Saturday, 20 February 2010

Protests raise tensions in Thailand
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Written by Agencies
Saturday, 20 February 2010 06:09

Around 1,000 anti-government protesters have gathered in the Thai capital Bangkok ahead of a crucial supreme court decision next week involving the country's former prime minister, Thaksin Shinawatra.

About 20,000 security personnel have been deployed around the country amid concerns the demonstrations could turn violent over the court ruling, which will decide the fate of the ousted leader's $2.2bn fortune.

Members of the United Front of Democracy against Dictatorship, also known as the "Red Shirts" due to their signature garb, have vowed to step up protests ahead of the potentially explosive court decision on February 26.

The Red Shirts staunchly support Thaksin and have maintained his removal from power in a 2006 bloodless coup was illegal.

In its ruling next Friday the court will decide whether or not Thaksin's assets in the country were obtained through corrupt means and should be confiscated by the authorities.

Stripping Thaksin of his fortune - which mostly came from his career in the telecommunications industry before he entered politics - would deny him the means to finance any political comeback.

Thaksin's assets in Thailand were frozen in the months after the coup and a court ruling against him next Friday could provoke more mass protests from his followers.

The US, British, Australian and other foreign embassies in Bangkok have issued advisories warning their citizens to stay away from mass political gatherings in case violence erupts.

Corruption allegations

The target of Friday's protest was General Prem Tinsulanonda, who the Red Shirts say was a key leader in the 2006 military coup that forced Thaksin from power.

Thaksin was convicted in absentia on charges of conflict-of-interest in 2008 and sentenced to two years in prison.

He currently lives in exile in neighbouring Cambodia.

Prem is the president of the Privy Council, which advises the Thai king, and also serves as an adviser to the Bangkok Bank, one of the largest in Thailand.

The Red Shirts say that Prem helped arrange financing through the Bangkok Bank for a golf course that encroached on the Khao Soi Dao Wildlife Sanctuary in southeastern Thailand.

Prem has denied the allegations.

Thailand has been gripped by pro-Thaksin and anti-Thaksin protests for more than three years.

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by Sue Sullivan

A senior PSEO (post-secondary education student) at Inver Hills Community College through Cannon Falls High School, seventeen year old Sarah Franz of Cannon Falls, along with her brother, Paul Franz, a 2008 graduate of CFHS, and a student at Inver Hills Community College, are embarking on a mission trip to the city of Phnom Pehn in Cambodia. They depart April 14 and return June 1.

The pair will be working 40 hours per week, Monday through Friday, in the city orphanage with the non-profit group, "A Broader View Volunteers."

"I truly have a heart for children," said Sarah, daughter of Todd and Ellen Franz of Cannon Falls. "While there I will be teaching them basic life skills and helping out with the daily tasks it takes to raise a child (cooking, cleaning, and comforting)."

The orphanages vary in size, some with as many as 100 children, abandoned and rescued off the street, from infants to teenagers.

A Broader View will provide Sarah and Paul with a local English speaking host family and two meals per day, as well as airport pick up and drop off in Phnom Penh.

Sarah is not new to foreign volunteer work. She has made two previous mission trips to Tanzania through Hosanna Lutheran Church in Lakeville.

She and her dad went on the first one in August, 2008 for nearly four weeks. She returned to Tanzania again last November for three weeks.

"I found it extremely hard to transition back to life in America after spending time with children literally wearing rags and eating only one meal a day," said Sarah.

Exploring various volunteer organizations, Sarah found that A Broader View Volunteers was a good fit for her. "I feel that this is my calling."

Weekends she will explore Cambodia's capital city, once considered to be the loveliest of Indochina's French-built cities. Thirty years of extreme challenges, war, and destruction has left Phnom Penh hot and dusty, with street children begging for hand outs.

Wearing culturally appropriate long skirts and pants, the clothing Sarah brings will be left at the site when she leaves to be donated to locals, as she has done on her previous trips. Sarah hopes that people will support her in her mission because of the goodness of her cause - children.

Airfare and program fees are $2,815 per person. Donations may be sent to Sarah Franz, 34805 Warsaw Trail. Checks should be made to "A Broader View Volunteers." Call her at 507-210-3801 with questions.

Tragic end to trip for Geelong man who dies in Cambodia
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Jessica Craven
February 20th, 2010

WHEN Brad Schmidt's mother, Sandra, received a photo of her son at the Great Wall of China, she thought the strange angle must have been because he was falling when it was taken.

"No Mum, I was breakdancing on the Great Wall of China," he told her.

It was a typical response from the irreverent and adventurous Brad, 24, who died suddenly in Cambodia this week while on the last leg of a world trip.

The former North Geelong College student had kept in close contact with his father, Allan, while travelling, asking for advice when he had missed yet another flight or train.

"He couldn't be on time to save his life," Allan said. "He'd email me and say, 'well that's another $30 gone Dad, what a waste of money'."

Allan received a text message from Brad on February 17 that said "Mate, call me" and when he returned the call the Australian Consulate answered and told him his beloved son was in hospital in intensive care.

He died the following morning from acute respiratory failure after an apparent bout of pneumonia.

Allan said he believed his son was caught by surprise by the illness and that he didn't realise how serious it was.

"When he was in Bali, he wasn't feeling well then but he went to the local doctor and that was fine," Allan said.

His mother Sandra covered her face with her arm and wept as she remembered the way Brad would make his family laugh with his indecisiveness.

"We didn't get to say goodbye," she said.

He fought constantly with his older sister Jocelyn while growing up but they grew close as adults.

"It was a honour to be his sister," Jocelyn said.

His affable manner meant he picked up friends all over the world as he travelled through Indonesia, China, Macau and Thailand and along with his school friends, they have flooded his Facebook page with tributes.

Allan said his son was quick-witted and funny but never used humour to put others down.

He is immensely proud his son had the gumption to see the world alone.

A funeral service to celebrate Brad's life is still being arranged while the Australian Consulate liases with authorities to bring his body home.

Local Cambodian family loses son and house in fire

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Posted on 18 February 2010
By James Tabafunda
Northwest Asian Weekly

Sean Phuong looks at the location where his 17-year-old son, Patrick Soeun, died in a Feb. 1 house fire. (Photo by James Tabafunda/NWAW)

It was dark that Monday evening. The usual silence on Feb. 1 was about to be interrupted at the intersection of Fifth Avenue South and South Trenton Street in Seattle.

By 10:30 p.m., Sean Phuong, a refugee from the Battambang province of Cambodia, found his TV set destroyed, and he says that is not what’s important.

He and his wife, Sody Soeun, lost their house that night to a major fire, one that spread quickly from their two-door garage to their attic. They still don’t know what caused the fire, and an investigation is underway.

Their son, Prackserth “Patrick” Soeun, didn’t make it out of the house in time and died inside their garage. He was just a few weeks away from celebrating his 18th birthday in March. All that’s left are a few pictures of him, some taken inside the family’s Buddhist temple.

Phuong says his family never got to see or touch Patrick’s face. Patrick’s remains were completely wrapped before they were removed from the garage.

Sean Phuong mourns his son, Patrick Soeun, who died in a garage fire on Feb. 5. (Photo by James Tabafunda/NWAW)

After the King County Medical Examiner’s office conducted an autopsy and a search of dental records, it confirmed on Feb. 5 that the remains were those of Phuong’s 17-year-old son.

Phuong says if he could change places with his son, he would instantly do so. That way, his son could further his education in college. He was 6 feet tall, shy, and smart, and he received good grades in math. He also had a talent for drawing cartoons and was excellent at using the computer.

“For three days and three nights, I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t eat,” Phuong admitted. “In my brain, a million thoughts would come up. My heart beat slowly.”

Phuong believes that his son has reincarnated into a new life and all the gifts Patrick gave at his temple have now transferred back to him. He wants everyone to know that Patrick was a very good son, one who respected his family and never talked back to his parents.

“There was a loud bang as if someone had dropped a piece of furniture,” he said about the moment before he and five other family members escaped their burning house.

Jackie Schwendeman, who lives across the street, was the first to see the flames and ran over to pound on their front door. “She said, ‘Get out! Get out!’” said Channy Soeun, 9, one of Phuong’s two daughters. His other daughter, Sophary Soeun, is 21 and has two children.

Sody Soeun says she thought everyone in her family was able to get out of the house. She remembers those who made it out safely wore just the clothes they had on and without shoes.

The surviving family members, including Patrick’s 88-year-old grandfather Phann Phuong, now temporarily live with Sody’s brother. Sody is not working at this time.

Because of the current recession, Phuong says he will take any job that he finds. “I need to work. That’s what I need right now.”

He and his family emigrated to the United States in 1984 and moved into their South Park-district house in 1996 when Patrick was just four years old.

Donations of clothes have started to come in, but each family member is still in need of more clothing and shoes. They are also in critical need of personal hygiene products, underwear, and kitchen items. The Wat Sahak Khemararam Buddhist Association’s temple at 824 South 100th Street is accepting these donations.

Other drop-off locations include Pean Meas Video, off Martin Luther King Way, and the White Center Donut shop.

Members of the local Cambodian community have created a Bank of America account under Sean Phuong’s name, and all of its branches are now accepting cash donations to help with Patrick’s funeral expenses.

“I am very touched by all the compassion, generosity, and the kindness from the community,” said Phuong. “All of these were from people I know and didn’t know. I received compassion from the Khmer community as well as from non-Khmer communities.”

Many Uch, a Khmer community member who has known Phuong and his family since 1983 when they lived in refugee camps, said, “Sean’s been good to our family. He’s been good to the community.”

Uch cited Phuong’s willingness to play music with his band at a fundraising event for Cambodia at a pool hall.

“To me, that’s what a community should be, close-knit,” said Uch. “When a tragedy like this happens, we just need to step up and help out. Contribution-wise, even if it’s little, it’s so important.” ♦

James Tabafunda can be reached at

Smart Mobile (Cambodia) and InSTEDD Deploy Innovative tools for Public Health

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2010-02-19 10:52:03 - Today InSTEDD and Smart Mobile announced they have signed an agreement on launching during 2010 a set of innovative services for public health based on Smart Mobile’s wireless network and InSTEDD’s collaboration platform.

The launch is targeted to help the Ministry of Health using mobile phones nationwide to detect disease outbreaks earlier and react in faster and more efficient ways when they appear.

In this regard Mr. Thomas Hundt, CEO of Latelz Co. Ltd. (Smart Mobile) said “Smart Mobile is one of the most advanced mobile operators in Cambodia. With our continuous coverage expansion we have been increasing our presence in provinces and became meanwhile one of the most popular brands nationwide. Smart Mobile is also contributing to the fast development of Cambodia through its Social Responsibility projects. By implementing InSTEDD’s project, we make one more step to improve the society by supporting a more effective health and public safety system for Cambodia.

InSTEDD is a non-profit organization whose mission is to harness the power of technology to improve collaboration for global health and humanitarian action. It was founded and originally funded by Google , and works internationally, with its largest projects currently in SE Asia, a hotbed for disease outbreaks that can spread worldwide.

"Thank you Smart Mobile for providing this exceptional support to GeoChat. And thank you InSTEDD and Google for supporting the work of the Ministry of Health so well." said Dr. Sok Touch, Director of Communicable Disease Control Department, Ministry of Health, of the Kingdom of Cambodia. Now our work together can have a broader impact on the health and safety of all Cambodians.

The agreement allows Cambodians using Smart Mobile network to take advantage of InSTEDD’s systems with free SMS queries, said Dr. Mark Smolinski who heads Google's philanthropic efforts in SE Asia. "The leadership exhibited by Smart Mobile, in partnership with InSTEDD, is a giant step forward in providing affordable options to the Ministry of Health and other government partners in Cambodia. With Smart Mobile's contribution of a free, dedicated phone number for public health emergency communications along with other cost-saving commitments, they are creating a real-time alert and rapid response network that will save lives.

This is the first time in Cambodia a deployment of this kind has happened and sets a precedent for how local communication providers can partner to bring to scale successful mobile solutions with a social impact and with a view to long-term sustainability. Along with Smart Mobile, InSTEDD looks to bring the best of technology to those who help to make local communities stronger, safer, and healthier.

DAP News ; Breaking News by Soy Sopheap

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Cambodia National Carrier Buys Aircrafts Worth US $40 Million

Friday, 19 February 2010 07:32 DAP-NEWS/ Ek Madra

PHNOM PENH, Feb. 19 - Cambodia Angkor Air has planned to purchase two brand new ATR-72 aircrafts of $40 million from Europe as part of the government's efforts to boost the country's tourism sector, said the officials on Friday.

The 70-seat aircraft, which is manufactured by the French-Italian company, worth an estimated $20 million each, said the officials.

The first aircraft arrived last week and second one will be landed in Phnom Penh next month.

Tourism deputy minister, So Mara, welcome the company's move of purchasing new aircrafts, which would help for not only improving the flight service, but also to carry more foreign tourists who could not wait to visit the Kingdom of wonder.

"We are living in the competitive world, so we have to improve our service as well as to expand our flight destinations in the region," he told DAP.

Last week, Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister Sok An told Japanese delegation that Cambodia has sought a green light from Tokyo for Cambodia Air Angkor to run direct fly from Phnom Penh to/from Japan's Osaka International Airport and Narita International Airport.

"Japanese Airline (JAL) alone cannot carry all Japanese visitors who wanted to visit Cambodia. Soon, Cambodia Angkor Air will have more planes and we could have direct fly to and from Japan if that possible," Sok An told Hideo Ohkubo, Japanese leadership committee member of the Tokyo Chamber of Commerce and vice-committee chairman of Advancement of New Industry, who led the delegations visited Cambodia.

Cambodia received 146,286 Japanese tourists out of the total foreign arrivals were recorded 2,161,577 foreign tourists who visited the Kingdom last year.

Another Cambodian deputy minister, who in charges of Cambodia Angkor Air, worked at the Office of the Council of Ministers, said the company's purchasing the brand new ATR-72 given the sign of economic and tourism recovered.

"We cannot keep hiring aircrafts from others, so we have to have our own aircrafts if we meant business," he told DAP.

Cambodia Angkor Air is a joint venture of which Cambodia held 51 percent of Cambodia Angkor Air and Vietnam Airlines had the rest.

Cambodia Angkor Air launched in July, 2009 with a $100 million initial investment.

Two aircrafts have been hired by the company to operate commercial flights domestically from Phnom Penh to/from Siem Reap, the country's biggest tourism destination, as well as to/from Ho Chi Minh City of the neighbouring Vietnam.

The company has said it was looking to expand commercial flights to another neighbouring Laos, according to the Vietnam Airlines Executive Director Pham Ngoc Minh, added that it hoped to increase its fleet to 10 in the next five years from now.

Cambodia Angkor Air has been operated an addition of 78 flights per week (64 domestic ones and 14 international) and should therefore offer the visitors to/in Cambodia a better access to its network of international airports (Phnom Penh, Siem Reap and Sihanouk), increased connectivity and a large range of travelling plans.

Cambodia Angkor Air also operated regular liaisons to/from Cambodia's main coastal town of Sihanoukville province.

Vietnam's deputy prime minister, Truong Vinh Trong, said at the time of a signing ceremony in July, 2009 that the airline was not just a rare joint investment, but a way to "improve the two Asian neighbours' bilateral relations".

In 2007, Indonesia's Rajawali Group signed a deal with Cambodia to establish a flag carrier and planned to begin flights in mid-2008, but the deal was cancelled because of the global economic downturn.

Cambodia has had no national carrier since Royal Air Cambodge (RAC) went bankrupt in 2001 with estimated losses of US $25 million.

Cambodia tourism sector, which is one of the country's key economic factors, continued to play a vital role in contributing to the country's growth given the tourist arrival is expected to increase 15 percent a year.

Cambodia received 2,161,577 foreign tourists who visited the Kingdom last year, which is about 2 percent increased from 2,125,465 in 2008, according to the tourism ministry.

Tourism brought in the equivalent of 13 percent of Cambodian gross domestic product.

The World Bank said Cambodian economic growth was contracted 2.2 percent for last year and is expected to grow 4 percent for 2010 thanks to be driven by the continued growth of tourism and agriculture.

Khmer Rouge Courts Claims On the Award “Most Innovative Use of Technology during a Trial”

Friday, 19 February 2010 02:53 administrator
By Soy Sophea

DAP News Cambodia

Khmer Rouge Tribunal known official the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia has won the award “Most Innovative Use of Technology during a Trial” in the seventh annual Law Technology News Awards programme.

The Law Technology News, a US-based monthly publication on the latest technologies, products and services available for the legal marketplace, has selected the ECCC for the award “for its success in installing and using technology despite extraordinary difficulties, constraints and a limited budget” during the court’s first trial case against a former security prison chief, Kaing Guek Eav alias Duch, according to the court’ press statement on Friday.

The court considers the award a testimony to the dedication of staff who worked hard, day and night, to make the trial successful.

During the eight-month trial, which ended in late November last year, 55 witnesses including surviving victims and former prison guards and interrogators testified about their horrific experiences, and more than 31,000 visitors closely watched the proceedings from the public gallery.

Behind the scenes, both national and international staff in the technical component of the ECCC tirelessly worked to ensure the smooth operation of the trial. The staff managed to provide simultaneous interpretation of the three official languages, video links for testimonies from overseas, and live streaming for TV broadcasting, among other things.

The First Meeting about the Implementation of the National Strategic Plan to Stop Violence against Women – Thursday, 18.2.2010

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Posted on 19 February 2010
The Mirror, Vol. 14, No. 652

“Phnom Penh: The Open Institute, in collaboration with the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, held the first consultative meeting on the topic ‘Participating in the National Action Plan to Prevent Violence against Women, and the Importance of Using Information and Communication Technology (ICT) to Combat Violence against Women.’

“Opening the meeting in the morning of 17 February 2010, a Secretary of State of the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, Ms. Sy Define, said that the meeting was the first one held by a government institution with a civil society organizations on this issue, and it was organized after the government had published the ‘National Action Plan about the Prevention of Violence against Women’ last year. She stressed that even without reference to specific figures, rape and violence against women appear in new ways, and all forms appear more frequently and more cruelly. This is a concern for the government as well as for non-government organizations.

“She added that a major challenge for the prevention of violence against women, which needs to be addressed immediately, is the victims’ fear and shame. She emphasized that the victims often try to hide what happened, and even as there are more rapes happening, there is also the increased tendency to hide them. This is because women feel ashamed and they are afraid of being treated with contempt by the society, and also the knowledge of citizens in many communities is limited, including the knowledge about the legal procedures to appeal to the courts which require the victims, mostly the poor, to pay money.

“Based on the above issues, Ms. Sy Define called for more publications of laws about rights and other measures that are important for preventing and reducing violence against women, where Information and Communication Technology (ICT) plays an important role.

“ICT provides a modern and fast way of communication using computers or mobile phones; it can reach us wherever we are, as far as the communications network extends. It provides easy and quick access to a collection of all kinds of information.

“Regarding this issue, the Executive Director of the Open Institute, Ms. Chim Manavy, said that this meeting is really important for reflecting about violence against women and the intersection between this problem and Information and Communication Technology. In many countries around the world, women’s networks and organizations use the Internet and communicate, using these technologies, to share their experiences and to gather resources and support for their activities, and organize for the creation of global strategic actions. She said that in Cambodia, however, most women have not developed the habit and the ability to use the Internet and to communicate through it to support their activities like it happens in other countries.

“She added, ‘Recently, there is more recognition of the intersection between violence against women and the instruments for electronic communication [with computers and mobile phones]. Violence against women and ICT have an impact on establishing fundamental freedoms and human rights.’

“But Ms. Manavy raised also other examples, saying, ‘While mobile phones and websites can benefit women who suffer violence, seeking information and assistance, some wicked persons use the same technology for exploitation, sending images violating women’s rights, which are human rights.’

“Relating to the negative use of ICT, Ms. Sy Define called on women to be aware of this problem and to join together to control it and to use ICT to combat such wrongdoings.

“She emphasized that the government alone cannot achieve the Millennium Development Goals for 2010, which state [as Goal 3] ‘Promote gender equality and empower women,’ without cooperation in many fields with non-government organizations and development partners to promote the capacity, knowledge, strength, and courage of women.

“She also asked all women’s and other institutions to join to encourage the use of ICT to help prevent violence against women as well as domestic violence, following the National Action Plan about the Prevention of Violence against Women.

“During the meeting held at the Hotel Cambodiana, participants from more than 40 institutions working on women and rights presented their results from separate observations about violence against women and domestic violence, and discussed to share their experiences, knowledge, lessons learned, other strategies, and the use of ICT to prevent violence against women and domestic violence.

“In the three hours meeting, participants offered recommendations and sought to identify key priorities for cooperation between civil society organizations and government institutions to develop joint strategies to effectively prevent violence against women, to encourage gender equality, and to empower women. Ten other organizations cooperated and attended the meeting: Cambodian Women for Peace and Development, the Cambodian Defenders’ Project, the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (NGO-CEDAW), the Project Against Domestic Violence, Legal Aid of Cambodia, the Cambodian Women’s Crisis Center, the Women’s Media Center, Positive Change for Cambodia, Pharmaciens Sans Frontières, and the Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights (LICADHO).”

Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.18, #5129, 18.2.2010
Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Thursday, 18 February 2010

Cambodia acquits reporter of spreading false info

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Published: February 19, 2010

TAKEO, Cambodia (AP) — A Cambodian court Friday acquitted a journalist for U.S.-based Radio Free Asia on charges that he spread false information when reporting an alleged corruption case.
Takeo provincial court judge Cheng Bunly dropped the charges against radio reporter Sok Serey for a 2008 broadcast about a dispute between a group of villagers and a leader of the ethnic Cham community, who are mostly Muslims.

RFA, based in Washington D.C. and funded by the U.S. government, broadcasts to Asian countries where freedom of the press is regarded as limited or nonexistent.

In a complaint filed in late 2008, about 200 villagers of the ethnic minority accused their leader of stealing 10 million riel ($2,400) from a community project. Sok Serey was charged with spreading disinformation when he broadcast the story.

Sok Serey was not arrested and was allowed to continue reporting.

Three other people, a villager and two human rights activists from the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, also were acquitted on disinformation charges.

In June 2009, a Cambodian editor, whose newspaper published stories alleging corruption in the office of a senior government official, was found guilty of circulating disinformation and sentenced to a year in jail.

Takeo province is about 65 kilometers (40 miles) south of the capital Phnom Penh.

3 QUESTIONS: Helping Cambodian children is Hendrie's priority

Cambodian children surround Dr. Nancy Hendrie, founder of The Sharing Foundation, during a visit to the country

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By Patrick Ball/Staff Writer
Concord Journal
Posted Feb 18, 2010

Concord — As a pediatrician at Emerson Hospital, Dr. Nancy Hendrie opened her office to kids from Concord and the surrounding communities. As founder and president of The Sharing Foundation for the past 13 years, Hendrie has “opened up a whole new life” for the children of illiterate farmers and fishermen in Cambodia.

On Feb. 27, Room at the Table will sponsor a fundraising event to benefit The Sharing Foundation of Concord from 6 to 8 p.m. at Pilgrim Congregational Church UCC, 55 Coolidge Ave., Lexington.

You’ve said education “opens up a whole new life” for the kids you work with in Cambodia.
Our motto of the foundation is “Helping to Care for Cambodia’s Children,” and originally we meant this in kind of a medical sense, because there are so many medical needs and the medical care in Cambodia is abysmal, but it’s become very much involved with education. We’ve been there 13 years; we have five schools and children in school from pre-school to college. The reality is that in a developing country education is the clue, because if you can get educated, get a skill and surpass your parents you have a chance for a bright future, to support your family and yourself, but also to better the conditions in the country. … We had our first eight college graduates in the summer, and every one of them got jobs in a country that has a 22 percent unemployment rate, and they fire up the oncoming high school kids and even grade school kids. We just started this little computer program for second-, third- and fourth-graders and boy, they just took to it like ducks to water. They’re thrilled. Education in Cambodia is the biggest thrill a child can have.

How did you become involved in this kind of work over in Cambodia?

I got into it because I’ve always been interested in children. I was a pediatrician in Concord for a long time, and made a lot of trips on behalf of children through an adoption agency in Waltham. When I got to Cambodia, I realized that ‘Whoa, this was one of the poorest countries in the world, … and it wasn’t the few children who were being adopted to the U.S. that really mattered, it was the zillions of children growing up in the country without medical care, education, just fundamental things, immunizations, clean water. So there was work to be done and it didn’t take rocket science to figure out what to do. It’s just been a fantastic opportunity, and as you begin to see kids go through the schooling process and develop and become teachers themselves, it’s a real thrill.

What can you say about how far The Sharing Foundation has come over these past 13 years?

It’s amazing. I never would have pictured, if you’d asked 10 years ago where do you expect to be in 10 years, I would never have imagined that we’d have 16 projects that involve about 1,500 kids a day, including our five schools, an orphanage with 75 kids in it, half of whom have HIV or congenital anomalies or some sort of real medical disability. … One of the things that pleases me every time is seeing Sopheak who’s now 9 1/2 years old and one of our oldest HIV kids, he’s out there playing soccer with everyone else, healthy as anything. We get our antiretrovirals from India, and our kids are tested every three months. They maintain their good health. It’s not true that only American pharmaceuticals will keep you alive, despite what the politicians tell us. Seriously, it’s amazing.

Cambodia acid attack law set for passage in coming weeks

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Posted : Fri, 19 Feb 2010
By : dpa

Phnom Penh - The Cambodian authorities are finalizing a law to criminalize acid attacks and expect to send it to parliament by April local media reported Friday. The deputy head of a government committee drafting the law said the government had recorded eight acid attacks this year alone.

Ouk Kimlek told the Phnom Penh Post newspaper that those found guilty of carrying out the most serious acid attacks should face life in jail, as should those who help them.

"We are trying to do our best to create an acid [attack] law in order to protect people and society," he said.

The announcement comes after the government had earlier refused to regulate the sale of acid to combat an apparent surge in attacks in which people are injured or killed after being doused with strong acids such as sulphuric acid.

Currently, attackers are charged with generic criminal offences such as attempted murder or lesser charges.

Many acid attacks, which cause substantial disfigurement and sometimes death, involve assaults on women perceived as love rivals.

Human rights groups said the proposed law must be implemented impartially in order to combat an ongoing record of impunity of the powerful involved in acid attacks.

"I want to see equal practice between people in power and poor people," said Kek Pung, the president of Cambodian human rights organization Licadho.

Kek Pung told the newspaper that the government should also ensure there is sufficient money available to provide specialized in-country care for victims.

At present the worst-affected are taken to neighbouring Vietnam. That was the case in December when a 16-year-old contestant in a beauty pageant was doused with acid by her cousins, who felt she was condescending and arrogant towards them.

Ouk Kimlek said the law would also regulate the transport, production and sale of acid, and require anyone purchasing acid to be at least 20 years old. Vendors would need to be licensed with the government.

The Cambodian Acid Survivors' Charity said at least 194 people were victims of acid attacks between 1985 and 2009, although the actual number of victims is thought to be higher.

Strong acids are widely available in Cambodia, where they are used in the processing of rubber and for domestic purposes.

Cambodia's Fortunes Ebb And Flow Along The Mekong

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Feb. 18, 2010
Michael Sullivan
National Public Radio

Cambodia is one of the poorest countries in Asia. But it hasn't always been that way, and the Mekong River has been key to its periods of prosperity. Recovering from 20th century atrocities, the country now faces a new danger: Development is putting the river and its fish at risk.

Cambodia is one of the poorest countries in Asia. But it hasn't always been that way. The Khmer once ruled a vast kingdom that covered not just Cambodia but parts of Vietnam, Thailand and Laos, too.

The empire had its capital at Angkor, near the present-day city of Siem Reap in northwest Cambodia. At its peak, nearly 1 million people lived in the city of Angkor — at a time when London was still a town of 20,000 or so.

The empire's crowning architectural achievement was the magnificent temple of Angkor Wat, one of several dozen temples built by the Angkorian kings, the ruins of which now draw tourists from all over the globe.

Water was key to the Khmer kingdom's prosperity: for irrigation, for drinking and for food from the fish that swam up the Mekong into the Tonle Sap River and the lake of the same name.

"No river, no life. No water, no life in Cambodia," says Pyyoak, my guide.

Invading armies also came up the Mekong in an effort to conquer the Khmer kingdom in the 12th century, a story told in the bas reliefs at Angkor's Bayon temple.

Pyyoak says the Champa, or Cham, came up the Mekong from the south, from what is now Vietnam, and occupied Angkor for four years, from 1177 until 1181.

The stone carvings depict the battle in vivid detail, right down to the uniforms worn by the competing armies.

Pyyoak points to another set of carvings on the wall that depict better times in the kingdom: floating villages, bountiful harvests and an abundance of fish in the river and the lake.

"From here, you can see the daily life of the people; they live on the Mekong River. You can see the floating village and some business people, they are selling on the Mekong River," he explains.

"And life was very good for the people of Angkor then — better than for Cambodians today?" I ask Pyyoak.

"Yes, I think that is right," he replies.

Floating Worlds Under Threat

The floating villages still exist today — the closest on the Tonle Sap Lake, just 20 minutes south of the Angkor ruins by car, then a half-hour more by boat. The Tonle Sap is the largest lake in Southeast Asia and, scientists say, the key to the biodiversity of the entire Mekong basin, thanks to the seasonal flooding of the Mekong and the lake.

Many of the floating villages are populated by ethnic Vietnamese, who just might be distant relatives of the Cham warriors who came up the Mekong to fight more than 800 years ago.

These villages are almost completely self-contained — with floating sawmills, metal shops and grocery boats — a water world where children are born, raised and sometimes die without ever having set foot on land. Batteries power their houseboats, complete with TVs, DVD players and karaoke machines. There are even floating bars to help slake the thirst of day-tripping tourists from nearby Angkor Wat.

But it's a hard life, says fisherman Do Van Thanh, 47, one made even more difficult by a dwindling catch — half what it used to be just a few years ago, he says.

His friend, Tran Van Loi, also 47, is no biologist, but he understands very well the relationship between the river, the lake and the fish, and he smells trouble.

There are more people fishing, he says, and that means fewer fish.

In the past, adult fish would lay their eggs in the Mekong. After hatching, the small fish would find their way to the Tonle Sap, grow up here, and then return to the Mekong, he says. But with so many people fishing, more fish are being caught younger, before they can lay their eggs, he says, and he knows that's not good.

Tran says if he could quit fishing now, he would — but there's no other way to make money.

Making enough money to survive is still a challenge for the majority in Cambodia, one of the poorest countries in Asia. It's a country that would probably be far better off had its recent history not included the four-year-long terror of the Maoist Khmer Rouge. From 1975 to 1979, the regime led by Pol Pot controlled the country, a time when an estimated 1.7 million Cambodians — a quarter of the country's population — died.

Dark Chapter

More than 30 years later, the country experienced a reckoning of sorts last November at the joint U.N. Cambodian Tribunal in the capital, Phnom Penh, where the Mekong and the Tonle Sap rivers converge. The man on trial was Kaing Guek Eav, known by the alias Comrade Duch, an aging Khmer Rouge commander who ran the infamous S-21 prison, also known as Tuol Sleng.

The first senior Khmer Rouge leader to be tried, Duch was charged with crimes against humanity — which included savage beatings, extraction of fingernails and toenails with pliers, and electrocution. The torture ended for almost all of the prisoners at the killing field of Choeung Ek. An estimated 16,000 people were imprisoned at Tuol Sleng; fewer than a dozen are known to have survived.

In court, Duch admitted his guilt and begged for forgiveness.

"I still and forever wish to most respectfully and humbly apologize to the dead souls," he said through an interpreter. "To the survivors, I stand by my acknowledgment of all crimes inflicted on you at S-21. I acknowledge them in both the moral and legal context."

It was an extraordinary moment for many who have waited more than 30 years for some sort of justice and closure. Duch has yet to be sentenced. He claimed, just a few days after this dramatic testimony, that he was a "cog in the machine" who was "just following orders."

Living In And For The Present

But many Cambodians haven't paid much attention to the tribunal, the majority of the population having been born after that dark period in the country's history.

And Phnom Penh — the city the Khmer Rouge leaders once emptied of people in their bid to create an agrarian, utopian state — now has more people than ever.

The capital is attracting more foreign investment and more rural Cambodians looking for work, most of it in construction. The streets of the city are now choked with motorcycles and the Lexuses and Cadillac Escalades of the nouveau riche. The vehicles jockey for position as they pass the construction site of the Gold Tower 42, soon to be the city's newest and tallest skyscraper.

On the riverfront, giant vacuums suck sand from the bottom of the Mekong, which will be used to fill the city's famous Boeung Kak Lake, the site of a new high-end business and residential complex.

It is a controversial project, and a sensitive one, too, which explains why hard men with guns object to my visit to the site. Land grabs such as this one are the scourge of Southeast Asia, not just Cambodia: ordinary citizens displaced by rapacious developers and corrupt government officials.

Too Many People, Too Few Fish

Heading downriver from Phnom Penh, the scenery changes quickly. The new skyscrapers and casinos of the capital quickly give way to banana trees, rice and corn. The vast majority of Cambodia's 15 million people live in the countryside, where there is not much choice when it comes to earning a living: farming or fishing.

On this stretch of the Mekong, about 20 miles south of the capital, those who fish have the same complaints as the fishermen on the Tonle Sap.

Nguyen Quynh Thi and her husband haul in their second set of nets for the day, and it's the same as the first: nothing. It's nearly noon, but they will stay out a bit longer, they say, though Nguyen isn't quite sure why.

"Last year was better. The big fish would come down from the Tonle Sap and we could catch enough, and sell enough, to pay for fuel with a little left over for food. But every year it seems to get a little worse," she says.

Too many people chasing too few fish. Farther downstream, just short of where the Mekong flows into neighboring Vietnam, I stop to talk to one last fisherman.

Kong Hout, 48, says he and his family eat fish for breakfast, lunch and dinner. He catches it himself and says there is still enough to go around — for now, if you know where to look.

But what would happen, I ask, if there are no more fish. He doesn't hesitate.

"It would be an age of darkness," he says, with no trace of irony. Then, he thinks about it some more and comes up with something that, for him, is an even more horrible thought:

"Maybe, we'll have to start eating fish from cans."

Malaysia Asks Thailand and Cambodia To Resolve Border Conflict Through Talks
via CAAI News Media

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 21 (Bernama) -- Malaysia today asked Thailand and Cambodia to resolve through talks their conflict over a remote plot of jungle on their common border where an ancient Hindu temple is situated.

PR Log (Press Release) – Feb 18, 2010 – KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 21 (Bernama) -- Malaysia today asked Thailand and Cambodia to resolve through talks their conflict over a remote plot of jungle on their common border where an ancient Hindu temple is situated.

Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said that as partners in the 10-member Asean grouping, they should respect the Asean charter which, among other things, calls for conflict resolution through talks rather than force.

"If allowed to prolong, the conflict can tarnish the image of Asean as a regional organisation," he told reporters after delivering a keynote address at the launch of the Centre for the Straits of Melaka, here.

Last Wednesday, Thai and Cambodian soldiers exchanged rockets and gunfire across their common border, resulting in reportedly the death of two Cambodian soldiers and injury of seven Thai soldiers.

The Preah Vihear temple, which is at least 900 years old, is a tourist attraction and World Heritage Site which sits atop a mountain.

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) had awarded the area where the temple stands to Cambodia in a 1962 decision.

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