Monday, 14 September 2009

Vietnam Montagnards jailed up to 10 years: media

A Vietnamese Montagnard woman in Cambodia

HANOI — Vietnam has jailed three ethnic minority Montagnards for up to 10 years after finding them guilty of "undermining national solidarity", state media said on Monday.

A court in the Central Highlands province of Gia Lai gave Nhi a sentence of 10 years' imprisonment while Amlinh and Yuh each received eight years, said the Quan Doi Nhan Dan or People's Army newspaper.

The paper did not provide either the full names of the accused or an exact date for the trial.

Court officials refused to provide any details when contacted by AFP.

Members of the Montagnards backed US forces during the Vietnam War, which ended in 1975.

According to an indictment cited by the newspaper, the three had secretly planned to develop village-level Fulro organisations in March last year.

Fulro is the French acronym for the United Front for the Liberation of Oppressed Races, which Vietnam has accused of fomenting trouble in the Central Highlands.

"They had instigated ethnic minorities there to join Fulro and prepared for a demonstration planned for August. However, their move was discovered by people and local authorities," the paper said.

In April three other Montagnards were jailed for up to 12 years on the same charge of undermining national solidarity, state media said at the time.

More than 1,000 members of the largely Christian Montagnards community fled to Cambodia after security forces put down demonstrations in the Central Highlands in 2001 against land confiscation and religious persecution.

Communist Vietnam has strongly denied a 2006 accusation by the New York-based Human Rights Watch that it had detained and tortured Montagnards who returned home under a tripartite agreement after fleeing to Cambodia.

Cow God Comes to Cambodia for Three Days


In Pursat, Cambodia, a calf with snakelike skin was born on the same day that the drought-hit village received heavy rains. The villagers believed that because of this, the calf had mystical powers and was a god.

Hundreds of villagers came to the remote location to light incense and pray to the calf. They collected its saliva because it was believed to have magical healing powers. The large number of visitors is said to have panicked the calf's mother.

The panicked mother could no longer produce milk, and the calf died three days after birth. Upon the death of the calf, hundreds of impoverished Cambodians held a three-day memorial ceremony where they prayed for the rebirth of the cow.


Can Cambodia play e-government leapfrog?

By Robin Hicks 14 September 2009

The government of Cambodia’s long awaited e-government guidelines have provided agencies with a roadmap for how to take their services online as the Kingdom looks to get up to speed with the global ICT sector. There is an opportunity for Cambodia to “leapfrog” other developing countries and avoid past mistakes, Madhav Ragam, Director, Government & Education, Healthcare & Life Sciences at IBM’s Growth Markets Unit told FutureGov.

Cambodia’s National Information Communications Technology Development Agency (NIDA) has stated that the project would build ICT capacity in government and help track progress of government projects. There would also be a focus on information security to ensure that sensitive information was protected from intruders.

“This is a master map for us to walk together in the right direction for all [government and private] institutions to get up to speed with the global ICT sector,” NIDA’s Secretary General Phu Leewood was quoted as saying.

The guidelines were based on a needs analysis conducted by all the key ministries in 2007, with technical assistance from the Japan International Cooperation Agency. They identify areas in which e-government can be used to build the public service competency of government institutions, provide guidelines for collecting data and help establish a blueprint for expanding government services.

Ragam at IBM notes there are three key areas Cambodia needs to focus on as it starts out on its e-government journey: “First, Cambodia needs to improve network connectivity, both in terms of bandwidth and access points,” he said.

“Second, key internal government systems need to be established, including tax collection, integrated financial management across all agencies, licensing applications, and so on. The final stage is to establish a presence for government online.”

Leapfrogging other developing could be possible if good use is made of public-private partnerships, Ragam added, while e-government rankings that take into account use of online services as well as the number of services online would be the best way to chart its success.

Cambodia is ranked among the lowest Asian countries for e-government across a number of surveys, with only Laos and East Timor ranked beneath it in the recent United Nations e-government table. The e-government project has a budget of some US$15 million to connect offices within each province to one another, and another US$20 million to connect each province to the government in Phnom Penh. Three data centers - in Phnom Penh, Siem Reap and Sihanoukville - will act as hubs for surrounding provinces.

Cambodia PM lauds China's aid

Mr Hun Sen said Beijing's aid had helped Cambodia become more independent while fostering social and economic development. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

The Straits Times

Sep 14, 2009

PHNOM PENH - CAMBODIA'S premier lauded China on Monday for providing billions of dollars of aid without imposing conditions, a subtle jibe at Western donors who seek curbs on human rights abuses and corruption.

'They are quiet, but at the same time they build bridges and roads, and there are no complicated conditions,' Prime Minister Hun Sen at a ceremony for the construction of a new bridge built with US$128 million (S$182.6 million) of Chinese aid.

Mr Hun Sen recently rejected World Bank aid intended for settling land disputes after the Washington-based institution and rights groups accused Cambodian authorities of forcibly evicting tens of thousands of people from their homes.

Speaking to about 1,000 villagers and China's ambassador in Prek Kdam, about 50 km (30 miles) north of the capital Phnom Phen, Mr Hun Sen said Beijing's aid had helped Cambodia become more independent while fostering social and economic development.

'China respects the political decisions of Cambodia,' he said. 'We have a mutual understanding and respect each other.' Cambodia's government has come under fire recently, accused of corruption and undermining the judiciary, although analysts say the investment environment is stable after decades of poverty, brutalilty and instability.

China is Cambodia's biggest aid donor, providing US$600 million in 2007 and about US$260 million in 2008. It also leads the country's foreign direct investment, with about US$1 billion spent in the war-scarred South-east Asian nation this year.

Mr Hun Sen added he also supported China's multimillion dollar investments in hydroelectric power. Western environmentalists have accused Cambodia of failing to provide adequate environmental safeguards for such projects. -- REUTERS

UN agency names Cambodian genocide museum a key historical archive

Tourists walk past photos of the former Khmer Rouge prisoners displayed at S-21 prison, known as Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. The museum, formerly a prison and torture center operated by the Khmer Rouge in the 1970s, has been declared by the U.N. to be an archive of worldwide significance for its historical documents. (THE ASSOCIATED PRESS/Heng Sinith)

By Sopheng Cheang (CP)

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — Cambodia's Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, formerly a prison and torture centre operated by the Khmer Rouge in the 1970s, has been declared by the U.N. to be an archive of worldwide significance for its historical documents.

The Cambodian government and U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization - UNESCO - opened a meeting Monday to establish a national committee to oversee the museum's operation as a newly designated "Memory of the World" site.

A UNESCO meeting at the end of July in Bridgetown, Barbados, named the museum as one of 35 archives worldwide added to a list of almost 200 that are exceptional historical repositories.

The museum, formerly a high school in Cambodia's capital, Phnom Penh, was turned into S-21 prison after the Khmer Rouge took power in 1975. Of the estimated 16,000 men, women and children who passed through its gates, only a handful survived. An estimated 1.7 million people died as a result of the communist Khmer Rouge's radical policies from 1975 to 1979.

The museum's archive includes 4,186 confessions - often falsely given by prisoners under torture - 6,226 biographies of prisoners, 6,147 photographic prints and negatives of prisoners and other items.

The prison was headed by Kaing Guek Eav, also known as Duch, who is currently being tried by Cambodia's U.N.-assisted genocide tribunal for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

About 30 people attended the workshop, including officials from Tuol Sleng, the National Museum and the Culture Ministry, government advisers and UNESCO officials.

Helen Jarvis, a government adviser, told the workshop that the archive constitutes the most complete extant documentary picture of the Khmer Rouge regime and an essential part of Cambodia's recent history. It is also being used to provide pivotal evidence at the Khmer Rouge tribunal, she said.

Some aspects of the Memory of the World project deal with man's inhumanity to man, and the Tuol Sleng museum has "documentation of one of the most extreme examples of crimes against humanity in the 20th century with a major impact on world history," Jarvis said.

UNESCO established the Memory of the World Program in 1992 to respond to the growing awareness of the problems of preservation of, and access to, documentary heritage in various parts of the world.

Its guidelines state that the world's documentary heritage should be preserved, protected and made permanently accessible to the public.

To be or not to be Khmer: the diaspora’s difficult return to Cambodia (2/2)

By Barbara Delbrouck

What happens to the Khmer who come back to Cambodia after growing up abroad? Do they feel at home in the land of smiles? How are they received by the local population? After meeting with a dozen Khmer from the diaspora who decided to renew with their roots, one thing seems clear: it is not an easy return. Some had never set foot on the land of their ancestors. Others, who spent part of their childhood here, do not recognise anything anymore. Cambodia has changed and so have they. Most of them hit against a reality sometimes hard to accept: they are immediately perceived by the locals as “foreigners.” The situation is experienced in various ways: some find peace by considering themselves as foreigners from the outset; others do everything they can to “become Khmer”; others still seek a balance between their different identities.

Stranger in one’s own country
If there was to be one thing in common to all the Khmer from the diaspora, it would probably be the fact that they were all immediately spotted as “foreigners” by the local Khmer, by the way they stand, walk, speak or look… The situation may be a cause for smiles at first, but for some, it is a source of frustration and questions.

“People do not recognise me as a Khmer because of my style which is not very local, the way I move and walk,” French-Khmer Auray says. “They hesitate. Maybe he is a Khmer from abroad? They do not really know. Usually, people think I’m from the Philippines or Vietnam, but not Cambodia.” Auray left Cambodia when he was two. In France, his father used to speak French to him and his mother Khmer. He therefore understands Khmer but does not speak it. “I used to hear people say: how can he not speak Khmer whereas he was born in Cambodia? Initially, it’s funny, but with time, it becomes tedious and you stop making the effort to explain.”

Identity questions on a daily basis
Putsata, a Khmer-American who also left Cambodia as a child, was faced with this problem when she met her family: “They would laugh at the way I walked, so fast, or the way I spoke Khmer… At the time, I also laughed. But afterwards, you start thinking and wondering: so, am I Khmer or American? How do I see myself?” In Cambodia, any daily act, however small, keeps bringing Putsata back to her identity questions, whether she is taking a tuktuk or going to the market… “I often wonder what people think of me. Do they want to give me a Khmer price because they know I am Khmer or do they want to give me a foreigner price because I come from the States?”

The problem also concerns the Khmer who grew up in Cambodia but had to leave the country to come back only years later. Sokal left when he was 15. He is now 30 and came back to the Kingdom for the first time in 2009. Whilst feeling like he was finally in an environment that did not differentiate him physically from most people, he realised he still did not go unnoticed. In Phnom Penh, people talked to him in Chinese or Japanese. “I still feel a bit like a foreigner in my own country,” he lamented. “People everywhere know I am not from here because of many things.” Sokal tried everything so that Khmer would no longer notice he came from “somewhere else,” but to no avail. “I always try to ask my friends what I need to do to be like the others, because every time, I get remarks from people. It’s annoying. I tried to wear the same kind of clothes, to do things like them, but people still always know you’re not from Cambodia.”

The situation is sometimes doubly difficult to accept for some diaspora Khmer, who, despite their integration in their host country, have always felt they were different or even ostracised due to their origins. Today, they come back to Cambodia in the hope of feeling “home” at last but must face the reality that, here as well, they are considered to be different.

For others, that is not a problem. Like Davy Chou, a young 25-year-old filmmaker born in France who is comfortable with being a foreigner in Cambodia. “You will always remain the foreigner. That’s normal and in any case, that’s true. I am French, not Cambodian,” the young man insists. “I would lie to myself if I said I was a Cambodian. I have lived 25 years in France. My thinking is French and my habits are French.”

Dealing with double culture and finding one’s identity
Being considered as “foreigners” in the land of their ancestors necessarily entails identity questions, but it also helps some to find at last answers to questions that have haunted them for years.

Joty Mousar has long experienced an identity crisis. A Cham Cambodian who grew up in the suburbs in France, he struggled a lot to construct his identity. In France, he did not feel considered as French, and growing up, he realised he was not Cambodian or even Cham either. “The Cham in France integrate in three ways: either they become French, religious [Editor’s note: Muslims] or they become Cambodians,” he explained. “As for me, I have always made myself on anti-models. In the end, I built myself with my three identities and I dealt with it. By being the three and by being completely different from the three.” Joty now lives in Cambodia, where he found a “very Cambodian” Cham family, some kind of social climbing and a balance. “I may seem a little insolent by being too French sometimes. But people understand it because I did not grow up here. In the end, I am accepted because I am not Cambodian and I have the advantages of a Cambodian because I speak the language. This all results in a stability and serenity I did not enjoy in France.”

Bowinneth, a Khmer-Dutch psychologist for children, also found the solution in the middle path. After staying five years in Cambodia, she is now planning to return to the Netherlands with her husband and two children. “I came here to find my roots, but I ended up finding them within myself,” she explained. “I finally accepted there will always be a tension between my two cultures and I am in the process of striking a balance. I feel at peace with my two sides.”

As for him, Hisham Mousar found peace by realising, then accepting, that he was first and foremost French. “I think the majority of French with Cambodian origins are French people,” he says. “They were brought up in France and bathed in French tales, philosophy, literature, language. It is only after that one can wonder whether they are Cambodians or not. It is not something spontaneous. It is rather an individual’s personal decision to go towards their origins.”

A relationship that demands an effort
The first contacts with local Khmer are therefore not always simple, when they are not outright disappointing for those who had high expectations from a fantasised encounter. Yet, in order to evolve, relationships between diaspora Khmer and local Cambodians require time and efforts, especially when the former do not master the Khmer language. On this point as well, reactions differ a lot according to personalities. Some successfully establish very close relationships and genuine friendships, while others abandon that idea and end up simply assuming the fact they feel better with foreigners.

“At the beginning, it was hard because I had a lot of hopes about the relationship with Cambodians,” explained Rapytha, 40-year-old French-Khmer. “But it improved a lot since I stopped having any expectation and I started taking them as they are. I have changed a lot. Before, I used to set a very high standard and I was sad it didn’t go well. Now, I feel completely accepted because I no longer seek to be accepted. My relationship to them is now much more appeased.” Rapytha knows that this relationship still requires time and efforts. But today, she already considers that she is no longer seen as a foreigner. She believes that her fluent Khmer was hugely instrumental in achieving that result.

From the outset, Davy Chou sees himself as a foreigner, eager for discovery. And as a French, he is not disappointed by his encounter with Cambodians, whom he finds especially friendly. “If they perceive you as truly interested, they are very happy to show you their country: the night market, how people have fun in Cambodia… I have a very open mind, so we can get along!” Davy also insists on the necessity to get highly involved, whether one is a diaspora Khmer or not, before being able to establish relationships with Cambodian Khmer. When he arrived, he decided not to mix with foreigners and, at least in a first time, to make friends only with Khmer and learn their language. “I came here with a kind of obsession, almost a ‘non-Cambodian racism.’ And it worked. I have lots of Cambodian friends.” It was only three months after he arrived that he met with other expatriates. “I think that’s the only possible order. The opposite is easier because you share the same language and culture.” In four months, it was mostly with students that Davy managed to make friends: “I am closer to them because they have my age, a similar level of education, and most of all, they speak English, which is essential so we can understand each other and I can keep learning Khmer.”

Even if true friendships can thus be struck with local Cambodians, it must be accepted they will be different from those with other foreigners or diaspora Khmer. Some accept it more easily than others, maybe depending on how much they feel Khmer within.

Bowinneth, who grew up in the Netherlands, also made friends with Cambodians during the five years she spent in the Kingdom. Half of her friends in Phnom Penh are Khmer and most of these friendships started as working relationships. Western friends, Khmer friends… “They are just different relationships,” she explained. “And I feel absolutely fine with it because it responds to my Khmer side. I think they [my Cambodian friends] consider me as Khmer, but they also feel I’m a Khmer from the diaspora.”

For Rapytha, the differences in friendships are also linked to lifestyles. With her Khmer friends, she does not have great discussions, between confidants, but she will talk about the small things in life. “They will not fully reveal themselves,” she acknowledged. “They are very discreet about their feelings. But maybe it is precisely because they feel like I cannot understand and I will not bother them either with my feelings. Because I do not allow myself to have any.”

“I don’t have a lot of Cambodian friends,” Joty acknowledges. “There is a difference in my mind and in the way I live things.” Same for Auray, who feels more at ease with French or foreigners with Cambodian origins.

A more difficult integration for women?
These difficulties are compounded by the weight of traditions, which is heavier to bear for women. Even though customs are evolving, woman’s place in Cambodia is not the same as in Europe, the States or Australia. “It is more difficult for women because when you come from France, it is a total step back,” Joty comments. “They have less rights, those who go out are frowned upon, while other people’s opinion is very important here. You have to keep the girl’s honour.”

Rapytha confirms the difficulty, which is particularly true when it comes to work. “I see it compared to my diaspora Khmer colleagues. Cambodians do not see me the same way as them. They have a very chauvinist idea of women’s place at work. Moreover, if you have any responsibility, as a diaspora woman, I feel like it is harder to find your place.” Yet, Rapytha succeeded in doing so. But she is careful to dress in a way not to shock her colleagues or friends. “I think a Westerner can allow herself outfits I cannot because I have Cambodian roots,” she explained. “I won’t go to a picnic with Cambodian friends wearing a backless top, while it is something I wouldn’t hesitate to do with French friends. So, I adapted but it depends who I am with.”

However, according to Bowinneth, things have evolved since she started living here. “I noticed that things have changed. I have also probably changed, but I think it’s both. In Phnom Penh, people have become more open. About fashion but also about women’s role as they have become more socially active, do studies…”

As for love, while diaspora Khmer men often marry a “local” woman, diaspora Khmer women are often perceived as independent and nothing like the picture of the perfect Cambodian housewife, and there are less of them to find their soul mate in the local population. For instance, Putsata, a 35-year-old independent Khmer-American, journalist who has worked in Afghanistan, is light years away from the icon of the discreet “good Khmer wife.” Tellingly, her parents did not seek to try and impose a husband on her. “Too American” for a Khmer man, her mother herself jokes. But what about her? Would she be ready to say yes to a local Cambodian? “I think it would have to be someone very special to handle that,” Putsata answers. “He could definitely not ask me to iron his shirt. Forget about it!”, she adds in a laugh. But if she had to choose, who would her preference go to? She says she never thought about the question, but the answer quickly appears from her mind: “I think if I had the choice between two men, one Khmer and the other not Khmer, but both equally liberal, I would choose the Khmer one,” she states with assurance. “Because since I’ve been in Cambodia, there has been this incredible thing when I am with my family and Khmer friends: we understand the same culture, we are going to laugh at the same things. And to be able to share a language that is not English, that is our language, that is something truly fascinating.” But that Khmer husband, “he would have to be really very liberal,” she hurriedly specified. A word to the wise…

(translated from French by Ji-Sook Lee)

The first half of this investigation "The Khmer from the diaspora: is a new generation back? (1/2)" was published on Friday September 11th 2009.

What Is Criminal Gambling? – Sunday, 13.9.2009

Posted on 14 September 2009
The Mirror, Vol. 13, No. 629

Is the Mirror a publication on legal affairs? No. But we have been dealing a lot during recent weeks and months with problems related to laws – their existence or non-existence, their different interpretations, and their enforcement of non-enforcement. And we have done so because of the irritation to which this leads – in the country and between representatives of Cambodia and persons and institutions in other countries.

The sentencing of three persons in their twenties, sending them for one year to prison, and – though they obviously lived under tight economic conditions – to pay US$1,700 each, made not only their family members cry, but these sentences led to the expression of strong sympathy and of sadness among their friends, as a newspaper reported, which is not know for frequent criticism of the authorities.

Surely, according to the letter of the law, these three people violated some regulations against gambling by operating some game machines with which children in their neighborhood were playing. They were respected in their area, they were able to support themselves economically by their work. It is not so clear that they really had been aware, before they were convicted as “gambling agents,” that what they did for a long time and in public was against some regulations.

A professor of law explained that their convictions serve to set a warning example to the general public, and especially to young people, not to violate the law.

But will the public understand it like that, when the same article made also reference to another case: that in mid July 2009, 39 people, who had been arrested at a secret, real gambling site, were sentenced to 18 month is prison – but their sentences were suspended for five years – and while the three people who had operated a gaming place for children were convicted to go to prison and pay $1,700, the real gamblers got suspended sentences and have to pay only $1,250.

So what is the lesson the public can learn from this?

It surely leads to caution, not to do things which might lead to trouble – but it is difficult to imagine that such cases lead to a deeper conviction to care for respect for the law, as long as the public cannot see that everybody is under the law. And the people see violations of the equality under the law regularly.

One newspaper reported, what can be observed not only during normal daily traffic, but even during road traffic control campaigns:

“Police Do Not Dare to Go Near High Ranking Officials’ Luxury Cars Violating the Traffic Law”

During the week, there was also a report that in Phnom Penh, 162 among 523 pharmacies are not licensed. To announce such figures indicates that the authorities know these figures. And 162 pharmacies continue to sell medicines, gambling with the health and maybe the life of their customers.

Different gamblings – in one case, three people were sent to prison. In many others, business continues as usual.

Please recommend us also to your colleagues and friends.

Thai soldiers accused of burning alive teenage logger

Mon, 14 Sep 2009
Author : DPA

Phnom Penh - A senior provincial official in Cambodia accused Thai soldiers of shooting a teenager engaged in illegal logging and then burning him, local media reported Monday. The district governor of Samrong district in Oddar Meanchey province in western Cambodia said 16-year-old Yon Rith was arrested by Thai soldiers for illegally felling trees in Thai territory.

Governor Thon Nol said another teenager was also shot and seriously injured by Thai soldiers, but was carried back to Cambodia by villagers and taken to a provincial hospital.

"We are looking for all measures to assist the victims as well as the actions of the Thai authorities," Thon Nol told the Phnom Penh Post newspaper.

He said Yon Rith's family had recovered the teenager's body and taken it back to their village for the funeral.

Another official in the provincial government condemned the killing.

"Why did they burn a person alive?" asked Pich Ratana. "[The armed forces] should have arrested them if they did anything wrong in Thailand."

The newspaper said the Thai embassy in Phnom Penh was not available to comment on the allegation.

There have been other incidents in recent weeks of Cambodians being arrested by the Thai military for logging illegally across the common border. Two Cambodian men were shot dead by Thai soldiers last month in an act the Thai military described as self-defence.

More might confess crimes

Richard Goldstone (left), ex-chief prosecutor at international courts dealing with Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia, was testifying at the trial of Duch. -- PHOTO: AFP

The Straits Times

Sep 14, 2009

PHNOM PENH - A GENUINE confession by the Khmer Rouge regime's former jail chief might bring more ex-cadres to admit crimes, an expert witness told Cambodia's UN-backed war crimes tribunal on Monday.

Richard Goldstone, ex-chief prosecutor at international courts dealing with Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia, was testifying at the trial of Duch, who acknowledges overseeing the killing of some 15,000 people at Tuol Sleng prison.

'If in fact the court finds the confession and remorse genuine... this will be a very important factor that will have positive features,' he told the court via video link from UN headquarters in New York. 'I think it's an important example that will hopefully induce other people to come forward,' he said.

Duch, whose real name is Kaing Guek Eav, is one of the few Cambodians who have accepted responsibility and begged forgiveness for abuses that took place under the 1975-1979 regime's hardline communist rule.

But while the former maths teacher has cooperated with the court, he has not admitted to several allegations that he personally tortured and killed Tuol Sleng inmates and maintains he did not have a leading role in the regime.

Whether or not judges regard Duch's confession as genuine will likely determine the length of his sentence from the court, which does not have the power to impose the death penalty.

Mr Goldstone said that when the judges sentence Duch they ought to weigh the nature of his crimes, the interests of Khmer Rouge victims and the general interests of Cambodian society.

'I think there's almost as many reactions (to international tribunals) as there are victims,' he said.

'While many victims are dissatisfied with the justice they've seen or heard at these tribunals, others have had a more positive reaction and have been able to begin the healing process,' he added. -- AFP

Local goods penetrate Cambodia

Ceramics goods are displayed at the second Viet Nam trade fair held in Phnom Penh on September 2. — VNA/VNS Photo Nguyen Huu Ha.


HA NOI — While Thai products still dominate the Cambodian market, Vietnamese consumer goods have outpaced those from China, according to a recent survey by the Business Study and Assistance Centre and the Research Centre on Business and Consumers of the Sai Gon Tiep Thi newspaper.

Cambodian customers told the survey takers that Vietnamese goods were acceptable in quality and cheap in price, and Vietnamese goods were available in two of Phnom Penh’s biggest markets – Orussay and Phsar Thmay – as well as in most supermarkets throughout Cambodia’s capital city.

Some Vietnamese entrepreneurs had also opened shops in Cambodia to bring their goods directly into the hands of Cambodian buyers, the survey found.

To better penetrate the Cambodian market, a distribution network for Vietnamese goods was needed, as well as stronger trade promotion efforts, including free samples of products, suggested Truong Cung Nghia, director of the Truong Doan Market Research Centre.

The packaging of Vietnamese products could be improved to better appeal to Cambodian consumers, and should be printed in the Khmer, said Nghia, adding that more information about smaller-scale producers and distributors should be made available to Cambodian buyers.

Viet Nam enjoys a trade surplus with its neighbour, exporting such products as instant noodles, plastics, cigarettes, snack, fruit and vegetables and materials and supplies for the textile industry, automotive spare- parts, timber and rubber.

Bilateral trade was expected to climb to US$2 billion next year, from $1.7 billion last year, a year-on-year increase of 40 per cent. — VNS

Thai FM visits area near Preah Vihear temple

PHNOM PENH, Sept. 14 (Xinhua) -- Thailand's Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya Sunday visited the area near Preah Vihear Temple during which he was welcomed by Cambodia's military leaders and both sides agreed to avoid more clashes, an official said on Monday.

Chhum Socheat, spokesman of National Defense, said on Monday that Kasit Piromya was inspecting his Thai military that have been posted at the border front lines before entering into the area near Preah Vihear Temple.

According to Chhum Socheat, Kasit was welcomed by Gen. Chea Dara, deputy commander-in-chief of Cambodia's armed forces, and both held a brief talk on the situation and exchanged pledges from the two countries' leaders of not having more clashes and were committed to solve the border issue by peaceful means.

Socheat said Kasit had requested a prior permission from Cambodia before entering into the area, for a one-hour visit, to learn and understand the situation there.

Kasit's visit to the area was made more than two weeks after Cambodia had withdrawn half of its troops from the disputed area to ease the tension.

Skirmishes between Cambodia and Thai forces occurred four times since the border conflict began in July last year.

The border conflict began after Preah Vihear Temple was listed as the World Heritage Site on 7 July, 2008.

Editor: Xiong Tong

Prawit: Army can protect sovereignty

Published: 14/09/2009

The Thai army is fully capable of protecting the country's sovereignty and territory, and the situation in the disputed border near the ancient Preah Vihear temple is still normal, Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwon said on Monday.

Gen Prawit said the Thai-Cambodian Joint Commission on Demarcation of the Land Boundary (JBC) meeting went smoothly. The commission was working under the agreement between the two countries.

Both sides were trying to find the best solution to the border dispute for the two countries, he said.

Speaking about the planned anti-government rally of the red-shirt United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) on Saturday, Gen Prawit said all sides must follow the law.

"The red-shirt demonstrators must know what they can or cannot do, while officials must act in accordance with the orders issued by the government and the Internal Security Operation Centre," the minister said.

The government would consider if the Internal Security Act should be used during the red-shirt rally this Saturday, he said.

The police would assess the situation and decide if they would obstruct red-shirt supporters from other provinces trying to enter Bangkok. The army was ready to reinforce the police if requested, he said.

Thailand to solve conflict with Cambodia peacefully


Thailand’s Foreign Affairs Minister Kasit Piromya said on September 13, that the border problem between his country and Cambodia must be solved through “peaceful means.”

Reiterating that the Thai government’s stance regarding the ancient temple remains unchanged, Minister Kasit said that the problem must be solved at the negotiating table by strictly following agreements made between the two countries under the United Nations charter, the Thai news agency (TNA) reported.

It is not appropriate to use emotions, feelings or excessive patriotism, he said, adding that the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) plans to gather at the ancient Preah Vihear temple to demand Cambodian civilians and its military to leave the contested area around the temple.

He also said that the group has the right to express its opinion, while the government has a duty to promote positive international relations and underlined that the border issue must be solved by peaceful means. VOVNews/VNA

Bin Laden reportedly calls Obama 'powerless'

Undated photo of Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden warned President Barack Obama that he is "powerless" to halt the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and must rethink his policy on Israel, in his first message for three months.(AFP/File)

By MAAMOUN YOUSSEF, Associated Press Writer

CAIRO – Al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden described President Barack Obama as "powerless" to stop the war in Afghanistan, and Americans' inability to grasp why the Sept. 11 attacks occurred has "cost you a lot without any result whatsoever."

The remarks by the terrorist leader were released two days after the eighth anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks that he ordered. Bin Laden typically addresses the American people in a message timed around the Sept. 11 anniversary.

Bin Laden, who is believed to be hiding in the mountainous region along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, said current White House officials are merely following the strategy of former President George W. Bush and former Vice President Dick Cheney to "promote the previous policies of fear to market the interest of big companies."

"Rather than fighting to liberate Iraq — as Bush claimed — it (the White House) should have been liberated," he said.

When Barack Obama became president and retained many of the Bush administration's military leaders, such as Defense Secretary Robert Gates, "reasonable people knew that Obama is a powerless man who will not be able to end the war as he promised," bin Laden said.

"If you end the war, so to it," bin Laden said. "But if it is otherwise, all we will do is continue the war of attrition against you on all possible axes."

SITE Intelligence Group, a terrorist-monitoring firm, provided a translation of the tape, which was also translated by The Associated Press.

The al-Qaida leader sought to drive home key grievances often voiced in the Arab and Muslim world, where Washington's policies are seen as blatantly favoring Israel at the expense of the rights of Palestinians and other Arabs.

"We have demonstrated and stated many times, for more than two-and-a-half-decades, that the cause of our disagreement with you is your support to your Israeli allies who occupy our land of Palestine," bin Laden said.

"The delay in your knowing those causes has cost you a lot without any result whatsoever," he said in the tape released by al-Qaida's media wing, as-Sahab.

"This position of yours, combined with some other injustices, pushed us to undertake the events of (Sept. 11)," bin Laden said. He said that if Americans realized the extent of the "suffering from the injustice of the Jews will realize that both our nations are victims of the policies of the White House," which he described as "a hostage" to interest groups and companies.

IntelCenter, another company that monitors terrorist propaganda, said the 11-minute video, which shows a still picture of bin Laden while audio of the address plays, is the 49th release as-Sahab, in 2009. As-Sahab is averaging one release every five days so far in 2009, IntelCenter said.

The terror leader, who is believed to be hiding in the remote mountainous region along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, argued against the claims that the wars spearheaded by the U.S. in Iraq and Afghanistan are necessary for U.S. security.

Along with the direct threats, bin Laden also follows an approach he has embraced repeatedly, reaching out to Americans in a gesture of conciliation — or at least readiness to entertain one if the U.S. moves to re-evaluate its support for Israel.

"Ask yourselves to determine your position: is your security, your blood, your children, your money, your jobs, your homes, your economy, and your reputation dearer to you than the security of the Israelis, their children and their economy?" he said.

"If you choose your security and cessation of war, and this is what the polls have shown, this requires you to work to punish those on your side who play with our security. We are ready to respond to this choice on aforementioned sound and just bases."

Thai soldiers accused of burning alive teenage logger

Mon, September 14, 2009

Phnom Penh - A senior provincial official in Cambodia accused Thai soldiers of shooting a teenager engaged in illegal logging and then burning him, local media reported Monday.

The district governor of Samrong district in Oddar Meanchey province in western Cambodia said 16-year-old Yon Rith was arrested by Thai soldiers for illegally felling trees in Thai territory.

Governor Thon Nol said another teenager was also shot and seriously injured by Thai soldiers, but was carried back to Cambodia by villagers and taken to a provincial hospital.

"We are looking for all measures to assist the victims as well as the actions of the Thai authorities," Thon Nol told the Phnom Penh Post newspaper.

He said Yon Rith's family had recovered the teenager's body and taken it back to their village for the funeral.

Another official in the provincial government condemned the killing.

"Why did they burn a person alive?" asked Pich Ratana. "(The armed forces) should have arrested them if they did anything wrong in Thailand."

The newspaper said the Thai embassy in Phnom Penh was not available to comment on the allegation.

There have been other incidents in recent weeks of Cambodians being arrested by the Thai military for logging illegally across the common border. Two Cambodian men were shot dead by Thai soldiers last month in an act the Thai military described as self-defence.

China's growth drives regional development: Cambodian PM

People's Daily Online

September 14, 2009

China has made itself a locomotive for regional growth through its efforts to combat the world economic crisis, said Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen.

"It is obvious that the Chinese leaders are far-sighted in having China integrated into the global economy, which is in fact contributing to regional and world development," he said in a recent written interview with Xinhua.

Hun Sen said he believed China's success has been due to a gradual and consistent reform. "I think China has made a right strategy in participating in the global economy with a continued improvement of its institutions and productivity," he said.

While many countries around the world are having recessions, China's economy remains remarkably stable, Hun Sen said. This showed that the development model and economic policy of China are more effective than some of the developed economies, he added.

"All economic activities worldwide are, in fact, having direct or indirect links with China, and China thus played an important role in ensuring development across the Asian region," he said.

The transparency of the Chinese economic policy is another reason why it has maintained growth and built confidence among investors.

He also extended his congratulations on the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China which falls on Oct 1.

Source:China Daily

Cambodia joins rubber association

Cambodia has joined the Association of Natural Rubber Producing Countries in the hope of further developing the industry

PHNOM PENH — Cambodia has joined the Association of Natural Rubber Producing Countries in the hope of further developing the nation's rubber industry, a government official said Monday.

Ly Phalla, director-general of Cambodia's directorate of rubber, said the ascension to the inter-governmental organisation will bring its burgeoning industry new technology and help with production and marketing.

The Cambodian government had privatised some 41,600 hectares (102,800 acres) of state-owned rubber plantations in recent years, Ly Phalla said.

The country now has some 120,000 hectares of land under rubber cultivation and the government plans to expand this to 150,000 hectares by 2015, he added.

Cambodia is the 10th country to join the rubber association, which includes China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Vietnam.

But while Cambodia hopes to boost its industry, researchers writing in the journal Science in May warned that the expansion of rubber plantations in southeast Asia could have a devastating environmental impact.

The researchers predicted land dedicated to rubber and other farming systems in the region could more than double or triple by 2050, resulting in the drying out of water systems and increased risk of landslides through erosion.

A day to celebrate a culture

Cambodian dancers bow to the audience Sunday after performing at the festival at Millersylvania State Park.

Millersylvania State Park: Event honors Cambodian music, dance, food and fashion

The Olympian

MAYTOWN – When one thinks of Cambodia, one typically thinks of a war-torn country in Southeast Asia, a country that underwent a four-year reign of terror at the hands of the Khmer Rouge and its leader Pol Pot during the late 1970s.

On Sunday, Cambodian nationals who now make their home in Thurston, Pierce and King counties took part in the second Cambodia Cultural Celebration, an annual event created to shed light on a culture largely overshadowed by a 30-year-old war.

For the second consecutive year, the event was staged at Millersylvania State Park near Maytown and organized by Sreytouch Ryser of Tumwater, a woman who left Cambodia in 1981 with her 10 siblings and mother and moved to Lacey after spending about 18 months in Thailand. Her father died in the war, she said. Today, she works as a Washington State Parks and Recreation administrative assistant.

About 300 to 400 people attended the cultural event, which started at 11 a.m. and ended about 4 p.m. Sunday. Booths were set up to showcase Cambodian food, arts and crafts and a stage was erected for traditional Cambodian songs and dances. One of the day’s highlights was a Cambodian fashion show. Musicians also performed on stage, playing Cambodian instruments that one might see at a Cambodian wedding, weddings that can last three days, Ryser said. For some Cambodians in the audience, it was the first time to see some of the traditional instruments played because they came to the United States when they were children, she said.

The event also was sponsored by Wat Prachum Rainsey Buddhist Association in Yelm, which provided volunteers who cooked the food and created some of the cultural displays.

“It means more and more to me,” Ryser said about the festival. “We need people to step up to show who we are.”

Joyce Crawford of Tenino attended Sunday’s event for the first time because she has a co-worker from Cambodia, she said. Little by little she was learning more about that country’s culture and was looking forward to the fashion show, Crawford said. During the show, men and women appeared in outfits that were worn at various times in Cambodia’s history.

Although Ryser said the Cambodian population in Thurston County is small, it numbers in the thousands throughout Pierce and King counties.

Rolf Boone: 360-754-5403

Owners of burned-out Cambodian market get FROED cash infusion

Jack Foley
"I don't know what to do," Soriya Market owner Sokong Poy said on July 31 after damage caused by a fire on an upper floor destroyed her store and much of its inventory. Poy and her partner will reopen the store at a new location, thanks in part to a small-business loan from the Fall River Office of Economic Development.

Jack Foley
Soggy ceiling tiles rest on the food atop the shelves at Soriya Market after a devastating fire July 31. The shop owners will have some help getting back on their feet -- they've been approved for a $25,000 small-business loan from the Fall River Office of Economic Development.

By Michael Holtzman
Herald News Staff Reporter
Sep 14, 2009


FALL RIVER — .Owners of a Flint-area Cambodian market that sustained heavy fire damage in July have received a boost from the Fall River Office of Economic Development.

Sokong Poy and Hoeun Touch, owners the past six years of Soriya Market on Pleasant Street, were approved Thursday for a $25,000 micro loan, said FROED Executive Vice President Kenneth Fiola.

He said the six-year loan at 7.5 percent interest would “give the couple working capital for stock and to help their cash flow.”

He said the market owners were examples of hard-working people who put their life savings into their small business, and were left without resources after an unanticipated disaster.

The July 31 fire, a suspected arson, started in an upstairs apartment of the three-decker at the corner of Rocliffe Street.

The fire displaced eight families. Landlord David Corville of Fall River arranged for those families to relocate and allowed the market owners to move next door to a just-renovated storefront at 1090 Pleasant St.

The Rhode Island couple, who left Cambodia for the United States in the late 1980s, are parents of four children ages 3 to 14. They said they were strapped for cash after the fire and didn't know where to turn for help.

They estimated the loss at about $50,000 from water and smoke damage inside their market, which sells fish and meat, fresh produce and packaged and canned goods.

Touch contacted FROED less than two weeks after the fire, and they were approved for the loan a few weeks later, Fiola said.

He said typically their micro loan program provides funds up to $35,000 at between 5 and 7.5 percent interest. He said, however, that bank loans and other economic development agencies in this state typically charge 10 to 12 percent interest on non-collateralized loans.

“It’s a good rate,” he said.

Fiola said FROED has distributed “close to $1 million” in loans over the past decade from the revolving loan program. “They’ve been for as low as $5,000 and as much as $35,000 and everywhere in between," Fiola said.

He said the private, nonprofit agency, which operates at Government Center as a companion arm of the city, received Small Business Administration approval this month to lend $750,000 for its micro loan program.

He encouraged small businesses in need of a modest infusion of cash to contact the agency. Lending prospects were increased by the recent boost in funding, Fiola said.

He said after a slow first quarter, this loan program has picked up a bit, with five micro loans issued recently. Small business owners sometimes use the funding to consolidate credit card balances for which they’d otherwise pay higher interest rates, Fiola said.

E-mail Michael Holtzman at

Official efforts fail to thwart rise in child labour: reports

Photo by: Sovan Philong
Children work at a school construction site in Prey Veng province in 2007. s

The Phnom Penh Post
Monday, 14 September 2009 15:03 Vong Sokheng and James O'toole

Thousands of Cambodian children remain trapped in some of the world's most dangerous forms of child labour, according to reports released by the US government.

A pair of studies by the US Department of Labour's Bureau of International Labour Affairs (ILAB) cited the Kingdom as one of dozens of countries in which child labour is prevalent. These reports mined data from US government agencies, civil society organisations and other sources in order to assess labour conditions across the developing world.

In a report titled "2008 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labour", ILAB used data collected in 2003 and 2004 to estimate that 49 percent of Cambodians between the ages of 10 and 14, or around 900,000, were employed as child labourers of some kind.

That total has since risen, said Joseph Menacherry, the chief technical adviser at the International Labour Organisation's International Progamme on the Elimination of Child Labour, despite attention from government and civil society groups.

"This is a country with a booming population, especially a young population, so the overall numbers have come up," Menacherry said, noting that there are "300,000-plus" children working in especially dangerous sectors classified as the "worst forms" of child labour, up from 250,000 in 2002.

Particularly hazardous sectors in Cambodia include garbage-picking, fish-processing and salt production, the ILAB report said, adding that human trafficking remains a threat for children throughout the country.

The government, though, has been committed to reducing these figures, said Prak Chantha, a secretary of state at the Ministry of Labour. He pointed to last year's approval of the National Plan of Action (NPA) on the Worst Forms of Child Labour, which sets a goal of eliminating them from Cambodia by 2016, as an example of action on this point.

"We have been working very hard with our international child-labour experts and have paid careful attention to this issue in order to meet our goal by 2016," Prak Chantha said.

The US Embassy in Phnom Penh offered a similar assessment, saying in a statement released on Friday that the government "has made progress in this area" over the past few years, particularly with the approval of the NPA.

ILAB, too, made note of these developments, though not without caveats. The Ministry of Labour, it said, has never successfully prosecuted an employer for an underage worker violation, and anti-trafficking efforts, it argued, have been slowed by "corruption and an ineffectual judicial system".

But Menacherry said he believes the 2016 goal set forth in the NPA is realistic and can be achieved with donors' support. The government had saved almost 14,000 children from dangerous labour situations as of December 2008, according to ILAB, and Veng Heang, director of the Ministry of Labour's department of child labour, said last month that his ministry hopes to remove 12,000 more by the end of the year.

"There's an understanding now that if you send children to work and don't send them to school, it's going to impinge on the future development of the country," Menacherry said.

Civil parties to plead for right to question

The Phnom Penh Post
Monday, 14 September 2009 15:03 Cheang Sokha and Robbie Corey-Boulet

TWO sets of civil party lawyers have indicated that they will appeal a decision by the Trial Chamber to prevent them from questioning character witnesses in the ongoing case of Tuol Sleng prison chief Kaing Guek Eav, alias Duch.

Lawyers for Civil Parties Group 2 distributed a press release Saturday stating their intent to appeal the August 27 ruling, arguing it was "of outstanding importance to ensure a full participation" of their clients. They also intend to appeal a separate ruling, announced the same day, barring them from filing submissions on sentencing, according to the release.

"There is no more important place in the trial for the Civil Parties than participating at the mitigation stage to defuse any attempts at lessening the punishment of the chairman of S-21," the statement reads.

Lawyers for Civil Parties Group 3 submitted on September 1 their intent to appeal the ruling regarding character testimony. UN court spokesman Lars Olsen said he did not know of forthcoming appeals from the other two groups.

Both rulings were announced in court, but a written explanation has yet to be submitted by the Trial Chamber. "We heard the rejection from the mouth of the Trial Chamber, but they did not issue an official letter to us, and we cannot accept this rejection," said Hong Kim Suon, co-lawyer for Civil Parties Group 2.

There is no more important place in the trial ... than ... the mitigation stage.

The two rulings do not appear to fall under the category of those that are subject to immediate appeal, but Hong Kim Suon dismissed suggestions that the appeal was unnecessary or inappropriately timed.

"I want to tell the public that [Duch] has only confessed to the crimes that occurred at S-21 under his control, not other crimes that happened during the regime," he said. "Also, he has never admitted that he killed people himself - that's what we want to ask him, but we've been prevented from doing so."

At the conclusion of its sixth plenary session, the tribunal announced Friday that civil parties in future cases would form "a single, consolidated group", meaning they will be represented by co-lawyers who will receive support from civil party lawyers. According to a press release announcing changes approved by the plenary, future civil parties will also submit just one reparations claim.

Olsen said the specifics of the changes approved had yet to be finalised. "It's only the principles which have been decided so far by the plenary," he said. "The most important principle is that the civil parties will continue to have a role."

The plenary also decided that civil party applications would no longer be accepted during the trial phase, setting an application deadline of up to 15 days after the conclusion of the judicial investigation had been announced.

The judicial investigation for the tribunal's second case, which is set to try four top Khmer Rouge leaders currently in custody, is expected to conclude at the end of the year, according to the release.

Storms fuel widespread floods

Photo by: Tracey Shelton
Motorists and pedestrians last week make their way through flood-soaked streets in Phnom Penh.

The Phnom Penh Post
Monday, 14 September 2009 15:03 Tep Nimol

SEVERE weather continued to affect several districts in Cambodia on Sunday, with reports of widespread flooding in the wake of torrential downpours.

In Phnom Penh's Russey Keo district, several communes reported high waters, but not just as a result of heavy rainfall. Residents in Kilometre 6 village said that water being pumped from Beoung Kak lake into Ou Veng ditch had overflowed.

Meanwhile, the governor of Kampong Thom province, Chhun Chhorn, said water levels had begun to recede in several areas, but that the Sen River, swollen as a result of heavy rainfall, was still threatening Sandan, Kampong Svay and Prasat Sambor districts.

In Kratie province, five districts remained on high alert. In Ratanakkiri province, the Sre Pork River returned to its normal levels, but not before destroying 515 hectares of rice and damaging 301 homes.

Floodwaters in Sre Angkourng and Serey Mungkul were receding slowly, but 200 families who were evacuated had yet to return to their homes, Governor Loeung Chan Theang told the Post.

The body of a 14-year-old girl who went missing when she was swept out to sea just off a Preah Sihanouk beach on September 6 was found in Kampot on Friday, according to Sihanoukville police Deputy Chief Yin Bunnath.

Deuk Srey Touch had been playing in the surf with a group of four friends, three of whom were also killed.

Seth Vannareth, director of the Department of Meteorology at the Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology, was unavailable to comment on Sunday.

Double chiefs cause confusion

The Phnom Penh Post
Monday, 14 September 2009 15:03 Thet Sambath

Two Royal Cambodian Armed Forces officers apparently have been appointed chief of the Thailand-Cambodia Relations Office, causing confusion among the troops.

Pol Sinoun, nephew of RCAF Commander-in-Chief Pol Saroeun, was appointed in June following the promotion of former chief Sok Pheap. His letter of nomination was signed by Pol Saroeun. In a surprise move at a handover ceremony last week in Banteay Meanchey province, however, Ministry of Defence spokesman Chhum Socheat declared Dy Phen - a cousin of Prime Minister Hun Sen - as chief. His letter of nomination was signed by Minister of Defence Tea Banh.

Leang Ai, an officer at the relations office, said: "I am surprised to see this. I do not know what to do, and I do not dare to comment because both of them have been nominated by top officials." Another officer, who wished to remain anonymous, also expressed confusion. "We do not know which commander to follow," he said. Pol Saroeun told the Post he did not know about the most recently appointed chief, but would ask those in charge.

1 in 2 emergency calls a mistake

The Phnom Penh Post
Monday, 14 September 2009 15:02 Ith Sothoeuth

Almost half of the calls received by Cambodia's emergency services are dialled by mistake, according to the National Police.

Out of 4,437 phone calls received by Cambodia's police, fire and ambulance hotlines in the month after the numbers were launched in July, 2,212 were connected in error.

National Police spokesman Kirt Chantharith blamed the confusion on mobile operators' short codes, which are used to select ringtones or refill account balances.

"They assign their short codes similar to our [emergency numbers]... so the customers use the short codes, but it reaches us," he told the Post.

In May, the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications ordered all mobile operators to delete short codes that start with the numbers 117, 118 and 119 to avoid interference. The codes 117, 118, and 119 now connect to the police, fire and ambulance services, respectively.

One mobile operator denied responsibility. Mam Sothea, of Mobitel, said: "We don't have any short codes that are similar to those numbers."

1 in 2 emergency calls a mistake

The Phnom Penh Post
Monday, 14 September 2009 15:02 Ith Sothoeuth

Almost half of the calls received by Cambodia's emergency services are dialled by mistake, according to the National Police.

Out of 4,437 phone calls received by Cambodia's police, fire and ambulance hotlines in the month after the numbers were launched in July, 2,212 were connected in error.

National Police spokesman Kirt Chantharith blamed the confusion on mobile operators' short codes, which are used to select ringtones or refill account balances.

"They assign their short codes similar to our [emergency numbers]... so the customers use the short codes, but it reaches us," he told the Post.

In May, the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications ordered all mobile operators to delete short codes that start with the numbers 117, 118 and 119 to avoid interference. The codes 117, 118, and 119 now connect to the police, fire and ambulance services, respectively.

One mobile operator denied responsibility. Mam Sothea, of Mobitel, said: "We don't have any short codes that are similar to those numbers."

Study shows rise in youth alcohol use

Photo by: Sovan Philong
A group of youths drink beer at a private residence in Phnom Penh earlier this year. A new report shows that youth drinking is on the rise and proposes a Kingdom-wide age restriction on alcohol.


The Phnom Penh Post
Monday, 14 September 2009 15:02 Mom Kunthear and Khoun Leakhana

Children as young as 14 are regularly drinking alcohol in Cambodia, according to a new study that has prompted fresh calls for strict age limits on alcohol consumption across the Kingdom.

The report from the People Centre for Development and Peace (PDP-Centre) found that 85 percent of 1,400 people studied in seven provinces said they liked to drink alcohol. Of that, 14 percent were only 14 years old. More than half - 52 percent - were between the ages of 18 and 25.

The statistics should be a significant concern to Cambodians, PDP-Centre President Yong Kim Eng told the Post Sunday. "It is a problem for us and our society that there are many young people addicted to alcohol," he said. "Alcohol has many negative effects, such as more traffic accidents and domestic violence."

In a country where four people die every day on the roads, drunken driving is the second-leading cause of motor-vehicle crashes in Cambodia behind disobeying traffic signals, according to a report released last week by the NGO Handicap International Belgium.

The report showed 814 people died in traffic-related accidents between 2006 and 2008, and a further 11,178 people were injured. It's evidence, said Yong Kim Eng, that Cambodia needs stricter laws regarding the consumption of alcohol. There are no age restrictions at present.

The study suggests the highest concentration of alcohol drinkers is found in border provinces such as Svay Rieng and Banteay Meanchey.

"For the first time, we are trying to push to have alcohol rules in five provinces ... in order to reduce the number of drinkers," Yong Kim Eng said.

The government, however, has no immediate plans to introduce any such age restrictions, one official said Sunday.

"I think it is very good for Cambodian people if we have an age limit on drinking, but I don't know when this rule will come because it is difficult for us to stop people from drinking," said Dr Veng Thai, Phnom Penh's municipal director of health at the Ministry of Health.

Hun Chan Phalla works as a beer girl in a Phnom Penh restaurant, encouraging patrons to drink as much of the restaurant's alcoholic beverages as possible. She admits that most of her customers appear to be teenagers or young adults.

"I think most of them are less than 20 years old, and sometimes I think I am wrong to try to get them to buy my beer," she said Sunday, "but it is my job. If I don't sell beer to them, I will not have money to support my family."

Police advise vendors on crime prevention

The Phnom Penh Post
Monday, 14 September 2009 15:02 Chrann Chamroeun

In a bid to reduce the number of gold merchants being robbed, authorities have met with vendors to discuss heightened safety measures.

Police suggested three strategies during a meeting in Daun Penh district hall last week: an alarm button under the counter, thicker glass for display cases and better communication among vendors and police.

Touch Naruth, police chief of Phnom Phen, said gold vendors should be especially vigilant at midday because it is during lunchtime that police are not stationed at their posts, allowing criminals to operate more freely.

Many would-be robbers also track the daily movements of vendors to identify the best time to strike, he warned. "We have deployed hundreds of police officials to be stationed at markets as watchdogs to crack down on thieves to ensure safety and security," he said.

Touch Naruth confirmed that 15 suspects were arrested last week in connnection with recent robberies in the capital.

According to local newspaper reports, five were related to the robbery of a Korean man, three were related to an attempted robbery in Dangkor district, three were linked to a gold robbery in Prek Leap commune and four were arrested in connection with the recent theft of a motorcycle at gunpoint.

Two drown in R'kiri

The Phnom Penh Post
Monday, 14 September 2009 15:02 Chrann Chamroeun

A MAN and woman drowned on Saturday at Boeung Yeak Loak Lake Resort in Ratanakkiri province's Banlung district, local police Chief Em Vun said, citing witnesses.

The victims have been identified as Chea Trae, 27, and Ruon Navy, 19. Both were rubber plantation workers. The drowning is believed to have happened at around 1pm.

The girl drowned when she lost her grip on a buoy, Em Vun told the Post. The man tried to rescue her but also drowned. Their bodies have yet to be recovered. "A group of their friends and families were trying to search for their bodies but haven't found them yet," Em Vun said on Sunday.

Taking a local look at land-titling

The Phnom Penh Post
Monday, 14 September 2009 15:02 May Titthara and Robbie Corey-Boulet

Preah Sihanouk Province

ALITTLE-used strip of railway in Otres commune, Stung Hav district, is currently a bigger nuisance for motorists driving over it than for the families living next to it, but that could change later this year if the Ministry of Public Works and Transport goes through with a railway upgrade that officials say will displace dozens of families in the commune, none of whom have land titles.

Y Em and Chuon Rom, who built their first home next to the railway in 1979, three years after they married, said their efforts to acquire a title had been blocked by prohibitively high fees and other barriers, even after the local Department of Land Management, Urban Planning, Construction and Cadastre launched a World Bank-funded titling programme in 2004.

Chuon Rom said she did not know what the couple and their six sons and daughters would do if they were forced to move.

"We want to stay here because the trees we've planted are still growing," said the 56-year-old, referring to the mango and banana trees that dot their property.

Stung Hav is one of two districts in Preah Sihanouk province that have been excluded from the Land Management and Administration Project (LMAP), which has issued titles for 22,250 parcels of land province-wide, according to figures provided by So Sok, director of the local land management department.

The Council of Ministers decided on September 4 to cease World Bank financing of the programme, which was first provided in 2002. In a statement dated September 6, the World Bank cited an inability to reach agreement "on whether LMAP's social and environmental safeguards should apply" in some disputed urban areas.

Nearly 1 million titles have been issued in 14 provinces under LMAP. Though officials have said they will continue with titling efforts, residents and rights workers in Preah Sihanouk say they have less faith in LMAP's ability to help families facing eviction now that the World Bank has pulled out.

"Even though the government will continue with the programme, people don't trust the authorities as much as they trust the World Bank," said Bun Narith, provincial coordinator for the rights group Licadho. "People would be happier if the World Bank were involved."

But others who have criticised the programme said the World Bank's involvement had not translated into substantive assistance for poor Cambodians living on coveted land.

"Many poor people, in both urban and rural areas, have been denied access to the formal tenure system established by LMAP because they have the misfortune to live on desirable real estate or in the path of land concessions," said David Pred, director of Bridges Across Borders Southeast Asia.

"These people are arguably more vulnerable to displacement today because of the degradation of the informal system and their exclusion from the formal system," he added.

Stung Hav displacement
Chey Visuon, deputy governor of Stung Hav district, said the 3.5-metre-wide railway track that abuts Village 2, where Y Em and Chuon Rom live, would become 30 metres wide as a result of the planned upgrade.

Khieu Vuthy, deputy chief of Village 2, said the upgrade would displace 36 of the more than 100 families living close to the tracks.

"These people have been here for a long time," said Khieu Vuthy, who moved there in 1980. "We assumed the authorities would provide us with a title at some point, but it never happened."

Like other residents, Khieu Vuthy said he was approached by local officials in the early 1990s and encouraged to secure a land title but couldn't afford the US$25 fee. He said he went to discuss titling with the authorities when he first heard of the railway upgrade plans last year but was told LMAP was not covering the district.

Others said they had been told recently that they could secure titles if they paid up to $250.

Asked about the residents' claims, So Sok said: "The under-the-table black money, I don't know about that, but we follow the rules and procedures." Families receiving land titles paid nominal fees that rarely amounted to more than $5 based on the size of their parcels, he said, adding that the 36 families were living on state land and thus needed to be evicted in accordance with the 2001 Land Law.

So Sok also pointed to what he described as the successes of the LMAP programme, which issued titles in Preah Sihanouk province for 9,150 parcels of land in urban areas and 13,100 in rural areas.

Nou Srey Nea, 30, owns one of the urban parcels that was titled. She said her family, which moved to Village 2 in Sihanoukvile's Mittapheap district in 1980, had never been threatened with eviction but nevertheless appreciated the security that came with the title, which was issued in 2005.

"It's good because it will be very easy for me to sell it," she said, "and now that I have a land title I know no one will try to take it from me."

Officials say 16-year-old burned alive

The Phnom Penh Post
Monday, 14 September 2009 15:02 Thet Sambath

Soldiers kill boy caught logging in Thailand, district governor says.

Oddar Meanchey officials Sunday accused Thai soldiers of shooting a Cambodian teenager and burning him alive.

Yon Rith, 16, was killed after Thai armed forces accused him of illegally felling trees, said Thon Nol, governor of Samrong district in Oddar Meanchey province.

Thon Nol said Yon Rith was first arrested and then burned. Another teenager from the same village in Kon Kreal commune, 18-year-old Mao Kleung, was also shot and seriously wounded, he said, but villagers managed to carry him to Cambodian territory, and he is is now in an Oddar Meanchey hospital.

Officials on Sunday denounced the violence as "cruel" acts carried out on unarmed villagers.

"Why did they burn a person alive? [The armed forces] should have arrested them if they did anything wrong in Thailand," said Pich Ratana, a Cabinet official in Oddar Meanchey.

"Our armed forces did not shoot Thai citizens when they were hunting animals in the Cambodian forest. They just arrested them and sent them back, but Thai soldiers do cruel things to innocent Cambodians," Pich Ratana said.

Thon Nol said officials would discuss the incident today.

"We are looking for all measures to assist the victims as well as actions on the Thai authority," Thon Nol said.

Thai Embassy officials could not be reached for comment Sunday.

Nanh Sovann, a Cambodian military officer who has worked with the Thai military, said Sunday he had heard of the incident but was waiting to see an official report before intervening.

The victim's family recovered his charred body and took it to their village for a funeral the day he was shot, Thon Nol said.

Thai officials have previously taken a heavy hand against Cambodians accused of illegal logging on Thai territory, particularly along the Oddar Meanchey border.

In August, 12 Cambodians were arrested along the border on suspicion of illegally logging.

Their disappearance initially prompted fears they had been killed, but the Thais have since revealed the men are in detention.

Two other men, however, were discovered dead last month. The Thai military said soldiers fired on the group in self-defence.

Science students set to continue protest

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
University of Health Sciences students protest Saturday against what they say are unfair exam results.

The Phnom Penh Post
Monday, 14 September 2009 15:01 Chhay Channyda and Kim Yuthana

A GROUP of students were set to continue protesting today after rejecting government proposals in response to claims that their university cheated them.

Fewer than half - or 850 - of some 2,000 first-year science students at Phnom Penh's University of Health Science will be allowed back for a second year following exams in August.

Over the weekend, government and university officials suggested that those who failed could retake the entrance exam and repeat their first year, or switch to a different programme within the institution. The students, however, dismissed the idea. They want the university to release the full exam results for each student, many of whom insist they should have passed despite the institution's denials.

"The university released names of passing students without scores," said student representative Sam Sokheng. "Those who did not see their names failed, but we want the school to release all the scores," she said. "I do not believe I failed the exam."

Rong Chhun, president of the Cambodian Independent Teachers Association, supported the students, saying "the university cheated the students" by recruiting more than necessary to study this year, eager for their US$800 tuition fees.

"The fee charged at this university is much higher than at other universities," he said.

Kar Sunbaunat, rector at the university, could not be reached for comment.

Thai FM takes tour of P Vihear border

The Phnom Penh Post
Monday, 14 September 2009 15:01 Cheang Sokha and Thet Sambath

Cambodian officials welcomed Thailand's foreign minister, Kasit Piromya, to the disputed border zone around Preah Vihear temple Sunday, even as reports from Bangkok suggested some in Thailand were calling for condemnation of Cambodia's claims over the area.

Kasit on Sunday visited his country's troops stationed near the temple, as well as the monument itself and the nearby Keo Sekha Kirisvara pagoda, a Cambodian Defence Ministry spokesman told the Post.

"They asked for an official visit, and we welcomed them officially," said Chhum Socheat. "This is to show the good achievement of our government in resolving the border dispute with Thailand."

Chhum Socheat said Kasit had promised he would urge his parliament to approve a border demarcation with Cambodia soon and would order Thai soldiers not to cause any violence against Cambodian troops.

Srey Doek, commander of the Royal Cambodian Armed Force's 3rd Division, said: "We took [the minister] and his delegation to see a burned market and new stalls built for people to sell goods," Srey Doek said. "We told him this market was burned down by Thai soldiers' rockets."

According to Thai media reports, 10 academics from the Thailand's People's Alliance for Democracy have asked the Thai Civil Court to rule that Preah Vihear temple belongs to Thailand.

A spokesman for Cambodia's Council of Ministers, however, scoffed at the suggestion.

"We do not need to respond to them," said Phay Siphan.

"Just let the Joint Border Commission of both countries do its work."

Polluting ethanol plant reopens after refitting

Security officers guard the entrance to MH Bio-Energy Group's bio-ethanol plant in Kandal province on the day of its closure on August 31. The facility was reopened Friday, officials said.

Perhaps the factory fulfilled what the Ministries required.

The Phnom Penh Post
Monday, 14 September 2009 15:01 Sam Rith

South Korea’s MH Bio-Energy lost 'a lot of money' in 11 days of closure after factory waste was blamed for a large fish kill

AN official at MH Bio-Energy Group told the Post Sunday that the government had given permission to the South Korean company to reopen its bio-ethanol factory in Kandal province's Duong village after meeting necessary safety requirements, despite previous complaints over pollution that led to its closure at the end of August.

Sar Peov, the head of the company's administration office, said the factory reopened Friday.

"The ... Ministry of Industry and Ministry of Environment allowed us to reopen," he said, adding that the company had fitted new waste-storage facilities, as requested by the ministries, to deal with a "malfunctioning" waste-disposal system.

Sat Samy, secretary of state at the Ministry of Industry, Mines and Energy, confirmed Sunday that the facility was allowed to reopen on Friday following the visit of a committee made up of both ministries.

"Perhaps the factory fulfilled what the ministries required," he said.

Sat Samy added that he had not seen the government's report following Friday's visit.

The factory - which refines dried cassava to produce bio-ethanol - was closed by the government on August 31 after it was thought to be producing toxic waste following the discovery of tens of thousands of dead fish in nearby waterways.

On Friday morning, the Post witnessed trucks loaded with fresh supplies of cassava queuing on National Highway 5 waiting to enter the factory.

Following 11 days of closure, Sar Peov said the company had "lost a lot of money" but was unable to put an exact figure on the financial impact following the recent controversy.

"However, we are not thinking much about the loss. It is good our company was allowed to reopen," he said, while moving to calm fears over the future safety of the plant. "Now we are operating as normal."

Shortly after closure of the factory, cassava farmers and dealers called for it to reopen, saying they would lose hundreds of thousands of dollars, citing a lack of alternative buyers within the Kingdom.

Cassava production has developed quickly in Cambodia on the back of expectations that the crop could be sold across the border in Thailand. However, this year Thai officials have routinely placed blockades on the Kingdom's cassava exports.

Even when the border has opened to exports of the crop, farmers and dealers in Cambodia have complained that prices in Thailand are not high enough, often below the wholesale price.

MH Bio-Energy Director Lee Dong Jun previously said that the company expected to export 20,000 tonnes of bio-ethanol during the remainder of 2009 to add to the same volume it had already sold to buyers in Europe during the first half of the year.

Police Blotter: 14 Sep 2009

The Phnom Penh Post
Monday, 14 September 2009 15:01 Chrann Chamroeun

Two Korean men were arrested on Tuesday and sent to Phnom Penh Municipal Court for further investigation after allegedly pawning a Lexus SUV they did not own for US$6,000 in order to gamble at a casino. Police arrested 40-year-old Yu Hiyuntak and Ly Sangsu, also 40, along with a Cambodian who had helped the two men rent the car from owner Sear Rady on August 24.

Three men were arrested on Tuesday after throwing bricks at two apartments on the previous evening, damaging a glass door. The incident occurred at midnight on Monday at Chan Sambath apartment centre in Dangkor district's Choam Chao commune. The perpetrators explained that they were seeking revenge for a similar incident at their own house, which was caused by unknown individuals.

A policeman riding a motorbike was killed instantly after an unknown car hit him from behind and ran over him. The incident occurred around 11pm on Tuesday on National Road 2 in Meanchey district's Chak Angre commune as the victim was going home from his job in Takhmao. The perpetrator is still on the loose.

A Vietnamese man was arrested and sent to Kandal provincial court for raping a 10-year-old girl. The incident allegedly occurred last Thursday at the suspect's house. The degenerate had been watching an adult film when he saw the victim outside on the street and brought her back to his home. Police arrested the 19-year-old suspect after receiving a complaint the victim's cousin.

A 41-year-old man was sent to Takeo provincial court on Friday for allegedly raping his 30-year-old sister-in-law. The incident allegedly occurred at the suspect's house on Wednesday in Tram Kok district's Cheang Tong commune, while his wife was at the market. The victim said she was standing outside the house when the suspect invited her inside for lunch and subsequently forced himself upon her.