Saturday, 29 August 2009

Khmer Rouge trial enthrals Cambodian public

29 August 09 - The ongoing Khmer Rouge tribunal here of Kaing Guek Eav, known as Comrade Duch, has heard some highly charged testimony in recent weeks, as civil parties have told the court of how the murders of their loved ones ruined their lives.

Robert Carmichael/IPS - On Aug. 17 it was the turn of French national Martine Lefeuvre, who was married to Cambodian diplomat Ouk Keth, to testify.

At the invitation of the Khmer Rouge government, Ouk Keth returned to Phnom Penh in 1977 to help rebuild the nation, but was immediately arrested, tortured for six months and then killed at the infamous Tuol Sleng, otherwise known as S-21, prison that Duch (pronounced Doik) ran.

Duch is the first senior Khmer Rouge cadre to be tried in the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, or the Khmer Rouge tribunal, which is backed by the United Nations (UN). He faces a life sentence on charges of crimes against humanity and war crimes, as well as homicide and torture.

Her husband’s fate unknown to her, Lefeuvre told the court how she searched for several years for news of her missing husband. In 1980 a family friend in a refugee camp on the Thai-Cambodian border told her he had seen Ouk Keth’s name on a list of people murdered at S-21, a former high school that the Khmer Rouge converted into a prison in 1975. Ouk Keth was one of more than 15,000 thought to have been tortured and executed in the Tuol Sleng (which means ‘Hill of the Poisonous Tree’) facility under Duch’s command.

Lefeuvre returned to France and her two young children.

"I had to tell my children that they must grow up without their daddy," she said breaking down. "My son, who was seven, and my daughter, who was four and a half, asked me every day: ‘Have you seen Daddy? Will we see Daddy again?’ I had to tell them, no, they will never see their daddy again."

Much of the testimony from the tribunal is harrowing, and the experiences of many Cambodians explain why many do not talk about what happened under the Khmer Rouge regime that ruled the country between 1975 and 1979. Around two million people are thought to have died under one of the most brutal regimes in recent history.

But telling Cambodians about those terrible years is a key part of the remit of the joint U.N.-Cambodian tribunal, said Reach Sambath, the head of the tribunal’s public affairs office.

That is a challenge here, where around 85 percent of people live in rural areas, and illiteracy is widespread.

For that reason, the court endorses a number of methods of informing the public, Reach Sambath said. One method that his office runs, for example, is to bus in people from across the country to watch proceedings in the 500- seat auditorium. By mid-August more than 17,000 Cambodians from across the country had attended the trial, he said.

The public affairs office, which operates with limited resources, also produces material that is distributed online and by hand at the court itself. But measured in sheer numbers, the most successful way of letting Cambodians know about the proceedings and workings of the tribunal is through the use of television and radio.

The tribunal’s daily proceedings are broadcast live on national television every day. But many people do not have the time to spend four days a week following events, which is where a surprisingly successful television show has come in.

The weekly half-hour TV show, which is mainly funded by the British Embassy, is entirely independent of the tribunal’s public affairs office. It is broadcast by national broadcaster Cambodia Television Network in its prime lunchtime slot on Mondays and repeated the following day.

The show’s producer, Matthew Robinson of independent production company Khmer Mekong Films, said between two and three million people watch it each week – a sizeable proportion of the South-east Asian country’s 15 million population.

The format is straightforward enough. Robinson, an experienced British producer and director who lives in Phnom Penh, says that two presenters and a guest examine the events of the previous week.

Co-presenter Neth Pheaktra said the purpose of the show is to provide a concise summary of Duch’s trial, which began on February 17.

"During the 24 minutes of the programme we have the summary, the diary of the Duch trial, and the key points that the witness, the defendant and the judges reveal in the court," Neth Pheaktra said.

According to Robinson a key challenge when devising the format was to create a show that was relatively simple to make but that would appeal to the target audience of mainly rural and often poorly educated Cambodians.

"Then (we mould) them all together in a fairly fast-moving way in language that our audience could understand and be interested in," he explained, "so that over a short period, you have seen the most important things in the proceedings that week."

Ung Chan Sophea, the other presenter, said the show’s writers ensure that the scripted wording is as simple as possible, even when trying to convey the complicated legal jargon that characterises legal proceedings.

That is something the live feed, understandably, cannot do.

At a small coffee shop in Phnom Penh, Mao Sophea said he loves the analysis the show provides of the week’s proceedings.

"For me this is a good show, and the presenters are excellent too," he said. "But to tell you the truth, I haven’t heard too many people talking about it – most of the people I know prefer to watch the all-day broadcasts."

And not everyone is a convert. Lah Yum, seated at another table, hardly watches it "because I am normally asleep during lunchtime when this show is broadcast."

But some of Lah Yum’s friends do watch it, and as the trial of Duch heads towards its conclusion, they are interested in more than just the proceedings. They want to see what the process and the verdict will mean to those who lost loved ones under the Khmer Rouge regime:

"What they are waiting to see is how the trial will manage to deliver justice for the families of the victims," he said.

Machine-made mats threaten traditional weavers

August 28, 2009 (Cambodia)

A traditional craft of mat-weaving by hand in Cambodia is under threat due to the mat-weaving machines. These machine manufactured mats are imported from Vietnam and Thailand. These machines can work faster and cheaper.

It is only the quality of the mats that they weave, inherited from her forefathers and which will be passed on to future generations will help them survive and will guarantee the future of the family business, says a craftswoman.

Further she added that as people in Vietnam and Thailand manufacture mats, using machines, the hand-made mats of Cambodia cannot compete with them, with regards to price and designs. But, in terms of quality, the hand-made mats can compete with machine-made products, she said.

Her mat-weaving business sells 200 to 250 mats per month in peak periods, at US $4-7.50, each. The sale goes up, especially during the traditional Cambodian wedding season, Khmer New Year and the Pchum Ben holiday.

During recession, the Cambodian consumers shift to cheaper machine-made mats from Vietnam and Thailand. This has resulted in fall in production of hand-made mats from 8-10 mats per day to 3-4 mats.

These hand-made mats are sold in Takeo, Kampot and Kandal provinces, besides, local markets and also have supply agreements with most major markets in Phnom Penh.

The mat weavers were tempted to drop prices to compete with machine made mats, but it has proved to be devastating for the few who did so, due to the high cost of raw materials, which sometimes has to be brought in from other provinces and the already low margins.

The craft workers here need assistance from the Cambodian Government as well as local and International NGOs in order to obtain guidance from international experts to develop new designs and improve the quality of the mats to compete with international products.

Award-Winning Documentary "To Touch the Soul" Screening at Southern Winds Film Festival

"To Touch the Soul" makes its Oklahoma debut at the Southern Winds Film Festival in Shawnee, Okla.

Shawnee, OK, August 28, 2009 --( “To Touch the Soul,” a 70-minute, award-winning documentary about the experiences of artist educator and social activist, Carlos Silveira, and his California State University, Long Beach students who traveled to Cambodia to create art projects with impoverished children impacted by HIV/AIDS, will screen during the Southern Winds Film Festival on Saturday, Sept. 12, 2 p.m., at the Kilpatrick Building, 10 East Main, Shawnee, Okla.

Directed by Ryan Goble, with cinematography by Erin Henning and narration by Cassandra Hepburn, the film captures the emotional context as Carlos and the students bond with the children and discover the true meaning of kindness, selflessness and courage.

“My team and I are thrilled that the Southern Winds Film Festival is giving us this opportunity to share our story with the film festival audience and the surrounding community,” said Teresa Hagen, producer and owner of Cut Loose Productions, located in Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif. “I truly believe that Dr. Silveira’s and his students’ work with Cambodian youth who are either infected with HIV/AIDS or have become orphans due to their parents dying from the disease (a population expected to grow to 108,700 over the next five years) captures the spirit of the growing worldwide movement to find common ground, renew mutual compassion and engage in social activism.”

“I focused on capturing both the beauty that surrounds Cambodia and the tragedy that hides within,” commented Goble, who is making his feature film directorial debut. “Our goal was to make the viewer feel like they were in Phnom Penh working with these kids. We chose to use the point of view of the Cal State Long Beach students because they had no idea what to expect when they arrived. They were naïve. That’s easy to relate to because the majority of the viewers have probably never worked with Cambodian children infected with H.I.V.”

Featuring original music composed by Martin Herman, “To Touch the Soul,” has so far won eight awards, including Best Documentary honors from the San Joaquin Film Festival in Stockton, Calif., and the Wild Rose Independent Film Festival in Des Moines, Iowa; and honorable mentions at the Myrtle Beach (S.C.) International and Byron Bay (Australia) Film Festivals. The documentary has also won a prestigious Best of Show Award as well as an Honorable Mention (motivational/inspirational category) from the Accolade Competition, which recognizes film, television and video professionals who demonstrate exceptional achievement in craft and creativity, and those who produce standout entertainment or contribute to profound social change.

For information on purchasing tickets for the screening, visit Contact Teresa Hagen at 310-346-3650 or via e-mail at; or visit to learn more about “To Touch the Soul.”

Conflicts sap Australian sentiment in Thailand

Durieux: Regional rivals set to gain.

Bangkok Post

Published: 29/08/2009

Continuing political confrontations and escalating violence in the southernmost provinces have dampened Thailand's investment climate and could jeopardise the government's attempts to revive the Thai economy, said the Australian-Thai Chamber of Commerce.

Foreign direct investment is critical for Thailand as the tourism and export sectors are battling the downturn, said chamber president Andrew Durieux.

"Ongoing political problems and violence in the South make it more difficult for foreign investors to move here, set up or increase their investment in Thailand," he said.

Exports are vital for the Thai economy but will not recover without a global rebound, he said. Meanwhile, tourism faces the fresh blow of the H1N1 epidemic as well as militant attacks in the South.

"Thailand requires foreign investments to move the economy forward. (But) foreign investors are now being put off by political issues and the problems need to be fixed," he said.

Although Thailand has huge advantages in its geographical location and natural resources, Australian companies have started to shift their focus to neighbouring countries such as Cambodia and Vietnam and also to southern Africa.

"Neighbouring countries - even Cambodia - have become much more open for foreign investors. Among our top investment destinations are now Vietnam and Malaysia. And, of course, China continues to draw Australian dollars in the form of investment," he said.

Foreign investors need stability, the rule of law, consistent regulations and government assistance to make foreign investments operate smoothly, he said.

Customs and labour laws must be improved to increase Thailand's appeal to foreign investors, he said. Opening up the banking sector and loosening regulations would also pave the way for more investment.

"It is now difficult for foreigners to get loans from banks. They have sought funds locally to avoid the fluctuation of the Thai baht," he said.

Auscham has 450 corporate members in Thailand, many of them involved in mining, metals, education, services, tourism and hospitality.

Each year, about 5,000 Thai students graduate in Australia and return home while 20,000 Australians visit Thailand, including tourists, investors, long-term expatriates and retirees.

But the Board of Investment (BoI) reports that Australian companies made only three investment applications in the first seven months of this year with a total value of 88 million baht - a sharp decline from 11 projects with a value of 2.14 billion baht in the same period of last year.

In all 2008, direct investment from Australia to Thailand totalled 3.2 billion baht, said the BoI.

RIGHTS-CAMBODIA: Newest Evacuation ‘Biggest in Decades'

Australia.TO News

Written by Robert Carmichael

PHNOM PENH, Aug 28 (IPS) - Dozens of families this week started dismantling their homes and moving away from lakeside land in the centre of the capital after giving up on their lengthy struggle to remain. By the end of the eviction process at this site, around 30,000 people will have been moved off now-valuable land.

Human rights workers said it will be the biggest movement of Cambodians from their homes in decades.

Residents do not want to leave, but said they are being driven out by threats from the municipality. Some have not given up yet.

Sixty-seven-year-old Pol Vanna has lived at Village Four at the city centre site, called Boeung Kak, since the early 1980s. The former railwayman is adamantly opposed to moving to the relocation site û a field with no facilities some 30 kilometres away.

”We don't want to leave Boeung Kak,” he told IPS during a small demonstration outside City Hall earlier this month. ”The company should give us some land for us to live on instead of forcing us to move away. I don't understand why they can't give us the land.”

The company in question is Shukaku, which reportedly belongs to Senator Lau Meng Khin from the ruling Cambodian People's Party. His firm received a 99-year lease from the government last year in a typically opaque land deal. Since then, it has been pumping huge amounts of sand into the lake in order to fill it and create more land on which to build.

Evictions are nothing new in Cambodia. At least 100,000 people have been evicted from sites in this capital alone since 2001. The problem is widespread in rural areas, too. The rocketing price of land means there are huge profits to be made, says Naly Pilorge, the director of local human rights group LICADHO, or the Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights. She said greed and impunity are driving the problem.

The number of people affected nationwide is not clear. Amnesty International said last year that 150,000 were at risk of eviction. LICADHO, which operates in 13 of the country's 24 provinces, says the numbers of land grabs, evictions and threatened evictions reported to its staff have climbed from around 2,600 cases in 2003 to more than 16,000 in 2008.

Pilorge said that equates to more than a quarter of a million Cambodians in just six years. The true number is certainly higher, she added. ”I bet you anything if we had twice as many (staff), we would have twice as many cases.”

Uprooting people and relocating them to distant sites where there is no work and few facilities is hardly conducive to poverty alleviation even if that is a stated key concern of government. Pilorge said many evictees at relocation sites outside the capital have been pushed below the poverty line.

One such group of residents was violently evicted in January from a city centre site called Dey Krahorm, which means ‘Red Earth'. There were two broad categories of people at Dey Krahorm: Those who could show they had a legal right to their land because they had lived there for an extended period, and those who were renting.

The evictees from Dey Krahorm were taken to a site called Damnak Trayeung, located outside Phnom Penh. Those who had an entitlement to land at Dey Krahorm received a simple one-room brick home, the size and design of a single garage. Families who were renting received nothing, and are still living under rough tarpaulin lean-tos on a muddy scrap of land next to a road.

There is very little work at Damnak Trayeung. And because the site is more than 20 kilometres from the centre and it would cost a day's wages to travel to and from work, many people no longer have jobs. According to Licadho, two-thirds of the evictees who used to earn an income now earn nothing.

Luy Sinath is a 41-year-old seamstress who used to earn eight US dollars a day at Dey Krahorm. Now she earns just 25 cents. That means her three children cannot afford to go to school, and her family is no longer self-sufficient. She relies on food handouts from charities to survive.

”We have no food to eat sometimes so people share what we have with each other,” she said. ”When I was in Dey Krahorm, I was hopeful that my children would get a good education, but now that we are here, I have lost hope.”

It is those experiences that worry Pol Vanna and his son, Touris, a 26-year-old construction worker. The latter has visited the proposed relocation site for the evictees from Boeung Kak, which he said lacks any facilities.

”It is very far from the schools for our children and from where we work. Most of us are construction workers,” he said. ”It is a long way to the nearest hospital. We can't afford to pay for transportation for our children.”

LICADHO's Naly Pilorge said conditions at some relocation sites outside Phnom Penh are dire, with practically no health care, no schools, no running water, no sanitation, and no jobs. At the Andong relocation site, for example, the human rights group's doctors go door-to-door because some residents are too ill or old to come to the medics.

”We are seeing malnutrition, beriberi, discolouration of the hair, extended bellies,” she said. ”They have sores (on their legs) at Andong û these huge infected wounds û because they are constantly walking in stagnant water that is mixed with sewerage.”

Back at Boeung Kak, the air is heavy with the sound of hammering as people dismantle homes they have lived in for up to 30 years. They are the first of an estimated 30,000 who will eventually be evicted from the surrounds of the lake.

It is still too early to say how their lives will be affected by the country's latest dubious land deal. But the experiences of Luy Sinath and others suggest the lives of the people from Boeung Kak will likely get a lot harder in the coming months.

Vietnam ramps up investment in Laos, Cambodia


Vietnam has become one of the leading investors in the Southeast Asian countries of Laos and Cambodia.

A recent issue of Laos’ Economic and Social newspaper reported that foreign projects in Laos, especially those of Vietnam, have contributed to the Lao economy and have improved the lives of Lao clan members.

Vietnam ranks third among the 32 countries that invest in Laos, according to the Lao Ministry of Planning and Investment. Statistics through June showed that the Lao government had licensed 186 Vietnamese projects at a total capitalization of more than US$2 billion. These projects are mainly in four areas: electric power, mining, agriculture and services.

Vietnamese businesses are constantly expanding their operations in Cambodia. Local experts believe that Vietnam is likely to surpass China, the Republic of Korea and Russia to become the largest investor in Cambodia in 2009, thanks to a surge in Vietnam’s investment in the past eight months.

The President of the Cambodian Economic Association, Chan Sophal, said that with great untapped potential, Cambodia is now an attractive destination for Vietnamese investors.

Vietnam and Cambodia have signed a total of 13 new joint venture contracts worth nearly US$500 million since early July.

Kenya launches malaria campaign; PBS' newshour airs segment on drug-resistance in Cambodia

28. August 2009

Kenya on Thursday launched a national malaria campaign to encourage Kenyans to sleep under insecticide-treated nets (ITNs) every night to prevent infection, the Daily Nation reports.

Elizabeth Juma, head of Kenya's Division of Malaria Control, said, "Though mosquito net ownership has increased, their actual use remains relatively low." According to the Daily Nation, "recent statistics reveal that only 48 percent of Kenyans slept under nets every night compared to 56 percent who owned them."

Assistant Minister for Public Health James Gesami said that about 18 million ITNs had been distributed, which led to a 44 percent decline in malaria mortality cases of children younger than age of five. The campaign is sponsored by Population Services International in collaboration with the government, the WHO and other medical research organizations (Wanja, 8/27).

Also, PBS' the NewsHour recently aired a segment examining the emergence of drug-resistant malaria in Cambodia. According to the NewsHour, counterfeit drugs and incomplete drug regimens have contributed to the problem. "Taking less than a full dose means some parasites remain in the body, where they adapt genetically and become immune to the drug," NewsHour special correspondent Fred de Sam Lazaro said.

During the show, de Sam Lazaro interviews Mark Fukuda of the U.S. Army, who co-authored a study about drug-resistance in Cambodia. The show also examines how drug-resistant malaria parasites can spread to other regions and discusses Cambodia's efforts to crack down on the distribution of counterfeit drugs. It includes an interview with Michael O'Leary, head of the WHO's Cambodia office (de Sam Lazaro, 8/25).

WB eyes on agriculture sector in Cambodia

People's Daily Online

August 28, 2009

A senior World Bank official who had paid a visit to Cambodia early this week said that the world is now looking into agriculture which is one of the important sectors in the country, officials at Ministry of Economy and Finance said Friday.

During a meeting early this week, Jim Hagan, executive director at the World Bank, representing a constituency of 13 countries told Keat Chhon, minister of economy and finance that World Bank's new policy is to focus on agriculture, citing it as a priority demand by the Royal Government of Cambodia, according to the officials.

The officials said, in response, Keat Chhon welcomed World Bank's interest in agriculture by saying that development in agriculture will help reduce the heavy reliance on external factors such as the reliance on investors for garment sectors or foreign tourists.

Garment and tourism have been, for many years, the main earning revenues for Cambodia.

After forming a new government following the 2003 general election, Prime Minister Hun Sen set in his rectangular policy that agriculture is one of the priorities that his government is committed to achieve it.

Some 80 percent of Cambodia's nearly 14 million populations are farmers.

Last year, Cambodia produced 7.15 million tons of rice from a total farming land of 2.25 million hectares.


Cambodians ‘Regret’ Loss of Ted Kennedy

By Sok Khemara, VOA Khmer
Original report from Washington
28 August 2009

Sen. Edward Kennedy, who died Tuesday at the age of 77, is being remembered around the world for his accomplishments.

In Cambodia, officials said they regretted the loss of a man with so many achievements, but whose deeds would not be forgotten.

Cambodians have an expression, “that the physical is lost in deed, but the reputation remains as a widespread fragrance inside and outside the country,” said Cheam Yeap, a Cambodian People’s Party lawmaker.

The youngest brother of John F. Kennedy, the US president assassinated in 1963, Edward Kennedy promoted better living for the American poor, opposed the US war in Iraq and fought to put an end to the US war in Vietnam and war in Cambodia. He helped improve rights for immigrants and endorsed the presidential candidacy of Barack Obama.

Son Chhay, a parliamentarian for the opposition Sam Rainsy Party, said Cambodia needed examples like Edward “Ted” Kennedy.

“As we’ve seen, in the US there have been memorials to the work of Edward Kennedy, over his achievements,” Son Chhay said. “He was a senator who helped contribute to the government of the US, paid attention to assisting people to live with dignity and advocated without thinking of himself personally.”

Politically, Kennedy was a Democrat and a strong ally of Obama, and his presence would be missed, said Koul Panha, executive director of the Committee for Free and Fair Elections.

“It has an effect, because the senator was an important person,” he said. “He had influence and he had a lot of support from people, because he’s in the Kennedy family.”

He was also able to work with Republicans in the Senate, Koul Panha said.

Prak Sereyvuth, vice chairman of the Federal Khmer Krom Association, based in the US, said Kennedy had understood the plight of Cambodians and the US role in it, with the backing of Lon Nol and the wars and consequences that followed.

“He had sympathy for Cambodians…and any refugee who wrote letters to him or their families to intervene,” he said. “His office paid attention and responded quickly, asking the State Department and immigration to take refugees in to the US.”

Thai Trial for 16 Cambodians Delayed

By Chun Sakada, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
28 August 2009

A Thai provincial court on Friday postponed a hearing for 16 Cambodians who have been charged with illegal entry and illegal logging on Thai soil.

The group was arrested late last month, but Cambodian officials say they had not crossed into Thailand when they were arrested. The Ubon provincial court will hear the case Sept. 23.

The Cambodians live near the disputed border at Preah Vihear temple, and officials say they were looking for wild honey and wood in the forest.

“The Thai court ordered a reinvestigation of the cases…because there was not enough evidence to try them,” said Koy Kong, spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The 16 had “absolutely denied” the charges against them, leading to the decision, he said.

Cambodia is providing an independent lawyer to defend them, and the consulate in Sras Keo province was working hard on the case as well, he said.

Sar Thavy, Preah Vihear deputy governor, said he had requested the 16 be returned.

“I believe the Cambodians could not go to cut trees inside Thailand, because the mountain is high and the walk is difficult to the top of the mountain,” he said.

The case comes at a time of easing tensions over a longstanding border dispute, with Cambodians withdrawing some of its troops from positions near Preah Vihear temple earlier this week.

Meanwhile, on Thursday, the Banteay Meanchey provincial court sentenced a Thai man to three months in jail for illegal entry into Cambodia.

Authorities had originally sought to charge him for insulting the national symbol of Angkor Wat, by carving its image into cement near a public toilet in Poipet.

CAMBODIA Young women take on leading roles in Church ministries

Srey Ponhacka (in pink) with students from the Paul Tep Im Center

August 27, 2009

PHNOM PENH (UCAN) -- Young Cambodian women are rising to leadership roles in Church institutions in their male-dominated society.

Women are no less capable than men in performing managerial tasks, asserts Srey Ponhacka, 29, director of Paul Tep Im Center, a boarding house for high-school and university students in Battambang.

Next month she will start work in Phnom Penh as manager of St. Clara Student Center, which houses about 20 women university students from around the country.

Ponhacka sees her service as "a chance to return a good deed to the Church." The woman, who comes from a poor family, said the Church had supported her university studies and helped with her medical needs.

Acknowledging that men have traditionally filled leadership roles in Cambodia, she said it is up to women to see themselves as valuable -- able to manage projects and to be a moral force in society. "Women are not weak, as the men say," Ponhacka remarked.

Jesuit Father John Evens Ashley, director of the Catholic Church Students Center (CCSC) in Phnom Penh, agrees that women can run things as well as men. And he is giving another Cambodian woman, Hun Saren, a chance to prove it.

The priest said he recently chose her as his successor, in line with the Church's objective to have Cambodians head local Church projects.

Saren, 29, will take over the job in September after previously working for a human rights NGO. She said she wants to minister to young people and help them face modern challenges. The center provides material and spiritual support to poor students from the provinces who do university studies in the capital.

Another young woman in a leadership position is Keo Kagnha, deputy director of the Catholic Social Communications (CSC) office in Phnom Penh since last March. The 23-year-old describes being responsible for the CSC's accounts and radio production as "very hard work."

"Sometimes I have to spend more than 10 hours a day and also the weekend (at the office) to finish my work," she said. However, she also said she considers her workplace her "second home" and feels happy to "bring Jesus' message to the people."

Soun Bunnareth, 26, who heads the cultural office of Battambang apostolic prefecture, incorporates artistic creativity in her work, which includes creating liturgical dances for children based on traditional Khmer dance forms.

Sister Ang Sangvat, who runs a girl's hostel in Prey Veng province, sees women today as capable, clever, brave and independent.

"Now there are many young women who have the chance to study and get good jobs," the Lovers of the Holy Cross nun pointed out, saying she supports moves to allow women to head Church projects.


A farmer perpares rats caught in a nearby rice field Saturday for a stir-fried dinner in Takeo province. Many say paddy rats are tasty, as opposed to inedible city rats. For more, go to to see last year's audio slideshow on hunting and grilling rat.

Pictures source:

Rats… To many rats are a disgusting creature that we cannot wait to have killed or removed.

However in Cambodia, no rat is left to waste… especially not when inflation has increased the cost of meat almost double in the last year.

Many Cambodians already believed rat meat to be a great source of protein and a tasty little snack when gathered together drinking, but the popularity of the meat really began to increase when beef hit around $10 a pound.

At around $2.50 a pound, rat meat favorites like the garlic-flavored field rat have quickly replaced the standard beef dishes.

“Not only are our poor eating it, but there is also demand from Vietnamese living on the border with us.” said an agricultural official from Koh Thom.

Not only have the locals saved money by eating more rat meat, they have also been able to earn more money by catching rats and making them table-ready.