Sunday, 6 June 2010

Buddhist monks march through to Choeung Ek memorial

Buddhist monks march through to Choeung Ek memorial, a former Khmer Rouge killing field, some 16 kilometers (10 miles) south of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Friday, June 4, 2010. Some hundreds of Buddhist monks and nuns from Cambodia, Japan, Bangladesh, Myanmar and Thailand, gather for chanting and prayers for peace at the memorial (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

A Cambodian Buddhist monk, front right, carrying a wreath of flowers together with a Cambodian Muslim, front left, lead a march through Choeung Ek village, some 16 kilometers (10 miles) south of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Friday, June 4, 2010. Some hundreds of Buddhist monks and nuns from Cambodia, Japan, Bangladesh, Myanmar and Thailand gather for chanting and prayers for peace at Choeung Ek Memorial, a former Khmer Rouge killing field.(AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

Cambodian Buddhist monks march past the stupa of Choeung Ek memorial, built in a former Khmer Rouge killing field, some 16 kilometers (10 miles) south of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Friday, June 4, 2010. Some hundreds of Buddhist monks and nuns from Cambodia, Japan, Bangladesh, Myanmar and Thailand, gather for chanting and prayers for peace at the memorial. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

Art for creating social change

via CAAI News Media

KAMAYANI BALI-MAHABAL, Women’s Feature Service

Ali is a performance artist, writer and global agitator. She is a first generation Muslim Khmer woman born in Cambodia and raised in Chicago.

“Is the change I seek revolutionary? Is every revolution going to require bloodshed? When the revolution comes will I be able to take my mother and father with me? The revolution came to us in Cambodia in 1975. Two million Cambodians died. My parents never left me behind even when the revolution left us with nothing. The change I seek has to include my family even if their politics differ from mine. ... I believe that you can’t serve your people if you don’t love your people,” says Anida Yoeu Ali, a Chicago-based Cambodian Muslim artist, quoting from her manifesto (which is currently still a work-in-progress, titled ‘Towards a Manifesto’).

Ali is a performance artist, writer and global agitator. She is a first generation Muslim Khmer woman born in Cambodia and raised in Chicago. Her father is half Cham and half Malaysian, and her mother is half Thai and half Khmer. “I was born with two tongues, caught between definitions and borders, desperate to find home,” Ali says, “My family lived in Cambodia before the Khmer Rouge, a genocidal regime, took over and changed everything. As Cambodian Muslims they were an ethnic minority in a country that is 98 per cent Buddhist. Before the war, the borders were much more fluid and that’s why I have such a diverse bloodline.”

Today, it is this transnational identity that fuels Ali’s art. She works with video, sound and performance art and utilises her memories to create her mix-media pieces. “Art is a powerful and critical tool for creating social change. Art is more than object-based production. It is more than abstract, head-heavy concepts. Art includes the production of knowledge and the transformation of social spaces. Art is action. It requires labour. It requires love. It requires people. My Asian/Pacific Islander American identity is a political identity, a way to come together and mobilise people of a shared historical struggle specific to the US. This identity is a way to give voice to our invisible and complex stories. It is my means to become an ethnographer for my family, my community and a larger world. Only when I know my history can I begin to change it. This is at the heart of my work as an artist, educator and agitator,” she says, talking about her art and her identity.
As a young student, Ali chose performance poetry as a form of resistance. “After college I stumbled into performance poetry and writing because it was an inexpensive form of expression. With writing all I needed was a pen and paper. With performance poetry all I needed were my words and anywhere could become a stage. For me, everything happened around 1998, because that’s when I became motivated to write and perform. My meeting with Isangmahal, a radical Filipino American arts collective from Seattle, spurred me on. A month later, I wrote ‘I Was Born With Two Tongues’,” she recalls. Ali has toured over 300 colleges and venues with the pan-Asian spoken word ensemble, ‘I Was Born With Two Tongues’, and the multi-media theatrical collective, ‘Mango Tribe’. It was pioneering work that ignited a new generation of Asian American voices.

Identity apart, another theme that is strongly reflected in her work is religion. Ali strongly believes in religious freedom. “Freedom to worship and practice one’s faith is a human right. This means that all people practicing their faith, in whatever form, should be allowed to do so as long as no one else is harmed in the process. This means if women in France and Belgium choose to cover themselves with a headscarf or full burqa, then they should be allowed to do so without the State implementing neo liberal policies veiled in xenophobia,” she argues.

According to her, it’s not religion that is an obstacle. It’s the people who use it for their own power moves, a kind of power based on self-righteousness, patriarchy and oppression. Religion is not destructive; it’s when religion is controlled for power that it becomes a tool for repression.

A great believer in the power of collective creations, Ali, 38, has co-founded Young Asians With Power, an Asian American Artists Collective in Chicago; and the MONSOON fine arts journal. Her most recent work — her graduate thesis — ‘The 1700% Project: Otherance’ intervenes against the racial profiling of Muslims through poetry, video, audio recording, performances and installation. ‘The 1700% Project’ was conceived as a collaborative work and it utilises art not just as a means to address critical issues but as a strategic intervention. According to Ali, it implements a trans-disciplinary approach to the development of audience-specific and process-specific works based on the iteration of an original poem, ‘1700%’. “The prose-poem is a cento I composed of 100 lines of writings from actual reported hate crimes. The text is an unapologetic response to injustices against Muslims while acknowledging the resonance of historical persecution,” she explains.

Regarding the number 1700%, she explains that it refers to the exponential percentage of increase in crimes against Arabs, Muslims and those perceived to be Arab or Muslim since September 11, 2001. Currently, her project includes a poem, video, dance, audio recording and performance installation. She has collaborated with a filmmaker, a dancer, musicians and over 50 volunteer participants from Chicago’s Muslim community for the video that subverts the typical music format in order to educate the public about the dangers of racially-motivated fear and violence. “I strongly believe racial profiling is a device used throughout history to control and maintain power structures. The video, like the other components of the project, uses art to intervene with a sense of urgency,” Ali points out.

But Ali’s efforts for harmony were defeated when recently her installation was defaced with large caricatures and a word bubble strategically highlighting the text: “Kill all Arabs.” Across a wall space measuring 18 feet x 9 feet, the installation exhibits 100 lines of white vinyl text composed from actual hate crimes experienced by people perceived as Muslims and Arabs. As part of the live performance of her installation, the wall had been stained with ink drippings to make the seemingly invisible ‘hate crime’ text more visible. “What this proves to me is that this is not just a student art piece, this is not just another graduate thesis project. This work extends beyond campus and institution walls. It is at the centre of a critical point where xenophobia, violence and fear intersect. It is disheartening to see my work defaced, but it is not surprising considering its politically charged content,” she says.

The installation has been destroyed and all Ali can do, she says, is to make the most of it. “Because anyone who has experienced hate, racially-motivated acts, or any form of violence knows that when it happens, it leaves you defenceless, in shock, and renders you powerless. Still you live with it and are forced to move on,” she says.

According to Ali, her husband, Masahiro Sugano, and her daughter, 20-month-old Minara Noor, remind her every day that art making is so much bigger than her. Her family grounds her, she says.

Finally, for Ali, her work is a transformative experience. As she puts it, “My work is about the refusal to end in violence and if I didn’t strongly believe in that, I would not be able to pick up the pieces and make this into something more empowering.”

Step on perilous road

Pagna Eam, an immigrant from Cambodia, earned high grades at Bristol Community College and will now be attending Wheaton College. Staff photo by Mike George)

via CAAI News Media

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Graduating from BCC, Wheaton next stop


Pagna Eam hopes she doesn't cry when she walks across the stage today to collect her associate degree in general studies from Bristol Community College.

But if she does, she's due.

Her graduation from BCC marks an important milestone on a long hard trip that began six years ago in Cambodia, when her mom, fearing for her safety in a politically unstable and violent land, sent her then 16- year-old daughter halfway around the world to the United States to seek a better life and freedom.

And while the journey for Eam, who aims to become a math professor, is not nearly done, she's well on her way. Now almost 22, Eam has learned English and graduated from high school.

She finished second in her class at BCC with a 3.91 grade point average and is heading to Wheaton College to study mathematics.

She will enter the highly regarded Norton school as a sophomore in September. Wheaton has given Eam almost a full scholarship, which is bolstered by loans.

The enthusiastic and dedicated young scholar is well known at BCC for arriving every day on her bicycle, her main mode of transportation. With little money, it's all she can afford. But she's not complaining.

Eam says she's grateful for the help she's gotten along the way and plans to keep peddling until she can afford a car and a home of her own.

But the journey can only be made "one step at a time," she said, adopting a version of the college vision statement often repeated by President John Sbrega: "Bristol Community College changes the world by changing lives, learner by learner."

"I believe in his philosophy," Eam said.

Her biggest challenge so far has been learning English and going through high school at the same time, she said.

"Sometimes I would be up to 2 in the morning, translating my homework, making sure I understood it, she said.

"My Cambodian to English and English to Cambodian dictionary is this thick," she said spreading her fingers a good 6 inches. Eam lives with her sister Pisey Eam, 26, who came to the United States in 2005, in the home of Bill and Patti Donlevy on Pearl Street.

Donlevy, a social worker, is well known for his work with immigrants, and Eam considers the Donlevys her American parents.

Eam credits another sister in Cambodia, Yaneth Ourn, with pushing her to learn math and teaching her how to be a good sister, daughter and citizen.

"She was a stern teacher, but a good teacher. She taught me well and she wanted me to have a better life," said Eam, who is now fluent in English and has picked other forms of communication like the "high five" which she gave to a reporter who successfully used the Cambodian pronunciation of her name.

Eam herself is far from stern, with a smile nearly always on her face.

She's already gotten a good start on her teaching career by tutoring more than 50 fellow students in math.

But her students have been teachers, too, she said.

They've helped her with her English and they've taught her how to teach.

"I learned to slow down and take things step by step," Eam said.

She's also earned praise working in the school department's Abacus childcare program.

While Eam is clearly a good sister and good daughter, she needs to wait one more year before she becomes a good citizen.

She's been a permanent resident of the United States for four years and needs one more before she can apply to become a citizen - and she can hardly wait.

Once a citizen, she'll feel safe enough to visit her mom in Cambodia.

Without the American shield to protect her, she's worried she might not be able to get out of her homeland.

But when she goes, she'll have the money, thanks to students and teachers at Attleboro High School who raised $2,000 for the trip.

It's a painful wait because Eam wants to see her mom, who's now in her 70s and ailing. She hopes to bring her to America for the medical care she needs.

But in the meantime, she talks to her by phone twice a month and today will have her close to her heart by proudly wearing a handmade traditional Cambodian outfit her mom sent to her.

"I hope I don't cry" Eam said.

Lightning death brings toll this year to 35 in Cambodia

via CAAI News Media

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Phnom Penh (ANTARA News/Xinhua-OANA) - Lightning claimed yet another victim on Thursday with the death of 48-year-old farmer Lim Khen in Kompong Thom province, local media reported on Saturday, citing local official.

According to the National Committee for Disaster Management, Khen`s death is the 35th reported lightning death so far this year as lightning in 2009 killed 140 people.

Khen was killed as he walked home from his rice field, police chief Mat Moly was quoted by the Cambodia Daily as saying. "When he saw the rain, he left his rice field, where he was seeding. But he was unlucky and was burned on his back and his neck was broken" by the lightning, Moly said.

During a separate storm, which hit Kandal province on Wednesday, a lightning strike killed five cows and strong winds and rain caused injury to 15 villagers as strong gusts destroyed 16 stilt homes and knocked the roofs off nine more in Khsach Kandal districts`s Chey Thom and Vihear Suor communes, district governor Kong Sophan was quoted as saying.

"It was lucky that the villagers weren`t under the houses," said Sophan. "If they were inside, they probably would have died."

Cambodia vs. 'Chea'

via CAAI News Media

Sat., Jun. 5, 2010

Who Killed Chea Vichea?

Director claims gov is preventing screenings of pic

The director of "Who Killed Chea Vichea?," a documentary about the 2004 slaying of the Cambodian union leader, is asserting that the Cambodian government has banned screenings of the film.
U.S. helmer Bradley Cox says the government has been preventing showings of his film for the past month in the first banning of a politically charged film since the 1980s.

The movie screened at the recently wrapped Cannes market and has been playing the festival circuit for the past two years. It's been named to Amnesty Intl.'s Top Ten Movies That Matter list.

Cox says trade unionists attempted to hold the film's Cambodian premiere at the location where Vichea was killed but police raided the scene, leading to a declaration by the Cambodian government that the pic is an illegal import.

The movie makes the case that the government was allegedly complicit in the slaying and that police framed two innocent men for the killing.

"It's not surprising that the government would quickly move to suppress the film," Cox tells Variety. "Chea Vichea was a hero to many because he dared to speak up for the little guy. In a country run on fear, this is a rare thing and in the end, Vichea payed the price for it."

Doc was produced by Rich Garella and Jeffrey Sanders.

Garella lived in Cambodia for most of 1995-2003, was managing editor of the Cambodia Daily and later worked as press secretary for Cambodia's main opposition party.

Contact Dave McNary at .

End of the line is nearing for Cambodia’s ‘norries’

via CAAI News Media

By Staff Reports
Published: June 5, 2010

By Mark Magnier Los Angeles Times

BATTAMBANG, Cambodia -- It rattles along at 20 mph, swaying back and forth on uneven rails, the engine so loud it makes your teeth hurt. Then, rather unceremoniously, it runs out of gas and dies.

And you find yourself stranded in the middle of Cambodia on a handmade "norry" train, feeling a bit exposed on a 25-square-foot platform made of bamboo and scrap metal attached to wheels salvaged from old tanks.

Picture one of those hand-pump rail cars depicted in old Westerns, and you're close. It's powered (when there is gasoline) by a converted outboard engine. The brakes (when it has gas and you need brakes) are a wooden board pushed against the wheels. No seats.

All this bamboo and scrap metal give the thing a makeshift appearance, and appearances don't deceive. Pretty soon, driver Path Chanthorn starts pushing the disabled norry with hands that are missing a few fingers from a run-in with a water buffalo.

Another norry approaches in the opposite direction, carrying a dozen people -- covering every inch of the platform -- who are headed to a festival. With a single track to ride on, etiquette dictates that the norry with the lighter load take itself apart so the other can pass. So Chanthorn and his assistant quickly dismantle their vehicle and let the other one pass, then put theirs back together again, all within minutes.

And you are on your way.

Now, a government plan to upgrade the country's rail system may end up forever stranding the norry, an ingenious response to the decades of war, destruction and dire poverty that have afflicted Cambodia.

As the country descended into civil war and mass murder under the Khmer Rouge in the mid-1970s, the country not only lost 2 million people. In Pol Pot's quest to reach "Year Zero," it also saw most of its roads destroyed, its trucks blown up, its locomotives charred.

By the early 1980s, as Cambodia started to emerge from the nightmare, people remembered the small vehicles used by rail workers in the 1960s to repair the tracks. They started building their own, and the norry was born -- the name, some say, is derived from a mispronunciation of "lorry," the British term for a truck.

The humble norry is a reminder of how much Cambodians lost, but it also speaks to their persevering spirit. All but left for dead under Pol Pot's genocidal leadership, they defied the odds to rebuild.

"It shows how ingenious people can be," says Ith Sorn, 55, who has been driving norries for three decades. "Cambodians came up with this when they had almost nothing."

The unique mode of transportation saw its heyday in the 1980s when other vehicles were scarce.

"There were bombs and mines everywhere, roads were destroyed and rail cars a shambles," says Kot Sareurn, 50, a union leader for 23 norry drivers in Battambang, a picturesque provincial capital along the tranquil Sangker River. "Norries helped a lot of people survive, get to hospitals, get food."

Initially, operators "rowed" the norries with poles, gondola-style, carrying loads of up to 40 people, eight cows or 3 tons of rice. After a few years, small gasoline engines were added.

At the peak, thousands of norries operated throughout Cambodia. Drivers charged villagers a few cents for a ride but still making a decent living with so many people and possessions jammed aboard.

These days, the few hundred remaining norries are relegated to short distances in a few provinces -- more an oddity for tourists -- as trucks, public buses and motorbikes fill the gap. They're still privately owned, but nowadays companies sometimes own several of them, splitting the profits with drivers.

Safety? Not a problem, Sorn says: "I've never had a bad accident. Only occasionally, if it's overloaded, we'll break down and some goats tumble off."

The government plans to revamp the nation's two modest state-owned rail lines -- a 230-mile stretch from Phnom Penh to the Thai border completed by the French in 1942, and a 150-mile stretch from the capital to the southwestern Sihanoukville port finished with help from China and Germany in 1969. Government officials envision turning the system over to private operators by early 2012.

This would almost certainly see the go-cart-like norries muscled aside by "real trains."

Union leader Sareurn has little nostalgia for the contraptions that have earned his keep for decades. "If the government provides compensation, we'll all stop the next day," he says.

Others aren't quite so sanguine. "I'm worried, but what can you do?" says Chanthorn, 37, who has been driving since he was 10. "The rails belong to the government. We're just borrowing them."

Recently, more foreigners have been riding his norry, Ith says, including three with big bellies recently who initially balked, thinking it too flimsy to support them.

"They worried that the bamboo would break, but bamboo is very strong," he says. "If I can carry eight cows, I can certainly carry a few fat foreigners."

DAP News ; Breaking News by Soy Sopheap

via CAAI News Media

Cambodia, US Join in Hands for Military Training Exercise in Kompong Speu Province

Saturday, 05 June 2010 12:39 DAP-NEWS/ Tep Piseth

CAMBODIA, PHNOM PENH, June 5, 2010-Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF) in cooperation with the US forces will conduct a military training exercise in Kompong Speu province, a western part of Phnom Penh city in early July, a senior official said on Saturday.

Facilities for conducting the military exercise training have competed and the process of the event is going smoothly,” said Sem Sovanny, director general of the center of training the military peacekeepers at Udong district.

The exercise will join hundreds of soldiers from US and regional countries to strengthen the bilateral cooperation of the armed forces. This exercise was called “Angkor Guard in 2010,”

In July, Cambodia and U.S. also marked the 60th anniversary of diplomatic relation between the two countries.

Cambodia Mine Action Center Gets 10 million US dollar Aid from Donor in 2010

Saturday, 05 June 2010 12:37 DAP-NEWS/ Tep Piseth

CAMBODIA, PHNOM PENH, June 5, 2010-Cambodian Mine Action Center (CMAC) has promised from the development partners with 10 million US dollars for implementing its work in 2010,” a senior official from the CMAC said on Saturday.

“We need more money to implement our work in order to eliminate the mines and UXO in the country and the government policy plans to reduce the victims from the mines and uxo to zero in 2015,” Heng Ratana, director general of CMAC said.

“The fund from the development partners in 2010 did not include other materials that they promised to provide,” he said, without elaborating in details about the cost of the materials. The fund is from the Japan and other countries. Thanks for their humanitarians affairs, he added.

Japan is one of the countries providing money for cleaning mines and uxos in Cambodia, which used to have the difficulties in civil war and the mine, is still one of the obstacles for government in reducing the poverty for local people. Japan this year also pledged to provide over 130 million US dollars assistance aid for Cambodia.

Cambodia is on the way to clean mines and uxos from the country and now, mine center is striving to clean mines to take for local people to transfer those lands into productive areas in agriculture. Cambodia remains million of meter square of land covering with mines and uxos.

According to the Cambodia Red Cross’s statistical report on landmines and UXo victims, in 2004-2005 the number of victims was as high as 800 people per year. By 2008-2009, this number dropped significantly to just over 200 victims per year. Despite the fact that number of casualties has dropped remarkably, this figure is still high in the context of peaceful Cambodia, compared to other landmines and uxo affected countries.

PM Orders Phnom Penh Municipal Hall to tell Roth Sensopheap Company to Stop Taking Taxes on the City's Public Orders and Hygiene

Friday, 04 June 2010 16:40 DAP-NEWS/

CAMBODIA, PHNOM PENH, June 4, 2010– Prime Minister Hun Sen, who presides at a meeting of the Council of Ministers on Friday morning of June 4th, 2010, ordered Phnom Penh Municipal Hall to tell Roth Sen Sopheap Company to stop taking taxes on the city's public orders and hygiene from all kinds of businesspeople both in the markets and in the public areas, except in the parking lot and at the public toilets.

A top official from Phnom Penh Municipal Hall who wishes to remain anonymous told DAP-News Center on Friday morning after a meeting of the Council of Ministers that Prime Minister Hun Sen ordered Phonm Penh Municipal Hall to tell Roth Sensopheap Company to stop taking taxes on the city's public orders and hygiene both in the markets and in the public places.

" Prime Minister Hun Sen allowed Roth Sensopheap Company to temporarily take taxes on the public toilets and on the public parking lot; but, if this company still continues to violate and the businesspeople still react angrily to the Company, the government will eliminate (take away) the license," The Phnom Penh Municipal Hall Official added.

Hundreds of the businesspeople at Oreusey Market on Monday of May 31, 2010 went together to stand in front of Prime Minister's Villa in order to demonstrate against Roth Sensopheap Company.

"The businesspeople at Oreusey Market already paid their taxes on the city's public orders and hygiene, and Roth Sensopheap Company should not come and take any more taxes from us," the official confirmed.

After the demonstration, Deputy Cabinet of Prime Minster's Office came out to get the petition from the businesspeople and promised to solve the problems.