Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Cambodia: 'Killing Fields' Trial

Cambodian Muslims read a script on a board displayed at Tuol Sleng genocide museum, formerly the Khmer Rouge's S-21 prison, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2009. As many as 16,000 people were tortured and later killed during the Khmer Rouge's 1975-1979 rule.(AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

A Cambodian villager, left, holds her sleeping baby as she reads a script on a board displayed at Tuol Sleng genocide museum, formerly the Khmer Rouge's S-21 prison, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2009. As many as 16,000 people were tortured and later killed during the Khmer Rouge's 1975-1979 rule.(AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

Cambodian villagers read a script on the board displayed at Tuol Sleng genocide museum, formerly the Khmer Rouge's S-21 prison, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2009. As many as 16,000 people were tortured and later killed during the Khmer Rouge's 1975-1979 rule.(AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

A Cambodian Muslim visits Tuol Sleng genocide museum, formerly the Khmer Rouge's S-21 prison, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2009. As many as 16,000 people were tortured and killed during the Khmer Rouge's 1975-1979 rule.(AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

Robin Lerner, center, a staff member of visiting U.S. senator Jim Webb, looks at prisoners' portraits during a tour to Tuol Sleng genocide museum, formerly the regime's S-21 prison, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2009. Senator Webb was in Cambodia for one day official visit as part of his two-week-long tour of five nations in Southeast Asia.(AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

Robin Lerner, left, a staff member of visiting U.S. senator Jim Webb, listens to Youk Chhang, center right, Director of the Documentation Center of Cambodia during a tour to Tuol Sleng genocide museum, formerly the regime's S-21 prison, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2009. Senator Webb was in Cambodia for one day official visit as part of his two-week-long tour of five nations in Southeast Asia.(AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

Robin Lerner, center, a staff member of visiting U.S. senator Jim Webb, listens to Youk Chhang, right, Director of the Documentation Center of Cambodia during a tour to Tuol Sleng genocide museum, formerly the regime's S-21 prison, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2009. Senator Webb was in Cambodia for one day official visit as part of his two-week-long tour of five nations in Southeast Asia. Webb canceled the trip to the museum.(AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

U.S. Sen. Jim Webb was in Cambodia for one day official visit as part of his two-week-long tour of five nations in Southeast Asia

U.S. Sen. Jim Webb of Virginia talks during a press conference in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2009. Webb was in Cambodia for one day official visit as part of his two-week-long tour of five nations in Southeast Asia. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

U.S. Sen. Jim Webb of Virginia, gestures during a press conference in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2009. Senator Webb was in Cambodia for one day official visit as part of his two-week-long tour of five nations in Southeast Asia. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

U.S. Sen. Jim Webb of Virginia gestures during a press conference in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2009. Webb was in Cambodia for one day official visit as part of his two-week-long tour of five nations in Southeast Asia. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

U.S. Sen. Jim Webb of Virginia gestures during a press conference in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2009. Webb was in Cambodia for one day official visit as part of his two-week-long tour of five nations in Southeast Asia. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

US Senator Jim Webb makes quick stop in Cambodia on Asian tour

Monsters and Critics.com

Asia-Pacific News
Aug 18, 2009

Phnom Penh - US Senator Jim Webb made a lightning visit to Cambodia on Tuesday as part of a regional trip designed to 'invigorate the relationship' between the United States and South-East Asian nations.

Webb is in the region in his capacity as chairman of the Sub-Committee on East Asian and Pacific Affairs for the US Senate's Foreign Relations Committee. His trip takes in Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam.

At a press conference in Phnom Penh on Tuesday ahead of a scheduled meeting with Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, Webb was asked about the ongoing crackdown by the Cambodian government against its opponents.

The question followed a strong European Union statement issued earlier in August in which the EU warned that the government's actions could narrow Cambodia's democratic space.

Webb would not be drawn on whether or how the US would exert pressure on Phnom Penh to respect democratic rights, saying only that the US wants to do 'what we can to encourage political diversity in Cambodia.'

'As a part of my visit here I met with the leaders of two of the opposition groups to hear their views, and we had [a] discussion with respect to the issues that you mentioned, and we will continue to listen to people from all sides,' Webb said. 'I listened in great detail to the concerns of the two opposition leaders on that topic.'

He was more forthcoming on the Trade Act of 2009, a measure introduced by Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein to provide duty-free access to the US market for garments made in 14 least-developed countries.

Cambodia, whose economically vital garment industry has been battered over the past year, would benefit from the passage of the bill. However the legislation is currently languishing in the US Senate.

'That issue was the subject of a pretty lengthy discussion with the minister of commerce, and I committed to him that we'll take a very close look at the legislation,' Webb said.

Webb said one key concern is that labour standards in beneficiary countries should meet international standards.

'It's very important to the Democratic Party in the United States to make sure we have a fair playing field among our workers and workers overseas,' he explained. 'That being said, the minister made a very compelling case for us to look at that legislation and we will do that when we get back.'

Webb leaves Cambodia later on Tuesday headed to Vietnam.

ASEAN Deals Bringing Asia Closer Together

August 18th, 2009
by 2point6billion.com

Aug. 18 - The recently announced deals between China and India concerning ASEAN trade are expected to add a welcome boost to trade figures within the region, and to stimulate recovery following the global downturn. Accordingly it seems an appropriate time to revisit the prefaces to the China Briefing book “China’s Neighbors” as it provides a good overview of the region and which countries and organizations are players within it. The book’s complete contents and purchase details can be viewed here.

World Bank report on ease of Asian business
The ease of doing business across Asia varies significantly. According to the “Doing Business Report 2009″ prepared jointly by the International Finance Corporation and the World Bank, Singapore retains its number one position on the overall regulatory ease of doing business for a third consecutive year. While due to poignant regulatory reforms China’s rank improved from 83 from 90, out of 181 countries. India, however, slipped two notches to rank at 122nd, below its neighbors Nepal, Bangladesh and Pakistan which have been placed 121, 110 and 77 respectively in the overall ranking.

Among Asia-Pacific countries, the Philippines, ranked 140th, lags behind most of Asia for ease of doing business behind even Cambodia at 135 and only ahead of Laos at 165 and East Timor at 170. The average ranking for East Asia is 8. Consequently, Bangladesh is ranked 110 and has reduced the time needed to register property from 425 to 245 days. Bhutan is ranked 124th.

Eastern Europe, Central Asia and the Caucasus, led by Azerbaijan, made more changes than any other region to make doing business easier over the past year, according to the report. Azerbaijan improved its ranking by 64 places and is this year’s top reformer. Large economies that fell in the rankings include Germany, which dropped to 25 from 20, Mexico, to 56 from 42, and Russia, to 120 from 112.

The report ranks economies based on 10 indicators of business regulation that record the time and cost to meet government requirements in starting and operating a business, trading across borders, paying taxes, and closing a business.

The rankings do not reflect such areas as macroeconomic policy, quality of infrastructure, currency volatility, investor perceptions, or crime rates, said the report.

Asia’s regional economies: The cost of bowl of rice a day
In a region comprising the giant populations of China (1.3 billion), India (1.25 billion) and the emerging nations of Southeast Asia (collectively, about 880 million), much of the economic data on China trends misses two points; the massive impact on China that emerging Asia has; and the financial impact of the poverty level rising by just one more affordable bowl of rice a day, per person.

In the scramble to unravel China’s economics, and the questions inflation and a slowing GDP ask, much has been made of a potential recession in the U.S. markets and the competitive impact of a resurgent India. While the recession has made an impact, the rise in wealth of China’s neighboring countries also has had a major impact on the region, and on China. India’s population is set to shortly (if it hasn’t already) overtake China’s ageing one, while the combined populations of Indonesia, Pakistan, Bangladesh, the Philippines, Vietnam, Thailand, Myanmar, Malaysia, Cambodia and Laos are collectively close to three quarters of both China and India individually.

In the rush to understand China economics, the populations of smaller countries, such as Vietnam (85 million) have been forgotten. Yet collectively, the third part of the Asian triangle is nearly as large as the other two.

Such oversights are misleading. Emerging Asia has a huge impact on what goes on in China and how it affects prices. While growth regionally in countries such as Cambodia and Laos — relative minnows with populations of 14 and 7 million each — would not seem to have any clout or impact on the China price, when included with the other regional markets — all growing from between 7-10 percent annually — the implications seem to become more serious. Just raising the level of wealth in these countries enough to allow each person an additional bowl of rice a day is having a profound impact.

While rice consumption in China has fallen by 860,000 tons annually over the past three years (the only Asian nation in which this has occurred), it has been far outstripped by an increase in consumption in India of 6,522,000 tons. Consumption in the additional emerging Asian economies we mention above collectively rose by a further 6,419,000 tons, almost equivalent to that of India’s rise. That’s an increase of over 12 million tons since 2005. Considering that in terms of global productivity for rice per acre, that means a rough estimate of an extra 8 million acres has had to be set aside during that same period just to meet that demand — and from a region whose arable land mass is far from efficient.

The cost impact has been huge, and is also difficult to track down. With such a stress on domestic suppliers, governments have been subsidizing the true cost of production by giving farmers handouts, and by literally digging into reserves. Cyclones earlier this year in Southeast India destroyed crops, forcing the government to step in to write off debt and keep families alive. Rice reserves held in stock are dropping, and much has been found to have been poorly warehoused. Meanwhile, prices in Pakistan have increased by US$200 per ton or about 30 percent in the past 28 months and prices have risen by similar amounts in Thailand and Vietnam.

China and emerging Asia’s continued growth and development is raising several questions: who has really factored in the micro-elements impacting the economies; what is truly the impact of an additional bowl of rice, per day, per head of regional population; and what are the costs and impacts upon the regional economies, including that of China, to deliver just such a basic staple.

Emerging Asia may be booming, but much of the commodity price impact, as the region places more demands on resources will surely affect China’s own provision of its basic resources as well as the China costs in doing so.

The Shanghai Cooperation Organization gathers regional strength
With the rise of Asia and the emergence of Central Asia in global economics and politics the role of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization is growing in importance. Founded in 2001 in Shanghai by the leaders of China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan, the SCO was originally formed due to growing security concerns in the region. Its role has been extended to encompass economic benefits to member countries as well. India, Iran, Mongolia and Pakistan remain observers to the SCO.

SCO countries (full members and observers) comprise a hefty 25 percent of Earth’s land area. Although the declaration on the establishment of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization contained a statement that it “is not an alliance directed against other states and regions and it adheres to the principle of openness”, many observers believe that one of the original purposes of the SCO was to serve as a counterbalance to NATO and the United States and in particular to avoid conflicts that would allow the United States to intervene in areas near both Russia and China.

On the economic front, SCO members have agreed to improve the flow of goods in the region while prioritizing joint energy projects in the oil and gas sector the exploration of new hydrocarbon reserves, and joint use of water resources.

In order to bolster security among member nations, the SCO focuses on eradicating the threats faced from terrorism, separatism, extremism and drug trafficking. As a result, joint military exercises between the member countries play an important part in securing the region.

Cultural cooperation also occurs in the SCO framework, with member countries holding art festivals and cultural exhibitions in each other’s countries.

LanguageCorps Announces Partnership with Cambodian Children’s Fund to Provide Staff Training

STOW, Mass., Aug. 18, 2009 — LanguageCorps Inc., a leader in providing TEFL/TESOL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language/Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) programs worldwide, will be providing free TESOL training and certification for staff of Cambodia Children’s Fund. LanguageCorps, a Massachusetts-based company, offers a variety of programs for talented people interested in travel, internationalism, and teaching abroad; empowering them to thrive as professionals while living in, working in, and learning about a different culture.

Cambodian Children’s Fund, founded by Hollywood film executive Scott Neeson, serves the needs of Phnom Penh’s most impoverished children. Originally developed as a single shelter serving 45 children in critical need, CCF now serves nearly 500 children through five separate facilities; providing nutrition and housing as well as medical treatment, dental services, and vaccinations. Through their comprehensive educational program, the children learn English in addition to other studies that include local language reading and writing, social studies, and math.

“We are impressed with the organization that Scott has put together, and how it is improving the lives of these children,” says Jerry Patton, founder and CEO of LanguageCorps. “With our extensive background in TESOL training, this seemed like the best way to make an immediate impact by increasing the effectiveness of both teachers and managers at CCF. We already provide similar support through ongoing partnerships with other organizations such as A New Day Cambodia (http://www.anewdaycambodia.org), and we are excited about expanding our efforts to include Scott’s organization. We look forward to exploring other ways that this partnership can benefit the children of Cambodia.”

“While our immediate task is nutrition and health care, it is the investment in education that will change this generation,” says Neeson. “The better trained the teachers, the greater the opportunity to lift a child and their family out of poverty and into a meaningful, productive life. Language Corps is very highly regarded and the opportunity provided by Jerry (Patton) allows CCF to reach another level of teacher training.”

About LanguageCorps

Founded in 2002, LanguageCorps (http://www.languagecorps.com) offers programs in various locations throughout Latin America, Asia, and Europe. Programs vary by country, but all include an intensive, four-week TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) training and certification course, pre-departure support, and assistance finding a paid teaching position. Some programs also include local language and cultural training, guaranteed job placement, medical insurance, accommodations, excursions, and other support services.

About Cambodian Children’s Fund

The Cambodian Children’s Fund (CCF) is a unique NGO based in Phnom Penh, Cambodia (http://www.cambodianchildrensfund.org). Its five facilities care for almost 500 multiply deprived children, most of them from Phnom Penh’s notorious and noxious rubbish dump. In additional to food, shelter and security, CCF provides a high-quality educational environment and ensures that the children remain connected to their own culture. Its involvements reach beyond the children to their families and communities and include a daycare center, healthcare facilities, the supply and distribution of safe water and effective rice purchase and nutrition programs. It also runs support businesses, such as its own bakery and bag making project, which directly contribute to the training or support of those in CCF’s care. CCF’s primary aim is to help Cambodia recover from its social and economic wounds by harnessing the inherent capacity of its emergent generation, to better prosper as a nation and a society.

For more information, or to schedule an interview, please contact Jan Patton by phone at (978) 562-2100 or by email at jan.patton@languagecorps.com


Jan Patton
Tel: (877) 216-3267
Fax: (978) 562-7721
Email: jan.patton@languagecorps.com

ASEAN states plan rice cartel

Workers load rice at the Sai Gon Port. ASEAN rice-producers plan to form a rice cartel aimed to stabilise rice prices, food security and rice development. — VNA/VNS Photo Dinh Hue



BANGKOK — Major ASEAN rice-producers Thailand, Viet Nam, Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar plan to form an association to create a sustainable system for trading and production.

The plan was unveiled yesterday following Cambodian leader Hun Sen’s initiative at the ASEAN Summit in Cha-am in late February. It focuses on price stabilisation, food security in the region and rice development. It aims for price stability next year.

It comprises the five countries of the Ayeyawady-Chao Praya-Mekong Economic Cooperation Strategy (Acmecs) and will set up an Acmecs Rice Traders Association.

Thailand, Laos and Cambodia have agreed in principle and plan talks with Cambodia and Myanmar during the ASEAN Economic Ministers Meeting, which ends today.

For some years Thailand and Viet Nam have co-operated to curb price-cutting in the export market through data exchange.

Price cutting

A Thai source close to the negotiations said they solved Thailand’s major problem on circumvention by neighbouring countries, diluted price-cutting in the region and stabilised prices.

"It will create a supply chain in the region which will strengthen bargaining power in the world market," the source said.

Chaiya Yimvilai, adviser to the commerce minister, said yesterday that Laos proposed Thailand and Viet Nam draw up the plan.

Thailand and Viet Nam are white-rice producers while Laos focuses on sticky rice. Laos has approached Thailand as a partner in a joint venture with Kuwait to grow rice in Laos. The Lao government has allocated 200,000ha.

Laos has 2 million ha set aside for rice, but only 900,000 are actually under the crop. Meanwhile, the ASEAN-Australia and New Zealand Free Trade Agreement comes into force on January 1.

Australia and New Zealand are important trade partners of ASEAN, with bilateral trade in 2008 valued at US$67.2 billion. They were the seventh largest export market of Asean.

ASEAN exports to Australia and New Zealand reached nearly $44 billion last year. Major goods were fuel, machinery, automobiles, gold and electrical appliances.

Chaiya said Thailand and Australia would increase trade in services under the Thailand-Australia Free Trade Agreement. Australia wants to see more business-to-business trade. — THE NATION/VNS

Flagstone Reinsurance Group Volunteers Abroad in Cambodia with United Planet on Second Annual Trip

Tue Aug 18, 2009

Global reinsurance company gives back to community in Cambodia

Boston, MA (PRWEB) August 18, 2009 -- 10 participants from four countries, all employees of Flagstone Reinsurance traveled east to Siem Reap, Cambodia to volunteer at a local orphanage and school for two weeks.

The group was led by Ian McKillop, Flagstone's Deputy Risk Manager. This was McKillop's second time leading a Flagstone employee volunteering program, organized through Boston-based non-profit United Planet.

What started as an idea that came to McKillop after reading an article on international volunteering in Canada's Globe and Mail, has now turned into a Flagstone legacy with full support from the company's CEO, David Brown. Last year, "Flagstone Without Borders" traveled to Las Quebradas, Costa Rica with United Planet for its initial foray.

"After last year's Quest to Costa Rica, I had a tough time trying to figure out how I would pitch such a worthwhile endeavor for a follow up year. Luckily, our CEO David Brown was so impressed with the turnout, camaraderie, and overall project that he graciously asked 'Where to next year?' without us even having to ask!"

Adding to the trip's success, both McKillop and the Flagstone Without Borders Quest were recently highlighted in National Geographic's "100 Best Volunteer Vacations to Enrich Your Life", published in early summer 2009.

Flagstone's second Quest brought 10 of the global reinsurance company's employees together for meaningful service at a school in a small community outside Siem Reap. McKillop told United Planet, "The projects were fantastic. From building a classroom, desks, and plastering and painting the wall at the English school in the mornings, to teaching English and working with orphans in the evenings, [the Quest proved to be a very rewarding experience."

"[The children's powerful will to learn and better themselves was overwhelming, especially in comparison to the starkness of the classroom they were sitting in," said Alison Thomson, a Human Resources Administrator at Flagstone's Swiss office.

Flagstone team members also organized games for the kids and pooled their deposit money together to purchase volleyball and badminton equipment, pizza, coloring books, small games and goodies.

To show their appreciation, the school held a traditional Cambodian dinner and dance in the group's honor. School children, teachers, directors and members of the local community were all in attendance.

The Quest was filled with days of hard work and manual labor, but the group also spent some time enjoying team-building exercises and local excursions. Flagstone Without Borders team members received blessings from Buddhist monks at a Siem Reap pagoda, visited a silk farm, rode elephants and toured the Angkor Wat temple complex (an UNESCO World Heritage Site). The entire group experience built a lot of camaraderie among the participants, who work for Flagstone in offices spread across four different countries.

In addition to exploring the local culture and the meaningful service the group provided, many of the participants felt that they gained new perspective. "I think the biggest lesson I learned so far with United Planet is a big dose of humility and how to leave all the artificial additions in my home life behind and get the best out of HERE and NOW," shared Thomson.

"There's a lot of learning and education through visiting the temples, and also learning about what it's like to be an orphan, teaching English as a foreign language to help the kids work in tourism. For them, speaking English gives them such an opportunity to go out and find a better job," explained McKillop.

Upon returning from Siem Reap, McKillop drafted a 15 page report reflecting on how the experience impacted the group and the local community. "Similar to last year, writing a report for such a project is a difficult task. [. . . I realized such projects should not be measured in terms of participants, but rather by the size of the effort and hearts of those participants who gave their time, blood, sweat, and tears to make this year's Quest an overwhelming success."

Four group members were repeat participants, and "similar to last year, were incredibly moved by the experience," said McKillop. "It was great to see people from last year take part in this year's Quest. In my opinion, this is the true measure of success of such an experience."

Flagstone is a firm supporter of corporate social responsibility and is dedicated to its employees' job satisfaction and professional development. Opportunities like the United Planet Quest allow Flagstone to address both, making a meaningful difference in the lives of its employees and also in Quest host communities. "We are all very proud to be able to work for a company which supports such worthwhile endeavors. Having a CEO endorse such an initiative demonstrates the Flagstone culture to the fullest extent," added McKillop. "These trips meet our goals and provide great team experiences for our staff," affirmed Brown. McKillop was also happy to share that with "all the enthusiasm and buzz generated after the trip," Flagstone is now "looking companywide at what we can do to keep the service alive."

About Flagstone Reinsurance Holdings Limited
Flagstone Reinsurance Holdings Limited, through its operating subsidiaries, is a global reinsurance and insurance company that employs a focused and technical approach to the Property Catastrophe, Property, and Specialty reinsurance and insurance businesses. Flagstone RĂ©assurance Suisse SA has received "A-" financial strength ratings from both A.M. Best and Fitch Ratings, and "A3" ratings from Moody's Investors Service. Island Heritage and Flagstone Reinsurance Africa have received "A-" financial strength ratings from A.M. Best.

The Company is traded on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol "FSR" and the Bermuda Stock Exchange under the symbol "FSR BH". Additional financial information and other items of interest are available at the Company's website located at http://www.flagstonere.com.

As an international non-profit organization, United Planet (UP) strives to create a world in which all people understand, respect, and support one another. United Planet's global network of leaders and volunteers fosters cross-cultural understanding and addresses shared challenges to unite a community beyond borders. For more information, please visit: http://www.unitedplanet.org

Cambodian tree-fellers arrested

Writer: BangkokPost.com
Published: 18/08/2009

Eleven Cambodian men were arrested on Tuesday after a clash between a security patrol and a group of people suspected of illegally felling trees in Si Sa Ket province near the border with Cambodia, the Public Relations Department announced.

The combined police and military unit was patrolling the border between Phra Phalai and Kraban Krabai passes in Khun Han district, opposite Cambodia's Preah Vihear province.

After the firefight, the Thais arrested 11 Cambodians and seized four chainsaws, two carts and two Cambodian military uniforms, the statement said.

Between 200 and 300 blocks of processed wood were also seized. The suspects were being held at Khun Han district police station for interrogation.

Hurricane Bill gathers strength out in Atlantic

A false color satellite image provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration shows Hurricane Bill at 12:15 a.m. EDT Tuesday Aug. 18, 2009 in the Atlantic Ocean. Forecasters say the first hurricane of this year's Atlantic season has increased to a Category 2 storm with winds whipping at 100 mph. (AP Photo/NOAA)

By JONATHAN M. KATZ, Associated Press Writer

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti – The first hurricane of the Atlantic season loomed far out in the ocean Tuesday, gaining power and moving on a track that forecasters said could take it close to Bermuda by the end of the week.

Hurricane Bill was expected to become a major storm in the next couple of days, with winds topping 110 mph (177 kph), following on the heels of two relatively weak systems that did little more than drop rain on the northeastern Caribbean and the Florida Panhandle. It had become a Category 2 storm Monday with winds whipping at 100 mph (160 kph) as it moved on a track expected to be near Bermuda by the end of the week.

Early Tuesday, Bill was centered about 810 miles (1,305 kilometers) east of the Leeward Islands and moving west-northwest near 17 mph (28kph).

Bill was a large system, about 300 miles across, so Bermuda faces a potential threat even if the Atlantic island avoids a direct hit.

"We are keeping an eye on it for sure," said Nick Camizzi a forecaster with the British territory's weather service.

It was too soon to tell if Bill might threaten the eastern coast of the United States or how the storm would behave beyond the next four or five days.

"The system is certainly large and eventually will be a powerful hurricane," said John Cangialosi, a meteorologist at the U.S. National Hurricane Center.

What began as Tropical Storm Ana, the first named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season, weakened into a tropical depression and then dissipated altogether as it swept past the Leeward Islands, U.S. and British Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, apparently moving too quickly to cause more than minor flooding.

Along the Florida Panhandle, Tropical Storm Claudette quickly weakened after it made landfall at Fort Walton Beach. By late Monday, much of the rain and storms had ceased and all flood watches and warnings had expired. Milligan and Crestview, Fla., saw the most rain with about 4.5 inches. Other areas in Florida, Alabama and Georgia got 1 to 4 inches.

Tropical storm watches were canceled, but Ana still posed a potential threat to Hispaniola, the island shared by Haiti and the Dominican Republic where impoverished riverside communities are extremely vulnerable to flooding.

Dominican authorities evacuated more than 100 people from areas at risk for flooding and mudslide, but the rains turned out lighter than expected as the system broke apart Monday night.

"We thought it would rain much more than it has. Thank God it hasn't rained that much," said Rafael Alejo, a 34-year-old construction worker in Santo Domingo, the capital.

Dominican authorities maintained a flooding alert for 12 provinces in the east, warning that Ana could drop up to 6 inches (150 millimeters) of rain in some areas.

"As of now the rivers are rising above their normal levels, but nonetheless we do not have flooding, thank God," said Carlos Paulino, a deputy director of the Center for Emergency Operations in Santo Domingo.

Officials in neighboring Haiti, devastated last year by four successive storms that killed some 800 people and caused $1 billion in damage, said they were relieved Ana had weakened. But people were warned to continue exercising caution around rivers and coastal areas.

Earlier Monday, rain from Ana flooded highways in Puerto Rico's capital, San Juan, and three schools closed as a precaution in the northern coastal city of Arecibo.

A man in his mid-20s died after being pulled from the surf along the Florida Panhandle as Claudette approached Sunday. In Bay County, Fla., authorities searched for another man whose boat ran aground Sunday night, though they believed he made it ashore. Neither man's identity was released.

Far out in the Pacific, Hurricane Guillermo weakened to a tropical storm with maximum sustained winds near 45 mph. Guillermo was centered about 490 miles northeast of Hilo, Hawaii, and moving northwest near 21 mph.


Associated Press writers Dionisio Soldevilla in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, Melissa Nelson in Pensacola, Fla., and Kelli Kennedy in Miami contributed to this report.

Hamill confronts Khmer Rouge commander

ONE News
Rob Hamill

Tuesday August 18, 2009
Source: NZPA/ONE News

New Zealand transatlantic rower Rob Hammill has confronted the man who ordered the torture and execution of his brother 31 years ago.

The former New Zealand world champion rower delivered an emotional testimony in a Cambodian court to the former Khmer Rouge commander on trial for crimes against humanity.

An emotional Hamill testified in Phnom Penh about the "incredible" impact the horrific death of his brother Kerry, 27, had on his family - a "massive and unquantifiable impact".

Almost 31 years to the day after Kerry's boat strayed into Cambodian waters, Rob Hamill had the chance to confront the man who signed his brother's death sentence.

Hamill said he had waited a long time to confront his brother's killer and to tell the story about the impact on his parents and siblings.

Hamill's mother is now dead and his father is in a nursing home.

The New Zealander's wife, Rachel, and their two-year-old son were in the packed public gallery as Rob Hamill spoke for a full hour.

Read Rob Hamill's full victim statement here - Warning, contains strong and graphically violent language.

"At times I've imagined you shackled starved, whipped, and clubbed viciously," Hamill told the trial.

He says his parents were hugely affected by their son's appalling death.

"It changed them. They were never the same after it all happened," Hamill told the court. "They were terribly affected, as any parents would have been."

Hamill, 14 at the time of his brother's death, added: "The death of their first-born was the worst possible news for our family. He had not just been killed, he had been tortured."

A family's worst nightmare

Kerry's letters about his adventures kept his family in awe of his travels, but in 1978 the letters stopped.

Kerry was captured by the Khmer Rouge when the yacht on which he and friends were sailing strayed into Cambodian waters.

Crewman Stuart Glass, a Canadian, was shot while Kerry and Briton John Dewhirst were interrogated and tortured for two months before being killed in Phnom Penh's notorious Tuol Sleng Prison run by Duch.

It took 16 long months for his family to discover he had been captured, tortured, forced to say he was a CIA agent and executed.

In court Rob Hamill told the prison boss he stole two brothers from him, one in prison and one back home as Rob's other brother killed himself when the grief became too much.

"Today in this courtroom I am giving you all that crushing weight of all that emotion, the anger, the grief and the sorrow," he told the court.

Duch impassive

Kaing Guek Eav, or Duch as he is known, the man responsible for Kerry Hamill's death, was in court and listened impassively to Hamill's testimony as it was translated.

Comrade Duch is the first of five senior Khmer Rouge members to be tried by an unassisted tribunal.

Duch, 66, has pleaded guilty to murder but the five judges - New Zealander Dame Silvia Cartwright, a French national and three Cambodians - will decide Duch's innocence or guilt after hearing all the evidence. Dame Silvia was in court to hear Hamill who was accepted as a civil party.

Duch has pleaded the same defence as some of the Nazis at the Nuremberg trials after World War II, maintaining he was simply carrying out orders and would have been shot had he not done so.

The Khmer Rouge was one of the world's most brutal regimes.

The radical communist policies resulted in the deaths of up to two million people from starvation, overwork and torture.

Hamill says there is no provision for execution but he hopes that Duch will be given a life sentence, "a real life sentence so he would spend the rest of his days in a cell.

"I'd be happy with that."

TVNZ's Miriama Kamo traveled to Cambodia for the war crime trials earlier in the year. Read her blogs under related items.

Rejected US Cambodian brings hip hop home

Cambodian hip hop trainer Tuy Sobil teaches local boy hip hop dance at his club in Phnom Penh

A local boy spins on his head to hip hop music at a club in Phnom Penh

A local boy spins on his head to hip hop music at a club in Phnom Penh

Cambodian hip hop trainer Tuy Sobil teaches a girl the moves at his club in Phnom Penh

By Kounila Keo (AFP)

PHNOM PENH — A slim boy with curly hair spins on his head to hip hop music at a house down a crowded and dusty road in the Cambodian capital.

The dancer, 11-year-old Soeurn Nhanh, says he had a hopeless existence as a shoeshine boy until he discovered Cambodia's first and only breakdancing and hip hop school.

"When I grow up, I want to be a breakdancing teacher and earn money to support myself and my family," he says, grinning.

Established a few years ago by a former US gang member deported after being convicted of armed robbery, the Tiny Toones centre also teaches disc jockey skills and rapping to nearly 400 children.

Besides helping bring hip hop culture to Cambodia, Tiny Toones and its founder Tuy Sobil, better known as Kay Kay, have won accolades for helping drug addicts and poor street kids transform their lives.

"Our [centre] doesn?t judge where the kids come from. It doesn?t matter whether it?s the rich, poor, or orphans, sex workers or drug kids...we just make everybody equal here," Kay Kay says.

"I?m happy to tell them that one day they will get better," he adds.

The centre now also teaches English, Khmer and computers. Kay Kay, 32, brings lessons from his own life to the job.

He is one of some 200 Cambodians ejected from the United States over the past several years under a law which deports felons who do not have American citizenship.

Kay Kay had never been back to Cambodia, which he left as a baby when his family emigrated to the US.

His parents neglected to complete US citizenship documents when they arrived in California and after being jailed for armed robbery at 18 he was deported, leaving his family and young son behind.

"For Kay Kay, deportation is a very sensitive thing to talk about," says Ho Lisa, Tiny Toones? administration director.

When he arrived in Cambodia, Kay Kay seemed to leave his old life far behind, working as a counsellor for drug addicts. But in almost every way, Kay Kay is American.

He named his centre "Tiny Toones" for the classic US children's cartoon programmes, and although his students mimic his baggy trousers and colourful over-sized t-shirts, he still draws attention around Phnom Penh.

"With tied-up long hair and a heavily-tattooed body, I get a bad impression from people. I might look like I?m very violent but I?m not," Kay Kay says.

Many Cambodians fear or find it hard to accept deportees like Kay Kay, who were initially expected to bring a crime wave with them to the country.

"Depending on their jobs, some of them (deportees) still face stigma," says Ong Klung, head of the Returnee Integration Support Program. "Some find it hard to function."

Taing Phoeuk, director of Korsang, an HIV education organisation which is staffed by many deportees, says the vast majority are not involved in any criminal behaviour.

"Many work in non-governmental organisations, companies or have gone to live with their families throughout Cambodia. But a few others are still abusing drugs," says Taing Phoeuk, a deportee himself.

For his part, Kay Kay says his students inspire him to live well, although there is also irony in the attention he has had from founding Tiny Toones.

When he gave a performance at a Clinton Global Initiative meeting in Hong Kong last year, Kay Kay danced in front of former US president Bill Clinton -- the man who passed the law which banished him.

He also could not accompany his students as they went on a performance tour of the US early this year.

Kay Kay says he is slowly being accepted into Cambodian society now and hopes he will be completely welcome someday.

As he and his fellow deportees integrate in the country, they have helped entrench hip hop culture in Cambodia. Videos, advertisements and club performances are now taking on an increasingly American urban style.

Saray Sarom, 23, a former street kid who now teaches breakdancing at Tiny Toones, believes it can further help the impoverished country.

"It has completely changed my perspective about life," he says. "I feel hopeful when I see that I can teach other disadvantaged kids something valuable and see that they progress like me."

Higher costs expected in Cambodia stretch of Trans-Asia Railway

Tue, 18 Aug 2009
Author : DPA

Phnom Penh - A key link of the Cambodian stretch of the Trans-Asia Railway, which will eventually connect Singapore with Kunming in China, will need extra cash to fund its construction, local media reported Monday. The section of the railway examined in a recent study will run 255 kilometres east from near the capital Phnom Penh and connect to Vietnam's railway at Loc Ninh.

The feasibility study by the China Railway Group estimates this stretch will cost between 500 million and 600 million US dollars, the Phnom Penh Post newspaper reported.

The study blamed the higher-than-expected cost on the number of bridges needed to span the Mekong and other rivers between Phnom Penh and Vietnam. It stated that two bridges spanning 1,500 metres and 1,000 metres in length would cost up to 266 million dollars. Smaller bridges would add another 120 million dollars.

"Neither [China nor Cambodia] will want to go it alone at that price," a government source told the newspaper. "If it goes ahead, it will have to find additional funding, and given that it will benefit the entire region, it might find support from the [Asian Development Bank] or the World Bank."

Cambodia's railways are in a woeful state, having suffered from decades of war and under-investment.

Paul Power, an adviser to the Cambodian government, told the newspaper that the economic gains for the kingdom would be substantial.

"It makes Cambodia the hub of transportation between China and Singapore," he said, adding that the main benefit would come from transporting freight rather than passengers.

The other stretch of rail which connects western Cambodia with the capital is being upgraded by Australian firm Toll Holdings. That project will link the capital to Sihanoukville Port in southern Cambodia, as well as linking Phnom Penh with the Thai border.

Chea Vichea case reopened

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
Born Samnang waits on Monday at the Appeal Court during a break in proceedings.

The Phnom Penh Post
Tuesday, 18 August 2009
Chrann Chamroeun

Court says 2004 killing of trade union leader remains unclear.

THE Appeal Court has ordered further investigations into the 2004 killing of trade union leader Chea Vichea, following requests from the defence lawyers of Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun, the two men accused of the killing.

"This case is still not clear, which requires us to conduct further investigations involving some police in relation to the [slaying]," presiding Judge Chuon Sunleng said after the two-hour hearing. He ordered that suspects Born Samnang, 28, and Sok Sam Oeun, 41, remain free until the investigation is closed and a verdict handed down.

During a two-hour hearing on Monday, the two men again protested that they were not involved in the killing of Chea Vichea, accusing the police who arrested them in 2004 of forcing them to confess to the crime.

"The Appeal Court's decision was very fair and just for us, and we received about 80 percent justice," Sok Sam Oeun said after the court session.

"[We are] grateful ... to local and international NGOs for investigating our case and to our lawyers for pursuing justice for us from the beginning to the end."

Hong Kimsuon, Sok Sam Oeun's defence lawyer, said the court's decision was "acceptable" but called on judges to lift the charges altogether.

"There is no credible evidence or witnesses to bring charges against them," he said, adding that, according to Article 38 of the Constitution, any doubts in a case should be resolved in favour of the accused.

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
Sok Sam Oeun celebrates his freedom after his release from prison at the Appeal Court in December last year.

Rights groups reacted to the court verdict by also calling for the release of Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun.

"I believe there were more perpetrators involved in the case besides the two men, who were just the hired killers, and I urge the court to conduct a thorough investigation to hunt for other men who were behind the case," said Chandara Piseth, a lawyer from Legal Aid of Cambodia who was representing Chea Mony at the court.

Am Sam Ath, a technical supervisor for human rights group Licadho who attended the court hearing, said the decision to re-evaluate the case was laudable, but also called for the exoneration of Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun.

"Based on the law, the two men should have the charges of premeditated murder lifted completely because hearings in Phnom Penh Municipal Court, the Appeal Court and Supreme Court have confirmed that there were not enough evidence and witnesses to press charges against them," he said.

Unsolved case
Chea Vichea, former head of the Cambodian Confederation of Unions, was gunned down on January 22, 2004, while buying a newspaper near Wat Lanka.

Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun were convicted of the crime the same year, but the Supreme Court ordered their provisional release in December 2008 citing contradictory evidence in their previous trial.

Union leaders and Chea Vichea's family have said they consider the two men innocent of the charges, and they both took part in a five-year memorial service in January.

The two men were fake killers, and i urge the court to find the real killers.

Chea Mony, Chea Vichea's brother and president of the Free Trade Union of Workers of the Kingdom of Cambodia, said he remained convinced that Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun were innocent of the killing.

"I maintain my stance from the beginning and acknowledge that the two men were fake killers, and I urge the court to find the real killers," he said, accusing policemen, including jailed former police head Heng Pov, of involvement in the killing.

"I am ready to take responsibility and dare to be imprisoned for my conclusion about my brother's murder case, which is that the government prepared a plan to kill my brother," he said, adding that his brother had received two warnings by text message before he was gunned down.

NZ man confronts S-21 chief

Photo by: Sovan Philong
A photograph of New Zealander Kerry Hamill, one of several Westerners killed at Tuol Sleng.

The Phnom Penh Post
Tuesday, 18 August 2009
Robbie Corey-Boulet

Victim's brother describes pain of family, his thoughts of revenge.

AN OLYMPIC rower from New Zealand whose older brother was killed at Tuol Sleng prison described on Monday the torture he longed to inflict on prison chief Kaing Guek Eav, alias Duch, for the horrific crimes committed during the Khmer Rouge regime.

"Duch, at times I have wanted to 'smash' you, to use your words, in the same way that you smashed so many others," civil party Rob Hamill said in the most confrontational testimony the Khmer Rouge tribunal has yet heard. "At times I have imagined you shackled, starved, whipped and clubbed viciously. I have imagined your scrotum electrified, being forced to eat your own faeces, being nearly drowned and having your throat cut. I have wanted that to be your experience, your reality."

Kerry, Hamill's brother, was sent to Tuol Sleng in 1978 at the age of 26. He had been captured when his 28-foot yacht, Foxy Lady, was blown off course in a storm and ended up near Koh Tang island in the Gulf of Thailand.

News of Kerry's death, which reached his family 16 months after he was originally detained, affected his relatives in ways both subtle and dramatic, Hamill told the tribunal on Monday.

Visibly emotional, Hamill described how his father, in the years after Kerry's death, could from time to time be heard "quietly weeping" to himself as he went about "doing mindless chores" in the kitchen. His mother, Esther, "was possibly the most deeply affected by Kerry's death", yet kept her grief largely to herself, he said. A third brother, John, fell into a deep depression and eventually committed suicide by throwing himself off a cliff.

"On the morning of John's funeral, I remember my mother administering pills to me and my other older siblings, Sue and Peter," Hamill recalled.

"I later found out that they were Valium tablets. It was an example of how my parents didn't know how to deal with their grief."

Journey to Tuol Sleng
Kerry had bought Foxy Lady with a Canadian friend, Stuart Glass, who accompanied him on "a series of wonderful adventures" through Southeast Asia, Hamill told the court.

"At home in New Zealand, we would excitedly sit around the kitchen table while Dad read out each letter accompanied by our exclamations of awe and amusement at the many different sights and colourful cultures he was experiencing," he said.

Hamill later learned that his brother was planning to marry Gail Colley, who had accompanied Kerry on some of his travels.

"Your honours, I'm sure that you can see that, at 26 years of age, Kerry was having the time of his life," Hamill said.

Colley left the group in Singapore, the city from which the last of Kerry's letters to his family was sent in July 1978.

Hamill said his family had never found out for certain what happened to Foxy Lady, but he noted that the confession of John Dewhirst, who was sent to Tuol Sleng along with Kerry, states that a gunboat attacked the yacht, killing Glass in the process.

Hamill also made reference to Kerry's confession, in which he said he worked for the CIA. Hamill said the confession was evidence of Kerry's ability to remain "lucid" and "clever", even while being tortured.

"In his confession, Kerry stated that Colonel Sanders, of Kentucky Fried Chicken fame, a popular chain of fast-food restaurants, was one of his superiors," Hamill said. "He used our home telephone number as his CIA operative number and mentioned several family friends as supposed members of the CIA."

Hamill also highlighted the reference to a public speaking instructor named "S Tarr", saying it was evidence that Kerry was trying to send a message to their mother, Esther.

"He was sending a message to our mother, a message of love and hope," said Hamill, overcome with emotion. "And it was as if, whatever the final outcome, he would have the last say."

'Low' expectations met
Kerry's last confession is dated October 13, 1978. In response to questions from Hamill, Duch said he believed Kerry and Dewhirst had been killed simultaneously, and that their bodies had been "burned to ashes".

Duch did not specify what happened to the ashes. Hamill said after his testimony that the matter of his brother's ashes had been "probably the most important" for his relatives, who had planned to hold a ceremony at the spot where the ashes had been left.

[prison chief duch] was a shining light in that regime, and he did nothing.

After giving his testimony, Hamill told reporters that Duch's "nondescript" answers to his six questions were in line with his expectations.

"My expectations were very low from Duch," he said.

He said he believed Duch had been in a position to stop some of the atrocities committed by the Khmer Rouge, in part because he "had the top echelon in his hand".

"He was a shining light in that regime, and he did nothing," Hamill said.

Sadistic Duch fed off deaths at Tuol Sleng, civil party says

Photo by: AFP
A photographer (left) takes a picture of a television in the press room showing live video footage of French witness Martine Lefeuvre, the wife of Ouk Ket, a former Cambodian diplomat who died at Tuol Sleng.

The Phnom Penh Post
Tuesday, 18 August 2009
Robbie Corey-Boulet

THE WIFE of a Cambodian diplomat who was imprisoned at Tuol Sleng and later executed told the Khmer Rouge tribunal on Monday that she believed Kaing Guek Eav relished his duties as prison chief.

"If one can't call this enjoying a dirty job, then please tell me what else can it be?" civil party Martine Lefeuvre, 56, said of the accused, alias Duch.

"The death of others was in fact his daily food."

Duch has previously said that he would have been killed if he had not carried out interrogations and executions ordered by top Khmer Rouge leaders, but Lefeuvre suggested she did not find this argument convincing.

"For me, he should have committed suicide, because if he was afraid of dying himself that is not a reason for him to continue torturing and to continue murdering," she said.

She went on to call the prison chief's actions "unforgivable" and asked judges to give him "the maximum sentence".

Duch, 66, faces life in prison.

When the Khmer Rouge came to power, Lefeuvre lived in Dakar, Senegal, where her husband, Ouk Ket, worked at the Cambodian Embassy. He returned to Cambodia after the Khmer Rouge called for intellectuals living abroad to help rebuild the country. After being contacted by Khmer Rouge officials in April 1977, he travelled to France with his family before leaving them and flying to Phnom Penh that June.

Lefeuvre recalled that her husband dismissed concerns he would be in danger in Cambodia.

"He looked at me and tapped my cheek and said, 'But honey, Cambodians are not savages.' And he was so sure of himself."

If one can't call this enjoying a dirty job... please tell me what else can it be?

Lefeuvre said she learned what happened to Ouk Ket when she travelled to refugee camps along the Thai border in late 1979. There, she encountered a friend who had worked at Tuol Sleng for four months after the fall of the Khmer Rouge earlier that year. He told her that Tuol Sleng was "an extermination camp", and that he had seen Ouk Ket's name in files there, she said.

In 1990, Lefeuvre received a letter from her mother-in-law informing her that only four of her 11 Cambodian family members had survived. They visited Cambodia the following year and went to Tuol Sleng two days after they arrived.

"And I have a hard time telling my children to leave this place because their fists are clenched and they are clenching their teeth before such a quantity of horror," she recalled.

Lefeuvre's testimony was supplemented by that of her daughter, Ouk Neary, another civil party who also described the visit to Tuol Sleng.

"We were drawn to these faces which stared at us one after the other," Neary said.

She told the tribunal she had been observing Duch "for several months" and had decided that she had "no interest" in him. Beneath his "obsequiousness [lies] the cynical and bloodthirsty brute that I know", she said. "I see the accused taking responsibility without ever soiling his hands."

Interior Ministry hears concession complaints

The Phnom Penh Post
Tuesday, 18 August 2009
Chhay Channyda

VILLAGERS from 19 provinces who marched on Phnom Penh last week to protest land concessions met Monday with Ministry of Interior officials who, though acknowledging the growing problem of landlessness, said more investigation was needed into cases of property seizures.

"[The villagers] need us to find justice for them. We must investigate more," said Sim Sovanney, deputy director of the ministry's Inspection Department, the first government office to meet the villagers.

The villagers, representing hundreds of families affected by land concessions, came to the capital last Tuesday with petitions containing more than 119,000 thumbprints that were lodged with various government offices, including the National Assembly and Council of Ministers.

Chhe Sambo, a 45-year-old villager from Siem Reap province, said she was grateful for the opportunity to discuss the villagers' problem. "This meeting is a sign to show that the government cares about us," she said.

Seng Sok Heng, a village representative from Oddar Meanchey province who did not attend the Ministry of Interior meeting, said that economic land concessions have long been a problem for Cambodian villagers.

"In some cases, land disputes between villagers and private individuals have been unsolved for 10 years," he said. "We have tried many times to file complaints at all government levels, but our complaints are always ignored."

US Senator Webb set for Cambodia visit

The Phnom Penh Post
Tuesday, 18 August 2009
James O'toole

US Senator Jim Webb, fresh from meeting with Myanmar head of state Than Shwe and securing the release of American prisoner John Yettaw, is to visit Cambodia today as part of a two-week, five-nation tour of Southeast Asia.

Webb left Myanmar with Yettaw on Sunday and flew to Bangkok, where he was to stay the night before arriving in Phnom Penh this afternoon.

A critic of US sanctions against Myanmar that were renewed by US President Barack Obama in late July, Webb said it is "vitally important that the United States re-engage with Southeast Asia at all levels" in a statement prior to arriving in Laos to kick off his trip last week.

Although he will be in Cambodia for just a few hours, Webb, the chairman of the US Senate's East Asia and Pacific Affairs Subcommittee, plans to meet with senior Cambodian officials before flying on to Vietnam.

Webb is a decorated veteran of the Vietnam War who served as secretary of the navy under president Ronald Reagan and speaks Vietnamese.

He was mentioned as a possible vice presidential candidate for Barack Obama during US elections last year before withdrawing himself from consideration to focus on Senate duties.

The last US senator to visit Cambodia was Maria Cantwell from Washington state, who visited in November 2007.

Takeo vendors to get market stalls

Photo by: Tracey Shelton
Tonloab market vendors protest at the front of Hun Sen’s home in Takeo province last week.

The Phnom Penh Post
Tuesday, 18 August 2009
May Titthara

Sok An orders new stores cleared for vendors who protested outside Hun Sen's residence.

VENDORS from Takeo province are to return to Kirivong district's Tonloab market after Deputy Prime Minister Sok An ordered 28 newly constructed stores destroyed on Saturday to make room for the vendors at their old location.

"We can now accept this resolution because without the deputy prime minister [market owners] would not have broken down the stores," Bun Theng, one of the Takeo vendors, said Monday.

Construction at the Tonloab market has been a source of controversy for several weeks, after vendors said that market owners had tricked them into giving up their old stalls so that the owners could begin new construction and raise rents.

On August 1, about 130 of the vendors walked the 30 kilometres to Phnom Penh to lodge a protest with Prime Minister Hun Sen's office. They returned to Phnom Penh to renew their protest in front of the prime minister's Takhmao residence again Thursday.

While the vendors were happy to see a resolution to the dispute, some still complained that the new location that has been set aside for some of them is separated from the market by a gas station.

"They allowed some vendors to move into the new market, but others are separated from it by the gas station," said Men Chana, another of the Takeo vendors.

"Now we want the authorities to link both locations with a roof, so it's still one market," Men Chana said.

The governor of Kirivong district, however, said he considered the matter closed.

"As we promised, they will have the right to sell at their old place," said Tek Songlim, Kirivong district governor.

"If they still want to protest, I don't understand what they want," Tek Songlim said.

Land deals take toll on minority groups: study

The Phnom Penh Post
Tuesday, 18 August 2009
Sam Rith

FIVE million hectares of land belonging to indigenous minority peoples has been appropriated for mining and agricultural land concessions in the past five years, according to new research.

Ros Han, director of Indigenous Rights Active Members (IRAM), a national indigenous peoples network, said that his organisation has recorded that 4 million hectares of communal land belonging to indigenous populations had been offered as economic land concessions to private developers since 2004, in addition to 1 million hectares of mining concessions.

The figures are based on surveys conducted in 15 provinces and cities across the country, he said, adding that the full report is due for release by the end of the year.

"Those land concessions are on the rotational farmland and spirit forests on which indigenous people depend to make their living and [preserve] their traditions," he said.

He said those most affected include indigenous minority people living in Ratanakkiri, Mondulkiri, Preah Vihear, Kampong Thom, Stung Treng and Kratie provinces.

Moeun Vuthy, a member of IRAM based in Stung Treng province, said about 400 of the province's 900 indigenous minority families had been impacted by land concessions the government had offered for rubber plantations and other agricultural developments.

He said those indigenous families who lost their rotational farmland faced increasing hardships.

Govt reports rise in cases of dengue fever

The Phnom Penh Post
Tuesday, 18 August 2009
Khoun Leakhana

AS reports of drug-resistant malaria in western Cambodia gather increasing attention, experts from the National Center for Malaria (NCM) on Monday reported an increase in dengue fever cases throughout the Kingdom in 2009.

In the first 31 weeks of 2009, according to the NCM, 7,227 people in Cambodia were infected with dengue fever, compared with just 4,261 people infected during the same period in 2008. The good news was that only 19 people died from the mosquito-borne malady during the first 31 weeks of this year, as opposed to 40 the previous year.

"Dengue fever in Cambodia has not reached a state of emergency at the moment, though it is drawing a lot of attention," said Ngan Chantham, deputy director of the National Center for Malaria and director of the National Anti-Dengue Programme (NADP).

Large-scale outbreaks of dengue fever typically occur once every two or three years, and specialists from the NADP said that the next big dengue outbreak may happen in 2010. They are cautiously optimistic, however, that they are prepared to deal with it.

Though they will continue to monitor this year's increase in dengue cases, Ngan Chantham said the NADP was pleased to see the death rate drop, attributing this decline to prevention efforts taking place throughout Cambodia. The NADP is in the process of distributing around 90 tonnes of pesticides, used to kill mosquitoes, throughout the Kingdom's 24 provinces, he said.

Education is another significant aspect of prevention efforts, the group says. The NADP has been conducting dengue-education sessions throughout Cambodia since 2002, aiming to inform residents about the precautions necessary to contain the spread of the illness, according to Chea Muntha, head of the dengue education programme at the NADP.

He said that as residents learn more about the importance of precautionary measures such as mosquito nets and household sanitation, mortality rates will continue to decline.

Future lawyers officially sworn in

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
Thirty-four new lawyers pose for a photo on the steps of the Appeal Court after being sworn in on Monday.

The Phnom Penh Post
Tuesday, 18 August 2009
Chrann Chamroeun

President of Bar Association of Cambodia urges candidates to 'do your best to win your cases'.

THIRTY-FIVE law students were officially sworn in by the Appeal Court on Monday, paving the way to the commencement of their one-year probation period and a future as professional barristers and solicitors.

Chiev Songhak, president of the Bar Association of Cambodia, who led the group to the Appeal Court, said during the ceremony that the students were sworn in with the approval of the Bar Council and the Appeal Court's general prosecutor.

Appeal Court prosecutor Nget Sarath told the students that they would be his future rivals and defence counsels for their clients, and urged them to hone their skills.

"You will represent your clients and fight against me, so you have to develop yourselves by understanding Cambodia's laws and regulations, and do your best to win your cases," he said.

One of the 35 students then read out a passage noting the meaning of the oath taken by novice lawyers: "We will perish if we don't fulfill our legal professionalism ... and let us come to harm or perish by lightning, accident, bullets..."

Judge Chuon Sunleng also read out a legal oath and ordered the lawyers to repeat after him that "we are committed to work with our best at the behest of loyalty, justice, dignity, independence, and obey constitutional law and other regulations and laws in Cambodia".

Khem Sophana, 30, one of the students sworn in on Monday, told the Post that the path to a life of law was hard, requiring nine months to study general law, civil law, penal law and the criminal procedure code, followed by a one-year period of probation at an established law firm.

City Hall gives a week more for lake eviction

The Phnom Penh Post
Tuesday, 18 August 2009
May Titthara

RESIDENTS living in Villages 2 and 4 at the Boeung Kak lakeside have been given an extra week to relocate, following meetings Monday with City Hall representatives, but they said they rejected a temporary housing solution proposed at the meeting.

Village representatives, accompanied by 70 residents, met with City Hall Cabinet chief Koet Chhe to discuss the compensation claims of 150 families set to make way for a private housing and commercial development at the site.

"[City Hall is] giving us one week to relocate, from this Monday until Sunday, August 23, when they will take administrative measures and disavow responsibility for any damage to our residents' property," said resident Pol Toris, who attended the meeting.

In a statement dated August 10, city authorities ordered families living in the two villages to vacate the site by Monday this week, or face "administrative measures".

Residents say they have agreed to accept on-site replacement housing but refused temporary relocation at the Damnak Trayoeng relocation site, some 20 kilometres from the city.

Not good enough
Pol Toris said city officials agreed to let residents settle temporarily at the Trapaing Anchanh relocation site, a similar distance from central Phnom Penh.

Sear Nareath, a representative of Village 4, said that the lakeside residents remained at City Hall until evening to protest the outcome of the meeting.

"Tomorrow, we will come again to protest because we can't accept their resolution to live at Trapaing Anchanh," she said.

"We have agreed to the development in the area already ... but we just want to ask them to live temporarily in the [lakeside] area," she added.

Boeung Kak residents have been slowly relocating from the area since August last year, when little-known developer Shukaku Inc began filling the lake with sand. Around 4,000 families are ultimately expected to make way for the 133-hectare development.

Spiritual support for new building

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
Pann Sophal, 51, on Monday sands a Buddhist sculpture carved from the wooden remains of the old Ministry of Information building.

The Phnom Pnh Post
Tuesday, 18 August 2009
Khouth Sophakchakrya

OLD wooden posts from the Ministry of Information building on Monivong Boulevard are being carved into statues of the Hindu deity Vishnu and will be used to decorate the new ministry building, Minister of Information Khieu Kanharith said.

The eight-armed Vishnu figures were based on Angkor-era styles and are being carved by artisans from the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts.

"We are carving eight Vishnu statues to put on the eight corners of the new Ministry of Information building as an offering of peace," he said.

He added that any wood left over will be used to carve Buddha statues and given to Khmer monasteries in Cambodia and Vietnam."

The old wooden Ministry of Information was built in 1918 and collapsed in 2007, and the statues will be carved from centuries-old wooden posts that were used to prop up the old building.

Hearing set for today in dismissed PM suit

The Phnom Penh Post
Tuesday, 18 August 2009
Meas Sokchea

SAM Rainsy Party lawmaker Mu Sochua is scheduled to appear at the Court of Appeal today to contest an earlier decision to throw out her defamation lawsuit against Prime Minister Hun Sen, though the court will hear her case in absentia because she is currently travelling abroad, a party official said Monday.

SRP spokesman Yim Sovann confirmed Mu Sochua would not appear at the hearing, but said it was unimportant because the court was under the political influence of the ruling Cambodian People's Party.

"Even if she appears at the court ... the courts in Cambodia are not a justice system - they are an injustice system," he said.

"Mu Sochua's appeal is just to delay the case so that people and international [observers] can know about the court's process."

The appeal follows a June 10 ruling by the Municipal Court that threw out her defamation suit against Hun Sen in connection with comments he made during a speech in April.

Mu Sochua's case prompted the premier to file his own defamation suit against the opposition parliamentarian.

She was found guilty of defamation August 4 and ordered to pay fines and compensation of 16.5 million riels (US$3,989), bringing to an end a four-month standoff between the two politicians, but Mu Sochua has stated that she will not honour the court's ruling.

Ouk Savouth, prosecutor general of the Appeal Court, could not be reached for comment Monday.

Plans for Trans-Asia Railway snagged at Mekong crossing

The Cambodian leg of the Trans-Asia Railway is likely to cost more than initially hoped.

Neither will want to go it alone at that price.

The Phnom Penh Post
Tuesday, 18 August 2009

A new study suggests the cost to build the Cambodian portion of a key rail line connecting Kunming, China, to Singapore may present hurdle to completion

Plans for a rail network linking Singapore and Kunming, China, and all points between has hit a series of cost hurdles in Cambodia that will likely require additional funding to overcome, according to the initial findings of a Chinese feasibility study seen by the Post.

Sources close to the government said the study, by the China Railway Group, would finalise a long-awaited section of the planned Trans-Asia Railway covering 255 kilometres from near Phnom Penh to the Vietnamese border.

The feasibility study put the final cost at between $500 million and $600 million, due primarily to the high number of bridges that would have to be built across the Mekong Delta and its many tributaries.

"Neither will want to go it alone at that price," one government source said, referring to the Cambodian and Chinese sides. "If it goes ahead, it will have to find additional funding, and given that it will benefit the entire region, it might find support from the [Asian Development Bank] or the World Bank."

According to the Preliminary Technical Study Report, the 1,000-metre bridge crossing of the Mekong River and 1,500-metre bridge over the Tonle Sap would be the big-ticket items with a combined $262 million. The government source said at least $120 million would also have to be spent on smaller bridges along the line.

The proposed line would connect to the existing railway linking Phnom Penh to the Thai border via a junction to be built at Bat Doeng, just outside the capital.

From there it would cross the Tonle Sap river and head east through Skon to the provincial city of Kampong Cham and across the Mekong River. It then would follow National Route 7 to Memot and Snoul before turning south east to link up with the Vietnamese rail network at Loc Ninh.

Touch Chankosal, undersecretary of state for the Ministry of Public Works and Transports (MPWT), said a previously unpublished report had also valued the Bat Doeng-to-Snoul line at $600 million.

"We're undecided what the government will contribute; we need to see the final report and how much it says it will cost," he said. "The project will cost much."

The Cambodian government has divided the country's railway system in two. Australia's Toll Holdings will take control of old French-built lines in the east, which run from the capital to the Thai border and south to Sihanoukville, home of one of the largest ports in the Gulf of Siam.

Paul Power, an adviser to the Cambodian government and team leader for the ADB's involvement in the reconstruction of Cambodia's railways, said the economic benefit for the region and Cambodia would be enormous.

Regional centre
"It makes Cambodia the hub of transportation between China and Singapore, and you would have a port link, you would have a link to Thailand, you'll have a link through to Vietnam, and the implications for that, for Cambodia in the region, are that Cambodia becomes the hub."

He said freight would provide the greatest economic benefits, particularly for shipping bulk goods such as rice. However, the contractors first must deal with the thorny issue of resettling people living along the route.

In Cambodia, poor landholders often are pushed out with little compensation to make way for commercial developments, causing considerable public anger.

Power said the companies in the project are aware of the problems that have afflicted other construction projects, and he thinks they can avoid similar difficulties.

Touch Chankosal said other issues that need to be resolved include an agreement with Thailand over where the line will cross their shared border. A similar agreement was reached with Vietnam in 2007.

Border relations between the two countries have been strained recently following the dispute and military standoff over land surrounding the temple at Preah Vihear just inside Cambodia.

He added there were no plans as yet to extend the railway into Laos.

"The railway will help the economy a lot. It will reduce heavy transportation on the roads and facilitate trade exchange between neighbouring countries, and this will boost economic growth," he added.

If funding can be secured and resettlement and border issues resolved quickly, then authorities hope the construction of the final link between Singapore and China and beyond as far as London, could start within the next 18 months.

Police Blotter: 18 Aug 2009

The Phnom Penh Post
Tuesday, 18 August 2009
Lim Phalla

Mork Leang Chhay, 44, a farmer from Kandal province's Sa'ang district, was arrested on Friday evening when police caught him battering the motorbike of 27-year-old Bib Ny with a spade and severely damaging it. The event, which was caused only by the influence of gin, happened in Sa'ang district, while the farmer was seriously drunk.

Two necklaces, a pair of earrings, and a bracelet were taken from 34-year-old Yon Pheap on Thursday night by two thieves who robbed her house in Battambang province's Koas Kralor district. The robbers, who managed to escape safely, were armed with a samurai sword. The marauders needed only one samurai sword to rob the victim because her house was in a very remote area.

Two drug dealers were arrested by Battambang provincial police who raided their houses in on Friday morning in compliance with a provincial court warrant. Twelve yama pills and drug paraphernalia were confiscated. The accused were identified as 53-year-old Chhay Engly and 43-year-old Meth Ly. The suspects said they bought the drugs from Banteay Meanchey province for 14,000 to 15,000 riels (US$3.38 to $3.62) per pill and sold them at 18,000 to 20,000 riels per pill.

A 16-year-old boy was arrested on Wednesday on suspicion of killing a 13-year-old boy in Kampong Speu province's Samraong Tong district. The suspect told police that he had been paid 20,000 riels by two men to kill the victim, Chat Chen. After an investigation, however, police found that Chat Chen had been beaten to death with a wooden stick for cursing the suspect after the suspect's oxen ate his rice.

Tourism sector big investment winner

The Phnom Penh Post
Tuesday, 18 August 2009
Soeun Say

The tourism sector attracted the highest value of investment applications in the first half of the year, according to figures from the Council for the Development of Cambodia (CDC).

The government's investment arm approved seven tourism-related projects worth a combined $354 million over the period, or a little more than a quarter of all projects approved by value.

It also approved 12 agriculture-related projects, worth $323 million out of a total approval package worth $1.22 billion, involving 53 projects.

Approvals were way down on the same period last year, when 49 projects worth $4.42 billion were approved, according to CDC figures.

Yun Heng, deputy director of the Evaluation and Incentive Department at the Cambodian Investment Board, an arm of the CDC, blamed the global financial crisis for the smaller average size of project approvals.

Opposition lawmaker Son Chhay, who used to head parliament's finance committee, said the government should develop policies to attract more local investors.

Millers place export hopes on rice group

The Phnom Penh Post
Tuesday, 18 August 2009
Chun Sophal

Price stability, farming help sought from regional trade body

The Cambodian Rice Millers Association (CRMA) is hoping membership of a proposed new regional rice-trading association will help the country's farmers export 200,000 tonnes of milled rice next year.

CRMA president Phu Puy said the association was preparing a plan to buy unmilled rice from local farmers to sell through the so-called Acmecs Rice Traders Association.

The association will comprise the five countries of the Ayeyawady-Chao Praya-Mekong Economic Cooperation Strategy (Acmecs) - Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar.

The plan was unveiled Saturday at a meeting of Asean economic ministers in Bangkok following Cambodian leader Hun Sen's initiative at the Asean Summit in Cha-am in late February. It focuses on price stabilisation by next year, development of rice growing techniques and food security in the region.

"To date, we have yet to ink any large-scale agreements with any countries to export our rice since our production ability is still limited and there remains a shortage of capital," Phu Puy said.

Ministry of Commerce Secretary of State Mao Thora said Monday the government would seek technical assistance from partners in the association to streamline export procedures and boost exports of Cambodian rice.

"I hope that the five nations will be open for joint discussion and share technical assistance and their markets to create efficient and stable exports," he said.

It would take three years once the association was formed for Cambodia to reach its full export capacity, as it still lacked the supporting infrastructure for exports, he said.