Saturday, 3 October 2009

CAMBODIA New liturgical dances created during dance seminar

A group of young people in Tahen parish performing a dance (file photo)

(Post by CAAI News Media)
BATTAMBANG, Cambodia (UCAN) -- About 90 classical dancers from all three Church jurisdictions in Cambodia gathered to take part in the first-ever Church-held seminar on the art form.

At the Sept. 23-25 seminar at Battambang parish, participants also created some new liturgical dances.

Participants came from Battambang prefecture and from Cambodia's other two Church jurisdictions -- Phnom Penh vicariate and Kompong Cham prefecture.

"The aim of this seminar is to instill in Catholic dancers a deep appreciation of classical Cambodian dance and to point out practices that are not in line with those handed down by our ancestors," said Soun Bunnarith, who heads the Battambang apostolic prefecture's cultural office.

Moreover, the seminar trained participants "on how to wear dance attire and as well as create new dances," she added.

Participants also choreographed three new dances -- the "Our Father Dance," the "Holy Spirit Dance" and a "Dance in Praise of the Virgin Mary."

Battambang vicar general Father Jose Hildy Banaynal praised participants for their creativity. The Jesuit priest stressed that the local Church is trying its best to preserve local traditions and spread the Good News through them.

Monsignor Enrique Figaredo, apostolic prefect of Battambang, agreed. "According to my 25-year experience in Cambodia, the best way to spread the Word of God and to get people to know Jesus is through culture," he said. "Classical dance, which is becoming popular here, is an important part of Cambodian culture." He also pointed out that classical dance is an effective way of spreading the word of God because the movements convey meaning.

During the seminar, Providence Sister Maria Art pointed out that the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) encourages local Churches to inculturate the liturgy. Since the revival of the local Church in the 1990s after decades of civil war and religious persecution, it has been using Khmer language in liturgy, the nun said. "And now, we are paying attention to Cambodian dance," she added.

Several parishes in the Buddhist-majority country now run classical dance classes catering to both Catholic and Buddhist students.

At the end of the seminar, the dancers presented classical dances and songs, accompanied by traditional musical instruments.

Ron Sphear, 20, from Tahen parish, outside Battambang, said the seminar was a wonderful experience of sharing and learning from one other.

Louy Samnang, 26, from Kompot Parish in Phnom Penh apostolic vicariate, said he has learned how to use classical dance to praise God. For him, having Cambodian classical dance in the liturgy shows Catholicism is not "a European religion," as many Cambodians believe.

About 95 percent of the more than 14 million Cambodians are Buddhists. Christians form approximately 2 percent of the population.

Different Opinions about a Draft to Control Civil Society – Friday, 2.10.2009

Posted on 3 October 2009
The Mirror, Vol. 13, No. 632
(Post by CAAi News Media)

“The draft of a law by the government to control non-government organizations, where two institutions, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Interior, are studying the draft before it is presented for adoption, led more than 200 national and international organizations to release a statement about it.

“In a statement signed by 216 local and international groups, distributed Tuesday [at an international donors' meeting], Cambodia’s NGO community asked to get to see a draft of the new law that will soon govern associations and non-government organizations in Cambodia.

“This law was marked as a priority by Prime Minister Hun Sen in a September [2008] speech, but members of civil society told The Cambodia Daily yesterday [1 October 2009] that they haven’t seen a draft of the proposed legislation in the year since. That prompted them to call for more consultation, with concerned organizations issuing their statement during Tuesday’s donors meeting between the government and development partners.

“‘Do you have a draft? I don’t have one,’ said Dr. Sin Somony, the director of the medical NGO umbrella group Medicam, said by telephone on 1 October 2009. ‘That’s why I’m wondering when a draft will be available,’ he said. The public health organization, along with the Cooperation Committee of Cambodia and the NGO Forum on Cambodia, organized a meeting last week with members of civil society groups to discuss the proposed law. They sent invitations to the Ministry of Interior and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, the two government bodies involved in drafting the law, but no government representatives attended the meeting.

“The directotr of the NGO Forum, Mr. Chhith Sam Ath, told the same paper that he had not seen a draft of the law, or spoken with government representatives in the past year, a sentiment echoed by Lun Borithy, the executive director of the Cooperation Committee of Cambodia.

“‘We cannot give any input on what is in the law, until we know what is in it,’ Mr. Borithy said yesterday.

“The statement from the 216 NGOs, which was not taken up to be addressed by the donors meeting on Tuesday, also questioned the government’s motivation in creating the law.

“‘We believe that the current registration processes are adequate to ensure proper operations and, more importantly, they are seen as supportive for an ‘enabling’ environment for civil society, to exercise its right to engage in participatory democracy,’ it read.

“‘The legitimacy of civil society to create space for the ‘voice’ of affected communities is being called into question by the government.’

“Members of the government have said that the law will promote transparency in the NGO community and weed out groups that support terrorism. The last draft made available to members of civil society was written in 2005.

“CARE International’s Country Director Sharon Wilkinson told The Cambodia Daily yesterday that she does not necessarily object to the idea of a law governing associations.

“‘Laws are excellent things to govern, if the laws are unambiguous and cannot be used to hamper civil society,’ Ms. Wilkinson said. ‘I cannot comment on whether this law will do this or not, because I have not seen it.’

“She pointed out that, as things stand now, local organizations must register with the Mnistry of Interior, while international NGOs enlist at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and that the CCC administers an NGO good practices registry, which invites associations to voluntarily adhere to a code of ethics.

“‘Nobody is working outside the law,’ Ms. Wilkinson said.

“Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesman Koy Kuong said that the draft is currently being discussed by members of his ministry and the Interior Ministry.

“‘Right now, it’s in process. A technical team is working on it,’ adding that he did not have information about the content of the draft.

“Interior Ministry spokesman Lieutenant General Khieu Sopheak said that an NGO law will encourage organizations that are politically neutral, and discourage ‘racist’ groups.

“But analysts said that non-government organizations have worked to serve poor citizens and people with poor knowledge by preventing dishonest and rich people from harassing the weak.

“The president of Cambodian Free Trade Union of Workers, Mr. Chea Mony, told Khmer Machas Srok via telephone yesterday evening, ‘It is wrong. Generally, civil society organizations are not subordinates of political parties and the government. Therefore, if the government drafts a law to put civil society organizations under its control, it is against the main pact of the International Labor Organization (ILO) which stipulates that there is no interference form the government.’

“He added that if the government intends to control civil society organizations, our country will be later not a democratic country, but a country controlled by the state. And civil society organizations are like trade unions created by the state. If they are state’s unions, there will be no transparency and they must support the government, otherwise they will not receive aid. All in all, a draft law to control civil society organizations is not right.”

Khmer Machas Srok, Vol.3, #500, 2.10.2009
Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Friday, 2 October 2009

Cambodia hosts second Mekong-Japan Foreign Ministers' Meeting

October 03, 2009
(Post by CAAI News Media)

The second foreign ministerial meeting among five Mekong countries and Japan kicked off Saturday in Siem Reap province, northern part of Cambodia.

As the meeting started, Cambodia's Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Hor Namhong, who chaired the one-day meeting session said it was a forum to help reduce the gap in the region by developing the Mekong sub-region.

The agenda for the second Mekong-Japan Foreign Ministers' Meeting is to review progress made since the first meeting in Tokyo, Japan in January 2008.

The meeting attended by foreign ministers from Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Japan, Vietnam was represented by a deputy foreign minister attended the meeting.

Mekong-Japan Partnership Program was launched in 2007 for the sake of peace, development and prosperity in the Mekong sub-region.

According to the program of discussion, the foreign ministers will not only discuss the development programs, but also to exchange views on regional and global issues of common concern.

Source: Xinhua

2nd storm slams into northern Philippines

By ROHAN SULLIVAN - Associated Press Writer
Published: 10/03/09
(Post by CAAI News Media)

MANILA, Philippines — Typhoon Parma slammed into the Philippines on Saturday, knocking down trees and power pylons with powerful winds and pelting the already sodden country with more heavy rain. There were no immediate reports of injuries.

The storm - the country's second in eight days - roared ashore in the northern province of Cagayan at mid afternoon after picking up speed as it swirled toward the coast, said chief government forecaster Nathaniel Cruz.

It was cutting a path across the northeastern tip of the main island of Luzon and was headed in the direction of Taiwan, where evacuations of southern villages were under way.

Tens of thousands of people were moved to safe ground across the Philippines ahead of the typhoon, which came on the heels of another storm on Sept. 26 that killed at least 288 people in the worst flooding in four decades in the Southeast Asian country.

But Parma was not expected to cause as much damage as the earlier storm, Ketsana. It changed course overnight Friday and largely bypassed Manila, the capital, which in many parts was still under chest-deep water.

Trees were uprooted and power poles toppled in the provincial capital of Tuguegarao, Cagayan local government official Bonifacio Cuarteros told The Associated Press by telephone. In neighboring Isabella, gusting winds knocked a rider off his motorcycle, and trees and billboards were blown down.

"We pray that we won't have a worse outcome, but with this kind of situation, we cannot really say," Cuarteros said.

Parma was packing sustained winds of 108 mph (175 kph) and heavy rain, the national weather bureau said.

Weather bureau chief Prisco Nilo warned the rain could trigger landslides and flooding, and strong winds could also create tidal surges "similar to a tsunami" along the eastern coast.

Cruz said earlier the storm's change in direction overnight had lessened the risk of another flood disaster in Manila, but warned the storm was still dangerous in the north.

"It is good news, especially for those whose houses are still under water," Cruz said. "But 175 (kph winds) can still uproot trees and destroy houses and blow down roofs."

Further south, officials began moving back tens of thousands of people who had been evacuated from coastal areas that might have been in the path of the storm.

Taiwan issued a storm warning and began moving people out of villages in the southern county of Kaohsiung, local official Lin Chun-chieh said. Flash floods from the last typhoon to hit the Kaohsiung area killed about 700 people in August.

Last week, Ketsana damaged the homes of more than 3 million people in the Philippines. It went on to hit other Southeast Asian countries, killing 99 in Vietnam, 14 in Cambodia and 16 in Laos.

It was part of more than a week of destruction in the Asia-Pacific region that has claimed more than 1,500 lives so far: an earthquake Wednesday in Indonesia; a tsunami Tuesday in the Samoan islands; and Typhoon Ketsana across Southeast Asia

Ketsana toll in Laos rises to 24

(Post by CAAI News Media)

3 October 2009, HANOI - The death toll from Tropical Storm Ketsana in Laos has risen to 24, the country’s Red Cross said on Saturday.

Seven people who refused to leave their homes in southernmost Attapeu province accounted for most of the additional deaths, said Bountheung Menvilay, head of the agency’s disaster preparedness division.

Their houses were swept into a river, he said.

On Friday, when details of the tragedy began to emerge from one of Asia’s poorest nations, Bountheung reported 16 deaths from the storm which moved through the country on Wednesday.

Ketsana has brought devastation across Southeast Asia, first killing at least 293 people in the Philippines last weekend before striking Vietnam, where 99 died, and Cambodia where it claimed 17 lives.

Attapeu province borders Cambodia and, along with adjacent Sekong province, has been the hardest hit in Laos, aid workers said.

Detailed information from the rugged region — hard to reach even in normal times — has been difficult to obtain, they said.

“Now I cannot contact Sekong branch,” the Red Cross official said, referring to his unit in the province.

He said 103 people were missing but there was no update on the number of people displaced, which on Friday he put at 37,500.

In Sekong alone about 25,000 people have lost either their homes, gardens or livestock, said Henry Braun, Laos director for the aid agency CARE, which is leading the relief effort in that province.

“Most of them have lost everything,” he said.

CARE staff reached two villages which each had only one in 25 houses still standing, Braun said.

The United Nations World Food Programme said rice and canned fish from its stockpile were distributed by the government on Friday in Sekong, where access was only possible by boat and helicopter.

Attapeu remained inaccessible, it said.

'Kasit Piromya' attends Mekong-Japan Foreign Ministers' Meeting in Cambodia

3 October 2009
(Post by CAAI News Media)

BANGKOK, Oct 3 (TNA) – Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya and his diplomatic counterparts from Cambodia, Lao, Myanmar, and Vietnam, are meeting Saturday with newly-appointed Japanese Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada in the northwest Cambodian city of Siem Reap to review progress and set the direction for continued cooperation in regional development.

The Second Mekong-Japan Foreign Ministers’ Meeting is being chaired by Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Affairs Minister Hor Namhong and is being attended by Mr. Okada along with the foreign ministers of Lao, Myanmar, Vietnam and Thailand.

On the sidelines of the Mekong meeting, Mr. Hor Namhong will also chair the Second Foreign Ministers’ Meeting regarding Emerald Triangle Cooperation between Cambodia, Laos and Thailand.

Under the Second Mekong-Japan Foreign Ministers’ Meeting, Japan, which has actively assisted the Mekong region countries, is expected to offer continued commitment to regional development with its vision to create an ‘East Asian Community’.

The meeting is aimed at improving regional infrastructure and human resources, as well as reducing poverty, and will pave the way for a leaders’ summit later this year.

In the afternoon, the foreign ministers of Cambodia, Laos and Thailand will meet under the Emerald Triangle Cooperation umbrella in which they are expected to commit to expanded cooperation in tourism, infrastructure and trade.

The Emerald Triangle Cooperation framework consists of the three neighbouring countries joining together to utilise the combined tourism resources of the sub-region for the mutual benefit of the participating countries. The strengths in the tourism industry of each member country will enhance the combined potential in this sector and promote tourism in the sub-region.

It will also help generate growth and reduce income disparity in the three countries and enhance the well being of people at the grassroots level.

In the afternoon Mr Kasit will hold bilateral talks with the newly-appointed Japanese foreign minister over common interests and plans to develop the Mekong Sub-Region. (TNA)

Cambodian FM calls on strengthening partnership for development of Mekong basin
(Post by CAAI News Media)

SIEM REAP, Cambodia, Oct. 3 (Xinhua) -- The second foreign ministerial meeting among five Mekong countries and Japan kicked off Saturday in Siem Reap province, northern part of Cambodia, aimed to boost joint development effort in the area.

As the meeting started, Cambodia's Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Hor Namhong, who chaired the one-day meeting session said "Our gathering here today constitutes a step further in the realization of our partnership for the development of the Mekong basin, which would certainly yield great benefit for the peoples living along the Mekong River and Japan as well."

The agenda for the second Mekong-Japan Foreign Ministers' Meeting is to review progress made since the first meeting in Tokyo, Japan in January 2008.

Hor Namhong also said that "The cooperation between the Mekong region and Japan is bound to have major implications for the future development of the Mekong basin." He highly appreciates Japan's commitment to provide more Official Development Assistance (ODA) to Asia, saying that this initiative "would not only strengthen Asia's growth potential, but also contribute to ASEAN integration."

The meeting attended by foreign ministers from Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Japan, Vietnam was represented by a deputy foreign minister attended the meeting.

Mekong-Japan Partnership Program was launched in 2007 for the sake of peace, development and prosperity in the Mekong sub-region.

According to the program of discussion, the foreign ministers will not only discuss the development programs, but also to exchange views on regional and global issues of common concern.

Editor: Lin Zhi

Vietnamese businesses gain traction in Cambodia

A woman carries a large load of goods from Vietnam to Cambodia via the Tinh Bien Border Gate.

Saturday, October 3, 2009
(Post by CAAI News Media)

Thai and Chinese enterprises lose Cambodian market shares to Vietnamese investors.

Le Hong Thuyen is home from Cambodia looking for new suppliers for her shopping mall in Phnom Penh.

The mall, named Vinamart, is the Cambodian capital city’s number-one outlet for Vietnamese products. When it opened in 2006, Vinamart only sold a limited product range supplied by 16 Vietnamese producers. But the outlet has grown larger, and now offers a vast array of both Vietnamese and Cambodian goods.

“It’s a surprise that Cambodian people like Vietnamese goods these days,” said Thuyen. “They especially like Vietnamese food products... they’ve gotten to know and trust Vietnamese brands.”

Lay Vannak, deputy major of Takeo Province, which borders Vietnam’s An Giang Province in the Mekong Delta, said Vietnamese products had expanded their market shares in Cambodia and “some products have defeated those from Thailand and China.”

He said Vietnamese businesses have improved their competitiveness in terms of both quality and packaging.

An Giang Province has a long border with Cambodia and accounted for 70 perct of bilateral trade between the two countries. Vietnam exported US$1.7 billion goods to Cambodia last year, an annual growth rate of 40-45 percent.

In August, the province officially opened the Tinh Bien Economic Border Gate Zone, where Cambodians, Vietnamese and international tourists can access duty free goods at the border.

Nguyen Minh Tri, head of the province’s Economic Border Gate Authorities, said the zone and its ten supermarkets were a strategic foundation upon which Vietnamese goods could penetrate the Cambodian market.

He also said the zone acted as a depot from which exports were launched to other markets around the globe.

Ho Chi Minh City’s Industry a Trade Service said it was difficult for Vietnamese businesses to store their products in Cambodia and it would be hard for them to boost their exports to the market where local production was underdeveloped.

Vu Kim Hanh, chairwoman of the Vietnamese High Quality Goods Club, said its members planned to build a warehouse at Tinh Bien as part of their export strategy to Cambodia.

Room for improvement

Local businesses were offering strong products at competitive prices in Cambodia, but their distribution and promotion networks remain weak, according to a survey conducted in September by the Business Support Assistance (BSA) in association with Vietnamese research firm Truong Doan.

The survey of consumers and retailers in Phnom Penh and Battambong cities showed that high-quality Vietnamese goods were recognized in Cambodia but that Vietnamese products in general were attached to less competitive labeling and promotions than those from Thailand, said Truong Cung Nghia, director of Truong Doan.

Nghia said Vietnamese businesses were strong in stationaries, bicycles and two and four-wheel accessories, footwear and garments, building materials, fertilizers, seeds, home appliances and plastic products.

Consumer and retailer satisfaction with high-quality Vietnamese goods was higher than with those from Thailand and China, said the survey, which added that retailers profited more from trading Vietnamese goods.

But still, Vietnamese businesses lacked the intense promotional campaigns of their Thai counterparts, which offered free products, cost cutting and television commercials.

In need

“We need the support of Vietnamese producers in terms of a distribution strategy,” said Thuyen from Vinamart.

Thuyen said her shopping mall dealt in Vietnamese products and she was finding it difficult to train Cambodian staff as well, due to the language barrier.

Local producers should understand the difficulties and give a hand to traders like her in the new market, she said

Vietnamese product prices were also less competitive than Thai rivals, which enjoyed lower import taxes in Cambodia and had the strategic support of the Thai government, said the BSA.

The firm said the Vietnamese government should increase dialogues on the issue with its Cambodian counterparts to help Vietnamese businesses like the Thais had done.

Reported by Minh Quang

Cambodia's Displaced: Can Canada Make a Difference?

Workers demolish house on prime real estate in Phnom Penh during a forced eviction on July 2. Photo: Jared Ferrie

As farmers and city dwellers are uprooted by developments, advocates call on CIDA to rise to their defence.

By Jared Ferrie, Yesterday,

(Post by CAAI News Media)

As far back as their history goes, the Bunong lived semi-nomadic lives, cultivating small plots of land for a couple years at a time before moving on to allow the soil to regenerate. That came to an end when the United States began carrying out its secret bombing of Cambodia in 1969.
"We fled to Vietnam and we lived in camps there," recalled Prap Tuch, an elderly member of the Bunong ethnic minority.
His people stayed and escaped the horror that was to follow -- the Khmer Rouge regime, which killed as many as two million Cambodians between 1975 and 1979. The Bunong finally returned to their mountainous homeland in 1986.
But they now face a new threat to their way of life.
Cambodia's government has been granting concessions to companies eager to extract the country's natural resources. Land occupied by the Bunong is being cleared to make way for rubber plantations run by Socfin, a subsidiary of the French conglomerate Bollore Group, in partnership with a Cambodian company, KCD.
Prap is just one of an estimated 150,000 Cambodians threatened with forced eviction throughout the country, according to Amnesty International. A real estate boom in the capital, Phnom Penh, has seen thousands displaced -- illegally, say land law experts -- to make way for property developments. The government recently pulled out of a World Bank financed program that aimed to halt forced evictions by sorting out land title in rural areas.
Advocates for the Bunong and other displaced groups say Canada could be an influential voice on their behalf because the Canadian International Development Agency is donor and technical advisor to the Cambodian government's land reform program.

But as more and more Cambodians are forced from their homes, Canada's response so far has been official silence.

'Three unacceptable options'

The Bunong have been offered three options: compensation, relocation or the opportunity to produce rubber on small, family-run plantations.

Prap said none of them were particularly attractive. He would prefer to produce some rubber to sell to the company while still maintaining land that would allow him to farm his traditional crops of rice, fruits and vegetables.

"I don't refuse development. We need to live as other people," he said. "But if we lose the fields, we lose our culture."

Furthermore, he said, his land has not been measured in order to assess compensation, even though he has been forced out to make way for a rubber plantation.

"Allowing people to choose between three unacceptable options for compensation is not meaningful consultation," said David Pred, country director of Bridges Across Borders, which advocates on land rights issues. "The company should start by listening to the affected communities and understanding what their needs and development aspirations are."

Phillip Monnin, who heads Socfin's operations here, did not respond to an e-mailed request for comment.

'Maybe... some errors'

Eric Beugnot, Cambodia director of the French Development Agency (AFD), said Socfin has launched a study to determine the social and environmental impacts of the plantation.

"They recognized maybe they have made some errors, some mistakes," he said. "They included in the study what has been done and eventually corrective action."

AFD is evaluating a $2.5 million plan to help "smallholders." The project would encourage the company to integrate more family-run rubber plantations into its overall operation.

"That could serve as a model for economic concessions," said Beugnot, adding that the company has no obligation to pursue such a model; it could just as easily develop its concession as a private rubber plantation.

'Laws ignored'

Daniel King, a lawyer with the Community Legal Education Centre (CLEC), said the Socfin-KCD deal is murky, and information provided to the community is often conflicting.

"The actual clearing of land by Socfin-KCD has not always corresponded to this information," he said.

In fact, he said, the deal may be illegal under Cambodian law, which requires an Environmental and Social Impact Assessment prior to granting an economic land concession (ELC). Copies of those assessments have been requested from the relevant ministries, but have not been provided.

"They may not have been conducted prior to the granting of the ELC or the clearing of land," he said.

King was also skeptical of the French Development Agency's role, suggesting the danger of French taxpayer dollars being used to fund the "social aspects" of an illegal land deal.

"Its partnership with Socfin-KCD in that endeavour could be seen as supporting an ELC that is likely to be illegal under national and international human rights law," he said.

Beugnot said the feasibility study, which AFD requires if it is to provide funding to Socfin-KCD, began weeks ago and will take three months to complete.

In the meantime, those affected by the land concession have few options. On June 19, members of the Bunong held traditional ceremonies to appease ancestral spirits for the loss of forest they consider sacred, and to curse the rubber companies.

Recently, out of desperation, Prap travelled to Phnom Penh with other members of his community to raise awareness of their plight.

"I don't know how to get the land back. Now I just stay and wait and maybe my family will starve," he said.

Decades of displacement

Cambodia has seen years of massive displacement beginning with Richard Nixon's bombing campaign, which he authorized in secret without consent of Congress. In an attempt to disrupt North Vietnamese supply lines along the border with Vietnam, the U.S. dropped an estimated 540,000 tons of bombs on Cambodia in four years, which strengthened support for Khmer Rouge rebels. The bombs killed as many as 500,000 people and displaced about 30 per cent of the population.

Millions more fled the countryside in the following years as a civil war raged between U.S.-backed government troops and the Khmer Rouge. When the Khmer Rouge took over in 1975, they emptied Phnom Penh of almost all of its inhabitants, forcing them and millions of others throughout the country into labour camps. After Vietnamese and Cambodian forces ousted the regime in 1979, refugees flooded back into the capital seeking shelter wherever they could find it.

Still more Cambodians languished in camps in Thailand as Cambodian and Vietnamese troops battled the remnants of the Khmer Rouge and other armed groups. The remaining Khmer Rouge were finally defeated in 1998 and refugees returned.

New era, same problem

Decades of forced migration have resulted in a tangled web of land ownership claims. In an attempt to address the issue, the government passed a law in 2001 stating that those who had occupied a piece of land continuously for at least five years could claim legal title. But Cambodian courts, which critics say are notoriously corrupt, have rarely enforced that law.

Instead of bombs, bullets and landmines, Cambodians are now forced from their homes by powerful economic interests.

In Phnom Penh, property prices shot up 100 per cent in 2007, according to a report by the International Monetary Fund. Government officials and other elites have cashed in on the boom, along with international investors, pushing people from their homes in order to develop the land. A local organization, STT, estimates that 11 per cent of the capital's population has been forcibly relocated since 1991, with major evictions still planned. In rural areas, corrupt officials also partner with international investors to exploit natural resources, often forcing people off land that they have a strong legal claim to.

Land reform program scrapped

On Sept. 4, the Cambodian government terminated World Bank financing for the Land Management and Administration Project (LMAP), which has issued 1.1 million land titles in rural areas since 2002.

During a speech on Sept. 7, Cambodia's prime minister, Hun Sen, said cooperating with the World Bank on the program "was difficult because it was complicated and had too many conditions."

The move came after the World Bank, under pressure from advocacy groups, issued critical statements about LMAP and forced evictions.

A July 13 World Bank review of LMAP stated: "procedures for state land classification... were only partly implemented." The bank also noted "a particular disconnect between institutional, legal and policy achievements and insecurity of land tenure for the poor, especially in urban areas, and indigenous peoples."

In plain language, the bank meant that working with government officials to devise elaborate systems for assigning land ownership has not prevented land grabbing, despite whatever laws or regulations are put in place.

Or as Pred, of Bridges Across Borders, put it: "Donors to Cambodia's land sector have tried to provide technical solutions to political problems... powerful people are able to grab the land of the poor and vulnerable majority with total impunity"

Yet, a World Bank spokesman in Phnom Penh downplayed the government's decision, noting its promise to continue the process on its own.

"The World Bank welcomes the government's commitments to continue its reforms of the land sector," said Bou Saroeun.

Pred expressed no confidence in the government's promises.

"State land has been totally mismanaged by the Cambodian government even with World Bank and other donor involvement," he said.

Canada's role

Along with the World Bank, LMAP was supported by Canada, Finland and Germany. The Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) is also co-facilitator, along with the Cambodian government, on the Technical Working Group on Land and it holds a seat in the Ministry of Lands.

Critics have been urging Canada to use its leverage as a donor country to do more to stop the illegal expropriation of land.

"CIDA has so far been unwilling to challenge the status quo in order to address the real problems with land in Cambodia," said Pred. "Unless they do so, in a coordinated manner with other donors, there will be little return from the investments of its aid dollars."

Ironically, Pred noted, when donors refuse to stand up to governments that break their own laws, "the aid runs the risk of legitimizing the system."

CIDA's representative in Cambodia said she was not authorized to speak to reporters and directed questions to CIDA's media department in Canada, which did not respond to e-mailed questions.

On July 2, a group of 11 donors and aid agencies issued a statement calling on the government to halt forced evictions "until a fair and transparent mechanism for resolving land disputes is put in place."

The signatories included the World Bank and the United Nations, along with embassies including those of Britain, the U.S. and Australia.

"The Canadian International Development Agency, which has a seat in the Ministry of Lands, was conspicuously absent from that statement," said Daniel King the CLEC lawyer, "If I was a Canadian I'd be asking questions.

Cambodian Concerns over Thai Motivation in Border Issues

Written by DAP NEWS -- Saturday, 03 October 2009
(Post by CAAI News Media)

The Cambodian Government said on Friday that it has concerns about the political motivation of Thai leaders over border issues between Cambodia and Thailand near Cambodia’s 11th century Preah Vihear temple.

“As we have seen in border issues, n the future, Thailand will not abandon ambitions to take Cambodian land,” Pen Ngoeun, advisor to the Council of Ministers of Cambodia told reporters at a press conference at his office.

The border issues between two countries near Preah Vihear flared into armed clashes because of political motivation from Bangkok, he said, adding that Thai ‘yellow shirt’ protesters rally at the border near Preah Vihear temple with organized support.

“Thailand has still exercised and showed the ambition to invade Cambodian territory,” he stated, and Thais have been repeatedly foiled from occupying areas belonging to Cambodia around the site.

The Thais have erroneously used a map drawn by themselves to falsely stake claim to about 4.6 km square of Cambodian territory, he added. At the same time, he also launched a book title A Challenge to Thailand’s Denunciation of UNESCO and the World Heritage Committee to better explain the background to the current border issues with Thailand. Though both sides “have continued to deal the border issues which based on the peacefully bilateral deal and used all existing mechanisms,” he said. “we have noted that the Thai side have still used a hostile policy to take Cambodian land and it shows that they are not civilized people.”

Thai “extremists” must respect international law, such as the 1962 ruling of the World Court, which unequivocally awards Preah Vihear temple and its nearby environs to Cambodia. In fact, the World Court’s ruling, which Thailand initially promised to respect then rejected after they lost, was based on older documentation.

A 1904-07 border treaty between Thailand, then known as Siam, and France, the colonial representative of Cambodia, also drew the same boundary recognized by the World Court and currently claimed in by negotiations by Cambodia. That agreement was signed by the Thai monarch reigning at the time.

Earlier this week, Cambodia’s prime minister warned that any unauthorized incursions by foreigners, including civilians, would be met with deadly force. He also warned he would tear up the Thai map used in negotiations, saying he would not attend the upcoming ASEAN summit in Thailand.

In contrast, the Thai Foreign Ministry yesterday said that Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen would attend the 15th Association of Southeast Asian (ASEAN) Summit in the Thai seaside report of Hua Hin in October 23-25. Veerasak Futrakul, Permanent-Secretary for Foreign Affairs, said “bilateral talks between Thai and Cambodian leaders regarding the border dispute near the ancient Preah Vihear temple has not yet been set up”. Cambodia and Thailand have confronted at the border with heavy weapons and military forces since in July 15 after Cambodia registered Preah Vihear temple as world heritage site and the armed clashed killed at least than 10 soldiers from both sides. Now Cambodian and Thai border situation is normal. Joint Border Committee will continue it tasks for the talks. But Pen Ngoeun said that he did not know exactly when they restart talks or border demarcation at areas near Preah Vihear temple.”

Gov’t Rejects UN Human Right Envoy’s Remarks

Written by DAP NEWS -- Saturday, 03 October 2009
(Post by CAAI News Media)

The Cambodian Government strongly rejected UN Human Rights Envoy Surya Subedi’s calls for Cambodia to end the practice of suing and jailing its critics.

A UN human rights expert says freedom of speech is deteriorating in Cambodia after several government critics were convicted of defamation.

Surya Subedi said the conviction of an opposition lawmaker and two journalists in recent months “is a disturbing trend.”

Information Minister and Gover-nment spokesman Khieu Kahnarith on Friday dismissed the UN envoy’s criticism, saying that “I always say that the laziest workers are the staff of UN human rightss.” “What he says and claims, he doesn’t realize at all,” the minister added. He said that the main motivation of Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen in his controversial lawsuit against opposition leader Mu Sochua was “to prevent the premier’s dignity and value. We have to find the, but these human right workers do not observe.”

“We have allowed journalists to write whatever they want, but do not write any stories urging chaos and disorder in society; the Government will take measures soon in those cases,” Khieu Kahnarith said.

In his speech on Wednesday to the Human Rights Council in Geneva, Surya Subedi said that Cambodian laws regulating speech go beyond what is permissible under international treaties.

The UN in March appointed its new Special Rapporteur for Human Rights to Cambodia, prompting civil society concerns that the official will face the same hostile reception as his predecessor. Premier Hun Sen blasted the former UN Human Right Envoy Yash Ghai as a “long term tourist” after he criticized the human rights situation in Cambodia.

PM Surprised at RFA Dismissals

Written by DAP NEWS -- Saturday, 03 October 2009
(Post by CAAI News Media)

Prime Minister Hun Sen on Friday expressed surprise that Radio Free Asia (RFA) had fired five of their staff.

“Where are the RFA reporters? When workers are fired, RFA reporters are always there, but when they fired their own workers, why do they not broadcast?” the premier asked reporters in Siem Reap after his opening remarks at GMS meeting on Friday.

“I was very surprised when RFA firied their workers as this radio station belongs to the US Governmen t,” the premier said. “How can we believe in RFA broadcasting?”

The premier also asked whether RFA had followed labor regulations.

RFA fired Seang Sophorn, Huy Vannak, Phan Sophat, Mean Rith, and Thay Sothea. RFA has been criticized by many NGOs, journalists, and Government officials.

‘I have no more ways to Protest’: Mu Sochua

Written by DAP NEWS -- Saturday, 03 October 2009
(Post by CAAI News Media)

Interviewed by around 10 journalists waiting for her in the front of the Appeals Court room, Mu Sochua, Sam Rainsy Party (SRP) lawmaker, said that she has no more ways left to protest her verdict.

The Appeal Court Prosecutor General on Friday afternoon recalled Mu Sochua to question her further about her case with Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen after she disagreed with the Phnom Penh Municipal Court’s verdict in the defamation case she lost against the premier.
“I don’t have any more ways to protest,” Mu Sochua said.

However, she claimed that she represented herself at the Appeals Court.

“I could not have another lawyer as I don’t want any lawyers to suffer like Kong Sam On,” Mu Sochua said, referring to her former counsel.

Ouk Savuth, the Appeal Court Prosecutor General, could not be reached on Friday for comment. Ky Tech, the premier’s lawyer, on Friday told DAP News Cambodia that the court has yet to recall him.

“I am ready to face Mu Sochua,” said Ky Tech.

The Phnom Penh Municipal Court on August 4 announced its decision to fine MP Mu Sochua, an opposition Sam Rainsy Party (SRP) parliamentarian, CR 16.5 million after ruling in favor of Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen. The premier had brought a defamation suit against Mu Sochua.

Mu Sochua faced the court without defense lawyer after her former lawyer Kong Som Onn defected to the Cambodian People Party (CCP) and sent an apology letter to the Premier Hun Sen. Mu Sochua asked the court for Sok Sam Eoun, Cam-bodian Consulting Lawyer director, to be her defense lawyer. He declined her request.

Vietnamese Volunteers Fly in Food to Ratanakkiri

Written by DAP NEWS -- Saturday, 03 October 2009
(Post by CAAI News Media)

Authorized Vietnam Volunteer Services (A.V.N.V.S) 215 on Friday provided food to flood stricken Cambodians by helicopter, according to a local authority.

During the flooding and high winds, Cambodians were airlifted by A.V.N.V.S helicopter from the Angdaung Meas district of Ratana-kiri province.

District Governor Norng Narith Angdaung Meas said that the floods occurred after the Sesan River burst its banks.

Floodwaters from Vietnam in the wake of Typhoon Ketsona have caused widespread damage throughout the province. As well as their helicopter, A.V.N.V.S came equipped with three boats, two cars, 13 doctors, about 6 tons of Chinese noodles, 2,110 bottles of pure water, 70 kilograms of dried fish, 100 sets of second hand clothes, and other nutrition support, according to A.V.N.V.S reports.

Narith said that “My district got more benefited from the A.V.N.V.S … helping 863 families whose 277 houses were destroyed.”

Siem Reap Tourism Operating as Usual: Ministry

Written by DAP NEWS -- Saturday, 03 October 2009
(Post by CAAI News Media)

Although Typhoon Ketsana has caused damage across Cambodia, especially in Siem Reap province, on Friday the flooding was receding, with tourists able to visit Angkor Wat.

Cambodian Tourism Minister Thong Khon told DAP News Cambodia that the current rainy season is always quiet in Siem Reap province.

Still, much of Siem Reap province is underwater, and it is proving difficult to travel or transport goods.

National Highway 6 saw vendors set up as normal on Thursday, however, water transportation has been halted for several days, including from Battambong to Siem Reap, and from Siem Reap to round Phnom Penh. Air connections were also unavailable on September 30 due to high winds. But on Friday, October 2 all trans- port was operating as normal. The floods flowed from the Kulen mountain, a still revered watershed that was the source of the water for the agriculture that supported ancient Angkor.

The Director of Siem Reap Provincial Department told DAP News Cambodia that the kingdom would soon be reaping the benefits of the new tourism season. “The flooding just disrupted traveling for a few days, but no accidents happened to visitors.”

MoH Gives A/H1N1 Guidelines to Foreign Clinics

Written by DAP NEWS -- Saturday, 03 October 2009
(Post by CAAI News Media)

After a Cambodian woman died of A/H1N1 at the Sokhaphirum Private Clinic, the first swine flu fatality in Cambodia, the Ministry of Health (MoH) invited all private clinics to attend a meeting at MoH on Friday to give recommendations related to the spread of A/H1N1, according to a statement. The dead woman’s family accused the clinic of negligence.

MoH Secretary of State Eng Hourt invited private clinics to learn more about the new disease.  He told all Phnom Penh clinics to first report suspected cases to the state hospitals.

Family of the victim, Eng Heng, 41, told DAP News Cambodia that Sokhaphirum Clinic, located in Phnom Penh’s Makara 7 district and run by Dr. Srour Yina, referred the woman very late to Calemette hospital, where she tested positive for A/H1N1. A DAP News Cambodia reporter went to the above clinic, but a staff told him the boss was absent. A clinic staff member said that the MoH “called me to join a meeting I did not pay or not I still not clear about this.”

Eng Heng’s family again appealed for the MoH to investigate.

NIMA ASGARI representative of World Health Organization (WHO) for Cambodia said that “A/H1N1´s symptoms include fever, coughing.”

There have been 88 cases of A/H1N1 confirmed in Cambodia in the six provinces of Siem Reap, Takeo, Battambang, Kandal, Kampong Speu and Phnom Penh.

Foreign Minister Discusses Growing US Relationship

By Men Kimseng, VOA Khmer
Original report from New York
02 October 2009
(Post by CAAI News Media)

Editor’s note: US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met with Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong Sept. 28 to discuss on a wide range of issues, from human rights to bilateral debt. The two top diplomats met on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly. Prior to the meeting, Hor Namhong sat with VOA Khmer to discuss Cambodia’s improving relations with the US and its future.

Q. First of all, can you tell us what benefit Cambodia gets from its relations with the US, commercially and militarily?

A. I would like to tell you that relations with the US have been getting better over the last few years, and I would also like to highlight that the US has lifted a ban on military aid to Cambodia, as well as restrictions on all direct assistance to the government. Within this context, assistance has been provided focusing on demining, education and health. From 1999 until now there has been more than $250 million.

Political relations are also good. There have now been two meetings between the Cambodia and US foreign ministries. There will be more meetings every year. Recently, since Mr. [Barack] Obama became president, he has removed Cambodia from a trade blacklist. These show that step by step and day by day, our relations are improving very well, with the only exception that trade is decreasing. This is nothing of a bad relationship. It is merely due to the global economic crisis, which has made the US economy go down, making our textile exports, which include garments, shoes, etc. to fall.

In 2008, we exported around $2 billion to the US markets, but within the first six months of 2009, we exported only around $900 million.

Q. And on military assistance?

A. It is obvious that military assistance is not yet significant, but the positive point is that the two countries now have a military relationship and cooperation. The US has provided training to our peacekeepers, and there are good relations between the two armies on peace operations.

Recently, as you may already know, there was a delegation led by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense Tea Banh to meet with the US Defense Secretary Robert Gates. There is also an agreement that the two countries will continue military cooperation. These are good points on military relations.

Q. I understand that you will have a meeting with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. In what other areas does Cambodia want US assistance?

A. Apart from discussing how to strengthen, deepen and improve our relations, I will ask [Clinton] to ask the US government to relieve Cambodia's debt, because it was from the Lon Nol regime. The loan was for buying war weaponry to fight in Cambodia. I will tell her that Cambodia has never demanded reparations for the [US] bombing during the Vietnam War, which killed many Cambodians and caused damages. Cambodia has never asked for compensation. Therefore, the US should understand the debt Cambodia owes.

Q. On this debt cancelation, what trade will Cambodia offer to get the deal? In some countries, in exchange for debt relief, the country offers to invest in its education.

A. First, we will ask the US to totally cancel the debt, but if this is not possible, we will then ask to turn the majority of it into development assistance, and Cambodia will pay a certain small portion of it.

Q. On another front, the US surely promotes human rights and democracy, so what are the challenges Cambodia has in this area?

A. On this issue, I would like to inform all Cambodian listeners of Voice of America radio to clearly understand that, in his address to the UN General Assembly a few days ago, President Obama made it clear that democracy cannot be imported from outside and imposed on a country to accept it. Democracy must be rooted based on a country’s uniqueness.

Therefore, as for Cambodia, I would like to remind those who criticize the government, criticize human rights in Cambodia and criticize freedom of expression, that as for you who criticize the government from the US or other countries, and within Cambodia, freely without any punishment, this is a full freedom of expression; but there should not be confusion between [freedom of] expression and defamation, for which each country has its own laws to protect each individual.

For those who would like to express your opinion, you can do so, but once you defame others, they also have their own human rights, to seek the court to find justice for them on defamation. Therefore, there should not be confusion between freedom of expression and defamation.

Q. This relates to recent developments on the rights issue. But overall, in relation to human rights, will there be an area that Cambodia will focus on and needs to promote?

A. We recognize that human rights in Cambodia are not 100 percent good, but the important thing is that there is a commitment from the government to improve the respect for human rights. As you can see, and the Cambodian people can see: which country has thousands of non-governmental organizations working in the country, and out of this number there are hundreds of organizations and civil society groups working on human rights? Is there any country like Cambodia? This is freedom of expression, democracy, and respect for human rights in Cambodia.

In addition to that we have a permanent office of the human rights council working with the government to protect human rights. We now have the UN rapporteur, who was formerly called the UN special representative on human rights in Cambodia. So we have everything. The government is open to the respect of human rights and improvement of human rights in Cambodia. However, I see that once we give more rights, they still demand for more. There seems to be no limit.

Q. Does Cambodia have a mechanism to review and tackle issues raised by those organizations, implicating some individual or institution in rights violations?

A. In Cambodia we also have human rights committees in the [National Assembly] and the Senate. There is also a national committee to protect human rights, in addition to the hundreds of civil society organizations that we have.

Q. I would like to link this issue to the US assistance to Cambodia. How do you ensure that the assistance does not benefit those who have been implicated in human rights violations?

A. With all US assistance to Cambodia, as well as assistance from other countries and international organizations, there is not a single dollar or cent falling into the hands of human rights violators or into corruption. All assistance is used in line with objectives wanted by donor countries. I also would like to say that despite comments and accusations, embassies and representatives of other international institutions know that their assistance is used properly.

Q. Turning away from US-Cambodia relations to focus on Cambodia and Asean: as a new member of Asean, what strategy does Cambodia have to catch up with older members?

A. I would like to take this opportunity to tell you that among the 10 members of Asean, Cambodia is the last to participate. Whether you like it or not, there is a gap between the older six Asean countries and the four new members, namely, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, and Myanmar [Burma]. There is an economic gap. Therefore, all [members of] Asean understand that integrating the Asean economy to make sure that all the 10 members become as one so that there is no economic gap. This is the most important one. It is the target. It is Asean’s priority.

As you know, Asean has decided to form an Asean community in 2015. And from now until 2015, I always say that integrating Asean into one and to be one family without an economic gap is the most important factor, a top priority in forming an Asean community.

It is meaningless to have an Asean community by 2015 if we cannot integrate the Asean economy. We are now doing it with our own effort and with support from other older members, as well as Asean partners. We are trying our best to develop the Cambodian economy to make sure that we walk at the same pace as other Asean countries.

Q. It has been more than ten years since Cambodia has become a member of Asean. What benefits has Cambodia gained from its membership?

A. This is the question that many people have asked me. I would like to tell you that, first, Cambodia receives bilateral assistance. It comes directly from countries like China, Japan, France and the US. They assist us directly. It is bilateral assistance, but at the same time Cambodia receives assistance within Asean as well. They assist the 10 members of Asean or assist the four new members. Therefore, we receive assistance both bilaterally and within an Asean framework. This is financial and economic assistance. I have not talked about political support yet.

On the political front, we have to know that if we talk of Cambodia as a single country and Cambodia as a member of Asean, there’s a differnece, because it has a joint force of 10. Cambodia by itself is just one, but Cambodia in Asean is a force of 10 with us. Therefore, we have benefitted both politically and economically. I always say that joining Asean is necessary both economically and politically.

Q. Do you see other Asean members as markets for Cambodian products? And what products are potential for the markets?

A. Cambodia has changed a lot. I’ll just take one example, with Vietnam: our trade has increased to more than $1 billion by now, and in 2010 we hope to increase it up to $2 billion. With Thailand, it has also increased. We have also exported rice to Brunei and Indonesia. We have increased trade with Asean.

Q. Let’s turn aside from Asean. Where will Cambodia be globally in 2015?

A. I would like to tell you honestly and frankly that I am very optimistic about Cambodia’s future by 2015 and beyond. The most important thing is: what does Cambodia need? We need peace and political stability. Once we have peace we can do whatever we want.

Obviously, as you see and the Cambodian people see, objectively and without a political stance, that in Cambodia there is economic growth. There is progress. There is much progress, and from until 2015, I believe that Cambodia will step forward more.

Q. Can you pick any specific area where you see strong potential for Cambodia? For instance, recently Cambodia turned itself from a recipient of UN assistance to become a country contributing to UN peacekeeping operations by sending its deminers overseas. Are there any other areas in which Cambodia will be successful?

A. Apart from sending peacekeepers to take part in UN peacekeeping operations in Sudan, demining in Sudan, Chad and Central Africa, we will surely have economic growth. I strongly believe so.

Q. Finally, in relation to the border dispute Preah Vihear temple, Cambodia and Thailand have agreed to solve the problem bilaterally. How long will Cambodia put up with this mechanism and are you optimistic that it will resolve differences between the two countries?

A. I see that border disputes do not only happen between Cambodia and Thailand. They occur also in other countries, like between China and Russia, China and India, and China and Vietnam. They spend years to settle their border issues. Border issues cannot be solved quickly, as we want.

It takes patience. Therefore, Cambodia is also like Thailand. We are patient to solve it peacefully and bilaterally. The most important thing is that we have already agreed to solve it based on the 1904 convention between France and then-Siam [currently Thailand], and the 1907 treaty between France and Siam, and especially an MoU [memorandum of understanding] signed between Cambodia and Thailand in 2000.

There are all legal grounds. Therefore, based on the legal basis and documents, it is easy for us to plant border posts between Cambodia and Thailand. However, where is the difficulty? The difficulty lies in Thai internal affairs. Some political extremists in Thailand have spilled their internal problems on the Cambodian-Thai border. They have put their extreme nationalism into the border issue, which is difficult to solve. I hope that in the future, when the sense of extreme nationalism dies out, when there is political stability in Thailand, we will then turn to the official legal documents to solve this problem. This is a lot easier than using a war to solve a border issue.

Q. Is there a possibility of seeking outside parties like Asean or the UN to help?

A. I have said on several occasions that while we have agreed to solve the problem bilaterally, at the same time we are also prepared to solve the problem by other legal means. We are well prepared.

Q. Is there any message that you would like to send to VOA Khmer listeners?

A. Finally, I would like to tell the Cambodian people who are VOA listeners that we must be hopeful about the future of Cambodia, since we now have peace, political stability, and constant economic growth, from one year to another. So Cambodia’s future will be bright. This is my optimism, that our future will be bright. Economic development will go forward, and we will be more and more prosperous. Thank you.

US and Cambodia discuss debt and strengthening relationship

By Men Kimseng, VOA Khmer
Original report from Washington
02 October 2009
(Post by CAAI News Media)

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong on Monday to discuss on a wide-range of issues, from human rights to bilateral debt, a US State Department official said.

The two top diplomats met in New York on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly and their discussion focused on democracy, human rights, recent development at the Khmer Rouge Tribunal, law enforcement, US involvement in regional issues like Burma and the lower Mekong region, the official told VOA Khmer on Wednesday.

The official, who asked not to be named because they were speaking on behalf of the State Department, confirmed that the subject of Cambodia’s debt to the US was brought up.

The official did not want to discuss results of the meeting.

One day before meeting Clinton, Hor Namhong told VOA Khmer that he would bring up the issue of debt Cambodia owed to the US. Some Cambodian officials say the amount is more than $300 million.

“Cambodia has never demanded reparations for the [US] bombing during the Vietnam War, which killed many Cambodians and caused damages. Cambodia has never asked for compensation. Therefore, the US should understand the debt Cambodia owes,” Hor Namhong told VOA Khmer in a one-on-one interview on Sunday.

Hor Namhong said he would also like to turn majority of the debt into development assistance and Cambodia would pay a small portion of it if the US cannot cancel it completely.

Somaly's Sisters: How One Woman's Vision, Translated into Holistic Partnership, is Saving the World's Girls

Friday, October 2, 2009
By: Jordan Walker
(Post by CAAI News media)

At last count, a minimum 1.8 million children are enslaved in the global sex trade, which actively operates in nearly every country in the world. At last estimate, as many as 200,000 children risk entering into sex trafficking in the United States alone (The Polaris Project).

The centuries-old phenomenon of human trafficking is far from extinct, yet an innovative new partnership among The Body Shop, ECPAT International (End Child Pornography and Trafficking of Children for Sexual Purposes), and The Somaly Mam Foundation seeks to change that.

Each of the three organizations brings a unique set of resources and perspectives to this campaign, entitled “Stop Sex Trafficking of Children and Young People.” Specifically, The Body Shop envisioned a holistic partnership in which ECPAT and The Somaly Mam Foundation could provide their expertise (in advocacy and rescue/rehabilitation, respectively) around the issue and The Body Shop could leverage its reach to communicate the issue and activate the public worldwide.

The Body Shop boasts a rich history dedicated to its campaigns and values, and the company’s leadership of this campaign truly reaffirms its corporate identity. When Dame Anita Roddick created The Body Shop in 1976, she expected that social change would be firmly engrained in all aspects of the company, from research and development to the commitments of suppliers and manufacturers, to the future development of a community trade program and targeted campaigns. In reflecting on Roddick’s legacy, Shelley Simmons, The Body Shop Director of Values, describes the late founder as “a social activist first and foremost and an entrepreneur secondly.” As such, the company’s adoption of the child sex trafficking issue is in tribute to Roddick’s heartfelt passion around the cause.

The Body Shop views its staff as changemakers in the charge to raise awareness of the issue, and in turn employees have risen to the challenge. The company designed a training curriculum at the launch of the campaign to educate staff around the issue, helping them gauge the interest and comfort level of consumers who express an interest in the cause. Furthermore, employees were provided an educational video featuring Somaly Mam and ECPAT USA, as well as invited to attend a rally in New York City where experts in the issue raised a call to action.

ECPAT is a global network that unites 81 organizations serving to eliminate child trafficking, prostitution, and pornography through advocacy and reform efforts. Since its establishment in 1990 as a three-year campaign focused on Asia, ECPAT has established a presence in 75 countries, representing all regions worldwide. The primary focus of the organization is to provide tools and best practices to uphold the Stockholm Agenda for Action against the commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC), which was adopted by 122 countries in 1996.

And then there’s Somaly Mam. Named one of the World’s Most Influential People in Time Magazine’s 2009 issue, Mam is as humble as she is fearless. Somaly Mam sat down to speak with onPhilanthropy while promoting her partnership with The Body Shop and ECPAT and celebrating her foundation’s second annual A Night of Hopes and Dreams benefit in New York City.

By now many are familiar with Mam’s story: she was sold into sex slavery in Cambodia at a young age by a man posing as her grandfather, and she experienced unspeakable abuse and hardship at the hands of her various captors. But speak she does: since escaping from bondage, Mam went on to found an NGO called AFESIP (Agir Pour les Femmes en Situation Precaire) and the Somaly Mam Foundation and has become a tireless advocate for young women who suffer her same plight throughout Cambodia, Thailand, and Laos. Somaly Mam has changed the lives of the more than 6,000 young women she has freed and nurtured back to health. Indeed, the adoration was undeniable in the faces of the young women Mam referred to as daughters, who clustered around her to catch every word of our conversation.

By partnering in a three-year campaign that provides both short-term relief and long-term solutions to the child sex trafficking issue, these three organizations form a natural synthesis. With funding support at this time, the campaign can ensure the rescue and rehabilitation of children who are most immediately threatened by the human sex trafficking industry. Reports commissioned by the campaign will lay the groundwork for future advocacy efforts, which can in turn influence legislation in countries where laws are ineffective or non-existent. Building off these achievements, the campaign hopes that it can drive toward systemic change, eradicating these conditions altogether and ensuring protection for children worldwide.

With such influential parties uniting to tackle the issue of childhood sex trafficking, it’s no wonder this campaign, just launched in August 2009, is already making waves. Just last week The Body Shop International CEO Sophie Gasperment joined a working session at the Clinton Global Initiative entitled "Leadership Solutions to End Human Trafficking and Forced Labor,” where she presented a “Progress Card System” that values government steps in addressing child sex trafficking. Not only will this innovative system establish benchmarks and quantify progress toward reform, but it also elicits a candid discussion about the ways in which the issue is manifest around the world.

So, how can you get involved in this campaign and make a difference in the lives of countless young people in your own country and around the world?

Learn about the problem.
Most people don’t recognize the gravity of sex trafficking in every country around the world. Educate yourself on the issue, and it will become impossible to ignore. Visit the Stop Sex Trafficking of Children and Young People campaign website, where you can view current facts and figures about the issue. In addition, Somaly Mam’s memoir, The Road of Lost Innocence: The True Story of a Cambodian Heroine, paints a candid and chilling picture of the reality that so many children suffer.

Spread the word.
Once you’re inspired by the work of the campaign, share your enthusiasm with others! One of the most difficult barriers facing this issue is that so few people realize the truth of what is taking place. Visit the ECPAT website for some ideas about how to share the reality of child sex trafficking. A little awareness can go a long way.

Purchase products.
The Body Shop developed the Soft Hands, Kind Heart Hand Cream to connect consumers to the campaign and benefit its nonprofit partners. This product represents the powerful role our hands can play, with an ability to stop wrongdoing or help out those in need. The cream is a universal product that in turn reinforces the symbolism of the strength and humanity of our hands. Consumers can purchase the cream online or in The Body Shop stores, and 100% of profits benefit ECPAT. The purchase of a Bag for Life will benefit The Somaly Mam Foundation.

Give of yourself.
Bill Livermore, Executive Director of The Somaly Mam Foundation, expressed that people give most when they can use their “passion and compassion to help.” He went on to explain that while of course fundraising is indispensible to the success of any nonprofit organization, people can effect greater change through giving of themselves, whether it be the gift of professional skills or personal talents. Somaly Mam expressed a “dream…to give young women hope so they can become children again,” and dreams can be realized in a variety of forms. Visit The Somaly Mam Foundation website for ideas.