Friday, 20 August 2010

Kids carry the mantle of bokator

Photo by: Nicky Hosford
Kids from The Green Gecko Project practice bokator moves

via Khmer NZ

Friday, 20 August 2010 15:00 Nicky Hosford

FRESH from celebrating its success at the National Bokator Championships in Phnom Penh, Siem Reap NGO The Green Gecko Project is hoping that other schools and organisations in the province will join together to promote bokator among school children.

Green Gecko attempts to provide a safe haven for Siem Reap street kids, and three of its kids – Chieng Eng, Sophy and Nott – won silver medals in the short-sticks dance competition held at the beginning of August.

Together with the more than 70 children in residence at Green Gecko, they’ve been studying bokator for only one year. But this is not the first success that the organisation has seen at national level.

Green Gecko took a medal in the single performance display at the championships last year, after only two months of training.

The men responsible for this success are Say Teven and Pich Pouv. Say Teven was the national champion at the 2009 bokator championships and he and Pich Pouv have been working with the Green Gecko kids every week.

Bokator is the traditional Cambodian martial art and can be traced back to the Angkorian period. Clem Velasco, the development coordinator at The Green Gecko, recognises the importance it has for the children’s comportment.

“The training has had an effect on their behaviour and their health,” she says. “They look healthy and strong and they’re learning discipline, self-respect and emotion management skills.”

As the children drill in the background, tumbling to learn how to fall without hurting themselves, Pich Pouv affirms the idea that the discipline of bokator is about so much more than learning how to fight.

“It goes deeper than that. It’s about how you discipline yourself, how you carry yourself. It’s about your values”, he says.

He also feels bokator is important for re-connecting with Cambodia’s culture.

“We own this,” he stresses.

The children have given public performances of their new skills at events including International Women’s Day and the ploughing ceremony at Angkor Wat, and at venues such as the Peace CafĂ© and the Hotel de la Paix.

REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea: People fish on wooden boat in Phnom Penh

People cross the Mekong River by ferry in Phnom Penh August 19, 2010. Ministers from the six countries of the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) will meet in Hanoi on August 20 to chart initiatives for regional cooperation on transport and trade for the next decade, according to a press release from the Asian Development Bank. REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea

People fish on wooden boats on the Mekong River in Phnom Penh August 19, 2010. Ministers from the six countries of the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) will meet in Hanoi on August 20 to chart initiatives for regional cooperation for the next decade, according to a press release from the Asian Development Bank. REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea

A man fishes at the Mekong River in Phnom Penh August 19, 2010. Ministers from the six countries of the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) will meet in Hanoi on August 20 to chart initiatives for regional cooperation on trade and transportation for the next decade, according to a press release from the Asian Development Bank. REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea

People fish on a wooden boat on the Mekong River in Phnom Penh August 19, 2010. Ministers from the six countries of the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) will meet in Hanoi on August 20 to chart initiatives for regional cooperation on trade and transportation for the next decade, according to a press release from the Asian Development Bank. REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea

A man crosses the Mekong river by ferry in the early morning to work in Phnom Penh August 19, 2010. Ministers from the six countries of the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) will meet in Hanoi on August 20 to chart initiatives for regional cooperation for the next decade, according to a press release from the Asian Development Bank. REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea

Local Unemployment Pushes More Khmer Workers to Migrate

via Khmer NZ

Posted on 19 August 2010
The Mirror, Vol. 14, No. 678

“Local Unemployment urges more Khmer workers to migrate to find jobs in foreign countries, especially in Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Siam [Thailand], and Taiwan. This makes many Khmer citizens to suffer from the exploitation of their labor, and lead to human rights abuses and forced labor, which make them to get sick and sometimes it leads to fatal sicknesses. In addition, sometimes Khmer workers who were domestic servants, have been mistreated and did not have sufficient nutrition, and the companies that sent them to work abroad, never cared about their living conditions.

“According to officials of a human rights organization, there are 26 licensed companies that are sending Khmer workers abroad, but there are also some unlicensed companies. Many Khmer workers abroad suffered from various abuses, and some of them died. When Khmer workers endured such misery or died abroad, the companies did not intervene to find justice for the victims, and also the Ministry of Labor and Vocational Training did not help to find proper solutions, following the laws of Cambodia.

“Officials of the Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights [LICADHO], said that they received information about four victimized women who asked for intervention to take them back from Malaysia in July 2010. Some were mistreated by not having enough food, some were beaten and even raped, and some were forced to work like cattle without a break. Those who work at factories were forced to work overtime, straining their working conditions, and violating the previous promises of companies in Cambodia, as the actual situation in Malaysia is quite different from the promises.

“Officials of human rights organization in Cambodia said that from 2008 to 2010, they have received 92 complaints from Khmer workers abroad, and there were 130 victims. Some female workers who just returned from Malaysia said that they were mistreated by not having enough food, they were insulted and intimidated. This happened to them since they were sent to work as domestic servants in Malaysia. More than that, their passports were taken away, so that they had difficulties in finding outside assistance and to return to Cambodia, unless they were able to run to the Cambodian Embassy in Malaysia.

“According to officials of the Coordination of Action Research on AIDS and Mobility [CARAM] organization that monitors the situation of migrant workers, about 20,000 female workers are laboring in Malaysia, more than 200,000 in Siam [Thailand], about 9,000 in Korea, and many others in Arab countries, as well as in Japan and in Taiwan. The executive director of CARAM, Mr. Ya Navuth, said that poverty, unemployment, and the threatening global economic crisis force Khmer citizens to leave Cambodia to find jobs in other countries. More and more Khmer workers migrate abroad, though they already know that they will have to face many difficulties. Observers noticed that poverty, unemployment, and no land for farming are factors that make Cambodian citizens to take the risk to seek jobs abroad. These factors are the results of wrong policies of the government that does not contribute to broad economic growth, so that citizens can get jobs and earn an income to live properly. Formerly, the government banned citizens from migrating abroad – like to Thailand – but the government does not create jobs for a large section of the population, for people who are unemployed, so that they cannot earn their daily living.

“Officials of human rights organization in Cambodia discovered that many Khmer workers suffered from abuses of their human rights and of violations of labor laws, and from being trafficked, but they did not gain much support from officials of the Ministry of Labor and Vocational Training under the administration of [Minster] Vong Soth. Contracts between workers and companies exist only on papers, while in reality companies both in Cambodia and abroad violate those contracts. In fact, the conditions set in the contracts are good, but at work at their destination, companies take away their passports , and worst of all, their difficulties do not receive caring attention from the companies at all.

“Officials of human right organizations watching over migrant workers noticed that by now, there is still no mechanism to address the difficulties of workers abroad by the Ministry of Labor and Vocational Training, though it is reported that some companies forced Khmer workers to labor like slaves day and night. More than that, the Ministry of Labor and Vocational Training seems insensitive about the scandals of some companies, sending workers abroad, though those companies violate the labor law.”

Moneaksekar Khmer, Vol.17, #3961, 18.8.2010
Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Cambodian NOCC hosts tennis coaching course

via Khmer NZ

August 19, 2010

The National Olympic Committee of Cambodia (NOCC) in association with the Tennis Federation of Cambodia is organising an 11-day tennis coaching workshop with support from the International Tennis Federation and the International Olympic Solidarity movement, local media reported on Thursday.

The NOCC held similar technical courses in wrestling and volleyball last month.

"The main thrust behind this initiative is to empower our coaches so that they can shape the future," NOCC Secreatary General Vath Chamroeun was quoted by the Phnom Penh Post as saying at the inauguration of the course on Wednesday.

The course has attracted 22 participants including lone female representative Yi Sotheary from the National Institute of Physical Education and Health.

"It is a well-charted training program devised by the ITF and being promoted all round the world," said the NOCC official, adding that ITF instructors Kawaljeet Singh of India and Christopher Pillai from Sri Lanka, who had been appointed to attend the seminars in Phnom Penh, were vastly experienced tutors in this field.

The first three days of the program will deal with grassroots tennis before shifting focus to Level 1 coaching involving kids and beginners.


Warwick taekwondo coach brings home national award

via Khmer NZ

HIGH HONORS: Tom Chea, who runs Chea's Taekwondo in Warwick, was named National Coach of the Year.

Tom Chea originally sought out martial arts as a way to defend himself.

As an 8-year-old boy who had just come to Lowell, Mass. from Cambodia at the end of the Vietnam War, persecution and racism were rampant.

“Back then there was a little prejudice going on and in America, we can’t tell what’s Cambodian or Vietnamese,” Chea said.

The logical decision, then, was for Chea to find a way to avoid being picked on. He turned to martial arts, specifically taekwondo and it became one of the most rewarding decisions of his life.

Chea was honored recently as the 2010 National Taekwondo Coach of the Year, a high honor for anybody, but especially somebody who originally got into the sport for all the wrong reasons.

“I was bullied,” Chea said. “I got into martial arts for the wrong reasons, but I ended up finding out that it was a good reason because I ended up learning that I didn’t want to fight.”

And he never did get into a fight, but instead became one of the best taekwondo competitors in the nation, and later, one of the best coaches as well.

Chea, who moved to Rhode Island about two years ago and is the head instructor for Chea’s Taekwondo in Warwick, is currently a fourth degree black belt and a certified master, which is easy to understand given his track record.

He won gold medals in the 1996 U.S. Open, the 1997 Pan-American Open and the 1995 North American Elite. Five times he was the U.S. Cup Champion, and he was crowned state and New England champion eight times.

“I started competing and I just started doing well in competition,” Chea said. “I just kept pursuing my dream.”

As a coach, Chea’s resume is just as impressive.

While being crowned national coach of the year this year, Chea saw two of his athletes – Nicolas Silva and Graziano Mungo – get named to the U.S. national team. In addition, Mungo was named the National Male Athlete of the Year in taekwondo.

Chea has also helped produce numerous state, regional and national champions from all different age groups.

Since 2005, Chea has also served as head coach for the Peak Performance Team of New England, where he trains athletes hoping to qualify for the national team. Prior to that, he served as head coach of Chea’s X-Treme Taekwondo for seven years.

“I like the coaching,” Chea said. “When I started coaching I found out that I learn more.”

Even during his competition days, Chea actually set the wheels in motion for a coaching career.

When he was in his mid-teens, his master had him teach taekwondo at an air force base. By 1994, he had become the head instructor at Hanscom Air Force Base in Bedford, Mass., where he trained military personnel.

After stopping there in 1997, he served as the head instructor for the Mass. Governors Alliance Against Drugs, training children who were at risk.

“As I got older, at 18 or 19 I ended up teaching more,” Chea said. “That’s when I knew that teaching was for me.”

Yet, while coaching was something he wanted to focus on, Chea had no intention of withholding himself from competition.

But in 1999, in the Pan-American Games, Chea tore the anterior crucial ligament in his right knee.

He tried to rehab, but in a sport that relies on kicking, it became apparent that his competitive career was over.

“I tried to comeback but it didn’t happen,” Chea said. “It’s not the same.”

At that point, he turned his full attention toward coaching, and there are countless athletes who are better off because of it.

He ended up coaching the Massachusetts and Rhode Island state teams on separate occasions, and became more involved in training students with the hope of getting them to the Olympics.

Though he hasn’t worked with an Olympic athlete just yet, it is certainly well within the realm of possibility.

“My goal and my dream is to create an athlete from around the New England area to actually make the Olympic team,” Chea said.

Having already succeeded every step of the way, it may be only a matter of time before the national coach of the year crosses that next goal off his list.

Chess man plots his next moves to citizenship

via Khmer NZ

Volume 80, Number 12 | August 19 - 25, 2010

West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933

Photo by Aidan Gardiner
Saravuth Inn inviting a player to a chess game in Union Square.

By Aidan Gardiner

Saravuth Inn crooked his hand over the board and let it hang for a moment. He slapped his knight down and as suddenly, snatched up the enemy pawn.

“I love chess,” he said. “To be able to be omnipotent. To be able to do many things in one shot. Freedom. Control. Flexibility.

“Chess allows you to do that when in life, you can’t,” he added.

Inn, 49 and Cambodian-born, is fighting his way out of legal limbo and into proper citizenship. He’s been making a living playing chess in Union Square for the past two years. After Christmas, he plans to finally visit the Department of Homeland Security to get a naturalization number, which will enable him to get a steady job. However, he fears officials may deport him to Cambodia instead.

“I will not accept that as an option,” said Inn, who was brought to the United States during Operation Babylift in 1975. “I’m an American. This is my home.”

Inn’s father taught him chess as a boy, before the Khmer Rouge killed his family when he was 13. He was living in an orphanage when American soldiers found him and took him to the U.S. A family in New Jersey adopted him, but then began abusing him. Inn played the tournament chess circuit throughout high school. He later attended Rutgers University between 1984 and 1987 and studied literature and classics.

“Ulysses is hilarious. Back then I didn’t think so. But now — oh God, I’m laughing!” he said, leaning back, grinning, with his eyes wide. “It’s the way he mastered everything and expressed it the way he does. It’s wonderful.”

Inn comes to Union Square every day and perches over his chess mat rolled out flat on a piece of plywood. Usually, he’s surrounded by a crowd. Some are his supporters who come to keep him company. Others are passersby looking to watch a quick game. Though his daily revenue varies, Inn’s supporters, mostly students, always come play and donate about $5 each. He said it’s enough to pay his modest rent.

Two years ago, border agents temporarily detained Inn during his return from Montreal. He had been making a living playing guitar on the street after his wife left him, citing their worsening financial situation. A bag containing all Inn’s most important belongings had been stolen from him sometime before, so he had no documentation proving his citizenship.

“I was captured by Calypso,” Inn said, referring to “The Odyssey” and Ulysses’s, a.k.a. Odysseus’s, journey. “Except I don’t have a dog to recognize me coming back.”

After some questioning, agents handed Inn a slip of paper, and let him in. He pocketed it, not knowing what it was for, and forgot about it.

A.J. Abucay, a documentarian making a film about Inn’s life, said that the paper allowed Inn’s re-entry on the condition that he turn himself over to Homeland Security at Newark Airport’s Terminal B by the following month.

“It was not until he allowed me to look through all the documentation he had in his possession that I discovered this piece of paper,” Abucay said. “It was already late 2008 or early 2009, way past the date he was supposed to appear.”

When Inn consulted Ana Pottratz, a pro-bono lawyer, she told him not to go because he might be deported back to Cambodia.

Inn said that he’s tired of scraping together a living and would like to go into teaching.

“I don’t want to continue this,” he said. “I want to have rights, to at least be able to work at McDonald’s.”

Inn seldom discusses life in Cambodia, but still remembers his family’s death. They were living in Phnom Penh, the capital, when Cambodian troops forced his family into a truck.

“They gathered us like we were going on vacation,” Inn said.

They drove for an hour to an area outside Oudong. When his family exited the truck, the troops shot each of them. Saravuth was the only person to survive.

Inn is covered in bullet holes, like pink fingerprints all over his body.

“I can’t even count them all anymore,” he said. Inn also has a piece of shrapnel lodged in his brain that causes him to suffer occasional seizures.

Brother Mike, a monk, found Inn wandering the streets and brought him to an orphanage.

“Unfortunately,” Inn said, “I’m the character of my own story.”

Inn leaned back in his chair, took a drag from his cigarette, and let the smoke dribble out of his mouth.

“Chess is a war game,” he said. “You’ve got to have that conniving and crushing instinct in you. I have a lot of anger and I express it in that.

“I use a defense when I’m playing as a black,” Inn added. “It’s very aggressive. It expresses a lot of emotion, a lot of anger. It’s called Sicilian Dragon. And I’m good at that in the game chess, but in life I need to slow down.”

Inn leaned forward and quickly pushed his rook forward two squares knocking over an enemy bishop. For him, the board is a playground, a space to move freely and dance with power, even while he’s caught in a bureaucratic maze.

“I used to be vicious,” Inn said. “Now, I just enjoy chess. Like with Ulysses, I was too academic. Now I look at it and I’m laughing.”

Thailand asks Asean not to intervene in temple row

via Khmer NZ

Published: 20/08/2010

The Thai government is asking other Asean countries not to intervene in the Preah Vihear conflict and allow Cambodia and Thailand to settle the matter themselves.

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said yesterday he did not believe the reports that Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung, in his capacity as Association of Southeast Asian Nations chairman, would raise the Preah Vihear dispute at an Asean meeting.

He thought the Asean chair was simply sounding out the opinions of association members about the border dispute after receiving a letter from Cambodia.

Mr Abhisit said all parties should understand that the issue could be solved at the bilateral level.

Cambodia wants the conflict to be dealt with at the multilateral level because the Thai parliament has not considered the negotiation framework of the Thai-Cambodian Joint Boundary Commission (JBC), but Mr Abhisit said each country had its own processes and other nations should respect this.

"Thailand has its parliamentary procedures which must be respected," the prime minister said.

"The government does not interfere."

Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban yesterday warned that Cambodia could not raise the Preah Vihear issue for multilateral discussion without first securing the consent of Thailand. He urged Cambodia to handle the issue bilaterally.

The conflict was a longstanding one and time was needed to resolve it, he said.

Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya said yesterday Thailand and Cambodia had discussed the temple issue through all available mechanisms such as the joint border committee. They did not need the intervention of neighbouring countries.

Mr Kasit said Thailand had tried to explain the matter to its fellow Asean members and he hoped they understood.

The Foreign Affairs Ministry would send a letter to Vietnam and the other members of Asean to clarify the Preah Vihear dispute.

The letter would seek to clear up the misunderstandings surrounding the temple conflict and deal with Phnom Penh's allegations against Thailand related to the temple row, he said.

Nursing in Cambodia

via Khmer NZ

MICHELE ONG - North Harbour News
Last updated 05:00 20/08/2010

LIVE TO TEACH: Metlifecare’s national clinical services manager Kim Brooks, left, and Bev Hopper of Silverdale will be travelling to Cambodia to share their nursing skills.

A SILVERDALE woman is heading to Cambodia in October to share her nursing skills.

Bev Hopper, who works at North Shore Hospital, has been selected by the New Zealand Orthopaedic Nurses Association to travel with a team of five.

The association will pay for her flight, insurance and part of her accommodation expenses, worth more than $2000.

It's Ms Hopper's first time to the southeast Asian country but she says she is going "with an open mind" and a passion to pass on "all things orthopaedic".

"I've already got a USB pen crammed full of notes. I'm looking to passing on what I know to the nurses so the quality of care they deliver can be improved."

The association's former president Kim Brooks says Ms Hopper's "flexible and adaptable" personality made her the ideal recipient.

"We need someone who is flexible to changes, because things may not go as planned. You could come fully prepared with your teaching materials but the hospital might have different ideas," she says.

Ms Hopper will be at Sihanouk Hospital Centre of Hope, a non-profit body, in Phnom Penh.

The centre provides 24-hour free medical care for poor and disadvantaged Cambodians.

It also gives further education and clinical training to medical professionals.

Mrs Brooks, who went last year, says there is a demand for orthopaedic care in Sihanouk Hospital.

"People fall off their motorbikes and they're not properly treated for it. It then becomes a deformity," she says.

"And over there, if you're seen as less than perfect you can't get a job, you can't get married – you get nothing."

Ms Hopper says the social stigma surrounding deformities is a problem but the hospital should be able to offer patients correct initial treatment.

"The nurses at Sihanouk Hospital want to be more proficient in orthopaedic nursing skills.

"And they're so grateful for any input from developed countries."

Mrs Brooks says there will be an interpreter at the hospital, but health terminologies sometimes get lost in translation.

"It's a problem there. I remember teaching a group of second year nurses and I had completely lost them."

The team will be spending a fortnight at Sihanouk Hospital before going to Siem Reap for a week to teach basic health care in the villages and orphanages.

Mrs Brooks says the conditions in slums are tragic – "things we have no idea about".

"I met a young woman who had just given birth and she was dehydrated.

"They had no clean water, so they gave her rice wine," she says.

"It's all very easy to tell them to not do it, and say `why don't you just boil water?' but it's just not possible for them.

"Where are they to get the water from?

"If they boil it, it's in a little flimsy cooker. If that tips over, their houses go up in flames."

Cellphones help Cambodian students -- to cheat

A Cambodian student talks on a mobile phone outside a school in Phnom Penh

Cambodian students sit in a classroom at a school in Kampong Thom province

via Khmer NZ

By Dara Saoyuth (AFP)

PHNOM PENH — Standing in front of a school in Cambodia's capital Phnom Penh, Than Vichea read out answers over his mobile telephone to his sister who was taking national exams inside.

He was not alone. Even the police deployed outside schools to stop relatives providing answers to the more than 100,000 students who sat the tests last month could not prevent cheating in many of the exam centres.

"What would happen if they fail?" asked Than Vichea. "We have to think about our expenses for schooling, part-time studies and fuel costs, and especially our time."

Several students interviewed by AFP said they had bribed teachers to allow them to check notes they had smuggled into the exams, or answer sheets allegedly sold in advance by teachers outside the schools.

One said he had paid about 30 dollars to teachers during two and a half days of exams so they would turn a blind eye to cheating and keep watch for school inspectors.

Others said they had bribed teachers to allow them to use their mobiles to phone relatives for help during the exams, the results of which will be announced on August 20.

"Besides copying answers from each other, candidates in my room could even make a phone call outside during the exams to get answers," said a female student who asked to remain anonymous.

"And when there was only one correct answer sheet, it was hard to pass from one to another. So those who use modern phones took a photo of that sheet and then sent it to each other via the Internet on their phones," she said.

After decades of civil war and the mass killing of educated people and intellectuals by the communist Khmer Rouge regime in the late 1970s, Cambodia is trying to restore its educational system. But it is a slow process.

"Our country was severely destroyed during the Khmer Rouge, so, as a child, we have started rebuilding," said Mak Vann, a senior official with the Ministry of Education.

"We have trained more teachers and up to now it's still not enough. We still lack educational tools, and more teachers need to be trained as well."

Cambodia's schools were obliterated under Khmer Rouge rule. The regime killed nearly two million people -- including many teachers -- as it emptied cities in its bid to forge a Communist utopia.

School buildings, documents and other educational resources were destroyed.

More than three decades later, a lack of infrastructure, human resources and educational tools, as well as low wages for teachers, are hindering efforts to improve standards in schools.

Not all students interviewed said there had been cheating in their exam rooms.

"In my room, it was very strict. We could not even look at each other during the exams. No cellphones were allowed," said one, Bun Keo Voleak.

But the apparent acceptance of bribes by many teachers reflects rampant corruption in general in Cambodia that is seen by many as a growing barrier to quality in human resources for the Southeast Asian nation.

Cheating and paying bribes are common during exams, but Rong Chhun, head of the Cambodian Independent Teachers Association, said the problem appeared to have worsened this year.

"Weakness in the educational system cannot help our country to develop," he said.

Cambodia was ranked 158th out of 180 countries in anti-graft organisation Transparency International's index of perceived public sector corruption in 2009.

It was also ranked the second most corrupt Southeast Asian nation after Indonesia in an annual poll by the Political and Economic Risk Consultancy.

"Corruption exists and sometimes it seems to be open, such as teachers collecting money from students even in public class," said In Samrithy, executive director of NGO Education Partnership.

He said Cambodia was lagging behind neighbouring countries in terms of the quality of education.

"Allowing students to cheat is dangerous for their future because what they write for their teachers is not their real knowledge, so when they face a real situation, especially in a competitive job market, they will have problems."

Volunteering for some lessons in life on a teaching course in Cambodia

via Khmer NZ

By Carol Driver
19th August 2010

According to STA Travel, the number of A-level students taking a gap year is expected to increase by 150 per cent as youngsters miss out on places at universities and choose to travel instead.

The options are seemingly limitless, from round-the-world backpacking trips to year-long work placements. Here, Carol Driver recounts three weeks spent as a volunteer teacher in Phnom Penh, Cambodia

There are forty beaming faces staring up at me waiting for my next move. They giggle as I jump up and down, attempting to sing ‘with a moo-moo here’ from Old MacDonald’s Farm.

I know I look ridiculous, but I’m far from caring. It’s 4pm in Cambodia and it’s a searing 40C. We are crammed into a tiny, non-air conditioned make-shift classroom in Phnom Penh. I’m trying desperately to keep their attention as they want to go and play.

A young student gets to grips with fruit and veg: The charity Riverkids offers children at risk of being trafficked or sold into prostitution a free education

Thankfully it works. By the time I add a pig, cow and horse, they start chanting the animal noises.

I manage to make it to the end of the lesson – sweat running down my back. I’m in the country’s capital city for three weeks as part of a volunteer project, helping the charity Riverkids, which offers children at risk of being trafficked or sold into prostitution, a free education.

And, as thousands of students across the country receive their A-level results this week, they’ll be thinking of heading off abroad to volunteer as well. The brochures bill it as ‘rewarding’ and a chance to ‘give something back’. What they don’t prepare you for is the hard work that goes with it.

On my first day, I’m taken to the slums where many of the children studying at Riverkids live. The scenes are heartbreaking. The tiny, wooden shacks balance around mud paths. There are dirty, naked toddlers wandering aimlessly.

We see some women working, cooking meals, while most of the men are lying down, watching TV. Many of them have drink and drug problems.

Young Cambodians at this school in Phnom Penh experience a merry-go-round of teachers as volunteers like Carol (centre of image on right) offer their skills

The children look helpless. It’s easy to see how celebrities such as Madonna and Angela Jolie think they’re helping communities by adopting children. But it’s charities such as Riverkids that are really stopping the cycle of poverty.

Back in the classroom, volunteers prepare their own lessons. It means the children are at a disadvantage, as no one really knows what the previous teacher has taught. My first class is a group of nine to 15-year-olds and I’m armed with flashcards and basic-English books.

As I walk into the classroom, the students stand and chant, ‘Good morning teacher’ in Khmer and then English, as they clasp their hands together in the traditional respectful greeting.

After English is computer studies – but, as Riverkids doesn’t have the resources to buy an electricity generator, and there’s a power cut every day, the lessons are always cut short.

With no electricity, there are also no fans, and the intense heat makes it increasingly difficult to concentrate.

Thankful task: Teachers who join the Riverkids project leave with invaluable life experience, says Carol

My day ends with art and singing classes for children as young as three – some of whom have no English skills at all so communicating with them is almost impossible. I spend the hour running around, clearing up spilt water, helping children who have difficulty drawing.
At the end of the lesson, the children playfully smear colours down each other’s faces and in one another’s hair.

I shrug my shoulders and laugh as the kids line up at the small sink to wash their hands and faces before going home. Exhausted, I head back to my guesthouse where I meet the other volunteers to talk about how difficult our days were.

As I pull a text book from my bag and a note slips out: ‘I love you teacher from Srey Mai.’ It’s then I realise why ‘voluntourism’ is so popular.

While it’s ultimately aimed at improving the lives of the young students, I can’t help think it’s them - with their robust attitudes and uncertain futures – who teach the volunteers the greater lesson. And that’s why it’s so rewarding.

Travel facts

Help Teach and Care for Children in Cambodia costs from £749 for three weeks with
i-to-i Meaningful Travel. Call 0871 011 1156 or visit

Fly to Cambodia via Bangkok with Qantas from £929,
Follow Carol's travels on Twitter: @caroldtravels

Illustrating the Point

High Gold Price Shakes Up an Old Stand-By

Pich Samnang, VOA Khmer | Phnom Penh
Thursday, 19 August 2010

via Khmer NZ

Photo: AP
Gold acts as a savings mechanism for many, who tend to spend currency and keep gold.

“At these skyrocketing prices, there are more sellers than buyers.”

Cambodians have long had a habit of buying and stocking gold, especially as jewelry, but that habit may be changing, thanks to gold’s continual rise in value.

“No one wants to buy gold now,” said Chea Ly, a Phnom Penh resident living near Deum Kor market who has stopped stocking jewelry herself. “We would rather sell it instead, or keep the money to buy something else.”

That’s because the common trading price of gold has climbed from around $700 an ounce in 2007 to more than $1,200 an ounce this week. Investors have been flocking to gold in recent years as a hedge against uncertainty in money and other markets.

That has put a freeze on gold purchases, which Cambodians have become accustomed to after decades of currency instability, including the complete abolishment of money and banks under the Khmer Rouge.

In that way, gold acts as a savings mechanism for many, who tend to spend currency and keep gold.

“At these skyrocketing prices, there are more sellers than buyers,” said Ly Hour, owner of Ly Hour Jewelry and Exchange, a local gold and money trader. “When customers come, they say the price of gold is still high, so they would wait to buy it until the price gets lower.”

There are also signs that people here think the price will continual to rise.

Not many people are buying gold these days, said Neang Chan Nuon, who runs a gold shop near O’Russei market. But they aren’t selling it either.

“Some who bought their gold at a much lower price still keep the old precious metal in hope that the price of gold will probably get higher,” she said in an interview at her shop.

Chan Sophal, president of the Cambodian Economic Association, said no matter how high the price of gold is, Cambodians will likely continue the habit of hording it at home, because metals can come in handy under any government.

“Gold is the most trusted currency for Cambodians at all times, so it is unlikely that they may stop buying and stocking the precious metal,” he said.

Despite Economy, Expectations High For Virginia’s Cambodian Day

Soeung Sophat, VOA Khmer | Annandale, Virginia
Thursday, 19 August 2010

via Khmer NZ

Photo: by Soeung Sophat
Cambodian-Americans celebrate Cambodian Community Day in 2008.

“We want the younger US-born generation to know about their Khmer culture, the geography of Cambodia, as well as what Cambodia is like today.”

Despite being so far away from their homeland, Cambodians in the United States never forgot to come together to celebrate their shared ethnic culture. Near Washington, a small group of Cambodians are again organizing an annual celebration to showcase their culture, even during times of difficulties.

This is the sound of organizers of the upcoming Cambodian Community Day 2010, an annual event showcasing Cambodian culture this Sunday, August 22, in Alexandria near Washington.

Organizers of the Cambodian Community Day say that despite financial and human resource shortages, the group is more than capable of making this year’s event another success.

Yann Somony, President of the CCD, explains that such difficulties do not come in the way of the festival’s main goal.

“We want the younger US-born generation to know about their Khmer culture, the geography of Cambodia, as well as what Cambodia is like today,” she told VOA Khmer.

The Cambodian Community Day has been organized by local Cambodians since 2002. The one-day event has regularly drawn around 3,000 to 4,000 Cambodian and American residents in the Alexandria Washington, DC area.

Past events have included cultural performances like Khmer classical dance, Khmer traditional games, popular songs, Cambodian Buddhist ceremonies, display of Angkor Wat replica and presentation of other tourist sites in Cambodia. According to Yann Somony, this year’s highlights will include hair-cutting ritual in Khmer weddings, Bon Pkha—a Buddhist fundraising ceremony, singing of the national ‘Pong Savada Khmer’ song and presentation of Cambodia’s four northeastern Kratie, Stoeng Treng, Mondol Kiri, and Ratank Kiri provinces.

Tep Sophia, Treasurer and former President of CCD, told VOA Khmer that these activities and promotion of Cambodia serve another major purpose.

“After the Khmer Rouge, some people in America know nothing about Cambodians. So after we had organized the events, they came to realize that Cambodians have had a glorious civilization,” she says, adding that, “we further want them to know that Cambodia has a natural beauty so that they would become interested and want to visit the country.

The festival has also become a community forum, with Cambodian Embassy and Alexandria city officials, local vendors, and civil groups taking part. More than 10 Cambodian and American NGOs are expected at this year’s event to publicize their activities.

Each year’s event has its challenges, particularly the lack of Cambodian artistic materials for display, but the bad economic situation in the US has made this year’s event more difficult, with the city of Alexandria withdrawing its financial support and a shortage of volunteers, on which organizers heavily rely.

Nevertheless, the successes of past years and further publicity of the event has motivated organizers to go ahead confidently. Yann Somony is hopeful that up to 5,000 people could show up at this year’s event.

This motivation, says Tep Sophia, comes from a genuine love for her motherland.

“Even though we live in the U.S. we still love Cambodia…our heart and soul will always be with Cambodia,” she describes emotionally.

She reminds her compatriots in Cambodia that they should equally work together to promote Khmer culture in whatever ways they can. She says CCD would welcome any material donations from individuals and institutions in Cambodia, so that future events will be even more successful.

Lightning Protection Out of Reach for Many at Risk

Suy Heimkhemra, VOA Khmer | Phnom Penh
Thursday, 19 August 2010

via Khmer NZ

Photo: AP
A July report from the National Committee for Disaster Management noted that strikes have killed at least 350 people in the last three years.

“I know about the lighting system that is being used to protect people from lighting, but on behalf of farmers, I say I don’t have the ability to buy it.”

At his store on Kampuchea Krom Blvd. in Phnom Penh, Liu Meng seems busy with customers, as he introduces them to lightning protection measures and warns them against the dangers of strikes.

The need for protection is increasing, he tells his customers, and the dangers of lightning are growing.

It is true that Cambodia has seen an increase in deaths due to lightning. A July report from the National Committee for Disaster Management noted that strikes have killed at least 350 people in the last three years.

And there are at least five companies like Liu Meng’s that sell systems capable of drawing a lightning strike and safely grounding it.

However, such a system can cost between $950 and $2,500. That puts protection out of reach for many poor or rural Cambodians—those who are most at risk.

“I know about the lighting system that is being used to protect people from lighting, but on behalf of farmers, I say I don’t have the ability to buy it,” said farmer Um Ngoy, who lives in Kandal Sreng district, Kandal province.

The high cost of the systems mean they are generally installed for the well-off, in places like new villas.

That means people like motorcycle taxi driver Sok Sovannara, who plies the streets of Phnom Penh looking for fares, remain in danger. Lightning incidents are “terrible,” he told VOA Khmer, but without money to buy protection, he would stay at risk.

That might not have to be so, said Prach Meanith, who imports lightning protection equipment for a company in Phnom Penh. Farmers can pool their money together to protect certain areas of a village, he said.

For people like Kong Cheak, a Phnom Penh resident who recently bought a protection system, the costs are worth it. It can protect his life and the life of his family, he said.

Heng Po, a lightning protection expert, said the trend is catching on in the provinces, especially in Battambang, Kampong Cham and Preah Sihanouk.

A person who fears a lightning strike can also protect himself the old fashioned way.

Lightning generally occurs at the beginning of the rainy season, or in unexpected storms, said Keo Vy, chief of the National Committee for Disaster Management.

When such storms occur, people should stay inside and avoid any large trees at a distance of at least 4 meters, he said. Those in vehicles should stop their cars and take their hands off the steering wheel.

And for farmers caught in the fields, he said: lie down, lower than a paddy dike.

Experts Suggest Tribunal Complete an Exit Strategy

Sok Khemara, VOA Khmer | Washington, DC
Thursday, 19 August 2010

via Khmer NZ

Photo: AP
A tribunal spokesman said the completion strategy is currently underway as a joint project between the Cambodian and UN-appointed sides of the hybrid court.

“It should be defined from today how long the tribunal should have to wind up and what should remain for the assistance for judicial reform in Cambodia.”

With little indication from the Khmer Rouge tribunal that it will try more leaders beyond its initial indictments, observers say the UN-backed court should consider designing its completion strategy.

Issues remain unresolved on how the court might wrap up, how convicted suspects should be handed back to the national judiciary—or untried suspects to local courts—and how the tribunal might begin legacy and capacity building.

“It would be feasible and appropriate for the court to begin to plan how it will wind up its activities when those cases are​​​ fully dealt with in the judicial process,” Heathery Ryun, a tribunal monitor for the Open Society Justice Initiative, wrote in an e-mail.

Any completion plan should take into account “the need to complete outstanding cases in accordance with international​​​ standards; the goals of the court to support rule-of-law​​​​ development in Cambodia and a sense of meaningful justice for Cambodians; and residual issues which may arise after the court disbands, such as use of​ investigatory material, archives, and legal issues that may arise in cases following a final judgment.”

The tribunal has so far tried one suspect, the torture chief Duch, and it is preparing for the potential joint trial of four more senior leaders. But tribunal jurists have been at odds over whether to indict still more suspects.

Lat Ky, a court monitor for the rights group Adhoc, told VOA Khmer the court can begin considering what it can contribute to the national judiciary.

“It should be defined from today how long the tribunal should have to wind up and what should remain for the assistance for judicial reform in Cambodia,” he said.

He cited as an example the slow reconciliation process in Rwanda, which had war crimes courts that went on for years at great cost in time and money. Donors may learn from that, he said.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, a key diplomat for one of the tribunal’s donor countries said this week that some donors will be looking for a completion strategy before they discuss more funding for the court.

“We do not want to see it dragging on forever,” the diplomat said.

A tribunal spokesman said the completion strategy is currently underway as a joint project between the Cambodian and UN-appointed sides of the hybrid court.

Cambodia's Khmer Rouge Tribunal Legacy Found in Communities Around Country

Robert Carmichael | Battambang
19 August 2010

via Khmer NZ

Photo: VOA – R. Carmichael
A nearby stupa holds the skulls of some of more than 10,000 people who were murdered at Wat Samruong Knong. Around its base are a series of murals that show what happened here - in this mural, Khmer Rouge soldiers cut open their victims and cook body parts like their livers.

As an international tribunal in Cambodia prepares to charge four Khmer Rouge leaders with genocide, some people are looking ahead to what will be left behind when the court finally closes its doors.

On the outskirts of Battambang stands the Wat Samroung Knong. Today this Buddhist temple is tranquil, but when the Khmer Rouge ruled Cambodia between 1975 and 1979, it was anything but.

Crimes against humanity

Wat Samroung Knong was a killing site, one of hundreds scattered around the country. Then the ultra-Maoist Khmer Rouge emptied the cities and tried to create a utopian, agrarian society. In the process, well over a million people died of starvation and disease, or were executed by the Khmer Rouge.

VOA – R. Carmichael
Acha Thun Sovath, the current leader of the temple, was a young monk at Wat Samruong Knong when the Khmer Rouge came in 1975. He says the learning centre is essential for the next generation to understand what happened.

The temple's current leader, Acha Thun Sovath, was a young monk when the Khmer Rouge came in 1975. He was forced to quit the monkhood and work in the rice fields.

Many other monks were executed, as the Khmer Rouge banned religion in the effort to reshape Cambodian society.

Acha Thun Sovath says more than 10,000 people were tortured and executed at the temple, their bodies dumped in its ponds.

Stories of mass killings are commonplace across the country. Yet many young people do not believe Cambodians committed such horrific acts against each other.

Acha Thun Sovath says that does not surprise him.

He says now he is an old man, but back in 1974 when he heard people talking about how the Khmer Rouge were killing monks and ordinary people, he did not believe it either.


Daravuth Seng is a Cambodian-American lawyer who until recently headed a group called the Center for Justice and Reconciliation, or CJR.

On a tour of the temple, Seng says Wat Samroung Knong's history makes it fitting as a location for what are known as legacy projects – something tangible that will be left behind once the Khmer Rouge tribunal in Phnom Penh finally closes its doors in a few years.

CJR worked with Acha Thun Sovath and the nearby community to build a learning center, which has taken shape over one of the pools that was used as a mass grave. The building – a wooden structure on stilts that stands over the large pond - is nearly finished.

Daravuth Seng explains its purpose.

"Our hope is a physical space for them to come together and also explore, and to have documentation available so that some of these accounts do correlate with what my parents, or aunts and uncles, or surviving relatives have actually mentioned," Seng said.

Seng says the center is unique, because the community was deeply involved in its planning, and also provided materials and time to build it.

The center is one of a number of legacy projects under way or being discussed.


In Phnom Penh, the international tribunal this year has sentenced one senior member of the Khmer Rouge for war crimes and crimes against humanity. Four others are to face trial in the coming year. The tribunal's goal is to bring the few surviving Khmer Rouge leaders to justice, and to build a legacy helps Cambodia recover from its past.

Michelle Staggs Kelsall heads the tribunal monitoring project for the East-West Center, a research institute in the U.S. state of Hawaii, and has written about legacy projects at other international tribunals.

She says the most important legacy of the court is arguably the goal of improving Cambodia's judiciary by transferring the good legal practices being used at the court.

Documenting history

Another important area is ensuring the people have a historical account of what happened under Khmer Rouge rule.

VOA – R. Carmichael
The learning centre at Wat Samruong Knong. It is close to completion, and stands on stilts above a pool that was used as a mass grave.

One court-sanctioned project is a so-called virtual tribunal – a database of all the court documents for future generations to view.

Staggs Kelsall says the Khmer Rouge tribunal's legacy program is in an embryonic stage, but that is not unusual: Legacy issues typically become more important the longer the tribunal is in existence.

Back at Wat Samroung Knong, Acha Thun Sovath says the learning center is a vital opportunity to educate the next generation.

He says they will never forget and they must always remember what happened at these buildings so they can tell the next generation and let them know about the people who died under the Khmer Rouge.

Daravuth Seng says the completed center will cost around $10,000. He wants to see this sort of low-cost, self-sustaining project replicated across the country.

He says the tribunal was set up to provide legal justice, and has proved an essential starting point for the process of national reconciliation.

But projects like this center will provide a permanent voice for the community to learn what happened.

And that, he says, very much fits one of the points of the tribunal: To help the Cambodian people learn from their own tragic history.

Cambodia Gets In Nuclear-Power Line

via Khmer NZ

Thursday, August 19, 2010

HANOI (Nikkei)--To address chronic power shortages that are becoming a serious problem for both general and industrial purposes, the Cambodian government has started looking at building its first nuclear plant.

The country will work with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations on safety procedures in plant operations, maintenance and waste disposal. And despite the many challenges -- including procuring funds and training personnel -- the move may create business opportunities for heavy machinery makers worldwide that are seeking nuclear-plant orders.

State Secretary Ith Prang of the Cambodian Ministry of Industry, Mines and Energy broke the news, saying Cambodia has begun discussing a plan to build a nuclear plant as early as 2020. While noting that coal-fired thermal power will remain the nation's first choice for energy, he said Cambodia must expedite its consideration of nuclear because Vietnam and other neighbors are actively working on their own nuclear projects.

Energy demand in Cambodia has been growing by roughly 16% annually in recent years, but the country is significantly behind in expanding supplies. Because most of the nation's energy needs are met with small diesel-powered generators, costs are high. Cambodia's prices for electricity are two to three times higher than those in neighboring countries, impeding foreign investment.

The government hopes that diversification of energy sources will also improve its environmental protection record. It expects that introducing nuclear power, which emits no greenhouse gases, will cut CO2 emissions nationwide.

Because the shift to nuclear requires technology and personnel with specialized expertise, the government is planning to train people, mainly by sending them abroad. To ensure safety it will enhance ties with the ASEAN, which is cooperating with the International Atomic Energy Agency and taking other measures to build an environment where assistance from outside the region will promote the peaceful use of nuclear energy.

Among ASEAN members, Vietnam, Indonesia and Malaysia are moving forward with their nuclear plans, and Singapore and Thailand are discussing the possibilities.

--Translated from an article by Nikkei staff writer Yoichi Iwamoto

(The Nikkei Aug. 17 evening edition)