Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Brother Number One

"Brother Number One" is a New Zealand documentary on the torture and murder of New Zealand yachtie Kerry Hamill by the Khmer Rouge in 1978. It follows the journey of Kerry's younger brother, Rob Hamill, an Olympic and Trans-Atlantic champion rower, who will travel to Cambodia to retrace the steps taken by his brother and John Dewhirst, speaking to eyewitnesses, perpetrators and survivors.

The film will be directed by award-winning filmmaker Annie Goldson (Punitive Damage, Georgie Girl, An Island Calling), shot by Academy-award winning DOP Peter Gilbert (Hoop Dreams, At the Death House Door) and produced by Pan Pacific Films.

Five-year battle over Oakland Buddhist temple comes to an end

Members of the Oakland Cambodian Buddhist Temple quickly work to take the International Community of Khmer Buddhist Monks Center sign down after taking back their temple in Oakland, Calif. on Tuesday Jan 12, 2010. The Cambodian Buddhist community has been in a legal battle over the temple on E. 10th St. in Oakland for the past 5 years. A court order came down Tuesday giving the Oakland Cambodian Buddhist community the right to the temple that had been occupied by the International Community of Khmer Buddhist Monks Center. (Laura A. Oda/Staff)

Members of the Oakland Cambodian Buddhist Temple including 96 year old Bun Cheng(center) watch as the International Community of Kmer Buddhist Monks Center was taken down after taking back their temple in Oakland, Calif. on Tuesday Jan 12, 2010. The Cambodian Buddhist community has been in a legal battle over the temple on E. 10th St. in Oakland for the past 5 years. A court order came down Tuesday giving the Oakland Cambodian Buddhist community the right to the temple that had been occupied by the International Community of Khmer Buddhist Monks Center. (Laura A. Oda/Staff)

Members of the Oakland Cambodian Buddhist Temple were able to worship in the temple they had been banned from for the last 5 years after they took back their temple in Oakland, Calif. on Tuesday Jan 12, 2010. The Cambodian Buddhist community has been in a legal battle over the temple on E. 10th St. in Oakland for the past 5 years. A court order came down Tuesday giving the Oakland Cambodian Buddhist community the right to the temple that had been occupied by the International Community of Khmer Buddhist Monks Center. (Laura A. Oda/Staff)

Members of the Oakland Cambodian Buddhist Temple hold photos of Abbot Dharmasara Son Sam, their deceased leader, as they take back their temple in Oakland, Calif. on Tuesday Jan 12, 2010. The Cambodian Buddhist community has been in a legal battle over the temple on E. 10th St. in Oakland for the past 5 years. A court order came down Tuesday giving the Oakland Cambodian Buddhist community the right to the temple that had been occupied by the International Community of Khmer Buddhist Monks Center. (Laura A. Oda/Staff)


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Buddhist battle comes to an end

Angela Woodall
Oakland Tribune

OAKLAND — Buddhists are perceived as being above church politics.

But a bitter five-year battle over an Oakland temple pitted two Cambodian Buddhist organizations against each other and gave rise to restraining orders, threats and allegations of stealing.

The struggle ended Monday afternoon in a nondescript chamber of the California Superior Court on Oak Street with a simple decision that boiled down to one thing: the Oakland Cambodian Buddhist Temple nonprofit has a right to its East 10th Street center and temple.

The center had been taken over in 2005 by the Massachusetts-based International Community of Khmer Buddhist Monks Center.

"We had to endure a lot of pain and suffering to achieve this," said Christina Sam, the daughter-in-law of the center's founder, Sam Son.

"I didn't expect it would take this long," said Christina Sam after she, her husband, Paul Sam, and scores of members gathered in front of an 8-foot gold-hued Buddha statue for the first time since the dispute started.

"I'm very happy. I'm very elated, very ecstatic," said 79-year-old Caray Suy, an original member. Christina Sam interpreted for her.

"We finally got our temple back," Suy added, as other members began removing signs of the Khmer Buddhist Center outside the center.

The feud began in late 2004, when members of the Oakland Cambodian Buddhist Society board of directors decided to transfer ownership of the temple to the International Community of Khmer Buddhist monks. (The Khmer monks have no relationship to the genocidal Khmer Rouge regime that ruled Cambodia from 1975 to 1979.)

The board's decision set off intense opposition among members of the Oakland group, which called the board's decision illegal, and a legal battle ensued between the two groups over the modest, yellow and burgundy three-bedroom bungalow in East Oakland. Each side accused the other of wrongdoing and bully tactics.

Sunthay Sunly boiled down the issues to access and local control of one of the first community-owned Theraveda Buddhist temples in Oakland. "We are not fighting against a person, but for a place for the community to come together," he said. "They lost a lot already."

Son, a refugee who fled the Khmer Rouge, founded the Oakland Buddhist society in 1983. After he was evicted in 2005, Son and three monks moved across the street from the original location, at 5212 E. 10th St., and started the Oakland Cambodian Buddhist Temple. Many of their supporters followed and the battle continued.

Finally, on Tuesday, about 100 people gathered in front of the center, eager to visit the shrine for the first time in years. "Today is the day for us," said Theany Nov.

Not everyone agreed. "We had no choice," William Ley said. He was an original member of the Oakland society but continued on with numerous others from the original location after the Khmer Monks Center took over.

There are still details to be ironed out during the second phase of the trial about damages, after which the Khmer Monks Center would then decide whether to file an appeal, according to its lawyer, G. Robert Woodfin.

David Sternfeld, the Oakland Temple's lawyer, ruled out mediation as a possibility. In the meantime, the dozen or so International Community of Khmer Buddhist monks have to find a new home.

Vietnam, Cambodia strengthen ties for people’s sake

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The Vietnamese Ministry of Public Security and the Cambodian Ministry of Interior need to strengthen their cooperation for the sake of the two countries’ people, said Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung.

PM Dung made the comment during his meeting with Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Interior Sar Kheng in Hanoi on January 12.

The PM lauded the Cambodian Minister’s working visit and the results of his talks with Minister of Public Security Le Hong Anh earlier the same day.

He said he was delighted at the growing of bilateral traditional friendship and asked the two ministries to work more closely to implement a wide range of agreements reached by the two countries.

“Fine cooperation between the two ministries has helped facilitate the development of friendship and cooperation between the two countries and especially between the provinces which share the borderline,” PM Dung said.

He said the two ministries should enhance their assistance and cooperation in training and share experiences and professional skills to help maintain security, social order and safety in their countries.

PM Dung reiterated that Vietnam wants to implement its agreements reached with Cambodia effectively to elevate the traditional friendship and cooperation for the benefit of the two countries’ people.

Noting down PM Dung’s opinions, he affirmed that the Cambodian government is willing to coordinate with Vietnam to carry out bilateral agreements, including those agreed by the two ministries, in an efficient way.

Earlier, Deputy PM and Minister of Interior Sar Kheng held talks with Minister of Public Security Le Hong Anh during which they informed each other of the current situation in their respective country and discussed issues of mutual concern.

They reviewed the implementation of cooperative programmes in 2009 and exchanged views on measures to be taken to boost their cooperation in 2010.

The two officials reached agreement on the issues they raised and showed their determination to lift the two ministries’ cooperative ties to a new height.

They signed a cooperation plan for their ministries in 2010.

DEVELOPMENT-CAMBODIA: Minority Languages Face Extinction

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By Robert Carmichael

PHNOM PENH, Jan 13, 2010 (IPS) - One of Cambodia’s oldest languages – S’aoch – appears headed for extinction in the next decade. Other languages spoken by its minority people are lining up to take the place of the 6,000-year-old language in the most endangered category.

Ron Watt, the education adviser at Care Cambodia, holds a bilingual dictionary used in Care's school programme to revitalise minority languages.
Credit:Robert Carmichael/IPS

Dr Jean-Michel Filippi, a linguist who has studied the S’aoch language for a decade, has recorded 4,000 words of S’aoch and is preparing to write a grammar for the language. But even he holds out no hope for it. That is because just 10 people in a small village in southern Cambodia speak S’aoch fluently, and none of them uses it in daily conversation.

Filippi says the imminent extinction of S’aoch means his efforts to preserve something of it are critical. "That is because a language is a unique vision of the world," he says. "It’s very specific and a very peculiar classification of reality."

According to the United Nations’ cultural body the world’s remarkable diversity of 6,700 languages is dying out at the rate of one every fortnight. By the end of this century just half will remain, the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) warns on its website.

The work done by linguists like Filippi to document dying languages is important for a number of reasons. Filippi says that long after it is gone, a language could have uses in diverse areas such as commerce, psychology or artificial intelligence. A case in point, he says, is Navajo, the Native American language that was used by U.S. forces in World War II in the Pacific to encrypt radio transmissions, and whose story was popularised in the film ‘Windtalkers’.

Blaise Kilian, joint programme coordinator of UNESCO in Phnom Penh, says there is inevitably more than one reason for language death. The most obvious is that too few people are fluent.

"But you also have the environment and the way people themselves – especially the new generation – react to the changing environment," says Kilian. "And how much they are interested in preserving and transmitting their own language."

Filippi says the imminent demise of S’aoch has less to do with the low numbers of people who speak it, and much more to do with the attitude of the people themselves.

"Survival depends on one thing: Does the minority want to protect and save its own culture?" he asks. In the case of the S’aoch, he adds, that desire is lacking.

That is because after the murderous Khmer Rouge regime was driven from power in Cambodia in 1979, the S’aoch people found themselves unable to return to their original village. Instead they settled in a village called Samrong Loeu near the port town of Sihanoukville in the country’s south.

But without fields to work, they faced enormous difficulties. Filippi says the impoverished S’aoch now aspire to the lifestyles enjoyed by their relatively wealthy Khmer neighbours, who have fields, motorbikes and houses. And so they have put their own language and customs behind them and adopted the language of the majority Khmer population.

"When you are put in a position of economic inferiority, you tend to reject your own culture," Filippi says. That rejection has gone so far that Filippi struggles to get the surviving S’aoch even to recall their folk tales or religious ceremonies.

The case of S’aoch is not unique to Cambodia, which UNESCO estimates has 19 endangered languages. Others in trouble include Somray and Poa, with around 300 speakers each, Samre, with 400 speakers, and So’ong, with 500 speakers.

But even minority languages with just a few hundred speakers face distinctly different outcomes. Filippi says the Somray language of south-western Cambodia is likely to survive several more decades at least even though it has just a few hundred speakers.

That is because the animist religion of the Somray requires that prayers are accurately rendered in their own language to be effective, a compelling reason for the villagers to ensure their children grow up fluent.

Some languages are much more widely spoken, such as Tampuon, P’nong, Kuong and Jarai, each of which has up to 30,000 speakers living in the country’s north and north-east. Provided their communities back the effort, the chances of language survival are much higher.

Kilian says the first step to revitalizing a language is to determine its chances of being saved, and then create an orthography – a specific writing system – for educational materials. Those materials can then be used in education programmes.

In the case of Cambodia, some of that educational work is carried out by non-government organisations such as International Cooperation Cambodia (ICC) and Care International.

ICC has produced highly regarded books in minority languages, some of which Care uses in a bilingual school programme that was started in 2003. ICC also runs adult literacy programmes and records folk tales and other cultural aspects of minority life in the country’s long-neglected north-east.

Ron Watt, Care’s education adviser, says the bilingual schools education programme now has 128 teachers using four languages and teaching in 25 schools. Last year around 1,900 children were enrolled, almost half of them girls.

"The education ministry is very keen on this and now they are replicating it, with three more schools set to open next year," he says.

Under the bilingual education system, children in Grade 1 use their own language for 80 percent of classes, with the rest of instruction undertaken in Khmer. The proportion of minority languages used drops over the following two years, and by the time Grade 4 begins, all teaching is in Khmer.

Watt admits that the programme is not perfect.

"People with a language development bent would say that this isn’t a classic language maintenance model, let alone a language development model," he says, explaining that he would prefer to see instruction in minority languages continue after Grade 3. But the current programme is "much, much better than doing nothing."

UNESCO’s Kilian says the Cambodian government seems broadly receptive to preserving cultural aspects of the country’s heritage, likely in part because of their tourism value. He points out that Cambodia is known to tourists for Angkor Wat and the Khmer Rouge, but little else. That means ensuring its cultural diversity is sensible.

But no matter what efforts are taken, Cambodia will certainly have lost some of its languages by the end of the century. For the doomed languages there is little that linguists can do other than record as much as possible of the language, folk tales and customs so that when tongues like S’aoch eventually die, something of what they represented still remains.

Cambodian PM says Thai government will not survive

Cambodian premier Hun Sen told a student graduation ceremony that the Thai government would "not have long to live"

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PHNOM PENH — Cambodian premier Hun Sen Tuesday stoked a diplomatic row with Thailand, saying the neighbouring country's government would not survive and branding its foreign minister the "chief of terrorists".

Ties between the two nations, which have fought a string of deadly border clashes, hit a new low late last year when Phnom Penh appointed former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra as an economics adviser.

Hun Sen told a student graduation ceremony that the current Thai government would "not have long to live" and vowed to wait for a new administration to take power in Bangkok before fully restoring diplomatic relations.

Thailand and Cambodia recalled their ambassadors in November and expelled senior diplomats over Hun Sen's appointment of Thaksin, who is living abroad to avoid a jail term for corruption in his home country.

Diplomatic tensions soared further when Phnom Penh then refused to extradite Thaksin during his first visit to Cambodia in his new role.

Thai premier Abhisit Vejjajiva took office in December 2008 and must call an election by December 2011. He came to power after a blockade of Bangkok's airports in 2008 helped bring down the previous, pro-Thaksin government.

Hun Sen criticised Thai foreign minister Kasit Piromya for his involvement in the blockade, which was carried out by the royalist "Yellow Shirt" movement that also helped spark the coup that toppled Thaksin in 2006.

"You are the chief of terrorists in the siege of the airports, because some Cambodians were also hostages at the airports," Hun Sen said Tuesday, referring to Kasit.

Kasit is a favourite target of the Cambodian strongman after allegedly calling Hun Sen a "gangster" in a parliamentary debate last year. The Thai minister said at the time that his comments had been translated incorrectly.

Hun Sen also restated Cambodia's claim to disputed land around an ancient temple on the border between the two countries, a row that has sparked a series of clashes since mid-2008 in which seven people have died.

Thai media reported Tuesday that Thaksin would visit Cambodia again in late January to better coordinate fresh anti-government protests in Thailand by his own supporters, known as the "Red Shirts".

Two Cambodian loggers shot, one missing in new Thai border incident
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Jan 13, 2010

Phnom Penh - Cambodian authorities said two Cambodian citizens logging illegally in Thailand have been shot dead by Thai troops and a third is missing, national media reported Wednesday.

The two dead men were in a party of 26 who crossed the border on January 10 in Oddar Meanchey province in north-west Cambodia, the Cambodia Daily newspaper quoted a senior army source as saying.

It was the latest in a series of shootings in the past four months in which Thai troops were accused of shooting Cambodians logging illegally and brings the number of dead to at least four.

Last week, the Cambodian government said it would station extra soldiers along the border in Oddar Meanchey to prevent its citizens from crossing illegally into Thailand. After the latest incident was reported, Information Minister Khieu Kanharith said the government would again increase its efforts.

'The government will build more checkpoints to prevent them and warn them from crossing the border illegally to prevent shootings,' he told the newspaper.

In the most infamous case, a 16-year-old died in September after he was shot and wounded, then allegedly tied to an ox cart while alive and set on fire by Thai soldiers. The Thai government later insisted the teenager had already died from gunshot wounds when troops burned his body.

Poverty is widespread in Cambodia and drives thousands to work in Thailand, often illegally.

The relationship between the two nations has been tense for more than a year with a number of clashes reported between troops from both countries over a disputed piece of land near the 11th-century Preah Vihear temple in northern Cambodia.

Ties worsened late last year when Cambodia appointed Thailand's fugitive former premier Thaksin Shinawatra as an adviser to the government.

Enjoy a Value-Packed Vacation in Cambodia Courtesy of Angkor Holiday Hotel’s New Promo

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2010-01-13 06:26:08 - Guests can now avail of Angkor Holiday Hotel’s Holiday Promo, which offers a variety of perks and discounts.

Siem Reap, Cambodia – At Angkor Holiday Hotel, the holidays are far from over. The hotel’s Holiday Promo Package offers complimentary services such as a one-day tour to Angkor Complex and a soothing one-hour massage, giving guests the luxury of having a vacation that is both informative and relaxing. Aside from being given the chance to learn about the fascinating
local culture, guests are provided by the promo package with conveniences such as one-way airport transfer, a delicious daily buffet breakfast, one Khmer set menu for dinner, free Internet access up to one hour at the business center, and early check-in/late check-out until 3 p.m.

The hotel offers invigorating welcome drinks and complimentary bottles of mineral water for those who avail of the promo, and the staff is available to cater to their concerns. The promo is valid until 31 March 2010, with a minimum stay of two nights. Package rates start at USD 109.00 for double occupancy, and are already inclusive of taxes and surcharges.

Angkor Holiday Hotel is located near the commercial and business district, making it a prime location for travelers who want affordable accommodations and quality service. The hotel offers spacious air-conditioned rooms with four-star amenities such as Internet access, a mini-bar, coffee/tea making facilities, an IDD phone, and a DVD player.

Round-the-clock room service and a variety of facilities that appeal to corporate travelers and holidaymakers are also offered by this Cambodia hotel. Tour services to the world famous Angkor Wat and the other local attractions may be arranged. For transportation conveniences, flight, coach, and taxi arrangements can be made. There is a doctor on-call for medical assistance, as well as babysitting and dry cleaning/laundry service.

Guests can avail of spa treatments or make use of the swimming pool, which has a built-in Jacuzzi. Fitness enthusiasts can head to the gym, and guests who are interested to relax in a laid-back atmosphere can use the private cinema. They can also try their hand at karaoke for an entertaining time with friends or loved ones.

For business travelers, the business center has high-speed Internet access as well as printing/fax services. The conference rooms can accommodation up to 120 guests each.

For more information on this promo and to book reservations, visit


About Angkor Holiday Hotel

Angkor Holiday Hotel in Siem Reap is an affordable accommodation provider located near business and commercial areas. Guests who are arriving by plane will find it convenient to know that the hotel is only a 10-minute drive away from Siem Reap International Airport. It is also near tourist attractions such as Angkor Wat and the Royal Palace.

Contact Information

Angkor Holiday Hotel
Corner of Sivutha Blvd and National Road No. 6
Siem Reap, Kingdom of Cambodia
Tel: 855 63 966 777
Fax Number: 855 63 966 800

DAP News ; Breaking News by Soy Sopheap

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Two Years in Prison over Singer Prostitution Case

Wednesday, 13 January 2010 02:16 DAP-NEWS

Chhin Sotheary, a Little Known Cambodian singer, was the victim of a sexual trafficking scam, Phnom Penh Municipal Court heard on Monday.

The accused in the case, Preap Sophea, 31, was arrested on July 19, 2009 after allegedly falsely claiming to offer the sexual services of Chhin Sotheary, a court official said. She was found guilty, fined CR1,000,000 and sent to prison for two years. The plaintiff demanded US$10,000 compensation.

Chhin Sotheary´s fiancé had called police to arrest Preap Sophea after seeing his partner’s name in a catalogue of women on offer to clients.

Sotheary´s fiancé told the court that Preap Sophea had claimed Chhin Sotheary was not present at the establishment.

“I called to police to find and arrest her as soon as possible because it is a infringement upon my fiancée’s rights,” he was quoted as saying.

Preap Sophea claimed that the case was just a mix-up, with a woman of similar name but different identity listed. “She (the similarly named woman) has left for Thailand,” she said.

Judge Chaing Sinath found the presented evidence sufficient to charge her with sexual trafficking.

Climate Change Concerns for Cambodia

Wednesday, 13 January 2010 02:19 DAP-NEWS

The National Committee of Disaster Management (NCDM) Secretary General for Cambodia on Monday voiced concerns about the effects of climate change.

Peou Samy said at a seminar at Naga World Hotel of Phnom Penh that natural disasters are both local and international.

Storms, flooding, droughts and other disasters have already beset Cambodia us, he added, saying that at least US$153 million worth of damage was caused by Typhoon Ketsana.

“We need US$131 million to support … victims of bad weather,” he said.

Aslam Perwaiz of the Asian Disaster Program Committee (ADPC) said that the EU has €1 million allocated to support areas around the Mekong River, for poverty reduction projects and strengthening the capacity of local authorities.

Perwaiz added that the project will help to cut climate change risks in Southeast Asia. Cambodia is one of the most disaster-prone countries in the region.

Disaster management capacity building at provincial, district and commune levels to prepare and implement disaster risk reduction plans remains one of the most important priorities, Perwaiz added.

Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam will all receive assistance, he said.

Gambling Must Stop, PM Warns

Wednesday, 13 January 2010 02:20 DAP-NEWS

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen once again on Tuesday warned the 8 Phnom Penh district governors to put an end to all gambling, including football betting and card games.

The premier’s caution is the latest in series of warnings to local officials in the course of an ongoing crackdown on gambling. Gaming continues, however, behind closed doors.

The PM claimed that at least one lawyer had yawned in a National Asse-mbly session after a night’s gambling.

“Do not suppose that I don’t know some lawyers yawned in the National Assembly Session,” the PM said during a graduation ceremony in Phnom Penh on Tuesday. “At the moment, gambling is done at guesthouses and hotels.”

“Please watch out carefully if you do not want trouble,” he instructed the governors, singling out Daun Penh district as “the most difficult area.”

The premier also warned that cockfighting, a popular traditional pastime in Cambodia, must also be halted.

There has been strong support for the government’s crackdown on gambling, perceived by many as a social evil dragging Cambodians into poverty.

Expected High Demand for Pork at Chinese New Year

Wednesday, 13 January 2010 02:21 DAP-NEWS

A pork vendor at O’Russey market said on Tuesday that the demand for pork will be higher during the upcoming Chinese New Year, to fall on February 14.

The pork will be in demand as most Chinese buy meat or whole pigs as ceremonial offerings, though some are concerned about swine flu, Khim Nady said, though prices are not expected to rise much.

A kilo of pork currently fetches US$3.5-4.5.

According to the Ministry of Agriculture, Forests and Fisheries, that pig industry decreased over 4 percent in 2009 over 2008. The decline is said to due to the high cost of feed and animal diseases. Disease is a key concern.

Around 1,000 pigs per day with a value of at least US$2 million dollars arrive from abroad to supply the local market demand.

Currently, the MAFF has closely followed animal movement to prevent any communicable diseases, said Kao Phal, MAFF’s director of health and animal production. “This year our measure is similar to last year about the poultry and animal movement during this event.”

Thai Soldiers Encroach Upon Cambodian Territory

Wednesday, 13 January 2010 02:21 DAP-NEWS

Cambodian troops and Thai black-clad soldiers are close to confronting one-another at the Choub Ron area after 30 Thai soldiers moved from O’Krogn- oung in Thailand to camp in the O’Kbal Haseb area at the Thai-Cambodia border in Oddor Meanchey province.

Chen Sivuth, the provincial inspection chief, on Tuesday told DAP News Cambodia the Thais came to camp in the area at 10 am on January 11.

“Following Thai soldiers camping, Cambodia soldiers reached that area, but they have not confronted one another yet, but Cambodian party demanded absolutely those Thai soldiers returned to their old station,” he said. “Those Thai soldiers were willing to act illegally.” However, both soldier parties often hold discussions for cooperation and to improve the relationship between the militaries.

Green energy experiment under threat

Photo by: Ellie Dyer
Dong Ly, chairman of a committee tasked with running a green energy experiment in Battambang province, operates one of the lights powered by it on Monday.

Our intention is to become a self-sustaining energy industry."

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Wednesday, 13 January 2010 15:04 Ellie Dyer

Battambang Province

FIVE years ago, a 100-person village in Battambang province became a trail-blazing experiment in the use of renewable power in rural Cambodia.

The village, An Long Tmey, located in Chhey Teal commune, received its own ‘gasification’ system, a renewable energy reactor that converts nut husks and wood into green energy.

To operate the system, residents laboured day and night to oversee organic products being turned into gas and pumped through a dynamo to electrify their community. Families also planted crops of high-yield wood to fuel the unit.

By many accounts, the entire community benefited from a stable, long-term power source, which serviced 300 homes in the area.

Now, that system is under threat.

The state-owned Energy Authority Cambodia power line is coming to the village. With cheaper rates – around 900 riels less per kilowatt – and the promise of 24-hour power, it could potentially provide a better deal for the community.

But if the existing renewable system is to survive, the electricity commune must find US$20,000 to upgrade its existing wires to be compatible with the national grid. Only then can it become a licensed body able to provide energy to residents.

With only $9,000 of savings, if the village does not find a donor willing to help, another energy provider, such as Electricite du Cambodge, will be licenced in the area and the experiment will end.

On Monday, the executive committee that operates the system told the Post how the village has benefited from power.

As he sat in front of the gasification unit, which was funded by $110,000 coming from groups including the UN Development Programme, committee member Sam Sophorm told how a stable energy system had changed the economic makeup of the village. Small shops and restaurants can now stay open after dark, he said, which has been a boon for trade. The local clinic can treat patients during the night, and a TV and electric guitar repair shop is flourishing.

He said he believes the project could provide a viable model for other rural villages like An Long Thmey.

“People here are lucky to get offered the line from the government, but in other areas of Cambodia that don’t have electricity, to use gasification must be a good option for them,” he said.

Committee chairman Dong Ly, 52, said he hopes a third party will step in to plug the gap in funds, but added that he realises he cannot fly in the face of development.

“I am in the middle. I am sorry we did not save enough to upgrade, I would like the energy community to continue, but I can’t be the barrier to stop the government’s plans,” he said.

As villagers await a resolution, investors and observers are reflecting on the successes and failures of the experiment and what it means for efforts to bring renewable energy to other villages throughout the Kingdom.

Investors believe that the village’s experience has been instructive with respect to how renewable energy can work within rural communities, but they also recognise its failures.

Over the years, in response to increased demand, the commune began supplementing its renewable energy sources with diesel. Training villagers to run their own power source also provided a unique challenge.

Tony Knowles, director of SME Cambodia, which put forward at least $25,000 towards the village project over past five years, explained: “The idea of an energy cooperative has a lot of appeal, but in retrospect we are talking about taking rice farmers and turning them into managers.

“It’s a complicated process. The problem in a village is that the person you may be dealing with or wanting payment from may be your cousin.”

The experience in An Long Thmey village has prompted a change of path for the firm.

“What we do know now is that we are less enthusiastic about jumping to a cooperative as a first step. We are looking at investing in motivated entrepreneurs, who have more incentive in maintaining customer service, and businesses such as rice mills.”

The importance of setting up viable business models to provide for the Kingdom’s long-term needs has also been emphasised by other companies looking to benefit from Cambodia’s power problems.

According to a report from the Asian Development Bank and Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), only 20 percent of households in the Kingdom are electrified, and energy demand is set to grow 3.7 percent per year until 2030.

The government has recently ramped up renewable power operations. In September last year, it slashed trade tariffs for some renewable energy products from 35 percent to 7 percent.

Jan Lan, from the National Bio-digester Programme, an organisation that promotes biofuel cooking stoves and is jointly supported by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, said that sustainability was key.

He hopes, in time, that his industry can be funded by carbon trading.

“There is a lot of industry potential here,” he said. “Our intention is to become a self-sustaining energy industry.”

Police Blotter: 13 Jan 2009

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Wednesday, 13 January 2010 15:02 Phak Seangly

Police in Kampong Siem district in Kampong Cham province sent a 27-year-old suspected cow thief to the provincial court on Sunday for sentencing, two days after his arrest. Police said the man was charged with robbery after he stole a young cow from a 65-year-old farmer in his village and concealed it in a nearby forest last week. At the police station, the suspect confessed that he stole the cow in order to slaughter it and sell the beef.

A 46-year-old mill owner was shot in a robbery on Sunday in Battambang province’s Ek Phnom district. The victim said three men with AK-47s and an ax robbed him, making off with approximately US$10,000. Military police said that they arrested a 35-year-old suspect the day after the robbery. However, the suspect claimed innocence, saying he was a taxi driver. Police are hunting for two more suspects who escaped in a car after the robbery.

A 28-year-old military policeman has been accused of seriously injuring two men who were walking on Sunday night in Phnom Penh’s Sen Sok district. The military policeman reportedly thought the two were thieves when he allegedly attacked them. A 19-year-old victim was sent to Calmette hospital after the accused shot him with his gun. The other victim, 23, reported that the policeman beat him and his companion and shot at them repeatedly. Police said the suspect had been arrested.

Phnom Penh Municipal Court sentenced two men to 12 years in prison on Monday for unintentional murder.According to the court, the two attacked an intoxicated man with wooden sticks and a cleaver during an argument in April. The deceased and his friends had cursed the defendants, who were drinking alcohol at home in Phnom Penh.

A customs officer allegedly injured three people while driving drunk in Daun Penh district on Sunday night. One motorbike was also destroyed. Witnesses said that the driver tried to escape from the scene but had a flat tyre. Military police followed the intoxicated man to intervene. However, the man, who was not identified, was not arrested because he agreed to pay about US$150 to the three victims.

End is near for Abhisit govt: PM

Photo by: Kem Sovannara
Prime Minister Hun Sen speaks at the National Institute of Education on Tuesday.

PM Calls for action

HUN Sen warned on Tuesday that officials who shirk responsibility in times of crisis will not be promoted. In his speech at the National Institute of Education, the premier said that there are two types of officials when it comes to confronting disasters such as the global downturn or Typhoon Ketsana: those who tackle the problem, and those who simply report it to their superiors. “The [latter] do nothing to resolve the problem, only make reports and ask for recommendations,” Hun Sen said. “The actions of officials in those hours will show whether or not they can handle the job they’ve been given.”

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Wednesday, 13 January 2010 15:04 Cheang Sokha and James O’toole

PRIME Minister Hun Sen said Tuesday that the embattled government of Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva does “not have long to live”, renewing his rhetorical attacks on the neighbouring administration.

Speaking at a graduation ceremony at the National Institute of Education, Hun Sen rejected the possibility of normalising the Kingdom’s frayed diplomatic relations with Thailand. He again said that Thai troops had been occupying Cambodian land near Preah Vihear temple, accusing Thai officials of “scorn that cannot be forgiven”.

“From now on, stop talking about sending your ambassador back – Cambodia doesn’t need him,” Hun Sen said before an audience of 3,000 students. “Cambodia will not die without the presence of the Thai ambassador.”

Cambodia and Thailand withdrew their respective ambassadors in November in the row over fugitive former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra’s appointment as a Cambodian government economics adviser. Supporters of Thaksin known as the Red Shirts are planning rallies in Thailand this month as part of a sustained effort to bring down the Abhisit government.

Although Hun Sen announced an alliance between his Cambodian People’s Party and Thailand’s pro-Thaksin Puea Thai party in October, Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said Cambodia is not necessarily supporting one side or the other in Thailand’s intensely polarised domestic politics.

“It’s the Thai people’s decision, but we tell them that we have a hard time working with the Abhisit administration so far,” Phay Siphan said, adding: “We wish to see the Thai people united.”

In 2008, anti-Thaksin protesters rallied in the streets of Bangkok and occupied two of Thailand’s main airports, ultimately forcing the dissolution of a Thaksin-aligned government. Thaksin fled Thailand in 2008 to avoid a jail term for corruption after being deposed in a 2006 coup.

Current Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya took part in the airport protests, for which Hun Sen criticised him Tuesday.

“You are a terrorist who occupied the airports of Don Mueang and Suvarnabhumi,” Hun Sen said in addressing Kasit. “I say this because Cambodian travellers became hostages at those airports.”

Thai government spokesman Panitan Wattanyagorn said Thai officials “are not going to comment on Prime Minister Hun Sen’s speech for his domestic audience”.

“We hope that our relationship improves,” he added.

As the premier sounded off in Phnom Penh, border officials reported troop movements along the contentious Thai-Cambodian border, which has yet to be fully demarcated.

Chhim Sivuth, secretary general of Oddar Meanchey province, said around 30 Thai soldiers moved their base within a contested area by about 3 kilometres on Monday, with Cambodian troops dispatched to meet with them to prevent “further encroachment”.

“We have sent our troops to that place for negotiation about [the Thai troops’] relocation to another place,” Chhim Sivuth said. “We cannot say they were settled on our land because we have not yet demarcated that area, but we see that the area on which they settled is mainly populated by the Cambodian side.”

Panitan was unaware of the movements, but said such events were of little significance in any case.

“It’s very normal in a disputed area over many centuries … that different troop movements are somewhat contested, so I think if this happens, it’s normal activity,” he said.

Sivarak to return
As an example of a positive sign for Thai-Cambodian relations, Panitan cited the impending return to Cambodia of Sivarak Chutipong, reported on Tuesday by the Bangkok Post.

Sivarak received a Royal pardon last month after being found guilty of leaking Thaksin’s flight schedule to the Thai embassy in November.

“Although we may have different opinions on the case, the fact that [Sivarak] has returned is a very positive development,” Panitan said.

Authorities look into killing of head monk

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Wednesday, 13 January 2010 15:04 Chrann Chamroeun

BANTEAY Meanchey provincial police and military police officials initiated a murder investigation after an abbot from Yaram Rainsy pagoda, in Mongkol Borei district, was killed in his locked room at the pagoda on Saturday.

Sing Vuon, 38, died after being strangled with a towel and beaten with a blunt object on the left temple. He was discovered lying face down on a mat in his room when a nun found the door locked and peered through the window to see the man bleeding, police said.

Deputy provincial Military Police Chief Or Borin said authorities had not yet identified suspects, although they questioned three monks on Monday over the killing. The three had watched television with the victim the day of the incident.

He called the attack a revenge killing based on evidence collected in cooperation with provincial police.

“His mobile phone and cash were not [missing],” he said. “It was a brutal murder, and the killers are regarded as ingrates who dared to kill the monk.”

Soam Chankea, provincial coordinator for rights group Adhoc, said the group was investigating the theory that the murder was premeditated.

“Last year [the victim] had a dispute with a monk who has since fled to Thailand,” he said, adding the killing could be related to a beneficiary of the pagoda or someone close to the victim.

Provincial police Chief Hun Hean said police don’t know yet how many people were part of the attack. “Our policemen are working day and night without rest to search for the criminals relating to this brutal killing,” he said.

Group calls for probe into Kandal killing

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Wednesday, 13 January 2010 15:04 Chrann Chamroeun

THE rights group Adhoc brought a complaint to Kandal provincial court Tuesday urging it to re-examine the body of a 25-year-old man who was allegedly beaten by Kandork commune police officials during a wedding reception on Sunday, as an autopsy report stated the man died from an unspecified illness.

Long Chhun Leng was found dead on Monday at his mother’s house close to where the reception was held. Adhoc provincial coordinator Men Makara said the victim had just returned from buying wine for the wedding at around 9:30pm Sunday when a generator stopped working.

As he tried to find a new generator, two off-duty police officers – Chhor Sarath and Sun Vantha – who were guests at the wedding, allegedly told the victim it was “none of his business” before handcuffing and beating him, Men Makara said. The victim then ran to his house for help, he added.

“We do not agree the victim died from illness, as we have learned the victim has never had diseases or any health problems,” Men Makara said. The autopsy report states that the victim died from an unexplained illness that caused him to faint.

The victim’s father, Bal Long, 53, said his family refused to sign the autopsy report. The Adhoc complaint includes a request for 30 million riels (US$7,222) in civil compensation.

Kandal Stung district police Chief Sim Buth Bandidh said the cause of Long Chhun Leng’s death was inconclusive.

“It is the victim’s family’s right to not recognise the autopsy,” he added.

Thai soldiers kill two: Govt

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Wednesday, 13 January 2010 15:03 Vong Sokheng and James O’toole

THAI soldiers shot and killed two Cambodian loggers in Thailand on Monday night, and eight members of their group are still missing, officials and rights workers said Tuesday.

The loggers were part of a group of 31 Cambodians who had crossed illegally into Thai territory, said Yim Phana, governor of Oddar Meanchey province’s Anlong Veng district. Twenty-one members of the group have returned safely to Oddar Meanchey, he added.

On Monday night, “I received a phone call from the Thai military arranging to return one of the dead bodies, while local authorities have been preparing to retrieve the other body”, he said.

Srey Naren, Oddar Meanchey provincial coordinator for the rights group Adhoc, identified one of the dead men as 34-year-old Cheng Cheath of Oddar Meanchey’s Trapaing Prasat district. The other man, he said, has yet to be identified.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Koy Kuong fiercely denounced the Thai military, saying that the government would send a diplomatic note to Thailand about the incident.

“The barbarous, ferocious and inhuman actions of the Thai soldiers are against our bilateral agreements,” he said, adding: “We mourn the recently deceased villagers, and we condemn the Thai soldiers for using wild law against Cambodian people.”

Thai government spokesman Panitan Wattanyagorn said Tuesday that Bangkok had yet to confirm reports of the shooting.

“Our policy is clear: We would like to work with Cambodia to counter transnational crimes across borders,” he said, calling an investigation of the incident an “internal matter” of the Thai military. Thai military officials did not respond to a request for comment.

Seven Cambodian loggers have reportedly been killed by Thai soldiers near the border in Oddar Meanchey since September.

Nhem En, Anlong Veng deputy governor, said Cambodians living along the border are driven by poverty to log in Thailand, even when they are aware of the dangers involved. He called on Prime Minister Hun Sen to secure the border.

“Poor villagers look for people to hire them to cross the border and transport logs, even if they have to risk their lives,” he said.

Work for Sesan River dam stokes fears of flooding

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Wednesday, 13 January 2010 15:03 Sam Rith and Sebastian Strangio

VILLAGERS in Stung Treng province say they are increasingly worried about the likely effects of a US$816 million hydropower dam slated for construction on the Sesan River, as a Vietnamese firm moves to start clearing land around the dam site.

Beang Teang, a representative from Sre Kor village in Sesan district, said local residents had heard the company was currently transporting cement and steel for the dam’s construction and had expressed fears about the impacts – including floods – likely to result from the project.

“We are very concerned about the dam project,” he said. Chorn Pang, from nearby Phlouk village, said he was also worried about the degradation of water quality and the effect of increased flooding on local agriculture.

The 400-megawatt Lower Sesan II dam, a project of the Vietnam-based Power Engineering Consulting Joint Stock Company 1 (PECC1), is set to begin construction next year, said sources close to the project.

Taing Sophanara, a researcher for Key Consultants Cambodia, the firm hired by PECC1 to conduct the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for the project, said the company was set to start clearing the land at the dam site in April, with a formal groundbreaking – and compensation payments for affected locals – to begin next year.

He said he had submitted the EIA report to the Ministry of Environment three or four times and was now getting some feedback about technical issues in the last report he submitted to the ministry in December. He said the dam could impact about 300 square kilometres, adding that about 15,000 families are set to be compensated next year.

Khy Nheang, the chief of Sesan district’s Sre Kor commune, said commune councillors and PECC1 representatives were in the process of measuring the land of those likely to be displaced by the dam. The project is likely to impact over 300 families in his commune, he added, who will be relocated 15 kilometres from their present location.

China in the Cardamoms
China Huadian Group, a Chinese state-owned firm, announced Tuesday that it had signed agreements with the Export-Import Bank of China on Friday to finance the construction of a separate Cambodian hydropower project in Koh Kong province.

According to a notice posted on the Web site of the China Electricity Council, Huadian will begin construction on the 338-megawatt project next year, at an estimated cost of $558 million.

The notice does not give the exact name or location of the dam in Koh Kong, but in March, Huadian reported on its Web site that it was working on securing approval for a project called elesai in Chinese – a possible reference to the Lower Stung Russey Chrum dam, also a 338-megawatt project planned in Koh Kong.

China Huadian Group has also signed an agreement with the Cambodian government to construct two 50-megawatt coal-fired power plants, the China International Contractors Association reported last month. The planned location of the plants was not given.

Bunra Seng, country director of Conservation International, said he did not know which company was involved in the Lower Stung Russey Chrum project, but expressed concerns about the presence of so many workers in such a remote area.

“If there are many workers present, it could really affect the wildlife,” he said, adding that he had not yet seen an EIA of the project.

Authorities are also set this dry season to begin clearing trees from the Lower Stung Russey Chrum dam site in advance of its construction, he said, before the wood is legally auctioned off by forestry officials.

PM urges fresh efforts in anti-gaming push

Photo by: Uy Nou Sereimony
Gamblers try their luck at the lottery in Tuol Kork district on Tuesday. Prime Minister Hun Sen spoke out against gambling in a speech that morning.

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Wednesday, 13 January 2010 15:03 Chhay Channyda

PRIME Minister Hun Sen has ordered city authorities to take a more aggressive stand against illegal gambling, saying that past crackdowns greatly reduced the problem but also made remaining violations harder to uncover.

Speaking at a graduation ceremony at the National Institute of Education on Tuesday, the prime minister directly addressed Phnom Penh’s eight district governors with requests that they redouble their efforts to eliminate gambling.

“All illegal gambling must be shut down,” Hun Sen said. “District governors, be careful.”

Hun Sen singled out the capital’s Daun Penh district as a particular trouble-spot for gambling, blaming the district’s governor, Sok Sambath, for failing to tackle the problem effectively.

“Sok Sambath should learn from the experiences of Klaing Huot and Kuoch Chamroeun,” he said, referring to the governors of Russey Keo and
Meanchey districts.

Hun Sen acknowledged that some forms of gambling were difficult to detect, such as “a card game in a rented hotel room”, but said that the government would tolerate no exceptions.

“I beg everyone to close their gambling operations, even the cockfighting arena of Deputy Prime Minister Sok An,” he said.

Responding to Hun Sen’s comments, Sok Sambath acknowledged that his district’s numerous entertainment and tourism destinations made it harder to curb illegal gambling.

“We’ve received our warning, and will now set down a new plan to deploy more officials to investigate gambling offences,” he said. “We have been 95 percent effective in combating card games and slot machines, but there are still people betting over the phone, which is difficult for us to trace.”

Nuth Put Dara, deputy district governor of Russey Keo, said the premier’s praise would not be taken by authorities as a sign that they could breathe easily.

“We have yet to achieve 100 percent success,” he said. “But soon, even gambling over the phone will be on its way out.”

In February last year, Hun Sen ordered a ban on all forms of commercial gambling “in order to achieve social reform, strengthen public order and improve social morality”.

Municipal authorities begin removing Tuol Kork homes

Photo by: Pha Lina
Workers dismantle homes in Toek La’ak I commune, Tuol Kork district, after authorities declared that the families were living on public pavements.

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Wednesday, 13 January 2010 15:03 May Titthara

AUTHORITIES have begun dismantling homes on a crowded street in Tuol Kork district, a move that residents fear will render 20 families homeless.

Local authorities have accused about 50 families in Toek La’ak I commune of living illegally on public pavements. The residents, however, say they have lived on the spot for at least two decades.

“We have been in this area for more than 20 years already,” said resident Khov Sothy. “Why are they coming today to destroy our homes and to accuse us of living illegally on the street?”

He added that the authorities had approved of the families living on the road before they built their homes. “If they claim we are living on the street, why would they have allowed us to build our homes in the first place? We asked for permission from the authorities.”

On Tuesday morning, an area between Streets 257 and 261 was blocked by police barricades as authorities prepared to move in on what has become a narrow lane stretching through to Street 122.

By mid-morning, authorities had begun dismantling part of a large villa on the block. The Khmer term for “tear down” was spray-painted in red on roughly 20 other homes. Other residents were told they could stay; only parts of their homes would be dismantled.

Some of the families were angry that they would not be offered any compensation.

“We are not living here illegally. If they want to destroy our homes, they should at least provide us with compensation,” said resident Mong Pao.

Authorities told the villagers that they needed to widen the road to allow easier access for fire trucks.

“We want to reopen this road,” said Bech Sok Kheun, the commune chief. “People took over this road when they saw free land.”

He said authorities were justified in not offering any compensation to the affected families. “We did not give them any compensation even though they opposed our plan because they took over the street. They should allow us to open up the road,” he said.

An advocate with a local rights group said authorities should have negotiated with the villagers.

Photo by: Pha Lina
Residents say they had approval to build their homes.

“Even though the authorities want to reopen the street, they should have negotiated with the affected people first,” said Am Sam Ath, technical superviser for the rights group Licadho. “These people should have the right to file a complaint about authorities destroying their homes.”

Tuesday’s move continues a lengthy string of evictions around the city, with authorities often accusing residents of living on publicly owned land.

In a similar situation, more than 100 families who live near Phnom Penh International Airport still face eviction, with authorities accusing the residents of living on state-owned pavements.

One observer said the tactic was common.

“This happens regularly,” said Depika Sherchan, the interim coordinator of the Asia and Pacific programme for the Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE), who was speaking in general terms because she didn’t have specific knowledge of the Tuol Kork situation.

“Authorities arbitrarily declare that residents are living on public land. Then the residents get evicted.”

She urged authorities to clarify the situation by mapping out precisely what land is public and what is private.

“Unless they do that, everything is going to be arbitrary,” Sherchan said.


Corruption hurting business: vendors

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Wednesday, 13 January 2010 15:03 May Titthara

MARKET vendors at a Kampong Cham border crossing claim corrupt Cambodian border police are demanding too much money from Vietnamese customers, forcing them to accept lower prices for their goods.

The vendors have sent an official complaint to Prime Minister Hun Sen demanding an end to the practice, according to Lim Hong Chheang, who said he represents vendors at the Trapeang Phlong border crossing.

The payments “force Vietnamese vendors to buy Cambodian farmers’ produce at lower-than-market prices”, Lim Hong Chheang said.

Border officials demand 50 riels per kilogram of goods that the Vietnamese customers try to bring home, he said. The practice reportedly forces vendors to sell their offerings at a lower price: Dried cassava that might ordinarily fetch a price of 650 riels per kilogram, for example, now brings only 600 riels per kilogram.

“This corruption doesn’t affect just me,” Lim Hong Chheang said.

“It affects all the vendors’ standards of living. This isn’t new, either. It’s happened for a long time. We have enough evidence to file a complaint.”

Lim Hong Chheang also said that border officials were charging truck drivers 130,000 riels (US$31) to cross the border.

Claims rejected
But the official in charge of the Trapeang Phlong border checkpoint disputed the allegations.

“I haven’t heard about this issue,” said Oum Thalot, calling the matter a “personal problem” between the vendors and their landlord.

Oum Thalot said he was concerned that the villagers’ complaint had been filed.

Neang Sovath, the provincial coordinator for local rights group Adhoc in Kampong Cham, said he has never received a complaint regarding the matter from the province’s vendors.