Tuesday, 22 September 2009

NZ woman finds husband's body in Laos river

Tuesday Sep 22, 2009

A Waikato woman has found her Irish husband's body in a Laos river three days after he went missing in a tragic end to their Asian honeymoon.

Michael O'Sullivan, 39, a publican, got into difficulty after a river "tubing" ride with his wife Ilana James 29, and 18 other holidaymakers.

Mr'O'Sullivan and Ms James, from Raglan, had been enjoying a belated honeymoon backpacking around Asia after marrying last November, the Evening Herald in Dublin reported.

They had planned to renew their vows in the presence of Mrs O'Sullivan's mother in New Zealand.

Last Thursday, the pair went on the "tubing adventure" on the Nam Xong river in Vang Vieng, in the north of Laos, described by backpackers' guide Lonely Planet as "one of the rites of passage of the Indochina backpacking circuit".

But the river had swollen dangerously because of the rainy season, and locals had to use ropes and sticks to rescue them.

Mr O'Sullivan was the only one not to be rescued. He was not wearing a lifejacket.

Ms James insisted on being part of the search team that combed the river.

For three days she hired boats and scoured the river banks looking for her husband and she was among a search party that found his body yesterday.

Ms James suffered a further blow when she was mugged on the way back to her hotel during the search.

The couple met in England. They were married last year and moved to Ireland.

They had already visited India, Malaysia and Thailand after heading off backpacking in June


P. Vihear communique ruling deferred

Writer: BangkokPost.com
Published: 22/09/2009

The National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) has deferred until Sept 29 its ruling on the 44 people, the majority former ministers of the Samak Sundaravej government, charged in connection with the cabinet approval on June 17 last year of a joint communique with Cambodia without parliament's approval, commissioner Klanarong Chanthik said on Tuesday.

The anti-graft agency had been expected to decide today whether to indict any of the accused on negligence of duty and/or disciplinary charges.

However, today's meeting was able to consider only 12 of them, because the NACC chairman had to attend another meeting on the selection of senators, Mr Klanarong said.

He did not confirm whether the 12 were politicians or permanent ministry officials.

Mr Klanarong said the NACC will meet against on Sept 29 to look into the evidence against the 32 others, individually. He expected a ruling would be issued that day.

He was adamant the NACC did not intend to specifically find fault with former foreign minister Noppadon Pattama.

Mr Noppadon on June 18 last year signed the joint communique to support Cambodia's bid to list Preah Vihear temple as a World Heritage site after receiving the cabinet's approval.

This led to other cabinet members who attended the meeting on June 17 last year also being charged with violating Article 190 of the constitution. which requires parliamentary approval for all foreign agreements.

Cambodian couple finds new home for 41st Donut House

Posted: 09/22/2009

CAPITOLA -- It cost a lot of dough -- close to $100,000 -- to move the 41st Ave. Donut House across the street.

Keang Siv Lim and Hour Chiv, who have been in the doughnut business locally for 23 years, discovered the exhaust hood and fan would not fit through the door of their new smaller location in the King's Plaza shopping center.

That didn't stop them.

They paid a contractor to cut a hole in the roof and use a crane to set the equipment in place. When they opened for business Monday morning, they were all smiles.

"First day," said Lim, handing over a doughnut and coffee to Marshall Jones, who lives nearby.

Jones, 68, admitted, "I'm a doughnut lover."

Lim, 61, and her husband Chiv, 62, are Cambodian natives of Chinese descent. They lived near the Thai border and made a living selling merchandise at a local marketplace until their country was taken over in 1975 by the Khmer Rouge.

They lost everything.

When Vietnam invaded Cambodia in 1979 and fought off the Khmer Rouge, the couple escaped and spent two years in a refugee camp in Thailand. After another six months in a refugee camp in the Philippines, Lim and her husband, their five children, including one born in the refugee camp, and Lim's mother were allowed to resettle in the United States.

They arrived in November 1982.

The couple found work at a garment factory in Los Angeles, then in 1986 got an opportunity in Santa Cruz.

A fellow Cambodian who had purchased Ferrell's Donuts on Mission Street offered them jobs.

Lim took care of customers at the counter; her husband made the doughnuts, a job for early risers.

They learned the business, and in 1989, bought the shop. Two years later, they bought another doughnut shop on Ocean Street in Santa Cruz and changed the name to Ferrell's.

Their friend Yong Sip said most of the doughnut shops locally are owned by Cambodians.

That is true across California, according to Henry Chen, who married Lim and Chiv's second oldest daughter, Lena.

"When we first arrived, we were very hungry for the opportunity to succeed and bring about a better life for ourselves and our families," Chen said. "Most of us knew very little English."

For that reason, the seven-day-a-week doughnut business was a very good fit.

In the mid-1980s, it was not uncommon to find a Cambodian baker working in a doughnut shop at night, training four or five of his friends, Chen recalled. Most of these friends went on to become bakers themselves, and they in turn taught others.

Chen, for example, has a doughnut shop in Alameda.

He also has an expresso shop in Pacifica, managed by the youngest of Lim and Chiv's children, who was born in America.

That's another family tradition: Having the children help out at the doughnut shop.

After the children were on their own, Lim and Chiv downsized, selling the two Santa Cruz shops and buying 41st Ave Donut.

When Goodwill bought the shopping center where they were located for the Shoreline cosmetology school, they were not ready to retire.

They found space at the Kings Plaza shopping center owned by the Ow family.

Patriarch George Ow Jr., whose father immigrated to America at 16, is impressed by their resilience.

"They are grandparents and still working longer and harder than most 20- to 30-year-olds," he said. "Definitely the American work ethic."

VN to help fight AIDS in Cambodia


Phnom Penh — Deputy Prime Minister Truong Vinh Trong has assured Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen that Viet Nam was willing to share its experiences in drug prevention and HIV/AIDS control with Cambodia.

Trong was received by PM Hun Sen yesterday during his trip to Cambodia to increase bilateral ties and to discuss HIV/AIDS prevention and drug abuse.

The Vietnamese government has been conducting a nation-wide campaign to implement prevention and containment of drugs and HIV/AIDS at all levels, said Trong, who is also Chairman of Viet Nam’s National Committee for AIDS, Drugs and Prostitute Prevention.

"As a result, initial and important achievements have been made, including the decrease in the numbers of drug addicts and HIV carriers in communities," he said.

Both men agreed that preventing drug addiction and controlling HIV/AIDS was a difficult, complicated and time-consuming task. They also concurred that if the task was not carried out effectively, then these problems would badly affect the economic development and social order of each country.

PM Hun Sen wanted Viet Nam to help Cambodia build detoxification centres, train personnel and strengthen co-operation between the countries’ security forces to help combat transnational drug smugglers.

Regarding bilateral economic co-operation, deputy PM Trong said he hoped the Cambodian government would continue to facilitate Vietnamese investors’ search for opportunities and the implementation of long-term projects in finance, banking, energy, infrastructure development in Cambodia.

Also yesterday, Trong and his entourage paid floral tributes to the Independence Monument and the Monument to the Vietnamese volunteers in Cambodia. — VNS

Duty-free zone boosts trade with Cambodia

Customers shop at the Tinh Bien commercial zone in the southern province of An Giang. — VNA/VNS Photo Thoai Trung


AN GIANG — The opening of the Tinh Bien Commercial Zone late last month has significantly energised two-way trade between Viet Nam and Cambodia, a local trade official says.

"Trading at the newly opened commercial zone has been rather exciting, with an average turnover of more than VND1 billion (US$56,000) per day," said Nguyen Minh Tri, head of the zone’s management board.

Tri said southwestern An Giang Province has mobilised domestic manufacturers to bring their products to the Tinh Bien Commercial Zone to export and sell goods for residents of both countries living in border areas.

The Tinh Bien Commercial Zone has become a hub for high quality Vietnamese goods while other tax-exempted areas at commercial zones lying near border areas are full of imports from other countries, Tri said.

"Vietnamese goods at the commercial zone are exempted from value added tax, export tax, and need to follow very simple procedures for exporting," Tri said. "We focus on promoting high quality Vietnamese goods, as well as creating the most favourable conditions for businesses from either country to contact each other directly."

Some Cambodian buyers said they used to buy goods from Thailand or China, but the the tax exemption on many high quality Vietnamese goods, ranging from textiles and garments, foodstuff, chemicals and consumer goods to household utensils, interior decorations, and electricity equipment, has enticed them to visit the zone at least once a week.

Many Cambodian retailers also buy a large number of Vietnamese goods for selling in the provinces of Kampot, Kampong Speu, Kampong Cham and Ko Kong in their country.

Vuong Dinh Ngan, deputy head of the Ministry of Industry and Trade’s Department for Trade Promotion, said this was the first time Viet Nam was exporting high quality domestic goods through a tax-exemption area.

The Tinh Bien Commercial Zone was not merely a duty free trade zone, but offered an opportunity for domestic businesses to introduce their products and set up long-term partnerships with Cambodian distributors, Ngan said.

Chanh Thon, a dealer from Cambodia’s Kampot Province said he had contacted Vietnamese exporters for interior decoration and handicrafts at the commercial zone. "We recognise the variety of sophisticated, well designed and reasonably priced Vietnamese goods," he said.

Hua Muoi Tu, sales manager of Duy Tan Plastic Co, said the company had appointed a distributor in Phnom Penh. Another one at the Tinh Bien Border Gate would facilitate deeper penetration of the south-east Cambodian market, he said.

Cong Danh Co Ltd, which previously sold small volumes of its products to Cambodia, has invested in the tax-exempt supermarket to serve tourists.

Director Ung Van Thanh of the company said: "Bringing domestic goods to the border gate can easily attract customers from the other side of the border. Relying on this, the turnover is increasing every day."

Instead of going to HCM City and eastern provinces to seek partners, enterprises in the Cambodian province of Takeo would just go through the border gate, said Ung Chea Kuk, chairman of the province’s Enterprises Association.

At the An Giang Commercial Zone, domestic and international tourists are allowed to buy imported products exempted from import tax, value added tax and special consumption tax for the first VND500,000 worth of purchases.

The zone has attracted six investors so far in its supermarket and more than 40 companies have registered to lease space in it, accounting for a total investment of more than VND350 billion ($19.5 million). — VNS

People of faith pray on UN Day of Peace

People of different faiths prayed for peace on the UN International Day of Peace(AP)

People of faith around the world prayed for peace on Monday to mark the United Nations International Day of Peace.

by Jennifer Riley, Christian Post
Posted: Tuesday, September 22, 2009

From Cambodia to Texas, September 21 was commemorated with symbolic acts and prayers for peace.

The Odyssey Networks – the largest US coalition of Christian, Jewish and Muslim faith groups that seeks to build understanding through media – launched an online campaign weeks in advance to collect a million prayers for peace.

Meanwhile in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Buddhist monks and nuns sat to pray for peace during a ceremony for the day.

“Prayer is a powerful thing that can bring the world peace,” said Abdikani Abdi, 19, in a webisode posted in the Peace Video Festival section of the Odyssey Networks website.

Abdi, his younger brother and their widowed mother are refugees from Somalia who were accepted into the US refugee programme and arrived in Kenya in 2007. They were later resettled to Pennsylvania by Church World Service, a Christian relief and development agency that partnered with the Odyssey Networks for the “Million Minutes for Peace” campaign.

September 21 was formally designated by the United Nations in 2001 as the International Day of Peace. Every year since, the United Nations has called for a global ceasefire and non-violence on this day.

The day is usually observed at the UN headquarters with a traditional ceremony in which the secretary-general rings the Peace Bell.

This year, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon rang the Peace Bell on Friday because Monday is a public holiday in many regions of the world.

Among this year’s participants were members of The Salvation Army who were called earlier this month by their leader, General Shaw Clifton, to devote the month of September to praying for peace and for the victims of sex trafficking.

“Conflicts between nations and conflicts within nations still claim lives on a daily basis, destroying stability, disrupting education and creating poverty,” Clifton stated in this year’s call to prayer.

Clifton urged Salvationists to pray for peace on the U.N. International Day of Peace on and for victims of sex trafficking on September 27.

Development bank predicts Cambodian economy to shrink this year

M & C

Sep 22, 2009

Phnom Penh - The Asian Development Bank has revised downward its prediction for Cambodia's gross domestic product this year, saying it now expects the kingdom's economy to shrink 1.5 per cent.

It had previously forecast modest growth for 2009.

In its update released Tuesday, the bank blamed worse-than-expected garment export figures, less construction activity and fewer tourism arrivals. Along with agriculture, these sectors make up the four pillars of Cambodia's economy.

However, the bank said it expected matters would improve next year, albeit at a much lower rate than the double-digit annual growth the country has enjoyed for much of this decade.

'Growth is projected to resume in 2010 at about 3.5 per cent as a gradual recovery in the global economy stimulates clothing exports and tourism,' the bank's Asian Development Outlook 2009 Update said. 'That should provide support for growth in incomes and consumption.'

The bank said the decline in construction was because of falling foreign direct investment in the sector, particularly from South Korea.

South Korean companies have invested heavily in Cambodia's property sector in recent years, helping to propel land prices to record highs and creating a bubble that burst last year.

The bank noted that local inflation had dropped faster than expected and ascribed the trend to lower food and oil prices internationally.

'The inflation rate for 2009 is now forecast at just 0.8 per cent, revised down,' the bank said. 'It is expected to quicken to about 5 per cent in 2010, reflecting higher prices for imported oil and the improvement in domestic demand.'

Tourism numbers were down 3 per cent through April although the bank said it expected arrivals to pick up later in 2009 in line with predictions from Cambodia's Tourism Ministry.

Imports dropped by 18.1 per cent in the first half of 2009 with exports down 10.3 per cent although the bank said the rate of decline in exports could slow.

3 men accused of sex tourism plead not guilty

Mon Sep 21,
LOS ANGELES – Three men charged with traveling to Cambodia to engage in sex acts with children have pleaded not guilty in Los Angeles.

Ronald Boyajian, Erik Peeters and Jack Sporich entered their pleas Monday in federal court.

The men are being held without bail and each has been scheduled for trial Nov. 10, said Thom Mrozek, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office.

All were expelled from Cambodia and brought to the United States last month under a new initiative targeting child sex tourism in Cambodia, which authorities described as ground zero for child sex tourism.

Sporich and Peeters are each accused of molesting three children and Boyajian one child. If convicted, each could face up to 30 years in prison for each victim.

Danny Davis, Boyajian's attorney, says the charges are false and fabricated. He says his client was defending himself against the allegations in Cambodia but the process was interrupted when the U.S. brought Boyajian to the United States.

Peeters' attorney declined to comment. A message was left for Sporich's attorney.

Recent grad takes his hospitality training to Cambodia

Ben Justus '08, founder of the EGBOK (Everything's Gonna Be OK) Mission, visits with children at the Palm Tree Orphanage in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

By Lauren Gold

When Ben Justus '08 visited Cambodia for the first time in 2006, he was struck by the warmth and hospitality of the country's people -- especially its children.

A student in the Hotel School, he began thinking about how he could use what he was learning about the hospitality industry to help the young people in developing countries create better lives for themselves.

A year later, while still a student, Justus founded the EGBOK (Everything's Gonna Be OK) Mission, a philanthropic organization to support education and vocational training for children and young adults in the developing world. And this month, he will head back to Cambodia for six months at the Palm Tree Orphanage in Phnom Penh, where he'll begin putting some of the organization's goals into practice.

The orphanage, which houses and supports 93 children, is run by Cambodia's Hope, a nonprofit organization led by two New Mexico psychologists to support needy children in that country. Justus met the founders while participating in the Semester at Sea program in his junior year and visited the orphanage the following year.

"It was amazing experience," he said. "[The kids] are never not smiling ... they're so curious -- they're motivated to learn, they just need to be given that opportunity."

On his upcoming trip, Justus will work with the orphanage's teachers and students to establish classes and hospitality-related vocational training; and also with Phnom Penh hotels and restaurants -- including a restaurant owned by the orphanage -- to build a network of internship and job opportunities.

So far EGBOK has raised more than $35,000 through events, corporate sponsorship, online donations and word of mouth. Justus' friends and fellow Hotel School alumni have pitched in pro bono with help in marketing, logo design, event planning and more; and 100 percent of donations to EGBOK go to Cambodia's Hope and are earmarked for hospitality-related projects and education.

The organization's most recent fundraiser, an event at Tavern at the Park in Chicago, was a success despite the difficult economy. "People have been overwhelmingly gracious," Justus said.

The partnership with Cambodia's Hope is just the first element of what he hopes will be a global philanthropic reach for EGBOK, he added. A project in South Africa may be next; and projects in other countries, including the United States, may be down the road.

The King cometh

Photo by: Heng Chivoan

Tuesday, 22 September 2009 15:03 Heng Chivoan

King Norodom Sihamoni from Beijing at Phnom Penh International Airport arrives on Sunday. On September 3, the King accompanied King Father Norodom Sihanouk and Queen Mother Norodom Monineath to China, where the former monarch Sihanouk was scheduled to receive medical treatment.

Battling the blaze

Photo by: Heng Chivoan

Tuesday, 22 September 2009 15:04 Heng Chivoan

A fire fighter struggles to control the flames consuming a garage on Street 163, close to Tuol Tompong 1 commune in Phnom Penh’s Chamkarmon district. Neth Vantha, director of the Phnom Penh Fire Department, told the Post that 13 firetrucks were needed to quell the blaze, which spread out of control after igniting fuel at the garage. No one was injured in the blaze, Phnom Penh Municipal Police Chief Touch Naruth told reporters at the scene.

Brigade leader denies abuses

Tuesday, 22 September 2009 15:03 Cheang Sokha

THE commander of a Cambodian military brigade singled out for criticism by Human Rights Watch (HRW) and US congressmen denied Monday that his soldiers committed human rights violations, as the Kingdom’s top military official prepared to meet his American counterpart for key talks on US involvement with Cambodia’s armed forces.

On Friday, eight lawmakers from the US House of Representatives sent a letter to US Secretary of Defence Robert Gates questioning US military aid to RCAF units accused of abuses.

The letter cited testimony from Sophie Richardson, the Asia advocacy director for HRW who appeared before a US Congressional hearing on Cambodia on September 10, as the basis for its concerns and came in advance of Monday’s planned meeting in Washington between Gates and Minister of Defence Tea Banh.

Defence Ministry spokesman Chhum Socheat said that Gates and Tea Banh were to discuss improving military cooperation between their two nations.

In addition to RCAF brigades 911 and 70 – Prime Minister Hun Sen’s bodyguard unit – the congressmen named Brigade 31 as suspected of committing “serious abuses” during land disputes.

On Monday, however, Brigade 31 commander Sun Saroeun said that his forces had never used violence against civilians.

“As soldiers, we never treated badly any people in our community,” he said.

“We have helped them build their houses and have provided plots of land for social economic land concessions in accordance with government policy.”

But in a hearing of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, a US congressional body that monitors human rights norms around the world, Richardson noted several incidents that challenged Sun Sarouen’s claim. In 2008, Richardson said, soldiers of Brigade 31 forcibly evicted villagers in Kampot province. The brigade has also been accused of participating in illegal logging schemes and unlawfully executing Funcinpec forces during the 1997 factional fighting, she said.

Following an October 2006 agreement, Brigade 31 was designated as a special “maritime security” unit eligible for US assistance. Sun Saroeun said that the US has since donated five trucks and a generator to his brigade and has also worked with it in a two-week workshop on military medicine.

The letter from the US congressmen, which was signed by Lantos commission co-chair Representative Frank Wolf, questioned the thoroughness with which the US Defence Department vetted Cambodian forces that have received US$4.5 million in military aid since 2006.

“While the United States should work with foreign governments to professionalise and train security forces to respect human rights and the rule of law, we must ensure that such assistance and training is not awarded to members of the security forces that have committed serious human rights violations and continue to operate with impunity,” it read.

Officials dismiss threat of protest

Photo by: Chris Kelly
Cambodian soldiers remain on standby Saturday following clashes between Thai protesters, villagers and riot police in Thailand’s Sisaket province.

Tuesday, 22 September 2009 15:03 Vong Sokheng

GOVERNMENT officials dismissed Thai protesters’ threats to hold more demonstrations at Preah Vihear temple after violent clashes erupted between Thai police and protesters on Saturday, and lauded Thai efforts to keep a tight rein on the weekend’s demonstrations.

On Saturday, 5,000 yellow-shirted protesters from the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) converged on Thailand’s Sisaket province to protest Thai government inaction over the 11th-century ruins, claiming that Cambodia has infringed on a 4.6-square-kilometre disputed area surrounding the temple.

Dozens were injured as protesters fought Thai riot police and villagers who attempted to block their way.

Chhum Socheat, spokesman for the Ministry of Defence, said that the Thai government’s efforts to prevent protesters from entering disputed areas along the border showed its dedication to a peaceful bilateral solution to the dispute.

“We learned from the protest that our government’s win-win policy to resolve the border dispute through peaceful negotiations has been recognised by the Thai government,” he said.

“During the [protest], I received many phone calls from the Thai authorities in Sisaket province asking me to send a message to Prime Minister Hun Sen not to worry because they were not allowing the protesters to intrude into Cambodian territory.”

Foreign Ministry spokesman Koy Kuong said Sunday that police had been deployed at the temple during the protests. “But we’re not worried at all because the Thai government said they would handle it and prevent the protesters from entering the temple,” he said.

Chhum Socheat said that according to military reports, three Yellow Shirts were killed and 41 injured in clashes, after Thai locals refused to open hotels or sell petrol to them.

But PAD leaders have vowed to keep up their pressure over the temple, threatening future protests if Bangkok does not reassert Thai sovereignty in the area. “We do not accept the World Heritage Committee’s decision to grant Cambodia the right to list the Preah Vihear temple as well as land around it as a World Heritage site,” said a statement read out by PAD protest leader Veera Somkwamkid on Sunday.

“The government and army should do everything under the law to regain the area around the temple for Thailand.”

Srey Doek, commander of Royal Cambodian Armed Forces Brigade 12, stationed at the temple, said the PAD was politically isolated, and that further protests were useless.

“Our armed forces are not concerned about any future threats of demonstrations by Thai Yellow Shirts,” he said.

“We are determined to obey the orders of Prime Minister Hun Sen to defend the territory, to prevent the loss of even one millimetre.”

Thai Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwon echoed the Cambodian sentiment on Monday, according to the Bangkok Post, which quoted him as saying that “both governments have always been closely working together” on the border issue.


Rights worker called to court

Tuesday, 22 September 2009 15:03 Chrann Chamroeun

CCHR chief calls request to appear in R’kiri a form of payback.

THE head of the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights (CCHR) told the Post Monday that a recent summons requesting his appearance before the Ratanakkiri provincial court was likely a form of payback for the group’s decision to call for an investigation into the judge’s “alleged improper conduct”.

Judge Thor Saron said Monday that he issued the summons so the court could question Ou Virak about “several cases” in the province, including at least one land dispute. But Ou Virak said the summons was probably a response to the investigation request, which was sent to the Supreme Council of the Magistracy (SCM) on September 10, rather than part of a genuine attempt to obtain information.

I think there’s an element of conflict of interest in this investigation.

A media release accompanying the request cited media reports claiming that Thor Saron released villagers who had been arrested for protesting against DM Group, a developer at the centre of an ongoing land dispute, in exchange for 100 hectares of land. The release also said Thor Saron’s suggestion to former Adhoc provincial coordinator Pen Bonnar that he leave the province to avoid prosecution on charges of defamation, incitement and terrorism could have amounted to an ethics violation.

“I think there’s an element of conflict of interest in this summons. The judge is doing this mainly to harass activists,” Ou Virak said.

He added that he did not think his appearance would be worthwhile, saying: “If you look at the whole picture, I don’t think I could give much” new information.

Nevertheless, he said he would appear despite the fact that, under Cambodian law, the court could opt to charge him as a suspect in one of the cases and detain him. Thor Saron said the summons requested his appearance any time after the Pchum Ben festival.

Ou Virak said he had heard nothing from the SCM regarding the investigation request. Chiv Keng, head of the Phnom Penh Municipal Court and a member of the SCM, said he knew nothing about the request and referred questions to Dith Munty, head of the council’s disciplinary committee. Dith Munty could not be reached for comment Monday.

Five men accused in Siem Reap gang rape

Tuesday, 22 September 2009 15:03 Chrann Chamroeun

OFFICIALS are calling the alleged “brutal” gang rape of a 14-year-old girl near Angkor Wat temple earlier this month a crime lacking in “social morality”.

Three of the five suspects appeared in court on rape charges last Friday. Police are still hunting for the remaining two suspects – one of whom police say is the victim’s boyfriend.

“We know their identities,” Chea Heng, chief of the juvenile protection section with the Siem Reap police, said on Monday.

“One is the victim’s boyfriend, and the other is his friend. We want to bring them to justice as soon as possible.” All of the alleged perpetrators are over 18 years of age, he added.

Police say the girl was attacked in Siem Reap town’s Kork Chork commune on September 12 after attending a traditional dance party with her boyfriend.

As the couple made their way home, the man allegedly dragged his partner into a forest area near the temple entrance and raped her.

“Following the rape minutes later, four men took turns raping her simultaneously during the night,” Chea Heng said.

“It was very brutal and humiliating. The victim and the perpetrator had a relationship, but he forcibly raped her and ordered other men to rape her repeatedly, which was lacking in social morality.”

The victim’s mother claimed the men had intended to kill her daughter, but instead let the girl go home after she begged and promised not to tell anyone what happened, police said.

Mao Yin, a provincial coordinator with the rights group Adhoc, promised that his group would launch a thorough investigation of the case today.

P Sihanouk province’s ‘biting monk’ to stay in office, officials say

Tuesday, 22 September 2009 15:03 Kim Yuthana

Victims say they are too afraid to file complaints against the ‘powerful’ monk; provincial officials explain that they have no authority to intervene.

A PROMINENT monk accused of getting drunk and biting his colleagues remains in office because of a lack of authority over the case and the absence of formal charges, officials said.

Kiet Chan Thouch, an adviser to Great Supreme Patriarch Tep Vong, was accused by his fellow monks and nuns of attacking them during the course of a boozy weekend bender earlier this month.

Witnesses said the 76-year-old abbot of Wat Leu pagoda in Preah Sihanouk province drank too much and fought with four monks, two clergymen and a nun over a 48-hour period.

Speaking to the Post on Monday, Kang Dinath, director of the Department of Cults and Religious Affairs for Preah Sihanouk province, said: “I have been to the pagoda to examine the place, but I could not find any wine bottles or glasses at all. All we have heard are rumours saying that he has drunk alcohol and beaten priests and nuns at the pagoda in the past.”

Buddhist monks are banned from drinking alcohol. Had the allegations been proved, Kiet Chan Thouch could have been defrocked, but his alleged victims last week said they were “too afraid” to file formal complaints.

Kang Dinath said Monday that he could not yet take any further measures because of the abbot’s high position in the Buddhist clergy. “He is appointed by the Royal Kret and is beyond my authority, so I have to pass the case on to the monk management board,” he said.

Khim Sorn, assistant monk to the Venerable Buddhist Clergy Director Non Nget, said the board had not yet received any official complaints about the monk’s behaviour.

Last week, several monks recounted the abbot’s alleged drunken spree. Koa Suon, a 76-year-old monk in the same temple, said Kiet Chan Thouch bit him after becoming intoxicated.

“Kiet Chan Thouch got drunk and ordered me to come out of my room, or he would shoot me and lock me in the room forever,” he told the Post, saying he had been forced to flee. “The monks in this pagoda dare not confront him because he is a powerful monk.”

SRP members arrested, suspected of burglary

Tuesday, 22 September 2009 15:02 Kim Yuthana

SEVEN members of the Sam Rainsy Party have been arrested on suspicion of robbing a villager in Svay Rieng province’s Sambor commune, drawing accusations from the party that the arrests were politically motivated.

Meas Kheng, SRP leader for Svay Rieng province, said Monday that the seven activists were being held at Svay Rieng provincial prison for breaking into a home Wednesday night.

Police say the group stole about 15 grams of gold and wounded the owner of the home during the burglary.

“The arrest must have been connected with politics,” Meas Kheng said, “because the legal procedure for the arrest went forward very quickly. There was no investigation, no clear evidence and, especially, no arrest warrant from the court.”

Svay Rieng police Chief Prach Rim said that available evidence allowed for the quick arrests and lack of a court-issued warrant, saying: “We found an AK-type rifle hidden in a well at the house of 44-year-old suspect Pen Samorn, as well as pieces of evidence like a torch and a rope at the victim’s house.”

However, SRP Secretary General Ke Sovannroth said she was concerned about the arrests and insisted that the case be investigated more thoroughly before her members are brought to court.

“From arrests like this in the past, we’ve seen how biased the authorities can be, how they discriminate unfairly against SRP activists.”

Ke Sovannroth requested that the authorities strengthen the legal system and avoid pressing charges or making arrests without clear evidence.

On the road for Pchum Ben

Photo by: Heng Chivoan/Sovan Philong
Competitors get into the clinch during a wrestling competition (left) at Kandal province’s Wat Vihear Sour on Saturday as Cambodia celebrated Pchum Ben. Elsewhere in the province, others participated in boat races (right) to mark the holiday, known as the festival of the dead.

Tuesday, 22 September 2009 15:02 Khuon Leakhana and Tep Nimol

Cambodians take off for their hometowns in an annual exodus to the games, races and other celebrations of the holiday, with only 18 killed on the road.

Whether it was racing boats and buffalo or throwing a gala at the pagoda, Cambodians celebrated the culmination of Pchum Ben in style over the weekend.

Residents flocked back to villages and towns around the Kingdom to commemorate the annual festival honouring the souls of their dead ancestors.

In Kampong Chhnang province, some villages took part in boat races along the Tonle Sap. In Kandal province’s Vihear Suor village, highlights included racing buffalo and wrestling. A more spiritual experience was found in pagodas, where gifts were offered to monks.

With the colossal exodus came trouble on congested streets. Eighteen people died on the roads during the weekend, and another 300 were injured in what officials say is a slight drop in road accidents from last year.

Officials recorded 125 road accidents between Friday and Sunday, according to the National Police’s department of public order. Of the injured, 148 were considered “seriously injured”
whereas 131 people escaped with minor injuries. Officials attributed the modest dip to a strict crackdown by traffic police in the run-up to the weekend’s festivities.

Even so, Him Yan, deputy director of the department of public order at the National Police, said there was still some “awful” driving on the country’s roads. “Even though the number of road accidents decreased, we still regret that some problems still happened,” Him Yan said Monday.

“We have noticed speeding still happened, and some people still ride motorbikes and drive cars very awfully, carelessly and in a disorderly manner, which caused road accidents and traffic jams.”

Him Yan said police found roughly half of the vehicles on the roads were speeding. “In response to this issue, we still continue to enforce the law by putting up restrictions little by little until we can stop people from speeding and drunken people from driving,” he said.

Him Yan said speeding was the biggest cause of road accidents. Officers would enforce speed limits of 30km/h to 40km/h in cities and towns and 70km/h to 90km/h outside cities.

Just as road accidents dropped slightly, problems caused by what officials are calling “spoiled youngsters” around the country also appeared to dip during the Pchum Ben Festival weekend.

Banteay Meanchey province deputy police Chief Hun Hean attributed a drop in problems with “spoiled youngsters” to an ongoing crackdown on juvenile delinquency.

Hun Hean collected six youths involved in a fight at a pagoda on Saturday. “I saw that disturbing activities committed by spoiled youngsters decreased a lot compared to last year’s Pchum Ben Festival,” he said.

Yim Mengly, a provincial investigator for the rights group Adhoc in Battambang province, said he noticed much less rowdy behaviour this weekend from young ruffians. “I did not see any big violent fights or clashes,” he said “Some minor conflicts did happen, but they are not big concerns.”

Banteay Meanchey highway to get facelift

Photo by: Photo Supplied
A main road in Banteay Mancheay province, donated by the UNHCR in 1993, which residents say has fallen into disrepair.

Tuesday, 22 September 2009 15:02 Mom Kunthea and Tep Nimol

Residents say the dilapidated road linking province to Thailand has become all but impassable

Residents of Thma Puok commune in Banteay Meanchey province say a main road in the area, donated by the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees in 1993, has fallen into disrepair and brought traffic to to a snarled halt.

The gravel road has received maintenance only once since it first opened, and residents say it is now almost impossible to navigate. But long-awaited repairs are due to commence next month, officials said.

Chhuoy Cheab, a villager from Thma Puok commune, said the repairs were crucial for him and his fellow residents because the road is their only link with the Boeung Trakuon border crossing into Thailand, through which locals export their agricultural goods.

“Traffic along the road has slowed to a crawl because it is very slippery and bumpy, with many big, deep potholes, made even worse by all the trucks moving between the two countries every day. In my opinion, the road is damaged from lack of proper maintenance. It was repaired only once, in 2007, but the situation is still very bad. This year, it was worse than ever.”

Sean Soeu, a villager from the same commune, said: “When it rains, some of the potholes can flood to knee- or waist-depth, which makes car or truck travel impossible. The only time the road was passable was a three-month period when it was repaired before the last commune council election.”

Thma Puok commune Chief Kol Mork said that provincial authorites were hoping to begin paving the road in October, but that “work could be delayed because the private company which is responsible for building the road is still looking for a place to keep its construction materials”.

UNHCR official Ly Sophat said that the road was a donation to Thma Puok from the agency, but that it no longer fell under the organisation’s purview.

“The UNHCR has no budget plans to renovate the road at all,” Ly Sophat said.

At 20 kilometres long and 8 metres wide, the road to the Thai border also runs through Treas Kouk Kathen and Phum Thmey communes of Thma Puok district and Phkaom and Phas Sarongk communes of Svay Chek district. Residents of these communes report similar conditions throughout their stretches of the road.

Mystery surrounds grenade attacks

Tuesday, 22 September 2009 15:02 Meas Sokchea

SIX people were injured and two cars badly damaged in two separate grenade blasts over the holiday weekend in Kampong Cham province’s Ponhea Krek district.

District police Chief Prak Bunnon said Monday that the first grenade went off at 1:30pm in a Krek commune market and is believed to have been thrown by a lone suspect, resulting in six injuries. No deaths from the blast have been reported.

The second blast occurred on Sunday around 11pm in Posrok village, Kaung Kang commune. That grenade, thrown from a car carrying a driver and a passenger, went off close to the home of a police officer.

According to Prak Bunnon, robbery was not the motive in either incident. “If the offender who threw the grenade in the market had wanted to steal something, he could have blown open the gold displays and taken something. Instead, he ran off without taking anything,” he said.

“The second blast was motivated by rancour against the police. We have already arrested two suspects for throwing the grenade near my police officer’s house.”

Meach Min, the district military police chief, dismissed Prak Bunnon’s assessment of the market blast and insisted it was a robbery. Three hundred grammes of gold were taken and six gold-storage chests were destroyed, he said.

Police officer Bien Kemsreng, whose house was close to the second explosion, said he saw a car appear on the street before the grenade went off and then drive away afterwards, but couldn’t determine what the reason for the attack might be.

Flooding threatens lowlands

Photo by: Sovan Philong
Residents paddle through the streets of Russey Keo district on Monday.

Tuesday, 22 September 2009 15:02 Khouth Sophakchakrya

Though rains have subsided, Meteorology Department head says runoff from Mondulkiri, Kratie and Stung Treng could flood lowland and coastal provinces.

FLOODWATERS from Mondulkiri, Kratie and Stung Treng provinces could wash out lowland areas along the Mekong and Tonle Sap rivers in the coming days, despite diminishing rainfall since deluges earlier this month killed at least nine people, the head of the Kingdom’s Meteorology Department said Monday.

“As we get towards the end of the rainy season, the weather will be normal, and there won’t be any storms,” Seth Vannareth said.

“But the people who live in the lowland and coastal areas should take care of their children and property because we could have floods flowing from the hills.”

Chhun Chhorn, governor of Kampong Thom province, said floodwater from the Tonle Sap river had already destroyed more than 1,000 hectares of rice fields.

He said floodwaters had yet to recede as of Monday afternoon.

Ros Se, the director of information in Kampot province, where two people have drowned this month, said officials were still concerned that weather could threaten people living on the coast.

“We are worried about more flooding because the sky is dark,” he said.

In the capital, residents were concerned about illness, including dengue fever and skin conditions caused by the flooding.

“My family and other families in the flooded zones are facing diseases, and some of them are angry with City Hall,” said Sok Chisen, who lives in Russey Keo district’s Svay Pak commune.

Phnom Penh Governor Kep Chuktema said officials were trying to pump water out of the capital, but that it continued to flow in from neighbouring provinces.

Minister of Health Mam Bunheng said children, pregnant women and the elderly should be especially vigilant about avoiding standing water. He also said frequent baths would help stave off illness.

“You can face death if you have no sanitation because the flood will bring many epidemic diseases to you and your family,” he said.

HIV/AIDS families still waiting on housing

Tuesday, 22 September 2009 15:02 Khoun Leakhana

TEN families affected by HIV/AIDS in Borei Keila are still living without permanent homes after being promised new apartments by local authorities, they say.

“In June, the governor promised to give apartments to us,” resident Va Channy, 42, said on Monday. “They gave us three months’ rent while we waited for the building to be completed. But three months have passed already, and we still don’t have any information.”

That rent money – US$10 per month for each family – has dried up, leaving the families uncertain about their futures.

“I want to meet [the authorities] and ask them whether we can live in the new building or not, and if what they promised us was the truth,” Va Channy said.

Prampi Makara district Governor Som Sovann said Monday that he did not know anything about the housing problem.

Sao Vanna, community representative of Tuol Sambo, where other families affected with HIV/AIDS have already been moved, said he would ask the government for more rent money while residents wait for the building to be completed.

Silk imports set to slide as sector suffers from crisis

Photo by: Nathan Green
Weavers from Prek Chrey Lech village in Kandal province prepare a loom for weaving with imported silk thread.

Tuesday, 22 September 2009 15:01 administrator

But weavers say Cambodia needs to boost local production of raw silk to reduce reliance on thread from Vietnam and China.

IMPORTS of silk thread into Cambodia are expected to drop 25 percent this year on lower demand for silk products in the wake of the global economic crisis, the Khmer Silk Village Association said Monday.

Association Deputy Secretary Ke Muny said he anticipated that just 300 tonnes of the raw material would be brought into the country this year, down from 400 tonnes in 2008.

“We believe that this year’s importation of silk thread will decrease at least 100 tonnes compared to last year because many entrepreneurs have been reducing their productivity because of the ... global economic crisis,” Ke Muny said.

Almost all the silk thread used in Cambodia to produce scarves, sampots (traditional costumes) and purses for local and international markets is imported, with around 90 percent of imports coming from Vietnam and the remainder from China.

Only around 4 tonnes of silk thread is produced domestically, Ke Muny said. Association figures show silk imports cost around US$10 million last year, or $25,000 per tonne.

Men Sinoeun, executive director of the Artisans Association of Cambodia (AAC), a training and trade facilitation organisation that works directly with more than 42 social enterprises across the country, said members’ exports were likely to be worth only $2 million this year. Last year,
association members exported $2.7 million worth of silk products abroad, mostly to markets in the United States, Europe and Japan.

“Exports of silk products may decrease 26 percent this year, but we do not consider it a serious situation because we still hope that the world economy will recover next year,” Men Sinoeun said.

Domestic demand steady
Pheanuroth Sisowath, president of the Khmer Silk Village Association and project coordinator for the Sector Wide Silk Project, which brings together the silk sector’s key stakeholders, said despite the downturn in export orders, local demand for silk is still going strong. Locals buy around 70 percent of silk products produced in the country, with the remainder bought by tourists or exported, he said.

To meet this growing demand and capture more of the value chain in Cambodia, between $10 million and $20 million needs to be invested to develop the capacity to produce silk thread locally, Pheanuroth Sisowath said. “Silk products are more and more popular among Cambodian people, so Cambodia needs to inevst in silk-thread production to meet local demand.”

He added that Cambodia has plenty of land to plant the mulberry trees on which silkworms grow, but that the capital needed to produce large-scale silkworm-rearing operations is lacking.

The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) announced last week that it has launched a $475,000 project to develop a silkworm egg production centre as part of efforts to boost local production capacity. The project, which will take two years to get up and running,
will be capable of producing up to 5,000 cases of disease-free silkworms per year, the FAO said.

Under the project, seven demonstration farms will be set up in Kampong Speu, Takeo, Kampot, Kampong Cham, Kratie, Pursat, Siem Reap, and Banteay Meanchey provinces to teach silkworm-raising techniques and cocoon-reeling techniques.

Building of Yamaha factory put back again

Tuesday, 22 September 2009 15:01 Nguon Sovan

THE construction of a Yamaha assembly plant in Cambodia will be further delayed, at least until early next year, the minority shareholder in the joint venture said Monday.

Assembly of motorcycles from premanufactured parts was originally slated to begin in October this year with the aim of producing about 30,000 motorcycles in the first year at a site in the Phnom Penh Special Economic Zone (PPSEZ).

Construction was halted in March. In June, Kong Nuon, the joint venture’s chairman, said building would start by year’s end, but he told the Post Monday that it was unlikely there would be any activity this year.

“We may begin the construction sometimes early next year because in December this year we will fly to Japan to discuss the commencement of construction with our shareholders,” he said. “We still hope that we will be able to assemble Yamaha motorcycles in Cambodia by the end of next year because it will take only six to nine months to build the assembly factory.”

The US$11.5 million venture, to be located on a 4,890-square-metre site in the PPSEZ, will be 70 percent owned by Yamaha Motor Co, with Toyota Tsusho Corp taking a 20 percent stake and Kong Nuon Import the remaining 10 percent.

Kong Nuon said motorcycle sales in Cambodia had slumped since the real estate market collapsed last year, resulting in the delay. “We have not seen any recovery in motorcycle sales in the last few months,” he said.

Prior to last year’s slump, the company forecast demand for new motorcycles at about 140,000 per year. It now estimates the market to be around 100,000 a year.

Fibre-optic link to open by 2010

A technician holds part of a fibre-optic cable. Cambodia’s Telcotech is part of a consortium building a fibre-optic undersea cable linking the US to Southeast Asia that is expected to go live by year’s end.

Tuesday, 22 September 2009 15:01 Nathan Green

Despite setbacks on Asia-US undersea cable, Cambodia will be involved through Telcotech

CAMBODIA’S connection to a high-bandwidth fibre-optic cable linking Southeast Asia to the United States is expected to go live before the end of this year, an engineer with the Cambodian member of the consortium building the network said last week.

The engineer, who asked not to be named, said Telcotech was aiming to “synchronise its launch” with the switching on of the US$550 million, 20,000-kilometre-long Asia-America Gateway (AAG) network, predicting a lag time of less than a month for testing and integration.

Mohamad Izani Karim, a spokesman for Telekom Malaysia, one of 17 members of the consortium building the network, said by email that the AAG was due to be launched in the final quarter of this year.

“AAG is physically complete, [but] we are putting it through a series of tests (both by the suppliers and the purchasers) to ensure that the system is ready to carry commercial traffic,” he said.

The AAG, which will directly connect Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Brunei, Vietnam, Hong Kong, the Philippines, Guam, Hawaii and the US West Coast, was originally expected to carry commercial Internet and voice traffic by the end of last year.

Cambodia missed its chance to have direct connection to the cable when its original representative, Pacific Communications Ltd, decided against it during the design phase.

Telcotech, which became a consortium member in October 2007 after Pacific Communications’ removal in February of that year, was left to negotiate connectivity through other member countries, the engineer said.

However, as a consortium member, it had the right to access connectivity from any landing point through a “backhaul agreement” with other consortium members at “reasonable cost”.

It will initially access the network through landing stations in Vietnam and Thailand but is considering options to link to the network via other member countries.

The engineer said the cost of bandwidth via backhaul agreements would be more expensive than had Pacific Communications agreed a landing point in Cambodia, but that the terms of membership guaranteed a fair price.

That cost would also potentially be offset by providing bandwidth to the operator carrying the traffic from the landing station to Cambodia, he added.

Because Telcotech will own the capacity, it will also be of a higher quality than current connectivity in Cambodia, which is sourced from operators in Thailand and Vietnam that tend to provide the country only with overflow capacity.

“Cambodia will have dedicated access for the first time,” the engineer said.

Telcotech has completed a fibre-optic backbone to provide its bandwidth to major towns and cities across the country. It runs from Poipet on the Thai border through Phnom Penh to Xa Mat, a Vietnamese town on the border with Cambodia. It is also building a second cross-country network, which will run along a different route from Poipet to another location on the Vietnam border, most likely near Bavet, the engineer said.

A second connection from Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville has also been finished, which can be extended underwater to connect to landing points of the AAG in countries other than Vietnam and Thailand.

Telcotech is owned by its chairman, Huot Vanthan, who also has a stake in Maruhan Bank and Sotelco, the operator of mobile phone provider Beeline, predominantly owned by Vimpelcom Group.

Karim refused to reveal the reason for the removal of Pacific Communications from the AAG consortium, saying it was “privileged information which I cannot release”.

Pacific Communications could not be reached for comment last week, but according to local media reports, the company’s business licence was revoked in 2008 over an alleged corruption scandal involving company director Song Nimol, the wife of then-Telecom Cambodia director general Nhek Kosol Vithyea, which saw him removed from his post in April of that year.

In a filing to the Ho Chi Minh Stock Exchange dated August 28, 2008, the company’s major Vietnamese investor, Cables and Telecommunications Material Corporation, said it withdrew its 49 percent stake in the company – which it held with other Vietnamese investors – following the scandal.

Border war, point-blank

Photo by: Eric De Vries
This untitled image of a soldier at Preah Vihear, taken by Siem Reap photographer Eric de Vries, illustrates his personal and evocative shooting style. The image is one of a series of 20 on display from tonight at the Chinese House in Phnom Penh.

Tuesday, 22 September 2009 15:00 Louis White

Photographer Eric de Vries gets up close and personal photographing the daily lives of Preah Vihear-based soldiers in a country he has grown to love.

As tourists begin to trickle back to visit the Preah Vihear temple, Siem Reap-based photographer Eric De Vries is presenting a series of images depicting a day in the life of a Khmer soldier.

The images, shot in the final weeks before the joint agreement to withdraw troops from the site, form his new series Khmer Standoff (at Preah Vihear).

Preferring to get up close and personal with his subjects, rather than shoot from a distance, the Dutch photographer has created a collection that provides an insight into the situation at a very timely moment.

“I wanted to do a series about the Khmer soldiers who have been there for more than one year now, and how they kill time all day during this standoff,” de Vries says.

“I heard that the tension between the Thais and the Khmer was almost history and, prior to both sides’ pulling back troops, I felt I had to go up there before it was too late.”

De Vries’ exhibition reveals a surprising side to soldiering.

To keep boredom at bay between scheduled postings, Khmer soldiers grew vegetables next to sandbag bunkers and even turned their hand to amateur hairdressing to make sure they looked the part, de Vries reveals.

Prasat Preah Vihear is located atop a cliff in the Dangrek mountain range in the far north of Cambodia; an adventurous journey from Siem Reap, particularly by motorbike during the rainy season.

De Vries and his two assistants stayed in Kor Muy, at the foot of the mountains, before making their way to the top the next morning.

“I was really hoping that we, my assistant and brother-in-law included, could stay on top of the mountain overnight with the soldiers,” he said.

“However, the military police didn’t give us permission to do so, which is completely understandable, really.”

When asked about the experience, de Vries claims the soldiers were far from camera shy; all trying their best to be in the series and even going so far as to have a wardrobe change between shots.

Though not permitted to photograph the huge guns facing Thailand, the intrepid trio were taken on a jungle tour by four soldiers, which followed a path through a minefield to the caves underneath the temple.

The only other visitors they encountered were Khmer delegations on official visits and one Japanese tourist, but by the end of the day, de Vries said, he had captured everything he wanted and more.

Much of de Vries’s work is in black and white, which, he says, is simply a personal choice. But for the Khmer Standoff series, he has added a sepia tint, much like he did for his previous series Behind the Tree, Into the Light.

De Vries says he has been captivated by Cambodia since he first travelled to Southeast Asia in 2000. He visited four countries in almost three months, but it was the two weeks he spent in Cambodia that had the biggest impact.

“The people, the countryside and the temples; I was surprised by its beauty and all the smiling Khmer,” he says.

“From then on, I visited Cambodia almost every year to explore and take photographs, before I eventually settled down in Phnom Penh in late 2007,” de Vries says.

Apart from the “photographic heaven” that is Cambodia, de Vries says his family is also an important tie to the country now. His wife is Khmer and recently gave birth to their daughter, C’moon.

As well as working as a photographer, de Vries is co-owner of 4FACES cafe and gallery in Siem Reap, where he exhibits and sells his own work and that of other photographers.

De Vries’s Khmer Standoff series was presented at the International Festival of Photojournalism in Perpignan, France, just two weeks after the photo shoot for Asia Motion, de Vries’s Phnom Penh-based photo agency.

The collection will also be showing at the Chinese House lounge bar and gallery in Phnom Penh today through September 30, with the exhibition opening tonight at 7pm.