Sunday, 21 February 2010

Thailand prepares for violence ahead of verdict on Thaksin Shinawatra assets

via CAAI News Media

February 21, 2010
Anne Barrowclough

Thousands of police and soldiers were out on the streets of Bangkok today in a show of strength ahead of the much anticipated verdict on the $2.2 billion fortune of ousted Thai premier Thaksin Shinawatra.

Abhisit Vejjajiva, the Prime Minister of Thailand called for calm, Supreme Court judges were assigned guards and foreign embassies issued travel warnings as fears grew of a violent backlash if the assets of the opposition leader-in-exile are frozen on Friday.

Mr Thaksin's supporters, the "Red Shirts", have said they will hold mass protests if the court doe not rule in Mr Thaksin's favour, but insist that any action will be non-violent.

"We will wait and see what the court says, but any injustice will bring about a phenomenon," Red Shirt leader Jatuporn Prompan said. The government "underestimates the Red Shirts", he added.

Mr Abhisit said a judicial review should be treated with respect or the on-going conflict between the opposing political factions would never come to an end.

However his government has been accused of stoking anxieties by casting the Red Shirts as a dangerous force in a bid to take the focus off the fragile governing coalition.

At least 20,000 extra security personnel have been deployed across Bangkok and pro-Thaksin regions, including around the homes of judges, politicians and government and commercial institutions.

Last week a bomb was defused near the Supreme Court and a grenade exploded at government offices, prompting the United States, Britain and Australia to warn people visiting Bangkok to exercise caution.

The government has announced it will cede control of security to the army and even declare an emergency if necessary, but says it hopes to control the situation.

"We hope that the security measures that we have put in place can handle the instability or incidents that can cause violence," government spokesman Panitan Wattanayagorn said.

An intelligence expert and political observer said the Red Shirts were unlikely to instigate violence even if a court ruling did not favour Mr Thaksin.

Phummarat Thaksadipong, former director of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), said that a strong alliance between the government and the military was enough to keep pro-Thaksin elements at bay.

"Even if the court rules to seize all the assets, the red shirt group will not incite violence," Mr Phummarat told the Bangkok Post newspaper."They are aware those who start it will lose and they are afraid of being jailed," he said.

Since the coup in 2006 Thailand has been torn by frequently violent demonstrations by his supporters and the “Yellow Shirts” who oppose him in the name of King Bhumibol.

Late in 2008, the Yellow Shirts forced the closure of Bangkok's airports after months of sometimes violent rallies in an attempt to bring down the then government, which stood accused of being nothing more than a proxy for Mr Thaksin, who was sentenced in absentia to two years in jail for corruption

Protests by the "Red Shirts" against Mr Vejjajiva's government have had less impact, but last April 100,000 demonstratos forced the early end to a pan-Asian summit..

The threat they pose could, however, have been overblown for political gain, said Michael Montesano, an expert on Thai politics at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies in Singapore.

"The fact that they need to put in place these measures today is a reminder of how little progress the Abhisit government has made since coming to power in changing the political landscape," he said. "I think a lot of it's propaganda."

Thailand braces for explosive Thaksin verdict

via CAAI News Media

Feb 20, 2010

Supporters of ousted premier Thaksin Shinawatra (portrait) shout slogans during a demonstration in front of the Bangkok Bank in Bangkok on February 19, 2010. Thailand has stepped up security and is braced for fresh turmoil this week as the country's top court decides the fate of the fugitive former premier 2.2-billion-dollar fortune.

Thailand has stepped up security and is braced for fresh turmoil this week as the country's top court decides the fate of fugitive former premier Thaksin Shinawatra's 2.2-billion-dollar fortune.

The government has deployed thousands of troops and assigned guards to Supreme Court judges while embassies have issued travel warnings due to fears of a violent backlash if the tycoon's funds are seized on Friday.

File photo shows Thai policemen standing guard outside the Supreme Court in Bangkok. Thailand has stepped up security and is braced for fresh turmoil this week as the country's top court decides the fate of fugitive former premier Thaksin Shinawatra's 2.2-billion-dollar fortune.

Thaksin's supporters, known as Red Shirts for their signature garb, have vowed to demonstrate after the verdict, expecting that he will lose at least some of the assets frozen after he was deposed in a 2006 coup. They have insisted any action will be non-violent.

"We will wait and see what the court says, but any injustice will bring about a phenomenon," Red Shirt leader Jatuporn Prompan told AFP, adding that the government "underestimates the Red Shirts".

Thailand's fugitive former premier Thaksin Shinawatra seen in Phnom Penh in December 2009. Thaksin's supporters, known as Red Shirts for their signature garb, have vowed to demonstrate after the verdict in his trial, expecting that he will lose at least some of the assets frozen after he was deposed in a 2006 coup.

The current Thaksin-hating administration has done little to quell fears of trouble, analysts say, instead stoking anxieties by casting the Red Shirts as a dangerous force in a bid to take the focus off the fragile governing coalition.

At least 20,000 extra security personnel have been deployed across Bangkok and pro-Thaksin regions, including around the homes of judges, politicians and government and commercial institutions.

Last week a bomb was defused near the Supreme Court and a grenade exploded at government offices, prompting the United States, Britain and Australia to warn people visiting Bangkok to exercise caution.

The government has announced it will cede control of security to the army and even declare an emergency if necessary, but says it hopes to control the situation.

"We hope that the security measures that we have put in place can handle the instability or incidents that can cause violence," government spokesman Panitan Wattanayagorn told AFP.

"If the security measures are employed accordingly we should not have any trouble."

Thailand has been beset by political turbulence since the 2006 coup.

Thaksin's "Yellow Shirt" opponents -- a disparate collection of royalist and military elites -- forced the closure of Bangkok's airports in late 2008 after months of sometimes violent rallies.

Now the Red Shirts, mainly from the rural north and northeast, want to see the return of Thaksin, who is living abroad to avoid a two-year jail term for corruption.

They have numbered no more than 30,000 at protests this year but 100,000 turned out last April, when they forced a major Asian summit to shut down and rioting broke out in Bangkok.

The threat they pose could, however, have been overblown for political gain, said Michael Montesano, an expert on Thai politics at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies in Singapore.

"The fact that they need to put in place these measures today is a reminder of how little progress the Abhisit government has made since coming to power in changing the political landscape," he said. "I think a lot of it's propaganda."

Eton and Oxford-educated Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva is seen as an elitist among the Red Shirts, who remain a key electoral force.

Talk of an imminent coup is relentless in Thailand, where there have been 18 coups and attempted coups in the 64-year reign of King Bhumibol Adulyadej.

But analysts say Abhisit, who came to power in 2008, will hang on as long as he maintains the wavering support of the country's top brass.

Electric Cambodia

via CAAI News Media
Various Artists
Album:Electric Cambodia

To follow up on my sonically restored 10/1/07 post, here are two more pre-Khmer Rouge pop-rock recordings from Cambodia, off a recent filler-free album Electric Cambodia. Tragic for the musicians that the Khmer Rouge wasn't killer-free.

Ran Pon

Pan Ron: "I Will Marry You" (The drums sound recent.)

Ros Sereysothea

Ros Sereysothea: "Cold Sky"

Ros Sereysothea in wax

Here's actual footage of Pan Ron

(The CD was compiled and presented by Dengue Fever, an act featuring a wonderful young female Cambodian-American singer and her American accompanists. I know almost nothing about them, but they're probably great.)

Another child of hope comes to SoCal

via CAAI News Media

And, Davik Teng, the original symbol of the Long Beach charity, visits again

By Greg Mellen, Staff Writer
Posted: 02/20/2010

Chantha Bob, left, hugs Davik Teng as he greets her and Phin Ken with his 3-year-old daughter, Socheat Nha, after arriving at Los Angeles International Airport on February 20, 2010. Socheat Nha and Phin Ken came to the U.S. with the help of Hearts Without Boundaries to repair two holes in her heart. The organization helped Davik get a quarter-sized hole in her heart repaired in 2008. (Jeff Gritchen / Press-Telegram)

Susan Grossfeld, left, holds the hand of 3-year-old Socheat Nha as her father, Phin Ken, holds the other after arriving at Los Angeles International Airport from Cambodia on February 20, 2010. Socheat Nha and Phin Ken came tot he U.S. with the help of Hearts Without Boundaries to repair two holes in her heart. (Jeff Gritchen / Press-Telegram)

Watch the multimedia presentation about Davik: Davik's Heart

LOS ANGELES --The past and present of a local nonprofit came together Saturday at Los Angeles International Airport.

Peter Chhun, the founder of Hearts Without Boundaries, the group he formed for destitute Cambodian children with heart ailments to get treatment unavailable in their country, returned to the United States with his newest (third overall) patient and, as a surprise, the girl who helped launch Chhun's nonprofit.

Davik Teng, now 11, was the first patient Chhun brought to the U.S. for life-altering surgery to repair the quarter-sized hole in her heart, called a ventricular septal defect. Davik captured the admiration of many Long Beach residents who followed her journey to the United States from a one-room hut in rural Cambodia to surgery and recovery.

Now, two years after her surgery, Chhun has brought Davik back not only for further health checks but also as a kind of object lesson to donors what their help brought.

"You can see she's very healthy," Chhun said. "This is the real thing. There are so many children who need help and (Davik is) a reminder of so many more kids who need help."

While Davik makes her rounds through Long Beach, the immediate focus will be on Socheat Nha. The 2-year-old, who turns 3 in April, suffers from a defect known as Tetralogy of Fallot. In addition to having a large hole in her heart, Socheat also suffers from a second hole, an obstruction of blood flow to the lungs and other problems.

Possibly due in part to her heart ailments, Socheat is unusually small for her age. At about 13 pounds, she is half the median weight of an American girl her age.

Like Davik, Socheat lives in poverty in rural Cambodia. Her father, Phin Ken, who is accompanying her on her trip to the U.S., is a farmer.

Arriving at Los Angeles, Ken was a bit overwhelmed by the turn of fortune for his only child.

"I never expected in my life to bring my daughter to the United States or find and organization to sponsor her," Ken said through translation.

"When she was first diagnosed, I thought I'd find a cure. But as time went by my hope disappeared," he said.

It was a chance meeting with family from Long Beach, Seyha Heang, who was visiting Cambodia with Cal State Long Beach, that brought Socheat's ailment to light and eventually to the attention of Chhun.

When Chhun learned about Socheat, he arranged for her to meet with members of the Hearts Without Boundaries and doctors from Variety Children's Lifeline who make annual trips to Cambodia to help children with mild heart ailments and diagnose and assess others.

Chhun recalls that during Socheat's examination by Dr. Paul Grossfeld, in her tiny voice the toddler said, "If the doctor doesn't help me, I will not be cured."

Chhun said as soon as he heard that, he knew he had to help the girl.

Susan Grossfeld, wife of Paul and a volunteer who was instrumental in brokering the deal that brought a Cambodian children to the U.S. last year, said she was instantly enamored of Socheat and vowed to do what she could.

And, as she did last year with Soksamnang Vy, a 1-year-old discovered by Hearts Without Boundaries last year, Susan Grossfeld was able to convince Children's Heart Center and the Sunrise Children's Hospital in Las Vegas to perform surgery and donate staff and facilities.

Initially, Hearts Without Boundaries was working with Socheat's family to raise money to send the child to Singapore or Thailand for the procedure.

However, Dr. Grossfeld, a cardiologist from Rady Children's Hospital in San Diego who helped with the successful treatment of Vy, found her ailment was worse than expected and her need for rapid treatment was evident.

Unlike Vy and Teng, who had extended stays in the U.S., Socheat's surgery is being expedited. She is scheduled to go to the Nevada hospital March 1 and, barring complications, would have surgery March 4.

"We don't want to wait any longer than necessary," Susan Grossfeld said. As Socheat's Long Beach family met the child for the first time, they were overcome by joy. Aun Kim, an aunt cuddled and held the child, while her brother Sauroun Kim looked on.

"It's a miracle," said Nisa Heang, Socheat's cousin and the sister of Seyha who found the family. "I don't know to explain it. It's like a once-in-a-lifetime chance.

Or in the case of Hearts Without Boundaries, it a three-in-a-lifetime chance - and counting.

Anyone interested in donating to Hearts Without Boundaries for Socheat can find information online at

Respect assets verdict, pleads Abhisit

PUSH ME: More than 4,000 police and military officers engage in an anti-riot drill at the 11th Infantry Regiment, Royal Guard, in Bangkok. The officers were training in crowd control skills. PHOTO: CHANAT KATANYU

via CAAI News Media
Published: 21/02/2010
Newspaper section: News

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva yesterday called on all parties to respect a court ruling on ousted leader Thaksin Shinawatra's wealth, otherwise the country could plunge into lawlessness.

Mr Abhisit said a judicial review should be treated with respect as its procedure was considered a fair and open one.

He said he hoped every concerned party would listen to what the court would say, which would cover details of events and legal facts.

If a court ruling is not respected, the conflict will never come to an end and in future laws would not be obeyed, he added.

His call came amid speculation that pro-Thaksin elements would hold a rally to protest against the court verdict if it did not come out in the former premier's favour.

Security is being intensified ahead of the ruling by the Supreme Court's Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions on Friday.

An opinion poll showed more than half of respondents lacked confidence in the government's ability to control the situation on the day of the judgement.

About 56% of the 1,250 respondents to the Bangkok Poll said that they doubted security agencies could keep the situation under control.

If violence erupts, about 34% said they were concerned about further social divisiveness while 23% are worried about the economic impact.

About 43.4% hoped the verdict would put an end to political polarisation.

Meanwhile, an intelligence expert and political observer said yesterday the pro-Thaksin group is unlikely to instigate violence even if a court ruling did not favour Thaksin. Phummarat Thaksadipong, former director of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), said that a strong alliance between the government and the military was enough to keep pro-Thaksin elements at bay.

"Even if the court rules to seize all the assets, the red shirt group will not incite violence.

"They are aware those who start it will lose and they are afraid of being jailed," he said.

However, Mr Phummarat said it is important for the government to eliminate factors which would contribute to violence.

"There are two factors - intent and capability. If the government is lax it will give them opportunity [to cause violence]," he said.

According to Mr Phummarat, Thaksin has made his intention clear and he has never let up in his campaign against those who brought him down.

"He uses Twitter. He phones in. He is fighting to get his 76 billion baht back," he said.

The former NIA chief said the red shirt groups are capable of instigating chaos especially if they are aided by Panlop Pinmanee, the former deputy director of the Internal Security Operations Command, and Lt Gen Pirat Sawamiwat, a close aide to Puea Thai chairman Gen Chavalit Yongchaiyudh.

He linked them to violence in the May 1992 uprising.

He added that the government has done little to educate the public about the asset seizure trial and it was important the public understands the implications of the court ruling.

"The people are directly affected if violence erupts. The government should have given them information," he said.

He called on the government to keep an eye on the movement of communist remnants in the Northeast who reportedly received weapons training in Cambodia.

According to Mr Phummarat, these people have returned to Thailand and are in hiding.

It is not known what their mission was.

Exclusive: Scots miner's son was first Westerner to interview Pol Pot - and was killed hours later
via CAAI News Media

Feb 20 2010 By Annie Brown

IT was Christmas Eve when Richard Caldwell heard his father had been shot dead in Cambodia.

Only hours after he became the first Briton to meet the notorious dictator Pol Pot, Malcolm Caldwell lay dead in a hotel room in the capital Phnom Penh.

Richard was 21 and at a party at his girlfriends house in 1978 when the call came through that his Scottish lecturer dad had been murdered.

He said: I dont even remember who called. It must have been my mum. I just remember being told he was dead. It was devastating. It was chilling news. Horrible.

We hadnt been expecting him to meet with any trouble at all.

To this day, we dont know why he was killed and I am not sure we ever will.

Pol Pots notorious Maoist ruling party the Khmer Rouge ran Cambodia from 1975 to 1979. During their evil rule, up to 2.5million people perished.

Under Pol Pot, the Khmer Rouge tried to take Cambodia back to the Middle Ages, forcing millions of people from the cities to work on farms in the countryside.

But it failed miserably and whole families were enslaved, starved and murdered.

Richard has opened his heart after a former leader of the Khmer Rouge went on trial in Phnom Penh more than 30 years after the brutal regime fell.

Duch, real name Kaing Guek Eav, was head of Tuol Sleng prison camp and is accused of presiding over the murder and torture of at least 15,000 inmates.

Malcolm was 47 when he went to Cambodia as a communist who agreed with the regimes policy of forcing the rich and powerful back to the land.

At that time, the Khmer Rouge had successfully hidden the slaughter from the world and many considered them freedom fighters who stopped Cambodia falling into the clutches of bullyboy America.

Before the Khmer Rouge, during the Vietnam War, America had pounded Cambodia with bombs and set it up with a corrupt puppet government.

Richard said: My father believed in going back to the land and people being self-sufficient. We all know now, looking back, that he was supporting a terrible regime. But he didnt know it at the time.

He knew the ruling elite, the rich and intellectuals, were being forced out of the towns and on to the land.

But he obviously didnt know that they were being killed.

I am sure he would have been horrified if he had known. That may have been what happened. He found out and they killed him because of it.

Malcolms colleagues describe him as a gentle, tolerant, courteous and fundamentally decent man who was a dedicated teacher and writer.

He was scruffy, exceptionally bright and focused on politics. Richard remembers a dad he adored, who was loving but distant.

The son of a miner who had retrained as architect, Malcolm was brought up in Kirkcudbright, Dumfriesshire. He and his brother and sister were all duxes at Kirkcudbright Academy and Malcolm was said to have read every book in the library before he went to Edinburgh University.

As a child, he bred rabbits and chickens and always had a passion for the land.

He met and married his first wife, Ann, while completing a PhD at Nottingham University, where she was also studying.

They had four children but his political progression didnt extend to being a hands-on dad or doing household chores.

In 1959, he joined the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London as a research fellow and became chairman of CND.

At home, he would retreat to his study when he wasnt lecturing and every day he went to the pub for a Guinness at lunchtime and a pint in the evening.

In 1973, he left Ann and the children after years of marriage. He remarried in 1976. Malcolm travelled every chance he got, to China, to North Korea and Vietnam, the countries he felt were putting his political beliefs into practice.

He adored his mother, Violet, and sent her mementoes from wherever he went. Malcolm went to Cambodia with American journalists Elizabeth Becker and Richard Dudman. They were among the first Westerners to get in after the Khmer Rouge closed the borders.

Richard said: Cambodia has a sinister ring to us now but at that time, the Khmer Rouge were known as freedom fighters. Not a lot of information was coming out and access was very restricted.

It wasnt considered scary to go there. It wasnt considered threatening to Westerners, I suppose because no Westerners went there. I certainly wasnt worried about his safety.

I suppose looking back, he was politically naive. But he felt he knew the country through his many contacts there.

It is one of reasons I have been reluctant to hold any strident political views, because he was so adamant and yet he turned out to be so wrong.

It was three days before Christmas 1978 and on the last day of his trip, Malcolm was granted an audience with Pol Pot.

The dictator had rarely been seen beyond his most trusted circle but, as an invasion by neighbour Vietnam seemed imminent, he wanted to show he had allies in the West.

So Malcolm became the first Briton to meet him. The only other person present was a translator, who would later say the encounter had been animated and friendly.

That night back at the hotel, Becker, who had grown disillusioned with the Khmer Rouge, debated with Malcolm.

Becker said: Caldwell tried once more to get me to change my mind. He compared Cambodia to Scotland. He was a Scottish nationalist and said Cambodia feared Vietnam the way Scotland feared the English. I saw no relevance to such a remark, and he retired to his room with the prophecy that Scotland would be independent by the middle of the Eighties.

But regardless of their political differences, she liked him. He was a real sweetie, she said. He was also homesick for his family and said he would never spend another Christmas away from them.

Becker went to bed at 11pm and was woken by the sound of gunfire. She opened her bedroom door to be confronted by a young man brandishing a gun.

She panicked and fled to the bathroom. Dudman had also woken up and knocked on Malcolms door. As they discussed the commotion, another armed man appeared and fired shots into the floor.

Dudman ran into his room and hid. Two hours later, an aide told Decker and Dudman that Caldwell was dead in his room and he wanted them to witness that his body was there.

Decker said: There was Malcolm, lying on the floor in his pyjamas, blood on his chest, hislong auburn hair wild around his face. His eyes were closed. At the threshold of his room was another body, a young man clothed in black who looked like the boy who had pointed his pistol at me.

What was he doing there, dead, sprawled across the floor?

She was never given an answer.

A few years ago, documents obtained with a freedom of information request, by Malcolms brother David, suggested he had been murdered by Pol Pots regime, perhaps because the Scottish academic had, at the last minute, seen it for what it was.

Or perhaps an enemy of Pol Pot did it to embarrass the regime.

The next month, the Vietnamese invaded and the regime was no more. Whatever the reason, Malcolms death was pointless. Becker believes there may have been no real motive and it was as senseless as the rest of the slaughter in Cambodia.

She said: Malcolms murder was no less rational than the tens of thousands of murders. His death was caused by the madness of the regime he openly admired.

Two guards assigned to Malcolm and the journalists were arrested and tortured at the Tuol Sleng, so its not possible to give credence to their confession that the execution was designed to undermine the Khmer Rouge.

They claimed the journalists had been allowed to live so they would write about it.

Richard believes the mystery will never be solved. He said: I can relate to the idea that it was Pol Pot because that would suggest Dad knew what was going on and they had to get rid of him. But who knows?

I did think of going to Cambodia to see the place for myself but I dont think I will now. I dont think it would serve a purpose.

I dont think we will ever know who killed my father.

Cambodians jailed for torturing 11-year-old maid

Associated Press

A Cambodian schoolteacher and her husband were sentenced to lengthy prison terms for torturing an 11-year-old girl they had purchased to be their domestic helper and held captive for more than a year, an official said Saturday.

Meas Neary, 41, was sentenced to 20 years in prison, and her husband, Va Sarouen, a 62-year-old retired Ministry of Education official, will serve 10 years behind bars, said judge Chan Madina.

Police arrested the couple in October, acting on a tip from neighbors that their young maid was being abused.

Officers found that the girl's body was covered with more than 200 wounds that the couple said they had inflicted with coat hangers, brooms, electric wires, and sometimes used pliers to pull her flesh, police said at the time.

The Phnom Penh Municipal court convicted the couple on Friday on charges of torture and human trafficking. Each had faced a maximum of 25 years in prison.

The couple had paid $400 to the girl's 62-year-old guardian in early 2008 for the girl to help with domestic chores, authorities said. Both of the child's parents were deceased.

Desperately poor Cambodia has been working to crack down on the buying and selling of children for domestic work, brothels or street-begging rings inside and outside the country.

The court also sentenced the girl's former guardian, Thoeng Reth, to five years in prison for human trafficking, the judge said.

All three were also ordered to pay a combined 20 million riel ($2,000) in compensation to the victim. The girl, who was not identified, is now in the care of a Swiss-based Christian organization, Hagar International, which provides assistance to victims of trafficking and exploitation.

Civil Society: Public Leisure Time Activity Space for Youth Becomes Smaller but Commercial Entertainment Space Increases – Saturday, 20.2.2010
via CAAI News Media

Posted on 21 February 2010.
The Mirror, Vol. 14, No. 652

“Phnom Penh: Experts in youth problems said that according to their observation, public leisure time activity space for youth in the country is becoming smaller, but commercial entertainment space, such as night clubs and beer gardens, is increasing significantly.

“A civil society organization official, who asked not to be named, said early this week that youth at present lacks public space for leisure time, but they are enjoying the increasing number of night clubs, bars, Karaoke parlors, and beer gardens, where they can drink alcohol, use drugs, and find many other services.

“He emphasized, ‘When young people nowadays open their eyes, they see nothing but beer gardens and night clubs.’

“At present, Phnom Penh has 375 square kilometers, but besides around Wat Phnom, youth can hardly find other parks. Places where they can do some physical activities are the Olympic Stadium and some few small parks, but when it comes to beer gardens, night clubs, and other places providing terribly services, they can be found at every corner of the roads.

“Regarding this comment, an independent councilor and researcher of youth problems, Mr. Tong Soprach, said on 17 February 2010 that as he has noticed, the above comment seem to be true.

“According to him, present day youth problems, such as drug addiction, crimes, and sex trafficking, result from two factors: modernization and the surrounding environment. Modernization pushes youth to fall into bad habits due to the influx of other cultures, materialism, and peer pressure. That young people are easily impressed by their peers happens because of their environment. The environment for youth is formed, at present, by beer gardens, bars, and night clubs.

“He said, ‘They are easily attracted by their friends – when they open their eyes, they see such places.’

“There are hardly any places for playing sports, besides one or two, at universities and at the old stadium.

“He added, ‘There is not much public space for youth, but we see there are more beer gardens and night clubs.’

“Besides the two experts above, the coordinator of the Cambodian Youth Council, Ms. Mao Puthearoth, recognized that libraries, bookstores, places in the open air, and places for playing sports were not increased in recent years, but there are many places of entertainment attracting young people when they travel around town every day.

“She said, ‘I do not see that cinemas were changed into libraries, but several were changed into night clubs.’

“Responding to this issue, she said that the Cambodian Youth Council will ask the Ministry of Education to focus on this issue.

“She stressed, ‘We want the government to pay attention to these issues and establishl a youth policy on the national level, which is now still in the status of being drafted.

“Ms. Puthearoth said that the Cambodian Youth Council is encouraging the government to create places of entertainment for youth and take youth problems into consideration, before it decides to provide licenses for any commercial entertainment places to be operated, especially night clubs and other strange places for youth.”

Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.18, #5131, 20.2.2010
Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Saturday, 20 February 2010

Cambodia to launch $100 million casino complex
via CAAI News Media

By Prak Chan Thul, Reuters
February 19, 2010

Singapore's first casino is set to open and will soon be joined by others.
Photograph by: Mark van Manen, Canwest News Service

PHNOM PENH - A Cambodian tycoon will launch a $100 million casino near the country’s border with Vietnam this month to attract foreign tourists and develop the country’s fast-growing entertainment industry.

The Titan King Casino will open its doors on Feb. 26 in Bavet, a town in Svay Rieng province, about 120 km (75 miles) from Phnom Penh, covering 2.5 hectares of land and employing some 6,000 people, its owner, Kith Thieng, told Reuters on Tuesday.

Kith Thieng, whose business interests include hotels, fast food restaurants, a mobile phone operator and stakes in a bank and television station, said he wanted to help Cambodia’s entertainment sector rebound after the global economic crisis.

"Most gamblers will be Vietnamese but my goal is also to attract people from other countries," he said. "I want to promote the fact that Cambodia has enough places for entertainment."

Tourism is the impoverished country’s second-biggest earner after its agriculture sector.

Cambodia generated revenues of $19 million from its 29 casinos in 2008, according to Finance Ministry data.

That fell to $17 million last year, with the decline attributed to a fall in tourist arrivals and rising border tensions with neighbouring Thailand.

Thais are a vital part of Cambodia’s casino industry. Most forms of gambling are forbidden in Thailand, but thousands of Thais regularly visit massive casino complexes located along their shared border.

In a posting on the new casino’s website (, Kith Thieng said Bavet was fast becoming a regional centre for entertainment "much like Las Vegas and Macau".

Hear Sopheaktra, an assistant to Kith Thieng, said the casino would list on the Cambodian stock market, which was due to open later this year.

NagaCorp, is currently the only casino operator in Cambodia, with a licence to run any number of casinos within 200 km (124 miles) of Phnom Penh until 2065.

The company said last week it expected revenue in 2010 to grow by 30 percent as the global economy recovers, and forecast future growth would be driven by a surge in Chinese visitors.

Tourist Entries From Thailand Plummet Amid Political Turmoil

As anti-government mobs wreak havoc on Bangkok, tourists are turning to Vietnam as an entry point to Cambodia, officials say

via CAAI News Media

PR Log (Press Release) – Feb 20, 2010 – As anti-government mobs wreak havoc on Bangkok, tourists are turning to Vietnam as an entry point to Cambodia, officials say

POLITICAL instability in Thailand has led fewer tourists to use the country as an entry point to Cambodia, with foreigners now choosing to instead go through Vietnam, tourism officials say.

"Since the former Thai prime minister put Bangkok under emergency rule, foreigners have been cancelling trips to Bangkok. Many are re-routing to Malaysia and Vietnam before flying to Siem Reap," said Kousoum Saroeuth, secretary of state for the Ministry of Tourism.

He said the number of flights and road arrivals from Vietnam has increased since fighting between Thai police and the royalist People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) broke out earlier this week.

He added that more Western tourists are visiting Cambodia, but that tourism in Thailand had fallen by 30 percent.

Kousoum Saroeuth also said the Ministry of Tourism has reassured Western and Asian tourists that Cambodia and Thailand will not go to war over the Preah Vihear temple dispute, which began in July.

"We have run advertisements on CNN, and world travellers know that Cambodia is a safe place to visit," he said.

He added that Cambodia aims to see 2.3 millions visitors by late 2008 - an increase of 13 percent over last year.

Visitors drop in Septembe The Tourism Ministry's statistics officer, Kong Sophearak, said in August some 30,000 travellers arrived in Cambodia via Bangkok. But that number fell below 30,000 in September as tensions flared between the Thai government and anti-government protestors.

By contrast, travellers entering Cambodia from Vietnam rose to 32,000 during September. "Since Bangkok issued travel warnings, the number of tourist coming to Cambodia by road declined, while those from Vietnam rose," Kong Sophearak said.

Ho Vandy, president of the Cambodian Association of Travel Agents, said direct flights from Vietnam to Siem Reap increased from just a few flights per day last year to eight flights per day in recent months.

He said a new road leading to the Preah Vihear temple, proposed by the government in August, should be completed quickly in order to facilitate access to the World Heritage Site, and urged Asian travellers to consider direct flights to Siem Reap or Phnom Penh instead of transiting through Bangkok.

"Thailand seems to be creating unnecessary problems for travellers attempting to enter Cambodia through the international checkpoint at Poipet," Ho Vandy said. "Thai immigration police are asking tourists for several unnecessary documents. Entering from Vietnam is much more convenient."

The Hackman-Cohanpour School for Girls in Rural Cambodia
via CAAI News Media

FEBRUARY 19, 2010

Human trafficking is one of the most repulsive crimes known to humanity. A modern-day slavery, trafficking has developed over the past decades into an established economic institution that exploits thousands of young women every year all over the world.

Perhaps the country most rampant with human trafficking, Cambodia was also the most vulnerable to it. After the Khmer Rouge’s horrifying genocidal rule in the 1970s and years of civil strife as a result, it was only a matter of time until countless girls were lured, tricked or sold into sexual slavery, an industry whose shocking abuses we cannot even begin to describe.

We believe that education is the key to enfranchising these girls, that it will push them as far away as possible from the trafficking trade, and that it will open their world to opportunities that many Cambodians were never exposed to. The Asian Development Bank will match the $13000 donation that the Hackman-Cohanpour School aims to amass, and the sum total of $26000 will go into building a coeducational secondary school in rural Cambodia.

Radio Free Asia Praises Acquittal in Cambodia Disinformation Case

RFA Photojournalist Sok Serey told the world about tragedies taking place in the Takeo province's Cham Muslim community. Photo courtesy: Khmer News Today

via CAAI News Media

The RFA's Sok Serey, one villager, and two activists from the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights were released.

(WASHINGTON D.C.) - Today, Radio Free Asia President Libby Liu praised the acquittal of four men, including RFA broadcaster Sok Serey, on charges of disinformation stemming from a report about a Cham Muslim community leader in Takeo province.

“We at Radio Free Asia are pleased that our reporter has been acquitted of the baseless charges against him,” Liu said. “We hope this ruling will reverse the growing pattern of using Cambodia’s legal system to suppress free speech and freedom of the press.”

The Trial’s Background

Serey, a journalist with RFA’s Khmer language service, was among the four men charged with disinformation.

Last year, authorities charged the men following the broadcast of Serey’s report in late 2008 that contained comments from the three other defendants regarding a dispute between Cham Muslim community leader Rim Math and more than 200 villagers from his mosque.

In a complaint filed with leaders of the Cham Muslim community in late 2008, villagers from Borei Cholsar district’s Kampong Yol village, called for the dismissal of Rim Math on the charge of mishandling donations (10 million riels, valued at 2,400 USD) intended for a local project.

In addition to Serey, the other men acquitted were one villager and two activists from the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights. The men’s trial was held on Feb. 9.

Minerva Fellows spotlight: Ned in Cambodia

via CAAI News Media

Ned Lincoln
Issue date: 2/18/10
Section: Limelight on U

Media Credit: Ned Lincoln

Hello Union,

I am in the very interesting and mildly absurd kingdom of Cambodia, which isn't really a kingdom as far as I can tell, although there is a King and Crown Prince, so you never know. Politics might be a mess in the U.S. but they reach another level here. Recently the Prime Minister (I think that's his title) Hun Sen told a bunch of his military buddies that they should stop illegally foresting wood and using soldiers to maintain and improve their homes. His explanation as to why they should stop was they already had big houses and nice cars, so what was the point? This was sort of odd, because he seemed to be suggesting that doing morally ambiguous/wrong things wasn't bad, as long as you stopped once you have a material standard of living far above the average Cambodian, but lower than his.

Media Credit: Ned Lincoln
Also, the police force seems to function as a suggestion of law rather than its physical manifestation. Let me tell you how I know - I've evaded them several times on my dirt bike. I got pulled over once for no reason and paid them a cash "fine". I wasn't really angry at the police, as they have horrifically bad salaries, but I have declined to donate to their cause since then. Hence, traffic laws are quite difficult to enforce, and people just do what they want. It sounds nuts, and can be kind of terrifying, but if I could bring one thing back to the US from Cambodia, It would probably be the flexible traffic laws.

Media Credit: Ned Lincoln

Anyway, I've gotten away from myself here. Let me attempt to explain what I have been doing for the past seven-ish months, and what it's been like. I may try and delve into what I've learned, but that's a whole other barrel of apples, and isn't totally clear yet either.

So let's see. I'll try and break it up by notable occurrences. Arriving was pretty terrifying. As I was approaching the airport and getting closer and closer to Cambodia, like close enough to see rice paddies with cows and stuff, I was giddy with a mix of anxiety and excitement. The first three days or so it was an achievement to go buy food and water and walk in a two or three block radius of my hotel. As I got over that and moved into a friend of a friend's apartment for two weeks, things were briefly exciting. I was meeting cool people and learning a lot about what I was going to do.

Media Credit: Ned Lincoln

After the hotel and friend's apartment I moved into my own place, and started going to a motorbike repair school that only taught in Khmer. I got to tear apart engines and put them back together which was cool, but they are super simple one cylinder deals, so it got old fairly quickly. I was at school for two months, during which time I also bought a dirt bike (something I have wanted since approximately age 5), and got to know the city and Khmer culture a bit better. The dirt bike was a massive pain though, and I got tired of school, since it was all in Khmer. I also knew people but didn't have their phone numbers and/or felt really awkward about hanging out with them which made being in the city pretty lonely. Being alone in a very strange place is odd, when you are so used to the social dynamic of college and boarding school. So…..

Then I moved to Sala Lekh Prahm, a town in Kampong Chnang province, affectionately known as "the boonies". I have a cool translator, an 18 year old dude named Sai Ha, who is quite helpful and has a similar sense of humor to me, which helps make living up there easier. Although he recently has started asking me how he can get to the U.S. and what jobs he could have if he came. I don't know how to tell him that I'm uncomfortable with the idea of being responsible for his welfare if he came to the States, as I would probably end up being.

Back to life in SLP though: It can be difficult because it's fairly isolating, and the whole starting a shop thing is easily the most difficult thing I have ever attempted/done in my life. Being responsible for people and the success of a business is very hard. Sometimes you just want a shower, a non squat toilet, and a sink to wash your damn hands in. But instead you take a dipper bath and carry on your merry way.

So I've been in SLP for roughly 4-5 months, and have had the world's biggest party trying to start a business to employ a bunch of dudes from Tramoung Chrum, which is a very small village about an hour outside of SLP. It's all Cham people, who are a religious/ethnic minority. After moving out to SLP, I sent two guys from Tramoung Chrum to the moto-repair school I had attended in PP, began preparing the space and buying equipment with my translator, and briefly tried to teach a group of young men from Tramoung Chrum how to repair motos before the guys who went to school were finished. When the guys going to vocational school finished, we transferred to having a running shop, which is essentially where I am at now, trying to figure out how to keep the business running after I leave. If I was being polite and reserved, I would say it was tricky.

I'm not really in the mood to be strictly polite though, and feel quite comfortable revealing what an astonishingly difficult time this has been for me. I have been really confused about life while being here. I'm trying to figure out what motivates me, what I'm interested in, how I define my 'self', blah existential angst, blah blah. Trying to start this shop while dealing with all this emotional/psychological brou-ha-ha has been a challenge, to say the least. Hopefully in the long run it will be for the best though.

I guess I won't labor the issue, although I would encourage everyone to give more thought to their lives, what they are looking for, what makes them happy, etc. Really, that's mostly what I wanted to write about for this piece. I would implore you to really consider yourself and your life. Why do you drink, what is it about the release of getting wasted that college students deem so necessary to enjoy themselves? Why do you want a job? If you are in a job you hate, are you going to have the strength to get out? Is security more important to you than following some ideal path? Is the concept that people have ideal paths a bunch of nonsense?

I don't know. I don't have any answers, and I'm struggling pretty hard to figure out this stuff out for myself. But I encourage you to get extremely far out of your comfort zone, see what happens, and go from there. In the long run….. well maybe it won't help, but if you don't try then what's the point?

Illegal pharmacies face crack down in Cambodia

via CAAI News Media

Cambodia's municipal and provincial health officials are set to meet with owners of illegal pharmacies in Phnom Penh to demand that they apply for legitimate licences or face closure.

In January, the ministry of health gave a February deadline to the unlicensed pharmacies to either register or be closed.

There are 528 licensed pharmacies and 116 illegal ones in Phnom Penh alone.

Authorities say it's difficult to control and monitor the sale of expired drugs with unlicensed pharmacies operating.

'Enemies' Continues to Garner Awards

via CAAI News Media

By Poch Reasey, VOA Khmer
19 February 2010
A Cambodian documentary filmmaker said he had to be away from his family on weekends for many years to seek the truth behind the death of 1.7 million people at the hands of the Khmer Rouge.

Thet Sambath, who is also a reporter for the Phnom Penh Post, said he spent five years with Nuon Chea, Brother No. 2, before gaining the trust of the former Khmer Rouge ideologue.

“One day he just told me ‘Sambath, I’ve observed you for many years, and I now know that you are an honest man and that you are not taking any sides, so from now on I will tell you everything you want to know about the decisions Pol Pot and I made starting from the 1960s,’” Thet Sambath said, as a guest on “Hello VOA” on Monday and Tuesday.

His film, “Enemies of the People,” was co-produced by British documentary filmmaker Rob Lemkin. In the film, Nuon Chea admits for the first time the decision he and Pol Pot made to kill party members they considered enemies.

The 93-minute film received the World Cinema Special Jury Prize at this year’s Sundance Film Festival.

Two weeks later, it won Best Documentary at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival and earned the Fund for Santa Barbara Social Justice Award.

US Center Reflects Greater Asean Attention

By Im Sothearith, VOA Khmer
Original report from Washington
19 February 2010

US Ambassador to Asean Scot Marciel talks to VOA Khmer

The US has begun increased engagement with Asean, helping bring new levels of optimism to the region, US Ambassador to Asean Scot Marciel told VOA Khmer in an interview.

Marciel recently completed a diplomatic trip through the region, which has seen increasing economic growth in recent years.

“What we want is better partnerships, closer partnerships with Asean and with all the countries of Asean, where we can work together on a wide range of issues: trade, economic development, health, security concerns, nontraditional security threats, climate change,” Marciel said, at the launch of the Asean Studies Center at American University in Washington. “There’s a whole host of issues where there’s value in the United States working with countries of Southeast Asia. That’s what we’re looking for. We want to be a good partner.”

Asean welcomes American participation, Surin Pitsuwan, Asean secretary-general, told VOA Khmer.

“It’s a major superpower with a lot of resources in the fields of security, economic development, and technological progress, education, human resource,” Pitsuwan said. “If the US really engages with Asean, I think it is going to be a tremendous boost to Southeast Asia, to Asean, certainly to the entire region, because we are connecting major economies, like China, like Japan, and India, Australia together. So, it is important for the US to come back and reengage.”

Even the opening of a specific Asean study program signaled more engagement, he said.

“This is a new focus of intellectual undertaking on regional cooperation,” he said. “Asean is just one element of that regional cooperation.”

“It’s a great opportunity for Americans to have a center that focuses on Asean specifically, not just Southeast Asia as a whole,” Marciel said. “So it’s an opportunity to increase the level of scholarship in the United States about Asean and increase the awareness in the United States about Asean and its growing role.”

Louis Goodman, dean of American University’s School of International Service, told VOA Khmer that center reflected the increasing international importance of Asean.

Asean “is quite successful already and it will be more successful in the 21st Century,” Goodman said.

Cambodia Hints at Broader Solution for Border

via CAAI News Media

Original report from Washington
19 February 2010

In a swing through the border areas earlier this month, Prime Minister Hun Sen raised for the first time the possibility of seeking international intervention to solve a dispute over contested areas, where multiple attempts at bilateral talks have failed.

“Cambodia has come to a point of being forced to go to the [International Court of Justice] in the Hague and to the UN Security Council,” Hun Sen told a gathering of soldiers on the border that was broadcast on national television.

Both sides are contesting a 4.6-meter strip of land near Preah Vihear temple. Cambodia claims the land under a map drawn up in the early 1900s and apparently agreed on in a 1962 World Court decision. Thailand uses a later map and claims the land for itself.

The only thing the two sides have been able to agree on is to reduce the number of troops that have built up since July 2008, when Preah Vihear temple was added to Unesco’s World Heritage protection list, under Cambodian jurisdiction, sparking nationalist fervor on both sides.

A Thai government spokesman told VOA Khmer last week that Bangkok remains committed to a bilateral solution.

“We have a bilateral agreement with Cambodia on border issues, so we hope that this will be handled by this [joint] border committee,” said the spokesman, Panitan Wattanayagorn, who declined to discuss the potential of an international solution.

Panitan said the border dispute would be resolved once relations between the two countries improve.

Diplomatic affairs have been strained by Cambodia’s hiring of fugitive former Thai premier Thaksin Shinawatra as an economic adviser, and Cambodian officials remain unconvinced.

“Thailand only expresses its intentions but does not have a real will to find a solution,” Koy Kuong, a spokesman for the Cambodian Foreign Ministry, said.

A number of agreements from meetings between the foreign ministers have failed to pass in Thai parliament, he said.

“It’s more than a year that provisional agreements, as well as minutes of border committee [meetings], have not been passed by their parliament,” Koy Kuong said. “In reality, Thailand always increases its military forces along the border.”

So far, soldiers on each side have engaged in several firefights, including heavy machine gun, mortar and rocket fire. At least eight soldiers have died, though in each case, the fighting has failed to escalate into broader warfare.

Phay Siphan, a spokesman for Cambodia’s Council of Ministers, said Thailand has violated agreements already in place between the two countries, and he put the blame on the country’s prime minister, Abhisit Vejjajiva, who has been quoted in Thai media making claims to the contested strip of land west of Preah Vihear temple.

“The negligence and undermining by Abhisit towards the Cambodian nation on the border issue is very hard to tolerate,” Phay Siphan said.

Hun Sen’s willingness to consider an international solution was welcomed by Sean Pengse, a border advocate who now lives in France.

However, he warned, a resolution with the Security Council would need to be passed by a chamber where a number of countries have shared political interests with Thailand.

“Are we sure that we would win, or not?” he asked. “Because some countries strongly support Thailand.”

Neither is the Hague an ideal solution, he said. The World Court has already made a ruling on the 1962 dispute over Preah Vihear temple, citing in its decision a map that clearly delineates the border. Convincing Thailand to agree to go to the court again will be tough, he said.

A better plan would be to approach signatories of the 1991 Peace Accords, which protect the sovereignty of the Cambodian border, he said.

However, Cambodian officials say the accords do not apply to the current dispute. No official contacted by VOA Khmer would give a clear indication of what might actually be done with the UN.

Meanwhile, Hun Sen has continues to focus on the frontier. On Friday he ordered a reorganization of military and police on the border aimed at improving their living conditions and improving morale.