Monday, 12 October 2009

CAMBODIA: Alarming Maternal Deaths Require a Mix of Solutions

Improving maternal health and access to health services is key to achieving the goal of reducing maternal mortality. Credit:Robert Carmichael

(Post by CAAI news Media)
By Robert Carmichael

PHNOM PENH, Oct 12 (IPS) - Early this year, heavily pregnant Vorn Yoeub, 37, arrived at a hospital in the western Cambodian border town of Pailin. The mother of seven other children died later that evening along with her unborn child after suffering complications from bleeding.

For most of this decade Cambodia has been trying to cut the number of deaths of women, who, like Vorn Yoeub, are the human face behind the country’s stubbornly high maternal mortality rate. The figure has been running at around 461 per 100,000 live births for 10 years, and is one of nine development objectives the country is trying to improve as part of its Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

MDGs are development goals that the United Nations member states along with other international organisations have agreed to meet by 2015.

Progress on Cambodia’s nine goals is mixed: A conference in Phnom Penh late last month indicated that it would likely attain only three of them by 2015. And there are concerns that the global economic crisis could make attaining some of the remaining six MDGs much harder.

Sherif Rushdy, a consultant for the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), told attendees that on the positive front, Cambodia would probably meet its targets in cutting child mortality; combating HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases; and reducing to zero the number of casualties from landmines (which is specific to Cambodia).

But it will almost certainly miss another three: Reducing maternal mortality to 140 deaths per 100,000 live births; achieving universal nine-year education; and ensuring environmental sustainability.

"[These three goals] are flashing a red light, and the country is unlikely to reach its goals in these areas," he said.

Two other MDGs – eradicating extreme poverty and hunger; and promoting gender equality and empowering women – are also thought unlikely to be met unless Phnom Penh changes its approach.

Rushdy told attendees that progress towards the final goal – developing a global partnership for development – could not be assessed since targets were not set.

Why such mixed results on two of the key healthcare goals: Little or no progress on reducing maternal mortality combined with "spectacular progress" – in the words of Rushdy – in cutting child and infant mortality? After all, they are closely linked.

In an interview with IPS, Dr Lo Veasnakiry, the Ministry of Health’s director of planning, said there are solid reasons behind the declines in death rates of infants and young children.

One is the government’s commitment to support the health sector financially despite the impact of the global financial crisis ripping through Cambodia’s economy. Another is its policy to improve access to child-based services and their availability.

"And thirdly, we have support from the health partners in terms of technical and financial services," he said. One of these is the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

Malalay Ahmadzai, UNICEF’s mother and child health specialist, added several other factors to the success mix, among them the strategy to improve breastfeeding practices.

But improvements have also come from areas that at first sight appear to have little in common with health – primary education, for example. Mothers with some education have an improved understanding of health matters, she said. The strong economic growth of the past decade has also helped, as have better roads and quality of care in this predominantly rural society.

"Things are very much linked," Ahmadzai said.

This combination of improvements has helped lower the number of infant deaths to 60 per 1,000 live births, well on the way to meet the MDG of 50 per 1,000 live births.

Such factors have also driven down the number of under-fives dying, from 124 per 1,000 live births in 1998 to 83 per 1,000 currently. Rushdy told the conference that Cambodia should meet its goal of 65 per 1,000 live births.

Yet it still leaves the question of the country’s extremely high maternal mortality rate. One senior UNDP staff said statistical modelling of the data shows the true figure could be anywhere between 300 and 700 deaths per 100,000 births. But whatever the true figure, there is widespread agreement that the target of 140 will not be achieved.

Dr Veasnakiry cited a lack of money and insufficient technical expertise. And, he added, the initial target was set too high. He has proposed that the government revise upwards the target of 140 deaths per 100,000 live births to 250 deaths. He rejects the suggestion that this is simply shifting the goalposts. And, he points out, some progress is better than none.

"We think the [revised goal of] 250 is likely to be achieved," he said, citing gains in a number of the underlying indicators related to maternal or infant health. For example, this time last year, 79 of Cambodia’s 967 health centres lacked midwives. "But by the middle of this year all the [remaining] 79 health centres are staffed with midwives."

Another improvement is the government’s introduction of an incentive for midwives: Those who work in rural health facilities are paid 15 U.S. dollars for each baby born alive. Those working at hospitals – in larger, urban areas – get 10 U.S. dollars. "This has produced a positive impact on the [successful number of] deliveries," he said.

And while just one-third of births were attended by skilled health workers a decade ago, that number rose to 58 percent last year. The target for 2015 is 80 percent.

Pre-natal visits are also up from around 30 percent in 2000 to 80 percent last year while the number of Caesarean sections for births with complications has also increased – an indication that more women with problem births are getting appropriate medical intervention. All of this gives him cause for optimism. "We can use these proxies to look at the progress for the future," he said.

But if the true maternal mortality numbers remain opaque, the afflictions killing five Cambodian women a day in childbirth are clearer. A 2005 Japanese-funded study found more than half die from bleeding, while eclampsia kills another one in five.

"The complications [with maternal mortality] are unpredictable," said UNICEF’s Ahmadzai, "and the onset of complications can be very quick."

She said rapid reaction is vital in addressing what health experts call "the three delays" behind the high death rate among women of reproductive age. The first delay is the decision by the family in this predominantly rural population whether or not to take the woman to the health clinic. The second is access, or simply getting to the clinic, and financial aspects such as affordability. The third is the quality of care women get once they reach the clinic.

"If any of these three delays exists, then the mother [who is bleeding] dies within an hour or two or three," she added.

The solution is a mix of improved resources and trained staff: "more skilled birth attendants, good supplies, quality improvement of services, and then improving access," said Ahmadzai.

Speaking to IPS, the UNDP’s Rushdy said the "stubbornly" high maternal mortality rate has other causes too. "This is a gender issue – girls and mothers continue to be neglected," he said. "Girls’ nutrition is the first to be cut when there are financial difficulties in households. So one root cause is a general bias against women."

Another is the loss of skills in many areas such as health. Most of Cambodia’s educated people either died during the Khmer Rouge regime or fled overseas.

Rushdy believes the MDG to eradicate poverty and hunger — which are inextricably linked to health, women’s in particular — will not be met unless Cambodia can shift economic growth away from its narrow urban base of garment manufacturing, tourism and construction. He said the solution is to promote development in rural areas, where the majority of Cambodians live.

"There are ways to mitigate the risks, such as providing free access to health care. Health problems are the ones that drive people into poverty," he said.

Cambodia-Thailand seek arbitration in land dispute

(Post by CAAI News Media)

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia – Cambodia said Monday it will ask Southeast Asian leaders at an upcoming summit to help resolve a heated border dispute with Thailand that has sparked gun battles, protests and fears of a cross-border war.

Foreign Minister Hor Namhong said in a statement he backed a proposal by his Thai counterpart that the Association of Southeast Asian Nations set up an arbitration body to help resolve dueling claims to land near the 11th century Preah Vihear temple.

ASEAN leaders meet Oct. 23-25 in Thailand for the 10-nation bloc's annual summit.

Preah Vihear temple sits on a cliff in a disputed border zone between Thailand and Cambodia. It has been a source of tension and fueled nationalist sentiment on both sides of the border for decades.

Last year, UNESCO backed Cambodia's bid to list the temple as a world heritage site. Thailand initially supported the bid but then reneged after the move sparked outrage and protests. Some Thais worried that the distinction would undermine their claims to surrounding land.

Both sides rushed troops to the border, which resulted in several small gun battles and briefly sparked concerns of war.

In 1962, the World Court awarded the temple to Cambodia, but sovereignty over adjacent areas has never been clearly resolved.

Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen warned last month that anyone who illegally enters Cambodian territory near the temple will be shot.

Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya said last week that he would seek approval at the ASEAN summit for the establishment of a neutral organization to settle disputes among members.

"This may provide an avenue for Thailand and Cambodia to settle the (Preah Vihear) dispute," he said.

Hor Namhong responded Monday, saying the issue is one of regional concern.

"I would like to propose that the dispute between Cambodia and Thailand in the area of the temple of Preah Vihear be included in the agenda of the ASEAN summit," he said in a statement sent to Kasit.

The two countries share a 500-mile (800-kilometer) land border, much of which has never been clearly demarcated because the countries refer to different maps.

French judge blasted over alleged KRouge bias

Published: Monday October 12, 2009
(Post by CAAI News Media)

A second lawyer for a former Khmer Rouge leader said Monday he will seek the removal of the French investigating judge at Cambodia's UN-backed war crimes court, adding to allegations of bias.

Sa Sovan, who is defending former Khmer Rouge head of state Khieu Samphan, said he would file a motion later on Monday or Tuesday to seek the removal of judge Marcel Lemonde for bias in the investigation of his client.

The move follows a similar motion filed last week by the defence team for former Khmer Rouge foreign minister Ieng Sary, demanding Lemonde be disqualified from the war crimes court for bias.

"I will file a motion to have such a judge removed because he did not respect the neutrality in the investigation," said Sa Sovan at the tribunal set up to try leaders of the brutal late-1970s regime.

The motions are based on a sworn statement by Lemonde's former chief of intelligence and analysis, alleging the investigating judge told subordinates to favour evidence showing suspects' guilt over evidence of their innocence.

"It is unjust, and I am afraid that this will affect my client," Sa Sovan told AFP, adding that both "black and white" evidence about his client's role in the regime had to be investigated.

Under the Khmer Rouge court's regulations, investigating judges are required to be impartial while researching allegations made by prosecutors. Defence teams are not permitted to make their own investigations.

Speaking on Lemonde's behalf, court spokesman Lars Olsen told AFP Monday that the judge was "not interested in commenting on the allegations" but would provide "necessary information" about the issue to the court.

Lemonde is currently investigating the court's second case, against Khieu Samphan, Ieng Sary and his wife, former minister of social affairs Ieng Thirith, as well as Khmer Rouge ideologue Nuon Chea.

Final arguments in the court's first trial of prison chief Kaing Guek Eav, known by the alias Duch, are scheduled for late next month.

Led by Pol Pot, who died in 1998, the Khmer Rouge emptied Cambodia's cities in a bid to forge a communist utopia between 1975-79, resulting in the deaths of up to two million people from starvation, overwork and torture.

Cambodia proposes Thai border talks at regional summit

Published: Monday October 12, 2009
(Post by CAAI News Media)

A second lawyer for a former Khmer Rouge leader said Monday he will seek the removal of the French investigating judge at Cambodia's UN-backed war crimes court, adding to allegations of bias.

Sa Sovan, who is defending former Khmer Rouge head of state Khieu Samphan, said he would file a motion later on Monday or Tuesday to seek the removal of judge Marcel Lemonde for bias in the investigation of his client.

The move follows a similar motion filed last week by the defence team for former Khmer Rouge foreign minister Ieng Sary, demanding Lemonde be disqualified from the war crimes court for bias.

"I will file a motion to have such a judge removed because he did not respect the neutrality in the investigation," said Sa Sovan at the tribunal set up to try leaders of the brutal late-1970s regime.

The motions are based on a sworn statement by Lemonde's former chief of intelligence and analysis, alleging the investigating judge told subordinates to favour evidence showing suspects' guilt over evidence of their innocence.

"It is unjust, and I am afraid that this will affect my client," Sa Sovan told AFP, adding that both "black and white" evidence about his client's role in the regime had to be investigated.

Under the Khmer Rouge court's regulations, investigating judges are required to be impartial while researching allegations made by prosecutors. Defence teams are not permitted to make their own investigations.

Speaking on Lemonde's behalf, court spokesman Lars Olsen told AFP Monday that the judge was "not interested in commenting on the allegations" but would provide "necessary information" about the issue to the court.

Lemonde is currently investigating the court's second case, against Khieu Samphan, Ieng Sary and his wife, former minister of social affairs Ieng Thirith, as well as Khmer Rouge ideologue Nuon Chea.

Final arguments in the court's first trial of prison chief Kaing Guek Eav, known by the alias Duch, are scheduled for late next month.

Led by Pol Pot, who died in 1998, the Khmer Rouge emptied Cambodia's cities in a bid to forge a communist utopia between 1975-79, resulting in the deaths of up to two million people from starvation, overwork and torture.

CB Richard Ellis Strengthens its Presence in South East Asia with a new office in cambodia

(Post by CAAI News Media)

CB Richard Ellis Group Inc. (CBRE) today announced that it is opening a new office in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

The establishment of an office in Phnom Penh is a further step in the expansion of CBRE’s footprint in Southeast Asia, which already includes Singapore, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam. The new office in Cambodia will capitalise upon market opportunities arising from the growing demand for professional real estate services from both international and local organizations within the country.

The office in Phnom Penh will provide a variety of services such as market research, valuation, investment sales, consulting, agency and leasing, and property management. The goal of the Phnom Penh office is to provide a competitive edge for clients in the fast changing real estate market in Cambodia, via a differentiated services portfolio, as well as to establish CBRE as a key player in the development of the real estate market in Cambodia going forward.

“The opening of an office in Cambodia will allow CBRE to provide research, consultancy, valuation and advisory services in the country and will strengthen our broader platform in South East Asia,” said Chris Brooke, President & CEO of CBRE in Asia. “Our presence in the market will facilitate the provision of professional property services by CBRE in Cambodia, whilst also supporting regional clients who have an interest in this unique emerging market. This strategic move helps to reinforce the position of CBRE as global company with extensive reach into local property markets,” added Mr. Brooke.

“With the establishment of the Phnom Penh office, CBRE will be able to develop local market intelligence into measurable results for clients in this expanding market,” said Marc Townsend, Managing Director of CBRE Vietnam. Previously, work relating to Cambodia was handled out of the Vietnam office, which will continue to support the team in Phnom Penh. “As the capital city of Cambodia, Phnom Penh has become a major focal point for economic and business development over recent years. This region offers enormous business potential for further growth of domestic and foreign businesses. In particular, backed by investment resulting from positive sentiment, the real estate market in Cambodia is expected to continue its growth momentum in the years to come, particularly the resort property market along the coast line of Cambodia,” Mr. Townsend added.

“CBRE has already established a successful track record in Cambodia and has been servicing clients in market research and consultancy, valuation, and land transactions, as well as property management, even prior to the establishment of an office,” said Mr. Townsend. “With the opening of the office in Cambodia, we have demonstrated our commitment to both understanding the unique individual market characteristics of the country and to providing high quality services to its clients. Leveraging the expertise, market knowledge and resources of other highly successful offices in the region, CBRE will provide its clients in Cambodia with the optimum solutions in terms of achieving their business goals,” he added.

Daniel Parkes will oversee the operations of the Phnom Penh office. Prior to relocating to Phnom Penh, Mr. Parkes was previously based in the United Kingdom where he worked in a real estate firm in the south east of England. He has a wide range of experience in property marketing, valuation and consultancy across residential and commercial sectors.

No Surprises for Cambodia in Thai Proposal

Written by DAP NEWS -- Monday, 12 October 2009
(Post by CAAI News Media)

High-ranking Cambodian officials on Saturday responded to Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya proposal to establish a dispute settling mechanism between the neighbors at an AEAN Summit to be held on October 23-25.

Kasit on Thursday said that Thailand will propose establishing a mechanism to settle conflicts among ASEAN members during the summit to held at the Thai seaside resorts of Cha-am and Hua Hin, according to Thai news agencies this week.

The Thai foreign minister expressed hope that the mechanism will help solve border disputes between Thailand and Cambodia.

Cambodian Border Committee President Var Kimhong told DAP News Cambodia on Saturday that “This does not make me surprised as we shouldn’t forget that the present border committee was established by both Governments while former Thai Prime Minister Chaun Likphai was in the same party as Kasit.”

“Thai party wants to avoid … [I]t doesn’t surprise me at all as the Thai party used to be avoid one time as Cambodia filed complaint to the international court but they disagreed,” Var Kimhong added. Kasit said that the Thai Government has “negotiation frameworks which adhere to peaceful approaches and avoid any use of violence.”

“I affirm that we have not yet lost the contested 4.6 square kilometers land and negotiation is the best way to solve this conflict,” Kasit was quoted by TNA as saying.

Var Kimhong warned that strong arm tactics will not wash. “If they force us to follow them, we will not follow at all.”

Var Kimhong noted that Thailand initially supported Cambodia’s successful attempt to have Preah Vihear inscribed as a UNECO World Heritage Site, but in following months withdrew their support.

Kasit reaffirmed that there is no conflict of interest, nor any secrets, in tackling the border dispute. He insisted everything can be examined and urged the public to trust the Thai Government’s sincere intention to solve the dispute.

“I urge everyone not to stir up troubles which could lead to international conflict,” said Kasit.

Preah Vihear was inscribed as a UNECO World Heritage Site on July 7, 2008. About two weeks afterwards, Thai soldiers encroached illegally upon Cambodia territory. Both soldiers faced off for over a year, with sporadic firefights and accidents resulting in several death and injuries.

PM Orders Gangster Crackdown, DAP Director Threatened

Written by DAP NEWS -- Monday, 12 October 2009
(Post by CAAI News Media)

Prime Minister Hun Sen on Friday morning ordered to all police and relevant authorities to prevent social disorder and criminality stemming from the increasing problem of gangs, according to a Friday press release of the council meeting.

“In order to keep order in society, we must strengthen measures to be tight on gangsters’ activities, such as firing [guns] disorderly, even though they are related to rich families,” the premier said during a cabinet meeting at Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Ministry.

The premier’s remarks come after a woman named Ke Dara was convicted, imprisoned for 18 months and fined CR1 million after she fired a handgun four times. Apparently well connected, she angrily cursed police and journalists at the scene of her crime. After DAP broke and investigated the story, unknown persons anonymously sent messages to threaten Soy Sopheap, Deum Ampil Meddia Center general director. However, Soy Sopheap filed a complaint with police to investigate and take legal action against the criminals.

An unknown person sent a message to Soy Sopheap claiming to be a member of Heng Samrin’s Cabinet. However, Koam Kosal, the Cabinet president, said the claim was unlikely to be true.

“I never contact had contact with this phone number and he is not an official who works with the Cabinet,” Koam Kosal told DAP News Cambodia.

The message accused of Soy Sopheap of attempting to extort about US$5,000 from the convicted Ke Dara. Kouch Chamreoun, Meanchey district governor, expressed confusion. “This accusation was made with no real basis,” he said.

GRA Boosts Rice Export Potential: Economist

Written by DAP NEWS -- Monday, 12 October 2009
(Post by CAAI News Media)

A new Golden Rice Association (GRA) in Cambodia on Saturday claimed it would export to France in 2010.

General Director of the Deum Ampil Media Center Soy Sopheap said that it was a valuable chance to export rice to the international market, especially as the EU will in 2010 permit Cambodia to export its products tax free.

“The GRA will aim to achieve the goals laid out by PM Hun Sen, who has repeatedly cited the potential of the agricultural sector,” Sopheap added.

The Loran Rice Machinery Company, in Battambong province’s Thmor Kol district, on October 10 saw both local and foreign traders meet and discuss exporting Cambodian rice abroad. The meeting was held under the authority of Soy Sopheap and Lim Bun Heng, a consultant of deputy PM Ben Chhin and Loran Company´s Manager. Uy Eang Heng, a Manager of Hun Heng Por Company from France, Cabinet Chief Lim Bun Seng´s Bin Chhin deputy PM, Sat Dara, an economist, and Dim Sopheavy, DAP´s vice general manger and Heng Development representatives also participated. Some companies have already exported Cambodian rice to neighboring countries, but few have exported to the EU or abroad. In 2010, the GRA will export directly to France.

Chan Sophal of the Cambodian Economic Association told DAP News Cambodia that “It is very important to create the GRA. It means the economy in Cambodia will be better because we can export rice.”

Soy Sopheap said that the ABK organization, which deals with over 4,500 farmers from Kampong Thom and about 5,000 farmers in Siem Reap, is also involved in the project.

He called for all Cambodians in Cambodia and abroad to support the project to help Cambodia deal with the effects of the downturn.

Health Ministry Looks to Curb A/H1N1 During Water Festival

Written by DAP NEWS -- Monday, 12 October 2009
(Post by CAAI News Media)

Cambodia’s Health Ministry will take more measures in order to prevent the infections from A/H1N1, commonly known as swine flu, during Water Festival next month. The measures are necessary because of the large number of visitors to Phnom Penh from the provinces, a Health Ministry official told DAP News Cambodia on Saturday.

“The ministry is preparing to broaden awareness to the public over Water Festival as many people will attend this ceremony,” said Sok Touch, director of the MoH’s Communicable Diseases Control Department.

“If people suspect that they have this kind of flu, they have to avoid the crowds so as not to infect other people,” Sok Touch added.

The Health Minister this week confirmed third death from A/H1N1, a woman 7 months pregnant. Her baby daughter survived.

“The pregnant woman died after her operation as her illness condition was very serous,” Mom Bunheng told DAP News Cambodia on Tuesday. People with lung cancer, pregnancy, liver disease and conditions are more vulnerable to the virus, he added. The 25-year-old, Dub Sok Khunthea, was rushed to the hospital on September 29 and was operated on October 4.

At a press conference, the health minister stressed his grief at the deaths of all victims. He called on all Cambodians to prevent the virus and to avoid crowds in infected.

The health minister said Cambodia has so far seen 120 cases of A/H1N1.

According to the Health Ministry website, Phnom Penh, Kandal, Takeo, Siem Reap, Kampng Speu, and Battambang have all seen cases.

Cambodia confirmed the first case of A/H1N1 on June 24, 2009, a student with a US study group.

At least 4,525 people worldwide have been killed by the A/H1N1 influenza since the new flu virus was identified in April, the World Health Organization (WHO) said in a latest update on Friday, according to the Xinhua news agency on Saturday.

Of the deaths, 3,292 occurred in the Americas, 480 in Southeast Asia and 410 in the West Pacific. The other three WHO regions, Europe, East Mediterranean and Africa reported 193, 80 and 70 deaths, respectively.

The WHO, which declared the A/H1N1 flu as a pandemic in June, said the total number of lab confirmed cases worldwide is now over 378,223, but this case count is significantly lower than the actual number of cases that have occurred because many countries have stopped testing and reporting individual cases.

South Korea to Expand Flights to Cambodia

Written by DAP NEWS -- Monday, 12 October 2009
 (POst by CAAI News Media)

Cambodian tourism businesspeople and Government officials on Saturday welcomed the expansion of flights from South Korea to Cambodia.

Korean Air plans to schedule new flights twice a week from Busan to Siem Reap, starting in January, the Korean Joon Ang Daily quoted Korean Air as saying on Friday.

Top carrier Korean Air decided to suspend temporarily its flight from Incheon to Saint Petersburg, Russia, from last Friday until the end of March next year. Since the region is located in the far north, the day is short and night is long in winter, attracting relatively fewer tourists, it added. “We all welcome the new information about expansion of flights from South Korea after its tourist arrivals to Cambodia dropped after the global financial crisis,” said Ang Kim Eang, chairman of Cambo- dian Association of Travel Agencies (CATA) and owner of a travel company. “We hope it will bring more travellers, investors and tourists to visit from South Korea and other places,” he added. He said that tourism is beginning a small recovery. Arrivals “increased about 1.1 percent in September for foreign tourists, and it could be more when the world economy is recovered from recession,” he said. Bun Tee, the president of the Association of Tourist Guides for Phnom Penh, said an increase in South Korean and foreign travellers from the expansion of flights from South Korea would help local people by creation of jobs.

High-ranking Tourism Ministry officials could not be reached for comment yesterday. But one Tourism Ministry official said on condition of anonymity that the expansion of the flights from South Korea is likely to be the result of the South Korean Government’s push for visitors and investors to look to Cambodia. The South Korean president will visit Cambodia on October 22-23.

PM Calls on Officials to Make Good Flood Damage

Written by DAP NEWS -- Monday, 12 October 2009
(Post  by CAAI News Media)

Prime Minister Hun Sen on Friday set dealing with the aftermath of recent storms and flooding from Typhoon Ketsana as a high priority.

Central Government officials and local authorities were ordered to coo- perate to deal with the damage and prevent further flooding, according to a press release from the meetin g.

The PM recommended timely action. “Firstly, we have to ensure noone dies of starvation. Secondly, we have to compromise on rebuilding people’s houses and thirdly, we have to restore the agriculture sector, which was damaged by the flooding. Lastly, we must calculate the value of all damage to infrastructure and prioritize rebuilding as soon as possible. Cambodian Red Cross Secretary-General Men Nearysopheak told DAP News Cambodia on Friday that the Cambodian Red Cross has a total of US$44,000 contributed by “music donation” and US$13,000 from “generous persons.”

Ketsana killed at least 21 Cambodians and destroyed thousands of hectares of rice.

Three Arrested for Counterfeit Dollars

Written by DAP NEWS -- Monday, 12 October 2009
(POst by CAAI News Media)

At least three suspected counterfeiter were nabbed on Friday, the Police Implementation Verdict of Office (PIVO) of Ministry of Interior reported.

The three Cambodians Chamroeun Nun, 48, female, Phouk Map, 38, and Yean Chhunly, 30, were all arrested in Rik Reay guesthouse in Phnom Penh’s Russey Keo district with 20 sheets of counterfeit of US$10 notes, a police officer said.

‘Vanna’, the counterfeiting master criminal and buyer, was not caught, a source said.

Chamroeun Nun apparently claimed to have purchased the counterfeit currency from Vanna. “I did not suppose the police catch me with my two accomplices; I thought I would gain from the exchange.”

She admitted to having purchased illegal currency four times, “but the last time the police followed us and arrested us.” An anonymous source said that counterfeit US$100 bills can cost as little as only US$25 from Vanna. The counterfeit currency sheet was said to be “almost 98 percent” similar to the real thing.

Vice Chief of PIVO Ham Kunthy said that he reported information about the counterfeiting ring to Phnom Penh General Police and Director of Justice Central Department to take action.

“All three of the accused will be sent to the Phnom Penh Municipal Court for justice,” he said, adding that there would be further searches for ‘Vanna’. The last few days have seen the arrest of 7 people over counterfeit currency, narcotics and illegal weap- ons trafficking, the MoI’s Security Department Director Chai Sinarith said.

“We almost cannot tell if this currecy is genuine or not,” Narith added.

Seventeen go down with ferry

Photo by: Photo Supplied
Relatives grieve for victims of Saturday’s ferry disaster, which claimed at least 17 lives – many of them children under the age of 14.

(Post by CAAI News Media)

Monday, 12 October 2009 15:04 Khouth Sophak Chakrya and Tep Nimol

At least 10 people still missing and feared dead, official says.

CHILDREN as young as four were among 17 people who died when an overloaded ferry capsized in Kratie province, officials said Sunday, sparking questions over the safety of public transportation in the Kingdom.

It is believed at least 30 people, as well as several motorbikes, were crammed onto the 8-metre-long boat when the vessel sank along the Mekong river on Saturday night. The boat was just metres from its mooring when it tipped over, plunging passengers immediately into the fast-flowing water, one witness said.

On Sunday, police undertook the grisly task of recovering the bodies. “Only 17 bodies have been found,” said Chuong Seang Hak, Kratie province’s police chief. “We are hunting for the other people.”

Most of the dead were children between the ages of 4 and 14, said Seun Rath, director of Kratie province’s Department of Information.

Officials could not confirm how many people were still missing Sunday night, but Seun Rath estimated that at least 10 passengers remained unaccounted for. “Some families claimed they had lost two or three members each in the incident,” he said.

The villagers were crossing from Chhnei on the river’s north side to Kampong Thma on the south when the boat tipped over, said Saum Sarith, governor of Chhlaung district. The passengers had been on their way to a ceremony at a pagoda in Chhnei.

“Four people managed to swim to the river bank and survived the incident,” he said. “For the other missing people, we do not know yet whether they have died already or are still alive.”

An employee who was working on the boat when it sank said passengers insisted on crowding onto the tiny vessel even though it was already packed.

“It was the mistake of the boat owner, but passengers were to blame, too,” said Eang Sam Ol.

“We tried to prohibit them from getting on the boat because it was already full, and it was raining as well, which was dangerous, but they did not listen and kept rushing onto the boat.”

The boat floated only 4 or 5 metres away from the river bank before it sank, Eang Sam Ol said.

There were conflicting reports yesterday of what had become of the boat’s owner, Uch Ry. Eang Sam Ol said he saw his employer swim to shore and hide in a house in Chhnei village, but the owner’s daughter, who also survived the accident when she leaped into the water, believes he drowned. “On the riverbank, I tried to call to my father, but I couldn’t see him,” she said. “I do not know if he has died or is still alive.”

Chran Chanthou said she felt bad for the victims, and that her family would try to compensate their relatives, but also blamed the passengers. “It’s not only my family’s mistake, but the passengers’,” she said. “They tried to jump into my boat. That caused the boat to sink into the river.”

Saum Sarith, the district governor, said roughly 20 people were on the boat when it sank. But Chran Chanthou, who was responsible for collecting money from the passengers, said there were at least 30.

It was a disaster waiting to happen, according to Thim Narin, the provincial coordinator in Kratie for human rights NGO Adhoc. Many boat owners who operate ferry services in Cambodia tend to overload their vessels, eager for the extra fares, she said.

“It is their responsibility,” Thim Narin said. “Most travellers are poor and forget to think about their safety.” Thim Narin said it was essential that authorities prosecute the boat’s owner if he is still alive.

“Overloading the boat is a wrong action,” she said. “The boat owner must be responsible for this in front of the law and the victims’ families.”


Burnt-out village smoulders

Photo by: Photo Supplied
Villagers watch as their homes are burned to the ground during their eviction from disputed land in Oddar Meanchey province.

(Post by CAAI News Media)

Monday, 12 October 2009 15:04 Khuon Leakhana and Tep Nimol

HUMAN rights advocates are demanding answers after armed policemen dismantled and burned dozens of villagers’ homes on disputed land in Oddar Meanchey province.

Residents from Bos village, in Oddar Meanchey’s Kaun Kriel commune, said nearly 100 houses were taken apart, then burned to the ground by provincial authorities on Friday.

They contend it was part of an effort to evict residents from disputed land that is also claimed by Angkor Sugar Company. Villagers believe the operation is owned by Ly Yongphat, a member of the ruling Cambodian People’s Party.

Um Sam Ath, an investigator with human rights NGO Licadho, said authorities had no warrants when they razed the houses, nor did they give the villagers any prior warning of their “violent actions”.

“The authority must solve this case in a transparent way,” said Um Sam Ath.

“They should negotiate with the villagers until both sides reach an agreement. Licadho is watching closely and is trying to speak to the authority about this case.”

A representative of 214 families battling the company for rights to the land said Friday’s actions were carried out by 100 armed police officers and led by Vat Paranin, secretary general in Oddar Meanchey province.

Vat Paranin could not be reached for comment Sunday.

Villagers say they have lived on the land since 2003. In 2008, Angkor Sugar Company started to clear out farmland, kicking villagers out and accusing them of living on company-owned property, said representative Vong Veng. The land claimed by both Angkor Sugar and the villagers comes to roughly 1,500 hectares, he said.

Vong Veng accused the authorities of colluding with the company to force them to leave the land.

The families evicted last week have taken refuge 3 kilometres away at Kork Thlork pagoda, he said.

“They evicted us without paying us any compensation at all,” Vong Veng said. “We do not have anything to eat.”

Fourteen people among the villagers have gone into hiding, afraid that they will be arrested for allegedly inciting the villagers to stand up to the authorities, said another resident, An Srean.

Angkor Sugar Company could not be reached for comment Sunday.

Second bias motion planned

Photo by: Tracey Shelton
Marcel Lemonde attends a Khmer Rouge tribunal conference at Raffles Hotel La Royal earlier this year.

(Post by CAAI News Media)

Monday, 12 October 2009 15:04 Sebastian Strangio

So Sovann, defence lawyer for former Khmer Rouge head of state Khieu Samphan, said Sunday that his team planned to file a motion today to dismiss Co-Investigating Judge Marcel Lemonde for bias in the investigation of his client.

The move follows a similar motion filed Friday by Michael Karnavas and Ang Udom, defence lawyers for Ieng Sary, former foreign minister under the Khmer Rouge regime, which charged Lemonde with pursuing a “personal agenda” at the tribunal instead of conducting an objective investigation.

“I will also file a complaint against Lemonde about his lack of impartiality,” So Sovann said, referring to the motion filed on behalf of Ieng Sary.

“These allegations could also affect my client.”

On Friday, Ieng Sary’s defence team filed a motion demanding the removal of Lemonde, saying recent comments allegedly made by the judge demonstrated an “impermissible bias and predilection towards the [prosecution]”.

“His immediate disqualification is imperative in fairness to Mr Ieng Sary and the other Charged Persons,” Karnavas and Ang Udom wrote.

The motion was based on a witness account provided by Wayne Bastin, a former chief of the Intelligence and Analysis Unit of the Office of the Co-Investigating Judges. In an affidavit signed on Thursday, Bastin said that during an August meeting, Lemonde stated his preference that investigators “find more inculpatory evidence than exculpatory evidence” in the case against the former regime leaders.

“To suggest his preference for investigative efforts to be channelled in search of more inculpatory and less exculpatory evidence is nothing more than a veiled instruction for the investigators to act in a complicit manner,” stated the motion, which will now be reviewed by the court’s Pre-Trial Chamber.

Investigating judges – unlike prosecutors – must remain impartial in their examination of the case, seeking out exculpatory evidence as well as evidence of a defendant’s guilt.

On Sunday, Karnavas said Lemonde’s comments were an “ominous sign” for his client’s right to a fair trial, and that nothing short of the judge’s removal would solve the problem.

“I think this is a severe blow to the ECCC’s reputation,” he said. “The only viable option at this point is for Judge Lemonde to step aside.... For the sake of the ECCC, I think it would be best to spare a knock-down, drag-out confrontation on this matter.”

Observers, however, said it remained unclear just how the allegations against Lemonde would affect the tribunal.

“It is clear that the investigating judges have an obligation to impartially investigate both inculpatory and exculpatory evidence,” said Heather Ryan, who monitors the court for the Open Society Justice Initiative.

“It is less clear whether the single statement quoted in the motion is sufficient to call the impartiality of Judge Lemonde into doubt such that he should be removed.”

Anne Heindel, a legal adviser for the Documentation Centre of Cambodia, said that whatever the truth of the allegation, the court had a duty to investigate it thoroughly.

“If it’s true, I think it’s a very big problem. [But] I think if it’s handled appropriately, the court could weather this,” she said.

Lemonde could not be reached for comment on Sunday, but court spokesman Reach Sambath said it was “too early” to say whether he would be forced to resign. Lawyers for defendants Nuon Chea and Kaing Guek Eav, alias Duch, could also not be reached.


Typhoon aid goes slowly to Kampong Thom

(Post by CAAI News Media)

Monday, 12 October 2009 15:04 Ian Paynton

There are fears that some villages and people have not yet been reached by the Typhoon Ketsana cleanup programme in Kampong Thom, despite the gradual recession of flooding, relief workers said Sunday.

Country head of Oxfam International in Cambodia, Francis Perez, said retreating floodwaters have left thick mud, making access to remote areas of the worst-hit province “restricted”.

“We are still concerned about the sanitation and public health of the villages in the safe areas, but I’m also sure that there are some small villages we haven’t reached yet, and this is a major worry for us,” he said.

The national death toll of 24 had not increased as of Sunday evening, but another concern was the forecast of further downpours.

“If the forecasts are true and it rains some more in Kampong Thom, it will make it even harder to deliver aid to the area. This is a huge concern because food from Phnom Penh has already been moving slowly,” Perez said.

“We will work closely with the Red Cross and the government to ensure supplies arrive as soon as possible,” he added, speaking two days after Prime Minister Hun Sen ordered cooperation among government officials and relevant aid groups. In Friday’s cabinet meeting, the premier encouraged all parties involved in the cleanup to ensure “no one dies of hunger” in the Kingdom’s worst-hit area, and that “agricultural infrastructures are restored”.

KCF head seeks PM’s help with conviction

(Post by CAAI News Media)

Monday, 12 October 2009 15:03 Chhay Channyda

THE exiled president of the Khmer Civilisation Foundation (KCF) has written a letter to Prime Minister Hun Sen asking him to intervene in his disinformation conviction by a Phnom Penh court.

Moeung Son, who is now in France, was sentenced in absentia to two years in prison when the Phnom Penh Municipal Court found him guilty of disinformation in connection with comments he made in May suggesting that a light-installation project at Angkor Wat could damage the 11th-century temple.

He was also fined 7 million riels (US$1,677) and ordered to pay an additional 8 million riels in compensation to the Apsara Authority, the body that manages the temple complex.

In the letter, dated October 5, Moeung Sonn asked Hun Sen to reconsider the conviction so that the KCF head “could return back to his lovely country”. He wrote that he believed the judge in his case “did not investigate deeply, according to court procedure”, and that that his statements should not have qualified as disinformation because he was only echoing the recommendations of a UNESCO technical group.

Pal Chan Dara, a government lawyer, said that Moeung Sonn’s case was a matter for the courts, not the prime minister.

“Moeung Sonn can write a letter to ask the court for a retrial, but not the government or Hun Sen,” he said.

Chhay Kong, the Phnom Penh Municipal Court judge who rendered the original verdict, said that Moeung Sonn’s case would be retried according to his request, but the judge did not comment on whether a date for the retrial had been set.

Commentator threatened

(Post by CAAI News Media)

Monday, 12 October 2009 15:03 Rann Reuy

GENERAL director of Deum Ampil Media and CTN commentator Soy Sopheap said Sunday he has received a threatening message accusing him of extorting money from CPP provincial governors.

In the text message obtained by the Post on Sunday, an unidentified author wrote: “I have received reports of you extorting money from Tong Seng and other CPP Governors. Many are not happy with u and want to take action against u.” The text added: “Khay Dara’s case is small but u made it big,” referring to Soy Sopheap’s published comments about Khay Dara, 22, who opened fire in Phnom Penh during a traffic dispute and was later sentenced to 18 months’ imprisonment.

Soy Sopheap dismissed the threat. “I’m not worried about the message because its accusations are groundless,” said the Deum Ampil newspaper publisher, vowing not to “reduce my criticism towards the bad behaviour of people in society”.

The sender of the SMS, who refused to give his name, told the Post he received information from CPP officials about Soy Sopheap’s alleged corruption. He acknowleged the contents of his text but said that it “was not threatening”.

Chum Kosal, an adviser to Prime Minister Hun Sen and vice director of CTN’s news department, said it is “usual to make mistakes” on news judgement but insisted Soy Sopheap “did more right than he did wrong”.

Tack Fat workers set to meet with officials

(Post by CAAI News Media)

Monday, 12 October 2009 15:03 Kim Yuthana

A UNION representative from the Tack Fat garment factory said workers and factory management will meet with officials from the Ministry of Social Affairs on Monday to resolve a dispute stemming from the recent closure of the factory.

Some 1,823 garment workers at the Tack Fat factory, in Phnom Penh’s Meanchey district, held protests on Thursday morning when the factory closed its doors without informing them in advance.

The owners say the factory will be closed for two months due to declining garment orders and have agreed to pay workers US$10 per month in compensation, but workers say $10 is insufficient to compensate them for lost wages.

“Workers want the factory to pay them 50 percent of their salary if it wishes to suspend their jobs for two months, and we want the factory to be locked properly so that the property cannot be secretly removed before making a clear deal with the workers,” said Meas Saphors, leader of the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers Democratic Union at Tack Fat garment factory.

Factory representatives could not be reached for comment on Sunday, but Khieu Savuth, an official from the Office of Labour Disputes at the Ministry of Labour, said workers and factory management would meet on Monday with officials from the Ministry of Social Affairs’ Committee for Dealing with Demonstrations and Strikes.

According a report released by the Ministry of Labour, 130 factories have closed in the first nine months of 2009, resulting in the loss of 30,683 jobs. The ministry also estimates an additional 30,617 workers are also facing unemployment because of a decline in export orders stemming from the global financial downturn.

Myanmar official visits

(Post by CAAI News Media)

Monday, 12 October 2009 15:03 Vong Sokheng

THE commander-in-chief of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces, Pol Saroeun, met with Myanmar’s chief of security affairs last week in a bid to maintain the developing relations between Cambodia and Myanmar.

Meakh Sina, personal assistant to Pol Saroeun, said Sunday that the official meeting with Myanmar’s chief of security affairs, Ye Myint, was to discuss general military concerns, strengthen cooperation between the two countries and improve the standard of armed forces in the region.

“Cambodia and Myanmar have a ... similar culture, so we have to continue developing our relations,” Meakh Sina said.

Pol Saroeun also spoke with his Myanmar counterpart about Cambodia’s ongoing border conflict with Thailand at the Preah Vihear temple, as well as Thailand’s border conflicts with both Myanmar and Malaysia.

“As a member of ASEAN, why would Thailand create border conflicts with its neighboring countries?” Pol Saroeun asked Ye Myint, Meakh Sina told the Post.

Meakh Sina added that there was no principal focus to the discussion, which took place at the Army Secretary General Headquarters in Phnom Penh, Meakh Sina said.

Insurgents celebrate legacy

Photo by: Sebastian Strangio
In a photo displayed during Friday’s ceremony marking the 30th anniversary of the Khmer People’s National Liberation Front, Son Sann, the group’s founder and president, speaks with villagers inside its liberated zone, Sok San village, Battambang province, in 1985.

Without the resistance, Cambodia would be wearing a vietnamese hat.

(Post by CAAI News Media)

Monday, 12 October 2009 15:03 Sebastian Strangio and Vong Sokheng

Veterans of the KPNLF mark their 30th anniversary, saying their nationalism and fight against communism and corruption remain relevant to the Kingdom.

THREE decades on from the founding of the Khmer People’s National Liberation Front (KPNLF) in the remote jungles of Battambang province, veteran resistance fighters say the group’s controversial legacy – and that of its president and founder Son Sann – remain relevant in a changing Cambodia.

One of the main resistance factions to emerge along the Thai border following the overthrow of the Khmer Rouge regime by Vietnamese troops in January 1979, the KPNLF prompted controversy for its role in the decade-long civil war against the Hanoi-backed government in Phnom Penh.

During a ceremony at the Son Sann memorial stupa in Kandal province’s Kien Svay district on Friday, a dwindling group of KPNLF veterans gathered to reflect on their experiences in the resistance and promote the continuing pertinence of the faction’s goals.

Svay Ngov, a soldier who lost both of his legs in the service of the KPNLF, said the sacrifice was worthwhile in the pursuit of the group’s aims.

“I made sacrifices for the sake of my conscience, which was to fight against the foreigners who invaded Cambodia, fight against the Khmer Rouge and fight against corruption in society,” he said in a speech at the ceremony.

“These three core issues remain unresolved.”

Son Soubert, Son Sann’s son and an active member of the movement, said it played an integral role in establishing the 1993 Constitution and helped usher in the current system of multiparty democracy.

“We fulfilled our aim of bringing about national reconciliation and, even if we have never ruled the country, we still continue to play a role in promoting democracy,” he said on Sunday.

Controversial role
The KPNLF was established on October 9, 1979, by a small group of nationalists, “white” Khmers and officials from the Sihanouk and Lon Nol regimes, unified in their opposition to communism and to the presence of Vietnamese forces in the country.

Recruiting its support from the flood of refugees seeking sanctuary in its bases along the Thai border, the KPNLF – with support from the United States, Europe and China – provided social services and waged a continuing insurgency against the Phnom Penh government.

The Cold War calculus of the age, however, created strange bedfellows. In June 1982, Son Sann entered into a coalition – the Coalition Government of Democratic Kampuchea (CGDK) – with the royalist Funcinpec and remnants of the Khmer Rouge, an association that even today prompts controversy.

General Dien Del, the KPNLF’s former general chief of staff who was present at the founding of the group in 1979 and travelled to China to procure its first shipment of military aid, said the group’s aim was to act as a bulwark against the “Vietnamisation” of the country during the occupation of the 1980s.

Despite the Vietnamese military withdrawal from the country in 1989, however, Dien Del said, its influence remained.

“Even if the foreign troops withdrew, civilians remained and supported the Phnom Penh government,” he said, referring to the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) – the successor to the communist regime of the 1980s.

“Now there are Vietnamese everywhere because slaves of the Vietnamese took control of the country.”

When asked whether the Vietnamese deserved any credit for overthrowing Pol Pot, Dien Del stood firm.

“Not at all,” he replied. “They were an occupation force. Without the resistance, Cambodia would be wearing a Vietnamese hat.”

Cheam Yeap, a senior CPP lawmaker, denied the charge, saying that by throwing in its lot with Pol Pot, the KPNLF had squandered its credibility.

“After we rescued the people from Pol Pot and stopped Pol Pot from returning to the country, the [KPNLF] and Funcinpec set up an alliance with the Khmer Rouge,” he said, emphasising the CPP’s independence from Vietnam.

“[We] have never taken a foreigner as our boss. Those criticising us should check and balance their historical background.”

Despite the controversy of its anti-Vietnamese nationalism, old resistance fighters said their animating principles – to resist foreign occupation, prevent a return to the “genocidal” Khmer Rouge regime and fight corruption – have been undiminished by time.

“Today, we find that all of these principles are still critical,” said Pol Ham, who joined the KPNLF in 1979 and served as the head of its information service from 1989 until 1991.

“We have contributed a lot to the liberation of our country and for [its] reconstruction.”

Noble end
After the signing of the Paris Peace Accords in 1991, the KPNLF collapsed after its civilian and military wings split into separate political parties to contest the 1993 elections.

Despite the party’s ignominious end, however, others said Son Sann was still able to play an instrumental role in the peace process.

“When people were repatriated from the border, the seeds of human rights and democracy were created inside the country,” said Lao Mong Hay, a researcher for the Asian Human Rights Commission who served as an aide to Son Sann from 1988 to 1992, in an interview in February.

“Unfortunately, because Son Sann was not successful at the elections, we could not translate the ideas that we cherished into concrete actions.”

Developing world seeks climate assistance

(Post by CAAI News Media)

Monday, 12 October 2009 15:03 Sam Rith

Int’l experts seek greater commitment by the West to assist poorer nations in funding greenhouse-gas mitigation efforts.

Copenhagen, Denmark
EFFORTS to mitigate climate change in the developing world depend on vastly increased commitment to this issue by developed countries, international climate experts told a conference in Denmark on Friday.

Speaking at the Global Editors Forum in Copenhagen, a conference scheduled ahead of December’s United Nations Climate Change Conference, also to be held in the Danish capital, former UN secretary general Kofi Annan said that developing countries are already facing a host of challenging problems related to the changing climate.

Last year alone, the Ghanaian diplomat said, 20 million people worldwide were displaced by climate-related disasters, adding that he expects this number to increase in the future.

An urgent need
“The least-developed countries have contributed less than 2 percent of the greenhouse gases in our atmosphere,” Annan said. “Yet while climate change will affect us all, those in the greatest danger live in the poorest countries or small island nations, with the least resources to protect their people.”

In addition to securing funding for climate change mitigation in the developing world, delegates at the UN conference in December will discuss plans to reduce global emissions by 20 percent by 2020 and to establish cap-and-trade systems in the United States and elsewhere, experts said.

Richie Ahuja, the India progamme director for the Environmental Defence Fund, said that developing countries require a vast amount of assistance for successful mitigation efforts – estimating the figure at between US$300 billion to 500 billion per year – and that this need is urgent.

“We cannot wait longer … the longer we wait to make the turn to safety, the more it will cost us to make the turn,” he said.

Annan echoed this sentiment, urging world leaders to act on this issue when they meet in December.

“The agreement in Copenhagen must establish a fund, governed transparently, to support the mitigation and adaptation actions of developing countries,” he said, adding that the US in particular bears significant responsibility on this score.

Not a pipe dream
Tin Ponlok, project coordinator at the climate change office at Cambodia’s Ministry of Environment, is another who believes that the climatological fortunes of developing countries depend on the commitments of their developed allies. He cited infrastructure and human capacity as areas in which the Kingdom might improve its preparedness for climate change with the assistance of developed countries.

Jose Manuel Barroso, president of the European Commission, told the forum that Europe is ready to help finance mitigation efforts pursued by developing countries, though he added that much of this financing ought to come from developing countries themselves, as their economies grow and international carbon markets are established.

“Green growth is not a pipe dream,” Barroso said.

HIV/AIDS families to get homes of concrete

(Post by CAAI News Media)

Monday, 12 October 2009 15:02 James O’toole and Meas Sokchea

HIV-affected families at the controversial Tuol Sambo relocation site are slated to receive newly built concrete housing to replace the cramped metal dwellings in which they currently live, local authorities and rights group workers announced Friday.

The Phnom Penh Municipality forcibly relocated 20 HIV-affected families to Tuol Sambo, in the capital’s Dangkor district, in June, following their eviction from the Borei Keila community in central Phnom Penh. More than 20 additional Borei Keila families were sent to Tuol Sambo in July.

On Friday, Phnom Penh Deputy Governor Mann Chhoeun travelled with other members of government to the relocation site, where it was announced that the Caritas Cambodia charity will partner with other local rights groups to build new houses for the families at Tuol Sambo. As part of the visit, government representatives also distributed five sewing machines and a tuk-tuk to Tuol Sambo residents.

Over the past few months, residents and rights groups have condemned the conditions at Tuol Sambo, where the 3.5-metre-by-4.5-metre green metal sheds that house evictees fall below minimum dimensions required by the UN for dwellings at refugee camps.

On Sunday, however, Mann Chhoeun struck a triumphant note as he described the new plans for the community.

“Those who insulted us are regretting their insults now,” he said, adding: “Caritas is a good partner for us, different from other organisations that have insulted us.”

Kim Rattana, the executive director of Caritas Cambodia, confirmed that his organisation would be leading the effort to build 45 new houses and a community centre at Tuol Sambo, aiming to complete the project in six months.

Kathleen O’Keefe, an independent consultant based in Phnom Penh who specialises in HIV/AIDS and land issues, said Sunday that although she welcomed the actions by Caritas and its partners, she worried about the precedent Tuol Sambo might be setting for further interactions between the government and civil society groups.

“It’s very difficult when NGOs come in and pick up the pieces when the government comes in and evicts people.... [NGOs] must find ways to stop the government from doing this stuff in the future,” she said.

Kim Rattana acknowledged this issue but emphasised the humanitarian needs at the site.

“We are not supporting the evictions, but this is an emergency case … so there is an emergency need for support,” he said.


Rap teaches B'bang youths the dangers of land mines

(Post by CAAI News Media)

Monday, 12 October 2009 15:02 Robbie Corey-Boulet and May Titthara

Mine Risk Education group uses music to break down myths that put people – especially boys – at risk across the province.


Photo by: Heng Chivoan
Rappers from Sek Sak village perform at a mine-risk education contest Saturday in Ratanak Mondol district, Battambang province.

I never knew about the bad impacts of using the weapons.

TEN years ago, Nam Vanna, 25, lost his right hand in a land mine explosion. The accident happened while he was trying to kill fish using a mine he found in his native Sek Sak village in Battambang’s Ratanak Mondol district.

He had used the unorthodox fishing technique many times before, “following the example of his father”, he said Saturday from the sidelines of a mine-risk education (MRE) rap contest near his home. For him and many of his friends, land mines were a childhood fixture. “I always went to collect them in the forest, and my friends and I would play with them,” he said. “I never knew about the bad impacts of using the weapons.”

Nam Vanna was one of 45 young villagers from Ratanak Mondol to perform in the contest, organised to educate local boys about the dangers of land mines and unexploded ordnance. For more than an hour, groups from three villages battled over beats by Dr Dre, Flo Rida and 50 Cent – all the while emphasising that playing with land mines does not make you manlier, and that Khmer magic will not protect you from a mine blast.

One of the organisers, Catherine Cecil of the International Women’s Development Agency, said the contest – held at the high school in Pcheav village – was geared towards a particularly vulnerable subgroup: According to data from the Cambodia Mine/UXO Victim Information System (CMVIS), Battambang suffered the most mine casualties of any province in 2008. Thirty-four percent of the victims were boys under 18. CMVIS also reported that 83 percent of the victims had been exposed to some MRE – an indication, Cecil said, that education programmes had not been particularly effective. “We think we need a better approach,” she said.

Several performers agreed and said it was the music, not the message, that had drawn them to Saturday’s event. Sry Dalen, a 15-year-old from Phlov Meas village, said: “I really like hip-hop, so I decided to join this programme. I didn’t really know why they were trying to educate us about the mine issue, but now I know a lot about it.” Even though he had been told before that mines were dangerous, he didn’t take the warnings seriously – until now. “We never listened to them, but now I will stop touching mines,” he said.

One of the songs performed by Sry Dalen’s group poked fun at a teenage boy who boasted: “I am a gangster leader. I am not afraid of mines because my body is tattooed, and I have Khmer magic, so mines will not explode on me.”

All three groups wrote lyrics mocking this particular belief, which several performers said was widely held among youngsters. In a special guest appearance, MC Tola addressed it himself in a song written exclusively for the event.

DJ Sdey, who served as MC and as one of the judges, also touched on the consequences. He rapped: “The second time you tamper, you lose your girl. The third time you tamper, you’ve lost your girl and you’re losing your arm.” Of the three competing villages, Chi San took the top prize: the chance to appear in a new MRE radio ad.

Rappers from Sek Sak performed songs describing the economic factors that prompt villagers to handle mines in the first place. “If we don’t use mines to catch fish, how can we support our daily living?” the group sang before emphasising that mine-related injuries are often lifetime economic liabilities. Yin Rachana, 20, whose father lost a leg in a mine accident when he was a soldier, said: “An arm or leg disability – that can ruin your life.