Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Hun Sen pessimistic about UN trial's future

Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen has warned foreign judges and prosecutors at the United Nations-backed Khmer Rouge court they will fail in their attempt to prosecute more suspects.

An international prosecutor at the Khmer Rouge tribunal earlier this week formally requested five more suspects from the late 1970s regime be investigated for crimes against humanity, war crimes and other offences.

But Hun Sen says the court will not get more indictments because Cambodian judges outnumber their international colleagues.

He says the three Cambodian judges and two foreign judges at the tribunal's pre-trial chamber will be unable to get the four votes to indict additional suspects and the final results will be zero.

Local woman's Cambodia photos up for grant award

Submitted to Edhat

A local woman’s photo project to highlight the plight of orphaned and disadvantaged children living in Cambodia has been named a finalist for a major grant.

Marisa Kaitlyn Heller’s Cambodian Photography Project is among 10 finalists — selected from nearly 300 entries — vying for a single $10,000 grant offered by Nau, an eco-clothing designer based in Portland, Ore., and owned by Santa Barbara apparel company Horny Toad.

Heller’s project is aimed at helping hundreds of children living at an orphanage in Siem Reap and run by Sunrise Children’s Village, with whom she has partnered.

“The children at Sunrise and I appreciate all the people who went online and voted for this important project,” she said, referring to the eight-week online voting window which closed Aug. 31 that helped determine the finalists. “We’re honored to be in the Top 10 from among all the worthy projects.”

Heller, 24, launched the photography project after having visited the orphanage while traveling in Southeast Asia. While she was at the orphanage, she gave her camera to one of the youngsters, who began taking pictures which she said simply stunned her.

“The images had a unique quality with a viewpoint that could only be captured from a child's perspective,” she said. “There was a beauty to the images that came from the heart of the children.”

Her photo project is designed to foster a sense of self-worth, awareness and creativity among the children, giving them the opportunity to tell their stories to the world through their own digital photography. It is also designed to provide them with valuable skills for the future, she said.

Children make up more than half the population of Cambodia, she noted. One-third of the country’s population lives in extreme poverty, subsisting on less than $1 a day.

When her project is completed, Heller plans an exhibition of the children’s photography. She is also hoping to develop an educational component, allowing the children in Siem Reap to share their images and stories with other youngsters via e-mail or through blogs and Internet postings.

Heller, 24, is a graduate of San Marcos High School and the University of San Francisco. She is currently living and working in New Zealand.

Her project and the other finalists can be viewed on the Nau Web site at The winner is expected to be named before the end of the month.

Cambodian genocide trial clash

By Andrew Buncombe, Asia Correspondent
Wednesday, 9 September 2009

A prosecutor at the genocide tribunal in Cambodia has formally recommended that a further five suspects be investigated for crimes against humanity – setting the UN-backed trial on a collision course with the country's Prime Minister.

The tribunal, held on the outskirts of the capital, Phnom Penh, is trying five members of the Khmer Rouge for their alleged role in the mass murder that led to the deaths of up to 1.7 million people. Among them is Kaing Guek Eav, also known as Duch, the head of a notorious prison where thousands were sent to be tortured before being dispatched for execution at the "killing fields".

A statement issued yesterday by the acting international prosecutor, William Smith, said he had recommended to the trial judges that a further five, so-far unidentified, suspects be investigated. He said the cases involved at least 32 instances of murder, torture, unlawful detention, forced labour and persecution.

The announcement came after Prime Minister Hun Sen said on Monday that such a move would lead to widespread violence. "I would like to tell you that if you prosecute [more leaders] without thinking beforehand about national reconciliation and peace, and if war breaks out again and kills 20,000 or 30,000 people, who will be responsible?" he said.

The UN, which is overseeing the prosecutions, reiterated that the tribunal is independent of the government. The tribunal has both an international and a Cambodian prosecutor and the two have always disagreed on whether more suspects should be tried. Hun Sen, himself a former Khmer Rouge officer, has been accused of interfering with the trial and trying to protect many former rebels, some of whom are now members of his government.

OM sends out 250 full-time missionaries

Some of the new OM missionaries at the gathering in De Kroeze in the Netherlands from 20th to 31st August 2009.(OM)

Operation Mobilisation has dispatched some 250 Christians to be full-time missionaries around the world.

by Anne Thomas
Posted: Wednesday, September 9, 2009

They include 35 Christians from the UK and one lady from Trinidad who even sold her own business so that she could work alongside OM in Cambodia.

"Each had heard and answered God’s call to join the Great Commission," said a spokesman for OM.

At the end of August, the missionaries came together in De Kroeze in the Netherlands to learn about cross-cultural communication and God's heart for mission.

They also prepared themselves for some of the challenges they would face while proclaiming Christ overseas by taking part in daily Bible studies, discussion seminars and setting an entire day aside for prayer.

Destinations include France and countries in East Europe, Central Asia and the Near East. Several of the new missionaries from the UK were inspired to join OM after the ministry's new ship Logos Hope stopped at UK ports earlier in the year. They flew out after the conference to join the ship in the Caribbean.

One Christian joining the OM team in the UK said of her visit to Logos Hope: "It was amazing to be with the people of God from so many nations! I loved the focus on knowing God and loving people."

There are presently 5,400 Christians serving with OM in 110 countries and onboard two ministry ships.

Cambodia has room to improve business climate: WB

PHNOM PENH, Sep. 9, 2009 (Xinhua News Agency) -- Cambodia's ranking has remained low on the global ease of doing business in 2008/2009 while most economies in East Asia and the Pacific strengthened business regulations to help increase opportunities for local firms, the press release from the World Bank (WB) office here said on Wednesday.

"Cambodia was ranked No. 145 out of 183 countries on the ease of doing business as the global economic crisis prompted many countries to accelerate reforms, improving their ranking relative to Cambodia," the World Bank said.

"The World Bank and IFC, the member of the World Bank Group focused on private sector development, are working with the government on improving the business climate."

Between June 2008 and May 2009 a record 131 of 183 economies around the globe reformed business regulations, according to Doing Business 2010: Reforming through Difficult Times, the seventh in a series of annual reports published by IFC and the World Bank.

"The second Investment Climate Assessment, published in 2009 by the World Bank and IFC, identifies priorities to significantly improve the business environment by helping retain existing investors and attracting new ones," said Qimiao Fan, Country Manager for the World Bank in Cambodia.

"This would position Cambodia well to benefit from a recovery in the global economy, and also help its small firms to develop and create jobs."

IFC's Resident Representative in Cambodia, Julia Brickell, noted that Cambodia is making efforts to improve some aspects of the business environment."

According to Julia Brickell, IFC, with support from the European Commission and other donors, is assisting the government to improve commercial dispute resolution mechanisms through the establishment of the National Arbitration Center, which will be a quicker and cheaper alternative to the courts.

"Effective commercial arbitration is crucial in helping businesses enforce contracts in ways that are less costly and time consuming than is currently the case," Brickell said.

(Source: iStockAnalyst )

Cambodian Literacy Project calls on international tourism industry for support

Vicky Karantzavelou - Wednesday, September 09, 2009

The newly established Cambodian Literacy Project has chosen World Literacy Day to call on the international travel industry to get behind its efforts to help eradicate illiteracy in Cambodia.

Announcing the commencement of an initial Cambodian Literacy Project program involving up to 250 grade one children in three remote primary schools in rural Cambodia, principal Brett Morgan said the ultimate aim of the organisation was to expand this opportunity to over 100,000 children in multiple grades in schools across Cambodia by 2015.

Tourism industry backing to date includes Korean Airlines, Ho Chi Minh City-based Trails of Indochina and Heritage Lines (MV Jayavarman) and Brisbane-based The Adventure Traveller, all of which Mr Morgan said had pledged assistance with fund raising for the project.

“Two thirds of the world’s 1.6 billion illiterate population resides in the Asia-Pacific and Cambodia is one of the worst in the region for literacy standards,” Mr Morgan said. “More than eight per cent of all rural and remote teachers have had no formal schooling, 75 per cent of all teachers have gone without teaching handbooks for four years and it’s frightening to think that only 47 per cent of all Cambodian children actually complete primary school.

“While there have been great efforts by many organisations to build schools and encourage participation rates, up until now little has been done to fix the literacy situation in Cambodian schools. HIV/AIDS, Malaria and Dengue fever kill thousands of Cambodians every year and it is acknowledged that the best prevention for these and the eradication of many other health problems is via implementing education and literacy programs at grassroots level. Cambodian tourism has long been a huge money spinner for the international travel industry and its time to give something back. And giving something back is easy, anyone can help and it’s as simple going online at and buying a sheet of coloured cardboard for $0.50 cents or a pair of schoolchild’s shoes for $4.00. We are more than happy to hear from anyone wishing to get involved with this program.”

Mr Morgan said the CLE (Concentrated Language Encounter) system has been developed in Australia at Queensland University in Brisbane and is currently taught in over 10 countries.

These include Thailand where the education department, having trialed the system on a pilot basis with marked success, has now adopted the system for all grade 1-6 students on a national basis.

CU student hopes to bring a teacher to Cambodia

BOULDER - A freshman from the University of Colorado at Boulder is making a difference in some young people's lives that are half a world away.

Heather Starbuck says her life changed a year and a half ago, when she visited the Cambodian town of Pailin.

"I want to go back someday," Starbuck said.

The tiny community is situated along the country's Western border, near Thailand; almost everyone who lives there is poor.

"It just makes me think, 'Wow, we have it really well here in the United States,'" Starbuck said.

The town's needy reputation is what sparked Heather's interest in the first place.

"One of [its] main problems is education, without education you can't have substantial income coming in," Starbuck said.

She figured, if she could inspire kids to learn more, then they could get better jobs and ultimately help boost their community's economy.

"They really understand how important education is," she said.

Heather started a campaign called "Operation Lyhou." It's named after a boy she met in Pailin.

"It's taking off a lot faster than I thought it would," Starbuck added.

She's hoping to raise $13,000 by selling T-shirts she designed. So far, Heather has collected more than $750 in three weeks.

"It's a big task, but I'm willing to take it on," Starbuck said.

The money will help create a building, some solar panels, wire the rooms with Internet access and provide the students with an English teacher.

"Anything you give these kids, they'll take full advantage of," she said.

To learn more about Heather's effort, visit her Web site at

Sedona man charged in Cambodia sex tourism

By Jon Hutchinson, Staff Reporter

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

SAN FRANCISCO -- A Sedona man described as a sex-tourist was to appear in U.S. District Court with two other men deported from Cambodia last week for having sex with children in that country.

The 75-year old Sedona man, a man from Connecticut and one from California could be sentenced to prison for 30 years each for their flights to Cambodia to have child sex.

Jack Louis Sporich of Sedona is reported by the Cambodia Daily to have driven a motorbike through the streets of Siem Riep, dropping Cambodian currency to attract children.

Formerly of Santa Monica, Sporich spent nine years in prison after his conviction in Ventura County on seven counts of lewd acts upon children under 14. Then he was committed to Atascadero State Hospital as a "sexually violent predator" deemed too dangerous to be released upon completion of his sentence. He was released in May 2004, according to the Sacramento Bee.

Ronald Gerard Boyajian, 49, of Menlo Park, Calif., who was arrested by the Cambodian National Police in February. He allegedly engaged in sexual activity with a 10-year-old Vietnamese girl in an area outside Phnom Penh frequented by child sex tourists.

Erik Leonardus Peeters, 41, of Norwalk, Calif., was taken into custody by the CNP in late February accused of engaging in sexual activity with at least three Cambodian boys. Peeters, who arrived in Cambodia in May 2008, paid the minors $5 to $10 for sex according to the affidavit.

The three previously convicted sex offenders were the first to be charged under "Operation Twisted Traveler" program. ICE has stationed an agent in Cambodia full-time to focus in large part on such cases.

All three men were charged under the Protect Act, which became law six years ago to make it easier for U.S. authorities to prosecute people for overseas sex crimes.

According to the criminal complaint, Sporich formerly abused at least one underage Cambodian boy after he arrived there in November 2008. But he is reported to have been building a Cambodian home with a swimming pool, outfitted with a water slide and containing video games, toys and clothing. Several boys are said to have stayed there as well.

Boyajian, Peeters and Sporich each are charged with international travel and engaging in illicit sexual conduct with minors, a charge that carries a statutory maximum penalty of 30 years in federal prison in the United States. They would have faced misdemeanor sentences in Cambodia.

The Twisted Traveler cases are the result of information provided to ICE by investigators for Action Pour Les Enfants (APLE), a non-governmental organization (NGO) to combat child sexual exploitation, and International Justice Mission (IJM), a human rights agency that secures justice for victims of slavery, sexual exploitation and other forms of violent oppression.

The child sex tourism cases are the direct result of the unprecedented cooperation among the FBI and Department of State, the Cambodian government and NGOs to target Americans traveling to Cambodia to sexually exploit minors.

A ticket to somewhere

Deborah Groves with local Cambodian villagers, outside the temple district of Angkor Wat where Ms Groves has established an aid organisation. Picture supplied.

September 9, 2009

Four years ago, Australian photographer Deborah Groves walked into a small village in the Cambodian countryside and met a man who would change her life.

Just 25 minutes away was the town of Siem Reap, the stopping-off point to the world famous Angkor Wat temple, a formerly modest town now flourishing with Western-style pubs, designer shops and luxury hotels driven by the influx of tourist money.

But lying in a primitive hut in the outlying village was 52-year-old man Mr Som - skeleton-thin, his ribcage clearly visible and emaciated legs resembling long strands of licorice.

Despite being gravely ill with tuberculosis for more than 18 months, he had not received any medical care mainly due to his family’s poverty Ms Groves was horrified.

"Morally I thought, ‘I have an obligation, this man is going to die, I need to stand up and offer some help’," she said.

Enlisting the help of family and friends, Ms Groves raised the money needed for Mr Som to be carried out on a stretcher to medical care.

But it was too late; Mr Som died 10 days later.

For Ms Groves, a wedding photographer from Queensland, Mr Som’s death was an enormous “wake-up call” that not everything could be fixed easily.

Shaken by the village’s desperate poverty, she vowed to stay on and help.

The result has been Helping Hands Cambodia, an aid organisation formed by Ms Groves to support Mr Som’s village and three others near Angkor Wat.

The idea behind Helping Hands is to give the local villagers a 'hand up,' rather than straight charity. For instance, recently when it gave away 1000 bicycles, each recipient agreed to work at least three days to fix local roads.

The organisation, which now has 10 Cambodian staff and up to two volunteers at a time, has also helped build bridges, a school, provided agricultural training and hundreds of free breakfasts.

The latest project will see drop toilets installed in the four villages. Fifty neighbours a day queued up to use the first one when it was installed in March, and another 15 have since been built.

To help fund Helping Hands, Groves sells photographs, magnets and bookmarks at hotels, airports and the night market in Siem Reap.

It is a long way from snapping excited brides on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast.

In 2004 Ms Groves fell love with the country following an Intrepid Travel tour, and feeling unfulfilled and burnt out, decided to quit her business and move to Cambodia.

But making the leap to live in one of the world’s least developed countries wasn’t easy, with many friends advising caution about leaving her business and safe life behind. "(But) I thought ‘surely I’m more than just a business’," Ms Groves said.

In the ensuing years, Ms Groves says she has developed a thick skin after four years of dealing with sometimes terrible situations.

One of her worst experiences was a man who received terrible eye injuries after a landmine exploded in his face near the Thai border.

"He was sent back to the village he was originally from without seeing a single eye doctor... I thought it was so unfair that no one cares," she said.

Helping Hands paid for his treatment, although the man’s eyes couldn’t be saved. They were later removed to stop his pain. To Western ears this may sound horrific, but Ms Groves said the man was "unbelievably grateful".

As well as the lows, there have also been incredible highs, such as a man in his 60s, blind since he was 15, regaining his sight in one eye following surgery sponsored by Ms Groves' organisation.

Another woman with cataracts regained her vision after 20 years. Ms Groves says the woman told her the thing she was most excited about was now being able to find the best food at communal dinners.

"I get a big kick out of stories like that, when you’ve had a radical impact," Ms Groves said.

However, the economic crisis has made life harder for everyone this year. Figures from Cambodia’s Ministry of Tourism show although Vietnamese tourists increased by 40 per cent in the six months to June because of new visa exemptions, Australian, Japanese, Chinese, Thai and South Korean visitors fell sharply.

Cambodia’s two main industries, garment manufacturing and construction, have been crippled as US clothes orders fell and tourists stayed at home.

According to the United Nations Development Program, the garment sector lost 60,000 jobs by April and the construction sector 25,000.

UN resident co-ordinator Douglas Broderick warned: "it’s not just people’s livelihoods at risk – it’s people’s lives".

The effect on Ms Groves’ photography business has also been dramatic.

"Last year was a boom year, then the Australian dollar crashed. It made a big impact because a lot of our customers are Australian,” she said.

In June this year, her photo sales had fallen 50 per cent from the same period in 2008.

Donations to Helping Hands have also dropped, although fundraising efforts such as a US$23,000 (about $27,500) donation raised by a young Irishwoman who rowed 250 kilometres down the Shannon River- Ireland's longest river - have helped.

Ms Groves radical life-change has meant many personal sacrifices, including sleepless nights, long work hours, lack of a social life and being unable to regularly see her family and friends.

She is working towards spending more time in Australia, but continues to manage Helping Hands and run her photo business full-time from wherever she is at any given moment.

Back home, Ms Groves says her standards of living will probably be different to last time she lived there. She believes that might be a good thing.

“Most of my staff have never had a hot shower, most of the people in the village don’t even have a shower, they use a bucket. Hot water now I consider a luxury,” she says.

“Even the poorest in Australia are still better off than the people here.”

To help, go to


Boo! Hiss! He's a bum!

Photo by: Tracey Shelton

The Phnom Penh Post
Wednesday, 09 September 2009 15:02 Tracey Shelton

Two teukai geckos hiss in the grass in Takeo province on Saturday. According to Khmer belief, these geckos will jump on anyone who touches them, attaching themselves around the neck, and can only be removed by seven virgins. The tone and number of bizarre cries they make in the night are also believed to hold the power to predict exam results and quality of a future marriage partner.

Killer weather still threatens

Photo by: Photo Supplied
Hun Sen meets with families affected by floods in Kampot province Tuesday, offering gifts to grieving families after three people drowned this weekend.

The Phnom Penh Post
Wednesday, 09 September 2009 15:03 Tep Nimol and Thet Sambath

THE bodies of three people who drowned in separate incidents this weekend were recovered Tuesday as rough weather continued to pummel the country.

Even as Prime Minister Hun Sen offered gifts to grieving relatives, meteorologists predicted that the storms, which have caused heavy rainfall and flooding in some areas, would persist.

Officials found the body of Phan Roy, 17, Tuesday morning floating roughly 4 kilometres from the Preah Sihanouk province beach where he and four others were swept into the sea on Sunday. One person was rescued while the bodies of two others were found later in the day.

"We found the body of a boy floating in the sea," Yin Bunnath, Preah Sihanouk province's deputy police chief, told the Post Tuesday.

A 14-year-old girl, Doeurk Srey Touch, was still missing Tuesday. "We believe she is dead, and we are looking for a body floating in the sea," Yin Bunnath said.

The storms that have lashed the country continued to hamper search efforts Tuesday.

"The coast guard ... is looking for her, but now it is heavily raining," said Sam Sam Ath, chief of cabinet for the province.

The relatives of the two people found dead Sunday were grieving for their loved ones on Wednesday. Kong Huon said he blamed himself for the death of his daughter, Kon Khann, 17. "I am so regretful for my daughter's death," he said. "It is my mistake because I allowed her to have a walk with other friends at the sea."

Ngeth Sina, 15, drowned in the same accident. "I am very sorry for my sister," said her brother, Ngeth Chhoun. "She never visited the sea, and it was her first time to the sea."

Photo by: Tracey Shelton
A storm cloud creeps over Phnom Penh last week before letting out a downpour that left many streets flooded in the capital.

Meanwhile Tuesday, officials in neighbouring Kampot province found the bodies of two drowned men. Keat Yat, 41, and Soy Leap, 52, both from Prey Kom village, Teuk Chhou district, in Kampot province, drowned after they slipped into fast-flowing water while crossing a flooded road, the province's deputy governor, So Chea, said Tuesday.

The regular monsoon season is combining with a low-pressure system to spark the recent storms, according to the Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology.

Winds with gusts of up to 30 km/h, as well as heavy rain and storms, have lashed much of the country.

Coastal regions like Preah Sihanouk, Kampot, Koh Kong and Kep have been particularly hard-hit. Ministry officials are expecting more rough weather today and tomorrow, with heavy rain and storms in Banteay Meanchey, Pailin, Battambang, Siem Reap, Pursat, Kampong Chhnang and Kampong Thom provinces.

Kampot's deputy governor, So Chea, said his province was prepared to evacuate people by boat if the rain and flooding continue. Further flooding is expected in provinces along the Mekong, such as Kratie, Kampong Cham and Stung Treng, but some officials downplayed its severity. "I think the floods will not be serious because it is at the end of the rainy season," said Ly Thuch, deputy president of the National Committee for Disaster Management.

He said the government would not be looking to the international community for help. "We do not yet look for assistance from overseas to assist the flooded people because it is now in the hands of the provincial authority to solve," Ly Thuch said.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Hun Sen offered food to villagers besieged by floods during a visit Tuesday. He urged people to watch their children and to ensure that conditions remain sanitary to prevent disease, according to Ros Se, director of Kampot province's information department.

Families of the two Kampot drowning victims will be offered 5 million riels (US$1,203) by the government, and 500,000 riels by the provincial authority, said Deputy Governor So Chea.

KRT filings seek more suspects

The Phnom Penh Post
Wednesday, 09 September 2009 15:03 Robbie Corey-Boulet and Cheang Sokha

THE acting international co-prosecutor at the Khmer Rouge tribunal on Monday requested the investigation of five more suspects in two separate filings, one of which covered crimes he said constituted genocide.

The filings from William Smith were submitted on the same day Prime Minister Hun Sen warned that the pursuit of additional prosecutions risked sparking civil unrest that could claim up to 300,000 lives.

They were the second and third introductory submissions from prosecutors. The first, submitted in July 2007, led to the indictments of the five Khmer Rouge leaders currently in custody.

In a statement Tuesday, Smith said the submissions covered 40 "distinct factual situations" of murder, torture, unlawful detention, forced labour and persecution.

The allegations described in both submissions would amount to crimes against humanity and violations of Cambodian law, whereas those in the third - which covers 32 of the 40 factual situations - would also amount to genocide, he said.

The co-prosecutors also argued in July 2007 that crimes detailed in the first submission constituted genocide, though none of the five regime leaders mentioned were ultimately charged with it after investigations concluded.

The tribunal opened the door to new investigations last week by announcing that the five-person Pre-Trial Chamber had failed to resolve a nine-month disagreement between the international co-prosecutor, who pushed for the investigations, and the national co-prosecutor, who argued against them, citing concerns about national stability. The chamber voted three-to-two against them. The tribunal's internal rules held that the proposed investigations would go forward in the absence of a supermajority, or four-to-one vote.

Smith told the Post Tuesday that the Pre-Trial Chamber decision "obligated me to immediately forward the two submissions to the co-investigating judges". National co-prosecutor Chea Leang said Tuesday that Smith "had every right" to go forward with the submissions and declined to comment further. Smith said in the statement that he had "no plans to conduct any further preliminary investigations into additional suspects" at the tribunal.

The submissions - and consequently the names of the five suspects - are confidential.

One former cadre who has been repeatedly mentioned as a likely suspect said he agreed with Hun Sen's repeated claims that more prosecutions could spark unrest.

Meas Muth, former secretary of Central Committee Division 164, which included the Khmer Rouge navy, said by phone from Samlaut that "further prosecutions would lead to conflict".

The former military commander is one of two men included in the 2001 report on prosecution candidates - written by Stephen Heder and Brian D Tittemore - who is still alive and has not been indicted.

Sou Met, former secretary of Central Committee Division 502, which included the air force, is the other.

No Thai territory lost to Cambodia: FM

The Phnom Penh Post
Wednesday, 09 September 2009 15:03 Cheang Sokha

MINISTER of Foreign Affairs Hor Namhong said Tuesday that Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva was right to say that Thailand has not lost any territory to Cambodia during border talks between the two countries.

"It is true that in the border negotiations Thailand did not lose land to Cambodia," Hor Namhong told reporters at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. "I think this is a positive point for Thai people because in the past, Thai opposition members have claimed that [as a result of] the negotiations, Thailand has lost land to Cambodia."

On Monday, Abhisit was quoted by Thai media as saying that Thailand has not lost any territory to date around the disputed Thai-Cambodian border area near Preah Vihear temple.

Abhisit also ordered his foreign minister, Kasit Piromya, to speak Monday night on national television to explain the details of border negotiations that were approved by the Thai parliament last week.

Hor Namhong also addressed the construction of a road to Ta Moan temple in Oddar Meanchey province by soldiers of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces, an issue that was cause for concern for some Thai politicians during parliamentary discussions.

"The construction Cambodia is doing is completely on Cambodian soil," he said, adding that Cambodia will continue work on the road regardless of these objections.

Chhum Socheat, spokesman for the Ministry of Defence, said Tuesday that Minister of Defense Tea Banh will meet with his Thai counterpart in late September or early October in the Thai resort town of Pattaya to continue border talks under the auspices of the General Border Commission.

"The General Border Commission meeting will focus on various issues related to the border, including security, terrorism, trafficking and reduction of military forces," Chhum Socheat said.

He added that relations between Thai and Cambodian troops stationed along the border have been friendly since Cambodia withdrew 50 percent of its forces there last month.

Cambodia and Thailand have never fully demarcated their 805-kilometre shared border. Since July 2008, skirmishes between soldiers from the two countries stationed at the border have killed at least seven soldiers.

Dams threaten Sesan

Photo by: Tracey Shelton
Children play in a stream on the road to Ratanakkiri. Water from the Sesan River dam in Vietnam has reportedly polluted water downstream throughout the Ratanakkiri river system.

The Phnom Penh Post
Wednesday, 09 September 2009 15:03 May Titthara and Robbie Corey-Boulet

Report links high levels of algae, toxins to Vietnamese dams.

STAGNANT reservoirs formed by hydropower dams on the Sesan River have led to high levels of toxic algae and bacteria that could poison tens of thousands of people living downstream in Ratanakkiri province, according to a new report distributed Tuesday by the 3S Rivers Protection Network.

Research conducted by Anna Madeleine Tiodolf from the Norwegian University of Life Sciences confirmed the presence of cyanobacteria, or blue-green algae, and cyanotoxins in the Sesan. According to a press release distributed with a technical brief on Tiodolf's fndings, cyanotoxins "are cancerous to the liver after longer periods of exposure".

The release also cited other reported health problems that could be explained by the findings, including gastric disorders and skin problems.

Cyanobacteria was not detected in three Sesan tributaries, indicating that it was caused by large reservoirs of stagnant water created by dams upstream in Vietnam, according to the press release.

One of the largest tributaries of the Mekong River, the Sesan has a drainage area of 17,000 square kilometres, 6,000 of which are in Cambodia.

Most of the people living in the river basin are members of ethnic minority groups. The press release cited a 2000 Fisheries Administration estimate that roughly 28,000 people "rely on the Sesan River for their drinking water, fishing, bathing and feeding livestock".

Tiodolf's research was conducted over a two-week period in March 2008. Samples were taken from one site along the river located 30 kilometres from the Vietnamese border and another located 130 kilometres from the Vietnamese border.

Meach Mean, coordinator for the 3S Rivers Protection Network, said Tuesday that villagers were particularly at risk during the dry season.

"People face a lot of problems during the dry season because most of them get their water directly from the river, and there is no rainwater to dilute the river water," he said.

Ka Lanthy, who serves as a representative for villagers who claim to have been affected by dam projects, said villagers were "afraid to cross the river because it gives us skin problems".

He added that officials "should be thinking about this case because a lot of people just can't use the water".

Pich Dun, secretary general of the Cambodian National Mekong Committee, could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

Govt signals it could release Hang Chakra

The Phnom Penh Post
Wednesday, 09 September 2009 15:03 Meas Sokchea

JAILED newspaper publisher Hang Chakra "could be freed" because of his failing health, Information Minister Khieu Kanharith said Tuesday.

In a meeting with Cambodian journalists, the minister acknowledged that reversing the court's decision would not be easy but said his deteriorating health could prove enough to secure his release. "No one can make any promises," he said, but he noted that if Hang Chakra were granted amnesty - which can only be done by the King - the government would release him.

Last month, Hang Chakra's lawyer, Choung Chou Ngy, expressed concern over his client's "faltering health", saying he had lost weight since being incarcerated at Prey Sar. The minister's comments were welcomed by Touch Nora, president of the Cambodia Watch of Journalists Association, who described it as a glimmer of hope. "This compromise is hopeful," he said.

Hang Chakra was convicted in June of defamation and publishing false information in a series of articles accusing officials working for Deputy Prime Minister Sok An of corruption. He was sentenced to one year in prison and fined 9 million riels (US$2,187). The Court of Appeal rejected his case on August 11.

Reporter called to court

The Phnom Penh Post
Wednesday, 09 September 2009 15:03 Chrann Chamroeun

RADIO Free Asia reporter Ratha Visal has been summoned to Ratanakkiri provincial court relating to a 2007 land dispute in which Pen Bonnar, the former Ratanakkiri provincial coordinator for the rights group Adhoc, has also been summoned.

Pen Bonnar, who was removed to Phnom Penh by Adhoc after initially facing the threat of incitement charges last month, was summonsed for a second time.

Pen Bonnar said that he had yet to see the summons himself, but that his lawyer had informed him that he was to appear in Ratanakkiri provincial court on September 15.

Ratha Visal also confirmed on Tuesday that he was to appear for an investigation of charges of "accomplice of incitement".

Clinics lack maternal HIV services

Photo by: Sovan Philong
Pregnant women attend a conference on HIV transfer between mother and child at Tonle Bassac restaurant on Tuesday.

US donates millions for health services

The US signed an agreement on Tuesday worth US$34.8 million to help Cambodia improve its health and educational services - including HIV/AIDS prevention. During the signing ceremony, Foreign Affairs Minister Hor Namhong stated that US$31.6 million has been allocated for improving Cambodia's health services and combating the spread of infectious diseases. The remaining US$3.2 million will be spent on increasing quality and access in education, he said.

The Phnom Penh Post
Wednesday, 09 September 2009 15:02 Mom Kunthear and Chhay Channyda

Fewer than two in 10 public health centres in Cambodia are equipped to help prevent the transmission of HIV/AIDS from mothers to babies, according to a new study.

Only 154 of 957 public health centres in the country - 16 percent - provide Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission of HIV (PMTCT) services, according to a report published by the Treatment Monitoring and Advocacy Project of the International Treatment Preparedness Coalition.

The report was part of a global study that examined PMTCT preparedness in six countries, including Cambodia.

Dr Kem Ley, a consultant with the Monitoring and Evaluation Association who conducted research on the Cambodian section of the report, said the lack of PMTCT services contributes to the majority of pregnant women - 70 percent - not using public health centres.

"They don't learn how to prevent HIV transmission from mother to child," he said.

Many women in rural locations also have to travel long distances to reach health centres, Kem Ley said, adding that others who make the lengthy trip find it difficult to meet with health officers because the medical professionals often work few hours because of low pay.

Local nongovernmental organisations specialising in health and HIV/AIDS prevention hope to use the evidence to lobby the Ministry of Health to promote better PMTCT practices.

Kem Ley is urging the Ministry of Health to list PMTCT services with private clinics because, he said, more pregnant Cambodian women use private clinics than public health centres.

Officials have urged the government to intervene. "The maternal mortality rate is still high in the region, with 472 per 100,000 live births," said Tia Phalla, deputy director of the National AIDS Authority. "So the government must strengthen health centres and human resources."

Health officials have encountered problems reaching HIV-positive pregnant women because many prefer to give birth at home or use untrained, traditional village midwives, Tia Phalla said. It has also proved difficult to reach women in rural areas. "If we find a pregnant woman is HIV positive, we have to give medicine to prevent her foetus from contracting the virus," Tia Phalla said. "She must be monitored every time, which makes it hard for her to come to the health centre because [it costs her] time and money."

The government is trying to encourage trained midwives by paying them 60,000 riels per birth, and the NAA is looking for US$10 million in funds to reduce maternal mortality and increase staff.

Ethnic minorities urge redistribution of land

The Phnom Penh Post
Wednesday, 09 September 2009 15:02 Sam Rith

ETHNIC minority groups said Tuesday that unused economic concessions in Cambodia's northeast should be the first to be broken up under a plan approved last week by the government to provide fallow land to retired soldiers.

"We only see the companies logging and clearing the forest, but did not see them plant anything," said Ros Han, director of Indigenous Rights Active Members, a national indigenous peoples network.

Ros Han estimated that as much as 70 percent of the 4 million hectares of economic concessions located on land inhabited by ethnic minorities was in Ratanakkiri, Mondulkiri, Stung Treng and Kratie provinces.

"On most of that land so far we have not seen any development," Ros Han said.

Group 78's problems continue

The Phnom Penh Post
Wednesday, 09 September 2009 15:02 May Titthara

Residents say homes in Dangkor district still lack water and electricty.

FAMILIES who were evicted from the Group 78 riverside area in July may have found new homes, but many are still lacking basic clean water systems and electricity, former residents said Monday.

Lim Sambo said that after agreeing to US$8,000 compensation from City Hall following their eviction, many families accepted plots in Trapaing Anchanh, Dangkor district, the government's proposed relocation site more than 20 kilometres from their old homes in Tonle Bassac commune, Chamkarmon district. Others bought land in Kork Roka commune, closer to the city centre, but are now experiencing problems.

"We constructed a small shelter, but our problem is that we have no water system or electrical supply," he said. "We use water from a pond."

Sim Nhim, another former Group 78 resident, told the Post Monday that she moved to Kork Roka expecting clean water and electricity, only to find her new home lacking both.

"We have written a letter to ask for help from [Phnom Penh Deputy Governor] Mann Chhoeun, but we have not received an answer yet," she said.

Mann Chhoeun could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

Govt sets up task force to solve telecoms feud

Photo by: Sovan Philong
Vendors advertise the mobile industry's increasingly competitive tariffs Monday on a street in Phnom Penh.

The Phnom Penh Post
Wednesday, 09 September 2009 15:01 Ith Sothoeuth and Steve Finch

MPTC says new initiative will immediately address dispute between Mobitel and Beeline as well as plug legal loopholes

OFFICIALS at the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications (MPTC) told the Post Tuesday that they have created a temporary task force to address the ongoing dispute between mobile operators Mobitel and Beeline over alleged price-dumping and blocking of competing networks.

Minister So Khun instructed the head of the new body, Sarak Khan, secretary of state at MPTC, about the initiative Tuesday morning, the Post was told, after a meeting on August 14 between the two operators, the government, Telecom Cambodia and the rest of the sector failed to resolve the feud.

In last month's meeting, Beeline agreed to raise its cross-network tariffs from US$0.05 per minute to $0.06 by September 1, according to an MPTC letter sent to all operators. In return, Mobitel had been asked to cease blocking calls from Beeline's network.

However, Mobitel - as well as Hello and Smart Mobile - have said this week that in keeping pricing at $0.05 per minute for existing customers on the controversial "Boom" tariff "forever", Beeline had effectively failed to abide by its agreement. The Moscow-based operator stopped taking new customers on the tariff as of the September 1 deadline.

"We have created a task force to deal overall with pricing," So Khun said. "The task force will begin operations as of now."

Details on the proposed plans of the ministry remained unclear Tuesday, but task force head Sarak Khan said his team would draft a code of conduct that would likely be made into a sub-decree or prakas (edict).

The process would be separate from the ongoing drafting of the Telecommunications Law, he added, and had become necessary to plug a gap in current regulations as a result of the dispute. It would continue to contribute to regulation of the sector once the law is passed, he said.

"We will draft a standard for them [mobile operators]," Sarak Khan said. "After we have agreed ... we will meet with mobile operators."

Beeline and Mobitel would be given a further opportunity to make their case, he said, which also includes allegations against Beeline that it used Mobitel's prefixes "illegally".

"We will allow Beeline to defend itself as to why it set this type of [pricing] policy," Sarak Khan said. "We are the authority.... We can't tell them to set certain prices, but we can help prevent the breaking of other companies to gain market share."

Beeline General Director Gael Campan said Tuesday afternoon he remained unaware of the new task force.

Mark Hanna, chief financial officer of Royal Group, which has agreed to complete the full acquisition of Mobitel from Millicom International for $346 million, did not say whether he had been made aware of the initiatve Tuesday, but noted that there would be further action from the market leader.

"We have not officially complained to the regulator.... [We] will be coordinating our response with other operators," he said by email.

Smart Mobile CEO Thomas Hundt said that the issue of Beeline's cross-network pricing had concerned most of the sector - as had blocked interconnectivity - but that it was still unclear what legal redress could be used in Cambodia's increasingly competitive and complex mobile sector.

"It is not clear to us, and I think to everyone in the market, under which legal basis those aspects [pricing and interconnectivity] can be regulated," he said. "This is also causing a little bit of a [legal] vacuum in this discussion."

Angkor Wat revenues drop 20pc

The Phnom Penh Post
Wednesday, 09 September 2009 15:01 May Kunmakara

REVENUES from ticket sales to Cambodia's main attraction Angkor Wat fell almost 20 percent in the first half compared to last year, the Apsara Authority, one of the main bodies responsible for income from the temples, said Tuesday.

Bun Narith, director general of Apsara Authority, blamed the global economic crisis, political unrest in neighbouring Thailand and bad weather for the drop.

"Almost all countries have been affected by the global economic crisis, which has fully impacted our tourism sector.... [Foreigners] have cut down on travelling," he said.

The first-half decline reported by Apsara represents the latest fall in visitor revenues from Angkor Wat - in 2008, revenues declined to US$30 million from $32 million the previous year.

However, as in the past, Apsara declined to supply a detailed breakdown of ticket sales or revenues. Svay Ritthy, a representative of Sokha Hotels, declined to comment Tuesday and referred questions back to Apsara.

The government awarded Sokimex, the holding group that owns Sokha Hotels, a 10-year concession on revenues from Angkor Wat in April 1999 as part of an agreement that included Apsara.

Bun Narith said efforts had been made to improve the situation facing tourism since the downturn - namely price reductions and promotions, the launch of new national carrier Cambodia Angkor Air in July and new border crossings.

"We are seeing the number of Vietnamese tourists to Angkor Wat rise every day," he said.

In the first six months, Vietnamese arrivals rose 40 percent year-on-year to 147,721 while Thai visitors fell sharply by 25 percent - from 67,502 to 50,886 over the same period.

Company eyes $20m oil factory

The Phnom Penh Post
Wednesday, 09 September 2009 15:01 Chun Sophal

CAMBODIAN conglomerate Mong Reththy Group plans to invest US$20 million to build a factory in Preah Sihanouk province to produce cooking oil from the group's palm plantations, President Mong Reththy said Tuesday.

Construction is due to begin next year, although the location has not yet been decided, he said, adding that the plant will have capacity to produce 100 tonnes of cooking oil per day. "We hope that the plant will help meet demand for cooking oil in both local and international markets," Mong Reththy said.

The group will target China as its first export market, he said.

A staff member at Chip Mong Export and Import, which imports cooking oil from Thailand and Vietnam, said there is strong domestic demand; however, the firm "must ensure their product is of a good quality and reasonable price to compete with [imported] products in the markets," said the staff member, asking not to be named.

The Mong Reththy Group has around 800 hectares planted in palm in Preah Sihanouk province producing 70 tonnes of half-completed oil per day. Mong Reththy said this would expand to 30,000 hectares.

CEDAC welcomes rate cuts by MFIs

The Phnom Penh Post
Wednesday, 09 September 2009 15:01 Nguon Sovan

CAMBODIA'S largest farming NGO Tuesday welcomed the recent decision by microfinance institutions (MFIs) to reduce interest rates by up to 0.5 percent per month.

"The cut will help farmers earn profits from the money they borrow from MFIs that is used to invest in farming," Yang Saing Koma, president of the Cambodian Centre for Study and Development in Agriculture, said in a press statement.

The previous monthly rate of between about 2.3 percent and 2.85 percent had proved a major challenge to agricultural profitability while limiting farmers' investment, he said, and hurting competitiveness with neighbouring countries.

Yang Saing Koma added that interest rates should by lowered further - only at below 1 percent per month would farmers be able to sustain profitability, he said.

Uon Sophal, president of another agricultural NGO, Farmer and Nature Net, said farmers had struggled to repay loans at rates above 3 percent per month. "They were forced to sell property to repay debts," he said.

Bagging new markets key for factory

Modern Dress Sewing Factory Marketing Manager Pel Sreyneth adds her own touches to bags to make unique styles.

At the moment, the biggest challenge for the company is finding new markets.

The Phnom Penh Post
Wednesday, 09 September 2009 15:01 Tum Makara and Nathan Green

A bag-making enterprise run by HIV-positive women looks to stand on its own

After a little more than two-and-a-half years in operation, a couple of new markets are the only hurdles left for a Phnom Penh bag-manufacturing enterprise struggling to stand on its own two feet.

The Modern Dress Sewing Factory, which despite its name designs, markets and sells bags, was started in 2007 to provide livelihoods to women living with HIV, and to prove that people living with the virus could be productive members of the community.

The factory was initially a business unit of the Cambodian People Living with HIV/AIDS Network (CPN+), said business manager Panh Srim. "The majority of women living with HIV in Cambodia are jobless," she said. "That's why we came together to set up this factory and make an income to support our families."

Moving beyond aid
The company was launched with technical expertise and startup funds from the UN Development Programme and the Population and Community Development Association (PDA), a Thai-based NGO, and still relies on them for loans for unforeseen expenses. But the objective has always been to develop into a self-sustaining business, she said.

The factory produces about 300 bags a month, usually finding buyers for nearly 80 percent of output.

In Phnom Penh, its bags are sold in Colours of Cambodia, Friends International and White Lotus, but Marketing Manager Pel Sreyneth said the international market is very important, as are bulk orders for conference bags.

The majority of the factory's sales and revenues are from bulk orders, she said, such as the recent order from Asia Pacific Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS, or APN+, for 600 bags to supply a conference in Bangkok.

Internationally, the company's bags are sold in PDA's store in the Thai capital, and it is negotiating to sell bags through a store in the UN compound in Bangkok. It also retails through Tragooon, a Japanese retail outlet selling ethical clothing and accessories.

The group was looking to grow organically by developing new markets in and outside Cambodia, but Pel Sreyneth said the handicrafts sector remains tough, with many organisations producing similar products, many of which are also marketed with a charity angle.

"At the moment, the biggest challenge for the company is finding new markets," she said.

Though the marketing approach is based on the fact that the women are HIV positive, Pel Sreyneth said the success of the venture depends on making products people want to buy.

Innovate to survive
The key is to produce new and more attractive styles to stay ahead of the competition. To achieve this, the group has received help from Bidi Russell, a Bangladesh model turned fashion designer who founded the Fashion for Development label and works to help weavers worldwide.
She has visited twice, each time helping the women with technical skills and bringing fresh designs. Some of the company's bags carry "designed by Bibi Russell" tags, and she also helps promote the brand through her networks.

But Pel Sreyneth said the factory needs to stand on its own with respect to product development as well as financing. She looks to differentiate the factory's products from the competition by drawing inspiration from what she sees in the market and in catalogues, then adds new touches to make them unique to the factory.

"If I do that, it becomes a new style," she said.

De Castle Diamond bucks talk of property sector slump

Photo by: Jet ODRERIR
A model shows the De Castle Diamond condominium project being built in Phnom Penh’s Toul Kork district.

The Phnom Penh Post
Wednesday, 09 September 2009 15:00 Jet Odrerir

South Korean developer plans to open Phnom Penh's largest condominium development around the New Year, targeting Khmers and Korean expats

Despite talk of some projects being put on hold, Tuol Kork district is still seeing brisk development.

When the 18-storey De Castle Diamond is finished, expected around the end of this year or beginning of next, it will be the largest condominium complex in the capital, with 178 units set on 2,500 square metres of land.

Located on the west side of Tuol Kork, on Street 315 just north of Russian Boulevard, the complex is situated within easy access of the new Rattanak Hospital as well as several new schools and is only 15 minutes from the airport.

Growing stable
This is the third De Castle project by Technology Innovation Construction Co Ltd (TIC) of South Korea, which is partnering with two of its own subsidiaries on the development: project-management firm Hi Sun Group and main contractor CNKC.

The people running TIC are not new to big investment projects in Phnom Penh. Its chairman, Kim Byung Hak, was the first chairman of the Camko City satellite city developed by fellow South Korean firm World City, and he also oversaw the building of De Castle's first two projects. He said he expects the third and largest to be finished on schedule. TIC is also building the De Castle Royal apartment building in Boeung Keng Kang I.

Begun in 2007, the condominium complex is marketed primarily to the Cambodian middle class and South Korean expats.

The building offers four layouts: The basic one-bedroom, one-bathroom model covers 109 square metres and is going for between US$87,000 and $89,000; three-bedroom, three-bathroom units go for $170,000 for the 212-square-metre option and $200,000 for the 243-square-metre option; and the 270 square-metre four-bedroom, four-bathroom units cost around $220,000. There are still 25 units available, TIC said.

Added value
Every condo will come with cable TV and Internet access, and will be furnished with whiteware.

"Most of the materials we use here are imported from Germany and South Korea, like the dishwashers and stoves," said Chuck Villar, the sales and marketing director of the De Castle Diamond project. Also imported are the double-pane, sound-proof windows that help to cut down on outside noise.

The designer's plan was to have amenities right inside the building to provide added value for residents. The third floor houses a swimming pool, indoor driving range, spa, fitness centre, business centre and children's play area. On the rooftop is a garden area for relaxing or entertaining.

There are also quarters for 36 staff members on the mezzanine between the second and third floors for the residents' maids, cooks and drivers. The 6-square-metre rooms have shared bathroom facilities.

Four storeys of parking spaces reach from the basement up to the second floor, each housing unit having its own parking space. As the city fills up, secure reserved parking is becoming a welcome luxury.

Villar said TIC would retain ownership of the land and manage the property. "We're looking at having a 24-hour maintenance staff of cleaners, engineers, electricians and plumbers on call. This would be included in the package."

The staff on hand will fix any problem a resident might run into, whether it's an electrical or plumbing issue, or simply that they have run out of gas and need a new tank. Management fees will be charged by the size of each unit, but it is expected they will run between $0.40 and $0.90 per square metre per month.

There has also been a focus on security. Along with the 24-hour security guards, there is a closed-circuit television system throughout, and each unit has a security camera watching the front door.

"Once you have the reputation, people are more interested in working with you, and De Castle 1 is already a landmark," Villar said, referring to the company's first completed project, also on Street 315.

Vanished producers hope to spur a resurgence in local filmmaking

Pov Pisan, who plays the cynical detective, Heng, with Savay Sakana, who plays Maly, during a scene from the movie Vanished. PHOTO SUPPLIED

I wanted to make a modern film about cambodians and wrap it up in a thriller.

The Phnom Penh Post
Wednesday, 09 September 2009 15:00 Dianne Janes

The craze for a recently released Khmer thriller playing to sold-out screens in Phnom Penh suggests there just might be a market, and a profitable one, for quality Cambodian cinema

The teenagers packed into the cinema at Sorya on a weekday afternoon are so loud and excitable I think maybe they've had too much Coca-Cola.

As the tension rises just a few minutes into the film and the first shocking moment is revealed, audience members jump out of their seats and scream their collective heads off.

The film that has everybody queuing up to be frightened is Vanished, a modern-day thriller set in Phnom Penh.

British producer Matthew Robinson and his team at Khmer Mekong Films (KMF) have raised the bar for local film productions with this new effort, producing a stylish, contemporary film that keeps the audience guessing right to the end.

Not for KMF the familiar regional style of filmmaking, with its over-the-top use of video effects and hard-to-follow supernatural storylines; Robinson's aim in creating Vanished was to "present Cambodia in a modern light; to make a contemporary film about Cambodians and wrap it up in a thriller".

Licence to thrill: the movie’s promotional poster. PHOTO SUPPLIED

KMF has been building a solid team of local talent for the past six years since Robinson relocated to Phnom Penh to work on the BBC series Taste of Life.

Teaming experienced UK cinematographer Bill Broomfield with local director Tom Som on Vanished helped to blend local knowledge with international expertise.

The film is based on three young Cambodian women working at a hip radio station, Heart FM.
When two of the women mysteriously disappear, radio presenter Maly realises her life is in danger.

She joins forces with her co-workers and the local police detective to find out what happened to them, all the while being hunted by the mystery abductor.

Actress Savay Sakana plays the sweet, fragile lead character Maly with charm and grace.

Other standout performances include Nop Sophorn as her sassy best friend Chantha, and Cambodian TV star Pov Kisan as world-weary Detective Heng.

Vanished uses classic, Hitchcock-inspired thriller twists and turns to keep viewers on the edges of their seats.

Watching the film with a Cambodian audience is an entertaining delight, as they don't hold back with their reactions.

"It's been thrilling," agrees Robinson. "They're jumping at all the right moments."

Writer Matt Baylis has come up with a well-crafted story - with input from KMF's Cambodian writers - that is both universal and uniquely Cambodian.

The film touches on themes of independence, as the girls are trying to live independent lives and make their own way in the world.

It shows them challenging social hierarchies at work, standing up to their boss and to society's narrow vision of how young women should behave.

Vanished also focuses on a central theme of who can be trusted - weaving a pervasive culture of suspicion.

"It's old versus new, traditional versus modern thinking", says Robinson.

"We're trying to give a platform for young Cambodians to see that they can have an independent life."

KMF has high hopes for the film, which cost "more than double" the typical US$20,000 budget for locally produced features.

If audiences keep coming back for more after producing high, first-week attendance figures, KMF looks set to recover much of that investment - so long as the pirates can be kept at bay.

If a DVD copy of the film hits the streets, the filmmakers know it's all over.

"Once it's out, it's out," says Robinson.

"If someone goes and pinches the DVD, then it's got no value. It is literally theft."

To prevent this sad, seemingly inevitable turn of events, a KMF staff member has to carry the screening copy by hand into the cinema each day - as well as supervise the projection to ensure that it is kept away from rapacious pirates.

The filmmakers hope to screen the film at international festivals and use its momentum to propel KMF into bigger and better projects.

The film screens with well-authored English subtitles and isn't just aimed at locals - it also serves as a fantastic introduction to local culture for foreigners keen to sample Cambodian cinema. More, please!

Vanished is currently screening at the cinema on the fifth floor of Sorya mall in Phnom Penh.
It opens at the Baray Ondet Cinema in Siem Reap this Friday.

Braves respond to JICA with three in a row

Royal's hurler Moun Chantorn (right) throws a pitch to a Braves batter during Cambodian National League Game 16 Friday at Baribo ballpark. JICA

The Phnom Penh Post
Wednesday, 09 September 2009 15:00 DAN RILEY

AFTER a miserable week that saw them trailing their opponents by six games in the Cambodian National Baseball Teams series, the Braves finally found their feet last Thursday and began to stage a comeback. Game 15 saw the Braves seize the initiative after some impressive play from both sides, to run out 8-5 winners and make it 10-5 in the series.

With the teams dressed in their SEA Games uniforms (the Braves in home-colour white, the Royals in away grey), Friday's Game 16 was opened by a ceremonial first pitch from Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) volunteer official Mada Hideki. JICA has shown keen interest in helping develop the sport in the Kingdom and has sent a request to its headquarters in Tokyo to send a Japanese volunteer coach in the future.

In the game, the Braves took to the field first. Braves pitcher Chea Thera gave up a run to the Royals in the first innings, but his team answered back in the bottom of the first to tie the game. The Braves then edged ahead with a run in the bottom of the third, and both teams displayed good defensive work through the next few innings.

In the sixth, the Royals blasted off two runs to reclaim the lead, but once again the Braves leveled with a run in the bottom of the inning.

Both Braves' Chea Theara and Royals' Moun Chanthorn threw solidly to prevent runs in the next three innings, to set up an exciting bottom of the ninth. With one out, Braves Eng Rith stepped up to bat, and hit a left-field fly ball that was mishandled at second base to allow him to reach third.

Choiy Sovann stepped to the plate for the Braves and hit a hard ball at the Royals' shortstop. The throw to first-baseman Sokoeurn was off-target, and the tag was missed, allowing Choiy Sovann to make base and Eng Rith to score the winning run. Final score, Royals 3 Braves 4.

Saturday's Game 17 welcomed another JICA representative, Toshinori Hamaguchi, who witnessed a quick two-and-a-half hour match that the Braves won 5-1.

The Royals still commanded the series 10-7, but the Braves had improved dramatically since a woeful previous week.

Sunday's Game 18 was hampered by rain, with CBAF President Joe Cook remarking that "this time of year, we need a dome to play". By 2pm, the rain had slowed enough to begin action, and the Braves took a two run lead into the fourth. The Royals snapped back with a few doubles, and scored four runs in a flash. With Royals hurler Teng Sakan closing out the game, the Braves went down 4-2 to push the Royals advantage in the series back to four games. "Whenever JICA is not there, the Royals win," commented Cook.

The teams took a practice day Monday, with the Federation hoping to hold a further 12 or 13 games before their September 23 deadline to attend the South & West Asia Baseball Cup in Dubai. However, Cook has revealed that the regional tournament is still up in arms, with original hosts Pakistan hoping to push back the dates to October 26-31 and move the event back to Lahore. With security concerns, the CBAF President has yet to decide on participation, and awaits confirmation from the Pakistan Federation of safety arrangements for his team.

Cook is hoping that the competition goes ahead at the earlier date, to save on running costs of the national team. "Food and accommodation are what cost me so much," he said by email. "I also have to pay salary to players as well. Without that, how can [the players] support their family while they serve their country? We're ranking 51th in the world, and 12th in Asia. This is serving their country."

Police Blotter: 9 Sep 2009

The Phnom Penh Post
Wednesday, 09 September 2009 15:02 Vong Sokheng

Two men received prison sentences from Kandal provincial court on Tuesday in connection with a robbery that took place in Kandal's Kean Svay district. Twenty-four-year-old Sambath Piseth received a 5-year jail sentence, and 16-year-old Kep Chantha received a two-year sentence after the court found them guilty of stealing a chicken during a drunken escapade in October 2008.

A woman from Phnom Penh's Psar Dom Kov commune, Chamkarmon district, was arrested on Monday for running a massage parlour where the employees sold sex to clients. Thol Vanna was charged with exploitation and detained pending an investigation. Her five children, aged 3 to 14, were left parentless following the widow's arrest.

Five motorbike taxi drivers were arrested on Sunday in Phnom Penh's Prampi Makara district for allegedly robbing a Korean man. The suspects, who are accused of driving the victim down a narrow alleyway that evening in order to steal his property, confessed to police that they had frequently robbed other foreigners in the same way. The identities of the perpetrators have not yet been revealed because police are still searching for other suspects.

A 63-year-old man was arrested on Friday in Takeo province for allegedly raping an 8-year-old girl. Tith Sun is accused of luring the child into his house as she was walking through the rain to buy cake. He is being detained in prison as he awaits charges.

A Kampong Speu man was arrested Saturday in the province's Oral district for severely injuring his neighbour by beating him with a stick. The attack occurred after suspect Soy Sath became angry because his neighbour's dog would not stop barking at him.

Crown deal final blow for woeful Navy team

Photo by: Nick Sells (
Phnom Penh Crown’s Keo Sokngorn (left) takes on two Phouchung Neak players during the final CPL game of the season Tuesday.

The Phnom Penh Post
Wednesday, 09 September 2009 15:00 Ken Gadaffi

A last gasp equaliser from Phnom Penh Crown’s Keo Sokgnorn Tuesday completed Phouchung Neak’s winless season

PHOUCHUNG Neak's miserable Cambodian Premier League season was confirmed, as Phnom Penh Crown grabbed a stoppage time equaliser through U19 national star Keo Sokngorn, to deny the Navy side their only win of the campaign with a 3-3 draw Tuesday.

The match kicked off before a paltry crowd, and Phounchung got off the blocks fast with Wilson Mene's shot well saved by the outstretched leg of Sos Brothim inside 40 seconds.

It was not until the tenth minute before Crown's second eleven churned out their first attempt at goal, albeit against the run of play, when Hong Rathana saw his weak shot picked up easily by Thai Sineth in goal for the Navy.

The game dragged its feet in the first 15. Crown's Srey Veasna knocked in a looping cross that eluded everyone including the goalkeeper, only for Chan Chhaya to fail to get the vital touch. Navy struck back immediately, with a shot from Mene which Sos Brothim held onto firmly.

Moments later, Srey Veasna was brought down 20 yards out, and Chea Virath picked his spot superbly from the resultant free kick to curl over the wall and clip the post on the way in to put Crown in the driving seat.

Phouchung were not deterred and fought back hard to equalise with 12 minutes left in the half. Tuy Som raced down the left wing and hit a cross-come-shot than stunned Sos Brothim, sailing into the top corner at the near side.

Six minutes later, the Navy missed a glorious chance to go ahead when Sos Brothim fumbled a cross, only for Tith Dyna to shoot wide with the goal at his mercy, leaving both sides to go into the break all square.

Phouching Neak's Joesph Olatubosn (right) celebrates his goal against Phnom Penh Crown with teammates Tuesday. AFP

The second half was much lively, as Crown came on heavy. However, the league leaders were surprised again by the relegated club. Mene was brought down on one of his darting runs, and Kao Niso's free kick cannoned off the cross bar to fall invitingly for Joseph Olatubosn, who wasted no time in tapping it in.

Chea Virat then proved his first wasn't a fluke, as he once again bent it like Beckham into the top corner to draw Crown level.

The Navy side pushed forward, and got their just rewards as Kao Niso, in one of his numerous overlapping runs, got past two Crown defenders to knock a through ball Mene, who blasted home.

Crown boss Makara Be responded by bringing on two of his big guns, Chan Rithy and Tunji Ayoyinka. Their introduction altered the shape of the game, but with ten minutes remaining, Ayoyinka was stretchered off after a head collision with Kao Niso that required six stitches to force Crown to play out the game a man short.

Phouchung wasted a golden chances to put the game beyond Crown, when Heng Sokly's looping shot to hit the post in stoppage time. However, from the resultant counter attack, Keo Sokgnorn was left in a world of space to sprint down the left before unleashing an unstoppable shot to end the game with the points shared.

Phouchung were left cursing themselves, forfeiting their last chance to record a win in the CPL before prepare for life in the Division 1A.

"This is really unfortunate," said Navy coach Solomon Demagudu after the game Tuesday. "We came all out to win this match, but just like it has been all season, we are going back empty-handed."

Cambodia Can Look After Its Temples: Experts

Written by DAP NEWS -- Wednesday, 09 September 2009

Cambodian experts expressed dismay over Thai claims that Cambo- dian officials appointed to look after Khmer temples lack skills.

Thai Arts General Department Director Kreang Krai told the Thai media that there had been some difficulties of his group in looking after Cambodia’s Preah Vihear temple for more than a year as two both sides have dug in soldiers at the border.

“Looking after is not as easy as the previous time so that we have to reach looking after nearby temples such as Stock Kok temple, Tamoan Thom Temple, and Tamon Toch temple,” said the official, referring to the ancient Cambodian temples of Ta Moan Thom and Ta Moan Toch.

The official went on to claim that the Preah Vihear temple has suffered in the absence of attention. One member of his group blamed all mistakes on ex-Thai Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej, who he said abused of Article 190 by supporting Cambodia’s effort to inscribe Preah Vihear as a Cambodian World Heritage Site was not passed by the Thai National Assembly.

In response, Hang Sot, Cambodian Preah Vihear general-director, told DAP News Cambodia on Tuesday that “this is the raising of Thailand to claim that Cambodia does not have the ability to look after all Cambodian temples by itself.”

He called the claims “completely groundless,” as “We can look after our selves effectively.”

The Thais, historically a relative newcomer to the Southeast Asia region after being displaced from Southern China, “do not have any ancestral any living temples to their children,” Hang Sot claimed.

Preah Vihear temple has indeed suffered damage recently—from Thai bullets and shrapnel fired during two skirmishes with Cambodia that resulting in several deaths and many injuries. The previous Thai Govern-ment supported Cambodia’s effort to inscribe Preah Vihear temple as a World Heritage Site, in addition to the wealth of internationally recognized documents and maps that clearly show that the land belongs to Cambodia.

Ros Chandarabot, a Cambodian historical official, told DAP News Cambodia that “the temple is in Cambodia so that Cambodia realizes how to look after by our self”.

“Thailand not only wants Cambo- dian temples, but also value culture of Cambodia, They claimed to rule,” he added. However, he requested all Thai public and leaders to be aware of France-Siem treaty between 1904 and 1907.

Hor Namhong to Leave for US on September 22

Written by DAP NEWS -- Wednesday, 09 September 2009

Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister Hor Namhong on Tuesday said that he will leave for the US on September 22 to attend an annual summit of the UN Security Council in New York. He will have a special talk with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to strengthen bilateral cooperation.

“I will leave for the US on September 22, but the date for talks with Hillary Clinton is undecided as the two parties are considering to select a suitable time for the meeting,” Hor Namhong told reporters following an aid signing ceremony at the Foreign Ministry.

“The bilateral talks are mainly to promote and push for more cooperation between the two parties,” he confirmed. Hor Namhong told US Ambassador to Cambodia Carol A. Rodley that Cambodia and US cooperation is developing. “Especially, the US Government decided to withdraw Cambodia out of its trade black list in June,” he said.

The lifting of the trade black allows US investors in Cambodia to borrow money from US banks,.
“The news funding brings to over US$250 million that the US has provided in support of health and education in Cambodia since 1999,” Hor Namhong claimed. But Cambodia owes the US Government more than US$300 million dating from the 1970s Lon Nol regime. The Cambodian PM on Monday this week asked the US Ambassador to Cambodia for the US Government to eliminate the debt.

“We expect that all doubt being eliminated in the upcoming time and we hope that this agreement will benefits to Cambodian making effort,” John Johnson of the US Embassy told DAP News Cambodia on Monday.

The amendment to the first agree- ment signed on Tuesday consists of US$31.6 million in grant funds to achieve health objectives. Funds will be used to promote a variety of activities to reduce the transmission and impact of HIV/AIDS’ ongoing education program, which is improving the quality and relevance of basis education and increasing access to schooling for all children, including minorities, people with disabilitie, and the very poor. Activities will also focus on reducing school dropout and repetition rates through improvements in teaching quality, school-management training, and measuring student academic achievement, according to a US Embassy press release on September 4.

The US has taken over the rotating presidency of the 15-member UN Security Council for the month of September. US President Barack Obama and other top US political figures will be at the world body this month to highlight issues of importance to the US, according to US news wires.
The new session of the UN Security Council “will focus on nuclear non-proliferation and nuclear disarmament broadly and not on any particular counties. Key areas to be highlighted will include arms control and nuclear disarmament, and strengthening the NPT [Nuclear Non-Prolif-eration Treaty] regime, and denying and disrupting trafficking in and the securing of nuclear materials,” US Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice told reporters.

Six People Killed in Flood

Written by DAP NEWS -- Wednesday, 09 September 2009 04:54

At least six Cambodian people were reportedly killed in the recently at two different provices of Kampot and Preah Sihanouk and other 10,000 hectars of farm lands were also flooded.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen on Tuesday made a special visit to Kampot province to help the victims of recent flooding which has resulted in two deaths. The premier donated several thousand dollars to families of those who have suffered in the floods. “The flooding is a natural disaster but the level of flooding this year is bigger and more serious than the 2006 flooding, so all citizens must be careful, especially with electricity systems,” the premier told a large crowd.

PM Hun Sen expressed his deep and wholehearted regret for the victims who have suffered the effects of the flooding, donating CR10 million. The premier called for all locals to disconnect their electricity to avoid incidents.

The premier also asked all affiliated officials and agencies to take immediate measures to solve these problems and focus on infrastructure. The PM told the Kampot provincial governor to take immediate measures to help stricken locals.

“All officials are be ready to help the citizens … [with] boats and small ships so they can flee to safe places,” Khouhn Khun Hour, Kampot Province governor, told DAP News Cambodia. “However, we all regret that two people died in the flooding.”

Besides the premier’s personal aid, the provincial authority donated CR500,000 to each victim, as well as including 50 kg of rice and other items.

Micro-finance Interest Rate Cut

Written by DAP NEWS -- Wednesday, 09 September 2009

Private Micro-Finance Institutions (MFIs) in Cambodia on Tuesday agreed to lower their rate to 0.2 and 0.75 percent per month. The Cambo- dian Network of Farmers (CNF) welcomed the news, saying it gives a chance to small scale business and the agricultural sector.

CNF Chief of Network Resource Ourn Sophal said that “This is good news; all Cambodian farmers can borrow money from the private sector to develop their rice fields or do small scale businesses very easily because the private micro-sector rate is now cheaper than before.”

“Moreover, all farmers can take money to extend their production, [with additions like] like animal husbandry and growing multiple vegetables,” Sophal added. Director of Cambodian Association Micro-Finance Hourt Eng Tong announced on Tuesday that “All private Micro-Finance in Cambodia agreed to discount the charged rate a month only 0.2 to 0.75 percent.”

Micro-Finance is trying to help all Cambodians start businesses or boost farming .

The Cambodia Center for Study and Development in Agriculture (CEDAC) also welcomed the lower rate.

Yang Saing Komar, CEDAC director, called it a “first stage.”

“All Cambodians will benefit from this program. In the past, all MFIs charged more than now.”
The CEDAC director asked all Cambodians, especially those in rural communities, to save money. He said building savings was better than borrowing.

In the past, MFIs charged as much as 3 percent a month. Houses, land and assets have been confiscated because of unpaid loans, Ourn Sophal said.

Some farmers have borrowed without investing in a business or expanded agriculture, Ourn Sophal added.