Loun Lin and So Bunthoeun. After the arrest, Loun Lin confessed to police that he had sold the motorbike to a man named Pich So Vutha for US$335.

A 51-year-old father was arrested Tuesday in Battambang's Kors Kralor district for allegedly raping his 19-year-old daughter in a forest last year. The man was identified as Choup Si, who lives in the district's Samroang village. District police said they were also hunting for the victim's 25-year-old brother, Choup Son, who has allegedly been assaulting her since 2003, having impregnated her twice. Kors Kralor police chief Choeung Chang said the suspect denied raping his daughter but said that his son had committed the act.

A sex maniac was nabbed by police last Monday following an incident in which a 13-year-old girl squeezed his penis while he was molesting her on July 25 at 11:30pm in Kampong Cham province's Ponhea Krek district. Police identified the perpetrator as a 25-year-old who resides in the district's Kandaol Chrum commune. The juvenile managed to escape the paedophile by grabbing and twisting his genitals. After his arrest, the man told police he had not had sex for a long time.

Daun Penh district police arrested a spoiled teenager on Wednesday after he and his crony attempted to snatch the bag of 22-year-old Vong Chhnay in the district's Boeung Reang commune. The perpetrator was identified as Yong Bono, 19, the son of a local soup merchant and a student at Batouk High School. Police said the victim's bag contained US$70 and other documents, and was taken away by Yong Bono and an unknown accomplice on a black Honda motorbike.

Top brass says wood was illegal

The Phnom Penh Post
Monday, 03 August 2009
Christopher Shay and Cheang Sokha

Timber seized in nighttime raid unprecedented in mass: general.

THE company behind a massive timber-smuggling operation involving a Forestry Administration official that was broken up on July 26 in Takeo province did not have permission to export timber, the commander of the national military police told the Post Sunday.

"The company which attempted to smuggle the timber is not authorised to export the valuable timber out of the country, and they committed the crime without our permission," General Sao Sokha said.

A military police official told the Post last week that Ouk Kim San, a Forestry Administration official who also works for the NGO Conservation International, was arrested in Takeo near the Vietnamese border with three Vietnamese nationals as they were unloading two truckloads of luxury timber worth tens of thousands of dollars.

Two trucks left Veal Veng district, Pursat province, for a port on the Vietnamese border on July 25, according to military police sources.

Ouk Kim San, who is responsible for protecting the central Cardamom forests in Pursat, escorted the timber to the border in Takeo province. At around 2am, they started loading the logs with cranes onto wooden ships.

At that point, military police officers who had been secretly trailing the logging trucks stopped the men operating the cranes, an officer involved in the operation said.

Ouk Kim San told the police he worked for the Forestry Administration and showed them permission slips to transport the timber. The military police rejected the slips and arrested Ouk Kim San along with the three Vietnamese nationals, the police said.

Ty Sokun, director of the Foresty Administration, could not be reached for comment on Sunday. Last Wednesday he said he had not been informed about Ouk Kim San's arrest.

Sao Sokha said Wednesday that the size of the operation was unprecedented.

"We have cracked down on many cases of smuggling, but the smuggling case in Takeo province is the biggest case I have ever seen," he said.

Official connection
Ouk Kim San works as a liaison between the Forestry Administration and Conservation International, David Emmett, the deputy regional director for Conservation International, said Wednesday.

Sao Sokha said Sunday that he did not have the authority to keep Ouk Kim San detained and could only inform the Forestry Administration of the incident.

"We learned that a [Forestry Administration] officer was involved in this particular case, so we will let his superiors use their internal administrative measure against him," he said.

Since his release, Ouk Kim San has returned to the forests of Pursat, Conservation International staff said Sunday.

Emmett said some trees in the Cardamoms needed to be felled in advance of a planned hydroelectric dam project.

The dam, Stung Atai, will create a large reservoir that will flood thousands of hectares of forest, according to a Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries map obtained by the Post.

"It's harmful to leave trees in flooded areas," Emmett said. "Rotting vegetation releases an incredible amount of methane."

A company named MDS Import and Export won the bid to clear the forest and to legally sell the timber domestically, according to a letter to the Forestry Administration dated May 4.

The letter said the timber was "for domestic use only" and "that the Forestry Administration must increase monitoring of the situation".

It was Ouk Kim San's job to make sure MDS did not violate the government's terms, Emmett said.

The two trucks raided at the Vietnamese border had MDS logos on them, military police said. MDS could not be reached for comment on Sunday.

Govt bans 'Miss Landmine'

The Phnom Penh Post
Monday, 03 August 2009
Sam Rith and Georgia Wilkins

GOVERNMENT officials have called for the cancellation of the Miss Landmine pageant, saying Saturday that the photographic beauty contest, which features women who have lost limbs to land mines and explosive remnants of war, mocks the "honour and prestige" of handicapped people, especially women.

The ban comes a day after portraits of the contestants were first put on display at the Meta House art gallery in Phnom Penh ahead of an official crowning in December.

"The Ministry of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation does not support the Miss Landmine contest," a press release said Saturday.

"The Ministry ... would like the program organiser to stop activity immediately in order to keep the honour and dignity of handicapped Cambodians, especially women," it added.

Organiser Morten Traavik said Sunday that he believed there had been a "misunderstanding".

"Why this situation comes now and not before two years of good relations, I do not know," he said via email.

"I have requested a meeting with [Social Affairs Minister Ith Sam Heng] as soon as possible to try to correct the misunderstanding."

Photos and profiles of the contestants were posted on the Web site Saturday to coincide with the exhibition, with viewers encouraged to vote online. The winner of the competition was to be rewarded with a custom-made prosthetic limb.

Although the pageant has attracted debate about whether it exploits or benefits landmine victims, the ministry expressed its support for the pageant as recently as last week despite its ban on all other beauty contests.

Meta House Director Nicolaus Mesterharm said Sunday that, as a Cambodian gallery operating under Cambodian law, Meta House would have "no other option" but to shut down the exhibition.

Enforcing the Traffic Law

Police monitor traffic on Norodom Boulevard on Sunday as a motorist looks on.

The Phnom penh Post
Monday, 03 August 2009
Chhay Channyda and Tha Piseth

An attempt at ramped-up enforcement of the Traffic Law leads to thousands of fines and scattered vehicle confiscations.

POLICE throughout the country fined thousands of motorists and confiscated 202 vehicles on Saturday, the first day of an effort to more strictly enforce regulations spelled out in the Land Traffic Law, officials said.

Kirt Chantharith, spokesman for the National Police, told the Post on Sunday that the first day of the effort to ramp up enforcement of the law saw officials administer fines to 3,438 drivers. In addition, 90 motorbikes were confiscated because they lacked licence plates, while 112 were seized either because of missing mirrors or because their drivers were not wearing helmets and refused to buy them at the checkpoints.

Chev Hak, deputy chief of the municipal traffic police, said police on Saturday had fined 705 motorists for driving without mirrors or helmets in the capital. Two motorbikes were confiscated and taken to a police station because they lacked licence plates, but those motorbikes can be reclaimed once the owners obtain plates, he added.

Police set up checkpoints at 14 different places in the capital during the day on Saturday. There were only two checkpoints on Saturday evening, but Chev Hak said that number was set to increase to seven by Sunday evening.

Apart from Phnom Penh, Kampong Cham, Kandal and Battambang provinces had the highest numbers of infractions. A total of 513 drivers were fined in Kampong Cham, while 457 were fined in Kandal and 406 in Battambang, Keat Chantharith said. Around 1,000 traffic and military police in 132 stations throughout the country have been tasked with enforcing the law, he added.

Police in Preah Sihanouk province are to begin their enforcement today, after delays this weekend stemming from bad weather and a visit from Prime Minister Hun Sen, provincial traffic police chief Prum Pov said.

Though the Land Traffic Law was originally passed two years ago, it has been enforced only sporadically. In June, the Ministry of Interior issued a directive calling for increased enforcement starting August 1.

Sann Socheata, a road safety programme officer at Handicap International Belgium, said she believes the regulations spelled out in the law will do much to promote traffic safety in the Kingdom, which she said has improved in the past few years.

She added that she expected road fatalities to decline as a result of stricter enforcement of the law.

Kirt Chantharith said there had not been much reported resistance to the effort.

"People have no reaction when we fine them because they know they are at fault," Kirt Chantharith said. "There is overwhelming support for our effort."

Officials reject Thai group's claims over French oil deal

The Phnom Penh Post
Monday, 03 August 2009
Sebatian Strangio

But protests highlight the challenges of drilling for oil in disputed areas.

CAMBODIAN officials have dismissed Thai protesters' claims that a recent oil exploration agreement between Cambodia and French oil giant Total is a violation of Thai sovereignty, saying Cambodia has the right to award exploration rights inside the Gulf of Thailand's 27,000-square-kilometre overlapping claims area (OCA).

During Prime Minister Hun Sen's visit to France last month, officials announced an agreement offering Total the exploration rights to a 2,430-square-kilometre block - known as Area III - that sits inside the OCA.

According to Thai media reports, the People's Assembly of Thailand (PAT), a nationalist advocacy group, wrote to Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva on Thursday to criticise the government and the armed forces for not taking action to head off the deal, which they said infringes on Thai territory.

A copy of the letter was also reportedly sent to the French Embassy in Bangkok.

Var Kimhong, Cambodia's top border negotiator, said he had not seen the Thai letter, but that Cambodia had the right to award exploration rights as it saw fit.

"The Thai authorities have nothing to do with the block we have given to Total," he said. "It is under Cambodian sovereignty."

However, the letter raises questions about future exploration of the OCA, including Area III. Bangkok has also allocated the zone, which it refers to as B10 and B11, to US oil company Chevron and Japan's Mitsui.

Jean-Pierre Labbe, general manager of Total EP Cambodge, told the Post in July that Total would sign a 10-year conditional petroleum agreement for Area III, the terms of which would prevent the company from undertaking any explorations until a resolution was reached with Thailand over the ownership of the zone.

On Thursday, Thai Foreign Ministry spokesman Vimol Kidchop said similarly that any company operating inside the OCA would "not be allowed to explore or develop petroleum resources ... unless Thailand and Cambodia successfully resolve the dispute".

Joint development?
Past cases may offer a way forward with the OCA. In 2000, the governments of Nigeria and Sao Tome and Principe signed an agreement for the joint development of a disputed 35,000-square-kilometre maritime zone after failing to reach an agreement on border delimitation.

According to a paper presented at an International Oil and Gas Conference, held in Cambodia in March 2008, the two countries "agreed to work together to develop the area and to benefit from any oil or gas discoveries that are made".

Labbe said he expected some form of joint development agreement would be required between Cambodia and Thailand, rather than a strict geographical division of the OCA. But he said it was unclear whether the countries would be able to reach such an agreement.

Thitinan Ponsudhirak, a political analyst at Bangkok's Chulalongkorn University, described the issue as a "follow-on" to the standoff over Preah Vihear temple and said that the dispute was unlikely to be resolved soon.

"[The OCA issue] is held hostage to Thai-Cambodian relations, and Thai-Cambodian relations are rocky at the moment," he said by phone.

Labbe said negotiations between the two countries had been set back by the coup that removed former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra in 2006, but he remained optimistic that the OCA issue would soon be resolved.

"Every time there is a meeting... they discuss the issue positively," he said last month.


Hun Sen says to demolish market stalls

The Phnom Penh Post
Monday, 03 August 2009
Chhay Channyda

PRIME Minister Hun Sen has ordered that 15 stalls built in a controversial location at the main market in Preah Sihanouk province be demolished.

The premier gave the order after visiting Psar Leu in Sihanoukville on Saturday night and Sunday morning. His intervention followed protests from vendors at the market who said the new stalls restricted access to the market.

The chief of Commune Four in Sihanoukville, Khoun Sarun, said the rebuilding of the market following a 2008 fire had just recently been completed. She credited the premier with contributing US$400,000 to the effort, which led to the construction of 1,100 stalls.

She said the 15 stalls in question had been constructed outside the market zone.

"The authorities built more stalls outside the market, and people objected to that," she said. "Now the prime minister has ordered them to be removed."

Victory for vendors
Sok Cheat, 37, who sells groceries at the market, said vendors went to protest outside Hun Sen's Preah Sihanouk residence after hearing he was staying there.

"We knew he was here so we wanted to meet him, because the extra stalls built at Psar Leu had made the area too narrow," Sok Cheat said.
Rice seller Hau Leang applauded Hun Sen's intervention.

"I was crying all day and night because I couldn't make money selling rice inside the market," she said, explaining that stalls built in the parking lot had effectively cut off access to her own stall.

"Some customers just stopped outside to buy their food."

Sbong Sarath, the governor of Preah Sihanouk province, could not be contacted Sunday. The deputy chief of Hun Sen's Cabinet, Lim Leang Se, said he was in Phnom Penh and did not know about the order.

Kampong Cham police crack down on illegally imported motorbikes

Photo by: Sovan Philong
Motorists cross the Vietnamese border into Cambodia at the K’am Samnar border crossing in Kandal province. Officials in Kampong Cham say they believe many illegal motorbikes in the Kingdom have been driven into the country from Vietnam and Thailand.

The Phnom Penh Post
Monday, 03 August 2009
Chrann Chamroeun

POLICE and customs officials confiscated 320 new motorbikes in Kampong Cham province on Friday morning as part of a crackdown on shops that import bikes without paying the necessary taxes on them, provincial police Chief Nuon Samin told the Post Sunday.

Nuon Samin said roughly 70 officials and provincial and military police officers were involved in the operation, which he said had been ordered by Pen Simon, the director general of the customs and excise department at the Ministry of Economy and Finance.

Van Sarey, deputy director of the Kampong Cham customs and excise department, said the bikes included Honda Waves, Clicks, Icons and Air Blades, and that all were models dating from 2007 to 2010.

Nuon Samin said the bikes would be kept temporarily at the provincial customs department, and that the owners of the shops from which the bikes were taken would be allowed to retrieve them once the taxes had been paid along with a fine equal to 50 percent of the taxes.

"We are very pleased that we have had good cooperation with the customs office, so that we can continue with the ongoing crackdown," he said.

He said officials believed there were about 60,000 motorbikes in the province for which taxes had not been paid.

I am now scared to drive my bike because [of] ... this massive crackdown.

Kampong Cham town resident Sok Sambath, 44, said he recently purchased an illegally imported Honda Wave 2009 series motorbike from one of the shops involved in the raid. He said the bike had been made in Vietnam and was driven over the border.

Van Sarey said officials believed most illegally imported bikes were driven over the border from Vietnam and Thailand.

"As far as I know, most bikes have been brought for sale in Cambodia by Vietnamese, Thai and Chinese drivers through theft or robbery in their countries," he said.

Sok Sambath said his bike had cost him roughly US$570, whereas others for which taxes had been paid had cost about $750.

Though he said he believed the crackdown would ultimately "improve social order and eliminate crimes", he said he was hesitant to ride his own motorbike out of fear that the police might confiscate it.

"I am now scared to drive my bike because the police just conducted this massive crackdown to confiscate illegal bikes from shops and to warn shop owners to pay the taxes," he said.

Naga workers' court questioning delayed

Photo by: Tracey Shelton
Street vendors pause for a rest outside NagaWorld Hotel and Casino. Phnom Penh Municipal Court has granted 14 workers implicated in a complaint filed by the casino’s human resources director more time to prepare for questioning.

The Phnom Penh Post
Monday, 03 August 2009
Sam Rith

Laid-off employees in incitement complaint given more time to prepare, find attorneys.

PHNOM Penh Municipal Court has granted 14 former NagaWorld Hotel and Casino employees more time to find attorneys and prepare for questioning in relation to an incitement complaint filed against them last month by Naga's human resources director, Deputy Prosecutor Hing Bunchea told the Post Sunday.

Naga Human Resources Director Gregory Goh filed the incitement, defamation and false information complaint, which pertains to an ongoing labour dispute, on July 20, Hing Bunchea told the Post last week.

Naga executives have repeatedly said that the 14 workers, who were fired in February, lost their jobs due to poor performance.

The workers, along with members of the Cambodian Tourism and Service Workers Federation, which represents 1,000 Naga workers, have said that the layoffs stemmed from a dispute over annual bonuses.

Union leaders have in recent weeks said several times that they would strike if the workers were not reinstated.

Sok Narith said the 14 laid-off workers went to Municipal Court on Thursday to inquire about the complaint.

At least five of the employees were summonsed to appear at the court between last Thursday and today. All 14 former Naga employees went to the court Thursday and asked to have the appearances delayed until August 10.

"We told the court that we needed more time to prepare ourselves, to seek lawyers and to study the charges that the company has filed against us," he said.

Hing Bunchea confirmed on Sunday that the questioning sessions had been delayed, saying they would likely last from August 10 to August 12. He told the Post last week that he issued the summonses so as to investigate the case.

Government officials hail achievements of Philippines' Aquino

The Phnom Penh Post
Monday, 03 August 2009
Sebastian Strangio and Vong Sokheng

Ruling party and opposition figures hailed the achievements of former Philippine president and democracy icon Corazon Aquino, who died Saturday following a long battle with colon cancer.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Koy Kuong said Sunday that Prime Minister Hun Sen had sent condolence letters to the Manila government and to Aquino's family, but he could not elaborate on their contents.

Others said Aquino, as the first female president of the Philippines, was instrumental in increasing the involvement of Asian women in politics.

"Women in Asia and around the world have greatly regretted the passing of Aquino," said Som Kim Suor, a secretary of state in the Ministry of Women's Affairs.

"She was a heroine of democracy in the Philippines."

Democracy champion
Aquino, popularly known as "Cory", became a figurehead of the democratic opposition to authoritarian president Ferdinand Marcos after her husband, opposition leader Benigno Aquino Jr, was assassinated in 1983.

Following a disputed election in 1986, a series of peaceful mass demonstrations - later known as the People Power Revolution - lifted Aquino to the presidency, a position she held until 1992.

Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker Mu Sochua, herself a former Minister of Women's Affairs, said that Aquino made up for what she lacked in personal charisma by serving as a symbol for social change.

[CORAZON AQUINO] was a heroine of democracy in the Philippines.

"She was known for believing in her people, and [the idea] that People Power is linked to democratic change," she said.

She also warned that Cambodia was on a similar trajectory to that of the Philippines before Aquino's People Power Movement toppled Marcos, who had been in power for two decades.

"We're at a different stage, but on the same path," she said.

"It's like a bubble coming up from boiling water.... We don't want to have bloodshed or social turmoil, but we do want change."

Aquino is set to be buried in Manila on Wednesday.

Id Theft: Corruption claims in 'fake' email

The Phnom Penh Post
Monday, 03 August 2009
James O'Toole

Id Theft

AN EMAIL message purportedly written by a provincial manager for the Cambodian Women's Crisis Center (CWCC) accuses the NGO's leaders of corruption and mismanagement, but CWCC Executive Director Say Vathany said Sunday that the message's author was in fact an imposter who gained access to the provincial manager's email account. The message, sent to various media outlets Friday evening from the email account of Suong Sopheap, the Banteay Meanchey province manager for the CWCC, accuses Say Vathana of firing 30 employees without cause in late June and failing to offer severance pay. The letter, signed "Sopheap", also mentions a "rumour" that Say Vathany and her finance officer, Sun Sambath, have been embezzling CWCC funds. Say Vathany told the Post on Sunday that there was "no truth" to the letter, adding that the embezzlement allegations were "ridiculous". Though she acknowledged laying off 28 employees in June, she said this was done purely for budgetary reasons. She said she was unsure of who might have gained access to Suong Sopheap's email account.

Tourist arrivals by sea rise 46pc in first half

The cruise ship Tahitian Princess sits in Sihanoukville Autonomous Port in March. Sea arrivals to Cambodia climbed 46 percent in the first half of this year, official data showed. Photo Supplied by Ministry of Tourism

The government has already decided to build a tourist port in Kep province.

The Phnom Penh Post
Monday, 03 August 2009
Chun Sophal

Tourism officials note that port infrastructure will be developed in Kep, and that more should be done to encourage long stays

THE number of foreign visitors to Cambodia by sea rose by 46 percent in the first six months of 2009 compared with the first half of last year, officials said.

Numbers were up to 14,636 said Kong Sophearak, the director of the Ministry of Tourism's statistics department, a rise he ascribed to the ministry's strategy to link coastal and eco-tourism areas with Angkor Wat.

Kong Sophearak said the increase marked the beginning of the country's efforts to improve the number of arrivals by sea, with key infrastructure upgrades planned.

"The government has already decided to build a tourist port in Kep province and other centres in the country in an attempt to woo more tourists by sea," he said. Ministry statistics showed that 15 cruise ships arrived at Preah Sihanouk port via Thailand in the first six months of this year.

Just 23 cruise ships carrying 14,159 tourists docked at the port during the whole year of 2008.

Pok Taing, the deputy head of Kep's provincial tourism department, said Sunday that construction had not started on Kep's port, but that the location has been decided upon.

"We hope that in the near future Kep province will have an attractive tourist port like other countries in the region," he said.

However, Ang Kim Eang, president of the Cambodian Association of Travel Agents, said the Kingdom needs to do more than just build a tourist port if it wants to lure more visitors.

He said that many tourists arriving by sea spend just one night in the country because of a lack of infrastructure and attractive resorts.

"But if we can improve our infrastructure by adding many resorts, then I think we can get 100,000 visitors coming by sea annually," he said.

Prime Minister Hun Sen told the closing ceremony of the Tourism Conference last week that the ministry and the Council for the Development of Cambodia, which approves projects, ought to work with the private sector to implement approved tourism-related investments as rapidly as possible to bring in tourists.

Govt OKs sub-decree on apartment-buying

The Phnom Penh Post
Monday, 03 August 2009
May Kunmakara

Order allowing Cambodians to own apartments paves the way for foreign apartment-ownership

THE government on Friday approved a sub-decree on co-ownership of fixed property that allows Cambodians to buy individual apartments. Until now, Cambodians were only able to rent or lease apartments.

The sub-decree also paves the way for a forthcoming law that will allow foreign nationals to buy space on or above the first floor of a building.

The Sub-Decree on Co-ownership will "ensure and protect the rights" of people who wish to legally buy an apartment.

The sub-decree will not allow the purchaser to own the land on which the development is constructed.

The sub-decree also addresses the issues of sale, exchange, donation and inheritance of these fixed properties.

An official at the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction said the new regulation would help boost the country's flagging real estate sector.

It will pave the way for the upcoming foreign ownership law.

Im Chamrong, the director general of the ministry's construction department, said the regulation would help the sector weather the current slowdown.

"[And] it will pave the way for the upcoming foreign ownership law which will let foreigners own units in buildings from the first floor upwards without awarding land title, so that they have co-ownership in some part of the buildings," he said. "That means if they want to sell their property, they can easily do so."

Sung Bonna, the head of estate agency Bonna Realty Group, welcomed the legislation.

"We want to push ahead with this regulation and get approval rapidly to accelerate the foreign ownership law," he said. "If this sub-decree had not been approved then we won't be able to have the foreign-ownership law allowing ownership of apartments."

Investment boost
Kheng Ser, the assistant to the vice president at World City Co, which is building the US$2 billion Camko Satellite City development in Phnom Penh, said the sub-decree's approval would ultimately boost sales and attract more foreign investors.

He said the project's first phase of 700 condominiums were 80-percent sold for between $140,000 and $300,000 each.

"Most of my customers are foreigners who have signed long leases," he said. "But these new laws will increase confidence among customers to buy property, and my clients won't need to sign leases but can buy units in my development."

The ministry recently finished drafting the law on foreign ownership of property, which would allow foreign nationals to own building space on or above the first floor.

The proposed law is being discussed with interested parties to ensure it meets the requirements of flexibility and convenience before submission to parliament.

Australia signs bourse deal

ABV CEO Michael Lynch (left) signs the training agreement Friday in Phnom Penh with SECC Director General Ming Bankosal.

The Phnom Penh Post
Monday, 03 August 2009
Nguon Sovan

Agreement will see 30 experts offer training on exchange laws

THIRTY Australian experts will today start a two-year training programme for the Securities and Exchange Commission of Cambodia (SECC), according to an agreement signed Friday.

The experts will help to build the capacity of SECC officials to ensure laws on the exchange are properly followed.

The deal was signed Friday in Phnom Penh between the Cambodian government; Michael Lynch, CEO of Australian Business Volunteers (ABV); and Margaret Adamson, the Australian ambassador to Cambodia.

Ming Bankosal, director general of the SECC, signed on behalf of the government, and said the agreement would also allow the ABV's experts to take part consulting on draft regulations for the exchange.

"[This agreement] will ensure that professional skills are transferred to the officials of the SECC, and will provide training for the public and participants in the market as well," he said at the ceremony.

The ABV's Lynch said the experts are specialists in a number of key areas.

"Thirty Australian experts volunteered for the two-year agreement, which is planned to cost US$1.5 million [and is being] financed by the Australian Agency for International Development," Lynch said. "They have different expertise: Some are specialised in securities skills, some have banking skills, and some are lawyers."

He said the group would provide training on securities and stock exchange law, as well as advising on taxation, money-laundering and corruption.

Lynch said the programme's relatively low cost is due to its voluntary nature.

"Our people will give their time for free - they are not getting a salary," he said. "They are willing to support Cambodia."

Chea Pengchheang, a secretary of state at the Ministry of Economy and Finance, said the technical assistance would provide a significant boost to capacity building at the SECC.

Going with the flow of water all the way around the globe

Surveying our planet: Alexandra Cousteau appears on Tonle Sap lake. Photo Supllied

Addressing problems through the lens of my family's legacy is natural.

The Phnom Penh Post
Monday, 03 August 2009
Bennett Murray

As Alexandra Cousteau, granddaughter of the legendary scuba pioneer Jacques-Yves, explains, the Expedition Blue Planet water-awareness programme is her life's calling

Alexandra Cousteau, granddaughter of legendary marine explorer Jacques-Yves Cousteau, has come to Cambodia on Expedition Blue Planet.

"Expedition Blue Planet is a 100-day journey around the world, looking at different water stories," explained Cousteau.

"Water is our life-support system. Our planet is primarily covered in water, and it is also responsible for driving the life cycle."

Thus far, the expedition has taken Cousteau to the Tonle Sap and Mekong rivers, the Ganges, the Jordan River, Botswana's Okavango Delta, the Mississippi River and the Red Sea.

The expedition is being undertaken by Cousteau's organization, Blue Legacy, which aims to increase awareness of water issues.

"The mission of Blue Legacy is to tell the story of the water on our planet in a way that helps people understand how our water resources are interconnected. As well as how, ultimately, we are all just downstream from one another," Cousteau said.

Currently, she explains, water management is based on a "philosophy of fragmentation", which makes things simpler but doesn't take into account the interconnectedness of water resources.

"We manage our lakes separately from our rivers, which we manage separately from our groundwater, separately from our coastal areas, separately from our open oceans. The fragmentation of our water resources leads to a degradation of the whole."

Blue Planet aims to increase awareness of the adverse consequences of water mismanagement.

"Our purpose is to tell these stories through multimedia that is shared online in real time.

"It is distributed to a network of media partners to create a mosaic of stories that, when taken together, illustrate what it means to live on a water planet."

The Tonle Sap is a particularly unusual case study for the expedition due to its seasonal reversal of water flow.

During the dry season, the Tonle Sap drains into the Mekong, but the surge of water during rainy season pushes the water back upstream toward the lake.

As a result, the Tonle Sap Great Lake's water coverage fluctuates drastically during the year.

It has been speculated that the fall of the Khmer Empire at Angkor was at least partly due to a mismanagement of water resources.

"Angkor had a huge infrastructure for water. It diverted water resources from hundreds of miles away and directed it to that civilisation, so they could grow enough food and have water for all their needs," Cousteau says.

Changes in weather patterns, however, led to the buildup of sediment in the water infrastructure, thus greatly impairing the flow of water.

"It was too massive a problem for them to easily fix. It weakened their society and made them vulnerable," she added.

Cousteau, who went on her first marine expedition when she was only 5 months old, has always been involved with water.

"I grew up in a family where water and the oceans were our raison d'etre. The whole focus of my family has been to communicate about these issues."

Of course, that focus continued on into Cousteau's adulthood and it is clear she is as enthusiastic as ever.
"Water has always been an incredibly important part of my life.

Addressing current challenges through the lens of my family's legacy is a natural evolution."


Diving for underwater treasures: the legacy of a pioneer

Jacques Cousteau was a French naval officer, explorer, ecologist, filmmaker, scientist, photographer, author and researcher. He’s remembered as the most famous undersea explorer ever, known for dozens of books and films from the 1950s until his death in 1997. The co-inventor of the aqualung (an underwater breathing apparatus) in 1943, he began exploring shipwrecks, which fascinated him to no end. Cousteau also pioneered underwater photography, inventing underwater gear that was bought by Nikon. He explored the oceans of the world aboard his vessel Calypso. During his trips, he filmed numerous movies, namely The Silent World, World Without Sun, and The Golden Fish – all of which won Oscar awards.

He was also a frequent television contributor, his masterwork being The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau. Later in his career, after discovering that the result of atomic research was nuclear waste being dumped into the world’s bodies of water, he carried out various public campaigns against the nuclear waste dumping and nuclear experiments in general.

Dripping away

In an era of climate change, desertification, sea level rise, acid rain, drought, falling water tables, dead zones, and widespread pollution, water quality and quantity is ever more critical.

Tut-tutting about tuk-tuk drivers

Rainy-day drivers: The recent Norodom Boulevard ban leaves tuk-tuk drivers out in the cold.

During tourist slumps, desperados literally start sprinting at me, eyes bulging and flip-flops flapping, yelping, ‘Tuk tuk!’ over and over.

The Phnom Penh Post
Monday, 03 August 2009

Most mornings I exit my apartment to an unholy chorus of yelling. I can barely even get out the front gate before it begins, as the nearest gaggle of tuk-tuk drivers start bellowing at me in a bid for my custom.

It generally goes like this: The first driver to spot me screams, "Aaayyy!" as if realising his underwear is on fire.

This alerts his competitors, one of whom exclaims "tuk-tuk!" repeatedly, in an increasingly alarmed bark - as if struck by some farcical attack of Tourette's syndrome.

The stragglers, meanwhile, half-heartedly beckon me to their chariots, like dispirited rejects from a second-rate Mexican wave.

Naturally, I relish spurning their efforts. Not that it discourages most drivers in the slightest.

During tourist slumps the desperados literally start sprinting at me, eyes bulging and flip-flops flapping, gesticulating wildly at their vehicles while yelping, "Tuk-tuk!" over and over like gibbering halfwits.

Witnessing this, you'd think I was offering to pay my fares using Jack's proverbial magic beans as currency.

But it's no fairytale, receiving this intensely unsettling start to the day.

Imagine being greeted by demented, dead-eyed loons charging at you, bellowing blue murder while you're still half-asleep. Every single morning.

Unsurprisingly, I noted with some pleasure that tuk-tuk drivers have recently been banned from parking on Norodom Boulevard, where they traditionally congregated at awkward junctures, obstructing traffic and hassling passers-by.

They'll still roam for custom, stalk pedestrians and lurk on side streets.

But the Norodom crackdown can be read as belated, extended enforcement of a Land Traffic Law passed in 2007, which kick-started fines for motorcyclists without helmets and the confiscation of unlicensed or unsafe vehicles.

Lax policing of the law has contributed to a rising death toll on Cambodia's roads. An average of four people die from road accidents here every day.

This year's total of 1,039 is creeping ever closer to last year's 1,638, and the authorities want to clean up Dodge City.

(Call me cynical but, considering the often-suicidal driving etiquette of the average Cambodian, I actually expected those figures to be higher.)

Of course, deep down I realise tuk-tuks provide a necessary, even valuable service.

After all, I occasionally score an agreeable driver who unexpectedly brightens my day. Sometimes I even get one who actually knows where he's going.

But until my Khmer language skills pass muster I'm resigned to stating my destination, which is met with a smile and reassuring nod from the driver ... then 15 minutes later, seething in the back while the driver obliviously chunters at a snail's pace in the wrong direction, while silently awaiting unbidden directions from yours truly.

Despite their raison d'etre, maps can't always help you out of these metaphorical cul-de-sacs either, especially if the driver is illiterate. Getting directions is likewise no guarantor of success.

If I seem a tad uncharitable, I'll admit that a couple of unsavoury incidents last week have stoked my ire.

In the first scenario, the driver in question rejected my payment by flinging the banknotes melodramatically onto the street.

When I tried to walk away, he leapt out of his cab, obstructed me and started getting pushy.

He was obviously prepared to fight for what he saw as his due.

Given that it was 3am, the street was dark and deserted, and he was possibly tooled-up, plus the fact he was only demanding two dollars anyway, the heavy-handed numbskull got his way and skulked off muttering dark curses.

The next day, a friend and I hopped in another tuk-tuk. As we took our seats, however, a spurned rival driver decided that we were actually his rightful fare - and wouldn't accept otherwise without a struggle.

We realised this when he pursued us a fair way and overtook just before a busy Independence Monument intersection. He then screeched to a halt and blocked our tuk-tuk's path.

Mind-bogglingly, he expected his obstinate, bully-boy tactics to force our hand in his favour.

As he saw it, the barangs would inevitably concede that, after his impromptu masterstroke, he was clearly the right man for the job after all.

So there he sat, holding up traffic, alternately berating the cowering old-timer at the wheel of our tuk-tuk, then demanding that we continue our journey in his vehicle.

Onlookers were gawping, yet he refused to budge for 10 minutes, to our increasing annoyance, only shifting when it became clear that his knuckleheaded plan was doomed to fail.

For me, the Norodom ruling will always be tied to these skirmishes - lingering reminders of the inherent vagaries of tuk-tuks.

Preah Khan Reach lose lead as Crown grind out Post Tel

Khemara Keila's Kuoch Sokumpheak (front blue) controls the ball in front of Build Bright United’s Ung Marady Saturday.

The Phnom Penh Post
Monday, 03 August 2009
Andy Brouwer

Victories for Phnom Penh Crown and Khemara Keila see CPL heavyweights Preah Khan Reach lose their perch atop the league for the first time this season

THE chance to go top of the Cambodian Premier League (CPL) was at stake in this game for a depleted Phnom Penh Crown team who've maintained their composure to keep on the coattails of leaders Preah Khan Reach despite an indifferent start to the season. Their 3-2 success against the second-from-bottom Post Tel on Saturday took them to the top spot in the league standings for the first time this season, but for much of the match they lacked their usual fluency and authority, and plucky Post Tel were never out of the game until the final whistle.

Post Tel's tricky striker Gafar Durosinmi made a nuisance of himself from the start, and with more composure would've given his team a seventh-minute lead, but he leaned backwards to send his sidefooted effort over the bar.

On the half-hour, Crown's Srey Veasna latched onto a fifty-yard punt forward by Kuy Tha and was just about the pull the trigger when a last-ditch tackle by skipper Kun Kuon saved the day. The game continued to switch from end to end, and just as the referee was putting the whistle to his mouth to blow for half-time, Durosinmi held off the challenge of Thul Sothearith to deftly clip over the oncoming keeper Sos Brothim to give Post Tel the lead at the interval.

A stern word from the Crown coaching team at the half seemed to do the trick, as they came out from the break all guns blazing and levelled within two minutes. Srey Veasna challenged Post Tel keeper Thong Chanraksmey for a high ball, and the loose ball fell into the path of Mohamadou Ousmanou, who rifled home.

Seven minutes later, Crown went ahead. Substitute Chan Chhaya outwitted Thong Chanraksmey with a simple shimmy on the edge of the Post Tel area to roll his effort into an empty net. Then in the 58th minute, Crown had all but sealed their victory with a third goal. This time Ousmanou was all alone to head in Chan Rithy's floated cross.

Post Tel didn't roll over as expected and came back strongly, netting a second goal and giving Crown a few extra heartbeats in the process. Durosinmi was again at the heart of it, though his deflected shot was touched in on the goal line by teammate Kao Nisey on 75 minutes.

Crown weathered the brief storm to hold onto their lead, although in the final moments, referee Duong Socheat meaninglessly stamped his authority on the game. In sending off two-goal hero Ousmanou and Post Tel's Kun Kuon for a minor dustup, the official ensured the match ended on a sour note.

Referee Duong Socheat (right, green shirt) sends off Phnom Penh Crown’s Mohamadou Ousmanou (left) in the closing stages of the CPL match against Post Tel Saturday

Build Bright Utd 2, Khemara Keila 4
With the opportunity to move into second spot in lieu of Preah Khan Reach's week off, Khemara Keila Saturday faced fifth-placed Build Bright United (BBU), a team always capable of an upset or two on their day. With injuries and U19 departures affecting their starting lineup, Khemara took time to settle before opening the scoring on 27 minutes. Chan Veasna's looped centre from the right was met by leggy Nelson Oladiji, and he sent his header past BBU keeper Chhim Rotha. The Nigerian striker performed a trademark somersault, to which the spectators at Olympic Stadium roared in approval.

However, BBU proved no pushovers, and equalised within four minutes, albeit with a touch of luck on their side. Skipper Chhun Sothearoth's 40 yard free kick from the touch-line sailed over everyone's heads including Khemara keeper Mak Theara to draw the sides level.

Neat passing and willing running was a feature from both teams, as they put on a good show for the CPL faithful, with Khemara making the next telling contribution. A centre from Ty Bunvichet eluded everyone until it reached Loch Ratha at the far post, and his low drive put his team ahead six minutes before halftime.

Ten minutes into the second period and Khemara extended their lead, after BBU failed to clear their lines. Khemara skipper Kuoch Sokumpheak had his header was weakly cleared by Rem Bunheang, falling straight to Oladiji who needed no second invitation to steer his shot inside the upright.

BBU continued to keep up the pressure and on 65 minutes, Chhun Sothearoth's grabbed a second, striking an unstoppable drive from 12 yards. The goal only served to spur Khemara back into action at the other end, with Kuoch Sokumpheak snapping up a loose ball in the six yard box to fire his team into a 4-2 lead.

In the last minute, Khemara lost Sophal Odom to a red card for a second bookable offence, but the disappointment was quickly forgotten at the final whistle, as they moved into second place in the CPL standings.

Photos by Nick Sells (

Spark beat Navy in 4-2 thriller

Phouchung Neak keeper Thai Sineth challenges Spark FC’s Puth Savuth Sunday.

The Phnom Penh Post
Monday, 03 August 2009
Andy Brouwer

NO scorching sun beating down, and a cool refreshing breeze made for perfect football weather Sunday, with Spark FC and Phouchung Neak serving up an equally refreshing game. It was end to end from the first whistle, with Phouchung gunning for an opener in the early stages.

In Prince Justine, Spark have the CPL's leading scorer and a real handful for any defence, let alone the team at the foot of the table. And so it proved on 20 minutes, when he left two defenders in his wake with one of his surging runs into the penalty area, rounding the keeper and whacking the ball into an empty net.

Spark extended their lead just before halftime when Plong Chanthou took advantage of some sloppy defensive work and drilled in their second from ten yards out. There was still time for the Navy team to keep their hopes alive with a goal from Heng Sokly, who neatly turned in a centre from Pouv Ratha.

The second half started scrappily and it took a wicked shot from Phouchung's Wilson Mene that rebounded off the crossbar to kick-start both teams into action.

In the blink of an eye, the ball fell loose in the Navy penalty box and Plong Chanthou wasted no time in rifling an unstoppable drive into the top corner to extend Spark's lead on 55 minutes.

Five minutes later, Heng Sokly grabbed his second goal of the game for Phouchung, when he held off a challenge and steered his shot around Spark keeper Pouv Raksa.

Barely a minute later, Spark had restored their advantage and it was that man Justine again. Streaking clear and latching onto a 30-yard pass from Henry Asonibe, red-hot hitman Justine cooly finished with aplomb, and followed up with a celebratory backwards somersault.

The rest of the match see-sawed between ends, with Justine having another two chances to notch a hat trick, but to no avail. The Navy's Heng Sokly was also denied a third goal.

Spark's win takes them into the top four of the CPL standings, although Naga Corp could reclaim the place Wednesday.

Photos by Nick Sells (

Burrill Report: Leading Malaria Drug Becoming Less Effective

By Kristi Eaton, The Burrill Report:

Poor regulations and substandard use could be to blame for growing resistance to a leading anti-malaria drug, researchers say. A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine says malaria parasites, which are injected into the bloodstream by infected mosquitoes, are growing more resistant to artemisinin, the leading drug used to fight the disease. The increasing resistance to the drug threatens to render it less effective and could eventually make it obsolete, putting millions of lives at risk. Malaria kills more than 1 million people a year, many of whom are young children or pregnant women.

Researchers studied 40 patients in Pailin, western Cambodia, and 40 patients in Wang Pha, north-western Thailand following reports that the efficacy of artemisinin, single drug therapies, and combination therapies were declining in western Cambodia. In randomized trials, the patients were given a dosage of artesunate, an artemisinin drug, another anti-malarial drug, mefloquine, or a combination of the two. On average, patients in Thailand were clear of parasites in 48 hours; in western Cambodia it took 84 hours. Of the 20 patients in each country treated with only one of the drugs, there were recurrences of the infection in six patients in western Cambodia, compared to just one person in Thailand. A recurrence occurred in two patients from Cambodia who used combination therapy and one patient from Thailand. This suggests, the scientists say, that artemisinin was less effective on the Cambodian parasites.

A beauty pageant with a difference

After losing a leg to a landmine, Song Kosal became involved in the campaign to ban the weapons.
Jared Ferrie / The National
Jared Ferrie, Foreign Correspondent
August 02. 2009

PHNOM PENH // Song Kosal’s life has so far taken her from the rice paddies of rural Cambodia, where she lost a leg to a landmine at the age of five, to the White House to present a petition urging the US to sign a treaty banning landmines.

On Friday she will embark on yet another journey when she takes part in the Miss Landmine competition, a beauty pageant for victims of landmines. Ms Kosal will be vying for the title along with 20 other women who have lost limbs to landmines left over from Cambodia’s civil war. The winner will be crowned in a ceremony in December and will receive a custom-made prosthetic limb.

Although she already has a prosthetic leg, it does not fit properly and it is painful to use, so she walks with a crutch instead. While a prosthetic leg designed especially for her would make walking much easier, the prize is not her reason for participating in the contest.

“I want to try to get people to pay attention to women with disabilities and to not discriminate. People with disabilities can do anything,” she said. “And if we do this project we can raise the issue of the ban [on landmines].”

Miss Landmine is the brainchild of Morten Traavik, a Norwegian actor and theatre director. He launched the first pageant last year in Angola, which is one of the three most heavily mined countries in the world, along with Cambodia and Afghanistan.

Mr Traavik was staying at the family home of his then girlfriend in Angola’s capital, Luanda, in 2003, just one year after the end of the country’s civil war.

“There was still a very palpable sense of a state of emergency,” he said. The streets were strewn with garbage, buildings were pockmarked with bullet holes, and of course there were thousands of amputees, victims of landmines that peppered the countryside. During his visit, Mr Traavik got to know some of the neighbourhood children and they asked him to be a judge at a contest they were organising called Miss “Beco”, meaning Miss Backstreet.

“It was such a wonderful event,” Mr Traavik recalled. “A narrow back alley was the catwalk. The women were of all shapes, sizes, nuances of brown and black. It was a very inclusive event. It made me see how uncomplicated it can be, a playful celebration of life and beauty.”

The experience stuck with him and before long Mr Traavik came up with the idea of organising a similar event to raise awareness about landmines, which are currently banned by 156 countries but continue to kill and maim decades after the end of armed conflicts. His idea was met with scepticism if not outright disgust by many of the international organisations he approached for funding.

“Some people have a purely gut reaction that all beauty pageants are bad no matter if they have a higher purpose,” said Mr Traavik, who said many people he talked to could not get past the concept of a pageant as “sleazy old men voting for young dancing babes in bathing suits”.

But the Angolan government and local community groups gave their support and after applying to the Norwegian Arts Council a few times he finally received a grant.

The Cambodian government, however, yesterday urged the cancellation of the event, Agence France-Presse reported. In a letter to organisers, the ministry of social affairs said: “The ministry asks the people who organise this contest to stop this action … for protecting … the honour and dignity of people with disabilities.”

While Miss Landmine is a far cry from the average pageant, it does follow the traditional aesthetic of beauty contests. The competition will kick off with the launch of a photo exhibit and a glossy magazine featuring contestants photographed against backdrops of beaches and Cambodia’s famed ancient temples. People throughout the world can cast votes online for their favourite candidate at Those votes will be taken into account by judges who will decide the winner at the December event, which will feature contestants on a catwalk in gowns and a brief interview conducted by an MC.

According to the Miss Landmine magazine, Ms Kosal lost her leg to a Gyata 64 anti-personnel mine, which was manufactured in Hungary and sold for about US$15 (Dh55).

Ms Kosal said she could not remember the incident, but her mother, who was working in a rice paddy at the time, told her that she was collecting firewood when she stepped on the mine. Her story is common in Cambodia, which is littered with mines left behind after a two-decade long war between government troops backed by Vietnam and Khmer Rouge rebels.

“I am very angry at these people who put landmines there,” said Ms Kosal. “But I am happy that I have the chance to join the campaign to challenge countries like the US that have not signed the treaty.”

The 1997 Mine Ban Treaty has yet to be signed by 37 countries, including the UAE. Ms Kosal is a youth ambassador for the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, a global advocacy network. In 2001, she travelled to Washington, DC, to present a petition containing 263,000 signatures to Colin Powell, who was serving as the secretary of state in the administration of George W Bush.

“I liked him, the way he spoke, the way he acted,” she said, but added that Mr Powell said the US would sign the treaty, which it has not done. “I was upset that he promised me, then he forgot what he said to me.”

Mr Traavik noted that the US, along with China and Russia, are major producers of weapons including landmines, and none of them have signed the treaty, also known as the Ottawa Accord. According to Landmine Monitor, a civil society group that tracks progress made in eliminating landmines, those three countries have by far the biggest stockpiles, with about 145 million antipersonnel mines between them.

“It’s not a coincidence that these countries unwilling to sign the Ottawa Accord are also the biggest weapons producers,” he said. “Of course there is a powerful arms industry and a powerful arms lobby that does not want to lose money.”

That is why it is important to keep pressuring such countries by bringing attention to the issue in any way possible, he said, even if it means challenging commonly held assumptions about the evils of beauty pageants.